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San Francisco Chronicle
More on PG&E and PUC's outrageous behavior...
PG&E gas-line probe by state was slow to launch
It took a four-year string of six accidents blamed on inaccurate natural-gas system records for California regulators to open an investigation into whether Pacific Gas and Electric Co. knows the condition of the pipelines that run into people’s homes and businesses, according to a Chronicle review of state records. PG&E, which is already facing $1.4 billion in penalties for safety violations related to the deadly 2010 explosion of a gas transmission line in San Bruno, could now be fined millions of dollars more for similar problems with its smaller distribution lines. On Thursday, regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission levied a $10.8 million fine against PG&E for a pipeline accident that caused a March 3 explosion in Carmel. They also cited a nearly identical accident that happened eight months earlier in Mountain View, in which damage was averted. No one was injured in either incident, but the Carmel blast destroyed an unoccupied cottage. The commission also opened a formal investigation into PG&E’s distribution system, more than 40,000 miles of pipes, most 2 inches thick or smaller, that branch off from larger transmission lines like the one that ruptured in San Bruno. The commission concluded that the six incidents provide a “strong showing that PG&E may have violated applicable law,” and suggested the company’s distribution-pipe records were “inadequate to make critically important, ongoing safety decisions.”
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Mercury News
#PoliceState Update: Cameras that read 263,430 license plates in Menlo Park
Menlo Park mayor loves having the city locked down, embraces the #PoliceState
Three license plate readers that Menlo Park police began using this summer captured images of more than 250,000 plates between July 1 and Oct. 1, according to a police staff report. Out of all those images, however, only one could be tracked to a crime. Police recovered a stolen car and arrested the thief. The readers, which cost a total of $57,914, are mounted on the roofs of two marked patrol cars and one unmarked vehicle used by detectives. Each has four high-speed cameras that take pictures of license plates in front of, behind and alongside police cars. The collected data is then uploaded to a server managed by the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, part of the Department of Homeland Security. According to the staff report, 263,430 license plates were photographed in the first three months that the readers were used. Of those, 141 plate numbers registered as a "hit," matching those of vehicles on an active wanted list that were stolen or associated with missing people.  The Menlo Park City Council in September 2013 approved the license plate readers' purchase.  Mayor Ray Mueller said Friday that although license plate readers are "another tool in the arsenal of our police department," their use was hotly debated by council members.

Sacramento Bee
California National Guard members plead guilty to fraud
Six other National Guard members were also indicted in May
Two former California National Guard members have pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento to charges of wire fraud stemming from a scheme involving recruiting bonuses. The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that Brian Kaps, 40, of Chico, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of wire fraud, and Sarah Nattress, 27, of Paradise, pleaded guilty Oct. 23, also to one count of wire fraud. According to court documents, the U.S. Army contracted with Document and Packaging Brokers, also known as Docupak, to administer the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program. Under the program, members of the California National Guard served as recruiting assistants. If a recruiting assistant referred a potential Guard member to a recruiting office and that person ultimately enlisted, the recruiting assistant was eligible for monetary compensation disbursed by Docupak. Nattress and Kaps served as recruiting assistants. In separate cases, they pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme to cause Docupak to issue unearned recruiting compensation by falsely claiming that they had referred various enlistees to recruiting offices.

San Francisco Chronicle
Psycho teacher charged with child abuse for dragging student by her hair
A Northern California physical education teacher is in the hot seat after a student captured video footage of him dragging a 14-year-old girl by the hair across a pool deck. The incident happened in August and Denny Patterson is now being charged with corporal injury to a child. The story goes that the unnamed student planned to attend a special event that night and had her hair done in the morning. She didn’t want to ruin her hairstyle by swimming during gym class and refused to jump into the water. Patterson was adamant that the student needed to participate and dragged her across the tile deck before forcing her into the water. Wearing only swim shorts and a bikini top, the girl kicks and screams while being pulled toward the pool and screams that her top is falling off. Another students hits the teacher with a kick board and another throws water.

Los Angeles Times
De Leon fires dozens, makes room for his own cronies
After years of turning down cost-of-living increases for its budget, the state Senate on Friday notified its workforce that 39 employees will be laid off at the end of the year to avoid a multi-million-dollar deficit, a cut of about 4% of the total staff in the upper house. The cuts and a reorganization were ordered by incoming Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who ordered that the changes not affect the staff working in each senator’s office or serving legislative committees, officials said. Senate employees with five or more years of service will get two months' severance pay in addition to any accrued vacation; newer employees will get one month of severance, officials said.

Sacramento Bee
For Jerry Brown, tough going with UC regents
The animosity with which Brown and the Board of Regents fought this week in San Francisco laid bare how far apart the governor and one of the state’s most powerful institutions have become – and how difficult it will be for Brown to exert influence over UC in his fourth term. Despite his Yale law degree and fondness for obscure texts and intellectual acquaintances, the 76-year-old Democrat has long been skeptical of academia. This is a politician who said when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, that professors can be paid less because of “psychic income” they derive from their jobs. More recently, Brown has admonished UC to “get more grounded” in its approach to education, and this week he urged the system to cut costs instead of raising tuition. In a 14-7 vote, the Board of Regents demonstrated its willingness to resist Brown, as did UC President Janet Napolitano. The rollout of her plan to raise tuition by as much as 5 percent annually over each of the next five years appeared to take the administration off guard. Brown officials said UC was breaking a budget deal. In his budget documents, the governor had conditioned modest annual funding increases to UC on the system holding tuition flat. But the two sides never made a formal pact preventing a tuition increase, and Napolitano held fast. Napolitano’s ability to maneuver around Brown is the product of UC’s independent administration by the regents, constitutionally subject to only limited legislative oversight. This has protected the institution from the kind of broader changes Brown has enacted in law enforcement, with prison realignment, and in K-12 education, with the shift of more money to poor and English-learning students. But the budget is one of the few areas in which Brown does have leverage over UC, and he has used it to exert pressure on the institution in recent years.

Mercury News
PG&E Getting Away With Murder: State regulators fine PG&E $1 million
Critics slammed the decision: "The PUC's credibility could not be lower"
The state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday slapped PG&E with a $1 million fine and ordered a potential $400 million reduction in monthly natural gas bills as punishment for the utility's attempts to improperly influence the outcome of a rate case linked to a fatal explosion in San Bruno. Critics slammed the decision, saying it did not go far enough to disrupt the cozy relationship between the utility and state regulators. The ruling was in response to a widening email scandal showing that PG&E and regulators worked closely together to find a judge who would craft a decision favorable to the utility in a key gas transmission and storage rate case. "The PUC's credibility could not be lower," said Thomas Long, legal director with The Utility Reform Network, a consumer group. "The agency should be taking steps to restore that credibility. That's what needs to happen. The PUC is turning a deaf ear to that need." Investigators believe the deadly San Bruno disaster resulted from a combination of PG&E's shoddy maintenance, flawed record keeping and the commission's lax oversight of the utility.

OC Weekly
Anaheim Police Chief Looking For Trouble
Cops Want To Use Ferguson Grand Jury Decision As Reason To Roust The Public
The Anaheim Police Department is still plagued by "riot fear" more than two years after unrest erupted in the city's downtown. The reason? It's not over the Orange County District Attorney's office clearing APD's Nick Bennallack in the fatal shooting of unarmed 25-year-old Manuel Diaz. According to a letter obtained by the Weekly, the cause for concern this time around is possible protests after a Ferguson grand jury decides whether or not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for gunning down unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. With a decision expected soon, Anaheim police chief Raul Quezada addressed an inter-faith organization yesterday about the situation. Ludicrously expecting the worst of Anaheim is nothing new for Anaheim's po-po. Last year "tone setter" meetings were held ahead of the OCDA's March 20 report on the Diaz killing. APD went so far as to set up a command post by La Palma Park, and one of its ghetto birds whirled over the department's headquarters. What happened? Protesters simply shouted down the first city council meeting after the decision, marched outside city hall and held their signs.



Anaheim's thug cops want to use Ferguson grand jury decision to roust locals.

Sacramento Bee
The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight
Did Republicans miss their chance at unseating Ami Bera?
For Doug Ose, the political winds seemed to be at his back. He was a top-flight contender to oust Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove, a freshman lawmaker in the minority of a deeply unpopular Congress. President Barack Obama’s popularity was slipping even in blue California, and statewide voter turnout was expected to be anemic even by the lower standards of midterm elections. Ose previously served three terms in the House, and had a healthy donor network and millions of his own dollars to fuel the campaign. Ose, who in a Thursday interview did not rule out another run for the office, said he believes people here think the country is on the wrong track and in need of a change. That was the central theme of his campaign, and he applied the argument to health care, jobs and the economy, education, immigration and the nation’s declining stature. And yet roughly 1,400 more voters in the 7th Congressional District decided to support Bera.

Sacramento Bee
California tobacco tax backers unveil new campaign
Seeking to further reduce California’s already-low smoking rates, a coalition of labor and health advocates unveiled on Thursday a campaign to impose a $2-a-pack cigarette tax through legislation or a ballot initiative. Tobacco use continues to addict young people and kill thousands of Californians annually, doctors and health advocates argued at the Thursday morning news conference. High taxes are a proven tool for discouraging smoking, they said. Backers also argued that the cost of treating tobacco-related illness is burdening California’s public health system. Terry Brennand of the Service Employees International Union, whose members include nurses and other health care workers, pegged the price tag at $3 billion a year for Medi-Cal alone. Money from the tax, if passed, would flow into areas like Medi-Cal administered services, smoking prevention programs and research. “This effort will go a long way toward restoring the research and prevention aspect but also funding the tobacco impacts,” Brennand said. Boosting California’s tax would bring the state in line with others, said advocates who noted that 32 states impose a heftier tobacco tax than California.

Sacramento Bee
Jury convicts man of murder, hate crime in Arden Way killing
Racist jerk murderer heading to the slammer for a long, long time
Two days of deliberations was all the time a Sacramento jury needed to return a first-degree murder conviction Thursday against a white man who ran over and killed a black man and all but blamed it on President Barack Obama. Joseph Paul Leonard Jr. is looking at a sentence of at least 25 years to life in prison for the June 6, 2013, death of Toussaint Harrison in the midst of a moving street fight that began in the parking lot of a McDonald’s on Arden Way. Prosecutors attached a hate-crime allegation to the case that the jury found to be true. The panel also convicted Leonard of attempted murder for trying to run over Harrison’s partner, Justin Oliphant. One member of the Superior Court jury said it looked to them as if Leonard started the fight and passed up plenty of opportunities to walk away from it.

Fresno Bee
Jim Costa keeps House seat, edging out Johnny Tacherra in another late-vote rally
For the second time in the past three elections, Fresno Democrat Jim Costa has rallied from an election night vote deficit to win re-election to Congress. Fresno, Madera and Merced counties on Wednesday finished their vote counting in the 16th Congressional District, and the final tally has Costa ahead by 1,319 votes. The victory margin over unheralded Republican Johnny Tacherra won’t change by more than a vote here or there as officials in the three counties clean up a few remaining ballots before they certify their results. The Fresno update was the day’s most anticipated, but by the time it came at 3 p.m. Wednesday, it was already clear that Costa would be returning to Washington for his sixth term.

Sacramento Bee
Bera beats Ose in high-priced congressional race
More than two weeks after polls closed, Rep. Ami Bera won a second term to represent a seat covering suburban Sacramento County, denying Republican challenger Doug Ose a return to Washington and ending the California GOP’s chances of unseating its first Democratic House incumbent since 1994. Bera, an Elk Grove physician, trailed Ose by more than 3,000 votes at the close of election night and steadily closed the gap before surging to a 700-vote advantage last week, as county election officials tallied tens of thousands of remaining ballots. He led Wednesday by 1,432 votes with nearly all ballots counted. Bera’s campaign attributed the late success to an aggressive get-out-the-vote operation that was the largest in the nation when he ousted GOP then-Rep. Dan Lungren in 2012. This cycle, the freshman lawmaker’s campaign knocked on 270,000 doors and made 950,000 phone calls. California Democrats came off election night on the brink of faltering in close congressional races, but rebounded as overtime ballot-counting favored their party. Reps. Scott Peters of San Diego, Julia Brownley of Thousand Oaks and Jim Costa of Fresno pulled away from their rivals. Democratic Reps. Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert, Jerry McNerney of Stockton, John Garamendi of Walnut Grove and Lois Capps of Santa Barbara also weathered the national Republican wave that swept over many of their colleagues. The only California House district to change partisan hands went to Redlands Democrat Pete Aguilar, who claimed the seat left vacant by retiring Republican Rep. Gary Miller.

Sacramento Bee
UC regents move tuition increase plan forward
University of California regents moved forward with a controversial plan Wednesday to raise tuition if the state does not give the system more money, with the proposal expected to be finalized Thursday. The vote by a committee of regents came over the objection of students, who linked arms to block the entrance to the Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco, and of Gov. Jerry Brown, who moved days before the meeting to appoint two regents opposed to the tuition plan. The rancorous hearing served as an opening to months of budget negotiations between university officials and the Democratic governor. Brown said the UC system has failed to reduce costs, while regents accused Brown of failing to invest in higher education even as California’s financial outlook has improved. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the board and opposes the tuition increase, said he was certain the full board will approve the tuition plan Thursday, calling it a “fait accompli.” “The day this was announced, it was a foregone conclusion,” he said. “It’s pretty demoralizing, as the lieutenant governor, to feel you have no influence on the outcome.”

Sacramento Bee
PG&E could be fined over alleged secret dealings
State regulators are set to consider whether to fine Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and require its shareholders to cover as much as $200 million of a gas rate increase because of backroom negotiations between the utility and regulators. Recently released emails show a PG&E executive and California Public Utilities Commission officials discussing which judge to appoint to a case over gas rates, with the executive objecting to one judge for having a history of being hard on the utility. The emails are the latest in a series released by the utility and others that allegedly show PG&E executives privately negotiating with CPUC officials. The CPUC could decide at its meeting Thursday whether to fine PG&E $1 million for the emails about the judge and whether to require PG&E shareholders to cover a portion of the proposed rate increase instead of utility customers. Shareholders could be on the hook for as much as an estimated $200 million, though ratepayer advocates say the commission has discretion to require a much lower figure. They are demanding that the commission release tens of thousands of additional emails that they say may also show illegal contact between the CPUC and the state's largest utility.

Jim Miller
California revenue projected to exceed budget estimates by $2 billion
Thanks to massive tax hikes, Sacramento has a huge budget surplus - feckless pols are ready to spend it all
Barring a stock market slump that drags down the state’s economy, California budgets will run surpluses through the end of the decade even as temporary tax increases phase out over the coming years, the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analyst said Wednesday. The fiscal outlook by the Legislative Analyst’s Office also projects that the state will take in $2 billion more in revenue through June than lawmakers expected when they approved the current budget plan. All of the increase will be absorbed by the state’s voter-approved constitutional funding guarantee for schools and community colleges. And the state is on pace to have $4.2 billion in reserves by June 2016 under Proposition 2, the rainy-day reserve passed by voters earlier this month. But up to $2.2 billion of that would not be covered by Proposition 2’s tight restrictions and could be tapped by lawmakers for new spending proposals in the fiscal year that begins July 1 – over and above spending increases included in the current budget. A larger reserve would lessen the need for cuts if the state suffers another economic downturn, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor said Wednesday. “We need to have as much money as possible built up,” he said. “We would discourage them from going too much into those reserves.” Lawmakers, though, already seem to be looking at ways to spend at least some of the money. In a statement, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said the Legislature needs to consider “making prudent and wise investments to continue building the state’s economic strength.”

Los Angeles Times
Redlands firefighter arrested for murder
A Redlands firefighter and a woman with whom he allegedly was having an affair were arrested Wednesday in connection with the shooting death of the woman's husband.  Jonathan Michael Hearn, 24, a member of the Redlands Fire Department who lives in Hesperia, and Sabrina Limon, 35, of Helendale, were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder and conspiracy charges for allegedly killing Limon's husband, Robert Limon, 38.  Robert Limon was shot to death in August. His body was found at his workplace, BNSF Railway shop in Tehachapi, according to the Kern County Sheriff's Office.  Authorities allege that Hearn and Sabrina Limon conspired to kill her husband and then attempted to make it appear to be a robbery. Hearn was arrested on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Sabrina Limon was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and accessory to murder.

Daily News
Another criminal cop fired...? You don't get the boot for doing a GOOD job...
Pasadena City College Board fires Police Chief Don Yoder
Pasadena City College Police Chief Don Yoder, who has been on paid administrative leave since May, has been fired by the college’s board of trustees. When Yoder was put on leave, college officials said they were conducting an investigation about him, but said no legal claims had been filed against the college regarding Yoder’s conduct. College legal counsel Gail Cooper declined to comment on the details of the board’s decision, which was made in closed session at Monday’s board meeting. “The Board voted to end Mr. Yoder’s employment. However, the reasons for the decision are confidential,” Cooper said in a statement. “The District respects the right of privacy of its employees and former employees and will not comment further on this matter.” Yoder was hired in January 2013 from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Sacramento Bee|
“Education is a right, not a debt sentence”
UC Davis students protest proposed tuition hike on anniversary of pepper spraying
With the University of California regents scheduled to start debate Wednesday on proposed tuition hikes that could total 25 percent over five years, hundreds of UC Davis students protested Tuesday in what has become a familiar ritual on public campuses around the state in recent years. The demonstration marked the third anniversary of the notorious UC Davis pepper spraying incident, which occurred on Nov. 18, 2011, during a protest on the campus quad by students upset about the increasing expense of a UC education. “Three years later, it’s kind of demoralizing. Here we are again,” said Armando Figueroa, president of Associated Students, University of California, Davis. He said representatives of the campus leadership group had been meeting with officials to discuss the proposed tuition increases and would continue to do so. Tuesday’s mood was raucous, with speakers shouting profanity-laced tirades, but there wasn’t a uniformed cop or a canister of pepper spray in sight. The group marched on the university’s main administration building, Mrak Hall, and took over its lobby and stairwell for a half hour without interference.  The current plan put forward by UC President Janet Napolitano calls for raising tuition by up to 5 percent annually over the next five years at the university’s 10 campuses.

Sacramento Bee
California’s illegal immigrant population drops, still largest
California still has, by far, the nation’s largest population of illegal immigrants, but it declined between 2009 and 2012, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center. The overall number of illegal immigrants in the nation was virtually unchanged at 11.3 million in 2012, Pew said, but it increased in seven states while declining in California and 13 other states, largely due to a sharp drop in immigration from Mexico. The estimated drop in California was fairly scant, down 50,000 to 2.45 million, about 6.4 percent of the state’s overall population. However, Pew says illegal immigrants are 9.4 percent of California’s labor force, second only to Nevada’s 10.2 percent. Those numbers give California a major stake in President Barack Obama’s stated intention to legalize several million illegal immigrants by executive action because Congress has not enacted immigration reform.

Los Angeles Times
Top insurers overstated doctor networks, California regulators charge
They're simply liars: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California
Bolstering a chief complaint about Obamacare coverage, California regulators said two major health insurers violated state law by overstating the number of doctors available to patients. More than 25% of physicians listed by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California weren't taking Covered California patients or were no longer at the location listed by the companies, according to state reports released Tuesday. In some cases, these errors led to big unforeseen medical bills when patients unwittingly ventured to out-of-network doctors for medical tests or a surgery. The results of the five-month investigation come at a critical juncture as the second year of health law enrollment gets underway and more than 1.2 million Californians are shopping in the state's insurance exchange.  "We found the provider directories made available to the public had significant errors," said Shelley Rouillard, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care. "When you have a quarter or more of physicians that aren't available, that is significant." Anthem and Blue Shield account for nearly 60% of enrollment in Covered California. The two industry stalwarts have long catered to patients wanting the widest selection of physicians. As a result, their narrower networks and more restrictive policies were a jolt to many people and often came to light only when they were getting treated. The insurers compounded the problem with inaccurate provider lists, mislabeled insurance cards and false assurances about coverage, according to patients, doctors and regulators. The Department of Managed Health Care hasn't determined what penalties, if any, will be imposed on the insurance companies. The state plans a follow-up survey in six months to check whether the insurers have fixed the problems. Consumer advocates urged officials to impose fines or take other measures immediately so patients will have reliable information for the current enrollment period through Feb. 15.

San Francisco Chronicle
Uber executive’s suggestion to smear journalists backfires
Uber, the enormously popular car-booking service, was trying to improve its relationships with reporters last week. Instead the company proved that it deserves all the recent media criticism that’s been coming its way — and maybe a lot more. Uber executives were holding a private dinner in Manhattan that they apparently believed was off the record. The company’s senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, believed this gave him license to suggest that Uber should handle scrutiny by digging into the details of critical journalists’ personal lives. When someone suggested that attempting to smear reporters would cause trouble for the company, Michael said that “Nobody would know it was us.” The suggestions are shocking, disturbing and completely unethical. Fortunately, a reporter was present who didn’t realize that the dinner was supposed to be off the record — and he rightly reported Michael’s remarks. Days later, the company has attempted to backtrack via a series of tortured apologies, but Michael is still in his position. Uber is a global company that earned a $17 billion valuation when it did a funding round in June. It has a tremendous customer base and political support at the highest levels (and of course, one of its senior vice presidents is former Obama top operative David Plouffe). It’s a potential world giant, not the local Mafia. It needs leadership that behaves accordingly. What this latest scandal means for Uber is that journalists are now more likely to scrutinize the company, not less.

San Francisco Chronicle
Taxi drivers even bigger a$$holes than Uber executive Emil Michael
San Francisco taxi drivers promise a repeat of airport protest
The chaotic cabdriver protest that clogged traffic and stranded travelers at San Francisco International Airport on Monday night will likely not be the last battle in the war between traditional taxis and on-demand ride services like Uber and Lyft. A recently organized coalition of San Francisco taxi drivers, pleased with the impact of the protest, vowed Tuesday to bring more disruption to SFO unless the airport director agrees to discuss their concerns that the ride services are being given an unfair advantage in serving the airport. “That’s just a sample that we showed them,” said Harbir Singh, a taxi driver and board member of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance, which organized the protest. “We will do it again and again, every now and then. They have to listen to us.” The protest was the latest skirmish in the ongoing fight between San Francisco’s much-maligned taxi industry and the technology-driven ride-service startups that use drivers in personal cars and are summoned by smartphone apps. Taxi operators complain that the newcomers are barely regulated while the ride services argue that the cab industry was a monopoly in need of a shakeup. It was tough for anyone at SFO not to notice the protest. Hundreds of taxis — honking their horns and flashing their headlights and taillights — circled the arrival level between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., most of them refusing to pick up passengers.

San Francisco Chronicle
Analysis: Investors don’t care how badly startup founders behave
Wall Street investors to dot.coms: Make us money - we're OK with you being jerks
The bad boys of the tech world can behave like bullies with impunity — as long as they are on a path to making money. That seems to be the lesson from Uber’s latest scandal, in which a top executive publicly floated the idea of a million-dollar campaign to dig up dirt on the personal lives and families of journalists critical of the San Francisco ride-service company. Uber and some investors responded with apologies via Twitter but otherwise seemed to shrug off the latest in a list of Uber public relations nightmares, including car crashes and assaults by drivers with sketchy records, reports of dirty tricks to sabotage rivals, and violations of rules regulating for-hire cars in cities worldwide. “It’s clear the investors aren’t acting,” said Sarah Lacy, editor of tech website PandoDaily, whose personal life was singled out for a possible smear campaign after calling for customers to boycott Uber due to a sexist promotion in France. “If you step back and look at the company, this is an escalating pattern of behavior with seemingly no repercussions,” she said. “This is the latest and scariest incarnation. The investors are either too scared to act, or feel like it will upset their standing in the company and their equity stakes are just worth too much.”

San Francisco Chronicle
Feckless rat cop in San Francisco corruption trial describes big haul and purchases
The key prosecution witness in the San Francisco police corruption case, a fired officer who has admitted stealing money and drugs from suspects, testified Tuesday that two now-suspended officers joined him in a succession of thefts — one of them in an operation that also netted them Police Commission commendations. Former Officer Reynaldo Vargas described a May 2009 incident in which he, Officer Edmond Robles and Sgt. Ian Furminger drove to Newark to assist in a federal investigation of a suspected drug dealer. After searching the home, Vargas said, he went in the backyard, saw a shovel, found a soft spot of ground and dug up more than an ounce of heroin and a bag containing $30,000 in cash. It was the kind of haul that he, Robles and Furminger, already complicit in a series of thefts, had been hoping for, Vargas told the U.S. District Court jury in his second and final day of testimony. “Hey, you guys, I found it,” he said he told his two colleagues in the car before splitting up the money. Later, Vargas said, Furminger, their supervisor, submitted all three officers’ names for official commendations by the Police Commission for their roles in the federal investigation. Vargas said the awards included official proclamations and ribbons for each officer’s jacket. Vargas worked for the Police Department from 1999 until he was fired in May 2012 for falsifying time sheets. Originally indicted along with Robles and Furminger, he pleaded guilty Oct. 21 to stealing money and property, including the gift cards, and keeping them for personal use. He also admitted stealing drugs from crime scenes and giving them to two people the officers had been trying to recruit as informants. He agreed to cooperate in the prosecution, he said, because he was told that “based on my level of cooperation, there may be leniency” in sentencing.

Daily News
Lib-topia crushing children -- Cali GOP says nothing
Number of homeless children increases in Southern California
California accounts for one-fifth of the homeless children
The number of homeless children across the Golden State rose last year according to results of a national report released Monday, especially in hard-hit Southern California, home to the nation’s second-largest school district. Researchers with the National Center on Family Homelessness found that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013. But the state by state report, called “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” showed that California was particularly troublesome because the state accounts for one-fifth of the homeless children. Nationally, from 2012 to 2013, the number of children experiencing homelessness in the U.S. rose by 8 percent. Of the more than a half a million enrolled, nearly 13,700 LAUSD students, mostly in middle and high schools, describe themselves as homeless, which could include living in cars or with others. San Bernardino County also has among the highest population of students who have experienced homelessness in the state, according to data released in September from the California Homeless Youth Project, an initiative of the California Research Bureau.

If you're a poor kid in California, you're pretty screwed

Sacramento Bee
Brown puts Perez on UC Board of Regents
Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday appointed former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to the University of California Board of Regents, as the board wrangles with a proposed tuition hike. The appointment came two days before the board is scheduled on Wednesday to consider a plan to raise tuition by as much as 5 percent annually over each of the next five years, a proposal Brown opposes. Pérez’s appointment was one of two announced Monday. Brown also appointed Eloy Ortiz Oakley, superintendent-president of Long Beach City College, to the board. Like Brown, both Pérez and Oakley are Democrats. Pérez, 45, was described by Brown’s office as “a longtime advocate for affordable higher education,” including championing a program to reduce fees for students from certain middle-income families. The Los Angeles lawmaker himself attended UC Berkeley but did not graduate. He ran unsuccessfully for state controller this year. Pérez said in a prepared statement that he is “deeply honored” by the appointment. Oakley, 49, of Long Beach, has been the superintendent and president of Long Beach City College since 2007. Both appointments require Senate confirmation, and there is no compensation.

Sacramento Bee
California No. 1 in workers’ compensation costs
Although Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature enacted a major overhaul of the system that compensates workers for job-related illnesses and injuries two years ago, aimed at reducing overhead and increasing disability payments, California employers have the nation’s highest costs, a new survey says. The biennial survey found that California’s workers’ compensation costs, $3.48 per $100 of payroll on average, are 188 percent of the national median among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. That number pushed California from No. 3 in the 2012 survey to No. 1 this year, followed by Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. North Dakota was the lowest at just 88 cents per $100 of payroll. The 2012 reform reduced litigation and medical costs, but also increased payments to disabled workers. It maintained a once-a-decade pattern of major workers’ compensation overhauls, reflecting the multi-billion-dollar system’s complex political matrix, which includes not only employers, but labor unions, medical and physical therapy providers, insurers and attorneys who represent disabled workers in their claims.

San Francisco Chronicle
Another Indian casino scam...if casinos are so great, anyone should be able to build one
Indian tribes competing to build huge casino in Vallejo
The ink is barely dry on the rejection that California voters dealt in this month’s election to an off-reservation tribal casino plan in the Central Valley, but already two similar proposals have popped up — right in the heart of the Bay Area. Two Pomo Indian bands are competing to build a casino on the long-closed Navy base of Mare Island in Vallejo, and they promise that if they get the go-ahead they will construct a gaming palace the likes of which the state has never seen. Between $10 million and $20 million will gush into the economically battered city’s coffers every year, the tribes promise, thousands of jobs will be created, and what is now a wasteland on the closed base will blossom into a tourist magnet. Early plans show that the casino would rise on the northeastern tip of Mare Island, turning what is now a 157-acre stretch of weed-flecked asphalt and abandoned Navy buildings into a colorful playland of more than 3,000 slot machines and hotel rooms, shops, concert venues and high-end restaurants. Situated about 30 miles north of San Francisco, near Interstate 80 and alongside Highway 37, such a casino complex would be the biggest ever built in Northern California. Perhaps the biggest catch is the requirement that whichever tribe wins Vallejo’s blessing must first have that tip of Mare Island federally designated as its land — meaning it would suddenly constitute a tiny sovereign Indian nation right on the waterfront of Vallejo. And that’s a long leap, both physically and politically.

San Francisco Chronicle
SFO taxi protest causes gridlock, headaches
Cab drivers protest to maintain high prices, bad service
A taxi driver protest against ride services such as Uber and Lyft caused gridlock and a lot of headaches at San Francisco International Airport on Monday night, officials said. The cabbies wouldn’t pick up riders and were blocking lanes starting about 9 p.m., SFO duty manager John Gintry said, and travelers reported long backups coming into and going out of the airport.
Signs were posted on many of the taxis reading, “This vehicle has full-time insurance, 'TNCs’ (transportation network companies) do not!” Flyers were distributed among many of the cabbies by the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance with instructions for the protest, telling them to circle the terminals from about 9 to 11 p.m.

San Francisco Chronicle
#PoliceState Update: Man accused of aiming laser pointer at CHP copter
Authorities say a man was arrested after allegedly aiming a laser pointer at a California Highway Patrol helicopter engaged in a pursuit in the San Francisco Bay Area. The helicopter was flying over Richmond early Saturday pursuing a suspected car thief when the crew noticed the laser coming from the ground and alerted police. Richmond officers tracked down 48-year-old Kenneth Rumberger and took him into custody. Police Sgt. Nicole Abetkov says Rumberger was arrested on suspicion of pointing a laser at an aircraft, a felony. It wasn't immediately known if he has a lawyer.

Steven Greenhut
Same old UC plan: spend and hike tuition
Lt. Gov. Newsom slams university for its pay-boosting priorities
When Janet Napolitano was tapped by the University of California last year to run the state’s premier university system, pundits opined she was an “unconventional” choice because the former Department of Homeland Security secretary and Arizona governor lacked an academic background. But she was the ultimate status-quo choice — an expert in keeping funding spigots open, but someone far less interested in budgetary reform. Sure enough, Napolitano’s recently released five-year fiscal plan, which comes before the board of regents on Wednesday, calls for “more investment” from state taxpayers and students to bolster business as usual. It proposes a tuition increase of up to 5 percent for each of the next five years. The plan calls for new spending to “fund high-priority investments in educational quality, including reductions in the student-faculty ratio, increased course offerings and a shorter time to degree.” A lot of the additional money also is going to shore up the system’s underfunded pension and health-care plans. As a result, not everyone is happy with the proposal. UC “cannot bestow pay raises on its top earners with one hand, while continually taking more from students and their families with the other and deflecting criticism by laying its solution at the door of the door of taxpayers,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a statement. “New funding must be tied to earnest and innovative attempts to reduce the university’s cost structure … not threats that reward the status quo.” (By the way, UC’s chancellors earn $383,000 to $750,000 a year.) Newsom and Gov. Jerry Brown are reportedly upset the plan breaks a deal the university had with the state, which boosts funds to UC by 20 percent over several years in exchange for a tuition freeze. UC officials believe they are owed more. “The UC community says that its push for campus votes aided” the Proposition 30 tax increase, the Los Angeles Times reported. “It expected a bigger return … .” That begs the question: How well has the university managed its current budget? Rather than reform their benefits or embrace innovations and cost savings, UC officials have been seeking new ways to backfill a budget that suffered during the last recession. Tuition has doubled in the last decade — and UC relies more on out-of-state students, who pay triple the tuition of Californians. This is the same game universities (just like government agencies) have played for years. They lobby for more money, claiming a desperate need for more “investment” in vital education — but are less willing to embrace the kind of innovation and reform critics say is needed. This game of status quo is to be expected, but it’s nice that ex-officio regents Newsom and Brown might not be eager to play along.

Los Angeles Times
Feds slam CDC morons again, order California to expand prison releases
Federal judges on Friday ordered California to launch a new parole program that could free more prisoners early, ruling the state had failed to fully implement an order last February intended to reduce unconstitutional crowding. The judges, for a second time, ordered that all nonviolent second-strike offenders be eligible for parole after serving half their sentence. They told corrections officials to submit new plans for that parole process by Dec. 1, and to implement them beginning January. "The record contains no evidence that defendants cannot implement the required parole process by that date, 11 months after they agreed to do so 'promptly,'" the judges wrote in Friday's order. Corrections department spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said the agency would comply with the order.

Sacramento Bee
California officials ponder all-mail voting
When all the ballots are finally tallied from last week’s election, the proportion of Californians voting by mail is expected to break the record set in 2012, the first time more than half of the state’s electorate voted absentee. The uptick has more Californians pushing for the state to go all the way and ditch traditional polling places. Washington, Colorado and Oregon require all of their elections to be run entirely by mail, and at least 19 others permit some of their elections to be all mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. County elections officials have touted the potential increase in voter interest and significant savings from avoiding the task of recruiting and training polling place workers. And some believe an all-mail system could even help speed up and avoid some overtime ballot-counting.

Sacramento Bee
The Gang the Can't Shoot Straight
State watchdog launches probe of California GOP spending
The state’s political ethics watchdog has launched an investigation into whether the California Republican Party violated campaign finance rules in the Central Valley’s 21st Assembly District.  The complaint challenges the state party’s ability to receive unlimited sums from Munger and use the money to make independent expenditures on behalf of Republican Jack Mobley and against Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced. Gray won the race by 6 percentage points. Independent expenditures are allowed as long as parties and other committees making them don’t coordinate with a candidate. While the ethics agency has fined campaigns and outside groups for illegal coordination in the past, this would be the first violation by a state political party organization. The complaint in Gray’s district, filed by local Democratic activist Faye Lane, contends that the party and its chairman, Jim Brulte, were actively involved in the Mobley campaign, contributing phone-banking and other nonmonetary aid. “I think the only reason these were reported as independent expenditures is because they were funded by large contributions to CRP from a wealthy donor, Charles Munger,” Lane wrote in the complaint. “He gave $2 million to (the party) starting September 29, and the IEs started right after that.” A similar complaint was filed against the GOP in the 14th District race between Republican Sen. Andy Vidak of Hanford and Democrat Luis Chavez.

Mercury News
Attorney: CHP officer Sean Harrington victimized other women
Disgraced California Highway Patrol officer Sean Harrington victimized more women than he has been charged with, his attorney said Friday, minutes after Harrington pleaded not guilty in a nude photo scandal that has rocked the law enforcement agency. Harrington not only secretly forwarded racy cellphone photos on two female suspects' phones to himself, he also took pictures with his own phone of other arrestees' explicit phone photos, attorney Michael Rains said outside the courtroom in Martinez. The Contra Costa District Attorney's Office found that Harrington made 13 arrests of female suspects this year. Harrington, 35, of Martinez, did not speak to the media. He was joined by his wife in court as he entered the not guilty plea on two felony computer theft charges. In his interview with investigators, Harrington, who has resigned, called the photo stealing practice a "game" among CHP officers in Los Angeles and in his most recent position in the Dublin office. Harrington has admitted to his own actions, but has since downplayed the involvement of other officers and now says he only knew of "rumors" that others participated in such an activity.

San Francisco Examiner
How California water profiteers will make their next big killing
California details funding plan for twin tunnels
Customers of California's proposed twin-tunnel water project would have to make billions of dollars in fixed payments each year, even during dry periods when water levels run low, state officials said Friday. The information was provided as the state treasurer's office released a financing plan for the $25 billion Bay Delta Conservation Project and said it would only be feasible if water agencies adopted a set yearly payment plan.  The tunnels at the heart of the contested project are designed to send water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Central Valley farms and Southern California cities. The proposed pair of 40-foot-wide tunnels would reach depths of 150 feet below ground and run for 30 miles bypassing the delta. Some 25 million Californians rely on the delta, say state officials, noting it plays a vital role in the state economy. Water districts in Central and Southern California — such as the Metropolitan Water District, Westlands Water District and Kern Water District — have paid for much of the planning so far. Those agencies and their customers — not California taxpayers — would be responsible for billions of dollars in debt over 50 years, even in dry years, the study says.

San Francisco Examner
Los Angeles schools blame girl for sex
WTF!!! Teacher has sex with 14 year old student, then sues her, and wins!
The Los Angeles school district has come under criticism for successfully defending a sexual abuse lawsuit by saying a 14-year-old girl willingly had sex with her middle school math teacher.  The teacher in the case, Elkis Hermida, was sentenced in 2011 to three years in prison for lewd acts against a child. The Los Angeles Unified School District claimed it was unaware of the relationship between the teacher and student and was cleared last year of wrongdoing by a civil jury in Los Angeles Superior Court. The girl was not awarded damages for the emotional trauma she said she suffered during a five-month relationship with the teacher. The case raises questions about a conflict between California criminal and civil law when it comes to sexual consent. Wyatt had cited a federal court decision that said a minor could consent to sex in some circumstances. Lawyers and advocates for sexual abuse victims said the legal tactic was appalling. "The belief that middle school children can consent to sexual activity is something one would expect to hear from pedophile advocates, not the second-largest school district in the U.S.," attorney John Manly told the Los Angeles Times. In defending his tactics, Wyatt further came under fire for telling the public radio station that it takes maturity to decide to cross the street and that's more dangerous than deciding to have sex with a teacher.

Los Angeles Times

After executing Christopher Dorner @LAPD corruption continues unchecked
LAPD survey in wake of Dorner rampage finds bias complaints
A Los Angeles Police Department review of its discipline system prompted by the Christopher Dorner rampage found widespread concerns among officers and civilians that the agency discriminates based on gender, ethnicity and rank, according to a report reviewed by The Times. Focus group sessions held with more than 500 department employees found that many of those interviewed believed internal investigations were unfair and that punishments were subjective, the document said. Among the complaints were that the department overlooks misconduct by high-ranking officials, that discipline is influenced by public and media pressures and that nepotism infects the disciplinary process. Weeks after Dorner died during a siege at a mountain cabin, where he was holed up, officers continued to complain that discipline in the LAPD was uneven and unfair.

San Francisco Chronicle
#PoliceState Update: Police surveillance grows without public input
At least 90 police agencies in California use surveillance tools such as cameras, license plate scanners and facial recognition software. But in launching new technologies, government agencies have sought public input just 14 percent of the time, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a report released Wednesday. The report, based on public records and news reports, provides a look at gadgets that are changing policing in fundamental ways, including cell phone trackers, wearable cameras that police turn on to record interactions, and drones. The ACLU said agencies had spent more than $65 million on at least 180 surveillance technology programs around the state. But only 26 of the programs were brought up for public discussion, and only 32 came with publicly available policies governing their use, according to the report. Law enforcement agencies have long pushed for the adoption of surveillance technologies that they say can keep people safer. A license plate scanner mounted to a patrol car, for example, can read thousands of plates a day, sounding an alarm when it comes across a vehicle that is stolen or wanted. But opponents say high-tech devices often aren’t worth their high cost in taxpayer dollars and privacy. License plate data is typically fed into a database — one that includes a wealth of information on the movements of law-abiding citizens as well as car thieves. The issue of transparency around surveillance technology came to a head this year when the San Jose Police Department quietly bought a drone, sidestepping public discussion by introducing the purchase as a consent calendar item to gain City Council approval. Police officials later released a statement promising not to deploy the device until the department does community outreach and develops a policy.

Mercury News
CHP continues to cover up crooked cops
CHP nude photo scandal: Why were no other officers charged?
They've arrested the cop who stole racy photos from female arrestees' cell phones, but prosecutors say there's not enough evidence to support charges against two California Highway Patrol officers who received photos from former Officer Sean Harrington, even though the officers exchanged texts about the women. The decision to forgo charges against the other officers has shocked some in the legal community, including an attorney representing one of the victims. The key question: Were the two other officers part of a "conspiracy" to commit theft, or unwitting recipients of racy photos? "It is important to note that Harrington unambiguously stated in his initial confession that this illegal and predatory conduct not only occurred while assigned to L.A., but that it was an established practice in the Dublin office with sworn CHP officers and non-CHP individuals," said Danville attorney Rick Madsen who represents an alleged victim. "In my opinion, Officers (Robert) Hazelwood and (Dion) Simmons, and anyone else involved, are part and parcel of this criminal conspiracy." According to his attorney Michael Rains, Harrington, 35, of Martinez, is scheduled to appear in court and plead not guilty Friday on two felony charges for secretly searching two young female DUI suspects' phones during separate August arrests and stealing copies of their explicit photos. Harrington, who resigned on Oct. 29, has admitted to the crimes and apologized through his attorney, and is attempting to work out a future plea deal with the prosecutor and the judge. He is still being investigated over a complaint by a third woman who was also arrested in August for a DUI. It is not clear what action the CHP may have taken against the officers. Other than Harrington, the CHP has said it disciplined one other unnamed officer by pulling him from patrol duties. Inquiries to the CHP on possible further discipline were not returned. But if Harrington sent the photos to his colleagues with information indicating they were taken from unsuspecting female suspects, why were the other officers not charged?

Mercury News
NFL's war against domestic violence victims continues
Ray McDonald's parents slam San Jose police for starting 'lynch mob' against 49ers player
Now that prosecutors have declined to charge 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald over his domestic violence arrest, citing lack of evidence, his parents are slamming the San Jose Police Department for starting a "lynch mob" against the player. In a statement offered to this newspaper Thursday, LaBrina and Ray McDonald Sr. say police should not have announced after the arrest that the alleged victim in the case had "visible injuries," calling it "damaging and misleading." "This basically led the public to believe that he hit or attacked her," McDonald's parents said. "The fact that no additional information was given in this press release, in our opinion was very irresponsible and leads us to question the integrity of the ranking individuals that approved this press release." The statement continued: "When dealing with a law enforcement agency, we expect transparency and honesty and not parsed information to favor a flawed arrest." The police department had previously been criticized by media groups and others for releasing very little information in the wake of the Aug. 31 arrest at McDonald's San Jose home. Only on Monday did the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office provide information beyond the "visible injuries" detail as part of their decision not to file charges, saying the alleged victim had been uncooperative and authorities weren't sure what happened.

Sacramento Bee
California GOP's ship continues to flounder
Bera surges ahead of Ose in close race
Freshman Democratic Rep. Ami Bera has captured the lead over Republican Doug Ose in the expensive and closely watched race for suburban Sacramento’s 7th Congressional District. Bera surged ahead of Ose by 711 votes, 87,643 to 86,932, in the most recent vote totals announced Wednesday afternoon. Ose’s lead had stood at 3,011 votes on election night, falling to 2,183 last Thursday and just 530 on Monday, when county elections officials announced that 33,000 ballots remained uncounted. The outcome of the contest now hinges on an estimated 10,000 countywide mail ballots and more than 9,000 additional provisional ballots, officials said. “This race is not going to be fully counted for up to another week,” said Alice Jarboe, the assistant registrar of voters for Sacramento County. The next update is Friday, but Jarboe said that release is not expected to include any of the provisional ballots, which could take as long as a half-hour each to research and dispense of. Bera has been upbeat about his chances of securing a second term in Congress, noting that two years ago it took nine days to determine he had unseated then-Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican from Gold River. Both Bera and Ose were in Washington on Wednesday, Bera for House business and Ose for meetings. “On Election Day, I said that I was confident we’d win this election, and I’m encouraged by the numbers released today,” Bera said in a prepared statement. “We need to let the registrar continue to count the remaining ballots, and we’re excited to see what the final margin will be.”

San Francisco Chronicle
#PoliceState Update: San Francisco police corruption trial
A drug dealer and police informant, testifying in the trial of two San Francisco police officers, said Thursday that Officer Edmond Robles paid him in cash and crystal methamphetamine the first time he turned in a fellow dealer, and told him he could sell narcotics with impunity as long as he kept cooperating. “He told me, 'You want to sell drugs, you can sell drugs.’ I can do whatever I want, but don’t kill nobody,” Cesar Hernandez told a U.S. District Court jury in the trial of Robles and Sgt. Ian Furminger. The officers, who worked at Mission Station, are charged with stealing drugs and money that was seized from criminal suspects and should have been turned over to the Police Department as evidence. Hernandez said he started in the drug trade by wrapping bundles of marijuana as an 8-year-old in Mexico and was brought to the United States by a heroin dealer at about age 12. He said he eventually became a middleman in San Francisco’s Mission District, arranging deals between buyers and sellers, after serving time in juvenile hall and state prison. He said Robles and another officer knocked on the door of his cheap hotel room one morning in 2009, barged in, tore his belongings apart and told him he was in trouble unless he started working with them. On one occasion, Hernandez said, he led Robles to a major heroin dealer, and the officer told him to buy the drugs on credit and sell them himself. Hernandez said he wasn’t able to sell all of the heroin and gave some of it to Robles, who supplied additional cash to repay the dealer.

Los Angeles Times
Just like UC, Cal State continues to screw students and taxpayers
Cal State trustees OK $269-million budget, pay raises for top execs
California State University trustees approved a new budget Thursday for the 23-campus system, but acknowledged that it is unlikely to receive sufficient state funding to enroll all eligible students. The 2015-16 budget request of $269 million includes $216.6 million in state funding. That is far more than the $119.5 million proposed in Gov. Jerry Brown's spending plan. Unlike the University of California system, Cal State is not considering system-wide tuition hikes. Cal State's budget request includes $103.2 million to enroll an additional 12,000 students. Brown's plan, by contrast, would allow an additional 3,500 students. The trustees also voted for 3% pay increases for its top executives, including Chancellor Timothy P. White and the 23 campus presidents, saying that such a boost was necessary after seven years without pay raises. White noted the state's historical role in funding the greatest share of education costs, saying that role has changed and that the university must face different realities. "If we don't have the courage to take this on, we'll manage through, but we won't be serving the students we need to serve," White said. One example of a new approach, he suggested, would be to charge higher tuition — similar to what out-of-state students pay — to those with excessive credits as an incentive to graduate sooner.

Los Angeles Times
California can't challenge ruling on concealed guns, court says
A huge blow to the Police State: A big win for gun nuts
Relaxed rules for carrying concealed guns in public may not be challenged by California state officials or advocacy groups, a federal appeals panel decided Wednesday. The decision was another victory for gun rights advocates, but it was not likely to be the last word. The state has the right to appeal Wednesday's order and legal analysts expect the state to do so. There is another pending gun case involving the right to carry concealed weapons in California and a ruling in that case could resolve the debate. In its 2-1 ruling Wednesday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an attempt by Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, a gun control group and law enforcement associations to intervene in a case that struck down San Diego County's policy of tightly restricting the carrying of concealed guns. Gun owner Edward Peruta was the lead challenger of the San Diego rules. State law allows county law enforcement agencies to set rules that limit permits for concealed guns. The 9th Circuit panel that ruled Wednesday decided on the same split vote in February that San Diego County's policy requiring law-abiding gun owners to show a specific need for protection violated the 2nd Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms. Though the pro-gun ruling technically applied only to San Diego, it is being cited as a precedent in other gun challenges and some California counties have already chosen to follow it. San Diego and Orange counties relaxed their rules after the ruling and issued scores of permits to carry concealed guns in public. Harris and the other groups decided to intervene after San Diego County Sheriff William D. Gore refused to appeal the 9th Circuit's decision.

Sacramento Bee
Finding more ways to excuse police brutality
CHP chief wants more mental health training for officers
Joe Farrow had it right Wednesday morning when he said, “Everybody in this room knows we have an issue to work on. A big issue.” The CHP commissioner uttered those words before kicking off a five-hour meeting to talk about mental-health training for police. More then 100 experts and advocates, lawmakers and legislative staff, public health officials, family members and police officers from around the state gathered at the patrol’s North Sacramento headquarters. It’s not a coincidence that Farrow wants CHP to take the lead. Last July, a motorist shot video of CHP Officer Daniel Andrew straddling 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock on the ground and repeatedly striking her. The pictures of a young white officer beating a mentally confused African American grandmother grabbed national attention. Farrow shuttled back and forth from Sacramento to Southern California to make amends with local politicians and civil-rights activists. He didn’t hide his embarrassment. He apologized. He promised to investigate. He vowed to change how his officers deal with the mentally ill. The CHP settled with Pinnock for $1.5 million and Andrew’s resignation. He could still face criminal charges.

Los Angeles Times
Every Citizen the Enemy: LAPD's executions of the mentally ill continue to go un-punished
South L.A. frustrated by LAPD's lack of transparency in 2 fatal events
Three months after police fatally shot a mentally ill man in South Los Angeles, key questions remain about what led to the controversial shooting and exactly how the 25-year-old was killed. Los Angeles Police Department officials have yet to allow the county coroner's office to publicly release the results of an autopsy on Ezell Ford Jr. following his Aug. 11 death, and have not explained why gang officers approached Ford before the shooting. Some South L.A. residents say they are frustrated by how little information has been disclosed and accuse the department of failing to make good on Chief Charlie Beck's promise of transparency after the killing. Last month, the South Central Neighborhood Council unanimously passed a resolution urging Councilman Curren Price to direct the LAPD to release Ford's autopsy report. "Every day that goes by where the secrecy is maintained just increases the frustration," said Cliff Smith, a member of the nine-person Neighborhood Council who introduced the resolution. "There's no way to resolve this except to be transparent. And the police have been the opposite of transparent."

Mercury News
Racketeering case against state Sen. Leland Yee put on fast track to trial
A federal judge has put the racketeering and political corruption case against suspended state Sen. Leland Yee on a fast track to trial. Doing some pre-Thanksgiving carving of the government's sprawling indictment against Yee and 28 other defendants, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on Wednesday set a timetable for a trial early next year that focuses solely on the political corruption charges against the disgraced Democratic legislator and a handful of cohorts linked to his alleged wrongdoing. Given that most of the defendants in the case are accused in a separate racketeering charge connected to reputed Asian organized crime figure Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow and his Chee Kung Tong organization, Breyer decided it would be more efficient to break off the influence-peddling part of the case. That first trial would focus on Yee, San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson and perhaps a few others involved in the alleged bribery schemes. Federal prosecutors also are expected to include other pending charges in such a trial aside from racketeering, including gun trafficking charges against Yee and a murder-for-hire charge against Jackson unrelated to the state lawmaker. "I'm not going to let it play out in some multi-year, decade-long tableau," Breyer told a courtroom full of lawyers. The judge did not set a firm date for trial, other than to say he believes it can be held "in relatively short order." It remains to be seen how quickly a trial date arrives, in light of the defense lawyers' plan to ask the court to toss out the thousands of hours of wiretapped conversations at the heart of the FBI's four-year probe of Chow, Yee and others. But the judge's timeline will add pressure on Yee and the other defendants to decide whether to cut a deal or take a chance with a jury.

San Francisco Examiner
Nurses continue to try and squeeze more money from Ebola scam
Kaiser nurses strike over patient-safety standards, Ebola preparedness
Dozens of nurses picket outside the Kaiser hospital on Geary Boulevard on Tuesday. The nurses are striking for two days due to concerns that patient care is suffering.
Hundreds of nurses and nurse practitioners picketed in front of Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center on Tuesday as part of a two-day strike at nearly 90 Northern California facilities over patient-care standards and Ebola preparedness. Kaiser and the California Nurses Association on Tuesday sparred over how the ongoing dispute has been presented to the public. Kaiser officials said the strike lacked a clear focus, criticizing the union for appearing to switch its message from a concern over a lack of Ebola precautions to more general complaints that understaffing and cuts have made it more difficult for nurses to care for patients. Nurses on Tuesday insisted that the strike's function was to highlight eroding patient-care conditions, and those included concerns over their ability to adequately care for potential Ebola patients at local hospitals.

San Francisco Examiner
Legislators seek to lift ban on utilities owning electric-car charging stations
Two California utility companies are requesting permission to enter the electric-vehicle charging station business, and a group of legislators including state Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, have recommended that the California Public Utilities Commission pave the way for such a move by lifting a 2011 ban prohibiting investor-owned utilities from owning EV-charging infrastructure. The CPUC is expected to make a decision this month on whether to lift the ban, which was originally enacted to protect competition in the emerging EV charging station market. Avoiding "unintended consequences" that could stifle competition is paramount, according to Gordon, who said the lawmakers have asked the commission to allow utilities to enter the charging business, but also enact rules preventing those utilities from exerting monopolistic control over the market. Peninsula and Silicon Valley lawmakers joining Gordon in the request include Assembly members Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Nora Campos, D-San Jose, and Robert Wieckowski, D-Fremont. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is also on board, as are numerous Assembly members throughout the state. The elected officials' show of support comes after two utilities -- San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Edison -- submitted filings indicating their desire to build $500 million worth of charging infrastructure. ChargePoint CEO Pasquale Romano hailed the filings.

San Francisco Examiner
Now that he's off the hook, 49ers' McDonald ready to move forward
After getting a free pass from the Santa Clara County D.A., 49ers' McDonald spins "I'm really a good guy" b.s.
49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald seeks to restore his relationship with his fiancee as well as resume his football career. "I have no malice toward anyone," McDonald said Tuesday, a day after the Santa Clara County district attorney's office announced it declined to file charges against him in an investigation stemming from his Aug. 31 arrest. "I feel like I'm a good guy, a teddy bear." McDonald said he's ready to move forward after spending weeks having his focus divided between football and his off-field activities. McDonald has played all season despite pressure on the 49ers to not play him. He has 24 tackles, 15 solo, while starting all nine games for the 49ers (5-4), who travel to play the New York Giants on Sunday. "I want to move past it and focus on the game this week," he said. "My team had faith in me. My friends, family and coaches all know what kind of guy I am." McDonald and his fiancee remain together and are working to strengthen their relationship. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said at the time that public pressure wouldn't affect how the team handled McDonald's situation. An eight-year NFL veteran, McDonald has been a key member of one of the NFL's top defenses.

Thomas D. Elias
Utilities’ plan would raise rates for small users
PG&E is out to screw you again
A strong spotlight shines these days on the state Public Utilities Commission as it gets set to rule on how much the state’s biggest utilities will have to pay for their sometimes fatal blunders and how much consumers will be soaked for the negligence of utility executives. As much as $8 billion over the next decade rides on decisions of the five-member commission, about to rule on the 2010 PG&E gas pipeline explosion that killed eight and destroyed dozens of homes in San Bruno and on the Southern California Edison decisions that caused the premature shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. These are critical cases, but no matter what the commission rules on them, the average electric bill won’t rise by more than a dollar or two per month. A much bigger increase rides on another issue now under much quieter consideration by the same commission, which has for decades favored big companies over small utility customers. The seemingly arcane question to be decided sometime soon is how many rate tiers should appear on the typical California electricity bill. Tiers have a lot to do with how much customers pay for power, as for decades the rule has been that the more you use, the more you pay for each kilowatt hour. Now the commission is about to consider a plan by PG&E to cut the number of rate tiers from four to two, a move sure to raise the rates of low-usage customers and lower what’s paid by factories, office buildings and other large power users.

San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle, police, spin Potrero Hill shooting story...residents furious
Community members packed Potrero Hill Neighborhood House for the meeting, and called for Suhr to release surveillance video that supports the officers’ narrative of that night. Others voiced anger at the number of officer-involved shootings in Potrero Hill. “The message should be that there are a certain amount of guns in Potrero Hill,” Suhr said. “If you come across a police officer, the best thing to do is to drop the gun so that the police officer won’t ever have to make that decision.” Patty Jaundzems, 71, pointed out that her brother, Dale Wilkerson, did not have a gun when police shot and killed him in April 2013. Wilkerson, 60, was a suspect in a stabbing when he allegedly charged police with a hammer on the 900 block of De Haro Street. “I would really like them to change their policy of shoot to stop,” his sister said. “Why can’t they shoot to disable?” Meanwhile, Seymour’s girlfriend, Monica DuPass, 34, rejected Suhr’s account of what happened Thursday night and said police have been harassing him “for the longest time.” Seymour had been involved with drugs, but he had quit — and he definitely doesn’t carry guns, she said. “I feel like it’s a bunch of crap,” she said. As is department policy, Ochoa was placed on paid administrative leave. The district attorney’s office will investigate the shooting, as will internal affairs.

San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco police corruption trial begins in federal court
It may be impossible to find an honest cop in San Francisco
A federal prosecutor opened the trial of two San Francisco police officers Monday by telling jurors the case was about “corruption with a badge.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rodney Villazor said Vargas and other witnesses would describe a series of thefts of money, drugs and other property from criminal suspects by the three officers, who worked in the plainclothes unit at the Mission Station. In a May 2009, during a search of a home in Newark, where the officers were assisting the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Villazor said, Vargas found a shovel in the backyard, dug up $30,000 in cash and split it with Furminger and Robles. The next day, the prosecutor said, Robles deposited $6,000 in his bank account. “That’s what this case is about, a cop stealing money,” the prosecutor said. He said the items police seize during searches belong in evidence lockers, “not in their bank accounts.”

San Francisco Examiner
No charges against 49ers' Ray McDonald...NFL/Santa Clara DA look the other way
The Santa Clara County district attorney's office declined to file charges against San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald in a domestic violence investigation stemming from his Aug. 31 arrest. Prosecutors said in a release Monday that they were unable to charge McDonald because of conflicting versions of what happened, a lack of verifiable eyewitnesses and a lack of cooperation by the alleged victim, McDonald's fiancee. "All domestic violence complaints deserve our concern, sensitivity and careful review," District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in the release. "After our thorough review of all the facts, we do not have evidence sufficient to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. McDonald committed a crime" against his fiancee. The DA's statement said no one was left with "significant injuries." McDonald has played all season despite outside pressure on the 49ers to bench him. He has 24 tackles, 15 of those solo, while starting all nine games for the 49ers (5-4). The arrest came only days after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced stiffer penalties for players accused of domestic violence, including a six-week suspension for a first offense and at least a year for a second. That move followed scrutiny over former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's two-game penalty stemming from his arrest on an assault charge in February.

Oakland Tribune
In California, the chemical industry is simply unsafe
U.S. Chemical Safety Board calls for more stringent regulation of California oil refineries
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board calls for substantial changes in the way oil refineries are regulated in California in its final regulatory report on the August 2012 fire at Chevron's refinery here. The report, released late Monday, calls on the state "to enhance its process safety management regulations for petroleum refineries to ensure a more robust and adaptive regulatory regime." The regulatory report is the second of three in the federal agency's investigation into the crude-unit fire that endangered 19 workers and sent more than 15,000 area residents to the hospital. The fire was sparked when a corroded 52-inch-long carbon steel piping component ruptured. The goal of reducing risks to a specified target reflects principles that have been adopted in the refinery and chemical industries in Europe and Australia, as well as the nuclear and space sectors in the United States, C.S.B. investigator Amanda Johnson said in a news release announcing the report. The Chemical Safety Board's news release noted that in September, the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) released draft regulations for refinery safety that include a number of more rigorous requirements. "California's draft regulations address numerous issues raised in the C.S.B. regulatory report, and the C.S.B. will be monitoring the California rule-making process closely to see if those provisions remain in the final rule," C.S.B. Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said in the release.

Dan Morain
Billionaire climate activist undaunted after losses in Tuesday’s election
As he sees it, the $65 million he spent this year placed climate on the agenda
Shortly after winning a U.S. Senate seat in South Dakota last week, Republican Mike Rounds declared there would be “enough votes to actually get the Keystone XL pipeline released from captivity.” Sen. John Hoeven, his Republican neighbor from the other Dakota, chimed in: “I think we have the 60 votes we need to approve it.” In the newly reconstituted Senate, James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, is in line to replace our own Barbara Boxer as chair of the committee that oversees environmental legislation. Inhofe wrote the fascinating book “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.” Billionaire Tom Steyer, the environmentalists’ answer to the Koch brothers, called from his office in San Francisco last week, having analyzed results of his first serious foray into national campaigns. “Honestly, I think we had a much, much better 2014 than people are giving us credit for,” Steyer said. Come again? Yes, his candidates won in three states where his NextGen Climate political action committee spent $12.2 million: Democrat Gary Peters won a Senate seat in Michigan; Tom Wolf defeated Republican incumbent Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania; and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen beat her Republican challenger in New Hampshire. But what about Florida, threatened by sea-level rise? Steyer, the retired hedge-fund founder-turned-climate activist, spent $17 million to elect Democrat Charlie Crist governor. Crist lost to Republican incumbent Rick Scott, who has said he isn’t convinced “there’s any man-made climate change.” Steyer spent $8.5 million in Colorado, where Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall lost to Republican Cory Gardner, who also had said he doesn’t believe people are the cause of climate change. Steyer spent $11 million in Iowa. The result: Joni “Make ’Em Squeal” Ernst is that state’s new senator. The earthy Republican aired a 30-second commercial in which she smiles as she recalls castrating hogs on her family farm, and promises to happily cut pork in Washington. A wealthy San Francisco enviro fretting about how the Keystone pipeline would worsen climate change never will beat an Iowa politician who can talk about separating hogs from their equipment. In Maine, Steyer spent $2 million. The upshot: Conservative Republican Paul LePage is that state’s governor. He has said that climate change is not a threat and, to the contrary, could offer Maine opportunities. And in Washington state, Steyer spent $1.4 million to help Democrats take control of the Senate. Republicans apparently maintained a majority, though votes remain to be counted.

San Francisco Chronicle
Jerry Brown looks to solidify legacy with big state projects
Fresh off winning a historic fourth term as governor, Jerry Brown plans to push ahead with a pair of projects that could transform the California landscape: high-speed rail and delta water tunnels. The ventures have strong critics. But having soared into office with 59 percent of the vote and no concern about winning another term, Brown is in a unique position to solidify the legacy he’s seeking: as a fiscal steward who built historic projects for the state. “I do come from a long line of people who have achieved something, and I feel I have a lot to live up to. And I’m going to make sure during these next four years I maximize that opportunity,” Brown said Wednesday. His father, Edmund “Pat” Brown, was governor in the 1960s and built his legacy around the projects he ushered in — including the state’s water delivery system and its Master Plan for Higher Education. Brown said he also wants to reform criminal justice policies and address problems that arose after he shifted low-level offenders from overcrowded prisons to unprepared jails in 2011. He said he wants to continue to invest in schools, which received budget flexibility under a law he signed last year. And he plans to push policies that reduce carbon pollution and enlist other states and countries to help address climate change.

Los Angeles Times
Money well spent...California businesses benefit from election day outcomes
Businesses as varied as strawberry growers, beer brewers and oil refiners — all heavy water users — stand to benefit from voter passage of Proposition 1, a $7.5-billion bond to fund improved water storage and quality and stave off future droughts. Fiscal conservatives got a successful ballot measure, Proposition 2, that will create a budgetary "rainy day fund" to cushion the blow of the next recession. Health insurers spent tens of millions of dollars to stave off an initiative, Proposition 45, that would have regulated their rates. And doctors and hospitals ponied up equally large sums to defeat Proposition 46, which would have raised medical malpractice award caps for non-economic "pain and suffering." To top it off, voters overwhelmingly reelected Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to a historic fourth term. At the same time, they denied Democrats lopsided supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. Brown, 76, who has matured into a vocal believer in balanced budgets, is expected to rein in freer-spending liberal lawmakers. Indeed, on the day after the election, he publicly promised to roll back a series of temporary tax increases when they begin to expire in 2016. Those hikes in sales and income taxes helped the governor erase a $26-billion deficit and start building a surplus. The combination of an already more pragmatic Brown and what's expected to be a more moderate Legislature has put the California business community in a strong position over the next four years.

San Francisco Chronicle
Assembly victory in East Bay a gift to the GOP
Republican attorney Catharine Baker’s surprise victory over Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti for an East Bay Assembly seat was an unexpected gift for the GOP, a foothold in the Democrats-only bastion of the Bay Area. But Baker’s narrow win also highlighted the ever-growing clout of independent expenditure groups in California politics, fueled by their ability to raise unlimited amounts of money for candidates. Although the groups can’t work directly with individual campaigns, they share a common goal. “We knew we were going to get outspent, so the independent expenditure was hugely important,” said Justin Matheson, a consultant for Baker’s campaign. “It kept us in the game.” The numbers tell the story. Baker, who finished on top in the primary, took in about $625,000 in direct contributions. Those figures were substantially boosted by the money outside groups poured into the race to replace termed-out Democratic Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. On the Democratic side, Californians for Economic Prosperity, a group formed to help Sbranti, raised about $3.1 million for his election. The California Teachers Association put up nearly $1.2 million of that for the former leader of its political involvement committee, and other public employee unions kicked in most of the rest. Baker, though, had the backing of JobsPAC, a California Chamber of Commerce group funded by companies including Safeway, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Philip Morris. Her biggest supporter was Spirit of Democracy California, which spent at least $6.7 million to elect her. About $4.5 million of that came from Charles Munger Jr., a Peninsula physicist who has given millions to GOP candidates and causes in the state.

Sacramento Bee
California’s new Legislature inexperienced but has more time to adjust
Like fire clearing an old growth forest, last week’s election elevated a class of freshman lawmakers who will join last cycle’s surge of first-term legislators to form one of the least experienced Legislatures in years.  When the 2015-16 Legislature convenes later this year, a majority of lawmakers – 72 out of 120 – will arrive with at most two years of state-level experience. The critical mass of relative newcomers reflects a shift in California’s term limit rules with dual consequences: While the incoming class of lawmakers is sparse on state legislative experience, it could also remain largely intact for a decade. Critics of California’s term limits have long warned of unintended consequences. Voters hoped to make the Legislature more accountable and to loosen the grip of long-serving politicians. But in the process, skeptics say, voters deprived their representatives of the experience and policy fluency that comes from years steeped in lawmaking. Despite such concerns about a knowledge gap or power migrating to those who were not elected, people pointed to an upside. Elected officials, staffers and political experts expressed optimism about the time lawmakers will have to acquire expertise and shape sound policy.

Sacramento Bee
Solar industry is heating up again after stumbling during recession
The solar power industry, viewed more than a decade ago as a game-changing, jobs-producing juggernaut in California, took its lumps during the recession. But now it’s coming back with a vengeance, both here and globally. Some California solar system installers say they have work backlogs. New deals to build new solar power-generating arrays are being announced regularly. And the nation’s No. 1 solar installer, San Mateo-based SolarCity Corp., recently created ripples industrywide, announcing a loan program that lets homeowners finance and buy their rooftop solar systems. It also announced an offering of what it calls the nation’s first solar bonds. “Inch by inch and now leap by leap, solar is growing and creeping further into the mainstream … and California is a center point for what we’re seeing now,” said Alfred Abernathy, a Bay Area energy analyst. That growth is fueled partly by a sunnier economy, falling manufacturing costs, federal tax incentives and increasing consumer and corporate enthusiasm for renewable energy. Solar also has boomed far beyond California’s borders, spreading in China, Japan and Europe. For perspective, the U.S. Department of Energy shows that the United States currently has about 16 gigawatts of installed solar power, or enough to power more than 3 million average American homes. Through June this year, California accounted for nearly half – 7 gigawatts – of the national total. A gigawatt is a unit of power equal to 1 billion watts.

Sacramento Bee
Showdown looms as California eyes pesticides
Organic farmers are asking the state to give more consideration to non-toxic controls
With organic food growers reporting double-digit growth in U.S. sales each year, producers are challenging a proposed California pest-management program they say enshrines a pesticide-heavy approach for decades to come, including compulsory spraying of organic crops at the state's discretion. Chief among the complaints of organic growers: The California Department of Food and Agriculture's pest-management plan says compulsory state pesticide spraying of organic crops would do no economic harm to organic producers, on the grounds that the growers could sell sprayed crops as non-organic instead. At issue is a California organic agriculture industry that grew by 54 percent between 2009 and 2012. California leads the nation in organic sales, according to statistics tracked by University of California-Davis agriculture economist Karen Klonsky, who says the state is responsible for roughly one-third of a national organic industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture puts the overall value of the U.S. organic sector at $35 billion. The U.S. organic industry has seen a similar growth spurt nationally in the same time frame, and three out of four grocery stores in the country now carry at least some organic goods, according to the USDA. California's $43 billion agriculture industry is the largest in the country by revenue, so what happens here matters to consumers and to the agriculture industry nationwide. The state's more than 500-page document lays out its planned responses to the next wave of fruit flies, weevils, beetles, fungus or blight that threatens crops. Many groups challenging the plan complained that it seems to authorize state agriculture officials to launch pesticide treatments without first carrying out the currently standard separate environmental-impact review. But Steve Lyle, a spokesman for the agriculture department, said the outline doesn't give state crop-pest programs any power they don't already have by law. The state's program is designed "to protect California's food system through the principles of integrated pest management, while also protecting public health and the environment," Lyle said in an email.

Sacramento Bee
Market speaks louder than science: GMO-free animals a good business model
Monsanto has already won: Like it or not, you're stuck wiht GMO food
Genetically engineered foods have become a hot political issue. In 2012, Californians defeated Proposition 37, which would have required genetically engineered foods in California to be labeled as such. Voters in Oregon and Colorado defeated similar measures Tuesday. Until 2013, there was no rule for GMO-free meat labeling. It was that year that Claire Herminjard worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service to set a standard for such labeling. As a result, Herminjard’s Mindful Meats brand became the first to get approval to use non-GMO labeling from the USDA for the meats she sells out of Sonoma and Marin counties. Herminjard said she thinks the verdict on whether GMOs affect health or not is still out. “We think the science is still early on GMOs,” she said. Even so, Herminjard said using GMO feed runs contrary to her belief in the benefits of organic farming. “Most of the feed crops that have been genetically engineered are engineered to withstand major pesticides, and that’s a system we do not support,” she said. “We believe in biodiversity and organic farming.” Humans have manipulated the genes of plants and animals for centuries through selective breeding. But the introduction of genetically modified food dates to 1996, when Monsanto introduced genetically engineered soybeans. Today such crops are widespread in the food chain – as feed for animals, produce at the grocery store and ingredients in processed food. Use of genetically engineered feed is now pervasive. Crops, like corn, have been engineered to tolerate weedkillers such as Roundup, made by Monsanto, and to resist insect infestation. Roughly 94 percent of soybeans and 90 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Between 2000 and 2011, it is estimated that 100 billion animals have consumed some level of GE feed, and few health effects have been quantified by any studies, genetic engineering proponents say. For some ranchers and dairy operators, consumer preference is paramount – regardless of what scientists say.

Sacramento Bee
Unmasked: How California’s largest nursing home chains perform
Is sending a loved-one to a nursing home a death sentence?
One nursing home chain operating in California racked up abuse complaints last year at a pace seven times the statewide rate. A large competitor placed one in every 15 of its long-term residents in restraints. Still another corporate giant whose nursing homes dominate the Sacramento region experienced high nursing staff turnover at 90 percent of its facilities. If you’re a consumer anguishing over the placement of a loved one needing full-time nursing, how would you know this? The short answer: You wouldn’t. As the population ages, and more families face the daunting task of choosing long-term care, consumers remain largely in the dark about the ownership of many California nursing homes – and their track records. While industry officials contend they are intensely regulated by both the state and federal government, no single agency routinely evaluates nursing-home chains to gauge the overall care provided by their facilities. Data are available for individual nursing homes, as federal, state and nonprofit groups keep records that chronicle staffing levels, bedsore rates and use of antipsychotic drugs, among many issues. But in California, the agency charged with overseeing these skilled-nursing facilities, the Department of Public Health, makes no effort to measure quality of care throughout a chain, or determine whether corporate policies and practices are contributing to any patterns.

Mercury News
Bay Area nears record levels of employment (for the tech industry)
The Bay Area is poised to reach all-time-high levels of employment, breaking the records set at the height of the dot-com boom, as the region undergoes another technology renaissance and a reshaping of its economic landscape. In September, the region had 3.57 million payroll jobs, which was about 43,000 jobs, or 1.2 percent, below the record of 3.61 million reached in January 2001, state data show. But the rebound in the nine-county region's major urban centers has been uneven. The San Francisco metro area already posted record highs in recent months, and the East Bay is close to its best-ever employment numbers. For Santa Clara County, even with its remarkable job growth over the last few years, that pinnacle could be a year away. Despite that, one thing is certain: The looming milestone is a testament to the Bay Area's ability to overcome the calamities of the tech bust, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, and, most recently, the Great Recession. And this isn't another dot-com bubble, argues Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. The foundation of the current growth is a collection of world-class market leaders in the tech sector. The rebound is doing more than bring employment to record levels. It also has produced a profound transformation in the Bay Area economy, this newspaper's analysis of job trends over the 14 years from the dot-com peaks in the fall of 2000 through September of this year shows. More than 165,000 manufacturing jobs have vanished, including nearly 89,000 computer and electronics manufacturing positions in the nine-county region. The real estate industry is also struggling, with 30,000 construction jobs and nearly 26,000 finance and real estate positions lost since 2000.

Los Angeles Times
Get Lost! Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein shouldn't run again, majority of voters say
Although U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein — two of California's most experienced political figures — remain popular, a majority of state voters say they should not run for reelection, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. As analysts speculate about whether the Democratic stalwarts will seek additional six-year terms in coming years, 59% of registered voters said the state would be better off with new candidates for the two seats. That sentiment was expressed by 79% of Republicans. But even many Democrats said it was time for new representation. Forty-four percent of Democratic respondents preferred new candidates, compared with 43% who said Boxer and Feinstein should run again. "I think they're old," said Rich Mettling, a 67-year-old retired regulatory analyst with Southern California Edison and a registered Democrat. "I'd like to see some fresh senatorial blood." "They don't even sound like they're engaged sometimes," he said. But Mettling, who lives in Burbank, added that he would never vote for a Republican to replace either Feinstein, 81, or Boxer, 73. The GOP's capture of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday has intensified questions about whether California's senators, who were not on Tuesday's ballot, will seek another term. Boxer is up for reelection in 2016, Feinstein in 2018. Neither has said whether she will run again. Pollsters cautioned that the findings were not a reflection of any vulnerability for either official, but rather a manifestation of voters' frustration over gridlock in the nation's capital.

Los Angeles Times
WTF!!! In Denton, Texas, voters approve 'unprecedented' fracking ban
Drinking water that burns is not good Texans say
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, shoots sand, water and chemicals underground at high pressure to release trapped oil and gas. Environmentalists argue that it contaminates water supplies and that the disposal of fracking wastewater has led to an increase in earthquakes in north Texas and elsewhere across the country. Other Texas cities have passed laws restricting fracking, but not outright bans. In Denton, fracking opponents formed a coalition of environmentalists and conservatives against what they saw as big government infringing on their health, safety and land rights. "People recognize this is a mainstream issue," said Adam Briggle, 37, vice president of the group behind the ban, Frack Free Denton. Briggle, an associate professor of philosophy at the University of North Texas, said the ban was a last resort. He and other organizers had worked for years to strengthen industry regulations, but the industry found ways to work around them, he said. Texas produced about a third of the country's natural gas last year, the greatest share of any state, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Denton sits atop the Barnett Shale, one of the largest natural gas reserves in the country, with about 275 natural gas wells in the city and scores more on the outskirts. Last year, the Denton City Council prohibited new wells within 1,200 feet of homes, but many existing wells are closer, Briggle said. His group's biggest concerns: fracking's impact on air and water and the potential for industrial accidents, especially close to homes and playgrounds. When Denton residents brought a proposed ban before the City Council in July, it failed, 5 to 2, so they gathered nearly 2,000 signatures to place the issue on Tuesday's ballot. Energy companies and the state are fighting it. Already this week, separate lawsuits have been filed in two district courts — by Texas Oil & Gas Assn. and the state's General Land Office — challenging and attempting to block the ordinance. The leader of the state commission that approves drilling permits pledged this week to continue issuing them in Denton.

Los Angeles Times
California seeks emergency OK of license rules for immigrants in U.S. illegally
Facing a deadline of Jan. 2 to begin issuing driver’s licenses to Californians in the country illegally, state officials said Friday they will pursue emergency approval of regulations that spell out which documents must be provided to prove identity and state residency. The Legislature and governor in 2013 approved a new law that requires the state Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a driver’s license, starting in 2015, to anyone who can prove their identity and California residence as well as pass a driving-knowledge and road-skills test. The public process for approving the documentation has taken months so the normal 180-day timeline for enacting regulations will take too long to meet the Jan. 2 deadline. The state will pursue the normal process but also an emergency process that takes 15 days and goes through the state Office of Administrative Law. “Our commitment is to successfuly implement this law to increase safety on California roads and protect the high level of security in our licensing and identity verification process,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto in a statement. An estimated 1.4 million people are expected to apply for the new driver's license during the first three years. To prove identity, residents can provide specific documents including a California driver’s license or identification card, a Mexican federal electoral card, a consular card or a foreign passport that is accompanied by a verifiable Social Security number. If those documents that are electronically verifiable are not available, applicants must provide a foreign birth certificate and other documents including a foreign identification card. If the described documents don’t prove residency in California, applicants can submit documents including school records, income tax returns, court documents and marriage certificates.

Mercury News
OK, you can go home now...
Prop. 47: Bay Area counties begin releasing inmates
A new era in California criminal justice dawned this week, as hundreds of inmates walked out of county jails and more than 4,000 held in state prison readied for possible release with reduced sentences for theft or drug crimes, following voter approval of Proposition 47. Around the Bay Area, judges did not even wait for election results to be certified before resentencing inmates and reducing charges. And attorneys geared up to ensure the law's mandates are implemented as swiftly as possible. "It's a move in the right direction in terms of getting smarter in how we address low-level offenses that are driven many times by drug addiction and mental health issues," said Contra Costa Public Defender Robin Lipetzky. "The revolving door of incarceration hasn't worked ... We are hopeful that district attorneys have heard that message and will adjust their thinking, looking for rehabilitation instead of prosecution and incarceration." The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation estimated 4,770 state prison inmates are eligible to petition for resentencing, and untold more serving time in county jails or awaiting trial could also be released or have sentences dropped. Crimes reduced from felonies to misdemeanors under Proposition 47 include drug possession and certain nonviolent offenses when less than $950 is involved, such as theft, possession of stolen goods, forgery, shoplifting, and check and credit fraud. Three populations are affected by Proposition 47: defendants or felony probationers with charges pending, inmates serving sentences and felons who completed sentences. Those who already served their time can petition the court to get felony convictions changed to misdemeanors on their records.

Sacramento Bee
Villalobos pleads not guilty
Former CalPERS board member indicted in the pension fund’s bribery scandal
Alfred Villalobos, the former CalPERS board member indicted in the pension fund’s bribery scandal, pleaded innocent to a fresh set of charges this week. Villalobos, appearing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Wednesday, denied charges that he bribed former CalPERS Chief Executive Fred Buenrostro to influence the pension fund’s investment decisions. Villalobos earned $50 million in commissions as a “placement agent” securing CalPERS investments for his private-equity clients. Villalobos had already pleaded innocent to charges that he and Buenrostro falsified pension fund documents to make sure Villalobos would get paid his commissions. The case took a dramatic turn in July, when Buenrostro pleaded guilty to much broader charges – that he had accepted $250,000 in bribes from Villalobos, along with the promise of a job and other favors. In August, the government issued a new indictment against Villalobos, charging him with paying the bribes that Buenrostro admitted taking. Besides the cash bribes, Villalobos provided Buenrostro with “entertainment, travel, lodging, jewelry, casino chips and other benefits,” according to the indictment. The government is continuing to charge him with falsifying documents, the allegation contained in the earlier indictment. Villalobos has been charged with three felony counts in all. He faces up to 30 years in prison, the same as in the original indictment, if convicted on all charges.

Sacramento Bee
Is fraud crushing California's recycling efforts?
Legislature needs to rethink California’s recycling program, audit concludes
Persistent deficits undermining California’s recycling fund compel the Legislature to rethink how the program is structured, a new state audit concludes. Auditors suggested a handful of approaches, including a crackdown on fraud and perhaps broadening the kinds of products that are redeemable. “The beverage program continues to face deficits,” the audit says, and “immediate action is needed to ensure the continued viability of the program.” The complex system of fees and payments rests on a simple foundation – beverage distributors pay California for every eligible receptacle sold in the state and pass the increased cost on to consumers, who can reclaim the money by cashing those cans and bottles in and receiving a California Redemption Value, or CRV, payment. But the money flowing in is often not enough to cover California’s obligatory payments to CRV-seeking consumers and processors. As a result, the program faces persistent shortfalls. In three of the last four fiscal years, the audit found, those funding gaps exceeded $100 million. Paradoxically, the program is in some ways a victim of its success. The more people recycle and draw down the pot of money funded by distributors, the less cash California’s recycling fund will have.

Los Angeles Times
Jerry Brown, students decry proposed UC tuition hikes
Napolitano wants higher pensions and salaries
A University of California proposal to increase tuition by as much as 5% in each of the next five years drew sharp opposition Thursday from Gov. Jerry Brown, top state legislative leaders and student activists, ending three years of relative peace over the cost of public higher education in the state. Some UC officials said they anticipated difficult negotiations through the spring with Brown, who already announced his resistance to the increases and is pushing for UC instead to reduce spending, limit executive pay raises and offer more online classes. UC administrators went on an offensive to sell the proposal, which could end a three-year freeze on tuition. UC President Janet Napolitano sent emails to alumni, faculty and donors explaining her plan to help pay for higher pension and salary costs and increase the enrollment of California students.

Mercury News
Pot proponents look to California after victories in Oregon, Alaska and the nation's capital
Marijuana advocates, fresh off victories for legal recreational pot in Oregon, Alaska and the nation's capital, are already preparing for their next target, and it's a big one: California. They are aiming to ask voters in the nation's largest state to legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2016, hoping to draw on a more liberal and larger electorate during a presidential election to help them avoid a repeat of their 2010 failed pot measure. The victories in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia came in a midterm election that saw a low turnout and a conservative electorate hand Republicans back control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 2006. "This is a Republican wave year, so we're excited for our prospects," said David Boyer, who is leading Maine's legal pot effort for 2016. "In a tough midterm, we gained steam." The results emboldened them -- even from a loss in Florida, where a medical marijuana proposal earned 58 percent of the vote, just shy of the 60 percent required to pass. Legalization opponent Kevin Sabet called the votes "a bit of a wake-up call before 2016," noting that drug policy groups had spent millions on the legalization campaigns, vastly outspending opponents. "This is going to make our side redouble our efforts to find donors who can put forth real money," said the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, adding that if they can get the resources to get their message out, voters could make informed decisions.

Sacramento Bee
Prop. 47 victory is repudiation of lock-’em-up policies
Of all six measures on the statewide ballot, this one has the most potential for dangerous unintended consequences
The victory of Proposition 47 in California on Tuesday is another example of the public’s waning support of 20th century tough-on-crime policies that stuffed state prisons to unhealthy levels. We sure hope the public knows what it is doing, because the provisions of the measure began Wednesday. That means, from now on, people convicted of drug possession and petty property crime will not face jail time. It is supposed to save the state hundreds of millions each year by diverting low-level felons into addiction and mental health programs – some of which exist, others just imagined. Also, the measure applies retroactively to potentially thousands of people already convicted; it’s impossible to say exactly how many, as the measure doesn’t apply to people who have past records that include murder or sex crimes. It does, however, apply to prior offenders of all manner of other serious and violent convictions – armed robbery, carjacking, residential burglary and assault with a deadly weapon, the latter of which may have been homicide but for lack of a clear shot. Of all six measures on the statewide ballot, this one has the most potential for dangerous unintended consequences. This measure followed closely on the heels of two other criminal justice reform policies: Gov. Jerry Brown’s realignment in 2011 and Proposition 36, a 2012 ballot measure that revised California’s “three-strikes” law so that the third strike had to be a violent or serious felony. Gov. Brown, who kept as quiet on this measure as most other things on the ballot, might well find it is raining on his realignment parade. Ultimately, the desire to reform the state’s criminal justice system is a healthy sign of a maturing society recognizing that true rehabilitation is a more humane way to fight crime than locking people up and throwing away the key. We just hope the pendulum doesn’t swing too far the other way.

Los Angeles Times
#PoliceState dealt a major blow by California voters
Prop. 47 jolts landscape of California justice system
Thousands of felons are now eligible for immediate release from prisons and jails
Los Angeles County Public Defender Ron Brown walked into a Pomona court Wednesday and saw first-hand the impact of Proposition 47 — the voter-approved initiative that reduces penalties for drug possession and other nonviolent crimes. His office had deliberately postponed sentencing for a defendant facing more than a year behind bars for possessing heroin and methamphetamine to the day after Tuesday's election, waiting to see what voters would do. The gambit worked. The man was sentenced and released from custody with no further jail time. "They were felonies yesterday. They're misdemeanors today," Brown said. "This is the law now." The day after California voted to reduce punishments, police agencies, defense attorneys, prosecutors and even some advocates were scrambling to figure out exactly how it was going to work. The greatest effect, experts said, would be in drug possession cases, noting that California is now the first state in the nation to downgrade those cases from felonies to misdemeanors. Thousands of felons are now eligible for immediate release from prisons and jails. Meanwhile, jailers in Los Angeles County made preparations to deal with an unknown number of inmates charged with felonies that are now misdemeanors. Because of severe overcrowding and court-ordered population caps, the Los Angeles County jails do not typically hold those charged with misdemeanors. Proposition 47 will also give a fresh chance to some three-strikes prisoners serving life terms who have recently failed to obtain reduced sentences.

OC Weekly
Pervert LAPD Cop Ryan Eric Galliher Faces Felonies
In announcing the charges against a Los Angeles police officer accused of exposing himself to five females in the Bolsa Chica wetlands area, the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) reveals one alleged victim is an 80-year-old woman and another is a 12-year-old girl who was victimized twice and was asked to touch the man. Ryan Eric Galliher, 33, of Huntington Beach, is now scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 12 on felony charges of an attempted lewd act on a child younger than 14 and luring of a child with intent to commit a lewd act as well as five misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure and lewd conduct in a public place. A conviction could send him to state prison for four years and require him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, according to Deputy District Attorney Jess Rodriguez. Galliher posted $100,000 bond and is out of custody. Galliher, who is on administrative leave from his post at the LAPD's Southwest Station, exposed himself to a 12-year-old girl in the Bolsa Chica wetlands area on Feb. 27 and asked her to touch him. The 80-year-old woman got the unwanted show near Bolsa Chica Street on March 10 as well, a 43-year-old woman in the wetlands area was a victim on June 17, and two teen girls, ages 18 and 19 and jogging near the wetlands, were whistled at by a nude Galliher on Oct. 20, Rodriguez alleged.

Los Angeles Times
Pols try to get crooked firefighters under control
L.A. County team of monitors to oversee Fire Department hiring
The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday created a "strike team" of monitors to oversee hiring by the Los Angeles County Fire Department in response to a Times investigation that found a disproportionate number of relatives in the ranks and evidence of cheating in recruitment. The supervisors' action will dramatically expand the role of outsiders in the department's hiring procedures, along the lines of reforms that Fire Chief Daryl Osby proposed in the wake of The Times' disclosures. "We must ensure that all eligible candidates receive equal employment opportunity," Supervisor Gloria Molina said in the motion that led to Wednesday's unanimous vote, which requires the monitoring team to report weekly to the board. Molina later said in a statement that the team would act as a "watchdog" over department recruitment. "I want a hiring process that is transparent, has integrity, and urgency," she said. Last week, she called for stripping the Fire Department of its hiring authority entirely, but her colleagues said they were reluctant to go that far. As a compromise, the monitoring team won the backing of the full board as well as Osby and the firefighters' labor union.

Sacramento Bee
University of California plans annual tuition increases for five years
Students get screwed while administators and teachers get richer
The University of California will unveil a plan to raise tuition 5 percent annually over the next five years unless the state increases budget support beyond what is expected. UC said the proposal – which would kick in during the 2015-16 academic year with a potential $612 tuition increase – is an effort to increase financial stability, maintain student services and financial aid, and provide families with more advance notice of what they might owe. If fully implemented, the annual cost of base tuition and fees for a California resident will jump from $12,192 this academic year to an estimated $15,563 in 2019-20. The Board of Regents will consider the proposal when it meets later this month. The “long-term stability plan,” as the op-ed piece dubbed it, is UC’s latest effort to deal with growing costs and falling public support that have plagued the university financially in recent years. Huge budget cuts during the economic recession led to layoffs, major tuition increases, and an expanding focus on recruiting students from outside California, who pay additional fees. Raising tuition next year, however, would break a deal with Gov. Jerry Brown to freeze tuition levels in exchange for four years of general funding increases in the state budget. After falling by up to $1 billion during the recession, UC’s allocation has grown by 5 percent over each of the last two years and was set to rise by another 4 percent each in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 fiscal years. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who sits on the Board of Regents, was critical of the proposed plan, noting that UC recently gave significant pay raises to chancellors at four of its campuses and intends to continue those systemwide.

Daily News
Sex Police go berserk in Los Angeles
Protesters demand stricter condom standards during porn shoots
Protesters who support condom use during porn shoots marched in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday to demand that state regulators stop stalling and release revised safety standards that protect adult film performers. More than 100 people, including former adult film performers, protested on behalf of AIDS Healthcare Foundation saying the time has come for all porn production sites to have the same health and safety laws as any workplace. Condoms on porn sets have been required under state law since the early 1990s. Production companies have skirted the regulation and Cal/OSHA has enforced the regulation mostly by responding to complaints. But an HIV scare in 2004 that hit the multibillion-dollar porn industry, largely based in the San Fernando Valley, cast a spotlight on safety. It was then Cal/OSHA began re-examining its blood-borne pathogen standards that require protective barriers. For porn, that meant condoms. Updating those standards, however, has been a complex process, said Amy Martin, chief counsel for Cal/OSHA. Protecting adult film stars isn’t as easy as requiring hard hats for construction workers, or gloves for nurses, she said. The tug of war over condoms between the adult film industry and AIDS Healthcare Foundation gained heat after Los Angeles County voters approved Measure B two years ago. Measure B not only requires condoms on all production sites in Los Angeles County, but also makes adult film studios apply for public health permits and for the county Department of Public Health to lead inspection and enforcement efforts. Some adult film studios have chosen to go condom only, while others have said the industry has quietly moved to shoot porn in other states.

Sacramento Bee
Voters approve sentencing changes in Prop. 47
California's prison gates are about to open even wider
A coalition of civil libertarian philanthropists, Democrats and organized labor pushed the measure to alter punishments for nonviolent crimes – a move they said would ultimately reduce crime and the statewide prison population. Proposition 47 promised to reduce from felonies to misdemeanors punishments for a variety of property crimes – grand theft, shoplifting, check forgery or receiving stolen property of $950 or less and drug possession for personal use (not including marijuana, which is already an infraction). The savings realized from the changes would go to support anti-truancy, mental health and drug treatment programs. Supporters raised millions from the American Civil Liberties Union and foundations controlled by a diverse list that included George Soros and B. Wayne Hughes, a Malibu Republican and conservative Christian businessman. Police and prosecutor organizations joined with crime victims’ groups to push back, arguing that the initiative would release too many criminals.

Daily News
As expected, Jerry Brown eviscerates the hapless GOP's latest sacrificial lamb
California Gov. Jerry Brown will return to Sacramento for a record fourth term after decisively defeating his Republican challenger on Tuesday in a lopsided campaign in the state dominated by Democrats. The 76-year-old Brown is already the state’s longest-serving governor. He logged two terms in the office from 1975 to 1983 and made history again by winning the fourth term. Brown argued during the campaign that he led a comeback by the state after the recession cost California more than a million jobs. His victory came amid a tough political environment for Democrats nationally, with widespread voter discontent with President Barack Obama. The governor’s race topped a state ballot in which battles over congressional and legislative seats, and a handful of state and local initiatives, garnered the most attention. The major parties and their supporters focused most of their money on tight congressional races involving Democratic incumbents in Sacramento, San Diego and Ventura County, as well as a handful of state legislative races that would determine whether Democrats would win supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate. Voters also will settle statewide initiative battles over medical malpractice damages and health insurance rate increases, while deciding whether to borrow $7.5 billion for water projects amid California’s three-year drought. Brown won re-election after a muted and sometimes invisible gubernatorial campaign in which the incumbent Democrat never appeared to be threatened by Neel Kashkari, a Republican making his first run for elected office. A former U.S. treasury official, Kashkari helped lead the federal bank bailout during the recession.

Mercury News
Anti-Chevron candidates sweep to victory in Richmond races
In a race that received national attention thanks to big money from Chevron, a slate of candidates on shoestring budgets swept their oil titan-backed opponents on Tuesday night in a resounding political defeat for the company and its campaign tactics. Longtime local politician Tom Butt defeated his City Council colleague Nat Bates, garnering 51 percent of the vote to Bates' 35 percent. In the race for three full-term City Council seats, outgoing Mayor Gayle McLaughlin (16.9 percent of the vote), incumbent Jovanka Beckles (16.2 percent) and challenger Eduardo Martinez (14.6) -- the "Team Richmond" slate backed by the Richmond Progressive Alliance -- swept despite a flurry of negative advertising against them. Incumbent Jael Myrick trounced Corky Boozé for a two-year seat. Incumbent Jim Rogers was knocked out of his seat, finishing fourth by fewer than 300 votes with all precincts reporting. Chevron spent big to elect Bates mayor and defeat the "Team Richmond" candidates who are hostile to the oil giant's mammoth refinery here, but voters rejected Chevron's efforts.  With every member of the council running for either re-election or a different seat, the outcome on Tuesday night tilts the balance of power on a council that has been deeply divided over a number of issues. A seat opened up by Butt's promotion to mayor means the progressive majority could be able to strengthen its hold by appointing another member early next year. As of Oct. 1, Chevron had sunk roughly $3 million into a trio of political action committees, contributing about $72 per registered voter in support of and opposition to various candidates -- a sign of the company's strained relationship with a city that sued it after a major refinery fire in August 2012. Measure U, a half-cent sales tax for roads and public safety programs, also passed, getting 54 percent of the vote. The biggest issues during the election were the city's budget deficit, the future of a controversial proposal to help underwater homeowners out of their mortgages by using the city's power of eminent domain and the infamously unruly City Council meetings.

Steven Greenhut
On Election Day, California Republicans will take any good news they can get
Heading into Election Day, the GOP has little chance of grabbing any of the statewide constitutional offices, but it might do fairly well in state legislative races. If the stars align, Republicans could deprive Democrats of supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly, thus providing the GOP with some check on any proposals to raise taxes. That’s a fairly low bar to set, but these days that’s about all the party can hope for. Some of the targeted races are so close that it might take days to figure out the party’s legislative status. But here are the races to focus on Tuesday night. So GOP officials have had more than just the unions to fight as they seek to maintain some relevance in the Capitol. Bottom line: If you want to know if the state GOP is having a good night, keep “good” in context of the party’s diminishing expectations.

San Francisco Chronicle
Police officers in corruption case face additional charges
More details emerge about San Francisco's crooked cops as they start ratting each other out
After securing a guilty plea and an agreement to cooperate from one San Francisco police officer, federal prosecutors have added theft and corruption charges against two veteran officers accused of taking money and drugs from suspects. The timing of the new federal grand jury indictment against Sgt. Ian Furminger and Officer Edmond Robles suggests the additional charges resulted from statements by former Officer Reynaldo Vargas. Vargas was charged in the original indictment in February, along with Furminger and Robles, but pleaded guilty to four felonies on Oct. 21 and agreed to testify against his former colleagues. The new charges, issued Thursday, include two counts of depriving the public of the officers’ “honest and faithful services through bribery, kickbacks, and the concealment of material information.” The indictment also accuses them of stealing money during four police searches in 2009 in Newark and San Francisco. Furminger and Robles pleaded not guilty Friday and remain free on bail. Their jury was selected Monday, and their trial is scheduled to start next Monday. All three officers were assigned to the Mission District Station. The criminal charges followed an investigation by San Francisco police and the FBI that concluded the officers had stolen marijuana that had been seized from criminal suspects in 2009, and that Vargas had delivered the drugs to a pair of informants, who sold it in return for 25 percent of the proceeds. In 2011, Public Defender Jeff Adachi disclosed surveillance videos from a single-room-occupancy hotel showing narcotics officers, including Vargas, taking property that was never accounted for.

San Francisco Chronicle
Pervert CHP officer now says he's sorry for stealing racy cell photos
Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez made his first court appearance after being charged with two felony counts of theft and copying computer data belonging to two women. He did not enter a plea and spoke only once, saying, “I do” when Judge Terri Mockler of Contra Costa County Superior Court asked if he was willingly giving up his right to a speedy trial. He was ordered to return to court Nov. 14, at which time he may enter a plea. Harrington, who resigned from the CHP last week, left the court without commenting. Earlier Monday, he surrendered at County Jail in Martinez and was freed after posting $10,000 bail. His wife sat in the courtroom gallery and supports him, his attorney Michael Rains said after the brief hearing. Rains said Harrington is a father of two children. Rains said that although his client had in the past described his conduct as a “game” and a “joke,” according to court records, Harrington’s behavior was far from that. Prosecutor Barry Grove said outside court that the law wasn’t complicated, saying, “If you go into somebody’s cell phone and you take their nude selfies without their permission, it’s a crime.” Grove said Harrington’s actions were “egregious, not only because of the invasion of privacy, but because it undermines the public trust in the criminal justice system.”
Daily News
Obama immigration action must spur Congress to broader action
Action of any kind is long overdue. The nation’s immigration laws satisfy nobody. Congress, which should be debating and voting on reforms, is mired in politics and fear of the public emotion on both sides. While Republicans and Democrats bluster over the actions’ political implications, Americans of all schools of thought on immigration must insist that the debate stick to substance. Done right, immigration reform will boost the economy by bringing the nation more high- and low-skilled workers, giving business more freedom to hire them, and creating more consumer spending. California would be one of the main beneficiaries because of the importance of the state’s agricultural and tech industries. To look at it another way, actually following through on deporting all of the undocumented immigrants working in California how would devastate the economy.

Steven Greenhut
Second Amendment supporters file First Amendment lawsuit
In a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court case involving a movie-theater owner convicted of an Ohio law banning the showing of obscene movies, Justice Potter Stewart famously said he could not “intelligibly” define obscenity, “but I know it when I see it.” People still use that line to showcase the imprecision and irrationality of many laws.

Dan Walters
Big pension gap won’t vanish soon
State Controller John Chiang performed an admirable public service by publishing a detailed report on the finances of California’s public employee pension systems. The most eye-popping fact in the report is that the “unfunded liabilities” of those systems exploded from $6.3 billion in 2003 to $198.2 billion in 2013. Why? It was a perfect storm of irresponsibility.

Daily News
UC tuition hikes don’t look good next to big raises for chancellors
If you have a high school senior who’s thinking of going to a University of California campus to study public relations, you might want to gently switch his or her plans to the backup college. For one thing, UC tuition is high and just might rise some more this week. For another, clearly the UCs have a terrible grasp of public relations. We maintain that you can’t give yourselves big raises and then claim the little people need to pay more. It’s true that the UCs need more state support, and we’d like to see the system get more as soon as possible. But ticking off your client base and the state’s top elected officials is not the best way to get there.

Steven Greenhut
Surveillance is sneaking its way into cities
Perhaps people feel powerless to confront federal programs. But a new effort hopes to empower them to confront local authorities who embrace similar technologies by prompting cities and counties to pass an ordinance requiring a public debate and oversight of any such new technologies. In a democratic society, shouldn’t the public have a chance to debate these policies publicly before officials enact them? Unfortunately, that’s not always happening.

Steven Greenhut
Gov. Brown details a ‘paradoxical’ agenda
For next term, he vows to put foot on brake and other one on accelerator
Deprived of a hotly contested gubernatorial election race filled with debates and campaign ads, California voters were deprived of a vigorous discussion about how the next governor would lead the state in the coming four years. There was never any doubt Gov. Jerry Brown would win an unprecedented fourth term. There has been significant debate about what, exactly, is he going to do with it.

Los Angeles Times
Prop. 47 is a first step in revising stance on crime
In adopting Proposition 47 by a huge margin, Californians made a statement about the tough-on-crime policies of the last generation that increased prison costs and populations many times over while too often accelerating, rather than reversing, the descent of offenders and often whole communities into cycles of crime and victimization, incarceration and recidivism. Voters made a statement as well about the degree to which drug use and possession had resulted in unnecessarily long prison terms. They called for a new approach.

Erica Etelson
Next PUC chief must be independent advocate for clean energy
Gov. Jerry Brown will soon appoint a new president of the California Public Utilities Commission to replace Michael Peevey. Brown should seek a successor who has no entanglements with PG&E or other electric utilities, and who will help California become the global leader of a 21st-century clean-energy future. The PUC can no longer cater to monopoly utilities invested in an antiquated, fossil-fuel and nuclear-intensive business model that puts profits above clean air, community safety and the creation of green jobs. Peevey is a former president of one of those utilities, Southern California Edison, and his litany of misdeeds illustrates why a fox can never be entrusted to guard the henhouse.

Doug McIntyre
Democracy has been canceled due to complete lack of interest
During the turbulent 1960s, anti-war protesters made famous the slogan, “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” Based on Tuesday’s low voter turnout, the 2014 version might read: “Suppose they gave an election and nobody came?” Los Angeles County is the nation’s largest with a population north of 10 million. Of those 10 million, 4,897,915 are registered voters. Of those 4.9 million, only 1,211,243 bothered to cast a ballot. On any given day in L.A. you can get more people than that to show up for a Pilates class. Granted, there wasn’t a lot to get worked up about this go round. Neither party managed to gin up a hot-button issue to drive the base to the polls and the headline attraction was Jerry Brown, again, versus a guy nobody ever heard of and most couldn’t pick out of a police lineup. So L.A. County voters found something else to do on Election Day. It’s not from lack of trying.

Steven Greenhut
Plan removes cabbies' economic shackles
San Diego plan to lift cap on taxi permits would help industry compete with Uber
After the Civil War, newly freed slaves and poor whites in the Deep South often became “sharecroppers” who farmed land owned by others and paid a share of the crops. Barely able to eke out a living and unable to buy farms, they became indebted to the owners and locked into a life of poverty. It sounds strange at first, but San Diego’s taxicab system — like such systems elsewhere – has parallels to that antiquated economic model. The debate is not simply between the 11 percent who own their cabs and have paid oftentimes exorbitant prices for the permits against the 89 percent who may want to be their own bosses. It’s a big matter for consumers and the local economy, too. So it’s worth looking at the results in other cities that have taken this approach.

Steven Greenhut
Bankruptcy ruling not as bad as it looks
Stockton punts, but other cities are free to tackle pensions
When it comes to pension reform, I’ve long been a pessimist given the realities in the Capitol and courts. A federal judge’s decision in part two of the Stockton bankruptcy case on Thursday, approving an exit plan that doesn’t chip away at the city’s looming pension debt, at first seems to warrant even more negativism. But it’s probably not as bad as it seems for those who want these municipal debts tamed so that public services can be restored and residents aren’t stuck with escalating tax burdens. Sure, Stockton officials chose not to reduce pensions, but other cities are free to address them in the future, thanks to the first part of the decision the judge issued early this month. Reformers had pinned their hopes on municipal bankruptcy – not because they want cities to go belly up, but because it would provide a day of reckoning. If pensions aren't safe in bankruptcy, that would give public-sector unions an incentive to support reforms to help keep their localities out of bankruptcy court.

Charlotte Lytton
The best response to this year's most offensive Halloween costumes
Halloween: formerly a holiday for exercising your pumpkin-based creativity, bonding with your peculiarly dressed pals and, most importantly, getting a boatload of free candy, is not-so-slowly cementing its status as a race to the bottom. From sexy Ebola nurses to gun-toting jihadis, the people of the Internet have truly outdone themselves this year with wildly inappropriate and offensive costumes.

Dan Walters
L.A., Ontario squabbling over airport
Ontario International Airport opened two large, modernistic terminals in the late 1990s to improve service in California’s fast-growing “Inland Empire” of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, replacing shabby facilities that would have embarrassed a Third World country. A high-speed rail connection between San Diego and Ontario along Interstate 15 could solve the problems of both airports. It would be a bullet train worth doing, unlike Gov. Jerry Brown’s $68 billion fantasy.

Steven Greenhut
California receives the Pension Death Penalty
The people who benefit from CalPERS have complete control over it. Those who pay the tab have little if any say. Six of the board seats are set aside for various groups of CalPERS “members”—for example, one for retirees who receive pensions, one for eligible current state employees, and so on. Then there are three members appointed by the governor and the legislature, both of which are wholly owned subsidiaries of California’s public-sector unions.

Daily News
The abuse of authority raises basic privacy issues
CHP photo scandal requires independent investigation
Maybe it’s true that the “game” of trading nude photos taken from the cellphones of women arrested for drunken driving never went beyond the California Highway Patrol’s East Bay office. Maybe officers don’t talk to one another about things like that. Of course, a similar incident occurred in Los Angeles two years ago — but hey, that must just be a coincidence. Really? Unlike Golden Gate Division Chief Avery Browne, we’re not satisfied with the internal CHP investigation that quickly determined the despicable and apparently illegal practice is contained to the Dublin office. Contra Costa County prosecutors agree with Browne, but a county district attorney lacks statewide capacity to investigate. An independent investigation is needed, and quickly. Wagons already must be circling at CHP offices and perhaps other police departments throughout the state.

Doug McIntyre
Immigration policies a ticking time bomb
As it turns out I was wrong. Our immigration policies do split up families. Last Friday, a twice-deported undocumented immigrant named Luis Monroy Bracamonte allegedly murdered Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver with a shot to the head in a Motel 6 parking lot in Northern California. Shortly thereafter Monroy Bracamonte, aka Marcelo Marquez (and possibly multiple other identities), allegedly murdered Placer County Sheriff Detective Michael David Davis Jr. Oliver and Davis were husbands and fathers, sons and brothers. Because of our unwillingness to enforce our own immigration laws their families will never see Danny or Michael again.

Steven Greenhut
Department of Justice using “its overwhelming litigation might” as “a tool of extortion”
Liberals often complain about the greed of profit-seeking corporations, while conservatives likewise complain about abuses by government officials. Both sides might take notice of something that seems to epitomize the worst of both worlds — government agencies that use their power to bolster their own budgets.

Dan Walters
Decades-old mistake is at the root of California’s Prop. 46
Proponents and opponents of Proposition 46 are bombarding California voters with tens of millions of dollars in television spots and other propaganda – probably because of a tactical political mistake 39 years ago. The measure, if enacted, would do several things, but its major effect would be to more than quadruple the $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, often dubbed “pain and suffering,” and increase it for inflation in the future. Doctors, hospitals and other elements of the medical industry have committed more than $50 million to defeating the measure, while advocates, led by personal injury lawyers, are spending perhaps a fifth as much to pass it. The increase from $250,000 to $1.1 million reflects inflation since 1975, when the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) was enacted by the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown, during his first year as governor. It responded to what doctors and hospitals said was a ruinous escalation of malpractice insurance premiums.

Dan Walters
California Legislature’s partisan balance a big question
With Election Day just a week away and mailed ballots already pouring into election offices, California’s biggest political unknown is the balance of power in the Legislature. Democrats certainly will retain big legislative majorities, but it’s uncertain whether they will be the two-thirds “supermajorities” the party won in 2012. Whether the supermajorities return or not won’t have much practical effect on what happens in the Legislature.

Steven Greenhut
Ebola scare: Nurses' group slams hospitals, but tagged with hypocrisy for opposing flu bill
Iit’s hard to evaluate these events — the press conferences with signs picturing nurses in full-protective gear and DeMoro calling for hospital CEOs to be marched in front of sickly people where they can be sneezed on — outside the world of public relations, politics and union organizing. Hospitals should do all they can to protect nurses and the public. I get it completely, especially as the father of a nurse working in a big hospital. But medical advances rarely come from grandstanding.

Doug McIntyre
We need a ‘fear czar’ to calm a nervous nation
It’s the scary season with Halloween just around the corner and right after that Election Day. Of course this is the golden age of fear where everything is out to get us despite our living longer and better than at any point in human history. The latest epidemic of hysteria began with two American aid workers contracting the Ebola virus while doing God’s work in Liberia. CNN was first to jump on it, broadcasting every hazmat suit clad step taken by Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol as they made their way home to a miraculous recovery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Dan Walters
Prop. 48 is new episode in California’s long-running Indian saga
The multibillion-dollar casino gambling monopoly that Indian tribes enjoy is one of California’s most remarkable cultural and political sagas – and it’s not over yet.

Dan Walters
Record low voter turnout looms in California
California, which set a record for low participation in June’s primary election, will likely set another low mark for a general election in November.

Dan Walters
Jerry Brown has two paths for 4th term
If Brown intends to spend political capital on difficult, long-festering governance issues, he deserves four more years. If he intends, however, to merely check a few more items off his bucket list, that’s another story.

Steven Greenhut
Decision puts rail ‘caboose before engine’
High court won't consider appeal, lets high-speed rail authority float bonds
If the rail authority can move forward with such an enormous project even though it seems to conflict dramatically with the specifics of the initiative approved by voters, how binding is the wording of any initiative? It’s hard to believe the state’s highest court didn’t find such matters important enough to consider.

Steven Greenhut
Senate leader chooses a grandiose start
My how the tone has changed in Sacramento in a short time, given the nature of Wednesday night’s inauguration of Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, as the Senate’s new president pro tempore. When Jerry Brown was inaugurated as governor in 2011, he gave a 16-minute speech that focused on “courage and sacrifice” at Sacramento’s aging Memorial Auditorium. The Christian Science Monitor called it an “austere ceremony” that “set the tone” for his governorship. It was all about California. De León’s inauguration was anything but austere. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inauguration was garish, but he was elected governor. Legislative leaders are selected by their peers to these administrative roles. In May, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, had a long and laudatory, but tasteful, ceremony in the Assembly chambers. The Senate in particular ought to be careful about imagery. In the past year, it has been plagued by scandals: allegations of staff nepotism, a senator's drunken-driving-related arrest following photographed partying on a Capitol patio, the conviction of a senator on perjury charges, and the suspension of two other senators who face federal corruption charges. If the Senate ever needed to show a little humility, now would be the ideal time.

Scott Herold
The campaign of fear comes to the San Jose mayor's race
The New York Times ran a piece last weekend about how Republicans and conservative talk show hosts have been harping on Ebola, the beheadings by the Islamic State and the flubs of the Secret Service. Their point is to show that the world is so bleak under the leadership of Barack Obama that people should turn to the GOP. Never mind that they overstate the threat, or that blaming Obama for it all misses the mark. Scaring voters is effective politics. The Republicans want control of the U.S. Senate. Something similar is unfolding here in San Jose, though the ideological platform is very different. The scare tactics here are coming primarily from the advocates of Supervisor Dave Cortese for mayor, particularly the unionized cops and firefighters.

Dan Morain
McClintock is no paragon of bipartisanship
Suddenly, Rep. Tom McClintock is portraying himself as willing to work with Democrats. But the
conservative Republican did not quite have that reaching-across-the-aisle thing down when he showed up for a debate of his choosing – at 7 a.m. Tuesday at Auburn City Hall – with his challenger, Art Moore. McClintock, 58, is seeking a fourth term in Congress and almost certainly will win. But Moore, 37, an underfunded neophyte making his first run for public office, might be throwing a bit of scare into him. That wouldn’t be bad.

Dan Walters

Torlakson-Tuck contest is just one front in war over California public education
Even at a superficial level, the contest between two Democrats for the supposedly nonpartisan office of state superintendent of schools is interesting. The CTA and its rivals are spending millions on the Torlakson-Tuck contest, which is too close to call. Regardless of who wins, however, the war over California schools will continue.

Dan Walters
Democratic supermajorities at risk with taxes in background
The biggest election issue this year, at least among Capitol insiders, is whether Democrats can regain their supermajority in the Senate and hold their 55-seat supermajority, now just one over the two-thirds mark, in the Assembly. The latter appears to be the more likely.

Steven Greenhut
Senate secrecy latest sign of bad culture
California’s top legislative body, the state Senate, does not lack pretension, as senators pass far-reaching bills and prattle about the nobility of public service. Yet its high pretensions have run up against some lowdown scandals, the latest of which surfaced in a bizarre Sacramento criminal trial this week.

Steven Greenhut
Power drunk' agency slams small winery
Vintner closing doors after fined for use of volunteer labor
Last fall, my wife and I spent a Sunday afternoon at a small winery in the Sierra foothills picking grapes and crushing them in some contraption — followed by a picnic and wine drinking. It was lovely, but unbeknownst to us, state officials apparently believe that we and our fellow volunteer grape-pickers were being exploited.

New York Times
Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem
After years of playing down the problem, technology companies like Google, Facebook and Apple now say they’re serious about improving the gender and ethnic diversity of their work forces and corporate boards. Recent data from those companies and others like them confirm what everyone has long known: Most of their employees are white and Asian men. Among technical employees, few are women, and even fewer are Latino or African-American.

Dan Walters
Six-state measure would have given regional governments a boost
Draper’s regional governance provision is why, one suspects, his measure drew such vehement opposition from unions and other liberal groups, which have benefited from an ever-more-powerful state government dominated by friendly Democrats.

Dan Walters
Brown honors principle of subsidiarity sometimes
If consistently applied, subsidiarity would represent a major reversal of several decades of concentrating authority in Sacramento, ever since Proposition 13, enacted during Brown’s first governorship, restricted the ability of local governments to raise tax revenue. Brown has not been consistent, however, citing the principle when it’s convenient but ignoring it on other occasions.

YUNLEI YANG
Asian Americans would lose out under affirmative action
A recent Field Poll claimed that most registered voters and Asian Americans in California support affirmative action. Based on the poll data, Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of public policy and political science at UC Riverside, indicated that the intense opposition to State Constitutional Amendment 5 (or SCA-5) earlier this year, an attempt to restore affirmative action in California's public universities, "was primarily concentrated among a small group of Asian American activists, with the more numerous silent majority still supportive of affirmative action." As an official with the Silicon Valley Chinese Assn., which was a major force behind SCA-5's defeat, I find the poll question misleading and Ramakrishnan's reasoning deeply flawed.

Steven Greenhut
New laws make case for direct democracy
Given the volume of bills, it’s hard to find a theme for the past session. So I turn to the curmudgeonly journalist, the late H.L. Mencken, for a tried-and-true theme: “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” This Legislature seemed to specialize in offering solutions that probably won’t work as planned.

Fresno Bee
State Senate should release report on nepotism
The California Senate spent $98,000 in taxpayer money to pay a private law firm to investigate a sordid story of nepotism and cronyism in the Senate. Last Tuesday, the Senate refused to release the final report into how public servants used and misused their positions of authority to hire, protect and coddle friends and family. Without transparency, this $98,000 investigation is just another government cover-up.

Steven Greenhut
Study and fracas put pensions in focus
When it comes to reforming California’s underfunded public-pension systems, "progress" has been coming in the one-step-forward, two-steps-backward variety, with new funding problems still outpacing any local and state reforms.

Dan Walters
Californians with gold fever strike a legal lode
California explosively emerged as a place of importance – and quickly became a state – for one reason only: the 1848 discovery of gold in the American River. Gold seekers poured into the state from around the world, creating what is still a unique society in what had been a remote coastal frontier, and the rest is, as they say, history. Gold fever eventually abated, but 166 years after James Marshall spotted those flecks of gold in John Sutter’s sawmill at Coloma, some folks still seek what gold panners and the later hydraulic miners left behind in streams.

Dan Walters
Jerry Brown hands United Farm Workers a setback
What goes around comes around. Jerry Brown devoted much of his first governorship to seeking other offices, so his record of accomplishment was scant. He’s often touted a 1975 deal to give farmworkers, excluded from the National Labor Relations Act, union rights in California, supposedly settling years of strife between the United Farm Workers Union and growers. However, it merely ignited decades of new strife, which continues with Brown’s recent veto of a new farm labor bill.

Aubry Stone
Don’t shut out black residents from clean energy revolution
I’m very troubled by the obvious slight the renewable energy industry – in particular solar – is giving African Americans in Southern California and around the state. Like everyone else, the African American community needs to be involved in the clean energy revolution. Sadly, we are not. Current public policies serve as a barrier to entry for African Americans to take advantage of these green energy sources.
 

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