By Elvia Limón and Jason Sanchez
Hello, it’s Thursday, Aug. 30, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:
UCLA professors allegedly charged certain students extra fees
A complaint came in 2018 from a whistleblower about UCLA’s School of Dentistry. Three professors had allegedly solicited international postgraduate students for unauthorized fees on top of the already hefty tuition. After investigating the allegations, a law firm commissioned by UCLA issued a report that concluded the professors targeted Middle Eastern students.
The professors disguised the payments, including some monies that should rightly have gone to the university, and benefited from them, according to court records. Despite the report’s findings of misconduct, each of the three professors, who deny the allegations, entered into settlements with the university and resigned. The professors are now waging a legal battle to keep the report cloaked in secrecy.
Villanueva ordered a sergeant not to testify at a “deputy gang” hearing, sources say
An L.A. County sheriff’s official ordered a sergeant to disregard a subpoena and not testify before an oversight panel about gang-like groups of deputies, multiple sources told The Times.
The directive that Sgt. Jefferson Chow should not testify came from Sheriff Alex Villanueva and was delivered to Chow by a lieutenant who works for Undersheriff Tim Murakami on Aug. 19. That was the day Chow was set to appear before the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, according to sources with knowledge of the order.
In a phone call, the lieutenant told Chow that Villanueva had ordered him not to respond to the subpoena, but by the time the order reached him, Chow had already testified, the sources said.
Kabul is a city in despair
A year after the Taliban’s stunningly swift takeover and the U.S.-backed government’s disintegration, Kabul, the Afghan capital, is a city bereft. Of economic spark, as jobs vanish, shops and restaurants shut and an ever-increasing number of beggars camp outside bakeries hoping for a morsel of bread. Of safety, as destitution fuels a crime wave even as terrorist attacks — though reduced — continue to kill and maim. Of opportunity, especially for women and girls. Of hope.
Despite relief that the 20-year war between the Taliban and occupying Western forces has ended, the unanimous complaint among Kabul residents is that there is no money and no prospects for meaningful employment. There’s a palpable sense among many Kabulis of giving up on their country.
The longest, hottest heat wave of the year is coming to SoCal
The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat watch for much of Southern California, as temperatures are expected to hit triple digits this week and into Labor Day weekend. This week’s excessive heat for the region will be the warmest and longest heat wave so far this summer, said meterologist David Sweet.
Forecasters predict temperatures will begin rising Wednesday and run through Sunday, with spikes on Thursday and Sunday. The mountains, valleys and deserts in Los Angeles and Ventura counties are predicted to reach 100 degrees or warmer. Woodland Hills could reach 110 degrees, and Burbank could reach 104 degrees Thursday. Lancaster in the Antelope Valley could reach 110 degrees.
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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Californians aren’t living as long as they used to. Californians are losing, on average, two years of their lives, per the CDC’s latest National Vital Statistics Report, which tracked mortality rates for all 50 states from 2019 to 2020. The reason? COVID-19.
A court said the San Jose school district must recognize a Christian club that excludes LGBTQ kids. Judge Kenneth Kiyul Lee, a Trump appointee, wrote for the appellate court that the case pitted “two competing values that we cherish as a nation: the principle of non-discrimination on the one hand, and the 1st Amendment’s protection of free exercise of religion and free speech on the other hand.”
SDSU’s athletic director said it was “absolutely not true” that the football program ignored rape allegations. According to the complaint, the victim was 17 and a senior in high school when she said she was raped by several men — all strangers to her — at an off-campus house party in October.
Free at-home COVID tests, delivered by mail, are ending this week. Californians have just days to secure any final shipments. Suspension of the program removes a convenient testing option even as federal officials continue to tout its importance and say residents should use multiple kits to screen for coronavirus infection.
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The Justice Department was ordered to release more details of the warrant in the Burr investigation. A federal judge has ordered the release of a significantly less-redacted version of the 2020 search warrant. It was executed to seize North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr’s cellphone as part of an investigation into the Republican lawmaker’s stock trades at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
International aid reached Pakistan after floods killed more than 1,000. Cargo planes from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates began the international effort to assist the impoverished nation, landing Sunday in Islamabad with tents and food and other daily necessities. Trucks loaded with supplies arranged by Pakistan were also being dispatched to various parts of the country. Pakistan’s climate minister said: “What we saw … in the last eight weeks is unrelenting cascades of torrential rain that no monsoon has ever brought with it ever before.”
Celebrities were targeted by a street gang in Atlanta, a prosecutor says. Singer Mariah Carey, Marlo Hampton of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” Atlanta United player Brad Guzan and the Atlanta Falcons’ Calvin Ridley all had their homes broken into, an indictment says.
A U.N. nuclear watchdog team was on its way to a power plant in Ukraine. The team set off on the urgent mission to safeguard the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant at the heart of fighting in Ukraine, a long-awaited trip the world hopes will help avoid a radioactive catastrophe.
Cubans are fleeing the island in the largest numbers since the 1980 boat lift. They are choosing to stake their lives and futures on a dangerous journey to the United States by air, land and sea to escape economic and political woes. The exodus is fueled by Cuba’s worst economic conditions in decades — a result of tightened U.S. sanctions and a hangover from COVID-19.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
A veteran actor has finally scored recognition. For Sheryl Lee Ralph, who has quietly and steadily built a 45-year career in an industry not always welcoming of her skin tone, taking up space has deep personal resonance. She has appeared on Broadway, making her debut as glamorous lead singer Deena in the original production of “Dreamgirls,” and has had an active presence in film and television ever since. But until recently, it has come with little widespread acclaim.
“Don’t Worry Darling” chose Palm Springs as the setting for its hedonistic mystery world. Sex, debauchery and booze flow freely in Olivia Wilde’s twisty thriller, and Palm Springs — with its Midcentury Modern architecture, palm trees, lush golf courses and flowing fountains in the midst of a desert — served up the perfect locations.
Months after that slap, Chris Rock says he turned down hosting the Oscars next year. Riffing with the crowd at a stand-up show in Phoenix, the comedian said that he was asked to host next year’s Oscars but turned down the offer, joking that returning to Hollywood’s biggest night would be like returning to a crime scene.
At the VMAs, Lizzo had just two words for her haters: “I’m winning.” The awards show was full of memorable moments, including Nicki Minaj’s Video Vanguard speech and Lizzo’s response to “the b— that got something to say about me.” Also: Taylor Swift won top honors at MTV’s awards show and announced a new album.
Hollywood unions blame studios for the lack of progress on a gun bill after the “Rust” shooting. The Directors Guild of America and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the latter representing crew members, said they were disappointed that they couldn’t reach an agreement with the Motion Picture Assn. on legislation that would impose new requirements on training and qualifications for armorers, as well as penalties for those breaching safety protocols.
The California Senate passed a bill to protect fast-food workers. The bill aims to improve and standardize working conditions for the workers. The centerpiece is the creation of a state Fast Food Council with the authority to establish standards for wages, working hours and conditions.
NASA’s return to the moon has been delayed. The first uncrewed launch of its Space Launch System rocket was scrubbed Monday morning because of an engine-related issue.
What we reveal about ourselves when we talk about disease. When epidemics first explode, they appear as uncontrollable and unknowable; medical authorities then try to ease the public’s anxiety by telling a story that imposes logic onto the chaos. These narratives might suggest the origin of the epidemic or how to prevent it. Understanding science as a story can make us feel less helpless as the deluge of technical information pours in.
Look to authoritarian parties abroad to see where the GOP is headed. We must look to authoritarian party dynamics as they have unfolded around the world to understand the Republicans’ journey out of democracy. In autocracies, ruling parties become personal tools of the leader, and loyalty to the head of state, rather than expertise, is the most prized political quality. Those loyalty demands surge when the leader faces legal challenges or threats to his power.
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Mexico unveiled its away kit for this fall’s World Cup in Qatar, and the uniform has cultural significance. The red-and-white jersey in the kit is full of imagery that reflects both the country’s pre-Hispanic memory and current-day cultural touchstones. According to Adidas, the kit’s manufacturer, the shirt includes an image of a conch shell, which is linked to Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, the Mesoamerican god of the dawn that represents the first breath of life and the last exhalation, as well as other symbols.
When a reporter crashed on the Brewers’ slide, Dodgers team members were there to pick him up. The video went viral of Dodgers TV reporter David Vassegh careening down a slide, then slamming into a retaining wall, breaking bones in his wrist and cracking ribs. From the moments before he went to urgent care to when he was in recovery, there was an outpouring of affection and concern from the team’s players, writes Times columnist Bill Plaschke.
Success appears built in for UCLA football. Yes, this schedule is partly a function of Michigan backing out of games against UCLA in 2022 and 2023 so the Wolverines could play Hawaii and East Carolina. It’s also unequivocally the Bruins’ most creampuff-packed schedule in at least three decades.
ONLY IN L.A.
Their best trick yet. The skaters call it “Channel,” and it began as a DIY park tucked into a tiny corner of San Pedro, beneath a rumbling freeway overpass. As the skate park gained cult status, money, concrete and services were donated — and everyone knew about the unpermitted construction, including cops and politicians. It grew to include three brightly painted hand-smoothed bowls, running about half the length of a football field, with folk-art mosaics along the rim. A generation of young skaters grew up there, several good enough to turn pro. It was grass-roots urban revitalization.
But in 2014, luck ran out, and officials didn’t want to be liable for a renegade skate park. They shut it down. The park could have faded into memory, but Channel Street skaters entered the world of building codes, variances and City Hall politics. Said L.A. City Councilmember Joe Buscaino: “Never tell a skateboarder that something is impossible. They fall down a lot, and they always get back up.” Read: “How a group of rogue skaters got L.A. City Hall on their side.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Forty-three years ago today, on Aug. 30, 1979, Clayton Moore appeared in a Los Angeles court to fight for his right to wear the mask of the Lone Ranger. The actor — who appeared in 195 TV episodes of “The Lone Ranger” and made appearances and signed autographs as the character — was ordered by the court to stop wearing the mask or “claiming in any way to be the Lone Ranger.”
Moore was doing battle with Lone Ranger Television Inc., which was trying to promote a new feature and feared the public would get confused. It got personal. The company said Moore “no longer is an appropriate physical representative of the trim 19th century Western hero.” Moore begged to differ, giving his waist measurement as 34 inches. In a countersuit, the actor won the right to don the mask. When he died in 1999, he left three masks. One was with his daughter, another with a private collector, the third with the Smithsonian.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Amy Hubbard contributed to this report.
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