A federal investigation in San Diego has led to drug-related charges against three people in what authorities said was one of the largest seizures of fentanyl in the U.S.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized nearly 100 pounds of the potent synthetic drug, most of it from a house in Lemon Grove, according to an indictment unsealed Monday.

The load represents millions of lethal doses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Fentanyl is a painkiller that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin. Authorities say even trace amounts can be fatal.

Three people — Jonathan Ibarra, 45, of Lemon Grove; Hector Fernando Garcia, 46, of San Diego; and Anna Baker, 30, of Lemon Grove — were indicted on charges of possession of fentanyl with the intent to distribute.

Last November, the defendants allegedly discussed having Baker smuggle the drugs during three consecutive days, according to court documents. Based on that information, authorities pulled over a rental vehicle Baker was driving. Agents seized about 33 pounds of fentanyl.

Roughly 66 more pounds of the drug were found in her home when agents later served a search warrant, the U.S Attorney’s Office said.

According to the DEA, the quantity of fentanyl seized represents the largest amount ever sent to its labs nationwide.

Authorities have said Mexican drug cartels produce the drug in labs using precursor chemicals from China. On the streets, fentanyl is sold alone as powder, added to heroin or made into counterfeit painkiller pills.

Email: david.hernandez@sduniontribune.com

Phone: (619) 293-1876

Twitter: @D4VIDHernandez

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Disappointing some immigrant advocates, Los Angeles County officials voted Tuesday to authorize $3 million for legal assistance for immigrants facing deportation but to bar those who have violent criminal pasts.

The Board of Supervisors’ vote came a day after the city’s Budget and Finance Committee approved up to $2 million for the same purpose.

The votes ended a debate about which immigrants should qualify for help through the newly created L.A. Justice Fund, although the proposal that the city is considering would include an exemption for individuals with a “meritorious claim.”

“The county’s $3-million contribution to the L.A.J.F. can only go so far,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis, a champion of the fund, in a statement.

Emi MacLean, an attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, argued for broader inclusion. “This county’s proposal would define people by their worst act,” she said at the meeting Tuesday.

The L.A. Justice Fund, which will include an additional $5 million from private philanthropic groups, was unveiled last December by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Solis in anticipation of a crackdown on immigrants by incoming President Trump. Implementation of the fund was held up in April over protests regarding the exclusion of immigrants with a history of violent criminal offense.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said she wished there were a way to include some of those immigrants.

“Many people have paid their dues to society — have paid their price and served their time,” she said in remarks before the vote. “I simply want to speak up for those people.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who opposed the creation of the fund in December, cast the lone dissenting vote. “County taxpayers should not be forced to bear the cost to provide free legal representation for those facing deportation,” she said in a statement.

The county will enter into an agreement with the California Community Foundation to manage and disburse the funds.

The full Los Angeles City Council is expected to approve a similar agreement on Friday.

The foundation will award nonprofit agencies money to provide legal advice to immigrants and to represent them in court.

The proposed county agreement lists family members of citizens and other lawful residents as priorities to receive services, as well as children, veterans and victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.

The decisions this week come about five months after Trump signed executive orders to begin planning for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to step up immigration enforcement.

In May, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that arrests of people living in the country illegally during Trump’s first 100 days in office were up nearly 38% over the same period in 2016. Arrests in Southern California, however, have remained relatively flat.

The decisions also follow the state Legislature’s passage last week of a budget that would funnel $45 million to community organizations to provide immigrants with legal assistance and other services. Gov. Jerry Brown has until the end of the month to sign budget-related legislation, but he has indicated he supports the idea.

Nearly 10% of the nation’s 11.1 million undocumented immigrants live in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to the Pew Research Center.

A 2016 report found that immigrants in California who have legal representation are four to five times more likely to succeed in immigration court than their counterparts who lack such representation.

Angelica Salas, executive director of the immigrant rights advocacy group CHIRLA, said in an interview that her organization has seen a jump in clients since Trump took office, sometimes meeting with more than 100 new clients in one day, compared with a previous daily average of 20 new clients.

“The demand is high, and I think the fund will really help us see more people,” Salas said.


Twitter: @AgrawalNina

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Racing to the top, Walt Disney Co.’s “Cars 3” unseated Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” after a two-week box-office reign.

The Pixar picture grossed an estimated $53.5 million in the U.S. and Canada. It came in well below analyst expectations of $60 million.

Since its debut a decade ago, “Cars” has made its mark as an enduring series. Starring Owen Wilson as Lightning McQueen, the series follows the ups and downs of a hot shot race car looking to prove himself. The latest film — the third in a franchise that has grossed more than $1 billion in combined global ticket sales — also stars the voices of Cristela Alonzo, Larry the Cable Guy and Kerry Washington.

Such a performance is below its predecessors. The original “Cars” peeled out 11 years ago with a $60-million debut on its way to $462 million in worldwide sales. In 2011, the follow-up launched with $66 million domestically and ended up with a global total of $561 million. Still, “Cars” has become an enduring series and everything a contemporary entertainment conglomerate could want from a cartoon franchise: wide demographic appeal and a cute concept that easily feeds toy lines, apparel licensing and video games. It also seeded a pair of spinoffs about sentient airplanes. The Cars Land attraction at Disney California Adventure has proved to be a powerful draw since it opened in 2012.

As a bonus, the newest “Cars” has been relatively well-reviewed by critics, with a 65% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Audience feedback however — moviegoers gave “Cars 3” an A CinemaScore — has been the studio’s motivation to continue making animated sequels, something Pixar once avoided with the exception of movies like “Toy Story 2.” But the company has embraced sequels in recent years, to profitable results. “Finding Dory,” the sequel to “Finding Nemo,” became the second-highest-grossing movie of 2016 in the U.S. and Canada, behind “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The studio also has a second “Incredibles” and a fourth “Toy Story” on the way.

In its third week, “Wonder Woman” landed in second place with $40.8 million. This brings its domestic gross to date to $274.6 million.

Fellow new release, Lionsgate-Codeblack’s “All Eyez on Me,” is the weekend standout however, pulling $27.1 million in its debut weekend. Though only a third-place finish, it far surpassed analyst expectations of $17 million to $20 million, an unsurprising feat considering the industry’s historical inability to properly track films targeting black audiences.

“All Eyez on Me” is the long-awaited biopic about Tupac Shakur, the Harlem-born hip-hop hit maker who, in just 25 years of life, came to define a generation through his music, acting and poetry before that fateful 1996 drive-by shooting. Starring first-time actor Demetrius Shipp Jr., a doppelganger for the “California Love” rapper, the film is titled after Tupac’s final album released before his death. It also stars Danai Gurira as his mother and former Black Panther Afeni Shakur, Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett (Smith) and Annie Ilonzeh as Kidada Jones.

A film that according to producer L.T. Hutton finally got made because of the massive success of 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton” — despite countless biopics about black musicians doing well at the box office before the film charting N.W.A’s rise — “All Eyez” is an audience favorite. Moviegoers (53% male; 62% 25 and older) gave the picture an A-minus CinemaScore. Just about every critic review however is negative, leaving the film, directed by Benny Boom and shepherded through a 20-year gestation period by former Death Row Record producer and Pac confidant Hutton, at a 24% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Landing in fourth place, after a disappointing domestic debut last week, was Universal’s “The Mummy.” It pulled in $13.9 million over the weekend for a domestic gross to date of $56.5 million.

Rounding out the top five was newcomer “47 Meters Down,” a shark survival thriller, with $11.5 million. It beat analyst expectations that it would sink at the box office with about $5 million in ticket sales.

The movie, starring Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as vacationers in Mexico whose shark cage drops to the ocean floor, was released from Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios to poor critical and audience reviews. Moviegoers gave it a C CinemaScore and it has a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The only other major new release this weekend was Sony Pictures’ “Rough Night,” an R-rated ensemble comedy about a group of friends from college who reunite in Miami for a bachelorette party, which goes into cover-up mode after they accidentally kill a male stripper. The $20-million romp, starring Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon, came in well below analyst expectations of $10 million to $14 million with $8.1 million, good enough for only a seventh-place spot. Despite the crowded cineplex this week, the film likely won’t rebound in the coming ones having only mustered a C-plus CinemaScore from audiences and a 51% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Next week, the box office will get more crowded as the summer tent-pole season continues with the Wednesday release of “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

Get your life! Follow me on Twitter (@TrevellAnderson) or email me: trevell.anderson@latimes.com.

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“Cars 3” is a genial, easy-going throwback. Not just to the previous Pixar films in the series but to the early days of parent company Disney, when Walt walked the earth and sweetly earnest lessons about what’s important in life inspired movies that put smiles on faces all over town.

The directing debut for veteran Pixar storyboard artist Brian Fee, this warmly sentimental G-rated film about facing new realities and recapturing lost dreams has, despite its relatively adult story line, a beguilingly effortless feeling to it, as if it had nothing to prove.

But though it’s indifferent to pushing boundaries, that hasn’t stopped these further adventures of Lightning McQueen, the legendary Number 95, from subtly dealing with issues of equality and exhibiting deft plot moves that have some emotional heft to them.

As written by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich, this newest “Cars” takes advantage of the fact that the franchise is now a decade old, just enough time for McQueen, a racing legend if ever there was one, to begin to hear the automotive equivalent of footsteps.

Not that you’d know it at first. McQueen (voiced as always by Owen Wilson), uses the same “I am speed” self-motivation mantra against familiar rivals like Cal Weathers (racer Kyle Petty).

And he’s still got the same veteran team behind him, including lovable lug Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and the irrepressible Italian stallions Luigi (Tony Shaloub) and Guido (Guido Quaroni).

But a new wind is blowing on the track, the next generation of high-tech, metrics-obsessed racers who call McQueen “bro” (when they talk to him at all) are storming the track.

Leader of this pack, celebrated by numbers-crunching TV analyst Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington), is the confident, not to say cocky Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer), who oozes contempt for McQueen without even trying.

Though he won’t admit it, McQueen is rattled, and when a mishap on the track sends him back to Radiator Springs to recuperate, he communes with the spirit of his auto guru Doc Hudson (the late Paul Newman, taped during production on “Cars”). This is this film’s first nod to the theme of mentorship, which is one of its key concerns.

More shocks are yet to come. McQueen’s loyal sponsors Dusty and Rusty (“Car Talk” legends Ray and the late Tom Magliozzi) have sprung for a state-of-the-art Rust-eze Racing Center.

But they’ve also sold the firm to astute businessman Sterling (Nathan Fillion), the erstwhile mud flap king of the Eastern Seaboard, who worries about things like protecting the brand.

It’s Sterling’s idea to put McQueen in the hands of a young, tech-savvy trainer/motivator named Cruz Ramirez (stand-up comic Cristela Alonzo), who considers Number 95 “my senior project” and has her own ideas about what’s needed to get him back on top.

Determined to improve but aware that he is not the racer he used to be, McQueen, with the increasingly involving Ramirez tagging along, takes some motivational detours of his own that amuse and enlighten in equal measure.

These include getting up close and personal with characters like dirt track legend Miss Fritter, “The Diva of Demolition” (Lea DeLaria), and the venerable Smokey (Chris Cooper), Doc Hudson’s mentor, who sheds light on McQueen’s past as well as his future.

Though the story is always paramount, “Cars 3” has paid lots of attention to the visual side of things, giving the vehicles a photo-realistic look and taking tips from real NASCAR footage in how it depicts its Piston Cup races.

There are also a lot of amusing visual references on screen, like a newspaper named The Daily Exhaust and an automotive tonic called Carbucha. Watching a forklift play pedal steel guitar in an automotive country western band is its own kind of treat.

The cars in “Cars 3” not only look spiffy, they’re so adroitly computer generated and so effectively voiced we really come to feel they’re people whose emotional issues we have no difficulty buying into more than one might expect.

Even when they were directed by Pixar major domo John Lasseter (as the first two were), the “Cars” films were not graced with the kind of critical favor many of the studio’s other releases, like “Wall-E” and “Inside Out,” received.

But it has become increasing evident that the kind of comfort and satisfaction these films offer is not something we can afford to take for granted. So, if you are inclined, start your engines and let the good times roll.


‘Cars 3’

Rating: G

Running time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Playing: In general release

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In Hollywood, as it is everywhere, no one escapes from the ravages of time. Not the beautiful people who walk the red carpets. Not the power players who pull the strings in the executive suites.

And evidently not even the animated talking cars.

In Disney/Pixar’s “Cars 3,” in theaters Friday, the hard-charging race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) finds himself grappling with the automotive version of a midlife crisis, as a younger, faster car named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) emerges on the racing scene and threatens to force him into involuntary retirement. With the help of a plucky, tech-savvy young trainer named Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), Lightning tries to get his mojo back.

Middle-age angst may seem like an unusual plot driver for a kids’ movie whose core audience is still in elementary school. Even Wilson admits it took him by surprise at first.

“I was like, ‘Wow, even my animated characters — they’re making them get older?’ ” the actor, who is 49, says with a laugh. “I’m aware that, as an actor, you’re probably not doing romantic comedies or buddy comedies as much in your late 40s as you would in your early 30s. But I thought this one was kind of safe.”

With the “Cars” franchise itself now over a decade old, though, this grown-up-oriented story line offers a way for the series to appeal to both parents and to the kids who fell in love with the first “Cars” movie back in 2006, many of whom are now approaching adulthood themselves. At the same time, Pixar and Disney are working hard to cultivate a new generation of “Cars” fans – and, in particular, bring more young girls into the fold with the introduction of a major female character in Cruz.

Pixar has never shied away from incorporating grown-up themes into its films, of course, whether it’s the fear of mortality in “Toy Story 3,” parental anxiety in “Finding Nemo” or environmental destruction in “Wall-E.” Indeed, the animation studio plumbed the indignities of middle age once before in its 2004 film “The Incredibles,” which centers on a pair of married superheroes in the suburbs trying to adjust to the sometimes spirit-crushing struggles of work and parenting.

“We really don’t make our movies for a particular age group or gender — we truly make them for everybody,” says John Lasseter, chief executive of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios, who directed the first two “Cars” films. “If someone is breathing, they’re our target. That’s my philosophy.”

Lasseter says the initial inspiration for McQueen’s emotional journey in “Cars 3” — which sees him transition from hotshot racing champion to elder statesman and mentor — came from his friendship with NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon, who announced his retirement from the sport in 2015 at age 43.

“In the last few years of his racing career, Jeff would talk to me a lot about the young drivers coming in,” Lasseter says. “There was this energy they had and he realized, ‘That’s the way I was when I was younger.’ I started thinking, ‘Well, that could be where Lightning McQueen is at.’ ”

That said, “Cars” has proven a particularly potent series with very young kids and, as “Cars 3” director Brian Fee acknowledges, kids don’t, as a general rule, suffer from midlife crises.

“Hopefully they don’t,” Fee, who is making his feature directorial debut, says with a laugh. “But while kids don’t understand midlife crisis, they do understand that McQueen can’t race anymore. They do understand the thing they want to see, the thing that makes their favorite character happy, is something that he can’t do anymore.”

The power of the franchise’s appeal to young kids — and especially boys — is evidenced by the merchandising bonanza it has spawned over the years, which rivals those of juggernauts like “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars” and Pixar’s own “Toy Story.”

Though the first two “Cars” films are only the 10th and 15th highest-grossing Pixar movies at the domestic box office, respectively, and have not been as widely embraced by critics as many of the animation studio’s other films, they have powered a booming industry in everything from “Cars”-branded toys to school supplies to apparel to bedding to video games.

In just the first five years after the release of “Cars,” the franchise generated $10 billion in global retail sales. In 2012, Disney opened Cars Land at its California Adventure theme park to further capitalize on the appetite for all things “Cars.”

But while a beast of that size clearly needs to be continually fed, Fee says he did his best to tune it out while making the film.

“I don’t think or care about merchandise,” he says. “The thing is, if we make a good film, that machine will have whatever it needs to keep going. But it’s all about the movie for me. If any kid is carrying around a backpack or holding a toy, that’s hopefully because they like the story and the characters — not the other way around.”

“John Lasseter loves all the toys, all the merchandise — he’s such a perfectionist about making sure they’re the best and coolest products possible,” says “Cars 3” producer Kevin Reher. “But it’s Brian’s job to tell the story.”

Though Lasseter himself has had a deep passion for cars since boyhood, he says that from the earliest days of the “Cars” franchise he tried to make something that could appeal to anyone, regardless of their level of interest in cars or their gender.

“When I was working on the first one, my wife, Nancy, said, ‘You can’t make this movie just for yourself and your car-geek buddies — you’ve got to make it for me and your nieces and people who aren’t into cars,’ ” he recalls. “Through the whole first movie, it became what was known as ‘the Nancy factor.’ There are young boys that really love Lightning McQueen, but there are a lot of girls that love him, too. It was a conscious decision to make him red — it’s not the typically quote-unquote ‘boy color.’ ”

With the introduction of Cruz Ramirez, Pixar is clearly hoping to rev up the series’ appeal to girls a few more notches. In advance of the movie’s release, Disney’s online store has been stocked with T-shirts for girls and women emblazoned with the character’s name and the words “My Way or the Highway.”

Fee says he hopes the character — who set aside her racing ambitions because she didn’t see any other female cars on the track — will inspire young girls like his own two daughters to not hold themselves back from pursuing their dreams.

“I’m really hoping kids see themselves in Cruz,” Fee says. “My daughters didn’t want to learn to play guitar because they decided guitar is just a boys’ thing. That broke my heart for them to say that. I’d sometimes watch them be afraid to try things because they didn’t want to fail. We hope Cruz speaks for people that have felt out of place, because I think that’s everybody more often than they’d probably admit.”

With an “Incredibles” sequel and a fourth “Toy Story” film already in the Pixar pipeline, Lasseter suggests that the “Cars” franchise could still have more gas left in its tank. But for now he isn’t getting ahead of himself.

“I love these characters and I love the world and there are so many other stories that you could tell,” he says. “But we don’t decide that we’re going to do it until we have a story that we think would make a great movie.”

On some level, of course, the future of the “Cars” franchise is not entirely up to Pixar and Disney – the audience will ultimately determine how many miles end up on the odometer. To the question of how one knows when it’s time to stop and retire, one character in “Cars 3” offers a blunt answer: “The youngsters will tell you.”

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Wonder Woman is expected to surrender her box office tiara to Lightning McQueen and the anthropomorphic motor vehicles of “Cars 3” this weekend, ending the two-week reign of the Warner Bros.-DC Entertainment superhero movie.

The new “Cars” film from Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar Animation Studios is expected to gross about $60 million in the United States and Canada Friday through Sunday, according to people who have read pre-release audience surveys.

That would be roughly similar to the previous “Cars” installments and should be enough to unseat “Wonder Woman,” which has grossed $206 million domestically so far. Its second weekend dropped just 43% from its debut, one of the best holds ever for a superhero movie.

The box office is revving up for a crowded weekend, coming shortly after the Universal Pictures’ Tom Cruise reboot of “The Mummy” failed to mount a serious challenge to “Wonder Woman.” Several other movies will compete for moviegoers’ attention, including Lionsgate’s Tupac Shakur bio “All Eyez On Me,” Sony’s raunchy lady comedy “Rough Night” and the Mandy Moore shark thriller “47 Meters Down.”

Here’s what to watch:

On your mark, Pixar

Since its debut a decade ago, “Cars” has made its mark as an enduring series for Pixar and its parent company Walt Disney Co.

The previous “Cars” movies, starring Owen Wilson, have grossed more than $1 billion in combined global ticket sales, according to data from ComScore. The original “Cars” peeled out 11 years ago with a $60-million debut, on its way to $462 million in worldwide sales. In 2011, the follow-up launched with $66 million domestically and ended up with a global total of $561 million.

The enduring “Cars” series has become everything a contemporary entertainment conglomerate could want from a cartoon franchise — wide demographic appeal and a cute concept that easily feeds toy lines, apparel licensing and video games. It also seeded a pair of spinoffs about sentient airplanes. The Cars Land attraction at Disney California Adventure has proved to be a powerful draw since it opened in 2012. As a bonus, the newest “Cars” has been relatively well-reviewed by critics.

For years, Pixar avoided making sequels, with the exception of movies like “Toy Story 2.” But the company has embraced sequels in recent years, to profitable results. “Finding Dory,” the sequel to “Finding Nemo,” became the second-highest-grossing movie of 2016 in the U.S. and Canada, behind “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The studio also has a second “Incredibles” and a fourth “Toy Story” on the way.

  • Domestic opening: $60.1 million.
  • Domestic total: $244 million.
  • Foreign total: $218 million.
  • Global total: $462 million.
  • Domestic opening: $66.1 million.
  • Domestic total: $191 million.
  • Foreign total: $370 million.
  • Global total: $561 million.


Something for everyone?

The rest of the weekend’s film lineup will try to appeal to demographics not served by the dominant films.

With “All Eyez On Me,” for example, Lionsgate will attempt draw fans of Tupac Shakur, the Harlem-born hip-hop hit maker who was killed in Las Vegas in a 1996 drive-by shooting. Starring Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the “California Love” rapper, “All Eyez On Me” is poised to open with $17 million to $20 million. Analysts think it could defy expectations, though, after 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton” about the hip-hop group N.W.A did better than expected.

Sony Pictures will make a play for the ladies’ night out crowd with “Rough Night,” an R-rated ensemble comedy about a group of friends from college who reunite in Miami for a bachelorette party, which goes into cover-up mode after they accidentally kill a male stripper. The $20-million romp, starring Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon, is aiming for a launch of $10 million to $14 million.

Meanwhile, shark survival thriller “47 Meters Down” is expected to sink at the box office with about $5 million in ticket sales. The movie, starring Mandy Moore and Claire Holt as vacationers in Mexico whose shark cage drops to the ocean floor, is getting its release from Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios. The film is hitting theaters a year after the surprise shark hit from Sony, “The Shallows,” starring Blake Lively.



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Sometimes I like to contemplate a universe where the default taqueria resembles Bill’s Taco House #3, a clean, airy fast-food place across from the Burger King in a South Los Angeles shopping plaza. The big mural on the wall depicts not a sleepy ranchito but scenes from the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The crowd is mostly African American. And the pong in the air is not the usual sharp smack of chiles and stewing beef tongue but the warm, familiar funk of frying hamburger meat and onions, a smell instantly recognizable to anyone who’s set foot in a diner.

If the pastrami burger comes from an old confluence of Jewish and Mexican communities in Boyle Heights, and the galbi quesadilla arose out of the Latino presence in what came to be known as Koreatown, Bill’s Taco House represents the long coexistence of Mexicans and African Americans in South Los Angeles — the Original Bill’s Taco House out on Martin Luther King Boulevard has been in business since 1949.

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Sure, summer’s great with its carefree, longer days and sweet break from the routine of the classroom.

Here’s the bummer: Over break, kids can actually lose what they’ve learned over the previous school year. Researchers call it the “summer slide.”

Summer break widens achievement gaps between kids from kindergarten through high school.

And, like many things, it hits poor children harder.

As kids from higher-income families actually raise their reading skills during the time off, kids from lower-income families lose two to three months of reading skills in the summer – which they don’t make up in the school year. That means by the fifth grade, they can be behind their peers by 2½ to three years.

Parents loosen up a bit on the routine and habits of the school year, which isn’t always a bad thing.

“Children, in particular, need a break from the demands of formal schooling,” said Matthew Boulay, founder and CEO of the National Summer Learning Assn. “No child, however, should take a break from learning.”

Typically in summer, screen time expands, bedtime is later, reading at bedtime starts later or gets lost altogether. And, let’s be honest, eating habits often suffer too.

If your kids aren’t engaged, they can slide. So the key is to find ways to make summertime learning interesting and fun.

Here are some free or inexpensive resources to keep kids engaged:

1. Ready, set, read!

The library is a great free resource. And summer is the best time to lose yourself in a library.

The Los Angeles Public Library is offering a way to keep kids reading during the summer. And not just the kids. The whole family can register. The LAPL Summer Reading Challenge starts Monday and runs through Aug. 5. You can sign up on the website, then log what your kids are reading there. After they complete 10 hours of reading and four activities, they have a chance to win prizes. You can also find age-appropriate reading lists here on the library website.

The Glendale Library has a teen summer reading program called Reading by Design. Teens can join in by reading just about anything – books, magazines, comics, audiobooks. The program started at the end of May and runs through July 28. Activities, held on Wednesdays, range from creating a terrarium to designing a life-size Pac-Man game. (Bonus: According to the site, participants get community service hours for attending the programs.)

In the desert, the Palm Springs Library’s Reading by Design program for pre-K through teens runs from Monday through July 20 – while summer offerings for adults run through August.

Does your local library have interesting summer programs? Tell us what they are in the comments.

Other reading activities

  • Swap and discuss books with friends.
  • Take nature walks in the neighborhood and write stories inspired by them.
  • Create trading cards for story characters.
  • Take a reading pledge to read up to 100 books over summer and then search for books that match your interests and reading level.
  • Younger readers and parents able to create crafts with them, you can make their own summer reading logs. (For the less crafty among us, there are printable charts available for downloading on PBS Kids.)
  • There are tons of online resources for encouraging and tracking reading, including Scholastic, Sylvan, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), PBS Kids, Sync (audiobooks for teens).
  • Play Summer Reading Bingo. Fill the squares with different reading challenges and experiences.

2. Add math to your summer plans

Even more than reading, math skills are a casualty of time away from school. Kids across all demographics lose math skills in the summer. And let’s face it, parents are more likely to read than practice math with their kids.

This free Summer Math Challenge focuses on students going into second through ninth grades in the fall and lasts for six weeks, starting June 19. Each week focuses on one math concept. Parents get daily emails with accessible activities that incorporate math into everyday life to make it interesting for both kids and parents, who don’t have to be math experts themselves. At the end of the program, parents and children can print out a certificate of completion. (The certificate can be a good starting point at the start of the new school year for a conversation with teachers about progress made over the summer.)


  • With younger kids, find math opportunities in everyday activities such as grocery shopping and cooking.
  • Turn that annoying water bottle flipping into a math challenge.
  • Make geometry shapes with mini marshmallows. (Gum drops work too.)
  • Build a Lego fidget spinner.
  • Create your own at-home math camp.
  • Pinterest is full of fun approaches.
Max Konecke works on a painting at Kinderprep, a weeklong summer program in Santa Monica for kids who are about to enter kindergarten. At the camp, the 3- to 5-year-olds write, read, do math and learn Mandarin.
Max Konecke works on a painting at Kinderprep, a weeklong summer program in Santa Monica for kids who are about to enter kindergarten. At the camp, the 3- to 5-year-olds write, read, do math and learn Mandarin. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

3. Explore new experiences at camp

Even with worries about holding on to knowledge, summer doesn’t have be seen as time to just “do more school,” says John Rogers, a UCLA professor of education and author who focuses on the achievement gap. It’s a chance to dive into experiences.

“Summer opens up space for young people to develop who they are and become new kinds of people,” Rogers said.

The National Summer Learning Assn.’s Boulay agrees: “Summers are a particularly good opportunity to take into account our children’s interests and likes. Building activities around what our children enjoy or want to explore is essential to creating positive summer learning experiences.”

And camps can give kids a chance to explore new experiences, meet new people, even take on new roles.

One of the great things about Los Angeles is that there is no shortage of camps and experiences. Coding, space, dance, improv, surfing, cooking, yoga, “Star Wars,” math — if your kid has a specific interest, there’s probably a camp for it.

Of course, some camps might be too expensive, and getting into them can be hard. The Los Angeles Zoo summer camp, for instance, tends to fill up quickly, even before spring break! It looks like there are a few openings left, if you’re interested.

And it’s not too late to find a camp you can afford.

There are many school-based summer programs that may fit your family’s needs and budget. The Los Angeles Department of Recreation offers low-cost camps across the city for as little as $30 a week — with sibling discounts, free lunch and extended care available. They run from Monday through Aug. 11, in line with the LAUSD break.

The city also offers a free summer sports academy from Monday through Aug. 4. It includes a uniform, free lunch and transportation.

For older children, camps can offer an opportunity to volunteer or work, building communication and leadership skills, independence and the beginnings of that resume.

These enriching experiences, Rogers said, support achievement in school in ways we might not expect and are “really important for all young people to have.”

What activities are your children most interested in for this summer? Share your thoughts on keeping kids engaged and active in the comments below.

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A driver was detained in West Hollywood on Sunday night after striking at least three pedestrians, authorities said.

The crash occurred just after 10 p.m. near La Peer Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard, close to the city’s weekend-long celebration of Pride by the LGBTQ community, said Sgt. Lance Eddins of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The driver was exiting a driveway in the 600 block of La Peer Drive — near the Factory nightclub — and the vehicle struck three pedestrians, Eddins said.

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Federal authorities have arrested two California men and a Mexican national in connection with a $6-million scheme to defraud victims seeking immigration status in the United States.

Two of the defendants, Hardev Panesar, of El Cajon, and Rafael Hastie, of Tijuana, had posed as officers of the Department of Homeland Security for at least three years, the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego said Wednesday. Prosecutors said the pair promised they could obtain immigration status for people “in exchange for exorbitant fees.”

Gurdev Singh, 56, of Bakersfield, was also charged with assisting in the scheme.

Panesar, 69, was charged with structuring domestic financial institutions. Both Panesar and Hastie, 47, were charged with false personation of an officer or employee of the United States. All three defendants were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

In addition to posing as federal agents, Panesar and Hastie also claimed they had the power to stop deportation proceedings, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday. They were able to convince people that they were agents because they showed fake agency credentials when they met, prosecutors said.

The men defrauded more than 150 victims out of about $6 million by collecting fees under the guise that they would be able to provide immigration documents, according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege the defendants collected thousands of dollars from each victim. They solicited people across the country — including in California and Indiana — and in Mexico, according to prosecutors.

Panesar and Hastie also provided immigration applications to victims and took fingerprints that they said were for immigration forms, authorities said. They often demanded more money to speed up the process or guarantee the immigration documents by a certain date, prosecutors said.

Authorities said they are still seeking other possible victims.


For more California news follow me on Twitter: @sarahparvini

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