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California voters may have said nogracias to bilingual education, but state lawmakers are apparently saying sí to Spanish lessons. You may recall that last fall would-be governors Al Checchi and Dan Lungren managed to eke out a few words in español just in time for the election. And Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante wasted no time in sending out a message asking the states ever-growing Latino electorate for their support. Now a small cadre of lawmakers are learning Spanish for those non-election occasions. Among the most visible is Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, who spent two weeks last November in Cuernavaca, Mexico, at the Bilingual Institute, undergoing an intensive language course. Cedillos aides say the former labor leader invested his own time and money because he wanted to brush up on his Spanish to improve communications with all of his constituents. And you may have noticed that Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa is giving more and more interviews in Spanish, thanks to a concerted effort to improve his español. "Hes been practicing a lot," said one staff er. As for the rest of Sacramento, Cedillos office has been getting calls from other lawmakers curious about learning the language of the states fastest-growing voting bloc.
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Later investigation revealed that Mendez had broken up with his girlfriend in San Jose, had a history of manic depression and was on psychiatric medications. Burbank Police Chief Anthony Loverme said Mendez seemed okay while he was being held for the FBI, but "had a lot on his mind." Why Hollywood? "He never was really clear about that," Loverme said.
Here at OffBeat we have taken akeen interest in Senate Majority Leader Trent Lotts ties to the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. So imagine our surprise when we found a homegrown link to the Southern extremist group in the person of archconservative L.A. Times editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez. As Ramirez acknowledged in an excellent January 26 Times article on Lotts connections, he spoke to the council about five years ago, during his pre-Times gig at the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Both OffBeat and Ramirez, it turns out, find the 37-year-old Pulitzer winners appearance the more puzzling because, as the son of an Asian-American mother and a Latino father, he is a member of ethnic groups that the council trashes. The council warns on its Web site that immigrants are "bringing their inferior cultures." Other council spewings suggest divvying up the nation by race.
Reached at his Times office Wednesday, Ramirez said he had no idea of the extremist views of the group when he spoke. But he has few regrets. "Nobody wants bad publicity, but if this group is what they make it out to be, it was probably good somebody from my ethnic background told them what for," said Ramirez. "If Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family asked me to speak at their family reunion, Id probably accept their invitation, that doesnt mean I endorse any of the political philosophy." The message of his speech, which he has been giving for the last seven years, is anti-racist, Ramirez continued, quoting in part: "We are at the abyss of racial separatism, and it portrays a harrowing threat to the unit of our country." Of course, to say that the biggest racial threat in the U.S. is ethnic balkanization is not the same as challenging white racism. And Lott also defends himself by saying he didnt know the councils views a claim that the Times sources poked full of holes in last weeks article.