Skyrocketing DWP Water Rates Draining Ratepayer Wallets (LA City Watch link): Our water rates are going berserk. Over the last year, water rates have shot up by about 25% to 30% because our Department of Water and Power has been forced to rely on more expensive purchased water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as our supply from the Owens Valley has been curtailed because of environmental regulations and a below average snow pack.
In addition to the pass through of the higher costs of purchased water from MWD, DWP is expected to request a multiyear base rate increase of 6% to 7% a year in January. Based on rough estimates, this bump will total at least $250 million over the next three to four years, adding another 20% to 25% to our bill.
These new revenues will be used to upgrade the Water System’s aging distribution system and to implement numerous water quality initiatives, including those related to open air reservoirs and the use of chlorine as a disinfectant.
However, there appear to be other projects that Ratepayers will be asked to finance through these higher rates.
DWP has embarked on a strategy to reduce its dependence on MWD and its supplies from the Bay Delta in Northern California, and, to a much lesser extent, the Colorado River. As part of this strategy, DWP is pursuing an aggressive strategy to recycle waste water at the Tillman Reclamation Plant to use in the replenishment of the groundwater in the San Fernando Basin and in its purple pipe program for the irrigation of large open spaces such as parks and golf courses.
At the same time, the Department is embarking on a plan to remediate the toxic groundwater supplies in the San Fernando Basin so that it will be suitable for everyday use in our homes.
These two ambitious initiatives are expected to cost over $1 billion. Yet, we have not seen any financial analysis that indicates that these two projects are economically viable.
(Mod: Yes, there are always reasons for raising water rates. Ours are going up by 60% over the next couple of years. Or, should you add in the 2010 water rate increase, nearly 100%. Next to us these DWP guys are pikers.)
In California, $1 million in unpaid fines for assisted living centers (The Mercury News link): The California Department of Social Services issued more than $2 million in fines against assisted living facilities throughout the state from 2007 to 2012. But a ProPublica review of department records shows it collected less than half of that. Indeed, the agency failed to wrest any money from the vast majority of facilities it hit with the most serious sanctions.
Of the 50 largest fines assessed over those years, the review showed, the department collected no money in 39 cases. In one instance, a facility in a tiny Shasta County town that was operating without a license accrued more than $250,000 in penalties and paid none of it.
The fact that the fines were not paid is a concern, said state Sen. Leland Yee, a Democrat who represents San Francisco and San Mateo County. The reason we have fines is to deter individuals from breaking the rules and breaking the laws.
The revelations come as state lawmakers, advocates for the elderly, and news organizations have heightened their scrutiny of the department's performance. Last month, in a case that garnered national publicity, the department failed to take prompt action after the owners of a Bay Area facility abandoned its residents, effectively leaving 19 frail or impaired seniors to fend for themselves. Working without pay or training, a janitor and a cook tried to care for the clients.
While the federal government regulates the nursing home industry, it has left oversight of the assisted living business to the states, which, over the past two decades, have crafted a hodge-podge of widely divergent laws. Today some 750,000 elderly Americans reside in assisted living facilities, many operated by national chains.
Home to more assisted living facilities than any other state, California is widely seen as one of the loosest regulatory environments in the country. ProPublica s examination of the state s regulatory records lends evidence to that view.
(Mod: What Nevada is to gambling, California is to ALFs. But don't be closed minded. If we put slot machines in the lobbies of these ALFs, wouldn't we have the best of both worlds? Plus look at how it would speed up the pace of senior equity retrieval.)
Portland school sees racism in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (Examiner.com link): In an effort to combat perceived discrimination, one Portland school seems to have gone off the deep end by suggesting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches carry racist connotations, Twitchy reported Monday.
According to the Portland Tribune, Verenice Gutierrez, principal of Harvey Scott K-8 School, "picks up on the subtle language of racism" on a daily basis.
"Take the peanut butter sandwich, a seemingly innocent example a teacher used in a lesson last school year," the Tribune said.
“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” Gutierrez asked. “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
"Insert flabbergasted face," the Twitchy staff wrote.
One person asked on Twitter: "[W]hat's the verdict on grilled cheese? Racist? Sexist?"
"The food at my kids' schools hates everyone," tweeted Melissa Clouthier.
With the suggestion that a sandwich is racist, Twitchy said the discussion on race "has moved beyond slack-jawed incredulity into total self-parody territory."
"What is racist about a child’s lunch, one might ask? Peanut butter and jelly, of course! You racists probably even use black currant jelly sometimes. On white bread," Twitchy added.
The Tribune noted that the school started the new year with "intensive staff trainings, frequent staff meetings, classroom observations and other initiatives," to help educators understand their own “white privilege,” in order to "change their teaching practices to boost minority students’ performance."
(Mod: I have now entered into a period of intensive self criticism for posting this article.)
Dove is in the air: Couples release 100 of the white birds to mark their joint wedding…but are horrified to see locals round them up to eat (The Daily Mail link): It was supposed to be romantic - 100 white doves launched into the air would provide a stunning backdrop to five Chinese couples' cherished wedding photographs. But the newlyweds were left horrified when, instead of flying off into the sunset, the hapless birds ended up being captured by guests who took them home to eat.
In all five couples brought about 100 doves between them to the wedding venue at Hefei, Anhui province, central China.
After the snaps were taken, the doves were caught by hungry guests determined not to let a free meal flutter away. Local Yen Lin said: 'After the couples went to a local hotel for wedding feasts, the other guests and a few locals moved in.
'With nets and their hands they caught the birds, bashed them over the heads and took them home to cook.'
'It was sick to watch. They were ruthless, the doves tried to flee but they had no chance. Those people were determined to get a good meal.'
Virtually all the doves ended up in the pot.
(Mod: Did you ever stop to ask yourself why these doves are white?)
McDonald’s to employees: Break your food into small pieces to feel full and sell your Christmas presents for cash (Raw Story link):The fast-food giant McDonald’s is urging employees to break up food into smaller pieces to feel full or sell their Christmas presents for extra money.
The restaurant chain made the recommendations on its “McResource” employee website to help workers manage stress, health and finances.
The company recommended “breaking food into pieces” to feel more full on less food, singing away stress and taking two vacations a year to lower the risk of heart attack, as well as “selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”
The recommendations were publicized Tuesday by the group Low Pay Is Not OK, which advocates higher wages for fast-food workers, but McDonald’s claims the advice was taken out of context.
“This is an attempt by an outside organization to undermine a well-intended employee assistance resource website by taking isolated portions out of context,” the company said in a statement, noting that the site’s content was provided by an independent company.
The advocacy group released a recording last month of a McDonald’s worker calling the company’s McResources hotline to ask for assistance, and the operators urged the 10-year employee to seek help from food pantries or apply for federal food stamp or Medicaid assistance.
That same employee, Nancy Salgado, was arrested last month after confronting McDonald’s USA President Jeff Stratton during a speech in Chicago, saying her $8.25 hourly wages left her unable to afford shoes for her children.
A study published about a week before Salgado’s phone call found that 52 percent of families of front line fast-food workers were enrolled in one or more public assistance programs, compared with 25 percent of the workforce as a whole.
The study found that taxpayers spend about $7 billion each year subsidizing the wages and benefits of fast-food workers.
(Mod: Maybe they should eat McDoves. But that said, it is good to see that our tax dollars are going to help so beneficial a business deal with its staffing expenses.)
After 30 years without an answer it's time to find out who protected the infamous Paedophile Information Exchange (The Daily Mail link): Did previous Tory and Labour governments fund the infamous Paedophile Information Exchange? That's the remarkable claim made to me by a former Home Office insider this week.
PIE was established in 1974 to campaign for the age of consent to be lowered to four years old. Many former members have been imprisoned for child abuse crimes.
People long dead like Peter Righton, who fooled the social work establishment that he cared for the safety of children, when all the time he was grooming kids for his own despicable ends.
PIE included many establishment figures like the highly qualified Dr Morris Fraser, who by day practiced as a child psychiatrist in Belfast but by night, was accused of preying on young vulnerable children.
The retired insider told me that he recalled raising his concern that the Volunteer Services Unit of the Home Office was directly funding the work of PIE.
(Mod: Government does seem like it would be a natural venue for such people.)
Coca-Cola Feeling the Heat After Secret Funding of Anti-Labeling Campaign (AlterNet link): Coca-Cola has been having a rough time. The company owns Honest Tea, Odwalla, Powerade, Vitamin Water, Simply Orange, and other products marketed to health-conscious consumers.
But it is best known for making Coke, a product that is utterly devoid of nutritional value and is often blamed for contributing to the obesity epidemic -- an epidemic that is costing hundreds of billions of dollars and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.
With demand for the company's carbonated and artificially flavored sugar water declining, hope for Coca-Cola's profitability has been increasingly resting on the brands it markets as healthier alternatives. Bloomberg.com reports that sales of Coca-Cola-owned brands like Honest Tea, Powerade, and Simply Orange are the company's new profit center.
But there's a problem.
In October, campaign finance reports revealed that Coca-Cola had secretly contributed more than a million dollars to the fight against GMO labeling in Washington. It took the state's Attorney General suing the Grocery Manufacturers' Association (GMA) for what turned out to be an $11 million violation of the state's campaign finance laws to reveal these secret contributions.
But now that the truth has been exposed, some healthy food activists are fighting back.
Andrew Kimbrell, founder of the Center for Food Safety, comments:
Consumers of healthy beverages want to know what's in their food. By using money from sales of natural brands to secretly fund an anti-choice agenda that deprives consumers of the right to know what they're eating, Coca-Cola has been betraying the public interest and standing on the wrong side of history.
(Mod: So far nobody has reported how those lovable polar bears in Coke's yearly Christmas ads feel about the GMO information suppression issue. But we are looking into it.)
California city eyes smoking ban in single-family homes (Houston Chronicle link): Berkeley, Calif., where residents take pride in exercising their personal freedoms and resisting government intrusion, is the site these days of a much different kind of movement - one to ban cigarette smoking from single-family homes.
A City Council member says a proposal to ban cigarette smoking in apartments and condos, where smoke can waft through ventilation systems, is not tough enough or fair. Councilman Jesse Arreguin says his fellow council members should consider expanding the proposed ban to include single-family homes where children, seniors or lodgers are present.
Cigarette smoking is already prohibited in Berkeley's commercial districts, parks and bus stops, and within 25 feet of any building open to the public, and the council plans to extend the ban to all apartments, condominiums and other multiunit buildings where secondhand smoke can spread.
But if Berkeley is really serious about protecting nonsmokers, it should ban smoking in the specified single-family homes as well, Arreguin argues in a proposal to toughen the proposed law.
Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, who supports the planned ban on smoking in multiunit dwellings, said prohibiting smoking in single-family homes might be going too far.
"Our enforcement division is so overwhelmed right now. I think it would be very difficult to add more to their list," she said, adding that she has empathy for the plight of smokers. "I smoked for 10 years. It's not easy to quit. I feel for these smokers."
(Mod: Now there is an interesting nexus of issues. The personal freedom to do as you like in your home versus concerns over one of the major health issues of our time. I just wish someone would tell me what I should do.)
School officials threatened to be ‘lined up and shot’ after Fox News ‘misreporting’ (The Raw Story link): A school board member in South Dakota is calling on Fox News to apologize because he says an erroneous report led to threats that officials be “lined up and shot” over the Pledge of Allegiance.
Sioux Falls School Board member Kent Alberty told KSFY that Fox News picked up the story after a local television station reported that the board had defied a group of veterans and dropped the pledge at high schools.
“A school board there has decided there’s just no time in the day to recite the Pledge of Allegiance despite a desperate request from a local vets group to keep the pledge,” Fox News host Megyn Kelly told viewers on Nov. 14.
“The veterans, by the way, say they are not giving up,” reporter Trace Gallagher noted. “They say they will continue fighting to see if they can get the pledge reinstated.”
In fact, the board had sided with the veterans and voted unanimously to expand the use of the pledge for middle school students, elementary school students and at high school assemblies.
But because of the way Kelly and Gallagher framed their reporting, Alberty said that it left the mistaken impression that the board was against the pledge.
Sioux Fall high school students had not been required to say the pledge since 1970, and Alberty wants an apology from Fox News for suggesting that it had been dropped.
“It wasn’t dropped. That wasn’t true at all,” Alberty said. “And that is what people were reacting to was the headline – not what we actually did. And then Fox picked that story up — and again — it was the headline they used, not the actual facts of what we did at the School Board meeting.”
“The person that they gave the byline to wasn’t at the School Board meeting, didn’t interview any members of the School Board, didn’t interview the person who spoke to the School Board, but then they ran this story and didn’t have in the story the fact that we actually expanded the policy,” he added.
After receiving a number of threatening emails and phone calls, board members reported the threats to the Sioux Falls Police Department. All personal information about the members has been removed from the School Board website.
“The one that I guess got my attention the most was that this person feels that all five of us should be lined up and shot,” he recalled.
(Mod: Hopefully when that happens each of these school board members will not be offered a last cigarette. This due to the possible second hand smoke health risks it might pose to their executioners.)
Monrovia man arrested after confronting burglar with swords, knife won’t face charges (Pasadena Star News link): A Monrovia man arrested last week on suspicion of assault after confronting a burglar with ninja swords and a pocket knife will not face criminal charges, officials said.
Jesse Runge, 35, was initially booked for assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the incident, which unfolded late Nov. 12, according to Monrovia police and Los Angeles County booking records.
Prosecutors reviewed the case Friday and elected not to file charges against Runge, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.
“The case was declined due to insufficient evidence.”
Runge returned home shortly before midnight Tuesday to find his house ransacked and several items missing, both police and Runge said. Runge said he immediately suspected acquaintance Jeremi Weber, 30, as the culprit, and called police to report the break-in and the identity of the possible suspect.
While still on the phone with police, Runge said tracking software on his cell phone alerted him that his iPad was located at Weber’s home nearby in the 400 block of East Foothill Boulevard. He said he handed the phone with which he was talking to police over to his fiancee and rushed to Weber’s home to confront him and get his property back.
As he exited his car, Runge said he grabbed two sheathed, ornamental ninja swords that were in his vehicle. He alleged Weber had previously bragged to him about having guns.
“I admit it was stupid to walk to the door with those,” Runge said, but added that the swords never left their sheaths.
(Mod: Hopefully the burglar got the point anyway.)
I guess that's enough of this for now.