Brent Hunsberger of the Portland Oregonian newspaper reports that neither the state's banks nor its mortgage brokers were the finance industry's top contributor to Oregon political campaigns.
It's the credit unions.
Since 2008, the finance industry has had many reasons to talk -- and give -- to state lawmakers, who've considered stricter regulations on mortgages, foreclosures and loan servicing, among other things.
Michael Montgomery of the Associated Press reported that officials in Mendocino County, Northern California, are expected to pull the plug on an unusual program that put pot growing under supervision of the local sheriff. It was the first effort of its kind in the nation and proved a success, at least in the eyes of many locals. Federal prosecutors, however, took a different view.
For years, Mendocino County, like other places in Northern California, struggled to contain an explosion in pot growing, especially since the state legalized the use of medical marijuana. So two years ago, officials decided to try something completely new – legalize medical marijuana production under strict conditions. And they gave the job to a barrel-chested sheriff's sergeant named Randy Johnson.
The program has earned the sheriff's department more than half a million dollars and enlisted nearly 100 growers.
After California voters legalized medical marijuana use 16 years ago, the state never determined how pot should be produced, leaving such regulations to local authorities. So far, only Mendocino has taken on the challenge.
But in October, federal prosecutors went on the offensive against California's marijuana industry, closing dozens of storefront dispensaries and seizing properties.
Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, said the California law has been hijacked by profiteers who are motivated not by compassion, but by money. She also warned cities and counties that marijuana licensing schemes were against federal law. Soon after, heavily armed Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a farm in Mendocino owned by one of the county's legal growers.
When Robert Smith first decided to do something about what he considers to be an ugly eyesore - the air conditioning and ventilation system on the roof of the Lawton Health Center (LHC) - he thought it would be a simple matter to get something done.
So, a few months ago, the Sunset District resident contacted the company that runs the San Francisco health and rehabilitation business, located in a building at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Lawton Street, or at least he tried.
"I asked Kindred Corporation, which is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, to simply address the problem and screen these monstrous, freestanding, unscreened HVAC units and the tunneling between them, all of which are in clear view of the street," Smith said. "I called, thinking this was a simple matter. 'We'll be cordial, congenial, and they'll screen the units and that will be that,' I thought."
Smith called and said: "Here's the problem. Can you help out?"
Smith, who lives across the street from the health center, said he was told to call a different office and contact a particular person, which he did twice but never received a return call.
So, he contacted someone in the corporation's legal department. Eventually, a woman got back to him, although not with a message he expected to hear.
A recent flare-up of tensions between neighbors of a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant at 4649 Geary Blvd. and its owner came to an end, at least for now, when the SF Entertainment Commission approved a permit for the restaurant to stay open all hours except between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.
The restaurant's owner, Saeed Kahn, had applied for a permit to operate between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The previous permit to operate during these hours had expired when Kahn bought the franchise a couple of years ago, and Kahn said he had only recently become aware that he needed to renew the permit.
On Jan. 10 the Commission put off a decision so the stakeholders in the battle could try to resolve their differences. When they met again on Jan. 24, they agreed with the recommendations of the Richmond Police Station to keep the restaurant open from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., a time neighbors wanted the site closed to reduce noise and rowdiness from patrons eating after the bars closed.
Only Commissioner Al Perez voted against the station's recommendation.
Neighbors in the area saw an opportunity to limit the hours that the restaurant operates, after years of putting with, they say, loud, messy and sometimes dangerous patrons.
The lack of a permit came to light in December, after a Thanksgiving incident whereby a man was struck by a vehicle and sent to the hospital. As of presstime, the former Marine and firefighter was in a coma.
A police investigation concluded the assault was the result of an argument that started in the restaurant.
Say "hello" to the Chinese Lunar New Year - the Black Water Dragon - and enjoy it while it lasts because it will not come around again for another 60 years.
There are a total of five cycles in Chinese astrology, with each cycle lasting 12 years. Each cycle is dominated by an element, so this year is the turn for the "water" variety of dragon.
Every individual animal-color-element combination only shows up once every 60 years.
"It's the Year of the Dragon. Every year has not only that animal that governs the year but an element, and the element is water for this year," said Erika Lam, a Richmond District resident and Feng Shui consultant with the interior design company Awaken Designs.
"I'm a dragon, a metal dragon, and my son, born 24 years later, is a fire dragon. So each dragon year is governed by a different element," Lam said.
"In Feng Shui there are five elements: fire, water, wood, metal and earth," she explained. "So, all those have their own colors, properties, shapes and forms that are associated with each of them. The colors that are associated with the water dragon would be blue or black, so some people call it the Black Water Dragon year."
Black and blue are colors that can easily be associated with a dragon in China because, unlike in the Western dragon myth, this creature comes not from the sky but from deep down in the ocean.
"Most important is that dragons are symbols of water, not fire. So dragons are associated with rivers, streams, oceans, lakes and the rain that comes every year," said Charles H. Egan, a professor who teaches classical Chinese literature, culture and poetry at San Francisco State University.
"I saw one source that talks about their claws being in the shape of lightening, but even in really early times there's always dragons. They're seen as these benevolent, although powerful creatures that keep life afloat. They are also seen as intermediaries between the mortal world and the heavenly world," Egan said.
"Dragons are heavenly creatures but they also have a real close relationship with the human world. … You see figures of dragons even back to Neolithic times," he added.
Laura L. Myers of Reuters news agency reported that the U.S. Army has dismissed all charges against the last of five soldiers to face a court-martial in the slaying of unarmed Afghan civilians, officials from their home base near Tacoma, Washington, said on Friday.
Army Specialist Michael Wagnon had been charged with premediated murder in the death of a villager in Afghanistan during a tour of duty in February 2010.
"As of right now, he's pretty much a free man," said Lieutenant Colonel Gary Dangerfield, a spokesman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord. "He is still in the Army but a free man."
Wagnon, 31, was released from military detention and placed under home confinement in April.
Dangerfield would not say why the charges were dropped, and a statement from the base said only that the move was "in the interest of justice."
REMEDIATION: Plugging just one carries price tag in the millions of dollars.
Wesley Loy of the Petroleum News reported that officials with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management say the agency is monitoring environmental risk from old wells on federal land on Alaska's North Slope, as well as updating plans for remediating the sites.
The comments come in response to an Alaska state legislator's charge that the BLM has neglected the dozens of so-called legacy wells.
Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, is sponsoring House Joint Resolution 29, which urges the BLM "to plug legacy wells properly and to reclaim the legacy well sites as soon as possible." Artealia Gilliard, spokeswoman for BLM Alaska, said the agency's priority is monitoring the wells posing the most risk.
Extreme coastal erosion has threatened a few legacy well sites, and the BLM has spent large sums to deal with those.
BLM manages the Indiana-sized National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, located to the west of Alpine, Kuparuk, Prudhoe Bay and other central North Slope oil fields.
Between 1943 and 1982, the Navy and the U.S. Geological Survey drilled 136 wells and "test holes."
"It would be great if we could go out and remediate them all at once, but it's just not realistic," Gilliard said.