Morning Splash: Japan Nuclear Crisis; Some GOP Budget Negotiators Say Talks Stalled
- Workers Strain to Retake Control After Blast and Fire at Japan Plant (NY Times)
Japanese officials and safety workers struggled to reassert control over badly damaged nuclear reactors on Tuesday after the situation at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant appeared to verge toward catastrophe, with a huge spike in radiation levels after a new explosion and fire. Though the situation remained perilous, there were signs that workers had, at least for the moment, contained some of the danger. The higher radiation levels of earlier in the day — possibly from a fire in the No. 4 reactor — stabilized and then declined toward evening, according to the Japanese authorities.
- So far, very low risk of West Coast contamination from Japanese nuclear accident, experts say (San Jose Mercury News)
As emergency workers struggled to prevent a full-scale meltdown at a Japanese nuclear plant, public health experts said Monday that there is little risk that radioactive material could reach California and the West Coast — unless the disaster gets a lot worse. And even then, the public health threat probably remains very small. “Based on the type of reactor design and the nature of the accident, we see a very low likelihood — really a very low probability — that there’s any possibility of harmful radiation levels in the United States, or in Hawaii or in any other U.S. territories,” Greg Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said at Monday’s White House media briefing.
- Tsunami Cleanup Efforts Under Way in Local Harbors (Bay Citizen)
Ann Hardinger has worked on San Francisco Bay for 30 years with the Coast Guard and now as the Berkeley Marina harbormaster — and she’s experienced many tsunami warnings. But Friday’s surge was the first tsunami that made it to the bay in her career. It left her harbor with smashed docks and broken pilings. “It only looked to be a one-foot wave,” Hardinger said. “But what made it particularly devastating was the speed and force of the current.”
- Japan crisis may chill support for reactors (Bloomberg)
Ten years ago, Californians appeared to be warming to nuclear power. A majority of voters favored adding reactors to the state, despite a California law that bans construction of new nuclear plants. Rattled by the state’s electricity crisis and worried about global warming, Californians seemed ready to give nuclear energy another chance. Japan’s nuclear crisis may have changed that.
- Two sides, two versions of negotiations status (Sacramento Bee)
Hopes of reaching a budget agreement this week dimmed after several Republicans said Monday that discussions with Gov. Jerry Brown had stalled. Brown has been negotiating with a bloc of deal-minded senators that dubbed itself the “GOP 5″ in an effort to put tax extensions on the ballot. But one of the five, Sen. Tom Harman of Huntington Beach, said talks went awry because of fundamental differences over whether to place pension cuts and a permanent spending cap on the ballot.
- Schools send out hundreds of preliminary pink slips (San Jose Mercury News)
Reflecting the uncertain and dire budget picture, South Bay schools have notified hundreds of teachers, counselors and other school employees — including all administrators in two school districts and 20 percent of teachers at another — that they may not have a job next school year. Although layoff warnings are an annual spring ritual to meet the March 15 deadline for California schools, this year the notices anticipate what may be the hardest reductions ever for schools. Many already cut art, music and electives, support staff, maintenance and supplies. Now if the state doesn’t increase revenue through Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax package or slash other costs, the school districts will have to deeply cut the numbers of teachers, administrators and support staff. That would mean cramming more students into classrooms, closing libraries and, in the East Side Union High School District, paring down to just one counselor per 2,000 students. And that’s just the bad scenario. Far worse — such as slicing weeks off the school year — could come.
- Oakland gang case proving to be a tough fight (SF Chronicle)
The slow pace of a hearing over a proposed gang injunction in Oakland – which heads into a sixth day today and may not end for weeks – has opened a debate that goes beyond evidence of retaliatory violence and the claiming of colors. Oakland city attorneys, who are seeking a preliminary injunction, say defense lawyers for 40 alleged Norteños in the Fruitvale neighborhood are stalling in a bid to frustrate the process and bleed the city’s resources. Defense attorneys say the city simply didn’t count on them putting up a fight. Around the state, such hearings have typically lasted less than a day. But as the defense notes, most defendants named in gang injunctions have lacked attorneys.
- Tax break incentive to keep Twitter in San Francisco up for key vote (SF Examiner)
San Francisco’s best shot to prevent Twitter from migrating south faces a key vote Wednesday on whether to give the microblogging service a six-year tax break. The growing San Francisco-based company has explored a move to Brisbane, where its business costs would be lower. San Francisco has a 1.5 percent payroll tax whereas Brisbane does not have one.
- After tsunami, wave of concern for Treasure Island (SF Chronicle)
It probably wouldn’t have come up a week ago, but now questions are being asked about whether Treasure Island could be damaged by a tsunami. Supervisor Eric Mar, who chairs the Land Use Committee, was worried because the island where developers want to build 8,000 new housing units is directly in the path of any wave that may come through the Golden Gate.
- San Francisco police start going after loiterers, enforcing sit-lie ordinance (SF Examiner)
Police quietly rolled out enforcement of the sit-lie ordinance late last week, but it appears no one has been cited for violating the law. Park Police Station Capt. Denis O’Leary said he was advising his officers “to go easy in the beginning and just admonish people.” “I haven’t seen a cite yet,” said O’Leary, whose district includes the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
- Homes sit empty across East Bay (Contra Costa Times)
…Many of the Contra Costa cities that grew the fastest in the lead-up to the housing crash are now littered with the highest percentages of empty homes. The cities of San Pablo and Richmond have the highest overall vacancy rates in Contra Costa — 8.5 and 8.2 percent, respectively. Pittsburg, Antioch and the rest of East Contra Costa follow close behind. Vacancies in East County cities increased by 200 to 550 percent from 2000 to 2010.
- Calif. seeks right to sue over greenhouse gases (SF Chronicle)
California and five other states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to let them sue power companies whose plants emit greenhouse gases, saying legal action is needed as a backup for the Obama administration’s embattled efforts to curb pollution that contributes to global warming. The case, to be argued April 19, pits the states and environmental organizations against an unusual alliance: the energy industry, which opposes the emissions limits, and the Obama administration, which says such restrictions should be imposed by Congress and federal agencies, not the courts.
- TurboTax not updating for same-sex couples (SF Chronicle)
Reversing a promise made earlier, the makers of TurboTax disclosed on Friday that it will not update its tax-preparation software to provide step-by-step guidance for same-sex couples in California, Washington and Nevada and advised these users – unless they have very simple finances – to hire a professional to prepare their 2010 return. The decision highlights the difficulties facing people who must comply with a new Internal Revenue Service ruling that applies to same-sex couples and registered domestic partners in the three states that have both registered partnerships and community property laws.