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Today’s Headlines: The $2,000 question

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On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked an attempt to vote on whether to increase the amount of stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.

The fate of a measure to increase COVID-19 relief checks to $2,000 remains unclear.

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The $2,000 Question

Will millions of Americans get $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks? The answer lies in the Senate, where the plan stalled out as Republicans blocked a swift vote proposed by Democrats and split within their own ranks.

The roadblock mounted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may not be sustainable as pressure grows. President Trump says he wants the Republican-led chamber to follow the Democrat-led House and increase the checks from $600. A growing number of Republicans, including two senators in a runoff election on Jan. 5 in Georgia, have said they will support the larger amount. But most GOP senators oppose more spending, even if they are also wary of defying Trump.

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Senators will be back at it today. McConnell has signaled an alternative approach to Trump’s checks that may not divide his party so badly but may result in no action at all.

The Senate leader filed new legislation late Tuesday linking the president’s demand for bigger checks with two other Trump priorities: repealing protections for tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter, and the establishment of a bipartisan commission to review the 2020 presidential election he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

More Politics

— Trump lashed out at congressional Republicans after the House easily voted to override his veto of a defense policy bill. A total of 109 Republicans, including Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of GOP leadership, joined with Democrats to approve the override, which would be the first of Trump’s presidency.

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— Biden criticized the Trump administration for falling “far behind” its pledge to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year and renewed his ambitious promise to distribute 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

Luke Letlow, Louisiana’s newest Republican member of the U.S. House, has died from complications related to COVID-19, only days before being sworn into office. He was 41.

Desperate Times Call for ...

Southern California will remain under a stay-at-home order for the foreseeable future, state officials said, meaning the region will enter 2021 with significant restrictions on its struggling economy as hundreds of Californians die every day and hospitals face unprecedented pressures from a flood of COVID-19 patients. Only rural Northern California, with 28% available ICU capacity, is not subject to the additional rules.

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Though not unexpected, the extension of the stay-at-home order for Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley is yet another cold splash of reality that the pandemic will upend life into the new year, despite the promise of new vaccines. As the coronavirus has rapidly spread over the last two months, it has sparked an alarming rise in deaths, which are now occurring in California once every six minutes.

But there are also finally signs that the rules that went in effect three weeks ago are offering some relief. Though total cases and hospitalizations continue to set new daily records, the pace of growth has slowed.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— All hospitals across Los Angeles County are being slammed by waves of COVID-19 patients, but those in lower-income, densely populated and nonwhite communities have been hit hardest and face the greatest challenge in providing care, according to a Times data analysis. Oxygen supply shortages are also bedeviling Southern California hospitals.

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— Dwindling hospital morgue capacity in San Diego County over the weekend forced the county medical examiner to begin storing the deceased.

— The first reported U.S. case of COVID-19 caused by the new coronavirus strain that has sparked alarm in the United Kingdom has been detected in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis announced.

— A hospital gave a COVID-19 vaccine to a Disney employee, even as state officials warned skipping the priority line could bring sanctions. But it may actually be permitted under California guidance.

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

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Feeling Blue, in a Good Way

For the Dodgers, this year will be remembered primarily for ending a 32-year championship drought. But there was much more.

The year started with anger and a franchise-changing trade. The Dodgers protested racial injustice and police brutality — at first individually and then as a team. They resided in Texas — 1,400 miles away — for nearly a month to reach the World Series amid a global pandemic. And then, after victory, a national controversy followed.

Here are 10 of the team’s most memorable moments of 2020.

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YEAR IN REVIEW

— When American science denial became lethal.

— California’s “climate damn emergency” can’t be ignored, columnist Steve Lopez writes.

— The year Orange County reminded us it’s still Orange County, as columnist Gustavo Arellano puts it.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The Las Vegas residence of Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn was home not only to the famed magicians but to some unusual pets. Visitors were warned with a sign at the entrance that read “Beware of Dog,” though as The Times reported in 1974, the herd never included a dog.

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Instead there were Sarah, a rare Siberian tiger; Radscha, a Bengal tiger; Sabu, a black panther; and Sasha, an African leopard. And the most well-known of all was Leo the 650-pound lion, known for his “bloodcurdling roar” that could be heard across the neighborhood.

In 2003, Horn suffered a severe wound to his neck when a tiger attacked him onstage at the Mirage Hotel & Casino. In May 2020, he died of complications from COVID-19 at age 75. “Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend,” Fischbacher said in a statement.

Dec. 29, 1974: Five-year-old Leo, at 650 pounds, guards the home of magician-animal trainers Siegfried and Roy.
Dec. 29, 1974: Five-year-old Leo, at 650 pounds, guards the home of magician-animal trainers Siegfried and Roy.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— A virtual inspection of Otay Mesa Detention Center found numerous deficiencies, including in medical care, records from Immigration and Customs Enforcement show. Not all standards could be evaluated because inspectors couldn’t physically enter the facility, which is run by a private prison company.

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Amigo Bob Cantisano, a towering figure in the West Coast’s organic farming movement, has died at age 69.

— A ceramic bust in Oakland honoring Breonna Taylor that was smashed the day after Christmas has now been stolen, the artist said.

— Venerated Beverly Hills restaurant and celebrity hangout La Scala has apologized for planning a “Prohibition” New Year’s Eve dinner amid the latest coronavirus surge and indoor dining ban, calling the incident a big misunderstanding.

— Never send in a man to do a goat’s job. At the O.C. fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, a herd of caprine helpers moved in to alleviate a weed-covered slope that has challenged human landscapers for years.

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NATION-WORLD

— The first U.S. dietary guidelines for babies recommend breast milk only for at least the first six months of life and absolutely no added sugar for children under 2.

— The Justice Department won’t bring federal criminal charges against two Cleveland police officers in the 2014 killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, saying the quality of the video was too poor for prosecutors to conclusively establish what happened.

Belarus and Argentina have begun mass COVID-19 inoculations using the Russian-developed Sputnik V shot, becoming the first countries outside Russia to roll out the vaccine, though it is still undergoing studies to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

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— In a move expected to reverberate across Latin America, Argentina’s Senate passed a law legalizing abortion early Wednesday. It’s a landmark victory for the women’s movement that has been fighting for the right for decades.

— A Thai dissident was kidnapped. When police had no answers, his sister began to investigate.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— On Dec. 31, Adobe will no longer support Flash animation. Art and architecture columnist Carolina Miranda says goodbye to an era of creativity on the web.

— Most TV made in quarantine was forgettable. But David Tennant and Michael Sheen’s “Staged” should go in a time capsule, writes culture columnist Mary McNamara.

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Fantasy, long one of TV’s whitest genres, may finally be ready to change with a new casting approach in “His Dark Materials” and “Bridgerton.”

— A Sudan in transition presents its first-ever film for Oscars consideration with “You Will Die at Twenty.”

BUSINESS

Pierre Cardin, the French couturier who pioneered the designer licensing business by putting his name not just on ready-to-wear clothes but on sunglasses, luggage, carpets and kitchen appliances, has died. He was 98.

— Boeing Co.’s 737 Max has returned to commercial service in the U.S. with its first flight since two deadly crashes prompted the longest aircraft grounding in the nation’s history.

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SPORTS

— The San Diego Padres were already a team on the rise. Then they acquired Rays pitcher Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and others and made the offseason’s biggest splash.

— The Padres have put the pennant first and the pandemic second, offering owners a welcome reminder to back up their talk of teams as public trusts. So much for the team’s sleepy reputation, columnist Bryce Miller writes.

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OPINION

— Opioids dominate the news, but meth addiction has been rising in L.A., with deadly consequences. Washington has to step in, Sen. Dianne Feinstein writes.

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— During the 1918 flu pandemic, L.A. didn’t make masks mandatory. It was a poor choice, columnist Gustavo Arellano writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Documents obtained by the Tennessean show that 16 months before Anthony Quinn Warner’s RV exploded in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning, officers visited his home after his girlfriend reported that he was making bombs in the vehicle. (The Tennessean)

—What’s behind the great bucatini shortage of 2020? It’s complicated, and it may or may not involve a long-running international spat over what constitutes a noodle. (Grub Street)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Big family gatherings, steaming carts, curious peeks at other tables’ plates — all this is part of the typical dim sum experience. But not during COVID-19. “It’s really sad,” acknowledges Eddie Lai, who with his sister Iris Lai runs Seafood Cove 2 in Westminster. Theirs is just one L.A.-area restaurant that has felt the whipsaw back-and-forth of pandemic regulations and struggled to stay afloat while keeping patrons safe. The Times has checked in with them repeatedly since we first visited in May, as they prepared to reopen after the first stay-at-home order. Here’s what it’s been like for them to open and close.

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