Getting tested is cheeky

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Assemblyman Anthony Portantino applies the cheek swab, part of the oral HIV rapid test now offered free and without an appointment at the Pasadena Public Health Department.

Several community leaders, including myself, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and Pasadena City Councilman Jacque Robinson participated in the National HIV Testing Day Saturday on the patio of Vroman’s Bookstore in the Pasadena Playhouse District.

The new test involves just a swab between your cheek and gums. You then place the swab stick into the vial and in about 20 minutes, the result is ready. Getting tested should be a regular part of everyone’s health screening. Men and women who get tested for cholesterol levels in their blood should also get the HIV test.

Portantino said the CDC estimates there are 180,000 to 280,000 people nationwide who are HIV-positive but are unaware of it. These people then spread the disease to others. Everyone should know their status. That is the first step in helping to prevent the spread of this disease.

While many say it is under control, the statistics are changing. For example, it is no longer just homosexual males who are getting infected. The CDC reports HIV infection was the leading cause of death for black women, that includes African-American women, ages 25-34. The instances of young people with HIV are also on the rise: the CDC reports a 42 percent increase in young people ages 13-24 living with AIDS from 2000 to 2004. Finally, older people are also being infected at a more rapid pace. There has been a 7 percent increase in older people (age 50 and above) since 2001.

I got tested. Why shouldn’t you? (Pasadena Dept. of Health: (626) 744-6030.

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Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard speaks about how the “AIDS crisis” has lost some of its meaning today, when everything from finance to budgets to the economy are in “crisis.” On right is Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-44th Assembly District.

Iranian protesters scare away security — viral video

This viral video from Iran shows Iranian protestors Saturday, June 20, pushing back and overtaking security forces. A small victory for democracy!
Thank you Pete Newcome for sending me the video.

Click on the link. It will get you to his blog and the video.


Grad Nite — Temple City High School style

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Entrance to Grad Nite shows this year’s theme “I Love L.A.”

Grad Nite at Temple City High School went off as planned Friday night, with close to 400 TCHS graduating seniors attending the all-night party. Like the San Marino High School event (Bonita High also does this every year), the campus was transformed into a place of games, rides and stages where students can hang out and celebrate for the night.

Grad Nite tradition began about 17 years ago in Temple City and is a way to counter the going off campus and partying syndrome that often ends in tragedy elsewhere. This tradition in the San Gabriel Valley is not only a community service but it a way to keep seniors safe on their big night.

I was privileged to play a small role in the decorating, set up and the operations. However, the weekend is bittersweet. Although I’m proud of my son, Andy, a graduate and member of the TCHS Class of 2009, he represents our last child completing public education. He’ll be off to college in September.

Here’s to all graduating high school seniors this weekend: Stay safe!

San Marino HS grads swing into grad night

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A mural of Indiana Jones maneuvering a tight spot adorns a wall at San Marino High School. The decorations are for tonight’s “Grad Night,” the 54th in the school’s history.

Congratulations to all the graduates of San Marino High School.

And to the parents and sponsors who helped transform the school into the SMHS Grad Night 2009, with an Indiana Jones theme.

Grad nights are a way to help graduates stay on campus and have fun the whole night, instead of traveling off campus and risking a car crash or other problems.

Here’s to a safe grad night.

And next week: Temple City High School’s Grad Night, whose them is “We Love L.A.!”

Silicon Valley group says CA budget deficit is growing

This just in from the Silicon Valley group Next 10:

“We just updated the forecast numbers in the California Budget Challenge and project that in five years, California may face a budget deficit of $27.6 billion … the updated Challenge reflects our current financial condition and many of the policy options being considered in Sacramento.”

We featured Next 10 in our May 31 Perspectives page “Put your mark on the budget.” Go to their site and try your hand at balancing the state budget. They call it the Budget Challenge.
That is an understatement of a name. Check out our editorial on how the readers voted on our budget challenge.

School choice stirs passions

It was 11 years ago when my wife and I decided we could sell our house in a city where the public schools were far below par, and buy one in a city with an above average school district. Instead of shopping for homes with the best bathrooms or the most walk-in closets, we looked for homes located within the political boundaries of the best school districts of the San Gabriel Valley.

After bidding on a house in Arcadia, and the seller denying us, our Realtor found a house in nearby Temple City. After poring through API scores and demographic reports, I was convinced Temple City Unified School District schools would offer our two elementary-aged boys the best, most challenging education, both academically and otherwise.

We were fortunate. We scraped together every penny and landed a home within the TCUSD. The result? Both our boys received an excellent education in a public school system. Our older boy attends UC Berkeley, where he told me the college level calculus course was easier than the high school AP calculus classes he took at Temple City High School (taught by the excellent teacher Mrs. Nancy Bulgin). He got 100 percent on two midterms and a final from the Berkeley class! Sure, he’s good at higher math. But he specifically told me he “learned all that stuff” at TC High.

Our other son graduates in two weeks from TC High and is headed for UC Irvine, also an excellent school, where the average GPA of the entering freshman for the first time reach 4.01.

It is clear our gamble paid off big time. But not every family we run into were so lucky. Some could not afford a home in Temple City. Some were denied transfers into TCUSD. Many could not buy into San Marino, South Pasadena, or Arcadia, home to fantastic school districts.

That’s why I am so passionate about a school choice bill that is offered by two local legislators who normally are far apart on political issues. SB 680 is authored by state Sen. Gloria Romero, a Democrat, and state Sen. Bob Huff, a Republican. The bill would extend the District of Choice program, of which the Walnut Valley Unified School District is a member. Check out the newspaper’s editorial for more on the bill

Since that editorial was posted, we’ve received comments both pro and con from school superintendents and school officials. Nany Lyons of Walnut Unified said the editorial nailed it. She favors the bill. Board members from Rowland Unified and Pasadena Unified have stated they are opposed to the school choice bill. Some say that Walnut doesn’t play fair when a student wants to transfer into Walnut, that Walnut “cherry picks” their students for the best and the brightest. I don’t know if that is true. But I would guess the rules could be tightened up and more oversight offered.

Overall, I still believe that parents need to fight for the right to send their children to the public school of their choice. Because getting a student excited about school can make all the difference not only with their grades, but in their lives.

Enron movie worth seeing again in light of latest meltdown

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If you haven’t seen the documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” you are missing out on one of the best pieces of video journalism out there. It is also an enlightening treatise on what is called the largest business scandal in the history of the United States. Not only is this movie about how the Houston-based energy company schemed and defrauded investors and his own employees, but it is also about how other Wall Street and banking institutions hopped on board this greed train.

When I watched this movie again (praise God for Netflix) the other night, I saw it through the eyes of the current sub-prime mortgage fraud and banks behaving badly.

Helping Enron commit fraud and in particular, rob California of electricity power and cause the state to ring up $30 billion in unforseen costs back in 2000 and 2001 were the following: Merril Lynch (three traders were convicted of fraud); Chase and JP Morgan (banks that went along with Enron’s outrageous money-making schemes). There was giant accounting firm Arthur Andersen, which was convicted of obstruction of justice in 2001 but whose conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2005. Still, the once proud firm went from 28,000 employees to a handful and lost all its clients, never recovering from its involvment with Enron as its chief auditing firm.

If the friends of George Bush (i.e. Ken Lay, who was convicted but died a few months before going to prison) didn’t have so much pull, could this debacle have been stopped?
The same question is being asked since 2007 with regard to the mortgage brokerage firms that allowed bad home loans to go through without checking on borrowers income or in some cases, lying on applications.The motivation then, and now, was companies were making money, so who cares!

When will we ever learn in this country?