Today’s Headlines: The divided states of America

A man in a suit speaks into a microphone at a podium
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, shown in Tampa in July, said after winning reelection last week that Florida is a “refuge of sanity.”
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Hello, it’s Friday, Nov. 18, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


We haven’t been this divided in 70 years

Florida is a “refuge of sanity” and a place where “woke goes to die,” Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said after winning reelection last week. California is a “true freedom state” that rejects “demonization coming from the other side,” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom promised.

The two governors’ declarations of independence are only the latest signs that the next two years’ fiercest political battles will be fought not in Washington but between clashing states.


Come January, more than 80% of Americans will live in states with governments entirely controlled by one of the two major parties. That means Americans will see even more differences in their schools, workplaces and doctors’ offices as they cross state lines. Citizens’ right to carry a gun, get an abortion and join a union and their rate for a minimum-wage job now depend almost entirely on whether their state is blue or red.

The experience of living in a red state or a blue state is dividing the country more distinctly into two societies.

How Karen Bass prevailed against Rick Caruso’s $100-million campaign

As autumn settled over Los Angeles, Rep. Karen Bass suddenly found herself in a tight race with developer Rick Caruso. The double-digit lead that polls showed she built through the summer had crumbled as Caruso spent millions on an ad campaign. But several factors came into play, including a late endorsement from former President Obama.

Related: Bass said after her win, which will make her the first woman to lead the city, that she hadn’t really thought about the history-making aspect. Her focus was elsewhere: “I only have three weeks and that’s a crazy amount of time to try to pull an administration together.”

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‘This was a deliberate act’

A 22-year-old Diamond Bar man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of peace officers after the Los Angeles County sheriff said he deliberately ran into scores of recruits on a training run Wednesday in South Whittier, injuring 25.

Investigators “have developed probable cause to believe it was intentional,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in an interview with NewsNation.

The sheriff’s department released the man Thursday night, saying investigators needed more time to gather evidence. The department is not legally allowed to hold a suspect for more than 48 hours without presenting the case to prosecutors.

These tortoises are moving toward extinction. Why saving them is so hard

California’s state reptile is hurtling toward extinction. Crushing vehicle strikes, urban encroachment, hungry ravens, military maneuvers, disease, drought, extreme heat, wildfires, illegal marijuana grows and development of massive solar farms are all pushing the species to the brink.

Eight decades ago, the vast Mojave Desert was home to hundreds of tortoises per square mile, with the reptiles inhabiting nearly all areas of the desert below an altitude of 3,000 feet. Today, most tortoise populations in California and outside designated recovery areas have fallen to 2 to 3 adults per square mile — too few for male and female tortoises to find each other and mate, researchers say.

L.A. County is advising masks again

The daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County has jumped almost 70% from a month ago, though case rates are still well shy of previous waves and officials continue to tout the benefits of available vaccines and therapeutics in warding off the worst COVID-19 has to offer.

The recent rise, however, prompted the county to strengthen its call for indoor masking — from saying the practice is a matter of individual preference to recommending it “strongly.”

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

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Prosecutors rested their case at Harvey Weinstein’s L.A. trial. During weeks of testimony, Weinstein sat stoically in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom as a group of eight former models and actors cried, screamed and cursed at times while describing brutal attacks in hotel rooms in Southern California, London and Puerto Rico.

Thirty urban water suppliers pledged to target decorative grass. With the federal government calling for major cuts in water use to address the historic shortage on the Colorado River, the leaders of 30 agencies that supply cities from the Rocky Mountains to Southern California have signed an agreement committing to boost conservation, in part by pledging to target the removal of one especially thirsty mainstay of suburban landscapes: decorative grass.

A senior UC leader said tying academic workers’ pay to housing costs could have “overwhelming” cost effects. Provost Michael Brown said pay and housing demands by the striking workers could amount to several hundred million dollars annually.

An L.A. County deputy who kneeled on an inmate’s head will not be charged, a D.A.’s memo says. L.A. County prosecutors concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove Deputy Doug Johnson committed the crime of assault under color of authority.

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Three men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet. A Dutch court convicted two Russians and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian separatist in absentia of the murders of 298 people who died in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine. The court found that the three men worked together to bring a missile system from a Russian military base into Ukraine.

Down to its last panda, Mexico ponders what could come next. Xin Xin is a second-generation Mexican-born panda, tracing her lineage to Pe Pe and Ying Ying, who arrived at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Zoo in 1975. They were part of China’s early “panda diplomacy,” a period when the charismatic animals were gifted to countries around the world. In 1984, China ended panda gifts, switching to a policy of high-priced loans.

A Maryland investigation identified 158 abusive priests and more than 600 victims. Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Baltimore have been accused of sexually and physically abusing hundreds over the last 80 years, according to court records.


Ticketmaster canceled today’s sale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. After 48 hours of outcry from frustrated fans, the ticketing giant preemptively canceled the public on-sale for Swift’s stadium tour, citing “extraordinarily high demands” and “insufficient remaining ticket inventory.”

Review: The tender hunger of young love in “Bones and All.” Part horror film, part coming-of-age tale, part romance, “Bones and All” is a small marvel, unsettling and heartbreaking in equal measure, writes The Times’ Mark Olsen. The film harnesses Timothée Chalamet’s rock-star red-carpet magnetism.

After Will Smith’s Oscar slap, Antoine Fuqua was worried “Emancipation” might “never be seen.” The Times spoke with the director about the importance of continuing to grapple with the history of slavery, the challenges of mounting a major Hollywood production in alligator-infested swampland and navigating the fallout from the slap heard ’round the world.


Senators told the FTC to probe Twitter security and take needed action. Reacting to the tumult and mass layoffs at Twitter under its new owner, Elon Musk, a group of Democratic senators asked federal regulators to investigate any possible violations by the platform of consumer-protection laws or of its data-security commitments. Also: Criticizing Musk got SpaceX employees fired, a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board says.

Hollywood’s directors gave studios their first warning that they would face a fight over pay next year. The Directors Guild of America promised it would battle producers for higher streaming residuals, wage increases as well as improved safety measures in the next round of contract negotiations.

Candelas Guitars in Boyle Heights is fighting to survive. Knocked sideways by the pandemic, which brought in-person classes to a halt and caused a steep drop-off in customer flow, Candelas is struggling to stay open. It’s counting on support from the community and a few high-profile friends who’ve stepped up on its behalf.

What it’s really like being in business with Kanye West. Young tech entrepreneur Alex Klein was one of the last collaborators to team with West before his spiral. It’s left Klein’s promising tech company, Kano, with a flagship product whose most famous user has disgraced himself, insulted Klein (who is half-Jewish) and tried to take control of his firm.


As a UC professor, I support the strikers. Our schools shouldn’t have let it come to this. Workers are asking for a base salary of $54,000, more than double their current average pay. Although officials say they cannot financially meet workers’ full demands, the investment assets of the UC system stood at $152.3 billion as of the end of the 2021-22 academic year, according to the UC president’s office. Some UC administrators receive half-a-million-dollar salaries. It’s not so much a question of the system needing more money as it is a matter of distributing that money fairly.

Palm Springs bulldozed a Black neighborhood. Compensate the survivors. In the 1960s, the city saw a chance to replace an unpretentious community of color with glitzy hotels and shops. So it began the process of evicting, demolishing and burning. Survivors say that confiscations often came with little notice, and that keepsakes and valuables were lost along with the homes.

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UC regents delayed a final decision on UCLA’s Big Ten move until December. Regents declined to settle questions surrounding the Bruins’ move and instead planned to finalize a decision at a Dec. 14 special meeting.

Has Cody Bellinger’s time run out with Dodgers? We could know by today. The club has to decide whether to tender Bellinger a contract for the 2023 season or release him after a couple of stunningly subpar seasons that have derailed his once-burgeoning career.

After disaster four years ago, the U.S. men’s soccer team aims to be World Cup spoiler. The U.S. team is the youngest in Qatar. It might also be one of the best because after interim manager Dave Sarachan was replaced by Gregg Berhalter, the team he helped build climbed into the top 11 in the FIFA world rankings for the first time in 16 years. And it might never have happened had the United States squeaked by Trinidad in 2018 and qualified for the tournament in Russia.


A woman leans over to stir a dish in the oven.
Fabienne Toback prepares a potato gratin dish.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Get inspired for holiday cooking. Columnist Ben Mims talked with six home cooks to get their essential holiday recipes and the stories behind them. Some are classics — like browned, fragrant apple galette — and others are recipes that were passed down, such as a Palestinian upside-down chicken and rice dish. Documentary filmmaker Fabienne Toback, pictured above, shares her Gratin Dauphinois. “It’s almost fail-proof,” she says. “It’s the comfort food you never knew you craved.”

See which native plants smell best to you. Our gardening guru Jeanette Marantos — who hasn’t always been a fan of California native plants — talks about how she got hooked: It was their aroma. Drought-tolerant native plants “are busy providing habitat to keep other creatures alive,” she writes. “It’s their raw, intense, sometimes overwhelming fragrance that entices butterflies and bees.” She asked 13 experts in SoCal’s native plant world which plants have the best scent. Here are their top 10 picks.


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The world population just hit a milestone. How do you fit in? The world’s population reached a record 8 billion people Tuesday, according to projections by the United Nations. That’s a lot of people, and it’s easy to feel like a tiny speck. But you’re not alone. In fact, there are probably millions of people like you. Find out just how many — and how the world is changing — in this cool visualization. Washington Post

Remember the sea otter that stole the surfboard? Earlier this month, the Bay Nature website wrote about the thief. Of the about 70 otters that spend time along the coast at Santa Cruz, the 4-year-old female was different — unlike her shy peers, “she had been seen approaching surfers and kayakers.” Scientists said it could be because she’d been fed in the wild, or it might be because she was born in captivity. Bottom line: Her prank wasn’t safe for her or for the surfer whose board she nabbed, and she could end up in captivity again. Bay Nature

Zak Dowell hasn’t thrown away a scrap of food in nearly 15 years. He is among those who use composting to turn household food waste into cooking gas. The process — anaerobic digestion — relies on methane. It’s a potent greenhouse gas, but composting produces far less methane than a landfill does, experts say. The process isn’t without minuses; it produces biofertilizer, and unless you have a very large garden, the sludge can build up. But fans still “find the technology magical.” Royal Examiner. Note: This story is from May but was recently featured in the upbeat and interesting Solutions Journalism Network newsletter: Hat tip!


A black-and-white photo of a rustic log cabin with a rock chimney and no windows.
A photo from the 1920s or ’30s shows the California cabin at Jackass Hill where Mark Twain wintered in 1864-65.
(Los Angeles Times)

One hundred and fifty-seven years ago today, on Nov. 18, 1865, Mark Twain’s short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published in the New York Saturday Press.

When he came up with the story, Twain was a luckless prospector in California’s mother lode, The Times’ Randy Lewis wrote in 2015. Twain spent 88 days “in the verdant, mineral-rich mountains just over 100 miles east of San Francisco in the rainy winter of 1864-65,” and it was a major turning point in the author’s career. He wrote in a letter to his brother and sister-in-law that his ambitions in life had been to be a riverboat pilot and a preacher of the gospel.

“But I have had a ‘call’ to literature, of a low order — i.e. humorous. It is nothing to be proud of, but it is my strongest suit.” More in this very interesting story.

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