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MONDAY BRIEFING

Golden State losing luster?

July 31, 2006|Brian Hanrahan and Ellen Alperstein | Times Staff Writers

It's bad news for California when a big company moves out of state. And it's even more troubling when many of the employees decide to leave too.

Nissan North America's Gardena site should be just about empty after today; the company is moving its headquarters to the Nashville area. About 550 of the 1,300 workers at the Gardena offices are following their jobs to Tennessee, and that 42% retention rate far exceeds the norm for such long moves. What it means, apparently, is that California's appeal isn't as strong as it used to be.

Real estate is cheaper in Tennessee, for one thing. And as one transplanted worker says, "Most of the stores and restaurants [at the local mall] are the same ones we see in California. Yet a few miles away you're in downtown and there's lots of local color too." Page C1

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New concept at wetlands: water

The Bolsa Chica wetlands in Orange County have posed one of the most difficult environmental challenges in the state.

In the last century, the seafront acreage has seen oil extraction projects, varied cleanup problems and land-use controversies. All that has helped push the cost of restoring the wetlands to $147 million.

But now the official restoration date is in sight. When low tide comes in the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 24, engineers will move the last of 2 million cubic yards of sand, and for the first time in 107 years the 880-acre wetlands will be reunited with the twice-daily refreshing tides of the Pacific Ocean. Page B1

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Iraq official vows to clean up police

Iraq's police sometimes are considered beleaguered heroes, sometimes predatory villains. Now the nation's newest interior minister is promising to bring the rogues under control.

Jawad Bolani tells parliament that he'll take steps to purge "unfaithful and corrupt elements" from the 300,000-member force, who operate under his ministry's jurisdiction.

Among his ideas are making it clearer who's a police officer and who's a fraud by issuing new uniforms and badges.

Police officers often are accused of sectarian killings. Sunday, 22 bodies -- possibly victims of such violence -- were found in Baghdad and Baqubah. The U.S. also reported that four Marines were killed. Page A5

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What's next for Mel Gibson?

Mel Gibson's behavior after his drunk driving arrest may test the limits of Hollywood's forgiveness. Reports that he unleashed an anti-Semitic tirade brought condemnation from some Jewish leaders Sunday, while film industry executives would not comment. Page C1

Columnist Steve Lopez, meanwhile, says Gibson's reported comments must feel like a slap in the face to his religious supporters. And, considering what the actor apparently said to a sheriff's deputy, Lopez says that "out of curiosity, I'd like to try some of what Gibson was drinking." Page B1

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Schools get lesson in subtraction

Public school enrollment in California fell in 2005-2006 for the first time in 24 years. That's causing budget problems for school districts, because funding is tied to enrollment.

Why the decline happened and whether it will continue are hard to pinpoint, but one key factor, observers say, is the high cost of housing.

Take Santa Barbara, for example. A median-priced home there costs just over $1 million, and that's squeezing the middle class out of town, one analyst says.

"You have rich people who don't have kids and poor people living two or three families to a house," he says. Page B1

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God provides, but who pays?

Stafford, Texas, has 19,000 people and 51 churches, and while that might be good for the soul, city officials say it's hell on the tax base.

Stafford relies on sales taxes and business licenses to pay the civic bills. With only about 300 undeveloped acres left in town, lawmakers would like to prevent the land from being paved with good intentions, which means the city and its lawyers are seeking a way of legally discouraging any more houses of worship from opening.

"I don't hate God. I'm not against America and apple pie," one city councilman says. "We just have to protect what's left for commercial development." Page A13

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A call for protests in Mexico City

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves during a rally Sunday. He urged a huge crowd of supporters to pitch tents and camp out on the streets of the capital city until a federal tribunal orders a recount of the July 2 election, which he lost by a margin of less than a percentage point. Page A4

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CALENDAR

Danny's trying a different game

Danny Bonaduce, who played Danny Partridge in the 1970s show "The Partridge Family," has tried a little of everything in show business and spent a good share of his adult life in rehab. But he keeps coming back. Now, it's on to something new, serving as the host of a GSN game show, "Starface," involving celebrity gossip. Page E1

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Getty's numbers now on exhibit

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