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Today’s Headlines: Senate Republicans block President Biden’s voting rights measure

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus walk to the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday urged senators to pass voting rights legislation.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
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Hello, it’s Thursday, Jan. 20, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

GOP blocks Democrats’ voting rights push in Senate

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked President Biden’s voting-rights measure, handing Democrats their second high-profile setback in as many months. Senate Democrats unanimously supported the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, calling them critical to ensuring fair elections amid efforts in GOP-led states to erect new barriers to voting.

Senate Democrats then pivoted to a last-ditch effort to change the 60-vote threshold into a so-called talking filibuster, which would allow each member to speak twice for as long as they want before a simple majority vote on final passage. But as expected, that effort also failed.

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More politics

  • The Supreme Court has turned down former President Trump’s plea to shield his White House records from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6. attack on the U.S. Capitol.
  • President Biden on Wednesday sought to reframe his presidency, saying he would restart efforts to pass his signature legislative agenda and use the midterm election campaigns to push harder against Republican obstinance.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris will attend the inauguration of President-elect Xiomara Castro in Honduras next week.

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California approaches a pandemic record for all hospitalizations

Some people hoped that the latest coronavirus surge would be relatively mild for hospitals, suggesting that many coronavirus-positive patients are being treated in the hospital for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. But that argument is of little comfort to hospitals now experiencing some of the highest numbers of hospital admission of the entire pandemic on a statewide basis.

Public health officials also report 15 patients are currently battling COVID-19 at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, the “highest number ever” of children being treated there during the pandemic. Looking back at January 2021 data, some health experts say they hope Orange County is beginning to stabilize, as it did then. They emphasize the importance of taking all preventive measures to reduce risks, including getting vaccinated and boosted and wearing face masks.

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More top coronavirus headlines

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

USC fraternity parties can return, but with guards near bedrooms to prevent sexual assaults

Most USC fraternities will be open for parties in March if members abide by strict rules that include posting security guards at stairs or hallways leading to bedrooms, under new university polices enacted three months after allegations of sexual abuse and drugging at several houses roiled campus.

The requirements, issued ahead of spring recruitment “rush,” also include mandated risk and sexual violence prevention training for all fraternity members. The policies were drafted by Greek life and student government leaders, safety experts and other student group representatives and approved by university officials.

Provost Charles Zukoski called the partnership between the group and the university “critical” to the future of USC’s Greek life.

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L.A. Unified agrees to a $14.7-million settlement with sex abuse victims

Attorneys representing seven students who were molested by their former elementary school teacher have reached a $14.7-million settlement with Los Angeles school officials. The Los Angeles Board of Education approved the settlement Tuesday, said Michael Carrillo, an attorney representing five of the victims. Carrillo said that although the settlement does not undo the abuse suffered, it provides a measure of closure.

According to a statement by Carrillo’s firm, the victims were 9- and 10-year-old students at Hart Street Elementary School in Canoga Park when they were abused by their teacher, Rene Tenas. The abuse occurred from August 2016 to January 2017, the law firm said in a statement. Tenas was convicted in October 2018 of committing lewd acts with minors, according to the statement. He was sentenced to five years in state prison.

A bitter feud centers on source of Arrowhead bottled water

High in the San Bernardino Mountains, water seeps from the ground and trickles down the mountainside. Nearby, water gushes through a system of tunnels and boreholes, and flows into a network of stainless steel pipes that join together in a single line. The water then courses downhill across the San Bernardino National Forest to a tank, where some is hauled away to be bottled and sold as Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water.

Local environmentalists say the bottled water pipeline doesn’t belong in the national forest and removes precious water that would otherwise flow in Strawberry Creek and nourishes the ecosystem. Activists say they hope California regulators will finally order BlueTriton Brands — the company that took over bottling from Nestlé last year — to drastically reduce its operation in the national forest.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

Three women wearing black embrace as one cries.
How COVID upended a family: Stephanie Reyes, center, who lost her husband to COVID in September 2021, is comforted by daughters Marissa, 18, left, and Reyna, 15, at their home on Jan. 13 in Menifee, Calif. Her son, 17-year-old Anthony Jr., took his own life after enduring a pandemic, the loss of his father, the pain of isolation and the heartaches that come with being a teenager.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva touts homeless outreach and deputy discipline in yearend remarks. Villanueva spoke about his agency’s efforts to clean up homelessness on Olvera Street, along the Venice Beach boardwalk, and criticized L.A. Metro’s discussions about reducing law enforcement on the transit system after a nurse was attacked while waiting at a bus stop at downtown L.A.’s Union Station.

A suspect in the killing of Brianna Kupfer is arrested in Pasadena. Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was arrested after an extensive manhunt across the region. Kupfer was killed Thursday while working alone at the Croft House furniture store on North La Brea Avenue.

L.A. mayoral candidate Jessica Lall wants a city department of homelessness. The proposal was part of a broader homelessness plan released by Lall, who serves as president and chief executive of the downtown business group Central City Assn, and is mounting a long-shot bid for the city’s top job.

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NATION-WORLD

Blinken offers assurances and more military aid to a Ukraine fearing Russian invasion. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivered in-person assurances to Ukraine’s besieged leaders Wednesday as President Biden vowed to punish Russia if it invades the former Soviet republic.

New York attorney general says Trump’s company misled banks and tax officials. The attorney general’s office late Tuesday told a court its investigators had uncovered evidence that former President Trump’s company used “fraudulent or misleading” asset valuations to get loans and tax benefits.

University of Michigan reaches $490-million settlement over doctor’s sexual abuse. The school reached the agreement with more than 1,000 people who say they were sexually assaulted by Dr. Robert Anderson during his nearly four-decade career.

Three of Tonga’s smaller islands were badly damaged by a tsunami. Communications have been down throughout Tonga since the eruption on Saturday, but a ship made it to the outlying islands of Nomuka, Mango and Fonoifua on Wednesday, and reported back that few homes remain standing.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

André Leon Talley, fashion icon and culture influencer, dies at 73. Talley served as Vogue’s fashion news director from 1983 to 1987 and then its creative director from 1988 to 1995. Talley was also a judge on “America’s Next Top Model” and was profiled in a 2018 documentary by director Kate Novack titled “The Gospel According to André.”

A record quarter for filming in L.A. obscures Hollywood’s complicated recovery story. The fourth quarter marked an increase of 6% from the previous three months and a 46% jump from the same period in 2020, reflecting the industry’s ongoing rebound from pandemic-driven restrictions and delays for film and TV sets.

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‘Billions’ ‘had to change.’ How (and why) the series blew up its central relationship. The show will be shifting gears when it returns Jan. 23 for its sixth season. Axelrod (Damian Lewis) has left the scene, and Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) will be taking on new battles. The change was prompted by Lewis’ departure.

BUSINESS

So your health insurance says, ‘Claim denied.’ Here’s how to fight back. People rarely get into a bureaucratic dispute with their health insurance provider and describe the process as “straightforward” or “easy to understand” or “quickly resolved.” But if you do make an appeal, your odds of getting that claim covered are decent.

Why Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard deal could mean better games. Microsoft has an uphill battle. But Activision Blizzard will again, at long last, be a company in the hands of people willing to take bets on content, writes Times games critic Todd Martens.

SPORTS

This is what the Rams envisioned: Matthew Stafford vs. Tom Brady. The pressure will be on Stafford on Sunday in a game that pits him in a postseason duel against Brady, the most successful quarterback in NFL history.

Jaylen Clark and Peyton Watson infuse UCLA with a welcome youth movement. Clark and Watson are the most athletic on UCLA’s men’s basketball team, and the two young players are getting more playing time.

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OPINION

Dear Karen Bass and others, L.A. needs a real homeless plan we haven’t heard before. It all sounds good, but the same song has been playing for at least 15 years in Los Angeles, writes columnist Steve Lopez.

Here’s what happens next for unsolved ‘cold case’ killings from the civil rights era. The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board makes sure files and records of unsolved civil rights crimes are in the public domain, available at the National Archives for historians, journalists, researchers and others to study.

ONLY IN L.A.

Two shelves filled with bottles.
An array of mezcal at Los Angeles restaurant Madre.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Stop calling it “smoky.” Los Angeles may be the best city in which to sip mezcal — but when does it become too much of a good thing? The popularity of this complex agave spirit has risen astronomically, in part due to its increased incorporation into cocktails. But even if we’re drinking more of it, you may not know much about it. Here’s how to become a better mezcal drinker.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A woman in a dark dress and matching hat sits beside a man in a suit. The table in front of them is stacked with papers.
January 1931: Daisy De Voe and Nathan Freedman, her attorney, confer in Los Angeles court.
(Los Angeles Times)

Ninety-one years ago this month, movie fans were wrapped up in the real-life drama of Clara Bow and Daisy De Voe, her former secretary, who was accused of stealing $16,000 from the “it” girl.

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Things got tawdry as De Voe’s lawyer turned the spotlight away from her and onto Bow’s lavish spending. She was said to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars between February 1929 and October 1930 on clothing, cars and frivolity. In the trial in Los Angeles court, personal papers — including love letters and telegrams — that De Voe had allegedly stolen from the actress were entered into evidence and read aloud in court.

Jurors in the trial were split and acrimonious. The Times reported in its Jan. 24, 1931, edition that some male jurors nearly came to blows. In the end, De Voe was found guilty on one of 37 counts; she became “hysterical” after the verdict was read, The Times said. She served 18 months in L.A. County Jail. Bow soon after entered Glendale Sanitarium to convalesce from the ordeal. Within two years, she’d retired from acting.

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, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

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