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Housing sales continue drop

Times Staff Writers

Evidence continues to accumulate that the Southern California real estate market is softening.

Los Angeles County home prices for July continue to grow -- the median sales price is a record $520,000 -- but sales plummet 25% for an eighth straight month of declines.

Prices in San Diego County depreciated for the second straight month, to $487,000 last month, 1.8% below the previous July.

One factor putting pressure on prices: the growing backlog of homes on the market. Buyers, for a change, are gaining the upper hand in negotiations.

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“Price growth is descending consistently but gradually,” says one real estate analyst.

The slowdown has even hit downtown L.A., one of the recent hot spots thanks to a boom in condominiums. Page C1

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Arrests made in D.C. crime spree

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The nation’s capital has long battled a significant crime problem. So any good news is widely trumpeted.

U.S. Park Police announce five arrests in connection with a series of armed robberies and sexual assaults of nighttime visitors to the National Mall, one of Washington’s top tourist sites.

At least 12 people, including two children, were victims of crimes in five separate incidents between May 25 and July 11 on a seven-block section of the Mall.

City officials hail the arrests as proof that the Mall, which includes the Washington Monument and Lincoln, Jefferson and Vietnam memorials, is safe at any time. Page A14

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Banned liquids? Wine too?

Fallout may hit wineries from the breakup by British authorities of an alleged Islamic militant plot to blow up airliners with liquid explosives in carry-on baggage.

The new security measures banning liquids from such bags is worrying many in California’s $16.5 billion wine industry.

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Every year hundreds of thousands of cases of wine travel across the country as carry-ons. Passengers jamming multi-packs of wine bottles beneath seats and into overhead airplane bins are especially common sights on flights out of San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento airports. Page C1

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City Council’s symbolic vote

The Los Angeles City Council has no real authority over Mayor Villaraigosa’s plan to gain control over the city’s troubled public school system.

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But that doesn’t stop members from voting on the issue anyway. They agree unanimously with the mayor’s plan.

And the meaninglessness of their vote doesn’t stop the mayor from declaring it a significant symbolic victory in the struggle to put L.A. Unified under the control of his office.

In Sacramento, where the real struggle continues in the state legislature, an Aug. 31 deadline looms. Page B1

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COMING SUNDAY

The West 100

West magazine picks the 100 most powerful people in Southern California. Who’s No. 1? The answer may surprise you. Also in the Power Issue, check out which power brokers sit where at Lakers games, and learn what it takes to be a faithful assistant to the power elite.

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CALENDAR

The life of the parties

If you want to throw a memorable party, be sure to invite Bryan Rabin and David Rodgers. And have your checkbook ready. The party impresarios plan events where the budget comes with a lot of zeros, like persuading the Getty Center to let guests dine among its precious paintings. Page E1

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Hanging up his crown of thorns

Ted Neeley is resurrecting his most famous role one last time.

The Texan starred as Jesus in the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” both on stage and in the 1973 film version.

Now he’s prepping for a national farewell tour starting in September in Buffalo.

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Before he does, there’s a special benefit version Sunday at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood.

Neeley will reunite with cast members Yvonne Elliman and Barry Dennen, who played Mary Magdalene and Pontius Pilate, respectively, on stage and in the film. Page E4

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Till MTV do us part

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Why is it that a lot of celebrity couples split after letting TV cameras pry into their private lives?

First there was Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson, then Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro.

Now, Travis Barker and Shanna Moakler are calling it quits.

Deborah Netburn asks: “Is there something about exploiting your relationship on MTV specifically that leads to a breakup or are the odds bad no matter which network you go to?”

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On the flip side, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne are hanging in there. So are Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. Page E20

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ON LATIMES.COM

So who are biggest Dodger foils?

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Diamond details: The Giants are coming! The Giants are coming! The Dodgers are battling in a tight race in the National League West, and their rival of rivals, ancient thorn in their blue side, is in town for a crucial series.

Through this weekend, the Dodgers will be challenged by a team against which their all-time winning percentage is .494. Which leads Blue Notes bloggers Andrew and Brian Kamenetzky to pose the trivia question: Since 1901, against what franchise do the Dodgers have the highest winning percentage? Take your guess and find out the answer.

latimes.com/dodgersblogMike Douglas: The entertainment industry mourns the passing of talk show host Mike Douglas, who died at 81. While Douglas is remembered for his long-running show, one small moment in his career has largely been forgotten: Douglas gave an early boost to the career of an aspiring young media executive named Roger Ailes. Channel Island TV blogger Scott Collins remembers the tale.

latimes.com/channelisland

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BUSINESS

The road to India, via California

Indian expatriates in California are helping transform that nation’s economy, working to help businesses eager to tap its potential.

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California is home to more than 400,000 Indian Americans, and the launching pad for an estimated 3,000 Indian-owned technology companies.

In Santa Clara, Indus Entrepreneurs has 10,000 members in nine countries, working to assist people who want to get connected in India.

Although much of the country remains poor, India has going for it a government that is embracing free market reforms.

It also boasts a large, low-cost workforce, scientific expertise and English language fluency.

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As a result, India is one of the world’s most sought-after destinations for technology outsourcing. Page C1

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SPORTS

The job’s been handed off to him

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Chauncey Washington has a hard act to follow.

With LenDale White and Reggie Bush off to the National Football League, Washington is the potential lead running back for a USC offense that also is breaking in a new quarterback this year.

Once a heralded recruit out of South Torrance High, the junior tailback is blessed with speed and a powerful running style that make him something of a cross between the “Thunder and Lightning” of White and Heisman Trophy winner Bush.

But during his time with the Trojans, Washington has had to cope with a difficult family situation, learning disabilities and immaturity that left him academically ineligible for two years.

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He wants to prove himself not only on the field, but in the classroom, where he has set a goal of graduating. Page D1


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