More rate cuts in offing: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is still worried about inflation, but he apparently sees the worsening economy as a greater evil. The Fed still expects the economy will narrowly escape a recession, though little or no growth is expected in the first half of the year. (NYT)
L.A. growth stalls: There's still no recession forecast coming from a group of local economists, but expect slow-going through 2008. Housing is the big culprit, of course, though the tourism and entertainment sectors are expected to bring some relief. (Daily News)
LAX to get warning system: The FAA and L.A. city officials have agreed to deploy Runway Status Lights sometime next year. The system uses bright red lights embedded in the pavement to alert pilots when it isn't safe to takeoff or cross a runway (you mean it took them this long to come up with that idea?). LAX, which in the past seven years has had more runway safety incidents overall than any other U.S. airport, has committed to pay the full $6.7 million to install its lights. From the WSJ:
Initial assessments of the performance of runway status lights in Dallas and San Diego have been positive. But a big remaining challenge is ensuring that radar and satellite-based technologies, which are necessary for the lights to function properly, themselves are installed on time, on budget and in good working order. Down the road, new and flexible satellite-navigation systems are slated to provide the main safeguards against runway collisions.
Plea deals in Pellicano case?: The Daily Journal (not available online) reports that three of the five co-defendants are in settlement talks with federal prosecutors. They are Mark Arneson, a 29-year veteran of the LAPD, Abner Nicherie and Rayford Turner. The trial is still slated to start March 5, with Pellicano representing himself.
Drugs increase death risk: A new study finds that anemia drugs sold by Amgen and Johnson & Johnson raise the risk of death among cancer patients by about 10 percent. The FDA will convene an advisory committee on March 13 to consider further restrictions on the use of Aranesp from Amgen and Procrit from Johnson & Johnson. (The Amgen drug Epogen will not be directly affected by the discussions.) T.O.-based Amgen said the study provided little new information. (NYT)
No good deed...: The Humane Society seemed to be performing an extraordinary public service by having one of its investigators work undercover at the Hallmark/Westland slaughterhouse and then videotape sick or lame cattle being forced to their feet with forklifts, hoses and electric prods. That led to the nation's largest-ever beef recall. But during a Capitol Hill hearing, Texas Rep. Michael Burgess criticized the society for waiting too long. (By the way, the president of the slaughterhouse didn't show up to testify.) From the NYT:
Humane Society representatives said Tuesday that the criticism was misplaced. They said the primary concern of their organization is animal welfare, not food safety, and as soon as they had the tape they took it to local prosecutors in California. The Humane Society said it was asked to withhold the tape while the prosecutors conducted an investigation. The society released the tape after growing frustrated with the pace of that investigation. Shortly afterward, prosecutors charged two slaughterhouse workers with violations.
Bizarre, even for L.A.: John Visconti bought his son a $220,000 Aston Martin sports car for his birthday - an extravagant gesture considering that the kid was only 3 years old at the time. Visconti is the man behind the Hollywood payroll Services company Axium that went into a sudden financial tailspin and closed down last month. The liquidation cost 550 employees their jobs, stuck thousands of other workers with worthless paychecks and prompted a NY investment firm to sue Visconti and COO Ronald D. Garber in federal court in Los Angeles, alleging that they pillaged the company while failing to pay millions in employment taxes. From the LAT:
The complaint also accused them of spending Axium funds for private jet flights, vacations, jewelry, political contributions, legal fees for their divorces and weekly cash payments of $8,000 each, delivered by armored cars. And then there was the apartment for Amber Smith, 35, a model and actress who has graced the cover of Playboy and stars in the erotic "Sin City Diaries" on Cinemax. "Whatever lavish things they spent their money on, I hope they enjoyed it," said former Axium employee Chastity Davis, "because these guys are going to hell in gasoline pants."
Moonves says strike helped: Sure, the writers strike lasted longer than anybody would have liked, but the CBS CEO told investors that it actually helped cut costs "in ways that will allow us to operate more efficiently going forward." Just so happens that his comments came on the same day that the WGA ratified the new contract. (Variety)
Remaking the Oscars: LAT columnist Patrick Goldstein has a bunch of sensible-sounding ideas that includes dumping all the technical awards and musical numbers and staging a Web simulcast.
Some of this informality needs to filter into the actual Oscars. The most obvious place to take the TV audience is backstage. People yearn to get behind the velvet rope, so why not offer frequent glimpses of what's going on backstage during the show? The host is only on camera for a small percentage of the three-plus hours. Wouldn't everyone want to see what Jon Stewart is up to backstage between his official duties?