Rescue halted

Sep 4, 2019

California boat fire rescue suspended after no signs of other survivors; 20 bodies found, 14 still missing


LA Times's SOUMYA KARLAMANGLA/HANNAH FRY/MARK PUENTE/MATTHEW ORMSETH/RICHARD WINTON: "Rescuers have suspended their search off the coast of Santa Cruz Island for passengers who were trapped aboard the Conception when the diving boat caught fire and sank early Monday. The rescuers said there are no signs of additional survivors."


"NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy said the federal agency started its investigation at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The team of 16 investigators specializes in engineering, operations, survival factors and fire prevention."


"This was a terrible tragedy,” she told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I cannot imagine what the families are going through."


READ MORE related to Dive Boat DisasterAudio of the final harrowing moments aboard the Conception -- The Chronicle's MATTHIAS GAFNI; Three sisters celebrating dad's birthday feared lost in California boat fire -- LA Times's MATTHEW ORMSETH


USC officials discussed how much wealthy parents could donate when their children applied, records show


LA Times's JOEL RUBIN/MATTHEW ORMSETH: "Messages sent between USC’s athletic and admissions offices underscore a truism in college admissions: money talks."


"The emails, which were made public Tuesday when an attorney for a father facing charges in the college admissions scandal filed them in court, turn an unsparing light on how the university flags children of possible donors and other influential families for special consideration in the application process."


"The emails, for example, include the wish list of “special interest” applicants a top official from the athletic department sent each spring to the head of the school’s admissions office. In the emails, as well as internal spreadsheets included in the filings, the students were often identified by how much money their parents had donated or were expected to give to the school. Influential figures at USC who were pushing for a student to be admitted were also noted and, in some cases, a parent’s profession was listed."


California’s version of C-SPAN is shutting down. It’s a loss for the Capitol — and the public


From the LAT's GEORGE SKELTON: "California soon will be pushed back a huge step when cable TV stops telecasting sausage-making in the state Capitol."


"You recall the old bromide about laws and sausages first voiced by 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. To paraphrase: If you’re squeamish, don’t watch either being made."


"Cable TV — specifically its California Channel — has been the public’s eyes and ears on Capitol sausage-making for more than two decades."


AB5 gig-work bill gets key backing from Newsom


The Chronicle's DUSTIN GARDINER: "Gov. Gavin Newsom jumped directly into one of California’s hardest-fought legislative battles of the year, calling on lawmakers to pass a gig-work bill that would reclassify hundreds of thousands of independent contractors as company employees covered by labor laws."


"Newsom said tech companies and other employers have eroded people’s basic labor protections by wrongly classifying them as independent contractors."


"Employers shirk responsibility to safety net programs like workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. Taxpayers are left to foot the bill,” Newsom wrote in an op-ed piece published on Labor Day in the Sacramento Bee."


Newsom signals worries about vaccine bill 


Sacramento Bee's HANNAH WILEY: "Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Tuesday expressed unexpected doubts about a bill that would increase oversight of doctors who issue vaccine medical exemptions to California schoolchildren."


"His office called for unspecified changes in the bill that would restrict medical exemptions for vaccines after lawmakers in the Assembly called for a surprise vote to pass the measure. The Assembly’s vote sends it back to the Senate for final approval."


"The governor appreciates the work the Legislature has done to amend #SB276,” Newsom’s office wrote on Twitter. “There are a few pending technical – but important – changes to the bill that clarify the exemption and appeal process that have broad support."


Newsom repeals controversial Posse Comitatus law


Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "A legal vestige from California’s Wild West days is no more."


"Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill striking down a law that makes it a crime to refuse a police officer’s request for help."


"The California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872 made it a misdemeanor for any “able-bodied person 18 years of age or older” to refuse a police officer’s call for assistance in making an arrest."


Judge says man may sue California DMV over 'offensive' license plate


The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "California college professor Jonathan Kotler is a devoted fan of Britain’s Fulham Football Club. So when the team won promotion to the nation’s top soccer league last year, he asked the Department of Motor Vehicles for a license plate lettered “COYW” — short for “Come On You Whites,” the fans’ regular chant for their white-jerseyed players."


"Sorry, the DMV replied, the lettering has “connotations offensive to good taste and decency.” Now a federal judge says Kotler can sue the DMV for allegedly violating freedom of speech by banning specialty plates that it considers offensive."


"The department’s regulation of letters and numbers on personalized license plates, available for an extra fee that is forwarded to environmental programs, would be immune from constitutional review if the slogans could be considered speech by the state rather than the vehicle owners. But U.S. District Judge George Wu of Los Angeles said the “unique messages California drivers request for inclusion” on the plates “constitute private rather than government speech."


Hedge funds fight over wreckage of PG&E. How much will California wildfire victims get paid?


Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER/BRYAN ANDERSON: "Dueling packs of Wall Street hedge funds are waging a down-to-the-wire battle for control of PG&E Corp. But it’s wildfire victims from places like Paradise and Santa Rosa who could tip the balance."


"Two billionaire investor factions are fighting over AB 235. That’s a controversial bill being drafted that PG&E says it needs to exit bankruptcy and pay billions of dollars in claims from the 2017 wine country fires, which killed 44 people, and last November’s Camp Fire, which killed 86 people."


"The bill, by Assemblyman Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, calls for the state to borrow up to $20 billion at tax-free, low interest rates on PG&E’s behalf — and says PG&E shareholders will repay the debt out of future profits."


READ MORE related to Energy, Environment & Climate: Wildfire in El Dorado County forces evacuations; two firefighters injured -- Sacramento Bee's CAROLINE GHISOLFI/TONY BIZJAK/MOLLY SULLIVAN


California Democrat halts fundraising amid scrutiny


Sacramento Bee's HANNAH WILEY: "California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is halting fundraising while his staff reviews how he vets contributions from the industry he regulates, according to a letter he sent to consumer advocates on Tuesday."


"Lara, a Democrat and former state lawmaker, has faced scrutiny in recent months for accepting more than $50,000 from industry executives in April, with most of the money coming from out-of-state donors."


"Lara then admitted to meeting in May with the CEO of Applied Underwriters, a workers’ compensation agency with pending matter before the department."


Tom Steyer didn't make the cut for CNN climate debate, so he held his own -- in Oakland


The Chronicle's JOE GAROFOLI: "Presidential candidate Tom Steyer didn’t have enough poll support to be one of the 10 Democrats invited to Wednesday’s climate forum on CNN, so the billionaire former San Francisco hedge fund manager held his own Tuesday in Oakland."


"Steyer’s $2.3 trillion climate plan starts with him declaring a “climate emergency” on the first day of his presidency. That would enable him to direct every federal agency to “bring its rules, purchasing decisions, and agency staff in line with our global and domestic science-backed climate goals,” according to the plan."


SF DA candidate gives old boss Gascon a B-minus, pitches tough-on-crime approach


The Chronicle's HEATHER KNIGHT: "The Chronicle’s D.A. Tuesday is back — this week with candidate Nancy Tung."


"We’re bringing you the biographies and policy proposals of each of the four candidates for San Francisco district attorney over four Tuesdays. The November election marks the first time in more than a century that the incumbent isn’t running after District Attorney George Gascón declined to see re-election."


"That means the race is wide open, and voters need to do their homework to assess the qualities of the four hopefuls. Last week, we told you about Leif Dautch, a deputy attorney general for the state. This week, it’s Tung, a former prosecutor in the office she hopes to lead who now works for the district attorney in Alameda County."


UC Davis shuts down student-run marching band after investigation uncovered binge drinking, harassment


Sacramento Bee's MOLLY SULLIVAN/RYAN SABALOW: "The freshmen were blindfolded and and driven nearly an hour, told they going to a “bonding” event hosted by older students in the UC Davis marching band."


"They were told they were going to be “‘painting cows” with “animal-friendly paint.” When the freshmen arrived, they were given a cup of “paint” and told to take their blindfolds off."


"We discovered it was actually a red Solo cup full of a mysterious alcoholic beverage,” one of the students would later tell investigators hired by the campus. “We were then met with a loud band and introduced to the party called ‘Barn’. I would have had a much more fun time if they had simply told me the truth and if I wasn’t led under false pretenses."


Two SF homes for elderly and formerly homeless plan to close amid rising costs


The Chronicle's TRISHA THADANI: "At least two residential care facilities in San Francisco that provide long-term care for 26 vulnerable people — some elderly, others formerly homeless — plan to shut their doors in the next few months, the latest in a spate of board-and-care closures around the city."


"Officials with both facilities say they’ve been socked by the rising costs of doing business in San Francisco and a stagnant state reimbursement rate to run the homes. They also cited increasing difficulty in hiring and retaining staff. The two homes are Tiffany’s Care Home in Bernal Heights, which serves the elderly, and Parkview Inn #1 in Haight-Ashbury, which houses people who were formerly homeless and struggle with mental illness and substance abuse."


"The two closures are part of an alarming trend that’s contributing to the city’s homeless and mental health crisis — the rapid disappearance of residential care beds for the elderly, mentally ill and those with substance abuse problems. San Francisco has lost more than a quarter of its board-and-care beds since 2012, according to the city’s working group on the problem. The operators say that many facilities are closing because the landlords are selling the properties in San Francisco’s hot real estate market, or because the costs to run the homes are outstripping revenue."


California to pay $1.9M to settle lawsuit tied to prison ice-pick slaying


Sacramento Bee's SAM STANTON: "On Oct. 23, 2017, Rodrick Roman Castro, an inmate at Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy, was questioned about allegations a former cellmate of his had been involved in drug dealing."


"The next day, the 34-year-old Castro was found dead in his cell, stabbed 92 times in the neck and torso with an ice pick."


"Now, the state of California has agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle a federal wrongful death lawsuit that alleges prison officials left Castro unguarded in an unlocked cell despite knowing that he was surrounded by associates of his former cellmate."


Walmart bans handgun, assault rifle ammunition sales at all locations


Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "Walmart on Tuesday announced that the retail giant would immediately begin phasing out the sale of both assault rifle and handgun ammunition."


"Its decision follows two recent shootings at Walmart stores, including an El Paso massacre targeting Latino customers that left 22 people dead and one in Mississippi in which a Walmart employee killed two coworkers, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wrote in a public message."


"We’ve also been listening to a lot of people inside and outside our company as we think about the role we can play in helping to make the country safer. It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable,” McMillon said in a statement announcing the ban."


Pentagon approves billions in military construction cash to build Trump's border wall


AP: "Defense Secretary Mark Esper has approved the use of $3.6 billion in funding from military construction projects to build 175 miles of President Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border."


"Pentagon officials would not say which 127 projects will affected, but say details will be available Wednesday after members of Congress are notified. They say half the money will come from military projects in the U.S. and the rest will come from projects in other countries."


"Esper’s decision fuels what has been a persistent controversy between the Trump administration and Congress over immigration policies and the funding of the border wall. And it sets up a difficult debate for lawmakers who refused earlier this year to approve nearly $6 billion for the wall, but now must decide if they will refund the projects that are being used to provide the money."

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