Southern California breaking news and trends

Ex-LAPD officer Stephanie Lazarus murder trial verdict: Guilty

Mark Boster-Pool/Getty Images

Veteran LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus, 49, appears at the Criminal Justice Center for her arraignment on murder charges June 9, 2009. Lazarus is charged with the Feb. 24, 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen, her ex-boyfriend's wife.

Jurors found former Los Angeles police detective Stephanie Lazarus guilty Thursday of murdering her ex-boyfriend's wife in Van Nuys just over 26 years ago. Lazarus's defense says it's planning to appeal the verdict.

Lazarus, 51, was convicted of first-degree murder. Lazarus shot 29-year-old nursing supervisor Sherri Rasmussen three times in the chest on Feb. 24, 1986, just three months after the victim married Lazarus' one-time love interest, John Ruetten.

"This case was a tragedy on every level," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck in a press release. In addition to the death of the victim, "the LAPD family felt a sense of betrayal to have an officer commit such a terrible crime."

Beck expressed his condolences and offered the victim's family an apology. "I am also sorry it took us so long to solve this case and bring a measure of justice to this tragedy. We recognize that no verdict by a court can bring Sherri back, nor assuage the grief your family suffered over the past decades."

Read More...

KPCC vs. The Sun: Solar flares, cosmic rays, and a chat with the director of the Griffith Observatory

Photo by Objetpetitm via Flickr Creative Commons

Mar. 7, 2012 - Finland, Aurora Borealis

An angry sun is a vengeful sun, and based on the attention given to the solar flare that stormed Earth today, we wondered if somehow we'd upset the giant Lite-Brite in the sky.

Of course not, says longtime director of the Griffith Observatory, Dr. Edwin Krupp. This has been going on for a while, he said, noting that the sun has been around about four and half billion years. Solar activity, he explained, runs in 11 year cycles (solar activity is expected to peak in the current cycle around 2013), and people have been counting the spots on the sun for thousands of years.

The solar telescope at Griffith Observatory has been tracking the activity, Dr. Krupp told KPCC, but as far as viewing goes, this particular group has slipped to the side because of the rotation of the sun.

We asked Dr. Krupp if the museum's cloud and spark chambers — two on-site instruments measuring the bombardment of Earth by cosmic rays — would be seeing an increase in activity following an event like this.

Read More...

Modern rock: The one about the frenzy over LACMA's big piece of granite

big rock ahead lacma levitated mass

Photo by @johndunton via Twitter

One day, when aliens find our historical records and attempt to piece together the final days of human society, they will believe, with unshakable conviction, that we were a people who worshipped a giant, granite boulder.

From quarry to museum, this is the story of what happened when Greater Los Angeles followed a 340-ton pet rock on the world's slowest road trip. [MAP]

Here is a roundup of rockin' puns and questionable coverage...

Read More...

NASA and JPL's holy 'GRAIL' of moon research

nasa jpl grail

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/KSC

GRAIL Mission Comes Together: NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) spacecraft are lowered onto the second stage of their Delta II launch vehicle at Space Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida (8/18/2011). At the top of the image is the spacecraft adapter ring which holds the two lunar probes in their side-by-side launch configuration. The adapater ring and the probes are wrapped in plastic to prevent contamination outside the clean room in the Astrotech Space Operation's payload processing facility in Titusville, Fla. The spacecraft will fly in tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure its gravity field. GRAIL's primary science objectives are to determine the structure of the lunar interior, from crust to core, and to advance understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/KSC)

nasa jpl grail

Courtesy NASA/KSC

GRAIL Twins are Covered: At Space Launch Complex 17B on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, spacecraft technicians monitor the movement of a section of the clamshell-shaped Delta payload fairing as it encloses NASA's twin Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory spacecraft. The fairing will protect the spacecraft from the impact of aerodynamic pressure and heating during ascent and will be jettisoned once the spacecraft is outside the Earth's atmosphere. The image was taken on Aug. 23, 2011. (Courtesy NASA/KSC)

nasa jpl grail

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

GRAIL Flying in Formation (Artist's Concept): Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon's gravity field. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about Earth's moon, including the size of a possible inner core, and it should provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed. GRAIL is a part of NASA's Discovery Program. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

nasa jpl grail

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

Testing the GRAIL Twins: In this photo, taken April 29, 2011, technicians install lifting brackets prior to hoisting the 200-kilogram (440-pound) GRAIL-A spacecraft out of vacuum chamber after testing. Along with its twin GRAIL-B, the GRAIL-A spacecraft underwent an 11-day-long test at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver that simulated many of the flight activities they will perform during the mission, all while being exposed to the vacuum and extreme hot and cold that simulate space. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

nasa jpl grail

Courtesy NASA/JPL

GRAIL's Twin Spacecraft fly in Tandem Around the Moon (Artist's Concept): The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission utilizes the technique of twin spacecraft flying in formation with a known altitude above the lunar surface and known separation distance to investigate the gravity field of the moon in unprecedented detail. The technique utilizes radio links between the two spacecraft as well as radio links to stations on Earth. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about Earth's moon, including a possible inner core, and provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed. GRAIL is a part of NASA's Discovery Program. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)

nasa jpl grail

Courtesy NASA/JPL

GRAIL's Twin Spacecraft -- Crust to Core (Artist's Concept): The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission utilizes the technique of twin spacecraft flying in formation with a known altitude above the lunar surface and known separation distance to investigate the gravity field of the moon in unprecedented detail. The technique utilizes radio links between the two spacecraft as well as radio links to stations on Earth. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about Earth's moon, including a possible inner core, and provide scientists with a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed. GRAIL is a part of NASA's Discovery Program. (Courtesy NASA/JPL)


Twin NASA probes began studying the moon's gravity late Tuesday night in effort to determine why the moon, Earth's only natural satellite, is shaped the way it is.

Managed locally at NASA's Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the three-month GRAIL mission (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory), will begin analyzing data in one month.

Scientists want to know why the Pink Floyd side of the moon appears to be more mountainous than the side that always faces Earth. Despite numerous missions, they still don't have that answer.

Additionally, by mapping the lunar gravity field, investigators hope to support or discredit a theory that Earth at one time had two moons.

Researchers hope the $496 million mission -- which includes spacecraft development, science instruments, launch services, mission operations, science processing and relay support -- will net significant intel about what lies below the surface.

Read More...

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa backs gay marriage plank for Dems (video)

warsaw waving a rainbow flag

Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images

The chairman of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said during a Politico function on Wednesday that he supports the gay marriage legalization plank in his party’s platform.

“I think it’s basic to who we are,” Villaraigosa said of the issue he has long supported. “I believe in family values and I believe that we all ought to be able to have a family and marry if you want to. I don’t think the government should be in that business of denying people the fundamental right to marry.”

Villaraigosa also criticized the GOP for wading into social issues.  

"The Republicans have gotten so far out of the mainstream," according to the mayor. "I mean, at a time when all of us should be focused on the economy, they’re focused on contraception and mammograms."  

Read More...