A ‘monster’ tornado tears through central Oklahoma
Though the death toll following one of the worst tornadoes in history has ticked down to 24 after reports yesterday said as many as 51 had been killed, the scene remains grim in Moore, Okla.
Photos: Steve Gooch / Associated Press, Brett Deering, NOAA / AFP/Getty Images, Gene Blevins / Zuma Press / MCT
Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
Libby Phelps was born into the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, famed for its inflammatory rhetoric against homosexuals and protests against military funerals. At an early age, she was thrust into the church’s us-versus-them mentality:
In the beginning, Libby saw the picketing as a play date with her cousins. Every week the children carried signs with messages of damnation and trudged around in a circle in Gage Park until a pattern was worn into the grass.
Sometimes in the summer it got so hot that Libby’s mother would wrap a wet washcloth around her neck. In the winter, getting their snow gear on took longer than the picket.
“I didn’t even know what a homosexual was,” Libby said.
Over the years, Libby protested an AIDS quilt tour, the Academy Awards, Jenna Bush’s wedding, soldiers’ funerals, actor Bernie Mac’s funeral, President Obama’s 2008 inauguration and more.
It wasn’t until she was 25 that she managed to break free from the church, severing her family ties in the process. The church, which has just 70 members, is heavily comprised of descendants of Fred Phelps, who was Libby’s grandfather.
Read more on Libby’s life since defecting from the church in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Megan Phelps-Roper, Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post
Times copy editor Larry Harnisch attends the reunion of Los Angeles Herald Examiner photographers:
A generation has come of age since the death of Hearst’s Los Angeles Herald Examiner on Nov. 2, 1989, a digital generation that has no memory of The Times’ scrappy competitor. Once the nation’s largest afternoon paper, the Herald was a victim of changing lifestyles and a long, bruising strike, a publication that was losing about $2 million a month when it folded.
Today, the Herald’s pages are preserved on reels of microfilm, accessible only to those willing to make the trek to the Los Angeles Public Library or other research facilities.But the newspaper’s photos have found new life online.
You can see some of those photos above, and there are even more at Framework, where Scott Harrison has put together a gallery that has the back stories of some of these amazing images. Still more photos — the source of the ones above, in fact — are in the Los Angeles Public Library collection (which you can search).
Photos: Top: The Hollywood sign in 1978. Middle left: O.J. Simpson carries the Olympic torch in L.A. in July 1984. Middle right: Cher and Don Ameche at the 1986 Oscars. Bottom left: A police car hits a protester in Beverly Hills in 1979. Bottom right: The final issue of the Herald Examiner. (Credit: Los Angeles Herald Examiner / Los Angeles Public Library)
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Dorothy Gambrell illustrates everything you wanted to know about California’s prison labor program, but were afraid to ask. They can only sell inmate-made goods to the state, and if the state cuts back, those prisoners lose their jobs. Jeez, in jail AND laid off? Can this prison sentence get any worse????
Prison labor, once best known for making license plates, has grown to 57 factories doing such work as modular building construction, toner cartridge recycling, shoemaking and juice packaging. Read more at Bloomberg Businessweek
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Angelina Jolie’s not the first to make a drastic choice as cancer looms
Jolie surprised the world earlier this week with the announcement that she had undergone a double mastectomy to reduce her chances of getting breast cancer, a decision that Los Angeles Times writer Anna Gorman is all too familiar with.
Fear of cancer is a horrible thing. It stays with you all day long, and it wakes you up at night.
I didn’t want to live with that, especially when I knew I could do something about it.
Like Angelina Jolie, I have a genetic mutation that increased my odds of getting breast cancer to nearly 90%. Also like Jolie, I chose to get my healthy breasts removed to reduce that risk to less than 5%.
Nearly five years after her surgery, Gorman is doing absolutely fine, her scars have faded and she’s glad that Jolie is bringing the tragic genetic condition that prompted both of their decisions to the forefront of the national conversation on cancer.
Read Gorman’s emotional story in full, as a part of our Column One series.
Photos: Anne Cusak / Los Angeles Times
The Guardian has a multi-part, video heavy media set on climate refugees in America. I’d argue that the title “first” is a misnomer and would point to the coastal communities in Texas, New Orleans, and the Carolinas who’ve been retreating from the coasts for several years. But, the point is made - that sea-level rise and coastal erosion is much more aggressive than at anytime in history. Thus, tens of thousands of people are at immediate risk, especially the poor.
The above is one minute.
The people of Newtok, on the west coast of Alaska and about 400 miles south of the Bering Strait that separates the state from Russia, are living a slow-motion disaster that will end, very possibly within the next five years, with the entire village being washed away.
The Ninglick River coils around Newtok on three sides before emptying into the Bering Sea. It has steadily been eating away at the land, carrying off 100ft or more some years, in a process moving at unusual speed because of climate change. Eventually all of the villagers will have to leave, becoming America’s first climate change refugees.
Some great work here!
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“You don’t have to get my permission; go destroy them.”
Nader Haj Kadour, a classically-trained painter, always wanted to paint animals, landscapes and spoke to the Times at one point while painting a butterfly.
But for decades, the main subjects of his art were the late President Hafez Assad and his son Bashar, who is currently embroiled in the bloody Syrian civil war.
Their faces have dominated walls, storefronts and car windows all over Syria, a visual declaration of loyalty to the dictators. Their images — sometimes partially hidden behind sunglasses, other times in military uniform but always stern and slightly foreboding — were the ubiquitous reminders that Big Brother was watching.
Now, with the country in the midst of a longstanding civil war, and Kadour no longer under the thumb of the government, he works with rebels to paint caricatures of the Assads, and welcomes rebel fighters to tear down his representations of the brutal Syrian president and his family.
Read the full story in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Raja Abdulrahim / Los Angeles Times
Justice Department secretly taps into AP reporters’ phone records
In a surprising declaration a short time ago, the Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had obtained two months of phone records tied to numerous reporters and editors in various cities, in what the news organization is calling a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The reason for the government’s actions, which the AP was alerted to in a letter Friday, are as of now unknown.
From the Associated Press’ story on the emerging scandal:
In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
AP’s President and CEO, Gary Pruitt, issued a strongly-worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder:
We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news. While we evaluate our options we urgently request that you immediately return to the AP the telephone toll records that the Department subpoenaed and destroy all copies.
Photo: Molly Riley / Associated Press
Adjusting to everyday life after fleeing a polygamist sect
Zach Bowers, 18, and his brother Isaiah Bowers, 17, grew up in Colorado City, Arizona, a colony of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While raised in the polygamist community, the two were told little of the outside world, taught that women should be subservient to men and lorded over by their elders to the point at which all of their clothes were regularly chosen for them. But they decided enough was enough, and fled their home.
For a sense of how isolated their lives were:
“I didn’t even know what the president was,” Zach says of his time on the fundamentalist compound. “I knew there was somebody over the United States, but I didn’t know they called it the president.”
But their adjustment from the colony to suburban life hasn’t been without some pitfalls. Read the full story in our latest Column One feature.
Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times
Returning from combat to find their jobs are gone
Troops returning home often have a litany of problems on their plate - one of the most prominent being joblessness. Though employers are forbidden from penalizing service members for performing their military duties, that doesn’t mean soldiers don’t end up losing their jobs or benefits.
So who’s holding back on their obligations to troops coming home?
Government agencies are among the most frequent offenders, accounting for about a third of the more than 15,000 complaints filed with federal authorities since the end of September 2001, records show. Others named in the cases include some of the biggest names in American business, such as Wal-Mart and United Parcel Service.
Find out more about the crisis, with a particular focus on the large veteran community in California, in reporter Alexandra Zavis’ story here.
Photos: Tomas Ovalle / Los Angeles Times
Transitioning from L.A. Times reporter to fruit picker
Hector Becerra set his reporting notebook aside, laced up his boots and strode out into the strawberry fields of Santa Maria, Calif. to see firsthand what it was like to be a fieldworker.
About an hour into the picking, my upper and lower back were beginning to tighten and my legs began to burn a little from the stooping.
As the other workers pulled ahead, Becerra gained a new appreciation for their daily struggle, and for the little things about the agricultural assembly line that often go unnoticed when you’re browsing through the aisles.
You might think strawberries are carefully sorted — possibly by a machine — into the clamshells you buy at the supermarket after being washed at some facility. They’re not. The strawberries are picked by fieldworkers and placed directly into those containers.
Read his compelling account in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Wildfire engulfs Ventura County
A 6,500 acre fire is moving ever closer to homes in Ventura County, forcing residents to flee the region as more than 500 firefighters try to stop the spread of the flames. The Pacific Coast Highway has just been shut down in both directors amid efforts to contain the blaze.
The Red Cross has set up evacuation centers at the Thousand Oaks Community Park, 2525 N. Moorpark Road, and Camarillo’s Calvary Community Chapel, 380 Mobil Ave.
Photos: Nick Ut / Associated Press, Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images
The Los Angeles Times will no longer use the term “illegal immigrant.”
By EMILY DERUY
The Los Angeles Times will no longer use the terms “illegal immigrant” or “undocumented immigrant,” the paper announced Wednesday. While the Times has generally avoided such terms for some time, the new guidelines make the policy official.
It’s true! Readers’ Rep Deidre Edgar has the full details on why we ultimately made the decision.
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The art of music from afar
For piano instructor Talc Tolchin, lessons don’t always require close proximity and immediate scrutiny of finger placements and precision - thanks to modern technology, Tolchin can instruct students from hundreds of miles away.
But Tolchin’s methods do have some detractors:
It’s not for everyone. The world of music instructors is filled with late technology adopters on such tight budgets that even basic equipment needed to conduct online lessons is a stretch, said Rachel Kramer, director of member development for the Cincinnati-based Music Teachers National Assn.
Then there’s tradition. “There will be always be teachers who feel it would never ever work,” she said.
Photos: Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times