What do you think 102 million dead trees mean for wildfire danger in California?


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The number of dead trees in California’s drought-stricken forests has risen dramatically to more than 102 million in what officials described as an unparalleled ecological disaster that heightens the danger of massive wildfires and damaging erosion.

Officials said they were alarmed by the increase in dead trees, which they estimated to have risen by 36 million since the government’s last survey in May. The U.S. Forest Service, which performs such surveys of forest land, said Friday that 62 million trees have died this year alone….

Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for much of the destruction. The lack of rain has put California’s trees under considerable stress, making them more susceptible to the organisms, such as beetles, that can kill them. Unusually high temperatures have added to the trees’ demand for water, exacerbating an already grim situation…

Although California enjoyed a wet start to the water year in Northern California, the central and southern parts of the state remain locked in what federal officials classify as “extreme” and “exceptional” drought.

Sooner or later – hopefully, the former – folks will realize that climate change means more than a couple paragraphs about global warming. Distorted climates produce untypical environments, often ending in disaster.

California leads the fight to prevent women bleeding to death in childbirth


Kristen Terlizzi

❝ In the US, childbirth has been growing more dangerous recently. Maternal mortality — defined as the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she’s carrying or within 42 days after birth — in the US soared by 27 percent, from 19 per 100,000 to 24 per 100,000, between 2000 and 2014.

That’s more than three times the rate of the United Kingdom, and about eight times the rates of Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, according to the OECD.

❝ It’s a stunning example of how poorly the American health care system stacks up against its developed peers. More women in labor or brand new mothers die here than in any other high-income country. And the CDC Foundation estimates that 60 percent of these deaths are preventable…

❝ But as the mortality rate has been edging up nationally, California has made remarkable progress in the opposite direction: Fewer and fewer women are dying in childbirth in the state.

So how did California manage to buck the trend? I was curious, particularly as American women’s health is under assault, with the GOP push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act…

RTFA. Long and detailed, Julia Belluz went to California to meet Dr. David Lagrew, an OB-GYN at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County. A founding member of the CMQCC, the California Maternal Care Quality Collective. Dr. Lagrew leads the fight for sensible hemorrhage protocols that save lives – and the fight to end unnecessary C-sections which set the stage for so many deaths-by-hemorrhage in the United States.

California has beaucoup solar power — so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it

❝ On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power.

Well, actually better than free. California produced so much solar power on those days that it paid Arizona to take excess electricity its residents weren’t using to avoid overloading its own power lines…

The number of days that California dumped its unused solar electricity would have been even higher if the state hadn’t ordered some solar plants to reduce production — even as natural gas power plants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, continued generating electricity…

❝ Why doesn’t California, a champion of renewable energy, use all the solar power it can generate?…

❝ The answer, in part, is that the state has achieved dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years. But it also reflects sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave these new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power

That’s the polite way to put it.

❝ …The California Legislature has mandated that one-half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030; today it’s about one-fourth. That goal once was considered wildly optimistic. But solar panels have become much more efficient and less expensive. So solar power is now often the same price or cheaper than most other types of electricity, and production has soared so much that the target now looks laughably easy to achieve.

At the same time, however, state regulators — who act independently of the Legislature — until recently have continued to greenlight utility company proposals to build more natural gas power plants.

Generally, when folks are sleeping in a strange bed it involves sex or money or both. RTFA and decide how much of each is involved.

California cranked out so much solar power this spring that wholesale electricity ran negative$

❝ The extraordinary success of solar power in some pockets of the world that combine sunshine with high investment in the technology mean that governments and energy companies are having radically to rethink the way they manage—and charge for—electricity.

California is one such a place.

❝ On March 11, it passed a milestone on the route to powering the whole state sustainably. For the first time, more than half the power needs of the entire state came from solar power for a few hours that day…

The power came from utility-scale solar photovoltaic farms, solar thermal plants, and the panels installed on private homes. Based on the data it collects, the EIA estimated that in each hour of peak times, that total capacity produced 4 million kWh of electricity on March 11…

❝ The spikes also have a big effect on wholesale energy prices, which dipped to zero or even to negative territory this spring during certain hours in California…That’s in sharp contrast to the same hours (8am to 2pm) in the month of March between 2013 and 2015, when average hourly wholesale prices ranged from $14-45 MWh.

Negative prices usually happen because there’s a glut of renewable energy, but non-renewable generators are also producing. They don’t shut them off completely because of the high costs of restarting.

California now accounts for a sizable chunk of the US market, having the highest energy demand of any state after Texas. It also has almost half of all the solar power in the US.

❝ This doesn’t mean, however, that Californians are paying nothing for their power because wholesale prices don’t translate directly into retail prices, which are based on averages, not single days. But it will mean energy companies start to rethink how they deliver and charge for electricity as the mix of renewables increases.

Unless, of course, you’re a public utility, fossil fuel producer or dimwit politician who hopes and prays that renewable power sources just disappear.

California Still Leads on Auto Emissions Standards — Ready to Confront Fossil Fuel Pimps

California’s clean-air agency has voted to push ahead with stricter emissions standards for cars and trucks, setting up a potential legal battle with the Trump administration over the state’s plan to reduce planet-warming gases.

The vote, by the California Air Resources Board, is the boldest indication yet of California’s plan to stand up to President Trump’s agenda. Leading politicians in the state, from the governor down to many mayors, have promised to lead the resistance to Mr. Trump’s policies.

Mr. Trump, backing industry over environmental concerns, said blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!…But California can write its own standards because of a longstanding waiver granted under the Clean Air Act, giving the state — the country’s biggest auto market — major sway over the auto industry. Twelve other states, including New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C., follow California’s standards, a coalition that covers more than 130 million residents and more than a third of the vehicle market in the United States…

…The unanimous vote by the 14-member board, which affirmed the higher standards through 2025, amounted to a public rejection of Mr. Trump’s plans

Several states that follow California’s rules raced to its defense. “We’ve come a long way together,” said Steven Flint, director of the air resources division of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. “We’re with you, and we believe in what you’re doing.”

Only a fool would think we’ve come this far, led by science, dedicated to the common good of human beings and all the other living creatures of this planet – only to roll over like a short-sighted car company or some opportunistic political hack! The barbarians may be at the gates; but, the days of letting barbarians try to run the world are long gone.

The price of patriotism

❝ Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan…

The Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard under pressure to fill ranks and hit enlistment goals. If soldiers refuse, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments and tax liens…

❝ Faced with a shortage of troops at the height of the two wars, California Guard officials offered bonuses of $15,000 or more for soldiers to reenlist.

A federal investigation in 2010 found thousands of bonuses and student loan payments were improperly doled out to California Guard soldiers. About 9,700 current and retired soldiers received notices to repay some or all of their bonuses with more than $22 million recovered so far.

❝ Soldiers said they feel betrayed at having to repay the money.

“These bonuses were used to keep people in,” said Christopher Van Meter, a 42-year-old former Army captain and Iraq veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. “People like me just got screwed.”

Van Meter said he refinanced his home mortgage to repay $25,000 in reenlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments that the military says was improperly given to him.

❝ The California Guard said it has to follow the law and collect the money.

One of the benefits of serving as mercenary for the last bastion of imperial war.

American support for legalizing marijuana reaches new highs — Har!

❝ A new Gallup poll released Wednesday shows 60 percent of American adults now say that marijuana should be legal, the highest level of support in nearly a half-century of polling on the question…The Gallup poll tracks closely with numbers from the Pew Research Center released last week showing 57 percent support for legalization…

❝ …Support for legalization has soared in the past decade among nearly every demographic group. Close to 80 percent of 18-to-34 year olds now favor legal weed, up from 44 percent in 2003 and 2005. Gallup finds that Americans age 55 and older are now the only age group with less than majority support for legalization.

❝ Support for legalization has more than doubled among Republicans in the past decade, to 42 percent today. With 70 percent support, independents are the political group most likely to favor legalization, just edging out Democrats at 67 percent.

❝ This fall, five states will decide whether to join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and DC in legalizing marijuana for personal use…The outcome of the November measures could have a transformative effect on the marijuana policy conversation going forward: “The percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal could rise from the current 5 percent to as much as 25 percent if all of these ballot measures pass.”

…The real prize for legalization proponents is California: “If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the ‘Golden State’ often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S.”

The latest polling out of California suggest that the legalization measure is leading by a two-to-one margin.

Who wants to be the last state to board the train to the 21st Century?

Here’s what a diligent, professional copper gets done “with a bit of free time”


Larry Don Patterson and William Lloyd Harbour

❝ An investigator “with a bit of free time” decided to send for testing DNA samples from a long-dormant cold case, which led authorities to arrest a pair of men linked to the 1973 shotgun slayings of two young girls, authorities said.

Police in Oklahoma and California arrested the two 65-year-old suspects Tuesday morning for the murders of Valerie Janice Lane, 12, and Doris Karen Derryberry, 13.

❝ The seventh grade classmates told their mothers they were going to a mall shopping near their homes about 40 miles north of Sacramento on Nov. 12, 1973. Witnesses saw them in their neighborhood that night, but neither girl returned home. Both suspects were living in Olivehurst at that time, investigators said.

Two boys were target shooting and found the girl’s bodies about 20 hours later, according to news accounts at the time. Investigators say the girls were driven to a wooded area and shot at close range.

Authorities then and now said a large-scale investigation was immediately launched and some 60 people interviewed over a three-year period before the case went cold for a lack of solid leads and was shelved in 1976.

❝ In March 2014, an investigator doing a routine look through cold cases decided to send semen samples found on Derryberry’s body and preserved for 43 years to the state Department of Justice forensics lab for analysis. Seven months later, state DOJ technicians reported that the DNA in the semen matched the genetic profiles of cousins Larry Don Patterson and William Lloyd Harbour, who each committed serious enough crimes since 1973 to have their DNA samples collected and placed in law enforcement computer systems.

“Over time, anyone that’s been assigned to our investigations unit for any length of time looks into some of the unsolved cases that we have,” Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor said. “And this was one in particular that one of our investigators had a bit of free time and really looked very closely at this case and identified that we should send some things off and see what it might yield for us.”

❝ Patterson was arrested Tuesday morning in Oklahoma. Harbour was arrested after a traffic stop two hours later near his home in Olivehurst, where the two victims also lived.

Both are now charged with murder. Overdue, for sure. But, the cases move towards completion because folks in the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department lived up to standards that should define all police departments. Coppers who really deserve medals.

California Governor signs historic legislation granting expanded overtime pay to farmworkers


Arturo Rodriguez, Anthony Rendon, Lorena GonzalezRich Pedroncelli/AP

❝ With little fanfare, Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed historic legislation that would expand overtime pay for California farmworkers.

❝ Assembly Bill 1066, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena S. Gonzalez (D-San Diego), calls for a phase-in of new overtime rules over four years beginning in 2019.

It would lower the current 10-hour-day threshold for overtime by half an hour each year until it reaches the standard eight-hour day by 2022. It also would phase in a 40-hour standard workweek for the first time. The governor would be able to suspend any part of the process for a year depending on economic conditions.

❝ The decision followed intense showdowns on the floor of the state Assembly, where a similar proposal died in June a few votes short of the majority it needed to pass.

“We are letting the signature speak for itself,” said a spokesperson for Brown.

❝ The United Farm Workers of America, which sponsored the bill, says it addresses an injustice first inflicted on farmworkers nearly eight decades ago.

Overdue. Way overdue.