December 22, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Hearing set for California Supreme Court nominee – California Gov. Jerry Brown’s third nominee to the state Supreme Court this term is expected to be confirmed at a hearing in San Francisco on Monday despite criticism that she lacks judicial experience and familiarity with state law.  AP article

Tackling the big debt that lawmakers let balloon — The debt or “unfunded liability” state Controller John Chiang reported last week for state worker retiree health care, $72 billion, is larger than the unfunded liability for state worker pensions reported by CalPERS in April, $50 billion. It’s a legislative legacy, a debt for state worker services received by one generation that lawmakers decided to let the next generations inherit.  Calpensions article

Other areas

Carly Fiorina prepares a long-shot candidacy for president – Carly Fiorina blazed a trail as the first woman to lead a Fortune 20 company, and the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard now seems to have an even bigger “first-ever” achievement in mind.  San Jose Mercury News article

Hostage killings have given new impetus to even risky rescue attempts — The willingness to accept the risks was given greater impetus this fall by grisly videos of the beheadings of Americans and others held captive by Islamic State militants in Syria, officials said. It also rests on the growing realization in the White House that, unlike in times past, rescuers can’t wait until they are certain where hostages are and until the Pentagon, FBI and intelligence agencies have high confidence about their ability to rescue them.  LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Studies tout value of state’s almond growers, green energy, Latinos — It’s that time of year when public relations firms roll out impressive numbers to boost clients’ images at the Capitol. Interest groups fill a holiday news vacuum by releasing specially commissioned economic studies. The reports are jammed full of data showing, not surprisingly, large amounts of jobs created, money spent and taxes paid.  LA Times article

Sierra snow pack encouraging, but more storms needed to keep it deep — For the first time in years, snowfall in the Sierras has left California’s annual average in its dust. Buoyed by big December storms, the snow pack is about 150 percent of where it usually is at this time in the year, according to the California Department of Water Resources. And more may be on the way, weather forecasters said.  Sacramento Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Now for sale in the Valley: A new home under 300 square feet — A growing movement to downsize and simplify life into a couple hundred square feet of space has made its way to the central San Joaquin Valley. A Fresno company is building tiny houses on trailers. And a community devoted to the pint-sized homes — possibly the first in California — is getting ready to open next month in the Tulare County town of Lemon Cove.  Fresno Bee article

Holiday shopping:  Guide to Valley’s locally made or locally grown gifts — We all know about the “buy local” movement. But why not get a gift that’s full-on local: locally made, locally grown or something that’s simply so Fresno that only someone with roots here would appreciate it?  Fresno Bee article

Experts expect surge in Cuba tourism under Obama opening — As the U.S. and Cuba begin to normalize relations for the first time in half a century, some Americans are already roaming the streets of Old Havana, attending dance exhibitions and talks on architecture as they take part in scripted cultural tours that can cost more than a decent used car back home.  AP article


Recent storms send Yosemite waterfalls rushing back — The water dropped, a pure white ribbon fluttering down-down-down a towering granite wall. In other winters it was a sight to behold, but to be expected. This year, the return of Yosemite’s waterfalls was more.  LA Times article

Insects were a big problem for citrus industry – A tiny insect continued causing big problems for Tulare County citrus growers in 2014. Despite efforts to keep Asian citrus psyllids from migrating out of Southern California into the central part of California — the state’s citrus belt — several finds of the insects occurred in Tulare County.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Don Curlee: U.S. water effort says ‘land grab’ — To begin with, the government’s attempt to control the waters of the U.S. sounds ambiguous. Doing it through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers makes it suspect. Extending control and protection to mud puddles, drainage depressions and casual ponds brands the effort as ludicrous.  Curlee column in Visalia Times-Delta

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Kamala Harris sees safeguards in DAs prosecuting police killings — Many advocacy groups and legal commentators have called for a new system of reviewing potential criminal cases against police officers. They argue that a special prosecutor, perhaps affiliated with the state attorney general’s office, would be insulated enough from police and politics to weigh the issues objectively and make decisions the public would trust. California Attorney General Kamala Harris sees it differently.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Oakland police say protests hinder crime-fighting efforts – Oakland police who already lost Thanksgiving Day with their families so they could keep an eye on street protests could wind up spending Christmas Day on the job as well.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Brik McDill: No common sense and no middle ground paved path to mistrial — Seems like the experts again got in the way of common sense. Two experts muddied the Bryan Oliver trial — one by making “snapping” too extreme of a clinical phenomenon (dissociation), the other claiming snapping without a mile-wide, mile-long swarm of prodromal clues never occurs.  McDill column in Bakersfield Californian


2-year colleges will get a chance to offer baccalaureate degrees in some areas — Under a new state law, Crawford might be able to stay put and get a four-year degree at Cypress. The community college is one of 36 campuses and districts that have said they plan to apply for an opportunity to offer four-year degrees. It would be the first time community colleges in California would be eligible to offer more than associate’s degrees.  LA Times article

Legal group files free-speech suit against Loomis schools — A conservative legal group that defends religious freedoms has sued the Loomis Union School District, complaining that campus officials violated a sixth-grader’s free-speech rights by scolding her for sharing religious fliers with two friends during the lunch hour without permission.  Sacramento Bee article


CPUC’s farewell for Michael Peevey is stage-managed to a T — Even with the cloud of San Bruno and way-too-cozy PG&E e-mails hanging over it, the California Public Utilities Commission made sure Michael Peevey’s final meeting as president had a happy ending — in fact, the agency pretty much staged it.  San Francisco Chronicle article

West Sacramento says no to ethanol trains — The city of West Sacramento and a Texas-based gasoline company are battling over whether it’s riskier to ship large amounts of ethanol through city streets on trains or on tanker trucks – a dispute that last week spilled into court.  Sacramento Bee article

LA’s messy ways now on city’s radar — In the final days of the year, many of L.A.’s streets and sidewalks are littered with discarded furniture, mattresses, oversized televisions and other household objects. Unfortunately, trash in this city isn’t a problem confined to the holidays. According to a recent report, the streets are so untidy on a year-round basis that the situation threatens the city’s brand. So perhaps it’s time to pose the question to the decision makers at City Hall: What’s with all the Angelenos who leave their stuff outside and never look back?  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Smog linked to autism risk — Children born to moms who were exposed to high levels of air pollution late in pregnancy may have an increased risk of developing autism, a U.S. study suggests.  AP article


George Skelton: An upside to high-speed rail? It’s more traveler friendly than flying –  In the holiday spirit, here’s something cheerful to say about the California bullet train if Gov. Jerry Brown ever gets it assembled: It would be a whole lot more passenger-friendly than demeaning air travel. No torturous, long security lines. No stripping off your belts and shoes. No pat-downs or X-rays. No inhuman stares. No re-dressing.  Skelton column in LA Times

California puzzles over safety of driverless cars — California’s Department of Motor Vehicles will miss a year-end deadline to adopt new rules for cars of the future because regulators first have to figure out how they’ll know whether “driverless” vehicles are safe.  AP article

Establishing ‘quiet zones’ for trains isn’t easy — As a train approaches in the distance, the sound of its horn can conjure romantic images of a foggy London train station or the Polar Express with a conductor on board ready to serve you hot chocolate. But if the horn is blaring by your home in the middle of the night, startling you from sleep, you might have a different take. Modesto Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Air travel isn’t what it used to be — As we rush by the hundreds of thousands locally, and many millions nationally, to visit family and friends or take year-end vacations, too many flights get delayed and canceled, and you must partially disrobe to get past TSA security.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Other Areas

More upheaval at Kern fair: Director ousted from board – Kern County Fair director Mark Salvaggio, whose advocacy of reform and transparency sometimes placed him at odds with fellow directors and fair management, was removed from the fair board Friday afternoon by a deputy to Gov. Jerry Brown, the same man who appointed him to the seat in 2012.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno attorney James Homola elected president of elite legal society — Fresno attorney James R. Homola has been elected president of an elite legal society that is committed to fighting for the accused. His colleagues say Homola marches to a different beat. Homola, 67, says he is a perfect fit to be leader of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, having seen the law from both sides of the courtroom. His one-year term starts Jan. 1.  Fresno Bee article

Merced food bank volunteer doesn’t let disability stop him from giving — Tom Kivley spends hours filling bags of rice for the less fortunate at the Merced County Food Bank, but it isn’t enough for the 52-year-old. When he gets home, Kivley can’t wait to continue his volunteer work by labeling more food bags for the needy. And despite relying on a walker for the past 10 years, Kivley doesn’t let his limitations stop him from giving back.  Merced Sun-Star article

Kids take over: Young volunteers help Thunder, arena put on game — Leilani Vasquez stood outside the northwest entrance of Stockton Arena and welcomed fans with a warm smile. The 10-year-old from Stockton went from avid Thunder fan to volunteer ticket taker for the day as the hockey franchise held its second annual Kids Take Over event Sunday.  Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – It’s time to brainstorm ways to increase voter turnout.

Sacramento Bee – As we rush by the hundreds of thousands locally, and many millions nationally, to visit family and friends or take year-end vacations, too many flights get delayed and canceled, and you must partially disrobe to get past TSA security.