Stories you shouldn’t miss:
1. Homicides remained at historically low levels last year in San Francisco, providing yet more evidence that violent crime is unrelated to the economy. The Chron reports that there were just fifty homicides in San Francisco, and that rates haven’t been consistently this low since the 1960s. Homicides have plummeted substantially over the past three years despite the Great Recession. Law enforcement officials credit the declines in part to targeting and arresting violent criminals and to witnesses being more cooperative with police, while community groups say that SF cops have greatly improved their relationship with the public. By contrast, in Oakland, where police have a poor record of solving violent crimes and their relationship with the public remains dismal, homicides increased last year to 103 compared to 90 in 2010.
2. Chevron lost its appeal of a $9.5 billion court judgment in Ecuador, but the oil giant, which is based in the East Bay, has no plans to pay what it owes, the Chron reports. Chevron was ordered to pay the huge judgment for a massive oil spill that ruined a section of the Amazon Rainforest, but the company contends that the court case was plagued by alleged corruption.
3. A federal panel says that lead poisoning in children is much more prevalent than once thought and is advising the government to alter the standards for measuring the levels of the toxic substance in kids, the AP reports. The panel says that lead can harm children at lower levels than current government standards, and is urging that the standards be lowered so that kids suffering from lead poisoning can get treatment. Even mild cases of lead poisoning can reduce intelligence and impair behavior in children.
4. President Obama yesterday defied Senate Republicans and made a series of so-called recess appointments to strengthen consumer protection and labor standards. Obama appointed Richard Cordray to run the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous lenders and banks, the LA Times reports. The president also appointed three new members to the National Labor Relations Board. The moves are known as recess appointments because they occurred when the Senate is on winter break. Senate Republicans had blocked the appointments during their regular session last year because they want to disband the consumer watchdog agency and say the NLRB appointees are too friendly to labor.
5. And the lone wolf that wandered into Northern California has been photographed by a hunter and named “Journey” by an environmental group, the AP reports. Journey is the first wild wolf in California in at least eighty years. .