Huge waves at the Wedge in Newport Beach, Calif. on Friday prompted some to try their luck in the heavy surf despite warnings not to. The National Weather Service issued a high-surf advisory, warning of the potential danger at south- and southwest-facing beaches in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties.



Lotus thief comes clean, rescues Echo Park festival

LOS ANGELES - When Echo Park reopens this summer following a $45 million makeover, the lake's famous lotus flowers will bloom again thanks to an act of thievery by a prudent Los Angeles horticulturist.

Randy McDonald furtively - and illegally - sawed off a tendril of the aquatic plant during the annual Lotus Festival in 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported. The city's municipal code prohibits cutting or removing plants from parks.

He took the single strand back to his nursery in Reseda and started growing runners - offering them for sale.

"My specialty is reproduction," McDonald, 66, told the newspaper. "If you ever read the Bible, the fish and the bread growing like crazy, I'm that kind of guy when it comes to plants."

Meanwhile the lotuses in Echo Park, which date to the 1920s, slowly and mysteriously died off. The 2008 festival was lotus-less.

Rumors of McDonald's lotus larceny had circulated for years, and he finally admitted to it when contacted by a desperate city-contracted landscape architect.

A deal was struck and 376 of the plants, transferred from McDonald's Reseda hothouse, are thriving once again in Echo Park - with a temporary protective netting over them.


Talented bear cub teaching residents a security lesson

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS - People in Steamboat Springs are being asked to lock their car doors to help save a young bear that has already learned how to open them.

Steamboat Springs Today reported Thursday that there have been multiple reports of bears getting into vehicles. At least some of them involve a yearling wildlife officials are trying to avoid trapping.

Recently, the young bear climbed through the open sliding window of a pickup truck to get food left inside. Then wildlife officials said it returned a few days later to the same property and opened the doors of at least three vehicles in the driveway. It didn't find any food and left only a muddy footprint on a door.


Japanese backing reported for Mauna Kea telescope

HONOLULU - A group building what will be the world's largest and most advanced optical telescope atop Mauna Kea says the Japanese government has allocated key funding for the construction of the project.

The Thirty Meter Telescope said Wednesday that the Japanese parliament approved a budget last month including more than $12 million for the telescope.

TMT said Japan is expected to manufacture the main telescope structure and the mirror blanks for the segmented primary mirror. In total, Japan is expected to fund one-fourth of the total cost of construction.


Jail inmates' toilet paper reduced to trim costs

WICHITA - The Sedgwick County sheriff said inmates are wasting too much toilet paper, so he's reduced their supply.

Sheriff Jeff Easter is limiting inmates to one roll a week. He said that will cut the amount his office is spending on toilet paper from $100,000 to $50,000 a year.

Easter said Tuesday that inmates plug toilets and cover vents and doors with the toilet paper to absorb the smell when they are smoking tobacco or marijuana illegally.


One-time Hughes property on the market for $19.5M

INCLINE VILLAGE - A Lake Tahoe estate once owned by the late billionaire recluse Howard Hughes is on the market for $19.5 million.

The Crystal Bay property called Summertide stretches along 500 feet of the lake's north shore.

The main log cabin home built from local timber in 1934 has five bedrooms, four baths and an office.

The 5.5-acre property covering five contiguous lots also has a pier, a meadow, a guest cottage and a four-car detached garage.

Realtor Karen Bruno of Chase International told the Reno-Gazette Journal that Hughes bought the home as a retreat in the 1950s. She said it must have been an ideal hideaway before the business tycoon died in 1976.

Public records show Bruce and Nora James bought the estate from the Howard Hughes Corp. in 1995.

New Mexico

Name sought for school for Santa Fe Latino kids

SANTA FE - School officials are asking for name suggestions for a planned elementary school on Santa Fe's south side.

A Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education committee is seeking nominations until Tuesday for the new elementary school that will serve Latino immigrant students.

The committee said it wants to name the school for an individual or historical figure linked to the state and to the field of education.

A group of retired educators is seeking to have the school named for the late George I. Sanchez, a New Mexico-born pioneering scholar and civil rights leader.


Tulsa again is namesake for Navy combat ship

OKLAHOMA CITY - The US Navy will name one of its two new combat ships the USS Tulsa.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced Thursday that the ship is being built in Mobile, Ala. The other ship to be built will be the USS Billings.

The ships known as littoral combat ships - or LCS - are named to recognize cities that are one of the five most-populated communities in a state.

The USS Tulsa will become the second ship that has been named for Oklahoma's second-largest city.


Robber gets 40 yrs. in theft of headphones, other items

McKINNEY - An Arlington man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the armed robbery of, among other items, a set of high-end "Beats by Dre" headphones.

According to Collin County prosecutors, Torey Laquon Boykin, 21, pointed a gun at a 17-year-old student walking to his school bus stop last June.

He robbed the teen of his headphones, phone, backpack and house keys, before fleeing with an accomplice.

Detectives tracked Boykin down and set up a purchase. As an accomplice sold the headphones to undercover officers, the armed Boykin acted as a lookout.

Jurors found Boykin guilty Wednesday and sentenced him the same day. He won't be eligible for parole for 20 years.

The Associated Press