Today’s Headlines: Light at the end of the tunnel

A nurse prepares a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in London.
(Associated Press)

This could be the first day of COVID-19 vaccinations in California, but it won’t slow the crisis imperiling hospitals now.


Light at the End of the Tunnel

California will begin providing the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as early as today after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization Friday and a working group of scientists and experts representing four states in the West gave its blessing Sunday. But officials are warning that the initial shipment of roughly 327,000 doses won’t alter the rapidly deteriorating conditions in hospitals as the virus rages out of control.


Medical workers were expected to get the first doses of vaccine through a limited number of hospitals in California that include Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA Health in Los Angeles and Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Officials expect to get more doses of the vaccine later this month and again in early January.

It’s a welcome glimmer of hope. But it is expected to be months before the vaccine hits the general population in significant numbers. And that leaves health officials struggling with an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 that has swept through California.

On Saturday, officials announced another troubling milestone as the Central Valley’s availability of ICU beds hit zero. “There is no help on the way,” said one pulmonologist in Fresno. “I can’t tell you how scared people are, and I can’t even sit there and hold their hands. There are so many others waiting.”

Meanwhile, the numbers of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties have all doubled since the week of Thanksgiving, according to a Times analysis.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

President Trump said that he was reversing an administration directive to vaccinate top government officials against COVID-19 while public distribution of the shot is limited to frontline health workers and people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.


— California’s smartphone-based COVID-19 exposure alert system had racked up 4 million signups by Friday afternoon, according to the state Department of Public Health, but needs more residents to opt in to be effective.

Germany is ratcheting up its pandemic restrictions in an effort to cut the stubbornly high rate of infections.

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

The Electoral College Vote

After another weekend of false claims about the election from Trump, the electoral college will be closely watched today as it votes to make President-elect Joe Biden‘s victory official.

Court after court — and even the Supreme Court as recently as Friday — has rejected attempts by Trump and his supporters to throw out an election he lost decisively. Trump’s continued claims, with no evidence, that the election was stolen have gone beyond Twitter rhetoric and legal shenanigans.

Late Saturday, pro-Trump supporters descended on the nation’s capital and clashed with counter-protesters. Among the most vocal Trump supporters were members of Proud Boys, which is considered a hate group by human rights activists. Clashes led to dozens of arrests, several stabbings and injuries to police officers.


Police said they were investigating incidents involving a banner and sign at two historic Black churches as potential hate crimes.

More Politics

— Trump threatened to veto the annual defense policy bill that covers the military’s budget for equipment and pay raises for service members. The House and Senate passed the bill by overwhelming margins.

— Congressional action on coronavirus relief legislation may hinge on a little-known question that turns out to be political dynamite: Should private businesses be immune from lawsuits involving COVID-19?

— Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, a lifelong Republican who called out Trump’s baseless attacks on the election, is facing death threats and girding for another battle with conspiracy theories and lies.

Police, Bias Complaints and a Gap in Trust


Police agencies across California upheld just 49 racial profiling complaints from 2016 to 2019, less than 2% of the roughly 3,500 allegations filed, a Times analysis of state Department of Justice statistics found.

Of the 250 law enforcement agencies that received at least one racial profiling complaint in that time frame, 92% of them upheld none of them, according to the analysis.

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department sustained two out of 146 complaints in the same time span. Despite receiving 883 racial profiling complaints during that four-year period, the most in the state, the L.A. Police Department upheld only two.

So, what’s going on? That’s where police officials and reform advocates sharply differ in their assessment of the data.

The Spy Who Became a Novelist

David Cornwell worked for Britain’s foreign intelligence service when his first novel came out. His superiors wouldn’t allow him to publish under his real name, and thus the pen name John Le Carré was born.

In a career that began in 1961, Le Carré wrote 25 novels ranging from post-World War II espionage in Europe to the post-9/11 struggle against terrorism. He also wrote about Russian money launderers and Africans caught up in the turmoil of the Congo.


Though best known as a spy writer, the author, who died at 89 over the weekend, “explored human frailty and notions of patriotism, as well as the dehumanizing aspects of strict adherence to political doctrine at a time when extremism threatened to plummet the world into nuclear war,” writes The Times’ Scott Martelle.


This year was not supposed to be anything like 2019, and COVID made sure of it.

— A visit to Disney’s partly reopened California Adventure shows why our safe spaces feel forever changed.

— Should California’s next U.S. senator be Black or Latino? Both, if Sen. Dianne Feinstein quits, columnist Erika D. Smith writes.

— She was his best friend at Panorama High School. And she led him to his death.


On Dec. 13, 2000, Vice President Al Gore conceded the presidential election to Texas Gov. George W. Bush. It came after a five-week battle over the rules, hanging chads and a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that stopped a statewide Florida recount, giving Bush a 537-vote win in the state — a margin of .009% out of roughly 6 million votes cast.


“ ‘While there will be time enough to debate our continuing differences, now is the time to recognize that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us,’ Gore said in a nationally televised speech from his office in Washington,” as The Times’ Edwin Chen and Mark Z. Barabak reported the next day. “Acknowledging his disappointment, Gore nevertheless urged his supporters to ‘unite behind our new president.’ ”

Bush, likewise, called for unity. “Invoking Abraham Lincoln’s famous words, Bush said, ‘Our nation must rise above a house divided.’ ”

A newspaper front page
Los Angeles Times front page on Dec. 13, 2000, the day Al Gore conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush.
(Los Angeles Times)


— The selection of state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra for a post in Biden’s Cabinet provides Gov. Gavin Newsom a chance to make a plum appointment but also puts him under pressure from many of his progressive allies.

— Authorities lifted an evacuation warning for a small number of Riverside County residents as a wind-driven wildfire burned through rugged terrain south of Beaumont.

— With L.A. courts paralyzed by COVID-19, public defenders say their caseloads are “unconscionable.”


— Columnist Steve Lopez says California’s unemployment payment fiasco makes the DMV look like a well-run agency.

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Hackers broke into the networks of federal agencies including the Treasury and Commerce departments in attacks revealed just days after U.S. officials warned that cyber actors linked to the Russian government were exploiting vulnerabilities to target sensitive data.

— A man was fatally shot by police on the steps of a landmark New York City cathedral after he began firing two semiautomatic handguns at the end of a Christmas choral concert, police said

— Unwelcome in other countries, Americans are fleeing lockdowns and flocking to Mexico. They offer a ray of hope to the tourism industry there but also appear to have contributed to an uptick in coronavirus cases.

— The Brexit deadline approaches. Is there hope left for a deal?



Nonbinary TV characters had a landmark year. But writers, actors and advocates say excitement over numbers is “foolish” if it doesn’t come with creative power.

Charley Pride, country music’s first Black superstar, has died at 86 of complications from COVID-19. Here are 10 of his essential recordings.

— After news that musician FKA twigs filed a lawsuit against ex-boyfriend Shia LaBeouf citing physical and sexual abuse, another of his former girlfriends — Sia — has come forward alleging misconduct by the actor.

— Meet the mysterious cartoonist behind “the weirdest thing on Adult Swim.”


— Zappos founder Tony Hsieh died last month, but his vision for Las Vegas goes on.

— A close-up look at how hard it is to keep a little family restaurant going in a pandemic.



— A confirmed case of COVID-19 has caused USC’s men’s basketball program to pause team activities and forced the team’s Sunday night Pac-12 opener against Stanford to be postponed, according to a university statement.

Cleveland’s baseball team has reportedly decided to drop its nickname.

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— The biggest danger of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election is that he has convinced so many Republicans that it was rigged, establishing a precedent for future candidates to refuse to accept the outcome of a democratic vote, columnist Doyle McManus writes.

— It’s beyond shameful for our government to ignore local restaurants or feed them scraps, as has been happening for the last eight months, writes columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson.


— A column by a Wall Street Journal contributor that said Jill Biden should stop using the title “doctor” and referred to her as “kiddo” has drawn a sharp backlash. Biden holds a doctorate of education degree. (USA Today)


— South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley explains how she assisted her sister with a battle against leukemia. (The Undefeated)


A statue of former Gov. Pete Wilson stands in downtown San Diego, but should it? Supporters and protesters showed up when it was installed in 2007. In October of this year, it was removed after activists had called for it to be taken down, citing Wilson’s endorsement of Proposition 187 in 1994. But by the end of November, the statue has been reinstalled. When columnist Gustavo Arellano headed there to see the reaction, he found out that most people were thinking about ... trolleys.

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