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Whicker: When the circus left Chino Hills, Onyeka Okongwu held up the tent

Daily News - 1 ora 46 min fa

CHINO HILLS >> The team doesn’t get the cyber-traffic it once did.

Instead, it just clicks.

On Saturday, Onyeka Okongwu and Chino Hills will play for a Southern Section Division 1 championship.

In the following weeks they will likely go after a state championship. They won both last season, much to the surprise of those who only followed the Huskies as if they were Modern Family, as if LaVar Ball and Lonzo and LiAngelo and LaMelo had taken all the balls and gone home.

Instead Okongwu is finishing his fourth year as an All-American at a public high school. That makes him a 6-foot-9 national monument.

“Of course it’s my hometown school,” Okongwu said Tuesday, just before Chino Hills continued preparation for Saturday’s game at Cal Baptist against Santa Margarita. “My younger brother is on the team. My older brother played here. It’s the community I live in. I wasn’t going to leave.”

Okongwu has also signed up to play at USC next year, along with Santa Margarita’s Max Agbonkpolo and Rancho Christian’s Isaiah Mobley, whose club plays Sierra Canyon in the Open Division championship. “I visited there and it just felt like home,” Okongwu said.

His older brother Nnamdi was a forerunner of Chino Hills’ YouTube years. He led the Huskies to the CIF finals in 2014. On July 15 that year, Nnamdi fell off a skateboard and onto his head. He was airlifted to a hospital in Colton and passed away three days later. Chino Hills held a candlelight vigil in the football stadium.

So Onyeka takes comfort in familiarity. He likes normalcy, too.

He was a freshman in 2016 when the Balls blasted their way into the national cortex. Lonzo obviously had a 25-year-old game and 30-year-old brain, but LiAngelo piled up the points, and LaMelo was a hooping Michael Jackson, controlling a basketball that seemed as big as he was.

LaVar churned out the Big Baller merchandise and insisted that Chino Hills basketball was a family subsidiary. Huskies’ games became the place to be, if you could get in. They won 60 consecutive games and were undefeated in 2015-16.

Lured by the show, people would eventually notice the big kid in the lane, knocking would-be layups into the front rows, snatching the rebounds, helping the stars be stars. That was Okongwu, as a freshman. All of that promise has been kept.

“It’s hard to say what he’s done better this year,” said Dennis Latimore, the second-year coach, “because he’s so consistent. He shoots 70 percent from the field, 80 percent from the free-throw line. He scored 28 a game last year and 26 this year, because we’ve had other guys step up. Maybe you’d want him to be a more vocal leader, but that’s about it.”

Okongwu laughed when he was asked how quickly the four years have passed. Actually the first two years were on a different planet. Lonzo Ball’s national player of the year trophy gleams in the administration office. Otherwise, the Balls have left no trace.

Steve Baik and Stephan Gillings were nominally the coaches then. For them, all the winning was about as much fun as eczema. LaVar Ball squawked when Latimore got the job and predicted ruin for the Huskies. He also withdrew Melo, Okongwu’s classmate, who played professionally in Lithuania and is now at SPIRE Academy, in Geneva, Ohio, awaiting a butterfly’s chance at the pros.

Gelo was one of the Shanghai Three at UCLA, was suspended, and turned pro as well. His G League aspirations were unfulfilled. He recently talked of playing in London.

Okongwu says he talks to Melo occasionally, “mostly about social stuff, not basketball.” He talks to Lonzo “rarely” and Gelo “never.”

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“To be honest, I was just a freshman back then and all I wanted to do was play basketball,”  he said. “I didn’t care about the spotlight. When Coach (Latimore) came in, it was good for us because it was more like college basketball. Before, we just ran LaVar’s system.”

“They trapped, didn’t want to play defense, and shot 3s,” said Latimore, who played at Arizona and Notre Dame. “That works if you have superior talent, and Eli Scott (now at Loyola Marymount) is pulling down 20 rebounds a game. Otherwise you have to work harder, practice harder, be accountable, be careful with your language, even something like just being on time. Some guys struggled with that. Some didn’t want to be coached. It’s a work in progress.”

For now, Latimore still finds it useful to remind the guys that no one expected life without Ball.

“People expected we were going to fall down,” Okongwu said. “I don’t know why they did. I was still here.”

White House Panel Will Study Whether Climate Change Is a National Security Threat. It Includes a Climate Denialist.

NY Times - 2 ore 4 min fa
The Pentagon and federal intelligence agencies have said that climate change is a threat. Now, the White House is planning a panel to study whether or not that is true.

3 things to do at Southern California casinos this week (Feb. 22 – 28)

Daily News - 2 ore 6 min fa

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

Mr. 305 is coming to the 760.

Rapper Pitbull, known for hits such as as “Don’t Stop the Party,” “I Know You Want Me” and “International Love” will perform at the Indio Resort on Saturday, Feb. 23.

The Miami-born musician has had No. 1 hits in 15 different countries; his videos have been viewed on YouTube billions of times and he has sold 70 million singles.

8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Drive, Indio. $99-$129. 760-342-5000, fantasyspringsresort.com.

Harrah’s Resort Southern California 

If you’re in the mood for some Las Vegas-level magic tricks, Penn & Teller will make their way to Harrah’s Resort Southern California on Friday, Feb. 22.

The magicians have not only had long tenure at the the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, but also have been fixtures on TV, with their Showtime TV program, which ran from 2003 to 2010, garnering more than a dozen Emmy nominations.

8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, Harrah’s Resort Southern California, 777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center. $50-$367. 760-751-3100, harrahssocal.com.

Pala Casino, Spa & Resort

If raindrops keep falling on your head this winter, you can always go see the guy who wrote a song about that.

Burt Bacharach will return to Southern California with a performance at Pala on Feb. 23.

The prolific musician and composer has written such songs as  “What’s New Pussycat,” “What The World Needs Now Is Love” and of course “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”

7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Pala Casino, Spa & Resort, 11154 Highway 76, Pala. $65-$85. 877-946-7252, palacasino.com.

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Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation Into Trump’s War on the Inquiries Around Him

NY Times - 2 ore 36 min fa
A review by The Times found a continuous effort by President Trump to derail federal law enforcement and a public campaign to discredit the investigations on him.

Threatening U.S., Putin Promises Russians Both Missiles and Butter

NY Times - 2 ore 40 min fa
President Vladimir V. Putin, facing falling popularity, talked of huge social spending and updated weapons. He did not say how he would pay for it all.

Oscars 2019: Before you bet on the Academy Awards, you might want to read this

Daily News - 2 ore 55 min fa

Here are my expert Oscar predictions. And my “expert” advice is:

Don’t bet on anything this year!

At least not in the Best Picture race. Yes, it’s been hard to predict that winner since the academy expanded the nomination count and introduced a preferential balloting system for the category about 10 years ago. But other factors make this one the biggest free-for-all Best Picture race of the decade.

For one thing, all of the major Hollywood guilds have given their highest honors to different films this year, making even a front-runner that might lose impossible to intelligently lay odds on.

  • This image released by Universal Pictures shows Viggo Mortensen, left, and Mahershala Ali in a scene from “Green Book.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for best picture. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24, 2019. (Universal Pictures via AP)

  • This image released by Netflix shows Yalitza Aparicio, center, in a scene from the film “Roma,” by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for both best foreign language film and best picture. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Carlos Somonte/Netflix via AP)

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  • This image released by Focus Features shows Adam Driver, left, and John David Washington in a scene from “BlacKkKlansman.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for best picture. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24, 2019. (David Lee/Focus Features via AP)

  • This image released by Disney shows a scene from Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for best picture. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24, 2019. (Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios-Disney via AP)

  • This image released by Twentieth Century Fox shows Gwilym Lee, from left, Rami Malek and Joe Mazzello in a scene from “Bohemian Rhapsody.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for best picture. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24, 2019. (Alex Bailey/Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

  • This image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Glenn Close in a scene from “The Wife.” On Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, Close was nominated for a Golden Globe award for lead actress in a motion picture drama for her role in the film. The 76th Golden Globe Awards will be held on Sunday, Jan. 6. (Graeme Hunter/Sony Pictures Classics via AP)

  • This image released by Fox Searchlight Films shows Olivia Colman in a scene from the film “The Favourite.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Colman was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Atsushi Nishijima/Fox Searchlight Films via AP)

  • This image released by Annapurna Pictures shows Regina King in a scene from “If Beale Street Could Talk.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, King was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures via AP)

  • This image released by Universal Pictures shows Mahershala Ali in a scene from “Green Book.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Ali was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Universal Pictures via AP)

  • This image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures shows Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in a scene from “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Grant was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Mary Cybulski/Fox Searchlight Pictures via AP)

  • “Vice,” featuring Christian Bale as Dick Cheney, left, and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, was nominated for an Oscar for best picture. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24, 2019. (Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures via AP)

  • This image released by Focus Features shows Topher Grace, left, and Adam Driver, right, in a scene from “BlacKkKlansman.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Driver was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (David Lee/Focus Features via AP)

  • This image released by Sony Pictures Animations shows a scene from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Sony Pictures Animation via AP)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. shows Lady Gaga in a scene from the latest reboot of the film, “A Star is Born.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Lady Gaga was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. via AP)

  • This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Rachel Weisz in a scene from “The Favourite.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Weisz was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Yorgos Lanthimos/Fox Searchlight via AP)

  • This image released by Annapurna Pictures shows Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush in a scene from “Vice.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Rockwell was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures via AP)

  • This image released by Annapurna Pictures shows Amy Adams in a scene from “Vice.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Adams was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures via AP)

  • This image released by Annapurna shows director Adam McKay, from left, Christian Bale, producer Kevin Messick and cinematographer Greig Fraser on the set of “Vice.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, McKay was nominated for an Oscar for best director for his work on the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures via AP)

  • This image released by Amazon Studios shows Joanna Kulig in a scene from “Cold War.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Amazon Studios via AP)

  • This image released by Fox Searchlight Films shows Olivia Colman in a scene from the film “The Favourite.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the film was nominated for an Oscar for best picture. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24, 2019. (Atsushi Nishijima/Fox Searchlight Films via AP)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. shows Bradley Cooper in a scene from the latest reboot of the film, “A Star is Born.” On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Cooper was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for his role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros. via AP)

  • This image released by Netflix shows Yalitza Aparicio in a scene from the film “Roma,” by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Aparicio was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (Alfonso Cuarón/Netflix via AP)

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That stipulated, of the eight Best Picture Oscar nominees from 2018, “Roma” and “Green Book” are probably the most likely. But they’ve both got what competition handicappers might call problems.

Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white Mexican movie is by far the most critically acclaimed art film of last year – but it’s an arty, black-and-white production in a foreign language, and nothing that foreign has ever won the top Oscar before (though “The Artist,” a French production shot in L.A., was a mostly silent film with a little bit of English dialogue). On top of that, Roma’s a Netflix release, which means it’s not only enjoyed an outrageously expensive awards campaign leading up to and following its co-leading 10 nominations, but that it has to overcome any “theatrical movies only” prejudices academy voters may still harbor against the game-changing streaming service.

As for “Green Book,” though audiences that go tend to adore this story of overcoming personal and institutional racism in the early 1960s, critics find it weak and socially conscious folks wonder why a film about an essentially African-American thing (the actual Green Book was a guide to safe accommodations for motorists of color in the Jim Crow South) is told from a predominantly white perspective. In addition, director Peter Farrelly was not nominated in his category, and it’s rare for a film to win Best Picture without a directing nod – though not impossible, as the similarly complained-about interracial friendship story “Driving Miss Daisy” was the last to pull off that trick 29 years ago.

Other possible contenders for the 91st Academy Awards’ top prize are “The Favourite,” which tied “Roma” for most overall nominations, and two films about black subjects actually made by African-Americans, Ryan Coogler’s record-breaking superhero box-office hit “Black Panther” and Spike Lee’s first ever Picture and Director nominee “BlacKkKlansman.” Heck, even the music movies “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born” are obviously loved by enough people to make them Best Picture upset possibilities.

If “Vice” hadn’t been about Dick Cheney, we could make an argument that it’s actually an eight-way race this year.

Anyway, I’ll guess “Roma,” but you’ve been warned so don’t blame me if you lose your office pool.

The acting categories seem like the surest bets. Lead Actor should be “Bohemian’s” Rami Malek, Lead Actress Glenn Close for “The Wife,” “Green Book’s” Mahershala Ali for Supporting Actor and Regina King from “If Beale Street Could Talk” for Supporting Actress. Only King looks the least bit shaky at this point, since she wasn’t nominated for some earlier industry awards, but I think she’ll pull through on Sunday.

The craft categories – and hey, they’re going to show all those winners live on ABC’s broadcast after all! – aren’t quite as tough to call as the Best Picture race, but from where I sit most of them could go two or three ways.

All of which, let’s be honest, is good. While every nominee may not be what you’d call worthy – and inevitably some of the year’s best artists get completely overlooked, Ethan Hawke – most of the current contenders have done excellent work, and that’s ultimately what matters more than who gets a prize.

But we watch the Oscars for the suspense of who’s going to win, right? This year’s Best Picture race, especially, has an extra dimension to the standard, envelope-opening intrigue. Its outcome will tell us a lot about whether the recent influx of foreign, female, younger and ethnically diverse members, in response to the #OscarsSoWhite criticisms of several years ago, have really changed the academy’s voting population’s overall sensibility.

It’s not just racial sensitivity that’s at play in the contest which pits “Roma,” “Panther” and “BlacKkKlansman” against “Green Book.” There’s also a tension between artistry and what Hollywood – which, after all, the Oscars represent – is more geared toward: entertainment. You could say those first three films, along with “Favourite” and “Vice,” are relatively uncompromising works bent on taking provocative chances, with “Panther’s” massive popularity a delightful icing on that eaten cake. “Green Book,” “Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born,” on the other hand, represent the please-’em-first approach (simplifying and smoothing out gnarly, potentially upsetting story elements, rehashing tried-and-true formulas, your favorite hit tunes! et cetera) that Oscar traditionally favors.

Who and what wins Sunday will indicate whether or not the academy voters approve of venturing into the uncertain new or favor falling back on the dubious comforts of what’s worked before.

Anyone want to give odds on that?

 

Best Picture

Prediction: Roma

Preference: Roma

 

Lead Actor

Prediction: Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)

Preference: Christian Bale (“Vice”)

 

Lead Actress

Prediction: Glenn Close (“The Wife”)

Preference: Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”)

 

Supporting Actor

Prediction: Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)

Preference: Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman”)

 

Supporting Actress

Prediction: Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)

Preference: Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)

 

Animated Feature

Prediction: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Preference: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

 

Cinematography

Prediction: “Roma”

Preference: “Cold War”

 

Costume Design

Prediction: “Black Panther”

Preference: “Black Panther”

 

Directing

Prediction: Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)

Preference: Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)

 

Documentary Feature

Prediction: “Free Solo”

Preference: “Free Solo”

 

Film Editing

Prediction: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Preference: “Vice”

 

Foreign Language Film

Prediction: “Roma”

Preference: “Roma”

 

Makeup and Hairstyling

Prediction: “Vice”

Preference: “Border”

 

Original Score

Prediction: “Black Panther”

Preference: “If Beale Street Could Talk”

 

Original Song

Prediction: “Shallow” (“A Star Is Born”)

Preference: “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”)

 

Production Design

Prediction: “The Favourite”

Preference: “Black Panther”

 

Sound Editing

Prediction: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Preference: “First Man”

 

Sound Mixing

Prediction: “A Star Is Born”

Preference: “First Man”

 

Visual Effects

Prediction: “Avengers: Infinity War”

Preference: “Ready Player One”

 

Adapted Screenplay

Prediction: “BlacKkKlansman”

Preference: “If Beale Street Could Talk”

 

Original Screenplay

Prediction: “Green Book”

Preference: “The Favourite”

 

Animated Short

Prediction: “Bao”

Preference: none

 

Documentary Short

Prediction: “Period. End of Sentence.”

Preference: “A Night at the Garden”

 

Live-Action Short

Prediction: “Marguerite”

Preference: none

Supreme Court Puts Limits on Police Power to Seize Private Property

NY Times - 2 ore 57 min fa
Civil forfeiture laws, a popular way to raise revenue, have been the subject of criticism across the political spectrum.

She Fought for Stronger Sexual Abuse Laws. Her Son Was the Reason.

NY Times - 3 ore 24 min fa
For years, Margaret Markey, a former assemblywoman, pushed for the Child Victims Act, which recently passed. She was driven by her son’s own incident of abuse.

Trump Escalates Attacks on The New York Times, Calling It a ‘True Enemy of the People’

NY Times - 3 ore 29 min fa
President Trump does not cite a specific article in his Twitter post, but it comes a day after a Times report describing his attempts to undermine investigations around him.

Border wall, bullet train: California vs. Trump escalates

Daily News - 3 ore 38 min fa

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE | Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Disputes over President Donald Trump’s border wall and California’s bullet train are intensifying the feud between the White House and the nation’s most populous state.

The Trump administration on Tuesday said it plans to cancel or claw back $3.5 billion in federal dollars allocated to California’s high-speed rail project, a move Gov. Gavin Newsom called “political retribution” for the state’s lawsuit against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency. California led a 16-state coalition in filing the suit Monday, challenging Trump’s power to declare an emergency to earn more money to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s no coincidence that the Administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the President’s farcical ‘national emergency,’” Newsom said in a statement. “This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by.”

  • FILE – In this March 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters as he reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego. Disputes over Trump’s border wall and California’s bullet train have become mixed together as the feud between the White House and the nation’s most populous state intensifies. The Trump administration said on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, it plans to cancel or claw back $3.5 billion in federal dollars allocated to California’s high-speed rail project. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

  • This Feb. 26, 2015, photo shows a full-scale mock-up of a high-speed train, displayed at the Capitol in Sacramento. The Trump administration plans to cancel $929 million in U.S. money for California’s beleaguered high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion it’s already spent. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

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  • Lenny Mendonca, right, was elected chairman of The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors, during a board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • Dan Richard, center, the out going chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board of directors, receives, applause from board members Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif. Lenny Mendonca, far right, was elected to replace Richard. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

  • FILE – This Dec. 6, 2017, file photo shows one of the elevated sections of the high-speed rail under construction in Fresno, Calif. During his first State of the State speech last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that he is committed to finishing the Central Valley portion of the bullet train. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)

  • FILE – This Dec. 6, 2017, file photo shows one of the elevated sections of the high-speed rail under construction in Fresno, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

  • FILE – In this Feb. 26, 2015, file photo, a full-scale mock-up of a high-speed train is displayed at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

  • FILE – In this Feb. 12, 2019, file photo, Calif., Gov. Gavin Newsom receives applause after delivering his first State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Newsom declared in his first State of the State address last week that he planned to scale back California’s high-speed rail project and focus immediately on building 171 miles of track in central California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

  • FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump talks with then Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, left, and as California Gov. Jerry Brown listens during a visit to a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires in Paradise, Calif. California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the Trump administration is engaging in “political retribution” by trying to take back $3.5 billion granted for the state’s high-speed rail project. The Democratic governor says President Donald Trump is reacting to California suing over Trump’s emergency declaration to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

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It’s the latest spat between Trump and California, which has styled itself as the Democratic-led “resistance” to the administration. Newsom, less than two months into his tenure, has appeared more eager to hit back at Trump than former California Gov. Jerry Brown. The lawsuit is California’s 46th against the Trump administration.

Using a broad interpretation of his executive powers, Trump declared an emergency last week to obtain wall funding beyond the $1.4 billion Congress approved for border security. The move allows the president to bypass Congress to use money from the Pentagon and other budgets.

Trump’s use of the emergency declaration has drawn bipartisan criticism and faces a number of legal challenges.

Still the president has told reporters he expects to prevail.

“I think in the end we’re going to be very successful with the lawsuit,” Trump told reporters, calling it an “open and closed” case.

Trump had earlier singled out California for its lead role in the suit, seeking to link the state’s high-speed rail project to his plan for the wall.

On Twitter, Trump claimed the “failed Fast Train project” was beset by “world record setting” cost overruns and had become “hundreds of times more expensive than the desperately needed Wall!”

The estimated cost for a San Francisco-to-Los Angeles train has more than doubled to $77 billion. That’s about 13 times the $5.7 billion Trump sought unsuccessfully from Congress to build the wall.

Hours later, the U.S. Department of Transportation told California it planned to cancel nearly $1 billion in federal money allocated to the rail project and wanted the state to return $2.5 billion it had already spent.

Trump’s comments about a “failed” project followed Newsom’s comments last week that the current plan for an LA-San Francisco train would cost too much and take too long. Instead, he said he’d focus immediately on a line through the Central Valley while still doing environmental work on the full line. That work is a requirement for keeping the federal money.

Still, the U.S. Department of Transportation said Newsom’s remarks reinforced concerns about the project’s ability to deliver. The department wrote Newsom’s comments mark a “significant retreat from the State’s initial vision and commitment and frustrated the purpose for which the Federal funding was awarded.”

California Republicans who have long called the project a waste of money applauded the Trump administration’s move to take back the money.

“It is time to move on from the broken high-speed rail project and redirect our efforts to infrastructure projects that work for Californians,” said U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, a city on the train’s route.

But Newsom said the state intends to keep the money. Losing it would be a major blow to the chronically underfunded project.

“This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it,” he said.

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The agreement with the federal government allows the administration to withhold or take back the money if the state fails to make “adequate progress” or “complete the project or one of its tasks.”

If the federal government decides to take the money back, it doesn’t have to wait for California to write a check. Instead it could withhold money from other transportation projects.

Tuesday’s comments won’t be the last; the administration has given California until March 5 to formally respond.

Associated Press writer Catherine Lucey in Washington contributed to this report.

Is the Future of ISIS Female?

NY Times - 3 ore 43 min fa
Women are playing an increasingly important role in the insurgency — and security forces are not prepared.

Kikkan Randall’s Year: Olympic Glory Followed by Chemotherapy

NY Times - 3 ore 49 min fa
A year ago, she won the first American gold medal in cross-country skiing. Then she found out she had breast cancer.

Bicyclist killed in Wilshire Boulevard hit-and-run

Daily News - 4 ore 11 min fa

LOS ANGELES — A bicyclist was killed early Wednesday in a hit-and-run crash involving at least two vehicles in Koreatown.

Officers responded about 3:30 a.m. to the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Catalina Street, where they located the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Officer L. Lomeli of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Authorities withheld the name of the fatally injured man, who was in his 30s, pending notification of his relatives.

Police believe a vehicle hit the bicyclist and kept going, and another vehicle then hit the bicyclist and stopped at the scene, where authorities interviewed the motorist.

No description was released of the hit-and-run vehicle. Police were working to determine if any security video was available to help in the investigation.

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Frumpy Middle-aged Mom: Forest Lawn wants to buy me lunch, but I said no thanks

Daily News - 4 ore 22 min fa

So, I got a postcard from Forest Lawn the other day in my mailbox inviting me to a free lunch to talk about my funeral.

Now, if you know me, you’re aware this is completely ridiculous, because I’m actually only 17 years old and, furthermore, I never intend to die.

And, even if I were to someday shuffle off this mortal coil, I wouldn’t want to talk about it over a lunch sponsored by a cemetery company. Now, let me say that I love Forest Lawn. I used to go to the original one in Glendale, just because I thought it was so ridiculous and kitschy that a graveyard should have replicas of famous art around the world.

If you can’t get to Europe, not to worry. Because all you have to do is drive to one of Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks, and you can see its art there. For free. Can’t get to Italy? Not to worry. You can see a replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper in Glendale. The various parks in this chain have hundreds of statues and art objects everywhere.

Forest Lawn was the first cemetery to ban any depictions of death on its grounds. Because you’re not supposed to think about death while you’re there, you’re supposed to think about life. Or your tax refund. Or whether your kid will ever get a job. Or anything else, just not death, because why would that subject come up in a graveyard?

I’m pretty sure the folks at Forest Lawn don’t want me calling it a graveyard, either. They call it a “memorial park” in case you’d go and accidentally forget dead people were buried there.

I love graveyards and make a habit of visiting interesting ones when I travel. Forest Lawn is actually a tourist attraction in its own right, visited by scads of people every year. Author Evelyn Waugh was so fascinated with it when he came over from England that he used to have his driver take him there every day, instead of to the studio where he was supposed to be discussing turning his book, “Brideshead Revisited” into a movie. He ended up writing a book about the place, fictionalized as Whispering Glades, entitled “The Loved One” that was later made into a movie.

Another former Brit, Aldous Huxley,  wrote a black comedy entitled “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan” that included a fictional place he called “Beverly Pantheon: The Personality Cemetery” that had a “full-scale reproduction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa — only this one didn’t lean.”

But, that’s not what I came to talk to you about. I am here to talk about the weird idea of going to lunch paid for by a cemetery to talk about my death. I’m not saying lots of people wouldn’t like to talk about my death. My kids, for example. They often sit around and ask me how I’m going to divide up my possessions after I’m gone.

Now, let me say that, as I mentioned, I’m only 17 years old and do not intend to die. But my young adult children insist on determining which items they will inherit someday though, if they keep eating In-N-Out burgers instead of real food, they might be the ones to go first.

“Mom, can I have your house when you die?” my son, Cheetah Boy, asks me occasionally. I keep explaining to him that he doesn’t want my house because it’s so heavily mortgaged that even I can’t afford it on my paltry journalist’s salary. He certainly can’t afford it at age 22.

Still, I might go to one of those lunches one of these days and look into “pre-need planning,” or whatever euphemism is used now for getting everything ready for your eventual demise. But, if you’re sending me a postcard, better include the menu on there first. If you’re offering a lunch with a lot of meat, you clearly want to kill me off early.

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Has Gavin Newsom become Governor Gaslight?

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“Gaslight” was a 1938 British play, set in the 1880s, about a man who manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane to suppress her suspicions about crimes he is committing.

Two years later, it became a British movie and in 1944 an American version, starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, was released. Two decades after that, “gaslighting” become the popular, and even scientific, term for attempts to manipulate others into believing something that isn’t true.

Contemporary politics seethe with such manipulative trickery and President Donald Trump may deserve the title of Gaslighter in Chief for constantly attempting – clumsily at best – to create an alternative reality to justify his positions.

When journalists point out Trump’s falsehoods, he typically reacts by denouncing them as “fake media” and even “enemies of the people,” and comes very close to inciting violence against reporters covering his public appearances.

That brings us to the newly minted governor of California, Democrat Gavin Newsom.

During his State of the State address to the Legislature this month, Newsom accurately excoriated Trump for creating a “manufactured crisis” on the U.S.-Mexico border to justify construction of a wall or something to deter undocumented immigrants. He declared that “California will not be a part of this political theater.”

Just a few paragraphs later, however, Newsom seemingly disowned the statewide bullet train system that his two predecessors, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, had championed.

Newsom praised their “ambitious vision,” but added, “Let’s be real. The project as currently planned would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A.”

Newsom went on to say he intended to complete the current section of high-speed track now being constructed in the San Joaquin Valley and even stretch it a little further to Merced and Bakersfield while continuing environmental studies on other portions.

Given those words, the natural conclusion in the media, including this column, was that Newsom was severely downgrading the project that seemed to have serious existential issues.

Those reports prompted Trump to crow, via Twitter: “California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars. They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!”

Trump’s depiction may be – surprisingly – accurate.  But his jab and, apparently, some backlash from project advocates enticed Newsom to then descend into gaslighting of his own, blaming the media for suggesting that he was virtually abandoning a statewide bullet train system.

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“I just think people in the media should pause before they run headlines and actually consider the facts and maybe even ask the person that’s stating things before they run with things,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s the deep lesson I learned in this.”

That earned Newsom a new nickname in a Sacramento Bee editorial: “Gov. Gaslight,” although the newspaper did attach a question mark to its sobriquet.

“Newsom and his staff sent exactly the message they intended,” the Bee declared. “Then, for whatever reason, it seems they got cold feet and decided to blame the media for reporting the governor’s words.”

Whether the nickname sticks – like the “Governor Moonbeam” moniker attached for decades to Jerry Brown – or fades depends on whether a thin-skinned Newsom continues to blame others when things go awry or owns up.

CALmatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary

Has Republican Resistance to Trump Collapsed?

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The ACA, the wall and how presidents try to spend money

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President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southern border, and his assertion that he can build a wall using roughly $8 billion appropriated by Congress for military construction and drug interdiction, and from forfeitures, drew thunderous outrage from congressional Democrats and, of course, another lawsuit from the state of California.

Some people may have forgotten about that other time the president asserted he could spend money appropriated by Congress for another purpose, and then was sued by the House of Representatives over it.

That president was Barack Obama, and the House at the time was led by Republicans. The eventual resolution of that lawsuit leaves room to question whether Trump may, in fact, be able to spend the funds on the wall. The House lawsuit related to the Affordable Care Act, not border security, but the question raised was very similar: If Congress specifically refuses to spend money on something, can the president spend it anyway by using money that lawmakers appropriated for another purpose?

In the ACA, which was signed into law in 2010, there was a provision requiring the insurance companies to offer discounts on out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and co-payments, for low-income consumers who bought the mid-level “silver” plans on the health insurance exchanges. The law said the government would reimburse the insurance companies for this cost, which ended up being about $7 billion per year.

However, Congress chose not to appropriate the money to pay the insurance companies. Lawmakers appropriated money to pay for premium subsidies, but they never agreed to pay the insurance companies for offering the required “cost-sharing reductions.” Yet somehow, the payments to the insurance companies were made.

Congress asked questions. The White House refused to answer. Congress sent subpoenas. The White House ignored them.

It turned out that the Obama administration was taking money that had been appropriated for insurance premium subsidies and giving it to the insurance companies to cover the expense of the cost-sharing reductions.

In November 2014, the House of Representatives sued the White House for violating the Constitution, which gives the spending power to Congress. And in May 2016, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled the House was right.

But because the cost-sharing reduction payments affected about 7 million people, Collyer stayed her ruling while the Obama administration appealed.

That’s where it stood when Donald Trump was elected president. Rather than just dropping the appeal, Trump tried to use the funding for cost-sharing reductions as leverage in a wider negotiation over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but it didn’t work out and in October 2017 he canceled the payments to the insurance companies.

More than a dozen Democratic state attorneys general filed a lawsuit to stop that action, and in December 2017, an agreement was worked between the state AGs, the House of Representatives and the Trump administration to have the state AGs pursue a separate lawsuit in a California federal court.

In mid-2018, the two lawsuits over the cost-sharing reductions fizzled out. In May, the Obama administration’s appeal of Collyer’s ruling was dismissed, leaving the House victorious. Does that mean Trump will lose the lawsuit over spending money on the border wall despite the refusal of Congress to appropriate the funds for it?

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Not necessarily. Since neither of the previous lawsuits reached the Supreme Court, it’s possible that we haven’t had the final word on this. Also, there’s a distinction between the spending by the two presidents. Obama paid the insurance companies by drawing on a permanent appropriation used to pay tax refunds (which included insurance premium subsidies paid out as tax credits). The spending envisioned by Trump is limited to funds already appropriated by Congress. It could be argued that Congress has given the administration, any administration, some discretion over how to spend funds appropriated for military construction and related purposes.

This we know: As the lawsuit over emergency border-wall funding winds its way through the courts, it will be a high-visibility campaign issue that both sides will delight in using for political advantage. Sometimes walls work for everybody.

Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

Bernie Sanders Raises $6 Million After Announcing Presidential Bid

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