Kevin de León slams racist news media…

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, speaks with The Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau on March 2, 2015.Has state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León been singled out for extra scrutiny because he is Latino?

In an interview published this week with the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión, the Los Angeles Democrat said there is a “double standard in the media.”

“If a white politician hosts an event in the Walt Disney Concert Hall it’s fine, nobody says anything,” de León said, “but if a Latino politician holds an event there, then it’s very bad, you have to do it in the neighborhood.”

His comments jabbed at critics of his lavish swearing-in last October as Senate leader. The $50,000 celebration at Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall was paid for by special interest contributions to the Legislature’s Latino Caucus and cost taxpayers an additional $28,000 in travel expenses.

“Yes, we spent $50,000 and there were 3,000 people there, three-fourths of whom were housekeepers, gardeners, students for whom it is very difficult to attend an event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall,” de León said. “Attorney General Kamala Harris, whom I consider a friend, spent $80,000 on her reelection event this year and there were only 800 people there. I was in the first row, I saw it myself.”

In a statement to The Bee on Thursday, de León lamented the “real lack of diversity in American media companies, from Hollywood to our newsrooms.”

“This inevitably affects the choices made in producing coverage and content, and limits the amount of perspectives that can be heard,” de León said. “Facing stubborn and troubling stratifications in our economy and society, we need our institutions to be reflective of our great diversity.”

via Kevin de León defends Walt Disney Concert Hall swearing-in, Rod Wright | The Sacramento Bee The Sacramento Bee.


Latinos in California lag ‘far behind’ in college enrollment, graduation rates

While more Latinos are graduating from high school and completing the required coursework to be eligible to enter a four-year public university, they are still less likely to have a college degree and “lag far behind in overall college readiness, enrollment and degree completion rates,” according to The Campaign for College Opportunity’s “The State of Higher Education in California: Latino Report” released Wednesday.

In fact, Latinos are underrepresented in every segment of higher education from California community colleges to state universities to private nonprofit colleges, the report found. Among current Latino undergraduates, 65 percent attend a California community college but only 39 percent will earn a degree, certificate or transfer within six years — in comparison with 53 percent of whites and the statewide average of 48 percent.

via Latinos in California lag ‘far behind’ in college enrollment, graduation rates – Los Angeles Daily News.

Hillary is making mass incarceration and policing a Democratic campaign issue

There’s plenty to quibble with in Hillary Clinton’s speech on mass incarceration and criminal justice reform, which she gave on Wednesday at Columbia University. She doesn’t make mention of the 1994 crime bill, signed by her husband, which pushed states to build—and fill—more prisons with more offenders. She treats mass incarceration as a function of nonviolent crime, when the truth is more difficult. Half of the people in state prisons are there for violent crimes, and many nonviolent offenders have violent histories. To reduce incarceration, we need to rethink punishment for violent offenders, too. There, Clinton is silent.

But the problems and omissions in Clinton’s speech shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it’s a remarkable piece of political rhetoric, both in its own right and for what it says about American politics in 2015.

Two days after riots in Baltimore—at a time when most of the presidential field is either silent or contemptuous—Clinton has stepped out front with a forward-looking agenda on bringing people out of prison, a definitive rebuke to the “law and order” politics used by her husband throughout his career. Not only did Clinton call for an end to “the era of mass incarceration,” but she also connected our prison population to broader patterns of inequality. “Without the mass incarceration that we currently practice, millions fewer people would be living in poverty,” she said. “And it’s not just families trying to stay afloat with one parent behind bars. Of the 600,000 prisoners who re-enter society each year, roughly 60 percent face long-term unemployment.”

via Hillary Clinton’s impressive criminal justice speech: The Democratic front-runner is making mass incarceration and policing a Democratic campaign issue..

Evangelicals the least tolerant about same-sex marriage

Millions of Americans Tuesday beseeched God to influence the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which Tuesday heard oral arguments on the legality of same-sex weddings. But, a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute indicates the content of those prayers likely differed dramatically depending on the religious affiliations of the supplicants.

Of all major religious groups, white evangelical Protestants showed the least support for same-sex marriages, with only 28 percent favoring or strongly favoring such unions. Within that group, evangelical Baptists led opposition, with 44 percent reporting they strongly disapproved.

By comparison, slightly more than half of white mainstream Protestants backed same-sex weddings. Thirty-eight percent of black Protestants favored gay or lesbian marriage.

Six out of 10 Catholics told researchers they favored same-sex marriage, as did 77 percent of Jews and 42 percent of Muslims.

via Church folk beseech God about same-sex marriage, but the message varies – San Francisco Chronicle.

#CAGOP Epic Fail: Democrats slap-down Republican bills on teacher tenure, firing

Nancy Lee, STAR program manager at Tahoe Elementary School in Tahoe Park, talks with children over dinner on April 14 in Sacramento.A legislative committee on Wednesday rejected Republican education bills that would have overhauled teacher tenure and firing rules in response to a federal judge striking down California’s teacher employment laws.

In a resounding ruling last year, Judge Rolf Treu declared that California’s laws violate the civil rights of students by allowing ineffective teachers to remain in classrooms. Treu’s decision in Vergara v. California specifically targeted the method for firing teachers; the length of time it takes teachers to win permanent employment status; and the last-in-first-out policy dictating that the least experienced teachers go first during budget-driven layoffs.

via Democrats kill Republican bills on teacher tenure, firing –  The Sacramento Bee.

Six Californias’ Draper launches effort to innovate public services

One of my guilty pleasures is watching the TV show, “Shark Tank,” in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists in the hopes they invest their cash in exchange for a share of the upstart companies. The “sharks” can be snarky and ruthless, but the show puts capitalism in a refreshingly favorable light.

via Six Californias’ Draper launches effort to innovate public services – Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune.

#PoliceState Update: Baltimore cops begin Freddie Gray death cover-up

Gray was found unconscious in the wagon when it arrived at a police station on April 12. The 25-year-old had suffered a spinal injury and died a week later, touching off waves of protests across Baltimore, capped by a riot Monday in which hundreds of angry residents torched buildings, looted stores and pelted police officers with rocks.

Police have said they do not know whether Gray was injured during the arrest or during his 30-minute ride in the van. Local police and the U.S. Justice Department both have launched investigations of Gray’s death.

via Prisoner in van said Freddie Gray was ‘trying to injure himself,’ document says – The Washington Post.

#PoliceState Update: Cops execute pot grower


A veteran state game warden fearing for his safety shot and killed a suspected marijuana grower during an early Wednesday morning raid at a federal wildlife refuge near Elk Grove.

The suspected grower of the illegal marijuana operation was pronounced dead around 6:45 a.m. Wednesday at Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge along Hood-Franklin Road.

A multi-agency team that included the California Department of Fish and Wildlife officer, agents from the California Department of Justice Mountain and Valley Marijuana Investigation team and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department deputies conducted the raid after sunrise.

Read more here:

California’s automatic voter registration bill advances

A proposal to automatically register Californians to vote when they get a driver’s license was approved Monday by a state Assembly panel after Secretary of State Alex Padilla noted there are about 6.7 million state residents who are eligible but not registered.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) modeled her bill on a new law in Oregon and said it is needed after the 42% record-low turnout in the November statewide election.

“These concerning new lows are unacceptable,” Gonzalez told the Assembly Transportation Committee. “We cannot allow this trends to continue.”

Padilla said that 40,000 people went to his agency’s website for information on registering to vote after the deadline for signing up in the last election. Under the new law, people who get a driver’s license will be notified they have 21 days to object or they will be registered to vote if eligible.

“We ought to do anything and everything possible to ensure that people participate” in elections, Padilla said.

via California’s automatic voter registration bill advances – LA Times.

#PoliceState Update: Man is stopped by police a day after $650,000 settlement reached in beating

BeatingA man kicked and punched by a group of San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies was stopped by police for running through several backyards a day after he reached a $650,000 settlement for the beating.

Francis Pusok, 30, was stopped sometime between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. April 22 in the 3700 block of Elm Avenue after he was spotted running through backyards of homes, said San Bernardino police spokesman Lt. Rich Lawhead.

He told police he was headed to his mother’s home. Pusok was not arrested, but officers took a report, Lawhead said.

Francis Pusok was arrested by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies. (San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department)

The previous day, San Bernardino County agreed to pay Pusok $650,000 as part of a settlement ending any future claims.

via Man is stopped by police a day after $650,000 settlement reached in beating – LA Times.

Republicans fail again: Assembly panel kills bill to speed dam construction

The proposed Sites Reservoir would flood land shown here west of Maxwell. A bill to streamline environmental review for the dam and one other died Monday in an Assembly committee.Drought-inspired legislation to hasten the construction of water-storage facilities died in a California Assembly panel on Monday.

Assembly Bill 311, by Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, would have streamlined environmental review for the Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley and Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River near Fresno.

The measure is part of a Republican package of legislation designed to address infrastructure needs. After being sidelined by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee last month, it was revived for a second pass when Gallagher narrowed the focus to the two projects, increasing pressure on Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to focus more on storage as the state suffers though a four-year dry spell.

via Assembly panel kills Republican bill to speed dam construction – The Sacramento Bee.

California Senate duel will affect ‘job killer’ bills

The California Chamber of Commerce has published its annual “job killer” list. This year’s has 17 targeted bills. Any measure on the list faces an uphill struggle for survival. Over the last decade, the chamber has targeted 357 bills, but only 73 made it to the governor’s desk and just 14 were signed by either Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger or Democrat Jerry Brown – less than 4 percent.By happenstance, this year’s job-killer list was released in the midst of a hard-fought battle for a state Senate seat that pits business against sponsors of many bills on the list.

In three weeks, voters in the affluent East Bay suburbs of Alameda and Contra Costa counties will decide whether Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla or Democratic campaign consultant Steve Glazer will fill a vacant seat.

Unions and other liberal groups have spent millions to support Bonilla and trash Glazer while business groups and conservative individuals have done the same for Glazer and against Bonilla. Their contest has been filled with charges, countercharges and personal invective.

Underlying the political nastiness is the arithmetic of the Senate’s Democratic majority.

via Opinion: California Senate duel will affect ‘job killer’ bills – Dan Walters, The Sacramento Bee.

California Republicans should embrace gay marriage

Aaron McLearToday 72 percent of California voters are something other than Republican, and two-thirds of them support gay marriage. We’re losing registration so quickly that we begin every statewide race with an insurmountable 15-percentage-point deficit and soon will be overtaken by voters who prefer “no party preference” to being Republican.

Thirty-seven states and the vast majority of voters recognize the fundamental right of two people who love one another to get married. With the Supreme Court poised to validate gay marriage once and for all, it is well past time Republicans show voters that we believe freedom and equality extend to all Americans.

via Republicans should embrace gay marriage – Aaron McLear, The Sacramento Bee.

After court setbacks, teachers’ union strikes back in Capitol

After a tough fight, reformers secured the passage last year of a law to ease the removal of teachers involved in egregiously bad behavior, following the well-publicized incident of a Los Angeles Unified teacher who eventually pleaded no contest to lewd conduct with children but who was paid $40,000 to go away. Unfortunately, any energy for further reform has met with push back in the state Capitol.

Legislators this session are moving ahead a package of measures backed by the influential California Teachers Association that ignores the problems revealed last June in the so-called Vergara decision, in which a Los Angeles student filed a lawsuit against the state of California and the CTA.

It was a surprise to almost everyone, but the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled the state’s system of teacher protections — in particular, the two-year tenure statute, and the “Last In, First Out” (LIFO) system of seniority for determining which teachers would get laid off — denies poor students their constitutional right to equality of education.

The case is on appeal, but one would think the Legislature would try to streamline a teacher disciplinary process that, as the judge noted, assures “there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.”

Instead of pushing in a reform direction, the CTA’s backers are trying to make it tougher to deal with inadequate teachers.

via After court setbacks, teachers’ union strikes back in Capitol – Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune.

Private companies shake down immigrants, and U.S. taxpayers

Bakersfield immigrant detention centerEven as the number of immigrants caught illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has fallen to the lowest levels since the 1970s, the federal government has increased spending on immigrant detention, filling 14,000 more beds last year than it did in 2006.

Private prison companies such as Geo Group, which owns and manages the new facility, have profited from the boom.

Southern California’s largest immigrant detention center to expand

Geo now runs five of the nation’s 10 largest immigrant detention centers, at a cost of roughly $100 per detainee per day. It is expanding a 1,300-bed facility in the high desert city of Adelanto and doubling the size of a family detention center in Karnes, Texas.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say private companies often do a better and more efficient job of housing detainees than the agency itself or the local jails it sometimes contracts with. They say ample detention space is necessary to house deportable immigrants who have been convicted of crimes, such as Ramirez, who served prison time for a felony conviction. Nearly 90% of the detainees at the new center have criminal backgrounds, said Erik Bonnar, assistant director for detention and removal operations in ICE’s San Francisco field office.

via Private companies profit from U.S. immigration detention boom – LA Times.

#CAGOP continues to flail away at Kamala Harris

Tom Del Beccaro, a former chairman of the California Republican Party, announced Sunday that he’s undertaking a longshot bid to succeed Barbara Boxer as California’s next U.S. senator.

The 53-year-old lawyer is the second Republican to enter the 2016 race, joining two-term state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez. Democrat Kamala Harris has established herself as the early front-runner for the seat in a state where Democrats control every statewide office and both chambers of the Legislature.

Del Beccaro, a Walnut Creek resident, has never run for statewide office and is virtually unknown to the California electorate. He faces the daunting task of raising millions of dollars to introduce himself to voters in the state of 39 million people.

via Former Republican chairman enters US Senate race in California.

California drought: Eastern Sierra community lives with devastating reality of year-round fire season

A worker cleans up a home site in the community of Swall Meadows on Thursday, April 16, 2015 in Swall Meadows, Calif.  A fire burned through the small community at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains on February 6, 2015 destroying 35 homes.  (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)As California enters its fourth year of drought, communities across the West are confronting a new reality — a year-round fire season. Perhaps nowhere are the consequences as obvious as in Swall Meadows, where the 300 residents are now shoveling ash instead of snow.

Coping with chronic fire danger is the focus of the latest installment of this newspaper’s ongoing series, “A State of Drought.” Since January — the driest and warmest in California history — the state’s firefighters have battled nearly 850 wildfires, twice as many as in a normal year. In 2014, the state endured 1,000 more wildfires than in a typical year.

Drought and steadily rising temperatures have lengthened the fire season by an average of 70 days compared with four decades ago.

via California drought: Eastern Sierra community lives with devastating reality of year-round fire season – Oakland Tribune.

State drought tests water rights

High above a landscape parched by unremitting drought, Meadow Valley Creek courses through the northern Sierra Nevada and pools in a stand of alders behind a tiny, concrete dam.

Robert Forbes draws water from the reservoir through an overturned smokestack and into a ditch that has run west of Quincy for more than 100 years.

He adjusted a piece of plywood at its mouth to restrict the flow one recent morning. In dry years, Forbes said, “I start rationing people along the line.”

Forbes’ family’s access to this water derives from an 1870s claim in Plumas County; and his antiquated management of the ditch — breaking ice with a shovel in the winter, negotiating irrigation schedules among neighbors when the weather warms — has persisted for decades with little intervention.

With 12 customers, the utility Forbes manages is one of the smallest in the state.

But as California stretches into a fourth year of drought, regulators are expanding their reach and running into resistance from holders of some of California’s oldest and strongest water rights.

Earlier this year, the State Water Resources Control Board ordered more than 1,000 property owners to prove their water rights. This month, the board warned claim holders to expect curtailments of their ability to divert water from rivers and streams.

The actions are significant because they include the state’s most senior water rights holders — those claimed before California established its permitting process in 1914.

“The rules are changing,” Forbes said. “They’re shaking us down.”

via MEADOW VALLEY: State drought tests water rights –

Brian Williams Inquiry Is Said to Expand

An NBC News internal investigation into Brian Williams has examined a half-dozen instances in which he is thought to have fabricated, misrepresented or embellished his accounts, two people with inside knowledge of the investigation said.

The investigation includes at least one episode that was previously unreported, these people said, involving statements by Mr. Williams about events from Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Arab Spring.

The investigation, conducted by at least five NBC journalists, was commissioned early this year after Mr. Williams was forced to apologize for embellishing an account of a helicopter episode in Iraq in 2003. He was subsequently suspended for six months from his anchor position on the “NBC Nightly News.” The inquiry is being led by Richard Esposito, the senior executive producer for investigations, for the news division.

The review of Mr. Williams’s reporting is not finished and no final conclusions have been reached. When completed, it is expected to form the basis for a decision on whether to bring him back. It is not clear when that decision will be made.

via Brian Williams Inquiry Is Said to Expand – New York Times.

#PoliceState Update: San Jose officer dealt marijuana – still collecting a paycheck

A San Jose police officer was charged with dealing marijuana that he kept in a storage facility, authorities said Friday.

Officer Son Vu, 44, was scheduled to appear Friday afternoon in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose on charges of possession with intent to sell and maintaining an illegal stash location. Vu was arrested Thursday and is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

The 21-year department veteran has been on paid administrative leave since his initial arrest in June 2014.

The investigation began on the afternoon of June 3, 2014, when police were called to a storage facility on Tully Road by the company’s owner, who cut the locks on a storage space because the renter was delinquent. Officers found more than 12 pounds of marijuana and grow lights, authorities said.

via San Jose officer dealt marijuana he kept in storage, D.A. says – San Francisco Chronicle.

Police Chief Greg Suhr’s incompetence nails San Francisco taxpayers for $725,000

The city of San Francisco agreed to a $725,000 settlement Friday for a former Police Department attorney who said Police Chief Greg Suhr fired her for exposing his mishandling of a domestic violence case.

The settlement was reached as jury selection was about to begin in Kelly O’Haire’s lawsuit against the city and Suhr.

The city contended Suhr dismissed O’Haire as part of an overall cost-cutting effort when he became chief in 2011. But a judge refused to dismiss the suit last month, and said a jury could conclude, based on O’Haire’s version of the facts, that Suhr had retaliated against her illegally.

“After a long and hard-fought struggle, she’s finally achieved resolution of her case, and she’s pleased with the results,” said O’Haire’s lawyer, Randy Strauss.

Matt Dorsey, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said the city had agreed to the settlement after learning that O’Haire, unlike other Police Department employees who had been fired or demoted at the same time, hadn’t been allowed to stay at work for an additional period so that she could increase her retirement benefits.

He said Suhr hadn’t been aware of the situation at the time, and would have accommodated O’Haire if he’d known.

“We have done everything we can to make sure the claim was addressed fairly and put the matter behind us,” Dorsey said.

Suhr, reached by phone, declined to comment further.

via S.F. settles suit against Police Chief Greg Suhr for $725,000 – San Francsco Chronicle.

Anti-vaccine leader tells parents to fight immunization bill

Andrew Wakefield, the British scientist and former physician whose discredited research linking autism and immunizations helped launch a worldwide anti-vaccination movement, encouraged Californians Friday to fight back against a state Senate bill that would make childhood vaccinations mandatory.

Speaking at Life Chiropractic College West in Hayward, Wakefield told hundreds of students packed into two or three classrooms that they needed to be the “pitchforks and torches” in Sacramento demanding that state legislators reject SB277.

“Your rights are being ripped from you,” Wakefield said. “Parents are no longer going to be in charge of their own children. This is the fight that has to be taken to Sacramento.”

Wakefield’s lecture, full of dark warnings of what could happen to the state’s children and families if vaccines were made mandatory, marked his first foray into California’s political movement to end personal belief exemptions, a long-standing policy that has allowed parents to opt out of school-required immunizations for any reason.

via Anti-vaccine leader tells parents to fight immunization bill – San Francisco Chronicle.

Cha Ching!!! Cali tax revenue surges in April, could exceed estimates by billions

California income tax collections in April have already exceeded the Brown administration’s January estimates, underscoring the surge of higher-than-expected money flowing into the state treasury and possibly offering health and welfare programs – not just schools – a piece of the windfall.

For months, it has been assumed that K-12 classrooms and community colleges had a virtual lock on nearly all of the extra tax revenue, thanks to the state’s school funding law. In fact, under some recent budget scenarios, the state faced the prospect of cutting non-school spending in the fiscal year that begins July 1 to provide schools with the money owed under the law.

But income tax revenue for the current fiscal year has continued to grow well beyond expectations. By June 30, state revenue could exceed January estimates by more than $4 billion, the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analyst reported this week. If it exceeds $4.4 billion, health and welfare programs could benefit from the surge, following months of calls that California needs to do more to reduce poverty and income inequality in the state.

via State revenue surges in April, could exceed estimates by billions through June – The Sacramento Bee.

Crime rate’s puzzling drop could yield a domestic ‘peace dividend’

At the end of the Cold War, policy makers talked about the “peace dividend” — huge budgetary savings that could go elsewhere because fewer dollars were needed to deal with a vanquished Soviet Union. Americans may be facing a similar possibility closer to home, as crime levels plummet to the lowest they’ve been in decades.

via Crime rate’s puzzling drop could yield a domestic ‘peace dividend’ – Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune.

Why Rubio is running away from the most prominent item on his résumé

It turned out that Rubio had overestimated conservatives’ willingness to accept his hyper-complicated bill — and his own power to change their minds. Ultimately, the bill died in the House, his right-wing allies began to doubt his judgment and both sides of the immigration debate had grown irritated by Rubio’s tendency to change his mind.

Instead of a triumph, Rubio’s involvement with the immigration bill became a cautionary tale, about a gifted freshman who miscalculated his capability.

Now, as he begins a run for president, Rubio is left trying to run away from the most prominent item on his political résumé.

“It’s one of the worst squanderings of political capital I’ve ever witnessed,” said Steve Deace, an Iowa-based conservative radio host whom Rubio tried and failed to persuade. “It was the first time he ever stepped out in public in leadership on an issue, and it was in diametric opposition to the base.”

via Why Rubio is running away from the most prominent item on his résumé – The Washington Post.

California Assembly acts to prohibit fines for brown lawns in droughts

Alarmed that some cities have fined residents for allowing their lawns to turn brown during the drought, the state Assembly passed a bill Thursday that would prohibit penalties for failing to water grass.

Assemblywoman Cheryl R. Brown (D-Rialto) said she has received reports of fines or threatened fines in cities including Glendale, Upland and San Bernardino, even though Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency because of California’s series of dry years.

Turfgrass experts agree that warm-season types, which need 20% less water than cool-season grasses, are the best bet for California’s drought conditions. Here are some of the best.

“If California is going to manage its water resources efficiently and sustainably, then we cannot allow municipalities to penalize individuals for conserving water by not regularly watering their lawn,” Assemblywoman Brown said.

The measure, AB 1, passed 74 to 0 and now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

The proposal would bar cities and counties from imposing fines for failure to water lawns during times when the governor has declared a state of emergency based on drought conditions.

Fines for violating maintenance ordinances can range from $100 a week to a flat fee of $500.

via California Assembly acts to prohibit fines for brown lawns in droughts – LA Times.

#PoliceState Update: #LAPD lies wrongfully kept women behind bars for 17 years

Susan MellenA woman exonerated last year after spending 17 years behind bars for murder announced Thursday that she had filed a lawsuit accusing an LAPD detective of hiding evidence that showed the case’s lead witness was known as a pathological liar.

L.A. County D.A. to create unit to review wrongful-conviction claims

Susan Mellen was released in October when a judge ruled that she had received “subpar representation” from a trial attorney who failed to adequately investigate the witness’ credibility. The judge later declared Mellen factually innocent of the killing.

The federal lawsuit alleges that Los Angeles Police Department Det. Marcella Winn suppressed evidence from Mellen’s attorneys that would have damaged the credibility of the trial’s star witness, knowingly used false evidence and ignored leads that pointed to another suspect.

Mellen, speaking at a news conference outside the Torrance courthouse where she was originally convicted, said the detective’s actions robbed her of being a mother to her children for 17 years.

“There’s no amount of money in the universe that can give me back what I lost with my family and my children, the pain and suffering,” she said. “I just want to live my life again.”

via Woman wrongfully convicted of murder sues city, LAPD detective – LA Times.

249 strippers win $6.5 million after City of Industry club took ‘private dancer’ tips

A jury Thursday awarded $6.5 million to 249 exotic dancers who alleged the management of an Industry strip club illegally took tips they earned from private offstage dances.

The jury deliberated for most of Tuesday and for several hours Wednesday before signaling by late afternoon that they had reached a verdict in the case brought by the lead plaintiff and class representative, 29-year-old Quinece Hills, against the City of Industry club Paradise Showgirls. The verdict was sealed and not read until this morning because Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Rosenblatt could not be present late Wednesday afternoon.

Hills turned to her attorney, K.L. Myles, and smiled as the verdict was read. Myles said state law is unique when it comes to exotic dancers because it allows performers to treat money directly obtained from customers for private dancers as gratuities. The club reportedly took nearly half of the dancers’ tips.

Club attorney Ernest Franceschi said the award was about half of what the lawsuit sought. He said there would be an appeal and that it may be years before many of the constitutional issues are resolved.

“This is by no means over,” Franceschi said.

via 249 strippers win $6.5 million after City of Industry club took ‘private dancer’ tips.

L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy who killed cyclist gets a slap on the wrist

Following an internal probe, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has imposed unspecified discipline on a veteran deputy who fatally struck a cyclist with his patrol car in Calabasas 15 months ago as he was typing on his in-car computer, officials said.

Deputy Andrew Wood hit and killed prominent entertainment attorney Milton Olin Jr. in the bicycle lane on Mulholland Highway on Dec. 8, 2013. Wood was returning from a fire call at Calabasas High School and was responding to a message from another deputy on his mobile digital computer at the time, authorities said.

Wood is still employed as a sheriff’s deputy, though he transferred from patrol to the courts division shortly after the incident, having made the request about a year earlier.

“I can’t get into the specifics about the administrative action taken because it’s a personnel matter,” department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said. “Administrative action was taken, and he’s exercising his civil service rights … through the (county’s) Civil Service Commission.”

The commission serves as the administrative appellate body for employees “who have received major disciplinary actions, such as discharges, reductions, suspensions in excess of five days,” according to the commission’s Website.

The discipline, which was imposed at the end of March, arose out of a sheriff’s internal affairs investigation that examined whether the 16-year veteran violated department policies in the collision. The internal probe, which has been described as a routine procedure following criminal investigations, was launched after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office declined to file charges against the deputy in August.

Officials with the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), which represents more than 7,000 deputies and District Attorney investigators working in the county, had no comment Thursday.

via L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy disciplined in fatal collision with cyclist in Calabasas.

Comcast’s play to corner the cable TV market fails

Comcast has abandoned its plan to acquire Time Warner Cable, the cable companies confirmed Friday.

The proposed $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable would give the nation’s top cable TV company and home Internet service provider control of about 55 percent of the nation’s broadband subscribers and nearly 30 percent of its cable TV customers.

A big part of the increased market share would come from millions of new customers in markets like Southern California and New York.

But critics say it would give Comcast far too much control over what Americans watch and download. Critics also point out a lack of competition. In most of Comcast’s service areas, the company doesn’t compete with other cable providers.

Comcast currently has 22.4 million video subscribers and 22 million Internet customers.

“My feeling is this was doomed from the beginning,” said Jonathan Taplin, a professor of communication at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “You can’t take the No. 1 provider of cable TV and Internet services and the No. 2 provider and combine them … it defies the logic of antitrust.”

Consumer groups, competitors and lawmakers have lined up to oppose the merger and Bloomberg News and the New York Times both said Thursday that Comcast is planning to drop the deal.

Comcast and Time Warner have yet to comment, but Bloomberg said Comcast may make an announcement today.

via Comcast drops $45.2 billion bid for Time Warner.

Loretta Lynch confirmation illustrates the #GOP hatred for immigrants

Federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch won confirmation to serve as attorney general Thursday from a Senate that forced her to wait more than five months for the title and remained divided to the end.

The 56-43 vote installs Lynch, 55, now U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, as the first black woman in the nation’s top law enforcement post. She will replace Eric Holder, a perennial lightning rod for conservatives who was once held in contempt of Congress.

The vote total for Lynch was the lowest for any attorney general since Michael Mukasey won confirmation with 53 votes in 2007 after Democrats decried his refusal to describe waterboarding as torture.

For Lynch, the issue that tore into her support with Republicans was immigration and her refusal to denounce President Barack Obama’s executive actions limiting deportations for millions of people living illegally in this country. Questioned on the issue at her confirmation hearing in January, she said that she believed Obama’s actions were reasonable and lawful.

Democrats angrily criticized Republicans for using the issue against her, but Republicans were unapologetic.

Announced GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Lynch’s comments rendered her “unsuitable for confirmation as attorney general of the United States. That was a shame.”

via Loretta Lynch wins confirmation as attorney general – San Francisco Examiner.

Amid Capitol Hill opposition, high-speed rail gets second wind

Is President Barack Obama’s vision for high-speed rail dead? If so, you couldn’t tell it from a group of rail supporters gathered in Washington this week.

And for the first time, they can point to tangible progress. California’s $68 billion system broke ground in January. Efforts are under way to bring high-speed rail projects to Texas, Florida, Minnesota and North Carolina.

Republicans in Congress have cut off additional funding for the president’s program, and the California project in particular still has its skeptics, in both parties. But supporters say it’s just the beginning of a decades-long effort to improve passenger rail service throughout the country.

Dan Richard, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, noted that the Golden Gate Bridge generated 2,300 lawsuits against the project when it was first proposed. The California rail project, he said, has so far triggered only four.

Critics have called it a train to nowhere. But Richard said people said that initially about San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit.

“Our project has been controversial,” he told a conference of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association. “But it’s always good to remind ourselves that these things are never, ever easy.”

via WASHINGTON: Amid Capitol Hill opposition, high-speed rail gets second wind – McClatchy DC.

NCAA and BCS screw the Rose Bowl

Rose BowlThe Rose Bowl, after careful consideration, has decided against bidding for the 2020 College Football Playoff championship game.

A task force spend months studying the feasibility of hosting, but the Tournament of Roses executive board ultimately decided against moving forward.

“We would love to host a national championship game here,” William Flinn, Executive Director of the Tournament of Roses, told the Times. “But we have to make sure it works for everybody.”

via Rose Bowl officials decide not to bid on 2020 college title game – LA Times.

8 million phone calls unanswered at the IRS – so you’re on your own from now on

The IRS’ overloaded phone system hung up on more than 8 million taxpayers this filing season as the agency cut millions of dollars from taxpayer services to help pay to enforce President Barack Obama’s health law.

For those who weren’t disconnected, only 40 percent actually got through to a person. And many of those people had to wait on hold for more than 30 minutes, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Wednesday.

The number of disconnected callers spiked just as taxpayers were being hit with new requirements under the health law. Last year, the phone system dropped 360,000 calls, Koskinen said.

For the first time, taxpayers had to report whether they had health insurance last year on their tax returns. Those who received government subsidies had to respond whether they received the correct amount. People without insurance faced fines, collected by the IRS, if they did not qualify for an exemption.

via Hello? 8M phone calls unanswered as IRS cut taxpayer service – San Francisco Examiner.

San Francisco Police Chief accused of lying to the FBI

New and wider allegations surfaced Wednesday in the second day of a whistleblower trial against Police Chief Greg Suhr and San Francisco. Attorneys for plaintiff and former police attorney Kelly O’Haire alleged in court Suhr lied to the FBI for a security clearance, and the Police Department knew about it — and that a Superior Court judge who was then a lawyer for Suhr threatened the plaintiff with retaliation. The new details came from Suhr’s disciplinary files as reference in the second day of pretrial motions in a civil suit against The City and Suhr. The suit filed by O’Haire alleges she was fired soon after Suhr became chief in 2011 because she proceeded with a prosecution of him. The 2009 prosecution regarded a domestic violence incident Suhr responded to that year, which revealed past issues in Suhr’s record showing a pattern of skirting the law. O’Haire recommended Suhr’s termination to the Police Commission in the matter. via Police chief accused of lying to FBI, while department knew, according to lawyer – San Francisco Examiner.

Oakland to pay $275,000 for incompetent police shooting of teen

vancouver-police-brutalityThe city of Oakland agreed to pay $275,000 to settle lawsuits filed in connection with the police shooting of a 16-year-old boy who was mistaken for a robbery suspect.

Frenswa Raynor, who suffered a graze wound to his lower jaw when he was shot by Officer Bryan Clifford in 2013, will receive $230,000, while a teen who was present at the time will receive $45,000.

The Oakland City Council voted in closed session Tuesday night to approve the payouts. But at the public meeting, Councilwoman Desley Brooks said the settlement was “despicable” and “insufficient” because the incident involved “young men who didn’t do anything.”

“We ought to make sure that we right the wrongs that happen, and I don’t think this settlement represents that,” Brooks said to applause from the gallery.

via Oakland to pay $275,000 for mistaken police shooting of teen – San Francisco Chronicle.

Are the cops doctoring videos to make themselves look good?

Around the country, many police watchdogs see body cameras as a way to fight police brutality. But the Fairfield case was the latest in which Bay Area police released video in a bid to counter accusations. Last year, Oakland police released video rebutting claims that a white officer had racially profiled a black firefighter by briefly suspecting him of burglarizing a fire station.

Critics say police are going public with videos from body cameras only when they are served by the disclosure.

“That’s a problem, the selective releasing of video,” said Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris. “It raises the question as to whether the video is released when it helps the police and not released when there’s some question about the conduct.”

via Dueling videos released after kidnapped Fairfield boy found safe – San Francisco Chronicle.

Rhode Island and DC lead the U.S. with the highest concentration of pot smokers

It’s not Colorado or Alaska or Washington or any of the other usual suspects. That distinction belongs to tiny Rhode Island, according to the just released National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

In the Ocean State, 15.76% of people 12 and over reported using marijuana in the past month. That’s about one in six. And second place is something of a surprise, too: Runner-up honors go to the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, coming in at 15.17%.

The legal marijuana states out west generally also have high usage rates, but not as high as Rhode Island or DC. Colorado was at 14.90%, while Oregon was at 13.92%, Washington was at 13.74%, and Alaska was at 12.93%.

via The U.S. state with the highest concentration of pot smokers –

#PoliceState Update: The cops have become the robbers

As local police agencies are stressed by rising pension and other costs, they increasingly have embraced this troubling policy: Using “civil asset forfeiture” to take as much private property as possible, even from people who have never been convicted or even charged with a crime. The more they take, the bigger their budgets.

This column reported on an Anaheim couple who owned a $1.5 million office building, which police tried to seize after an undercover cop bought $37 in marijuana from one of the building’s tenants, a medical-marijuana clinic.

That effort was dropped amid bad publicity, but takings are a routine occurrence under a law designed to put drug dealers out of business, but which has become a way for police and district attorneys to fund their programs. Senate Bill 443 by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, passed out of the public safety committee on Tuesday. It is designed to rein in these abuses.

via Bill targets cop agencies that sidestep law to seize property – Steven Greenhut, San Diego Union-Tribune.

Cali PUC’s new Orwellian rate proposal: Use less electricity, pay more

In the next four years, Californians who use the least electricity may see their utility bills go up — while those who use the most get a break.

State energy regulators on Tuesday proposed major changes to the way residents pay for electricity in the biggest overhaul of utility rates since California’s energy crisis more than a decade ago.

The state’s big, investor-owned utility companies currently charge different prices for electricity based on four “tiers” of usage as a way to encourage conservation. The proposal issued Tuesday by two administrative law judges at the California Public Utilities Commission would cut that number to two tiers by 2019, with only a 20 percent difference between the prices charged for each. Right now, PG&E’s top residential tier charges twice as much for electricity as the bottom tier.

The changes may seem counter to the state’s long-standing push for energy efficiency. But, according to the commission’s staff, the most efficient California households currently pay less for electricity than the utilities spend supplying it to them.

via New California proposal: Use less electricity, pay more – San Francis co Chronicle.

This just in…Cali Senate Education Committee approves vaccine bill

A bill that would require more California children to be vaccinated before they enter school was approved Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee, a week after it stalled when members of the panel voiced concerns that it would deprive many young people of an education.

The bill next goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration of its legal ramifications.

The measure by Democratic Sens. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Ben Allen of Santa Monica would eliminate the option of parents to exempt their children from vaccinations based on a “personal belief,” meaning the only waiver available would be for medical reasons.

The bill “will increase everybody’s safety against preventable diseases” Allen said. “We think we’ve struck a fair balance here that provides more options for parents who don’t want to vaccinate their children.”

via Senate Education Committee approves vaccine bill – LA Times.

#PoliceState Update: Killer cop takes time out for a Bahamas vacation

A volunteer sheriff’s deputy plans to vacation in the Bahamas while facing a second-degree manslaughter charge in Oklahoma, his attorneys told a judge Tuesday, drawing immediate criticism from the family of the man he killed.

Robert Bates pleaded not guilty during the hearing in Tulsa district court. The 73-year-old former insurance executive has said he confused his handgun for a stun gun when he shot Eric Harris after the suspect ran during a sting investigation involving gun sales.

Bates’ lawyers told the judge that Bates, a reserve deputy with the Tulsa County sheriff’s office, and his family planned to take their previously planned vacation ahead of his next court date in July.

“It’s really not an issue,” Corbin Brewster, one of Bates’ attorneys, said in an interview after the hearing.

Harris’ family criticized the trip, saying it sends a message “of apathy with respect to the shooting and Eric’s life.”

via Volunteer deputy heading to Bahamas amid manslaughter charge – San Francisco Examiner.

Video shows Rep. Steve Knight going berserk on Patriot over amnesty vote

Knight goes berserk on constituent who was protesting over congressman’s amnesty vote.

A new video shows U.S. Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) confronting a protester during a discussion about immigration.

The heated confrontation occurred Friday outside Knight’s district office in Simi Valley, where a group holding “Stop illegal immigration” signs had gathered during an open house event. The entire encounter was filmed and a video was later posted to YouTube.

A protester, who called himself “Mike,” approached Knight, shook his hand and said, “You told me you didn’t vote amnesty and you did. I looked it up on the Internet. You lied to me.” He then patted Knight on the arm.

As the protester walked away, Knight approached him and said, “If you touch me again, I’ll drop your ass.”

The congressman and protesters argued over whether he voted to support Department of Homeland Security funding.

via Rep. Steve Knight confronts protester during immigration discussion – LA Times.

#PoliceState Update: High court limits drug-sniffing dog searches during traffic stops

Drug sniffing dogThe Supreme Court told the police Tuesday they may not turn routine traffic stops into drug searches using trained dogs.

The 6-3 decision limits the increasingly common practice whereby officers stop a car for a traffic violation and then call for a drug-sniffing dog to inspect the vehicle.

The justices, both liberal and conservative, agreed that it was an unconstitutional “search and seizure” to hold a motorist in such cases.

Backlash against religious freedom laws helps gay rights in Indiana, Arkansas

“Police may not prolong detention of a car and driver beyond the time reasonably required to address the traffic violation,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking for the court.

The decision applies the 4th Amendment’s ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures” and covers all the police–local, state and federal.

via High court limits drug-sniffing dog searches during traffic stops – LA Times.

Chief Charlie Beck’s spin on brutal #LAPD thugs gets more complex

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said today he believes an officer charged with using excessive force during an October arrest committed a “criminal act,” and he personally urged the district attorney to file charges.

“I was shocked by the content of the video,” Beck said of the surveillance footage of the Oct. 16 arrest of 22-year-old Clinton Alford Jr. near 55th Street and South Avalon Boulevard.

On Monday, Officer Richard Garcia, 34, was charged with assault under color of authority. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to return to court June 1, when a date is expected to be set for a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

Officers arrested Alford because he matched the description of a robbery suspect. After running from police, Alford surrendered but Garcia allegedly assaulted him while the suspect was on the ground. Alford’s attorney, Caree Harper, contends that Alford was on the ground being restrained by other officers when an officer kicked and stomped on him, then repeatedly struck him in the head and body.

Beck said that after he saw the video of the arrest, he “immediately ensured that the officers were sent home.”

The chief said he “contacted personally the district attorney and expressed my desire for her folks to not only look at this case but to file criminal charges.”

Alford has not been fired by the department, which is allowing the criminal case to move forward.

“We have to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is justice here,” Beck said. “And we want the justice system to be able to address this use of force, which I believe is a criminal act.”

All of the officers involved in the arrest were placed on paid administrative leave.

via LAPD officer charged with assault during arrest committed a ‘criminal act,’ says Chief Charlie Beck.

Rep. Tony Cardenas’ district director subpoenaed by grand jury

A top aide to Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Panorama City) has been subpoenaed by a grand jury in California, according to a note read on the U.S. House floor last week.

Gabriela Marquez, district director of Cardenas’ San Fernando Valley office, notified the House of Representatives that she had received a grand jury subpoena issued by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Washington, D.C.-based newspaper Roll Call first reported the news, adding that the FBI met with Marquez in her home three weeks ago. Cardenas told the publication that he hadn’t heard from the FBI.

Roll Call, citing unnamed sources, reported the probe centers around campaign work. It is unclear whose campaign or how many campaigns are being investigated.

Cardenas’ 2014 re-election filings with the Federal Election Commission show that his campaign paid Marquez $5,775 for administrative, phone and political services.

Cardenas’ office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles declined comment.

via Rep. Tony Cardenas’ district director subpoenaed by grand jury.

#PoliceState Update: Brutal idiot cops cost taxpayers 650K

A California county on Tuesday approved paying a $650,000 settlement to avoid a lawsuit by a man whose beating by deputies after a horse chase was captured on video and led to a federal civil rights investigation.

San Bernardino County supervisors approved the settlement with Francis Pusok, 30, in a closed meeting, said David Wert, a county spokesman.

Attorneys Sharon Brunner and Jim Terrell, who represent Pusok, said in a statement that county officials initiated the settlement negotiations. The lawyers noted that it was “remarkable as there was essentially no investigation nor any indictments,” and it was based on video.

Pusok’s arrest was recorded by a TV news crew in a helicopter and led to the FBI probe and 10 deputies being placed on leave pending an ongoing internal investigation.

via California county to pay man beaten by deputies on video – San Francisco Chronicle.

Fairfield cops brutalize parents of abducted boy

The 8-year-old Fairfield boy found safe after the idling car he was sleeping in was stolen from his family’s home thanked the community Tuesday as his parents lashed out at police, saying they were treated as suspects.

With his family at his side, Brock Guzman told reporters, “I just want to say thank you to everybody that was out looking for me. I’m very happy to be home.”

Brock was sleeping in the back seat of the family car outside his home early Monday when someone jumped in and stole the car, apparently unaware that the boy was inside. Several hours later, a citizen called police after finding the car parked on a street less than 2 miles away. The boy was still fast asleep.

Despite the happy ending, Paul and Suzanne Guzman said they were angry at police, saying officers mistreated them after they realized their son was missing.

“When we were here, we were treated like criminals from the get-go, from the first officer that showed up,” Paul Guzman said.

via Boy, 8, found safe grateful, but parents upset at Fairfield cops – San Francisco Chronicle.

‘X-Men’ Superhero Iceman Comes Out as Gay in New Comic

Bobby “Iceman” Drake comes out as gay in leaked panels from the next issue of “All New X-Men.”

In the exchange between a teenage version of Drake and fellow mutant Jean Grey, Drake suggests that maybe he is bisexual. Grey, a telepath who has read his mind, says that is a possibility, but says, “But I think you’re more — full gay.” Drake responds, “Yeah … I know.”

The images first appeared on 4chan, an imageboard website. Series author Michael Bendis seemed to confirm the panels authenticity in a tweet, which can be seen below.

via ‘X-Men’ Superhero Iceman Comes Out as Gay in New Comic – San Francisco Chronicle.

Kids’ education will be fine under vaccination bill

Twenty-nine states require schoolchildren to be vaccinated unless they can prove they should have a medical or religious exemption. Two more allow opt-outs only with a doctor’s note.

Somehow the children in these states have managed to get an education, though their communities surely include the odd anti-vaxxer who thinks people shouldn’t have to immunize kindergartners if they don’t want to. If nearly two-thirds of the rest of the country can protect public health and public education at the same time, so can California.

via Editorial: Kids’ education will be fine under vaccination bill – The Sacramento Bee.

California cities fret over tiered water rates after court decision

When it passed, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act generated far less public attention than its tax-limiting predecessor Proposition 13. While it has been cited over the years in dozens of cases brought against cities, California’s drought conditions are generating more attention for the nearly two-decade-old initiative. With about two-thirds of water providers relying on tiered-rate structures, McKenzie said he’s worried the case could spawn additional lawsuits.

“Here we now have a court, as happens from time to time, very clearly saying, ‘Yeah, you can have tiered rates, but only for the purpose of allocating higher costs to the higher consumer, not for the purpose of conservation,’” he said. “That’s a really dramatic pronouncement.”

The decision came after Gov. Jerry Brown this month ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to direct urban water suppliers to develop rate structures that maximize conservation. In response, the state board is requiring districts to significantly curtail their use, in some cases by as much as 36 percent. Brown has said the ruling puts a “straitjacket” on local government’s conservation efforts.

via California cities fret over tiered water rates after court decision – The Sacramento Bee.

Conveniently timed study rules out link between autism, MMR vaccine even in at-risk kids

The vocal minority of parents who contend that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism aren’t likely to be swayed, said Dr. James Cherry, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who wasn’t involved in the new research.

“Eight million studies are not going to convince people,” he said.

The idea that vaccines cause autism goes back to a 1998 study in the medical journal Lancet that described 12 young children with autism-like symptoms. Eight of those children started having behavioral problems after they got the MMR vaccine, according to their parents.

That study was retracted in 2010 after its lead author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was found to have falsified his research. Yet his claims continue to stoke the anti-vaccination movement.

via Study rules out link between autism, MMR vaccine even in at-risk kids – The Sacramento Bee.

Vast Right-Wing Conspiricy ramps up: Media strikes deals for anti-Clinton research

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton, a move that has confounded members of the Clinton campaign and some reporters, the On Media blog has confirmed.

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich” will debut on May 5. But the Times, the Post and Fox have already made arrangements with author Peter Schweizer to pursue some of the material included in his book, which seeks to draw connections between Clinton Foundation donations and speaking fees and Hillary Clinton’s actions as secretary of state. Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative research group, and previously served as an adviser to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

via New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News strike deals for anti-Clinton research – POLITICO.

‘Pipelines blow up and people die’

On June 10, 1999, a few days after his high school graduation, Liam Wood unexpectedly got an afternoon off work and decided to go fly-fishing on a creek near his hometown of Bellingham, Washington. About 100 miles away, operators missed the signs of a pressure spike in the 16-inch gasoline pipeline that crossed the stream in Whatcom Falls Park.

The pipe ruptured at a point where, several years before, a backhoe had accidentally struck and weakened the 50-year-old iron. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline began to spew into the creek near where Liam stood, staining the water pink.

It took an hour for control room computers to register an alert. Police began to evacuate the park, but Liam was already dead. Overcome by fumes, the 18-year-old had fallen unconscious into the water and drowned.

Then two 10-year-old boys playing in the park flicked a lighter they’d been using to set off fireworks, igniting the gasoline. The fireball set dozens of acres ablaze in a towering black cloud that could be seen in Vancouver, more than 50 miles away. The two boys died the next day, succumbing to burns over more than 80 percent of their bodies.

The ensuing public outrage revealed gaping holes in pipeline safety regulations. The pipeline company had failed — but clearly, so had federal authorities who were supposed to be keeping watch. At the time of the Bellingham disaster, pipeline operators were not required to inspect the inside of their pipes or install valves that would automatically shut after a rupture. Government auditors later found that the federal agency in charge of pipeline safety was a dismal failure at implementing more stringent regulations, in part because it deemed the rules “too costly for the pipeline industry compared with the expected benefits.”

via ‘Pipelines blow up and people die’ – POLITICO.