Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Must Read: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Unconstitutional; PG&E Explosion Kills Four

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 10:58 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. In another victory for gay rights, a California federal judge has ruled that the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy violates the US Constitution, AP reports. US District Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the controversial policy, which prohibits openly gay people from serving in the armed forces, infringes on their First Amendment right to free speech. The Obama Justice Department, which defended “don’t ask, don’t tell” in court, is expected to appeal the ruling. Phillips' decision comes one month after another California federal judge ruled that banning gay marriage also violates the US Constitution.

2. A PG&E natural gas line exploded into a fireball last night, killing at least four people and destroying a San Bruno neighborhood. PG&E officials have yet to determine what caused the pipeline to rupture. The Chron reports that some residents said they had smelled gas in the neighborhood in recent days and had noticed PG&E trucks in the area. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

3. If Proposition 23 passes in November, it will cost California millions in lost revenue and severely harm the state’s burgeoning green-tech jobs industry, the Sacramento Bee reports, citing a new UC Berkeley study. Prop 23, which would roll-back California’s landmark climate-change law, also will be a huge boost to oil, coal, and power companies, the report states.

4. Out-of-control pension costs at the University of California likely will force most UC employees to either pay a larger share of their retirement plans or face smaller retirement benefits, the Chron reports. Unfunded pension expenses could explode to $40 billion in the next four years and may prompt another rise in UC student fees. But UC employee unions are upset that some of the university’s highest paid employees will not be affected by the latest pension proposals.

5. Oakland’s Lincoln Elementary School, which serves many students from low-income families in the city’s Chinatown district, won a national Blue Ribbon Award for excellence from the US Department of Education, the Trib reports. More than 75 percent of Lincoln’s students come from low-income backgrounds, and about 90 percent enter kindergarten with limited knowledge of English, yet the school has some of the best test scores in the Bay Area.

6. Tattoo parlors are protected by the First Amendment, a federal appellate court in San Francisco has ruled, the Chron reports. The decision by the Ninth US District Court of Appeals said that tattoo parlors enjoy the same free speech rights as bookstores and newsstands and that cities and counties cannot ban them.

7. Higher-than expected state revenues last month means that California will not be issuing IOUs anytime soon, even though the state still has no budget agreement for this year, the Chron reports. State tax receipts were $265 million higher than projected in August — a development that also could signal a rejuvenation of California’s depressed economy.

8. Meg Whitman is lying in stump speeches when she blames alleged red-tape bureaucracy in the City of San Jose for slowing the development of a PayPal building there, the Mercury News reports. Whitman uses the story as an example of how California is supposedly unfriendly to business. But the paper reviewed San Jose city files and found that the PayPal building in San Jose was approved in near record time and that slowdowns in its development were caused by company’s own decisions.

9. And one of the UC Berkeley grad hikers imprisoned in Iran is scheduled to be released tomorrow, the Trib reports. Sarah Shourd, who has been held in Iran for more than a year, reported finding a lump in her breast last month and was found to have precancerous cervical cells.

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