Newsletter: A norm-defying convention

VIDEO | 06:50
RNC Night 2: 5 Takeaways

Norms are broken and Melania Trump tries to soothe viewers. Los Angeles Times political reporter Seema Mehta breaks down the second night of the Republican National Convention.


The Republican National Convention is blurring the lines between official business and politics.


A Norm-Defying Convention

A presidential pardon and a naturalization ceremony, both at the White House. A speech by the secretary of State from Jerusalem. An address by the first lady in the newly refurbished Rose Garden.

At its midway point, the Republican National Convention to nominate President Trump for his reelection bid has strayed far from tradition and political norms — and already spurred an ethics investigation.

On Tuesday night, Trump leaned on his family to help make his case, using made-for-TV stagecraft and a moving speech by First Lady Melania Trump to try to broaden his appeal while two of his adult children, Eric and Tiffany Trump, echoed Monday night’s grievance-laden remarks by their brother, Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle.

While other speakers largely ignored the health and economic crises convulsing the country, Melania Trump acknowledged the soaring death toll and widespread unemployment, expressing sympathy for the nearly 180,000 COVID-19 victims and their families.

Earlier, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo broke tradition, his own recent departmental guidelines and — according to Democrats — campaign law by addressing the convention, saying that his family is safer today “because President Trump has put his ‘America first’ vision into action ... delivering on this duty to keep our freedoms intact.” A House panel said it will investigate Pompeo’s actions to determine whether he broke the law.


Emergency Alert Difficulties, Again

In Napa County, a wildfire alert meant for cellphones would not connect because of a coding error. In Sonoma County, similar alerts were sent to areas that required no evacuation and linked to an evacuation map that was a year old. And in Solano County’s Vacaville, a city emergency operations employee missed a call to report to work because his phone was set to vibrate.

As fire crews battle a massive system of wildfires sparked by freak lightning storms, emergency officials are seeing the technological shortcomings of localized alert systems — and it’s far from the first time.

Despite heeding much of the emergency management guidance dispensed in the last year from Sacramento, counties dealing with the LNU Lightning Complex fire burning in Northern California have nonetheless encountered difficulties.

In the meantime, favorable weather conditions have given crews on the front lines of the deadly LNU Lightning Complex and CZU Lightning Complex fires in Northern California a boost.

Moving in the Right Direction

Los Angeles County continues to see a downward trend in confirmed coronavirus infections, setting the stage for a possible reopening of some elementary schools.

The county’s coronavirus case rate has dropped below 200 per 100,000 residents over the most recent two-week span, a threshold at which the county can request waivers that would allow some K-6 schools to reopen for in-person classes.


Although the county remains on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist, which monitors for surges in infections and hospitalizations — and will be removed only if cases fall below 100 per 100,000 residents, among other criteria — the number of overall cases in the county continues to decline on a weekly basis. The 14-day average infection rate in L.A. County is currently 197.5 per 100,000 people, according to the California Department of Public Health.

But the L.A. County Department of Public Heath said it’s too early to know whether the case count will remain below 200.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Responding to an outcry from medical experts, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn has apologized for overstating the lifesaving benefits of treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma. On Sunday, Trump hailed the FDA’s decision to issue an emergency authorization for its use as a historic breakthrough, even though the treatment’s value has not been established.

— The latest move by Customs and Border Protection to slow traffic from Mexico into the U.S. has caused border traffic jams stretching for miles and waits exceeding 10 hours for those crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Border officials say the action is designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and make people “think twice” about crossing the border.

— Feeling sick with worry and depressed? Weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from late April through late July offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on mental health in California and across the nation.


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

A Times Investigation

A white Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter allegedly struck a Black detainee who was handcuffed on an ambulance gurney and tightened a towel around his head, causing the man to yell, “I can’t breathe,” according to internal city records reviewed by The Times.

The incident occurred in March 2019 and came to light after recent inquiries by The Times. The episode was described in a letter prepared by the Fire Department’s top medical director, who said the firefighter might have violated a state law prohibiting abuse of a patient through the use of excessive force, the records show.


In August 1940, Los Angeles played host to a Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention. The event included a music competition that drew about 50 bands from VFW posts around the country. Some of the groups visited The Times.

On Aug. 27, the Post 1494 Drum and Bugle Corps, from Dearborn, Mich., was among them, “clad in crisp black and white cadet uniforms with white plumes in their caps.” The group of about 64 stood around the signature globe in The Times’ lobby and “serenaded” the paper.


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— Longtime lobbyist and former L.A. City Hall official Morrie Goldman has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to commit bribery and honest services mail fraud, becoming the latest person to strike such a deal in an ongoing pay-to-play probe.

— The embattled charter company that operated a helicopter that crashed in January, killing Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others, has sued two air traffic controllers it blames for the accident.

— Calling it a derogatory and offensive term, the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows ski resort near Lake Tahoe plans to drop the word “squaw” from its name and adopt a different title next year.

UC Irvine has unveiled an ambitious plan to recruit Black students, faculty members and senior leaders and create a campus climate that supports their success, called the Black Thriving Initiative.


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— Protests and violence reignited in cities across the U.S. this week after a video showed an officer in Kenosha, Wis., appearing to shoot 29-year-old Jacob Blake in the back as he entered his SUV on a residential street. Blake, who family members said has several bullet wounds, is in a Milwaukee hospital, alive but paralyzed from the waist down, according to his lawyer. Two people were killed and one was seriously injured by gunfire late Tuesday amid the protests.

— In the largest U.S. evacuation of the pandemic, more than half a million people were ordered to evacuate the Gulf Coast as Laura was forecast to strengthen into a “catastrophic” Category 4 hurricane that forecasters said could slam into Texas and Louisiana with ferocious winds, heavy flooding and the power to push seawater miles inland.

— Since a stockpile of more than 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate blew up on the edge of Beirut earlier this month, infuriated residents have been struggling to understand how the blast happened, fueling conspiracy theories.

Scotland’s handling of the coronavirus puts independence back on the agenda as residents praise the leadership of Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon and grow frustrated with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.


Britney Spears’ sister Jamie Lynn Spears, who was selected as trustee of the pop superstar’s multimillion-dollar estate two years ago, is now seeking more control over the performer’s fortune amid an increasingly heated struggle over a complicated conservatorship.


— Director Betty Kaplan was nine days away from wrapping her latest film when COVID-19 prompted closures in Puerto Rico in March, halting her production. Here’s how she got it started again.

— We asked the stars of “Succession” to tell us their favorite Emmy-contender episodes and why. Here’s what they said.

— It hasn’t even been a week since Bella Thorne joined OnlyFans, and she says she’s already made $2 million from her page. But it’s not money she’s after. It’s a potential movie.

— Despite pandemic lockdowns, there’s still new TV to come. Here are 15 shows you should watch this fall.


— For Hollywood companies that do business in China, WeChat is indispensable and Trump’s ban on the app is poised to cut them off: “I don’t have phone numbers. I don’t have email addresses. I just have WeChat.”

Billboards that follow you? It’s not sci-fi. They’re already here, writes columnist David Lazarus.



— The players weren’t the only ones who had to adjust. In the NBA bubble, ESPN’s broadcasts of the games have required an Olympics-style effort.

— Track and field superstar Usain Bolt has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The news came after the eight-time Olympic gold medalist was seen in video at a large party where he and most of the other attendees do not appear to be wearing masks.

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— Trump is blatantly violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from partisan political activities. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, asks, where’s the outrage?

— As colleges reopen their campuses, they must prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but chastising students won’t help, professor Samuel J. Abrams writes. They need to help students combat loneliness and safely meet their social needs.


— Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to be unemployed but less likely to get unemployment benefits. Geography and history are a big part of why. (Pro Publica)


— You can’t farm pizzas, but you can visit a pizza farm. How an obscure Midwest tradition has thrived in a pandemic summer. (New York Times)


Will building and renovating downtown L.A.’s concert halls help a city full of problems bounce back? “On the surface, that no doubt sounds idiotic — economically, socially and in just about every other way. It’s not,” writes music critic Mark Swed. “It is the simplest, surest, most affordable means of turning this town around. Better still, we’re already nearly there. So please, bear with me.” Here, he makes the case for Frank Gehry’s Grand Avenue project “done right.”

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