Fires: Utilities under scrutiny

Dec 15, 2017

As SoCal burns, the state demands electric companies to shape up


Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER: "With wildfires raging in Southern California, and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. facing scrutiny over the October wine country fires, state regulators ordered electric utilities Thursday to do a better job of keeping tree limbs and other vegetation away from power lines."


"The Public Utilities Commission adopted regulations requiring major utilities to reduce wildfire risk by taking better care of their transmission lines. Cal Fire and the PUC are investigating whether PG&E’s power lines were a contributing factor in the wine country fires, which killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes."


"This new policy includes significant new fire prevention rules for utility poles and wires, including major new rules for vegetation management,” said PUC President Michael Picker in a prepared statement."


READ MORE related to The West is BurningState firefighter killed while fighting Southern California fire -- Sacramento Bee's ADAM ASHTONSanta Paula pays tribute to Cory Iverson, firefighter killed while battling Thomas fire -- Daily News Staff Report2 teen boys suspected of starting Glendale fires -- Daily News' WES WOODS

Paul Ryan sees his wild Washington journey coming to an end 


Politico's TIM ALBERTA/RACHAEL BADE: "Spirits were high inside the House chamber on Thursday, November 16, when, in the early afternoon, the gavel fell and a measure to rewrite the American tax code passed on a partisan tally of 227 to 205. As the deciding votes were cast—recorded in green on the black digital scoreboard suspended above the floor—the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, threw his head back and slammed his hands together. Soon he was engulfed in a sea of dark suits, every Republican lawmaker wanting to slap him on the shoulder and be a part of his moment."


"Ryan was the man of the hour. Having spent a quarter-century in Washington—as an intern, waiter, junior think-tanker, Hill staffer and, since 1999, as a member of Congress—he had never wavered in his obsession with fixing what he viewed as the nation’s two fundamental weaknesses: its Byzantine tax system and ballooning entitlement state. Now, with House Republicans celebrating the once-in-a-generation achievement of a tax overhaul, Ryan was feeling both jubilant and relieved—and a little bit greedy. Reveling in the afterglow, Ryan remarked to several colleagues how this day had proven they could accomplish difficult things—and that next year, they should set their sights on an even tougher challenge: entitlement reform. The speaker has since gone public with this aspiration, suggesting that 2018 should be the year Washington finally tackles what he sees as the systemic problems with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."


"Tinkering with the social safety net is a bold undertaking, particularly in an election year. But Ryan has good reason for throwing caution to the wind: His time in Congress is running short."


READ MORE related to Speaker of the House: Dem Candidate challenging Paul Ryan 'honored' by Anti-Nuclear weapons organization endorsement -- Washington Free Beacon's CHARLES RUSSELL


California sues Trump administration on behalf of students seeking debt relief


EdSource's MIKHAIL ZINSHTEYN: "California is suing the Trump administration for what it says is the U.S. Department of Education’s refusal to provide debt relief to more than 13,000 students that courts have found were defrauded by the since-shuttered for-profit Corinthian Colleges."


"Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed the suit today in federal court in San Francisco against the federal department and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos."


"After having their American Dreams stolen by a so-called higher education institution, Corinthian students are now being denied critical relief by a Secretary of Education hostile to their plight,” Becerra said. “It is hard to believe that we are forced to sue the Department of Education to compel Secretary DeVos to carry out the Department’s legal duty and help these students rebuild their lives."


Governor's water proposals don't protect Arizona's rivers and streams


Water Deeply's TRICIA GERRODETTE/SANDY BAHR/GARY BEVERLY: "AT A TIME of prolonged drought, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) has just released an overview of the Governor’s Water Solutions Conversation. The discussions, which came from a series of summer meetings, have the potential to transform the state’s water laws and influence negotiations about the future of the Colorado River basin for generations. But important issues are being left out of the discussion."


"These discussions focus on two issues – protecting Arizona’s Colorado River allocation and changing existing groundwater laws. Protecting Arizona’s allocation involves negotiating with other lower Colorado River basin states over a Drought Contingency Plan, which would trigger cuts in water allocations if Lake Mead slips below a critical elevation level; and the Drought Contingency Plan Plus, in which interests within Arizona are working on how best to distribute the impact of those cuts."


"We at the Sustainable Water Workgroup, which comprises more than two dozen community organizations, environmental groups and hundreds of individuals, recognize the immense challenge Arizona faces in managing its Colorado River entitlements. But the process by which consensus is created matters, particularly in the context of building public trust in a shared long-term vision for a sustainable water future."


California issues historic first state permits for recreational marijuana sales


Green State's DAVID DOWNS: "The state of California issued today the first licenses for retailers to conduct recreational cannabis sales and other business activity. The licenses pave the way for consumers to purchase marijuana as soon as Jan. 1, 2018 — the first legal cannabis for recreational sale in the state’s modern history."


"The state licenses represent one of the last regulatory hurdles to adult use sales."


"On Thursday afternoon, the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control issued 20 such licenses, notifying sellers electronically and by phone. Licenses went out to businesses from throughout the supply chain and scattered across the state — from Santa Cruz to San Diego and Port Hueneme to Shasta Lake. The list included medical and adult use distributors, retailers and what’s called “microbusinesses” — which combine cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail sales. (See map below.)"


More than 41 million Americans are living in dire poverty, and the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights is demanding an explanation.


The Guardian's ED PILKINGTON: "You got a choice to make, man. You could go straight on to heaven. Or you could turn right, into that."


"We are in Los Angeles, in the heart of one of America’s wealthiest cities, and General Dogon, dressed in black, is our tour guide. Alongside him strolls another tall man, grey-haired and sprucely decked out in jeans and suit jacket. Professor Philip Alston is an Australian academic with a formal title: UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights."


"General Dogon, himself a veteran of these Skid Row streets, strides along, stepping over a dead rat without comment and skirting round a body wrapped in a worn orange blanket lying on the sidewalk."


The FCC repealed Title II Net Neutrality yesterday under a 3-2 Republican partyline vote, much to the ire of 83% of the American public--and against 3 out of 4 Republican constituents' wishes. 


WaPo's BRIAN FUNG: "Federal regulators voted Thursday to allow Internet providers to speed up service for websites they favor — and block or slow down others — in a decision repealing landmark Obama-era regulations overseeing broadband companies such as AT&T and Verizon."


"The move by the Federal Communications Commission to deregulate the telecom and cable industries was a prominent example of the policy shifts taking place in Washington under President Trump and a major setback for consumer groups, tech companies and Democrats who had lobbied heavily against the decision."


"The 3-2 vote, which was along party lines, enabled the FCC’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, to follow through on his promise to repeal the government’s 2015 net neutrality rules, which required Internet providers to treat all websites, large and small, equally. The agency also rejected some of its own authority over the broadband industry in a bid to stymie future FCC officials who might seek to reverse the Republican-led ruling."


READ MORE related to The Day The Internet Died: Ajit Pai just handed Republicans a bag of shit -- The Verge's NILAY PATELHow the loss of net neutrality could change the internet -- Politico's MARGARET HARDING MCGILL; FCC guts rules on open internet, but battle may just be beginning -- Sacramento Bee's TIM JOHNSON


DOJ: Early media releases of FBI agents' texts 'were not authorized'


Washington Free Beacon's CHARLES RUSSELL: "The Department of Justice (DOJ) has acknowledged some members of the media received copies of texts between two FBI agents before members of Congress did, but the disclosures "were not authorized."


"In the statement to Politico, DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said key members of the House Judiciary Committee were given copies of the texts between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page ahead of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's public testimony on Wednesday, Business Insider reports."


"Some messages between Strzok and Page expressed support for Hillary Clinton and disdain toward then-presidential candiate Donald Trump during the 2016 election."


What Jerry Brown must get done before he retires to that ranch up in Colusa County


Sacramento Bee's EDITORIAL BOARD: "As Gov. Jerry Brown completes a remarkable 15th year in California’s highest office, his standing has never been higher, nationally and internationally."


"Deservedly so. With the White House having abdicated any pretense of leadership on the existential threat of global warming, California’s serious and informed governor has stepped up as America’s blunt voice of reason."


"He took center stage at the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Paris climate change accord among world leaders, and last Sunday, his influence was the subject of the lead segment on “60 Minutes.” The glowing profile would have been pure gold for an ambitious politician striving for higher office. At 79, Brown appears to be interested in a deeper legacy."


READ MORE related to Gubernatorial: California must elect 12k people to end corruption, John Cox, Republican gubernatorial candidate says -- Sacramento Bee's CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO


Eighth planet found in faraway solar system, matching ours


AP: "A record-tying eighth planet has been found in a faraway solar system, matching our own in number."


"Even more amazing, machines and not humans made the discovery. NASA joined with Google on Thursday to announce the finding."


"This eighth planet orbits the star known as Kepler-90. Like Earth, this new planet, Kepler-90i, is the third rock from its sun. But it’s much closer to its sun — orbiting in just 14 days — and therefore a scorching 800 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface. In fact, all eight planets are scrunched up around this star, orbiting closer than Earth does to our sun."


Senate Republicans try to placate Rubio after he threatens to oppose tax bill over child credit


WaPo's JEFF STEIN/ERIC WERNER/DAMIAN PALETTA: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) threatened Thursday to vote against Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax overhaul unless it further expands a child tax credit to millions of working families, leaving GOP leaders searching for answers on a final deal that had appeared to be on the verge of sailing through the House and Senate."


"Rubio, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), wants Republican leaders to include the expansion as they reconcile separate tax measures passed by the House and Senate, working to craft a final compromise bill that could pass both chambers and be sent President Trump for his signature."


"GOP leaders had said Wednesday they believed that they had reached a broad agreement that both chambers could pass, and they planned to unveil the package Friday morning with hopes of voting on it early next week. But opposition from Rubio and perhaps Lee — who has not yet decided whether to support the bill, a spokesman said Thursday — could delay or derail the tax effort."


READ MORE related to Death & Taxes: Tax reform gets in the way of Pence's Jerusalem victory lap -- Politico's MATTHEW NUSSBAUM/SEUNG MIN KIM; Tweaks to tax plan would help some Californians as bill heads for a vote -- The Chronicle's CAROLYN LOCHHEAD; Blumenthal: GOP tax bill 'threatens our national defense' -- Washington Free Beacon's DAVID RUTZ


Video shows one of Trump's judicial nominees struggling to answer basic legal questions during a Senate committee hearing


Business Insider's BRYAN LOGAN: "One of President Donald Trump's nominees to serve as a US district judge struggled to answer basic legal questions during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which a top Republican senator inquired about his qualifications."


"Matthew Spencer Petersen was part of a panel of nominees being interviewed on Wednesday. In one clip, the Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana asked the panel members to raise their hands to answer the question, "Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?"


"Petersen appeared to be the only person to raise his hand."


Farenthold won't seek reelection, amid allegations of sexual harassment


WaPo's ELISE VIEBECK/MIKE DEBONIS: "A congressman under scrutiny for allegations that he sexually harassed female staff members and created a hostile work environment announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection next year."


"Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), who settled a complaint with his former communications director but denied wrongdoing in the case, plans to serve out the rest of his term but will not seek reelection in 2018, he announced Thursday in a video posted to Facebook. His decision makes him the sixth lawmaker to fall over allegations of misconduct as Congress grapples with how to address what some aides have described as a culture of inappropriate behavior on Capitol Hill."


"Farenthold, who represents the 27th Congressional District along the Texas Gulf Coast, including Corpus Christi, apologized Thursday in the five-minute video."


READ MORE related to #MeToo/Boy's Club: House office silently helps members resolve harassment claims -- Politico's MAGGIE SEVERNS/MARIANNE LEVINE; Dustin Hoffman accused of new incidents of sexual misconduct -- AP


Audit finds inconsistencies in how Sacramento County handles concealed carry permits


Sacramento Bee's NASHELLY CHAVEZ: "None of the three California county sheriff’s offices audited by the state, including the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, consistently followed their own department polices when issuing concealed carry weapon permits, the California State Auditor’s Office found."


"The audit, which was made public Thursday, highlighted inconsistencies in the processing of concealed carry permits by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, which under Sheriff Scott Jones has dramatically stepped up the number of permits it grants. The audit also said the department lacks formal procedures for staff who review applications."


"The auditor also said the Sacramento sheriff’s office should add more training for employees and should charge more for the permits. The current $100 fee has fallen short of covering the program’s costs by $160,000 to $275,000 annually since the fiscal year 2014-15, the auditor found."


You're paying for America's smoothest roads. Can you tell?


Sacramento Bee's ADAM ASHTON: "Every time you pay more at California’s gas pumps to fill your tank, you’re feeling the price to fix the state’s roads."


"But are you feeling the improvement?"


READ MORE related to Transportation: California's drivers are 'firmly the worst,' survey says. Sacramento is no exception. -- Sacramento Bee's NOEL HARRIS


Sacramento-based auto dealers group settles lawsuit with car-buying site


Sacramento Bee's MARK GLOVER: "The California New Car Dealers Association and a popular Southern California car-buying site have announced that they have settled long-standing litigation."


"The CNCDA, which is based in Sacramento and represents more than 1,100 dealers, originally filed a lawsuit against Santa Monica-based TrueCar Inc. in May 2015, contending that the latter’s automotive pricing and information website violated state law. TrueCar charges fees to participating dealers who offer cars for sale through its website."


"CNCDA also contended that TrueCar was violating California Vehicle Code sections requiring vehicle dealers and brokers to be licensed, and that TrueCar had produced false and misleading advertising, and engaged in unfair competition. The CNCDA alleged that TrueCar’s advertised claims of “no surprise or hidden fees” were false, because TrueCar received a fee on each sale made through its website."


READ MORE related to Economy: NYC woman charged with laundering money through cryptocurrencies to ISIS -- Washington Free Beacon's KATELYN CARALLE


He told them they could become citizens by getting adopted. Now he's going to jail


Sacramento Bee's STEPHEN MAGAGNINI: "Helaman Hansen, a charismatic Elk Grove businessman who defrauded 471 undocumented immigrants out of their savings by promising them they could be adopted into citizenship, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison Thursday."


"He has hurt so many people, and even today he still believes he’s done what he could for these people,” said U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. “He really doesn’t get it. I believe the victims caught up in this scheme were very vulnerable and were trying their best to become citizens. As one victim said today, they were duped."


"England ordered Hansen to pay $576,264 in restitution to his victims. But after the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorneys André M. Espinosa and Katherine T. Lydon told about half a dozen victims who had come to the sentencing that Hansen doesn’t have the money to pay the judgment."


UC Davis sets another record for freshman applicants with nearly 10 percent jump


Sacramento Bee's ELLEN GARRISON: "As UC Davis looks to increase its undergraduate enrollment, students continue to apply in record numbers."


"Freshman applications to UC Davis jumped by nearly 10 percent this year to 77,727 students, the UC system announced Thursday. Combined with transfer applicants, a record 95,207 applied to enroll next school year at Davis."


"Admissions staff sent more counselors this spring to schools with large numbers of students who would become the first in their families to go to college, said Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions Ebony Lewis."


READ MORE related to Education: Grand jury report due on fraternity culture at Penn State -- AP; OP-ED: Wanted: A statewide database for higher education -- Capitol Weekly's STEVEN KOBLIK; California's public colleges and universities face massive construction costs -- EdSource's MIKHAIL ZINSHTEYN


Oh, that deadline? Doesn't apply to California


California Healthline's ANA B. IBARRA: "Don’t be fooled, Californians."


"Despite what you may be seeing or hearing about a Dec. 15 enrollment deadline, you still have more than six weeks to choose or switch your Affordable Care Act health plans."


"It’s true that Americans who live in the 39 states that rely on the federal health insurance marketplace,, face a final deadline Friday to sign up for plans."


Van Nuys heroin and cocaine 'delivery service' brought drugs door-to-door, feds allege


Daily News City News Service: "Seven people were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of operating a drug distribution ring that operated out of Van Nuys and used a fleet of cars and a staff of drivers to make instant deliveries of heroin and cocaine."


"The arrests follow the filing of indictments Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court that describe “Manny’s Delivery Service” as a telephone order dope-delivery ring."


"While the service sold small quantities to telephone customers, conspirators sold larger quantities as part of a high-volume drug ring, prosecutors allege."


What to do about China's "sharp power"


The Economist: "WHEN a rising power challenges an incumbent one, war often follows. That prospect, known as the Thucydides trap after the Greek historian who first described it, looms over relations between China and the West, particularly America. So, increasingly, does a more insidious confrontation. Even if China does not seek to conquer foreign lands, many people fear that it seeks to conquer foreign minds."


"Australia was the first to raise a red flag about China’s tactics. On December 5th allegations that China has been interfering in Australian politics, universities and publishing led the government to propose new laws to tackle “unprecedented and increasingly sophisticated” foreign efforts to influence lawmakers (see article). This week an Australian senator resigned over accusations that, as an opposition spokesman, he took money from China and argued its corner. Britain, Canada and New Zealand are also beginning to raise the alarm. On December 10th Germany accused China of trying to groom politicians and bureaucrats. And on December 13th Congress held hearings on China’s growing influence."


"This behaviour has a name—“sharp power”, coined by the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington-based think-tank. “Soft power” harnesses the allure of culture and values to add to a country’s strength; sharp power helps authoritarian regimes coerce and manipulate opinion abroad."


READ MORE related to International: 10 killed as police clash with illegal miners in Nigeria -- APPrince Harry, Meghan Markle to marry May 19 on FA Cup day -- AP


The Roundup is compiled by Associate Editor Geoff Howard. Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email him at


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