Activists plan anti-fracking day of action

Opponents of using hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – to access hard-to-reach oil and natural gas are planning actions Thursday at assemblymembers’ offices around California.

Activists organized by MoveOn.org will deliver petitions in 13 Assembly districts, marking the launch of Californians Against Fracking, a coalition of 70 organizations advocating for a ban.

“The gutting of Holly Mitchell’s fracking moratorium bill [AB 1323] and the blocking of Richard Bloom’s bill [AB 1301] by Assembly leadership ignores the will of the voters of California who have made their voices heard with thousands of phone calls and petition signatures. What we demand is a ban on fracking to protect our health,” said Aura Walker, a Culver City mother, whose petition on MoveOn.org’s petition platform has been signed by more than 35,000 people. “California is already earthquake prone. Additionally, poisonous gases will permanently pollute many precious aquifers, irreversibly poisoning our drinking water.”

In the South Bay, activist Ann Benson of Portola Valley will lead the delivery of a local petition at noon to the Los Altos office of Assemblyman Richard Gordon, urging him to support a fracking ban. At the same time, Dorothy Hann of San Ramon will lead the delivery of a similar petition to Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan in San Ramon.

And the nascent Californians Against Fracking group plans a noon rally outside the state office building at 455 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco, as well as one at the same time in Los Angeles. Both will be delivering petitions to Gov. Jerry Brown’s offices.

Environmentalists have taken Brown to task after the governor in March said California should examine fracking to capitalize on the Monterey shale deposit, which the U.S. Energy Department has estimated could hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil — about 64 percent of the nation’s shale oil resources. As some legislative Democrats sought bans, Brown had said the technology shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.

“We want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. That’s the balance that’s required,” he said at the time. “The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible; the potential is extraordinary. But between now and development lies a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M.: The California State Senate voted 27-11 this afternoon to pass SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas, which would require public noticing before fracking can take place, permits, disclosure of chemicals and an independent scientific study of fracking and its risks to California, among other provisions. “I am pleased my colleagues want to hold oil well operators accountable and answer critical questions about groundwater quality, water supply, earthquakes and air quality,” Pavley said in a news release. “We must protect California from risks to our economy, public health and safety and environment.”


White House honors local immigrant innovators

Four Bay Area residents are among 11 Americans being honored by the White House today as Immigrant Innovator “Champions of Change,” described as “the best and brightest from around the world who are helping create American jobs, grow our economy, and make our nation more competitive.”

“Immigrants have long made America more prosperous and innovative, and the Champions we are celebrating today represent the very best in leadership, entrepreneurship, and public service,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said in a news release. “We are proud to recognize these leaders who work every day to grow our economy, advance science and technology, and support their home communities.”

The Champions of Change program is the White House’s effort to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Here are the four Bay Area honorees, as described in the White House’s news releases today:

Victoria Ransom, Menlo Park
Victoria RansomVictoria Ransom has been an entrepreneur since her early twenties and has developed three companies, the most recent of which, Wildfire, was acquired by Google in 2012. As founder and CEO of Wildfire, Victoria led the company to profitability in just one year and built the company to tens of thousands of customers, over 400 employees, and eight offices worldwide. Victoria is #19 on Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 list and she was named one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2012. She has been featured in several publications including The New York Times’ Corner Office, Bloomberg TV, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. In her spare time she is an avid snowboarder and surfer and a passionate adventure traveler who once spent six weeks living with a remote Amazonian tribe and five months living in a favela in Brazil.

Anna Mongayt, Palo Alto
Anna MongaytAnna Mongayt is a Co-Founder at Upstart — a crowdfunding platform that lets people raise money in exchange for a portion of their future income. Upstart is enabling young people to alleviate financial burdens such as student loans or living expenses by monetizing their future potential. It helps recent graduates pursue their dreams—to start a business, learn to code, or begin a career in a field they’re passionate about—by matching them with backers who believe in their aspirations. Investors can opt-in to become mentors and earn a return based on a regression model that predicts an individual’s income over ten years.

Jonas Korlach, Newark
Jonas KorlachJonas Korlach is Chief Scientific Officer at Pacific Biosciences. He co-invented the company’s SMRT technology with Stephen Turner, Ph.D., Pacific Biosciences Founder and Chief Technology Officer, when the two were graduate students at Cornell University. SMRT technology dramatically improves the accuracy and speed of DNA sequencing. Dr. Korlach joined Pacific Biosciences as the company’s eighth employee in 2004. Dr. Korlach is the recipient of multiple grants, an inventor on 33 issued U.S. patents, and an author of numerous scientific studies on the principles and applications of SMRT technology, including publications in Nature, Science, and PNAS. He received both his Ph.D. and his M.S. degrees in Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology from Cornell, and received M.S. and B.A. degrees in Biological Sciences from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.

Zack Rinat, Redwood Shores
Zack RinatZack Rinat is Model N’s Founder and has served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors and as Chief Executive Officer since its inception in December 1999. Previously, Mr. Rinat co-founded and ultimately served as President and Chief Executive Officer of NetDynamics, Inc., an application server software company, before its acquisition by Sun Microsystems in 1998, where he served as the Vice President and General Manager of the NetDynamics business unit. From 1998 to 1999, Mr. Rinat served as a founding member of the Board of Directors of TradingDynamics, and from 2005 to 2012 he served on the Board of Directors of Conduit Ltd., serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 2005 to 2011. Previously, Mr. Rinat held senior management positions in operations, marketing, and engineering at Silicon Graphics, Inc., and at Advanced Technology Israel. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in computer science from the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology).


CA17: Khanna, Honda roll out more endorsements

Ro Khanna, the former Obama Administration official who’s challenging fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, has opened a campaign office in Fremont and rolled out a list of endorsements from local elected officials.

Ro KhannaThe local elected officials endorsing Khanna, 36, of Fremont, include Cupertino Mayor Orrin Mahoney, Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, former Newark Mayor Emeritus David Smith, Cupertino City Councilman Rod Sinks, Fremont Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan, Fremont City Councilmember Raj Salwan and Milpitas City Councilmembers Carmen Montano, Debbie Giordano and Althea Polansky.

“As Mayor of Cupertino, a homeowner in Cupertino for the past 30 years, and a Cupertino based Hewlett-Packard employee for 20 of those years, I am proud to support Ro Khanna because of his understanding of high tech issues and vision for creating jobs locally in a world of dynamic change,” Mahoney said in Khanna’s news release. “Ro understands Cupertino’s unique values of excellent education, parks and recreation, and responsive local government. I know he will partner with local leaders to help Cupertino remain a beacon for innovation and economic growth in the 21st century.”

honda.jpgHonda, 71, of San Jose, last week announced some endorsements of his own, from notable Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders including former White House Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu; retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba; Maya Soetoro-Ng, an educator and President Barack Obama’s half-sister; actor George Takei; actor Kal Penn, former associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; and TV host Yul Kwon, former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.

“Over the past four years, I have worked closely with Mike Honda, and I have seen his commitment to providing greater economic opportunities for all Americans through investments in education and innovation,” Lu said in Honda’s news release. “I also have witnessed first-hand Mike’s commitment to the issues that matter to Asian American community – issues such as health care, immigration reform, and civil rights. Our nation needs more leaders like Mike Honda, and I am proud to endorse him for re-election.”


Tough House hearing for high-speed rail project

It looks like supporters of the California High Speed Rail project took a verbal beating Tuesday as the U.S. House Transportation Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials held a field hearing in Madera.

“Since Prop 1A was approved by California voters in 2008, the project has more than doubled in cost, and, after more than $3 billion from the federal tax payer, not one shovel has hit the ground,” subcommittee chairman Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, said afterward. “Until I see a viable business plan for high speed rail in California that is fiscally sound and supported by private dollars, I will continue to hold the rail authority accountable to the voters and ensure their taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.”

Here’s some of the questioning:

The panel, also including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, grilled witnesses including California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard; Preserve Our Heritage Chairman Kole Upton; Kings County Board of Supervisors Chairman Doug Verboon; Madera County Farm Bureau Executive Director Anja Raudabaugh; Lou Thompson, chairman of the Peer Review Group for the California High-Speed Rail Project; and Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Al Smith.

The witnesses’ prepared testimony, and Denham’s opening statement, are available on Denham’s website.


George Miller is heading for Bangladesh

A Bay Area congressman is Bangladesh-bound this week, intent on inspecting sometimes-deadly conditions in the world’s second-largest garment industry.

George MillerRep. George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, will be the first member of Congress to visit Bangladesh since the April 24 building collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers and injured more than 2,500. The disaster has brought a worldwide spotlight in working conditions in the South Asian nation, and whether U.S. garment retailers are benefiting from exploitation there.

Miller, who intends to meet with workers, victims, and industry and government officials, has been pressing major U.S. companies whose products are made in Bangladesh to sign onto a new binding and enforceable building and fire safety accord that has been signed by more than 31 companies worldwide. Most large American companies like Wal-Mart and Gap have so far refused to sign on.

“This trip to Bangladesh is an important opportunity to examine the circumstances surrounding the tragic events that have taken so many lives and threaten the lives of so many others,” Miller, D-Martinez, said in a news release.

Bangladesh building collapse (AP)“I hope to learn more about three particular aspects of these tragedies and American involvement in this burgeoning industry – worker safety and health conditions and the impact of the recently inked fire and building safety agreement, garment workers’ rights to form unions without fear of retaliation or persecution, and whether Bangladesh is guaranteeing labor rights and acceptable working conditions that are expected if the United States is to maintain tariff relief provided under the Generalized System of Preferences, a decision on which is expected imminently,” Miller said.

Miller recently penned a front-page editorial for Women’s Wear Daily, urging the fashion industry to come together and improve conditions in Bangladesh. Miller and Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat of the Ways and Means Committee, have also urged the Obama administration to coordinate action to improve workers’ rights and working conditions in Bangladesh.


The return of “Queen Meg” Whitman?

Meg Whitman on Forbes cover 6-10-2013The new issue of Forbes magazine features Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman on the cover, but the headline harkens back to a less successful moment in her career.

“Meg Goes to War,” the headline proclaims. “Can the queen of Silicon Valley save its original startup?”

Whitman’s people should put a permanent kibosh on using the word “queen” anywhere near her name. It’s a cringe-worthy reminder of the “Queen Meg” guerrilla campaign tactic that the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United used against her during her 2010 gubernatorial run – a costumed performer impersonating Whitman as someone who thought herself above, and couldn’t be bothered by, the needs of the hoi polloi.

The Forbes story portrays Whitman as a CEO who wants to learn from her company’s mistakes in order to build a leaner, more competitive outfit. “She’s decisive without being abrasive, persuasive without being slick. She’s a team builder who knows that turnarounds call for repairing hundreds of small failings rather than betting everything on a miracle cure that might be a mirage.”

If that’s how she had run her $178.5 million campaign – with $144 million of that coming from her own pocket – we might be calling her Gov. Whitman right now.