National brief combo


Coalition pushing marriage equality

A coalition of civic and civil rights groups announced a campaign this week to rally for the legalization of same-sex marriage and to counter bullying in New Jersey.

Garden State Equality, the state’s largest gay rights organization, formed the coalition to expand its efforts for marriage equality, one year after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gay marriage bill.

“This is about reaching out to a much wider group of people,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality. “In the fight for equality, we really need everyone onboard.”

Leaders earlier also announced the launch of a new Bullying Resource Center, which will be based at Garden State Equality’s Montclair office. Safe schools expert Shannon Cuttle was hired to lead the center, which will provide resources and training about bullying to educators, parents and children, and host a related website.


Bill to legalize online gambling

Already home to a major gambling industry, Nevada is preparing to take its expertise online after officials approved a law making it the first state to authorize what could become one of the most lucrative gambling markets still to be tapped.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill Thursday in the same Capitol room where lawmakers legalized gambling about 80 years ago. By quickly moving the bill through the Legislature, Nevada gets ahead of rival New Jersey in the online poker business.

“This is an historic day for the great state of Nevada,” said Sandoval, a Republican and former state gaming chairman, during the ceremony in Carson City. “This bill is critical to our state’s economy and ensures that we will continue to be the gold standard for gaming regulation.”

While the law goes into effect immediately, it will probably be months before the first online bet is placed in Nevada and even longer before the games are opened to players outside the state. Numerous obstacles remain, state officials said.


“Deadbeat dad” admits owing $1.2M

The man branded the nation’s worst deadbeat dad by federal officials pleaded guilty Thursday to charges he failed to pay more than $1 million in child support after a run from the law that took him around the world and ended with his arrest in Los Angeles.

Robert Sand, 50, was a successful businessman who lived in the suburbs of Long Island east of New York City before disappearing more than 10 years ago. He had been married twice and had three children, including a daughter with his second wife, whom he left in 2001.

According to federal investigators, Sand had been under orders to pay child support since 1996, and arrest warrants had been issued for him in 2000, 2002, 2009 and 2010. After fleeing New York for Florida and then Thailand, investigators said Sand, who had earned $500,000-$600,000 in the early 1990s, under-reported his income to try to dodge child support payments.

He was caught trying to enter the Philippines without proper paperwork last November, then was put on a plane to Los Angeles, arrested and sent to Islip, N.Y., to face trial. With interest and penalties, the amount he owes comes to about $1.2 million.

Sand had topped the nation’s list of deadbeat parents since the Department of Health and Human Services launched it in January 2012.


Strain of TB claims victims on skid row

Public health officials have launched a new, coordinated attack to contain a persistent outbreak of tuberculosis on downtown Los Angeles’ skid row, including a search for more than 4,500 people who may have been exposed to the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dispatched scientists to Los Angeles to help local health officials determine why the disease is spreading and how to stop it.

Officials say 11 have died since 2007. Sixty of the 78 cases were among homeless people who live on and around skid row.


No bacteria found in hotel water

No traces of disease-causing bacteria were found in the water supply of a downtown Los Angeles hotel where authorities discovered the body of a Canadian tourist inside a rooftop water tank this week, health officials said Thursday.

A do-not-drink order implemented Tuesday was expected to be in place through the weekend until the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health determines that the water is suitable for drinking purposes, said Angelo Bellomo, director of environmental health.

Authorities discovered the body of Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old tourist from Vancouver, British Columbia, inside a water tank on the hotel’s roof Tuesday. A maintenance worker found the body after receiving complaints from Cecil Hotel residents about low water pressure.

McClatchy News Services

An autopsy was completed Thursday, but Lam’s cause of death will be deferred pending toxicology tests, coroner’s officials said. The results could take six to eight weeks.

Health officials tested for disease-causing coliforms at points inside the 15-story hotel.