January 2, 2009 Archives
The continued fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza has a leading Southern California rabbi especially concerned. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario explains why.
Patricia Nazario: Rabbi Marvin Hier at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in West Los Angeles defends Israel’s attacks on Gaza. He says Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks launched by Hamas. He blames the Palestinian militant group for inciting the current conflict. Rabbi Hier is worried Hamas might turn to suicide bombings.
Rabbi Marvin Hier: Jerusalem, the major cities have not been immune when Hamas, in the past, has threatened terrorist attacks. They’ve blown up buses and restaurants in the heart of Jerusalem. As a father and grandfather, I have a personal concern about this.
Nazario: Rabbi Hier says his son, daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren live in Jerusalem.
Hier: Now, I’ve told them not to take the bus, not to take any city buses for the next few weeks, for sure not.
Nazario: Rabbi Hier says he speaks with his son’s family in Jerusalem every day, several times a day. Those conversations, he says, give him some peace of mind.
- January 2, 2009 5:45 PM
- Categories: Politics/Public Affairs
Only three are known to exist in the world, and one of them is on display at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. KPCC’s Patricia Nazario has more on the debut exhibition of a rare, red diamond.
Patricia Nazario: It’s known as Kazanjian Red.
The unusual gem was discovered in South Africa 82 years ago. It disappeared during World War II, and American soldiers later recovered it. A private collector bought it in 1970. Now, L.A.-based Kazanjian Brothers, Inc. owns it.
Until the first of next month, you can see the five-carat diamond on display at the L.A. Natural History Museum in Exposition Park.
Gem lovers can also catch a glimpse of the museum’s “Hollywood Jewels Collection.” Among its one-of-a-kind pieces, the collection features the sparkly compact silver screen legend Clark Gable gave to his favorite leading lady, Carole Lombard.
Thousands of stargazers are clustering in Long Beach Sunday for the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports that the organization’s focused on getting a better look at the sky.
Molly Peterson: This is the international year of astronomy; the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first recorded gaze through a telescope.
This weekend in Long Beach, astronomers are highlighting one of their priorities for the international year of astronomy: dark skies. Dark skies activists will work to raise awareness this year about the effects of artificial lighting that obscures all but the brightest celestial objects.
Light pollution can also disrupt ecosystems and interfere with animals’ biological clocks… not to mention those of humans.
The astronomical society’s other projects include interesting more women in the field, placing low-cost “Galileoscopes” into the hands of more amateurs, and raising the public profile of the science that directs us toward the stars.
Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is celebrating a milestone in space history tomorrow: It’s the fifth anniversary of the landing of the rover Spirit landed on Mars. Its twin Opportunity reaches the five-year mark later this month. Together, they’ve raked and rolled through the Martian dust, and they’ve uncovered evidence that water once flowed on the Red Planet.
John Callas is the rovers’ project manager at JPL. He told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that Martian dust has been a constant problem.
John Callas: “The challenge we are facing with the rovers, especially with Spirit, is dust is accumulating on the solar rays. In the case of Spirit, almost three quarters of the solar rays are blocked by dust, so we are only getting about 25% of the performance for Spirit because of the excessive dust. We are hoping that wind will come along and blow some of it off, but we can still proceed with the limited power that we do have.”
Spirit doesn’t move about anymore. It’s had a stuck wheel for a couple of years. Opportunity is off on a seven-mile journey to Endeavour Crater. The rovers were supposed to run for only 90 days, but JPL scientists are still assigning them tasks after five years.
- January 2, 2009 5:06 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology
California’s ban on a toxic chemical found in children’s products has taken effect - even as companies and regulators try to figure out how a federal rule also affects those items. KPCC’s Molly Peterson has more.
Molly Peterson: California retailers can no longer sell toys and other products for kids that contain pthalates – an oily, colorless chemical that softens plastics. The ban’s been a long time coming.
Big-box stores started phasing out products with the substance last year. Some retailers say California’s ban will set standards for the rest of the country. But that’s not a given in other states that operate under a less-restrictive federal law.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says federal law allows companies to keep selling products with pthalates in them as long as those products are made before February 10 of this year. If a company gets the products off the assembly line in time, they can still go to market.
Senator Barbara Boxer, who sponsored the federal ban, says the commission is incorrectly interpreting the law. Environmental groups worry it’s a recipe for consumer confusion - and a reason to keep reading labels.
The 46 floats from this year’s Tournament of Roses parade are parked in Pasadena for an up-close look through tomorrow. KPCC’s Brian Watt asked one float builder what happens after that.
Brian Watt: Fiesta Parade Floats in Irwindale built a dozen of this year’s floats. President Tim Estes says that once fans have gotten their last look, it’s time to take ‘em apart. He compares the process to stripping a car all the way down to the chassis - then using that chassis to build a different car.
Tim Estes: When the Rose Parade finishes up, we bring our floats back. Two weeks later, I have four floats in the Martin Luther Kingdom Day Parade. And a couple weeks after that, I have floats to put together for the Chinese New Year parade in Los Angeles. We have things ongoing and my job is to keep my employees employed.
Watt: That’s 30 employees, for whom this economy might not offer such fun work. Still, it’s a little sad when you think of all the intricate design and handiwork that goes into a Rose Parade float – to learn that its days are numbered after its glide in the sun down Colorado Boulevard.
Note: To see this year’s floats, head to Sierra Madre Boulevard near Pasadena High School. – today, until 5 o’clock; tomorrow, between 9 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. Seven dollars for adults. Children 5 and younger get in free.
An Orange County gang member will be doing jail time after getting his picture taken with Santa Claus. KPCC’s Susan Valot says he pleaded guilty today to charges that he violated a gang injunction.
Susan Valot: Prosecutors say 18-year-old Uriel Oliva of Anaheim was hanging out with four other documented gang members last month at Village Mall in Orange. The mall’s in an area known as the “Orange Safety Zone.” That’s where a gang injunction’s in place, so gang members can’t hang out together, drink or do drugs in public, or wear gang attire. The injunction’s been in place since July.
Prosecutors say Oliva and the other gang members flashed gang signs as they got their picture taken with Santa. Oliva’s probation officer spotted the photo on the 18-year-old’s key chain during a routine check. Oliva pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in connection with violating the gang injunction. He’ll serve 90 days in jail - and prosecutors say when he gets out, he’ll be deported.
- January 2, 2009 3:32 PM
- Categories: Criminal Justice
A private holding company agreed today to buy Pasadena-based IndyMac, the troubled bank federal regulators took over in July.
Peter Morici, who teaches at the University of Maryland’s business school, told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” it’s lucky that private investors had the $14 billion they needed to buy.
Peter Morici: “My feeling is that this is a good thing. This is money coming off the shelf, you know, and now being put in play, and I think that will have a positive effect on the market. But no one event is going to have a salutary effect.
“You know we’ve seen that over-and-over again. We get good news, then we get a couple days above market and then it falls back and so on and so forth. But this is good news. I mean, these private investors see value in this bank.”
IndyMac operates 33 branches in the Southland, as well as loan servicing and reverse-mortgage businesses. Its new owners have pledged to inject significant private capital into the company.
- January 2, 2009 3:24 PM
- Categories: Business/Economy
To sample the amazing variety of ethnic food in the Southland, you don’t have to go to restaurants. Linda Burum, co-editor of the new guidebook Eat: Los Angeles, told KPCC’s “AirTalk” that a visit to area grocery stores can take you - deliciously – around the world.
Linda Burum: “Go to Laborio Cuban Market, go to Fayarta Market, go to the Korean markets that we have in the book and they have huge counters full of, you know, foods that you can throw on your buffet table, and voila, instant party. And also if you’re wanting to do something at home.”
If you missed today’s “AirTalk,” or want more details on where some of those markets are, check out the AirTalk podcast.
You can still enjoy the spectacular flower-covered floats from yesterday’s Tournament of Roses Parade. All 46 of them are parked on Sierra Madre Boulevard near Pasadena High School for up-close viewing through tomorrow.
Tim Estes is president of Fiesta Parade Floats, the maker of 12 floats in this year’s parade. He likens the afterlife of parade floats to the fate of old cars.
Tim Estes: “After the parade, we’ll tear apart our Chevy Camaro down to the chassis. Then next year, I’m gonna build a Ford Mustang. So the chassis are good for a number of years because we build our own chassis - they’re good for about 10 years, actually.
“And the majority of the floats are taken apart, dismantled, and pretty much discarded. We certainly recycle all the steel and other materials, but we build new every year pretty much.”
Estes and his crew have more floats to build for parades coming up in just a few weeks: on the Martin Luther King holiday and Chinese New Year.x
That new law against texting while driving applies to anyone who’s behind the wheel with the engine running, Officer Rick Quintero of the California Highway Patrol told KPCC’s “AirTalk”
Officer Rick Quintero: “If you are stopped at a red light, you are still prone to get a citation from an officer. It’s better to pull off over to the curb, stop your car, put it in park, and send a text.”
California made the texting ban law after numerous studies indicated that sending and receiving text messages while driving can be as dangerous as driving while drunk.
- January 2, 2009 2:45 PM
- Categories: Criminal Justice
A few more people died in New Year’s traffic accidents this year than last, Officer Rick Quintero of the California Highway Patrol told KPCC’s “AirTalk.”
Rick Quintero: “Unfortunately, this has been a greater year for fatalities. Last year, throughout the same period, which is from Wednesday at about 6 p.m. ‘til 6 a.m. this morning, we had 13 fatalities.
“Three people less died last year as opposed to the 16 that died this year. In L.A. County however, one person lost their life throughout this period, whereas last year we had two individuals lose their lives.”
The Highway Patrol reported 147 alcohol-related driving arrests in Los Angeles County – 39 fewer than in the same period last year. Throughout the state, there were 688 DUI arrests.
- January 2, 2009 2:44 PM
- Categories: Criminal Justice
A week of back-and-forth airstrikes and rocket launches between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza has thrown daily life into chaos for hundreds of thousands of people – Christopher Gunness of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees told KPCC’s “AirTalk.”
Christopher Gunness: “It’s not much fun right now walking through the streets of Gaza - it’s absolutely terrifying. Every time I phone up a friend or colleague in Gaza I hear children screaming in fear in the background. It is very difficult to distribute aid given the sheer level of terror which is now endemic among the population of the Gaza strip tonight.”
Gunness said his agency is having a hard time distributing food because there’s no fuel for the trucks, and travel through the area is extremely dangerous.
- January 2, 2009 2:37 PM
- Categories: Politics/Public Affairs
The New York Stock Exchange has dropped one of the Inland Empire’s few Fortune 500 companies. Recreational vehicle manufacturer Fleetwood Enterprises is out of the exchange after its stock value tumbled 98 percent last year. KPCC Steven Cuevas reports.
Steven Cuevas: For whom does that opening bell on Wall Street toll?
[Wall Street opening bell rings]
Pretty soon, it won’t toll for Fleetwood Enterprises. Trading of the once venerable RV maker will be suspended when that bell rings Monday. The company’s value has plunged below the minimum required by Wall Street regulators.
That doesn’t mean Fleetwood is no more. It’ll hang onto plants in the Midwest and Inland Empire – although it’s already shuttered five of its module housing facilities and let go hundreds of workers.
Fleetwood still has 6,000 employees nationwide. But each position is being scrutinized as the RV maker attempts to right itself after a long spinout. Fleetwood blew through millions of dollars in reserves for a poorly timed expansion plan.
Then came soaring fuel prices, a crippling credit freeze – and oh yeah, did I mention global recession? People want to hang on to the home they got, not buy a second one with wheels.
On the seventh day of open conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement in Gaza, authorities have reported more than 400 deaths. Christopher Gunness of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees told KPCC’s “AirTalk” that conditions in the region are getting worse.
Christopher Gunness: “Well the humanitarian situation right now is disastrous. At least a quarter of all those killed are civilians, which by any standards is a hugely disproportionate number of civilian casualties.
“The hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed, they have now reached breaking point. A colleague said to me in Gaza, if your foot is blown off and it’s not life-threatening you’ll get sent home – if your foot’s been blown off and it is life-threatening, well if you’re lucky you will get seen.”
Demonstrations for and against the Israeli airstrikes are taking place in Los Angeles today. A Pro-Israel rally was held outside the Federal Building in Westwood. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators plan to gather outside the Israeli consulate this afternoon at 4:30.
- January 2, 2009 2:27 PM
- Categories: Politics/Public Affairs
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers starts work on Marina del Rey’s south channel today - and at least one Los Angeles beach can expect a facelift from the project. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.
Molly Peterson: The south entrance to the Marina del Rey channel has filled in with sediment - and hazardous contaminants carried along with it - about 50,000 cubic meters of the stuff. So, starting today, the Army Corps is going to dredge the channel back down to a depth of 20 feet.
Other harbors build up mud on the bottom, but this channel holds plenty of sand. It turns out to be useful. A contractor for the Corps will pull out the fine contaminated materials - about 10 percent of the total - and will use the rest of the coarse sand to fill in Los Angeles beaches, including Dockweiler, where they’ve eroded away.
A spokesman for the Corps says engineers hope this project can serve as a guide for how to treat dredged-up materials for use on other beaches.
- January 2, 2009 1:34 PM
- Categories: Environment
Now that the holiday season is winding down, it’s time to say goodbye to that Christmas tree. If those pines stay indoors too long, they can become fire hazards. Lisa Derdarian with the Pasadena Fire Department says it can take only seconds for a tree to catch fire and ignite everything to around it.
Lisa Derdarian: “Once your tree dries out, definitely remove it from your house. Especially now with the houses with heaters running in the middle of the night using heat sources internally that are drying out the tree a lot quicker.”
Derdarian says you can properly dispose your Christmas tree during your regular trash days. To find out where your city provides dropoff sites that recycle Christmas trees, call Los Angeles County’s Environmental Hotline at 1-888-CLEAN-LA during business hours, Monday through Thursday.
- January 2, 2009 1:30 PM
- Categories: Society/Culture
There’s hardly been any time to make news this New Year – and some developments during the year just past will extend their influence into the decades ahead.
One of them is September’s launch of the Large Hadron particle collider in Switzerland. Corey Powell, editor-in-chief of Discover magazine, said the giant machine is designed to address some major cosmic questions.
Corey Powell: “Why does matter have mass? Like why when you sit down in your chair, do you have weight? We actually don’t know the answer to that, but we might figure it out from this experiment.
“What are the different things the universe is made of? Some of it is clearly ordinary matter, like the stuff that we’re made of; some of it is invisible stuff that we only can detect indirectly.”
Powell told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that the collider ranked number two on his magazine’s list of the top 100 science and technology stories of the year gone by. Number one was the dawn of the post-oil era in auto travel.
- January 2, 2009 1:27 PM
- Categories: Science/Technology