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Newsletter: Dueling town halls

President Trump and Joe Biden in two side-by-side photos
President Trump and Joe Biden participate in dueling town halls in Miami and Philadelphia.
(Associated Press)

President Trump and Joe Biden gave a study in contrasts during competing televised town halls.

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Dueling Town Halls

It was a tale of two town halls: one full of conflict, the other full of policy details.

After President Trump refused to participate in a virtual debate with Joe Biden on Thursday night, NBC and ABC ended up staging dueling town halls with the candidates. The events, much like their face-to-face debate 16 days ago, underscored how starkly the candidates contrast in style and substance.

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In Miami, Trump angrily refused to disavow the QAnon conspiracy theory or accept responsibility for the surge of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. He tangled with moderator Savannah Guthrie and bristled when asked about his difficulty disavowing white supremacy. “You always do this to me,” he said. “I denounce white supremacy, OK?”

Trump was just as testy with the first voter, who asked some 20 minutes into the broadcast about his recorded admission to journalist Bob Woodward that he intentionally downplayed the pandemic despite knowing its seriousness, and with the next questioner, who asked why the president has been so reluctant to wear masks.

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Biden emphasized that he would try to unify the nation and work to build consensus with Republicans. He strove to present himself as a detail-oriented policy wonk, at one point brandishing a card to cite specific tax rates.

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But the former vice president also faced tough questions. Pressed on whether he would consider expanding the Supreme Court in response to the likely confirmation of Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Biden left that door open. And on climate change, Biden put some distance between himself and the more progressive faction of his party that is calling for a sweeping Green New Deal for clean energy.

More Politics

— In an undoubtedly losing battle to block Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Democratic senators used a final day of hearings to press their case for why Judge Amy Coney Barrett is dangerous to Americans’ healthcare and personal rights.

— Republican Sen. Ben Sasse told Nebraska constituents in a telephone town hall meeting that Trump has “flirted with white supremacists,” mocks Christian evangelicals in private and “kisses dictators’ butts.”

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— Repeal Obamacare? Once GOP dogma that won some lawmakers their seats, it’s now the party’s albatross and a line that Republicans up for reelection are trying to distancing themselves from.

— Two people on Kamala Harris’ campaign plane — her communications director and a flight crew member — have tested positive for the coronavirus, upending the campaign’s travel plans in the final weeks of the contest. Harris tested negative.

— Even as progressive activists work to get the more moderate Biden elected, they anticipate plenty of organizing ahead if he wins.

Reopen Schools? Not So Fast, Unions Say

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As parents express widespread dissatisfaction with distance learning, two influential California teachers unions are pushing against growing momentum to reopen schools in many communities, saying that campuses are not yet safe enough amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaders with the California Teachers Assn., with 300,000 members, and United Teachers Los Angeles, representing 30,000 in the state’s largest school district, said districts do not have the resources to provide the level of protection they say is needed to bring teachers and children together in classrooms.

Their stance carries weight in the coming weeks and months as teachers’ working conditions are part of union-negotiated contracts. Unions and districts need to return to bargaining tables to work out new schedules, classroom arrangements and workloads under the safety guidelines for operating in-person classes during the pandemic.

How Traffic Stops for Bikes Turn Deadly

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Traffic stops have long been a source of controversy in policing, but while there’s been much debate about whom police pull over in a vehicle, there’s been less examination of how those laws are enforced for bicyclists.

The Times has identified 16 cases since 2005 in which a stop for bike violations in Los Angeles County resulted in a police shooting, according to interviews and a review of public records from the district attorney, coroner and various court cases. Most of the stops occurred in communities made up largely of Black and Latino residents. In 11 incidents, including that of Dijon Kizzee in August, the bicyclists — all male and Black or Latino — were killed.

Among those 16 cases, violations ranged from riding on the sidewalk to biking without a light or on the wrong side of the road. In 11 cases, authorities said they found a firearm. In one shooting, deputies found an airsoft gun they said looked like a semiautomatic handgun.

Endangered Species Further Imperiled

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Up until a few weeks ago, the West Fork of the San Gabriel River was one of the most abundant wildlife habitats in Los Angeles County. Then the Bobcat fire swept through, further threatening the endangered species biologists have been trying to save.

The land is now primed to dissolve under pounding winter storms. A heavy mudslide, experts said, could reverse decades of conservation efforts by inundating the last outposts for such federally protected species as the Santa Ana sucker fish and Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog. The exact toll on wildlife along the West Fork and throughout much of the range will not be known until the Forest Service‘s emergency response teams determine the extent of the damage.

And the list of endangered species statewide is growing. The California Fish and Game Commission granted temporary endangered species status to the Mojave desert tortoise when it agreed to consider the dusty, armored herbivore as a candidate for permanent listing.

More About the Fires

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— The Trump administration has rejected California’s request for disaster relief funds aimed at cleaning up the damage from six recent fires across the state, including Los Angeles County’s Bobcat fire, San Bernardino County’s El Dorado fire, and the Creek fire, one of the largest that continues to burn in Fresno and Madera counties.

— A record-breaking fall heat wave and gusty Santa Ana winds will team up to heighten fire danger across a swath of Southern California, with officials saying the bone-dry, blustery conditions will make it easier for new blazes to start and spread.

Track the progress of California’s wildfires with our map.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

There’s little but sand for miles at the Kelso Dunes. Yet with the wind come “singing” and “booms.” The mysterious phenomenon was the subject of an October 1976 Times story. On Oct. 16, staff writer Charles Hillinger accompanied prospector-mining engineer Jack Hereford to listen to the sounds of the desert from atop the dunes in the Mojave Desert.

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Hillinger wrote that at the time, why the dunes made noise was a mystery, but shape and height play a role and the movement of the sand contributed. When he first heard the booms, “I thought it was a train going by. But there was no train,” Hereford told him.

The dunes have been preserved as part of Mojave National Preserve.

Oct. 16, 1976: Jack Hereford makes his way up the giant sandy Kelso Dunes during an investigation of mysterious sounds.
Oct. 16, 1976: Jack Hereford makes his way up one of the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave Desert during investigation of mysterious sounds emanating there.
(Fitzgerald Whitney / Los Angeles Times )

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YOUR WEEKEND

— Take a spooky driving tour of L.A.'s “witch” houses to celebrate Halloween safely.

— Apples get all the attention, but fall is pear season, too. Learn to embrace their delicate sweetness.

— Here are 18 online picks for concerts, streaming theater productions, virtual art exhibitions and other cultural experiences for your viewing consideration.

— Haven’t voted yet? Register, make a plan and find out more about the initiatives on the ballot with The Times’ voting guide.

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CALIFORNIA

— Escalating its war of words with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission unanimously approved a resolution condemning the sheriff’s leadership of his department and calling for his immediate resignation.

— L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León took office two months early, telling supporters in a prerecorded swearing-in video that the city’s homelessness crisis has devolved into a “dystopian nightmare.”

— After nearly seven months of overlooking violations because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the L.A. Department of Transportation is resuming enforcement of most parking rules. Yes, that means street-sweeping hours are back in the city of L.A.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Hawaiian Islands reopened to tourism Thursday, an occasion that featured ubiquitous face masks, very few leis and thousands of arriving passengers, most of whom had passed preflight coronavirus tests in order to avoid quarantine requirements.

— A former Mexican defense secretary who led the country’s armed forces for six years under then-President Enrique Peña Nieto has been arrested on drug trafficking and money laundering charges at Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. and Mexican sources confirmed.

Karla Ruiz MacFarland, the first female mayor of Tijuana, is taking office today amid a tumultuous transition.

French police searched the homes of the former prime minister, the current and former health ministers and other top officials in a court-ordered investigation into the government response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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— U.S. diplomats and security officials privately warned the state of Nevada not to use Chinese-made coronavirus test kits donated by the United Arab Emirates out of concerns over patient privacy, test accuracy and Chinese government involvement.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Seven months after Broadway shut down, the Tony Awards nominations are here. The musical “Jagged Little Pill” led all shows with 15 nominations, followed by “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” with 14 and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical” and “Slave Play” with 12 apiece. Theater critic Charles McNulty calls the timing of these nominations “just plain embarrassing.”

— The Times invited 40 Black playwrights to share their experiences with insidious racism, and they have a lot to say, even amid the Black Lives Matter statements issuing forth industrywide.

— The pandemic hit working moms hard. In her new TV role on “Social Distance,” “Orange Is the New Black’s” Danielle Brooks records the toll.

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— Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors has landed a Warner Bros. TV production deal to create original programming.

— Greg Goodfried, co-head of United Talent Agency’s digital talent division, is parting ways with the Beverly Hills-based firm to lead the businesses of the D’Amelio family of social media stars, including TikTok’s top creator, Charli D’Amelio.

BUSINESS

— After 30 years, East Hollywood’s El Gran Burrito says farewell to make way for affordable housing — though a pandemic hasn’t helped.

— Which businesses would pay more property tax if voters approve Proposition 15 this year? It’s complicated.

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SPORTS

— After winning in a blowout the night before, the Dodgers lost in a 10-2 blowout to the Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers’ season could end today in Game 5.

— The Clippers reached an agreement for Tyronn Lue to be their next coach. He worked as an assistant to former coach Doc Rivers.

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OPINION

Megan Thee Stallion is standing up for herself and Black women. But we need more than Megan to save this “forgotten population” in California, writes columnist Erika D. Smith.

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— How to handle the New York Post’s dubious Biden report is only the latest no-win dilemma for Twitter and Facebook. It’s a problem of their own making, writes editorial board member John Healy.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Paranoia. Botched tests. Political interference. A deep look into how as vaunted a public health agency as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fell so far so fast. (Pro Publica)

— Who was the “nodding lady” seen behind Trump at his town hall? (Miami Herald)

— Candy chutes? Candy slingshots? Reverse trick-or-treating, parade-style? Easter egg hunts, only spooky? Experts weigh in on the relative safety of some creative ways to do Halloween this year. (Eater)

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ONLY IN L.A.

Early in the summer of 1973, singer David Lee Roth and guitarist Eddie Van Halen performed together for the first time. They’d go on to form one of the biggest hard-rock bands ever. But how did they end up meeting in Pasadena in the first place?

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


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