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

Flickr/ Images Money

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

Getty Images News John Moore

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

adrian-shareve

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

Stephan Savoia/AP

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.

California Court Upholds Berkeley Cellphone Warning

A California court has upheld a law that forces retailers to warn customers about the potential health risks of cellphones. 

On Friday, a Ninth Circuit panel of judges ruled in favor of a Berkeley, California law which requires retailers to display warnings about the possibility of health risks from cellphones. The 2 to 1 decision rejects a legal challenge from the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA), a wireless industry trade group who challenged Berkeley’s so-called “Right To Know” ordinance in June 2015. The group claimed the law violates the First Amendment by forcing retailers to spread a message that they say is misleading.

Circuit Judge William Fletcher disagreed, writing that because Berkeley’s cellphone warning is “purely factual” and is offering protection of public safety, it does not violate the First Amendment.

“Berkeley’s compelled disclosure does no more than to alert consumers to the safety disclosures that the FCC requires, and to direct consumers to federally compelled instructions in their user manuals providing specific information about how to avoid excessive exposure,” Fletcher wrote. “Far from conflicting with federal law and policy, the Berkeley ordinance complements and reinforces it.”

Circuit Judge Michelle Friedland was the dissenting vote. Judge Friedland says the law promotes a “misleading” message that  “carrying a cellphone in one’s pocket is unsafe.”

The Berkeley ordinance informs cell phone users that, “If you carry or use your phone in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra when the phone is ON and connected to a wireless network, you may exceed the federal guidelines for exposure to RF [radio frequency] radiation.”  The ordinance also warns that the risk is higher in children. U.S. District Judge Edward Chen originally put a halt to the Berkeley law in September 2015 because of one line of text that was deemed unscientific. The language of the ordinance was later changed and then approved.

The CTIA filed their challenge shortly after, stating that the use of the word “radiation” was “fraught with negative associations” and would cause economic losses. Judge Fletcher Circuit Judge Morgan Christen found that the organization failed to provided proof that the ordinance would result in fewer cellphone sales.

Judge Friedland, on the other hand, said the ordinance was obviously designed to send a message: “carrying a phone ‘in a pants or shirt pocket or tucked into a bra’ is not safe.”However, she said, “That implication is a problem for Berkeley because it has not offered any evidence that carrying a cellphone in a pocket is in fact unsafe.”

Friedland skepticism in the possible dangers associated with cellphone use has been repeated by CNN and others. To be clear, there are studies which have found some association with possible negative health affects. As Digital Trends notes, “studies in both Australia and India have found that men who use their cell phones most frequently (and keep them in their pants pocket) had lower sperm counts than those who used cell phones less often. Other studies have also suggested a link between radiation exposure from cell phone usage and certain types of brain cancer.”

There are also studies which have concluded there is no risk of cancer or other illnesses from the radiation released by cell phones. An 18-month study from Denmark compared cancer rates in 360,000 cell phone users to adults without cellphone subscriptions and found no connection to brain or spinal cord tumors. Still, many health advocates are cautious about the growing use of cell phones and a lack of studies.

“If industry does not want to advise people about the fact that phones are not tested next to the body, then they should get the FCC to change its requirements for radiation testing. They cannot do this because, if phones were tested next to the body, they would be found to emit too much radiation to pass current standards,”  Dr. Robert Morris, Environmental Health Trust’s Senior Medical Advisor, stated.

Wherever you fall in this discussion, it seems that City of Berkeley is not the only institution warning people about potential dangers related to the technology. As Activist Post reported, the Athens Medical Association of Athens, Greece, held a conference on April 1st regarding “Non-Ionizing Radiation and Its Effects on Human Health.”  The conference featured lectures and concluded with 16 recommendations to reduce exposures and human health adverse effects. The recommendations include, “Restrict cell phone use when children or pregnant women are near,” and “Keep mobile phones away from your body.”

What are your thoughts? Is the Berkeley ordinance another example of the State attempting to tell business owners how to run their business? Is there any danger to cell phone use? And if so, is there a cover-up happening? Leave your thoughts below.

By Derrick Broze for Activist Post – On Friday, a Ninth Circuit panel of judges ruled in favor of a Berkeley, California law which requires retailers to display warnings about the possibility of health risks from cellphones. The 2 to 1 decision rejects a legal challenge from the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA), a wireless industry trade group who challenged Berkeley’s so-called “Right To Know” ordinance in June 2015. The group claimed the law violates the First Amendment by forcing retailers to spread a message that they say is misleading. Circuit Judge William Fletcher disagreed, writing that because Berkeley’s cellphone warning is “purely factual” and is offering protection of public safety, it does not violate the First Amendment. “Berkeley’s compelled disclosure does no more than to alert consumers to the safety disclosures that the FCC requires, and to direct consumers to federally compelled instructions in their user manuals providing specific information about how to avoid excessive exposure,” Fletcher wrote. “Far from conflicting with federal law and policy, the Berkeley ordinance complements and reinforces it.”

Half Of California’s Energy Met With Solar For First Time

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By Danielle Ola for PV Tech – From the hours of 11am to 2pm on 11 March, the total solar share of gross demand exceeded 50%, according to the EIA. Source: Flickr/ lindalino. On 11 March, for the first time ever, over 50% of California’s power needs were met with solar power, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). From the hours of 11am to 2pm, “the total solar share of gross demand probably exceeded 50%,” the EIA said – noting that it was a combination of residential and commercial rooftop generation that constituted 4 million kWh of electricity during peak time. During the same time window, wholesale electric rates dipped below zero, compared to the average price of between US$14-$45MWh in March between 2013 and 2015.

California Judge Enables Cancer Warning On Monsanto’s Roundup

From sustainablepulse.com

By Staff of Sustainable Pulse – Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan previously issued a tentative ruling on January 27 in Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al. Judge Kapetan formalized her ruling against Monsanto on Friday, which will allow California to proceed with the process of listing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as a chemical “known to the state to cause cancer” in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65. Note: California has still not finalized the labeling of Roundup under Proposition 65 or set the safe harbor levels.