• Chief of Los Angeles Port Police Named in Federal Corruption Case

    LOS ANGELES – On April 30, a federal grand jury indicted the Port of Los Angeles chief of police on corruption and tax charges.

    The corruption charges in the indictment relate to a scheme in which Chief Ronald Jerome Boyd stood to financially benefit from the development of a social networking program that would become the official smartphone app for the Port and would then be marketed to other law enforcement agencies.

    Boyd, 57, of Torrance, who in January was named as chief of public safety and emergency management at the port, was charged in a 16-count indictment returned by a grand jury. The indictment accuses Boyd of corruption, lying to FBI agents, failing to file federal corporate tax returns for a private security company he created and tax evasion.

    At the center of the case are four “honest services” wire fraud charges that accuse Boyd of executing “a scheme to defraud the citizens of the City of Los Angeles and the Harbor Department for the City of Los Angeles of their right to the honest services of defendant Boyd by means of bribery and kickbacks, materially false and fraudulent pretenses and representations, and the concealment of material facts.” The corruption scheme centers on a program called Portwatch, which was developed to provide information to the public and to allow citizens to report criminal activity at the port.

    In 2011, Boyd and two business partners formed BDB Digital Communications, a company that entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with the unnamed company developing Portwatch. The parties involved with BDB intended to generate revenues by marketing and selling a similar app – called Metrowatch – to other government agencies. “Under the terms of this agreement, defendant Boyd would receive approximately 13.33 percent of all gross revenues generated by the sale of the Metrowatch application throughout the United States,” according to the indictment.

    The revenue-sharing agreement was contingent upon Boyd’s assistance in securing the Portwatch contract for the unnamed company. Over the course of a year, beginning in October 2011, Boyd took steps to benefit the unnamed company with respect to the Portwatch contract. The indictment alleges that his actions included hosting a private meeting with the unnamed company for the purpose of disclosing confidential information, meeting with Los Angeles officials that included the city attorney and the mayor, editing the scope of work for the Portwatch contractso that he could personally monitor the Portwatch app’s development, and urging the Port to expedite a press release to announce the implementation of the Portwatch app.

    The indictment goes on to allege that Boyd, who was interviewed by special agents with the FBI last October, lied to the investigators when he denied having any financial interest in Metrowatch. The indictment alleges that Boyd falsely stated that BDB was created to sell body armor, and that he was unaware of the revenue-sharing agreement between the unnamed company and BDB. In relation to these alleged misrepresentations, Boyd faces three counts of making false statements.

    Counts 8 through 16 of the indictment allege tax violations. Boyd is specifically charged with four counts of failing to file tax returns for the years 2008 through 2011 for his security business, At Close Range. He is also charged with five counts of tax evasion for the tax years 2007 through 2011 for failing to report income that was “substantially greater than the amount stated on the return,” according to the indictment.

    An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

    If he is convicted of all 16 counts in the indictment, Boyd would face a statutory maximum sentence of 124 years in federal prison.

    Boyd is expected to surrender to federal authorities next week on a date to be determined.

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  • Robles’ First Action: Approve Zone Change

    Labor Makes Noise for Stadium Jobs

    By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter

    Normally a zoning change is a simple routine city council action—unless it has something to do with possibly building a stadium for the National Football League. Then, it turns into a major media event with boisterous representatives of organized labor crowding into the council chambers.

    On April 21, the Carson City Council considered approving a zoning overlay that would allow for a 75,000-seat football stadium to be built on a former toxic waste dump. Hundreds of stadium supporters—some in labor union shirts, some in Los Angeles Raiders jerseys—crowded noisily into the council chambers, along with several TV news crews.

    Petitioners, who were paid to collect more than 15,000 signatures, had swarmed the city for weeks. The effort was to put the zoning change to a vote just in case the council refused. Carson2gether, a group of more than a dozen labor unions, was behind the petition drive. The group had funding from the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.

    Two agenda items pertained to clearing the way to build a professional football stadium. The first one concerned the certification of sufficiency of signatures on an initiative. The new city clerk and former mayor, Jim Dear, wheeled in carts loaded with boxes that he said contained enough valid signatures to put the zoning change on the ballot. He said the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder had indeed validated a sufficient number of signatures on the 300-page petition.

    The three sitting council members—Albert Robles, Lula Davis-Holmes and Mayor Pro Tem Elito Santarina—voted unanimously to approve that item.

    Next the council called for public comment and watched presentations about how much money a new stadium would make. Albert Robles—sworn in as mayor a few hours earlier—said public comments would be limited to one minute each, except “anybody out there with a Super Bowl ring, you get two minutes.” That remark was directed to Michael Haynes, who played for the Los Angeles Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII and spoke in favor of the stadium.

    Nineteen persons spoke vehemently in favor of the stadium. Mike Hannan of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Trades Council discussed how much money a new stadium would likely make. Various speakers argued the stadium would create 17,000 construction jobs, 9,000 permanent jobs and produce $9 million in continued business revenue every year.

    John Acosta of the American Federation of Musicians boasted how entertainer Bruno Mars and other superstars were waiting to headline concerts at the yet-to-be-built site. Several other labor representatives made comments about bringing the “Los Angeles Raiders” back, hysterically cheering about how “we need” football and “we need” a Super Bowl.

    One speaker harped on how the planned stadium would create a “world-class tailgating experience,” apparently unaware of the fact that, when the nearby StubHub Center was built in the early 2000s, irate residents forced a ban on tailgating.

    Harry Dew, a lone opponent at the meeting who spoke of the stadium plan, said he was furious about the proposal to build the stadium.

    “Carson is my home,” he said. “This’ll take away my home.”

    He left as another meeting attendee shouted an obscenity.

    Shortly before 9 p.m. the council voted unanimously to amend the city’s general plan and create a stadium overlay on a parcel along Del Amo Boulevard and the 405 Freeway. The action approved the building of a professional stadium and “other permitted uses” within Carson. It eliminated residential uses from the site, a stumbling block in past attempts to develop the former brownfield.

    Up the 405 Freeway, a few miles north of Carson, Inglewood is courting the St. Louis Rams of the National Football Conference, who were the LA Rams from 1946 to 1994. That city may be on the verge of bringing them to a new stadium proposed for the old Hollywood Park site.

    Whether the NFL will allow two American Football Conference teams in the same division in the same city, while an NFC team plays in the same coverage area, is an issue no one has yet addressed. Both the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers play in the West Division of the AFC.

     

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  • Port Truckers Strike Again

    Green Fleet Bows to Pressure in Advance

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    Truckers at four major companies in the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex went out on an indefinite strike on April 27.

    A last-minute agreement with a fifth company, Green Fleet Systems, averted its inclusion in the strike.

    “We had no choice but to go on strike again because my company is continuing to violate the law,” said Humberto Canales, a driver with Pacer Cartage. “The courts have ruled that I am an employee and that their illegal deductions from my paycheck must stop. But they keep fighting me so I am fighting back.”

    “We are here to make sure that these companies stop their lawless behavior,” added Hector Flores, a driver with Long Beach-based Intermodal Bridge Transport. “They cannot keep engaging in wage theft…We demand re-classification to employees. We know what we are doing is right and we are not going to stop striking until these companies stop breaking the law.”

    “Six hundred thousand working men and women in Los Angeles stand behind the port drivers fighting to stop wage theft and the ability to have a voice on the job,” said Rusty Hicks, executive secretary and treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “Our ports are the economic engine for our region. Our drivers deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

    Pacer is owned by XPO Logistics, as is Harbor Rail Transport, another company being struck, along with Carson-based Pacific 9 Transportation, or Pac-9, and Intermodal Bridge Transport.

    “These are some of the biggest companies that serve the ports of LA/Long Beach,” Teamster spokeswoman Barbara Maynard said.

    The companies have also been flashpoints for wage-theft litigation. The industry as a whole faces an annual liability of $850 million in California alone, according to an estimate from the National Employment Law Project. Legal actions filed so far are only the tip of the iceberg, but are intimately connected with the strike.

    In March 2014, the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, or DLSE, found seven Pacer drivers in San Diego to be illegally misclassified employees and awarded them a combined total of $2.2 million. Pacer appealed, but a tentative superior court ruling upheld the ruling. Pacer Cartage also faces a class action lawsuit alleging willful misclassification of about 662 drivers, with estimated liability amounts to over $5 million. The company’s continued intransigence and lawbreaking are root causes of the strike. These are echoed in the actions of the other companies involved.

    Ambulatory strikes—picketing when company trucks arrive at other locations, and continuing until they leave—were ongoing as far away as the Inland Empire and the U.S.-Mexico border. There, drivers picketed Pacer Cartage trucks bringing cargo to Toyota’s Otay Mesa facility to transfer them to Toyota Mexico’s manufacturing plants. Officials at both ports downplayed the impact of the April 27 strike on overall operations. This is due, in part, to some terminal operators avoiding ambulatory strikes by refusing service from the struck companies.

    “Cargo continued to move through the port today without delay,” Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

    But a press advisory the next day from Justice for Port Truck Drivers explained something different.

    “Few terminal operators were allowing struck companies to pick up and drop off containers, mitigating impact on port operations—but causing major disruption to the operation of the trucking companies and their retail clients whose cargo was left sitting on the docks.”

    Retail clients impacted reportedly included WalMart, Toyota, Costco, Target, General Electric, Forever 21, Louis Vuitton, CVS, Procter and Gamble, Macy’s, Family Dollar and JC Penny.

    The groundwork for the current wave of wage theft litigation was laid in the fall of 2012, when the

    , or LAANE, hosted a legal workshop that resulted in hundreds of wage and hour claims being filed with the DLSE. Individual and class action lawsuits followed.

    In August 2013, Green Fleet drivers, facing retaliation for their claims and union organizing efforts, went out on strike. Three months later, in November, drivers at Pac 9 and American Logistics International, joined the Green Fleet drivers in their second strike. Drivers from other companies later joined in as well. In April 2013, drivers at Total Transportation Services Inc., or TTSI, struck alongside drivers from Green Fleet and Pac 9.

    Then, in November, 2014, Green Fleet entered into “confidential discussions” with the Teamsters on the verge of a threatened strike, which began with drivers from Pac 9 and TTSI, later joined by drivers from Pacer, Harbor Rail Transport, QTS Inc., LACA Express and WinWin Logistics. By the end of a relatively brief strike, all the companies were involved in discussions with the Teamsters. But most of those discussions have failed to bear fruit, resulting in the current strike.

    However, Green Fleet is a notable exception. Along with the Teamsters Port Division, they issued the following joint statement:

    “We are pleased to announce that Green Fleet Systems, LLC, and the Teamsters Union have entered into a comprehensive labor peace agreement designed to ensure that Green Fleet’s drivers have an opportunity to exercise their rights under the National Labor Relations Act and, if they choose, to select an exclusive representative for purpose of collective bargaining. This agreement also allows for the orderly conduct of business and insures that Green Fleet’s loyal customers will continue to receive their deliveries timely and without interruption.”

    Notably not being struck this time is TTSI. There are rumors of a settlement in the works, but no official comments as of press time. The drivers have also launched a national petition asking Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to ban law-breaking for profit from the ports.

    “As stewards of our nation’s two largest port complexes, where roughly 40 percent of our country’s imported goods land on our shores, I call on you to end the port trucking industry’s profiting from lawbreaking,” the petition reads, in part. “Wage theft has enabled port trucking companies to get away with preventing their drivers from qualifying for ANY assistance that everyday Americans rely on.”

    When asked how long the strike would last, Maynard said it was up to the drivers, but added, “It’s really up to these companies to say, ‘Yes we’re willing to follow the law,’ and only when that happens is this really going to end.”

     

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  • Supernaw Heads to City Hall

    District 4 Councilman-elect Daryl Supernaw thanked his constituents during the special election April 14. Photo by Diana Lejins

    By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor

     Now that the April 14 Long Beach special election has taken place, a new representative will be ushered into the seat that Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell has vacated. Daryl Supernaw will join the Long Beach City Council May 5.

    “Right now, we are focused on our transition into office,” said Supernaw in an email. “From the date of the election I had nine days to officially assume office.” In a normal cycle April election, not a special election, the elected official has up to 90 days to take office.

    Supernaw picked up much of the same areas as O’Donnell did in 2012—an election in which Supernaw ran against O’Donnell. This time around, Supernaw garnered 51.67 percent to Herlinda Chico’s 43.71 percent and Richard Lindemann’s 4.62 percent of the vote.

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    East Side Versus West Side Story

    While District 4 is diverse, there is a clear social, economic and ethnic divide between the east side and the west side of the district. Voting precincts east of the traffic circle have more affluent constituents, who are more likely to show up to vote and are predominantly more concerned with quality of life issues, such as street repair and noise pollution. Voters west of the traffic circle, where there are large Cambodian and Latino populations, are more concerned with issues such as poverty, affordable housing and public safety.

    It came as no surprise that the vote also had clear geographic, social, economic and ethnic divisions. There are 17 precincts, which include 14 polling places and three areas where constituents vote by mail. Eight out of the 17 precincts are in the east side of the district, where O’Donnell previously had a stronghold. The majority in those precincts, which include one of the vote-by-mail areas, voted for Supernaw. In contrast, more votes went to Chico in seven of the 17 precincts in the west side of the district. Two small precincts on the west side—each with seven voters—were mail-in votes. The majority of those votes went to Supernaw.

    A Bit of Perspective

    Chico and Supernaw ran for office in 2012, but O’Donnell, who was termed out, ran for re-election as a write-in candidate. Chico withdrew from the race and Supernaw stuck it out. Though Supernaw won the primary, O’Donnell won the election as a write-in candidate.

    Not having to run against an eight-year incumbent also made a difference, Supernaw said. Being a lifelong District 4 resident worked to Supernaw’s advantage. He is well known for his involvement in the community, most notably for having led the Los Altos/Atherton corridor neighborhood group that successfully convinced local officials to allocate sums for a project that covered an Atherton open ditch.

    Also, in 2012, O’Donnell had the support of both political parties and labor unions.

    “I was based on keeping partisan politics out of this and still am,” he said. “I did not list any endorsements. I opted not to do that.”

    Chico, who has endorsed unions, the majority of the city council and local Democratic clubs, campaigned heavily in the west side and garnered most of that area’s votes.

    Supernaw said he also advocated for the west side over the years, and plans to continue doing so. “We need to put more resources into where the challenges are,” he said.

    Moving Forward

    Supernaw said he sees potential for economic development in District 4 and throughout the city. He believes Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia’s revitalized economic development department is a step forward. He would like to include corporate partnerships, such as naming rights, as a form of revenue stream.

    “It gets others involved and just a lot of name recognition,” Supernaw said. “Long Beach seems to have a lot of untapped potential.”

    But economic development is only one of several issues Supernaw will have to tackle when he takes office.

    “The biggest issue is the council district budget,” Supernaw said. “I have to assess the projects already in the pipeline and determine what can be completed and what needs to be cut.”

    The council will also be making decisions on issues such as the construction of a new civic center, the arts council and community meetings.

    One other discussion he’ll have to take a stand on concerns the Long Beach airport. Recent news that JetBlue is seeking to provide international flights to and from Long Beach sparked concerns of new lawsuits and the reopening of an established ordinance that brought some measure of peace between the airport and its surrounding residents.

    JetBlue officials have stated they have no interest in changing the city’s strict noise ordinance, but other situations may arise. Other airlines may want to do the same and that may result in a very litigious battle.

    In February, the council voted to halt discussions about international flights until the council member got elected.

    Supernaw, whose wife was on the original HUSH (Homes Under Stress and Hazard) group that got the noise ordinance in the first place, said the council should rely on the advice of staff members who are knowledgeable about the airport’s history, City Prosecutor Douglas Haubert and Assistant City Attorney Michael Mais.

    “I would like to defer to our experts,” he said. “What I am hearing now is that there are some issues. There are some inherent threats with bringing the international flights forward.”

    This time around there is no involvement from his family or himself in the groups that have come out against the international terminal.

    “Further, airport meetings within the district will be held under the auspices of the fourth Council District office and hosted by me,” he said.

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  • Obama’s TPP

    A Secret Deal That Protects Special Interests

    By Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor

    President Barack Obama turned heads when he appeared on MSNBC’s Hardball on April 21.

    Obama leveled harsh criticism of his critics on trade policy, both on two upcoming trade deals—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact, or TTIP—and on the framework for approving them, (“fast track,” rebranded as “trade promotion authority,” or TPA). This would apply to all trade agreements as far forward as 2021. Fast track means that Congress can only vote up or down on trade agreements in a very limited time window and would give enormous power to one or two presidents.

    “I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues,” Obama told Hardball host Chris Matthews, speaking of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), an outspoken opponent of the trade deals and the fast track mechanism itself. “But she’s wrong on this.”

    Obama called the TPP “the most progressive trade deal in our history…When you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.”

    There’s just one problem: Unless you’re a member of Congress, you can’t dig into the facts—a slight detail that Warren herself pointed out.

    “The Obama Admin says I’m wrong—we shouldn’t worry about TPP. So why can’t the American people read the deal?” she tweeted the next day.

    Warren linked to a blog post, “You Can’t Read This,” where she warned: “Don’t bother trying to Google it. The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement. It’s top secret.” The reason? “Here’s the real answer people have given me: ‘We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.’”

    That same day, Warren also went on the Rachel Maddow Show to explain more fully.

    “Senators can go and read it; people in the House of Representatives can read it, but we’re not allowed to talk about it,” she explained. “The president says that he wants the American people to judge the bill based on the facts, but to do that he’s got to make the deal public. Otherwise, the American people can’t judge it on the facts; he won’t put the facts out there…. The press should be able to see this; people should be able to dig into it. If it’s a great deal for families, like the president says, or a great deal for workers, then put it out there, and let ’em see it, before we have to grease the skids.”

    Maddow then asked about a White House promise to put the agreement online before a vote.

    “They’re asking us now to grease the skids, so we give up any chance to be able to amend it, any chance to block it, any chance to slow it down,” Warren responded. “Give that up, and then you’ll be able to see the deal on the other side. I just don’t think that’s reasonable.”

    In fact, some details of the deal are known, though perhaps not in final form, thanks to a series of major document leaks facilitated by Wikileaks. The most recent and most damaging release, the “Investment Chapter,” was picked up by the New York Times. On March 26, it reported the remarks of Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat.

    “This is really troubling,” Schumer told reporters. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.”

    Schumer is considered a top Wall Street ally among Senate Democrats—yet here he is sounding more like Warren on this.

    We also have the record of past deals, whose costs in lost jobs and massive trade imbalances were vastly under-anticipated. Plus, there is the continuity of those corporate leaders, lawyers and lobbyists empowered to craft these deals behind closed doors, as well as the intellectual and economic history of trade theory and practice that has brought us to the current situation. All these factors point in the same direction: that those negotiating the TPP have every right to fear making it known to the American people.

    Warren cut to the most salient point with her next argument:

    “There’s one fact the American people can see and that’s how the negotiation process worked,” Warren said. “These negotiations have been going on for a long time and there are 28 different working groups for it. Eighty-five percent of the people in those working groups are senior executives in various industries that are going to be affected, or they are lobbyists for those industries. They’re the ones who helped shape the deal. They’re the ones who have helped determine what that deal is going to look like on the other side. And, my view is when the process is rigged, the outcome is likely to be rigged.”

    Notably absent from these negotiations are senior labor leaders, environmentalists or consumer protection advocates. They are all locked out and are justifiably critical.

    On Hardball, Obama also claimed TPP had “unprecedented labor standards, unprecedented environmental standards,” and “fixes a lot of the problems that you had in things like NAFTA.”

    But according to whom? There were no labor or environmental leaders involved in crafting those standards and none will be able to read a word of them until after fast track is approved. Only then is TPP expected to move forward.

    An obvious parallel is labor. Would any labor leader go ask his members to vote on a contract that no labor representatives were involved in negotiating? Much less, would he or she recommend that they approve it?

    The closest labor leaders have gotten is giving testimony to Congress, as AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka did last week, telling senators, “We were told by the [United States Trade Representative] general counsel that murdering a trade unionist doesn’t violate these standards, that perpetuating violence against a trade unionist doesn’t violate these agreements.”

    They’ve also been heard in support of protest rallies, as when hundreds protested this past December when TPP negotiators met in Washington, D.C.

    “The voices of millions of working, middle-class Americans cannot be ignored,” Hoffa said, in a prepared press statement from Public Citizen. “They are tired of being the casualties of bad trade deals that send good-paying jobs overseas. The Teamsters Union will continue to fight against fast track authorization and the Trans-Pacific Partnership—American workers cannot pay the price of another bad trade deal.”

    George Kohl, senior director of Communications Workers of America, echoed Hoffa in that same press release.

    “We believe in trade,” Kohl said. “We are fighting against old trade policy that literally guarantees corporate profits at the expense of working families in all nations.”

    Public Citizen presented opposition that came from environmentalists as well, represented by Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.

    “We can’t let negotiators secretly shape trade pacts behind closed doors that will open up the floodgates for fracking, make environmental safeguards vulnerable to polluter attacks and worsen climate disruption,” Solomon said. “We’re raising our voices to say ‘no’ to fast tracking a flawed trans-pacific partnership, and ‘yes’ to protecting our families and communities.”

    In addition to his criticism, Trumka has also been outspoken about what labor wants instead.

    “We know what we’re looking for in these agreements,” Trumka said at a March 25 event with the Center for American Progress. “We want trade agreements to contribute to democratic global economic governance and to promote good jobs, full employment and rising wages. A key element, of course, is strong labor rights protections so that every worker in every country can exercise fundamental human rights on the job — without fear. So we are looking for every trade agreement to require nations to adopt, maintain and enforce the core labor rights — as agreed by the International Labor Organization — and as set out in the ILO core conventions and their related jurisprudence. These include freedom of association and the right to organize, and bans on child labor, forced labor and discrimination in employment.”

    Reporting on Trumka’s speech, progressive news magazine In These Times added, “Leaked portions of the TPP and TTIP have not included any mention of these rights.”

    This is hardly surprising. While earlier trade agreements really did focus on reducing tariffs—the traditional definition of “free trade”—since the 1970s, the focus has shifted to reducing so-called “non-tariff” barriers, including health, environmental and labor laws and regulations. A January report from the Congressional Research Service laid out this history:

    “For roughly the first 150 years of the United States, Congress exercised its authority over foreign trade by setting tariff rates on all imported products,” the report stated.

    However, following the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff, which only worsened the Great Depression, the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934 “authorized the president to enter into reciprocal trade agreements that reduced tariffs within pre-approved levels.”

    The most recent trade agreement signed under this system was the “Kennedy Round” of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), “the last round in which tariff reduction was the primary focus of trade negotiations” [Italics in original].

    There were two non-tariff provisions as well: one related to customs valuation, the other to anti-dumping provisions. The presence of these agreements lead to a prolonged debate, not only about those provisions, but about the whole trade negotiation process. While many wanted to require implementing legislation to be treated like any other congressional business, others objected — ironically, in light of how things now stand. They said that doing so “would defeat a major purpose for delegating trade agreements authority to the president in the first place: to reduce the special interest pressures inherent in trade policymaking.”

    This was the logic that prevailed when fast track was first approved in 1974. But rather than eliminating special interest pressure, the fast track process has greatly favored the most powerful special interests that are now directly involved in writing so-called “trade agreements.” These are no longer even primarily about trade.

    “[T]his is not a trade agreement,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote on his New York Times blog. “It’s about intellectual property and dispute settlement; the big beneficiaries are likely to be pharma companies and firms that want to sue governments. Those are the issues that need to be argued.”

    Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, added even more telling detail on his Beat the Press blog, the oldest economics blog on the Internet.

    “The formal trade barriers between the parties to these deals are already low, which means there is not much room to lower them further,” Baker said. “These deals are mostly about putting in place a business-friendly structure of regulation. Some of this business-friendly regulation involves increasing barriers in the form of stronger and longer patent and copyright protection.” (Yes, that is “protection,” as in protectionism.)

    And, MSNBC host Chris Hayes summarized the irony in a tweet:

    “Amazing to hear an ostensible free trade deal sold in the zero-sum language of mercantilism.”

    Mercantilism was the dominant trade ideology prior to the 19th century. Wikipedia says it “promoted governmental regulation of a nation’s economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. It is the economic counterpart of political absolutism.”

    In the era of Citizen’s United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that removed restrictions to corporate contributions in political fundraising, it’s really no surprise to see it making a return. What’s surprising—and disturbing—is to see Obama continue to argue for it, when only a small handful of other Democrats support him in doing so.

     

     

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  • Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness

    By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

    Sixty-two-year-old Gerald Robinson was sweeping up litter and dirt around his possessions at about 7:30 a.m. April 27.  All of his possessions were folded and packaged neatly inside five shopping carts—not including the one he uses to collect recyclable bottles and cans.

    “I don’t want to depend on handouts,” he said 24 hours before he was to leave or be evicted from the block between Beacon and Ante Perkov Way on 8th Street—the northern side of the Beacon Street Post Office.

    For Robinson and his encampment neighbors, James, Tim, Neecee and her two brothers and son, the countdown had been ticking since April 24, when the city posted notices on trees and utility poles near the encampments that had sprung up around the vicinity in the past three weeks.

    Sixty-two-year-old Gerald Robinson was sweeping up litter and dirt around his possessions at about 7:30 a.m. April 27. All of his possessions were folded and packaged neatly inside five shopping carts—not including the one he uses to collect recyclable bottles and cans.

    “I don’t want to depend on handouts,” he said 24 hours before he was to leave or be evicted from the block between Beacon and Ante Perkov Way on 8th Street—the northern side of the Beacon Street Post Office.

    For Robinson and his encampment neighbors, James, Tim, Neecee and her two brothers and son, the countdown had been ticking since April 24, when the city posted notices on trees and utility poles near the encampments that had sprung up around the vicinity in the past three weeks.

    He didn’t seem to know where he was going to move next. He just said he’ll move.

    “As long as my mother is still buried in Green Hills Cemetery, I’ll still be in Pedro,” he said.

    But he was conscious of his schedule. At noon, he had an appointment he had to keep, perhaps more important than moving his belongings, with his case manager.

    The notices gave the homeless until 7:30 a.m. on April 28 to move their belongings. It didn’t matter where they went as long as they weren’t in front of the iconic Ante’s restaurant that morning. Ante’s has been closed for the past three years

    Most of the encampment’s residents belong to the Plaza Park encampment that was vacated in December. Random Lengths reported on the complaints generated by their presence. They were evicted then, too. Neecee and her family were among those who were evicted.

    The encampment’s residents said they didn’t think it would be a problem this time around and that up until recently, the police didn’t think so either.

    At least that was the case before the city was spurred into action when a Facebook post drawing attention to the issue went viral—eliciting hundreds of comments.

    Neecee and her family share space on the sidewalk next to Ante’s restaurant along with several shopping carts and several bikes — a couple of them in various stages of repair. On the Friday before the April 28 deadline, Neecee said she had a Section 8 voucher and was set to acquire housing in a day or two. If successful, she and her family would be able to make this the last time she’d have to move her home a few blocks whenever the city comes knocking.

    Any belongings left behind would be collected by contractors hired by the city’s Bureau of Street Services and kept in a secure location for pickup for up to three months. After those three months unclaimed belongings are discarded. When asked about what they would do if their belongings were taken, James said they will just find more stuff.

    But their belongings aren’t easily replaceable when it comes to relatively clean blankets, clothes, bicycles, important documents and other personal effects.

    The never-ending cycle of forced evictions from public spaces echoes the Los Angeles City Administrative Office’s assessment of enforcement-only measures in its April 16 report.

    The report estimated that the city spends $100 million annually in addressing homelessness, with little to show for it.

    Among the recommendations proposed was better coordination of existing city and nonprofit services on both the city and county levels.

    Alex Devin is Harbor Interfaith Services’ outreach and housing navigator and, in this encampment, the most recognizable representative of Los Angeles County’s Coordinated Entry System.

    The Coordinated Entry System is a collaboration of public and private partners throughout the county that assess people who are homeless and adds them to a shared database. With this database, the most vulnerable are prioritized for permanent supportive housing and other services. It also helps ensure those in the system are not forgotten.

    Devin was hired in September 2014. He’s created more than 300 case files and found permanent housing for 31 of them since he’s been hired.

    “We’re chipping away at it,” Devin said.

    He noted that from the time a case file is opened to when a client is placed in permanent housing could take four to nine months.

    At 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Robinson’s belongings were still there, but he hadn’t been seen by his encampment mates since the day before. His belongings, including a cart filled with what remains of his record and cassette tape collection topped with neatly folded blankets, were taken away.

    Neecee was packing the remainder of her belongings into her shopping carts. She said it would be another month before she’ll be able to move into her Section 8 housing.

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  • The Great Homeless Debate

    Whack-a-mole enforcement in a city spending $87 million on policing the homeless, and no solution in sight
    By James Preston Allen, Publisher

    Los Angeles Police Department Officer Maligi Nua Jr. greets me with a smile as he and two other LAPD officers watch a crew of yellow-shirted men from Beacon House and a team of white Tyvek-suited workers clean out the homeless encampment in front of the former Ante’s Restaurant in San Pedro. The workers are from Clean Harbors, a company that cleans up hazardous waste sites.

    Nua is the 6-foot something, Samoan, senior lead officer for Central San Pedro who has an affable “aw shucks” humility and a dedication to community service. I can see he really doesn’t like evicting these homeless folks, as he has seen this happen all before. They get chased out of one location and they just move a few blocks and set up camp again. In fact, several of the homeless have already moved back to Anderson Park just up the street where they or others were evicted a few weeks ago.

    This whack-a-mole type of enforcement has been consistently used by the city as a response to neighborhood complaints stemming from the city’s other actions, such as the renovation of Ken Malloy Park, made famous by Reggie the Alligator. There, some 161 homeless people were secretly encamped—out of sight and out of mind.

    That there were homeless people lined up on this one block outside the former restaurant run by Ante Perkov Sr. and later his son by the same name—who had done so much charity in this community—is at least ironic.

    That a large residential project is being planned for development on this property, now owned by one of San Pedro’s largest landlords—Jerico Development—is perhaps poetic justice. That they are in plain sight of San Pedro’s City Hall and the Los Angeles County Mental Health Clinic is just absurd. But absurdity, justice and irony are not easily discussed in this context, if at all. Nor are there any permanent solutions in a city where it was recently reported that the LAPD alone is spending up to $87 million per year policing the homeless.

    The principals of Jerico Development, through their charitable Crail-Johnson Foundation donate anywhere between $1 million and $2 million to area nonprofits annually. And yet, with all of their charity and all of their work with groups like Harbor Interfaith Services and others, this homeless problem is far from solved. If we added up all of the charitable giving directed at solving this problem, it still wouldn’t come close to the $100 million that Los Angeles spends and what the county has yet totaled up in related annual costs. This is a problem bigger than any charitable solution.

    What is even more curiously frustrating is that directly across the street from this recent encampment is the Los Angeles County Health Services offices, with an auditorium I’ve never seen used. They just spent a bucket of money placing a 12-foot- high steel fence around its parking lot.

    That the homeless issue is being kicked around much like the homeless people themselves are being kicked out of every place they land is symbolic of the dysfunction of the civic debate on the issue. The response from Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office is reminiscent of his predecessor’s response to traffic problems: every complaint gets a stop sign.

    How we fix this problem directly relates to the waterfront development issues we currently face, whether it’s the revitalization of Ports O’Call, the revitalization of San Pedro’s downtown core, or the eventual redevelopment of Rancho San Pedro public housing. All of these cry out for a coordinated plan in absence of a Community Redevelopment Agency or some holistic approach that includes the construction of more moderate-income residential units and housing for the homeless.

    This, my friends and neighbors, is the big picture not taken into account when we talk about ridding San Pedro of homelessness from one street or park or another. This, my friends, is what’s not taken into account when we only incrementally address the aforementioned challenges in isolation.

    When people ask, “Why hasn’t San Pedro realized its full potential?” or, “Why do we have the lowest cost housing closest to the water in all of Southern California?” The answer is that we keep solving a complex problem with singular “stop sign” fixes in lieu of comprehensive planning, which includes coordinated development and intelligent urban design.

    You can see the basis for this critique in what has happened in the port city of Baltimore. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent over decades to redevelop their waterfront. But just blocks away in the shadow of their grand development stands an entrenched poverty- stricken community, with an unemployment rate twice that of the rest of that city.

    The economic injustice of Baltimore should stand out as a major red flag to all of us with intentions to redevelop this Los Angeles Harbor Area waterfront. The homeless encampments are not just a public nuisance, they are the canaries in the coal mine and a warning of greater undercurrents. One can only assume that the cause of homelessness and poverty in Baltimore and their failure to cure it is at the root of the current uprising against the police.

    Not far from Baltimore, where the flames of injustice rose last week, stands in our nation’s capital the Franklin Delano Roosevelt monument, of men waiting in a soup line cast in bronze. The inscription is a quote from Roosevelt:

    The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

    That says more on this subject than all of the arguing on Facebook over the homeless or has been printed to date in the Daily Breeze about the encampments.

     

     

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  • The Dalmatian-American Club of San Pedro: A New Mother’s Day Brunch

    By Gina Ruccione, Cuisine Writer
    If you really want to impress mom this Mother’s Day, try something you haven’t done before.
    The Dalmatian-American Club recently aquired the highly–decorated chef from the Elks Lodge, Tony Pielin. They now offer monthly bottomless mimosa brunches at a fraction of the price that most other venues charge in the Harbor Area.
    Since 1935, the Dalmatian-American Club has hosted more weddings, anniversaries, retirement parties and other special events than any other venue in the South Bay. In fact, for the past 80 years it has served as San Pedro’s center of hospitality — famously known for its monthly community fish luncheon, attracting everyone from longshoremen to members of Congress.
    The word ‘‘club’’ connotes exclusivity, but the Dalmatian-American Club is anything but. Its members are more than welcoming. Don’t let the stoic outer appearance of the building fool you either; the inside is friendly and inviting. There is an incredible air of nostalgia that resonates throughout and the view from the bar of San Pedro’s great harbor is truly breathtaking.
    The Dalmatian-American is historically known for superb food and quality service and the new brunch service is meant to be, “an exclamation to a fact already well known,” explained Rudy Svorinich Jr., president of the club.
    Of course, its buffet brunch offers the ubiquitous staples: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, eggs Benedict, and the highly popular omelet and waffle station. All of it is delicious, fresh and made from scratch. The eggs Benedict with hollandaise sauce is one of my favorites. I am particularly impressed with the buffet choices that aren’t typically present at brunch. The poached salmon with pineapple and mango salsa is good, and the classic chicken salad is perfect. The bread pudding is so enjoyable that I’m surprised no one stole the sheet pan from the display table. As a special treat this Mother’s Day, expect a ham carving station to accompany the rest of the feast.
    Brunch specials vary from $18 for regular brunch to $22 for holiday brunches. Service will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 10.
    Dalmatian-American Club, 1639 S. Palos Verdes St., San Pedro, (310) 223-6970.

    Mother’s Day Brunch:
    The Old, The New, Some Tried and True
    Still haven’t made reservations for Mother’s Day brunch? Well, not to worry—Random Lengths News has a handful of other options in the Harbor Area that won’t disappoint.

    22nd Street Landing
    Known for it’s beautiful view of the marina and its Zagat-rated food, the 22nd Street Landing has been a San Pedro favorite for more than 25 years. It will be serving its ever-popular champagne brunch this Mother’s Day with many favorites including the blue crab Benedict, the lobster fritters Benedict, and the Hawaiian-style French toast. Brunch service: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Price: $17 (additional $9-$10 for free-flowing champagne or mimosas).
    22nd Street Landing, 141 W. 22nd St., San Pedro, (310) 548-4400.

    The Queen Mary Champagne Brunch
    The legendary, retired ocean liner will be hosting its version of a champagne Mother’s Day brunch with what looks to be the most extensive menu in Long Beach. Featuring a carving station with turkey, ham and ribs, a “rise and shine” menu with classic breakfast options, Asian-inspired options, and an “eggs your way” feature that includes omelets and egg specialties made to order, and several Italian specialties, there is truly something for everyone. For those wanting something on the lighter side, there will be a market salad station featuring fresh salads, cheeses and fruits, a bountiful seafood medley display, and of course, desert — and plenty of it. Brunch service: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Price: $59.95 per adult; $19.95 for children 12 and under (tax and gratuity is additional). Parking is $7 with validation (up to 6 hours). It includes valet parking.
    The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 499-1606.

    The Aquarium of the Pacific
    Enjoy a unique dining experience this Mother’s Day at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Feel free to explore the wonders of the ocean as you enjoy a wonderful brunch featuring assorted pastries with fresh marmalades, creams and jams, seasonal fruits, stuffed croissants with farm fresh eggs, bacon and potato hash, wild salmon and herb-roasted pork loin. Brunch service: 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Price: $59 per adult; $25 per child (3-11). Includes general admission. $49 for aquarium members; $15 for member children.
    The Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, (562) 590-3100.

    Gina Ruccione has traveled all over Europe and Asia, and lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. When she’s not rummaging through recipes, she spends her days working as an account manager. You can visit her blog at http://foodfashionfoolishfornication.blogspot.com.

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  • Photographer Exposes a Watershed with ‘RiverRun’ Exhibit

    By Andrea Serna, arts and culture writer

    Photographer Ray Carofano has fallen into the Los Angeles River. Well, not literally. Known for his black and white photography of the California Mojave Desert, he now has had an encounter with the Los Angeles River that has elevated his color palette and subject matter with a dramatic look at the 51-mile concrete corridor.

    The result is riverrun at Transvagrant/Warschaw Gallery, on exhibit through June 13.

    “Taking ‘less-picturesque’ portions of the river as his subject, Carofano’s carefully framed images reveal the not-so-hidden majesty of the concrete, the smooth lines of the river’s channel and its functionality,” stated curator Ron Linden, in a press release. “Sophisticated geometry, atmospheric light and color, and rightness of scale lend these images a painterly quality that requires close observation to determine that they are indeed photographs. Conditions considered appalling appear alluring, serene—each image paying homage to the intersection between nature and the designed environment.”

    Painterly indeed.

    Carofano is known for presenting the melancholy dystopian landscape of the desert in his series Land of Broken Dreams. With riverrun, he has deconstructed the landscape by tightening his lens to discover the abstract beauty within the concrete ribbon of the river. Carofano does not attempt to represent external reality, but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors and textures.

    “These are probably the most geometric compositions I have done in a single body of work,” Carofano said. “I have been thinking about doing a body of work in color for many years, but this work sort of found me.”

    An avid bicyclist, Carofano has been riding the river bike path for many years. During a long ride this past year, he took a break to fix a flat tire and the river caught his creative gaze.

    “It was just a perfect day when the light was right,” he said. “There was just the right reflection [of light] on the water and I went, ‘Wow!’ The very next day I was back with my camera and started the project. I don’t think I have ever completed a series in such a short period of time.”

    The ever-changing waterline and skyline reflected on the river created material for the photographer. The reflections in his photos become abstractions. Many of the images in this series are not recognizable as landscape, and it doesn’t matter.

    “Carofano turns his subject into narrator,” Linden said. “The river narrates itself. It makes you want to look and, more importantly, look again.”

    Ghost-like reflections of a towering electrical transformer, big rig trucks running their loads down the 710 Freeway, and migrating waterfowl stopping for a rest along their north-south route are all reflected in the water’s many hues.

    Many of the geometric images reflect how the concrete banks control the flow in the channel, engineers intervened to prevent the river from its natural tendency to meander. Nevertheless, the river just keeps on rolling, and repairs to the embankment contribute to the artistic ethos.

    A particularly striking image of tar repairs to the cracking concrete embankment is reminiscent of California painter Richard Diebenkorn’s residual landscape work. Diebenkorn’s images depict perspectives of suburban views criss-crossed with roadways found on the West Coast, where the artist lived for many years.

    In the fourth year of the worst California drought in modern history, some may think that this series is a commentary on water conservation, but Carofano claims no desire to make a political statement with his art.

    Instead, he has experienced his own personal revolution with his move into color, away from representational photography and toward contemporary abstraction. It seems much of this collection could have been created with a paint brush, rather than a camera.

    Born in Connecticut, Carofano drove to the West Coast in 1966 in an old Jaguar. A 50-year career in commercial photography has allowed him the freedom to pursue his artistic gift. Today, he and his photographer wife, Arneé, live and work at Studio 478 on 7th Street in San Pedro. During the First Thursdays Artwalk, you can drop in to mix with an eclectic group of artists, musicians and intellectuals to discuss art, politics and enjoy a glass of wine.

    Although Studio 478 has exhibited many high-profile artists, a decision was made this year to focus on the exhibition and development of the two artists’ own work. Both have shifted their aesthetic toward large-format color abstracts. Eliminating the time consuming distraction of curated exhibits has paid off for the husband and wife team, and it shows in their lush photography series.

    “About a year and a half ago my wife and I exchanged thoughts on what we wanted to accomplish in the years ahead,” Carofano said. “As we have been showing other artists’ work in our gallery for over 17 years, we both agreed that it is time to focus on our own projects and personal work and so that is just what we have been doing.”

    Ray Carofano’s photographs have been widely exhibited in the United States and abroad, including solo exhibitions at Fototeca de Cuba in Havana, the Museum of Photographic Art in San Diego and Galería de Arte Fotografo in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Fototeca de Cuba in Havana, the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, the University of Texas at Austin in Austin, Texas and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Santa Barbara, among others.

    Organized by TransVagrant, riverrun runs through June 13.

    Time: Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and by appointment.

    Cost: Free

    Details: (310) 600-4873; Transvagrant.com

    Venue: Transvagrant/Warschaw Gallery, 600 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro

     

     

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  • Ladies And Gentlemen, Please Drink Responsibly

    Photo courtesy of Lola’s Mexican Cuisine

    By Gina Ruccione, Food Writer
    You’ve had a month to recover from St. Patrick’s Day debauchery in March, and hopefully, no permanent damage was caused. For those of you ready for round two—the madness and mayhem that is Cinco de Mayo—we’ve scoped out local hot spots around Long Beach that will possibly leave you with even more muddled memories, random phone numbers and awkward selfies to post on Facebook.

    AGAVES KITCHEN & TEQUILA
    Known for Mexican specialties served alongside more than 250 fine tequilas and agave spirits, this is probably your most viable option for a true Cinco de Mayo party. Happy hour will start at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. There will be a DJ and, most importantly, no cover charge. The cocktails are made with fresh fruits and homemade, infused tequilas. I would recommend just about anything on the menu. Trust me, you’re going to want to eat something after downing several of their spicy mango margaritas.
    Agaves Kitchen & Tequila, 200 Pine Ave., Suite A, Long Beach, (562) 435-7700.

    ALEGRIA COCINA LATINA
    A colorful and comfortable spot in downtown Long Beach, Alegria provides a fusion of all the best that Latin American cuisine has to offer. The décor, including twinkling lights on the outdoor patio, is warm and inviting. Known for fruit-infused sangrias, unique signature appetizers and live entertainment, Alegria is one of the more popular spots on Pine Street.
    Alegria Cocina Latina, 115 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 436-3388.

    TEQUILA JACK’S
    In the heart of Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, Tequila Jacks provides the perfect indoor and outdoor ambience in the marina. The earth-toned dining area is relaxing and the patio overlooks the beautiful harbor. Service is typically quick and attentive. Lucky for you, Cinco de Mayo falls on a Tuesday; Tequila Jack’s Taco Tuesday specials are typically $1.20 for tacos including carne asada, carnitas, chicken, Baja fish, grilled vegetables and bean and cheese. House margaritas and well drinks are practically a steal.
    Tequila Jack’s, 407 Shoreline Village Dr., Long Beach, (562) 628-0454.

    TACO BEACH CANTINA
    A true Mexican cantina atmosphere, Taco Beach on Pine Street is the perfect place to eat authentic Mexican food and enjoy delicious margaritas. The atmosphere is fun and upbeat and they have an outdoor patio, so there will be plenty of people watching. Featuring many imported Mexican beers and tequilas, there will be countless potent potables to chose from. The DJ starts at 8 p.m. and you’ll most likely dance until you drop (or you’re carried out) at 2 a.m.
    Taco Beach Cantina, 211 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 983-1337.

    LOS COMPADRES
    Perhaps bar hopping is not your thing, and I don’t blame you. If you’d prefer to opt out of a night that includes stumbling from bar to bar, or one that leaves you at the dead end of a shame spiral the next morning, I’d head to Los Compadres — arguably the best Mexican restaurant in Long Beach. This place always has a line out the door. But, my god, it is worth it. There are no “special” Cinco de Mayo plans, but good luck trying to get a table. You might be able to snag one, if you skip going to the office altogether and just head there in the morning.
    Los Compadres, 1144 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 432-0061.

    LOLA’S MEXICAN CUISINE
    Lola’s is one of my favorite spots in Long Beach. It’s a quaint but festive place to grub, specializing in modern, contemporary Mexican cuisine. They use only the freshest ingredients and organic meats. Expect them to be crowded on Cinco de Mayo, as Taco Tuesdays are typically standing room only. I suspect their mesquite tacos and Pacifico pints will probably be the most popular menu items that evening, but don’t shy away from any of the moles or platillos especiales. They currently only serve beer and wine, but don’t worry, a little bird told me that they will soon be toting a full bar featuring signature craft cocktails. I’ll be waiting with bated breath.
    Lola’s Mexican Cuisine, 2030 E. 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 343-5506.

    A wise man once told me, “Never drink so much that you can’t remember.” Truer words have never been spoken. That being said, I want you to go out there this Cinco de Mayo, have some fun, make (somewhat) good decisions, and above all, call an Uber.

    Gina Ruccione has traveled all over Europe and Asia, and lived in almost every nook of Los Angeles County. You can visit her blog at http://foodfashionfoolishfornication.blogspot.com.

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