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Illegal immigrants being held for ransom: doors dead-bolted, windows boarded, bathroom use limited only to during the day.... 

* As if anyone might somehow think that immigration reform is not a high priority issue (particularly but not exclusively in the west and southwest...), Los Angeles Times report today detailing the raid on a home in Baldwin Park where smugglers had been holding 35 illegal immigrants for ransom should provide additional food for thought on this subject....  Excerpts from the LAT:

   An Ecuadoran man told investigators he was held in an 800-square-foot Baldwin Park house while his captors demanded $2,500 above the $10,500 he had already paid to be smuggled into the United States.  Another man traveled from New York to pay $12,000 for the release of his 12-year-old son sequestered in the house. Smugglers then kidnapped the man and demanded another $1,000 from his family for his release.

   These were among the stories emerging Friday after 35 illegal immigrants were found in the house Thursday; one of them had managed to get a cellphone and call 911.


   Baldwin Park police said in a statement that it appeared some of the immigrants had been at the house as long as a week. The immigrants told U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents they were allowed to use the bathroom only during the day, said Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The doors were dead-bolted, the windows were boarded and some were barred, and the adult women were made to cook for them all, Haley said.


One heck of a way to start a vacation! Thief switches license plates on stolen minivan: family of five heading for a camping trip stopped at gunpoint and briefly handcuffed...  

* Imagine these folks are gonna' have quite a story to tell their friends....  Seems the family of five was on the 405 Freeway this morning on their way to a camping trip when they were pulled over by officers in half-a-dozen police cruisers who thought -- mistakenly -- that they were apprehending someone driving a stolen car. 

How did this mistake come about?  According to Los Angeles Times report quoting an LAPD captain:

   "The minivan thief had swapped license plates with their van recently ... They'd driven the van without noticing the changed plate."

Also, the captain said the swapped license plate indicated the vehicle was stolen, which prompted an LAPD cruiser to start following the minivan on the 10 Freeway before it transitioned to the 405 Freeway. Officers waited to stop the vehicle until a department helicopter was overhead.  Police cars with their lights on followed the vehicle for several minutes before the minivan driver realized the cruisers and spotlight were meant for him.



Politicians, lawyers, journalists: The use/overuse of the word "absolutely"?

"Absolute overuse of word corrupts absolutely"

* Enjoyable column by Stuart Leavenworth, Sacramento Bee editorial page editor, on the use/overuse of the word "absolutely" in response to questions, rather than "sure", great" or "uh-huh", as often used to be the case.  Excerpt from Leavenworth's commentary:

   According to Webster's, the word "absolute" derives from the Latin word absolutus. Back in the Middle Ages,  it was used largely to refer to something free of any imperfection. "Indeed, my lord, it is a most absolute and excellent horse," says Constable in Shakespeare's "The Life of King Henry the Fifth."

   In modern usage, "absolutely" has become a way to express unequivocal affirmation, especially when grown-ups are around. The online Urban Dictionary equates "absolutely" with synonyms such as "definitely," "totally" and "for sure." According to UD, "absolutely" is "the one word that will get your boss/parent/authority figure to give you the 'deer in headlights' look and leave you alone."

   So there you have it. "Absolutely" has transcended from a supreme show of confidence to a reply intended to be the last word.

   So should you be concerned if an elected leader makes it part of his or her regular vocabulary?





Politics, Sacarmento: Meg Whitman, Laura Chick, Darrell Steinberg, Dan Walters column....


Another salary scandal? Former Vernon city administrator now collects more than $1 million per year as city's legal consultant.... 

* If you thought the compensation figures for Bell city officials were unusually high, seems that the top brass in Vernon -- another small southeast L.A. County city -- might not agree with you.  Following up on revelations regarding salaries in Bell, the Los Angeles Times today presents a look at what Vernon officials have been receiving.  From the LAT:

   Bell isn't the only city that has paid huge salaries: In neighboring Vernon, a former city administrator who now serves as a legal consultant has topped the $1-million mark for each of the last four years, records show.

   Eric T. Fresch was paid nearly $1.65 million in salary and hourly billings in 2008, when he held the dual jobs of city administrator and deputy city attorney, according to documents obtained by The Times through the California Public Records Act.  Described by city officials as an experienced finance attorney, Fresch was paid nearly $1.2 million last year, records show. Through July 31 of this year, he has earned about $643,000 as "outside legal counsel."

   Other highly compensated employees include Donal O'Callaghan, who was paid nearly $785,000 last year as city administrator and director of light and power, overseeing Vernon's city-owned utility. He now earns $384,000 a year overseeing capital projects for the utility after stepping down July 20 as city administrator.

   Former City Atty. Jeffrey A. Harrison earned $800,000 last year and City Treasurer/Finance Director Roirdan Burnett made $570,000, records show. The year before, Harrison was paid $1.04 million.