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The Queen Mary Got A Royal Sum For Repairs. Now Its Operator Is Filing For Bankruptcy

File: People visit for free on the 80th anniversary of the Queen Mary on Sept. 26, 2014 in Long Beach. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

The operator of the Queen Mary, the nearly 90-year-old ocean liner owned by the city of Long Beach, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

According to court documents acquired by the Long Beach Post, Singapore-based Eagle Hospitality Trust filed for bankruptcy on Monday, with more than $500 million in debt.

Long Beach Post reporter Kelly Puente says the bankruptcy is the latest in a long string of financial problems.

"The ship has really been allowed to fall to the wayside. It needs millions and millions of dollars in repairs — by some estimates, over $200 million in repairs. So there's just a lot of concern that the ship is being neglected and not adequately cared for."

The Long Beach City Auditor is looking into how $23 million in bonds the city issued in 2016 for major emergency repairs were spent — the funds ran out before the work was completed.


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State Supreme Court Will Not Force LAUSD To Resume Small Groups On-Campus

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner demonstrates an electrostatic sprayer used to sanitize campuses. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The California Supreme Court will not immediately force the Los Angeles Unified School District to resume in-person instruction for small groups of the highest-need students.

Today, the state’s highest court denied a petition from two advocacy organizations that argued LAUSD’s Dec. 11 decision to suspend the district’s already-limited on-campus services for students with special needs violated California’s pandemic education law, Senate Bill 98.

The petitioners — the Alliance for Children’s Rights and the Learning Rights Law Center — took their case directly to the state Supreme Court, bypassing lower courts in hopes of forcing LAUSD to reverse course before the school year ended.


Distance learning has been particularly difficult for English learners, foster youth, students in special education, and unhoused children. In late September, L.A. County public health officials said schools could accommodate as many as 25% of their students.

But even before this winter’s COVID-19 surge, the state’s largest district had invited less than 1% of its students to participate in these small groups.

As cases spiked, LAUSD officials joined Long Beach Unified and Santa Ana Unified in setting aside plans for on-campus programming until after the surge receded.


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LA's COVID Case Numbers Are Finally Starting To Decrease, But Officials Say Surge Isn't Over Yet

Image courtesy LA County Public Health

The number of new COVID-19 cases appears to be dropping in L.A. County, but officials warn that it's too soon to tell if that trend will hold.

The county reported another 262 deaths today, along with more than 6,400 confirmed cases, a considerably lower number than what's been reported on most days since the winter surge began in November.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says today's case count is likely much lower due to reporting lags from the recent New Year's and Martin Luther King Jr. holidays, and the conversion of the Dodger Stadium parking lot from a testing site to a mass vaccination site, which temporarily reduced the county's overall testing capacity:

"We are very hopeful that the actions taken by many are starting to work" Ferrer said. "Unfortunately, even if cases are beginning to decline, these numbers are still really high. And they're going to continue to drive overcrowding at hospitals, and a high number of deaths."

The number of COVID patients in local hospitals is edging down slightly, with more than 7,200 people currently in need of treatment for the disease.

Meanwhile, a new report from the county's Department of Health and Human Services found that COVID patients are staying in the hospital longer, and are more likely to die from the virus. Between September and November, patients had a one-in-eight chance of dying; but between November to now, that chance has increased to about one-in-four.


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LA Health Officials Apologize For Vaccine Appointment Tech Issues

Vaccinations will be conducted at Dodger Stadium to those with appointments. Chava Sanchez/LAist

Almost immediately after L.A. County opened vaccination appointments to senior residents on Tuesday, users reported tech issues and frustration with the website.

CalVax — the site that allows users to actually book an appointment — was down for several hours. The county's call center was also quickly overwhelmed.

None of this was particularly shocking. The same thing happened when appointments opened in Orange County last week, after more than 10,000 people scheduled appointments in less than two hours.

Today, county Health Director Barbara Ferrer apologized for the tech issues and thanked Angelenos for their patience:

We're very sorry for those who experienced problems yesterday with an overwhelmed registration system online and call center. We continue to improve our website and our call center has added additional capacity today.

Ferrer advised residents to continually check the website for open appointment slots, saying that more might open due to cancellations. She also suggested searching for opening at locations "that are further from your home."

L.A. Public Health also Tweeted an explanation, saying that their website is part of a statewide system that crashed Tuesday afternoon, and that appointment slots are "extremely limited" at the moment.

Despite the challenges, the public health department said that thousands were "nevertheless" able to schedule an appointment.

Some LAist readers have reported being able to sign up for an appointment at Dodger Stadium via Carbon Health.


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New Report Details LA Sheriff's Deputy Gangs

File: An L.A. County Sheriff's deputy holds a baton during a protest. (Brian Feinzimer For LAist)

Call them what you will — secret groups, gangs, cliques — but there have been at least 18 of them operating over the past 50 years within the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, according to a new report from Loyola Law School.

Some have encouraged violence against local residents, jail inmates and even fellow deputies who challenge them, according to the report, which cites some of KPCC/LAist's own reporting on the matter.

Other groups, including one comprised of Black deputies, appear to have been more benign.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva and others within the department have acknowledged the existence of these cliques, but they have mostly downplayed them as social groups, referring to any bad behavior as "hazing run amok."

The Sheriff's Department said in a statement that it is "aware of the non-peer reviewed report containing non-academically acceptable citations and unproven allegations as a primary basis for content," adding that the report would "extrapolate anything that would be helpful."



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California’s First Latino Senator, Alex Padilla, Takes The Oath Of Office

Vice President Kamala Harris administers the oath of office to (left-to-right) Senators Raphael Warnock, Alex Padilla and Jon Ossoff on Jan. 20, 2020. (Screenshot via CSPAN 2 livestream

Alex Padilla has taken the oath of office and now officially begins his duty representing California as its first Latino U.S. Senator.

He was joined by new senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who both won runoff elections in Georgia this month against Republican incumbents.

Vice President Kamala Harris, who resigned from the Senate this week ahead of the inauguration, administered the oath. She joked as she began the proceedings that it felt "pretty weird" to be swearing in her successor, Padilla.

Padilla is a former Los Angeles City Council President and state legislator, and most recently served as Califoria's Secretary of State. He is serving out the remainder of Harris' term, which extends through 2022.

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Padilla to the seat, despite pressure to appoint a Black woman to replace Harris.

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Local Democrats Share ‘Relief’ And ‘Tears Of Joy’ During Biden Inauguration

US Vice President Kamala Harris bumps fists ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US President on January 20, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Imag

Politicians: They work out big feelings on social media just like the rest of us.

Local elected representatives shared exuberant messages and selfies on Wednesday during the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, whose district includes L.A. and Orange County cities like Norwalk, Pico Rivera and Whittier, kicked things off with a video from the inaugural platform.

Sánchez also announced she will run point in the House of Representatives for a top priority for the new administration: the U.S. Citizenship Act, which creates an eight-year path to citizenship for many of the 11 million immigrants in the country without legal status.

"We've waited too long for reform," Sánchez said on Twitter. "On day one of this Biden Administration, we’re not wasting any time. We are getting to work and we will get this done."

Honored to witness the swearing in of our first black, AAPI, woman Vice President,” San Gabriel Valley Rep. Judy Chu posted on Twitter. “Kamala Harris is the first, but she won't be the last.”

Congressman Jimmy Gomez, whose district includes Boyle Heights and parts of East and northeast L.A., attended with his wife, Mary Hodge.

The Boston Globe’s Jazmine Ulloa caught up with freshman Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs. She was elected in November to succeed 10-term congresswoman Susan Davis in San Diego.

Los Angeles Rep. Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, shared her sentiments on Twitter:

Congressman Adam Schiff, House Intelligence Committee Chairman, echoed Waters’ feelings of relief.

Democrats weren’t the only ones sharing positive vibes. Several Republicans expressed well-wishes for President Biden.

Freshman Congresswoman Young Kim, who represents the 39th District in North Orange County, plus parts of San Bernardino and L.A. counties, posted a photo with her daughter along with a message about unity.

Longtime GOP Congressman Darrell Issa, who was just elected to return to the House representing the 50th District in inland San Diego County, issued a statement:

“Every Inauguration Day is a celebration of our enduring democracy — and today continues that uniquely American tradition. I have known President Biden for more than 20 years, I welcome his words of unity, and the country stands to benefit if he keeps the promises he made during the campaign to bring us together. Today is also a time to pray for our nation and its success. May God continue to bless America.”

But it wasn’t all warm and fuzzies from the Republican side of the aisle.

“California Republicans have seen first-hand the consequences of far-left policies,” State Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove said in a statement. “Republicans will continue to bring balance and fight to restore both the California and American Dream through peaceful and productive civic engagement.”

In a few cases, epidemiology got in the way. Rep. Raul Ruiz said on Twitter he was unable to attend the ceremony because of a positive COVID-19 test.

Also, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who campaigned for Biden and was a co-chair of his Inaugural Committee, was not in Washington for the festivities. Garcetti was spied Wednesday morning at Dodger Stadium where he was greeting people who were there to receive a coronavirus vaccination.

An LA Writing Program Kickstarted Poet Amanda Gorman's Career. Her Mentor Reminisces

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman speaks at the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Amanda Gorman, the L.A. poet who recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joseph Biden’s inauguration today, spent part of her teen years at WriteGirl, a Los Angeles volunteer organization that helps girls hone writing skills, from poetry to journalism.

This morning, a group of current WriteGirl students, mentors, and alumnae this morning for a virtual watch party to see Gorman recite her poem on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Among the mentors was Michelle Chahine Sinno, who offered coaching and support to Gorman for two years.

Chahine Sinno was proud when she heard that Gorman would be reading at the inauguration—but not entirely surprised. She knew her mentee had ambitious goals, even as a teenager.

“Her dream when she was 16 or 17, was to become president,” Chahine Sinno said. “When I first saw this news, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, she got to that podium way earlier than she even thought she would’.”


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Long Beach City Council Passes Measure Requiring $4 Per Hour In Extra Pay For Grocery Workers

Outside an Aldi on Atlantic Ave. in Long Beach, signs read, "Heroes work here." (Megan Garvey/LAist)

The city council of Long Beach voted unanimously on Tuesday night to require that grocery stores give their workers a temporary $4-per-hour pay bump during the COVID pandemic.

“These folks that are working at these markets and these grocery stores are heroes,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “They have received this type of additional pay in the past. And if they deserved it in the past, they deserve it today.”

Officials in Los Angeles County, the city of L.A. and Santa Ana have also taken up similar premium pay proposals, but Long Beach is the first to enact the mandate.

Santa Monica’s city council voted earlier this month to match any ordinance passed by L.A. County’s Board of Supervisors, which has not yet voted on its final plan.

Lawmakers say the extra pay is necessary to recognize the increased risks grocery workers are facing as COVID cases surge in the L.A. area.

California’s grocery industry, which lobbied against the proposals, filed a lawsuit against the city of Long Beach on Wednesday morning.

The California Grocers Association (CGA) filed the challenge in federal court, calling the ordinance unconstitutional and asking for a preliminary injunction to prevent the premium pay mandate from going into effect until a ruling is made.

CGA president Ron Fong said in an emailed statement, “This ordinance is clearly illegal in that it interferes with the collective-bargaining process and singles out only certain grocers while ignoring other retail workers and workers in other industries providing essential services during the pandemic.”

Long Beach’s ordinance would apply to larger grocery stores with at least 300 workers nationwide and more than 15 employees per store within the city. The mandate requires those employers to offer premium pay for 120 days. After that, the ordinance expires.

Because city councilmembers passed the measure as an “emergency ordinance,” it was set to take effect immediately.

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Live Video And Fact Check: Inauguration Of Joe Biden And Kamala Harris


Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are being sworn in as the President and Vice President of the United States. Watch the ceremony, inaugural address and other events throughout the day, and follow a live fact-check from NPR below.


Events for the day include:

  • 9 a.m. PT: Swearing-in ceremonies followed by Biden's inaugural address.
  • 11 a.m. PT: Wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery. Biden and Harris will be joined by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
  • 11 a.m. PT: Presidential escort to the White House followed by a virtual "parade" with scenes across the country.
  • 4 p.m. PT: Press briefing with Biden press secretary Jen Psaki.
  • 5:30 p.m. PT: Evening program hosted by Tom Hanks with musical performances by John Legend, Jon Bon Jovi, Justin Timberlake and more.

Biden will come into office facing a public health crisis, a battered economy and deepened political rifts as well as global concerns such as climate change. Still, he projects optimism, vowing to help heal the nation.

As part of his promise to the American people, Biden has sought to make his Cabinet the most diverse in U.S. history, reflected in part by Harris, who will be the first woman, the first African American and the first Indian American to hold the office of the vice presidency.

Biden's election victory marked the end of the Donald Trump White House era, which was plagued by personal and political scandals, two impeachments and a call to action at the U.S. Capitol that was answered by violent, pro-Trump insurrectionists. Trump is not attending Wednesday's ceremony.


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Here Are The Southern Californians Who Received Last-Minute Pardons From Trump

Marine One with President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump aboard departs the White House on Jan. 20, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

President Trump granted pardons or commutations to 143 people in the final hours of his presidency, including several people from Southern California.

Here's what we know about them:

Former Republican National Committee Deputy Finance Chairman — and Beverly Hills resident — Elliott Broidy was one of President Trump's top fundraisers in 2016. Broidy pleaded guilty in October to acting as an unregistered foreign agent. Federal investigators say he lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of a fugitive financier from Malaysia. The White House said Broidy's pardon was backed by Republican California congressmen Devin Nunes and Ken Calvert and cited his "numerous philanthropic efforts, including on behalf of law enforcement, the military and veterans programs, and the Jewish community."

Doctor Faustino Bernadett was sentenced last January to 15 months in federal prison for his role in a kickback scheme at Long Beach Pacific Hospital, which he owned. Investigators say Bernadett authorized sham contracts that hid more than $30 million in illegal kickback payments to physicians who steered spinal surgeries to the hospital. That led to more than $900 million in fraudulent bills, mostly submitted to California's worker comp system. The scheme was already underway when Bernadett bought the hospital, but when he found out about it, he kept it going. He pleaded guilty to concealing a felony. The White House says Bernardett has spent the past year helping hospitals and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former San Diego Republican Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham represented California's 50th District. Cunningham was a former fighter pilot who pleaded guilty to accepting more than $2 million in bribes while he was in office. Investigators say he used his positions on the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees to get those kickbacks. He pleaded guilty in 2004 and was sentenced to more than eight years in prison. The White House cited Cunningham's military record, and work tutoring other inmates, in granting the conditional pardon.

Miami developer Robert "Bob" Zangrillo was charged in connection with the "Varsity Blues" admissions scandal at USC. Federal prosecutors say he worked with Newport Beach consultant Rick Singer to get his daugher into USC as a fake rowing recruit. In granting the full pardon, the White House said, "his daughter did not have others take standardized tests for her and is currently earning a 3.9 GPA at the University of Southern California. Mr. Zangrillo is a well-respected business leader and philanthropist."


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Morning Brief: LA’s Inauguration Security Plan

The Los Angeles Police Department headquarters is located in downtown LA. (Andrew Cullen for LAist)

Good morning, L.A.

In the days following the storming of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the FBI released a memo detailing plans for armed protests in all 50 states leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

So far this week, those uprisings haven’t materialized — including in Sacramento, where members of the National Guard have been stationed since last week — but local law enforcement is nevertheless amping up security for today’s events in Washington.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced yesterday that Los Angeles Police Department officers will be out in increased numbers, and that 200 California National Guard troops are on standby.

“Should acts of vandalism or violence take place, we will take immediate action," said LAPD Chief Michel Moore at the same press conference.

The plans were made, in part, with the benefit of hindsight. The rioters who violently tore down barricades, broke windows and threatened lawmakers in D.C. on June 6 had been planning, quite publicly, for weeks. The event even had its own name and website: the Wild Protest. (The site has since been taken down.)

But top law enforcement officials at the House, Senate and Pentagon repeatedly rejected requests for backup from the National Guard that day, and requests made by the Capitol Police in the days leading up to the riot were allegedly not conveyed to those who could have approved the entreaty.

Since that day, many activists, journalists and experts have compared law enforcement’s actions at the Capitol riot to their response to Black Lives Matter protests, which were often flooded with members of the National Guard. L.A. saw that response firsthand, when guardsmen blanketed downtown during protests against systemic racism and police brutality.

Police also frequently appeared in riot gear, and used methods of force called “less lethal” in police parlance, but which can still kill, blind or maim victims. Journalists with our organization were, at times, on the receiving end.

It remains to be seen how law enforcement — and protesters — will behave throughout today’s events.

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

What Else You Need To Know Today

  • From fear to misinformation to denial, the way humans respond to plagues hasn't changed much in the past couple of centuries.
  • In South L.A., gang interventionists are trying to slow a dramatic spike in gun violence.
  • Students have been more engaged in civics education in the wake of racial reckonings, the siege at the Capitol and Trump’s second impeachment.
  • A Red Flag Warning is in effect today for much of Southern California because of strong Santa Ana winds, moderately low humidity, and very dry plants and grasses.
  • The Long Beach Convention Center parking lot — known locally as the "Elephant Lot" — is open as a mass COVID-19 vaccination site.
  • California's COVID-19 positivity rate and hospitalizations are finally going down following a holiday surge.
  • Vaccine appointments are open for residents age 65 and older — pending availability.

Before You Go … Here’s What To Do This Week

Viggo Mortensen and Lance Henriksen talk about their new film, 'Falling,' which Mortensen also directed. (Courtesy of Perceval Pictures)

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve turned our former weekly events column into a non-events column; in other words, a list of visual and/or socially distanced activities. We’ll keep it this way as long as social distancing and stay-at-home orders are in effect.

This week, some of the activities on our radar include watching Groundlings' storytellers reveal deep, dark and hilarious secrets, celebrating the women-owned restaurants with a takeout food fest, and viewing photos created during The Year of Not Knowing. Check out those events, and more.

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

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