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Bay Bridge retrofit plan addresses failed bolts

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 09 Mei 2013 | 12.56

OAKLAND — State and regional transportation officials announced plans Wednesday for a retrofit to the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge that will cost up to $10 million and effectively do the job of nearly 100 massive bolts that failed earlier this year.

Questions remain, however, about whether the world's largest single-tower, self-anchored suspension span will open on Labor Day weekend as planned. The new span will replace the one that partially collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

"We believe the work can get done by Labor Day, but it will require extra shifts and perhaps a 24-hour-a-day operation and that will cost more money," Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, told the Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee.

The thick steel bolts — which are 17 feet to 24 feet long — connect the bridge deck to so-called shear keys, which are designed to control movement during an earthquake. They were part of a batch manufactured and galvanized in 2008 and installed on the span, which has been in the works for years and has ballooned in cost to $6.4 billion.

When the 96 bolts, which were embedded in concrete and impossible to remove, were tightened earlier this year, a third of them broke, leaving the seismic safety of the massive endeavor in question.

That batch of bolts has been deemed too compromised to rely on.

The wild card, Heminger said, is whether bolts made from similar steel in 2010 — some equally large and some much smaller — will also have to be replaced before the bridge opens or simply monitored after the fact.

Commissioners were filled in Wednesday on the planned retrofit as well as a battery of tests being conducted on the bolts made in 2010.

Those bolts, which are accessible and can be swapped out for others, have not yet broken. "The longer they are not doing that, the more daylight we are seeing between the 2008 bolts and the 2010 bolts," Heminger said. A decision will probably be made by month's end on the bolts and the opening date.

In addition to Heminger, presenters included Andre Boutros, executive director of the California Transportation Commission, and Malcolm Dougherty, director of the California Department of Transportation. Their three organizations jointly oversee the bridge project.

Boutros said the group had opted for one of two finalists for the retrofit — a steel saddle that must be fabricated and will be clamped down on top of the shear key plates with tensioned cables. Another option, for a larger steel collar, would have cost as much as $20 million.

Caltrans has come under fire for using the galvanized steel bolts. U.S. industry standards and Caltrans' own guidelines warn against galvanizing the specific grade of steel used due to its hardness and tendency to break under extreme tension.

The massive bolts failed due to a phenomenon called hydrogen embrittlement, in which hydrogen atoms invade the spaces between the steel's crystalline structure and weaken it. That may have occurred during galvanization, or when the bolts sat for years untightened in casings that filled with water.

Caltrans has said that it asked the manufacturer to use a galvanization process less likely to cause hydrogen embrittlement but that in retrospect it should have tested the bolts more thoroughly in the lab before installing them.

When asked why Caltrans deviated from its own specifications, which warn against galvanizing this type of steel, Brian Maroney, deputy toll bridge manager at Caltrans, said that in his 25 years of bridge engineering, "every single project has special provisions, because those standards don't really fit and you have to come up with a technical solution.

"The Bay Bridge," he added, "has many, many, many special deviations away from the standard."


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Delays, costs build up for 405 Freeway project in L.A.

Linda Rose was commuting home from UCLA through the Sepulveda Pass in December 2011 when she noticed that several panels of a tall retaining wall just west of the 405 Freeway had crumpled.

"It was like it was there the day before, and it wasn't there now," she said of a portion of the 40-foot-high structure near Mountaingate Drive. "It was a brand-new wall, which makes you kind of wonder."

Engineers traced the problem to faulty materials. Crews soon went to work dismantling and rebuilding that wall and 14 others under construction along the 10-mile route of the epic 405 widening project.

The wall failure was just one of several snafus that have delayed construction and added about $100 million to the project's original billion-dollar price tag. Other problems have included contested rights-of-way, design changes and the time-consuming relocation of multiple underground utility lines.

There is debate about who is to blame for the problems. Transportation and construction officials are expected to take months to resolve who bears responsibility and how much of the cost overruns taxpayers will have to cover.

Public works contracts for big projects like the 405 typically include penalties for delays. The original contract with Kiewit, the main 405 construction firm, called for the project to be completed at the end of this month.

Delays and change orders, however, postponed the assessment of penalties.

Kiewit and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is running the project, are completing "time-impact" analyses to determine responsibility for the construction issues that led to the delays and cost overruns. Once those evaluations are finished, the parties will negotiate.

Settling such disputes "is a very prolonged process," said Krishniah Murthy, Metro's executive director of transit project delivery.

The 405 project is being built under a speedier-than-typical process. State lawmakers fast-tracked the construction by choosing the so-called "design-build" method over the more traditional "design-bid-build."

Design-build puts a single contractor in charge of final design and construction, in theory enabling projects to run more smoothly and to be completed at lower cost.

Shaving years off the project "saves hundreds of millions of dollars in construction impacts, costs and travel delays for the public," said Dave Sotero, a Metro spokesman.

But there can be downsides to this approach.

Some tasks that normally would be completed before the bulldozers and pile drivers move in — such as relocating utility lines — must be completed while construction is underway. Nasty surprises can derail plans.

In addition to completing the northbound HOV link between Orange County and the San Fernando Valley, the 405 project has entailed building new onramps and offramps, demolishing and rebuilding three bridges and adding miles of walls to hold back earth or buffer freeway noise.

Many types of walls have been built along the route, with names that only an engineer could love: soil nail, tie back, soldier pile, cast-in-place concrete. The one that ruptured near Mountaingate was a mechanically stabilized earth, or MSE, wall buttressing the new onramp from the Skirball Cultural Center to the southbound 405.

MSE walls are used because they can be installed quickly and easily. The face of an MSE wall is typically made of precast panels that are installed horizontally. Workers then backfill the space behind the panels with compacted soil and other materials. At specified levels, workers lay reinforced steel mesh that is hooked to the wall in some way to hold the wall in place.

Kiewit said it traced the problem to the original system of steel mesh and hooks used to hold the panels in place. It is battling in court with the supplier of those materials. In Kiewit's view, "these issues have not delayed the completion of the project." Metro says the matter is being evaluated.

Even before the wall slid, Metro was involved in its own legal battle over an easement. Because of that tussle, construction on one set of ramps — near the Getty Center — will be put off until the rest of the project has been completed.

In March 2011, Giro Properties, a limited liability company, alleged in court documents that Metro, the California Department of Transportation and Kiewit had intruded on an easement that the company had procured in 1986 for access to a prospective Moraga Canyon golf course and residential development. The lawsuit was dismissed last year after transportation officials stopped construction activities and agreed to find new locations for the Getty ramps that would not cut across the face of Giro's easement.

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L.A. council approves controversial rail yard for port complex

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a controversial rail yard serving the harbor, setting the stage for possible court challenges alleging violations of environmental and civil rights laws.

The proposal to build a center for trains hauling freight from the largest port complex in the nation has raised questions about environmental justice, particularly for minority and low-income neighborhoods in west Long Beach, which would bear the brunt of the effects.

Council members voted 11 to 2 to approve the Southern California International Gateway and certify its environmental analysis, saying that the $500-million project would bolster efficiency in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, create jobs and improve air quality in surrounding communities.

"We are at a beginning point to make things better," Councilman Ed Reyes said. "If we don't move, two, three, four years from now, we could lose our competitive edge."

Council members noted improvements at other West Coast harbors and the current widening of the Panama Canal, which could allow the largest container ships from Asia to bypass the West Coast and deliver goods to ports on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

Council members Jan Perry and Bernard C. Parks voted no. They said stronger agreements are needed to ensure that environmental effects are adequately reduced in nearby neighborhoods, which include schools, parks, homes, day-care centers and housing for homeless veterans.

"It doesn't look like we've done our best to deal with these issues," Parks said. "I don't see how we can assure 35,000 to 40,000 residents that they will be safer. There are still fundamental issues that need to be resolved."

Approved by the city's harbor commission in March, the planned freight yard would be built by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. in Wilmington next to California 103, between Sepulveda Boulevard and California 1 and east of Alameda Street. The 153-acre project would be capable of handling up to 2.8 million 20-foot shipping containers a year by 2035 and 8,200 trucks a day.

The project is widely supported by chambers of commerce, labor unions, regional planning organizations, local elected officials and civic organizations.

Railroad and harbor officials say the facility will be the "greenest" of its type in the nation and employ low-emission diesel trucks, cranes, yard hostlers and locomotives. More than 1 million truck trips a year, they say, would be eliminated on the Long Beach Freeway, reducing harmful emissions, while other measures, such as sound walls and a landscaped berm, would cut noise and light pollution.

"The residents will be pleasantly surprised when they see how it operates," Roger Nober, an executive vice president at Burlington Northern, told council members.

Before the vote, David Pettit, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, threatened to sue over possible violations of state civil rights laws and the California Environmental Quality Act. The law requires thorough environmental reviews of projects and all feasible mitigation measures for adverse impacts.

Pettit said after the hearing that the National Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups also are considering filing an administrative claim with the U.S. Department of Transportation, alleging violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Opponents contend that the project will erode the quality of life in neighborhoods that have already been seriously degraded by port operations. Research shows that area residents, particularly children, now have abnormally high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, including lung cancer.

They cite the project's environmental impact report, which acknowledges that some low-income communities could be harmed.

Barry Wallerstein, the executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, disputed the project's environmental analysis and its conclusions that air quality would be improved in surrounding neighborhoods. He told the council that nitrogen dioxide from some truck and auto engines would double and exceed federal standards.

Wallerstein, who noted that he was the first AQMD official to appear before a government agency to oppose a specific project, said more measures to reduce air pollution were necessary. His views were supported by a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health representative.

Christopher Cannon, the port's director of environmental management, said the analysis showed a reduction in nitrogen dioxide if the project were to be built. Though the report indicated that the pollutant would slightly exceed federal standards, Cannon said he doubted whether nitrogen dioxide emissions would ever violate the limit.


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Jackson thought God was speaking to him, witness testifies

The pop legend who once had cut a lean but muscular figure and obsessed about every detail of his performance was suddenly scarily gaunt, attending rehearsals in dance shoes with holes and telling people that God was speaking to him.

Michael Jackson's erratic behavior and rail-thin body so alarmed the associate producer of his sold-out comeback concerts in London that she was convinced he was dying and needed to be hospitalized immediately.

Alif Sankey testified Wednesday that she felt helpless during Jackson's last days, at times hoping the star could somehow summon the "magical" qualities that made him so special, yet felt certain he was slipping away.

One night, on her way home from rehearsal, she called the director of the "This Is It" tour.

"I said, 'He needs to be put in the hospital now,'" Sankey said she told Kenny Ortega on June 20, 2009. "I kept saying, 'Michael's dying, he's dying.' "

Five days later, Jackson died from a fatal dose of propofol, a powerful anesthetic typically given to patients undergoing surgery.

Jackson's mother and three children allege that concert promoter AEG was responsible for hiring and controlling Dr. Conrad Murray, who administered the drug and is now serving jail time for involuntary manslaughter.

AEG contends that it was Jackson who insisted on bringing Murray onboard for his comeback concerts at the O2 Arena and that the doctor's salary was just part of a multimillion-dollar advance to the singer.

But Sankey said an email she was copied on led her to believe that Murray was paid by AEG.

"We want to remind [Murray] it is AEG, not Michael Jackson who is paying his salary," Anschutz Entertainment Group executive Paul Gongaware wrote in an email to Ortega. "We want him to understand what is expected of him."

Sankey, the fifth witness in a trial expected to last deep into the summer, cried during her testimony, pausing as she recalled her final days with Jackson. A few Jackson fans watching a video feed in an overflow courtroom sniffled throughout the testimony.

The associate producer testified that Jackson failed to show up to rehearsals during the first week of June 2009 and that the show's choreographer told her the 50-year-old singer complained of soreness.

Ortega, along with two AEG executives, had planned a "tough love" meeting with Jackson at his Holmby Hills mansion on June 6, Sankey said. Although Sankey said it was exciting when the singer showed up later that day and performed "Billie Jean" and "Man in the Mirror," he was performing the routine at only half-speed.

She said that Jackson had told Ortega that God was speaking to him. Sankey said she and Ortega then had a tearful conversation about Jackson's physical and mental health.

"[Michael] didn't understand why God was speaking to him. We were both crying. We were crying because he seemed — he was not speaking normally to Kenny."

She later begged the director to do something.

"Please, please. I kept saying that. I asked him, 'Why is no one seeing what I'm seeing?' "

The associate producer also spoke about Jackson's relationship with his children.

"They loved him, they loved their daddy," she said, and mentioned sitting at a rehearsal with his daughter Paris, who kept a purse full of candy and small framed photos of her father.

Sankey first met Jackson when she danced in the video for his 1987 hit "Smooth Criminal," what she called the best job of her 30-year career.

"That was my first time as a dancer, as an artist, that I was completely inspired by his craft and inspired by his attention to every detail," she said. "It was magical to work with him, just absolutely magical and I dream still to this day that I will create on that level of magic that Michael created on. It was like living a dream."

When the Jacksons' attorney showed a clip from "Smooth Criminal," Jackson's mother, Katherine, appeared to dab tears from her eyes with a tissue.

Sankey continued a professional relationship with Jackson over the years and recalled that when she hugged him, his body felt solid, "like marble." Toward the end of the singer's life, Sankey noted he had little muscle mass and was extremely thin.

During the last month of Jackson's life, Sankey said Jackson appeared to be cold and dressed warmly, despite the hot stage lights.

She couldn't shake the feeling that the performer's situation was dire. "The light was gone," she said.



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Two Prop. 13 defenders decry abuse of loophole by corporations

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 08 Mei 2013 | 12.56

Two prominent defenders of Proposition 13 spoke out on Tuesday against "gimmicks" used by some companies to avoid paying additional property taxes when buying real estate in California.

Responding to a Los Angeles Times story that ran Sunday, the presidents of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. and the Small Business Action Committee said they would be open to narrow legislation to fix the law, which appears to allow such deals.

The statements mark a shift for two organizations that have long led the fight against changes to Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot initiative that transformed property taxes in California and sparked a nationwide tax revolt.

The Times story reported that billionaire computer magnate Michael Dell had avoided reassessment when he purchased a Santa Monica hotel for $200 million by bringing in his wife and two business associates on the deal.

Under Proposition 13, property is reassessed only after a change in ownership. But Dell and his partners technically avoided such a change by keeping each of their ownership stakes in the hotel company below 50%. Majority ownership by a single entity is the trigger for reassessment of business property under the arcane rules adopted shortly after Proposition 13 passed.

A court found the maneuver to be legal, saving Dell and his partners more than $1 million a year in taxes. Los Angeles County is appealing the ruling.

Both groups said Tuesday that if upheld, the Dell deal would indicate that businesses can use the law to evade taxation.

"This is a fairly clear example of someone gaming the system a bit," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., the organization named for one of Proposition 13's architects. "We have not seen that in the past."

Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, which advocates for business groups on taxation and other issues, made a similar point. "It appears to me that there was a change in ownership and it should be recognized as such," he said. "We're not protecting some of these gimmicks."

Real estate and taxation experts say the change-in-ownership loophole has been used in the past and estimate it costs the state tens of millions of dollars a year in revenue. It has contributed to a slow shift in the tax burden from corporations to homeowners in the 35 years since Proposition 13 passed, they say.

Democrats in the California Legislature have tried to close the loophole for several years but have met with strong opposition from business and taxpayer groups, which have labeled the bills "job killers."

Some experts who follow the debate say the shift among pro-Proposition 13 groups may be a calculated risk to avoid a broader fight over the initiative.

Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and former chief spokesman for Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, saw the groups' new positions as politically "smart."

"You never want to be forced to defend the indefensible," he said. "They're much better off conceding a smaller fight rather than running the risk of losing a much larger fight."

"It still carries some risk," Schnur said. "They may run the risk of giving their opponents some momentum."

A bill by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, AB 188, targets the change-in-ownership rule that Dell used. Among other things, it would require business property to be reassessed if 100% of a company that owns the real estate changes hands during a three-year period.

Ammiano's bill had been tabled but could be revived by a committee vote Monday. If it is forwarded to the full Legislature, it will require a two-thirds majority to pass.

Fox and Coupal remain opposed to the Ammiano bill, which they say is too broad and a "slippery slope" toward more sweeping change.

Their ultimate fear is adoption of a so-called split roll, which would require the regular reassessment of commercial properties regardless of ownership changes.

A recent poll showed 58% of likely voters support that change to Proposition 13, which is enshrined in the state Constitution but could be amended by a majority vote.


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Gun crime has plunged, but Americans think it's up, study says

The number of violent crimes involving guns has plummeted in the last two decades, but more than half of Americans think the opposite is true, according to reports released Tuesday.

Killings, assaults, robberies and other crimes involving guns have dropped since their peak in the mid-1990s, the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reported.

The rate of killings by gun has been cut nearly in half, according to another analysis of the same data by the Pew Research Center. The rate of other violent gun crimes fell even more sharply, by 75%, paralleling a broader drop in violent crimes committed with or without guns. Violent crime dropped steeply during the 1990s and has fallen less dramatically since the turn of the millennium.

However, guns remain the most common murder weapon in the United States, the Bureau of Justice Statistics report noted. Between 1993 and 2011, more than two out of three killings in the U.S. were carried out with guns, the bureau found.

The facts are at odds with public perception, according to the results of a survey by the Pew center.

Despite the steep drop in gun crime, only 12% of Americans surveyed said they believed crimes with firearms had declined over the last two decades, Pew found in a survey of more than 900 adults this spring. Twenty-six percent said it had stayed the same, and 56% thought it had increased.

Pew researchers say they aren't sure what is driving the misperception, but they noted that the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., were among the news stories most closely followed by Americans last year.

Crime was also a growing focus for national newscasts and morning network shows between 2007 and 2012 but has become less common on local television news during roughly the same period.

"It's hard to know what's going on there," said D'Vera Cohn, senior writer at the Pew Research Center. Women, people of color and the elderly were more likely to believe that gun crime was up than were men, younger adults or white people. The center plans to examine crime issues more closely later this year.

Though violence has dropped, the U.S. still has a higher murder rate than most other developed countries, though not the highest in the world, the Pew study noted. A Swiss research group, the Small Arms Survey, says that the U.S. has more guns per capita than any other country.

Experts debate why overall crime has fallen, attributing the drop to a wide range of causes, such as the decline in crack cocaine use and surging incarceration rates. Some researchers have even linked dropping crime to reduced lead in gasoline, pointing out that lead can cause increased aggression and impulsive behavior in children exposed to it.

The victims of gun killings are overwhelmingly male and disproportionately black, government statistics show. Compared with other parts of the country, the South had the highest rates of gun violence, including both homicides and other violent gun crimes.


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DWP average pay rose 15%, despite flagging economy

Average employee pay at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power rose 15% over the last five years, despite an economic slump that ravaged the city's budget, records released Tuesday show.

DWP workers received significantly more generous pay increases than other city workers, who received an average raise of 9% over the same period.

The median household income for Los Angeles residents — the public utility's customers — fell over roughly the same period, from $48,882 in 2008 to $46,148 in 2011, the latest year for which U.S. census numbers are available. By contrast, the average DWP pay rose from $88,299 in 2008 to $101,237 in 2012. DWP pay grew at about three times the rate of inflation in the Greater Los Angeles Area.

DWP compensation has become a central issue in the May 21 mayoral election, in which there has been much debate over whether the city's labor contracts are too costly given the fiscal problems that have resulted in major cuts in services.

The union representing most of the DWP's workers has become the single biggest source of campaign cash in the race, giving $1.45 million to an independent effort backing City Controller Wendy Greuel.

The only pay growth comparable to the DWP came at the city Fire Department, where average total salary and other payments also rose 15% over the five years to $132,131. But officials note that about 300 positions were cut from the Fire Department in that period, which required increased overtime payments to fill positions.

The firefighters' union, which is also backing Greuel, has spent about $250,000 on her campaign.

Average Los Angeles police officer pay increased by 2% over the same period, The Times analysis found.

The Times requested the DWP pay data in early February. Agency administrators repeatedly postponed the release, saying more time was needed to ensure that disclosing the information would not endanger employees.

The state of California, Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles routinely release their payroll with employees' names. Courts have allowed rare exceptions when employees' safety might be put in danger, such as undercover police officers and people who have restraining orders against potentially violent stalkers.

The DWP was poised to release the data last week. But the employees' union sued the agency, seeking more time for its roughly 8,000 members to object to the disclosure of their names. At a Los Angeles County Superior Court hearing Tuesday, the city attorney's office said it found 112 employees who may have restraining orders. An additional 357 are on disability leave and might not be aware of the pending release of information, Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter told the court.

After the hearing, the union and the DWP agreed to release the pay data without names. Both sides are due in court again Wednesday to argue over disclosing employees' identities with their earnings.

The union may have relented because keeping the information secret has become a public relations problem, turning a once coveted political backing into a potential liability, said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A. "It looked really bad that they were trying to block access to their incomes," he said.

And the timing of the pay increases probably won't play well, he said. "The fact that they were those five years, when virtually all other city workers had to bite the bullet, it looks bad."

The $101,237 average pay covers more than 10,000 employees, including temporary workers and full-time staffers. They range from the highest-paid engineers to line workers to customer service representatives.

DWP spokesman Joseph Ramallo attributed the pay increases to a range of factors including cost-of-living adjustments and variations in annual overtime payments.

The Times analysis found average base pay at the DWP increased 19% over the five-year period. Unused vacation time payouts for retiring employees jumped 32%. And "other pay", which includes disability payments and compensation for unused sick time, rose 46%.

Overtime, which Ramallo said is driven mostly by responding to storm damage, was 22% lower in 2012 than it had been in 2008.

Last week, the Times reported that the DWP's average worker pay was $99,308 in 2011, the most recent data available at the time. That was more than 50% higher than other city employees. Also, DWP employees were paid about 25% more than workers at comparable public and private utilities, according to a report commissioned by the City Council last year. In addition, agency employees receive free healthcare benefits.

The report set off a frenzy of finger-pointing by Greuel and her rival, Councilman Eric Garcetti, who blamed each other for the agency's comparatively high pay.

Greuel noted that Garcetti voted for two sets of DWP raises in 2005 and 2009. Garcetti pointed out that Greuel voted for the 2005 raise too, and didn't have a vote in 2009 because she left the City Council to become controller.

On Tuesday, Greuel spokeswoman Laura Wilkinson accused Garcetti of championing the "reckless" 2009 raise, which came at a time when city residents "could least afford it." In the same period, funding for firefighters and 911 emergency response service was being slashed, she said.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the 15% raises at the municipal utility are "exactly why the DWP [union] is spending a record amount of money to buy this election for Wendy Greuel, to protect the status quo."

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said the candidates should tell voters how they would negotiate a new contract as mayor to fix the problem.

"Each candidate has been very specific about what their opponent did wrong on this issue in the past," he said. "These numbers should push the discussion toward what they'll do if elected."


Times staff writer Doug Smith contributed to this report.

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L.A. mayoral candidates support making teacher evaluations public

Los Angeles' two mayoral candidates said Tuesday that they support making teacher evaluations public, going well beyond a level of disclosure that is supported by top school district officials.

City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti said they backed the release of individual performance evaluations based on so-called "value-added" formulas, which are controversial both locally and nationwide. These measures use the past performance of students on state standardized tests to help gauge a teacher's success, taking into account such factors as race and income.

"I think it's fair — absolutely," said Garcetti, when asked if the evaluations should be made public during an hourlong debate at the Petersen Automotive Museum sponsored by KCRW and Zocalo Public Square. He added that it was important to have a variety of measures to evaluate and compare teachers and to use data to help teachers improve.

Greuel said "yes" in response to the same question, and gave Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy credit for looking at evaluations at all levels of the school system, including principals.

Critics call such formulas unreliable or unfair. Backers say that when done well, they offer due recognition to the work of teachers who take on tougher-to-educate students. While Deasy supports using such formulas, he opposes making them public.

As at most of their recent debates, this one was marked by acrimony from the opening moments.

"There is probably no other subject where my opponent and I differ more than on the subject of education," Greuel said. "I attended Los Angeles public schools my entire life.... I'm the only candidate who has a child attending LAUSD today. My opponent went to private school and eventually private college. And private schools are great, but they are not the reality for most of Los Angeles' children and families."

"If you really want to see a mayor make a difference in our public schools and not just talk about it, put a mom in charge, watch what happens," she said.

Garcetti countered the notion that he was privileged by noting that his grandfather immigrated to the United States with an eighth-grade education, but improved his life through the Army, which allowed his son — Garcetti's father, Gil Garcetti — to become the first in the family to graduate from college.

"Education has always been the great equalizer for our society and certainly here in Los Angeles. My family story is no different," he said.

Garcetti noted that he had been the father of public-school children who had to sit on the floors of overcrowded classrooms, referring to foster children that he and his wife had cared for. They also have a young girl.

"I think moms are great. I love dads too. I happen to be one…. Right now my daughter's too young to be in school, she's only 16 months old," he said. "But she's what propels me in the campaign, she's what propels me in life, to make sure she has the opportunity for a well-funded education system here first and foremost, one that cannot be shortchanged by our state any longer."

The mayor has no official power over the city's schools, but both candidates said they would follow the lead of termed-out Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Mayor Richard Riordan by trying to fix the nation's second-largest school district.

Meanwhile, The Times determined Tuesday that Greuel's campaign organization has suspended her TV advertising two weeks before the election, a move that reflects her continuing struggle to raise enough money to compete head-to-head on the airwaves with Garcetti.

Greuel's cancellation of ad time reserved for Tuesday and Wednesday does not entirely remove her presence from local TV stations. Working Californians to Elect Wendy Greuel, an independent committee controlled by leaders of a union for Department of Water and Power workers, is still running a spot showing former President Bill Clinton talking up her candidacy.

But the cancellation, confirmed by multiple sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, reflects the challenges that Greuel faces in the run-up to the May 21 election as a consequence of raising less money than Garcetti, and spending at a faster pace.




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Schools act to prevent high-tech cheating on standardized tests

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 07 Mei 2013 | 12.56

The proliferation of cellphones and their potential use for cheating has prompted heightened security measures on this year's administration of standardized tests in California schools.

The chief concern is that students will take pictures of test items and post them on social media sites, which occurred last year.

In response, many schools have begun collecting cellphones from students during testing periods. At the state level, there are checks of social media sites "every 15 minutes" by a team from the state education department and the national Education Testing Service, officials said.

"There shouldn't be electronic devices used," said Paul Hefner, a spokesman for the California Department of Education. Still, "we've had several dozen reports so far. All are being reviewed and the school districts notified."

Hefner had no details about specific violations but said reports coming in so far are not about pictures of test items but of the covers of test booklets, for example. He also acknowledged that students could photograph items — and compromise the tests — without advertising their transgressions in such places as Facebook or Instagram.

If a security breach is serious enough, a school could lose its rating on the state's Academic Performance Index, which could lead to sanctions, including loss of funding. Students face such ramifications as suspensions. The stakes also are high for the state. If too many test items are compromised, the entire testing cycle could be invalidated.

Last year, 36 questions from various standardized exams ended up on social media sites. Those items have been replaced. And, for the first time, the state dealt a penalty to 12 schools, ruling them ineligible for the next round of state academic awards. Local schools affected were Glendale High, Millikan High in Long Beach and Rowland High in Rowland Heights. North Hollywood High was initially targeted until officials determined that the offending student had transferred to Birmingham Community Charter in Van Nuys, which endured the penalty instead.

In all, 249 individuals posted 442 images of test materials that were linked to 147 schools in 94 California school districts. Most images were not of actual test questions.

Long Beach Unified is determined to avoid any repeat. It's posted signs in each testing room stating that "unauthorized electronic devices MAY NOT be used at any time during the testing session." Proctors also instruct students to put cellphones in backpacks, and then the backpacks are collected, said district spokesman Chris Eftychiou.

State officials wanted all schools to get the message. They rewrote the testing manual, revised testing procedures and added repeated instructions to be read aloud to students. They provided wording for a warning sign to post in classrooms during the test. That in itself was unusual, because other rules require taking down all signs and posters — lest students get clues on spelling and syntax from them.

"Test examiners must ensure that students clear their desks and stow away all books, electronic devices ... and other materials not needed for the test," warns an April 15 state memo to testing coordinators.

"To ensure active supervision of students, it is also recommended that examiners and proctors not use electronic devices during testing sessions," the memo adds.

"We are asking teachers, as always, to practice active supervision during testing time — walking up and down aisles. Don't just sit behind your desks and do your own work," said Marco Petruzzi, chief executive of Green Dot Public Schools, which runs charter schools in the L.A. area. He added that students were warned that their exam results could be voided if electronic devices are pulled out during testing.

Most of the testing takes place between mid-April and late May.

A student at South Pasadena High reported that a proctor made a point to collect student iPads as well as cellphones in that prosperous enclave. In some places, students were warned to follow rules, but nothing beyond that.

At Alliance Collins Family College-Ready High School in Huntington Park, students must turn off electronic devices and place them in a zippered plastic bag with their names on a strip of paper inside. The bags are then stored in a briefcase and returned at the end of testing.

Any phone ringing, even after being turned in, is confiscated for a month, said Principal James Waller of Gertz-Ressler High School in University Park.

Some students at Stern Math and Science High School, located on the Cal State L.A. campus, expressed separation anxiety over their electronics, but they "are realizing that this is the way we're going to do it moving forward," said Principal Kirsten Woo.


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Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel find common ground in USC debate

Despite bitter attacks in recent weeks, the two candidates for mayor of Los Angeles grudgingly conceded in a debate Sunday night that their rival was (mostly) honest and not so different on many of the plans they have for leading the city.

That didn't mean City Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel didn't find plenty of opportunity for attacks on each other's trustworthiness and independence. But they also laid out records that they said made them most qualified to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is leaving office June 30 after serving the maximum two terms.

Greuel cited her audits of city departments and her experience developing housing and community programs, as a staffer for former Mayor Tom Bradley and, later, in the administration of President Clinton.

Garcetti repeated his admonition that voters look at improvements in his council district — from Hollywood to Silver Lake and Atwater Village. He stressed his work on the city's recent pension reform and presented a diverse public resume that includes service in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

The debate at USC's Galen Center was sponsored by the university and the Los Angeles Times and broadcast live on KTLA-TV (Channel 5). Co-moderators Jim Newton, the Times' editor-at-large, and Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, attempted to cut through the recent attacks.

Newton noted the negative tone that has prevailed and asked each candidate whether they believed the other was "a dishonest person." They both said "No." But each couldn't resist adding caveats that made the other look like less than a pillar of rectitude.

After saying he "had a ton of respect" for Greuel, Garcetti added that heavy campaign spending on his opponent's behalf — by the union representing workers at the Department of Water and Power — was changing the dynamics of what should be a "democratic" election. "No one interest," Garcetti added, "should counterbalance the people's interest."

Greuel also said she would not call her opponent dishonest. She then added that Garcetti needed to come clean about ethics violations that she said were epitomized by his failure to properly disclose his family's oil lease for a property near Beverly Hills High School.

"I think it is important as we go forward to say who is going to be the trustworthy and clear leader," Greuel said.

The two candidates agreed on many issues Sunday as they have throughout much of the campaign. Both supported the idea of more frequent evaluations for public school teachers. Both described policies they had employed to make neighborhoods more pedestrian friendly.

Garcetti and Greuel said they supported federal immigration reform but opposed provisions that would limit funds for family reunification and limit the rights of same-sex partners.

About 20 minutes into the debate, moderator Schnur asked the two candidates whether they disagreed with any of the policy prescriptions that their rival had outlined so far. Both answered "No."

Among the new programs Garcetti, 42, said he would like to initiate were funding for summer jobs for all high school students who want them and to initiate a green energy program that he said could lead to as many as 20,000 jobs.

Garcetti said he would use federal community block grant funds to pay for jobs for an estimated 10,000 teenagers who applied but were not hired last summer. Greuel wondered what other block grant programs would have to be cut to make that happen.

Among his achievements, Garcetti cited a two-thirds drop in violent crime in his district, which he has represented for 12 years, and the creation of 31 new parks.

Greuel, 51, said she wanted to create a "tech fund" to assist new startups in the city. She also cited the dozens of audits her office has completed as evidence that she would be able to find savings to fund other city programs.

When the debate turned to job training, for instance, Greuel said she had audited the city's job training program and found that only 4% of the funds went to training and the rest to job placement. "Placement," she said incredulously, "at a time when we have no jobs."

She cited other audit findings that she said could produce real savings: the failure of the Department of Transportation to adequately collect parking ticket fines, waste in city employee's cellphone use and wasteful expenditures on gas for city vehicles.

Garcetti has mocked the controller's work, saying she had produced little real savings. But Greuel countered that, as controller, her job was to find problems. She faulted the council for not putting many of her recommendations into action.

"I work for the taxpayers of Los Angeles," Greuel said. "I don't work for anybody else."

Moderator Schnur asked Greuel about the historic nature of her campaign and whether voters should support her to elect the first woman mayor of Los Angeles.

"People need to judge me on what I've been able to accomplish," Greuel said, "but there is a historical nature to it."

"I met a little girl today, 6 years old, who said I understand that you might be the first woman mayor and her eyes lit up because I was going to be a role model for her," Greuel said. She also noted that, depending on the outcome of the May 21 election, the council could have no female members. As controller, she is only the second woman elected citywide.

Garcetti, who has an Italian last name, pointed out that he could also make a historic breakthrough — as the city's first elected Jewish mayor (one was appointed in the 1880s, but only for a year). As he has throughout the campaign, he noted that his father's parents both emigrated from Mexico and that it would be helpful to continue to have a mayor "who is Latino and speaks Spanish."

"What I've said is 'I don't want your vote because I'm Latino or Jewish. I don't want your vote because I speak Spanish,' " Garcetti said. "I want your vote because of my record



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Court: California cities can ban pot shops

Local governments in California's have legal authority to ban storefront pot shops within their borders, California's highest court ruled on Monday in an opinion likely to further diminish the state's once-robust medical marijuana industry.

Nearly 17 years after voters in the state legalized medical marijuana, the court ruled unanimously in a legal challenge to a ban the city of Riverside enacted in 2010.

The advocacy group Americans for Safe Access estimates that another 200 jurisdictions statewide have similar prohibitions on retail pot sales. Many were enacted after the number of retail medical marijuana outlets boomed in Southern California after a 2009 memo from the U.S. Justice Department said prosecuting pot sales would be a low priority.

However, the rush to outlaw pot shops has slowed in the 21 months since the four federal prosecutors in California launched a coordinated crackdown on dispensaries by threatening to seize the property of landlords who lease space to the shops. Hundreds of dispensary operators have since been evicted or closed voluntarily.

Marijuana advocates have argued that allowing local government to bar dispensaries thwarts the intent of the state's medical marijuana law — the nation's first — to make the drug accessible to residents with doctor's recommendations to use it.

The ruling came in the case filed after Riverside city lawmakers used zoning powers to declare storefront pot shops as public nuisances and ban the operations in 2010. The Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center, part of the explosion of retail medical marijuana outlets, sued to stop the city from shutting it down.

A number of counties and cities were awaiting the Supreme Court ruling before moving forward with bans of their own.

A mid-level appeals court previously sided with the city of Riverside, but other courts have come to opposite conclusions. Last summer, a trial judge ruled that Riverside County could not close medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas because the move did not give the shops any room to operate legally under state law.

Meanwhile, an appeals court in Southern California struck down Los Angeles County's 2-year-old ban on dispensaries, ruling state law allows cooperatives and collectives to grow, store and distribute pot.

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A plan to make the morning-after pill a moot point

It's a new front in the long-running battle over reproductive rights, playing out this time as a clash between politics and science.

Doctors say there's no medical reason to keep girls of any age from having easy access to the morning-after contraceptive known as Plan B. A judge's ruling last month would do away with current age restrictions.

But the Justice Department appealed that ruling last week. The Obama administration wants to make the over-the-counter pill off-limits to girls younger than 15, unless they have a prescription.

Activists have denounced Obama's plan as an assault on women's rights.

But the women in question this time are 12, 13, 14 years old.

That's had me straddling the fence, unable to rely on either science or politics to clear my head on this.

No 13-year-old girl should have to navigate fear of pregnancy alone.

But do girls that young really need more rights, more freedom to choose?

Or do we need to pay more attention to them and take more responsibility?


The principle is clear: All women should have access to and support for contraceptive care.

There's fear that giving ground on this will fuel a rollback of those rights. But there's also concern about the message we send when we make after-the-fact protection so easy for such young girls.

In practical terms, the changes being considered wouldn't shake things up much. Plan B would move from behind the pharmacy counter and be available on shelves, alongside tampons, condoms and pregnancy tests.

It would still cost about $50 per dose. And it would still, under Obama's plan, require ID for purchase. Those are considerable obstacles, if you're 15 years old, with no job, driver's license or passport.

Still, Plan B, in its 14 years, has changed the calculus of decision-making for young women. I don't need a study to tell me that. I'm a single mother who's raised three daughters.

My oldest was a teenager when "emergency contraception" came on the market. Taken within days of unprotected sex, the drug could prevent pregnancy by delaying ovulation. But teenagers didn't benefit much; they couldn't get it quickly enough and they had to see a doctor first.

By the time my youngest reached adolescence, teenage girls were carrying it around in their backpacks. Now, it's handed out so freely at her college health center that students joke: You go in with a sprained ankle, you leave with Plan B.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The drug is most effective in the 24 hours after unprotected sex. "Every 12 hours you wait increases the odds of pregnancy by 50%," said Dr. Tracey Wilkinson. "You need to have this in your medicine cabinet the minute you need it."

Wilkinson is a pediatrician at Children's Hospital. She thinks it's a good idea to equip teenagers with Plan B. Three years ago, she coauthored a study that found misinformation and confusion at pharmacies hinders access to the medication by teens. "Even with a prescription, they had trouble getting it," she said.

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Study of shipping routes maps delivery of invasive organisms

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 06 Mei 2013 | 12.56

When giant container ships sail into major ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach, it's not just clothing and cars that they deliver. They also carry critters.

The specimens — microscopic algae cells or larger castaways, such as eggs of fish or crustaceans — float about in the thousands of tons of water the boats use as ballast. When the ships dump their ballast at port, the species can establish a foothold in foreign lands, often with detrimental consequences to native wildlife.

But soon ports may be able to mitigate some of that harm by predicting where invasive species are likely to arrive. In a study published Sunday in the journal Ecology Letters, a team of European scientists mined millions of signals transmitted from ships entering harbors and used the information to figure out which of the world's ports are most vulnerable to an influx of invasive species.

Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together receive about 40% of the container imports entering the U.S., both made the team's list of the 20 highest-risk "hot spots." So did eight ports in Southeast Asia, five in the Middle East, the port of New York and New Jersey, and the Panama Canal.

The impact of invasive species carried by ships can be severe. In 2008, researchers at Notre Dame and the University of Wyoming estimated that the cost to the Great Lakes region alone was at least $200 million — every year.

Some organisms travel on boats' hulls, but most are thought to make the trip in the ballast water carried on ships to balance their loads.

In the Black Sea, an invasive jellyfish called Mnemiopsis was probably jettisoned in ballast water carried from the U.S. The beasts crowded out other sea life and devastated the region's fishing and tourism industries. In California, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has suggested that two pesky beasts plaguing the state's waters — quagga mussels and zebra mussels, which hail from the Ukraine and Russia and clog pipes and other infrastructure — could also have made their journeys in ballast water.

The new study doesn't examine the impact of any one invader. Rather, the researchers attempted an analysis that could predict an invasion of any beasts from any locations to any destinations.

The first step was to pull together a record of what ships traveled where, and when — a task that required a lot of detective work. "The port authorities said to go to the shipping companies, and the shipping companies said to go to the port authorities," said Bernd Blasius of the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment at Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany, who led the research team.

The researchers wound up assembling their model of the global shipping route network using data from the mandatory Automatic Identification System, which reports ships' approaches to coastal stations. Their network included 32,511 ships that made 2,892,523 journeys to 1,469 ports in 2007 and 2008.

Next, the researchers combined the shipping information with other factors known to affect whether a particular species was likely to survive in distant waters. They looked at ship sizes — the larger the boat, the better the chance it will harbor invasive species — as well as how well ocean salinity and temperature matched up across ports, among other details.

Analyzing all of the variables together, they were able to figure out that the intermediate distances — trade routes of about 5,000 to 6,000 miles — posed the greatest threat.

Most of the hitchhiking organisms were transported to nearby waters — "but those species are already there," Blasius said. On the flip side, castaways from far-off areas could not survive the travel times required to make longer journeys, he said.

While higher-volume ports were at higher risk, some heavily trafficked areas, such as Europe's North Sea, dodged the bullet because of environmental conditions. In the case of Northern Europe, waters are too cold for tropical species to survive.

Comparing their model's output to data collected in four other studies — including one documenting invasive species in San Francisco Bay — the researchers discovered that their predictions matched well with reality in the water.

"We were astonished," Blasius said.

The team also analyzed whether treating ballast water — a remedy proposed by the International Maritime Organization — would affect species invasion. They calculated that modest efforts, such as filtering some ballast water or cleaning it with ozone or other chemicals, could yield substantial results. Cleaning the water by 25% in all ships at the 10 highest-risk ports would reduce invasion risk across the entire network by 24.8%, they estimated.

It "shows the value of treating ballast water," said Hugh MacIsaac, a professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario who was not involved in the work.

UC Davis ecologist Alan Hastings, an expert in invasive species who was also not involved in the study, said that building detailed shipping routes into the analysis was "a huge deal" that would improve scientists' understanding of the entire chain of events that causes a species to invade.

Having a better way to predict hot spots would allow authorities to focus expensive mitigation efforts on the highest-risk ports or vessels, he said.

"If we can get a better understanding of the biggest risk, we can get more bang for our buck in terms of preventing or reducing the impact of invasions," Hastings said.

In the future, Blasius and his colleagues plan to study diseases that might be transported in ballast water, such as cholera. The team would also like to assess how new trade routes through the Arctic could affect native animals and other species.


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How a 'million-dollar patient' got off a medical merry-go-round

Her litany of ailments brought her to emergency rooms six times last year, between numerous additional visits to a federally subsidized health clinic in South Los Angeles.

"You are one of the million-dollar patients," her doctor, Derrick Butler, tells the 57-year-old as she leans on her walker during one appointment.


Remo and countless other chronically ill patients like her pose one of the biggest obstacles to medical professionals, hospitals and political leaders trying to rein in costs as they overhaul the healthcare system.

Starting next year, clinics in rural and urban areas will receive an influx of millions of newly insured patients — many with complex, chronic diseases — and face higher expectations to keep costs down. Many of those patients are so ill — or resistant to altering behaviors — that they repeatedly cycle through expensive emergency rooms and hospital beds.

Keeping them away from hospitals can be difficult because of patients' reliance on emergency rooms and because clinics typically lack sophisticated X-ray and laboratory equipment or the capability to perform advanced medical procedures.

Still, researchers have found that patients at community health centers are less likely to be hospitalized than those receiving treatment elsewhere, resulting in significant savings.

Despite the clinics' many successes, tracking Remo for six months demonstrates the limits of what clinic medical providers can do as they try to provide efficient, low-cost care for large numbers of seriously ill patients.

"A lot of people come here so they don't have to go to the ER," says Butler, associate medical director of To Help Everyone Clinic, known as T.H.E. "Sometimes it's beyond what we can do."

Clinics are trying to improve the odds of keeping patients healthy, including expanding weekend and evening hours and adding pharmacies so patients don't head for emergency rooms to refill prescriptions.

At T.H.E. Clinic, patient services representative Joanna Franco follows up with every client discharged from a hospital, whether the patient went in for a minor stomachache or a life-threatening asthma attack. She schedules appointments and encourages patients to come to the clinic and avoid the emergency room whenever possible.

Some patients hang up on her. Others don't keep appointments. "They aren't compliant," she says. "They wait until they are really sick and they go back to the emergency room.

"All we can do is call them and [try to] get them here."

Franco speaks regularly with Remo, who lives alone but has a visiting caregiver. She sleeps in a hospital bed, next to a nightstand covered with water bottles, medications and an ashtray full of butts. An oxygen tank and a breathing machine sit nearby.

Remo says she calls 911 only when she can't keep her medication down or control her breathing. She's been to hospitals across Los Angeles County, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center and Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood.

In September, she arrived at T.H.E. Clinic sweating, throwing up and hyperventilating. The clinic's driver took her to the emergency room.

Remo is covered by Medi-Cal, the public program for poor and disabled Californians. But a private insurer manages her care under a program intended to improve treatment and control costs. The company, Care1st, has assigned Remo a case manager.

In October, after her hospital stay, Remo is back at T.H.E. Clinic for a follow-up appointment. Disheveled and overweight, she moans as she pushes her walker and portable oxygen talk into the exam room. Her heart is racing, and she feels nauseated. It's a struggle to breathe.

"Please don't send me to the hospital," she tells Butler.

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Serving a country that won't save their jobs

The jobs of the nation's citizen soldiers are supposed to be safe while they are serving their country: Federal law does not allow employers to penalize service members because of their military duties.

Yet every year, thousands of National Guard and Reserve troops coming home from Afghanistan and elsewhere find they have been replaced, demoted, denied benefits or seniority.

Government agencies are among the most frequent offenders, accounting for about a third of the more than 15,000 complaints filed with federal authorities since the end of September 2001, records show. Others named in the cases include some of the biggest names in American business, such as Wal-Mart and United Parcel Service.

With good jobs still scarce in many states, the illegal actions have contributed to historically high joblessness among returning National Guard and Reserve members — as high as 50% in some California units — and created a potential obstacle to serving.

"The whole point of the National Guard and reserves, how they save the country money, is they get paid only when they are serving," said Sam Wright, director of the Service Members Law Center at the Reserve Officers Assn. "It's a great deal for the country, but if we don't protect their civilian jobs … they aren't going to volunteer and serve."

Veterans' advocates say that the heavy use of the nation's citizen-soldiers to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan placed a burden on employers in a tough economy. Even as 11 years of war wind down, Guard and Reserve members are being called up for peacekeeping and other duties around the world.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, a 1994 law that strengthened job protections for returning troops first introduced during World War II, requires that service members are reemployed in the type of position they would have attained if they had not been called to active duty.

Just how many service members are being denied jobs illegally is impossible to know. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office estimated in 2005 that fewer than a third of service members with complaints seek help from the government. Many don't file lawsuits, either.

Even so, the Labor Department and Office of Special Counsel, which investigate complaints for possible prosecution, have seen cases surge from 848 in fiscal 2001 to 1,577 in the 12 months ending in September 2011. Last year, the agencies handled 1,436 new cases, according to preliminary figures.

A Defense Department program that tries to mediate disputes handled 2,884 cases in fiscal 2011 alone, including 299 that went to the Labor Department when they could not be resolved informally.

Although the law says the federal government should be a "model employer," federal agencies accounted for nearly 20% of the formal complaints in fiscal 2012, about twice the share recorded in 2007. The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs lead the way with 105 and 47 complaints respectively.

President Obama instructed federal agencies last July to intensify efforts to ensure compliance. But officials say it has been a challenge to ensure that supervisors working at offices across the country are familiar with the requirements.

Obtaining redress can take months, if not years. For service members, the experience can be a maddening double-blow.

Lt. Col. Pierre Saint-Fleur, a former Fresno County mental health worker who deployed three times to Iraq as a military chaplain, said he was forced into early retirement because of his service in the California National Guard. He protested to the Labor Department's Veterans' Employment and Training Service but said he was told the case had no merit.

"I felt betrayed," Saint-Fleur said. "This same government that called me to go into harm's way, into a war zone, failed me when I got back and lost my job."

Saint-Fleur said he had no problem getting rehired after he demobilized in 2008. But he said he quickly saw that he was no longer welcome at the Department of Children and Family Services, where he had worked as a counselor for 18 years.

Instead of getting his old office back, he was given a desk in what he described as a trailer, with no privacy for counseling patients — a situation he feared could cost him his license. He said his work was criticized, his authority was reduced to the level of a student intern and a fraud investigation was opened alleging that he had been overbilling patients — claims he said were baseless.

"I had no choice but to leave," he said.

Only after hiring a private attorney did he win a $100,000 settlement, court and county records show. The county did not admit fault in the 2010 settlement. Fresno County officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Government agencies and Fortune 500 companies — especially defense contractors — are major employers of people who serve in the armed forces and might be expected to experience the most disputes. State and local governments accounted for more than 20% of the complaints last year and private companies nearly 60%.

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Pérez vows fiscal discipline from Democrats

SACRAMENTO — Speaker John Pérez wants voters to know something: Cash may be cascading into state coffers as it hasn't for years. Democrats may totally control the Assembly with a new supermajority. But they're not going to be drunken sailors.

They're going to be disciplined and conservative, at least by Democratic standards.

Pérez, 43, a Los Angeles Democrat and former labor leader, invited me into his ornate Capitol office last week to get the word out.

"It shouldn't — but it may — surprise folks that Democrats with our supermajority will be looking to build on the fiscal responsibility that we've shown the last couple of years," the speaker said right off.

Actually, the Legislature whacked programs for five years because of the recession. The state no longer is spending more than it's taking in. But it's in the hole nearly $28 billion because of debt accumulated to make ends meet during the years of budget crises. And Pérez would like to pay some of that down.

Gov. Jerry Brown next week will submit a revised budget proposal for the fiscal year starting July 1. The Legislature must pass a spending plan by June 15 to keep getting paid.

In January, the governor proposed a $146-billion budget, including $98 billion for the key general fund. Since then, unanticipated money has been flowing into the treasury as the economy recovers. Personal income tax payments are running about $4.5 billion higher than projected.

But Pérez says there'll be little if any restoration of previous spending that was chopped, despite pressure from labor, healthcare and welfare lobbies.

"We don't have endless amounts of money," the speaker asserts.

In fact, Pérez intends to push for creation of an un-liberal-like savings account, a "rainy-day" reserve to stash dollars for use in stormy economic times.

The idea would be to prevent the Legislature from falling back into its old nasty habit of spending one-time money on new programs or tax cuts — and then getting stuck with red ink when the economy slumps.

"The best time to do this is right now, in proximity to our worst economic crisis," Pérez says. "The memory is recent enough that we can act smart enough and not replicate the mistakes of our past."

Pérez would target the state's most volatile revenue: taxes on capital gains, the villain of boom-and-bust budgeting. He'd transfer the capital gains take that exceeded 6.5% of general fund revenue into the rainy-day reserve.

The state already has a rainy-day fund, supposedly, but it's empty and has only been contributed to twice since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created it in 2004. Presumably under Pérez's plan, the fund no longer could be ignored. And he'd double the size from 5% of general fund revenue to 10%.

The Legislature would place the proposal on the November 2014 ballot.

But wait! Schwarzenegger and the Legislature previously agreed on a new rainy-day fund three years ago. It was supposed to go on the 2012 ballot. Democrats pulled it off until 2014. They really don't like that version, regarding it as a flawed spending cap. So Pérez is offering an alternative.

Although the speaker is promising fiscal prudence, he'll continue to push hard for a major new spending program: hefty scholarships for middle-class college students. That's not necessarily contradictory, because he'd use a new funding source: revenue generated by closing a corporate loophole under Proposition 39, approved by voters last November.

Prop. 39 is expected to raise around $900 million. Half will be spent on retrofitting public buildings with renewable energy. The other half is headed into the general fund. Pérez wants to use all the latter money for scholarships.

He'd relieve tuition costs by up to 40% for students not poor enough to qualify for Cal Grant financial aid, but not rich enough to easily absorb the escalating fees of recent years. Students from families with incomes of less than $150,000 would qualify.

"Families in the middle got squeezed" by the soaring tuition, Pérez says. "You had families who saved up their whole lives to send their kids to college. They did everything we ask of parents. Then because of the budget crisis, fees were increased by 150% to 200% and many families had no way to prepare for it."

So scholarships are Pérez's priority. All three major players in the Capitol have one. Each is laying his on the negotiating table, and it probably will frame the makings of a budget deal.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) is demanding more emphasis on career tech, formerly called vocational ed.

The governor has his Robin Hood scheme to redistribute education funds, pouring more money into inner-city schools at the expense of the suburbs. He wants to spend significantly more on poor children and English learners.

Pérez says he agrees with that concept but finds "significant shortcomings" in Brown's proposal.

The governor would earmark the extra money for districts with heavy concentrations of disadvantaged students. Pérez and Steinberg think that all disadvantaged kids should benefit, regardless of whether they live in poor, middle-class or affluent communities.

Moreover, Pérez says, "increased school funding alone won't be enough to give [disadvantaged] students a fair shot at success and joining the middle class." He advocates spending education money on quality preschool.

"I still have my Head Start diploma," Pérez says. "There was an expectation of a certain amount of parental involvement." A good education, he asserts, "absolutely begins at home."

Pérez is preaching a practical and responsible budget. He's pledging fiscal restraint by Democrats. It will be interesting to see how they act.


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L.A. mayor candidates make pitches to Latino voters

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 05 Mei 2013 | 12.56

The two candidates for Los Angeles mayor courted Latino voters on Saturday, promising to help those seeking citizenship and to help clean up and enhance Latino neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and Pacoima.

Latino voters account for as much as a third of the city electorate. At the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Cocoanut Grove Theater, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti fielded questions at a forum sponsored by the education fund of the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, along with other local groups.

The candidates did not appear on stage together. Instead, they answered questions from La Opinion and KNBC-TV Channel 4 reporters and Loyola Marymount University professor Fernando Guerra.

Both pledged to make their administrations reflect the city's diversity and to appoint a greater number of Latino commissioners. Greuel said she would ensure that a greater share of city contracts were awarded to women and minority owned businesses — a topic that she explored in one of her audits as city controller. Both said they would prioritize job creation and would enhance adult education and job skill classes.

Garcetti, who speaks fluent Spanish and has advised the Obama administration on immigration reform, said he recently persuaded the City Council to reinstate the office of immigrant affairs, which he said would help city residents learn English and navigate a path to citizenship.

The office, he said, would "put Los Angeles at the front of the line for immigration reform — what are the changes that we have to do in terms of understanding the laws, where do we get English classes, and then also having a framework for making sure that people aren't preyed on" as they try to earn citizenship.

The candidates were asked what they would do clean up working-class areas of the city such as Boyle Heights, where residents have frequently complained about the buildup of trash on the streets. Pilar Marrero of La Opinion said many constituents who submitted forum questions complained that police and other city officials were always on hand to issue parking and traffic violations — particularly on street sweeping days — but slower to respond to community policing problems.

Greuel said it was important to change the mentality in some parts of the Police Department so that "your job is not to write tickets. Your job is to serve the community."

Garcetti said that as mayor, he would try to engage the Latino community by continuing neighborhood walks to solicit residents' concerns and would work out of different parts of the city, like Van Nuys: "So don't be surprised if I show up at your door as mayor," he said.


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A calming trend on the Springs fire

Aided by calmer winds and cooler temperatures, fire crews began gaining control Saturday of a fast-moving blaze that scorched large swaths of rugged mountain terrain and forced mass evacuations in Ventura County.

By late afternoon the so-called Springs fire, having engulfed about 28,000 acres since its Thursday start, was 56% percent contained and all mandatory evacuation orders were lifted. Though the blaze has damaged 15 homes and five commercial buildings, no residences have been destroyed and no injuries have been reported, officials said.

Compared to Thursday and Friday — when fire raced through Ventura County hillsides, causing officials to call for the evacuation of about 5,000 residents — Saturday was relatively calm for firefighters and residents in the most heavily threatened areas, neighborhoods full of multimillion-dollar ranch homes near Thousand Oaks and Camarillo.

By late afternoon, as the air kept cooling, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Fernando Herrera said officials expected to have full containment by Monday.

"This is good," said Herrera, looking up at fog rolling inland on ocean breezes. "This is what we want."

Earlier in the day, fearing a replay of a 1993 inferno that crept from hillsides and destroyed 53 homes, crews focused their efforts on keeping the blaze from reaching neighborhoods on the rural western edges of Thousand Oaks. From a vantage point near Potrero Road and Wendy Drive, light wisps of smoke could be seen rising from a distance into the sky, but nothing more. As firefighters monitored the smoke, residents calmly snapped photographs.

"The activity has dropped dramatically," said Cal Fire Deputy Chief Mike Parkes, who, like most of his colleagues, also noted a drop-off in the blaze's intensity, largely because of the sudden weather change.

Temperatures in the coastal areas near the fire dipped Saturday into the 60s and 70s, falling from unseasonable highs that had climbed toward the 90s on Thursday, when the blaze began near Thousand Oaks. Along with the cooler weather, winds weakened and humidity levels began rising to near 70% from a low of 5% earlier in the week, according to Scott Sukup, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

A 50% chance of rain is projected Sunday and Monday in the area, said Sukup, adding that his agency has ended a red-flag alert announced earlier in the week that warned of increased fire danger throughout much of the region.

On the western outskirts of Thousand Oaks on Saturday, as fire crews attempted to use controlled burns in an effort to ensure containment of the blaze, residents in nearby neighborhoods watched from their properties.

"With all these guys out here, it's pretty safe," said Charles Ash, 57, who owns a large property close to the containment line that fire crews were working on near Potrero Road. Ash said that on Friday he had started preparing to help fight the fire himself, pulling out hoses he can attach to hydrants on his property and readying wet burlap sacks in case he needed to snuff out hot embers. Eventually, he got his two sons out of school to help if necessary. "We needed everyone we could get," he said.

On Saturday, Ash felt more confident but wasn't ready to fully drop his guard. "We're not putting away those hoses until Monday afternoon," he said.

The potential for a devastating blaze became clear early in the week, when Cal Fire authorities and meteorologists determined that ominous weather patterns were setting up over Southern California: hot Santa Ana winds, unseasonably high temperatures reaching the 90s and low humidity.

Cal Fire authorities dispatched hundreds of firefighters from across the state to Ventura County. Firefighters and additional ground personnel were also deployed from Oregon, Arizona, Idaho and New Mexico.

"We knew big fires were imminent; we just didn't know where," Cal Fire Battalion Chief Nick Schuler said.

Early in the week, nearly 3,000 acres burned near Riverside. Another blaze has torched 6,700 acres in Northern California and continues to burn. On Friday, five fires were reported in San Diego County and another on Saturday in steep forestland in Riverside County south of Banning.

Shortly after the Springs fire erupted, state and local officials determined that it would become a major incident, threatening residents, homes and commercial buildings.

"A decision was made to dispatch resources from across the state to Camarillo," Schuler said.

More than 1,800 fire personnel were concentrated on the Springs fire, which burned all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Some could be seen Saturday, working from a makeshift base on a private ranch near Potrero Road — about 20 fire personnel clearing brush with chain saws, stopping occasionally to alert water-dropping helicopters overhead which hot spots to hit.

"This isn't baby-sitting quite yet," said Ventura County Fire Capt. Wayne Farber. "We have to put a line around the fire.... Cross your fingers there will be rain in a couple days.... There's still a lot of hard, dirty work to still be done."



Times staff reporters Louis Sahagun, Rong-Gong Lin II and Rosanna Xia contributed to this article.

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Prop. 13 loophole gives edge to big players

In 2006, billionaire computer magnate Michael Dell, one of the world's richest men, agreed to pay $200 million for the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, a beachfront landmark in Santa Monica that long has been a retreat for Hollywood starlets and U.S. presidents.

A few months later, Dell tore up the contract.

He still wanted the hotel. But his attorneys had found a simple way to reshuffle the deal to avoid a legal change in ownership.

The maneuver saved about $1 million a year in property taxes — an option available only to businesses, not homeowners, under the arcane rules governing Proposition 13.

The Miramar deal illustrates how businesses can easily — and legally — avoid property tax hikes under the California ballot initiative passed in 1978. As a result, the state loses tens of millions of dollars in revenue each year, officials estimate.

Voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 13 out of a concern that homeowners, particularly the elderly, would be forced from their houses by rising tax bills during a real estate boom. The law ensured that property taxes were pegged at 1% of purchase price, assessed value could rise no more than 2% per year, and property was reassessed to full market value only when sold.

But large corporate property owners have been among the law's biggest beneficiaries, thanks in part to loopholes such as the one Dell used.

Essentially, the law allows businesses to sidestep reassessment if no one acquires a majority stake in a company that owns the property. Dell did that by bringing in his wife and two of his investment advisors as partners — with no one taking more than 49% control of the hotel company. With no change in ownership, it continued to be taxed based on the 1999 property value of $86 million.

Los Angeles County assessors concluded it was a blatant tax dodge and raised taxes on the property.

A Superior Court judge disagreed, finding last December that the deal met the letter of the law. The county has filed an appeal.

Dell declined to comment. If he prevails, he will save more than $1 million a year, and taxpayers will probably also owe him more than $2 million in tax refunds and legal fees.

Christopher Thornberg, founder of research firm Beacon Economics and a former economist at UCLA Anderson Forecast, says the state has only itself to blame: "He didn't do anything wrong. He's saying to California: Look, idiots, I just robbed you blind, and it's your own fault."


Passed 35 years ago by more than 65% of voters, Proposition 13 remains highly popular among property owners.

But during that period, the tax burden has steadily shifted from businesses to homeowners. In Los Angeles County, for instance, homeowners have gone from paying a 40% share of the total in 1975 to 57% today.

That shift is fueling efforts by some Democrats to tinker with Proposition 13. Eight separate measures were introduced this session. One, intended to close the loophole used by Dell, was recently tabled amid complaints by businesses that it was "a job killer." The others remain long shots.

Public support is growing, however, for a more sweeping change. A December poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 58% of likely voters favor a so-called split roll, in which commercial properties would be reassessed periodically regardless of their ownership.

The change would require a popular vote to amend Proposition 13, which is enshrined in the state Constitution, and would probably meet a wall of opposition from business owners, who complain they are overtaxed in California as it is.

For now, state and local officials are bound by rules that even some architects of Proposition 13 warned were ripe for abuse.

A year after Proposition 13 passed, state leaders began to grapple with the meaning of three words in the initiative: "change of ownership."

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Exhausted crews find respite at command post

After more than two days of combating flames and hacking away at brush with axes and chain saws, hundreds of exhausted firefighters tried to steal a few minutes' sleep on Saturday morning in a makeshift city that sprouted almost overnight along a rural road in Camarillo.

Then, with flames hopscotching along nearby ridgelines, the firefighters from as far away as Oregon, Idaho and Arizona geared up once again to protect lives and property from the devastating wildfire.

The mini-city known as the Springs Fire Incident Command Post is equipped to serve three meals a day — along with providing medical supplies, shower and laundry facilities and tents to catnap in — to the 1,865 firefighters deployed to Ventura County over the last three days.

Many of them drove here in family vehicles or were driven in government buses and trucks. Others caravanned in fire engines to work fire lines on 24-hour shifts.

Despite slackening winds, cooler temperatures and forecasts of possible rain for Sunday, the battle against the first major fire of the year was far from over for these firefighters and only the beginning of what could be one of the worst fire seasons in decades statewide. By late Saturday, the fire had burned 28,000 acres and was 56% contained.

A lack of winter and spring rains has resulted in dry conditions across the state, leading to a number of unseasonably large wildfires, officials with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Since Jan. 1, Cal Fire has responded to more than 600 wildfires — more than 200 over the average for this time of year.

Even before this week's fires began, fire authorities had begun deploying engines, hand crews and equipment from several western states to potential hot spots.

Almost immediately, the Panther fire charred about 6,700 acres in the Northern California community of Butte Meadows and continues to burn.

Cal Fire authorities were concerned that the Springs fire, which erupted Thursday, would rage out of control because of developing weather conditions, and they feared significant property losses.

They decided to dispatch hundreds of firefighters to Ventura County and house them in the incident command center that unfolded in a park sandwiched between agricultural fields and Camarillo Airport.

Arnold Lopez, 26, said he was among 18 "hot shots" from Silver City, N.M., originally deployed Wednesday to a staging area in Hemet "to wait for a fire."

The next morning, his crew was reassigned to Camarillo, where they worked 30 hours clearing brush, conducting back burns and digging firebreaks with hand tools and chain saws.

Lopez was bedraggled, hungry and desperate for sleep when he marched into the incident post Saturday morning.

"To be in SoCal this early in the year for this big of a fire could set up a concerning trend," said Lopez. "I'm pretty sure I'll be back again."

Fresno Fire Department Battalion Chief Charles Tobias and his family knew what to expect when they were awakened by a telephone call at 1 a.m. Friday.

"My wife asked, 'You going to the big fire in Southern California?'" Tobias recalled as he and dozens of colleagues grabbed a light breakfast at sunrise. "I said yes. She said, 'When are you coming home?'

"I told her I had no idea — and I still don't," he said. "That's the kind of work I do. And this year, it looks like we'll be deployed from one big fire to another through November."

By Saturday afternoon, the park was base camp for 247 fire engines and nearly 2,000 men and women whose mission had abruptly shifted from aggressive firefighting to mop-up operations and helping residents safely return to their homes in areas that had been evacuated.

The total cost of the Springs fire operation was $4.5 million and rising, according to Capt. Michael Lindbery of the Ventura Fire Department.

"If everything goes well today, and the weather behaves tomorrow, we'll be rapidly shrinking this base camp," Lindbery said, as fire engines rumbled past, helicopters roared overhead and beleaguered firefighters sprawled on the grass. "By next week it will be nearly gone."


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Man sues Boy Scouts over alleged abuse from 1970s

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 04 Mei 2013 | 12.56

A Pennsylvania man on Friday sued the Boy Scouts of America, alleging that the youth organization failed to protect him from sexual abuse by a Scoutmaster nearly 37 ago and then covered it up.

Carl Maxwell Jr. was one of five boys, ages 13 and 14, who came forward in July 1976 to accuse Rodger L. Beatty of repeatedly molesting them at the man's home and on camping trips, according to records in the Scouts' confidential files on alleged sexual abuse.

Despite the boys' detailed, handwritten statements to Scouting officials in Newport, Pa., they allowed Beatty to resign and quietly leave town without reporting him to the police, the Los Angeles Times reported in October. The Times' account was based on the Scouting records and interviews with Maxwell and others who corroborated his story.

"All of us boys — two of them's dead now — but all of us were scarred, and scarred for life by that," Maxwell said last fall, referring to Beatty's alleged abuse. "And he got away with that."

In his lawsuit, filed in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, Maxwell alleged that local Scouting officials in the summer of 1976 assured him and his parents that the matter was "in the right hands" and that they would pursue legal action against Beatty.

Instead, the officials did nothing, the complaint alleges, "because they did not want to discuss Beatty's sexual abuse publicly and wanted to conceal to the public and all legal and law enforcement authorities that Beatty's acts of sexual abuse ... were permitted to occur."

Officials also misled Maxwell into believing that he had "no other legal course of action" against Beatty, the complaint states. In part because of the Scouts' "fraudulent concealment," Pennsylvania's statute of limitations does not bar Maxwell's lawsuit, said his attorney, Alexander Palamarchuk.

Beatty went on to become a University of Pittsburgh social worker, educator and AIDS researcher. He died in November at the age of 66 after suffering a massive stroke in September. The Times had tried to contact him weeks before he fell ill, but he did not respond to messages.

Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said Friday that officials had not seen Maxwell's complaint and could not comment on it.

Maxwell, 50, is seeking unspecified damages.

The Scouts' confidential files have been used for nearly a century to keep suspected molesters out of its ranks. Beatty's records are among nearly 1,900 such files The Times has reviewed in the last year. The files show that hundreds of suspected molesters, many of them respected members of their communities, were never reported to authorities.

Courts in California and Texas have ordered more recent files turned over to attorneys in civil lawsuits, but not made public.


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Lindsay Lohan checks into Betty Ford Center

After skipping out on entering a Newport Beach rehabilitation facility and facing the prospect of arrest for violating her probation, Lindsay Lohan has checked into the Betty Ford Center to begin a 90-day court-mandated stay in her reckless driving conviction.

Lohan also rehired her former attorney Shawn Holley, who represented her for several years, and the lawyer arranged for the "Mean Girls" star to enter the Rancho Mirage facility.

The moves capped a chaotic 24 hours in which Lohan showed up Thursday at Morningside Recovery in Newport Beach, only to promptly leave. At that point, prosecutors said they did not know where she was and threatened to obtain an arrest warrant if she did not return because she was in violation of her probation.

But Santa Monica Chief Deputy City Atty. Terry White said Friday that he had given "tentative approval" to the actress to serve her court-mandated rehab at a facility other than the one in Newport Beach. White did not specify the facility, but sources told The Times that Lohan checked into the Betty Ford Center late Thursday.

Lohan managed to rehire Holley to replace attorney Mark Heller, who came under repeated criticism for his handling of her case.

White said Holley contacted him late Thursday with a new plan to treat Lohan.

"I have given tentative approval, but a more intensive investigation will be undertaken to make sure it complies with all the probation condition requirements," he said.

Lohan was previously at Betty Ford from September 2010 to January 2011 after a probation violation in a prior drunk driving case. During that stay, an employee accused her of battery, but prosecutors declined to charge the actress.

Her latest stay at Betty Ford comes after Lohan rear-ended a truck with her Porsche on Pacific Coast Highway on June 8, and then lied to police, telling them she was not driving. She entered a no contest plea in March and agreed to enter rehab, spend 18 months in psychotherapy and serve 30 days of community service.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Dabney warned that any slip-up would result in six months in jail for violating probation.

In court Thursday morning, Lohan's then-attorney, Heller, told the judge that his client had begun her therapy at the Morningside Recovery facility. Heller told the judge the facility met all the requirements. But state officials said the Newport Beach facility was not licensed to provide residential drug or alcohol treatment; it is certified to operate as an outpatient clinic with sober living homes.

When Lohan arrived Thursday, she left within minutes and did not even check in to the facility.


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Inmate charged in 2010 slaying is mistakenly released from jail

An inmate charged with murder in a 2010 Baldwin Park gang shooting was mistakenly released from the Los Angeles County jail system last month because of a clerical error, sheriff's officials revealed Friday.

The department waited nearly a month before alerting the public that Johnny Mata was on the loose.

Mata was set free April 4 from the Sheriff's Department's Inmate Reception Center in downtown Los Angeles, according to Capt. Chuck Antuna.

"A clerical error occurred and he was released," Antuna said.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office had filed murder charges against Mata, but a processing clerk had not entered a "hold" for Mata in the computer. Antuna said he was not sure exactly when Mata entered the jail system.

At some point, a different murder charge had been dropped against Mata, he added, but it was not clear if that played any role in his release.

The department's Major Crimes Unit has been searching for him.

Nicole Nishida, a department spokeswoman, said it did not immediately reveal Mata's release because the unit was chasing leads to find him.

The department opted to go public when it exhausted those leads, she said. Sheriff's officials have now notified "all of Los Angeles County law enforcement' to help them locate Mata, she added.

Steve Whitmore, a sheriff's spokesman, said the error occurred due understaffing and the positions have since been filled and an additional supervisor added. "It no is excuse but sheriff has insured it won't happen again," Whitmore said.

Nishida said Mata has been charged in the killing of David De Anda, who was shot Dec. 24, 2010, in the 13200 block of Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park.

According to a sheriff's news release, De Anda was standing with two other people in a driveway when a man approached and shot him several times in the upper torso.

He was taken to Los Angeles-USC Medical Center, where he died about two hours later, a detective told The Times.

Mata has brown hair and brown eyes. He stands 6 feet 1 and weighs 197 pounds.

Anyone with information regarding Mata is asked to call sheriff's homicide detectives at (323) 890-5500.


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School mourns teen killed by bus

Grief-stricken classmates of a 13-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a school bus on Thursday returned to Roosevelt Middle School in Glendale on Friday, some of them seeking solace at a memorial that was set up at the collision site.

The Los Angeles County coroner on Friday identified the boy as Jonathan Hernandez, who died shortly after being struck and trapped underneath a school bus Thursday afternoon at Columbus Avenue and Riverdale Drive.

Grief counselors were at the campus for friends and teachers who knew Jonathan, who was described as well-liked and a student who excelled academically.

The preliminary investigation by the Glendale Police Department indicates that the boy was riding his bicycle west on the south sidewalk of Riverdale Drive without a helmet when he entered the intersection at Columbus Avenue without yielding.

That's when he collided with a bus from a private school, which was traveling north on Columbus, according to a police report.

There was no indication that the bus driver was impaired, according to police. She was transported to Glendale Adventist Medical Center for evaluation.

The bus driver told police she never saw the boy coming, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

There is a circular median in the center of the intersection that vehicles must go around after stopping.

"You can't speed through this intersection," Lorenz said.

Due to the extent of his injuries, paramedics did a "scoop-and-run" in which he was extricated from under the bus for immediate transportation to Glendale Memorial Hospital, but he was pronounced dead a short time later.

"This is a tragic traffic accident," Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said. "It's basically a reminder to both parents and community members that they need to be careful when driving around schools."

Students also need to pay attention when they are walking or biking to and from school, he added.

"It's awful," said Sheehan, who described the mood at the Roosevelt campus as "very somber."

Grief counselors were also sent to an elementary school attended by two of Jonathan's younger siblings, Sheehan said.

An investigation into the cause of the collision is continuing.


Times staff writer Mark Kellam contributed to this report.

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