Morning Splash: BART’s Plan to Manipulate Media; Obama Approval Sinks in CA; San Jose Limits Pot Clubs

In response to a planned protest Aug. 11, BART recruited loyal riders, prepared a script for them to read from, and hired a car service to take them to and from a press conference intended to sway public perception and media coverage, according to emails obtained by The Bay Citizen. But only one rider showed up — and he didn’t need a ride, leaving BART with an $872 bill for two SUVs it never used. The plan was hatched by BART’s chief communications manager, Linton Johnson, who also took credit for another idea implemented that day: shutting down cell phone service on station platforms to thwart the protest, which never materialized.

Even as President Obama’s approval rating has plummeted across the nation, it was always sunnier in California. Until now. For the first time since Obama became president in January 2009, fewer than half (46 percent) of California voters approve of his performance as president – a figure that’s dropped eight percentage points in three months, according to a Field Poll survey of attitudes toward Obama released today.

U.S. prosecutors have launched a criminal probe into whether eBay Inc employees took confidential information from classified ad website Craigslist as eBay sought to build a rival service, a copy of a grand jury subpoena obtained by Reuters shows. The two companies have been feuding for years in civil court over allegations that online giant eBay took a stake in Craigslist and then misappropriated confidential information while it secretly planned its own classifieds site.

The unfolding saga of Solyndra, once the poster child for the promise of cleantech jobs, takes center stage in Washington on Wednesday as lawmakers hold a hearing on the Fremont solar company’s controversial $535 million loan from the Department of Energy in the wake of its bankruptcy and raid by the FBI.

San Jose on Tuesday became the largest Northern California city to approve rules allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. But the move was a buzz kill for pot club activists, who called the new regulations unworkable and threatened to fight them in court or at the ballot box. The City Council’s decision to allow only 10 clubs to survive capped nearly two years of debate as nearly 12 dozen pot dispensaries spread across the city, raising concerns from neighbors and more than $1 million in tax revenue for cash-hungry San Jose.

As part of the Central Subway deal, San Francisco’s cash-strapped Municipal Transportation Agency will give $8 million to the politically connected Chinatown Community Development Corp. to help build an apartment complex. The agreement, which is sitting on Mayor Ed Lee’s desk, is part of an $11.6 million package of local and federal funds to relocate 56 residents of low-income housing on the 900 block of Stockton Street that will be demolished to make room for the Chinatown subway station.

Joblessness pushed another 2.6 million people into poverty last year as 15.1 percent of Americans and 16.3 percent of Californians were living under the poverty line — the highest rate since 1993, according to 2010 U.S. census statistics released Tuesday.

Northern California prides itself on environmental stewardship. But across the Bay Area, creeks and rivers are choked with fast food wrappers, rusting shopping carts and other trash. With the annual California Coastal Cleanup set for this Saturday, a leading Bay Area environmental group is shining a spotlight on five of the worst “trash hot spots” in the Bay Area, hoping that thousands of volunteers will help make them and other waterways much cleaner.

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