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Press Play with Madeleine Brand


Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.

Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.


Santa Monica, CA




Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.




Top conservatives make an about-face on vaccines, will more people decide to get shots?

Steve Scalise, the second highest ranking Republican in the House, got vaccinated against COVID on Sunday. He said today outside the Capitol: “We’ve expressed confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. ... I would encourage people to get the vaccine.” Fox News’ Sean Hannity said on Monday: “Please take COVID seriously. I can’t say it enough. … We don’t need any more deaths.” That was a stark about-face from a host on a network that spent more than a year downplaying the...


We need a cultural shift when it comes to vaccine requirements, says state lawmaker Buffy Wicks

Pasadena will be the first Southern California city to require its city employees to get vaccinated against COVID. The UC system is also requiring its students and teachers to be vaccinated before the fall semester starts. California State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks tweeted on Tuesday that it’s time to make vaccinations mandatory as California’s COVID surge continues. She also wants businesses to start requiring customers to show proof of vaccination before they can enter. “Many counties...


Doctor on both frustrations and hope in managing COVID surge

Coronavirus cases are rising in every state, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant. In the last week, the U.S. averaged 32,000 cases a day, according to John Hopkins University. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has described this moment as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” as nearly every new infection, hospitalization, and death is happening to people who haven’t gotten their shots. This is frustrating doctors who are once again overrun with COVID-19 patients. “There's a sadness or...


Tokyo Olympics: COVID anxiety rises as major athletes and staff test positive

With the Tokyo Olympics opening this Friday, about 60 new COVID-19 cases have been reported, including among U.S. athletes Kara Eaker, Coco Gauff, and Katie Lou Samuelson. “Think about all of the stress that occurs with training for a normal Olympics. Now on top of that, you have … athletes who are going to be put in isolation because either they're a close contact, or … they are testing positive and we will get more positive tests,” says ESPN national reporter Michele Steele. “That is what...


People living with HIV have higher risk of severe consequences from COVID, says WHO

Patients infected with HIV have a higher chance of dying from COVID-19 by 30%, according to a new study from the World Health Organization. HIV-positive patients are also more likely to become severely ill from COVID, and more likely to die if hospitalized with the virus.


LA’s latest COVID surge: 1000 cases for fifth day in a row

On Tuesday, for the fifth consecutive day, LA County reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. The county hasn’t seen these numbers since early March, when the fall/winter surge was easing. Hospitalizations are also ticking up now, while deaths have stayed relatively low.


Why Olympic athletes in Japan must sign liability waivers

The 2021 Olympics are less than two weeks away, and Tokyo is entering another state of emergency prompted by a resurgence of COVID-19 in the region. The International Olympic Committee says the games will be safe, but it’s also making athletes personally take on all coronavirus-related risks by signing liability waivers. “You have optics on the one hand — the IOC saying, ‘Oh, it's going to be safe and secure.’ And yet the substance of what they're doing is inserting legal language about...


Nation’s largest reservoir hits record low. What does that mean for West Coast residents?

Heat and drought are both straining the state’s water supply, and Governor Gavin Newsom is asking residents to voluntarily reduce water consumption. People across California, Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico all rely on Lake Mead for their water supply. But the lake is only 35% full now, which is a level not seen since the 1930s.


How US leadership failed during COVID, according to former White House senior advisor

LA County says the average daily COVID case rate and test positivity rate have doubled in the past week. That’s partly due to the highly contagious Delta variant, which is affecting unvaccinated people. Andy Slavitt is President Biden’s former senior advisor on COVID, and the author of “Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response.” He talks to KCRW about the risks the Delta variant poses, and how political...


Some LA restaurants struggle to hire staff and get out of financial hole

Nearly a third of California’s restaurants went out of business and 1 million jobs were lost since the beginning of the pandemic. Now restaurants are struggling to rehire wait and kitchen staff. There are also ingredient shortages and new safety measures like QR-code menus and cashless policies.


Adapting the human body and infrastructure to high temperatures

Another heatwave is sweeping through California this week. Some regions could see record-breaking temperatures above 110 degrees. Death Valley could hit 130 degrees. “We're seeing record temperatures multiple times a year and [in] multiple parts of the world. Even at those levels, that can be quite dangerous. … There's a maximum level of heat and humidity that the body can tolerate,” says David Wallace-Wells, editor-at-large at New York Magazine, and author of “The Uninhabitable World: Life...


For Black Angelenos, COVID cases and hospitalizations are spiking as Delta variant spreads

The Delta variant is the most common strain across California now, and in LA County, the coronavirus infection rate for African Americans has jumped nearly 20% over a recent two-week period. Hospitalizations have also risen. “This is a group who sometimes waives the risks and benefits a little differently. Maybe they think that they're not going to be infected, maybe that COVID is not a big deal. And that's why they're not prioritizing vaccinations. And that's where we really have to get...


Amazon: Its rise, influence over consumers, and calls to break it up

On July 5, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO but remain the company’s executive chairman. Press Play looks at how Amazon became the world’s most powerful retailer and got consumers hooked, and why you might not need your Prime membership.


San Jose considers mandatory insurance and fees for gun owners

San Jose could become the first city in the U.S. to require gun owners to carry liability insurance. It’s also exploring the introduction of an annual fee for all gun owners. This week, the city voted to explore how the policies might work. An official vote on these gun regulations could take place in September.


Austin Beutner’s record and reputation as LAUSD superintendent

Austin Beutner is stepping down after three years as superintendent of the second-largest school district in the U.S. In his farewell speech on Monday, he said the LA Unified School District is “well on the path to recovery” after a turbulent year. What does his three-year record look like? KCRW talks with LAUSD Board member Jackie Goldberg and West LA-based parent Danna Rosenthal, whose two children are enrolled in the district.


‘Hotshot’ firefighters quit over low pay and dangerous conditions as heat and drought increase

Three major fires are now roaring in the Inland Empire, Central Valley, and California-Oregon border. More than 10,000 acres have burned so far, forcing thousands to evacuate and a highway to close. However, the firefighters best equipped to tackle large infernos across rugged terrain are quitting. They’re called “hotshots” and are employed by the federal government. “We're the folks with the 45-pound packs, chainsaws and hand tools. … We are put in some of the most remote places to be...


Delta variant of COVID rapidly spreads worldwide

The delta variant of COVID-19 was first identified in India and is now surging in the U.K., Israel, and South Africa. In California, the delta variant accounts for nearly 15% of cases. While vaccinations seem to provide protection, public health officials are increasingly concerned about what this means for unvaccinated people. USC’s Dr. Edward Jones Lopez says although this variant appears to be more infectious and potentially deadlier, it doesn’t necessarily appear to be a major concern...


Actor/director Andy Señor, Jr. on taking ‘Rent’ to Cuba

Nearly 25 years ago, “Rent” took Broadway by storm. The show focuses on struggling artists in the East Village during the late 1990s, dealing with the AIDS crisis. A film adaptation later followed. A few years ago, “Rent” became the first Broadway musical performed in Cuba in 50 years. That musical was directed by Andy Señor, Jr. Previously, he spent nearly a decade performing the role of Angel in the Broadway production. He’s also Cuban-American. His parents fled Castro and communism for...


New documentary ‘A Sexplanation’ explores stigma around sex

It’s safe to say that for many people, high school sex education can lead to more confusion about sex, rather than answers. That was especially true for freelance science reporter Alexander Liu, who grew up in the 1990s and later came out as gay. So, he went on a quest to learn about sex and its role in society. He captured it all in a new documentary called “A Sexplanation,” which he directed. Liu says that at the core of the documentary is the desire to open up the conversation around sex...


New documentary highlights trans student athletes struggle to play

Over the last six months, Republican-led state legislatures nationwide have passed a slate of laws restricting the rights of transgender Americans. Nine states now ban trans girls from playing on sports teams. Filmmaker Michael Barnett started following the issue years ago, and his documentary ‘Changing the Game’ follows three trans high school athletes dealing with the issue firsthand. The film is now on Hulu. At the center of the documentary are students who just want to live their...