Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Bans City Travel to Indiana in Protest of "Religious Freedom" Law

by Sam Levin
Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 5:01 PM

Libby Schaaf. - BERT JOHNSON / FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson / file photo
  • Libby Schaaf.
On the heels of a similar ban in San Francisco, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced today that the city won't spend its public dollars for business travel to Indiana in protest of the state's controversial "religious freedom" law that critics say is anti-LGBT. Schaaf's action comes as cities and companies across the country have announced formal boycotts and protests of Indiana in response to the state's recently enacted "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," which says the state cannot "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion."

Opponents say this measure would clearly make it easier for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people — though Indiana Governor Mike Pence, in the wake of national backlash, has pushed for a new law clarifying that the law does not permit discrimination. 

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Tuesday Must Reads: Drought-Caused Algae Bloom Creates Sour Tasting Water in East Bay; Gunfire in Oakland Plunges

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 31, 2015 at 9:40 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

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1. A drought-related algae bloom in East Bay MUD’s primary reservoir in the Sierra is resulting in sour-tasting water throughout the East Bay, the Chron reports. East Bay MUD officials say that testing of the water in Pardee Reservoir, which is fed by the Mokelumne River, has revealed that it’s safe to drink — although it has an acrid taste. Algae blooms may become more common as the drought intensifies.

2. Gunfire in Oakland plummeted last year by 26 percent, the Trib$ reports, citing new data from OPD’s ShotSpotter system. The decrease in gunfire coincided with significant drops in the number of homicides and nonfatal shootings in the city.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Must Reads: Complaints Against OPD Plummet; Sierra Snowpack at Record-Low Levels

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 9:41 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

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1. The number of complaints filed against Oakland police officers plummeted by nearly one-third last year, dropping from 1,523 in 2013 to 1,040 in 2014 the Chron$ reports, citing new data reported to the federal judge overseeing OPD. The number of use-of-force cases also declined by nearly 30 percent — from 822 in 2013 to 582 in 2014. Civil rights attorney Jim Chanin, who keeps close tabs on the department, credited the declines to the use of body cameras by Oakland cops that record interactions with the public.

2. The Sierra snowpack has reached an unprecedented low of just 8 percent of normal for this time of year as the drought intensifies, the Chron reports. The 2014-15 winter is now the driest on record; the latest measurements broke the previous record set during the drought in 1977.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Must Reads: SF Jailers Forced Inmates to Fight for Sport; State Relaxes Sex Offender Residency Rules

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 9:54 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Jeff Adachi.
  • Jeff Adachi.
1. San Francisco sheriff’s deputies forced inmates to fight “gladiator-style” for jailers’ entertainment, the SF Examiner reports, citing a new investigation by Public Defender Jeff Adachi. The sheriff’s office has placed four deputies on administrative leave pending the outcome of further investigations. Adachi called the fights “outrageously sadistic scenarios that sound like it’s out of Game of Thrones.”

2. The California Department of Corrections has relaxed the rules regarding residency requirements for former sex offenders in the wake of a court decision that declared aspects of Jessica’s Law unconstitutional, the LA Times$ reports. The law had prohibited ex-sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of parks or schools, but civil rights advocates noted that the law was forcing numerous people to become homeless. California officials now only plan to enforce the residency rules on child molesters and other high-risk offenders.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Downtown Berkeley Association Security Ambassador Fired After Assault Caught on Camera

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 5:26 PM

click image A Downtown Berkeley Association security ambassador punches a man in the face. - SCREENSHOT FROM YOUTUBE VIDEO POSTED BY BRYAN HAMILTON
  • Screenshot from Youtube video posted by Bryan Hamilton
  • A Downtown Berkeley Association security ambassador punches a man in the face.
A video published to Youtube three days ago shows a Downtown Berkeley Association security ambassador starting a fight in an alleyway behind the CVS pharmacy on Shattuck Avenue.

In the video the ambassador, whose name has not been released, is arguing with two men near a dumpster as a second security ambassador watches. The heated argument culminates with the security ambassador throwing a surprise right hook punch. The ambassador then moves in to pummel the man with repeated punches to his face while the second ambassador holds the other person at bay.

The security ambassadors are private employees of Block By Block, a company that specializes in providing staff to business improvement districts like the Downtown Berkeley Association.

See also:
Private Cops On the Public Dime
A Ban On Sitting?

Today the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) announced that the security ambassador in the video who started the fight has been fired, and the other security ambassador suspended for not stopping the fight.

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AC Transit GM Quits

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 5:08 PM

David Armijo.
  • David Armijo.
AC Transit General Manager David Armijo abruptly resigned Thursday after leading the day-to-day operations of the East Bay transit authority for three years.

A special meeting of the AC Transit Board of Directors scheduled for Friday was cancelled soon after Armijo resigned. There was widespread speculation Thursday afternoon that the seven-member board was going to fire Armijo on Friday.

AC Transit Board Director Elsa Ortiz said Friday’s special meeting was intended to discuss Armijo’s annual job evaluation. “We were going to discuss the evaluation and figure out what we wanted to do,” said Ortiz, “and then we found out he submitted his resignation.”

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Thursday Must Reads: Feds Probe Quake Safety at Diablo Canyon Nuke Plant; Aid-in-Dying Bill Moves Forward in Legislature

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 9:51 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
1. Federal investigators are probing whether PG&E and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) improperly relaxed earthquake safety standards at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant near San Luis Obispo, the Chron reports. Investigators are also examining whether the NRC ignored warnings from its own inspectors about the dangers of newly discovered earthquake faults near the nuclear facility.

2. Legislation that would allow California doctors to administer lethal drugs to terminally ill patients to hasten their deaths was a approved by a state Senate committee, the LA Times$ reports. The so-called aid-in-dying bill is sponsored by Democratic Senators Lois Wolk of Davis and Bill Monning of Carmel.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Berkeley Fights Housing & Climate Crises by Promoting Secondary Housing Units

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 3:50 PM

Tom Bates
  • Tom Bates
Last night Berkeley’s City Council took a small, but significant step toward addressing the East Bay’s housing crisis.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved changes to the city’s zoning rules that will promote the construction of accessory dwelling units, or secondary units (commonly known as in-law units, or granny flats). The measure was proposed by Mayor Tom Bates and crafted over a two-year period by Berkeley’s Planning and Transportation Committees. (See Item 16 on the agenda.)

The new rules create a virtual right for homeowners to add a secondary unit of housing to their property.

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Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland Fined for Infectious Disease Safety Violations

by Sam Levin
Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 3:20 PM

click image Alta Bates. - CREATIVE COMMONS / COOLCAESAR
  • Creative Commons / Coolcaesar
  • Alta Bates.
Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland has agreed to pay a $71,000 settlement after state regulators cited the hospital for safety violations regarding its infectious disease protocols. The settlement agreement announced this week comes nearly two years after California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) issued three citations against Alta Bates covering six violations, including failing to place suspected tuberculosis patients in airborne infection isolation rooms.

According to the state's two-month investigation at the end of 2012, Alta Bates, which is part of the nonprofit healthcare organization Sutter Health, placed at least 23 patients believed to have airborne infectious diseases in seventeen different rooms that were not properly set up for isolation. Those rooms were in the hospital's intensive care unit and cardiopulmonary unit. As a result of these placements, the California Nurses Association, the nurses' union, has argued that Alta Bates put patients, staff, and visitors at risk of potential exposure and infection.   

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Fox News Calls Concussions "the New Global Warming"

by Anna Pulley
Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 11:15 AM

640px-chris_borland_tackles_taylor_martinez.jpg

Fox News recently published an article about Chris Borland’s decision to retire from the San Francisco 49ers over concussion concerns. In it, Dylan Gwinn argued that Borland “shouldn’t be a hero,” for deciding to leave the NFL, which is all fine and good, until Gwynn starts comparing traumatic brain injuries to global warming:

“Don’t look now, but concussions have become the new global warming. A debate where ‘consensus’ trumps evidence, and heroes and villains are determined by their stances on an issue where the science is bogus at worst and murky at best.”

See Also: 
Twenty-Four-Year-Old 49ers Linebacker Retires, Citing Fears of Brain Injury
'X’s and O’s (A Football Love Story)' at Berkeley Rep 


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