FCC chair Ajit Pai nears big win with Net Neutrality repeal
NYT's CECILIA KANG: "Small tech companies, consumer groups and many celebrities have been up in arms for weeks about a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission to dismantle landmark rules that guarantee an open internet."
"But in one speech, Ajit Pai, the chairman of the agency, called the complaints “hysteria” and “hot air.” In another, he dismissed criticism that by pushing the change, he was doing the bidding for companies like Verizon, his former employer. He joked that his nightmare scenario would be refereeing a dispute between Verizon and Sinclair Broadcasting, another company he has been accused of helping with his policies."
"How do you choose,” he said, “between a longtime love and a newfound crush?"
State auditor rebukes Sacramento sheriff for releasing audit details before publication
Sacramento Bee's NASHELLY CHAVEZ: "Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones has landed in a dispute with the State Auditor’s Office after he released information this week about an unpublished audit examining his office’s concealed weapons permit process."
"In a move rarely seen before a state audit release, Jones on Monday distributed a statement outlining points he felt reflected well on his office and attached a copy of his response to the audit findings. The sheriff, a Republican, used his response in part to suggest the audit was spurred by the political motivations of Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento."
"In a letter sent Tuesday to Jones, State Auditor Elaine Howle alleged that Jones broke state law with the early release of audit information. She said her office repeatedly informed Sheriff’s Department staff that releasing details about the audit before its publication was unlawful and asked his staff to “refrain from discussing our work with any person."
Feinstein asks ICE to investigate alleged abuses at Richmond jail
The Chronicle's NANETTE ASIMOV: "U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is asking the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to investigate the West Contra Costa County jail in Richmond where multiple federal detainees have complained that they’re not allowed to use the restrooms."
"It has been reported that the conditions are so deplorable that detainees are requesting deportation over pursuing claims in immigration court,” Feinstein wrote to Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, on Dec. 5."
"The agency oversees the West County Detention Facility, a minimum-security jail where more than 200 immigrants, about 40 of them women, have been detained by ICE. The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department runs the jail and holds a $6 million-a-year contract with ICE."
If California wants to go all in on universal health care, Vermont's former governor is here to help
Sacramento Bee's ANGELA HART: "As Republicans in Congress continue their efforts to undo Obamacare, California is going in the opposite direction."
"State lawmakers are exploring how – and when – to expand coverage to all Californians, while also reining in soaring health care costs that make the U.S. the most expensive in the world for medical care."
"The best option for California is to create the nation’s first universal, taxpayer-financed health care system that gets rid of the need for private insurance companies, some Democrats said this week after hearing from a blue state governor who tried to create such a system, known as single-payer health care."
GOP leaders reach tax deal, cutting corporate rate to 21% and top individual rate to 37%
LA Times' LISA MASCARO: "Republican leaders on Wednesday agreed on a revised plan to cut taxes that would lower the corporate rate from 35% to 21% and drop the top individual rate for the richest Americans to 37%, according to GOP senators and others briefed on the deal."
"The tentative accord marked a significant step in the Republican push to have a tax bill on President Trump’s desk by Christmas. Leaders did not release details of the compromise or the text of a final bill as negotiations continued."
"“It’s critically important for Congress to quickly pass these historic tax cuts,” Trump said Wednesday, promising that Americans could begin to reap the benefits of the plan as early as February, if passed."
Alabama results remake 2018 election playbook for both parties
WaPo's MICHAEL SCHERER/ROBERT COSTA/JOSH DAWSEY: "Alabama’s surprising election outcome upended the expectations in both parties for next year’s midterm campaigns, with Democrats emboldened by signs of a resurgent voter base and Republicans sensing new vulnerabilities."
"The victory Tuesday by Democrat Doug Jones to represent that heavily conservative state in the Senate was the latest example in a string of elections this year that Democratic leaders think represent a growing backlash against President Trump — and a potential building wave for 2018."
"People know that this is a political earthquake,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is running the Democrats’ 2018 Senate campaign efforts. “And what this does is provide a real shot in the arm for Democrats across the country."
READ MOORE: The best reactions to Roy Moore losing -- The Cut's GABRIELLA PAIELLA; In Alabama and across the country, pride swells as black female voters show they matter -- LA Times' MICHAEL FINNEGAN; What the Alabama Senate upset means for SoCal elections -- Daily News' KEVIN MODESTI/JEFF HORSEMAN/MARTIN WISCKOL; GOP's not all that sad; party grapples with Alabama fallout -- AP
'This fire is a beast': Massive inferno keeps growing despite all-out battle
LA Times' JOSEPH SERNA/JAVIER PANZAR/MATT HAMILTON: "More than a week after the Thomas fire ignited in Ventura County, destroying hundreds of homes and displacing thousands as it grew into a massive inferno, firefighters are now in a race to protect the pristine coastal communities of neighboring Santa Barbara County before a shift in powerful winds forecast for this weekend."
"Across the mountain ridges above Santa Barbara, Summerland and Montecito, firefighters Wednesday were building containment lines, clearing brush, digging breaks and setting small backfires to burn fuel, all in an effort to create barriers to stop the forward march of the fire."
READ MORE related to The West is Burning: Bel-Air fire is a parable for LA's extremes of wealth and misery. It should also be a call to action -- LA Times' STEVE LOPEZ; Witnesses saw snapped, sparking power line at start of destructive LA wildfire -- LA Times' BRITTNY MEJIA/PAIGE ST. JOHN; What is Congress doing to help California wildfire victims -- Daily News' JEFF HORSEMAN; As Skirball fire containment increases to 93 percent, LAFD is developing a plan to address homeless encampments -- Daily News' WES WOODS; Massive California inferno keeps growing despite all-out battle -- LA Times' JOSEPH SERNA/JAVIER PANZAR/MATT HAMILTON
Gov. Jerry Brown warns climate change has us 'on the road to hell.' California's wildfires show he's on to something
LA Times' GEORGE SKELTON: "When he’s lecturing about climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown sounds like a street-corner preacher shouting: “Repent. Change your ways. The end is near.”
"I envision him in a sackcloth robe, arms flailing and chanting at the wind."
"But it’s nearly Christmas and wicked wildfires are devastating California beauty. So Brown is obviously on to something."
READ MORE related to Environment:
Man charged in Charlottesville car attack due in court
AP: "A young man accused of ramming a car into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, faces a court hearing Thursday on charges including second-degree murder."
"James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old from Maumee, Ohio, described as having a keen interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, also faces charges including malicious wounding and felonious assault in the crash Aug. 12 that killed one woman and injured dozens of others. It came during a weekend of clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters that rocked the college town and renewed the national debate over what to do with symbols of the Confederacy."
"Charlottesville became a target for white nationalists after its city council voted to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a downtown park. The rally by a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists was the largest gathering of such groups in a decade."
Doubting the intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russian threat unchecked
WaPo's GREG MILLER/GREG JAFFE/PHILIP RUCKER: "In the final days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, members of his inner circle pleaded with him to acknowledge publicly what U.S. intelligence agencies had already concluded — that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was real."
"Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers — including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and designated chief of staff, Reince Priebus — prodded the president-elect to accept the findings that the nation’s spy chiefs had personally presented to him on Jan. 6."
"They sought to convince Trump that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win, according to three officials involved in the sessions. More important, they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin."
Wary of Trump, some foreign-born tech workers are choosing Canada instead of Silicon Valley
LA Times' TRACEY LIEN: "Petra Axolotl knew her chances of getting an H-1B visa were slim. She had an MBA from Wharton and a job offer at Twitter, but luck would decide the Dutch data scientist’s fate — and in 2016, it did not fall in her favor."
"Axolotl missed out in the lottery for the coveted visa but remained determined to work in Silicon Valley, a place she considered the global capital of tech innovation. The plan was to reapply in 2017."
"Then Donald Trump became president, and she found herself preparing to move somewhere else entirely: Canada."
Despite progress, acting SF Mayor London Breed inherits homelessness problem
The Chronicle's KEVIN FAGAN: "For all the continued anguish over needles, filth, begging and camping in the streets of San Francisco, there is one thing virtually every homeless-policy leader in the nation agrees upon: The late Mayor Ed Lee pushed hard, and he made progress on fixing the problem."
"But not enough, say many of those who live or walk alongside the sprawling tent cities in the Mission, the Tenderloin and every other major camping spot."
"Still, a look at the novel programs Lee created and the thousands of homeless people his efforts housed shows that he definitely made headway on the issue. And if the plans he put into motion work as predicted, the street problem may not be solved — but it will get better."
READ MORE related to SF Mayoral Crisis/Ed Lee's Legacy: SF supes OK one of Ed Lee's last requests: fast-tracking homeless shelters -- The Chronicle's RACHEL SWAN
'I cannot handle it any longer': Suicide suspected by Ky. lawmaker accused of molestation
WaPo's MARWA ELTAGOURI: "Kentucky lawmaker Dan Johnson was found dead Wednesday, just two days after allegations surfaced that he had molested a member of his church when she was 17, an official said."
"Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings said Johnson —a Republican state representative and self-proclaimed “Pope” of his Louisville church — most likely killed himself. His body was found near a bridge on Greenwell Ford Road in Mount Washington, in a spot called the River Bottoms, with a single gunshot wound to his head."
"Officials discovered Johnson’s body after they were made aware of a concerning Facebook statement and tracked the besieged lawmaker’s phone to his location, Billings said."
READ MORE related to #MeToo/Boy's Club: Five more women accuse Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct across three decades -- LA Times' DANIEL MILLER/AMY KAUFMAN/VICTORIA KIM; Allison Janney, Laurie Metcalf and others share their thoughts on sexual misconduct, controversial films and the female gaze -- LA Times' ELENA HOWE; State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, known for his hugs, accused of going too far -- Daily News' KEVIN MODESTI; 'It was like dirty dancing': Colleagues say Sen. Bob Hertzberg hugged them inappropriately -- Sacramento Bee's ALEXEI KOSEFF/TARYN LUNA
Pharmacy costs continue to soar for California's public employee health system
California Healthline's PAULINE BARTOLONE: "Spending on prescription drugs by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) continues to climb, putting pressure on administrators to deploy more cost-cutting measures at the nation’s largest public pension system."
"The agency’s health benefits committee will discuss the challenge of rising drug costs at its regular meeting on Tuesday, and it will convene a special panel in January to discuss ways to address the problem."
"CalPERS, which manages health care for 1.4 million active and retired public-sector workers, spent almost $2.2 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2016, an increase of 40 percent since 2011. The rise is being driven largely by the high price of specialty drugs, according to an analysis released by the agency this week."
Disney buys much of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox in deal that will reshape Hollywood
LA Times' MEG JAMES: "Walt Disney Co. has finalized a $52.4-billion deal to buy much of Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment empire, a blockbuster union that would radically transform Hollywood into a land of fewer giants."
"The stock deal, which Disney announced Thursday morning, represents Disney’s boldest acquisition yet. If regulators approve it, the Burbank behemoth would take over the prolific 20th Century Fox movie and television studio, Fox’s 22 regional sports channels, cable entertainment brands FX and National Geographic, and Fox’s portfolio of international operations, including a fast-growing pay-TV service in India."
"The proposed purchase of much of Murdoch’s 21 Century Fox media company accelerates the trend of media consolidation and would eliminate one of the six major Hollywood film studios. Murdoch would retain control of Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcast network and his newspapers."
READ MORE related to Economy: Disney buys much of Fox in megamerger that will shake world of entertainment and media -- WaPo's STEVEN ZEITCHIK
SF school board approves new contract with pay raises for teachers
The Chronicle's JILL TUCKER: "San Francisco teachers will get a raise and a one-time bonus under a new contract approved by the school board."
"The deal, approved Tuesday night, was hammered out last month by the district and the 6,200-member educators’ union, which has complained that salaries aren’t keeping up with the spiraling cost of living in the city."
"Teachers, as well as teacher’s aides, librarians, nurses and social workers, are to receive an 11 percent raise over the next three years, with another 2 percent increase if voters pass a proposed parcel tax next year."
READ MORE related to Education: Oakland school board OKs $9 million in cuts -- The Chronicle's SARAH RAVANI/JILL TUCKER
SFPD officer convicted of filing false document
The Chronicle's ANNIE MA: "A San Francisco police officer was found guilty of falsifying information on his Department of Motor Vehicles confidentiality forms, the district attorney said."
"A jury convicted 31-year-old Saqib Aslam of San Francisco on a felony charge of filing a false document. Aslam identified his two adult brothers as his children on a DMV form requesting home address confidentiality, on June 8, 2012, according to court records."
"The form allows police officers and their spouses and children to prevent their addresses from being publicly available, a benefit granted under California law."
READ MORE related to Public Safety: LAPD opens hate crime probe after vandals draw swastika on Jewish temple in Woodland Hills -- Daily News; Family of bipolar teen killed in 7-Eleven standoff with deputies files civil rights suit -- Sacramento Bee's SAM STANTON
Photos: Remembering Sandy Hook and its victims 5 years after the massacre
Daily News' MIRIAM VELASQUEZ: "On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School by a troubled 20-year-old gunman who shot his way into the Connecticut schoolhouse."
He was a renowned surgeon -- until a doctor found his initials burned on a patient's liver
WaPo's MARWA ELTAGOURI: "Patients often can't help but wonder what doctors and nurses are doing while they're sedated."
"Some suspect trash talking. Others are wary of racially charged comments."
"On Wednesday, a British surgeon gave patients something new to worry about: Getting their doctors' initials burned into their organs while they are unconscious."
The territories and states devastated by the recent spate of natural disasters are still in desperate need of aid. Here's how you can help.
The Roundup is compiled by Associate Editor Geoff Howard. Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org