Man Convicted of Quadruple-Murderer Sentenced to Death

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A death sentence was handed down last Friday for a gang member who committed four murders over a six-month period in the East Los Angeles area and Boyle Heights.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen said Angel Mendoza had “brutally murdered four people” in denying a motion to modify the jury’s recommendation to life imprisonment for the 39-year-old defendant.

Saying the “weight of the evidence does support the jury’s verdict,” the judge told Mendoza, “You murdered without remorse. For that, sir, you have earned this penalty.”

Mendoza was convicted Oct. 11, 2013 of the Oct. 27, 2007 murder of Miguel Morales, the March 31, 2008 killings of Arturo Saldana and Francisco Cereceres, and the April 22, 2008 killing of Roberto Rodriguez — the latter on the defendant’s 34th birthday.

Jurors found true the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders, along with a gang special circumstance allegation on Rodriguez’s killing and the special circumstances of murder during the commission of a carjacking, robbery and burglary in the killings of Saldana and Cereceres.

Morales, a taxi driver, was shot after refusing to sell drugs to Mendoza, who went by the moniker, “Evil,” according to prosecution.

Saldana and Cereceres, who worked at Jesse’s Auto Sales in East Los Angeles, were shot in the head by Mendoza during a robbery, in which two vehicles and blank checks were stolen.

Rodriguez — who was not a gang member — was shot in the head while Mendoza and his associates looked for a rival who had robbed a member of their gang, according to prosecutors.

Commerce Opens ‘Ground Zero’ Emergency Center

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Just days following the 20 year anniversary of the Northridge earthquake — which caught many public safety departments in the area unprepared to deal quickly with the devastation — the City of Commerce has opened a new state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center, (EOC).

During a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday attended by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and other community leaders, city officials said the facility at 5639 Jillson St., will serve as the city’s headquarters for first responders during a local or major disaster.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, left, tours Commerce’s new Emergency Operations Center. (Office of US Rep. Lucille  Roybal-Allard)

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, left, tours Commerce’s new Emergency Operations Center. (Office of US Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard)

“The new EOC provides us with the technology and just as importantly, a stable environment to respond quickly and efficiently to natural disasters and other emergencies,” said Mayor Joe Aguilar in a written statement. “The safety of our residents is always our number one priority so we built this facility to better meet that need.”

The emergency operations center is located within a few blocks of City Hall, where many of the offices for city departments and staff are housed.

Roybal-Allard helped secure the $1 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security to fully fund the building of the facility, which city officials say is completely secure and fire resistant.

The center also features a fully integrated audio/visual system allowing staff to track progress on incidents, as well as monitor emergency operations, notes a city press release. The high-tech facility will also allow the city, in a coordinated manner, to communicate with Los Angeles County and other regional and state emergency operations centers.

Ribbon cutting opening Tuesday of Commerce’s new Emergency Operations Center. Pictured left to right: L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept.  Capt. Jim Wolak, Miss Commerce Shanese Perea, Councilman Ivan Altamirano, Mayor Pro Tem Lilia Leon, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mayor Joe Aguilar, Councilwomen Tina Baca Del Rio and Denise Robles and Chief Michael Brown of the L.A. County Fire Dept. (City of Commerce)

Ribbon cutting opening Tuesday of Commerce’s new Emergency Operations Center. Pictured left to right: L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. Capt. Jim Wolak, Miss Commerce Shanese Perea, Councilman Ivan Altamirano, Mayor Pro Tem Lilia Leon, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Mayor Joe Aguilar, Councilwomen Tina Baca Del Rio and Denise Robles and Chief Michael Brown of the L.A. County Fire Dept. (City of Commerce)

A backup generator will ensure operations continue even during power outages.

The congresswoman said she was proud to be able to partner with the city to secure the federal funds needed to make the emergency center a reality.

“I commend all of the stakeholders for having the foresight to invest in this project, which benefits the residents and businesses of the City of Commerce, the 40th Congressional District, and our entire region, as well,” said Roybal-Allard. Congratulations to the City of Commerce, the city council and staff, and the construction team on a job well done!”

 

Exploring Arroyo Seco History on Two-Wheels

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

About 300 cyclists dressed in their dapper best, took a trip back in time last weekend for a closer look at some of the oldest structures in Northeast Los Angeles.

They were participating in “Tweed, Moxie and Mustaches,” a unique bike ride around the Arroyo Seco to explore some of the area’s historic structures built in the late 19th and mid 20th centuries.

Cyclists of all ages, dressed in clothes reminiscent of a time now gone, took part last weekend in a bike ride to explore the history of the Arroyo Seco. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Cyclists of all ages, dressed in clothes reminiscent of a time now gone, took part last weekend in a bike ride to explore the history of the Arroyo Seco. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The moderate temperature was perfect for the ride, which covered more than 10 miles.

The tour on two-wheels took participants to Judson Studios, where hand crafted stained and unique forms of architectural glass have been created since the 1800s; the Lummis Home, a 19th century home on the west bank of the Arroyo Seco; and the Audubon Center at Debs Park, an environmental education and conservation center and the fourth largest park in Los Angeles.

The event was hosted by L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and Cyclists Inciting Change Through Live Exchange (C.I.C.L.E.).

Covered California Outreach to Latinos Inadequate

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

According to Covered California, only 20 percent of the state program’s enrollees are Latino.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, was quoted Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times as saying failure to reach eligible Latinos in large numbers –nearly 50 percent of the state’s population is Latino – will make it hard for California to reach its overall enrollment goal.

While Covered California has been hailed nationally for its “efficient” roll-out of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, especially as it pertains to the state run website for the program, the so-called success has failed to translate to enrollments among Latinos.

In California and nationally, the financial success of the program is tied to getting younger, healthier, uninsured individuals to participate in the program. It is assumed they will pay premiums, but use their insurance less frequently, allowing more funds to go toward the care of older or sicker participants.

As a group, Latinos tend to be younger than non-Latinos, so large number of enrollees would be a plus for the healthcare program.

But why does the small enrollment numbers among Latinos come as a surprise?

Though the largest target market, attention to Latinos has been lagging behind efforts directed at other groups.

There are problems with the Spanish language section of the Covered California website and the application in Spanish; outreach has relied heavily on word of mouth, neighbors telling neighbors and the goodwill of elected officials and community groups to explain the complicated coverage packages to Latinos and get them to sign up.

Many of those that qualify for subsidies have little or no experience with insurance based healthcare, so it’s not unreasonable that they would be wary of signing on.

Trust is a necessary but difficult ingredient to instill in Latinos and unless a greater effort is made by Covered California to adapt its traditional, general market strategies and reliance on volunteers, Latinos will continue to avoid coverage.

So it only makes sense that the best outreach will come from using the trusted information vehicles this community usually goes to for information, in English or Spanish. Outreach needs to be multi-generational, with older Latinos-mom, dad and grandma-sharing information with the younger members in their household and visa versa.

One of the most recognized ways to reach Latinos is through the numerous community newspapers they read in English and/or Spanish, but a vehicle completely ignored in Covered California’s marketing plans.

The Latino press has helped disseminate information from the large number of press releases received, including free workshops, but the outreach by Covered California has been sporadic at best. The Latino community deserves information that is detailed and easy to digest in the language these communities favor.

Public utilities and bankers have found that inserts in their mail to these communities are usually ineffective and often ignored. Why? Because readers are unaccustomed to information presented in that way. Covered California should take a lesson from these groups.

Yes, enrollment systems will be fixed and personnel better trained, but getting Latinos to tackle unfamiliar hurdles like online enrollment could mean they are denied the opportunity to get affordable health care and Covered California will bare much of the blame.

Unless a majority of the 1.2 million people eligible to enroll do, it’s hard to see how Covered California will reach the number of healthy young adults needed to make the program a success.

And unless the state finds a way to enroll the large number of people ineligible due to their immigration status, the state may have to pony up some of its valuable reserves to support Covered California, and the large number of uninsured who will continue to use emergency rooms as their primary care provider.

Lawmakers Are Free to Become Narcissistic Jerks

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Mark Twain spoke for me when he said: “I’m opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”

One danger that such wealth brings is that many who have it become blinded to those who don’t. Thus, the news that more than half of our Congress critters are now millionaires explains why it has been striving ceaselessly to provide more government giveaways to Wall Street bankers and other super-wealthy elites, while also striving to enact government takeaways from middle-class and poor families.

(www.otherwords.org)

(www.otherwords.org)

Take the richest House member, Rep. Darrell Issa, with a net worth of $464 million. A right-wing California Republican, he has used his legislative powers to try denying health coverage to poor Americans, even as he tried to unravel the new restraints to keep Wall Street bankers from wrecking our economy again.

Issa and his ilk are proof that a lawmaker’s net worth is strictly a financial measure, not any indication at all of one’s actual value or “worthiness.”

I hasten to note that many millionaires in America have been able to rise above their financial handicap, serving the public interest rather than self or special interests. For example, when Rep. Chellie Pingree was elected to Congress in 2009, she was an organic farmer and innkeeper in rural Maine.

Definitely not a millionaire, this Democrat was a stalwart fighter for such progressive policies as getting corporate money out of politics, enacting Medicare for all, and reigning in Wall Street greed. But in 2011, Pingree married — of all people — a Wall Street financier and was suddenly vaulted into the ranks of the 1-percenters. So, naturally, her legislative positions changed…not one whit.

See, even in Congress, being a millionaire is no excuse for becoming a narcissistic jerk. Siding with plutocrats is not an incurable condition — it’s a choice.

 

OtherWords.org columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. 

Restoring Our Golden Promise

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

After the housing bubble burst in 2007, which precipitated the “Great Recession”, for too many Californians, the opportunity for economic success was lost. The release of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed 2014-15 budget, which includes the first surplus in over a decade, has led some legislative leaders to believe that our economic challenges are over and that it is time to start spending again.  Recent temporary tax increases and a resurgent, yet volatile, stock market have brought in more revenues than expected, causing Democratic legislators to irresponsibly call for increased long-term spending with short-term revenues.

However, most economists agree that while the United States’ economy is recovering, it is still not what it once was prior to the recession.  They stress that for our economy to experience a “true recovery,” we must see a substantive drop in the unemployment rate and real employment growth.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal unemployment rate is currently 6.7% (8.5% in California).  In December of 2007, the national unemployment rate was 4.9%. California has yet to recover from the estimated 1.4 million jobs lost during the Great Recession.  Additionally, in the Legislative Analyst’s 2014-2015 California Fiscal Outlook they note that California is experiencing a longer than average economic expansion, but warns that another possible recession could occur before 2020.

Failure to resolve the state’s chronic debt now will result in increased pressure on California in the event of a future recession.  While Governor Brown’s budget proposes an outlay of $11 billion to address the state’s “wall of debt,” – liabilities incurred to address previous years’ budget deficits – he continues to neglect $355 billion in escalating long-term debt, which includes $218 billion in unfunded retirement liabilities.

Additionally, this budget pays only lip-service to the $80.4 billion pension problem facing our Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) that is projected to go bankrupt by 2044.  According to CalSTRS, its liability increases approximately $22 million each day that the state fails to act.  Continued failure to resolve our long-term liabilities places great fiscal pressure on future budgets and hardworking California taxpayers.

The governor’s support of a rainy-day fund is commendable, considering he and legislative Democrats had previously resisted establishing a budget reserve to reduce budget cost pressures in low revenue years.  However, California voters are already slated to vote on a more reliable rainy-day reserve in November, which was unilaterally moved by Democrats from the 2012 ballot.  So while the Governor’s proposal has the appearance of saving for tough economic times, it lacks credibility.

Despite today’s modest economic growth, there was a time in California when college graduates did not have to leave the state to find economic opportunity; there was a time in California when retirees could enjoy retirement and were not forced to start a new career because of broken promises and unfunded pensions; and there was a time in California when individuals could pursue their personal economic success through hard work and determination. Lack of stable employment opportunities and suffocating debt undermines California’s once-Golden promise.

To ensure that the historic promise of California is still available to future generations we must craft a fiscally responsible budget that deals with our debts, not sometime in the future, but today.

 

State Senator Mimi Walters is a Republican and represents California’s 37th District.

 

Over-The-Counter Pills Left Out of FDA Acetaminophen Limits

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged health care providers to stop writing prescriptions for pain relievers containing more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.

The agency’s announcement was aimed primarily at popular prescription medicines that combine acetaminophen with a more powerful opioid such as hydrocodone. Agency officials said they had determined that “there are no available data” to show that the benefits of having more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen in a single pill outweighed the risks from taking too much of the drug.

The announcement followed up on a similar 2011 FDA admonition to drug makers and was the latest turn in a long-running deliberation over the regulation of acetaminophen.

As documented in a ProPublica series last year, the FDA has delayed for decades enacting tougher rules on acetaminophen. While generally considered safe when taken as recommended, relatively small overdoses have been shown to cause liver damage and even death. Each year, the drug accounts for about 150 accidental deaths, half of all cases of acute liver failure cases and tens of thousands of emergency room and hospital visits, according to federal data and scientific studies.

As far back as 1977, a panel of outside experts convened by the FDA recommended the agency set the standard dose of over-the-counter acetaminophen at 325 milligrams per pill, citing the possibility of liver damage. But the agency allowed 500 milligrams and even 650 milligrams single doses of the drug for sale. Today, the most commonly sold form of over-the-counter acetaminophen contains 500 milligrams in a single pill.

A 2008 FDA review found that the agency’s approval for such a dose was based on “few and limited” studies submitted in the 1970s by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the Johnson and Johnson unit that makes Tylenol. Two studies showed that two 500-milligram pills were “marginally” more effective than two 325-milligram pills, while two other studies showed no difference.

Ninfa Redmond, a toxicologist who helped carry out the 1977 panel’s exhaustive, three-year study, said she was surprised that such big doses continued to be sold 40 years later.

“It never occurred to any of us that you make a product with that high a dose,” Redmond said. “I use the drug when I travel, but I use 325 milligrams,” she added.

Tuesday’s recommendation only applies to prescription drugs, not the over-the-counter products that make up about 80 percent of the market, according to the FDA. That means that you will still be able to walk into a gas station or grocery store and buy pills with up to 650 milligrams of acetaminophen, while your pharmacist is now discouraged from dispensing any product with more than half that amount.

One reason for this is that the FDA has more power to regulate prescription drugs than over-the-counter medicines.

In June 2009, an FDA advisory panel urged various limits on both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. But over-the-counter drug makers, led by McNeil, resisted efforts to reduce pill strength. In a 2009 letter to the FDA, McNeil noted that 500-milligram pills accounted for 92 percent of U.S. acetaminophen sales. McNeil suggested that removing the pills from the market would “burden” consumers by blocking access to pain relief.

The company also noted that reducing pill strength would require a “significant amount of time” in the over-the-counter regulatory system. If the agency decided not to pursue such a reduction, McNeil pledged it would add language to their drug labels recommending a lower total daily limit of 3,000 milligrams – or six extra strength pills.

“Other proposals could take significantly longer to implement,” wrote Lynn Pawelski, the company’s vice president for regulatory affairs.

In 2011 the company changed its label on Extra Strength Tylenol to reflect the lower recommended maximum daily dose.

McNeil, in an emailed statement, said the company still opposes any reduction in pill size for Extra Strength Tylenol and is committed to the health and safety of its patients.

“As the makers of Tylenol … the health and safety of consumers is our number one priority,” the statement said. “Our position was on OTC medicines and that position has not changed.”

Even with prescription drugs containing acetaminophen, the FDA has moved slowly. In 2011, the agency warned manufacturers to stop making prescription pills with more than 325 milligrams by January 2014. In this week’s announcement, the agency said more than half of all drug makers had complied with the three-year deadline, but acknowledged that some continued to sell prescription combinations with more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen.

ProPublica found that many of the largest pharmaceutical companies had dropped the amount of acetaminophen in their combination products to meet the FDA target, including the popular pain killer Vicodin, by AbbVie Inc.; Percocet, by Endo Pharmaceuticals; and Tylenol with Codeine, by the prescription drug unit of Johnson and Johnson.

In response to questions, the FDA was unable to say how many companies had failed to comply, or what percentage of the market they represented. The agency said it would now start to crack down on the remaining combination pills. “If manufacturers have not voluntarily withdrawn these products from the market, the FDA will take the necessary steps to withdraw them,” Morgan Liscinsky, an FDA spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.

When? “In the near future,” the agency announcement said.
This article was originally posted on www.propublica.org website on Jan. 16.
 

 

 

 

Protesters Urge Support For Adoption, Not Abortion

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Thousands of people braved frigid cold weather to demonstrate against abortion as part of the annual “March for Life,” which like every Jan. 22 was held Wednesday in Washington D.C. Marchers advocated for pregnant women who do not want to have the child to choose adoption rather than abortion.

Demonstrators gathered on the National Mall to protest the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

From Gardens Mall, covered by a layer of snow, protesters marched through the streets of downtown Washington to the Supreme Court, where they rallied and called for an end to abortions.

“We are abortionists of abortion,” “Abortion is murder,” “Let your baby live,” “ Every baby deserves to be born” or “For Life” read some of the signs waved by demonstrators, which included a large number of children and young people.

Organizers of the March for Life, supported by dozens of organizations from across the United States, noted that this year they were there to defend adoption as an alternative to abortion.

“Adoption is a heroic decision for pregnant women who are in a difficult situation,” March for Life President Jeanne Monahan said in a statement. She said it’s time to do away with “the stigma of adoption.”

In his speech before the march, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) announced that the chamber will vote next week on a legislative initiative to ban federal funding for abortion.

“We will continue to progress so that one day every child in America is protected by law and are welcome to life,” Cantor said, admitting that it “will be a tough task” to get the Senate and President Barack Obama to approve the project.

“Since 1973, over 56 million children have been brutally murdered,” said Republican Rep. Chris Smith in his speech to the protesters, referring to the number of abortions estimated to have been practiced in the United States since the Supreme Court’s decision.

“We are winning,” Smith assured the crowd before telling younger marchers that their generation “will end abortion.”

Pope Francis from the Vatican Wednesday showed support for the event via a message on his Twitter account.

“I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers,” his tweet read. “May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable.”

The White House also issued a statement Wednesday on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade: “We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom.”

County Approves Funds to Fight Child Sex Trafficking

January 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a $200,000, two-year program to fight child sex trafficking.

“There simply is no matter that is more morally repugnant than the exploitation of children,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.

The money will go to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking to help victims. The group developed a custom database, created a free legal network and identified mental health practitioners to help, as part of an existing partnership with county law enforcement.

“The issue affects the entire county,” Ridley-Thomas said.

But the 2nd Supervisorial District, which he represents, has the largest concentration of documented cases of commercial sexual exploitation of children, according to CAST.

The new program will focus on those communities, “taking it to the streets,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The aim is to help get victims get their lives back on track.

Advocates can provide victims with “someone by their side at a hospital, night after night, after their trafficker attempted to take their life. They have someone to reach out to at 2 in the morning when they’ve been left by the side of the road by a purchaser, beaten badly,” said Michelle Guymon of the Probation Department.

Supervisor Don Knabe, who has worked to bring attention to the issue of human trafficking, said, “It’s one of those issues that’s not easy to talk about.”

Kay Buck, chief executive of CAST, said some criminals and gangs were shifting from drug running to sex trafficking.

“Trafficking of children is more lucrative and less risky than trafficking of drugs,” Buck said. “As human inventory … they can be used over and over again.”

Minors in Los Angeles have been forced into begging, as household help, on magazine crews and selling drugs, in addition to performing sex acts, according to CAST. Some of the sex slavery involves girls as young as 10.

“As a society, we must ask ourselves, `How does an elementary school girl end up in the commercial sex industry in Los Angeles?”’ Buck said.

Answering that question requires collaboration between law enforcement, child welfare and community advocates, she told the Board of Supervisors.

Statistics in a recent federal report on human trafficking paint a grim picture of the situation in Los Angeles County, Buck said.

“But it’s also an opportunity to be a leader in the fight,” Buck said. “Los Angeles can be a model county and turn these statistics around.”

Walmart Now Hiring for New South Gate Store

January 23, 2014 by · 9 Comments 

A new Walmart Supercenter scheduled to open this spring in South Gate will hire as many as 250 workers at the location, the company said Monday.

A temporary hiring center has been opened at 7503 Atlantic Ave., Suite G, about one mile north of the new store at the Azalea Shopping Center in Southeast Los Angeles County, according to Walmart.

Prospective employees fill out online appliacations for positions at Walmart. (Walmart)

Prospective employees fill out online appliacations for positions at Walmart. (Walmart)

“We’re glad to hear that the hiring of hundreds has begun and we look forward to the grand opening of the South Gate Walmart Supercenter,” said South Gate Mayor Gil Hurtado.

This store will anchor the new Azalea Shopping Center in Southeast Los Angeles County, and “help provide critically needed jobs and generate tax dollars furthering the revitalization efforts along the Firestone Boulevard Corridor,” Hurtado said. “This shopping center reflects what the community asked for: good jobs and convenient shopping opportunities in their own backyard.”

Walmart said interested job seekers can fill out applications in person at the hiring center or online at http://careers.walmart.com. The hiring center will open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Walmart is hiring both full- and part-time associates, and most will start working March to help for its grand opening, according to the company.

“I’m excited to reach out to the community and meet people who are eager to join our team at this new store,” said Fernando Reyes, South Gate Walmart store manager. “The South Gate store will offer the community a convenient one-stop-shopping option for affordable every day goods and a great selection of fresh, healthy grocery options.”

Walmart, which in recent months has come under increasing attacks from labor unions and other groups demanding higher wages and benefits and who are attempting to unionize the retailer, operates 45 stores and employs more than 14,000 associates in Los Angeles County.

In a statement released Monday, Walmart said “the average hourly pay for full-time associates in California is $13.08 and the majority of the retailer’s 81,000 associates in the state are full-time.”

Walmart further stated the company, through its “Veterans Welcome Home Commitment,” will offer a job to any qualified veteran who has been honorably discharged within the past 12 months.

Veterans interested in learning more about the program should go to http://walmartcareerswithamission.com. 

 

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