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Today’s Headlines: Democrats have few easy fixes to keep their majorities in Congress

President Biden delivers a speech
President Biden delivers a speech on infrastructure spending at Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center.
(Associated Press)
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Hello, it’s Monday, Jan. 10, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Democrats face a tough slog in the midterm battle to keep Congress

Democrats have long known history was not on their side in the 2022 midterm elections. But as they enter this campaign year, the steep climb to keep their majorities in Congress appears even more daunting, with the COVID-19 pandemic stubbornly persistent and voters concerned over inflation and crime.

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If it holds in November, the unsettled national climate will probably favor Republicans, who need just five additional seats to take control of the U.S. House and only one more for a majority in the Senate.

The sitting president’s party almost always loses ground in midterm elections. Democrats hoping to buck precedent have few easy fixes.

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L.A. County sets another daily COVID record

On Sunday, Los Angeles County health officials reported more than 45,000 new coronavirus infections. The department on Sunday also reported 13 new deaths — bringing the county’s total to 27,785 since the start of the pandemic — and 3,364 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Friday.

The updated numbers from the county underscored anew how the spread of the virus has exploded with the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Omicron has also led to long lines at testing sites around the county, while the hunt for home testing kits has sent people driving fruitlessly from one pharmacy to another. The increased demand for testing prompted L.A. County health officials to pause its home testing program as they deal with a “backlog in the logistics of processing these kits.”

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In El Sereno, homicides increase amid fears of gentrification

The pandemic has hit working-class Latino neighborhoods like El Sereno in Los Angeles especially hard, at the same time that crime and homelessness have increased. Yet even as problems mount, many longtime residents are worried about gentrification.

House flippers have been renovating homes and slapping on million-dollar price tags in recent years. While homeowners can benefit from higher property values, renters fear being priced out of the neighborhood of about 40,000 residents, which as of 2013 was about 82% Latino, 11% Asian and 5% white, according to census data and a Times analysis.

A study predicts rising heat and hardship for San Joaquin Valley’s farming communities

Within three decades, the San Joaquin Valley’s annual average temperature could increase by 4 degrees, worsening water quality and health hazards in the impoverished communities of California’s agricultural heartland, according to a new regional climate change report. Those hit hardest by the increasing heat will be poor farming communities lacking the necessary resources to adapt.

According to the report, chronic diseases and heatstroke will probably increase with climate change, along with “deterioration of private property, canals, dams, roads, and railways. Levees protecting floodplains, cities, and farmlands will become more unstable due to increasing land subsidence, droughts and associated over-pumping, wildfires and floods.”

Some escapees pay bribes, cross rivers, and risk their lives to return to Kim Jong Un’s North Korea

More than 33,000 North Koreans have risked their lives to flee their oppressive homeland in recent decades. But a much smaller number have made their way back after a taste of the outside world.

Officially, about 30 North Koreans are known to have returned after settling in the South, according to South Korean intelligence. Researchers and advocates estimate that the real number is likely much higher, possibly in the hundreds.

Some of those who return become propaganda tools for the North Korean state, appearing in videos or news conferences making tearful statements about how much they regret leaving. A handful change their minds yet again, escaping once more.

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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

‘That baby is all of our babies’: Viewing for a girl killed by the LAPD strikes a deep chord. Anthony Curtis, funeral director at Angelus Funeral Home, said Valentina Orellana Peralta’s death has hit many hard because it makes them think of their children. Valentina’s funeral will be today at City of Refuge Church in Gardena.

The first comprehensive data in two years show big academic setbacks for California students. The results show that about half of all California students tested did not meet state standards in English language arts and about two-thirds did not meet standards in math.

Hundreds died in L.A. traffic crashes in 2021. Is Vision Zero a failure? The numbers frustrate transportation advocates, who’ve long argued that Vision Zero — a program aimed at ending traffic deaths that was unveiled in 2015 — is underfunded and given a low priority by the mayor and City Hall leaders.

CALIFORNIA

An electric VW drives on a road past a grove in Huron, Calif.
The Green Raiteros program in Huron, Calif., is an innovative electric car ride-sharing initiative for residents of the Central Valley community populated largely with farmworkers.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A neglected California city reinvents itself with electric cars — and plots a roadmap for the nation. Getting low-income communities to transition to electric cars is a key climate challenge for California and the nation. The city of Huron is paving the way with its Green Raiteros program that shuttles residents all over Fresno County free of charge.

More than two years after the Conception dive boat fire, the Coast Guard unveils new safety rules. The interim rules require boat operators to install fire detection systems and extinguishers, ensure proper escape routes are available and develop procedures for handling potentially dangerous items, among other requirements.

Judge pauses a luxury development in Lake County over wildfire evacuation concerns. It’s unclear what the ruling means for the future of the project in the Guenoc Valley wine region, but the decision is just the latest in a number of cases that are focusing on the hazards posed by large developments in areas of growing wildfire risk.

Indigenous coalition takes fight to rename town of Squaw Valley to federal board. The term “squaw” has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur. Nuum Valley is the proposed new name, though a coalition member said it may be adjusted.

Michael Parks, former Los Angeles Times editor and foreign correspondent, dies. Parks, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, died on Saturday. He was 78 years old.

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NATION-WORLD

Nineteen dead, including nine children, in a New York City apartment fire. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the fire “started in a malfunctioning electric space heater” in an apartment unit spanning the second and third floors of the 19-story building.

U.S. and Russia held a working dinner to open for Geneva talks. The dinner was a prelude to a broader discussion between the two teams at the U.S. mission in Geneva — culminating a string of meetings both virtual and in person among U.S. officials, their Western allies and Russian leaders in recent days and weeks as tensions over Russian pressure against Ukraine have grown.

Three white men were sentenced to life for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The killing of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, helped push a national debate on racial profiling and vigilantism. Many civil rights activists said the case represented a landmark victory against racism in the criminal justice system.

Intelligence reports repeatedly failed to forecast the Capitol riot. Reports compiled by the U.S. Capitol Police show how the agency grievously underestimated the prospect of chaotic violence and disruptions up to the day of the riot itself.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Bob Saget, beloved TV dad of ‘Full House,’ is dead at 65. The Orange County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office was called Sunday about an “unresponsive man” in a hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, according to a sheriff’s statement on Twitter. Saget was in Florida as part of his “I Don’t Do Negative Comedy Tour,” according to his Twitter feed.

Remembering Sidney Poitier: A look back at the actor’s groundbreaking legacy. Poitier, the first Black man to win an Academy Award for lead actor and a towering role model for succeeding generations of Black actors, died Thursday at 94.

Detectives still seek Alec Baldwin’s cellphone in ‘Rust’ shooting investigation. Santa Fe County Magistrate Judge David Segura on Dec. 16 authorized a search warrant allowing local law enforcement to search Baldwin’s iPhone for evidence that may prove valuable to their investigation into the Oct. 21 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Ben Affleck is done worrying about what other people think. Affleck will turn 50 this year. After a tumultuous decade in his career and personal life — marked by great highs and deep lows — Affleck says he is at peace these days.

BUSINESS

Female employees file a class-action discrimination suit against Black News Channel. The lawsuit by 13 current and former women employees claims they were paid substantially less than their male counterparts and disciplined for being too aggressive in the workplace.

A glimpse into Disneyland’s future? Disney may one day project 3-D images for individual guests. The U.S. Patent Office approved the patent for Disney Enterprises last month for a technology described as a “Virtual World Simulator.” Disney officials say they have no immediate plans to use the technology.

Despite a shortfall in year-end hiring, workers’ wages rise sharply as the unemployment rate falls below 4%. Employers added 199,000 jobs in December. Analysts warn that the Omicron variant may yet deal a bigger blow to the labor market in the next couple of months.

SPORTS

Rams lose to 49ers in overtime and will face Cardinals in the wild-card playoffs. The win secured a playoff spot for the 49ers and prevented the Rams from claiming the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed. The Rams, however, won the NFC West title minutes before their loss, when the Cardinals lost to the Seattle Seahawks.

Cherished memories and medical scares: The story of the Never Miss a Super Bowl Club. Gregory Eaton, Tom Henschel and Don Crisman have attended every Super Bowl and have had many close calls and interesting stories over the last 56 years.

U.S. Olympic figure skating pairs and ice dance nominees have been announced. Newly crowned U.S. ice dance champions Madison Chock of Redondo Beach and Evan Bates were nominated to the U.S. Olympic team on Sunday, the final day of the U.S. championships in Nashville.

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OPINION

If state leaders want affordable housing, they have to stop bungling attempts to fund it. The lack of affordable housing is arguably the biggest crisis in California. It’s beyond exasperating that a state Senate bill to create a housing agency to fund affordable housing did not get passed last year.

Democracy is dying in Hong Kong. But why should the rest of us care? The government is being purged of critics. The repression of the independent media has been intense — and successful, writes columnist Nicholas Goldberg.

ONLY IN L.A.

 Portrait of John and Katianna Hong
John and Katianna Hong are opening Yangban Society, a deli and mini-mart —a place to gather items for a picnic, grab drinks before dinner or sit down for a meal.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Katianna and John Hong have cooked in Michelin-starred restaurants, but their newest endeavor has taken them on a very different path. Today, they are scheduled to open Yangban Society, a casual deli super and mini-mart that they say will challenge notions of what it means to be Korean American.

The Hongs have been working on several specials that speak to their combined experiences and love for market-driven ingredients. They’ll have a pea shoots and chives salad, their take on Korean barbecue restaurants’ scallion salads. John’s version of a French dip is inspired by Korean galbi-tang (short rib soup) and Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Sidney Poitier holding his Oscar and posing with Gregory Peck, Annabella and Anne Bancroft
Sidney Poitier holds his Oscar as he poses with presenter Gregory Peck, French actress Annabella (who accepted the best actress award for Patricia Neal) and presenter Anne Bancroft backstage at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 1964.
(Los Angeles Times)

In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first Black performer to win the Academy Award for best actor. In the photo above, he holds his history-making Oscar for his performance in “Lilies of the Field.”

His portrayal of resolute heroes in films like “To Sir With Love,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” established him as Hollywood’s first Black matinee idol and helped open the door for Black actors in the film industry

Poitier died on Thursday night at his home in Los Angeles. He was 94.

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today’s Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at headlines@latimes.com. — Elvia Limón


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