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Double victories for the right to bare some skin

September 03, 2008|Veronique de Turenne | Times Staff Writer

Last week was a banner one for nudity in California. First the naked sunbathers at San Onofre State Beach got permission to keep their most private parts public, and now a pair of women arrested in Sacramento in 2005 for baring their breasts in the name of peace have won a legal victory of their own.

According to a Superior Court judge in Sacramento, the arrest of Breasts Not Bombs protesters Sherry Glaser and Sheba Love was unlawful because their action was symbolic speech and the women were not, as accused, indecently exposed or committing a lewd act.

Our own Evan Halper covered the lead-up to the protest, in which officials warned that the sight of the women's bare bosoms could, as Halper put it, "corrupt children, prompt drivers to veer off the road and cause sex offenders to run amok." He was also there Nov. 7, 2005, when the women shed their shirts and police arrested them. The women faced the possibility of a trial and of having to register as sex offenders.

In case you're a bit hazy about the whole breasts-to-bombs connection, the women say breasts represent peace and the survival of the human race, while bombs . . . well . . . don't. The group has protested in San Francisco without incident (naturally) and in front of the White House, where neither the women nor the men in the group were told to put on shirts.

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Valley diner gets new life

There was great mourning and moaning and gnashing of teeth (and more than a few carb-withdrawal incidents) when Phil's Diner, a quintessential greasy spoon housed in a charming but crumbling wood-paneled dining car, closed in the 1990s.

Now, with a new owner and some help from L.A.'s Community Redevelopment Agency, the much-loved diner (so much-loved that someone even stole the sign) is headed back to life.

The Downtown NoHo blog was one of the first to post the news: "The CRA board approved a plan for a new, modern office building, a luxurious Laemmle's eight-screen theater, and a restored and operating Phil's Diner. The diner will be moved to the corner of Lankershim and Weddington -- across from the El Portal Theatre -- where it will be restored to its 1920s condition and reopen as a restaurant, and to become the centerpiece of the theater courtyard."

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Highway death milestone

It may annoy some people that freeways are flooded with California Highway Patrol cruisers every holiday, but state officials say the "maximum enforcement efforts" are a factor in reducing the state's death rate for motorists to the lowest level in 75 years.

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow announced Thursday that last year the death rate in California was 1.18 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, a record low since the agency began keeping the figures in 1933. That year, the death rate was 15 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Cars are safer these days because of air bags, child car seats and mandatory seat belts.

But the CHP believes it deserves some credit because of its seat-belt enforcement program, sobriety checkpoints and the Maximum Enforcement Program, which puts 80% of officers on the road during major holidays to look for problems.

"We put out a strong public safety message about not drinking and driving," said CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader. "It works."

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Great white controversy

For the fourth time in four years, a young great white shark is going on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, part of an ongoing research project that has attracted sharp criticism.

Captured off Malibu on Aug. 16, the new shark is a young female, 4 feet long and 55 pounds. Researchers moved her to Monterey on Aug. 27, and she now swims in the aquarium's Outer Bay exhibit.

The aquarium's trawler and floating shark pen have been fixtures in Paradise Cove in Malibu for each of the last four summers. This year, researchers tagged and released five great white sharks. Four others were brought to the pen, three of which were subsequently released. The fourth, now in the exhibit, is expected to stay in Monterey for several months. Upon release, her movements will be tracked until her GPS unit loses power or falls off.

Controversy has dogged the shark project since its inception, with animal rights activists saying that keeping such a nomadic creature in captivity is cruel. In 2005, the white shark on display attacked and killed two soupfin sharks in the exhibit. Another shark damaged its snout on the exhibit's walls, earning the aquarium some bad press.

But scientists for the aquarium say the project's benefits far outweigh its risks. With shark populations in decline worldwide, and with the great white being demonized in films and television shows, scientists say information gathered about the sharks' movements and behavior is their best defense.

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Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.

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