Another milestone for 5 Freeway project is scheduled, but it means closures

Another milestone in the ongoing widening of the 5 Freeway is expected to take place at 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

New lanes on the south side of the freeway will open from half way between the Alondra Boulevard and Valley View Avenue bridges to the Orange County line, Caltrans spokesman Marc Bischoff said.

Before the new lanes open, between 9 p.m. Thursday, July 29 until 6 a.m. Friday, July 30, the freeway will be reduced to two lanes for grinding and striping layout.

Then, from 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 30 until 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31, the entire south side will be closed to allow for the traffic shift.

In addition, the southbound 605 Freeway connector to southbound 5 Freeway will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.

The closures will allow for work on new lanes in the middle of the freeway, Bischoff said.

The work is part of the $1.8 billion widening project on the 5 Freeway from the Orange County line to the 605 Freeway which will see a new general-purpose lane and a carpool lane on each side of the existing six-lane freeway.

The Valley View $631 million phase, which will be the last area on the freeway to be completed, includes a reconstruction of the 65-year-old bridge, widening it from four to six lanes, adding an underpass for the railroad just to the south of the street and realignment of frontage roads.

The Valley View phase is 81% complete.

Dusty Hill, longtime bassist with ZZ Top, dies at 72

By Jem Aswad and Chris Morris | Variety

Joseph “Dusty” Hill, ZZ Top’s bassist for more than 50 years, has died, the group’s longtime rep confirmed. No cause of death was cited.

The band’s Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard issued a statement: “We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX.  We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’

ZZ Top musicians — Dusty Hill, from left, Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard — accept an award in New York in 1999. The trio was together for more than 50 years.

“You will be missed greatly, amigo.”

Earlier this month, Gibbons and Beard played their first performances without Hill in more than 50 years, stating that the bassist had been forced to seek medical attention “to address a hip issue,” according to a statement, although his ailment was apparently more serious than they let on. “Per Dusty’s request the show must go on!,” the statement continued, and the band’s longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, filled in.

While ZZ Top was best known for their synthesizer-powered 1980s hits, they were a thoroughly Texan, heavy rock-blues band at heart, spawned from the same psychedelic scene that birthed Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators but keeping things roots and rocking throughout their more than 50-year career, even as they incorporated synthesized rhythms into their sound in the 1980s.

Hill was born in Dallas in 1949 and played cello in high school, which made for an easy transition to electric bass. He, his guitarist brother Rocky and future fellow ZZ Top bandmate Frank Beard, a drummer, played in local bands such as the Warlocks, the Cellar Dwellers and American Blues, working the same Texas touring circuits as ace guitarist Billy Gibbons’ band, the Moving Sidewalks.

The brothers parted company in 1968 over musical differences, and Hill and Beard moved to Houston, where they eventually united with Gibbons in ZZ Top. Gibbons had formed the band in 1969 and recorded a one-off independent single produced by manager Bill Ham, who would remain with them for decades. The act’s original bassist introduced the guitarist to Beard; Hill would join Gibbons and Beard for a gig in Beaumont, Texas, on Feb. 10, 1970. The lineup remained the same for more than five decades: They celebrated their 50th anniversary at a San Antonio concert in February 2020.

Launched on London Records in 1971, the Houston-bred threesome secured its first major hit with the No. 8 LP “Tres Hombres” in 1973; the set included the raunchy single “La Grange,” a homage to the Chicken Ranch, the notorious bordello in the like-named Texas city. Another top 10 album, “Fandango!,” followed in 1975, powered by the FM-staple single “Tush.” Half of that album was recorded live in New Orleans, and captured the band’s powerful blues-rock groove.

By the end of the ‘70s, ZZ Top’s potent brand of gutsy, no-frills blues ‘n’ boogie had made it one of America’s top concert attractions; its elaborate 1976 Worldwide Texas Tour featured actual livestock on stage. They moved from London Records to Warner Bros. in 1979 for “Degüello,” which shifted 1 million copies.

While the popularity of “Degüello” hinted at bigger things to come, “El Loco” (1981) introduced both the sound and the look that would put the band over the top. The first hints of the sonic manipulation that would take center stage on “Eliminator” were heard on that set. Also, two years of tonsorial neglect between tours resulted in Gibbons’ and Hill’s long beards, which graced the album’s cover.

But it moved to another level of popularity with 1983’s “Eliminator,” which found Gibbons and his band mates experimenting with new technologies – guitar loops, manipulated vocals and synthesized bass and drums — that refreshed their sound.

Hill serenades his new wife, Charleen “Chuck” McCrory, with a heartfelt rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” after their 2002 wedding ceremony in Houston.

The breakout success of three “Eliminator” singles – “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs” – and their accompanying videos, which featured car aficionado Gibbons’ like-named 1934 Ford coupe, lofted the band to a new level of commercial success and popular ubiquity. In the wake of “Recycler,” the band was cast as themselves in Bob Zemeckis’ “Back to the Future III” (1990).

“Eliminator” peaked at No. 9 and spent a remarkable 183 weeks on the American album charts, ultimately receiving diamond certification for sales of more than 10 million copies. The megahit album was succeeded by the quintuple-platinum “Afterburner” (1985) and the million-selling “Recycler” (1990).

In 1994, ZZ Top exited Warner Bros. for a highly publicized $35 million pact with RCA Records. With that move, Gibbons took on co-production duties with the band’s manager Bill Ham, who had helmed their studio work since the group’s debut single. The immediate result was the platinum album “Antenna.” Gibbons took the solo production reins on the group’s last two RCA releases, “XXX” (1999) and “Mescalero” (2003), and co-produced “La Futura” (2012) with Rick Rubin for his American Recordings imprint.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

Los Alamitos quarterback, Oklahoma commit Malachi Nelson excited about potential SEC move

Los Alamitos High quarterback Malachi Nelson didn’t factor Oklahoma’s potential move to the SEC when he recently committed to the Sooners.

But now that signs strongly point in that direction, the highly-ranked junior certainly welcomes the idea.

“The move would be very exciting,” Nelson said on Monday, July 26. “Being able to battle every week in the SEC would be unreal.

“It would help me as a player and us as a team be ready for a title run.”

Nelson’s comments arrived as Oklahoma and Texas told the Big 12 Conference on Monday that they would not be renewing their grants of media rights after they expire in 2025. On Tuesday, the schools told the SEC that they are interested in membership beginning July 1, 2025.

Nelson, the No. 2-ranked passer in the class of 2023 by 247Sports, said he committed to Oklahoma because of his comfort level with the coaching staff and university. He made an unofficial trip to Norman, Okla. in June.

“Also being coached by Lincoln (Riley) and to be part of the rich football history was exciting,” Nelson said of his decision.

The SEC is considered the toughest football conference in the nation with contenders such as Alabama, LSU, Georgia. Auburn and Florida among others. With the addition of Oklahoma and Texas, it would be a landmark super-conference.

U.S. new-home sales unexpectedly fall to lowest since April 2020

By Olivia Rockeman | Bloomberg

Sales of new U.S. homes dropped unexpectedly in June to the lowest since April 2020, showing a further weakening in demand against a backdrop of elevated prices and tight supply.

Purchases of new single-family homes fell 6.6% to a 676,000 annualized pace following a downwardly revised 724,000 in May, government data showed Monday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 796,000 rate.

Surging construction costs for everything from labor to transportation to lumber have held back homebuilding in recent months, contributing to skyrocketing prices while the supply of homes remains limited. Some of those supply-chain pressures may ease in the coming months, and lumber prices have retreated quickly from their recent peak.

Biden administration officials held a meeting with homebuilding industry representatives recently, with a goal of addressing the housing supply shortage and helping to ease pressures that spurred the surge in prices.

The Commerce Department’s report showed the median sales price of a new home rose 6.1% from a year earlier, to $361,800.

Housing inventory

The number of homes sold in June and awaiting the start of construction — a measure of backlogs — eased from a month earlier to 229,000, the report showed. The total number of homes sold with construction underway slipped to 289,000 in June.

There were 353,000 new homes for sale in June, the most since the end of 2008. At the same time, only 10% of those houses were already completed. More than 100,000 had not been started.

At the current sales pace, it would take 6.3 months to exhaust the supply of new homes, compared with 5.5 months in the prior month.

A separate report last week showed sales of previously-owned homes rose for the first time in five months in June as housing inventory improved slightly.

Digging deeper

  • Sales fell in three of four in U.S. regions. Purchases slumped about 28% in the Northeast, dropped 7.8% in the South and fell 5.1% in the West
  • New-home purchases account for about 10% of the market and are calculated when contracts are signed. They are considered a timelier barometer than purchases of previously-owned homes, which are calculated when contracts close
  • The new-homes data are volatile; the report showed 90% confidence that the change in sales ranged from a 23.1% decline to a 9.9% increase

The Latest: Germany considers restrictions for unvaccinated

By The Associated Press

BERLIN — German politicians were deeply divided Sunday over a warning by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff that restrictions for unvaccinated people may be necessary if COVID-19 infection numbers reach new heights in the coming months.

Chief of staff Helge Braun told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he doesn’t expect another coronavirus-related lockdown in Germany. But Braun said that unvaccinated people may be barred from entering venues like restaurants, movie theaters or sports stadiums “because the residual risk is too high.”

Braun said getting vaccinated is important to protect against severe disease and because “vaccinated people will definitely have more freedoms than unvaccinated people.” He said such policies would be legal because “the state has the responsibility to protect the health of its citizens.”

His comments fueled a debate in German politics about potential vaccination requirements. The issue has proven divisive, even within Merkel’s own Christian Democrats party. Its candidate to replace Merkel as Germany’s leader, Armin Laschet, said he opposes any formal or informal vaccine requirements for the time being.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Europe’s summer tourism outlook dimmed by variants, rules

— Two COVID-19 patients dead after power outage at Jordan hospital

— Spaniards put their faith in COVID-19 vaccines even as new cases surge

— French President Macron appeals for national unity and vaccinations to fight virus, criticizes anti-vaccination protests

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— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ISTANBUL— Turkey’s daily COVID-19 infections have increased, reaching 14,230 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Health ministry statistics show that the 7-day average is now 10,269, a significant increase from the average of the previous week at 6,880.

With nearly all restrictions lifted in July, Turks are arriving back in the cities after a 9-day holiday when they and international tourists flocked to seaside towns where masking and distancing rules were widely ignored. The COVID-19 density map on the government’s contact tracing app marked nearly all of Antalya’s city center, a popular tourist destination, in red, meaning high risk for COVID-19.

Fifty-five new deaths were also recorded Sunday, bringing the reported death toll to 50,934.

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WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are weighing revising their COVID-19 guidelines to recommend that even fully vaccinated individuals wear masks in public.

Fauci, the nation’s top government infectious disease official, told CNN’s “State of the Union” TV show that he’s taken part in conversations about altering the guidelines, something he described as being “under active consideration.”

He noted that some local areas where infection rates are surging are already urging individuals to wear masks in public regardless of their vaccination status. Fauci said those local rules are not incompatible with the CDC’s recommendation that the vaccinated don’t need to wear masks in public.

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TOKYO — Known for their towering drives, golfers Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm won’t make it to the tee box at the Olympics.

The last two U.S. Open champions became the best-known athletes to drop out of the Tokyo Games on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19.

DeChambeau’s positive came before he left the United States for Tokyo. The musclebound American famous for his game-changing swing speed will replaced by Patrick Reed.

“I am deeply disappointed not to be able to compete in the Olympics for Team USA,” DeChambeau said. “Representing my country means the world to me and it is was a tremendous honor to make this team.”

Rahm was flagged for COVID-19 for the second time in two months — he had a six-shot lead at the Memorial in early June when he was forced to withdraw because of a positive test. The Spaniard said he had gotten his final vaccine shot fewer than 14 days before that positive test.

Both players recently became first-time major champions. DeChambeau won the U.S. Open in 2020 at Winged Foot last fall, and Rahm took this year’s title at Torrey Pines in June, two weeks after the positive test at Muirfield Village.

Several dozen Olympic athletes have tested positive either before leaving for Tokyo or after they arrived.

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PAPEETE, French Polynesia — French President Emmanuel Macron has appealed for national unity and vaccination to fight the resurgent virus, and lashed out at those fueling anti-vaccination sentiment and protests.

About 160,000 people protested around France on Saturday against a special COVID-19 pass for restaurants and mandatory vaccinations for health workers. Many marchers shouted “liberty!” and said the government shouldn’t tell them what to do.

Macron visited a hospital in French Polynesia on Saturday night Tahiti time. He asked “what is your freedom worth if you say to me ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated,’ but tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?”

He said protesters are “free to express themselves in a calm and respectful manner.” But Macron said demonstrations won’t make the coronavirus go away.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia has reported a new daily high of 17,045 infections.

That pushes the country’s total confirmed cases above the 1 million mark. Daily cases in Malaysia rose above 10,000 on July 13 and have stayed there since despite a national lockdown.

The health ministry said Sunday that total infections have now reached 1,013,438. This represented a 77% rise since the lockdown began June 1.

The country’s richest and most populated state Selangor and neighboring Kuala Lumpur accounted for the majority of infections.

Total deaths in the country have also risen to nearly 8,000. Critics have slammed Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government over what they say was inconsistent policies and half-baked lockdowns that failed to curb the pandemic.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff says restrictions for unvaccinated people may be necessary if case numbers reach new heights in the coming months.

But Helge Braun said in an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he doesn’t expect another coronavirus-related lockdown in Germany.

Braun said that unvaccinated people may be barred from entering venues like restaurants, movie theaters and stadiums “because the residual risk is too high.”

Braun said getting vaccinated is important to protect against severe disease and because “vaccinated people will definitely have more freedoms than unvaccinated people.”

Braun said that such policies would be legal because “the state has the responsibility to protect the health of its citizens.”

Germany’s vaccine efforts have slowed in recent weeks and that has led to discussions about how to encourage those who haven’t yet received a vaccine to do so. More than 60% of the German population has received at least one dose while over 49% are fully vaccinated.

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AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s health minister says two coronavirus patients have died at a hospital in Amman after a short circuit knocked out power at the facility’s intensive care unit.

Health Minister Firas Al-Hawari told state media that two people were confirmed dead at the hospital.

Investigators were working to determine the cause and whether the power outage was responsible for the deaths. Former Health Minister Nathir Obeidat resigned earlier this year after several COVID-19 patients died at a government hospital in Salt when their oxygen supply ran out.

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LONDON — Chaos and confusion over travel rules and measures to contain fresh virus outbreaks are contributing to another cruel summer for Europe’s battered tourism industry.

Popular destination countries are grappling with surging COVID-19 variants.

But the patchwork and last-minute nature of the efforts as the peak season gets underway threatens to derail another summer.

Visitors to cultural and tourist sites in France were confronted this week with a new requirement for a special COVID-19 pass.

Italy has said that people will need a similar pass to access museums and movie theaters and dine inside restaurants and cafes.

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BEIJING — China has reported 32 new confirmed coronavirus infections.

Those include 27 believed to have been acquired abroad. No deaths were reported.

The National Health Commission reported that six of the cases believed to have come from abroad were in Yunnan on China’s southwestern border with Myanmar. Five were adjacent to Hong Kong in Guangdong. And four each were in Shanghai and Fujian province in the southeast.

Everyone in a county in Yunnan near the Myanmar border is due to be tested Monday and Tuesday for the virus following a spike in infections. China has tightened border controls.

China’s death toll stands at 4,636 out of a total of 92,529 confirmed cases.

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BARCELONA, Spain — Spain is working to stamp out a wave of COVID-19 infections and is relying on widespread public trust in COVID-19 vaccines.

Spain was like its fellow European Union members at first. The country got off to a slow start in administering shots compared to Britain and the United States.

But Spain quickly made up ground once vaccine deliveries started flowing to meet demand. More than 24 million Spaniards are fully vaccinated. That represents 53% of the adult population.

Amós García, president of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology, told The Associated Press that “our professionals have always believed strongly in the benefits of vaccines. We have always strongly encouraged children from a very young age to get their vaccines.”

He said general non-COVID-19 vaccination rates for children in Spain were over 95%.