News Briefs


Vigils to support mother whose son died in Iraq

Candlelight vigils will take place on Aug. 17 in the Malibu area and in more than 500 locations throughout the United States in support of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq and is camped out in Texas demanding to speak with President Bush about the war.

The local vigils will take place at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Webb Way, Zuma Beach and the intersection of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway. They begin at 7:30 p.m.

Topanga tobacco suit could go to U.S. high court

Philip Morris USA said last Thursday that it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a California Court of Appeal ruling that awarded more than $50 million to the widow of a Topanga smoker. The decision came after the California Supreme Court declined the previous day to review the case.

In 2001, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded Richard Broeken, a Marlboro smoker with lung cancer who died a few months later, $3 billion in punitive damages and $5.54 million in compensatory damages. Judge Charles W. McCoy Jr., who presided over the case, reduced the punitive damages to $100 million. Then in 2004, a California Court of Appeal panel upheld the compensatory damages and reduced the punitive damages to $50 million, a ruling that will stand unless reversed by the U.S. high court.

Topanga Spiritualist sentenced

A Malibu Courthouse judge sentenced a Topanga spiritualist last week to a year of probation for practicing medicine illegally. The Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lawrence J. Mira also ordered healer Felix Babu Stephen to take ethics classes and get proper licensing for his practice. The case began a year ago amid allegations of sexual abuse and drug use by Stephen, who practices his healing in a yurt. Authorities later rejected the sex charges due to insufficient evidence, according to the Los Angeles Times, but went forward with charges of practicing illegally and possession of codeine. If convicted of all charges, Stephen could have spent up to six years in jail, but was able to plead no contest to the misdemeanor of practicing medicine without certification.

Nature hike leaders wanted

The Mountains Restoration Trust is offering docent training beginning on Oct. 4. Docents will train to lead small groups of elementary school kids on nature walks in UCLA Stunt Ranch Reserve in Calabasas. The classes will teach docents about issues such as mountain ecology, Chumash culture and geography. For information, call 818.591.9363

Photo contest

The National Park Service is holding its “Spirit of the Mountains Photo Contest” and is accepting entries in September. Photographers can submit entries in the following categories: plants, animals, scenic shots and a new category called “Variations on Light.” Children under 12 can submit up to four photos in their category. Winners will be announced on Oct. 8 and entries will be exhibited at the visitor center from Oct. 8 to Nov. 30. For information, visit or call the visitor center at 805.370.2301.

Golfing for better health

A free program designed to increase awareness about cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart disease and to remind people to talk to their doctors about their heart’s health is taking place at Malibu Country Club through Sept. 15. Participants of the Jack Nicholas Heart and Stroke Challenge are given the option to purchase a “mulligan” for $10 to fund research and education efforts.

For more information, call 818.889.6680