LA’s New Sixth Street Bridge Already Plagued By Street Takeovers, Other Stunts

Los Angeles’ Sixth Street bridge has only been open for a week, but police say there have already been street takeovers and stunts at the spot.

Tire marks from car stunts, such as “donuts” and burnouts, covered the road of the bridge Monday after incidents over the weekend.

One video showed two people walking on the archway of the bridge and take pictures while sitting atop the concrete arch.

Another video showed one driver do a burnout as other motorists drove by. Los Angeles police say no arrest have been made in connection with the stunts.

On Monday around 11 p.m., a street takeover ended in a crash that involved three cars.

Witnesses said the driver who caused the crash was in a white Dodge Challenger and was doing stunts. At one point, the driver lost control and crashed into passing traffic.

The driver then got out and took off on foot.

LAPD and CHP’s street racing task force does arrest people in certain cases. Penalties include fines and jail time.

The Sixth Street Viaduct connects Boyle Heights and the downtown Arts District. The previous Sixth Street Viaduct, which was built in 1932, was a Los Angeles landmark seen in countless films and television shows, most notably “Grease” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

Source: ABC7

Amsterdam’s Sex Workers Face Financial Stress As The Pandemic Continues

At first glance, a Saturday night in October may have looked like a pre-pandemic evening in Amsterdam’s famous red-light district.

Couples, tourists, and bachelor and bachelorette parties from all over the world browsed the bright posters of near-naked sex workers. Tall colonial-style brothel windows, laced with red-and-pink neon lights, illuminated the neighborhood. The rainy and windy weather had little impact on the massive crowd.

Behind each window, sex workers in lingerie used different techniques to grab potential clients’ attention. Some tapped the glass, others winked and blew kisses, and a few sat on barstools and scrolled through their phones.

“In Amsterdam, prostitution is number one,” Amanda, a sex worker who declined to use her real name, told ABC News at the time.

In early fall, the Netherlands had some of the country’s least strict COVID-19 restrictions since the pandemic began. Life resembled what it was like before the coronavirus, but, for Amanda and other sex workers, it was clear that even with relaxed pandemic measures, business was slow. In fact, workers in the sex industry said they have been overlooked financially since the start of the pandemic.

Inside Amanda’s place of work, the ceiling was covered with red neon lights. A speaker blasted electronic music, making the space feel like a nightclub. At the right of the entrance was a small staircase leading upstairs, where Amanda met with clients. The second floor was furnished with only a twin-sized bed, a pillow and a dark sheet. Despite the vibrant ambience, she had only seen one client by 11 p.m.

“Yes, now COVID is a big problem in the work. Now it’s very down,” she said. Amanda shared that prior to 2020, she could make up to $1,400 per shift. She now made a fraction of that.

Although business was slow in October compared to years past, some sex workers at the time seemed optimistic about the end of the pandemic. That was before a spike in COVID cases in November and the Omicron variant caused the Netherlands to enter a new lockdown right before the holidays.

In response to the resulting economic stress, the Dutch government offered financial support to businesses and the self-employed until the end of March. While COVID restrictions were lifted last week for restaurants, bars and cafes, full relief for sex workers remains to be seen.

A late-2020 study conducted by the Prostitute Information Center, a nonprofit organization in the red-light district, and SekswerkExpertise, a resource network, found that many self-employed sex workers who applied for financial aid were rejected because they did not qualify under the government’s requirements for self-employers. Additionally, people in the business have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic because curfews essentially criminalize sex work, making it difficult to earn income in a nightlife industry.

Zina Berlin, a Dutch sex-worker-rights advocate who works with the Prostitute Information Center, told ABC News that advocates have been calling on government leaders to provide curfew exemptions and additional financial support for sex workers. What they’re fighting for is beyond money – they’re fighting for their livelihood, she said.

“When we write letters to the government, we try to really stress this,” Berlin said “It’s not just numbers; it’s not just money. If you lose your income, you lose your home; you can’t support your loved ones anymore. It breaks lives. It’s really individuals [who] suffer so much.”

A spokesperson for Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema told ABC News that the “city-funded care partner has put in a lot of effort in helping sex workers with COVID financial relief applications.” The city has “processed those applications as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

However, Iris, coordinator of the PIC, who identifies under a professional pseudonym, said they are currently continuing their 2020 research and are already finding similar numbers for 2021.

“Yes, there is aid for people registered at the [Netherlands] Chamber of Commerce. But only under strict conditions, that sex workers can’t adhere to,” Iris said. “Research has shown most sex workers don’t apply, as they don’t qualify and of those who try, many get rejected. Not only in Amsterdam, but in the entirety of the Netherlands. Sex workers who are forced by the government to work under the Opting-in system, don’t get any type of financial aid.”

Under the opt-in system, people can work for brothels or escort agencies without being considered an employee, allowing sex workers complete autonomy. Still, in this scheme, they are not considered self-employed, which prevents them from claiming self-employed benefits like coronavirus aid, forcing them to find help through other avenues.

In addition, Berlin said many workers are dealing with mental health challenges. She told ABC News three people she knew in the industry have died by suicide due to pandemic challenges, but she also emphasized that this is a resilient community.

“We also have an emergency fund that was created by sex workers themselves, so we can give some money and food to other sex workers, so we really try to be there,” she said. “There was an emergency helpline that was set up, so if people struggled, they could call and we would refer them to other organizations that could provide help. So, we really do our best as a community, and I think we have shown over these years how resilient we are.”

Still, other challenges are on the horizon. Sex workers are speaking out to keep the red-light district in the city after government officials proposed moving it due to tourists’ rowdy behavior.

Moreover, the Prostitute Information Center recognizes that sex work is often stigmatized, and they are combating stigmas by providing educational tours of the red-light district and lectures on sex worker experiences. The nonprofit hopes that sharing knowledge will create an easier path for better rights and protections.

While the start to the new year isn’t what many anticipated, the hope is that summer will bring better financial opportunities for people in the red-light district.

“Sex work is work. Even if you don’t agree with it, we still deserve the same rights and respect as other professions, and you don’t have to be a sex worker,” Berlin said. “You can let us be the sex workers.”

Source: ABC News

Philadelphia City Council Takes Steps To Formally Apologize For Deadly 1985 Bombing Of A Black Neighborhood

Philadelphia City Council voted Thursday to apologize for the MOVE bombing 35 years ago that left 11 people dead, including five children, and burned 61 homes in West Philadelphia.

The resolution, approved almost unanimously (Councilmember Brian O’Neill said he opposed it), represents the first formal apology offered by the city for the May 13, 1985, bombing. It also establishes the anniversary of the bombing as “an annual day of observation, reflection and recommitment.”

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, whose West Philadelphia district includes the neighborhood destroyed by the bombing, sponsored the resolution. She introduced it days after the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. less than a mile away from the site of the bombing. She linked the two events in a speech to City Council last month.

“We can draw a straight line from the unresolved pain and trauma of that day to Walter Wallace Jr.’s killing earlier this week in the very same neighborhood,” Gauthier said. “Because what’s lying under the surface here is a lack of recognition of the humanity of Black people from law enforcement.”

In 1985, police dropped an explosive device on the roof of 6221 Osage Ave. after a daylong confrontation with the Black radical and naturalist group MOVE, as officers attempted to evict them from their compound. The majority of the victims were Black.

W. Wilson Goode Sr., who was mayor at the time, called on the city to issue a formal apology in an op-ed published by The Guardian before the 35th anniversary. “The event will remain on my conscience for the rest of my life,” he wrote.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Uber and Lyft just avoided a shutdown. How they got here and what’s next

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The warnings are the result of California’s efforts to bring gig economy companies in compliance with state labor law — a clash that threatened to come to a head this week.

An emergency stay granted Thursday by a California appeals court temporarily defused the situation, allowing Uber and Lyft to continue operating under their current model for the time being. But unless a resolution is reached, millions of Californians who use Uber and Lyft to hail rides may yet find themselves forced to resort to other modes of transportation.

In early August, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ordered the companies to classify their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors, building in a 10-day window for the companies to appeal the move. With that window closing Thursday night, Uber and Lyft had threatened to shut down services at midnight Thursday, saying they cannot transition their business models quickly enough. Lyft reiterated that threat in a blog post Thursday morning, saying: “This is not something we wanted to do.”

“Uber and Lyft are threatening to kill jobs in California. I believe the companies are trying to force us into a decision around giving them what they want, and that’s Prop. 22, which is to keep denying us basic labor protections and benefits we have earned,” said Cherri Murphy, a ride-hailing company driver for about three years. An Oakland resident, Murphy is also an organizer with labor groups Gig Workers Rising and Rideshare Drivers United, which have fought to win protections for drivers.

Uber pushed back on this assessment, saying many drivers prefer to remain independent contractors. “The vast majority of drivers want to work independently, and we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure that remains the case under California law. When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression,” Uber spokesman Davis White said in a statement.

“Fortunately, California voters can make their voices heard by voting yes on Prop. 22 in November,” Zimmer said, and if passed, the measure “would protect driver independence and flexibility, while providing historic new benefits and protections.”

San Francisco’s district attorney sued food delivery app DoorDash in June, alleging worker misclassification. Uber said it anticipates a similar fight on this front.

Source: LA Times

TikTok/YouTube stars Alan & Alex Stokes (Stokes Twins) charged with felony after fake Irvine bank robbery pranks that led to police responses at Metropolis Apartments & UC Irvine

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Two 23-year old twins face criminal charges for a prank in which authorities say they staged a fake bank robbery in Irvine that resulted in a police response, including officers holding an unsuspecting Uber driver at gunpoint.

Alan and Alex Stokes, 23, of Irvine each were charged with a felony count of false imprisonment and a misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors allege that around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2019, the brothers – dressed in black, wearing ski masks and carrying duffel bags full of cash – pretended like they had just robbed a bank, while their videographer filmed them.

According to the DA’s office, the brothers ordered an Uber, but the driver – who was unaware of the alleged prank – refused to drive them anywhere. A bystander, believing the two men had robbed a bank and were trying to carjack the driver, called 911.

Irvine officers ordered the Uber driver out of the car at gunpoint, then released him after determining he hadn’t committed a crime. The officers let the Stokes brothers go with a warning, according to the DA’s office.

Prosecutors allege that four hours later the brothers carried out a similar prank on the UC Irvine campus, and officers once again responded to reports of a bank being robbed. The men left before officers arrived.

Source: OC Register

San Jose teacher who coughed on 1-year-old baby in Yogurtland fired by Oak Grove School District

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“As many know, there have been allegations that a District employee was involved in a videotaped incident in which the person appeared to have intentionally coughed on a baby at a local Yogurtland. We want to inform our community that the District employee who was alleged to have engaged in this conduct is no longer an employee of our District. The Oak Grove School District’s highest priority is the safety of our students and the well-being of all of the children in the community we serve. We do not tolerate conduct from any employee that compromises any child’s safety. As we welcome our students back for learning this summer and in the fall in these unprecedented times, the District’s commitment to creating and maintaining a safe environment for our students is unwavering.”

The boy’s mother, Moreya Mora, says police have shown her a photo lineup and she’s identified the woman.

Source: ABC 7

Burger Meat Brand ‘Meat District’ Found at Costco Sparks Anger After Using Asian Woman’s Geisha Image on Packaging

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With its suggestive name “Meat District,” the line of burger products from food manufacturing company Golden West Food Group is being criticized for perpetuating racial stereotypes in the branding of one of its labels.

The particular product in question is the “Kanpai burger,” a type of patty made with American wagyu beef.

The use of a silhouette of an apparent geisha on meat products captured the attention of a Costco shopper who posted a photo of it on Twitter. Geishas are traditional female Japanese entertainers thought to have come about in 17th century Japan.

Source: NextShark