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Newsletter: Today: Man’s Inhumanity to Land

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A once vibrant Joshua tree was severed in an apparent act of vandalism at Joshua Tree National Park.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

National parks officials are back to work, trying to fix the damage caused by unsupervised visitors during the partial government shutdown.

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Man’s Inhumanity to Land

In Death Valley, piles of human waste and “toilet paper flowers” were left scattered around the desert. At Joshua Tree, rangers have found about 24 miles of unauthorized new trails carved into the desert landscape by off-road vehicles, along with some of the park’s namesake trees toppled. With the partial federal government shutdown over, at least for now, authorities are beginning to tally the damage that occurred to some of California’s national parklands. In the end, park officials say the damage was scattered but not widespread. Still, it will take time to recover.

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Trump Insults U.S. Intelligence Again

U.S. intelligence officials told Congress this week that Islamic State is still dangerous, that North Korea is unlikely to entirely dismantle its nuclear arsenal, and that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon and is in compliance with a multinational deal. President Trump’s response: to lash out at those officials, calling them “extremely passive and naive.” Trump added: “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

More Politics

-- U.S. officials say Russia made a secret proposal to North Korea: In exchange for Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Moscow offered the country a nuclear power plant.

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-- The next two years may mark the peak of California’s power in Congress. Californians now sit on all 20 of the House committees named so far. They chair four of those panels and lead another 20 subcommittees.

The New Sheriff’s Rocky Start

Right after the L.A. County Board of Supervisors rebuked new Sheriff Alex Villanueva for reinstating a deputy fired in connection with allegations of stalking and abuse, Villanueva is stoking more controversy: He attacked the Sheriff’s Department’s reforms on the use of force in jails, undertaken after a major corruption scandal, arguing they may have done more harm than good. Columnist Steve Lopez says the sheriff is off to such a bumpy start, it makes you wonder why we appoint police chiefs but elect sheriffs.

A Deputy Mayor’s Doings

During his time at L.A. City Hall, Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan forged a reputation as someone who cut red tape and cleared obstacles for real estate developers. He also raised tens of thousands of dollars in charitable donations from developers who were seeking approvals for large projects or awaiting building inspections, according to records reviewed by The Times. His name has come up in a sweeping FBI corruption probe involving developers and politicians.

A Shepherd’s Tale of Woe

The Southwest United States is still in the midst of a terrible drought, one that has hit New Mexico and the Navajo Nation reservation hard. For the Navajo shepherds who cling to centuries-old traditions, the drought’s effects are especially devastating. Some have sold their flocks — or they spend what little they have on hay to feed them. This week’s Column One feature looks at their plight. “I am their human and they trust me to take care of them,” says one. “I have to have faith in the Creator that this is happening for a reason.”

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PODCAST OF THE DAY

New sports and culture columnist L.Z. Granderson discusses the musical acts performing at the Super Bowl, the effect this game might have on future generations of football fans and more.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this day in 1957, eight people died when a Douglas DC-7B collided with a U.S. Air Force F-89 jet in the skies above Pacoima Junior High School. Three of those killed were students. The crash would become the catalyst for laws restricting test flights over populated areas and for a new statewide school disaster plan. It was also dramatized in the 1987 movie “La Bamba.”

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1957: Military and police personnel at scene of the crash of a Douglas DC-7B transport on the grounds of Pacoima Congregational Church, adjacent to Pacoima Junior High School.
(Larry Sharkey / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

-- Three back-to-back winter storms will hit Southern California today through the weekend, bringing the potential for heavy rain along with a chance of debris flows and flooding in fire-ravaged areas.

-- Now that L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he won’t run for president in 2020, a long list of issues awaits him at home. The homelessness crisis is No. 1.

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-- December home sales plunged in Southern California to the lowest level since 2007, while prices barely rose.

-- For the first time in 15 years, the number of would-be freshmen applying to the University of California has dropped.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- When Dr. Ruth Westheimer was first asked if she wanted to be the subject of a documentary, her answer was: Absolutely not. Here’s why she changed her mind — and now would like to see the film get an Oscar nomination.

-- Gina Rodriguez is busy planning a wedding, saying goodbye to the TV show “Jane the Virgin” and headlining the remake of “Miss Bala,” which she hopes performs well enough to lead to more Latino-fronted films.

-- Chicago police investigating an attack on actor Jussie Smollett have released photos of people they would like to question.

-- James Ingram, who has died at 66, sang about love not as fantasy but as lived reality.

NATION-WORLD

-- A blast of polar air enveloped much of the Midwest, causing at least eight deaths, closing schools and businesses and straining infrastructure. Still, some Midwesterners felt compelled to throw boiling water in the freezing air and post videos of the result.

-- After the deadly collapse of a dam in Brazil, families are searching for loved ones using garden tools and their hands.

-- A rights lawyer says Egypt has rounded up at least six activists in a wave of arrests coinciding with the anniversary of the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising.

-- “Lambaggedon”? Some British ranchers worry they may have to sell the farm if a no-deal Brexit ends free trade with the European Union.

-- In Tehran, the fur is flying over a ban on dogs in public places.

BUSINESS

-- Tesla’s chief financial officer has quit, as Chief Executive Elon Musk is addressing demand questions for the Model 3.

-- The Federal Reserve’s pause in interest rate increases has formally begun. It expressed new concerns about the strength of the U.S. economy.

SPORTS

-- The Rams’ Quinton Peron and Napoleon Jinnies, the first male cheerleaders in the history of the NFL, will become the first male cheerleaders in the history of the Super Bowl on Sunday.

-- The Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma has some things to say about those trade rumors. Meanwhile, LeBron James is listed as still out against the Clippers tonight.

OPINION

-- Who needs to go “back to school”? Maybe, just maybe, it’s Trump and not his advisors.

-- The myth of the shrinking middle class: Economist Brad Schiller makes his case.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- Could U.S. intervention in Venezuela be the thing that saves President Nicolas Maduro? (Foreign Policy)

-- Why Apple is doing battle with Facebook this week. (The Verge)

-- Today is the 100th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s birthday. His daughter says it’s a time to celebrate, agitate and educate. (The Undefeated)

ONLY IN L.A.

Arezou Appel, a chiropractor and acupuncture herbalist, fled her native Iran for the U.S. seven years after the revolution and taught herself how to bake by watching the Food Network and reading cookbooks. Today, she sells cookies at her own bakery. In a gas station. But not just any gas station — one with an ultramodern design in Cheviot Hills.

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


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