California wildfires ravage wine country as death toll rises to 40

SONOMA, California — California wildfires raced toward wineries and the historic town of Sonoma on Saturday, chasing hundreds more people from their homes and threatening to roll back firefighters’ modest gains against fires that stretched across a 100-mile swath of northern California, killing at least 40 people.

Propelled by stiff winds, the fires damaged or destroyed several buildings in the middle of the night before crews halted their advance at the edge of Sonoma, where firefighters spent days digging firebreaks to keep flames from reaching the city’s historic central plaza built centuries ago when the area was under Spanish rule.

Nearly a week after the blazes began, the fires have left 40 people dead and destroyed at least 5,700 homes and businesses, making them the deadliest and most destructive group of wildfires in California history. The death toll rose from 35 on Saturday and authorities expect it to continue to climb.

Some 300 people remain unaccounted for, though officials think they’ll locate most of those people alive.

Most of the deceased are believed to have died late on October 8 or early October 9, when the fires exploded and took people by surprise in the dead of night. Most of the victims were elderly, though they ranged in age from 14 to 100.

“It’s a horror that no one could have imagined,” Gov. Jerry Brown said, after driving past hundreds of “totally destroyed” homes with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

For those living in the huge fire zone, it was another night spent watching, waiting and fearing the worst.

John Saguto said he awoke several hours before dawn at his home east Sonoma to see flames “lapping up” 300 to 500 yards away. He and his neighbors evacuated as firetrucks raced up and down the streets and hot embers flew over their heads.

The fire made “a strong run” into Sonoma and damaged or destroyed additional buildings before firefighters stopped it, said Dave Teter, deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Several homes and other structures near a vineyard east of downtown were in smoldering ruins. Firefighters hosed down embers and knocked down walls that could topple over.

As of Saturday afternoon, Teter said crews did not expect any more losses in that area. But gusts up to 25 mph were forecast for the rest of the day.

In all, 17 large fires still burned across the northern part of the state, with more than 10,000 firefighters attacking the flames using air tankers, helicopters and more than 1,000 fire engines.

Throughout the day, fires continued to flare and burn through forested areas, engulfing extremely dry vegetation. Air tankers streamed red retardant to halt the spread of flames while other planes and helicopters made targeted water drops.

Signs posted in Sonoma thanked the firefighters. One declared them “heroes among us.”

From the sky, large subdivisions that burned to the ground looked like black and white photos. Each neatly outlined lot is full of ashen rubble. Cars are burned a darker gray. Trees still standing are charred black. Only streets look unscathed.

Brown, 79, and Feinstein, 84, said the fires were the worst of their lifetimes. The two veteran politicians reminded people that the blazes remain a threat and that people need to leave their homes when told to go.

No causes have been determined for the fires, though power lines downed by winds are seen as a possibility.

Some evacuees weary from nearly a week on the run demanded to return home or to see if they still have homes. Plans were in the works to reopen communities, but they were not ready to be put into effect, Teter said.Although some evacuees were returning home in Mendocino County, the latest estimates were that about 100,000 people were under evacuation orders as the fires burned for a sixth day.

Douglas and Marian Taylor stood outside their apartment complex Saturday in Santa Rosa with their two dogs and a sign that said “End evacuation now.”

Their building was unharmed at the edge of the evacuation zone with a police barricade set up across the street. The couple said they are spending about $300 per day to rent a motel and eat out, and they want to return home because the fire does not appear to threaten their home.

At an evacuation center at the fairgrounds in the Sonoma County city of Petaluma, volunteers sorted through mounds of donated baby wipes, diapers, pillows, shoes and clothing.

Randy Chiado and his wife, Barbara, evacuated Monday from the Oakmont section of Santa Rosa. They stayed for several days with a friend in Santa Rosa but left Saturday when flames approached again and sought refuge at the fairgrounds.
“After so many times of ‘It’s coming, get ready. It’s coming, get ready,’ it just gets nerve-wracking,” Barbara Chiado said.

Life away from home has been difficult and dangerous. Randy Chiado said a man who may have suspected he was a looter tried to punch him through his car window and yelled for a friend to get a gun when the Chiados turned onto a residential street after they evacuated their home. He said he was able to push the man off and drive away.

The couple planned to spend the night with other evacuees in a room set up with cots. “It’s like jail,” he said.


California declares state of emergency over deadly hepatitis A outbreak

California Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency Friday because of a hepatitisA outbreak that has killed at least 18 people in the state.

The declaration allows state health officials to buy additional doses of the hepatitis A vaccine to try to halt the outbreak, which is already the nation’s second largest in more than two decades.

“We have the capacity to use as much vaccine as we can get our hands on,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, state epidemiologist with the California Department of Public Health.

The outbreak began in San Diego’s homeless community late last year, but has since spread outside the region. Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties are also now experiencing outbreaks.

So far, 581 people in California have been sickened with the liver virus, more than half of whom have ended up in the hospital. The virus is particularly dangerous, and can be fatal, for people who already have other liver diseases, such as hepatitis B or C.

Federal health officials said last week that, even with the ongoing efforts to slow the spread of the disease, California’s outbreak could last years.

“Vaccinating people at risk of exposure is the most effective tool we have to prevent the spread of hepatitis A,” said California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Karen Smith.

The hepatitis A shot is already required for children, but now health officials are recommending it for people who are homeless and drug users.

“The general population does not have an increased risk of infection at this time,” Chavez said.

Hepatitis A is commonly transmitted through contaminated food. The only U.S. outbreak in the last 20 years bigger than California’s occurred in Pennsylvania in 2003, when more than 900 people were infected after eating contaminated green onions at a restaurant.

California’s outbreak, however, is spreading from person to person, mostly among the homeless community. Unsanitary conditions make the virus more likely to infect more people because it’s also transmitted through contact with feces.

State health officials said they had already distributed 81,000 doses of the vaccine this year and some counties had purchased their own additional vaccines separately. But Brown’s emergency declaration allows them to be able to buy more directly from manufacturers to up their supply, Chavez said.

Hepatitis A is particularly hard to control because people can spread the disease before they have symptoms and even know that they have the virus. The virus itself is also highly contagious and can survive in the environment for a long time once it’s introduced.

Hepatitis A in California

  • 490 cases in San Diego County
  • 71 cases in Santa Cruz County
  • 13 cases in Los Angeles County
  • 7 cases elsewhere in the state

Death toll hits 31 as California infernos grow to size of NYC

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Teams with cadaver dogs began a grim search Thursday for more dead in parts of California wine country devastated by wildfires, resorting in some cases to serial numbers stamped on medical implants to identify remains that turned up in the charred ruins.

New deaths confirmed Thursday took the toll to 31, making this the deadliest week of wildfires in California history.

Many of the flames still burned out of control, and the fires grew to more than 300 square miles (777 square kilometers), an area as large as New York City.

Sonoma and Napa counties endured a fourth day of choking smoke while many residents fled to shelters or camped out on beaches to await word on their homes and loved ones.

A forecast for gusty winds and dry air threatened to fan the fires further.

Some of the state’s most historic tourist sites, including Sonoma city and Calistoga in Napa Valley, were ghost towns populated only by fire crews trying to stop the advancing infernos.

Calistoga, known for wine tastings and hot springs, had dozens of firefighters staged at street corners. Ash rained down from the sky and a thick haze covered the ground. Mayor Chris Canning warned that the fires were drawing closer and all of the city’s 5,000 residents needed to heed an evacuation order.

“This is a mandatory evacuation. Your presence in Calistoga is not welcome if you are not a first responder,” Canning said during a news briefing, explaining that firefighters needed to focus on the blazes and had no time to save people.

A few residents left behind cookies for fire crews with signs reading, “Please save our home!”

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said officials were still investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams would begin conducting “targeted searches” for specific residents at their last known addresses.

“We have found bodies almost completely intact, and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones,” the sheriff said.

Some remains have been identified using medical devices uncovered in the scorched heaps that were once homes. Metal implants, such as artificial hips, have ID numbers that helped put names to victims, he said.

The eight new deaths confirmed Thursday brought the total to 31. Most of the fires, and the deaths, were in the coastal region north of San Francisco that encompasses wine country. Four deaths came further inland in Yuba County.

While the Oakland Hills fire of 1991 killed 25 people by itself and the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles in 1933 killed 29, never in recorded state history have so many people been killed by a simultaneous series of fires, said Daniel Berlant, a deputy director with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Firefighters had reported modest gains against the blazes, but containment seemed nowhere in sight.

“We are not out of this emergency. We are not even close to being out of this emergency,” Emergency Operations Director Mark Ghilarducci told a news conference.

More than 8,000 firefighters were battling the blazes, and more manpower and equipment was pouring in from around the country and from as far away as Australia, officials said.

Since igniting Sunday in spots across eight counties, the fires have transformed many neighborhoods into wastelands. At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed and an estimated 25,000 people forced to flee.

The wildfires continued to grow in size. A total count of 22 fires on Wednesday fell to 21 on Thursday because two large fires merged, said state Fire Chief Ken Pimlott.

The challenge of fighting the fires was compounded by the need for more help and the growing fatigue of firefighters who have been working for days.

“We have people that have been on that fire for three days who don’t want to leave,” said Cal Fire’s deputy incident commander in Napa, Barry Biermann. “At some point, you hit a road block.”

Fire officials were investigating whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the fires. It’s unclear if downed lines and live wires resulted from the fires or started them, said Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire.

Hundreds of evacuees fled to beaches far to the north of the fires, some sleeping on the sand on the first night of the blazes.

Since then, authorities have brought tents and sleeping bags and opened public buildings and restaurants to house people seeking refuge in the safety and clean air of the coastal community of Bodega Bay.

Local charities and residents went to Costco to buy supplies for the fleeing families. California Highway Patrol Officer Quintin Shawk took relatives and other evacuees into his home and office, as did many others.

“It’s like a refugee camp,” at his office, Shawk said.

Community members fed breakfast to some 200 people on the beach alone, and Patricia Ginochio, who owns a restaurant, opened the eatery for 300 more to sleep, she said. The evacuees’ arrival was heralded by a long line of headlights heading to beaches.

“The kids were scared,” Ginochio said, adding that temperatures by the beach drop dramatically at night. “They were shivering and freezing.”

Some lucky evacuees returned to find what they least expected.

Anna Brooner was prepared to find rubble and ashes after fleeing Santa Rosa’s devastated Coffey Park neighborhood.

Then she got a call from a friend: “You’re not going to believe this.” Her home was one of only a handful still standing.

“I swore when I left I was never coming back to this place,” Brooner said. “I feel so bad for all the other people. All of us came back thinking we had nothing left.”

Death toll rises to 21 as California wildfires swallow more homes

SANTA ROSA, California (AP) — Wildfires tearing through California wine country flared up again Wednesday, destroying hundreds more homes and other buildings and leading to new evacuation orders as authorities raised the death toll to 21 and warned that the number would rise.

At least 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed since the wildfires started Sunday, making them the third deadliest and most destructive blazes in state history.

Nearly three days after the flames ignited in Northern California, firefighters were still unable to gain control of the blazes, which were growing in number. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Daniel Berlant said 22 wildfires were burning, up from 17 on Tuesday.

Flames have raced across the wine-growing region and the scenic coastal area of Mendocino farther north, leaving little more than smoldering ashes and eye-stinging smoke in their wake. Whole neighborhoods are gone, with only brick chimneys and charred laundry machines to mark sites that were once family homes.

Authorities ordered more evacuations for parts of Sonoma Valley after a blaze grew to 44 square miles (113 square kilometers). Officials also cautioned that after a day of cooler weather and calmer winds, dangerous gusts would return Wednesday.

Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said the number of missing-persons reports surpassed 600, up from about 200 a day earlier. But officials believe many of those people will be found, saying that the chaotic evacuations and poor communications over the past few days have made locating friends and family difficult.

He also expects the death toll to climb.

“The devastation is enormous,” he said. “We can’t even get into most areas.”

Officials in Napa County say almost half the population of Calistoga was ordered to evacuate before sunrise. Officials went through the town of 5,000 people block by block, knocking on doors to warn people to leave, Napa County Supervisor Diane Dillon said.

New evacuation orders were also in place for Green Valley in Solano County.

Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said high winds and low humidity fueled the fires and similar conditions were expected to return.

“Yesterday was a very aggressive day for fire behavior with some rapid expansion for fires,” he said at a news conference. “We are expecting some extreme fire behavior” on Wednesday.

In Southern California, cooler weather and moist ocean air helped firefighters gain ground against a wildfire that has scorched more than a dozen square miles.

Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said the blaze was nearly halfway surrounded and full containment was expected by Saturday, but another round of gusty winds and low humidity levels could arrive late Thursday.

At least 10 dead as fires burn in California wine country

SANTA ROSA, California (AP) — Wildfires whipped by powerful winds swept through California wine country Monday, killing at least 10 people, destroying 1,500 homes and businesses and sending thousands fleeing as flames raged unchecked through high-end resorts, grocery stores and tree-lined neighborhoods.

As he fled through the ember-strewn streets of his neighborhood in Santa Rosa, Jeff Okrepkie knew it was probably the last time he would see his home of the past five years standing.

His worst fears were confirmed Monday morning, when a friend sent him a photo of what was left: a smoldering heap of burnt metal and debris.

“We live in the valley, where it’s concrete and strip malls and hotels and supermarkets,” Okrepkie said. “The last thing you think is a forest fire is going to come and wipe us out.”

At least 10 people died and two were seriously injured in the blazes that started on Sunday, fire officials said.

The flames were burning “at explosive rates” because of 50 mph winds, said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Fourteen large fires were burning, spread over a 200-mile region north of San Francisco from Napa in the south to Redding in the north. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

It was unusual to have so many fires take off at the same time, fire officials said, though October has generally been the most destructive time of year for California wildfires.

The ferocity of the flames forced authorities to focus primarily on getting people out safely, even if it meant abandoning structures to the fire. The fire area covered more than 100 square miles (160 square kilometers) over eight counties.

Elsewhere in the state, a fire churning through canyons in hilly neighborhoods of Orange County burned multiple homes and forced residents of about 1,000 homes to evacuate.

Some of the largest blazes were in Napa and Sonoma counties, home to dozens of wineries that attract tourists from around the world. They sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles (96 kilometers) away. What caused the blazes was not known.

Fires also burned in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties — all north of the state capital.

The inferno blackened miles along one of the main gateways into wine country, State Highway 12 into Sonoma County. Wooden fence posts and guard rails burned fiercely. Thick smoke roiled from one winery, JR Cohn.

The fires also damaged the Silverado Resort in Napa and a Hilton hotel in Santa Rosa, the largest city in the fire area, with a population of about 175,000.

Kim Hoe, a 33-year-old tech worker from Penang, Malaysia, was staying at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, which was gutted by flames. He said the power went out around 1 a.m., and he and his colleagues started packing up when someone knocked on the door and told them to run.

“We just had to run and run. It was full of smoke. We could barely breathe. It was dangerous,” Hoe said.

They returned in the morning to find the hotel had been destroyed along with most of their possessions. Hoe was relieved he had taken his passport and a few essential items.

Santa Rosa lost a Kmart, restaurants and an unknown number of businesses and homes. The blaze shut down schools and forced more than 200 patients at two city hospitals to evacuate.

Firefighters rushed to a state home for the severely disabled when flames reached one side of the center’s sprawling campus in the historic Sonoma County town of Glen Ellen. Emergency workers leapt from their cars to aid in the evacuation. Crews got the more than 200 patients from the threatened buildings, one firefighter said, as flames closed within a few dozen feet.

Residents throughout the area described a headlong flight to safety through smoke and flames.

Mike Turpen, 38, was at a bar in Glen Ellen early Monday when a stranger wearing a smoke mask ran in and yelled that there was a fire. Turpen raced home through flames in his Ford F-250.

“It was like Armageddon was on,” Turpen said. “Every branch of every tree was on fire.”

He woke later to find all his neighbors’ homes on fire, but stayed behind to try to defend his own rental home.

By late morning, Turpen, wearing shorts, a kerchief mask and goggles, was the last man standing for miles along one abandoned road. His yard and all those around him were burned, smoking and still flaming in a few spots. But his home was still standing.

California: Intentionally Infecting People With HIV No Longer A Felony


Renegade Editor’s Note: Pictured above is Senator Scott Wiener, who is one of the people who authored this bill. Thanks jews!

By Chris Menahan

The state of California has made it a mere misdemeanor to knowingly infect sexual partners with HIV. Democratic legislators said last month that charging bug spreaders with a felony is “homophobic” and “discriminatory.”

From RT:

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that reduces the crime of knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without informing them from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Friday’s Senate Bill 239 also applies to those who donate blood without disclosing their HIV status to the blood bank. It was authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego).

“Today, California took a major step toward treating HIV as a public health issue, instead of treating people living with HIV as criminals,” Wiener said in a statement.

Gov. Brown signed our legislation decriminalizing . Huge win for ppl living w HIV & for public health. HIV isn’t a crime. Thx Governor!

“HIV should be treated like all other serious infectious diseases, and that’s what SB 239 does,” he added.

Knowingly transmitting HIV to another person can still be classified as a felony in cases where intent to do so can be proven. Prior to passing the bill, under California law, HIV was the only communicable disease for which deliberate exposure was deemed a felony offense, which carries a penalty of between three and eight years in federal prison.

Wiener and other advocates for amending the law argued that such severe punishment dissuaded people from getting their HIV status checked, precisely to protect themselves from felony prosecution.

“We are going to end new HIV infections, and we will do so not by threatening people with state prison time, but rather by getting people to test and providing them access to care,” Wiener said, as cited by the LA Times.

Last year, legislators approved organ transplants between HIV positive people in a reversal of an earlier decision aimed at limiting the spread of the disease.

The passing of bill 239 reverses the harsh penalties initially imposed during the AIDS scare of the 1980s and 1990s.

“California’s outdated and draconian HIV criminal laws have disproportionately harmed people of color and transgender women,”said Melissa Goodman, the LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project Director with the ACLU of Southern California.

However, not everyone is convinced of the wisdom of such a decision.

“I’m of the mind that if you purposefully inflict another with a disease that alters their lifestyle the rest of their life, puts them on a regimen of medications to maintain any kind of normalcy, it should be a felony,” Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) said during a debate on the bill.

“It’s absolutely crazy to me that we should go light on this,” he added.

As Republican Sen. Jeff Stone said while this bill was being debated, infecting someone with HIV would “condemn one to probably $1 million in drug therapy for the rest of their lives.”

San Francisco Democratic Senator Scott Wiener, who sponsored the bill, bragged about triggering “Trump world” after news of the bill’s passing spread on Twitter:

Trump world sure is melting down re our bill that simply treats HIV same as all other serious infectious diseases. Ignorance is alive/well.

According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 gay men has HIV, the precursor to AIDS.

A homosexual hairdresser made headlines last week for allegedly “embarking on a ‘cynical campaign’ to infect as many men as he could with the [HIV] virus.”

As The Sun reported Friday: “A hairdresser deliberately infected at least four men with HIV after meeting them on gay dating app Grindr — before sending them mocking messages, a court heard.”

He texted one of his alleged victims: “Maybe you have the fever cos I came inside you and I have HIV, lol. Whoops!” 

Photo published for HIV-positive hairdresser allegedly cut tips off condoms to infect his Grindr dates

HIV-positive hairdresser allegedly cut tips off condoms to infect his Grindr dates

A hairdresser deliberately infected at least four men with HIV after meeting them on gay dating app Grindr — before sending them mocking messages, a court heard. Daryll Rowe, 26, from Edinburgh,

Though Scott Wiener is fine with people intentionally infecting others with HIV, he’s sponsoring a bill which would make “misgendering” someone at a public health facility punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

This article originally appeared on Information Liberation.

Poll: California Non-Whites Wants Ban on Free Speech for White Nationalists (White Idiots)


A recent poll conducted by UC Berkeley reveals that over half of California Democrats are in favor of free speech restrictions for white nationalists and other “hate groups.”


According to the poll, 53 percent of the state’s Democrats believe that white nationalists should not have the right to demonstrate, compared to 42 percent of the state’s Republicans and 39 percent of independent voters.

Statewide, 46 percent of voters support free speech restrictions, 43 percent believe that there should be no restrictions, and 11 percent have no opinion.

The poll was conducted by Berkeley’s Institute of Government Studies from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5, and included 1,200 registered California voters.

“I would have thought the liberals would be defending the right to demonstrate in general,” the poll’s director, Mark DiCamillo, told the San Jose Mercury News.

Sixty-six percent of the participants also believe that race relations have worsened in the past year, and 67 percent have “little to no confidence” in President Donald Trump’s “ability to handle the country’s race relations.”

Forty percent of white participants were in favor of restricting the free speech of white nationalists, compared to 51 percent of Latino participants, 58 percent of African American participants and 59 percent of Asian American participants.

UC Berkeley will be hosting conservative speaker Ben Shapiro on Thursday night, and Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon will give on-campus speeches later this month as part of the currently unsanctioned “Free Speech Week.”

California Seeks Ban On Fossil Fuel Cars, Laying The Groundwork To Ban Human Driven Cars


Renegade Editor’s Note: I remember watching movies like Total Recall (1990) in my youth and thinking that driverless cars would only be possible in the distant future, and yet now we have Arnold’s state leading the way in this brave new world.

By Aaron Kesel

California known as the sunny state is eyeing a ban on sales of fossil-fuel cars in hopes of reducing carbon emissions as they seed the deeper agenda to eventually ban humans from driving as we switch to an autonomous lifestyle.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has reportedly “expressed an interest” in the restrictions, according to Bloomberg, which cited California Air Resources Board (CARB) chair, Mary Nichols.

California may become the first U.S. territory to take action, similar to ChinaFrance, and the UK—all of which plan to phase out gas- and diesel-car sales over the next three decades.

“I’ve gotten messages from the Governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols told the news agency. “The Governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”

The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 requires the state to have a sharp reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in an effort to return to 1990 levels in three years, and drop 80 percent lower by 2050.

To reach these “ambitious” goals, “we have to pretty much replace all combustion with some form of renewable energy,” Nichols told Bloomberg. “We’re looking at that as a method of moving this discussion forward.”

But deep beneath banning internal combustion engines is the ulterior eventual agenda of banning human beings from driving at all, as Yahoo UK proposed last year, because “driverless cars make roads safer by eliminating human error.”

“While humans can become distracted behind the wheel and drive drunk or tired, autonomous cars lack this ability,” the publication wrote. “Long term, these vehicles will drive better than any human possibly can,’” Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive at Nvidia Corp told Bloomberg, noting that this technology has “superhuman intelligence.” “We’re not there yet, but we will get there sooner than we believe.”

The main problems besides humans keeping driverless cars off the road is actually federal laws and infrastructure, but that soon may change.

The U.S. government has released policy proposals on driverless cars, meaning that both industry and policy are shifting gear to prepare for the future to remove you from the road.

Two similar bills one by the Senate and one by the House would allow automakers each to operate more self-driving cars per year on U.S. roads if the measures are signed into law. The key difference between the pieces of legislation is that the Senate wants to slowly increase the number of driverless cars on the roads, while the House bill proposes to just put 100,000 self-driving vehicles on the road and hope for the best.

A top Senate Democrat told Politico that “there are a number of differences” between the Senate’s draft and what the House just passed.

The Senate’s self-driving bill would also allow the Secretary of Transportation to grant exemptions to federal motor vehicle rules that require cars to have human operators. Initially, 50,000 cars per automaker could be operated by companies if they can prove they meet existing safety standards. After a year, the number of exemptions per manufacturer would increase to 75,000, and would eventually increase up to 100,000 in the third year.

The House’s bill titled the SELF DRIVE Act (Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In-Vehicle Evolution) would allow for a speedier deployment of self-driving cars on America’s streets. The SELF DRIVE Act recently passed unanimously earlier this month with overwhelming bipartisan support, Wired reported.

Now the Senate has to pass its own bill. Then both branches will work together to come up with a compromised piece of legislation that will eventually end up on president Donald Trump’s desk to allow driverless cars in all 50 states.

Both versions of legislation prohibit states and other local jurisdictions from adopting regulations related to cars’ design, construction, software or communication. And instead, give that power to regulate the vehicles to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA.)

States would still have authority over vehicle registration, safety inspections, insurance and licensing, under the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV.)

Automakers would be able to apply for exemptions to operate more than 100,000 self-driving cars after five years under the landmark legislation. The current limit for such exemptions to federal auto standards is 2,500 cars for two years at a time.

The Senate held a hearing on September 13 on the deployment of self-driving trucks, Reuters reported.

The final version of the Senate’s drafted bill amended the legislation and removed driverless trucks, Detroit News reported.

“Legislation like the bill introduced today will allow manufacturers to conduct more testing and to safely deploy self-driving vehicles to realize the safety, mobility, congestion, environmental, land-use and other benefits of this transformative technology,” General Motors Co. said in a statement earlier this month.

Twenty-two states have either passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles or adopted regulations through a governor’s executive order. Those include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia, according to USA Today.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. and Canada advocates for autonomous vehicles are preparing the final puzzle piece to replace humans the infrastructure and have proposed a shift toward ‘driver-free zones,’ starting by banning human drivers from car-pool lanes on a 150-mile stretch of Interstate 5 between Seattle and Vancouver.

Other consumer advocate groups are worried about the potential risks involved with exempting so many autonomous vehicles from safety standards. The California-based advocate group Consumer Watchdog said in a statement that “The autonomous vehicle bill just passed by the House leaves a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers.”

We may soon see human driving outlawed in congested city centers like London, on college campuses and at airports, Kristin Schondorf, executive director of automotive transportation at consultant EY told Auto News.

“In city centers, you don’t even want non-automated vehicles; they would just ruin the whole point of why you have a smart city,” Schondorf, a former engineer at Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said. “It makes it a dumb city.”

John Krafcik, head of Google’s self-driving car project, echoed her sentiment stating in an August interview with Bloomberg Businessweek that the tech giant is developing cars without steering wheels and gas or brake pedals adding “we need to take the human out of the loop.”

Ford CEO Mark Fields also feels the same way stating Ford would begin selling robot taxis without any steering wheel or gas and brake pedals by 2021, TechCrunch reported.

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post and is Director of Content for Coinivore. Follow Aaron at Twitter and Steemit.

California’s Democratic lawmakers have a plan for thwarting President Trump in the 2020 presidential primary

Democrats in the California Legislature, still smarting from the election of President Trump, embraced a pair of proposed laws early Saturday that they hope would reshape the 2020 presidential contest in the image of America’s most populous state.

The two measures taken together are perhaps the strongest effort in years by state lawmakers seeking to erase California’s long status as an electoral afterthought.

“It’s time for Californians to have a louder voice about who is going to lead our country,” state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), said during a legislative hearing on his bill to move the state’s 2020 presidential primary from June 2 to March 3.

The hope, supporters said, is that presidential candidates will spend significant time campaigning in the Golden State to try to win the state’s sizable share of the total delegates needed to secure the nomination of either the Democratic or Republican parties.

More provocative was a second proposal crafted by Democrats, Senate Bill 149, that could ban Trump from appearing on California’s primary ballot if he doesn’t provide a copy of his income tax returns to state elections officials. While the mandate would apply to all presidential hopefuls, its authors admit the idea came to them after Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns in 2016.

“Making your tax returns public is a pretty low-threshold to meet,” state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said in a statement before adjournment. “The American people shouldn’t be in the dark about their president’s financial entanglements.”

Both bills now head to Gov. Jerry Brown, who hasn’t commented on either proposal. Neither of them may be a slam dunk, either in practice or in principle.

Critics of SB 149 have argued for months that imposing a new threshold for presidential candidates to access the California primary ballot might not pass legal muster. They’ve cited court cases related to state laws governing congressional candidate requirements in other states as an ominous precedent, though the rulings may not be applicable to presidential contenders. Supporters cited their own litany of cases they claim will allow California to set the new rules regarding tax returns.

Political Road Map: California’s political parties would love to kill the top-two primary »

The bill to jump ahead in the line of states holding presidential primaries, Senate Bill 568, is hardly a new idea. California first tried to assert its presidential relevance with a March primary in 1996. But by the time that election was held, 27 states had already held their own presidential primary or caucus. The candidates passed over California — one of America’s most expensive places to buy political advertising time. In 1992, in Brown’s third race for the presidency, the primary was held on June 2. He lost the state to Bill Clinton.

The state’s most successful experiment with an early presidential primary was in February 2008, when Democrat Hillary Clinton was her party’s pick over then-Sen. Barack Obama. The state was part of so-called Super Tuesday, and some 2.4 million more Californians cast ballots in that primary than in 2004. Even that time, however, almost two dozen states had already voted.

Persuading Brown to sign the bill might not be easy. In 2011, the governor signed legislation that permanently moved all primary elections — for presidential and state contests — back to early June, citing a lack of success at generating presidential interest and due to the high cost of holding separate primaries for president and statewide races.

Under current expectations about the 2020 election calendar, an early March primary would make California the fifth state to pick a favorite in the presidential race after Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Those states have a special place in party politics, in part due to tradition. Some have speculated such a change could help a Californian who may run for the White House, given the buzz surrounding the possible aspirations of Democrats such as Sen. Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The state’s diverse electorate would also be far different from the states whose contests are usually held early in the season.

But it may not sit well with the national political parties. An early primary would flout party rules governing the primary season. Other states that have attempted to exert influence over the process by shifting their primaries have faced punishment — a loss of delegates to the summer convention — for holding contests too close to the traditional early states.

The bill to move the date of California’s primary is also unique in that it’s the most sweeping change of its kind ever considered. Even non-presidential primary elections would be moved to early March — statewide, legislative and congressional candidates would also face voters before the arrival of spring.

In legislative debate on Friday, opponents said that would force candidates to formally file their paperwork as early as December, thus scaring off would-be challengers to incumbents.

“Some of you may love that, but I don’t think it’s right for the voters,” Assemblyman Matt Harper (R-Huntington Beach) said. “I think it’s incredibly short-sighted.”

Both bills were written in the early days of 2017, at the peak of Democratic outrage over Trump’s historic victory. And both could potentially hurt the Republican president’s reelection effort. Though he won the state’s June 2016 contest, California’s primary voters in 2020 may not look favorably on Trump.

(Unlike California’s top-two primary, with all candidates for federal and state offices appearing on a single ballot in California, presidential primaries are still segregated by party.)

A statewide poll in July by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that only 25% of adults surveyed approved of how the president is doing his job. Last November, Trump lost the general election in California to Clinton by some 4.2 million votes.

The other bill, a mandate for Trump to provide state officials with a copy of his income tax returns, could force a showdown of unprecedented proportions. The president’s steadfast refusal to do so broke with a national tradition of major party candidates dating back to 1973. (The president has said he did not do so because he was facing an audit.) Trump could challenge the California law in court, or he could simply skip running in a state where he could already face a tough contest.

As the tax returns proposal made its way through the state Capitol this year, Republicans demanded that Democrats should hold themselves to the same standard. Why, they wondered aloud in committee and floor debates, did the bill not require high-profile statewide candidates to do the same? Brown himself declined to reveal his tax returns in both the 2010 and the 2014 gubernatorial races.

“If it’s good enough for a presidential candidate, it’s certainly good enough for a governor, and all five constitutional offices,” state Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) said during a Senate floor debate in May.

Brown has until Oct. 15 to decide whether he’ll sign or veto either of the bills. The two measures were part of the final rush of legislative action in Sacramento before lawmakers adjourned for the year.

California Israel boycott activists sanctioned for disrupting pro-Israel event

The Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of California, Irvine, was punished with disciplinary probation for two academic years for disrupting a pro-Israel event held on campus.

After the announcement of the punishment last month, the SJP said it would appeal the decision. The appeal process is expected to take several weeks.

In addition to the two years of probation, the campus group must hold six meetings a year to discuss free speech, and adhere to a requirement to meet with university administrators two weeks before hosting any event, according to a statement from the university.

The group was sanctioned for disrupting an event held in May by the Students Supporting Israel organization which featured a panel of Israeli military veterans from the Israeli group Reservists on Duty.

About 30 members of the JVP entered the auditorium during the question and answer session and began chanting slogans such as “Israel, Israel what you say? How many people did you kill today?” and “Free Palestine,” in a protest captured on video.

Campus police officers escorted the panelists to the parking lot after the event, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The sanctions were leveled after the UC Irvine Office of Academic Integrity and Student Conduct decided the action was in violation of university policy, according to a statement issued by the office.

“UCI welcomes all opinions and encourages a free exchange of ideas – in fact, we defend free speech as one of our bedrock principles as a public university. Yet, we must protect everyone’s right to express themselves without disruption. This concept is clearly articulated in our policies and campus messaging. We will hold firm in enforcing it,” the statement said.

SJP at UC Irvine was sanctioned for disrupting a pro-Israel campus event in May 2016 as well.