- Japan Nuclear Disaster Put on Par With Chernobyl (NY Times)
Japan has raised its assessment of the accident at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the worst rating on an international scale, putting the disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl explosion, in an acknowledgement that the human and environmental consequences of the nuclear crisis could be dire and long-lasting. The decision to raise the alert level to 7 from 5 on the scale, overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency, is based on new estimates by Japanese authorities that suggest that the total amount of radioactive materials released so far from Fukushima Daiichi since the beginning of the crisis had reached that threshold.
- Oakland facing cuts to 80 percent of discretionary spending (Oakland Tribune)
The city will have to cut 80 percent of its discretionary spending by July, and with one exception -- maybe two -- nothing is off the table, Mayor Jean Quan and her staff said Monday. Quan, the City Council and the heads of most city departments met in a grueling daylong retreat at the Joaquin Miller Community Center to consider how to handle a structural budget deficit now estimated at $58 million, a figure that puts the city $12 million deeper in the hole than Quan's first reports.
- CPUC skeptical of gas-safety deal with PG&E (SF Chronicle)
Members of the California Public Utilities Commission sharply questioned on Monday whether they should accept a proposed deal under which Pacific Gas and Electric Co. would be fined $3 million for failing to meet a state deadline to prove its natural-gas system is safe. Several commissioners said the agreement, which critics have described as too lenient to the utility, did not contain enough assurances that PG&E would act on any safety recommendations that state regulators make.
With Congress slated to vote on a federal budget compromise Wednesday, the specifics of $38 billion in cuts are beginning to come into focus -- and it could spell delays for California's high-speed rail line and perhaps the BART extension to San Jose. The budget deal agreed to late Friday night by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders -- called the biggest spending cutback in U.S. history -- actually mostly amounted to clever accounting and pruning money left over from previous years. Other programs eliminated were already scheduled to disappear, while billions of dollars set aside for pet projects vanished.
...the governor momentarily shelved his doom-and-gloom message Monday when he addressed a rally at the capitol organized by the state's powerful prison guards' union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, and Crime Victims United, a victims' rights group...The remarks come less than a week after Brown's administration negotiated a new contract with prison guards, which the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said "would result in significantly lower savings" than had been budgeted.
With lawyers sometimes nervously wandering the halls, peering at their smartphones for a hint of progress, the federal jury in the Barry Bonds perjury trial on Monday finished another day of deliberating without reaching a verdict. The eight-woman, four-man jury will return to federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday morning to begin its third day of deliberations. The jurors have been methodical, asking to review two crucial pieces of evidence and clearly sorting through the legal wrinkles in the case before deciding the home run king's fate. Bonds, 46, faces three counts of perjury and one count of obstructing justice for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury in December 2003 about knowingly using steroids.
San Francisco, facing a looming $306 million budget deficit, is willing to pay private companies to hire people off the city's welfare rolls. On Monday, the city doubled its subsidy to $5,000 per employee because so few companies were taking advantage of the current local economic stimulus program.
...Gas in San Francisco is now selling for an average of $4.22 a gallon, according to SanFranGasPrices.com. In San Jose, a gallon costs an average of $4.19, according to SanJoseGasPrices.com. That’s compared to a national average of $3.76. Gas is averaging over $4 a gallon in most of California, according to Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, which operates both sites. In the past three months, prices have jumped 70 cents.
A battle is looming over a voter-approved program that allows police officers to engage in a form of “double dipping.” The Deferred Retirement Option Program, commonly known as DROP, gives veteran officers the chance to continue to work with their full salary past retirement age while also collecting their pensions. The pension payments are placed in a fund that becomes available to them after two or three years depending on rank.The program is set to expire July 1 unless the Board of Supervisors approves a three-year extension.
Shares of Cisco were mostly flat in early trading on Tuesday, as the company unveiled what appeared to be a retreat from the consumer market, amid criticisms that it had overreached in its bid to expand. As part of its plan, the company said about 550 employees will be cut in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011, which ends in July. The company was not totally abandoning the consumer arena, saying it plans to “refocus Cisco’s Home Networking business for greater profitability and connection to the company’s core networking infrastructure as the network expands into a video platform in the home.”
Sonoma County supervisors are set to begin work Tuesday on a months-long process of redrawing their district boundaries to reflect 2010 Census figures. The step is required by state law and happens every 10 years to rebalance population growth among various legislative districts. California's voter-mandated Citizens Redistricting Commission is now overseeing that work for state and Congressional districts... County redistricting efforts have generated little such fanfare and supervisors and city council members still retain redistricting duties on the local level.
Raul Rodriguez was wearing his blue-and-white Los Angeles Dodgers poncho, tailgating with his buddies from Sacramento in a parking lot near AT&T Park on Monday when a woman introduced herself and then hugged him. She was Rene Eisaman, a cousin of Giants fan Bryan Stow, the Santa Cruz paramedic who was beaten outside the Giants' season opener March 31 in Los Angeles and remains in a medically induced coma. Several other Dodgers fans said Eisaman hugged them, too.