THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING
You know your county's treatment of homeless people is squishy when it becomes a topic for a United Nations fact-finder. That's what happened Monday morning, when Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, toured Southern California to "examine government efforts to eradicate poverty in the country and how they relate to U.S. obligations under international human-rights law." Alston's tour included a forum hosted by and held at the Los Angeles offices of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California. The previously announced topics for discussion included: use of money for bail and the pretrial detention of the poor; the impact of criminal-justice fines and fees on the human rights of impoverished people; and, one I'll boldface for our purposes, criminalization of homelessness through enforcement of anti-homeless laws and quality-of-life ordinances—special focus on Orange County. Orange County representatives from the ACLU, UC Irvine, and the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center wrote Alston letters in October, alleging that local anti-camping ordinances and other laws unfairly criminalize homelessness. Alston agreed to meet so they can present evidence to support their claims. Homeless advocates point to this vicious cycle: 33 of Orange County's 34 cities have anti-camping ordinances that criminalize the act of sleeping in public spaces. That pushes the homeless to remote and sometimes dangerous locations, including the banks of the Santa Ana River. Several times this year, the county has cleared the riverbed encampments on grounds the area is not intended for human habitation. So the homeless go back to the cities that enforce anti-camping ordinances, leading to compounding fines, which, if unpaid, can land them in jail. The UCI International Human Rights Clinic wants to know from Alston whether this treatment violates international, human-rights law. It's certainly not what our various visitor bureaus have in mind as they try to promote Orange County as a tourist destination internationally.
MR. KNOTT'S WILD RIDE
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CAL-OSHA) issued a study last month that concluded safeguards must be added to the Timber Mountain Log Ride at Knott's Berry Farm by Jan. 29. That comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court in August. Five-year-old Charles Miller, of Illinois, suffered a fractured eye socket on the Buena Park attraction in May 2016. According to the complaint, the boy was sitting on his father's lap at the rear of a faux log that suddenly decelerated, causing the lad to hit his head on the seat in front of him. The litigation blames a faulty sensing system that failed to monitor water levels, a cause that the CAL-OSHA study confirms. The proper water level helps when it comes to the logs' braking ability, according to the report, which also calls for padding to be improved at the spot where the faces of children and other short people would strike inside the log during a quick stop. CAL-OSHA has been down this chute before, having instructed Knott's to improve water-level monitoring in 2012, and after that, state inspectors found the theme park out of compliance with correct levels from May 2013 to January 2015, resulting in a $12,821 penalty. No specific dollar amount is being sought in the Miller family lawsuit, which Knott's officials say they will not comment on in the media. The theme park did release a statement claiming, "Safety is Knott's No. 1 priority, and we are committed to the protection of all our guests." Barry Novack, the Los Angeles-based attorney representing the Miller family, previously helped the parents of a 6-year-old girl who broke a bone above her right eye after hitting her head on the same Timber Mountain Log Ride. The amount of the settlement reached in that case was not disclosed. The complaint in the latest suit cites 10 examples where guests were allegedly injured on the ride, mostly during the final drop deceleration section of the attraction, which is also the spot where the girl and Charles were hurt.
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DEPARTMENT OF YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS SHIT UP
A military police officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves is facing assault charges for allegedly choking his girlfriend after she refused to have sex with him on a firetruck parked at a Camp Pendleton beach. Daniel Jack Schumi, who was due back in court on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (which is Dec. 7, the day this Clockwork hits the streets and Navel Gazing), is looking at felony assault by strangling and misdemeanor assault by striking and beating in the case filed in San Diego federal court. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents say the victim and witnesses told them that Schumi had become "extremely intoxicated" while drinking on Feb. 26. The girlfriend, who had been downing alcohol with Schumi, is said to have made an offhand remark about the two of them having sex on the firetruck parked nearby. While she apparently changed her mind, Schumi did not, becoming "increasingly agitated" in their Del Mar Beach rental cottage until he "began to squeeze [his girlfriend's] throat and choked her until she saw black," according to NCIS. Schumi went on to throw her to the ground, pin her with his knees and place one hand on her throat and the other over her mouth, states the complaint. Guests in an adjacent cottage came to the woman's rescue and held Schumi down until military police arrived around 10:45 p.m. to arrest him, NCIS says. Wonder if this case will make the CBS show?