Index
Sunday
Mar232014

POLITICS/ENVIRONMENT (Bay Area): Concerns, transportation of oil to Bay Area in rail tank cars, "potential environmental disasters on wheels": "Lots of oil in rail tank cars about to be coming to Bay Area" ....

* San Francisco Chronicle (Matier & Ross):  "Lots of oil in rail tank cars about to be coming to Bay Area" - From the Chronicle:

Oil is flooding into the Bay Area - in rail tank cars that amount to potential environmental disasters on wheels.

In 2011, about 9,000 tank cars filled with crude oil were shipped into California by rail. In the next two years, thanks to the oil boom in North Dakota and Canada, the number is expected to jump to more than 200,000, according to the California Energy Commission. About 10 percent of the oil will be headed to the five Bay Area refineries, which means traveling through Contra Costa and Solano counties. The question is, are we prepared to handle the spills or fires if there is a derailment?

"No," said state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, after listening to 2 1/2 hours of testimony from emergency responders the other day at a hearing in Sacramento.............................

Saturday
Mar222014

POLITICS/RELIGION: Religious divorce, Orthodox Jewish law, limited power of women: "Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another" .... 

* New York Times:  "Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another" - From the NYT:

LAS VEGAS — The wedding was a modest affair, held in a reception hall overlooking an artificial lake tucked behind a suburban strip. But just minutes after it ended, the bride and groom hurriedly scurried past dozens of protesters here who were chanting “Bigamist!” and “Shame on you!” One of the wedding guests on Thursday evening glared at the demonstrators, repeatedly hissing: “Mazel tov. Mazel tov. Mazel tov.” The bride, in a lace and sequin floor-length gown, grasped the hand of her husband and looked at the crowd in silence.

Meir Kin, the new husband, has been divorced for more than seven years, under California’s civil law. But he has refused to give his previous wife the document known as a “get,” as required by Orthodox Jewish law to end a marriage. In the eyes of religious authorities, the woman he married in 2000 is what is called an agunah — Hebrew for chained wife. Without the get, the woman, Lonna Kin, is forbidden under Jewish law to remarry.

 

Jewish law prohibits men from taking multiple wives. But Mr. Kin, according to several rabbis here, apparently relied on a legal loophole, which says that if a man can get the special permission of 100 rabbis to take a second wife, he is able to do so. The case has become a powerful symbol for what activists say is a deepening crisis among Orthodox Jews — hundreds of women held hostage in a religious marriage, in some cases for years after civil cases have been settled. According to the intricate religious laws dictating marriage and divorce, only the husband has the power to grant a divorce.

“What has happened here is really shameful,” said Rabbi Kalman Topp, who drove from Los Angeles to protest the wedding, along with other rabbis and congregants from Orthodox synagogues there. “Not only is he in clear violation of Jewish law, but he is utilizing and corrupting Jewish law to commit cruel domestic abuse.”

Ms. Kin, who runs a real estate company, and her supporters say that Mr. Kin, a physician assistant, is demanding $500,000 and full custody of their 12-year-old son in exchange for the divorce. And they cast doubt on whether he really has the support of 100 rabbis. . . . . . . . .

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Ms. Kin’s nearly decade-long fight for a religious divorce illustrates the limited power of [Orthodox Jewish] women...........................

Saturday
Mar222014

MISCELLANEOUS: San Francisco, "relative insanity" of city's housing market: "More than 40 percent of the homes for sale in metro San Francisco are now asking more than $1 million" ....  

* Washington Post:  "More than 40 percent of the homes for sale in metro San Francisco are now asking more than $1 million" - From the WP:

There are any number of ways to size up the relative insanity of San Francisco's housing market. Rent for the median apartment is rising faster there than anywhere else in the nation. A typical studio will now run you north of $2,300 a month. The price of a median home is rising much faster than the median income. And as a result, just 14 percent of homes on the market in the metropolitan area last year were within reach of the local median income.

By now, this may be belaboring the point, but this latest piece of perspective is just breathtaking: 43.5 percent of the homes for sale in metropolitan San Francisco as of earlier this month were listing for $1 million or more. That figure comes from Jed Kolko, the chief economist at the real-estate tracking site Trulia, who has calculated a similar share for each of the 100 largest metros (xlsx) in the country. San Francisco is not surprisingly on top:

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But the distance between San Francisco and most of the rest of the country is remarkable. In 68 of the 100 largest metros — including Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas — million-dollar homes comprise less than 5 percent of what's on the market. They make up less than 2 percent of for-sale housing in 44 of the largest metros.

A couple of caveats here...........................

Saturday
Mar222014

POLITICS (National, State, Local/Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach): Port truck drivers, unionization efforts: "String of actions strengthen the hand of truck drivers" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "String of actions strengthen the hand of truck drivers" - "Union officials calls the recognition that drivers are employees subject to federal labor law protections 'historic.'" - From the LAT:

A string of actions by state officials and the National Labor Relations Board has strengthened the hand of truck drivers who say they need union representation to improve pay and working conditions for the thousands who transport cargo out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

In a settlement this week, one major trucking company agreed to post notices acknowledging the workers' right to organize — not previously a given because drivers were treated as contract workers, who are not subject to unionization. The agreement comes after repeated victories at the state Labor Commissioner's office, where 30 drivers have won decisions against 11 port trucking firms, awarding them $3.6 million in wages and penalties.

"I am ecstatic. They dug into this situation and found there is a serious problem here," said Eric Tate, chief of Teamsters Local 848, which covers the harbor area. "We are trying to protect jobs and workers who are being mistreated." Union officials called the recognition that drivers were employees subject to federal labor law protections "historic."

A spokesman for Pacific 9 Transportation, the company that agreed to settle a dispute with the Teamsters, downplayed the action. Alex Cherin noted that the Carson-based company had not admitted wrongdoing or paid any fines. Cherin, also executive director of Harbor Trucking Assn., predicted that many of the state wage rulings against other companies could be overturned on appeal. He said that all of the recent actions were part of a Teamsters plan to force the union on drivers who are mostly happy with their jobs.

The long-running dispute centers on charges by "short-haul" drivers who deliver goods to warehouses and railway depots around Southern California.............................

Saturday
Mar222014

MORNING MEMOS: Pension reform, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, editorial, "Lost opportunity for pension reform"; 26th state Senate District, "Judge rules Beverly Hills mayor can be on ballot for state Senate"; special fire districts, editorial, "What's special about special fire districts? Extravagant pay"; medical malpractice limit, "Effort to avert malpractice cap ballot measure on the ropes" ....

***Various items this morning from across the spectrum of politics and/or public policy....

* San Francisco Chronicle (editorial):  "Lost opportunity for pension reform"

* Los Angeles Times (PolitiCal):  "Judge rules Beverly Hills mayor can be on ballot for state Senate"

* Sacramento Bee (editorial):  "What's special about special fire districts? Extravagant pay"

* Los Angeles Times (PolitiCal):  "Effort to avert malpractice cap ballot measure on the ropes"