High-speed rail might start with old-school diesel trains
The Chronicle's KURTIS ALEXANDER: "The cost of getting high-speed trains up and running in the Central Valley is expected to jump $1.8 billion, California rail officials said Wednesday, but they have a plan to weather that increase — and it may include starting service with slower diesel trains."
"A new report by the California High-Speed Rail Authority details how the state will build and pay for high-speed service between Bakersfield and Merced, now estimated to cost $20.4 billion. It’s the rail authority’s first plan for moving forward with the controversial train project since Gov. Gavin Newsom called for focusing the effort on a 165-mile Central Valley stretch."
READ MORE related to Transportation: On high-speed rail project, Newsom to scale back consultants but push ahead -- LA Times's RALPH VARTABEDIAN; Breed picks former Bay Area transportation czar to join SFMTA board -- The Chronicle's RACHEL SWAN
PG&E offers $105M in 'wildfire assistance.' Here's what it would be spent on
Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER: "Facing intense criticism over the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, PG&E on Wednesday offered to create a $105 million fund to help fire survivors with living expenses.
The proposal requires approval in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, citing the crushing weight of $30 billion in estimated liabilities from the fires."
"The fund would “provide some relief to the people who lost their homes and are currently in need of temporary housing or have other urgent needs,” the utility said in a court filing. The $105 million “wildfire assistance program” would be administered by an independent third party to be chosen in consultation with lawyers for PG&E’s creditors, the filing said."
READ MORE related to Energy & Environment: Sierra Nevada cabin where California measures snowpack -- Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER; Chevron, PG&E and the ACLU are spending big to influence California politicians. Here's why -- Sacramento Bee's SOPHIA BOLLAG; Unsafe drinking water puts 15,000 Californians at risk for cancer -- Sacramento Bee's HANNAH WILEY
Ghost Ship Trial: Defense attorney blames arsonists for deadly warehouse fire
The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "In the moments before the Ghost Ship warehouse burst into flames, a witness heard strange sounds coming from the building, and then saw seven people leave from a side door, defense attorney Tony Serra told jurors Wednesday."
"Serra’s opening statements on the second day of the jury trial mirrored co-counsel Curtis Briggs’ contention from Tuesday: The Dec. 2, 2016, blaze that killed 36 people was intentionally set."
Bay Area couple are first parents to plead guilty in college admissions scandal
The Chronicle's NANETTE ASIMOV: "A Bay Area couple on Wednesday became the first parents in the college admissions scandal to plead guilty as part of a deal that could lead to lighter sentencing in return for cooperation with prosecutors."
"The scandal — in which 32 wealthy parents allegedly got their kids into elite universities including Stanford through bribes, fake test scores or phony applications — shocked the nation and led college applicants everywhere to question the fairness of the admissions system."
READ MORE related to Operation Varsity Blues: Family in China paid $6.5M to college admissions fixer for a spot at Stanford, sources say -- LA Times's JOEL RUBIN/MATTHEW ORMSETH
Newsom takes a turn as campus handyman
Sacramento Bee STAFF: "There was an extra hand on campus at American River College on Wednesday, as Gov. Gavin Newsom performed janitorial and landscaping work at the school."
"Newsom helped custodian Maria Arambula, pushing a cleaning cart, changing lightbulbs and installing a towel dispenser in a restroom."
"Newsom also helped groundskeeper Brenda Baker rake up leaves and dug up a broken sprinkler."
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Harris just got a campaign assist from Trump's AG
Sacramento Bee's EMILY CADEI: "Kamala Harris’ most memorable moments during her short Senate career have come during nationally televised committee hearings with leading Trump administration officials. So the California senator and her 2020 presidential campaign came prepared for Attorney General William Barr’s testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday."
"Senator Harris’ Facebook page live streamed the entire hearing, as did her Senate Twitter account."
"As one of the most junior members of the committee, Harris, had to wait four-and-a-half hours to ask questions of the attorney general, who came before the committee to discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and Barr’s own response to the report. But that didn’t stop Harris’ campaign staff from commenting on the proceedings throughout the day."
Swalwell hits 1% in Democratic presidential polls, and he's thrilled
The Chronicle's TRAPPER BYRNE: "Presidential candidates wouldn’t normally boast about 1% showings in opinion polls, but for lesser-known Democrats in the 20-member field for 2020 — including East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell — they’re a big deal."
"The reason is that under Democratic National Committee rules, any candidate who can hit the 1% mark in three separate polls or raise money from 65,000 individual donors in 20 states qualifies to take part in the first two televised presidential debates, in June and July."
"On Tuesday, Swalwell trumpeted his “breakthrough” 1% poll showing in a third poll, a CNN national survey. Earlier, the Dublin Democrat noted, he reached 1% in a Monmouth University survey in the first caucus state of Iowa and in a University of New Hampshire poll of voters in that first primary state."
Who is John Hickenlooper? Here are five things Californians need to know as he runs for president
Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper is a former Denver mayor and Colorado governor campaigning on a more pragmatic set of policies. He’s qualified for the first debate by earning 1 percent in at least three polls."
"Here are five things you need to know about Hickenlooper as he campaigns in California:"
"1. He doesn't support legalizing cannabis"
Huge spike of young voters in 2018 could be bad news for Trump in 2020
The Chronicle's JOHN WILDERMUTH: "Young voters turned out in huge numbers for the 2018 midterm elections, which could be bad news for President Trump and GOP hopefuls next year."
"According to a new report from the Census Bureau, 36% of 18- to 29-year-olds turned in ballots in November, a 79 percent jump from the 2014 midterms."
California sees slowest population growth since it started counting
Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "California last year saw its slowest population growth in recorded history, according to a Department of Finance report published Wednesday."
"Dwindling immigration, a significant decline in births and an aging baby boomer population contributed to the low annual population growth of 0.47 percent, said Tina Daley, chief of demographic research for the department."
"Housing costs could be partly to blame for the trend."
Physicians, senator urge UCD Health to recognize their union
Sacramento Bee's CATHIE ANDERSON: "State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo rallied Wednesday alongside physician residents and fellows at the UC Davis Medical Center, urging UCD Health’s leaders to recognize the union that residents voted to represent them: the Committee of Interns and Residents."
"After months of organizing, it is time for UC Davis to formally recognize our union,” said Akilah Monifa, CIR’s senior director of communications. “We stand united for excellent patient care and call on UC Davis Health administration to take the next steps toward contract negotiations."
"Leaders of the UC Davis Medical Center released a statement, saying the university is obligated, under law, to remain neutral until a union is certified by the state to represent an employee group."
READ MORE related to Health: CalFresh expansion could boost healthy food options for tens of thousands in SF -- The Chronicle's MICHAEL CABANATUAN
Sacramento is a boomtown again. Find out how fast the city is growing
Sacramento Bee's TONY BIZJAK: "In a year that saw California’s population stagnate, the city of Sacramento proved to be a relative boomtown."
"The capital city was, by the far, the fastest growing major city in the state in 2018, gaining more than 7,000 residents and adding more than 2,350 new housing units, much of it in midtown, downtown and North Natomas."
"The numbers, released Wednesday by the state Department of Finance, show population growth was nil in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where housing prices hit all-time highs last spring but have since cooled."
After Poway synagogue attack, San Franciscans gather in remembrance of Holocaust
The Chronicle's KIMBERLY VEKLEROV: "Days after a gunman terrorized a California synagogue, San Francisco Jews and community members gathered Wednesday to remember relatives and friends who were among the millions killed in the Holocaust."
"The Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, event at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco featured a talk by the Rev. Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest whose organization locates the sites of Nazi-era mass graves in Eastern Europe and interviews eyewitnesses to the executions — primarily villagers who were spectators or those who took clothes and possessions from the dead."
READ MORE related to Terrorism Pandemic: UNC Charlotte student who died saving others from gunman is hailed as a hero -- AP
Michelle Obama, celebrities in tow, brings words of inspiration to students at UCLA
LA Times's TERESA WATANABE: "Former First Lady Michelle Obama, who was told by her high school counselor that she wasn’t Ivy League material but went on to Princeton and Harvard anyway, urged thousands of students to follow her lead on Wednesday during a high-energy appearance at UCLA."
"It marked the first time that Obama chose to celebrate College Signing Day on the West Coast. She started the event in 2014 to encourage teenagers to pursue higher education, career training or military service after high school. A major focus is on students who are low-income and the first in their families to attend college."
"The roar and cheers were deafening as she stepped onstage at Pauley Pavilion."
Ex-BART cop said he was 'fighting for my life' with Oscar Grant before shooting; report says that was a lie
The Chronicle's MATTHIAS GAFNI: "A former BART police officer who pulled Oscar Grant from a train 10 years ago and ordered his arrest before a second officer fatally shot Grant in the back lied repeatedly to investigators, telling them he felt he was “fighting for my life” when in fact he was the aggressor in the notorious incident, according to a newly released report."
"The report by the Meyers Nave law firm — which BART hired to run its internal investigation due to a loss of public faith in the agency — long ago prompted the firing of the officer, Anthony Pirone. But the report was released only this week under California’s new police transparency law, Senate Bill 1421."
Nazi-looted painting won't be returned to California family, judge rules
LA Times's COLLEEN SHALBY: "The back-and-forth legal drama over an Impressionist masterpiece that hangs in a Spanish museum has seemingly come to the end of the road for a San Diego family, which is left with nothing to show for their decade-long battle to reclaim the artwork they say was seized from them by Nazis 80 years ago."
"A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday ruled against the Cassirer family — who for years had tried to reclaim the painting taken from them during an escape from Germany during the Holocaust — saying the looted artwork belongs to the international museum."
"The canvas has a storied past. In 1939, Nazi troops forced the Jewish family of Lilly Cassirer to trade a Camille Pissarro painting for her family’s freedom while escaping from Germany before the start of World War II. The piece had been in her family for nearly four decades, after her father purchased it directly from Pissarro’s art dealer at the turn of the century."