Winston Gieseke here, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, and I hope you had a good week. Here are some of the latest headlines from here in the Golden State.
In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.
Bank of America sued over EDD fraud in ‘pretty unique’ case
Bank of America is being sued in a federal lawsuit for allegedly neglecting to secure thousands of unemployment debit cards, leading to the theft of billions of dollars.
CalMatters reports that the complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, alleges that the bank was negligent and proved “either unwilling or unable to stop criminals” from stealing funds from debit cards, leaving out-of-work Californians who were desperate for the funds unable to access them.
Brian Danitz, a partner at claimant law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, told CalMatters “this case is pretty unique … This is a $286 billion financial Goliath. The CEO makes $25 million a year, and they did not provide even basic security measures to protect EDD cardholders.”
In a previous statement to CalMatters, Bank of America said: “We are working with the state and law enforcement to identify and take action against fraudulent applicants, protect taxpayer money and ensure that legitimate applicants can access their benefits.”
Trump administration announces 11th-hour rewrite of desert conservation plan
The Trump administration on Wednesday unveiled a substantial rewrite of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, a landscape management strategy intended to balance conservation, renewable energy development and cultural resources across 10.8 million acres of the Southern California desert.
Dropped just one week before President Donald Trump leaves office, the move was quickly lambasted by politicians and conservationists, while the renewable industry approached it cautiously, arguing that the plan needs a second look.
The draft environmental impact statement proposes two alternatives to the plan’s current iteration: One would reduce protected lands by 1.8 million acres and would “modify or eliminate” 68 conservation management actions, while the second would reduce that protected land designation by 1.5 million acres.
Environmentalists argued that the draft, which neither they nor the renewable industry knew was coming, was a gift for mining interests. The Department of the Interior, however, said it represents a much-needed update that would bolster renewable energy.
San Francisco hopes to vaccinate 10,000 people per day
The City of San Francisco is planning to open three large coronavirus vaccination sites in the hopes of eventually administering a minimum of 10,000 doses per day, Mayor London Breed said Friday, with the first site opening by the end of next week at City College’s main campus.
Other sites, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, will be located at City College’s main campus, Moscone Center in SoMa and The SF Market in the Bayview. These sites were chosen because of their proximity to neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by the virus.
In addition, the public health department is planning to administer vaccines at more than a dozen community clinics and at several pop-ups throughout the city. The only problem with the plan is the state’s limited stockpile of vaccines, the distribution of which has been unpredictable.
“We’re ready for more doses, we need more doses and we’re asking for more doses,” said Breed at a press conference Friday. “We can ramp up and open these sites the minute we have the vaccines. We’re mobilizing the entire city.”
As of Thursday, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said California had only administered about 28% of the approximately 3.5 million doses it has been given.
Beginning Tuesday, San Francisco residents can visit sf.gov/vaccinenotify to sign up to be notified by email when it’s their turn to get vaccinated.
Meanwhile, in L.A., Dodger Stadium Dodger Stadium reopened Friday as a COVID-19 mass vaccination center, with Mayor Eric Garcetti saying it will eventually have the
capacity to vaccinate 12,000 people a day. But for now, it will cater only to
health care workers.
U.S. Postal Service to remove mailboxes in L.A., O.C. ahead of potential protests
As a safety precaution in the face of potential protests during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service says it will temporarily remove 14 blue mail collection boxes in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
According to a report from The Orange County Register, the Postal Service is one of many agencies across the nation making plans for potentially violent demonstrators. On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom requested the California Army National Guard boost security at the state Capitol.
About a dozen mailboxes will be removed in Sacramento, with another dozen being removed in San Francisco. Down south, boxes will be removed in areas known to attract protests: namely, downtown Los Angeles, Van Nuys and Huntington Beach. Four collection boxes were slated for removal in the Civic Center area, with another six in Van Nuys. In Huntington Beach, three boxes were planned for removal.
“These are temporary measures to protect postal property, employees and the public,” the Postal Service said in a statement. It is not known when the collection boxes will be removed and when they will be returned.
Happy birthday, Martin Luther King Jr.
And finally, a big happy birthday to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Though we officially celebrate the legacy of Dr. King on Monday, today is the actual day of his birth, back in 1929. His final Sunday sermon, delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1968, was called “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” and his words seem especially relevant today:
“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair the stone of hope,” he said, referring to the effects of the Vietnam War, quoted by kinginstitute.stanford.edu. “With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”
That’s all, folks. I hope you have a very safe and informed weekend. In California will take a break Monday to honor Dr. King but will be back in your inbox on Tuesday.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: abc7.com, CalMatters, kinginstitute.stanford.edu, The Orange County Register
As the philanthropy and special sections editor at The Desert Sun, Winston Gieseke writes about nonprofits, fundraising and people who give back in the Coachella Valley. Reach him at [email protected].