OK, we can finally say it: we're in a recession. At least, most of us are. A new report by Moody's Economy.com reveals that a majority of states have now officially entered the recession phase. Back in March, only five states could claim such dire straights; now, 27 states are saddled with contracting economies.
Of course, the big driver of all this pain is the collapsing housing market, and the numbers in California are grimmer than ever. In the third quarter of this year, banks foreclosed on almost 80,000 properties around the state. Here in the Bay Area, the East Bay has led the plunge into destitution; more than 6,100 families have watched as the banks seized their homes. The rate of foreclosures has risen by a remarkable 273 percent over last year.
So what's left but to abandon cash as the means of exchange? Last week, the Oakland Tribune profiled the Seattle company BizXchange, which brokers bartering deals between companies around the country. Even the Oakland Raiders have gotten into the act, swapping empty luxury boxes for free billboard advertising. Who needs dollars, anyway? After all, none of those bills have Barack Obama's face on them.
I Am the God of Hellfire!
Where's Arthur Brown when you need him? All that was missing on I-880 last week was the '60s footnote cavorting around the gasoline truck that smashed into a car, jackknifed, fell over, and exploded in a massive fireball. The conflagration shut down critical commute routes into and out of San Francisco, but apparently, Caltrans is ready for moments like this at all times. Within hours, the crew had cleaned up and reopened the northbound lanes into the city, and had touched up the southbound lanes enough for traffic to get through the afternoon commute. At least something still works around here.
Prop. 8 in the Final Stretch
The battle over gay marriage is heading into its last week, and passions are aflame around the state. In San Diego, officials connected with the pro-Prop. 8 campaign have been caught blackmailing people into giving money to the campaign, lest they face organized boycotts and demonization. The Mormon Church has been riven by unrest as church leaders insert themselves into secular politics on a level never seen before. Meanwhile, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau has written a campus-wide letter, in which he implores university employees to reject the proposition and preserve same-sex marriage. "Berkeley supports the full inclusion and equal treatment of all members of our community, and we have affirmed the position that any treatment of individuals that is not equal and inclusive is discriminatory," Brigeneau wrote. "In denying a fundamental civil right, passage of Proposition 8 would undermine these principles ... and harm the university as a whole." The good chancellor has been awfully mindful of the agents of intolerance lately; a few weeks ago, he claimed in a letter to a prominent Cal donor that racism drove the effort to stop UC Berkeley from cutting down Memorial Grove.
Cosco Busan Captain Denounced for Bay Bridge Crash
Finally, the public has learned how John Cota smashed his Cosco Busan freighter into the Bay Bridge, spilling tens of thousands of gallons of oil and killing thousands of birds. According to a report by the state pilot commission, Cota never should have steered his ship into a fog bank, and he never should have been going so fast. But the key mistake occurred when he asked his skipper, who didn't speak English very well, to show him how to navigate into a shipping channel between two Bay Bridge pylons. Instead, the skipper steered him right into one of those pylons. And the rest is history. Except, of course, for Cota's trial, which is scheduled to begin this November.
Oakland Cop Tainted by Bey Family
Earlier this week, the Chauncey Bailey Project published a story a year in the making, which claimed that Oakland police detective William Longmire had interfered with several criminal investigations into the Yusuf Bey crime family, which ran Your Black Muslim Bakery and has been accused of kidnapping, torture, and other misdeeds. According to the report, Longmire ran interference for Daulet Bey, the mother of the clan's current leader, Yusuf Bey IV, as police looked into the organized assault on two West Oakland liquor stores. In addition, Longmire spoke with Bey and his associates as they were in police station interrogation rooms, waiting to make statements about an incident in which they allegedly kidnapped and tortured two women. Finally, Longmire allegedly tried to return computers seized from the Bey family before investigators had a chance to peruse them for evidence of criminal activity.
Facing new financial troubles, the State of California unexpectedly cut $5 million from the UC Berkeley budget last week. ... BART announced plans to raise or implement new fees at parking lots around the Bay Area. ... Cal officials reached an agreement with disgruntled medical service workers, giving them a 26 percent pay increase over four years; the agreement will go some way toward putting them on a par with workers in the private sector. ... And the Exotic Erotic Ball cast an exotic erotic pall over our lives by moving its banal, boring spectacle a little closer to the East Bay, setting up shop on Treasure Island instead of its usual digs at the Cow Palace. Honestly, these guys are worse than Ren Faire geeks. Just say no to tacky SMBD displays!
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