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Controversial Peace Deal In Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Hits Close To Home In LA

A boy holding a National Armenian flag marches with others from Pan Pacific Park to the Consulate General of Turkey, during an October protest in L.A. in support of Armenia amid the territorial dispute with Azerbaijan. (Kyle Grillot/AFP via Getty Images)

Earlier this week, Armenia and Azerbaijan announced an agreement to end the fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which Armenians refer to as Artsakh. Although the region is inside Azerbaijan's borders, mostly ethnic Armenians live there.

But there is still a dispute: Over the last two months, Azerbaijan's military has gained control of more territory. The peace agreement basically locks in some of those gains -- and costs Armenia control of some other territory as well.

Russian peacekeepers will be deployed to maintain the deal. Armenia's prime minister Nikol Pashinyan called the decision to end the conflict painful but necessary -- and in Armenia's capital, Yerevan, thousands took to the streets to protest the agreement, saying "We will not give up our land!" Protesters in Armenia upset over the deal have been calling the prime minister a "traitor" and demanding his resignation.

Meanwhile, as reported this week, some ethnic Armenians in the territory that will change hands are preparing to leave their homes.

These developments are being closely followed in Southern California's large Armenian American community, where disappointment over the terms of the deal is also deeply felt.

“Within the Armenian community, there is an overwhelming sense of abandonment," said Alex Galitsky, communications director with the Armenian National Committee of America's western region. "For months, the Armenian diaspora has called on the United States and the international community to confront Turkey and Azerbaijan's aggression to prevent their efforts to continue the Armenian genocide. Repeatedly those calls fell on deaf ears, even as Azerbaijan perpetrated war crimes and major human rights violations against the Armenians of Artsakh."

Salpi Ghazarian, director of USC's Institute of Armenian Studies, spoke with KPCC's Take Two about how the conflict has resonated locally.

"This community, particularly here in Southern California, everybody is somehow connected," Ghazarian said. "Everybody knows, has, someone -- an uncle, a cousin, a someone -- who went to fight, who it has not been a distant war by any means. Somebody called it 'the war that came to Los Angeles.' That is kind of what this has become."

The news that Turkey was backing Azerbaijan was also deeply disturbing for local Armenian Americans, many of whom are descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide, in which as many as 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives at the hands of the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915.

Last month, Armenian Americans held large rallies around Los Angeles in support of Armenia, including one that drew an estimated 100,000 people. Some Angelenos even traveled to Armenia to join the effort or provide medical and other support.


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Young Kim Unseats Gil Cisneros To Flip OC Seat Back to Red

Republican Young Kim (right) has defeated Democratic incumbent Gil Cisneros for the U.S. House seat in the 39th Congressional District. (Cisneros photo by Angel De Leon/Cisneros for Congress via AP; Kim photo from candidate’s campaign)

Young Kim has flipped the 39th Congressional District back to red, defeating Democratic incumbent Gil Cisneros in a nail-biter of a rematch. The Associated Press called the race on Friday.

The two first faced off during the midterm elections of 2018 in a race so close that it was not called for Cisneros until more than a week later.

This time, the roles have reversed. More than a week after election night, Kim had pulled ahead by 1.2 percentage points to win a district that spans Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties.

In a video posted on Twitter, Kim congratulated Cisneros on "a hard-fought campaign" and thanked her supporters, adding, "Whoever you voted for in this election, I hope you know that regardless of any difference we may have, I will always work on your behalf and fight for you."

On Saturday, Cisneros posted a concession message on Twitter:

With her win, Kim joins a fast-growing class of Korean American members of Congress. Other Korean Americans elected this cycle were Michelle Steel, a fellow Republican from Orange County, and Marilyn Strickland, a Democrat from Washington. All were born in South Korea, and they all make history as the first three Korean American women ever elected to Congress.

They join Democrat Andy Kim of New Jersey, who was voted into office in 2018.

Cisneros' win two years ago was part of a blue wave in Orange County that saw him and fellow Democrats Katie Porter, Mike Levin and Harley Rouda take Republican strongholds.

But the blue wave appears to have ebbed in parts. Rouda on Tuesday conceded to his Republican challenger Michelle Steel, an Orange County supervisor.

Rouda had been seen as the most vulnerable of the freshman members of Congress. His district along coastal Orange County has more registered Republicans than Democrats, even as the rest of region was moving left.

By contrast, Cisneros was seen in a stronger position in a district where registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans and is almost evenly split between Asian, Latino and white residents.

Before Cisneros, the area was represented for over two decades by former Congressman Ed Royce, for whom Kim used to work for as an aide.

The last Korean American member of Congress hailed from from Los Angeles County. Jay Kim, a Republican from Diamond Bar, served until 1999.


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Some LAPD Officers Take Aim at Chief Over Handling Of Black Lives Matter Protests

LAPD officers confront protesters at a Black Lives Matter demonstration following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A vast majority of the LAPD officers who responded to a survey conducted by their labor union said Chief Michel Moore failed to provide strong leadership during the weeks of unrest in Los Angeles that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May.

Almost 70% of the LAPD officers surveyed said the command staff was unprepared for the protests, and the police union's leader said some complained that commanders hesitated to make decisions out of fear of being demoted for harsh treatment of protesters -- even as many protesters accused the LAPD of excessive use of force.

Officers also complained about Chief Moore's decision to kneel with a group of people demonstrating in the Fairfax District, according to the police union. The survey was far from scientific -- about 27% of the department’s nearly 10,000 officers responded.

A class-action lawsuit filed by the National Lawyers Guild, Black Lives Matter and LA Community Action Network alleges officers used batons and less-than-lethal projectiles on peaceful demonstrators and placed arrestees in cramped conditions, potentially exposing them to coronavirus, all with the knowledge of the chief.



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Your Friday Election Results Update, Featuring More Los Angeles County Ballots Counted

A voter drops a ballot in an official ballot collection box in Highland Park on October 17, 2020. (Al Kamalizad for LAist)

* These results will be continually updated as votes are counted. Last updated on Friday, November 13 at 5:15 PM.

As election officials continue counting ballots, Los Angeles County turnout is nearing 4.3 million, or 75% of registered voters, according to an update released Friday afternoon by the County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office.

That will continue to edge upward as more provisional and conditional registration ballots are counted. The Registrar-Recorder’s office reported at least 98,440 ballots still need to be counted, including tens of thousands of vote-by-mail ballots that arrived after Election Day and 'conditional registrations' -- people who walked into a vote center to register and cast a ballot on the same day. Their registration information must be verified before the votes are counted.

The latest count puts a razor-thin margin in the 25th Congressional District even narrower: Republican Congressman Mike Garcia’s lead shrunk from 219 to 104 votes. Ballots from Los Angeles County have been slightly favoring Democrat Christy Smith, while Garcia is winning the Ventura County portion of the district. Smith is hoping for a different result from the May special election, when Garcia claimed victory to fill the last few months of former Rep. Katie Hill’s term.

On Friday evening, the Associated Press declared a winner in the 39th District, which includes parts of Orange, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties: Republican Young Kim narrowly defeated incumbent Democratic Congressman Gil Cisneros.

Meanwhile, turnout statewide could be between 17 million and 17.5 million, around 79% of California’s registered voters.

We won’t be able to nail down the official turnout until county elections officials certify the votes in their jurisdictions, which must happen within 31 days of the election. The Secretary of State will certify statewide election results by Dec. 11.

Vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 can still arrive and be counted by county registrars through Nov. 20.


In L.A.:


Newsom Faces Push From Latino And Black Communities On Harris Senate Replacement

Senator Kamala Harris speaks during the first press conference with Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on Aug. 12, 2020. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Sometime in the next two months, Governor Gavin Newsom will make one of the most consequential decisions of his political career: choosing a replacement for California Senator Kamala Harris, now the vice president-elect.

His calculation will take into account experience and policy positions, but also who Harris is and what she represents: a barrier-busting Black and Indian woman, a child of immigrant parents and the first female -- and woman of color -- vice president.

Groups from different wings of the Democratic Party are lobbying hard to see her seat filled by someone who will embody a similar step forward in representation at the highest levels of government. The post-Harris vacancy is also sharpening attention on the paucity of diverse voices in Congress.


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California Health Secretary Worried About COVID-19 Rise; Travel Advisory Issued, Plus Small Gatherings Guidance

California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. (Courtesy California Health Department)

California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly delivered an update on California's response to coronavirus. Read highlights below or watch the full video above.

Ghaly said that while there's not a clear definition of a surge, we are definitely in the middle of one.

"Cases are on the rise here in California, and we are concerned," Ghaly said. "As I say to my patients, often, when I'm worried, I'll tell you so you can worry with me — and we're there."


Ghaly spoke about the state's new travel advisory, which California announced along with Oregon and Washington. Traveling or having others travel to your home could potentially cause an increase in transmission, Ghaly said.

"Please don't travel. If it's not essential, please consider delaying it as long as you can, through this pandemic," Ghaly said.

This isn't a travel ban or restriction, Ghaly noted, but an advisory. Californians are encouraged to stay close to home and avoid non-essential travel to other states or countries — and Ghaly added that even avoiding travel to other counties is encouraged.

They're also asking people who arrive in California from other states or countries to self-quarantine for 14 days before mixing with others, and limit interactions to their immediate household. Ghaly noted this was particularly important as more people travel for the holidays or other winter events.

"Really, we're asking people to first consider whether that non-essential travel is the right thing to do now," Ghaly said. "We urge people to consider staying close to home, staying at home, staying with their household, experiencing loved ones virtually — on the phone, by Zoom, by whatever mode they can imagine. But really, choosing to make that decision today, rather than risk getting infected themselves, or additionally bringing home the virus and having it transmitted in our workplaces, or in other parts of our state, especially given the levels of transmission that we see. But if the choice is made to go and travel, we do urge people to do the 14-day quarantine when they return."

Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading the virus, Ghaly said.


As the weather turns colder, Ghaly said that many of us have COVID fatigue. He said that the safest gatherings remain at home, with members of your own household — he encouraged people to hold gatherings virtually whenever possible.

When you do gather with others, Ghaly reminded listeners that gatherings outdoors are significantly safer than those inside.

The state is offering this checklist of tips for how to safely celebrate the holidays:

  • Check your local public health website for restrictions
  • Wear your mask

He noted the particularly dangerous time when people are sharing a meal or drinks, or have an urge to take the mask off at the end of a gathering. But, as much as possible, he urged people to keep their masks on to avoid COVID-19 air droplets.

  • Keep your distance — spread things out

Ghaly suggested meeting in areas other than your living room or dining room, if you have space for people to be in other rooms.

  • Keep it small — no more than 3 households, including your own

For the holidays, while keeping celebrations within your household is the safest, Ghaly emphasized that if you invite others, you should only invite a maximum of two other households.

  • Keep things short

Instead of a 3-4 hour gathering, try keeping it to 60-90 minutes, Ghaly said. This helps to keep you from letting your guard down, while still having time to visit with people.

  • Keep windows open and outside air circulating
  • Protect older and at-risk friends and family

Ghaly said that he knows there's an urge to see grandparents or aunts and uncles, but that keeping your guard up is essential.

He said that the state is strongly encouraging you not to invite those older and with higher risk to gatherings. But if you must, make sure they have the right mask, discuss ways to protect them, talk with everyone who will be at the gathering to do all you can to protect those people.

Just over 10% of the state's cases are those over 65 — but that group makes up nearly 75% of the state's deaths.

People at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 — including older adults and those with chronic medical conditions — are strongly urged not to attend any gatherings. That includes outdoor ones, but especially indoor ones, Ghaly noted.

If you do gather with older people or those with chronic conditions, make sure to wear a surgical mask. While a cloth face mask can be sufficient for many settings and people, a surgical mask is more helpful for these vulnerable groups.


Dr. Erica Pan speaks during a California Health Department briefing on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. (Courtesy California Health Department)

California's seven-day COVID-19 case average is 6,773 cases per day, with today's numbers continuing to rise at 6,893. The state's 14-day positivity rate is 4%, with 136,428 tests conducted per day. That's a full percentage higher than two weeks ago — it was 3% on Oct. 29.

Hospitalizations have gone up 34.6% over the past two weeks, with ICU hospitalizations up 36.7%. There are 3,399 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized, with 931 in ICU beds.

This compares to a similar position to where the case rate was in June, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan. From June 15 to June 21, cases went up 39.2%; from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7, cases went up 47.1%.

"It's important and it's sobering when people do find loved ones who are infected who have serious consequences, and even when loved ones die, that those are avoidable situations in many, many cases," Ghaly said.


Pan said that the state had used a "slow and stringent approach" to reopening counties, allowing a significant number to reopen over the past two months. But, the number of new cases has increased "dramatically" since the beginning of November — and that time is of the essence when cases are increasing this fast.

Ghaly said that, while they'd had a slow, stringent approach to reopening, they are continuing to look at potentially quickly bringing back restrictions if needed. They will be continuing to consider that over the weekend.

He added that instead of waiting for two weeks of data, counties may move into more stringent restriction tiers after just one week if the data is compelling enough. Also, while the state has generally only moved counties one tier at a time, it could move back more tiers at a time if cases are particularly bad. Counties have also been able to wait three days before moving back into a more restrictive tier, but that may change and need to happen faster, according to Ghaly.

The state is also considering whether additional changes to the current, most-restrictive purple tier will need to be made. They are looking at whether some additional restrictions in purple-tier counties are needed.

"We are not looking today at a statewide stay-at-home order," Ghaly said. He later said, "Case spread, even in purple counties, is not unexpected when the baseline transmission rates across our state, across our nation, are as high as they are."

Ghaly said he has spoken with his own family about altering their behaviors becaus they live in LA County, which is in the purple tier.

Pan re-emphasized remembering the basics for what's successfully helped reduce cases in the past. The peak could be even higher than it was over the summer, she said.

"We always hope to have positive news, and this isn't really positive news," Ghaly said. "This is an important, immediate situation."

About two weeks after a set of cases is reported, about 12% of those cases end up in the hospital, Ghaly said. This rapid rise in cases has officials concerned about hospital capacity, as well as others besides those COVID-19 patients who might have both routine and emergency health needs.


Ghaly ran through activities seen as high-risk:

  • Activities where it is difficult to mask the whole time (e.g. eating and drinking)
  • Activities where you see people who you haven't seen recently (e.g. people outside your household)

"Just because we're personally close to someone — a family member, a really close friend, who we haven't seen in a while — that doesn't create comfort when it comes to COVID," Ghaly said. "We may actually put our guard down ... and that's exactly the condition that creates spread and transmission of COVID-19."

  • Activities where it is difficult to keep your distance (e.g. multiple people at a small table for a meal, for a board game, etc.)
  • Activities of a longer duration
  • Activities that don't allow for plenty of fresh air to circulate

Ghaly said outdoor activities under canopies with as many sides open as possible could be lower risk, but even when you're indoors, keep windows and doors open and keep outside air circulating to reduce the risk of transmission.

"We know this is a difficult time for many, personally, for many businesses, and a number of others throughout our state," Ghaly said. "We trust that the message we give today isn't an easy one, but it's an important one."

Ghaly asked for Californians to come together to flatten and crush the curve once again.

Racism 101’s 'For Us, By Us' Offers Anti-Racism Media Database Filterable By Affinity Groups

(Photo illustration by Chava Sanchez/LAist)

This summer, as the country erupted into unrest brought on by George Floyd’s killing and a renewed dialogue about systemic racism, we hosted the virtual event series Unheard LA: A Deeper Listen. A trend in the discussion among our audience and participants was the burden people of color carry when they’re constantly asked for their opinion, resources or ideas on race-related issues. It’s exhausting.

We launched Racism 101 to give people as many resources as we could -- a conversation “starter kit” for those who wanted to learn how to guide more productive conversations; anti-racism resources to read, listen and watch; and a panel of 12 Angelenos willing to step up and answer those awkward, tough-to-ask questions folks have but didn’t want to ask their friends, or strangers. Now, those online tools are even more robust as we launch our For Us, By Us resource section. Read, listen, watch, dig in. You can filter our mini database by media type or by affinity group.

Next week, we’re rolling out answers to your Racism 101 questions on LAist. Stay tuned.




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Her Family Was Told 'Go Back To Your Country.' Now, The Vice President-Elect Shares Her Grandmother's Name

Reshma Shamasunder, left, as a teenager with her mother and sister during a visit to India. (Courtesy of Reshma Shamasunder)

Growing up in the high desert on the northern edge of Los Angeles County, Reshma Shamasunder and her Indian American family experienced the sting of racism:

The burly man took a step towards my mother and knocked the plate out of her hand before hissing, "Go back to your country."

Setting: 1980s Antelope Valley at a local Sizzler, where we were enjoying the weekend buffet.

She grew up to become an immigrant rights advocate and the mother of three daughters, "grateful that their experience growing up in suburban Los Angeles was characterized by much less explicit racism than what I faced as a kid in the Mojave Desert."

Until the day after the November 2016 election, when her two eldest daughters were walking the dog and a man in a truck screamed out the window at them, "Go back to your country!"

But now, Shamasunder writes, she has new hope after the election -- and takes pride in the historic victory of Kamala Harris, a woman of Black and Indian descent who "shares a first name with my grandmother and niece," becoming vice president-elect.



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Morning Briefing: 1 Million Cases And Counting

N-95 masks and surgical masks should be reserved for medical professionals, but the general public are encouraged to wear home made coverings. Chava Sanchez/LAist

Good morning, L.A.

Yesterday, California hit a milestone we hoped not to see: 1 million coronavirus cases. The number comes amid restrictions being loosened throughout the state, and what experts have dubbed “pandemic fatigue.”

In L.A., the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Pacoima has the highest rate of cases in the county. Officials believe that may have to do with the high number of people employed as essential workers in the area.

“They have to go to work, and they may not have the benefit of paid time off,” said Dr. Christine Park, chief medical officer for a group of community health centers that includes one in Pacoima. “If they have symptoms, or if they test positive, not working means not getting paid."

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, November 13

An Indian American born and raised in Southern California, LAist contributor Reshma Shamasunder, will reflect on a lifetime of perpetual foreignness, four years of hate, and what a Harris vice-presidency means for the writer's daughters.

Now that Joe Biden has won the presidential election, Josie Huang will check in with DACA recipients who have experienced a roller coaster ride since Trump canceled the program that let them live here legally.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Policing Law Enforcement: L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva called a scheduled public inquest into the deputy shooting death of Andres Guardado a "circus stunt."

Race In L.A.: As statues of Franciscan friar Juinpero Serra come down, Southern California grapples with reframing the European-centric "California story."

Coronavirus Updates: Coronavirus cases are surging again in L.A. County, and one key hot spot is the San Fernando Valley community of Pacoima. California hit a new milestone yesterday afternoon: 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Here’s What To Do: Get an early start on holiday shopping at a bunch of online craft fairs, tune into the Groundlings' exploration of diversity, learn to cook sesame noodles from Jon Yao of Kato and apple empanadas from Eliceo Lara, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events.

Photo of the Day

Mannequins wear facemasks in downtown L.A. as cases surge in the county, and California hits 1 million cases.

(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

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