Winding down?

Aug 21, 2012

The San Onofre nuclear power plant north of San Diego, plagued by mechanical troubles for months, now has a new kind of trouble -- layoffs. The operator of the facility plans to send out pink slips to a third of the workforce, raising questions about whether the plant ever will be back up to speed.


From the LAT's Amy Sewell: "The planned reduction of about 730 employees announced Monday will bring the plant's staffing down to 1,500. Details of the cuts will be worked out later this year, company officials said."


"Edison said in a statement that the company had begun plans to downsize more than two years ago after concluding that San Onofre's staffing and costs were "significantly higher" than at similar nuclear plants."


"In documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission in 2010, the company outlined a projected reduction of 500 workers by October 2012. No staffing cuts have actually taken place since then, Edison spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said."


Lawmakers have approved and sent to Gov. Brown a measure that would authorize overtime benefits for farm workers. Brown is no stranger to farm worker issues: Decades ago, during his first stint as governor, he authorized collective bargaining for farm workers. 


From Patrick McGreevy and Michael J. Mishak: "The bill would accord farm laborers overtime for working more than eight hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week. Under existing law, they receive overtime only if they work more than 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week."

"This measure provides the same protections for farmworkers that other employees have long been entitled to," said Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who spoke in favor of the bill as senators debated it."


"The United Farm Workers union requested the legislation, by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa). Republicans objected to the measure, saying it could hurt workers rather than help them; for example, if farm owners decided to add an extra shift of workers or use mechanical harvesting devices rather than pay more overtime."


 The practice of disability retirement for public safety workers is costly and more widespread than commonly believed, and it has become a significant part of the debate over public pensions.


From Tony Saavedra in the OC Register: "Disability retirement is intended for public safety workers with dangerous jobs who become permanently incapacitated by illness or injury. But over the years, it has also become an escape hatch for unwanted police officers and firefighters and a way to pad the pensions of those at the end of their careers, an Orange County Register investigation has found."


"Medical retirements come with hefty tax breaks at a time when government is struggling with falling revenues and huge pension liabilities. Under the California Public Employees Retirement System, which covers most city police and firefighters, a disabled retiree gets at least half of his or her pension tax-free – sometimes more."


"Critics of the system – including some frustrated city officials – say that many police officers and firefighters spend their careers claiming every injury or illness, so they can later make a case for a disability pension."


Meanwhile, a group representing the X-rated film industry has asked porn stars to take health tests amid fears of at least one performer testing positive for syphilis.


From Susan Abram in the LA Daily News: "A coalition that represents the largely San Fernando Valley-based adult film industry has asked production companies nationwide to halt work until reports of a cluster of five syphilis cases have been substantiated."


"At least one performer who tested positive for syphilis has contacted the Canoga Park-based Free Speech Coalition, which represents the adult film industry."


"The coalition released a statement Monday asking performers to test for the sexually transmitted disease as soon as possible rather than wait for the industry's semi-annual syphilis testing program, often scheduled for September. More than 1,000 performers are eligible for testing and treatment, which producers have offered to pay for, according to the coalition."


And for another installment in our "Winds of War" file comes the tale of AP reporter Edward Kennedy, who was fired for breaking an embargo and reporting the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. Now, there is a move to award him a posthumous Pulitzer prize.


"He was the first to report the surrender of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe. His dispatch was accurate, but he defied political and military censors who wanted to keep the surrender secret for 36 hours."


"Kennedy refused to hold on to the news and broke a military embargo, angering Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander, and all the other newsmen he had scooped. The military lifted his war correspondent's credential, he was threatened with court martial and was fired by the Associated Press."


"He went on to a distinguished career as an editor in California. But the stigma of what happened at the end of World War II stayed with him for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 58 after an automobile accident in Monterey in 1963."

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