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Today’s Headlines: Newsom said to cut water use. L.A. and San Diego turned on the taps

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Despite Newsom’s call to cut water use, L.A. and San Diego didn’t conserve in July

Despite an appeal by Gov. Gavin Newsom for all Californians to voluntarily cut water use by 15%, Southern California has lagged in conservation efforts and water usage has slightly increased in Los Angeles and San Diego, according to newly released data.

More than two months after Newsom stood by a depleted reservoir in San Luis Obispo County to make his plea, figures released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board showed that conservation efforts varied widely from north to south.

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On average, Californians reduced water use by just 1.8% statewide during July as compared to the same month last year. Across much of Southern California, however, water use dropped by just 0.1% overall, and rose by 0.7% in Los Angeles and 1.3% in San Diego.

Democrats struggle to get Biden’s plan back on track

Democrats’ plan to enact an ambitious remodel of the nation’s social safety net programs is facing new hurdles on Capitol Hill amid deep divisions over the scope of the package, its cost and what can be included under the Senate’s stringent rules.

The conflict jeopardizes President Biden’s entire “Build Back Better” legislative agenda, which includes an about $1-trillion bipartisan infrastructure package already passed by the Senate.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are muddling toward key deadlines to fund the government in nine days and avert a default on the nation’s debt by next month.

“We’re at the moment of truth here, and the clock’s ticking,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

More politics

— President Biden in his first speech to the U.N. on Tuesday promised “relentless diplomacy” now that the U.S. had “turned the page” on the war in Afghanistan. Asserting that the world was beginning a “decisive decade,” Biden urged countries to cooperate on borderless challenges like climate change and COVID-19.

— San Francisco Mayor London Breed is clapping back against what she labeled the “fun police” after being caught on video defying the city’s mask mandate. Breed was spotted partying at Black Cat jazz bar and nightclub. The maskless mayor was photographed seated at a table with friends, who also were not wearing face coverings, amid a bevy of half-drunk beverages.

— Six L.A. City Council members have called for Councilman Joe Buscaino to be removed from his leadership post, days after he and his spokesman were quoted in a magazine article making disparaging remarks about other council members.

— Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León announced he is joining the race to replace Mayor Eric Garcetti, saying he would focus as mayor on the hardships faced by Angelenos who are “barely holding on” economically.

Fire badly burns giant sequoia as cabins are put under wraps

As the Windy fire torched the top of at least one towering tree in the Sequoia National Forest, a new threat emerged Tuesday when the nearby KNP Complex moved closer to a collection of century-old cabins.

Officials are hoping fire-resistant aluminum will shield the historic homes, a method used last week when the General Sherman tree was wrapped in foil.

For days, firefighters have been locked in an unusual battle to defend California’s giant sequoias, sometimes fighting fire with fire. By Tuesday, the General Sherman tree, the largest tree in the world by volume, was relatively unscathed by the KNP Complex, as were the Four Guardsmen trees that stand at attention at the entrance to the Giant Forest, officials said.

But other areas have not been so lucky. The Windy fire, which is burning to the south of the KNP, moved into Long Meadow Grove, home of the famed Trail of 100 Giants, and at least one sequoia known as the Bench Tree was significantly damaged.

California turned the tide on coronavirus transmission rates
A few months ago, it looked as if California’s long-awaited reopening following massive coronavirus closures might be derailed by the highly contagious Delta variant. But the state now has the lowest coronavirus case rate of any state in the nation.

California hasn’t reinstituted the sweeping restrictions seen earlier in the pandemic, but the state and many local health departments have taken steps to tackle the Delta variant.

Notably, L.A. County reimposed a mask mandate in July, and a number of other counties followed suit. Also, extensive vaccination or testing requirements in California — which has higher vaccination rates than some states hard hit by the summer surge — have affected health workers, restaurant customers, students, school workers, and many more.

More top coronavirus headlines

— Sunday’s unmasked, socially un-distanced, indoor Emmys ceremony prompted many, including presenter Seth Rogen, to wonder if awards shows were somehow exempt from COVID-19 mandates. In response to the outcry, L.A. County health officials absolved participants of their alleged pandemic crimes.

How close is a COVID-19 vaccine for kids? The FDA’s vaccine chief said earlier this month that he is “very, very hopeful” that vaccines will be authorized and rolled out for children ages 5 to 11 by the end of this year. Once the FDA receives data from Pfizer, he said, the agency will come to a decision “hopefully within a matter of weeks rather than a matter of months.”

— Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that a booster of its one-shot coronavirus vaccine provides a stronger immune response months after people receive a first dose. J&J said that an extra dose, given either two months or six months after the initial shot, revved up protection. The results haven’t yet been published or vetted by other scientists.

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

L.A. cracks down on ‘out of control’ protests

Members of the Los Angeles City Council largely stood back last year as protesters angry over mask mandates and police budgets regularly held noisy demonstrations outside politicians’ private homes.

On Tuesday, the City Council sent a message of their own: They’ve had enough.

The City Council — pushing back against bullhorns, marches and moving cars, as well as more aggressive tactics — gave final approval to a law that requires a 300-foot buffer around a private residence targeted for demonstration and imposes fines for violators.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Twenty-five years ago today, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the Defense of Marriage Act. Then-President Clinton called the legislation “divisive and unnecessary” but signed it into law. It defined marriage, for federal purposes, as a union between a man and a woman. It wasn’t until 2013 that the Supreme Court struck down a key part of DOMA and declared that same-sex couples who were legally married deserved equal rights to the benefits under federal law that went to all other married couples.

CALIFORNIA

— California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta announced charges in an alleged student loan debt relief scam that prosecutors said stole over $6.1 million from 19,000 victims. The alleged leader of the scam, Angela Mirabella, owned a network of debt relief businesses based in Orange County that operated call centers that promised to reduce or eliminate federal student loan debt, Bonta said.

— Los Angeles city officials have admitted there’s a long road ahead before residents and business owners will be made whole and returned home following the summer explosion of a South L.A. block by the Los Angeles Police Department’s bomb squad.

— Prosecutors have filed assault and hate crime charges against two men who were involved in a fight outside a West L.A. sushi restaurant after antisemitic slurs were yelled at a group of Jewish diners.

— San Francisco International Airport is now requiring all workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the first airport in the U.S. to implement such health requirements.

— Melina Abdullah, a prominent Los Angeles activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter L.A., has sued the city of L.A. and the Los Angeles Police Department over the department’s response to a 911 call last year in which a man falsely claimed to be holding people hostage at Abdullah’s home.

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NATION-WORLD

— After Afghans fell from the wheel wells of a U.S. Air Force cargo plane leaving Kabul, their families must live with the horror.

— In other news from Afghanistan, a complex question has emerged over who should represent the country at the United Nations this month. The Taliban, which has ruled for a matter of weeks, is challenging the credentials of the nation’s former U.N. ambassador and wants to speak at the General Assembly’s high-level meeting of world leaders this week, the international body says.

— Six Native American tribes sued Wisconsin on Tuesday to try to stop its planned gray wolf hunt in November, asserting that the hunt violates their treaty rights and endangers an animal they consider sacred.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Wednesday sees the premiere on ABC of “The Wonder Years,” the Black reboot of the bittersweet memoir of suburban life in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Earlier this month, Disney+ debuted “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.,” a gender-flipped remake of “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” also originally on ABC, about a teenage doctor dealing with adolescence and life and death. The series offer more than nostalgia or fan service: They cast beloved originals in a new light.

— Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek made some of his first public comments about the delicate and often testy state of talent relations in Hollywood since Scarlett Johansson sued Disney in July.

— Times film critic Justin Chang takes a close look at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and finds a shrine to the Oscars and, more importantly, a tribute to the movies. Amid the ooh-ing and ahh-ing at Rosebud sleds and ruby slippers, he finds the long-awaited museum is at its best when it sidesteps the obvious.

— Leaders of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are asking tens of thousands of entertainment industry workers to give them authority to call a strike. The extraordinary move comes after four months of increasingly acrimonious talks between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed to produce an agreement on a new contract.

BUSINESS

— There have never been so many $1-million houses, and not just in Santa Monica, the Hollywood Hills or the beach towns of Orange County. The $1-million house is popping up across Southern California, spurred by demand for bigger spaces during the pandemic and the resulting surge in home prices. We look closer at L.A.'s 15 new million-dollar neighborhoods.

— McDonald’s plans to “drastically” reduce the plastic in its Happy Meal toys worldwide by 2025. The fast-food giant says it’s working with toy companies to develop new ideas, such as three-dimensional cardboard superheroes kids can build or board games with plant-based or recycled game pieces.

— The Justice Department and officials in California and five other states have filed a lawsuit to block a partnership formed by American Airlines and JetBlue Airways, saying it would reduce competition and lead to higher fares for flights between many U.S. cities.

SPORTS

— The Times looks at the hottest (and coldest) candidates in the USC search for a new head football coach. Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer? Meh. Penn State’s James Franklin? You’re getting warmer.

— In a rare admission of fault, UCLA coach Chip Kelly seemed to acknowledge that his team should not have ceded so much territory to the Bulldogs receivers in their loss Saturday to Fresno State at the Rose Bowl.

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OPINION

— News reporting is essential at disaster scenes, providing information that could mean the difference between life and death for residents and others. Yet police have detained, arrested and injured reporters at public protests for staying on the scene after others are ordered to disperse. There have been instances in which it seemed that police were specifically targeting journalists. Senate Bill 98 deals with the issue, and it’s high time Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it.

— If you’re 25 years old, you grasp the near certainty of climate catastrophe. Younger generations consistently report pessimism and depression over the impending climate crisis. Yet, they fight it. Because what choice do you have?

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Yosemite has captivated generations of climbers — and those who worship them. Now a small museum in Mariposa, Calif., not far from the park’s granite walls tells part of the story. Ken Yager, 62, founder and a veteran climber with more than 300 first ascents to his name, devoted decades to assembling artifacts and photos that would provide a window on this niche world.

Yager weaves together the tech, the business and the human-interest aspects, focusing on outsize personalities and innovations that have helped climbers succeed up ascents once thought impossible. Artifacts include pitons forged from steel by a climbing blacksmith who developed them to work in Yosemite’s distinctive long vertical cracks; early hemp ropes, plus more high-tech ones, so much lighter and stronger; and the jumar, a clamp that attaches to a fixed rope, that was worn by Mark Wellman, the first paraplegic climber to make it up El Cap in 1989.

Climbers look like specks against a sheer rock face.
Climbers navigate El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley on April 19, 2021.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Today’s newsletter was curated by Amy Hubbard. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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