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Today’s Headlines: A major shift in sheriff’s power looms

A man in a law enforcement uniform stands in front of flags on a stage.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, at a news conference in February, says he believes Measure A is unconstitutional.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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Hello, it’s Friday, Nov. 11, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

County supervisors could soon have the power to fire an elected sheriff

There are many ballots left to count, but L.A. County voters so far have come out overwhelmingly in favor of Measure A, an amendment to the county’s charter proposed by the Board of Supervisors that would give the board the authority to fire an elected sheriff.

Observers and advocates say the tally signals a clear-cut rebuke of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who for four years spurned the watchdogs the board appointed to keep him in check. The sheriff said Thursday that he believed the measure to be unconstitutional and likely be struck down in court.

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But Villanueva won’t be sheriff forever — he’s currently trailing badly in his bid for a second term. And, if Measure A passes, whoever comes after him will take office under a new reality in which the supervisors have undeniable leverage over them.

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The CFO for Tom Girardi’s law firm spent embezzled funds on an escort and real estate, a prosecutor says

Christopher Kamon, former Girardi Keese chief financial officer, embezzled at least $10 million from firm bank accounts and used stolen funds to renovate his Los Angeles home, purchase a Caribbean mansion and shower an escort with a monthly stipend and gifts, including a $120,000 purse, a federal prosecutor said in court.

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Kamon was running his own “side fraud” for years apart from a “larger theft scheme” that unfolded at Girardi Keese. That separate criminal operation remains under active investigation, Assistant U.S. Atty. Colleen McGuinn said. It involves losses of about $100 million in client money and several possible “co-schemers,” including attorneys and Kamon, she said.

California is pushing a new plan cutting rooftop solar incentives

The state is poised to reduce payments to homes and businesses that go solar for clean electricity they supply to the power grid — a landmark shift in how the state promotes a crucial technology for fighting climate change.

The Public Utilities Commission’s proposal would keep the payment rates higher — at least for a few years — than a previous plan that faced sharp criticism from the solar industry and climate activists. A vote by the utilities commission, whose five members are appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is expected as soon as next month.

Up in a tiny Himalayan kingdom, an LGBTQ revolution is on the climb

Bhutan, which decriminalized gay sex in 2020, has seen a rise in LGBTQ acceptance and activism. This change in law is part of a pattern in the region, which is seeing restrictions ease for same-sex relationships.

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It’s particularly notable for Bhutan, given its reputation as an inaccessible Himalayan kingdom little influenced by the outside world. The landlocked country with a population of only 750,000 measures progress and growth with a “gross national happiness” metric, rather than gross domestic product, and it has resisted modern technology for decades.

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CALIFORNIA

This was one of the wildest police pursuits Southern California had seen in recent years. For about an hour, a suspect led police on a dangerous pursuit, twice taking other people’s vehicles, hitting multiple cars and ramming into at least two police cruisers. At one point, he was chased out of a home by several residents, one wielding a knife, and several dogs. And it was all broadcast live on local TV.

A jury found an L.A. developer paid Jose Huizar more than $1 million in bribes. Shen Zhen New World I was convicted of bribing Huizar to win his support for a proposed skyscraper in downtown L.A. It was the second conviction of a developer accused of paying off the former City Council member, who left office in 2020. Huizar is scheduled to go on trial in February.

Opponents want to close a bungee-jumping venue, citing environmental and safety concerns. Bungee America, Southern California’s only commercial bungee-jumping venue, operates in a remote locale within the Angeles National Forest’s Sheep Mountain Wilderness and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. After 30 years of operating without a county conditional use permit, the popular operation is in trouble.

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta is suing the makers of cancer-causing “forever chemicals.” Commonly referred to as PFAS, the chemicals are found in a variety of consumer items including food packaging and cookware and are linked to cancer and other illnesses. They are resistant to environmental degradation, and have been found in the bloodstreams of 98% of people tested, as well as in wildlife, fish, water — including rivers, lakes and nearshore waters — and soil.

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NATION-WORLD

Turtles are in demand as pets, leading to a spike in poaching. Wildlife trade experts believe that poaching — driven by growing demand for pets in the U.S., Asia and Europe — is contributing to the global decline of rare freshwater turtle and tortoise species. One study found over half of the 360 living turtle and tortoise species are at risk of extinction.

Biden is returning to the world stage after the midterm election. President Biden has shifted his attention abroad with a seven-day diplomatic tour of Egypt, Cambodia and Indonesia, reminding America’s allies and rivals that he’s still the president. The trip will include a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping for their first face-to-face conversation since Biden took office.

A Taliban official said women were now banned from Afghanistan’s gyms. Since seizing power in August 2021, the Taliban have banned girls from middle school and high school, restricted women from most fields of employment, and ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public. The Ministry of Virtue and Vice said the gym ban was introduced because people were ignoring gender segregation orders.

China is promising change — but sticking to its “zero COVID” plan. Leaders vowed to improve quarantine and other anti-virus policies after public frustration boiled over into protests but said they would maintain the severe “zero COVID” strategy that had confined millions of people to their homes and disrupted the economy.

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

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

How Christine Baranski remade herself, in her 60s, into a TV heroine. After an acclaimed six-season run, her Paramount+ show “The Good Fight” concluded Thursday with a series finale titled “The End of Everything.” And if you ask Baranski, she’ll tell you it’s a happy ending.

Review: Steven Spielberg comes close to a personal best in his luminous “The Fabelmans.” The film is a piercing, rollicking and altogether marvelous ramble through the filmmaker’s early years, writes film critic Justin Chang. Movingly dedicated to Spielberg’s parents, Arnold and Leah, it’s his first picture to put their divorce front and center, along with various other intimate, semifictionalized details culled from his postwar upbringing.

Six standout moments from the 2022 CMA Awards. The 56th Country Music Assn. Awards brought country music’s finest to the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Wednesday. Co-hosted by music superstar Luke Bryan and NFL great Peyton Manning, the three-hour ABC telecast was packed with performances paying tribute to past and present country-music legends.

An immigrant’s dream revived an iconic Boyle Heights music venue. Pachucos, swingers, break dancers, cumbiamberos and punks stroll out from the four corners of the neighborhood to meet at the Paramount Ballroom. A local punk rock band, a cumbia ensemble, a breakout Spanish-language pop artist or a jazz quartet might transfix the room at any given moment. The dream of reviving this historic dance hall wouldn’t have been realized if not for Frank Acevedo, who grew up poor in L.A.’s Rampart district, yearning for a place where low-income youths could find a community resource center, an education annex and a Latino party central — all rolled into one.

Review: The Israel Philharmonic was led by the same conductor for 40-plus years. His successor shone in his L.A. debut. Lahav Shani’s program at the Soraya — the first symphonies of Mahler and Paul Ben-Haim — subtly responded, with a somber nuance and sad grace, to issues facing both Israel and international antisemitism, writes classical music critic Mark Swed.

BUSINESS

A person with blue gloves reaches over a table covered with boxes full of mushrooms.
Blue oyster mushrooms are packaged at Smallhold’s warehouse in Vernon.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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The fungi of the future is at an urban mushroom farm just south of downtown L.A. In a 34,000-square-foot building, on the same street as a producer of ready-mix concrete and a Dr Pepper distributor, a company called Smallhold is growing mushrooms of fantastical display and scale — several thousand pounds of mushrooms a week, or tens of thousands of pounds in the near future, if all goes as planned.

U.S. consumer inflation eased to 7.7%. Price increases moderated in the United States last month, the latest sign that the inflation pressures that have gripped the nation might be easing as the economy slows and consumers grow more cautious.

Medieval Times workers in Buena Park voted 27-18 to unionize. The show performers and stable hands at Medieval Times in Buena Park became the second castle in the dinner theater show chain to unionize. Workers sought better pay and working conditions, more clearly defined job responsibilities and a greater voice in the workplace.

OPINION

Five years after #MeToo, I am haunted by the stories we could not tell. The Times’ Mary McNamara reflects on the challenges of covering the movement, writing: “Even with dozens of reporters working 15-hour days seven days a week, we could not keep up with the women and their stories. Instead we were forced to do triage, make battlefield choices: Is the accused a public figure? How serious are the allegations? How many accusers are there?”

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SPORTS

Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers are closing in on a one-year deal. The deal is similar to the $17-million contract he signed before last season, according to two people familiar with negotiations who were not authorized to speak publicly about them. The deal is expected to be finalized over the next few days.

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A special teams coordinator? Coach Lincoln Riley doesn’t believe in a dedicated one for USC. Like other major college football teams, USC has an off-field analyst for special teams. The practice gets around NCAA rules limiting the number of full-time assistants on staff. But the analyst can’t do any actual, on-field coaching. And USC hasn’t been stellar at special teams this season.

Ranking the NBA City Edition jerseys: One team (not the Lakers) will wear a work of art. The Times’ Chuck Schilken ranks the unis from worst to best based solely on the eyeball test, with no thought given to the background of the design, team history or whatever.

YOUR WEEKEND

Overhead view of a round baking dish with dinner rolls.
A pan of super-tender, pillowy yeast rolls, drenched in melted butter and baked until light golden brown.
(Katrina Frederick / For The Times)

Make your Thanksgiving shopping list. The Times’ Food staff has assembled classic Thanksgiving recipes — no “modern inventions” or “new spins,” writes cooking columnist Ben Mims. “The techniques are straightforward, the ingredient lists kept as short as possible, and the recipes developed with one goal in mind: easy and delicious results year after year.” Among items on the menu: roast turkey, easy gravy, green bean gratin, bright cranberry sauce, creamy potatoes and two kinds of stuffing (vegan or not) plus apple, pecan and pumpkin pies. Please, dig in.

Plan a visit to a gold rush town. The Times’ “11 magical California Gold Rush towns you should absolutely visit” takes you into Gold Country. Towns are in the vicinity of State Highway 49, which runs north-south about an hour east of Sacramento. There are parks, hotels, saloons, restaurants, antiques shops and more with an Old West ambiance. A fun one for families is Placerville’s Gold Bug Park and Mine, which dates to 1888. Visitors can don hard hats and take a self-guided audio tour. Check out the guide to Gold Rush towns.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

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What hurricanes taught Puerto Rico about feeding itself. Hurricanes have flattened many thousands of acres of farmland on the island. But even as the government often seems like an impediment to farmers, there’s growing interest in agroecology. Farmers want to make their land resistant to extreme weather. They talk about food production as a way to reclaim Puerto Rico’s “agricultural and culinary heritage and a declaration of self-reliance.” New York Times

Annual COVID shots mean we can stop counting. The question for vaccinated Americans is becoming not “how many” but “how recent”; let’s also toss the term “booster.” To “charge up the immune system’s battery,” says one immunologist, it takes in most cases about three vaccinations or infections, with shots being preferable because they’re safer and easier to track. Then regular shots keep the immune system at “peak capacity.” Next comes the optimal pace for top-offs, which depends on various factors, including how quickly variants arise. The Atlantic

It’s been a brutal week, but at least you didn’t eat too much rotisserie chicken. Soothe your brain with some good, old-fashioned social media weirdness and meet Alexander Tominsky, 31, a Philadelphia restaurant server who challenged himself to eat 40 rotisserie chickens in 40 days. On Sunday, he completed his quest and devoured the final bird before an audience, emerging victorious and internet famous. Was it fun for him? Not really. (“My body is ready to repair,” he told the New York Times.) Was it fun to watch? Yes. Vice

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Two men are shown on a sheer rock face with climbing ropes.
Nov. 14, 1970: Climbers Dean Caldwell, left, and Warren Harding continue their El Capitan climb after refusing a rescue attempt.
(Walter J. Zeboski / Associated Press)

Sixty-four years ago this week, on Nov. 12, 1958, pioneer rock climber Warren Harding led the first ascent of Yosemite’s towering El Capitan. The Times wrote in Harding’s 2002 obituary that the group made the climb via the “so-called Nose route. Reaching the top took 45 days of climbing, which they did in stages over 18 months, leaving fixed lines down to the ground for easy access when they went back up.”

He and a partner climbed the Wall of the Early Morning Light, a blank section near the Nose, in 1970. That climb was supposed to take 12 days, but they had to wait out storms while on the wall. The National Park Service attempted to rescue the pair at one point; they declined. Harding was a lighthearted outdoorsman. On his climbs, he would bring along fine cuisine and wine on the way up. “To him, climbing was for fun,” said a longtime companion. “He didn’t like people to take themselves too seriously about climbing.”

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