Today’s Headlines: The buildup to Inauguration Day

The National Mall in Washington is filled with flags instead of people on Monday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

As Joe Biden prepares to become the next president, security in Washington is tight — and Democrats and Republicans in California have a tangle of emotions.


The Buildup to Inauguration Day

When Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, there will be stark reminders of how this inauguration is unlike others. The ceremony will be heavily fortified with an expected 25,000 National Guard troops, who are being vetted amid fears of an insider attack, after some supporters of President Trump violently stormed the U.S. Capitol two weeks before. (And some of those supporters are actively seeking pardons.) Festivities will be mostly virtual, in a concession to the COVID-19 pandemic.


It will mark the end of a tumultuous four years that saw one special counsel investigation and two impeachments of the sitting president, nearly 400,000 deaths from COVID-19, record high stocks, a roller-coaster job market and fierce national discussions about race and the very idea of democracy.

As one president’s chapter closes and another’s begins, Californians in two congressional districts — one that voted overwhelmingly for Trump, the other for Biden — took stock of the last four years and their hopes for what comes next. It’s no surprise the Democrats are delighted to have new leadership and Republicans are bracing themselves for policies they’ll dislike.

But these complicated times defy tidy characterizations. In these districts centered in Bakersfield and Oakland, voters report a tangle of emotions. They share a sense of being deeply unsettled, a fragile hope for consensus and a fear that the country may be too divided to find it.

Who Gets a Pardon — and Who Doesn’t

Trump is expected to issue a flurry of pardons and commutations before his term ends at noon Wednesday. And if they follow the form of the past four years, they’ll go to those who align most with Trump’s worldview and grievances.

Consider the case of Jeremy Ridgeway, a former Blackwater security contractor who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, admitting his role in killing 14 Iraqi civilians and wounding 17 others in Baghdad 13 years ago. When Trump announced pardons the Tuesday before Christmas for four other Blackwater guards responsible for the slaughter at Nisoor Square, Ridgeway was left out in the cold. Trump granted the men, who had fought their convictions and denied culpability, unconditional clemency.


“Once the president pardoned those guys, how can he not pardon me?” Ridgeway said in his first interview since the shooting. “I accepted responsibility. I did the right thing. I testified. This is a matter of principle.”

More From Washington

— Biden plans to issue a flood of executive orders in his first days in office, signaling a sharp break with his predecessor by reversing or revising Trump administration policies on immigration, climate change, the coronavirus and other pressing issues, his incoming chief of staff said.

— After years of being bashed by Trump, California is emerging as the de facto policy think tank of the new administration and of a Congress soon to be under Democratic control.

— The Biden administration will look to one holdover as a source of military continuity — Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — in taking charge of a Pentagon battered by leadership churn.

— Facing criticism over efforts to produce citizenship data to comply with an order from Trump, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau said that he planned to resign with the change in presidential administrations.


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Mass Vaccination Confusion

Since Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that Californians 65 and older would now be eligible to get vaccinations against COVID-19, officials statewide have been flooded with calls from seniors, amid an increase in hospitalizations and deaths after the holidays. The problem is that there are more people who want to be inoculated than there is vaccine.

The result? Widespread confusion, particularly in Los Angeles County, which has lost more residents to COVID-19 than any other in California. On Monday, two L.A. County supervisors urged that seniors be allowed to be inoculated immediately. The head of the five-member board, Hilda Solis, soon followed with an executive order directing that vaccinations be available to county residents 65 and older starting Thursday.

In other parts of Southern California, senior citizens are already starting to get vaccinated. Orange County has opened up vaccinations to residents 65 and older. Long Beach, which has its own public health department, moved Friday to the next phase of vaccinations.

Newsom’s announcement is far from the first time that his briefings have left more questions than answers.


More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— California health officials said that a new strain — different from a highly contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom — is popping up more frequently across the state.

— California’s top epidemiologist told healthcare providers to stop using a batch of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine after a “higher than usual” number of people had apparent allergic reactions at a San Diego vaccination clinic.

— In rural California, the fight against COVID-19 hits a wall of defiance and suspicion.


— It took columnist Steve Lopez just minutes to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Except it was in Alaska.

— This L.A. project shows that homeless housing can be done quickly and cheaply.


Disneyland killed its annual pass program. Here’s what comes next.

— Where’s the energy? Staples Center is a strange, cold place without fans, columnist Bill Plaschke writes.


Putting out a newspaper has been called the “daily miracle.” Back in 1951, TV cameras documented that miracle, following the production of the Jan. 20, 1951, edition of the Los Angeles Times.

KTTV-TV, which aired an one-hour program showing the inner workings of the paper, was owned by The Times from 1946 to 1963.

Jan. 18, 1951: A film crew from KTTV-TV lines up a shot of a Linotype machine in the Los Angeles Times composing room.
Jan. 18, 1951: A film crew from KTTV-TV lines up a shot of a Linotype machine in the Los Angeles Times composing room.
(Bob Jakobsen / Los Angeles Times)


— In Sacramento, hundreds of people celebrated an unconventional Martin Luther King Jr. Day by joining a vehicle caravan through the capital city.
They didn’t pass near the fence-lined Capitol, where more than 1,000 National Guard troops are stationed.


— The first two weeks of 2021 saw 59 shooting victims in South Los Angeles compared with seven last year, L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore said in a tweet Saturday, calling attention to a deadly crime surge that has coincided with a devastating pandemic.

— Strong, potentially damaging Santa Ana winds are forecast for Southern California today, the National Weather Service said.

— Two Stanford students are aiming to be the youngest to conquer the nearly 8,000-mile Triple Crown of hikes.

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— Despite fears of violence and a country on edge, gun rights activists rallied outside the Virginia Capitol, drawing in right-wing groups increasingly hostile toward the government and openly armed in defiance of the law.

— A Russian judge ordered Alexei Navalny to be remanded to jail for 30 days, a spokeswoman for the longtime Russian opposition leader said. Navalny had attempted to return to Moscow after treatment in Germany for poisoning.


— Guatemalan police and soldiers launched tear gas and wielded batons and shields against a group of Honduran migrants who tried to push through their roadblock.

— Sen. Josh Hawley‘s planned book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” canceled by Simon & Schuster after his involvement in the recent Capitol insurrection, has been picked up by conservative imprint Regnery Publishing.


— The consensus on whether the Oscars’ new inclusion standards will have an impact this year is ... maybe.

Phil Spector, the record producer who was convicted of murder, died at 81 after contracting COVID-19. Pop music critic Mikael Wood examines Spector’s career and the damaging myth of male creative genius.

Tom Hanks stars in and wrote the screenplay for “Greyhound.” He also wrote this piece describing what it was like filming the movie’s shipboard scenes.

Paul R. Williams wasn’t just the “architect to the stars.” He pioneered the L.A. look.



Social media platforms are cracking down to prevent Inauguration Day violence.

— How fast do you cancel streaming services? It’s a problem for Hollywood.


— In football stadiums and ballparks in the 1930s and ‘40s, L.A. journalist Halley Harding fought for the rights of Black athletes.

Jon Arnett, a homegrown L.A. legend who starred as a running back with USC and the Rams, has died at 85.

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— The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Promised Land may be closer than we think, The Times’ editorial board writes.


— Columnist Gustavo Arellano on what Netflix’s “Cobra Kai” teaches us about how to deal with Trump. (No, seriously!)


— Videos posted to Parler during the attack on the U.S. Capitol show violence and confusion. (ProPublica)

— The report of Trump’s “1776 Commission” calls for “patriotic education,” defends America’s founding on the basis of slavery and likens progressivism to fascism. (New York Times)


Amanda Gorman became the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles at age 16 in 2014 and the first national youth poet laureate three years later. Come Wednesday, she will be the youngest poet to write and recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. The incoming first lady, Jill Biden, is a fan of her work and convinced the inaugural committee that Gorman would be a perfect fit.

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