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Newsletter: Pence and Harris let it fly

The vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will begin at 6 p.m.

The vice presidential debate featured fiery exchanges but civil behavior, in contrast with last week’s presidential face-off.

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Pence and Harris Let It Fly

Vice President Mike Pence struggled to get the Trump campaign back on track in a heated but disciplined debate with Sen. Kamala Harris that contrasted sharply with the chaotic clash last week between the presidential nominees.

Meeting in Utah with plexiglass barriers separating the candidates, Pence staunchly defended and frequently recast President Trump’s record and rhetoric, painting a rosy picture of the pandemic, glossing over Trump’s defense of hate groups, and suggesting the president had won the trade war with China.

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Harris forcefully rebuked the White House for what she called its vast failures on COVID-19, taxes and climate change, while fiercely defending her record as California attorney general and Joe Biden’s experience as vice president.

Despite occasionally fiery exchanges and interruptions, the 90-minute face-off was civil, a reminder of how political debates mostly occurred in the pre-Trump era. But for many viewers, the most memorable image may have been the housefly that perched in Pence’s snow-white hair for more than two minutes.

Here are key takeaways from the night, fact-checks of the candidates’ statements, and a round-by-round scorecard.

In the Hot Zone

On Wednesday, rather than stay in isolation while he is contagious, Trump slipped into the Oval Office — and then filmed what sounded like a late-night drug infomercial on the South Lawn of the White House.

In the five-minute video, he pronounced himself “great, like perfect,” and called his COVID-19 illness “a blessing in disguise,” claiming he would make the experimental antibody drug cocktail given to him available to all Americans.

Trailing in the polls a month before election day, Trump reprised his argument that he shouldn’t be blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic, yet again made no mention of the more than 211,000 Americans who have died in the last six months.

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It capped a day when he could not hold himself back. After unleashing a fierce tirade on Twitter, falsely accusing his opponents of treason, he returned to the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, where aides wore full personal protective equipment.

Most other top advisors and aides have fled the White House, because they either are infected and under quarantine at home, or worry they soon will be.

More From Washington

— The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday that the next debate will be held virtually as questions continue to swirl about President Trump’s health and how long he will remain infectious with COVID-19.

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— The White House on Wednesday tried to salvage its favorite items lost in the rubble of COVID-19 relief talks that Trump blew up. Amid mixed messages, his administration pressed for $1,200 stimulus checks and a new wave of aid for airlines and other businesses hard hit by the pandemic.

Contact tracing is the bedrock of disease outbreak containment, but experts said the White House has no legal obligation to investigate coronavirus infections that might have originated there.

— Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served as a “handmaid,” the term then used for high-ranking female leaders in the People of Praise religious community, an old directory for the group’s members shows.

Every Vote Counts

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The general election is less than 30 days away, and for the first time in California history, a ballot will make its way in the mail this week to every registered California voter. It’s a decision that was made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that will reshape the election experience.

That’s why we’ve put together a number of voter guides to help you sort through the mechanics of voting as well as the issues. They include answers to common questions on voting by mail and in person, as well as special circumstances, such as how to vote if you’ve been displaced by a natural disaster.

This interactive map shows voting locations in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, including ballot drop box locations.

Confused about the California propositions on the ballot? This walks you through each one, with text and videos.

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Broken Promises and a Slow ‘Train Wreck’

This was supposed to be the year that California finally did something about its epidemic of homelessness. On Feb. 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom stood before lawmakers in the state Capitol and delivered an unprecedented State of the State address devoted entirely to the homelessness crisis.

But even as Newsom spoke, a different epidemic was advancing silently across the state. Exactly one month later, he would order a far-reaching statewide shutdown that closed public bathrooms and, later, public cooling centers.

In the months since, the state’s efforts to shelter homeless residents amid COVID-19 have played out in starkly contrasting storylines, bent and molded by local politics and resources. And some approaches, such as releasing inmates from crowded jails to slow the virus’ spread, have increased the number of vulnerable people on the street.

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In Dire Straits?

Fraught relations between Washington and Beijing are, more so than in any other flashpoint, raising the possibility of war in Taiwan, a self-governed democratic island of 24 million people that China has regarded as a breakaway province since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

The stakes for Washington are high. Losing a democratic Taiwan to China would probably signal the end of American power in the Pacific, freeing China’s military to project its strength in the region and beyond to the detriment of U.S. allies such as Japan and South Korea.

China has in recent weeks flown military sorties deeper into Taiwanese airspace and beefed up military exercises aimed at the disputed territory. The best hope for preventing a conflict that would probably draw in the U.S. is Taiwan’s willingness and ability to deter China’s aggression, experts said. But Taiwan’s government has struggled to instill much urgency among the public.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Each fall, the people of the Me-Wuk Indian tribe harvest acorns, an essential and traditional crop. A Times reporter and photographer accompanied Eva Hendricks, a member of the tribe, as she gathered acorns in October 1969.

She stored them in a bin behind her home in Tuolumne, about 10 miles east of Sonora. She would grind shelled acorns into a meal with a family heirloom pestle, then leach out the bitterness on a special drainage board. Then they could be used to make biscuits or soup.

Eva Hendricks holds a tray of acorns.
Eva Hendricks, a Me-Wuk Indian, with a tray of acorns she has just gathered outside her home in Tuolumne. The log cabin behind her is used for storage. A different photo of Hendricks appeared in the Oct. 7, 1969, Los Angeles Times.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times Archives / UCLA)

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CALIFORNIA

— An office staff member for Gov. Gavin Newsom and another state employee who interacted with administration personnel have both tested positive for the coronavirus, though neither came in contact with Newsom or his top advisors.

Los Angeles County reported its highest daily count of coronavirus infections since Aug. 22, highlighting the continued dangers of the virus even as more businesses are opening up.

— When Newsom promised last month to phase out gas-powered vehicles and called for an end to fracking in California, his announcement drew national attention. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that a big part of that pledge is going to be difficult to carry out.

— Federal prosecutors said the subsidiary of a Chinese-based real estate company has agreed to pay more than $1 million to resolve a federal investigation into its involvement in a bribery and fraud case at L.A. City Hall.

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— The family of a Black homeless man fatally shot last month in San Clemente has filed a wrongful-death claim against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, accusing deputies of targeting people of color and turning a jaywalking incident into a deadly encounter.

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NATION-WORLD

— The former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd posted $1 million bond and was released from prison.

Trump’s accountant must turn over his tax records to a New York state prosecutor, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.

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— A grand jury indicted the St. Louis couple who displayed guns while hundreds of people protesting against racial injustice marched on their private street.

— The European Union’s top diplomat voiced alarm over the intensifying threat to civilians posed by the worst fighting in 25 years between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, calling for swift negotiations to end hostilities.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Gluck, the first American woman to win since 1993. The prize committee cited “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

— From “The Thin Blue Line” to HBO’s “The Jinx,” true crime reenactment scenes have gone from hokey storytelling device to ubiquitous. Now they’re undergoing another transformation into a high-end aesthetic choice.

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— Rising conductor Jenny Wong hopes to change the face of choral music. At the Los Angeles Master Chorale, she’s helping to fund work by composers from underrepresented groups.

— KISS’ Gene Simmons remembers a 21-year-old Eddie Van Halen: “You couldn’t believe your ears.”

PBS is turning 50. Celebrate with our TV critic’s list of its 13 greatest shows.

BUSINESS

— California’s new unemployment benefits application system is experiencing long wait times, and tens of thousands of jobless people who signed in did not complete the process in its first six days, many probably because they were unable to, state officials said.

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Facebook is tightening its rules on content concerning the U.S. presidential election next month, including instituting a temporary ban on political ads when voting ends, as it braces for a contentious night that may not end with a definitive winner.

SPORTS

— The Dodgers held off a late rally by the San Diego Padres to take a 2-0 lead in the National League Division Series.

— The Lakersstay-in-the-moment approach has led them to the brink of an NBA title.

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OPINION

Kamala Harris’ sterling debate was for every woman who’s been talked over by a man, TV critic Lorraine Ali writes.

— Even with so much news, we can’t forget the reported forced surgeries on detained migrant women. They must be investigated, The Times’ editorial board writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The families of Sandy Hook are still mourning. With painful memories of the daughter who wasn’t safe at school, can one family send their surviving son back in a pandemic? (Washington Post)

— How German Americans helped elect Obama and Trump — and might help put Biden in the White House. (The Conversation)

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— In Alaska’s annual Fat Bear Week, a salmon-chomping bruin nicknamed 747 has emerged as the people’s choice as the most fabulously fat. (The Guardian)

ONLY IN L.A.

Pabst Blue Ribbon has entered California’s cannabis industry with a trend-on-a-trend-on-a-trend offering: PBR-branded seltzer water infused with cannabis. The 12-ounce cans, each of which contain 5 milligrams of THC and 25 calories, have been quietly rolling out to L.A.-area dispensaries since the middle of September. Of course, it was a complicated endeavor, with two companies, federal law and a name-licensing deal shaping it.

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


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