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California Utility Giant PG&E Possibly Involved in 400 Fires in 2018, as Execs Got Huge Bonuses

A new investigation has found that equipment belonging to PG&E may have been at fault in contributing to over 400 fires in California last year.

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(TMU) — As historic fires rage across California, a new investigation has found that equipment belonging to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)—the main electric utility company in the state—may have been at fault in contributing to over 400 fires in the state in 2018 alone.

The information comes from the massive investor-owned electrical monopoly itself, which was required to submit fire incident reports to regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), reports KTVU 2 Investigates.

On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency as major fires continued to consume land, destroy homes, and cause hundreds of thousands of evacuations from fire-threatened regions in the north and south of the state.

As of Monday afternoon, the Kincade Fire in Sonoma County grew to over 66,000 acres, turning California’s Wine Country into a blazing inferno as brutal winds continued to fan the flames. The fire is only 5 percent contained—down from 10 percent the previous day—and officials say the fire won’t be contained until November 7.

Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Hospital have both evacuated patients from Santa Rosa, the Sonoma County seat was devastated by fires only two years ago. About 3,000 firefighters are on hand working to put out the Kincade Fire, according to Newsom.

On Thursday, PG&E filed an incident report with the CPUC revealing that one of its own broken jumper wires was found on a transmission tower near the wildfire, raising questions about its role in the latest major blaze.

PG&E’s CEO Bill Johnson claims that the report is not necessarily an admission of guilt or proof of what caused the fire, but was being “shared … out of a sense of transparency.”

Beyond the fire zones, roughly one million PG& E customers are without power—965,000 due to the controversial Public Safety Power Shutoff the utility announced last week, and roughly 100,000 more for other reasons, said PG&E incident commander Mark Quinlan.

The company has come under withering public criticism and increased scrutiny for its role in the 2018 Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive blaze. The company has also agreed to pay billions for its role in that fire.

According to a Cal Fire investigation, the company was in fact responsible for the fire. PG&E has also acknowledged that it is “probable” that the company’s equipment started deadly blaze.

Widespread anger toward the utility has even resulted in isolated incidents of violence toward company employees.

In January, PG&E filed for bankruptcy over $51.69 billion in debts that accrued over the liabilities and wildfire-related claims that followed the deadly Northern California fires of 2015, 2017 and 2018 which were a result, either directly or in direct association with, the company’s equipment.

In August, a federal bankruptcy judge slammed the company for proposed compensation packages amounting to as much as $16.3 million being distributed to its executives despite the fact that they oversaw a corporate culture that led the most destructive fires in the state’s modern history.

The judge denied the corporation’s proposal to pay the exorbitant bonuses to its top executives in late August. However, in April, the same judge told the company it could give $235 million in bonuses to roughly 10,000 employees as part of its short-term incentive program.

Paired with the generous bonuses it has attempted to hand over to executives, PG&E has increased the bills of its customers.

Earlier this month, electricity bills increased by an average of $3.07 a month while natural gas bills rose by $1.73, reports the Sacramento Bee.

While the company claims the rate hikes were meant to ensure public safety, its proposal to CPUC in April included a request to boost its return on equity—to maximize investor profits.

In April, Gov. Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Click told the Bee:

“PG&E is requesting massive increases in costs to ratepayers in order (to) generate profits for investors—all while wildfire victims sit in bankruptcy.

The governor strongly believes ratepayers shouldn’t be on the hook for unnecessary increases as the state’s process plays out.”

In recent months, jurisdictions have also mulled purchasing existing PG&E infrastructure in a bid to control the power delivered to homes, government facilities, hospitals, and businesses as the company faces increased financial and political turmoil.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Corruption

Prison Guard Who Had Sex With Inmate In Front Of 11 Prisoners Is Now Behind Bars

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A prison guard in California now finds herself behind bars after she was caught having sexual relations with an inmate – in one case, performing the act in full view of 11 other prisoners.

Former Fresno County correctional officer Tina Gonzalez, 26, was arrested last May following an investigation by the vice unit of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s and its internal affairs division.

Gonzalez, who worked as a prison guard from 2016 to 2019, was investigated after authorities were tipped off that an inmate was having sex with a prison guard who had also smuggled in a phone, reports the Fresno Bee.

In one case, Gonzalez even cut a hole in the pants of her uniform to allow easier access during sexual acts with the unnamed prisoner at Fresno County Jail.

Gonzalez was also accused of having sex in full view of 11 inmates, an act that her former boss says “is something only a depraved mind can come up with.”

Assistant Sheriff Steve McComas, who once supervised the unit Gonzalez belonged to, said that in his entire career of 26 years he has witnessed some “pretty disgusting things” but none as bad as Gonzalez’s conduct.

“She took an oath which she betrayed and in doing so endangered her co-workers’ lives,” McComas said.

“But she has shown no remorse,” he added. “She continually calls and has sexually explicit conversations with the inmate in question and boasts about the crimes she carried out.”

Gonzalez pleaded no contest in April to one count of sexual activity by a detention facility employee with a consenting confined adult, one count of possession of drugs or an alcoholic beverage in a jail facility and a misdemeanor count of possession of cellular device with intent to deliver to an inmate.

When she was being sentenced, Judge Michael Idiart decried her acts as “terrible, stupid” and noted that her career had been “ruined.”

“But I also believe that people can redeem themselves and you have the rest of your life to do that,” the judge added. “Good luck.”

Gonzalez is now serving her sentence of seven months in county jail to be followed by two years of probation.

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Corruption

Judge Orders New Trove of Secret Ghislaine Maxwell Files to Be Unsealed This Month

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A large trove of secretive files about Ghislaine Maxwell will be unsealed this month, including those shedding light on her relationship with disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, a judge ruled on Thursday.

The documents will include details on her finances, as well as “funding received from the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation,” according to court records.

The documents are also believed to detail Maxwell’s extensive connections with powerful men such as Prince Andrew of the British royal family, reports the Daily Mail.

It has long been well-known that Epstein and Maxwell associated with both Clinton and former President Donald Trump. Clinton also reportedly met with accused Maxwell for an “intimate” dinner in 2014.

The documents are a part were filed by Epstein accuser and former “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre in a 2015 civil lawsuit against Maxwell and must be released in mid-July, Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Thursday’s telephone hearing.

Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after she was accused by the British socialite of fabricating the sexual abuse allegations against her and Epstein in the lawsuit, which has since been settled.

Last July, a deposition by Giuffre was unsealed. In the deposition, Giuffre went into detail about alleged “constant” orgies that Maxwell and the late pedophile engaged in on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.

“There’s just a blur of so many girls,” Giuffre explained in the 2015 deposition.

“There were blondes, there were brunettes, there were redheads,” she continued. “They were all beautiful girls. I would say the ages ranged between 15 and 21.”

The island was a place where orgies were a constant thing that took place. And again, it’s impossible to know how many,” Giuffre said, noting that she was “100 percent certain” that Maxwell took part in sexual acts with the girls.

Maxwell is accused of grooming multiple minors to engage in sex acts with Epstein, her ex-boyfriend, by befriending them to ask them about their lives and families while building friendships with the young girls alongside Epstein by taking their victims on social outings or out shopping in the 1990s and 2000s.

Maxwell has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, pending trial.

Her five appeals to be released from jail have all been rejected.

Epstein, 66, was found dead in a lone cell in the special housing unit (SHU) of a federal Manhattan prison in New York City while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.

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Corruption

2 More Catholic Churches in Canada Burned as Third Mass Gravesite for Indigenous Kids Found

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An additional two Catholic churches have been the target of likely arson in Canada as anger continues to grow in the aftermath of the discovery of over 1,000 human remains belonging to Indigenous children.

The news coincides with the discovery of a third site where 182 unmarked graves were located near a discovered near a residential school in British Columbia’s interior.

Early Wednesday morning, firefighters were dispatched to respond to a fire at St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alberta, which was basically gutted by the blaze.

“The fire was already fully involved from the basement when the first fire crews got here,” Morinville’s infrastructure general manager Iain Bushell told CTV News. “They entered the building but there was already collapse occurring on the inside of the church so they backed out and it’s been a defensive or exterior fire fight ever since.”

Police officials have described the blaze as “suspicious.”

Roughly an hour later, a fire was also reported at the Catholic St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, reports CBC.

At least seven churches, nearly all Catholic, have come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks. Activists and Indigenous advocates have also defaced Catholic churches with bloody red hand and foot prints, while demonstrations have also been staged involving stuffed animal and the slogan “we were children.”

While it remains unclear what precisely caused the fires, they are believed to be linked to the recent discovery of mass graves and unmarked graves containing over 1,000 human remains near Catholic-run residential schools for First Nations children.

The discovery came just few weeks after the grim discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s bodied by the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Colombia.

Also last month, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced its discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 in the area.

 Another site with 182 unmarked graves was announced Wednesday after an investigation undertaken by the community of ʔaq’am, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.

About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has confirmed that large amounts of Indigenous children fled such residential schools or died there, their whereabouts unknown. Former students have also testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad students died from preventable diseases that rapidly spread in unsanitary conditions, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”

Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are also demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. Activists have also rejected Canada Day celebrations this year to highlight the anti-Indigenous atrocities that the founding of the North American country entailed.

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