Hello, it’s Friday, Dec. 16, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:
California drastically cut rooftop solar incentives
California has sharply reduced incentive payments for rooftop solar power, taking a sledgehammer to a program that helped 1.5 million homes and businesses put solar panels on their roofs.
Appointees to the Public Utilities Commission said the approved revamped incentive program would encourage more people to install batteries that can bank clean power for California’s hot summer evenings when the state has found itself short on power.
Homes and businesses that already have solar won’t see their payments decrease. The decision affects only the rates paid for solar power by the state’s three big monopoly utility companies: Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric.
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- A large majority of Americans say that immigration benefits the country and the U.S. should continue to give asylum to people fleeing persecution.
- The House Jan. 6 select committee announced that its final hearing will be Monday at 10 a.m. Pacific.
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Los Angeles, Long Beach ports battle East Coast rivals
The cargo ship backup that began early in 2020 is gone now, but big problems remain for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and by extension, the tens of thousands of Southern California workers whose jobs are dependent on the twin harbors and the international trade that flows through them.
That’s because U.S. retailers and manufacturers — hurt by the logjam and worried about a potential dockworkers strike — figured out workarounds that sent their cargo containers to ports on the East and Gulf coasts, which have been investing heavily for years to grab shipping business away from Southern California.
The lost freight represents a serious blow to the Southern California economy if that business doesn’t return. And experts say some is gone forever.
L.A. confirms the end of COVID anti-eviction rules
Landlords in Los Angeles can resume evicting tenants for unpaid rent and other reasons come Feb. 1, the City Council confirmed in a vote last week.
The decision will end some of the longest-lasting tenant protections in the nation, first passed in March 2020 as part of the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, landlords have not been allowed to evict their tenants for most reasons, including if the owners wanted to move into their own homes.
More top coronavirus headlines
Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.
Twitter suspends accounts of several journalists
Several journalists who covered Elon Musk were suspended from Twitter days after an account tracking the whereabouts of Musk’s private jet was also banned from the platform.
Among those whose accounts were suspended are Ryan Mac from the New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan from CNN, Matt Binder from Mashable, Drew Harwell from the Washington Post, political pundit Keith Olbermann and Steve Herman from the government-funded Voice of America.
A 32-hour workweek with 40-hour pay?
As disruptions to standard workplace practices caused by the pandemic continue to ripple through the economy, some companies are adopting 32-hour workweeks at formerly 40-hour pay that effectively make every Friday a paid holiday.
A four-day workweek at five-day pay sounds exotic, because so far it is. Few companies have formally adopted the practice, but it’s on the menu for some as employers cast about for ways to set up hybrid work schedules that will appeal to pandemic-weary workers they want back in the office or, at least, fully engaged in their jobs.
Many white-collar companies are already partaking in what look like four-day weeks, even if bosses are expecting workers to put in 40 hours of work at times of their choosing.
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Orange County serial killer Franc Cano gets life in prison after guilty pleas. Cano’s guilty pleas to four counts of rape and murder — which brings an automatic prison sentence of life without parole — eliminates the need for his long-delayed trial. It appears to close a case that had languished while victims’ families begged for action.
L.A.’s rich are already scheming ways to avoid new “mansion tax.” Just weeks after Los Angeles voters backed a new measure that puts a one-time transfer tax on property sales above $5 million to generate money for affordable housing and homelessness prevention, the city’s affluent homeowners are exploring potential ways of avoiding the tax.
Low on water, but high on celebrity, Las Virgenes seeks wastewater purification facility. A region on the western edge of Los Angeles County has cleared a major hurdle for the construction of a water purification facility that officials say will help reduce local dependence on supplies imported from Northern California.
Pandemic eviction protections and direct payments kept homelessness in check, study shows. The study released Wednesday by the Economic Roundtable estimated that homelessness in Los Angeles County increased 13% from 2020 to 2022 — a higher figure than the official count — but that it would have climbed to 23% without the interventions.
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How Amazon put Ukraine’s “government in a box.” Since February, Amazon has been delivering planeloads of goods, including blankets, hygiene kits and diapers, for the war-torn nation and refugees. But what’s more important than the gifts coming in is what’s going out: massive amounts of Ukrainian government, tax, banking and property data vulnerable to destruction and abuse.
Once hailed, South Africa’s president fights for his political survival. Cyril Ramaphosa, 70, says he’s innocent of charges that he hid at least $580,000 in a sofa at his game ranch. He is accused of failing to register the money with authorities and, when it was stolen, failing to report the theft to police, in order to avoid questions about how he came by the U.S. cash.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
Chelsea Handler wants to return to late night, and isn’t scared of being canceled. The devil works hard, but the comedian works harder. The Times caught up with Handler to discuss her many creative projects in the works, comedy’s relationship with cancel culture and keeping busy during the pandemic.
Netflix’s “Harry & Meghan” saves the fireworks for last. The concluding three episodes of “Harry & Meghan” open with the couple’s wedding and lead us through the toll that life in the royal spotlight took on their relationship — which ultimately prompted the decision to step away from their royal duties, and opened up familial rifts with the Windsors.
Meet Joshua Henry, the hunky Gaston of ABC’s “Beauty and the Beast” special. It’s genuinely rare for a male actor this — strapping — to take center stage as Henry does, singing, dancing and landing punchlines. But if you’ve arrived at this story after thirstily Googling “Who is that??” during Thursday’s telecast, know that the 38-year-old performer has built an impressive resume.
Most of the “Sister Wives” have left Kody Brown. What’s next for the TLC show? While the show is continuing, for now, three of the four women have left their polygamous unions with Kody, leaving him with one remaining wife, Robyn Brown, the only legal union among the family, which shares 18 children.
Surge in remote working due to COVID fuels record employment for the disabled. After generations of being overlooked and sidelined in the job market, widespread acceptance of remote working and an overall labor shortage have opened up historic opportunities for some of the nation’s most skilled and underutilized workers. But will they be able to hold onto those gains?
Hate grows, L.A. politics go berserk and Gen Z saves democracy: Columnists dissect 2022. As 2022 takes its place in the book of memories, political columnist Mark Z. Barabak looks back on the year with California columnist Anita Chabria. The two even venture a few predictions about what 2023 might bring.
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Why does the World Cup third-place game exist? It’s all about the money. It’s one of the most pointless games in international sports, a match no one wants to play and one few remember once it’s over. But when Croatia and Morocco play the consolation final Saturday, broadcasters and sponsors will be making it worth FIFA’s while.
Billie Moore, Olympic and UCLA basketball coach who won championships, dies at 79. Surrounded in her final days at her Fullerton home by many of the players and coaches she inspired, memories shared as the mentor’s eyes brightened and she rattled off one-liners, Moore died Wednesday night from multiple myeloma.
Will L.A. embrace New York’s “transcendent” workout? Inside the heart-pounding Class. After 10 years in New York City’s Tribeca, the Class (the C is always capitalized) opened a Santa Monica location this year. Here’s what it’s like to attend this Goop-approved, music-driven experience that combines fitness, mindfulness and meditation that counts actors Naomi Watts and Emma Stone among its fans.
It’s time to update your winter bucket list. We have some ideas. The Times’ Christopher Reynolds says you need an adventure, or maybe 25 of them. This roster of California winter experiences includes skiing and boarding down mountains, building driftwood forts and slurping cool, fruity desert refreshments.
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Barbie’s Malibu real estate has changed a lot over the years. Mattel introduced a dream home for their iconic doll in 1962, updating it over the years as architectural and cultural trends changed. A new book chronicles the history behind these design choices, which go beyond Malibu for inspiration — there’s plenty of other only-in-California references, from Haight-Ashbury’s ‘70s bohemian townhomes to L.A.’s modern TikTok content houses. New York Times
Is a candle the world’s worst holiday gift? Giving candles as holiday gifts has long been on my naughty list. With so many unique scents and options to buy, this “lazy choice” can be a thoughtful present. Los Angeles Times
AI-generated fake faces have become a hallmark of online influence operations. The fakes have been used to push Russian and Chinese propaganda and harass activists on Facebook and Twitter. A study published earlier this year found AI-generated faces have become so convincing, people have just a 50% chance of guessing correctly whether a face is real or fake. NPR
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Apologies if this makes anyone feel old, but James Cameron’s “Titanic” premiered 25 years ago this week. The romance and disaster film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, tells the story of the 1912 catastrophe, which saw more than 1,500 of the 2,200-plus passengers dying when an iceberg sliced the ship open. Some industry insiders have credited it for raising the bar on film budgets.
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