All you need to know about why we need a public option in health-care reform:
A national housing index is reporting the first quarterly rise in the housing market in three years, according to the Chron. The index also shows an uptick in Bay Area housing. But the newspaper also reports that the number of Bay Area homes for sale at rock-bottom prices - as cheap as $20,000 for a condo and $60,000 for a single-family home - also appears to be increasing.
BART train operators and station agents overwhelming approved a new contract with management last night, the Contra Costa Times reports. The union had previously rejected a similar agreement and came close to going on strike earlier this month. But then called off the strike, which would have crippled the Bay Area's commute, after it became clear that they had virtually no public support in the region. The new four-year contract freezes wages and relaxes restrictive work rules so the agency can curtail overtime pay - although it still requires BART to award annual lump sum payments of $500 to $1,500 to the employees.
Toyota's board of directors has voted to close the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont in March of next year, according to the Associated Press. The plant is the largest private employer in Alameda County with more than 4,000 workers. Toyota had been thinking about closing NUMMI since its partner, General Motors, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and pulled out of the plant.
Former Your Black Muslim Bakery CEO Yusuf Bey IV didn't realize that phone calls from Santa Rita Jail in Pleasanton are recorded by authorities, so he was caught on tape, attempting to coerce a bakery follower into not testifying against him, according to the Chauncey Bailey Project. Bey IV, who is charged with murdering journalist Chauncey Bailey, also didn't realize that in-person visits to the jail are recorded too, because he tried to get bakery follower Kalil Raheem to come talk to him. But the coercion didn't work. Raheem, who had been arrested with Bey IV for trashing West Oakland liquor stores, turned state's evidence against his ex-boss. And now prosecutors have even more damning evidence against the former bakery leader because of his phone calls. No wonder the bakery went bankrupt under his command.
Fox News whack job Glenn Beck, who is losing sponsors by the dozens because of his outlandish comments about President Obama, has launched an attack on Van Jones, claiming the White House green jobs czar is an "avowed communist," and references a 2005 Express cover story as proof. Beck went after the longtime Oakland activist and environmentalist, following the disclosure that 33 of Beck's advertisers had pulled their ads from his program. The ad boycott was spearheaded by Color of Change, a liberal non-profit that Jones co-founded but is no longer associated with.
Opponents of Berkeley's new downtown plan, which would bring in more residents and help the city meets its climate-change goals, have gathered about 9,200 signatures - far more than the 5,558 needed to put the issue on the ballot, the Berkeley Daily Planet reported. The county Registrar of Voters will examine the signatures to ensure that enough of them are valid. The signature-gathering campaign was spearheaded by Berkeley councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin, who voted against the downtown plan when it was before the council and came out on the losing end of a 7-2 vote. Now it appears it will be up to Berkeley voters decide the fate of the downtown plan, and it'll be interesting to see whether NIMBYism defeats environmentalism and whether residents can see through opponents' attempts to wrap themselves in green.
State Democratic Assembly leaders are apparently afraid of being labeled soft on crime if they go along with the governor's prison reform plan, so they're gutted it in an attempt to appease prosecutors and police chiefs. As a result, the Democrats are positioning themselves to the right of a two-term Republican governor. State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has already eviscerated the governor's proposal, which would save the state about $1.2 billion over two years by cutting California's prison population by about 27,000 inmates.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder has launched an investigation into the abuse of prisoners by CIA agents and contractors but not of top Bush administration officials -- including Berkeley law professor John Yoo -- who authorized torture. The Obama Justice Department investigation is reminiscent of a Bush-era probe that resulted in the conviction of low-level guards at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison but ignored high-ranking officials who Ok'd the abuse of prisoners there.
Many national economists have said lately that the economy is showing signs of rebounding, despite the continuing dismal unemployment figures. But it's hard to see a recovery from here in California. The unemployment rate statewide jumped to 11.9 percent last month, the highest on record and far higher than the national average of 9.4 percent, the Chron reported. In June, California's jobless rate stood at 11.6 percent. Joblessness in the Bay Area was awful, but not quite as bad as it was statewide. Unemployment in Alameda County was 11.5 percent in July, and in Contra Costa County, it was 11.0 percent.