News

The Weekly Roundup

Thursday, Nov. 24
From our Where’s a Cop When You Need One files, a double whammy:
California’s state inmate population has swelled to nearly double prisons’
designed capacity, but it’s getting harder and harder to find correctional
officers. The Sacramento Bee reports that there are more than 2,000
positions going vacant among rank-and-file guards. “It’s dangerous, not only
for the officers and staff, but for the inmates,” Greg Smith, an officer at
the California Correctional Center in Susanville, tells reporter Andy
Furillo. “We’re so understaffed, we’re slamming programs down.” Not that
there were a whole lot of programs, anyway.

Meanwhile at one of those prisons, San Quentin, Crips gang co-founder
Stanley “Tookie” Williams, 51, is on Death Row facing a Dec. 13 execution
for a 1979 quadruple murder, and a gaggle of Nobel laureates, including
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for clemency.

Not everybody is on board, however: L.A.-area talk radio hosts John and Ken
face a federal complaint for mounting a “Tookie Must Die” campaign.

Friday, Nov. 25
The developing scandal surrounding Beltway super lobbyist Jack Abramoff is
spreading into California. The Wall Street Journal reports that federal
investigators have widened their review to include a handful of
congressional leaders, including Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, who as
Secretary of the House Republican Conference is the sixth-ranking GOP House
leader. Abramoff is being investigated by both the Justice Department and
the Senate for the millions of dollars in fees–$80 million, by one
estimate–that casino-owning tribes paid Abramoff and a former partner.

Saturday, Nov. 26
From our Leaving on a Jet Plane files, well-traveled San Francisco Mayor
Gavin Newsom is off again and, nope, it’s not to raise money for his mayoral
campaign debt. He’s heading to Shanghai with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to
celebrate SF’s 25th anniversary as Shanghai’s sister city. Newsom says he
hopes to forge personal relationships with future Chinese leaders and check
out the Moo Goo Gai Pan.

Speaking of jet planes, this from our White Knuckle files: LAX and two
nearby airports have had the worst runway safety records in recent years of
the nation’s busiest airports, the FAA says.

Sunday, Nov. 27
Three Los Angeles-area hospitals have figured out how to handle heavy
patient loads. The L.A. Times says Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center,
Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles and Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical
Center regularly put discharged patients who have nowhere to go into
taxicabs, then send them to Skid Row. “There are just a scarce number of
places in the community to assist our homeless,” one Kaiser official said.
Makes for a nice holiday season.

Monday, Nov. 28
Randy “Duke” Cunningham, an eight-term Congressman and former Navy “top gun”
of the Vietnam war, plead guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges for
accepting some $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. The
63-year-old Cunningham, who delivered a tearful, dramatic, public apology
for his conduct, faces a decade in federal prison. He r esigned his 50th
District seat, touching off a flurry of maneuvering by potential successors,
who include state Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside. Cunningham’s regsignation
was apparently enough to knock Assemblyman Mark Wyland back onto the fence,
as his campaign sent signals that, just days after bowing out, Wyland may
again be a candidate for Cunningham’s seat.

And from our It’s Good Work if You Can Get It files, former UC Provost
M.R.C. Greenwood continues to collect a $25,000-a-month salary, even though
she resigned her position weeks ago. “Where is the logic and ethics in
that?” asked Amatullah Alaji-Sabrie, chief negotiator for the Coalition of
University Employees, a union that represents about 15,000 UC workers.

Still waiting for that answer…

Tuesday, Nov. 29
Wanted: One computer hacker. Secretary of State Bruce McPherson is on the
lookout for a computer hacker to take a whack at the security of an
electronic voting machine manufactured by Diebold Election Systems, one of
the nation’s largest makers of the equipment. McPherson said he might seek
to expand hack tests to equipment in all of California’s 58 counties.
Finnish hackster Harri Hursti is negotiating with McPherson’s office to do
the job–which may happen by the end of the year.

Follow the money: State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who’s running next year
for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, wants Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger
to tell the public who paid for the governor’s recent trip to
China. Good luck, Phil. Meanwhile, Steve Westly still wants Angelides and
Schwarzenegger to make their tax returns public.

Wednesday, Nov. 30
Adding to the list of Schwarzenegger’s fascination with Kennedy women, the
governor tapped former Davis cabinet secretary Susan Kennedy to be his new
chief of staff. Outgoing COS Pat Clarey sent a goodbye and good luck to all
of the governor’s staff, and wished her successor well. “I have known and
worked with Susan for many years and have a great deal of admiration for her
commitment to public service. She knows and understands California’s
issues…Susan will be regularly in the horseshoe starting today. I
encourage you to introduce yourself and welcome her.”


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