March 30th, 2012

Flashlights, exercise equipment, trumpets, gun parts, combat coats, pistol holsters, water canteens, radios, laptops, M16 rifles, helicopters, microwaves, survival kits, workout equipment, bayonet knives, ammunition cans.

A list of some of the surplus military equipment that California law enforcement agencies received last year. More than 17,000 local agencies across the country have taken advantage of the Defense Department’s equipment giveaways. California police accumulated more equipment in 2011 than any other year in the program’s two-decade history.  See what your community has received by searching our online database.

January 13th, 2012
When John A. Pérez was sworn in as speaker of the California Assembly  in 2010, he celebrated by giving out rubber duckies bearing his name  and the Assembly seal. Pérez’s collection of hundreds of rubber duckies –  from Statue of Liberty duck to firefighter duck – stems from an inside  joke that he won’t divulge. 
Since then, some business interests that lobby the Legislature have  seized on a special way to get into the speaker’s good graces: expensive  duck gifts.
The California Retailers Association, for example, gave him two  Swarovski crystal ducks worth $129 each. (In that price range, the  Swarovski duck line ranges from Punk Duck, whose bill is pierced, to Fancy Felicia (see image above), who has a sparkly purse.)
Photo via Swarovski website.

When John A. Pérez was sworn in as speaker of the California Assembly in 2010, he celebrated by giving out rubber duckies bearing his name and the Assembly seal. Pérez’s collection of hundreds of rubber duckies – from Statue of Liberty duck to firefighter duck – stems from an inside joke that he won’t divulge. 

Since then, some business interests that lobby the Legislature have seized on a special way to get into the speaker’s good graces: expensive duck gifts.

The California Retailers Association, for example, gave him two Swarovski crystal ducks worth $129 each. (In that price range, the Swarovski duck line ranges from Punk Duck, whose bill is pierced, to Fancy Felicia (see image above), who has a sparkly purse.)

Photo via Swarovski website.

January 6th, 2012

Border agency seeks more unmanned aircraft use in Calif.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are looking to expand the use of remotely piloted surveillance aircraft to cover nearly all of California, allowing the unmanned vehicles to fly over the last major section of the Southwest border.

The agency’s Office of Air and Marine expects the Federal Aviation Administration this year to permit it to extend its unmanned aircraft operations into airspace just east of the San Diego metropolitan area, border agency spokeswoman Gina Gray said.

Hailed by some, including U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., for their cutting-edge technology, the unmanned aircraft’s expense – and efficacy – has been criticized by others.

At a cost of $18.5 million each to operate – including radar and sensor systems, maintenance, a ground control station, and the aircraft itself – the unmanned aircraft have been credited with helping to seize 46,600 pounds of illicit drugs and catching a relatively small number of people, 7,500, engaged in illegal activity along the border since late 2005.

Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection

January 3rd, 2012

California has 745 new laws on the books for 2012.

More from KQED: “Some of them put the state in new territory, such as a law that mandates teaching the contributions of gays and lesbians. Others, like the California Dream Act, grant tuition benefits to undocumented immigrants.”

December 21st, 2011

From 2002-2011, California received $3,880,698,360 in homeland security grants. Learn more in CIR’s interactive map.

centerforinvestigativereporting:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent only a fraction of the billions spent to battle terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001. Lawmakers in Washington have shelled out some $34 billion over the last 10 years to state and local law enforcement. Our new map shows how much each state has raked in by grant program and fiscal year, based on data obtained from the Department of Homeland Security.

November 10th, 2011

Is California broken? Our media partners at KQED explore that question - watch a selection from this week’s “This Week in Northern California” and tune in Friday, November 11 at 7pmPST to learn more.

October 28th, 2011

The U.S. Department of Energy has moved ahead with $4.5 billion in new loans for clean energy projects in California – despite the recent bankruptcy of Silicon Valley-based Solyndra. The new loans all were approved last month during the final days of a federal program created with stimulus money. Our reporter Dan Goldstein has the story.

(Source: californiawatch.org)

October 12th, 2011

Feds to target newspapers, radio for marijuana ads

Federal prosecutors are preparing to target newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets that advertise medical marijuana dispensaries in California, another escalation in the Obama administration’s newly invigorated war against the state’s pot industry.

This month, U.S. attorneys representing four districts in California announced that the government would single out landlords and property owners who rent buildings or land where dispensaries sell or cultivators grow marijuana. Now, newspapers and other media outlets could be next. Read more.

Photo: The Sacramento News & Review published a special section of pot dispensary ads in April.

September 28th, 2011

Solyndra received favorable IRS ruling weeks before loan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just weeks before Solyndra received approval for a $535 million taxpayer-funded loan, the Fremont, Calif.-based solar panel manufacturing company received a favorable ruling from the Internal Revenue Service, giving its customers a significant tax break.

The U.S. tax code has long allowed buyers of solar panels to deduct a portion of the installation cost from their taxes. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that credit was boosted from 10 percent to 30 percent through 2016.

But in August 2009, the IRS also determined that companies buying Solyndra products would qualify for another 30 percent tax credit – as long as they were installed on roofs painted white to reflect the sun. At the time, only Solyndra was selling products that would work on so-called “cool roofs.” Read more.

Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters: Solyndra executives Brian Harrison (left) and William Stover appear before Congress on Sept. 23.

August 24th, 2011

Frank Quan’s family has lived at China Camp State Park in California, catching and selling shrimp, since the 1890s. He’s the last remaining resident of a Chinese fishing village that once thrived on San Pablo Bay. Now the state is closing China Camp State Park along with dozens of other parks because of budget cuts. What will happen to Frank?

(Source: californiawatch.org)

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@CaliforniaWatch

California Watch, the largest investigative journalism team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting. Areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process.

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