Latest Southern California news, sports, business and entertainment

NAVY SONAR-MARINE LIFE

Scientists believe some whales flee from sonar

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Navy plans to increase sonar testing in U.S. waters over the next five years even as studies it funded reveal worrying signs that the loud underwater noise could disturb whales and dolphins.

Reported mass strandings of certain whale species have risen worldwide since the military started using sonar half a century ago. Biologists also are concerned that marine mammals may suffer stress from changes in diving, feeding and communication.

Studies so far have involved a small group of tagged animals, and it's unclear how changes in behavior would affect populations.

For the first time, researchers coordinating with the Navy are conducting experiments using mid-frequency active sonar transmissions from ships. Last summer, the team tagged six whales and dolphins off the Southern California coast. Results are still being analyzed.

LA SHERIFFS-DEADLY CRASHES

Death in Compton auto crash identified; 3 unknown

(Information in the following story is from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com)

COMPTON, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say a 30-year-old woman was among four people killed in Compton after a car fleeing from deputies rammed another vehicle, flipped and burst into flames.

The Los Angeles County coroner says Stacey Garcia of Los Angeles died in Saturday's crash. It was unclear which vehicle she was inside.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Peter Ramirez tells the Los Angeles Times that dental records and fingerprints may be needed to identify the other three.

Keith Wright tells the Times that his brother — 35-year-old auto mechanic Larry Gilmore — died.

George Starks says his granddaughter — 20-year-old Shawnice Osborne — also died. She recently graduated from Compton High School.

Two others were killed in Palmdale Saturday when a sheriff's patrol car collided with a vehicle at an intersection.

LA NEIGHBORHOOD-OIL FIELD

LA oil field blamed for illnesses to be modified

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An urban oil field blamed for causing chronic respiratory illnesses and nosebleeds in a South Los Angeles neighborhood will be modified to prevent leaks and decrease pollution.

The Los Angeles Times reports Sunday that Allenco Energy Co. plans to upgrade its air pollution control systems, inspect and repair tanks, and make other changes.

The company voluntarily suspended operations Nov. 22 at the request of California Sen. Barbara Boxer. Since then pollution and reports of respiratory ailments have dropped.

Allenco is under investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the city attorney's office and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health has called for a comprehensive audit of the facility to better determine the health hazards its poses.

ASSISTED LIVING-FINES

Assisted living fines go uncollected in California

(Information in the following story is from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — California regulators fail to collect half the fines levied on assisted living homes for failing to properly care for elderly residents. When they do, payments often arrive late.

U-T San Diego reported Sunday that the California Department of Social Services has collected only half of the $2.9 million in penalties it levied against facilities statewide since July 2007. One reason is there is no penalty for late payment.

State officials say they do their best to collect but violators often close and move away. With limited resources, they say they must juggle responsibilities, and collecting penalties is not always at the top of their list.

The maximum penalty for a violation is $150, even when a resident dies due to negligent care.

HEALTH CARE-RECRUITING

California effort pitches health care to students

(Information in the following story is from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Government-funded educators are visiting California college campuses to pitch students on signing up for health insurance.

The Los Angeles Times reports Sunday that the effort is an attempt to reach young adults, who are seen as vital to making the Affordable Care Act a success.

Supporters and detractors of the law are fixating on so-called "young invincibles." Only by collecting premiums from more infrequent users of medical services can insurance plans expect to offset higher costs of treating newly insured older and sicker patients.

The trained educators are becoming regulars at California State University campuses. The effort is funded by a grant from Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange for the public.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOUND

Los Angeles hot dog joint returns Christmas cash

(Information in the following story is from: Pasadena Star-News, http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Marc Lichtman had a sinking feeling after eating a Polish sausage at Fab Hot Dogs in Los Angeles. It had nothing to do with what he ate.

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that the executive director of a nonprofit group that helps build schools lost his wallet with $2,500 in Christmas cash to thank everyone who helped throughout the year.

The director of California Trust for Public Schools ransacked his car. He tore apart his house. He retraced his steps.

Then he remembered his trip to the hot dog joint Wednesday night.

Restaurant founder Joe Fabrocini was there the next day with the wallet — and the cash. An employee found it on a chair.

Lichtman left an undisclosed sum to thank the employee and staff.

BOX OFFICE

'Hobbit' cools 'Frozen,' takes top box office spot

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tolkien tops princess power at the multiplex.

Per studio estimates Sunday, Warner Bros. "Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" was No. 1 at the weekend box office with $73.7 million.

Melting down to the No. 2 position, Disney's animated tale "Frozen" earned $22.2 in its third weekend, bringing its overall domestic ticket total to $164.4 million.

Lionsgate's holiday-themed "Tyler Perry's a Madea Christmas" came in third place with $16.2 million, while "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" earned $13.2 million for the fourth place slot. To date "Catching Fire" has grossed $739.9 million, surpassing the worldwide box office total for "The Hunger Games," which gained $691 million.

Disney's "Thor: The Dark World" continues to thrive, as it took fifth place with $2.7 million, bringing its domestic total to $198.1 million.