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Newsletter: Today: The Christmas Bear?

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Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin at the White House on Dec. 3.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Just in time for Christmas, the financial markets delivered another lump of coal.

TOP STORIES

The Christmas Bear?

Don’t send back the presents to the store just yet. But after their worst Christmas Eve performance ever, the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones industrial average are close to bear market territory; the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite is already there. Though the reasons for the declines are myriad, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin’s unusual attempt on Sunday to establish calm didn’t help. Instead, it raised new fears about whether major U.S. banks have enough cash — on top of worries about interest rates, political instability in Washington and a slowing global economy. Analysts say the market declines, while steep, have been typical of a bear market. One worry: At some point, stocks’ performance could become a drag on the economy itself. But really, given that today is Christmas, just enjoy the blessings of family and friends.

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Home Alone 2018

As the market dropped yet again, President Trump unleashed a blizzard of tweets, attacking the Federal Reserve as “the only problem” in the U.S. economy, praising Saudi Arabia’s autocratic regime, lashing out at departing Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and more. “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security,” he wrote in one tweet, which was widely ridiculed as 800,000 federal workers go without pay over the holidays because of the government shutdown. It was also the tweet that launched a thousand memes, including references to Trump’s cameo in the 1992 film “Home Alone 2.”

A Land of Unanswered Questions

In Northern California, the city of Paradise has tried to bring in some holiday cheer with a tree lighting, an ice rink and religious services, even if many people cannot be home for Christmas after losing their loved ones and houses in the Camp fire. Soon, the task of rebuilding will be front and center, as many residents and business owners plan to return. Yet imagining what the future might look like is filled with unanswered questions.

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Naughty or Nasty?

Is the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” inappropriate, politically incorrect or even “rapey”? Some radio stations this year pulled the 1944 Christmas tune over concerns about its lyrics. To that, columnist Robin Abcarian essentially says, humbug! “It’s a catchy and sly attempt at seduction, a back-and-forth about the possibility of a cozy encounter. Between consenting adults. What could be better?”

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

On Christmas Day in 1978, Paul Ricoletti wanted to give a white Christmas to his daughter Kathy, who was recuperating at home after a traffic accident. Given that snow was not in the forecast for Sherman Oaks, he did the next best thing — with ice machines. After all, he was the owner of the North Hollywood Ice Co.

Dec. 25, 1978: Paul Ricoletti, owner of North Hollywood Ice Co., dedicated this winter scene to daug
Dec. 25, 1978: After ice machines finish their work, members of the Ricoletti family have a snowball fight.
(Bill Varie / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

-- Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered new tests of physical evidence in the case of Kevin Cooper, whose quadruple-murder conviction three decades ago has come into question in recent years.

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-- Some Californians dreaming of a white Christmas can expect to get their wish, as a northern Pacific storm is forecast to drop fresh powder in the state’s mountainous regions.

-- Fans of a popular grove of redwood trees in far Northern California are racing to fund a project that would help protect the area from hordes of visitors.

-- A Canada goose and a ring-billed gull are recovering at a wildlife care center after officials said the birds overdosed on pills dumped at a park in Huntington Beach.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- Kevin Spacey will face criminal charges in a 2016 case of alleged sexual assault. After 14 months out of the public eye, he resurfaced with a video of himself as “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood.

-- What to make of the film “Vice,” a biopic about Dick Cheney? Critic Kenneth Turan calls it “brainy, audacious, opinionated and fun.”

-- On the other hand, the movie “On the Basis of Sex,” a biopic about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, lacks imagination, according to critic Justin Chang.

-- The best of 2018: The 10 (or so) songs that demanded to be replayed, featuring Cardi B, Ariana Grande, John Mayer and Sophie.

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NATION-WORLD

-- A federal judge issued an order for North Korea to pay the parents of Otto Warmbier more than $500 million, holding the country liable for the death of their son.

-- A year after Trump signed a directive slashing the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85%, Native Americans in southern Utah wonder what lies ahead.

-- How did a volcanic eruption trigger a tsunami? Indonesian scientists search for an answer as the death toll continues to rise.

-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing a collapse of his coalition and looming legal problems, announced the dissolution of Israel’s parliament and called for early elections April 9.

-- At London’s annual meat auction, it’s a carnivore’s Christmas.

BUSINESS

-- Did you get smartwatch this year? Consumer columnist David Lazarus says the devices are getting sleeker, slicker and more affordable.

-- After years of declining sales, old-fashioned paper greeting cards have remained a holiday staple.

SPORTS

-- Columnist Bill Plaschke delivers a Christmas wish list for all our teams in Southern California. A lot of them could sure use some help.

--The Lakers play today against the Golden State Warriors for the first time with LeBron James in the lineup. Though no one wants to assign too much meaning to one game, a victory could help establish the Lakers’ credibility.

OPINION

-- Who was naughty and who was nice in 2018? So many choices, so little space.

-- Some thoughts on Christmas Day: It shines, no matter where it’s celebrated.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- How NORAD’s Santa Tracker began with a call to a wrong number.

-- Dollar stores have thrived across the United States over the last decade, but the backlash against them is in full swing. (CityLab)

-- Director M. Night Shyamalan is ready for his closeup again after his Hollywood career hit rough times. (Rolling Stone)

ONLY IN L.A.

Is “Die Hard” a Christmas movie? The 1988 movie set in Los Angeles features German tank missiles, antitank missiles and a famous quote from Bruce Willis’ character: “Yippie-Ki-Yay” — uh, we can’t tell you the rest. But the action does take place on Christmas Eve. Now, the Los Angeles and New York police departments have weighed in on this hot debate. The verdict: It is a Christmas movie.

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