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Opinion L.A.
Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
It's summertime. Why aren't you on vacation?

My wife and I returned Friday from two weeks of vacation in China, hanging out with one of our sons (posted there with the Peace Corps) and his girlfriend. We were mostly unplugged, wandered miles every day, traipsed the Great Wall and watched pandas, among other exotic (to us) exploits. And that’s what vacations are for – time away from the desk to, as an old friend once described it, get a chance to rub our fur in a different direction for a while.

Who knew we were so rare?

The folks at Vox report, based on recent federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data, that fewer Americans are taking weeklong vacations than in previous decades, for a range of reasons including fear of career repercussions to jobs that don’t offer accrued vacation days. According to Vox:

“Nine million Americans took a week off in July 1976, the peak month each year for summer travel. Yet in July 2014, just seven million did. Keeping in mind that 60 million more Americans have jobs today than in 1976, that adds up to...

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Report the truth -- the whole truth -- on Robin Williams' death

The details of Robin Williams' apparent suicide aren't pretty (not that anyone thought they would be): The beloved actor and comedian was reportedly found by his personal assistant suspended just off the ground by a belt wrapped around his neck. Cuts on his wrist suggest he may have attempted to kill himself one way before succeeding at asphyxiation.

You probably wouldn't know any of this if some enlightened journalists had their way. Those who missed the initial news conference where these details were first reported would have been kept in the dark, because journalists, some people say, don't have to continue reporting the disturbing facts after they've been delivered by the government officials obligated to do so.

Those thinkers are wrong. Journalists' job is to tell the whole story, and nothing less. I speak from experience.

Many years ago while working as a reporter in a small town, I received an obituary call from a local funeral director. The call was routine in every way but...

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Why don't we know how often a Michael Brown is killed by police?

The shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in suburban St. Louis has spotlighted a wide range of policy questions and social issues, from police training and militarization (evident with the response to the post-shooting protests) to the nation’s black-white divide over perceptions of racism, to the extension of urban-style poverty and unemployment to suburbia. The pivotal question, though, is how often do these killings occur? How often do police gun down unarmed black men on the nation’s streets?

It turns out no one knows, because federal statistics collectors and many local police departments don’t track violent encounters between officers and civilians. A cynic might see something nefarious in that. By not collecting and collating such data, law enforcement can hide the scope of misdeeds from the public as well as civil liberties activists and lawyers for the families of the dead.

But academics like Samuel Walker, who has long been frustrated by the lack of available...

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CNN's amusing advice on how to fake being an L.A. local

Here's a teeny-tiny idea, courtesy a slideshow on CNN.com attached to a summertime desperation slideshow story entitled “How to be an L.A. Local – 8 Tips for Faking It.”

I suppose it's a compliment that in the city with an unmerited reputation for being fake down to its Louboutin-or-knockoff soles, newbies should strive to fake authenticity. 

1. "BLENDING IN, L.A. STYLE Don’t be weirded out by Venice Beach. If every day is like an R-rated variety show overseen by an LSD aficionado--and in Venice Beach it is--you deal with it. Calmly..."

Non-locals’ premiere mistake: About 4 million people live in the city of L.A., only about 30,000 of them in Venice. The Venice boardwalk is mostly about tourists looking for a sideshow. Locals know that; Arnold Schwarzenegger told the New York Times he loved riding his bike in Venice because of the secondhand marijuana smoke. “You just inhale, and you live off everyone else.” Do you think we live like that in San Pedro or Winnetka? 

2.  "SUNSHINE...

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A 'fatherhood bonus' for working dads can benefit moms too

Call it the Daddy Advantage. Men who request a flexible working arrangement so they can help with childcare are, apparently, viewed more favorably than women who want the same flexibility, according to a new study.

Researcher Dr. Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., analyzed the reactions both men and women received when asking to telecommute or work nontraditional hours. She found, for example, that men who requested to work from home for childcare reasons were “significantly advantaged” over women. Nearly 70% of survey participants said they would be “likely” or “very likely” to approve the man’s request, compared with about 57% who would grant the woman’s request.

Not only were men more likely to get the flex working schedule, they were also held in higher regard just for asking. Almost a quarter of survey participants found the man to be “extremely likable,” compared with only 3% who found the woman to be “extremely...

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Overseas puppy mills: A good new rule to stem a cruel business

A tough new federal rule should help stem the import into the U.S. of dogs from overseas puppy mills. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the rule, which prohibits dogs being imported into the U.S. from foreign countries for resale unless they are in good health, have had vaccinations and are at least 6 months old.

That age cutoff is the big news for animal welfare advocates who have been battling against puppy mills, which are the factory farms of dog breeding — overcrowded, filthy and full of dogs being overbred.

“What will really take a bite out of the international trade is that people can’t import puppies younger than 6 months,” says Deborah Press, senior manager of regulatory affairs for the  American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

To supply the demand for very young puppies, millers will wean them too soon from their mothers and send them off on long journeys to the United States.

“Each year, thousands of puppies — all just a few weeks old and barely...

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Raising a black son

With the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the ensuing unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and the shooting of Ezell Ford here in Los Angeles, I cried remembering the three words that challenged me three years ago.

“It’s a boy!”

As those words made their way from my ears to my brain, my heart was simultaneously filled with so much joy and frozen with so much terror.

You see, the beautiful baby then growing inside me — my innocent, impossibly adorable, bright, promising, curly-haired brown-skinned boy — would become a “black man.” And it would be incumbent on his father and me to explain why that is a relevant distinction.

My husband and I, both biracial, determinedly choose not to approach the world solely on racial terms. Within us, racial harmony coexists. But there is cold reality: Regardless of the man facing the mirror, it is his own reflection that threatens him. Black boys face different dangers. 

As mommy blogger Erin Human wrote on her site, “The E Is for Erin,” while she frets about...

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L.A. Ethics Commission suggests a new approach to buying votes

If only the Los Angeles Ethics Commission had the courage of its convictions.

As my colleague David Zahniser reported, the commission voted unanimously Thursday in favor of a new plan to goose voter turnout in Los Angeles, where 3 of 4 registered voters delegate the task of voting to their neighbors. Actually, that's on a good day. In the recent school board special election, 9 of 10 Angelenos left the voting to the little people.

The busy people here in Southern California have better things to do than pick a mayor or decide whether to require porn stars to wear condoms. To paraphrase Snoop — a true student of the Angeleno psyche — we've got our mind on our money and our money on our mind.

Recognizing as much, the ethics watchdogs' proposal calls for the city to set up a lottery for voters — let's call it a Votto — so that the prospect of cash prizes will lure more people into the voting booth. The commission, which doesn't have the authority to implement the plan itself, left it up...

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The Rose Parade queen and her royal court — more fun than sexist

That annual harbinger of fall has arrived: Applications for the Tournament of Roses royal court, and a chance to be crowned Rose Queen, are now available online. And once again I ask myself, shouldn’t I weigh in on the crassness and sexism of this tradition, which has been going on for 97 years? Yet the only criticism I can come up with is, how ageist that you can’t be any older than 21 to compete. I want to enter!

Why not? You have your hair and makeup professionally done, get to wear a tiara in public without people asking if you’re going to a costume party, and — this is what does it for me — get to cradle a voluptuous bouquet of perfect roses as you ride a float and wave to people. What fabulous fun is that?

Sure, there are some downsides. You have to be at the staging area for the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day at some insanely predawn hour, and I am not a morning person, and certainly not the morning after New Year’s Eve. The wardrobe they provide is from Macy’s — not that there’s...

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Can the swastika be rehabilitated? In a word, no

The Atlantic has an article about a fashion designer who wants to take the stigma out of the swastika. I’m tempted to limit my comment on that idea to a sarcastic “Good luck with that.” But the proposed rehabilitation of the swastika -- a symbol with positive connotations in some cultures -- raises an interesting question. Can a symbol be so tainted by an association with evil that it can never be reinterpreted?

The Atlantic reports:

“Today, there are those who would like to highlight and make use of the swastika’s original meaning. Among them is artist and designer Sinjun Wessin, whose Spiritual Punx line of clothing, accessories and stickers -- which started in 2013 and is designed to ‘inspire people to be more loving and accepting to all’ -- treats the 'swasi' as a feel-good icon. …

"'If the hate is taken away from the symbol by energizing its positive side, then we take away power from the people who want to use it in a hateful way,' Wessin says. 'If we don't do anything and just...

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Why should two white missionaries get the first Ebola treatments?

Two American missionary medical workers stricken by Ebola in Liberia were the first to receive a scarce, experimental treatment drug.

And now the question ricochets across the Internet: “Why them?” With more than 1,000 dead and hundreds afflicted in Africa, why would two white Americans about to be airlifted back to medical isolation in Atlanta get the first doses?

It’s an important question, and it deserves answers from the drug makers who supplied it and the charity that asked for it. But here’s my take on why it makes sense.

An experimental drug isn’t a cure, it’s a crapshoot. I don’t think the treatment was made available only for the possible benefit of those who got it. That’s because the medical missionaries are not just patients, they are human lab mice.

This treatment isn’t just about perhaps saving the lives of the two who got it. What happens to them will allow researchers to make some assessment of the safety and effectiveness of what is otherwise a long way from being OKed...

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Are L.A. cops under pressure to water down violent crime data?

An investigation by Los Angeles Times reporters found that the "LAPD misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes during a one-year span ending in September 2013, including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies."

Like all police departments, the LAPD strives to reduce crime. The trouble is, it appears the numerical targets had an unintended result. Rather than actually reducing crime — perhaps an unrealistic goal given that the economy has been significantly less than stellar for the last six years — there's substantial evidence that cops gamed the system by painting a rosier picture than what's really going on on the streets.

Retired and current LAPD officers complain that the department encouraged cops to underreport crime and reduce the seriousness of charges to meet statistical goals for lower crime: "The incidents were recorded as minor offenses and as a result did not appear in the LAPD's published statistics on serious crime that officials and the public use to judge the...

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