Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday Must Read

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 7:04 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Oakland City Council has agreed to pay $6.5 million to settle two major lawsuits filed against the police department in the search-warrant scandal, the Trib reports. The scandal involved Oakland police officers, several of whom are still on the force, falsifying sworn affidavits to obtain warrants. The officers said drug-like substances had been tested by the department’s crime lab when they had not, and the scandal resulted in the dismissal of dozens of felony drug cases. The city will have to pay $2 million to settle the suit from its own cash-strapped coffers, while Oakland’s insurance carrier will pay the other $4.5 million. The agreement settles two lawsuits filed on behalf of 104 people.

2. Alameda County prosecutors filed felony charges against three more suspects for their alleged roles in looting and vandalism during the Johannes Mehserle verdict protests, the Trib reports. Prosecutors have now charged fourteen people with felonies in connection with the demonstrations. Overall, 78 people were arrested during the protests, but the vast majority were given misdemeanor citations.

3. The death penalty remains overwhelmingly popular in California with 70 percent of state residents saying they support it, the Chron reports, citing a new Field Poll. However, the poll also found that slightly more Californians prefer sentencing murder convicts to life in prison without parole over putting them to death — 42 to 41 percent.

4. Saving the fragile Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta requires slashing state water diversions by about 50 percent, the CoCo Times reports, citing a new study from the California Water Resources Control Board. The report states that restoring the ailing delta would require allowing about 75 percent of the snowmelt that feeds the delta to flow through it to San Francisco Bay. Currently, only about 50 percent does. Although the report’s findings are nonbinding, slashing water diversions would greatly affect water supplies to Southern California and southern Central Valley agribusiness.

5. Supporters of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley are now pointing to San Francisco’s relatively high rates of giardia infection as a reason to knock down the giant O’Shaughnessy Dam in Yosemite National Park, the Chron reports.

6. Home defaults in California, and to lesser extent, the Bay Area, are continuing to fall, in yet another sign that the foreclosure crisis may be waning, the Chron reports, citing the release of new real estate data. The report points to the increase in mortgage-loan modifications and short sales as reasons for fewer foreclosures. However, the Associated Press reports that industry watchdogs say the Obama Administration’s mortgage-assistance program has failed to halt the foreclosure crisis nationwide.

7. And Facebook announced yesterday that it has passed the 500-million users mark, SF Gate reports.

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