The Tree-Sitters Crash to Earth 

Meanwhile, Chevron employees and government officials were getting off.

Hey, gang! Anything interesting happen last week? We heard all these rumors about a bunch of hippies who have been sitting in a tree for 21 months, defying UC Berkeley officials and trying to stop them from cutting down 42 trees to make way for a new sports training center. What's that you say? Cal's cops dragged them down and hauled them off to the county jail? While a crowd of five hundred people watched in shock and dismay? And that the two-year-long saga of lawsuits and heartbreak is finally over? Oh. Well, at least Cal's football program will now make a fortune by building winning seasons and kicking ass at bowl games, and ultimately help finance struggling women's sports. Right? What's that? Cal got its ass handed to it by lowly Maryland and was kicked out of the top 25 rankings just four days after extracting the last tree-sitter? Damn, what a shame.

Chevron Caught in Sex and Booze Scandal

Well, at least we can entertain ourselves with stories of cocaine, sex romps, paintball, and drunken ski weekends, courtesy of everyone's favorite East Bay oil giant, Chevron. The scandal started with an Interior Department investigation into the conduct of officials with the Minerals Management Service; they lease federal land to oil companies, which explore and drill for oil, kicking a piece of the action back to the feds. Since billions of dollars can change hands over these transactions, service employees are warned to keep relations with oil industry representatives strictly professional.

But that's not exactly what officials Stacy Leyshon and Crystal Edler did, at least when it came to fraternizing with employees of Chevron and Shell Oil. According to the report, Leyshon and Edler had a grand old time boozin' it up with Chevron and Shell officials, who gladly picked up the tab. Leyshon accepted gifts from Chevron reps on 45 separate occasions; the gifts included food, drinks, a ticket to a "customer appreciation dinner," and a delightful game of paintball. Leyshon and Edler also spent a few weekends at a Colorado ski and golf resort on Shell's dime; the two employees got so trashed they couldn't drive and were put up in nearby hotels. Edler admitted to using cocaine and entering into a sexual relationship with a Chevron employee, although she denied doing any blow with him. Leyshon also made the beast with two backs with one Shell employee, as well as an employee of an oil company whose name she couldn't remember. (And when she's not too busy, she's busy selling dildos at "Passion Party" sex toy outings she organizes; Leyshon even handed out her sex toy business card at work, in violation of federal guidelines.) As the author of the report put it, "Sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length." No kidding.

But this is just a bit of harmless fun, right? The public's interest couldn't have been compromised, could it? According to the report, Leyshon and Edler played a little too loose with the leases on oil-rich federal land, and may have cost the government a fortune. For example, Chevron employee Jeff Brough had assembled a bid on federal land, but forgot to include transportation costs on the bid. The underbidding could have cost Chevron a sweet bit of change, as well as getting him fired. But after a quick conversation with Leyshon and Edler, the two officials let him adjust the bid after the fact to include transportation costs. Investigators reviewed a sample of 121 bid amendments, and concluded that the amendments cost the federal government $4.4 million dollars.

Budget Crisis Nears an End

As we go to press, it looks like the worst budget crisis in the history of California is finally over, and Don Perata and the Democrats blinked big time. In order to close the $15 billion budget gap, Perata initially proposed soaking the rich with a new round of taxes, but neither governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nor the state legislature would play ball. Then he agreed to a considerably more regressive temporary sales tax hike, which got the governor on board. But Republicans in the state Senate wouldn't budge an inch, and after months of tense negotiations, Perata bowed to the inevitable, it seems. Under the terms of the deal (and details are very scanty at this point), California will resolve the deficit by implementing $9 billion in spending cuts, as well as closing a few corporate tax loopholes. No word yet on just what services will be cut. Cal Grants? In-home care for impoverished elderly citizens? The suspense is killing us.

Jesus, No! Raiders, Si!

After years of planning and construction, the East Bay diocese of the Catholic Church finally opened its new Lake Merritt cathedral to the public, with a grand march from the old cathedral and a vibrant, multicultural celebration. But most people were too busy attending their real church, that of Raider Nation. And parishoners were delighted to watch the Raiders just destroy the hated Kansas City Chiefs, 23-8. Fan didn't even break out into dozens of embarrassing drunken fights like they did the previous Monday. But that was probably because the game was in Missouri.

Three-Dot Roundup

Facing an ongoing increase in ridership, BART officials are mulling over raising fees during peak rush hours, in order to "encourage" riders to use the system when they don't need it. ... A small plane carrying two aerial photographers splashed down into the bay near the Bay Bridge last week; both men escaped without injury. ... Plaintiffs led by the University of California were pleased to learn that they will receive $7.2 billion in settlements from Citigroup, JP Morgan, and other financial institutions accused of abetting fraud in the Enron scandal. ... The prison guard union announced a new petition drive to recall Arnold Schwarzenegger, in an eerie replay of the fiasco that ousted Gray Davis and put the governor in Sacramento in the first place.


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