Newsletter: Iowa’s point of no returns


The Iowa Democratic Party’s caucuses encountered a major foul-up when it came time to report the results, putting more chaos into an already unpredictable presidential campaign.


Iowa’s Point of No Returns

The Iowa caucuses were supposed to help clarify the race for the Democratic presidential nominees. Instead, the first electoral contest of the 2020 campaign turned into a fiasco.

The nearly 1,700 community gatherings proceeded smoothly, but the problems began when it came time for the Iowa Democratic Party to declare a winner, which will not come until today at the earliest.


So what went wrong? Party officials said there was no sabotage involved and blamed the indefinite delay on “quality checks and the fact that the [party] is reporting out three data sets for the first time.” Yet Democratic leaders and precinct chairs around the state reported problems with the computer application intended to relay results to party headquarters in Des Moines.

As a result, candidates gave what sounded like victory speeches without anyone knowing who actually won, and conspiracy theories abounded. But this isn’t the first time Iowa has had trouble tallying its results, and some pundits are suggesting it should be Iowa’s last time using its unusual and highly unpredictable caucus system.

The State of the Union Is ...

President Trump will give his third State of the Union address tonight in the well of the House of Representatives, the same chamber that impeached him in December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. And though fellow Republicans have advised him to not mention impeachment, it would be surprising if Trump didn’t.

The Republican-controlled Senate is virtually certain to acquit Trump of both charges on Wednesday, with the only question being whether the vote hews to party lines. GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, seen as one of the few Republicans who might break with her party, announced she would not support removing Trump from office, though she called his actions “shameful and wrong.”

During closing arguments in the impeachment trial yesterday, Democrats argued senators have a “duty” to convict, while the president’s legal team argued that senators would “vindicate” the right to vote by leaving the matter to the electorate in November.


An Outbreak of Censorship

As the new strain of coronavirus that originated in China spreads across the world, Beijing has attempted to present a face of simultaneous transparency and control. The reality is authorities are cracking down on Chinese activists’ attempts to investigate the severity of the outbreak. One “citizen journalist” who made a video showing body bags and a man whose father had apparently just died found himself interrogated, accused of receiving money from foreign organizations and under orders to stop posting “rumors” that would “spread panic” online.

More About the Coronavirus

— After a steady increase in the last week in the number of cases in California and across the U.S., officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the virus is likely to spread.

— Feeling sick? If you live in the United States, chances are good that it’s not the coronavirus that ails you. Here are the symptoms to look for.

A Complicated Legacy


The deaths of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people in a helicopter crash have brought an outpouring of emotion around the world. For some, the emotion has been mixed. While they may be saddened by the tragedy, they say they feel alienated and worried that an important element has been omitted from the narrative around the Los Angeles Laker. Namely, that ignoring an alleged 2003 assault by Bryant in Colorado does a disservice to all sexual assault survivors — and one in particular, the woman who said he attacked her.


On this date in 1974, Patricia Hearst was kidnapped at age 19 by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group of 1970s radicals. At first a captive and then a comrade, Hearst would be captured in 1975 and convicted on federal bank robbery charges the following year. President Carter commuted her seven-year sentence, and Hearst was released from prison after having served 22 months. She and her bodyguard, Bernard Shaw — pictured below after her release — were married two months later.


— Investigators are trying to determine what prompted a man to open fire on a Greyhound bus that was traveling on Interstate 5 through Kern County, killing a 51-year-old woman and wounding five others.

Powerful winds wreaked havoc across Southern California, toppling trees and power lines and damaging a cargo jet taking off from Los Angeles International Airport.

— An LAPD scandal is giving fresh momentum to the reform process for CalGang, the state’s secretive database of criminal street syndicates and their suspected crews.

— University of California faculty leaders are recommending the continued use of the SAT and ACT as an admission requirement for now, citing UC data showing the standardized tests may actually help boost enrollment of disadvantaged students.


— L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo has an idea for keeping rents low in his district: Force a landlord in Chinatown to sell its building to the city.

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— Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh says he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, after first noticing something wrong around his birthday in mid-January.

— Beach Boys founding members Brian Wilson and Al Jardine are telling fans they have no part in an appearance later this week by a version of the group fronted by cofounder Mike Love at a trophy-hunting convention where Donald Trump Jr. will be the keynote speaker.

— After having a wedding ceremony about two weeks ago, Pamela Anderson and Jon Peters are no longer married ... and apparently, they never were.

— With “Cheer,” Netflix made the members of the Navarro College cheerleading team into reality stars. Now they wonder what’s next.



— As Arab nations reject Trump’s plan for the Middle East, its architect, Jared Kushner, is blaming those who took no part in it shaping: Palestinians.

— Two college students from Iran have filed civil rights complaints with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, saying they were mistreated and illegally denied entry into the country by federal officials at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Britain, like most other countries in Western Europe, has been struggling with ways to rehabilitate Muslim extremists. But after the second stabbing attack in just over two months by a recently freed young Islamist, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government says it is moving to curtail early release for those jailed for terrorism-related offenses.


AB 5, a new California labor law making it harder for businesses to treat workers as independent contractors, is already changing how Uber works for drivers and riders.

PG&E Corp. shares surged after the company proposed its most sweeping reform plan yet, offering to overhaul its board with safety experts in a bid to win state approval for its bankruptcy reorganization. But the real question is whether it’s enough for California Gov. Gavin Newsom.


— Columnist Dylan Hernandez says the Dodgers must seize the moment and acquire right fielder Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox.


Willie Wood, USC’s first black quarterback and a Packers great, has died at age 83.


— The Times’ editorial board delivers the real State of the Union. That is, the one you won’t hear from Trump.

— Forget the Oscars, the real diversity problem is #IowaCaucusSoWhite.


— What happened to Catherine Burns, the actress who was nominated for an Oscar and soon disappeared from Hollywood 50 years ago? (The Hollywood Reporter)

Vaan Island has been rapidly disappearing into the sea between India and Sri Lanka. A team of marine biologists is trying to save it. (BBC Future)


For two decades, Adrian Maher was a Hollywood gate crasher, part of a group who infiltrated elite soirees and awards after-events for the Golden Globes, Grammys and even Oscars. He rubbed elbows with celebrities, partook of the free food and booze and even once stole Paul McCartney’s seat. But as Hollywood has upped its security game in the face of terrorism, Maher has put that life behind him — and written a book about his exploits.


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