The Roundup

Feb 14, 2020

Return of the drought


New data show nearly 10% of California is in moderate drought


LAT's PAUL DUGVINSKI: "The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows that 9.5% of California is considered to be in moderate drought. The abnormally dry area, which includes the drought area, has expanded from about 34% to 46%."


"The dry area on the new map has spread southward to include most of Los Angeles County, much of Kern and San Luis Obispo counties and all of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties."


"A large patch in the central part of the state is now in moderate drought. It stretches from Tuolumne and Mono counties south through Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties into north-central Kern County."


McClatchy files bankruptcy to shed costs of print legacy and speed shift to digital


Sac Bee's KEVIN G. HALL: "McClatchy Co. filed for bankruptcy Thursday, a move that will end family control of America’s second largest local news company and hand it to creditors who have expressed support for independent journalism."


"The Chapter 11 filing will allow McClatchy to restructure its debts and, it hopes, shed much of its pension obligations. Under a plan outlined in its filing to a federal bankruptcy court, about 55 percent of its debt would be eliminated as the news organization tries to reposition for a digital future."


"The likely new owners, if the court accepts the plan, would be led by hedge fund Chatham Asset Management LLC. They would operate McClatchy as a privately held company. More than 7 million shares of both publicly available and protected family-owned stock would be canceled."


McClatchy: newspaper publisher bankruptcy 'a loss for democracy', experts warn


 The Guardian's RICHARD LUSCOMBE: "To executives of McClatchy, Thursday’s bankruptcy of the second largest newspaper chain in the US is the fault of its pensioners, who outnumber current employees by a margin of 10 to one."


"To industry analysts of the troubled newspaper sector it was simple economics, the inevitable consequence of a company expanding its empire through accumulated debt at the same time its customer base was shrinking."


"Yet whatever the reasons for the failure of a company that publishes many of the biggest titles in American journalism, including the Miami Herald, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Charlotte Observer and its hometown Sacramento Bee, there is no doubting the cost: truth and knowledge in an era of rampant fake news and misinformation."


Jeff Bezos shatters California record with $165-million purchase of Geffen mansion


From the LAT's JACK FLEMING: "Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos just obliterated California’s home sale price record, paying $165 million for David Geffen’s famed Warner estate in Beverly Hills, according to real estate sources with knowledge of the deal. The mammoth sale was first reported by the Wall Street Journal."


" The purchase of the Warner estate is the most ever paid for a home in California, topping Lachlan Murdoch’s $150-million purchase late last year of Bel-Air’s “Beverly Hillbillies” mansion."


"Spanning nine acres, Bezos’ new showplace was originally designed in Spanish Colonial Revival style but was reimagined as a grand Georgian mansion in the 1930s by architect Roland Coate for movie mogul Jack Warner, according to the book “Master Architects of Southern California 1920–1940: Roland E. Coate.” Geffen had owned the home since 1990, when he paid $47.5 million for it in an all-cash deal, the Los Angeles Times previously reported."


California's voter reg law is changing just in time for election day


Sac Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "California voters can now make last-minute voter information changes without having to cast a provisional ballot, thanks to a bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom."


"The law, which goes into effect immediately, allows voters to change their party preference or residence of record on their voter registration within two weeks of Election Day without having to re-register to vote."


"Election day in California’s 2020 primary is March 3."


The phones of victims aboard Kobe Bryant helicopter may hold clues to crash


From the LAT's RICHARD WINTON: "With no black box recorder aboard the helicopter that crashed last month in Calabasas, killing Kobe Bryant and eight others, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are turning to the travelers’ personal electronics for potential answers."


"Investigators hope the passengers’ cellphones and the pilot’s iPad can help them better understand the chaotic last moments of the flight before the chopper slammed into a Calabasas hillside in foggy conditions."


"Experts have said the helicopter was flying low enough that the activities of the electronics were likely captured by cellphone towers."


Bay Area drug company's experimental coronavirus drug generates excitement


The Chronicle's CATHERINE HO: "As the new coronavirus continues to spread across the globe with no known cure, an experimental drug made by Foster City’s Gilead Sciences — in one of the highest-profile clinical trials under way for coronavirus patients — is generating excitement."


"The drug, an injectable antiviral called remdesivir, was given in late January to the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the United States, a 35-year-old man in Washington state, after he returned from Wuhan, China, and his symptoms worsened after a week in the hospital. His condition improved the next day."


"By Feb. 6, Gilead began enrolling patients in China’s Hubei province, believed to be where the virus originated. The company will examine the drug’s effects on 760 people, some with severe cases of coronavirus and some with mild to moderate symptoms. Results for both trials are expected in April, said Gilead spokeswoman Sonia Choi."


READ MORE related to Coronavirus: Cruise stranded by virus fears ends with roses in Cambodia -- LA Times


Appeals court upholds $5M award to SF deputy city attorney who was fired


The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "A state appeals court upheld $5 million in damages and attorneys’ fees Thursday to a former San Francisco deputy city attorney who was fired after investigating questionable city payments to plumbing companies."


"Joanne Hoeper, an 18-year veteran of the office who was then serving as chief trial deputy to City Attorney Dennis Herrera, was removed by Herrera in August 2012 after presenting the findings of her investigation. He transferred her to a temporary position at the district attorney’s office, and then dismissed her from that post in January 2014."


"Hoeper had been alerted in December 2011 to a pattern of rising payments by the city to sewer companies for alleged damage to sewer lines by the roots of city-owned trees. She said she determined that the tree roots were not actually harming the sewer lines, that city payments to the companies had soared from $142,000 a year to $4 million in a decade, and that two city attorney staffers had approved dubious payments."


Exonerated: How DNA helped free El Dorado man and find new cold-case murder suspect


Sac Bee's SAM STANTON/ROSALIA AHUMADA: "In a series of developments that El Dorado District Attorney Vern Pierson described Thursday as “surreal,” a judge freed a man convicted 15 years ago of murder and authorities announced the arrest of a different suspect in a 1985 slaying."


"The events began early Thursday in Superior Court in Placerville, where Ricky Davis, convicted of second-degree murder in the July 1985 slaying of Janet Hylton in El Dorado Hills, had his conviction tossed out with the blessing of prosecutors."


"Hours later, Pierson announced that the same DNA evidence used to exonerate Davis, 54, had led them to another suspect who was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Placer County Jail."


Nia Wilson murder trial: Killer tossed from court after profanity-laced testimony


The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "John Lee Cowell, the man who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity after stabbing 18-year-old Nia Wilson to death on a BART station platform in Oakland two summers ago, lasted roughly 15 minutes on the witness stand Thursday in his second day of testimony."


"Even before taking the stand, the 29-year-old Cowell was combative. He refused to enter the Alameda County courtroom for more than an hour until being ordered inside by Judge Allan Hymer."


"Prosecutor Butch Ford attempted to show Cowell video of the July 22, 2018, attack at BART’s MacArthur Station, which left Wilson and her sister, Letifah, suffering from stab wounds to the neck. Nia Wilson bled out on the platform and died."


Mexican citizen sentenced in case involving meth, heroin and guns


Sac Bee's MITCHEL BOBO: "A Mexican citizen who was living in Tehama County was sentenced Thursday for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, according to the United States Attorney’s Office in Sacramento."


"Miguel Alvarez Cervantes, who pleaded guilty last July, received a nine-year prison sentence of nine years, according to a news release from the office of McGregor W. Scott, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California. Court records indicate Cervantes, 55, and co-defendant Maria Cervantes-Echevarria had been under investigation since 2017 by federal agents who suspected them of trafficking methamphetamine in Shasta and Tehama counties."


"The U.S. Attorney’s Office said an undercover agent purchased more than three pounds of methamphetamine in three purchases between August and September of 2018."


READ MORE related to McClatchy: McClatchy family empire is ending. Legacy lasted from Gold Rush, to fortune, to bankruptcy -- Sac Bee's DALE KASLER

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