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Newsletter: How post office chaos ensued

Mail carriers load their trucks at a post office in Van Nuys
A policy requiring all trucks to leave on time from U.S. Postal Service facilities, like this post office in Van Nuys, led to chaos in the system, a Times investigation found.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

New rules requiring U.S. Postal Service trucks to leave exactly on schedule proved disruptive to mail delivery.

TOP STORIES

How Post Office Chaos Ensued

For new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who wanted the U.S. Postal Service to operate more efficiently, it seemed like an obvious fix: Just run the trucks on time. So in July he ordered drivers to start leaving post offices and distribution centers exactly on schedule and curtailed extra trips to pick up any mail that missed earlier cutoffs.

The stricter deadlines sparked far less public outcry than the removal of more than 700 high-speed sorting machines at mail processing facilities around the country — but they were far more disruptive to the U.S. mail system, according to a Times investigation.

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Workers who spoke to The Times described troubling details about how the rigid schedules have played out: Some trucks have traveled empty, and mail left behind has accumulated at massive processing centers, creating backlogs in a system that is not designed to store mail. Loading dock managers have falsified records so it appears that trucks are departing earlier, some mail has been sorted twice, and in at least one case, a large shipment from Amazon was turned away because facilities had no space to process it.

On Thursday, a federal judge blocked changes that were slowing mail nationwide, calling them “a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service” before the November election.

Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima, Wash., said he was issuing a nationwide preliminary injunction sought by 14 states that sued the Trump administration and the U.S. Postal Service. The states have challenged the Postal Service’s new truck policy and have sought to force the Postal Service to treat election mail as first-class mail.

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Trapped by the Flames

As a rapidly growing wildfire barreled toward Lake Oroville, residents of the small mountain communities lying in its path had to decide what to do.

Two told their families they planned to seek shelter at a nearby pond. Another said he would leave only when he could see the fire from his home. Three others were ready to evacuate, only to hold off based on incorrect information about how much the blaze was contained.

All of those people, along with nine others, fell victim to the North Complex fire, a massive blaze that exploded last week into one of the deadliest and most expansive conflagrations California has seen.

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While crews continue working furiously to contain the blaze and assess the extent of the devastation, information has begun to trickle in about those who perished.

A Preview of Post-Pandemic Office Design?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been rough on the office business. In the second quarter of 2020, office leasing in Los Angeles County fell to its lowest point since the Great Recession, with transactions at 60% to 70% below normal. It’s been especially devastating for co-working spaces, which operate on the principle of high turnover and a changing client base with short-term leases.

Some have wondered whether the demise of co-working spaces is near. But that may depend on how they’re designed.

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The Los Angeles outpost of Second Home, a London-based co-working company, inhabits a converted community center where the majority of the workspaces are housed in individual studios in a lush garden. The unusual design has allowed the shared space to continue functioning at a time when other nonessential office buildings remain shuttered in L.A. County.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— More L.A. County reopenings could come in October if the COVID-19 dip continues.

Orange County politicians are calling for the state to give Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm a path to reopen.

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— An Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Adelanto is in the grips of a coronavirus outbreak, according to federal officials. The confirmed case count more than doubled within a few days.

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

The Show Will Go On

A pandemic. Fires. Protests. And now … the Emmys?

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On Sunday, the first major awards show held since COVID-19 changed the world will take place. The ceremony itself will reflect the need for social distancing. There will be no traditional red-carpet walk. Instead, nominees will beam in from around the globe. And for limousine drivers, caterers and others whose livelihood is tied to an in-person awards season, this year has been a nightmare.

Here’s everything you need to know about the show — and some thought on whether you’re ready to embrace frivolous TV on Sunday — or not.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

For Mexico City, Sept. 19 is a day to remember twice over.

On Sept. 19, 1985, the region was hit by a massive magnitude 8.1 earthquake at 7:19 a.m. Cathedrals, hotels and hospitals were reported among the buildings that collapsed, with initial reports suggesting 35% of buildings in the city or more were damaged. An estimated 10,000 people were killed, and tens of thousands were injured or left homeless amid the rubble, gas leaks and fires. The catastrophe was made worse by a government response that was slow and unprepared to handle the scale of the destruction.

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On Sept. 19, 2017, another quake shook the area, 32 years to the day. The 2017 earthquake was not as strong, measuring magnitude 7.1, but it caused widespread damage and chaos. Apartment buildings again swayed and buildings collapsed, including a school. Hundreds of people were killed. This time, the government responded quickly, declaring a state of emergency and dispatching troops and first responders to search for injured people.

Black and white photo of a man standing amid the rubble of a destroyed building
Sep. 19, 1985: A man stands on the wreckage of General Hospital in Mexico City where collapsing floors killed 277 in the earthquake.
(Dave Gatley / Los Angeles Times)

Want more of the Los Angeles Times archives? We’re on Instagram.

YOUR WEEKEND

Recreate the good vibes of “vacation anticipation.”

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Redecorating your home? You’re not alone — and experts have some ideas on how to make your space a better fit for a pandemic world.

— Check on your garden but don’t panic: A little ash can be good for the soil.

— You can still live sustainably, even in a pandemic, with reusable bags, cloth masks and buying in bulk.

CALIFORNIA

— Two months after a divided Los Angeles school board slashed funding for its school police department by more than a third, a proposal for a dramatically diminished force emerged this week.

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— Two L.A. County supervisors joined with several members of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission in calling on Sheriff Alex Villanueva to resign, saying he’s dragged his feet on critical reforms, resisted oversight of the department and failed to hold deputies accountable.

— A six-month investigation into the poaching of marine life from fragile tidal pools at White Point Beach in San Pedro has culminated with charges against 45 people, the Los Angeles city attorney announced.

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NATION-WORLD

— After battling months of withering criticism for his response to the coronavirus crisis, President Trump is relying on a new defense — it was Joe Biden, not him, who failed during a pandemic, he says.

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— Atty. Gen. William Barr drew sharp condemnation for comparing lockdown orders during the COVID-19 pandemic to slavery.

— The Justice Department explored whether it could pursue either criminal or civil rights charges against city officials in Portland, Ore., after clashes erupted there night after night between law enforcement and demonstrators, a department spokesperson said.

— A new memoir by former President Barack Obama documenting his time in the White House will hit shelves right after this year’s presidential election.

— In the ring, they were gods. Now with the coronavirus and no matches save a few televised contests, Mexico’s lucha libre superstars have had to rely on emergency donations and selling street food.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The “celebreality” genre on TV was already in decline. The Kardashians just put it out of its misery, writes Meredith Blake.

— What will LACMA’s new building look like inside? Here are the long-awaited gallery plans.

— L.A.’s Griffith Park Shakespeare festival is going virtual and so are its characters. It’s “Romeo and Juliet” on livestream with Mercutio on Twitter.

— This L.A. activist went to jail. Now she runs the Justice on Trial Film Festival, which uses films and panel discussions to highlight people affected by the justice system.

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BUSINESS

— The story of the three Mexican sisters who broke into the cannabis industry with their company La Chingona started out like a fairy tale. The problem? It was all a work of fiction created by the real founder, a man named Michael Kaiser.

— The economy and job market have recovered somewhat from the initial shock, but Americans are still applying for unemployment benefits in record numbers.

SPORTS

— The basketball season lasted four months longer than ever, but all that time couldn’t help the Clippers be ready when it mattered most. Loss after head-shaking loss, where do they go from here?

Lakers vs. Nuggets: How the teams match up for the Western Conference finals.

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— Game on? Pac-12 officials could vote today to start the football season.

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

— Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s recent behavior is the best advertisement for muscular sheriff oversight, writes The Times’ editorial board.

— A professor explains why remote learning is hard — and how to make it easier.

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WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Olivia Troye, a former adviser to Vice President Mike Pence who worked on the pandemic response up until last month, has come out against Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and said she will vote for Biden. (USA Today)

— A celebration of snacks, from Chinese supermarket staples to middle-school status treats to the only good food in New York Penn Station. (Eater)

ONLY IN L.A.

What’s an awards show without the pageantry? Commentary, banter and debating red carpet outfits are part of the experience, and the Emmys pre-show must go on — even if it’s remote and digital. Executives at E!, ABC News and KTLA are moving forward with plans adapted for the coronavirus era, with celebrity Zoom interviews and discussions of this year’s “pajama chic” fashion. “We all need a little bit of glamour now,” said Jason Ball, KTLA news director.

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


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