Sep 26, 2012

Comcast is scaling back big-time in California, shifting call centers to three other states and cutting hundreds of jobs.


From George Avalos in the Contra Costa Times: "omcast will eliminate about 1,000 jobs in Northern California, including more than 300 in the East Bay and more than 300 in the South Bay, as it closes call centers in Livermore, Morgan Hill and Sacramento."


"The telecommunications giant blamed the cuts on California's high costs. "We have concluded that the cost of doing business makes operations in California expensive and very difficult," said company spokesman Andrew Johnson."


"Comcast, the dominant provider of cable television services in the Bay Area, will transfer its call center work to existing similar operations in Portland, Seattle and Denver."


In the aftermath of the Parks Department finance flap, the governor approved temporarily blocking a plan to close state parks.


From the LAT's Patrick McGreevy: "Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday that puts a two-year moratorium on closing state parks in California and allocates $30 million in recently discovered surplus funds to help them continue operation."


"The legislation by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) was in response to the discovery this summer that former parks officials concealed about $54 million in unspent funds even as the state was proposing the closure of parks because of a budget shortfall."


"Rogue bureaucrats lied to all of us," Blumenfield said in a statement Tuesday. "The governor acted swiftly and appropriately to remove them. Now, after signing this bill, we can move forward."


California's new law allowing online voter registration has received widespread attention, mostly positive. But not everybody is enthralled.


From the Chronicle's Wyatt Buchanan: "Specifically, people with visual and reading impairments who need screen-reading technology to use a computer are not able to access the new registration system because the secretary of state's website is not compatible with that technology."

"Multiple federal laws, including the Help America Vote Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, require that government services are accessible to people with disabilities. With an Oct. 22 deadline to register to vote, the advocacy groups want the website made accessible as soon as possible."


"It's something they should have investigated before launching the site," said Andrew Mudryk, deputy director of Disability Rights California. "This situation shouldn't be what it is."


Speaking of online registration, a lot of people are taking advantage of it -- especially the young.


From Steve Scauzillo in The San Bernardino Sun: "Since Sept. 19, about 25,000 people have registered to vote online through the state website, according to state officials. Of those, about 61 percent are under 35 years of age, said Secretary of State Debra Bowen."


"On the first day it was available, 10,000 people registered to vote," Bowen said Tuesday at a Rock the Vote! event at Cal State Los Angeles."


"So far, younger people have dominated the use of new online registration tools, she said. And the tools are needed - the largest group of unregistered voters in the state are 30 and under, she said."

As the harvest season for marijuana ends, law enforcement seizures of the plant in California are down, way down.


From Andrew Becker in the Bay Citizen. "The latest figures show that local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are on track to eradicate an estimated 1.5 million plants from outdoor gardens – mostly on public land – down from a decade high of about 7.3 million plants in 2009. This year's seizures would be the lowest since 2004, when a little more than 1.1 million plants were eradicated, according to Drug Enforcement Administration statistics."


"Some attribute the drop to a federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries and illegal grows on public land and political losses in California, such as voters’ defeat in 2010 of the pro-legalization Proposition 19. At the same time, fewer counter-narcotics teams hunted for California pot this year due to the elimination of a three-decades-old state eradication program."


"Others say growers have retreated to smaller garden plots on private land and gone back underground to wait out what legalization advocates have deemed the last throes of prohibition. They also point to a glut of marijuana that depressed wholesale prices and burst the state’s so-called “Green Rush” to capitalize on the relaxed attitudes toward the drug."


And finally, from our "Down the Up Staircase" file comes word that the SAT reading scores of 2012's graduating seniors are at their lowest level in 40 years.


"Coming in with an average SAT reading score of 496, 2012's graduating seniors have the dubious distinction of having attained the worst reading score since 1972. (For those test-takers of a certain age and test-taking history, "reading" is actually that part we knew as "verbal.") Regardless of what you call(ed) it, "The average reading score for the Class of 2012 was 496, down one point from the previous year and 34 points since 1972," reports The Washington Post's Emma Brown, gleaning numbers from the College Board, the organization that administers the test."


"Brown writes that the reading scores may have been affected by minority test takers, who came out and took the test in record numbers: "The declining national reading averages may in part reflect the ever-widening pool of students who take the SAT, first administered in 1926 to a few thousand college applicants."



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