Newsletter: Today: Waiting for the winds

Powerful winds are worsening the danger posed by destructive wildfires.


Waiting for the Winds

California’s record-breaking fire season could get much worse, and soon, as powerful winds heighten the danger.

In the Sierra, where millions of dead trees have fueled the Creek fire’s rampage, helicopter crews and Forest Service workers again braved smoke and flames to rescue more than 100 more hikers and campers stranded in remote locations In Northern California, forecasts for intense Diablo winds prompted Pacific Gas & Electric to say it would shut off power to numerous communities to avoid new fires sparked by downed lines.

In Southern California, the Bobcat fire kept burning unchecked late Tuesday in the Angeles National Forest, amid fears Santa Ana winds could push it into foothill communities. Nervous Monrovia residents were preparing for the worst, packing their things and sharing tips for how best to defend their homes. One said he’d removed anything combustible from around his home. “Wait a minute,” said another. “I have a garage full of toilet paper and paper towels, because of the COVID thing, man.”


The Anti-Enforcement Environmentalist?

The White House has directed federal agencies to relax enforcement. A memo it sent their heads last week instructs them to make significant changes to how and when they bring cases, tells them not to open multiple investigations into the same company, lists industry-friendly “best practices” and says all investigations should be approved by political appointees.

Under President Trump, enforcement has already slowed. Financial penalties against corporations and banks accused of wrongdoing have fallen. The Environmental Protection Agency’s penalties for polluters are down. And since taking office, he has shredded environmental protections, dismissed climate change and tapped energy lobbyists to lead agencies.

But on Tuesday, he dramatically recast his record in an effort to woo environmentally minded voters. “Number one since Teddy Roosevelt. Who would have thought? Trump is the great environmentalist,” he said in Florida, before signing a largely symbolic proclamation urging Congress to extend a ban on selling new leases along the state’s Gulf Coast.

More Politics:

— Barring a landslide, election day could drag on for weeks or months as millions of mail-in ballots are counted, court cases are heard and sales of anti-anxiety medicines spike, Washington columnist Doyle McManus writes.

Young Muslims are voting, campaigning and running for office in growing numbers. That rise in political engagement is sharpest in Michigan, home to one of the oldest and largest Arab American and Muslim communities in the country.

— Senate Republicans plan to vote this week on another pandemic relief package, but the slimmed-down plan — which does not include new checks for individuals — is already a nonstarter for Democrats.

Good Numbers, Bad Numbers

New coronavirus cases are dropping enough in California that five more counties can now speed up the process of reopening. But Californians can’t get complacent, Gov. Gavin Newsom cautioned.

And the virus is still devastating Angelenos’ finances. A majority of Los Angeles households face serious financial problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with Latinos and Black residents bearing the brunt of the economic toll, a new poll in the nation’s four largest cities has found.

Some 56% of households polled in L.A. reported having such financial problems. Among Black and Latino households, 52% and 71%, respectively, reported “serious financial problems,” compared with 37% of white households — further proof that COVID-19’s toll has fallen most heavily on those communities. The study found similar results in other cities.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— The chief executives of nine drugmakers leading the race to produce vaccines against the coronavirus signed a joint pledge in an effort to boost public confidence in any vaccines that are ultimately approved by regulators.

— AstraZeneca’s late-stage studies of a vaccine candidate have been paused while researchers try to determine if one participant’s illness is a side effect.

— Hundreds of students, faculty and staff are urging UC San Diego to drop plans to reopen campus. And at USC, nearly two weeks after coronavirus cases shut down workouts, the football and men’s water polo programs are cleared to return.

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

‘We Think About Jumping Overboard’

“The shore is so near that we can see it from here,” says Anthony Medina, who for more than six months has been stranded aboard a fishing boat anchored off China. “On the really bad days, we think about jumping overboard and swimming to shore. Maybe we can be rescued.”

Days seep into night and boredom mixes with restlessness and despair. He and the other 37 sailors aboard have become men without countries — victims of a pandemic that has closed borders, shuttered ports and left them in a watery limbo. An estimated 300,000 migrant seafarers languish mostly forgotten, and the Philippines, which Medina calls home, is at the center of the crisis.

Unable to reach land because of entry restrictions, the crews toil on boats that are running out of drinking water, some forced to work months longer than planned. The crisis has underscored the vulnerability of migrant crewmen on vessels with spartan living conditions and exploitative labor practices that have been compared to slavery — even before the coronavirus.


California’s version of the Bermuda Triangle is northwest of Santa Barbara. It’s a stretch between Point Arguello and Point Pedernales known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific” for its deadly record: nearly 50 ships down, with hundreds of lives onboard.

Among them are seven U.S. Navy destroyers that ran aground at Honda Point on Sept. 8, 1923. They were part of a group of 14 ships traveling through dense fog from San Francisco to San Diego in a single column. Sonar had not yet been invented. The navigators lost their way and ran aground, each ship in the line following the last into destruction. According to The Times, 23 people died.

Sept. 9, 1923: U.S. Navy destroyers after running aground at Honda Point, north of Santa Barbara.
Sept. 9, 1923: U.S. Navy destroyers after running aground at Honda Point, north of Santa Barbara. Twenty-three sailors lost their lives.
(George Watson/Watson Photographic Archive)

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— Why has California’s power grid been flirting with disaster and resorting to desperate measures like rolling blackouts? Officials are still studying the causes of the energy shortages. But they’ve outlined a few big-picture problems.

— Gang members who thought they were about to attack a rival faction but targeted the wrong home were responsible for a Halloween party shooting that left three people dead and nine others injured in Long Beach last year, police say.

— Construction of a proposed Clippers arena in Inglewood moved closer to reality after Inglewood’s City Council unanimously approved the sale of publicly owned land to the developers.

— Seven people were shot to death over Labor Day weekend at an Inland Empire home that apparently housed an illicit marijuana operation, authorities said.

— L.A.'s Autry Museum of the American West is getting a new leader. W. Richard West Jr., credited for transforming the museum and championing contemporary Native American artists, will retire in June 2021, and a UCLA history professor will replace him.

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— The U.S. Justice Department is seeking to take over Trump’s defense in a defamation lawsuit from writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of rape. Its lawyers asked a court to allow a move that could put taxpayers on the hook for any damages.

England is banning gatherings of more than six people, after a sharp spike in coronavirus infections across the U.K.

— In Rochester, N.Y., top police leaders stepped down amid protests over the handling of the death of Daniel Prude. In Louisville, Ky., a Black woman will for the first time lead that city’s police department, which has come under heavy criticism for the killing of Breonna Taylor. And in Dallas, the first Black woman police chief is stepping down in November.

— Some parents in Spain are risking jail and refusing to send their kids back to school over fears of the coronavirus.


— New Oscars standards require films to be inclusive to compete for best picture.

— Disney’s live-action “Mulan” made its streaming debut to controversy after eagle-eyed viewers noted the film credits a number of Chinese government entities in Xinjiang, a region where ethnic minorities are interned in re-education camps.

— As the politics of law and order are poised to determine the future of America, John Cage’s 1950 String Quartet in Four Parts stands as perfect music for our messy moment, critic Mark Swed writes.

— Six-time “Dancing With the Stars” champion Derek Hough is returning to the show as a judge this season — and he’s “just as curious as everybody else” about the casting of “Tiger King” breakout Carole Baskin.

— One might assume that the author of a bestselling-novel-turned-popular-TV-series would have publishers lining up at her door. One would be wrong, and Pamela Redmond, author of “Younger,” says she had to embrace getting “Older” to move forward.


— The chief executives of nine drugmakers signed a joint integrity pledge Tuesday in an effort to boost public confidence in any coronavirus vaccines that are ultimately approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or similar agencies around the world.

Uber and Lyft just made their campaign to pass Proposition 22 so they can keep exploiting workers the costliest in history, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.


— Fans of the Raiders are as passionate and devoted as they come. A move to Las Vegas wasn’t going to stop them.

— How ESPN analyst Mina Kimes turned her passion for football into a profession.

— The UCLA Black Student-Athlete Alliance will never “stick to sports.” It’s a club that’s part group therapy, part activist organization, and they’re pushing for change.

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Proposition 23, a labor-backed proposal to require dialysis clinics to have doctors on duty whenever patients are being treated, would raise costs and not improve care, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Columnist Jonah Goldberg never liked centrists. But in such a deeply divided political climate, they’re too rare, he writes.


— In the pandemic, group texts can save your friendships — or unleash social chaos. (Washington Post)

— Those mystery seed mailings we mentioned yesterday? The U.S. Department of Agriculture told people to destroy them. But some planted them, ate them or called 911 instead. (Vice)


In an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir, novelist and UC Riverside professor Susan Straight writes of growing up in the California heatand learning to love it. “We laugh when people say California is over, that it is foolish to live in a place of such extreme heat, fire danger and too many dreams. When others would flee, we dream of the deepest cerulean blue we will see tonight, between the branches above us, of the lizards creeping toward our high heels in the cool closets, of the rivers of crows flying above us at dusk, beaks open to catch the air cooling just out of our reach.”

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