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Santa Clara County takes aim at payday loans
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SAN JOSE (AP) — San Jose and Santa Clara County are cracking down on payday lending operations.

Critics say the storefront businesses prey on the poor. In exchange for a post-dated check, people get up to $255 in cash with a promise to repay the loan, plus a $45 fee, within two weeks.

The San Jose Mercury News says San Jose's planning commission meets Friday night to consider a proposal that would ban payday lenders in low-income neighborhoods.

And next Tuesday, county supervisors will decide whether to make their temporary ban on all new payday lending establishments permanent.

Although payday loans are pitched as one-time emergency measures, studies show borrowers often return to the lender repeatedly.

Annualized interest rates can reach 460 percent.

Missing girl's district reporting absences sooner

MORGAN HILL . (AP) — Morgan Hill schools have begun informing parents about their children's absences sooner in the wake of the disappearance of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the district now sends out automated phone calls about any unexcused absences at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. It previously only contacted parents at 6 p.m.

The new morning notification policy went into effect on Monday.

Sierra disappeared on her way to her Morgan Hill high school on March 16. But the school did not send an automated phone call to her mother reporting her absence until the evening.

Parents in the district have since called on school officials to change the notification system.

Ship owner sues pharmacists in SF Bay crash

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The owners and operators of a container ship that slammed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 2007 and spilled thousands of gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay have sued the Northern California pharmacists they claim negligently dispensed prescription drugs to the pilot of the Cosco Busan.

The ship's owner, Regal Stone Ltd., and operator Fleet Management Ltd. Alleged in court papers filed in San Francisco Superior Court Friday that the pills "recklessly" provided by pharmacists at a Longs drug store in Petaluma, Calif. had so clouded pilot John Cota's judgment and dulled his reflexes that they led to the crash.

The container ship spilled more than 50,000 gallons of oil into the bay after it collided with a bridge tower. The fuel traveled to beaches north and south of San Francisco, and biologists have blamed the spill for the deaths of more than 2,400 birds.

Michael DeAngelis, a spokesman for Rhode Island-based CVS Caremark, which owns Longs, said Wednesday that the company thinks Longs has no liability in the accident and plans to fight the lawsuit.

In their lawsuit, they maintain the pharmacy that furnished Cota with medication should foot some of the bill because pharmacists allegedly did not warn Cota about combining drugs, consulted his doctors or contacted pilot licensing authorities, the newspaper said.