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SoCal Institutions Sue Over Trump Visa Restrictions On Highly Skilled Workers

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A statue of the school mascot, the Trojan, stands on the campus of the University of Southern California. (David McNew/Getty Images)

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Caltech and the University of Southern California, along with several business groups, are among the plaintiffs suing the federal government for putting new restrictions on H1-B visas for highly skilled foreign workers.

The policy changes released by the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security earlier this month that would make it harder for U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for jobs in specialized fields, like engineering, technology or healthcare.

The government is also raising minimum salaries for high-skilled international workers to rates some employers say they can't afford.

READ THE FULL STORY:

Family Wants OC DA To Reopen Investigation Into 2019 Fatal Shooting by Buena Park Police

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David Sullivan (Courtesy of the Sullivan family)

Attorneys for the family of an unarmed 19-year-old man fatally shot by two Buena Park police officers in 2019, called on the Orange County District Attorney to reopen the investigation into the incident today.

In a June 8 letter to the Buena Park police chief, DA Todd Spitzer said he had declined to file charges against Officers Bobby Colon and Jennifer Tran over the killing of David Sullivan.

"There is substantial evidence that their actions were reasonable and justified under the circumstances," Spitzer wrote. His office issued a statement today saying it "conducted a thorough, independent analaysis" of the shooting, and it "will always consider any new, pertinent information."

Body cam video from the incident shows Sullivan being stopped driving a stolen Range Rover. When the officers ask him to get out of the car, he instead backs up, smashing into a tree and colliding with a passing car. He then gets out and runs toward one officer, who shoots him once, then twice more as he continues to run away.

The DA’s letter said Colon opened fire because he "feared Sullivan was going to attack him, disarm him, and use his gun against him or his partner."

"I think the officer was startled," said police use-of-force expert Ed Obayashi. "It’s very unusual to see a suspect run directly at an officer, not away."Maybe another officer would not have shot."

In the body cam video, after running for a few steps, Sullivan turns around and again runs toward the officers, who then both open fire. Colon feared Sullivan might be reaching for a weapon in his waistband at that point, according to the DA's report.

"What it proves is you don’t have to be Black or Brown to be killed by the police," Sullivan family attorney Humberto Guizar said. Sullivan was white. "They took my 19-year-old son who was just starting to live life," said his mother, Deanna Sullivan.

READ OUR FULL STORY ON THE DAVID SULLIVAN CASE:

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Feds Say Conception Boat Fire Cause Unknown, But Safety Lapses To Blame

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Image from September 2019 video released by the U.S. Coast Guard shows a video screen on one of its helicopters, as the crew responded to a boat fire on the Conception off Santa Cruz Island near Santa Barbara. (Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

We may never know what sparked the flames that killed 34 people onboard the Conception dive boat last year, as federal investigators said today they couldn't find the exact cause of that deadly fire.

When the 75-foot liveaboard vessel sank last year, it sat in deep water for several days before it was finally salvaged. That destroyed any physical evidence that could have led investigators to the source of the fire, though they determined that it started behind the boat’s salon area, where electronic devices were recharging.

And while investigators pointed the finger at the boat’s operator for numerous safety lapses leading up to Conception's final voyage, they say the company isn’t the only one to blame.

The National Transportation Safety Board cited Santa Barbara-based Truth Aquatics for failing, among other things, to implement a roving night watch, which they say could have alerted the crew before the flames grew out of control. All six crew members were asleep when the fire broke out.

But investigators also called out the U.S. Coast Guard’s own safety regulations. For instance, the Coast Guard hasn’t cited a passenger vessel for not having a roving watch since the early 1990s. And while the boat’s design met the agency’s requirements for emergency escape routes, the NTSB found that it may have inadvertently trapped passengers below deck.

NTSB chair Robert Sumwalt said updating and enforcing those rules could have saved lives:

“If there had been a safety management system that required auditing, required a feedback loop, we might not be here today. And those 34 people would be.”

The board issued a handful of recommendations to the Coast Guard, including an inspection program to verify roving watches, and new requirements for small vessels to install interconnected smoke detectors.

A separate federal criminal investigation into the fire is already under way. The families of four people who died on the boat filed a wrongful death suit against Truth Aquatics earlier this year.

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LA Sheriff's Dept. Says It Will Release Body Cam Video Of Deputy's Fatal Shooting Of Willowbrook Man

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L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. (L.A. Sheriff's Department)

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department says it will be releasing body camera footage from a deputy’s fatal shooting of a man in Willowbrook on Friday — but not immediately.

A deputy shot 25-year-old Fred Williams III after a brief foot chase. The department said in a statement that deputies conducting a routine patrol check at Mona Park spotted Williams holding a firearm, and that he ran away when he saw them.

Home surveillance video captured Williams fleeing up a driveway, followed by a deputy. Williams' hand is at his waist, but it's unclear whether he's holding a gun.

Only the deputy is visible in the video at the moment he opens fire. The department says the deputy started shooting because Williams was "pointing his firearm at him," and that investigators recovered a semiautomatic handgun from the scene.

But Cliff Smith of the Coalition for Community Control Over the Police said Williams was trying to climb a wall to escape when he was shot.

"When his body gets hit with the bullets, his body falls over the top of the wall into the next property," Smith told a news conference Sunday.

The department said in a tweet that it will release the body cam video after it has completed “critical interviews” and analyzed the evidence, and the coroner has completed his report.

That suggests that it could be at least several weeks before we see the footage. State law now requires law enforcement to release video of officer shootings within 45 days.

An agency can delay release beyond that time if it demonstrates that showing it to the public would interfere with an ongoing investigation.

This is the first major test of the Sheriff's Department's use of body cams, which it only started deploying this month.

GO DEEPER:

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‘Racism 101’ Launch Date Pushed Because...2020

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Racism 101, introduced Monday, Oct. 12 (fatefully timed to Columbus Day Indigenous Peoples’ Day), on LAist, is a part of the Race In LA ecosystem. It was conceived as a community engagement follow-up to the Unheard LA: A Deeper Listen virtual event series. It began as a conversation “starter kit” to guide conversations about tough race-related issues, but became two-fold: We not only wanted the community to talk to each other; we also wanted to hold space for them to talk to us.

To make that easy we created a callout for questions — any questions (so long as they’re civil and respectful) — folks might have for others from other racial/ethnic backgrounds and life experiences other than their own. We assembled a diverse 12-person answer panel of newsroom staff and community members who are willing to respond to inquiries — in text, audio and video. We’ll post their answers online and on social media and give the community the opportunity to tell us how they would answer, too.

The Racism 101 webpage was supposed to debut online yesterday, Oct. 19. Well, in 2020 fashion, things went awry. Thank you for your patience.

We want to bring you the highest-quality journalism and the best user experience possible, even if that means it’s delayed a bit. We’re going to take the time we need to do this right because we value your support as our readers.

The new publication date for Racism 101 will be Monday, Oct. 26. You can still find the project at laist.com/racism101

You can ask questions for our answer panelists below. If you’d like to share the link to the form, this is it: http://scpr.org/racism-101-query

ASK US ANYTHING

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After Fire, Los Angeles County Will Empty Ballot Drop Boxes Every Day

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Voting at a ballot box in Highland Park, Los Angeles. October 17, 2020. Al Kamalizad for LAist

After a fire in a Baldwin Park ballot drop box, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder says election workers will empty boxes more often — increasing pickups from every 48 hours to every day.

The fire occurred on Sunday night, damaging an unknown number of ballots. L.A. County Fire officials say the incident is being investigated as a possible arson.

“Regardless of the motive of the incident. I know these scenarios might deter people from voting,” said L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis. “But I want to urge you not to let that be the end result.”

Solis also praised George Silva, a local small business owner and witness to the fire who was out for a bike ride when he saw smoke coming from the ballot box. He filmed firefighters cutting it open with a power saw and pulling out charred, water-soaked ballots.

On Tuesday morning, the Baldwin Park Police Department turned over 230 “pieces of material” to the county, said Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan. “That doesn’t necessarily equate to 230 ballots … we need to go through those individually,” Logan said. That examination should conclude later today, he added.

“In most cases we are able to at least make out the voter information that is printed on the envelope,” Logan said. “So that will give us the ability to contact the voter, which is our priority at this point.”

Before the fire, election workers last picked up ballots from the Baldwin Park location on Saturday morning just after 10 a.m. If you dropped your ballot in the box outside the Baldwin Park library near Ramona Blvd. and Baldwin Park Blvd. after Saturday morning, you should call the L.A. County Registrar’s office at 562-503-2445, or email vbmdropoff@rrcc.lacounty.gov.

We have a map of drop box locations on our Voter Game Plan page. And there’s also a map of voting centers where you can drop off your ballot starting on Oct. 24.

READ MORE ABOUT THE BALLOT BOX FIRE:

Disneyland, Universal Studios Can't Reopen Until County COVID-19 Spread Is Minimal

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California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly is delivering an update on coronavirus in the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that Ghaly would be announcing an update on guidelines for both theme parks and sports, with the theme park guidelines being broken into multiple parts.

You can watch the full video of Dr. Ghaly's press conference above or read highlights below.

THEME PARK REOPENING GUIDELINES

The state has released full reopening guidelines for theme parks/amusement parks. Smaller theme parks are allowed to resume operations in Tier 3 (orange/moderate spread), while all theme parks — including larger ones like Disneyland — will be allowed to resume operations in Tier 4 (yellow/minimal spread).

Large theme parks will have a limited capacity of 25 percent when allowed to reopen.

Small theme parks are limited to 25 percent capacity or 500 people, whichever is fewer. Those are defined as theme parks with a capacity of 15,000 or less. They are only allowed to open outdoor attractions, and ticket sales are limited to visitors in the same county.

Responding to concerns about whether large counties will be able to get to the yellow tier, Ghaly said that the state believes that it's possible, but that it will require a lot of work and vigilance. He cited San Francisco County as an example of a county that's made that kind of progress.

All theme parks are required to implement reservation systems and screen guests for symptoms in advance, while face coverings will be mandatory throughout the park unless eating or drinking.

Theme parks are a higher-risk setting that outdoor stadiums, according to Ghaly. He shared this slide:

Slide on why theme parks are higher risk than outdoor stadiums. (Courtesy California Public Health)

The state sent teams to meet with theme park operators, as well as teams to visit operating theme parks in other parts of the nation, with those teams reporting back. Ghaly said those teams returned with lessons on how lines were managed well, but that they also saw troubling mixing — including without masks.

Disney issued a response to the new guidelines from Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock:

"We have proven that we can responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced at our theme park properties around the world. Nevertheless, the State of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable and that hold us to a standard vastly different from other reopened businesses and state-operated facilities. Together with our labor unions we want to get people back to work, but these State guidelines will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future, forcing thousands more people out of work, leading to the inevitable closure of small family-owned businesses, and irreparably devastating the Anaheim/Southern California community."

Orange County Health has indicated it's going to be difficult for the county to reach minimal COVID-19 spread anytime soon. At a Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting, Orange County Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau said:

"I think for a large county like us, especially a county with institution of higher education where folks [are] coming in from outside the county and outside the state, I think it’s going to be very hard to achieve the yellow tier.

“It depends on when the vaccine will come as well as how many doses [are] available for our populations as well as how many of our residents will readily accept the vaccine – those are the three factors that will determine how soon we can get to the yellow tier.

“Personally, I think that we can look forward to a yellow tier by next summer, hopefully. Hopefully.”

The California Attractions and Parks Association, a theme park industry group, released their own statement.

"By forcing amusement parks to stay closed until their home county reaches Tier 4, the Governor has issued a 'Keep Theme Parks Closed Indefinitely' Plan which will devastate California’s major theme park industry," Executive Director Erin Guerrero said in a statement. "We urge Governor Newsom to revise this guidance to allow for a reasonable and responsible reopening of California’s signature theme park industry in Tier 3."

PROFESSIONAL SPORTS GUIDELINES

Professional sports are allowed to resume in Tier 3 (moderate spread/orange) at 20% capacity, and in Tier 4 (minimal spread/yellow) at 25% capacity. Ticket sales will be restricted to customers within a 120-mile radius. Advance ticket sales and assigned seats are required, with no day-of or will-call ticket sales.

People will only be allowed to eat or drink in their assigned seats. Face coverings are mandatory unless eating or drinking. Tailgating is prohibited, but parking at the stadium is required.

PERSONAL CARE GUIDELINE UPDATE

All personal care services are allowed now to resume operations indoor statewide, including in the purple tier.

COUNTIES MOVING BACK TO MOST SERIOUS RESTRICTIONS

Southern California's Riverside County moved back to the strick purple tier, indicating widespread COVID-19 spread. Three SoCal counties are in this tier: Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

The state announced that it will be partnering with these counties to:

  • increase testing resources in key areas
  • provide isolation resources
  • community-based organization partnerships
  • business education and enforcement in partnership with state agencies

LATEST CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

The state's seven-day COVID-19 average is 3,096, with 2.6% 14-day positivity rate. There were 3,286 new cases in the most recent reporting period.

Ghaly noted that many states across the U.S. are experiencing a new wave of coronavirus cases, but that California isn't currently facing an increase.

Current projections show a 46% increase in hospitalizations a month from now, Ghaly said — that's down from an earlier projection of an 89% rise. There are currently 2,241 COVID-19 hospitalizations, with projections of 3,271 people hospitalized. He also added that the models showing these projections are publicly available at calcat.covid19.ca.gov, with both state and county-level data.

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Morning Briefing: Diners And Dodgers

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A grilled cheese sandwich at Swingers. (Anna Gragert for LAist)

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Good morning, L.A.

In addition to the Dodgers heading to the World Series, L.A. has another reason to celebrate: the Fairfax District’s beloved Swingers Diner is reopening.

Before closing in April, the 27-year-old restaurant served standard greasy spoon fare, with some vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options thrown in. More than that, though, it was a fixture in the city’s late-night scene throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, when buzzed 20-somethings went scrounging for the closest patty melt or french toast after then-trendy Hollywood clubs let out at 2 a.m.

As the story goes in 2020, though, Swingers had to close their doors to ensure everyone’s safety during the pandemic. A Go Fund Me page was set up to help employees through the closure, but it wasn’t clear whether the restaurant would open again.

Yesterday, that question was settled. Diner staff confirmed the news on Instagram, writing: “You don’t need to hold your breath, it’s true — we’re reopening!! Can’t nobody hold us down! … It’s the start of a new chapter in Swingers’ life, and it’s going to be bad ass. We cannot wait to see you all!!!!!!”

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie


Coming Up Today, October 20

Mike Roe covers Secretary of California Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly’s weekly press conference, where he's expected to provide an update on theme park guidelines, sports guidelines, and announce details on interventions from the state to help with COVID-19 in Southern California.

Outside spending in the LAUSD board races has topped $14.8 million, officially shattering a record for independent expenditures — and there are still more than two weeks until election day. Kyle Stokes has the story.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Money Matters: South Bay city officials are helping to facilitate the renting of rooms from seniors on fixed incomes to those without homes. The iconic Mid-Century Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs is on the market for $25 million.

Health And Safety: Community members in South L.A. came together to advocate for resources for BIPOC survivors of domestic and sexual violence. LAUSD students and their families can get a flu shot at several district campuses through the end of the month. Gov. Newsom announced details on the state's COVID-19 vaccine plan, while emphasizing that vaccinations won't be widely available until sometime in 2021.

The Good News: The Dodgers beat the Braves in the NLCS and are headed to the World Series. Amid all the restaurant closures, a bit of good news: Swingers Diner will reopen — possibly as soon as Nov. 1.

Election 2020: Authorities are investigating a fire that damaged an L.A. County ballot drop box in Baldwin Park. Yesterday was the deadline to register online to vote in the Nov. 3 election. (You can still register if you missed this deadline, but you'll have to do it in-person.)

Here’s What To Do: Explore the health benefits of tea and the majesty of mezcal, learn about the upcoming election at a KPCC/LAist cram session, attend drive-in screenings of a new Stevie Nicks concert film, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events. Check out our spooktacular Halloween event list.


Photo Of The Day

Julio Urias, #7 of the Los Angeles Dodgers, celebrates after closing out the team's 4-3 victory against the Atlanta Braves in Game Seven of the National League Championship Series.

(Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

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The news cycle moves fast. Some stories don't pan out. Others get added. Consider this today's first draft, and check LAist.com for updates on these stories and more. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

This post has been updated to reflect changes in what's coming up for today.


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