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Today’s Headlines: A team of deputies is accused of targeting Villanueva’s foes

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Little-known team in Sheriff’s Department accused of targeting political enemies

A group of nine deputies in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department make up a little-known team of investigators formed by Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other top department officials.

Much of what they do is a mystery to the public and even to most within the department. But as some of the investigations handled by the team have come to light, a common thread has emerged: Their targets are outspoken critics of Villanueva or the department.

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Water war threatens a desert town

On the northern edge of the Mojave Desert, a new trauma has awakened old concerns: What happens if a town’s water gets shut off?

The residents of Trona are caught up in a water war that threatens their beat-up, yet determined, town and valley of nearly 1,700 people.

Water wars are central to the history of the American West. Although the battle taking place in Trona and the Indian Wells Valley may not be as epic as the wrangling over the Colorado River, the outcome will have implications for all of California.

Democrats’ abortion rights bill loses support of a rare Republican

As Democrats consider legislation to respond to a new Texas state ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, they have lost the support of one of the few remaining Republicans who support abortion rights.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Tuesday she opposed the Democrats’ bill, which would prohibit states from enacting restrictions on abortion through fetal viability. She called parts of the bill’s language “extreme.”

The House is expected to approve the bill Friday. In the Senate, Democratic leaders are considering whether to bring it to a vote.

More politics

— Despite a still-menacing pandemic and a cascade of other domestic and international threats to the U.S. economy, Federal Reserve policymakers expressed confidence in the recovery and said they could soon start withdrawing stimulus programs supporting financial markets and the economy.

— Young voters turned out in force for Democrats in 2020. Will they stick around?

— Caitlyn Jenner brought fame to her run for California governor in a state with an enduring history of celebrities turned politicians. Her campaign failed anyway.

— Bipartisan congressional talks on overhauling policing practices have ended without an agreement, top bargainers from both parties said Wednesday, marking the collapse of an effort that began after the killings of unarmed Black people by officers sparked protests across the United States.

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

U.S. doubles down on vaccine donations for global inoculation

The United States will double the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses it is donating to the global inoculation effort as the international community struggles to meet its goals for protecting people from the coronavirus. The larger donation brings the U.S. commitment to more than 1 billion doses, nearly one-tenth of what experts suggest is needed to safeguard the world’s population.

Meanwhile, the U.S. moved a step closer to offering booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to senior citizens and others at high risk from the virus as the Food and Drug Administration signed off on the targeted use of the extra shots.

More coronavirus headlines

— The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County has dropped below 1,000 for the first time in two months — underscoring the region’s slow but steady progress in turning the tide of the latest coronavirus surge.

— Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, particularly in math, science, special education and languages. But the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

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

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Twenty-five years ago today, jury selection was underway in the civil trial of O.J. Simpson in a Santa Monica courthouse. Defense attorney Robert C. Baker said he was scrutinizing the “demographics” of the potential jurors in a city where, statistics showed, the jury pool was 79% white.

A 1995 Times poll taken in L.A. County after Simpson was acquitted in the slayings of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman found that 2 out of 3 white residents believed he was guilty compared with 13% of Black residents. Simpson was eventually ordered to pay $33.5 million for the wrongful deaths of his ex-wife and her friend. Most of the judgment remained unpaid years after the trial.

CALIFORNIA

— Twin blazes continued to threaten California’s towering sequoia trees and create new miseries for nearby residents, spewing smoke and worsening air quality across Central California.

— A San Luis Obispo County judge has ruled that Paul Flores will be tried for murder in the 1996 disappearance of Kristin Smart and that his father must also answer to charges that he was an accessory to the crime.

— A Los Angeles Times analysis found that hospitals in the Inland Empire were pummeled by the Delta variant surge this summer more than any other county in Southern California. Doctors, nurses, technicians and other hospital support staff have endured daily pressure to take on more shifts amid burnout and understaffing.

L.A. teachers are set to receive a 5% raise and pandemic-related bonuses under a tentative agreement.

— Jo Lasorda, the bubbly and easygoing counterpart to husband Tommy Lasorda, the exuberant and often profane former Dodgers manager, has died at 91. The Dodgers said she died Monday at the Fullerton home where the couple had lived for decades.

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NATION-WORLD

A wall of lava up to 40 feet high bore down on a Spanish village as islanders scrambled to save what they could before the molten rock swallowed up their homes after Sunday’s volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands.

— Civil and human rights groups on Wednesday criticized the White House’s immigration policies for inflicting “cruelty on Black, Brown and Indigenous immigrant communities.” The groups’ letter arrived at the White House amid sharp criticism of the Biden administration’s response to an encampment of thousands of mostly Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The maker of Netflix’s top-secret Britney Spears documentary says she tried hard to get the story right. Netflix has confirmed “Britney vs Spears” will premiere Sept. 28, which coincides with a pivotal moment: a court date that could determine whether the performer’s father is removed as her legal guardian.

— Sorry, haters, the movie version of “Dear Evan Hansen” isn’t a train wreck, writes theater critic Charles McNulty. The translation to the screen is smoother than expected.

— Netflix has acquired the works of Roald Dahl, the late British author of celebrated children’s books such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

— Melvin Van Peebles, the Black filmmaker, novelist and playwright, whose audacious, rebellious work had an influence on generations of artists, has died at age 89.

BUSINESS

— Amazon and other warehouse operators across California will face new regulation of their labor practices under a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The first-of-its-kind legislation gives warehouse workers new power to fight quotas, which critics say pressure workers to skip bathroom breaks and skirt safety measures.

— Gary Marsh, who spent three decades helping to shape the Disney Channel from “Hannah Montana” to “High School Musical,” is leaving his job to take on a producing role. Few Disney executives have had the kind of staying power and influence Marsh did.

— America is not facing a civil war — only loudmouthed extremists — writes business columnist Michael Hiltzik.

SPORTS

— As the Angels play out the string on another losing season, their seventh straight without a playoff berth, manager Joe Maddon’s patience is wearing thin. His frustration is not with his team’s effort but rather its personnel. Maddon believes the Angels need not one but two front-line starters to fill out a pitching rotation that appears to have only one 2022 lock: two-way star Shohei Ohtani.

— It may be called Little Switzerland, but when it comes to the Ryder Cup, this Wisconsin village is USA to the core. We visit New Glarus as the golf tournament — canceled in 2020 — is set to kick off with a relatively normal atmosphere and full galleries.

— A near-death experience when he was 9 shaped UCLA linebacker Mitchell Agude. “Every day at practice, every day during games, I’m just thinking I might not be here,” he said. The player who calls himself “The Diamond in the Dirt” has nudged himself into NFL draft consideration with his relentless effort.

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OPINION

— Trying to cross the street shouldn’t be a crime. If walkers sometimes jaywalk to reach their destination, that’s a design flaw rather than a human flaw.

— Gov. Gavin Newsom shouldn’t hesitate to sign a bill making permanent the pandemic-era practice of sending mail ballots to all registered voters in California.

— Ghastly images and videos this week showed Border Patrol agents on horses, using their reins aggressively to intimidate Haitians, including small children, on the riverbank in Del Rio, Texas. Any observer of Border Patrol can tell you that its mistreatment of migrants is far from an isolated incident.

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Like awaiting an earthquake, we are due — overdue, really — for another aggrieved someone to try once again to get voters or legislators or Congress — or all three — to agree to divvy up California into two or three or half a dozen states. About 220 times in more than 170 years, some interest or power or politician waved around a cleaver. So why hasn’t the idea gone anywhere? Columnist Patt Morrison has some thoughts.

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


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