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Graciela Ortiz, LAUSD candidate, stripped of counseling job and under district investigation

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Graciela Ortiz, a candidate for the Los Angeles school board, is currently under investigation by the school district after being removed from her position as an L.A. Unified counseling administrator. The investigation stems from a civil lawsuit that alleges Ortiz and a political ally are responsible for the actions of a campaign worker who pleaded no contest to sexual misconduct with an underage volunteer.

The lawsuit, filed on January 9 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, implicates Ortiz and Efren Martinez in the events surrounding the campaign worker, Billy Valdivia. Valdivia also pleaded no contest to a weapons charge, and the suit seeks unspecified damages for the victim, identified as “B.A.” Both Ortiz and Martinez have denied the allegations, with their attorney calling them “malicious and defamatory.”

Ortiz, a Huntington Park City Council member, is running for District 5 of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which includes areas like Eagle Rock, Maywood, and Bell. Her removal from her counseling job pending investigation has led a school-employees union to withdraw its endorsement for her in the upcoming election.

The suit alleges that Ortiz recruited B.A., a high school student, to work on her 2019 school board campaign and later encouraged her involvement in Martinez’s campaign in early 2021. Valdivia, who was involved in the campaign efforts, is accused of grooming B.A. into a sexual relationship.

Despite the ongoing investigation, Ortiz has received strong support from Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which has spent over $700,000 on her campaign. The union represents thousands of school employees, including cafeteria workers, custodians, and bus drivers.

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Ortiz, who previously ran for the school board in 2019, has been a school counselor for most of her career in the district, joining in 2006. The district has confirmed her removal from her position pending the outcome of the investigation but has not provided further details.

The civil lawsuit raises questions about the hiring and supervision of Valdivia by Ortiz and Martinez, alleging negligence on their part. Ortiz’s attorney has denied any connection between B.A. and the political campaigns, but a former police detective involved in the case has confirmed B.A.’s volunteer work for the campaigns.

The case highlights concerns about child safety and the responsibilities of elected officials and campaign organizers in protecting minors. As the investigation continues, the outcomes will have significant implications for Ortiz’s candidacy and the broader issue of accountability in political campaigns.

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The Contribution of Volcanoes to Venus’s Atmospheric Composition

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One of the many mysteries surrounding Venus, our closest planetary neighbor, is the origin of its atmosphere. The planet is veiled in thick clouds, making it challenging to study its surface and atmospheric composition. However, scientists have long speculated about the role of volcanoes in shaping Venus and adding to its atmosphere. With approximately 85,000 volcanoes on Venus, the idea of active volcanic activity is a topic of interest and debate among researchers.

A recent paper by European researchers explores the question of whether Venus has active volcanism through two approaches. The first approach considers whether Venus can maintain its current atmospheric composition without additional gases from volcanic emissions. The variability of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere over decades has been cited as potential evidence of ongoing volcanism. However, some scientists suggest that other factors, such as surface-atmosphere interactions or atmospheric dynamics, could also contribute to this variability.

The second approach focuses on identifying transient effects in Venus’ atmosphere that could indicate active volcanism. These effects could range from water vapor to particulate matter like volcanic ash. Data on these phenomena has been limited, primarily collected through remote sensing missions. However, upcoming missions to Venus, such as DAVINCI and EnVision, aim to provide more direct measurements and insights into the planet’s atmosphere.

DAVINCI, equipped with spectrometers and high-tech cameras, will gather data in Venus’ lower atmosphere to detect trace volcanic gases. It will also analyze ionic concentrations to indicate volcanic outgassing. EnVision, another mission, will focus on studying gases higher up in the atmosphere using various spectroscopic techniques to unravel mysteries in Venus’ cloud tops.

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While current missions offer valuable tools for studying Venus’ atmosphere, there are limitations to consider. For instance, an infrasound sensor could directly detect volcanic eruptions, but no missions currently include this technology. Despite these challenges, researchers are optimistic about the new insights these missions could bring to the ongoing debate on Venus’ volcanic activity.

With the earliest mission, DAVINCI, set to launch in approximately five years, scientists have time to refine their hypotheses and theories about Venus. The data collected during these missions could finally provide conclusive evidence regarding the presence of active volcanism on Venus, answering a long-standing question about our neighboring planet.

As researchers eagerly await the results from upcoming missions, the scientific community is hopeful that these endeavors will shed light on the enigmatic nature of Venus and its mysterious atmosphere. By leveraging advanced technologies and innovative approaches, scientists are poised to unravel the secrets of Venus and potentially redefine our understanding of planetary volcanism.

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