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Here's your daily audio briefing (updated weekdays):


Coronavirus Outbreak: State Department Now Warns Against Any Travel To China

Before the warning went out, signs at LAX advised travelers to and from Wuhan, China. (Jackie Fortiér for LAist)

The U.S. State Department is warning against all travel to China out of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The Level 4 Travel Advisory -- the highest level warning -- comes hours after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency and American officials confirmed the first person-to-person spread of the virus in the U.S.

Chinese health officials say there are now 9,692 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country. 213 people have died.

The CDC's current count has 5 confirmed cases in the U.S. -- new numbers are expected tomorrow.

In Los Angeles County, where authorities are combatting rumors and warning against discrimination, leaders plan to provide the public with updates at a news conference Friday morning. Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) are scheduled to speak and the news release said members of the local Chinese American community will participate.


Congress to Consider A Helicopter Safety Act After Kobe Crash

NTSB investigator Carol Horgan examines wreckage as part of the NTSB’s investigation of the the crash of a Sikorsky S76B helicopter near Calabasas. (NTSB photo by James Anderson)

Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Burbank) today called for tougher safety standards for helicopters, just days after a crash in Calabasas crash killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others.

At issue:

  • Federal safety investigators said the helicopter did not have a "Terrain Awareness and Warning System."
  • In 2004, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that system on all helicopters.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not adopt the proposal

Sherman said he's introducing the "Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act" in Congress to require that warning system on all helicopters. He said the bill, if passed, will also require the FAA to work with the NTSB on additional safety standards. The statement from Sherman's office also said:

Had this system been on the helicopter, it is likely the tragic crash could have been avoided. These systems cost between $25,000 to $40,000 per helicopter.

Investigators have not determined a cause of the crash. So far, they've said the helicopter lost communicationwith air traffic control at 2,300 feet above sea level. After that, the aircarft descended rapidly, at a rate of over 2,000 feet per minute. In addition, foggy conditions created poor visilbility in the area at the time of the crash.


New Report: Violence is Common for Women on LA's Streets

An image from the Downtown Women's Center report.

The numbers are startling.

Six in 10 homeless and low-income women in Los Angeles experienced some form of violence in 2019, according to a new report. The Downtown Women’s Center and USC surveyed hundreds of women in L.A. to create the Los Angeles Women’s Needs Assessment.

Homelessness affects women differently because they are likely to experience gender-based violence, said 

Amy Turk, CEO of the Downtown Women’s Center.

“And so the level of trauma informed services that are needed by women is one of the most important aspects to think about when we’re providing services and healthcare and housing.”

The report also found that housing was a major concern for women. More than 80% said they’ve struggled to find permanent housing.

 Turk says there needs to be more housing specifically for women, in the same way that housing projects are created to target veterans or people who are chronically homeless.

L.A. County’s homeless count found a 13% increase in homelessness among women in the city of LA between 2018 and 2019. Turk says that number could go up because the Needs Assessment found 70% of low-income women are heavily rent-burdened.

In addition to housing women, women need better access to services like healthcare and jobs training.

“We also noted that women were forced to leave the communities that they were more comfortable in, in order to access services,” Turk said.

LGBTQ+ women and women of color were more likely to experience chronic homelessness, according to the report.


That Fireball You Saw Last Night? Mystery Solved


A glowing fireball streaked across the sky over Los Angeles last night, so Angelenos naturally took to Twitter with questions—and jokes. Is it a true meteor, or just space trash? Did Kobe shoot a freethrow from heaven?

Frenzied sky-watchers across LA, and even as far south as San Diego, propelled #meteor to trending on Twitter. Videos show the meteor breaking up into several blazing pieces across the sky.

Even the experts didn't know initially if the fireball was made of rock, or if it was just one of the 500,000 pieces of space trash orbiting the Earth.

NASA finally figured it out though. Here's the answer.


In Midst Of Coronavirus, Health Officials Caution Against Excluding People ‘Based On Their Race’

Face or respiratory masks on sale at a Home Depot store in Los Angeles, California on January 22, 2020 (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The county is prepared should Los Angeles experience an outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, health officials said Thursday. They emphasized that no such outbreak has occurred to date.

In a press conference geared towards educators and school officials, the director of the L.A. County County Department of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, issued a reminder that there has been only one instance of 2019-nCoV in L.A. County – an individual who was traveling overseas.

“There is no immediate threat to the general public,” she said. “There are no special precautions that are required.”

With that said, Ferrer emphasized that no one – particularly children or students – should be singled out for any reason.

“People cannot, should not be excluded from activities based on their race or country of origin or travel history if they don’t have symptoms of respiratory illness,” she said.

The 2019-nCoV outbreak began in Wuhan, China last year. Since then, thousands of people worldwide are estimated to have been infected with it.

In the U.S., the first known case of the virus spreading from person to person was reported on Thursday in Chicago. The first two cases of novel coronavirus in Los Angeles and Orange Counties were reported on Sunday, both involving individuals who had traveled to or from Wuhan.

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak a global health emergency.


The Snowpack In The Sierra Is Down – But Don't Panic

Sean de Guzman (right), of the California Department of Water Resources, inserts a snow depth survey pole into the snow at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. (Ken James/California Department of Water Resources)

California's water year is off to a (relatively) dry start.

Officials with the California Department of Water Resources today snowshoed their way up to Phillips Station near South Lake Tahoe to conduct their second snowpack survey of 2020.

Those measurements are crucial to determining how water supplies will fare in the year ahead, since melted snow accounts for about 30% of California's fresh water.

They measured 40.5 inches of snow – which is 79 percent of normal for this time of year.

It's a far cry from the wet year we had in 2019, when snowpack levels peaked at 153% above average – but it's too soon to tell if we're heading for another drought.

"Honestly [these are] actually decent conditions," said Sean de Guzman, director of the snow survey for the DWR. "It's still below average, but we're nowhere near where we were during that period between 2012 through 2015," when the state was in one of its most dire drought conditions.

Last year's water bonanza was aided in part thanks to a series of atmospheric rivers, including a handful that rolled through Southern California.

But we may not be able to count on a repeat this year. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is currently projecting a hotter, drier spring ahead for California, though de Guzman added that seasonal outlooks are hard to predict.

"We still have to wait and see what the next few months will bring us."


Three Leaders Of Philippines-based Church Charged With Immigration Fraud In LA

The Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church in Van Nuys. (Richard Vogel/AP)

Three top leaders of the Philippines-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ church were arrested Wednesday and charged with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud after the FBI raided a Van Nuys church compound and other locations connected to the church.

According to the complaint, former members who left the church told the FBI that they were forced to collect donations for a children’s charity, then were abused when they didn’t make the quotas.

The church is led by Apollo Quiboloy, who has proclaimed himself "Appointed Son of God." The complaint alleges the church has brought workers to the U.S. for decades and forced them to marry church members to keep them in the country as fundraisers. Prosecutors say millions of dollars raised were sent back to the church, and to its founder, in the Philippines.

Massimo Introvigne, a professor of sociology of religion at Columbia University, said he has not heard of similar accusations in the Philippines.

"The only common accusation in the Philippines is Apollo has a quite lavish lifestyle, compared with the fact that most of the followers are from the poorer classes of the society," Introvigne said.

However, it's not the first time the church has faced allegations of misconduct. The FBI investigated a Kingdom of Jesus Christ church in Hawaii for human trafficking in 2018, and last year, Quiboloy and other church leaders were sued for sexual abuse and forced labor.

Along with the Van Nuys location, FBI agents searched the charity’s office in Glendale and three other Kingdom of Jesus Christ churches in the Los Angeles area, along with locations in Hawaii.

Quiboloy’s church is headquartered in Davao City, and the church leader is a longtime friend of President Rodrigo Duterte, the former Davao City mayor.

The religious sect broke off from the United Pentecostal Church of the Philippines in the 1980s and claims six million followers, four million in the Philippines and the rest abroad.

LA City Hall To Review Sprinkler Laws After High-Rise Fire; Class Action Suit Announced

Damage from a fire at the Barrington Plaza apartments is seen on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (David Wagner/LAist)

The day after a dramatic fire forced residents of a Sawtelle high-rise to evacuate, L.A. City Council members say they will consider mandating sprinkler systems in high-rises currently exempted from the safety measure.

Yesterday's fire was the second in seven years at the 25-story high-rise on West Wilshire Boulevard. The Barrington Plaza complex doesn't have sprinklers, and it isn't required to because it was built between 1943 and 1974.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the area, says that gap in L.A.'s sprinkler regulations is unacceptable. He told us:

"It's about protecting the lives of the people who live in these buildings, and it's about protecting the lives of our firefighters who are risking their lives to save or rescue people who are in those buildings."

Authorities said 11 people were injured in the fire, seven of whom were taken to a hospital for treatment.

Bonin says there are 55 high-rise buildings in Los Angeles -- many along the Wilshire Corridor where Wednesday’s fire broke out -- that don't have sprinklers.

Word that building owners may face stiffer sprinkler requirements came as attorneys for the building residents said they had filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Barrington Plaza residents.


Local Congress Members Want More Coronavirus Info From CDC

Passengers wear breathing masks at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 29, 2020. Rebecca Nieto/LAist

A group of 14 Southern California congressmen and women headed by Representative Katie Porter has written to the CDC for more information about the local threat.

Porter’s district is home to a hospital treating one of California’s two confirmed novel coronavirus patients.

“I started to receive a lot of questions from neighbors, constituents and the community wanting to understand more about what are the best precautionary measures that people should be taking," she said.

Porter said she and her colleagues did get a briefing from the CDC this week focusing on the number of cases and potential for a vaccine, but she wants more details about what's going on here.

She also wants more outreach in different languages to account for Los Angeles and Orange counties’ diverse population.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Today the World Health Organization put out a statement declaring the outbreak a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern."

In China, more than 7700 cases have been confirmed, and 170 people have died.

There are 82 additional cases confirmed in 18 countries.

The CDC's current count has 5 confirmed cases in the US.


You Can Visit Britney Spears' Music Videos At This New Pop-Up

A recreation of Britney's "Oops... I Did It Again" video. (The Zone Los Angeles)

When you're hitting the Grove, you can now head just across the street to visit a Britney Spears-themed pop-up: The Zone.

It's a chance to walk into the music videos for "Baby One More Time," "Oops!... I Did It Again," and "Toxic," among others — time to study those videos and brush up on your choreography so you can fully recreate pop music history.

The Zone went big, from a massive Britney mural out front to a giant “I’m A Slave 4 U”-inspired snake coiling around the room in one jungle-themed room. And, of course, the “Baby One More Time” video gets three full rooms, which it obviously deserves.

Britney announced a career hiatus last year and canceled a new Las Vegas residency, so this is the closest you can get to a Britney experience at the moment. We went, took photos, and experienced that Britney life.


Recap: LA County DA Debate Was Contentious -- And Disrupted

From left to right: DA Jackie Lacey, George Gascon and Rachel Rossi. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times © 2020)

On Wednesday night the three candidates running for Los Angeles County District Attorney faced off in a debate: incumbent DA Jackie Lacey, former San Francisco DA George Gascon, and former federal public defender Rachel Rossi.

It was a raucous night, with Black Lives Matter activists, relatives of people shot by police and others frequently disrupting the proceedings with chants of "Jackie Lacey must go," while her supporters -- many of them deputy D.A.'s -- called back, "We love you, Jackie."

Jerome Kitchen, 31, of Los Angeles, who is against DA Jackie Lacey being reelected, interrupted the debate. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

But as co-moderator Libby Denkmann, KPCC's politics reporter, pointed out to the crowd, this was the first time all three candidates had appeared together on stage. The evening offered voters a chance to hear from the candidates on record in a race that has garnered national attention, as this is the latest — and largest — battleground in a national push to get reformist DA's elected.

So what were some of the main takeaways?

  • Gascon and Rossi leaned into the need to tackle systemic racism in the criminal justice system, while Lacey tried to straddle more of a middle ground.
  • Lacey tried to paint Gascon and Rossi as unqualified, in particular noting that Gascon had never worked as a litigator and calling his tenure as San Francisco DA a failure.
  • While Rossi and Gascon both said they will end cash bail, Rossi criticized Gascon for not doing so during his nearly nine years as San Francisco DA.
  • Gascon claimed Lacey hasn't invested nearly enough resources into diverting people with mental health issues away from jail.


How Much HS Math Do You Need To Get Into A Cal State?

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist

How much high school math do you need to get admitted to a Cal State?

Turns out the answer to this long-running controversy will wait a little longer. A proposal to tie admission to increased high school math requirements is on hold.


The plan under consideration calls for an extra year of math, or a related class (more on what those are at the link below) to even qualify for Cal State consideration.

So what's the fight? Well, opponents of the new requirement say it would discriminate against low-income students and students of color.

CSU's board of trustees were scheduled to vote on the proposal yesterday. Instead, they decided to to commission a year-long study — putting off a decision until at least 2022.


New Database Lets You Search For Clergy 'Credibly Accused' Of Abuse

Michael Duran received nearly $1 million in a sex abuse settlement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2014. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Our friends at ProPublica, an non-profit investigative newsroom based in New York City, released a first-of-its-kind database this week.

The “Credibly Accused” database does what the Catholic Church has not: compiled all lists released so far by U.S. diocese of clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct or assault. [Note: That criteria may vary from diocese to diocese.]

We asked data reporter Ellis Simani a few questions about this project:

Q: This type of database didn’t exist before. What did it take to create it?

A: Creating this database took nearly a year and required tons of reporting as well as writing software to scrape websites, manually entering thousands of pieces of data and thinking through the best way to present disparate information in a uniform way.

We collected data from nearly 180 sources, some of which were simple lists of names in text documents and others were entire webpages. Many of the dioceses don’t report when their lists change, so we returned to each of them several times over the course of our reporting to keep track.

That’s a lot of effort and time. Why did ProPublica believe it was important work?

It’s important to make data useful. That’s not the situation we found when we first started collecting the lists. The disclosures are disconnected from each other, and the lists themselves are often inconsistent, incomplete and omit key details.

We wanted to make a tool so that survivors and those personally affected by clergy abuse could have a central location to search and view the disclosures of every diocese and religious order in the country. Non-reporting is still an important issue; 41 dioceses and dozens of religious orders still haven’t released lists. Millions of Catholics are waiting for their dioceses to disclose what they know.

What can people in L.A. and other parts of Southern California look up in this new database?

Angelenos can use our tool to search for clergy who may have served in Los Angeles or in other dioceses in Southern California that have released lists of credibly accused priests. They can also search for a church school or an individual parish.

Because many dioceses publish the assignment histories for credibly accused priests, people can also find priests from dioceses that haven’t published lists yet, like the Archdiocese of San Francisco, because they may show up in disclosures released by other dioceses or religious order communities.


It’s Thursday, Jan. 30 And Here Are The Stories We’re Following Today


Those strong winds will likely continue to blow through most of the morning. A wind advisory is in effect, with gusts of up to 40 mph, through 10 a.m. Otherwise it’ll be sunny with a high around 76 degrees and an overnight low of 52.

What We’re Covering:

  • For the first time, all three candidates for L.A. County District Attorney faced off last night in a debate hosted by KPCC and the LA Times. The crowd was raucous as incumbent DA Jackie Lacey, former San Francisco DA George Gascon and former federal public defender Rachel Rossi fielded questions.
  • Watch the full debate here. Reporter Emily Dugdale will also have highlights and analysis soon.
  • Cal State University trustees have decided to put aside a controversial proposal to add a year of math or math skills to the admission application until an independent panel studies the plan. Reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez will have the details.
  • Yesterday's high-rise fire in Sawtelle left 11 injured and scores evecuated. This morning, authorities plan to assess the extent of the damage and determine if people can go home. We'll have more on that once there is word.
  • Finally, for all you pop culture fiends, reporter Mike Roe is looking into a new Britney Spears pop-up opening near the Grove.

Help Us Cover Your Community:

  • Got something you’ve always wanted to know about Southern California and the people who call it home? Is there an issue you want us to cover? Ask us anything >>
  • Have a tip about news on which we should dig deeper? Let us know >>

The news cycle moves fast. Stories sometimes get postponed or simply don’t pan out. As such, this list is not final.