August 02, 2012

By LARRY MARGASAK Associated Press


Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., improperly compelled her congressional staff to do campaign work and should be reprimanded and fined for violating standards of conduct, the House Ethics Committee announced Wednesday August 1.

The committee said she admitted to all seven counts of violations and agreed to the proposed punishment, which awaits House action.

The committee unanimously adopted the report of its investigative panel, in which investigators detailed the third-term lawmaker’s coercion, attempts to alter evidence and efforts to influence the testimony of staff members who would be witnesses.

Adoption of the report by the House would constitute a reprimand. The House also was asked by the committee to impose a $10,000 fine to be paid by Dec. 1.

The committee said it discouraged Richardson from permitting any staff members to work in her campaign. She's in a tough re-election race against fellow Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn. Although Hahn beat Richardson by a 60-39 margin in the primary, the state allows the top two finishers to run against each other in the general election regardless of party affiliation.

The ethics charges have been a drag on Richardson’s fundraising as her campaign was greatly outspent in the primary.

The investigative report said the coercion of the staff began in early 2010 and continued in the current campaign even though Richardson knew she was under investigation.

Investigators said Richardson infuriated the committee by appearing to contradict her own admission that she violated House rules, as well as federal law governing proper use of federal appropriations.

She contended that she had never taken or intended action against any aide who failed to volunteer for campaign work and accused the committee of intimidating and frightening her employees. She also claimed she was unable to fairly present her side of the case.

The committee said she had acted “with utter disdain” for the process and by agreeing to a deal, “rendered her own arguments moot.”

Among the findings by the investigative subcommittee in connection with Richardson’s 2010 campaign were:

—Richardson’s chief of staff, in early 2010, told district staff members that they would be expected to work on the campaign. When one asked what would happen if he declined, he was told he probably wouldn’t have a job.

—Employees were expected to close the congresswoman’s Long Beach office at 6 p.m. every workday and then go to the campaign office to answer the phone and perform “precinct walks.” Staff members were not permitted to take a break for dinner or perform any personal tasks before starting the daily campaign work. Staff members also were expected to attend campaign events on weekends.

—During the fall of 2010, Richardson directed a staff member to volunteer for her opponent’s campaign under a fake name to gather information.

—Richardson repeatedly called staff members who failed to attend campaign events, in order to secure their future appearances. This was an attempt to pressure and intimidate the employees.

—In an October 2010 meeting in the Long Beach office, with the Washington staff watching by teleconference, Richardson explained she was under investigation by the House committee. She “attempted to influence the testimony of members of her staff by suggesting that they tell the committee that their work on her campaign had been voluntary, even though some of it had not,” the report said.

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August 02, 2012

Associated Press

The body of an FBI agent who vanished more than two months ago was found near his home in Burbank, authorities said this week.

Steven Ivens, 35, was found by two hikers in a wooded area behind a church on July 30, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said. His gun was found near his body.

The cause and time of death will be determined by the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

Ivens was being treated for depression and was said to be distraught at the time of his disappearance, authorities said.

A massive air and ground search was unsuccessful after Ivens walked away from his home on May 10 with his keys and his service weapon. His wife, Thea, later made a public plea for him to return home.

Ivens is survived by his wife and 1-year-old son

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July 26, 2012

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) spoke at an event recently, marking the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall, reading the names of individuals who died of HIV/AIDS and who are remembered on the quilt.  The quilt is currently on display for the international AIDS 2012 Conference. Waters, a leader in the fight to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS through increased awareness, testing, treatment, and funding, was scheduled to speak at the conference July 26.

“I am so deeply honored and humbled to be here to participate in this extraordinary quilt,” Waters said.  

“This quilt is a powerful reminder of the AIDS pandemic and the toll it has taken on our world.”

Gay rights activists who wanted to make certain their friends who had died of AIDS would not be forgotten started the AIDS Memorial Quilt.  It was displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987.  Since then, the quilt continued to grow as the disease continued to spread. Today, the quilt is so large that the National Mall cannot fully contain it, she explained. 

“The quilt is the largest community art project in the world, and it was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.  It is a poignant testimony to love, peace, and possibilities, and I believe it will one day receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which it so richly deserves,” Waters continued.

“It is only fitting that it has become the centerpiece of the International AIDS Conference, a conference at which we rededicate ourselves to working for the day when AIDS is eradicated from our world…”

According to Waters, the quilt has always reflected the evolution of the epidemic.  In the early years, most of the panels represented young gay men whose lives were tragically cut short by AIDS.  Today, a new series of panels has been added to remember African American men and women who died of AIDS, illustrating the devastating toll that AIDS is now taking in the black community. 

“And as we look across the National Mall at the thousands of quilt panels, we see that AIDS affects us all,” said Waters.

“There are men, women and children of every race, creed, and color and every walk of life remembered in these beautiful, memorial panels. Yet, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is not just a memorial to those who have died, It is a celebration of their lives.  The quilt reminds us that every person who died of AIDS was a human being. 

“Every person who died of AIDS had hopes and dreams.  Every person who died of AIDS had family and friends who loved them and miss them.  Every person who died of AIDS had a name…”

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August 02, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California man faces federal drug charges for allegedly trying to smuggle more than 4 pounds of methamphetamine to Japan in what looked like dozens of Snickers bars.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Monday that 34-year-old Rogelio Mauricio Harris of Long Beach was arrested last week at Los Angeles International Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Japan.

Harris was charged in Los Angeles with drug possession and faces at least 10 years in prison if convicted.

Federal agents conducting routine baggage inspections found 45 full-sized Snickers bars inside Harris’ luggage. Each bar was coated in a chocolate-like substance to make it look like a candy bar, but tests revealed the so-called candy contained methamphetamine.

Authorities estimate the 4 pounds of meth is worth about $250,000.

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July 26, 2012

Recently, the House adopted Congresswoman Richardson’s Amendment (The Richardson Amend­ment) to H.R. 6082, the “Congressional Replacement of President Obama's Energy-Restricting and Job-Limiting Offshore Drilling Plan. The Richardson Amendment asks the Secretary of the Interior to consult the California Gov­ernor and State Legislature before leasing areas off the coast of California. It also extends to California the same consideration that the bill’s drafters accorded the state of South Carolina.


“Residents of California should have the right to participate in the leasing process that affects waters off their coast,” said Richardson.


“The State of California has within its borders more than two-thirds of the nation’s Pacific coastline, a far greater percentage than South Carolina has with respect to the Atlantic coastline. California’s coastline is an international treasure and our state’s residents should have input on drilling off our shores. Offshore drilling could put the California coastline at risk, endanger tourism, damage fisheries, and devastate coastal recreation.


“Previous oil spills have stained our beaches and killed marine life, California has seen firsthand the destructive power of an offshore oil spill.”


On January 28, 1969, a blowout on a Unocal rig six miles off the coast of California spilled more than four million gallons of oil into the waters off Santa Barbara. The blackened beaches and oil-soaked birds and seals eventually brought oil exploration off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States to a halt. A congressional moratorium on offshore drilling expired October 1, 2008 and the California Legislature requested that the United States Congress extend the 27-year-old moratorium on offshore oil drilling through fiscal year 2009 and beyond. That request fell on deaf ears. Congress in 2008 reopened waterways for offshore drilling.


“In 1969, California learned valuable lessons on environmental protection and now is a leader in protecting our national coastlines,” Richardson said.


“California understands the economic and health impact of irresponsible offshore oil drilling. Creating federal legislation that allows offshore drilling that bypasses California’s immense experience and expertise on this subject without as much as consultation is simply reckless.”


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