Pandemic sidelines 800 police, firefighters in Los Angeles

Pandemic sidelines 800 police, firefighters in Los Angeles
Firefighters gather outside of Los Angeles County Fire Station 83 on Thursday. Over 500 LAPD officers and other police employees and nearly 300 firefighters were off-duty after testing positive for COVID-19. (AP)
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Updated 06 January 2022

Pandemic sidelines 800 police, firefighters in Los Angeles

Pandemic sidelines 800 police, firefighters in Los Angeles
  • Over 500 LAPD officers and other police employees and nearly 300 firefighters were off-duty after testing positive for COVID-19
  • Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday “The omicron variant has taken off like wildfire”

LOS ANGELES: A dramatic surge in coronavirus cases has sidelined more than 800 Los Angeles city police and fire personnel and led to slightly longer ambulance and fire response times adding concerns about shortages of critical staff including health care workers.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that more than 500 LAPD officers and other police employees and nearly 300 firefighters were off-duty after testing positive for COVID-19, though he said measures were being taken to ensure the safety of the public.
“This is an incredibly tough moment,” Garcetti said. “The omicron variant has taken off like wildfire.”
The surge of cases in the country’s most populous state is threatening to overwhelm hospitals. State officials on Wednesday extended an indoor mask mandate into mid-February as the omicron variant also sidelines health care workers, leading to hospital staffing shortages that could become a bigger problem.
“We are and continue to be concerned about our hospitals,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. “Some facilities are going to be strapped.”
Public Health officials across the state have advised residents to avoid visiting emergency rooms for COVID-19 tests or treatment that could be handled by a family doctor, telemedicine or at urgent care clinics.
California’s confirmed cases have shot up nearly 500 percent in the last two weeks and hospitalizations have doubled since Christmas to more than 8,000. State models forecast hospitalizations could top 20,000 by early next month, a level nearly as high as last January, when California experienced its deadliest surge.
California had the lowest per-capita case rate in the US in September, but like the rest of the country it’s now experiencing a dramatic rise from the new variant. It now ranks 29th in new cases per capita over the past two weeks.
Los Angeles city firefighters were working voluntary overtime shifts and others were being forced to stay on duty after their shifts ended to maintain staffing, Chief Ralph Terrazas said. He also planned to cancel approved vacations.
The absences were forcing some fire engines and ambulances to be out of service for 24 hours but all firehouses remained open, Terrazas said. Ambulance response times have slowed 13 seconds from a year ago and fire calls are six seconds slower.
Police Chief Michel Moore said it was taking an average of three weeks for officers struck with COVID-19 to return to work, but they have not yet forced others to stay on the job to meet the demand.
“That lever is still before us,” he said. “I will not suggest to you that we would want to endure the current shortages of personnel for months on end. ... We do see this as a surge that will be, it is our hope and belief, short lived.”
The Los Angeles County Fire Department, which is separate from the city department, has 450 firefighters absent after testing positive, acting Assistant Chief Brian Bennett told the Carson City Council on Tuesday, according the Los Angeles Daily News.
In Fresno County, more than 300 workers at area hospitals were out recovering from COVID-19 or isolating because of exposure to the virus, said Dan Lynch, the county’s emergency medical services director. Ambulance personnel will likely be asked to assess patients and only transport people with true emergencies to ER departments.
The Grammy Awards, scheduled for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, were postponed indefinitely Wednesday because of health and safety concerns and the NFL said it was looking into alternative sites for next month’s Super Bowl scheduled in LA.
While the league finds back-up venues every year, it could come into play if there are attendance restrictions, though Garcetti said he doubted it would be moved.
“I’m confident that will happen here and that we’ll be able to have a great Super Bowl celebration,” he said.
Ghaly encouraged unvaccinated people to get inoculated and others to get booster shots if they haven’t already received one to either prevent or lessen the impact of an infection. He said the vaccines and therapeutics to treat COVID-19 are all part of an approach largely absent a year ago and there is no discussion of further restrictions.
Los Angeles said it would begin requiring employers to equip workers in close quarters indoors with medical grade masks by Jan. 17.


British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper
Updated 01 July 2022

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper

British daredevil shares clip of stunt atop Dubai skyscraper
  • Lockwood, 21, posed as a construction worker to reach the top of the building

LONDON: British free-climber and Instagram star Adam Lockwood has released a video on YouTube showing him climbing and hanging off a Dubai skyscraper.

Lockwood, 21, posed as a construction worker to reach the top of the building — the 390-meter residential apartment block Il Primo in Downtown — and had to evade genuine laborers on the way up.

In his video, the Manchester native is seen being challenged by a site worker and attempting to explain using Google Arabic Translate he had forgotten something in the building.

He is told to leave by the site worker.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ΛDΛM (@nuisance69_)

Instead, Lockwood used a different staircase to continue his ascent to the 77th floor, stopping at certain levels to wet his head with water from taps to cool himself down.

Once at the top, he hung off a crane and does one-handed stunts with no safety equipment, with the Burj Khalifa visible in the background.

Of the experience, Lockwood said it was “surreal” but “almost peaceful” as his “brain is blank” while he carries out his stunts, the Independent reported.

On his Instagram channel, which has more than 21,000 followers, Lockwood has videos of him performing stunts in the San Siro Stadium in Milan, climbing the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris and walking the edges of buildings in London’s Canary Wharf.

Dubai Police have issued warnings to daredevils in the past against scaling buildings and performing stunts that could endanger themselves and other members of the public.


Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar
Updated 01 July 2022

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar

Rock star Randy Bachman reunited with beloved stolen guitar
  • Bachman said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional
  • When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said

TOKYO: Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search came to an end Friday when he was reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.
“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote “American Woman” and other hits was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.
He said all guitars are special, but the orange 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins he bought as a teenager was exceptional. He worked at multiple jobs to save money to buy the $400 guitar, his first purchase of an expensive instrument, he said.
“It made my whole life. It was my hammer and a tool to write songs, make music and make money,” Bachman told AP before the handover at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo.
When it was stolen from the Toronto hotel in 1977, “I cried for three days. It was part of me,” he said. “It was very, very upsetting.” He ended up buying about 300 guitars in unsuccessful attempts to replace it, he said.
Bachman talked frequently about the missing guitar in interviews and on radio shows, and more recently on YouTube programs on which he performed with his son, Tal.
In 2020, a Canadian fan who heard the story of the guitar launched an Internet search and successfully located it in Tokyo within two weeks.
The fan, William Long, used a small spot in the guitar’s wood grain visible in old images as a “digital fingerprint” and tracked the instrument down to a vintage guitar shop site in Tokyo. A further search led him to a YouTube video showing the instrument being played by a Japanese musician, TAKESHI, in December 2019.
After receiving the news from Long, Bachman contacted TAKESHI immediately, and recognized the guitar in a video chat they had.
“I was crying,” Bachman said. “The guitar almost spoke to me over the video, like, ‘Hey, I’m coming home.’”
TAKESHI agreed to give it to Bachman in exchange for one that was very similar. So Bachman searched and found the guitar’s “sister” — made during the same week, with a close serial number, no modifications and no repairs.
“To find my guitar again was a miracle, to find its twin sister was another miracle,” Bachman said.
TAKESHI said he decided to return the guitar because as a guitar player he could imagine how much Bachman missed it.
“I owned it and played it for only eight years and I’m extremely sad to return it now. But he has been feeling sad for 46 years, and it’s time for someone else to be sad,” TAKESHI said. “I felt sorry for this legend.”
He said he felt good after returning the guitar to its rightful owner, but it may take time for him to love his new Gretsch as much as that one.
“It’s a guitar, and it has a soul. So even if it has the same shape, I cannot say for sure if I can love a replacement the same way I loved this one,” he said. “There is no doubt Randy thought of me and searched hard (for the replacement), so I will gradually develop an affection for it, but it may take time.”
Bachman said he and TAKESHI are now like brothers who own guitars that are “twin sisters.” They are participating in a documentary about the guitar on which they plan to perform a song, “Lost and Found” together.
They also performed several songs at Friday’s handover, including “American Woman.”
Bachman said he will lock the guitar up in his home so he will never lose it again. “I am never ever going to take it out of my house again,” he said.


Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion
Updated 30 June 2022

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion
  • Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: ‘Switzerland, my goodness. I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,’ he joked, before adding for the record: ‘Sweden’
  • Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century

MADRID: NATO’s latest expansion momentarily got really interesting with even Switzerland about to join — at least for a second in a Joe Biden verbal slip Thursday.
At a press conference marking the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, the US president recounted the behind-the-scenes talks putting militarily non-aligned Finland and Sweden on track to join the Western alliance in a major rebuff to Russia.
Except he misspoke, saying there was a plan to call the leader of famously neutral Switzerland about joining.
Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: “Switzerland, my goodness.”
“I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,” he joked, before adding for the record: “Sweden.”
Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century.


Lebanese graduate’s inspirational commencement speech goes viral

Lebanese graduate’s inspirational commencement speech goes viral
Updated 30 June 2022

Lebanese graduate’s inspirational commencement speech goes viral

Lebanese graduate’s inspirational commencement speech goes viral
  • American University of Beirut student Elie El-Khawand spoke proudly of his ‘poor and hardworking’ parents and the sacrifices they made for his education
  • He told Arab News that he was motivated to apply to give the moving speech by a belief ‘that a word from the heart would reach a wider audience’

DUBAI: A moving and inspirational speech given by a Lebanese student at an American University of Beirut graduation ceremony, in which he paid tribute to his “poor and hardworking” parents and the sacrifices they made to ensure he received an education, is going viral on social media.
Elie El-Khawand, a 21-year-old student of electrical and computer engineering, was among those who graduated from the university on June 11. He was chosen to give the commencement speech after responding to an email from AUB authorities that invited students to apply for the honor.
“My belief was that a word from the heart would reach a wider audience,” El-Khawand told Arab News on Thursday when asked what motivated him to give the speech.
His heartwarming words and genuine sentiments impressed and moved the thousands of people in the audience at the graduation ceremony and in the past few days video of the speech, initially shared by fellow graduates and their friends and families, has started to go viral on social media platforms.
In his speech, El-Khawand spoke about the harsh and tough journey of his parents and their struggles to raise him and ensure he received a quality education.
He began by saying that he would not give in to the financial crisis currently affecting Lebanon and was “following my heart and shooting for the stars.”
He told the crowd: “I want to share with you who I really am. Eleven years into their marriage, a janitor and his housekeeper wife, who had lost hope of having children, welcomed their first, newborn son.
“This baby, me, brought them joy…,” he said, and was forced to pause for several seconds as the audience burst into applause and cheering, before continuing: ‘… and ignited their sense of purpose — at least, that’s what they told me.”
Speaking with obvious pride, El-Khawand said: “From dawn to dusk my mother carried me along with her broom and mop as she cleaned houses in the neighborhood. My father worked as a janitor at an esteemed nearby school, which I got into and pursued my education for free.”
He spoke about how as he grew up he became aware of his family’s situation in life but that despite the fact his parents were poor, they “could provide him with an abundance of love and comfort.”
Addressing fellow students from a similar social background, El-Khawand added: “You never know how the dots will eventually connect down the road. Have the confidence to follow your heart and never be afraid to take a first step.”
To illustrate his point, he revealed the challenge he faced when he realized that he might not be able to afford to attend university as his family often struggled to pay for daily necessities.
“I enrolled at AUB with an absolutely unclear payment plan,” he said but added that he eventually “received decent financial aid and scholarships from AUB. I won the 30,000 A List competition and worked as a part-time student tutor.”
Asked by Arab News how proud he felt of his parents as he looked out at them from the podium as he delivered his speech, El-Khawand said: “I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t find them in the crowd.”
As for the incredible reception to his heartfelt words on the day and as they spread online, he admitted he had not expected such an emotional and positive response from the public.
“To be honest, not to that extent,” he said. “I was astonished by the thousands of messages and comments, especially those conveying to me that they had needed to hear the words of my speech.”
One of those who shared video footage of El-Khawand’s speech was Lebanese media personality Ricardo Karam, whose post on Twitter received more than 7,000 likes and was retweeted more than 1,100 times. Al Jazeera TV and other regional and local TV channels and news outlets have also reported on the speech and broadcast parts of it.


Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent
Updated 30 June 2022

Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent
  • In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses”

LONDON: Airbnb Inc. said on Tuesday it will make permanent its ban on parties in homes listed on its platform after seeing a sharp drop in reports of unauthorized gatherings since the prohibition was put in place in August 2020.
The company announced seeing a 44 percent year-after-year drop in the rate of party reports since implementing the policy.
This comes after the San Francisco-based company introduced and extended the party ban to halt the spread of COVID-19 infections. Now the company wants to make the ban permanent as the summer travel season begins.
“This is an issue where I don’t know if I’d say there’s a finish line,” said Ben Breit, a spokesperson for the company, adding that Airbnb will keep working to address the issue.
The company said it will also remove its 16-person limit, allowing larger homes listed on the platform to be booked to full occupancy.
In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses” or listings that create persistent neighborhood nuisance.
Airbnb has also updated its policies considering the pandemic, removing both the “event friendly” search filter and “parties and events allowed” house rules.
More than 6,600 guests and some hosts were suspended in 2021 for attempting to violate the party ban, the company said.
In May 2022, the company reported revenue was up 70 percent from the previous year bringing in $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2022. The company also projected revenue to be above market estimates for the second quarter of the year, expecting to bring in between $2.03 billion and $2.13 billion.