Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa approved a $50,000 reward on Monday for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for the hit-and-run death of a man in Highland Park.
Villaraigosa’s signing of the reward came the same day as the Los Angeles Times published a front-page story on the lack of attention the death of Agapito Gaspar Nicolas received compared to the death of USC student Adrianna Bachan the same day.
The City Council had approved the reward in the Nicolas case, but it had sat on Villaraigosa’s desk for a week waiting for his signature.
Bachan’s death received heavy media attention and a reward that grew to $235,000. The Los Angeles Police Department assigned 20 detectives to the case and a suspect was arrested 4 1/2 days after her death March 29. One detective was assigned to the Nicolas case. The only information he received from two witnesses was that they believed a silver Volkswagen Jetta was the car involved.
Renovations are being made to the baseball field at the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club in Lincoln Heights, paid for by government and private funding, Dodger officials announced Sunday. A new grass infield, warning track, chain-link backstop, dugouts, and side fencing will be installed at the field at 2635 Pasadena Ave.
The field will be ready in September.
Funding for the renovations will be provided by the city of Los Angeles, Proposition K funds, the Dodgers Dream Foundation, LA for Kids, Bank of America, the office of Councilman Ed P. Reyes and anonymous private donors. The total cost of the project is $900,000.
Occidental College flew its flag at half-staff on Monday to honor former congressman and Occidental alumnus Jack Kemp, who died of cancer Saturday at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 73.
Kemp graduated from Occidental College in 1957, according to the school.
Kemp announced he had been diagnosed with cancer in January, and as recently as a couple of weeks ago went out to lunch with some old Occidental friends, according to the school.
He met his wife, Joanne Main, at Occidental. She survives, along with children Jeff, Jennifer, Judith, and Jimmy, and 17 grandchildren.
A man was shot in the neck in an apparent gang-related attack on May 2, police said. The man, about 20 years old, was near Cypress Avenue and Division Street around 1:30 p.m. when two male suspects walked up to him, and one of them opened fire, Los Angeles police Officer Jason Lee of Media Relations said. The victim was taken to a hospital, but his name and condition were unavailable.
A group of 50 teenage actors and writers, under the guidance of playwright Virginia Grise, present “behind barbed wire,” an original theatrical production at Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights.
This hard-hitting exploration of issues surrounding immigration in America is the 19th annual production from CalArts Community Arts Partnership’s (CAP) acclaimed theater program at Plaza de la Raza.
“Speaking in a chorus and as individuals, the interwoven stories become a kind of music,” said Grise. “Young people have powerful stories to tell us and are often ignored,” said Grise.
During the creation of “behind barbed wire,” students traveled south of San Diego to a spot where divided families meet to communicate through the U.S./Mexico border fence. There, the students experienced the human face of today’s immigration debate, according to a press statement publicizing the production.
The students took such observations back to the theater space at Plaza de la Raza and applied them to the writing and theater exercises that created “behind barbed wire,” said program organizers.
Performances are being held on weekends through May 24 at either the Margo Albert Theater, Plaza de la Raza, located at 3540 Mission Road in the Lincoln Heights are of Los Angeles, or at REDCAT, located at 631 W. 2nd Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Admission is free, but reservations are strongly recommended, call Plaza de la Raza at (323) 223-2475.
Medical experts at the White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights are telling the Hispanic community that there is no need to panic over fears related to the spread of the H1N1 Flu, also known as the Swine Flu.
Yes, there is reason to be concerned, but people should know that in most cases, “Illness from this flu has been mild to moderate in the U.S., and most people have recovered on their own,” said Brian Johnston, MD, medical director of the emergency department at White Memorial Medical Center.
Dr. Johnston offers these tips for dealing with the H1N1 flu virus:
People with mild illnesses should not go to emergency rooms or hospitals for treatment; this will keep hospitals and emergency rooms free to treat serious illnesses.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommends testing for the H1N1 flu virus only for people experiencing severe illness (usually hospitalized patients), or those with flu-like symptoms and known exposure to a confirmed case of the H1N1 virus. This includes people who have had direct contact with someone confirmed with the H1N1 flu, or someone who has traveled within the last 7 days to an area with confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu virus (i.e. Mexico).
Seek medical care if you experience any of these more severe symptoms:
—If flu-like symptoms do not get better after a few days or become worse or if a fever with rash develops;
—If the child experiences fast breathing or have trouble breathing or if skin develops a bluish color;
—If the child is not able to drink enough fluids and becomes dehydrated or if the child can’t seem to wake up, interact or is confused or disoriented.
—If you have difficulty breathing or experience shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen;
—If you experience sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting.
Additionally, Dr. Johnston said, “The best way to avoid getting the flu does not include wearing a mask, or special cleaning beyond what you would normally do. Instead, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, cover your cough, and stay home if you’re sick.”
Osteoporosis – a disease that causes bones to become fragile and break – is a real threat for more than 44 million Americans, or 55 percent of those over the age of 50, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. While the disease typically affects older Americans, it can strike at any age.
May is national osteoporosis awareness and prevention month. In recognition of this timely awareness month, Kent State University College of Nursing professors Dr. Peggy Doheny and Dr. Carol Sedlak – who have conducted extensive osteoporosis research –share risk factors, symptoms and preventative tips to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and low bone mass.
While everyone is at risk for osteoporosis, certain individuals and lifestyles are more susceptible to the disease than others. These risk factors include:
—Having a family history of osteoporosis
—Experiencing estrogen deficiency as a result of menopause
—Maintaining an inactive life style
—Having a low calcium diet
—Having specific medical conditions such as anorexia nervosa, hyperthyroid or inflammatory bowel disease
While women experience osteoporosis more often, two million men have it and 12 million are at risk. “In fact, men 50 years of age and older have a higher risk of a fracture from osteoporosis than developing prostate cancer,” says Dr. Doheny.
“If someone is at risk for osteoporosis, they should talk with their healthcare professional about getting a bone density test,” said Doheny. “While Medicare will cover a bone density test scan at age 65 for women and 70 for men, this is often too late. In our recent research, we found 58 percent of postmenopausal women ages 50-65 who participated in the study had experienced significant bone loss and about 50 percent of men 50 years old and younger had experienced compromised bone density.”
Osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease because 75 percent of people with the disease are not aware they have it. In fact, symptoms are not present until you break or fracture a bone. “People do not realize a bone fracture or break is actually a bone attack,” said Dr. Doheny.
Prevention for osteoporosis starts at a young age by taking enough calcium and vitamin D to build strong bones. About the age of 20, the average woman has acquired approximately 98 percent of her skeletal mass.
“This is precisely why it is important to bank the bone when you are young,” says Dr. Doheny. “You cannot increase your bone density once you lose it; however, you can maintain the bone density you have when you get older by taking calcium and vitamin D and getting about 30 minutes of exercise a day.”
Osteoporosis is preventable. Ways to prevent osteoporosis include:
—Increase dietary calcium (1200mg over the age 50) and vitamin D3 (1,000 IU)
—Exercise, including weight bearing activity (30 minutes 5 times/week), resistive exercises (2-3 times/week), balance exercises (daily)
—Do not smoke
—Request a bone density test from your healthcare professional
New antidepressants might be no more effective than the best existing drugs, according to two new systematic reviews that compared 12 commonly used medications.
“Patients are usually encouraged to take the newest medication,” said lead author Andrea Cipriani, M.D., of the University of Verona, in Italy. “But it’s better to have an old treatment that has been proved with many patients and many years in the market.”
The reviews suggest that sertraline — sold under the brand name Zoloft since 1991— could be the best initial choice of antidepressant in people with acute major depression. The generic formulation produced the best balance of effectiveness, tolerability and purchase price, the authors say.
Patients also did well on one of the newest antidepressants, escitalopram (Lexapro), but it is not yet available in lower-cost generic form. The authors note that comprehensive economic studies are necessary to evaluate overall cost-effectiveness of various treatments.
Cipriani said that the review recommendations are for new episodes of depression. “If a patient is taking another drug and doing well, we are not saying he has to change.”
The reviews appear in the most recent issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.
Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.
Depression is the fourth-leading cause of disease burden worldwide and antidepressant drugs are now the mainstay of treatment for moderate to severe cases.
The aim of the two reviews was to compare the benefits and side effects of sertraline and escitalopram, respectively, with those of other antidepressants during the first six to 12 weeks of treatment.
Cipriani noted that all of the included studies compared one drug against another — not to a placebo — so the results reveal not the absolute effect, but rather the relative advantages and disadvantages of various medications.
In addition, these reviews rely on summary data from each study, rather than individual patient data. Future studies that go into greater detail can help identify the best medications for various subgroups of patients such as men vs. women, teens vs. adults and so on.
For sertraline, the reviewers included 59 randomized controlled trials totaling about 10,000 participants. Sertraline proved more effective than fluoxetine (Prozac), but less effective than mirtazapine (Remeron). In terms of side effects, bupropion (Wellbutrin) was easier to tolerate than sertraline, while the latter outscored amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Tofranil), paroxetine (Paxil) and mirtazapine (Remeron).
For escitalopram, the reviewers included 22 randomized controlled trials totaling about 4,000 participants. Few statistically significant differences appeared in this review, although escitalopram was more effective than citalopram (Celexa) and fluoxetine (Prozac) and had fewer side effects than duloxetine (Cymbalta). The drug manufacturer sponsored most of the studies in this review, so there may be biases in favor of escitalopram.
Rather than seeking genuine advances in treatment, the review authors say, some pharmaceutical companies seem to be introducing close chemical cousins of generic medications. By gaining patent protection for the “new” drug, a company can market it as a higher-priced brand name product.
Sponsorship bias is a recurring concern in trials of virtually all new medications. In the Cochrane reviews themselves, one of the co-authors has received research funds and speaking fees from the companies Asahi Kasei, Astellas, Dai-Nippon Sumitomo, Eisai, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Kyowa Hakko, Meiji, Nikken Kagaku, Organon, Otsuka, Pfizer and Yoshitomi. The Japanese Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare have also funded some of his research.
However, the co-authors of these Cochrane reviews also published a recent study in The Lancet that was free of any potential funding bias. The study also used a more complex statistical method to analyze data from 117 randomized controlled trials involving 25,928 participants.
The findings support the Cochrane reviews, Cipriani said, with sertraline and escitalopram ranking as the best treatments.
“Such findings have enormous implications,” said Sagar Parikh, M.D., of the University of Toronto, in a commentary published along with The Lancet study. “For the clinician, prudent engagement of the patient in treatment ideally involves giving the patient a choice.… A new gold standard of reliable information has been compiled for patients to review.”
In early studies, new medical treatments are typically compared to sham treatments. Once the effectiveness of certain approaches is well established, new options must be judged against the best existing treatments.
Cipriani argued that this time has come for antidepressants, and that sertraline is the drug to beat. “We need new treatments in psychiatry, but they have to be proved better than other treatments,” he said. “We should be comparing new drugs to the best available existing drugs.”
State Senator Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), a contender for the 32nd District congressional seat left vacant by Hilda Solis, received endorsement from the city of South Pasadena on Apr. 17 for his proposed bill SB 545 that would rule out a surface highway option and ensure a tunnel option to close the gap between Route 710 and the I-210.
The South Pasadena City Council voted to support SB 545, making it the first time that the city and the city of Alhambra are in agreement over the extension. In a statement released by Sen. Cedillo’s office, it states that “it also helps bring to a close costly legal proceedings brought on by South Pasadena including multiple federal lawsuits and a 25-year-old federal injunction.”
“For more than 50 years, Caltrans has proposed a freeway route that imposes unacceptable impacts on the City of South Pasadena and neighboring cities. Senator Cedillo’s extensive work to bring the parties together and eliminate the harmful surface option is historic and should be commended,” said South Pasadena Mayor David Sifuentes.
“I’m thankful for South Pasadena City Council’s help in resolving the long-standing dispute over a surface route. Each of the impacted cities have worked in good faith to come to consensus on this and move forward with a solution that benefits the entire region,” said Sen. Cedillo.
Namoch Sokhom has lots of stories about his small business-owner clients, and these days, none of them are good.
“We have a truck driver who used home equity to finance his business. Then gas prices went up. So every trip he ran, he lost money,” said Sokhom, director of the small business unit at PACE Business Development Center in Los Angeles. “So, he had to stop his trucking, and his home eventually went into foreclosure.”
Sokhom said PACE tried to help him renegotiate the loan with the bank, but couldn’t. “He lost his home and we have lost track of him since then,” Sokhom said.
Then there is the donut shop owner who made the mistake of being honest with his banker. “He said that sales were down, so he got his credit card limit reduced, even though he’s been making his payments on time,” he said. “And when credit is reduced—that reduces his credit score. It is not helpful these days.”
From Los Angeles to Sacramento, the economic downturn is claiming a mounting toll of casualties among California’s small business entrepreneurs. The chief culprit is the credit crunch, with traditional lenders—the banks—shutting down access to loans—even to existing business owners with healthy credit scores.
Increasingly, alternative lenders, usually nonprofit community agencies, are filling the void. They are making the loans to keep established businesses alive, and to aid the growing number of start-ups that are sprouting as the unemployed turn to self-employment as a way to survive. And for the smallest of small businesses, family and friends are often the bank of first resort.
“Unless you’re an existing business with great credit, you’re being told ‘no’ by traditional lenders,” said Roberto Barragan, executive director of the Valley Economic Development Corporation in Los Angeles. Banks have tightened loan underwriting criteria and are scrutinizing borrowers more closely, he explained. “They are being very picky,” Barragan said. “Now they want everything but your blood type to make a loan these days.”
Small businesses are a traditional employment option for immigrants and ethnic minorities, and in California that is especially the case. Together, Latinos, Asians and African Americans account for about 16 percent of all small business owners in California, compared to 8 percent nationwide. These entrepreneurs also tend to be low-income and have fewer resources to cushion their business in lean times.
Barragan’s agency, which was already the largest nonprofit small business lender in southern California, has quadrupled its loan-making from $250,000 a month to $1 million. Much of it is going to new clients who’d never had a problem getting bank loans.
“Businesses use credit every day. It’s their lifeblood. It allows them to meet payroll and build inventory,” Barragan said. “Without credit, it’s completely crippling.”
A wave of small business failures is contributing to Los Angeles’ 12 percent unemployment rate, and Barragan says the worst is yet to come—when the shopping malls fail and the commercial real estate sector crashes. “We haven’t seen the other shoe drop,” he said.
Sokhom is also watching the slow-motion crisis. He monitors bankruptcy listings published in the LA Business Journal, and until recently, Asians owned about 5 percent of those failed businesses. Now they account for about 50 percent. “For Asian groups, many use their homes to finance their business,” he said. “When business is going down, they are risking both their homes and business.”
California Capital, a nonprofit financial services agency in Sacramento, is helping to stabilize small business owners threatened with defaults. Their clients, like the banks, are becoming more risk-averse. “People are bootstrapping it more than anything else,” said Anthony Rucker, head of the loan guarantee program. “They are unsure of the future, so they are wary of taking on debt. There is movement to live within their means.”
Given the gloomy climate for existing small business, it might seem like the worst possible time to start up a new one. But community advocates say that there is surging interest in new start-ups, especially as the economy sheds jobs and more people turn to self-employment.
“Our financing resource center has never been so busy,” said Janet Lees, program director of the Renaissance Entrepreneur Center, a nonprofit that provides support to small businesses in San Francisco. “More people are wanting to start their own businesses, from fashion design to wellness, massage, retail stores, food, consultants, graphic design. You name it.” Lees says that the center has an extensive 14-week small business training program.
The Mission Economic Development Agency, also in San Francisco, is seeing the same increased demand in support for start-ups, says Andrew Murphy, director of the micro loan program. MEDA’s clients are primarily low-income Latinos who would not qualify for traditional bank loans, so the credit crunch is less a factor.
“More people are interested in self-employment, mostly things they have experience in from other jobs,” Murphy said, “like food-related business, janitorial services and home childcare. We are one of few organizations that deal with business planning and marketing for childcare businesses.”
A growing number of start-ups are turning to people they know to finance their ventures because banks are unlikely to give them loans. “We’re seeing this big trend of friend-and-family loans,” said Lees. “It is seen as a good investment. You’re not putting your money in the stock market. We are working with alternative lenders to structure smaller loans, of $5,000 to $50,000.”
Family loans are often the best way to fund a start-up, says Michael Elkin, a loan officer at the U.S. Small Business Administration office in San Francisco. Even though the SBA got stimulus money from Congress to pump up its loan programs, it still requires that banks agree to make those loans. And they consider start-ups too risky. Elkin says that the agency has made just half the number of loans it made last year, and some banks just dropped out of the SBA program altogether.
Alternative lenders and the Bank of Family and Friends can only do so much to help existing businesses survive the downturn and help launch new ones. Ultimately, says Janet Lees, the traditional banks must step up and start doing what they always have done: make loans.
“Confidence needs to flow again,” said Lees. “Banks are a business and they have to start doing business again. They have to loosen up and have some confidence again. They make money when they make loans. I’ve had a hard time getting my head around it. They are just ruled by fear.”