La Bella's horde

— The latest in a very long line of high-powered gigs for attorney Charles La Bella: helping the University of California get itself out of federal hot water over UC's mismanagement of the Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico. UC has run the nuclear labs under contract to the feds since 1943, when the A-bomb was being developed. Lately though, lab director John C. Browne has been besieged by charges of fraud, theft, and other malfeasance. He was forced out last week by exiting UC president Richard Atkinson, who at the same time announced La Bella's new liaison role between the university and the U.S. government. Insiders aren't surprised. La Bella also works for Padres owner John Moores and his bankrupt software outfit, Peregrine Systems. That role has sparked attacks by Peregrine creditors, who claim La Bella is too closely tied to the baseball mogul to deal with an ongoing federal investigation of the company. The creditors especially took umbrage at La Bella's role as Moores's lawyer during a federal grand jury investigation two years ago into councilwoman Valerie Stallings and various gifts she'd gotten from Moores. Moores has been a close friend and business partner of Warren Hellman, the wealthy San Francisco venture capitalist, political donor, and powerful UC alumnus, who also happens to be the father-in-law of UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes. Atkinson, who ran UCSD before Dynes, is headed back to autumn retirement in La Jolla, with Dynes a prime candidate to succeed him. And Moores, appointed two years ago to the UC board of regents after giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Democratic governor Gray Davis, just happens to be on the regents' committee that will make the final selection. In addition to serving as a hired gun for Moores and the university, the ubiquitous La Bella operates a securities fraud law practice with partner Tom McNamara, another ex-deputy U.S. Attorney who ran the ultimately unfruitful federal investigation into the Stallings-Moores relationship.

Land users Look for a knockdown fight next week at San Diego's board of education over getting rid of some choice property on Commercial Street in Barrio Logan. Two months ago, on a three-to-two vote, a district advisory panel declared the land to be surplus, and a horde of eager developers are vigorously lobbying behind the scenes to take it off the district's hands. But, it turns out, the advisory committee members failed to file statements of economic interests disclosing their personal financial holdings, and even more questions about the deal's propriety are expected to soon emerge ... Clouds of war are gathering, and some ex-UCSD academics are beginning to speak out -- at least to foreign reporters. From retired Asian policy expert Chalmers Johnson, as quoted in Japan's Daily Yomiuri: "The Americans are in favor of globalization only so long as it serves their interests. I believe that this is a disastrous thing for [the country] to do, and it will come back to haunt the United States. I'd have to say globalization right now is dead, that in fact what we see as a trend in the world [is] 'Anti-Americans of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your hegemony!'" But if old professors are disgruntled by talk of battle, UCSD administrators are not, having rolled out a glitzy new "Homeland Security" website, complete with a shot of the Statue of Liberty and Old Glory unfurled behind, along with fiery color images of the 9/11 attacks. The site hypes the university's contributions to everything from smallpox and anthrax defenses to "port and border security."

Roll the dice With yet another big Las Vegas casino hotel opening a mega-convention center, visitor-industry insiders say prospects for San Diego ever breaking even on its own taxpayer-funded bayfront meeting place are fading fast. This week the 1.4- million-square-foot Mandalay Bay convention center opens for business. That's on top of Vegas's main convention center (2.4 million square feet) and the Sands Expo and Convention Center (1.3 million square feet). It's bad news for Mayor Dick Murphy, who once hoped to abolish the $5 million taxpayer subsidy San Diego's center gets each year. Convention organizers are expected to seek even greater price breaks here, courtesy of local taxpayers ... Phoenix attorney Scott Bergthold, who drafted San Diego's county anti-strip club law, is set to pick up an $11,500 contract to do the same for Oklahoma City next week ... Michael Robertson, chief executive of La Jolla's Lindows software outfit, has admitted being the mystery backer of a $200,000 reward for anyone who can hack Microsoft's Xbox video-game console to run Linux.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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