- Japan Says 2nd Reactor May Have Ruptured With Radioactive Release (NY Times)
Japan’s nuclear crisis intensified on Wednesday after the authorities announced that a second reactor unit at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan may have ruptured and appeared to be releasing radioactive steam. The break, at the No. 3 reactor unit, worsened the already perilous conditions at the plant, a day after officials said the containment vessel in the No. 2 reactor had also cracked.
- Japan nuclear health risks minimal, experts say (SF Chronicle)
Japan's nuclear catastrophe is considered the worst disaster of its kind since the Chernobyl meltdown 25 years ago, but the health hazards are probably minimal at this point even to those living relatively close by, radiation experts said Tuesday. Concern over possible health risks in Japan has risen in recent days as radiation levels have climbed since the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was damaged by last week's massive earthquake and tsunami. Radiation levels haven't climbed high enough to cause immediate health problems, which could include symptoms like nausea, vomiting and burns associated with large, one-time bursts of radiation.
- PUC may order PG&E to cut pressure on more gas pipelines (San Jose Mercury News)
PG&E said in a long-awaited report Tuesday that it intends to replace or retest 150 miles of pipe within the next year to guard against a repeat of the San Bruno catastrophe. But unimpressed state regulators said the utility may need to conduct even more of the expensive tests and cut pressure in its gas pipelines -- a move PG&E contends could adversely affect more than 2 million customers. The back-and-forth ratchets up the growing conflict between the state Public Utilities Commission and PG&E over how best to protect the public from the potential threat of aging gas pipelines in the wake of the September explosion in San Bruno.
Gov. Jerry Brown has voter support for calling a June special election and extending higher taxes, but his window of opportunity may close soon, according to results from the latest Field Poll. The survey shows voters are more negative toward tax increases than tax extensions, and Brown has only a few weeks left to put his proposals on the ballot as the latter, poll director Mark DiCamillo said.
As Gov. Jerry Brown accused "extreme elements" in the Republican party of trying to intimidate GOP legislators from voting to allow his tax extension on the ballot, Democratic legislative leaders announced they will hold a vote Wednesday whether or not an agreement has been reached. The votes in the Senate and Assembly are not likely to resolve the central hang-up to Brown's budget proposal: whether Republicans will support Brown's five-year extension of the 2009 tax increases on purchases, income and vehicles. But they will put legislators on the record for $12.5 billion in budget cuts that were approved last month in committee.
The San Francisco Unified School District made plans to lay off 67 preschool teachers and aides next year, the deepest cuts in at least 32 years to low-cost early childhood education programs in the city. If they go into effect, the layoffs would eliminate about 10 percent of the district’s roughly 600 preschool educators. The teachers and aides serve mostly disadvantaged students at approximately 40 child-development centers for children in San Francisco.
A total of 68 drug and robbery cases have been dropped as a result of a growing investigation into alleged misconduct by San Francisco police officers, the district attorney’s office said Tuesday. According to Seth Steward, a spokesman for the DA's office, 59 cases had been dropped by the end of the day Wednesday, nine cases were dropped late last week and more dismissals may be coming. Public Defender Jeff Adachi said his office is reviewing about 3,000 cases.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman on Tuesday postponed for a week postponed further testimony in the hearing on the proposed Fruitvale gang injunction, delaying again the end of the evidence-gathering stage. When the court reconvenes next week, prosecutors are expected to call an Alameda County probation officer, and possibly another police officer, to bolster the testimony of Sgt. Douglass Keely, whose testimony as an expert witness on behalf of the proposed injunction came to an end Tuesday. Defense attorneys may also call further witnesses.
It's now up to Mayor Ed Lee to decide who will be San Francisco's next police chief. Shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday, after a nearly three-hour, closed-door meeting, the city's Police Commission forwarded the names of its recommended candidates to the mayor's office. "We're not saying what the names are or how many names were sent, only that our choices were forwarded to the mayor," said commission President Thomas Mazzucco, who made the call to the mayor's office. "We'll send the mayor a formal letter in the morning."
East Bay cities will speed sewer system improvements under an agreement announced Tuesday that is the latest in a decades-long drive to slow the flow of raw sewage into San Francisco Bay. Several East Bay cities are served by a network of thousands of miles of aging sewer pipes -- many of them made of clay -- that are cracking so badly that in rainy weather millions of gallons of water infiltrate the pipes and overwhelm treatment plants, causing raw or partially treated sewage to overflow into the bay. This season alone, nearly 125 million gallons of diluted sewage poured into the bay from overflow structures in Richmond and Oakland, regulators say.
The Avoid the 13 DUI Task Force will deploy additional "roving saturation patrols" in San Rafael, Novato, Tiburon, Fairfax and Sausalito on Thursday, St. Patrick's Day. The stepped-up effort is part of a campaign to get careless, dangerous drunken drivers off the road.
An iconic landmark helps protect most low-lying Bay Area communities from a devastating tsunami: the Golden Gate strait. Huge currents would race through its narrow opening, but there's a limit to how much water can pour through the rock-lined channel into the San Francisco Bay -- a bottleneck that reduces the risk of inland flooding. But while that world-famous geographic feature would spare the South Bay and much of the Peninsula from the type of surge that leveled parts of Japan, scientists say it would direct the brunt of the tsunami toward Alameda and the Port of Oakland.
"An Assessment of San Francisco's Unfunded Pension and Retiree Health Care Liabilities" (says) San Francisco now owes $4.476 billion in pensions to its employees but only has the money to pay roughly three-quarters of that cost. Every family in the city would have to pay $35,000 apiece to make up the difference.
An opponent of San Francisco's instant-runoff elections, in which voters rank their top three candidates, told an apparently skeptical federal appeals court Tuesday that the system disenfranchises tens of thousands of residents. All voters who fail to choose one of the front-runners are denied "the right to have their vote counted in the most crucial part of an election, when the winner is decided," attorney James Parrinello argued at a hearing of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
...the members of the obscure Health Service Board (meet) monthly to select the medical and dental plans for employees and retirees, set the amount members pay for each plan, and set policy for the plans' administration. It sounds innocuous enough, but the City Charter requires that four of the seven be employees or retirees who are elected to their posts by the rest of the city's employees and retirees. Two members are appointed by the mayor and one by the Board of Supervisors. That means the majority of the board ensures that the 109,000 employees, retirees and family members who receive health care from the city have the best possible benefits - regardless of the effect on the city's bottom line.