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POSTED September 5, 2013 9:05 p.m.

POLICE ARREST 21 PEOPLE IN LA WAL-MART PROTEST: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police arrested 21 people protesting Wal-Mart's working conditions and firing practices, including seven company workers and 12 members of the clergy, in a downtown rally Thursday.

Police spokeswoman Officer Rosario Herrera said protesters were blocking an intersection shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday and were arrested for failing to disperse.

Rally organizers say the protest in the Chinatown district, where a Walmart store is planned, was one of 15 across the country. The rally organizers say that 1,000 people, including current and former Wal-Mart workers plus supporters marched through downtown calling on the company to reinstate illegally fired and disciplined workers and improve wages.

Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., says the company estimated roughly 150 people at the Los Angeles protest, of which 20 were current or former employees; and fewer than 1,000 people participated nationwide. Herrera said police do not provide crowd estimates.

Buchanan said the protests were publicity stunts orchestrated by unions that didn't represent the majority of its 1.3 million workers nationwide.

Rally organizers called Wal-Mart pay poverty wages of an average $8.81 an hour, especially in light of the company's $16 billion in profit last year.

But Buchanan said Wal-Mart paid an average hourly wage for full-time workers of $12.83. She said 75 percent of the company's management started off as hourly workers and some store managers now m

PRISON HUNGER STRIKE ENDS AFTER HEARINGS PROMISED: SACRAMENTO (AP) — California inmates on Thursday ended a 60-day hunger strike after lawmakers said they would review solitary confinement policies that kept dozens of gang leaders and members locked up for more than a decade in tiny, individual cells with little chance of returning to the general population.

A lawyer representing strike leaders at Pelican Bay Prison said they met in the law library Wednesday with other prisoners and voted to end the protest several days after two Democratic lawmakers promised to hold hearings on their complaints.

"They finally felt like somebody was listening to them," lawyer Anne Weills said. "They felt like somebody had their back."

Three of the four strike leaders have been kept in isolation for more than 20 years and the fourth for more than a decade. All four are serving life sentences for murder, have committed a string of assaults while incarcerated, and lead rival prison gangs, officials have said.

The meeting at the prison near the Oregon border came two days after high-ranking prison officials renewed contact with participating prisoners in a 90-minute conference call after steadfastly refusing to negotiate for weeks, Weills said.

More than 30,000 inmates throughout the state prison system had refused meals when the strike began in early July over the isolation units and the indeterminate time periods that some inmates can serve in the harsh conditions.

By this week, the number had dwindled to 100, including 40 who had been on strike continuously since July 8.

WATER THEFT FORCES HUMBOLDT COUNTY SCHOOL TO CLOSE: EUREKA  (AP) — Water thieves have struck again in Humboldt County, this time forcing an elementary school to close.

The Times-Standard of Eureka reports that up to 20,000 gallons of water were stolen from a tank at Bridgeville Elementary School over Labor Day weekend. With no running water, the school was forced to close on Tuesday.

Humboldt County Sheriff's Lt. Steve Knight says investigators believe a truck was used in the theft.

The theft comes a month after 20,000 gallons of water were stolen from a community services district board in Weott, another Humboldt County community.

Knight says the two crimes do not appear to be connected, but authorities expect to see more water theft with the dry, warm conditions. Knight says authorities are concerned about potential fights over water related to marijuana cultivation.

CALIFORNIA AGRICULTURE REACHES NEW REVENUE RECORD: FRESNO  (AP) — California's agricultural production has reached another record high.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the state's 80,500 farms and ranches had revenues in 2012 of $44.7 billion, a three percent increase from the previous year and a new record.

The highest revenue gain was seen in pistachios, which increased in value by 27 percent.

California remains the nation's largest agricultural state in terms of revenues, representing 11.3 percent of the U.S. total. It's followed by Iowa and Nebraska.

California is also the number one dairy state in the nation. It produced a fifth of the nation's milk supply last year, though revenues slipped due to a drop in the number of herds and sliding milk prices.

RESIDENTS SUE OVER UTILITY HIKE : DELANO  (AP) — Residents of the Central California city of Delano have filed a lawsuit challenging the city's decision to raise utility rates.

The rate increase was adopted by the city in April to cover debt payments on water system improvements and to pay for sewer infrastructure. It would raise residents' bills by an average of 75 percent over the next five years.

Government figures show a third of Delano residents live below the poverty line.

The lawsuit, announced on Thursday, alleges that the city violated Proposition 218, which was adopted in 1996 to prevent local governments from creating and imposing taxes without taxpayer approval.

TELEVANGELIST SCHULLER HAS CANCER: GARDEN GROVE  (AP) — Crystal Cathedral founder and former televangelist the Rev. Robert H. Schuller has been diagnosed with cancer, according to a family statement posted online.

Daughter Sheila Schuller Coleman said during a recent sermon that Schuller, 86, is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer that has spread to his lymph nodes. The diagnosis was also disclosed in a statement that was available Wednesday at the website of Schuller Coleman's new church, the Hope Center of Christ.

Oncologists initially said that the televangelist had three months to live, but then said he could live for two years with radiation and chemotherapy. The elder Schuller decided to pursue the treatment after praying with his wife, Arvella, and other family members, the statement said.

 

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