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Governance
1:09 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

New "Top Two" Election System Causes Problems For Smaller Political Parties

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series on the impact of California's new top-two election reform.

When California voters approved Proposition 14 in 2010, supporters hailed it as a way to make many races for Congress, the Legislature and state offices more competitive, thanks to a new top-two election system.

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Just One Breath
10:55 am
Mon November 26, 2012

For Some California Prisoners, Valley Fever Becomes A Life Sentence

Kevin Walker acquired disseminated cocci while serving time at the federal prison in Taft.
Kevin Walker

Kevin Walker arrived at Taft Correctional Institution, a federal prison in western Kern County, in December 1999 to serve a 14-year sentence for attempted possession of cocaine.

But another kind of sentence awaited him, one far more painful than confinement alone.

In July 2001, fluid-leaking boils broke out across Walker’s face and body. Once he was diagnosed with valley fever, doctors put him on an antifungal drug — amphotericin B — but the drug was so powerful that it caused his kidneys and liver to begin failing.

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Governance
5:02 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

Electoral Reforms Led to More Close Races, Experts Say

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Now that the dust has settled after this month's general election, political observers from across the state are busy examining the results to see just what effect California's efforts at redistricting and electoral reform had in their first full test at the ballot box. Valley Public Radio's Joe Moore reports that in same cases, the result is too close to call. 

For most California voters, the trip to the ballot box this November looked much like it always has, albeit with longer lines at some polling places and a record number of "vote by mail" ballots.

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Government & Politics
2:40 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Speaker Pérez Wary of Overplaying Democratic Supermajorities

Credit Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

California Democrats have gained a supermajority in both state legislative houses for the first time in 70 years.  But as KPCC’s Julie Small reports, the Assembly Speaker says his party won’t exploit the power.

The two-thirds majority in the Assembly and Senate gives Democrats the power to raise taxes without Republican votes.  They’ll also be able to expedite bills and change legislative rules.  But Assembly Speaker John Perez downplays that new power.

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Just One Breath
6:33 am
Mon November 19, 2012

Valley fever takes an animal toll, and pets rely on the same treatments as people

Debra Stone holds her dog Nemo, who appears to be doing very well after recently being diagnosed with valley fever.
Henry A. Barrios The Bakersfield Californian

The first valley fever victim that Dr. Demosthenes Pappagianis remembers was Mbongo — a gorilla at the San Diego Zoo

“I was a kid in San Diego at the time and saw the article in the newspaper,” recalled the veteran researcher on the animal’s 1942 death from the disease, also known as coccidiomycosis. “I didn’t know what cocci were at that time, but I knew that a gorilla at the zoo had died.”

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Mon November 19, 2012

Valley Fever Research For Pets May Yield Benefits For Humans

Bobbi Duke holds Crash, her three-legged cat that is recovering from valley fever. Another family pet, Lucas, a dog, has also been diagnosed with valley fever and she has concern that Sheeba, another family dog, may also have valley fever.
Henry A. Barrios The Bakersfield Californian

Dogs, not people, may hold the key to improved treatments, even a possible cure, for valley fever.

One way researchers have lured private money is by proposing research projects involving pets, the theory being that companies and donors would see more of a market potential in dogs and cats suffering and dying from the disease.

Dogs and humans get hit with valley fever in a very similar way. They inhale spores from a fungus common in the soil in the Southwest. The spores take root in the lungs and can spread to other organs and parts of the body.

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Transportation
7:04 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Caltrans Picks Preferred Route For Centennial Corridor Freeway in Bakersfield

A map from Caltrans depicting three options for the Centennial Corridor route
Caltrans

Plans to connect Bakersfield's Westside Parkway across Highway 99 to Highway 58 are becoming clearer today, as Caltrans has selected what it calls a "preferred alternative" for the proposed Centennial Corridor freeway.

The alignment, known as "Option B" would travel west from the current Highway 58 interchange across Highway 99 though the West Park neighborhood. The freeway's path would then turn northwest, crossing both Stockdale Highway and Truxtun, in order to connect with the Westside Parkway near Mohawk Street.

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Health
3:57 pm
Thu November 15, 2012

Study Links Flame Retardants to Developmental Delays in Children

According to study authors, flame retardant chemicals can leach out from upholstered furniture, particularly if the foam is exposed through rips.
Credit Courtesy UC Berkeley Media Relations

A new UC Berkeley study adds to research that suggests flame retardants common in California homes are linked to neurodevelopmental delays in kids.

The study followed nearly 300 women from pregnancy to when their children were 7 years old. Researchers tested mother's levels and then the children's levels for the flame retardant compound polybrominated diphenyl ethers, known as PBDE. They wanted to assess in utero effect as well as childhood exposure, says lead researcher and UC Berkeley epidemiologist Brenda Eskenazi.

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Health Care Reform
11:21 am
Thu November 15, 2012

California Intends to Run New Health Marketplace On Its Own

The logo for California Covered, the state's new health benefit exchange.

California plans to tell the federal government this week that it will operate a key component of the federal health law on its own. 

States have until the end of this week to tell the federal government if they will operate their own health insurance exchanges. States also have the option to receive help, or have the federal government manage their marketplaces.

The California Health Benefit Exchange board has signaled its intent to go it alone by approving a detailed operations plan and grant proposal.  

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Government & Politics
5:13 pm
Wed November 14, 2012

State Analyst: CA Budget Deficit Drops to $1.9 Billion

Legislative analyst Mac Taylor released his office’s annual fiscal outlook today. He’s projecting a $1.9 billion deficit over the next year-and-a-half, followed by a growing surplus in each of the next several years.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California’s once-enormous budget deficit has shrunk to just under $2 billion, and the state could soon have a surplus.  But Mac Taylor, California’s non-partisan legislative analyst is urging caution as state finances improve.

Not long ago, California hit rock bottom, with a massive budget deficit. 

Nearly four years ago Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told a crowd, “the $42 billion deficit is a rock upon our chest that we cannot breathe until we get it off.” 

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Government & Politics
5:33 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

CSU Board of Trustees Delays Decision On Student Fee Increase

California State University leaders have delayed a vote on a proposal to increase student fees.

The proposal would charge extra fees on so-called “super seniors,” students who take more courses than required, and course repeaters. Governor Brown asked the CSU Board of Trustees to postpone the vote.

"Let’s measure up to the expectation of the voters, and that means getting out of our comfort zone – whether we’re trustees or faculty or administrators or students or anyone else.  The taxpayers got out of their comfort zone, so we have to follow suit,” said Brown. 

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Government & Politics
4:00 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Strong Success for Tax Measures May Not Be New Trend

Credit Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

Before last week, California voters had rejected every statewide tax measure since 2004.  This election, they approved two of them.  They also said yes to more than 70 percent of the local tax and bond measures on last week’s ballot.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, this may not be the start of a new trend.

The passage of Propositions 30 and 39 snapped a seven-measure winning streak for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.  But President Jon Coupal says that doesn’t mean the attitudes of California voters are changing when it comes to taxes.

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Global Warming
1:08 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

California Launches 'Pay-to-Pollute' Carbon Market

An oil refinery in Bakersfield (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California is launching a big part of its fight against climate change on Wednesday. The state is holding its first auction in the "cap and trade" program where industrial businesses will have to buy allowances to emit greenhouse gases.   The goal is to reduce the state's emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. From Sacramento, Kathleen Masterson reports on how the complex market is designed to reduce pollution. 

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Downtown Revitalization
12:38 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

New Ice Rink Brings People to Downtown Fresno

Fresno teens Christina Gurrero and Teo Martinez cautiously navigate the ice
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

Downtown Fresno's Fulton Mall has a different look this season, as a new outdoor ice rink is earning rave reviews from residents of all ages. Valley Public Radio's Joe Moore has this report. 

Just a few days before downtown Fresno's newest winter attraction was set to open, Christy Gordon didn't think it would happen. 

"You know on Wednesday it was just so hot. Just walking to the office which is right by here, I thought, 'I don't know how they're going to pull that off.'"

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Just One Breath
11:56 am
Tue November 13, 2012

Valley Fever Changes Young Girl's Life

7-year-old Emily Gorospe loves to dance, but valley fever robbed her of her strength last year
Daniel Casarez/Vida en el Valle

Emily Gorospe cannot sit still. The spunky 7-year-old with long, brown braids loves to make up dances in her bedroom. When she’s not dancing, she’s jumping rope, or hula hooping.

But last spring, when she was just six, Emily became very tired and sick. She developed a fever that wouldn’t go away and red blotches appeared across her body.

“She’s got so much energy usually. Just walking from one part of the house, from her room to the living room, or to the kitchen, she was drained.”

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Just One Breath
11:56 am
Mon November 12, 2012

Misdiagnosis of Valley Fever Prolongs the Suffering

Jillian Lugo fixes her daughter, Jayden's, hair for a picture. The 10-year-old girl has spent most of her life with valley fever and the complications it has caused. She contracted the fungal disease that spread to her brain w
Henry A. Barrios The Bakersfield Californian

Jayden Lugo has had 56 surgeries in her short life.

The 10-year-old from Wasco in California’s Central Valley has brain damage, uses a walker to get around, undergoes therapy once a week and takes three pills every night before she goes to bed.

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Veterans Day
11:38 am
Mon November 12, 2012

Hiring For Fresno Veterans Home to Begin Soon

An artists rendering of the Fresno Veterans Home

Two new California veterans’ homes that currently sit empty in Fresno and Redding could start filling up over the next year.  The state has announced it’s beginning to recruit hundreds of employees for the homes.

Ever since April, veterans’ homes in Fresno and Redding have had lights, air conditioning and water, but no veterans, or staff.  This year’s state budget set aside money to start hiring, and now the California Department of Veterans Affairs says it’s ready to begin the recruitment process.

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Education
4:59 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

Despite Prop 30, Fees Could Rise For Some CSU Students

Despite the passage of the tax initiative Proposition 30, some California State University students could see their tuition go up. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the CSU Board of Trustees will make its decision next week.

The proposal would increase fees on students who accumulate more course work than they need to graduate, or more than their major requires. And it would charge students who repeat courses. Assistant Vice Chancellor Eric Forbes says the changes are needed to improve access for new students.

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Government & Politics
5:54 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Governor Brown Shares Priorities for Working with New Legislature

California Governor Jerry Brown - file photo
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown shared a list of priorities for working with a new state legislature, which appears to be reaching a two-thirds majority in both houses. 

Now that his Prop 30 campaign is over, Governor Brown says he’s turning his attention to other matters.

“We ought to calibrate our regulations to ensure that they encourage jobs as well as protect other aspects of the public interest like the environment, health and good working conditions,” said Brown. 

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Health Care Reform
3:46 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

‘Last Distraction’ Removed as California Moves Ahead on Health Reform

First, there was uncertainty over a U.S. Supreme Court challenge. Then came the race for the presidency.

Now, California lawmakers say the uncertainty is over and nothing can stop them from bringing health coverage to millions of uninsured Californians under President Obama’s signature health care law.

“This removes the last distraction and question from anyone’s mind that we won’t be launching a dramatic expansion in coverage in California,” said Peter Lee, executive director of California’s health insurance exchange, a key piece of the expansion.

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