Why does California’s power grid keep flirting with disaster?

California was forced to take desperate measures over Labor Day weekend to keep the lights on.

Less than a month after the state experienced its first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades, officials again urged residents to use less electricity during the late afternoon and into the evening as extreme heat, fueled by the climate crisis, baked the West.

California needed all the conservation it could get as out-of-control fires, also worsened by global warming, rendered some power plants useless. Flames knocked out transmission lines and generators from the Sierra Nevada to the San Diego backcountry.

Just like last month, Californians responded in force, using far less energy than predicted. Electric utilities turned to their Western neighbors for extra power supply. The Trump administration granted an emergency request from state officials to allow three Los Angeles-area gas plants to produce more electricity than federal pollution permits would normally allow. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Trump calls John Bolton a ‘jerk,’ blasts Kim Jong Un account

President Trump called John Bolton a “jerk” Monday, saying the former White House national security adviser made the mistake of taking literally his description of exchanging “love letters” with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

“Just heard that Wacko John Bolton was talking of the fact that I discussed ‘love letters from Kim Jong Un’ as though I viewed them as just that. Obviously, was just being sarcastic,” Trump said on Twitter. “Bolton was such a jerk!”

Bolton wrote a scathing memoir — “The Room Where It Happened” — about his time in the White House that accused Trump of cozying up to dictators and described the president as being out of his league when dealing with foreign leaders. …

Click here to read the full article from the NY Post

Here’s how Trump might win in November

President Trump’s campaign for a second term has stalled.

In public opinion surveys, he has trailed Democratic nominee Joe Biden, sometimes by a wide margin, for more than a year. His share of support from voters has been below 45% for six months. No incumbent president in half a century has won reelection from so far behind.

The most recent estimate by FiveThirtyEight, a forecasting group, gives Trump a 29% chance of winning — a bit less than 1 in 3. But as it happens, 29% is the same probability FiveThirtyEight gave a Trump victory just before the 2016 election, when he defeated Hillary Clinton.

So Trump has beaten the odds before. And this time, he has two advantages that he didn’t have four years ago: the powers of incumbency and a massively funded campaign that’s already flooding battleground states with television advertising. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

O.C. death toll tops 1,000 from virus

Reported COVID-19 deaths in Orange County topped 1,000 this week as fatalities continue to rise throughout the state in response to the summer surge of coronavirus infections, even as cases statewide start to stabilize.

On average, people who succumb to the disease die 28 days after being infected, said Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious disease expert. As new infections continue to decline, deaths also will fall off in the weeks ahead.

Orange County’s total pandemic death toll reached 1,018 reported deaths on Thursday. Dr. Margaret Bredehoft, the county’s deputy director of public health services, called the number “a tragic milestone.” …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

CA Legislators Support Some AB 5 Exemptions

California lawmakers have embraced a plan to loosen the state’s year-old law that limits the use of independent contractors, providing new flexibility in a variety of professional and nontraditional jobs but failing to mollify critics who say the system remains too restrictive.

Supporters of Assembly Bill 2257 expect Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the proposal into law this month. As urgency legislation, it would take effect as soon as he signs it.

“This bill strikes a balance and continues to provide protections for workers against misclassification that had previously gone unchecked for decades under the old rules,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the bill’s author. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Tempers flare and patience frays as California lawmakers hit viral end of session

For anyone who has spent the last five months working from home, these teleconference call mishaps ought to sound familiar: 

Your lunch delivery arrives smack in the middle of a presentation, or your dog won’t stop yapping. 

An exasperated colleague drops a muted but unmistakable F-bomb. 

A co-worker mocks a colleague’s comments to his “hon” at home — and is most definitely not muted.

Someone concludes a long speech only to have the moderator curtly remind them, once again, to unmute: “I know you know how to do it because you did it a second ago.”

California Senators: They’re just like us.

They even procrastinate. The Assembly ran out of time to take on some of the year’s more widely anticipated housing and policing legislation. And the testier Senate had a minor meltdown over whether the last bill passed had actually beaten the buzzer — prompting some Republicans to promise a lawsuit.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed workplace culture across the country in ways that are frustrating, embarrassing and occasionally surreal. In the last few days of its lawmaking calendar, the California Legislature was no exception. 

A recap of the workplace drama:

Late last week, Santee GOP Sen. Brian Jones tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing 10 out of 11 of his Republican colleagues to self-isolate. In a historic first, they spent the final days of the session casting their “ayes” and “nos” from the other side of a screen.

On Monday night, mere hours before a constitutional deadline to send the session’s last bills to the governor, it hit a crescendo. Sen. Robert Hertzberg, a Democrat from Van Nuys, introduced a resolution to limit debate on all future bills to just two supporters and two opponents. 

Cast from the chamber and now told that their input would be limited, the self-quarantined Republicans staged a remote revolt.

“So you’re just going to shut Republicans out of debate?” said Sen. Melissa Melendez from Temecula. “Not only are you going to kick us out of the chambers for no good reason, but now you’re not going to allow us to debate and speak on behalf of our constituents?”

“Thank you, you’ve asked the question,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, the presiding Democrat, who tried to move on to the Republican minority leader, Sen. Shannon Grove.

“This is bullshit,” said Melendez.

With the broadcast feed now fixed on Grove, the senator from Bakersfield blinked, evidently surprised, before saying, “I have to agree with my colleague Ms. Melendez.” And as the Democrats won the vote, Grove called to her GOP colleagues across the internet: “Make sure you guys get a picture of the screen to see who votes for this so we can get this out there.”

In the chamber, some Democrats felt the Republicans were deliberately slowing down the process with lengthy debate and parliamentary maneuvers. 

Afterwards, Melendez reiterated her observation on Twitter, just in case anyone thought it was a case of a hot mic:

The cussing and sniping notwithstanding, this year has actually been mild by historic standards.

Last year, an anti-vaccination protestor threw a cup of menstrual blood onto the Senate floor turning California’s upper chamber into a potentially biohazardous crime scene. In 2001, a disgruntled food delivery worker drove an 18-wheeler carrying canned milk into the southern steps of the capitol building. 

While less publicly shocking this year, the 2020 end of session was an exceptional one with the state capitol’s procedures, traditions and pomp reshaped to meet the demands of the pandemic. 

Lawmakers bickered over bills, their voices muffled by masks emblazoned with university logos, political slogans and superhero icons. Others had their glasses fog up during impassioned speeches. Absent from the Legislature was the scrum of lobbyists and reporters who typically crowd the capitol corridors. Most are plying their trade safely, if not always as effectively, from home.

Melendez’s outburst was among the most heated of the end of session, but hers wasn’t the only curse word to be streamed into the Senate chamber. 

Sen. Scott Wilk, a Republican from Santa Clarita Valley, most memorably exemplified the complications of legislating during a pandemic when he dropped a silent, but clearly lip-legible F-bomb on Friday.

Struggling with the audio connection on his computer at his Sacramento apartment, Wilk responded the same way that countless Californians likely have when unable to unmute themselves during a work call. The feed was silenced, but everyone in the chamber — and anyone else who might be watching — got the gist. 

Wilk immediately clasped his hand over his mouth, eyes wide. Senators on the floor burst out laughing. Thus was born what may become the most iconic image of the 2020 legislative session. 

Under normal circumstances, an irate lawmaker might whisper an aside to a sympathetic colleague. But after denouncing a bill that would fund health and social services for transgender, nonbinary and intersex people as “depravity,” Sen. Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga evidently did not appreciate being implicitly scolded by Long Beach Democrat Lena Gonzalez, who said that she was “appalled by some of the comments that have been made.”

“You hear that, hon?” he cried to someone off screen, presumably his wife. “She’s appalled — !” 

Sen. Connie Leyva, a Chino Democrat who was presiding over the session, interjected before he could go further. 

“Senator Morrell, just so you know, we can hear everything you’re saying, so be careful.” 

Tension continued to build over the weekend as legislators put in long hours and Senate Republicans continued to chafe at having to legislate from outside the building. On Monday, Santa Barbara Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who has maxed out the number of terms she can serve in the Legislature, found a new way to cause offense. 

She brought in the Republicans voting remotely by saying “We will now go to the backyard.”

“I take issue with that and I find it insulting,” an unamused Melendez shot back.

Jackson, sporting a red wonder woman face mask, said she was “just trying to keep it light.”

Other senators were confronted with other all-too-familiar challenges of working from home. …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters.org.

Thousands of kindergartners are no-shows at school

Kindergarten enrollment is down sharply in Los Angeles public schools and elsewhere, signaling that many parents of the state’s youngest students face heavy burdens with online learning and may be opting out of traditional public schools or moving out of L.A. amid the coronavirus crisis.

The drop of 6,000 kindergarten students in the nation’s second-largest school district represents a 14% decline since last year. When combined with anecdotal reports of inconsistent kindergarten attendance in live online classes, some virtual classrooms appear to be at about 50% to 75% capacity.

Since campuses shut in mid-March, experts have expressed particular concern over 4-, 5- and 6-year-old students, who are missing out on critical socialization skills with other children, may be struggling to form important bonds with teachers and lack the developmental stamina to stay engaged for extended periods of computer learning. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Beverly Hills to prosecute 25 protesters

As thousands of protesters took to the streets of Southern California in the last few months to call for criminal justice reform in demonstrations that sometimes veered into vandalism and arson, hundreds found themselves handcuffed for far lesser violations.

Police in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Santa Monica racked up thousands of arrests, mostly for defiance of curfew or dispersal orders, drawing criticism from public health officials who feared that unmasked officers detaining people in close quarters risked worsening the spread of COVID-19.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey and L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer announced that they would not prosecute people arrested for such minor violations, and legal challenges to the constitutionality of county and city curfew orders soon arose.

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

FBI arrests visiting UCLA researcher from China

A visiting researcher at UCLA has been arrested and charged with destroying evidence, the latest Chinese national to face accusations in U.S. courts of trying to conceal ties to China’s military or government institutions.

The FBI began investigating Guan Lei in July, suspecting he had committed visa fraud and possibly transferred “sensitive software or technical data” from UCLA, where he studied machine-learning algorithms in the school’s mathematics department, to “high-ranking” officials in the Chinese military, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit.

Guan, 29, isn’t charged with those crimes. Instead he’s accused of destroying evidence after agents, staking out his apartment in Irvine, saw him pull a computer hard drive from his sock and throw it into a trash bin, Agent Timothy D. Hurt wrote in the affidavit. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

California to reopen in slower phases after hard lessons from summer surge

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday overhauled California’s economic reopening by slowing down the pace and allowing for different levels of industry operation as California’s coronavirus situation steadily improves following a summer surge.

The new framework creates four tiers that condition in-person learning and business activity only on daily case numbers and test positivity rates — a system that Newsom touted as creating a uniform standard rather than a county-by-county patchwork. Most counties currently fall into the most stringent tier, which would prohibit in-classroom instruction and indoor dining.

The guidelines come as two of California’s most populous counties — San Diego and Orange — have left the state’s old watch list and have clamored for the ability to reopen more businesses again. California is at a pivotal moment heading into the fall, torn between a demand to allow normal activities and a desire to avoid another surge right before flu season.

Despite being a success story early in the pandemic, California has had more than 680,000 coronavirus infections, more than any state in the nation, as well as more than 12,500 deaths. By late June, the state had gone from a national model to joining other problem states such as Arizona, Florida and Texas. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico