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On the morning of Oct. His name was Aaron Michael Jones, or possibly Michael Aaron Jones, and in any case, he went by Mike. According to court documents, Mike was a father and widower. He lived well, paying $25,000 a month for a Spanish Colonial Revivalin a gated community near Laguna Beach, Calif. He also employed a personal chef, drove a couple of Mercedes, and maintained a gambling account at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Jones sustained his lifestyle by spamming people with robo calls. He worked with a revolving cast of co workers under the auspices of about a dozen corporations. At the core of his enterprise was a computer program capable of blasting out irritating, prerecorded phone messages to just about anyone in the country. Jones allegedly paid for exclusive access to the program, which he then rented out to other robo callers. He and his associates also used it to peddle their own off brand products, including auto warranties, home security systems and search engine optimization tools. Anyone curious or lonely enough to listen to one of Jones’ robo calls, then press “1,” would be directed to a call center, which often meant one or two of Jones’ underlings sitting in a room in Irvine, Calif.

The FTC was investigating Jones’ empire and had called him to Washington to testify under oath. The companies affiliated with Jones may have been dubious two weeks earlier, Google had filed suit against one called Local Lighthouse for trademark infringement and false advertisement but the feds were more concerned with the robo calls themselves. Virtually all robo calls, whatever they’re selling, are illegal. And Jones had made a staggering number of them. According to the FTC, he was facilitating roughly a billion a year, more than any individual it had ever identified. But a curious thing happened as they began asking questions: Jones didn’t deny much of anything. When Evans tried to pin down the volume of calls he was capable of placing, he answered, “I did a lot,” then punched out an estimate on his phone’s calculator. Jones eventually grew restless and tried to move the interview along: “Obviously, the underlying issue is the calls are illegal. We know that already.”

Afterward, he returned to California and resumed robo calling. In January 2017, the FTC sued him. Five months later, a federal judge banned him from telemarketing and hit him with a $2.7 million penalty. He didn’t bother contesting the judgment. (Jones emailed me that he’d “love to discuss” the matter, then stopped responding to messages.)

Jones, it appears, didn’t really care about getting caught. The same goes for the rest of the robo calling industry. The financial rewards of bothering people on the telephone are clearly greater than the risks. “We continue to bring cases and shut down as many folks as we can,” says Janice Kopec, the FTC’s point person on robo calls. “What we recognized, though, was we shut down an operation and another one springs up behind it almost instantaneously.” Hence our modern scourge. In 2015, the call blocking app YouMail estimated that close to a billion robo calls were being placed every month. Two years later, that number has leapt to 2.5 billion. At best, these calls annoy. At worst, they defraud. By far, they constitute the top consumer complaint received by the FTC.

In theory, there is a fix: the National Do Not Call Registry, created in 2003. Today, 230 million numbers are on it. The point, obviously, is to not be called. And yet the FTC receives 19,000 complaints every day from list members who have, in fact, been called. There is a battle being waged over the inviolability of our telephone numbers over the right to not be bothered. On one side there is Mike Jones and his robot army. On the other side, there is the federal government and its list. It is clear who’s winning. But why?

The educated criminal skims the cream from every new invention, if he can make use of it.” So said a Chicago police inspector in 1888, describing an early telephone scam. A wealthy trader had installed a telephone line between his home and office, one of the first in the city. One weekday, according to a 19th century newspaper called the Electrical Review, a smartly dressed man identifying himself as Thomas Jefferson Odell knocked on the trader’s door and asked his butler for use of the house phone. The butler obliged. Odell called the trader at his office. “The cook, the chambermaid, and your wife are lying here bound and gagged,” he told him, asking for $20,000 in ransom. The trader delivered the cash to one of Odell’s accomplices, then rushed home to find his wife in fine shape and none the wiser.

Over the next half century, telephone scams became problematic enough that MGM produced a short film to warn of their dangers. It ran 19 minutes and featured a gang of swindlers who compiled telephone numbers of financially distressed people, then got them to invest what they had left in a bogus horse racing scheme. The movie was called “Sucker List.”

A few decades later, nuisance calls evolved to include legitimate sales pitches. In the 1960s, door to door salesmen were suffering. The rise of two income families meant fewer women were home during the day to buy their products. In 1967, a public relations consultant named Murray Roman saw a business opportunity, creating a telephone sales operation that could reach customers well into the evening. In his first major campaign, he hired 15,000 women to place a collective million calls a day from their homes on behalf of the Ford Motor Co. The idea wasn’t to sell cars at least not yet but to gauge consumer interest. This was called lead generation, and it professionalized the sucker list. Roman’s success rate was low, but his call volume was high enough to make up for it. Of 20 million people reached, 187,000 turned out to be decent leads. Of those, 40,000 bought cars. Ford, according to a 1976 article in the Harvard Business Review, made $24 million on the gambit. Telemarketing was born.

Murray Roman died in 1984, just before people would have started blaming him for ruining their lives. Two years later, a Virginia telecom analyst named Douglas Samuelson invented something called predictive dialing. The technology allowed department stores and politicians and scammers to dial widely and quickly, while weeding out phone lines that were busy or unresponsive. The industry grew exponentially; aggravated customers began to wail to their government representatives. In 1991, Congress passed a law that curtailed some telemarketing activities and created the first Do Not Call registries. Unfortunately, the registries weren’t maintained by the government but by companies doing the telemarketing, and the only way to get on them was to call the companies themselves. Nothing changed.

By 2003, the national telemarketing crisis had grown acute enough to warrant bipartisanship. A nationwide Do Not Call Registry would be established and the FTC would administer it. The House bill to create it passed 412 to 8. Only Ron Paul, Jeff Flake and a handful of other shrink the state types dissented. George W. Bush marked the occasion with a Rose Garden announcement. “When Americans are sitting down for dinner, or a parent is reading to his or her child,” he said, in dad voice, “the last thing they need is a call from a stranger with a sales pitch.” Telemarketing groups would have to pay to download lists of numbers on the registry, organized by area code. If they were later found to have called any of those numbers, intentionally or not, they could be fined up to $11,000 per call.

All but telemarketers were elated. In three months, 50 million people signed up. Syndicated columnist Dave Barry called it the most popular government program since the Elvis stamp. The industry, meanwhile, filed several lawsuits against the FTC, arguing its new toy violated their First Amendment rights. “It will be like an asteroid hitting the Earth,” predicted Tim Searcy, then the chief executive of the American Teleservices Association. “Two million people will lose their jobs.” Barry, capturing the national mood, responded by printing the ATA’s phone number in a column and suggesting his readers flood it with calls. The lawsuits failed, the Do Not Call list became a permanent fixture, and telemarketing never recovered.

“It changed the industry dramatically,” says Stuart Discount, CEO of the Professional Association for Customer Engagement, which is just the new name of the beleaguered American Teleservices Association. “A lot of the outbound calling became calling your own customers, trying to increase their value. Cold calling or trying to sell something really took a hit.” Set aside that it was now verboten to dial a wide swath of the country. Would someone on a Do Not Call list really be receptive to an unsolicited sales pitch? The registry, says the FTC’s Kopec, was “the nail in the coffin for outbound telemarketing.”

It was an era of good feelings and uninterrupted square meals. And it ended almost as soon as it began.

Ami Dziekan, 41, has worked for the Federal Trade Commission since she graduated from Georgetown Law in 2004. She began her career as a staff attorney before being named program manager of the Do Not Call Registry in 2010. Kopec and her boss Lois Greisman oversee the FTC’s big picture robo call strategy, while Dziekan manages the list’s day to day operation. (The registry’s customer service people the human beings fielding calls from dissatisfied list members are employed by a contractor with offices in Indianapolis and Albuquerque.)

“I have a reputation of having an office full of plants and pictures of family,
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” Dziekan says, glancing around happily. By federal government standards, her L’Enfant Plaza office building is an inviting one: “If I open my door, I get to look out of a window, which is nice.” Dziekan, lives on Capitol Hill and is active in her church, said. Her outlook on life is admirably sunny, given that her job entails dealing with two kinds of people: consumers who don’t want to be called, but are; and telemarketers who want to call, but can’t.

In simpler times, this wasn’t a major problem. By downloading the list of numbers on the Do Not Call Registry, and then declining to call them, telemarketers largely policed themselves out of existence. By the late 2000s, though, a new threat had emerged: robo calls. Instead of live telemarketers, working for recognizable companies, a new breed of humanoid irritants came calling with all manner of crappy sales pitches and outright scams. Robo calling itself was not new; a robo call is just another word for a prerecorded phone message. Public schools have been using them forever to announce snow days and two hour delays. But now, the technology far more efficient than traditional telemarketing, in that a live human is needed only once a customer decides to engage was being marshaled for profit and fraud.

Suddenly “Rachel from Cardholder Services,” the ubiquitous fake bank rep, was plotting to take your money. Around tax season, fake Internal Revenue Service agents came calling, too. They left menacing messages like, “This is a final notification call to inform you that there is an arrest warrant issued against your name and your identity.” From there, targets would be directed to call a number where an operator would be waiting to bilk them. In one scheme, victims were commanded to drive to their grocery stores and pay phantom back taxes in the form of iTunes gift cards. For their part, legitimate companies began outsourcing illegal robo calls to third parties. (Last year, a federal judge hit Dish Network with a $280 million penalty in part for doing that. Dish Network says it’s appealing.) And none of this includes the related problem of spam text messages.

In the quaint era of man made telemarketing, it was mainly large corporations like Ford that could pay for the infrastructure and manpower to dial thousands of numbers at once. A couple of technological shifts changed that. One was the advent of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) dialing. This is the technology that makes Skype possible and is now used by a bulk of the country’s telephone landlines. VoIP “allows telemarketers to make lots and lots of calls for less money, from anywhere in the world,” says Will Maxson, an assistant director in the FTC’s consumer protection bureau. “It also allows you to set up shop, tear down, move. All you really need to make a lot of calls is a computer and an Internet connection.” Combine that with an automated dialing platform, plus some co workers, and you’re Aaron Michael Jones.

Equally important was the rise of call “spoofing,” or faking a telephone number. Back in another quaint era, you may recall, Paris Hilton was accused of hacking into Lindsay Lohan’s voice mail by pretending to call it from Lohan’s phone. All it took was a perfectly legal $10 “SpoofCard.” (SpoofCard terminated Hilton’s account.) Robo callers were employing more sophisticated tools, but the principle was the same. It allowed them to entice targets by calling from numbers that bore their own area codes, and, simultaneously, throw law enforcement off their scent.

In 2009, the FTC responded by outlawing almost all robo calls, exempting those from political organizations, schools and other entities not trying to sell you things. Now, it was not only illegal to call a number on the registry, it was illegal to solicit any customers using robo calls. The ban had no perceptible effect. From 2010 to 2011, the number of annual Do Not Call complaints jumped from 1.6 million to 2.3 million, the largest increase since the list’s inception. The following year, the number rose again by nearly 70 percent. Last year, the FTC received a record 7.2 million complaints, and the calls were as disreputable as ever. The top violations reported were debt reduction schemes, vacation and timeshare offers, warranties and protection plans, and impostors. (Most of these were robo calls, though live holdouts remain.)

Meanwhile, a shift occurred in the way people thought about unwanted calls. The Do Not Call Registry had promised tranquility. Now, it couldn’t deliver. This made people angry twice: once at the robo calls, then again at the impotent gatekeepers letting them through. “We know that there are people who put their faith in the Do Not Call Registry as blocking every single phone call that they do not want,” says Dziekan. “I try to be flattered that they think I can block every single call that they don’t want. Unfortunately, I can’t.”

Here’s a sad anecdote: In 2013, the FTC published a blog post on its website. It was called “10 years of National Do Not Call: Looking back and looking ahead.” The post featured a cute graphic and plucky copy. “To etiquette purists, the 10th anniversary dictates gifts of metal,” it read. “The FTC presents this iron clad guarantee: You can count on us to continue to take action against companies that violate the Telemarketing Sales Rule.” Later that day, a commenter named Helen wrote, “Awesome!!!” But every year, a dozen or so new comments would appear, and as time went on, they grew darker. “I think you all have done an awful job,” wrote one commenter in 2016. “The Spammers still call with NO fear of our Government.” Added another: “You no longer function at all.”

At the root of this public relations problem is a likely misapprehension about how the Do Not Call Registry works. When you add your number to the list, nothing actually happens. No legal muscle or technological wizardry suddenly prevents a solicitor from calling you. All the list does is provide you with vague recourse in the event you are called, by allowing you to complain that someone has called you. So, you can report the violation by calling a toll free number or filling out a form on the Do Not Call website. Then, if the number you were called from shows up in enough complaints, the FTC will leap into action and prosecute the offending dialer.

Except, it almost certainly won’t. In the age of live telemarketing, the mere threat of prosecution or penalty was enough to deter companies with shareholders and reputations to protect. In the robo calling epoch, dialers couldn’t care less. One, nobody knows who they are or where they’re calling from, because they all spoof their numbers. Two, more of them are doing it every year, since it’s cheap and easy to blast out automated calls from anywhere in the world. All this makes it nearly impossible to identify robo callers, let alone penalize them. At a hearing on robo calls in October, Sen. Susan Collins, R Maine, said she was getting so many of them, she had disconnected her home phone. “The list,” she said, “doesn’t work.”

Kopec, the FTC’s de facto robo czar, drew a distinction between two eras of the Do Not Call Registry. “Prior to the beginning of the robo call epidemic, we really approached the problem in two ways: law enforcement and consumer education,” she said. Now, she no longer has the resources to realistically tackle the problem. With an annual budget of $300 million by contrast, the FBI’s is $9 billion the FTC is a relatively puny federal agency. There are only 43 employees in the Division of Marketing Practices, which oversees unwanted calls. None of them, including Kopec, work full time on the issue. Ami Dziekan, who works in a different department, is the lone steward of the Do Not Call Registry. Since the robo call ban went into effect in 2009, the FTC has brought just 33 cases against robo callers. In those cases, defendants have been ordered to pay nearly $300 million in relief to victims, and nearly $30 million in civil penalties to the government. But even then, the FTC can’t force perpetrators to pay the fine if they argue they’re broke. Which robo callers often seem to be. So the FTC has only collected on a fraction of those sums: $18 million in relief and less than $1 million in penalties.

(Point of clarification: The FTC is the sheriff here. Its job is to prosecute shady business practices, and robo calls tend to be shady. But various other state and federal agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, also police nuisance calls. In theory, there are legal distinctions between which kinds of cases the FCC and FTC can bring,
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though neither agency could explain these to me clearly. As a practical matter, an FTC spokesmanfigures, it doesn’t matter: “There are enough violators in this space to keep us both busy.”)

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California’s deadly wildfires have claimed the home of ‘Peanuts’ creator Charles Schulz but his widow has escaped the flames.

Schulz’s son, Monte Schulz, says a fire on Monday torched the Santa Rosa homes of his stepmother, 78 year old Jean Schulz, and his brother, Craig Schulz.

She’s staying with other relatives.

Schulz says he’s been told the home where his famous cartoonist father died and all the memorabilia in it are gone.

However, most of his father’s original artwork is in the Charles M.

Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor confirmed Thursday that the four have died since a blaze ignited there Sunday night.

The fire is burning 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of several blazes in wine country that also broke out Sunday night and that have killed 25 people.

The blaze in the foothills has destroyed more than 100 homes and displaced 2,500 people.

Fire officials say it has charred 16 square miles (41 square kilometers) but fire crews overnight made significant progress and it’s 45 percent contained.

Officials say progress is being made in some of the largest wildfires burning in Northern California but that the death toll is almost sure to surge.

Fire Chief Ken Pimlott says the number of dead is 26 as of Thursday.

Pimlott says crews have made significant progress against blazes in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and they’re being redirected to wine country.

He says the fires blackening California’s wine country are threatening dozens of communities and larger cities and that erratic wind gusts are expected in the area starting Friday.

California fire officials are investigating downed power lines and other utility equipment failures as possible causes of massive wildfires sweeping through wine country.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Janet Upton says it’s unclear if downed power lines and live wires resulted from fires or started them.

She said Thursday that investigators are looking into that and other possible causes.

Jennifer Robison of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. says the utility is focused on restoring power and maintaining safety. She says they will not speculate about the causes of the fires.

Officials say recovery teams, some with cadaver dogs, will start searching for bodies in some areas devastated by wildfires raging in California wine country.
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state a sanctuary state for immigrants who do not have legal residency.

The measure would ban police from asking for the immigration status of people who have been arrested. It also would limit police cooperation with immigration officers.

The governor of Illinois signed a bill last month protecting people from being detained simply because of their immigration status or because they are the subject of an immigration related warrant. as children. But for Capitol Hill lawmakers, whose yes or no votes hinge on specifics, the deal was far from done.

Trump said Thursday morning that he was “fairly close” to a deal with congressional leaders on a permanent legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in return for “massive border security.”

Democrats broadly favor granting legal residence or citizenship to the DACA recipients. Republicans broadly favor more stringent border security. The question is whether they can find common ground for an agreement that does both.

Negotiating DACA votes

There already are multiple bills that would provide a legislative fix for the DACA program from the DREAM Act, a bill House Democrats say is necessary because it provides a pathway to citizenship, to the RAISE Act, a more conservative option put forth by Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida and favored by many other members of his party.

The DREAM Act will be a tough sell for many Republicans, who say it grants amnesty to undocumented immigrants. In an approach that would be consistent with Republican versions of DACA legislation, Trump told reporters Thursday afternoon, “We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here.”

“That’s a nonstarter,” Representative Dave Brat, a Republican from Virginia who is part of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said of DREAM Act legislation. “In terms of what? What package? We don’t have a package yet, so we don’t know.”

Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who is chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said the DREAM Act had too many legislative hurdles to overcome and that there were other compassionate options.

Meadows said he wasn’t alarmed by reports Trump was close to a deal with Democratic leaders.

“It takes a majority of the GOP conference to pass any bill. To my knowledge, there’s been no deal that’s been struck between [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer, [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and the president,” Meadows said. “At the same time, I can tell you we’re working in a bicameral way to try to find a reasonable solution on DACA and other immigration related issues.”

Republicans left to wonder

But Trump’s discussions with Democrats left many Republicans wondering whether they would have the White House’s cooperation for their solutions.

“Typically, a president of our party would work with our party on a proposal that we would be supportive of, so we’re learning now how he wants to operate,” Representative Pete Sessions, a Republican from Texas who chairs the Rules Committee, told reporters. “The president engaged, but I don’t know that we’ve seen the president’s plan.”

Sessions added that he needed to know what “the president is offering as a suggestion before I know that I’m for it or against it.”

Trump risks losing more conservative members of the Republican Congress, who say a DACA deal with Democrats would alienate voters attracted to his tough stance on immigration issues.

“If that’s blown up here in these negotiations, whether it’s his intent or not, they’re not going to have a leg to stand on against others when defending our president,” said Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa.

Later Thursday, Trump responded to King’s criticism, saying he would only go through with a deal if “we get extreme security, if we get not only surveillance but everything that goes along with surveillance. And ultimately we have to have the wall.”Schumer and Pelosi face challenges from within their own caucus for negotiating with Trump as well. The differing interpretations of their meeting left many House Democrats wondering whether their leadership could trust the president in negotiations.

“I’m sure they gave it their all and I’m sure that that’s their interpretation,” Representative Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Illinois and an outspoken defender of DACA recipients, said of the progress after the Wednesday night meeting. “But with Donald Trump, the only interpretation that’s really meaningful, it’s his, and then you have to put it on the clock to see how long it lasts.”

Representative Linda Sanchez, a Democrat from California who is vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said Schumer and Pelosi had insisted on the DREAM Act as part of negotiations, “not something that’s a half measure, like the Curbelo bill.”
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In this Nov. 11, 2017 file photo, one of an assortment of marijuana strains are displayed during the High Times Harvest Cup in San Bernardino.(Photo: AP FILE PHOTO)Like many pot shops in California, the Urbn Leaf in San Diego bulked up its inventory before legal sales began on Jan. 1, stockpiling enough marijuana to last for months because no one knew what the era of legal pot would bring.

The shop, along with others involved in the state’s fledgling cannabis economy, are now concerned that too few operators have been licensed to support a pot pipeline of state approved growers, distributors and retailers.

In some cases, they say, bottlenecks have already slowed the supply chain from fields to storefronts.

“They are going to have to come online with more producers in the next 12 months to keep up with the demand,” said Will Senn, the founder of Urbn Leaf who operates three dispensaries and plans to open three more, including one in Los Angeles.

“The black market will balloon if we can’t get legal, licensed producers to step into the industry. That’s the biggest risk,” he said.

Nearly a month after legal sales began for adults in the nation’s most populous state, the longstanding medicinal and illegal marijuana markets are still transitioning to a multibillion dollar regulated system, estimated to eventually reach $7 billion in value.

Questions about the supply chain represent just one example of early obstacles that range from complaints about hefty taxes to the refusal of most banks to do business with pot companies because the drug remains illegal on the federal level.

In one way, the arrival of legal sales has been a story about borrowed time.

Most of the pot now being legally sold in California comes from plants that were harvested last year, and those reserves can be sold until July 1, provided they have required labeling.

Lori Ajax, the state’s top pot regulator, said officials are aware that those initial supplies will eventually dry up but it’s too early to tell how the legal supply chain will work.

“We legalized cannabis you want to have that product available,” she said. “We don’t want people going to the black market because they can’t get product from the legal market.”

In Santa Cruz County, TreeHouse dispensary CEO Bryce Berryessa is already having trouble keeping some popular brands on his shelves.

The problem, he says, is smaller producers haven’t been able to obtain licenses, either because they are in an area where growing is banned by local government or they haven’t been able to obtain a license from their hometown government.

Operators are required to have state and local licenses to conduct business, but must get the local one first.

Without money to relocate to a pot friendly community, “they are going to be unable to find a pathway to legally sell their products,” said Berryessa, who sits on the board of the California Cannabis Industry Association.

“I think this affects a large portion of California cannabis businesses throughout the state,” he said.

For now, legal sales for adults appear to be robust in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

But the patchwork of local regulations some cities and counties have banned all commercial activity has erected barriers to getting pot from place to place.

Some longtime growers are marooned in counties that don’t allow pot or have imposed regulations so tight it’s tantamount to prohibition. In some cases, investors are backing away.

For example, in previously pot friendly Calaveras County, officials reversed course and banned commercial marijuana farms, leaving growers in a bind.

Without a local license, “it doesn’t matter how incredible their products are,” Berryessa said.

Indeed, the once shadowy business of pot distribution is no longer about sending a text message to a friend. Regulators have come with complex procedures to keep a tight leash on the market, though some say it’s bringing more confusion than efficiency.

In general, a retailer who needs to stock shelves must contact a distributor, who in turn picks up cannabis from a grower.

The marijuana is then sent to a warehouse, where a testing company picks up a sample and analyzes it for pesticides and other contaminants, as well as potency. It cannot be sent to the retailer for sale until it clears that check. The distributor can also do packaging, with taxes assessed along the way.

Pot that fails testing goes back to the grower. If the problem can’t be fixed, it must be destroyed, further tightening supplies.

So far, one of the biggest challenges is having enough growers and distributors to do the job.

In total, the state has issued about 1,900 licenses in all categories so far. By comparison, there are an estimated 15,000 illegal marijuana farms in Humboldt County alone.
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The Bee found that the highest settlement paid to a single individual went to a former executive assistant at the UC Berkeley School of Law, Tyann Sorrell, who settled her sexual harassment claim last March against the former law school dean, Sujit Choudhry, for $1.7 million. Among state agencies, former correctional officer Irma Sanchez received the highest single settlement of $750,000 after accusing a fellow guard, Sydney Smyth, at the maximum security prison in Corcoran of harassing her over a 2 1/2 year period, despite her repeated complaints to superiors about his conduct, according to Sanchez’s lawsuit.

The Bee found that the state entities responsible for the highest total payouts in recent years were the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, with more than $15 million in settlement costs, and the UC system with an estimated $3.4 million. UC was the only one of the 38 largest state entities that failed to release its 2016 17 sexual harassment settlement data, repeatedly stating it was “not finalized” yet. The Bee relied on other sources to compile at least a partial list of those more recent agreements.

A male warehouse worker for the California State Lottery, Chad Henson, settled his case for $250,000 after he accused co workers of a two year barrage of anti gay comments and harassing behavior. The alleged taunting by fellow warehouse workers Paul Bowden III and Sunday Seng occurred at the Lottery’s Scratchers warehouse in Rancho Cucamonga. Many of the vulgar comments described in the lawsuit focused on sex and male anatomy and, despite Henson’s repeated complaints to his bosses, “no remedial action was taken” by the Lottery, the lawsuit stated.

A male equipment operator for the California Department of Transportation, Gregory Baker, settled his sexual harassment lawsuit for $150,000 after accusing a male supervisor of making unwanted advances and, at one point, holding him down in his pickup truck and rubbing his thigh and genitals. The supervisor, Phil Pulcifer, allegedly rubbed and caressed Baker at work at least two more times after Baker had filed internal complaints. The case was settled quickly by the state, only two months after Baker filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court.

Alice Conteh, a female psychiatric technician for the Department of State Hospitals, said that a male staff psychiatrist, Dr. Ahmed Haggag, cornered her at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton, restrained her by the head and forcibly kissed her on the lips, her lawsuit stated. Conteh, who settled her case for $50,000, said Haggag continuously subjected her to “unwelcome verbal, visual, and physical conduct of a sexual nature,” including telling her that she needed to leave her husband, according to the suit.

Curry’s circumstances led to violence. According to the complaint, Curry was on duty at the Folsom prison in August 2003 when she encountered a hostile and belligerent inmate, naked and masturbating. She wrote a violation report describing him as “a threat to all female staff.” According to the lawsuit, supervisors did not isolate the inmate or do a psychological evaluation. A week later, Curry was working without backup when the inmate attacked her from behind, placed her in a head lock and began cutting her neck with a feces covered metal can lid. Her settlement was $1.6 million.

Sanchez’s complaint alleged that she was harassed by a male co worker, Sydney Smyth, over a 2 1/2 year period and subjected to “unwelcome sexual advances and offensive sexual comments and innuendo in the workplace.” According to her lawsuit, Sanchez filed an internal complaint and reported his conduct to multiple supervisors, but was “subjected to a pattern of retaliatory behavior.” At least one supervisor, Sgt. Eric Lawton, allegedly made demeaning comments about her concerns and “yelled at her for complaining.”

In December, after The Bee had detailed the lack of public settlement data, Yee announced plans to “lift the veil of secrecy” and sponsor legislation that, among other things, would require state government entities to code settlement claims so that they can be differentiated and tracked. Currently, when the Legislature and various state departments submit bills for payment to the state controller, they do not code the request in a way that indicates whether payment is to settle any lawsuit or harassment claim.

How we did this story Finding out how much the state paid to settle its sexual harassment claims is not a simple phone call or browse through the web. But public documents can provide at least a partial view of the legal costs over the last three fiscal years.

By piecing together responses to more than 40 California Public Records Act requests, The Bee identified 92 sexual harassment related settlements between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2017. Besides querying the Attorney General’s Office, The Bee requested copies of settlement agreements from the 38 state entities with 900 or more employees, excluding the judicial branch.

The total payouts for those agencies exceeded $25 million over the past three years, but that figure almost certainly under estimates the scope of California’s settlement costs.

In some instances, the state hires outside attorneys to represent individual defendants at fees significantly higher than the attorney general’s discounted rate. Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office represents many, but not all, of the agencies facing claims, so The Bee’s data may not capture settlements reached by departments who used outside counsel.

The University of California, the state’s largest employer, was the only entity unable to provide settlement costs for the most recent 2016 17 fiscal year, requiring The Bee to find other sources for that data.
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My beautiful home town of Montecito. Where my roots were placed, where my mother raised me and my family. Completely under water. I really can’t believe it. I am praying and thinking so much for our friends in the hospital and their families that are still missing. For our horses, dogs,
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cats all animals that gave us happiness, who are now searching for a dry place to lay their heads. our elementary school. under water. My heart is broken. I remember when something similar happened in La Conchita about 12 years ago, so close to us and how much it took to rebuild. I can’t imagine how Montecito feels now. I am so sorry. As always Please send websites for donations. I’m ready to help. Thank you to the rescue,
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fire fighters and security teams in SB for staying strong and your hard work to pull out anybody and anything in sight. My love is with you so deeply SB.

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Piggy bank(Photo: PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGE)The state is quickly filling up its so called rainy day fund, the budget stabilization account voters created in 2014 when they passed an initiative that forced lawmakers to save money in flush years. Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal puts the state on pace to fill it with $13.5 billion by July 1, 2019, but the milestone could come even sooner.

By law, the fund can only hold 10 percent of the state’s projected general fund revenue as a hedge against the cuts that would come in a recession. Any additional revenue has to be spent on infrastructure.

Read more: California stands by its right to set emission standards

If the revenue keeps pouring in, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor told senators earlier this month they’ll have a lot of options. The money “will be there for you do whatever you want to do with it, build reserves, tax cut, whatever you want to do.”

But, in one of those only in California budget formulas, filling the rainy day fund presents a different kind of problem for legislators.

If they want to use the windfall of today’s booming economy for other priorities, like paying down debt, they’d have to actually spend money before filling the rainy day fund. Otherwise, the additional revenue would have to be spent on infrastructure like roads and prison repairs.

That’s right, California lawmakers might have to spend money to save it.

Here are some of the ideas they’re floating now to make the most of the surplus:

Give it backSen. Jim Nielsen, R Tehama, remembers the one “glorious time” in the 1980s when California saw a spike in state tax revenue and delivered rebates to taxpayers.

Technically, that could happen again, but don’t hold your breath.

A 1979 ballot initiative that becameknown as the Gann limitcompels state government to return money to taxpayers if state spending exceeds certain thresholds.

Last year, theLegislative Analyst’s Office warnedthat rising revenue put the Gann limit within reach for the first time in decades. Brown’s office disagreed, and you didn’t get that check.

Nielsen, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said he’d advocate for some kind of rebate even though he knows it’s unlikely.

“Am I confident about the prospect? No, the temptation to spend money is vastly too great.”

Save even moreLawmakers from both parties back Brown’s pledge to fill the rainy day fund. They’re thankful that the extra money buys them some insurance if a recession hits and cripples state tax revenue.

California’s state budget is especially vulnerable to recessions because its collection of personal income tax leans heavily on high earners whose income from capital gains can nose dive in a downturn.

But some wonder whether a rainy day fund that holds 10 percent of one year’s revenue is enough. Past recessions, for example, have slashed revenues by 20 percent. Brown’s own budget suggested that a recession could take a $20 billion bite out of the general fund in its first year.

Read more: 4 California lawmakers accused of misconduct; none punished

That history has some lawmakers suggesting that the state might need a bigger savings account. They’d have to put an initiative before voters to raise the cap.

“We can say with certainty (a recession) will come. It’s wise to remember that our state revenue is extremely volatile,” said Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R Hesperia, the senior Republican on the Assembly Budget Committee.

Other choices, Taylor told lawmakers in January, include setting aside more money in the state’s emergency fund the account that pays for unexpected disasters like wildfires or prepaying known expenses to relieve pressure later.

Tackle pensionsCalifornia’s main public pension funds are riding the soaring stock market to banner years. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System has gained almost $40 billion since July 1, and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System is up at least $20 billion.

But both systems owe tens of billions of dollars more than they have on hand. Brown’s budget estimated the state has more than $270 billion in debt related to its pension funds and promises it has made to pay for the health care state workers receive in retirement.

“We’ve got to get our balance sheet in better shape,” said Sen. John Moorlach, R Costa Mesa, referring to the pension debts and the state’s bond debts.
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Some even have formed their own support group in Coeur d said Karl Thompson, a Kootenai County Sheriff Department captain and former California officer.

don attach any significance to the fact Fuhrman might be looking to retire up here, he said. only natural to want to retire someplace that is less intense and reflects more genuine American values. Simpson murder case, created a stir with a visit to Sandpoint this week.

Before he left Wednesday, the detective scuffled with a Spokesman Review photographer at the Spokane airport and cut a deal to buy a $159,000 three bedroom home on Sandpoint south side.

The white, single story house at 419 Euclid Ave. is where Fuhrman plans to retire after the Simpson trial. The house is only two blocks from Lake Pend Oreille in a quiet, distinguished older neighborhood laced with Victorian style homes.

Thursday, the house was mobbed by television crews and satellite trucks. Media from across the country, including the New York Post and tabloid television shows, descended on Sandpoint.

Many were playing up the fact that Fuhrman, accused of being a racist by Simpson defense team, is moving to Idaho, a state often painted as a bastion for whites.

That suggestion infuriated some residents and other former California lawmen who now live here. officer.

are here because we are tired of gangs, traffic and crowds. Sandpoint is a wonderful area to raise my kids. Mayor Ron Chaney held court with the media all day, doing his best to dispel Sandpoint racist reputation.

absolutely amazed at the coverage of this story, said Chaney, whose wife, Rose, helped Fuhrman find a house.

Chaney talked with three networks, the National Enquirer, Current Affair and Edition. a golden opportunity for me to discuss what Sandpoint is really all about and communicate the fact we are not racist and white supremacists, he said.

If Fuhrman house deal survives the publicity, one neighbor will be 60 year old Gayle Dolsby. He a retired California sheriff deputy.

can absolutely understand him (Fuhrman) wanting to get out of that mess in California. I feel sorry for him and appreciate the position he in, Dolsby said.
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CALGARY A radio host in Calgary has come forward with a new sexual misconduct allegation against the frontman of the Canadian pop rock group Hedley.

Katie Summers, who co hosts the morning show on 90.3 AMP, says she encountered the band about seven years ago while she was working evenings at the music station.

During a post interview meet and greet, Summers, who was 23 at the time, told lead singer Jacob Hoggard she was a fan and that she seen the group perform recently.

just made this comment to me about performing oral sex on him out in the alley if I was lucky and it kind of took me off guard, Summers recalled in an interview Wednesday.

didn react because I didn really know what to say in that moment. then posed for a photo.

as the photo op was sort of over and he was getting ready to leave, he sort of just touched my rear end. It was very fast. It all kind of happened in a flurry and I chalked it up to rock star behaviour. were four or five other people there at the time, including representatives of the band and its record label, Summers said.

not like he said it to me in a dark hallway or in secret or anything, said Summers. said it out loud like it was a joke, but it still made me feel uncomfortable. witness who was in the room at the time told Global News that he saw Hoggard grab Summers buttocks, but does not remember the specific comment the musician made.

Anonymous sexual misconduct allegations against the Vancouver band began emerging online earlier this month.

The group has since been dropped by its management team, blacklisted by scores of radio stations and abandoned by bands booked as tour openers. Hedley also withdrew itself from consideration for the Juno Awards.

The band members have called the allegations involving young fans but acknowledged that in the past they in a lifestyle that incorporated certain rock roll cliches. CBC story on Sunday recounted a 24 year old woman allegation that Hoggard sexually assaulted her in a hotel two years ago. A lawyer for Hoggard has denied any wrongdoing by the musician.

Hoggard did not respond directly to Summers allegations, but Wednesday night he issued a statement apologizing for how he has treated women over the past 13 years.

way I treated women was reckless and dismissive of their feelings, Hoggard said on Twitter.

understand the significant harm that is caused not only to the women I interacted with, but to all women who are degraded by this type of behaviour. I have been careless and indifferent and I have no excuse. For this I am truly sorry. was adamant that he has never engaged in what he calls non consensual sexual behaviour.

Summers said she wasn traumatized by the encounter and didn lose any sleep over it. If anything, it made her lose respect for a band she admired.

But she said the metoo movement inspired her to share her story.

Since accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein began surfacing last fall, there has been a barrage of allegations against some of the most powerful men in entertainment, media and politics.

OK, but it important to know that there are a lot of people who experienced something like this, whether it with this same person in this same band, or a boss at work or a teacher at school or who knows? Summers said.
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As Calgarians celebrate the holiday season by putting up Christmas trees and trimming them with lights, the Calgary Fire Department would like to remind residents to continue to be diligent about fire safety. Even at this time of celebration, there are still inherent risks.

Christmas trees are really festive and a popular holiday tradition this time of year, said Carol Henke, Calgary Fire Department Public Information Officer. if they dry out or are left close to a heat source, such as a heater, fireplace or candles, they can be a fire hazard. Connect no more than three strands of mini light sets or 50 bulbs for screw in bulb sets in one outlet. After the holidays, it is important to properly dispose of Christmas trees as they can be a dangerous fire hazard once they have dried up and lost their needles. The City of Calgary Christmas Tree Recycling Program offers pickup and temporary drop off locations.
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