TUESDAY BRIEFING

Times Staff Writers

New fire chief to battle hazing

Los Angeles' incoming fire chief, Douglas Barry, the first African American to head the department, says his bureau's problems of hazing and discrimination are limited in nature.

But the 53-year-old assistant chief pledges nonetheless to eradicate them from the troubled department. Barry, who is a 31-year veteran of the fire department, takes over as interim chief Jan. 1 during a maximum year-long formal search for a permanent chief.

His predecessor, William Bamattre, resigned last week under fire. He's complained that he did not possess the authority or the tools to discipline rogue firefighters and change the department's frat house culture that was often criticized for mistreatment of minorities and women. Page B1

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Bolton resigns as U.N. ambassador

The United States' ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, is vetoing his own tenure in office there and resigning. Bolton, who has been serving under a recess appointment because Democrats blocked his Senate confirmation, decides that another recess appointment would be an unnecessary fight. President Bush accepts the resignation but adds that he is "deeply disappointed." Page A4

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Hair-loss drug may skew cancer test

An estimated 4 million men use the hair-loss drug Propecia. But, researchers now report, that drug can mask the presence of prostate cancer.

The drug can throw off the findings in the PSA test, the most common test for prostate cancer, and produce false safe readings. The new study is published in the Lancet Oncology. Page A18

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Sen. Brownback looks to 2008

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback announces he's forming an exploratory committee to study launching a campaign for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 2008.

Brownback, whose appeal is on the conservative side of the GOP spectrum, has seen several would-be competitors fall by the wayside in recent weeks, including Sens. Bill Frist of Tennessee and George Allen of Virginia. Page A20

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Lunar colonists in NASA's future

By the time your beautiful new baby is in college, NASA will have an international team of astronauts living and working at a permanent moon base.

The first extraterrestrial residents will drive around on the moon's surface in a newly designed lunar lander functioning like a low-gravity pickup truck and may even transit to the moon's dark side to construct an ambitious array of observatories. The new lunar landings are part of the larger plan eventually to send humans to explore Mars. Page A18

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NIH scientist accused of conflict

A senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health is charged with conflict of interest for accepting $285,000 in fees from a drug company.

Dr. Trey Sunderland III is the first NIH official in 14 years to be charged. Sunderland, 55, is expected to plead guilty to the single charge. Page A11

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Protesters gather

The Supreme Court hears arguments in Seattle and Louisville racial integration cases. The justices indicate that they're against such racial guidelines to determine school enrollments. Page A11

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THE CRITIC: 'Hannibal, the book suggests, is us. Except he isn't

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BUSINESS

Grocery chain outlines U.S. plans

Expect to see a new chain of grocery stores opening in the western U.S. by this time next year. Tesco, a British retailer, reveals more of its expansion plans, including launching stores that are about the size of the average Trader Joe's.

Tesco USA's headquarters is in El Segundo, and it plans to build a distribution center south of Riverside. The company expects to open 300 stores in the Southland, Las Vegas and Phoenix in the next five years and says they will be "smaller, simpler grocery stores." Page C2

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Paying a price for gift-giving

It's too late now, but really, you should have sought a job with Fidelity Investments a few years ago. You might have been flown to the 2004 Super Bowl in Houston and been invited to parties hosted by Maxim and Playboy. Or you could have gone on a four-day golf outing that included stops in Las Vegas and Cabo San Lucas. You might have even been thrown a bachelor party in Miami.

Unfortunately, there are rules against offering these kinds of gifts to win someone's business. The Wall Street firm behind the largesse, Jefferies & Co., has been fined almost $10 million for its activities. Page C1

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Wells Fargo looks for new borrowers

Wells Fargo & Co.'s mortgage business plans to court risky borrowers more aggressively, hoping they will sign up for additional services.

Wells will automatically enroll borrowers who have low credit ratings in a financial education program. Those borrowers also will be eligible for free consultations -- in English or Spanish -- with specialists who can help them create a financial strategy and clean up their credit.

The program is intended to help address advocacy groups' allegations of predatory lending at Wells' sub-prime lending subsidiary, Wells Fargo Financial. But company executives and observers say it also will give Wells an opportunity to sell other products, such as checking accounts. Page C1

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CALENDAR

A word to the wise guy

At the Laugh Factory's first "Chocolate Sundaes" night -- featuring mostly African American comics -- since Michael Richards' infamous routine, performers weren't supposed to use a certain six-letter word beginning with "N." Will banning a racial epithet in a comedy club make a difference? Scott Martelle talks to performers, audience members and the Laugh Factory's owner, who has long objected to the word and calls it "poison." Page E1

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Four more years for Letterman

CBS and David Letterman agree to a four-year extension of his "Late Show" contract. That means he and his writers will need to come up with about 9,000 more items for all those additional "Top Ten" lists.

The deal runs through 2010, and it's believed that Letterman will get a raise from his current annual salary of $31.5 million. Page E1

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Animators select their nominees

Which of this year's animated films do animators like best? That'd be "Cars," based on the number of nominations it received for the International Animated Film Society awards.

"Cars" receives nine nominations, including one for best animated feature. Also nominated for the top award are "Monster House," "Open Season," "Happy Feet" and "Over the Hedge." Page E4

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Can anything please this court?

Put a liberal architect from L.A. in charge of building an Oregon courthouse run by a conservative judge, and what do you get? No, not a failed sitcom -- you get an actual new federal courthouse. But can the merger of these two men's sensibilities do justice to either's beliefs? Critic Christopher Hawthorne offers his verdict. Page E1

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LATIMES.COM

A new power in Sacramento

Political Muscle blogger Robert Salladay reports on the scene from Sacramento as the newly elected Legislature is sworn in. "Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), who turns 40 next month, took the stage at a Capitol press conference surrounded by a dozen members of his Democratic leadership team. There wasn't a single straight white male to be found" among the five men and seven women in the diverse group.latimes.com/politicalmuscle

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Clippers ready for the Heat

Despite a tough season so far, Rick Cipes shows no fear on the Clippers blog in the face of the onrushing Miami Heat. He writes that Miami and its "15 Strong" are rolling into town beaten down and ripe for the picking. Shaq is out for another month or so, Dwayne Wade is having to carry the team, and the Clippers are coming off 48 strong minutes against Orlando. latimes.com/clippersblog

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A showman on the Strip

Even by Sin City standards, reports Vegas blogger Richard Abowitz, nightclub impresario Jeff Beacher is an eyebrow-raiser. The 300-plus-pound reigning titan of the Strip's nightlife scene has lured the "Young Hollywood Paris Hilton set" to LV. But even more attention-grabbing are his publicity stunts. latimes.com/vegasblog

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SPORTS

It's football, but it ain't Texas

California is about to dip its toe into the wacky world of state high school football playoffs. Three teams from Northern California and three from the Southland will be selected in three divisions, based on size, and face off in a triple-header Dec. 16 at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Nobody expects the two-year experiment to be comparable to the frenzy of football-crazed Texas championships, since there are no statewide playoffs leading up to the games and teams aren't matched based on talent, regardless of enrollment.

"To me, it's not No. 1 vs. No. 2, it's North vs. South," says Raul Laura, coach of Long Beach Poly. "It's really not a state championship. That's why I'm a little hesitant."

And classic matchups we'd like to see here, like undefeated Westlake Village Oaks Christian against unbeaten Concord De La Salle, won't happen because they are in different divisions.

But, commissioner Barbara Fiege, says: "It's like the BCS.... It's as close as we can get to a playoff series." Page D1

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