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A water district that serves a big swath of South County is poised to spend $4 million on a plan to buy water from a Mexican plant that takes the salt out of seawater. It’s already spent almost $700,000. So who’s behind the project and what’s their track record? The water district isn’t saying.

“The result is a shroud of secrecy blanketing a proposal that could enable the United States to tap Mexico’s ocean as a water source for the first time,” Rob Davis reports. “If Otay does strike a deal, the district’s secrecy makes it unclear who stands to profit from the international water pact.”

Two local water officials who declined to be identified say the secrecy is unusual. The Otay Water District’s general manager said it checks the companies that it hires.

City Poised for Medical Marijuana Battle

A few months ago, San Diego’s medical marijuana shops made a gamble: they wagered that it was better to fight the city’s new regulations on them — and risk making things worse for themselves in the long run — rather than accept rules they claimed would kill their businesses. And so they launched a successful petition drive to kill off the new regulations.

Now, the city attorney’s office is playing hard ball, saying each and every medical marijuana shop in the city — all 187 or so of them — is violating the law and must close, the Union-Tribune reports. “Medical marijuana dispensaries are not a permitted use within any zone in the city of San Diego,” declared a city attorney’s office letter to the shops. “Therefore, all medical marijuana dispensaries operating within the city of San Diego are in violation of the law and must cease operating immediately.”

It looks like the battle will end up in court.

In an interview with the U-T, District Attorney and mayoral candidate Bonnie Dumanis said she’s not going to let up on fighting dispensaries: “I’ve seen people that I care about who have used it as the law requires and have benefited from it. But what we see by way of the dispensaries is that it is drug dealing in our neighborhoods and people are hiding under the guise of ‘compassionate use.’ And they are nothing more than drug dealers. And we’ve been tough on them and will continue to be tough on them.”

Democratic Treasurer Arrested on Fraud Charge

A woman who serves as campaign treasurer for both of San Diego’s Democratic congressional representatives has been arrested on a federal fraud charge, the U-T reports. She is also treasurer for Rep. Bob Filner’s mayoral campaign and has done work for a number of other politicians.

A state senator from Santa Ana told the Orange County Register that the FBI informed him that “he is a likely victim along with ‘many, many other victims.‘” He thinks his campaign has lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The Mayoral Portrait Project: Carl DeMaio on a Rundown Street

Four leading candidates are running for mayor in 2012, and we’ve captured images of each one in a setting of his or her choosing. Councilman Carl DeMaio is the first, posing on a mid-city street that looks like it gives shock absorbers a run for their money. “City government has failed our neighborhoods. Streets should not look this way,” he says.

Local Home Prices Still on the Skids

Ever-slumping San Diego area home prices are still “bouncing along the bottom,” although that doesn’t mean they’ve reached the bottom, says Rich Toscano, our real estate columnist and leading player in the nation’s chart-production system. (He offers six charts to prove his point.)

Rep. Hunter Sees Long Haul in Afghanistan

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the news site patch.com that he expects the American military to remain in Afghanistan for the next three or four decades, “whether it’s 5,000 or 10,000 — a much smaller level, mostly intelligence and special forces — [with] the ability to make sure people can’t train in the No Man’s Land of Afghanistan, Pakistan or the border areas again, without us knowing about it.”

Hunter also talks to the U-T about military spending: he opposes cuts but says he doesn’t have a good sense of what the military needs. He adds: “There is room to bring down our personnel numbers in accordance with the kinds of operations that we’re going to be running.” Still, “the problem is, you also have to be prepared for the big war, a World War III.”

For Critics of U-T’s No-Name ‘Trolls,’ the End of an Error

Angry trolls,” as OB Rag calls them, don’t live under bridges these days. Instead, they lurk in the comments under online newspaper stories, offering snark and snarl along with racism, sexism and general hatred.

Many of the offenders do their dirty work in the comments sections of the two biggest local newspapers, the U-T and the North County Times.

Last year, the NCT promised to rid itself of anonymous invective, but now it blames technical challenges for its failure to force commenters to reveal their names. The U-T, meanwhile, has announced that it’s finally time to bid farewell to commenters who have no names but the ones they made up. As of Sept. 12, readers will only be able to comment through their Facebook accounts.

“Identity and accountability go together. People are more careful when they have to use their real names. We think we’ll be doing our website and our community a favor,” U-T editor Jeff Light told the NCT, which notes that a local councilwoman is calling upon the papers to get rid of “toxic” no-name comments.

The L.A. Times has been testing comments-via-Facebook, Poynter.org reports, and has found that it cut down on problems. “Trolls don’t like their friends to know that they’re trolls,” an editor says. “By using Facebook, it has made a difference.”

On the other hand, a ban on no-name commenters means that some people won’t comment at all if they feel their words will threaten them personally or professionally. “I’m not unsympathetic to that, but I think it affects a small fraction of the total audience,” says Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman.

I have a few thoughts about toxic no-name commenters, but they’re best expressed anonymously because they’re quite rude. Wow, talk about a vicious cycle.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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