When the nation’s top nutrition panel released its latest dietary recommendations on Thursday, the group did something it had never done before: weigh in on whether people should be drinking coffee. What it had to say is pretty surprising.
Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more.
The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day (400 mg) is tied to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits,” said Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members. “Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”
via It’s official: Americans should drink more coffee – The Washington Post.
It’s been a year since American billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s casino company was hacked. Now the blame is officially being placed on Iran.
For the first time, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said the Iranian government was behind a damaging cyberattack on Las Vegas Sands Corp. in 2014. He mentioned it while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week.
Las Vegas Sands owns The Venetian and Palazzo on the Strip and resorts in Macau and Singapore.
The attack made headlines, because Las Vegas Sands is a large publicly traded company. In February 2014, it said unidentified hackers broke into its computer network and stole customer data: credit card data, Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses numbers.
At the time, it sounded like just another digital break-in. But the nation’s leading intelligence official says it was much worse than that.
On Thursday, Clapper described it as a “destructive cyberattack” on par with North Korea’s hack of Sony. In that case, hackers wiped computers, destroyed data and froze the company to a halt.
via Iran hacked Sands operations, U.S. official says – Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Diehard California Republicans converging on the downtown Hyatt for their twice-a-year convention know the score:
Perennial minority status in the Legislature. Their most senior elected constitutional officer, George Runner, sits on the Board of Equalization. Nice guy, but what exactly does the board equalize?
They pine for Condoleezza Rice, wishing she would run for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016. Rice golfs, muses about becoming NFL commissioner, and just says no to political campaigns.
via GOP pines for Condi Rice, as it gains below the statewide radar – Dan Morain, The Sacramento Bee.
Phil Robertson, the bearded patriarch of the family from A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” derided “hippies” for the spread of sexually transmitted infections in a colorful speech Friday at the Conservative Action Political Conference.
“What do you call the 110 million people who have sexually transmitted illnesses?” he asked the crowd. “It’s the revenge of the hippies! Sex, drugs and rock and roll have come back to haunt us, in a bad way!”
Robertson spoke at the conference after he accepted a free speech award named for Andrew Breitbart, the conservative media icon who died in 2012.
The television star was suspended from his show in 2013 after he gave an interview to GQ Magazine that included a slew of homophobic remarks. The network ultimately reversed his suspension, but politicians rushed to Robertson’s defense and called the saga an infringement on his freedom of speech.
via ‘Duck Dynasty’ star blames hippies for STDs – TheHill.
The House voted late Friday to stave off a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security for another week, narrowly averting a funding lapse for the agency that has become the battleground over President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
The vote was 357-60. The Senate approved the stopgap measure earlier Friday evening and it was signed by President Barack Obama minutes before the midnight deadline when the department’s funding was to expire.
The 11th-hour move came after dozens of House Republicans dealt a humiliating defeat to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders.
Conservatives teamed up with Democrats to shoot down a Boehner-backed measure that would have funded DHS for three weeks.
Boehner’s allies are concerned after Friday’s setback that his critics inside the Republican Conference may try to oust him as speaker if — as expected — he puts a long-term DHS funding bill on the House floor next week. While Boehner shrugs off such speculation, close friends believe such a move is a real possibility.
Twenty-five Republicans voted against Boehner for speaker on the floor in early January, signaling his continued problems with his conservative hardliners. And Boehner’s allies believe that the earlier DHS debacle on Friday, when 52 Republicans voted against the three-week plan, was in part aimed at toppling the speaker.
via Congress passes one-week DHS fix – POLITICO.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to launch her presidential campaign, but most Democratic insiders in key early states want her to jump in sooner rather than later.
This week’s survey of The POLITICO Caucus — a bipartisan group of key activists, operatives and thought leaders in Iowa and New Hampshire — finds general consensus that the former secretary of state is wise not to rush into a race when she has no serious challenger and will have no problem raising money.
But relatively few Democrats think she should wait until July, the timeline her team has reportedly been considering in lieu of a previously expected April announcement.
“Even some diehard supporters are getting impatient and want her to announce,” said a pro-Clinton New Hampshire Democrat, who — like all 85 participants — completed the survey anonymously in order to speak candidly.
via Democrats ready — and impatient — for Hillary – POLITICO.
At a reception Tuesday night celebrating the D.C. office opening of his investment banking firm, it was like he had never left House Republican leadership.
Speaker John Boehner of Ohio held court among the guests, including now Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, plus a few House Democrats and a handful of GOP senators.
via The resurrection of Eric Cantor – Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti – POLITICO.
When Bruno Leenders takes the 50-minute train ride to Amsterdam, he likes to stream blues and funk music through his smartphone. At home, Mr. Leenders, a Dutch technology consultant, watches Steven Seagal action movies on Netflix. Between meetings, he dashes off a few emails.
Mr. Leenders’s digital life has not changed all that much in the two years since the Netherlands started demanding that Internet providers treat all traffic equally, the same sort of rules that the United States adopted on Thursday.
His bill has gone up just marginally. He surfs, streams and downloads at the same speed — if not a little faster given the upgrades to Netherlands’ network, already one of the world’s best.
In short, the new law was not the Internet Armageddon that many Dutch telecommunications companies, industry lobbyists and some lawmakers had predicted.
via Dutch Offer Preview of Net Neutrality – New York Times.
The share of American men with criminal records — particularly black men — grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work. Men with criminal records account for about 34 percent of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
The reluctance of employers to hire people with criminal records, combined with laws that place broad categories of jobs off-limits, is not just a frustration; it is also taking a toll on the broader economy. It is preventing millions of American men from becoming, in that old phrase, productive members of society.
via Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Men Out of Work – New York Times.
A Field Poll released Thursday found 94 percent of registered voters in California consider the state’s more than three-year water shortage to be at least “serious,” with a full 68 percent considering the situation “extremely serious.”
The poll came out as water managers met in Irvine to discuss where the state might turn next for more water and to seek more precise forecasts for rainstorms.
By contrast, when the state last had a similarly severe drought, in 1977, polling found that just 51 percent of state voters saw the problem as extremely serious.
The new poll hints at something else: Californians like the state’s current policy of voluntary conservation but aren’t interested in being told by the state how much to cut back. Just 34 percent want the state to impose mandatory rationing, up 7 percent from a year earlier, while 61 percent favor the state’s current policy of asking residents to voluntarily cut back on water use.
via 94 percent of Californians agree: The drought is serious. Now what do we do about it? – The Orange County Register.
Will tougher, public utility-style rules for the Internet slow investment and derail new online services, or will the regulations preserve the open Internet as we know it today?
Local technology firms, Internet providers and consumer advocates are trying to answer those questions after a divided Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved new net neutrality rules that prevent broadband providers from playing favorites with Internet traffic in a way that harms consumers or websites.
via With beefed up Net Neutrality approved, what happens next? – San Diego Union-Tribune.
The National Football League had no reaction Friday to a report questioning the security risks posed by the proposed football stadium on the site of the old Hollywood Park race track in Inglewood.
“As at relates to a perceived or imagined security concerns, we do not have any comment on any of the Los Angeles sites that are being looked at by our clubs or by others at this time,” NFL vice president Eric Grubman told Los Angeles News Group on Friday.
The Hollywood Park stadium was approved Tuesday by the Inglewood City Council, with construction expected to begin no later than December. It is financed by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, and it is presumed to be the eventual home to the Rams perhaps as early as 2016.
The project is one of four competing Los Angeles-area NFL stadium proposals, including the San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders stadium in Carson, Ed Roski’s City of Industry proposal and AEG’s Farmers Field project.
via Inglewood NFL stadium site could be ideal terrorist target, AEG-commissioned report finds – Los Angeles Daily News.
Years before a retired Hercules police officer was charged with trying to murder his estranged wife, a lawsuit by a former female colleague portrayed John Goodner as an out-of-control cop who sexually harassed her, abused his police dog and got in an off-duty fistfight with a resident over a Taco Bell parking spot.
It is not known whether any support ever surfaced for the colleague’s complaints or whether Hercules police ever investigated them. The officer who filed the suit, which targeted the city and not the former cop, did so after being fired by the department for lying to the chief about a gun purchase.
But the complaint, which Audrey Lake lost five years after it was filed in 2008, paints a picture of a rogue cop whose downward spiral may have begun much earlier than Jan. 28, when authorities say Goodner tried to shoot his estranged wife.
via Ex-Hercules cop, charged with wife’s attempted slaying, accused of fighting over fast-food parking spot, mistreating police dog – San Jose Mercury News.
Shuttle bus drivers for five major tech companies voted to unionize Friday, an outcome that could inspire more low-paid service workers in booming Silicon Valley to band together for better pay and benefits.
Drivers for workers at Yahoo, Apple, Genentech, eBay and Zynga voted 104 to 38 to join the Teamsters union in an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.
The shuttle bus drivers, who are employed by Compass Transportation, followed the lead of Facebook’s team, which voted to join the union in November and approved a contract last week.
The Teamsters plan to use that agreement — which provides for higher wages, full health insurance and paid sick and vacation time — to set a standard for all the shuttle bus drivers who ferry high-tech workers from their homes in San Francisco, the East Bay and elsewhere to their offices in the valley.
via Teamsters win vote to unionize more tech shuttle bus drivers in Silicon Valley – San Jose Mercury News.
A federal court has rejected a challenge to California’s gun safety law, possibly paving the way for a requirement that new guns mark the bullets they fire so they can be traced.
The ruling on Wednesday was a defeat for two gun rights groups that argued the Unsafe Handgun Act violated the constitutional right to bear arms.
The law prohibits the manufacture or sale in California of any gun that doesn’t meet certain safety requirements. It was aimed at outlawing cheap “Saturday Night Specials” that were disproportionally used in crimes.
A 2007 amendment added a requirement that new or modified semi-automatic handguns include technology that microstamps a bullet casing with a code identifying the gun’s make, model and serial number.
via Federal court rejects challenge to California gun safety law – San Jose Mercury News.
Oakland’s handling of a billion-dollar garbage and recycling contract last year that spawned an aborted lawsuit and ballot petition drive is under review by the Alameda County grand jury, sources have confirmed.
The City Council originally spurned the recommendations of its own staffers and handed the entire contract to California Waste Solutions, a politically well-connected homegrown company that didn’t have the necessary facilities in place to immediately handle the work.
via Grand jury reviewing Oakland garbage contract – Oakland Tribune.
Two hours before a partial government shutdown late Friday, Congress passed a desperation one-week Department of Homeland Security funding measure quickly signed by President Obama that ensures the bitter brinksmanship over immigration will continue.
Only few hours earlier, in one of the most stunning defeats of House Speaker John Boehner’s turbulent tenure, his bill to fund the agency for three weeks failed to pass. Tea Party-backed Republicans rejected the measure, furious that it didn’t contain language gutting Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
via Congress OKs desperation deal to fund Homeland Security – San Francisco Chronicle.
Another state California state government technology project is in trouble, and this one needs $17.5 million right away or the state could be on the hook for five times that much and have nothing to show for it.
Lawmakers said this week that they want to hold hearings about the future of the BreEZe project over the next few months before they’ll authorize the money. On Friday the Department of Consumer Affairs, which is implementing the system, said the delay would trigger contractual obligations to vendor Accenture PLC totaling up to $86 million.
Those costs, in turn, could raise fees collected by Consumer Affairs, department spokesman Russ Hiemerich said.
“We are still evaluating the potential ramifications,” he said.
via California department confronts $86 million IT bill for ‘nothing’ – The Sacramento Bee.
Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, an Oceanside Republican, gave a not-so-subtle hint Friday that he’ll run for the U.S. Senate, telling GOP activists in Sacramento that he’ll announce his decision Thursday.
Chávez, speaking at a reception he hosted at the party’s biannual convention, also used the opportunity to take a glancing shot at Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris, the only announced candidate for Barbara Boxer’s seat next year.
via Video: Rocky Chávez hints at Senate run; swipes at Harris – The Sacramento Bee.
Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said on Saturday that “scaremongering” by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t stop the Islamic Republic and world powers from reaching a final nuclear deal.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the world should not allow the hard-line Israeli leader to undermine peace. He was referring to Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress next week on the emerging nuclear deal that he considers dangerous.
via Netanyahu’s ‘scaremongering’ will not stop nuclear deal, says Iranian official – The Guardian.
What was supposed to be a nearly one-hour flight turned into a nine-hour ordeal for passengers on board an American Airlines plane delayed for hours because of icy conditions and a mechanical problem.
American Airlines flight 382 was scheduled to leave for Oklahoma City from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport at 1:45 p.m. CT Friday, but the plane was grounded until 10:48 p.m. CT.
“We get on the plane and it’s just one thing after another,” said passenger Brandon Sullivan.
via American Airlines Flight Delayed 9 Hours by Heavy Snow, Mechanical Problem – ABC News.
President Obama is defending new proposed rules for financial advisers, saying they will “protect hardworking families’ retirement security.”
“If you’re working hard and putting away money, you should have the peace of mind that the financial advice you’re getting is sound and that your investments are protected,” Obama said Saturday in the weekly address.
The contentious new regulations would create new disclosure rules for financial advisers to ensure consumers are better informed about hidden investment fees and other conflicts of interest.
But business groups have pushed back against the rule saying it could keep many middle and lower income Americans from getting access to investment advice.
via Obama defends new rules for financial advisers | TheHill.
Support for legalizing marijuana has rapidly outpaced opposition, with a slim majority (52%) favoring its legal use as of October 2014. That trend is driven largely by the Millennial generation, who support marijuana at much higher rates than their elders.
But when looking more closely at the opinions of young and old, the age gap is starkest among Republicans and those who lean Republican – a strikingly similar trend to what we’ve seen within the party when it comes to same-sex marriage.
Six-in-ten (63%) GOP Millennials say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 35% say it should be illegal, according to our February 2014 survey. That level of support is higher than among Republican Generation Xers (47%) and Baby Boomers (38%), and much higher than among GOP members of the Silent generation (17%). (When we asked the question again in October, overall opinion was only slightly changed.)
via Most Republican Millennials favor marijuana legalization | Pew Research Center.
What distinguished drug lord Servando “La Tuta” Gomez was the way he courted the spotlight. From his not-so-secret hiding place, the fugitive former teacher released numerous videos and audiotapes, many featuring him with local politicians and police officers and implicating them in his criminal doings.
What distinguished Gomez’s organization — La Familia, which morphed into the Knights Templar — was its insidious ability to dominate an entire state, Michoacan on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, penetrating city halls and police departments and intimidating agricultural businesses. And all the while, it built and monopolized a booming methamphetamine industry.
via Mexico arrests fugitive drug lord, head of Knights Templar cartel – LA Times.
Nuclear negotiations with Iran have reached a “far more advanced stage” than ever before, a senior administration official said Friday, expressing hope that negotiators may be able to conclude a partial agreement by the end of March.
While “there are still gaps” between Iran, the United States and the five other world powers involved in the negotiations, the official said, “obviously negotiations have advanced substantially.”
via U.S. says Iran negotiations ‘far more advanced’ – LA Times.
The Los Angeles Fire Department has failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites scattered across the city, exposing the public to increased risks from potential spills and mishandling of toxic substances, according to a state report released Friday.
The 24-page study, written by the California Environmental Protection Agency, reviewed how the Fire Department enforces state regulations on toxic waste within the city limits.
State review of LAFD hazardous waste program
“Their program has fallen apart,” said Jim Bohon, head of the Cal/EPA unit that conducted the review. “They are failing in environmental management in a very gross way.”
via LAFD failed to properly inspect hundreds of hazardous sites, state says – LA Times.
In Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” a judge tells the henpecked Mr. Bumble the law assumes that his wife is under his control. “If the law supposes that,” he replied, “the law is a(n) ass — a(n) idiot.” Mr. Bumble’s retort popularized the “law is an ass” phrase, which still is widely used whenever a law defies common sense.
It’s hard to find a better example than a rule from the California State University system. Starting last summer, it requires “open membership” for on-campus student groups. Atheists must admit born-again Christians as members and leaders. Democrats must accept Republicans. At one point, honor societies had to accept D students, but even CSU cobbled together an exception for that one.
via Cal State under fire for ‘all-comers’ policy for campus groups – By Steven Greenhut, UTSanDiego.com.
The Inglewood City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to build a $1.86-billion National Football League stadium in their municipality.
The vote proves nothing, except that money causes blindness.
via How NFL stadium promoters are snowing the city of Inglewood – LA Times.
The Republican Party’s leading presidential contenders on Friday promised conservative activists they would pursue aggressive military action to prevent the spread of global terrorism, including a renewed use of ground forces in the Middle East.
As war-weary critics in both parties watched with skepticism, one Republican White House prospect after another attacked President Barack Obama’s foreign policy as far too timid as they courted thousands of conservative activists gathered in suburban Washington.
“Our position needs to be to re-engage with a strong military and a strong presence,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told the Conservative Political Action Conference.
via GOP contenders push for military action against ISIS – AP.
This edition updates BP’s view of the likely path of global energy markets to 2035. We make assumptions on changes in policy, technology and the economy, based on extensive internal and external consultations, using a range of analytical tools to build a single “most likely” view.
The Outlook highlights the continuous change in the energy system – the changing fuel mix, the changing patterns of trade – as it adapts to meet the world’s growing energy needs. It also highlights the challenge of delivering energy supplies which are sustainable, secure and affordable. The Outlook emphasizes the role of competition and market forces in driving technology and innovation to help us meet that challenge.
via Energy Outlook 2035 – BP Global.
A leading Russian opposition politician, former deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, has been shot dead in Moscow, Russian officials say.
An unidentified attacker shot Mr Nemtsov four times in central Moscow, a source in the law enforcement bodies told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
He was shot near the Kremlin while walking with a woman, according to Russian-language news website Meduza.
“Several people” had got out of a car and shot him, it added.
Mr Nemtsov, 55, served as first deputy prime minister under the late President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.
He had earned a reputation as an economic reformer while governor of one of Russia’s biggest cities, Nizhny Novgorod.
via Russia opposition politician Boris Nemtsov shot dead – BBC News.
Over six decades rolling premium cigars with his small, wrinkled hands, Arnaldo Alfonso has taken pride in seeing his “habanos” sampled by visiting heads of state and other dignitaries.
Now he’s delighted by the idea of customers lighting them up in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States, where Cuban cigars have been outlawed since the U.S. embargo took effect in 1962.
“It’s a very beautiful thought,” said a smiling Alfonso, a 78-year-old worker at the tobacco shop of the Palco Hotel in western Havana.
via Cuban cigar makers anticipate big bucks from U.S. travelers – Chicago Tribune.
First photo of ‘Jihadi John’ as an adult emerges, shows Mohammed Emwazi in college
New York Daily News
The first photo of “Jihadi John” as an adult has emerged, showing the face of the bloodthirsty British killer during his former days as a young college student.
A stoic 18-year-old Mohammed Emwazi is pictured sporting a Pittsburgh Pirates cap for his University of Westminster enrollment photo, Sky News first reported.
The face of the once-mysterious mass murderer was revealed Friday, a day after he was identified as a 26-year-old computer programmer from London.
“My mom signed me up, and I’m really grateful I can get them,” she said. With glasses, she’s hoping her math grades soar.
Analisa was one of 66 students from Whittier Elementary School who received glasses from Vision to Learn, which provides eye exams and glasses to children statewide at no cost. Since its establishment in 2012, the nonprofit has visited more than 200 California schools and distributed 20,000 free glasses across underprivileged communities, using three mobile operating clinics. Friday marked the nonprofit’s official Long Beach launch and debut of its news mobile clinic in an electric bus BYD Auto donated.
The American Optometric Association estimates that 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems, but because just a third of all children receive vision screenings prior to entering school, many of these shortfalls go undetected.
via How dozens of Long Beach students got free glasses – Long Beach Press-Telegram
Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, describes itself as a “liberal arts” institution, but as far as that freedom applies to the hearts and minds of its students, it seems limited.
In response to two male athletes on its volleyball team coming out in an article published on OutSports.com last year, the college, which is aligned with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian tradition, has chosen to ban homosexuality from its campus.
via South Carolina college bans homosexuality after two volleyball players come out as gay – The Washington Post.
Bush, who is considering a White House run, is working to win over conservative activists who are queasy about his record on immigration and education policies.
There were a fair number of boos when Bush walked onto the stage at the conference. Several dozen people walked out, but hundreds remained to hear the former governor speak.
His remarks followed those by conservative heroes Sen. Marco Rubio, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Rand Paul and former Sen. Rick Santorum. Tea party activist William Temple urged people to walk out when Bush took the podium.
‘‘We’re tired of CPAC inviting non-conservatives to come to speak,’’ Temple told The Associated Press.
via Jeb Bush, other 2016 hopefuls make pitch at conference – The Boston Globe.
Well, yes: Netanyahu’s planned March 3 speech has certainly become “infused with politics.” Around 30 Democrats, encouraged by the White House, intend to skip the joint session in a show of pique over the supposed affront to President Obama, who is offended that the Israeli leader accepted House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress on the nuclear talks with Iran.
Reasonable people can debate whether Netanyahu is really guilty of a breach of protocol in not seeking Obama’s approval first — or if that is merely a pretext for a president who has long detested Netanyahu, a gifted communicator whose Churchillian warnings about the Iranian threat the administration wants to undercut.
via Spat over Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech doesn’t change US-Israel relations – Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe.
A judge in the Canadian province of Quebec has reportedly refused to hear the case of a woman who wore a hijab to the courtroom, according to CBC News.
Rania El-Alloul, a Muslim single mother arrived in court on Tuesday to plead with a judge to get her car back. The vehicle had been confiscated by an insurance agency after one of her three sons was caught driving without a license.
She needed the car and had little money. “I’m facing money problems,” she told Judge Eliana Marengo.
But before they could proceed, the judge told her the headscarf would not be allowed in her courtroom.
“The same rules need to be applied to everyone. I will therefore not hear you if you are wearing a scarf on your head, just as I would not allow a person to appear before me wearing a hat or sunglasses on his or her head, or any other garment not suitable for a court proceeding,” Marengo said according to an audio recording of the proceedings obtained by CBC News. “I will not hear you, I have to apply the same rules to everybody.”
via Quebec judge refused to hear case because Muslim woman wore a hijab – The Washington Post.
In a clear indicator that California is descending into a fourth year of drought, the federal government on Friday announced that the Central Valley Project — California’s largest water delivery system — will provide no water again this year to Central Valley farmers and only 25 percent of the contracted amount to urban areas.
The announcement from the Bureau of Reclamation means that farmers in the main agricultural region of California are certain to fallow hundreds of thousands of acres of land, and heavily pump already depleted groundwater, perhaps at greater rates than last year.
It also increases the likelihood of stricter conservation rules this summer for millions of urban residents.
via California drought: Water shortages a near certainty for this summer as feds announce low deliveries – Oakland Tribune.
Kidnappers who abducted Seattle missionary Phyllis Sortor this week have demanded a $150,000 ransom, according to Nigerian police, suggesting the kidnapping was probably carried out by a criminal gang rather than militants.
Police and security forces were combing the region in search of Sortor.
Locals in Kogi state, where Sortor was abducted, have been complaining about the high rate of crime and kidnappings for ransom in the region.
The ransom demand suggests that the militant group Boko Haram, which operates farther north in Nigeria and is in retreat after attacks from regional military forces, isn’t involved in the crime. Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian women, and has abducted foreigners, but doesn’t normally demand immediate ransoms.
via Nigerian kidnappers demand ransom for U.S. missionary Phyllis Sortor – LA Times.
Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case, King v. Burwell, that challenges the legality of healthcare subsidies in more than 30 states, including Florida. The case, developed by conservative legal scholars, argues that only people using state-run marketplaces are entitled to subsidies.
If the court agrees — a decision is expected in June — subsidies will disappear in states that do not have their own online marketplaces, almost all of which have Republican-led governments that oppose the law and have resisted creating state exchanges. No state would be more affected than Florida, where more than 1.6 million people have insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, the most in the nation, and almost all of them receive subsidies.
via Before Supreme Court Rules, Florida Considers Future Without Health Subsidies – NYTimes.com.
California may be a blue state, but a Republican-led effort to scale back federal intervention in educational reform is drawing support here.
As the House of Representatives moves to vote this week on reauthorizing a 50-year-old education reform law, Republicans are pushing to sharply curtail what they see as federal overreach in prescribing testing, setting achievement goals and imposing sanctions on schools that fail to improve. Instead, the House bill would shift authority for such decisions to states and school districts.
And that suits many in California just fine.
That’s because California has outpaced the nation in developing its own reform measures, including a pioneering school finance system that gives more money to needy students and an effort underway to craft a more complex measure of achievement than simply test scores. The federal prescriptions, many say, too often have interfered with California’s approach.
via California, GOP both oppose federal bid for education reforms – LA Times.
In approving strong net neutrality regulations, the Federal Communications Commission fulfilled a decade long desire by public interest advocates, technology firms and Democrats to tighten government oversight of the Internet to prevent abuses by broadband service providers.
But the agency’s closely watched decision on Thursday didn’t end the debate. Not even close.
The partisan divide over net neutrality — reflected in the FCC’s party-line 3-2 vote — highlighted the passions on both sides of the arcane technology policy concept and showed that final resolution of the issue still could be years away.
via Net neutrality: What’s next after the FCC’s landmark vote? – LA Times.
Rancho Pacifica, a gated community of spectacular multimillion dollar homes in the hills east of Del Mar, is not immune to the ravages of the California drought. Residents, who can easily afford massive water bills, have sought to reduce their water consumption — not just because they have to, but because they want to.
Brian and Frances Holloway, retired custom home builders who live in a palatial 9,000-square-foot Mediterranean, installed artificial turf in their backyard five years ago. After Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last year and urged Californians to reduce their water consumption by 20%, the couple decided to get rid of their water-sucking front lawn as well.
Rancho Santa Fe ranked as state’s largest residential water hog
Not so fast, said their homeowners association. Like many HOAs in upscale neighborhoods around the state, it keeps an iron grip on issues like house color, alterations, parking and landscaping. Now, the Holloways are locked in an escalating struggle with their HOA.
via Amid drought, a turf war between residents and homeowners associations – LA Times.
The district and the teachers union announced this month that they had reached an impasse in contract negotiations. Each side argues that the other is being unreasonable. The union is seeking a pay raise of 8.5%; the district has offered 5%.
“United Teachers Los Angeles promoted today’s rally weeks before it declared an impasse in labor negotiations,” Supt. Ramon Cortines said in a statement. “We remain focused on securing an agreement, like we have with the majority of other labor partners at the Los Angeles Unified School District, which takes into account our fiscal reality and our commitment to students, teachers, support service personnel and the district at large.”
UTLA President Alex Caputo Pearl, who estimated that 15,000 people attended the rally, told the crowd that district officials had offered no legitimate counter offer during negotiations. He said educators should flood the phone lines for the superintendent and board members, vote in Tuesday’s school board election against candidates who have support from former Supt. John Deasy, and fill out commitment cards agreeing to escalating steps including protests on busy streets and striking, if necessary.
“Our demands, they’re not radical,” Caputo Pearl said. “When did it become radical to have class sizes that you could actually teach in? When did it become radical to have staffing and to pay people back after eight years of nothing?”
via Teachers union rally in downtown L.A. draws thousands in call for contract demands – LA Times.
A judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the case of an LAPD officer accused of kicking a woman in the groin during an arrest in 2012 that ended in the woman’s death.
Mary O’Callaghan’s trial took an unexpected twist Thursday after an official in the Los Angeles Police Department’s internal affairs division gave a prosecutor new information about a sergeant who witnessed the 2012 incident, said Robert Rico, O’Callaghan’s attorney.
via Judge declares mistrial in case of LAPD officer charged with assault – LA Times.
Assailants hacked to death an American atheist writer and blogger of Bangladeshi origin and seriously wounded his wife Thursday night outside a book fair in Dhaka, the South Asia nation’s capital.
Avijit Roy, 42, a champion of secularism and outspoken critic of Islamists, was repeatedly stabbed by at least two attackers at the Dhaka University campus. His wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, was hospitalized with multiple wounds.
Ansar Bangla-7, believed to be an Islamist group, claimed responsibility for the attack in a Twitter posting, said Shibli Noman, assistant police commissioner for the Ramna zone.
via U.S. atheist blogger killed in stabbing attack in Bangladesh – LA Times.
State lawmakers on Thursday demanded that a California man take down poster-size swastikas displayed in front of his house, calling the signs racist and vulgar but acknowledging the homeowner had a right to free speech.
“It’s time to remove this disgusting display of racism from our community,” said state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, chairman of the Legislative Jewish Caucus.
The symbols desecrate the memory of 6 million Jews who died in concentration camps, he said.
via Lawmakers demand swastikas be removed from California house – San Francisco Examiner.
California has handed out 110,000 driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally during the first seven weeks of applications.
The figures for all of January and much of February were released this week by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
In early January when the law took effect, hundreds of immigrants lined up at designated DMV offices for walk-in appointments.
via California issues 110,000 driver’s licenses to immigrants in first 7 weeks of applications – Daily News.
A leading state lawmaker has rejected an appeal for another $17.5 million for a troubled computer system that auditors blasted earlier this month as poorly planned, inadequately managed, underperforming and busting its budget.
According to a letter obtained by The Sacramento Bee, state Sen. Mark Leno, who leads the Senate budget committee, informed Finance Director Michael Cohen that his request for more money on behalf of the Department of Consumer Affairs is a no-go, at least for now.
Leno, D-San Francisco, wrote that the Brown admininstration “has failed to provide adequate information necessary to inform the Legislature’s review and decision-making,” such as how the department will move the BreEZe project forward and how its higher costs will impact license fees.
via Leno: More info before more cash for flawed California IT project – The Sacramento Bee.
Nursing home owners with poor track records would face tougher scrutiny in California, and consumers would get better information about operators under a bill introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.
Responding to a three-part series published last year in The Sacramento Bee, McCarty said Thursday he wants California to “improve oversight and transparency of the nursing home industry to better protect seniors and their families.
“More and more people are going to be looking to put their loved ones into these type of facilities,” he said. “We need to make sure consumers can make good choices and know the quality of home they’re going to.”
via Bill pushes more nursing home oversight, transparency – The Sacramento Bee.
California voters think the government should spend more money to help maintain crumbling roads, but they offer mixed views on how to fund the upkeep, according to a new statewide Field Poll.
More than 70 percent think state and local officials should dedicate additional resources to existing roadways. By a smaller margin, 48 percent to 35 percent, they believe more money must be set aside for new road construction.
However, the poll found voters split over a proposal to raise the state gasoline tax by 10 cents a gallon to improve roads and highways. Opinions on the tax increase largely fall along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
via Californians sharply divided over hiking state gas tax – The Sacramento Bee.
California’s long-running conflict over how its public schools should be held accountable for educational outcomes entered a new phase this week.
A broad coalition of civil rights and education reform groups fired a broadside at a draft proposal for evaluating how K-12 schools implement the new Local Control Funding Formula, which supposedly targets poor and “English-learner” students for more money and attention.
via A new fight over judging K-12 schools – Dan Walters, The Sacramento Bee.
A federal judge has cleared the way for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to be reinstated.
U.S. District Judge David Doty issued his order Thursday, less than three weeks after hearing oral arguments. Doty overruled NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson’s previous denial of Peterson’s appeal.
The league suspended Peterson through at least April 15 for his involvement in a child abuse case. But Doty said in his 16-page ruling that Henderson “simply disregarded the law of the shop and in doing so failed to meet his duty under the” collective bargaining agreement.
via WWL News.
Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a proposed change to net neutrality rules outlined by commission chairman Tom Wheeler. These new rules reclassify the Internet as a Title II public utility, which would effectively prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating for or against content providers in the speed at which their content is delivered to the consumer.
Several ISPs, Internet companies, advocacy groups, and trade associations have taken a position on these new rules. The major corporations against these net neutrality rules are the four largest ISPs: Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T. Netflix, Twitter, and Facebook are all members of the Internet Association, which has come out strongly in favor of Wheeler’s rules to reclassify the Internet under Title II.
The House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, which oversees the FCC, held a hearing to discuss the FCC’s proposed net neutrality regulations on Wednesday, Feb. 25.
Stock Ownership by Members of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee
As of 2013, five of the 31 members of the subcommittee own stock in the companies listed above: Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
via Companies with Stake in Net Neutrality Debate Have Financial Ties to Subcommittee Members Overseeing FCC – MapLight – Money and Politics.