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UCLA Student Arrested For Actively Participating In Capitol Siege

Photo from FBI Affidavit: The subject is carrying a large blue flag with “America First” in white writing.

Federal prosecutors have charged a UCLA student from Costa Mesa in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last month.

FBI agents took Christian Secor into custody yesterday, after searching his home.

He appeared in Santa Ana federal court, where he was booked on a laundry list of charges, including assaulting officers, violent entry and obstructing an official proceeding.

According to court papers, video footage shows Secor pushing his way past officers who were trying to block doors leading into the Capitol. He's also allegedly shown walking around the Senate chambers holding an America First flag, and sitting in the chair of former Vice President Mike Pence.

According to an FBI Affidavit, the bureau was tipped off by a student at UCLA, amont others, who recognized Secor as the founder of a conservative campus organization.

Secor is now the second Orange County resident arrested in connection to that violent uprising.

He's currently being held without bail.

The other Southern California residents arrested for the insurrection include:

  • 1 from Huntington Beach
  • 1 from Victorville
  • 3 from Beverly Hills
  • 1 from Glendora
  • 1 from San Diego

NPR has this feature to search arrests by state.

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Low-Income Californians Could Receive One-Time $600 Relief Payment From State

A woman looks over paperwork from the Employment Development Department of California. Chava Sanchez/LAist

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators have announced an agreement on a $9.6 billion coronavirus relief plan.

It includes $600 payments to low-income taxpayers who earn $30,000 a year or less.

Also eligible: Undocumented workers and those who file their taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).

The payments will be sent out after those who are eligible file their 2020 taxes.

The agreement also includes $2 billion in grants for small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

State legislators are expected to vote on this package in the coming weeks.

The First LAUSD Vaccination Site Opened Today

Carolyn Fowler of the Los Angeles Unified School District receives her Covid-19 vaccination at a site opened today by LAUSD for LAUSD employees. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

The L.A. Unified School District and its teachers' union say educators and staff should be vaccinated against COVID-19 before in-class instruction resumes.

How will that get done? A few gears are already moving.

The district's first school-based vaccination center opened this morning in downtown L.A. at the Roybal Learning Center.

Shots are still limited to the current tier of recipients — health care workers and people over 65. But school nurses and the infrastructure are in place, in anticipation of eligibility expanding to teachers in March.

LAUSD also has a new collaboration with the Los Angeles Rams, Hollywood Park, Anthem Blue Cross and Cedars-Sinai on a large-scale operation on the grounds of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, that could serve any public or private school staffer seeking innoculation.

Today's announcement describes it as a "dedicated vaccination site and comprehensive effort for the education community." The district is still seeking county approval.


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Why You Won't Be Able To Drive On Robertson In WeHo All Weekend

(Courtesy city of West Hollywood)

West Hollywood is the latest local city to rethink public space by closing a street to cars to create more space for walking and biking (and likely outdoor dining).

The city council voted unanimously to launch a limited pilot program on Robertson Boulevard, creating a car-free zone on weekends from Santa Monica Boulevard to El Tovar Place, just north of Melrose Avenue. The street will be pedestrian-only from 6 p.m. Saturdays to 2 a.m. Mondays.

The pilot is slated to launch in mid-April and run for three months. City staff will evaluate the program, so the council can decide whether to continue it and potentially expand the vehicle ban to include Friday nights.


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Some Farmworkers In California Are Finally Getting Vaccinated; Gov. Newsom Visited One Site Today

TODEC Legal Center is one of the non-profit partners helping to vaccinate farmworkers in Riverside County. (Photo Courtesy TODEC via Twitter)

Who to vaccinate and when has been a huge issue here in California. When the state widened the priority list to include people 65 and older, advocates who represent California's farmworkers worried about when the shots would get to that vulnerable group of essential workers.

Farmworkers are largely Latino, and Latinos in California have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 cases and deaths. Now, at least in some areas, agricultural workers are eligible for shots. Riverside County, for example, has been registering workers in the field for pop-up sites. (In L.A. County, which is also expanding the pool of eligible essential workers, agricultural workers will be eligible to receive the vaccine in mid-March.)

Addressing the criticism over equity, Governor Gavin Newsom visited a packing house in Coachella that will vaccinate up to 350 farmworkers a day. He spoke about his changing views on all this:

"[We are] recognizing that equity is not just about race and ethnicity. Equity is also about the ability to get in a car, to be [in] closer proximity to public transportation, [to] have the ability to even access a device or even understand what to do when you do access a device... You've got to meet people where they are. And it's exactly what folks are doing here."

Governor Newsom also announced an additional $24 million for the "Housing for the Harvest" program, which provides temporary hotel rooms for farm workers who need to isolate due to COVID-19.

But despite Newsom's talk of equity, some farmworker advocates are still concerned that vulnerable residents are being overlooked:

"Advocates say community groups also need to work with health departments to ensure that scheduling is doable for farmworkers. For example, a system where appointments open up at noon each day might not work for someone who is in the field without reliable internet access at that time."

Last week, Coachella became the first city to approve "hero pay" for farmworkers. City officials there cited the fact that those workers are "performing hazardous duty due to the significant risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus."

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Fallout Continues From Sony's North Korea Satire, 'The Interview'

Sony Pictures pulled "The Interview" from theatrical release after a damaging cyberattack from North Korea. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Seven years ago, Sony Pictures Entertainment made a satirical comedy called “The Interview,” about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But not everyone laughed, including the North Korean government.

Sony was crippled by a sophisticated cyberattack, and federal prosecutors now say the North Korean hack was part of a broader scheme hatched by a Pyongyang intelligence agency called the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department alleged that three North Korean cybercriminals not only orchestrated the Sony attack, but also extorted more than $1.3 billion from banks and other businesses.

The hack not only shut down Sony’s IT network, but also made public thousands of embarrassing documents and emails that revealed Sony’s private business plans, petty squabbles and racist jokes. Sony did not release the film in theaters, but it is available on streaming services and DVD.

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday alleged that the Sony breach was part of a larger state-sponsored cyberattack that extorted more than $1.3 billion from banks and other businesses around the globe.

It charged three men who worked as North Korean spies for orchestrating the enterprise and creating a destructive ransomware virus with the name WannaCry.

“What we see emerging uniquely out of North Korea is trying to raise funds through illegal cyber activities,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who focuses on national security. “They use their cyber capabilities to try to get currency wherever they can do that, and that’s not something that we really see from actors in China or Russia or in Iran.”

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Community Advocates To Replace Police On LAUSD Campuses

LAUSD school police outside Mark Twain Middle School in the Mar Vista neighborhood. (Brian Watt/KPCC)

The Los Angeles Unified School Board voted unanimously yesterday to remove police from school campuses. Those officers will be replaced with staff trained to de-escalate disputes. It's a major overhaul of the school's police department.

The board agreed to cut the school police department's annual budget by $25 million last summer, after the widespread protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

But the Board hadn't decided how to reinvest the money until now. The $25 million dwill go toward a 36.5 million dollar Black student achievement plan also approved by the district Tuesday.

It includes funding for counselors, psychiatric social workers, curriculum changes and community partnerships.

Isaac Bryan is executive director of the UCLA Black Policy Project and a member of the LAUSD task force that was convened to think about how to reinvest the money cut from the school police budget.

"LAUSD has taken a step forward, an incredible important step forward driven by community organizing," he told LAist/KPCC. "But the fact that there's still such a robust school police presence, even on the outside of campus, I think leaves room for us to continue to think about how we could reinvest additional dollars down the road."

Kahlila Williams, a senior at the Girls Academic Leadership Academy and member of student advocacy group Students Deserve Justice, was one of the callers during the public comment period of the Board meeting. She said:

"This $25 million reallocation is just the first step towards repair repairing the psychological, emotional, academic and physical harm caused by the system of school policing."

LAUSD police will still be on-call nearby to respond to emergencies, but they won't be stationed on campus. The Board also voted yesterday to ban the use of pepper spray on students.

The board's plan also cuts 133 positions from the school police department.

In a statement, the School Police Department expressed concerns about "unintended consequences" of the policy changes.

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LA's Housing Crisis Likely Made The Pandemic Worse

A woman walks on La Brea Ave past graffiti demanding rent forgiveness, May 1, 2020. (VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

The vast majority of L.A. renters are spending too much on housing — and the region’s affordability crisis provided opportunities for the COVID-19 pandemic to spin out of control.

That's according to the researchers behind a new survey published today that measures how much Angelenos spent on housing and other essential needs last year.

"High rates of housing insecurity very much make L.A. more vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic on public health," said USC sociologist Kyla Thomas, director of the USC Dornsife-Union Bank LABarometer survey.

The survey collected responses from 1,326 L.A. County residents during the fall of 2020, finding that nearly two-thirds (65%) of renters could be considered "cost-burdened," meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent alone.

More than 40% of L.A. residents live in overcrowded homes. That means that when low-income workers who interact with the public get sick, they're often bringing the virus into homes where it has ample opportunity to spread.

These problems affect some L.A. residents more than others. Latinos are most likely to be rent-burdened (70%) and to live in overcrowded housing (55%). Rent burden is also high for Black residents (67%). And while Asians have the lowest rate of rent burden among all ethnic groups included in the survey, they also face high rates of overcrowding (40%).

The survey reveals widespread housing instability across L.A., with one-in-three Angelenos saying they worried about losing their homes last year.

Fifteen percent said they were late with at least one rent or mortgage payment. Among the 12% of renters who moved in the past year, about a third did so because they were either formally evicted or informally pushed out, including reasons such as unaffordable rent hikes, a landlord failing to make repairs or being asked to leave.

Researchers say crushing housing costs have forced L.A. residents to cut back on other necessary expenses. The survey found that close to one-in-three Angelenos postponed medical care because it cost too much, and 11% worried about not having enough resources to get food.

"The fact that two-thirds of renters are struggling to afford their housing in L.A. — that's a massive social problem," Thomas said. "The high cost of housing in L.A. permeates our lives in so many ways."

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Morning Brief: Sexual Assault On California’s Campuses Remains A Problem

Powell Library is pictured at the University of California, Los Angeles, in this file photo. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist/KPCC)

Good morning, L.A. It’s Feb. 17.

It’s been nearly seven years since Emma Sulkowicz lugged a mattress around Columbia University in a performance art piece addressing her alleged sexual assault, and putting a fine point on then-rapidly building reports of sexual violence and harassment at American colleges.

California universities were not exempt. In 2014, a state audit examined the practices of responding to and reporting sexual violence at UCLA, UC Berkeley, Cal State Chico, and San Diego State University.

Auditors found all four universities to be lacking, and recommended significant changes. But since then, it seems, little has changed.

A federally mandated report from UCLA shows that between 2017 and 2019, allegations of sexual assault almost doubled, jumping from 58 reported incidents to 100. At UC Berkeley, 85 incidents were reported in 2017, and 71 were reported in 2019.

My colleague Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reports that state lawmakers haven’t taken all of the recommended steps, either. In 2016, then-California Gov. Jerry Brown declined to mandate annual sexual violence training at both public and private universities. He wrote at the time:

"College campuses are already required to have clear policies and procedures to deal with these reports. The state, in this case, should not have to additionally mandate an annual training schedule for all college employees.”

For some activists, more needs to be done than training employees on how to handle assaults that have already happened.

"It's not enough to just counsel victims,” said Nassim Moallem, who has advocated for better resources at San Diego State. “You need to make sure nobody is being sexually assaulted or raped in the first place."

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

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go … Capturing The Beauty And Struggles Of Black Americans

Angela Davis, 1972. (Courtesy John Simmons)

John Simmons began taking photographs as a teenager in 1965, the same year the Voting Rights Act was passed, guaranteeing all Black Americans the right to vote.

His current exhibition, "Capturing Beauty," assembles photos and artworks featuring notable figures in the civil rights movement and more everyday moments of life.

A cinematographer, painter and photographer, Simmons said when he first started out, "there weren't that many positive images of Black people and publications unless you were looking at Jet magazine, or Ebony Magazine, or the Chicago Defender newspaper.”

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