January 14, 2009 Archives
Firefighters have knocked down a fire that consumed a steel fabrication business this afternoon in Santa Ana. KPCC’s Susan Valot was at the fire soon after it started.
Susan Valot: Smoke billowed up from Adams Iron Company as flames shot through the roof. You could see the smoke from Interstate 5. The business that makes steel for commercial uses is about a block from the Santa Ana train station, right next to a brand new loft complex.
Santa Ana Fire Captain Chris Caswell says firefighters were worried the flames could spread, but they couldn’t go inside to fight them.
Captain Chris Caswell: When we arrived, we had oxygen tanks and other, probably welding, tanks exploding. We took a defensive position at this time. All of our units were fighting the fire from the exterior.
Valot: And they used ladder trucks, too. In all, fire officials brought in more than a half dozen engines and trucks to douse the flames.
Adams Iron Company has been around for more than three decades. Firefighters say the building’s a total loss.
- January 14, 2009 5:54 PM
The medical branch of a retirement facility that’s served performing artists for 60 years is closing by the end of this year. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more on today’s announcement by the board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund.
Cheryl Devall: The high cost of health care has caught up with the medical direct-care services the Motion Picture and Television Fund established in 1948. A statement from its operators says the Woodland Hills long-term medical care facility and acute-care hospital run an operating deficit of about $10 million a year.
At that rate, the organization’s board says it would run out of reserve money within five years. So the board plans to get out of the direct long-term care business and to concentrate resources on the fund’s six outpatient health centers and other services.
The changes will not affect the operation of the fund’s retirement and assisted-living homes in Woodland Hills. But they will eliminate about 290 jobs in the medical facilities.
The organization’s board said that in recent years, the acute-care hospital has rarely cared for more than 10 patients at a time. The fund plans to transfer any remaining patients to nearby hospitals later this year.
Two of President-elect Obama’s nominees for top environmental posts testified in Washington to a Senate committee today. Nearby in Maryland, scientists met to discuss what the next administration might do about ocean policy. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.
Molly Peterson: Barack Obama’s transition team has been consulting with what some call a green team of environmental and energy scholars. Some of them also study the deep blue. A federal initiative gathered about 60 people from around the country, including Linwood Pendleton of the Coastal Ocean Values Center. He says a proposed economic stimulus plan could influence ocean policy.
Linwood Pendleton: “Recognition now about the importance of oceans that way fits really well into Obama’s plans for investing in infrastructure and thinking about jobs. So it’s not just the ocean as gosh, isn’t that a fascinating place. This is the ocean: half the nation’s GDP originates from these counties.”
Peterson: Pendleton says participants in the federal ocean initiative will offer more formal advice to President Obama later this spring.
President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to sign an executive order that would close the U.S.-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Southland Congresswoman Jane Harman told KPCC’s “Patt Morrison” that she’d welcome the gesture.
Jane Harman: “Clearly, what we want is again, for our values to play out in the way that we detain people and interrogate people. I have never been persuaded – and guess what, my authority on this is Senator John McCain in the United States Senate – that torture works. Torture elicits whatever the person can say to avoid being tortured any more.”
The Bush administration today reiterated its position that it does not torture. The judge who supervises the military detainee trials at Guantanamo asserted to the Washington Post that torture has occurred there.
- January 14, 2009 3:39 PM
- Categories: Criminal Justice
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program for four years. President George W. Bush had vetoed similar legislation twice. After today’s vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California took the president to task for that.
Nancy Pelosi: “President Bush said that we could not afford this legislation – that we could not afford to insure American’s children. Forty days in Iraq equals over 10 million children in America insured for one year. We certainly can afford to do that. We look forward to bringing this legislation to President Obama’s desk as one of the first bills that he will sign.”
The bill passed 289 to 139. It will pay the $32 billion cost of extending the insurance program by boosting federal cigarette taxes to one dollar a pack.
One of the most pressing foreign policy matters facing the incoming president is how soon to act on his campaign promise to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Congresswoman Jane Harman – chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence - says that should happen very early in the Obama administration.
Jane Harman: “It is not too hard to close Guantanamo. I would argue that it is essential if we are going to stop the erosion of our moral authority and standing abroad and, and stop giving a huge recruiting tool to al-Qaida.”
Harman, whose district includes Venice, El Segundo, and Wilmington, spoke with KPCC’s “Patt Morrison.” Earlier this week, President George Bush told reporters that he does not believe the United States’ moral standing among nations suffered during his eight years in office.
A state panel reports a spike in the number of homeless sex offenders since voters approved Jessica’s law two years ago. A provision in the law says that sex offenders can’t live within 2,000 feet of places where children gather, such as schools or parks.
A report by the Sex Offender Management Board is urging changes to those restrictions. The board’s chairwoman, Suzanne Brown McBride, spoke with KPCC’s Larry Mantle.
Suzanne Brown McBride: “Part of what the management board is interested in trying to do and our recommendation to the legislature is to not just figure out where you don’t want offenders to live – that’s pretty easy to do and we can come up with a big list - but it should be specific to the kind of offense.”
The report says there’s no evidence the tough restrictions have increased public safety, and argues that the rules could push offenders back into criminal behavior if they end up homeless.
State Senator George Runner of Lancaster – an author of Jessica’s Law – says he doesn’t think the corrections department is doing all it can to find housing for the offenders.
In the waning days of the Bush administration, the president’s defenders and critics are surveying its high and low points. John Walke, director of the Clean Air Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, finds it hard to absolve the White House position on global warming.
John Walke: “President Bush spent eight years fiddling while the planet burned. Not only taking no action to combat global warming but watching global warming pollution rise steadily, repudiating international treaties that lowered our standing in the world.
“And allowing the auto industry and power plant industry to continue to pollute without taking anything other than voluntary actions that just did not work.
Walke spoke on KPCC’s “AirTalk.” The Bush administration has promoted a gradual approach to climate change, saying that mandatory restrictions on industrial emissions would harm the nation’s economy.
A state panel is urging changes to Jessica’s Law - the voter-approved law that restricts where paroled sex offenders can live in California. A report by the Sex Offender Management Board says those restrictions have greatly increased the number of homeless sex offenders.
Republican state senator George Runner of Lancaster was an author of Jessica’s Law. He says the corrections department isn’t trying hard enough to find housing for those offenders.
George Runner: “We don’t fully believe that corrections at this point is doing all they need to be doing in order to direct people to housing. We think at times they just find it easier just to go ahead and register them as transient.”
Runner spoke with KPCC’s Larry Mantle.
The report by a branch of the state corrections department also said there’s no evidence that the residency restrictions enhance public safety.
The law bars registered sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of schools, parks, and other areas where children gather.
The jurors in the federal corruption trial of former Orange County sheriff Mike Carona are back at the deliberation table. KPCC’s Susan Valot reports.
Susan Valot: This is the fourth day of deliberations. The jury got the case Thursday afternoon. They’re sifting through more than 50 pages of juror instructions and two month’s of testimony and evidence about whether Carona accepted thousands of dollars in bribes.
So far, the jury’s been pretty quiet. On Friday, they sent a couple of notes out to the judge. One of the notes asked if they could have a list of exhibits with titles. Another asked for a list of alleged “overt” acts after October 25, 2002.
Prosecutors need to prove criminal activity took place after that date or they’ll miss the statute of limitations. The jury hasn’t sent out any more notes since Friday. They had Monday off.
The Commerce Department says retail sales were off 2.7 percent in December. That’s more than double what analysts had expected. KPCC’s Susan Valot says that tough December has claimed another California retailer.
Susan Valot: Fresno-based Gottschalks filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That means it can stay open while it reorganizes.
As part of the bankruptcy, the regional department store chain negotiated a $125 million financing package from a group of lenders – and it put itself up for sale. The bankruptcy court still has to approve the deal.
Gottschalks has several dozen stores in the West, including 38 in California, its largest market. The closest stores to the Los Angeles market are in Riverside, San Bernardino, Redlands, and Palmdale. The company did not announce any store closings as part of its reorganization.
Several chains have blazed this trail already. KB Toys and Circuit City declared bankruptcy recently. Mervyns closed its doors after Christmas.
- January 14, 2009 12:15 PM
- Categories: Business/Economy
President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has been consulting with scientists about U.S. ocean policy this week. Linwood Pendleton of the Coastal Ocean Values Center is one of several Californians attending a meeting in Annapolis, Maryland this week. He says some of the discussion there has focused on the role oceans play in the country’s economy.
Linwood Pendleton: “The ocean is this infrastructure that links so much of what’s going on in all parts of the country, whether it’s pollutants that run down the Mississippi from way up into the heartland, or overbuilding on the coast, or overfishing on the Outer Continental Shelf.”
Leaders of a federal ocean initiative plan to make recommendations to the next president based on the meeting – and on recent science.
Companies are getting ready to release their fourth-quarter earnings during the next few weeks. KPCC business analyst Mark Lacter says the prospects don’t look good.
Mark Lacter: “Alcoa reported a huge loss in the fourth quarter, which tells you something about the state of manufacturing, and we’re about to see J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, and the other big banks report their numbers - and they will not be good.”
Lacter says some Southland banks that are solid in normal times are also struggling. They include the Asian-American banks East-West bank and Nara Bancorp. Problems with commercial lending have hurt their profits.
Lacter says more office building and shopping mall owners are likely to default on their loans as their tenants go under.
- January 14, 2009 11:32 AM
- Categories: Business/Economy
Public school teachers in Los Angeles may face layoffs. The board of education yesterday gave the district superintendent permission to lay off nearly 2,300 instructors. KPCC’s Steve Julian has more.
Steve Julian: This year’s L.A. public school budget is more than $400 million leaner than last year’s, but cuts at the state level could force an additional quarter-billion dollar loss in funding. Laying off probationary teachers and other employees could save the district more than $137 million.
But AJ Duffy, the head of the teacher’s union, urged the school board to not take money from teachers, or out of classrooms. Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he hopes the threat of layoffs will put pressure on California lawmakers to help districts across the state.