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Today: The Elements of a Disaster in Montecito

Today: The Elements of a Disaster in Montecito
An Orange County search and rescue team member slogs through the mud along Olive Mill Road at Hot Springs Road in Montecito. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A look at how California's largest wildfire on record and an intense rainstorm combined to create a trail of death and destruction.

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The Elements of a Disaster in Montecito

As officials in Santa Barbara County continued to search for missing people in this week's mudslides — and release the names of those who died — some wondered: Could more have been done to avoid the loss of life? Crews had cleared out debris basins and spent hours roving the foothills trying to persuade people living below the areas burnt in the massive Thomas fire to leave, sometimes to no avail because of residents' "disaster fatigue." Yet when the rains hit, they were more intense than predicted, and the landscape that made it so difficult to fight the fire also created dangerous debris flows. By the time cellphone alerts started going out, it was too late for most residents to escape.

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A house sits among boulders and mud in Montecito.
A house sits among boulders and mud in Montecito. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Trump Stirs Up a You-Know-What-Storm

It was the S-bomb heard 'round the world, the latest in a string of racial provocations from Donald Trump. "What do we want Haitians here for?" the president asked at a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office, after he had turned down a bipartisan compromise to resolve the standoff over the so-called Dreamers. "Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?" he asked, according to two people briefed on the meeting. "We should have people from places like Norway." Condemnations from many corners were swift, but rather than denying the slur, the White House issued a statement saying Trump would "always fight for the American people."

More Politics

-- A bill renewing the National Security Agency's authority to spy on foreigners, without warrants, passed the House, but not before a Trump tweet — possibly inspired by Fox News — nearly derailed the vote.

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-- Trump tweeted that he's canceled his London trip and blamed former President Obama. British media reported Trump pulled out over fears of mass protests.

-- Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is expected to testify behind closed doors as part of the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation on Tuesday.

James Franco Faces Accusations

In interviews with The Times, five women accused actor James Franco of behavior they found to be inappropriate or sexually exploitative. Four were his students, while another said he was her mentor. In some cases, they said they believed Franco could offer them career advancement and acquiesced to his wishes even when they were uncomfortable. Franco's attorney disputed the women's allegations.

Mom and Pop? There's a Knockoff Version of Them Too

For almost any global brand, chances are there's a Chinese counterfeit version. But lately, even relatively obscure companies are discovering that they too have joined the ranks of Nike shoes, Apple iPhones and Marlboro cigarettes in being knocked off. Thanks to apps like Instagram and e-commerce sites like Alibaba, the prevalence and speed of counterfeiting has only increased. Case in point: Team Dream, a San Marino maker of cycling apparel that has only five employees.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. often visited Southern California during the civil rights movement. As these photos by Times photographers show, he spoke to crowds at UCLA and the Sports Arena — and had a sometimes tense relationship with certain officials (see L.A. Mayor Sam Yorty below). On Monday, a federal holiday will mark the slain civil rights leader's birth on Jan. 15, 1929.

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Aug. 19, 1965: Martin Luther King Jr. holds a news conference at L.A. City Hall. Mayor Samuel W. Yorty, right, listens with hands over his eyes. Yorty later criticized King's suggestion that Police Chief William H. Parker resign after LAPD actions during the 1965 riots.
Aug. 19, 1965: Martin Luther King Jr. holds a news conference at L.A. City Hall. Mayor Samuel W. Yorty, right, listens with hands over his eyes. Yorty later criticized King's suggestion that Police Chief William H. Parker resign after LAPD actions during the 1965 riots. (Larry Sharkey / Los Angeles Times)

MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- Former Vice President Joe Biden says, "The younger generation now tells me how tough things are. Give me a break."

-- Film critic Kenneth Turan reviews the latest Liam Neeson thriller, "The Commuter," and says it sticks well to the formula.

CALIFORNIA

-- Legislation that would have expanded rent control in the state failed after a lengthy and heated debate in Sacramento.

-- Republican candidate for governor Travis Allen says he hopes to tap into the state's "silent supermajority."

-- Dave Toschi, a San Francisco police detective who led the long-running yet unsuccessful investigation into the Zodiac serial killer, has died at age 86.

-- A yellow-bellied sea snake found on the sand in Newport Beach prompts the question: "Are sea snakes swimming off the coast of Southern California the new normal?"

YOUR WEEKEND

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-- Try out 20 of our favorite muffin recipes, including high protein, Meyer lemon and coffee doughnut.

-- Where to get cemitas, mole de olla and more on Whittier Boulevard on L.A.'s Eastside.

-- Whistling through the graveyard? Try this walk through one of Southern California's most famous cemeteries.

-- If you're thinking of remodeling your bathroom, here are some ideas inspired by the high-end market.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- The Directors Guild of America nominations included Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele and Guillermo del Toro, hinting that the Oscar nominations in directing this year won't be all white males.

-- David Letterman is back, and he brought Barack Obama with him. TV critic Lorraine Ali takes in Letterman's first Netflix show.

-- Rocker Eric Clapton says he's going deaf. At age 72, "it's amazing to myself I'm still here."

NATION-WORLD

-- As Vice President Mike Pence prepares to visit the Middle East, Palestinian leaders are threatening to take back their 1993 decision to recognize "the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security."

-- Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' extramarital affair was "the worst-kept secret in the world," according to an attorney. It just took quite a bit of time for it to go public.

-- Here's why the State Department says these five Mexican states are unsafe for travel and were given the same designation that Libya and Yemen have.

-- Beijing won't like it, but Congress may foster closer ties with Taiwan as lawmakers work on a bill to foster more travel among officials in the U.S. and the island.

BUSINESS

-- Banc of California looked as if it was cleaning house last year. Now, former insiders have filed lawsuits claiming the new board and management staged a coup and allowed bad practices to go unchecked.

-- What to make of Alex Azar, Trump's nominee for health secretary? "If your goal is to drain the swamp," consumer columnist David Lazarus writes, "this guy's the friggin' Creature from the Black Lagoon."

SPORTS

-- Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts is trying to put all the heartache of 2017 behind him, including the death of his father.

-- USC will sit De'Anthony Melton for the remainder of the season because of the sophomore's link to the college basketball bribery case, his lawyer says.

OPINION

-- Our Editorial Board weighs in: Trump is a liar, but his "shithole" remark shows he's often scariest during the times when he says what he truly believes.

-- A law professor writes that the Teapot Dome scandal pales in comparison to what the Trump administration is doing with public lands now.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- "I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un," Trump told the Wall Street Journal. This video gives some takeaways from that comment.

-- In northern England, the government wants to plant a new forest spanning the country from coast to coast. (CityLab)

-- Why ignoring texts and emails has become commonplace yet remains anxiety-producing. (The Atlantic)

ONLY IN L.A.

From his Lakewood home, Dr. Demento still greets listeners as "Dementoids and Dementites," even though his show of musical oddities has moved from the airwaves to the internet. The good doctor (real name: Barret Hansen) may be known for championing "Weird Al" Yankovic, Tom Lehrer and the like, but he also was an early advocate of punk rock. That's why Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Vandals and more have recorded punk versions of "mad music and crazy comedy" — and Yankovic performs "Beat on the Brat" — for a new double album.

If you like this newsletter, please share it with friends. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.

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