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California coastal regulator fined for conflict of interest in SeaWorld case

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A member of the regulatory commission that controls coastal development in California was fined by the state’s ethics watchdog on Thursday for voting on an expansion of SeaWorld’s San Diego theme park while his wife owned stock in the company.

Gregory Cox, who is also a longtime member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement Thursday he did not know that his wife had purchased 500 shares of SeaWorld stock in January of 2015 for her personal retirement account, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

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“When I discovered the purchase, the stock was sold and the facts were reported,” Cox said. “Both my wife and I deeply regret the oversight.”

About three months after Cheryl Cox bought the stock for $8,679, SeaWorld filed an application with the California Coastal Commission to expand a facility at which captive orcas, or killer whales, are held and shown to the public.

Cox introduced a motion to support the project with limitations on the number of orcas involved, voting ultimately to support an amended version calling for an end to SeaWorld’s orca breeding program. On Thursday, the California Fair Political Practices Commission voted to fine him $3,000.

The SeaWorld shows, which the park has since said it would end along with its orca breeding program, have been controversial for years, with public opposition growing after the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” depicted the captivity and public exhibition of killer whales as inherently cruel.

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The criticism intensified after three orcas died at SeaWorld San Antonio within a six-month span in 2015.

SeaWorld said last month that it would stop breeding killer whales in captivity, bowing to years of pressure from animal rights activists. The company has also said that it will phase out its signature “Shamu” killer whale shows in San Diego with modified presentations of the animals that focused on conservation.

Cox told the FPPC he discovered that his wife owned the stock in January while preparing his taxes and his annual disclosure of economic interests as a public official.

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He asked her to sell the stock, and reported the conflict to the FPPC, documents show.

But the FPPC said Cox and his wife, a former mayor of the city of Chula Vista who sold her stock for about $9,593, were longtime elected officials who “had a high level of awareness” of conflict of interest laws.

Cox should have known that he had a conflict, the FPPC said.

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(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bernard Orr)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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UK braced for key court ruling on parliament suspension

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Britain's Supreme Court will rule on Tuesday whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully in suspending parliament, in a seismic case that could have profound implications for Brexit and the country's constitutional foundations.

If the verdict goes against Johnson, it could see parliament rapidly reassemble and would inevitably trigger questions about his position, having unlawfully advised Queen Elizabeth II to suspend parliament.

It would be the latest hammer blow to his plans for taking Britain out of the European Union on October 31, and pile huge pressure on his minority government.

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Seoul confirms 4th swine fever case — and asks North Korea for cooperation

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South Korea confirmed its fourth case of African swine fever on Tuesday, as Pyongyang was yet to respond to Seoul's request to make joint efforts to tackle the deadly animal disease.

The latest case was confirmed at a farm in Paju, a city near the inter-Korean border where the nation's first case was recorded, according to Seoul's agriculture ministry.

South Korea has culled around 15,000 pigs since the first case was reported on Sept 17.

"We have carried out an immediate culling and are proceeding with an epidemiological investigation," the ministry said in a statement, adding that some 2,300 pigs were being raised at the affected farm.

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Not just Franco: Settling on a final resting place for deceased controversial leaders presents challenges

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Settling on a final resting place for deceased controversial leaders, such as Spain's dictator Francisco Franco whose remains the government wants moved from a state mausoleum, has been troublesome for many countries.

Ahead of a court ruling on Franco's case Tuesday, here are some examples:

- Soviet Union: Joseph Stalin -

On his death in 1953, Stalin was buried in the Moscow mausoleum of his predecessor, Vladimir Lenin.

Eight years later a process of "de-Stalinisation" was launched to dismantle the dictator's personality cult. His remains were quietly transferred to a more modest resting place near the Kremlin, which still attracts diehard communists.

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