Skunk Works’ secretive 70th birthday
Palmdale quietly plays host to Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, a tightly-guarded and highly secretive weapons development facility that has developed some of the most well-known aircraft in recent history.
Despite a culture of secrecy (90% of its workforce dedicated to classified projects, after all) it’s well-known that this year marks the site’s 70th anniversary. It’s first project all the way back in 1943? Developing a rival to German jet-powered aircraft.
Read more on Skunk Works’ history via Money & Co.
Photos: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Southern California’s hardest-working left-wing activists
From the top of reporter Hector Becerra’s story:
The Aztecs march in the canyons of the great city.
Their tall feather headdresses jut skyward. They beat drums, stomp and chant. They dance in twirls and high steps, moving forward. One of them presses to his lips a large pink conch, representing the wind god Ehecatl.
Before them at this demonstration between the high-rises of downtown Los Angeles come other tribes of the counterculture: anarchists, socialists, communists, anti-imperialists, Marxists.
They are the dancing Aztecs, an attention-grabbing group that twirls and struts through protests and demonstrations in support of gay rights, labor interests or any number of other leftist causes.
Judith Garcia, the Aztecs’ leader, told Becerra the group stands for “underdog, the beaten-down: abused workers at the bottom of the wage scale; immigrants fearful of deportation; environmental and indigenous communities.”
You can read more on the group’s origin and aims over in today’s Column One feature.
Photos: Don Bartletti, Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
The end of the Postal Service?
Neither snow nor rain nor heat are supposed to keep mail carriers from doing their duty, but the current crisis facing the postal service is a bit more of a man-made problem.
The U.S. Postal Service lost a mind-boggling $15.9 billion last year, and currently loses $25 million every day. Employee numbers have been cut down, facilities have been consolidated and delivery standards have been lowered - but the organization is still hemorrhaging cash.
It may be run as a corporation, but the Postal Service still faces congressional oversight, which has hampered its reform efforts.
Postal officials recently tried to end Saturday letter delivery, which could have saved $2 billion per year, but Congress blocked it. A legislative proposal to replace doorstep delivery with curbside delivery, which would save $4.5 billion, failed last year. A plan to close thousands of rural post offices was abandoned after postal officials deemed the closures would “upset Congress a great deal.”
And then there’s the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which mandated that the Postal Service pre-fund the health benefits of future retirees 50 years into the future. The yearly cost of that measure? About $5.6 billion.
Read more to learn about some measures in the works to save the 238-year-old service before it collapses in financial ruin.
Photo: Justin Lane / EPA
Emphasis mine. Get rid of the act and most if not all the USPS’s funding problems disappear.
Under the PAEA, USPS is required to make $103.7 billion in payments by 2016 to a fund that will pay for future health benefits of retirees of the next 75 years. This health benefit prefunding mandate covers not only current employees that will retire in the future, but employees yet to be hired who will eventually retire. On top of this, none of the money that the USPS contributes to this fund can be used to pay for current retiree health benefits. So the USPS must make payments for current retirees’ health benefits in addition to its required health benefit prepayments for future retirees. This is something thatno other government or private corporation is required to do and is an incredibly unreasonable burden.
The story behind Sriracha
With a distinctive bottle and taste, Sriracha has gone from an unpronounceable challenge to a staple sauce for many Americans. In the U.S. alone, $60 million worth of the sauce was sold last year alone.
But it wasn’t always such a prevalent item on store shelves. David Tran, the man responsible for popularizing the hot sauce, had a long journey beforehand:
When North Vietnam’s communists took power in South Vietnam, Tran, a major in the South Vietnamese army, fled with his family to the U.S. After settling in Los Angeles, Tran couldn’t find a job — or a hot sauce to his liking.
So he made his own by hand in a bucket, bottled it and drove it to customers in a van. He named his company Huy Fong Foods after the Taiwanese freighter that carried him out of Vietnam.
Read more via our profile of Tran, and his beloved hot sauce.
Photos: Gina Ferazzi, Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times
Looking back at the origins of kung-fu films
The latest installment of Movies Now’s looks back at classic Hollywood examines the sudden surge of kung-fu flicks that followed after Bruce Lee’s classic “Enter the Dragon” in 1973.
From Stephen Chin, who donated his huge collection of kung-fu posters to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
“There was an intensity, realism, dynamism and energy to this stuff that no one had ever seen before.”
And, of course, the posters for even the lesser-known kung-fu films are still fantastic.
Photos: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Stephen Chin collection, Bruce Lee Enterprises
Artist mourns loss of her work on African lesbians: Burglars stole hard drives that held an archive of five years’ worth of images celebrating the community.
It was a most unusual burglary. Thieves got in through the bathroom window and walked past the flat-screen TV, DVD player, expensive camera and a couple of brand-new cellphones. Instead, they took 20 external hard drives and some digital camera memory cards.
It didn’t make sense to Zanele Muholi, an art photographer and activist, the victim of the April theft.
Something cold shifted inside her. Could this be another hate crime against lesbians?
The stolen hard drives, all hidden in different locations around her apartment, were the archive of five years of Muholi’s extraordinary work photographing marginalized lesbians in many African countries.
Photo: South African photographer Zanele Muholi’s portraits of Thobeka Mavundla, left, and Vuyelwa Makubetse are among the works featured at the Documenta festival in Kassel, Germany. Credit: Zanele Muholi
To find out how you can help Zanele Muholi by contributing towards replacing her equipment and rebuilding her archives, click here.
Damn, this is most rank.
Former Black Panther patches together purpose in Africa exile: In America, Pete O’Neal was an angry man, an ex-con who found a kind of religion in 1960s black nationalism. In a Tanzania village, he’s been a champion of children.
Photo: Many of the young orphans gather round to watch, and lend their support, as Pete O’Neal has fresh ink applied to his fading black panther tattoo. credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times
Avery Tyler, 12, said she was initially scared of the sprawling tents, but her perspective quickly changed.
“People care so much about this, they come down here and stay here,” she said. “One guy was talking to us and he said we’re all doing this for the future children. That really made me feel proud.”
Photo: Nathaniel “Nat” Stern, 11, who attends the private Sequoyah school in Pasadena, visited Occupy L.A. on Tuesday as part of a field trip to City Hall. Credit: Matt Stevens / Los Angeles Times