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Opinion L.A. Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion Staff
Venice Beach declares war on our infantile obsession with nudity

Not many people are aware of it, and few exercise the right, but it is legal for women to walk around topless in New York City and other cities.  (A bare-chested New Yorker even got $40,000 from the city to settle her lawsuit alleging harassment by the NYPD for her nudity.)

Now, if the Venice Neighborhood Council gets its way, toplessness will become legal somewhere more pleasant than the gritty, often slush-filled streets of the Northeast: Venice Beach.

"I think this is a serious equality issue, and I'm not going to shy away from it," Melissa Diner, the Venice council community officer who sponsored the resolution told the Los Angeles Times' Martha Groves. Diner said she hoped to "start a conversation about not only wanting to show our nipples on Venice Beach, but about what else people want to see."

"Venice Beach was founded and designed around the European culture of Venice, Italy," the neighborhood council said, "and ... topless [sun]bathing is commonplace throughout Europe, much of...

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Driver's licenses open door to safer rides for those in U.S. illegally

Not all unintended consequences are bad. Take for instance California’s move to give special driver's licenses to immigrants who are in the country illegally starting this year.

Those of us, including the editorial board, who supported AB 60 for practical and compassionate reasons expected it would improve safety and accountability on the road. Denying driver's licenses to those in the U.S. illegally wasn’t stopping hundreds of thousands of them from climbing behind the wheel. It only meant they were doing so without learning the rules of the road or obtaining car insurance, and in constant fear of having their car impounded.

But it didn't occur to me that it could contribute to cleaner air, too. A La Opinion story suggests that may be the case because some of those with new licenses are kicking their carcachitas (junkers) to the curb and buying newer cars, which are generally more fuel-efficient and safer than older models.

If this is more widespread than just the people profiled in the...

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Federal government fails basic openness test

You’d think that if you were going to get a timely and adequate response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the federal government, it would be from the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy, which oversees the government’s compliance with FOIA requests.

But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

According to the FOIA Project, operated by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the Office of Information Policy was one of 10 agencies that failed to adequately respond to a basic FOIA request, a remarkable failure rate -- that’s nearly half of the 21 agencies queried. Only seven of the agencies fully complied in a timely manner.

And what information was sought in those FOIA requests? “We asked for copies of the electronic files the FOIA offices themselves use to keep track of FOIA requests,” according to the FOIA Project’s website. Each agency got the same request, all submitted via the method each agency said it preferred (email, fax, or an...

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The delay confirming Loretta Lynch was wrong, but it wasn't racist

When Loretta Lynch was finally confirmed by the Senate this week as U.S. attorney general, she received 10 Republican votes -- many fewer than she should have received but more than were expected given the GOP majority’s recent hyper-partisanship. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for Lynch.

One widely held theory was offered by the publication the Hill: “Four of the chamber’s most vulnerable GOP incumbents — Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) — voted to confirm Lynch, who faced a long delay in being confirmed as the first African-American female to head the Justice Department.”

Lynch also got the vote of Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who, as my colleague Lisa Mascaro pointed out, “relied on primarily Democratic African American voters to beat back a tea party primary challenger last year in a highly unusual campaign strategy.”

If Lynch’s race and her support among African Americans gained her Republican votes, it...

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Lacey's wrongful-conviction unit could be a step in the right direction

The devil, of course, will be in the details, but Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s announcement that she wants to create an office to review wrongful conviction claims is welcome news.

As The Times pointed out in a story about the proposal, there have been three recent notable developments in wrongful conviction cases in Los Angeles: An $8-million settlement to Obie Anthony, imprisoned for 17 years for a murder he didn’t commit; the release of Susan Mellen, who spent 17 years in prison based on the testimony of a habitual liar; and a judge’s decision to toss out the 1979 conviction of Kash Delano Register.

All three cases were pressed by outside innocence projects, which have been instrumental around the country in revealing failings of the criminal justice system.

But there also has been a move by prosecutor’s offices to review cases that raise questions about the fairness of trials and possible miscarriages of justice, which have led to second chances for people wrongfully...

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Comcast can't make one huge cable firm look better than two big ones

There are many reasons Comcast came up empty in its bid to buy Time Warner Cable, including an administration that's hostile to telecommunications mergers, a nearly empty reservoir of goodwill among cable TV consumers and a howling mass of Internet users freaked out by the prospect of a single Internet service provider with more than half of the ultra-high-speed market.

The main problem, though, is that the deal offered no obvious, dramatic benefits for the public.

As my colleague Meg James reported, Comcast is expected to announce as soon as Friday that it's dropping its bid. On one level, it's remarkable that two companies that do not compete in any residential market could fail to win the green light from federal regulators. On another, though, it's not surprising that Comcast couldn't overcome the parade of horribles trotted out by its opponents.

Sure, there were a number of things Comcast claimed as benefits of the deal. For example, it argued that its technology was better than Time...

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