Newsletter: A trailblazer’s death and a supreme showdown

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, feminist icon of the Supreme Court, dies at 87

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and the first to become a pop culture icon.


The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has set up an intense fight over the future of the court and the country.


A Trailblazer’s Death and a Supreme Showdown

When the announcement came Friday night that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazing liberal giant of the Supreme Court, had died at 87, it didn’t take long for the fight over her successor to begin.

Within hours, as tributes to Ginsburg were still pouring in, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would vote on President Trump’s nominee, though he did not say when that would happen. Trump said he expects to announce his choice this week, calling for senators to act “without delay,” and that it would be a woman. Three deeply conservative female judges have emerged on his short list.

But Democrats have been urging the GOP Senate majority to heed its own advice against filling the court’s lifetime slots so close to an election — indeed, some states have begun early voting ahead of Nov. 3. Yet as of Sunday, only two Republican senators had come out against filling the seat.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is making the case that Trump’s determination to lock in conservative control of the Supreme Court now is a potent threat to not only the nation’s democratic traditions but to Americans’ healthcare.


“Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country,” Biden pleaded to Republican senators.

And as the U.S. neared 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, Biden warned that a more conservative court could swiftly overturn Obamacare, eliminating health insurance for millions of Americans.

More About Ginsburg and the Court

— Ginsburg saw raw racism and sex discrimination long before she joined the court.

— Ginsburg’s death will drive voter turnout. Which side does that help?

— News analysis: Justice Ginsburg’s successor could push the court to end abortion rights and Obamacare.

Not Breathing Easy

For weeks, millions of Californians were smothered by smoke from a record outbreak of wildfires.

Though most people were not threatened directly by fires burning up and down the West Coast, smoke transported health dangers to nearly every corner of the state. Air quality officials said they are aware of no precedent for so many people breathing such high levels of wildfire smoke for so long.

Even as air quality begins to improve, many remain worried about the long-term health impacts.

More About the Fires

— The Bobcat fire has grown to more than 100,000 acres, making it one of the largest wildfires in L.A. County history.

Track the latest on California’s wildfires with our map.

Schools’ Coronavirus Loophole

Though California has made progress with its coronavirus numbers in recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 deaths in the state has surpassed 15,000, while the nationwide toll is nearing 200,000.

In L.A. County, the daily average of new cases is still preventing a move to a less restrictive tier for reopening, meaning that K-12 schools remain closed.

Yet many schools have reopened anyway, either by outsourcing their facilities to established providers like the YMCA or by rebranding as day camps, which are license-exempt, virtually unregulated in California — and can cost a substantial amount.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— In new guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the coronavirus spreads most commonly in the air, through droplets or other tiny respiratory particles that apparently can remain suspended and inhaled. The smaller particles, known as aerosols, are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes and can be inhaled into someone’s nose, mouth, airways or lungs.

Demonstrators took to the streets of London, Tel Aviv and other cities over the weekend to protest restrictions, even with infection rates rising in many places and the global death toll approaching 1 million.

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

Emmys’ Unusual Night

“Succession,” “Watchmen” and “Schitt’s Creek” were big winners at the 72nd Emmy Awards. But the biggest story was the ceremony itself, a mostly virtual celebration of an industry thrown into disarray by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, it was the first of the major industry awards shows to contend with the logistics of a remotely produced live broadcast. But perhaps an even greater challenge was striking the right tone in a year of dire news.

Winners — watching at home, in hotel suites, in SoFi Stadium or at small, distanced gatherings in unnamed locations — were handed trophies by ushers in hazmat suits styled like tuxedos. Many laughed at the strange circumstances; still more urged viewers to make a plan for voting this election year. Most nominees opted for relatively casual attire, and many covered their faces in masks. At least two wore Breonna Taylor T-shirts.

More About the Emmys

“Schitt’s Creek” became the first comedy program to sweep all seven of the major series prize categories.

HBO maintained its dominance with 30 awards, beating out Netflix.

— Here’s the full list of this year’s Emmy winners.


— Signs of climate change: Sharks are moving north. Redwood growth is slowing. This is California’s altered state, columnist Steve Lopez writes.

— Columnist Robin Abcarian on the long-term effects of intimate partner violence that we don’t talk about.

— The story behind that Patagonia tag, and how the Trump era changed outdoor recreation.

— Why we made a Chicano Moratorium project zine.

LeBron James deserves to be the NBA’s MVP, columnist Bill Plaschke writes. He has every right to be mad.


On Sept. 19, 1982, the Whisky a Go Go club on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood hosted a farewell concert featuring the Plimsouls, with Tom Petty making a guest appearance. Though the Whisky’s closure was only temporary, crowds flocked to the venue, treating it as the end of an era.

“What’s that Joni Mitchell line about not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone?” Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn wrote in his Sept. 21, 1982, goodbye column. “For years, I’ve scoffed when asked to name my favorite place around town to see a band. My position: It’s the attraction, not the room that’s important.

“But I realized Sunday night as the Whisky closed its doors (at least temporarily) to live rock music that I am going to miss this club, an anchor on the local scene since the mid-’60s.”

The club reopened in 1984, and in 2006 the venue was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sept. 19, 1982: Crowds outside the popular Whisky a Go Go, which closed for two years.
Sept. 19, 1982: Crowds gather along the Sunset Strip to hear the Plimsouls and attend the last night of live entertainment at the Whisky a Go Go.
(Marsha Traeger / Los Angeles Times)

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Body camera video from protests this summer in L.A. shows police officers yanking a large sign from the hands of a man, shoving him backward as he puts his hands up, then shooting him in the groin with a foam projectile.

— A strike team appointed by the governor says the state’s antiquated unemployment benefits system requires a complete overhaul to overcome significant problems that have delayed getting money to many left jobless in the pandemic.

— The Luxe Rodeo Drive is the first high-end hotel in the L.A. area to go out of business because of the pandemic, and experts are warning of a wave of hotel closures.

— A San Diego research institute and a Long Beach social-benefit investment group are teaming to create what could be the first fish farm in federal waters.

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— Already burdened by the coronavirus outbreak and a tightened deadline, the Census Bureau must now contend with several natural disasters, as wildfires and hurricanes disrupt the final weeks of the nation’s once-a-decade headcount.

— A woman suspected of sending an envelope containing the poison ricin, which was addressed to White House, has been arrested at the New York-Canada border, three law enforcement officials told the Associated Press.

— Trump has given his “blessing” to Oracle’s partnership with ByteDance to operate TikTok, but his claim that the companies would finance a $5-billion “patriotic” education fund has raised questions about the deal.

— The European Commission has presented a series of measures aimed at tackling structural racism and discrimination, acknowledging a blatant lack of diversity among the European Union’s institutions.


— The much-discussed movie “Cuties” isn’t what critic Mary McNamara expected. She calls it a powerful portrait of female rage.

“Antebellum” star Janelle Monáe explains the film’s emotionally charged conclusion.

— Movie critic Justin Chang on the ups and downs of having the Toronto Film Festival at your fingertips.


California’s job market improved slightly in August, but the state has regained just a third of the jobs it lost since the COVID-19 pandemic forced thousands of businesses to close. Some experts think it could get worse this fall.

— The Trump administration’s effort to ban the Chinese messaging app WeChat is on hold after a U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction.


Anthony Davis’ buzzer-beater lifted the Lakers to victory over the Nuggets in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference finals. The Lakers lead the series 2 to 0.

— This social justice activist is embarking on an 11-state, 45-day, 4,000-mile cross-country bike trip to help America understand itself.

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— Democrats have a secret weapon to thwart a rapid Ginsburg replacement. They should use it, writes Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.

— The Times’ editorial board endorses Proposition 15, calling it one small step toward fixing California’s broken tax system. More endorsements in the November election are here.


— California is a global leader on combating climate change, but state regulators have allowed companies to make millions from inland oil spills that can endanger workers and damage the environment. (Desert Sun and ProPublica)

— Documents show that top executives of Deutsche Bank were warned of serious failings that left the bank vulnerable to money launderers. (Buzzfeed News)


Marcus Gladney says he was the owner of a carpet-cleaning and water-extraction business when he left his hometown of Kansas City, Mo., to move to L.A. in 2014, partly to follow a girlfriend’s Hollywood dreams and partly to find a niche for himself. Today he is known as “the Captain” for having founded the Venice Electric Light Parade, a bike spectacle that takes place each Sunday at dusk, open to anyone with wheels and a desire for fun.

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