Friday, August 15, 2008

Transportation Daily News August 15

Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future -- At least 40 cities are exploring streetcar plans to spur economic development, ease traffic congestion and draw young professionals and empty-nest baby boomers back from the suburbs, according to the Community Streetcar Coalition, which includes city officials, transit authorities and engineers who advocate streetcar construction. More than a dozen have existing lines, including New Orleans, which is restoring a system devastated by Hurricane Katrina. And Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C., have introduced or are planning to introduce streetcars. NY Times 8/14/08


*BART adopts rules for Segway use -- BART will restrict but not ban the use of electric Segway scooters on the train system.The BART board voted Thursday to approve a two-tier set of restrictions to replace a temporary ban, which was imposed after a June accident in which a runaway Segway toppled onto tracks and delayed train service at a San Francisco station. SJ Mercury 8/14/08


*Fewer dying in auto crashes -- National, state and local figures indicate vehicle fatalities are on the decline, including final 2007 figures for the U.S., released Thursday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found fatalities across America dropped 3.9 percent from 2006 to 2007. PE  8/14/08


Agricultural Daily News August 15

This is my last news update. Thank you for reading so diligently.


Food and nutrition:


Fast-Food Curb Meets With Ambivalence in South Los Angeles -- In July the City Council passed a one-year moratorium, now signed into law and effective as of last week, on any new fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile area south of Interstate 10, and the city is offering prospective owners of new grocery stores and non-fast-food restaurants large financial incentives to set up shop in the area. It may be that what many of the roughly 550,000 people in the area covered by the moratorium desire is not less of what they have, but more of what they do not. NY Times 8/8/08


*Burger ban is weighed in San Jose -- Three San Jose City Council members Thursday proposed a one-year citywide moratorium on new fast-food restaurants, arguing that the prolific eateries are fattening people - especially kids - with unhealthy fare. The proposal is similar to a moratorium the Los Angeles City Council approved last month for south Los Angeles. The San Jose proposal also calls for an indefinite ban on new fast-food restaurants within 1,000 feet of schools. SJ Mercury 8/15/08




*State: Valley is Medfly-free -- The California Department of Food and Agriculture has announced that it has successfully eradicated an infestation of the Mediterranean fruit fly in Santa Clara County, lifting a 75-square-mile quarantine zone that was put in place in fall 2007. The department also lifted quarantine zones in Solano and Los Angeles counties - which means that California has been proclaimed medfly-free. The eradication program involved the release of millions of sterile male medflies; the flies breed with wild females to control the population. Mercury 8/15/08


Sunnier Forecast for Corn and Soybean Harvest -- The Department of Agriculture is forecasting the second-highest corn yield on record with production of 12.3 billion bushels, about 600 million bushels more than it had expected earlier in the summer. NY Times 8/12/08


MORE SPACE FOR ANIMALS SOUGHT, BUT EGG PRICE JUMP PREDICTED -- ame-sex marriage, parental notification of abortion – California's November ballot is studded with weighty issues, but none is ruffling feathers like Proposition 2, which would effectively ban farms from raising hens in cages.The United Egg Producers predicts the measure would triple the cost of eggs, drive the industry out of the state and deprive consumers of fresh, safe California eggs. Sacramento Bee 8/15/08


Water and fish:


Parasite causing an itch for swimmers -- It's a condition caused by a tiny water parasite with a barbed tail that will bore into your skin and cause welts and itching if it mistakes you for a duck or goose paddling in a lake or bay. Swimmer's itch, rarely reported a decade ago in Contra Costa and Alameda counties, has become a rite of summer in several lakes in the East Bay Regional Park District in the last few years. Complaints about the itch have prompted the park district this summer to post warning signs at Crown Beach in Alameda, Lake Anza at Tilden Park in Berkeley, and Quarry Lakes in Fremont. SJ Mercury 8/14/08


*Pelosi won't limit vote to offshore drilling -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday firmly rejected the idea of a House vote solely on the issue of offshore oil drilling, calling it "a hoax on the American people" backed by oil companies. Instead, she said, she wants Congress to tackle a compromise comprehensive energy plan that would include alternative energy sources and curtailing tax breaks for oil companies. SF Chronicle 8/15/08


Scientists alarmed by ocean dead-zone growth -- Dead zones where fish and most marine life can no longer survive are spreading across the continental shelves of the world's oceans at an alarming rate as oxygen vanishes from coastal waters, scientists reported Thursday. The scientists place the problem on runoff of chemical fertilizers in rivers and fallout from burning fossil fuels, and they estimate there are now more than 400 dead zones along 95,000 square miles of the seas - an area more than half the size of California. SF Chronicle 8/15/08


Los Angeles doubles fines for residents who waste water -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed an ordinance Thursday that doubles fines for residents who repeatedly violate the city's "drought buster" rules, including a reworked ban on watering lawns between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The measure bars restaurants from serving water to customers unless it is specifically requested. LA Times 8/15/08


Labor and immigration:


*California unemployment rate surges to 7.3 percent -- California’s unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in July, up from a revised 7.0 percent in June, the state Employment Development Department (EDD) says in a report Friday.  A year ago, in July 2007, California’s unemployment rate was 5.4 percent. Central Valley Business Times 8/15/08


*Schwarzenegger says U.S.-Mexico border unites -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday urged fellow governors on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to cooperate on issues from water management to building a green economy. The annual Border Governors Conference spotlights a region that stretches from the Pacific coast to the Gulf of Mexico that is rife with unyielding problems — pollution, gun-running and drug violence — and economic potential. SF Chronicle 8/15/08




Medi-Cal cuts would raise other health costs, study finds -- By denying Medi-Cal benefits to more than 1 million people, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget would cost Californians with health care insurance more than $290 per family per year in added premiums to cover the new uninsured, according to a new study.The report was prepared by consultant Peter Harbage, whose study on the "hidden tax" paid by the insured to make up for uncompensated care was widely cited last year by Schwarzenegger in his unsuccessful campaign for universal health care. Sacramento Bee 8/15/08


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Transportation Daily News August 14



California Department of Food and Agriculture Joins Fuel Cell Partnership -- The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has joined the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP) as an associate member. The partnership is a collaboration of 31 member organizations including auto manufacturers, energy providers, government agencies and fuel cell technology companies. Together they work to promote the commercialization of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a means of moving towards a sustainable energy future, increasing energy efficiency and reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Imperial Valley News 8/14/08


*Greenhouse gas institute slips under the radar -- A publicly funded, world-class research institute that would develop answers to the threat posed by climate-changing greenhouse gases is being crafted in the Legislature, and is among the last-minute proposals expected to come before the Legislature in the closing days of this year's legislative session.  The plan differs sharply from the original blueprint proposed by California's top utilities regulator, state Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey. Legislation encompassing the new, estimated $87 million-a-year plan is likely to be completed within a few days.  Capitol Weekly 8/14/08


Transit and infrastructure:


*Lawmakers pass changes to high-speed rail measure -- The state Assembly has approved a bill increasing financial accountability in the high-speed rail measure that is on California's November ballot. Lawmakers will not send the bill immediately to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger because he has pledged to veto every bill until legislators pass a budget.  If a Saturday deadline passes without the bill being signed into law, the new wording will not be included in the initial ballot pamphlet sent to voters. It would have to be included on a supplement pamphlet, instead. SJ Mercury 8/14/08


Budget standoff sidetracks update of rail bond -- The Assembly passed a bill late Wednesday afternoon that is designed to improve a high-speed rail bond's chances at the polls in November. But its author - not willing to risk a veto from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - says she won't send it to his desk until a state budget deal is struck. SF Chronicle 8/14/08


Survey: High gas prices lead half to curb driving -- Nearly half the respondents in a survey by Irvine-based Kelley Blue Book said they have cut back on their driving as a result of high gasoline prices. Nearly one-third of those surveyed by the longtime auto-pricing company opted to purchase a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Sacramento Bee 8/14/08


June driving drop was biggest in 8-month trend -- As summer vacation season kicked in, Americans got out of their cars, driving 12.2 billion fewer miles in June than the same month a year earlier. The 4.7 percent decline, which came while gas prices were peaking, was the biggest monthly driving drop in a downward trend that began in November, the Federal Highway Administration said Wednesday. SF Chronicle 8/14/08


Emergency and crisis:


Choked By Truck Traffic -- Armed with traffic pollution data they collected themselves, Ortiz and several dozen youth rallied last week on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, calling on city officials to take steps to reduce traffic pollution in the southeastern communities of the Excelsior, Portola, Visitacion Valley and the Bayview. They monitored the air for particulate pollution, ultra-fine particles that can lodge deep in the lungs. Particle pollution includes soot, ash and diesel exhaust, spewed into the air from the burning of fossil fuels and wood. New American Media 8/14/08




Eco-tourism still damaging wildlife irreversibly -- Nature lovers and eco-tourists might be damaging wildlife irreversibly even if they restrict their activities to tiptoeing discreetly through the undergrowth, a study by experts has warned. In 2004, eco-tourism outpaced the tourist industry threefold. One in five tourists now go on eco-holidays, which has been found to impact a range of species, from dolphins and dingoes to penguins and polar bears, according to a New Scientist report. Economic Times 8/14/08



Agricultural Daily News August 14

Parks and forests:


*Republicans want more aggressive forest thinning -- The state needs to be more aggressive in thinning out forests — and less concerned about conserving trees — if they are to contain wildfires, Republican lawmakers said Wednesday at a Capitol hearing of rural lawmakers. The group, which included members of Congress, sent a letter urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to resurrect last year's agreement with Nevada, which would require intensive logging in rural areas. CC Times 8/14/08


*State burning through fire budget at breakneck clip -- Faced with hundreds of sprawling, hard-to-control blazes, California is struggling with what could be its most expensive wildfire season ever, burning through nearly $300 million in just the past six weeks. Costs have soared since the 2003 Southern California firestorm and keep rising, creating a quandary for state officials already struggling with a severe budget shortfall. They're considering slapping homeowners with a natural disaster surcharge, with those at higher risk paying the most. SJ Mercury 8/14/08


Wildfire costs -- Amounts California has spent to fight major wildfires in each of the last 10 fiscal years (does not include annual budget for firefighter salaries and benefits). SJ Mercury 8/14/08


Water and fishing:


Some in Delta mobilize to oppose peripheral canal proposal -- Activist pastors have even held prayer vigils and community meetings, and new community groups have formed to protest the canal. Some property owners have vowed to keep state surveyors off their land. They also worry related proposals to transform farming islands into restored marshland could jeopardize businesses and the region's tax base. Sacramento Bee 8/14/08




Response to 911 medical calls has not improved -- San Francisco emergency officials have been unable to make significant improvements in responding to 911 medical calls despite their pledges to reduce the city's ambulance delays. Mayor Gavin Newsom promised in April to improve response times after a special report by The Chronicle found that the city's first responders were failing 27 percent of the time to meet the city's goal of getting help to the scene of urgent medical calls within 6 1/2 minutes. SF Chronicle 8/14/08




Suit says USDA illegally funded egg board -- Sponsors of a November initiative banning the cramped caging of hens and other farm animals in California accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a lawsuit Wednesday of illegally approving $3 million in spending by a federally regulated egg board to defeat the measure. SF Chronicle 8/14/08


*Cal-OSHA penalizes 2nd labor contractor over farm heat rules -- State labor safety officials have ordered another farm labor contractor to pay large fines for violating California's heat illness prevention laws. Galt-based Solis Farm Labor Contractor was issued $77,900 in penalties on Monday for violations inspectors discovered during an investigation that began May 29. The probe began after the May 16 death of María Vásquez Jiménez, a worker for another San Joaquin Valley contractor, according to a press release from Cal-OSHA, the California Occupational Safety and Health agency.  Sacramento Bee 8/14/08


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Agricultural Daily News August 13

Water and fishing:


*Navy agrees to sonar curbs to protect whales -- The Navy agreed Tuesday to restrict loud sonar blasts from anti-submarine vessels in large areas of the world's oceans to protect whales and other vulnerable creatures. A federal magistrate in San Francisco approved a settlement between the government and environmental groups that challenged the Navy's use of low-frequency sonar, loud sonic pulses that are deployed to detect enemy submarines at long distances. SF Chronicle 8/13/08


*Feinstein criticizes legislators for inaction on state water plan -- Warning that California faces catastrophic water shortages from a worsening drought, Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday upbraided state lawmakers for failing to rally behind a proposed $9.3 billion water bond for the November ballot. Feinstein has joined Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in calling for major improvements to state water storage and delivery systems. But their water bond plan has run aground in the Legislature. Sacramento Bee 8/13/08


Tahoe waters stay blue despite threat from 2007 blaze -- The wildfire that blackened the south shore of Lake Tahoe last summer sparked fears that ash and mud would cloud up the lake's famous clarity. But a new study released Tuesday finds that so far, the cobalt-blue waters have survived unsullied. In fact, Lake Tahoe's visibility - widely considered an indicator of the Lake Tahoe basin's environmental health - actually increased by two feet from the previous year, despite the blaze. SJ Mercury 8/13/08


More than one thousand valley farm workers are preparing for a water rally in Sacramento -- They gathered to discuss their mission, to get a bond on the November ballot that will deliver more water to drought stricken valley farms.  25 busses will be pulling out of the valley early Wednesday morning. 13 hundred farm workers and managers are hoping to get even more lawmakers to support the measure before a Saturday deadline.  ABC 8/13/08


Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force to Meet -- The Governor's Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force will meet August 21-22, to seek public comment on the third staff draft of the Delta Vision Strategic Plan. The third staff draft will be released prior to the meeting on this website. Delta Vision Homepage 8/11/08


*Environmental groups unite against water bond -- A coalition of environmental, fishing and community organizations spoke out against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Diane Feinstein's push for a $9.3-million water bond in November, arguing it would worsen California's water crisis while increasing its debt. The coalition argues that officials should create "new management solutions" rather than fund the "same kinds of projects that have pushed California's water system to the brink." It suggests enforcing land use regulations based on true water availability, creating a statewide conservation program, protecting watershed and aquatic ecosystems and creating water policy that focuses on sustainability and equity. LA Times 8/13/08




*Final S.F. budget cuts in health programs, pay -- The mayor's office revealed on Tuesday nearly $5 million in final cuts to the San Francisco budget, most of them targeting public health programs and pay for certain union employees. The biggest single budget hit is to the Department of Public Health, which loses $2 million. Most of those cuts will come from two sources: reducing operating room hours at San Francisco General Hospital and scaling back funding for nonprofit outpatient service programs for mental health and substance abuse. SF Chronicle 8/13/08


Thousands whose health policies were canceled to be offered new coverage -- About 3,400 Californians whose health insurance was canceled by Kaiser, Health Net and PacifiCare after they got sick will soon receive notification that they may be eligible for new coverage and for compensation for medical bills they paid while they were uninsured. LA Times 8/13/08


Food and nutrition:


The Bay Area's visionary chefs -- Great cooks are everywhere - at a neighborhood bar, in a modest storefront restaurant and at haute cuisine white-tablecloth venues. But the Bay Area's visionary chefs are more than great cooks; they are people who have made Northern California an epicurean epicenter. Today and in the next two Food sections, I'll profile 20 of these innovators who have helped change the way we eat. SF Chronicle 8/13/08


Calories would be posted in San Mateo County -- San Mateo County supervisors voted Tuesday to join San Francisco and Santa Clara County in requiring chain restaurants to post nutritional information about their food, including total calories, sodium amounts and fat content. SF Chronicle 8/13/08


Immigration and labor:


U.S. to plug border 'loophole': Open seas -- Immigration officials are beefing up patrols, buying more boats and preparing for a surge in illegal water crossings as immigrants and drug smugglers are likely to chart new routes into the USA through the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean. Heavier enforcement on the U.S.-Mexican land border, in the form of staffing, fencing, cameras and other detection technology, will force smugglers and migrants to look for easier entry spots, says Lloyd Easterling, assistant chief of the Border Patrol. USA Today 8/13/08




This year's California table olive crop is the pits -- Table olive prices are expected to go up as California growers face their second-lightest harvest in more than a decade. State and federal agriculture officials are predicting that the table olive crop will be down by half this year because of harsh spring weather. The U.S. Department of Agriculture survey released today predicts 65,000 tons of olives are in the field. But growers say fewer than 45,000 tons will actually be harvested because of rising fuel and labor costs. SJ Mercury 8/13/08


Rice tour for Northern California to be held Aug. 21 -- A rice field tour covering weed resistance management and water quality will be held in Northern California, Aug. 21, 2008. The University of California (UC) is organizing a field tour of rice research sites in Butte and Glenn counties. Research at these sites focuses on the development of weed, and nutrient and pest management strategies for rice grown under different establishment systems (water and dry seeded). Western Farm Press 8/13/08


*Farm expenses hit record high: USDA -- The rising cost of fuel and other products drove U.S. farm production expenditures to a record $260 billion in 2007, according to USDA’s Farm Production Expenditures 2007 summary released by the department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Total U.S. farm production expenditures rose 9.3 percent from 2006 and nearly 30 percent from five years ago.  Western Farm Press 8/13/08


*Farm groups urge changes to federal food-safety programs -- In a statement submitted to the House agriculture subcommittee on horticulture and organic agriculture, the California Farm Bureau Federation urged lawmakers to develop a system that would clearly define the targets of recalls while narrowing unneeded recall actions and the resulting financial losses.  The Farm Bureau said more funding and staffing are needed to research and diagnose food-borne illnesses. Better reporting and communication is also needed between food safety agencies and food handlers to trace illnesses, the statement said.  California Farm Bureau Federation 8/13/08


California mangoes bounce back from freeze -- In the wake of California’s devastating January 2007 freeze, the state’s mango crop is expected to climb back to about 250,000 cartons this season. The Packer 8/13/08


Transportation Daily News August 13

Transit and infrastructure:


*Highway 50 plan may not be green enough for state -- In what appears to be a California first, state highway officials are shelving a major Highway 50 widening plan in Sacramento until they can study whether the expansion will contribute to global warming. The state Department of Transportation announced Tuesday it will not fight a Sacramento court ruling that the agency conducted an incomplete environmental review for a project that would add lanes on the congested Rancho Cordova freeway. Sacramento Bee 8/13/08


Incidents prompt BART to consider Segway rules -- Fears of out-of-control Segways careening about BART trains and stations are prompting the transit agency to consider limiting use of the devices to people with disabilities. BART planners are recommending the restrictions after three incidents in May and June. SF Chronicle 8/13/08


Cab company asking drivers to prepay fees -- Cabbies asked the San Francisco Taxi Commission Tuesday to bar the city's largest taxi company, Yellow Cab, from making drivers prepay their gate fees each month.  These fees now average $98.50 per shift. Drivers say the policy is a legal maneuver to cement their status as independent contractors instead of employees, depriving them of their rights to workers’ compensation and other benefits. SF Examiner 8/13/08


*62% of Californians Want High Speed Rail -- Last month, 62% of voters polled by JMM Research said they would support the bond measure, up from 52% in November. Voters cited having an "affordable" transportation alternative, "reducing dependence of foreign oil" and "reducing traffic congestion" as reasons for supporting measure. California High-speed Rail Blog 8/13/08




*UCS Says that California Must Reinvent, Not Weaken the State's Zero Emission Vehicle Program -- The staff of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has submitted a proposal that would significantly weaken the state's Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program. If adopted by the board, this plan would make it more difficult for California to meet its goal of cutting global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). CARB could make its decision as early as this Thursday. H2Daily 8/13/08


Coast Guard:


U.S. to plug border 'loophole': Open seas -- Immigration officials are beefing up patrols, buying more boats and preparing for a surge in illegal water crossings as immigrants and drug smugglers are likely to chart new routes into the USA through the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean. Heavier enforcement on the U.S.-Mexican land border, in the form of staffing, fencing, cameras and other detection technology, will force smugglers and migrants to look for easier entry spots, says Lloyd Easterling, assistant chief of the Border Patrol. USA Today 8/13/08


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Transportation Daily News August 12



Can cattails combat climate change? -- About 2-1/2 years ago, scientists noticed that their “big garden” of cattails in the Delta , was removing carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. That revelation persuaded state and federal officials to expand the project. They are now trying to determine whether the tules and cattails could be used to combat global warming through what they call “carbon-capture” farming. AP 8/11/08


CARB issues emissions fines -- The California Air Resources Board recently fined six companies, including several truck fleets, a total of $144,750 for violations of emissions regulations. Etrucker 8/12/08


Air travel:


Pilots complain airlines restrict fuel to cut cost -- Pilots, flight dispatchers and others have continued to sound off with their own warnings, yet the Federal Aviation Administration says there is no reason to order airlines to back off their effort to keep fuel loads to a minimum. AP 8/12/08


Transit and infrastructure:


BART lifts ban on contractor campaign contributions – Four BART Board members have filed to run for re-election, kicking off the first board race in 12 years in which incumbents can accept campaign contributions from contractors seeking business with BART jobs. Board President Gail Murray of Walnut Creek, Bob Franklin of Oakland, and Tom Radulovich and Lynette Sweet, both of San Francisco, all filed by Friday's deadline to retain their seats in their districts. CC Times 8/10/08


*Lawmakers apparently miss deadline to change rail bond measure -- With a veto threat looming, lawmakers on Monday missed a deadline to replace November's $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond ballot measure with an updated version. The legislation, Assembly Bill 3034, faces an uncertain future anyway because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who supports it, has vowed to veto all legislation until lawmakers pass a state budget, now 43 days late.  "We can still get it on the ballot," said Jo Linda Thompson, a lobbyist for the Association for California High Speed Trains. Sacramento Bee 8/12/08


*Golden Gate Bridge congestion toll plan dies -- Commuters no longer face the threat of a congestion-based toll on the Golden Gate Bridge, which could have pushed the cost of crossing the span to at least $7.  But in its place, drivers parking at meters along the route to the bridge - including on Lombard Street and Van Ness Avenue - will face varying rates that rise during the busiest hours and are designed to increase turnover and push long-term parkers to lots and garages. SF Chronicle 8/12/08


Ports and shipping:


Shipping costs curb exodus from U.S. -- Rising oil prices are slowing the tide of U.S. companies moving to foreign lands because it's costing more to ship products home, a research group said.  In a survey released July 31, RSM McGladrey found 52 percent of 357 businesses surveyed expected "dramatic increases" in shipping costs, compared with 20 percent three months earlier, USA Today reported Tuesday. UPI 8/12/08