Southern California breaking news and trends

Third horse dies at Santa Anita while filming HBO show 'Luck'

santa anita

Photo by Suzanne / neusuz5 via Flickr Creative Commons

Santa Anita Racetrack

HBO suspended its filming of horses following the third death at Santa Anita Racetrack in connection with the dramatic series "Luck."

A horse was euthanized at the track on Tuesday after the animal reared and fell back, suffering a head injury, NBC LA reports. The horse was being led to a racetrack stable  when it accident occurred, according to HBO.

"Luck," a Dustin Hoffman-starring production in its second season, was already the focus of a PETA complaint. The organization says it sent a notification to local law enforcement to investigate the deaths of two other horses that were hurt in racing scenes and euthanized during the first season of filming in 2010-2011.

Though this week's accident did not occur during filming or racing, The American Humane Association insisted in a statement that a stoppage in the filming of horses, "remain in full effect pending a complete, thorough, and comprehensive investigation." 


Innovation vs. Regulation: Two-tier pricing approved for popular classes at Santa Monica College

santa monica college

Photo by Michele Markel Connors via Flickr Creative Commons

In the face of dramatic funding cuts Santa Monica College's governing board has approved a two-tier course pricing plan for a number of its in-demand classes.

Students under the new plan would be charged a higher price to take a course when the state-funded classes fill up. It is believed to be the first program of its kind in the country, reports the L.A. Times.

Regulated course fees at SMC are currently set at $36 per unit, and are expected to rise to $46 this summer.

The two-tier plan would see the college create a nonprofit foundation to offer select popular classes at approximately $200 per unit, and the structure could go into effect as soon as the upcoming summer session. It would expand to the entire academic year if the program is successful. 

"The mechanics of the program are still being worked out, but generally the higher-cost classes would become available after state-funded classes fill up. The winter session may offer only the higher-cost classes, officials said," notes the Times.


Brown to compromise on ballot tax initiative?

Max Whittaker/Getty Images

File: California Gov. Jerry Brown

The L.A. Times is reporting that Gov. Jerry Brown is backing off a tax proposal he introduced in January, and is forging an 11th-hour compromise. Brown has been battling various other Democratically-aligned groups that have come forward with their own initiatives.

According to the Times, the negotiated initiative "would contain a smaller sales tax increase than the half-cent hike Brown originally proposed, but would require upper income earners to pay more than the 1- to 3- percentage-point income-tax increase Brown had called for."

As recently as Monday, Brown was appealing to chiefs of police to support his initiative, even as he conceded the ballot would likely be crowded with various tax proposals.

A deal could be announced today, the Times reports. But it could be a challenge to get a revised proposal on the ballot.


Tide detergent theft: Loads of dirty money leave a stain on brand identity

tide laundry detergent

Photo by Brandi Korte via Flickr Creative Commons

Tide detergent bandits are cleaning up, as authorities across the country mark a rise in the theft of high-priced laundry soap. 

Police say the signature suds are being sold and traded on the black market for quick cash and drugs.

With a retail price of roughly $10 to $20 a bottle, the street value of Tide can go for $5 to $10, says the iPad-based publication, The Daily, who first reported the new, nationwide trend in liquid currency.

One police detective said of the transactions, "They’ll do it right in front of a cop car -- buying heroin or methamphetamine with Tide...We would see people walking down the road with six, seven bottles."

In California, grocery chains like Ralphs have been on high alert in the area of organized shoplifting and retail crime, notes NBC LA. "These thieves target many different products like Tide, Red Bull, or shampoo," said a Ralphs rep.


FBI arrests San Bernardino social studies teacher for child pornography

Eugene Ballantyne

Image via NBC LA

Eugene Ballantyne

A middle school teacher in San Bernardino was arrested Tuesday by the FBI on child pornography charges. Eugene Ballantyne, 29, taken into custody at his home, is accused of trading sexually explicit photos with a 13-year-old New Jersey girl.

According to a FBI affidavit filed in federal court, the teacher also told investigators he had sex with a 17-year-old girl in July, and that two years earlier he'd received sexually explicit pictures from a 15-year-old girl, NBC LA reports.

Under the alias "John Baldwin," Ballantyne contacted the South Brunswick, N.J. teen in an internet chat room. The suspect, claiming to be a 25-year-old teacher from Corona, also corresponded with the girl by cellphone and email, notes the L.A. Times.

FBI investigators and South Brunswick police tracked emails, calls and photos to Ballantyne’s cellphone after the girl’s mother reported to local authorities that illicit material was being exchanged between her daughter and a man in California.