Single-Payer Plan’s Price Tag in California: $400 Billion Per Year

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF KQED NEWS)

Single-Payer Plan’s Price Tag in California: $400 Billion Per Year

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It would cost the state of California an estimated $400 billion per year to cover all of its 39 million residents, according to a staff analysis by the state’s Senate Appropriation Committee.  That’s more than twice the state’s total annual budget of $180 billion.

But the main legislative advocate for single-payer, Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), explained the state could get access to half of that amount, $200 billion, by shifting over what it already spends on Medicare, Medi-Cal and other state-run health services. That assumes the federal government would agree to let California re-route federal funds in that way.

To raise the other $200 billion, the state could implement a 15 percent payroll tax, according to the analysis, which was released Monday during a Senate Appropriations Committee in Sacramento.  It’s unclear how that tax might be split between the employer and the employee.

“Given this picture of increasing costs, health care inefficiency, and the uncertainty created by Republicans in Congress, it is critical that California chart our own path,” said Lara at the committee hearing.

“It will eliminate the need for insurance companies and their administrative costs and profits,” he added. “Doctors and hospitals will no longer need to negotiate rates and deals with insurance companies to seek reimbursement.”

At the hearing, Kyle Thayer, a paramedic who works in San Diego, urged the legislators to move forward with the plan.

“I see every single day the people that don’t have health coverage and the things that happen. Often they choose between one medicine and another, and end up in the back of my ambulance for something as simple as high-blood pressure medication,” said Thayer, a resident of Carlsbad.

His concerns were personal as well as professional, he said.

“My fiancee’s mother was trying to manage her blood pressure, and for a time wasn’t taking her medication, and she ended up with a stroke in the emergency room,” said Thayer. “It cost them all kinds of money.”

Opponents of the plan also spoke, including representatives of the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Association of Health Plans. Private health insurance companies would see their business model collapse in California in the face of a single-payer plan, which would be state-administered and not-for-profit.

“We don’t need to go backwards and start from scratch. This bill could have catastrophic implications for the health care system in our state,” said Teresa Stark, the chief lobbyist for Kaiser Permanente in California, which covers 8.5 million Californians.

“We share the goal of health care for all,” she explained, but added that a single-payer system would “dismantle Kaiser Permanente as we know it.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Introduces Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Canada

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

 

Justin Trudeau Introduces Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Canada

3:51 PM ET

(TORONTO) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced legislation Thursday to let adults possess 30 grams of marijuana in public — a measure that would make Canada the largest developed country to end a nationwide prohibition on recreational marijuana.

Trudeau has long promised to legalize recreational pot use and sales. U.S voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada voted last year to approve the use of recreational marijuana, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

The South American nation of Uruguay is the only nation to legalize recreational pot.

The proposed law allows four plants to be grown at home. Those under 18 found with less than five grams of marijuana would not face criminal charges but those who sell it or give to youth could face up to 14 years in jail.

“It’s too easy for our kids to get marijuana. We’re going to change that,” Trudeau said.

Officials said Canadians should be able to smoke marijuana legally by July 1, 2018. The federal government set the age at 18, but is allowing each of Canada’s provinces to determine if it should be higher. The provinces will also decide how the drug will be distributed and sold. The law also defines the amount of THC in a driver’s blood, as detected by a roadside saliva test, that would be illegal. Marijuana taxes will be announced at a later date.

The Canadian government closely followed the advice of a marijuana task force headed by former Liberal Health Minister Anne McLellan. That panel’s report noted public health experts tend to favor a minimum age of 21 as the brain continues to develop to about 25, but said setting the minimum age too high would preserve the illicit market.

Canadian youth have higher rates of cannabis use than their peers worldwide.

“If your objective is to protect public health and safety and keep cannabis out of the hands of minors, and stop the flow of profits to organized crime, then the law as it stands today has been an abject failure,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told a news conference. “Police forces spend between $2 billion and $3 billion every year trying to deal with cannabis, and yet Canadian teenagers are among the heaviest users in the western world … We simply have to do better.”

Goodale said they’ve been close touch with the U.S. government on the proposed law and noted exporting and importing marijuana will continue to be illegal.

“The regime we are setting up in Canada will protect our kids better and stop the flow of illegal dollars to organized crime. Our system will actually be the better one,” Goodale said.

But Christina Grant, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Ontario, worries the government is conveying the message that marijuana is not harmful. She fears usage will go up because concerns about its safety will dissipate.

“One in seven youths who have used cannabis will develop an addiction to cannabis and that impacts your life, schooling, job prospects, social and emotional relationships,” she said. “And there is the risk of developing psychosis if you start using cannabis as a teenager. The more you use and the younger you start, you have up to four times the risk of developing some kind of psychotic illness.”

Former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who is the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister, said officials learned from the experiences from other jurisdictions like Colorado and Washington state.

While the government moves to legalize marijuana, retail outlets selling pot for recreational use have already been set up. Trudeau has emphasized current laws should be respected. Police in Toronto, Vancouver and other cities raided stores earlier last month and made arrests.

The news that Canada was soon going to announce the law was noticed online last month by Snoop Dogg , who tweeted “Oh Canada!” Canadian folk singer Pat Robitaille released a “Weed song” to coincide with the government’s announcement.

Tesla Set to Unveil Electric Semi-Truck in September

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

DETROIT — Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk says the company plans to unveil an electric semi-truck in September.

Musk tweeted the announcement Thursday. He offered no other details about the semi, such as whether it will be equipped with Tesla’s partially self-driving Autopilot mode.

Musk also said the company plans to unveil a pickup truck in 18 to 24 months.

Tesla currently sells two electric vehicles, the Model S sedan and Model X SUV. Its lower-cost Model 3 electric car is due out by the end of this year.

But Musk revealed last summer that the Palo Alto, California-based company is working on several more vehicles, including the semi and a minibus.

Tesla shares rose nearly 3 percent in late trading Thursday in response to Musk’s tweet.

Life Through A Windsheild

Life through a Windshield

In 81’ the story began, first with my brother and then with a friend

Seeing life through a windshield like a gypsy on eighteen wheels

But when you do this for a living it’s life you omit

White line fever they call it in song

White lines on the concrete is to what you belong

The back rows of the truck stops and the cab of a truck is your home

From Beantown to Shaky to Big D then Windy you roam

Dispatch can get you a load to anywhere except the state you belong

Driving your shiny KW is not just a job now you see

Through the windshield is your life on this unending concrete sea

Aspirin, Doans Pills and Preparation H

Always part of your luggage because that hot load can’t wait.

Truck driving is a hobby for the homeless no roots do you need

Life through the windshield is now the life you can’t leave.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Mocks President Trump’s Approval Ratings

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

Arnold Schwarzenegger Mocks President Trump’s Approval Ratings and Challenges Him to a Middle-School Visit

8:42 AM ET

Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday mocked President Donald Trump’s low approval ratings and challenged him to go to a Washington D.C. middle school to see after-school programs in action, after they were placed on the chopping block in the President’s proposed budget.

“Oh, Donald, the ratings are in, and you got swamped,” Schwarzenegger said in a video Tuesday. “Wow. Now you’re in the thirties?”

“But what do you expect?” he added. “I mean, when you take away after-school programs from children and Meals on Wheels from the poor people, that’s not what you call ‘making America great again.'”

Hey, @realDonaldTrump, I have some advice. See you at Hart Middle School? Here’s more info about : http://www.afterschoolallstars.org/programs/national-outcomes/ 

 The video is the latest addition to an ongoing feud between the two men. Trump regularly criticized the ratings of The New Celebrity Apprentice after Schwarzenegger took over as host earlier this year. The actor and former governor of California recently stepped down from the show after one season, prompting Trump to taunt him for “pathetic” ratings.

A Quarter of American Beer Drinkers Say They’re Switching to Pot

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

(POT IS A STEP DOWN DRUG, NOT A STEP UP DRUG. LEGAL POT IS A THREAT TO THE ALCOHOL AND PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRIES AS WELL AS TO THE PROFITS OF DRUG CARTELS, POLICE DEPARTMENTS AND TO THE STATE AND FEDERAL PRISON FOR PROFIT SYSTEMS. THIS IS THE MAIN REASONS THAT POT IS STILL ILLEGAL, THAT AND PEOPLE LIKE THE AG JEFF SESSIONS WHO ARE TOTALLY IGNORANT OF KNOWLEDGE AND OR TRUTH OR SIMPLY DO NOT CARE WHAT THE TRUTH IS.) (THIS COMMENTARY IS BY TRS)   

A Quarter of American Beer Drinkers Say They’re Switching to Pot

11:34 AM ET

As legalization of marijuana grows throughout the United States, so does its popularity with beer drinkers.

About one in four Americans are now spending their money on marijuana instead of beer, new research from Cannabiz Consumer Group found. Twenty-seven percent of beer consumers are legally purchasing cannabis instead of beer, or suggested they would purchase it instead if it were legalized in their state. The research group surveyed 40,000 Americans last year.

About 24.6 million Americans legally purchased pot in the U.S. last year and that number is expected to grow, according to the study. Numerous states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and a smaller number of states have legalized it for recreational use. The Department of Justice under the Obama Administration relaxed federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states where it is legal, but the Trump Administration may reverse that trend.

Still, the group predicts the cannabis industry will grow to $50 billion. The U.S. beer market sells over $100 billion in beer each year, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

If marijuana were legalized nationally, the beer industry would lose more than $2 billion in retail sales, the Cannabis Consumer Group says. The group anticipates the cannabis industry will take just over 7% of the beer industry’s market.

Other studies have supported this concept. As Money reported in 2016, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state contributed to beer sales falling in those states, according to research firm Cowen & Company.

Most recently, Massachusetts, Maine, California and Nevada passed measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana late last year. More than half of U.S. states permit the medical use of marijuana.

American Citizens: U.S. Border Agents Can Search Your Cellphone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

American Citizens: U.S. Border Agents Can Search Your Cellphone

When Buffalo, New York couple Akram Shibly and Kelly McCormick returned to the U.S. from a trip to Toronto on Jan. 1, 2017, U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers held them for two hours, took their cellphones and demanded their passwords.

“It just felt like a gross violation of our rights,” said Shibly, a 23-year-old filmmaker born and raised in New York. But he and McCormick complied, and their phones were searched.

Three days later, they returned from another trip to Canada and were stopped again by CBP.

“One of the officers calls out to me and says, ‘Hey, give me your phone,'” recalled Shibly. “And I said, ‘No, because I already went through this.'”

The officer asked a second time.

Watch Cynthia McFadden on Nightly News for More

Within seconds, he was surrounded: one man held his legs, another squeezed his throat from behind. A third reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. McCormick watched her boyfriend’s face turn red as the officer’s chokehold tightened.

Then they asked McCormick for her phone.

“I was not about to get tackled,” she said. She handed it over.

American citizens Akram Shibly, left, and Kelly McCormick had their phones searched as they reentered the U.S. at Niagara Falls, New York on two separate trips in January 2017. They say Shibly was put in a chokehold when he refused to hand over his phone on the second crossing. Michael Adamucci / for NBC News

Shibly and McCormick’s experience is not unique. In 25 cases examined by NBC News, American citizens said that CBP officers at airports and border crossings demanded that they hand over their phones and their passwords, or unlock them.

The travelers came from across the nation, naturalized citizens and people born and raised on American soil. They traveled by plane and by car at different times through different states. Businessmen, couples, senior citizens, and families with young kids, questioned, searched, and detained for hours when they tried to enter or leave the U.S. None were on terror watchlists. One had a speeding ticket. Some were asked about their religion and their ethnic origins, and had the validity of their U.S. citizenship questioned

What most of them have in common — 23 of the 25 — is that they are Muslim, like Shibly, whose parents are from Syria.

Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.

According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015.

“That’s shocking,” said Mary Ellen Callahan, former chief privacy officer at the Department of Homeland Security. She wrote the rules and restrictions on how CBP should conduct electronic searches back in 2009. “That [increase] was clearly a conscious strategy, that’s not happenstance.”

“This really puts at risk both the security and liberty of the American people,” said Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. “Law abiding Americans are being caught up in this digital dragnet.”

“This is just going to grow and grow and grow,” said Senator Wyden. “There’s tremendous potential for abuse here.”

What Changed?

What CBP agents call “detaining” cellphones didn’t start after Donald Trump’s election. The practice began a decade ago, late in the George W. Bush administration, but was highly focused on specific individuals.

The more aggressive tactics of the past two years, two senior intelligence officials told NBC News, were sparked by a string of domestic incidents in 2015 and 2016 in which the watch list system and the FBI failed to stop American citizens from conducting attacks. The searches also reflect new abilities to extract contact lists, travel patterns and other data from phones very quickly.

DHS has published 24 reports detailing its extensive technological capability to forensically extract data from mobile devices, regardless of password protection on most Apple and Android phones. The reports document its proven ability to access deleted call logs, videos, photos, and emails to name a few, in addition to the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps.

But the officials caution that rhetoric about a Muslim registry and ban during the presidential campaign also seems to have emboldened federal agents to act more forcefully.

“The shackles are off,” said Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “We see individual officers and perhaps supervisors as well pushing those limits, exceeding their authority and violating people’s rights.”

And multiple sources told NBC News that law enforcement and the Intelligence Community are exploiting a loophole to collect intelligence.

Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement needs at least reasonable suspicion if they want to search people or their possessions within the United States. But not at border crossings, and not at airport terminals.

“The Fourth Amendment, even for U.S. citizens, doesn’t apply at the border,” said Callahan. “That’s under case law that goes back 150 years.”

Customs and Border officers can search travelers without any level of suspicion. They have the legal authority to go through any object crossing the border within 100 miles, including smartphones and laptops. They have the right to take devices away from travelers for five days without providing justification. In the absence of probable cause, however, they have to give the devices back.

CBP also searches people on behalf of other federal law enforcement agencies, sending its findings back to partners in the DEA, FBI, Treasury and the National Counterterrorism Center, among others.

Callahan thinks that CBP’s spike in searches means it is exploiting the loophole “in order to get information they otherwise might hot have been able to.”

On January 31, an engineer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was pulled into additional screening upon his return to the U.S. after a two-week vacation in Chile. Despite being cleared by the Global Entry program, Sidd Bikkannavar received an “X” on his customs form. He is not Muslim, and he is not from any of the seven countries named in President Trump’s original “travel ban” executive order. Half his family comes from India but he was born and raised in California.

Bikkannavar was brought into a closed room and told to hand over his phone and passcode. He paid particular notice to the form CBP handed him which explained it had the right to copy the contents of the phone, and that the penalty for refusal was “detention.”

“I didn’t know if that meant detention of the phone or me and I didn’t want to find out,” said Bikkannavar. He tried to refuse but the officer repeatedly demanded the PIN. Eventually he acquiesced.

“Once they had that, they had everything,” Bikkannavar said. That access allowed CBP officers to review the backend of his social media accounts, work emails, call and text history, photos and other apps. He had expected security might physically search any travelers for potential weapons but accessing his digital data felt different. “Your whole digital life is on your phone.”

The officers disappeared with his phone and PIN. They returned 30 minutes later and let him go home.Sidd Bikkannavar poses for a portrait in 2014. Takashi Akaishi

CBP also regularly searches people leaving the country.

On February 9, Haisam Elsharkawi was stopped by security while trying to board his flight out of Los Angeles International Airport. He said that six Customs officers told him he was randomly selected. They demanded access to his phone and when he refused, Elsharkawi said they handcuffed him, locked him in the airport’s lower level and asked questions including how he became a citizen. Elsharkawi thought he knew his rights and demanded access to legal counsel.

“They said if I need a lawyer, then I must be guilty of something,” said Elsharkawi, and Egyptian-born Muslim and naturalized U.S. citizen. After four hours of questioning in detention, he unlocked his smartphone and, after a search, was eventually released. Elsharkawi said he intends to sue the Department of Homeland Security.

The current policy has not been updated since 2009. Jayson Ahern, who served in CBP under both Bush and Obama, signed off on the current policy. He said the electronic searches are supposed to be based on specific, articulable facts that raise security concerns. They are not meant to be random or routine or applied liberally to border crossers. “That’s reckless and that’s how you would lose the authority, never mind the policy.”

The Customs & Border Patrol policy manual says that electronic devices fall under the same extended search doctrine that allows them to scan bags in the typical security line.

“As the threat landscape changes, so does CBP,” a spokesperson told NBC News.

Since the policy was written in 2009, legal advocates argue, several court cases have set new precedents that could make some CBP electronic searches illegal.

Several former DHS officials pointed to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling in Riley v California that determined law enforcement needed a warrant to search electronic devices when a person is being arrested. The court ruled unanimously, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion.

“Modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life,'” wrote Roberts. “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.”

Because that case happened outside of the border context, however, CBP lawyers have repeatedly asserted in court that the ruling does not apply to border searches.

For now a Department of Justice internal bulletin has instructed that, unless border officers have a search warrant, they need to take protective measures to limit intrusions, and make sure their searches do not access travelers’ digital cloud data. The ‘cloud’ is all content not directly stored on a device, which includes anything requiring internet to access, like email and social media.

Former DHS officials who helped design and implement the search policy said they agreed with that guidance.

Wyden Pushes to Change the Policy

On February 20, Sen. Wyden wrote to DHS Secretary John Kelly demanding details on electronic search-practices used on U.S. citizens, and referred to the extent of electronic searches as government “overreach”. As of publication, he had yet to receive an answer.

Now Sen. Wyden says that as early as next week he plans to propose a bill that would require CBP to at least obtain a warrant to search electronics of U.S. citizens, and explicitly prevent officers from demanding passwords.

“The old rules … seem to be on the way to being tossed in the garbage can,” said Senator Wyden. “I think it is time to update the law.”

Akram Shibly at home in Buffalo, Sunday March, 12, 2017. Michael Adamucci / for NBC News

Asked about the Shibly case, a CBP spokesperson declined to comment, but said the Homeland Security Inspector General is investigating. The spokesperson said the agency can’t comment on open investigations or particular travelers, but that it “firmly denies any accusations of racially profiling travelers based on nationality, race, sex, religion, faith, or spiritual beliefs.”

Explaining the sharp increase in electronic searches, a department spokesperson told NBC News: “CBP has adapted and adjusted to align with current threat information, which is based on intelligence.” A spokesman also noted that searches of citizens leaving the U.S. protect against the theft of American industrial and national security secrets.

After repeated communications, the Department of Homeland Security never responded to NBC News’ requests for comments. Nonetheless, the Homeland Security Inspector General is currently auditing CBP’s electronic search practices.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also has filed two dozen complaints against CBP this year for issues profiling Muslim Americans. CAIR and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are considering legal action against the government for what they consider to be unconstitutional searches at the border.

188,000 Evacuated As California’s Massive Oroville Dam Threatens Catastrophic Floods

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

188,000 evacuated as California’s massive Oroville Dam threatens catastrophic floods

February 13 at 4:13 PM

Massive dam threat forces 188,000 to evacuate. Here’s what you need to know.

Authorities ordered an emergency evacuation in Oroville, Calif., after a damaged spillway threatened the area with flooding. Here’s what you need to know about the situation. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

About 188,000 residents near Oroville, Calif., were ordered to evacuate Sunday after a hole in an emergency spillway in the Oroville Dam threatened to flood the surrounding area. Thousands clogged highways leading out of the area headed south, north and west, and arteries major and minor remained jammed as midnight approached on the West Coast — though by early Monday, Lake Oroville’s water level had dropped to a point at which water was no longer spilling over, and the crisis appeared to be stabilizing.

The level in the massive man-made lake reached its peak of 902.59 feet at about 3 a.m. Sunday and dropped to 898 feet by 4 a.m. Monday, according to the Sacramento Bee. Water flows over the emergency spillway at 901 feet.

“The drop in the lake level was early evidence that the Department of Water Resources’ desperate attempt to prevent a catastrophic failure of the dam’s emergency spillway appeared to be paying dividends,” the Bee reported Monday.

Officials doubled the flow of water out of the nearly mile-long primary spillway to 100,000 cubic feet per second, with the hope of lowering the lake level by 50 feet to leave room for upcoming rain. The normal flow is about half as much, but increased flows are common at this time of year, during peak rain season, officials said.

Officials also warned that damaged infrastructure could create further dangers as storms approach in the week ahead. During a midday news conference on Monday, they said they’re continuing to monitor the spillway for erosion. It also remains unclear when residents will be allowed back into their homes. Inmates at the Butte County Jail also have been moved to Alameda County about 170 miles away.

“I recognize that this is displacing a lot of people,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters. “We did this because our primary purpose is to ensure public safety. It was a hard decision to make.”

Dry start to the week, but that will be changing. A series of Pacific frontal systems are lined up and taking aim on the west.

An early morning inspection of the main spillway revealed no additional erosion, the Bee reported, and the Department of Water Resources said water would continue to flow at 100,000 cubic feet per second.

Officials also will have to determine whether the damaged primary spillway will be able to handle high levels of water through the rest of the rainy season, Jay Lund, a civil engineering professor at the University of California at Davis, told the Bee.

Lake Oroville is one of California’s largest man-made lakes, with 3.5 million acre-feet of water and 167 miles of shoreline. And the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam is the nation’s tallest, about 44 feet higher than the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. The lake is the linchpin of California’s government-run water delivery system, sending water from the Sierra Nevada for agriculture in the Central Valley and for residents and businesses in Southern California.

After a record-setting drought, California has been battered by potentially record-setting rain, with the Northern California region getting 228 percent more than its normal rainfall for this time of year. The average annual rainfall of about 50 inches had already been overtaken with 68 inches in 2017 alone.

Water overflows into Calif. dam’s emergency spillway

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Water started overflowing into the emergency spillway of Lake Oroville’s dam in California on Feb. 11. (The Washington Post)

There was never any danger of the dam collapsing. The problem was with the spillway, which are safety valves designed to release water in a controlled fashion, preventing water from topping over the wall of the colossal dam that retains Lake Oroville.

Earlier this month, unexpected erosion crumbled through the main spillway, sending chunks of concrete flying and creating a large hole. Then sheets of water began spilling over the dam’s emergency spillway for the first time in its nearly 50-year history.

Water from rain and snow rapidly flowed into the lake, causing it to rise to perilous levels, and sending water down the wooded hillside’s emergency spillway, carrying murky debris into the Feather River below.

“Once we have damage to a structure like that, it’s catastrophic,” Bill Croyle, acting director of the state’s Department of Water Resources, said at a news conference late Sunday, in reference to the erosion of the main spillway. “We determined we could not fix the hole. You don’t just throw a little bit of rock in it.”

Anticipating a possible catastrophe for the Lake Oroville area, located about 75 miles north of Sacramento and about 25 miles southeast of Chico, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations, adding in a news release that it was “NOT a drill.”

But as the reservoir’s water levels lowered, the flows over the emergency spillway ceased late Sunday night.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) issued an emergency order to boost the state’s response to the evacuation efforts and spillway crisis, which Brown called “complex and rapidly changing.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent an incident management team to the governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Despite the minimized threats, Honea, the sheriff, said that he would not be lifting the mandatory evacuation order until water resources officials had a better grasp on the anticipated risks.

The evacuation took residents by surprise.

April Torlone, 18, was at work at a Dollar General in Live Oak, Calif., Sunday evening when she received a flood emergency alert on her phone. She hurried home, she said, where she had about 10 minutes to gather some clothes and her late father’s ashes.

Torlone drove with her mother and sister to her grandmother’s house in Sacramento, arriving well after midnight. The roughly 40-mile trip took six hours, she said. Gas stations were packed and stores were running out of food. Along the way, they saw more than 30 people camped out in their cars on the side of the road, many with trunks full of belongings, Torlone said.

“I just hope everyone is safe and finds a place to stay, and that no one’s homes are damaged,” she told The Washington Post. “It’s honestly so sad.”

Shelters, churches, schools and seven Sikh temples opened their doors, and people offered to open their homes to strangers via Twitter messages. Hotels and motels out of harm’s way filled up quickly, creating communities of the suddenly displaced. Beale Air Force Base, east of Marysville, also opened its gates to area residents and said early Monday that it had received approximately 250 evacuees.

The dam itself remained structurally sound, the state Department of Water Resources said, and officials said helicopters would be deployed to drop bags of rocks into the crevice and prevent any further erosion.

Croyle, the acting Department of Water Resources director, said Lake Oroville would need to lower almost 50 feet to reach levels at which the system would normally operate. Croyle said that personnel were unable to access the eroded emergency spillway Sunday to do repair work. Officials aimed to continue to discharge as much water as possible ahead of upcoming storms, without adding too much pressure to the already damaged infrastructure.

“Our goal is to be able to use that infrastructure throughout this wet season,” Croyle said. Forecasts indicate that dry weather will dominate through Tuesday, but a series of Pacific storms are expected to arrive across the region Wednesday into Thursday, bringing up to four inches of rain to parts of the Central Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

Honea called the evacuation order a “critical and difficult decision” and said he recognized it would cause significant dislocations and traffic jams, which it did. Residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people, were ordered to head north toward Chico, while other nearby residents drove south toward Sacramento.

“I recognize how tough this situation is on people,” Honea said Sunday night. “I recognize that we’ve had to displace a lot of people.”

The California National Guard will provide eight helicopters to assist with emergency spillway repair, Adjutant General David S. Baldwin said. All 23,000 soldiers and airmen statewide received an alert to be “ready to go if needed,” Baldwin said. The last time such an alert was sent out to the entire California National Guard was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which erupted after a trial jury acquitted four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department of the use of excessive force in the videotaped arrest and beating of Rodney King.

Officials said 250 law enforcement personnel were being deployed to patrol the evacuated areas.

Travelers reported traffic at a standstill on some routes, especially on Highway 99 between Oroville and Chico.

Nicholas Mertz, a front desk supervisor at Oxford Suites Chico, told The Post that when he started his shift at 3 p.m. on Sunday, the hotel’s 184 rooms were at 54 percent occupancy, but within an hour or two, the rooms reached full capacity. What began as a normal night quickly turned into “hectic craziness, everything all at once,” Mertz said. The hotel’s five phone lines were ringing nonstop, and hundreds of guests came pouring in.

“It’s never happened that fast,” Mertz said. Larger families of five to eight people packed into rooms, without having to pay the usual fees for additional guests, Mertz said, because “in this scenario, it’s whatever you can do.”

Many guests expressed confusion and frustration, while others spoke of their fears: What would happen to the pets they left behind? Would there be looting in the evacuated neighborhoods? Would their homes still be standing when they returned?

“Not only are you just a front desk person you’re kind of like a therapist as well,” Mertz said.

Kyle Dobson, 41, said he was visiting the dam Sunday afternoon from Yuba City, Calif., and noticed that the lake was higher than he had ever seen it. He said he got a call later in the day that Oroville was being evacuated. By the time he got home, Yuba City had also been ordered to evacuate.

Dobson said he and his wife packed about a week’s worth of clothes for themselves and their four young children, and moved pictures and other belongings to the second floor of their two-story home. For now, they are staying put, but if the situation gets worse, they will drive to Sutter, Calif., to stay with family, Dobson said.

“I’ll stay up probably all night, listen to the police scanner and watch the reports come in,” he said. “The river levels — that’s what you’ve got to watch out for.”

Adriana Weidman of Marysville, Calif., said she heard about the evacuation around 5 p.m. Fearing that nearby rivers would overflow, she rushed to pack as much as she could, then got into the car with her husband and two children, she said. By 10 p.m., the family was still sitting in gridlocked traffic on the way to Colfax, Calif., about 45 miles east.

“It’s scary,” Weidman told The Post. “I’m terrified I’m not going to have a home to come home to.”

Out of an “abundance of caution,” inmates were in the process of being evacuated from the Butte County Jail Sunday night, the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.

“We needed to get people moving quickly in order to protect the public and save lives if the worst case scenario did come to fruition,” Honea said.

The damaged primary spillway caused water flowing downstream to become muddy and brown with debris earlier this week, threatening the lives of millions of baby Chinook salmon in the Feather River Hatchery below. In a rescue operation, officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully moved about 5 million Chinook salmon to a nearby annex, the department said on Facebook.

The other 3 million baby salmon will remain at the main hatchery, where staff and engineers have rigged a system of pumps, pipes and generators and a sediment pond in the hopes of filtering the water enough to support the fish.

Ironically, the state’s five years of drought caused Lake Oroville’s water levels to plunge to a low of 33 percent of capacity, according to the Los Angeles Times. The lake became a poster child for the drought. In a dramatic shift, Northern California witnessed an extraordinarily rainy winter this year that caused waters to rise to their highest levels in decades.

A hitch in California as bilingual education is restored

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A hitch in California as bilingual education is restored

December 31 at 11:45 PM
While Californians passed a ballot measure to bring back bilingual education in the upcoming school year, educators say a challenge to getting the programs started will be finding more bilingual teachers.Nearly 20 years after banning most bilingual education, Californians voted in November to let schools restore it for English learners and English speakers whose parents want them to learn Spanish, Mandarin and other languages to compete globally.

Educators say growing interest in bilingual programs will boost already high demand for teachers trained and credentialed to teach the classes. Schools that already have such programs in California — and in other states, including Utah and Oregon — have brought teachers on visas from overseas to meet the need.

“There is already a shortage for bilingual teachers with just the demand we have right now,” said Joshua Speaks, a spokesman for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The overwhelming vote in favor of Proposition 58 is a huge turnaround from the backlash to bilingual education that followed a surge in immigration to California in the 1990s. Since then, some schools started bilingual programs, but parents of English learners had to sign annual waivers for their children to participate, and many districts were reluctant to take on the paperwork.

With the measure passed — 73.5 percent of voters supported it — many schools are expected to expand bilingual offerings or start programs. Among the most popular models are dual-language immersion programs mixing English learners and English speakers in the classroom and splitting instructional time between English and another language.

California’s Department of Education estimates that the state has at least 350 dual-language immersion programs, although the vast majority of the state’s 1.4 million English learners are taught using English immersion. Robert Oakes, a department spokesman, could not say how many districts will start bilingual programs but expects that many will.

“There is a hope and an expectation there will be a big expansion,” he said.

California already had a teacher shortage that followed the economic downturn. Areas where teachers are needed most include special education, science and bilingual education, Speaks said.

To be authorized to teach bilingual classes, teachers must take extra courses and exams. In the 2014-2015 school year, the state issued about 400 bilingual authorizations, Speaks said.

Cristina Alfaro, a professor of dual-language and English-learner education at San Diego State University, said her program annually graduates about 60 bilingual teachers.

“We don’t even credential enough to meet the demand for San Diego, and we have a lot of people from out of state and throughout the state who call us,” she said. “My phone rings off the hook.”

The lack of bilingual classrooms in California over the last two decades, especially at the high school level, has contributed to the dearth of bilingual teachers, said Nicole Knight, executive director of English Language Learner and Multilingual Achievement at Oakland Unified.

To meet the demand, school districts have looked overseas. Los Angeles Unified, which has more than 500 teachers in dual language immersion programs, brought nine teachers and two support staff on visas for Mandarin programs, said Barbara Jones, a district spokeswoman. In Oakland Unified, the district has brought visiting teachers from Mexico and Spain.

How Will Iran’s Ali Khamenei And President Donald Trump Deal With Each Other?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST/WORLD POST)

How Will Khamenei And Trump Deal With Each Other?

12/02/2016 09:44 am ET

During his campaign for presidency and afterwards, President-Elect Donald Trump has expressed his opposition to military intervention in other countries, as well as nation building such as, for example, what happened in Afghanistan. On January 20 Trump will begin his term as the president. He believes that the main threat in the Middle East is the Daesh (also known as the ISIS or ISIL), not the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and that in order to destroy Daesh, his administration will be willing to work with Russia and other nations. The Guardian recently reported that Donald Trump, Jr., recently met in Paris with Randa Kassis, a pro-Syrian government activist who believes that the war in Syria can be ended through cooperation between the U.S., Russia and the Syrian Government. Trump also met with Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D. Hawaii) who is strongly against U.S. intervention in Syria.

But, although Iran has been fighting the Daesh fiercely, both in Syria and in Iraq, Trump has taken a hard-line toward that country, with members of the national security team that he has picked so far all being strongly anti-Iran.

On the other hand, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei missed a golden opportunity to resolve most, if not all, issues between Iran and the United States with the Obama administration, and to re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries. Thus, he now has to wait to see what policy the incoming Trump administration will take toward Iran.

Khamenei’s strong suspicion of the United States

Iran’s recent history was reset when the CIA coup of 1953 in Iran that toppled the democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, and contributed to Iran’s intellectuals’ opposition to both the United States and the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This anti-American third-world discourse was born in that era, and a tall and strong wall of distrust and suspicion was built between the two countries with the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Hostage Crisis of 1979-1981, and the Iran-Iraq of 1980-1988 during which the United States supported Iraq.

President Obama wanted to pursue diplomatic negotiations with Iran to resolve the issues between the two nations but, aside from the nuclear negotiations, Khamenei’s strong suspicion about the U.S. intentions and his claim that the U.S. is interested only in deceiving Iran prevented a diplomatic breakthrough. In a speech on 20 October Khamenei said,

“When the Americans get together with our officials, they complain about my suspicion about the U.S. Well, should I be optimistic? Can one trust you [the U.S.], given the situation that you have created [in the Middle East]?” To back up his claim he recalled that Secretary of State John Kerry had said that so long as Iran supports the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, the American sanctions against Iran will not end. Khamenei also said, “In my private and public meetings with the officials I have always repeated that our problems with the U.S. will not be resolved if we retreat from our position regarding Iran’s nuclear program, because then they [the U.S.] will ask us about our long-range missiles. After that they will ask about our support for Hezbollah and Hamas. They will then pressure us to support human rights the way they do. If you back down about all of these and accept what they demand, the U.S. will ask why our religion is mixed with our government. They [may even] ask us why Iran is such a large country with a large population. The Americans will never let us alone.”


Trump “Confirms” Khamenei’s Pessimism about the U.S.

In another speech on November 3 Khamenei said,

“I want to correct two mistakes today. The Americans created two erroneous claims and then propagated them among Iranians through their organizations and those Iranians that are linked to the CIA – the same people ‘who feel the scent of the pleasures of this world; who regret their [revolutionary] past, and those who have run out of breath [and can no longer continue on the revolutionary path]’. Imam Khomeini said “scream all you can at the U.S.” The first erroneous claim by the pro-U.S. Iranians is that they say that this [what Khomeini suggested] is not rational, and is only due to fanaticism and pride. The second mistake, which is even more dangerous than the first one, is that they [the same Iranians] claim that having [diplomatic] relations with the U.S. will solve all of all problems. One can counter their argument with 10-15 reasons to show that, not only will compromise with the U.S. not solve our problems, but it will also worsen them. A good example is the nuclear agreement [with P5+1]. Through lies, bad faith, and deception U.S. has not ended its sanctions against Iran, and [in fact] it has strengthened them.”

Khamenei then said that the U.S. cannot solve its own problems and, therefore, cannot be expected to solve Iran’s problems. He then recalled the presidential debates between Trump and Hillary Clinton and said,

“Did you watch the debates? Did you see the facts they [the candidates] talked about. Did you hear them? Americans themselves made the revelations. The things that we have been saying [about the problems that the U.S. is facing], and much more, which many people did not believe, were revealed by them [Trump and Clinton]. The interesting thing is that the candidate who expressed them more bluntly [Trump] also received more attention. Because that man spoke more clearly, more bluntly, he received more attention. The other side [Clinton] said that this is populism, it is demagogic. Why is it demagogic? The [American] people listened to him [Trump] and realized that he was right; they had experienced those facts [expressed by Trump] in their own lives. Human rights and dignity have been destroyed in that country [U.S.]. There is racism. Just a few days ago the same man [Trump] said that if you are people of color, if you are black or red [American-Indian] and are walking in streets of New York, Chicago, Washington, California, or elsewhere, you cannot be sure that you will be alive even for a few more minutes. You see, this was said by someone who may go to the White House as the next President of the United States to run that country. This is American racism. He [Trump] also spoke about poverty in the United States. He said that 44 million people go hungry every day in the U.S. He declared, as have others, that less than 1 percent of the Americans owe more than 90 percent of the wealth. Human values have been destroyed there. Discrimination, deep [economic] gaps, rift among people, racism, and violation of human rights [all exist in the U.S.]….. What the two respected candidates for the Presidency of the United States, one of whom will be the next President, are saying is not baseless. They both are bad, but together they are making revelations that may destroy the United States, and they have succeeded.”

Khamenei then explained that when people shout “death to America” and “scream as much as you can at America,” they mean death to racism, discrimination and violation of human rights.

Khamenei has been warning about two issues. One is U.S. “penetrating” and gaining “influence” in the main centers of decision-making in the Islamic Republic, while the second one is what he calls the danger of senior officials becoming “infatuated” by the United States. In a speech on 17 November Khamenei claimed that some senior Iranian officials are attracted to the U.S., but he believes that the U.S. has nothing attractive to offer. “You saw that the same criticisms that I have been levelling at them [the U.S.] were brought up by Trump,” Khamenei said, adding,

“In these [American] elections several of the most prominent political figures talked about issues that we had also talked about, and said much more. The new President of the United States says that if we had spent the funds that we spent on wars here in the United Stated, we could have rebuilt the country twice over, and fixed all the roads, bridges, and cities, and we would not have had poverty in the United States. Those that are infatuated with an illusion [the U.S.], can they understand this? There is so much failure and destruction [in the U.S.] and they spend all that money on dishonorable wars. Were those wars honorable?”

Khamenei then pointed out that a defensive war against the enemy, while respecting humane laws of war, is honorable. But, he believes that “the U.S. wars of aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen that have murdered tens of thousands of civilian people, particularly women and children, are dishonorable.” He then asked in the same speech, “Why does Iranian elite not have the political wisdom [to understand this] and admit them?”


Not Pre-judging Trump, but Threatening to Retaliate if He Violates the Nuclear Accord

In his speech of 17 November Khamenei said that he does not want to prejudge Trump, but “we are ready for anything.” A week later on 24 November he repeated that he does not want to prejudge Trump, because [as a Persian proverb goes] “this watermelon has not been cut yet.” But, he claimed that the Obama administration did not deliver on its promises and obligations toward the nuclear agreement, but that, “The U.S. Congress renewed the U.S. sanctions against Iran for another 10 years, which is a violation of the nuclear agreement,” adding, “If the [Congress-approved] sanctions become law, it will definitely violate the nuclear agreement, and they should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will react to it.” He then added that the U.S. has used the nuclear agreement as a tool to pressure Iran. President Hassan Rouhani had promised that the sanctions will be lifted if a nuclear agreement is reached, but, “The nuclear compromise has been used against Iran,” Khamenei said, adding, “If the Congress-approved sanctions are also approved by the Senate and become law, it will imply that the United States has violated the nuclear agreement, and the deal with P5+1 will become one with P4+1, as the United States has effectively left the agreement behind.”

Trump and Iran

Although Trump has professed his opposition to many wars multiple times, his national security team has three characteristics:

One, some of them are close to the Tea Party and the Evangelical Christians. Mike Pompeo, who is to be Director of the CIA, said in 2014, “This threat to America” is from a minority of Muslims “who deeply believe that Islam is the way and the light and the only answer. They abhor Christians, and will continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”

Two, they are strongly linked with the pro-Israel right wingers. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Colin Powell when he was Secretary of States, and a strong critic of the U.S. policy toward the Middle East, said recently that if the U.S. moves its embassy to Jerusalem [as Trump has promised], a war with Iran will become more likely.

Three, they have strong connections with the military-industrial complex and many private security and intelligence firms. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, has an intelligence consulting and lobbying firm. He is strongly anti-Iranand has claimed repeatedly that Iran is more dangerous than Daesh. He has also said that Islam is like a “cancer” that “has to be excised from every Muslim.” Interestingly, since Trump electoral victory, the value of the stocks of military firms has gone up dramatically.

Given these facts, and Trump’s lack of experience, there is considerable concern about his foreign policy. But, the situation for Iran is more critical. Marine General James Mattis, who is said to be the leading candidate for running the Pentagon, has claimed that Iran uses Daesh to expand its influence. The leading candidates for Secretary of State – Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton and Mitt Romney, are all strongly anti-Iran, and have called for “regime change” in Iran. In 2015 Giuliani called for bombing of Iran.

If during his first few months in office Trump takes on an aggressive posture toward Iran, it will hurt the re-election chances of Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani, the elections for which will be in early June 2017. IN that case, hardliners may defeat Rouhani in the elections. Khamenei and the military hardliners have been constantly reminding Rouhani that the nuclear agreement with P5+1 has had no fruits for Iran, other than forcing it to retreat from its positions. Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, said on 26 November that, “[Although] there is no longer any sanctions against selling oil, we still have not received the proceeds from our previous sales. Senior officials had predicted that we would receive them between February and September, but that has not happened yet.” In a speech on 27 November Khamenei criticized the Rouhani administration for the nuclear negotiations “that was done in haste,” allowing the U.S. to gain some influence. He emphasized again that the renewal of the ten-year sanctions by Congress will be a violation of the nuclear accord.

What is Trump’s policy toward Iran? Will he try to resolve the issues between the U.S. and Iran through diplomacy, or will he follow those who present a demonic image of Iran? Wil he eliminate all those who favor negotiations with Iran, and empower those who want war with that nation?

To have peace and democracy, there is no way other than negotiations. U.S. wars in the Middle East have resulted in destruction of several nations, killing of hundreds of thousands of people, and the growth of terrorist groups, not to mention its financial cost that has so far been $3 – 4 billion. It is time for diplomacy in the Middle East. Without peace and security there can never be any democracy, respect for human rights, and economic developments; they will all be marginalized. Any thinking person knows that there are deep differences between an Iran that can make a transition to democracy and respect for human rights, and an Iran that can be transformed to another Syria.

This article was translated by Ali N. Babaei

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