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We’ve been investigating a federal agency’s killing of thousands of animals across the county, and our latest article examines their work to protect endangered species here.

“Government officials, local biologists and environmental groups laud the work, saying the targeted killing is essential for the recovery of endangered species like the California least tern and Western snowy plover,” our Rob Davis reports.

But it’s also just a sliver of what the agency does. It’s killed thousands of other animals here for reasons that have nothing to do with rare birds — and it hasn’t explained why. And its tactics elsewhere have killed rare and protected animals like a wolverine, bald eagles, even a California condor.

“The fundamental issue,” an environmental advocate tells us, “is that we have a rogue agency, Wildlife Services, indiscriminately killing wildlife elsewhere for the benefit of ranchers and hobby farmers who should be taking care of their animals — where there are few proven benefits to control and very significant concerns.”

Digging into Filner’s Past

Rep. Bob Filner was a Freedom Rider in the Civil Rights Movement — there’s even a 1961 mugshot of him from Jackson, Miss. — and his work as an activist more than a half-century ago remains a big part of his public persona.

What gave him the motivation to risk it all in the South? The mayoral candidate says his father, a leftist who fought discrimination after seeing the horrors of the Holocaust, was a major influence. “All of a sudden this completely introverted nerd had something to talk about,” Filner tells us. “It changed my life personally. I did something that was really worthy. Even my father and mother realized. They were very hard to please.”

An FBI file reveals an unusual incident regarding the elder Filner’s attempt to get his son a job in a congressional office. Rep. Filner says he never knew about it: “…why would the FBI care whether I’m getting a job or not? I’m 26. Why are they worrying about following what I’m going do? Jeez. You’d think they have more important things to do.”

Images of Historic Balboa Park: Forward, March!

We’ve been tracking the history of Balboa Park, and our latest flashback noted the crown jewel’s service as a bustling military center during the last century’s two world wars. Now, we’ve put together several nifty photos that will show you just how unexpected things got at the park: one shows sailors learning how to swim in the lily pond, while another captures 3,400 sailors making a human Navy pennant.

And yes, those are sailors — complete with sailor hats — learning to row-row-row a boat in the lily pond. They didn’t really have room to maneuver, but at least they got to get the hang of the oars.

Our weekly Arts Report recaps our coverage of the history of Balboa Park, links to the latest local arts and culture news, and offers a reminder about our Meeting of the Minds arts extravaganza event tonight at Horton Plaza.

Remember: You’re invited to the top of Horton Plaza’s parking garage at 7:30 p.m. See you there. (I won’t sing “Up on the Roof” in a falsetto if you don’t.)

Top of the Pops

Our look at Councilman Carl DeMaio’s flip-flops topped the list of the most popular VOSD stories of the past week, followed by an examination of what we learned about the late astronaut Sally Ride and a look at local unpaid hospital bills.

Quick News Hits

• Prop. B, the pension reform initiative approved by voters in June, is moving forward thanks to a judge who says it won’t be delayed while a state agency figures out if it’s legal. (U-T)

• We’ve questioned the police department’s use of limited crime statistics to push its bid for more funding.

Shelley Zimmerman, the department’s assistant chief, defended the use of the statistics on KPBS yesterday: “As managers on the police department, we look at a number of different factors and just one of them was the crime rate,” she said. “And it had been down for many years. And it was alarming to see just in the first five months of this year compared to last year that it was up 12.6 percent.”

• The power company that runs the San Onofre nuclear power plant wants to switch it back on by the end of the year. (AP)    

• The ordeal of a local ex-Marine wrongly accused of desertion — he was put “in handcuffs and a restraint belt and hauled him across the country to face trial” — “provides a glimpse into a rarely seen, slow-moving, stiflingly bureaucratic world of military desertions, where one administrative mistake can result in a catch-22 that Joseph Heller couldn’t have invented,” writes CityBeat reporter Dave Maass on wired.com.

• A new report links climate change to a big increase in rainstorms locally, KPBS reports.

• A college student who grew up attending an evangelical Christian church in East County before drifting away returns home and writes about visiting Santee’s Creation Museum: He finds much that’s ridiculous, but that’s not all. He also finds “beauty in the beliefs,” he writes in Salon: “Creationists believe we live in a one-race world, all descendents of Adam and Noah. There’s no black, white and brown, there’s just skin – all acceptable and all deserving of our love. Even if the creationists are wrong about that, I’d still rather think about race that way.”

For Three Papers, a Case of Hoax-Us Pocus

San Diego has had plenty of big hoaxes in its time. Like the guy who in 2009 convinced a whole bunch of people that he was the next Mr. Rogers. (He most certainly was not). Plus the San Diego Union columnist who became a star by uncovering Abraham Lincoln’s supposed love letters (fake!) and the radio personality who declared (on April 1) that the space shuttle would land here (not!).

La Mesa even has been home to one of the world’s leading hoax experts, whom we profiled in 2009.

Now there’s a new one for the local Hoax Hall of Fame: Someone wrote two fake press releases, both supposedly from local U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, and three newspapers (the Reader, the U-T and Los Angeles Times) fell for at least one of them. The first one declared a crackdown on pharmacies in wealthier parts of town.

The hoaxes were the product of a pro-medical marijuana group, the U-T later reported, and the FBI is investigating. And there was more than fake press release-ery: Some pharmacies even received “cease and desist” notices.

Fortunately, no one enlisted me to impersonate the U.S. attorney in a press release. I know I’d give myself away by quoting senior prosecutors like Amanda Huginkiss.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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