DWP Issues Warning On Bill Pay Scam

July 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Utility personnel imposters seek to scam Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) customers by claiming they have high unpaid balances. The imposters cheat customers by either having them call a specific telephone number with the customer’s financial information, or by asking that they pay their bill with a pre-paid cash card.

The department is well aware of the fraud due to on going complaints from customers, which may prove to be a method of prevention. “The more our customers know about it, the less likely it is to happen, so help us spread the word among your family, friends and neighbors,” said Patrick Findley, Director of LADWP Security Services Division. One thing to be aware of is that LADWP never calls customers seeking personal banking information.

Report suspicious activity to the Department: LADWP Security Services at (213) 367-3373 or (213) 367-9111, or email SecurityServicesWebNotification@ladwp.com, or visitwww.ladwp.com and click Security Issue under Contact Us.

Alleged Groper of Teen at Obregon Park Pool Arrested

July 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A man was recently arrested for allegedly grabbing the buttocks of a teenage girl while she was in the swimming pool at Obregon Park in the East Los Angeles area.

Jaime Fernandez, 45, was booked on suspicion of sexual battery following his arrest about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at the park in the 4000 block of East First Street, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported.

Parks Bureau deputies received a call that a man had sexually battered a teenage girl at the park, and they arrested Fernandez, who was still at the location, the sheriff’s department reported.

His bail was set at $20,000.

Vladovic Replaces García as LAUSD School Board President

July 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

 Dr. Richard Vladovic, who represents District 7 and is seen as a strong ally of teacher’s union, on Tuesday was elected president of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education.

He replaces School Board member Mónica García, who held the title for six years. Vladovic was elected by a 5-2 vote; with only Garcia and Tamar Galatzan opposing. Garcia had nominated Galatzan to replace her.

District 4 rep, Steve Zimmer, was elected board vice president.

United Teachers Los Angeles (the teacher’s union), in a written statement, congratulated Vladovic and Zimmer, and welcomed teacher Monica Ratliff to the board. Ratliff replaces Nury Marti

Auto Club Offers Free ‘Tipsy Tow’ Service for 4th of July

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For the 16th straight year, the Automobile Club of Southern California will offer its free Tipsy Tow service for intoxicated drivers during the Fourth of July holiday, beginning yesterday.

A free tow home of up to seven miles will be available by calling (800) 400-4222 and telling the operator, “I need a Tipsy Tow,” according to the Auto Club.

The service, which employs regular Auto Club-contracted roadside service companies, is available in 13 Southern California counties. It will be available from 6 p.m. yesterday until 11:59 p.m. today, Thursday.

There are some limitations: Passengers don’t get rides; the service is limited to a one-way, one-time ride for the driver; and vehicles will only be towed to the driver’s residence. Regular tow service rates apply for any ride longer than seven miles, according to the Auto Club.

More than 182,000 drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated in California in 2011, the last year for which results are available, and a recent survey found that 14 percent of motorists admitted to driving at least once in the past year when they felt they were probably over the legal limit, according to the Auto Club.

Happy 4th of July: Have Fun, Be Safe

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For more than a week, random bursts of fireworks and large booms not part of any planned or sanctioned fireworks show, and the confiscation of tons of illegal fireworks have kept fire and police departments in the Southland on high alert.

(Photo by County Photographer Martin Zamora)

(Photo by County Photographer Martin Zamora)

On Tuesday, Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks called on residents to attend a professional fireworks show on the Fourth of July and avoid celebrating the day by using their own pyrotechnics that can lead to fires or injuries.

“We want to ensure that we have a safe program,” Parks said at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which will play host to its annual fireworks display. “But we also want to encourage people not to go outside the city limits and buy fireworks, bring them in and the next day we hear about the tragedies of lost limbs and eyes.”

Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Brian Cummings warned that even seemingly harmless fireworks, such as sparklers, can cause serious injuries, burning at temperatures of as high as 4,000 degrees.

“Last year alone, your Los Angeles Fire Department responded to over 9 percent more calls for service on the Fourth of July,” Cummings said.

On Monday night, a fire that was sparked by someone playing with fireworks caused an estimated $200,000 in damage to a pair of businesses in Walnut Park, officials said.

They are also warning residents that backyard displays are illegal in many cities and parts of Los Angeles County.

To help you prepare for the 4th of July weekend, here are some helpful tips and laws to keep in mind before purchasing fireworks and setting them off in your backyard.

The private use of fireworks are illegal in the City of Los Angeles and all of the county’s unincorporated areas, as well as 26 cities serviced by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Bell Gardens, Commerce, Montebello and Monterey Park permit the use of “safe and sane” fireworks, which have the State Fire Marshal’s seal, do not explode or leave the ground when ignited. Only fireworks sold at fixed places of business licensed to sell “safe and sane” fireworks are permitted.

Public safety officials, however, recommend attending a one of the numerous public, family-friendly daytime events and evening firework shows taking place around the county this holiday weekend. Go early and enjoy the pre-show entertainment, including live music performances, games, rides and food for sale.

‘Oh, Say Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave’

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The rest of the stanza in our headline goes. “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

The answer is of course yes, but it now waves over a country whose citizens would rather have the perception of being safe, rather than being free.

We have allowed our citizens to be put on secret no fly lists without any proof that they represent a security risk. Our government spies on our telecommunications without a warrant, and the public says the only people who should be concerned are those with something to hide.

Presidents can declare wars without the approval of our elected officials.

Our property can be confiscated under false pretenses and the courts do nothing—neither does our Department of Justice.

Our elected officials now live and earn more than our average citizens and we are often taxed without our permission.

Yet Americans have in large numbers abdicated their responsibility to vote, allowing the few who bother to vote and still believe in self-governance to choose who will run our government.

Americans need to be reminded this 4th of July – Independence Day – that we are free because of our forefathers who signed our Declaration of Independence, at times at great personal sacrifice, so that in the future we would be free from the tyranny of a government that is not representative of the people. In thinking about the words “home of the brave,” we would be wise to remember those who were persecuted, hounded out of their homes, driven to bankruptcy or murdered because they would not renounce their signing of the Declaration of Independence.

It’s time for all Americans to rededicate ourselves to the principals our founding fathers suffered and died for; the right to self governance, freedom from government intrusion into our homes and lives without approval of our fellow citizens and our courts and the freedom of travel.

It is not always easy to be brave, but citizens should be allowed to go about their business and live their lives without their personal freedoms being curtailed by those citing fears of attack by outside forces.

The freedom to protest government actions without fear of punitive reprisals from government is fundamental.

So is the right to vote.

So is the freedom to face our accusers in a court of law without fear of undue influences.

Our country needs to renew the teaching of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights with an added emphasis and fervor.

And Americans need to remember Patrick Henry’s cry: “Give me Liberty or Give me Death.”

 

Transparency You Can’t Believe In – Four Years Later

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This year’s graduating seniors entered college just before the Obama administration began. But while these successful graduates are now ready to move on to the next stage in their lives, the administration hasn’t achieved the same kind of progress on one of its signature initiatives: creating open government.

On his first day in office, President Obama committed his administration to creating “unprecedented levels of openness in government.” And even though his record on open government issues has been far from spotless, particularly in areas of national security, his administration has at least pushed for substantive change.

 

For example, the administration helped launch the Open Government Partnership, a multinational effort encouraging governments to take concrete steps toward making themselves transparent and accountable. And, with input from civil society organizations, it has developed a National Action Plan that includes 26 commitments and is aimed toward achieving 18 goals.

My organization recently evaluated the implementation of that plan and found that although the government largely met its promises, there’s a wide gulf between the administration’s actions and its own open-government goals. To put it in terms in which recent graduates might relate, the Obama administration turned in some great assignments, but its coursework for core classes remains incomplete.

 

As part of the plan, the U.S. set out to improve Freedom of Information Act efficacy. The public should be able to use the FOIA to obtain timely access to government information. Yet despite the plan and the administration’s much-heralded policy statements on FOIA, the government hasn’t made much improvement over the secretive Bush administration in carrying out the law. Many people must still turn to the courts to obtain access to information that should have been turned over in the first place. The public also must wait in line to get records that should be made routinely available by agencies without a FOIA request.

 

Increasing transparency in government spending was another goal laid out in the plan. In the wake of the 2008 economic collapse and the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the administration developed a new model for helping the public know where their tax dollars flowed, and for what purpose. We should be translating lessons learned from that experience to a system that allows the public to fully track funding — from the agency budget justifications to the president’s budget, through the congressional appropriations process, and to the point where the Treasury Department cuts a check. But we’re nowhere near that goal.

 

We face an enormous backlog of information that should already be declassified. The administration made a commitment in the plan to create the National Declassification Center. But while the center has done good work since its creation, the U.S. won’t be able to move through the backlog of almost 400 million pages of historical records by the deadline set by the president in 2009.

A focus on declassification is also woefully inadequate, and the administration has yet to act on recommendations made to transform classification — in particular, those made in November 2012 by the Presidential Public Interest Declassification Board.

It’s time for President Obama’s open-government commitment to graduate to the next level. The president can’t fix all of these issues without the help of Congress, but it’s within his executive-branch authority to resolve many.

This fall, the administration will release a new version of its National Action Plan. We encores the president to use this opportunity to be bold and include commitments that will create real, lasting transparency that makes the grade.

 

Amy Bennett is assistant director of OpenTheGovernment.org. American Forum 7/13

 

Grave New World

July 4, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Franz Kafka, and Ray Bradbury long ago explained how the system would work once those in authority got their act together and the technology to spy on us all.

 

On the web,

Or on the phone,

One thing’s sure:

You’re not alone.

 

In my own malcontent civic organization, Veterans For Peace, we’ve always known we were being watched. We are, after all, against war. And we’re impolite enough about it to hold up signs.

We’ve been monitored, infiltrated, entrapped, stung, eavesdropped, raided, arrested, and exiled far from important happenings.

And why not? Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Franz Kafka, and Ray Bradbury long ago explained how the system would work once those in authority got their act together and the technology to snoop on us all.

Needless to say, there are many other democracy-infatuated groups like ours that suffer similar spying and harassment. It makes little difference who’s in power at the moment. Power is power, and those who hold it want to keep it.

Now it turns out that we dissenters needn’t have been quite so proud of all that snooping. As Edward Snowden — America’s latest whistleblowing superhero — has just divulged, the FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA) have been spying on everybody, not just us.

And we Veterans For Peace thought we were special! But it turns out that the authorities have been logging your calls as well. And scanning your email for keywords. And recording your personal movements.

None of us knew about it until Snowden blew a whistle.

Previously, you might have naively expected that your privacy was somehow protected by the Fourth Amendment. You know: freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures and all that. Nice try.

The NSA gave some thought to the Bill of Rights. Then the agency decided that reevaluating its spy program wasn’t really necessary. It’s much easier to reevaluate the Fourth Amendment instead.

The government essentially did that in 1978, when it created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This sneaky law created a special secret court to approve otherwise illegal spying on citizens when national security was at stake.

It sounds like a kangaroo court. Last year, there were 1,789 requests for permission to spy — all were granted. In 2011, there were 1,676 requests, and guess what? All of those were granted too.

Subsequent additions to the law have further broadened the government’s reach. Unfortunately, all those covered activities are still secret.

Thus, it’s all but impossible to challenge any of them because we aren’t entitled to the necessary information to find out which things the government’s doing that might be objectionable. Huh? Anyway that’s pretty much what the Supreme Court confirmed back in February.

Meanwhile, the authorities are drilling more peepholes into our private lives.

Nationwide, cameras and recording devices are popping up in public places to capture your comments and to place your whereabouts on record for posterity. Those cameras at intersections meant to snitch if you run a red light have more than one purpose, you know. They record your location forever, as does your car’s GPS. And most cell phones. You want privacy? Maybe you should move to Burkina Faso.

All this surveillance is naturally aimed at protecting us from terrorists. Really?

The FBI has, as expected, trotted out a dozen cases where a holocaust would surely have befallen the land had our sleuths not been illegally spying on us all. Maybe so, but there’s no way to fact-check such claims.

Everything is too secret.

 

OtherWords.org columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative, a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut, and a former member of the Veterans For Peace board. 

 

Padding the Bottom Line by Gouging the Customer

July 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Big Food considers corporate chicanery to be a legitimate business practice.

Mothers the world over have told their children a zillion times: “Stop playing with your food!”

I now share their frustration. I’d like to yell at the conglomerate packagers of America’s victuals: “Stop playing with our food!”

Actually, they’re playing with our heads, using dishonest packaging tactics to raise their prices without us noticing it.

A 16-ounce carton of something quietly slips to 14 ounces. But, shhhh, it doesn’t drop in price.

Then there’s the dimple trick. A jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, for example, has had its contents shrunk, yet the new jar looks as big as the old one unless you turn it on its end. There you’ll find a big indention in the bottom — a hidden way to shrink the capacity of the jar and give you less for your money.

David Segal, who writes “The Haggler” column in The New York Times, recently reported on his Adventures-in-Kraft-Foods-Land. He talked to a PR lady there about the corporation’s unpublicized (but rather dramatic) change in its Baker’s brand of cooking chocolate.

Instead of an eight-ounce package selling for $3.89, suddenly a box of Baker’s contained only four ounces of chocolate, which sells for $2.89. Wow: that’s nearly a 50 percent price hike per ounce. What gives?

“The change was consumer-driven,” the Kraft Foods spokeswoman craftily replied. “Our consumers have told us that they prefer this [smaller] size.”

Uh, sure, said Segal, but what about that slippery price? She was equally slippery, declaring that the product “is competitively priced.” That wasn’t the question, but her whole game is to avoid giving the honest answer: “We’re gouging our customers.”

 

OtherWords.org columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.  

 

2013 Firework Shows and Festivities In Los Angeles County

July 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

2pm—Grand Park 4th of July Block Party and Fireworks Show in downtown Los Angeles. The free event will take place on all four blocks of the park located between the Music Center and Los Angeles City Hall-from Grand Street Avenue to Spring Street and is appropriate for all ages. The Block Party will also include world music performances by Ethio Cali and Jungle Fire, a featured performance by La Santa Cecilia, along with DJ sets by Anthony Valadez of KCRW-FM (89.9) and a poetry slam. A light show spectacle, “Pyro Goes Boom!” — combining light, projections, pyrotechnics and music — will begin at 9 p.m. Food will be available from food trucks. Outside food and beverages are permitted and picnics encouraged, but alcohol, and chairs & tables from the outside are not allowed. Music begins at 3pm: lightshow spectacle at 9pm. Ride Metro’s Red or Purple Line to the Civic Center/Grand Park station, located right in the middle of the park. For further information, visit http://grandparkla.org/ or call 213-972-8080.

 

Noon-9pm—Fourth of July Celebration at Almansor Park in Alhambra. Event includes food vendors and a “penny carnival” with picnic games and local entertainment at 6pm followed by Beach Boys tribute band “Surfin Safari.” A 26-minutes long fireworks spectacular close the show at 9pm. The park is located at 700 N. Almansor, Alhambra, 91804. For more information visit http://cityofalhambra.org.

 

2-10:30pm—The City of Commerce locks off three-day 4th of July Carnival Celebration at Rosewood Park. Event includes a 5k run at 8am & official ceremony at 3pm with Commerce’s Miss Fourth of July, Daniela Gomez. A Fireworks Show will be held today, the 4th of July at 9pm.  All three days of the carnival will also include rides, games, food, live music. Admission is free, but there is a charge for ride & game tickets and food. Rosewood Park is located at 5600 Harbor St., Commerce.

 

3-9pm—“America We Love You,” Monterey Park’s Annual July 4th Celebration & Fireworks Show at the Barnes Park Amphitheatre. Bring your lawn chair, picnic basket, ice chest and enjoy live entertainment, delicious food, arts, crafts and games for the kids and the annual spectacular fireworks show at 9 pm.  Musical entertainment & fireworks show are free, food is nominally priced. Barnes Park is located at 350 S. McPherrin. For more information call (626) 307-1388 or search for “Fourth of July” on the city website at www.ci.monterey-park.ca.us.

 

3pm—The Los Angeles Coliseum’s pre-fireworks shows will include kids’ activities, music and giveaways, topped of by a fireworks display scheduled for 9pm. The Coliseum is located at 3911 S. Figueroa St., and can be easily accessed via Metro Expo Line, visit www.metro.net for more travel information,

 

5:30pm—Metro July 4 Art Tour Leads to Fireworks, Great Food, Special Discounts. The first of three free summer artist-led walking tours (first Thursday of the month) will end at Grand Park and The Music Center’s 4th of July Block Party event (see above). Tour covers stories from local artists about their artworks. Meet at 5:30 p.m. at the entrance to the 7th Street/Metro Center Station, northeast corner of Figueroa and 7th Street. Limited space; first come first served. For more information visit metro.net/art and click on Art Tours or call (213) 922-4ART.

 

6-9pm—City of Pico Rivera 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular at El Rancho High School: 6501 S. Passons Blvd. Parking and admission is free. Gates open at 6:00 p.m. Bleacher seating available or bring lawn chair or blanket. Live entertainment begins at 7pm with Soulicious, a Motown tribute band. Food items and beverages will be available for purchase. Fireworks spectacular show begins at 9pm. For more information, call (562) 801-4430.

 

6:30pm—4th of July AmericaFest at the Rose Bowl. This is one of Southern California’s largest fireworks displays and includes music and food court that opens at 2pm. Parking lot opens at 10am; stadium opens at 6:30 pm and the opening ceremonies & program at 7pm, followed by the spectacular fireworks show at 9:05 pm. Tickets are $13-$30; Kids 7 and under & Active Military with ID are free at www.ticketmaster.com. Cash only at the stadium and $20 (cash) for parking. For more information, call (626) 577-3100.

More Locations, estimated start time is 8pm:

—Rosemead Park, 9200 Mission Ave., Rosemead;

—Salt Lake Park, Huntington Park;

—South El Monte High School, 1001 N. Durfee Ave., South El Monte;

—South Gate Park, 9615 Pinehurst Ave., South Gate;

 

Information from City News Service was used in this report.

 

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