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People protest officials' handling of sexual misconduct allegations involving former university gynecologist George Tyndall at USC in June.
People protest officials' handling of sexual misconduct allegations involving former university gynecologist George Tyndall at USC in June. (Los Angeles Times)

It looks like USC has finally gotten the message.

Following a series of scandals on campus that were only made worse by the administration’s attempts to quietly bury the problems, the university announced Friday that it had reached an agreement to pay $215 million to patients treated by Dr. George Tyndall, the longtime campus gynecologist accused of abusing and sexually harassing patients.

The “agreement in principle” calls for the university to provide $2,500 to every student who ever saw Tyndall at the campus health clinic and up to $250,000 to students who provide a written claim of abuse and who agree to be interviewed by a psychologist. An independent evaluator appointed by the court will decide the individual award.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
A group of Honduran migrants, near the border of Honduras and El Salvador, continue their journey to the United States on Oct. 18.
A group of Honduran migrants, near the border of Honduras and El Salvador, continue their journey to the United States on Oct. 18. (Rodrigo Sura / EPA/Shutterstock)

In the build-up for the midterm elections, Democrats are flailing Republicans over health insurance for people with preexisting conditions, and President Trump is flailing Democrats over a caravan of Central American migrants heading toward our southern border.

Both of these issues speak to deep-seated insecurities among overlapping groups of voters — the well-founded concern about rising healthcare costs, and less-well-founded fears about demographic and economic changes in this country. And both also shine a spotlight on what and whom Democrats and Republicans value. 

But the two issues are being thrust at voters as if they were mountainous when, in terms of the number of people involved, they look a lot more like molehills.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law

President Trump mouthed some of the right words Thursday when he said it appears that dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had probably been murdered and that the consequences would be “very severe” if blame is firmly tied to the Saudi government. But, hours later at a campaign rally, he praised Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte, who won a special election last year despite body-slamming a Guardian journalist to the ground — an act for which Gianforte later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge.

“By the way, never wrestle him,” Trump said to laughter from the crowd. "Any guy who can do a body slam ... he's my guy.”

  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
  • Election 2018
State Sen. Kevin de Leon and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein after their debate Wednesday. They are joined by moderator Mark Baldassare.
State Sen. Kevin de Leon and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein after their debate Wednesday. They are joined by moderator Mark Baldassare. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Watching the one and only debate between the two Democrats running for the U.S. Senate in California — incumbent Dianne Feinstein and her challenger, state Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles — I often found myself wondering what voters really wanted to hear from candidates. Was it their plans, or their ambitions?

Feinstein, whose been in the Senate long enough to have served in the majority and the minority twice, was all about plans. Incrementalism. Small ball.

De Leon, who enjoyed Democratic supermajorities during much of his time as president pro tem of the California Senate, was all about ambitions. Big, immediate change. Home-run swings.

Personnel moves in Secretary Ryan Zinke's Interior Department raise troubling questions.
Personnel moves in Secretary Ryan Zinke's Interior Department raise troubling questions. (Matthew Brown / Associated Press)

Two recent high-level personnel moves in the Trump administration’s Interior Department could well spell trouble for fish, wildlife and national parks, and raise serious questions about the credibility of the department’s multiple investigations into Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conduct and possible conflicts of interest.

First, the Trump administration has hired Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen, who has made a career of criticizing and filing lawsuits over Interior Department policies, to be deputy solicitor for the Interior Department, where she will be involved in shaping legal opinions over fish, wildlife and parks

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • We're All Doomed

Was the president feeling especially truthful today? Or does he just not understand how commas work?

Raise your hand when you see it.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
An attendee at President Trump's rally Sept. 6 in Billings, Mont., holds up a sign quoting a key Trump slogan from the 2016 campaign.
An attendee at President Trump's rally Sept. 6 in Billings, Mont., holds up a sign quoting a key Trump slogan from the 2016 campaign. (Nichols Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

How many stories about politics these days open with an anecdote about some new line being crossed? 

At a televised debate Monday night between two Arizona congresswomen running to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Republican Rep. Martha McSally accused Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of supporting treason — a federal crime that carries the death penalty. Sinema’s offense? When appearing on a libertarian’s radio show 15 years ago, Sinema did not object when her host asked her how she’d feel if he joined the Taliban.

The striking thing is that McSally and Sinema are far apart on a wide range of real issues that matter to every Arizonan, including taxes, healthcare and immigration. They don’t need to mud wrestle; the contrast between the two couldn’t be more clear — McSally is campaigning as a Trumpist, and Sinema as a moderate Democrat. 

  • Opinion
  • Plastic Trash
  • We're All Doomed
Dinosaurs fell victim to mass extinction through an asteroid strike. Now human activity imperils Earth's species.
Dinosaurs fell victim to mass extinction through an asteroid strike. Now human activity imperils Earth's species. (Alexander Mitr / Dreamstime / TNS)

As bad as human-powered climate change might be — and it’s very bad — we often lose sight of the other sins our species has committed against the Earth. Plastics in oceans acidifying from pollution. Human overpopulation and an overdraw of natural resources. Habitat destruction. Fools hunting for animal trophies (how hard can it be to stop that?).

Last year, a peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences described human impact on global flora and fauna as “biological annihilation.”

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Canada will legalize recreational marijuana nationwide Oct. 17.
Canada will legalize recreational marijuana nationwide Oct. 17. (AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s another example of how the U.S. government’s failure to acknowledge the shifting politics and public opinion on marijuana is creating a mess: On Wednesday, Canada will legalize recreational pot nationwide. But Canadians who admit to using this now-legal product could be banned from entering the United States.

That’s right — one lawfully purchased pot brownie could get a Canadian traveler blocked at the border.

That’s because the U.S. government continues to treat marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, just like heroin. Last month the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency announced it would not adjust its border entry policies in response to Canada’s decision to liberalize its drug laws.

President Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday.
President Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday. (Michael Reynolds / EPA)

According to President Trump, the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul is even more dangerous than a country run by Democrats.

Talking to reporters on the White House grounds Monday, Trump said he’d spoken to Saudi King Salman about the disappearance of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the aforementioned consulate on Oct. 2. 

“The king told me that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are working hand-in-hand, very closely, on getting to the bottom of what happened” to Khashoggi, Trump said. “Maybe — I don’t want to get into his mind — but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers.”