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Can rain end California's fire season?

Officials say the recent rains aren't enough to quench the threat of additional wildfires this fall.
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Los Angeles Times
Today's Headlines
Click to view images A partial rainbow shows along with a muggy, cloudy sky at the Quad at Whittier in Whittier. (Raul Roa/Los Angeles Times)

By Elvia Limรณn and Jason Sanchez

Hello, it's Tuesday, Sept. 20, and here are the stories you shouldn't miss today:

TOP STORIES

Is California done with wildfires for now?

A summer marked by a series of fast, deadly wildfires ended with a slight reprieve as much-needed rain fell in portions of California, but officials say the welcome spot of moisture isn't enough to quench the threat of additional wildfires this fall.

Though the recent rains have helped tame some active blazes, experts cautioned that it's too soon to say it's game over. Heavy storms are increasingly outmatched by the state's rising temperatures and worsening drought, leaving vegetation nearly as brittle and fire-prone as it was before the rains arrived.

Moreover, the fall season is often accompanied by gusty Santa Ana winds that help fuel fires. This year, a rare third appearance of La Niรฑa could deliver continued dry conditions.

The true story behind Sherri Papini's kidnapping hoax

Sherri Papini disappeared from her Northern California neighborhood in November 2016, but she made it home in time for Thanksgiving. Missing for 22 days, Papini reappeared, bruised, branded and emaciated. But nearly six years after she disappeared, federal prosecutors said none of it was real.

Papini, 40, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in connection with what her attorney called a "nonsensical fantasy" that she had orchestrated herself. Papini is set to serve her prison sentence starting in early November. She will not be home in time for Thanksgiving this year.

Before Papini's disappearance became national news, a man in Orange County set out to rescue her before her husband knew she was missing. Not from her kidnappers but her allegedly cruel husband.

Fiona dumps more rain on Puerto Rico

Hurricane Fiona unleashed more rain on Puerto Rico after the storm knocked out power and water to most of the island, and National Guard troops rescued hundreds of people who got stranded. The governor warned that getting the lights back on could take days.

The blow from Fiona was made more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which killed about 3,000 people and destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island are still covered by blue tarps.

Meanwhile in the Dominican Republic, authorities closed ports and beaches and told most people to stay home from work. The government reported one death from falling trees.

From reducing fossil fuel to light pollution

For more than a century, most sources of artificial light wasted energy in the form of heat. But energy-efficient lighting changed that. LEDs are much more efficient, requiring less than 25% of the energy consumed by an incandescent lamp.

In 2020, LEDs accounted for 51% of global lighting sales, up from just 1% in 2010, according to the International Energy Agency. It sounds like a clear win for the environment. But that's not how some people see it.

A growing number of people say the dark sky is an undervalued and underappreciated natural resource. Its loss has detrimental consequences for wildlife and human health. And yet the public's embrace of LEDs keeps rising, spilling too much light into the sky where no one needs it.

A final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II

Britain bade its final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II, honoring its longest-reigning monarch with a state funeral that provided pomp in solemn circumstances, drew dignitaries from around the world and captivated a global television audience.

The hourlong event inside Westminster Abbey, a service attended by 2,000 people that reflected the Old World grandeur of Britain's monarchy, followed 11 days of national mourning and highly choreographed public ceremonies.

Afterward, the queen's coffin, topped by symbols of state, made its slow procession through the streets of London on its way to St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, where it was lowered into the royal vault ahead of a more intimate internment ceremony.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

 A hearse bearing the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II is covered in flowers as it slowly makes its way towards Windsor Castle
Final farewell: A hearse bearing the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II is covered in flowers as it slowly makes its way towards the road leading to Windsor Castle. More photos from the queen's funeral. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

These migrants were flown to California from Texas. They don't know why or who paid for their flights. Eight Venezuelan migrants have no idea why they were sent to Sacramento or who paid for the flights, an advocacy group said. The men, who crossed the border in Laredo, Texas, had intentions to travel to New York, Florida or Utah and said they were confused as to why they were sent to California, where none of them had contacts or prospects.

The temporary watering ban was lifted early. Two days ahead of schedule, crews have finished repairs on the 36-mile Upper Feeder pipeline, operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The pipeline is a major conduit for supplying water to the region. Officials shut it down Sept. 6 so they could address a leak, and called on nearly 4 million residents to halt all outdoor irrigation for 15 days while they did the work.

Workers won't have to worry about off-the-clock pot use. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that prohibits employers from making hiring, firing or other employment decisions based on a drug test that finds "nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites" in someone's hair or urine, which do not indicate current impairment, but that someone consumed cannabis recently, up to weeks prior, according to the bill. The new law goes into effect on New Year's Day 2024.

A man was arrested on suspicion of arson in a fire that destroyed a historic South L.A. church. Investigators from the department's Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section and detectives from the Los Angeles School Police Department arrested 23-year-old Carlos Diaz in South L.A., authorities said. He was charged with arson after the Fire Department launched an investigation and reviewed security video, authorities said.

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NATION-WORLD

Is Sept. 19 cursed in Mexico? There have now been three major earthquakes on that day. A powerful earthquake shook western and central Mexico on the anniversary of shakes that killed thousands in 1985 and hundreds in 2017. For a quake that the U.S. Geological Survey said was a magnitude 7.6 — Mexico's National Seismological Service put it at 7.7 — the damage was surprisingly limited, with only one reported death.

An American hostage was freed in a prisoner swap with the Taliban. Mark Frerichs, a U.S. contractor held hostage in Afghanistan for more than two years by the Taliban has been released. Frerichs is a Navy veteran who had spent more than a decade in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor and was abducted in January 2020. A Taliban drug lord jailed by the United States was also freed and returned to Kabul.

Adnan Syed, subject of the 'Serial' podcast, is freed. At the behest of prosecutors who had uncovered new evidence, a Baltimore judge ordered that Syed's conviction be vacated and approved the release of the 41-year-old, who has spent more than two decades behind bars for the 1999 murder of high school student Hae Min Lee. The judge ruled that the state violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could have bolstered Syed's defense. She ordered him to be placed on home detention with GPS monitoring.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

How Mia Goth brought her maniacal "Pearl" to life. The period psycho-thriller "Pearl" opened this past weekend to critical raves. A prequel to A24's "X," the film zeroes in on Pearl, a naรฏve young woman aching to escape her isolated rural life, who sours from starry-eyed farmgirl into something more sinister when her dreams of fame are threatened. It's a richly dynamic role the likes of which Goth has never before played, and the actor jumped at the opportunity.

Kelly Clarkson gets a star on the Walk of Fame. Twenty years ago this month, Clarkson wowed Hollywood as the inaugural winner of "American Idol" on Fox in 2002. The now-talk show host returned to the famed Los Angeles boulevard to celebrate not only herself, but also the team that launched her stardom. Original "American Idol" judges Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul attended the ceremony.

Why was Sandra Oh at Queen Elizabeth II's funeral? Oh was appointed in June to the Order of Canada, which is among the highest civilian honors given by the Canadian government. Oh attended the funeral as a part of Canada's delegation, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Order members. Canada is a commonwealth country within the British monarchy.

BUSINESS

Griffith Observatory's planetarium storytellers petition to unionize. The dozen observatory lecturers have unanimously signed union authorization cards with the Actors' Equity Assn. A petition was presented to the city's Employee Relations Board during a meeting Monday morning, kicking off a formal feedback period before the board makes a decision in a few months. Currently, the observatory lecturers are also the only nonunionized employees in the building.

OPINION

No, Mr. President, the pandemic isn't over. There are 400 to 500 Americans dying of COVID each day, and that high daily death toll has remained constant for the last six months. In July, we were down to just over 200 deaths per day, half of where we are now. It's not just deaths. There have been more than 2 million confirmed new COVID infections in the last month. This means the virus is still fulfilling its principal objective of finding a huge number of new or repeat hosts to help spread and perpetuate itself.

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SPORTS

The Rams might have lost their edge against the Falcons, but don't underestimate winning progress. The Rams might be remembered for almost blowing a big lead in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons, but the victory could serve as a jumping-off point, writes sports columnist Helene Elliott.

What's in a name? Bigger UCLA crowds at the Rose Bowl, according to Chip Kelly. UCLA has an average home attendance of 30,072 that ranks 10th in the Pac-12, above only Oregon State (26,475) and Washington State (24,422). Kelly said he anticipated crowds getting bigger as UCLA moved into its Pac-12 schedule, but the Bruins' conference home opener against No. 18 Washington on Sept. 30 figures to draw a smaller crowd than normal because it falls on a Friday.

ONLY IN L.A.

Celeb versus celeb in Benedict Canyon. A proposed upscale hotel in a neighborhood where home prices range from $3 million to $100 million has pitted some of L.A.'s biggest stars against each other. Plans for the hotel call for 58 guest rooms and suites, plus eight private residences, a 10,000-square-foot spa, a gym, a private theater and an eight-seat sushi bar, along with a restaurant.

On one side of the battle, you have developer Gary Safady and a who's who list of famous supporters including Mark Wahlberg and Ashton Kutcher. On the other side are neighbors who have signed testimonials in opposition to Safady's project, including notables as Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, television host Phil McGraw and others.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Tennis star Billie Jean King speaks about sexual equality before the Senate education subcommittee in Washington in 1973.
Tennis star Billie Jean King speaks about sexual equality before the Senate education subcommittee in Washington in 1973. (Associated Press)

It's been 49 years since Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs in American history's most famous tennis match. Dubbed "The Battle of the Sexes," it was as much a contest of ideologies as athleticism.

During the height of the women's movement in the '70s, King took on former tennis pro Riggs, whose boastful taunts about women belonging in the kitchen had deepened the gender divide across the nation.

Riggs set out to show that women could never be equal to men and meant to prove it by trouncing King in a nationally televised exhibition match. But King turned the tables. Millions tuned into the wildly hyped telecast, many of whom had never seen a tennis match.

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today's Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at headlines@latimes.com.

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