Videos show a herd of cows stampeding through Los Angeles as people try to lasso them after they broke free from a nearby slaughterhouse

A cow resting on hay. Cattle embryos have been found to be securities in the past.
Even cattle embryos have been found to be securities.

  • 40 cows raced through Pico Rivera streets after they escaped from a nearby slaughterhouse.
  • One cow was shot, while another trampled a Los Angeles resident.
  • Several residents captured the scene on video as police attempted to wrangle the wily cows.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

40 cows raced through a Los Angeles neighborhood on Tuesday night.

One cow trampled a Pico Rivera resident, sending him to the hospital, NBC News reported. Another cow was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputy after it charged a family of four, including a baby, according to KABC.

Many residents attempted to capture the stray cows on foot, video footage shows, but LASD officers quickly took over, bringing in lassos and barricading the cows into a cul-de-sac.

A crowd developed and captured the scene as it unfolded on video. One clip shows a cow bucking as a man tries to lasso it. The videos show the cows running through the neighborhood, feeding on nearby gardens and busting down mailboxes and fences.

The cows had escaped from a nearby slaughterhouse after a gate was left unlocked, NBC Los Angeles reported. The herd appeared on Beverly Road and Durfee Avenue in Pico Rivera around 8:30 pm. At the time the LASD warned residents to stay away from the scene.

It took several hours for the LASD to wrangle the herd of cows into a trailer. 38 cows were recaptured within two hours, while one cow evaded police until after 11 pm, ABC News reported.

It’s not the first time a herd of cows has caused a stir. Earlier this year, over 65 cows escaped from a farm in Indiana and stopped highway traffic as they barreled down the roads. This time last year, about 200 goats raced through San Jose, California.

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Drought maps show the western US at its driest in 20 years – a ticking time bomb for even more fires and power failures

low water levels at lake oroville reveal bare shorelines
Low water levels at California’s Lake Oroville, June 16, 2021.

The western US was already withering in severe drought when a heat wave struck last week. Temperatures reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit in Las Vegas, 115 in Phoenix, and over 110 for eight days straight in Tucson.

Daily highs shattered hundreds of records across the West, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency, saying the heat wave put “significant demand and strain on California’s energy grid.”

The hottest months lie ahead, so this early extreme weather could foreshadow another devastating fire season. Last year’s fires burned a record 4 million acres in California, 1.07 million in Oregon, and at least 713,000 in Washington.

Current drought conditions across the West and Southwest are more widespread and severe than they’ve ever been in the 20 years the US Drought Monitor has been mapping them.

Map of droughts in US from June 2021
A recent drought map of the US shows “exceptional” drought levels in the West.

Compare that to June of last year, mapped below.

Drought map of the US from 2020
A drought map of the US from June 2020 shows moderate drought in the western region of the country.

“I’m worried about this summer,” Kathleen Johnson, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California, Irvine, told The Guardian. “This current drought is potentially on track to become the worst that we’ve seen in at least 1,200 years. And the reason is linked directly to human-caused climate change.”

Scientists can’t attribute an individual drought or heat wave directly to climate change. But rising global temperatures are changing the western US profoundly: Warmer air causes more moisture to evaporate, which leads soil to dry out. That raises the risk of drought and leaves forests full of tinder-dry foliage, primed for wildfires.

Heat waves occur three times more often and last about a day longer than they did in the 1960s, according to records of such waves across 50 US cities. They also start earlier and continue later into the year – the heat-wave season is 47 days longer than it was in the 1960s.

The drought turned the San Gabriel reservoir lake bed to dust
The drought turned the San Gabriel reservoir lake bed to dust

“Much of the western United States will continue the trend of hot and dry weather, much like the summer of 2020,” Brandon Buckingham, a meteorologist at AccuWeather, told Insider. “Each and every western heat wave throughout the summer will only heighten wildfire risks.”

Meteorologists expect yet another heat wave, mostly over Northern California, next week.

Summer may bring blackouts, water shortages, and wildfires

california wildfire lnu complex fire.JPG
A burning home seen along Cherry Glen Road during the LNU Lighting Complex Fire on the outskirts of Vacaville, California, on August 19, 2020.

Hundreds of thousands of Californians already face water-use restrictions in the Bay Area, since reservoirs are dwindling and there’s almost no snowpack to replenish them. Gov. Newsom has declared drought emergencies in 41 of the state’s 58 counties, encompassing 30% of California’s population.

Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the US, which provides water to 25 million people across Arizona, Nevada, California, and Mexico – is at its lowest level since it was filled in the 1930s.

California’s second-largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, has fallen to “alarming levels,” a California Energy Commission spokesperson told CNN on Thursday. Normally, the lake’s water pumps through the Edward Hyatt Power Plant to generate electricity for 800,000 homes. But the reservoir is currently at just 35% capacity – less than half the historical average.

heat map of US heat wave shows record temperatures above 110 degrees across southwest
Temperatures across the West and Southwest reached record highs during the June heat wave.

When heat waves roll in, even more water evaporates. At the same time, people crank up air conditioners, causing energy demand to spike. This can strain the power grid and lead to rolling blackouts. It happened last year: When a heat wave hit in August, hundreds of thousands of residents lost power in increments of up to 2.5 hours. Those were California’s first rolling blackouts in 19 years.

That’s different from PG&E’s safety shutoffs, though, which are meant to prevent aging power lines from starting wildfires and can last for days. PG&E has warned that such shutoffs could be more frequent this year than in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal.

lake mead's low waters expose pale cliffs behind the hoover dam
Low water levels expose the edges of the Hoover Dam reservoir of Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada, June 9, 2021.

With no end to the drought in sight, officials expect they’ll be forced to close Edward Hyatt Power Plant plant in two or three months, CNN reported.

That’s the time of year when wildfires typically peak. But already this year, blazes have forced evacuations in California’s Monterey and Shasta counties. Smoke from fires in Arizona and Utah has billowed over Colorado.

wildfire smoke plumes over dry hills and a highway road
Smoke plumes rise from a wildfire in Arizona, June 7, 2021.

An active monsoon season in July and August may chip away at the drought in the Southwest, Buckingham said, but West Coast states will probably see no such relief.

“The fires we saw in the last couple of years were really awful, and this year it seems like we’re on that same trajectory,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The Guardian. “It kind of feels like deja vu.”

Grace Kay contributed reporting.

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Take a look at some of the lakes in California that have been swallowed up by the ‘megadrought’

California drought
  • California has been hit by a “megadrought” that has dried up key reservoirs in the state.
  • Entire lakes have shrunk exponentially, leaving yachts and docks beached on dry land.
  • Nearly 95% of the state is experiencing “severe drought” and is susceptible to wild fires.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California is facing its worst drought in over four years.

Over 37 million people have already been impacted by the “megadrought” and nearly 95% of the state has been classified as experiencing “Severe Drought,” which puts the land in significant danger of wildfires, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

Last year, California land was consumed by over 8,200 wildfires – a number double the state’s previous record. This year, scorching weather has dried out reservoirs and made the state even more susceptible to breakout wildfires than the record 2020 season. NIDIS analysts call the outlook for the land “grim.”

california wildfire
October 15, 2017.

Water levels of California’s over 1,500 reservoirs are 50% lower than they should be at this time of year, Jay Lund, co-director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC-Davis told the Associated Press.

In April, scorching weather turned the San Gabriel reservoir lake bed to dust. The reservoir is not expected to see rain fall until the end of the year.

The drought turned the San Gabriel reservoir lake bed to dust
The drought turned the San Gabriel reservoir lake bed to dust

On Wednesday, the drought dried up a lake so much that it potentially exposed a decades old mystery, allowing officials to find a plane that had crashed in 1965.

A composite image showing Folsom Lake, California, at drought levels in 2017, and a sonar image of a plane underwater there.
Folsom Lake, California, under drought conditions in 2017 (L), and the sonar image of a plane there taken by Seafloor Systems (R)

The California drought has been caused by climate change which has pushed temperatures an average of about 2 degrees hotter, drying out soil and melting Sierra snow rivers, which causes less water to soak into the ground, as well as flow through rivers and reservoirs. The state also endured two unusually dry winters that didn’t bring needed storms to the area.

Officials are predicting the water level of Lake Oroville – a primary body of water that helps the state generate energy through hydroelectric power plants – will hit a record low in August. If that happens, they would need to shut down a major hydroelectric power plant, putting extra strain on the electrical grid during the hottest part of the summer.

Earlier this month, about 130 houseboats had to be hauled out of the lake as its water levels hit 38% capacity. The water levels are only at about 45% of average June levels, according to California Department of Water Resources.

House boats pulled out of Lake Orovill

It’s going to be a rough summer for boat owners in the state.

Pictures from the Associated Press show massive lakes have run dry, leaving boats and docks completely beached

Boats at Fulsom Lake

Experts say the drought could devastate local wildlife populations, as well as California’s tourism industry.

California drought

In April, Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference in the dried up waterbed of Lake Mendocino. Where he stood there should have been about 40 feet of water.

“This is without precedent,” Newsom said. “Oftentimes we overstate the word historic, but this is indeed an historic moment.”

California drought

The month before, the California Department of Water Resources reduced farmers and growers to 5% of their expected water allocation in March. A move that has farmers leaving large portions of their land unseeded, while other have been forced to purchase supplemental water, which comes at a hefty cost. Supplemental water was priced at $1,500 to $2,000 per acre-foot in mid-May, according to a report from California Farm Bureau.

It has also made it difficult for ranchers to feed and water their livestock

California drought

As California temperatures continue to rise while water reservoirs fall, the state could be in for a devastating summer. From increased fears for wildfires to the impact on state agriculture and tourism, California residents are bracing for the worst drought season since 2014.

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California launches digital vaccine verification system but says it will not be mandatory

A man holds his vaccination reminder card after having received his first shot at a pop-up vaccination site next to Maximo Gomez Park, also known as Domino Park, Monday, May 3, 2021, in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami

  • California launched a digital vaccine verification system.
  • The state just reopened, so businesses can use the system to enforce rules to protect against COVID-19.
  • New York state has a similar program, called the Excelsior Pass.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California just released a new digital vaccine verification system that residents can use in place of a the small CDC cards to prove they are inoculated against COVID-19.

The portal asks Californians to enter some personal information, including age and date of birth. If the information matches the official records, the user will receive a text or email with a link to their digital record, which has a QR code that can be scanned to show authenticity.

The digital vaccine cards are not “vaccine passports,” the state says. They contain only the same information as the CDC paper cards, and California will not make them mandatory. The digital version is just “one of the options to show proof of vaccination” for the coronavirus, the state says in the FAQ section.

California officially reopened on June 15, dropping requirements for physical distancing, capacity limits on businesses, and a tier system that varied the requirements by county. The nearly 20 million vaccinated residents of the state can use the new system to prove their vaccination status at businesses that require it, though most are not verifying vaccination.

New York state launched a similar program in March. The Excelsior Pass was built by IBM and allows New Yorkers to go to events that exceed the state’s social gathering limit. The 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden in New York City and 17,500-seat Times Union Center in Albany were both early adopters of the system.

The pass will alleviate issues for people who lost their vaccine cards, but some might have issues accessing their information. Not all records include contact information, and some of it may be outdated, according to Rick Klau, California chief tech innovation officer.

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Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act, ruling that Texas doesn’t have standing to challenge Obama’s signature healthcare law

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

The US Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, saying that the red states challenging the law in the case lacked standing.

The 7-2 ruling leaves the Obama-era healthcare law intact and preserves healthcare coverage for millions of Americans.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barret, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas.

The case, California v. Texas, was the third challenge of the Affordable Care Act that the Supreme Court had heard.

Filed by a coalition of states led by Texas, the case challenged the “individual mandate” provision, in which people without health insurance face a tax penalty.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Photos show how people are handling extreme heat in the west, as the week sees record temperatures

People cool off in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado on June 14, 2021.
People cool off in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado on June 14, 2021.

  • The Western part of the country will shatter multiple heat records this week.
  • About 200 million people are expected to experience temperatures over 90 degrees.
  • Officials are warning residents to look out for signs of heat exhaustion.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The western part of the US is going through a heatwave that is likely to spark wildfires.

People cool off in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Monday, June 14, 2021.
People cool off in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Monday, June 14, 2021.

The heatwave is causing a rise in power demand across much of the Western part of the country, a region that’s already experiencing drought, Axios reported. 

The heat will take the Western region from “extreme” to “exceptional” drought.

Mary Ann Brown, center, cools off in the water with her grandchildren during a heat wave in Lake Havasu, Arizona, U.S. June 15, 2021.
Mary Ann Brown, center, cools off in the water with her grandchildren during a heat wave in Lake Havasu, Arizona, U.S. June 15, 2021.

The heat will dry soils further and raise power demand, which comes at a time of decreased output at hydroelectric plants, Axios reported. 


On Monday, about 43 million people across the West and Southwest were under heat alerts.

Dogs play in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Wednesday, June 14, 2021.
Dogs play in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Wednesday, June 14, 2021.

NBC News reported that many cities are expected to hit new records for high temperatures this week. 

About 200 million people are projected to experience temperatures over 90 degrees this week.

Sarah Bulat cools off in the water during a heat wave in Lake Havasu, Arizona, U.S. June 15, 2021.
Sarah Bulat cools off in the water during a heat wave in Lake Havasu, Arizona, U.S. June 15, 2021.

About 40 million will experience temperatures over 100 degrees, NBC reported. 

Cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas are expected to stay above 110 for the rest of the week.

People cool off in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Monday, June 14, 2021.
People cool off in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Monday, June 14, 2021.

Even cities that sit at high altitudes in the mountains like Grand Junction, Colorado and Billings, Montana are expected to stay past 100°F this week, NBC reported.  

Death Valley is expected to reach 127°F.

Children play in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Monday, June 14, 2021.
Children play in the water at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek in Denver, Monday, June 14, 2021.

Las Vegas’s National Weather Service reported that they’re forecasting 10 daily records to be broken this week.


⚠️ DANGEROUS HEAT is coming to the Desert SW this week, with Excessive Heat Warnings out Monday – Saturday.
What to expect in #LasVegas?

🥵 Morning temps 88-90F
🥵 Potential to break the all-time Las Vegas heat record (117F)
🥵 Numerous broken daily records#VegasWeather #NvWx

— NWS Las Vegas (@NWSVegas) June 14, 2021

Forecasters noted that the last time temperatures were this high, it resulted in multiple fatalities.

Boat are seen on the water during a heat wave in Lake Havasu, Arizona, U.S. June 15, 2021.
Boat are seen on the water during a heat wave in Lake Havasu, Arizona, U.S. June 15, 2021.

Axios reported that during a period of high heat in Southern Nevada that lasted from June to early July 2013 “nearly 30 fatalities and over 350 heat-related injuries as well as temporary power outages” were reported. 

The National Weather Service has warned people to watch out for signs of heat exhaustion.

Sarah Bulat (L) and Tricia Watts relax in the water during a heat wave in Lake Havasu, Arizona, U.S. June 15, 2021.
Sarah Bulat (L) and Tricia Watts relax in the water during a heat wave in Lake Havasu, Arizona, U.S. June 15, 2021.


Heatstroke is caused when the body overheats due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. It’s a medical emergency & can be life-threatening! If you or someone you know is showing signs of heatstroke, call 9-1-1 immediately! #nvwx #azwx #cawx #vegasweather

— NWS Las Vegas (@NWSVegas) June 14, 2021

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Disneyland and other California theme parks just returned to full capacity – here’s what is changing

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 19: Pedestrians walk near the entrance to Disneyland Resort on February 19, 2009 in Anaheim, California. With the worsening economy, declining attendance and reduced operating income, the Walt Disney Company announced that it plans to restructure its domestic theme-park operations, which will result in the layoff an unspecified number of employees in the coming weeks. Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida will reportedly be consolidated into a single unit headed by Worldwide Operations President Al Weiss. Attendance at Disney theme parks in the US dropped 5 percent in the last quarter of 2008 compared to the previous year and in January, Disney offered buyout packages to 600 US executives.

  • California theme parks, sporting events, and concerts returned to 100% capacity on Tuesday.
  • The state health department added some regulations on vaccinations records and masking for theme parks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California theme parks, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, returned to full capacity on Tuesday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the parks could return to full capacity in May as a part of his Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The previous 15% to 35% capacity limits lifted at the same time that the entire state fully reopened.

The parks will also no longer be required to maintain physical-distancing requirements on the sites.

The California Health Department added special regulations for venues such as theme parks, concerts, and sports arenas that could be classified as “mega-events” – indoor events with more than 5,000 people, and outdoor ones with over 10,000. The venues are required to provide masks for all customers, though attendees will not be required to wear them if they have been fully vaccinated.

Customers planning on attending indoor venues must either be able to verify that they are fully vaccinated or take a COVID-19 test with a negative result 72 hours prior to entering the venue. They are expected to bring their test results or send them prior to arriving at the event.

For outdoor events, the agency recommends that the venues require a vaccination record or COVID-19 test, but will not enforce it. If an individual at an outdoor event cannot verify that they have been vaccinated, it is recommended that the venue asks the individual to wear a mask.

The California Health Department said the new mandates will run through October 1, but will be reassessed on September 1.

Disneyland reopened for the first time since the pandemic started on April 30 at 25% capacity. Since then, fans have flocked to the theme park.

Fully reopening the park will allow Disney to begin recouping from the impact of the pandemic on one of its biggest revenue streams. Last year, the media giant lost nearly $5 billion due to park closures.

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Biden restores $929 million in funding for the California high-speed rail project that was cancelled by Trump

Buttigieg Biden
Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg and President Joe Biden.

  • Biden’s administration restored $929 million in grant funding for California’s high-speed rail.
  • Trump’s administration cancelled the funding after he called the rail project “a ‘green’ disaster!”
  • The train will get passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s administration has restored about $929 million in funding for the California high-speed rail project, reversing a cancellation by President Donald Trump’s administration.

In May 2019, the administration said the state hadn’t stuck to its original plan for the high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Federal Railway Administration mentioned in a letter that month California’s “repeated failure to submit critical required deliverables” and make progress on the project.

California and its High-Speed Rail Authority responded this year with a legal action against a grouping of federal agencies and officials, including the transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg.

They requested that the grant funding be restored, saying the Trump administration’s cancellation was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.”

The parties entered talks in March, according to Reuters. A month later, Biden introduced a sweeping infrastructure proposal with about $80 billion for upgrades to Amtrak and other federal and state rail services, although high-speed rail projects were notably absent.

The parties reached a settlement on Thursday, June 10, which restored the funding and barred California from bringing future claims over the funding cancellation.

California politicians praised the funding, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi releasing a statement saying it was “great news for our state and nation.” She said the funding would keep the “transformative project moving down the track.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the news on Thursday night, saying the project had more than 35 active construction with an average of about 1,100 workers on site each day.

“Tonight’s action by the federal government is further proof that California and the Biden-Harris Administration share a common vision – clean, electrified transportation that will serve generations to come,” he said in a statement.

California voters in 2008 approved $9.95 billion in bonds to partially fund the project. In the 12 years prior to that, the state had spent about $60 million on “pre-construction” activities, according to the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan advisory group. The total project was expected to cost about $68 billion.

When completed, the train promises to be among the quickest in the US. Hitting speeds over 200 miles per hour, it will make the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles in about 2 hours and 40 minutes, according to the state.

The project officially broke ground in January 2015 under Governor Jerry Brown.

Newsom and Trump traded tweets about high-speed rail in 2019, before the Trump administration cancelled the $929 million.

“California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump said on Twitter. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!”

Newsom called Trump’s tweet “fake news,” adding: “This is CA’s money, allocated by Congress for this project. We’re not giving it back.”

Construction on the first leg was expected to be completed in 2029.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Taco Bell is giving away free tacos to vaccinated customers across California, as part of the state’s Vax for the Win scheme

Taco Bell Quesalupa + Black Bean Quesalupa
Eligible customers can claim a free Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos taco from Tuesday.

  • Taco Bell is offering free tacos to vaccinated individuals living in California.
  • Customers have to show their vaccination cards at participating locations to be eligible.
  • The deal is part of Gavin Newsom’s Vax for the Win scheme, which aims to drive up vaccination rates.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fast-food chain Taco Bell is the latest company to get in on the huge vaccination drive taking place across the state of California. It is offering free tacos to customers who have received at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccines from Tuesday.

Customers who show their vaccination card at participating California Taco Bell restaurants will be eligible for a Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos taco at no cost, the company said in a press release.

The company announced its offer as part of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Vax for the Win incentive program.

Mark King, CEO of Taco Bell Corp, said in the press release: “It’s been a tough year, and we are all ready to put COVID-19 behind us.”

“We are thrilled to do our part and give back to our home state with something everyone knows and loves to celebrate those who have made the decision to get vaccinated,” he added.

At least 70% of Californian adults have received at least one dose of immunization, according to Newsom. However, there is still a large population of young people who need to get vaccinated or receive their second dose.

The brand hopes the effort will increase vaccinations in these specific groups to help reopen the state in a safe manner.

Other companies across the US are also offering workers perks for getting immunized. Retailers like Target and Dollar General announced incentives including extra pay and paid time off, as Insider’s Natasha Dailey and Brittany Chang reported.

But for other customers, not getting vaccinated also has its perks. In March, a New Jersey gym announced it was offering free memberships to people who refuse to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

Prior to the offer, the owners of the gym were arrested last year for refusing to abide by the state’s pandemic-based orders.

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I needed more than my second Moderna shot to be ready for this OnlyFans orgy

A woman dressed in black is seen surrounded by scantily clad women dressed in pink négligée.
Alina Ratuska surrounded by performers dressed in their kinky bunny looks.

  • The Kinky Rabbit Club has emerged as one of L.A’s most exclusive sex parties as Hot Vax Summer roars to a start.
  • The club’s founder partners with sex workers who post exclusive content from the party on their OnlyFans accounts.
  • Journalist Heather Hauswirth donned a green and gold speckled catsuit to see what it was like.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A crowd of 30- and 40-somethings, mostly semi-nude women, hungrily prowled about the six-million dollar Hollywood Hills mansion dressed in “disco kink.” The theme, Studio 69, was an homage to the legendary 70s playground Studio 54.

I had just watched a buff, brown-haired alpha guy in gold short-shorts and white varsity socks – he told me later he was a researcher at a local university – being pleasured by a man in a shiny speedo and a woman sporting matching metallic star pasties, all in front of a pink Kinky Rabbit statue, the club’s logo. A fluffle of onlookers applauded.

“A mouth is a mouth,” the man told me a few minutes later, stroking my hair behind my ear while we chatted on a damp sofa.

That was pretty much the ethos at the Kinky Rabbit Club, one of L.A’s most exclusive sex parties, emerging from the ashes after a year in Covid lockdown.

A dozen feet from me, another live performance was getting started: a blonde and brunette in tassels and beaded lingerie were scissoring in a glittery bathtub, drenching each other in Champagne. When the bottle popped, it squirted me right in the eye – which was not wide shut. Meanwhile, hand-made pink nipple clamps circulated as party favors.

Two women kneel over a golden bath tub in glittery beaded lingerie.
Only Fans star Kenzie Ann (right) and another performer who calls herself Ashley.

“It’s the golden age for sex workers,” Miss Kenzie Anne, the blonde in the bathtub, had told me while getting her hair and makeup done hours before the debauchery began. Well known in the adult film and in the OnlyFans world, where strippers, adult film stars, and cam girls post their X-rated content behind a subscription-based paywall, Kenzie Anne was the star attraction that night. This was her first live performance outside of her own bedroom, she told me.

Founded by sex club impresario Alina Ratuska, Kinky Rabbit brands itself as a “female-empowered” sex club. Most of the performers were not paid directly but are compensated with something they say is even more valuable – the free use of content created during the party that they would later post and monetize on their OnlyFans accounts.

The platform exploded in popularity during the pandemic, especially after Instagram banned sexual content. Parties like this offer fresh content to help keep their subscribers engaged, they say.

Ratuska said she preferred to work with performers who have OnlyFans accounts because it allows her to cut out the middle men who manage sex workers. “Whatever people want to do, I talk to the girls and make it their thing,” she said. “I make sure the girls feel comfortable and super hot and super empowered.”

A women dressed in a low-cut bodysuit stands in front of a rabbit sculpture.
Alina Ratuska, founder of the Kinky Rabbit Sex Club awaits a night of erotic debauchery.

I came here with a hard-headed plan to do a story about sex workers emerging from the pandemic. After a year of isolation, I – straight and single – was vaxxed, waxed and ready for whatever the hell “hot vax summer” was going to be. But I had no idea what I was in for.

For the occasion, Ratuska had loaned me a green and gold speckled catsuit with a black leather waistband and plunging V-neck that she designed herself. It fit like a latex glove–latex being a popular fashion choice with this crowd. I could barely breathe.

Party-goers drifted to the open bar where they could order drinks like a Kinky Mule or the Fifty Shades of Greyhound.

“I’ll have two shots of anything,” said my new friend, the researcher in gold disco shorts, as he wiped his sweaty brow and flirted with the shirtless bartender. Around us, a few people critiqued his performance. “I’m not sure he got it up the first time,” suggested a woman standing next to me in black bell bottoms, a lace bralette and purple wig. “But they did a good job covering him.”

It was all what you might imagine a wild sex party looks like: attractive people, predominantly women, in outlandish costumes, wontonly frolicking around to a fun and flirty theme. This being 2021, there was an “honors system” that everyone present was fully vaccinated against Covid. No cell phones were allowed. Everyone could be refreshingly straightforward about what they were there for: a night of hot in-person sexual thrills. “I’m over online. This is so much better than a sex party on Zoom…trust me, we’ve tried,” said a woman, wearing shiny disco flairs and a Jimmy Hendrix jacket.

Only Fans star, Vanna Bardot, wore an outfit designed by Ratuska.

After a string of erotic performances set the mood, a cluster of glittery, glistening bodies climbed a stairway.

On the next floor, in the largest of three bedrooms, a black St. Andrews Cross (a 7-foot wooden “X” graced with binding straps) was center-stage. Beyond it, a sliding door led to a balcony overlooking a pool. Below, people were smoking what I could only guess were postcoital cigarettes.

There wasn’t the usual party small talk that warms people up to strangers. It was all very direct; not a lot of foreplay.

“As a bi woman, I find it hard to meet girls who like other girls,” a busty brunette with bright blue eyes in a silver dress told me. “But this party is a place where everything is on the [table]. Where else can you get f**ked by your boyfriend and then have a girl eat you out while you are tied to a St. Andrews Cross? Now I get to have my cake and eat it too, and don’t need to worry about offending anyone–because we all know what we’re here for. Sex.”

A buxom woman, shrink-wrapped in a black minidress with orange lingerie glowing from underneath, looked fetchingly at me as she held a cat o’ nine tails. I walked over to her, and she led me to the Cross. My new friend then made me an offer. Maybe it was the Champagne residue in my eye, or the orgy churning away on the bed behind me, but I acquiesced to her invitation: to flog me on the cross.

A woman is seen wearing a low-cut sparkly catsuit and heels.
The author, Heather Hauswirth

“Let’s tie your wrists,” she said. “Sorry, I haven’t done this in a while,” I quipped. I turned my head to watch her strap my wrists and ankles to the cross, turning my body into a giant “X marks the spot.”

She started to flog me, and she was merciless. I had always thought of myself as a wannabe pain slut, but the leather straps were smacking my thighs instead of my ass. I kept offering my buns, but she never hit the mark. Another woman beelined in my direction, and we locked eyes. She touched my hair, then went in for a kiss. I turned away. It was sensory overload.

I get how such extreme sensations unhinge the mind from pedestrian concerns, not to mention the pent up stresses of a tough year. I was hoping for a cathartic release, but found myself more self-conscious than anything else. And all this, in front of an audience of expectant voyeurs.

As I climbed down from the cross, I resigned myself to the possibility that I wasn’t the sexual Olympian I had imagined I was. I had limits; a comfort zone smaller than most of the revelers around me. And yet, as I left the Kinky Rabbit Club in the early hours of the next morning, I found myself noting that the next party – a Bacchanalia, in the “kingdom of kink” – was only a month away.

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