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— A U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, stationed for the summer on the USS Mount Vernon here, has been accused of raping a 19-year-old civilian at a party in East San Diego. Midshipman 2nd Class Lawrence Herrera, a 21-year-old mechanical engineering major from Santa Fe, New Mexico, is set for a preliminary hearing today. According to a report in the Washington Post, Herrera was found passed out in the bathroom of a private home when police arrived shortly after 3:00 a.m. on June 19. The alleged victim said she awoke to find Herrera molesting her. The incident is the latest in a long string of alcohol-related sexual scandals to plague the academy. In March, three ex-football players from the school agreed to resign in order to avoid second-degree rape charges stemming from a case involving a 20-year-old female classmate who said she was assaulted after she passed out in a bedroom during a party. Bill Spann, an academy spokesman, wouldn't comment but issued a statement saying, "Issues such as dignity and respect, moderation with respect to alcohol, and the overall rules and regulations of the Naval Academy are something that are first and foremost in the minds of every midshipman from [Induction Day] through graduation and is a steady drumbeat that continues throughout their four-year program."

Have mower, will travel The head groundskeeper at Qualcomm Stadium spent three days last week up in Idaho Falls, Idaho, helping his peers there tidy up the turf for the Padres farm club, known as the Idaho Falls Padres. San Diego city employee Steve Wightman says he made the 900-mile trip at the behest of the Padres, who picked up the tab for his room, board, and air fare, because the Idaho infield was getting worn down. He adds he took vacation time for the extra duty and stopped off for a family wedding in San Francisco on the way up ... Gary Condit, that Democratic congressman linked to missing intern Chandra Levy, had a bit part in the 1978 cult-classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, made by his then-assembly colleague Steve Peace. Condit, a member of Peace's "Gang of Five," which tried unsuccessfully to topple then-assembly speaker Willie Brown, plays a customer at a brawl in a Chula Vista pizza joint. The Smoking Gun, a website devoted to covering all manner of scandals, discovered Condit's brief walk-on ... Attorney Lisa Foster, wife of San Diego schools chief Alan Bersin, has joined the national board of Common Cause, the political reform group ... Is pledge night dead? Doug Myrland, general manager of KPBS, is quoted in the Chronicle of Philanthropy as saying such on-air fundraisers are "a quick fix." "We are hitting our short-term financial goals, but we haven't invested enough in figuring out how to make sure we have long-term members."

Break a fin The Union-Tribune really likes Ocean Oasis, an Imax documentary about the ecology of Baja California produced by the San Diego Natural History Museum. First came praise from columnist Neil Morgan: "Raves cross-country are in print for Iliana Ortega Bacmeister, 30, a Mexican marine biologist, for her lyrical narration of the Natural History Museum's new giant-screen film about Baja." Then there was Otto Kreisher: "The product is spectacular, particularly the underwater scenes, many of which feature Iliana Ortega Bacmeister, a Mexican marine biologist who narrates scenes of her visits with myriad fish, a lovely ballet with a large manta ray and some scary encounters with sharks." But then the movie hit the road to L.A., where Daily Variety critic Robert Koehler reported, "If audible yawns during a paid-audience screening are any indicator, Oasis isn't likely to gather in the green typical at these venues.... When a mundane, educational approach is adopted, even the biggest cameras tend to reduce the subject rather than excite the eye and mind." Koehler's verdict: "Outside of the haunting, unexpectedly disturbing contemplation of a dead, decaying humpback whale -- there is little that's especially remarkable here, and even less unique to Baja.... Alan Reeves's score is generically grand when it isn't clearly borrowing from Michael Nyman, and the narration, which jumps around from one Mexican scientist to another, comes in sometimes heavily accented English."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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