TIME justice

California to Fight Ruling Against Death Penalty

California Attorney General Kamala Harris Announces Lawsuit
California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks during a news conference on October 10, 2013 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

State Attorney General Kamala Harris to appeal

California is appealing last month’s federal court ruling that declared the state’s enforcement of the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday that she would appeal the ruling by Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. Central District of California, who said that the state’s death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Last month, Carney, a Republican-appointed judge in Orange County, vacated the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who was convicted in the 1995 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s mother but is still on death row. In a lengthy decision, Carney ruled that uncertainties and delays over executions in the state violated inmates’ constitutional rights.

“The dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote. “As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.”

The case will now move to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I am appealing the court’s decision because it is not supported by the law, and it undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants,” Harris said in a statement. “This flawed ruling requires appellate review.”

Only 13 people have been executed in California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, and no inmate has been executed since 2006. More than 900 are currently on death row in the state.

TIME justice

CHP Says Officer May Face Serious Beating Charges

(LOS ANGELES) — A California Highway Patrol officer who was videotaped repeatedly striking a woman on the side of a Los Angeles freeway could face serious charges, the agency said Wednesday after forwarding its investigation to the district attorney.

Officer Daniel Andrew, who was put on a desk assignment after the incident, was removed from duty and put on paid administrative leave, the CHP said.

The agency didn’t reveal if it made a recommendation to prosecutors but said in a news release that its report outlined potentially serious charges he could face. It didn’t specify possible charges.

The July 1 incident sparked outrage as video showed Andrew hitting Marlene Pinnock, 51, several times on the side of Interstate 10.

Andrew said in his report that Pinnock was a danger to herself and had tried to walk into traffic lanes. Drivers had called emergency dispatchers to report that a barefoot woman was on the freeway shoulder who appeared drunk or high.

Pinnock has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was off her medication for two to three months before the altercation with Andrew, said Pinnock’s attorney Caree Harper.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pinnock said she believed the officer was trying to kill her.

“He grabbed me, he threw me down, he started beating me,” she said. “I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death.”

Pinnock filed a lawsuit against CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow and Andrew in federal court for civil rights violations. The lawsuit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of her due-process rights.

TIME Courts

A California Slaughterhouse Has Been Indicted for Selling Condemned Beef

Cattle graze at Rancho Feeding Corporation in Petaluma
Cattle graze at Rancho Feeding Corp. in Petaluma, Calif., on Feb. 10, 2014 Beck Diefenbach—Reuters

The charges come after a massive global recall of 8.7 million lb. of meat

Rancho Feeding Corp., a slaughterhouse in Petaluma, Calif., was indicted on Thursday for processing carcasses that had been condemned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and for selling beef that came from cancerous cattle. Following a massive product recall, owners Robert Singleton and Jesse Amaral Jr., as well as employees Eugene Corda and Felix Cabrera, were charged with 11 felony counts including knowingly processing and distributing uninspected meat. If convicted, the four could be facing sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

Operations at Rancho Feeding Corp. were suspended in January when the USDA recalled 8.7 million lb. of beef from stores throughout the world. The indictment documents, unsealed on Monday, allege that co-owner Amaral instructed employees to decapitate the heads of cows with eye cancer, and to switch them with the heads of healthy cows, in order to evade inspectors. Documents also allege that Amaral directed employees to remove the “USDA condemned” brand from carcasses prior to processing. Nearly 200 condemned and cancerous cows were subsequently sold to stores globally between 2012 and 2013.

Jeffrey Bornstein, a lawyer previously representing Amaral, told the San Francisco Chronicle in February that his defendant’s company was always “considered one of the top meat processors in the state. He is very sorry for any impact that this situation has caused to his customers and to the meat-buying public.”

Rancho Feeding Corp. was sold to Marin Sun Farms in February.

TIME Fast Food

Fast-Food Franchise Holders in California Score a Major Legal Win

A McDonald's restaurant sign is seen at a McDonald's restaurant in Del Mar, California
A McDonald's restaurant sign in Del Mar, Calif., on April 16, 2013 Mike Blake/Reuters

Supporters of the SB 610 bill say employees as well as franchisees will benefit

Major fast-food companies — ranging from McDonald’s to 7-Eleven — will find it harder to terminate agreements with their franchise holders after the California state legislature passed the SB 610 bill granting franchisees additional rights.

The proposed law pits industry bodies like the International Franchise Association (IFA) and the California Chamber of Commerce against small businesses as well as labor unions like the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The SEIU argues that the bill’s passage will pave the way for increased wages and benefits for employees, as franchisees no longer have to worry about the threat of contract termination for introducing such benefits.

“Corporate headquarters control nearly every aspect of our business — we can be punished for speaking out or joining with other franchise owners to improve business conditions, and the franchises can even be shut down for arbitrary reasons — as mine was,” said McDonald’s franchisee Kathryn Carter to SEIU California.

Opponents, however, say the bill will negatively affect quality control and consistency — and reiterated their concerns following the assembly’s 41 to 27 yes vote.

In a statement obtained by MSNBC, IFA president and CEO Steve Caldeira criticized language used in the bill: “SB 610, particularly the termination language, is more vague and obscure in its definition than any other state franchise law.”

He added: “This bill without question will undermine franchise growth in California, lead to frivolous, unnecessary and costly litigation, reduced product quality, harm brand integrity.”

The bill’s next stop is California’s senate, where it is expected to pass.

TIME weather

Firefighters Wrap Historic Buildings to Protect Them From Forest Fires

Foil, but for foiling forest fires

Firefighters in central California are doing a bit of redecorating: They’re wrapping historic buildings in a foil-like covering to protect them from the radiant heat and flying embers of the French Fire—a massive conflagration that’s consumed 13,700 acres and is 60% contained.

The wraps are similar to ones firefighters use for personal safety on the job, though they’re thicker and the Forest Service says they’re not exactly fireproof. While no buildings have been destroyed yet, drought conditions have managed to worsen the blaze.

These wraps are straightforward to apply—essentially you use staples and special tape to hold it fast against the building, so the high winds of a wildfire don’t blow it off—and appear to have the potential to keep the structures intact. It’s not cheap: Wrapping a single cabin costs nearly $1,200 of the stuff, and it takes six to seven hours to secure to a building.

All this said, there’s a version available commercially; let’s hope you never have to use it.

[ABC]

TIME Environment

California Catastrophes: Why is the Golden State Always a Mess?

First it's droughts, then wildfires, then mudslides. But despite how it seems, the coast isn't really cursed

+ READ ARTICLE

California is burning. In several places. Of course, this is news, especially since lives and property are at risk—but in a sense, it isn’t news at all. California burns every year at around this time. California is also sliding downhill. That isn’t really a headline either, since mudslides are annual events too, as a result of torrential rains in the non-burning part of the state. So far this year the slides have caused one death.

California’s Central Valley, meanwhile, is dangerously parched, as a drought that’s already lasted three years shows no signs of letting up. The only hope for desperate farmers is that a long-awaited El Niño weather pattern kicks in later in the year, bringing heavy rains (at which point, see above under “mudslides”). And then there’s the next major earthquake, which is sure to come sooner or later—probably sooner given California’s luck.

In fact, it almost seems as though the state is a disaster magnet. That, however, is something of an illusion. Much of the American West is more or less starved for rainfall, with the exception of the immediate Pacific Coast. It’s hardly a surprise that the region as a whole suffers from periodic droughts; all it takes is a ridge of heat and high pressure to park itself off the Pacific coast and most rainfall will veer northward into Canada before dipping bock down into the inland U.S. The dried-out forests and grasslands that result are then ready fuel for fires caused by lightning or human carelessness. When rains do start, steep hillsides that have been logged or burned or overdeveloped are prone to mudslides.

These are by no means problems unique to California. But the state is so huge, and the population so large, that natural disasters there simply affect more people than they do elsewhere in the U.S. Still, for those of us watching from the other side of the continent, it sometimes seems like you’d have to be a little bit crazy to live in California. But then you consider Mt. Whitney or Yosemite Valley or the Coast Range or the redwood forests—never mind the southern California warmth and the Pacific Ocean as your swimming pool.

So maybe it’s not entirely crazy to live in California. What is entirely crazy is the need to push the envelope—to build houses on hillsides and in forests which may be the most gorgeous locations in the nation’s most gorgeous state, but which are often the most dangerous in terms of natural hazards. If you lived on an airport runway and got hit by a plane, it would be a tragedy—but an entirely predictable and preventable one.

We’re not immune to this sort of craziness out East: we keep putting houses on beaches, for example, when we know perfectly well that they could wash away with the next storm. Once you get away from the shore, though, you’re relatively safe. On this last point, the East may have the edge: Move inland in California, and you could end up next to an active volcano.

TIME

One Dead, Thousands Stranded in S. California Storm

APTOPIX Southern California Storms
An official of Forest Home Christian Conference Center in Forest Falls, Calif., inspects damage on the property following thunderstorms on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014. David Bauman—AP Photo

Authorities say one person was found dead in a car that was swept into a creek and thousands of other residents in Southern California were stranded after thunderstorms and mudslides wreaked havoc in the area

(MOUNT BALDY, Calif.) — Thunderstorms that swept across Southern California on Sunday led to the death of one person and caused mountain mudslides that stranded more than 2,000 others, authorities said.

A body was found in a car that was swept into a rain-swollen creek in Mount Baldy and overturned, San Bernardino County Fire spokesman Chris Prater said.

Further east, flash floods brought thick debris flows that cut off access to two towns. About 1,500 residents of Oak Glen, and another 1,000 residents of Forest Falls in the San Bernardino Mountains were unable to get out because the roads were covered with mud, rock and debris, authorities said.

The stranded include 500 children and adults who had arrived at a Forest Falls campground Sunday morning.

“Our concern is that they’re isolated at that campground and no longer have access out of the mountain,” Kyle Hauducoeur, another county fire spokesman, said.

Authorities made reverse 911 calls to urge residents to stay put while crews clear the roads with bulldozers. The muck was so thick it submerged a van in Forest Falls, while on Mount Baldy water swept a hot tub into the road.

Flash floods led to the rescue of several people. Hauducoeur said a woman in Mt. Baldy was rescued from her house before it was buried in mud. Four additional homes in the Bear Creek area were damaged by the debris flow, he said.

In the Angeles National Forest, a group of 4 or 5 people and a dog were airlifted to safety.

A U.S. Forest Service spokesman told KNBC-TV some campers had seconds to evacuate before a torrent of water washed their tents and belongings.

“It sounded like a freight train coming through,” Robert Ethridge said.

Monsoonal moisture brought brief but fierce storms to mountain, desert and inland areas. In and around Palm Springs, knee-deep water flooded city streets and stranded vehicles. In the city of Redlands, the storm downed a tree and knocked out power to a few neighborhoods.

The downpour dumped as much as 3 ½ inches of rain on Forest Falls, and nearly 5 inches of rain on Mount Baldy, the National Weather Service said.

Authorities said crews were assessing the extent of damages caused by the storms.

MONEY Millennials

The 15 Most Expensive Cities for Millennials

Skateboarder on the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
And the "winner" is...the City by the Bay. Jordan Siemens—Getty Images

Finding an affordable place to live is hard, especially when you're just starting out. Here are 15 cities where you'll be pinching pennies.

In June, I moved out of my college dorm room into what I thought was a reasonably priced apartment. I need two roommates to afford the monthly rent, and my room lacks space for anything more than a bed and tiny desk. But I figured those were luxuries my peers in other big cities gave up in their first apartment, too, right?

Wrong.

A new report from RealtyTrac ranks New York, my home town, as the one of the least affordable areas for millennials in the entire country. The study ranked counties with at least 100,000 people by the percentage of median income one needs to spend in order to make a median housing payment or pay an average rent bill on a three-bedroom property. In order to focus on young people, RealtyTrac only included areas where millennials make up at least 24% of the population, and where the percentage of young people has increased over the past six years.

When it comes to least affordable counties to buy a house, four of NYC’s five boroughs take up almost a third of the list, with Manhattan (New York County), Brooklyn (Kings Country), the Bronx (Bronx County), and Queens (Queens Country), each “earning” a spot.

The West Coast isn’t off the hook, either. Beating out Manhattan for the dubious honor of most expensive city for young people is San Francisco. Buying a median-priced three-bedroom house—$950,000 as of this April— in the City by the Bay will cost median income earners more than 78% of their wages.

In terms of renting, the picture changes—but only slightly. Bronx county is the least affordable of the nation’s millennial-heavy areas, not because three-bedroom rent—averaged at about $1,850 a month—is particularly expensive, but because median incomes are relatively low. In 2014, the median Bronx household is estimated to make only $32,891.

For residents of San Francisco, renting is actually relatively more affordable than buying. Leasing an apartment will take about 40% of a median earner’s income, almost half of what the usual housing payment would take away.

OK, we all knew New York and San Francisco were going to be expensive (just maybe not this expensive), but there are some surprising names on the list, too. Our nation’s capital takes up two spots on the most unaffordable homes list, and snowy Denver, Colorado, comes in before Portlandia‘s notoriously expensive namesake.

(No word on whether Denver has restaurants that inform you how many friends your chicken dinner had growing up.)

Renters will also notice that some cities they thought were cheap are a lot less affordable than expected. Baltimore, home of The Wire, is the the second least affordable city, behind the Bronx. Philadelphia comes in third, but the good news is that millennials have been surging into the city recently. From 2007 to 2013, Philly’s young-person population has increased by a fourth. At least you’ll have people your age to complain to about the rent.

What’s also notable are the cities not on this list. Hubs like Boston, San Antonio, Chicago, Houston, and San Jose are nowhere to be found. That doesn’t mean they’re cheap, but their prices might be more manageable than most people realize.

Check out the full list below for even more information.

More: The 5 Cities That Have Recovered Most—and Least—From the Recession

 

TIME foreign affairs

The Upside of Putin’s Warmongering

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-CRISIS-SANCTIONS
Russia's President Vladimir Putin stands in front of the 6 meters long Tsar Pushka (Tsar Cannon), one of the Russian landmarks displayed in the Kremlin in Moscow, on July 31, 2014. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV—AFP/Getty Images

Putin’s madness has created a new Sputnik moment that should spur California into investing in science and math education

Here are two words Californians should say to Vladimir Putin: thank you.

California, with its historic reliance on defense-related industries, never quite recovered from the end of the Cold War. Today, Los Angeles has fewer jobs than it did in 1990. Fortunately, Putin seems intent on giving us a new Cold War.

Let’s stipulate that Putin’s crushing of dissent at home, his seizing of the Crimea, his wars against Ukraine and Georgia, and his bullying of European neighbors are bad for the peace and security of the world. But all this Russian madness—not to mention the threatening, nationalistic expansionism of Putin’s Chinese ally President Xi Jinping—presents an opportunity for California.

The belligerence of Russia and China could boost a host of California industries. Aerospace could benefit from increasing insecurity among Russian and Chinese neighbors, since more countries will be inclined to increase their spending on defense, and to curry favor with Uncle Sam by buying American. California’s space industry could become much more important as the United States moves from collaborating with the Russians in space to competing against them—and against a growing Chinese space program. And Silicon Valley’s data security firms are already booming in part because of widespread concerns about Russian and Chinese hackers, not to mention the intrusive behavior of U.S. intelligence agencies.

The threat of Putinism also could change the politics of oil and natural gas production here—more domestic production serving as another counter to Russia’s oil-based economy. (Maybe we’ll hear politicians from the San Joaquin Valley, where development of the Monterey Shale’s natural gas could be an economic game-changer, accuse fracking opponents of being soft on Russian imperialism.) Alternative energy businesses—from wind to solar to geothermal—should also find it easier to wrap their pitches in national security terms. It’s no longer about merely ending our reliance on Mideast oil, but also about declawing the Russian bear.

California’s softer industries could prosper too. Hollywood, which has struggled to develop compelling bad guys since the end of the Cold War, can mass-produce Russian villains again. As for tourism: With headlines of downed aircraft and bombings everywhere, isn’t it tempting to stay closer to home and go to Disneyland, or check out the minions at Universal Studios?

The big question, of course, is whether our governments, our industries, and our people are still in a position to exploit this moment. The pessimistic view: Our dysfunctional governing system will keep us from seizing the moment. The optimistic: Our persistent economic struggles (at least outside Silicon Valley) and the dangerous provocations of Russia and China might spur us to action.

The promise of this moment may be greatest in the aerospace industry, which is smaller but still cutting-edge, producing drones, satellites for commercial purposes, and space start-ups like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. And there is precedent for revival. After collapsing in the post-Vietnam funk, aerospace rebounded in the ’80s, headlined by the F-117 Stealth aircraft, the B-2 bomber, and the space shuttle. Unfortunately, more recently, as defense spending increased after 9/11 and the industry expanded elsewhere, California aerospace continued its decline.

As important as stopping Putin is stopping Texas or another state from becoming the next California, the place the world turns to in its hour of need. Putin’s pronouncement that he will revive his own aerospace industry, at the same time the Chinese military continues it buildup, should rally us to offense. Putin’s madness has created a new Sputnik moment that should also spur us into investing in science and math education; California needs hundreds of thousands more technically and scientifically skilled workers, for good times and bad.

The state has established a military council and created incentives, but it should go further, and provide seed money to fund business investment and research that serve both national security and the state’s economy. How to pay for it? Why not establish an emergency “Putin tax” on certain items (liquor, cigarettes, oil, and big houses would be fitting) or a “Putin break” from regulations for priority industries?

It’s time for the governor to call a “security council” summit of California officials, business leaders, and scholars. The perfect venue would be Fort Ross State Park, in Sonoma County, site of a settlement established by the Russians in the early 19th Century, with the goal, not yet realized, of colonizing America. It’s a beautiful place, and a powerful reminder that there are few things more enduring than the need to keep Russian czars in their place.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zocalo Public Square. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Family

No ‘Loud’ Children Allowed in California Restaurant

California's Coastline A Top Tourist Destination
The entrance to Old Fisherman's Wharf at sunrise in Monterey, Calif., on April 6, 2013 George Rose—Getty Images

The establishment, much to the chagrin of some parents and tourists, has banned high chairs, booster seats, strollers and crying babies

One restaurant on the Monterey Peninsula’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf is turning heads with a policy aimed at preventing patrons from bringing loud children or infants into the eatery.

The Old Fisherman’s Grotto has explicitly laid out its policy with both signage and on its website stating that no high chairs or booster seats will be permitted on the premises, while loud children and crying babies are not allowed to sit in the dining room.

The policy, which the Grotto has had in place for at least two years, has been met with shock and disbelief from tourists and parents visiting Monterey.

“I think kids need to know how to behave in restaurants, and if you don’t take them to them, they don’t know how to behave, and they shouldn’t be kept hidden away, so I think it’s ridiculous,” tourist Teresa Colombani told KSBW news.

However, the restaurant’s owner is sticking to his guns.

“If a place has the rules, that’s what the rules are,” owner Chris Shake told the broadcaster. “You go in and abide by the rules or you find a place more suitable for you.”

Despite the criticism from the occasional passerby, Shake said the policy has yet to affect his business.

“I haven’t had a down year for over 20 years, and our business continues to grow.”

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