Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:
Evangelicals at a Trump Crossroads
President Trump has long touted his support among evangelical Christians. So when Mark Galli, editor of the evangelical magazine Christianity Today, wrote a scathing editorial last week calling for Trump’s removal from office on moral grounds, it got quite a bit of attention.
The editorial not only drew some harsh tweets from the president but also set off a furor among conservatives. And as seen at congregations across Southern California, it appeared to do little to persuade. In some cases, it offered an occasion to solidify support for the 45th president.
“All of us are human, and none of us are without sin,” said one parishioner.
Galli, who grew up in Northern California and has called Trump’s leadership and morality into question in the past, says he doesn’t think he will change minds. But he says he considers it his duty to the say “most truthful and honest thing” he can.
Squaring Off in the Senate
In the aftermath of last week’s impeachment of Trump, new evidence has emerged as the standoff over sending the House’s articles of impeachment to the Senate devolves into a war of words during the holiday break.
Documents obtained Friday by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity indicate that the White House ordered congressionally mandated Ukraine aid frozen less than two hours after Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s president.
Still, many questions remain about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and a trial in the Senate seems unlikely to shed more light.
A senior White House official and leading Senate Republicans said Democrats won’t succeed in their efforts to force the Senate to summon witnesses in the impeachment trial. Democrats responded by asking why, if Trump were innocent, he would block the testimony of top aides with direct knowledge of his actions.
— Trump signed two behemoth spending packages totaling $1.4 trillion on Friday night, preventing another year-end government shutdown with an hour and a half to spare.
— With the Democratic presidential nomination still very much up for grabs, candidates sprinted from the year’s final presidential debate in Los Angeles to Iowa over the weekend, hoping to get a jump on a frenetic month of campaigning ahead of the state’s Feb. 3 caucuses.
— How the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is being remade under Trump.
The Disappearing Middle at the Box Office
When it comes to Hollywood movie box office, the difference between the haves and have-nots is growing — and the middle is getting squeezed out.
This year, the total haul is expected to reach $11.4 billion in the U.S. and Canada, down 4% from last year’s record levels. Behind that number are a handful of blockbusters (such as “Avengers: Endgame” and this weekend’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”) and some historic flops (ahem, “Cats”). Most worrisome to film industry types is that mid-level films, which used to keep theaters humming year-round, are falling by the wayside.
Tamale season is here. Some people make their own; others stand in long lines to buy the perfect batch. Then there are those who head to the supermarket freezer case for a taste of their youth: the XLNT tamale. At 125 years old, XLNT is the oldest continuously operating Mexican food brand in the United States, and one of the oldest companies in Southern California. Though its unassuming tamales may seem passé, they are seeing an upswing in sales driven by California expats.
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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND
— More than 100 California boats were exempted from strict U.S. Coast Guard rules adopted more than two decades ago to improve passenger safety during emergencies, according to a Times data analysis. One of those was the Conception, on which 34 people died in a Labor Day fire.
— Vandalism at Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills, one of the country’s most prominent Iranian synagogues, has stunned congregants who said they never thought the anti-Semitic graffiti and intolerance they saw happening at other temples and schools would reach their doorstep.
— How Salt Lake City is using police and shelters to fight homelessness.
— Grades versus SAT scores: Which are a better predictor of college success?
— “I ghosted him before he could ghost me. Why is dating such a power struggle?”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
With the holidays upon us, here’s a reminder: Don’t drink and drive. It was just as true on this date in 1958, when the traffic checkpoint in East Los Angeles pictured below took place, as it is now.
— Estimates show population growth in the state is at its slowest since 1900, as residents leave and the pace of immigration decelerates. Also a factor: lower birth rates.
— A state audit says emergency officials are overlooking the most vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, when they make preparations for wildfires, floods and other disasters.
— New phone transcripts provide a detailed look at how William “Rick” Singer, the admitted mastermind of the college admissions scandal, conspired with others.
— With storms rolling in this week, Southern California is in for a rainy Christmas.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
— A major scene in Netflix’s “The Two Popes” was set in the Sistine Chapel, but almost no filming is allowed there. What to do? The production built a replica of the interior that was even a couple of inches bigger than the original.
— For the first time in some 35 years, Eddie Murphy returned to host “Saturday Night Live” and performed some of the recurring characters from his glory days.
— “Cats” may be a wreck as a move and a joke as a musical, but theater critic Charles McNulty explains why we will always have it.
— The mysterious street artist known as Banksy has displayed a politically charged Nativity scene in Bethlehem, the town revered as Jesus’ birthplace, just in time for the busy Christmas season.
— A court in Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
— Border Patrol agents say human smugglers are exploiting the Tijuana River Valley culvert system meant to drain raw sewage at the U.S.-Mexico border, putting agents, emergency responders and migrants at risk for drowning and exposure to highly toxic substances.
— Police say a shooting at a house party in Chicago held in honor of someone who was killed in April left 13 people wounded, four of them critically.
— The death toll from a volcanic eruption in New Zealand this month has risen to 19 after authorities said another person has died at an Auckland hospital.
— It took a blaze that nearly destroyed Notre Dame de Paris to expose a gap in global safety regulations for lead.
— Boeing has landed its Starliner crew capsule in the New Mexico desert after an aborted flight to the International Space Station that threatened to derail the company’s effort to launch astronauts for NASA next year.
— How Sacramento shifted billions of dollars in future wildfire costs away from utilities and to consumers.
— With LeBron James injured, the Lakers fell to the Denver Nuggets for their third consecutive loss.
— As the Rams’ season nears an end, veteran leader Eric Weddle is getting emotional thinking of retirement.
— The Times’ editorial board says “ghost guns” need to be brought out of the shadows.
— Frank Shyong: “What I learned in my first year as an L.A. Times columnist.”
— Cities in the U.S. are overrun with feral cats. Magical thinking isn’t the solution.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
— Former Trump national security advisor John Bolton has suggested the Trump administration is bluffing about stopping North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. (Axios)
— Strip mining the ocean floor is about to begin in earnest, and the consequences are hard to even imagine. (The Atlantic)
— What does the end of San Francisco’s long-running musical revue “Beach Blanket Babylon” tell us about the times we live in? (San Francisco Chronicle)
ONLY IN L.A.
If you want to be transported to the Georgian sunset against which Scarlett O’Hara vowed never to be hungry again, the island beaches of “South Pacific,” the view of the Danube from the Von Trapp family’s terrace in “The Sound of Music” or Mt. Rushmore in “North by Northwest,” look no further than an unassuming warehouse in Valencia. That’s where dozens of painted backdrops used in movies are kept as part of a project to save irreplaceable pieces of Hollywood history from the trash heap.