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POSTED September 27, 2012 9:40 p.m.

LAWMAKERS CALL FOR HEARING ON REFINERY FIRES: RICHMOND  (AP) — In the wake of a massive fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery, two lawmakers are calling for a state hearing to explore government efforts to prevent future blazes.

Two state lawmakers on Thursday said the hearing is needed to figure out if additional legislation is needed to improve public safety.

State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley, says that information that has emerged about the refinery fire shows that more public health protections are needed.

The blaze sent a huge plume of black smoke into the air, and sent thousands of people into local hospitals with health complaints.

The Aug. 6 fire was caused by a failure in a five-foot section of an old pipe; Chevron says it has stepped up inspections.

15 ARRESTED IN SANTA ROSA POT RAID: SANTA ROSA  (AP) — Authorities arrested 15 people and served more than 30 search warrants in a Santa Rosa neighborhood where sheriff's officials say almost every home was growing marijuana.

Some 150 law enforcement officers descended on the area on Wednesday morning, ordering residents to leave before rushing into their homes and uprooting backyard marijuana plants. Participating agencies included the FBI and Homeland Security.

Sonoma County Sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary says authorities seized more than 1,100 pot plants in addition to processed marijuana, cash, guns and other drugs. The 15 people were arrested on suspicion of a variety of drug-related crimes.

Authorities suspected gang involvement with at least some of the gardens. O'Leary said they moved in after a recent complaint about marijuana plants in the neighborhood — some of which were clearly visible from the street.

LAST SF OCCUPY ENCAMPMENT CLEARED: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco police have cleared the last Occupy encampment in the city.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports (http://bit.ly/QqumIr) that dozens of officers moved in on the tents in front of the Federal Reserve Building on Market Street at 11:35 p.m. Wednesday.

Police advised the camp residents that they were illegally lodging on the sidewalk and would be arrested if they didn't leave. The Chronicle says at least five people obeyed the order.

About 20 others were arrested without incident.

Police spokesman Albie Esparza said they would most likely be cited and released.

The camp had been there since last fall. Some said the camp had become a magnet for the homeless.

GUNMAN SURRENDERS AFTER LAW OFFICE STANDOFF: SAN JOSE (AP) — A gunman has surrendered after a two-hour standoff in a San Jose law office.

No one was hurt.

The man was acting erratic and sweating when he entered the office Wednesday evening.

A female employee left the building and notified police.

Only the gunman was inside when police arrived.

Officers surrounded the law office and the man came out about two hours later and was arrested.

His name hasn't been released.

COURT SECURITY FIRM TO PAY $1.9M FOR LAX GUN TESTS: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A private security company that provides guards for most of the nation's federal courthouses has agreed to pay nearly $1.9 million to settle allegations that its workers deliberately conducted lax firearms tests of guards in Northern California, the government announced Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Justice had alleged that range masters employed by New Mexico-based Akal Security Inc., which has a $1.6 billion contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to manage court security in all but five states, gave guards extra time to complete a battery of tests measuring their gun skills.

In some cases, according to the government, the employees did not adhere to the time limits because they were afraid the guards would not pass and told the Marshals Service the test-takers were qualified.

"Those who guard federal courthouses not only have a duty to properly bill for their services, but also to ensure the safety of the individuals who work at and visit their federal courthouses," Stuart F. Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Division, said. "As this settlement demonstrates, there will be a steep price to pay for the failure to satisfy these important obligations."

The Justice Department said that as far as it knows, only guards who worked at federal courthouses in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose were given the bad tests between 2007 and last year.

Akal Security is part of a collection of businesses and non-profits founded by the late Sikh religious leader Harbhajan Singh Puri that also included Yogi Tea and the Golden Temple food company. Sikh Dharma International, a religious community he founded, is headquartered in Espanola, N.M., along with the security firm.

CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGES NAMES NEW CHANCELLOR: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California Community Colleges on Thursday named a veteran administrator to lead the nation's largest system of public higher education as it confronts a host of financial and academic challenges.

Brice Harris, who previously headed the Los Rios Community College District in the Sacramento area, will become the 15th chancellor of the state's 112-campus system. He starts the job Nov. 6.

Harris will replace Jack Scott, who retired this month after more than three and a half years in the position. Scott recently joined Claremont Graduate University as a scholar in residence.

As the statewide chancellor, Harris will receive an annual salary of $198,500 plus benefits, the same as his predecessor.

 

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