Latest 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.

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.

STOLEN ASHES RECOVERED

Sacramento woman's ashes recovered from stolen car

(Information in the following story is from: KCRA-TV.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A Sacramento County man whose car was stolen from a local car wash is praising the vehicle's return, but mostly because of what was inside: his late wife's ashes.

Television station KCRA in Sacramento reports that Port of Stockton police recovered 78-year-old Melvin Hayes' Ford Fusion when they arrested two people near the port's main entrance on Saturday morning.

Hayes and his son found the metallic blue urn containing Anne Marie Hayes' ashes wedged in the Fusion's trunk under bags belonging to the alleged auto thieves.

Hayes tells KCRA the car was stolen on Thursday when he stopped to get it washed on the way to his wife's burial service.

He says a woman there chatted him up while he was waiting and that an attendant mistakenly gave her his keys when the job was done.

MARIJUANA FAIR

Sonoma fairgrounds plays host to pot contest

(Information in the following story is from: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, http://www.pressdemocrat.com)

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — In a sure sign of the sizable role marijuana plays in California's agricultural economy, a competition for pot farmers who grow their crops outdoors is being held this year at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa reports that hundreds of people gathered there over the weekend for the 2013 Emerald Cup, which started a decade ago as an underground, end-of-harvest celebration for growers in Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

Only weed that has been grown organically in the sun and hashish cured without chemicals were eligible for the contest.

A panel of judges that includes buyers for medical marijuana dispensaries was expected to name the winners on Sunday from among more 150 entries.

A Field Poll released last week found that 55 percent of voters surveyed favor legalizing marijuana use for adults.

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.

COASTAL LAND MONUMENT

Monument status eyed for former Santa Cruz dairy

(Information in the following story is from: Santa Cruz Sentinel, http://www.santacruzsentinel.com)

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — California land preservationists are hoping to have a former dairy farm north of Santa Cruz crowned as a national monument.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that conservations are seeking the designation for Coast Dairies, a 7,000-acre tract of sloping hills dotted with redwood trees and beaches.

The land has been closed to the public for decades, but that is expected to change in the next few months when the Bureau of Land Management takes control of it.

Sam Goldman, California program director for the Conservation Lands Foundation, tells the Sentinel that being declared a monument could bring in more federal dollars for managing the property.

The foundation also is pursuing monument status for another slice of the California coast that once housed a dairy, the 1,100 Stornetta Public Lands in Mendocino County.

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.

SAGE GROUSE-NEVADA CRITICS

NV sage grouse critics say feds bent on listing

(Information in the following story is from: Elko Daily Free Press, http://www.elkodaily.com)

ELKO, Nev. (AP) — An ex-state lawmaker and longtime critic of U.S. land managers says he's convinced the feds have already made up their mind to list the Greater sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species.

But a Bureau of Land Management official says that's not the case and insisted at a public meeting in Elko this week they want the community's input on how best to save the troubled bird without a federal listing.

Ranchers, miners, energy developers and state officials fear restrictions on the use of public lands in sage grouse habitat would have deep economic consequences in the rural West.

Former Republican Assemblyman John Carpenter told the Elko Daily Free Press he believes the government is determined to list the chicken-sized game bird as part of a bigger strategy to lock up federal lands.

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.