Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:
The Consequences of Trump’s Syria Plan
Senior U.S. officials say President Trump’s decision to pull remaining U.S. troops back from northeastern Syria could allow a resurgence of the Islamic State terrorist group and destabilize the region. Trump portrayed the move, which he announced without consulting top Pentagon or State Department advisors, as fulfilling his pledge to get America out of what he called “ridiculous, endless wars.” (Trump also tweeted about “my great and unmatched wisdom.”)
But the political backlash in Washington has been harsh and bipartisan — most notably from senior Republicans in Congress whose support Trump will need as he fights an impeachment inquiry. Some likened it to then-President Obama’s decision to pull out of Iraq in late 2011. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters in Syria are calling it a betrayal.
‘As American as Apple Pie’
Whistleblowing — when an “insider” in government or a private company or organization draws attention to illegal or unethical activity — is codified in law, enshrined in history, immortalized in Hollywood movies and popular culture. But as the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Trump is seeing, it can carry enormous risks.
— Beneath the heated argument of whether the House should have a formal resolution to open an impeachment inquiry is a potential benefit for Republicans, if they can force a vote: the chance to subpoena their own witnesses and information.
— House Democrats have issued subpoenas to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting White House budget director Russell Vought in the impeachment inquiry.
— A federal judge emphatically rejected Trump’s effort to block the release of his tax returns to New York prosecutors, saying his broad claim of immunity is at odds with the Constitution. But an appeals court has blocked the handover of the documents for now.
A Toxic Legacy
Toxic chemicals from nearly two dozen military bases in California have seeped into groundwater and been detected in private wells or public water systems in multiple counties. The chemicals come from firefighting foam that was used by the armed services for decades. It’s a nationwide problem, but California has more bases contaminated with these chemicals than any other state, according to documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. The Pentagon faces the prospect of a gigantic environmental cleanup that could cost billions and take decades to complete.
Dialogue or a Disgrace?
Every two years, the Desert X festival fills the Coachella Valley with art. Should it do the same in Saudi Arabia? A collaboration next year in the kingdom has already caused three members of the Desert X board of directors to resign in protest over working with a government responsible for human rights abuses and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But the biennial’s founder is defending the collaboration as an opportunity to generate “a new dialogue.”
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FROM THE ARCHIVES
On this day in 1992, a massive explosion ripped through the Texaco refinery in Wilmington. “The 9:43 p.m. blast tore roofs from nearby buildings, hurled debris about the plant, shattered windows across Wilmington, Carson and Long Beach, and showed up as a ‘sonic boom’ on sound recording equipment at Caltech in Pasadena, more than 20 miles away,” The Times reported.
— The wildfires that raged last year made for the state’s deadliest, most destructive fire season on record. They also were bad for the climate. A new report says the fires released more than 45 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
— HIV prevention drugs will now be available over the counter. Under a law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Monday, PrEP and PEP won’t require prescriptions, and insurance companies won’t be allowed to ask for prior authorizations.
— Federal prosecutors say a Northern California man who goes by the name Big Cheeze admitted he defrauded concert promoters and investors of more than half a million dollars after claiming he could secure concerts with Rihanna, Snoop Dogg and others.
— Advances in DNA technology have led to the arrest of a Visalia man accused in a string of sexual assaults in the late 1990s and early 2000s and now suspected in the 1996 rape and killing of a college student. Fresno’s district attorney called the man “every woman’s nightmare.”
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
— With “Joker,” “Hustlers” and “Parasite,” filmmakers are exploring the gap between the haves and have-nots.
— No one will replace Plácido Domingo as general director of Los Angeles Opera, now that he’s resigned amid a sexual harassment investigation. That’s because his job title is being eliminated.
— The assiduously private singer-songwriter Sia says she suffers from chronic pain due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
— The CW show “All American” penned a “love letter” to Nipsey Hussle and South L.A.
— Long-term nicotine vaping appears to raise the risk of cancer dramatically, new research in mice suggests. But much more research is needed to know whether it leads to cancer in humans, the scientists say.
— Two American scientists and a British one won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering how the body’s cells sense and react to oxygen levels, paving the way for new strategies to fight cancer and other diseases.
— Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro escorted a group of asylum seekers, including some LGBTQ and disabled migrants, across the Mexican border into Texas. The goal: to show that scores of them have been returned to Mexico after officials initially said “vulnerable” migrants would be exempted from the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
— Scientists say 20 new moons have been found around Saturn, giving the ringed planet a total of 82. Previously, it was thought that Jupiter had the most moons with 79.
— California Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign a bill to cap rent increases. Some landlords are already saying they will need to raise rents more frequently.
— The Supreme Court won’t reconsider a lower court’s ruling rejecting San Diego Gas & Electric’s request to pass along $379 million in wildfire costs to ratepayers.
— The Dodgers lost by a score of 6 to 1 in Game 4 of their postseason series against the Washington Nationals. The decisive Game 5 will be Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
— In caving to the Chinese, the NBA has shown that for all its posturing as a principled force for diversity and human rights, it’s a business like any other, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.
— San Francisco voters should reject Proposition C — the Juul-backed ballot measure that aims to overturn an e-cigarette sales ban — to send the message that they won’t let Big Tobacco subvert democracy, The Times’ editorial board writes.
— For decades, judges labeled LGBTQ workers deviant and rejected their civil rights claims on that basis. Now that the courts have largely grown past such misconceptions and seen how civil rights law applies, it’s time the Supreme Court follow their lead, Vanderbilt law professor Jessica A. Clarke writes.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
— America’s top military officers paint a disturbing portrait of their commander in chief as an impulsive man who disdains expertise and resists coherent strategy. (The Atlantic)
— The rich are forgoing the Uber shuttle to hail helicopters to the airport and unleashing another emissions nightmare. (Jalopnik)
ONLY IN CALIFORNIA
Not long ago, in a theme park not so far away, a new theme-park land was created: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. There, you can drink in a nutty Star Wars bar and pay $200 to make a light-saber. But a funny thing happened on the way to Galaxy’s Edge — it hasn’t been quite the tour de force some people expected. So, what works, what’s missing and what needs fixing?