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Today’s Headlines: Federal road safety plan follows a deadly year on L.A. streets

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg shown Jan. 11 during a Los Angeles visit
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, shown Jan. 11 during a Los Angeles visit, is urging a “safe system approach” to combating soaring traffic collisions.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)
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By Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Friday, Jan. 28, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

An ambitious road safety plan with a seemingly impossible goal

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has released a plan to redesign roads, reduce speeds and push for more vehicle safety features, vowing to cut fatalities to the seemingly impossible goal of zero.

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The National Roadway Safety Strategy, paid for with funds from the $1-trillion infrastructure law, would incorporate a “safe system approach.” Among its facets: It would push for local governments to design and construct safer roads, prod automakers to incorporate crash-avoidance features such as automatic emergency braking, and focus on shortening ambulance response times when collisions occur.

The plan comes just weeks after L.A. closed out a year that saw a significant increase in deadly collisions.

Next up for the Supreme Court: a Black female justice

President Biden praised Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who made his retirement official at the White House, vowing that his choice to replace him will be a Black woman and that he plans to announce the choice by the end of next month.

“I’ve made no decision except one: The person I will nominate will be someone of extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity,” Biden said. “And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It’s long overdue.”

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No jab? No job

Even as the nation approaches the third year of the pandemic — with the Omicron variant breaking infection records and a death toll of 865,000 continuing to climb — a defiant 24% of the population has received no vaccine shots at all.

The Biden administration backed away this week from requiring large employers to mandate vaccines. But in public sector jobs in blue states such as Oregon, and at dozens of major private corporations, mandates remain in place as leaders point to studies showing the effectiveness of vaccines in fighting off the worst infections. For millions, the anti-vaccine decision could cost them their jobs.

We talked to some of them, including a Seattle-based nurse who said she “did not want to be part of an experiment on humankind. ... I hate it when people say I’m a bad person for not vaccinating.”

More top coronavirus headlines

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

FBI aims to confiscate cash it has seized from legal pot stores

The driver of an armored car carrying $712,000 in cash from licensed marijuana dispensaries was pulled over near Barstow in November by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies. They seized the money and turned it over to the FBI. They stopped him again just weeks later, seizing $350,000 belonging to legal pot stores and gave that cash to the FBI too.

Now, the FBI is trying to confiscate the money, which it might share with the Sheriff’s Department, saying it’s tied to federal drug or money-laundering crimes. But the agency has specified no unlawful conduct and charged no one with a crime. The cash seizures — and another from the same trucking company in Kansas — raise questions about whether the Justice Department is moving to disrupt the operations of licensed marijuana businesses in California and other states where pot is legal.

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CALIFORNIA

As a wave of student activists fight for COVID safety measures at schools, some face criticism and pushback. “It’s just bonkers,” one Redondo Beach student said. “It’s surprising what adults say. Their actions just speak for themselves.”

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Metro bus service has been slashed amid a driver shortage. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus service has been reduced systemwide. Rampant COVID-19 infections among employees, a competitive labor market and a hiring freeze during the pandemic have left the agency without enough drivers and many riders without reliable transportation.

Humboldt State has a new name. The university now known as Cal Poly Humboldt has an updated mission as a polytechnic university, a move aimed at increasing sagging enrollment at an underused campus with high-demand STEM education and research offerings. It’s the third polytechnic in the state and the first of the 21st century.

Candidates running for L.A. County sheriff took the stage together, trading ideas and some insults. At a forum Wednesday night hosted by deputy unions, much of the debate focused on the department’s $3.5-billion budget and incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s fractured relationship with the elected officials who oversee it.

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NATION-WORLD

Being known as a raffish rule-breaker worked great for Boris Johnson — until it didn’t. The British prime minister stands at the most precarious juncture of his career, hammered by resignation demands from political foes and an outraged citizenry. Britain has been in an uproar for weeks over revelations of serial revelry at Johnson’s Downing Street office and residence, in violation of restrictions aimed at stemming the more than two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic.

Gas stoves are worse for the climate than previously thought, a study says. Gas stoves are contributing more to climate change than previously thought because of constant tiny methane leaks while they’re off, the study found. The data also raised new concerns about indoor air quality.

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Honduras’ first female president was sworn in, with Kamala Harris on hand. Thousands of Hondurans amid a sea of waving flags in the national stadium saw Xiomara Castro sworn in. She faces high expectations to turn around the deeply troubled country, as well as uncertainty about whether an unfolding legislative crisis will allow her the support she needs.

The world remembers the Holocaust as antisemitism rises. Holocaust survivors and politicians warned of a resurgence of antisemitism and Holocaust denial as the world remembered Nazi atrocities and commemorated the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Oscar voting has begun. Times film critic Justin Chang reveals what he would put on his fantasy ballot. “These are preferences, not predictions,” he writes. “I can’t vote, but I can dream.” Among his best picture picks: “Drive My Car,” “Memoria,” “Parallel Mothers,” “Passing” and “The Power of the Dog.” For director, he says, “I never dreamed we might see a replay of [Jane] Campion vs. [Steven] Spielberg, but I hope we do.”

Are you Team Neil? Neil Young pulled his catalog of music from music streaming service Spotify this week, in response to top Spotify podcaster Joe Rogan’s repeated promotion of vaccine misinformation. If you might be following Young’s lead, we look at nine alternatives to Spotify. Among them: Tidal (free-$19.99), which has high-quality audio that’s higher priced, but Tidal pays more in per-stream royalties to artists than almost any other service; and Resonate (price varies), an upstart co-op where you pay a la carte per listen up to the price of a song’s download fee, then you own the track.

The WGA nominations are out. Twisty noir “Nightmare Alley” by Guillermo del Toro and Kim Morgan, eco-satire “Don’t Look Up” from Adam McKay, and documentary “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres” by Suzanne Joe Kai are among the nominees for the 2022 Writers Guild Awards.

BUSINESS

Netflix stock got a boost. The streamer’s stock rose 8% after hedge fund Pershing Square revealed it had become a top 20 investor.

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The U.S. economy grew 5.7% in 2021 in a rebound from the 2020 recession. The U.S. economy grew last year at the fastest pace since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. But squeezed by inflation and still gripped by coronavirus caseloads, the economy is expected to slow this year.

A record 14.5 million people signed up for health insurance at government marketplaces. Biden administration officials attributed the 21% increase over the last open enrollment period to government efforts to lower costs and expand access to insurance.

The Queen Mary is getting a new lease on life. A $5-million repair project will begin next month to reopen the Queen Mary to the public, marking the latest step to keep the beleaguered Long Beach tourist attraction afloat.

SPORTS

No. 7 UCLA defeated California to take the top spot in the Pac-12 standings. Still playing shorthanded, the Bruins rolled along smoothly during an 81-57 victory over California at Pauley Pavilion for their fifth consecutive triumph.

Even with Anthony Davis outplaying MVP candidate Joel Embiid in a head-to-head matchup, the Lakers’ inconsistencies and lack of real production from its role players sunk them in a one-sided 105-87 loss to Philadelphia.

It’s hard to believe Sean McVay still has so much to prove, writes columnist Bill Plaschke. McVay needs to lead the Rams to victory over the San Francisco 49ers and his nemesis Kyle Shanahan in the NFC championship game at SoFi Stadium. He needs to guide the Rams to a Super Bowl being played on a $5-billion home field built by team owner Stan Kroenke just for this occasion. He needs to show he can succeed with hand-picked quarterback Matthew Stafford and a dizzying display of All-Pro talent collected by a win-at-all-costs front office.

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OPINION

Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s retirement gives Democrats a chance for a political reboot. Columnist Jackie Calmes writes that the court’s (im)balance wouldn’t be changed by President Biden’s replacement for Breyer. The new justice would be an even swap, one liberal for another. Yet the court itself would be changed, assuming Biden keeps his campaign promise to name the first Black woman to the court.

Op-ed: Ukraine’s fate could renew a race for weapons of mass destruction. If there is going to be an end to nuclear proliferation, Ukraine needs to be a success story, not a lost cause.

YOUR WEEKEND

A long rectangle of dough, half of which has been cut into noodles
Handmade noodles.
(Genevieve Ko / Los Angeles Times)

Do you have more citrus than you know what to do with? Try making marmalade. Aside from having to juice the citrus and boil the peels, which takes an easy, hands-free hour or so, the rest of the process is just like making any other fruit jam or butter, writes cooking columnist Ben Mims.

If you’re still hungry after that, celebrate Lunar New Year in a couple of foodie ways. Feb. 1 is the start of the new year, and it’s all about welcoming good fortune and foreseeing the potential in the year ahead. A number of restaurants, bars and organizations are offering food festivals, high teas, customary dishes and more. Or you could cook. We have Lunar New Year recipes that might hit the spot: Try your hand at homemade noodles. Guizhou-style kung pao chicken also sounds pretty amazing: Itstarts with a chile paste fragrant with garlic and ginger that’s combined with a savory, sweet and sour sauce that gives the dish an even balance of flavors. Be sure to serve plenty of warm steamed rice.”

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Pop over to Pepperdine for a visual and aural treat. Tonight the ensemble the Queen’s Cartoonists performs jazz and classical favorites to accompany screenings of classic and contemporary animated shorts from around the world. Show’s at 7:30 p.m. on campus in the Smothers Theatre. Tickets: $10-$40. More info. Plus eight more weekend-fun ideas from Times listings coordinator Matt Cooper.

Or if you’re staying in, watch “The Afterparty.” Times TV critic Robert Lloyd swears by the comedy-mystery, which premieres today on Apple TV+. It’s “exceedingly delightful, cleverly constructed, adeptly acted” and is set around a 15-year high school reunion. Plus it has Tiffany Haddish, who is outstanding as Det. Danner.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

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“Jeopardy!” had never had a player like Amy Schneider. Her winning streak ended this week, but now the celebrating can begin. The Oakland resident left the show as the highest-winning woman in the show’s history, becoming a new legend among the show’s fans and contestants along the way. (New York Times)

“We’re one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe.” The James Webb Space Telescope has reached its spot in space. Under a headline only a science nerd could love (“Orbital Insertion Burn a Success, Webb Arrives at L2”), NASA said the telescope was in orbit “around the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or L2, nearly 1 million miles away from the Earth.” From NPR: “JWST, as the telescope is called, is more sophisticated than the iconic Hubble Space Telescope and will be capturing pictures of the very first stars in the universe. Scientists say it will also study the atmospheres of planets orbiting stars outside our own solar system to see if they might be habitable — or even inhabited.” (NASA, NPR)

“Family legend has it that I was found tied to a tree.” Saundra Henderson Windom, author and Times special correspondent, writes of the love she has for the woman who gave her up for adoption in South Korea in the 1950s and the woman who adopted her yet insisted she reject her Korean heritage. (Los Angeles Times)

ONLY IN L.A.

Plastic-covered sofas, waterbeds and dark restaurants helped to create a vibe. When it came time to design the setting for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza,” one thing was clear: “We just decided, ‘We’re not going to fictionalize the Valley,’” said production designer Florencia Martin. So how did they bring ’70s San Fernando Valley energy to the film? The Times’ archives, the right signage and unusual locations like parking lots — plus lots of time on eBay.

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Speaking of archival photos from The Times ...

FROM THE ARCHIVES

People walk in a city street alongside a person in an elaborate lion costume.
January 1928: The lion dance is part of Chinese New Year festivities in L.A.’s Chinatown.
(Los Angeles Times)

Ninety-four years ago this week, Chinese New Year was celebrated in Chinatown in Los Angeles. The event was celebrated in the Jan. 27, 1928, edition of The Times, which devoted quite a bit of newsprint to the festive occasion’s sounds, including the “crackle, crackle, crackle rat-tata-too-tat-boom” of firecrackers. “From door to door this lion is dancing in a graceful manner, his long highly colored cloth body dipping, swaying, undulating as the fringes of plush tassels dangle and flap.”

The enclave was then located, as it had been since the mid-1800s, in the oldest part of the city, around Olvera Street. Just two years before this Jan. 26, 1928, photo, voters had backed the building of a new train station. In this era of deep-rooted discrimination and segregation, the whole neighborhood was uprooted to make way for the building of Union Station. Chinatown’s new downtown location was dedicated in June 1938 with the grand opening of Central Plaza.

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.

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