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Gas prices trickle down

Times Staff Writers

A new federal report shows the price of gasoline at the pump continuing to decline.

Nationally, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas is $2.208, nearly 40 cents cheaper than a year ago.

California’s prices remain higher. The price here fell 5.9 cents during the last week to $2.481, 34.6 cents cheaper than a year ago.

“Demand is down from the summer months,” says one analyst. “There is ample supply. The hurricane season is almost over.”

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A pledge by OPEC nations to cut production by 1.2 million barrels a day failed to halt the price declines from the July record high of $78.40 a barrel.

December oil futures fall 52 cents to settle at $58.81. Page C2

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Ford posts worst quarter in 14 years

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Ford Motor Co. announces it had the worst quarterly loss since 1992.

For the third quarter, Ford lost $5.8 billion as it imposed a fundamental restructuring plan. For the calendar year so far, Ford’s losses are $7.24 billion.

It sold 710,000 vehicles in the third quarter, 64,000 fewer than the year-ago quarter. Third-quarter revenue fell 10% to $36.7 billion. Ford’s stock slips slightly, closing at $7.90. Page C1

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Wal-Mart cuts new spending

Faced with Wal-Mart’s stagnating stock price in recent years, investors have been calling on the world’s largest retailer to curb spending.

Wal-Mart executives meeting in New York announce they will do just that. Capital spending next year will increase only 2% to 4%, compared with 15% to 20% this year.

Wal-Mart has 3,900 stores in the United States and 6,600 worldwide. It expects to add up to 340 new stores domestically this year and possibly as few as 305 next year. Page C3

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7 killed in bloody Gaza skirmish

An Israeli army reconnaissance unit, assigned to disrupt the almost daily homemade-rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip, killed a militant commander and six other Palestinians in a running gunfight.

At least 17 other Palestinians were wounded in the fighting that also involved helicopters and tanks and winds through the alleys of Beit Hanoun.

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Palestinians say the dead were en route to a wake for another militant killed in the ongoing Gaza skirmishes. Page A4

In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seeks to strengthen his unpopular center-left coalition by adding a far-right party, the Yisrael Beiteinu, to the government. Page A4

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Santa Clarita vs. the ‘mega mine’

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Los Angeles County uses 34 million tons of sand and gravel every year but produces only 5 million tons.

Which is one compelling commercial reason why the giant Mexican company Cemex has set its eyes on a giant deposit of sand and gravel right by the growing city of Santa Clarita.

The city and others have long opposed the project as a “mega mine,” posing a threat of more pollution, dust and traffic.

City leaders are so serious about thwarting the project that they have spent $7 million on legal efforts, a public relations campaign to denounce it and purchase of the land. Page B1

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Middle-class enclave

Tenants of 110 Manhattan apartment buildings in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village -- sold last week for $5.4 billion in one of the nation’s largest residential real estate deals -- fear their rent-stabilized status is threatened. Page A10

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THE CRITIC: ‘The thoroughly enjoyable and surprisingly intimate exhibition is also an inspiration to no-budget do-it-yourselfers whose journeyman enthusiasms generate far more satisfaction and goodwill than financial remuneration.’ David Pagel reviews a photography show at the Norton Simon Museum. Calendar, E3

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CALENDAR

This ‘Parade’ reigns

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“My Black Parade,” the new album by My Chemical Romance, “creates a new role for rock in the age of virtual reality,” reviewer Ann Powers says. Lead singer Gerard Way’s songs unite the authentic and the imagined, she writes, bringing punk’s immediacy to a generation weaned on video games and online communities. It’s exciting, Powers says. And it’s the future. Page E1

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He’s not really a PC, he’s a writer

“I’m a PC,” John Hodgman intones on TV commercials for Apple Computer, then proceeds to reveal himself as inept and, even worse (for the ads’ target audience), uncool. But in real life Hodgman is anything but inept, and although his persona practically screams “nerd,” he’s so good at being nerdly that he’s legitimately cool.

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“My friends and people who know me are as surprised as I am,” Hodgman says of his newfound celebrity, which he owes to the commercials and his nonsensical commentaries on “The Daily Show.” Those jobs didn’t come by way of acting school or improv performances though; Hodgman first attracted attention in a rather quaint manner: by writing essays. Page E1

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Finding the way to ‘Sesame Street’

What kind of show would “Sesame Street” be in an impoverished country where many children start working before age 6? How about in a country where AIDS has turned a large number of children into orphans? Or where ethnic tensions threaten to boil over?

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“The World According to Sesame Street,” a documentary on PBS, examines how the show is made in Bangladesh, South Africa and Kosovo, and reviewer Robert Lloyd calls the film “deeply inspiring and devastatingly sad.”

The Bangladesh production, beset by politics and other dramas, gets most of the attention, Lloyd says. “World” doesn’t present a sunny day, but it does show people trying to nurture a ray of sunshine. Page E10

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SPORTS

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A jockey carries an extra load

Sometimes adversity, in the context of sports, takes the form of a twisted ankle, an umpire’s mistake or a soggy playing field.

Sometimes, though, adversity is tragedy. Twenty-six years ago, jockey Jon Court’s younger brother was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Then, just 17 days ago, Court’s older brother was hit by a truck. He also died.

Columnist Bill Dwyre profiles Court, above, who this Saturday will ride the streaking Cambiocorsa at Santa Anita. Page D1

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Hand-wringing at the World Series

The St. Louis Cardinals played the hand that was dealt them Sunday. Now the question is whether that hand, belonging to Detroit pitcher Kenny Rogers, had an illegal substance on it, and whether Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa should have done more to find out.

“I don’t have any regrets,” La Russa says the day after Rogers led the Tigers to a 3-1 victory. “I don’t think we got abused. I think we just got beat.” Page D1

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Finger-pointing by UCLA fans

Columnist T.J. Simers writes that he hadn’t even left the field at Notre Dame on Saturday when he started getting e-mails from angry UCLA fans who want Coach Karl Dorrell fired.

Don’t expect Simers to second those motions. “Dorrell played it by the book, just what you’d expect from a coach at a big-time school, and lost on a fluke play,” he writes. Page D2

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ON LATIMES.COM

Adande gets taste of broadcasting

Sportswriter confidential: In his Overtime blog, Times columnist J.A. Adande gives a view of life on the sidelines of professional athletics. This week, Adande plunges into acting, appearing as a basketball announcer in the CW series “The Game.” Adande writes that as a young man mesmerized by Chick Hearn’s play-by-play, he once saw sportswriting as a path into broadcasting. Not anymore. latimes.com/overtime

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Hollywood’s new costumer: The hottest new designer in Hollywood is managing to outfit a who’s who of starlets while keeping his own name out of the limelight. In The Envelope, Elizabeth Snead writes that Alber Elbaz shuns high-profile events, has no secretary or driver and doesn’t even own a computer. And most shockingly for Hollywood, he refuses to give away clothes. theenvelope.com

Feinstein kickoff: Political Muscle blogger Robert Salladay says Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the “Momma Bear” of California politics, has started campaigning. But can she help gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides? latimes.com/politicalmuscle


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