A jogger exercises in Santa Monica on Wednesday, the day Los Angeles County reopened its beaches, which had been closed for weeks because of the coronavirus. The pier and its amusement rides remain closed. (Photo: Mario Tama, Getty Images)

The state sues the U.S. EPA after it gives industries powers to self-monitor their environmental impacts. And a barn can write “Hang a Politician” on its roof. Plus: I talk to UC San Diego music professor Anthony Davis, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his opera, “The Central Park Five.” 

It’s Arlene Martínez, with the news to know.

But first, 200 goats escaped a property where they’d been doing brush clearance and took to the streets near a San Jose neighborhood. They dined al fresco on yards, where they also did their business, before being captured.

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When industry self-polices, states see trouble

California is one of several states suing the U.S. EPA for loosening environmental reporting regulations, which the agency says is necessary in a pandemic. (Photo: Associated Press)

California and eight other states are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to relax pollution reporting requirements and enforcement activities during the coronavirus pandemic.

High-ranking EPA officials said in late March that worker shortages, social distancing and other coronavirus-related factors could make it difficult for polluters to fully comply with existing environmental rules and regulations.

So it eased up in penalties and allowed greater self-policing by industries. 

Once things return to normal, “the EPA does not plan to ask facilities to ‘catch-up’ with missed monitoring or reporting if the underlying requirement applies to intervals of less than three months,” a March 26 memo signed by the EPA’s Susan Parker Bodine says. 

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In a statement announcing the litigation, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused the Trump administration of “trying to use the current public health crisis to sweep environmental violations under the rug. What’s worse, the administration is doing so even as evidence grows that communities exposed to air pollution are at increased risk from coronavirus.”

California is joined in the federal suit by Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia. 

Remembering a baby; losing clean energy jobs and hazard pay 

 (Photo: Starbucks)

An Indian Well church will hold a drive-by memorial for the 1-year-old girl authorities said was thrown to her death by her father. 

California lost 105,000 clean energy workers in March and April, a new report shows. Advocates and elected officials weigh in on how to bring them back.  

That “hero” pay Starbucks, Ralphs, Target and other gave workers is going away, even as the coronavirus is not. 

‘Hang a politician,’ even on a big barn, is protected speech

A message that reads “Save Jobs! Hang a Politician” has been painted in a prominent position on the Red Barn bar’s roof in Palm Desert, May 13, 2020. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

The owner of a Palm Desert baris using the building’s roofto vent frustration with politicians and California’s governor.

The messages — “Save jobs! Hang a politician” on the east side of the roof and “Suck my governor” — on the west side, have sparked some controversy with many commenting for and against the “artwork” on the bar’s Facebook page.

Red Bar owner John Labrano did not respond to a request for comment but told TV station KESQ that he came up with the signs out of frustration over being closed and not knowing when the state will allow the bar to reopen.

“All I want to do is run my business. Leave me alone, let me operate my business,” Labrano told the station. “I need to save my bar.”

What else we’re talking about 

A man exercises on Santa Monica beach on May 13, 2020, the day Los Angeles County reopened its beaches, which had been closed due the coronavirus pandemic. People are allowed to visit the beaches if they maintain social distancing, wear a face covering, and don’t lie down or sit on the beach in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo: Mario Tama, Getty Images)

Los Angeles County’s coastline of 75 miles has largely reopened to active recreation so surf, run and walk your troubles away. Then kindly go. More Ventura County beaches are also reopening with the same restrictions.

Even with a projected record deficit, Gov. Gavin Newsom promises significantly more money for fire prevention and firefighting.

Seniors can get free restaurant meals thanks to a program launched by the state. Get more details about “Great Plates Delivered” here.

“Operation America Strong” is heading to a sky near you. The jets’ flyovers are to thank medical professionals, first responders and other essential workers. They’re hitting parts of the Central Coast on Thursday before making their way down south on Friday.

Republicans claim victory in a closely watched race over who would replace former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill, a Democrat, in a district covering parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The organization representing hairstylists and salon owners has sued the state, seeking a court order to allow personal grooming shops to reopen as soon as possible.

Whether you feel strongly about reopening or staying closed, it doesn’t hurt to really consider the other side. 

Opera based on ‘The Central Park Five’ tells of an ongoing story

Anthony Davis is a professor at UC San Diego. He won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his opera, “The Central Park Five.” (Photo: Contributed photo)

Anthony Davis won the 2020 Pultizer Prize for Music last week for his opera, “The Central Park Five.” He’d been on a Zoom meeting with his UCSD colleagues when he learned through a phone call he had won. Davis excitedly yelled up to this wife the news but forgot to mute himself. “So the whole music faculty found out at the same time I did,” he laughs.

Davis has been submitting his works, most of which center on social injustices, since 1994, but this is his first win. He joined UCSD’s music department in 1998.

The Central Park Five opera is based on the lives of Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise, black and Latino teenagers convicted and later cleared of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989. They served combined decades in jail before the actual rapist confessed (and DNA evidence, missing from the five’s persecution, corroborated his account).

The Pulitzer committee said the opera “skillfully transforms a notorious example of contemporary injustice into something empathetic and hopeful.”

Davis spoke to me via Zoom from his San Diego home, where he’s quarantining with his wife and son. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Q: I understand you’d been working on this opera for a few years, but why now?

A: It was submitted to me by Kevin Maynor from the Trilogy Opera Company in Newark. He sent me a libretto by Richard Wesley based on the five. And actually, I was going to recommend a composer for them to work with on the project but I read the libretto and it was so, so strong. I thought, ‘Well, no, I’d like to do it myself.’ “

I’ve had this ongoing concern with African American lives and politics, you know, since my first opera, “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X.” So it was a natural fit for me.

Also, I was fascinated by the story and I thought it’s something that should be told right now because it’s really the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement that came out of the persecution of the five.

(L-R): Korey Wise, Raymond Santana Jr., Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray and Kevin Richardson speak onstage during the 2019 BET Awards. (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET)

Q: In an early version of the opera, Donald Trump wasn’t in it, you’ve said.

A: In the original version, no. I told the predecessor we need to have Donald Trump in this opera because really, the genesis of his political career was built on racial animus and built on the response to the Central Park five which is where he really started, you know, with the advertisement in the newspaper, etc. And so I thought it was important that he should be represented in the opera.

Q: I see. So this opera wasn’t a response to his presidency so much.  

A: It’s not about him as a president even though I think a lot of what we see of him as president was seen earlier on, in 1989 and his playbook of trying to use and exploit racial tensions for his political benefit. We’ve seen that over and over again.

Q: And what was the process like writing about this?

A: The outrage is part of it. Also, I think having to make the audience feel as if they are the five or their son or daughter is one of the five. How to put yourself in their shoes.

Q: What was it like the first time you saw it performed?

A: The five singer-actors who played in the opera were incredible. And they put everything into it. We built a really strong community within the cast and everyone involved in the production. I was very excited with what we were able to accomplish.

Q: And you met the five?

A: Yes, I did. I met them at an ACLU luncheon, and actually all the five from my opera were there and the five from the Netflix series were there and and and the original five, the real five.

One of the “Central Park Five,” Yusef Salaam is escorted by police in this archival photos. (Photo: NY Daily News via Getty Images)

Q: What was that like?

A: It was fantastic. They’re incredible. I got to talk with everyone, all of them…and they were so happy that we were doing this and excited. They received an award from the ACLU that evening.

Q: When you consider what the five went through and where they are now, do you think this opera plays any role in getting their story out there or them getting any type of peace or closure?

A: Well, I think that there’s some healing involved. There’s a part in the opera when they come back at the end and I have this song called “The World Is Ours.” And it comes in earlier when they were enthusiastic young teenagers thinking about all the possibilities in the world before they’re arrested.

But at the same time, it’s bittersweet when you realize that Korey Wise lost 13 years of his life and it didn’t need to happen.

And it’s a cautionary tale because we know that these incidents still happen and there isn’t equal application of the law in our country. So, this is a warning shot to that and the fact that we always have to be aware of the inequities that existed and still exist.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA TODAY Network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, City News Service, Preemptive Love.  

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