Portal

  • California Helps Wall Street Pocket 44% of Landmark Tobacco Settlement

    Friday, September 19, 2014
    An analysis by ProPublica found that 44% of the $100 billion paid out so far has ended up in the hands of bankers, who provided states with quick cash up front in exchange for securitized bonds sporting healthy interest rates. California, 24 counties and the city of San Diego securitized at least a portion of their winnings for cash now, which was then often spent on projects unrelated to smoking or health care.   read more
  • L.A. Schools Too Busy Rolling Out iPads to Actually Use Them

    Friday, September 19, 2014
    “The early implementation goal was to just get the devices out, that was basically it, just get the devices out, use them as quick as possible,” according to one of the 14 “virtual learning complex facilitators” hired by LAUSD. “There were other goals . . ., they were talked about but they really didn’t get implemented.” Those goals included giving students a leg up on adoption of new Common Core education standards.   read more
  • Lawsuit Filed over Medi-Cal Backlog of 350,000 Stranded Applicants

    Friday, September 19, 2014
    One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Visalia resident Frances Rivera, is suing because her son Robert applied for Medi-Cal in January but died from a pulmonary embolism two months before his application was approved in June. The suit says Robert delayed some treatment while he was uninsured because of the expense.   read more
  • Dangerous Oil-by-Rail Is Here, but Railroad Bridge Inspectors Are Not

    Thursday, September 18, 2014
    The Contra Costa Times reported last week that the two inspectors have not yet been hired, but when they are, they will be the only two inspectors checking out the bridges. They will be assisted in their task by the sole federal inspector assigned to the area―an area that includes 11 states. One of their first jobs will be to find the bridges. There is no comprehensive list.   read more
  • Odor Alert at Salton Sea Is Reminder that Ecological Disaster Looms

    Thursday, September 18, 2014
    The Pacific Institute recently released a report that said failure to save the sea could worsen air quality, destroy valuable ecological habitat, diminish recreational revenue and devalue property―all at a cost to the state of up to $70 billion over 30 years. Although the rotten smell of the decaying lake is nothing to be sniffed at, the report points out that a larger danger of a dry sea bed is from blowing dust in a region with 650,000 people.   read more

PHOTO GALLERY

Hollywood Park's Final Race Click the photo for larger view Hollywood Park's Final Race

Top Stories

  • PUC Discovers Critics Were Right: It Is Too Cozy with PG&E

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014
    PUC Chairman Michael Peevey announced he would not participate in deciding the penalty it would assess Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) for its actions contributing to the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a Bay Area neighborhood. Peevey’s chief aide, Carol Brown, resigned under fire for her participation in e-mail exchanges between the regulator and the utility that coordinated their actions and sealed their symbiotic relationship with expressions of love.   read more
  • Patients Unexpectedly Shunted from Covered California to Medi-Cal

    Monday, September 15, 2014
    It appears they are being kicked out of the subsidized medical insurance program because Covered California has determined their incomes are so low they belong in cheaper (and sometimes free) Medi-Cal. Insurance agent Evette Tsang, who reported that three clients with incomes above the Medi-Cal threshold were bumped, said, “My biggest problem is we don’t know what income standard they’re using.”   read more
  • PG&E and Feds Reject Claims Diablo Canyon Isn’t Safe from Earthquake

    Friday, September 12, 2014
    The NRC was responding directly to safety issues raised by Michael Peck, its former senior inspector at Diablo Canyon who said the plant should be shut down until further studies are conducted. PG&E released a four-year study which, the utility said, “demonstrates Diablo Canyon continues to be seismically safe.”   read more

Controversies

  • New L.A. Veterans Home Still Half Vacant and Lacking a Kitchen

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014
    The 396-bed building, which cost $253 million, was constructed without full cooking facilities because the state thought it had a deal with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to arrange for independent food service. That didn’t happen. So, despite there being an estimated 6,000-plus homeless and disabled veterans wandering around Los Angeles—tops in the nation—half the home for senior veterans at the sprawling Westwood campus is sporting cobwebs.   read more
  • Health Department Investigating Tainted Rice Claims after Lawsuit Filed

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014
    According to the lawsuit, filed in July in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the 700-member cooperative was taking the worst quality “flush rice” and mixing it in with higher-priced premium and medium quality rice. The flush rice is so crummy, food and drug laws allow it to be stored in less than optimal conditions. It is “filthy, putrid, decomposed, or substandard” and is not meant to be consumed by people. But pets eat it up.   read more
  • State Senator Wright Sentenced for 8 Felonies but May Not Serve Time

    Monday, September 15, 2014
    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy gave Senator Roderick D. Wright (D-Inglewood) 90 days in lockup, fined him $2,000, ordered him to perform 1,500 hours of community service and put him on probation for three years for not living in his district and lying about it. The judge said Wright understood the law and displayed “arrogance” by acting as if it didn’t apply to him. The Associated Press said she pretty much called him a liar.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Feds Sue Corinthian Colleges, Ask Court to Wipe Out Private Student Loans

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014
    The for-profit parent company of Everest Institute, Everest College, WyoTech and Heald brands, with a couple dozen campuses in California, was accused of deceptively marketing $568 million in private loans to students who defaulted on 60% of them over three years. The lawsuit asks that the loans be wiped out. Corinthian sold all of the Genesis loan notes it owned―170,000 loans worth $505 million―to a third party on August 20 for $19 million.   read more
  • School Cops Getting in on the Federal Weapons Bonanza

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014
    A Freedom of Information Act request by MuckRock has identified police departments at five California school districts that have gotten in on the giveaway. The Los Angeles School Police Department has 61 assault rifles, three grenade launchers and one mine-resistant vehicle. Documents from MuckRock also indicate more than 100 college police forces have received military surplus through the 1033 program, including the University of California, Berkeley.   read more
  • Audit Blames CalPERS for Pension Spiking but Doesn’t Actually Identify Any

    Thursday, September 11, 2014
    “The discouraging news is CalPERS’ lack of robust auditing, underutilization of advanced technology, and its generally passive approach to the problem invites abuse,” Controller John Chiang wrote. The report estimated that one particular pension enhancement, Employer Paid Member Contributions (EPMC), granted by 97 of the reporting entities, would cost CalPERS extra pension benefits worth $796 over 20 years.   read more

California and the Nation

  • “Six Californias” Fails to Get Enough Signatures to Be on the Ballot

    Monday, September 15, 2014
    The California Secretary of State announced last Friday that Silicon Valley millionaire Tim Draper’s initiative fell short of the number of signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot in November 2016. Although he turned in 1.14 million signatures (pdf), far more than the required 807,615, a random sample of 54,000 of them indicated that a third were invalid.   read more
  • State Law Protects Reviewers’ Right to be Critical on Yelp

    Friday, September 12, 2014
    Governor Jerry Brown signed a law this week that makes it illegal for companies to prohibit negative reviews being posted on popular ratings sites like Yelp. Assembly Bill 2365 bars companies from slipping into contracts language that forbids customers from commenting publicly in a negative fashion about their experiences.   read more
  • Police Muscle Up at “Urban Shield” Convention in Oakland

    Tuesday, September 09, 2014
    The five-day event includes a two-day trade show with the latest weaponry, surveillance equipment and gear on display. “Urban Shield” is ostensibly aimed at disaster-preparedness with a heavy dose of counterterrorism activities. But a 2012 promotional video bears a striking resemblance to police encounters with Occupy Oakland protesters, sprinkled with “No War for Oil” and “Peace, Not Drone War” signs.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • California Supreme Court Justice: Who Is Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar?

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014
    The 41-year-old Stanford law professor was born in Mexico before moving with his family to the U.S. when he was 14. A registered Democrat, Cuéllar worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations in various capacities. He specializes in administrative and immigration law, but has taught a broad range of courses, including international and criminal law.   read more
  • President and CEO of California Institute for Regenerative Medicine: Who Is C. Randal Mills?

    Monday, July 21, 2014
    Mills, 42, takes over the stem cell program as it enters the final years of the 2004 voter-approved, $3-billion venture to fund projects. Although his predecessor was said to be leaving to spend more time with his family in Australia, Alan Trounson was immediately hired by one of the companies CIRM had awarded millions of dollars to, re-enforcing the perception that the agency had a serious conflict-of-interest and cronyism problem.   read more
  • Acting Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation: Who Is Lisa Mangat?

    Friday, July 04, 2014
    She takes over a department, wracked by scandal and plagued by a lack of funding, whose $654 million budget is under intense scrutiny. Her predecessor, retired Marine Corps Major General Anthony L. Jackson, was hired in November 2012 with a mandate to reform the agency. His predecessor, Ruth Coleman, resigned four months earlier after $54 million was found stashed in department accounts while 70 state parks faced closure because of budget cuts.   read more

Unusual News

  • Thousands Fined for L.A. Freeway Toll Violation after Cops in Gun Battle Divert Traffic

    Thursday, September 18, 2014
    On Friday, those diverted to the "Lexus lane" began receiving fines in the mail for illegally traveling in the fast lane without the requisite transponder and Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) account. Transportation officials said people don’t have to pay the fine, but the only notification of that was a brief note on the Metro ExpressLanes home page:   read more
  • San Diego Cab Drivers Say Airport Smell-Test Stinks

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014
    The inspection form approved by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority lists “body odor” as one of 52 criteria airport officers can use to boot someone out of the taxi queue. In addition to inspecting a vehicle’s body condition, internal cleanliness, brakes, lights, the heater, etc., officers can check for “foul interior odors” in general, and body odor in particular.   read more
  • Coachella High School Arab Mascot Gets a Makeover

    Tuesday, September 09, 2014
    The school came under fire last November when an “appalled” American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) complained that the bearded, snarling, giant-hook-nosed character in traditional headdress was a “harmful form of ethnic stereotyping.” The committee said the high school was the only one in the nation with a demeaning Arab mascot.   read more
  • California Helps Wall Street Pocket 44% of Landmark Tobacco Settlement

    Friday, September 19, 2014
    An analysis by ProPublica found that 44% of the $100 billion paid out so far has ended up in the hands of bankers, who provided states with quick cash up front in exchange for securitized bonds sporting healthy interest rates. California, 24 counties and the city of San Diego securitized at least a portion of their winnings for cash now, which was then often spent on projects unrelated to smoking or health care.   read more
  • L.A. Schools Too Busy Rolling Out iPads to Actually Use Them

    Friday, September 19, 2014
    “The early implementation goal was to just get the devices out, that was basically it, just get the devices out, use them as quick as possible,” according to one of the 14 “virtual learning complex facilitators” hired by LAUSD. “There were other goals . . ., they were talked about but they really didn’t get implemented.” Those goals included giving students a leg up on adoption of new Common Core education standards.   read more
  • Lawsuit Filed over Medi-Cal Backlog of 350,000 Stranded Applicants

    Friday, September 19, 2014
    One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Visalia resident Frances Rivera, is suing because her son Robert applied for Medi-Cal in January but died from a pulmonary embolism two months before his application was approved in June. The suit says Robert delayed some treatment while he was uninsured because of the expense.   read more
  • Dangerous Oil-by-Rail Is Here, but Railroad Bridge Inspectors Are Not

    Thursday, September 18, 2014
    The Contra Costa Times reported last week that the two inspectors have not yet been hired, but when they are, they will be the only two inspectors checking out the bridges. They will be assisted in their task by the sole federal inspector assigned to the area―an area that includes 11 states. One of their first jobs will be to find the bridges. There is no comprehensive list.   read more
  • Odor Alert at Salton Sea Is Reminder that Ecological Disaster Looms

    Thursday, September 18, 2014
    The Pacific Institute recently released a report that said failure to save the sea could worsen air quality, destroy valuable ecological habitat, diminish recreational revenue and devalue property―all at a cost to the state of up to $70 billion over 30 years. Although the rotten smell of the decaying lake is nothing to be sniffed at, the report points out that a larger danger of a dry sea bed is from blowing dust in a region with 650,000 people.   read more

Top Stories

  • PUC Discovers Critics Were Right: It Is Too Cozy with PG&E

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014
    PUC Chairman Michael Peevey announced he would not participate in deciding the penalty it would assess Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) for its actions contributing to the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a Bay Area neighborhood. Peevey’s chief aide, Carol Brown, resigned under fire for her participation in e-mail exchanges between the regulator and the utility that coordinated their actions and sealed their symbiotic relationship with expressions of love.   read more
  • Patients Unexpectedly Shunted from Covered California to Medi-Cal

    Monday, September 15, 2014
    It appears they are being kicked out of the subsidized medical insurance program because Covered California has determined their incomes are so low they belong in cheaper (and sometimes free) Medi-Cal. Insurance agent Evette Tsang, who reported that three clients with incomes above the Medi-Cal threshold were bumped, said, “My biggest problem is we don’t know what income standard they’re using.”   read more
  • PG&E and Feds Reject Claims Diablo Canyon Isn’t Safe from Earthquake

    Friday, September 12, 2014
    The NRC was responding directly to safety issues raised by Michael Peck, its former senior inspector at Diablo Canyon who said the plant should be shut down until further studies are conducted. PG&E released a four-year study which, the utility said, “demonstrates Diablo Canyon continues to be seismically safe.”   read more

Controversies

  • New L.A. Veterans Home Still Half Vacant and Lacking a Kitchen

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014
    The 396-bed building, which cost $253 million, was constructed without full cooking facilities because the state thought it had a deal with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to arrange for independent food service. That didn’t happen. So, despite there being an estimated 6,000-plus homeless and disabled veterans wandering around Los Angeles—tops in the nation—half the home for senior veterans at the sprawling Westwood campus is sporting cobwebs.   read more
  • Health Department Investigating Tainted Rice Claims after Lawsuit Filed

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014
    According to the lawsuit, filed in July in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the 700-member cooperative was taking the worst quality “flush rice” and mixing it in with higher-priced premium and medium quality rice. The flush rice is so crummy, food and drug laws allow it to be stored in less than optimal conditions. It is “filthy, putrid, decomposed, or substandard” and is not meant to be consumed by people. But pets eat it up.   read more
  • State Senator Wright Sentenced for 8 Felonies but May Not Serve Time

    Monday, September 15, 2014
    Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy gave Senator Roderick D. Wright (D-Inglewood) 90 days in lockup, fined him $2,000, ordered him to perform 1,500 hours of community service and put him on probation for three years for not living in his district and lying about it. The judge said Wright understood the law and displayed “arrogance” by acting as if it didn’t apply to him. The Associated Press said she pretty much called him a liar.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Feds Sue Corinthian Colleges, Ask Court to Wipe Out Private Student Loans

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014
    The for-profit parent company of Everest Institute, Everest College, WyoTech and Heald brands, with a couple dozen campuses in California, was accused of deceptively marketing $568 million in private loans to students who defaulted on 60% of them over three years. The lawsuit asks that the loans be wiped out. Corinthian sold all of the Genesis loan notes it owned―170,000 loans worth $505 million―to a third party on August 20 for $19 million.   read more
  • School Cops Getting in on the Federal Weapons Bonanza

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014
    A Freedom of Information Act request by MuckRock has identified police departments at five California school districts that have gotten in on the giveaway. The Los Angeles School Police Department has 61 assault rifles, three grenade launchers and one mine-resistant vehicle. Documents from MuckRock also indicate more than 100 college police forces have received military surplus through the 1033 program, including the University of California, Berkeley.   read more
  • Audit Blames CalPERS for Pension Spiking but Doesn’t Actually Identify Any

    Thursday, September 11, 2014
    “The discouraging news is CalPERS’ lack of robust auditing, underutilization of advanced technology, and its generally passive approach to the problem invites abuse,” Controller John Chiang wrote. The report estimated that one particular pension enhancement, Employer Paid Member Contributions (EPMC), granted by 97 of the reporting entities, would cost CalPERS extra pension benefits worth $796 over 20 years.   read more

California and the Nation

  • “Six Californias” Fails to Get Enough Signatures to Be on the Ballot

    Monday, September 15, 2014
    The California Secretary of State announced last Friday that Silicon Valley millionaire Tim Draper’s initiative fell short of the number of signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot in November 2016. Although he turned in 1.14 million signatures (pdf), far more than the required 807,615, a random sample of 54,000 of them indicated that a third were invalid.   read more
  • State Law Protects Reviewers’ Right to be Critical on Yelp

    Friday, September 12, 2014
    Governor Jerry Brown signed a law this week that makes it illegal for companies to prohibit negative reviews being posted on popular ratings sites like Yelp. Assembly Bill 2365 bars companies from slipping into contracts language that forbids customers from commenting publicly in a negative fashion about their experiences.   read more
  • Police Muscle Up at “Urban Shield” Convention in Oakland

    Tuesday, September 09, 2014
    The five-day event includes a two-day trade show with the latest weaponry, surveillance equipment and gear on display. “Urban Shield” is ostensibly aimed at disaster-preparedness with a heavy dose of counterterrorism activities. But a 2012 promotional video bears a striking resemblance to police encounters with Occupy Oakland protesters, sprinkled with “No War for Oil” and “Peace, Not Drone War” signs.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • California Supreme Court Justice: Who Is Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar?

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014
    The 41-year-old Stanford law professor was born in Mexico before moving with his family to the U.S. when he was 14. A registered Democrat, Cuéllar worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations in various capacities. He specializes in administrative and immigration law, but has taught a broad range of courses, including international and criminal law.   read more
  • President and CEO of California Institute for Regenerative Medicine: Who Is C. Randal Mills?

    Monday, July 21, 2014
    Mills, 42, takes over the stem cell program as it enters the final years of the 2004 voter-approved, $3-billion venture to fund projects. Although his predecessor was said to be leaving to spend more time with his family in Australia, Alan Trounson was immediately hired by one of the companies CIRM had awarded millions of dollars to, re-enforcing the perception that the agency had a serious conflict-of-interest and cronyism problem.   read more
  • Acting Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation: Who Is Lisa Mangat?

    Friday, July 04, 2014
    She takes over a department, wracked by scandal and plagued by a lack of funding, whose $654 million budget is under intense scrutiny. Her predecessor, retired Marine Corps Major General Anthony L. Jackson, was hired in November 2012 with a mandate to reform the agency. His predecessor, Ruth Coleman, resigned four months earlier after $54 million was found stashed in department accounts while 70 state parks faced closure because of budget cuts.   read more

Unusual News

  • Thousands Fined for L.A. Freeway Toll Violation after Cops in Gun Battle Divert Traffic

    Thursday, September 18, 2014
    On Friday, those diverted to the "Lexus lane" began receiving fines in the mail for illegally traveling in the fast lane without the requisite transponder and Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) account. Transportation officials said people don’t have to pay the fine, but the only notification of that was a brief note on the Metro ExpressLanes home page:   read more
  • San Diego Cab Drivers Say Airport Smell-Test Stinks

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014
    The inspection form approved by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority lists “body odor” as one of 52 criteria airport officers can use to boot someone out of the taxi queue. In addition to inspecting a vehicle’s body condition, internal cleanliness, brakes, lights, the heater, etc., officers can check for “foul interior odors” in general, and body odor in particular.   read more
  • Coachella High School Arab Mascot Gets a Makeover

    Tuesday, September 09, 2014
    The school came under fire last November when an “appalled” American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) complained that the bearded, snarling, giant-hook-nosed character in traditional headdress was a “harmful form of ethnic stereotyping.” The committee said the high school was the only one in the nation with a demeaning Arab mascot.   read more

PHOTO GALLERY

Hollywood Park's Final Race Click the photo for larger view Hollywood Park's Final Race