Southern California breaking news and trends

Death by defunding: Academic Decathlon competes for its life against the LAUSD deficit

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Photo by Dave Shea via Flickr Creative Commons

In a battle against the $557 million budget deficit, LAUSD is preparing to vote on a bloodbath of possible program cuts this week. 

Facing death by defunding are art classes in elementary schools, tutoring assistance, recreation programs, adult and early education, All-District Honor Marching Band, and the award-winning Academic Decathlon program.

LAUSD, the second-largest school district in the U.S., allotted $400,000 in the current fiscal year to pay for Academic Decathlon regional competitions and coach stipends. 

El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, one of the district's top competitors, will be showing its smarts in Sacramento this weekend for the state Academic Decathlon championship. No fewer than 13 schools within the district are qualified for the state competition, reports the Daily Breeze

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Crystal Cathedral's congregation is moving and changing its name

Crystal Cathedral

Jae C. Hong/AP

In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, the Crystal Cathedral stands in Garden Grove, Calif.

In more big news for the future of Orange County's Crystal Cathedral this weekend, the church's senior pastor announced the cathedral is getting a new name and its current congregation will relocate.

The ministry will be renamed Hope Center of Christ, Sheila Schuller Coleman said in a video at the cathedral's website. An announcement regarding the new location will be made in the next few weeks, she said.

The church sold its iconic glass-paned cathedral to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange last month to emerge from federal bankruptcy protection.

"We're going to need a new home sooner than we thought. And we're moving full speed ahead," the pastor said. She gave no indication whether or not the congregation would remain in Orange County, the ministry's home since its founding by the pastor's father, Dr. Robert Schuller, at a drive-in movie theater 42 years ago.

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LAFD's response times had been inflated (report)

Mercer 17867

Frank Stoltze/KPCC

The Los Angeles Fire Department has faced cuts under Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Los Angeles Fire Department officials have for years been releasing misleading data on the response times of firefighters, LAFD brass admitted to the L.A. Times Friday after mayoral candidate Austin Beutner cited incorrect numbers in a Huffington Post column about budget and staffing cuts.

It appears that NBC LA previously reported the correct numbers, but in the HuffPost column, Beutner wrote, "In 2008, Los Angeles was a leader in response time, with the LAFD arriving on the scene of a medical emergency within five minutes 86% of the time." That response time in 2008 was actually 63 or 64 percent, according to the most recent LAFD documents.

When questioned about that incorrect high number by the Times on Friday, LAFD brass said they had used a calculation that made it appear that firefighters were arriving at the scene of emergencies faster than they actually were: A former department statistician wrongly counted all responses that fell within six minutes, citing department tradition. The department's goal, based on federal guidelines, is to arrive in less than five minutes 90 percent of the time. 

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Who's unhappy about the LACMA rock's arrival? Probably the people who got towed.

LACMA Rock

Grant Slater/KPCC

California Highway Patrol officers brief the moving crew shortly before they set off toward Long Beach and the next stop on the boulder's 11-day journey.

The journey of the rock destined for an art installation at the L.A. County Museum of Art has provided Southern California with 11 nights of joy and silly news stories. 

But the very high price of the rock was made a little more expensive for the dozens of people who parked their cars in the path of the rock's final stretch this morning. City News Service reports:

"Dozens of cars parked along Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown and the Mid- Wilshire area were towed overnight to make room for the behemoth. Those who had vehicles towed can expect to pay at least $259.50 to get their cars out of an city impound lot."

D'oh. The L.A. Times notes another unhappy customer, who was among the hundreds waiting to greet the rock with noisemakers and cheers. Due to a power failure, those revelers got a chance to touch the rock as a fix was prepared. But 34-year-old M.M. Green was dissatisfied: “I came a long way to touch this thing, and it felt very impersonal –- I expected more intimacy from this rock,” Green, a video artist, told the Times.

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NRC requiring modifications to every U.S. nuclear power plant

san onofre nuclear power plant atomic

Jason Hickey/Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. nuclear power plants have until the end of 2016 to comply with new safety recommendations released Friday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Plants were ordered to begin immediately implementing the upgrades in an effort to prevent a large-scale radioactive crisis like what occurred last year at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami.

Recommendations were laid out in a three-part plan. Two points apply to every U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, including those under construction and recently licensed new Vogtle reactors. One point only concerns a specific type of containment structure, said the NRC in a press release.

  • The first Order requires the plants to better protect safety equipment installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to obtain sufficient equipment to support all reactors at a given site simultaneously.
  • The second Order requires the plants to install enhanced equipment for monitoring water levels in each plant’s spent fuel pool.
  • The third Order applies only to U.S. boiling-water reactors that have “Mark I” or “Mark II” containment structures. These reactors must improve venting systems (or for the Mark II plants, install new systems) that help prevent or mitigate core damage in the event of a serious accident.

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