Siding with the #PoliceState is really taking its toll on McConnell

FILE - In thus Dec. 17, 2014 file photo, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. is interviewed on Capitol Hill in Washington. The first Republican-controlled Congress to confront President Barack Obama takes charge on Tuesday, and GOP leaders are planning an agenda that focuses on cutting the budget and bolstering the economy _ and oh yes, avoiding self-inflicted calamities that make voters wonder if the party is capable of governing.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)Mitch McConnell rarely goes out on a limb on issues that divide Senate Republicans. He’s more prone to sit back and listen, let his conference work out their differences — and only then assert his own views.

But the majority leader ditched that dispassionate approach when it came time to renew the country’s anti-terrorism surveillance laws — he spoke out early and vociferously against reforming soon-to-expire PATRIOT Act provisions — and the departure now threatens to undermine the Kentucky Republican’s vow to bring more responsible governance to the Senate.

For weeks, McConnell tried to lay the groundwork for an extension of the post-9/11 law, only to be boxed into a corner by the House GOP leadership and his junior senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, who’ve pushed to substantially change or end the program.

Headed into a rare Sunday session, McConnell now has a choice: He can capitulate from his position and let a House-passed bill pass over his own objections, seek to amend the House bill or continue to insist on a short-term extension. With no deal, he could witness the collapse of the sweeping surveillance program on his own watch.

via PATRIOT Act: Cool Mitch McConnell gets passionate — and pays.

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First TurboTax, now the IRS: How security breaches are killing US taxpayers

The data breach at the IRS that left the personal information of 104,000 taxpayers in the hands of thieves is the latest wrinkle in a mammoth problem faced by tax authorities: Identity theft and its crippling consequences.

An unprecedented surge in online tax scams by increasingly sophisticated criminals has challenged the IRS to respond quickly to get ahead of the fraudsters, especially during this year’s tax season after hackers targeted TurboTax, the country’s largest online filing service.

via How the breach of IRS tax returns is part of a much bigger problem facing taxpayers.

School districts continue to grapple with compliance of a state gender-neutrality law

Student activist Milo Spearman, a ninth grader at San Dieguito High School Academy, launched an online petition to seek a gender-neutral restroom at his school.Two years after California passed a law that permits transgender youth to use whatever bathroom they wish, school districts continue to grapple with compliance, though major strides have been made.

“You can’t just build a restroom or retrofit one tomorrow,” said Kurt Dearie, a history teacher at Carlsbad High School who has been a co-advisor for the school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance since 2002. “The lack of money and all kinds of things make this more challenging today.”

The issue came up recently at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas. Ninth-grade activist Milo Spearman started an online petition on an advocacy website that drew more than 18,200 signatures, asking his school to set aside a gender-neutral restroom. In an interview Thursday, Spearman said he was surprised at the amount of support his idea received.

San Dieguito’s principal, Tim Hornig, has said he’s looking into setting aside such a restroom, and may even build one from scratch by using a portion of funds raised by San Dieguito Union High School District’s $449 million Proposition AA spending plan, approved by voters in 2012.

Some school districts have carved out these special restrooms in nurses’ offices, while others have converted them from teacher-only restrooms. Some districts, like San Dieguito, may use districtwide capital spending programs to build new facilities while others like Carlsbad Unified have found ways to identify restrooms to accommodate all genders on its campuses.

“Students just want to be treated with equal access and blend in,” said Carlsbad Unified Superintendent Suzette Lovely.

via School districts continue to grapple with compliance of a state gender-neutrality law.

Elon Musk is rich, thanks to all the money you’ve generously given him

Elon Musk's companies fueled by government subsidiesLos Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space.

And he’s built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies.

Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.

“He definitely goes where there is government money,” said Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research. “That’s a great strategy, but the government will cut you off one day.”

Three companies, $4.9 billion in government support

The figure compiled by The Times comprises a variety of government incentives, including grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits that Tesla can sell. It also includes tax credits and rebates to buyers of solar panels and electric cars.

A looming question is whether the companies are moving toward self-sufficiency — as Dolev believes — and whether they can slash development costs before the public largess ends.

Tesla and SolarCity continue to report net losses after a decade in business, but the stocks of both companies have soared on their potential; Musk’s stake in the firms alone is worth about $10 billion. (SpaceX, a private company, does not publicly report financial performance.)

Musk and his companies’ investors enjoy most of the financial upside of the government support, while taxpayers shoulder the cost.

via Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies.

Under Prop. 47, the state finally recognizes former felons who have redeemed themselves

Susan Burton knows what the first day out of jail can feel like.

So after she got sober in the late ’90s, she started spending time at a spot downtown where buses dumped women just released from custody. If they had no place to go, she invited them to come stay on a bunk bed in her bungalow in South L.A. Her hospitality grew into a reentry program with five homes that helps women reunite with their children after their release.

But her career path kept hitting the same roadblock: her own felony drug record.

Five years ago, she drove to a prison in Chino to speak to women in the cosmetology school there about how to get plugged into a community after their release. But when she arrived, she learned she’d been denied access. She felt crushed. Then mad.

“It’s crazy,” she said, her voice dropping to a hiss of a whisper. “What do I do to redeem myself? What else could I possibly do?”

Prop. 47 jolts landscape of California justice system

An answer came in November, when voters passed Proposition 47, an initiative that reduced drug possession and several other nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors. The ballot measure — one of the biggest criminal justice changes in decades — has prompted the release of more than 3,700 inmates from state prison.

Opponents of the measure said it would make California’s streets more dangerous by releasing criminals and would strip away much of the incentive that got people into drug treatment — keeping a felony off their record. But another part of the law that drew less attention allows people who have already served their time to ask a court to reduce years-old convictions from felonies to misdemeanors.

via Under Prop. 47, former felons find themselves shedding a stifling label.

L.A. County sheriff’s department can’t seem to get by without miscreants

Every wonder why the police are psychologically imbalanced?

As Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell tries to turn around a department under federal scrutiny for jail brutality, racial harassment and corruption, one of his most immediate challenges is a staffing shortage that could threaten his reform agenda.

By July, the number of sworn employees needed to fill the gap will be about 1,300, according to sheriff’s officials, including hundreds of deputies to make the county jails safer in response to an inmate abuse scandal and a rash of jail suicides. The deputies’ union puts the number even higher.

McDonnell is expanding an understaffed recruiting department and launching a hiring push. But he must avoid the mistakes of previous large-scale recruitment drives under his predecessor, Lee Baca, when the department added new deputies with histories of misconduct.

L.A. County Sheriff’s Department drill instructors teach recruits how to stand at attention while another does push-ups next to a pile of batons at the Biscailuz Regional Training Center. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The problem is not money: Most of the positions are funded. Rather, it is not easy to find qualified candidates. For every 100 applicants, only two or three end up wearing the badge. McDonnell has vowed not to lower standards to get more bodies in the door.

via Shortage of deputies could threaten L.A. County sheriff’s reform agenda.

#PoliceState Update: San Francisco plots to target speeders on with high-tech cameras

Considered to be among the most dangerous intersections in San Francisco, a chaotic mix of cars, trollies, cyclists and pedestrians come together on Market Street between Octavia and Valencia Streets on Friday May 29, 2015 in San Francisco, Calif. The city of San Francisco is considering installing speed cameras at dangerous intersections and also near schools and senior centers. Photo: Mike Kepka, The ChronicleSan Francisco’s streets, already home to cameras that spit out tickets to drivers who run red lights and park in Muni zones, will also be dotted with devices to catch speeders, if city leaders have their way.

The idea of employing radar beams and cameras to snag speeding motorists may seem to some like a further intrusion of technology into everyday life or an example of an expanding police state — while still others don’t have a problem with “careful” speeding. But traffic safety, pedestrian and bicycling advocates say it’s the most effective way to slow cars and trucks, change a city’s traffic culture and make the streets safer for everyone.

As San Francisco works on its Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic collisions causing death or serious injury by 2024, Mayor Ed Lee and city transportation officials are eyeing the speed cameras.

via S.F. vision: Catch speeders on camera, but there’s a catch.

With Medi-Cal ranks swelling, health care profiteers push Cali pols to raise rates

An image from video shows a "Medi-Cal is Me" ad campaign that seeks restoration of 10 percent cuts from previous years.In advertisements airing across the state, patients gaze plaintively at the camera and explain how California’s health care system is failing them.

“Medi-Cal is me,” they say, many of them children.

The spots are part of a $10 million salvo in a protracted dispute over how well the state reimburses doctors who see patients enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s insurance program for the poor. With ballooning Medi-Cal rolls providing an impetus and a stocked budget providing the means, an alliance between labor and the healthcare industry is pushing to reverse a rate cut imposed during the recession.

Year after year, medical interests have pushed California to rescind a 10 percent reimbursement cut authorized in 2011. Their arguments have failed to persuade Gov. Jerry Brown, who has again declined to include the restoration in his budget proposal. A pair of bills introduced this year to bump up rates either died or were amended to remove the rate increase.

Yet advocates still believe they have a chance to secure the change through the budget, and they are planning a sustained effort even if they cannot succeed this year. Fortifying the push is a statewide campaign funded by an unusual alliance between the California Hospital Association and the SEIU United Healthcare Workers West union.

After striking a labor agreement last year that led the union to drop a hospital pricing ballot initiative, the hospital association and SEIU-UHW agreed to fund a Medi-Cal rate campaign. The $10 million they have committed to spending leading into this year’s budget talks could be a just down payment.

“This is a multi-year effort,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW, calling inadequate Medi-Cal funding “the single biggest fundamental strategic problem facing the future of the healthcare system in California.”

They have a wide range of healthcare industry allies. The California Medical Association, the California Primary Care Association and insurance companies have joined the “We Care for California” campaign. Lawmakers from both parties are pushing the rate increase, and the Assembly Budget Committee has recommended implementing the change over two years.

via With Medi-Cal ranks swelling, health care industry funds campaign to raise rates.

#PoliceState Update: From Ferguson to NSA, news events spark flurry of bills

FILE - In this April 28, 2015 file photo, police stand in formation as a curfew approache in Baltimore, a day after unrest that occurred following Freddie Gray's funeral.  The prevailing images of protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, over police killings of black men were of police in riot gear, handcuffed protesters, tear gas and mass arrests. The main images of a fatal gun battle between armed bikers and police in Waco, Texas, also showed mass arrests _ carried out by nonchalant-looking officers sitting around calm bikers on cell phones. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)Since its inception, our nation has struggled to find the right balance between protecting the rights of individuals — our civil liberties — and ensuring that government has the tools to protect the public’s safety and security. Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, that pendulum has swung sharply and understandably in the security direction.

Such a tilt has not only been obvious in national policymaking, but at the state level, where legislators are attuned to public attitudes and to the demands of special interests.

Police unions, for instance, are among the most powerful interest groups in the state Capitol and few legislators from either party want to endure their wrath during campaign season.

There are signs, however, the pendulum has hit its apex and is starting to shift direction. Because of the riots and protests over police killings in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and New York City, policing issues have become a hot topic in the Legislature, with more than 20 bills introduced this year that address police use-of-force issues.

via From Ferguson to NSA, news events spark flurry of bills.

Feckless health insurance companies using Obamacare to crush consumers

Covered California customers cite difficulty paying premiumsA new survey shows that 44% of Covered California policyholders find it difficult paying their monthly premiums for Obamacare coverage.

And a similar percentage of uninsured Californians say the high cost of coverage is the main reason they go without health insurance.

The issue of just how much people can afford will loom large as the state exchange prepares to negotiate with health insurers over next year’s rates.

Amid slower growth, California’s Obamacare exchange cuts proposed spending

Many analysts are predicting bigger premium increases for 2016 in California and across the country. Insurers have more details on the medical costs of enrollees, and some federal programs that help protect health plans from unpredictable claims will be winding down.

This latest pulse on consumer attitudes is drawn from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 4,555 Californians from September to December 2014. It examined the experiences of people in Covered California, Medi-Cal, other private coverage and the uninsured.

Forty-four percent of exchange policyholders surveyed said it’s somewhat or very difficult to afford their premiums. That’s compared with 25% of adults who had employer-based or other private health insurance.

via 44% of Covered California customers report difficulty paying premiums.

Widow sues over incompetent BART officer’s shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy

Veteran BART police Sgt. Tom "Tommy" Smith was shot and killed by another BART officer in Dublin on Jan. 21, 2014.A top BART police official denied Sgt. Tom Smith’s requests that the department provide additional training, or use its SWAT team during high-risk searches of homes, before Smith was inadvertently shot dead by a colleague during the search of a Dublin apartment, the officer’s widow said in a federal lawsuit filed Friday.

Deputy Police Chief Ben Fairow “denied training and denigrated officers when training and/or involvement of tactical teams were discussed,” saying that it was all “bull—” and that officers were “pussies” because they had “training like this in the police academy,” said the suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The suit said Smith, a 42-year-old San Ramon resident, “never received any of the specialized building search training he requested.”

The civil action is the latest fallout from the shooting on Jan. 21, 2014, in which Smith was killed by Detective Michael Maes, who mistook his supervisor for an armed suspect during the search of the small Dublin apartment, authorities said. The officers had failed to study the circular floor plan before the search, and suddenly encountered each other in a back room.

via Widow sues BART in officer’s friendly-fire death.

California Senate steps up on pay equity

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, right, in the Senate chambers as lawmakers cast their votes on her wage equality bill, SB358.More than a half-century after the federal Equal Pay Act outlawed wage discrimination based on gender, women in this country continue to be underpaid.

From hotel maids to Hollywood moguls, a woman’s work is just about never compensated at parity with a man’s, partly because of loopholes that have evolved to block women from effectively forcing the issue.

For more than five years, a bill known as the Paycheck Fairness Act has been pending in Congress to fix that. Unfortunately, the usual partisan gridlock has stood in the way.

So this week, the California Senate took matters into its own hands, approving a bill that would strengthen legal remedies for victims of gender-based pay discrimination. For this, senators deserve thanks and congratulations. If it clears the Assembly and is signed into law, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s Senate Bill 358 will give California the toughest pay-equity protections in the United States.

via Senate steps up on pay equity.

History, with Armenian help, has smugly passed over the slaughter

The Armenians called their “Dashnak” troops – The “Punishment Brigade.” They killed tens of thousands of Azeris, Jews and other minorities in these few days in March and April of 1918. History, with Armenian help, has smugly passed over the slaughter. A construction project has revived the bloody events of almost a hundred years ago. Workers stumbled onto a mass grave of Azeri/Jewish victims in 2007.

The Azeri’s have built a monument – The Guba Genocide Memorial Complex — to the victims and documented with heavy research and many, many photographs of the events, the massive destruction of Guba and surrounding villages and the massacre’s aftermath. Surprisingly and shockingly there is more to the memorial than photos, weapons and documents to be seen and understood.

In a protected and covered area is an archaeological dig that has uncovered — thousands of bones and skulls of victims circa March 31, 1918. It took my breath away when I was escorted into the protected area. These bones and skulls were not laid out on tables for study, they were there compacted by several feet of dirt that was shoveled onto the bodies by their murderers who tried to cover-up their hideous war crimes.

It shocked me – shocked me – to see the bones of hundreds of men, women and children killed by the Armenians and their Communist partners. It shocked me, it depressed me, and it made me detest barbarians.

via Atrocities, real and imagined.

Defining what’s acceptable for Democrats; There are consequences for elected officials who stray

The California Democratic Party and its main benefactor, organized labor, are making clear what it means to be a Democrat, and who might not be welcome.

Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, became suspect by crossing labor on international trade. Bera, a physician, tries to work with Republicans, rarely misses a vote and is the only congressional member whose family came here from India.

He’s the sort of Democrat who can hold the swing district, having defeated his Republican challenger by a scant 1,455 votes last year, thanks in part to labor’s support. Labor’s support, like that of any interest group, comes at a price. There are consequences for elected officials who stray.

via Defining what’s acceptable for Democrats.

“Congress: This is a blackout” – Patriot Act protesters swarm Congressional websites

Blackout, Congress, Patriot Act, NSAThousands of websites are blocking Congress’s access to their sites in a show of force to protest the Patriot Act.

Led by the online activist group Fight for the Future, more than 10,000 sites have added code that redirects any visitors from Internet protocol (IP) addresses stemming from Congress away from their site and towards a protest page.

“Congress: This is a blackout,” the site reads. “We are blocking your access until you end mass surveillance laws.”

Instead of renewing or reforming the three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, the activist group wants Congress to let then totally expire.

“The real answer is to end all authorities used to conduct mass surveillance,” Fight for the Future says on the protest page. “Until you do, thousands of websites have blocked your access, and more are joining every day.”

via Thousands of websites block Congress in Patriot Act protest.

“Shocking” revelations about Hispanics rock a universe of lies

Of the many immigrant myths promulgated by the anti-immigrant cabal, the most provably false is that Hispanic immigrants (legal and illegally present) absolutely refuse to learn and speak English.

That is not true.

The Hispanic Trends office of the Pew Research Center studies English use by Hispanics and their “shocking” revelations rock a universe of lies.

Its recent study of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that a record 33.2 million Hispanics speak English “proficiently” or “well,” which is 68 percent, in contrast to the 59 percent that did so in 2000. Conversely, the percentage of Hispanics who speak Spanish at home is growing smaller by the day. Previous studies by the Rand Corporation validate this study.

In 1980, Hispanics made up but 6.5 percent of the total U.S. population: 14.8 million people. Today, there are 54 million Hispanics and they make up 17.1 percent of the total U.S. population. The effect of such a monumental population change needs some “‘splaining.”

via Hispanic America speaks English.

Fidel Wins! Obama removes Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism

The Obama administration on Friday removed Cuba from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a crucial step in normalizing ties between Washington and Havana and the latest progress in President Obama’s push to thaw relations between the United States and the island nation.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry rescinded Cuba’s designation as a terrorism sponsor at the end of a 45-day congressional notification period that began on April 14, when Mr. Obama announced his intention to remove Cuba from the list.

The move “reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission,” Jeff Rathke, the State Department spokesman, said in a statement. “While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.”

via U.S. Removes Cuba From State Terrorism List.

Heroic Orange County bishop does the right thing in the face of racist demagogues

Embedded image permalinkAs leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Bishop Kevin Vann plays several roles: spiritual guide, fundraiser, enthusiastic salesman of the church and its ideals.

Vann, 64, has a less visible role as well – he’s one of the nation’s leading advocates for immigration reform.

Vann heads the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., or CLINIC, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for low-income immigrants.

In September, Vann was one of two bishops who wrote a letter, on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to the Department of Homeland Security, urging executive action to protect the nation’s estimated 11.5 million residents living here illegally. In March, Vann hosted Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio del Riego at the local Christ Cathedral, where they signed a joint letter to Congress urging comprehensive immigration reform.

But after penning the letter to Homeland Security, the diocese did not announce it. Nor did Vann write about it in his Orange County blog.

The usually affable and available bishop also declined requests made over several months to comment for this story on his role as a leader on immigration, though a spokesman later offered a discussion date for next month.

Vann’s public comments about immigration often are made to like-minded immigration advocates.

“I did what I could to stop (deportations),” he said last month at an immigration conference at Chapman University. “They are real people who we try to respond to.”

“It would be anti-Christian to not do anything,” said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, a national Latino evangelical association.

“The church has served as the proverbial firewall against the demagogues and those committed to the deportation of millions of individuals, who even though they came here illegally, have worked and contributed to our society, had children here, have been exploited as cheap labor,” Rodriguez said.

via Biblical duty or crossing the line? Orange County’s Bishop Kevin Vann walks an immigration tightrope.

#PoliceState Update: If surveillance program ends, NSA spy-rats plan on keeping your phone records anyway

NSA surveillanceThe National Security Agency will mothball its mammoth archive of Americans’ telephone records, isolating the computer servers where they are stored and blocking investigators’ access, but will not destroy the database if its legal authority to collect the material expires on schedule this Sunday, officials said Thursday.

The NSA’s determination to keep billions of domestic toll records for counter-terrorism and espionage investigations adds another note of uncertainty to a debate that pits the Obama administration’s national security team against opponents who argue the government data trove violates Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.

The political and legal dispute will come to a head Sunday when the Republican-led Senate returns to work a day early to seek a resolution — hours before the law used to authorize the controversial NSA program, and several other key counter-terrorism provisions, expires at 11:59 p.m.

via If NSA surveillance program ends, phone record trove will endure.

Wealthy Bay Area cry babies bawl about having to conserve water

More than 350 people turned out, and nearly all in opposition, to voice their concerns at the only public hearing on strict new water conservation rules that will affect 1 million people across Silicon Valley starting June 15.

Through four hours of testimony late into Thursday night, dozens of speakers at the Rotary Summit Center in downtown San Jose told top representatives from the San Jose Water Company that theCommunity members line up to express their concerns during a public hearing  held by San Jose Water Company in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May company’s proposed new drought regulations that will limit each home to a fixed monthly allocation of water, with financial penalties for customers who use more than their limit, are unfair to people with large yards and large families and should be rewritten.

“You chose the option which was the most painful to the residents,” said Robert Goldman, a San Jose resident. He noted that other Bay Area water providers such as East Bay Municipal Utility District have adopted less stringent regulations.

“Your proposal is unjust, unreasonable and discriminatory,” added Wolfgang Hausen, a Saratoga resident who said he cut water use 57 percent since 2013, but still faces significant penalties under the new rules.

Company officials said they have no plans, however, to change the rules, which were triggered by Gov. Jerry Brown’s order this month requiring urban residents reduce water use by 25 percent statewide compared to 2013 to preserve drinking water amid the worst drought in California’s 164-year history.

via San Jose Water Company’s strict drought rules opposed by hundreds at meeting.

United kicks pregnant woman off plane at SFO over crying child

Pregnant Mom and Crying Toddler Kicked Off United Airlines FlightPregnant Canadian musician Sarah Blackwood was seething on Wednesday after she was allegedly kicked off a plane because of her crying son.

The singer/songwriter was onboard a United Airlines flight from San Francisco bound for Vancouver when her 2-year-old Giorgio threw a screaming fit.

She managed to calm him down but not before his outburst had prompted the pilot to turn the aircraft around and head back to the airport terminal, where Blackwood and her son were escorted off the flight because the toddler’s behavior was considered a safety threat.

Blackwood took to Twitter.com to vent her frustration, tweeting, “Just got kicked off a @united flight because my son was crying really loud. Stayed calm but overall #Discrimination #motherhaters… Apparently my little 2 yr old crying son was a big threat to @united… MY 2 YR OLD!A threat?!?!”

via Pregnant musician kicked off plane over crying child.

Feinstein continues to defend the indefensible, the NSA’s blanket surveillance of Americans

When the Senate meets this weekend in a rare Sunday session, Sen. Dianne Feinstein will be there to vote to allow the government to have continued — though limited — access to Americans’ phone records.

Speaking Thursday night at a Stanford University event on national security, the former San Francisco mayor said that allowing that controversial section of the Patriot Act to expire at 12:01 a.m. Monday would create “chinks in our armor” against terrorism.

“These programs aim to protect our country, pure and simple,” she said.

The talk, part of a series on the ongoing concern about government secrecy in a democratic society, featured a one-on-one conversation between Feinstein and Philip Taubman, a consulting professor at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and former Washington bureau chief for the New York Times.

For Feinstein, who was chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 2009 until Republicans took control of the Senate in 2014, the real threat of terrorism in the world, especially as seen in the growing international threat of the Islamic State, is reason enough for her to back the revised telephone surveillance rules supported by President Obama.

via Sen. Feinstein stumps for revised rules on phone surveillance.

A “challenge we have to respond to”: Brown makes case for tunnels project

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a gathering of political, business and community leaders at the annual California Chamber of Commerce Host Breakfast on Thursday.Calling it a “challenge we have to respond to,” Gov. Jerry Brown told hundreds of business owners and others Thursday that the state needs to push forward with his administration’s plans for two water diversion tunnels to protect its economy.

All that stands between the salt water of San Francisco Bay and the fresh water running through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to tens of millions of users and farms to the south, Brown said, are an aging network of levees and berms that are “going to crash at some point” because of rising sea waters caused by climate change or an earthquake.

“It would be a bad day,” Brown told hundreds of business and civic leaders at the 90th annual Sacramento Host Breakfast. Highlighting Silicon Valley’s reliance on Delta water, “We’re not talking a few billion – we’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars of economic loss,” he said.

Acknowledging that some people in the audience likely oppose the tunnels project, Brown joked that it might come down to an issue of semantics. “Instead of a tunnel, we’re going to call it a pipe. That seems to be more popular,” he said to laughter.

Brown, though, suggested that critics ignored the fact that California wouldn’t be where it is today without extensive waterworks throughout its history. “Think of it as an insurance policy to continue the very sophisticated engineering that has characterized California,” Brown said of the diversion tunnels.

via Brown makes case for tunnels project to business, civic leaders.

Good Government Fails Again: Bills on sick days, Uber drug tests, Prop 47, independent police prosecutor die

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D- Los Angeles, who now chairs the Appropriations Commitee, during the first day of session at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 .In a ritual thinning of of the bill herd, the Assembly Appropriations on Committee on Thursday halted measures seeking to increase police officer accountability, launch a new University of California campus and bring more workers into California’s mandatory paid sick leave program.

Bills that would cost California at least $150,000 to implement, a list that includes most (but not all) high-profile proposals, first go on the fiscal committee’s suspense file as the chair and party leaders mull which bills they will allow to advance to floor votes.

Among the bills blocked were Assembly Bill 11, a measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, that would have extended paid sick leave to home health care workers who were left out of last year’s landmark paid sick days bill. Before throwing his support behind last year’s measure, Gov. Jerry Brown drew a line on in-home supportive services workers who had already prevailed in a budget fight related to overtime hours.

Also killed were two Republican measures responding to Proposition 47, which downgraded some drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Assembly Bill 46 would have made possessing date rape drugs with intent to use them a felony, and Assembly Bill 150 would let voters make stealing a gun a felony (Proposition 47 says stolen goods must be worth at least $950 to bring a felony charge).

via Bills on sick days, Uber drug tests, Prop 47, independent police prosecutor die in Assembly.

The next big fight: High-speed rail plans to eminent domain more than 200 properties

An illustration of a California high-speed rail train.The number of Valley properties identified for possible condemnation by the state for its high-speed rail project has grown to more than 200 after a recent vote by the State Public Works Board.

The three-member board, made up of the heads of the state’s Transportation, General Services and Finance departments, adopted 23 resolutions declaring a public need and authorizing the use of eminent domain to acquire properties in Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties. The land, adding up to more than 115 acres, is deemed necessary by the California High-Speed Rail Authority for the first two construction segments of its statewide bullet-train network.

Eminent domain or condemnation is a legal process by which a government agency can go to court and sue a landowner to acquire property for a public project. Typically, it is a last resort when the agency and property owner are at loggerheads on price and terms. A Superior Court judge first decides whether the agency is entitled to the property; in a second phase of the case, a trial determines the fair market value and other “just compensation” due the owner. The verdict can be no lower than the agency’s offer and no higher than the owner’s counteroffer.

via More than 200 properties face condemnation to clear way for high-speed rail.

Free Money!!! California carbon auction brings in another $1 billion

California’s industrial firms spent another $1 billion in the most recent auction of carbon emissions credits, state officials said Thursday.

The California Air Resources Board said its latest quarterly auction of carbon credits raised around $1.06 billion, making it one of the largest sales in the program’s 2 1/2-year history.

Prices ranged from $12.10 to $12.29 per ton, which is roughly in line with previous auctions. The credits give the companies the right to emit greenhouse gases in the air.

California’s system is linked to the Canadian province of Quebec, which means owners of credits can use them in either jurisdiction.

The market-based approach, called cap-and-trade, is a centerpiece of California’s 2006 climate-change law.

While most of the credits are handed out for free, participants have to buy the rest, either on the open market or through the quarterly state-run auctions.

The total amount of available credits declines slightly each year as part of the state’s plan to curb greenhouse gases.

via California carbon auction brings in another $1 billion.

Jeb Bush rips Republicans for ‘bending with the wind’ on immigration

It’s good that Bush is throwing down the gauntlet in claiming that GOP candidates should show courage in trying to persuade hostile GOP voters that legalization is the only solution. But it remains to be see how far he’ll go publicly. What’s more, Bush does not deserve a pass here — he, too, has equivocated on legalization.

via Jeb Bush rips Republicans for ‘bending with the wind’ on immigration.

Getting Away With Murder: Kamala Harris won’t come right out and demand body cameras for cops

Kamala HarrisAs numerous proposals on body cameras for police officers make their way through the Legislature, state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday cautioned against using a “one-size-fits-all” approach to regulate their use.

Harris, who earlier this year announced a pilot program for California Dept. of Justice agents to wear body cameras, said the technology was “important and a good tool to use in doing police work.”

‘Tired of prayer vigils’: California debates 20 bills aimed at police force

But she stopped short of endorsing statewide requirements for officers to wear them, which lawmakers have been debating this session. The most contested measure, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), has been the subject of intense negotiation over how the cameras would be operated and when the footage could be viewed.

The bill, AB 66, was put aside last week when Weber opted to make it a two-year bill.

Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said she believed law enforcement leaders, along with their departments, should “use the discretion to figure out what technology they’re going to adopt based on the needs that they have and the resources that they have. I don’t think we can have a one-size-fits-all approach to this.”

via Kamala Harris cautions against ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach on body cameras.

L.A. labor leaders seek minimum wage exemption for firms with union workers

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Low wages are not a problem as long as the union negotiates them.

Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.

The push to include an exception to the mandated wage increase for companies that let their employees collectively bargain was the latest unexpected detour as the city nears approval of its landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.

But Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law.

“With a collective bargaining agreement, a business owner and the employees negotiate an agreement that works for them both. The agreement allows each party to prioritize what is important to them,” Hicks said in a statement. “This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing.”

How would L.A.’s minimum wage law compare with other big cities?

Coalition representatives said the proposed exemption would ensure the city complies with federal laws which they say give collective bargaining agreements precedence over local ordinances. They also contend that it would keep L.A.’s ordinance consistent with previous city wage laws.

Some business leaders criticized the proposal, however, calling it ironic in light of union leaders’ past opposition to special considerations for some employers.

via L.A. labor leaders seek minimum wage exemption for firms with union workers.

LAUSD, teachers union, fail students….again – district to pay $4.42 million in 3 Pacoima molestation lawsuits

Los Angeles Unified has tentatively agreed to pay $4.42 million to settle lawsuits brought by three more former students who alleged they were molested by a teacher at Telfair Elementary School in Pacoima.

The lawsuits alleged the district was negligent in its supervision of former teacher Paul Chapel, a one-time third-grade teacher who was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison for molesting 13 former students over a roughly four-and-a-half-year period. He pleaded no contest to 13 acts of lewd acts on a child.

The proposed settlements were reached last week during negotiations between attorneys and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William MacLaughlin. One plaintiff, Andy C. would receive $2.87 million; a female plaintiff, S.M., would get $1.49 million; and a second male student, A.M., would be awarded $50,000. All of the settlements are subject to further court approval.

The LAUSD released a statement regarding the latest settlements.

“Attorneys for the Los Angeles Unified School District began finalizing settlements with plaintiffs in the Telfair case,” the statement read. “We are pleased that these children will receive a fair settlement that will address their future needs and also prevent them from having to relive the events by testifying during a trial.”

The LAUSD reached a $5 million settlement with another group of former Telfair students last June.

via LAUSD to pay $4.42 million in 3 Pacoima molestation lawsuits.

Less than a quarter of working-age black adults in California have a bachelor’s degree

Despite significant education gains made in recent decades, working-age blacks in California are only about half as likely as whites to have a bachelor’s degree, according to a new report.

More than 90 percent of these black adults have a high school diploma but only 23 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree versus 42 percent of white adults, according to the Campaign for College Opportunity, an advocacy group. In addition, one-third of them have some college but no degree — the highest of all major racial and ethnic groups — compared with 22 percent of all Californians.

“The good news is that black students today are more likely to graduate from high school and college than a decade ago, but compared to other major racial/ethnic groups, black students are being left behind,” Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, stated in an email. “We continue to witness persistent gaps between blacks and other major racial/ethnic groups in high school graduation, completion of the college preparatory curriculum needed for admission to the CSU and UC, and completion of transfer, certificate or degree.”

The report, which relies on data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, the California Department of Education and institutions of higher education among others, defines blacks as both African-Americans as well as those from the African diaspora who do not consider themselves African-Americans.

via Less than a quarter of working-age black adults in California have a bachelor’s degree.

State regulators to consider changing electricity rate structure

Residents in Southern California’s hotter regions would get some relief from the overly high electric rates they’ve been paying under a proposed decision that’s being considered by state regulators, but an alternative proposal would keep rates high.

The California Public Utilities Commission will consider both options and a decision is not expected until the agency’s June 25 meeting at the earliest.

“High-usage customers who have little alternative to using air conditioning have been burdened with paying a disproportionate share of electric costs due to an unfair sharing of costs by low-usage customers for nearly 14 years since the energy crisis of 2001,” said Russ Garwacki, Southern California Edison’s director of pricing, design and research. “This is an attempt to bring the rates more in line with the costs.”

Last year Edison calculated that high-usage customers have collectively been paying about $600 million above their actual cost each year. The skewed rate structure was put in place by the state Legislature to deal with high costs associated with California’s energy crisis.

The proposal to lower rates for high-usage customers comes from two administrative law judges who examined thousands of pages of evidence and heard from scores of witnesses during three weeks of hearings before issuing their proposed decision.

Edison previously proposed a similar two-rate structure that would lower rates for those living in hotter regions like the Antelope Valley, Coachella Valley, Inland Empire and Palm Desert.

Edison estimated last year that its proposed revamp would drop the average monthly bill for heavy electricity users from $187 a month to $168 a month.

via State regulators to consider changing electricity rate structure.

California producers fear Mexico, Canada retaliation over labeling law

California ranchers and their Capitol Hill allies are scrambling to peel away a country-of-origin labeling law they fear will hurt the state.

Facing potentially punishing tariffs on U.S. wine, apples, cherries and more, after a World Trade Organization ruling against the United States’ labeling requirements for beef and pork, the Californians are mobilizing. They face, though, Midwestern resistance as well as a history of past failures to undo the label requirements.

“This is no longer about labeling,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno. “This is to ensure we aren’t dealt a devastating impact to our agricultural economy through tariff retaliation.”

Mexico and Canada could impose the tariff hikes on U.S. products because a World Trade Organization appellate panel ruled May 18 that the federal country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef and pork, known as COOL, violate U.S. international trade obligations.

Having to label beef or pork products as coming from a foreign country accords “less favorable treatment to imported Canadian cattle and hogs than to like domestic products,” the appellate panel concluded.

Mexico has not yet identified which U.S. products it might target, but Canada’s published list includes fresh apples, cherries, chocolate, frozen orange juice, tomato ketchup and wine, among other products.

“The retaliatory tariffs would affect California, and most of the rest of the nation as well,” Costa said in an interview.

via California producers fear Mexico, Canada retaliation over labeling law.

What made SF Pride change its mind on Facebook’s parade sponsorship?

If you’re a high-profile donor to San Francisco Pride, you might be able to discriminate against the LGBT community and get away with it.

The Facebook real-name debate is raging again. Amid this push for digital civil rights, the San Francisco Pride board considered dropping Facebook’s sponsorship of its parade. But it appears a phone call changed the board’s mind.

Banning the social media giant would have been a bold move that might have put pressure on Facebook to change its stance on its controversial “authentic name” policy.

However, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Gary Virginia, the board’s president, and perhaps other board members to discuss the issue, according to documents obtained by The San Francisco Examiner.

Insiders said this call may have been key in swaying the vote in favor of Facebook.

Virginia did not return calls for comment.

The board backed Facebook in a 5-4 vote to allow the social media giant to march in the Pride Parade next month.

Last year, Facebook came under fire from local drag queens when its authentic-name policy led to local performer Sister Roma and others being barred from the social network. The policy allows users to report people they believe are using fake names.

Sister Roma and others said LGBT users were disproportionately targeted by bigots. Trans people, drag queens, drag kings and others in the LGBT community often go by something that is not their legal name, but nonetheless honestly reflects their identity.

As the issue heated up, others who rely on pseudonyms on Facebook spoke out. They included domestic violence survivors, people fleeing stalkers, teachers who want private lives away from their students, those transitioning to a different gender and many more.

“We firmly believe in and are committed to our authentic name policy,” Facebook wrote in a statement last week, adding that “we’ve made significant improvements over the last nine months in the way the policy is enforced.”

But Sister Roma, a leader in the #MyNameIs campaign, was in those negotiations with Facebook. She said she feels fooled, as the social media giant barely budged on its policy.

via On Guard: What made SF Pride change its mind on Facebook’s parade sponsorship?.

San Jose: Cab drivers fight to preserve monopoly, lousy service, high fares

Dave Logan, operations manager of Yellow Cab Company, encourages cab drivers as they circle San Jose City Hall blaring their horns to protest rideshareSilicon Valley’s airport could become the second major Bay Area airport to permit Uber and other ride-sharing companies to pick up passengers, a move city officials say will capture hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, but which taxi cabdrivers say will drive them out of business.

“They’re taking our income and stealing our services,” said Shakur Buni, a Yellow Cab driver for 20 years, and president of the San Jose airport taxi driver’s association. “We will be out of business if they don’t take care of this.”

Buni, along with 180 other taxi cabdrivers, protested the plan Wednesday outside San Jose City Hall, circling East Santa Clara Street while honking their horns angrily.

The proposal, scheduled for discussion at a City Council meeting Tuesday, would allow Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and other ride-sharing services to obtain ground transportation permits to pick up passengers at Mineta San Jose International Airport. The companies already are dropping off and picking up passengers without permits, officials said, prompting a cease-and-desist order in February 2014. But the airport’s customers are demanding the ride-sharing services, which are becoming a high-tech alternative to taxis and a trend at major airports across the country. And if the council approves the plan Tuesday, San Jose could regulate these companies, oversee passenger safety and charge them operational fees.

via San Jose: Hundreds of cab drivers protest Uber, Lyft outside City Hall.

California Assembly passes bill targeting ‘crisis pregnancy centers’

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke is co-sponsoring Assembly Bill 775 with Assemblyman David Chiu, to require California pregnancy centers to provide information to patients about reproductive services available elsewhere, including abortion, and disclose when they lack medical licenses.California pregnancy centers that often seek to steer women away from abortion would need to provide information about reproductive services available elsewhere, including abortion, and disclose when they lack medical licenses under a bill the state Assembly passed on Tuesday.

Backed by a coalition that includes NARAL Pro-Choice and Planned Parenthood California, Assembly Bill 775 takes aim at so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” that critics say exist largely to persuade women to carry their pregnancies to term, often giving the impression of holding medical credentials that they do not possess. Lawmakers called the bill, which passed 46-25, a simple matter of informing women and protecting them from being misled.

“It’s hard to understand how those who claim to care about women find it so threatening to inform them about accessing affordable health care,” said Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Marina Del Rey, the bill’s author.

Republican lawmakers derided the bill as an unconstitutional attack on private entities, saying it would force crisis pregnancy centers to abandon their core beliefs. The California Catholic Conference also opposes AB 775.

via California Assembly passes bill targeting ‘crisis pregnancy centers’.

FPPC complaints against Patty Lopez; Harassment from the losers

Assemblywoman Patty Lopez speaks in her Capitol office on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif.California’s campaign finance watchdog is investigating two complaints against Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, whose upset victory shocked the political world.

Since toppling then-Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra in November, Lopez has been the target of complaints from Bocanegra loyalists and party activists who question the political neophyte’s fitness for office and note that she has worked with Republicans. Lopez has already gone through two chiefs of staff during her brief tenure in Sacramento.

Three San Fernando-area Democrats filed complaints alleging Lopez failed to disclose facts about her income and campaign contributions. Two of those complaints have now spurred investigations by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

One complaint being investigated, filed by Alejandro Morales, alleges that Lopez neglected to file pre-election disclosures and that those she did file “contain completely contradictory, incomplete and deceptive information.”

The other, written by a woman named Rosemary Jenkins who soon after Lopez’s swearing-in wrote a blog post advocating a recall election, claims that Lopez “engaged in a pattern of deception and fraud” by misrepresenting her work history in her ballot designation and not disclosing income from property and the state’s In-Home Supportive Services Program.

A third complaint alleged that Lopez hired a Republican named David Hernandez to work on her campaign but did not report spending money on him, an allegation that the FPPC dismissed for lack of evidence.

via FPPC investigating complaints against Patty Lopez.

More Disgrace For The #PoliceState: Hideous Chicago Cops Posed With Black Man In Hunting Meme

A photo of two white Chicago police officers posing with rifles as they stand over a black man lying on his stomach with deer antlers on his head has sparked outrage.

The photo, showing Officers Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan, was published Tuesday by the Chicago Sun-Times. It was released in March by a Cook County, Illinois, judge and is believed to have been taken in a West Side police station between 1999 and 2003, the Sun-Times reports.

The Polaroid image was given to the police department in January of 2013 and immediately prompted an investigation that led to McDermott being fired in 2014, police said Wednesday.

McDermott was stripped of his police powers and charges were filed with the Police Board, which terminated him in October of 2014.

McDermott has reportedly appealed to a dismissal court, but attorneys for the police department and McDermott asked that the photo be sealed earlier this year. The judge refused that request in March and the photo was recently obtained by the Sun-Times.

The other officer in the photo, Finnigan, is also the face of a scandal involving the Special Operations Section of the police department and is currently serving a 12-year sentence in a federal prison in Florida. He pleaded guilty to charges in a murder-for-hire scheme and income tax evasion, relating to money he stole as a police officer.

via Photo Shows Chicago Cops Posing With Black Man Wearing Antlers.

#PoliceState Update: Nebraska senators override governor’s veto, repeal death penalty

Death penalty repeal veto override vote - Ernie ChambersNebraska has repealed the death penalty following a dramatic vote Wednesday by state lawmakers to override the governor’s veto.

The high-stakes vote to override the veto of Legislative Bill 268 was 30-19. It requires at least 30 of 49 senators to overturn a gubernatorial veto.

The outcome represented a defeat for first-term Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who made an all-out effort to peel away some of 18 conservative senators who helped pass the repeal bill. Earlier in the session, lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto of a bill that raises the state gas tax.

And it represents a crowning achievement for Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who has made repeal of the death penalty his top priority during his four-decade political career.

“My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families,” Gov. Ricketts said in a statement after the vote. “While the Legislature has lost touch with the citizens of Nebraska, I will continue to stand with Nebraskans and law enforcement on this important issue.”

Said Danielle Conrad, ACLU of Nebraska executive director: “We are grateful for the dynamic leadership of policymakers, and we are proud to be part of an incredibly diverse coalition led by faith leaders, fiscal conservatives and victims’ families. This is a meaningful victory for all Nebraskans.”

Immediately after the vote, Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy announced the formation of “Nebraskans for Justice,” a group that will explore the possibility of a citizen-driven ballot initiative to let Nebraskans vote on reinstating the death penalty.

via Nebraska senators override governor’s veto, repeal death penalty.

Report: Officials masked big pension hike – Cali taxpayers nailed again

Campaign worker Nate Neuenschwander, left, watches election returns at a campaign party for No on Measure B in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, June 5, 2012.  As state and local governments across the country struggle with ballooning pension obligations, voters in two major California cities cast ballots Tuesday on sweeping measures to curb retirement benefits for government workers. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat, joined an 8-3 City Council majority to put San Jose Measure B on pension reform on the ballot. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)As Stanford University scholar David Crane wrote this week in the Capitol Weekly, “As the stock market reaches record levels, little is heard any more from public officials who used to blame market declines for rising pension costs.” Those pension costs keep rising — and keep sucking more funds out of classrooms and local government agencies even in good economic times. The main point in his article revolves around the words, “little is heard.”

In 1999, legislators passed SB 400, which retroactively increased pensions for the California Highway Patrol — and encouraged public-safety agencies across the state to follow. “Though that act amounted to the single greatest issuance of debt in state history, public officials chose an accounting method that supported a claim that the retroactive increases wouldn’t ‘cost a dime,’” he added.

How can state officials continue to use dubious accounting methods today, designed mainly to underplay the size of the pension debt?

via Pension debts are sky high, but little interest at the Capitol.

Rand Paul Rips GOP Chickenhawks – Holds Republicans Responsible for ISIS

Senator Rand Paul with a supporter at a book signing in New York City on Tuesday night.“ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most these arms were snatched up by ISIS,” Mr. Paul said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Mr. Paul’s comments are likely to anger many Republicans and come at a time when responsibility for the Islamic State is a matter of debate. This month, a college student in Nevada told former Gov. Jeb Bush that President George W. Bush, his brother, created ISIS.

Mr. Paul also sought to tie Republicans to the policies Hillary Rodham Clinton promoted as secretary of state.

“ISIS is all over Libya because these same hawks in my party loved Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya, they just wanted more of it,” he said. “Libya is a failed state. It’s a disaster.”

Mr. Paul has been critical of Mr. Graham and his close friend Senator John McCain in the past and recently called them “lap dogs” of President Obama’s foreign policy. He doubled down on that sentiment on Wednesday, saying that they have been wrong on everything regarding foreign policy in the last 20 years.

“And yet somehow they have the gall to be saying and pointing fingers otherwise,” Mr. Paul said.

via Rand Paul Holds Republican Hawks Responsible for ISIS.

“I saw piles of white carcasses that weren’t moving or breathing”

County and state agencies dispose of thousands of dead chickens at the egg laying facility off Carpenter Road in February 2012.
Andy Yi Keunh Cheung and Lien Tuong Diep brutalized their hens before leaving them to die.

An investigator on Tuesday told of entering a Carpenter Road egg farm and finding many of the hens dead and others standing in filth.

A preliminary hearing began for Andy Yi Keunh Cheung and Lien Tuong Diep, who are accused of allowing about 50,000 hens to go without feed in February 2012.

“I saw piles of white carcasses that weren’t moving or breathing,” said Timothy Wester, who was an officer at the time with the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency, during the hearing in Stanislaus Superior Court.

Judge Thomas Zeff will decide whether Cheung, 42, and Diep, 37, should stand trial on felony charges of animal abuse. The hearing, which resumes at 10 a.m. Wednesday, was scheduled for two days.

The farm, A&L Poultry, was a small part of the egg industry in and near Stanislaus County. The defense has suggested that the lack of feed happened inadvertently as the company was trying to arrange for an animal sanctuary to take the hens.

via Witness tells of troubling scene at Stanislaus County egg farm.

Assembly speaker shouldn’t have a slush fund

An Associated Press investigation has found that speakers of the California Assembly have used their chamber’s operating budget like a slush fund for years. From 2008 to 2014, Speakers Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, gave away $115 million to various programs.

Individual lawmakers should not have accounts from which they can unilaterally hand out millions in public funds. At the least, there should be an open process in which grants are applied for and subject to review.

via Assembly speaker shouldn’t have a slush fund.

Egyptians are’t showing much mercy to the #Islamics who tried to wreck their country

Egyptians are’t showing much mercy to the Islamics who tried to wreck their country.

Next Tuesday, a lawyer will plead for a Cairo court to suspend the execution of six men, arguing that their death sentences were unconstitutional. The only trouble is, the defendants are already dead.

Since the coup that swept Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi from power, hundreds of his supporters have been handed death sentences in a rash of mass trials. But until this month, only one had been carried out — against a man convicted of throwing another man off a roof.

A little over a week ago, however, six men sentenced to death by a military court were executed on charges of belonging to militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and attacking security forces.

The day before, a Cairo court sentenced ousted president Morsi and 120 others to death on charges related to a mass prison break during the 2011 uprisings. Some were sentenced in absentia, including Sondos Asem, a young Oxford University student who used to work as a media coordinator for Morsi, and Emad Shahin, a well-known professor at the American University in Cairo.

The six executions of political opponents mark the first overtly political killings ordered under Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s leadership. They recall other killings of political opposition figures after violent power shifts — Iran in 1979, Liberia in 1980 — but it remains to be seen how deep the similarities will go.

via Egypt’s military government has started executing people on overtly political charges.

Why conservative Nebraska seems determined to repeal the death penalty

Ernie Chambers and Paul SchumacherNebraska, once the picture of reliable Republican conservatism, is expected to repeal the death penalty this week, a move that is part of the growing debate over capital punishment and illustrates how the division between left and right is blurring on some political issues.

State lawmakers last week voted 32-15 to end capital punishment, but Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the veto message on Tuesday.

“This sends the wrong message,” the governor said at a televised news conference, urging senators to vote to keep the death penalty. Repealing capital punishment “sends a message to criminals that Nebraska will be soft on crime.”

Despite the governor’s request, the legislature is expected to consider an override, according to Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers.

Nebraska’s lethal injection chamber at the State Penitentiary in Lincoln. (Nate Jenkins / Associated Press)

“We got 32 votes to end the death penalty and if they follow their conscience, we should have no trouble with an override,” Chambers told the Los Angeles Times. He said he will pick a time for the override vote, which will be called this week, but not on Tuesday.

Though the majority of people tell national pollsters that they still support the death penalty, the issue has comes under increasing examination in the wake of several executions where the inmate seemed to suffer.  Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the thorny issues of lethal injections and the proper dosage of drugs that can be used to avoid the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Other criminal justice issues have drawn similar responses from the left and right.

For example, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul, one of the leaders in the double-digit field of Republican candidates, have both called for reforms to end the mass incarceration of inmates, principally on drug charges.

Questions about the viability of the death penalty and the changing nature of conservative thought, are part of the reason that Nebraska is poised to become the only red state in recent years to ban executions, said Chambers, who eschews all labels and refers to himself as an independent.

Chambers, who represents parts of Omaha, said he has tried to repeal the death penalty 37 times.  He would not have succeeded in getting the bill passed this year without conservative support.

via Why conservative Nebraska seems determined to repeal the death penalty.

Drunk cop arrested…second San Pablo officer busted in less than two months

San Pablo police Cmdr. David Krastof was arrested on suspicion of DUI while off duty in Lake County Photo: Lake County SheriffA San Pablo police commander was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor drunken driving while off duty in Lake County during the Memorial Day weekend, authorities said.

David Krastof, a 26-year department veteran, was arrested by the California Highway Patrol at 11:48 p.m. Sunday, according to the Lake County sheriff’s office. Krastof, 47, of Vallejo was released on his own recognizance and was given a July 7 court date.

Krastof was arrested several hours after Lake County sheriff’s deputies arrested his wife on suspicion of operating a watercraft while under the influence, records show.

Krastof is the second San Pablo police officer to be placed on leave for alleged wrongdoing in less than two months.

In April, Officer Ken White, 32, of Vallejo, who had already been suspended in an unrelated matter, was charged with drug and gun possession and child endangerment after being arrested by San Francisco police. Authorities said White had a 2-year-old girl with him when he bought cocaine and heroin from a suspected drug dealer in the South of Market area.

via San Pablo police commander arrested in DUI stop.

Reign of Terror comes to an end: PG&E president Christopher Johns retires

Embedded image permalinkThe executive who oversaw PG&E’s utility operation during the deadly San Bruno pipeline blast and the company’s turbulent aftermath will retire at the end of the year, company officials announced Tuesday.

Christopher Johns, president of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the utility wing of PG&E Corp., was hired in 1996 to help manage the utility’s finances. But it was his promotion to the electric company’s top job in 2009, a year before an exploding gas line killed eight people, that marked his tenure at the organization.

Critics say Johns hasn’t been able to do enough to address shortfalls that continue to dog the state’s largest investor-owned utility.

The company has not named a replacement.

The San Bruno disaster resulted in a record $1.6 billion penalty for the utility, with state regulators citing PG&E’s shoddy record-keeping and reckless safety practices leading up to the blast.

The utility has also been criticized for nourishing too cozy of a relationship with regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission. Federal and state prosecutors are currently investigating whether commission officials have violated any laws.

Johns joins a handful at the company, including former CEO Peter Darbee, to announce their departure since the San Bruno blast.

via PG&E president to retire after tough run at utility.

California’s 1% doing just fine: Record $500 million tag on L.A. home

One of the biggest homes in U.S. history is rising on a Los Angeles hilltop, and the developer hopes to sell it for a record $500 million.

Nile Niami, a film producer and speculative residential developer, is pouring concrete in L.A.’s Bel Air neighborhood for a compound with a 74,000-square-foot (6,900-square-meter) main residence and three smaller homes, according to city records. The project, which will take at least 20 more months to complete, will exceed 100,000 square feet, including a 5,000-square-foot master bedroom, a 30-car garage and a “Monaco-style casino,” Niami said.

“The house will have almost every amenity available in the world,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The asking price will be $500 million.”

Estates with views of the Los Angeles basin are the California counterpart to Manhattan’s penthouses or London’s Mayfair manors, drawing a global cast of financiers, technology tycoons and celebrities who collect trophy homes like works of art. Around the world, five properties sold for $100 million or more last year, and at least 20 others have nine-figure asking prices, Christie’s International Real Estate reported last month.

The priciest home ever sold was a $221 million London penthouse purchased in 2011, according to Christie’s. The most expensive properties on the market include a $425 million estate in France’s Cote d’Azur, a $400 million penthouse in Monaco and a $365 million London manor.

Whether Niami can get more than double the previous record for his mansion remains to be seen.

via California Dreaming: Record $500 Million Tag on L.A. Home.

IRS paid out $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds to identity thieves in 2013

Panel Recommends Major Tax Law ChangesCongress is demanding answers over the serious security breach in which the details of more than 100,000 people were snatched by cyber thieves and used to claim fraudulent tax refunds.

The information was stolen from an online IRS system called Get Transcript.

This allows taxpayers to access tax returns and other tax filings from previous years.

Organised crime syndicates are thought to be behind the thefts

To get hold of the information, the crooks cleared a security screen requiring knowledge about the taxpayer, including their social security number, date of birth, tax filing status and home address.

The IRS said it is contacting those whose information was accessed and is providing them with credit monitoring services.

Alongside the criminal investigation, the agency’s inspector general has also launched an inquiry.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said: “We’re confident that these are not amateurs.

“These actually are organised crime syndicates that not only we, but everybody in the financial industry, are dealing with.”

Identity thieves, both foreign and domestic, have stepped up their efforts in recent years to claim fraudulent tax refunds.

The agency estimates it paid out $5.8bn in fraudulent refunds to identity thieves in 2013.

via IRS Website Hacked In $50m Tax Refund Scam.

Never satisfied, California gambling tribes want more

Is this the year California finally legalizes Internet poker? It’s a long-shot bet.

The issue has been circling the Capitol for more than seven years, and disagreement among the state’s major gambling interests – Indian tribes, card rooms, horse tracks – over who should be permitted to participate has prevented any deal so far.

Supporters were buoyed this month when an Internet poker bill passed out of committee for the first time since 2008, but it still has a long way to go. AB 431, a shell bill meant to keep the process moving, contains temporary language that will be amended if a satisfactory proposal is negotiated this summer.

Given the intense divisions that still exist over two major issues – whether horse tracks will be able to offer Internet poker, and whether to prohibit gambling sites that operated illegally in the U.S. before a federal crackdown in 2011 – most experts are not expecting agreement any time soon.

“There won’t be a bill until all of the lobby money is spent,” former state Sen. Rod Wright, who oversaw several failed attempts to legalize Internet poker as chair of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, said at a conference last week hosted by Capitol Weekly.

While the big players in California’s gambling industry generally support legalization, they are fighting over how to do it.

via California gambling interests face off over future of Internet poker.

Select Committee to focus on police, schools

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, speaks alongside members of the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color on Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in Sacramento.Touting the enlarged size of a committee devoted to California’s minority males, lawmakers on Tuesday stressed priorities that include nondiscriminatory policing and sending more money to schools with high minority populations.

While the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color had existed, it has grown this session to include an additional 11 lawmakers, known as “alliance members,” who are not formally on the committee but are invited to hearings, staff briefings and events like Tuesday’s news conference. Legislators said their inclusion reflected enormous interest in the committee’s work.

“This is unprecedented and marks the strength of this growing movement and just how high a priority improving outcomes for boys and men of color is for the California Legislature,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda.

“We need to look at how we train our law enforcement and how we can better train them so they can deal with peoples’ mental challenges, but most importantly not look at our young boys and men of color as criminals but look at their potential,” he said.

via California ‘boys and men of color’ committee to focus on police, schools.

Plains All American Pipeline making plan to excavate ruptured California pipeline

In this Saturday, May 23, 2015 photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, two cleanup crew members work to remove oil from the sand along a portion of soiled coastline near Refugio State Beach, north of Goleta, Calif. Oil spilled from a pipeline resulted in the cleanup efforts at the onshore site and along several miles of California coastline.Officials from Plains All American Pipeline say they are formulating a site safety plan to excavate the broken section of a pipeline that spilled oil along the California coast.

The company said Tuesday it’s unclear when excavation might begin.

Officials say 10,000 gallons of oily water have been recovered from the ocean as government and volunteer workers clean up along the Santa Barbara County coastline.

Meanwhile Tuesday, various federal, state and local agencies briefed the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors about their oil spill response.

Oil blackened area beaches and created a 10-square-mile slick in the ocean after the onshore pipeline ruptured May 19.

via Company making plan to excavate ruptured California pipeline.

LAPD’s latest killer cop nailed in Mexico

Victor Solis, Henry SolisA two-month search for an ex-LAPD officer accused of fatally shooting a man near a Pomona nightclub has ended after the 27-year-old was arrested in Mexico, according to sources familiar with the case.

Authorities quickly identified Solis as their suspect in the fatal March 13 shooting of Salome Rodriguez Jr., 27, in a Pomona parking lot. The then-rookie officer was off duty at the time of the shooting, officials said, but didn’t show up to work the day after.

After the shooting, Solis allegedly dumped his Volkswagen Jetta a few blocks away, then rode with his father to El Paso, Texas, according to court documents. A surveillance camera captured footage of the two men crossing the border in Mexico.

Solis’ father, Victor Solis, had initially told investigators he dropped his son off at an El Paso bus station, authorities said. Nearly two weeks after the shooting, Victor Solis was arrested and charged with lying to federal agents.

via Ex-LAPD officer suspected in slaying is arrested in Mexico, sources say.

Grocery workers in California fire a shot at Wall Street bankers

Grocery store workers could hold onto their jobs after their store changes ownership under labor-backed legislation that passed the California Assembly on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 359, which passed 42-26, bars stores from firing workers for non-performance related reasons within 90 days of a merger or a buyout. After that grace period expires stores would need to conduct performance reviews to help decide whether to keep the employees.

“When Wall Street stock brokers (conduct) leveraged buyouts in the grocery industry, a high number of jobs are put at risk,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. “Historically these are some of the last good-paying, middle-class jobs.”

The bill distilled the labor versus big business clash that often frames California bills: the United Food and Commercial Workers union sponsored the bill, and the California Chamber of Commerce condemned it with a “job-killer” label.

via Grocery workers job protection bill passes California Assembly.

Cleveland’s thug cops humiliated, forced to settle with the Justice Department

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice will make way for a substantial – and substantive – overhaul of a use-of-force policy that top police brass once bragged was a model for the country.

Officers will be held to higher standards on unholstering and firing their weapons and no longer will be allowed to use their guns to strike suspects as they would with a baton.

They will be required to take immediate steps to provide or secure first aid for suspects they injure, addressing an issue raised in many lawsuits that cost the city money.

And retaliatory force – such as tussling with a suspect at the end of a chase – will be explicitly prohibited under terms of the so-called consent decree announced Tuesday.

“Banning the use of guns as ‘batons’ is long overdue,” said Samuel Walker, an expert on policing and criminal justice issues and emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “Controlling foot chases and the resulting uses of force is very important. This has gotten a lot of attention in recent years.”

The 105-page consent decree, which must be approved by a federal judge, calls for dozens of rewrites to the Division of Police rulebook on force, many of them tactical and aimed at preventing the kinds of cases that have become front-page fodder in recent years. The agreement also demands levels of accountability and transparency that did not exist or were not endorsed or enforced previously.

via Cleveland’s settlement with the Justice Department calls for major overhaul of police use-of-force policy.