Today’s Headlines: Closing in on more coronavirus relief

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at a microphone
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks during a news conference with other Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
(Rod Lamkey / Associated Press)

Congress is trying to work out another deal on economic aid during the coronavirus crisis as a key deadline looms.


Closing In on More Coronavirus Relief

After months of impasse, House and Senate leaders were on the brink of announcing an economic aid package of about $900 billion, which is expected to add $300 a week to state compensation for the unemployed and provide a one-time direct payment of at least $600 for most Americans.

The compromise is also expected to include another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses as well as money for vaccine distribution, food assistance, rent payments, child care and schools.


Many of the deal’s details have not been made public, and some are not yet settled. For example, the direct payment will go to Americans with incomes below a certain threshold, but that amount isn’t yet known. And the deal is expected to include rent assistance, but few details of who might be eligible have been released.

The aid is expected to be tied to a $1.4-trillion package funding the operations of federal agencies through this fiscal year ending Sept. 30; Congress must pass that measure by Friday to keep the government open.

More Politics

Chris Krebs, the U.S. cybersecurity chief fired by President Trump last month after he pushed back on allegations of election fraud, testified before Congress that such baseless conspiracy theories are having a “corrosive” effect on the public’s faith in the nation’s voting system.

— In picking a team, President-elect Joe Biden has been guided by memories of his late son, Beau.

— Trump is considering pushing for a special prosecutor to advance a federal tax investigation into Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

— Sen. Dianne Feinstein tells columnist George Skelton that she hasn’t thought about retiring soon despite some assertions that the 87-year-old lawmaker should step aside because her cognitive abilities have allegedly declined.


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Hospitals Under Siege

Officials say a ferocious COVID-19 surge is besieging Los Angeles County as never before, with an all-time daily high of 134 deaths from the disease and a record number of new infections.

Inside Southern California’s hospitals, conditions are rapidly deteriorating, as beds fill up and workers burn out. The Southern California region, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has 0.5% of its ICU beds available, according to state data, down from 7% just days ago. As of Tuesday, Los Angeles County had fewer than 100 ICU beds, while Riverside County had zero availability.

More than 180 hospitals across California have applied for waivers to bypass state-mandated staff-patient ratios, according to the California Department of Public Health — a testament to how radically the latest COVID-19 surge has upended operations. Meanwhile, California is opening temporary field hospitals to help with overflow patients.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— In a move that reflects the desperation of teachers, nurses, healthcare, grocery and hotel employees, their influential unions are calling for a strict monthlong Los Angeles County shutdown in January to control the raging COVID-19 pandemic, save lives and ultimately allow for a quicker reopening of schools and the economy.

— U.S. officials say they’re actively negotiating for additional purchases of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine after passing up a chance to lock in a contract over the summer because it was still unclear how well the shots would work.

— As COVID-19 outbreaks ravage jails and prisons, chaplains have become a lifeline for inmates.

— Vaccine side effects: What you need to know.

— French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, following a week of meetings with numerous European leaders.

The Chip War

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. makes more than half the world’s contracted semiconductor chips and lies at the center of the technology supply chain. It churns out circuitry found in iPhones, Amazon cloud computers, graphics processors that power popular video games and even military drones and fighter jets.

But these days the company has been drawn into an increasingly bitter and at times dangerous rivalry between the U.S. and China that is forcing nations and corporations to choose sides in an era that is redefining the global order.


A major snowstorm closed the Ridge Route between Los Angeles and Kern counties on Dec. 16, 1940. Drivers found themselves stranded and “thumped themselves to keep warm.”

The Times reported that around 500 vehicles were held in Gorman until “highway crews spread dirt on ice-coated pavement to permit traffic to move.”

The Times archives are full of photos of California snow, from Lake Tahoe to Valenica. See more here.

Hundreds of vehicles were halted by a snowstorm on the Ridge Route on Dec. 16, 1940.
Dec. 16, 1940: Hundreds of motor vehicles are halted in Gorman by a snowstorm.
(Los Angeles Times)


— A woman was charged with murder after she delivered a stillborn baby at a hospital in the Central Valley. Her case tests a California law that protects mothers if their unborn children die.

— The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that LAPD Officer Toni McBride broke department policy when she continued shooting Daniel Hernandez during a fatal encounter in April — deciding McBride’s first four shots were justified, but her fifth and sixth shots were not.

— A San Diego County Superior Court judge ruled that two strip clubs can remain open and operating during the most recent COVID-19 shutdown orders from the state, a decision that appears to extend to the county’s beleaguered restaurants and allow them to reopen to some extent.

— Wondering where the rain is? The Southern California winter outlook through February calls for a 40% to 50% chance of above-normal temperatures and roughly a 40% to 60% chance of below-normal precipitation.

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— For the first time in history, the U.S. government has carried out more executions in a year than all states that still conduct executions, according to an annual report on the death penalty.

— In the trial of 14 people linked to the January 2015 Paris attacks against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, the fugitive widow of an Islamic State gunman and a man described as his logistician were convicted of terrorism charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

— A Hong Kong pastor tried to protect democracy activists. Now his bank account is frozen as personal assets and multinational banks get swept up in China’s crackdown on dissent.

— The European Union unveiled plans to revamp the 27-nation bloc’s dated cybersecurity rules, days after data on a new COVID-19 vaccine were unlawfully accessed in a hack attack on the European Medicines Agency.


Gal Gadot knows this year was rough. She hopes the film “Wonder Woman 1984” will bring some welcome distraction.

— What do you do on lockdown if you are one of the world’s most popular and highly regarded artists? If you are David Hockney, you draw. All day. Every single day.

— Was Tom Cruise’s leaked (and epic) COVID-19 rant justified? Depends on whom you ask.

— To appreciate life in 2020, video game critic Todd Martens can’t stop playing games about death. “I found them vital and downright healing in our pandemic year.”


— As a dispute with the Writers Guild of America and pandemic production delays drag on, more Hollywood agents are changing course and becoming managers.

— Some L.A. County grocery workers may soon be entitled to renewed “hero pay” in recognition of the hazards they are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Major League Baseball has reclassified the Negro Leagues as a major league and will count the statistics and records of their 3,400 players as part of MLB history. The league said it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history.”

— The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether major colleges and universities are violating federal antitrust laws by refusing to pay the football and basketball players who bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to their campuses.

— An unlikely alliance of a racetrack owner and an animal rights advocacy group is calling for the end of North American horses being sold to South Korean interests for racing or breeding.

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— What Americans don’t know about Latino history could — and should — fill a museum, writes Yale professor Stephen Pitti.

— 2020 was the year America embraced Black Lives Matter as a movement, not just a moment, writes columnist Erika D. Smith.


— Analyzing the Hong Kong government’s news releases shows a sharp rise in authoritarian language. (Quartz)

— Actor Leonard Roberts says working on the show “Heroes” nearly broke him. (Variety)


He’s still making a list and checking it twice. But this year, please don’t sit on Santa‘s lap. Instead, socially distant St. Nick in Southern California comes in many forms, including face-shield Santa, drive-by Santa, Plexiglas Santa and even Zoom Santa, who charges $750 an hour and says, “I do OK; I’m very happy with the income. I’m a SAG-AFTRA member now.”

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