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The first big fire of the year is here

Plus: A figure of the election denial movement focuses on California and an L.A. developer is pushing the boundaries of laws designed to spur housing construction.
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Los Angeles Times
Today's Headlines
Click to view images The York fire burns in an area of the Mojave National Preserve on Saturday, July 29, 2023. (R. Almendinger/ National Park Service Mojave National Preserve via Associated Press)

By Laura Blasey, Karim Doumar

Hello, it's Tuesday, Aug. 1, and here are the stories you shouldn't miss today:

TOP STORIES

The Mojave Desert is burning in California's biggest fire of year, torching Joshua trees. California's biggest wildfire of the year — burning through delicate Joshua Tree forests along the California-Nevada border — is an unusual desert blaze being fueled in part by the rapid growth of underbrush from this winter's record rains.

The York fire had scorched 77,000 acres as of Monday, with no containment.

The 'Johnny Appleseed of election fraud' wants to upend voting in America. Why he's focused on California. Douglas Frank is convinced that American elections need saving and believes that to do so, people must take back the ballot box one county at a time. And though his allegations have been disproved and dismissed by election experts and fact checkers, he hasn't been deterred from spending the last 2½ years on the road, spreading his message to any group that will host him.

His more than 50 speeches in California and hundreds more across the country are part of a multi-pronged effort by the election denial movement to make a significant impact on future elections by changing state laws, training candidates and — in Frank's case — organizing volunteers to challenge local results and voter rolls.

L.A. County gave up on a mental health program — and is handing back millions in grants. Providers insist that what are known as child and adult outreach triage teams were saving some of L.A. County's sickest residents by closing a gap in care.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, however, said they were underwhelmed by the teams' performance and shut them down.

The dispute over how L.A. handled the triage teams highlights how counties in California fund mental health services, which frequently involves new ideas being funded temporarily then abandoned as county leaders fail to come up with plans to sustain them before the money dries up. But that system might soon be remade.

An actor's heart problems highlight health insurance concerns amid SAG-AFTRA strike. Brooklyn McLinn's life was almost cut short due to his heart trouble. Without his health insurance, he wouldn't be alive today.

Thousands of SAG-AFTRA members joined Writers Guild of America members earlier this month in striking together for the first time since 1960. The current SAG-AFTRA strike is focused on streaming residuals and artificial intelligence and has illuminated how the uncertainty of the industry leads to actors losing their health insurance or not qualifying at all in any given year.

SAG-AFTRA officials said 86% of their members do not earn enough to qualify for the health plan.

This L.A. developer aims to tear down homes to build apartments where the city doesn't want them. Akhilesh Jha has spent the last six years paging through state laws and city zoning codes. His homework leads him to snap up single-family homes where he decides the law will let him build much bigger, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Jha is taking advantage of an opportune moment when California politics are turning away from the slow-growth mantra that has dominated in established cities and suburbs over the last half century. In the face of a crushing housing affordability crisis and shortage of available homes, state lawmakers have approved more than 100 new laws in six years that are designed to incentivize new housing proposals and force local governments to approve them.

In Los Angeles, no one is pushing the envelope more than Jha.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

Freak City pieces modeled in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 29, 2023.
Freak City pieces modeled in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 29, 2023. (Angella Choe / For The Times)

The years of underground parties beloved by M.I.A. and Diplo, the police raids, the struggles, the highs, the inside jokes, the bad apartments. What if all these experiences and memories were sewed into the clothes and presented back to the city that fostered them? For Freak City, the brand by L.A. natives Justin Romero and Valerie "Vally" Campbell, that's exactly what its latest offering is: The company's story, from the beginning to now.

CALIFORNIA

COVID-19 is on the rise this summer. Here's what to know and how to stay safe. Officials are monitoring a recent uptick in coronavirus transmission, but say it is too early to know how this will go.

Trash heaps, wild parties and slaughtered animals: Blight invades a beloved L.A. escape. Nine years after President Obama created San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, park officials struggle to cope with hordes of visitors.

Thunderstorms may cool 'heat dome,' but hot weather will be back in SoCal this weekend. Southern California will see cooler temperatures and possibly thunderstorms this week, a reprieve from a "heat dome" that broiled the area for weeks.

It's not windy, but wildfires are still scorching California. Firefighters and meteorologists look to a little-known metric called "mixing height" to understand how explosive wildfires spread in California without wind.

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NATION-WORLD

Florida's coral is in hot water. Scientists are diving in to rescue the fragile creatures before it's too late. As ocean temperatures rise to historic levels, corals are bleaching along Florida's fragile 350-mile-long barrier reef.

The unsung heroes underground: How fungi are reducing the carbon in our atmosphere. Mycorrhizal fungi are great at drawing greenhouse gases underground. Now scientists are discovering how much of a role they play in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

AM radio served the country for 100 years. Will electric vehicles silence it? Bipartisan legislation that would require car manufacturers to keep the AM band in their dashboards is moving forward. It's also united an unusual coalition representing conservative talk radio hosts, immigrant communities and rural workers.

Paul Reubens, actor and comedian behind Pee-wee Herman, dies at 70. The veteran children's entertainer, who created and starred in "Pee-wee's Playhouse," died Sunday from cancer.

Emmys 2023: In this cruel summer, let's salute the writers — and pay them a fair wage. TV series such as "Succession," "Better Call Saul" and "The Bear" have thrilled, moved and transported us. Guess who's responsible for that? Writers. But you knew that.

BUSINESS

Disney brings back Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer in ESPN consulting role. The former top lieutenants to Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, who have deep ties in investing circles, will help recruit and evaluate potential strategic partners for ESPN, according to a knowledgeable source.

What to know about buying a house using retirement funds. It is possible to use funds from retirement accounts to buy a house. But withdrawals could bring taxes and penalties.

SPORTS

In his final year, Bill McGovern united UCLA and USC to fight on against cancer. Fighting until the end after a kidney cancer diagnosis, UCLA defensive coordinator Bill McGovern and his family received some unexpected help along the way.

It really could be the year of the kickers in high school football. The kickers and punters in the Southland are pumped to make a difference.

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OPINION

Is there any way to shift the bizarre Republican conviction that only Trump will save them? No primary candidate with Donald Trump's lead in the polls at this stage of the race has ever failed to get their party's nomination. But Trump is an unprecedented candidate.

California needs offshore wind farms, and it needs to start now. The West Coast should become a leader in building and deploying floating wind turbines, a technology that could be emulated all around the Pacific.

ONLY IN L.A.

A catamaran leans half out of the water during a sailing competition in the Port of Los Angeles
The United States' boat sails in the Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix at the Port of Los Angeles. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Spain has made history in Los Angeles, beating Season 3 champions Australia and Denmark to claim its first event win in the SailGP. SailGP is a sailing competition that features high-performance F50 foiling catamarans, where teams compete across a season of multiple races around the world. Ten catamarans took part in the Grand Prix in Los Angeles, its first stop of the season and also the first time it was held in Los Angeles.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The August 12, 1988 edition of the Los Angeles Times covered the controversy surrounding "The Last Temptation of Christ"
The Aug. 12, 1988, edition of the Los Angeles Times covered the controversy surrounding Martin Scorsese's film "The Last Temptation of Christ." (Los Angeles Times)

Martin Scorsese's film "The Last Temptation of Christ" was released in theaters on this day in 1988. The film, which stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ, received strong backlash from religious groups and churches. Here's a sampling of The Times' coverage at the time.

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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