California Oil Refiners Start Rationing Fuel And Gas Stations Shut Down – Prices Surge To A Record

October 5, 2012

CALIFORNIA – Gasoline station owners in the Los Angeles area including Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) are beginning to shut pumps as the state’s oil refiners started rationing supplies and spot prices surged to a record.

Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) stopped selling gasoline on the spot, or wholesale, market in Southern California and is allocating deliveries to customers. Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) is also rationing fuel to U.S. West Coast terminal customers. Costco’s outlet in Simi Valley, 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles, ran out of regular gasoline yesterday and was selling premium fuel at the price of regular.

The gasoline shortage “feels like a hurricane to me, but it’s the West Coast,” Jeff Cole, Costco’s vice president of gasoline, said by telephone yesterday. “We’re obviously extremely disheartened that we are unable to do this, and we’re pulling fuel from all corners of California to fix this.”

Spot gasoline in Los Angeles has surged $1 a gallon this week to a record $1.45 a gallon premium versus gasoline futures traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the highest level for the fuel since at least November 2007, when Bloomberg began publishing prices there. On an outright basis, the fuel has jumped to $4.3929 a gallon.
Prices Jump

Gasoline at the pump gained 8.3 cents to $4.315 a gallon in California yesterday, according to AAA.com, 53.1 cents more than the national average of $3.784. In Los Angeles the price was $4.347. Gasoline futures for November delivery on the Nymex rose 14.34 cents to settle at $2.9429 a gallon, after falling yesterday to a 10-week low. Retail price movements tend to lag behind those of futures.

“Product supply in California has tightened, especially in Southern California, due to refinery outages,” Bill Day, a Valero spokesman at the company’s headquarters in San Antonio, said by e-mail.

Exxon’s Torrance refinery is restoring operations after losing power Oct. 1. Phillips 66 (PSX) is scheduled to perform work on gasoline-making units at its two California refineries this month, two people with knowledge of the schedules said. A Chevron Corp. (CVX) pipeline that delivers crude to Northern California refineries was also shut last month due to elevated levels of chloride in the oil.
San Francisco

Spot California-blend gasoline, or Carbob, in San Francisco surged 30 cents to $1.40 a gallon over futures, also the highest level since at least 2007, at 4:03 p.m. New York time.

Low-P, a gasoline station in Calabasas, California, 30 miles west of Los Angeles, stopped selling unleaded gasoline Oct. 2 and ran out of high-octane and medium-octane fuel yesterday, John Ravi, the station’s owner, said by phone yesterday. Ravi said he posted an “Out of Gasoline” sign on each pump and took down the prices outside his shop.

“I can get gas, but it’s going to cost me $4.90 a gallon, and I can’t sell it here for $5,” Ravi said. “If you come here right now, I’ve got some diesel left. That’s all. My market is open, but no gas.”

“We’re going to start shutting pumps Friday,” Sam Krikorian, owner of Quality Auto Repair in North Hollywood, said by phone yesterday. “Gas is costing me almost $4.75 a gallon with taxes. There’s no sense in staying open. The profit margins are so low it’s not worth it.”
’Squeeze is On’

“The squeeze is on, and people are doing desperate things,” Bob van der Valk, an independent petroleum industry analyst in Terry, Montana, said by e-mail yesterday. “The mom- and-pop gas stations are having to close down from either not being able to obtain gasoline from their regular distributor or cannot afford the break-even price of almost $5 per gallon.”

Costco is working on a plan to alert its members as gasoline runs out at the company’s stores “so customers don’t have to guess where to go,” Cole said. The company will sell whatever premium gasoline it has stored for regular gasoline prices wherever supplies run out, he said.

“Costco is a membership warehouse club with a relationship based on trust,” he said. “We’re not delivering what the members asked us to deliver, and that’s not acceptable to us. So we’re doing whatever we can to fix it.”
Short-Term Problem

Van der Valk called the price surge a “a short-term problem.” Wholesale costs should start falling as Exxon’s refinery returns to normal operations and other plants finish maintenance.

The California Independent Oil Marketers Association, a Sacramento-based group that represents wholesale and retail fuel marketers, asked the state yesterday to expedite a waiver that would allow refiners to produce and sell winter-grade fuel, Jay McKeeman, a spokesman for the association, said by telephone yesterday.

“Everybody is concerned about what might happen,” he said. “The real question is: How long is this going to last and what can the state do?”

California’s summer-blend fuel requirements are in effect in Southern California until Oct. 31. The Reid Vapor Pressure, or RVP, limits are lifted in other areas of the state as early as Sept. 30.

The state Air Resources Board and Energy Commission are evaluating fuel supplies and haven’t decided on the waiver, Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the air board in Sacramento, said by e- mail.
‘Losing Money’

The independent gas station owners are typically the first to run out of fuel and shut their pumps when spot prices surge because they often lack long-term contracts to buy from fuel suppliers at set prices, McKeeman said.

Jim Li said yesterday that he may stop selling gasoline at his independent station, Best Auto Care, in San Francisco. He’s charging $4.59 a gallon for the fuel, “and I’m still losing money,” he said.

Wholesale prices are “going up so quick that there’s not even any margin to make any money at all,” he said by telephone.

California-grade, or CARB, diesel in Los Angeles climbed 0.5 cent to 16.5 cents a gallon above heating oil futures on the Nymex. The fuel in San Francisco was unchanged at a premium of 17 cents a gallon versus futures.

Jet fuel in Los Angeles increased 0.37 cent to a premium of 11.25 cents a gallon against futures, the highest since Sept. 19.

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Bad Cops: Lawyers Call For Feds To Take Over Oakland California Police Department To Protect Citizens, Especially Minorites, From Dangerous Police Officers – 10’s Of Millions Spent To Settle Police Abuse Lawsuits

October 5, 2012

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – A historic fight over whether Oakland can reform its own police force began in earnest Thursday when civil rights attorneys asked a federal judge to take the unprecedented step of appointing a receiver to assure the changes are made.

The attorneys said a broken culture in the department had turned a decade-long reform effort into a “chronic failure,” endangering citizens – especially minorities – and costing the city tens of millions of dollars to settle police abuse lawsuits.

The lawyers represented more than 100 people who sued the city after four officers, who called themselves the Riders, were accused in 2000 of imposing vigilante justice in West Oakland. In a resulting settlement, Oakland had to implement a raft of reforms – which remain incomplete.

“A receiver is now required to do what city and (Oakland Police Department) officials have refused to do,” wrote John Burris, James Chanin and Julie Houk, in a 57-page motion to U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.

“There can be little doubt that further extensions will result in more constitutional violations,” they wrote, “and cause injuries, and even death, to innocent human beings, including members of the OPD.”
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3rd Fullerton California Police Officer, Joseph Wolfe, Charged With Beating Innocent, Mentally Ill, Homeless Man To Death – Caught On Security Camera

October 4, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – A third former Fullerton, California, police officer was charged in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man, the Orange County district attorney said.

Joseph Wolfe, 37, pleaded innocent Thursday to one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of use of excessive force in connection with the death of 37-year-old Kelly James Thomas on July 7, 2011.

The charges against Wolfe came as a result of a grand jury indictment handed down on Monday, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said in a statement.

Since Thomas’ death, the district attorney’s office “has actively continued its investigation and legal review and decided to seek indictment against Wolfe following extensive legal and factual analysis and development of evidence,” the statement said.

Wolfe was released on $25,000 bail, according to authorities at the Orange County jail. He faces up to a maximum four years in prison, if convicted.

Wolfe’s defense attorney, Vicki Podberesky, did not immediately respond early Friday to a CNN request for comment.

The indictment against Wolfe comes nearly a year after two other former Fullerton police officers were charged in the case. They were ordered to stand trial in May.

The grand jury heard testimony from 10 witnesses and reviewed 113 exhibits of evidence over three days before handing down the indictment against Wolfe, the statement said. State law requires grand jury transcripts to be sealed for 10 days after the defense has received the documents.

Thomas, a lifelong resident of Fullerton, was shirtless and carrying a backpack, and was wearing long pants and slippers, when Fullerton police were called to investigate a “homeless” man looking in car windows and pulling door handles of parked cars at the city’s bus depot last July, according to a lawsuit filed by Thomas’ father.

Father sues California police

A security camera at the downtown bus depot provided 16 minutes of video of the officers questioning and then beating Thomas, who was schizophrenic.

Former Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and former Cpl. Jay Patrick Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and felony use of excessive force.

Both have pleaded not guilty. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for November 30.

Ramos, 37, a 10-year veteran of the police department, faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life, if convicted, authorities have said. Cicinelli, 39, a 12-year Fullerton police veteran, faces a maximum of four years in prison, if convicted.

Recently, Thomas’ mother, Cathy, received $1 million from Fullerton’s insurance reserves in an agreement to settle her claim against the city in her son’s death, according to a city statement. Cathy Thomas, who’s divorced from Frederick “Ron” Thomas, released the city and its police officers from all potential claims, the city’s statement said.

Thomas’ father, Frederick Thomas Jr., filed a lawsuit in July against the city, its police chief and the six officers allegedly involved in the fatal incident. The lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in damages.

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Lawsuit Charges Los Angeles California Police Officers With Violent And Brutal Beating And Tasering Of Innocent Unarmed College Student – All Charges Against LAPD’s Victim Dropped

October 4, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – A college student who claims he was unjustly beaten and Tasered by officers while out with his friends in Hollywood last October is suing the Los Angeles Police Department.

“All I could remember was just sirens and punches,” said Aibuedefe Oghogho, who has no criminal past. Oghogho has filed a lawsuit against the LAPD, alleging excessive use of force and a violation of his civil rights for the arrest that happened on Oct. 22, 2010.

In the video, officers can be seen pulling up in an unmarked car and asking Oghogho what he’s holding. He says one of the officers pushed him, and Oghgho admits to putting up an arm and saying, “Stop.” That’s when he says things went south.

During the struggle, Officer Jenkins can be seen pulling his baton and striking Oghogho in the neck. He and his partner, Officer Tafoya, are then seen repeatedly punching Oghogho while he is on the ground. Oghogho is then put in handcuffs and is motionlesson the ground when what appears to be an army of backup officers arrive.

“They picked me up, threw me onto this fence and they threw me onto the fence started hitting me while I was on the fence and then they slammed me down like head first,” Oghogho said. “And I’m…and it’s the whole time they’re doin’ it, the whole time they’re doin’ it, I hear one officer keep punching me in my face, he’s telling me, ‘stop resisting arrest, stop resisting arrest’ and all I could say to myself was, ‘I’m not resisting.’”
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Harbor City California School Police Officer Uses Pepper Spray To Assault Every Student In Sight As 2 or 3 Girls Fight – “She Just Started Spraying. She Was Going Crazy With The Spray” – Spraying People Just Walking Past That Weren’t Involved – 47 Students Examined And Treated At The Scene And At Least 2 Taken To Hospital

October 4, 2012

HAROBOR CITY, CALIFORNIA – Forty-seven patients were examined after police used pepper spray to break up a fight at Narbonne High School in Harbor City, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

A fire department spokesman and a Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman both stated the treatment was taking place after school police used pepper spray. It wasn’t clear where on campus the incident occurred.

Witnesses said a fight between two girls escalated and others became involved, then a a female police officer pulled out the pepper spray.

“The lady just said, ‘Disperse.’ She didn’t give nobody no time to leave, she just started spraying. She was going crazy with the spray,” one student witness said. “People that was walking past that wasn’t even involved got sprayed.”

A mother whose daughter was involved in the fight said the incident started with bullying.

Los Angeles Fire Department’s Brian Humphrey said in an emailed alert to news media that 47 patients were examined on campus “for minor respiratory + eye irritation following pepper spray exposure.”

Some patients briefly accepted oxygen, and one 16-year-old male student was taken to the hospital in good condition with “lingering respiratory irritation,” Humphrey said.

“When firefighters arrived, the campus was very calm,” Humphrey said.

Aerial video showed two patients being wheeled to waiting ambulances. Several fire trucks sat outside the Harbor Area school, which had about 3,300 students last year.

The incident was reported at 10:18 a.m. at the school at 24230 Western Ave.

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US Begins To FLY Wetbacks Home To Mexico – Illegal Immigrants Previously Bussed To Mexican Border Towns, Now Thousands – Many Of Them Criminals, Will Be Flown In Luxury To Mexico City At US Taxpayer Expense

October 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. government began flying Mexican deportees home on Tuesday in a two-month experiment aimed at relieving Mexican border cities overwhelmed by large numbers of people ordered to leave the United States, some who fall prey to criminal gangs.

The flights will run twice a week from El Paso, Texas, to Mexico City until Nov. 29, at which time both governments will evaluate the results and decide whether to continue. The first flight left Tuesday with 131 Mexicans aboard.

The flights are not voluntary, unlike a previous effort from 2004 to 2011 to deport Mexicans arrested by the Border Patrol during Arizona’s deadly summer heat. The U.S. government will pay for the flights, and the Mexican government will pay to return people from Mexico City to their hometowns.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary said late Tuesday that more than 2,400 passengers will be flown to Mexico City during the next two months. Mexicans from the country’s northern border states are not eligible.

The experiment comes as Mexican cities along the U.S. border are grappling with large numbers of deportees who have no roots, few job prospects and sometimes limited Spanish. Many are deported to cities that are among the hardest hit by organized crime in Mexico, particularly across the border from Texas in the state of Tamaulipas.

“The newly repatriated, often with no means to return home, are susceptible to becoming part of criminal organizations as a means of survival,” Gustavo Mohar, Mexico’s interior undersecretary for population, migration and religious affairs, said in a statement released by ICE.

ICE Director John Morton said the flights “will better ensure that individuals repatriated to Mexico are removed in circumstances that are safe and controlled.”

ICE, which is managing the flights, said passengers will include Mexicans with criminal convictions in the United States and those who don’t have any. They will be taken from throughout the United States to a processing center in Chaparral, N.M., before being put on flights at El Paso International Airport.

President Barack Obama’s administration has made migrants with criminal convictions a top priority among the roughly 400,000 people of all nationalities who are deported each year. The Department of Homeland Security said nearly half of the 293,966 Mexicans deported in its last fiscal year had criminal convictions in the United States.

The policy has fueled concern in Mexican cities along the U.S. border that deportees are being victimized, turn to petty crime or are recruited by criminal gangs. In February, Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Mexican Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire announced plans for a pilot program, which was to begin April 1, but negotiations delayed the start until Tuesday. Homeland Security officials said the time was needed considering the complexities and logistics of the effort.

The Border Patrol will not participate in the flights, which is called the Interior Repatriation Initiative, said ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas.

Under a previous effort, some Mexicans who were arrested by the Border Patrol in Arizona’s stifling summer heat were offered a free flight to Mexico City, but they could refuse. The Mexican Interior Repatriation Program flights carried 125,164 passengers at a cost of $90.6 million from 2004 to 2011, or an average of $724 for each passenger, according to ICE.

The flights became a key piece of Border Patrol enforcement in Arizona as the agency moved to end its decades-old, revolving-door policy of taking migrants to the nearest border crossing to try again hours later.

Doris Meissner, who headed the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in the 1990s, said the pilot program was an encouraging sign that that two governments are working together to address the large number of deportees in Mexico’s northern border cities.

“It makes it less likely these people will try to renter the U.S. … and it creates some chance that they are in an environment where they actually have some ties,” she said.

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Sacramento California Lawyer Scott Johnson, Who Targeted 2,100 Businesses With ADA Lawsuits, Faces Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed By Four Former Legal Assistants – His Unethical Legal Practices Come To Light

October 3, 2012

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – Scott Johnson, the quadriplegic attorney who has sued more than 2,100 businesses for violating his civil rights, finds himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit that sheds harsh light on his legal practice.

Four former legal assistants employed by Johnson, all women, have filed suit in Sacramento County Superior Court claiming sexual harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to the complaint, all four women claim they were fired or otherwise forced out of their jobs at Johnson’s Carmichael home office this summer for complaining about the hostile work environment.

The plaintiffs are Jenna Doeuk and Esra Jones, both 5-year employees; Monthica Kem, a 4-year employee; and Micaela Lucas, who worked for Johnson for a year-and-a-half.

The women said they were only allowed to work as legal assistants after they spent approximately two weeks in “personal care training” learning to dress and undress their boss.

They claim their duties included placing Johnson in a hot tub and rubbing lotion on his body.

The women said the intimate contact made them uncomfortable, but that they were initially afraid to complain for fear of retaliation.

The lawsuit also claims the women were constantly under video surveillance, which included a camera aimed at the restroom to monitor how much time they spent there.

When it came time to hire staff, Jenna Doeuk, the most senior assistant involved in the lawsuit, said Johnson told her not to interview “men, ugly women and anyone over 30,” regardless of their qualifications.

The former legal assistants also offer insight into allegations that contrary to his claims, Johnson never personally visited many of the businesses he has sued under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

The women said they would accompany Johnson in his van for “field work” during which he would send them into a business as customers to look for ADA violations.

“He would call such actions a visit to the property even if he never left the van,” the lawsuit claims.

The women said they were uncomfortable going into a business under a ruse and felt as though they were committing fraud, but said they were paid a bonus for the field work.

The lawsuit also claims Johnson recruited and subsidized rent for disabled students who lived in apartment complexes he was interested in suing.

The former legal assistants are seeking an unspecified money judgment against Johnson along with a court order that he discontinue conduct alleged in the lawsuit.

Johnson did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

LEGAL ANALYSIS:

Former federal prosecutor and veteran criminal attorney Bill Portanova read the complaint and called the allegations, “very serious.”

“If these people had been hired to be nursemaids to him, that would be one thing. But when they’re young, professional students in law school, looking to be law clerks,and they’re hired to be law students but they’re forced to go through two weeks of naked, physical handling of the boss, I can honestly say I’ve never heard of that happening in any law office,” Portanova said.

As for never personally visiting many of the businesses he sued, Portanova said the legal action could shed new light on Johnson’s ADA lawsuits.

“(In) cases that are active right now, attorneys and purported defendants are probably going to take a much closer look at what they’ve been accused of before they give in and just pay the price to settle these lawsuits,” Portanova said.

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