Portal

  • Record BofA Mortgage Settlement Has $800 Million for California but Not a Lot for Homeowners

    Friday, August 22, 2014
    Like the earlier settlements, only a portion is aimed at homeowner relief. No bankers are going to jail and a big chunk of the money will be treated as ordinary expenses for tax purposes. “These tax write-offs shift the burden back onto taxpayers and send the wrong message,” U.S. Public Interest Research Group analyst Phineas Baxandall told the Times.   read more
  • State Auditor Sees Dead People Collecting Medi-Cal Rehab Reimbursements

    Friday, August 22, 2014
    California State Auditor Elaine Howle’s report, which covered five and a half years between July 2008 and December 2013, found 323 instances of money being reimbursed to providers of services “purportedly rendered to deceased beneficiaries.” The auditor accused Medi-Cal administrators of shoddy practices that may have steered $93.7 million to alcohol and drug and rehabilitation clinics under fraudulent circumstances during a four-year period.   read more
  • Los Angeles Considers Giving Citizens Lottery Tickets if They Vote

    Friday, August 22, 2014
    With as few as 8% of registered voters showing up to vote in some recent elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has urged the City Council to consider improving turnout with a lottery pilot program. No actual vote would be required, but those participating would have to show up at the polls to participate. There was no decision on what the grand prize for participating in the democratic process.   read more
  • Chevron Flexes Its Post-Citizens United Muscles in Richmond Election

    Thursday, August 21, 2014
    Mayoral candidate Nat Bates downplayed Chevron support: “Tom wants to make a big deal about a so-called Chevron slush fund. But them spending money on elections is nothing new; he needs to stop crying about it and worry about his own campaign.” Chevron is the chief supplier of cash to Moving Forward, a political action committee (PAC) which is sitting on $1.7 million and already spending aggressively on ads for Bates.   read more
  • Solar Farm in the Mojave Seen Igniting One Bird Every Two Minutes

    Thursday, August 21, 2014
    Observers call the birds that ignite in midair “streamers,” for the trail of smoke that follows behind them. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 28,000 birds are cooked annually at Ivanpah but BrightSource puts the number at 1,000. Ivanpah has 300,000 heliostat mirrors focusing the sun’s rays on 459-foot-high tanks of water, producing steam to run a conventional turbine that produces electricity.   read more

PHOTO GALLERY

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

Top Stories

  • State Hands Out Five Times More Surface Water Rights than It Has Water

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    Statewide flow averages around 70 million acre feet a year, while those holding water rights can claim 370 million acre feet. That’s the bad news. The worse news is that the study did not factor in riparian rights granted to streamside landowners before 1914. “So in many ways our estimate is a substantial underestimate of the total volume of rights,” co-author and UC Merced professor of water resources Joshua Viers told the Los Angeles Times.   read more
  • Drought-Plagued California Bottles Its Water for the Rest of the Country

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Julia Lurie at Mother Jones says if you’re drinking bottled water “there’s a good chance” it came from California. Aquafina, Dasani, Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead all have operations in California, although Lurie doesn’t quantify how much of the nation’s bottled water comes from the state. The reason is an absence of data. Bottling companies don’t have to say where the water comes from, and, for the most part, they don’t on their labels.   read more
  • The Militarization of Local Police: California Edition

    Monday, August 18, 2014
    Police forces across the country have used the threat of terrorism since 9/11 to justify amping up their purchase of military equipment with federal money to control conventional criminal activity. At least $35 billion worth of equipment had been dispersed by end of 2011. Nationally, local law enforcement has received 93,763 assault weapons, 180,718 magazines of ammunition, 44,900 night vision goggles, 533 aircraft, 432 armored mine-resistant vehicles and 435 other armored vehicles.   read more

Controversies

  • You Have the Right to Remain Silent, but Anything You Don't Say Might be Used Against You

    Monday, August 18, 2014
    Richard Tom had the right to remain silent in the back seat of the Redwood City police car in 2007 after his speeding Mercedes slammed into a Nissan, killing an 8-year-old passenger—and he did. Justice Marvin Baxter, writing for the state Supreme Court majority, said Tom did not explicitly invoke his right to remain silent until later, so anything he didn't say before that could be used against him in a court of law.   read more
  • Senate Committee Buries Statewide Medical Marijuana Regulation

    Friday, August 15, 2014
    One of the reasons federal officials give for cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers in California, besides possession and sale of the drug being a federal crime, is the state’s disjointed and chaotic local governance of the estimated $1.8 billion industry. The legislation would have created a licensing and regulatory framework much like the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.   read more
  • Medi-Cal Patients Can’t Find Doctors; State Needs Audit to Find out Why

    Friday, August 15, 2014
    Howle will focus on three counties, but the California Health Report said it was uncertain if she would select the same three counties—Fresno, Butte and Imperial—that it used for a damning story in June. The report found that half the primary-care doctors on lists given to low-income patients by insurance companies weren’t taking new patients or couldn’t be reached by phone for one reason or another.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Record Number of UC Freshmen Are from Out of State

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    Although university officials tout the benefits of increased diversity, the prime motivation is money. The students will bring an extra $400 million with them to the schools. The university told the Times that no in-state student is denied admission to the UC system because of the change in admission policy the past few years. Even if that were true, being admitted to UC Merced might not placate the California student who in the recent past might have earned a spot at UCLA.   read more
  • L.A. Residents Have Nation's Highest Rent Burden

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Los Angeles renters spend 47% of their income on housing, the highest in the nation. The city leads the nation in both moderate (30-50%) and severe rent burden (more than 50%). They have the most people rent burdened and the highest burdens. The problem is particularly acute in L.A., where rentership is the highest in the nation at around 52%.   read more
  • Hospital Charges $10,000 for a Basic Cholesterol Test

    Monday, August 18, 2014
    The charges reflected hospital rates before pre-payments or contractual adjustments, so insurance negotiations and payments probably reduced most costs. So why the outlandish charges? Kevin Drum at Mother Jones suggests, “No insurance company will pay $10,000 for a lipid panel, of course, so the only point of pricing it this high is to exploit the occasional poor sap with no health insurance who happens to need his cholesterol checked.”   read more

California and the Nation

  • Data Breach Alert at 180 Albertsons Stores in Southern California

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    The company said it contained the breach and patched it, and didn’t believe any data had been stolen. But it doesn’t really know. It assured customers they could continue to use their cards, but an investigation is just getting underway. The breach, which was not explained in any detail, allegedly occurred as early as June 22 and continued until July 17 at the latest.   read more
  • Porn Permits in L.A. Plunge, but Has Production Just Gone Underground?

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014
    John Rogers at the Associated Press found a few folks who think they might not have gone far. “A lot are simply shooting in out-of-the-way places where they won't be caught,” Adult Video News senior editor Mark Kernes said. “Normally it's in people's homes who are willing to rent them out for a day. Sometimes it's out in the woods".   read more
  • California Cities Stumble in Recovery

    Thursday, August 07, 2014
    The economic recoveries of Stockton and San Bernardino ranked 149 and 150, respectively, among the nation’s 150 largest cities, using criteria based on 18 “essential metrics.” Bankruptcy was a heavily-weighted factor, which both cities have suffered through. No California city made the Top 10. The median ranking of California’s 29 cities was 114, below the midpoint of 100. The average was 102.   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

  • Legal Battle over Wording of Soda Tax Ballot Measure in Berkeley

    Thursday, August 21, 2014
    A suit was filed last week by two men, at least one of whom has ties to the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign, which receives funding from the American Beverage Association. It claims that the city substituted the phrase “high-calorie, sugary drinks” for “sugar-sweetened beverage” in the ballot language. The plaintiffs, Anthony Johnson and Leon Cain, would prefer the phrase “sugar-sweetened beverage products” to be used.   read more
  • Slaughterhouse Indictment Raises Question: What Else Were They Doing?

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    The 11-count indictment alleges that Amaral and Singleton directed Corda and Cabrera to dodge U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors by cutting off the heads of cows with eye cancer and placing healthy cow heads next to the carcasses. Cows that had already been stamped unacceptable had the stamps removed on the kill floor. The indictment says meat from 101 condemned cows and 79 with eye cancer was processed for shipping.   read more
  • The Uber of Medical Marijuana Motors into San Francisco

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014
    “Order in seconds. Delivered in minutes,” its website proclaims. The S.F.-based startup launched last month in its hometown with an online program that is still awaiting Apple Store approval to be distributed as an app. Unlike other dispensaries that deliver (and often don’t have a storefront), Eaze provides a link between a customer, a driver and pot from a number of facilities.   read more
  • Record BofA Mortgage Settlement Has $800 Million for California but Not a Lot for Homeowners

    Friday, August 22, 2014
    Like the earlier settlements, only a portion is aimed at homeowner relief. No bankers are going to jail and a big chunk of the money will be treated as ordinary expenses for tax purposes. “These tax write-offs shift the burden back onto taxpayers and send the wrong message,” U.S. Public Interest Research Group analyst Phineas Baxandall told the Times.   read more
  • State Auditor Sees Dead People Collecting Medi-Cal Rehab Reimbursements

    Friday, August 22, 2014
    California State Auditor Elaine Howle’s report, which covered five and a half years between July 2008 and December 2013, found 323 instances of money being reimbursed to providers of services “purportedly rendered to deceased beneficiaries.” The auditor accused Medi-Cal administrators of shoddy practices that may have steered $93.7 million to alcohol and drug and rehabilitation clinics under fraudulent circumstances during a four-year period.   read more
  • Los Angeles Considers Giving Citizens Lottery Tickets if They Vote

    Friday, August 22, 2014
    With as few as 8% of registered voters showing up to vote in some recent elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission has urged the City Council to consider improving turnout with a lottery pilot program. No actual vote would be required, but those participating would have to show up at the polls to participate. There was no decision on what the grand prize for participating in the democratic process.   read more
  • Chevron Flexes Its Post-Citizens United Muscles in Richmond Election

    Thursday, August 21, 2014
    Mayoral candidate Nat Bates downplayed Chevron support: “Tom wants to make a big deal about a so-called Chevron slush fund. But them spending money on elections is nothing new; he needs to stop crying about it and worry about his own campaign.” Chevron is the chief supplier of cash to Moving Forward, a political action committee (PAC) which is sitting on $1.7 million and already spending aggressively on ads for Bates.   read more
  • Solar Farm in the Mojave Seen Igniting One Bird Every Two Minutes

    Thursday, August 21, 2014
    Observers call the birds that ignite in midair “streamers,” for the trail of smoke that follows behind them. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 28,000 birds are cooked annually at Ivanpah but BrightSource puts the number at 1,000. Ivanpah has 300,000 heliostat mirrors focusing the sun’s rays on 459-foot-high tanks of water, producing steam to run a conventional turbine that produces electricity.   read more

Top Stories

  • State Hands Out Five Times More Surface Water Rights than It Has Water

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    Statewide flow averages around 70 million acre feet a year, while those holding water rights can claim 370 million acre feet. That’s the bad news. The worse news is that the study did not factor in riparian rights granted to streamside landowners before 1914. “So in many ways our estimate is a substantial underestimate of the total volume of rights,” co-author and UC Merced professor of water resources Joshua Viers told the Los Angeles Times.   read more
  • Drought-Plagued California Bottles Its Water for the Rest of the Country

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Julia Lurie at Mother Jones says if you’re drinking bottled water “there’s a good chance” it came from California. Aquafina, Dasani, Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead all have operations in California, although Lurie doesn’t quantify how much of the nation’s bottled water comes from the state. The reason is an absence of data. Bottling companies don’t have to say where the water comes from, and, for the most part, they don’t on their labels.   read more
  • The Militarization of Local Police: California Edition

    Monday, August 18, 2014
    Police forces across the country have used the threat of terrorism since 9/11 to justify amping up their purchase of military equipment with federal money to control conventional criminal activity. At least $35 billion worth of equipment had been dispersed by end of 2011. Nationally, local law enforcement has received 93,763 assault weapons, 180,718 magazines of ammunition, 44,900 night vision goggles, 533 aircraft, 432 armored mine-resistant vehicles and 435 other armored vehicles.   read more

Controversies

  • You Have the Right to Remain Silent, but Anything You Don't Say Might be Used Against You

    Monday, August 18, 2014
    Richard Tom had the right to remain silent in the back seat of the Redwood City police car in 2007 after his speeding Mercedes slammed into a Nissan, killing an 8-year-old passenger—and he did. Justice Marvin Baxter, writing for the state Supreme Court majority, said Tom did not explicitly invoke his right to remain silent until later, so anything he didn't say before that could be used against him in a court of law.   read more
  • Senate Committee Buries Statewide Medical Marijuana Regulation

    Friday, August 15, 2014
    One of the reasons federal officials give for cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries and growers in California, besides possession and sale of the drug being a federal crime, is the state’s disjointed and chaotic local governance of the estimated $1.8 billion industry. The legislation would have created a licensing and regulatory framework much like the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.   read more
  • Medi-Cal Patients Can’t Find Doctors; State Needs Audit to Find out Why

    Friday, August 15, 2014
    Howle will focus on three counties, but the California Health Report said it was uncertain if she would select the same three counties—Fresno, Butte and Imperial—that it used for a damning story in June. The report found that half the primary-care doctors on lists given to low-income patients by insurance companies weren’t taking new patients or couldn’t be reached by phone for one reason or another.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Record Number of UC Freshmen Are from Out of State

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    Although university officials tout the benefits of increased diversity, the prime motivation is money. The students will bring an extra $400 million with them to the schools. The university told the Times that no in-state student is denied admission to the UC system because of the change in admission policy the past few years. Even if that were true, being admitted to UC Merced might not placate the California student who in the recent past might have earned a spot at UCLA.   read more
  • L.A. Residents Have Nation's Highest Rent Burden

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Los Angeles renters spend 47% of their income on housing, the highest in the nation. The city leads the nation in both moderate (30-50%) and severe rent burden (more than 50%). They have the most people rent burdened and the highest burdens. The problem is particularly acute in L.A., where rentership is the highest in the nation at around 52%.   read more
  • Hospital Charges $10,000 for a Basic Cholesterol Test

    Monday, August 18, 2014
    The charges reflected hospital rates before pre-payments or contractual adjustments, so insurance negotiations and payments probably reduced most costs. So why the outlandish charges? Kevin Drum at Mother Jones suggests, “No insurance company will pay $10,000 for a lipid panel, of course, so the only point of pricing it this high is to exploit the occasional poor sap with no health insurance who happens to need his cholesterol checked.”   read more

California and the Nation

  • Data Breach Alert at 180 Albertsons Stores in Southern California

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    The company said it contained the breach and patched it, and didn’t believe any data had been stolen. But it doesn’t really know. It assured customers they could continue to use their cards, but an investigation is just getting underway. The breach, which was not explained in any detail, allegedly occurred as early as June 22 and continued until July 17 at the latest.   read more
  • Porn Permits in L.A. Plunge, but Has Production Just Gone Underground?

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014
    John Rogers at the Associated Press found a few folks who think they might not have gone far. “A lot are simply shooting in out-of-the-way places where they won't be caught,” Adult Video News senior editor Mark Kernes said. “Normally it's in people's homes who are willing to rent them out for a day. Sometimes it's out in the woods".   read more
  • California Cities Stumble in Recovery

    Thursday, August 07, 2014
    The economic recoveries of Stockton and San Bernardino ranked 149 and 150, respectively, among the nation’s 150 largest cities, using criteria based on 18 “essential metrics.” Bankruptcy was a heavily-weighted factor, which both cities have suffered through. No California city made the Top 10. The median ranking of California’s 29 cities was 114, below the midpoint of 100. The average was 102.   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

  • Legal Battle over Wording of Soda Tax Ballot Measure in Berkeley

    Thursday, August 21, 2014
    A suit was filed last week by two men, at least one of whom has ties to the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign, which receives funding from the American Beverage Association. It claims that the city substituted the phrase “high-calorie, sugary drinks” for “sugar-sweetened beverage” in the ballot language. The plaintiffs, Anthony Johnson and Leon Cain, would prefer the phrase “sugar-sweetened beverage products” to be used.   read more
  • Slaughterhouse Indictment Raises Question: What Else Were They Doing?

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    The 11-count indictment alleges that Amaral and Singleton directed Corda and Cabrera to dodge U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors by cutting off the heads of cows with eye cancer and placing healthy cow heads next to the carcasses. Cows that had already been stamped unacceptable had the stamps removed on the kill floor. The indictment says meat from 101 condemned cows and 79 with eye cancer was processed for shipping.   read more
  • The Uber of Medical Marijuana Motors into San Francisco

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014
    “Order in seconds. Delivered in minutes,” its website proclaims. The S.F.-based startup launched last month in its hometown with an online program that is still awaiting Apple Store approval to be distributed as an app. Unlike other dispensaries that deliver (and often don’t have a storefront), Eaze provides a link between a customer, a driver and pot from a number of facilities.   read more

PHOTO GALLERY

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