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Read The Column: Why Those Who Died In El Paso Will Remain With Us Forever

(Photo by Flor Del Desierto via unsplash/Illustration by Chava Sanchez, LAist)

This Monday marks the one-year anniversary of the day last August when 23 people were murdered at an El Paso Walmart by a racist who drove all the way down from a Dallas suburb to this beautiful Mexican American passageway to stop "the Hispanic invasion of Texas."

It's a stark reminder that images matter. Words matter.

It's a tragedy that will stay with me like visions of flickering lights from Juarez across the pitch black waters of the International Reservoir at night.



4 Cooling Centers. 3-Digit Heat Wave. 1 Small Comfort

Sunny afternoon surrounded by palm trees in Venice Beach California. (Guillaume Bassem Via Unsplash)

Pandemics and triple-digit heat waves don't mix well, but here we are.

The hottest spots are the usual locations — the inland valleys of Santa Clarita, San Fernando and San Gabriel — and the Coachella Valley, where it's currently 117 degrees.

A gradual cooldown starts tomorrow. And by Wednesday, most temperatures will return to summer normals.

Cooling centers are open today and tomorrow in Sherman Oaks, Northridge and Compton at some senior and adult centers. Fair warning: with most indoor public spots closed due to the pandemic, capacity is likely to be limited.

If there's any consolation it's this: meteorologist Miguel Miller with the National Weather Service says there's no need for a red flag warning:

"The nice thing that we don't have is wind, so that any fire that gets started should be able to get knocked down pretty quick since the wind won't be pushing it into places it shouldn't go."


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Thirsty? This Costly Plant Could Let You Drink The Pacific

The proposed Poseidon Water desalination plant would be built on this site along the coast. Huntington Beach Channel runs through the site. Maya Sugarman/KPCC (Aerial support provided by LightHawk)

Making Pacific Ocean water safe to drink by removing the salt is one strategy touted to help make Southern California drought-proof. A desalination plant in Huntington Beach has been in the works for decades and is in its final regulatory hearings, but it faces a lot of criticism over the cost and environmental damage that could result.

Poseidon Resources wants to build a $1.4 billion desalination plant near a power plant that is about to be shut down. They say it could produce 50 million gallons of water per day, enough for about 100,000 Orange County homes.

Friday marked the second day of hearings before the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board. Its approval is needed for the plant to discharge salty brine left over from the treated water.

The plant also needs approval from the state Coastal Commission, and resolution of a case pending in the state Appeals Court.

Business and labor groups support the desal plant. They say it could reduce Orange County’s dependence on imported water and create new jobs.

But critics say desalinated water would be double the cost of the imported water that makes up about one-third of the Orange County supply.

“Don't you wonder why a desal plant is being proposed when there are many other less expensive, more socially, environmentally beneficial projects that can provide water relief?,” critic Monica Guzman asked the board.

Environmentalists warn that the plant would harm marine life caught in the intake pipes and that it would discharge very salty water and heavy metals into the ocean.

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Immigrant Advocates Say Federal Dismantling Of DACA Not A Done Deal

Immigrants await their turn for green card and citizenship interviews at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in New York. John Moore/Getty Images

The Trump administration has indicated it won't approve any more applications from young immigrants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, dampening the hopes of some college students. But advocates who assist these students say they're not stopping their work.

“We are going forward with helping people prepare their paperwork,” said Anna Manuel, a staff attorney with the University of California Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling led more undocumented students than usual to seek help from her office to apply for DACA, Manuel said.

By one count there are about 75,000 undocumented students enrolled in California’s public colleges and universities. Most campuses have hired staff to help support students who are undocumented with academic, legal, and financial help.


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6 In 10 Households Have Yet To Be Counted. So Why Is The Census Bureau Quitting A Month Early?

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham testifies before the House Oversight Committee in this July 2019 file photo. (Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

About four out of 10 households nationwide have still not participated in the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the U.S., and self-response rates are even lower in many communities.

Still, NPR has confirmed that the Census Bureau will end door knocking at unresponsive homes on Sept. 30, amid growing concerns the White House is pressuring the bureau to stop counting soon. That's a month earlier than planned and could lead to a major undercount of people of color.


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CA Unemployment Office Under Fire For Payment Delays

A staffer works to process claims at California's unemployment office, March 30, 2020. (California Employment Development Department)

California’s unemployment office is coming under fire as state lawmakers say too many workers seeking benefits are still waiting.

Unemployed Californians report having trouble with the state’s online application process. Some applicants say they’ve spent months unsuccessfully trying to get through to someone on the phone at the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD).

In a legislative hearing in Sacramento on Thursday, state lawmakers grilled EDD director Sharon Hilliard. Some of the facts highlighted during the hearing include:

  • EDD has processed an unprecedented 9.3 million claims since the coronavirus pandemic began. For comparison, the department processed 3.8 million claims during the worst year of the Great Recession.
  • Close to 890,000 applicants who may be eligible for payments still have not been paid. Hilliard said most have not completed the steps to certify for benefits, but she said EDD is aware of 239,000 claims that still need department resolution.
  • During normal economic times, EDD delivers payments to 80% of applicants within three weeks, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. But during the pandemic, only 62% of Californians have been paid within three weeks of applying, compared to the nationwide average of 69%.
  • Though EDD has expanded call center hours for technical support, the department’s core call center — staffed by 100 caseworkers — is only open four hours per day on weekday mornings. Applicants on the department’s callback list are waiting four to eight weeks to be contacted, on average.


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Local Community Clinics With Lots At Stake Are Urging Patients To Participate In Census

AltaMed's outdoor waiting area in Commerce on July 10, 2020. (Caitlin Hernandez/LAist)

Local community clinics are worried that a combination of low census turnout, layoffs due to the pandemic, and increased Medicaid eligibility for people who've lost work could create a strain on resources for the clinics in years to come.

Among other factors, census data helps determine how much federal funding these clinics receive. So some community clinics are doing their own census outreach, urging patients to participate in the decennial count.

"We are in the middle of a pandemic and financial economic downturn, resources all around will be scarce and that includes funding for [federally qualified health centers] and hospitals," said Jennie Carreón, associate vice president of civic engagement for AltaMed, which is using portable kiosks to do its own outreach. "This is why it is so important that underserved communities fill out the census, so that we don't have additional social structural barriers to add to an already challenging environment."


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Morning Briefing: Jose Huizar Charged With Accepting $1.5 Million In Bribes

(Illustration by Chava Sanchez / Jose Huizar photo by Erick Richardson via Flickr)

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If you’ve been following the almost unbelievable scandal unfolding at L.A. City Hall, you know City Councilmember Jose Huizar was recently arrested by the FBI on a racketeering charge that included the alleged acceptance of bribes in the form of villas in Las Vegas, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, escort services, payments to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, trips on private jets and more.

Now, a federal grand jury has handed down a 34-count indictment against Huizar, charging, in part, that he led a criminal enterprise out of City Hall in which he “agreed to accept at least $1.5 million in illicit financial benefits.”

Huizar is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in L.A. Federal Court, and we’ll be following the story.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, July 31

Tracy Park began writing this illustrated letter as a way to shed her fear of the person who racially insulted her children. By the end, she says, she remembered that racists are the ones who are truly afraid.

A federal memo says no new DACA applications will be accepted, and that current DACA recipients will have to apply to renew annually instead of every two years, which had been the practice. Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reports that the news hit some undocumented college students hard after June's Supreme Court ruling gave them hope of becoming DACA applicants for the first time.

Some community clinics are trying to get the word out to patients to respond to the 2020 Census, because an undercount could decrease their federal funding and hamper their service to local communities. Caitlin Hernández has the story.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Coronavirus Updates: All donors at UCLA blood drives will now be tested for past exposure to COVID-19. We talk with National Guard troops about how they're helping California facilities fight the virus.

Money Matters: 50 organizations that run charter schools received federal coronavirus loans, and the fallout has been contentious. The Regents of the University of California are set to vote on an $80 million budget cut. A motion passed Wednesday by the LA City Council increases fines for littering PPE, such as masks or gloves.

L.A. Scandals And Earthquakes: A federal grand jury has returned a 34-count indictment against suspended L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar. A 4.2 magnitude earthquake struck in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Pacoima at 4:29 a.m. and has produced more than 60 aftershocks and counting, most minor.

Foraging, On Earth And Mars: Jess Starwood, a local forager, pivoted from providing restaurants with freshly sourced goods to providing them to her community during the pandemic. The Mars rover Perseverance, built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, is on its way to the red planet after an early morning launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Here’s What To Do: Check out the third installment of our special Unheard LA series on race in L.A., featuring the stories of Matthew Cuban Hernandez, Taz Ahmed, and October B.L.U. followed by a live conversation. Or, catch Thai flicks while eating Thai snacks at a pop-up drive-in, check out a documentary about Bob Marley, see stars from RuPaul's Drag Race werk it at the Rose Bowl, and more in some of this week’s best online and IRL events.

Photo Of The Day

Dried mushrooms and herbs collected by forager Jess Starwood sit in jars in her home.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist )

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