Trump moves to weaken water protections
From the AP's ELLEN KNICKMEYER: "The Trump administration on Thursday ended federal protection for many of the nation’s millions of miles of streams, arroyos and wetlands, a sweeping environmental rollback that could leave the waterways more vulnerable to pollution from development, industry and farms."
"The policy change, signed by heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, narrows the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the half-century-old Clean Water Act."
"The rollbacks are not expected to have a major impact in California, however. California has its own tough state laws to protect wetlands, streams and water quality, which date back to 1969."
90,000-gallon tank of wine at Rodney Strong Vineyards leaks into Russian River
The Chronicle's ESTHER MOBLEY: "A 90,000-gallon tank holding Rodney Strong Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon suffered a leak, allowing some of the wine to make its way into the Russian River, officials said Thursday."
"The Healdsburg winery sits about 40 feet away from a creek that leads into the Russian River. Some of the wine spilled directly into the creek, while some went into storm drains that feed into a pond, said Chris O’Gorman, a Rodney Strong spokesman."
"Authorities were still determining the extent of the leak and its possible effect on water quality, but O’Gorman said winery employees captured at least half of the tank’s contents. He estimated that less than 45,000 gallons of wine escaped."
Oklahoma retaliates against California with a ban of its own on state-funded travel
Sac Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "Oklahoma became the first state to strike back at California’s bans on state-funded travel on Thursday, when the state’s governor announced a retaliatory ban on travel here."
"California has banned state-funded travel to 11 states that it considers to have laws discriminating against gay and transgender people."
"Oklahoma was added to the list in 2018 after it put in place a policy to allow private foster and adoption agencies to deny placing children with certain families based on religious or moral grounds. The City of San Francisco put in place its own ban on travel to Oklahoma this fall."
Sexual harassment claims now tracked across California state government for the first time
Sac Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "All California state departments are now required to log every claim of sexual harassment and discrimination into a new centralized system overseen by the California Department of Human Resources."
"The $1.5 million tracking system, launched by former Gov. Jerry Brown, went live Jan. 1, according to CalHR spokesman Andrew LaMar."
"Brown proposed the tracker in his 2018 budget, following an investigation by The Sacramento Bee that identified $25 million California state government sexual harassment lawsuits over a three-year-period, and that show alleged offenders had retained their jobs after repeated complaints."
Plane that flew over California wildfires crashes in Australia, killing three Americans
Sac Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "A plane that was used to fight fires in California crashed yesterday in Australia, killing three Americans, according to announcements from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the company that owned the plane."
"The identities of the three people haven’t been released. The three crew members were from Montana, Florida and Arizona, Coulson Aviation, the owner of the plane, said Thursday."
"The crash is under investigation in Australia, according to a news release. Coulson also sent a team to assist in emergency operations, according to its news release."
READ MORE related to Firefighter Deaths: 3 US firefighters killed in Australia air crash amid bush fires are identified -- LA Times's JOSEPH SERNA/LOUIS SAHAGUN
David Chiu, former Kamala Harris backer, endorses Elizabeth Warren
The Chronicle's JOE GAROFOLI: "San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu and two members of the city’s Board of Supervisors endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren for president Thursday."
"Chiu joined San Francisco state Sen. Scott Wiener in backing Warren after previously supporting California Sen. Kamala Harris for the Democratic presidential nomination. Chiu’s endorsement came the same day Mayor London Breed, who also supported Harris until she ended her campaign last month, endorsed former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg."
"Chiu said he is backing Warren because the Massachusetts senator “reflects the shared progressive values of San Francisco. She understands the issues that we are facing” — especially the lack of affordable housing — “and is offering ideas that are both bold and inclusive."
Require homeless housing? Steinberg makes DC pitch
Sac Bee's DAVID LIGHTMAN: "Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg Thursday brought his bid to make housing the homeless a government mandate to Washington, D.C. Thursday, explaining how funding the massive effort would work without offering a specific price tag."
"Steinberg spoke at a forum of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where mayors from around the country, including Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti, offered their own solutions."
"Most of their ideas were in the same spirit as Steinberg’s, though none had as specific or as comprehensive a plan."
READ MORE related to Housing: 'Right to housing' bill dies mysteriously in California Capitol. What happened? -- Sac Bee's HANNAH WILEY; Is some housing better than none? SF project wins key OK after arguing for break on city's demands -- The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA
Number of new enrollees at Covered California surges past total from 2019 open enrollment
Sac Bee's CATHIE ANDERSON: "Covered California reported Thursday that the number of new enrollees has surged to 318,000, surpassing the total number from last year, as open enrollment nears its close on Jan. 31."
"Still, leaders of the state-based insurance marketplace say a survey shows that many Californians are unaware that a new state law mandates that everyone have health care coverage."
"Thousands are signing up every day, and we’re not done yet,” said Peter V. Lee, Covered California executive director. “Californians have until midnight on January 31 to sign up and not only avoid paying a penalty to the Franchise Tax Board but – for almost a million Californians – get new help from the state to lower their health care costs."
Lawsuit seeks billions in damages, halt to development on Treasure Island
The Chronicle's JASON FAGONE/CYNTHIA DIZIKES/MICHAEL CABANATUAN: "Dozens of current and former Treasure Island residents filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday saying that authorities lied for years about the extent of contamination there, exposing the residents and their families to radioactive substances and toxic chemicals."
"Untrue and misleading statements” about the island by government agencies and private firms created a false picture of safety, according to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court. The plaintiffs have “suffered serious emotional distress from a fear that they will develop cancer."
"The complaint seeks $2 billion in damages from several defendants, including the city development authority on Treasure Island; representatives of the U.S. Navy, which polluted the island while running it as a naval base decades ago and is now responsible for cleaning it up; the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which oversees the cleanup; the San Francisco health department; the Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (now called One Treasure Island); developers Lennar and FivePoint Holdings LLC; and the John Stewart Co., which manages leases."
Death penalty sought against accused Tara O'Sullivan-homicide suspect
Sac Bee's SAM STANTON: "Prosecutors announced Thursday that they intend to seek the death penalty for Adel Sambrano Ramos, the man accused of ambushing and killing Sacramento police Officer Tara O’Sullivan last June in a north Sacramento neighborhood."
"The announcement came in a hearing in Sacramento Superior Court Thursday afternoon where Deputy District Attorney Jeff Hightower revealed prosecutors had tacked on numerous additional counts charging Ramos with the attempted murder of seven other law enforcement officers and weapons violations."
"Ramos, 46, now faces a total of 13 felony counts as well as special circumstances making him eligible for the death penalty. Hightower filed a one-sentence notice with the court Thursday that prosecutors will seek that punishment despite California’s moratorium on executions."
READ MORE related to Prisons & Public Safety: SF cops spending thousands of hours on hospital watch instead of out on streets -- The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA
Slim hope for monarch butterflies: Population holds steady this season
The Chronicle's PETER FIMRITE: "The feared fatal decline of western monarch butterflies in California paused at the precipice this winter, when almost the same number as last year showed up along the coast, giving biologists a granule of hope that the colorful insects can be saved."
"The striking orange-and-black butterflies have declined more than 99% since the 1980s along the Pacific Coast, where an estimated 10 million monarchs once blanketed trees from Marin County to Baja California."
"Only 29,418 clustering monarchs were counted in the trees along the coast around Thanksgiving, when the winter population is believed to be at its peak. That’s 2,200 more than during the winter of 2018-19, but volunteers surveyed more sites this year, so the numbers are considered statistically identical. The count last year was an all-time low and 86% below 2017-18."
LA Mayor Garcetti foresees progress on homelessness via talks with HUD Secretary Ben Carson
LA Times's NOAH BIERMAN/BENJAMIN ORESKES: "Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that he hopes to reach a preliminary agreement with the Trump administration on a joint plan to help combat the city’s swelling homelessness crisis when he meets with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson on Friday."
"Garcetti said a final deal was still days or weeks away but expressed optimism that the two sides were making progress toward an agreement to provide federal resources, including land, to augment local efforts to erect more shelter space for people living on the streets."
"I hope we’ll get very close,” Garcetti said on the sidelines of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting in Washington."
23andMe lays off 14% of workforce amid slowdown in DNA testing market
The Chronicle's CATHERINE HO: "23andMe, the Sunnyvale company that popularized direct-to-consumer DNA test kits, has laid off 100 employees — roughly 14% of its workforce — the company said Thursday."
"The layoffs, reported first by CNBC, were concentrated in the division of the company that deals with consumer kits and did not affect the therapeutic division, which conducts research for drug development, said spokesman Andy Kill."
"He declined to say how much the company is saving by conducting the layoffs or whether workers received severance packages."
Some see an end to caravans as Mexican guardsmen stop migrants
AP: "From the roadside stand where his family sells mole, barbecue and chicken stew, Miguel Ángel Vázquez has seen all the caravans of Central American migrants and asylum seekers stream past his front door in recent years, throngs of people driven to flee poverty and violence in hopes of a better life in the United States."
"After watching armored National Guard troops and immigration agents break up the latest one right on his doorstep, loading men, women and wailing children onto buses and hauling them off to a detention center in the nearby city of Tapachula, he’s sure of one thing."
"I can see that these caravans are no longer going to pass,” said Vázquez, 56."
Feinstein returns to Trump impeachment trial after early exit Wednesday
The Chronicle's DUSTIN GARDINER: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to the Senate floor Thursday for the fourth day of President Trump’s impeachment trial after leaving early the night before due to illness."
"Feinstein walked into the chamber a few minutes late, after the opening prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. She coughed and quickly exited for the Senate cloakroom, returning moments later as she stuffed tissues into her pocket."
"On Wednesday, the California Democrat left the trial about an hour early as House impeachment managers made their opening arguments. A spokesman said she felt “under the weather."
House prosecutors tackle Biden claims in effort to preempt White House narrative
LA Times's SARAH D WIRE/CHRIS MEGERIAN: "House prosecutors spent much of the second day of their opening presentation in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump trying to preempt what they expect the White House defense team to argue beginning Saturday."
"In another nine-hour-plus session, the seven House managers focused on why abuse of power, one of the impeachment articles the House passed against Trump in December, doesn’t have to be a crime recognized under the law."
"And they addressed head-on the topic of former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden, by asserting that there’s no evidence they acted inappropriately in Ukraine — an effort to show that Trump had no credible basis for asking the Eastern European country to investigate the two men."
His role ceremonial so far, Roberts' views could still impact impeachment trial
The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "As Chief Justice John Roberts presides over President Trump’s impeachment trial and listens as Democrats argue for access to witnesses and evidence, he might be reminded of something he wrote as a law student more than 40 years ago."
"As managing editor of the Harvard Law Review in 1978, Roberts took issue with a recent Supreme Court decision denying a request by San Francisco public television station KQED for access to Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. The court ruled that access to the jail, and to sites or information controlled by the government, is not protected by the First Amendment."
"The ruling “should not be considered as standing for the proposition that there is no First Amendment right of public access to government-controlled institutions,” Roberts wrote. He said constitutional standards could be defined for “limiting the right of access within workable bounds” in such cases."
Fear spreads throughout China as officials take unprecedented measure to stop coronavirus
LA Times's CINDY CHANG/MAX LU/MELISSA ETEHAD: "As Chinese officials take unprecedented measures to contain the spread of a new respiratory virus of unknown potency, 33 million people at the epicenter of the outbreak are under lockdown and Lunar New Year celebrations around the country have been canceled."
"Despite the health crisis, millions of people have traveled to their hometowns or abroad for the holiday and will eventually return to urban areas, heightening concerns that the coronavirus, which has killed 25 people and radiated a sense of unease around the world, will take root beyond the central Chinese province of Hubei."
"In Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, a city of 11 million where the outbreak appears to have originated at a seafood and wildlife market, all air, train and bus transportation ground to a halt, with nine surrounding cities under similar lockdowns. Surgical masks were mandatory when venturing into public, but supplies were running out, trapping people in their homes."