Schools benefit from new California budget

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Saturday, July 1, 2006

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bipartisan state budget Friday that invests a record $55.1 billion in education – an increase of $3.1 billion this year and $8.3 billion over the last two years – and allocates $4.9 billion to create a budget reserve and to pay down the state’s debt early.

Schwarzenegger credited bipartisan cooperation in coming up with a budget he was willing to sign, and do it on time, a rarity in recent California politics.

“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when Democrats and Republicans work together in Sacramento,” said Schwarzenegger. “I want to thank the legislative leadership – Senators Don Perata and Dick Ackerman, Speaker Fabian Nunez and Assembly Republican Leader George Plescia – for all their hard work on the budget. We put politics aside and were driven by the overwhelming desire to do what’s best for the people of California.

“I am especially proud that the budget expands preschool, and returns art, music and physical education classes to our children,” he said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said he is pleased by the budget. “The budget passed by the Legislature brings welcome support to education in California, making good on past debts to our schools and investing in sorely needed classroom programs,” he said.

He had his own budget favorites: “I’m particularly pleased that the budget includes increased funding for school counselors, teacher professional development, programs targeted to helping students pass the high school exit exam, and expanded and improved student nutrition programs.

“While there are some priorities over which we may disagree, I applaud the Governor and the Legislature for a budget that makes education a top priority.”

Barbara E. Kerr, president of the 335,000-member California Teachers Association, also likes the direction of the new budget.“The timely approval of the new state budget is good news for our public schools and students,” she said. “School districts and teachers can now plan ahead. The nearly six percent cost-of-living-adjustment will allow local schools to restore funding to education programs that have been cut over the past few years and provide for salary increases.”

Still, Kerr, said, the budget doesn’t go far enough. “This budget is a down payment on the debt owed to our schools. Teachers will continue to work with the governor and the Legislature to ensure repayment of the $3 billion still owed to our schools under Proposition 98 and the lawsuit settlement agreement announced last month. That money will help our schools of greatest need reduce class sizes, improve teacher training and increase parental involvement.”

How the budget affects the New Haven Unified School District and James Logan High School, or the James Logan Courier, specifically is not yet clear.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who is running for governor against Schwarzenegger, liked the increased education funding, and praised his fellow Democrats in the legislature for that, but criticized the entire budget for being out of balance.

“On higher education, Democrats in the Legislature did the right thing, when the governor would not, and gained a $6 per unit rollback in community college fees,” he said in a statement. “That is a start. But the governor’s budget will still leave community college fees nearly double what they were just three years ago. And the budget will also leave untouched the fees at CSU and UC, which have increased by $2,000 and $5,000 respectively under Governor Schwarzenegger.”

Missing from the budget, Angelides said, is funding to expand health care for low-income children. Schwarzenegger “failed to get members of his own party to agree to a budget that funds health care for more kids from low-income families on the Healthy Families program regardless of the families’ immigration status. Compassion requires – and intelligent public health practice demands – that all people residing in California have access to adequate health care,” Angelides said.

Schwarzenegger credited a strong economy that increased state revenues for providing the cash to cover the increased expenditures and set aside a $2.1 billion reserve and an additional $2.8 billion for debt prepayment. Included in that is $1.42 billion for repaying borrowed funds earmarked by the voters for transportation projects aimed at reducing traffic throughout the state. The early debt payment and the reserve account for nearly 4.7 percent of the overall budget – the highest in 25 years.

Still, Angelides said, the budget is out of balance and the state is running up more debt. “Despite his repeated pledges to ‘cut up the credit card’ Governor Schwarzenegger has produced a budget that still leaves a $3.3 billion structural budget deficit for 2006-07 and more deficits for years to come,” Angelides said, “It is a budget thatwill continue to shift the burden of today’s deficits onto the backs of futuregenerations.”

The budget largely mirrors the May Revise, which has since prompted all three Wall Street credit rating agencies to upgrade the state credit rating, reducing the cost of state borrowing. One of the agencies, Fitch, Inc., cited “California’s continuing economic recovery, strong revenue performance and continued progress in reducing fiscal imbalance” when upgrading their rating on the state’s general obligation debt from A to A+ last month. Standard and Poor’s also raised its rating from A to A+ in May. Moody’s Investors Service raised its rating from A2 to A1 the same month.

Despite the improved credit ratings, Angelides said, the three rating agencies still have reservations about the state’s fiscal future. The agencies “have corroborated my warning and that of the Legislative Analyst that while state revenues have improved, California’s fiscal condition will remain insecure until the state produces balanced budgets,” he said.

Highlights of AB 1801, the Budget Act of 2006 by Assembly member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), include:

Preschool through High School Education – The budget includes $100 million for the Governor’s targeted preschool initiative, which will make preschool available to every four year old living in a low-performing school district. $50 million of this funding will be used to build and improve preschool facilities. The budget also includes $645 million to fund physical education, arts and music programs. Overall, $11,264 will be spent on each student, an increase of $516 from the current year.

Higher Education – The budget allocates $19.1 billion from all sources for higher education and eliminates tuition and fee increases at UC and CSU. California, which already has the lowest community college fees in the nation, will further lower student fees from $26 per unit to $20, effective Spring 2007.

Law Enforcement – The budget includes an additional $196 million to support law enforcement efforts, including money to fund Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement teams, 500 GPS devices to track and monitor the highest-risk parolees and four new Gang Suppression Enforcement Teams. The budget also proposes the addition of 235 California Highway Patrol positions, includes $56.4 million to replace the CHP’s existing radio system and allocates $6.4 million to handle the increasing number of wireless 9-1-1 calls. Additionally, the budget includes a $20 million investment to strengthen efforts to fight methamphetamine trafficking and $6 million to create three new California Methamphetamine Strategy program teams.

Disaster Preparedness – The budget provides $220 million to enhance California’s ability to prepare for, mitigate and respond to emergencies, including money to strengthen public health response during a disaster. This includes preparations to prevent a pandemic influenza outbreak and expanding efforts to help local governments develop disaster preparedness plans.

Public Health – The budget includes $22.6 million for counties to perform outreach and enrollment activities to reach the 428,000 children who are eligible for Medi-Cal or the Healthy Families program but are not enrolled. The budget for the Healthy Families program also covers enrollment growth for 78,200 additional children.

Transportation – In addition, the Budget makes a substantial investment in improving California’s transportation system. It provides $1.4 billion to fully fund Proposition 42 for the second consecutive year, and it provides an additional $1.4 billion for the early repayment of past loans from Proposition 42, for a total of $2.8 billion. Of the $1.4 billion repayment, $440 million is designated for cities and counties for local road and street maintenance that would otherwise not be funded.

The budget is the first on time budget since 2000 and the fourth in the last 20 years. The 2006-07 budget’s general fund is $101.3 billion and total is $131.4 billion. For a more detailed overview of the budget, please visit www.dof.ca.gov.

Forty Hells Angels locations in Canada raided by police

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Friday, April 6, 2007

On Wednesday, approximately forty Hells Angels locations were raided by police in Ontario, New Brunswick, and British Columbia. Police arrested more than thirty people in the three provinces.

The largest Hells Angels location in Canada, located in downtown Toronto on 498 Eastern Ave., was raided early Wednesday morning. Nearly sixteen members were arrested with two members still on the wanted list. Toronto Police removed the sign and are now investigating. They are currently planning a large crackdown on the Hells Angels in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

“Hopefully by now biker gangs and their associates are getting the message: we’re here to shut you down. You can run but you can’t hide, and we will do all that we can to bring you to justice,” said Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner (OPP) Julian Fantino. “I believe that we have to continue the attack on organized crime however it’s manifested, and we owe the citizens of our community no less.” “It’s a good day for policing in Toronto, a good day for policing in Ontario.”

“Project Develop was an 18-month investigation that utilized a full-patch Hells Angels member as a police agent to infiltrate the Toronto downtown chapter of the Hells Angels,” OPP Inspector Dan Redmond said yesterday. “Hells Angels criminal activity has been exposed by one of their own.”

Nearly 170 charges were laid against thirty-one people, police said, though they provided no list of charges or names. Sixteen full-patch members are said to be in custody, with arrest warrants outstanding for another two. Police seized vehicles, drugs, weapons, property and real-estate, but were not specific about the amounts.

The Hells Angels is a large biker gang founded 1948 in Fontana, California and is estimated to have 1,800 members in 22 countries. Since they started many other biker gangs merged with them, due to the fact that the Hells Angels are larger. The Hells Angels have 500 members in Canada, thirty-four active chapters in Canada, sixteen in Ontario, seven in British Columbia, five in Quebec, three in Alberta, two in Saskatchewan, and one in Manitoba. A number of raids have been made since, with two in September and January 2006.

A location on Sherwood Ave. in Scarborough, Ontario, and a house on Berard Court in Barrie, Ontario are under a restraining order as they may have drug related crimes.

The Toronto chapter of Hells Angels, in the “Real Deal News” section of their website, alleged that the police were staging a show for the media and that the raids were overly dramatic to make Hells Angels look bad on television.

Wikinews Shorts: December 7, 2008

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A compilation of brief news reports for Sunday, December 7, 2008.

Contents

  • 1 ‘Progress’ seen in US auto bailout deal
  • 2 Ghana to hold elections
  • 3 Archbishop of York says Mugabe must be overthrown
  • 4 Scandal-ridden Congressman loses delayed election

Officials say that progress is being made in a deal to bail out three United States carmakers. The U.S. government will be holding weekend talks on the plan after two days of Congressional hearings.

Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, stated that discussions with both parties had been “constructive”.

Executives from the three companies – General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler – have pleaded before two Congressional committees, asking for $34 billion in order to stop collapse.

“I’m convinced that by Sunday we will have an agreement that people can understand on this bill,” said Barney Frank, a representative from the state of Massachusetts.

Sources


 This story has updates See Ghanian presidential elections go to run-off 

The people of Ghana, a country often shown of as an example of a good democracy in Africa, will vote for a new president and parliament.

The current president, John Kufuor, will resign after serving the maximum of two terms in office. The elections are expected to be close.

The three main contenders for the presidency are: the Nana Akufo Addo from New Patriotic Party, who was the foreign minister under the current president, John Atta Mills running for the National Democratic Congress, and the Convention People’s Party’s candidate, one Paa Kwesi Nduom.

Sources


The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said that Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe must be forced out of office and face trial for his crimes against humanity.

“The time has come for Robert Mugabe to answer for his crimes against humanity, against his countrymen and women and for justice to be done. The winds of change that once brought hope to Zimbabwe and its neighbours have become a hurricane of destruction, with the outbreak of cholera, destitution, starvation and systemic abuse of power by the state,” said Sentamu.

Sentamu that the power-sharing deal that was signed by Mugabe and the Zimbabwean opposition in September was “now dead”.

Dr Sentamu’s statement comes after a severe cholera outbreak spread in Zimbabwe, and saw 12,545 cases reported and 565 people dead.

Sources


Republicans experienced another victory late Saturday, as the Associated Press called the race in Louisiana’s 2nd district at 22:35 CST in favor of Anh “Joseph” Cao, heralding the first Vietnamese-American member of Congress and sending the incumbent scandal-ridden Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson home after nine terms.

Sources


US government files lawsuit against BP Exploration in Alaska

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The United States government has filed a civil lawsuit against BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. (BPXA) alleging that the company “violated federal clean air and water laws” by “illegally discharging” more than 200,000 gallons crude oil during two oil spills in 2006 on Alaska’s North Slope in Prudhoe Bay.

BPXA previously pleaded guilty to one count of criminal negligence in illegally discharging the oil and paid US$20 million in damages. As a result of the plea, the lawsuit was filed saying that they “failed” to prepare for such a disaster by implementing “certain [sic] spill prevention measures” as the law requires.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the [DOT]-Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), alleges that BPXA “illegally discharged more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil from its pipelines” and “violated the Clean Air Act by improperly removing asbestos-containing materials from its pipelines” It also says that they “failed to comply in a timely manner with a corrective action order that the [DOT]-Pipeline and PHMSA issued to BPXA pursuant to federal pipeline safety laws.”

According to the Associated Press (AP), BPXA spokespeople state that the company has taken certain measures, making sure daily operations are safe.

“We have taken significant steps to ensure that our operations are safe and reliable, and protect the environment. Those include building a new $500 million system of oil transit lines at Prudhoe Bay,” said spokesman Steve Rinehart to the AP.

The spills were discovered on March 2, 2006 and covered nearly two acres. It was initially estimated that nearly 270,000 gallons had spilled. The official loss was put at 212,252 gallons.

BPXA, a subsidiary of BP America, specializes in exploring and finding locations to drill for oil, as well as drilling for it.

Thai government reportedly planning Internet censorship

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

According to a report in the Bangkok Post, the Thai government’s Public Relations Department is considering blocking the website of Manager Online as a possible instigator of “social chaos”.

The report claims that a document was submitted to the Communications Authority of Thailand urging a block be issued against the site as the current calls for participation in anti-government rallies by outspoken government critic Sondhi Limthongkul may be a threat to social order.

Other reports claim that CAT Telecom cut off a live satellite broadcast by Sondi on the ASTV satellite network on Tuesday evening during a discussion related to a planned anti-government rally on February 4.

Woman found guilty of killing fiancé by drink driving in Bath, England

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

A woman has been found guilty of killing her fiancé after she ran him over while three times over the drink drive limit. Caroline Broad, 41, killed her partner of eight years Christopher Phillips, 40, when she ran him over in the car park of the Full Moon Pub in Twerton, Bath, England on August 17, 2008. Broad has been jailed for three years.

Witness reports say that Ms. Broad was in the car and saw Mr. Phillips slide off the bonnet and then the car continue to drive over him. The couple had been drinking together at the pub for several hours before the incident. Broad denies any wrong doing and says she can’t remember the car going forward.

Detective Sergeant Peter Knight released a statement saying that “The events of Sunday August 17, 2008 are yet another example of how the selfish and wholly unnecessary actions of a drunken driver can lead to tragic or nasty circumstances”. He also thanked the Twerton community for their help during the investigation.

Ms. Broad and Mr. Phillips had been in a relationship for eight years and ran a tiling business together.

Uber suspends self-driving car program after pedestrian death in Arizona, United States

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

On Monday, the United States ride-sharing company Uber announced suspension of its experimental self-driving car program after one of the cars fatally struck a 49-year-old woman pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night.

The company characterized the suspension of the program — in the Phoenix area and also in Pittsburgh; San Francisco; and Toronto, Canada — as a standard response in the wake of the accident. Uber released a statement that “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.” According to a spokeswoman, the company is also conducting its own investigation. It was reportedly the first time someone died in an incident involving a self-driving car.

Elaine Herzberg was hit at about 10 pm local time (UTC -7) on Sunday when she walked into the street with her bicycle about 100 yards or less from a crosswalk. She died later in hospital. The Volvo car was operating autonomously. Sylvia Moir, chief of police in Tempe, told the San Francisco Chronicle that according to the human operator in the vehicle — Rafaela Vasquez, 44 — “it was like a flash”, there was no time to override the computer to take evasive action, the first indication was the sound of impact.

The police stated the car was three miles per hour (mph) over a speed limit of 35 mph. According to Moir, recordings from the car’s video cameras indicated it would have been “difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode”. Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle that while she “[wouldn’t] rule out the potential to file charges” against Vasquez, “preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident”.

Uber started its Arizona self-driving test program in February 2017, using vehicles that had been banned in California due to safety concerns. The next month one was involved in a collision while in self-driving mode after another car failed to yield the right of way; the Uber SUV rolled on its side.

Wal-Mart accused of workers rights violations

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A class-action suit has been filed with the Superior court of the state of California accusing Wal-Mart of failing to ensure their suppliers’ employees work in acceptable conditions.

The suit, representing workers from six countries across four continents, conceals the identities of 17 workers from China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Swaziland and Nicaragua in addition to four Californians cited as also representing others from the state.

The complaint accuses Wal-Mart of failing to adequately police garment suppliers and ensure that workers are not kept in sweatshop conditions, and that this is in breach of their own Code of Conduct for foreign suppliers. Wal-Mart counters that they have an extensive programme to ensure suppliers adhere to their Code of Conduct; that 200 full-time inspectors are employed to check supplier factories, and 108 factories have been permanently banned as suppliers. However, this is mainly for child labor violations.

This is part of an ongoing campaign against Wal-Mart by the International Labor Rights Fund [1]; a labor rights group opposed to many of the business practices of Wal-Mart that they claim encourage unacceptable working conditions and salaries in developing countries.

CEO of GM outlines plan for “New GM” after auto company declared bankruptcy

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

In a New York press conference at 16:15 UTC, June 1st, Fritz Henderson, the Chief Executive Officer of General Motors, which filed for bankruptcy and Chapter 11 protection from its creditors earlier today, outlined a plan for what he called a “New GM”.

Speaking to the press under safe harbor provisions of U.S. law, Henderson described the events of today as a “defining moment” in the history of General Motors. Speaking to the public he said that “The GM that let you down is history,” and described a “New GM” that he expected to result from the bankruptcy process.

Henderson stated that he envisioned the bankruptcy process would take between 60 and 90 days. He stressed several times his view that the process would be one that is executed quickly, saying that not just a sense of urgency but “pure unadulterated speed” was his expectation of the process. He emphasized that “GM remains open for business” during the bankruptcy period, continuing to sell and to support its products, and that day one motions had been filed in the bankruptcy court in order to allow this.

Regarding the bankruptcy process he said, “We will do it right. And we will do it once.”

He stated that the plan for General Motors had the support of the United Auto Workers union, the Canadian Auto Workers union, the GM VEBA, and a majority of the unsecured bondholders of GM. He also mentioned that GM had already received €1.5 million in bridge financing from the German government.

In response to questions about the possibility of the United States federal government, a majority shareholder in the restructured company, dictating future product development and strategy, such as the sale of more fuel-efficient and green vehicles; he first observed that the federal government had already stated to him that it had “no real interest in running our business” and that he expected that still to be his job. Of the specific hypothetical scenario where the management of GM wants to make one type of car, because it thinks that it is the right thing for the business, and the U.S. government wants to make another type of car, he stated that “I don’t think it’s going to happen.” Expanding on that point he stated that he expected the “New GM” to focus upon “highly fuel-efficient and green technology”, and that operating both in accordance with U.S. environmental laws and in response to customer demand would naturally result in the New GM producing the types of vehicles that the U.S. government would encourage.

The “New GM” he also expected to focus on “four core brands”, and will size its dealership to match that. He stated that GM would offer a “deferred termination” package to dealers, to allow them to cease dealing in GM vehicles in a managed and gradual way.

He stated that the bankruptcy filings did not cover General Motors’ businesses in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, and Asia and the Pacific. Of GM’s profitable ventures in China, specifically, he stated that they were “a critical part of the New GM”. In response to questions of whether the New GM would import cars from China to the U.S., he stated the formative company’s core principle that “We build where we sell” applied in both directions, with GM building in China to sell in China and building in the U.S. to sell in the U.S., stating that this shortened supply chains.

He declined to predict when the New GM would return to profitability, stating that the goal was rather to lower the break-even EBIT point for the company. He also declined to speculate upon when the U.S. government would sell its stake in the company, saying that that was a question “better addressed to the U.S. Treasury”, and merely saying that he expected it to be “years, not months” when the U.S. Treasury felt it would give “the right return for taxpayers.”

No oil spillage after platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

An oil platform owned by Mariner Energy has exploded in the Gulf of Mexico throwing thirteen people into the water, reports indicate. All thirteen men who fell into the water have been accounted for, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. No injuries were reported. Smoke was billowing from the oil rig named Vermilion 380, which is reported to still be on fire.

The blast occurred at around 9:19 a.m., approximately 80 miles south of Vermilion Bay off the coast of Louisiana. The Coast Guard confirms the platform was producing oil and gas at the time it exploded. They earlier reported a one mile long and 100 foot wide oil sheen which was spotted at the site of the explosion shortly after authorities responded to the scene, but later backtracked saying they could not confirm the presence of a sheen. Coast Guard chief petty officer John Edwards of the US Coast Guard earlier said that the platform, “was not actively producing any product.” Mariner Energy also released a statement earlier saying no oil sheen was spotted.

“In an initial flyover, no hydrocarbon spill was reported,” said Mariner Energy in a press release following the explosion. “The cause is not known, and an investigation will be undertaken. During the last week of August 2010, production from this facility averaged approximately 9.2 million cubic feet of natural gas per day and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate.” According to Bureau of Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement spokesperson Melissa Schwartz, the platform was authorized to produce natural gas and oil at those depths, but “there were ongoing maintenance activities underway” which caused it to stop producing. The platform sits in about 2,500 feet of water, though some reports put the platform in 340 feet of water.

As a result of the explosion and fire, Bobby Jindal, the governor for the state of Louisiana said that the Vermillion 380 platform had been “shut” and that oil flowing from the bottom of the Gulf has been stopped. At least 6 other platforms are said to be connected to the well that Vermilion 380 was part of. Jindal also said the fire was burning due to flammable materials on the platform.

Apache Corporation, which has agreed to, but has not yet completed a merger with Mariner Energy, did not comment on whether the explosion would have any effect on the deal. The vice-president Bob Dye told Wikinews that “Apache and Mariner agreed to merge in April, 2010, however, the transaction has not yet closed so Mariner remains the operator of this platform”.

All 13 people have been rescued by an oil support vessel and have been transported to a nearby platform. Edwards earlier told MSNBC that all those who were in the water were “wearing some sort of an immersion suit that protects them from the water. Right now we’re focused on search and rescue and then, ultimately, as this thing progresses we’re going to be looking into the cause.”

The explosion comes only four months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig run by BP exploded in April, resulting in a massive oil spill. The platform is located about 200 miles west of the Deepwater incident.

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