- California Democrats' supermajority powers will be short-lived (Bay Area News Group)
When Democrats last month achieved broad taxing powers by capturing supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature, Democratic leaders immediately ruled out new taxes, saying they didn't want to be seen as overreaching just after voters approved Gov. Jerry Brown's $6 billion annual tax hike. That's because the Democrats' supermajority status will be short-lived, wiped out for most of 2013 because a spate of expected vacancies and special elections will whittle their ranks to below the two-thirds threshold in the Assembly.
- Apple v. Samsung: feuding tech giants return to court in epic patent battle (SJ Mercury News)
With a $1 billion verdict hanging in the balance, feuding tech titans Apple and Samsung return to federal court this week armed with the latest legal ammunition in their global smartphone and tablet war. This duel, which unfolds before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on Thursday, centers on Samsung's bid to overturn a jury's stunning verdict in August that found the South Korean tech giant "willfully" copied Apple's iPhone and iPad in its own increasingly popular smartphones and tablets. But Thursday's hearing is also very much about Apple's attempt to exact even more punishment against Samsung, its chief rival with products such as the Android-driven Galaxy line of smartphones. Apple has asked Koh to permanently ban the sale of more than two dozen Samsung devices in the United States, all of them older versions, as well as add more than $500 million to the $1 billion judgment under provisions for increasing damages for willful patent infringement.
- Arrest totals down sharply in Oakland (SF Chronicle)
Oakland police officers made 44 percent fewer arrests last year than they had just three years before, city records show, a plunge in enforcement that extended from armed robbery cases to drug busts to minor crimes like public drunkenness. That's 6,410 fewer arrests - an average of 18 fewer per day - in a city that has the highest crime rate in the state and, this year, is grappling with a 23 percent spike in murders, muggings and other major offenses.
- Muni subway plan to appease North Beach (SF Chronicle
Muni's boss has a plan to silence the vocal opposition in North Beach to the Central Subway construction project - he wants to take a major step toward extending the line from Chinatown into North Beach itself. Right now, the $1.6 billion project is supposed to run from South of Market to Stockton and Washington streets. However, the plan has also called for digging up a section of Columbus Avenue in North Beach so the huge subway-drilling machines can be pulled out of the ground when the job is done.
- Oakland, S.F. low-income projects shine (SF Chronicle)
Judged strictly by their locations and looks, Oakland's new Merritt Crossing and the reborn Tenderloin YMCA in San Francisco are utterly unlike. In terms of how they fit their settings, the social and built environments, they are two peas in a pod. Each contains housing for low-income and often troubled people, designed by local architects for local nonprofit developers. They meet the street with an attractive confidence that should make their surroundings a bit more neighborly.
- Oakland firm to make S.F. schools' meals (SF Chronicle)
School lunches in the form of chicken nuggets that were frozen, packaged, shipped from Chicago and then reheated before serving will likely be a thing of the past in San Francisco. Meals will instead feature a freshly made "Fiesta Bowl" with cheese and brown rice, steamed corn, sea salt pita chips and fruit or maybe sesame chicken salad with sesame vinaigrette, sesame sticks, whole wheat dinner roll and fruit. And all that with no artificial ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial trans fats - made by a real person in a real chef hat. District officials recently announced that Revolution Foods, an Oakland company, has won the competitive process to provide the meals to the city's 114 schools starting in January.
- Mike Nevin, ex-officer, supervisor, dies (SF Chronicle)
Michael D. "Mike" Nevin, a former San Mateo County supervisor and San Francisco police inspector known for championing the causes of people in need, died Saturday of esophageal cancer. He was 69. Mr. Nevin, who also advocated for better transportation, the compassionate use of medical marijuana and a ban on gun shows, was diagnosed around Labor Day. The disease turned out to be "extremely aggressive," said his nephew, P.J. Johnston.
- World's second-biggest tree? On further review, General Grant sequoia is supplanted (Associated Press)
Deep in the Sierra Nevada, the famous General Grant giant sequoia tree is suffering its loss of stature in silence. What once was the world's No. 2 biggest tree has been supplanted thanks to the most comprehensive measurements taken of the largest living things on Earth. The new No. 2 is The President, a 54,000-cubic-foot gargantuan not far from the Grant in Sequoia National Park. After 3,240 years, the giant sequoia still is growing wider at a consistent rate, which may be what most surprised the scientists examining how the sequoias and coastal redwoods will be affected by climate change and whether these trees have a role to play in combatting it.
- Hewlett-Packard's $11 billion Autonomy fiasco was preceded by many red flags (SJ Mercury News)
Long before Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) paid $11 billion for what turned out to be its disastrous purchase of Autonomy, a handful of industry experts were raising red flags about the British software company's accounting practices and claims of continuous growth. HP said this month that it only recently discovered what it characterized as fraud and other problems that made it realize it spent billions of dollars too much on the deal. But a vocal group of critics -- albeit a minority at the time -- were sounding alarms about the company as far back as 2007. In a 2009 report, for instance, one analyst termed some of its financial statements "wrong and misleading." The following year, another said its "earnings momentum appears to be negative." And after HP announced its plan to buy the company in August 2011, a third analyst predicted the acquisition would "destroy" HP's stock value.
- Squid fishermen wrap up another banner year (Bay Area News Group)
It's a great time to be a calamari lover. California fishermen have capitalized on favorable ocean conditions with a historic three-year haul of market squid, whose cylindrical bodies are most recognizable in appetizer form: sliced, breaded and deep-fried. These small squid make up the state's largest fishery by both weight and value, having brought in roughly $68.5 million in 2011. Fishermen netted a record-breaking 133,642 tons of the cephalopods during the 2010-11 season, then topped that mark the following year with 134,910 tons, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. This season's catch was also robust, though it is expected to fall a bit short of those staggering totals.