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David and Denise Morse were sent to Travis air force base after 21 people on their Grand Princess cruise were diagnosed with coronavirus

Retirees David and Denise Morse were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary with a 15-day trip aboard the Grand Princess cruise liner when 19 crew members and two passengers aboard the ship were diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The original itinerary had the Morses arriving in Ensenada, Mexico, from Hawaii on 5 March, and returning home to San Francisco two days later. Instead, the cruise liner was held off the San Francisco coast for several days, until it docked in the Port of Oakland on 9 March.

The 2,000 passengers on board disembarked over the course of three days. More than 800 California residents were sent to Travis air force base in Fairfield, about 47 miles north-east of San Francisco , to serve out a 14-day quarantine.

David and Denise are keeping a diary documenting their stay there.

11 March

David, 10.35am I dont know what this is going to be a journal, story or what. I just wanted to write down some of the many thoughts I have had as we go through this surreal ordeal.We are on the fourth floor of the Westwind Inn hotel, on the property of Travis air force base. Got in our room at 9.30pm last night, after a long day that started at 6am on the ship.

We had been dressed and ready to depart our stateroom C314 on the 10th floor, at 7am. The ship had arrived in Oakland the previous day, and passengers had begun disembarking the sick and elderly first. We couldnt see much from what was going on. All the action was on the starboard side, and we were on port.

We waited more than six hours for our turn today. My impression is that Princess Cruises is very experienced in handling large groups, feeding, giving instructions and disembarking procedures. They have it together. On the land, its more politically and medically challenging, as officials have to coordinate between cities, states and the federal government.

This morning, we thought we had to get up for our coronavirus test at 7.15am. On 6 March, Vice-President Pence had announced that everyone disembarking from the boat would be tested for coronavirus.

We scrambled to the elevator area, only to find that the staff were handing out breakfast boxes. So, no testing. At 9.30am, they gave us a temperature check and symptom questions. We were told we would be tested only if we show symptoms. Is that because there is a shortage of testing supplies?

We went downstairs and found a large group of masked passengers in line for coffee and using their bare hands to get juice cartons and breakfast boxes.

12 March

David, 8.55am There are 846 Californians in our four-story hotel at Travis air force base. The majority are elderly folks, many using canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters. Medical staff takes our temperatures twice a day. We asked again to be tested for Covid-19 and learned this morning from a medical staff person that they do not have test kits.

The Morses room at the Westwind Inn hotel on Travis air force base in Fairfield, California. Photograph: David and Denise Morse/The Guardian

It is likely that there are folks among us with the virus. We are advised to wash hands, wear our masks, stay six feet from others, and not gather in large groups. However, we have large groups standing close to each other in line to pick up their food boxes. Weve seen people pick up a box, look at it, then choose another box.

We skipped coffee this morning because to get coffee you have to stand in a line, then use your bare hands to separate a cup from a stack of cups and dispense coffee from a community container. I asked a medical staff person why not have staff dispense the coffee, noting they all have gloves. She said there is not enough staff.

I feel that each day we stay here we increase our chances of contracting the virus. Denise and I are doing our best to protect ourselves and stay positive. We are healthy and know that we will do well if we get the virus. We dont take the elevators; we try to stay away from groups of people. We exercise. I do tai chi every day and Denise meditates every day.

Denise, 2pm I spent much of yesterday and today talking to political folks about the conditions here, calling the offices of California senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris and congressman John Garamendi.

We were feeling rather discouraged about the health and safety situation. But things are improving. At noon they started delivering our meals to our rooms.

David, 3.40pm What a day. Another passenger and I were outside playing Five Foot Two on the ukuleles we got on the cruise ship. A military guy politely approached us and said: Im sorry to interrupt, but I have orders to ask you to return to your room. I dont know why. Off to our room.

There is no alcohol allowed here. But we have a few small bottles from the ship. Just had Jack and coke, made Denise a gin and tonic without ice or limes.

13 March

David, 9.02am We are getting acquainted with how things work here. Yesterday at the reception area in the lobby I asked a friendly service woman if we could have some shampoo. She said, You know, soap is fine. I said OK, could we have some soap? She said, Sorry, we are out of soap. Later I asked another staff member for some soap. She gave me a small bottle of shampoo.

The view from the Morses fourth-floor room at the Westwind Inn. Photograph: David and Denise Morse/The Guardian

This morning, after complimenting the staff on how they are now dispensing the box meals to our rooms, I complained that coffee is still grab and go, as are juice, water, cream and sugar.

A few minutes later a staff member knocked at our door and said the commander of the quarantine operation would like to talk to me. Denise and I thought, Oh no, now we are in trouble. We met Nate Contreras, who informed us that he is in charge of 60 staff, who serve food, deliver medications, take our temperatures and respond to any passengers medical issue. He was friendly and wanted to hear our concerns. He explained that he didnt have enough staff to dispense coffee, but he has asked for more.

We asked for more hand-washing stations, signs and hand sanitizer. The only place we can wash our hands is in our rooms. We suggested they give us packets for the coffee makers we have in our rooms, he said he would look into it. Surprise: we were not in trouble.

Denise, 9am We got our first official Travis air force base newsletter today. Heres what they said about testing: Everyone here will have the opportunity to be tested for Covid-19. You are not required to be tested. It will be your choice. If you choose to be tested, it is important that you understand that if the results of your test are pending, then it is possible it may delay your departure.

David, 10.30am 23 March is the first day of spring and supposedly the end of our 14-day quarantine. We have nine days to go; this testing statement sounds like it is a feeble attempt to be able to claim that passengers were offered the opportunity to be tested. What would you do?

Here is our list of needs: a blanket (we have a one-sheet cover on our bed and its cold in here), coffee, replacement light bulb for the light on our bed stand, hand soap and laundry detergent.

Denise Morse out for a walk on the grounds of Westwind Inn. Photograph: David and Denise Morse/The Guardian

14 March

David, 8.03am Denise and I are healthy and in good spirits. We got another newsletter today. It repeats the same testing instructions we saw yesterday, which seem like a threat rather than an option to be tested.

We walked in the rain this morning. We have to walk on the lawn, as most of the sidewalks are outside the perimeter fence that surrounds the complex with security guards in SUVs watching 24/7.

16 March

Denise, 9.30am Woke up at 6am. While David was doing the laundry down the hall, I made the bed and cleaned the bathroom with the hand sanitizer cloths that we had brought with us on the cruise ship. They are gold, and we only use them to clean surfaces in our room and bathroom. There are no cleaning supplies. We were told we could have a room cleaning, but we prefer to not have anyone in our room.

We have decided not to be tested. Our rationale is we are in good health and show no symptoms. As required, we wear our masks when out of our room, stay six feet from individuals, dont touch handles. We take stairs and wash our hands for 20 seconds when we return to our room.

15 March

Denise, 9.31am Up at 7am. Our floor medical person took our temp at 8.30 normal. We have acquired some coffee, so David made coffee in our room. Breakfast was lighter this morning: bagel, cream cheese, banana, option for yogurt and a ketchup pack (what for?).

The daily2pm conference call with federal officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) left us confused and worried. They announced there have been two confirmed cases among passengers assigned to this facility. They said those with close contact with those individuals have been informed; no need to be concerned. They have begun testing those who asked to be tested only 30% of those at Travis ended up wanting a test. Those who got tested are still waiting for results.

Dinner served at 6.40pm included a hamburger bun with a piece of yellow cheese, sliced tomato and a piece of lettuce. I asked if there was anything else and the man who delivered it said no. So we used the microwave in our room to heat up the bun and cheese. Wasnt that bad, but it was not many calories. Twenty minutes later, there was a knock on the door and we were given two more boxes with a bare hamburger patty and fries. Too bad we had already eaten the cheese and bun.

A meal served at Travis air force base. Photograph: David and Denise Morse/The Guardian

17 March

Denise, 9.30am We dont have a table for eating. We tried using the luggage rack with a towel on it but that proved to be too unstable. Now David eats at the desk and I sit on a leather chair and balance the container on my lap.

We get many emails and texts. We find we need to take breaks from our telephones and from hearing about this pandemic.

At the daily conference call, the doctor gave us more details about the two confirmed cases.One person was identified as having the virus while disembarking from the ship and was not brought to Travis. The other case was a couple that had mobility issues and one tested positive. They were not on the base long and were in their room, so exposure was minimal to others, the staff told us. A total of 37 confirmed cases as of today from the Grand Princess.

When they brought our dinner, David put on some soothing classical music. We wish we had some wine.

I want to say this staff has taken a lot of flak from many of us, me included. They have listened, and in most cases, followed up. I have seen changes and an almost daily effort and improvement, specifically around food and drink.

At 8pm, we got a call from the front desk and we have two packages! Its like Christmas! David went down and just came up with two Amazon boxes. One box is from our son Jonathan: a large bag of M&Ms. The other box is from my sister: dental floss and body lotion. Were happy with these new items to add to our simple supply of extras.

20 March

Denise, 5 pm Bad news today. More people at Travis have tested positive. If they didnt get it on the ship, they probably may have gotten it here. The conditions the first few days were appalling.

On 20 March, HHS confirmed that, with new test results still coming in, eight people at Travis had tested positive. Four of them were hospitalized with complications of Covid-19. One person was hospitalized for other reasons.

Everyone that requested to be tested was tested, an HHS spokesperson said. The government cannot force an asymptomatic person to be tested.

In a statement, the department also emphasized that it is working to improve conditions for the Grand Princess passengers under quarantine.

This unprecedented response has presented significant logistical challenges that have affected passengers. During the first two days of this massive undertaking, HHS focused on screening passengers for symptoms, addressing any underlying health conditions, providing access to prescription medication, and getting passengers settled into their rooms. At each step of the way, plans and policies were adapted as necessary to accommodate specific problems at hand.

This is the first federal quarantine in nearly 60 years. HHSs number one priority is the health of the passengers, the people caring for them, and those in the surrounding communities. We continue to focus on hospitality issues, such as food service and housekeeping, to improve the comfort of our guests.

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Authorities announce two deaths in Florida as the number of US cases increases to at least 400

The death toll from coronavirus in the United States rose on Saturday afternoon to 19 people, as authorities announced two deaths in Florida, the first US deaths outside the west coast, two more in Washington state and the governor of New York declared a state of emergency.

Across the country, there were at least 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local governments.

More than 3,000 people remained quarantined on the Grand Princess, a cruise ship moored off the coast of San Francisco, California, as authorities tested crew members and passengers among those from 50 countries onboard.

At least 21 of those had tested positive for the virus, and Donald Trump said Friday that he preferred the passengers stay onboard the ship, so they would not increase the number of coronavirus cases on American soil.

I like the numbers being where they are, Trump said, in widely criticized remarks. I dont need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasnt our fault.

The head of the US Food and Drug Administration said in a rare Saturday briefing that materials for 2.1m coronavirus tests will have been shipped to non-public US labs by Monday, as the Trump administration aimed to counter criticism that its response to the disease has been sluggish and confusing.

Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, told reporters at the White House that manufacturers have told the agency they believe that by the end of next week they could scale up to a capacity of 4m additional tests.

New efforts have been announced to prevent the spread of disease and protect vulnerable people. Officials in Seattle, Washington, which has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the country, are setting up locations for homeless people who might need treatment or self-quarantine for coronavirus.

On Friday, the gig economy organizing group Gig Workers Rising had published a petition asking chief executives at Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, Instacart, DoorDash, Postmates and Handy to give workers paid sick time off during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday night, an Uber executive made a partial response to concerns about gig economy workers vulnerability to contagion, saying the company would pay drivers and couriers diagnosed with the Covid-19 novel coronavirus, or quarantined by public health officials for up to 14 days, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, the number of cases of coronavirus continued to rise across the country, fueling continued concerns about whether the nations healthcare system was prepared for the additional strain.

A person wearing a mask walks down a street a day after 60 people were brought to nearby hospitals to be tested for coronavirus, in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Andrew Cuomo, New York states governor, announced there were at least 76 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state as of early Saturday afternoon, a jump of 21 overnight, and that he was declaring a state of emergency, which allows a state to take special control of funds and resources.

He criticized the Trump administration, where the vice-president, who has been put in charge of containing the crisis, and the president, have been speaking at cross-purposes.

On Thursday Mike Pence, the vice-president, said there were not enough coronavirus testing kits available in the US to meet medical demand, but on Friday afternoon Donald Trump said there was testing available for all who needed it.

That has caused consternation, anxiety, Cuomo said on Saturday. You know whats worse than the virus? The anxiety, and the fear and the confusion.

There is a growing sense that the US government is not fully in control of preparing for and managing either various aspects of the medical situation or public information.

The White House should have been telling every hospital to be prepared to see these cases, knowing how to manage bed space in hospitals if this gets bad and preparing the public for the fact that were going to be facing a pandemic rather than saying its containable, Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and an infectious-disease physician, told the Washington Post. The idea of containment requires a lot of public health resources that can be better spent.

The US capital, Washington DC, reported its first presumptive case on Saturday evening.

In the Pacific north-west state of Washington, the main center of the outbreak and death toll so far in the United States, healthcare providers said medical supplies, including masks, are growing scarce, the Seattle Times reported.

And in Washington DC, financial regulators made contingency plans for how to oversee financial markets as the coronavirus closes in on the capital. Officials said Friday that the first three cases of the pneumonia-like disease had been diagnosed in Montgomery county, Maryland, home to thousands of federal workers who commute to nearby Washington daily.

Concerns about coronavirus led to the cancellation of major events, including South by Southwest, a tech, music and film conference that typically draws more than 400,000 people to Austin, Texas, in late March.

Similarly, the forthcoming womens world hockey championships in Canada were canceled Saturday.

In California, the San Francisco Symphony has cancelled performances at its symphony hall through 20 March.

At least two universities on the west coast announced that they would temporarily hold classes online, rather than in person. The University of Washington, being at the center of the US spread so far, and Stanford University, in California, where the university announced that two undergraduate students were in self-isolation after possible exposure to coronavirus.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, three students who were tested for Covid-19 have all tested negative, and the university is continuing to hold live classes on campus for the moment, the universitys chancellor, Gene Block, said.

Internationally there is disagreement among leading experts about whether the virus has reached pandemic status.

California state authorities were working on Saturday evening with federal officials to bring the Grand Princess cruise ship to a non-commercial port and test the 3,500 people aboard.

There was no immediate word on where the vessel will dock. Pence said at a meeting in Florida with cruise line executives that officials were still working on the plan.

All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus and quarantined as necessary, he said.

In Seattle, Washington, which has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States, local officials said they have designed a plan to help treat any members of the citys homeless population who might contract coronavirus.

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With five deaths and 247 confirmed cases, California now has the third largest number of cases in the nation

Response to the coronavirus outbreak drastically escalated in California this week, with officials working to curb the spread by canceling school, postponing festivals and prohibiting large gatherings.

As of Friday, the virus had killed five people in California, with 247 cases confirmed now the third largest number of cases in the nation, after Washington and New York.

Los Angeles unified school district, the second largest school district in the country, announced Friday that it would be closing its more than 1,300 schools for two weeks, a move that will affect more than 734,000 students and their families.

Los Angeles unified serves a high-needs population, and our schools provide a social safety net for our children, Austin Beutner, the superintendent of the LA unified school district, said in a statement. The closing of any school has real consequences beyond the loss of instructional time. This is not an easy decision and not one we take lightly.

San Diego unified school district, Oakland unified school district and Santa Clara unified school district followed suit by closing their schools for three weeks, just as San Francisco unified school district announced it would on Thursday. Other districts across California, including in Santa Cruz and Berkeley, are closing their schools because of coronavirus.

Closing schools deeply affects so many of our families who depend on schools to provide a safe place for their children, food, and many other services, Kyla Johnson-Trammell, the superintendent of Oakland schools, said in a statement. School sites have been and will continue to be crafting continuity of education plans, with each school preparing to provide assignments to students.

And across the University of California system, administrators suspended in-person classes, pivoting to remote instruction and canceling campus events. University housing remained open, but on some campuses, students were encouraged to go home.

Meanwhile, state public health experts released recommendations Wednesday night calling for large gatherings of 250 people or more to be rescheduled or canceled. They also recommended that venues that do not allow social distancing of 6ft per person to cancel or postpone events, as well as any gathering that brings people together in a single space at one time, be it an auditorium or a conference room.

Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know, Gavin Newsom, Californias governor, said in a statement. Thats the choice before us.

The recommendation came after San Francisco and Santa Clara county fully banned all gatherings of 1,000 or more. On Friday, London Breed, the San Francisco mayor, went a step further and fully banned all gatherings of 100 or more.

San Francisco will also close its public libraries and recreation centers to the public starting Monday, and open emergency childcare and youth centers in the wake of the public school closures.

Earlier in the week, the famed music festival Coachella, known for drawing hundreds of thousands to the California desert, was postponed to October. Soon after, Disney agreed to close its California parks until the end of March. Disney made the right call in the interest of public health and agreed to shut down their California parks, Newsom said. Expect more announcements like this shortly.

The week began with officials scrambling to figure out what to do with the Grand Princess cruise ship, which had been stuck off the coast of California after 21 on board tested positive for coronavirus. The ship originally destined for San Francisco ended up docked in the larger and more industrial port of Oakland, where it remained Friday after a slow five days of disembarking2,450 passengers to quarantine locations elsewhere. According to the cruise line, 14 international passengers were still on the ship, awaiting transportation to their home countries.

A lack of testing capacity has caused an outcry nationwide, and California made strides on that front this week. Experts at the University of California San Diego Health, UC San Francisco Health and UC Los Angeles Health can now offer their own in-house testing for coronavirus, taking place in hospital laboratories for patients who meet clinical recommendations. UC Davis Health and UC Irvine Health will be able to begin in-house testing within the next week or so as well, said the UC Health spokesman Michael Crawford.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente rolled out a pilot program for drive-up testing in northern California, allowing for patients who meet criteria for testing and have a doctors order and an appointment to get tested with minimal exposure.

California had the capacity to conduct 8,227 tests as of Thursday, Newsom said in a press conference. But many of the testing kits provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were missing the key components to conducts the analyses.

The test kits do not include in every case the RNA extraction kits, the reagents, the chemicals, the solutions that are components of the broader tests, he said. This is imperative that the federal government and labs across the United States, not just state of California, get the benefit of all the ingredients, the components of the test. I am surprised this is not more of the national conversation.

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Working for the county probation department, the largest in the nation, means being equal parts social worker and law enforcement

On a Tuesday morning in October, Los Angeles deputy probation officer Booker Waugh made his way down a nearly sheer hillside, just a few feet from the entrance to the 10 freeway heading east.

Waugh, 48, was conducting a field visit to one of his probationers, a man named Joshua Bey. Bey lives in the affluent neighborhood of Cheviot Hills not in a stately colonial house but in an orange tent, pitched between the freeway and a retaining wall, buffeted by old window blinds and a blanket decorated with kittens.

Hidden from the cars racing by below and the $2m homes above, Beys world is invisible unless you know where to look.


  • Waugh cruises the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles.

Booker Waugh does. Waugh is an officer with the Los Angeles county probation department, the largest agency of its kind in the nation. It oversees more than 35,000 adults under community supervision, meaning probation or parole.

Twenty of Waughs 38 clients are homeless. We do this every day, Waugh says about the challenges of his work. You cant let hopelessness get the best of you.

More than 4.5 million people in the US were under community supervision in 2016, the last year for which the justice department has released data. Thats twice as many people as the number of people incarcerated, and a 239% increase since 1980, according to a study from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

There isnt enough data on probation to determine the cause of this explosive growth with certainty, but we do know that the increase in probation has far outpaced any increase in crime. That suggests that departments have become more liberal with their use of probation. In the past few years, those liberal policies have been challenged by activists, scholars, and a remarkable number of top brass probation officials who aim to revamp what they view as a bloated, ineffective system.

But within individual departments, there are many probation officers like Waugh: drawn to the work because they want to help people who are struggling, and who see the job as equal parts social work and law enforcement.

Waugh, who has lived in south-central Los Angeles his entire life except for a stint attending the University of Hawaii, is a 15-year veteran of the probation department. Like most officers, he started his career in the county juvenile facilities.

I dont get an extra check for locking your ass up, Waugh says he tells new clients. Im here to work with you, Im here to help you. The less work I have to do the better.

Joshua Bey
  • Left: Waugh pays a visit to Joshua Beys encampment near the 10 freeway. Right: Joshua Bey in his tent, which is hidden between a hedge and a retaining wall.

On days when he goes into the field, Waugh sets out in the white Ford Taurus provided by the department, the radio tuned to a 90s hip hop station. He visits clients in their home, shelter, tent or place of work, if they have one, and tries to get a sense of how the client is navigating re-entry from lockup. Are they employed? Sober? Lucid? He asks them if they need anything he can help provide, from facilitating a ride to mental health services to providing train fare.

At a shelter in Santa Monica, Waugh meets a client of three months, Earl Love.

Loves hands tremble from Parkinsons disease and, like a significant amount of probationers in Los Angeles county, he has been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Waugh visits him once a month, and has connected Love to a telecare medical team so he doesnt have to travel to get support.

Love was incarcerated for most of his 46 years, he says. Ive been in the struggle all my life.


  • Waugh visits Earl Love, 46, a client at a Santa Monica homeless shelter who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Later in the day, Waughs off to the jungle, the south-central Los Angeles neighborhood named after both its foliage and what Waugh calls its antics.

Hes visiting 55-year-old Derek Williams. Williams joined a gang in the late 1970s, but says hes done with that lifestyle. I dont carry guns anymore. I hear a car backfire, he mimics being startled. Im shell-shocked.

Williams says his probation has gone smoothly because he is unencumbered by mental health struggles and has been able to comply with probation rules, which are strict. Requirements vary. All probationers have to call in to a special phone line daily, report to their officers regularly, submit to drug tests when instructed and not carry weapons. Many must attend mental health or substance abuse classes. Some cant be around gang members if they have an injunction, others cant open a checking account if they were charged with fraud, still others cant access the internet unsupervised if they were charged with sexually assaulting a minor.

Those rules are there to help probationers, Waugh says, a safeguard to keep them from doing the same things again and again. Probationers can choose whether to follow them or not, he says. Still, he concedes, the rules stringency can be a setup for failure; if work hours coincide with required mental health treatment, for example, a probationer who skips the appointment to keep a job may end up back in jail.

The rules also make finding work challenging for those in re-entry under the best of circumstances even more difficult. Probationers may be told to come in to the office for a pop-up urine test with next to no notice, and given a narrow window of time within which to complete the test, though Waugh says they try to accommodate clients schedules.

Even for a probationer who truly wants to play by the rules and finish probation, its not easy. There are lots of barriers to being successful, Brian Lovins, the former assistant director of Harris county community supervision and corrections department and an advocate for probation reform, points out. People dont operate individually, theres a host of family and social systems that keep them pressured into where they are in the world.





  • Top left: Derek Williams peers out of the window in his apartment building. Top right: Jeffrey Chenevert, a truck driver and entrepreneur, visits the west LA office. Bottom left: Jarrad Durke, a homeless US Navy veteran, is at the west LA office for his monthly check-in. Bottom right: EarlLove shows off his photography.

Like most other probation officers in what Waugh calls inner-city Los Angeles, he currently has close to twice the number of clients he is supposed to manage. This means he gets less time than hed like with clients, and he has to make some choices about where to direct his energy.

You tend to drift toward the guys who want to help themselves versus the guys who keep getting arrested over and over, Waugh says. You have to decipher who wants my help and who is just here because they got put on probation out of jail.

Today, however, he passes the time in his cubicle, surrounded by Lakers paraphernalia and a Colin Kaepernick action figure.

Waughs client Jeffrey Chenevert, 46, comes by for an office visit. Hes been working with Waugh for two and a half months and has failed two drug tests. Chenevert says his medications are affecting the test results.

Waugh tells him to bring in the medications at his next visit so he can determine whether thats the case. But if you mess up again, he warns, Ill send the results in and youll be locked up again.


  • Waugh waits in the corridor at the central arraignment court in downtown Los Angeles.

Because this is Los Angeles, Waugh spends a lot of time in his car. He drives from his west Los Angeles office to the central arraignment court downtown, where his client Keion Anderson is appearing before a judge on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

Arrested 20 days earlier, Anderson stands silently in a plexiglass enclosure, craning his head downward to speak through a small opening in the wall when called upon to answer a question. Waugh is there to speak on Andersons behalf, telling the judge that prior to the arrest Anderson had been reporting consistently. The judge rules that Anderson should be released soon and must report to Waughs office within 48 hours.

Waugh makes his way back to the west side, passing through the vast Skid Row area. The day is bright, sunny and warm. Men and women sitting in lawn chairs line the sidewalks, the Twice as Nice ice cream truck has carnival music blasting through its speakers.

Waugh parks and strolls down the middle of Crocker Street, as tents, carts and stacks of possessions dont leave enough room on the sidewalk for pedestrians. A former client, Donald Smith, 64, spots Waugh and shouts gleefully. Smith, a veteran originally from Alabama, was Waughs client for two years, through last spring. He soon begs off, confessing that hes high on meth and doesnt want Waugh to see him like this.

Imma call you when Im sober, he tells Waugh. I love you with all my heart.

He walks away. Waugh stands still for a moment, moved by the encounter. Hes glad that seeing him gave Smith a moment of reckoning. Just from that, being embarrassed, that might straighten him out.

Whether or not Waughs actions can really affect the course of Smiths life is debatable. Still, Waugh is on the front lines of the system, and its up to him to keep faith enough to carry on with the work.

This is cool, he says. This is why I do it.


  • Walking through the Skid Row area of LA, Waugh runs into a former client.

This article was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project

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Suits filed by James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who allege Jackson abused them as children, have been brought back

Two lawsuits filed against Michael Jackson accusing him of sexual abuse have been revived by the appeals court in California.

James Safechuck and Wade Robson, the focus of last years documentary Leaving Neverland, allege Jackson abused them when they were children. The trial court originally dismissed their lawsuits as they had not been filed before the pair turned 26. But a new law, which came into effect on 1 January, raised the age to 40.

On Friday, a panel of judges within Californias second appellate district reversed the initial ruling.

Were glad the appellate court recognized the very strong protection that California has for kids, and we look forward to litigating these cases to trial, said the pairs attorney Vince Finaldi.

The suits target Jacksons companies MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures. Howard Weitzman, the companies attorney, has criticised the ruling, referring to the allegations as false and suggesting the lawsuits absurdly claim that Michaels employees are somehow responsible for sexual abuse that never happened.

Safechuck and Robson had also tried to sue the Jackson estate, but those suits were also dismissed because of the statute of limitations. They have not been revived as part of the new ruling. Finaldi said it was important to target the companies as these people that surrounded him enabled and facilitated this abuse.

The Emmy-winning documentary premiered at Sundance in January 2019 and detailed graphic claims from Safechuck and Robson about the alleged abuse inflicted on them at Jacksons Neverland ranch. We cant change what happened to us, Robson said after the first screening. The feeling is what can we do with that now.

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Musician dubbed the Persian Bono fled Iran at age 22 and built a genre-blending career in Los Angeles

At age 22, Andy Madadian fled Iran with nothing, moved to Los Angeles and started playing guitar at nightclubs to pay rent.

Now 63, the internationally celebrated pop singer says hes ready for another new beginning: Madadian is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the first Iranian artist to earn the honor.

Many people may wonder: would you have a new beginning after 14 albums? Madadian said days before the ceremony unveiling his groundbreaking star. But to me its new because a lot of Americans are just discovering me and my music. Im hoping this Hollywood star will open some doors. We have a lot of great Iranian artists here in LA, and the western world has not discovered them yet.

Sometimes nicknamed the Persian Bono or Persian Elvis, the Iranian-Armenian American artist is being honored on the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk on Friday, after two tumultuous weeks of escalating conflict between Tehran, where he was raised, and the US, the country he has called home for decades.

Its a very difficult position to be in as an Iranian American artist, because whatever I produce is for my people my American people, my Iranian people, my Armenian people, he said on a recent afternoon, seated inside a bakery in Encino in the San Fernando Valley, not far from his home. Unfortunately, all of them are in some kind of a clash.

Madadian grew up 7,000 miles away in Irans capital, in a neighborhood home to many Armenians. Born in 1956, he shared a single room with his parents, grandmother and five siblings, and for much of his early childhood, the family didnt have any electricity or running water. But we had love and music, he recalled.

He excelled in math in school and some expected him to go into economics, but he always knew he would be a musician. His dad, who worked in road construction, helped him take out a loan to buy a guitar from a neighbor when he was 14 years old, and Madadian quickly started playing gigs with other singers to pay off the debt.

While others around him were interested in Iranian music, Madadian took a liking to British and American rock, falling in love with Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rod Stewart, Kansas and Chicago. I was much more rebellious, he said. Ray Charles was his vocal idol. A CBS recording branch in Iran discovered him when he was about 22 and helped him record a song he wrote in English, with plans to pitch him as an Iranian Rod Stewart given his similar raspy voice.

Enthralled with American-style music, Madadian knew he wanted to move to the US. But when he finally came to America, it wasnt just to pursue his dreams. When the revolution broke out in 1979, many were forced to flee, and Madadian lost contact with the producers who had recorded the single. (Maybe its better it didnt come out, because my English was not good.)

He got a student visa to play soccer for California State University, Los Angeles, and started playing guitar at nightclubs when he was not in school. He took the bus everywhere and invested whatever cash he saved in his instruments and paying for music lessons: To me, that was success.

He later formed a duo with another Persian singer, Kouros Shahmiri, and the two released several albums before Madadian went solo. Madadian eventually began working with the LA-based Iranian lyricist Paksima Zakipour, and in Persian markets, they became known as the Elton John and Bernie Taupin of the Iranian industry.

Over the years, Madadian has fused styles of his Iranian-Armenian heritage with western dance music, Spanish flamenco guitar, African rhythms and more. He has long attracted audiences overseas but also got mainstream US attention in 2009 when he collaborated with Jon Bon Jovi to record a Stand By Me cover in English and Farsi to show solidarity with protesters in Iran.

Bon Jovi learned the Farsi lyrics in a day, and Iranian fans thought he sang with a cute accent, Madadian said. This is a New Jersey kid singing Farsi for the first time.

Joe Jackson, Michael Jacksons father, introduced Madadian to his daughter La Toya Jackson and the two recorded a song in Farsi called Tehran in 2016. The song, like much of Madadians work, was hugely popular in Iran, though all of his music is officially banned by the Iranian government. Bootlegged versions of his music have spread across the country, but he doesnt make any money off of album sales there.

Because of the ban on his work, Madadian hasnt been back to Iran in the 41 years since he left. While some Iranian pop stars are exiled, Madadian hasnt tried to return and doesnt know what would happen if he did.

We have a lot of great Iranian artists here in LA, and the western world has not discovered them yet, Madadian said. Photograph: Courtesy Andy Madadian

Its the country I grew up in and I love beautiful people, beautiful place, beautiful culture, he said. I would like to go back when its a free democratic country, and my music is not banned but is on the radio and TV. One of my biggest wishes is that one day Iran and America will be good friends where we can visit and play in both countries, and live in both countries.

A vegetarian whose charity work focuses on animal rights, Madadian said he stays away from political activism. But he noted that that the devastating deaths from the Tehran plane crash caused by an accidental military strike were weighing heavy on him as he prepared to celebrate his Hollywood star and the triumph it represented for Iranian Americans.

Madadian will receive his star alongside a number of world-famous American musicians joining this year, including Elvis Costello, Billy Idol, Alicia Keys, 50 Cent and Muddy Waters.

The honor is a full circle moment for the artist, who remembered his first gigs in LA 40 years ago, which he would promote by posting flyers along lampposts on Hollywood Boulevard.

Ive lived most of my life in Los Angeles, so I am truly an Iranian-Armenian American and can say this is an American dream, he said, adding, The majority of Iranian artists live in LA. This is our Hollywood, also.

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Freelance writers and photographers sue over gig-economy protections that limit the number of stories they can produce

When California legislators passed a landmark workers rights bill in September, many hailed the legislation as a historic victory for workers in the gig economy. But with the law poised to take effect, some journalists are sounding the alarm bells.

On Tuesday, two groups representing freelance writers and photographers filed a legal challenge to the law ahead of its enactment on 1 January, saying it would unconstitutionally affect free speech by limiting how many stories they can produce.

California assembly bill 5, or AB5, changes the way contract workers are classified. It will implement a three-part standard for determining whether workers are properly classified as independent contractors, requiring that 1 they are free from the companys control, 2 they are doing work that isnt central to the companys business and 3 they have an independent business in that industry.

When it comes to writers and photographers, AB5 restricts contractors from producing more than 35 written content submissions a year for a single publication before they would be considered employees. In the lawsuit, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association allege the livelihood of many freelance journalists would be threatened by the bill.

Though the sweeping law affects all industries in California, journalists will be disproportionately affected, said Alisha Grauso, a journalist and member of the California Freelance Writers United. As the journalism industry has crumbled in the past decade, more publications have shifted to a model relying heavily on contract work while more writers have started freelancing.

The nature of our industry is so volatile that even if you are on staff in the media industry, there is no security, Grauso said. We have to be prepared to freelance at any time.

It is common for freelancers to secure what is called an anchor job, a steady gig that provides a regular paycheck, such as a weekly column or work shift, she said. Limiting writers to 35 submissions a year would undermine that model.

On the surface, this bill keeps us from doing our job and takes money out of our pockets, Grauso said. No industry has been impacted as much as freelance writers because of the nature of our work.

Advocates for AB5 argue news outlets exploit freelancers by hiring them to do full-time work without paying benefits. Many news outlets, particularly small ones, say they do not have the resources to employ writers full-time.

The effects are already playing out: the digital sports media company SB Nation, owned by Vox Media, announced on Tuesday it would end its use of more than 200 California freelancers, switching instead to using a much smaller number of new employees. Other publications are laying off longtime freelance contributors who are based in California.

The law gives newspaper companies a one-year delay to figure out how to apply the law to newspaper carriers, who work as independent contractors. The California Newspaper Publishers Association, which sought the extension, did not immediately comment on the new lawsuit.

The bills author, the Democratic assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, did not immediately comment on the lawsuit, nor did the state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, who is named in the lawsuit. She has said on Twitter that she was open to tweaking AB5 after journalists criticized it.

I will continue to work with freelancers, the industry & unions that represent writers to see if there are further changes that should be made, especially for digital quick jobs, she wrote. But this wont get resolved just on Twitter. And it cant happen before January.

The backlash against AB5 shows the bill needs more thought, said Andrew Ambrosino, CEO of the gig economy benefits startup Catch.

The California legislation passed this bill without understanding what they were doing, he said. I dont think its tenable at all and I dont think it is going to solve the problem they were trying to solve.

Other industries have also spoken out against the bill: the California Trucking Association last month filed the first challenge to the law, arguing it would harm independent truckers. Members of the music industry aired their grievances in an open letter by representatives of the Music Artists Coalition, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the American Association of Independent Music.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have said they will spend $90m on a 2020 ballot measure opposing the law if they cant negotiate other rules for their drivers. Uber also said it would keep treating its drivers as independent contractors and defend that decision in court if needed.

This ballot proposition will likely open the door to more ballot propositions, the California-based employment law attorney Eve Wagner said of the efforts from Uber, Lyft, and Doordash. This story is going to be going for quite some time.

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Prosecutors use gang enhancements to tack additional prison time on to sentences for alleged gang ties. Critics say its an ineffective, costly tactic to deter crime

When Lucero Herrera stepped out of the San Francisco county jail on a cold, dreary autumn afternoon in 2008, she didnt go back to the home in the neighborhood where she grew up.

The 18-year-old had served a little over a year in juvenile hall and county jail after a conflict between different street gangs in her community in the Mission District, San Franciscos historically Latino neighborhood, turned into a violent fight.

The years leading up to the fight had been turbulent. Herrera and her brother moved from El Salvador to San Francisco when they were kids. Herreras youth was often rough, she said. Her mother, who worked multiple jobs and as a result was rarely home, struggled with drug addiction and was abused by some of her partners.Law enforcement had identified her brother as a member of a gang. And despite their reputation among law enforcement, local gang members, Herrera said, were some of the people who supported her most, and encouraged her to stay in school despite the chaos around.

Following the fight, authorities charged Herrera with assault with a deadly weapon and street terrorism. She was also ordered to register as a gang member upon her release, leave San Francisco and carry around a card detailing her gang membership at all times.


Herrera was paroled to a transitional house in the city of Oakland, separated by the bay from her support system in the Mission. I was in the unknown. I had to do what I had to do to take care of myself, she told the Guardian about her time in Oakland.

She ended up in the underground street economy, she said, exchanging sex for money to pay for public transit, clothes and food. She struggled to stay connected with her mom, who was stillbattling addiction and had become homeless. Herrera was regularly abused by her pimp, she said.

After a particularly bad beating left her with two black eyes and landed her in the hospital, Herrera tried to escape, she said. But her pimp and a client who had come to her aid got into a fight, and Herrera ended up arrested again. This time, she faced a sentence of almost three years because of her conviction record and alleged gang ties.

They looked more at the gang ties than at the beating by my pimp. Even when I was trying to defend myself they were just looking at my background, she said.

Herrera is among thousands of California residents who authorities have charged with gang enhancements additional prison time or release conditions tacked on to their sentences because of alleged gang ties. Gang enhancements are just one of dozens of types of sentencing enhancements at prosecutors disposal, others include those for weapons possession or prior convictions. They are particularly common in California, where almost 70% of the states prison population in 2019 had at least one enhancement. As of August 2019, more than 90% of adults with a gang enhancement in a state prison are either black or Latino, California department of corrections and rehabilitation (CDCR) data indicates.

Many prosecutors argue that gang enhancements, which they say are used to reflect the severity of gang-related crimes, can deter people from participating in these groups, and can give communities time to heal by taking dangerous people off the streets for as long as possible.


A growing chorus of critics, however, say enhancements and lengthy prison stays are costly, ineffective tactics to deter crime, and do little to address the circumstances that push people into criminality. They argue prosecutors rely on an outdated and overly broad interpretation of what constitutes a gang member, resulting in an approach that criminalizes culture and relationships among people in low-income black and Latino communities.

In San Francisco, Chesa Boudin, the newly elected district attorney, has vowed to do away with gang enhancements: We need sophisticated policing to go after sophisticated criminal networks, but we need to be really careful when we use the legal definition of gang, because I think its overused and abused right now, Boudin told the Guardian. It feels like were criminalizing a culture music videos and Instagram photos showing that youre friends with someone who could be your neighbor, cousin or girlfriends brother, are viewed through a lens of criminality.

Lucero Herrera said the gang charges didnt help her get her life back on track.

It didnt help my lifestyle. Instead, it made it difficult for me to live and navigate in the world, said Herrera, who is now 30 and works at the Young Womens Freedom Center in San Francisco, an organization that provides support for women and girls who are affected by the criminal justice system.

Tenaya Jones, Ki Finao and Storm Green-Loe with the Young Women Freedom Center plan a town hall meeting on 29 October 2019 in San Francisco. Photograph: Erin Brethauer/The Guardian

The origins

Gang enhancements first appeared during the tough on crime era of the 1980s and 90s, when Americans were fearful of young, mostly black and Latino people deemed superpredators and were concerned that the street-level violence that came out of the crack-cocaine trade would reach suburban and affluent communities. These days, terms like superpredator are widely considered racist and outdated. Yet some of the law enforcement tools that came from this era, including gang enhancements, are still widely used within the criminal justice system.

There are various versions of gang enhancements at both the federal and state level. In California, 11,484 inmates in the states adult prison system, or about 6%, had a gang enhancement in August 2019, according to data from the California department of corrections and rehabilitation. Of them, 10,535 92% are either black or Latino. And while Californias prison population has declined since the US supreme court ordered the state to reduce its prison population in 2011 from 163,000 to around 125,000, the number of prisoners with a gang enhancement in the system rose almost 40% in the same period.

The racial discrepancies, experts and advocates say, are partly due to the way California identifies gangs and gang members.

Gang enhancements first appeared in the 1988 Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention (Step) Act, when the crack-cocaine trade and underground drug market fueled street-level violence over turf among gangs throughout California. The violence took the form of drive-by shootings, and deadly fights between feuding groups.

It was on and poppin, said Douglass Fort, a Bay Area gang expert who testifies in criminal cases. It was young men with a bunch of money and egos, with 13-year-olds making 5-10k a month. Communities were killing each other with guns and crack, Fort said of the climate during the early 80s. Legislators thought these communities were crazy and when it came to writing legislation, it was lockup instead of rehab.

The Young Women Freedom Centers alter pays homage the groups ancestors and honors those who died incarcerated or on the streets. Photograph: Erin Brethauer/The Guardian

Prosecutors still follow the Step Act definition of a gang an organization, association, or group of three or more persons who commit crimes as a collective. They can charge any defendant whose alleged crime is deemed to bolster the reputation of or bring money into the group with a gang enhancement, which can add between one to 10 years on to a sentence.

But the dynamics of gangs and gang violence have changed significantly over the years. Today, there are large ethnically based gangs, such as the Aryan Brotherhood, the Nuestra Familia, and their subsets, the Norteos and Sureos, active in the Bay Areas streets, prisons and jails, law enforcement officials and gang experts say. These groups are still involved in the underground drug trade. But now, the once thriving underground crack, cocaine and marijuana trade is being replaced by the more lucrative opioid and methamphetamine sales.

The large, predominantly black gangs that are active in southern California, such as the Crips and Bloods, dont have a significant presence in the Bay Area, according to law enforcement. Instead, black groups in the region are often smaller, centered around specific locations, and dont have a clear power structure or origin which is why they are classified as non-traditional gangs. Rapid gentrification in the region has changed the activities of these non-traditional groups, said the Contra Costa deputy district attorney, Jason Peck, with the regions high housing costs causing them to splinter. This phenomenon is considered to be the main driver behind the almost 200 shootings that have happened on Bay Area freeways since 2015.

The reasons Bay Area residents join traditional and non-traditional gangs vary based on the individual and community in which they grow up. Some are born into heavily gang-involved families and are raised to be proud of being a member. Some are from neighborhoods where not being a part of a street gang can be more dangerous than being in one. Others, especially young people who are in smaller non-traditional gangs, come together for a variety of reasons including growing up in the same community and bonding over shared trauma.

Most gang members operate from an area of being hurt, said David Monroe who works with at-risk youth in San Francisco and Stockton. Monroe is also a Norteo, the subset of the Nuestra Familia prison gang that is most present in northern California, and spent 19 years in prison for murdering a rival gang member when he was 15.

Its easy to understand how a kid who grows up in that environment can go down that road, Monroe continued. Those gang members are like your new family, and they protect you, they look out for you, they do all the things your family should be doing.

To establish gang ties, prosecutors today mainly look at social media photos and prior contact with police. In some cases rap music videos and lyrics that show proximity to people identified as gang members are also used to establish membership or affiliation. Some law enforcement agencies keep track of suspected gang members in the CalGang database, which underwent an overhaul after a 2016 state audit found that the database contained questionable information that may violate individuals privacy rights. The auditor found that some law enforcement agencies were unable to demonstrate that many of the groups they entered into CalGang met the criteria necessary for identification as gangs. The database is now managed by Californias department of justice.

Notes of encouragement hang above the Young Women Freedom Centers alter which pays homage to the groups ancestors and honors those who died incarcerated or on the streets. Photograph: Erin Brethauer/The Guardian

It doesnt address the root causes

Prosecutors argue gang enhancements are still an effective way to help keep the public safe, by recognizing the severity of gang-related crime and the risk it poses to the community at large. Prosecutors consider them a way to ensure that people who commit violent crimes on behalf of a gang are incarcerated for as long as possible, said Yvette McDowell, a former assistant city prosecutor in Pasadena, California.

Prosecutors are trying to either help the victim be made whole, or get justice for society as a whole, McDowell said. They are going to use whatever tool is at their disposal to bolster their position to have things work out in their favor.

Some cities have also placed restraining orders on gangs that make various actions, such as hanging out in certain areas, illegal for some or all of its members. These court orders are known as a gang injunctions and cities throughout California have used them since the 1990s.

It could have been whistling when the police are coming or riding a bicycle in a particular area, said McDowell, who helped Pasadena get an injunction against a gang in the late 90s. Theres nothing criminal about riding a bike, but if you are identified on the injunction list, you simply being over there gave [police] probable cause to stop and search you.

Injunctions have been used in San Francisco since 2006. The city attorney, Dennis Herrera, says the injunctions on gangs in four neighborhoods have contributed to the citys historically low rate of gun violence, were tactfully implemented and only used on people with a well-documented criminal history. But community organizers say this decrease in violent crime has come at the expense of black and Latino residents whose communities were targeted by police.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argue the injunctions, much like gang enhancements, do not address the issues at the root of crime and take up public resources that could be spent on efforts like violence prevention programs.

The gang injunctions were almost these 21st-century Black Codes, said Jose Bernal, a San Francisco native and organizer with the San Francisco No Injunctions Coalition, comparing the court orders to a set of laws placed on formerly enslaved black people after slavery was abolished.

Sending police to these neighborhoods is a reactionary thing, Bernal added. Its natural for most folks [to] feel safer because theres a police officer present, but that doesnt address the root causes.

Lucero Herrera was among thousands of people in Californias prisons who authorities have charged with gang enhancements. Photograph: Erin Brethauer/The Guardian

Lucero Herrera recalls feeling singled out by police whether she was alone or with a group of friends hanging out. She learned of her brothers reputation when she was stopped by police around the age of 12. She recalls gang taskforce officers calling her Lil Lazy, a version of her brothers street name. These kinds of police encounters would even happen at places like the local community center, she remembered.

It made me feel like I wasnt a human, she said. If we were just sitting on the stairs police thought we were doing something wrong instead of just enjoying our youth.

Herrera was often angry growing up. The police think Im already gonna be this way, so why not? she recalls thinking.

Herrera stabbed a man in a large street fight when she was 15. She spent a year and a half in juvenile detention, and when she was about to be released she asked to stay locked up, worried she wouldnt be able to stay out of trouble. She was released anyway.

I just wish that probation, and the case manager would have listened to me when I asked to be in an out-patient program.

She lasted about six days, before the fight that landed her in county jail. She accepts accountability, she said, but says that her prison stay kept her away from her mother, who was still struggling with addiction and wasin need of Herreras help and support.

Lucero Herrera, her cousin, and her mother. Photograph: Courtesy Lucero Herrera

Herreras brother was arrested and charged with a gang enhancement in 2008, while she was serving her sentence in San Francisco county jail. He was deported to El Salvador after serving his sentence. Her own incarceration coupled with her brothers arrest and deportation was a serious blow, she said.

It broke my family, Herrera said.

Herreras brother was found murdered in El Salvador in 2018, and in August of this year, police found her mothers decomposing body in Sonoma county. She had been missing since May 2018.

Thats another reason my mom went missing. All that trauma.

The push for reform

There is a growing movement of community organizers and attorneys who point at cases like Herreras to argue that the current approach is archaic.

Weve had enough time since the tough-on-crime era. We have data to look back on to see the results of the policies, said Derrick Morgan, a policy associate with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Giving people more time does not work to reduce crime, we just burdened the states budget with really tough policies.

Boudin argued during his campaign for district attorney that the use of social media and rap music videos can criminalize culture, because family members and neighbors can be caught up in the dragnet of gang prosecution.

Defendants committing serious crimes like murder and robbery already face harsh punishment, he added, leaving enhancements to mostly serve as leverage for prosecutors and a way to introduce evidence that would otherwise be irrelevant.

To use gang charges as a way to introduce evidence at trial is problematic, racially charged, and it makes us unsafe by undermining trust in the community, Boudin said.

If public safety requires a life sentence, thats doable without the gang charge, he continued. I want to have the resources we spend actually make us safer and to make sure that were reducing racial disparities, not increasing them.

There is also a financial argument for reform. California spends about $80,000 a year on each inmate in the states prison system and this cost is substantially higher for juveniles. Violence reduction groups like the Giffords Law Center point to community-based mentorship, strengthening police-community relations and investing in alternatives to incarceration for young people as often more effective in stopping crime and violence than incarceration.

And there is growing awareness of the policys ripple effects on defendants and their communities.

Families are being torn apart consistently, said Amber-Rose Howard of Californians United for a Responsible Budget, a coalition of not-for-profit organizations that work to reduce the states prison and jail population. They are trying to support [the incarcerated person] and stay connected, and figure out how to survive without the extra help in their family.

They also destabilize [incarcerated people], and their ability to function in society, she added.

Herrera recalls having to carry around the card with her status as a known gang member made her feel like a sex offender. Since she was registered as a gang member, police could stop and search her whenever they wanted.

I felt very embarrassed, she said. It was uncomfortable when I was in a big group of people, and I had to give the police a blue card.

People wouldnt kick it with me, and I couldnt be myself because I was getting stopped and fucked with.

Gang enhancements also affect the way people navigate behind bars, and can affect everything from where someone is housed to their chances in front of the parole board.

John Vasquez in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, near his transitional housing apartment. Photograph: Tim Hussin/The Guardian

John Vasquez, who served 25 years in prison for shooting a member of a rival gang at a party when he was 16, received 12 extra years to his 15 years to life sentence for using a gun and being a gang member. He also spent three years in a smaller, more controlled housing unit that didnt have bars, just walls.

Having that gang label on you in the prison system means more lockdown time, and when I was going to my parole board hearings, the biggest hurdle was the gang enhancements, it seemed bigger than the murder itself, Vasquez said.

Revamping the way that California hands down gang enhancements is a slow-moving process. Organizers and public defenders say that is partly because gang members are painted as menaces to society in and outside of court, making it harder to gain the public support necessary to reform gang prosecution.

Since gang members are still low on the statewide criminal justice policy agenda, organizers are focusing their reform efforts on local policies in DA offices and police departments.

We can start at home. Thats a policy decision that any district attorney can make, they can just choose, Bernal said of limiting and eliminating gang enhancements. The money it takes to lock someone up could be better used in the community.

John Vasquez received extra time for being associated with a gang when he committed a crime as a teenager. Photograph: Courtesy John Vasquez

In San Francisco, the use of gang enhancements may soon come to an end after Boudin unexpectedly beat Suzy Loftus, a progressive prosecutor who was appointed the interim district attorney in October. Loftus will remain in the office until early January. During the DA race, Boudin was the only candidate to call for a complete end to gang enhancements in San Francisco. He was also vehemently opposed by local law enforcement associations who said his progressive policies would lead to an uptick in crime. However, if Boudin disallows prosecutors from using gang enhancements, there will undoubtedly be backlash from within and outside the office.

John Vasquez says he is disheartened by both the violent actions of gang members as well as the use of gang enhancements. I get pissed off by the gang members doing their thing, and I still get pissed off at these gang enhancements being used on youngsters and a lot of minorities.

He also knows firsthand how, without intervention, the need for love and acceptance can turn into a potentially dangerous allegiance. That gang mentality is very dangerous, it was my whole identity, everything. I was willing to kill for my gang to represent it, as crazy as that sounds today, Vasquez says.

After 25 years in prison, Vasquez works for Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (Curyj) where he helps families navigate gang prosecution and other parts of the court systems.

We lose one of our community members to either gang violence or to a long prison sentence. These are both traumatic for our communities.

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Four people died last weekend after gunmen fired into a backyard where friends had gathered to watch football. The victims were all Hmong

Within a year of moving to Fresno, California, Xy Lee had developed a close community of Hmong performers, a globally recognized singing career, and a plan to build his own studio.

On Sunday, it all ended in an instant.

Assailants armed with semiautomatic handguns fired into the backyard where the 23-year-old Lee and dozens of friends were watching a football game turning a quintessential American pastime into a distinctly American horror in seconds.

Xy and three other men died: 38-year-old Kou Xiong, 31-year-old Phia Vang and 40-year-old Kalaxang Thao. Six other people were injured.

All of the victims were members of the Central Valleys Hmong community, a tight-knit group of families who came to California as refugees fleeing war, tragedy and violence in south-east Asia. Xys family first arrived in Long Beach when he was 14, but relocated to Fresno last year, in part because Xy was traveling so much to the city to perform.

Hes pure-hearted. Hes innocent. Why did you kill my son? Xys father Xai Pao Lee said on Thursday, speaking through a translator. Xys mother and two siblings clutched tissues and large printed photos of Xy performing. They said they hadnt slept in days and were struggling to accept that he was gone.

The wife and daughter of shooting victim Kou Xiong stand during the candle light vigil in his honor outside their home in Fresno, California. Photograph: Larry Valenzuela/AP

Authorities have released few details on the investigation and the search for the killers. Survivors were unable to identify the suspects. Police said early on they believed there were possibly two gunmen. Theyve claimed the shooting was targeted, but have also said its unclear if the suspects knew the victims. The Fresno police chief, Andrew Hall, announced the formation of an Asian gang taskforce, but also said there was no evidence gang ties played a role in the shooting, The families have insisted their loved ones had no connections to gangs.

We escaped war. Now we see this here

The tragedy has brought national attention to Hmong Americans, and the vibrant Hmong community in Fresno, the Central Valley city 200 miles north of Los Angeles.

The US armed more than 40,000 people, mostly Hmong, to fight in Laos during the war in the 1970s. It began resettling Hmong people in 1975, with a major wave reaching the US in the 1980s. Ultimately, 90% of Hmong refugees ended up in the US, including in California, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Many people in the community are still struggling with trauma from the war. People on the outside dont understand. Our elders are still suffering from some level of PTSD from the Vietnam war, said Blong Xiong, a 50-year-old former Fresno councilmember, who came to the US as a refugee from Laos when he was five. A lot of these families escaped the war, were shot at, saw people die in front of them. Now, were seeing it happen in this country.

There are now an estimated 300,000 Hmong Americans, with roughly 34,000 living in Fresno, home to the second largest Hmong community in the country.

Vong Mouanoutoua, a local councilman in Clovis, a neighboring city, said Hmong families were drawn to the Central Valley for farming jobs and more affordable housing.

Our culture is one in which there is a lot of connectivity, said Mouanoutoua, explaining that that there are 18 clans among Hmong people, represented by the shared surnames. The teaching is, you and I had one mom and one dad some time ago, maybe 4,000 generations ago, but we are one.

Neej Xiong, the uncle of shooting victim Kour Xiong, prays in front of a memorial during a candlelight vigil. Photograph: Larry Valenzuela/AP

There is a special bond within the clans, even if people arent related by blood, he said. So when the news broke that people were shot in a mass casualty incident at a time when many families gather to celebrate the Hmong new year, panic quickly spread and people posted on Facebook trying to figure out what happened.

I couldnt believe this had happened, said Nou Xiong, a reporter for the local Hmong TV Network, which broadcasts in Fresno and has viewers across the US and in Hmong communities in France, Canada, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

She soon learned the story was worse than she initially thought: The attack took place at her cousins home, and 10 people had been shot.

I miss him so much

On Wednesday night, three days after the massacre, dozens of relatives, friends and community members had gathered at the scene of the shooting the home of Kou Xiong, one of the four victims. The vigils had become a nightly ritual this week, with people lighting candles under an altar with photos of Kou and his wife next to a bowl of rice, some sobbing as they shared a few words.

The home and backyard looked nothing like a crime scene, and the family welcomed everyone inside for dinner, insisting two reporters eat their homemade dishes beef with ginger and onion, boiled pork, mushrooms and lots of jasmine rice. In the living room, men sat around a table drinking beers. A photo from the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand hung on the wall.

Kou was a chef at a local sushi restaurant, who loved to host guests at his home. Children were in the house during the attack, but none were injured.

He was hard working. He wanted me to help him open his own sushi restaurant, said his uncle, Neejkhov Xiong. Now, I dont know.

Neejkhov said Kous five-year-old daughter understood that her father was gone but was struggling to process, saying things like: He left without saying goodbye.

During the vigil, the young girl ran around the house handing out water bottles and at one point asked a reporter if she could send a message to her father: Tell him I love him so much I miss him so much.

Photo collage
Xy Lee was one of four people killed in a shooting in Fresno, California.

Kalaxang Thao, another victim, worked at an Asian grocery store. His wife is due to have their third child in January, said his cousin, Leng Thao. Thaos family had moved to California in pursuit of the American dream, the cousin said.

Phia Vang was also a musician and worked at a local lab, earning an income that supported his five younger siblings and parents, his father told the Fresno Bee, adding he didnt know how the family would survive.

The siblings of Xy Lee said fans across the globe had been reaching out. His recent music video, a ballad, now has millions of views.

Friends were always asking him to sing, and he never said no, said Kou Lee, his 31-year-old brother. Xy had taught himself to play guitar and sing when he was eight-years-old and gained popularity in the last several years, Kou said. Everybody fell in love with him when he sings.

It was a natural gift that he had, true God-given talent, added Kaonor Lee, his 21-year-old sister. Xy planned to open a studio in Fresno so that he could support other songwriters and musicians, the sister said.

Xai, the father, said he didnt want retribution for his sons killer, but he wanted the person found and brought to justice so he could ask him why he did it.

The Hmong people are very resilient

As the families begin to prepare for funerals, many in the Hmong community are desperate to know who was responsible and what the motive possibly could have been. No one seems to have answers.

Pao Yang, the director of the Fresno Center, a not-for-profit working with the victims families, said the comments from the Fresno police chief had been upsetting: The community is coming together. There are so many good deeds This is not an Asian gang.

Still, the lack of information has left people terrified, said Nou Xiong, the reporter: If people have a backyard, is someone just gonna walk in and shoot?

Xy Lees siblings, Kou and Kaonor, and parents, Xai Pao Lee and Chong Xiong. Photograph: Sam Levin/The Guardian

Katie Moua, a 25-year-old Hmong organizer in Fresno, said some youth were trying to reassure their parents and grandparents that they werent in danger, and that she was worried they were returning to a time when Hmong families felt unsafe or uncomfortable in these neighborhoods.

Weve worked so hard to be free. Weve worked so hard to feel pride in our identity and our city, she said. I hope people can still find a way to continue to live how they were living and find things to celebrate this season.

Leng Thao, the cousin of one of the victims, said the community would find a way forward: The Hmong people are very resilient. This tragedy has not weakened us, but actually strengthened us and reinforced those bonds.

Standing in the cold outside the home where his son Kou was killed, Cha Lee Xiong struggled to find the words to thank the community.

Im hoping this mass killing will be the last one, he said, adding that he wanted to send a message to people outside of the Hmong community: If it happens to your family, I will be there to support you.

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Airbnbs CEO said the company must do better after five people were killed at a party in San Francisco

Airbnbs chief executive has said the company will ban party houses following a deadly shooting at a Halloween party held at an Airbnb rental home in California.

In a series of tweets, Brian Chesky said on Saturday that the San Francisco-based company would expand manual screening of high risk reservations and remove guests who fail to comply with policies banning parties at Airbnb rental homes.

He also said the company is forming a rapid response team when complaints of unauthorised parties come in.

We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable, he tweeted.

Five people died after a Thursday-night shooting that sent some 100 terrified partygoers running for their lives in the San Francisco suburb of Orinda.

Brian Chesky (@bchesky)

Starting today, we are banning party houses and we are redoubling our efforts to combat unauthorized parties and get rid of abusive host and guest conduct, including conduct that leads to the terrible events we saw in Orinda. Here is what we are doing:

November 2, 2019

The four-bedroom home had been rented on Airbnb by a woman who told the owner her dozen family members had asthma and needed to escape smoke from a wildfire, a person with knowledge of the transaction told the Associated Press. A fire burning in Sonoma County about 97km (60 miles) north of Orinda earlier in the week fouled the air over a wide area.

The owner was suspicious of a one-night rental on Halloween and before agreeing reminded the renter that no parties were allowed, said the person with knowledge of the transaction, who was not authorised to publicly disclose the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The owner, Michael Wang, said his wife contacted the renter on Thursday night after neighbours alerted them to the party. The renter said there were only a dozen people at the home but Wang said he could see more people on video from his doorbell camera.

We called the police. They were on the way to go there to stop them, but before we got there the neighbour already sent us a message saying there was a shooting, he told the Chronicle.

No arrests have been made and there was no immediate word on a motive for the attack. Two guns were found at the property, authorities said.

Three people, all from the Bay area, died at the scene and a fourth died in hospital, authorities initially said. The Contra Costa County sheriffs office identified them Friday evening as Tiyon Farley, 22, of Antioch; Omar Taylor, 24, of Pittsburg; Ramon Hill Jr, 23; and Javin County, 29. The sheriffs office identified a fifth victim, 19-year-old Oshiana Tompkins of Vallejo and Hercules, late Friday night, saying she died in hospital.

Taylors father, Omar Taylor Sr, said his son was hired to play music at the party.

Wrong place, wrong time, he told the East Bay Times.

Other people were wounded by gunshots or injured in the panic that followed, authorities said.

The party at the four-bedroom house apparently was advertised on social media as an Airbnb mansion party.

Orinda, with a population of about 20,000, requires short-term rental hosts to register with the city annually and pay an occupancy tax. The maximum occupancy is 13 people.

Orinda city documents show officials issued violations in March for exceeding the homes maximum occupancy and illegal parking. City manager Steve Salomon said the homeowner had resolved previous complaints lodged in February over occupancy and noise and in July over overflowing trash.

Airbnb is urgently investigating what happened, spokesman Ben Breit said in an email.

Airbnb has banned the renter from its platform and the home has been removed as a listing, he said.

One attendee said he was enjoying the music and watching people dance when he heard shots and people started running.

The screaming seemed to last forever, said Devan, who asked that his last name not be used because he feared for his safety.

Everybody started running, scrambling, he said. People were just collapsing and friends were helping friends. It was a scary situation and then as everyone is panicking and stuff, there were more shots.

Devan shot a video posted to Instagram that showed a wounded man on the ground and a police officer standing over him and a woman saying she needs to go to the hospital because my hands been blown off.

On Friday, police tape surrounded the block as people came to collect their cars and other belongings. One woman in tears told reporters the father of her child had been killed. She left before giving her name.

Romond Reynolds picked up the car of his son, 24-year-old Armani Reynolds, who he said was left comatose by the shooting.

All I know is that hes a victim and was at the wrong place at the wrong time, Reynolds said.

Neighbour Shahram Saki, 61, said in a phone interview that some fleeing partygoers hid in the bushes in his front yard and others begged to be let into his home.

They were screaming for help. I told them, You gotta get out of here, Saki said. I was scared to death, anything could have happened.

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