More fires needed?

May 29, 2019

The West has many wildfires, but too few prescribed burns, study finds


LA Times's ANNA M PHILLIPS: "President Trump has laid the blame for out-of-control California wildfires on the state’s “gross mismanagement” of its forests. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pointed the finger at “environmental terrorist groups."


"But according to a new study, the federal government is not doing enough to control the threat of wildfire in the West."


"Despite years of scientific research pointing to prescribed or “controlled” burns as a successful method of clearing brush and restoring ecosystems, intentional fire-setting by federal agencies has declined in much of the West over the last 20 years, the study found."


California growers discriminated against legal immigrants, Justice Departmeent says


Sacramento Bee's KATE IRBY: "A California agricultural company will have to pay $4,000 in fines for engaging in what the Justice Department characterized as discriminatory practices against employees who were legal permanent residents."


"In an investigation into Dinuba-based WesPak Inc., which grows, packs and ships citrus, stone fruits and table grapes, the Justice Department concluded Tuesday the company made employees who were legal permanent residents consistently reprove their rights to work in ways others did not."


"The settlement, in which WesPak did not admit to wrongdoing, requires the company to halt all discriminatory practices, retrain employees who handle hiring procedures and post signs within the facility that explain employees’ rights. WesPak must pay $4,000 in fines to the U.S. Treasury, but no other fines or penalties will be assessed if officials comply with the terms of the settlement."


Seeking more water, Silicon Valley eyes Central Valley farmland


From the Mercury News' PAUL ROGERS: "The largest water agency in Silicon Valley has been secretly negotiating to purchase a sprawling cattle ranch in Merced County that sits atop billions of gallons of groundwater, a move that could create a promising new water source — or spark a political battle between the Bay Area and Central Valley farmers."


"The Santa Clara Valley Water District, based in San Jose, is in talks with the owners of the 4-S Ranch, a 5,257-acre property located about 15 miles northeast of Los Banos, for what would be a multi-million-dollar deal to create a huge underground water reserve."


"The plan, however, is likely stir anxieties and controversy from farmers, who for generations in California have been wary of selling or transferring water out of their local areas for fear it could mean the decline of farming, especially if they had to compete with wealthy, more populated urban areas."


Nearly half of Sacramento's state-owned offices outside the city would be up for sale under new plan


Sacramento Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "The department in charge of California’s state-owned buildings wants to sell or get rid of nearly half its office buildings outside Sacramento, according to a newly published plan."


"State workers in San Jose, Fresno and San Diego would be affected soonest, according to a Department of General Services proposal that calls for disposing of nine of 21 state-owned buildings around the state."


"The 10-year plan calls for the state to start the process of selling buildings in those cities this year or next year. The process, which requires legislative approval, would take 18 months to two years, according to the plan."


He made millions as an LA investor. Now, he may run for president to fight poverty


LA Times's MELANIE MASON: "Joe Sanberg was a bit flummoxed. He was trying to list all the Democrats running for president and, after naming 12 in fairly quick succession, was temporarily stuck."


“Holy smokes,” he muttered, “who am I missing?"


"After 2 minutes and 25 seconds, the Los Angeles-based investor identified the whole field, 18 at the time. The candidates, like cells in a petri dish, have multiplied further since, but even with 23 contenders, Sanberg thinks there just might be room for one more."


PETA sides with Santa Anita on new horse racing safety rules


LA Times's JOHN CHERWA: "Santa Anita has found itself on the good side of the spotlight on Tuesday when a leading animal rights group called on the country to adopt safety reforms currently being implemented in California."


"It comes two days after Santa Anita had its third horse death in nine days, which follows almost six weeks of racing and training without a fatality."


"Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called for the suspension of racing nationwide until reforms similar to those in place at Santa Anita and soon other California tracks are put in place. Guillermo singled out New York as having 15 horses die this year either racing or training."


Ghost Ship trial: Witness says co-signer was 'helpless' against defendant


The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "The mother of a founding member of the Ghost Ship artists collective testified Tuesday that she tried to talk her son out of co-signing a lease for the warehouse with his friend, Derick Almena. Katleen Bouchard had disapproved of Almena since he had talked Nico Bouchard out of living in his own apartment, she said."


"B ut her son, she said, “was helpless against Derick."


Nurses demand the right 'to have breaks' in protests at Tenet hospitals across California


Sacramento Bee's TONY BIZJOUN: "Nurses picketed outside Tenet-affiliated hospitals across California on Tuesday afternoon in a union-organized event meant to urge management to invest in nursing staff."


"More than 3,700 registered nurses represented by the California Nurses Association at eight California hospitals are in ongoing contract negotiations that began in September 2018 with the Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corporation."


"They’re looking for a contract that will improve recruitment and retention of experienced registered nurses and ensure optimal patient care, according to the CNA."


READ MORE related to Health: UCSF drops affiliation with Catholic hospitals, a victory for reproductive rights -- LA Times's MICHAEL HILTZIK


Oakland, where DIY road repair is a thing, launches annual 'pothole blitz'


The Chronicle's RACHEL SWAN: "The ragged streets of 81st Avenue in East Oakland made a dramatic backdrop for Mayor Libby Schaaf’s message: Be patient, residents. City crews will fix your roads."


"Schaaf and transportation chief Ryan Russo announced this year’s pothole blitz Tuesday, as workers in orange vests shoveled asphalt into crevices. Working 12-hour days for three weeks, they hope to cut into Oakland’s $500 million road maintenance backlog — and 7,000 requests to fix road craters."


High radiation levels found in giant clams near US nuclear dump in Marshall Islands


LA Times's SUSANNE RUST/CAROLYN COLE: "Researchers have found high levels of radiation in giant clams near the Central Pacific site where the United States entombed waste from nuclear testing almost four decades ago, raising concerns the contamination is spreading from the dump site’s tainted groundwater into the ocean and the food chain."


"The findings from the Marshall Islands suggest that radiation is either leaking from the waste site — which U.S. officials reject — or that authorities did not adequately clean up radiation left behind from past weapons testing, as some in the Marshall Islands claim."


"The radioactive shellfish were found near Runit Dome — a concrete-capped waste site known by locals as “The Tomb” — according to a presentation made by a U.S. Department of Energy scientist this month in Majuro, the island nation’s capital. The clams are a popular delicacy in the Marshall Islands and in other nations, including China, which has aggressively harvested them from vast swaths of the Pacific."


Oakland may decriminalize magic mushrooms. Will the rest of California follow?


Sacramento Bee's JARED GILMOUR: "Oakland leaders are meeting on Tuesday night to consider decriminalizing so-called “magic mushrooms.”


"That would make the Northern California city the second in the United States to allow adults over 21 to possess psilocybin, the ingredient that gives “magic mushrooms” their hallucinogenic effects. Voters in Denver, Colorado, narrowly decided to decriminalize the drug at the polls earlier this month — meaning that, even though it’s still against federal law, it will now be a lower priority for police and prosecutors there."


"The Oakland proposal would decriminalize a host of other plant- and fungi-based drugs as well, including ayahuasca, peyote and ibogaine."


Police executed seven search warrants on cops, journalist


The Chronicle's EVAN SERNOFFSKY: "San Francisco police executed seven search warrants as they tried to find out who leaked a police report to a freelance journalist, including searches of officers and one of the journalist’s phone records, police officials and an attorney in the case said."


"The search of phone records preceded the now-notorious May 10 raids on journalist Bryan Carmody’s home and office. Controversy over the case has centered on whether police violated California’s shield law that protects journalists from being compelled to identify confidential sources."


READ MORE related to Adachi Leak CasePolice commissioers defend chief after union called for resignation -- The Chronicled's TRISHA THADANI


A $250 million 'prudent middle path' emerges in Sacramento tax dollar spending fight


Sacramento Bee's TERESA CLIFT: "In the midst of a messy budget process as millions of dollars in new sales tax revenue flows in, the Sacramento City Council took a step toward compromise Tuesday."


"Councilman Steve Hansen laid out a proposal as a “prudent middle path” that would give the city a little over half the amount of bond funding that Mayor Darrell Steinberg had previously proposed, but also does not expose the city to as much risk or decades of large debt payments, Hansen said."


"“I’ve been working really hard to listen to the things the community is saying, that our stakeholders are saying, that my colleagues and the mayor are saying and I think this threads a needle for us to remain fiscally healthy and doesn’t expose us to too much risk but allows us to make significant investments,” Hansen said."


Shooter at Yountville veterans home had previously threatened violence, records show


The Chronicle's GWENDOLYN WU: "A former Army infantryman who shot and killed three staff members last year at a veterans center in Yountville before killing himself was upset about his treatment and talked about shooting employees “several times” before the killings, according to records released Friday."


"Napa County Sheriff’s Office records show that 36-year-old Albert Wong was “very angry” at the Pathway Home’s counselors."


Teachers strike in East Bay district enters second week after marathon pay talks collapse


The Chronicle's MELIA RUSSELL: "Talks in the New Haven Union School District teachers strike broke down Monday, with teachers in Hayward and Union City returning to the picket line Tuesday for a second week."


"The district, which includes 12 schools across the two East Bay cities, and the New Haven Teachers Association met for a marathon bargaining session over the holiday weekend in the hopes of reaching an agreement over higher wages. The two sides failed to reach a deal and are now scheduled to meet on Wednesday, according to the teachers union."


SCOTUS issues a go-slow signal in its first abortion decision of the year


LA Times's DAVID G SAVAGE: "The Supreme Court handed down its first abortion decision of the year on Tuesday, with a mixed result that clearly signaled the conservative majority is not ready to reconsider the right to abortion set in Roe vs. Wade."


"By a 7-2 vote, the justices upheld an unusual provision of an Indiana law that requires clinics to bury or cremate the remains of a fetus. This mostly symbolic rule does not violate a woman's right to choose abortion or put an “undue burden” on those who do so, the justices said in a brief, unsigned opinion."


"At the same time, the court, without a dissent, rejected the state’s effort to revive a significant restriction on abortion. The justices left in place lower court rulings that blocked an Indiana law that would make it illegal for women to end a pregnancy because of the race or gender of the fetus or if they received a diagnosis of Down syndrome."


Rich farmers, not mom-and-pop farms, will collect most of Trump's tariff bailout


LA Times's MICHAEL HILTZIK: "The lone valiant farmer struggling to eke an existence from his hardscrabble farm — that’s the image President Trump wants you to think about when contemplating the $28 billion in bailouts he’s spending to cover farm losses from his trade war."


"Think again. The vast majority of the dollars flowing to the agriculture industry via the bailouts is likely to go to farms with annual revenues of several million dollars. Most of them are major beneficiaries of federal crop support programs that steer billions in subsidies and low-priced crop insurance — including insurance that already covers some of their losses in the trade war."


"Consider one such recipient. He’s Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, whose family farm, run mostly by his son Robin and grandson Patrick, collected $1.6 million in government subsidies in 1995-2017, according to a database compiled by the Environmental Working Group. The farm grows corn and soybeans."

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