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Thursday Briefing

December 07, 2006|Andrew Malcolm and Brian Hanrahan | Times Staff Writers

Owens River has splashy revival

In 1913, a campaign of deception and stealth arranged for the precious water of the Lower Owens River to stop flowing naturally and begin flowing into the aqueduct and down to the sinks, lawns and toilets of the mushrooming metropolis of Los Angeles.

"We can't take back what happened here 90 years ago," says L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, acknowledging the old resentment and hurt feelings at a ceremony in Inyo County on Wednesday, "but we can make it better."

And with that, he cranks open a steel gate on the side of a dam that allows the river's chilly emerald green waters to begin flowing again in the natural riverbed. It's the largest river habitat restoration effort ever attempted in the West. Page B1

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Report: Recession seems unlikely

A widely watched economic forecast, the UCLA Anderson Forecast outlook, predicts a "soft landing" -- slower growth but without a recession -- for the California and U.S. economies in coming months.

That's because trouble in one economic sector, such as the housing market, is insufficient by itself to trigger a full-blown recession, experts say.

Forecasters say it would take a matching slowdown in another sector, such as consumer spending, to cause a sharper drop. But they conclude such a "double whammy" is unlikely. Page C2

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Senate approves Gates for Defense

As the political and strategic debate over Iraq war policy rages in Washington, the Senate gives overwhelming bipartisan support to secretary of Defense nominee Robert M. Gates.

The former CIA director was approved in a 95-2 vote to become the 22nd Defense secretary. The two opposing votes come from Republicans Rick Santorum and Jim Bunning.

The White House schedules a formal swearing-in ceremony for Dec. 18. Page A15

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James Baker back on familiar turf

At one point during the unveiling of the seminal Iraq Study Group report in Washington on Wednesday, James A. Baker III, the group's co-chairman, jokes that he has presided over a "bunch of has-beens."

It has been 14 years since Baker, now 76, served as secretary of State for the first President Bush. Now he's back in town talking diplomacy and international affairs in the nation's capital and seeking to help rescue the Mideast policy of a different President Bush. His hair is thinner, but his Texas twang remains familiar. Page A11

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Change now a new Capitol theme

Now that the Iraq Study Group has unveiled its long-awaited report, the latest thing to sweep its way across Capitol Hill in the nation's capital is the sense of change, change over Iraq policy.

"We need a change of course," says Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a staunch administration ally.

The study group's report is "clearly strongly supporting changing the course in a number of ways," says Michigan's Sen. Carl Levin, who will head the Armed Services Committee when Democrats take control of Congress next month. Page A11

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Poisoning was murder, police say

British police now classify the mysterious poisoning death of dissident former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko as a murder. Previously, it had been only a suspicious death.

The police investigation continues in Britain and Russia along a trail of radiation from the suspected poison, radioactive polonium-210. Page A5

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An early and noisy wake-up call

After a long night and early morning of dancing and poker on that day back in 1941, Kenneth Taylor fell into his bed in Hawaii at 3 a.m. A few hours later he was awakened by the sound of bombs and machine-gun fire.

He donned his nearby tuxedo pants and ran for a fighter plane. Soon, Taylor became one of the first two U.S. pilots to fly a combat mission in World War II. He was credited with two Japanese kills during that fateful day over Pearl Harbor.

Taylor, a retired Air Force brigadier general and former head of the Alaska Air National Guard, dies in Tucson at age 86. Page B8

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A tragic finding

Oregon State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings announces discovery of the body of James Kim. The Kim family from San Francisco was stranded on Oregon back roads nearly two weeks ago, and Kim left the car to seek help. His family was rescued. Page A15

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LATIMES.COM

Maria's not crazy about the job

In the Political Muscle blog, Robert Salladay reports on Maria Shriver's continuing ambivalence about her role in the political life of her governor-husband, including a suggestion in a recent interview that the very title "first lady" should be retired.

latimes.com/politicalmuscle

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So why is Clooney the fall guy?

Styles & Scenes blogger Elizabeth Snead corners reigning heartthrob George Clooney about accusations that it was a hard night of partying with him that led to Danny DeVito's bleary-eyed tantrum on "The View."

Snead writes: " 'Danny drew me into this,' Clooney explained. Sure, they'd had dinner that night ... and yes, there was wine, vodka and an Italian liqueur called limoncello involved. 'But I was in bed by 11:30 and when I woke up the next morning, I was The Devil. Where did that come from?' "latimes.com/snead

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