Fatal Shooting Disturbs Traffic, But Is Little Noticed by Passersby

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The fatal shooting Tuesday of 52-year-old man in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Hermon tied up traffic for hours on the northbound Pasadena (110) freeway near Avenue 60, but did little to disturb the tranquil afternoon for dog walkers, cyclists and people out for an afternoon stroll on the pathways adjacent to the patch of dirt where police found the victims’ body.

Reports of four to five bullets being fired came in shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Sara Faden.

It took police nearly an hour to locate the body after the initial reports of gunshots.

was found in the dirt by the freeway and close to, but not in, a nearby wash, Faden said. The victim was killed by a single shot to the head, according to police.

The victim’s body was found near the Pasadena Freeway, close to a nearby wash.   (EGP photo by Gloria Alvarez)

The victim’s body was found near the Pasadena Freeway, close to a nearby wash. (EGP photo by Gloria Alvarez)

Trees and shrubbery obscured the scene for passersby on the dirt path just east of the wash. Several people told EGP they heard a helicopter flying overhead, but assumed there was an accident on the freeway.

At the nearby Hermon Dog Park, it was business as usual.

“Angie” and an unidentified female friend, however, ran to the wash when they heard on a local television station that there had been a fatal shooting. “Do you know who it is,” Angie frantically asked EGP as she tried to get a closer look at the scene unfolding on the opposite bank of the wash, the water too deep for her to cross safely.

Angie, a name she reluctantly gave, told EGP that her brother-in-law often stayed in the area where police were conducting their investigation. “He stays there three or four times a week,” she said, adding that other homeless men often camped there as well.

A lone grocery cart, full of what looked liked someone’s personal belongings, appeared to support her claim.

“Do you know if he was a Mexican,” she asked before running off to find a way to get over to the other side.

Highland Park resident Miguel Sierra, his wife Diana and daughter Vicky happened upon the scene while out for an afternoon walk. They told EGP that the homeless usually stay further upstream, near Arroyo Seco Park.

“It’s kind of a surprise,” said Miguel, adding he considers the area safe. “I thought it was probably another accident on the freeway, they happen all the time,” he said, as a large group of cyclists on the path below whizzed by, never slowing down to take a look at the large gathering of police above.

FOX 11 News reported that investigators said the victim did not appear to be homeless and “may have been visiting the area … when he was shot dead.” Faden said Tuesday they did not have a suspect in the shooting; police are asking anyone who might have information to contact Hollenbeck detectives, or to make an anonymous report to CRIME STOPPERS.

At a park adjacent to the opposite side of the freeway, Angelica kept a close eye on her two children riding tricycles and the family’s dog as traffic backed up on the freeway, separated from the park by a cement wall topped with metal fencing.

Angelica told EGP she lives across from the park, but did not hear the shots. “I got a tweet from Northeast police and looked outside and saw a police car and an ambulance speeding up,” she said. “It was at 5:50 [p.m.].”

“I think I know who it might be,” she said, referring to the victim, adding she would wait for police release a description before she contacts them “anonymously,” if the description matches.

Still hesitant, she said the victim might be “Fred,” a regular in the area who told her he and some other homeless men had started staying in the brushy area near the freeway  “when police started to get real strict with them up on Figueroa and York.”

Angelica told EGP the homeless men never bothered her or her family, and she was not afraid to be in the park when they were around.

“It’s sad, whoever it is,” she said. “To be shot and just left on the side of the road.”


Editor’s Note:

The victim was identified Friday as Ruben Castaneda. Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said his city of residence is currently unknown.   

A Solution to Non Immunization is Needed

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Just when we thought measles, whooping cough and polio no longer pose a threat in the U.S., a dramatic spike in the number of cases for all three illnesses is causing concern among public health officials, who worry we may be witnessing a resurgence, despite the availability of preventative vaccines.

In Orange County, 42 cases of whooping cough, mostly among school-aged children, have been confirmed since January of this year. A similar outbreak of the illness, also known as pertussis, is occurring in Long Beach.

An outbreak of polio-like cases among children, 20 in the last two years, has not yet been declared an emergency, but health officials are watching the cases closely, noting that while the illness has caused paralysis, it is not polio.

In the last two months, 88 cases of measles have been reported in the U.S., 49 in California alone.

While it may seem that the numbers are small given the size of the population, what is worrisome is the fact that it appears the illnesses are being spread by people who are not vaccinated.

We know that many people may think the large number of immigrants in Southern California is to blame for the spread of the illnesses, but that is not necessarily true. In fact, several experts in the field have pointed to the growing anti-vaccination movement as the biggest major concern.

They rightly note that much of the population, particularly those born after the 1950s have no memory of the devastation the diseases caused before vaccines became widely available.

We are seeing more parents, concerned that vaccines are responsible for the rise in the number of children with autism, choosing to not immunize their children.

While we respect their right to choose not to have their child vaccinated, we are concerned their choice is poses a threat to all children and adults in the community.

How does a community protect itself from the spread of a communicable disease threat without interfering with parents’ rights? That’s a hard one to answer, but a question we should all think seriously about.

These are difficult issues to solve, but in our view, if we are to protect ourselves from future epidemics caused by non-immunized children, we need to find a solution.

It seems to us the fact that millions of children have been immunized to protect them from these potentially deadly diseases without becoming autistic, bodes well for continuing to view vaccines as a life saving requirement for all children.

We don’t want to return to the days when whooping cough and measles killed many babies, when entire hospital wards with respirators are needed to help children breath, or to see large numbers of paralysis caused by polio.

Many parents have never experienced the fear and pain caused by measles, diphtheria whooping cough and polio, and that’s a blessing.

Are we just using scare tactics? Maybe. But given the current set of circumstances, we should all be a little afraid.


South L.A. and East L.A. Demand LAUSD Target LCFF Dollars toward High Need Schools

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Recently, over 300 students, parents and community members from the Eastside of Los Angeles and South Los Angeles demonstrated in front of school district headquarters to demand that Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dollars be directed to schools based on a comprehensive set of needs that includes academic outcomes and neighborhood conditions.

Passed by the California legislature in 2013, LCFF provides school districts with additional resources specifically for foster youth, English Learners and low-income students. LCFF is an important starting point for closing the achievement and funding gap that has plagued California schools for years. New dollars for high-need students provides school districts and their respective communities the opportunity to invest wisely.

Advancement Project, in close collaboration with the Community Coalition and InnerCity Struggle has produced a Student Need Index. The index is a rigorous, research-based ranking of the highest-need schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that best meet the criteria for additional funding under the new LCFF. For example, in the top ten highest need high schools, 284 students drop-out compared to 17 students at the lowest need high schools, according to the Student Need Index. This shows that the needs of schools within the district are vastly different.

The Student Need Index not only measures how students are doing in the classroom but also takes into account the neighborhood conditions that can negatively impact a student’s academic success. The index measures target student populations specifically highlighted in the LCFF – foster youth, English Learners and low-income students. The Student Need Index also measures neighborhood conditions, such as exposure to violence, access to youth programming and early care and education. Schools are ranked on a scale from lowest to highest need.

The recently released budget proposal by LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy is promising but does not target sufficient resources toward the schools with the highest concentration of needs. We propose that the district align with the spirit of LCFF and adopt the Student Need Index as the principle guide for distributing LCFF funds. This is a high-stakes moment regarding how to best invest resources on behalf of high-need students. The state’s LCFF is bringing more than $800 million to LAUSD to close the achievement gap for these students, but the district needs a better approach for how to invest these dollars.  By doing so, LAUSD would ensure that investments are targeted strategically and are guided by a comprehensive set of objective data.

Schools in the Eastside of Los Angeles, Northeast Valley and South Los Angeles have historically faced the challenges of being under-resourced and neglected. This has resulted in lack of opportunities for students living in our communities. While LAUSD has many schools with needs, we urge the district to target resources to the highest needs schools.

Our Student Need Index identifies 242 schools with greater needs, thus providing an innovative framework for targeting resources for higher impact. These schools are burdened by unjust and unequal conditions that must be addressed if we expect to dramatically close the achievement gap.  For example, these schools have:

— About three times the number of students who are classified as English Learner;

— More than 3 times the number of students that are being expelled or suspended;

— 3.5 times the number of classmates that are in foster care;

— And are almost 5 times as likely to be exposed to gun violence.

In recent years, the district has focused on school transformation efforts that have lead to progress. Graduation rates are on the rise, suspension rates are declining, students are now required to complete the college course requirements and overcrowding has been alleviated. These gains are due to years of the community demanding justice and that our neighborhoods are prioritized. The district can further improve the odds for students by using LCFF resources to hire additional counselors, increase school-based health services, add sufficient restorative justice coordinators and strengthen parent engagement for the highest-need schools.

As the largest school district in California, LAUSD has the opportunity to dramatically move the needle on equity for the highest-need schools within its boundaries. We call upon our district leadership to adopt this index as a decision-making tool and direct funds to the schools that need them most for the programs and services that will make a real difference.  That is what is needed to close the achievement gap and fulfill the promise of offering a quality education to every Los Angeles student, regardless of where they live.


Maria Brenes is executive director of InnerCity Struggle. Alberto Retana is executive vice president of Community Coalition. John Kim is co-director of the Advancement Project. 


Armed Thugs Ignore the Rule of Law

April 24, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

Los Angeles film producer Moctesuma Esparza has given us two “one man” against “the man” films in “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” and “The Milagro Beanfield War” in which the full weight of the dominant White establishment is arrayed against a single Mexican American. Naturally, the Mexicans haven’t a chance. Both movies took place in land formerly Mexican that the U.S. conquered and took from the Mexicans covering up the largest land garb in Western world history with a $15 million pay-off to Mexican senators in 1848.

Real life has caught up with Esparza’s cinematic struggle of the little guy against “the man” in Nevada near a town named Bunkerville, near a Nevada State Park – Valley of Fire.

A substantial part of that Mexican War land grab was the State of Nevada. The United States Government took possession of every square inch of all previous Mexican territory except for private parcels owners could prove they had title to; Nevada became a state in 1864 after silver was discovered in the fabulous Comstock Lode and Abraham Lincoln needed two more Republican U.S senators.

In 1877 a Mormon family named Bundy made their from Utah to homestead some cattle range for pennies from the federal government as long as they developed it with irrigation, cultivated and/or reclaimed the land. The Bundys turned it into a working cattle ranch. That was Bundy acceptance of federal government largesse. The Bundy’s owe their 150 acre ranch to the United States government and the Congress of the United States that crafted the law (the Desert Land Act),  that allowed the Bundys to settle the ranch for a pittance. 150 acres, however, is not enough land to support a cattle ranch in Nevada or almost anywhere in the West. So Cliven Bundy bought “grazing rights” from the federal government’s property manager, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 1954.

Twenty years later, the BLM reclassified the property Bundy bought grazing rights to as not capable of supporting year-round grazing. Bundy quit paying his grazing fees but kept using the land to feed his cattle.

In 1998, the federal courts ordered Bundy to remove his cattle from federal land. Bundy’s argument is that his federally-subsidized family settled the land in 1877 and that he has the right to the land because his family worked the land “before” the federal government owned it. The courts ruled that federal ownership was established by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1848. Bundy refuses to accept that decision, the Treaty itself and claims he does not “recognize” the federal government at all.

He claims that only the Sheriff of Clark County, Nevada, has the authority to arrest him and that he would pay the State of Nevada grazing fees because he believes it is a “sovereign state.” Bundy owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in grazing fees; the figure of a million dollars is mentioned by the media while Bundy supporters claim it is only “two hundred thousand dollars.”

The BLM secured a federal court order in August 2013 ordering Bundy to remove his cattle from public land. He ignored the order. On March 15 (this year), the BLM delivered a written notice that Bundy had to remove his cattle from public lands. Bundy ignored the notice. On March 27 the BLM set a cattle removal plan into action. April 5 BLM agents commenced rounding up Bundy’s cattle.

A confrontation materialized between Bundy’s family and armed federal agents. Bundy: “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

The confrontation (as reported in the New York Times):

Up to a thousand armed “militia” men (and women) came from all over the country to defend Bundy from the “heavy-handed federal government” “With their assault rifles and threats, the thugs in the desert forced federal officials with the Bureau of Land Management to back down from a court-ordered confiscation of Bundy’s cattle. One of the rancher’s supporters, Richard Mack, a Tea Party leader who is in the National Rifle Association’s Hall of Fame(and a former Arizona sheriff), said he planned to use women as human shields in a violent showdown with law enforcement.

“We were actually strategizing to put all the women up front,” Mack said in a radio interview. “If they were going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot.”

Supporting Bundy is crackpot former congressman Ron Paul who told Fox: “They had virtual ownership of that land because they had been using it,” Ron Paul said on Fox, referring to the Bundy clan.” Paul has no clue. Neither do most of the Bundy supporters. He has fought the government in court and lost, lost for over 20 years. He owes you and me hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bundy is a thief.

The government will win the argument. The “Rule of Law” shall and must prevail. Isn’t that what these very same Bundy supporters loudly tell us about poor Mexicans who ignore American law so they can come to the U.S. to earn – not steal — money to feed their families, not, cattle?


Contreras formerly wrote for the New America News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.


East, Northeast Neighborhood Councils Elections on Saturday

April 24, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

People who live, work, pray or maybe even play in areas represented by Region 8 Neighborhood Councils, can vote this coming Saturday, April 26 to elect new members to the citizens advisory boards or reelect those they believe are doing a good job.

The neighborhood councils in the region are: Arroyo Seco, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Greater Cypress Park, Historic Highland Park, LA-32 and Lincoln Heights.

Neighborhood Councils are city-certified groups made up of volunteers who live, work, own property or have a connection to the neighborhood they are representing. Their role is to promote public participation in government and improve government responsiveness at the local level. They often advise the city in a variety of areas, such as land use issues.

Neighborhood Councils throughout East and Northeast Los Angeles will be holding elections. (Northeast Neighborhood Council)

Neighborhood Councils throughout East and Northeast Los Angeles will be holding elections. (Northeast Neighborhood Council)

Every neighborhood council has its own set of bylaws and proof of eligibility for voting. For example, Eagle Rock, Historic Highland Park, LA-32, Lincoln Heights and Greater Cypress Park require voters to provide proof are legitimate stakeholders in their respective neighborhood, such as a driver’s license, utility bill, pay stub or school identification.

If they don’t have a proof with them “they get a 3-day provisionary ballot” that gives them time to prove they live, work or own property in the neighborhood, Jay Handal, independent elections administrator with Empower LA told EGP.

Arroyo Seco, Boyle Heights and Glassell Park do not require proof at the time of voting.

Each council also sets its eligible age for voting, according to Handal.

Some allow voters as young as 13, Handal said. Requirements can be found on the council websites.

Lea este artículo en Español: Elecciones de Concejos Vecinales del Este y Noreste de L.A. este Sábado

Stakeholders do not have to be U.S. citizens or registered voters, said Handal who emphasized that undocumented immigrants can vote in neighborhood council elections despite their immigration status. They just need to show whatever form of identification they have, such as a library card, utility bill or matricula consular (identification) card, Handal explained.

It’s important for stakeholders to vote because it gives them the power to define their communities’ position on public issues, said Connie Castro, current president of the LA-32 NC. “[Residents] can influence our elected officials on issues such as land-use/zoning, health, safety and community development that affect us locally and citywide,” Castro told EGP.

Los Angeles’ Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) oversees and provides support to the neighborhood councils. DONE’s Empower LA is charged with promoting civic engagement and citizen-based government through the local councils.

“Neighborhood Councils are an important asset to our city government,” said 14th District Councilman José Huizar in an email. “They help inform my decision making and I strongly encourage people to participate in this weekend’s elections,” he added.

Diana del Pozo Mora, president of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council told EGP that many in the community don’t have the opportunity to take part in elections at the city level, but they can vote for their neighborhood council representatives. “The opportunity to have a voice in the neighborhood is something exiting,” she said.

Every year, each council receives $37,000 to support its activities. It is up to board members to decide how to spend the funds in the best interest of the community.

According to Empower LA’s website, neighborhood council board members duties include, but are not limited to, creating “events and programs that respond to the unique needs of their community or advocate on behalf of issues they care about.”

Del Pozo-Mora said the Boyle Heights group has been focused on street and sidewalk repairs, community clean ups, and issues related to the USC Medical Campus expansion into Hazard Park and murals. “We are constantly trying to keep the community informed with updates on issues [and] with different projects in our community,” she added.

The Complete Streets project is ongoing in Highland Park, according to Monica Alcaraz, president of Historic Highland Park NC. “We want to make the streets more pedestrian friendly, with more crosswalks and bike lanes,” she told EGP.

LA-32 recently sponsored the 4th Annual El Sereno Kite Festival at Ascot Hills Park to celebrate Earth Day, an LAUSD District 2 Board Member candidate forum and the El Sereno/Farmdale Healthy Start Bullying Prevention Program, according to Castro.

Neighborhood Councils also meet with the mayor to discuss their priorities as he develops the city’s annual budget “prior to its submittal and approval by the City Council.”

“Serving on a neighborhood council is a great way to give back to your community,” First District Councilman Gil Cedillo told EGP by email.

“The only way to guarantee true representation is by electing individuals that share a greater vision for our communities. I encourage community folks to come out and vote. The future of your communities depends on it,” he said.

There are 95 neighborhood councils in Los Angeles and each works differently and according to the rules established in their bylaws. Some council board members serve 2-year terms while others remain on the council for 4 years. And “most of them allow board members to be reelected, with no term limits,” Handal said.

“There’s a misconception that if you don’t vote you don’t care,” said Alcaraz, implying the opposite is actually true, but people often think their opinion or vote does not matter. She urged stakeholders to get out Saturday and be heard.

“Vote for the best interest of the neighborhood,” she said.



April 26, 2014 Polling Locations and Hours:

Arroyo Seco NC – Ramona Hall Community Center Lobby, 4580 N. Figueroa St. 90065; 10 am-4 pm

Boyle Heights NC – Boyle Heights City Hall (Community Room) 2130 E. 1st Street 90033; 10 am-4 pm

Eagle Rock – Eagle Rock City Hall, Community Room–2035 Colorado Blvd. 9004; 10 am-4 pm

Glassell Park – Glassell Park Community & Senior Center, 3750 N. Verdugo Rd. 90065; 10 am-4 pm

Greater Cypress Park – Cypress Park & Recreation Center(Auditorium) 2630 Pepper Ave. 90065; 10 am-4 pm

Historic Highland Park – Highland Park Senior Center, 6152 N. Figueroa Street 90042; 9 am-3 pm

LA- 32 – Farmdale Elementary School, 2660 Ruth Swiggett Dr. 90032. 9 am-5 pm

Lincoln Heights – Aztecs Rising, 3516 N. Broadway Ave. 90031; 11 am-5 pm

Twitter @jackieguzman

Over 50 and Want to Start a Business? AARP, SBA Can Help

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

You do not have to be in your 20s or 30s to start a business, and this Saturday AARP California and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are teaming up to help people aged 50 and older get the information they need to do it successfully.

On April 26, AARP CA and SBA will hold Encore Entrepreneur, a free and open to the public event designed to provide counseling, mentoring and training for those aged 50 and older who would like to start or grow a business.

Encore Entrepreneur will take place from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon at the Radisson Hotel: 7320 Greenleaf Ave., Whittier.

The event should be of special interest to Hispanic entrepreneurs, the fastest growing segment of minority-owned businesses, according to AARP.

A recent AARP survey, “Staying Ahead of the Curve 2013: AARP Multicultural Work and Career Study,” found that 15 percent of workers 45-74 are self-employed and 13 percent of those currently working say they plan to start a business once they retire. In California, many of those workers are Hispanic.

April is Mentor Month and AARP and SBA plans to bring together mentors and entrepreneurs to share information. Activities will include five-minute speed-mentoring sessions and brown bag lunches for entrepreneurs to learn best practices from successful small business owners.

“AARP knows that many older Americans pursue entrepreneurship as a way to generate income and strengthen financial security,” said Katie Hirning, AARP’s state director. “And for many of these workers, it is also a way to turn a hobby or passion into a paycheck. AARP creates real possibilities by connecting experienced workers with the resources and guidance they need to help start or grow a small business,” Hirning added.

For more information, go to www.aarp.org


Stakes High for Latinos in Battle Over Herbalife

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

California based nutrition-supplement giant Herbalife has been busily trying to shore up support from prominent Latinos, amid claims by some Latino groups and former Herbalife distributors that the company has preyed upon low-income Latinos to beef up the company’s profits.

The company uses a multi-level marketing approach to sell its products, which also include diet shakes and cosmetics. It has been reported that Herbalife sells 60% of its products to Latinos in the U.S.

Herbalife has been embroiled for more than a year in a campaign by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman to prove the company is a “fraud.” Ackman’s company, Pershing Square invested $1 billion that the company would fail, betting regulators would ultimately determine the company is an illegal pyramid scheme and its stock prices would plummet.

Herbalife has countered with its own campaign to rebut Ackman’s claims, including high profile sponsorship of Latino events, such as the Billboard Latin Music Conference and Awards taking place this week in Miami, as well as recruiting prominent spokespersons like former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to speak out on the company’s behalf. The company has reportedly also made large contributions to at least three Hispanic organizations that signed on to a letter of support from “The Friends of Herbalife” 10 days after 16 Hispanic groups called on members of congress and regulators to investigate the company’s business practices.

Herbalife supporters claim Ackman is fueling the accusations against the company in his bid to reap substantial profit by bringing the company down.

On Tuesday, LATINO magazine named Herbalife to its 2014 “LATINO 100” list of the companies that “offer the most viable business opportunities for Hispanics in the United States.”

Nevertheless, claims that Herbalife has increased its profits at the expense of Latinos rather than to their benefit persists. Latino critics of the company say the issue is not Ackman’s financial gamble, but the thousands of Latinos who have been misled by Herbalife’s selling tactics.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the country’s oldest and most prestigous Latino oganizations, claims Herbalife is specifically targeting its message to Latinos with promises of “striking it rich” by selling Herbalife products, “but rarely delivering.”

LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes said Herbalife offered to make a donation to his groups, but he turned it down when he learned that 88% percent of the company’s distributors did not earn any money in 2012, a figure acknowledged by the L.A. based company in media reports.

Fifty-two-year-old Boyle Heights resident Martha H., who asked that we not use her last name because she still sells the product, said she became an Herbalife distributor about four years ago because she needed money to supplement the salary she earns at a small women’s clothing store near downtown Los Angeles.

She said a friend who sells Herbalite products told her “she was making a few extra dollars working part-time, and I should join her.”
“Pretty soon I was really involved, I went to the conventions, they showed us great entertainment and I met a lot of friends,” she said, adding her involvement with the company has been positive and profitable. “Am I getting rich? No. Do I have more money to spend? Yes I do,” she said.

But Martha also said not everyone who sells Herbalife has had her same experience. She said some of the women she’s worked with saw the company as a way to end their financial troubles, and had “big dreams of making it to the top, buying a house or car from what they made,” she said.

“They got in over their head, borrowing money, using up their savings. Some of them even quit their jobs, I just could not understand it,” Martha said.

And that is the problem, according to LULAC and the other groups that claim the company’s “pyramid scheme” rewards people who got in early, but needs to keep bringing in more people to keep the base of the pyramid strong for those at the top. Herbalife engages in “corporate practices that cheated hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people, between 60% and 83% (of them) of Latin origin,” Juan José Gutiérrez of L.A. based Vamos Unidos USA told Efe, a Spanish language news service earlier this year. Vamos Unidos advocates for Hispanic civil rights issues and is deeply involed in the immigration reform movement.

The Latino groups have lobbied legislators and regulatory agencies to take a look at the company’s business practices and in March, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) confirmed it has opened a formal investigation into Herbalife’s business model.

Herbalife has repeatedly denied claims that it “cheats” Latinos, saying LULAC and other Latino groups are “mistaken” and their views are based on “misinformation.” They claim their practices are no different than those used by cosmetic companies Avon and Mary Kay, which also use a multi-level sales approach.

East Los Angeles resident Ana S. Talamantes, 44, told EGP she lost thousands of dollars working as an Herbalife distributor and eventually a supervisor.

She said you hear people’s stories and you get excited and join: “They tell you a lot of stuff and then it turns out to be something different.”

Talamantes says she has no doubt the company was going after Latino distributors, and told EGP she joined the company in 2007 and invested around $25,000, most of it borrowed from family and friends.
“When you first start they give you a lot of support,” she said. “The speakers would tell us to go to the schools, where Latina mothers are to get customers,” explains the mother of two.

She says her supervisor pushed her to open a “club,” to bring people to her house for meetings: something she did over the objections of her husband. “He would tell me I was being brainwashed, it caused a lot of arguments. But I thought, ‘oh he’ll like it when I bring in all the money,’” she added.

But Talamantes says she, and most of the people she knows who sold Herbalife never made any money. She said she was stuck with a lot of product.

Herbalife says it has a process for returning product and that no distributor is ever stuck with product they cannot sell. But according to Talamantes, the company makes it nearly impossible to return items for a refund. She said she tried for months to return the product, “but they would tell me to call back, or to call a different number” and eventually, disgusted with the company, she just threw the product away.

Talamantes told EGP she is glad the company is being investigated. She said she’s wanted to tell her story, to take it to the media for a long time so she could warn people not to get involved.

“It was really sad the way they got the people,” she said. “I would see how they talked people into getting into it, most of them were older and did not really have the money, but they would convince them,” she said.

“We have our dreams, we all want something more for our kids” and they took advantage of that.

Editor’s Note: This story is a longer version of the original articled published in EGP’s 11 newspapers.

Exide Lays Off Over 100 Workers at Shuttered Plant

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

With its Vernon battery-recycling plant still shuttered thanks to a dispute with air-quality regulators, Exide Technologies issued temporary layoff notices Monday to more than 100 employees.

Exide officials were recently rebuffed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and a judge in their effort to resume operations at the plant while it worked to install upgraded “negative pressure” furnaces designed to better control arsenic emissions.

The plant has been closed for weeks while it was undergoing other upgrades, but Exide officials said they needed more time to install new equipment to meet the more stringent emission requirements. Without a variance by the AQMD, however, the company cannot restart its plant.

“Because our Vernon facility is not currently operating and not able to meet the new operational standard without the necessary time to purchase, install and test the required equipment, we had not choice but to make this very difficult decision to temporarily lay off most of our workers — some of whom are second- or third-generation Exide employees,” according to Exide CEO Robert M. Caruso.

Exide officials said they have made arrangements with outside companies to continue battery-recycling operations.

According to Exide, the temporary layoffs will affect 20 salaried employees and 104 hourly workers.

Company officials have said they have agreed to invest more than $5 million in the plant over the next two years, bringing the firm’s total investment to more than $20 million since 2010, and reducing arsenic emissions by 95 percent.

Metro Delays Release of SR-710 North Study

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) for the State Route 710 North Study will be delayed, Metro officials have announced.

A new release date has not yet been set, but according to Metro, they are working with Caltrans on a new release date.

The study, which will look at potential impacts of five alternatives- including a no build option – for addressing traffic and environmental impacts within east/northeast Los Angeles, the western San Gabriel Valley and the region generated by a 4-mile gap in the original 710 Freeway design that exists between Alhambra and Pasadena.

The transportation agency said

Van Overturns On Freeway Near Eagle Rock

April 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Four of the five lanes of the westbound Ventura (134) Freeway were closed for nearly two hours Wednesday morning after a four-vehicle collision, the California Highway Patrol reported.

A delivery van overturned in the middle lanes of the freeway, according to television footage from the scene. The accident in the Los Angeles community of Eagle Rock south of Glendale involved two vans, a semi and two trucks, according to the CHP.

The accident was reported at 5:20 a.m. and prompted the closure of all westbound lanes other than the HOV lane. The lanes re-opened at 7:05 am.

No injuries were reported, said CHP Officer Alex Rubio.

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