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The most important stories for you to know today

  • Updated May. 4, 2021 8:01 AM
    Published May. 4, 2021 8:00 AM

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    Firefighters standing on their fire truck watch as the Bobcat Fire burns on hillsides behind homes in Monrovia.
    The Bobcat Fire burns in Monrovia on September 15, 2020.
    (Ringo Chiu )

    You're probably already aware we're in an early fire season, but are you prepared for it?

    It's Wildfire Preparedness Week. Get out there and start pulling weeds, trimming the brush, cleaning the gutters, and getting rid of that scrap wood lying around. And make sure there's "defensible space" around your house.

  • Updated May. 4, 2021 5:01 AM
    Published May. 4, 2021 5:00 AM

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    Street art in the Arts District. (Photo by Ric Berryman via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)

    Good morning, L.A. It’s May 4.

    As anti-Asian hate spikes in the U.S., many academics who study Asian or Asian American communities are rethinking their work as falling not just under the category of social science, but of racial justice as well.

    My colleague Adolfo Guzman-Lopez spoke with a handful of local researchers, and many told him the same thing: it’s becoming clear that the racism faced by Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders is the same as the racism and discrimination faced by other communities.

    According to those researchers, there are several immediate challenges in terms of getting more Americans on board with fighting anti-Asian hate in this moment of racial reckoning. The first, they say, is the myth of the model minority. This refers to an existing stereotype of the Asian community, which suggests that they have “been able to overcome racism by protecting the family structure and through hard work,” Adolfo writes.

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    The second is the practice of lumping all Asian communities together, when there is a great deal of diversity. For that reason, researchers hope to better understand the needs of each group via details and anecdotes — not stereotypes.

    Even as researchers progress with their work, though, more needs to be done to keep communities safe. According to data collected by the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate, 245 anti-Asian incidents were reported in L.A. between March and October of last year. Of those, 76% involved verbal harassment. Women reported twice as many incidents as men.

    These numbers follow a national trend; between March 2020 and February 2021, the organization received 3,975 reports from around the country.

    Local politicians are joining the effort to bring awareness and change; last week, L.A. Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu called on President Joe Biden to commit to stopping anti-Asian hate crimes in his first address to a joint session of Congress. During his speech, the president urged the House to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, already approved by the Senate, and to send the legislation to his desk as soon as possible.

    Biden has taken action on the issue in the past, including earmarking funding for Asian American and Pacific Islander survivors of domestic or sexual abuse, reinstating and reinvigorating the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and establishing a task force to directly address xenophobia brought about by the coronavirus.

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

    What Else You Need To Know Today

    • For the second day in a row, L.A. County health officials reported no new COVID-19 deaths.
    • The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15.
    • The Los Angeles Public Library system began a phased reopening of the Central Library and 37 other branches for in-person services.
    • 22% of new COVID-19 cases around the country are now in children.
    • We held a virtual Q&A with higher education and employment experts to answer your questions about starting a new career. Here's a selection of advice they gave.
    • Many students and teachers who have returned to LAUSD campuses over the past month — some of whom have been working together for almost a full school year — are seeing each other for the first time.

    Before You Go … This Week’s Outdoor Pick: Celebration Spectrum

    Rendering of Party Mantras balloon for Grand Park's Celebration Spectrum
    A rendering of 'Party Mantras' for Grand Park's 'Celebration Spectrum.'
    (Courtesy of the Music Center)

    Grand Park and The Music Center present a month-long outdoor public art and sound installation for Art Rise 2021, part of the L.A. County Department of Mental Health’s We Rise initiative that encourages wellbeing and healing through art. Grand Park partners with dublab, artist Tanya Aguiñiga and curator Mark “Frosty” McNeill to showcase the work of more than 34 local artists.

    Or, you could: See "The Little Mermaid" on the big screen. Hone your improv skills. Learn about the history of Cinco de Mayo — and celebrate the day. Watch a program on cinematic trans history. And more.

    Help Us Cover Your Community
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  • Updated May. 4, 2021 6:11 PM
    Published May. 3, 2021 6:07 PM

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    Brainard Avenue Elementary School principal Victor Yzaguirre (right) shares a lighthearted moment with a preschooler during recess time on April 13, 2021 -- the campus' first day hosting students since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Brainard Avenue Elementary School principal Victor Yzaguirre (right) shares a lighthearted moment with a preschooler during recess time on April 13, 2021 -- the campus' first day hosting students since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    (Kyle Stokes)

    Facing tepid parent support and firm opposition from teachers and principals, Los Angeles Unified School District leaders have abandoned a plan to lengthen the upcoming school year.

    In a memo posted Monday, LAUSD officials said they will withdraw their proposal — which would’ve added six instructional days to the normal 180-day calendar — despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s encouragement that schools extend their school year as a means of helping at-risk students make up for classroom time lost to the pandemic.

    Instead, LAUSD board members will vote Tuesday on a calendar that would carry forward the major features of the current calendar into the 2021-22 school year: a mid-August start date (Aug. 17 for most schools), a mid-June conclusion (June 13), and a three-week winter break in-between.

  • Updated May. 3, 2021 4:44 PM
    Published May. 3, 2021 4:26 PM

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    Michigan Governor Receives Vaccine As State Sees Large Surge In COVID-19 Cases
    DETROIT, MI - APRIL 06: A group of teenagers serving as 'Covid-19 Student Ambassadors' joined Governor Gretchen Whitmer to receive a dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine at Ford Field during an event to promote and encourage Michigan residents to go and get their vaccines on April 6, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. As the US reaches a milestone in vaccinations, a surge of new Covid-19 cases has swept through the US with Michigan seeing the highest numbers of new cases. (Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)
    (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

    The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15. Barbara Ferrer, director of L.A. County's Department of Public Health, said her staff is prepared to offer the shot, for free, to kids.

    "We already use Pfizer at all of the county sites," Ferrer said. "We are working with our staff so they will be well prepared to start vaccinating 12 to 15 year olds."

  • Updated May. 3, 2021 3:37 PM
    Published May. 3, 2021 3:19 PM

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    No lines at a COVID-19 site in a parking lot is Los Angeles. A masked woman and child hold hands as they walk by.
    Few people are seen at a Covid-19 vaccine site in Los Angeles last week.
    (Frederick J. Brown)

    For the second day in a row, Los Angeles County health officials on Monday reported no new COVID-19 deaths.

    While that may seem like hope is on the horizon, officials say it likely reflects the usual reporting delays that occur over weekends. The county's COVID-19 tallies on new cases and deaths are typically much lower on Sundays and Mondays compared to other days of the week.

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  • Updated May. 3, 2021 3:38 PM
    Published May. 3, 2021 2:28 PM

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    A sign reads "Covid-19 Vaccinations" with an orange arrow pointing to the right.
    A woman walks past a sign directing people to the Lincoln Park Covid-19 vaccine facility on May 3.
    (Frederic J. Brown )

    Children now account for more than a fifth of new coronavirus cases in states that release data by age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It's a statistic that may surprise many: Just one year ago, child COVID-19 cases made up only around 3% of the U.S. total.

    On Monday, the AAP said children represented 22.4% of new cases reported in the past week, accounting for 71,649 out of 319,601 cases. The latest report, drawn from data collected through April 29, illustrates how children's share of coronavirus infections has grown in recent weeks.

    Experts link the trend to several factors — particularly high vaccination rates among older Americans. The U.S. recently announced 100 million people were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But other dynamics are also in play, from new COVID-19 variants to the loosening of restrictions on school activities.

  • Updated May. 3, 2021 4:53 PM
    Published May. 3, 2021 11:27 AM

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    Stop anti-asian hate key image

    Academics and activists mobilizing against anti-Asian hate say that for their movement to bear fruit, academics must help tear down harmful stereotypes through more nuanced research about Asian communities in the U.S.

    Ask Asian American activists and scholars what kind of academic research they’d like to see, and invariably you’ll hear the word “disaggregated.” What they mean is they want details, not stereotypes: The splash page of the national “Stop AAPI Hate” campaign makes a statement about the diversity of Asian communities by showing five faces that are all different, apparently in ethnicity, while all being of Asian descent.

    The effort to combat old stereotypes that have often reduced people of Asian descent to caricatures has had a long and painful path in the U.S., activists say.

    “I think the process of changing hearts and minds such that drives policy, and the acceptance of policy… there has to be an intellectual basis for that,” said Bay Area lawyer Donald Tamaki.

    And that intellectual basis comes from new research.

    “I don't think professors necessarily view themselves as change agents. But in fact, I think they are." - Donald Tamaki, civil rights lawyer

    That role of researchers, he said, is key when it comes to the civil rights of marginalized people, as the current wave of anti-Asian hate incidents tests the United States’ guarantee that residents can live in this country and participate in public and private life free of discrimination and repression.

  • Updated May. 3, 2021 5:08 PM
    Published May. 3, 2021 10:37 AM

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    Murals adorn the walls of one of the grand hallways at L.A.'s Central library in downtown Los Angeles.
    L.A. library officials are beginning to reopen the grand central library in downtown L.A. and 37 branches
    (Megan Garvey)

    Today, the Los Angeles Public Library begins a phased reopening of its iconic Central Library in downtown Los Angeles, as well as 37 other branches.

    The library branches reopening today will offer limited in-person services including quick browsing, computer access, mobile printing orders, and checking out library materials.

    "I think people also just kinda miss that interaction with other people," said LAPL spokesperson Monica Valencia. "You know just at a very personal level, we think of our libraries… for many of us it's like a second home."

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  • LAUSD Zoom in a Room Student Middle School
    Hale Charter Academy teacher Bruce Newborn's sixth graders can attend his Zoom lessons from home or from inside his classroom. The L.A. Unified School District's reopening plan for middle- and high school campuses calls for 'Zoom-in-a-room': instead of changing rooms each period, students only report to a single classroom each day and continue to attend classes virtually.
    (Kyle Stokes)
    In-Person Classes Mean Some Students Are Seeing Teachers, Classmates For First Time

    Before teacher Barbara Wexler’s eighth graders returned to campus, she was worried she wouldn’t recognize them.

    “A lot of the time, you’re teaching to black boxes,” said Wexler, who teaches at Hale Charter Academy in Woodland Hills.

    During online Zoom classes, many teachers say it’s common for students to leave their cameras off.

    As a result, many students and teachers who have returned to L.A. Unified School District campuses over the past month — some of whom have been working together for almost a full school year — are now actually seeing each other for the first time since the pandemic forced schools to close campuses.

    It’s a little weird.

    “Seeing people in person has been a shock,” said George Alex Chicha, a junior at Taft Charter High School, also in Woodland Hills. “When you meet someone over Zoom and then you get to meet them in the three-dimensional aspect — they might be taller than you expect them to be.”

    Wexler, the teacher, was excited to return to in-person instruction. She says it’s harder to bond with students online.

    But for months, Wexler said the only image she had of her eighth graders at Hale Charter Academy was from their pre-pandemic class photos. She was relieved to find that she actually recognized them.

    “It was fun when they came in,” Wexler said, “because I knew who they were — because I was afraid I wouldn’t know who they were.”

    “And,” she added, “they’re taller!”

    Teachers are only meeting some of their students face-to-face: roughly 20 percent of LAUSD high schoolers — and a similar percentage of middle schoolers — chose to return to campuses last week.

  • Updated May. 5, 2021 2:26 PM
    Published May. 3, 2021 7:00 AM

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    Career Pathways event screenshot
    From top left, clockwise: Jill Replogle, Jessica Ku Kim, Jenna Gausman, Henan Joof. Screenshot of How To Start A New Career live, virtual event, April 28, 2021.

    Thousands of Californians have lost their jobs during the pandemic. People without a college degree and people of color, particularly Latinas, have been hit especially hard. If you're among those out of work, or looking for a new path, how can you position yourself for a stable job and meaningful career going forward?

    LAist/KPCC recently hosted a virtual panel of experts to answer people's questions about starting a new career, including:

    How Do I Start To Explore Career Options?

    How Do I Figure Out Whether The Cost Of A Degree Or Certificate Program Is Worth The Money?

    Are My Old College Credits Transferable? Can Work Experience Count Towards A Degree?

    We pulled out the key highlights. Or you can also watch the full event and read the transcript, in English or Spanish, here.