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Newsletter: A climate apocalypse now

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VIDEO | 01:05
California wildfires have created unprecedented destruction 

Even before the peak of fire season, six of the 20 largest  blazes in California history have occurred this year.

Climate change is only worsening the record-breaking wildfires, heat and air pollution in California and the West.

TOP STORIES

A Climate Apocalypse Now

In 2001, a team of international scientists projected that during the next 100 years, the planet’s inhabitants would witness higher maximum temperatures, more hot days and heat waves, an increase in the risk of forest fires and “substantially degraded air quality” in large metropolitan areas as a result of climate change.

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That projection has become a reality on the West Coast, as wildfires have cut across California, Oregon and Washington, killing at least 33 people and charring more than 4 million acres. In recent weeks, California has experienced six of the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s modern history and seen all-time temperature records from the desert to the coast fall.

On Sunday, four West Coast cities were among the 10 most polluted places in the world: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle ranked eighth, sixth and third, respectively. Portland, Ore., where smoke was blowing in from more than 30 blazes burning across the state, had the worst air of any big city.

The record heat, fires and pollution all have one thing in common: Climate change has made them worse.

On Sunday morning, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon went on an ABC News show to discuss the fires, and both described the situation in their states as apocalyptic.

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In between campaign rallies in Nevada and Arizona, President Trump is scheduled to arrive in Northern California to receive a briefing today on the fires. The immediate weather forecast in Northern California — dry air and whipping winds — seems to suggest that even more devastating days lie ahead.

More About the Fires

— Residents in portions of Arcadia and Sierra Madre were told to evacuate Sunday as the Bobcat fire in the Angeles National Forest posed new dangers.

— In the Sierra Nevada, 150 million dead trees could fuel unprecedented firestorms.

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— Will Phoenix, Ore., a town of 4,500 devastated by wildfire, be able to rise from the ashes?

An Attack on Two Deputies

Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who were shot in the head during what authorities described as an ambush near the Compton Metro station on Saturday are expected to survive after undergoing surgery.

Authorities have offered no motive, but surveillance video and dispatch calls reviewed by The Times provide a more detailed account of what happened. The attack has led to an intense manhunt for the gunman seen firing inside the deputies’ patrol car — and has become a new flashpoint in the political debate about policing and crime.

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Some demonstrators went to St. Francis Medical Center, where the wounded deputies were being treated. The department said on Twitter that some of those protesters had blocked entrances and exits at the hospital, but that could not be independently verified.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested a public-radio reporter as she covered the protests outside the hospital. The arrest drew condemnation from journalism organizations and prompted the sheriff’s chief watchdog to launch an investigation.

So Much for Lower Drug Prices

AstraZeneca, one of the world’s largest drug companies, has been aggressively raising prices even as it secured a $1.2-billion commitment from the U.S. government to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and reported more than $3.6 billion in operating profits in the first half of 2020. The increases come despite promises by Trump to keep drug costs in check.

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The multinational pharmaceutical firm announced not just one set of price increases in 2020 but two, often on the same drugs, according to an analysis of pricing data by The Times and 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit that studies the pharmaceutical industry.

AstraZeneca, which is based in Britain but also has a large U.S. operation, declined to discuss its pricing practices, instead offering a statement noting the company’s assistance programs for people unable to afford its drugs. The company has said it wouldn’t profit from vaccine sales during the pandemic, but it remains unclear how this would be verified.

Oxford University said last week that trials of the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing with AstraZeneca will resume, days after being paused because of a reported side effect in a patient in the U.K.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— Relief groups are putting some West Coast wildfire evacuees into hotels to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, stringing up shower curtains to separate people in group shelters and delivering box lunches instead of setting up buffets.

— The L.A. County Department of Public Health reported 11 new coronavirus deaths Sunday, as daily hospitalizations continued to decline over the weekend. About 800 people were hospitalized with the virus countywide, 35% of them in intensive care, marking a significant decline from just a few weeks earlier. The new numbers are similar to April, before the summer surge.

— Coronavirus infections in the Dakotas are growing faster than anywhere else in the U.S., after months in which the two states avoided the worst of the pandemic.

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

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China’s ‘Purification’ of Classrooms

In Hong Kong, pro-democracy activists, politicians, journalists and others are facing a Chinese Communist Party determined to crush dissent.

Perhaps the greatest threat from this new purge — one that will affect generations to come — is the increasing pressure on schools and teachers. Textbooks are being rewritten, teachers are being purged, and history is being erased under a new national security law to bring this once freewheeling city more firmly into China’s grip.

Read the first in a series of articles about the impact China’s global power is having on nations and people’s lives.

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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

— There’s actually a word for the climate change-induced despair you’ve probably been feeling.

“Gender reveals” are all the rage, but the Pasadena mom who originated them now wishes they’d go away.

— How Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan” became one of the year’s most controversial movies.

Karla Vasquez is trying to fill the void in Salvadoran cookbooks. Will book publishers listen?

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

On this date in 1978, the TV show “Mork & Mindy,” starring Robin Williams as an extraterrestrial visitor and Pam Dawber as his human roommate, premiered on ABC.

“Tonight’s episode is nothing less than uproarious,” wrote Times staff writer Lee Margulies. “There are flaws in the basic concept that need correcting but even so, ‘Mork and Mindy’ is a prime contender for best new comedy of the season. The reason can be summed up in two words: Robin Williams.”

The show indeed proved to be Williams’ breakout moment and led to a varied career in movies, while Dawber continued to work in television and married actor Mark Harmon in 1987. Williams died by suicide in 2014; his widow, Susan, said he was suffering from dementia with Lewy body.

Pam Dawber and Robin Williams on "Mork & Mindy" in 1978.
(ABC Photo Archives / Getty Images)
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CALIFORNIA

— Wading into a contentious battle over the legacy of Proposition 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom has endorsed a November ballot measure that would make commercial property owners subject to billions of dollars in additional taxes each year.

— Newsom has signed bill on sex crime convictions that’s intended to end discrimination against LGBTQ people. Some conspiracy theorists have falsely claimed that the bill legalizes pedophilia; it does not.

— Air quality officials have cited a land developer and contractor over a chemical spill in the Compton area that has generated hundreds of complaints of lingering gas-like odors across a large area of Los Angeles and Orange counties.

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— The case of a Black man being beaten by Orange County sheriff’s deputies in 2018 has taken on new urgency in recent weeks.

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NATION-WORLD

— A whistleblower’s allegation that he was pressured to suppress intelligence about Russian election interference is the latest in a series of similar accounts involving former Trump administration officials, raising concerns that the White House risks undercutting efforts to stop such intrusions if it plays down the seriousness of the problem.

— Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is committing at least $100 million to help Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in the battleground state of Florida.

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— Biden is making empathy central to his campaign. In doing so, he’s trying to set up a contrast with Trump — and is taking up a tradition that has been at the center of presidential campaigning from the start.

Residents of Bermuda were urged to prepare to protect life and property ahead of Hurricane Paulette, while Tropical Storm Sally threatened to intensify into a hurricane as it approached the U.S. Gulf Coast.

— As some small Gulf states normalize relations with Israel, Palestinians are seeing support fraying for an initiative to create their own nation state.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Geraldine Viswanathan never expected to star in a rom-com. Then came the film “The Broken Hearts Gallery.”

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— Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland,” a recession-era road trip drama starring Frances McDormand, won the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice Film Festival.

— Film critic Justin Chang also hails “Nomadland,” along with the movie “Ammonite,” as early standouts at the Toronto Film Festival.

Toots Hibbert helped transform the groove-driven sound of 1960s Jamaica into an international musical movement. He died last week at age 77.

BUSINESS

Oracle Corp. has succeeded in its bid to partner with the social media platform TikTok after its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, rejected an offer from Microsoft. The news, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, caught some analysts by surprise because they had widely expected Microsoft, in a partnership with Walmart, to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations.

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— Dozens of online platforms that promise “easy” and “fun” opportunities are rotten side hustles. Here are some of them and the better alternatives.

SPORTS

— The Rams played in a new stadium, in new uniforms and with a new defensive coordinator. And plenty of new players made big plays Sunday night in the Rams’ 20-17 season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium.

— In Cincinnati, the Chargers relied on a late-game “miracle” to preserve a win over the Bengals.

— Cancel the Battle of L.A.? The Clippers imploded in a Game 6 loss to the Nuggets.

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Dominic Thiem rallied to defeat Sascha Zverev to win at the U.S. Open. It was the first time the U.S. Open men’s title had been decided by a fifth-set tiebreaker.

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OPINION

— Claims of a “rigged election”? Here’s how Congress could save our democracy from vote-count chaos.

— A Ralphs grocery worker who got COVID-19 makes the case for essential workers like her to have a voice in setting public health regulations.

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WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— In Oregon, one man’s fight to save his family in the wildfires ends in tragedy. (The Oregonian)

Maya Gabeira surfed the biggest wave of the year, but there’s more than one reason why it didn’t generate a bigger splash in the news. (The Atlantic)

ONLY IN L.A.

Cruising down Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles has been a tradition for decades. But during the doldrums of the pandemic, a different element crashed the party: crime, trash and graffiti. It all became too much for Juan “Spanky” Ramirez, a 39-year-old father who’s fond of cruising in his white 1970 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. In early August, he urged fellow lowrider aficionados to stage a boycott of sorts: No more cruising on the street for a month. “It’s sad because we are the last of the generation that can keep this culture alive,” he wrote. “So in an effort to save Whittier Boulevard, we’re going to put a pause on it.” The happy part is: It worked.

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


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