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State news briefs
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ARCHITECT PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN LA FIREMAN'S DEATH: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The architect of a Hollywood Hills mansion where a ceiling collapsed and killed a firefighter who was trying to extinguish a blaze has pleaded not guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter.

Gerhard Albert Becker, 48, entered his plea Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

His bail was set at $2 million, and he was ordered to return to court March 1 for a preliminary hearing.

Authorities say the fire and the ceiling's collapse were caused by Becker's grossly negligent construction of the home. They say he put a fireplace on the third floor that was only meant for outside use.

LA MOTHER HELD AFTER 1 GIRL DIES, 2ND INJURED: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A mother was held for questioning Wednesday after her 1-year-old daughter died in an apparent drowning and the child's 5-year-old sister was critically injured, authorities said.

The father of the children told police he found his wife trying to drown the girls in a bathtub in a South Los Angeles home after he returned from a grocery store, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith told the Los Angeles Times.

"The father stopped the mother," he said.

Firefighters answering a 911 call found the girls unconscious and not breathing in a converted garage behind a main house. They were in a bathtub and had no pulses, Fire Department spokesman Erik Scott said.

Doctors worked on both girls for two hours, but the 1-year-old died and the 5-year-old was transferred to another hospital in critical but stable condition, said Katreena Salgado, spokeswoman for California Hospital Medical Center.

'XOMBIE' ROCKET MAKES FIRST FREE-FLIGHT FOR NASA: MOJAVE  (AP) — A privately built rocket has made its first free-flight in the California desert as part of a NASA program exploring vertical landing systems for solar system exploration.

The autonomous flight occurred earlier this month at the Mojave Air and Space Port about 90 miles north of Los Angeles.

Masten Space Systems' unmanned rocket named Xombie lifted off the ground, flew horizontally and landed at a pad 164 feet away. The demonstration lasted 67 seconds.

In 2009, Masten won a $1 million prize in a NASA-backed simulated lunar landing contest using the Xombie rocket. The space agency awarded Masten and another company, Armadillo Aerospace, $475,000 in 2010 to test vehicles that could carry small payloads to "near-space" — altitudes between 65,000 feet and 350,000 feet.

LEGISLATOR PROPOSES 911 CALL PRIVACY: POMONA  (AP) — A California legislator wants the news media barred for getting 911 emergency call audio tapes and transcripts.

Assemblywoman Norma Torres says her proposed legislation, AB1275 introduced last week, was inspired in part by the release of 911 tapes involving the Jan. 23 medical emergency involving Demi Moore.

The caller told the 911 dispatcher that Moore was shaking and convulsing.

Torres was a police dispatcher for 18 years before the Democrat was elected to represent Chino, Pomona, Montclair and Ontario in the Assembly.

EXPERTS SAY CALIFORNIA EXPECTED TO ADD 500K JOBS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Experts are forecasting modest growth in California's economy with the addition of nearly 500,000 jobs over the next two years, which would drop the state's jobless rate to near 10 percent.

Unemployment in California is currently at 11.1 percent.

The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.'s annual forecast being released Wednesday says the anticipated improvement in California's economy is based partly on continued budget cutting.

The Los Angeles Times says many government jobs and services have gotten the ax since the recession started in 2007. The state has lost 85,500 local, state and federal government jobs during the recession.