LOS ANGELES TIMES: Today’s Headlines 5.20.2021: The benefits of youth (and age)

Today’s Headlines
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President Biden’s plan for a near-universal child tax credit faces high logistical hurdles.


The Benefits of Youth (and Age)

This summer, nearly 40 million American families with children will start seeing money show up in their bank accounts — part of the Biden administration’s plan for a near-universal child tax credit that promises to cut poverty for kids nearly in half. Accomplishing that will mean getting millions of low-income parents to start filing tax returns, as well as shifting the IRS’ focus from collecting money to distributing it.

The task is a huge logistical hurdle and a major cultural shift, and one of President Biden’s most ambitious domestic initiatives depends on executing it. Hovering in the background — keenly remembered by many administration officials — is the failed launch of the Obamacare website in 2013.

But Biden may be aided by an unlikely asset that President Obama did not share: his longevity. Mellowed by age and his half a century in politics, he has modeled an elder’s calm that fits the moment, and he’s shown a focus, verbal discipline and self-assured boldness in his policy pronouncements that contrast with his intensity, gaffes and political moderation in past decades, to the surprise of even longtime associates.

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— The House voted to approve a bill aimed at addressing hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, responding to a massive uptick in attacks against Asian Americans since the pandemic began.

— Biden’s infrastructure plan aims to reduce exclusionary zoning rules that keep people of color out of many neighborhoods. But are there enough sticks to go with all those carrots — and will the suburbs buy in?

— Senate Republicans are signaling that they will try to block — or at least slow down — a Democratic effort to create a 9/11-style commission on the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, threatening the chances of a deeper, independent look at the siege and how it could be prevented from happening again.

— The New York attorney general’s office said that it is conducting a criminal investigation into former President Trump’s business empire, expanding what had previously been a civil probe.

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An Endgame in the Israel-Hamas Conflict?

The Gaza Strip is once again a blood-soaked battleground, with Israel and the militant group Hamas engaging in their fourth round of warfare since 2008. Now the talk has turned to the conflict’s possible endgame.

On Tuesday, turning aside growing international calls for a cease-fire — including a flurry of reports that Biden, in a Monday call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, encouraged the Israeli leader to wind down the bombardment — Israel’s military declared it would press ahead, and Hamas fired more rockets into Israel, killing two Thai agricultural workers.

Amid deepening suffering in Gaza, the United Nations said that more than 50,000 Palestinians had fled bombardment and that nearly 450 buildings in the territory had been destroyed or damaged. By day’s end, Gaza’s Health Ministry put the number of dead in nine days of fighting at 217 — 63 of them children.

At the same time, Netanyahu appeared to be trying to set the stage for a possible halt to hostilities, saying that Israel’s enemies had learned a painful lesson after enduring more than a week of punishing airstrikes on the impoverished coastal enclave.

California’s Rebound

California hit a reassuring milestone this week as coronavirus-related deaths and new cases plummeted to dramatic lows: the lowest average number of daily COVID-19 deaths in more than 13 months, according to a Times analysis. And with a full reopening of the state’s economy less than a month away, a new poll finds most Californians support letting workplaces and other venues require proof of COVID-19 vaccination — despite a big partisan split over so-called vaccine passports.

In Los Angeles County, there’s still a significant racial gap in vaccination numbers that officials call “very disturbing”: Only 37% of Black residents and 41% of Latino people ages 12 and older have received a dose, compared with 60% of white people. They say the county must ensure vaccinations are far more accessible to Black and Latino Angelenos to reach herd immunity and end the pandemic.

Its public schools, whose students are overwhelmingly Black and Latino, are getting creative in an effort to do so. The L.A. Unified School District is poised to launch a sweeping effort to immunize about 300,000 students at 250 campuses, a vital tactic to draw students back to badly needed in-person schooling. They need incentives, prizes, contests, cash grants and the occasional mule.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

Orange County moved into the yellow tier, the most lenient for COVID-19 reopenings.

— The El Rancho Unified School District serving Pico Rivera has not reopened. The trauma and loss from COVID-19 was just too great.

Tensions Rise in a Red County

Known as the “second-sunniest city in the U.S.,” Redding in Northern California now feels to some like a tinderbox. Shasta County residents are divided over the health risks posed by the pandemic, government’s power and the degree to which armed citizenry should take matters into their own hands.

Speakers at county supervisors’ meetings have repeatedly threatened violence, militia members have attended racial justice rallies carrying concealed weapons and opponents of the far right say they are increasingly afraid to speak out, fearing retribution.

An altercation between a high-profile militia member and a Black Lives Matter activist in Redding has become a flashpoint.


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Pop star Grace Jones was running hours late to shoot a commercial for Honda motor scooters, and the ad agency reps were nervous. “Millions were riding on this campaign to erase the old notion that these shiny new scooters were just for nerds,” music critic Robert Hilburn reported in the May 19, 1985, Los Angeles Times.

He continued: “Four hours after the shoot was to have begun, Jones swept into the room, wearing a black leather jacket (no blouse) and matching pants. Sitting atop a bright red scooter, she rehearsed her lines a couple of times, then read them for the camera.”

“The takes went marvelously and the crew, ad men and agency reps burst into applause….”

Here’s a version of the Honda ad on YouTube, and here are more photos of Jones from The Times’ archives.

1985: Grace Jones poses during a break in the shooting of a Honda motor scooter commercial. (Larry Davis / Los Angeles Times)


— As another wildfire season looms over California, the U.S. Forest Service is running short of the most experienced and elite firefighters in the country: the forestry crews known as hotshots.

— In some areas of California it’s so dry that farmers aren’t even bothering to plant crops this season.

— The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant on the Central Coast is powering down in three years. But what will replace it?

— After being delayed for more than a year because of the coronavirus, Robert Durst’s murder trial opened again with details of a friend’s killing.

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— A North Carolina prosecutor said sheriff’s deputies were justified in fatally shooting Andrew Brown Jr. because he struck a deputy with his car and nearly ran him over while ignoring commands to show his hands and get out of the vehicle. Brown’s family released a statement calling the decision “both an insult and a slap in the face.”

Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for governor of New York, potentially setting up a battle with incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

— A new study says sea level rise triggered by climate change increased the financial toll of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy by $8 billion.

— Americans should start getting screened for colon cancer earlier, starting at age 45 instead of 50, according to new guidance.


Kathryn Hahn describes her approach to her “WandaVision” character, a villainous witch masquerading as a nosy neighbor — from the wire work to the theme song to the mishegoss.

Netflix is diving deeper into podcasts, taking pitches from outside producers and looking to hire an executive to lead its audio push, sources told The Times.

— How do you keep all your streaming services straight? With an app, of course.

Charles Grodin, the activist, author and actor who made grouchiness cool, has died at 86.


— With its unceremonious WarnerMedia spinoff, AT&T is finally getting its comeuppance, writes columnist Michael Hiltzik. But for customers, it’s also making late fees more likely, says columnist David Lazarus.

— The publisher of Richard Montañez’s upcoming memoir, “Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise From Janitor to Top Executive,” is moving ahead with the book after a Times investigation found Montañez was not involved in the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.


— The Angels announced star center fielder Mike Trout is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a right calf strain. The team lost on Tuesday night to Cleveland, despite Shohei Ohtani hitting his 14th home run.

— The Clippers will open their first-round NBA playoff series against Dallas on Saturday at home; the Lakers, who first must qualify through the play-in tournament, would be on the road Sunday.

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— House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s opposition to a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission is a new low, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— It borders on madness that the Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin in less than 10 weeks amid a pandemic, writes columnist Dylan Hernández. Canceling them might be catastrophic, but the alternative would be worse, he says.


Free fares? Big cities are exploring options to make commuting by bus and train more attractive. (Washington Post)

— Scientists have identified a rare quasicrystal in remnants of the world’s first nuclear bomb test. (Scientific American)


In a city as riven by rugged hills as our own, the funicular railway made a certain sense, columnist Patt Morrison writes. But if the concept weren’t quixotic, its manifestations here often were. Angels Flight survived, sure, but not its more pedestrian downtown neighbor Court Flight, designed to ferry judges and janitors alike to the courthouse. Neither did the more ambitious and far more scenic Mount Lowe Railway, which whisked riders to the top of Echo Mountain in a three-stage, seven-mile trip but which never quite made it to its namesake destination. Its mastermind, Thaddeus Lowe, may have flown a little too close to the sun. Read on for more about L.A.’s funicular railways of yore.

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