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State news briefs
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WORKER BURIED IN 8-FOOT-DEEP TRENCH DIES: BEVERLY HILLS (AP) — A worker who was buried in an 8-foot-deep trench outside a Beverly Hills home died Thursday afternoon before firefighters could free him from the loose soil.

The man was "completely entombed" in the soil with as much as 3 feet of dirt above him, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.

When firefighters responded at 3:34 p.m. Thursday, all they could see was the man's fingertips, as his arms were stretched above his head, Humphrey said. "There was very loose soil and a dangerous situation," he said.

There were no witnesses to the event, so it remains unclear what happened to allow the soil to give way and bury the man, Humphrey said.

"His co-workers may have been away from his location for as much as 15 to 20 minutes," said the spokesman.

More than 70 firefighters worked to free the man, but the rescue operation in the 1200 block of Benedict Canyon Drive was officially declared a recovery operation shortly before 4:30 p.m.

LAWMAKERS APPROVE BAN ON EMPLOYER PASSWORDS: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — The California Assembly has unanimously approved a bill that would prevent employers from asking job applicants for their social media passwords.

AB1844 would ban employers from requiring current or prospective employees to disclose their user names or passwords for sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Democratic Assemblywoman Nora Campos of San Jose, the bill's author, says there are too few social media privacy laws to protect employees. She cited recent reports that employers are using social media to obtain answers to questions they cannot legally ask on job applications.

Several other states are considering similar bans, including Washington, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. Two U.S. senators have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review whether such requests are legal.

FLEET OF FOOT-LONG ROBOTS ANALYZE SACRAMENTO RIVER: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A fleet of foot-long robots has floated down the Sacramento River to measure delta water flow, detect pollutants and monitor fish.

The 100 GPS-equipped devices, 40 of them fitted with propellers, were let loose from Walnut Grove on Wednesday for a two-mile journey to demonstrate the Floating Sensor Network.

The project is led by University of California environmental engineer Alexandre Bayen and graduate student Andrew Tinka.

The  sensors are designed to detect pollutants, measure changes in salinity, monitor fish life and warn of levee breaks, oil spills or other hazards.

Mini-computers in each robot are programmed with a map that allows them to avoid riverbanks and obstacles.

GPS-enabled cellphones allow the devices to transmit information to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

CALIFORNIA COUNTY WON'T BAN WOLVES: UKIAH (AP) — Officials in Siskiyou County in Northern California have decided not to take up a measure banning wolves like the one from Oregon that has been wandering around looking for a mate.

Supervisor Jim Cook said the ordinance proposed by a local cattleman didn't seem to have much community support and had not been vetted.

He adds that supervisors did not want to react to one wolf passing through.

The wolf known as OR-7 left northeastern Oregon last year and has traveled more than 1,000 miles. Its quest has taken it into Northern California, back into Oregon, and back into Northern California.

Wolves are federally protected as an endangered species in Western Oregon and all of California.

FEUD OVER ALLOWING WOMEN INTO ALL-MALE COLLEGE: INDEPENDENCE (AP) — Two trustees of an all-male California liberal arts college have gone to court to block admitting women for the first time in the 95-year-old school's history.

Electrical pioneer L.L. Nunn founded the college on an Owens Valley cattle ranch in 1917 on the three pillars of academics, labor, and self-governance to help young men prepare themselves for lives of service to humanity.

The Big Pine campus is about 55 miles south of Mammoth Lakes.

Trustees for the 26-student Deep Springs College voted in September to allow women to keep up with contemporary ways of training future leaders.

An Inyo County court suit filed Wednesday by dissenting trustees Kinch Hoekstra and Edward Keonjian insists the college is thriving without female students.

$250K EMBEZZELED FROM LONG BEACH ANIMAL CONTROL: ANGELES (AP) — Prosecutors say a former Long Beach city employee has been accused of embezzling more than $250,000 from the animal care services bureau.

A Los Angeles County district attorney spokeswoman says 59-year-old Jongluck Mutrais was arrested Thursday on nine felony charges, including misappropriation of public funds.

Prosecutors say Mutrais embezzled $251,000 by mishandling cash transactions at the Long Beach Animal Care Services Bureau from Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 1, 2010.

The bureau is responsible for kennels, dog licenses, adoption and animal control.

Mutrais resigned from the job in August 2010.

Prosecutors say the theft came to light after the bureau installed a computer system that tracks funds.

If convicted, Mutrais faces up to nine years in prison.

FEWER GRADUATES GOING TO CALIF. UNIVERSITIES: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A new survey shows fewer eligible California high school graduates are enrolling in four-year state public universities.

The Sacramento-based Public Policy Institute of California report on Wednesday shows there have been dramatic declines in the past five years even though demand for higher education has risen.

The declines coincide with enrollment reduction practices and soaring tuition rates adopted by the budget-strapped University of California and California State University.

The report says the number of recent high school graduates leaving California for four-year colleges in other states appears to have increased.

Critics say the Public Policy Institute report sounds the alarm about the consequences of California's disinvestment in its public university system.

WITNESSES TACKLE SUSPECTED ARSONIST: COSTA MESA  (AP) — Witnesses who spotted flames crackling though dense brush in a regional Southern California park tackled a suspected arsonist and held him for police.

Less than two acres in Costa Mesa's Talbert Regional Park were burned during the Wednesday evening blaze.

City News Service says the cause of the fire hasn't been determined, but arson investigators questioned the man detained by the witnesses. He wasn't arrested.

The man, whose name hasn't been released, was taken to Western Medical Center for treatment of minor burns.

AMERICAN IDOL FINAL THREE: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hollie Cavanagh couldn't make "American Idol" voters love her.

The soaring 18-year-old vocalist from McKinney, Texas, was eliminated from the Fox singing competition Thursday after it was revealed she received the fewest viewer votes.

The spritely balladeer rebounded in recent weeks after the judges took issue with Cavanagh's lack of stage presence, but she was dismissed after crooning Journey's "Faithfully" and Bonnie Rait's "I Can't Make You Love Me" for her solo performances Wednesday.

"Idol" host Ryan Seacrest said 70 million viewer votes were cast this week.

The three finalists remaining in the competition are booming 20-year-old gospel singer Joshua Ledet of Westlake, La.; bluesy 21-year-old pawn shop worker Phillip Phillips of Leesburg, Ga.; and aspiring 16-year-old pop diva Jessica Sanchez of San Diego.