Portal

  • Blue Shield/Sutter Health Dispute Has 280,000 Looking for New Doctors

    Monday, January 26, 2015
    Blue Shield accuses Sutter, which operates 23 hospitals, of charging way more than other providers and wants a rate rollback. Sutter disputes that and wants to short-circuit lawsuits alleging anti-competitive behavior, not just medical disputes, by requiring binding arbitration instead of court review.   read more
  • DMV Folds Fast: Uber and Others Don’t Need Commercial Plates

    Monday, January 26, 2015
    “We jumped the gun, and we shouldn’t have,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said in a statement. “There remains uncertainty about the interaction and effect of this law governing vehicle registration requirements with the more recent regulatory and statutory changes affecting ride-share operators.”   read more
  • Rep. McClintock Argues Minimum Wage Needs to be Low for “Minorities”

    Monday, January 26, 2015
    The four-term congressman, whose Fourth District encompasses Yosemite National Park, told a “Washington Journal” audience it would “rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.” He did not expand upon why he included minorities among those just entering the job market.   read more
  • 8 Days on the Road with the Oakland Police License Plate Readers

    Friday, January 23, 2015
    If, in focusing on neighborhoods of color, police expected to be deterring crime, it didn’t seem to work. EFF found that police “did not use ALPR surveillance in the southeast part of Oakland nearly as much as in the north, west, and central parts of Oakland, even though there seems to be just as much crime.” Surveillance also did not correlate well with areas experiencing automobile-related crimes.   read more
  • Harvard Buys Heavily Into Drought-Stricken Paso Robles Wine Country

    Friday, January 23, 2015
    Some observers wonder whether Harvard is making a play in California’s impressive wine market or its stressed water market. The purchases began close to when the three-year drought began. Harvard quickly bought the rights to drill 16 new water wells, twice the depth of normal residential wells, just before restrictions on new pumping took effect in August 2013.   read more

PHOTO GALLERY

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

Top Stories

  • Half of California's Big Trees Are Gone

    Thursday, January 22, 2015
    A study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a 50% drop in big trees, like pines, since the 1930s. The breadth of the disappearance suggests global warming is more than just a contributing factor. As a result, dense forests of pine trees are being replaced by scrubby oaks in semi-barren settings or as forest filler.   read more
  • Anti-Vaccine Movement Ushers Measles into the Limelight

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015
    Measles is surging in the state and nationwide. Overall, the U.S. had 644 confirmed cases in 2014, the most in 20 years and an annual spike of about 350%. There is a reason for that. An anti-vaccine movement among wealthy people has had significant impact on parents claiming a waiver from having their school-age children vaccinated.   read more
  • State Tells UnitedHealth It’s Too Late to Join Covered California

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015
    There is some concern that insurance companies that joined early will be saddled with the sicker, less lucrative customers and UnitedHealth will game a market it has been able to observe from a distance. But there are any number of reasons why California may be slow to embrace the company. Among them is concern that if UnitedHealth is allowed in the exchange it will peddle its so-called “skinny plans” to big companies.   read more

Controversies

  • Uber and Others Buck DMV on Registering Vehicles as Commercial

    Friday, January 23, 2015
    Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said this past week that his ride-sharing company’s annual $500 million in gross revenue from operations in San Francisco is three times bigger than the city’s entire taxi industry. But if he is going to continue the meteoric rise of his 4-year-old startup in California, he is going to have to get past one small stumbling block.   read more
  • Protesters Rake Santa Barbara Newspaper for Calling Immigrants “Illegals”

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015
    News-Press co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger defended the use of “illegals” at the rabid anti-immigrant website run by the Minuteman Project, where “illegal aliens” is still the go-to description. He invoked the name of revolutionary Che Guevara, who's been dead for 48 years, to highlight the threat to free speech posed by the protesters.   read more
  • State Fine-Tunes Regulation of Noxious Strawberry Pesticide

    Thursday, January 15, 2015
    The regulations are the strongest in the nation, but scientists, farmworker advocates and environmentalists say they still fall short of protecting people—especially children. Chloropicrin was the Number 1 pesticide, measured by pounds applied within one-quarter mile of a school, in 15 key counties surveyed by a state and federal program in 2010.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Tech Giants Up the Ante to Make Worker-Poaching Lawsuit Go Away

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015
    The first offer would have paid 64,000 employees a pittance of the alleged $3 billion in lost wages they suffered between 2005 and 2009. The tech giants ponied up an extra $90 million and resubmitted their settlement offer. Ars Technica did the math and figured that even with the new money, each employee would net around $6,500 after the lawyers were paid.   read more
  • Audit Finds Billing Program for Disabled Children Is “Woefully Inefficient”

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015
    Like most underfunded, half-neglected public social service efforts, the department has struggled mightily to fulfill its mission. The Auditor reported that the department fails to bill and collect all the money it could be collecting through the “Parental Fee Program,” which considers ability to pay as a factor. The department collects only about 60% of assessed fees and it doesn’t do a very good job assessing those fees in the first place, the report said.   read more
  • Feds Reel In Asset Forfeitures that Southern California Cops Feast On

    Monday, January 19, 2015
    Holder announced that from now on, local and state authorities will not be “using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without evidence that a crime occurred.” They do a lot of that, in cooperation with federal authorities, through a program called “Equitable Sharing.” A Washington Post story last year calculated that local agencies picked up 81% of the $2.5 billion snared by civil forfeiture nationwide over seven years ending in fiscal year 2014.   read more

California and the Nation

  • State's Tax System Ranks Second-Fairest in the Nation, which Isn't Saying Much

    Thursday, January 22, 2015
    “Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair,” according to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy. But “California has one of the least regressive tax systems due to its heavy reliance on a very progressive income tax.” The institute's measure of “fairness” is how evenly different income groups other than the elderly pay taxes as a percentage of their incomes.   read more
  • Mendocino Tribe Building $10-Million Indoor Pot-Growing Facility

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015
    The Santa Rosa Press Democrat said county officials were caught by surprise when news of the greenhouse surfaced, but it wasn’t totally unexpected. Denver-based United Cannabis Corporation (UCANN) recently announced it had signed agreements with three tribes to grow medical marijuana. It didn’t identify the tribes.   read more
  • Four Californians Charged with Violating Utah’s “Ag-Gag” Law

    Wednesday, January 07, 2015
    It has been against the law in Utah since 2012 to photograph agricultural operations, including the mistreatment of animals. Utah and a half a dozen other states have enacted laws to crack down on animal rights activists and others who have documented cruel and unsanitary conditions around the country.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Director of the Department of State Hospitals: Who Is Pamela Ahlin?

    Monday, January 05, 2015
    Ahlin was elevated to deputy director of Hospital Strategic Planning and Implementation in the now-defunct state Department of Mental Health 2012. The department had been under federal oversight since 2006. She took over supervision of the 350-bed mental health unit at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad under trying circumstances in May 2013.   read more
  • State Controller: Who Is Betty Yee?

    Friday, January 02, 2015
    Betty Yee, a tax and fiscal policy expert, won a spot in the November election when she edged out fellow Democrat and former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez by 500 votes in the June primary after winning the endorsement of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) for her spirited advocacy of medical pot. She also endeared herself to environmentalists with opposition to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and support for alternative energy efforts.   read more
  • California Secretary of State: Who Is Alex Padilla?

    Thursday, January 01, 2015
    On Monday, two-term Democratic state Senator Alex Padilla will be sworn in as California’s first Latino Secretary of State, replacing Debra Bowen, whose last months in office were plagued by a debilitating struggle with depression but were preceded by years of controversy. He will take the reins of an office that has struggled to provide campaign finance transparency, make better use of technology and handle nonelection responsibilities related to corporations.   read more

Unusual News

  • Record Meth Seizures at the Border, but Drone “Mule” Is a First

    Thursday, January 22, 2015
    The U.S.Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that seizures of meth at the Mexican border hit a record high in the fiscal year ending last September 30 and were up 33% around the San Diego area. But it wasn’t until this week that the drug trafficking passed a technological milestone. Mexican police said a drone carrying pounds of meth crashed in a Tijuana shopping mall parking lot Tuesday night, just steps from the border.   read more
  • Anonymous Stanford Website Helps Unlock Confidential Admissions Files

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015
    The Fountain Hopper newsletter posted a Five-Step Plan™ explaining how students can request copies of their admission records from the university using the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). After a 45-day wait, they can peruse essays written about them by admissions officers, numerical valuations of their personalities, letters of recommendation, descriptions of interviews and other information generally regarded as confidential.   read more
  • Pope Taps Junipero Serra for Sainthood Despite Pesky Complaints of Genocide

    Friday, January 16, 2015
    The pope said he would bypass the usual requirement that the candidate perform a second verified miracle, although critics might consider receiving a sainthood designation in the face of their complaints that the Spanish Franciscan missionary practiced genocide as pretty extraordinary. The pope will visit Philadelphia in September and might go to Washington D.C. and the United Nations in New York. A Serra sainthood could put California on the agenda.   read more
  • Blue Shield/Sutter Health Dispute Has 280,000 Looking for New Doctors

    Monday, January 26, 2015
    Blue Shield accuses Sutter, which operates 23 hospitals, of charging way more than other providers and wants a rate rollback. Sutter disputes that and wants to short-circuit lawsuits alleging anti-competitive behavior, not just medical disputes, by requiring binding arbitration instead of court review.   read more
  • DMV Folds Fast: Uber and Others Don’t Need Commercial Plates

    Monday, January 26, 2015
    “We jumped the gun, and we shouldn’t have,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said in a statement. “There remains uncertainty about the interaction and effect of this law governing vehicle registration requirements with the more recent regulatory and statutory changes affecting ride-share operators.”   read more
  • Rep. McClintock Argues Minimum Wage Needs to be Low for “Minorities”

    Monday, January 26, 2015
    The four-term congressman, whose Fourth District encompasses Yosemite National Park, told a “Washington Journal” audience it would “rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.” He did not expand upon why he included minorities among those just entering the job market.   read more
  • 8 Days on the Road with the Oakland Police License Plate Readers

    Friday, January 23, 2015
    If, in focusing on neighborhoods of color, police expected to be deterring crime, it didn’t seem to work. EFF found that police “did not use ALPR surveillance in the southeast part of Oakland nearly as much as in the north, west, and central parts of Oakland, even though there seems to be just as much crime.” Surveillance also did not correlate well with areas experiencing automobile-related crimes.   read more
  • Harvard Buys Heavily Into Drought-Stricken Paso Robles Wine Country

    Friday, January 23, 2015
    Some observers wonder whether Harvard is making a play in California’s impressive wine market or its stressed water market. The purchases began close to when the three-year drought began. Harvard quickly bought the rights to drill 16 new water wells, twice the depth of normal residential wells, just before restrictions on new pumping took effect in August 2013.   read more

Top Stories

  • Half of California's Big Trees Are Gone

    Thursday, January 22, 2015
    A study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a 50% drop in big trees, like pines, since the 1930s. The breadth of the disappearance suggests global warming is more than just a contributing factor. As a result, dense forests of pine trees are being replaced by scrubby oaks in semi-barren settings or as forest filler.   read more
  • Anti-Vaccine Movement Ushers Measles into the Limelight

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015
    Measles is surging in the state and nationwide. Overall, the U.S. had 644 confirmed cases in 2014, the most in 20 years and an annual spike of about 350%. There is a reason for that. An anti-vaccine movement among wealthy people has had significant impact on parents claiming a waiver from having their school-age children vaccinated.   read more
  • State Tells UnitedHealth It’s Too Late to Join Covered California

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015
    There is some concern that insurance companies that joined early will be saddled with the sicker, less lucrative customers and UnitedHealth will game a market it has been able to observe from a distance. But there are any number of reasons why California may be slow to embrace the company. Among them is concern that if UnitedHealth is allowed in the exchange it will peddle its so-called “skinny plans” to big companies.   read more

Controversies

  • Uber and Others Buck DMV on Registering Vehicles as Commercial

    Friday, January 23, 2015
    Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said this past week that his ride-sharing company’s annual $500 million in gross revenue from operations in San Francisco is three times bigger than the city’s entire taxi industry. But if he is going to continue the meteoric rise of his 4-year-old startup in California, he is going to have to get past one small stumbling block.   read more
  • Protesters Rake Santa Barbara Newspaper for Calling Immigrants “Illegals”

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015
    News-Press co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger defended the use of “illegals” at the rabid anti-immigrant website run by the Minuteman Project, where “illegal aliens” is still the go-to description. He invoked the name of revolutionary Che Guevara, who's been dead for 48 years, to highlight the threat to free speech posed by the protesters.   read more
  • State Fine-Tunes Regulation of Noxious Strawberry Pesticide

    Thursday, January 15, 2015
    The regulations are the strongest in the nation, but scientists, farmworker advocates and environmentalists say they still fall short of protecting people—especially children. Chloropicrin was the Number 1 pesticide, measured by pounds applied within one-quarter mile of a school, in 15 key counties surveyed by a state and federal program in 2010.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Tech Giants Up the Ante to Make Worker-Poaching Lawsuit Go Away

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015
    The first offer would have paid 64,000 employees a pittance of the alleged $3 billion in lost wages they suffered between 2005 and 2009. The tech giants ponied up an extra $90 million and resubmitted their settlement offer. Ars Technica did the math and figured that even with the new money, each employee would net around $6,500 after the lawyers were paid.   read more
  • Audit Finds Billing Program for Disabled Children Is “Woefully Inefficient”

    Tuesday, January 20, 2015
    Like most underfunded, half-neglected public social service efforts, the department has struggled mightily to fulfill its mission. The Auditor reported that the department fails to bill and collect all the money it could be collecting through the “Parental Fee Program,” which considers ability to pay as a factor. The department collects only about 60% of assessed fees and it doesn’t do a very good job assessing those fees in the first place, the report said.   read more
  • Feds Reel In Asset Forfeitures that Southern California Cops Feast On

    Monday, January 19, 2015
    Holder announced that from now on, local and state authorities will not be “using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without evidence that a crime occurred.” They do a lot of that, in cooperation with federal authorities, through a program called “Equitable Sharing.” A Washington Post story last year calculated that local agencies picked up 81% of the $2.5 billion snared by civil forfeiture nationwide over seven years ending in fiscal year 2014.   read more

California and the Nation

  • State's Tax System Ranks Second-Fairest in the Nation, which Isn't Saying Much

    Thursday, January 22, 2015
    “Virtually every state tax system is fundamentally unfair,” according to the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy. But “California has one of the least regressive tax systems due to its heavy reliance on a very progressive income tax.” The institute's measure of “fairness” is how evenly different income groups other than the elderly pay taxes as a percentage of their incomes.   read more
  • Mendocino Tribe Building $10-Million Indoor Pot-Growing Facility

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015
    The Santa Rosa Press Democrat said county officials were caught by surprise when news of the greenhouse surfaced, but it wasn’t totally unexpected. Denver-based United Cannabis Corporation (UCANN) recently announced it had signed agreements with three tribes to grow medical marijuana. It didn’t identify the tribes.   read more
  • Four Californians Charged with Violating Utah’s “Ag-Gag” Law

    Wednesday, January 07, 2015
    It has been against the law in Utah since 2012 to photograph agricultural operations, including the mistreatment of animals. Utah and a half a dozen other states have enacted laws to crack down on animal rights activists and others who have documented cruel and unsanitary conditions around the country.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Director of the Department of State Hospitals: Who Is Pamela Ahlin?

    Monday, January 05, 2015
    Ahlin was elevated to deputy director of Hospital Strategic Planning and Implementation in the now-defunct state Department of Mental Health 2012. The department had been under federal oversight since 2006. She took over supervision of the 350-bed mental health unit at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad under trying circumstances in May 2013.   read more
  • State Controller: Who Is Betty Yee?

    Friday, January 02, 2015
    Betty Yee, a tax and fiscal policy expert, won a spot in the November election when she edged out fellow Democrat and former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez by 500 votes in the June primary after winning the endorsement of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) for her spirited advocacy of medical pot. She also endeared herself to environmentalists with opposition to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and support for alternative energy efforts.   read more
  • California Secretary of State: Who Is Alex Padilla?

    Thursday, January 01, 2015
    On Monday, two-term Democratic state Senator Alex Padilla will be sworn in as California’s first Latino Secretary of State, replacing Debra Bowen, whose last months in office were plagued by a debilitating struggle with depression but were preceded by years of controversy. He will take the reins of an office that has struggled to provide campaign finance transparency, make better use of technology and handle nonelection responsibilities related to corporations.   read more

Unusual News

  • Record Meth Seizures at the Border, but Drone “Mule” Is a First

    Thursday, January 22, 2015
    The U.S.Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that seizures of meth at the Mexican border hit a record high in the fiscal year ending last September 30 and were up 33% around the San Diego area. But it wasn’t until this week that the drug trafficking passed a technological milestone. Mexican police said a drone carrying pounds of meth crashed in a Tijuana shopping mall parking lot Tuesday night, just steps from the border.   read more
  • Anonymous Stanford Website Helps Unlock Confidential Admissions Files

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015
    The Fountain Hopper newsletter posted a Five-Step Plan™ explaining how students can request copies of their admission records from the university using the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). After a 45-day wait, they can peruse essays written about them by admissions officers, numerical valuations of their personalities, letters of recommendation, descriptions of interviews and other information generally regarded as confidential.   read more
  • Pope Taps Junipero Serra for Sainthood Despite Pesky Complaints of Genocide

    Friday, January 16, 2015
    The pope said he would bypass the usual requirement that the candidate perform a second verified miracle, although critics might consider receiving a sainthood designation in the face of their complaints that the Spanish Franciscan missionary practiced genocide as pretty extraordinary. The pope will visit Philadelphia in September and might go to Washington D.C. and the United Nations in New York. A Serra sainthood could put California on the agenda.   read more

PHOTO GALLERY

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