Newsletter: A search for answers in the sea

Law enforcement officials at Santa Barbara Harbor wait for a boat to take them to the scene of the deadly boat fire off Santa Cruz Island.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

One focus of the investigation of a deadly boat fire off Santa Cruz Island is on the vessel’s design.


A Search for Answers in the Sea


What caused the fire that engulfed the 75-foot dive boat Conception and why was it so deadly? Those are among the key questions as investigators search for answers in one of the worst maritime disasters in modern California history, with 34 people — most apparently from the Bay Area — presumed killed. A growing focus of the investigation is on the limited escape routes available to those in the sleeping quarters below deck: two exits, which officials believe were blocked by fire. “With 30-plus people dying, the investigation could lead to changes in the way vessels are designed or protected, depending on the findings,” says one former marine safety official. Meanwhile, remembrances of some of those presumed dead are beginning to emerge, including five family members celebrating the father’s birthday.

They Can’t Say No

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has twice funded robust presidential campaigns almost exclusively with small online contributions. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has largely succeeded, as well. The other Democratic candidates for president, not so much. So after all the promises that fundraising-as-usual was behind them, many spent summer wooing the wealthy.

More Politics

— The Pentagon has approved using $3.6 billion in funding from military construction projects to build 175 miles of President Trump’s border wall.

— A top aide to Vice President Mike Pence is defending Pence’s decision to stay at one of Trump’s properties while in Ireland amid criticism by Democrats that he is enriching Trump at taxpayers’ expense.

Today’s Lesson: Money Talks

Speaking of big-money donors, a cache of emails made public Tuesday as part of the college admissions scandal case shows how USC officials flagged children of wealthy and influential families for special consideration in the application process and discussed donations they might make to the university. USC insists admissions decisions were not influenced by donations.

Fearmonger or Truth Teller?

Dr. Bob Sears’ office in Capistrano Beach is a modest place. His practice caters to parents the public largely labels as anti-vaxxers: people who no longer trust the scientists, doctors or government representatives who say vaccines are safe and that the risk of disease is far greater than the chance of an adverse reaction. Amid a measles outbreak afflicting nearly 1,200 people nationwide, he is portrayed as either reckless or resolute. Here is a closer look at Sears.

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On this date in 1781, the city of Los Angeles was founded near present-day Olvera Street. To mark the occasion in 1964, a multi-day celebration featured dancers at City Hall, and “a group of gaily garbed troubadours serenaded downtown crowds.”

Sept. 2, 1964: Dancers perform at City Hall during a kickoff celebration of the 183rd anniversary of the founding of the city of Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)


— The state Assembly has approved a bill to tighten the school immunization law, putting the measure one step closer to reaching Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. But Newsom’s office said in a message posted on Twitter that the governor wants a few “technical — but important” revisions.

— Authorities say two men have been accused of setting a blaze at a homeless encampment that grew into a 30-acre brush fire and prompted evacuations in Eagle Rock and Glendale late last month.

— The suspect in a 2018 shootout at a Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake will stand trial for the murder of a store manager killed by an LAPD officer’s bullet.


— Los Angeles Opera has promised to conduct a “thorough and independent investigation” into sexual harassment allegations against its general manager, Plácido Domingo. Typically, such investigations bring questions, not answers.

— Roman Polanski’s “J’accuse (An Officer and a Spy)” and Nate Parker’s “American Skin,” the two most contentious titles to screen at this year’s Venice International Film Festival, are each structured around a trial. Film critic Justin Chang says only one is worth seeing.

— TV critic Robert Lloyd explores the Netflix series “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” and its sinister appeal.


— Bahamians rescued victims of Hurricane Dorian with Jet Skis and a bulldozer as the U.S. Coast Guard, Britain’s Royal Navy and a handful of aid groups tried to get food and medicine to survivors and take the most desperate people to safety.

— The extradition bill that sparked 13 weeks of protest and political crisis in Hong Kong has been withdrawn.

— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lost his one-vote majority in Parliament when a fellow Tory defected to the Liberal Democrats, a smaller pro-Remain party. The polarizing premier’s insistence that Brexit must happen on Halloween, deal or no deal, has prompted rebellion within his own party.

— A Palestinian student denied entry to the U.S. to attend Harvard last month has now been allowed into the country in time to start classes.

Walmart will stop selling handgun ammunition and publicly ask customers not to openly carry guns in its stores, even where state laws allow it.


— More than half of American state attorneys general plan to open an antitrust investigation of Google as soon as next week, two people familiar with the matter say.

— What’s in a name? A trade secret, according to Uber and Lyft. That’s what the ride-hail giants argued in fighting a public records request in Chicago, saying they shouldn’t have to disclose the names of their drivers lest competitors try to hire them away.

Ariana Grande sued Forever 21 after declining an endorsement deal with it, saying it went ahead and hired her lookalike as a model and used other copyrighted material in a social media campaign.


— A shocker on the tennis court: Roger Federer was ousted by No. 78 Grigor Dimitrov in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

— When the Rams signed six-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle last March, his contract included an inventive incentive clause: It ties wins to ice cream.

— Days after her brother was arrested on murder charges, champion gymnast Simone Biles has offered her condolences and asked for privacy. “My heart aches for everyone involved, especially for the victims and their families,” she said in a statement.


— From substandard conditions in immigration detention to abuse to due-process concerns, the results of a new survey show the Trump administration is not abiding by the law, writes Tom K. Wong, the director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego. And it may get worse. “Cruelty, after all, may very well be the point.”

— Why are L.A. voters so clueless about electing sheriffs? A century’s worth of history shows it’s only recently that those elections brought real options, real policy debates and real consequences, Robert Green writes. Voters are still warming up to their new responsibilities.


— Oil-rich Maracaibo used to be the Dallas of Venezuela. But today, its exodus and collapse could portend the country’s future. (Spiegel)

— Her title is home health aide. But her job is that of a social worker, housekeeper, dietitian, diaper changer, case manager and more. Her wages? About $10 an hour. It’s one of the fastest-growing jobs in America, and among the most demanding and worst paid. (New York Times)


For a glimpse into San Pedro‘s past and a hint at its future, you could do a lot worse than spending an afternoon driving around it with native son Mike Watt, the bassist whose Minutemen were Southern California’s most distinctive punk rock band, and whose sense of working-class solidarity still infuses his DIY “jamming econo” ethos. That’s what food writer Jesse Pearson did, in the Ford Econoline van Watt calls “the boat.” (Hence the term “econo.”) Find out why Watt still thinks that “Pedro really is bitchin’.”

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