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Newsletter: Today: Anatomy of an Inferno

The Thomas fire makes its way down a ridge in the mountains near Montecito, Calif.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

How did the Thomas fire tearing through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties become such a monster?

TOP STORIES

Anatomy of an Inferno

The rugged terrain of Los Padres National Forest beckons with its beauty, but when wildfire strikes, it is an unforgiving beast. Heavy winds, dry conditions and thick brush have combined to make the Thomas fire the fifth-largest in modern California history; as of Monday, it had destroyed more than 600 homes and cost more than $38 million to battle. Just as firefighters learned in 1932, fighting the flames in this territory isn’t easy.

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Republicans Redo the Tax Math, Political and Otherwise

All they want for Christmas is a tax overhaul, but Republicans are finding the race to the finish line becoming more of a slog. Instead of dotting I’s and crossing T’s, they’re trying to reconcile major differences between the House and Senate versions while preventing a backlash from various GOP factions — and voters. Lawmakers will meet for the first, and perhaps only, open meeting of a conference committee to hammer out things on Wednesday, the same day President Trump plans to address the nation about tax reform.

More Politics

-- Trump cited the suspect in the New York subway bombing as an argument for his crackdown on legal as well as illegal immigration; an official says the man from Bangladesh had been inspired by Islamic State’s recent call for attacks in Western cities around Christmas.

-- The battle in Alabama between Roy Moore and Doug Jones for the U.S. Senate goes to the voters today. Here’s why it has thoroughly flummoxed pollsters.

-- Trump’s accusers are back, and this time they’re demanding Congress do something. Columnist Robin Abcarian takes a look.

L.A. Rethinks the Function of a Gang Injunction

Peter Arellano lives less than a mile from Dodger Stadium, but for two years he couldn’t wear the team’s gear — or, for that matter, associate in public with his father and two of his childhood friends. That’s because the Echo Park resident was subject to a gang injunction, even though he denies ever being affiliated with a gang. He was among 7,300 people cleared off a gang injunction list of roughly 8,900 in L.A. The massive cut came as civil rights groups and gang reform activists have pushed back against the court orders as unfair and outdated.

Golden Globes: From ‘Seriously?’ to Serious Debate

In years past, the Golden Globes nominations were looked at more for who was invited to Hollywood’s “booziest night” than themes of inclusion and cultural messaging. Not so this time, as awards columnist Glenn Whipp writes. Early Oscar front-runners such as “The Shape of Water,” “The Post,” “Lady Bird,” “Dunkirk” and “Call Me by Your Name” made strong showings. (See the complete list of nominations.) Left out of the directing category were “Get Out’s” Jordan Peele, “Lady Bird’s” Greta Gerwig and a host of other female filmmakers.

Hokkaido Melon KitKat Bars? Gimme a Break!

For decades, Japan has been a KitKat lover’s paradise. The bars come in an estimated 300 varieties, including “Shinshu apple,” “adzuki bean sandwich” and “Muscat of Alexandria.” There was even a cough drop-flavored KitKat at one point. So what’s the deal? Foreign correspondent Jonathan Kaiman breaks off a piece of the history of Japanese KitKats.

MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- The Thomas fire leaves behind a barren “moonscape” as it threatens Montecito and Carpinteria.

-- Film critic Kenneth Turan calls Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” a true wonder of the awards season.

-- My Favorite Room: Actor Jason George slows down the world in his thinking-man’s living room.

CALIFORNIA

-- Ed Lee, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco, died Tuesday.

-- Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, says she has had her own #MeToo moments during her legal career.

-- The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty walked the streets of L.A.’s skid row as part of a national tour investigating human rights conditions for the poorest U.S. citizens.

-- Officials say a woman has been arrested after trying to smoke on a Southwest flight from Portland to Sacramento, then shouting she was going to kill everyone on the plane.

-- Steve Edwards, the anchor of Fox 11’s “Good Day L.A.” and a fixture in local television and radio for more than three decades, “is no longer employed” at the station, according to a Fox spokesperson.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- Chef Mario Batali stepped away from the day-to-day operations of his culinary empire and from the ABC show “The Chew,” as allegations of sexual misconduct emerged.

-- Stevie Wonder had some altruistic reasons for performing his albums “Talking Book” and “Innervisions” from beginning to end at Staples Center.

-- Keaton Jones, the Tennessee boy whose tearful reaction to bullying was captured on video, got waves of celebrity support. Now, his family is dealing with a social-media backlash.

-- “Cat Person,” a short story published in the New Yorker, has set off a fierce social media debate about misogyny.

CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

Ol’ Blue Eyes. Chairman of the Board. The Sultan of Swoon. Francis Albert Sinatra had many nicknames, but for three generations he was simply the Voice. Sinatra — who was born on this date in 1915 in Hoboken, N.J., and died in 1998 — did it his way, of course. He even had some advice for George Michael in 1990, sending a letter to The Times that read in part, “Loosen up. Swing, man. Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice.”

NATION-WORLD

-- The Supreme Court has put off for a year or more a ruling on whether gays and lesbians are protected from job discrimination under the federal civil rights law.

-- Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a surprise visit to Syria, where Bashar Assad told him: “Thanks a million.”

-- Ambassador Dennis Rodman? The retired basketball player plans to organize a game of hoops between North Korea and the U.S. territory of Guam to ease tensions.

-- Saudi Arabia announced that it will allow movie theaters to open for the first time in more than three decades.

-- NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn came to a fiery end in September, but observations made by the spacecraft in its final months still have plenty to teach us about the planet.

BUSINESS

-- Walt Disney Co.’s planned acquisition of much of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox media company, which could be completed as early as this week, may prompt a brain drain of high-level Fox executives.

-- Columnist David Lazarus warns that your internet bill is about to soar, thanks to Trump’s FCC.

SPORTS

-- LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball have signed contracts to play with a Lithuanian team for the rest of the season, according to their agent.

-- Can’t forget the Dodgers’ loss in Game 7 of the World Series? Columnist Bill Plaschke suggests it’s really hard for fans to get worked up over next season.

OPINION

-- Nikki Haley says Trump’s accusers deserve to be heard. We agree.

-- National Republicans say they care about Roy Moore’s sex abuse scandal. What about all his other affronts to decency?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- What does Putin really want? (The Atlantic)

-- A Supreme Court decision based on faulty evidence: That’s apparently what happened in a case involving criminal sentencing. (ProPublica)

-- The internet is changing language, but not ruining it. (The Economist)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

In the early 1960s, Bruce Brown was among a small group of filmmakers who barnstormed Southern California with low-budget films about surfing and the beach. Thanks to some guerrilla marketing, his film “The Endless Summer” captured the imagination of a nation. Here’s how Brown, who died at age 80 in Santa Barbara over the weekend, shot the curl on film.

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


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