POLITICS/LAND USE: Martins Beach litigation, challenge to "final order": "Vinod Khosla challenges judge's order to open Martins Beach gate" ....

***Following up on most recent earlier item noted here (rtins Beach litigation, "final order")....

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "Vinod Khosla challenges judge's order to open Martins Beach gate" - From the Chronicle:

A billionaire Peninsula property owner filed a motion to throw out a judge’s order that he open the gate to Martins Beach, upping the ante in a long-running fracas over public access to the sandy cove. The motion, filed Tuesday evening in San Mateo County Superior Court, seeks a new trial in a case that has drawn international attention because it appears to challenge California laws protecting citizen rights to visit the coast.

Judge Barbara Mallach issued a final order Dec. 1 demanding that venture capitalist Vinod Khosla reopen the gate to the crescent-shaped inlet 5 miles south of Half Moon Bay. He has refused, saying the wording in Mallach’s order gives him the right to close the road when needed, particularly during inclement weather.

Khosla, who is known for his backing of bold, eco-friendly projects and is a darling of some Democratic politicians, paid $32.5 million in 2008 for the property, which includes 45 leased cabins along the coastal cliffs. His latest salvo, filed on behalf of his limited liability companies, Martins Beach 1 and 2, says Mallach’s order was an improper abuse of discretion that lacked evidence and was “contrary to law.” It also cites unspecified irregularities during the trial, newly discovered evidence and a mysterious “accident or surprise, which ordinary prudence could not have guarded against.”

The gate has been closed since the trial ended five months ago, forcing surfers and other beachgoers to climb over or walk around it to get to the coast. Their continued access could nevertheless be in jeopardy if Khosla’s seemingly never-ending ability to throw money at lawyers eventually sucks his opponents dry, according to some observers.....................


SACRAMENTO: California Legislature, new term, Senate committee chairmanships: "California Senate announces committee chairmanships" ....

* Sacramento Bee:  "California Senate announces committee chairmanships" - From the Bee:

Sen. Ricardo Lara has landed one of the most powerful committee chair assignments in the California Legislature, overseeing the Senate Appropriations Committee that decides the fate of hundreds of bills each year.

Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat, is closely allied with the Senate’s new leader, Kevin de León, who announced the committee chairmanships on Wednesday. Other key assignments include Sen. Bob Hertzberg – who has said he is interested in tax reform – landing the governance and finance chairmanship, and Sen. Mark Leno maintaining his position as chair of the Senate’s budget committee. A complete list of chairmanships is below......................


L.A. CITY HALL: City Hall holiday party, evacuation: "Smoke from party in City Council office triggers City Hall evacuation" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Smoke from party in City Council office triggers City Hall evacuation" - From the LAT:

Workers at Los Angeles City Hall were briefly evacuated Tuesday afternoon after a party in City Councilwoman Nury Martinez's office set off a smoke alarm. The exact cause of the false alarm was not clear.

Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Edward Petterez, whose division handles City Hall security, said the alarm was apparently triggered by a smoke machine at Martinez’s party, which had a D.J., dance music and flashing lights. Martinez disputed that, saying the alarm was set off by a burner under a container of tamales. “It was the food,” she told a Times reporter...........


BASEBALL (Dodgers): Yasiel Puig: "Businessman pleads guilty to smuggling Puig out of Cuba for money"; also, "Florida businessman pleads guilty in smuggling case for Yasiel Puig"; "Miami man guilty of smuggling Dodger star Yasiel Puig" ....

***Yasiel Puig, Cuba, smuggling case, sampling of coverage....

* San Francisco Chronicle (AP):  "Businessman pleads guilty to smuggling Puig out of Cuba for money" - From the Chronicle:

A South Florida businessman pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking part in a conspiracy to smuggle Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig out of Cuba in return for a sizable cut of the player’s multimillion-dollar salary. Gilberto Suarez, 40, entered the plea Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, who set a March 6 sentencing date. The alien smuggling conspiracy charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, although Suarez is likely to get a more lenient sentence under his plea deal with prosecutors.

Investigators and court documents say Suarez was one of the Miami-based financiers of the 2012 smuggling venture in which Puig was taken by boat from Cuba to a fishing village near Cancun, Mexico, eventually crossing into the U.S. at Brownsville, Texas, on July 3 of that year. The financiers were getting a percentage of the seven-year, $42 million contract Puig signed with the Dodgers.

Court documents show Suarez got $2.5 million from Puig’s contract. He agreed with prosecutors to forfeit a house, a condominium and a Mercedes-Benz to the government that are traceable to money from Puig. The plea deal also requires Suarez to give up any interest in the contract of another Cuban player, shortstop Aledmys Diaz, a minor-leaguer in the St. Louis Cardinals’ system.


The plea is the second in Miami federal court this year involving the smuggling of a Cuban baseball player into the U.S. . . . . . . .



* CBS Sports:  "Florida businessman pleads guilty in smuggling case for Yasiel Puig"

* Miami Herald:  "Miami man guilty of smuggling Dodger star Yasiel Puig"


MISCELLANEOUS: Contract dispute, U.S. West Coast ports, impact on McDonald's in Japan, "The French Fry Crisis of 2014": "McDonald's is running out of french fries in Japan"; also, "McDonald's Japan rations fries as U.S. port dispute drags on"; "Why McDonald's is Rationing Its French Fries in Japan" .... 

***Sampling of coverage, "The French Fry Crisis of 2014"....

* Washington Post:  "McDonald's is running out of french fries in Japan" - From the WP:

TOKYO – Already reeling from a butter shortage, Japan is now being buffeted by another food crisis: McDonalds is running out of french fries and will start rationing the crispy delicacy. There’s no super-sizing here. From Wednesday, customers will be able to buy only small packs of fries with their orders, which in Japan includes crab croquette burgers and gurakoro, a pattie that includes shrimp and mac and cheese. The reason for the shortage? Labor disputes at U.S. West Coast ports are holding up shipments. As a result, only 55 percent of the monthly average volume of french fries is likely to be imported to Japan in December, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

An announcement in red letters on the fast-food chain’s Japanese Web site alerts customers that the difficulty procuring stable supplies of French fries has led the chain to take this stance. “This is a measure we’ve decided to take because we might run out of fries. We apologize to customers for the inconvenience,” a company official told Kyodo News.

Meal deals that usually come with medium fries will be 40 cents cheaper, and McDonalds is not placing any limits on how many small packets of fries a customer can order. No word yet on the impact on another local McDonalds product offering: the classic Quattro cheese fries.

With the major U.S. ports of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle tied up in a contract dispute, McDonalds has taken emergency measures: It is airlifting supplies of frozen fries – 1,000 tons of them – and has put in an order for another 1,600 tons to come from East Coast ports. However, these won’t arrive until late January. And Gusto, a family restaurant chain, earlier this month had about 200 tons of french fries air-freighted in to avoid running out.

But these steps will not be enough to meet Japanese demand for U.S. spuds. Japan is, as Reuters reported, the biggest Asian market for American frozen potato products. The French Fry Crisis of 2014 comes hot on the heels of a butter shortage.................


* New York Post:  "McDonald's Japan rations fries as U.S. port dispute drags on"

* ABC News:  "Why McDonald's is Rationing Its French Fries in Japan"