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Today’s Headlines: With the pandemic, million-dollar homes are the new normal

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

How the pandemic helped scatter $1-million homes across L.A.

The pandemic economy pushed Southern California’s competitive housing market into such overdrive that a defining marker of wealth — the million-dollar home — has become the norm in a growing number of places.

Homes worth more than $1 million now dominate communities from Altadena at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains to West Adams in South L.A. As bidding wars send prices even higher, more people are becoming priced out of communities, and homeownership becomes more out of reach for low- and middle-income Californians.

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At the same time, the proliferation of million-dollar homes shows that the price point is not a stretch for a growing share of residents. And yet that amount of money used to buy a whole lot more.

“I don’t even have two bathrooms,” said Alan Torres, a 35-year-old software engineer, who along with his wife, Vanya, recently paid $1.04 million for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Echo Park.

Growing threats are changing Congress members’ jobs

In a year that kicked off with the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, threats against members of Congress are soaring.

In the first three months of the year, Capitol Police recorded 4,135 threats against Congress members. If that pace continues, total threats in 2021 will double those in 2020.

It’s a trend that has been growing for years, and Capitol Police are scrambling to keep pace. They’re rethinking the way they protect Congress members in and outside Washington, forging closer ties with the FBI and opening satellite offices outside the capital for the first time.

And it’s changing the job for lawmakers, who now must tread a fine line between being accessible to the people they represent and keeping themselves, their families and their staff safe.

More politics

— The Biden administration is moving to protect workers and communities from extreme heat after a dangerously hot summer that spurred an onslaught of drought-worsened wildfires and caused hundreds of deaths.

— After surviving the recall attempt, could Gov. Gavin Newsom aim for president? Not with Kamala Harris next in line, writes columnist Mark Z. Barabak.

— It is difficult to imagine a more inopportune moment for Joe Biden to debut on the largest world stage of his presidential term. The president goes before the annual U.N. General Assembly this week on a mission to restore credibility and trust in the U.S. as a reliable global partner after a series of disparate crises involving America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, a nuclear weapons deal, the alliance with France, and COVID-19 vaccinations.

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

The strategies that saved the giant sequoias

When a lightning-sparked wildfire raced toward Sequoia National Park’s largest concentration of giant sequoias, officials sprang into action: Vegetation was raked, backfires were ignited, trees were wrapped in foil. A specially assembled parks service task force is in charge of protecting the Giant Forest, a cultural treasure.

Yet the fate of California’s towering trees still hangs in the balance. Many are concerned that the state’s new breed of faster, hotter and larger wildfires could upend the delicate ecological balance that has allowed the giants to thrive for centuries.

Giant sequoias are one of the most fire-adapted species on Earth, but climate change is lowering their defenses and making them more vulnerable to flames than ever before.

Who has the lowest coronavirus case rate in the nation? We do

California officially has the lowest coronavirus case rate of any state, federal figures show, underscoring the progress made in the ongoing battle against the highly infectious Delta variant.

The state has been among the national leaders in that metric for the last week, as the number of newly confirmed coronavirus infections continues to tumble from a peak earlier this summer.

California’s new case rate per 100,000 people is less than half that of neighboring states, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More top coronavirus headlines

— California health officials are warning of shortages and distribution problems for a treatment that is thought to counteract COVID-19 before it can begin destroying the body’s organs. A sharp nationwide increase in demand for monoclonal antibodies has led to restrictions on its use.

— Pfizer said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it would seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon — a key step toward beginning vaccinations for kids.

— President Biden will ease foreign travel restrictions into the U.S. beginning in November, when his administration will require all foreign nationals flying into the country to be fully vaccinated.

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

Our daily news podcast

If you’re a fan of this newsletter, you’ll probably love our new daily podcast, “The Times,” hosted by columnist Gustavo Arellano, along with reporters from across our newsroom. Every weekday, it takes you beyond the headlines. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and follow on Spotify.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The lives of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy ended in tragedy, but 25 years ago today they marked a happy occasion. The couple were married Sept. 21, 1996, on Cumberland Island, off the coast of Georgia. The Times reported on the “teeny and very private” affair. The candlelit Roman Catholic ceremony had no paparazzi or helicopters. It was held at the small wood-framed First African Baptist Church at the northern end of the 18-mile barrier island.

The bride, 29, wore a pearl-colored bias-cut silk crepe dress with a veil of silk tulle and crystal-beaded silk satin sandals. The groom wore a blue wool suit with a white vest and pale blue tie and a boutonniere of cornflowers, President Kennedy’s favorite.

CALIFORNIA

— The video was dark, grainy and badly out of focus. But it changed L.A. in ways that were unfathomable and dragged George Holliday into a life he never bargained for. The 61-year-old who filmed the Rodney King beating died Sunday of complications from COVID-19.

— In an obituary he titled “A Special Sister,” Erik Sydow managed to capture the essence of a woman who spoke only three words but experienced unbridled happiness. Shared on Twitter, his remembrance struck a chord. Thousands of people, some typing through tears, shared condolences.

— Homelessness is the top issue for voters in the 2022 Los Angeles mayor’s race, and candidates are heading to areas with homeless encampments to address the crisis and announce their solutions. But not everything is going according to plan.

— Nine current and former Oakland police officers have been given unpaid leaves after an investigation showed the group shared offensive content online while using their work cellphones.

— A growing number of babies in L.A. County have been infected with syphilis in the womb. Public health officials fear the pandemic exacerbated the problem, closing clinics that screen people.

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NATION-WORLD

— For months, the United Nations has warned of impending famine in northern Ethiopia. Now internal documents and witness accounts reveal the first starvation deaths since Ethiopia’s government in June imposed what the U.N. calls “a de facto humanitarian aid blockade.”

— As former Netanyahu aide Naftali Bennett prepares to celebrate his 100th day as prime minister of Israel, the country is enjoying a new sense of stability, at least for the moment.

— Migrants from Haiti say they’ve been forced to traverse the treacherous Rio Grande daily to buy food because they’re not allowed to cook in the Texas border camp and the U.S. has failed to provide any real sustenance. The camp has grown during the last week to more than 14,000. The article includes some stunning photography.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Forget about “immersive” Van Gogh. Pipilotti Rist’s MOCA show is the real thing, writes art critic Christopher Knight.

— The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has landed. And it has added an unmistakable silhouette to the landscape of Los Angeles, writes culture columnist Carolina A. Miranda.

— The 73rd Emmy Awards telecast on CBS on Sunday was watched by 7.4 million viewers, a significant rise over last year’s all-time low.

— Anthony “A.J.” Johnson, a comedian and actor known for performances in the 1990s movies “Friday,” “Menace II Society” and “House Party,” has died. He was 55.

BUSINESS

— Netflix’s foreign-language shows are booming. Meet the executive behind the streamer’s global push.

— The crazy Southern California housing market is finally starting to cool, but don’t expect a bargain.

SPORTS

— The final two weeks of baseball’s regular season are upon us, with the Dodgers trailing the San Francisco Giants by one game in the National League West. The division title is up for grabs, and with it home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

— Max Scherzer will be a free agent in November, so his stint with the Dodgers could be a short one. But for now, the pitcher might go down as the best midseason acquisition in major league history. Scherzer has been nearly untouchable since joining the team in July, going 7-0 while celebrating his 3,000th career strikeout.

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OPINION

— With about a quarter of LAPD employees saying their religious beliefs keep them from following a vaccination mandate, it’s time to dump COVID-19 vaccine religious exemptions. There is no Church of Moderna Disbelievers.

— We must treat universal vaccine coverage as an urgently needed global public good, not as an eventual outcome of market forces. Biden’s vaccine summit this week can provide the vital breakthrough we need.

ONLY IN L.A.

For most of the year, our screens have been filled with stories and images of protesters railing against a mandate. It is unconstitutional, they say. Un-American. An infringement on our inalienable rights. But the year is not 2021, and the issue is not mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. It is 1976, and Angelenos are up in arms over a Caltrans decision to convert some lanes of the Santa Monica Freeway into HOV lanes. Author Paul Haddad writes in an Op-Ed: "[T]he kid in me recognizes the echoes from the past.”

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


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