Newsletter: The Barrett battle

The Senate Judiciary Committee today begins considering the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.


The stakes are high as Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett begin.


The Barrett Battle

With just over three weeks to go until election day, Senate Republicans will begin their push to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett by starting four days of confirmation hearings today.

It comes against the tumultuous backdrop of a bitterly fought presidential campaign, which has been roiled by President Trump’s bout with the coronavirus and his claims that a COVID-19 outbreak that has killed more than 214,000 Americans will soon disappear. Trump’s rival, Joe Biden, warns that Barrett will side with conservative efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act amid the pandemic.

The political fallout from the Barrett hearings extends beyond the presidential race. Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Lindsey Graham is in the fight of his career against Jaime Harrison, who brought in a record $57 million in the final quarter of the campaign. Meanwhile, California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, face distinct challenges that may call for them to rein in their natural political instincts.

Barrett, a 48-year-old federal appeals court judge, will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee that “policy decisions and value judgments” should be made by elected officials, not the courts, according to her opening statement. She will also pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a legal icon whose death last month created the court vacancy she has been nominated by Trump to fill, and to Barrett’s mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia.

Trump Train Sputtering


In recent weeks, Trump’s campaign has stopped all of his television and radio advertising in three states and substantially reduced it in four others after lackluster fundraising left him unable to match a surge in spending by Biden. Trump’s retreat from Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire reflects his struggle to change the dynamics of a race that polls suggest he is on track to lose.

As Trump skids deeper into political peril, anxious Republicans have started to try to distance themselves from his fate, appealing to voters to elect them as a check on a Biden administration.

Meanwhile, Trump has declared himself to be healthy enough to return to the campaign trail, with a planned rally in Florida today. The White House doctor said Trump was no longer at risk of transmitting the coronavirus but did not say explicitly whether the president had tested negative for COVID-19.

Will Exide Be Allowed to Walk Away?

For decades, families across a swath of southeast Los Angeles County have lived in an environmental disaster zone polluted with brain-damaging lead, while they wait on a state agency to remove contaminated soil from thousands of homes.

Now, a bankruptcy plan by Exide Technologies, which operated the now-closed lead-acid battery smelter in Vernon that is blamed for the pollution, would allow the site to be abandoned — with the remediation left unfinished.


The Trump administration has agreed not to oppose Exide’s plan, meaning that state taxpayers would be left with the bill for California’s largest environmental cleanup. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday.

Deadly Delays Under Review

As current and former doctors in L.A. County’s public hospital system condemn delays in providing specialist care to patients, California regulators have launched a review of the long, sometimes deadly waits faced by those who need treatment.

The actions come after an L.A. Times investigation found that patients of the county Department of Health Services face agonizing delays to see specialists after referrals from primary care providers. The delays leave many with intolerable pain, worsening illnesses and a growing sense of hopelessness.

The Times report included several patients who died of the conditions they waited to have treated.

A Bittersweet Victory

After an NBA season like no other, the Lakers have won their first championship in a decade and their 17th in franchise history with a victory over the Miami Heat.

In January, the death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter crash shook the team. In March, the NBA shut down because of the coronavirus. In May, the death of George Floyd escalated calls for social justice across the U.S., a message that players focused upon throughout their stay in the NBA bubble in Florida.

All these storylines and more coalesced as LeBron James led the Lakers to victory, which brought out fireworks across Southern California and a crowd converging near Staples Center, despite the urging of city leaders to stay away. Some chanted “Kobe, Kobe” in tribute to the former Lakers great whose spirit hovers over the team.


Armed, far-right groups who support Trump say they’ll show up at polling places in battleground states.

— “We will never leave”: Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought over this disputed region for decades. Thousands of demonstrators protested outside the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills on Sunday afternoon in a show of solidarity with Armenia.

— California’s prison factories have continued operating during the pandemic, even as the prison system has stopped rehab programs, religious services and educational classes.

— The mom-and-pop businesses that make Los Angeles a place we love are dying. We must fight to save them, writes columnist Steve Lopez.

— In Stockton, San Joaquin County’s Census Tract 1 is the hardest to count in the state.


On this date in 1997, singer John Denver died when an experimental plane he had purchased crashed into Monterey Bay during a test flight. He was 53.

“Air traffic controllers had no indication of trouble as he took off in clear skies,” according to a Times story in the immediate aftermath. “In fact, Denver’s last words were a calm query about whether he had transmitted a four-digit code clearly. “Do you have it now?” he asked. Then controllers lost contact with him. Several witnesses heard a pop.”

The following year, federal investigators concluded their inquiry, saying low fuel, a hard-to-reach handle to switch gas tanks and modifications to his homemade airplane may have figured in the crash.

John Denver performs at the Forum in Inglewood.
(Los Angeles Times)

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— A swath of California is failing to meet a new state health equity metric for coronavirus cases that’s intended to ensure counties are helping poor communities of color, which are disproportionately affected by the virus.

— Another child in L.A. County has been diagnosed with a rare, potentially deadly syndrome believed to be related to the coronavirus, according to the county Public Health Department, bringing the total number of children with the ailment in the region to 41.

— Cooler temperatures are expected to give way to a heat wave in L.A. County that could bring periods of elevated fire risk this week. With a strong La Niña developing, the dry pattern is looking even harder to break.

— With lessons learned from previous deadly wildfires, Sonoma County has improved its evacuation planning.

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— The 2020 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded Monday to two Stanford professors for improving the theory of how auctions work and inventing new and better auction formats that are now woven into many parts of the economy.

— Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have hit their highest points recently throughout the Midwest, where the growth in new cases has been the worst in the nation. But a number of Republican governors in the region and near it are claiming silver linings in the ominous health data.

— In Denver, police said a private security guard working for a local TV station was jailed on suspicion of first-degree murder in the deadly shooting of another man during dueling right- and left-wing protests.

South Korea urged North Korea to commit to its past disarmament pledges while expressing concerns over the North’s unveiling of a suspected new long-range missile during a military parade.

Mexico’s president published an open letter to Pope Francis calling on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for abuses of Indigenous peoples during the conquest of Mexico in the 1500s.


— To remember the 1921 Tulsa, Okla., race massacre, the HBO series “Lovecraft Country” went the extra mile: writing an opera.

— Are the best “Star Wars” stories now in video games? “Star Wars: Squadrons” makes the case, critic Todd Martens writes.

Che Zhao Sheng went from penniless immigrant to penjing pro. He’s the man behind the Huntington’s Chinese Garden art.

— Veteran game show host Tom Kennedy, best known for hosting programs such as “Name That Tune,” “Password Plus,” “You Don’t Say!” and “Split Second,” has died at age 93.


— Indoor shopping centers have opened in L.A. County, but the owner of Westfield-branded malls, one of the biggest mall operators in the region, is suing to stop the county from shutting down centers again.

— Five users of the online brokerage Robinhood say funds were taken from their accounts, but there was no one to call.


— Today’s meeting between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves won’t be just the first game of the National League Championship Series. It also will be the first Major League Baseball game with a significant number of fans in attendance this year.

— Washington quarterback Alex Smith‘s first game since a horrific injury was a moment of pride for his father in San Diego. But the Rams showed no mercy in their game against Smith, winning 30-10.

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— The unequal pace of school reopenings is exacerbating California’s educational inequity, The Times’ editorial board writes.

Erin Aubry Kaplan on how Black people maintain hope in the U.S. — and why that’s so important.


— An investigation finds “more than 200 companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments that patronized Trump’s properties while reaping benefits from him and his administration.” (New York Times)

— Dr. Anthony Fauci said he did not consent to being featured in a new Trump campaign ad and that his words were taken out of context. (CNN)


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