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Essential California Week in Review: Fear, fire and baseball glory

A skeleton perched on a bench encourages motorists to slow down on Carbon Canyon Road in Orange County.
A skeleton perched on a bench encourages motorists to slow down near the Sleepy Hollow community on Carbon Canyon Road in Orange County.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Oct. 31.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

A fire season success. The week began with two wind-driven fires that forced nearly 100,000 people to evacuate in Orange County. But by Friday, the flames were under control, and the Silverado fire had not seriously damaged a single house. Fire officials hailed it as a rare victory, one owed to effective fire codes and good coordination.

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Election Day worries. A new poll finds fear of post-election violence is widespread among California voters. In Los Angeles, law enforcement leaders say they are prepared but aren’t aware of any specific threats.

A World Series win. On Tuesday, the Dodgers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win their first World Series since 1988. Times assistant sports editor and Dodgers Dugout newsletter author Houston Mitchell asked fans what the title meant to them. Here’s what they said.

The coronavirus took to the field too. The joy of a major win was shadowed by anxieties surrounding new COVID-19 cases linked to celebrations, including on the team itself. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tested positive, then joined his team on the field, sparking a league investigation.

Bracing for a tough winter. Fires, heat waves, a pandemic and closed schools. California’s farmworkers are struggling under the weight of it all, with little aid in sight and a winter they worry may bring illness and homelessness.

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The Disney ax falls. Employees of Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other parks have been desperately waiting to return to work. But Disney plans to lay off 28,000 people, including about 10,000 in Anaheim, and is expected to notify them Sunday. Said one worker: “I’m watching this roller coaster and hoping that it stops soon.”

The waters off Catalina held a secret. Decades ago, they were used as a dumping ground for the now-banned pesticide DDT — a toxic legacy that remained hidden until a new generation of scientists discovered the evidence.

An L.A. conflict over power escalates. The bitter discord among Los Angeles County’s top elected leaders marked the week with a push by two supervisors to explore what it would take to remove Sheriff Alex Villanueva from his elected position. Experts say their options are limited.

Homicides on the rise. In a year defined by challenges, L.A. is approaching a benchmark of violence not seen in a decade: 300 homicides in a single year. The causes are complex and varied — and some sadly familiar, including gang violence.

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Who is Charlotte Kirk? And how did she become embroiled in sex scandals that brought down multiple big names in Hollywood? It’s a complicated case winding through courts.

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1. How a photo of a dominatrix leading a man on a leash through L.A.'s bougiest grocery store went viral. Vice

2. “Autumn” by Rainer Maria Rilke. Poets.org

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3. Kamala Harris’ L.A. neighborhood of Brentwood feels less insulated after a year of turbulence. Los Angeles Times

4. These tiny homes were going to help solve Sacramento’s homeless crisis. So where are they? Sacramento Bee

5. Seven bodies, nothing stolen: Were the killings at a Riverside marijuana grow “a message”? Los Angeles Times

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

AOC’s next four years: History-making congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses her critics and looming challenges in a Vanity Fair cover story. Vanity Fair

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What a West African village’s Ebola fight can teach the U.S. about COVID-19. A health reporter considers her time spent reporting in Sierra Leone four years ago. Los Angeles Times

“Our grief was so public because I made the joy so public.” A moving essay from Chrissy Teigen about her pregnancy loss. Medium

Poem of the week: “I Woke Up” by Jameson Fitzpatrick. Poetry Foundation

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)


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