Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Five Important Facts About The 1992 L.A. Riots

FLORENCE AND NORMANDIE - On April 29, 1992, unfolded one the worst civil unrest in American history that spread well beyond the city of Los Angeles. As much of America looks onto what is unfolding in Baltimore it is important to look back on those very dark spring days in Southern California.

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A photograph capturing the sad chaos of the 1992 L.A. Riots. Author unknown. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Here are five pieces of information about the L.A. Riots. Truth be told, one is a trivial fact and the four other pieces of information attempt to explain the underlying problems that lead to the riots.

Before going forward it is extraordinarily important to note that The L.A. Riots was probably the most important event in modern Southern California history, for many profound reasons. Thus, we do not wish to trivialize this event into a simple Internet listicle, but hopefully this can be used as a jumping off point for further reading, research and understanding issues in L.A. and Southern California's past and present, and will maybe give perspective on events happening in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

1 - Is The Official Name of the Unrest Called "The L.A. Riots"?

There has been many different suggestions on just what those days in 1992 should be called. Some people and groups have called the civil unrest, "The L.A. Rebellion," "The Uprising," "The 1992 Riots," "The Rodney King Riots," or "Days of Rage," among other names. The name commonly accepted when talking about this riot is simply, "The L.A. Riots." There was never an official name given to this civil unrest.

2 - Massive Loss of Jobs

As is the case in Baltimore and Ferguson, there is more to what caused the riots than just one event, and often the major factor is the lack of jobs, or in the case of L.A. and Baltimore, good-paying industry jobs that vanished. In the postwar years in L.A. and Southern California many African-Americans were employed with good-paying jobs in and along the Alameda Corridor/Long Beach Freeway (I-710) industrial section. Outside of Detroit in Southern California, most of it located along the I-710, the automobile industry and its feeder industries, was a major employer for African-Americans. There were also other major factory industries, like Bethlehem Steel in Vernon

Regrettable many African-Americans faced discrimination in these industries, but in time many were able to obtain good-paying union jobs. One place African-Americans did not face discrimination was in the tire-making industry. Mostly located in Commerce the major tire-makers had huge factories, and, in fact, "The Citadel" outlet shopping center was once the Uniroyal factory. Many African-Americans were able to obtain very high-paying jobs in these rubber factories.

In the name of Cold War defense and "the space race," the aerospace and defense industries rapidly expanded in Southern California, but discrimination found its way in this high-paying prestigious industry as many African-American males were turned down for jobs. However, for African-American females it was a different story, because many of the aerospace firms hired African-American females for high-paying clerk positions.

It really cannot be overstated enough that the steel, manufacturing, auto, rubber, defense and aerospace industries were extraordinarily major employers in Los Angeles County, and at their height they were bigger employers than the entertainment industry.

3 - Why Did These Industries Leave L.A. County?

The short answer, outsourcing and the end of The Cold War. In the late 1980s and early 90s it seemed weekly there were news reports of aerospace and defense industries laying off hundreds of people as The Cold War was coming to an end and The Soviet Union dissolved.

As for the factories in the cities along the I-710, well, the outsourcing, laying off and subsequent closing of the many various factories started in the mid-1970s and just went downhill from there.

With these jobs leaving many African-Americans, along with many other people of all races, were out of a job and there were not many other jobs available for the skills they honed over the decades working at these places in the industry corridor.

4 - Housing Discrimination

Going back to the post-war years when these industries were paying very good wages to African-Americans many African-Americans, just like everybody else, wanted the suburban life Southern California was quickly becoming famous for, but discrimination made it very difficult. Discrimination in this case, unfortunately, came by way of housing covenants, which made selling homes to African-Americans quasi-illegal.

It took one homeowner in Sugar Hill near West Adams who was being harassed and told they cannot sell their home to an African-American family that brought a case to the courts against housing covenants. Even though the California courts said housing covenants were wrong this case wound its way all the to the United States Supreme Court, and the majority of justices agreed with the California courts and said it was wrong and illegal. Regrettably, in that Supreme Court case those who reveled in these housing covenants found, for lack of a better word, "a loophole" in the ruling and it would take another Supreme Court ruling to totally outlaw housing covenants.

Even the high court's ruling did not stop the practice of housing discrimination for many years. Real estate agents and organizations colluded to prevent African-Americans from buying homes in places like the San Fernando Valley and Lakewood.

Interestingly enough, during the 1950s and 60s when Caucasians lived in South-Central L.A. there was resistance to sell homes to Africa-Americans. In fact, there were several cases in 1950s South-Central L.A. of African-Americans being harassed, crosses burned on their lawns, and in one case, a bomb being set-off at an African-American home (following that bombing several new African-American residents of South-Central received death threats).

5 - Why Were Korean Stores Targeted?

In the 1992 riots Mayor Tom Bradley's office estimating that 65 percent of all businesses vandalized were Korean-owned. Why? Well, there had been long simmering tensions between the African-American community and Korean store owners. Some of this was just cultural misunderstanding, and, according to various community leaders, Korean business owners came into many poor neighborhoods where supermarkets or other stores were not easily available and were overcharging for items.

The tipping point in Korean-African American relations was the shooting death of Latasha Harlins by Korean store owner Soon Ja Du on March 16, 1991, at Ms. Du's liquor store, Empire Liquor, which was caught on the store's security video camera.

Ms. Du observed Ms. Harlins putting a bottle of orange juice in her backpack and Ms. Du thought Mr. Harlins was going to shoplift, and evidently did not see the $2 dollars Harlins held in her hand to pay for the orange juice. Seeing this and thinking a shoplifting was about to take place Ms. Du grabbed Ms. Harlins by the sweater and snatched her backpack, and then Ms. Harlins struck Ms. Du with her fist three times, knocking Ms. Du to the ground. As Ms. Harlins backed away Ms. Du then threw a stool at her, and Ms. Harlins picked up the orange juice that was dropped during the scuffle, threw it on the counter and turned to leave. It was at that point Ms. Du retrieve a handgun firing at Ms. Harlins, shooting her in the back of her head, killing her instantly.

In November 1991, a jury at the L.A. County Superior Court in Compton found Ms. Du guilty of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 16-years. However, in a decision that would further inflame tensions between the Korean community and African-American community, Judge Joyce Karlin sentenced Ms. Du to five years of probation, four hundred hours of community service, and a $500 fine. 

Around the same time there was a Glendale man who was sentenced to prison time for abusing animals, which lead many people to say that, "A dog's life is more valuable than a African-American girl's life."

Community leaders, city officials and scholars, among other people, have said the civil unrest that exploded on April 29, 1992, was a catalyst for Korean and African-American tensions erupting and why many Korean businesses were targeted.

Ms. Du's store was destroyed by fire during the riots.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Highway Fire Photographs

CORONA - Little rain, a major, historic drought, very dry vegetation, a gentle wind and a spark has brought about a major brush fire where Orange County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County meet in what is the explosive start of a dreadful fire season.

Monday Update: According to the Riverside County Fire Department, the fire is holding at 1020 acres with 35% containment, and all evacuations have been lifted. No homes or structures were damaged or destroyed.

A massive brush fire has broken out in the Corona/Chino/Norco area with flames rapidly moving in a northeast direction being driven by light-to-sometimes-gusty winds, which has prompted evacuations in what is being called The Highway Fire. The fire is burning in the Prado Flood Control Basin, which has thick, tender dry brush that has not burned in many decades.

By day smoke could be seen throughout much of Southern California and by nightfall an ominous orange glow could be seen for many miles around.

At least 300 homes have been threatened by this fire. As of this update no homes have been lost. There was a rumor going around that two homes had been destroyed, but Cal-Fire says NO homes have been lost.

The American Red Cross has established an evacuation center for residents at Riley’s Gym, 3900 Acacia, in Norco, while those who have animals can evacuate them to Ingalls Park on Sixth Street in Norco. UPDATE: The evacuation center has been closed, because apparently nobody needed it and had another place to go.

By midnight the breezy and sometimes gusty winds had tampered off giving the 800 firefighters on the scene the much needed upper hand in fighting this conflagration, which at 12:20 a.m. is at 30-percent containment. Rising humidity levels and cooler temperatures are also helping.

The Riverside Freeway and Chino Hills Freeway are open.

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The scope of this massive fire. This photograph was taken around 10 p.m. on Saturday on Green River Road in Corona. From this angle the fire was about five miles wide. Photograph by Jason C. Rosenthal.

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The Tombstone and dead, dry palm tree still stands as the fire was being driven by on-shore winds pushing flames in the northeast direction away from this location off Serfas Club Drive in Corona. Photograph by Jason C. Rosenthal.

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See if you can make out the eerie eyes in the smoke. Photograph by Jason C. Rosenthal.

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The Riverside Freeway will do anything to avoid being an effective freeway. Photograph by Jason C. Rosenthal.

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One of many dark smoke plumes. Photograph by Jason C. Rosenthal

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Mr. Tree shaking his arms in fear seeing the danger ahead. Photograph by Jason C. Rosenthal

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Taken about a half-hour after the fire started, and by this time had already put out an enormous amount of smoke that could be seen throughout much of Southern California. Photograph by Jason C. Rosenthal. 

In the past week as dry, warm weather gripped Southern California a handful of small brush fires broke out. Earlier Saturday a brush fire burnt about 12-acres in Fullerton. Earlier in the week a brush fire destroyed one home in Jurupa Valley.

As well, earlier in the week two small brush fires broke out in Malibu, but were quickly put out. Also, firefighters quickly fought a small brush fire in Whittier.

Even though it seems like every year we are told, "it is going to be a bad fire season," in an April 11 interview with the Los Angeles Times a Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist says this year is a particularly "incendiary situation," and we should treat every day from here on through next winter as fire season.

It seems The Highway Fire has driven home the point just how serious this fire season will be, because this fire took a lot of people by surprise on just how fast it moved and grew.

[Feel free to share these photographs. Sure, these are not the best, but still, just give credit.]

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Shaky Myth

ANAHEIM - Over the last few weeks there have been some minor earthquakes in the Los Angeles area. These minor shakers have wiggled the ground just enough to get a lot of people's attention, and making a lot of people wonder what all this shaking may be about. On Sunday, April 12, there was a magnitude (M) 3.3 shaker in the West L.A. area that appears to be on the Newport-Inglewood Fault, on Wednesday, April 15, there was a M3.1 in the Sylmar area, and on Saturday, April 2, there were several minor earthquakes in the Newhall Pass area with the largest quake being M3.2.

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Kinemetrics seismograph used by United States Department of the Interior. Photograph used under Creative Commons license.

If you grew up in Southern California, or even Japan, or really anywhere in the world that is considered "earthquake country," you probably have heard immense myths about earthquakes.

Is There Anything To These Earthquake Myths?

The short answer: NO! We all want an answer to the unknowable, especially if it is something that can greatly impact our lives and, frankly, our way of life, within just a few seconds, but at this time there is no scientific data and proof to accurately and precisely predict when a big earthquake will occur. With decades filled with tons of scientific studies, myths about earthquakes have been proven to be just that, myths.

Dolphins and Whales On The Beach

In recent weeks there has been a story floating around that several beached dolphins off the coast of Japan means a big earthquake is going to happen, because this happened once before off the Japan coast days before the great 2011 Japan earthquake. Furthermore, this, the sudden beaching of dolphins and whales, has also happened before large earthquakes in New Zealand and Chile.

Well, the beaching of dolphins and whales has happened in many other places many times before, and there has been no large earthquake in the following days. Thus, there has been no conclusive evidence that beaching of these great sea animals mean a big earthquake is imminent.

Full Moon Pulling The Gravity

Another very common myth is large earthquakes occur when there is a full Moon due to the Moon's gravity pull on earth. Well, out of all these earthquake myths this one has some truth to it as scientists at the United States Geological Survey have, "found a correlation between earth tides (caused by the position of the moon relative to the earth) and some types of earthquakes."

However, please understand that earthquakes can and do happen whether or not the Moon is shining bright in the sky, and thus the Moon is NOT a viable way to predict earthquakes.

Big Shakes Only In The Morning

If you grew up in Southern California you probably remember all too well that our most "memorable" earthquakes occurred early in the morning, which has lead a lot of people to believe only big earthquakes will only happen in the morning. This is a very big myth. The fact that major earthquakes have occurred in Southern California in the morning hours is simply a roll of the dice when Mother Nature has decided to give us a big shake. That is a way of saying it simply is by pure chance that large earthquakes have happened in the morning and there is no scientific proof that significant earthquakes occur in Southern California only in the morning hours. In fact, the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake happened at 5:55 p.m. Bottom line, "The Big One," or the next big enough one, can happen at 4:31 in the morning, or 4:31 in the afternoon.

Earthquake Weather

Probably one of the biggest myths in Southern California is so-called "earthquake weather." The common belief in Southern California is when it suddenly warms up earthquakes will happen. Well, many studies have shown when the earth decides to shake it gives no thought to the weather. After all, there have been major earthquakes in Southern California on Christmas Day and in the middle of summer.

Animals Know When An Earthquake Is About To Happen

Many people have said that right before an earthquake their pet, typically a dog or cat, "acted weird" or suddenly began running about without any reason. In most cases what animals are sensing are the P-Waves of an earthquake, which can be detected by sensitive animals, and sometimes sensitive humans. There have been cases where people report animals acting "weird" a few days before an earthquake. Plenty of studies have been done on this subject, and studies in China in the 1970s thought there might have been a breakthrough with animals helping predict earthquakes. Well, like many studies of possible earthquake precursors and predictions, observing animals has proven to be inconclusive, and thus animals cannot predict earthquakes.

What About Earthquakes Being Predicted To Happen In 20 Years

When geologists and seismologists talk about an earthquake happening either in a certain region or on a certain earthquake fault-line what they are doing is forecasting, not predicting. The words forecast and prediction are sometimes used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings when it comes to seismology. When it comes to earthquakes seismologists, for example, look at the history of a fault-line and how often it has produced a major earthquake, otherwise called paleoseismology. If, for example, a fault-line has produced a major earthquake on average every 100 years and it has been 70 years since the said fault-line last rupture seismologists will forecast the fault-line will produce a major earthquake within the next 30 years. Ostensibly, using our example, if it has been, say, 120 years since the last major earthquake on said fault-line you will hear that we are overdue for a major earthquake.

Caution In Earthquake Forecasting

While paleoseismology has been one of the best breakthroughs in figuring out how often a certain fault-line ruptures it must be stressed that while the average rupture may be, for example, every 100 years, it has also showed what could be best described as anomalies. That is to say even though the fault-line is suppose to cause a major earthquake on average around every 100 years sometimes, as paleoseismology shows, the said fault-line may of had a period in the past where it did not have a major earthquake for 200 or even 300 years.

On the other end, paleoseismology has showed major earthquakes on the studied fault-line, using our example, have occurred less than 100 years apart.

Think of it this way, you know how on the seven-day weather forecast on the seventh day they say a major storm is coming based on all the information on the way the storm pattern is shaping up, and come that seventh day the storm is nowhere to be found and it is very sunny outside. Well, long-term earthquake forecasting is kind of like long-term weather forecasting. Everything is lined up and based on all evidence it looks like an event should happened and thus is forecast to happen, like a big rain storm or big earthquake, but it just fails to happen.

Will There Ever Be Day Where We Can Predict Earthquakes?

Well, never say "never," but in general when it comes to earthquake prediction the geologist and seismologist community has kind of moved on to long-range earthquake forecasting, such as more paleoseismology studies, and developing and funding earthquake early warning systems.

It is very important to understand that the study of earthquakes is an extraordinarily young science and even when major earthquakes have occurred scientists have learned something new. After all, it was the 1994 Northridge Earthquake that showed how dangerous blind thrust faults are to the L.A. area and gave way to more studies of such faults like, The Puente Hills Thrust Fault.

Even though the earth science community in general is moving away from precise earthquake prediction please have no fear, because many professional, retired, government, amateur and wanna-be geologists and seismologists are still looking for that Holy Grail of trying to solve that puzzle of accurately predicting earthquakes.

So, The Bottom Line Is The One Thing Nobody Wants To Hear...

Even with all the marvelous advances in technology there is still no accurate way to predict when precisely a major earthquake will occur. It could happen one minute from now, or another 20 years, or even another 100 years from today. All you can do is prepare.