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Tom Hayden, 1960s Activist Who Championed Liberal Causes, Dead At 76

By Michael Finnegan

LOS ANGELES — Tom Hayden, a 1960s radical who was in the vanguard of the movement to stop the Vietnam War and became one of the nation’s best-known champions of liberal causes, has died in Santa Monica after a lengthy illness. He was 76.

Hayden vaulted into national politics in 1962 as lead author of a student manifesto that became the ideological foundation for demonstrations against the war.

President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department prosecuted Hayden in the raucous “Chicago 7” trial following the violent clashes with police at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Hayden later married actress Jane Fonda, and the celebrity couple traveled the nation denouncing the war before forming a California political organization that backed scores of liberal candidates and ballot measures in the 1970s and ’80s, most notably Proposition 65, the anti-toxics measure that requires signs in gas stations, bars and grocery stores that warn of cancer-causing chemicals.

Hayden lost campaigns for U.S. Senate, governor of California and mayor of Los Angeles. But he was elected to the California Assembly in 1982. He served a total of 18 years in the Assembly and state Senate.

During his tenure in the Legislature, representing Los Angeles’ liberal Westside, Hayden relished being a thorn in the side of the powerful, including fellow Democrats he saw as too pliant to donors.

“He was the radical inside the system,” said Duane Peterson, a top Hayden adviser in Sacramento.

A longtime target of government surveillance, Hayden took pride in his history of dissent. A photo from the late 1970s shows him pondering, with apparent satisfaction, his 22,000-page FBI file, stacked about 5 feet high.

After the deadly 1967 riots in Newark, N.J., where Hayden had spent several years organizing poor black residents to take on slumlords, city inspectors and others, local FBI agents urged supervisors in Washington to intensify monitoring of Hayden.

“In view of the fact that Hayden is an effective speaker who appeals to intellectual groups and has also worked with and supported the Negro people in their program in Newark, it is recommended that he be placed on the Rabble Rouser Index,” they wrote.

Hayden’s charisma, drive and intellectual heft made him a potent force. “Tom had the gift of articulating the larger meaning of smaller events,” said Todd Gitlin, a writer who succeeded Hayden as president of Students for a Democratic Society, a flagship organizer of 1960s protests. “He was very crisp and clear and unlikely to be at a loss for words as a public voice.”

Hayden, who enjoyed media attention and was skilled at attracting it, worked closely with militant radicals but was equally at ease with the likes of governors and presidents. “He’s always been someone who would much prefer to work and get things done than stand on the sidelines and protest,” Fonda once said.

Born Dec. 11, 1939, Hayden grew up in middle-class Royal Oak, Mich., a Detroit suburb. His father, John Hayden, was an accountant at Chrysler; his mother, Genevieve Garity, was a film librarian at local schools.

At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Hayden was editor in chief of the campus newspaper and was captivated by the burgeoning civil rights movement in the South. In 1960, he hitchhiked to California to cover the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, where John F. Kennedy was nominated for president.

Soon after, Hayden made his first journey south for civil rights work, driving to rural Tennessee with fellow students in a station wagon packed with clothing and food for black sharecroppers who’d been evicted from their homes after registering to vote. Hayden returned to the South in 1961. He and a friend were beaten and arrested at a civil rights march in McComb, Miss., in a rural area where few blacks dared to vote.

On his 22nd birthday, Hayden was arrested again in Albany, Ga. He’d been in a “Freedom Ride” group of black and white students who, on a train from Atlanta, ignored an order to leave the “white” car, then got thrown in jail for blocking the sidewalk upon arrival in Albany.

“To those who did not pass through the Southern civil rights experience, willfully going to jail may seem like a career-threatening act of despair,” Hayden wrote in his 1988 memoir, “Reunion.” “It was not. It was both a necessary moral act and a rite of passage into serious commitment.”

In 1962, Hayden joined dozens of other students at a Students for a Democratic Society convention in Port Huron, Mich. As primary author of the group’s Port Huron Statement, he gave voice to a youth disaffection that foreshadowed the explosive power of the antiwar and civil rights protests of the years ahead.

“We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit,” the manifesto began.

Inspired by sociologist C. Wright Mills and French author Albert Camus, among others, Hayden and his fellow students bemoaned poverty, racial bigotry, the Democratic Party’s tolerance of Southern segregationists, the threat of nuclear war and an apathetic citizenry. They called for mobilizing students and like-minded Americans through “participatory democracy.”

“If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable,” the statement concluded.

Before long, the Vietnam War, the draft and violence in the civil rights struggle darkened the nation’s mood and opened sharp racial and generational divides. In Newark, Hayden collected eyewitness complaints as police and National Guard troops waged street battles for six days in the impoverished neighborhoods where he lived and worked. Twenty-six people were killed.

More and more, Hayden focused on opposition to the war — “this slaughter of a distant people,” he called it.

“From the very beginning, Tom played a visionary role in developing strategy for the antiwar movement,” said Bill Zimmerman, a Santa Monica media consultant who was close to Hayden.

Gradually, Hayden’s activism became focused primarily against the war. In 1965 he traveled with an antiwar group to Hanoi, the capital of communist North Vietnam. The 10-day trip offended many in the U.S., and the State Department temporarily withdrew Hayden’s passport.

He returned to Hanoi in 1967 with another antiwar delegation during a period of heavy U.S. bombing. Hayden, wearing a helmet, was forced at one point into a ditch and worried a U.S. bomb would kill him.

The trip ended with a detour to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where an emissary of the Viet Cong, the communist force fighting the U.S., had offered to release three American prisoners of war to Hayden. Initially uneasy, he agreed to the plan. He met the POWs on an airport tarmac, and they boarded a Czechoslovakian plane bound for Beirut. Hayden accompanied the servicemen to the U.S. Embassy.

Nearly two decades later, one of the POWs, Jimmy Jackson, would travel to Sacramento to support Hayden when Republicans were trying to oust him from the Legislature for what they alleged was his treason during the war.

The climax of Hayden’s antiwar work came in 1968, when he and fellow radical Rennie Davis served as co-directors of protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The nation was torn by social upheaval as the August convention approached. The assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April had sparked urban riots. Two months later, a gunman killed New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles on the night he won California’s Democratic presidential primary.

As protests were spreading across college campuses nationwide, Hayden joined the student occupation of buildings at Columbia University in Manhattan. Police stormed the campus with tear gas. FBI brass in Washington berated local agents in a May 1968 cable for failing to track Hayden at the Columbia revolt. “The investigation of Hayden, as one of the key leaders of the new left movement, is of prime importance to the Bureau,” they wrote.

In Chicago, Hayden and Davis tried for months to get protest permits from Mayor Richard J. Daley’s administration, to no avail. “I told a New York audience that they should come to Chicago prepared to shed their blood,” Hayden recalled in his memoir.

At the convention, thousands of Chicago police and National Guard troops overwhelmed crowds in the street, blasting them with tear gas. Police in blue helmets clubbed front-line protesters, Hayden among them.

“The whole world is watching,” demonstrators chanted as police charged forward. The violence, televised live, contributed to Democrat Hubert Humphrey’s loss to Nixon in November. A government report later called it “a police riot.”

In March 1969, the Justice Department had Hayden and seven others indicted for conspiracy to incite a riot at the convention. The group included Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale and counterculture icons Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, leaders of the Youth International Party, best known as the Yippies.

Frequent courtroom outbursts marred the trial and the judge, Julius J. Hoffman, was openly scornful of the accused and their lawyers. The dramatic high point came when marshals carried out his threat to have Seale gagged and chained to a chair. Seale’s case ended in a mistrial, leaving the “Chicago 7” as the remaining defendants.

Hayden was convicted of traveling across state lines to incite a riot and sentenced to five years in prison. The conviction was overturned on appeal, largely because the judge had sided openly with prosecutors. The government declined to retry Hayden.

After the trial, he moved to a commune in Berkeley but fellow residents kicked him out. They decided “I was an oppressive male chauvinist,” Hayden wrote in his memoir. Angry and humiliated, “I drove away in my beat-up Volkswagen convertible to Los Angeles, the notorious New Left leader and national security threat alone in a world of hurt.”

Hayden’s first marriage, to fellow student activist Sandra Cason, ended in divorce. He crossed paths with Fonda in 1971, when both were speaking at an antiwar event in Michigan. The following year, Hayden saw Fonda again at an antiwar event in Los Angeles. He had just written a book on Vietnam and was traveling the country doing a multimedia “teach-in” on Indochina.

Fonda invited him to her Laurel Canyon house to share his slide show. “I wanted a man in my life I could love, but it had to be someone who could inspire me, teach me, lead me, not be afraid of me. Who better than Tom Hayden?” she wrote in her 2005 autobiography, “My Life So Far.” The couple married in 1973.

By then, Fonda’s 1972 trip to Hanoi had made her a political lightning rod. She’d been photographed sitting in a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gun battery, an incident her detractors considered traitorous and for which she later apologized.

Hayden and Fonda joined forces on an antiwar project, the Indochina Peace Campaign, which lobbied against military funding. Often hounded by protesters, they also went on a national speaking tour with singer Holly Near and former POW George Smith.

Looking back on the war in his memoir, Hayden voiced a few regrets. Time proved him “overly romantic about the Vietnamese revolution,” he wrote. Hayden also admitted “a numbed sensitivity to any anguish or confusion I was causing to U.S. soldiers or to their families — the very people I was trying to save from death and deception.”

As the war came to an end, Hayden embraced mainstream politics in California with a campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. John Tunney. He lost the June 1976 Democratic primary to Tunney, who was ousted in November by Republican S.I. Hayakawa. Some Democrats blamed the defeat on Hayden.

But the campaign laid ground for Hayden and Fonda to start the Campaign for Economic Democracy, later known as Campaign California. The group fought for such causes as Santa Monica rent control, public spending on solar power and divestment from apartheid South Africa.

Much of the group’s money came from Fonda, whose movie career was booming and whose workout video business would spawn a fortune in the ’80s. It helped elect scores of liberals to local offices statewide and campaigned for Proposition 65, the anti-toxics measure that requires signs in gas stations, bars and grocery stores that warn of cancer-causing chemicals.

Hayden represented Santa Monica, Malibu and part of the Westside in Sacramento. His legislative achievements were modest — research into the effects of the herbicide Agent Orange on U.S. servicemen in Vietnam; repair money for the Santa Monica and Malibu piers; tighter rules to prevent the collapse of construction cranes, to name a few.

Hayden paid a personal price for his work as a radical.

His father, a Republican, refused to speak with him for 13 years. They reconciled before his father’s death, a few days before Hayden won election to the Assembly in 1982.

In Sacramento, Hayden was isolated even among Democrats, who were put off by his disdain for the capital’s favor-trading culture. He feuded with Willie Brown, then Assembly speaker, who ultimately stripped Hayden of a committee chairmanship and moved his Capitol office to smaller quarters.

Hayden’s 1992 elevation to the state Senate came after a nasty and costly campaign, funded largely by his Fonda divorce settlement. After his quixotic run for governor in 1994, Hayden tried to unseat Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan in 1997. Riordan trounced him, 61 percent to 34 percent.

Hayden’s Senate tenure ended in 2000, when term limits barred him from seeking another term. He ran once more for elected office, a seat on the L.A. City Council. He finished first in the primary, but lost the June 2001 runoff to former prosecutor Jack Weiss by 369 votes.

A prolific author, Hayden wrote books on Cuba, Ireland, Vietnam, street gangs, spirituality and environmental protection, the Iraq war and the Newark riots.

Hayden is survived by his wife, Barbara Williams, an actress and singer; their adopted son, Liam; Troy Garity, his son with Fonda; and his sister, Mary Hayden Frey. He is also survived by stepdaughter Vanessa Vadim and her two children.

Photo: Tom Hayden announces his candidacy for mayor of Los Angeles during a news conference in this file photo dated January 5, 1997 in Los Angeles. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo

California Senate Passes Assisted-Suicide Bill

Los Angeles Times (TNS)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After a debate marked by raw and personal tales of loss, the California state Senate on Thursday advanced a proposal to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with drugs prescribed by physicians.

If the measure wins approval by the Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown, California will join five other states in legalizing assisted suicide for dying patients. The legislation would apply to requests by mentally competent adults with six months or less to live.

The Senate proposal, titled the End of Life Option Act, is modeled after a voter-approved law that took effect in Oregon in 1997.

Although debated here for decades, the issue gained momentum after Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old Californian who was terminally ill, decided to move to Oregon last year to end her life rather than suffer pain and debilitation from an aggressive brain cancer.

Maynard recorded a video appeal to California lawmakers to give residents an aid-in-dying option that was not available to her. Brown called Maynard in the weeks before her death to discuss the legislation, according to his office.

Maynard’s husband and mother were in the Senate chamber Thursday during the two-hour debate.

The Senate measure “is about how we die in California,” said Sen. Lois Wolk, a Democrat, as she opened the discussion. Passage of the bill, written by Wolk and fellow Democrat Bill Monning, would permit the terminally ill “to voluntarily end their lives in peace,” she said.

Wolk talked of the prolonged, “brutal” death of her own mother from cancer and said the proposed law would give Californians an alternative to such suffering.

“Simply having a prescription is in itself a source of relief, knowing that if things got really bad that one would have an option to end one’s life with less suffering and in peace,” Wolk said.

Republican Sen. John Moorlach of Irvine questioned the morality of the proposal.

“For me, it’s unconscionable, and I can’t be a party to it.”

Other senators cited religions that consider suicide a sin and said elderly people might be coerced into taking their own lives if they felt they were a burden on their families.

“Greedy heirs can have an influence,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Stone.

The measure passed on a largely party line vote of 23 to 14. Its prospects in the Assembly are unclear, and Brown has not taken a public position on the proposal.

A patient would have to make two oral requests to a physician for help in dying, at least 15 days apart, with witnesses to the requests. The medication would have to be self-administered. In addition, the bill would create felony penalties for coercing a patient into making a request or for forging a request.

California voters voted down a 1992 proposal that would have allowed physicians to administer lethal injections to their patients.

Since Oregon adopted its law in 1997, medical aid in dying has been authorized in Washington state, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico.

Photo: Physician-assisted suicide isn’t this easy, and it shouldn’t be. Via Wikipedia

Protests Against Police Continue In Bay Area; Oakland Websites Hacked

By Matt Hamilton, James Queally and Veronica Rocha, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

After four straight nights of anti-police protesters crowding San Francisco Bay Area streets — prompting authorities to fire rubber bullets at crowds and arrest 19 people late Tuesday alone — the hacker collective Anonymous on Wednesday apparently sought vengeance.

Several websites for the city of Oakland were knocked out in a likely cyberattack. By Wednesday night, the sites for the city and the Fire Department were operating, but the Police Department’s website remained disabled.

In a message posted on Anonymous’ main Twitter account, the group took responsibility by invoking military lingo for taking out an enemy combatant. “Tango down: oaklandpolice.com,” the message said.

Since grand juries in Missouri and New York decided not to indict white police officers in the killings of unarmed black men, crowds have gathered in cities across the nation, voicing anger and frustration over treatment of minorities by police.

Anonymous, the “hacktivist” network that once eavesdropped on an FBI conference call on cyberpirates and temporarily disabled the Justice Department’s website in retaliation for prosecuting the founders of Megaupload, has become one of many groups supporting protesters.

The group posted personal information of Missouri residents who published racist messages on social media following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man killed in Ferguson in August by Officer Darren Wilson.

An Oakland spokeswoman confirmed that problems with the websites first cropped up on Tuesday night, when protesters who began marching in Berkeley headed south into Oakland.

In Berkeley, hundreds have gathered nightly since Saturday, meeting at the edge of the University of California, Berkeley campus and marching through the city.

On Tuesday night, about 300 people reached Oakland City Hall, setting small dumpster fires along the way, the Oakland Police Department said.

Perhaps the night’s most confrontational moment took place just after 9 p.m.

A large group of demonstrators climbed onto the 24 Freeway at 40th Street, halting traffic for about half an hour. Demonstrators threw projectiles, incendiary devices and rocks at California Highway Patrol officers, the agency said. At one point, fireworks were launched toward a CHP helicopter.

“Our fear, and what we are trying to prevent, is someone getting seriously injured or killed by choosing to march onto the freeway,” Assistant CHP Chief Ernie Sanchez said in a statement.

Officers issued orders to disperse, but some protesters remained. The CHP fired rubber bullets to end the standoff. Some people on social media accused law enforcement of firing tear gas into the crowd.

By the end of Tuesday’s demonstrations, the CHP had arrested 13 people on suspicion of creating a public nuisance or battery on a peace officer. The Berkeley Police Department arrested six people.

More than 1,500 demonstrators gathered in Berkeley on Monday, shutting down both directions of Interstate 80. The CHP arrested more than 160 people.

As a preventive measure, officials have closed or rerouted transit routes. Bay Area Rapid Transit has temporarily closed its Downtown Berkeley Station, and on Tuesday briefly closed its MacArthur Station in Oakland.

Capitol Corridor, Amtrak’s Northern California rail line, suspended service to Emeryville, Berkeley and Oakland, and planned to use BART trains to relay riders around the closed stations.

The CHP has typically shut down freeway onramps around Berkeley in an effort to stop protesters from gaining access to the roadways.

Photo: Protesters yell outside of the Berkeley Police Department protesting police violence in Berkeley, Calif., on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

Napa Earthquake: Power Restored To Thousands; Cleanup Continues

Los Angeles Times

Power has been restored to nearly all of the approximately 70,000 customers in Napa County whose lights went out after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck early Sunday, utility officials said Monday.

The approximately 150 customers who remained without power were expected to have their service restored later Monday morning, according to Pacific Gas & Electric officials.

The quake — centered about nine miles south of the city of Napa — struck at 3:20 a.m. and damaged buildings, cut off power to tens of thousands, sparked fires, broke water mains, caused gas leaks, sent more than 120 people to a hospital, and led Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

As of early Monday, there were 20 earthquake-related gas-distribution outages, PG&E said. The utility said crews were also in the process of responding to “several hundred” gas-odor calls.

Meanwhile, officials said 90 to 100 homes in the area have been red-tagged — that is, labeled unfit to enter — as a result of the quake, and a severed gas line was being blamed for a fire that destroyed six mobile homes.

Thirty-three buildings in the city of Napa proper were red-tagged as of 5 p.m. Sunday, and numerous others were yellow-tagged, which means people were being granted only limited access.

Of Napa’s 60 water-main breaks, 20 had been isolated as of midday Sunday, but it “may take a full week to get everything restored,” Jack LaRochelle, the city’s director of public works, told reporters.

The earthquake was the largest to strike the Bay Area since the 6.9 Loma Prieta temblor of 1989, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and it lasted 10 to 20 seconds, depending on location.

Napa bore the brunt of the quake’s destruction, as did the downtown area of nearby Vallejo.

Jennifer Patefield, 47, who runs the Mariposa Ice Creamery store in Napa, said she was “jolted” awake and counted to 40 before the motion from the quake stopped. Her refrigerator emptied its contents and the china cabinet was “gone,” Patefield said.

“I surf, and it was like riding a big wave,” Patefield said as she assessed the damage to her home.

Tourists were out in force, some of them startled.

“We just have snowstorms where we come from,” said Cheryllyn Tallman, 56, of New Hartford, N.Y. She and her husband were in the area for the scheduled GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma race. She said her husband was sound asleep when the quake hit.

“For a man who never uses inappropriate language, I heard some colorful words come out,” said Tallman, who added that she took a tip from what she’d seen on TV and headed for a doorway when the shaking began.
___
Staff writers Lee Romney and Christine Mai-Duc reported from Napa, and Ryan Parker and Lauren Raab from Los Angeles. Staff writers Evan Wagstaff, Maura Dolan, Paige St. John, and Marisa Gerber in Napa and Rong-Gong Lin II, Hector Becerra, Laura J. Nelson, Cindy Chang, and Amina Kahn in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

AFP Photo/Josh Edelson

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Teens Were Plotting To Kill ‘As Many Students As Possible,’ Police Say

Los Angeles Times

SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. — South Pasadena police are crediting vigilant school officials for helping to foil a mass-shooting plot allegedly planned by two students whose arrests were announced Monday.

South Pasadena Unified School District Supt. Geoff Yantz said that school administrators were informed of a “credible threat of potential school violence” and immediately contacted police.

Police officials said the students were planning to kill three staff members “and as many students as possible with firearms.”

The students were arrested after detectives served search warrants at their homes, according to the South Pasadena Police Department.

One of the students resisted arrest, prompting officers to force their way into his home, according to police officials.

“This is a prime example of school officials recognizing suspicious behavior,” Sgt. Brian Solinsky said in a statement. “It was this information that helped prevent a horrific tragedy.”

Officials did not elaborate on how the students’ alleged plan was uncovered, or how they intended to carry it out. More information on the alleged plot was expected to be revealed at a news conference Tuesday.

Yantz said in a statement that psychologists and counselors will be at the school to support students and employees when classes start Thursday.

“The police have the situation under control and there is currently no threat to students or employees,” he said.

Photo: Rob Bixby via Flickr

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Officials Defend Release Of Graphic Robin Williams Suicide Details

Los Angeles Times

Marin County, Calif., officials are defending their decision to release graphic details about Robin Williams’ suicide.

They have faced some criticism on social media for a press conference Tuesday in which officials laid out how Williams died and how he was found.

An official with the sheriff’s office said the release of information was required under California public records laws.

“These kinds of cases, whether they garner national attention or not, are very difficult for everyone involved,” Marin County Assistant Deputy Chief Coroner Lt. Keith Boyd said in an email to Fox News. “Frankly, it would have been our personal preference to withhold a lot of what we disclosed … but the California Public Records Act does not give us that kind of latitude.”

At a news conference, Boyd revealed that Williams, 63, used a belt to asphyxiate himself and may have also tried to cut his wrists with a pocket knife.

He then went on to reveal that rigor mortis had already set in by the time Williams’ personal assistant discovered the body in a slightly elevated position.

While the level of detail Boyd presented is routinely available on a coroner’s report for any member of the public to view upon request, it’s not often that authorities discuss them in front of cameras and a podium capped with microphones. The news conference was broadcast on several TV stations and live-tweeted by members of the media, all of which drew the ire of the public.

AFP Photo/Tiziana Fabi

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California Lawmaker Moves To Stop Oil-Drilling Project

Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It’s been 45 years since a spill off Santa Barbara coated the picturesque coast with oil, killed wildlife, and prompted tough new pumping restrictions. But new worries have emerged in Sacramento.

It turns out that there was an exemption in a 1994 law that still allows drilling in a single portion of state-controlled, coastal waters. And a state lawmaker wants to immediately halt any possibility of drilling.

It’s no idle worry. There is a Northern California businessman with a project to lease land in Santa Barbara County, drill under the ocean floor, and pump oil from a place called Tranquillon Ridge.

To Bob Nunn, California oilman, developer, and farmer, his plan is safe, smart, and profitable. But not to state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democrat, who wants to stop the project before it gets started.

In June, she amended an unrelated bill to close what she called a loophole in California law that could allow drilling from an offshore oil field that’s partly in state-controlled waters off Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County.

Approval of her proposal would “end the conversation once and for all,” she said, and “make a statement from the people of California reaffirming their commitment to protect the coastline.”

It also comes as environmentalists push a local initiative, Measure P, to ban hydraulic fracturing and other controversial types of land-based oil drilling in Santa Barbara County.

Meanwhile, Nunn’s company — Sunset Exploration Inc. — and partner Exxon Mobil Corp. want to get at the Tranquillon oil by drilling horizontally under the ocean floor from land on Air Force property, not from an ocean platform.

To do that, they’ll need to obtain permission from a long list of state and federal agencies, beginning with the Air Force.

At issue is the 20-year-old law that banned new oil and gas production leases in state waters, which extend three miles out to sea from the beach. The California Coastal Sanctuary Act says “oil and gas production in certain areas of state waters poses an unacceptably high risk of damage and disruption to the marine environment.”

The act, however, contains a significant exemption: It allows the State Lands Commission, an obscure but powerful state agency, to approve a new oil-drilling lease.

To do so, a majority of the three-member panel must declare that oil under state waters is being drained by nearby platforms in adjacent federal government-controlled areas, farther offshore. Tranquillon is the only spot on the California coast that would be affected by the exemption, experts said.

The basin holds an estimated 150 million barrels of high-quality petroleum that could flow for as long as 30 years, according to a Lands Commission report.

A portion of oil in the state zone is being sucked into federal jurisdiction by pumps on nearby Platform Irene in federal waters. The siphoning is denying the state hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties, Nunn said.

That lost revenue could flow back to the state and local governments if new wells are drilled on land at Vandenberg, he said.

What’s more, Nunn contends, drilling from land is safer than platform drilling.

“We never intersect the marine environment,” he said. “We drill vertically approximately half a mile and then drill out under the seabed.”

A recently released Air Force “opportunity assessment” of Nunn’s proposal concluded that onshore drilling could be economically beneficial and less environmentally risky than offshore drilling. However, it also noted that environmental critics of both types of drilling have raised “valid concerns.”

Environmentalists want none of it.

“There are more than a dozen significant, unavoidable impacts to the environment. A lot are related to oil spills,” said Linda Krop, an activist attorney at the Environmental Defense Council in Santa Barbara. “The risks and the impacts are too great, and there are no benefits.”

These issues have been the subject of studies, environmental analysis, and political debate.

A 2008 environmental study concluded that “oil spill impacts for marine biology, marine water quality, and commercial/recreational fishing would be reduced but not eliminated” by drilling from land.

Those concerns are certain to be re-evaluated if Nunn and his partners move ahead. The Air Force, Santa Barbara County, the State Lands Commission, and the Coastal Commission all have a role in approvals before any drilling could begin.

Nunn pointed out the Lands Commission in 2009 considered — but rejected — a related plan that had widespread support from Jackson and local environmentalists.

The 2009 plan also sought to tap Tranquillon, but from the water at Platform Irene — not from the shore. In turn, the drilling company agreed to remove offshore platforms — as well as two onshore crude processing plants — by 2022. But the Lands Commission killed the deal by a 2-1 vote.

Nunn’s proposal is not worth the risk to Santa Barbara’s tourism, recreation, and fishing industry, Krop said.

That’s why Jackson says she’s in a rush to pass her bill. “We need to close that loophole,” she said, so there won’t be any question or attempt to expand drilling, whether on land or off land.”

AFP Photo/Karen Bleier

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China Quake Toll Rises To 615; Muddy Noodles Open Army To Scrutiny

By Los Angeles Times staff

BEIJING — It was framed as a feel-good story about the sacrifice and toughness of Chinese soldiers: Troops who rushed to the site of a deadly earthquake in the southern province of Yunnan resorted to using muddy water to boil their instant noodles in the disaster zone. But the photo-op has turned into a heated public debate over the preparedness of the Chinese military.

The death toll from Sunday’s magnitude 6.5 temblor reached 615 on Thursday, with hope waning of finding more survivors. Soldiers from Yunnan’s paramilitary forces have been on the front lines of the rescue effort, leaving their barracks just 10 minutes after the quake struck, the official New China News Agency said.

In China, military forces are usually the first responders to natural disasters such as an earthquake or a flood. The Chinese military has deployed more than 7,900 soldiers in the disaster relief efforts for the Yunnan earthquake.

After almost 22 hours of marching to reach the disaster zone (roads in the area were impassable) and rescuing victims from the rubble, the tired soldiers gathered Tuesday afternoon for their first hot meal at a school in Longtoushan town, the hardest-hit area. With each soldier holding a disposable purple bowl of instant noodles, everyone looked happy in the pictures snapped by reporters from state-run China National Radio and posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social network.

But there was one problem: The water in the giant wok in front of them was filled with brownish, muddy water.

“Instant noodles became the only food available at Longquan Middle School in the epicenter. Underground water became muddy because of the earthquake. The rescue staff can only use the muddy water to boil noodles,” China National Radio’s Weibo account informed readers.

Though the pictures moved some members of the public, who were impressed by the hard work of the soldiers and difficulties they had to endure, others began to question the readiness of the rescue team. Critics said the troops knew before they set out for the disaster zone that they would be going into an area where basic resources such as water would be limited.

“What happens if they get sick? That will definitely hurt their rescue efforts,” asked Fan Jianchuan, who owns a museum complex in Sichuan province and once taught at a military college.
“Where’s their water purifier? Please don’t tell me they left in a rush. The army is built to respond to emergencies. What happens if the enemy launches a surprise attack?”

Others went as far as to dig out some old press clippings in which the Chinese military said it was fully equipped to provide clean water in the wild to its soldiers. On March 30, 2004, the official People’s Liberation Army Daily ran a story saying that a new type of portable water purifier had been successfully developed and was capable of providing nearly 40 gallons of clean water each hour.

Backed by a booming economy, China’s government has made expanding its military strength a priority. The nation’s defense budget had seen double-digit growth for two decades, but the country still spends less than 30 percent of what the United States does.

After taking over as the Communist Party’s top leader in late 2012, Xi Jinping spent his first four months “inspecting the army, navy, air force, second artillery corps, and armed police, boarding warships and combat vehicles,” the official New China News agency reported. “The armed forces need to be ready to assemble at the first call of the Communist Party and be capable of fighting and winning any battle,” Xi said while inspecting the Lanzhou Military Area.

With this week’s backlash over the muddy water photos mounting on Chinese social media, the nationalistic Global Times came out with an article asserting that the story was fake. “It is not true that soldiers are using muddy water to boil noodles; please do not believe in such stories that can hurt the morale of our soldiers on the frontline,” the article said.

The story quoted an unnamed official, said to be in charge of the rescue forces, saying the incident didn’t happen and it was not logical for the rescue forces to do such a thing. “No matter who boils water, they’ll always try to use water that is clean,” said the official.

But journalists from China National Radio who witnessed the whole process stood by their reporting — even posting a video proving the soldiers indeed used muddy water to boil noodles on their first day in the quake zone.

Global Times was forced to remove its story, and the editor responsible issued an apology through his personal Weibo account.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Julie Makinen and Tommy Yang in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

AFP Photo

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Bureau Of Land Management, Local Police Tension Nears Breaking Point

Los Angeles Times

LAS VEGAS — James Perkins sees the federal Bureau of Land Management more as a belligerent occupying army than a government agency serving U.S. citizens, including those like him in south-central Utah.

Perkins is the sheriff of Garfield County, a rural bastion about the size of Connecticut with only 5,500 residents, where 90 percent of the land is maintained by the BLM. The relationship between local law enforcement and often heavily armed federal officers has always been tense, and now threatens to reach a breaking point.

He and others attribute the deteriorating relations to what he calls BLM’s culture of elitism, which provoked Garfield County to join two other Utah counties this year to pass a resolution restricting or banning federal law enforcement within their borders.

“I don’t know any sheriff who doesn’t want a good relationship with the BLM,” he said. “We’re a rural agency and we’d like a partnership, but it seems they have a hard time recognizing our authority. They’d rather be independent.”

The BLM has faced a string of challenges. In April, it called off a cattle roundup after rebellious Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy was backed by an armed citizen militia that stood its ground with semiautomatic weapons. The BLM looked, in turns, overzealous and ineffectual.

Then, in May, citizens of rural San Juan County in Utah staged a protest, driving all-terrain vehicles into a canyon the BLM had closed to such traffic.

BLM officials say they’re trying to manage a mammoth swath of the West as best they can while seeking common ground with local authorities. In some of those states, though, BLM workers have felt so threatened that they patrol in unmarked vehicles, without uniforms.

Perkins and others recently addressed a House Natural Resources Committee public lands subcommittee that was collecting testimony about concerns over the BLM, including claims about bullying ranchers and refusing to respond to emergency calls.

They didn’t mince words.

“Over the past decade or so we have observed and experienced a militarization of BLM’s officers,” said Leland Pollack, a Garfield County commissioner. “Right or wrong, some equate BLM’s law enforcement operations to the Gestapo of the World War II era.”

BLM officials in Washington call the claims “vague and inaccurate.”

“The agency is not elitist,” said Bob Abbey, who led the BLM from 2009 until 2012. “Everything the BLM does is based on public input or a direction from the courts, so it’s frustrating to hear criticism like this. The way I see it, we have much more in common with local law enforcement than differences, but we’ve allowed those differences to block pursuing common goals.”

Perkins testified that he has a good working relationship with other federal agencies such as the FBI and National Park Service, but not the BLM. In recent months, he said, the BLM has refused to renew law enforcement contracts with several Utah counties, citing legal deficiencies.

In an interview, he described an incident this year in which a county detective was investigating whether a BLM officer had failed to report a traffic accident, as required by law.

“I was told by the chief of BLM law enforcement in Utah that we had no right to investigate one of his officers and that the matter should have been turned over to their internal affairs division,” Perkins said. “When I’m told by the federal government that I don’t have the authority to investigate crimes in my county, well, that’s just troublesome to me.”

He said his county, which includes most of Bryce Canyon National Park and parts of Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, has spent more than $70,000 this year assisting federal officials with search and rescue operations. “Yet we’ve not seen one penny from them,” he said. “There have been times when we can’t even get them to come out and assist us.”

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), told the House subcommittee that televised images of the BLM’s tense, heavily armed standoff with Bundy “looked like they were taken in Afghanistan or Iraq rather than the American West.”

In an interview, Stewart said the incident could have been avoided if federal officials had allowed the sheriff to take charge.

“They’re just more morally justified to intervene — these local sheriffs know people in the community and are more aware of what’s going on with them,” he said. “They’re also going to be held accountable more than federal agents who don’t live in the community and don’t have to answer to the people there.”

Abbey said the BLM can do its part to bridge the divide with sheriffs.

“I’ve always said that it’s important for BLM people to get out into the field,” he said. “You can’t do your job by sitting behind a desk and wait for someone to come in with a complaint. There is a real need for better local relationships.”

But Perkins isn’t sure if the wounds can be healed.

“We just have to respect each other,” he said. “These people can’t just come in and think they’re going to walk over local authorities. That doesn’t do anybody any good.”

Photo: Los Angeles Times/MCT/John M. Glionna

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Police Suspect Virginia Man Killed Wife And Three Kids In Murder-Suicide

Los Angeles Times

A family of five was found shot to death in their Virginia home late Sunday in what authorities suspect was a murder-suicide.

A relative walked into the Culpeper, Va., house around 10 p.m. Sunday and discovered the bodies of the parents, Clarence and Shauna Washington, both 35, and their three daughters, said Det. Angela Deavers of the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office.

The couple and their daughters, Onesha, 13, Onya, 6, and Olivia, 4, had all been shot, Deavers said, and a weapon was recovered at the scene.

Investigators say they suspect Clarence Washington killed his family in a murder-suicide, and sheriff’s deputies and the Virginia State Police are continuing the investigation.

Deavers said the sheriff’s office had no history of 911 calls to the family’s address, and had no information about whether the couple had ongoing domestic troubles.

Culpeper is about 90 miles northwest of Richmond, Va.

AFP Photo/Mat Hayward

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