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Today: The Trump EPA’s Light Touch on Heavy Polluters

Today: The Trump EPA’s Light Touch on Heavy Polluters
EPA inspectors who visited a former Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance found hazardous materials that California inspectors had not ordered removed, raising questions about whether states are equipped to pick up enforcement responsibilities the EPA is dropping. (Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

The Trump administration's environmental agenda is already taking a measurable toll.

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The Trump EPA's Light Touch on Heavy Polluters

Some call it industry-friendly regulation. Others call it abandonment of duty. The Trump administration's approach to the environment is markedly different from Barack Obama's and even George W. Bush's policies. Power plants have been given greater license to pollute; the dirtiest trucks are being allowed to remain on the roads; and punishment for violations has dropped sharply. This is the latest installment in our series looking at Trump's presidency one year in.

'Fake News,' Real Consequences

President Trump's "Fake News Awards" are out, despite the Republican National Committee's glitchy website: a list of 10 media errors, most of which resulted in prompt corrections and/or disciplinary action, and "last, but not least: 'RUSSIA COLLUSION!'" But he's facing some very real criticism from Republicans and Democrats over his continual attacks on the media. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona likened Trump's rhetoric to that of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and called on his colleagues to speak out. "When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn't suit him 'fake news,' it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press," Flake said.

More Politics

-- White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told lawmakers that Trump's border wall was an "uninformed" campaign promise and not likely to be funded by Mexico.

-- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke prompted a mass resignation from his National Park Service Advisory Board after it "encountered a lack of understanding that is appalling."

-- After calling for new restrictions on warrantless surveillance, Democrats helped kill major changes to the program.

-- Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is expected to be interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigators instead of testifying before a grand jury.

The Koreas' Olympic Spirit

Is it a breather or a breakthrough? At next month's Winter Olympics, North and South Korea plan to march together under a unified flag at the opening ceremony — and may even join forces for a women's ice hockey team that would be an Olympic first for the two countries. Whether it signals a bigger reduction of tensions on the Korean peninsula is open to debate; experts say, at the very least, it's a step in the right direction. But the real test is likely to come after the Games, when U.S.-South Korea military exercises are planned.

Digital Haves and Have-Nots

It's a tale of two states (no, not the New California breakaway effort): While cities have become technology hubs in the Golden State, rural communities often still deal with dial-up modems, despite efforts in recent years to bridge this digital divide. The disparity in access to broadband has an effect on educational and job opportunities, which is why a group of state lawmakers last year set out to make sure nonurban areas get up to speed. It wasn't easy.

Students use Chromebooks at Waggoner Elementary School in Winters, a Northern California farming community where most students did not have computers at home until a few years ago.
Students use Chromebooks at Waggoner Elementary School in Winters, a Northern California farming community where most students did not have computers at home until a few years ago. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Signs of the Times at Sundance

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The Sundance Film Festival has long been part marketplace, part getaway for Hollywood, but lately it's not been that simple. Last year saw heavy political overtones, as Trump's inauguration took place 2,000 miles away. This year, the fallout from Hollywood's sexual harassment and abuse scandals hangs in the air. (Witness: a new code of conduct for attendees.) Against this backdrop, film critic Kenneth Turan says the lineup of movies looks to be the strongest in years. Here's his look at the best of the fest, as it starts today in Park City, Utah.

MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- Caltrans crews are using explosive charges to fracture massive sandstone boulders that are plugging up creeks in Montecito.

-- A landslide is threatening a three-story hillside home in Malibu.

CALIFORNIA

-- Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas called Blaze Bernstein's killing an "act of rage," as the victim's former classmate was charged with one felony count of murder.

-- Columnist Steve Lopez profiles a couple who have invested $50 million in L.A.'s neediest kids and are reupping for $35 million more.

-- A proposed November statewide ballot measure on lead paint health hazards could allow three of the nation's biggest paint companies to hand taxpayers a bill for the cleanup costs.

-- A report says California had 77 of the country's 100 most expensive ZIP Codes last year for home sales. New York came in second place with 19.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

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-- "I am ashamed I did this": Working with Woody Allen has caused actors to reflect on and rethink their involvement.

-- "The Handmaid's Tale" returns in April and should have some interesting surprises.

-- This is your last chance to put a bird on it: "Portlandia" is closing up its painfully hip artisanal shop this season.

-- The Netflix comedy "Step Sisters" created some online buzz that was not so good, but it's more than meets the eye.

CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

"Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." Oliver Hardy, who was born on this date in 1892, made about 200 films with Stan Laurel, fumbling their way through one situation after another. When Hardy died in 1957, Laurel reportedly said: "What's there to say? He was like a brother. That's the end of the history of Laurel and Hardy."

NATION-WORLD

-- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says it's crucial for the United States to stay in Syria to prevent Islamic State militants from regrouping, to thwart Iranian influence and see the exit of President Bashar Assad.

-- One overlooked factor in Iran's protests: Climate change, and the widespread perception that Iran's leaders are mishandling the growing problem of water scarcity.

-- Pope Francis brought a message of peace and reconciliation to an area of central Chile that has experienced a rash of violence attributed to indigenous Mapuche activists trying to reclaim ancestral lands.

-- The British government is targeting the public health scourge of loneliness. So much for that "stiff upper lip."

BUSINESS

-- Apple says it will repatriate what is believed to $245 billion from overseas as a result of the new corporate-friendly tax law and invest more than $30 billion in the U.S. over the next five years to create more than 20,000 jobs.

-- After complaints from advertisers, YouTube will now impose stricter criteria for the types of videos that can earn money and will introduce a new vetting process for its "preferred" content.

SPORTS

-- The Dodgers are facing some tough decisions to hold their payroll under $197 million this year. Columnist Dylan Hernandez explores the options.

-- The NBA suspended Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza and guard Gerald Green two games each without pay for entering the Clippers' locker room after Monday's game.

OPINION

-- Just asking here: Is it too much to expect Congress to govern without extortion and pushing things to the brink, as another possible shutdown drama plays out?

-- Two homeschool graduates say the Perris child abuse allegations fit a widespread and disturbing homeschooling pattern.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- Trump supporters make their best case for the president's first year in office. (New York Times)

-- "All the presidents' menus": A 2012 listing of the favorite foods of American leaders before Trump. (The Awl)

-- "Do audio books count as reading? And other pernicious questions that arise for visually impaired book-lovers." (Literary Hub)

ONLY IN L.A.

The Hollywood sign may be one of L.A.'s best-known landmarks, but dealing with starry-eyed tourists has been a perpetual problem for the neighbors. A new consultant's report offers some solutions, including the mundane (guideposts) and the fanciful (an electric shuttle or aerial tram). It even suggests a second sign on the hills facing Burbank. Our favorite reader comment: "The sign facing Burbank should read: 'SEE OTHER SIDE.' "

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

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