New California law considers reparations, and what’s opening in L.A. County

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Plus: COVID outbreak hits Cal State Long Beach, and a man has been charged in Compton cop attack.

I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, wishing you a very happy hump day! It’s hot as usual here in the Coachella Valley, and here are some of today’s hottest California news stories.

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

California task force to consider reparations for slavery under bill signed by Gov. Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom the signed Assembly Bill 3121 into law on Wednesday, which opens the door to the state paying reparations to Black Californians. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

In breaking news, Deadline reports that California is working on a plan to grant reparations to Black Americans under Assembly Bill 3121, a new law signed today by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“After watching last night’s debate,” Newsom said, referring to President Trump’s reluctance to publicly denounce white supremacy, “this signing can’t come too soon.”

The bill does not outline any specific plans for reparations. Rather, it instructs that a nine-member task force be created to propose ideas on what the reparations should be, whether compensation or restitution, and who should receive them.

The task force will be required to give special considerations to Black Americans who descended from slaves, though not all reparations need to be related to slavery.

While California’s constitution stated that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, unless for punishment of a crime, shall ever be tolerated,” archives suggest that slavery was a common practice in the state in the 19th century.

According to the article, Newsom also signed into law Assembly Bill 979, which requires publicly held California-based corporations “to have at least one director from an underrepresented community by the close of 2021.”

What’s due to reopen in L.A. County

Within the next 10 days, shopping malls in L.A. County are expected to reopen. (Photo: Getty Images)

Since Los Angeles County health officials did not see a surge of COVID infections connected to the Memorial Day holiday weekend, it was announced today that the positivity rate and hospitalization count has reached its lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

As a result, malls and nail salons in Los Angeles County will be permitted to open their doors over the next 10 days to indoor operations with limited capacity, the Los Angeles Times reports. Playgrounds are also permitted to reopen.

Nail salons and indoor malls will be permitted to reopen at 25% capacity, while mall food courts and areas where people congregate will stay closed.

In addition, a motion was passed to allow breweries, wineries and cardrooms to resume outdoor operations.

The reopenings will be staggered over the next 10 days; reopening dates for individual sectors will be announced Friday.

Remains of Palm Springs socialite identified

The Clifford Lambert murder defendants, clockwise from upper left: Kaushal Niroula, Daniel Garcia, Miguel Bustamante, Russell Manning, David Replogle and Craig McCarthy. (Photo: Riverside County sheriff’s department)

Here in Palm Springs, new details have emerged in the 2008 death of Clifford Lambert, 74, a socialite who prosecutors say was seduced, robbed and killed by a group of con men who then stole his identity and emptied his bank accounts.

Despite not having Lambert’s body, prosecutors tried and convicted six defendants for Lambert’s murder in 2012: Four were convicted of murder, one pleaded guilty to voluntarily manslaughter and one was convicted of fraud.

Today, Deputy District Attorney Robert Hightower said during a court hearing in Indio that a skull and a jawbone found near the city of Castic outside Santa Clarita in 2016 and 2017 were positively identified through DNA Tuesday as belonging to Lambert.

But that’s not the end of the story.

The prosecution’s case against the defendants hit a snag in 2017, after an appeals court ruled that the judge presiding over the case was biased.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge David B. Downing, who has since retired, was recorded saying he didn’t read motions from defendant Kaushal Niroula because he had HIV and his documents came in envelopes that had been licked closed.

“Lord knows where his tongue has been,” Downing said in a recording obtained by The Desert Sun as well as in sworn declarations by Niroula and his co-defendant Daniel Garcia, who had secretly recorded the judge.

The four men convicted of the murder have successfully appealed for new trials because of the antigay statement, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays in the case.

Residents flee wildfire in California’s wine country, some possibly for good

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National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for nearly all of Northern California after two new fires wreak burning havoc.

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Approximately 450 residents of the Spring Lake Village retirement community of Santa Rosa were forced to evacuate as the fast-moving Glass Fire approached Sunday. It was the second time in recent years that locals have had to flee their homes. Fires that ravaged the area in October 2017 killed 22 people and destroyed 5,600 structures.

Though residents were better-prepared this time around, the evacuation was still stressful, according to Robert Hayden and his wife, Alla, who have lived in the Spring Lake Village retirement community of Santa Rosa for 10 years.

“We went outside, the sky was all orange and the air was filled with ash,’’ Hayden said. “It accumulated on my jacket. I think I still have remnants.’’

Last month, some of the same 70,000 people given evacuation orders on Tuesday in Napa and Sonoma counties were displaced by a lightning-sparked blaze that became the fourth-largest fire in state history.

While the picturesque wine country is home to top-notch restaurants, ample libations and pleasant weather, some residents are tiring of the quick-striking wildfires that ignite regularly in the region, which has grown increasingly dry as a result of climate change.

“I see it in Spring Lakers,” Hayden said. “They’re beginning to move out. I think there’s going to be an increased trend of Northern Californians moving to less fire-prone areas.”

The Glass Fire is one of two blazes racing through California since Sunday. The other, the Zogg Fire, has burned through 51,955 acres near Redding and left three or four dead.

COVID outbreak hits Cal State Long Beach; man charged in Compton cop attack

A lockdown of the Cal State Long Beach did not stop students from getting infected with COVID-19. (Photo: Nikolay Georgiev, Pixabay)

First there were five cases of coronavirus at Cal State Long Beach, so the school locked down the campus over the past weekend. But on Tuesday, school officials say 17 additional undergrads have tested positive for the virus, according to the Los Angeles Times. It is believed the students became infected after attending off-campus gatherings.

“As you know, we took a conservative approach to the fall semester by vastly reducing the number of students in our residence halls and the number of classes offered on campus,” Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley wrote Saturday. “Unfortunately, even with our proactive efforts, we need to adapt and respond to this new challenge.”

Meanwhile,the Los Angeles Times reports that a man has been charged in the shooting ambush on two Los Angeles police officers at the Compton Metro station earlier this month. L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey announced Deonte Lee Murray, 36, was charged with attempted murder for shooting the two deputies, a 31-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man, as they sat in their patrol car. Both have have been treated and released from the hospital. 

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Deadline.com, Los Angeles Times

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