Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:
Clean Water’s Murky Future
Early in the coming year, President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency plans to roll back clean water rules, abolishing limits on how much pollution can be dumped into small streams and wetlands.
Federal data suggest 81% of streams in the Southwest would lose protections. A large share of streams in California and other Western states will be hard hit.
But nowhere are the stakes as high as in New Mexico, where regulators state estimate that the new rule could leave 96% of the state’s waterways and wetlands unprotected.
The proposed rule from Trump — who has claimed that “I want the cleanest water on Earth” — does have supporters, including a ranchers association. But state officials warn that it would make it more likely that pollution would flow into New Mexico’s most important river, the Rio Grande.
— As a candidate for the White House, Trump repeatedly promised that he would “immediately” replace President Obama’s healthcare law with a plan of his own that would provide “insurance for everybody.” Nearly three years after Trump took office, Americans are still waiting for the president’s big health insurance reveal.
— Former Vice President Joe Biden entertained the idea of choosing a Republican as a 2020 running mate as he campaigned Monday — though he conceded he didn’t have anyone specific in mind.
Feeling at Sea
Since 1986, when it became a sovereign nation, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has enjoyed a special relationship with the United States. It’s one that allows its residents to live, work and study here without visas. In fact, one-third of the islands’ population lives here — part of the legacy of the U.S. having tested 67 nuclear weapons on the islands during the Cold War. Now, the ties between the Marshall Islands and the U.S. are fraying, and China is looking to step in.
In With the New Laws
It’s the last day of the year, which means California will ring in 2020 with hundreds of new state laws. Sounds like a real party, huh? The laws will address a range of issues including monthly limits on gun purchases, more protections against high-interest loans, increased pay for low-wage jobs and the end of touring circus shows featuring exotic animals. This handy chart shows how they will affect you.
Even so, some are already being challenged: Uber and Postmates have filed a suit over AB5, which makes it harder to treat workers as contractors, and a judge has put on hold a law that would bar job applicants and workers from having to submit to mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment.
And just to clear up some confusion: If you were planning on eating roadkill pursuant to the Wildlife Traffic Safety Act, you’d better drop that possum right now.
MORE IN THE YEAR AHEAD
— What will 2020 hold? Predictions are dangerous, but that hasn’t stopped us from making some.
— Eight science stories to watch for in the new year.
— The Chargers will have a new quarterback in 2020 and his name will be ... Tom Brady? Uh, if you say so, Arash Markazi.
Mr. Throw’em Is Now Mr. Ketchum
It’s been nearly 17 years since Carson Palmer played his last bowl game as a quarterback at USC. Now, after a storied football career that included a Heisman Trophy, being a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, and in 15 years as a pro, Palmer is living in his own private Idaho. Ketchum, Idaho, to be precise. Instead of becoming a TV analyst or coach, the 40-year-old is fly fishing and skiing — and most important, taking care of his four kids.
Note: The Today’s Headlines newsletter will have the day off on Wednesday and return on Thursday. Happy New Year!
FROM THE ARCHIVES
The Rose Bowl football game may be the granddaddy of them all, but the first contest in 1902 was so lopsided that the Tournament of Roses tried other post-parade events, including chariot races from 1904 through 1915, and ostrich racing. And if you’re thinking of taking in Wednesday morning’s parade, here’s what you need to know.
— The mother of a slain 6-year-old South L.A. boy, who died the day after Christmas and whose godfather has been charged in the killing, describes her heartache and broken trust.
— California is poised to lose a congressional seat for the first time in its history as a state, based on new U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.
— In Los Angeles, a sometimes troublesome form of home co-ownership — called tenancy in common, or TIC — is taking root amid a shortage of affordable housing.
— A restaurant in Alturas, in northeast California, is serving up not only food but also second chances to felons.
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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
— Reruns of “Friends” are leaving Netflix — and even though they’re still seemingly everywhere, fans are reeling on social media.
— Universal Pictures is bracing to lose at least $70 million after its critically panned movie “Cats” bombed over the holidays, according to a person close to the project.
— Why films about World War I, like “1917,” don’t glorify combat the way many World War II films do.
— Neil Innes, an English musician and humorist who worked closely with Monty Python and the Beatles yet never achieved the superstardom of either outfit, has died at 75.
— Dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire. The attack followed deadly U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq.
— A man was charged with federal hate crimes in the stabbing of five people celebrating Hanukkah in a rabbi’s house north of New York City.
— A database compiled by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University in Boston shows that there were more mass killings in 2019 than any year dating to at least the 1970s. Most were shootings.
— With the new year, Russians will ring in 20 years of Vladimir Putin. Of course, not everyone is celebrating.
— A court in Sudan has sentenced 27 members of the country’s security forces to death for torturing and killing a detained protester during the uprising against Sudan’s longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir earlier this year.
— After a bruising year, U.S. department stores and apparel retailers are looking to bounce back in 2020 by closing more locations, shrinking their shops and adding more experiences to attract customers.
— As many as 26 new cargo flights per day could come to San Bernardino International Airport after a vote Monday gave final approval to a new $200-million air cargo facility. Critics wonder about the value of yet another warehouse and logistics center in the Inland Empire.
— The Rams have plenty of roster decisions to make as they evaluate the past season.
— Sportsbooks are dreading potentially large exposure on the key betting number of three in the Rose Bowl, between Pac-12 champion Oregon and Big Ten runner-up Wisconsin on Wednesday.
— William Barr is the cheerleader Trump needs, but not the attorney general we deserve.
— Fasten your seat belts for a truly ugly 2020 presidential campaign. We’re already seeing evidence of how it will go.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
— How a preventable disaster killed six Marines in the Pacific. (ProPublica)
— “Streaming has killed the mainstream”: the decade that broke popular culture. (The Guardian)
ONLY IN CALIFORNIA
Beachgoers may have found themselves in quite a pickle last week trying to identify thousands of gelatinous, cigar-shaped sea creatures that washed ashore at Carmel Beach during a strong storm. Were they another invasion of the headline-grabbing “penis fish” that had appeared on Drake’s Beach in Marin County earlier this month? Not this time. Instead, they were pyrosomes, colloquially known as sea pickles. Which just goes to show that sometimes a cigar-shaped sea creature really is just a cigar-shaped sea creature.