Today’s Headlines: Newsom’s other COVID-19 recall vulnerability

Newsom stands behind a podium
As he battles a recall attempt, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing criticism from political foes for not doing enough to fix festering problems in the state’s unemployment benefits system.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


Newsom’s other COVID-19 recall vulnerability

Nearly a year after a “strike team” appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom recommended an overhaul of California’s unemployment benefits system, hundreds of thousands of jobless residents continue to experience delays in getting payments and the state is still grappling with the loss of billions of dollars to fraud.

While the state Employment Development Department has made some progress in adopting changes, the festering problems have become a leading issue for the campaign seeking to recall Newsom from office on Sept. 14.


The situation in Afghanistan

— In a bid to restore calm and reassure a shell-shocked capital, the Taliban announced a “general amnesty” and urged government employees — including women — to return to work as Afghans continued to recalibrate their existence under a new, potentially harsh regime.

— It was unclear early in the week how many Afghans the U.S. plans to evacuate, who would receive priority or where they would go. The uncertainty over the status of friends and family was tormenting enclaves such as the Bay Area’s Little Kabul, home to more than 60,000 Afghan immigrants.

— Built and trained at a cost of $83 billion, Afghan security forces collapsed so quickly and completely that the ultimate beneficiary of the American investment has turned out to be the Taliban, which grabbed not only political power but also U.S.-supplied firepower — guns, ammunition, helicopters and more.

— Commentary: American TV ignored Afghanistan. Until networks parachuted in to watch the country fall, writes television critics Lorraine Ali.

U.S. likely to authorize COVID booster shots


After struggling for months to persuade Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, U.S. health officials could soon face a fresh challenge: talking vaccinated people into getting booster shots to gain longer-lasting protection as the Delta variant sends infections soaring again.

As early as this week, U.S. health authorities are expected to recommend an extra dose of vaccine for all Americans eight months after they get their second shot, according to two people who spoke to the Associated Press.

The move is being driven by both the highly contagious Delta variant and by preliminary evidence that the vaccine’s protective effect starts dropping within months.

More top coronavirus headlines

— California is finding some hopeful signs this week: The number of people being infected and falling seriously ill with COVID-19 is no longer accelerating at dramatic rates and even beginning to flatten in some areas.

— Still, with infections surging among the unvaccinated and just half the population fully inoculated, the coronavirus is not done with us yet. Scientists say conditions are right for potential new challenges to emerge, like vaccine-resistant variants.


— In the latest move aimed at stymying the spread of the coronavirus, Los Angeles County will require face coverings for anyone attending sizable outdoor events of more than 10,000 people — such as concerts, festivals and sporting events — regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19.

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

Dieciseis, but the party is still on

A year and a half ago, Burbank quinceañera planner Celia Barrios watched her business dry up. The COVID-19 pandemic had put quinceañeras on hold, leaving Barrios looking at $150,000 of lost revenue.

But in the last few months, the celebrations — a coming-of-age rite for Latina 15-year-olds — are back. And some who missed out in 2020 are making up for it, even if they’re now 16 years old. In Los Angeles — where Latinos make up 48.6% of the population, according to the latest U.S Census — quinceañeras are a pillar of social calendars in many households.

Families are now eager to get back to celebrations, flooding businesses with requests. Barrios is getting as many as 30 inquiries weekly, some for dates as far out as 2023.


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In August 1960, workers were hired to do repairs to the roof of Los Angeles City Hall. According to a Times story, the building needed 50 tons of concrete slabs with sheet metal replaced atop the building’s 465-foot tower, then the tallest in the Southland. The existing slabs had become loose and some slipped as much as six inches, creating a potential earthquake hazard.

On Aug. 16, Times photographer Paul Calvert captured workers breaking for lunch at the top of the tower. The photo ran in the next day’s paper.

Aug. 16, 1950: Workmen putting stainless steel covering atop Los Angeles City Hall take a lunch break.
(Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times)


— Former Rep. Doug Ose said Tuesday he was dropping out of the gubernatorial recall race after suffering a heart attack.

— Following allegations of inmate abuse and corruption in Santa Clara County jails, Sheriff Laurie Smith on Tuesday said she stands by her staff and welcomes any investigations into her department. Smith said during a news conference that an in-depth review is necessary to get the “true facts.”


— Pacific Gas & Electric Co. expanded the number of customers who could lose power in a planned shutoff Tuesday evening as the Dixie fire exploded past 600,000 acres overnight and sent more people fleeing from their homes. Here’s what to do before, during and after a power outage

— After years of demanding better pay, many federal firefighters will receive modest raises next week as the Biden administration makes good on a pledge to ensure that no firefighter earns less than $15 an hour.

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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— Some representatives have barely voted in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began and California’s congressional members rank among the most frequent users of a House proxy-voting rule. Will the rule continue?

— The Biden administration approved a record boost to a food assistance program used by more than 42 million Americans, substantially and permanently increasing benefits starting next month.


— New Zealand’s government took drastic action by putting the entire nation in strict lockdown for at least three days after finding a single case of community spread coronavirus.

— Maki Kaji, who created Sudoku during a lifetime’s commitment to spreading the joy of puzzles, has died, his Japanese company said Tuesday. He was 69.


— Barbra Streisand wishes Beyoncé and Will Smith had remade “A Star Is Born,” not Lady Gaga. “Look, it was a big success,” Streisand says of the 2018 Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga movie. She just cares more about originality.

— Late-night TV hosts Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon have all addressed the widespread fear and devastation unfolding in Afghanistan after the United States withdrew its forces from the country and the Taliban promptly seized the capital.

— Chris and Rich Robinson swore never to speak again. But for the Black Crowes, rock heals all wounds. After years apart, the Black Crowes will reunite to perform at the Forum, part of a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of the group’s breakthrough debut.


— Americans cut back on their spending last month as a surge in coronavirus cases kept people away from stores.

— Twitter Inc. is adding an option for users to report misinformation to the company but says the expanded ability to flag tweets won’t necessarily lead to more fact-checking or labels on problematic posts.



— UCLA senior wide receiver Delon Hurt has been suspended from the team pending the outcome of a sexual battery case in which he faces two felony charges stemming from an alleged November 2019 incident in Downey.

— Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka broke down in tears and left a Zoom news conference briefly Monday following an exchange with a reporter whom her agent later referred to as a “bully.”

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— Trump has made it his singular mission to undermine the 2020 election he irrefutably lost. A group of researchers have set about debunking many of the baseless assertions, showing how the facts don’t line up, writes Mark Z. Barabak.

— A doctor in a COVID unit is running out of compassion for the unvaccinated. Get the shot, writes Dr. Anita Sircar, an infectious disease physician and clinical instructor at UCLA School of Medicine.


— Student debt is so inescapable that even those who made payments during the pandemic freeze still owe more money than they originally borrowed. Thanks to accumulating interest 63% of them aren’t even $1 less in debt. (Insider)


— California Rep. Barbara Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against war in Afghanistan in 2001, urging restraint. Some called her a traitor and sent her death threats. (Washington Post)

— Yamiche Alcindor knows her job is serious business, “I don’t think we can know if the media is serious about having a racial reckoning for another ten, 15 years, when we see who is being given opportunities long-term.” (The Cut)


People in the tequila industry call it the “Clooney effect.” In 2017, actor George Clooney announced he was selling his 5-year-old Casamigos tequila brand to a British beverage company for the staggering sum of $1 billion. Almost overnight, it seemed that every A-list celebrity was debuting a tequila label — from Arnold Schwarzenegger to LeBron James, Nick Jonas and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The flood of celebrity brands has helped fuel record growth in the industry.

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