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Through the cracks journalism

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Californians are paying billions for power they don’t need

March 26, 2017

By Ivan Penn and Ryan Menezes : latimes – excerpt

We’re using less electricity. Some power plants have even shut down. So why do state officials keep approving new ones?

The bucolic orchards of Sutter County north of Sacramento had never seen anything like it: a visiting governor and a media swarm — all to christen the first major natural gas power plant in California in more than a decade.

At its 2001 launch, the Sutter Energy Center was hailed as the nation’s cleanest power plant. It generated electricity while using less water and natural gas than older designs.

A year ago, however, the $300-million plant closed indefinitely, just 15 years into an expected 30- to 40-year lifespan. The power it produces is no longer needed — in large part because state regulators approved the construction of a plant just 40 miles away in Colusa that opened in 2010.

Two other large and efficient power plants in California also are facing closure decades ahead of schedule. Like Sutter, there is little need for their electricity.

California has a big — and growing — glut of power, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times has found. The state’s power plants are on track to be able to produce at least 21% more electricity than it needs by 2020, based on official estimates. And that doesn’t even count the soaring production of electricity by rooftop solar panels that has added to the surplus…

This translates into a staggering bill. Although California uses 2.6% less electricity annually from the power grid now than in 2008, residential and business customers together pay $6.8 billion more for power than they did then. The added cost to customers will total many billions of dollars over the next two decades, because regulators have approved higher rates for years to come so utilities can recoup the expense of building and maintaining the new plants, transmission lines and related equipment, even if their power isn’t needed…(more)

Owner of Silicon Valley staffing firm charged in visa fraud

March 26, 2017

AP – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The owner of a company that supplied foreign workers to San Francisco Bay Area technology companies is facing visa fraud charges after filing fake documents to bring people to the United States, the U.S Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

A federal grand jury indicted Jayavel Murugan, CEO of Dynasoft Synergy, Inc., and a second man, Syed Nawaz, on Thursday on charges including conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

The men obtained H-1B visas for more than a dozen people by claiming the workers had jobs at Stanford University, Cisco Systems and Brocade Communications Systems, according to the indictment. No such jobs existed, but Dynasoft could use the fraudulently obtained H1B visas to get the workers to the U.S., where it could place them with other companies and profit, prosecutors said… (more)

Trump Pulls Obamacare Repeal Bill In Devastating Setback

March 24, 2017

By Jonathan Cohn, Jeffrey Young : huffingtonpost – excerpt – (video included)

The president had demanded a vote, but Paul Ryan couldn’t deliver the majority the bill needed.

House Republican leaders on Friday pulled their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, signaling defeat on what was supposed to be a major legislative accomplishment for President Donald Trump.

The news was first reported by Robert Costa of The Washington Post, who spoke to the president directly, following a meeting between Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Trump said he agreed to pulling the bill once Ryan made it clear the legislation lacked the votes to pass.

In subsequent remarks, both Trump and Ryan indicated they were ready to move on from health care to other issues… (more)

Trump Budget Would Abolish 19 Agencies, Cut Thousands of Federal Jobs

March 23, 2017

: defenseone – excerpt

State and EPA hit hardest; performance plan would “untie” managers’ hands.

With the aim of “making government work again,” the Trump White House on Thursday unveiled a $1.1 trillion budget blueprint for discretionary spending in fiscal 2017 and 2018 that would abolish 19 agencies and eliminate thousands of agency jobs.

The 54-page “America First” document, focused primarily on fiscal 2018, would boost the Defense Department and related programs at Energy by $54 billion, and Homeland Security by $2.8 billion. It would offset such increases by cutting the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by $10.1 billion (28 percent) and the Environmental Protection Agency by $2.6 billion (31 percent). The latter cut would eliminate approximately 3,200 positions, according to the document.

The agency-by-agency plans include eliminating dozens of grant programs at the Education and Commerce departments—many of them related to climate change. And Trump would eliminate the following agencies:

The African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars… (more)

Any idea how many jobs are going to be cut by cutting these agencies? How many more unemployed people will need additional training and new jobs in the private sector as Trump promises to put everyone to work?

Entire homelessness agency could be eliminated by Trump’s budget cuts

March 22, 2017
by  :  theguardian – excerpt

Shuttering the agency and cutting funds for low-income housing remind experts of Reagan’s deep spending cuts that ‘ushered in a new age of homelessness’

While much of the attention given to Donald Trump’s budget proposal has focused on dramatic cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency and the state department, amid the many cuts in the plan is the elimination of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (Usich).

In addition, Trump’s budget would cut billions of dollars of funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which helps provide low-income housing… (more)

California state senators to unveil major criminal justice legislation

March 21, 2017
  : sacbee – excerpt

..Senators Lara and Mitchell will unveil four proposed bills that specifically seek changes affecting youths. Together, Senate Bills 190, 394, 395 and 439 would end the collection of administrative fees against families with kids, enact into law a provision that juveniles can’t be sentenced to life without parole, require they consult with a lawyer before waiving constitutional rights during police interrogations and exclude children 11 and younger from juvenile court jurisdiction, according to bill authors.

Senate Bills 180, 355, 393 and 695 target changes for adults that would reduce enhanced drug sentences, eliminate court fees and seal arrest records for people not convicted of a crime and create a tiered sex offender registry, according to the authors.

Hearings on the proposed bills begin Tuesday in the Senate Public Safety Committee… (more)

Meetup takes risky leap into the Trump resistance

March 20, 2017

By Steve Peoples : yahoo – excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) — Meetup is taking a leap into the Trump resistance.

The New York-based networking site will unveil plans in the coming days to partner with a labor group — under the guidance of a former Hillary Clinton aide — to coordinate protests among more than 120,000 activists already involved with anti-Trump Meetup groups.

It’s a risky move for a tech company that has helped millions come together to share interests of all kinds, from hiking to languages to President Donald Trump himself. But it reflects an increasing willingness of some major technology firms to push back against the Republican president… (more)

 

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