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Today’s Headlines: Senate approves Biden’s infrastructure bill with funds for California

The Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill includes funding for water programs in the West and money to help combat wildfires.

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Senate approves Biden’s infrastructure bill, with funds for California

The Senate on Tuesday approved an expansive bill to rebuild the nation’s aging roads and bridges, with $8.3 billion specifically targeted to water infrastructure projects in the West and billions more to fund national projects to mitigate the impact of wildfires.

After months of negotiation between President Biden, Democrats and a group of moderate Republicans to forge a compromise, the Senate voted 69 to 30 in favor of the legislation. In the end, it had support from 19 Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The plan, which is the first portion of Biden’s “Build Back Better” program, will next go to the House, where it faces challenges from progressives.

Ten centrist senators who worked on the bill, including lead negotiators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), said it would “create jobs, increase productivity and pave the way for decades of economic growth and prosperity — all without raising taxes on everyday Americans or increasing inflation.”

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A handful of other provisions could have an outsized benefit to California in particular.

The most sizable fund that will directly affect the state is the more than $8 billion for water initiatives in the West. That includes $1 billion for water recycling systems and more than $1 billion for water and groundwater storage projects to take advantage of wet years.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water management in the West, will ultimately decide what projects get funded. But there is a relatively small universe of water projects that will be eligible, and many of them are in California, giving the state a leg up.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns after report finds credible sexual misconduct claims

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he is resigning from office following a blistering report by the New York attorney general that concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed multiple women — a move that staved off a likely impeachment by state legislators in Albany.

The investigation released Aug. 3 left Cuomo increasingly isolated from even his own party, as top Democrats, including Biden, called for him to resign. Cuomo said his resignation would become effective in 14 days.

“The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said in a video announcement. “And therefore, that’s what I’ll do.”

He will be succeeded by Kathy Hochul, the Democratic lieutenant governor, who will become New York’s first female governor.

Cuomo’s downfall was a remarkable reversal of fortune for a member of a political dynasty who a year ago was considered a likely future White House contender. But he had become a political pariah by the time he declared that he would not finish his third term as New York governor.

Scores of Democratic elected officials had been pressuring him to vacate the office even before New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James began an investigation that found credible the allegations of 11 women accusing Cuomo of sexual misconduct. The report also found that Cuomo had retaliated against another of his accusers. It concluded that Cuomo and his staff had violated multiple state and federal laws and created a toxic and hostile workplace.

The history of air conditioning in Southern California

Cold enough for you …?

… asked no one living in our scorch-and-sizzle places. Not until the 1950s and ’60s, anyway, by which time air conditioning altered our lives and living spaces almost as much as electric light and running water had.

AC is now such a regular part of our living standard that you might not even give it a thought — at least not until the power bill comes.

And yet, where would you be without AC? Maybe not living here at all. Columnist Patt Morrison explains why air conditioning reigns supreme in Southern California.

L.A. COVID-19 surge slowing, but cases likely to rise as school begins

The latest COVID-19 surge is showing some signs of slowing in Los Angeles County. Still, cases are likely to continue rising in the weeks ahead, as the hyper-transmissible Delta variant continues to loom as a major threat, Los Angeles County’s top health official said Tuesday.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said she expects recorded infections to increase in part as a byproduct of ramped-up testing when schools, colleges and universities welcome students back for the new term. That likely means people who otherwise wouldn’t have thought to get tested may end up finding out they have an asymptomatic infection — adding to the county’s case count.

“It does mean for the months of August and September, we’re likely to see our case numbers climb,” Ferrer said.

Perhaps a more revealing metric, she said, will be the positivity rate: the proportion of conducted tests that confirm coronavirus infection.

While the raw number of cases can fluctuate significantly based on the amount of testing conducted, a low positivity rate would indicate that transmission may not be accelerating. As of Tuesday, the countywide daily positivity rate was 4.4%. A week ago, the rate was 6.6%.

There are several factors likely contributing to the slowdown, Ferrer said. One is the county’s reinstatement of a requirement in mid-July that all residents wear masks in indoor public places.

When that order went into effect, Ferrer said, cases countywide were doubling roughly every 10 days.

More top coronavirus headlines

— Officials across California are sounding new alarms about a significant spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations amid a surge fueled by the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Many of the state’s most populous areas have seen hospitalizations double over the span of a few weeks.

— The Texas governor appealed for out-of-state medical help as COVID-19 hospitalizations soared but stopped short of reversing his ban on mask mandates, even as leaders of the state’s largest cities and school systems imposed them.

— Social media influencers across the U.S. are being paid to try to change the minds of vaccination-averse people at a neighborhood level.

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

Our daily news podcast

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

In the early 1940s, there were few places Frank Sinatra could go without drawing attention. He was so popular among teenage girls that there was a term coined for the intense fan reaction: “Sinatramania.” On Aug. 11, 1943, Sinatra arrived in Los Angeles for a performance at the Hollywood Bowl and an appearance in a movie. According to The Times, at least 2,000 fans greeted him at the train station in Pasadena, hoping to catch a glimpse or even get an autograph.

Judging by The Times’ photos, at least a few were successful.

Aug. 11, 1943: Frank Sinatra retreats to a ladder as autograph hounds besiege him following his arrival in Pasadena.
Aug. 11, 1943: Frank Sinatra climbs a ladder for refuge as autograph hounds besiege him following his arrival by train in Pasadena. Sinatra was in town for a performance at the Hollywood Bowl and work on an RKO movie.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— After Pacific Gas & Electric equipment sparked a massive fire that burned much of Paradise, Calif., and killed 86 people in 2018, the utility vowed a safety campaign aimed at preventing similar disasters. PG&E said it would bury some power lines snaking through Northern California forests, significantly reducing the risk of wildfires caused when winds damage equipment. Among the power lines set to be buried was a 10-mile stretch that may have started the current Dixie fire, now the second largest in California history.

— California’s “Hydrogen Highway” — a network of fueling stations former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dreamed would lure masses of Americans to hydrogen vehicles — has even the most climate-conscious, tech-savvy motorists asking, What’s the point? The Hydrogen Highway was meant to stretch from coast to coast. But after 17 years, it has yet to make it past the state line.

— Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies badly wounded in an ambush shooting last year sued a Nevada company Monday for making the parts for a “ghost gun” used in the attack. It was the latest effort to deal with the proliferation of ghost guns, which are assembled from commercial kits or parts bought online.

— Larry Elder has said a lot of things in his more than 30-year career in the media, epitomizing the convention-defying persona that has helped him seemingly leapfrog other candidates in the race to replace California Gov. Gavin Newsom in next month’s recall election. Here’s a look into some of the things he has said over the years.

— A Sonoma County restaurant owner is offering a lucrative incentive for her employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Terri Stark, who co-owns Stark Reality Restaurants with her husband, Mark, is hosting a contest that will give away up to $21,000 in gift cards to workers who get vaccinated. The goal is to encourage all 486 employees to get inoculated.

Sign up early for our California Politics newsletter, coming in August, to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting, including full coverage of the recall election and the latest action in Sacramento.

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NATION-WORLD

— A U.S. peace envoy brought a warning to the Taliban on Tuesday that any government that comes to power through force in Afghanistan won’t be recognized internationally, after a series of cities fell to the insurgent group in stunningly quick succession.

— The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar warned Tuesday of “a full-scale civil war” if the powerful military, supporters of the ousted democracy, ethnic groups and other key parties don’t hold a successful dialogue on issues that include the pandemic and root causes of the country’s crisis.

— The German government agreed to provide $68 billion to help rebuild regions hit last month by devastating floods. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of Germany’s 16 states approved the flood aid package, which still needs parliament’s endorsement.

— Chinese and Russian troops have engaged in joint exercises in northwestern China in a sign of growing military ties between Moscow and Beijing amid shared concerns over the instability in Afghanistan.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Legendary Entertainment is known for taking risky bets on franchises like “Dune.” But the success or failure of “Dune,” coming to theaters and HBO Max in October, is not the biggest question looming over the Burbank-based studio. It is one of the few remaining independent producers of movies and television shows, and represents a potentially attractive asset for a major studio looking to bulk up its offerings.

— Brooklyn-based musician Joseph Arthur has gone public with his anti-vaccination position, aligning himself with a small group of like-minded musicians, including Eric Clapton, Morrissey, M.I.A. and Van Morrison. Taking the anti-vaccination stance has cost Arthur his bandmates and his manager.

— When the HBO limited series “Mare of Easttown” wrapped production last year, star Kate Winslet had no idea how she could go about being herself again. It genuinely freaked her out. And because she didn’t want to break the spell of what Mare had meant to her, Winslet didn’t want to see anyone who didn’t know Mare. So, yeah, you can pretty much count on a Season 2.

— Emmy Award winner Christina Applegate has announced that she has multiple sclerosis, describing the diagnosis as a “tough road.”

BUSINESS

— Researchers asked U.S. regulators to pull some sunscreens from the market, including brands from Coppertone, Banana Boat and Neutrogena, saying they’ve found evidence of a potential carcinogen.

— Near the foothills of Griffith Park, Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio is asking $5.75 million for a 95-year-old home he bought three years ago from musician Moby.

SPORTS

— The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is an MVP favorite in the betting markets. “This guy is doing something that nobody’s ever done,” Angels Manager Joe Maddon said. “You’re gonna see incredible offensive numbers, then incredible pitching numbers. And how could you walk away from that? That’s different. That’s the most valuable player in baseball, pretty much.”

— It’s not panic time for high school football, but the number of teams pulling out of season openers Aug. 19 and 20 because of COVID-19 protocols continues to grow.

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OPINION

— Biden has violated his oath of office. Last week, his administration issued a “new” moratorium on renter evictions, essentially reissuing the one imposed in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a public health measure during the pandemic.

— Last year, wildfires burned a record 4.4 million acres in California. Thirty-three people were killed, and 10,000 structures were destroyed, including 5,500 homes. There are near-term actions we can take that would make a difference in confronting the wildfire risk, says Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) One of those actions is eliminating the extreme pay gap between federal and state wildland firefighters.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The death of a 33-year-old Sri Lankan migrant trapped in Japan’s immigration system has led to calls for reform of the national bureaucracy that allowed her to waste away in a detention center without proper medical treatment earlier this year. (The New York Times)

— After more than two decades in the spotlight, Beyoncé is much more than a pop icon. She’s a cultural force who has routinely defied expectations and transformed the way we understand the power of art to change how we see ourselves and each other. But she feels like she has just scratched the surface. (Harper’s Bazaar)

— After years of being overlooked and undervalued, Normani is bursting back onto the scene with new music, a confident attitude and the same four-octave range and sick dance moves. (Allure)

ONLY IN L.A.

The 35th Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show and sale more than made up for a lost year this past weekend, with crowds of cactus-crazy people ogling exhibits of 1,300 strange and wonderful plants, and buying up a storm from the vendors. Total attendance this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia was about 7,900, compared with 5,200 who visited the Arboretum the previous three-day weekend, said spokeswoman Nancy Yoshihara — proof that succulents were the draw.

A first-place-winning Fockea edulis (a.k.a. Hottentot bread) was one of several “fat plants” grown by Peter Walkowiak
A Fockea edulis (aka Hottentot bread), which won first prize, was one of several “fat plants” grown by Peter Walkowiak that adorned the trophy table at the 35th Inter-city Cactus & Succulent Show and sale at the Arboretum in Arcadia.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

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


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