We’ve become pretty used to the existence of the San Onofre nuclear power plant up near the Orange County border, and now we’re becoming used to it just sitting there not doing anything. Since January, the plant has been shut down.

What went wrong? And will the plant ever reopen? Our environmental reporter Rob Davis tells the dramatic story of the leak that closed San Onofre, the plant’s long history of safety warnings, and the disastrous problems that led to January’s ongoing trouble.  

Now we wait: For the nuclear power plant managers to figure out if they can restore the plant to service, for the late-summer heat to flare up and test an electricity-starved Southern California power system, and for nuclear power critics to see if they can produce enough public outcry to shutter San Onofre for good. 

Fact Check: Congressman’s Abortion Claim

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, who represents much of East County, is a Republican opponent of abortion. In a survey sent to residents last week, he wrote this: “The President’s health care law requires taxpayer funding for abortion and abortion-related services. Do you agree or disagree that Americans should be forced into this type of coverage?”

Setting aside the intriguing wording of the question (who’d ever say they want to be “forced” into anything?), is his claim true? We turned to another fact-checking media organization and found that it gave the “taxpayer-funded abortions” claim a “False” verdict.

A spokesman for Hunter, however, says the claim is true. “Though tax dollars won’t directly pay for abortion services,” our reporter Keegan Kyle writes, “he argued that people receiving them will still get government subsidies.”

‘Meeting of the Minds’ Returns

It’s just two weeks until our next Meeting of the Minds arts and culture event. It will be held at 7:30 p.m on Wednesday, Aug. 1, on the 7 Lemon level of the Horton Plaza parking garage, which we’ll convert into an unusual outdoor meeting space.

The goal is cross-pollination, just without those pesky bees: We’ll let gurus with several arts backgrounds introduce you to their worlds.    

The speakers and their topics will be:

• Retired librarian Anna Daniels, on stretching musical sensibilities.

• UC San Diego’s Alexandra Hubenko, manager of a project that’s trying to uncover a hidden da Vinci painting. She’ll join us to detail the team’s effort to reveal the masterpiece mystery.

• Martin Poirier, a landscape architect, on the new federal courthouse’s luminous art.

• San Diego Symphony bassist Jory Herman on learning a giant instrument.

• Lauren Popp, an assistant curator at the New Children’s Museum, on artist-invented spaces like Space 4 Art in East Village.

• San Diego Ballet co-director Javier Velasco on debunking stereotypes with drama.

For more about the latest arts happenings, take a look at our weekly Arts Report. It explores a controversy about a “multicultural” La Jolla Playhouse production set in China (but without any Chinese actors), a “hokey and melodramatic” production of “Inherit the Wind” (it’s hard to imagine that story not being melodramatic), and a video of a National City native’s career, narrated by the man who may be the most famous native of Chula Vista of all time (present company excluded).

Letter: Closing the Door on Open Government and Fixing Education

• Former Councilwoman Donna Frye urges residents to pay attention to the state’s remarkably bone-headed decision to suspend rules that require open government. “Open meetings would mean little without public notice of where and when they are scheduled and what business is to be addressed, or if actions taken after deliberation in closed session were never to be revealed,” writes Frye, who provides recommendations about things you can do to turn things around on the local and state levels.

• James Badger of South Park fears “we are doing lasting damage to the teacher corps” and wonders if it’s time for another look at Prop. 13.

Quick News Hits

• San Diego cops are pushing for more funding, NBC San Diego reports, saying in a report that their department needs “re-building”: “Police are asking for nearly $70 million in new spending over the next five years, including $8 million alone for a new dispatch system.”

A City Council committee will look at the report today.

• A federal workers safety commission refused to reconsider a judge’s ruling that prevents trainers at SeaWorld theme parks from interacting with killer whales in the water during shows. SeaWorld, which said it’s “dedicated to the safety of its employees and well being of its animals,” will decide within 60 days whether to appeal in court, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

For more on the debate over human safety and animal captivity, check our Q&A with the author of the new book “Death at SeaWorld.”

• A new map by the National Post, a Canadian newspaper, reveals the influence of Mexican drug cartels in the U.S. and tracks the movement of illegal drugs. The San Diego area is a hotspot for the Tijuana Cartel and the Federation Cartel, the map says. And Tijuana is part of a drug route for heroin, marijuana, cocaine and meth.   

• Picture it: You sit down at a diner and want a soft drink. Do you ask for a “soda”? “Pop”? Or a “coke”?

No, “who cares?” is not a valid response. (Sorry, Mom.) Turns out that linguists have been very interested in how Americans answer this question, since it varies tremendously based on where you live.

As two maps (one based on Twitter) show, “pop” is huge across the Midwest and even into the Northwest and Rocky Mountain states. The South loves their “Coke” while the Northeast prefers “soda.”

And what of San Diego County? Sometimes it seems like everybody here is from Chicago, Cleveland or Milwaukee, so you might assume we’re “pop” drinkers. But no: we tend to say “soda.” (I’m a “Coke” guy myself, maybe because I’m part Texan.)

There’s no word on how many people just say “gimme a Tab” or, for that matter, why anyone would have ever said that in the first place. (You 1970s dieters know what I’m talking about.)

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

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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