Political relations between the U.S. and Mexico may be fractious, but cultural institutions on both sides of the border continue to connect with each other in interesting ways — and the California Institute of the Arts, as part of its Latin American Initiative, wants to improve the connections further.

The art school, based in Valencia, has teamed up with the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, to organize the MXLA Creative Economy Forum, a two-day summit set to take place next week at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles. It is to explore cultural exchange between Mexico City and L.A.

“There is much moving back and forth across the border,” said former CalArts president Steven Lavine, who helped organize the forum. “In light of the anti-Mexican rhetoric, my hope is to make more visible the huge scale of what is going on.”

“If you take the top filmmakers in Hollywood, you end up with Mexican filmmakers like [Alfonso] Cuarón, [Alejandro] Iñarritu and [Guillermo] Del Toro,” Lavine added. “There is a long history of connection between the film industry in Mexico and the United States.”

Fashion designer Carla Fernandez, deejay Camilo Lara, Museo Jumex chief curator Julieta Gonzalez, artist Eduardo Abaroa and filmmaker Jonás Cuarón (son of Alfonso Cuarón, of “Gravity” fame) are some of the noted Mexican cultural figures set to speak at MXLA..

Participating from the U.S. side will be Tomas Cookman, the founder and CEO of Latin indie label Nacional Records, Sony Pictures Chairman Tom Rothman, former MOCA curator Alma Ruiz, author and MacArthur Fellow Josh Kun and artist Harry Gamboa.

And there will be figures who straddle the border, such as artist Ruben Ortiz-Torres, a CalArts alum who was born in Mexico and is now based in Southern California.

The hope is that in connecting people from disparate areas of culture, there can be an opportunity to find new ways to cross-pollinate and perhaps pool resources.

Nacional’s Cookman, Lavine noted, has been adept at bringing together small record labels and indie artists in ways that allow them to work independently while sharing distribution and other commercial infrastructure. Perhaps there is an element in that model that could be employed by book publishing, for example.

“A lot of culture turns on distribution, how stuff gets where it needs to go,” Lavine said. “One of the questions we want to address is how can you make processes of distribution function better?”

“The government looks at the big-ticket items, but some of that might stifle culture in the process.”

By putting everyone together in a single room, Lavine is hoping to spur some of those conversations — and perhaps some new relationships.

But it won’t all be talk. In addition to the various speakers, a special, surprise performance is also scheduled.


MXLA Creative Economy Forum

When: June 26, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and June 27, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., downtown Los Angeles

Admission: Free with RSVP

Info: mxla2017.calarts.edu and redcat.org

Sign up for our weekly Essential Arts & Culture newsletter »

carolina.miranda@latimes.com

@cmonstah

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As Trump aims to build a wall, Los Angeles architecture school SCI-Arc builds bridges to Mexico

Mexico City’s art scene is booming, but even with deep roots, political uncertainty keeps it fragile

The naked guy at graduation is just one of Steven Lavine’s memories from 29 years of running CalArts



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On Thursday evening, in the seventh inning of a 6-3 victory over the New York Mets, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts orchestrated an elaborate ruse. He engages in feints like this often. He often refers to them as “just a little gamesmanship,” gambits to test the thinking of the opposing manager. Rarely do they work better than this.

With two outs, two runners aboard and the Dodgers leading by one run, Roberts sent Corey Seager into the on-deck circle for pitcher Pedro Baez. In the bullpen, Sergio Romo loosened up. The path appeared clear: If Enrique Hernandez reached base, Seager would replace Baez at the plate and Romo would replace Baez on the mound. When Hernandez walked, Roberts saw his bluff called. Seager and Romo sat down.

A third baseman in the minors, Baez batted for only the third time as a big leaguer. His rust did not steady the nerves of reliever Jerry Blevins. Blevins walked Baez on four pitches to force in a run. Another scored when Blevins walked Austin Barnes. The lead bloated to three runs, and the four-game unraveling of the Mets was complete, as the Dodgers won for the 13th time in 14 games.

“Just keep rolling along, riding the waves,” Barnes said.

The Dodgers (48-26) trounced an opponent in freefall. The fight was not even. This weekend offers a more robust challenge, as the Colorado Rockies visit Dodger Stadium for the first time since April. Trailing Colorado for most of the season, the Dodgers surged ahead in the National League West as Colorado dropped two of three to Arizona this week.

Thursday featured no spillover from Wednesday, when a well-struck and well-admired homer from Yasiel Puig incited the ire of the Mets. The team did not retaliate. They did not do much of anything, and the Dodgers won for the seventh game in a row.

The Dodgers pulled ahead after home runs in the third inning by Justin Turner and Hernandez. Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up two runs before exiting after five innings. Chris Hatcher coughed up the lead in the sixth. Joc Pederson came off the bench to put his team back in front an inning later with a solo homer, his team’s 15th in this series, which set a franchise record for a four-game set.

“We’re elevating, and good things are happening,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers produced 30 runs in the first three games of this series. On Thursday, they faced Steven Matz, a brittle but talented left-handed pitcher. Unlike 2016, the Dodgers are no longer helpless against left-handers. The team entered Thursday ranked 11th in the majors in on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handers. Most of the credit goes to improved performances from right-handed hitters like Turner, Hernandez and Barnes, plus the emergence of utility man Chris Taylor.

The Mets staked Matz a one-run lead. For the second game in a row, outfielder Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff homer. Granderson turned on a 92-mph fastball from Ryu. Like Rich Hill on Wednesday, Ryu did not cower in response.

Hernandez helped Ryu in the second. Ryu walked first baseman Lucas Duda, and shortstop Jose Reyes singled. Duda held at third base. He tried to score on a fly ball into left-center field. Playing center, Hernandez called off left fielder Franklin Gutierrez, charged the ball and one-hopped a throw to the plate. Barnes tagged Duda out to end the inning.

Matz slipped through the Dodgers lineup in the first two innings. The third was less kind to him. Matz paid for a belt-high fastball to Turner, who smashed the pitch beyond the left-field fence for his fifth home run of the season, and his fourth in 11 games since returning from the disabled list June 9.

“We’re doing it an all kinds of different ways,” Turner said. “When you’re going pretty good in all three aspects — your pitching, your hitting and playing good defense — that’s a good recipe for success.”

The Dodgers were not done. Cody Bellinger hit a ground-rule double. Up came Hernandez. Matz chose a curveball as his first pitch. The ball bent toward the far edge of the plate. Hernandez reached out and powered it over the fence in right.

Ryu handed a run back in the fourth. He fed catcher Travis d’Arnaud a changeup at the waist. D’Arnaud hit a solo homer.

Ryu would not return for the sixth. Roberts removed him after 86 pitches. He made a confounding choice for the inning, facing the heart of the Mets batting order: Hatcher. Hatcher rarely pitches in moments of elevated leverage. The lead would not survive his appearance.

Hatcher walked outfielder Jay Bruce. After a flyout by d’Arnaud, Roberts elected to let Hatcher, a right-hander, pitch to the left-handed-hitting Duda despite having left-handed reliever Grant Dayton warm in the bullpen.

“I wanted to see Hatch get through that inning,” Roberts said.

The decision backfired as Duda ripped a double into the gap in right-center field. Hernandez tried to grab the ball with his bare hand as it bounced off the wall. He bobbled it before feeding the cutoff man, Logan Forsythe. His throw pulled Barnes up the first base line. Barnes dove back toward the plate, where Bruce neglected to slide, but the ball kicked away and Bruce was safe.

The game did not stay tied for long. Pederson crushed the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh off reliever Paul Sewald. The runs would keep coming.

“We’re probably,” Hernandez said, “the hottest team in baseball right now.”

andy.mccullough@latimes.com

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes



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President Obama has been out of office only a few months. But he might have both a street and an L.A. freeway named after him soon.

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson has proposed renaming Rodeo Road in southwest L.A. “Obama Boulevard” in honor of the president. Wesson noted that Obama held a campaign rally at Rancho Cienega Park on Rodeo Road when running for president and that the area already has streets named after presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Adams).

In May, a plan to name a stretch of the 134 Freeway after Obama moved forward this week with approval from the state Senate. The freeway is not far from Occidental College in Eagle Rock, which Obama attended.

In California alone, several schools have been named after Obama. And in the Monterey Bay town of Seaside, city leaders designated a key street Obama Way.

Rodeo Road is a major street that runs from near the Culver City border east to Mid-City. It’s sometimes confused by newcomers with the more upscale Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Rodeo Road is not far from Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. That used to be Santa Barbara Avenue until the city changed the name three decades ago.



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During the last eight months, Iraqi forces have fought to corner Islamic State militants into an ever-dwindling area of the city of Mosul.

Troops this week began the long-anticipated assault on the Old City quarter, the last district still in the extremist group’s hands.

And Wednesday, officials said militants destroyed the iconic Nuri mosque, the site where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi declared the group’s caliphate three years ago.

As the pressure has increased around Mosul since the government offensive to retake it began Oct. 17, the fight has apparently transformed into a so-called cauldron battle, where the militants have no chance of escape. Their only options would be to surrender or die.

Several military officials and analysts expect the militants to make a last stand in the remaining one square mile of what had once been the crown jewel of their caliphate. Many officials estimate it will take more than a month to clear the area.

“The closer we’ve gotten to the Old City the more defenses we’re seeing,” said Col. Mounir Abdul Aziz, a commander with the Iraqi army’s 15th division, in a recent interview in west Mosul’s Zanjili neighborhood. “The problem is that now it’s a suicidal enemy. They don’t withdraw easily, unless they’re killed or wounded.”

The militant group on Saturday released a 34-minute video with footage of combat in Mosul and its preparations for battle.

According to one jihadi in the video, they would accept only one of two outcomes: “Either it is victory from Allah … or a martyrdom through which we enter paradise.”

Security forces have estimated that about 500 militants are holed up in the Old City.

The Old City’s densely packed buildings and narrow walkways require more troops than other locations to ferret out jihadis, said David Eubank, a former U.S. special forces soldier turned aid worker who is traveling with the Iraqi army’s 9th division.

“In normal assault situations, you need three soldiers to every militant. But in a place like this it requires seven to one, maybe even 10 to one,” Eubank said in an interview.

Nasser Nayef, an Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service soldier, said the resistance would only get more difficult.

“What happens when you corner a cat? It scratches,” he said.

Islamic State has, in fact, adopted various tactics to stall the Iraqi troops’ advance. Here’s a look at some of them:

Snipers

An Iraqi soldier shows off an Islamic State sniper rifle in west Mosul. (Nabih Bulos / For The Times)

The extremists have had more than three years to prepare for the assault on the Old City and have set up what soldiers say are well thought-out sniper lanes where troops are expected to come in.

An attack Sunday by Iraqi forces showed that Islamic State militants had chosen their sniper positions well. As Iraqi troops’ Humvees rolled toward the outer perimeter of the Old City, a commander’s voice sputtered out of the radio.

“Gunners get down. Get down,” he ordered.

Islamic State snipers were trying to pick off the gunners as they peeked out of their machine-gun nests to give suppressing fire.

Shouts erupted on the radio after one gunner caught a bullet in the shoulder and was swiftly evacuated to a medical station away from the front line.

Soldiers say the positions are well protected, placing the sniper behind a small hole in the wall of a building or even several rooms away from a structure’s outer wall to provide protection from strikes.

The group’s videos show the militants using not only standard scoped rifles, but also long-barreled weapons it has manufactured with a range up to almost 1,000 yards, soldiers say.

An Islamic State sniper fires his rifle in west Mosul.
An Islamic State sniper fires his rifle in west Mosul. (Islamic State video)

Heavy machine guns and rockets

The moment the Iraqi troops’ bulldozers began to breach ersatz barricades made of masonry and crumpled cars, the rat-tat-tat of heavy machine guns broke through the stillness of the morning Sunday, peppering the incoming troops with bullets.

With nothing left to lose, the militants have brought all the weapons they have to bear, said Lt. Col. Mohammed Tamimi, a battalion commander in the Counter-Terrorism Service.

As he spoke, bullets smacked the fence of the house where he had set up his mobile command center. The jihadis were less than 300 yards away.

“They’re shooting [powerful] guns to stop us,” Tamimi said. “That’s what you use to hit aircraft.”

Elsewhere on the front line, troops have found caches of Swedish-made antitank grenade launchers that were supplied to the Iraqi military by the U.S. but were scooped up by Islamic State when it took over Mosul in 2014, as well as antitank guided missiles.

‘Mouse-holing’

Whether through warplanes or commercial drones, the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces have many eyes in the sky over Mosul.

Once an Islamic State position is spotted, troops relay the coordinates to the coalition, which then conducts a strike in less than four minutes, said Col. Arkan Fadel, an Iraqi officer who coordinates airstrikes.

The intense surveillance has forced the militants to operate in small units of two- to five-man teams. They nimbly move through a network of holes punched in the walls between houses to avoid being seen from above.

The tunnels mean security forces must move in a coordinated line to stop the militants.

“I have to wait for the other units to come and secure both sides of where I am before I can go forward,” Lt. Col. Salam Obaidi of the Counter-Terrorism Service said Monday. “That’s why we’re advancing like turtles.”

Inghimasis and suicide bombers

Special correspondent Nabih Bulos walks through a west Mosul neighborhood where five Islamic State suicide bombers attacked Iraqi forces.

The early stages of the fight for Mosul saw Islamic State dispatch scores of suicide car bombs at the incoming forces. Using drones, the militants would direct drivers to avoid barriers set up by troops.

But the close-quarters combat and narrow streets of the Old City have led the group to shift to what are known as inghimasis, gunmen who rush at their enemy, fighting to the last bullet and grenade before detonating their suicide belts.

Last week, soldiers of the Iraqi army’s 9th division battled for control of the Shifaa neighborhood, which is next to the Old City. They had halted the advance for the day and had secured the street where they would spend the night — or so they thought.

Five suicide bombers ran at them, but none made it close enough to detonate their belts.

“One in the street, three in the mosque, another Daesh in this building here,” said Brig. Gen. Mustafa Sabah, a brigade commander with the 9th division. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“These guys want to die and my soldiers want to live. How do you counter that?”

Using residents as human shields

Residents flee the carnage in west Mosul.

About 700,000 people have fled Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city with a population of 1.2 million. But an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people still live in the Old City.

Security services have long accused Islamic State of using civilians as human shields and forcing residents to stay with the militants as they retreat to areas still under their control.

That issue has been compounded in Mosul, where the Iraqi government urged residents to stay in their homes during the offensive in a bid to reduce the number of those displaced.

In the Old City quarter troops are bound to engage in house-to-house fighting with militants hiding among civilians.

The buildings there are older, residents say, and liable to collapse even if not directly targeted. Military planners say they are doing everything they can to prevent civilian deaths.

“We are using less powerful ordnance in our strikes,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab Saadi, deputy head of the Iraqi counter-terrorism forces, said in an interview.

Several residents interviewed last week spoke of dozens of people killed in the strikes.

Those lucky enough to survive the airstrikes still face the prospect of being hit by stray bullets, even as the militants massacre those who are fleeing the carnage. In a recent incident, hundreds were cut down by Islamic State snipers near Mosul’s Pepsi factory.

Those who flee tell of a desperate existence for those trapped inside the Old City.

“There was no fresh water inside. We sold our gold to afford to buy 6 jerrycans filled with water for $130,” said Maha Ghanem Salem, a resident fleeing from Shifaa neighborhood last week.

When her husband, a vegetable porter named Ali Salem, went to look for water, he caught sight of the soldiers. He quickly corralled his wife, his two sons and two daughters to make their escape.

“We have always worried that Iraqi civilians would pay a very high price and we have seen in the last few weeks that the number of civilians wounded and killed has increased, we fear, very sharply,” said Lise Grande, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator, said in a phone interview. “What is facing all of us in the next few days is frightening to contemplate.”

Bulos is a special correspondent.



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After a successful week at the Nuart, the one-of-a-kind documentary “Dawson Creek: Frozen Time,” a complete astonishment from beginning to end, moves to the Regent in Westwood on Friday and expands to the Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica, and the Vintage Los Feliz 3, with weekend screenings at the Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena. See it now on the big screen or forever regret it.

An aesthetic knockout that’s crammed with wild tales, amazing facts and unconventional personalities; a doc that’s also a detective story, a history of a particular place that turns into an examination of an art form as well as a gloss on the political history of the 20th century; this Bill Morrison-directed epic uses stunning images from a celebrated cache of silent films to tell the story of the Klondike gold rush town in the most entrancing way.

It’s the rare film where you feel you don’t want to so much as blink out of fear you’ll miss something exceptional on the screen, but “Dawson City: Frozen Time” fits that description. If you love film, if you’re intoxicated by the way movies combine image and emotion, be prepared to swoon.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour »

kenneth.turan@latimes.com

@KennethTuran



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Four years ago, Los Angeles’ elected officials wrested major financial concessions from the Department of Water and Power’s biggest and most powerful employee union, persuading those workers to go three years without raises.

City budget officials billed the agreement as a road map for negotiations with its other employee groups. Soon afterward, several other unions agreed to postpone pay increases for one or more years.

Now a new salary package, backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and heading to the City Council next week, would give six raises in five years to thousands of DWP workers. That could spur other unions to seek a similar deal, placing new burdens on a city budget already under significant stress.

“Every time you give a pay raise to Water and Power employees, you know you’re going to get a knock on your door from the city employees, saying, ‘Us too,’ ” said Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, who has served both on the City Council and the county Board of Supervisors.

For city officials, “it’s going to be harder to negotiate because of this,” said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A.

Garcetti’s appointees at the DWP voted Tuesday for a five-year agreement that would provide raises of at least 13.2% and as much as 22.3% by October 2021, depending on inflation.

The pact would also boost the base pay of hundreds of electrical distribution mechanics, also known as linemen, by 4% over two years.

Some argue the package of raises is too generous at a utility that has been raising rates, while others say the increases are deserved for a workforce that went years without pay hikes.

Mayoral aides say the agreement with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 confronts a problem that is distinct from other city operations: DWP workers are taking jobs at other utilities that have provided hiring bonuses, higher overtime pay and other financial incentives.

“The IBEW contract is not a template for any future negotiations with city employees,” said Matt Szabo, Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff. “We are prepared to engage in fair, responsible negotiations with employees based on the fiscal realities of our budget, and in the best interests of L.A. taxpayers.”

In his latest budget, Garcetti closed a $263-million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The city’s general fund budget, which pays for police patrols, firefighters and other basic services, is also expected to face costly new obligations, particularly from pensions and healthcare for retired public employees.

Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721, said it’s too soon to say what his organization will ask for at the bargaining table. But he acknowledged that he looks at what other municipal unions have negotiated.

“That’s part of the process,” said Schoonover, whose union represents tree trimmers, sanitation workers and others.

In 2007, the city’s elected officials approved a five-year package of raises totaling nearly 25% with the SEIU and other groups in the Coalition of L.A. City Unions. At the time, city leaders said the raises would help address complaints from city workers that the DWP had received significant increases while others went without.

That deal quickly became a millstone, as the city found itself without the funds to navigate a global economic downturn. The city turned to layoffs, furloughs and early retirement for thousands of employees to cope with the crisis.

Civilian city employees have long harbored resentment that they make less than their counterparts at the DWP, said Jack Humphreville, who serves on the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, which gives input to city leaders on the budget.

Humphreville predicted that the coalition, which represents several union organizations, will use the DWP agreement as an argument for higher salaries and why “they shouldn’t chip in for their healthcare.”

“They’ve all had contract envy … so it’s going to be an absolute donnybrook,” he added.

City officials say the retention problem at DWP is particularly severe among the workers who repair power poles and transmission lines.

The utility, they say, has put millions of dollars into training and pay for apprentice linemen, only to see them leave for other utilities. The yearly starting salary of a lineman trainee is $74,664, while the starting salary of a lineman who has completed training is $106,668.

Negotiations are set to start later this year with the coalition and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers, according to city budget analysts. Craig Lally, the union’s president, raised issues about recruitment and retention that are similar to those being discussed at the DWP.

Southern California law enforcement agencies are luring away LAPD officers with higher salaries, Lally said.

“We must be competitive with other law enforcement agencies to ensure we are able to recruit and retain police officers to try and keep our neighborhoods safe,” he said.

Garcetti campaigned four years ago as someone who would stand up for ratepayers — an effort to create a contrast with his opponent, who received huge financial support from the DWP union.

This time, the mayor and other city elected officials have relatively little to fear politically from pursuing a package of DWP raises. Garcetti was reelected overwhelmingly to a second and final term in March — and very likely won’t run for another office at City Hall.

Five council members who are set to vote on the contract won’t be up for reelection for three years. Six others won’t face voters until 2022.

“Voters have short memories,” said Steve Erie, professor emeritus of political science at UC San Diego. “Several years out is an eternity.”

Four years ago, Garcetti initially blocked approval of a four-year contract with IBEW Local 18, saying he wanted additional concessions. In the intervening weeks, Garcetti took input on the salary package from neighborhood council leaders.

This time around, the agreement is on a much faster track. The DWP posted the salary agreement on its website Monday evening. Council President Herb Wesson is planning a full council vote June 28.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Twitter: @DavidZahniser

emily.alpert@latimes.com



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Pastor Kenneth Little knew the family renting out the church’s property across the street long before the violence began.

When they were younger, the tenants’ children sometimes walked over to Ebenezer Baptist Church to help out with small tasks and attend Bible study.

“They were good at first,” he said of the tenants in L.A.’s South Park neighborhood.

But over the last year there have been problems at the property, according to police, who say it has become a stronghold for the predominantly Latino Playboys gang.

Little said that shootings at the site during church services have spooked congregants, and he has had to cancel Bible study sessions.

In an effort to curb the violence, the city recently filed a nuisance abatement lawsuit against the church, alleging that the Playboys gather daily at the Avalon Boulevard property and engage in criminal activity.

Over the last year, according to the lawsuit, there have been five shootings at the site, as well as illegal narcotics and weapons sales.

In September, a person standing out front was shot and killed. In March, two people in the property’s parking lot opened fire on a truck carrying rival gang members. And from December to April, undercover agents purchased 20 illegal firearms, three silencers and 122 grams of methamphetamine there, according to City Atty. Mike Feuer.

“This is an extremely dangerous situation for everyone in the community, from church congregants to the kids that go to the neighboring schools and park,” Feuer said. “We hope to work with the church to eliminate the source of danger and make this a neighborhood where people can conduct affairs safely every day.”

The remedies, he said, include evicting the tenants and fencing off the property. The lawsuit also asks for an Internet-connected video monitoring system and better lighting on the site.

The church’s pastor expressed relief that the city was taking action. He said he had tried unsuccessfully to get the tenants to leave the property.

“I am grateful they stepped in because I didn’t know what to do,” Little said, sitting on a couch in his brother’s house next door to the church. “They can move forward in a manner that we weren’t able to do.”

The lawsuit is part of the city’s push to expand its nuisance abatement effort, which targets properties that are sources of drugs and gangs.

Since July 2013, Los Angeles has filed 53 abatement actions — 46 for sites in the LAPD’s South Bureau — and secured 58 injunctions involving nuisance properties. It has succeeded in closing nine gang- or narcotics-related sites, according to the city attorney’s office.

“This is a neighborhood that really needs our help,” Feuer said. “You can keep coming and arresting, but that’s not the same as preventing the problem in the future from recurring.”

According to Jorja Leap, an anthropologist at UCLA who has specialized in L.A.’s gangs, the Playboys formed in Central Los Angeles in the 1950s and fanned out across the city. They use the Playboy bunny as a symbol and refer to their meeting points as “rabbit holes,” she said.

“They’re a fairly entrenched group,” Leap said, adding that the gang has ties to the Mexican Mafia. “You have youth who are looking for their identity, and they are drawn by the reputation of the gang.”

LAPD Lt. Alex Baez, who heads the Newton Division’s gang unit, said that of the 30 active gangs in the area, “the Playboys are our main problem.” He said a recent search of the church-owned property, conducted with a warrant, produced handguns and evidence of manufacturing, including automatic rifles.

“It has been really ongoing here,” he said of the gang’s activities. “They’re enemies with several different rival gangs. It creates shootings… going back and forth.”

Baez said police were working to control the gang’s presence at the South Park Recreation Center, located a block from the church.

Victory Outreach Church frequently provides food and prayer services at the park. Summer Night Lights — a program of sports and other activities at many of the city’s parks that’s sponsored by the mayor’s office of gang reduction and youth development — gets underway June 28.

“You see a lot more people going to the park instead of being detoured,” said Adam Luna, an intervention specialist at Going Beyond Boundaries, a gang prevention program that has done work in South Park. Now more people show up with their kids.”

On Thursday evening, South Park was filled with families picnicking and playing soccer when gunshots erupted. A helicopter hovered overhead as parents ran to find their children. After a few minutes, some of the soccer games — briefly on pause — continued.

“Things are always hot,” said Maira Espinoza, who lives in the area.

Maria Morales, who helps run Chapi’s Place Beauty Supply, located a block from the park, said that she’s become used to the frequent sound of police helicopters. And while she thinks parents need to pay more attention to their children, she said it’s difficult when they’re focused on providing financially for their families.

“You let the youth do what they feel like in order to bring the taco home,” she said.

leila.miller@latimes.com

Twitter: @leilamillersays

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From a new restaurant that says it’s “from a time that is yet to be” to a modern take on Peruvian food, here’s what’s happening in the L.A. food and drink world.

Shadows and whispers: Vespertine “is a place of cognitive dissonance that defies categorization, exploring a dimension of cuisine that is neither rooted in tradition nor culture — it is from a time that is yet to be, and a place that does not exist.” This is how chef Jordan Kahn, of the now-closed Red Medicine and the restaurant Destroyer in Culver City, is billing his new Culver City restaurant, which opens July 6. A statement from the restaurant goes on to say, “it is a spirit that exists between worlds. A place of shadows and whispers.” Interpret as you wish, but Kahn’s idea is to create a total experience through a $250-per-person dinner that includes 18 or more courses, employees who wear specially designed outfits and specific sounds playing throughout the building. The two-story building the restaurant is housed in has four levels and a 22-seat dining room. The restaurant even has its own trailer. 3599 Hayden Ave., Culver City, vespertine.la.

He’s back: After a hiatus that followed opening Paiche and Picca, chef Ricardo Zarate has opened Rosaliné, a new Peruvian restaurant in the former Comme Ça space on Beverly Boulevard. Rosaliné is named after the chef’s mother and includes many of the dishes Zarate grew up eating, and some that are in his cookbook “The Fire of Peru.” Most everything is cooked on a traditional Josper oven with an open charcoal grill. There is also a ceviche menu that changes daily. Menu highlights include beef heart skewers, crispy Amazonian fish and Peruvian fried rice. The cocktail menu is by Jeremy Lake and features Peruvian-inspired libations that utilize items such as plum jarabe and hand-smoked pisco. 8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, (323) 297-9500, www.rosalinela.com.

Time for a revamp: Castaway Burbank, the 54-year-old hillside restaurant known for its lavish Sunday brunch service and sweeping views of Los Angeles, will close Aug. 6 for a $10-million renovation. It will take about two months to revamp the banquet rooms and an additional six or so months to finish renovations on the restaurant. When Castaway reopens, it will include a new patio and new decor. 1250 E. Harvard Road, Burbank, (818) 848-6691, www.castawayburbank.com.

New kids on the block: The Exchange, the restaurant at the new Freehand hotel in downtown L.A., opens Thursday. Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi of Bar Lab and chef Alex Chang are behind the restaurant, which is being billed as exploring the “multi-cultural flavors of urban L.A. through an Israeli lens.” The menu includes labneh with seasonal grilled vegetables, lamb kebabs, hummus and whole grilled fish. 416 W. 8th St., Los Angeles, freehandhotels.com/los-angeles/the-exchange/.

Happy anniversary: Michael Cimarusti, chef-owner of Providence, which has held the top spot on Jonathan Gold’s 101 best restaurants list since it began, is celebrating the restaurant’s 12-year anniversary. He has created a $95 four-course tasting menu highlighting seafood sourced through the Dock to Dish sustainable seafood program. The special menu will be available through June 30; advance reservations are required. 5955 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 460-4170, providencela.com.

Oodles of noodles: Crustacean in Beverly Hills will close June 22 for a complete remodel; it plans to reopen in October. The two-story space will feature two different restaurants with two separate entrances. The first floor will house the new Crustacean (new menu, prix-fixe tasting menus and for the first time ever, garlic noodles to go via a new Bedford Drive patio). The second-floor restaurant has yet to be announced. Chef Tony Nguyen will helm the kitchens at both. 9646 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 205-8990, www.houseofan.com/crustaceanbh.

Taco time: Danny Trejo, the actor known for the “Machete” films, has opened a location of Trejo’s Cantina in Pasadena. The restaurant is next to the Pasadena Playhouse. This is Trejo’s third restaurant (he has Trejo’s Tacos on La Brea Avenue and a Trejo’s Cantina in Hollywood). He also opened Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts earlier this year. 37 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 792-4441, www.trejostacos.com.

Still hungry? Spudds, the Pasadena restaurant by Canadian siblings Jessica and Shant Kalfayan, known for its classic and not-so-traditional variations of poutine, has opened a location in La Crescenta. The Andaz West Hollywood will donate $1 of every breakfast, and $3 of every special signature breakfast item at the hotel, to the RED campaign to end AIDS. Lunetta, the Santa Monica restaurant by chef Raphael Lunetta, is now open. The Icy Rush Co. ice cream boutique in Echo Park has launched the Icy Mobile VW van, serving treats at the Melrose flea market weekly starting Sunday. Pink’s Hot Dogs will pop up at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on July 1 and 2. The Peninsula Beverly Hills is bringing back its barbecue series at the Roof Garden every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 24.



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Iraqi forces battled their way into Mosul’s Old City on Sunday, starting a difficult fight for the last neighborhoods still in the hands of Islamic State.

As the sun rose, a massive barrage shrouded parts of the Old City in smoke. It was a prelude to the arrival of black Humvees from Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service, an elite U.S.-trained force that was attacking from the district’s western flank.

The jihadists have steadily lost ground over the eight months of the Mosul offensive. They are now contained in one square mile of what was once Islamic State’s Iraqi capital, which the group took in a blitz offensive more than three years ago.

The group’s defeat in Mosul is more than symbolic. Not only will it have lost all of its major urban centers in Iraq, but the loss would signify the beginning of the end of its crumbling “caliphate.”

But the battle promises to be a hard one.

Iraqi forces will be forced to abandon their armored vehicles as they storm the Old City’s narrow walkways, while struggling to distinguish friend from foe among the estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people still trapped in the area.

The district’s structures are also thought to be frail, forcing military planners to avoid using heavy ordnance for fear of having buildings collapse onto civilians hiding inside.

Meanwhile, surrounded and with no chance to escape, the militants are expected to give no quarter in what is their last stand in the city.

The ferocity of their resistance could already be seen on Sunday.

Overhead, warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition lobbed bombs on Islamic State positions, as troops stacked up for the initial thrust.

But the moment bulldozers began breaching Islamic State barricades at the Old City’s outskirts, the jihadists countered with heavy machine gun fire. Then the telltale whistles of mortar shells could be heard, seconds before they landed on the Iraqi troops’ rear lines with powerful crashes.

“It’s raining mortars,” joked one soldier after the fourth shell had fallen, the explosions rattling the blown-out windows of an abandoned flour mill.

Before noon, at a medical station two miles from the front line, the first casualties began to trickle in; all were soldiers so far.

Yet it is the civilians trapped inside who are expected to bear the brunt of the hostilities, aid organizations warn.

In recent days, Islamic State snipers have cut down hundreds of residents fleeing the carnage around them, even as terrified families struggle to dodge airstrikes and artillery fire.

“This will be a terrifying time for… people still trapped in Mosul’s Old City and now at risk of getting caught up in the fierce street fighting to come,” said Nora Love, acting Iraq director for the International Rescue Committee, in a statement on Sunday.

“Both coalition and Iraqi forces must do everything in their power to keep civilians safe during these final stages of the battle for Mosul,” she added.

@nabihbulos

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Hello! I’m Mark Olsen, and welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

Are you feeling extra anxious lately? Do you have that vaguely untethered, end-of-the-world feeling? You are not alone. The Times’ Jeffrey Fleishman published an essay on depictions of doomsday dystopias in fiction and what they might have to say about our actual reality. From “Soylent Green” or “Waterworld” to “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Interstellar,” what does apocalyptic fiction mean in the face of, say, President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord?

“Perhaps more than any other moment in his presidency, Trump’s action highlighted a Darwinian worldview in which the planet is less a community than an unforgiving marketplace for countries to compete and barter,” said Fleishman. “But exiting the climate pact has raised larger existential questions at a time of rising seas, droughts and melting ice caps.”

The screening event we had last week was one of the most exciting we’ve put on in some time, with Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano talking about “The Big Sick.” We’ve got some more movies in the hopper for July, so for updates on future events, go to events.latimes.com.

‘Dawson City: Frozen Time’

Bill Morrison’s documentary “Dawson City: Frozen Time” explores the discovery in 1978 of a trove of rare nitrate films that includes footage of the 1917 and infamous 1919 World Series. Morrison’s film transforms that find into an exploration of history and memory and the bigger issues that that stash of rare film pointed toward.

Reviewing the movie, The Times’ Kenneth Turan said it is “[a]n aesthetic knockout that’s crammed with wild tales, amazing facts and unconventional personalities, a documentary that’s also a detective story, a history of a particular place that turns into an examination of an art form as well as a gloss on the political history of the 20th century.”

The Times’ Kevin Crust spoke to Morrison, who said, “I want you to have that sensation of having lived through the century, that you went through all the decades, that you worked up to that point. The minutiae is really the point of it. What gets saved, what gets lost, what gets forgotten, what gets remembered.”

In the New Yorker, Richard Brody noted: “In ‘Dawson City,’ Morrison offers a fiercely precise and discerning look at movies themselves as embodiments of history. In the process, he retunes our relationship with the ubiquitous cinematic archive — with the fresh batch of images that get delivered through the electronic pipeline by the minute — and with the very question of what’s contained, or what’s hidden, in the seemingly smooth and seamless flow of a movie.”

In the New York Times, Glenn Kenny added that the films rediscovered in the movie “suggest a vast unknown film history. They also remind any film scholar that no matter how seemingly voluminous your knowledge of movie history, it is likely to be only a fraction of a fraction of the entirety. In any event, ‘Dawson City’ now enters that time line as an instantaneously recognizable masterpiece.”

‘Maudie’

Directed by Aisling Walsh and written by Sherry White, “Maudie” is the fact-based story of folk artist Maud Dowley, who suffered from severe arthritis from an early age. Sally Hawkins gives a deeply committed performance as Dowley, while Ethan Hawke plays the man who marries her in this unsparing portrait of an artist’s life.

In his review for The Times, Robert Abele noted, “Sally Hawkins turns a crumpled misfit into an affecting figure of fortitude and optimism in ‘Maudie,’ a portrait of the artist as a hermit wife that overcomes some clunky early brushstrokes to achieve a genuine grace and considerable poignancy.”

Jeffrey Fleishman spent time with Ethan Hawke in New York. “For 20 years,” Hawke said, “I was a first-person actor. Then slowly I’ve been exploring having a whole other interest in different kinds of characters. It’s made acting so much more interesting.”

In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis wrote, “Mostly, it is a life that emerges through the contrapuntal performances of Ms. Hawkins and Mr. Hawke, who, with bobbing heads, mutter and murmur, bringing you into the private world of two outsiders isolated by geography, poverty, disability, temperament and habit. It’s easy, especially, to admire Ms. Hawkins’s technical skill — the private smiles and halting, crooked walk — but the beauty of her performance is that soon you see only Maud.”

‘Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe’

Author Stefan Zweig is best known to some audiences as the spiritual influence of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Directed and co-written by Maria Schrader, the movie “Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe” explores the life of the author, who achieved extreme fame in his day.

In his review for The Times, Kenneth Turan called the film “intellectually involving and strikingly made,” adding that director Schrader came to the film “armed with clear ideas of what she wanted to convey and how she wanted to convey it” and that “she’s made a movie that allows its actors to fully inhabit their characters in a potent but low-key way.”



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