California Today: What to Know About the L.A. Teachers’ Strike

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The last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster for Los Angeles public schoolteachers, parents and students.

After months of tense back-and-forth, more than 30,000 teachers were set to walk off the job on Thursday. But on Wednesday, legal questions prompted union leaders to postpone the strike until today.

And as the two sides didn’t renew negotiations over the weekend, pickets are set to begin at 7 a.m. My colleagues, like Jennifer Medina, will be covering the action today, but in the meantime, here’s what you need to know:

Why are the teachers striking?

Teachers and employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system, say that working conditions have become untenable. Despite California’s reputation as a progressive bastion, the state still spends relatively little on public education — about half as much as New York spends on the average child.

Now, educators are demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes and the hiring of more support staff like counselors and librarians.

How did things get to this point?

Money, of course.

More specifically, profound disagreements about how much money the district has now and how much will likely be available in years to come.

While union leaders say that the district has big reserves that could help pay for all that they’re asking, other officials — most visibly Austin Beutner, the district superintendent — say that meeting the demands would bankrupt the district.

I have no ties to Los Angeles schools. Why should I care?

The strike is a new front in the debate about the role of public education in American life.

While teachers protesting severe underfunding of public schools have staged walkouts in six states over the past year, those have been largely in conservative or swing states with weaker unions.

The strike in Los Angeles shows that even in staunchly liberal areas many of the same tensions are bubbling over. And educators’ frustrations in L.A. could ripple across the state.

In Silicon Valley, for instance, teachers are facing not just tough working conditions, but also skyrocketing housing costs that often make it impossible for them to live near the students they teach.

I am a parent of a child in the district. What do I need to know?

You can still send your child to school, but there’s no question that classes will be disrupted: The district is enlisting highly paid substitutes and holding lessons in larger spaces.

Although absences will be counted as unexcused, some parents say they’ll be keeping their children home as a show of solidarity.

California Online

(A note: We often link to content on sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times stories, but we’d also encourage you to support local news if you can.)

• A man the authorities say gunned down a Davis police officer as she responded to a traffic collision was previously ordered to surrender an AR-15 rifle after punching a co-worker. The suspect was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. [The Sacramento Bee]

• Friends and family remembered the officer, Natalie Corona, 22, as a dedicated officer for whom law enforcement was a lifelong dream job. “Anything she did, she would make sure people had every resource available. It wasn’t about driving a fast car or making an arrest.” [The Sacramento Bee]

• In his first week in office, Gov. Gavin Newsom came out swinging at some of progressives’ most intractable bugaboos, including paid parental leave and housing. He also signed an executive order proposing a plan that would allow California to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers. [The New York Times]

• Geisha Williams, the chief executive of Pacific Gas and Electric, has stepped down amid the utility’s continuing woes over the role its equipment played in starting devastating wildfires. The company has also said it intends to file for bankruptcy protection. [The New York Times]

PG&E equipment started more than one fire a day on average in recent years. Some of those were quickly extinguished. Some burned thousands of acres. [The Wall Street Journal]

• The partial government shutdown, now the longest ever, has claimed more Joshua trees as victims. The desert has taken a hit without enough National Park Service employees to prevent visitors from damaging the fragile environment. [The New York Times]

• SpaceX, the Elon Musk-led spaceship company, will lay off 10 percent of its work force. [The Los Angeles Times]

• Los Angeles had a mixed weekend in the N.F.L. playoffs: The Rams made the Cowboys look hapless on Saturday. On Sunday, the Chargers got thrashed by the Patriots. [The New York Times]

• The first baby gray whales of 2019 have been spotted off the coast of Orange County. [The Orange County Register]

• People have watched this video of a U.C.L.A. gymnast’s perfect floor routine millions of times. And for good reason — Katelyn Ohashi is pretty amazing. [UCLA Gymnastics]

And Finally …

How much would you pay for doggy day care? How much would you believe other people would pay?

If your answer was south of $1,500 a month, then you’re probably not living in San Francisco.

Yep, hyper-luxe, exclusive babysitting for your canine companion is the latest outrage-inducing display of wealth to roil residents of the city.

The Guardian reported that Doggy Style (that’s its real name) in Noe Valley offers perks for those who spring for its most expensive membership package including a “hand-painted mural” of their dogs on a wall of fame, as well as a private birthday party “for 12 pups and their humans.”

It may sound outrageous to pay more than the average rent on an Antelope Valley apartment for pet pampering, but the prices are actually in line with other similar services, the article says.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected].

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter,@jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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Most Americans don't think their finances will improve in 2019

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – With Washington mired in gridlock and markets flashing all sorts of warning signs, the majority of Americans expects 2019 to be a grim one for their finances, according to a new study.

Just over 55 per cent of people in the United States do not see their economic situation improving this year, a new Bankrate.com report found.

That slice includes 11.7 per cent who believe their prospects will worsen and 43.7 per cent who believe it will stay about the same.

The survey was conducted from Dec 14 to 16 last year, when US consumer confidence had slumped to a five-month low amid stock market volatility and fears that global economic growth would moderate in 2019.

A partial government shutdown – now the longest in US history – was looming, and trade talks with China had reached a wary but unresolved truce. 

The data is from a sample of 1,000 nationally representative interviews of American adults aged 18 or older, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

While Americans may not be overly optimistic about their financial future, the data show wages on the uptick.

Workers saw an average hourly wage gain of 3.2 per cent over the last year, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ December report.

Median household income, adjusted for inflation, is also on the rise.

“There can be a disconnect with what we might see as respectable economic data and how it does or doesn’t help average Americans,” said Mr Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “We continue to see some economic stress throughout a sizable cross section of society.”

Nearly half (49 per cent) of those surveyed blamed political leadership in Washington for the anticipated decline in their financial fortunes, over more concrete concerns such as heightened cost of living (38 per cent) and increased debt (37 per cent).

Americans lack confidence in their government, among other institutions, Mr Hamrick said, which can influence how people perceive their personal economic prospects.

The public may “disagree on policy issues between the warring tribes, but what they can agree on is, ‘We sent them up there because there was a job to do,’ and there’s a sense that job isn’t being tended to,” he said.

The report’s outlook wasn’t all bleak. Despite the student loan debt crisis and data that show young people have a lower net worth than prior generations did at the same point in their lives, millennials were decidedly more optimistic about 2019 than older Americans were.

Nearly 60 per cent of 18- to 37-year-olds surveyed expect their finances to improve this year, compared to just 35 per cent of their elders.

“They represent the most upwardly mobile aspect of society and the workforce,” Mr Hamrick said.

“Millennials are more focused on their careers, in part because some of them were deeply sensitised to economic distress, having come of age in the financial crisis.”

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Los Angeles teachers set for first strike in 30 years on Jan 14

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) – More than 30,000 teachers were expected to walk off the job in public schools across Los Angeles on Monday (Jan 14), staging their first strike in three decades after union leaders said they were “insulted” by the latest contract offer from district officials.

Barring an unlikely 11th-hour deal between United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and the nation’s second-largest school district, students arriving early on Monday for classes at some 900 campuses will be met by picketing teachers, who also plan a boisterous rally and march to City Hall.

“This is our moment. This is our movement. Solidarity is pouring in, from Los Angeles to London, from Palms to Puerto Rico. Tomorrow. The dedication & passion educators bring every day to the classroom, will be brought to the streets to demand the #schoolsourstudentsdeserve!,” UTLA said in a tweet on Sunday (Jan 13).

The union wants a 6.5 per cent pay raise, more librarians, counsellors and nurses on campuses, smaller class sizes and less testing, as well as a moratorium on new charter schools.

Negotiators for the Los Angeles County School District, which educates some 600,000 students, have countered with a proposed 6 per cent salary hike with back pay and a US$100 million (S$135 million) investment to hire more staff and decrease class size.

Schools Superintendent Austin Beutner said Friday’s (Jan 11) latest offer to teachers was beefed up after newly installed California governor Gavin Newsom increased education spending in his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

Union bargaining chair Arlene Inouye said she and her fellow negotiators were “insulted” by the proposal. The two sides have not met since Friday.

The union had called for the strike last week, but postponed it until Monday after the district said it had not been given a legally required 10-day notice of the labour action.

The district has urged teachers not to walk out, saying it would hurt the more than 600,000 students who returned from winter break only last week as well as their mostly working-class parents, who would struggle to provide childcare.

“A strike will harm the students, families and communities we serve, and we have a responsibility to resolve the situation without a strike,” the district said after negotiations stalled on Friday.

A strike in Los Angeles would mark the latest job action by teachers nationwide who have called for better pay and working conditions.

Educators in Oakland, California, staged a rally on Saturday (Jan 12) in support of their colleagues across the state, while teachers in Denver have said they will walk out on Monday as well if a deal is not reached on a new contract.

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‘It’s a dream come true’: Genetic test leads to emotional father-daughter reunion

A Montreal woman who spent more than 40 years searching for her father flew to Kelowna to be reunited with him on Saturday.

As she waited outside the hospital, Sandra Tirone said she couldn’t believe it was happening.

“I’ve been looking for him all my life.”

“It’s a miracle for him. It’s a miracle for me. It’s overwhelming,” she said

“To find my father after all these years — I never thought I would find him.”

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Sandra’s father, George Tirone, separated from her mother when she was just a toddler. He fell out of touch as he moved around the country.

Forty-four years later, as he waited for her to arrive, his biggest fear was that he would disappoint her.

“But I’m excited to see my daughter,” he said. “I haven’t seen her since she was a baby.”

Approximately 12 years ago, Sandra said she hired a private investigator to try to find her dad.

She was given a phone number, but when she called, Sandra said a woman told her George didn’t have any daughters.

“I thought my father didn’t want to see me,” she said.

Then, after taking a genetic DNA test and tracing her family tree through the online ancestry website MyHeritage, Sandra connected with a relative on her dad’s side.

“But I still thought my father wasn’t looking for me, and I had kind of made my peace with that,” she explained.

Sandra continued to help the relative find her family, and the pieces started to fall together in her own family tree.

“I found out my grandmother was Russian,” Sandra said. “I would have never imagined that.”

Her search finally led her to closer relatives.

“It’s unbelievable. The first time I spoke to my aunt on the phone, I felt like I had known her forever,” Sandra said. “She speaks like me, with the same intonation.”

Sandra’s aunt told her that George had been searching for her for many years and that he was in Kelowna’s hospital but not doing well.

He is suffering from congestive heart failure, oedema, diabetes and several other conditions, Sandra said.

“The fact that he has so many different issues, it’s like his body is shutting down,” Sandra said.

“But I’m still hoping for a miracle here so he could have time with his grandkids, time with me,” she added.

It was an emotional reunion when Sandra was finally able to hug her father after years of estrangement.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Venezuela Opposition Leader Is Arrested After Proposing to Take Power

CARACAS, Venezuela — The president of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly was briefly arrested on Sunday, two days after declaring that he was prepared to take over temporarily as the country’s leader in a renewed push to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power.

The opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, was captured when a van he was traveling in was stopped on a highway on Sunday morning.

A video recorded by a driver on the highway appeared to show masked, heavily armed agents from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service pulling Mr. Guaidó from his vehicle and pushing him into a white van before driving away.

Detención arbitraria de Maduro al Presidente @jguaido pic.twitter.com/dXQrCld8eM

He was released shortly after, according to Edward Rodríguez, the head of communications for the National Assembly. Mr. Guaidó then traveled to the northern city of La Guaira, where he was due to participate in a town hall event with members of the public.

Mr. Maduro was sworn in for a second term as president on Thursday, after an election that was widely denounced by other countries as fraudulent. During his six years in office, the country’s economy has unraveled, leading to widespread hunger and violence. An estimated three million people have fled Venezuela since the crisis took hold.

On Friday, Mr. Guaidó, 35, called for Venezuelans to take the streets in protest against Mr. Maduro’s continuing rule, and asked the armed forces for support to him becoming interim president while new elections are held.

Mr. Guaidó argued that the Constitution gave him “the legitimacy to carry out the charge of the presidency over the country to call elections,” adding: “But I need backing from the citizens to make it a reality.”

Mr. Maduro accused the opposition leader of trying to stir dissent.

The National Assembly, which Mr. Guaidó leads and which is controlled by lawmakers who oppose Mr. Maduro, was essentially nullified in 2017 when the president created a new Constituent Assembly. That body, which was given broad powers to write and pass legislation, is controlled by supporters of Mr. Maduro.

Government reaction to Mr. Guaidó’s appeal on Friday was scarce, but Iris Varela, the minister who oversees the prison service, posted a threat to the opposition leader on Twitter: “I have your cell ready, with your uniform. I hope you name your cabinet quickly so we know who is going with you.”

Jorge Rodríguez, the Venezuelan communications minister, called Mr. Guaidó’s arrest “arbitrary” and said it had not been ordered by the government.

“We have learned that there has been an irregular situation where a group of officials, acting unilaterally, initiated an irregular procedure against congressman Juan Guaidó,” Mr. Rodríguez said, adding that the matter had been “solved.”

“Those officials who volunteered to install this ‘show’ are being dismissed and subjected to the most stringent disciplinary procedures,” Mr. Rodríguez said.

During his speech in La Guaira, Mr. Guaidó questioned the communication minister’s explanation. “If it was something spontaneous, then who is commanding?” he said.

Two journalists covering Mr. Guaidó’s arrest were also detained. The journalists, Osmary Hernández of CNN Español and Beatriz Adrián of Caracol Radio, were arrested in the headquarters of the national intelligence service in central Caracas.

“We have just been detained by members of the Sebin,” Ms. Adrián said in an interview with Caracol, using the acronym for the intelligence service. “They are pointing at us with long guns and asking us to end this call.”

The Foreign Press Association of Venezuela said that both journalists were released several hours later.

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Vancouver truck driver in his 40s killed in collision with train in Delta

Delta police say the victim of a fatal crash between a truck and a train on Saturday was a Vancouver man in his 40s.

The collision happened about 3:20 p.m. on 72nd Street near the Boundary Bay Airport and involved a dump truck operated by Smithrite Disposal.

“Unfortunately, the driver of the truck did not survive the crash,” said Delta police spokesperson Cris Leykauf.

Investigators remained at the scene of the crash until 3:45 a.m. on Sunday gathering evidence.

The driver died at the scene, added Leykauf.

Police described the crash scene as “complex” and said that the truck was pushed “a significant way” down the track by the train.

Images from the scene showed the hood of the truck on one side of the track, while the badly damaged vehicle was rolled onto its top on the other.

The scene of a collision between a truck and a train in Delta on Saturday.

The scene of a collision between a truck and a train in Delta on Saturday.

The scene of a collision between a truck and a train in Delta on Saturday.

The scene of a collision between a truck and a train in Delta on Saturday.

The scene of a collision between a truck and a train in Delta on Saturday.

The scene of a collision between a truck and a train in Delta on Saturday.

The scene of a collision between a truck and a train in Delta on Saturday.

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CN Rail, which operates the train involved in the collision, said warning lights and bells were active at the time of the crash. The crossing does not have physical barriers separating the road and the tracks.

Delta police said traffic services and forensic investigators remained on scene until 3:45 a.m. on Sunday.

The Delta Fire Department, paramedics, CN Rail, CN Rail police and BC Hydro were also called to the scene.

Police say the crash remains under investigation and that there is “no clear indication” as to what led to the collision.

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Halifax Convention Centre holds open house to celebrate first birthday

The Halifax Convention Centre has left its mark on downtown Halifax and on Sunday the building opened its doors so it could leave a mark on the public.

Jan. 12 and 13 saw the convention centre host an open house to mark its first birthday. More than 1,500 people streamed through the doors over the two-day period to get a glimpse of the inside of the glass and metal behemoth that dominates the city’s downtown core.

“We’re incredibly proud to open our doors and welcome the community to come in and see our space,” said Erin Esiyok-Prime, director of marketing and communications for the Halifax Convention Centre.

“There’s definitely an interest from the community to see our space, check out the different views of the building and just have fun.”

Artists from the East Coast Music Association played during the day and Taste of Nova Scotia vendors offered snacks and goodies for visitors.

Built with $169 million in taxpayer funding, the 120,000-sq.-ft. Halifax Convention Centre was part of a massive $500-million construction project, that began in January 2013 and opened several years behind schedule.

Attendees to the Halifax Convention Centre’s first birthday open house were able to take in free music, enjoy snacks and tour the building.

The entire one-million-square-foot development known as the Nova Centre, includes a hotel, office tower and public plaza.

Although the hotel portion of the facility has yet to be opened, the convention centre has hosted more than 140 events including the Federal Conservative Convention and the 2018 Liberal National Convention.

One of the city’s newest professional sports franchise, a professional soccer team, even chose to reveal their name at the convention centre.

Esiyok-Prime says the centre and its team are proud of the work they’ve done and are happy to help draw national and international travellers to Halifax.

With over 85 events already booked for 2019, the convention centre is set to continue providing a place for conventions and events to be hosted.

“We are not slowing down,” said Esiyok-Prime. “2019 is shaping up to be another amazing year.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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Ivanka Trump 'in the running for World Bank presidency'

Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka is reportedly one of a handful of people being considered as the new head of the World Bank.

The US president’s eldest daughter has been mentioned as a possible successor to Jim Yong Kim, who stood down last week, three and a half years before his term was up.

The sudden departure last week of Mr Kim, who was first appointed by Barack Obama in 2011 and re-elected in 2016, means Mr Trump can now choose a successor. According to the Financial Times, names being thrown into the mix for the role include Ivanka Trump, Treasury official David Malpass, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and head of the US Agency for International Development Mark Green.

Historically, the person that the US – the biggest shareholder – puts forward to be considered for the role is approved by the board, and the European shareholders select someone to lead the International Monetary Fund.

However, this deal has received increasing criticism from countries such as China, which led to the board introducing a new process in 2011, which promises to be “open, merit-based and transparent”.

In this process, if there are more than three candidates there will be a shortlisting process where the board will narrow the field through an informal straw poll or vote. The shortlisted candidates will be interviewed by the board before it makes a final selection. It is believed the new president will begin a new five-year term once selected.

The World Bank (formerly called the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) was founded in 1944 to give loans to help rebuild countries devastated after the Second World War.

Today, the World Bank group has long-standing relationships with more than 180 member countries and helps developing countries by giving them funding and technical assistance.

Its mission by 2030 includes ending extreme poverty by decreasing the number of people living on less than €1.66 a day to no more than 3pc of the global population.

According to World Bank data, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty globally fell to a new low of 10pc in 2015 – the most recent figure available – which was down from 11 per cent in 2013. The number of people living on less than €1.66 a day fell during this period by 68 million to a total of 736 million.

©Independent

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34-year-old missing woman from Maidstone found dead from hypothermia

Amanda Michayluk, the missing 34-year-old from Maidstone, Sask., was found dead on Friday in a farmer’s field during a search and rescue operation.

Michayluk and her father were collecting firewood about five kilometres south of Maidstone when their vehicle got stuck in snow on Thursday.

Maidstone RCMP’s investigation determined Michayluk was attempting to walk home during a snowstorm.

Michayluk got lost while walking through deep snow on a non-maintained grid road in whiteout conditions.

She was found about four kilometres from where she was last seen walking.

Police say it appeared she died from exposure and hypothermia.

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DNA pioneer loses honours over race claims

Nobel Prize-winning American scientist James Watson has been stripped of his honorary titles after repeating comments about race and intelligence.

In a TV programme, the pioneer in DNA studies made a reference to a view that genes cause a difference on average between blacks and whites on IQ tests.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said the 90-year-old scientist’s remarks were “unsubstantiated and reckless”.

Dr Watson had made similar claims in 2007 – and subsequently apologised.

He shared the Nobel in 1962 with Maurice Wilkins and Francis Crick for their 1953 discovery of the DNA’s double helix structure.

Dr Watson sold his gold medal in 2014, saying he had been ostracised by the scientific community after his remarks about race.

He is currently in a nursing home recovering from a car accident and is said to have “very minimal” awareness of his surroundings.

In 2007, the scientist, who once worked at the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, told the Times newspaper that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”.

While his hope was that everybody was equal, he added, “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true”.

After those remarks, Dr Watson lost his job as chancellor at the laboratory and was removed from all his administrative duties. He wrote an apology and retained his honorary titles of chancellor emeritus, Oliver R Grace professor emeritus and honorary trustee.

But Cold Spring Harbor said it was now stripping him of those titles after he said his views had not changed in the documentary American Masters: Decoding Watson, aired on US public broadcaster PBS earlier this month.

“Dr Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science,” the laboratory said in a statement, adding that they effectively reverse his apology.

Statement by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory addressing remarks by Dr. James D. Watson in “American Masters: Decoding Watson”https://t.co/irMnebcI3K

End of Twitter post by @CSHL

Dr Watson became Cold Spring Harbor’s director in 1968, its president in 1994 and chancellor a decade later. A school at the laboratory is named after him, the Associated Press reports.

In an interview with the news agency, his son Rufus said Dr Watson’s statements “might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory” but that was not true.

“They just represent his rather narrow interpretation of genetic destiny… My dad had made the lab his life, and yet now the lab considers him a liability.”

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