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Newsletter: Today: On Healthcare, Democrats Are Playing the Long Game

Protesters urging an expansion of government health plans march in Florida last year as Republicans were trying to roll back the Affordable Care Act.
(Getty Images)

To deal with the shortcomings of Obamacare, Democrats see the expansion of existing public programs as a more pragmatic and politically viable way forward.

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On Healthcare, Democrats Are Playing the Long Game

Democrats have spent a lot of time defending Obamacare from Republicans trying to repeal and replace it. Now, they’re looking to overhaul the healthcare system in a different way: by expanding government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. One leading liberal think tank even released a plan for something called “Medicare Extra” for all Americans, while still giving workers the option to stick with coverage offered through an employer. Though the various Democratic proposals would be less sweeping than the “single-payer” system Sen. Bernie Sanders has advocated, they will face opposition from those in the medical industry worried about having to accept lower prices. And of course, with President Trump and congressional Republicans running the show, don’t expect to see any of them become law anytime soon. But Democrats hope that by playing the long game, they can avoid the healthcare morass the GOP fell into last year.

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Kushner’s Clearance Clash

The Middle East. China. Mexico. On all of these issues and more, Trump has gone to son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. Now there are questions about whether Kushner’s work will be inhibited, after his security clearance was downgraded along with that of dozens of other White House aides whose background checks had yet to be completed, according to a source. The change means Kushner no longer has access to the president’s daily briefing, which includes the most sensitive intelligence information. Still, Trump has the last word on who can be in the room with him when officials share it.

More Politics

-- National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers said that the United States hasn’t done enough to deter Russian meddling in national politics and that Trump hasn’t directed cybersecurity officials to take more aggressive offensive actions against Moscow.

-- White House Communications Director Hope Hicks clammed up in front of the House Intelligence Committee. She would not answer questions about her work since Trump was inaugurated.

-- Trump’s two main proposals on guns have fallen flat among already divided congressional Republicans, leaving their party united on one thing: blocking further restrictions on gun ownership.

-- Trump once called him a “hater” and brought up his Mexican heritage, but U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel sided with the Homeland Security Department on a border wall ruling.

Society’s Betrayal of the Mentally Ill

By the latest count, the mentally ill make up about one-third of the homeless in Los Angeles. Supportive housing can make a big difference for them, by offering a place to live, get medication and receive counseling. But too often, they stay on the streets or wind up in jail. The latest in a series of Times editorials on homelessness argues that making jails the centerpiece of mental health treatment is a monumental betrayal of our claim to a humane and civilized society.

A County Leaves Pot Growers Out of Joint

The Gold Rush of the late 1840s helped put Calaveras County on the map. After a devastating wildfire in 2015, the “green rush” of businesses growing out of recreational marijuana legalization helped this Northern California county rebuild. But after collecting millions in registration fees and taxes from growers, the county is now moving to ban all commercial cultivation after a vote by supervisors last month. The growers who paid all that money feel betrayed and are ready to sue.

What Puts the ‘Best’ in ‘Best Picture’?

When you hear the words “best picture Oscar,” what comes to mind? In the past, more often than not, it’s been a historical drama, an ode to Hollywood or a big musical. These days, as we head toward the Academy Awards on Sunday, it’s increasingly more difficult to pinpoint. Last year’s winner, “Moonlight,” was a surprise in more ways than one. Film critic Justin Chang says its legacy can be seen in this year’s wide-open contest. As for what will win, Chang and his colleague Kenneth Turan have made their predictions in the key races, and this graphic shows how awards season has played out so far. And who knows? They might come in handy for filling out our play-at-home Oscars ballot.

MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- Firefighters battled a blaze at a commercial building in downtown Los Angeles. One firefighter was injured, and the building was destroyed.

-- “Get Out” has an alternative ending that is among the great scenes cut from this year’s Oscar nominees. (Yes, major spoilers ahead.)

CALIFORNIA

-- Authorities are urging residents to evacuate in parts of Santa Barbara County ahead of a winter storm expected to hit the area Thursday.

-- Federal agents arrested more than 150 people suspected of violating immigration laws during a three-day sweep across Northern California. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said he thought others were able to elude arrest after the Oakland mayor gave a “reckless” alert about the upcoming raids.

-- New data show pedestrian deaths in Los Angeles have surged more than 80% in the first two years of a high-profile initiative launched by Mayor Eric Garcetti to eliminate traffic fatalities.

-- Columnist Steve Lopez looks at how California Coastal commissioners are defending their “preposterous antics” in court on the taxpayer’s dime.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- Based on Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the new Hulu series “The Looming Tower” tracks the rise of Al Qaeda. TV critic Lorraine Ali calls it “intense.”

-- Heather Graham takes on sexism in film and relationships with her directorial debut “Half Magic.”

-- Meet Rachel Morrison, the first woman ever nominated for a cinematography Oscar and the first woman to shoot a movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

-- A former E! stylist who accused Ryan Seacrest of sexual harassment has come forward to detail her allegations in a new interview with Variety. Seacrest has denied the allegations.

CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

As a young man, Charles Durning worked several jobs, including as an usher at a burlesque theater, before he was drafted into the Army during World War II. At the D-day invasion in Normandy, he was wounded and the sole survivor in his unit. At the Battle of the Bulge, he was wounded again and taken prisoner by the Germans. He eventually was awarded three Purple Hearts and the Silver Star. Durning, who was born on this date in 1923, would go on to accumulate more than 100 film credits, two Oscar nominations, multiple Emmy nods, a Tony Award and a Golden Globe before his death in 2012.

NATION-WORLD

-- The Supreme Court strengthened the Trump administration’s power to hold immigrants in jail for months or years as they fight deportation, ruling that federal law gives them no right to a bail hearing.

-- The State Department says the United States’ top diplomat handling the Korean peninsula, a 30-year foreign-policy veteran, has abruptly resigned for personal reasons.

-- If North Korea is helping Syria make chemical weapons, as U.N. officials have reportedly found, it would be part of a long history of outlaw actions by both countries.

-- Brazil’s president called up the military to control violence in Rio de Janeiro. Since then, it’s only gotten worse.

-- How life on Earth might survive on Saturn’s ice moon Enceladus.

BUSINESS

-- Are you ready for the “Hunger Games” ride? The Lionsgate studio is making the push into the theme park biz.

-- The White House has reached an “informal deal” with Boeing Co. on a $3.9-billion contract for two new Air Force One planes.

-- With its pending sale to Amazon, the doorbell start-up Ring has gone from “Shark Tank” reject to the L.A. tech scene’s latest success.

SPORTS

-- Second baseman Ian Kinsler once vowed never to play for the Angels. Now, he’s fitting right in.

-- Shareef O’Neal, a 6-foot-10 senior at Santa Monica Crossroads and the son of Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, has committed to play at UCLA, according to his coach.

OPINION

-- Columnist Gustavo Arellano says the Parkland student activists should study the East L.A. “blowouts,” which launched a movement in California 50 years ago.

-- In any other presidency, our “insufficiently accurate” secretary of Veterans Affairs would be gone, writes Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- Who is Brad Parscale, the man Trump has named as manager of his 2020 reelection campaign? (Wired)

-- Social critic Camille Paglia gives her take on Hollywood and the #MeToo movement: “Speak up now, or shut up later!” (The Hollywood Reporter)

-- Barbra Streisand discusses battling the boys’ club … and her cloned dogs. (Variety)

ONLY IN L.A.

One used to be a brothel. Another was a firehouse. But these downtown L.A. buildings from nearly a century ago are getting new lives as boutique hotels. Take a look inside a few, including a former Bank of Italy whose restrooms are accessed through a 50-ton vault door.

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


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