Today’s Headlines: USC scandals assume a starring role in L.A. mayor’s race between Bass and Caruso

Left: Rick Caruso and Carol L. Folt; right: Rep. Karen Bass
Rick Caruso is hugged by Carol L. Folt, left, after being bestowed the Presidential Medallion of Office during Folt’s inauguration as USC’s 12th president in 2019. At right, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass delivers the 2019 commencement address at USC.
(Los Angeles Times)

By Elvia Limón

Hello, it’s Monday, Sept. 12, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


USC scandals assume a starring role in L.A. mayor’s race

At USC’s commencement ceremony in 2019, Rep. Karen Bass and Rick Caruso sat side by side onstage, laughing and flashing the two-finger salute known to USC’s legion of proud fans.


Now, less than two months until election day, Bass and Caruso are waging a bitter and personal fight to become L.A.’s next mayor, attacking each other’s character and ethics, particularly when it comes to their alma mater.

Caruso has labeled his opponent “corrupt” for accepting a $95,000 scholarship from USC before pushing favorable legislation for the university. Bass has countered by tarring the businessman, a longtime trustee, for not being transparent about the findings of an internal investigation into a gynecologist charged with sexually abusing female students.

More politics

  • President Biden marked the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, taking part in a somber wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon held under a steady rain and paying tribute to “extraordinary Americans” who gave their lives on one of the nation’s darkest days.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a package of legislation aimed at protecting Californians from extreme heat, including establishing a statewide warning system by 2025 and conducting a study on the effects of sizzling temperatures on workers.
  • Two firearms were stolen during a burglary at the home of Rep. Karen Bass on Friday evening, the Los Angeles mayoral candidate said.

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The medical coding system leaves trans patients struggling to pay for care


Many trans patients have trouble getting their insurers to cover gender-affirming care. One reason is transphobia within the U.S. healthcare system, but another involves how medical diagnoses and procedures are coded for insurance companies.

Nationwide, healthcare providers use a list of diagnostic codes provided by the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, or ICD-10. And many of those, advocates for transgender people say, haven’t caught up to the needs of patients. Such diagnostic codes provide the basis for determining which procedures, such as electrolysis or surgery, insurance will cover.

When will L.A. offer bus riders more shade?

Of the 12,200 bus stops served by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, only a quarter have some kind of shade or rain shelter, and only half have a seat for those waiting. With climate change threatening ever more heat waves and wetter storms in California, riders and transit advocates are demanding that officials do something to provide cover from the elements.

Metro is mapping all bus stops in the region to try to corral federal and state funds to add more shelters. And the city of Los Angeles is poised to approve a contract that would add thousands of its own shade structures. But similar efforts have faltered. And even if these succeed, it still may be years before many get relief.

The women hunting pythons, ‘eating everything’ in the Everglades

Over many decades, many ditched and drained much of the Everglades. As suburbs mushroomed nearby, humans introduced an array of exotic species. These now threaten to overwhelm efforts to restore the Everglades, with none more voracious than Burmese pythons.

The South Florida Water Management District, the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sponsor an annual multiday python hunting contest to see who can bag the most non-venomous snakes.

While most Florida python hunters are men, Donna Kalil and one of her proteges, Amy Siewe, have proved to be highly effective eradicators. They say they hunt to help save the native creatures that live in and around the Everglades.

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Nkechi Ahaiwe, a food influencer based in Los Angeles
Nkechi Ahaiwe, a food influencer based in Los Angeles, runs an Instagram account with some 63,500 followers.
(Photo by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times; illustration by Lindsey Made This / For The Times)

$10,000 for one Instagram post? How food influencers can make or break restaurants. The food influencer effect is a phenomenon causing a paradigm shift in the restaurant world, transferring the power of influence from traditional media to anyone with a cellphone and a love for food. And these days, sometimes seemingly spontaneous expressions of restaurant fandom are well-planned, calculated business transactions.

A racial reckoning over a festival’s disrespect toward Asians in Monterey Bay: Will its demise bring healing? For decades, few challenged Pacific Grove’s Feast of Lanterns, even when locals wore yellowface and slanted eyes. Under pressure from residents, organizers in February canceled the festival. Now some see hope for reconciliation.

L.A.’s rich are rushing to join a new class of members-only clubs — if they can get in. There are membership fees to pay and rules to follow: restricted cellphone use, no photos or videos, dress codes, guest allowance limits, laptops in designated spaces only. Come to see and be seen, but don’t tell anyone about it.


‘He just sits in this concrete cell’: Abused dogs in L.A. shelters will get a break. Los Angeles Animal Services for years kept dogs who were seized in abuse or neglect cases confined to their kennels, according to documents and interviews. Animal Services changed its practice in June, notifying staff that volunteers could start walking the animals, provided there are no safety concerns.

‘Right out of Macbeth’: A woman’s killing shines a light on the Mexican Mafia power struggle in Inland Empire. Carmen Rodriguez was the victim of an assassination ordered by others in the Mexican Mafia and carried out by her husband’s underlings in the Westside Verdugo street gang in San Bernardino. The trial, which included dozens of witnesses and hundreds of pieces of evidence, produced as many questions as answers.

A Ventura hiker left to find help for his heat-stricken girlfriend. He was found dead four days later. Authorities spotted no obvious signs of a fall or other trauma, and while the county coroner’s bureau is still investigating, authorities believe Tim Sgrignoli died from a heat-related illness.

A fire destroys a historic South L.A. church. Arson investigators from the Los Angeles Fire Department are combing through the smoldering remains of Victory Baptist Church after the neighborhood landmark in South Los Angeles was destroyed by a fire.

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Aid for flood victims arrives in a hard-hit Pakistani province. Two more U.S. military planes loaded with tons of aid landed in southern Sindh province. Pakistan has suffered under extremely heavy monsoon rains that started early this year, in mid-June. Officials and experts have blamed the rains and resulting floodwaters on climate change.

King Charles now rules a monarchy that may have to change to survive. A rising tide of anti-royal sentiment thrusts a British throne without Elizabeth into a precarious territory, particularly when her successor happens to be her less popular, socially awkward son Charles.

Ukraine pushes a counteroffensive in the east after a Russian troop withdrawal. The jubilant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mocked the Russians in a video address, saying that “the Russian army in these days is demonstrating the best that it can do — showing its back.”


What you need to know about Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’: ‘This was my way of bringing my mom and dad back.’ “The Fabelmans” is being billed as Spielberg’s most personal film, tracing (through a fictional version of his family) his cinema-sotted youth in Arizona and Northern California. At a Q&A after the world premiere screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, he and his cast shared some insight into the movie.

Lea Michele pauses her ‘Funny Girl’ run after testing positive for coronavirus. A message on the “Funny Girl” website confirms that Michele will return to the stage as the Jewish vaudeville legend on Sept. 20. Until then, her understudy, Julie Benko, will assume the role of Fanny.

The Sex Pistols sneered she wasn’t human. But for many artists, the queen was more cipher than an enemy. Where pop music intersects with Elizabeth II is an odd place. When the queen herself has featured in lyrics, she has usually been used as little more than a device, a figurehead for royalty, with an almost spectral presence.

Britney Spears on her sons leaving: ‘A huge part of me has died.’ The pop musician’s latest remarks about her kids come shortly after her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, and their youngest son, Jayden James, spoke about her social media activity and mental state in an ITV news documentary.


How to build a credit history so you don’t turn ‘credit invisible.’ If you don’t have a credit history, there are a number of ways to start building one. Perhaps the quickest is to ask someone with good credit to add you as an authorized user on one of their credit cards.

Beyond Craigslist and EBay: The best websites for selling almost anything. Here’s our alphabetical guide to where to sell what you own, whether it’s toys, furniture or jewelry. Among those on the list are Abe Books for rare books, Worthy for jewelry and KBB for cars.


A history of the ‘Big Lie,’ from Plato to TikTok. Today, we’re worried about the power of new media to facilitate lying. It’s the internet, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. But if you look back at history, lying is as old as humans.

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Your ultimate SoCal NFL sports bar guide: Find out where to watch your team. It’s easy to find Rams, Chargers and even Raiders fans in Southern California, but where can Packers, Cowboys, Patriots or Dolphins fans go to watch games in the Los Angeles area with others who share their passion? Use this guide to find your tribe.

College football review: USC dumped Clay Helton. Both sides are better off. A year ago, Helton was fired by USC. His upset win over Nebraska shows how much both he and the Trojans benefited from their separation.

L.A. Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is considering a bid to buy the Angels. Soon-Shiong tried to buy the Dodgers a decade ago when he and partner Steven Cohen finished second in the bidding to Mark Walter and his Guggenheim Baseball partners. Soon-Shiong owns a minority share of the Lakers. His net worth, according to Forbes: $6.9 billion. The Angels are expected to sell for at least $2.5 billion, which would be a record for a Major League Baseball team.


Sandra Mejia waters the rare houseplants with filtered water inside the Plant Chica.
Sandra Mejia waters a table of plants inside Plant Chica.
(Wesley Lapointe / Los Angeles Times)

The Plant Chica in Inglewood started in 2018 as a side job when co-owner Sandra Mejia was working as a medical assistant at UCLA. As a new mom, she struggled with the demands of balancing work and parenting. She started selling plants on random street corners in the hopes of opening a family business that would allow her more flexibility to spend time with her son Alem, 5. The coronavirus pandemic proved they could. The incredible demand for plants during the pandemic propelled them to open their first brick-and-mortar store in 2021.

Now, Mejia hosts monthly events that she says she would have enjoyed growing up in the neighborhood. In addition to poetry nights, the Plant Chica has hosted a Black-owned community market, a Hispanic Heritage Celebration, movie nights with Gorilla Rx Wellness, storytelling and water balloon parties for kids, a Black Women’s Yoga Collective, plant clinics, and her famed “Adopt-a-Plant” events.


Two scenes from the filming of "Fatty and the Broadway Stars" in Los Angeles in 1915.
(Los Angeles Times)

Silent screen star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was arrested in San Francisco 101 years ago. He was charged with the murder of aspiring actress Virginia Rappe. The 25-year-old woman died of peritonitis resulting from a ruptured bladder four days after collapsing in Arbuckle’s bedroom during a party in his San Francisco hotel suite.

Arbuckle was put on trial three times within the year. The first two trials ended with hung juries, and in the third Arbuckle was acquitted.

But the scandal would essentially end his career and extravagant lifestyle, which included a $1,000-a-day salary and a $25,000 Rolls-Royce with a built-in back-seat toilet. Some say this most likely happened because the charges against Arbuckle seemed to contradict the public’s fantasy of him as a good-natured bumbler.

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