SPECIAL REPORT: Autism, the Risk of Doing Nothing

May 24, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Beatriz Quirarte was just 16-years-old when her son Kevin was born, four years later he was diagnosed with Autism. Sympathy and support were hard to come by, says the Spanish-speaking resident of East Los Angeles.

Frustrated, her husband would at times blame her for their child’s disability. Her family’s reactions to her son’s situation made her feel ashamed, she told EGP.

They would tell me, “Poor thing, he is sick,” she said. One doctor even told her it was her fault that her then five-year-old son did not speak. He’s your first child and you’re probably not talking to him enough, she says the doctor told her.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: El Riesgo de Hacer Nada

Autism is a group of complex developmental brain disorders, which can manifest in a variety of ways, including an inability to speak or function socially. But at age 17, Kevin is now a junior at Garfield High School and on track to graduate. He spent two years in Garfield’s Junior ROTC, and learned to play the violin in the school’s orchestra class, he says proudly. His dream is to someday work for Pixar as an animator and to travel to San Antonio Texas to visit the Alamo.

Over the years, Quirarte’s husband has become better informed and more supportive, and she says family members are surprised Kevin has surpassed all their expectations.

“They … see all that he has accomplished, more than regular kids. All the discipline he has. Even his cousins aren’t as well behaved, some have chosen different routes, some have joined gangs, others have dropped out of high school… they see him and say ‘being the way he is, he has achieved so much,’” Quirarte said in Spanish.

But Quirarte is quick to point out that her son’s successes are in large part due to the special services she secured for him through the Los Angeles Unified School District, Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center (ELARC), and Centro Estrella Family Resource Center, run by nonprofit Alma Family Services.

For the last eight years Kevin has been going to Centro Estrella, where he’s built strong friendships and received behavior and socialization therapy, and where she takes monthly parenting advocacy classes.

“I’ve told moms who have sons like mine to come here,” but says they probably don’t go because they understand how can “improve their quality of life,” or because it’s something they have to do themselves, Quirarte told EGP in Spanish.

Even the most diligent parents, however, can see their efforts thwarted by the very system that’s supposed to help them.

Jose is 18 and a senior at Franklin High School in Highland Park, she says he’s watched for years as his Spanish-speaking mother, Ana Brizuela, has struggled to get him help. The teen, who asked not to use his real name, has gone with his mother to the Social Security Administration office and to his own disability evaluations.

“She always goes to fill out paperwork, always goes to places and talks about me,” says Jose, who plans to go to a local community college after he graduates.

Jose received some services through LAUSD, but not from the local regional center that provides services to people with a wide range of developmental disabilities. His mother claims the center misdiagnosed her son years ago with Attention Deficit Disorder. Today she worries that he is leaving school without a safety net in the community.

During a Fiesta Educativa meeting for Spanish speakers three months ago in City Terrace, Brizuel was encouraged to appeal ELARC’s diagnosis, something she says she still plans to do. But she has not yet followed up on a psychologist’s evaluation and she’s feeling crushed by other stressors—like possibly loosing her home, she told EGP.

“It’s so frustrating because there’s no one to give you the help you need… one has to fight, and fight and fight,” said the weary mother.

Ana Brizuela (right) shares her frustrations with a regional center employee during a Fiesta Educativa meeting. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

She said people have made her feel like she’s asking for a handout when she’s just fighting to help her son. That’s a sentiment Maria Isabel Macias understands.

“Sometimes even our own people discriminate against us,” she said at the same meeting. Her still not fully potty-trained eight-year-old was first diagnosed with mental retardation, but now she is being told he has autism.

“Sometimes I would sit down to cry,” she said. “I’m in this country without family and I don’t know where to turn.” She says children with autism need to lean how to be independent, because their parents won’t always be with them.

Glassell Park resident Patricia Rasconi said her family accused her of being a bad mother and not teaching her son how to behave. Her son, 8, has been shuffled from school to school, and she was told that there would be no summer school for him, a point corrected by other parents in the group who told her LAUSD offers summer school to Special Education students.

Julifa Alas of South Gate, is waiting for the results of her eight-year-old son’s evaluation. He has Autism, Epilepsy and asthma and he is also not fully potty trained. “I see how he is, and I know he needs help…” she told the other parents who encouraged her to keep on top of her son’s case with the regional center.

But this meeting for Spanish speaking parents is unusual, and many Latinos fail to seek out the services that could help their children. Shame, lack of education or access to resources in Spanish, has left many parents feeling alone and overwhelmed, and their children far behind.

Autism Has No Cure, But the Right Early Interventions Can Make a Difference

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) puts the number of children with autism at one in 88. And while the disorder can vary from child to child, a diagnosis can usually be made by age three. Some children seem to develop normally at first, but stop gaining new skills, or lose those they do have, between 18 and 24 months, according to the CDC.

Children who don’t respond to their name by 12 months, point at objects to show interest by 14 months, or don’t play “pretend” games (“feed” a doll) by 18 months, could be showing signs of autism, according to the CDC. Other signs include: avoiding eye contact; delayed speech and language; obsessive interests; usual reactions to smells, tastes, textures and sounds; hand flapping; body rocking, spinning in circles or walking on tip toes.

There is currently no “cure” for autism, but research shows that early intervention can make a big difference in a child’s development, according to the CDC.

Dr. Martha Rivera is a pediatrician at White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights and says it’s very important for parents to take their children to wellness check-ups because that’s when doctors screen for developmental benchmarks and other issues beyond the child’s physical health.

A delayed diagnosis could result in the child not getting the early intervention help, he needs.

“One of the most important things I tell parents is that early intervention is very important,” Fiesta Educative Parent Coordinator Josefina Nieves told EGP by email.

She said when a child is three and has a behavior problem, it’s easy to pick him up and carry him away, or to stop him from running in the street, but when the same behavior is still going on at age 15 and the child is taller and stronger than mom, correcting the behavior is much harder. So early intervention with the right services, “such as speech therapy so the child can find a way to communicate” if they are in pain, sad, or happy is very important, she said.

Many of those diagnosed with autism also have sensory issues, and getting occupational therapy early can teach a child how to regulate the sensations they are feeling, she explained. A comprehensive behavioral assessment followed up with behavioral therapy can really change a child’s life, according to Nieves.

“When a child receives services early and appropriate to his/hers needs the child definitely can have a good and prospect life. Unfortunately in our community early intervention is not taken serious enough.”

Mining Through the Barriers, and the Risks

Next month, the California Journal of Health Promotion will publish a study by Emily Iland, president of the Autism Society of America, Los Angeles and a researcher at Cal State University, Northridge. Iland’s work focuses on the factors that impede Latina mothers from accessing services for their children with autism spectrum disorders.

While the Latino population in the United States is growing and the incidences of autism is on the rise, the number of Latino children identified with autism is not proportional to the Hispanic population, Iland writes in her study, Half a Chance is Not Enough: Latina Mothers of Children with Autism Struggle for Equity.

Figures from the US Department of Education indicate that Latino/Hispanic children with autism have half a chance (a risk ratio of 0.5) of being identified as Autistic and receiving services in their educational system, she writes.

Disadvantaged Spanish-speaking mothers are not bad parents, they just need information to become empowered, Iland told EGP.

Iland helped create Fiesta Educativa’s parent training program and says she has seen parents attend their first autism workshop when their child is 16. Language, behavioral and socialization that is not addressed through adequate therapies not only hurt a child’s ability to become independent and hold down a job, but they can also get caught up in the criminal system, she warns.

Parents tend to want to explain away behavior issues, like a child touching a stranger’s hair, but when that child becomes a teenager or adult and is traveling alone, touching a woman’s hair can be interpreted as having criminal intent, she said. As young adults, individuals diagnosed with Autism are also at risk of being taken advantage of by people with bad or criminal intentions because they may be naïve or misunderstand the consequences of their actions.

When a person with autism turns 22 or graduates from high school, they lose all their services provided by the school, Iland said. “When that ends, eligibility for adult services is discretionary… If you leave the educational program unready for life, you are out of luck.”

“Every parent’s worst fear is what will happen to my child when I’m gone,” Iland said. Culturally, Latino parents are also less willing to consider institutional placement, she said.

Fiesta Educativa’s Executive Director Irene Martinez says children with disabilities are sometimes more at risk than other kids to be bullied, and in some case, they become the bullies.

Behavior programs are key to helping a child, but the parent has to be informed and involved, Martinez said.

While it’s not true across the board for all Latinos, there are some autistic children who could be at risk of being in gangs, and that’s the case not just in East LA—it affects all cultures given certain socioeconomic factors, she said.

“It’s also related to self-esteem. They find their own self-esteem hanging out with gang members and things like that. Other times, parents just don’t know how to deal with it,” she said.

Felipe Hernandez, ELARC Chief of Consumer Services, says there have been some cases of regional center clients being involved in gangs, but they typically involve clients who have mild mental retardation and who come from households with long-time gang ties.

Some clients with mild mental retardation, or even higher functioning clients, have had chemical dependency issues, have been involved in criminal activity, such as car jacking, he told EGP.

While this is still rare, the regional center has seen the number of these types of cases rise over the last 10 to 15 years, he said.

ELARC addresses delinquency by offering supportive services that can take them in a different direction, he said.

Issues like these or teen pregnancy are not really an issue among girls because their parents tend to shelter them more, Hernandez said.

In LAUSD, students diagnosed with Autism don’t have higher disciplinary issues because their behavior is supported in their IEPS, according to Nancy Franklin, LAUSD special education administrator. However, there are a small number of children with autism in continuation schools, she said. There are 11,000 of students with an autism diagnosis in the district, according to Franklin.

In LA County juvenile detention facilities, about 500 out of the 2,300 in LA County juvenile detention facilities have IEPS, but only one has a diagnosis of autism, according to Margo Minecki, Public Information Officer for the Los Angeles County Office of Education

Parent advocate and host of the radio show “Special Ed For Busy Parents” Gloria Perez-Walker says Latino culture tends to be fatalistic in general, which doesn’t help parents advocate for their child with autism or disabilities in general.

“We also tend to think that disability happens to us because of previous life events, etc. I remember my mom telling the doctor who was diagnosing my son with autism at age 3 that I had never wanted kids when I was younger, as if I had somehow brought autism upon myself and my child,” Perez-Walker told EGP. And “I don’t feel it does much for me in the long run to be told that it’s a blessing, that God gave him to me for a reason, or that I am great because I am raising a child with autism. Of course I am! I am his mother! What I want as a Latina mother, and what a lot of my clients want, is more discourse about autism in our culture/families,” she said. I need to know more about “my child’s rights, and how to access and influence services and policy, and not more pandering to us in simplistic terms about our children who are different. That does us no good and leaves our children even further behind.”

Speaking at a parent conference on Autism in collaboration with Fiesta Educativa at the Mexican Consulate last month, the Mexican Consul in Los Angeles, David Figueroa, urged parents to seek information and advocate for their children diagnosed with the disorder.

“We have to break-down the fear, understand what Autism is, break-down the barriers to information, it is so important that we obtain that information,” Figueroa said in Spanish, to the predominately Spanish-speaking group.

“Unfortunately, sometimes in our Latin American cultures, there is always an aversion, or fear of facing difficult barriers … We must face reality and when we confront the reality we will be able to overcome the condition and the disadvantage that we might have,” he told parents.

The first part of this series focused on the issues that make it difficult for local monolingual Spanish-speaking parents to find information about autism and available services. Read part 1: SPECIAL REPORT: Latino Parents With Autistic Children Face Major Hurdles

Next week Part 3—Know Your Rights to Better Advocate for Your Autistic Child

This story was produced in collaboration with the USC Annenberg/California Endowment Journalism Fellowships.

Bell Garden’s Farmers Market Closure Will Hurt Community’s Access to Healthy Food

May 24, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

A student-powered revolution to enlighten and improve the health of an entire community will soon come to an end due to lack of funding, according to Bell Gardens school-site garden advisors.

In 2008, The Campaign for a Healthier Bell Gardens (CHBG) received a Community Clinic Initiative grant from the Tides Foundation and the California Endowment.

Funding ends in June and the nonprofit has been unable to secure another grant, according to Lani Cupchoy, project manager of the health initiative to reduce diabetes and teen pregnancy in the city.

Lea esta nota en Español: Mercado de Agricultores Estudiantil de Bell Gardens Pierde Financiación

On Saturday, Bell Gardens Intermediate School will hold the last of its monthly farmers markets.

The BGI Environmental Gardening Club was established 20 years ago for students at one school, but grant funding in recent years helped spread the club’s lessons on gardening and nutrition. Grant funding, however, has run out. (Photo by Lani Cupchoy)

The city of Bell Gardens received some negative publicity last year when the LA Times singled published a story comparing the city’s obesity rate to that of upscale Manhattan Beach. A low-income, predominantly Latino and immigrant community, Bell Gardens has the county’s highest childhood obesity rate at 36 percent, the article stated.

While the story should have served as a stronger indicator as to why programs like theirs should continue to receive funding, it might have had just the opposite effect, according to Cupchoy, because their program does not currently track changes to students’ body mass index, a measure used to determine if a child is overweight or obese.

“Here’s my argument: this is part of preventive health,” she said. “What the clinic is doing is so special… they are visionary, they are looking beyond the four traditional walls of medical practice, they are out there [in the community],” she said.

Cupchoy says 180 students across the Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) are receiving nutritional education through the program and over 5,000 people have attended the monthly farmers markets during the last five years. The program also has over 80 community partners and about 400 people at the farmers marker each month,
In April, Bell Gardens school-site gardens were filmed for a documentary narrated by Cupchoy, which is scheduled to air sometime this summer. Cupchoy said the documentary is bitter sweet because it is the culmination of the school-site gardening program which lost its funding to keep going.

The campaign also recently published a cookbook filled with healthy recipes from students in the program.

“There are a lot of unhealthy food outlets in the 2.5-mile city, residents don’t have a lot of options. There is no Wholefoods or Trader Joe’s, but they can go to a school-site farmers market to get healthy, low-cost food. Twenty-dollars can go far…” Cupchoy said.

In the last four years, The Campaign for a Healthier Bell Gardens has sponsored monthly or quarterly farmers markets at local schools where students share their harvest and enthusiasm for healthy living with the community. They also quadrupled the number of school-site gardens in the MUSD.

Twelve-year-old Jenny Jauregui joined the Bell Gardens Intermediate (BGI) Environmental Garden Club at the beginning of this school year. Last fall, the hesitant, sweet-sounding seventh-grader got more involved in the operation of her school’s farmers markets. “I didn’t know anything about gardening, they gave me knowledge, [showed me] how to be responsible… and they taught me to not be shy,” she said on Monday.

Jauregui says she’s been exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables and is now stepping out of her comfort zone to push her fellow students, parents and community members to try them.

“My friends are eating healthier, before [joining the club] they used to eat more junk food, like chips, now I rarely see them eating junk food,” she said. “At lunch, instead of getting cookies and treats, they don’t grab them. They get a cup of fruit, or cut carrots and broccoli instead.”

Jauregui’s mother, whose first name is also Jenny, says her daughter has been learning how enjoy a healthier lifestyle, in addition to overcoming her shyness.

“She’s happy, she’s eating healthier, she’s participating in the kitchen, she likes to cook and is trying all the vegetables they give her,” the mother said.

Mother and daughter are sad to see the monthly farmers markets come to such an abrupt end.

But without funding, the once monthly farmers markets could be reduced to just once a year, and other school-site gardening programs could be cut.

The goal to make Bell Gardens the first city with gardens at each of its public schools is also at risk. Three of the city’s seven public schools —Cesar Chavez Elementary, Suva Elementary and Suva Intermediate School— do not have a school-site garden, Cupchoy said.

Garfield Elementary, Bell Gardens Elementary, Bell Gardens Intermediate and Bell Gardens High School currently have gardens and either an Environmental Gardening Club or a class on the topic.

Each school has it’s own weekly mini farmers market, and they join BGI’s quarterly farmers market which is open to the public, according to Cupchoy.

Wilcox Elementary in Montebello, also an MUSD school, also benefited from the 2008 grant. In addition, BGI’s Environmntal Gardening Club also helped open gardens in the Lynwood Unified School District and provided consultation on a garden project in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Cupchoy said.

John Garza and Eva Cupchoy (Lani’s mother), both retired BGI teachers, founded the Environmental Gardening Club 20 years ago. They are still constant figures at the student run farmers markets.

Besides Downey, Bell Gardens is the only southeast city that has a farmers market, Eva Cupchoy notes.

“We have to contribute [to the fight against] this monster that is diabetes and obesity. The kids are doing something in Bell Gardens to contribute to that… Those are kids teaching adults in the community and educating parents about growing vegetables and selling it to community,” she said.

But without funding, their hands are tied, she said. “No matter how much ganas (motivation) we have, without money we can do nothing,” she said.

Garza says he hopes each school will continue their gardening programs when the funding runs out, but he knows the community-wide emphasis is compromised without grant funding.

Donations are being accepted to keep help the farmers markets going, and can be mailed to The Campaign for a Healthier Bell Gardens’ parent organization: Family Heath Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles Inc., 6501 S. Garfield Ave, Bell Gardens, CA 90201. For more information call (562) 776-5001.

Another Interim Montebello City Administrator Resigns

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Montebello has lost another city administrator.

Keith Breskin, who took the position not more than two months ago, resigned last week, becoming the third administrator to resign abruptly in the last two years.

Finance Director Francesca Tucker-Schuyler is now serving as interim city administrator, with no change in compensation. She is taking over administrator duties just as the city is putting together its budget for next year.

Read this story IN ENGLISH: Otro Administrador Interino Renuncia en Montebello

Over the next five years the city’s deficit could snowball to $17.3 million, with the upcoming year’s deficit projected at $3 million, staff said recently. A definitive plan has yet to be announced for how to tackle the deficit, though Breskin had been tasked with bringing forward a proposal by May 31.

His resignation letter dated May 16 states he is leaving his post immediately, but did not detail why. “It has been an honor to serve the Montebello community. I wish everyone well in working towards the betterment of the City in the upcoming years,” he wrote.

Breskin had been serving as the assistant interim city administrator before being tapped for the top post after a formal search failed to produce a permanent city administrator. The city has gone through six administrators since 2009, and has twice attempted to recruit a permanent administrator from outside the city.

Just three of the five council members were at a May 16 special meeting where the employment of an interim city administrator and the release of a public employee were discussed in closed session. Breskin’s resignation and the appointment of Tucker-Schuyler were announced following the meeting.

Mayor Frank Gomez and Councilman Jack Hadjinian were not at the meeting, but said they had informed the city ahead of time that they were unavailable.

Gomez believes Breskin was forced to resign after delivering bad financial news to staff and the council, and called the decision to accept his resignation a “mistake.”

“From what I heard, there were potential large cuts to the parks and recreation department, and that did not sit well with the majority council. There’s not that many places we can cut … cutting police and fire is not something the city council supports,” said Gomez, whose recent proposal to study contracting out services to the county fire department was rejected by the council.

Hadjinian said the resignation came as a surprise to him. He had been anticipating Breskin’s budget proposal, and the decision to take up Breskin’s resignation was a step back. “Francesca understands finance very well, but I don’t know how she’s going to do as city administrator. She’s never served in this capacity before,” he said.

According to Hadjinian, the city council has been at odds over what they want in a city administrator and could not narrow the short list of candidates during the last round of interviews held in April.

LA Councilmen Weigh In On County Assessor Investigation

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Just one day after an arrest was made in a growing corruption probe of the Los Angeles’ County Assessor’s Office, two Los Angeles City Council members on Tuesday called for new assessments of properties that may have had their values lowered inappropriately by that office.

Citing a potential loss in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Councilmen Dennis Zine and Paul Krekorian co-sponsored a motion asking the county Board of Supervisors to order a re-assessment of properties that received a 20 percent or greater reduction in their property taxes since December 2010. The councilmen also urged Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez to temporarily step aside during the investigation.

A former appraiser with the Assessor’s Office was arrested Monday for allegedly falsifying documents and lowering property values by about $172 million in exchange for campaign contributions by property owners to County Assessor John Noguez.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Scott Schenter, 49, was charged last week with 60 felony counts — 30 counts of falsifying accounts and 30 counts of falsifying records. He was arrested in Beaverton, Ore., and was being held in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

Schenter worked for the Assessor’s Office from 1988 to 2011 and allegedly slashed the values — and as a result the property tax bills — of multimillion-dollar homes, condominiums and businesses in Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, according to prosecutors. He allegedly secured political contributions for Noguez from the affected home and business owners.

Zine said property tax revenue accounts for about one-fifth of the money the city uses for basic services like public safety, parks, libraries and street repairs.
“This money is essential in funding these critical city services,” Zine said.

He cited one instance in which a real estate developer contributed to Noguez’s 2010 campaign and subsequently had his property assessed at $11.5 million — after purchasing the property for $21.5 million. The assessment resulted in a $100,000 reduction in property taxes and $30,000 drop in city revenues.

“Two years ago I supported John Noguez in his campaign for L.A. County Assessor,” Zine said. “Today, I’m standing with my colleague Paul Krekorian and asking John Noguez to do the right thing and temporarily vacate the office, permitting someone else to run that department.”

Krekorian said lost property tax revenue from Schenter’s property assessment reductions might have cost the city $500,000 in lost revenues to the city.

“At a time like this, more than any other, we can’t afford to let a single penny of tax revenue go uncollected for inappropriate reasons,” Krekorian said.

The resolution asks the Board of Supervisors to order the independent assessment. The resolution will go to the City Council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee for approval, before heading to the full City Council.

EGP Ballot Recommendations – Tuesday, June 5 2012 Election

May 24, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Proposition 14 ‘Top Two’ Voting Change Takes Place in June
As a result of Proposition 14 that was approved by voters in 2010 and went into effect in 2011, party affiliation no longer applies in the primary elections for Congressional and state candidates, namely the U.S. Senate and Congress, State Senate, State Assembly, and the Statewide Constitutional Offices (Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Controller and Board of Equalization). Voters can now vote for a candidate outside of their party, and once shutout undeclared voters can now vote in the primary election.

Voters can still only vote for one candidate, with the difference being that the top candidate from each party will no longer automatically face off in the general election. Now, the top two vote getters overall will move on to the general election, which may result in candidates from the same party going up going against each other in the general election or run-off.

Vote Obama for President
While it may seem there is little reason to vote in this year’s Presidential Primary, given that both the Republican and Democratic nominees seems a foregone conclusion —Barack Obama is still the Democrat’s choice and Mitt Romney has tied up the Republication nomination — we nonetheless believe it is still important to cast a vote in the race on June 5, and for this newspaper to make an endorsement.

Barack Obama had our endorsement last time around, and we believe he deserves another term. While we disagree with the president on many issues, and have watched in disappointment his handling of some of the country’s issues, including the financial industry debacle, we nonetheless want him to stick around and complete one of the most important efforts he has taken on: health care reform. It is time that for all American to have access to comprehensive and affordable health care that cannot be cancelled.
Nothing should be more important to a country than the welfare of its people, and that includes health care.

We do not buy into the argument of the president’s opponents that universal health care is a socialist idea, especially given that Social Security and Medicare are for all intents and purposes social programs. We think a majority of Americans would object to doing away with those programs.

Yes, the system is sure to have some flaws, but so does our current system, which leaves millions uninsured, and without access to health care unless it’s in one of our already overcrowded emergency rooms.

For that reason alone, we say vote for Barack Obama.

Diana Feinstein for US Senator
Diane Feinstein is one of the most respected members of the U.S. Senate, not to mention one of it highest ranking members. She has shown an unflinching dedication both to the needs of Californians, and the nation a whole.

More than ever, Americans are coming to the realization that we need leaders who have common sense, and who are willing to reach across the aisle to work with the other party. Feinstein has supported common sense fixes to our immigration issues, and our health care problems. Therefore, she has our endorsement.

United States Representatives
Judy Chu for the 27th District.
Dr. Chu serves on the House Education and Labor Committee, and House Judiciary Committee, and is a member of the House Small Business Committee. Chu has consistently backed positions that are important to Californian workers, while still pushing an agenda to help small businesses recover for the ongoing tough economy. She deserves your vote.

Grace Napolitano for the 32nd District. Napolitano continues to be a leader on water issues that are so important to our state. She has been a vocal defender of the need for more mental health services for our youth, and services for our veterans, and has earned our endorsement.

Xavier Beccera in 34th District. Not only is Becerra one of the highest ranking Latino in Congress, he is also one of the highest ranking members from California. Given the current economy and political fighting on the Hill, his seniority status is important to California’s access to service and federal funds. He also consistently supports efforts to bring about immigration reform, access to comprehensive health care, and programs to help small business owners. We recommend a vote for Becerra,

Lucille Roybal-Allard in the 40th District.
Community activist David Sanchez should be commended for his years of work in the local community, as well as his valiant attempt to win the seat long held by Roybal-Allard. We believe, however, that Roybal-Allard has done an exemplary job of representing her constituents and has worked hard to make sure that federal resources flow back to our community. Her seniority is an asset to all of us, especially during these time of political polarization. We endorse Roybal-Allard.

California State Senate
Ricardo Lara in District 33.
Lara is running unopposed, but still earns our endorsement.

California State Assembly
Edwin Chau in the 49th District.
For years we have watched Chau serve as a thoughtful member of the Montebello Unified School District. He has supported sensible management of the district, while still promoting best practices for student achievement. We believe he will bring this same sensibility to the assembly, and he therefore has our endorsement.

Arturo Chavez in the 51st District. While we think that Luis Lopez has some excellent qualities and ideas about health care, in our view Arturo Chavez is better versed and prepared to deal with the full spectrum of issues facing constituents in this district. There will be no on the job training period for Chavez, who has a wealth of experience on legislative issues. Chavez impressed us with the depth of his knowledge on issues from transportation, to jobs, to healthcare and education. And as a former business owner, he understands that government doesn’t always have the answers, and can be a detriment to a business’ survival.  Vote for Chavez.

John Perez in the 53rd District. For the most part, Assembly Speaker John Perez’s term in office has been good for California. We do not agree with him on every issue, particularly when it comes to some of his proposals to raise taxes, but we do agree in theory that the state’s middle class wage earners need more support when it comes to education. Perez receives our endorsement for another term in Sacramento.

Los Angeles County District Attorney
Carmen Trutanich is our choice for County District Attorney.
As Los Angeles City Attorney, Trutanich has shown that he not only understands the problems of residents on the city’s west side, but has made an effort to have a meaningful presence on the eastside at well. He appears to be open to discuss with constituents and stakeholders how prosecutor assignments should be made, and the investigative priorities for his office. We are not talking about pandering to the whims of the public, but about the need to set priorities in a time of limited resources. Vote for Trutanich.

CARTOON: Gas Oil Subsidies

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Feeding Obesity

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Attention foodies: There’s a new craze in Cuisine World, and it’s going 180 degrees in the opposite direction from the much-publicized healthy-eating movement.

It has nothing to do with dressing locally sourced beets and arugula with artisan balsamic vinegar. We’re talking a big gooey Pizza Hut pepperoni pie with a long looping hot dog stuffed right into the crust around the entire circumference.

Hey, some might see the growing global problem of obesity as a crisis, but YUM! Brands, Inc., the conglomerate that owns Pizza Hut, sees it as a money-making opportunity.

That’s why the worldwide pizza peddler has introduced another belt-buster ringed by a dozen mini cheeseburgers. Sadly, you can only order one if you travel to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, or the other Middle Eastern countries where Pizza Hut operates.

Not to be outdone, Burger King is test-marketing a stunning advance in fusion cuisine at one of its Nashville outlets. It marries two essential food groups together: ice cream and pork. Yes, America, get ready for the Bacon Sundae. It’s topped off with caramel and chocolate syrup.

The pioneering innovator in obesity grub, however, comes from the place where anything goes, and “too much” is never enough: Las Vegas. Many top chefs have opened four-star restaurants along the Las Vegas strip, but none can outstrip a local diner when it comes to extravagant excess. The “Heart Attack Grill” takes pride in deep-fried, and its menu is filled with unhealthy eats. Renowned for its Quadruple Bypass Burger, Butter Fat Shakes, and Flatliner Fries cooked in pure lard, the grill brags that it serves food with “Taste Worth Dying For.”

Indeed, two diners have collapsed so far this year while pounding down Bypass Burgers. To add to the charm, customers weighing over 350 pounds can eat for free.

So dig in, and bon appetite.

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

ELAC Space Shows Art That’s Here Today

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

East Los Angeles College artist-in-residence Farrah Karapetian crouches down as she adjusts her model’s jeans, rolling it up to reveal a pair of bright red sneakers. She goes around to the rest of the models and rearranges their riot shields and helmets. One model still wears around his neck a pair of big headphones he was using to listen to his iPod.

Soon, Karapetian says, these hoodied college students will look just like riot police towering over protesters. For the final touch, Karapetian coaches her models on how to stand upright, with their chests puffed out and shoulders rolled back.

When Karapetian, a photographer who captures only the silhouettes of her models using a special technique called “photogramming,” is done with them, they will be transformed, their red sneakers and rolled up jeans resembling big heavy boots; they are no longer college students but riot police.

Karapetian sets up the models for a series of photogram portraits depicting scenes of social unrest. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

This week, Karapetian’s new exhibit, “Los Angeles Times” opens at HOY SPACE, an experimental room at ELAC’s Vincent Price Museum where artists are invited to create installations from scratch. They have the freedom to do anything they want, even punch a hole through the wall, says Karen Rapp, the museum’s director.

Prior to Karepetian, artists filled the venue with everything from a painted memorial using spirals to denote soldiers and civilians killed in the Iraq war; to a menagerie of random, throwaway objects that come together to create new meanings and order.

Karapetian enlisted the help of ELAC students for her project. She held two workshops with the students, one to create the pieces for her exhibit, and another to help the students create their own photograms.

Karapetian’s exhibit at ELAC’s experimental studio, HOY SPACE.

She came to ELAC wanting to make something that would “describe the community it was made in, involve the community in its production, and be situated in that community when it is installed,” Karapetian told EGP.

She sought to recreate protests in East Los Angeles. Many of the students who attended her workshop, however, had never participated in a protest, but a slideshow of photographs from past protests resonated with them, she said, especially those from the 1970 Chicano Moratorium.

But the subject matter was not just about the past for many of the students, whose campus last fall was the site of an Occupy ELAC encampment. The spirit of protest that came out of the recent Occupy movements around the country and the uprisings around the world, still hangs in the air and is very much alive in the students’ minds.

Karapetian said her process is part of the art she is making. “If I do this at any number of schools, I will learn about the issues that concern pockets of young people in diverse communities as much as they will learn about the role of social unrest in effecting political and artistic change,” she told EGP. She hopes to continue this project at other college campuses around the country.

The technique that Karapetian uses has an element of unpredictability. She does not use a traditional camera, but rather turns a whole room into one, to capture her images and develop them into photograms. Everything that Karapetian and her models do is done in complete darkness. As she unrolls and cuts large sheets of photographic paper, hangs them on the wall and instructs her models on how to pose in front of them, they shuffle carefully across the room, count their steps and call out to each other.

In between actual art-making, the students while away the time telling funny stories about their trips to a haunted amusement park, their fear of the dark, and ultimately, their increased freedom to express themselves and to socialize when the lights are off.

Karapetian enjoys using the abstract format of the photogram’s silhouettes, which emphasizes the language and vocabulary of what she is trying to capture. The aura of a riot police officer is easily evoked with a shift in stance and the adoption of just a few props like riot shields, batons and helmets. The effect is so powerful, even skinny, unthreatening college students will find themselves feeling like a riot cop, as some of the students in her workshop remarked.

“Los Angeles Times” runs through Aug. 17 at HOY SPACE, located at East Los Angeles College, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA 91754. An artist led walkthrough of the exhibit is being planned.

Primer Narcocorrido Tiene Sus Raíces en EE.UU., Dice Profesor

May 24, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

La inmigración ha convertido a EE.UU. en uno de los “laboratorios más importantes de mexicanidad”, y como muestra están los narcocorridos, que surgen y se popularizan en este país, según el profesor Juan Carlos Ramírez-Pimienta, de la Universidad Estatal de San Diego.

Autor del libro “Cantar a los narcos: voces y versos del narcocorrido” (Editorial Planeta-Temas de Hoy), Ramírez-Pimienta dijo a Efe que de acuerdo con su investigación, el antecedente más temprano del narcocorrido, si se define el género como una historia sobre un narcotraficante, es un tema grabado en El Paso, Texas, en 1931.

La canción “El Pablote” cuenta la historia de Pablo, considerado el Rey de la Morfina, compuesto e interpretado por José Rosales.

Si se considera al narcocorrido como historias que hablan del tráfico de drogas, entonces “Por morfina y cocaína”, de Manuel Cuellar Valdez, grabado en 1934 en San Antonio, Texas, sería el más antiguo.

En cualquier caso, dijo el académico, la temprana aparición de estos temas confirma la importancia de EE.UU en el surgimiento de los narcocorridos.

Estas corrientes se manifiestan actualmente en el llamado “movimiento alterado”, que también tiene su origen en EE.UU y que celebra el uso excesivo de la violencia.

“Son narcocorridos con diferente etiqueta. El narcocorrido hace la crónica del narcotráfico que ni el gobierno ni los medios son capaces de hacer. Entre más violenta es esta guerra, más violento el narcocorrido”, indicó el especialista.

Ramírez-Pimienta acepta las críticas de que el narcocorrido hace apología de la violencia, sin embargo, apunta, es mucho más que eso, porque “nos ayudan a explicar lo que pasa y a veces el porqué”.

Para entender este género, dijo, es importante pensar no sólo en el lugar donde se generan los hechos narrados, sino dónde se escucha.

“Es mucho más cómodo y seguro escuchar un narcocorrido en EE.UU, donde no tienes que preocuparte por las consecuencias, y eso ayuda a explicar su popularidad”, indicó.

El mismo tema significa cosas diferentes si se escucha en la sierra, donde la única fuente de empleo es el narcotráfico y los narcos construyen mansiones, que en una ciudad de la frontera donde hay alta criminalidad y drogadicción, o en un suburbio de EE.UU, dijo el académico.

Para Ramírez-Pimentel, el universo del narcocorrido es muy extenso, con temas que ayudan a explicar qué pasó en ciertas épocas y lugares, y los cuales, si se cotejan con documentos oficiales, ayudan a esclarecer casos como los de la aparición de cuerpos sin cabeza tirados en lugares públicos.

“Los hay mucho mejores unos que otros. Cuando pasen los años, en forma similar a poemas, novelas o libros de filosofía, el tiempo va a decantar cuáles fueron los mejores intérpretes y compositores”, consideró.

En EE.UU también actúan como una narrativa para fortalecer a este grupo étnico que se percibe a sí mismo como vulnerable y desprotegido, señaló el especialista, para el cual tiene mucho eco escuchar durante tres minutos la historia de “un mexicano despiadado y fuerte”.

“En este género también hay convenciones. El protagonista es presentado como valiente y noble. No hay historias que digan que mató a mujeres embarazadas y a niños por gusto. Se busca que la gente se identifique con él, como jefe y amigo”, indicó.

Históricamente, la canción más importante de este género sigue siendo “Contrabando y traición”, de Los Tigres del Norte, dijo Ramírez-Pimentel, cuya trama “se inicia en la mera frontera con las líneas ‘Salieron de San Ysidro, procedentes de Tijuana’ y que fue grabada por primera vez en 1973”.

Los Tigres del Norte, dijo el académico, pueden ser considerados como un grupo “chicano”, en el sentido de que encarnan la experiencia mexicana en EE.UU, pues radican desde 1969 en Los Ángeles, aunque se presenten a sí mismos como mexicanos, pero en una versión intensificada.

En EE.UU la mexicanidad se hiperboliza. Pocos lugares tan mexicanos como el este de Los Ángeles, donde se preserva una mexicanidad que en muchas partes de México ya no existe. Hay un elemento de nostalgia y otro de innovación”, dijo el autor que en su blog narcocorrido.wordpress.com profundiza sobre este tema.

Memorial Day Observances

May 24, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

10th Annual Cypress Park Veterans Memorial
Saturday, May 26, 10:30am.
Skydivers will deliver new flags to honor Cypress Park’s honored war dead and MIAs at this event is organized by the Friends of Cypress Park Community Improvement Association and sponsored by Greater Cypress Park Neighborhood Council.

Bob Archuleta of the Los Angeles County Commission of Military Veteran’s Affairs will be the MC. Speakers include Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed P. Reyes and other city and county leaders. Prayers will be offered by leaders of Divine Savior Catholic Church leaders, members of the Cypress Park “Friends” group will deliver remembrances.
Local teen singer Genesee Hall will perform the national anthem, and ROTC from Franklin and Lincoln Heights high schools will supply honor guard contingents.

The memorial event is open to all and will include a free luncheon for veterans and their families and friends at the Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Cypress Park Veterans

Memorial is located at the intersection of Cypress Avenue and Pepper Avenue. Rio de Los Angeles State Park is located at 1900 San Fernando Road (L.A. 90065; enter off of Macon Street).  For more information, call (323) 226-1682.

East Los Angeles’ 65th Annual Memorial Day Observance, 24-Hour Vigil At Cinco Puntos
A 24-hour patriotic vigil begins 10am, Sunday, May 27 and concludes 10am, Monday, May 28; followed by service at 10am, Monday, May 28. The program is presented by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4696, American Legion Post 804, Sons of The Legion Post 804, Hispanic Airborne Assoc., American GI Forum, CSM Ray Verdugo 82nd Airborne, Ladies Auxiliary Post 804/Post 4696, and Marine Corp League DET. 1347. For more information or to volunteer, contact Tony Zapata (323) 261-8533, or Danny Hernandez (323) 881-6565. Cinco Puntos is located at the intersection of Lorena, Indiana, and Cesar Chavez in East Los Angeles.

Highland Park Memorial Day Celebration
Monday, May 28th, 11am – 12:30pm.
The American Legion invites veterans, family, friends, and neighbors to remember all who have served and sacrificed for our nation. For more information, contact Highland Park’s American Legion at (323) 254-5646.  Veterans Memorial, York Blvd & Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90042.

Observances will happen in Highland Park, Cypress Park, East Los Angeles, Monterey Park, and Montebello (pictured). (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Montebello Memorial Day Program
Monday, May 28th, 11am-12pm.
Montebello mayor and members of veterans groups will remember those who have fallen while serving the country. American Legion Post 272 will assist with posting the colors. For more information contact the city of Montebello at (323) 887-4540. The Veterans Memorial is located at Montebello City Park, 1300 W. Whittier Blvd., Montebello, CA 90640.

Monterey Park Memorial Day Ceremony
Monday, May 28, 10am.
The ceremony will feature speeches, patriotic music, and static military displays in remembrance of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. American Legion Post #397 will host the event. For more information, please call 626-571-9211 or 626-307-1388.  Ceremoney takes place at Monterey Park City Hall front lawn, 320 W. Newmark Ave., Monterey Park, CA 91754.

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