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Opinion L.A. Observations and provocations from the Times' Opinion Staff
Why Kamala Harris needed to stand up to murderous antigay initiative

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris rightly wants to snuff out the hateful "Sodomite Suppression Act" -- which basically calls for the mass murder of all gay men and women in the state -- before it can gather enough signatures to make the ballot. In a blog post Friday, The Times' Mariel Garza argues that Harris is overreacting to the bigoted ballot measure, which she said would be better left to die a quiet death without giving it any of the attention that trolls like attorney Matthew McLaughlin, the measure's proponent, crave with efforts like his.

Garza's opposition to the Sodomite Suppression Act is well taken, but her criticism of Harris for seeking to kill the proposal before supporters can try to gather the 365,880 signatures to put it on the ballot is off base. Harris did the right thing in asking the court to intervene.

The idea that any Californian could propose a measure advocating the murder of a whole segment of our population shocks the conscience. While we share Garza’s...

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They're Palestinians, not 'Israeli Arabs'

Can you imagine reading an editorial in a respected newspaper today discussing the rights of "Negroes" or "Chinamen"? Probably not. And yet, like other newspapers in this country, The Times continues to use the generic term "Arabs" or "Israeli Arabs" to refer to the Palestinians who live inside Israel, falsely distinguishing them from the Palestinians who live in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 or those who were driven into exile during the destruction of Palestine in 1948. 

The term is, at best, an archaism from the mid-20th century that Palestinians themselves resist using. Using it is akin to using "Negroes" or "Coloreds" instead of "African Americans" or calling Asians "Orientals." In general, the term that an ethnic or national group uses to designate itself is surely preferable to the terms that its antagonists have historically used to designate it.

But what's at stake here is not merely rhetoric but a form of historical distortion that makes it all but impossible for...

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Exactly what California needs: A new, science-focused UC school

Thousands of applicants with high school grade-point averages above 4.0 are rejected from UC Berkeley and UCLA each year through no fault of their own. It's a hard thing for parents to explain to their kids, who did everything they were supposed to do and yet were turned away thanks to the lack of space in California's top public universities. Many students end up paying more to attend comparably ranked private or out-of-state schools. This exodus of motivated, intelligent students -- many of whom settle out of state -- isn't good for California in the long run. 

Schools like UCLA provide an elite education, but students there encounter a system at maximum capacity. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Westwood is just shy of $2,500 a month. Many classes are held in vast lecture halls with little interaction with the professor. Even a top-notch university like UCLA can't bring upward of 43,000 humans through its doors without certain systemic challenges.  

Meanwhile, in politics,...

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Sugar in food is poorly labeled, and the industry likes it that way

A wild animal is never more dangerous than when it is cornered. And Big Sugar is lashing out with all the sweet venom it can muster in response to the latest attacks on the iniquities of the American diet. These attacks are now seemingly coming from all directions.

Scientists have now demonstrated not just correlation, but causation for sugar and diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart disease and tooth decay. Investment banks Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley have weighed in on the effects of the detriments of excess sugar consumption on healthcare costs, economic productivity and the global economy. The Indian government has asked PepsiCo to reformulate its flagship beverage to reduce the burden of diabetes that country is facing. And the passage of the Mexico and Berkeley soda taxes have pierced the armor of the once-impenetrable Big Sugar.  

So, why pick on sugar? The industry says, "a calorie is a calorie, and a sugar is a sugar." In her Opinion L.A. blog post raising questions over a...

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Scuttle the exploitative 99-Seat Theatre Plan and pay actors minimum wage

It seems like a straightforward question with an equally straightforward answer: Should actors earn at least minimum wage?

Surprisingly, a bitter dispute has broken out in the Los Angeles theatre community over an actors union proposal that would for the first time require performers in small theatres -- those with 99 or fewer seats -- to be paid at least the California minimum wage of $9 an hour. These small theatres are currently exempt from union contracts and consider their actors "volunteers," exempt from minimum wage laws.

The Actors' Equity Assn. argues that actors are like any other workers and deserve compensation for their effort, skills and time at so-called 99 Seat Theatres. In his recent Times op-ed article, Tim Robbins makes the case for why this would be a mistake, arguing that requiring small theatre owners and producers to pay minimum wage instead of the much lower daily stipends (usually no more than $25) that actors currently receive for performances would bankrupt small...

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One ex-pothead does not evidence for marijuana's dangers make

Susan Shapiro's anecdotal experience with cannabis — describing her past use as "an extreme addiction" — is anomalous. Most people who experiment with pot do not become dependent upon it. In truth, most users who try marijuana voluntarily cease their use as they grow older, enter the workplace or start a family.

That is because pot lacks the dependence liability associated with many other substances. According to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, cannabis' risk of causing dependence is far lower than that of alcohol, opiates or tobacco. At worst, cannabis' potential dependence liability is on par with anxiolytics such as Valium or Xanax. Indeed, a minority of pot users experience difficulty kicking the habit, but that doesn't mean that we as a society should continue enforcing the failed policy of cannabis criminalization.

Many of Shapiro's claims regarding pot's risk potential are unsupported by the scientific literature. For instance, she expresses concerns that...

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