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Today’s Headlines: Previous DDT ocean dumping in L.A. worse than expected

A discarded chemical barrel on the ocean floor
A research expedition led by UC Santa Barbara came across old discarded barrels sitting 3,000 feet underwater near Santa Catalina Island.
(David Valentine / ROV Jason)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Thursday, Aug. 4, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

History of DDT ocean dumping in L.A. worse than expected

After an exhaustive historical investigation into the barrels of DDT waste reportedly dumped decades ago near Catalina Island, federal regulators concluded that the toxic pollution in the deep ocean could be far worse — and far more sweeping — than what scientists anticipated.

In internal memos made public recently, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that acid waste from the nation’s largest manufacturer of DDT — a pesticide so powerful it poisoned birds and fish — had not been contained in hundreds of thousands of sealed barrels.

Most of the waste, according to newly unearthed information, had been poured directly into the ocean from massive tank barges.

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McKinney fire has hit the stratosphere

A fire big enough to make its own lightning used to be as rare as it sounds. But the McKinney fire, which erupted Friday, generated four separate thunder and lightning storms within its first 24 hours alone. A deadly combination of intense heat, parched vegetation and dry conditions has turned the 55,000-acre blaze in the Klamath National Forest into its own force of nature.

Four separate times, columns of smoke rose from the flames beyond the altitude at which a typical jet flies, penetrating the stratosphere and injecting a plume of soot and ash miles above the Earth’s surface. It’s a phenomenon known as a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, a byproduct of fire that NASA once memorably described as “the fire-breathing dragon of clouds.”

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the McKinney fire, which grew rapidly in hilly, challenging terrain and is uncontained.

L.A. COVID surge picture is still far from good

The summer coronavirus wave in Los Angeles County — fueled by super-contagious Omicron subvariants — appears to be cresting as cases continue to fall, but the picture is far from good.

COVID-19 deaths — the result of weeks of substantial transmission — remain on the rise and aren’t likely to decrease for some time. Moreover, cases remain highly elevated.

The latest data extend the trends health officials noted last week, when they canceled implementation of a long-looming mask mandate. And though the pandemic has regularly upended prognostications, metrics are moving in a promising direction almost across the board.

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

A Russian thug and a fake Yelp account

Los Angeles Times reporters Jack Dolan and Brittny Mejia investigated Michael Mario Santillanes, a discredited ex-doctor for allegedly practicing medicine without a license.

The medical board revoked Santillanes’ license in March 2020. But that wasn’t the end of the story, according to online reviews for Bella Derma Face and Body Sculpting, the clinic Santillanes founded. One of the online reviewers told Mejia she’d been seeing Santillanes since around 2018. She said he’d just given her lip and facial fillers over the winter, in December 2021 or January 2022.

Wild claims, a restraining order against Dolan and Mejia and a court date followed the investigation. In his request to the court, Santillanes didn’t mention the people he named were Times reporters. Instead, he described being menaced by a Russian thug, Dolan, and he suggested Mejia didn’t exist — claiming her Yelp profile was a fictitious identity created to stalk his former clients.

Stability in Asia grows more precarious

The expressions of mutual support and admiration were broadcast on live TV and went off without a hitch.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reaffirmed her support for Taiwan, declaring that American resolve to preserve democracy on the self-governed island remained “ironclad.” A grateful Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen then bestowed on the San Francisco Democrat the turquoise sash and medal of the Order of Propitious Clouds in honor of Pelosi’s contribution to U.S.-Taiwan relations.

But while those ties might have been strengthened during a visit lasting less than 24 hours, the biggest consequences of Pelosi’s trip are expected to unfold in the coming days, weeks and even months, analysts say, as China reacts furiously to what it deems an affront to its sovereignty over Taiwan. The result is likely to be increased instability in Asia — home to more than one-third of the world’s population — and greater challenges for the U.S.

More politics

  • China blocked imports of citrus and fish from Taiwan in retaliation for a visit by Pelosi.
  • Pelosi left Taiwan after a visit that heightened tensions with China, saying she and other members of Congress in her delegation showed they would not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island.
  • President Biden signed an executive order that lays the groundwork for Medicaid to help women seeking abortions to travel between states to obtain access to the procedure.
  • U.S. senators delivered overwhelming bipartisan approval to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, calling expansion of the Western defensive bloc a “slam-dunk” for U.S. national security and a day of reckoning for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

A young man pops a wheelie on his bicycle in the middle of a bridge.
Members of Goon Ride gather midspan on the 6th Street Viaduct. Police have been trying to curtail similar events. Read more about the “civic wonder” with “simmering problems.”
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Angry protests erupt as UC Berkeley fences off People’s Park for housing construction. Hours after workers blocked off the site, a group of protesters confronted the police and construction crews, shaking the metal fences, with some jumping over the structures to be tackled by California Highway Patrol officers.

Great white sharks are thriving in Monterey Bay thanks to warming waters, study shows. The vast data, part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s White Shark Research Project, tracked the seasonal travel patterns of 79 juvenile sharks using electronic tags, revealing that the apex predator has not only adapted to the perils of a warming planet but also thrives in them.

LAX’s traffic nightmare could end with a new people mover, but you’ll have to wait. The first automated cars for Los Angeles International Airport’s electric people mover arrived this week, heralding a major milestone for the $2-billion project that’s expected to be completed by 2023.

Northern California tops Southland in water conservation as savings improve statewide. New data suggest Californians are steadily reducing water usage in the face of severe drought, although cities and towns in the northern part of the state are cutting back more. Water officials called the reductions “encouraging.”

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NATION-WORLD

How abortion rights were won in conservative Kansas. Abortion rights activists defeated a ballot measure that would have allowed Republican legislators to restrict or outlaw abortion. Can their victory be replicated across the nation?

A record amount of seaweed chokes Caribbean beaches and shoreline. More than 24 million tons of sargassum blanketed the Atlantic in June — “a new historical record,” according to researchers — as tons of brown algae kill wildlife, choke the tourism industry and release toxic gases. Scientists say possible factors include climate change, nitrogen-laden fertilizers and sewage waste.

Alex Jones concedes that the Sandy Hook attack was “100% real.” Speaking a day after the parents of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the 2012 attack testified about the suffering, death threats and harassment they’ve endured because of what Jones has trumpeted on his media platforms, the Infowars host told a Texas courtroom that he definitely thinks the attack happened.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Warner Bros. has axed the $90-million “Batgirl” movie that had been planned for HBO Max. The Burbank movie studio had finished shooting the DC superhero spinoff. But the movie fell short of what the company wanted and no longer fit with the studio’s film strategy, sources said. The directors of the film spoke out, saying they were “shocked” by the news.

The “Reservation Dogs” team feared for its future. The cast for years had confronted resistance in Hollywood to telling stories of Indigenous people, particularly stories that extended beyond the industry’s long-standing stereotypes central to the Western genre. But Season 2 of “Reservation Dogs” launches Wednesday on Hulu with several major honors in hand.

At comedy clubs, “everyone knows Jo Koy.” With “Easter Sunday,” America will too. Koy, who once hustled to get people into shows he wasn’t even headlining, eventually advanced to selling out arenas and creating four stand-up specials. Now he’s No. 1 on the call sheet in a feature film — all the more improbable because it’s a major studio comedy about a Filipino American family.

BUSINESS

Six Starbucks stores across the L.A. area permanently close. A Starbucks spokesperson cited “a high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue to operate.” Although none of the L.A.-area stores had formed unions prior to their closure, two of the Seattle stores slated for closure voted to unionize and one of the Portland, Ore., locations petitioned to hold a union vote, prompting criticism.

Flight canceled? Getting a refund might become easier. Responding to a “flood of air travel service complaints” during the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed rule changes to make it easier for airline passengers to collect refunds for canceled or delayed flights.

OPINION

In Kansans’ landslide turnout for abortion rights, there’s a glimpse of post-Dobbs politics. When the Supreme Court overturned federal protections for abortion rights, that didn’t end the debate. It rolled a political grenade into every statehouse across the nation. Voters nationwide can now see the new battle lines forming. The history of state politics may well be divided into the pre-Dobbs and post-Dobbs eras.

Most street vendors still can’t get permits. There’s a bill to fix that. Senate Bill 972 aims to modernize rules for street vending. It protects consumers while removing barriers that have made it nearly impossible for street vendors to obtain permits. Street vendors provide an economic and culinary boon to our communities, and the state’s mobile food regulations should reflect that.

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SPORTS

“Mr. Scully” had a playful side that helped a young sportswriter feel important. The Times’ Dylan Hernandez recalls meeting Vin Scully. “When I told him who I was, he said he had heard of me and started doing that Vin Scully thing where he narrated the details of a person’s life. ‘You were born in Los Angeles,’ he said. ‘Your father is from El Salvador; your mother is from Japan.’ He went on like this. The voice I used to hear on my transistor radio was talking to me, about me. I would have been intimidated if not for his warmth.”

The Dodgers lost their voice when Vin Scully died. Angelenos lost a family member. As heartbroken fans mourned Scully’s passing at age 94, it felt, they said, like a death in the family.

With safety Derwin James on the sideline, Nasir Adderley is showing he’s a take Chargers guy. The safety has had trouble adapting to the NFL, but this season his coaches are seeing a huge improvement.

Trading away Juan Soto brings an end to the Nationals’ greatest era. Trading Soto before selling the franchise gives the new owner the chance to start their tenure without making a move as unpopular as trading Soto, writes Jorge Castillo. In some twisted way, trading the franchise cornerstone, a reason to buy a ticket to the ballpark, might have made the franchise more attractive.

ONLY IN L.A.

There’s no shortage of ways to get your fix of funny in L.A. Whether it’s the hallowed Hollywood venues that became the stamping ground of comedy legends or the backrooms of local bars, even an abandoned zoo on a lunch hour, there is a place for you to find a comic using the power of laughter to help us leave our cares at the door.

Here’s a list of the 60 best spots for comedy in L.A., from Bar Bandini in Echo Park (if wine is your jam, Bar Bandini has an expansive offering that includes wine on tap) to Zebulon in Elysian Valley (with its wild performances, whether it’s Hamburger as a retro ’70s curmudgeon or the gross-out antics of Sarah Squirm, aka Sarah Sherman, a featured player on “Saturday Night Live.”)

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Six musicians play instruments including trombone, trumpet, piano, banjo and drums.
Sept. 23, 1961: Musicians Ben Pollack, left, Kid Ory, Emma Barrett, Louis Armstrong, Sharkey Bonano and, foreground, Johnny St. Cyr play at the Hollywood Knickerbocker.
(Los Angeles Times)

One hundred and twenty-one years ago today, on Aug. 4, 1901, Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans. He started learning the trumpet at about age 11, played with riverboat jazz bands up and down the Mississippi, and later went to Chicago and joined the band of his mentor Joe “King” Oliver. A 2009 Times article about the biography “Pops” said as Armstrong rose to fame, he “performed about 300 nights a year and lived out of a suitcase. In the early days, he bounced back-and-forth between Chicago and New York, endured Jim Crow humiliations during tours of the South and struggled to pursue music without getting overwhelmed by the details of running a jazz orchestra.”

Armstrong revolutionized jazz in the 1920s, appeared in movies and became a regular on radio and TV. He saw himself as an entertainer as well as a musician, but some — including fellow jazz performers such as Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie — criticized his shtick. Yet respect for his role as a musical trailblazer was near universal.

Los Angeles Times columnist Art Seidenbaum noted soon after Armstrong’s death in 1971 that, as he was lauded in obituaries, “I wonder whether the obit writers also remember that Louis Armstrong always danced one step behind the star? The era that ends with Armstrong, I think, is the one that made every talented black man play a stable hand or wandering minstrel, even if he was the foremost figure in jazz.”

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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