Women play second fiddle at summer music festivals like Coachella

INDIO, Calif. — Dee Dee Penny, lead singer of the Dum Dum Girls, is no stranger to performing at giant summer musical events. At the first of the two-weekend Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival events last Friday, her retro-rock act played before thousands of ecstatic fans.

She was just one of an eclectic roster of female artists who galvanized Coachella audiences. Teenage provocateur Lorde dazzled amid a howling dust storm in her summer music festival debut. R&B diva Solange got a surprise assist from her superstar sister, Beyoncé Knowles. Alt-torch singer Lana Del Rey turned in a transfixing trip-hop set. And pop-rock sisters Haim were local conquering heroes as they celebrated the success of their 2013 debut, “Days Are Gone,” which embodies the Coachella spirit by contemporizing retro sounds with hipster/hippie chic.

It’s a benchmark year for Coachella. More solo female artists and all-female bands were on the lineup — 16 — than at any other time in the festival’s history.

PHOTOS: Coachella Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Yet that’s just a fraction of the festival’s 166 acts. While the numbers do improve if one includes Coachella’s 19 co-ed acts, which range from celebrator headliners Arcade Fire, dance-pop trio Chvrches and Penny’s Dum Dum Girls, who recently added a male guitarist to its all-girl crew, that still leaves more than 100 male acts to dominate the bill.

“It’s obnoxious when you show up somewhere and you’re like, ‘Cool, I’m one woman here and there are like 900 dudes,’ ” said Penny, who will return for Coachella’s second weekend. “Of course… I don’t know all of the many things that go into who gets to play. I would hope it’s not as obvious as discrimination.”

In an era when Top 40 radio is led by such pop ingénues as Rihanna, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, who similarly rule social media with more than 127 million combined Twitter followers, the independent music world stubbornly clings to its reputation as a kind of boys’ club.

“Being a woman on tour, you’re kind of in a man’s world,” said bluesy alt-rocker ZZ Ward, who returns to Coachella this weekend. “I’m proud of every woman playing this festival.”

The challenge of creating a truly gender diverse lineup at Coachella — an event renowned as an egalitarian oasis of progressive politics, where artists disenfranchised by the mainstream can expect to encounter masses of open-minded listeners — remains considerable. Although the number of women on the roster is up dramatically from 2013, when only 10 female performers or all-women acts carried the bill, to date only a handful of women have headlined the festival.

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Representatives for Goldenvoice, the concert promoter responsible for Coachella, declined to be interviewed for this story. But to hear it from other programmers of North American summer music festivals, when it comes to determining the performance line-up, gender diversity often takes a back seat to other practical concerns.

“It has everything to do with who’s available, who’s on tour, who’s released a new record, where there’s a ton of buzz,” said Ashley Capps, founder of AC Entertainment, which co-produces the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and Kentucky’s Forecastle Festival. “If we feel we’re getting too male-centric, we will try to address that situation. But it’s usually last minute when we look at how this is balancing out. We go for the greatest artists available to play at any given festival.”

One could correctly argue that major festivals, such as Coachella or Bonnaroo, are simply following the market’s lead. The summer festival season, like much of the concert industry, is driven by male performers.

As the Coachella crowd vacates Indio on Monday, Goldenvoice will begin prepping its three-day, country-focused Stagecoach Festival. The top-billed artists include Eric Church, Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, Hunter Hayes, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line — all men.

PHOTOS: The past headliners at Coachella

And the Electric Daisy Carnival, a multi-day explosion of dance culture that draws a cumulative attendance of more than 320,000 for its three-day festival in Las Vegas, features more than 100 DJs from the electronic music scene. Yet in recent years the number of women performers could be counted on one or two hands.

Meanwhile, only three of 2013’s Top 10 money-making tours were female-fronted acts, according to Pollstar magazine.

“It’s a matter of who the buzz acts are,” said Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar’s editor in chief. “At Coachella, that’s something they’re looking at, and many of those buzz acts are fronted by women. But I don’t know if they’re going out of their way to book them.”

Public officials in a wired world How much privacy should they get

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New technology often challenges society’s long-standing assumptions and standards, but sometimes courts — and others — lose sight of common sense as they grapple with the changes. That’s the case in a recent decision of California’s 6th Appellate District, which found that text messages and emails between public officials are beyond the reach of the Public Records Act if they are sent on private devices rather than ones owned by public agencies.

The three-judge panel said that electronic communications between council members and the mayor of San Jose, even those regarding city business, should not be considered “public” records if they are not “used” or “retained” by the city government (the language cited comes from California’s Public Records Act, written long before smartphones existed). Accordingly, the 6th Circuit overturned the decision of the trial court judge and ruled that the city need not turn over the communications to interested members of the public, even though both sides conceded that they involved official business.

That decision hews to the narrow language of the act, but it distorts the act’s larger purpose, which is to ensure that the public can scrutinize the actions of its employees when they are doing public work. Indeed, the problem with the ruling should be obvious to all: As soon as a public official realizes that his constituents have no right to look at anything he says on his personal cellphone or laptop, he’ll simply do all of his sensitive or secret communications on those devices. With a flick of the wrist, public officials will exempt themselves from accountability.

Does that mean that every communication, no matter how personal, should be subject to public scrutiny? No.

To decide what is a public record, it’s useful to consider four categories: a public communication by a public official on a public device; a private communication by a public official on a public device; a public communication by a public official on a private device; and a private communication by a public official on a private device.

That’s the spectrum. Here’s how it plays out. Any communication by a public official using a government device or server is a public matter. Period. If that same official uses his own phone or other device to conduct public business, that should be public too. But if the official uses his private device for purely private communications, that ought to be considered exempt. No one needs to review the mayor’s grocery list.

This type of line-drawing wasn’t necessary in an era when communications were written on paper, mailed on city stationery and filed in city offices. It’s more complicated now, but the courts must preserve sound principles: When public officials conduct public business, their constituents get to watch. That’s true no matter the platform.

Garcetti’s budget adds more firefighters overhauls 911 dispatch

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first proposed budget calls for hiring 140 firefighters and the start of a sweeping overhaul of the city’s 911 dispatch system, part of a bid to speed the response to hundreds of thousands of calls for help each year.

The revamped dispatch operation, outlined Monday by the mayor’s office as it presented an $8.1-billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year, would unify separate police and fire emergency call centers and gradually replace some uniformed firefighters with lower-paid civilian phone operators.

The proposal is the latest effort to address studies finding that the Los Angeles Fire Department has lagged behind national standards for dispatching rescuers to those needing emergency medical aid and suffered from repeated breakdowns of an aging computer system that manages calls. Last month, a city-funded consultant called for a series of management and technology reforms at the department, including some of the changes Garcetti is proposing.

Garcetti said his budget, the first to provide a road map for his “back to basics” agenda, would expand library hours, add building inspectors and provide for a modest increase in road repairs. But he delayed for one year the implementation of his plan for cutting the city’s business tax — a key part of his agenda for improving the economy.

The spending plan signals that, even with better than expected tax revenue and after years of cuts, the city remains on shaky footing. Garcetti acknowledged the financial constraints, saying 2014-15 will be “a transition year” devoted to restructuring city operations.

“We’re making a down payment on our future,” he said. “And so this first year, the gains will be modest.”

The city’s general fund, which pays for basic services, would grow from $4.9 billion this fiscal year to $5.1 billion under the proposed spending year that starts July 1. While tax revenue is increasing as the economy improves, most of the added income is going to cover increases in city employee pay, pension costs and healthcare expenses, said City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, a high-level budget official.

The Fire Department is a major target of the mayor’s restructuring efforts: Garcetti is seeking more than $1 million to upgrade the technology used to handle 911 calls. That step, mayoral aides said, would be the first in a multiyear effort to combine the police and fire dispatch operations — a plan that could face strong opposition from the firefighters union, which has considerable influence with members of the City Council. Lawmakers must approve a final budget.

Currently, 911 calls for fires and medical emergencies are first answered by civilian call takers at an LAPD facility and then passed on to a separate LAFD facility downtown. There, sworn firefighters working round-the-clock shifts — some of them licensed paramedics — interview callers and decide which rescuers to send.

“Seconds matter when people call 911, and eliminating that extra step of a transfer can make a difference,” said Yusef Robb, a spokesman for the mayor. “The ultimate goal is to have cross-trained personnel who can handle a fire call, a police call, a medical emergency or any sort of 911 call.”

The specifics of the staffing changes have to be worked out, Robb said. But the expectation is that some firefighters and paramedics would remain in the consolidated call center to handle the most severe medical emergencies.

New York City struggled with a similar effort to combine dispatch centers. It took eight years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars to move police, fire and medical call takers to a single location, only to have a city review conclude that the departments still operated separately and often asked duplicative questions.

Councilman Tom LaBonge questioned whether a consolidation here would “result in the kind of improvement the mayor is looking for.” And Fire Capt. Frank Lima, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, said his union would fight efforts to switch to civilian call takers.

“Bottom line is that when my mom is calling 911 and having a medical emergency, I want her talking with an experienced paramedic,” Lima said

Garcetti’s proposal represents a sharp change in position. During his campaign for mayor, he told The Times he opposed staffing the dispatch center with “civilians who have never been in a firetruck.” On Monday, Robb said the mayor’s office had “taken a harder look” and is ready to pursue at least some hiring of civilian medical dispatchers.

The mayor also has had to postpone plans to cut the city business tax, which he frequently portrays as an impediment to economic growth. That initiative figured prominently in his inaugural address last year and surfaced again in Thursday’s State of the City speech. But the idea has drawn resistance from council members, including the mayor’s allies.

On Monday, Garcetti said the city would not be able to afford any immediate reduction in the tax rate. He called instead for a three-year, $45-million reduction in the tax collections, beginning in 2016.

City officials said the cuts would apply to a group of businesses that include lawyers, financial planners, engineering firms and other professional services. By 2018, such businesses would have a tax rate of $4.25 per $1,000 of gross receipts, down from the current $5.07, according to the proposal.

“Because it’s still a tough budget year, we thought it was the responsible thing” to delay the business tax cuts, Garcetti said.

One advocate for a lower tax rate voiced dismay at the gradual pace of the reductions.

“Are we disappointed there’s no immediate relief? Yes. Are we disappointed about the amount of relief? Yes,” said Lloyd Greif, chairman of the city’s Business Tax Advisory Committee. “This is clearly a step in the right direction, but it’s a baby step. It doesn’t go far enough.”

Garcetti’s budget also provides $20 million to repair broken and buckling city sidewalks. Officials budgeted $10 million for the current fiscal year, but none of it has been spent so far because lawmakers are still weighing how to allocate limited funds while facing a legal challenge over the damaged walkways.

The recommendation to hire 140 firefighters would help offset the effects of attrition in a department that saw its sworn workforce shrink by roughly 300 or nearly 10% in recent years.

Parking fines would remain the same next year, but the mayor’s budget calls for a new $1 entry fee for the city’s swimming pools and a $1 boost in zoo admissions, from $18 to $19 for adults. Those efforts were criticized by the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which said Garcetti should have gone after fees charged by Wall Street banks.

“Instead, the city continues to turn to L.A.’s working families and dwindling middle class to make additional sacrifices, including imposing fees that may rob families of participating in some city recreational activities,” the group said in a statement.

Valerie Harper signs seals delivers another role

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Valerie Harper is positively radiant these days. There’s a sparkle in her eyes and a genuine warmth in her smile. Why

not? She’s defied the odds.

Early last year, Harper was told she had three months to live. Harper, a non-smoker who had a cancerous tumor removed from her lung in 2009, has a rare form of lung cancer that had spread to areas around her brain.

“I was supposed to be dead a year ago,” said Harper, 74. “We are all terminal, let’s face it.  I did the shock and grief. My husband, Tony, took it terribly. He said, ‘That’s not true. I don’t accept that.’ ”

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Despite the devastating prognosis, “I kept going,” said Harper, who became a TV icon in her Emmy Award-winning turn as the endearing window dresser Rhoda Morgenstern from 1970-78 on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and her spinoff series, “Rhoda.” “I thought it was important.”

And she thought it was important for her fans, whom she calls her “extended” family, to know about what was happening. “People write me letters — not just about this — that are so loving and supportive, for years,” she said. “I know there are a whole bunch of Rhoda rooters out there.”

Harper has kept an extraordinary pace since her diagnosis. She reunited with “MTM” stars Moore, Betty White, Georgia Engel and Cloris Leachman for the finale of TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” last fall. She did “Dancing With the Stars” last season — Harper and her partner, Tristan McManus, were voted off after their fourth dance — and has a quirky guest starring role in Martha Williamson’s (“Touched by an Angel,” “Promised Land”) new series “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which premieres Easter evening on the Hallmark Channel.

“The message of all of this is don’t give up on your life worrying about death,” Harper said, during a recent interview at the Hallmark Channel offices in Studio City.

Earlier this week, Harper took to the media to clarify a magazine article that quoted her saying, “I’m absolutely cancer free.” Harper isn’t “absolutely” cancer free. But she has responded well to the medicine she has taken for the last year.

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“Every subsequent brain scan is less and less and now my brain scan looks normal,” she said. “It’s great that it’s cleared up in my brain scan, but it could be anywhere the spinal fluid is.”

Long before she was cast as Rhoda, Harper was a professional dancer who appeared in the corps de ballet at the Radio City Music Hall as a teenager as well as in the chorus of such early 1960s musicals as “Wildcat” with Lucille Ball and “Take Me Along” with Jackie Gleason and Robert Morse.

But it had been along time since she danced when she joined “Dancing With the Stars” last fall. “I turned it down many times,” she said. When the series approached Harper after her diagnosis, she told her husband, ‘Why should I do it? I have cancer.’ He said, ‘That’s why you should do it. Think of the people you will inspire.’”

She got letters of thanks, including one from a woman who wrote her, “My mom has cancer and I can’t get her off the couch. But she saw ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and went to dance class the next day.”

Harper and McManus have remained close and even meet for an occasional dinner. “I had such a great time working with Valerie,” said McManus. “I didn’t know much about her beforehand. Generally with the show I try to get to know my partners. I was really surprised at how interested Valerie was in me as well. There was an honesty about it. It was like we were building a relationship as well as a partnership.”

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“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” revolves around four civil servants who become an elite team of lost-mail detectives determined to deliver the undeliverable. The uplifting family show reunites Harper with Williamson, who has been a good friend since the actress did her first “Touched by Angel” episode, as well as series star Eric Mabius (“Ugly Betty”), who worked with Harper in a 2001 TV movie, “Dancing on the Harvest Moon.”

Harper’s Theresa is the group’s new, slightly eccentric supervisor. A legend in the postal service, all she really wants to do is act. Harper performs the life-affirming “No Time at All” from “Pippin” in the first episode and in the second offers sage advice to her staff on not wasting a moment of life as Glinda in an amateur production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

The role was tailored for Harper. “Valerie is somebody who would take a challenge like this and turn it into an opportunity to encourage other people,” Williamson noted. “The first thing she and Tony said to me when I told them about the show was we want to use this show as an opportunity to encourage other people.”

Harper also encourages everyone on the set. “Actors are usually terribly neurotic and worried about what people are thinking of them,” said Mabius. “It’s a breath of fresh air to be around Valerie, who wants everyone around her to succeed. She’s constantly pushing people to be better than they think they can be and making sure everyone has fun.”

Harper plans to keep working as long as she can. She’s mulling two plays “heading toward Broadway — maybe,” said, smiling.  “There is one I really love. We’ll see.”

Buss family faces crucial moment with the Lakers

The six brothers and sisters, with a gap of 31 years from eldest to youngest, gathered in the winter near the first anniversary of their father’s death to discuss some problems about the family business. It’s also the city’s treasured sports team — the Lakers.

The team was nose-diving in the standings, losing the interest of fans, and grinding toward its worst season since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1960.

So Jeanie Buss posed an elementary question to her siblings: What was going on with the Lakers?

Her older brother Jim Buss, 54, in charge of the Lakers’ basketball operations, spoke up in the boardroom of the team’s El Segundo training facility and pledged to resign in a few years if the suddenly dark fortunes of the franchise weren’t reversed.

“I was laying myself on the line by saying, if this doesn’t work in three to four years, if we’re not back on the top — and the definition of top means contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship — then I will step down because that means I have failed,” he told The Times about the meeting. “I don’t know if you can fire yourself if you own the team … but what I would say is I’d walk away and you guys figure out who’s going to run basketball operations because I obviously couldn’t do the job.

“There’s no question in my mind we will accomplish success. I’m not worried about putting myself on the line.”

It was an emotional meeting, and the siblings — including Johnny, Janie, Joey and Jesse — agreed that Jim deserved more time on the job.

Their father, Jerry Buss, died in February 2013. He left his six children — each with an equal vote — in charge of a family trust, with a 66% ownership stake in the team. But the results of their first season as co-owners weren’t close to championship caliber.

“We’re watching a very unfortunate thing happen to a beloved team right now,” former Lakers coach Phil Jackson told The Times before taking the job last month as president of the New York Knicks. “Everybody is kind of aghast at it and people that are the best customers that any franchise can possibly hope for are dissatisfied, and rightly so.”

Many family businesses struggle after a patriarch dies. But four of the six Buss children remain active in the Lakers’ operations and the family isn’t facing a financial crisis. Their dad left them a franchise valued at more than $1 billion and another great gift — a 25-year, $5-billion broadcast deal with Time Warner Cable. And they seem committed to keeping the Lakers in the family.

“We’re not selling the team. It’s not what we were raised to do,” Jim said. “My dad groomed us for basically 20 years to do what we’re doing.”

But like many extended families, there are disputes and nuances within the relationships of the Buss clan.

One of the most complicated involves Jackson, who coached the Lakers to five championships, and is the fiance of Jeanie Buss, 52. Her father selected her to be the team governor, the franchise’s highest position, and she was placed in charge of the team’s business operations.

She was clearly upset when the Lakers did not rehire Jackson as coach in November 2012, after Jim abruptly fired Coach Mike Brown five games into the season.

The team talked with Jackson about the job and Jeanie wanted him to return to the sidelines. Jeanie later wrote in her book, “Laker Girl,” that she felt betrayed by the decision to hire Mike D’Antoni, pinning it on her brother Jim, even though their father, from his hospital bed, made the final decision. Jim in turn was upset by Jeanie’s book.

However, with Jackson working for the Knicks, some in the Lakers organization believe his departure might help smooth out past family disputes.

Jim insists he and his sister Jeanie get along fine.

“I hate to burst the bubble of what the perception is. We’ve worked together for many, many, many years,” he said. “With the missing piece of my dad, people think we have lost a connection, but that’s not true. It’s just business as usual.”

Still, interviews with NBA officials, agents, players and current and former team employees suggest that the communication between the Lakers’ business and basketball operations needs some improvement. Kobe Bryant raised the issue last month, saying the Lakers’ future starts with Jim and Jeanie “and how that relationship plays out.”

For her part, Jeanie uses the word “empowering” to describe the current situation with Jim, and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, trying to fix the basketball side of the franchise.

“Jim has assured me that they have a plan in place, that the team will be better next year and we will be back in contention shortly,” Jeanie said. “He’s very confident in that plan and so I have to believe he knows what he’s doing and what he’s trying to accomplish. We have to be patient and give him that opportunity.”

Bill seeks to ease California’s affordability housing crisis

Most Californians can’t afford their rent.

The state’s affordability crisis has worsened since the recession, as soaring home prices and rents outpace job and income growth. Meanwhile, government funds to combat the problem have evaporated.

Local redevelopment agencies once generated roughly $1 billion annually for below-market housing across California, but the roughly 400 agencies closed in 2012 to ease a state budget crisis. In addition, almost $5 billion from state below-market housing bonds, approved by voters last decade, is nearly gone.

A state bill seeks to replace some of those funds and create more than 10,000 low- and moderate-income homes annually through a $75 fee for recording real estate documents. But the proposal has drawn criticism from some in the real estate industry who say it unfairly saddles homeowners and businesses with added costs.

“It disproportionally burdens one segment of the society with something that should be borne by the entire population,” said lobbyist Alexander Creel of the California Assn. of Realtors.

The bill, SB 391, would replace a portion of lost funds, $300 million to $720 million annually, depending how many documents are recorded. Those involved in a sale are exempt from the $75 fee.

State and federal funding for below-market housing in California has plummeted 79% over the last five years, according to a recent study from the California Housing Partnership, which supports the bill. California’s median inflation-adjusted rent, meanwhile, jumped more than 20% to $1,209 from 2000 to ’12, according to census data.

According to another recent study, from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, more than half of California renters can’t reasonably afford their homes.

“We have a real crisis on our hands,” said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), who introduced the California Homes and Jobs Act last year.

With declining government support, planned below-market housing developments have stalled, advocates say.

“No one is sure when they can move forward with their projects,” said Matt Schwartz, president of the California Housing Partnership Corp., a state-created nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving low-income units.

About a year ago, Meta Housing Corp. opened a below-market senior housing development in Long Beach, but the 123-unit second phase has ground to a halt. Groundbreaking on an empty lot is nowhere in sight.

“It really depends when we can cobble together the cash,” said Aaron Wooler of Century Housing, a financier for low-income projects that is working on the development.

Meanwhile, demand for existing units is crushing. The waiting list for the first 200 units reached 1,200 households when the development opened, Wooler said. The waiting list has since dropped to 354 households.

Despite heavy demand, low-income projects don’t pencil out for most developers. Making money building apartments in California — where land and construction costs are high — requires charging high rents. The government subsidies enable developers to offer affordable rents for low- to moderate-income households, advocates say.

“The fact that the redevelopment agencies went away was a major hit,” Wooler said.

Critics of the agencies accused them of wasteful spending, making them politically vulnerable to Gov. Jerry Brown’s bid to close their doors. A 2010 Times investigation found that dozens of cities spent hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for below-market housing without building a single such unit.

SB 391 places a $75 fee on recorded real estate documents, such as those required for a refinance, mechanic’s lien and foreclosure, among others. The Senate passed the bill during last year’s session, and it is now in the Assembly.

The bill faces opposition from the politically powerful California Assn. of Realtors, as well as credit unions that say struggling homeowners may shy away from refinancing. Creel, the Realtors group lobbyist, noted that the fee applies to each document recorded, and many transactions require more than one.

In most cases, two or three documents are filed for a refinance, and the borrower pays the fees, said Richard T. Cirelli, a Laguna Beach mortgage broker.

Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics said the bill doesn’t create nearly enough low-income units or tackle the root causes that have depressed new housing of all types and made units that do open extremely expensive. A far more efficient tack, Thornberg said, is to limit the ability of neighbors to challenge projects, which can delay development for years, even decades.

“Until you deal with those … problems, housing is going to be extremely expensive in California,” he said.

But the bill serves as an important tool to combat the affordability crisis, supporters say. It has drawn backing from labor groups, developers, homeless advocates and mental health organizations. Business groups have also lent support, saying housing costs have soared so high that they hurt recruitment.

“It sometimes becomes a real challenge to find employees that are close enough that they want to come to work for you,” said Gary L. Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Saku Koivu’s defense could make difference in Ducks’ bid for the Cup

Saku Koivu saw his retiring teammate, friend and Finnish countryman Teemu Selanne skate around the arena bathed in cheers last week in the Ducks’ final regular-season home game.

Moved, of course, Koivu quickly set aside the moment that’s so close to home.

Because there are still games to win.

Koivu, 39, could be just as close to retirement as Selanne, but the 18-year NHL veteran center hasn’t officially announced his intentions.

“Very private guy, very unselfish — been like that a long time,” Koivu’s linemate Andrew Cogliano said. “And because he is, he’s a leader on this team.”

Koivu’s team-first mentality has functioned like the quiet heartbeat for the Ducks, who for the first time in franchise history earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and take a 2-0 first-round lead over the Dallas Stars to Texas when the series resumes Monday.

The former Montreal Canadiens captain has never won a Stanley Cup.

Twelve times in his career, Koivu has produced 30 or more assists in a season — he had a personal-best 53 in 2006-07 — and his 11 goals this season marked the 15th time he’s reached double figures.

Yet, in this campaign, Koivu’s attention has been focused mostly on defense.

Koivu, Cogliano and Daniel Winnik have been charged by Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau with hounding the opponents’ first lines, and Koivu’s past power-play assignments have been eliminated.

“He was put in a situation he’s never been in his entire career, and he’s responded very well,” Winnik said. “I’ve never heard him complain one bit about his role with the team. He takes pride in shutting down the other team’s top lines.”

Koivu has gotten to the point he realizes his duties could well be the difference between elimination and the Cup.

“It comes down to that defensive part of the game, and when we play strong in the neutral zone, we’re a real tough team to beat,” he said.

That same loyalty to teamwork and fierce inner resolve made Koivu one of Montreal’s most beloved players.

In 2001, he was diagnosed with life-threatening non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, recovered and returned to play in April 2002, generating a greeting from Canadiens fans that remains a must-watch YouTube event.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Koivu’s return to Anaheim this season was only a matter of him telling General Manager Bob Murray he wanted to play.

As the Ducks sprinted to a 20-0-2 start at home, Koivu and his linemates kept the opposing top lines in check — overall, he was plus-three in goal differential while on the ice.

In January, he made a stunning decision.

Rather than join eventual Olympic hockey tournament MVP Selanne, 43, on Team Finland, four-time Olympic medalist Koivu opted to skip the three weeks in Sochi, Russia, in order to rest for the playoffs.

Boudreau said he was in awe of such commitment.

Koivu said the move, along with being a healthy scratch from two late-season back-to-back games, has worked, preserving his energy for the most important games.

Raising the stakes that high for this playoff run clearly reveals Koivu’s interest in grabbing hockey’s brass ring this spring.

“That’s no secret,” he said.

What remains hidden is Koivu’s concrete position on retirement.

“Well, that’s … I haven’t thought that far away,” Koivu said. “You want [the Cup], I’ve worked for it all these years and retiring would probably be easier if [winning it] happened.

“But right now, you try to keep the focus on the game and not think about the future. You start doing that, you lose the focus, that intensity you’re trying to find. You hope that’s going to happen.

“And if it does, then I might have an answer for you.”

Koivu’s most gratifying offensive satisfaction of the campaign was Cogliano producing a career-high 21 goals.

“Very calming influence on the ice, because he knows what to do, plays the game the right way,” Cogliano said. “When you have someone who plays at both ends of the rink — who’s been at a high level for a long time — it makes your life a lot easier.”

Boudreau said Koivu is a favorite choice for ice time in the final minutes to help seal a victory.

“I can put him in there and something good is usually going to happen,” Boudreau said.

Koivu’s situation and contributions are a strong motivator for the Ducks.

“We realize as a team it’s Teemu’s last kick at the can, and maybe Sak’s,” Winnik said. “You see this in other sports, too, how a team rallies around a guy who may be playing his last year with the team. … Hopefully, we do the same for Sak.”

Business Briefing

IMac delays blamed on its popularity

Apple Inc. said the popularity of its new iMacs has led to shipment delays, causing two-week waits for customers ordering a 27-inch version of the desktop computer through the company’s website.

Apple started selling updated versions of its all-in-one iMac computer in October. The Apple fan site AppleInsider.com, citing resellers, said some buyers of the 27-inch models have complained about flickering screens and yellow-tinged displays — problems that Apple may be delaying production to fix. Users also have reported screen malfunctions on the iMac discussion board at Apple’s website.

A spokesman declined to comment on the cause of the shipment delays.

AUTOMOBILES

Ford executive praises Obama

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. met with President Obama and endorsed the administration’s handling of the struggling auto industry.

Ford credited Obama for stepping in to help General Motors and Chrysler and prevent auto suppliers from collapsing. Ford said the administration acted “swiftly and forcefully and it worked.”

Bill Ford delivered a list of recommendations to the Commerce Department developed at a Detroit business summit on ways to revitalize the economy.

AEROSPACE

Maiden flight for Boeing 787 is set

Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner is ready to fly today if Seattle’s skies clear, providing “a really big day” for the plane maker, said James Albaugh, the head of commercial operations.

Final tests during the weekend went well and engineers aren’t “working any issues” before the maiden flight, which is now scheduled a few days ahead of plan, Albaugh said. The second test jet is “in very good shape” and should be in the air Dec. 22, barring any unexpected problems, he said.

FOOD

Cadbury fighting Kraft takeover

Britain’s Cadbury kicked off a robust defense against Kraft Foods Inc.’s $16.3-billion hostile takeover offer, urging shareholders not to let the U.S. maker of cheese, cookies and macaroni dinners “steal your company with its derisory offer.”

Cadbury also confirmed that it had received rival approaches from Hershey Co. and Italy’s Ferrero International but said they were too preliminary to begin proper talks.

Kraft said that it stood by its offer and that it was reviewing Cadbury’s response.

AIRLINES

British Airways crews plan strike

British Airways cabin crews will strike over the Christmas period, their union said, throwing the plans of thousands of holiday travelers into uncertainty at one of the busiest times of the year.

Strikes will begin Dec. 22 and run until Jan. 2, said Len McCluskey, the assistant general secretary for Britain’s Unite union. McCluskey said 92.5% of workers voted in favor of the action.

INTERNATIONAL

Greece’s leader to cut spending

Greece’s prime minister announced a barrage of spending cuts, promising to control a ballooning budget deficit and warning that the country risked drowning in debt.

George Papandreou called for unity during a speech to business and union leaders in Athens. He pledged that his Socialist government, elected in October, would take steps he said were decades overdue.

What next for the company and its hometown Wolfsburg?

The city of Wolfsburg in Lower Saxony is not merely the hometown of Volkswagen. Wolfsburg is Volkswagen, Germany’s answer to Detroit – but rather more prosperous.

It was founded in the 1930s as a place to house workers building the KdF-Wagen – the car which became the VW Beetle after the Second World War.

Even today, more than half of the town’s 120,000 inhabitants work at the local VW plant, a sprawling complex that covers some 6.5 sq km. Many of the rest provide the services which those employees need, such as shops and restaurants.

It goes without saying that the VW logo is more than a little prominent here. It is the first thing you see when you arrive at the central station, looming over the platforms from the building opposite. It’s on offices, car dealerships and pretty much every vehicle on the roads here.

So a crisis at Volkswagen is a crisis for Wolfsburg.

It threatens the entire social and economic fabric of this town. People here are reluctant to speak about the scandal in the United States, wary of showing disloyalty. But it is clear the events of the past week have taken a heavy toll.

“The people and the employees of Wolfsburg are extremely outraged about what has happened,” says Hartwig Eng, a director of the trade union IG Metall.

“They’ve been working for Volkswagen for three or four generations and that’s why they’re so angry, and justifiably so.”

Volkswagen The scandal explained

What is Volkswagen accused of?

It’s been dubbed the “diesel dupe”. The German car giant has admitted cheating emissions tests in the US. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some cars being sold in America had devices in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results.

VW has had a major push to sell diesel cars in the US, backed by a huge marketing campaign trumpeting its cars’ low emissions. The EPA’s findings cover 482,000 cars in the US only, including the VW-manufactured Audi A3, and the VW brands Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat. But VW has admitted that about 11 million cars worldwide are fitted with the so-called “defeat device”.


The device sounds like a sophisticated piece of kit

Full details of how it worked are sketchy, although the EPA has said that the engines had computer software that could sense test scenarios by monitoring speed, engine operation, air pressure and even the position of the steering wheel.

When the cars were operating under controlled laboratory conditions – which typically involved putting them on a stationary test rig – the device appears to have put the vehicle into a sort of safety mode in which the engine ran below normal power and performance. Once on the road, the engines switched from this test mode.

The result? The engines emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the US.