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Today’s Headlines: California fires become harder to fight

Smoke rises from the Sugar fire
Smoke billows from the Sugar fire Saturday in Doyle, Calif.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

California fires become harder to fight

The fires have burned more than 140,000 acres, from soaring mountains along the California-Nevada border to the forest north of Mt. Shasta and the gateway to Yosemite. But many of 2021’s biggest blazes have one thing in common: They are burning faster and hotter than some firefighters have seen this early in the year.

A winter and spring of little rain and minimal snow runoff — followed by months of unusually warm conditions and several summer heatwaves — left the vegetation primed to burn fast, giving crews little time to get a handle on the flames before they explode.

Triple-digit temperatures soared across the Southland over the weekend, while much of the Pacific Northwest was recently mired in a deadly and record-breaking heat dome.

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Adding to fire experts’ concerns is the fact that much of the dry vegetation this year hasn’t yet encountered severe winds, which tend to arrive in the form of Santa Anas and sundowners later in the year.

When the extreme dryness does meet strong winds — as in Sunday afternoon’s River fire in Yosemite — it can quickly spell disaster.

That fire exploded to 2,500 acres in just a few hours. By Monday evening, it had spread to 8,000 acres and was only 10% contained.

Biden says U.S. stands with Cuban protesters

U.S. officials have pledged to “stand firmly” with Cubans who have unleashed a rare, robust wave of protest and called on the Havana government to refrain from a violent crackdown, even as authorities there shut down the internet and deployed counter-demonstrators into the streets.

“The Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime,” President Biden said, deeming it a “clarion call” for liberty. “I don’t think we’ve seen anything like these protests in a long, long time, if, quite frankly, ever.”

Speaking at the White House, he called on Cuban authorities to “hear their people and serve their needs.” However, Biden and other U.S. officials avoided accepting any responsibility for the dire conditions that plague Cuban residents and deflected criticism for the administration’s slow process in the promised defrosting of the U.S. relationship with Cuba.

Havana also has bigger demands. For decades it has sought the lifting of the U.S. embargo imposed on Cuba by President Eisenhower more than 60 years ago, limiting trade, business and much diplomacy. It can be ended only by Congress.

In recent weeks, Cuban officials also began lobbying the Biden administration to remove the country from the U.S. list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” Then-President Trump placed Cuba on the list — where it sits alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria — in January as a parting shot before leaving office. Removing a country from the list is also a complicated process.

More politics

— Democrats in the Texas Legislature bolted for Washington, D.C., and said they were ready to remain there for weeks in a second revolt against a GOP overhaul of election laws, forcing a dramatic new showdown over voting rights in America.

— As polls show that voters are increasingly concerned about crime, Biden is trying to keep the conversation squarely focused on gun control and violence prevention.

— Vice President Kamala Harris is making history again — as Republicans’ prime campaign target, columnist Mark Z. Barabak writes.

COVID-19 and bigotry plague their family

For Jose Morales and his wife, Reyna, their transgender daughter Sandy Vazquez brought out an iron sense of purpose: They had to protect her until she found her own safe place. They are a tight-knit family mounting a bare-bones battle for the American Dream from an apartment next to the Century Freeway in South Los Angeles. In recent years, Sandy, who is now 30, was starting to feel comfortable going out to parties with cousins and friends.

Her parents hoped she might find a job and, someday, a partner who loved her.

The last year battered those hopes. The family caught COVID-19 in December and Reyna almost died of it before recovering. And in May, Sandy faced the prospect of losing her foot and lower leg from an infection.

Mortality has haunted them ever since with the dreaded question: What will she do when they’re gone?

More top coronavirus headlines

— A string of COVID-19 outbreaks tied to U.S. summer camps in recent weeks has some people fearing it could be a preview of the upcoming school year.

Los Angeles County officials reported the fourth straight day of more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases, more troubling evidence that the disease is increasing its spread among the unvaccinated.

— The CDC says Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine may pose a “small possible risk” of a rare but potentially dangerous neurological reaction after receiving reports of 100 people who got the shot developing Guillain-Barré syndrome, an immune system disorder that can cause muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis.

— If the Delta variant catches you, will your COVID-19 symptoms be different than for people infected with earlier strains of the coronavirus?

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

In 1950 vagabond and self-promoter Leo V. Voss stopped in and visited the Los Angeles Times. After proving he could move a newspaper delivery truck attached to his hair, this photo and story appeared in the July 17, 1950, Times:

“At least one man has solved the cost-of-living problem. It costs him only 50 cents a day when he is traveling, and he travels most to the time — all on his own two feet and pulling a rickshaw-like cart that holds all his needs. He is L.V. Voss. He calls himself professor of diet and health and lives the outdoor, vegetarian life. And he’s looking for the perfect mate.”

A man pulls a truck
July 14, 1950: While Los Angeles Times truck driver Jessie Leon Moody watches, Leo V. Voss pulls a two-ton delivery truck with a rope tied to his hair.
(Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

San Luis Obispo County prosecutors are seeking to amend their murder case against Paul Flores in the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart to include two allegations of rape of unconscious women in the Los Angeles area.

— Police in Huntington Beach announced that charges had been filed against 35 minors for their alleged role in “Adrian’s Kickback,” a May 22 beach gathering that was prompted by a post on TikTok and turned unruly.

— Debris flows overwhelmed the Hyperion sewage treatment plant in Playa del Rey, forcing officials to use an emergency measure to discharge 17 million gallons of sewage through a pipe one mile offshore.

— Eight California State University campuses will give Apple iPads to incoming freshmen and transfer students, a technology initiative intended to help close the digital divide.

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NATION-WORLD

— The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has relinquished his command in Kabul, taking the United States a step closer to ending its 20-year war there.

— The latest suspect detained in the investigation into the killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moise is a Haitian man in his 60s living in Florida. He identifies himself as a doctor and has accused the leaders of his homeland of corruption.

— A court in Jordan found a relative of King Abdullah II and his former top confidant guilty of sedition and incitement against the crown. The news comes after authorities arrested some 19 people in April over allegations they plotted a coup.

— It’s not just fans and celebrity observers watching. Britney Spears’ conservatorship case is setting the stage for a disability rights showdown.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The nominations for the 2021 Emmys will be announced today. Columnist Glenn Whipp has The Times’ predictions in key categories.

Sign up for Screen Gab, a new L.A. Times newsletter with weekly recommendations, analysis, interviews and irreverent discussion of the TV and streaming movies everyone’s talking about.

— Three L.A. artists are among 15 people receiving $50,000 each as the inaugural winners of the newly established Latinx Artist Fellowship, a program administered by the U.S. Latinx Art Forum with support from the Andrew W. Mellon and Ford foundations.

— Wes Anderson’s film “The French Dispatch” is an imitation of France. So how did its premiere in Cannes go?

— HBO Max just announced some prestige programming for the summer: a dating show — er, “social experiment” — delicately titled “FBoy Island.”

BUSINESS

— Banks led stocks to modest gains on Wall Street, nudging the major stock indexes to more record highs ahead of a busy week of corporate earnings reports from big U.S. companies.

— Approvals for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. public lands are on pace this year to reach their highest level since George W. Bush was president, underscoring Biden’s reluctance to more forcefully curb petroleum production in the face of industry and Republican resistance.

SPORTS

— This is their moment: Shohei Ohtani, Naomi Osaka, Hideki Matsuyama, Naoya Inoue and more Japanese athletes shine in unique ways on the global stage, columnist Dylan Hernández writes.

Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, the WWE Hall of Famer best known for his feud with Hulk Hogan, died Monday in Fayetteville, Ga., at 71.

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OPINION

Newsom gets a C as governor. But that doesn’t mean he should be recalled, writes columnist George Skelton.

— If the international community insists on supporting men connected to slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise, there will be no free and fair elections in a nation devastated by corruption and poverty, The Times’ editorial board writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The real damage: Why FEMA is denying disaster aid to Black families that have lived for generations in the Deep South. (Washington Post)

Phylicia Rashad is just the beginning. Survivors at HBCUs also face the added toll of protecting their schools and assailants from retribution in a world dominated by anti-Black state violence. (The Cut)

ONLY IN L.A.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Juicy Couture leveraged a love of velour track pants into a celebrity-embraced, L.A.-defining global lifestyle brand. So where does one go after shaping Southern California style? Co-founder Gela Nash-Taylor and her 32-year-old son are turning to another popular-in-L.A. industry: marijuana. And yes, there’s matching loungewear.

Today’s newsletter was curated by Daric L. Cottingham and Laura Blasey. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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