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August 22, 2013

Global Warming already impacting California

The California Environmental Protection Agency has released a somewhat depressing report describing how climate change is already impacting California. The report was issued by the he Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and evaluated 36 indicators of Climate Change in California. Among the indicators they tracked were impacts on physical systems- including sea level and Sierra Nevada snow melt, biological systems – including humans, animals and vegetation and impacts on climate change – such as average temperature and extreme heat events.

Some of the impacts California is already experiencing: reduced spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada, more acidic waters in Monterrey Bay, shorter winter chill periods required to grow fruit in the Central Valley. Ocean warming may have been responsible for a drop in Chinook salmon population during the past decade. Even insects have been effected – butterflies in the Central Valley are emerging from hiding earlier in the spring. Small mammels in the Sierra Nevada have been migrating to higher ground.

Humans are of course impacted also. Since glaciers in the Sierra Nevada have been shrinking spring runoff from snow melt has declined and this affects both Central Valley farmers and hydroelectric plants that rely on this snowmelt to produce power. The less than cheery report warns that we can expect more heat waves, wildfires and higher sea levels.

Filed under Environment and Climate, z9-Uncategorized by

January 6, 2010

New “watchdog” website for California government launched

The Pacific Research Institute, and non-profit think tank in Sacramento, has launched a new investigative reporting website at www.CalWatchdog.com.   According to their website, “CalWatchdog is an independent, Sacramento-based journalism venture providing original investigative reports and news stories covering California state government. We’re focused on reporting on the state Capitol, state agencies and on significant government-related stories from across California that are of statewide importance” and they aspire to be “part of a new wave of web-based reporting designed to improve oversight of government”  .

The San Francisco-based institute retained journalist Steven Greenhut Greenhut to lead the nonprofit news site that is intended to be non-partisan.  Greenhut was deputy editor and columnist for The Orange County Register for 11 years. He is author of the new book, “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”

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February 3, 2009

California now lowest credit rating in the United States

California has the lowest credit rating in the country after Standard & Poor’s cut its general obligation bonds one grade because of a record budget deficit, according to a report in the San Jose Business Journal we are now in worse shape then even hurricane ravaged Louisiana:

New York-based S&P said Tuesday it lowered the state’s $46 billion of full-faith-and-credit debt to A from A plus. The move bumps California down; it was previously tied with Louisiana. Gabriel Petek of S&P’s San Francisco office said the lowered rating “reflects our view of the state’s inability to reach an agreement on a mid-year budget revision and its rapidly eroding cash position.” California has had to delay $3.7 billion in some payments — including income tax refunds — because of the budget impasse.

Filed under California Economy, California Government, z9-Uncategorized by

January 15, 2009

HP CEO Scores with $42 million salary prior to massive layoffs

Is this another example of our corporate leaders being rewarded for short term gain rather than long term vision?

Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Mark Hurd received about $42.5 million in pay during 2008, according to a regulatory filing. The Palo Alto-based personal computer maker said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday that it gave Hurd a $5.3 million bonus along with $12.9 million in stock awards, $18.6 million in incentive plan compensation and $4.2 million in option awards, pension and expense payments. His base salary was $1.5 million.  Hurd took the reins in April 2005 and began a revamp of the company. In September HP said it would take a $1.7 billion charge and cut 24,600 jobs.

Filed under Manufacturing, z9-Uncategorized by

November 25, 2008

1.5 million Californians out of work

California now has more that 1.5 million unemployed nearly a third of whom have lost their jobs in the last year. The State’s unemployment rate jumped to 8.2 percent in October, the highest rate in 14 years. This is the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation after Michigan and Rhode Island, which were both have rates of 9.3 percent. The largest hit came in the construction industry, which has lost 65,900 jobs in the last year, followed by manufacturing. Between October 2007 and October 2008, the state lost 101,300 jobs, including 24,600 in the past month alone. The State Employment Development Department said its monthly survey found 527,918 people were receiving unemployment checks in October.

This bad news came just as a state fund that pays these unemployment benefits was about to run out of money and is on the brink of insolvency. The state’s unemployment insurance fund is expected to have a deficit of $2.4 billion at the end of 2009, forcing it to borrow from the federal government for only the second time since the program was established in the 1930s. If no steps are taken to increase the fund’s revenue or reduce its payouts, its deficit is projected to hit $4.9 billion by the end of 2010.

Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed filling this gap by raising the payments from employers into the fund and by reducing benefit levels for unemployed workers and raising income eligibility requirements. He has not been able to reach agreement with the State Legislature on this approach, as they struggle to address California’s now-$11.2 billion budget deficit.

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November 15, 2008

Goldman Sachs conflict alleged in California bond sales

Goldman, Sachs & Co. urged some of its big clients to place investment bets against California bonds this year despite having collected millions of dollars in fees to help the state sell some of those same bonds. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the giant investment firm did not inform the office of California Treasurer Bill Lockyer that it was proposing a way for investment clients to profit from California’s deepening financial misery. In Sacramento, officials said they were concerned that Goldman’s strategy could raise the interest rate the state would have to pay to borrow money, thus harming taxpayers. While it is not clear whether this is technically illegal, it is what gamblers call, “playing both ends against the middle” and California has been highly sensitive to the possibility of any major corporation gaming the system ever since Enron ran off with the entire State treasury in 2001. The full article can be read at this link.

Filed under Banking and Financial Services, California Economy, z9-Uncategorized by

March 4, 2008

California lost more than 20,000 jobs in January

California lost 20,300 jobs in January as employers sliced payrolls while grappling with the slowing national economy and stubborn housing slump, state officials announced last week. The January job figures followed a revised gain of 11,400 jobs in December, the Employment Development Department reported. Revised annual job figures showed the state added only 14,900 payroll jobs in the 12-month period ended Jan. 31, a tiny 0.1 percent increase. The once-booming construction sector accounted for the most job cuts, shedding 69,300 positions, a 7.6 percent annual drop.

“These revisions, while not unexpected, highlight the probability that economic growth in 2008 will be lower than expected, which in turn will intensify the pressures on state and local budgets,” Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, wrote in a research brief. About 1.1 million Californians were looking for work in January, unchanged from December, but up by 182,000 since January 2007, the state agency reported. More than half were laid off, while 115,800 people chose to leave their job. The rest were either temporarily employed or new job seekers. The unemployment rate was 5.9 percent.

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October 7, 2007

Shades of ping-pong diplomacy?

That’s what is being reported as North Korean Karate team visits L.A.

In a visit already drawing comparisons to the “ping pong diplomacy” between the U.S. and China in the 1970s, a team of North Korean masters of the martial art tae kwon do is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Thursday for an unprecedented 13-day American tour. In Los Angeles, the 18 North Koreans are expected to be joined by American and South Korean practitioners of the ancient Korean combat art in a three-hour performance. They also will spend the day hobnobbing at the quintessentially American institution, Warner Brothers Studios, before traveling to San Francisco; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Louisville, Ky.; and Atlanta.

Full story at this link: : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21000352/

Filed under Foreign Relations, North Korea, z9-Uncategorized by

October 5, 2007

Paramount steps into a mine field

Paramount Vantage, the Los Angeles distributor of Kite Runner, has decided to delay the release of the film because of concerns over the safety of it’s child actors, and the possibility that it could set off ethnic violence in Afghanistan. As reported in the New York Times:

The boys (actors) and their relatives are now accusing the filmmakers of mistreatment, and warnings have been relayed to the studio from Afghan and American officials and aid workers that the movie could aggravate simmering enmities between the politically dominant Pashtun and the long-oppressed Hazara.

In an effort to prevent not only a public-relations disaster but also possible violence, studio lawyers and marketing bosses have employed a stranger-than-fiction team of consultants. In August they sent a retired Central Intelligence Agency counterterrorism operative in the region to Kabul to assess the dangers facing the child actors. And on Sunday a Washington-based political adviser flew to the United Arab Emirates to arrange a safe haven for the boys and their relatives.

“If we’re being overly cautious, that’s O.K.,” Karen Magid, a lawyer for Paramount, said. “We’re in uncharted territory.” In interviews, more than a dozen people involved in the studio’s response described grappling with vexing questions: testing the limits of corporate responsibility, wondering who was exploiting whom and pondering the price of on-screen authenticity.

The Kite Runner is based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini that spans three decades of war in Afghanistan. It is about a friendship between two Afghan boys- one a Pashtun and one a Hazara, but the storyline includes a rape of the Hazara boy by a Pashtun. The film’s director, Marc Forster made the film in Dari, an Afghan language. He has said that casting the two young Afghan actors did not seem risky at the time, but the situation there has since deteriorated and ethnic tensions are on the rise. In late July, violence worsened in Kabul, so Paramount executives turned to lobbyists for Viacom- their Parent Company, for help. They recommended that John Kiriakou, a retired C.I.A. operative with experience in the region, be sent to assess the situation. As the New York Times reported, Mr. Kiriakou’s briefing “could make a pretty good movie by itself”:

A specialist on Islam at the State Department nearly wept envisioning a “Danish-cartoons situation,” Mr. Kiriakou said. An Afghan literature professor, he added, said Paramount was “willing to burn an already scorched nation for a fistful of dollars.” The head of an Afghan political party said the movie would energize the Taliban. Nearly everyone Mr. Kiriakou met said that the boys had to be removed from Afghanistan for their safety. And a Hazara member of Parliament warned that Pashtun and Hazara “would be killing each other every night” in response to the film’s depiction of them. None of the interviewees had seen the movie.

While the Taliban destroyed all movie theaters in Afghanistan, bootleg DVDs often appear on the streets of Kabul shortly after a major film is released. It is likely that Kite Runner will be released after some time has passed and the safety of the child actors can be assured.

Filed under Afghanistan, Media and Entertainment, z9-Uncategorized by

May 26, 2007

California Peace Activist Missing in Iran

The L.A. Times has reported that Ali Shakeri, a “much admired” Iranian-American community in Orange County is missing in Iran:

In March, Shakeri told colleagues he was flying to Tehran; his mother was ailing. But when former President Carter spoke at UCI this month, and Shakeri was oddly absent from the event, board members began to wonder whether he was coming home.

This week, the group Human Rights Watch said the Iranian government probably detained Shakeri, 59, at a Tehran airport and might be interrogating him in an isolated location. He was scheduled to leave Iran and fly to Europe on May 13 but never arrived at his destination. Instead, his ticket had been canceled and his luggage taken from the airline’s possession, the group said.  “It’s a disaster,” said John Graham of the UC Irvine center, “that this voice of peace has been potentially silenced.”

In recent weeks, two Iranian American scholars with dual citizenship have been imprisoned while visiting the country. A reporter, also a dual national, had her passport confiscated and is unable to leave Iran. The detention of one of those scholars, Haleh Esfandiari, bears close parallels to Shakeri’s apparent disappearance… When she headed to the airport to leave Iran on Dec. 30, she was stopped by knife-wielding men in masks, according to center officials. She was interrogated extensively and, earlier this month, imprisoned. The Iranian government this week announced she was being charged with setting up a network to overthrow the Islamic establishment.

In Orange County, where immigrant groups estimate about 250,000
Iranians live, Shakeri moved in political circles but did not dominate
them, friends said. He gave speeches and radio interviews and
periodically wrote about politics for Payam-E-Ashena, Payam’s magazine. 

Hossein Hosseini, a member of the Network of Iranian-American
Professionals of Orange County, said Shakeri advocated changing Iran’s
leadership but maintained that the Iranian people would bring about
that change only over time.  “He was only controversial depending
on your point of view,” Hosseini said. “To those who wanted to up and
overthrow the regime, he’s a sympathizer. He wasn’t a big thing. He
wasn’t well-known across the world. He was a harmless local guy.”

Filed under Foreign Relations, Iran, z9-Uncategorized by

March 17, 2007

ACC Capital fires employees as subprime market goes South

“ACC Capital Holdings, parent company of subprime and nonprime lenders Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and Argent Mortgage Co. LLC, fired an unspecified number of workers today to save money in a contracting market for home loans to people with bad or incomplete credit. The firings will affect workers in all of ACC Capital’s businesses: Ameriquest, once the biggest U.S. provider of subprime loans; Argent, a provider of home loans to consumers through independent brokers; and AMC Mortgage Services, which supervises home loans and collects payments from borrowers. ‘This is a very challenging nonprime market,’ Chris Orlando, spokesman for the closely held, Orange, California-based company, said in a statement. `Only companies with the ability to control costs and improve loan quality are going to be successful’.”

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March 16, 2007

Commission opposes planting of genetically engineered rice

The Sacramento Business Journal reports that the California Rice Commission wants state regulators to put a moratorium on the planting of genetically engineered rice in California:

The commission’s Board of Directors on Wednesday voted in support of a ban on field tests of genetically engineered rice. Biotechnology companies must receive approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a regulatory board appointed by the state Department of Food and Agriculture before planting genetically engineered rice in California.

The state board, called the AB 2622 Advisory Board, will meet in two to six weeks to consider two applications for growing genetically engineered rice in California, said Tim Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Rice Commission. Funded by growers, the Rice Commission markets California rice to consumers.

Davis-based Arcadia Biosciences has submitted one application this year to plant rice engineered to tolerate high levels of salt in soil. In past years Sacramento-based Ventria Bioscience has grown rice engineered to make human proteins for medical foods in California. This year it has applied for U.S. Department of Agriculture authorization to grow the rice in Kansas, but it has not applied for permission in California.

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March 7, 2007

Volunteers Needed to Host International Visitors in Sacramento

“The Northern California World Trade Center is applying to be the local host for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP is a State Department-funded program that brings future foreign leaders to the United States. We are seeking to develop a list of volunteers in the Sacramento region who are interested in promoting citizen diplomacy – improving international relations “one handshake at a time.” The international visitors spend two to three weeks in our country, visiting various cities in the U.S. They learn about a variety of topics, depending on their professional experience and interests. The goal of the program is to promote improved relations between the U.S. and our overseas partners. Volunteers are needed to provide “home hospitality” to international visitors. This means inviting visitors to your home for a meal, or inviting them out to dinner, or taking them to a concert, art gallery event, or a Kings or Rivercats game. You will be helping the visitors get to know Americans on an individual basis. For more information, please visit http://exchanges.state.gov/education/ivp/

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