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6 Journalists Sued LA Times Over Gender, Racial Pay Disparities; Settlement May Be Reached

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People make their way past the Los Angeles Times office building in downtown Los Angeles, California on July 16, 2018. The newspaper is being sued by employees alleging pay discrimination. (Frederic J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images)

Greg Braxton and Bettina Boxall have both contributed to Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage at the Los Angeles Times. They're also among six Black, Hispanic and female journalists who allege they earn far less than white and male peers with less experience.

Their civil complaint, filed in California Superior Court in San Bernardino County and dated June 4, has only just surfaced in court records. A corporate spokeswoman for the Times told NPR Thursday afternoon that a settlement had been reached and that it would be submitted for the court's preliminary approval "as soon as practical."

It's the latest episode in a newsroom with a fraught history over race and gender, though the L.A. Times has twice been led by executive editors of color: Dean Baquet, who is black, and Davan Maharaj, a journalist born in Trinidad and Tobago.

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The Dodgers' President Predicts A 'Decent Number' Of Coronavirus Cases

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(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

As the Dodgers prepare to start training on July 3 for the coronavirus-shortened season, the team's president of baseball operations said he fully expects COVID-19 to intrude. Andrew Friedman said today:

“I think there’s no question we’re going to have a decent number of positive tests, in Spring training and the season."

The 60-game season — just over a third of the games played in a normal year — is scheduled to start in about a month, with teams playing in empty stadiums.

Before the Dodgers begin training, each player must take a coronavirus test. But no high-fives for a negative test — for now, Major League Baseball has banned the celebratory hand slap.

And more rules will be in place:

  • Players will likely be required to wear masks in the dugout.
  • The league has also outlawed spitting and chewing tobacco.

Manager Dave Roberts says COVID-19 will also change the hands-on way coaches typically interact with players when they train.

“You’re just not going to have the liberties that we’ve had in the past to work with players ... putting your hands on players all the time," he said.

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LA Metro To Rethink Armed Policing

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Los Angeles Police Department officers patrol a light rail car in this file photo. Courtesy L.A. Metro

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L.A. Metro is joining a growing number of public agencies taking steps to rethink policing under pressure from communities that have long borne the brunt of law enforcement harrassment and abuse.

Metro’s board of directors voted Thursday to create a new committee that will study ways to replace armed police officers with social workers, mental health professionals and unarmed "transit ambassadors.”

Currently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, LAPD and Long Beach police patrol the system based on jurisdiction, along with Metro’s own armed security force and a private contractor.

Latino and Black residents make up over 80% of county bus riders and more than 60% of rail riders, according to Metro data.

Some Metro board members called the new committee an important first step to better address the concerns of these core riders — many of whom have expressed fear of being profiled and harrassed by police on the system.

READ MORE ABOUT METRO'S PLAN TO RETHINK POLICING:

The Suicide Rate Among Young African Americans Is On The Rise

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(Dan Meyers via Unsplash)

The suicide rate among Black youth ages 10-19 nearly doubled between 2007 and 2017, and studies have found that among youngsters age 5-11, it’s increasing faster than for any other racial or ethnic group.

That hasn’t gotten much attention because the overall suicide rate for African Americans is low compared with other groups. In 2017, Black Californians died by suicide at less than half the rate of White Californians.

“For a long time it was assumed that Black people really did not commit suicide at the level or rate that we often think of in the general population, and that in fact it was unusual to hear about a Black person committing suicide,” said Dr. Altha Stewart, a dean at the University of Tennessee’s College of Medicine.

“It has been important for us to call out these trends and do the research to document it,” said Dr. Michael Lindsey, executive director of NYU’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research.

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In Boyle Heights, Mixed Feelings About LA Councilman Jose Huizar's Arrest

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First Street and Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar was arrested by the FBI Tuesday on a federal racketeering charge. The arrest came as part of a years-long, ongoing investigation into City Hall corruption.

In Boyle Heights, which is not only part of Huizar's Council District 14, but also where he lives and grew up, constituents have mixed feelings about the news. Some are angry at Huizar after hearing the allegations; others don't want to believe it.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE:

Facing ‘Devastating’ Shortfall From COVID-19, LA County CEO Recommends Hundreds of Layoffs

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Officers from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department guard an intersection outside the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles on Feb. 8, 2013. (Christopher Okula/KPCC)

The L.A. County CEO says the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic -- including a sharp dropoff in tax revenues and the cost of emergency measures to confront the virus -- have been widespread and catastrophic for county resources.

In a new budget revision released Thursday, CEO Sachi Hamai recommends hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts that would hit nearly every part of county government, including the Sheriff's Department.

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Voting Begins For Child Care Providers Seeking To Unionize 

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Dozens of California child care providers rallied in Sacramento before dropping off signatures calling for a union election Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (Screenshot from the Child Care Providers Union Facebook Page)

After more than a decade of fighting for the right to bargain for better pay, California child care providers will vote on unionizing over the next month.

An estimated 43,000 ballots are in the mail to home-based providers who care for children from low-income families.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill allowing child care providers paid by the state to care for children from low-income families to unionize. The legislation was previously rejected by California governors in 2007 and 2015.

A majority ‘yes’ vote for Child Care Providers United would allow the union to represent the providers in labor negotiations with the state.

San Fernando Valley home child care owner Sylvia Hernández supports the union. She says after paying for supplies and her staff to care for children 24 hours a day, she doesn’t make minimum wage.

“We do need this change for a positive,” Hernández said. “Not just our lives but ... it changes everyone, our communities, our staff, everyone.”

READ THE FULL STORY

GO DEEPER

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Coronavirus Hospitalizations Are On The Rise Again In LA, California

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L.A. County public health director Barbara Ferrer and other health officials shared new coronavirus numbers on Thursday. (File: Screenshot courtesy L.A. County via YouTube)

State health officials warn the coronavirus is on the rise across California, with daily case numbers hitting back-to-back records this week. Hospitalization rates are also climbing in parts of the state, including L.A. County.

Dr. Kimberley Shriner — an infectious disease specialist at Pasadena's Huntington Hospital — says their intensive care unit is recording a dramatic uptick in COVID-19 patients.

"We have, for a few days, been able to close down one of our overflow ICU's, but we're back up to a fairly large number of patients. And I think this is a reflection of what's going on throughout the county, and, unfortunately, throughout the state."

Los Angeles County health officials reported over 1,500 hospitalizations Tuesday (Wednesday's numbers are not yet available) — more than a quarter (27%) were in intensive care. In California — there's a 32% increase in hospitalizations over the last two weeks — with ICU patients up 19% during the same period.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in L.A. County. (L.A. County Department of Public Health)

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer also noted, with alarm, that the percentage of people testing positive for the coroanvirus is on the rise — with over 8.5% of people testing positive in the last five days. Ferrer reported a positivity rate of 8% just over a week ago.

On the upside, daily deaths due to COVID-19 have fallen significantly in recent weeks.

COVID-19 deaths in LA County, June 25, 2020 (L.A. County Department of Public Health)

Ferrer also said public health officials have been able to follow up with 99% of people who have tested positive to find out who they might have exposed, what's known as contact tracing.

MOST RESTAURANTS/BARS NOT IN COMPLIANCE

Ferrer said L.A. County health department inspectors visited more than 3,700 restaurants and bars over the past three weekends to check on their compliance with county protocols for reopening safely during the pandemic. They found that more than 80% of those establishments were not in compliance.

Ferrer also said the majority of complaints received by the county about business reopenings mentioned not sharing safety protocols with employees and/or the public, and failing to wear or require face coverings.

COVID-19-related complaints about L.A. County businesses. (L.A. Department of Public Health)

OVERALL LOOK AT LA COUNTY NUMBERS:

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose L.A. County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Wednesday, June 24:

READ MORE:

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Newsom: California Creates New Coronavirus Prediction Website; Hospitalizations Up

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Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California's response to the coronavirus. You can watch the full press conference above or read highlights below.

CALIFORNIA'S LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

The state has a 5.6% coronavirus positivity rate over the last week days, 5.1% over the last two weeks. He also noted that it's below the 8% threshold required for counties to stay off the state's watchlist. (L.A.'s positivity rate is currently 8.5%, according to the county's public health director, Barbara Ferrer.)

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 dropped today from 7,149, an all-time high, to 5,349. A record number of people were tested yesterday — more than 101,000.

Now roughly 3.7 million Californians have been tested over the course of this pandemic, with an average of 88,000 tests per day over the past week. But Newsom said that testing still needs to be increased as part of community COVID-19 surveillance. There have been about 56,000 new cases over the past two weeks.

Hospitalization numbers due to COVID-19 continue to increase — a 32% rise over the past 14 days. That's up from 29% in the rolling data yesterday.

Currently, 4,240 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized, a 3.5% increase from the day before. Those patients are using 8% of the state's surge health care capacity.

ICU numbers are also up — a 19% increase over the past two weeks, up from an 18% rolling total yesterday. There are 1,306 ICU patients currently, using 34% of the state's available ICU beds. That's up from 31% of capacity being used yesterday.

Newsom addressed the different models used to predict where coronavirus cases are headed, saying he wanted to simplify things and make that modeling more relevant to people's lives. Those models guide the state's actions, but aren't determinative of our future, Newsom said.

Without any non-pharmaceutical interventions like social distancing, face masks, and stay-at-home orders, there was a predicted surge in transmission of COVID-19, Newsom said. The state avoided an initial overloading of the health care system, which flattened the curve, Newsom said, but the disease is still with us in a sizable way.

MAKING COVID DATA & MODELING PUBLICLY AVAILABLE

Newsom announced that California wants to build a model of models — he announced a California COVID Assessment Tool site to help inform both state and local response to the disease. According to the state, it will allow for better models and more actionable intelligence, as well as enable people to come together across sectors to work on COVID-19.

"The more robust, the more enriching that data is, the more it's shared, the more it's challenged, the more it's considered, the more likely we will be making decisions with clarity and understanding in real-time of the conditions on the ground," Newsom said.

The state's "Nowcast," available in the COVID Assessment Tool, says what is happening today with COVID-19, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said. It's built around the idea of rate of spread. The forecast is essentially like a 10-day weather forecast, Ghaly said, letting you know what to expect over the next few weeks. There is also another part of the tool that shows scenarios, and what the potential consequences of today's actions are — such as lifting stay-at-home orders, or reopening bars and restaurants.

The state also announced an open-source tool, prototyped with county partners, to help refine insights and knowledge by giving the public access to the data the state has. They are sharing the code to help encourage collaboration with other states and researchers, Newsom said. They looked forward to input using this data from mathematicians, experts in AI, researchers, scientists, Nobel laureates, and others — including regular citizens.

The state wants the data to help promote better behavior, Newsom said.

DISNEYLAND REOPENING DELAYED

Newsom praised Disney for announcing yesterday the decision not to reopen Disneyland on July 19. He noted that, based upon data and local conditions, the state decided not to issue guidelines yet on how to reopen theme parks. According to Disney, the state won't be releasing those guidelines until after July 4.

HOW WILL SCHOOLS REOPEN?

The state is still in discussion with state education leaders on how schools will reopen, Newsom said. He described it as a "more complicated question than you can imagine, based on the thousand-plus school districts and the myriad of opinions that are coming back." He discussed specific concern over children being required to wear masks, a question that remains open.

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Disneyland's Ditching 'Song Of The South' Splash Mountain Theme For 'Princess And The Frog'

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Concept art for the Princess and the Frog reimagining of Splash Mountain. (Courtesy Disney)

Splash Mountain has long been criticized for using characters and music from the widely criticized Song of the South. It's a movie that's so problematic and buried deep in the Disney vault that you can't buy a legal copy of it or stream it, even on Disney+. Yet Disney still decided to theme its popular log ride around it — Splash Mountain opened in 1989.

Following new attention around Black representation, though, Disney announced Thursday that they're revamping the ride and changing the theme to The Princess and the Frog. That movie features Disney's first Black princess, Tiana.

More than 20,000 fans signed an online petition encouraging the change, even before it was announced — though almost 35,000 fans signed another petition to keep things the same. While Disney is moving forward with the change, they do still plan to reopen Splash Mountain under its current theme when Disneyland reopens.

READ THE FULL STORY:

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How You Can Erase Your Unpaid Utility Bills In SoCal

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SoCal Gas Community Service Office in Porter Ranch. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

If you lost income during the pandemic and have been letting those gas or electric bills go unpaid, you may be able to erase the debt under new rules adopted this month.

State utility regulators have ordered Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas Company to start a debt forgiveness program in April 2021, when a moratorium on utility disconnections ends.

Customers enrolled in programs to lower utility bills for low-income households (people who lost jobs in the pandemic may qualify) can sign up for a new “Arrearage Management Plan” starting in April 2021.

For every month the customer makes an on-time payment of their current bill, one-twelfth of their overdue debt is eliminated. After a year of consistent payments, the past debt would be gone.

The state order does not benefit electric utility customers within the city of Los Angeles because the Department of Water and Power is a city-run utility and not subject to the same state regulations. The DWP has programs to spread repayment of debt over several months, but it has no provisions for debt forgiveness, a spokeswoman said.

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Morning Briefing: Police Reform Gains Momentum

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Eastside Luv in Boyle Heights. Chava Sanchez/LAist

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There’s momentum on police reform in L.A., but two possible actions on Wednesday returned two different results.

After an epic, 11-hour meeting, the LAUSD board failed to pass any of the three proposed motions that would have changed how police operate in their schools, including one that would gradually reduce funding for school police by 90%.

Meanwhile, an L.A. City Council committee took a step towards replacing LAPD officers with unarmed service providers for some emergency calls. The committee voted in favor of tasking city staff with creating a response plan and studying similar community policing models used elsewhere in the country.

In both cases, though, this is no doubt just the beginning. Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe.

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, June 25

City boosters sold Southern California as an outdoor paradise, waiting to be explored. That enthusiasm for the outdoors led to the "great hiking era," which ran from roughly the 1880s to the 1930s, explains LAist contributor Hadley Meares.

When Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch’s bodies were found, some expressed disbelief that any Black man would hang himself from a tree. Now Harsch's family says he did take his own life. Robert Garrova looks into the suicide rate among Black youth, and finds that it’s rising.

A million Angelenos have lost jobs and income in the past few months. So far, those households have been protected from losing water, gas and electric service. When the pandemic eases, reports Sharon McNary, some new policies at utilities might help erase some of that debt.

An estimated 36,000 home child care providers will soon decide whether or not to be represented by the union Child Care Providers United, reports Mariana Dale. Ballots are being issued by mail, starting June 25. Organizers estimate it's the largest union push in California in 20 years.

Sip a martini old-school style at Musso & Frank, learn about the history of chocolate and vanilla, check out Photo L.A.'s galleries and talks without leaving your home, and more. Christine N. Ziemba has the weekend’s best online and IRL events.

Cases of COVID-19 in L.A.County are on the rise, from 4,230 positive tests Sunday, to 5,019 Monday, to 7,149 Tuesday, but officials are still moving forward with easing into reopening. A Martínez speaks to a professor of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology at USC Keck School of Medicine to understand what’s going on.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Coronavirus Updates: Mayor Eric Garcetti is nearly doubling the coronavirus testing capacity in L.A. to handle increasing demand. We hear from high school students about how they've been adjusting to life in 2020.

Policing The Police: The L.A. City Council took a step toward replacing LAPD officers with unarmed service providers for some emergency calls. After an 11-hour meeting, the LAUSD board could not reach a consensus on three resolutions related to school police.

Fresh Air: L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu wants the city to study making the Slow Streets program, established to give Angelenos more outdoor space amid stay-at-home orders, a permanent fixture. Monsanto settled a lawsuit brought by L.A. and Long Beach Counties, demanding the company pay to reduce pollution by cancer-causing chemicals, for $550 million.

I Feel The Earth Move: A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Lone Pine, California on Wednesday morning. The amount of the damage across the area is still unclear, but the Mount Whitney Portal, about three miles from Lone Pine, is closed due to rockslides.

Equal Representation: Activists drove caravans through the streets to encourage people from historically undercounted neighborhoods to fill out the 2020 census. The State senate has voted to place affirmative action on the Nov. ballot.

Federal Immigration: President Trump issued a proclamation that expands and extends restrictions on legal immigration, including new restrictions on several types of non-immigrant work visas.

Disney Does A 180: After pushback from worried employees, Disney officials announced Wednesday that they no longer plan to reopen their Anaheim Parks on July 17. They blamed it on the state of California.

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Photo Of The Day

Kyle Jones, who just graduated from Mendez High School in Boyle Heights as student body president, spoke to us about what it was like to be a senior in 2020.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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