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Newsletter: Today’s Headlines: A confirmed conservative court

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VIDEO | 04:35
Amy Coney Barrett takes constitutional oath to join Supreme Court

Shortly after the Senate confirmed Barrett in a partisan 52-48 vote, Justice Clarence Thomas administered the constitutional oath during an outdoor White House ceremony.

With Amy Coney Barrett’s rise to the Supreme Court, a conservative majority has been reinforced.

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A Confirmed Conservative Court

It was the most partisan confirmation vote for a Supreme Court justice in modern American history — the first time since 1869 that a justice was confirmed without a single vote from the opposing party.

Now, Amy Coney Barrett‘s ascent to the Supreme Court will secure a 6-3 conservative majority that is widely expected to expand gun rights and permit new restrictions on abortion. Barnett will be sworn in by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in a private ceremony today at the Supreme Court, after the Senate voted 52-48 to confirm her and she took a constitutional oath at the White House on Monday.

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Hoping to galvanize voters before next week’s election, Republican senators pushed the nomination through at a pace unmatched in 45 years, as millions of Americans cast their ballots early. But with Barrett’s confirmation coming four years after Republicans refused to consider President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, during an election year, Democrats predicted a backlash for what they viewed as a second Supreme Court seat snatched by Republicans.

Nevertheless, President Trump’s third appointment to the bench ensures that his imprint on the high court will continue well past his presidency.

More Politics

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— The Supreme Court refused to extend the election-day deadline for mail ballots in Wisconsin, rejecting appeals from Democrats who said the Postal Service may not be able handle the flood of election mail by Nov. 3.

— As the presidential race moves into its final week, polls show Trump is trailing Democrat Joe Biden by double digits with female voters. But it hasn’t stopped the president from attacking, insulting and patronizing women he considers political enemies, or even just not supportive enough.

— In Florida, Cuban Americans tend to lean right and Puerto Ricans tend to go left. That means Democrats and Republicans are targeting the state’s other Latino voters.

How to vote in California: Our complete guide to making sure your ballot counts.

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More Winds, More Fires

Two wind-driven wildfires raced toward neighborhoods in Orange County on Monday, critically injuring two firefighters, forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate and smothering much of the region with smoke.

The larger of the blazes, the Silverado fire, broke out shortly after 6:45 a.m. in the brush country around Santiago Canyon and Silverado Canyon roads, as Santa Ana winds pushed it west to the suburban edge of Irvine and Lake Forest. Officials say two firefighters on hand crews were severely burned as they battled the flames. By Monday evening, more than 70,000 people were under evacuation orders in the foothills.

Later in the day, the smaller Blue Ridge fire erupted in Santa Ana Canyon — a notorious wind tunnel said to have given the blustery Santa Anas their name.

Forecasters have issued a red flag warning through this afternoon.

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More About the Fires

— The strongest Santa Ana winds of the year not only fueled wildfires in Orange County but also brought unhealthful air quality to parts of the Los Angeles Basin and San Gabriel Valley as ash from the Bobcat fire blew into neighborhoods.

— As Californians reel from the state’s worst fire season on record, residents who have tried to reduce their community’s risks describe their efforts as an act of near-futility between lack of funds and lack of interest.

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

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A Crisis in California’s Heartland

Farmworkers have been declared essential for California’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry, but they often don’t qualify for safety nets such as unemployment, eviction moratoriums or stimulus aid that have become lifelines for many. About 50% of farmworkers are reported to lack legal status in the U.S.

Familiar with the seasonal nature of farm work, most field laborers conserve earnings from earlier months to plan for the cold season when fewer people are needed for tasks such as pruning. But this year, there has not been enough work and many are dreading a winter of scarcity.

Already, the coronavirus has sickened many agricultural workers and sent others home to quarantine, often without pay despite new rules offering it. Schools have closed, leaving many families scrambling to meet unexpected child-care costs, or forcing some to quit their jobs. And fires in Napa and Sonoma have compounded the misery.

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‘Wrong Then. Wrong Now.’

Eugenics was used as a justification for Hitler’s Nazi Germany to kill 6 million Jewish people, and for U.S. authorities to forcibly sterilize more than 60,000 people in California and more than 30 other states largely in the early 20th century.

So why does UC Berkeley have a Genealogical Eugenic Institute Fund?

The fund came from a family trust to the University of California Board of Regents in 1975, for research under the banner of the now-reviled ideology. No evidence has surfaced that Berkeley used the money for eugenic research. Instead, it funded a genetics counseling training program.

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But a bioethicist was stunned to learn of the fund’s existence, and after protests from some faculty, the university is now disavowing it.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

It could have been mistaken for a nuclear fallout shelter. But inventor Bill Bounds was trying to escape something else: L.A. smog.

On Oct. 27, 1971, The Times reported Bounds had built a three-room, fully furnished shelter 20 feet below his yard on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It was accessible through a spiral staircase hidden inside what appeared to be a stone well. “It’s no laughing matter,” he said. “I’m deadly serious.”

Between smog and wildfire smoke, he was neither the first nor the last Californian to understand how clean air can become a luxury. In 2020, state-of-the-art air filtration systems remain in demand.

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Bill Bounds stands at the stone entrance of a spiral staircase leading to his smog-alert chamber
Bill Bounds at the entrance of the spiral staircase leading to his smog-alert chamber at his home.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

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CALIFORNIA

— The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a motion seeking options for removing Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who in recent weeks has faced growing calls to step down because of what many describe as his resistance to oversight and transparency.

— L.A. City Council members are reversing course on a potential tax break for a hotel developer after learning the city previously sued his company over unpaid hotel taxes.

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— A protester who is suing the city of Los Angeles and several LAPD officers after being shot and badly wounded by a police projectile during a major protest in the city this summer has been charged with assault in the same incident.

— How learning to roller skate helped one writer connect with a piece of L.A. Black culture.

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NATION-WORLD

— Under Trump, the U.S. no longer leads the world on refugee protections, as he cut the number of refugees allowed in by more than 80%. Now, Canada has replaced the U.S. as No. 1 for resettling people fleeing war and persecution.

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France has “lost control of the epidemic,” said the doctor who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the coronavirus, after health authorities reported more than 52,000 new cases and as nations across Europe enacted more sweeping restrictions to try to slow the spread.

— Women’s rights activists and many thousands of their supporters held a fifth day of protests across Poland, defying pandemic restrictions to express their opposition to a top court ruling that tightens the predominantly Catholic nation’s already strict abortion law.

— Scientists say the moon may hold frozen water in more places than previously suspected.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Early in her career, critics dismissed Jessie Buckley. She’s having the last laugh in Season 4 of FX’s “Fargo.”

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— It’s been a year of high highs and low lows as the Los Angeles Philharmonic figures out how to come back strong, writes classical music critic Mark Swed.

— A lesson of 2020? You don’t think about toilet paper until you are desperate. A new exhibition at the Echo Park gallery Marta asked 53 artists to redesign the toilet paper holder.

— If Trump doesn’t achieve great success in the coming presidential election, Sacha Baron Cohen said he has a new gig lined up for him. OK, maybe not.

BUSINESS

— San Francisco and Alameda counties have severed ties with testing sites run by Google offshoot Verily amid concerns about patients’ data privacy and complaints that funding intended to boost testing in low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods instead was benefiting higher-income residents in other communities.

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Uber Technologies Inc. was accused in a lawsuit of violating the Civil Rights Act by firing minority drivers based on how they’re rated by customers. An Uber spokesman called the lawsuit “flimsy.”

SPORTS

— The Dodgers can win the World Series tonight, but eliminating the plucky Rays in Game 6 will be a tall order, columnist Helene Elliott writes.

— Several USC athletes will be compelled to answer questions under oath after an ethics complaint alleged that students were approached to fraudulently file for EDD benefits. At the center of the federal probe is USC receiver Munir McClain, who was suspended after filing for unemployment.

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OPINION

— If the Supreme Court is going to make voting harder, it must explain why, senior editorial writer Michael McGough says.

— There’s no denying that a COVID-19 vaccine is coming. It’s time to start thinking about how to safely and effectively distribute it, write USC’s Bob Kocher and Dana Goldman.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— White House advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has come under criticism after he said the president can help people in the Black community “break out of the problems that they’re complaining about, but he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.” (USA Today)

— An excerpt of President Obama’s memoir focuses on reforming healthcare. (The New Yorker)

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ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Legal filings. Police calls. Allegations of the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song played on loop out of spite. A dispute between bond king Bill Gross and his next-door neighbor tech entrepreneur Mark Towfiq over a $1-million outdoor Dale Chihuly sculpture between their Laguna Beach mansions has gotten intense. The issue apparently began when Gross put up netting to protect the sculpture by Chihuly — also known for the famed glass display in Las Vegas’ Bellagio hotel — and it escalated from there.

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


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