Mixer: Burning a hole in your wallet and on the beach

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MixerBannerTiffany Hsu from the Los Angeles Times and Gustavo Arellano from the OC Weekly joined us.

Yes it’s Black Friday. But we don’t care about the fights going on in the aisles of Walmart. There were gatherings outside, where a couple hundred protesters turned out in a steady rain.

Wal-Mart has long been a target of labor unions because it is a non-union operation. And the group OUR Walmart is demanding the big-box retailer pay more, and retaliate against vocal, unhappy employees less.

The demonstration had no effect on the operations of the store, according to Wal-Mart’s Rachel Walls, who said employees were “busy providing good customer service to Black Friday shoppers”.

Activists say Wal-Mart employees earn less than $17,000 a year and are forced to rely on government assistance. But Walmart says most of its workers earn at least $25,000 a year.

In Ontario, an early morning row with police garnered 10 arrests. Protesters also showed up this afternoon at the Baldwin Hills store on Crenshaw in South Los Angeles as well, but there have been no reports of arrests there.

Arrests aside, our panel agrees the people who gathered to frown on Walmart practices weren’t necessarily looking for trouble. Only some visibility on a big shopping day.

But how sympathetic are shoppers to protesters highlighting the plight of low-paid workers… when in fact, those shoppers are inside trying to find goods that are as cheap as can be? Do people realize the two are connected? Perhaps not.

Meanwhile, in Orange County, there’s an autopsy expected to be performed next week on the body of jail inmate Itzcoatl Ocampo, who was accused of killing 6 people. He was set for trial next year.

Jail guards found Ocampo vomiting and convulsing in his single-man cell Wednesday night.

The 25-year-old was taken to a hospital in Santa Ana, where he died.

Attorney Michael Molfetta says Ocampo died after eating Ajax while in jail. He apparently had been accumulating the cleaning substance over time.

Molfetta says the death raises questions about deputies’ oversight of his client, who had mental health issues. And the OC Weekly’s Gustavo Arellano says this is a big story that will not go away easily.

Also in Orange County, Newport Beach officials voted this week to eliminate about half of the city’s wood-burning beach fire rings because of complaints about smoke drifting into nearby homes.

The 30 remaining rings will be spread further apart and placed next to walkways and parking lots.

This was some sort of compromise move, but what does this say about the power of homeowners over something that’s been going on in Southern California for a long, long time?

City officials say they’ll also look into the possibility of installing natural gas fire pits as well.

Finally, the LA Times’ Tiffany Hsu has been working on stories about food waste. Some restaurants want to draw attention to hunger in our communities and the amount of food Americans waste, especially this time of year. One Chinese buffet restaurant in Silver Lake, she says, is actually charging a fee to customers who leave food on their plates.

Which begs the question: what does that fee encourage?

Beneficence? Or obesity?