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Newsletter: Today: Political Fuel on the Fires

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Flames erupt from the River fire in Lake County, Calif., on Thursday.
(Mark McKenna / ZUMAPRESS.COM/TNS)

Would different water or forest policies help with the wildfires in California?

TOP STORIES

Political Fuel on the Fires

When President Trump started tweeting about California’s wildfires this week, he brought up two of the state’s oldest political battles: the water and the forests. Tapping into the anger of Central Valley farmers and congressional Republicans over wanting more water for agriculture, Trump suggested that too much was flowing from rivers into the ocean. A state fire official countered: “We’re having no problems as far as access to water supply.” Trump also called for more tree-clearing, which has long been a subject of debate. His administration wants to reopen some of the most sensitive and sought-after public lands for logging and other uses, including in Los Padres National Forest north of Los Angeles. But his assertion that logging will reduce fire risk has been disputed. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik has another word for it.

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Burning Through the Record Book

All politics aside, the Mendocino Complex fire has become the largest wildfire ever recorded in California, scorching more than 283,000 acres in 11 days. The previous record? That was set by the Thomas fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties just eight months ago. Since October, the state has experienced unprecedented devastation. And the forecast is only for more to come.

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(Los Angeles Times)

Once Thick as Thieves?

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Richard Gates was Paul Manafort’s right-hand man for his consulting business in Eastern Europe and on Trump’s presidential campaign. This week, he’s serving as a key witness against Manafort in his trial on tax evasion, bank fraud and conspiracy charges. On Monday, Gates testified he and Manafort engaged in criminal activity and that it was Manafort who orchestrated multiple frauds. Gates admitted to larceny and lying of his own too, but said he’s telling the truth this time, given the terms of his guilty plea. Gates, who remained on the Trump campaign after Manafort’s departure, is scheduled to testify more today.

‘Maximum Pressure,’ Iran Edition

After pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in May, the Trump administration has brought back harsh economic sanctions on Tehran — with a second round targeting its petroleum industry planned in 90 days. The stated goal: to reach a stronger agreement to stop the Islamic Republic’s ability to build a nuclear weapon. But several European countries that co-signed the 2015 nuclear deal and want to keep it alive say they will protect businesses seeking to work in or with Iran.

More Politics

-- Kris Kobach, who headed Trump’s defunct voter fraud commission, is seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas today with Trump’s endorsement. His core issue: illegal immigration.

-- Ohio voters are heading to the polls in a special congressional election, a last dress rehearsal for the midterms.

-- Actor Steven Seagal, who was given Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin in 2016, has been named the Kremlin’s newest special envoy to the United States.

Shoved From the Platform

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Social media companies have long preached the ideal of giving a platform to everyone, even amid criticism of their sites being used for nefarious purposes. But this week, Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify gave the boot to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The companies say it’s because Jones has violated their policies. Jones, who has claimed mass shootings are “false flag” operations and the government tried to turn children and “the freaking frogs gay,” says it’s liberal censorship.

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MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- A fast-moving fire broke out in the Cleveland National Forest, burning more than 4,000 acres and forcing evacuations in two Orange County canyons.

CALIFORNIA

-- A report says Los Angeles schools are at risk because of inconsistent campus safety measures, thinly spread mental health services and inadequate coordination with other agencies.

-- Follow the money: In the governor’s race, Democrat Gavin Newsom has a massive stash, nearly five times that of Republican John Cox, as this graphic shows.

-- A new analysis says the U.S. Census Bureau stands to undercount millions of Californians in 2020, which could result in less federal funding or the loss of a congressional seat.

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-- Four Contra Costa County residents and a Los Angeles man have been identified as the victims in the crash of a twin-engine plane in a Santa Ana shopping center, as investigators look into the cause.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- LeBron James will executive-produce a Showtime docuseries called “Shut Up and Dribble,” about the cultural and political evolution of NBA players.

-- Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman are making one of the biggest gambles to hit Hollywood in recent years: bringing blockbuster production values to the notoriously low-budget online video space.

-- Bon Iver provided live accompaniment for Minnesota’s TU Dance company at the Hollywood Bowl, but some fans just wanted him to play his hits.

-- With the show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” preparing for its final season, here are five things to know.

CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

Robert Redford has been working in front of the camera for 60 years, but he says his upcoming film “The Old Man & the Gun” will probably be his last. “Never say never, but I pretty well concluded that this would be it for me in terms of acting,” he told Entertainment Weekly. As for directing and producing? “We’ll see about that.”

NATION-WORLD

-- At least 73 people were shot in one of the most violent weekends of the year in Chicago, including a seven-hour period early Sunday morning when 40 people were shot.

-- Saudi Arabia has expelled the Canadian ambassador and froze “all new business” with Ottawa over its criticism of the kingdom’s arrest of women’s rights activists.

-- Medical equipment, tents and other supplies are being rushed to the Indonesian island of Lombok after a devastating earthquake killed at least 98 people and left about 20,000 people homeless.

-- In Brazil, it’s been a deadly season for environmental activists and land defenders.

-- Master chef Joel Robuchon, who once held the most Michelin stars in the world, has died at age 73.

BUSINESS

-- An attempted drone attack in Venezuela is putting the spotlight on efforts to develop counter-drone technology. It’s a market that defense industry analysts expect will only grow.

-- Consumer columnist David Lazarus unravels the case of a woman with Stage 3 breast cancer who thought she was covered by her insurer for a drug, until the bills started arriving.

SPORTS

-- The Dodgers are hoping to find the right bullpen mix for October.

-- Rashaad Penny didn’t get to play for his beloved USC Trojans, but he’s a major player for Pete Carroll on the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks now.

OPINION

-- The “Calexit” guys are back. Save us from another kooky California breakup plan, please.

-- No, the Trump Tower meeting was not “totally legal,” as these two law experts explain.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- A deep dive into Elon Musk’s tweets: when, what and why. (Wall Street Journal)

-- The many cognitive biases that trick our brains. (The Atlantic)

-- Why do we read horror stories when the world can be so horrific? (NPR)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

The Prune Packers. The Barristers. The Ugly Eagles. No, this isn’t the lineup of bands playing next year’s Coachella music festival. They’re among the athletic teams representing schools across California. And as any Earwig, Acorn or Banana Slug can tell you, behind every colorful name is an equally intriguing story.

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


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