Jul 10, 2013

 Calpers, the huge public pension fund, says that in the interests of full disclosure it will begin publicly posting information on its members receiving benefits. This is expected to start next week.


From the Associated Press: "The nation's largest public pension fund announced Monday that it will post data online about nearly half a million pensioners in an effort to be transparent."


"The California Public Employees' Retirement System will launch a searchable pension database with information that is deemed public, such as a retiree's name, monthly gross pension payment and some employment history, said spokeswoman Amy Norris."


"The database is expected to go live next week."


California regulators, apparently bowing to the will of the public, are going back to the drawing board to punish PG&E for the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion.


From the Chronicle's Bob Egelko: "Under pressure to punish Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion, the California Public Utilities Commission's safety division has dropped a proposal that would have limited the utility's penalty to the money it was already spending to upgrade its gas system."


"Lawyers for the PUC's Safety and Enforcement Division, who had protested the previous proposal by their director, Jack Hagan, asked the commission's hearing officers Monday to withdraw the plan and allow them to submit a new proposal by next Monday."


"The safety division "needs to correct certain inaccuracies," said attorney Harvey Morris, head of a legal team that was removed from the case and then reinstated in an unusually visible episode of staff dissent on the regulatory agency."


Foes of the newly approved off-reservation tribal gaming casino are going to the ballot box to ask voters to reject the project.


From the Bee's Laurel Rosenhall: "Opponents of a Madera County Indian casino have lost with the Legislature but are hoping they can win with California voters."


"Cheryl Schmit, director of the gambling watchdog group Stand Up for California, filed a referendum with the Attorney General's Officetoday that seeks to reverse lawmakers' approval of a casino for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. The casino is more controversial than most in Indian country because it would be built along Highway 99, more than 35 miles from the mountainous village where tribal members live."


"Opponents consider the project an "off reservation" casino, and say approval will set a precedent for similar developments around the state near freeways and urban communities. Supporters say the North Fork tribe historically migrated between the casino land on the Valley floor and the tribe's current home in the mountains near Yosemite, and that few other tribes have a similar situation."


The hunger strike in California's prison system continues, with inmates protesting medical conditions and issues related to solitary confinement.


From the LAT's Paige St. John: "Ten state inmates were placed under medical observation Tuesday as tens of thousands of others refused meals for a second day in a mass protest at California prisons."


"The ten, who launched their own hunger strike July 1, a week before the statewide action, are at High Desert State Prison in Susanville, in northeast California. They were being watched by prison medical staff for signs of distress, said the federal monitor in charge of inmate healthcare."


"The inmates issued a hand-written letter spelling out their demands for improved prison conditions, including cleaner facilities, better food and more access to the prison library. It is one of at least eight demand letters California prison officials had in hand as some 29,000 inmates — a slight decline from 30,000 Monday — refused meals Tuesday."


The national park system's plan to cut some services at Yosemite in order to save money isn't getting a warm reception on Capitol Hill.


From McClatchy's Michael Doyle: "In a House of Representatives hearing dominated by critics of the plan, the Republican congressman who represents the world-famous park warned that it would be harder to buy ice cream, get groceries or find a swimming pool in Yosemite Valley under a plan he associated with the “most radical and nihilistic fringe of the environmental left.”


"Along with others, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., wants the park service to backpedal on proposals to remove some of the valley’s visitor amenities."


“The park service insists the law compels these radical changes, and yet the law does no such thing,” McClintock said, adding later that “the local community sentiment seems to be to be very negative toward that plan.”


Finally, from our "Snakes and Ladders" file comes the tale of the huge python who was found in a chain store. Really.
"The massive snake weighing in at 17 kilograms (37 pounds) was captured a day after a suspected burglary was reported at a charity store in Queensland in northeastern Australia.

"Its head was the size of a small dog," Police Sgt. Don Auld said Wednesday."


"Before they found the python, investigators' working theory was that a human burglar with an appetite for destruction - and a serious illness - had gone on a rampage inside the St. Vincent de Paul store in the small town of Ingham."


"We thought a person had fallen through the ceiling because the roof panel was cut in half," Auld said. "When they've hit the floor, they've vomited and then staggered and fallen over. That's what we thought anyway."


"Police now suspect the python entered the store through the roof, which was damaged in a cyclone two years ago."



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