Index
Monday
Jul062015

POLITICS/BUSINESS: Gasoline pricing, "surprising" fluctuations?: "Oil refiners are manipulating California gas prices, consumer advocates say" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Oil refiners are manipulating California gas prices, consumer advocates say" - From the LAT:

Filling up at the pump is often painful in California, where drivers tend to pay more for gasoline than in most other states. Many industry watchers attribute the high fuel costs to unique forces — chiefly California's clean-burning gasoline formula — that have isolated the market and kept it tightly balanced between supply and demand. But some consumer advocates and politicians allege that price manipulation by oil refiners is to blame.

This year, price fluctuations were especially surprising. The price of crude oil began falling last summer, with pump prices following.

   ****

Whether those higher prices are a natural economic reaction or a sign of collusion between companies is up for debate.

Jamie Court, president of Santa Monica consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, thinks something smells rotten. "The public is used to paying $4 a gallon for gas but doesn't realize that with crude at $60 a barrel, the gas price should be a dollar less than it is right now," he said. "Unless you drive through another state, you don't realize how outrageous it is." Part of the problem, Court said, is that the state has a small group of companies able to set prices as they please — the definition of an oligopoly .........................

Monday
Jul062015

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (County of Los Angeles): Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, editorial: "Wanted: True oversight of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department" ....

* Los Angeles Times (editorial):  "Wanted: True oversight of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department" - From the LAT:

Los Angeles County has a commission, created more than a half century ago, that is tasked with monitoring jail conditions and holding government accountable for improper treatment of inmates. As reports circulated in recent years of inmate beatings and abuse at the hands of sheriff's deputies, the Sybil Brand Commission for Institutional Inspections failed to find or act on the pattern of brutality that has resulted in the county paying millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements, the resignation last year of Sheriff Lee Baca, the indictment this year of former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka (among others), the convictions of several deputies for obstruction of justice, and the ongoing criminal investigations into inmate mistreatment. It instead reported accomplishments such as commending the sheriff for his cooperation during jail inspections.

Following reports of numerous improper uses of force by deputies more than two decades ago, the Board of Supervisors hired special counsel Merrick Bobb, who regularly reported on problems in the jails and elsewhere in the department; but the board, distracted by other emergencies and concerns, took little action on Bobb's recommendations. The board abolished his office just over a year ago.

In 2001, in response to concern that abusive deputies were not facing meaningful discipline, the county created an Office of Independent Review to provide civilian oversight of the discipline process. But in order to get access to confidential sheriff files, the office agreed that such documents would be privileged, and in so doing it became in essence the department's attorney, and wound up providing in-house advice rather than actual oversight. That office, too, was abolished last year.

Those efforts illustrate the two primary avenues of failure in oversight of the sheriff's department . . . . . . . .

There is an urgent need for a new model that does not replicate those that so utterly failed ....................

Monday
Jul062015

POLITICS/WATER: Califoria drought, Coachella Valley, San Joaquin Valley, "toxic water": "California's rural poor hit hardest as massive drought makes remaining water toxic" ....

* Washington Post:  "California's rural poor hit hardest as massive drought makes remaining water toxic" - From the WP:

Whenever her sons rush indoors after playing under the broiling desert sun, Guadalupe Rosales worries. They rarely heed her constant warning: Don’t drink the water. It’s not safe. The 8- and 10-year-olds stick their mouths under a kitchen faucet and gulp anyway.

There is arsenic in the groundwater feeding their community well at St. Anthony Trailer Park, 40 miles south of Palm Springs. In ordinary times, the concentration of naturally occurring arsenic is low, and the water safe to drink. But during California’s unrelenting drought, as municipalities join farmers in sucking larger quantities of water from the ground, the concentration of arsenic is becoming more potent. A recent laboratory test found that water in St. Anthony’s shallow well has twice the concentration of arsenic considered safe.

For many Californians, the state’s long drought has meant small inconveniences such as shorter showers and restrictions on watering lawns. But in two rural valleys, the Coachella southeast of Los Angeles and the San Joaquin to the north, farmworkers and other poor residents are feeling its impact in a far more serious and personal way.

Tulare County, in southern San Joaquin Valley, is a land without water, a real-life example of a future many Californians fear as scientists warn of a possible decades-long megadrought ........................

Monday
Jul062015

POLITICS/EDUCATION (International): Mexico, restructuring of education system, "disruptive teachers' union': "Mexican government wants to tame disruptive teachers' union" ....  

* Washington Post:  "Mexican government wants to tame disruptive teachers' union" - From the WP:

They have seized public plazas and filled them with sprawling tent cities. They have burned government buildings and choked off a city’s gasoline supply. They have held marches and torched ballots and closed schools for weeks at a time.

Mexico’s rowdy public school teachers’ union — particularly the branch based in the southern state of Oaxaca — has long been a thorn in the government’s side, as it wages its battle against President Enrique Peña Nieto’s restructuring of the education system. But now that last month’s midterm election has passed, and the teachers’ threats of an election boycott largely failed, Peña Nieto’s administration wants to strike harder at the union by sapping its funding and wresting control back into the hands of the state, according to Mexican officials.

The showdown focuses on ..........................

Monday
Jul062015

POLITICS/MEDIA (National): 2016 presidential election, Spanish-language media: "Latino media doubles down on immigration advocacy, and GOP candidates aren't pleased" ....

* Los Angeles Times:   "Latino media doubles down on immigration advocacy, and GOP candidates aren't pleased" - From the LAT:

When the nation's largest Spanish-language television network cut ties just over a week ago with Donald Trump, Univision executives said they were acting out of "a responsibility to speak up for the community we serve." "We see firsthand the work ethic, love for family, strong religious values and the important role Mexican immigrants ... have in building the future of our country," the network said in response to Trump's derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants.

It was a characteristic move for Univision, which, like many Spanish-language media outlets in the U.S., defines itself not just as a media company but as an advocate and defender of the Latino community. "They openly acknowledge their bias in acting in the interest of Hispanic America," said Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster based in Florida.

That self-assigned role could have big consequences for next year's presidential election ......................