Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Little recourse for attorney barred from visiting California prisoners during hunger strike

A bunk in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA. (August, 2011)
Rina Palta, KPCC

Four California prisoners required medical treatment and a fifth was referred to a physician on the 11th day of a hunger strike to protest the long-term isolation of inmates, health care officials said Thursday.

About 30,000 inmates initially joined the protest, but the number has fallen to fewer than 1,500. That could be the result of a tougher approach being taken by the state since the last hunger strike two years ago.

Officials won’t divulge the location of strike leaders who have been relocated. They have confiscated food from the cells of some inmates who say they are striking and refuse to eat prison meals but still have purchase foods from the canteen. 

And in a written order this week, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation banned attorney Marilyn McMahon from visiting clients participating in the hunger strike. The department also took legal documents out of the cells of strike leaders who are a party to a lawsuit McMahon brought in federal court.


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AIDS Healthcare Foundation asks judge to delay LA county audit

AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The fight between the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Los Angeles County took another turn Thursday. The Foundation asked a federal court to delay a county audit of the agency, claiming it would jeopardize patient care. AHF also accused the county of pursuing the audit in retaliation for the Foundation's criticism of the county's handling of its AIDS programs. The county rejected AHF's claims about compromising patient care as "bogus," and said the audit is "routine."

"The devotion by AHF staff of additional time during July and August…is highly likely to have a deleterious impact on the health of some AHF patients," the foundation said in its request for a temporary restraining order.

The county wants to start its audit of how AHF uses county-administered federal AIDS money on Monday. AHF wants at least a five-week delay.


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Mayor Garcetti's appointments to Metro board include Westside, Valley councilmen

Mayor Eric Garcetti named Jackie Dupont-Walker and L.A. City Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Mike Bonin to the Board of Directors of Metro, which oversees the buses, light rail lines and subways of Los Angeles County.
MTA Library/Flickr Creative Commons

One of the perks that comes with being mayor of Los Angeles is a seat on the Metro Board of Directors — and the authority to make three appointments to the transit agency. Mayor Eric Garcetti flexed some of his political muscle Thursday by naming two city councilmen and a nonprofit leader to the board. 

Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Mike Bonin and Jackie Dupont-Walker, president of the USC Master Plan Advisory Committee and president of the Ward Economic Development Corp., will join the 13-member board. Dupont-Walker was also Garcetti's appointee to the city's 2011 Redistricting Commission. 

Metro oversees the buses, light rail lines and subways of Los Angeles County, along with a $5 billion budget. 

"I want to make sure we're careful and strategic with our transportation dollars," Garcetti said in a statement. "That's the only way we're going to make a real difference in the traffic congestion that costs us billions of dollars in lost productivity and billions of hours in time away from our lives." 


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Proposed high speed train to Vegas going nowhere fast

A digital rendering of XpressWest's proposed high speed train that would run from Victorville to Las Vegas.

You can cancel that high speed train trip to Las Vegas — at last for now. The Department of Transportation has decided to "suspend further consideration" of a $5 billion federal loan application from a private company that wants to link Southern California with the gambling and entertainment mecca.

The Department of Transportation put the XpressWest high speed train project on pause because the company couldn't come up with enough U.S. manufacturers for rail cars and tracks. The department prioritizes projects that use American-made products.

The XpressWest train would take passengers to Las Vegas from Victorville — a connection point with California's proposed high speed train running from Southern California to the Bay Area.

Both projects are subject to a "Made in the U.S." standard.


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House committee restores money for JPL's Mars programs

Planning for NASA's 2020 Mars rover envisions a basic structure that capitalizes on re-using the design and engineering work done for the NASA rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012.

The House Appropriations Committee sent a scathing message to the White House Thursday, accusing the administration of "damaging and disproportionate" cuts to NASA's planetary science budget. The committee voted to restore $100 million in funding that will directly benefit Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Lab. 

The Obama administration recommended $1.2 billion dollars for planetary science. Not enough, said the House Appropriations Committee. The reduced amount would, according to a committee statement, "drive uniquely qualified and promising talent out of the field, perhaps permanently."

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank said it was necessary to use strong language to reiterate that Capitol Hill supports planetary science: "We want to go forward with the Mars 2020 mission, we want to go forward with the mission to Europa, we want to continue America's leadership in planetary science and they need to stop sending us these inadequate proposals."

Planetary science is the bread-and-butter of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL wouldn't comment on which projects would be directly affected by the funding, but $288 million of the overall NASA budget is designated for exploration of Mars — including the 2020 Rover.


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