Monday, November 25, 2019




          For months, the University of California has been beset by the threat of a lawsuit from parents of minority students and others supposedly looking out for their interests, who insist the UC system’s use of national standardized tests in its admission process is discriminatory.

          Really? The claim propounded by lawyers for the Compton Unified School District, several students and five nonprofits is that the SAT and ACT exams taken by millions of high schoolers across the nation are not fair to minorities and children of the poor.

          They assert that test performances closely correlate with family incomes, parent education levels and race. That’s undoubtedly correct: Higher income families often seek classes and other educational opportunities for their children outside school programs and frequently arrange prep courses for their kids before they take the exams.

          Yes, the College Board, which runs the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing (ACT) program have changed their exams, making them less likely to favor the economically privileged and white or Asian-American kids.

          But nothing prevents mostly-minority school districts like
Compton from designing test preparation courses of their own, specially targeted to overcome whatever disadvantages they believe their students might have. These classes could be offered free to everyone expected to take either test within two years of the class’s opening date. So far, only a few such publicly-funded classes exist, but where they do, student performances improved.

          Reality is that public schools cannot force parents to take a greater than normal interest in their kids’ education. Numerous studies show that the more educated parents are, the more they participate in parent-teacher activities at their children’s schools and the more assiduous they are about making sure their children do homework and attend school reliably.

          For sure, kids who form bad study and attendance habits from an early age almost always fare worse than others on the SAT and ACT.

          And what about the claim that use of the tests as a factor in UC admissions amounts to racial and economic discrimination? It’s no more discriminatory than the university system’s concurrent use of grade point averages, essays and class rankings, where parental education and financial standing also usually correlate with better performance.

          None of this will satisfy the anti-test advocates. Their unspoken aim: They would essentially like to see UC dumbed down so that more people can enjoy the prestige and the privileged assumptions that go with a diploma from one of America’s preeminent public universities.

          One official of the Oakland-based Equal Justice Society told a reporter that “The SAT has built-in biases that ultimately derail the college aspirations of thousands of hardworking students of color who would thrive in college and make important contributions to the UC community and beyond. The test serves no purpose other than to act as a barrier to higher education for historically disadvantaged students.”

          If there are some discriminatory aspects, they may include the fact that language dialects some students use at home do not jibe well with word usage on the test. This could be overcome by test-prep courses if they were widely offered by public schools in disadvantaged areas. That could be one very constructive use of the extra money the state has sent to schools with large numbers of poor kids under programs begun by ex-Gov. Jerry Brown six years ago. But few districts have done this.

          And there is ample evidence that the SAT and ACT usually serve their stated purpose: test results usually predict college performance by the test takers.

          At the same time, it does not seem to matter to opponents of standardized exams what the testing companies do to make their exams less sensitive to privilege and parental interest. Both firms have redesigned test questions with this factor in mind, but could not stem the complaints.

          The bottom line: In a climate where several UC chancellors and other top officials say they’re open to abandoning the tests, a UC committee is to report in early spring on what the elite system should do. Whatever it does, UC must take care to avoid anything that might undermine its high standing, which draws top faculty and students from around the world.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




All those folks who have been saying for years that California housing and taxes are too expensive for most Americans to move here, take note: The newest survey of Americans aged 45 or more, those who can be expected to retire in the next two decades, show the Golden State has lost little of its retirement allure.

To be sure, California ranks only fifth among the 48 continental states as a desired retirement destination, but it’s well ahead of Texas, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, to name just a few of the popular destinations for Californians cashing out their high-value homes and moving.

The only states ahead of California as desired retirement destinations are Florida, Arizona, Tennessee and South Carolina, with Tennessee the only surprise on the list. Florida, the clear leader as the preferred final home for 24 percent of those surveyed, has far more retirement communities and other facilities catering specifically to seniors than California. The allure of the other three states plainly is their lower housing prices.

       This becomes clear from a look at the savings and other assets held by a stratified random sample of 1,068 Americans over 45 sampled by the New York-based real estate data firm

       The firm, using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk tool, found that three of every five persons in that age category possess less than $100,000 in savings and just 4 percent had more than $1 million available for use in retirement, covering real estate and other expenses. It’s tough to contemplate buying California property with that kind of asset base. So, most likely, California isn’t in the top two in retirement desirability because most near- or middle-term retirees can’t buy into this state’s market. More than one-third of the study’s respondents also said they had experienced some difficulty meeting housing-related expenses in the last year.

And yet, the study shows a significant 56 percent majority of middle-aged and older Americans want to stay put for the rest of their lives. Aging in place, said PropertyShark, remains the gold standard.

That bodes well for California, the state providing the single largest share of respondents. It means most older Californians  do not now plan to cash out and leave, despite the siren call of far lower living expenses in nearby states like Arizona, Nevada and Idaho.

Still, many seniors who would like to stay put have felt a pinch. Among those with yearly incomes between $20,000 and $40,000, fully 42 percent reported struggling with housing costs. There was no breakout for California, but this state’s higher costs probably mean even more seniors had difficulty here.

       This was one reason one-third of those surveyed said they’d consider sharing a home like the women in the constantly rerunning Golden Girls TV comedy. About 40 percent of those 45 or over would consider sharing space with younger housemates, with 35 percent preferring to share with folks about their own age. The better-vetted a potential houseguest is and the more of a financial contribution that person might make, the more popular the idea becomes. Simply helping with chores would not do it in most cases, while being a family member would increase the chance of acceptance for younger housemates.

       Policy makers need to consider these kinds of findings significantly as they plan neighborhoods or begin to make the kind of densifying housing changes now being pushed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and some state legislators.

       Most Americans in the over-45 category, the survey found, currently do not live in neighborhoods they consider senior-friendly. But with Baby Boomers aged 52 to 74 now controlling about 70 percent of all disposable income and 60 percent of those aged 65 or over living mortgage-free, more and more development will have to cater to them if it’s to be profitable.

       It adds up to a picture where California is a favored place, just as it long has been. These facts appear to contradict the pessimists about California that former Gov. Jerry Brown used to call “declinists.” At the same time, PropertyShark makes it clear life is not entirely simple for most of the soon-to-be elderly in California or anywhere else.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns,

Monday, November 18, 2019




          Something’s wrong here: California will send exponentially more delegates to the national Democratic Party’s nominating convention this summer in Milwaukee than all three of the first caucus and primary election states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

          Plus, Californians will begin receiving their ballots for their first-ever overwhelmingly mail-in statewide election on Feb. 4, just one day after the Iowa caucuses and eight days before anyone in New Hampshire can vote in that state’s traditionally first-in-the-nation primary.

          And yet…all candidates for this cycle’s only contested presidential nomination are mostly staying out of California.

          This is very hard to figure. Why, for example, did former Vice President Joe Biden skip the state Democratic Party’s mid-November convention in Long Beach? Why Elizabeth Warren? Why would they ignore a traditional campaign season cattle call, leaving the field to the likes of Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang and Cory Booker? All but Sanders and Buttegieg are in the second or third tier among Democratic hopefuls.

          The answer is tradition. While they could pick up almost as many delegates and popular votes in just two or three of California’s congressional districts as in any of the early primary states, those states are where candidates always go for momentum – and to drop out when Big Mo ignores them.

          But just as candidates had to adjust to the new digital world, shifting much advertising to social media and away from television commercials, they ought to be adjusting right now to the new primary calendar.

          Yes, for candidates with little or no cash on hand (like Harris, Castro and Booker), it may pay to stay out of California and in tiny states where personal hand-to-hand campaigning can help them if they do it well enough.

          But for candidates like Biden, Warren and the possible soon-to-be-hopeful Michael Bloomberg, the Golden State could be a gold mine. Yet, none wants to risk spending much time here right now, thinking that might lead to humiliation in the early states that have long meant so much.

          Except…by staying away, they lose the exposure they could get in this most vote-rich state of all. By concentrating on just a few California congressional districts and doing Iowa-style campaigning there, an appealing but underfunded hopeful could pick up plenty of delegates.

          The Democratic Party rules in California set up this kind of creative politicking, if anyone wants to try it. The rules give each of our 53 districts between four and six delegates, with another big pot going to the statewide leader. Since Democrats win delegates in proportion to their primary or caucus performances, and New Hampshire has just 24 pledged delegates compared with California’s 495, a candidate who wins only two districts here by big margins could get as many delegates as someone who wins New Hampshire with a 30 percent plurality (no one now has that much support there).

          So traditionalism now hamstrings Democratic candidates. If they allow that during the fall runoff, presumably against President Trump, they will run into big problems. Trump’s campaign, the most cybernetic ever, responds with instant ads attuned to every new political or global development.

          So here’s some advice to those second-tier candidates (are you listening, Kamala Harris?) who seem to have little realistic chance of winning the plurality in Iowa or New Hampshire: Come back to California during December and January, and often.

          Pick a place where concerted campaigning among a relatively few voters can produce delegates. This might mean districts that remained Republican through the 2018 Democratic congressional landslide. For instance, the Eighth District, stretching south from the high desert east of the Sierra Nevada down into parts of the San Bernardino area, could be a big plus for a clever Democrat.

          The district has few Democrats, but still awards four delegates. It may be the easiest place in America for a Democrat to win delegates by contacting small numbers of voters. Stage a town hall or two in this area that rarely sees a presidential candidate and you might just become more prominent.

          But who listens to advice, when tradition is so strong? Only those who really want to win… and so far, the candidates all but ignoring California are showing that’s not them.

Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is




No public agency in California history has a rap sheet quite like that of the California Public Utilities Commission:

It consistently cozies up to the utility companies it regulates, it has been criminally investigated (a probe that remains nominally open) for rewarding Southern California Edison Co.’s blunder that shut down a nuclear power plant paid for by customers, it has never reliably tracked utility company use of maintenance fees paid by customers for more than 60 years. That’s meant billions of dollars employed for other things, including executive bonuses.

The PUC has even spent customer money on criminal defense lawyers to protect commissioners from potential consequences of their illegal actions favoring utilities. It allegedly supervises companies like Pacific Gas & Electric Co., but acts completely powerless when public safety power shutoffs are botched.

          And yet, governors and the state Legislature continue placing immense trust in this benighted agency, which has never demonstrated it is trustworthy.

          When a new state law passed in 2018 demanding electric companies spend several billions to modernize and harden their transmission lines and trim trees and brush around them, the PUC got supervisory authority.

          When the Legislature last summer passed the highly questionable and yet-to-be-litigated AB 1054 setting up a state Wildfire Fund for which consumers will be dunned $13.5 billion over 15 years to cover damage caused by failing utility wires, the PUC had final say over whether and when those charges would be levied.

          As with most PUC decisions, that one was greased. The commission approved the charge to consumers without even a single public hearing where opponents could be heard.

          Most PUC members and agency presidents who perpetrated the majority of this commission’s past misdeeds have departed, stepping aside quietly in hopes their actions will never be punished.

Even Michael Peevey, former commission president and onetime chief executive of Edison has yet to be charged for his part in the scandal surrounding allotment of expenses around closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. His role was proven via notes on a hotel napkin found when authorities searched his La Canada-Flintridge home.

          Now there’s an apparent new PUC conflict of interest, this time involving the agency’s newest president, Marybel Batjer, hailed as a model bureaucrat on her appointment by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

          A lawsuit filed by consumer attorney Michael Aguirre, a former elected city attorney of San Diego, cites records disclosed by Newsom’s office in response to a Public Records Act demand. They show Batjer “played a major role in drafting AB 1054.”

          By odd coincidence, Newsom on the same day both signed that bill and appointed Batjer, previously head of the state Government Operations Agency, to her new job. The new law gives companies like Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric some financial security following admissions and other evidence that their equipment sparked many huge wildfires over the last three years.

          At the same time, since Batjer helped write the bill authorizing the Wildfire Fund, it was no surprise when less than two months after her appointment, the PUC approved billing consumers for the majority of its money without any hearing or much of a formal proceeding.

          No previous PUC president was ever so brazen in approving a charge essentially rewarding electric companies for their past practice of misusing customer money intended to maintain power lines and other equipment in a way that could have prevented wildfires.

          The commission did this while there was plenty of evidence that utility infrastructure degenerated while funds intended to keep it up to snuff were spent elsewhere.

          All of which points to the need for preventing future conflicts of interest like Batjer’s – a person in a highly political role who played a major role in creating a new law then appointed to implement it. This does not pass the smell test.

          The two best ways to stop this kind of questionable regulation are either to take power away from the PUC or make the agency elective, with commissioners answerable to the public that pays for their actions, as they are in Texas and some other states.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

Monday, November 11, 2019




          Just in case anyone still wonders why the California Republican Party has become a largely irrelevant group holding far less than one-third of the Legislature, only seven of this state’s 53 congressional seats and 23 percent of registered voters…Understanding comes with a quick look at party leaders’ responses to President Trump’s outright racist summertime tweets.

          There essentially was no response.

          Trump, who routinely vilifies anyone who doesn’t toe his line, went a step farther in attacking four radical new congresswomen who are often accused of anti-Semitism and being outright socialists.

          Although three of the four are United States natives, Trump told these members of the so-called “Squad” to “go back” to the “crime-infested places from which they came.” He added that they all “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total mess.”

For Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, that would mean Somalia, where pirates abound and Trump’s label might apply. But the other three, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were born in Cincinnati, Detroit and the Bronx, respectively. If those places are crime-infested, the Trump-led federal government is at least partly responsible.

          The President’s outburst of irritation at this small group, which has also rebelled against Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, produced an immediate outcry from establishment House Democrats regularly at odds with the Squad. They quickly introduced and passed a resolution rebuking Trump for his “racism,” noting that he criticized only women of color. Four Republicans and an independent joined all Democrats in voting for that.

          But California Republicans said nothing critical of Trump, who apparently can do no wrong in their eyes. Not one of California’s vastly diminished corps of GOP congressmen had a negative word for the most outrightly bigoted public statement the President has ever made.

          His tweet was also inaccurate, unless he considers America a “crime-infested place.”

          Rather than taking their leader to task, Republicans including the top-ranking one in California – Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the GOP’s House minority leader – immediately began a series of apologias for him.

          Trump, said McCarthy, was making a point about the four Democrats’ affinity for socialism. “It’s a debate about ideology,” he said, although Trump never mentioned ideology. McCarthy differed only slightly from his golfing buddy in the White House by conceding that “They’re Americans…”

          None of this state’s other six Republicans in Congress said a thing, meekly going along with their titular party leader. This, despite the fact some other Republicans in Congress did speak out. Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd, for one, called Trump’s comment “racist and xenophobic.” And the only black Republican senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, noted that “No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further.”

          Also saying nothing was new state GOP chair Jessica Millan Patterson, the first Latina to lead her party in California. When she sought the job, Patterson said her top priority was broadening the party’s appeal to non-white voters.

          Staying silent on Trump’s bigotry merely because he is a fellow Republican won’t do that. Neither will the state GOP’s steadfast opposition to broadening state programs like Medi-Cal to provide health care coverage for youthful undocumented immigrants. Nor its longstanding efforts to kill any gun control measure ever proposed. Nor its voting against every legislative idea that might mitigate California’s housing crunch. And so on.

          California Republicans often decry the fact this state has “one-party government.” They’re right, in that few Republicans now reside in the Legislature, although the GOP holds many local offices.

          But the state GOP needs to look in a mirror to understand why the most diverse state in American history by vast margins prefers to identify as Democratic and let Democrats control state politics and public policy, even when Democrats do plainly corrupt things like taking donations from big utilities days before passing a bailout plan for those same monopolistic companies.

          The California GOP needs to recognize this reality: Tolerate bigotry and you become a bigot in the eyes of the many minorities who make up a majority in California.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




Californians are about to find out whether money and new apartment-style dwellings can do much about the state’s expanding and seemingly intransigent problem with homelessness.

          As ad hoc encampments proliferate, featuring everything from small pop tents to excrement in the streets and chop shops where parts are taken from stolen bicycles and sold, politicians have begun throwing money at the depressing scene.

          The newest state budget allocates $650 million to local governments for helping the homeless, while another $1.7 billion-plus is earmarked for drug and mental health treatment and other homeless services. Los Angeles alone has more than 10,000 new rooms under construction or in the planning phase for use by the currently homeless.

          There’s little doubt about the severity of the problem or its causes, ranging from job losses to recent prison releases, low wages, drug addiction, alcoholism, family disputes, rent increases, domestic violence and mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorders affecting war veterans.

          The scope is enormous. Of the more than 570,000 people sleeping in American streets, cars or other places unsuited for human habitation, more than 114,000 are in California. That puts one-fifth of homeless Americans here, while the state has only a bit more than 10 percent of the national populace.

          So far, providing small dwelling units for them has not solved the problem. Said one city official in the homeless Mecca of Santa Monica, “For every one we manage to house, two more will arrive shortly after.”

          Or, as a member of the state’s new commission to investigate homelessness remarked in a radio interview, “If we house 33 people in new units, another 150 will arrive on the streets the next day.”

          The problem drew tweeted attention from President Trump, who caught sight of a couple of homeless encampments as his motorcade drove last fall from a helicopter at the Santa Monica Airport to several Los Angeles fund-raisers. He saw others on a fund-raising visit to San Francisco.

          Trump blasted state and local officials, mostly because almost all are Democrats who usually oppose him. Meanwhile, he proposes reducing the federal investment in housing vouchers which are probably the foremost tool cities and counties can use to provide private space for the unhoused, many of whom shy away from mass homeless shelters lacking privacy or partitions.

          And yes, California’s state and local investment in fighting homelessness amounts to more than one-third of the $6 billion the federal government spends on the problem. City and county officials here say their problem could be eased considerably if Trump and Housing secretary Ben Carson provide 50,000 new rent vouchers through two existing programs. A letter to Trump from Gov. Gavin Newsom and other California officials after Trump’s blast at the state’s homelessness also suggested the value of vouchers should be upped because of high rents.

          Newsom asserted those vouchers could “eliminate veteran homelessness in the state,” where about 15,000 former military personnel sleep outside or in cars every night.

          So far, no response from Trump, who appears preoccupied with staving off impeachment. The Department of Housing and Urban Development also did not respond.

          So as winter approaches, there is no significant relief in sight for the homeless, despite all the state tax dollars being spent and a new state law exempting proposed developments to house the homeless from environmental reviews until 2025.

          Lest Californians rely on the urban myth that most of the homeless prefer to stay that way, one recent study showed that 34 percent of them say their problem would be solved with employment assistance and another 31 percent say all it would take to get them inside is substantial help paying rent.

          Without doubt, some state money now going to cities and counties will go to rent subsidies. But it’s uncertain that will be enough. No one knows how many of the homeless will want to move into new housing if it looks like dormitories or barracks. No one knows how many will agree to drug or mental health treatment, problems that together afflict almost half the current homeless.

          Which suggests all the new money may help a bit, but probably won’t rid the landscape of many current scruffy encampments.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

Monday, November 4, 2019




          At times during this fall’s still simmering fire season, rookie Gov. Gavin Newsom looked a little like a scared rabbit as he ping-ponged for weeks from blaze to blaze, from Los Angeles to Santa Rosa and many points in between.

          Newsom has good political reason to be frightened. He lived through the energy crunch in the first years of this millennium and knows how that debacle destroyed the popularity of then-Gov. Gray Davis, even though Davis had no say about the electricity deregulation behind the crisis.

          While allegations of corruption were the proximate cause for Davis being recalled and thrown out of the governor’s office, there’s at least a chance that election result would have been different if he hadn’t been so damaged by looking and acting impotent in the face of rolling blackouts and brownouts during the crisis.

          Newsom also is not responsible for conditions that created yet another destructive fire season, but he does bear some responsibility for the widespread so-called “public safety power shutoffs” (PSPS) that plagued millions of Californians as winds blew and fires burned.

          Most blame ought to lie with a string of recent governors, including Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Davis, Pete Wilson, Ronald Reagan and Pat Brown.

They all appointed Public Utilities Commission (PUC) majorities that stood by idly as utility companies diverted tens of billions of dollars in maintenance fees paid monthly by customers since the 1950s to other uses, including executive bonuses. Meanwhile, power transmission lines and poles deteriorated for decades.

          But Newsom’s office did host a series of private meetings with officials of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. all through the spring and early summer, attended by his top aides and leading PG&E executives. All that while, he pushed hard publicly for passage of AB 1054, a legislative bill that set up a new state Wildfire Fund which will cost California electric customers more than $10 billion.

          Records from the meetings remain secret, but it’s highly likely they covered the prospect of PSPS's and who would design and okay them.

          As it emerged, PG&E made all the decisions that blacked out millions in vast swaths of Northern California whenever there was a threat of high, dry winds this fall. Those decisions turned the bankrupt utility into California’s least popular company.

          Newsom knows he has mostly done the bidding of big utilities like PG&E, which has put almost $300,000 into his most recent campaigns.

          He has not admitted it, but urgent political need to distance himself from the utilities may be one reason he became the most vocal critic of PG&E during the fires, describing the blackouts as “intolerable” and “irresponsible.” He’s adopted an idea advocated here for several years: break up PG&E and possibly other utilities. He even parroted a suggestion made here during the energy crunch: a state takeover of PG&E.

          Acting a little panicked, Newsom launched a $75 million program for state and local governments to mitigate impacts of power shutoffs without saying just how the money would be spent. He also called for PG&E – and by extension Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric – to compensate customers whose power was shut off.

          So far, only PG&E has agreed to any form of payments or future discounts, details not yet specified. But the PUC members Newsom appointed early this year show no signs of reversing a multi-billion dollar PG&E rate increase scheduled to raise the average residential electric bill by about $9 per month in January.

          So Newsom acts like PG&E’s leading critic after the blackouts, which caused some commentators to label California a “third-world state.”

          But at the same time, his regulatory appointees do nothing to penalize that company or Edison, whose equipment apparently also sparked some fall fires. Not only is the PUC allowing PG&E's rate increase to continue as if the company deserved it, but it okayed charging customers monthly for the Wildfire Fund without so much as a public hearing.

          So while Newsom talks like a PG&E critic, his appointees’ actions say otherwise. This reality ought to frighten him as he ponders what befell Davis.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




          In the 65-year history of organ transplants, the practice of removing viable hearts, livers, kidneys and more from the newly deceased has never been attacked as severely as it was in mid-October by California’s largest newspaper.

          Los Angeles Times editors and reporters did not respond directly when asked why they wrote and published more than five full broadsheet pages blasting this key part of the transplant process. Transplant organs are always taken only with the full permission of donors – expressed while they were still alive – and/or with full consent of families involved.

          Rather than having writers and editors answer questions, the Times provided this statement: “There is much about the organ and tissue harvesting and donation process, and how it can complicate death investigations, that the public is not aware of. These stories helped shine a light on that and provided readers with more details about how to make an informed choice about organ donation.” 

          Any such “light” was quite dim at best, while the paper’s long series contained key errors and omissions.

The central Times claim is that “dozens of death investigations, including many in California, (have) been complicated or delayed by the procurement of tissues or organs before the coroner’s autopsy.”

          But the president of the National Association of Medical Examiners wrote the paper saying no cause-of-death examinations have been impeded by organ recoveries.

          The Times itself quoted Jonathan Lucas, chief medical examiner and coroner of Los Angeles County, who said he believes no cause-of-death or criminal investigation has been impeded in his county by organ recoveries.

          The Times refused to say why it proceeded with its series after learning this.

The paper also implied profiteering by regional transplant organ recovery organizations that facilitate virtually all recoveries and use national rules to distribute organs. Patients who get organs often endure years of severe disability while awaiting life-saving hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs and more. Other body parts, like corneas used to restore eyesight and skin for burn victims are usually distributed through tissue banks.

So far, reader letters published by the Times indicate the series caused some would-be organ donors to revoke permission. This raised a key life-and-death question inexplicably ignored by the Times series and statement.

          It was expressed this way by Thomas Mone, CEO of OneLegacy, the Southern California organ recovery organization which is the largest in America. “Theoretically, if the Times’ claims were correct, the question would be whether forensic exams are more important than the lives saved by transplants,” Mone said.

          He added, “If these stories cause even one person not to donate, that could cost eight lives and deprive 75 persons of healing tissues.”

          Mone also insists OneLegacy and similar outfits take no organs or tissue until medical examiners permit removal.

          Another key point the paper omitted: human organs are only viable for about 30 minutes after persons are removed from whatever devices kept them alive after being declared brain-dead.

          This urgency explains why organ procurement organizations nationally set up offices and laboratories in or near morgues, a practice the Times strongly implied is corrupt.

          The paper also repeatedly calls the non-profit organizations “companies,” hinting they are motivated by money.

          (Full disclosure: Columnist Elias has a live-donor kidney transplant; no organ recovery organization was involved in his case.)

          Attacked most strongly in the series ( was OneLegacy, operating in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern and Santa Barbara counties.

          Other outfits recovering organs in California include LifeSharing in San Diego, Donor Network West in the San Francisco Bay area and Sierra Donor Services in the Central Valley.

          Together, they enabled more than 3,200 organ transplants from deceased donors in 2018. That number dwarfed last year’s 698 transplants from live donors.

Mone denied OneLegacy ever seeks profits. The organization employs more than 400 doctors, nurses and others. Annual budgets approach $100 million, mostly derived from payments for its services during organ recovery and transplants.

          By law, any profits from kidney transplants go to the federal Medicare fund, with other net income used to improve operations, none going to salaries.

          All of which leaves the basic mystery here unanswered: Why did California’s largest newspaper publish highly flawed stories that may cost many lives?

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit