"San Mateo Rep. Tom Lantos
' decision to retire at the end of this year
as he battles cancer of the esophagus will bring an end to an unlikely political career that took him from a daring escape from Nazi-controlled Hungary to an economics professorship at San Francisco State University to the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee," writes Zachary Coile in the Chron.
"It also marks the start of a political race for a rare open seat in the Bay Area's congressional delegation. Former state Sen. Jackie Speier
and state Sen. Leland Yee
, who both represented the area in Sacramento, are already eyeing the race.
"Lantos, who turns 80 on Feb. 1, announced his retirement in a statement Wednesday. He received the diagnosis from his doctors the week before Congress recessed in December, but spent two weeks consulting with doctors, his wife, Annette, and other family members before making his decision, aides said."
While Iowa voters will head down to their local gymnasiums today to humiliate themselves in front of their neighbors -- a process otherwise known as the Iowa Caucus -- Californians will be voting as early as Monday
, reports CW's John Howard.
"California voters are likely to cast absentee ballots in the Feb. 5 presidential primary at an unprecedented level, with as many as 1 in every 2 voters mailing in their ballots
. Election officials will start mailing the ballots on Monday — nearly a month before Election Day — and the first votes will be tallied soon afterward. That means millions of Californians will have voted long before Feb. 5, and if the presidential candidates want to reach them, experts say, they need to get cracking long before the last week before the election. It also means that this year California will have the longest general election campaign in its history.
"The end game begins in five days.
"'It causes real strategic and mechanical problems in the campaigns. The idea that you can come to California and do something in the last week and make all roads lead to Rome is out the door,' said Democratic political strategist Garry South
. 'You have to be cognizant of the fact that voters are voting close to 30 days before the election. This changes the whole dynamic of the campaigns. The ballot for Feb. 5 goes out on Jan. 7, and that means before any of these candidates get to California with their end game, people are already voting
"California and 15 other states sued the Bush administration Wednesday
, seeking to overturn a federal decision last month rejecting the state's bid to curb greenhouse gases from cars and trucks," reports Margot Roosevelt in the Times.
"The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, marks a new round in an epic five-year struggle between California and the federal government over whether states have the power to regulate carbon dioxide and other pollutants that cause global warming.
"The controversy also spilled into Congress, as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Henry A. Waxman
(D-Beverly Hills) prepared to hold hearings on whether the White House and automakers influenced the Environmental Protection Agency's decision, which was required to be based on scientific and legal grounds.
"Sen. Dianne Feinstein
(D-Calif.), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the agency's funding, on Monday called on the EPA's inspector general to 'immediately open an investigation. . . . The thought has occurred that this was a political decision rather than an environmental decision and that cannot be countenanced.'
"Under the federal Clean Air Act, California is allowed to enact stricter air pollution laws than the federal government as long as the state is given a waiver from the EPA."
Meanwhile, a new Stanford study gives California officials more evidence in their fight against Washington. The Merc News's John Woolfolk reports: "Hundreds more people in the United States will die each year from air pollution as temperatures increase from carbon dioxide
, the greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, according to a new Stanford University study.
"The study by Mark Z. Jacobson
, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, is considered the first to directly link increased carbon dioxide, or CO, in the air to human deaths. It is expected to be published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
"'I think this is really important because it definitively in my mind shows the causal effect of CO on health,' Jacobson said.
"The study also shows that the deadly effects of carbon dioxide intensify in areas like many major California cities that already suffer from poor air quality.
"'Climate change impacts air pollution more where air pollution is already high," Jacobson said. 'It has huge implications. California bears the brunt of climate change in terms of air pollution health problems.
CW's Malcolm Maclachlan reports on a piece of health care reform that has already gone into effect
"The most significant piece of health care legislation Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger actually signed in 2007 may turn out to be one that passed largely unnoticed. AB1324 by Hector De La Torre
, D-South Gate, takes aim at one of the most controversial insurer practices: rescinding coverage after a customer has been paying premiums for months or years.
"The bill bars insurers from rescinding coverage on visits and procedures they had already authorized
. AB 1324 also states that carriers cannot rescind coverage if the insurer itself “did not make an accurate eligibility determination” — essentially, a patient cannot be held responsible for an insurer’s mistake. The bill went into effect on Jan. 1.
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opened a new office Wednesday to fight high-tech identity theft
-- a move activists said will help as firms fail to meet California's landmark consumer privacy laws," writes Steve Geissinger in the Merc News.
"The Schwarzenegger administration merged separate departments into the single California Office of Information Security and Privacy Protection, which officials said will be unique among states as it helps guide law enforcement, businesses, advocacy groups and consumers.
"Schwarzenegger, who signed legislation carrying out the merger, has convened two summits so far against identity theft, which experts say is escalating as the Internet opens up new opportunities for criminals."
"A new report card on child well-being gives California near-failing grades
for its rates of pediatric obesity and violence against children," writes Sara Steffens in the Contra Costa Times.
"One in three kids here are either overweight or obese, according to today's report by the Oakland-based advocacy group Children Now, and just 28 percent meet state standards for physical fitness.
"Meanwhile, the homicide rate for teenagers 15 to 19 jumped 20 percent in California between 2001 and 2004 — the most recent year for which data is available.
"Forty percent of the state's middle and high school students say their classmates sometimes bring weapons to school.
"Overall, the annual California Report Card largely mirrors the findings of the past 18 years, said Ted Lempert
, president of Children Now.
"'Unfortunately there aren't big changes,' Lempert said. 'Kids get a lot more lip service than actual support and focus.'"
And from our Homer Simpson Files
, A 265-pound man says a restaurant overcharged him for his trips to the buffet, then banned him and a relative because of how much they consumed during their visits
"Ricky Labit, a 6-foot-3 disabled offshore worker, said he had been a regular at the Manchuria Restaurant, eating there as often as three times a week. But on his most recent visit, he said a waitress gave him and his wife's cousin, Michael Borrelli, a bill for $46.40, roughly double the buffet price for two adults.
"She says, 'Y'all fat, and y'all eat too much,'" Labit said.