December 27, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Californians to Watch in 2015: Kevin McCarthy leads emboldened congressional Republicans — Eight years ago, then-Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy was leading fellow Republicans in Sacramento, clawing for relevance in a Capitol dominated by Democrats. Now McCarthy is the second most powerful member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Sacramento Bee article

California readies for 900 new laws — New Year’s Day will usher in hundreds of new laws in California, including a landmark law that allows undocumented individuals to receive a driver’s license. In all, California will add 930 new laws, most of which will go into effect Thursday. San Francisco Chronicle article

Other areas

McCarthy on House losses: ‘I am not giving up on California’ – Republicans made historic gains across the country in the midterm elections. But after dropping a succession of close races in California, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he is undertaking a district-by-district review through the House GOP’s campaign arm.  Capitol Alert

California lawmakers wants to expand use of ignition interlocks for drunk drivers — Californians convicted of drunk driving would have to install a device on their cars that blocks the ignition from starting if the driver’s breath indicates a problematic blood-alcohol level, under a bill Sen. Jerry Hill plans to announce Monday. Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article

California politics year in review: Elections and bag bans and Senate scandals, oh my! — It was a busy year at the Capitol and in California politics. Here’s a look back.  Sacramento Bee article

Willie Brown: Democrats 86d in midterm elections — This holiday season, the Democratic Party woke up to find a bare tree and a big lump of coal in its Christmas stocking.  Brown column in San Francisco Chronicle article

Photojournalists caught between cops and crowds at East Bay protests — The hazards of covering these demonstrations come to mind as the San Francisco Chronicle reports that one of its photographers was hit with a hurled wine bottle while covering a Christmas night march in Oakland that featured several episodes of vandalism.  KQED report

Debra Saunders: Carly Fiorina, the deadbeat presidential candidate — So maybe it isn’t totally crazy that Fiorina is running for president even if she’s never won an election. But it is totally crazy that Fiorina is running for the White House when, according to federal election reports, her 2010 campaign still owes $486,418 to creditors. Who wants a deadbeat for president?  Saunders column in San Francisco Chronicle

Danny Morrison: Black lives matter? Not according to us – The Bakersfield radio personality writes, “Yes, black lives matter. My question is: When do we blacks start acting like it?” Morrison op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

News Briefs

Top Stories

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s role as water referee is complicated by drought — In a dispute in which positions have hardened after years of fighting, the state’s senior U.S. senator, who is expected to broker any deal that reallocates water supply, is one of the few remaining enigmas. The only thing consistent about Feinstein’s role as water referee is that the fights have left bruises on the exacting and thick-skinned senator over the years. The last few weeks have been particularly rough.  LA Times article

Holiday over, but sales still strong in Merced – Holiday gift-giving may be over for most Merced County families, but the shopping continued Friday, the day after Christmas, which is nationally considered the second-biggest shopping day of the year.  Merced Sun-Star article

Jobs and the Economy

Estimates signal Merry Christmas for Sacramento retail sales – The receipts haven’t yet been tallied, but local shopping malls say the season has been one of the best in recent memory.  Sacramento Bee article

Reaching out to help the rural homeless – The latest rainstorm had just flooded everyone’s tents with San Joaquin River water and mud, turning sleeping bags and clothing into gray lumps. No one had caught any fish, and the leaden skies were threatening another drenching. It was homeless camp misery. Which meant it was a dandy time for street outreach counselor Felton Mackey to show up at the Antioch riverside outpost with offers of housing, welfare and counseling in hand.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Would an LA minimum wage hike push businesses to nearby cities? — Los Angeles’ minimum wage would apply only within city limits. So the city’s unique geography — stretching from the northern reaches of the San Fernando Valley down to the port in San Pedro — provides plenty of options for business owners looking to avoid higher labor costs.  LA Times article

San Francisco employment boom strains housing, office space — The Bay Area has added an estimated 400,000 jobs in the past four years — almost 40 percent of the 1.1 million total that regional planners had predicted would be added by 2040.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Haggen chain to buy 146 Vons, Pavilions, Albertson, Safeway stores — The tiny Pacific Northwest chain is buying 146 Vons, Pavilions, Albertsons and Safeway stores, including 83 in California. The Federal Trade Commission ordered them sold as part of the merger of Albertsons and Safeway earlier this year. That translates into an eye-popping 811% expansion for the Bellingham, Wash., company, which currently operates 18 stores in Oregon and Washington.  LA Times article; Bakersfield Californian article

Citibank to close 9 Valley branches – The nation’s No. 3 bank Citibank is closing nine Central California branches in the next few months as it seeks to concentrate its efforts in the large urban areas.  Visalia Times-Delta article

As building boom approaches, Sacramento hotel occupancy grows — Hotel occupancy is continuing to improve in the Sacramento area – just as the central city is about to experience another wave of hotel construction, sparked by the building of the new Kings arena.  Sacramento Bee article

Uncertainty about Export-Import Bank causing trouble for some firms – Air Tractor Inc., a Texas manufacturer of agricultural and firefighting airplanes, was excited about a multimillion-dollar order from Africa, but fresh questions about the future of the U.S. export-assistance agency now threaten the sale.  LA Times article

Fresno’s North Pointe Park continues to grow – As the industrial sector picks back up, North Pointe Business Park follows suit with several new buildings coming for manufacturers as well as service companies to fill.  The Business Journal article

Some states see budgets at risk as oil prices fall – States dependent on oil and gas revenue are bracing for layoffs, slashing agency budgets and growing increasingly anxious about the ripple effect that falling oil prices may have on their local economies. The concerns are cutting across traditional oil states like Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Alaska as well as those like North Dakota that are benefiting from the nation’s latest energy boom.  New York Times article

Sony breach fuels email security fears at other companies — You’re welcome to dance like there’s nobody watching. But you’d better write emails like your email provider is going to be hacked. The Internet-era twist on the old maxim is the lesson that technology entrepreneur Greg Isenberg learned from the cyberattack that ravaged Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network last month, sending thousands of sensitive email exchanges into the public domain as the studio, under threat, fretted over whether to release “The Interview.”  LA Times article


California requiring harassment training for farm employees — The law will require farm labor contractors to provide all supervisors, foremen and employees with sexual harassment training. Democratic Senator Bill Monning authored the bill. He says there’s an epidemic of harassment and assault of California farm workers. Capital Public Radio report

Russ Waymire: Isn’t water deprivation also torture? – The Hanford resident writes, “If sleep deprivation is torture as U.S Senator Diane Feinstein claims, then surely denying water to people begging for water to sustain life, jobs and communities is torture.  Waymire op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Farm Beat: Pistachios, beer get together — Pistachio growers have joined with the nation’s largest beer company in a marketing campaign tied to the NFL playoffs. And they promise that this pairing is a relatively healthy way of snacking during football-watching parties over the next few weeks.  Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Gang members: To North Dakota and back again – While court documents draw a grim picture of criminal influence being exported from Kern County to North Dakota, Minot Police Lt. Jason Sundbakken said this past week the city of about 40,000 people is not experiencing a “gang problem.”  Bakersfield Californian article

San Quentin’s prison university gives inmates freedom to learn — San Quentin is home to the Prison University Project, the largest on-site college-in-prison program among California state prisons. Inmates in PUP earn their associate’s degree for free, with volunteer instructors from schools like Stanford and UC Berkeley. San Francisco Chronicle article

Top stories of 2014: No. 5: Stockton homicide rate climbs again – After a year of falling homicide rates in 2013, things take a turn for the worse. Through Dec. 26, there have been 48 homicides in Stockton in 2014, Record archives show.  Stockton Record article

Crashes, explosions, murder and court cases: 2014 had plenty — There was no dearth of stories involving law enforcement and the courts in 2014 — crashes, fires, shootings, gas leaks, verdicts and the unexpected were unfortunately common occurrences. The Californian asked the two reporters who cover such news to develop a list of a dozen of the year’s most memorable stories.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fatal toddler abuse, five arrested in slaying among year’s top crime stories — Kings County saw a slight decrease in homicide cases this year, with a total of eight reported slayings in 2014 compared to nine in 2013.  Hanford Sentinel article

CHP went out with a lot of models before settling on new SUV — Lately, CHP officials have been adding Ford’s Explorer-based Police Interceptor SUV to the fleet because none of the remaining sedan options had the payload capacity for the personnel and equipment.  LA Times article


Industrial automation degree would be a welcome addition to Bakersfield – Now a student worker in BC’s counseling department, Robert Ruiz wants to get a four-year degree and fast-track plans to move up in the fields of automation or instrumentation. He could get his chance to do that at BC as early as 2017. On Dec. 18, BC applied to provide that bachelor’s degree in industrial automation.  Bakersfield Californian article

Colleges reinvest classes to keep more students in science — Both are introductory chemistry classes at the University of California campus here in Davis, but they present a sharp contrast — the traditional and orderly but dull versus the experimental and engaging but noisy. Breaking from practices that many educators say have proved ineffectual, Dr. Uvarov’s class is part of an effort at a small but growing number of colleges to transform the way science is taught. New York Times article

Year in Review: A tough year for Visalia trustee — The year kicked off with a bang and ended just as garishly for Visalia Unified School District board member Charles Ulmschneider.  Visalia Times-Delta article

North Sacramento school puts ex-offenders on road to middle-class jobs — Highlands Community Charter & Technical School helps ex-offenders get on the road to middle-class jobs. Ward Allen runs the program in much the same way he did for both the Sacramento City Unified and Twin Rivers Unified school districts – with one exception. His students learn while giving back at the North Sacramento headquarters for Senior Gleaners.  Sacramento Bee article


Residents could pay more for flood protection – They say nothing gets cheaper, only more expensive. That certainly is true in the world of flood protection, as constantly changing state and federal standards siphon off cash needed for basic maintenance of local levees and waterways.  Stockton Record article

Park admission threatens quiet River Cove — Charging $5 a carload to enter Jacob Myers Park in the summer may be paying off for City Hall. But people in a nearby neighborhood say they’re paying a steep nonmonetary price.  Modesto Bee article

Health/Human Services

New law prevents health insurers’ waiting period for small business employers – Beginning Jan. 1, health plans offering insurance through small employers in California will no longer be allowed to impose a waiting period before coverage starts.  Capital Public Radio report

Flu down locally, shots still urged – Even though the effectiveness of this year’s influenza vaccine is diminished, local cases of the flu are down from last year. It’s still early in the flu season so there could yet be a spike, but so far Kern County cases of the flu are at expected levels even though one of the strains in this season’s flu vaccine mutated, said Kern County Public Health Officer Dr. Claudia Jonah.  Bakersfield Californian article

Caramel apples from Orosi may have deadly bacteria, health officials warn – The California Department of Public Health is warning people not to eat Happy Apple Brand Caramel Apples made at a plant in Orosi and in Union, Mo. The apples may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, the health department said.  Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Some heart patients do better when the cardiologist is away – Holy heart attack! Researchers have found that certain high-risk heart patients stand a better chance of survival if they go to a teaching hospital when all the cardiologists have left town. LA Times article

Bay Area startups Theranos, HealthTell are out for blood — The Palo Alto startup Theranos has received plentiful media coverage, most recently from the New Yorker, for its technology that can reportedly diagnose dozens of health conditions from one drop of blood. Investors have valued Theranos at more than $9 billion.  San Francisco Chronicle article


New Bay Bridge still leaks despite efforts to plug holes — Holes in the new $6.5 billion San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – first detected by California Department of Transportation employees last winter – have continued to leak water inside the structure during recent storms.  Sacramento Bee article

North Modesto interchanges picking up speed — Modesto and Stanislaus County officials say they are making very good progress in replacing two obsolete Highway 99 interchanges with new ones at a combined cost of nearly $100 million and the promise to ease traffic congestion in north Modesto.  Modesto Bee article

Other Areas

Longtime Fresno County coroner retires as controversy still simmers – When David Hadden retires on Wednesday as Fresno County’s longest-serving coroner, he’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that his crowning achievement was the construction of one of the nation’s most modern morgues. But he also knows the coroner’s office will no longer be an independent agency and will once again be overseen by the Sheriff’s Office — and he doesn’t like it.  Fresno Bee article

State appeals court overturns ban on LAPD’s vehicle impound policy – A state appeals court panel Friday overturned a ban on the Los Angeles Police Department’s controversial vehicle impound policy that restricts when officers can seize the cars of unlicensed drivers.  LA Times article

Suspect arrested in Islamic Cultural Center vandalism — A male suspect has been arrested in the Christmas Day vandalization of the Islamic Cultural Center in northeast Fresno, Fresno police said Friday night.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – California Public Utilities Commission appointees need to fight to change agency.

Modesto Bee – We must find a way to increase voter turnout.

Sacramento BeeFake news quiz is not all a joke, alas.