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Children’s Hospital launches annual fund campaign Featured

LOS ANGELES — Children’s Hospital Los Angeles launched its fourth annual Make March Matter campaign March 4. Actor and longtime hospital Chris Pine joined the hospital to kick off the campaign, which has attracted the commitment of businesses in Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley.

The month-long community fundraising drive is helping local businesses rally community participation to raise $1 million in the month of March to support children’s health in Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

“This campaign is a much-anticipated event for our hospital and our community because it embodies our shared commitment to improving the health of children,” hospital President and CEO Paul Viviano said.

“For 31 days, people can improve access to health care for children by participating in very accessible ways that make a difference, like buying a latte at a local coffee shop, sharing a meal with family and friends at a local restaurant, shopping at a favorite retailer, and more.”

Each year, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles treats children who face a broad range of health issues, from common illnesses to traumas to chronic diseases. The hospital is also dedicated to innovation, supporting advances in research designed to improve pediatric health outcomes and partnering with physicians across the nation to bring the best care here to children in Los Angeles.

Last year, Southern California business and corporate partners helped the campaign exceed its $1 million goal, raising a total of $2 million to aid in funding life-saving care for children in Los Angeles.

Corporations across the Southland have agreed to support community members in giving back. Each business has selected a unique way to contribute to the campaign’s collective impact. Some sell specific items with proceeds supporting the hospital, others devote a portion of overall sales for the entire month and still others create their own unique fundraising campaigns to galvanize their employees and consumers to contribute. 

“The Panda Restaurant Group is proud to once again support the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Make March Matter campaign,” said Peggy Cherng, co-founder and co-CEO. “As we mark our 20th anniversary of Panda Cares, our team is committed to giving back to the community, especially when it comes to helping youth in need. We have been the campaign’s top fundraiser three years in a row and it is our goal to keep that distinction.”

For a complete list of participating partners and local events taking place throughout the month of March, go to MakeMarchMatter.org.

For LaTisha Nixon, latest death is more than deja vu Featured

WEST HOLLYWOOD — LaTisha Nixon’s trip to Los Angeles was supposed to be a commemoration of what would have been her son Gemmel Moore’s 28th birthday. Instead, it turned into her worst nightmare all over again.

Moore was found dead at the home of Ed Buck, a prominent Democratic Party donor, in July 2017. An autopsy concluded that Moore’s death was caused by an overdose of methamphetamine. Due to a lack of evidence, the county district attorney’s office did not press charges against Buck for Moore’s death.

Eighteen months following Moore’s overdose, paramedics responded to another 911 call from Buck’s apartment regarding an unconscious man who was not breathing. Timothy Dean was pronounced dead in the early morning hours of Jan. 7. The cause of death has not been released.

Friends, co-workers and neighbors were shocked and saddened to hear about Dean’s death.

Ottavio Taddei, Dean’s roommate for the past three years, said Dean stayed away from narcotics and was very neat with “everything in a specific spot and nicely folded.”

“I’ve never seen him doing drugs or taking drugs,” Taddei said. “He doesn’t even smoke weed or cigarettes. … If he drank something, it was at the end of the day, after work. Not someone who had a problem.”

At a candlelight vigil in front of Buck’s apartment Jan. 11, Dean’s longtime friend Mark Chambers felt compelled to speak up for his friend.

“I’ve known Tim for 30 years,” Chambers said. “He’s not an angel and he’s not a devil. He is in between, just like everybody else.”

In the past, Dean performed in adult films. An online database of adult films credits Dean with more than a dozen roles.

“I knew he did it, but when we were coming up, a lot of people did it. It was like, OK, so what?” Chambers said. “Just because he did porn doesn’t equal a drug addict.”

According to Dean’s friends, he had turned his life completely around.  He was a fashion consultant at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, had joined a church and was baptized. He had even gone back to school and earned his associates degree from Santa Monica College. 

Dean also played in the Lambda Basketball League and last summer traveled with Chambers and others to Paris to compete in the Gay Games.

Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, says his client had nothing to do with Dean’s death. 

According to Amster, Buck and Dean been friends for 25 years. Dean had “ingested some type of substance” before arriving at Buck’s apartment Jan. 7 and Buck had tried to perform CPR after Dean fell unconscious.

“This is not a situation where Mr. Buck had caused the death,” the attorney said. “This is a situation where Mr. Buck has had longtime friends who, unfortunately, do not handle their life well then succumb when they are in the apartment of Mr. Buck.”

Dean’s death has put a spotlight on the issues of wealth and privilege — specifically white privilege — that some say exists even within the liberal gay community of West Hollywood. 

Following the vigil in from of Buck’s apartment, West Hollywood resident and queer artist Lex Ryan posted on Instagram:

“White people — and especially those white queer folx who live in West Hollywood and party in West Hollywood — let this be a wake up. West Hollywood is not safe for everyone. It is not the progressive, inclusive place we like to believe it is. It is a place where two black men can die of overdoses in a wealthy white man’s apartment — a man known to pay black men so that he can inject them with meth — while the white man walks free. This is West Hollywood. This is where we celebrate Pride. Pride in what? Pride that only white lgbtq folx are safe? This is unacceptable. We can do better. We need to do better.”

For Latisha Nixon, the death of Timothy Dean conjures up painful similarities to her son’s death.

Moore and Dean died in the apartment of Ed Buck and he had been present at the time of their deaths. Both men were black and gay. Buck, 64, is white, gay, wealthy and politically connected. 

According to the personal testimony of several escorts who say they have had experiences with Buck, he intentionally seeks out gay black men who are financially vulnerable and pays them to do drugs with him, specifically methamphetamine.

Dean’s death is also the realization of the dire prediction Nixon made in front of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station on the first anniversary of her son’s death, one day after prosecutors declined to file charges against Buck.

“The media always refers to my son as a homeless black gay prostitute,” Nixon said at the time. “He wasn’t homeless. He wasn’t a prostitute. 

“They call Ed Buck a ‘wealthy white Democratic donor.’ He’s a predator. He preys on vulnerable black men. If they don’t stop him, he’ll do it again and the blood will be on their hands.”

LAUSD to resume talks with teachers’ union Featured

LOS ANGELES — Negotiations between the union representing striking teachers and the Los Angeles Unified School District were expected to resume Jan. 17 at City Hall.

“The Mayor’s Office will facilitate these negotiations,” said a statement released by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office Jan. 16.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing the teachers, “will be ready to bargain and our team will work long and hard toward an agreement that benefits our students, members and communities,” Arlene Inouye, the union’s bargaining chair, said.

Leaders from the union and district met with Garcetti and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond Jan. 16 and “great progress” was made, Thurmond said.

“I am certain that together we will get [through] this and we will get our kids back to school,” Thurmond said.

The last negotiating session was held Jan. 11.

The first teachers strike to hit the district in 30 years went into its fourth day with thousands of educators picketing for increased pay, smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians.

Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said he did not expect any deal to be reached in the immediate future, and suggested talks were likely to go at least into the weekend.

“After 21 months of negotiations, I think it would be an unrealistic expectation to say that this will be over after today, because there are hard issues to work through, and they haven’t been moving on class size,” Caputo-Pearl said during a morning rally and news conference at Arleta High School.

“And class size is important. They haven’t been moving on some other key things.”

Caputo-Pearl also said another large UTLA rally was being planned at Grand Park next to City Hall Jan. 18. Thousand of UTLA members rallied at the park Jan. 14, the first day of the strike, before marching through downtown to LAUSD headquarters.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said earlier this week the district has offered the union as much as it can given its financial constraints.

“It’s just math,” he told reporters. “This is just math. It’s not a values conversation. The experts have all said we do not have the ability to spend more than we’re spending.”

However, a pair of LAUSD Board of Education members issued statements Jan. 16 expressing frustration with the continuing work stoppage. One of them criticized Beutner for failing to broker a resolution and accused him of spreading misinformation.

“I can no longer allow Mr. Beutner to speak for me or to suggest that the massive public relations, and often misinformation, campaign that he is waging represents my views about the current teachers strike,” board member Scott Schmerelson said. “We need to end the strike and get back to our teachers teaching and our kids learning.

“Instead of repeating the doom, gloom and heading for bankruptcy predictions that we have heard for decades, I believe that it is Mr. Beutner’s job to honestly identify sources of funding buried in our existing budget, and the revenue growth predicted for next year, that could be creatively sourced and invested in the students,” he added.

Fellow board member George McKenna, who represents most of South Los Angeles, noted that he and Schmerelson last year proposed that the district ask voters to approve a parcel tax to generate local revenue for schools, but the board rejected the idea.

“We all agree that the state must allocate more money for public education,” McKenna said. “That should have been a legislative priority with a full-court press a year ago, not last week. If we expect teachers to do everything in their power to avoid a strike, then we have an obligation to do everything in our power to do the same.”

The union has been calling for the hiring of more teachers and support staff, such as nurses, counselors and librarians, along with reduced class sizes.

The district’s most recent offer to the union was made Jan. 11, with the package including, among other things, the hiring of 1,200 teachers, capping middle and high school English/math classes at 39 students, capping grades four through six at 35 students and maintaining all other existing class sizes, adding a full-time nurse at every elementary school and another academic counselor at high schools.

The increased staffing, however, would only be for one year, with the district saying the money to pay for the extra employees would come out of a one-time reserve.

“This represents the best we can do, recognizing that it is our obligation to provide as much resources as possible to support out students in each and every one of our schools,” Beutner said Jan. 11.

UTLA rejected the offer, saying it did not go far enough to bolster school staffing, reduce class sizes and prevent them from increasing in the future. The union also blasted the district’s staff-increase proposal for being only a one-year offer, and contended the district’s salary increase proposal is contingent on benefit cuts to future union members.

The LAUSD has offered teachers a 6 percent raise spread over the first two years of a three-year contract while UTLA wants a 6.5 percent raise that would take effect all at once and a year sooner.

The district claims the union’s contract demands would bankrupt the LAUSD, but the union disputes that contention, pointing to what it calls an estimated $1.8 billion reserve fund and insisting the district has not faced a financial deficit in five years. The district contends that reserve fund is already being spent, in part on the salary increase for teachers.

The second-largest school district in the nation, the LAUSD covers 710 square miles and serves more than 694,000 students at 1,322 schools, although 216 schools are independent charter schools, most of which are staffed with non-union teachers unaffected by the strike. The district says about 500,000 students are impacted by the walkout.

The district hired 400 substitutes, and 2,000 administrators with teaching credentials have been reassigned during the strike. The district has set up an information hotline for parents at (213) 443-1300.

According to the LAUSD, at least 132,411 of strike-affected students went to class Jan. 16, although figures from a dozen other campuses were still being tallied. That figure is a 22 percent drop from Jan. 15’s revised attendance figure of 171,480.

On Jan. 14, the first day of the strike, 156,774 students went to class.

District officials said the absentee rate means a gross revenue loss of about $69 million in state funding, which is based on daily attendance. The loss is partially offset by millions of dollars in salaries that aren’t being paid to the striking teachers. Beutner estimated earlier this week that the district suffered a net loss of roughly $15 million on the first day of the strike.

The district sent a letter to parents this week, noting that state law does not excuse absences in case of a strike and students are expected to attend class,” but saying school principals “will work with students and families on attendance.”

“At the moment, schools will not be notifying parents of absences, but will continue to monitor student attendance and provide support to students on an individual basis,” the district’s letter said. “Student absences during the strike will not impact graduation.”

UTLA has accused the district of failing to issue a “clear, definitive statement” on how the district is handling absences, effectively “exploiting parents’ fears and knowingly spreading confusion to try to gain leverage.”

Underlying the strike is the issue of charter schools. Union officials have accused Beutner and some members of the school board of favoring a vast expansion of privately operated charter schools, which are governed by the state and generally staffed by non-union teachers.

Top Celebrities call for an end to gun violence in U.S. Featured

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Ricky Gervais doesn’t care if he’s ever asked back to host the Golden Awards Featured

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Benfica Striker Ola John has his mind on the clash with the Catalans Featured

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2012 Formula 1 season was one of the most exciting and eventful in history Featured

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Oscar Pistorius has never baulked at a hard challenge Featured

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Portuguese exports rose by 13.7 percent in August from a year ago Featured

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In Filing, News Corp. Says Publishing Business Showed $2.1 Billion Loss Featured

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U.S. economy grew faster in third quarter of 2012 Featured

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After losing to Obama, what should Mitt Romney do next? Featured

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Duis velit neque, rutrum ac suscipit id; vehicula vel nibh! Nulla eget quam eget dui hendrerit molestie ut quis turpis. Aliquam non sem eget nisi adipiscing eleifend sed non libero. Integer ac felis ut odio venenatis condimentum bibendum non eros. Vivamus eu laoreet diam. Duis cursus.

EU’s new banking union will break the link between banks and public debt Featured

Sed a velit vitae nunc porta iaculis. Aliquam tempus rutrum diam, non tincidunt odio pharetra vitae. Nulla facilisi. Duis sed laoreet dui. Duis a risus nec erat tincidunt feugiat. Cras dui velit, luctus vitae volutpat vitae, vestibulum vitae orci.

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Cras mattis consectetur purus sit amet fermentum. Etiam porta sem malesuada magna mollis euismod. Aenean eu leo quam. Pellentesque ornare sem lacinia quam venenatis vestibulum. Sed posuere consectetur est at lobortis. Donec ullamcorper nulla non metus auctor fringilla.

Phasellus dictum placerat pellentesque. Duis vehicula tellus eu nisi sagittis a varius eros posuere. Donec metus dui, ultricies non porttitor sed, semper eget enim. Duis sed bibendum ante. Pellentesque at augue lorem!

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Sci-fi writers, illustrators honored at annual gala

HOLLYWOOD — Andrew Dykstal, a writer from Arlington, Virginia, has been named the grand-prize winner of the 35th annual Writers of the Future Contest.

Aliya Chen, an illustrator from Fair Oaks, California, was named the grand-prize winner of the 30th annual Illustrators of the Future L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards for Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests in the genres of science fiction and fantasy.

The awards were handed out at the Taglyan Cultural Complex April 5 before a capacity crowd of 400. Presented by Author Services Inc. and Galaxy Press, the theme for the two-hour awards show was Retro Robotics.

John Goodwin, president of Galaxy Press, said: “This year marks a historic milestone in our contests with simultaneous benchmark anniversaries, the 35th anniversary of our Writer’s Contest and, at the same time, the 30th anniversary of our Illustrators Contest.  

“This year was also groundbreaking for another reason, in that Aliya Chen made history becoming our first Chinese grand prize winner ever selected in either of our competitions.”

Dykstal, the winner of the Writer’s Award, said: “This is absolutely fantastic. I feel that my career as a writer has now been catapulted. It’s a tremendous honor to be here. The quality of the stories of my fellow writers in this contest is amazing. I have made new friends for life.”

Chen said: “I didn’t expect this at all. I’m overwhelmed and very grateful. Winning this grand prize award is validation for me that illustration, which is a passion for me, doesn’t have to be limited to a hobby, but it’s definitely possible as a career. I also feel God has opened these doors for me.”

Dykstal and Chen both received checks for $5,000 for winning the grand prizes.

The awards show was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Taglyan Cultural Complex. The evening began with hor d’oeuvres and cocktails, followed by a four-course meal and the awards show, which was followed by a book signing and reception in the foyer.

In his keynote address, Ed Hulse, an award-winning journalist and historian, talked about the golden age of science fiction and post World War II, with a veritable explosion in pulp magazines.

“The golden age of science fiction isn’t a relic of the past,” he said. “It has seeped into our popular culture in myriad ways. The Galactic Empires of Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series were foremost in the mind of George Lucas when he conceived ‘Star Wars’ and Doc Smith’s ‘Lensmen’ were among the influences of his Jedi knights.

“In the first film’s famous bar scene, he even lifted a sequence from L. Ron Hubbard’s story ‘The Kingslayer’virtually word for word. Van Vogt’s mutant ‘Slans’ were forerunners of Marvel’s ‘X-Men.’Countless popular motion pictures and television shows have adapted classic golden age pulp yarns, officially and unofficially.”

Speaking to the writers who were honored at the event, Hulse said: “These storytellers all contributed mightily to the evolution of science fiction. And now you’re part of that evolution. You represent a new generation of writers, alternately building upon and superseding literary traditions now more than a century old.  

“Yours are the ideas and concepts that will shape science fiction for years to come. I look forward to seeing how you’ll respond to the challenge of making science fiction relevant to the readers of tomorrow.”

Joni Labaqui, director of contests for Author Services Inc., presented the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award to Bob Eggleton, a founding judge of the Illustrators of the Future Contest, and a winner of many literary awards, including nine Hugo Awards and 11 Chelsey Awards.

The 12 quarterly award winners of the writing and illustration contests each received cash prizes and trophies.

Writing award winners included Kyle Kirrin of Creede, Colorado; Preston Dennett of Reseda; Kai Wolden of Eden Prairie, Minnesota; David Cleden of Fleet, England; Rustin Lovewell of Gaithersburg, Maryland; Carrie Callahan of Bardstown, Kentucky; Elise Stephens of Seattle; Christopher Baker of Ramsbury, England; Mica Scott Kole of Westland, Michigan; Wulf Moon of Sequim, Washington; and John Haas of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Illustrating contest included Emerson Rabbitt of Minneapolis; Vytautas Vasiliauskas of Paris, France; Yinying Jiang of Oxford, England; Alexander Gustafson of Essex Junction, Vermont; Christine Rhee of San Francisco; Sam Kemp of Birmingham, England, Allen Morris of Cleveland, Mississippi; Jennifer Ober of Atlanta; Josh Pemberton of Seattle; Qianjiao Ma of Arcadia; and Alice Wang of Bellevue, Washington.

LGBT Center celebrates opening of new campus

HOLLYWOOD — Two years after breaking ground and just in time for its 50th anniversary, the Los Angeles LGBT Center celebrated the grand opening of the two-acre Anita May Rosenstein Campus April 7.

To commemorate the day, the center — the world’s largest LGBT organization — hosted a free six-hour block party in front of the campus with a ceremonial ribbon cutting, guided tours of the state-of-the-art facility and musical performances.

“We are immensely proud that the Anita May Rosenstein Campus allows us to greatly expand our services, especially to LGBT seniors and youth,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean. “The campus is proof that a committed group of people who have the audacity to dream big and work hard are capable of creating something the world has never seen, something that now stands as a testament to the fact that we will not turn back in our march toward full equality and humanity.”

With 100 beds for homeless youth, a new Senior Community Center, Youth Drop-In Center and the Ariadne Getty Youth Academy, as well as expanded programming, administrative space, and more, the campus will also serve as the center’s flagship facility. Its current headquarters (located at the four-story McDonald/Wright Building) will be transformed entirely into a health center.

Phase II of the campus — scheduled to open in mid-2020 — will include 99 units of affordable housing for seniors and 25 supportive housing apartments for youth.

Envisioned by center leaders more than a decade ago, the sprawling 180,000-square-foot campus was brought to fruition by more than 350 capital campaign donors and a record-breaking 15 seven-figure gifts. Lead donor Anita May Rosenstein’s gift of $8 million — through the Anita May Rosenstein Foundation, Wilbur D. May Foundation, and the Anita and Arnold Rosenstein Family Foundation — is the largest gift by a living donor to an LGBT organization.

“Let’s be clear: this is not my campus, it’s our campus,” Rosenstein said. “Our campus is a beacon of hope and inspiration for people around the world. It is a safe haven for youth experiencing homelessness, and it will become a unique experience for youth and seniors to live together and learn from each other.”

David Bailey, co-chair of the center’s Board of Directors and capital campaign chair, said donors supported the Center because the organization has a history of success.

“We know how to manage our dollars, and we know how to deliver vital services to our community,” Bailey said. “This entire project has been so inspiring. Eleven years ago, we dreamed of a large, intergenerational campus. And, now, the Anita May Rosenstein Campus will truly help make a life-changing difference for the youth and seniors who turn to the center every day for help.”

Total costs for the campus exceed $141 million. Of that amount, more than $57 million has been raised through gifts from individual and foundation donors, and another $9.5 million in new market tax credits. The affordable housing costs ($63 million) are covered by government and other funding streams.

After combining the generous gifts of the capital campaign donors with a contribution from the center’s strategic reserve fund (approved by the center’s Board of Directors), the campus will be mortgage-free once everyone pays their pledges.

Actors support redesign of county Museum of Art

LOS ANGELES — Actors Brad Pitt and Diane Keaton were among those who urged the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to approve $117.5 million in funding for the redesign of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art April 9.

The board unanimously approved the funding — which follows an earlier payment of $7.5 million — along with $300 million in bond financing to support the project. The board’s support will be more than matched by $525 million in private money raised by the museum.

Pitt and Keaton both praised architect Peter Zumthor’s single-story design, which will be built across and above Wilshire Boulevard.

Pitt called him “one of the great architects of our time … [who] builds from the soul, for the soul.”

Keaton noted the many prestigious awards Zumthor has won.

“If you were an actor, that would mean that you had won 15 Academy Awards,” she said.

But critics of the plan accused LACMA Director Michael Govan of trying to shut down opponents.

Resident Oscar Peña called the process “autocratic and openly hostile to the public” and said the museum shouldn’t be saddled with millions of dollars in bond debt.

Others complained that the redesign of four aging buildings reduces the exhibit space, which Govan countered by saying that earlier construction of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum building and the Resnick Pavilion added 100,000 square feet of gallery space.

After the redesign, LACMA will boast a total 220,000 square feet of exhibit space.

“For me, that is the right size for LACMA,” Govan told the board.

Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight published an open letter to the supervisors urging them not to support the redesign.

Citing an interview with The Times in which Govan put the cost at about $1,873 per square foot, Knight said the cost was a gross overpayment and $500 per square foot too high. He also said the design doesn’t allow for expansion and would limit the museum’s ability to appropriately reflect the diverse cultures that make up Los Angeles.

Govan told the board that the cost of the building is about $1,400 per square foot.

The total project cost is $650 million, which includes parking and other infrastructure costs that may not be included in that square footage calculation.

As for the design, “I think it’s visionary and I think it anticipates the future of our museum,” Govan said.

It would have cost $250 million just to restore the four buildings, which led the county to agree years ago to pay half that amount.

Though the board’s vote was unanimous, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl went out of her way to say she liked the design and wasn’t at all reluctant to offer her support, implying that some of her colleagues were not as enthusiastic.

Kuehl said she believes Govan and his administration are “devoted” to expanding access to the arts and serving the diverse cultural needs of residents countywide.

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