Operation Varsity Blues

Mar 13, 2019

How the college admission scandal that hit Hollywood and Sanford got its start in Sacramento


Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER/SAWSAN MORRAR/DARRELL SMITH/MICHAEL FINCH II/MICHAEL MCGOUGH: "A coast-to-coast college admissions scandal that sucked in two Hollywood movie stars, the sailing coach at Stanford and dozens of others had its origins with an over-reaching college-prep consultant who got his start advising anxious high school kids in Sacramento."


"Federal prosecutors charged 50 people across the country Tuesday in a stunning $25 million bribery scheme that allegedly had ultra-wealthy parents paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their children into such major universities as Stanford, UCLA, Yale and USC. Among those arrested were actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin; fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who is Loughlin’s husband; and financier William McGlashan Jr. Also charged were numerous college sports coaches, who were accused of taking bribes to find spots for these children at their schools."


"Students were not charged because their parents were running the alleged scheme, prosecutors said, but more charges are possible. Prosecutors are leaving it up to universities to decide on potential consequences for their students."


READ MORE related to Operation Varsity Blues: College cheating scandal snares actresses, CEOs and coaches; alleged mastermind pleads guilty -- LA Times's HANNAH FRY/RICHARD WINTON/MATTHEW ORMSETH/LAURA NEWBERRYWho is William Rick Singer, Sacramento man accused in college admissions scam? -- Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER/MICHAEL MCGOUGH/JOE DAVIDSONMan accused in college admissions scam worked with hundreds of students in Sacramento area -- Sacramento Bee's SAWSAN MORRARTwo Sacramento-area residents face federal charges for college admissions scam allegations -- Sacramento Bee's DARRELL SMITH; 13 Bay Area parents and Stanford sailing coach implicated in college admissions bribery scandal -- The Chronicle's MATTHIAS GAFNI/EVAN SERNOFFSKY; In the college admissions game, even the legal kind, money has always mattered -- The Chronicle's JILL TUCKER

Newsom to stop death penalty in California, giving repreives to 737 death row inmates


Sacramento Bee's SOPHIA BOLLAG: "Gov. Gavin Newsom is putting a moratorium on the death penalty in California, sparing the lives of more than 700 death-row inmates."


"Newsom plans to sign an executive order Wednesday morning granting reprieves to all 737 Californians awaiting executions – a quarter of the country’s death row inmates."


"His action comes three years after California voters rejected an initiative to end the death penalty, instead passing a measure to speed up executions."

Here's the buzz on disappearing bees

From Capitol Weekly's LISA RENNER: "As the world faces a declining bee population, California almond growers say they are doing their best to promote bee health."


"Over the last few weeks, bee keepers from all over the U.S. were in the Central Valley releasing bees to pollinate the almond crops. Almond growers use about 75 percent of the commercial beehives in the country to pollinate their crops, said Bob Curtis, a consultant with the Almond Board of California. “It’s the largest global pollination event, period,” he said."


"Many growers are using pesticides and compounds at night rather than in the day when the insects are active. They are participating in the “Bee Informed Partnership,” a nationwide collaboration of leading research labs and universities in agriculture science, providing pest control advisers and other assistance to bee keepers. Tech transfer teams offer hive inspections, collect data and then make recommendations on how to maintain healthy colonies.


California counties slow to sign on to all-mail elections


The Chronicle's JOHN WILDERMUTH: "Californians will be holding on to their neighborhood polling places for a while longer, despite last year’s successful introduction of a system that sends a mail ballot to every registered voter."


"In the June and November elections, Sacramento was one of five California counties that replaced its polling places with a much smaller number of full-service voting centers and moved closer to an all-mail-ballot election. In the Nov. 6 vote, the county saw the highest turnout for a midterm election in its history."


"I think this is the best option for Sacramento County,” said Courtney Bailey-Kanelos, the county’s registrar of voters."


Democrats: Pelosi wasn't closing the door on impeaching Trump


The Chronicle's TAL KOPAN: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent Washington into a tizzy when she told an interviewer that she was not in favor of impeaching President Trump and that he’s “just not worth it."


"But Democrats who still support impeachment as an option say Pelosi’s comments didn’t represent a fundamental change in their position."


"In an interview published Monday, Pelosi went further than she has before in downplaying the possibility of impeaching Trump."


Trump administration halts plan to end protections for immigrants from Honduras and Nepal


LA Times's ANDREA CASTILLO: "The Trump administration has agreed to temporarily halt the termination of humanitarian protections for more than 100,000 people from Honduras and Nepal, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday."


"The decision comes exactly one month after the ACLU and other immigrant rights advocates filed a class-action lawsuit against the administration over its decision to end temporary protected status for immigrants from those two countries. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the decision by the Department of Homeland Security to end TPS was “motivated by racial animus."


"Protections were due to end in June for 15,000 people from Nepal and next January for 86,000 people from Honduras, leaving them vulnerable to deportation."


These forests in the West might start vanishing entirely after wildfires, study says


Sacramento Bee's JARED GILMOUR: "Wildfires tear through forests in the Western United States each year — but it’s getting harder for trees to grow back in some spots, and certain forested areas could disappear entirely, a new study finds."


"In low-elevation wooded areas across the West in North America, climate change has created drier and warmer conditions, which make it much harder (and maybe impossible) for native ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees to regrow after fires kill off adult trees, University of Montana researchers said in a news release on the findings. The study described the two tree species as “ecologically and economically important” in the regions where they’re found."


"The ability of forests to recover following wildfire depends on annual climate conditions, because tree seedlings are particularly vulnerable to hot and dry weather,” Kimberley Davis, a study author and postdoctoral researcher at the university, said in a statement."


READ MORE related to Energy & Environment: President Trump signs largest wilderness protection bill in a decade -- BANG's PAUL ROGERS


California Gov. Newsom getting involved in police use-of-force bills


The Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF: "Gov. Gavin Newsom is wading into the legislative debate over when California police should be allowed to open fire on suspects by meeting this week with the proponents of two competing bills on officers’ use of force."


"The issue has been percolating at the Capitol for the past year since the shooting of Stephon Clark, who was unarmed when he was killed in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento by police who said they thought the cell phone in his hand was a gun. After the Sacramento County district attorney and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra declined to charge the officers last week, activists doubled down on their campaign to raise the legal standard for using lethal force."


Oakland councilwoman McElhaney calls on son's killers to come forward


The Chronicle's SARAH RAVANI: "Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney tearfully recalled her son Victor on Tuesday and urged his killers to come forward, two days after he was gunned down in a Los Angeles parking lot."


"Victor was my sunshine,” McElhaney said at a news conference in Los Angeles. “And I prayed, like every mama every day, please don’t take my sunshine away."


Police say changes have been made since arrests of 84 protesters in East Sacramento


Sacramento Bee's THERESA CLIFT/VINCENT MOLESKI: "The Sacramento Police Department escalated its response to a Stephon Clark protest in East Sacramento after protesters “keyed” eight cars and blocked the entrance to Mercy General Hospital, Deputy Chief of Police Dave Paletta told the City Council on Tuesday."


"Paletta was in charge March 4, when 84 people were arrested, including journalists and clergy members, Police Chief Daniel Hahn said."


"Paletta said there was about 1,600 hours of police bodycam footage that still had to be reviewed, and changes are being made to the way police handle protests in the future."


READ MORE related to Prisons & Public Safety: City Councilman Allen Warren release critical letter, condemning DA, Sacramento Police -- Sacramento Bee's MOLLY SULLIVAN; Sacramento police watchdog urges mayor, City Council to support stricter use-of-force policy -- Sacramento Bee's MOLLY SULLLIVAN; LAPD to change crime data program as activists tell Police Commission to 'shut it down' -- LA Times's MARK PUENTE


Tourism board gives $600K to Michelin for new California guide


The Chronicle's JANELLE BITKER: "Sending anonymous inspectors from the world’s top dining guide to eat at all of California’s best restaurants and emerging gems isn’t cheap — it costs at least $600,000."


"That’s the figure that tourism board Visit California is paying the Michelin Guide to expand its coverage beyond the Bay Area to the entire state. Michelin’s distinctive red books are often seen as the top marker of prestige in the international restaurant world, with star ratings drawing audiences to fine-dining destinations such as the French Laundry in Yountville and Benu in San Francisco."


Kaiser invests $3M to end homelessness in Sacramento, 14 other communities


Sacramento Bee's CATHIE ANDERSON: "Kaiser Permanente announced Monday that it will invest $3 million over the next three years in an effort to end chronic homelessness in the Sacramento region and 14 other communities around the United States."


"Kaiser Permanente is investing in efforts to reduce homelessness and housing insecurity because there is a proven link between housing and health,” said Kaiser chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson. “Addressing affordable housing and homelessness is crucial to Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve, and to advance the economic, social and environmental conditions for health."


"As part of the effort, known as Built for Zero, Kaiser will be working with New York-based Community Solutions to apply problem-solving tools that the organization said has ended chronic homelessness in Bergen County, N.J.; Lancaster, Pa.; and Rockford, Ill. It also said that nine U.S. locales, including Riverside, Calif., and Abilene, Texas, have ended homelessness among veterans."


From SF's front lines -- social worker who deals with mentally ill on how to improve their lot


The Chronicle's HEATHER KNIGHT: "Six months ago, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed state Sen. Scott Wiener’s legislation allowing San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles to start a five-year pilot program expanding the state’s conservatorship law to apply to those who have a severe drug addiction."


"Currently, counties can compel some people into treatment if they’re severely mentally ill or addicted to alcohol, but not if they’re hooked on drugs. Any walk around the Tenderloin, Mid-Market and South of Market shows there are plenty of candidates in that third category."


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