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KPAY News Archives for 2014-01

Poll: CA voters look favorably on governor, budget plan; drought concern at record high


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown is getting a lot of love from California voters. A poll released yesterday by the Public Policy Institute of California says strong majorities of likely voters approve of his overall handling of the job and of the budget proposal he released earlier this month. Six in 10 likely voters approve of Brown's job performance, including 57 percent of independents. His budget proposal, which funnels more money to K-12 education, devotes $11 billion to paying down state debt and saves $1.6 billion in a rainy day fund, has bipartisan support in the survey, with 75 percent of likely voters approving. Among Republicans, 66 percent approve.

The economy, education and the state budget dominated the concerns Californians want the governor and Legislature to address, but this month's survey added a new priority. Seven percent of Californians say water and the drought should be the top concern, a record high. That sentiment was highest in the Central Valley, where 18 percent of respondents listed the drought as the top issue. The poll surveyed 1,700 adults and 1,150 likely voters by telephone from Jan. 14-21. The margin of sampling error for likely voters is 4.6 percent.

CA bill would protect local public comment periods


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Members of the public could ask a judge to intervene if a local government body cuts off public comment before deciding an issue, under a bill approved by the state Assembly. Democratic Assemblywoman Nora Campos of San Jose says her AB194 "puts some teeth" into the state's public meetings law. The bill passed on a 42-7 vote yesterday and goes to the Senate. The legislation would let people request that a local government body re-open discussion if its initial consideration did not allow for complete public comment on a particular agenda item.

If the government entity refused, the person or a county prosecutor could ask a judge to invalidate the government's decision. Associations representing school districts and school administrators are opposed, saying enough protections already exist under current law.

US economy grew at 3.2 percent rate in Q4


WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter on the strength of the strongest consumer spending in three years, an encouraging sign for 2014. The fourth-quarter increase followed a 4.1 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter, when the economy was boosted by a buildup in business stockpiles. The Commerce Department says that for 2013 as a whole, the economy grew a tepid 1.9 percent, below the 2.8 percent increase in 2012. Growth was held back last year by higher federal taxes and government spending cuts. With that drag removed, many economists think growth could top 3 percent in 2014, which would be the best performance since the recession ended in mid-2009.


 

Applications for US jobless benefits rise to 348K


WASHINGTON (AP) — Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 19,000 last week to 348,000, the highest in about a month. But the broader trend in applications remains low. The Labor Department says that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased just 750 to 333,000. The increase follows three weeks of declines. The average is close to pre-recession levels and suggests that, despite last week's rise, layoffs remain low. But hiring will need to pick up to cut the still-high 6.7 percent unemployment rate. Employers added just 74,000 jobs in December, the fewest in three years and far below the average of 214,000 added in the previous four months. Most economists forecast that hiring will rebound in January to roughly the 185,000 average monthly job gains of the past two years.


 

Obama touts plans on contractor wages, retirement


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is promoting his newly unveiled plans to boost wages for some workers and help Americans save for retirement — no action from Congress necessary. Today, Obama plans to sign a presidential memorandum creating a new retirement savings account dubbed "myRA." The White House says it will act as a starter savings account. A pilot program will be ready by the end of 2014. Obama is also preparing to sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for workers carrying out new federal contracts to $10.10. He'll discuss the minimum wage hike in Maryland and the retirement program in Pennsylvania. Obama plans to visit Milwaukee and Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday.

CA bill would let 16-year-olds pre-register to vote


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California would let 16-year-olds pre-register to vote under a bill approved by the state Senate, although they still would have to wait until age 18 to cast their first ballot. SB113 heads to the Assembly after it was approved yesterday 24-8. Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara says California has one of the nation's lowest voter registration rates. She says a study of similar laws in Florida and Hawaii demonstrates that pre-registration encourages young people to vote once they are eligible and makes it more likely they will become lifelong voters. Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine says the legislation could create headaches for local election officials who would have to track teen registration records and lead to disappoint if teenagers change addresses and don't realize they must re-register.

Union Pacific train cars derail near Redding


REDDING, Calif. (AP) — Union Pacific Railroad crews are working to put two box cars back on the tracks following a derailment in far Northern California. Union Pacific spokeswoman Calli Hite says four of 67 cars on a freight train heading from Roseville, Calif., to Portland, Ore., derailed around 4 p.m. Monday near Redding. No one was hurt, but Amtrak service on the line was affected. Hite said the cause of the derailment is under investigation. Three of the cars were empty, while the fourth had scrap paper. The paper did not fall out. Two of the cars have since been righted and put back on the tracks. Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said Amtrak was bussing passengers between Sacramento, Calif., and Klamath Falls, Ore.

US diplomat urges North Korea to release American


BEIJING (AP) — A U.S. diplomat is asking North Korea to pardon imprisoned American Kenneth Bae (bay), saying he's in poor health and needs to return home. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies held talks today with Chinese officials in Beijing on how to persuade the North to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

Bae was arrested in November 2012 while leading a tour group and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified anti-government activity.

Obama hiking minimum pay for new federal contracts


WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Barack Obama will sign an executive order setting the minimum wage for workers under new federal contracts at $10.10 an hour. The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. The White House says those who would benefit from the increase include janitors, construction workers and people in food service. The president will announce the increase at tonight's State of the Union address.

Number of women dropping in California Legislature


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Legislature is generally regarded as a fairly progressive institution, but one group has been dropping steadily in representation for nearly a decade — women. The number of women in the 120-member Legislature has fallen from a peak of 37 in 2006 to 32 this year. Groups that promote women running for public office are concerned the trend will continue this election year. They also worry about how the drop-off will affect policy decisions. Bettina Duval, president of CALIFORNIALIST, which has raised more than $1 million to support female candidates, fears women could lose three to five legislative seats this year. That would accelerate the gradual decline. California ranked sixth in the nation in the percentage of women serving in the Legislature in 2004 but now ranks 19th.

California drought has ranchers selling cattle


AROMAS, Calif. (AP) — With drought affecting grazing land for cattle, California ranchers are selling off parts of their herds as normally green pastures have turned brown. With feed costs high, business at the 101 Livestock Market's cattle auction on California's Central Coast is bustling, with ranchers looking to sell off parts of their herds to save money on feed costs. Auction house co-owner Monty Avery says the market usually sees 100-150 animals per week, but this year they are selling 800-1,000 each week. Gov. Jerry Brown formally proclaimed a drought in California, a move that codified what farmers and ranchers in the state had known for weeks. The U.S. Drought Monitor says "extreme drought" exists in central and northern California, where much of the state's ranching is located.

FDA says nutrition facts label will get a makeover


WASHINGTON (AP) — After 20 years, the nutrition facts label on the back of food packages is getting a makeover.

Knowledge about nutrition has evolved since the early 1990s, and the Food and Drug Administration says the labels need to reflect that. Nutritionists and other health experts have their own wish list for label changes. The number of calories should be more prominent, they say, and the amount of added sugar and percentage of whole wheat in the food should be included. They also want more clarity on serving sizes. Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says there is concern the labels haven't been as effective as they could be.

Oakland family says teen kills sister over laundry


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Police in Oakland, Calif., say they found a 17-year-old girl dead of a gunshot wound in an apartment laundry room. The girl's family tells a local TV station (KTVY-TV) that the teen's 14-year-old brother shot her Thursday because she had put bleach on some of his clothes and the two argued. Police aren't confirming a motive for the shooting.

No face-to-face talks between Syrian government and opposition today.


GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. says a face-to-face meeting between Syria's government and the Western-backed opposition hoping to overthrow it is not going to happen as planned in Switzerland today. Today was supposed to be the first time since the uprising against Bashar Assad began that the two sides would sit down for direct negotiations. U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi is meeting this morning with representatives of Assad and will meet later in the afternoon with a delegation from the Syrian National Coalition. A U.N. spokeswoman has not ruled out direct talks later. An Assad adviser is blaming the opposition, saying her delegation is willing to negotiate.

Texas executes man despite opposition from Mexico


HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Mexican man has been executed in Texas for killing a Houston police officer, despite pleas and diplomatic pressure from the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department to halt the punishment.

Forty-six-year-old Edgar Tamayo received a lethal injection Wednesday evening for the January 1994 fatal shooting of 24-year-old Officer Guy Gaddis. Courts rejected last-day appeals, and Texas officials spurned arguments that Tamayo's conviction and death sentence were tainted because he did not receive notice that he could request legal help from the Mexican consulate after his arrest for the officer's slaying. Attorneys also argued unsuccessfully that Tamayo was mentally impaired, making him ineligible for execution, and the state's clemency procedures were unfair.

Pop star Justin Bieber arrested in Miami area


MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Police say pop singer Justin Bieber has been arrested after drag racing on a Miami Beach street in a yellow Lamborghini and failing a sobriety test. Miami Dade-Police spokesman Sgt. Bobby Hernandez tells WSVN in South Florida that officers saw two cars racing at 4:09 a.m. Thursday. Hernandez says two vehicles apparently had been used to block off an area to race. He says the second car was a red Ferrari, and that driver was also arrested. Both cars were towed. Hernandez says 19-year-old Bieber failed a field sobriety test and was taken to the Miami Beach police station for a Breathalyzer and processing. Hernandez says Bieber will be transported soon to the Miami-Dade County jail. Recently in California, detectives searched Bieber's home for evidence he might have been involved in egg-tossing vandalism at a neighbor's home.


 

Weekly applications for US jobless aid mostly flat


NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are sharply lower in early trading after several companies reported disappointing results and as signs emerged that manufacturing in China was set to contract. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 156 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,225 in the first few minutes of trading Thursday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 13 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,831. The Nasdaq composite lost 26 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,216. A preliminary reading of HSBC's purchasing managers' index for China dipped this month to the lowest level since July. Asian markets ended broadly lower. In the U.S., several companies were lower after reporting quarterly results, including KeyCorp, Johnson Controls and Jacobs Engineering. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.82 percent from 2.87 percent.


 

CA health exchange enrollment tops 600K


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's health insurance exchange says about 625,000 people have signed up for a policy under the federal health care reforms, but enrollments for Latinos and younger people continue to lag expectations. Younger people are crucial for the private insurance market. Insurers need them to balance out the number of older customers, who are more likely to use health services. About 25 percent of those choosing an insurance plan are in the 18- to 34-year-old group, below the roughly 36 percent Covered California eventually wants to see. Executive Director Peter Lee said Tuesday he's not concerned about the initial enrollment numbers but expects it to take a couple of years before younger people sign up in robust numbers. He also says about 75 percent of those enrolling have paid their premiums.

Head of bank bailout runs for California governor


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official and architect of the nation's bank bailout, says he is running for governor of California. He entered the race Tuesday as a Republican newcomer who faces long odds against incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat. Kashkari made the announcement in a speech at California State University, Sacramento. He cited California's public schools and economy as his motivation for running, declaring the status quo is unacceptable. The 40-year-old Ohio native and son of Indian immigrants has no political experience and has never before sought public office. He faces a formidable challenge in trying to unseat Brown, who is widely expected to run for another term and has $17 million in his campaign account.

Sochi forces hunt for potential suicide bombers


SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Russian security officials are hunting down three potential female suicide bombers, one of whom is believed to be in Sochi, where the Winter Olympics will begin next month. Police leaflets seen by an Associated Press reporter at a central Sochi hotel today contain warnings about three potential suicide bombers. Police say that one of them (Ruzanna Ibragimova), a 22-year-old widow of a slain Islamic militant, is at large in Sochi.

Russian authorities have blamed the so-called "black widows" of slain insurgents for previous suicide attacks in the country.

Kerry heads to Syria talks after Iran spat


WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Switzerland for an international conference on ending the crisis in Syria after a last-minute resolution to a spat over Iran's participation. Kerry left Washington before dawn today for the meeting in Montreux, which aims to set in motion the formation of a transitional Syrian government that would hold democratic elections. Despite being a major player in the Syria conflict, Iran won't be attending because it has refused to endorse the conference's main goal. The U.N. invited Iran on Sunday but disinvited it yesterday after the U.S., some of its allies and the Syrian opposition protested its inclusion.

Legislative deadline nears for hundreds of CA bills


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of bills that failed to pass the Legislature last year face an end-of-the-month deadline to gain initial support, including measures affecting gun owners, the oil industry and farm laborers. It's the first significant bill deadline of 2014, the second half of the Legislature's two-year session. The bills are dead if they don't pass the house where they originated by Jan. 31, and dozens of the holdover bills already have died in committees. Among the bills is SB241 by Democratic Sen. Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa, which would impose a tax on companies that extract oil in California. Her bill is stalled in committee, but she plans to propose new legislation that would put the oil tax before voters in 2016, an avenue that does not require the governor's approval.

Philanthropists pay bills for SF 'Batkid' fantasy


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The city of San Francisco is being rescued from paying the cost of staging the "Batkid" fantasy that captured the nation's imagination. Philanthropists John and Marcia Goldman are picking up the city's $105,000 tab for allowing Miles Scott, a 5-year-old Northern California boy with leukemia, to fight villains and rescue a damsel in distress as a caped crusader on Nov. 15. Maria Kong of the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation confirmed a San Francisco Chronicle report about the couple's gift. City officials say most of the $105,000 in public funds went toward renting a sound system, video screens and other equipment to accommodate the surprisingly large crowds that turned out to see "Batkid," who became a social media darling. The elaborate fantasy was arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.


 

US lawmakers raise safety concerns about Olympics


WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress say they have serious concerns about Americans' safety at next month's Olympics in Russia, and they want Moscow to cooperate more on security. Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised his country will do all it can to ensure a safe Olympics. The State Department has advised Americans planning to go that they should keep vigilant about security because of potential terrorist threats, crime and uncertain medical care. Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan says the U.S. doesn't seem to be getting all the information needed to protect American athletes, and that must change. Texas' Rep. Michael McCaul says he plans to be in Sochi Monday to assess the situation. Rogers was on CNN's "State of the Union" and CBS' "Face the Nation." McCaul was on ABC's "This Week."

Russian Islamic video threatens Sochi Olympics


MOSCOW (AP) — An Islamic militant group in Russia's North Caucasus has claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd last month and posted a video threatening to strike the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. There had been no previous claim of responsibility for the bombings, which killed 34 people and heightened security fears before next month's Olympics. In the video, two Russian-speaking men sitting in front of black banners with Arabic verses warn President Vladimir Putin that if the games are held, "we will give you a present for the innocent Muslim blood being spilled all around the world." They add that "for the tourists who come there will be a present, too." The video was posted Sunday on the website of the militant group Vilayat Dagestan. There's been no reaction to the video from the Russian security services but In response to the terrorist threat, Russia has introduced sweeping security measures for the Sochi Games.

California OKs new school funding template


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California education officials have adopted rules governing how school districts will be able to spend the money they get based on how many disadvantaged students they have. The State Board of Education unanimously approved the regulations yesterday after hearing from more than 320 superintendents, school board members, parents, students and other supporters of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to direct more of the state's education dollars to students who are low-income, learning to speak English or living in foster care. The rules require districts to devote the extra money they receive for their high-needs student populations to improving and expanding services specifically for those students. But they also give local officials latitude to decide which programs and strategies would work best. The governor himself dropped by the marathon meeting to endorse the proposal.

CA teacher retirement investments earn 19 percent


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California State Teachers' Retirement System announced that it earned a hefty 19.1 percent return on its investments in 2013 even as it repeated a plea for funding assistance from the State Legislature. CalSTRS officials have said the gains were bolstered by 28 percent returns on its stock portfolio. The pension fund earned 19 percent from private equity and 14 percent from real estate holdings. The Sacramento Bee reports that CalSTRS officials have warned for years that they need higher contributions from the state, school districts and teachers to maintain the pension system's long-term viability. Though it has lots of money to meet obligations in the near future, the Bee reports, CalSTRS faces a long-term shortfall of about $70 billion and will run out of cash in about 30 years.

Calif. will owe $180M for high-speed rail in April


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California officials are seeking to reassure congressional Republicans that the state will be able to match billions of dollars in federal funding for the state's high-speed rail project, including a $180 million payment due in April. Funding for the $68 billion project is in legal limbo after two court rulings, one of which prevented the state from selling $8.6 billion in voter-approved bonds. Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican from the Central Valley, called Wednesday's hearing of the House subcommittee on railroads to investigate the funding questions. He grilled Federal Railroad Administration official Karen Hedlund. She says California has complied with its agreement, paying $100 million so far for construction to the federal government's $275 million contribution.

Officials could withhold funding if the state does not make its April payment.

Court: Feds can target California pot clinics


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An appeals court has ruled that California medical marijuana dispensaries have no protection under state law from federal drug prosecutions. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that California's law allowing marijuana use with a doctor's recommendation doesn't shield dispensaries, their landlords and customers from criminal charges and government lawsuits. All uses of marijuana are illegal under federal law, even in states that have legalized pot. The ruling upholds three lower court rulings and follows previous decisions by federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. The court conceded that medical marijuana use is more accepted now than in 2007 when it made a similar ruling. But it said that the new legal challenges didn't raise any new arguments that would trump federal law.

Video helped lead to Shasta Co. wildfire suspect


REDDING, Calif. (AP) — Court documents show that surveillance footage helped lead to the arrest of the man suspected of starting a wildfire in rural Northern California that left one person dead and destroyed dozens of homes.

Twenty-nine-year-old Zane Peterson has pleaded not guilty to murder and arson charges in connection with the Sept. 9 Clover Fire in Shasta County. The fire, which began as two separate blazes, destroyed 68 homes about 150 miles north of Sacramento and claimed the life of 55-year-old Brian Henry. According to court documents reported by the Record Searchlight of Redding on Monday, Peterson's pick-up truck was recorded by video cameras passing by both of the fire's origin points. An analysis of his text messages, additionally, showed he was having financial and addiction problems and wanted to return to work as a firefighter.

Senate leader taps 'dearest friend' for $128K job


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A committee led by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has appointed one of his closest friends to a $128,000-a-year job on a board that has long been criticized as a plum position for termed-out lawmakers. Sacramento attorney John Adkisson was sworn in yesterday to the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, which meets once a month. Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, will be termed out later this year.

Adkisson has been paid $300,000 annually since 2009 for two state positions: special counsel to the Senate and Legislative Counsel; and director of the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes. Steinberg told The Sacramento Bee in 2009 that his law school classmate was "one of my dearest friends." A spokesman for Steinberg says Adkisson is highly qualified because of his background in labor law.

CalPERS reports higher investment gains


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's biggest public pension system is reporting its biggest annual investment gains in a decade. The Sacramento Bee reports the California Public Employees' Retirement System said Monday that its portfolio grew by 16.2 percent last year, boosted by a run-up in stock prices. The performance more than doubled CalPERS' official forecast of 7.5 percent, and showed an improvement over the 13.3 percent the pension fund earned in 2012. The newspaper says despite those gains, CalPERS is still in a financial hole, largely the result of huge losses suffered during the 2008 market crash. While it has plenty of cash to pay its bills for the foreseeable future, the pension fund is facing a long-term shortfall of over $100 billion. The fund's governing board will consider an increase in contribution rates next month.

Claim filed for girl run over after SFO plane crash


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The parents of a teenage girl who was run over and killed by two emergency vehicles after an Asiana Airlines crash have filed a claim against the city of San Francisco, saying rescuers were reckless and poorly trained. In a claim filed this week, attorneys for the parents of 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan say firefighters who first saw the girl after the July 6 crash should have examined her and moved her somewhere safe. An autopsy revealed Yuan was alive before the vehicles hit her. Firefighters told investigators they assumed she was dead and hurried on toward the damaged aircraft. In all, 304 of the 307 people aboard the plane survived after the airliner slammed into a seawall at the end of a runway during final approach for landing.

Gov. Brown meets with drought task force, pledges help


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown says he is meeting with his recently formed drought task force as California faces a serious water shortage, but says "governors can't make it rain." Brown told reporters yesterday that he will work with farmers to take whatever steps he can to get more water to parched fields. Reservoirs have dipped to historic lows after one of the driest calendar years on record. The first Sierra snow survey of the year recorded just 20 percent of average water content. The Democratic governor is weighing an official drought declaration. He says he will do "everything that is humanly possible" to allow flexible use of the state's water. Several communities already have imposed mandatory water reductions. This week, Mendocino County became the first to request state drought assistance.

Brown's budget plan starts tackling 'wall of debt'


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown is promising to chip into what he calls California's massive "wall of debt" in the state budget he is proposing for the coming fiscal year. Soaring revenue from an improving economy and voter-approved tax increases have put the state in the rare position of having a projected multibillion dollar budget surplus. While Brown proposes an 8.5 percent boost in spending from the current year's budget, he also takes aim at nearly $355 billion in unfunded liabilities and debts. His budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year will be released formally Thursday. In it, he dedicates $11 billion to paying down the debts and liabilities, including $6 billion in payments that had been deferred to schools. Brown also proposes setting aside $1.6 billion for a rainy day fund.

Survey: US companies add 238K jobs, most in year


WASHINGTON (AP) — A private survey shows U.S. businesses added the most jobs in a year in December, powered by a big gain in construction jobs. The figures add to evidence that the economy gained momentum at the end of 2013. Payroll processor ADP says companies added 238,000 jobs in December, up slightly from 229,000 in the previous month. November's figures were revised higher. Construction firms added 48,000 jobs in December, the most since 2006. The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report. But both reports have shown a solid pickup in hiring since the summer. Last month, the Labor Department said private businesses added 203,000 jobs in November. The Labor Department will report on December job growth Friday.


 

Obama to announce investment in 5 'Promise Zones'


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will announce five "Promise Zones" this week as part of his effort to focus on income inequality in the lead-up to his State of the Union address. Promise Zones are areas where the federal government provides tax incentives and grants to help communities tackle poverty. Obama first announced the initiative during last year's State of the Union speech. On Thursday, Obama will announce the first Promise Zone locations. They're in San Antonio, Texas; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The White House says Obama believes investing in and rebuilding economically challenged communities is crucial to helping children have a chance at success.


 

CA lawmakers pledge fiscal prudence for budget


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Legislative leaders are promising to use the state's projected budget surplus wisely as lawmakers begin their annual session. Members of the state Assembly and Senate were jovial during their opening sessions yesterday, but many are looking ahead to Friday, when Gov. Jerry Brown releases his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. The Legislative Analyst's Office is projecting a $3.2 billion surplus, the first one in years.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, a Democrat, says his top priority is ensuring California's fiscal stability by building a rainy day fund. Yet after years of cuts, many groups will be asking lawmakers to restore funding to programs.

Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, a Tulare Republican, says she hopes the governor maintains his fiscal moderation to rein in Democratic efforts to spend the money.

Coroner: Priest beaten to death with stake, pipe


GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — An autopsy shows that a beloved priest who was killed in the Northern California city of Eureka was beaten to death with a wooden stake and a metal gutter pipe. Humboldt County Coroner Dave Parris said yesterday that investigators don't want to release more details of how the Rev. Eric Freed was beaten, pending further investigation. But at his arraignment, 44-year-old Gary Lee Bullock was charged with murder with a special allegation of torture. Other counts are burglary, arson and auto theft. Authorities have said Bullock was released from jail on a disorderly conduct charge several hours before the New Year's Day slaying. The jail is near the church. Police Chief Andrew Mills says the attacker got into the rectory at St. Bernard Catholic Church by breaking a side window.

Federal judge cancels hearing on 'brain dead' teen


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A federal judge has cancelled a hearing that had been scheduled for today in the case of a 13-year-old girl declared brain after tonsil surgery. United States District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong of the Northern District of California writes in an order issued yesterday that the request for the hearing is moot because the issue that would have been addressed has already been resolved. The mother of Jahi McMath had sought a court order requiring Children's Hospital Oakland to maintain Jahi on a ventilator and to insert a gastric tube and a tracheostomy tube before transferring the teen from the hospital to another facility.

But on Sunday, the family announced that Jahi had already been moved to an undisclosed location for long-term care.

Fed chair, unemployment on tap as Congress returns


WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is back to work on Monday, facing a hefty list of unfinished business and a politically driven agenda in an election year. The Senate has scheduled votes on President Barack Obama's nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve and a three-month extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed. If confirmed, Yellen would be the first woman to serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Democrats are focused on extending the benefits for an estimated 1.3 million Americans. The payments stopped on Dec. 28. Republicans see a political boost in the troubled implementation of Obama's health care law. The GOP-led House has scheduled a vote this week on legislation dealing with security of personal data. All 435 House seats and 35 Senate seats are up in November.


 

'Polar vortex' pushes subzero temps into Midwest


CHICAGO (AP) — A whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a "polar vortex" is descending into much of the U.S., pummeling parts of the country with a dangerous cold that could break decades-old records. For a big chunk of the Midwest, the subzero temperatures are following heavy snow and high winds. Officials have closed schools in cities including Chicago, St. Louis and Milwaukee and warned residents to stay indoors and avoid the frigid cold altogether.

The forecast is extreme: 32 below zero in Fargo, N.D.; minus 21 in Madison, Wis.; and 15 below zero in Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills could drop into the minus 50s and 60s. It hasn't been this cold for almost two decades in many parts of the country.


 

Palestinians express reservations on Kerry's ideas


RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — A Palestinian official says the Palestinians have reservations about some of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's ideas for the outlines of a peace deal with Israel, particularly on the future of Jerusalem. Kerry left Monday after meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He is to present a U.S. proposal for a peace framework and is expected back in the region next week. The official said Monday that wide gaps remain, including about east Jerusalem. The official says Kerry suggested that a framework refer to Palestinian "aspirations" to have a capital in Jerusalem. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of Kerry's demand for discretion. The Palestinians want a specific mention of east Jerusalem as their capital, fearing that otherwise they'll end up with a small part of the city.


 

Calif scientists use sea mammals to make toxic map


MOSS LANDING, Calif. (AP) — California marine scientists are collecting samples from sea mammals around the state to in an effort to create a map of toxic hot spots. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that Marine Mammal Center researchers plan to use 10 years of data collected from the stranded sea lions, seals and whales its saved to create a "disease map" of the coastal environment. Stephanie Hughes, a marine scientist who studies disease in seals, says the creatures are "samplers for the environment." Seals and other marine mammals live near humans and eat a lot of the same seafood. They store contaminants from the food in their blubber. Blubber samples show different contaminants depending on the area -- agriculture pesticides in Monterey Bay or flame retardants in San Francisco Bay.

Lawyer: Brain dead girl moved from Calif. hospital


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The family attorney of the California girl declared brain dead after a tonsillectomy says she has been taken out of Children's Hospital of Oakland. Christopher Dolan tells The Associated Press that 13-year-old Jahi McMath left the hospital in a private ambulance shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday. Dolan says she was taken while attached to a ventilator but without a feeding tube. Her destination was not immediately disclosed. David Durand, the hospital's Chief of Pediatrics, says the girl was released to the coroner. Durand said in an email the coroner then released her into the custody of her mother, Nailah Winkfield, as per court order. A judge said Friday that the mother may remove the girl from the hospital if she assumes full responsibility for the consequences. The teen suffered cardiac arrest after bleeding profusely following her operation earlier last month.

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