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TUESDAY BRIEFING

Getty probe faults Munitz

October 03, 2006|Andrew Malcolm and Brian Hanrahan | Times Staff Writers

A yearlong investigation by the California attorney general's office finds that the J. Paul Getty Trust's former Chief Executive Barry Munitz and its board of trustees used trust funds inappropriately but declines to seek penalties.

The investigation finds there was no fraud in the spending and that the misspent money was recovered when Munitz agreed to repay the Getty $250,000 and forgo more than $2 million in benefits after his ouster in February.

The attorney general takes the unprecedented step of appointing an independent auditor to ensure the $10-billion trust completes a lengthy list of promised reforms.

"There were some mistakes made," admits Getty Chairwoman Louise Bryson. Page B1

The larger tragedy of the inappropriate use of funds is that eight years have been squandered, according to critic Christopher Knight. And "the trust has mostly been missing in action." Page E1

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U.S. gas prices continue plunge

For the eighth straight week, retail gas prices fall nationally as steady supplies ease concerns about oil production.

Nationwide, the average pump price for self-serve regular drops to $2.31 a gallon, down 6.8 cents in just a week and nearly 73 cents since early August.

But, alas, California prices fall less (63.6 cents) in the same time and at $2.68 remain high above the national average.

Oil prices, which account for roughly half the cost of gasoline, began sliding after oil reached the $77-a-barrel level in mid-July. The price of crude futures has been below $64-a-barrel the last three weeks. On Monday, it falls $1.88 to $61.03 a barrel. Page C2

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Brazil's president faces a runoff

In a stunning political development in Brazil, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva fails to garner 50% of the votes in nationwide balloting.

And now experts are divided over whether he'll even be the favorite in the Oct. 29 runoff.

Most expect a bruising runoff campaign with more revelations of the type of scandals that so badly hurt Lula in recent weeks.

The 60-year-old Lula will face Geraldo Alckmin, a 53-year-old conservative physician and former Sao Paulo governor with a bland reputation.

"This could be the end of the Lula period," says one political expert. Page A4

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Russia-Georgia tensions rise

Relations between Russia and Georgia, its former fellow Soviet republic, have deteriorated since the 2004 election of pro-Western Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Six Russian military officers accused by Georgia of espionage are allowed to return to Moscow on Monday. Even so, Russia moves to sever most direct transportation ties and suspend postal links between the two countries. And it warns foreign nations against gestures that Georgia could interpret as encouraging.

"We are not a country that can be so easily scared," Saakashvili says, then adds a reference to the two lands being "historical partners." Page A4

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Election over, now the fighting begins

After a hard-fought campaign among five candidates, Zambia's president, Levy Mwanawasa, wins reelection with 43% of the vote. Coming in second is his main rival, Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front party, with 29.3%. Sata, along with other opponents, claims the election was stolen. Soldiers and police clash with opposition supporters in a second day of rioting. Page A5

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THE CRITIC: 'Taken as a whole, his novel is a spiritual work; and the elements that make it such are precisely fitted cornerstones of real literature -- no gimmicks or formulas are invoked.' Reviewer Michael Blake on Charles Frazier's novel 'Thirteen Moons,' Calendar, Page E1

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CALENDAR

Singing the middle-age blues

Can the lifestyle of an artist coexist with domesticity and responsibility -- you know, all that heavy adult stuff? Lindsey Buckingham explores such questions in his new album, "Under the Skin." It's quiet and intense, and Buckingham tells critic Ann Powers that his record company wasn't happy at first. "But for 14 years I'd been trying to get something out from my heart, and I'm sorry, this is it," he says. Page E1

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Lofty ambitions end with a hard fall

Steve Zaillian made an ambitious movie about ambitious, morally conflicted adults. It's based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. It stars Oscar-winning actors.

But it bombed at the box office, opening far behind "Jackass: Number Two."

Adding insult to injury, critics didn't much like "All The King's Men" either. And Zaillian doesn't understand where he went wrong. "It's a bit of a surprise -- a surprise like getting hit by a truck," he says. Page E3

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'Friday Night Lights': Find it with the generics

"Friday Night Lights" started as real life, then became a book and a Hollywood movie. Now NBC has taken this trusted brand name and turned it into plain-wrap TV drama.

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