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Today’s Headlines: The Merrick Garland model

Merrick Garland at a lectern, with Joe Biden at right
Merrick Garland, whom President Biden has nominated to be the next attorney general, speaks during an event in Wilmington, Del., on Jan. 7.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

Merrick Garland, nominated to become the next attorney general, showed his mettle during the Oklahoma City bombing investigation.

TOP STORIES

The Merrick Garland Model

Merrick Garland, the onetime Supreme Court nominee who was snubbed by Republicans in 2016 and is now President Biden’s nominee to be the next attorney general, will get his Senate confirmation hearing today.

Garland is expected to tell senators that, under his leadership, the Justice Department would wage an “urgent” battle against discrimination in American society while taking on the threat posed by extremists seeking to undermine the integrity of the U.S. electoral system, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

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In those remarks, the 68-year-old federal judge drew a parallel between the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and another he helped prosecute: the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history.

Garland’s oversight of the bombing inquiry provides insights into how he would run the Justice Department, according to interviews with former prosecutors and agents, as well as a detailed oral history Garland provided in 2013. His work came at a time when trust in law enforcement was eroding, America was awash in conspiracy theories, and the government didn’t have a grip on the threat posed by right-wing extremists.

When he met with prosecutors and investigators, he insisted that everyone “do everything by the book,” a mantra veterans of the inquiry still vividly recall. Garland, former agents and prosecutors said, understood missteps would be used to attack the legitimacy of the investigation.

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He is likely to get tough questions from senators of both parties but is expected to win easy confirmation.

More Politics

— Biden tried to reassure U.S. allies on Friday that he is turning the page on his predecessor’s “America first” approach and is restoring a foreign policy that values cooperation with the world’s major democracies to tackle global challenges.

— The Justice Department is reportedly probing ties between far right-wing luminaries such as Roger Stone and Alex Jones and the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

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Donald Trump will make his first post-presidential appearance at a gathering of conservatives in Florida next weekend.

Inequities in the Vaccine Rollout

For the first time on Friday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released detailed data tracking the progress of the COVID-19 vaccination effort in more than 340 neighborhoods across the county. So far, 12% of the county’s 10 million residents have been vaccinated, with priority given to healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities and people 65 and older.

A closer look at the map shows that those numbers can vary widely from place to place. In some neighborhoods on the wealthy Westside such as Beverly Hills, 25% of residents have already received the first dose of the two-shot vaccine. In contrast, South L.A. and neighboring cities such as Compton, where incomes are lower and a majority of residents are Latino, only 5% of residents have been vaccinated.

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County officials say these disparities are due to long-standing issues with healthcare access, education and poverty, which government outreach efforts thus far have failed to overcome.

On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged that state and local health officials have stumbled in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine equitably among Latino and Black communities in California.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Newsom’s new plan to vaccinate school staff more quickly does little to move L.A. Unified School District campuses toward reopening; the teachers union remains opposed until community infection rates drop further and vaccines take full effect for returning workers.

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Orange County this week will start setting aside doses of COVID-19 vaccine for workers in education, child care, and food and agriculture, officials said.

— The pandemic has dropped rents in San Francisco. Even though it remains an expensive place to live, some tenants have found deals they could never have imagined.

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

A Costly Rail Segment

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A 65-mile section of California’s bullet train through the San Joaquin Valley that a contractor assured could be constructed much more cheaply — with radical design changes — has become another troubling and costly chapter in the high-speed rail project, a Times investigation found.

The segment runs across rivers, migratory paths for endangered species and an ancient lake bed through the length of Kings County, a fertile agricultural belt south of Fresno. Before awarding a contract for the section, the California High-Speed Rail Authority and its consultants knew about these sensitive issues and prepared lengthy environmental reports aimed at accelerating construction by avoiding legal obstacles.

But in 2014, when the rail authority awarded the contract, it went with the lowest bidder — a Spanish company named Dragados — which promised $300 million in cost savings by altering the design that the authority had proposed to regulators.

Seven years later, these changes have been largely abandoned and have contributed to more than $800 million in cost overruns on the Kings County segment.

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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

— For two COVID-19 patients, life and death rests on “el tubo.”

— Black, female and high-profile, Vice President Kamala Harris is a top target in online fever swamps.

— Before a far-right UCLA student stormed the Capitol, he faced a furor over incendiary tweets.

— In Lebanon, climate change and corruption endanger an ancient valley.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Film history was made on the back lots of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio in Culver City. But after MGM fell on hard times, parts of the studio were sold off. The movie sets on Lot 2 were removed after the land was sold for development.

A 1970s urban myth stated that one movie set that was bulldozed there was Ashley Wilkes’ homestead Twelve Oaks in “Gone With the Wind.” A 1994 Times story stated, “Former tour guide David Bowen recalled the MGM guides were trained to say that a Southern mansion that existed for years on the old MGM backlot was Twelve Acres.... ‘I think they just did it for the tourists,’ Bowen said. ‘They wanted to have something interesting to show them.’ ”

The photo below by Times staff photographer George Fry ran as part of a three-photo sequence showing the movie set demolition.

A leaning house
Feb. 21, 1978: A push from a tractor knocks down a mansion movie set at the old MGM Lot 2.
(George Fry / Los Angeles Times)
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CALIFORNIA

— February is normally the wettest month of the year in downtown L.A., when 3.8 inches of rain would usually fall. This year, next to nothing has fallen.

— Skateboarding superstar Nyjah Huston is among five people L.A. prosecutors have charged with organizing parties that were possible superspreader events at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— The San Diego Police Department has implemented a policy that sets parameters on officers’ actions during demonstrations, from when they give dispersal orders during protests deemed unlawful to when they fire less-lethal rounds.

— For both the housed and unhoused in this Hollywood neighborhood, help is urgently needed, columnist Steve Lopez writes.

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NATION-WORLD

Hospitals across the South grappled with water shortages as the region carried on with recovery efforts after a devastating winter storm. Meanwhile, the weather offered a balmy respite: temperatures as high as the mid-60s.

— At the U.S.-Mexico border, there’s confusion, anxiety and hope as the U.S. unveils a new process for asylum seekers.

— The head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog met with Iranian officials in a bid to preserve his inspectors’ ability to monitor Tehran’s atomic program, even as authorities said they planned to cut off surveillance cameras at those sites.

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— The motorcade of the interior minister of Libya’s U.N.-backed government came under attack in the capital, Tripoli, officials said.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the group behind the Golden Globes, have accused it of self-dealing and ethical lapses. A Times investigation also found that the nonprofit HFPA regularly issues substantial payments to its own members in ways that some experts say could run afoul of Internal Revenue Service guidelines. In response to questions, the HFPA said in a statement, “none of these allegations has ever been proven in court or in any investigation.”

— Jim Henson’s classic series “The Muppet Show” began streaming on Disney+, but now comes prefaced with an offensive content disclaimer.

— With the documentary series “Allen v. Farrow” on HBO, we offer a timeline of events in Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s relationship.

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Frank Langella calls his role of Judge Julius Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7" “one of the greatest parts I’ve ever played.”

BUSINESS

— Federal aviation regulators are ordering United Airlines to step up inspections of all Boeing 777s equipped with the type of engine that experienced a catastrophic failure over Denver on Saturday. United says it is temporarily removing those aircraft from service.

— A week after popular audio chatroom app Clubhouse said it was taking steps to ensure user data couldn’t be stolen by malicious hackers or spies, at least one attacker has proved the platform’s live audio can be siphoned.

SPORTS

Julian Araujo, a 19-year-old Galaxy player, uses his soccer fortunes to give back to the people working in the fields of his hometown of Lompoc.

Free online games

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

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OPINION

— What does Kamala Harris owe Black people? The first bill has just come due, columnist Erika D. Smith writes.

— How to make sure the L.A. River Master Plan fulfills its promise to the Gateway Cities.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

QAnon’s corrosive effects on the United States. (60 Minutes)

Trump hotel employees in Washington are opening up about what it was like serving the right-wing elite. (Washingtonian)

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ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

In California’s real estate market, houses are moving quickly. In San Francisco over the weekend, one 139-year-old house moved quite slowly — six blocks, while on a set of giant dollies. Relocating the two-story Victorian home had been in the planning stages for years. It was a journey made all the more complicated because part of the trip was downhill.

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


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