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March 4, 2014 | By Catherine Saillant
Despite promises to speed up customer service response times, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's telephone system is still making callers wait an average of nearly 30 minutes on hold, according to a new DWP website. A billing information page was launched this week to coincide with the arrival of Marcie Edwards, the new DWP head selected by Mayor Eric Garcetti to lead the city-owned utility. A chart on the website shows that wait times for customer calls averaged 29 minutes in late February, two minutes less than reported for the second week of November, when city officials vowed to fix an overwhelmed call system.
March 3, 2014 | By Catharine M. Hamm, Los Angeles Times travel editor
If you fly JetBlue or Southwest, rent a car from National or Enterprise, stay at a Homewood Suites, a Staybridge Suites or a Drury hotel, a Four Seasons or a Ritz-Carlton, your trip will probably be marked by good customer service. Those brands on Monday were named Customer Service Champions by J.D. Power, which analyzed feedback from customers about nine industries, including travel. Customers evaluated their experience based on what J.D. Power calls the five Ps: people, presentation, price, process and product.
March 3, 2014 | By Alicia Banks
"Is this a church?" Sidonie Smith said as she stood outside Grant Elementary in Santa Monica. "I'm so excited about the impact it will have on our community. I've been praying for a church to come here for 40 years. " Not all residents share Smith's enthusiasm. Since late January, some neighbors have expressed dissatisfaction with the arrangement between City of God church and its landlord, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Six district campuses allow larger churches to rent space when schools aren't in session.
March 2, 2014 | By Marc Lifsher
SACRAMENTO - Jim Power, a licensed trainer of guide dogs for the blind from San Rafael, was visiting a crowded Southern California theme park a week ago when he spied "a 20-something lady...with a Chihuahua on a leash. " The small pooch wore a vest identifying it as a service dog. "It didn't particularly look...very legitimate," Power told a state Senate committee looking into what the disabled community, dog trainers and businesses call a growing problem: fake service dogs. Representatives of the California restaurant, retail, hotel, apartment and condominium industries testified that dog owners, who don't want to be separated from their pets, are abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws by falsely identifying their canines as working animals.
March 2, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
El Capitan isn't going anywhere and neither is Bridalveil Fall, but a lot of the man-made structures on the floor of Yosemite Valley will be shifted around under the final version of the National Park Service preservation plan for the Merced River. The plan, which will be reviewed at a public meeting on Thursday, does a far better job of preserving recreational activities in the valley than the draconian draft from a year ago that would have banned such environmentally friendly pastimes as bicycle and raft rentals.
March 2, 2014 | By The Times editorial board
Now we have an idea why the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service was keeping secret an independent report of its encounters at the Mexican border. Because it has something to hide. As The Times' Brian Bennett reported last week, an independent report by the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum sharply criticized the agency for a "lack of diligence" in investigating fatal encounters involving its agents. The report, based on internal case files of 67 shooting incidents leading to 19 deaths between January 2010 and October 2012, also faulted some of the agents' practices, including positioning themselves in the "exit path" of fleeing vehicles apparently as a pretext for opening fire in self-defense.
February 28, 2014 | Sandy Banks
Jill Ellman was only 8, but she remembers military officials heading up the driveway and knocking on her family's door with the news that her father's Air Force bomber had crashed off the coast of Newfoundland. The news had barely sunk in when the telephone rang with an update: Her father was safe. Her mother broke out a bottle of champagne. "Everyone was celebrating," Ellman recalled. But a few hours later the phone rang again, and the celebrating stopped. Only one crew member had been pulled from the ocean, and it wasn't her dad. Searchers discovered an empty life raft, but never found her father.
February 27, 2014 | By Alana Semuels
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - At Noble Prentis Elementary School, a classroom is crammed with 31 students and all their backpacks and books. Last year, the fifth-grade class had just 17 students, but a teaching position was cut when the school ran short of money. The school nurse, who comes in only twice a week, freezes kitchen sponges to use as ice packs because her budget is too small for her to buy any. Schools have always had to fight for more funding, but Noble Prentis' problems were exacerbated during the recession when state budget cuts left schools, like many other public services, foundering.
February 27, 2014 | By Meg James
Less than three years after launching a leading online video subscription service in Japan, Hulu has decided to bow out of the country. Santa Monica-based Hulu has agreed to sell its Hulu Japan subscription service to Japan's Nippon Television Network Corp., the companies announced late Thursday. "We have now reached a point in the growth of the business in Japan where we feel the best path forward is to sell the company to a strategic buyer," Hulu Chief Executive Mike Hopkins wrote in a blog post announcing the divestiture of one of the company's most ambitious projects.
February 26, 2014 | By Salvador Rodriguez
Following Facebook's acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp last week for $19 billion, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he would not hesitate to sell his company's messaging service for that much money. "I work for the shareholder. Standard answer. If somebody comes to me with $19 billion, I would definitely sell it. I would recommend to the board to take it," Chen told CNBC . Since the Canadian phone maker failed to attract last year what it would have considered to be an adequate buyer, BlackBerry has placed a great deal of its focus on expanding its BlackBerry Messenger brand.
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