Today’s Headlines: The formal transition begins

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaks in Wilmington, Del., last week.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

As President-elect Joe Biden assembles his Cabinet, the Trump administration has at last allowed formal transition proceedings to begin.


The Formal Transition Begins

President Trump has not conceded, but the Trump administration has finally yielded to the reality that the presidential election will not be overturned and authorized the start of formal transition proceedings. That means President-elect Joe Biden and his top aides will be given classified briefings on national security threats and be allowed to coordinate with federal health officials on the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, as Biden continues to build his Cabinet-in-waiting.


Soon after Michigan certified its vote for Biden — a major blow to Trump’s efforts to contest the vote — the General Services Administration official who had blocked the start of the formal transition for three weeks effectively recognized Biden as winner of the election. In a two-page letter, the official wrote that she had decided “independently” to withhold recognition. Soon after, Trump tweeted that he had recommended that she “do what needs to be done ... and have told my team to do the same.”

The latest twist in one of the nation’s strangest elections came hours after Biden had moved to make good his vow to appoint a historically diverse Cabinet. He announced that he will nominate Alejandro Mayorkas, who would become the first Latino to run the Department of Homeland Security, and Avril Haines as the first female director of national intelligence. Biden is also reportedly poised to nominate Janet Yellen, former chair of the Federal Reserve, as the first woman to run the U.S. Treasury. All would need to be confirmed by the Senate.

The nominees signal a wide-ranging White House national security and foreign policy leadership team. Unlike many in Trump’s ever-shifting Cabinet, Biden chose known advisors with long records of public service and expertise.

A New Stay-at-Home Order Looms

The specter of another COVID-19 shutdown is looming over Los Angeles County, as a record-high number of daily coronavirus cases Monday pushed the region over its self-set threshold for issuing a new stay-at-home order.

The strong possibility of more restrictions comes as health officials and epidemiologists expressed increasing alarm at the unparalleled pace of increased cases in L.A. County and throughout the state. California is now on pace to see its cumulative death toll double just before spring, from the more than 18,700 deaths currently tallied to more than 37,000 by March 1, according to model forecasts by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

When such a new stay-at-home order will be handed down, or what precise form it will take, is unclear. But the L.A. County director of public health, Barbara Ferrer, said, “for sure, we’re not going back to all of the restrictions that were in place in the original Safer at Home order.” The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the order at its meeting today.

Already, the new lockdown measures — which include a limited late-night curfew in most of California and the shuttering of outdoor restaurant dining in L.A. County — have been met with some skepticism by members of the public weary of months of limits on their movement.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— The decision to temporarily suspend even outdoor dining for restaurants in L.A. County has sparked a backlash from eateries and some county officials, who worry about the devastating economic toll.

— All those warnings from public health officials begging Americans to limit gatherings this holiday season aren’t stopping the White House from planning a host of festivities and holiday parties.

China is testing millions of people, imposing lockdowns and shutting down schools after coronavirus flare-ups in three cities.

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Shaky Moral High Ground

Fossil fuel proponents are casting themselves as allies of communities of color and defenders of their financial well-being, and building diverse political coalitions to do so. The goal is to bulwark oil and gas against ambitious climate change policies by claiming the moral high ground — even as those fuels kindle a global crisis that disproportionately harms people who aren’t white.

Take, for instance, the industry-backed advocacy group Western States and Tribal Nations, whose main purpose is lobbying for natural gas export terminals. It says it was created in part to “promote tribal self-determination,” but internal documents show that all but one of its members are state and local government agencies or energy companies.


In the 1920s and 30s, The Times sponsored a series of promotions to usher in the holiday season. They would send a reporter and photographer to the North Pole via United Airlines, who would then attempt to persuade Santa to come begin Christmas in Los Angeles. Called the “Santa Claus Expedition,” the paper would run stories on the negotiations and Santa’s whereabouts for a week in the paper leading up to Thanksgiving.

The elaborate advertisement would conclude with the arrival of a plane carrying the Times staffers and Santa. Some years, crowds of spectators were invited to watch, while other arrivals were only photographed. See more photos from the annual event here.

Nov. 1938: Santa Claus arrives in Los Angeles from the North Pole after flight on United Airlines.
Nov. 1938: Santa Claus arrives in Los Angeles from the North Pole after flight on United Airlines. Behind Santa is the crew of the United Airlines Mainliner Bill Sievert, radio navigator; Diesty Trembly, co-pilot; and Capt. Johnny Roberts. This photo was published in the Nov. 25, 1938 Los Angeles Times.
(Los Angeles Times )

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— Widespread skepticism in Latino and Asian communities and tepid support among younger Black voters combined with opposition from most whites to doom Proposition 16, the effort to revive affirmative action, a postelection survey finds.

— Against the backdrop of the latest wave of COVID-19 cases, ICE officials are pushing to increase the number of immigrants detained in California. At the same time, advocates are urging California leaders to step in.

— State officials improperly allowed hundreds of billboards advertising cannabis products along California highways even though the billboards were banned under the 2016 initiative that legalized the sale of pot for recreational use, a judge ruled last week.

— After more than a year of controversy over how to teach ethnic studies in K-12 through college classrooms, discord erupted anew last week over course content and how to meet legal requirements.

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— Sen. Dianne Feinstein will not pursue leadership of the high-profile Senate Judiciary Committee or any other committee next year, taking a dramatic step back after pressure from progressives who questioned her willingness to use tough, partisan politics to confirm Biden administration Supreme Court picks and other judicial nominations.

David Dinkins, New York’s only Black mayor who served from 1990 to 1994, has died at age 93.

— Muslims are reeling over revelations that a popular prayer app called Muslim Pro sold users’ data to clients including U.S. defense contractors, with one civil-liberties advocate calling it “a betrayal from within our own community.

— In a new book he wrote during the Vatican’s pandemic lockdown, Pope Francis blasts COVID-19 skeptics and national-populist leaders and expresses his support for demands for racial justice following the police killing of George Floyd. And on Monday, he met with NBA players and said he supported their work on social justice.

— The trial of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy on corruption and influence-peddling charges was suspended Monday less than two hours after it started in order to allow a medical report on one of the defendants.


— How safe are indoor movie theaters? The public health experts we spoke with praise safety measures theaters are implementing but also say that once you’re inside, the hazards increase — mostly because of choices patrons make.

— How will cable news thrive without Donald Trump in the White House? The networks are preparing for the end of a ratings-driving relationship.

Bad Bunny didn’t get to perform at the American Music Awards Sunday night after he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to stay home.

— How do you get people to stop believing the lies? Ask artist Alison Jackson, whose photographs covers the inexhaustible territory of celebrity obsession and media manipulation.


General Motors has flipped to California’s side in its pollution fight with Trump, saying it will no longer support the Trump administration in trying to end the state’s right to set its own clean-air standards. The company is also recalling about 7 million pickup trucks and SUVs to replace Takata air bag inflators that risk exploding.

— Apartment rents are falling in Los Angeles. But head east to the Inland Empire, and you’ll find the opposite — a mark of shifting preferences in housing, experts say.


— For the first time in three tries, quarterback Jared Goff beat Tom Brady as strong defense secured the Rams’ win over the Bucs. Meanwhile, the NFL made history with its first all-Black officiating crew.

— The Los Angeles Lakers will be re-signing forward Markieff Morris for a two-year deal, according to a person with knowledge of the deal who is not authorized to speak publicly.

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— Schools need reliable federal reopening guidance, and the federal government should start gathering and analyzing the data on the coronavirus’ spread so it can help administrators make plans to reopen safely, the editorial board says.

IBM has finally apologized for firing tech trailblazer Lynn Conway during her transition, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes. It’s half a century late.


— Eleven states let school districts decide whether students and staff must wear masks. One Georgia middle school where masks were optional became the center of an outbreak. (ProPublica)

— “Toy Story” at 25: how Pixar’s debut evolved tradition rather than abandoning it. (The Conversation)


"[T]his city genuinely springs out of its own soil, possesses a true genius loci and forms a kind of irreplaceable flashpoint: the point on the map where the intellectual, the physical and the historical forces of American history met to produce — well, combustion, what else?” That’s just one way Welsh journalist and travel writer Jan Morris’ described L.A. in the 1976 essay “Los Angeles: The Know-How City.” David Ulin remembers Morris, who died at age 94 and spent the first 46 years of her life as James Morris, for having written one of the finest essays about our city.

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