November 15, 2012
By JASON DEAREN
California is debuting its new, landmark cap-and-trade program with an auction of greenhouse gas pollution permits, despite an eleventh-hour lawsuit filed by the state’s largest business group.
The cap-and-trade plan is a central piece of the state’s 2006 global warming law, AB32, a suite of regulations meant to reduce dramatically the state’s emissions of heat-trapping gases.
The program places a limit, or cap, on emissions from individual polluters. Businesses are required to cut emissions to cap levels or buy allowances from other companies for each ton over the cap that is discharged annually. If a business were to cut emissions below the cap, it could profit by selling its extra allowances.
The program’s first auction on Wednesday was closely watched, as it essentially put a price on carbon emissions for the first time in state history. Only the European Union has implemented a similar plan in terms of scope.
But the California Chamber of Commerce has sued, challenging the validity of the state’s cap-and-trade program. The lawsuit filed on Tuesday November 13 in Sacramento Superior Court was not expected to stop the auction. The group was not seeking an injunction to halt the program immediately, said Denise Davis, a chamber spokeswoman.
The suit challenges the California Air Resources Board’s authority as stated under the state’s 2006 climate-change law, AB32, to sell the permits, called “allowances,” for the purpose of generating revenue for the state. It is also challenging the sale of allowances as an illegal tax, arguing that taxes need a two-thirds vote by the Legislature.
“This action by an unelected state board to use regulatory statutes to raise tens of billions of dollars from taxpayers is unprecedented in our state’s history,” the chamber’s complaint said.
For the first two years of the program, large industrial emitters will receive 90 percent of their allowances for free in a soft start meant to give companies time to reduce emissions through new technologies or other means. The cap, or number of allowances, will decline over time in an effort to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The chamber’s challenge is the latest lawsuit filed over the state's landmark global warming law, which so far has survived myriad legal challenges.
Stanley Young, a board spokesman, said officials were reviewing the lawsuit and expected cap-and-trade to withstand legal scrutiny.
“This market-based approach to cutting greenhouse emissions gives businesses the flexibility to best decide how to reduce their emissions,” Young said.
The board estimates that about $1 billion could be raised from the sale of allowances in fiscal year 2012-13. About 23 million allowances will be sold for 2013 emissions, and 39.5 million allowances were being pre-sold Wednesday for 2015 emissions.
There is some uncertainty about how, exactly, the money will be used. But California law dictates it go into a special greenhouse gas reduction account, and any programs that use the funds be consistent with the AB32's goals.
California officials hope a successful rollout of its cap-and-trade system will embolden other states to follow suit. Currently, a much less inclusive cap-and-trade scheme that covers only electricity producers is in effect for northeastern states.
The chamber argues that California’s system goes too far and will alienate other states.
“Unless we adopt the most cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions, other states will not follow us,” Allan Zaremberg, the chamber’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “The current ... proposal is the most costly way to implement AB32, and it will hurt consumers, the job climate, and the ability of businesses to expand here.”
November 15, 2012
By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demoted the former head of U.S. Africa Command who was accused of spending thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
Panetta stripped Gen. William “Kip” Ward of a star, which means that he will now retire as a three-star lieutenant general despite arguments from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff against the demotion. Ward also has been ordered to repay the government $82,000.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to discuss a personnel matter.
The demotion comes as retired Army Gen. David Petraeus resigned as CIA director because of an extramarital affair and Marine Gen. John Allen is being investigated for potentially improper communications with a woman.
According to the official, Panetta reviewed the Ward matter and concluded that the wrongdoing found by the Defense Department Inspector General, in a report released earlier this year, demanded accountability.
In a statement issued Tuesday, a spokesman for Ward said the general “has never been motivated by personal gain and fulfilled each and every mission assigned to him and served his country and the men and women assigned to his commands with distinction.”
The spokesman, Chris Garrett, added that, “While General Ward is not perfect he has always been guided by his faith in God and the belief that there is no greater honor as a patriot than to lead those who choose to serve our nation in the armed forces.”
Retiring as a three-star will cost Ward about $30,000 a year in retirement pay — giving him close to $208,802 a year rather than the $236,650 he would get as a four-star.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urged Panetta to allow Ward, the former head of U.S. Africa Command, to retire at his full four-star general rank, according to defense officials. Other military leaders had noted that the demotion would cost Ward a lot of money.
The inspector general’s report found that Ward used military vehicles to shuttle his wife on shopping trips and to a spa and billed the government for a refueling stop overnight in Bermuda, where the couple stayed in a $750 suite. The report detailed lengthy stays at lavish hotels for Ward, his wife and his staff members, and the use of five-vehicle motorcades when he traveled to Washington.
It also said Ward and his wife, Joyce, accepted dinner and Broadway show tickets from a government contractor during a trip in which he went backstage to meet actor Denzel Washington. The couple and several staff members also spent two nights at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Other charges were that Ward often extended his overseas trips — particularly those to the U.S. — for personal reasons, resulting in “exponential” increases in costs.
Although the report included responses from Ward to a number of the allegations, investigators often found records and statements that contradicted his explanations. At one point, Ward defended the Bermuda layover, saying that it came up on short notice, which is why his security team had to stay there longer. The report found records showing that the layover had been planned for at least four days in advance.
A common theme running through the report was Ward’s insistence that his wife travel with him at government cost, even though it was often not authorized and she performed few official duties. It said he also routinely stayed in high-priced suites in luxury hotels rather than in standard rooms or less expensive locales.
The allegations, coming after a 17-month investigation, have delayed Ward's planned April 2011 retirement. And they were an embarrassing end note to his career, since he had claimed a place in history as the military’s first commander of Africa Command.
Panetta’s options regarding Ward were limited by complex laws and military guidelines. He had only one real choice: allow Ward to retire as a four-star or demote him and force him to retire as a three-star lieutenant general.
In order for Ward to be demoted to two-star rank, investigators would have to conclude that he also had problems before moving to Africa Command, and officials said that does not appear to be the case.
The investigation dragged on for so long that that Ward was temporarily dropped to two-star general status. Under military guidelines, if a full general is not serving in a four-star command or office for more than 60 days, he or she is automatically reduced to two-star rank. Ward would not be able to recoup any back pay for the time at the two-star rank, even though he is being retired at the three-star level.
Major general, or two-star, is the highest rank to which an officer can be promoted by regular military action. Becoming a three-star — lieutenant general — or a four-star general requires a presidential nomination and confirmation by Congress. It, therefore, is not considered permanent and lasts only as long as the person is serving in a job of that rank.
That technical demotion is not uncommon as generals move from job to job and unexpected delays occur. It would not have affected Ward's ability to retire as a four-star, if he had been cleared of the charges.
November 15, 2012
By LAWT News Service
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Dean C. Logan announced the following updated semifinal results as of today, November 13, 2012.
The update includes 172,052 ballots processed since the last update. This count consists of only Vote by Mail ballots. For vote totals on specific contests, please visit lavote.net. This brings the updated estimate to approximately 521,710 to be counted.
Please remember that these results are subject to change throughout the canvass period. The next official update is scheduled for Friday, November 16, 2012 at 1 p.m. All results and updates will be posted online at lavote.net as they become available.
The mission of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is to serve Los Angeles County by providing essential records management and election services in a fair, accessible and transparent manner. For more information, visit www.lavote.net.
November 15, 2012
By FRAZIER MOORE Associated Press
A man who accused Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash of having sex with him when he was a teenage boy has recanted his story.
In a quick turnabout, the man on Tuesday November 13 described his sexual relationship with Clash as adult and consensual.
Clash responded with a statement of his own, saying he is “relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest.” He had no further comment.
The man, who has not identified himself, released his statement through the Harrisburg, Pa., law firm Andreozzi & Associates.
Sesame Workshop, which produces “Sesame Street” in New York, soon followed by saying, "We are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode."
The whirlwind episode began Monday morning, when Sesame Workshop startled the world by announcing that Clash had taken a leave of absence from “Sesame Street” in the wake of allegations that he had had a relationship with a 16-year-old.
Clash, a 52-year-old divorced father of a grown daughter, swiftly denied the charges of his accuser, who is in his early 20s. In that statement Clash acknowledged that he is gay but said the relationship had been between two consenting adults.
Though it remained unclear where the relationship took place, sex with a person under 17 is a felony in New York if the perpetrator is at least 21.
Sesame Workshop, which said it was first contacted by the accuser in June, had launched an investigation that included meeting with the accuser twice and meeting with Clash. Its investigation found the charge of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.
Clash said on Monday he would take a break from Sesame Workshop “to deal with this false and defamatory allegation.”
Neither Clash nor Sesame Workshop indicated on Tuesday when he might return to the show, on which he has performed as Elmo since 1984.
Elmo had previously been a marginal character, but Clash, supplying the fuzzy red puppet with a high-pitched voice and a carefree, child-like personality, launched the character into major stardom. Elmo soon rivaled Big Bird as the face of “Sesame Street.”
Though usually behind the scenes, Clash meanwhile achieved his own measure of fame. In 2006, he published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and he was the subject of the 2011 documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.”
He has won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one primetime Emmy.