Proposed State-Run STEM School Raises Questions, Suspicions

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By Bill Raden for Capital and Main – A hastily revised bill introduced in Sacramento last month is attempting to address the state’s STEM crisis by adding a single new privatized state STEM school to California’s already contentious K-12 landscape. The plan to create an 800-student “State School for Instruction in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)” that would serve grades six through 12, and be located somewhere within Los Angeles County, has met heated resistance from public school advocates. Part of their concern lies in just how much the proposed new breed of state STEM schools resembles charter schools, which are privately managed but taxpayer-funded. School districts have long contended that charters siphon off their higher achieving students while leaving the districts with less money to teach a larger percentage of far-needier kids. Authored by Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra (D-San Fernando), Assembly Bill 1217 stipulates that the new STEM school would operate similarly. It would be managed by a private non-profit corporation and get its funding from the same combination of private philanthropy and the state ADA (average daily attendance) money that would follow its 800 students, probably from Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

California Considers Following China With Combustion-Engine Car Ban

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By Ryan Beene and John Lippert for Bloomberg – The internal combustion engine’s days may be numbered in California, where officials are mulling whether a ban on sales of polluting autos is needed to achieve long-term targets for cleaner air. Governor Jerry Brown has expressed an interest in barring the sale of vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview Friday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. The earliest such a ban is at least a decade away, she said. Brown, one of the most outspoken elected official in the U.S. about the need for policies to combat climate change, would be replicating similar moves by China, France and the U.K. “I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols said, referring to China’s planned phase-out of fossil-fuel vehicle sales. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.” Embracing such a policy would send shockwaves through the global car industry due to the heft of California’s auto market. More than 2 million new passenger vehicles were registered in the state last year, topping France, Italy or Spain. If a ban were implemented, automakers from General Motors Co. to Toyota Motor Corp. would be under new pressure to make electric vehicles the standard for personal transportation in the most populous U.S. state, casting fresh doubts on the future of gasoline- and diesel-powered autos elsewhere.

California To Sue Trump Administration Over Plan For U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

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By Patrick McGreevy and Jazmine Ulloa for Los Angeles Times – California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra plans to announce a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of the state that will challenge President Trump’s proposal to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, a project Becerra has called “medieval.” Becerra is scheduled to travel to Border Field State Park near San Diego to announce that a lawsuit is being filed in federal court over construction of border wall projects in San Diego and Imperial counties. The lawsuit, which includes the California Coastal Commission as a plaintiff, states its purpose is “to protect the State of California’s residents, natural resources, economic interests, procedural rights, and sovereignty from violations of the United States Constitution” and federal law. It adds that the wall would have a chilling effect on tourism to the United States from Mexico. The state’s lawsuit alleges that the Trump administration has failed to comply with federal and state environmental laws and relied on federal statutes that don’t authorize the proposed projects. The brief alleges the federal government violated the U.S. Constitution’s separation-of-powers doctrine “by vesting in the Executive Branch the power to waive state and local laws, including state criminal law.”.

California Statewide Coalition Housing Now Confronts Housing Crisis

Two men work on construction of a future housing and shopping complex near 8th and Market streets in June 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

By Deepa Varma for The Examiner – California now has the highest poverty rate in the nation when the cost of housing is taken into account. Since 2005, more than 2.5 million Californians have been forced to leave the state in search of an affordable home. Unfortunately, the prevailing supply and demand — “just build” — mantra put forward by opinion leaders is diverting state government from the hard truth that the market has not responded to the demand of California families for affordable homes — not luxury and market-rate homes. We are told a big lie, that the solution to our housing crisis is to get government out of the way and leave it to the free market to let affordable housing magically “trickle down” to lower-income households. The truth, though, is developers build to make a profit, not to provide a social need. Luxury housing doesn’t trickle down, at least not at a scale to bring down rents in a meaningful way. Meanwhile, there are new players in the game, changing the parameters of the problem: the rise of Wall Street’s new rental empire. In recent years, real estate speculators have been taking rent-controlled homes in San Francisco off the market and harassing long-time tenants because Costa Hawkins lets them raise the rents when old tenants move out.

What A Public Bank Could Mean For California

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By Ellen Brown for The Web of Debt Blog – California is the eighth largest economy in the world, and it has a debt burden to match. It has outstanding general obligation bonds and revenue bonds of $158 billion, largely incurred for infrastructure. Of this tab, $70 billion is just for interest. Over $7 billion of California’s annual budget goes to pay interest on the state’s debt. As large as California’s liabilities are, they are exceeded by its assets, which are sufficient to capitalize a bank rivaling any in the world. That’s the idea behind Assembly Bill 750, introduced by Assemblyman Ben Hueso of San Diego, which would establish a blue ribbon task force to consider the viability of creating the California Investment Trust, a state bank receiving deposits of state funds. Instead of relying on Wall Street banks for credit – or allowing a Wall Street bank to enjoy the benefits of lending its capital – California may decide to create its own, publicly-owned bank. On May 2, AB 750 moved out of the Banking and Finance Committee with only one nay vote and is now on its way to the Appropriations Committee. Three unions submitted their support for the bill – the California Nurses Association, the California Firefighters, and the California Labor Council. The state bank idea also got a nod from former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich in his speech at the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento the previous day.

Berkeley Capitulates To Police Militarization And Spying

Photo: Baltimore Militarization. Patrick Semansky/AP

By David Welsh for Counter Punch – Former mayor Gus Newport scolded the city council for going along with the various schemes for further empowering the police. “I cut my teeth in the civil rights movement by getting brutalized by police at the age of 11,” he said. “I would hope that you all have the principles, the heart and the concern for the people of Berkeley to make sure these [police programs] do not go any further.” Many spoke of the racist impacts of these federal police programs. Sharif Zakout, with the Arab Resource & Organizing Center, said: “I want to be absolutely clear that Urban Shield was developed in response to 9/11 and the Patriot Act and is an Islamophobic and racist program.” AROC is part of a broad Stop Urban Shield Coalition, whose mobilization succeeded in driving the racist program out of Oakland in 2015. That was the year when “Black Rifles Matter” was the most popular tee-shirt sold at the Urban Shield police expo. Berkeley resident James McFadden said the Intelligence Fusion Center and UASI “are part of a continuous effort to consolidate federal control over local police…that escalated after 9/11 with the passage of the Patriot Act and creation of Homeland Security.”

California EPA Becomes First U.S. Agency To Declare That Roundup Causes Cancer

The yields of organic farms, particularly those growing multiple crops, compare well to those of chemically intensive agriculture, according to a new UC Berkeley analysis. (Photo by Kristin Stringfield)

By Nathan Donley for Center for Biological Diversity – SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The state of California announced today that as of July 7 it will list glyphosate, the main ingredient in the pesticide Roundup and the most common pesticide in the world, as a known human carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65. Today’s decision by the California Environmental Protection Agency was prompted by the World Health Organization’s finding that glyphosate is a “probable” human carcinogen. The WHO’s cancer research agency is widely considered to be the gold standard for research on cancer. “California’s decision makes it the national leader in protecting people from cancer-causing pesticides,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and a former cancer researcher. “The U.S. EPA now needs to step up and acknowledge that the world’s most transparent and science-based assessment has linked glyphosate to cancer.” The state was cleared to move forward with its decision earlier this year to list glyphosate after a court denied Monsanto’s efforts to postpone the listing pending the outcome of the pesticide company’s legal challenge of the decision. Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the United States as well as the world, and is the most widely used pesticide in California, as measured by area of treated land.

Women In California’s Largest Immigrant Prison Hold Hunger Strike

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By Victoria Law for Waging Nonviolence – On June 14, 33 women who have been detained and incarcerated by ICE in California’s Adelanto Detention Facility launched a hunger strike. They were protesting the poor conditions at the facility as well as the policies that were keeping them away from their children and loved ones. The Adelanto Detention Facility, with a capacity of 1,940, is the largest private immigration detention facility in the United States. Run by the GEO Group, ICE pays $111 per person per day for the first 975 detainees, thus guaranteeing GEO a minimum of $40 million each year. If more than 975 people are detained inside Adelanto, the daily rate drops to less than $50 per day. Immigrant rights organizations, such as Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, or CIVIC, and Detention Watch Network, have sharply criticized Adelanto for its widespread and systemic abuses towards immigrants in custody. Since March 2017, three people have died at Adelanto. Others have reported medical neglect and, on at least one occasion, being punished for seeking medical care. Norma Gutierrez, one of the women on hunger strike has suffered multiple strokes during her incarceration at Adelanto. Instead of receiving proper medical care, she was placed in solitary confinement.

Cheap, Clean Energy Pushes California Electricity Prices Below Zero

California has been a leader in renewable energy. How it manages energy over-abundance may determine whether other states follow its clean-energy lead. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

By Leslie Kaufman for Inside Climate News – For a time this spring in California, as the snow melted above hydroelectric dams, the sun shone on solar arrays, and the wind whipped through turbines, the state was confronted with both a blessing and a curse. It arrived as an overwhelming flood of cheap, clean electricity. At times it drove wholesale prices below zero. And it has left grid operators in California, and in other parts of the country, wondering how to cope with the upending of power markets by abundant renewable energy. California has led the pack in adding renewable energy to its grid. How it manages the challenges of energy over-abundance may determine whether other states follow in its clean energy footsteps. Some worry that if California bungles the transition to clean energy, it could undermine the state’s own incredibly rapid solar build-out—from 300 megawatts on the grid in 2008 to nearly 15,000 megawatts today—which has put California well ahead of its milestones toward deep decarbonization. The crux of the issue that arose this spring is that in the middle of some days, California produced so much renewable energy it drove wholesale electricity prices below zero…

Study: Legal Pot Will Boost California Economy By $5 Billion

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By Andrew Buncombe for Independent – The economy of California – poised to create a market for legal marijuana – could see its economy boosted by as much as $5bn, according to a new study. The report by the University of California Agricultural Issues Centre, says that the legalisation of the drug will provide the state a further reason for tourists – or at least some tourists – to visit. Yet it also warns that around 30 per cent of people who use cannabis may remain in the illegal market, in order to avoid the financial impact of regulations that require marijuana to be tested, tracked and taxed at 15 per cent of its retail value. The Los Angeles Times said that state officials developing the regulations, hope they will be able to persuade the majority of cannabis users to go through the legal market. Lori Ajax, director of the state Bureau of Marijuana Control, which commissioned the report, told the newspaper: “It’s going to take some time. While it’s unlikely that everyone will come into the regulated market on Day One, we plan to continue working with stakeholders as we move forward to increase participation over time.”

Media Groups Concerned About Death Threats To California Newspaper

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By Staff of RSF – RSF first learned of threats against the twice weekly newspaper The Sacramento Valley Mirror last April, after the paper’s editor and publisher Tim Crews reached out by email. According to Crews and his attorney, he and reporter Larry Judkins began receiving threatening phone calls and complaints after they covered a local death in late March. In addition to the calls, Crews also sent RSF a photograph of a noose that had been left in front of the door to the paper’s offices in downtown Willows, California on April 21. “This threat, in broad daylight, means to us that the perpetrators, who are trying to warn us off a series we are working on, are operating with impunity,” Crews told RSF. “Since learning of the threat against the Valley Mirror, RSF has been closely monitoring the case, says Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF’s North America Bureau. “Due to the lack of any serious development in the investigation to date and events of the last month where journalists in the United States have been arrested, manhandled and even physically assaulted for attempting to ask questions, it’s important that we implore the local authorities to take threats of violence against the press very seriously.”

At $75,560, Housing A Prisoner In California Now Costs More Than A Year At Harvard

Inmates walk in file at San Quentin State Prison. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

By Staff of Associated Press -The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase. The result is a per-inmate cost that is the nation’s highest — and $2,000 above tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses to attend Harvard. Since 2015, California’s per-inmate costs have surged nearly $10,000, or about 13%. New York is a distant second in overall costs at about $69,000. Critics say with fewer inmates, the costs should be falling. “Now that we’re incarcerating less, we haven’t ramped the system back down,” said Chris Hoene, executive director of the left-leaning California Budget & Policy Center. For example, the corrections department has one employee for every two inmates, compared with one employee for roughly every four inmates in 1994.

Fresno State Cancels A Middle East Studies Professorship Amid Alleged Right-Wing Pro-Israel Pressure

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By Murtaza Hussain for The Intercept – LATE LAST YEAR, the California State University at Fresno began soliciting applicants for a newly created Edward Said Professorship in Middle East Studies, a teaching role named after the late Palestinian-American public intellectual. In a job posting, the school described the role as a “tenure-track, academic-year position” teaching courses on the Middle East and helping develop the school curriculum on the region. Said was famously known as an advocate of Palestinian nationalism in the United States as well as the author of the groundbreaking work of cultural criticism “Orientalism.” Last week, however, after months of evaluating candidates, Fresno State abruptly announced that it would not be filling the role this year. While the school cited “procedural errors” as a reason for the cancellation, academics at the school, including one professor who resigned in protest, are claiming that the school is engaging in an act of academic censorship. In a resignation letter issued last week, Vida Samiian, the longtime dean of Fresno State’s College of Arts and Humanities, said that a pressure campaign had targeted the search committee for the professorship, and that the school had balked at having four Arab-American finalists for the role.

Folsom Prisoners Declare Hunger Strike, Mainstream Media Silent

From liberationnews.org

By Staff of PSL – Folsom State Prison, also known as Old Folsom, is the second oldest state prison in California, behind San Quentin, and is highly recognized as one of the first maximum security prisons. Folsom State Prison is also known for the executions of over 90 inmates over the course of 20 years in addition to being where former Black Panther, Eldridge Cleaver, was held for a short period. The decades of oppression behind bars has never failed to produce resistance by those most affected. This most recent hunger strike was declared in response to the harsh conditions that prisoners in Administrative Segregation Units are facing. Prisoners are given food without plates or bowls and they’re not given any cups to drink water from thus being forced to eat from plastic bags and drink from old milk cartons. Mail is withheld from prisoners for months without any explanation. The prison refuses to provide them with basic rehabilitation programs or even cleaning supplies for their cells. Prisoners have reached out to multiple people and have received no response or help for the conditions that they are forced to live with on a day to day basis.

Residents Sue To Block Nuclear Waste From Being Stored Near California Beach

Drums of nuclear waste in a salt shaft at New Mexico's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. (photo: Brian van der Brug/LA Times) go to original article

By Staff of Democracy Now – Environmental activists in California are fighting plans to store 3.6 million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste on a popular beach in San Diego County. In 2012, a radioactive leak at the San Onofre nuclear power plant forced an emergency shutdown. The plant was fully closed by June 2013. Now residents are fighting the permit issued by the California Coastal Commission to store the millions of pounds of nuclear waste in thin, stainless steel canisters, within 100 feet of the ocean. We speak to Ray Lutz, founder of Citizens’ Oversight, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the expansion of the nuclear waste storage facility.