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Family of slain Dodgers fan asks for help outside S.F. ballpark

Written By kolimtiga on Senin, 30 September 2013 | 12.57

SAN FRANCISCO — Dozens of friends and family members of slain Dodgers fan Jonathan Denver came together outside AT&T Park on Sunday before game time to pass out fliers seeking witnesses to the Wednesday night stabbing preceded by taunts of team rivalry.

Clutching one another for support, Denver's father, brother, mother and aunt also stood before a bank of cameras to make their plea and offer more personal details about the 24-year-old apprentice plumber from Fort Bragg, Calif., nicknamed "Burrito."

Robert Preece of Alhambra — Denver's father and a security supervisor at Dodger stadium — described losing a child as "a heartache no parent should have to endure."

In a nod to the family of the 21-year-old Lodi man who police said implicated himself in the stabbing but is said to be claiming self-defense, Preece said, "I also understand that the Montgomery family is likely suffering as well." He pleaded for any witnesses to contact authorities "so that both families can have some measure of closure."

Michael Montgomery was arrested after the incident and booked into San Francisco County Jail on Thursday afternoon. But Dist. Atty. George Gascon late Friday sent the case back to police for further investigation, saying more witnesses needed to be interviewed to support or rule out legally justified homicide.

Preece and his son, Robert, who was also at Sunday's news conference but declined to speak, are both witnesses to the stabbing. But they shed little light on what happened Wednesday night, when police say a "back and forth" over the Dodgers-Giants rivalry triggered two altercations between their group and Montgomery's.

Montgomery's group had come to the city to go to a club and did not attend the game that night, but a friend of Montgomery's was wearing a Giants hat, and Montgomery told his father that Denver, who was wearing Dodgers gear, yelled, "Giants suck!" He is said to contend that he stabbed Denver only after the Dodgers fan "jumped" him.

Preece declined to address Montgomery's contention of self-defense, saying he is "trusting that [police and prosecutors] are going to do what's right." Preece's sister, Jill Haro, said: "This is why we're here today. We're looking for the public's help. We have reason to believe people may have [recorded] it and witnessed it, and we need them to come forward."

The family chose instead to focus on the young man they loved and lost. Preece, choking back tears, said he would always remember Wednesday night's game, which he attended with his two sons in a belated celebration of his 49th birthday.

"More than once that night, Jonathan told me how much he loved me," Preece said. "That will remain a most cherished memory for me."

Denver's mother, Diana Denver of Fort Bragg, spoke briefly, criticizing the media for "maligning my son's character," presumably by reporting on drunk-driving and public-intoxication arrests. "Remember, he was the victim," she said.

She also criticized the criminal-justice system for releasing Montgomery without charges.

But mostly, she spoke to her son's character, saying he was "well known and loved in his community" and describing him as "loving, caring and kind. His laughter was everything, and what a smile he had," she said.

Denver, who went by Jon (as well as Burrito), loved his dogs, Buster and Blue, and adored his brother, Robert, who was his roommate and dear friend, she said.

Sunday's group — more than 40 people from Fort Bragg and several dozen from the Southland — began arriving Saturday evening in San Francisco to pass out fliers. Some wore blue sweat shirts emblazoned with "RIP Jon D."

"We need your help," says one handout, with a photo of Preece and his sons at Wednesday's game.

"The SFPD and district attorney's office are seeking additional independent evidence regarding the death of our friend and family member Jonathan Denver," it reads, asking anyone with information that "can help bring forth the truth" to contact either agency.

Sharon Rocco, a 62-year-old retired parole agent and avid Giants fan, was heading into the ballpark Sunday as reporters gathered for the family's news conference.

"What is very sad is I think we've had an evolution of aggressiveness," she said. "We've lost the ability to respect other people's beliefs." The crux of the fight may have been Giants-Dodgers rivalry, she said, "but they just lost self control."


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Grand Avenue project at turning point

The push to transform downtown's Grand Avenue into a Champs-Elysees for Los Angeles has faced years of delays and obstacles. The ambitious plan to create a tony cultural destination around the landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall has already been scaled back because of the recession.

Now, with a key deadline set for Monday, the centerpiece of the Grand Avenue project — two towers offering luxury condos, a hotel, and high-end shops and restaurants — is facing another critical test.

In a little-noticed meeting last week, county Supervisor Gloria Molina and other officials unanimously rejected the conceptual plan for the $650-million project, with Molina criticizing the design and saying developer Related Cos. had failed to create an enticing public space that went beyond expensive shops and restaurants.

The move put the long-awaited project in jeopardy, according to alarmed business leaders and government officials. At midnight Monday, an agreement between the authority and Related will expire.

Carol Schatz, president and chief executive of the downtown-based Central City Assn., said she was "shocked and angry" over the committee's Sept. 23 vote to reject the proposal from Related, which has already committed $120 million to the Grand Avenue effort.

"Coming so close to the deadline for the contract's ability to move forward, the vote really cast doubt as to whether the project could proceed at all with Related," Schatz said. "After nine years, that was shocking to hear."

The Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority — a panel that includes representatives from the city and the county — voted 3 to 0 last week to reject the developer's proposal, a key milestone. Officials at the authority and their spokespeople say the vote was merely a rejection of the proposed plan, not of the developer. But according to a report prepared for the committee ahead of its Sept. 23 meeting, any vote to reject the plan is the same as killing the project outright.

If the project falls apart, the county could face major legal liability, notably because of the $50 million that Related put into the expansion and reconstruction of Grand Park, which stretches from the Music Center to City Hall. The developer is already building a residential tower on Grand Avenue as part of the authority's effort to remake the corridor.

Since the vote, the authority and its staff have moved quickly to get the matter reconsidered — and Related's agreement extended — before Monday's midnight deadline. Staffers spent the weekend writing up a report for a new meeting Monday. Three of the four members who sit on the panel are set to participate by phone, including Molina, who will call in from a hotel in Oaxaca, Mexico, where she is on vacation. They will vote not on new plans but on a proposal to extend the agreement for three months.

During last week's meeting, Molina and county Chief Executive William T Fujioka made clear their displeasure with Related's proposal. Both said they did not see how it would be a high-caliber project for Grand Avenue, home to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall and the Broad Museum, which is expected to open in 2014.

Molina, who heads the committee, criticized the proposal's "boxiness" and complained that one entry facing Grand Avenue lacked "any architectural interest whatsoever."

"There's nothing there that lends itself in any aspect to a design that promotes any kind of pedestrian activity, any street activity or anything," she told the panel. "It is still a continuation to me of the fort-like conditions down Grand Avenue."

Fujioka, who reports to the five county supervisors, voted with Molina and Steve Valenzuela to reject the plans, saying during the meeting that he was "very, very disappointed" with the presentation. City Councilman Jose Huizar was absent.

The president of the development company said Sunday that he remains committed to the project.

"We have in good faith fulfilled all of our obligations through every step of the process, had multiple meetings on the Conceptual Plan and were therefore surprised and disappointed that it wasn't approved," said Bill Witte, president of Related California. "It was in no way a completed design but a concept to be refined in collaboration with the Grand Avenue Authority."

Since last week's vote, county officials have struggled to explain what exactly happened and what comes next. On Friday, Molina spokeswoman Roxane Marquez said the panel voted to "remove Related from the Grand Avenue project" but said the panel could change course after seeing new plans Monday.

On Sunday, Molina aide Gerry Hertzberg corrected that statement, saying plans won't be presented Monday. In addition, he said, the committee "did not vote to terminate" Related's contract. "If they don't approve a new agreement … by Sept. 30 then [the] Related contract terminates," he wrote in an email.

Martha Welborne, former chairwoman of a nonprofit committee that first began promoting the Grand Avenue effort in the early 2000s, said she was "very concerned" by the authority's action last week.

"This was always seen as the flagship of the project. It's right across from Disney Hall," she said. Any further delays mean "a more uncertain future at the top of Bunker Hill and the impact that the project can have."

Schatz said the authority and Related need to come to terms quickly.

"There is no more time to wait," she said. "The project must move forward now."



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So far, couple's Hollywood fixer-upper has been a downer

The neighborhood seemed perfect for the two Hollywood artists.

Nestled beneath the Hollywood sign, the duplex that first-time homeowners John Sullivan and Carrie Dennis bought was near the studios he deals with and the Hollywood Bowl where she performs.

The place was built in 1924 by a man who used a mule and gold-mining equipment as collateral, then bought by a woman who had gotten a loan from actress Mary Pickford. When Sullivan and Dennis acquired the home, it was owned by a painter who used one of the units as a studio.

It was a fixer, but the clapboard duplex had a funkiness that charmed Sullivan, a 45-year-old writer, producer and actor, and Dennis, 35, the principal violist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

True, their upper-level two-bedroom unit lacked any closet space for them and their toddler twins, Atticus and Finneas. But the lower unit had a rent-paying tenant — something that helped with the bills.

But the lack of closet space turned out to be the least of their problems.

Life for them on Glen Green Street first hit a roadblock when Sullivan set out to landscape the slope behind his house and repair a water-damaged 7-by-10-foot backyard storage room the family used for closet space.

Sullivan planned to plant fruit trees that would tie in to a community orchard that a neighbor, actor Bill Pullman, was proposing at the top of the hill. But another neighbor, actress Jodi Long, objected when she noticed that Sullivan was digging into the slope to create terraces where the trees could be planted. Long's property extends onto the hillside above Sullivan's lot.

"He was cutting into the hill and compromising it," Long said. "I said, 'You can't do that — my property is above you and I don't want to be liable if my property ends up in your house.' He shrugged me off."

When Long complained to the city, an inspector told Sullivan the rail ties could not be used as retaining walls and ordered them removed.

Sullivan complied.

But when the inspector returned to verify that the ties had been removed, he noticed the repairs being made to the storage room. "Where's your permit for this?" he asked.

Sullivan quickly abandoned his do-it-yourself project, hired a contractor and applied for — and received — a $626 building permit for the storage room.

Meanwhile, an anonymous caller complained to the city about the tenant living in the second unit. When officials couldn't find paperwork showing a duplex at the address, they declared it a single-family dwelling and issued a stop-work order on the storage room repairs.

That set in motion a new round of inspections as officials investigated whether Sullivan had illegally turned a single-family home into a duplex.

A few days later, building and safety officials found the 1924 building permit that stated the property was, indeed, a duplex. It "had been misfiled … that effectively closed the case on the illegal use as a duplex," said contractor Kevin Meechan.

But Sullivan's problems were far from over.

In their walk-through, the inspectors spied large overhead beams in the family's living room and concluded that the home's roof had been illegally altered — converted from a gabled roof into a flat one. That meant that Sullivan and Dennis would have to break open the home's interior drywall to expose its structural framing for inspectors to take a look.

The city's "correction notice" stated that "permits for new footing, framing, electrical and plumbing" would be required if the structural integrity of the living room had been compromised by the suspected alteration.

After getting the previous owner to attest that the roof had been flat when she bought the property, Sullivan decided to do his own detective work.

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Monterey County school district to ask voters to OK technology bonds

A small Monterey County school district has come up with what it considers a novel approach to paying for classroom technology: voter-approved, short-term bonds.

Taxpayers in the Pacific Grove Unified School District will be asked in November to pay for the technology — such as tablets for students and teachers — with a $28-million bond strictly designed for such uses. The money would be spent in intervals over time, such as every three to five years. The idea is to create a funding stream to replace worn or obsolete technology as needed.

Moreover, each time money is used, it would be paid back over a short period — to match the relatively short life span of the product, and also to limit the amount spent on interest.

As with similar voter-approved measures, these bonds would be repaid through increases in property taxes.

Supt. Ralph G. Porras said the idea has met with strong local support, even from a taxpayers' organization that has opposed past bond measures.

"In our community, people are obviously concerned about spending wisely," Porras said. "We talk with people about the ideal classroom: what it looks like, and also about how that will shift and change."

"They get it right away," he said.

Pacific Grove has about 2,000 students and would work with a local committee, with representatives from various groups, on how best to spend the money. The school system has various types of computers and would have to determine its technology needs.

Other districts have spent bond funds over a period of years for technology. The difference in Pacific Grove is that officials presume their technology will become out of date quickly and they're planning for it with their proposed bond spending.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, by contrast, the cost of an ambitious project to equip all students with iPads is being bundled with school-construction bond projects that property owners will pay off over decades.

Critics have castigated the school system for paying long-term for a short-term product, but so far no serious legal challenge has emerged.

But there's also the matter of how to pay for whatever follows the iPads.

Los Angeles and other school systems have not developed "a system of replenishment," said Dale Scott, whose firm structured the Pacific Grove bond proposal. Instead, many school systems "dump money in on a one-time basis with no plan for what would happen in three, five, seven or 10 years."

L.A. Unified chief information officer Ronald Chandler has talked of savings that could be applied toward future technology, such as a diminished need for photocopiers and printers.

District officials also have discussed the potential for new funding from an improving economy and an expectation that future devices would be less expensive.

In large measure, the school system hopes to rely on money that would have been spent on hardcover textbooks, Chandler said at a L.A. Unified meeting last week. But he conceded that currently there are "no restrictions on how much can be charged for digital texts."

L.A. school board member Monica Ratliff said the school system needs to better plan for the future.

"These devices will be obsolete at some point," Ratliff said. "The question is when."

Porras said part of a district's sound planning includes preparing for uncertainty.

"Technology changes too quickly," he said.


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SAT scores stagnant; many unprepared for college, officials say

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 29 September 2013 | 12.56

The average SAT scores for the high school class of 2013 remained stagnant from the previous year and fewer than half of the students who graduated were prepared for the rigors of college, officials said.

Average SAT scores for high school seniors nationwide stayed steady in reading, math and writing, according to a report released last week by the College Board, the New York-based nonprofit that administers the SAT and Advanced Placement program.

The combined average SAT score of 1498 was the same as last year; a perfect score on the three-section test is 2400.

In California, the combined average score of 1505 dropped two points from last year and 12 points from 2010.

Perhaps more telling, only 48% of test takers reached the "SAT Benchmark" — a score of 1550 that indicates a 65% likelihood that students will obtain a first-year college grade-point average of B- or higher, according to the College Board.

Students who reach that threshold are more likely to enroll in a four-year school and complete their degree, the College Board said.

In high school, the students who surpassed the benchmark were more likely than their peers to have completed a curriculum of four years or more of English and three years or more of math, natural science and social science.

They were also more likely to have taken honors or Advanced Placement courses.

College Board President David Coleman said that expanding rigorous course work in schools is the only way to improve the rate of college readiness.

"We must dramatically increase the number of students in K-12 who are prepared for college and careers," Coleman said. "Only by transforming the daily work that students do can we achieve excellence and equity."

There was, however, the highest representation of minorities among test takers in history.

In 2013, 46% of those who took the test were minorities, up from 40% in 2009.

African American, American Indian and Latino students made up 30% of test takers, up from 27% in 2009.

In California, 57% of graduating seniors — 234,767 students — took the exam, the highest number ever for the state.

Nationwide, participation has dipped slightly since 2011 for the SAT.

Meanwhile, a rival college entrance exam, the ACT, has seen a steady rise in participation since 2003. About 54% of graduating seniors nationwide took the ACT, up from about 40% in 2003.

In California, 26% of graduates took the exam, up from 15% in 2003, according to ACT officials.


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LAPD rescinds vehicle impound policy

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Friday evening quietly rescinded the department's car impound policy, a controversial set of rules Beck put in place last year to be more lenient on immigrants in the country illegally but that a judge found violated state law.

The move marked the latest setback for Beck in the long-running battle over the impound rules. In an interview Saturday the chief reiterated his belief that the policy — called Special Order 7 — was legal and necessary, saying that the recent court ruling that struck down the impound rules "undermines the authority of the police department to regulate the conduct of its officers."

Beck declined to say whether lawyers for the city would appeal the decision by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Terry Green. That, Beck said, was a decision for City Atty. Mike Feuer. Beck, however, signaled strongly that an appeal was likely, saying he "looks forward to the next phase of the judicial process."

Despite his disagreement with the judge, Beck said he had no choice but to rescind the impound policy in order to comply with Green's finding that it could not stand because it was in conflict with the state's vehicle code. Prior to Beck's move, it had been widely expected that city lawyers would try to keep Special Order 7 in place during the lengthy appeals process by asking a state appeals court to set Green's ruling aside pending their decision.

A spokesman for Feuer did not return calls seeking comment on whether the city attorney would still request the stay of Green's ruling from the appellate court. Michael Kaufman, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which has joined the city in defending the impound rules, said his group would do so with or without the city's help.

Under the terms of Special Order 7, if officers stopped an unlicensed driver who met several requirements — including having auto insurance, valid identification and no previous citations for unlicensed driving — officers could no longer invoke the part of the state vehicle code that allowed them to confiscate the vehicle for 30 days, a punishment that came with fines and charges often exceeding $1,200.

In a city with an estimated 400,000 immigrants who are in the country illegally and forbidden by state law from obtaining driver's licenses, Beck and the LAPD's civilian oversight board, which approved the policy, argued that Special Order 7 was needed for moral and practical reasons.

The 30-day holds, they said, unfairly burdened such drivers, who often are poor and risk having cars seized that they need to drive to work or take their children to school. Beck said he expected the policy would encourage unlicensed drivers to take steps such as buying insurance to avoid the monthlong holds.

"It's not so much that I am a dove on immigration," Beck said in an earlier interview with The Times. "It's that I'm a realist. I recognize that this is the population that I police. If I can take steps — legal steps — to make them a better population to police, then I will."

The union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers and Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning watchdog organization based in Washington, sued over the policy, arguing that it improperly attempted to supersede the state's impound laws that give some discretion to officers on whether to use the 30-day hold on a car.

"I always believed that what the chief was doing was not the solution to a problem that I agree needs to be addressed," said Tyler Izen, president of the police union.

"Letting people drive without driver's licenses is reckless, and that's what he was trying to allow," Izen said.

Emphasizing that the union has not taken an official position on a bill passed this month by the state Legislature that would allow immigrants in the country illegally to receive licenses, Izen said, "We've made the decision that healthcare and education are humanitarian issues. We should make the decision whether a driver's license … is a humanitarian issue as well."

Beck issued a new directive Friday to replace the now-defunct impound rules. "The purpose of this notice is to provide guidance to officers when making a vehicle impound/removal decision concerning drivers without a valid license," he wrote on the department's internal computer network. In perhaps what was an indication that the city still plans to appeal Green's ruling, Beck added that officers should not adhere to Special Order 7 "until further notice."

The switch from the order returns some level of authority to officers when deciding on impounds but instructs them to take a common-sense approach spelled out in a legal principle called the Community Caretaking Doctrine. They should, Beck wrote, "take into account the 'totality of the circumstances' to determine whether an impound/removal is appropriate."

For example, Beck said, an impound is acceptable if there is no other way to prevent "the immediate and continued unlawful operation" of a car. However, according to the Caretaking Doctrine, if someone else in the car has a license or the unlicensed driver is already at his residence when he is pulled over, then the officer should not impound the car, Beck said.

The chief also tried to clarify for officers the multiple sections of the state vehicle code that authorize officers to use the 30-day hold in some cases and a less-severe impound in others, under which a driver can retrieve his car immediately.

Beck had said in the past that the various sections of the code were confusing and left unlicensed drivers at the mercy of individual officers, some of whom may take a more lenient approach than others.

"Officers should determine which statutory authority is most appropriate for the given circumstance," Beck wrote.


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San Diego celebrates its long-awaited new library

SAN DIEGO — There was a banner above Saturday's sneak-peak celebration for the city's new nine-story, ultramodern downtown central library: "The Story Begins. Discover Your Next Chapter."

That next chapter begins in full Monday when the $184.9-million library at Park Boulevard and 11th Avenue, just east of Petco Park, opens to the public.

But the past chapters, more than four decades of them, have been rife with delay, frustration and yet a persistence at City Hall and among the city's bibliophiles.

"We are a big city," said acting Mayor Todd Gloria, who was emcee at the celebration. "We should do big things."

Perhaps, but doing big things doesn't usually happen overnight.

Gloria was born in 1978. The first study that concluded that the rapidly growing city needed a new central library was done in 1971, followed by 45 other studies that reached the same conclusion.

"San Diego is a very thorough city," said architect Rob Wellington Quigley.

Quigley said that when he moved to San Diego in the early 1970s, two projects were being discussed with great urgency: relocating the international airport away from downtown, and replacing the cramped central library.

The airport is still in the same location as when Quigley arrived.

And something always seemed to delay the library project: Other priorities (building a new baseball stadium, hosting the 1996 Republican National Convention), the need for more community meetings, rancorous disputes over locations and, always, the city's historical aversion to taxes.

It's not that the old downtown library, opened in 1954, was such a treasure that locals could not think of replacing it.

A squat three stories, with two basements, it was utilitarian and cost-effective, like many San Diego public structures of its era. Within a decade of opening, it was viewed as outdated, officials said.

"It was small and unattractive even by the standards of the 1950s," former Mayor Dick Murphy wrote in his autobiography "San Diego's Judge Mayor."

The library's roof leaked, Murphy noted. Water pipes burst, soaking books. Rooms that were supposed to be for the public were instead needed for storage.

"Simply put, the main library had become a civic embarrassment," Murphy wrote.

While Chicago, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, among other places, built new central libraries or expanded old ones, San Diego seemed gripped by civic paralysis, although it did build numerous branch libraries in outlying neighborhoods.

In more recent years, the project was slowed by the city's loss of its once-sterling credit rating because of a scandal over a spiraling pension deficit. That made selling bonds virtually impossible.

Still, boosters pressed on with a novel funding plan that relied on grants, redevelopment funds, a deal with the school district, and private donations. One ironclad condition was set down by city officials: There would be no construction money from the city's general fund or city-issued bonds.

Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan, donated $30 million; the late David Copley, publisher of the San Diego Union-Tribune, donated $2 million; and more than a dozen families each donated more than $1 million.

In all, about $65 million for construction came from private donations — along with $10 million for increased operating funds so the library does not become a drag on the city budget.

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Gov. Brown extends use of carpool lanes for electric cars, others

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday approved a four-year extension of carpool lane access for electric cars and low-emission vehicles.

But he vetoed a bill that would have allowed solo motorists in regular vehicles access to those lanes on two Los Angeles County freeways during non-peak hours.

The governor signed 20 pieces of legislation Saturday, including six bills promoting the use of low- and zero-emission vehicles.

"Today, we reaffirm our commitment in California to an electric vehicle future," Brown said in a statement.

Under one bill approved by Brown, cars with white stickers from the state — including electric, hydrogen fuel cell and compressed natural-gas vehicles — will be able to use carpool lanes until Jan. 1, 2019.

Without Brown's signature, the access would have expired on Jan. 1, 2015. Former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) introduced AB 266.

The governor also signed a companion measure that extends the state's green sticker program allowing certain low-emission vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, to travel in high-occupancy vehicle lanes until 2019, or until federal authorization expires. Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) wrote SB 286.

Related bills signed by the governor make electric-vehicle charging stations more accessible to all drivers, develop new rules to include charging stations in apartment buildings and non-residential structures and provide $30 million in incentives for hybrid and zero-emission trucks and buses.

But Brown vetoed a bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) that would have allowed lone motorists in gas-powered cars to use the carpool lanes on a 13-mile stretch of the 134 Freeway from Studio City to Pasadena during off-peak hours, the rule in much of the state.

The bill also would have allowed solo drivers to use a section of the 210 Freeway when it was not rush hour.

Brown suggested traffic in the area justifies the special rules.

"Carpool lanes are especially important in Los Angeles County to reduce pollution and maximize use of freeways," Brown wrote in his veto message. "We should retain the current 24/7 carpool lane control."

Gatto said he was disappointed by the veto. He said it is harder to get people who work at odd hours to carpool.

"The policy contained in AB 405 works in Northern California, and I don't see how keeping Southern Californians with atypical commutes in traffic is good for the environment or fair," Gatto said.

Brown approved AB 8, which provides an extension until 2024 for a $3 increase in vehicle registration fees that was to expire in 2016. Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) introduced the bill to help pay for clean-energy programs, including the expansion of hydrogen fueling stations in the state.

The governor also signed a package of bills that will expand access to fresh, locally grown food as part of the Farm-to-Fork movement to bring production closer to consumers.

One of the bills allows cities and counties to establish urban agriculture incentive zones that provides a lower property tax rate to encourage owners of undeveloped properties to use the land for providing a local food source.

Assemblyman Philip Y. Ting (D-San Francisco) wrote AB 551, noting that some properties in cities go undeveloped for years, contributing to blight.

Another signed bill, by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Compton), extends the state's certified farmers' market program by four years, to Jan. 1, 2018.

"This farm to fork legislation expands access to fresh, local produce and will help make our communities healthier," Brown said in a statement Saturday.

Other legislation signed by the governor will:

•Clarify the Department of Parks and Recreation's power to enter agreements with nonprofit organizations that want to operate parks that otherwise would be shuttered because of budget cuts. AB 594 was drafted by the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife

•Provide $1 million in bond funding for a grant to the city of Port Hueneme to provide emergency measures to prevent severe damage to streets and property located along Hueneme Beach caused by beach erosion and flooding. SB 436 was introduced by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)

•Require the Department of Public Health to approve water treatment devices whose manufacturers make claims that they improve health. AB 119 is by the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials.


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Boxer asks EPA to ensure safety of L.A. neighborhood near oil field

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 27 September 2013 | 12.56

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) asked federal environmental officials Thursday to ensure the safety of a low-income South Los Angeles community where residents worry that their dizziness, headaches and nosebleeds may be linked to noxious odors from an urban oil field.

In a terse letter, Boxer asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Ginza McCarthy to "immediately address these unacceptable situations using all available and appropriate authorities."

Boxer requested a response by Monday describing the steps that the EPA will take to address the chemical smells, which waft through the University Park neighborhood from an oil-pumping operation on land Allenco Energy Co. leases from the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Residents say they have suffered from respiratory ailments, headaches and nosebleeds since 2010, when Allenco ramped up production at its wells by more than 400%. Neighbors complained to state air quality officials 251 times over the next three years. The South Coast Air Quality Management District responded by issuing 15 citations against Allenco for foul odors.

After analyzing three air samples collected in 2011, the district concluded that the odors pose no health risks.

Allenco has declined to comment on its operation.

University Park is one of a growing number of communities with concerns about newly invigorated wells. New extraction technologies and rising prices for crude oil are motivating a revival of old oil fields across Southern California.

"These communities are frustrated, and I want local residents to know that I hear them and understand their concerns," Boxer said in a statement. "I will do everything I can to ensure they get the answers they deserve."

The action was welcomed by University Park residents including Monic Uriarte and her 12-year-old daughter, who suffers from recurring nosebleeds.

"We're grateful to have the attention of Sen. Boxer," Uriarte said. "If it turns out that our illnesses are related to those odors, we will demand that the oil field immediately cease production."

Angela Johnson Meszaros, general counsel with the Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, agreed.

"Finally, this issue is being taken seriously," Meszaros said. "It's also sad that it takes someone in Washington to send a latter to someone else in Washington to get California regulators to do something about a problem that's been going on way too long."

Air quality district officials were not available for comment.

The Allenco site, which was donated to the archdiocese in the 1950s, is surrounded by affordable-housing projects and schools, including the Doheny Campus of Mount St. Mary's College and a Los Angeles Unified School District high school for adults with psychological challenges.

U.S. Energy Department records show that Allenco's 21 wells at the site had been idled in the 1990s because of low oil prices and calcification. Hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid were used to unplug five of the wells in 2005. Allenco bought the operation in 2009.


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L.A. Unified reports 71 iPads are missing

Los Angeles school district officials are trying to track down 71 missing iPads — including 69 from one campus — but said Thursday that new security measures are designed to frustrate future thefts.

Officials also acknowledged that student hacking of an iPad security system last week was more widespread than originally reported by the district.

The lost devices are among iPads used last year in a 13-school trial run of the Apple tablets. Since then, the L.A. Unified School District has launched a $1-billion program to equip every student in the nation's second-largest school system with the devices.

Central to the effort are security measures to keep track of the tablets, which cost nearly $700 apiece and were intended to be sent home with students.

The loss of last year's tablets is not an omen of things to come, but rather an experience that has resulted in stronger safeguards, said Lt. Jose Santome of the school district's Police Department.

"We have a very vigorous control for this rollout," Santome said. "We know what's going out and deployed on every campus."

In addition, five of the new iPads — out of about 14,000 so far distributed — disappeared, although one of those was subsequently recovered, Santome said.

The problem last year was most acute at the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills. Administrators distributed about 1,200 iPads there last year. At the end of the year, 69 did not come back.

The district was not able to respond quickly last year for several reasons, Santome said. First, officials needed to sort through storage carts to determine whether any iPads had ended up on the wrong one, for example, or whether two of the devices were placed into a storage slot meant for one. Then the district had to tabulate serial numbers for every computer to determine which ones were missing.

Ultimately, the district was able to link missing iPads to the students to whom they had been assigned. Investigators are in the process of interviewing those students.

But that's unlikely to resolve what happened. If students claim they turned in their device, the district may have no way to prove otherwise, Santome said.

He added that the district has addressed security shortcomings. Global positioning software can now be activated for every tablet. And an electronic inventory system is supposed to register at all times who is currently responsible for a particular iPad. The district also can shut down iPads that are reported as stolen.

Last week's hacking episode involved a different sort of security breach: high school students gaining access to unauthorized websites.

In interviews, students said they had been disappointed at their inability to get to social networking and music streaming sites, and they quickly figured out how to delete safeguards. As a result, students were able to visit any website when they used the tablets off campus.

In response, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy has temporarily banned the home use of district iPads.

L.A. Unified knew immediately which students took their iPads out of the filtering system, chief information officer Ronald Chandler said. Officials still are weighing how best to provide sufficient but secure Internet access.

When the hacking came to light Tuesday, the district announced that 185 students had been involved. The current figures are 260 students at Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights, 10 students from Angelou Community High School in South Park and 70 at Westchester High.

Early reports indicated that Valley Academy students were also involved, but a district spokeswoman was unable to confirm that Thursday.

A student government representative at Westchester said the district count for his campus still sounded too low. He said administrators reported to students that 160 of their classmates were involved. The student requested anonymity because he was afraid of getting into trouble for having taken part in the unapproved Web access.


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Temecula college student arrested on federal 'sextortion' charges

A 19-year-old Temecula college freshman was taken into custody Thursday on federal charges he "sextorted" newly crowned Miss Teen USA and other young women around the world by hijacking their computer's webcams to capture naked images.

Jared James Abrahams allegedly commandeered webcams of unsuspecting women in Canada, Ireland, Russia and across the United States, a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday said.

After hacking into the webcams to obtain nude photos and videos, Abrahams allegedly used them to blackmail females as young as 16 to provide even more images, videos or live chat sessions.

If they refused, the complaint states, he would post their images on the Internet to humiliate them.

Abrahams allegedly threatened to transform reigning Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf 's "dream of being a model ... into a porn star" if the victim did not comply with his demands, according to a court record.

Wolf, who was Miss California Teen USA before winning the Miss Teen USA pageant in August, discussed the incident on the "Today Show" before Abrahams was arrested.

The FBI investigation was sparked after Wolf alerted authorities in March to a change in her Facebook password and an alleged sextortion demand from a person authorities said they later identified as Abraham.

Abrahams allegedly changed her Twitter account photo to a half-naked image of her and then sent her two images of her naked that were taken inside her home by her webcam months earlier, according to the criminal complaint.

The complaint identifies at least seven victims identified by initials only — several from the Temecula area — and said that once confronted, Abrahams admitted his crimes in an interview with an FBI special agent.

One of the victims, a 17-year-old from Ireland, reluctantly disrobed on his orders during a Skype session, according to a Sept 19 affidavit.

"Please remember I'm 17. Have a heart," the affidavit quotes the girl as saying. "Abrahams allegedly responded: "I'll tell you this right now! I do NOT have a heart. However, I do stick to my deals. Also age doesn't mean a thing to me!!!".

When FBI agents first raided his Temecula home in June and seized computers and hardware, cellphones and hacking software, they found evidence that he had commandeered 30 to 40 computers and gathered images of victims in Southern California, Maryland, Ireland, Canada, Russia and Moldova, according to the criminal complaint

FBI officials added that Abrahams bragged on a hacker forum how he had installed malware on the computer of "this girl who happens to be a model..."

Abrahams was being held on $50,000 bail Thursday. A judge ordered that Abrahams, if freed, must wear a GPS tracker and would be prohibited from using a computer for anything other than academic work.


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Gov. Brown OKs bill on overtime pay for nannies, private health aides

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Thursday that requires overtime pay for nannies, private health aides and some other domestic workers.

He also approved a measure requiring local government agencies to get court orders before interrupting cellphone service in response to public protests and other activity.

Under the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, personal attendants would have to be paid overtime wages if they work more than nine hours in a day or 45 hours in a week. Such workers are currently exempt from the state's overtime laws.

"Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill's author. "Now they will be entitled to overtime, like just about every other California working person."

Ammiano joined Brown for the bill's signing in the governor's office, as did members of the California Domestic Workers Coalition, the advocacy group that requested the bill.

Maria Distancia, a member of the group, said the event brought tears to her eyes.

"This has been a really long struggle," Distancia said. "We've been fighting since 2006."

"We're out of the shadows now. We're becoming more visible," said the child-care aide from Jalisco, Mexico, who lives in Oakland.

Opponents of the measure argued that its requirements could put a strain on people who depend on domestic workers for care.

"They're now going to be required to pay more for that care," said Jennifer Gabeles, policy director for the California Assn. for Health Services at Home.

The overtime exemptions "were initially put into place to keep costs affordable for families," Gabeles said.

The bill, AB 241, is a scaled-back version of one vetoed last year that would have also required meal breaks and rest periods.

On the cellphone measure, government agencies will have to go to court if they want to shut down service to the public at specific locations. The bill Brown signed on the issue came from state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) in response to an incident in 2011, when the Bay Area Rapid Transit District shut down wireless service for three hours at several stations in San Francisco to head off a planned protest.

The action drew criticism from civil rights groups and others who said it deprived thousands of BART riders of the ability to call 911 if they needed it. Critics also compared the action with measures used by oppressive governments to quell peaceful protests.

California has long required a court order to interrupt traditional telephone service. The mandate is needed for modern mobile communications, Padilla said, because they are "critical to public safety and a key element of a free and open society."

The bill requires government agencies to show there is probable cause of "serious, direct and immediate danger" to obtain a court order. In an extreme emergency, without time to go to court, an agency would have to obtain an order within six hours of the shutdown, if possible.

In all, the governor signed 22 bills Thursday and vetoed two. Among those he approved, they will:

• Allow insurance companies, with the customer's consent, to transmit many notices electronically instead of by mail. SB 251 is by Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello).

• Allow cities and counties to veto the conversion of mobile home parks to resident ownership if a majority of those living there don't support it. SB 510 is by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

• Keep the financially troubled State Athletic Commission operating at least until 2016 and increase fees for boxing and martial art competitions to put the agency back in the black. SB 309 is by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance).



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Former pro boxer Exum Speight arrested in 1987 slaying of manager

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 26 September 2013 | 12.56

A former professional boxer was arrested in the 1987 slaying of his manager, Los Angeles police said.

An LAPD-FBI fugitive task force took Exum Speight, 50, into custody at his San Fernando home Wednesday, a day after an arrest warrant charging him with murder was filed, police said.

Cold case detectives said DNA ultimately linked Speight to the slaying of Douglas Stumler, a 30-year-old Los Angeles County Housing Authority employee found dead inside his West L.A. apartment. Stumler had a side job as a boxing manager and worked with Speight, even living with him at some point during the mid-1980s, LAPD Det. Rick Jackson said.

Stumler spent March 29, 1987, with a friend and returned to his apartment alone, Jackson said. The friend called later that Sunday night, but Stumler didn't answer the phone.

Red flags were raised when Stumler — a sports fan and Indiana native — didn't meet with friends the next day to watch his Hoosiers win the NCAA basketball championship, Jackson said. When he didn't show up for work Tuesday, his friends grew more concerned.

A friend then went to Stumler's apartment with the building manager and found his body inside.

Jackson said there was evidence of a "pretty violent struggle" across the apartment. There were "multiple causes of death," he said, including strangulation and stab wounds.

"It was not a quick thing," he said.

Speight was initially identified as a potential suspect because the boxer and his manager had a "bit of an issue" years before over stolen property, Jackson said. But the connections were circumstantial: "They didn't have the forensics we now have."

It wasn't until 2010 that the LAPD cold case unit was able to reexamine evidence from the investigation, Jackson said. Two years later, the detectives got a hit: DNA collected from Stumler's body matched Speight, he said.

Detectives tracked down witnesses, including some out of state, and began piecing their case together. After a new DNA sample from Speight again matched the evidence from the crime scene, Jackson said, detectives presented their case to prosecutors and the warrant was filed.

Speight, perhaps best known for losing a 1996 bout with current heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, recently worked as a security guard at a Venice Beach marijuana clinic, Jackson said. He was arrested without incident and held on more than $1-million bail.


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Hacienda La Puente school board member criticized over China trips

In an auditorium in eastern China, Hacienda La Puente school board member Joseph Chang posed for a photograph with 15 students who planned to spend their senior year at Wilson High.

Wearing a black suit and red tie, a beaming Chang was surrounded by teenagers whose parents would shell out tens of thousands of dollars for a year of secondary education in Hacienda Heights, ideally followed by a top American university.

Also at the school that day in August 2012 was Norman Hsu, a former school board member who now works for Bela Education Group, a private company that recruits Chinese students to study in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District.

Chang is now facing questions over who paid his airfare to China and whether he used his elected position to benefit Hsu's company.

On Thursday, Chang's school board colleagues will consider whether to censure him after a district investigation found that the trip and several others created a conflict of interest. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has written to the school district asking for documents relating to Chang's China travels.

"There are very questionable ties to existing and past board members," said school board President Jay Chen, who is critical of the arrangement with Bela. "There are far too many conflicts of interest, the kind of thing that really shakes public confidence in elected officials."

Chang held a news conference Wednesday to accuse Chen of attacking him for political gain. A math professor at Cal State Fullerton, Chang is up for reelection in November, with five other candidates competing for three seats.

"My Bela relationship is only to help them to establish the program," Chang said. "I don't have anything from Bela. Nothing. So this always tying me to Bela is a false accusation, trying to fabricate that I got profits from them. This is really, really dirty politicians trying to attack me."

In a December 2012 public disclosure, Chang declared that Bela had paid his $1,000 airfare for each of three recruiting trips to China. He said Wednesday that Hsu, who is Bela's managing director, picked up the tab, and that he has since reimbursed his friend.

Gifts to California elected officials are normally subject to a $420 limit, though some types of travel are exempt. Chang said his trips to China were legal because he was offering his expertise as an educator.

Chang's critics also allege that he has advocated to keep the district's international student tuition low so Bela can reap a higher profit, and that he has pressured school officials to accept unqualified Chinese students.

Under federal law, an international student who enrolls in a public high school must pay the full cost of his or her education. That means tuition in the neighborhood of $15,000 in some school districts.

The Hacienda La Puente district, which has about 20 students from China this year, initially charged $8,600, then raised its fee this summer to $12,900 with the support of all but one board member — still below the $14,459 that the district is spending per pupil this year.

Bela lists a tuition of nearly $15,000 on its website, along with fees for SAT classes, visa processing and room and board. In all, Chinese families pay Bela about $30,000.

In an interview Wednesday, Chang said he believed that the $12,900 tuition fee reflected the actual cost to the district. He also said that he has inquired about the status of some international student applications but never pushed school officials to change denials into acceptances.

Most Chinese students enrolled at Hacienda La Puente this year and last year were not directly associated with Bela, though receipts from the school district listed Chang or Hsu as the recruiter for some students. Bela's presence in the school district, which is already home to many Chinese families, will expand next year with 30 students.

Hsu, who served on the school board for two decades until 2011 and is still influential in the Hacienda Heights Chinese community, acknowledged that he works for Bela but said he is not involved in any programs related to the school district.

The district's May 2013 investigative report also found students living with host families who did not always provide them with adequate food, heat or supervision. School administrators have been taxed by the extra work of helping foreign students in the country without their families, the report said.

"It shouldn't be costing the district and overtaxing the teachers," said Jane Shults, head of the Hacienda La Puente Teachers Assn. "It's a great program to have, but we need to have enough money to take care of these kids."


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Analysts see hope for California prison overcrowding solution

SACRAMENTO — The state and the courts have been at odds for years over whether California's prisons are too crowded, but a new ruling this week offers a glimmer of hope that there's a middle way forward, analysts said Wednesday.

The big question is what the governor is willing to do.

On Tuesday, a panel of three federal judges gave Gov. Jerry Brown a surprise one-month reprieve of their order to remove more than 9,600 inmates from state prisons by year's end.

After long having shown impatience with Brown's pleas for more time, the judges indicated they were open to a longer extension if he and lawyers for inmates could agree on how to shrink the prison population for the long term.

"The court has given a month with the express hope that the two sides can work out a meaningful settlement," said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law. "It really depends on whether Gov. Brown is now willing to do so."

Brown declared recently that he would not let inmates, who have sued the state over prison conditions, rewrite corrections policies.

"It would not be responsible to turn over California's criminal-justice policy to inmate lawyers who are not accountable to the people," Brown said last month, after state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) proposed settlement talks similar to those ordered by the judges this week.

On Wednesday, Brown remained defiant as his administration filed a new brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. The governor has appealed to the high court to overturn the three judges' order on the 9,600 inmates.

In the new filing, state officials say they have "no opposition to participating" in the talks ordered by the panel.

But they also maintain that Tuesday's order, which blocked the state's plan to send thousands of inmates to out-of-state prisons, was out of line. The filing says the three judges overstepped their authority and asks the high court to intervene.

Brown submitted a plan to the three judges last week that could have involved sending thousands of inmates to lockups in other states and placing about 2,500 more in privately owned facilities in California.

"This order, like the court's other recent actions, disregards the law and the role of the judiciary," the governor's lawyers argue in the Wednesday brief.

Others said the judges had offered a blueprint for compromise, echoing a set of solutions proposed Monday in a letter to the court from Steinberg.

The senator suggested that the three judges order discussions about alternative measures to relieve crowding. Those measures could include reviewing California's incarceration of federal immigration detainees and increasing resources to speed parole hearings for juvenile offenders and people serving life sentences, Steinberg wrote.

Those ideas were among the issues the jurists ordered the state to discuss with prisoners' lawyers.

The order "represents the possibility of a major breakthrough," Steinberg said Wednesday.

The judges' order said the talks, to begin immediately and to be run by Justice Peter J. Siggins of California's 1st District Court of Appeal, are to be confidential.

The ACLU's criminal justice director in Northern California, Kim Horiuchi, said the closed doors could defuse much of the political rhetoric that can prevent compromise.

"That's the beauty of it being confidential," she said.

The court's assignment of Siggins as mediator is also significant, said Joan Petersilia, a criminologist and law professor at Stanford Law School. Siggins has been involved in the case in the past and is trusted by both sides, she said.

Don Specter, a lead attorney for the inmates who sued the state over prison conditions, has been down this road before, to no avail.

"It's hard to be too optimistic after all these years of frustration," Specter said. "But we are going into this with an open mind, and we will make a good-faith effort to reach an agreement."

The two sides sat down twice before, Specter said, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor — just before and just after a crucial trial in 2008 over prison crowding. Neither discussion bore fruit, Specter said.

Susan Kennedy, who was Schwarzenegger's senior policy advisor, said the political dynamics were different then.

In 2008, the state had 18,000 inmates sleeping on bunks stacked three high in what were supposed to be gymnasiums.

"Now, you are down to the last 10,000 [inmates], and these are not guys you want on the street. There's no fast solution to this."



Times staff writer Paige St. John contributed to this report.

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Census data mask poverty suffered by some Asian American groups

Sixteen-year-old Mary Sem worries about her family. She has overheard her mother crying over memories of loved ones she lost to the Khmer Rouge. Her father and older sisters struggle to cover rent and the perpetual bills.

Her college dreams are hitched to helping them. If Mary got a degree and a good job, "my family would be able to pay the bills on time," the teen said one day after school in Long Beach. "They wouldn't need to worry about anything."

The Sems, who trace their roots to Cambodia, have little in common with the stereotype of Asian Americans as a "model minority" that is faring well economically. Poverty is less common, on average, among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders than the Los Angeles County average, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show. But those overall statistics mask deep financial woes among some Asian Americans, a report released Wednesday shows.

For instance, one-quarter of people of Cambodian descent in Los Angeles County lived in poverty between 2006 and 2010 — exceeding other disadvantaged groups such as Latinos and African Americans, the civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles found in its analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

"There's always been a recession in our community," said Lian Cheun, executive director of the nonprofit Khmer Girls in Action. "The pain has always been there. It's just not well known."

Tongan Americans have even more stunning poverty rates, the report found, with more than half estimated to be living under the poverty line countywide between 2006 and 2010. Because the community is so small, the estimates are rough and the actual poverty rate might be somewhat lower — but still far above the county average.

The new report seeks to uncover such problems, using U.S. Census Bureau and other government data to poke holes in the "model minority" stereotype and illustrate the changes sweeping such communities.

Asian Americans have become the fastest-growing group in Los Angeles County, which now has not only the biggest Chinese and Korean communities in the country, but also the largest number of people of Thai, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Cambodian, Burmese and Taiwanese descent, the report found.

As the recession barreled down, their growing numbers also meant more people in need. In Los Angeles County, the number of Asian Americans who were jobless jumped 89% after the downturn, according to the report. Among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, the number more than doubled.

"Tongan men — they do hard labor, construction, mainly concrete work," said Sione Tuita Tuiasoa, a member of the advisory board for the Tongan Community Service Center in Hawthorne. "As the economy turned sour, it's hard for them to make the money they used to make in the '80s and '90s."

In addition to those economic struggles, nearly 1 out of 4 Asian Americans across the county have trouble speaking English, the civil rights group calculated using Census Bureau data. The numbers are especially high for Angelenos of Korean descent as well as those with roots in Myanmar, Vietnam, Taiwan or Cambodia. In Long Beach, Sem often has to translate for her parents when they visit the doctor or go to the grocery store.

The report found ethnic Cambodian and Laotian Angelenos were also much less likely to have college degrees, compared with the county average. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders lagged behind in college completion too.

'Alisi Tulua, program manager for the advocacy group Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, said Pacific Islanders are often lumped in with Asian Americans in educational statistics, making it harder to prove that more help is needed for struggling Pacific Islander students.

When people glance only at the Asian American/Pacific Islander averages, "it looks like we're doing really well," Tulua said. "And we're not."


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Pressure grows on L.A. DWP to account for funding of two nonprofits

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 25 September 2013 | 12.56

Los Angeles elected officials ramped up pressure Tuesday on the city-owned Department of Water and Power to account for more than $40 million in ratepayer money paid to two nonprofits created to improve relations between agency managers and the largest employees' union.

City Controller Ron Galperin offered new details on an audit he's launching, saying it will examine the nonprofits' travel expenditures, salaries and the "rather significant and un-detailed outlays" listed on the groups' federal tax forms.

And City Councilmen Felipe Fuentes and Mitch O'Farrell asked the DWP for an accounting of how the groups spend as much as $4 million in public money they receive each year, and a detailed explanation of what the two entities — the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute — do.

Last week, The Times reported that the DWP claimed to have only scant information about how the money has been spent, and would offer no specific examples of what either organization has accomplished in more than a decade.

The broad purpose of the organizations, city records show, has been to "identify" safety and training as core values at the department, and to promote "communication, mutual trust and respect" between DWP managers and the union leaders, who jointly control the trusts' accounts.

The ordinances establishing the nonprofits in 2000 and 2002, after a grueling round of job cuts at the department, don't specify how the ratepayer money should be spent.

Officials at the groups, the DWP and the employees' union, Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have repeatedly declined to be interviewed about the institutes' activities and spending.

The union's business manager, Brian D'Arcy, responded Tuesday in a letter to Fuentes, saying the organizations have helped address disparate and inefficient training and safety programs. The institutes have created and implemented a department-wide "safety information and action program" that trained 7,800 employees and a "field ergonomics initiative that has helped more than 3,500 journeymen and women learn to work both smart and safely," D'Arcy said.

He did not provide details of either program or say how much of the $41.1 million received by the institutes has been spent on them.

The union declined to provide any financial information for the two institutes in response to an Aug. 2 records request from The Times. The DWP provided limited records in response to the same request, showing that about $1 million a year has gone to salaries for a handful of administrators. More than $360,000 was spent on travel from July 2009 to June 2012, according to federal filings by the tax-exempt organizations.

"The mission statement [of the institutes] is really vague," Galperin said Tuesday. "It should be noted that there are programs internal to the DWP that are about safety and training. So the question is: What purpose do these organizations serve?"

In a 2012 filing with the federal government, the training institute listed $663,481 of spending as simply "other," Galperin noted.

Fuentes said he introduced the motion because he doesn't know enough about the groups to judge whether the money has been spent wisely. O'Farrell said, "We're just not going to accept shadowy nonprofits that are funded by taxpayer dollars, or ratepayer dollars, that no one understands. Those days are over."

For years, DWP managers and the city attorney's office have debated whether to make the institutes' meetings and records public. The city attorney's office, which represents the DWP, recently cited attorney-client privilege to block disclosure of memos written by city lawyers arguing that the nonprofits should be bound by open-government rules that apply to city agencies.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said via his spokesman, "I'm also calling on my new DWP commission to seek full disclosure of all spending by these two organizations and to explore all legal avenues to account for every ratepayer dollar spent."


Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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L.A. students breach school iPads' security

It took exactly one week for nearly 300 students at Roosevelt High School to hack through security so they could surf the Web on their new school-issued iPads, raising new concerns about a plan to distribute the devices to all students in the district.

Similar problems emerged at two other high schools as well, although the hacking was not as widespread.

Officials at the Los Angeles Unified School District have immediately halted home use of the Apple tablets until further notice.

The incident, which came to light Tuesday, prompted questions about overall preparations for the $1-billion tablet initiative.

The roll-out is scheduled to put an iPad in the hands of every student in the nation's second-largest school system within a year. Roosevelt was among the first to distribute them, starting a week ago.

Tablets were still being handed out Friday when administrators discovered the hacking already in progress, allowing students to reach such restricted sites as YouTube and Facebook, among others.

"Outside of the district's network ... a user is free to download content and applications and browse the Internet without restriction," two senior administrators said in a memo to the board of education and L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. "As student safety is of paramount concern, breach of the … system must not occur."

Other schools reporting the problem were Westchester High and the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills.

Students began to tinker with the security lock on the tablets because "they took them home and they can't do anything with them," said Roosevelt senior Alfredo Garcia.

Roosevelt students matter-of-factly explained their ingenuity Tuesday outside school. The trick, they said, was to delete their personal profile information. With the profile deleted, a student was free to surf.

Soon they were sending tweets, socializing on Facebook and streaming music through Pandora, they said.

L.A. Unified School District Police Chief Steven Zipperman suggested, in a confidential memo to senior staff obtained by The Times, that the district might want to delay distribution of the devices.

"I'm guessing this is just a sample of what will likely occur on other campuses once this hits Twitter, YouTube or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices," Zipperman wrote. "I want to prevent a 'runaway train' scenario when we may have the ability to put a hold on the roll-out."

By Tuesday afternoon, L.A. Unified officials were weighing potential solutions. One would limit the tablets, when taken home, to curricular materials from the Pearson corporation, which are already installed. All other applications and Internet access would be turned off, according to a district "action plan."

A second approach would be to buy and install a new security application.

Apple's just-released new operating system might help, but not the current iteration, according to the district. A fix from Apple is not likely to be available before late December.

The devices should work normally at school, although even that has been problematic. Teacher Robert Penuela said his use of the tablets has been limited because he can't get them to work for all students at once.

Roosevelt freshman Alan Munoz said that, so far, he was using his iPad only during free time.

The excitement of receiving the device quickly wore off for senior Kimberly Ramirez when she realized it was for schoolwork only.

"You can't do nothing with them," she said. "You just carry them around."


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129 are indicted in O.C. probe targeting Mexican Mafia

A violent prison gang ran drugs in Orange County's jails, ordered brutal beatings of inmates, collected tariffs from neighborhood gangs and issued so-called hard candy lists that marked disobedient members for death, according to indictments made public Tuesday

In what authorities described as a major blow to the Mexican Mafia, 129 people were indicted by federal and state authorities on racketeering and other charges related to a criminal enterprise that engaged in murder, extortion and drug-dealing.

The 21/2-year probe was dubbed Operation Smokin' Aces and was conducted by FBI agents, Santa Ana police officers, Orange County sheriff's detectives, and members of the Orange County district attorney's office and other agencies.

A raid early Tuesday resulted in 55 arrests. An additional 51 suspects were already in state or federal prison and 21 remain at large. One of those named in the federal indictment is dead and another was deported.

More than 60 weapons, 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 11/2 pounds of heroin and three pounds of cocaine were seized during the course of the investigation. Two of the weapons have been linked to slayings in Santa Ana, investigators said.

"Federal and local law enforcement here in Orange County joined forces to surgically target the leaders and operatives of the Mexican Mafia and sever their influence over street gangs responsible for far too much menace and mayhem in our neighborhoods," said Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney in Los Angeles.

The indictment describes violent gangsters operating on the streets and in the jail in the heart of Orange County.

The operation, the indictment says, was carried out by a crew of ranking gang members with names such as "Lil Bogart," "Creeper," "Big Shotgun" and "Bugsy."

A district attorney investigation said the beatings administered to gang inmates resulted in bruises and head injuries so severe that in one case, 20 staples were required to close the wound. The indictment details more than a dozen jail beatings in 2011 and 2012.

In one case, a 39-year-old woman who was deemed to be an enemy was killed in a Tijuana hotel room where she was lured under the pretense of discussing gang business, authorities said. Her body was later burned and dumped in a remote area of Mexico, where it was discovered days later, authorities said.

One of those named in the federal indictment was a 28-year-old Santa Ana woman who was found shot to death under a Newport Bay bridge on Labor Day. Nancy Hammour had supplied about 13 grams of methamphetamine to a confidential informant and ordered drugs from another defendant, the indictment says.

Authorities said agents intercepted dozens of conversations about gang activity, the arrival of heroin shipments in greeting cards and "green light" communications that ordered beatings of inmates whose gangs had failed to pay "rent."

Smokin' Aces is the latest law enforcement operation targeting the Mexican Mafia in Orange County and its affiliated gangs, particularly in Santa Ana.

In 2011, Operation Black Flag resulted in charges against 99 suspected gang members from Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties. So far two-thirds of those have been convicted in state and federal court, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman with the U.S. attorney's office.

Peter "Sana" Ojeda, who is accused of ordering killings on behalf of the Mexican Mafia from federal prison, was among those charged in 2011, Mrozek said. The trial of Ojeda, believed to be a member of the gang since the 1960s, is set for March 2014.

The reputed Mexican Mafia godfather of Orange County is credited with extending the gang's influential reach from prisons to the streets, according to a 2005 Times story. Although not charged in the latest indictment, Ojeda's name comes up repeatedly in it in connection with defendants being ordered to carry out assaults and strong-arm gang members to pay "taxes."

The indictments are crucial, said Richard Valdemar, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff's investigator who was on the first task force that targeted the Mexican Mafia.

"But it's like the Italian Mafia," Valdemar said. "We hurt them, but they don't stop functioning."


Times staff writers Robert Lopez and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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Brown gets an extra month to relieve prison crowding

BAKERSFIELD — Federal judges Tuesday gave Gov. Jerry Brown an extra month to meet their order to relieve prison crowding, directing his administration to negotiate with inmates' lawyers in the meantime for long-term solutions to the problem.

Saying confidential talks between the state and the inmates' representatives must begin immediately, the judges pushed their Dec. 31 deadline to Jan. 27 and ordered the two sides to report back to them by Oct. 21.

Their directive says the discussions should focus on "how this Court can ensure a durable solution to the prison crowding problem."

The governor had asked for a three-year delay of a three-judge panel's edict that about 9,600 prisoners be removed from California's lockups. In return, he promised to relocate about 2,500 prisoners quickly and to fund rehabilitation programs intended to ultimately lower the number of repeat offenders going to prison.

Without a postponement, Brown said, he would instead expand relocation of inmates to private prisons in other states, a costly prospect opposed by advocates for prisoners and their families.

In Tuesday's order, the judges told the state to halt negotiations for out-of-state prison beds.

Brown's office had no comment Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the state corrections department said the agency was reviewing the order.

Don Specter, lead attorney for the Prison Law Office, which represents inmates in class-action lawsuits over California prison conditions, said he did not believe the one-month delay would make a significant difference after years of fighting between the state and the courts over whether the prisons are too crowded.

But "we're always willing to try and negotiate an agreement that will benefit the state and the prisoners," he said.

The ACLU, which had pressed Brown to consider options beyond private prison beds, hailed the judges' order. Kim Horiuchi, ACLU's Northern California director of criminal justice policy, said she was "hopeful" that the state would negotiate in good faith.

Brown recently signed legislation allocating $315 million to pay for a combination of private prison beds and mental health treatment and other rehabilitation programs. Last week, he used the legislation as a basis for his petition that the judges postpone the population limits.

The judges' Tuesday order specifies a list of other options that Brown and inmates' lawyers must consider in their talks, including some the governor has opposed, such as parole of elderly or medically frail inmates.

The order also directs the two sides to discuss the early release of other low-risk prisoners and "any other means, including relocation within the state," that have been offered as solutions to the crowding problem.

"We're hopeful the state will be receptive to those options," Specter said.

The jurists also want the confidential discussions to include state policies governing the incarceration of juvenile offenders now eligible for special parole consideration under a bill recently signed by Brown. And they suggest that the state address how courts are handling a backlog of 2,000 prisoners waiting for resentencing hearings under California's eased three-strikes law.

The judges also offer the governor an enticement to consider prison management alternatives, saying, "The parties may also discuss any necessary or desirable" further extension of the deadline.

Meanwhile, Brown's lawyers filed a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, continuing to press for the high court to overturn the jurists' insistence that inmates be removed from the state's prisons. Brown has long vowed to pursue his appeal to its end.

In their brief, the lawyers contend that the three judges are overstepping federal laws intended to balance judicial oversight with a state's authority to run its prisons as it sees fit.

Horiuchi expressed dismay that state officials were continuing with their appeal.

"We're hopeful they'll reconsider such a dogged position," she said.

In May, the judges rejected Brown's claim that prison conditions were so improved that population caps were no longer needed.

On Tuesday, state corrections spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman said the jurists had made that decision "without ever examining the tremendous improvements to the prison healthcare system."

Since then, experts hired by the courts have recently submitted reports citing inadequate medical and mental healthcare in several state prisons. On Tuesday, the court's monitor of prison mental healthcare submitted a report citing chronic staffing shortages and delayed psychiatric care at a Salinas Valley prison.

He requested that the state be ordered to hire more psychiatrists, increase therapy and move mentally ill prisoners into vacant beds in the Salinas Valley psychiatric ward.


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Family reunited after child welfare system odyssey

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 24 September 2013 | 12.57

The college application essay was the tipoff. It was beautifully written but painfully rendered; a high school student's story of her family's tumble from middle-class stability into homelessness and addiction.

It helped Danielle Stone earn a spot at UCLA. But it also drew her family into a yearlong odyssey through Los Angeles County's child welfare system.

A teacher who read the essay notified social workers. They visited the family in the San Pedro motel they moved into after a string of evictions.

"They felt like there might be emotional abuse," recalled Danielle's mother, Lisa Stone. "When they visited, everything was OK."

For the next six months, things were mostly OK. Then in the summer of 2012, social workers monitoring the family walked in on an ugly argument between mother and daughter. About a month later, they picked up Danielle's little brother from school and announced that he wouldn't be living with their parents anymore.

"They did an on-the-spot drug test, and we failed," said Lisa's husband, Archie Stone.

The couple began using drugs when they lost their home in the recession. Then Archie's paychecks from his longshoreman's job were garnished and they couldn't even afford an apartment.

"Coming from a million-dollar house to being homeless .... it was a nightmare," Lisa said. "Drugs were a way to not think about it."

They didn't realize how much they were hurting their children with their mood swings and neglect.

"The day social workers walked up the door with our daughter and son and said he was going to foster care, that was the worst day of our lives," she said.


If that was the worst day of their lives, last Friday was probably one of the best.

That afternoon they were among a half-dozen reunited families released from supervision by the Department of Children and Family Services.

To get their children back, Lisa and Archie had completed drug treatment programs, taken parenting classes, attended weekly therapy sessions and compiled a year's worth of clean drug tests.

"If you'd asked me at the time it happened whether we needed all of that, I'd be in total disagreement," Archie said. "But did it work out the way it should? It probably did.

"Our life has gotten a lot better. We're a lot closer than during our days of addiction. That part has really been good."

For years family reunification has been a goal of the child welfare system — and a target for critics when children suffer because parents don't make good.

But the horror stories don't tell the whole tale. So many children are taken from struggling parents with fixable problems that it makes sense to try to repair families rather than strand children in foster care.

"This is the best thing we do," said Judge Michael Nash, who presided over Friday's reunification hearings. "When we can put a family back together and get the government out of their lives, it's a victory for everybody involved."

Last year, 6,000 children were returned to their families in a county that has more than 17,000 children in foster care.

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San Diego GOP power brokers plot comeback after Filner debacle

SAN DIEGO — Republican Party leaders and their allies in the business community did not like it when a Democrat was elected mayor last November.

Still shaken by the chaotic nine months of Bob Filner's tenure, including his feud with the tourism industry and his orders to halt several construction projects, Republicans are determined to see the mayor's office returned to GOP hands.

So on Aug. 31, the day after Filner's resignation became effective, an invitation-only meeting was held in the La Jolla home of Tom Sudberry, a prominent developer and Republican contributor.

Depending on who is commenting, the meeting was either an attempt by civic-spirited citizens to return stability to a shaken and demoralized city government or a throwback to the days when a small group of kingmakers could decide San Diego's future.

In any case, it was politics, San Diego style.

The meeting's goal was to find a candidate that the Republican Party and various business groups could rally behind. In the 2012 mayoral primary, when three prominent Republicans were on the ballot, the moderate and conservative vote was split.

The fight left the party splintered for the runoff, helping Filner become San Diego's first Democratic mayor in two decades.

From the three dozen people at the August meeting came an informal consensus that the best candidate was Councilman Kevin Faulconer, 46. Ex-Councilman Carl DeMaio, 39, a loser to Filner in 2012, should stick with a race for Congress, the thinking went, and Supervisor Ron Roberts, 71, should run for reelection.

A pollster reminded attendees that for all its reputation as a bastion of Republicanism, San Diego has become a Democratic city with 40% of voters registered as Democrats, compared with 27% as independents and 26% as Republicans. Democrats hold five of nine seats on the City Council.

With his more agreeable personality and reputation as a moderate, Faulconer was seen by many at the meeting as standing a better chance of attracting centrists than DeMaio, known as brash and uncompromising on issues such as pension reform and outsourcing of city jobs.

DeMaio was clearly eager to make a second try for mayor. Just days earlier he had unveiled what he called a blueprint for restoring ethical behavior to City Hall in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations that swept Filner from office.

DeMaio had his vocal loyalists, most notably Douglas Manchester, 71, hotel developer and owner of the U-T San Diego newspaper who likes to be called Papa Doug. San Diego has not had a decent mayor in 15 years, Manchester loudly told the group.

Manchester's comment did not sit well with Jerry Sanders, who was mayor from 2006 to 2012 and is now chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce. Sanders, 63, had backed Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis over DeMaio in 2012 and was among those who considered Faulconer the party's best choice now.

Sanders, a former police chief known for a low-key, courteous manner, looked Manchester in the eye and used an obscenity to describe the newspaper owner's comment, according to people in attendance and an account on the Voice of San Diego website.

Manchester and Sanders have had their differences: Sanders opposed Proposition 8, the anti-gay-marriage initiative, while Manchester supported and financed the measure. Manchester wants a football stadium built near the waterfront, whereas Sanders prefers an expansion plan for the waterfront convention center. Manchester wanted the city to bid for a Republican national convention, Sanders was not interested.

When Manchester did not immediately back down, Sanders explained that he had spent seven years as mayor cleaning up what he described — again deploying an obscenity — as a "mess" caused when other Republican mayors had let the city's pension deficit spiral.

After the heated exchange, Manchester apologized. DeMaio left the meeting without indicating whether he would run for mayor or stick with a bid for Congress in the 52nd District in hopes of ousting one-term Democrat Scott Peters.

Two days after the meeting, Manchester's newspaper ran an editorial urging DeMaio not to join the mayor's race. The reasoning tracked closely with what was said at the La Jolla meeting.

When DeMaio announced that he would stay in the race for Congress, an editorial praised his "statesmanship" and loyalty to his city and political party.

Manchester is traveling in Europe, according to an aide, and unavailable for comment. Sanders declined to comment.

Faulconer is the only big-name Republican in the Nov. 19 race against three well-known Democrats — former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, Councilman David Alvarez and former City Atty. Michael Aguirre — as well as a lineup of little-known hopefuls. If no candidate gets more than 50%, a runoff will be held between the two top vote-getters.

Carl Luna, political science professor at San Diego Mesa College, said those at the gathering are probably right, "their best hope in winning back the mayor's office lay in circling the wagons around" Faulconer rather than making a second attempt with the more divisive DeMaio. But nudging DeMaio out "was definitely hard-ball real politik."

But Tony Krvaric, chairman of the county Republican Party, who attended the meeting, called it a case of trying to find a candidate to keep San Diego fiscally sound and repair the damage done by Filner.

Krvaric also notes the possible larger significance of the mayor's race in California's second-largest city, given that Republicans hold none of California's statewide offices.

"With a Republican mayor, San Diego could be the only bright spot in the state, the only place with a different, taxpayer-friendly, pro-business management style," he said.

Not surprisingly, the Manchester-Sanders dust-up has been much discussed in media and political circles.

Political consultant John Dadian said that the spat "shows there's not a complete monolith in the old-boys network."


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Lawyers in Michael Jackson wrongful-death suit can't mask animosity

Brian Panish was indignant as the two men argued in the judge's chambers.

"Judge," the Michael Jackson family attorney snapped, "if I want to give him the finger, I know how to give him the finger."

"And you did it quite well twice," replied Marvin Putnam, an attorney for entertainment giant AEG.

Panish denied doing any such thing but added, "If he wants me to give him the finger, I'm happy to do that."

The trial over whether a division of one of America's most powerful entertainment conglomerates is liable in the death of a legendary pop star has been filled with testimony about Jackson's drug use, his physical and mental deterioration and his growing fears as a comeback tour approached.

But the other drama may well be the bruising war of words between the two lead attorneys, one an Ivy League product who worked in France and the other a Fresno State grad who attended school on a football scholarship.

The two lawyers have snipped, argued, shouted, rolled their eyes, bumped shoulders in the courtroom doorway and once got into such a combative argument in the hallway that the court clerk stepped into the corridor to tell them to cool it; an order they promptly ignored.

For more than four months, the lawyers have taken daily shots at each other as jurors and spectators looked on, often in amusement, a sideshow that can be as riveting as some of the testimony.

The day after the argument in the corridor, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos called the two attorneys into her chambers again and told them they would be sanctioned if their behavior didn't improve. Putnam called Panish "despicable" and refused to shake his hand. "Where I'm from," he said, "handshakes mean something."

With closing arguments in the long-running trial expected to start Tuesday, jurors and court spectators will get a final glimpse of two attorneys who seem to share little except an open disdain for each other.

"I can't think of a case where there's been so much animosity," said Panish, a veteran of more than 100 trials. "When I say good morning to them, they don't even say good morning back."

The stakes in the wrongful-death case are high, with one witness calculating that the pop star could have earned as much as $1.5 billion had he lived. But neither attorney, nor their law firms, is a foreigner when it comes to staggering sums of money.

AEG Live is represented by O'Melveny & Myers, a 128-year-old firm with 800 attorneys in 16 offices worldwide and a client list that includes Time Warner, Citigroup and Lockheed Martin. Its lawyers have served as U.S. secretary of State, secretary of Transportation and White House counsel.

The Jackson legal team is led by Panish, Shea and Boyle, which has one office and 15 lawyers. The firm has won 20 jury verdicts of $10 million or more, and its $4.9-billion judgment against General Motors, which a judge cut to $1.2 billion, was the largest personal injury verdict ever. The firm has done well enough to have an ownership interest in two airplanes.

Both Panish and Putnam are listed in the top 100 lawyers in California by the Daily Journal, but almost everything about their firms is different, from the attorneys they hire to their clients. Even the way they dress is different.

The O'Melveny & Myers attorneys look as though they were issued uniforms in colors ranging from black to dark gray. Jessica Stebbins Bina has worn black pantsuits every day of the nearly five months of trial. Contrast that with Deborah Chang, of the Jackson team, who has questioned witnesses while wearing a lime green coat, dangling earrings and high heels.

The O'Melveny team, nearly all Ivy Leaguers, is led by Putnam, a trim, balding man who grew up in Maine, attended Phillips Exeter and Harvard before earning his law degree at Georgetown. His wife, another Harvard grad, is executive director of Robert Redford's Sundance Institute and was president of production for Miramax Films.

Panish, the son of a lawyer, is heavyset with a full head of graying black hair. He attended Catholic schools, went to Fresno State on a football scholarship and received his law degree from Southwestern Law School.

Panish was recommended to the Jackson family by Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., who defended the pop star when he was tried on child molestation charges in 2005. "I told the family Brian Panish was the best plaintiff's civil trial lawyer in L.A. and that no one else comes close," Mesereau said.

Even the way the firms are paid underscores their differences.

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Brown OKs bill allowing minors to delete embarrassing Web posts

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown approved a new law Monday giving young people the ability to remove embarrassing information they post on Internet social networking sites.

California is now the first state in the nation to require websites such as Facebook to give minors a way to take down photos and other posts from their sites, according to Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that promotes children's privacy in digital media and tracks federal and state legislation on the issue.

The group supported the measure, which also bans website operators from marketing certain goods, such as guns, bullets and dietary products, to Internet users younger than 18.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said his measure offered "a groundbreaking protection for our kids who often act impetuously with postings of ill-advised pictures or messages before they think through the consequences."

Minors, he said, "deserve the right to remove this material that could haunt them for years to come."

The bill also prohibits firms from targeting minors with Web advertisements for harmful products that are illegal for them to use, such as alcohol, tobacco and guns.

The measure was opposed by the Center for Democracy & Technology, a nonprofit that promotes Internet freedom and accessibility.

Emma Llanso, policy counsel for the group, said the bill, SB 568, was "motivated by the best of intentions" but could cause confusion among website operators.

"If the sites are unclear whether they are covered under the scope of the bill, the response could be to bar minors from the sites entirely," Llanso said.

Technological advances are behind another proposal the governor signed Monday. That legislation outlaws the use of ticket-buying software, or "bots," that can purchase hundreds of the best seats to concerts and sporting events seconds after they go on sale online.

Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said he introduced the bill because the bots give scalpers an unfair advantage in buying up tickets, which they can resell at a steep profit.

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, makes it a misdemeanor to use software to circumvent the security of ticket-selling websites to conduct mass purchases. Penalties are up to six months in jail and special civil fines of up to $2,500.

Supporters of the bill, AB 329, include Ticketmaster, which said in a statement: "This is an important step in combating nefarious scalping practices."

Brown also signed a measure Monday requiring California drivers to provide 3 feet of space between their vehicle and bicyclists they pass on the roads — or to slow to a safe speed as they go by. The bill does not specify what speed that is.

The bill represents a partial victory for bicyclists who have lobbied for years for stricter safety measures in response to a large number of accidents involving cars and bicycles.

Brown vetoed a bill last year that also would have directed motorists to cross the double yellow line into opposing traffic lanes if safe to do so and necessary to provide a 3-foot buffer for cyclists.

The provision on crossing into other lanes was removed from this year's bill, AB 1371, by Steven Bradford (D-Gardena).

Violation of the new law, when it takes effect next September, will be an infraction punishable by a base fine of $35. But court fees will make the penalty higher. Drivers who violate the new law and collide with a bicyclist causing injury face a fine of $220.



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