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Today’s Headlines: California faces a long, costly storm recovery

In an aerial view, two vehicles and a pickup truck are seen in a sinkhole
In an aerial view, two vehicles are seen in a sinkhole as another storm created by a series of atmospheric rivers inundates California on Jan. 10.
(David McNew / Getty Images)
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Hello, it’s Wednesday, Jan. 18, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

California faces a long, costly storm recovery

The atmospheric river storms that pummeled California for weeks inflicted “extensive” damage to as many as 40 of the state’s 58 counties, and total repairs could reach as much as $1 billion, according to authorities.

The damage included more than 500 landslides, piles of dirt and rocks blocking roads and power outages due to fallen trees.

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The estimated cost is likely to change as teams of local, state and federal officials on Saturday began damage assessment that is expected to continue for several weeks, according to officials.

More about the storms

LAPD widens investigation into racist City Hall leak

Information obtained by Los Angeles police from search warrants served on Twitter and Reddit has led detectives to additional investigative avenues as they work to uncover who recorded a meeting between three L.A. City Council members and a labor leader that was filled with racist and offensive comments.

The LAPD’s Major Crimes Division focused at first on the identity behind a Reddit account that posted the audio last year and a Twitter account that tipped off reporters and others, according to a search warrant obtained by The Times.

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The warrant, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation, is one of as many as half a dozen filed by detectives tasked with unmasking who is behind the recordings.

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Veterans claim anti-vet bias in Metro’s choice of muralist for a new VA station

His art has portrayed the history of jazz, America’s culture of violence and the depravities of war. It was the last theme — in particular, side-by-side images of an American soldier and a suicide bomber titled “Hero” and “Hero 2” — that has put a target on Sandow Birk’s commission to create a monumental mural on the West Los Angeles land dedicated to veterans of America’s wars.

Aroused by artistic expression they found disrespectful, veterans groups are demanding that Birk be replaced with an artist who has served in the military and will produce a mural on veteran themes for the project to adorn the Metro station under construction on the VA campus.

California’s climate change fix? Imperial Valley solar panels

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Wedged in California’s southeastern corner, the Imperial Valley is one of the most important places you’ve probably never been. If you’ve ever eaten a salad in the winter, there’s a good chance some of the veggies came from here.

Clean energy advocates see Imperial as an ideal place for solar farms and battery projects that can help solve the American West’s energy and water crises. The land is flat; the sunlight, abundant. The Colorado River desperately needs relief. And Imperial is one of California’s poorest counties, its agriculture-heavy economy practically crying out for diversification and higher-paying jobs.

But resistance to change runs deep, particularly among the few hundred families who own all the farmland.

Check out "The Times" podcast for essential news and more.

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re seeking a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

An aerial view of farmworkers in a field of cabbages
Farmworkers at Vessey & Co., a farm in the Imperial Valley, harvest green cabbages in November.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Three survived a Tulare County massacre that killed 6, including a baby. Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said the survivors, who hid during the shooting rampage, are “providing a great deal of information” to investigators, but authorities have not made any arrests.

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California endures a pox of potholes after storms pummeled roads. The two vital ingredients in pothole creation are traffic and water, with cities receiving dozens of request for repairs amid reports of road closures for “urgent” repairs.

Struck by EBT fraud, thousands of San Diego recipients struggle to find food and pay bills. The crime wave of nearly 5,000 hacks into EBT accounts — electronic benefit transfers — has drained accounts and left thousands of victims struggling.

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NATION-WORLD

Mexico’s former top cop is on trial in New York, accused of working with the Sinaloa cartel. The man who had been considered an architect of Mexico’s anti-drug battle and a key partner of U.S. law enforcement is accused of conspiring with the criminals he was ostensibly aiming to take down.

Failed GOP candidate arrested in drive-by shootings. A man who authorities said was angry over his defeat and made baseless claims that the November election was rigged against him was arrested Monday in connection with a series of drive-by shootings targeting the homes of Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico.

China records its first population decline in decades as births drop. As what has been the world’s most populous nation ages and its birth rate plunges, the drop poses new economic challenges amid rising frictions with the U.S., Europe and Beijing’s Asian neighbors.

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Russian strike on Ukrainian apartment building kills 45. Those killed in the Saturday afternoon strike — the deadliest attack on civilians in months — in Dnipro included six children, and 79 people were injured.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Channing Tatum plans to take on the Patrick Swayze ‘Ghost’ role. Tatum’s production company owns the rights to the seductive 1990 romantic drama and is planning to remake it.

‘Munich,’ ‘Lincoln,’ ‘The Fabelmans’ — look for Janusz Kamiński on Spielberg’s sets. Janusz Kamiński and Steven Spielberg have forged one of the all-time great director-cinematographer collaborations, one that continues to this day with “The Fabelmans,” which is bound to net Oscar nominations for both men.

The ‘Goonies’ house will soon become a fan haven. A Kansas businessman Behman Zakeri and fan of the 1985 movie purchased the Astoria, Ore., home, which was listed for more than $1.6 million, in December with plans to restore it to its “Goonies” glory.

BUSINESS

Disney blasts activist shareholder campaign as Marvel chair played a role in board fight. The Walt Disney Co. has come out swinging against activist shareholder Nelson Peltz’s campaign to join the company’s board of directors, but Peltz’s entreaties had the backing of a high profile and sharp-elbowed personality within the company.

OPINION

Being laid off is devastating. Yet society never measures that toll. We have come to accept mass layoffs as inevitable and a routine budgetary strategy. But this kind of decision-making simply does not factor in the harm done to workers and communities, writes one workers rights advocate.

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SPORTS

Brandon Staley’s job might be safe, but big questions remain for the Chargers. Staley and to a much lesser extent general manager Tom Telesco faced scrutiny throughout much of the fall. But struggles during the regular-season finale rekindled the outside chatter.

Lakers star LeBron James proves again that he can defy time. Even on a night when he scores a season-high 48 points on the second night of back-to-back games, James faces multiple reminders that he, in NBA terms, is old.

ONLY IN L.A.

What’s in store for L.A.’s cannabis market in 2023? To find out, a handful of California-based industry power players weighed in.

The consensus? The fifth year of the Golden State’s legal recreational cannabis market is going to see some things disappear, specifically smaller businesses and product offerings from dispensary shelves, and at least one thing — old-school hash — reappear. Here are the six predictions for L.A.’s cannabis industry for 2023.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Stan Musial sits in the clubhouse after he tied Babe Ruth's extra-base-hit record, against the Chicago Cubs in St. Louis.
St. Louis Cardinals’ Stan Musial sits in the clubhouse after he tied Babe Ruth’s extra-base-hit record, against the Chicago Cubs in St. Louis in 1963.
(Associated Press)

Stan Musial, known to baseball fans as “Stan the Man, ” died 10 years ago this week. Musial, who had Alzheimer’s disease, died at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue. He was 92.

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During his 22 seasons, all with the Cardinals, Musial won seven National League batting titles and three most valuable player awards. A career .331 hitter, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969, becoming only the fourth player chosen in his first year of eligibility.

Musial’s nickname was inspired by Brooklyn Dodger fans who marveled at his mastery of the Dodgers at Ebbets Field and complained, “Here comes the man again.”

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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