February 2008 Archives

February 4, 2008

Maria Shriver endorses Obama

Trouble in the Schwarzenegger household? This will certainly neutralize Arnold’s backing of McCain.

California first lady Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan, endorsed Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for U.S. president on Sunday, days after her husband, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, backed Republican John McCain.

“I thought, if Barack Obama were a state, he’d be California,” Shriver told the crowd jamming an Obama rally at the University of California at Los Angeles. “I mean think about it. Diverse. Open. Smart. Independent. Bucks tradition. Innovative. Inspiring. Dreamer. Leader.”

Obama, an Illinois senator, is running neck and neck with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton days before Super Tuesday, in which California and more than 20 other states hold primaries and caucuses to nominate Democratic and Republican candidates for the November presidential election.

On the Republican side, front-runner McCain’s closest rival is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Shriver was flanked at the rally by her cousin Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy and television talk-show star Oprah Winfrey. Caroline Kennedy and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, the brother of the slain president, have also backed Obama.

Filed under California Politics by

February 11, 2008

BTAnnounces Solar Energy System for California Headquarters

Press release: HRH Prince Andrew, The Duke of York, will join BT today to announce the ground-breaking of a renewable energy initiative at BT’s office complex in Southern California. Next month, BT will begin construction of a solar photovoltaic system for its North American corporate headquarters site in the City of El Segundo (Los Angeles County). Once the system is fully operational by late summer, BT expects to reduce carbon emissions by 642,000 pounds (more than 290 metric tons) annually as well as decrease its overall power costs for the site in future years. HRH Prince Andrew, the United Kingdom’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, commented, “British companies continue to demonstrate their interest and investment in the United States and in solutions to help reduce the impact of climate change.” He continued, “I commend BT for its leadership in producing significant renewable energy solutions in the UK. With this solar project, BT extends its environmental consciousness to its operations in the U.S.”

Filed under Energy Industry, United Kingdom by

Asians & Latinos key to Hillary’s California victory

That’s according to Scott Kurashige of the Huffington Post, who noted that this may be the first time in American history where, “a candidate failed to win African Americans and whites but won overall-as Clinton did in California”. He noted, however, that “if Clinton’s multicultural strategy is unprecedented, Obama’s effort to transcend “minority” politics is historic. Casting Obama as a “colorblind” politician, the pundits and his left skeptics have largely missed the significance of what he represents. Getting “beyond race” today is not about ignoring the problem of racism or moderating ones politics to appease whites. Instead, it means thinking about America as a multiracial nation that dispels old notions of both white normativity and majority/minority identities.” The article is worth a read: The Future is Now: California’s Multiracial Challenge to America“.

Filed under California Politics, U.S. Politics by

Anonymous poster does not have to reveal identity

A California appeals court on Wednesday said an anonymous Internet poster does not have to reveal his identity after being sued for making “scathing verbal attacks” against executives at a Florida company on a Yahoo message board, according to a report in ZDnet. The Sixth Appellate District in Santa Clara County reversed a trial court ruling that would have allowed a former executive at SFBC International to subpoena Yahoo for the names of her critics. The appeal was filed by a poster whose screen name includes a Spanish expletive but who is known as “Doe 6″ in the lawsuit filed by former SFBC Chairman and COO Lisa Krinsky in 2006. Krinsky accuses Doe 6 and nine other Yahoo Finance posters of libel, fraud, and other claims arising from posts they made about her while she was a company officer. The appellate court concluded that while Doe 6′s messages were “unquestionably offensive and demeaning,” they could not be counted as defamation since they could not be considered assertions of fact. Without a cause of action, Krinsky could not overcome Doe 6′s First Amendment right to speak anonymously on the Internet, the court said. The decade-old controversy over pseudonymous posting in chat rooms took a major twist last July when the U.S. regulators revealed that Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey had been posting in Yahoo Finance under a fake name for several years. His messages boosted his own company’s strategy and denigrated those of rival supermarket chain Wild Oats, which Whole Foods later sought to acquire.

Filed under Internet, Legal and Criminal Issues by

Federal Authorities Raid San Fernando Valley firm

More than 100 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided a printer supply manufacturer in the San Fernando Valley on Thursday, taking into custody about 120 employees for being in the country illegally and arresting eight on federal criminal charges, according to a report in Associated Press. The raid at the offices of Micro Solutions Enterprises began around 3:30 p.m., said Virginia Kice, an ICE spokeswoman, who said the basis for the criminal warrant that led to the raid was under seal. The eight people were arrested for allegedly providing fraudulent information to get their jobs, Kice said. All of the 120 people taken into custody for illegal immigration status were interviewed for what Kice called “humanitarian issues.” About 40, including the elderly and those with children, were released to await a hearing before an immigration judge, Kice said.

Filed under Immigration, Legal and Criminal Issues, U.S. Government by

February 13, 2008

Blue Cross wants California Doctors to rat on their patients

More evidence that the medical system in California- and for that matter the entire country, is completely broken. As reported in the Los Angeles Times:

The state’s largest for-profit health insurer is asking California physicians to look for conditions it can use to cancel their new patients’ medical coverage. Blue Cross of California is sending physicians copies of health insurance applications filled out by new patients, along with a letter advising them that the company has a right to drop members who fail to disclose “material medical history,” including “pre-existing pregnancies.”

“Any condition not listed on the application that is discovered to be pre-existing should be reported to Blue Cross immediately,” the letters say. The Times obtained a copy of a letter that was aimed at physicians in large medical groups. The letter wasn’t going down well with physicians. “We’re outraged that they are asking doctors to violate the sacred trust of patients to rat them out for medical information that patients would expect their doctors to handle with the utmost secrecy and confidentiality,” said Dr. Richard Frankenstein, president of the California Medical Assn. Patients “will stop telling their doctors anything they think might be a problem for their insurance and they don’t think matters for their current health situation,” he said. “But they didn’t go to medical school, and there are all kinds of obscure things that could be very helpful to a doctor.”

WellPoint Inc., the Indianapolis-based company that operates Blue Cross of California, said Monday that it was sending out the letters in an effort to hold down costs. “Enrolling an applicant who did not disclose their true condition (and the condition is chronic or acute), will quickly drive increased utilization of services, which drives up costs for all members,” WellPoint spokeswoman Shannon Troughton said in an e-mail.

“Blue Cross feels it is our responsibility to assure all records are accurate and up to date for HMO providers,” she said. “We send these letters to identify members early on in the process who may not have been honest in their application.” Blue Cross is one of several California insurers that have come under fire for issuing policies without checking applications and then canceling coverage after individuals incur major medical costs. The practice of canceling coverage, known in the industry as rescission, is under scrutiny by state regulators, lawmakers and the courts.

Patients in a raft of lawsuits accuse the insurers of canceling coverage over honest mistakes and minor inconsistencies on applications that they contend are purposely confusing. Victims of cancer and other serious medical problems often are unable to get new coverage once their insurance has been rescinded and they may go without treatment when they need it most. Suddenly swamped by medical debt, some people have lost homes and businesses.

Filed under Health and Medical by

EU raids Intel’s German office

European regulators raided the German office of Intel Corp. as part of antitrust investigation into possible anticompetitive practices, according to a report in Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal. Santa Clara-based Intel said the EU raided its offices in Munich, and said it is cooperating with the investigation. The Wall Street Journal reported that German conglomerate Metro AG confirmed that the EU also raided its computer sales businesses Media Markt and Saturn Holding GmbH. In July, the EU charged Intel with conducting illegal competition against rival Sunnyvale-based Advanced Micro Devices Inc. by offering computer hardware manufacturers rebates, discounts and cash. The Journal said AMD has a separate case against Media Markt that accuses the retailer of only selling Intel-based PCs. Intel is due to appear in Brussels for a hearing on the issue in March, and the company also faces a similar probe in New York by the State Attorney General’s office.

Filed under Germany, Information Technology, Legal and Criminal Issues by

Facebook: you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave

The company notorious for spying on its own users now won’t even let them leave. As reported in the New York Times:

Are you a member of Facebook.com? You may have a lifetime contract. Some users have discovered that it is nearly impossible to remove themselves entirely from Facebook, setting off a fresh round of concern over the popular social network’s use of personal data.

While the Web site offers users the option to deactivate their accounts, Facebook servers keep copies of the information in those accounts indefinitely. Indeed, many users who have contacted Facebook to request that their accounts be deleted have not succeeded in erasing their records from the network.

“It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

It took Mr. Das about two months and several e-mail exchanges with Facebook’s customer service representatives to erase most of his information from the site, which finally occurred after he sent an e-mail threatening legal action. But even after that, a reporter was able to find Mr. Das’s empty profile on Facebook and successfully sent him an e-mail message through the network.

In response to difficulties faced by ex-Facebook members, a cottage industry of unofficial help pages devoted to escaping Facebook has sprung up online — both outside and inside the network. “I thought it was kind of strange that they save your information without telling you in a really clear way,” said Magnus Wallin, a 26-year-old patent examiner in Stockholm who founded a Facebook group, “How to permanently delete your facebook account.” The group has almost 4,300 members and is steadily growing.

Filed under Internet by

Benchmark Capital raises $500 million,

Benchmark Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture firms, has just finished raising its sixth fund, totaling $500 million, according to a report in VentureBeat. Partner Steve Spurlock said the firm’s partners haven’t changed, and that its focus will remain on enterprise software, internet and security companies. The latest fund is somewhat larger than the firm’s previous 2004 fund of $425 million, in part because the firm has added two more partners, but also because it wants to invest in later stage deals. The firm hit it big in the late 1990s with eBay’s IPO, was somewhat barren during the downturn immediately after 2000, but has had a roll of profitable returns on investments lately: MySQL, Zimbra, Vontu and Tellme have all been acquired for large multi-hundred million dollar amounts. Other recent IPOs or sold companies were Infinera, Business.com, Good, Avamar, Entrisphere and Ingenio.

Filed under Venture Capital by

February 25, 2008

Texas passes California in wind power

According to the New York Times Texas surpassed California as the top wind farm state in 2006. In January alone, new wind farms representing $700 million of investment went into operation in Texas, supplying power sufficient for 100,000 homes:

Texas, once the oil capital of North America, is rapidly turning into the capital of wind power. After breakneck growth the last three years, Texas has reached the point that more than 3 percent of its electricity, enough to supply power to one million homes, comes from wind turbines.

Texans are even turning tapped-out oil fields into wind farms, and no less an oilman than Boone Pickens is getting into alternative energy. “I have the same feelings about wind,” Mr. Pickens said in an interview, “as I had about the best oil field I ever found.” He is planning to build the biggest wind farm in the world, a $10 billion behemoth that could power a small city by itself….

Much of the boom in the United States is being driven by foreign power companies with experience developing wind projects, including Iberdrola of Spain, Energias de Portugal and Windkraft Nord of Germany. Foreign companies own two-thirds of the wind projects under construction in Texas.

Filed under Energy Industry by

California beef recall sets back trade negotiations

As reported in International Herold Tribune, but isn’t it possible that in some countries this situation could have occurred and no recall would have been issued in the first place?

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said Friday the nation’s largest beef recall has set back negotiations to ship U.S. beef to Japan and South Korea. Those markets closed to the U.S. cattle industry in 2003 after a scare over mad cow disease. Schafer said at a convention of meat packers and processors that he is hopeful trade talks will continue, but that the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. recall has diplomats asking why the U.S. can’t ship safe meat. The USDA recalled 143 million pounds of beef from the Chino-based slaughterhouse after the U.S. Humane Society released undercover video that showed slaughterhouse workers there kicking and shoving sick and crippled cows and forcing them to stand with electric prods, forklifts and water hoses. Downer cows, or those too sickly to stand, are banned from the food supply because they carry a higher risk of mad cow disease and other illnesses.

Filed under Agriculture and Food, Opinion by

Hollywood strike cost $2.5 billion

The recent writer’s strike cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $2.5 billion, according to Jack Kyser, economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. As reported in the Hollywood Reporter:

The ricochet effect from the Hollywood writers strike might be more far-reaching and long-lasting than first thought. So says an influential Los Angeles economist in his annual “Economic Forecast Report” for Los Angeles County and its surrounding areas.

The work stoppage that started November 5 and was settled early this month already has cost the town an estimated $2.5 billion, according to Jack Kyser, the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. The figure includes lost wages from TV shows that were canceled and films that were put on hold as well as a plethora of support services, ranging from limo drivers to florists. Kyser suggested that the cancellation of the Golden Globes resulted in a $60 million shortfall for the community.

Filed under California Economy, Media and Entertainment by

California Budget Deficit is up to $16 billion

California’s budget deficit has risen to an eye popping $16 billion. What seems to be going mostly unreported in this, is that Governor Schwarzenegger has been repeatedly wrong in his budget projections. Wasn’t that one of the major reasons we recalled his predecessor? We haven’ t heard the last of this- not by a long shot. As reported in the San Diego Union:

California’s nonpartisan fiscal watchdog on Wednesday said the state’s budget shortfall has grown to $16 billion and offered an unprecedented and competing plan to close the gap by imposing both spending cuts and tax increases.

Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal for the 2008-09 budget year is flawed because it fails to set funding priorities and correct the state’s chronic imbalance between spending and revenue. “A decline in revenue means we have a larger shortfall than the governor projected,” she said. “Our recommendations will affect all Californians in some way. However, we think that will benefit all Californians in the long run.”

Last month, Schwarzenegger pegged the shortfall at $14.5 billion through June 2009. A continuing decline in the housing market that has created ripple effects throughout the economy has contributed to a sharp drop in tax revenue. Hill criticized the across-the-board budget cuts to most state agencies that Schwarzenegger proposed. Instead, she called for targeting and eliminating nonessential state services and raising tax revenue by cutting personal and corporate tax credits for families, businesses and motorists. She also advocated a higher gasoline tax.

Filed under California Government, Governor Schwarzenegger by

February 27, 2008

Schwarzenegger wants Pentagon to return equipment

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, Governor Schwarzenegger told Bush administration officials that he is tired of the Pentagon treating the California National Guard like a stepchild by using its equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan without returning or replacing it.

The Republican governor, in a visit to Washington for the annual meeting of the National Governors’ Association, said the California National Guard is missing about half of its equipment – from humvees to radios. That could leave California at risk in an earthquake, fire or other emergency, Schwarzenegger said. “It’s not fair to the states for the federal government to go into a war and then to take from us the equipment,” he said after meetings Monday with President Bush and Cabinet officials. “Every time our National Guard leaves, they take with them equipment but they don’t bring it back.”

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Schwarzenegger and other governors that the Pentagon plans to pay to replace some of the equipment that is damaged or destroyed, but the compensation could take several years because of budget constraints. Schwarzenegger said states also face budget shortfalls and can’t shoulder the burden indefinitely.

During the Southern California fires in October, some local officials complained about a lack of air support to contain the blazes, while state and federal officials criticized the U.S. military for failing to deploy some of its C-130 planes immediately after the fires broke out….

The state estimates that $1 billion worth of equipment is being used, from diesel generators to trucks to GPS devices. The California National Guard is also stretched thin because about 1,400 guardsmen are helping the federal government to secure the border with Mexico. “There’s only so long you can do that,” the governor said. “We now are missing 50 percent of the equipment – the equipment also (used) to train the National Guard.”

Filed under Defense and Military, Governor Schwarzenegger, U.S. Government by

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