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Newsletter: A most unconventional campaign

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President Trump concedes on not holding a big in-person convention during a pandemic — but continues otherwise defying the norms.

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A Most Unconventional Campaign

President Trump, citing safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, has abruptly canceled the “big crowded” portion of the Republican National Convention that had been scheduled for Jacksonville, Fla., in late August, reversing his insistence on a high-profile speech to a full arena.

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Instead, the party will hold official business in North Carolina with a skeletal group of attendees. Other festivities, including Trump’s nominating speech, will move online, much as Democrats have planned. But Trump made clear that the GOP does not yet have a plan for what it will do, saying, “We’ll have a very nice something.”

Florida has become one of the country’s worst hot spots for the virus, reporting more than 10,000 new cases Thursday, bringing its total to nearly 400,000. The state’s deaths, now more than 5,500 according to Florida’s health department, have also been increasing.

The lack of the traditional election season rituals this year marks another major shift wrought by a pandemic that has upended nearly every aspect of American life.

Even so, Trump has not held himself to many of the norms associated with the presidency, and as his reelection prospects have dimmed over his handling of the pandemic and the economic fallout, he has escalated that trend. With limited options to campaign before adoring crowds, Trump is using taxpayer-funded events for political gain as no one else has, experts say. He’s also made a series of appeals to white voters’ fears of crime and declining property values, including targeting an Obama-era affordable housing regulation. And then there’s the Michael Cohen affair: A federal judge said the Justice Department had improperly imprisoned Trump’s former lawyer, who’s now an outspoken critic, in retaliation for his upcoming tell-all book about Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump has ramped up his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and decried polls showing him trailing Joe Biden nationally and in key swing states as “fake.” Of course, in 2016, Trump was trailing in the polls too. Could they be missing something this time?

Physical Distancing Pays Off

Remember when you decided against a trip to the dog park, a meet-up at a sports bar, or a visit to your sister’s house? (You did, right?)

New research shows that such physical distancing decisions mattered back in April, when the coronavirus was still expanding its reach across the United States. And with the pandemic continuing to gather steam in much of the country, they probably matter now as well.

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The new study estimates just how readily the coronavirus jumped from person to person in 211 key counties that are home to roughly 55% of U.S. residents. It finds that the more assiduously we avoided nonessential outings, the less briskly the virus that causes COVID-19 spread.

For instance, when residents of a typical county cut their visits to nonessential businesses in half, a single infected person transmitted the virus to 46% fewer people than she would have in a county where business proceeded as usual, the study authors found. In some counties, that reduction could end the outbreak.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Thousands of employees who had been furloughed or working from home since March are being called back to their physical workplaces. Fearing the virus, many are resisting.

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— The feds have begun prosecuting abuses of the Paycheck Protection Program, a popular small-business relief program. But the real test will be how aggressively they pursue bigger companies, legal experts say.

— An army of thousands of nurses and other medical staff, including some from Southern California, was deployed first to New York City at the start of the pandemic, then to South Texas this month.

— Trump has taken a hard-line approach in calling for schools to reopen. Parents making the decision describe a more complicated swirl of emotions, which are spilling over into how they view the president and other political figures.

— A nearly $21-million government-funded study to see whether Pepcid, a popular over-the-counter heartburn medication, could be a COVID-19 remedy has fizzled amid allegations of conflicts of interest and scientific misconduct, according to interviews, a whistleblower complaint and internal government records obtained by the Associated Press.

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For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

The LAPD Looks for Cuts

After a historic $150-million budget cut, and amid a nationwide re-imagining of what policing should be, officials say the Los Angeles Police Department is reviewing its operational structure from top to bottom and pushing forward with potentially far-reaching internal changes in anticipation of an even broader shake-up.

The revamped LAPD is expected to have 250 fewer sworn officers by this time next year, and Chief Michel Moore has asked unit commanders throughout the department to write him proposals for what their teams should look like in such a future. Some fear a reduction in patrols as well, meaning fewer officers on the streets and in neighborhoods, though officials have said they intend to limit such cuts. Programs that center cops in the community, meanwhile, will be expanded.

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Assistant Chief Horace Frank said the department will probably concentrate resources on patrols and community outreach, while trimming specialized units and other police functions that are somewhat removed from directly serving neighborhoods.

Warning! Warning! Warning!

Take one look around you in California and you’ll see them: the Proposition 65 warnings of “chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.” But given that they are on seemingly everything you can buy and seemingly everywhere, what do they really mean?

That profusion of warnings has subverted Prop. 65 and left Californians, and increasingly anyone who shops online, over-warned, under-informed and potentially unprotected, a Times investigation has found. And it has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to a handful of attorneys and their repeat clients.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

For years, film editor Verna Fields learned her craft working on smaller projects. Then she developed ties with some of the biggest names in the business. In a July 24, 1975, Los Angeles Times article, Mary Murphy reported on her success:

“In the past few years film editor Verna Fields has pulled together such films as ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ ‘Paper Moon’ and ‘Daisy Miller’ for Peter Bogdanovich, ‘American Graffiti’ for George Lucas, ‘The Sugarland Express’ for Steven Spielberg and her most recent, and perhaps best editing accomplishment, Spielberg’s ‘Jaws.’ ”

Fields received an Academy Award nomination in film editing for “Graffiti.” She won the film editing Oscar for “Jaws.” And she became one of the first women to enter upper-level management in the entertainment industry.

Film editor Verna Fields in July 1975
July 1975: With an impressive list of movies already to her credit, film editor Verna Fields recently added the blockbuster “Jaws.”
(Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

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YOUR WEEKEND

— The secret to the best tacos from Esteban Castillo, the creator of the Chicano Eats Instagram account and blog.

— This year, Comic-Con is coming to you. Here’s how to participate from home.

— Can you visit Baja California now? Maybe.

— Invited to a party? We asked the experts how to decline politely, and other questions of social etiquette in a pandemic.

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CALIFORNIA

— Los Angeles County is considering using parks and libraries as learning sites for students, with schools still shut.

— A UC Davis cancer researcher who federal prosecutors suspect is a clandestine member of the Chinese military has taken refuge in the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, they say.

— The Legislature will let some lawmakers vote remotely due to the pandemic. But some critics say the plan could lead to abuses.

— The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a La Niña watch earlier this month, meaning that conditions are favorable for development of a dry winter across the southern United States, including Southern California.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Justice Department inspector general‘s office said it will conduct a review of the conduct of federal agents who responded to unrest in Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C., following concerns from members of Congress and the public.

— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s outrage over GOP Rep. Ted Yoho’s verbal assault broadened into an extraordinary moment on the House floor as she and other Democrats assailed a sexist culture of “accepting violence and violent language against women.”

China has ordered the United States to close its consulate in Chengdu, in an increasingly rancorous diplomatic conflict. The order followed the U.S. closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Movie theaters are still shut down — and with them, the full power of challenging cinema, film critic Justin Chang writes.

— Goodbye, guy on a horse. A new wave of monument design is changing how we honor history, Carolina Miranda writes.

— A month after Chris D’Elia was accused of sexual impropriety by multiple women, Netflix has confirmed it has decided not to proceed with a prank show featuring the comic.

BUSINESS

— Is SoCalGas abusing customer money? California is demanding answers as more governments take steps to slash consumption of natural gas over climate concerns.

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Asha Grant dreamed of a Black-owned bookstore in Inglewood. Now, she’s going to run one.

SPORTS

— The Dodgers defeated the Giants in Dodger Stadium’s weirdest opening day, columnist Bill Plaschke writes.

— Will the Dodgers or the Angels make it to the World Series? As baseball season gets underway, our writers make their predictions.

— One problem with pushing back California’s high school football season? It will fall during Lent, and that means no hot dogs or tacos at the snack bar at Catholic schools’ home games.

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Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

— By handing national parks and public lands a much-needed win, Congress managed to work the way it’s supposed to, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Trump’s idea to avoid counting people living in the U.S. illegally in the census “amounts to nothing but lawless and thinly disguised antipathy toward immigrants,” and it may be just the beginning of new outrages, columnist Harry Litman writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The pandemic is disrupting birth, death and immigration rates, and the U.S. population could reach its lowest growth rate in 100 years. (The Atlantic)

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— How Seattle’s new NHL team became the Kraken. (ESPN)

ONLY IN L.A.

For a glimpse into Los Angeles’ colorful past, take yourself on a self-driving architectural tour of Wilshire Boulevard from MacArthur Park to Fairfax Avenue, a distance of about 4½ miles. Hidden in the urban sprawl are historic buildings, mercifully spared the wrecking ball, that range from houses of worship to movie palaces to a Masonic temple, from a Beaux Arts hotel immortalized by Raymond Chandler to a majestic Art Deco department store with a distinctive green-copper spire. Consult our guide as you admire them.

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VIDEO | 01:27
Wilshire Boulevard architectural driving tour

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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