The lure of Las Vegas

Oct 27, 2016

If you've ever wondered what your public pension dollars are contributing to, you might want to take a trip to Las Vegas.


DALE KASLER with Sacramento Bee: "CalPERS is betting big on Las Vegas real estate, purchasing a glitzy retail and nightlife complex on the Strip where entertainers such as Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez regularly perform."


"California’s giant public pension fund recently bought Las Vegas’ high-profile Miracle Mile Shops for a reported $1.1 billion. It’s one of the largest real estate deals CalPERS has made since the property bubble burst nearly a decade ago."


"CalPERS purchased the 200-store mall, next to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, through a company called Institutional Mall Investors LLC. Institutional Mall, which owns 21 shopping centers, is a partnership between the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and Chicago-area real estate firm Miller Capital Advisory Inc."


The DoD has suspended the recall of entlistment bonuses erroneously issued to soldiers in California's National Guard.


REVATI THATTE and CHARLENE JIN with Daily Californian: "On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it will suspend the recall of enlistment bonuses erroneously issued to California National Guard soldiers after the policy prompted criticism from veterans statewide, including those attending UC Berkeley."


"The Pentagon has sought to recall payments made to nearly 10,000 soldiers, many of whom served in Afghanistan and Iraq, the LA Times reported Sunday. Most of these bonuses were made from 2006 to 2008 by California National Guard recruiters who were under pressure to expand enlistment during war time, according to the LA Times article."


"In 2010, several California National Guard officials pleaded guilty to making fraudulent payments to military recruits, the article said."


READ MORE related to DOD/Pentagon: Will the Defense Department fix the National Guard bonus repayment problem? California congressional reps are skeptical -- SARAH D. WIRE


Sunday's fatal bus crash is now putting federal and state protections for public transportation under the spotlight.


RALPH VARTABEDIAN with LAT: "The 43 people who headed out on a motor coach earlier this week to play slot machines at a Salton Sea casino likely had no idea they were betting their lives on what some consider an inadequate patchwork of federal and state protections."


"These low-cost bus services have seen explosive growth as more casinos opened around the nation. But some safety experts argue that regulations and safety oversight have not kept up."


"Even the most basic improvements are often slow in coming."


READ MORE related to TransportationDrivers frustrated by computer failures at California DMV -- DON THOMPSON and JONATHON J. COOPER with AP


The FPPC is investigating Assemblyman David Hadley.


AP: "California's political watchdog is taking a state lawmaker to court for failing to comply with an investigation into his re-election campaign."


"A Sacramento judge has ordered Assemblyman David Hadley to explain why he has not turned over all the communications requested by the Fair Political Practices Commission."


"The FPPC says the documents could help it determine whether the Torrance Republican's campaign illegally coordinated with an independent committee in the June primary."


Tom Steyer is officially the biggest fundraiser for Proposition 56


LIAM DILLON with L.A. Times: "Billionaire Tom Steyer is now the largest donor in the effort to raise the state's cigarette tax by $2 a pack."


"With a $3.5-million donation to the Yes on Proposition 56 campaign Tuesday, Steyer's total spending on the race has reached $11.3 million."


"That's more than a third of the $31 million the primary Yes on 56 committee has raised and more than all the money raised during a similar, but failed, effort to increase the tobacco tax four years ago."


READ MORE related to Ballot Measures: Why Gov. Jerry Brown is staking so much on Proposition 57 and prison sentences -- JOHN MYERS with L.A. Times; Watch: How California can learn from Colorado's marijuana laws -- STEVE DEMPSEY with East Bay Times; Harris widens lead; marijuana legalization, cigarette tax ahead in PPIC poll -- MARISA LAGOS with KQED; A new poll shows Californians remain ready to legalize the recreational use of pot -- PATRICK MCGREEVY with L.A. Times


And in California's U.S. Senate race, Kamala Harris is leaving her opponent in the wind


PHIL WILLON with LAT: "With ballots already being cast, State Atty. General Kamala Harris leads by a more than a two-to-one margin over her rival in California’s U.S. Senate race, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California."


"The survey showed that 42% of likely voters supported Harris, compared to 20% who favored her opponent, Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Among the remainder, 20% of voters were undecided and 18% said they will not vote for either candidate by election day on Nov. 8."


"The results are dramatically different that those in a PPIC released on Sept. 21, when Harris had just a 7-point lead over Sanchez."


READ MORE related to California Elections: Could Trump knock legislative Republicans down to superminority? -- BEN ADLER with Capitol Public Radio


'Death with dignity' laws established on the principle of avoiding suffering intractable pain--however, patients have not been utilizing death with dignity to reduce pain--they've been using it to control the course in which they die.


LIZ SZABO with California Healthline: "Supporters of “death with dignity” have succeeded in legalizing medical aid-in-dying in five states by convincing voters, lawmakers and courts that terminally ill patients have the right to die without suffering intractable pain in their final days or weeks."


"When Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s law in 2015, he said: “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain” and that it would be a “comfort to consider the options afforded by this bill."


"Yet the latest research shows that terminally ill patients who seek out aid-in-dying aren’t primarily concerned about pain. Those who’ve actually used these laws thus far have been far more concerned about controlling the way they exit the world than controlling pain."


READ MORE related to Health: How to enroll in Medicare and avoid costly mistakes -- JUDITH GRAHAM with California Healthline; Study offers young doctors strategies to deal with discrimination -- CARMEN HEREDIA RODRIGUEZ with California Healthline


Voter registration deadline has passed, but newly naturalized U.S. citizens are still allowed to register before the election.


SOPHIA BOLLAG with L.A. Times: "Alex De Leon, an immigrant from Guatemala, was among more than 400 people naturalized Wednesday at a ceremony a few blocks from the Capitol building in Sacramento. After the program concluded, he walked outside and filled out his voter registration papers at a booth staffed by Republican Party volunteers near the entrance."


"The voter registration deadline for most Californians was Monday. But people like De Leon who become naturalized citizens after the deadline are allowed to register and vote until polls close on election day if they provide documentation proving their citizenship."


"De Leon, who has lived in the U.S. for nearly two decades, said he became a citizen so he could vote in the presidential election."


Test scores released Wednesday show a dangerous trend for California students: abysmal proficiency in science courses.


SHARON NOGUCHI with East Bay Times: "California students no longer rank next-to-last on standardized science tests."


"That’s the good news. The bad news is that state fourth-graders rank third to last, and eighth graders fifth to last, just above Hawaii, Alabama, New Mexico and Mississippi."


"We may host the cradle of technology and young Golden State geniuses may clean up in prestigious science fairs sponsored by Intel, Synopsys and Google, but scores released Wednesday show that as a whole California students don’t know atoms from alleles."


A man who ambushed two police officers in Palm Springs faces the death penalty.


RICHARD WINTON and MATT HAMILTON with L.A. Times: "The man accused of killing two Palm Springs police officers during an ambush-style attack will face the death penalty, Riverside County Dist. Atty. Mike Hestrin announced Wednesday."


"John Felix, 26, faces two counts of murder with the special circumstances of multiple murders, murder of a police officer in the line of duty and lying in wait."


"Hestrin said he met with the families of the two slain police officers before publicly announcing his decision to seek capital punishment against Felix."


A candidate for Assembly in Santa Clarita Valley is facing sexual harassment allegations.


CHRISTINE MAI-DUC AND JAVIER PANZAR with L.A. Times: "Less than two weeks before the general election, allegations of sexual harassment emerged Tuesday against Republican Dante Acosta, a candidate for Assembly in the Santa Clarita Valley. The accusations in this previously little-noticed race threaten to touch the campaigns of two prominent Southern California Republicans with close ties to Acosta, one running for state Senate and the other for Congress."


"The claims first came to light when local blog published a partially redacted private email from a woman who said Acosta, Santa Clarita’s mayor pro tem, had “propositioned” her last year when they were both in Washington, D.C. The emails were sent by Jennifer Van Laar, a local political consultant who worked for a former opponent of Acosta’s."


"Until recently, Acosta, 53, worked in the district office for Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster). He has appeared on campaign mailers with Knight and Assemblyman Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), whom Acosta is running to replace as Wilk launches a bid for the area’s state Senate seat."


And in Beltway news, Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been smashed to bits with a hammer.


AP: "Los Angeles police are investigating a pre-dawn attack that destroyed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame less than two weeks before the election."


"The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which bestows the stars and maintains the popular tourist attraction, said it would quickly repair Trump's spot, but it would take several days before it would visible."


"Det. Meghan Aguilar said investigators were called to the scene Wednesday following reports that the presidential candidate's star was struck by blows from a hammer. A sledgehammer, construction hat and vest, and a pick were recovered nearby, Officer Sal Ramirez said."


READ MORE related to Beltway: Clinton took more conciliatory tone with health care industry in paid speeches -- EMILY KOPP with California HealthlineJustin Timberlake won't be prosecuted for voting booth selfie -- TONY HICKS with East Bay Times; California poll: Trump's numbers dropping into 'uncharted territory' -- MATTHEW ARTZ with East Bay Times; Clinton has nearly twice support of Trump in state poll -- MELODY GUTIERREZ with The Chronicle


A syntactical error has shaken our knowledge of the roots of the HIV crisis to the core.


TERESA WELSH with Sacramento Bee: "For years, the origin of the U.S. HIV epidemic centered around one person: A French-Canadian flight attendant named “Patient 0.” Gaetan Dugas was blamed for setting off the crisis which has since infected almost 2 million people."


"Only Patient 0 wasn’t actually Patient 0. He was actually Patient O."


"The difference between “zero” and the letter “O” was a reporting error that led to the false impression that prevailed for decades that Dugas was the source of infection in the U.S., a study published in Nature revealed. O stood for “out-of-California,” the state where the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was studying infections."


Sacramento is saving less water compared to a year ago --are laxer drought mandates to credit?


DALE KASLER with Sacramento Bee: "Sacramentans are still saving water, but their conservation efforts have slipped compared with a year ago, suggesting that the relaxation of statewide drought mandates is prompting more consumption."


"The Sacramento Regional Water Authority reported Wednesday that area residents reduced water consumption in September by 15 percent compared with the September 2013 baseline."


"A year ago, when stiff conservation rules were in effect, the savings rate hit 27 percent."


California is doling out nearly $200m in state grants to its high schools in an effort to better prepare students for college.


FERMIN LEAL with EdSource: "Nearly 1,000 school districts, county offices of education and charter schools across California will share $200 million in state grants as part of an effort to prepare more high school students for college, state officials announced Wednesday."


"Educators will use the money from the College Readiness Block Grant Program to pay for students’ Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate examination fees, expand counseling services, expand the number of college preparation courses and purchase instructional materials that support college readiness."


"The goal of the funding is to increase the number of students – especially English learners, low-income students and foster youth – who enroll in colleges and universities and complete an undergraduate degree in four years, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said."


A specialist shares information on how engineering firms help Californians make the most of their water supplies.


ELINE GORDTS with Water Deeply: "What will it take for California to not just get by during drought, but to really flourish? Erin Mackey, a drinking water and reuse process engineer at Brown and Caldwell, the largest engineering consulting firm focused on the U.S. environmental sector, believes it will take both a shift in how we think of water-use efficiency, as well as the development of a more diverse water supply. That’s why her work is focused on helping clients explore water resources so they can use them smartly and efficiently."


"Mackey admits these are challenging times for water professionals, but she is hopeful that a decade from now California will have made improvements.“I am confident we will get there,” she said."


"She recently spoke to Water Deeply about helping organizations think more holistically about the water cycle, and bringing together unlikely partners to develop effective projects."


READ MORE related to California Water Crisis: Six takes on six years of drought -- ALEX BREITLER with RecordNet; Sacramento River report adds to water concerns -- CHRISTINE SOUZA with AG Alert; Drought, wildfires steepen flood, mudslide risk -- KILEY RUSSELL with Bay City NewsFinal vote nears on Proposition 1 storage standards -- CHRISTINE SOUZA with AG Alert


And now for a page from our "Trump's Cabinet" file ...


Ever wonder what 15 cabinet members Donald might have in mind for his White House roster? Look no further than The Onion!

The Onion: "
If elected president, Donald Trump will have the opportunity to nominate up to 15 cabinet members, each advising him on executive departments. Here are the most rumored choices for Trump’s inner circle."


"Jeff Sessions"


"An early backer of Trump, the Alabama senator and former attorney has the ideal mix of leadership and legal know-how to dismantle the EPA."

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