wgaContract talks get underway today between the Writer’s Guild and Hollywood studios – and they could be contentious. The union has blasted an initial studio proposal to cut health and pension benefits. They say the cuts are unreasonable given the big jump in media company profits in the past few years. Writers are also objecting to proposed reductions in payment rates for screenplays and TV residuals. The negotiations are getting started three months before the expiration of the current deal in hopes of hammering out an agreement in time. The writers last went on strike in 2007.

A handful of local high schools picked up some nice academic honors this weekend. Traditional power El Camino Real won the “Super Quiz” portion of LAUSD’s Academic Decathlon, scoring 63 out of a possible 72 points in the game show-style contest. Edgewood High School in West Covina and Redondo Union High School tied for first place in the L.A. County Super Quiz. Meanwhile, Irvine’s University High won the JPL Regional Science Bowl, edging out runner-up Arcadia High School.

pointarenaPresident Barack Obama is reportedly getting ready to follow up on a vow he made during his state of the Union address: to use his executive authority to act when Congress won’t. The Washington Post reports that Obama is preparing to designate areas in California and New Mexico off-limits to development unless Congress passes legislation to give those lands similar protections. In California, Obama wants to preserve 1,600 acres along the Central Coast known as the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands.

COUGARState game wardens say a homeless man has been bitten and clawed by a mountain lion in Riverside County He’s recovering at a hospital after undergoing emergency surgery. The state Department of Fish and Game says the man was camping near a highway west of Perris when he was mauled Saturday night. The man apparently didn’t know what attacked him, but puncture wounds and cuts to his body indicate he was mauled by a big cat. Officials are trying to track the animal.

beesAnd finally, there’s been a small boom in urban beekeeping in Los Angeles in recent years. People have been setting up hives in their backyards, both to harvest honey and to protect America’s wild bee population, which has declined in recent years. There’s just one problem. Residential beekeeping isn’t explicitly legal in Los Angeles. But that could soon change. The L.A City Council is expected to take up the issue as soon as tomorrow.

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