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Today’s Headlines: L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s shift to the right

Alex Villanueva
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on the Venice Boardwalk.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

The L.A. sheriff’s shift to the right

Alex Villanueva became Los Angeles County’s sheriff by convincing liberal, progressive voters he was their candidate. But these days, he’s been on a campaign against the liberal forces that played a major hand in electing him.

Villanueva has appeared on Fox News to dismiss the notion of widespread police brutality and, in regular social media broadcasts, he has taken on a Trump-like demeanor, calling his critics trolls and out-of-touch elites. His news conferences have featured conservative politicians and personalities. He’s reveled in publicly rebuking local elected Democrats, including the mayor of Los Angeles, for what he sees as their inept handling of the city’s homelessness crisis, and eagerly joined the campaign to kick the county’s ultra-progressive district attorney out of office.

And, in a move that is more NRA than ACLU, Villanueva has made it a mission to dramatically increase the number of people in L.A. County permitted to secretly carry guns.

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It all has left the county’s Democratic Party machine, which helped put Villanueva in office, awash in feelings of betrayal and buyer’s remorse that culminated in June with a demand that the sheriff resign.

More politics

Texas Republicans advanced bills that would make voting harder in a state that already has some of the nation’s toughest restrictions after hundreds spoke against the proposals — with some waiting to speak for almost 24 hours.

President Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Friday phone call that he must “take action” against cybercriminals acting in his country and that the U.S. reserves the right to “defend its people and its critical infrastructure” from future attacks, the White House said.

— A melee broke out at Rep. Katie Porter’s district town hall meeting, with her supporters scuffling with supporters of former President Trump who were loudly interrupting the congresswoman as she spoke.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

Wildfires on a record pace

California is off to another record-breaking year of wildfires as the state enters its most dangerous months, with extreme heat and dry terrain creating the conditions for rapid spread.

More than twice as many acres burned in the first six months of this year than during the same period last year — and there have been hundreds more fires, officials said.

June saw a series of destructive blazes that swept through rural counties at the northern edge of the state, fueled by a historic Pacific Northwest heat wave. But July is already shaping up to be worse. Among the current blazes: The Sugar fire had spread to 83,256 acres as of Sunday, making it the largest so far this year in California.

Officials said the increased activity is being driven by hot, dry conditions that have plagued much of the West Coast for weeks, while scientists noted that shifting jet streams and the state’s unique topography are also contributing to the earlier and more frequent conflagrations. One thing everyone agrees on is that climate change is a factor that cannot be ignored.

The unvaccinated face a growing risk

The numbers, while still relatively small, are concerning: Los Angeles County reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases cumulatively over the last three days — the first time since early March that the county has reported three consecutive days with more than 1,000 new cases. COVID-19 hospitalizations are also up.

The recent spikes there and elsewhere in California underscore a pandemic divergence, in which the unvaccinated face growing danger, while the vaccinated are able to move back to regular activities without fear of getting sick.

Officials don’t expect conditions to deteriorate to the levels seen last winter, before vaccines were available. But the rises in hospitalizations and cases, which coincide with increasing circulation of the hyper-contagious Delta variant, mean more people need to get vaccinated.

More top coronavirus headlines

— Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that Americans will need a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months, but it is too soon for the government to recommend another shot.

— The new school year in California will start with students and teachers wearing masks, a cautious approach that goes beyond new federal guidelines recommending masks at schools only for those who are not vaccinated.

Up, up and away

In 2004, British billionaire Richard Branson proclaimed he would fly into space on his company’s spaceship in just three years. Nearly 17 years later, he and five other Virgin Galactic employees launched to suborbital space Sunday on the company’s first flight with a full crew aboard.

The crewed flight marks a shift years in the making, as companies edge into launching recreational trips to space that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per seat. Billionaire rival Jeff Bezos is due to launch to suborbital space July 20 in a capsule developed by his Blue Origin space company.

But did the Virgin Galactic craft enter “space”? The craft reached a maximum altitude of 53.5 miles above the Earth. The U.S. military and NASA consider space to start at 50 miles, though the world body governing aeronautic and astronautic records defines space as 62 miles above Earth’s surface.

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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

— L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is has been named to be U.S. ambassador to India. That means Angelenos must again look to the future and consider a new mayor whose agenda will be more urgent and complicated than ever before.

Lake Mead, a lifeline for water in Los Angeles and the West, tips toward a crisis.

— Is California ready for brown lawns and shorter showers? The drought requires less water use.

— Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Vin Baker lost millions to addiction — and found salvation in a Starbucks.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

In 1949, 35 people died after a C-46 Standard Airlines flight crashed about a mile and a half northeast of Chatsworth Reservoir. Thirteen people survived the crash.

The flight left Albuquerque, N.M., at 4:24 a.m. and was en route to the Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank. At 7:36 a.m., the C-46 was cleared to land. While descending through patchy fog, the right wing struck the side of a hill.

The July 13, 1949, Los Angeles Times reported that a fistfight had broken out between two men on board shortly before the crash. Survivors later said the fight was not the cause of the crash and that the pilot was flying too low.

The battered fuselage and wing section of a C-46 Standard Airlines passenger plane lies on Chatsworth Reservoir mountainside.
July 12, 1949: The battered fuselage and wing section of a C-46 Standard Airlines passenger plane lies on a mountainside near the Chatsworth Reservoir.
(Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— After a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Northern California last week, the California Hospital Assn. tweeted that it’s “time to update seismic standards — to focus on all the services people need after a disaster of any kind.” But the association’s tweet omitted that its proposal circulating in the state Capitol would actually weaken existing standards.

— Updated tsunami hazard maps for Orange County will aid in planning evacuations should such a wave threaten local communities, the California Geological Survey said.

— L.A. city officials backed away from a deadline Friday to clear all tents and other dwellings from the north end of Venice boardwalk, giving those living there illegally an additional week to comply.

Father Joe Carroll, a Catholic priest whose 40-year devotion to helping homeless people raised tens of millions of dollars and turned him into a San Diego icon, has died at 80.

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NATION-WORLD

— In Denver, four people were arrested and more than a dozen weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition seized at a downtown hotel that is close to several events planned in conjunction with the upcoming Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

— Thousands of Cubans marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade and elsewhere on the island to protest food shortages and high prices amid the coronavirus crisis, in one of biggest anti-government demonstrations in memory.

— With Brazil’s presidential election is 15 months away, President Jair Bolsonaro is repeatedly raising the specter of fraud. Sound familiar?

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Marvel’s “Black Widow” opened in first place this weekend with an estimated $80 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales. That represents the largest North American box office opening since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

— After small, potent roles in “The Night Of,” “Ramy” and more, Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever” is actor Poorna Jagannathan biggest platform yet.

— Film critic Justin Chang assesses the Cannes Film Festival away from Cannes: fewer movies, but also fewer COVID tests.

— Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise ride has been updated in an effort to make it more inclusive. Here’s a sneak peek in photos.

BUSINESS

— What does Biden’s executive order on noncompete agreements mean for tech workers? We break it down.

Conventions and conferences are back, with changes for the COVID era. Here’s a look inside.

SPORTS

— Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Vin Baker lost millions to addiction — and found salvation in a Starbucks.

Max Muncy hit a walk-off three-run home run to lift the Dodgers to a 7-4 comeback victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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OPINION

— The jump in homicides that began in 2020 and continues unabated this year is part of a deadly feedback loop set in motion by COVID-19. Let’s not repeat the mistakes that have fueled similar feedback loops before, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— We’re in the midst of a global loneliness crisis, author Noreena Hertz writes. Here’s how we can end it.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

England’s Football Assn. condemned the online racist abuse of players after the team’s penalty shootout loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final. (ESPN)

— Is it time to give up caffeine? Probably, but ... (The Guardian)

ONLY IN L.A.

Carlos López Estrada, the director behind the indie breakthrough “Blindspotting” and this year’s Disney release “Raya and the Last Dragon,” attended a showcase of young poets from across Los Angeles at Get Lit — Words Ignite, a nonprofit in Koreatown that promotes literacy through self-expression. The encounter led López Estrada to his second feature, “Summertime,” an omnibus narrative film celebrating 27 spoken word storytellers and the corners of the city they most identify with.

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


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