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Tom Sandoval Compares Vanderpump Rules Cheating Scandal to O.J. Simpson and George Floyd; Love Is Blind's Chelsea Responds to Getting "Dragged" Over Megan Fox Comparison; Strictly Come Dancing Alum Robin Windsor Dead at 44; and more from E! News... February 20, 2024   View Online   NEWS VIDEOS PHOTOS SHOP NEWS VIDEOS PHOTOS SHOP   YouTuber Ruby Franke Tearfully Apologizes to Kids During Child Abuse Sentencing VIEW   Tom Sandoval Compares Vanderpump Rules Cheating Scandal to O.J. Simpson and George Floyd VIEW   Love Is Blind 's Chelsea Responds to Getting "Dragged" Over Megan Fox Comparison VIEW   Strictly Come Dancing Alum Robin Windsor Dead at 44 VIEW   Disney Channel Alum Bridgit Mendler Reveals She's a Mom—and a Space Startup CEO VIEW SEE MORE   Follow @enews

Legal pot has spawned corruption, threats

Lobbyists, pot entrepreneurs and public officials say bribery and shakedowns have become so commonplace in cannabis licensing that it feels normal.
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Los Angeles Times
Today's Headlines
Click to view images An illustration depicts a scene inside a growth operation where a mysterious envelope is exchanged by two people. (Illustration by Leonardo Santamaria / For The Times)

By Elvia Limรณn and Jason Sanchez

Hello, it's Thursday, Sept. 15, and here are the stories you shouldn't miss today:

TOP STORIES

Legal pot: Corruption, threats and secret financial deals for politicians

California's decision to legalize recreational cannabis in 2016 ushered in a multibillion-dollar commercial pot market that officials in many small, struggling communities hoped would bring new jobs and an infusion of tax revenue to spend on police, parks and roads. But for some cities, the riches never materialized.

Instead, the advent of commercial cannabis unleashed a wave of corruption, prosecutions and accusations that has rocked local governments across the state and left them with few effective tools to combat the problem.

Lobbyists, pot entrepreneurs and public officials say bribery and shakedowns have become so commonplace in cannabis licensing that it feels like a normal part of doing business. Read more from this Times investigation.

L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl's home was searched

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators searched the house of County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl as part of a criminal investigation into a county contract awarded to a nonprofit organization.

A copy of the warrant showed that the search was tied to an ongoing probe into Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit run by Patti Giggans, a member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and a close friend to Kuehl. Both Kuehl and Giggans have clashed fiercely with Sheriff Alex Villanueva and called for his resignation.

Sheriff's investigators also searched Giggans' house, her nonprofit's offices, offices at the L.A. County Hall of Administration and the headquarters of the county's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which awarded contracts to Giggans' organization.

More politics

  • This November's elections will determine whether Biden has a supportive Congress or a hostile one for the next two years. Yet it's worth remembering that far more state and local races are on the ballot than national ones.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times' state politics reporting and the latest action in Sacramento.

CARE Court has been signed into law

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law a proposal for mental health and addiction treatment for thousands of Californians, dubbed the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court. Proponents call it a major transformation in the state's approach to treatment, a way to divert Californians struggling with substance use and severe mental illness from incarceration and homelessness.

To initiate a CARE plan, family members, first responders, medical professionals and behavioral health providers, among others, can first petition a judge to order an evaluation of an adult with a diagnosed psychotic disorder who is in severe need of treatment and, often, housing.

If the person meets the criteria, the judge would order a series of hearings and evaluations to begin drafting an individualized CARE plan. A plan would, for up to two years, provide a clinical team, an attorney and a volunteer supporter, a role intended to help individuals understand options available to them during their treatment so they can make decisions with some level of autonomy.

An experimental COVID-19 vaccine may outsmart future variants

The new COVID-19 booster shots going into arms across the country are prized for their ability to recognize the distinctive spike protein shared by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron strains. But sooner or later, mutations in the spike protein will allow the virus to slip past the antibodies trained to recognize its predecessors.

An experimental vaccine aims to solve that problem by priming the immune system to recognize both the spike protein and a second — and far more stable — viral protein. It's only been tested in small animals so far, where the bivalent vaccine provided stronger protection than alternatives. Hopeful scientists said the approach could lead to a one-size-fits-all vaccine.

More top coronavirus headlines

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

The Mosquito fire is poised to become the largest blaze in California this year

The Northern California fire continued to burn into historically dry fuels and was near to surpassing the McKinney fire as the largest blaze to burn in California this year.

The Mosquito fire, burning in Placer and El Dorado counties, had grown to more than 58,544 acres by Wednesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Some maps that rely on aerial heat mapping measured the fire at more than 63,000 acres as of Wednesday night. The McKinney fire in Siskiyou County has burned 60,138 acres and is 99% contained.

Firefighters have the Mosquito blaze at 20% containment.

Check out "The Times" podcast for essential news and more.

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you're seeking a more balanced news diet, "The Times" podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

Black-and-white photo of Buckingham Palace guards marching in formation
A send-off fit for a queen: Palace guards march in formation after the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II's hearse at Buckingham Palace. More photos: "London mourns death of Queen Elizabeth II." (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

A teen girl dead from fentanyl-laced pills at a Hollywood school was the latest in a rash of student overdoses. The string of ODs has stemmed from one person who has been distributing drugs at Lexington Park, which has since been closed, according to Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Alberto Carvalho, who added that police were "fairly close" to identifying the individual.

Fake active shooter reports at California schools have spurred investigations. Police were investigating a string of reports of active shooters or threats to several California schools, but the calls were quickly determined to be hoaxes. Law enforcement sources told The Times that, although investigations were continuing, the FBI had gathered information that showed a possible link among a dozen false reports at schools across California and Texas in recent days.

A $25-an-hour wage hike for L.A. private hospital workers is on hold. Hospital groups and other opponents of the Los Angeles city measure turned in more than 88,000 signatures to the L.A. city clerk. That's enough signatures to force the City Council either to repeal it or put the issue on the ballot, L.A. city officials have concluded.

Goodbye, water cooler; hello, pool: More Los Angeles offices are becoming apartments. Turning old office buildings into apartments or condos is hardly new. But cutbacks are expected in office rentals as, prompted by the pandemic, companies permanently adapt to remote work, and that has spurred new interest among landlords in switching the uses of their buildings in the years ahead.

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NATION-WORLD

The Supreme Court is refusing, for now, to shield a university in its battle against an LGBTQ club. Justices decided in a 5-4 vote not to shield Yeshiva University from a state court order that requires it to recognize a LGBTQ student group on campus. The temporary order allows the legal battle to continue in New York.

The U.S. has set up an Afghan relief fund. The Biden administration said it would transfer $3.5 billion in frozen Afghan central bank funds for humanitarian aid as hunger gripped the country. International funding to Afghanistan was suspended and billions of dollars of the country's assets abroad were frozen after the Taliban took control in August 2021 following the U.S. withdrawal. Notably, the Taliban government will not have access to the fund.

Tens of thousands of people lined up to pay their final respects to Queen Elizabeth II. Hundreds of thousands of the late monarch's admirers were expected to wait potentially many hours over the next few days for their chance to file past her coffin. The line began forming well before daybreak Wednesday. Nearby, others had camped out overnight on the Mall outside Buckingham Palace to watch the casket's somber procession.

Ukraine's flag was raised in a retaken city after Russians retreat. The nation's sweeping counteroffensive against Russia's invasion has reclaimed vast swaths of territory in the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Mumford & Sons' frontman talks about his solo album. Marcus Mumford's debut solo album opens with "Cannibal," where the singer describes the toll of keeping secret the sexual abuse he experienced as a child. The album "(self-titled)" is deeply moving. Mumford sat down with The Times in a recording studio in Hollywood to talk about the album and the future of Mumford & Sons, whose banjo player quit last year after being criticized for voicing a variety of conservative beliefs.

R. Kelly was convicted on many counts, and acquitted of trial fixing. Kelly, 55, was found guilty on three counts of child pornography but was acquitted of a conspiracy to obstruct justice charge accusing him of fixing his state child pornography trial in 2008. The decision came after a federal judge in New York sentenced Kelly to 30 years in prison in June for racketeering and sex trafficking. Based on that sentence, he won't be eligible for release until he is around 80.

Why George Clooney pushed for a public school to train film and TV crews. The Roybal School of Film and Television Production Magnet, which opened last month with 150 ninth- and 10th-graders, aims to build a pipeline of students from underrepresented backgrounds who are interested in entertainment but may lack the opportunity to break into well-paid union jobs such as camera operators, set decorators and makeup artists.

"Ooh, the disrespect": Sheryl Lee Ralph shades Jimmy Kimmel's bit at the Emmys. During a panel interview with the Television Critics Assn., "Abbott Elementary" cast members were asked how they felt about Kimmel taking some of the shine from co-star Quinta Brunson's moment. Actor Sheryl Lee Ralph said that she expressed her dissatisfaction with Kimmel and that he "understood." Some viewers of the awards show shared Ralph's sentiment and chimed in on Twitter.

BUSINESS

California is suing Amazon. Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta announced the lawsuit accusing the e-commerce giant of coercing "merchants into agreements that keep prices artificially high, knowing full well that they can't afford to say no." Amazon disputed the accusations and said, "The relief the AG seeks would force Amazon to feature higher prices to customers."

Tentative railway labor agreement reached, averting a strike. Railroads and union representatives had been in negotiations for 20 hours at the Labor Department on Wednesday to hammer out a deal, with risk of a strike starting Friday that could have shut down rail lines across the country. The tentative agreement, which includes 24% raises and relaxes strict attendance policies, will go to union members for a vote after a cooling-off period of several weeks.

OPINION

You might need a COVID booster yearly. But it's still not the flu. The use of the new Omicron-tailored booster is supported by the logic behind flu vaccines. Seasonal influenza vaccines are updated annually from a tried-and-true formulation to match the viral strains circulating elsewhere in the world. This approach is reasonable and has led to White House officials announcing that the U.S. may make its COVID vaccination strategy annual, in line with flu shots. But we have to be cautious about raising unrealistic expectations of what this means for the pandemic's future.

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SPORTS

Chip Kelly reacted to UCLA's social media nickname. A new nickname for UCLA football surfaced Monday on the team's official Twitter account. An illustration showed a group of Bruins transfers in uniform below a list indicating that the school led the nation with 20 transfer starters since 2020. Atop the post was: "Welcome to Transfer U." The message sparked an uproar online. "That shouldn't have gone up," head coach Chip Kelly said.

Who will the Dodgers face in the playoffs? It's no surprise that the Dodgers took the NL West after winning the division in nine out of the 10 last seasons. Barring a massive losing stretch in their remaining 21 games, the Dodgers will open the postseason on Oct. 11 at Dodger Stadium. But exactly which team they'll face in the playoffs remains very much in doubt.

Trevor Bauer argues that a new video shows his accuser "smirking and uninjured" after their encounter. The video lasts nine seconds, with no sound. Dodgers pitcher Bauer appears to be asleep in bed, with a mask over his eyes. Next to him in bed, his attorneys say: the woman whose sexual assault allegations against Bauer triggered the investigation that resulted in his two-year suspension from Major League Baseball. The woman took the video herself, according to attorneys for Bauer.

ONLY IN L.A.

An overhead view of Mexican food in to-go containers.
Food from Pepe's Finest Mexican Food in Alhambra. (Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Here are 38 classic L.A. Mexican restaurants. If you've lived in Los Angeles for any real amount of time, and almost certainly if you grew up in Southern California, there's likely a dish or an ambient aspect of a long-standing Mexican restaurant that stirs your memories. They have existed for decades among us, and some for nearly a century.

These seemingly eternal houses built from flour tortillas and kept afloat by mild salsa are as embedded in our cultural landscape as our beaches and our freeways. Call it classic American Mexican, or Mexican American, or California Mexican — "Cal-Mex" for short, as Times columnist Gustavo Arellano dubs them — these menus, heavy on tomatoes and meat and light on spice, are part of our inalienable culinary identity in L.A.

This year, we want to give them their due.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Two men in suits face one another, one with his right hand raised. A woman and several children stand nearby.
April 7, 2011: New Bell City Councilman Ali Saleh, with his family, is sworn in by California Assemblyman Ricardo Lara. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Twelve years ago today, on Sept. 15, 2010, Jerry Brown, then attorney general of California, filed a lawsuit accusing eight current and former officials of the city of Bell with canceling lucrative compensation and plotting to enrich themselves.

The Times won a Pulitzer Prize for public service for exposing the corruption in the small California city where officials tapped the treasury to pay themselves exorbitant salaries.

Times staff writer Amy Hubbard contributed to this report.

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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