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Southern California breaking news and trends

KPCC DIGEST AM (Oct. 9)—Private drones, toxic town hall, guess how many pothole-inflicted damage claims the city approves?

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1. Town hall fires up residents near Exide's toxic Vernon plant (KPCC)

People living near a controversial Exide lead battery recycling plant in Vernon demanded answers from regulators and lawmakers during a tense four hour meeting Tuesday. EPA could not attend (see: government shutdown), but the head of CA's Department of Toxic Substances Control showed up to face the angry crowd of nearly 200.

She defended plans to keep the plant open, saying "if they cannot find a way to operate without polluting communities, then we will revoke their permit." Not many people clapped.

2. Writing the rules on the use of private drones (KPCC)

The FAA is developing guidelines for the civilian use of drones, and they've turned to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, housed on the massive Edwards Air Force Base in Antelope Valley, to help write the groundbreaking rules.

In 2015 the FAA plans to open up airspace to some unmanned aerial vehicles above 18,000 feet. That means FedEx could deliver packages without pilots, farmers could watch crops from above, and real estate photographers could take birds-eye snapshots of properties.

3. How to report pothole damage, file a claim, and have a fighting chance with the city (KPCC)

Asphalt atrophy meets a political sinkhole in L.A. where a joint investigation by KPCC and NBC4 found the city approved just under 10 percent of the claims seeking compensation for damage caused by potholes.

Analyzed claimed asked for an average of $785 for repairs. 70 percent were rejected. 20 percent never got a ruling, and expired after two years.  "It says to me that this is a system that needs to be changed," says newly-elected City Attorney Mike Feuer.

4. An effort to fix genetic diseases births worries of 'designer babies' (NPR)

The FDA is considering whether to allow scientists to take a controversial step: make changes in some of the genetic material in a woman's egg that would be passed down through generations.

Scientists pursuing the research feel the effort is "noble" and hopes "to cure disease and to help women delivery healthy normal children." Critics worry it could open the door to creating "designer babies." An Oct. 22 hearing is scheduled to consider the issues.

5. Nobel for scientists who carried out experiments in the computer, instead of inside rats and monkeys (NPR)

This year's Nobel Prize for chemistry is shared by three international scientists, who moved chemistry out of the lab and into the world of computing by developed tools for studying complex molecules inside cyberspace.
Computerized tools like these allow scientists to design drugs more quickly and cheaply by doing their experiments with computer programs instead of inside rats and monkeys.

6. Buyouts offered to workers at LA Times printing facility (KPCC)

Employees at the Los Angeles Times printing facility were offered buyouts, union officials confirmed to KPCC on Tuesday.

Ronnie Pineda, president of the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 140-N, said the buyouts could impact workers at the facility from printing press operators to color specialists who make sure the colors appear correctly in the newspaper. It is unclear exactly how many workers qualify for the buyout.

7. Loyola Marymount chooses to end abortion coverage from health plans (KPCC)

Trustees at Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit institution, voted unanimously this week to stop covering elective abortions in healthcare plans for staff and faculty.

Health plans for the roughly 1700 employees would still cover procedures deemed necessary to maintain the health of the mother. Employees will be able to enroll in a third-party-administered plan that offers abortion coverage.

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