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Today’s Headlines: Nearing a vaccine turning point

The United States appears on the brink of a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic with the apparently imminent authorization of a vaccine. But after the most vulnerable get their shots, who should be next in line?

TOP STORIES

Nearing a Vaccine Turning Point

The U.S. could be as little as hours away from a turning point in the pandemic that has claimed more than 292,000 American lives and is still getting worse.

On Thursday, an influential panel of scientists endorsed a COVID-19 vaccine developed in record time by Pfizer Inc. and its partner, BioNTech, and urged the Food and Drug Administration to make it available for use. If the FDA agrees, it could grant emergency use authorization — as is widely expected — as soon as today.

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Once authorization is secured, states and territories will be able to place their orders for the coveted vaccine. Millions of doses could be administered to healthcare workers and nursing home residents within a matter of days.

Who might be next in line after them is unclear. A federal panel recommended essential workers should also get priority. But who exactly counts as an essential worker? And will state and local officials prioritize certain types while making others wait?

Supplies will be limited in the early going, so companies, unions and trade groups are jockeying to push their workers closer to the front of the line. Among those vying for priority are pilots, flight attendants, teachers, bus drivers, meatpackers, bank tellers, Uber drivers and more.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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Southern California is driving the state’s record deaths from COVID-19, a Times analysis shows.

— The coronavirus is spreading more deeply into an increasingly diverse array of communities across Los Angeles County, hitting not only densely populated lower-income neighborhoods but some affluent ones as well.

— Regular, universal coronavirus testing in schools could help California’s K-12 campuses reopen and stay open — but so far, the state has been unwilling to recommend it or pay for it.

Sweden took pride in its light-touch approach to the pandemic. But it hasn’t been spared in a new global wave, and now officials are reconsidering their stance.

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For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

A Last Chance to Rule on the Election

The Supreme Court should not tolerate “this seditious abuse of the judicial process,” Pennsylvania’s attorney general told it Thursday. He was responding to an unusual, long-shot lawsuit filed this week by his Texas counterpart asking the court to overturn the election results in four states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden — its last chance to weigh in on the election.

President Trump lost the election by more than 7 million votes. His effort to challenge the outcome has lost repeatedly in all the key states. Most of his claims of flaws or fraud were so weak they never made it to the Supreme Court. Now he wants its justices to intervene and overturn the results, as do 18 Republican attorneys general and 106 House Republicans.

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Usually, the high court rules only on appeals from lower courts — though it also hears disputes between two states, typically involving water rights. But such a case has never been the basis for the Supreme Court to decide broad legal questions involving how another state runs its government, as the Republicans want the court to do.

More Politics

— President-elect Joe Biden is naming Susan Rice to lead the White House Domestic Policy Council, giving her broad sway. He is also nominating Denis McDonough, who was President Obama’s White House chief of staff, to head the Department of Veterans Affairs.

— By nominating California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra for health secretary, Biden is getting a team player, savvy politician and competent manager who can be tough in a fight, is Washington-ready and yet isn’t a media-seeking grandstander, writes columnist George Skelton.

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— Georgia’s twin Senate races could hinge on Asian American voters, who are playing an increasingly pivotal role in shaping the rapidly diversifying state’s politics — and that’s leading to a rush to get out the Asian vote.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

Views, Cheap Rent and Allegations of Favoritism

It’s a coveted perk for California state parks employees: For just a few hundred dollars a month, they can live in government-owned homes in some of the state’s most scenic and sought-after locations — beachfront cottages, historic houses in pricey neighborhoods and cabins surrounded by stretches of pristine wilderness.

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The benefit was created so California Department of Parks and Recreation staff could live close to the natural treasures they protect or maintain. But the well-intentioned program has been poorly managed, with current and former employees alleging that state property is being used for the benefit of some favored staff members, according to a Times investigation.

The department’s nearly 500 occupied state-owned homes rent — on average — for $215 a month, according to a Times analysis. At those prices, the revenue from renting them to employees is not enough to cover the cost of maintaining them. A review of state housing data, county tax assessor documents and other public records also found that the agency has disregarded state policies outlining when rents should be raised.

How the Golden State Killer Was Found

The dramatic arrest in 2018 of Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was all the more astounding because of how detectives said they caught the elusive Golden State Killer — by harnessing genetic technology already in use by millions of consumers to trace their family trees.

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But the DNA-matching effort that caught one of America’s most notorious serial killers was more extensive than previously disclosed and involved covert searches of private DNA housed by two for-profit companies despite privacy policies, according to interviews and court discovery records accessed by The Times.

The revelations are likely to heighten debate about genetic privacy and the self-policing models of testing companies, as well as law enforcement access.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

His name was Gigi. And though the fact that he was a “Rocky Mountain lynx” scared some people, he was “as tame as a house kitten.”

The Dec. 13, 1935, edition of The Times included a small item on Gigi and his owner, Mrs. Mildren Olson. Olson and her husband said they obtained him two years prior on a trip to Colorado. Gigi’s mother had been killed and the couple found him abandoned.

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At the time the story was published, he was fully grown and walked on a leash. The Times reported he “joyfully plays with a ball, rolls over on his back and purrs when chucked under the chin.”

Dec. 9, 1935: Mrs. Mildren Olson with her pet Rocky Mountain lynx Gigi perched on her shoulder.
Dec. 9, 1935: Mrs. Mildren Olson with her pet Rocky Mountain lynx Gigi. This photo appeared in the Dec. 13, 1935, Los Angeles Times.
(Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA)


YOUR WEEKEND

Volunteers are needed more than ever this holiday season because of the pandemic. The Times has compiled a list of places to volunteer in the L.A. area, but the rules are a little different this year. Many organizations have limited capacities, dress codes and medical testing requirements. Check out the interactive list here to see how you can help.

— Still looking for holiday gift options? Columnist Steve Lopez recommends restaurant gift cards.

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— If you’re into holiday decorating, don’t forget that 2020 has blessed us with a new frontier: Zoom backgrounds. L.A. artists created festive designs for your computer and phone screens.

— Put your wreath-making skills to the test in a contest that encourages appreciation for California’s native plants.

CALIFORNIA

— More than half of the youths in L.A. County’s juvenile detention facilities were in quarantine this week — a move that officials say was done out of an abundance of caution after a surge in positive coronavirus cases among staff.

— California may call itself the Golden State, but most Californians see its future as tarnished. A new survey finds 6 in 10 residents said they expect California’s children to be worse off financially than their parents.

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— A new lawsuit from the ACLU says sex abuse, overcrowding and unhealthy conditions are rampant in three Orange County homeless shelters, and that conditions have not improved since it issued a scathing report last year.

— Times art critic Christopher Knight called the Museum of Latin American Art‘s auction of dozens of works from its collection a “virtual fire sale.” The Long Beach museum is defending the controversial move, citing diversity as the goal.

Orange County Fair organizers are making plans for a scaled-back event next year.

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NATION-WORLD

— Global greenhouse gas emissions fell by a record 7% this year due to the pandemic, according to new estimates.

— The number of students enrolling in college right after high school plunged nearly 22% this year, hitting high-poverty, urban schools hardest — reflecting the coronavirus-related toll on college plans, a new survey finds.

Israel and Morocco have agreed to normalize relations, President Trump says, marking the fourth Arab-Israeli agreement in four months. As part of the deal, the U.S. will recognize Morocco’s claim over the disputed Western Sahara region.

— The prosecutor investigating August’s massive Beirut blast filed charges Thursday against Lebanon’s prime minister and three former ministers, accusing them of negligence.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— An unusual drop for an unusual year: Taylor Swift released a surprise album for 2020 and for the “Folklore” era called “Evermore.” Our critic says it’s got some world-beating songs, but not all of them are up to the standard she set on its predecessor.

Disney has unveiled its plan to supercharge its streaming services with a robust slate of Disney+ shows from its “Star Wars” and Marvel franchises, original movies and a new international service — and a price hike.

— Times film critic Justin Chang has selected the best movies of 2020. Here’s what they are and where to find them.

— More than 25 years since her tragic death, the mythos of Tejana pop superstar Selena Quintanilla-Pérez remains as compelling as ever. Four Latinx contributors at The Times revisit her landmark album “Dreaming of You,” as well as their own memories of Selena.

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— In a pandemic year, play was a critical storytelling medium. Games critic Todd Martens ranks his 10 best video games of the year.

BUSINESS

— The pandemic-driven demand for streaming content has made the unglamorous business of archiving and restoring film a little less so. One beneficiary? Iron Mountain, a company with a Cold War-era mission — protect media from destruction in a nuclear attack — and a 22-stories-underground storage vault to match.

— The number of people applying for unemployment aid jumped last week to 853,000, the most since September, as COVID-19 cases spike dramatically across the country.

SPORTS

— In a move that reflects shifting attitudes across much of the sports world, U.S. Olympic leaders won’t punish American athletes who raise a fist or kneel in protest on the medals stand.

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— It’s a small miracle this NFL season has made it to Week 14 without a cancellation or forfeit, writes columnist LZ Granderson. But who will have the courage to say COVID’s spread has gone too far?

LeBron James has been named Time’s athlete of the year for his work against voter suppression.

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

Facebook is too big. Breaking it up is just part of the solution, the editorial board writes.

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— Should California’s next U.S. senator be Black or Latino? There’s a third option — one where every one gets a seat at the table, writes columnist Erika D. Smith.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— What will happen to American cities next year? From transit to economic growth, the events of 2020 offer some clues. (The Atlantic)

— The U.S. has a child-care crisis. Fixing it could give the economy a $1.6-trillion boost. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

ONLY IN L.A.

A kinetic, evolving takeout subculture has become a tangible part of pandemic-era Los Angeles. Led by furloughed, laid-off and otherwise unemployed chefs and dining room managers, these self-starters are cooking compelling, often deeply personal food — in commissary incubators, rented restaurant kitchen spaces or out of their own homes. Often these takeout projects are labeled “Instagram pop-ups.” The tag doesn’t do justice to the movement, writes critic Bill Addison, though it does place them in a context the city understands: Los Angeles has the country’s richest history of culinary transience.

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


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