Morning Splash: Risk of Partial Nuclear Meltdown in Japan Increases; Santa Cruz Tsunami Damage

  • Second Explosion at Reactor as Technicians Try to Contain Damage (NY Times)

    The risk of partial meltdown at a stricken nuclear power plant in Japan increased on Monday as cooling systems failed at a third reactor, possibly exposing its fuel rods, only hours after a second explosion at a separate reactor blew the roof off a containment building. The widening problems underscore the difficulties Japanese authorities are having in bringing several damaged reactors under control three days after a devastating earthquake and a tsunami hit Japan’s northeast coast and shut down the electricity that runs the crucial cooling systems for reactors.

  • Four sunken vessels hauled out of harbor; 12 boats unaccounted for (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

    ...Of the 18 boats that sank during Friday's tsunami surges, four had been pulled out by Sunday evening, Port Director Lisa Ekers said. Twelve boats were unaccounted for, Ekers said, adding an Army Corps of Engineers team would conduct a "side sonar sweep" today in an attempt to find the missing vessels. At least another 100 boats sustained damage, including cracked hulls and broken masts and rudders.

  • Wet weather causes mudslide, downed trees on Highway 1 (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

    Travelers heading to Highway 1 early Monday should be on alert for several weather-related obstacles on their commute. A mudslide was reported along the highway near its junction with Annapolis Road. The mud slid into the westbound lane of the highway, bring with it a large tree, which was partially blocking the lane. About four miles south, a large tree posed a hazard for trucks heading along the highway near Stewarts Point Skaggs Spring Road, according to CHP reports. The tree leaned over the highway low enough to obstruct large trucks as they pass though it was still standing as of 7 a.m.

  • PG&E may be ordered to perform costly inspections, repairs on gas lines (San Jose Mercury News)

    If PG&E can't prove it has set safe pressure levels for a substantial part of its natural gas lines by Tuesday, state regulators may order the utility to undertake an extensive array of pipeline tests -- and even pipe replacements -- that could far exceed what they previously had proposed. After the Sept. 9 San Bruno disaster, the California Public Utilities Commission said the proper pressure levels for many PG&E pipes may have to be determined with a water test. But experts have since warned that such tests may not find many defects lurking in the lines and in rare instances could even cause hidden flaws to worsen.

  • East Bay school districts grapple with budget scenarios ranging from flat to catastrophic (Oakland Tribune)

    Some school districts are calling it the "worst-case scenario" -- a $2 billion cut in K-12 education funding that is all but guaranteed if California doesn't extend a $12.6 billion package of temporary taxes. But the worst-case scenario, in fact, is far worse than that. California's budget deficit is $26.6 billion. About 40 percent of the state's general fund is allocated to public schools. If the temporary taxes expire this year and the Legislature suspends the state's minimum-funding guarantee for schools, K-12 education cuts could easily reach $4 billion or more, according to estimates from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

  • America’s Cup deal will be reviewed following report (SF Examiner)

    Agreeing to profit less isn’t technically the same as agreeing to pay more. That might be one of the arguments made this week as city officials look more closely at the America’s Cup deal cut with yacht-racing enthusiast and tech mogul Larry Ellison during Mayor Gavin Newsom’s last days in office. At issue is whether the deal to bring the international regatta to San Francisco changed substantially between the Dec. 14 version approved by the Board of Supervisors and the final version Newsom negotiated on Dec. 31 — and if it did, the deal might have to go back to the board for another vote.

  • Report Blasts Oakland PD Reform Effort (Bay Citizen)

    The recent drama surrounding the future of Oakland police chief Anthony Batts and other city officials brought court-ordered reforms to the Oakland police department to a standstill, according to a progress report filed this week. The report, which is part of a nearly decade-long effort to change the culture and policies of the Oakland police, included open skepticism by a judge regarding claims that the Oakland PD will soon be in compliance with reforms ordered eight years ago.

  • House GOP targets state's tough emission standards (SF Chronicle)

    Taking advantage of a spike in gasoline prices, House Republicans are moving rapidly to gut California's landmark controls on greenhouse-gas emissions from cars as a way to prevent the tougher state standards from spreading nationwide.

  • Brown seeking ideal conditions for tax question (Contra Costa Times)

    If Gov. Jerry Brown wanted to, he could go straight to the voters without having to purchase Republican support for his tax extension proposal. He could avoid all the duress and angst over producing a budget agreement, and sidestep the Republican demands for significant reforms and deeper spending cuts that are causing so much consternation among Democrats' traditional allies. But, Brown remains firm on winning Republicans over, and getting his plan on the June 7 ballot. Why? "He's determined to have a proposal that has broad buy-in," said Darry Sragow, a Democratic political consultant. "He wants to take his best shot and say it's a bipartisan solution. It makes it easier in terms of trying to win, but also there's less rancor in the debate. He's trying to calm down the dialogue."

  • Dog owners are overpowering bird lovers in dispute over park usage (SF Examiner)

    Savvy dog owners are outmaneuvering environmentalists when it comes to political mobilization and media coverage of the newly proposed leash laws in area federal parks. Since the Golden Gate National Recreation Area released a 2,338-page document proposing significant restrictions to where dogs can roam off-leash within its properties, headlines and television crews have focused on angry dog owners.

  • Obscure Obscure water agency won't cave on Delta canal (Sacramento Bee)

    An obscure water agency that owns no pipes and delivers no water may be able to stymie the state's grand plan for a canal to carry water around the Delta to Southern California. The North Delta Water Agency is made up of Delta landowners, farmers mostly, who get their irrigation water directly from the Sacramento River or its tributaries. Now the agency is asking those landowners to pay higher taxes. The reason: It may need to mount a legal defense against the canal plan.

  • Man swept to sea in Northern Calif. sought new beginning (AP)

    Leaving his teenage drug abuse behind in Oregon, Dustin Weber was seeking a new beginning along California's rugged far northern coast, happy to be in the land of his mother's heritage, the Yurok Tribe. Yet before Weber could get a proper start, the 25-year-old was swept out to sea at the mouth of the Klamath River by a tsunami surge generated thousands of miles away by the earthquake off Japan's coast. Rescuers were unable to reach him Friday and called off their efforts; he is presumed dead, though his body has not been found.

  • Kevin Shelley's PUC gig gets him benefits buy-in (Matier & Ross, SF Chronicle)

    Former Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who resigned amid a wave of scandals in 2005, came back to his old haunts in San Francisco City Hall with no fanfare for the briefest of stints - thus allowing him to qualify for a city pension and retirement health benefits. Shelley spent just a month with the city Public Utilities Commission, where he was hired even though he had no background in regulating utilities.

  • Wood smoke harmful to health and DNA, study finds (Environmental Health News)

    On a frosty evening in the Sierra Nevada, smoke curling from the chimney of the Clair Tappaan Lodge is a welcome sight for chilly snowshoers and cross-country skiers. Gathering by the massive stone hearth at this landmark Sierra Club mountain hostel, guests relax in the warmth and aroma of the crackling log fire.

  • Apple prepares to release new operating system for the Mac (San Jose Mercury News)

    Amid the hype and hoopla surrounding the recent launch of the iPad 2 -- and murmurs about the expected iPhone 5 in June -- Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro line of laptops and released a developers' preview of its new Macintosh operating system, dubbed Lion. The new operating system underscores Apple's development strategy of copying features and technology from one product into another. Lion will include applications and multi-touch features similar to those on the iPhone and iPad...Lion, to be released this summer, will be the eighth major upgrade to the operating system.