Southern California breaking news and trends

Distribute suitcases of cash, get investigated: a Coliseum case study in union payments

monopoly man money mural venice beach coliseum investigation

Photo by ToGa Wanderings via Flickr Creative Commons

Making union payments via suitcases of $100 bills is a practice frowned upon by the U.S. Labor Department, it turns out. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum officials are learning this the hard way, as they have become the target of a criminal investigation in an IATSE wage payment scandal that saw more than $1 million in cash passed to the union without controls on its distribution, explains the L.A. Times. The Coliseum Commission may be responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in back payroll and withholding taxes.


Feds say tiny radiation leak may have occurred at San Onofre

Mercer 1518

David McNew/Getty Images

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

According to federal regulators, a small amount of radiation could have escaped from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station after a water leak forced operators to shut down the reactor at the power plant.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks says a small amount of radioactive gas "could have" escaped the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the northern San Diego Coast.

Gil Alexander, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, told the Associated Press that the amount would have been "extremely small" and possibly not detectable by monitors.

Both the company and federal regulators say the release would not have posed a public safety risk.


Mark Berndt bail increased to $23 million, more claims against teacher being investigated

Mark Berndt

L.A. Sheriff's Department

Accused teacher Mark Berndt.

Sheriff's investigators have five more alleged victims in the horrifying case of longtime Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, who appeared in court, handcuffed behind a caged area, on Wednesday. His arraignment on 23 counts of lewd acts against children has been held over until Feb 23.

Prosecutors were able to increase Berndt's bail today from $2.3-million, to $23 million, based on the alleged crimes. Additional charges may be filed pending verification of the new allegations, notes the L.A. Times.

The 61-year-old allegedly told children they were going to play a "tasting game," blindfoldeding the victims, gagging some with tape, putting cockroaches on others, and spoon-feeding them a white substance that DNA tests revealed to be his semen, according to authorities.

The victims were supposed to say whether the substance was sweet or salty and if they liked the taste, say authorities, who were tipped off by a CVS photo lab tech who reported suspicious photos of bound children to police.


McDonald's 'pink slime' will soon be off the menu


Photo by Adam Kuban via Flickr Creative Commons

McDonald's is planning to ban from its burger recipe a controversial filler known as "pink slime." 

The Ghostbusters sounding food additive is created not by supernatural forces or Zuul, but rather by treating leftover beef trimmings "with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria," explains ABC LA.

Considered safe by the Department of Agriculture, the practice has received a McFlurry of recent media attention thanks in part to a documentary and campaign led by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

The fast food restaurant chain, with approximately 800 locations in Southern California, said the decision to dump the slime was not based on public criticism.

Perhaps it was the goo's potential for psychoreactive sass in response to human emotional states that influenced the stoppage.