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Hello, it’s Friday, Feb. 11, and if you are like us, you’re getting excited for Super Bowl Sunday because: the commercials.

The Times’ Nardine Saad writes about how advertising (unlike viewership) for the big game continues to climb. In an effort to reach audiences of nearly 100 million people, advertisers spent as much as $7 million for a spot on NBC’s telecast. Saad has a roundup of commercials to watch early, such as: Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson for Amazon’s Alexa and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek for BMW. We suggest, as a pregame warmup, watch them and decide: touchdown or fumble?

Regardless, here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today.

TOP STORIES

California vs. Ohio: Whose residents plan to be COVID-cautious come Sunday?

Compared with others in the U.S., many Californians are more worried about the Super Bowl’s possible COVID repercussions — and are taking measures to keep safer, an L.A. Times/SurveyMonkey poll has found. In the Golden State, 52% of residents said they planned to watch the Rams-Bengals showdown alone or with fewer people than normal, compared with 41% of people nationwide, and 32% in the Bengals’ home state of Ohio.

The finding highlights how California’s approach to the pandemic has diverged from much of the rest of the country, including some of the strictest protocols in the nation. It also indicates that the state’s measured approach has trickled down to many of its residents.

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L.A. County is on track to relax some outdoor mask rules as COVID hospitalizations drop

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized has dropped below 2,500. Should they remain under that threshold for seven consecutive days, health officials will lift face-covering requirements at outdoor “mega-events” — including those at the Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — and outdoor spaces at K-12 schools and childcare settings.

There were still increasing numbers of COVID-19 deaths. On Wednesday, both L.A. and Orange counties recorded their highest single-day tallies in 11 months. But case rates are continuing to fall.

More top coronavirus headlines

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

‘Freedom Convoys’ are on the move

Nearly two weeks after Canadian truckers began the blockades that shuttered portions of Ottawa, the country’s capital, the patchwork movement is expanding globally. “Freedom Convoys” have started to pop up across the globe. Experts warned that many cities could grind to a halt with blockades.

They also said the convoys, which have garnered glowing support from some GOP politicians and right-wing media, could become a harrowing echo of Jan. 6, 2021, when law enforcement proved woefully unprepared for mobs that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The Senate approved a bill to ban mandatory arbitration in cases of sexual harassment and assault

About 60 million workers have contracts that contain provisions requiring anyone alleging such abuse by bosses or co-workers to enter arbitration to resolve the claims. The new law will nullify those contract clauses.

Many may not even realize such clauses affect them. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson said she learned her contract contained such a clause only when she spoke up publicly about the harassment she said she endured from Roger Ailes, then the network’s chief executive. Carlson was a driving force behind the legislation.

More politics

  • A House committee is investigating whether former President Trump violated the Presidential Records Act, after boxes of presidential records were discovered at his Florida estate and a news report surfaced of him destroying documents while in office.
  • Criminal justice advocates want the Legislature to revive a failed bill to eliminate juvenile offenses from California’s “three strikes” law.
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    CALIFORNIA

    In late 2020, an Occidental College student sent a text message to a friend that read: “all asian people need to die.” She followed with another text saying Asians are “responsible for the pandemic so they need to die for that too.” A year later, in October or November, the friend reported the text exchange to Occidental officials and her sorority, setting off a controversy that has roiled the small liberal arts college in Eagle Rock, as students question what they see as a delayed and inadequate response from the administration.

    Brush fires cropped up amid unseasonable heat. Los Angeles County firefighters battled a brush fire that ignited amid hot, dry conditions in Whittier, destroying two homes. Meanwhile, in Laguna Beach, crews halted the progress of a brush fire that forced thousands of people to flee the Orange County coastal community and stoked fears that dangerous blazes could become more common in dry winter months.

    Orange County’s D.A. fired a senior prosecutor in the latest fallout from a jailhouse informant scandal. Ebrahim Baytieh, who was a senior assistant district attorney and is running to become an Orange County Superior Court judge, was fired after an independent investigation. The probe was sparked by a 2010 murder conviction that was overturned last year over allegations of withheld evidence.

    A new report tells what caused last summer’s massive sewage spill into Santa Monica Bay. An official report obtained by The Times found that multiple equipment failures, unheeded alarms and insufficient staffing at the city’s largest wastewater treatment facility were the likely causes of a “nearly catastrophic” flood that dumped millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the bay.

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    NATION-WORLD

    A prominent Myanmar filmmaker was arrested after a year on the run. Htun Zaw Win, whose professional name is Wyne, is accused of encouraging government workers to join protests. Myanmar’s ruling junta has targeted celebrities who have taken part in a civil disobedience movement since the military’s takeover of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, 2021.

    The Biden administration gave states the green light to begin building an electric-car-charging network. The plan would would place new or upgraded stations every 50 miles along interstate highways, part of the administration’s plan to spur widespread adoption of the zero-emission cars.

    In one month, a committee fielded 214 allegations of historical child sex abuse in Portugal’s Roman Catholic Church. The lay committee says the allegations tell of psychological torment kept secret for decades.

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    HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

    In 2022, video games appear to be the next big intellectual property arena for movie studios and streaming services. Tom Holland talks about his role as Nathan Drake in “Uncharted.” The original “Uncharted” is a game meant to be a movie you can play. Is something lost if a game becomes a movie you can … watch?

    Kimi answers your every request with a bright magenta light and a reassuring “I’m here.” Much of the pleasure of Steven Soderbergh’s HBO Max thriller “Kimi” — which involves an Alexa-style virtual assistant — comes from the way it repurposes an old-school genre template with up-to-the-minute materials. Times critic Justin Chang writes that Zoë Kravitz’s Angela makes an enormously likable protagonist.

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    BUSINESS

    U.S. inflation jumped 7.5% in the past year, a 40-year high. Inflation soared over the past year at its highest rate in four decades, hammering consumers, wiping out pay raises and reinforcing the Federal Reserve’s decision to begin raising borrowing rates across the economy.

    Six hours for a popcorn bucket? Disney fans are notoriously devoted fans, and their commitment extends to merchandise the company strategically doles out to spark brand buzz and bring in big revenue. Among recent merch: a purple plastic popcorn bucket in the shape of a dragon named Figment. The buckets sold for $25 for a limited time and were soon spotted for sale online for as much as $270.

    California is suing Tesla, alleging “pervasive” racism at the company’s Fremont factory. The state’s civil rights regulator said it was suing Tesla for racial discrimination after finding widespread harassment of Black workers at the electric-car maker’s factory near San Francisco.

    SPORTS

    The Bengals are going to have to find ways to double-team Cooper Kupp. Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor knew Kupp before most everyone else did, back in the receiver’s Eastern Washington days. The Times’ Jeff Miller — in Part 3 of his Super Bowl strategy series — says now Taylor must find an answer for Kupp to prevent him from turning Sunday’s game into the Super Cooper show. Good luck, Coach. More: Full coverage on the Super Bowl.

    The Clippers are trading Serge Ibaka in a four-team deal to acquire Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye. Los Angeles is trading the center, a former major free-agency signing whose tenure was marred by injury, to Milwaukee as part of an exchange that will net the Clippers wings Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye, a source tells The Times’ Andrew Greif.

    It’s Nathan Chen’s unshakable sense of purpose that propelled him to gold, writes Sports columnist Helene Elliott. Chen commanded the ice this week, becoming only the seventh American man to win an Olympic singles figure skating gold medal. He landed five quadruple jumps in his Elton John-themed free skate performance and defeated Yuma Kagiyama of Japan by a staggering 332.60 points to 310.05.

    A youthful U.S. men’s hockey team breezed past China. It took a while for the Americans to get started, but they found their rhythm and earned some valuable experience in an 8-0 victory in their first game in Beijing. More from the Olympics.

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    OPINION

    The GOP’s move to pull out of presidential debates fits in with an ongoing attack on truth. It’s worth reflecting on this irony that emerged from the recent Republican National Committee meeting: At the same time the GOP absurdly deemed the Jan. 6 insurrectionists “ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse,” it took a step toward shutting down actual legitimate political discourse by advancing a rule that could lead to the end of presidential debates, writes The Times’ editorial board.

    Odell Beckham Jr. never needed “redemption.” Media coverage of athletes behaving badly does attract eyeballs. And Black men behaving badly is a story line that America has been very good at selling, which might explain why OBJ is not interested in this new narrative that he has been redeemed, writes columnist LZ Granderson.

    YOUR WEEKEND

    Spaghetti, meatballs and bread in a takeout container atop a checkered tablecloth.

    The spaghetti from Eminem’s Mom’s Spaghetti pop-up.

    (Mom’s Spaghetti)

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    His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy — get your sweaters ready. Eminem brought his self-referential restaurant Mom’s Spaghetti to L.A. this week with a limited-time pop-up. You can lose yourself in spaghetti with hand-rolled beef meatballs ($14), spaghetti with vegan meatballs that are made with black beans and quinoa ($15), and the “s’ghetti” sandwich ($13). But Angelenos who’ve been hoping for one shot, one opportunity, to try it should hurry — it only runs through Sunday.

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    Why are so many people heading to California’s newest national park? Pinnacles National Park is a strange little realm of pointy peaks, rocky caves and soaring condors. It’s also set in a region tourists rarely see and yet lately its visitor numbers are booming as the pandemic nudges many Californians into new outdoor adventures. Is it worth the trip?

    WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

    Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

    It’s keen-ice tonight, the rocks are carrying. If you don’t understand that, you probably don’t speak Curlish. Times photographer Robert Gauthier combines lovely images and prose in a Column One on local curling, the sport that involves “men and women in funny-looking pants furiously sweeping in front of what looks like a giant teakettle sliding on ice. … Like Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, or Bemidji, Minn. — and, these days, Beijing — L.A. is now a hotspot for curling.” Los Angeles Times

    He cried during “E.T.” Wesley Morris went on to develop an “immense appreciation for professional tears.” Tom Cruise “muscles out his tears”; Julia Roberts’ crying is a “divine ripsnorter”; Viola Davis embodies “complete, sublingual devastation.” Morris looks beyond movies to feelings evoked by public criers and executives shedding tears. And he looks at the funerals missed, and the tears unshed, for those lost in the pandemic. New York Times

    The race to free Washington’s last orca in captivity is on the verge of a breakthrough. In 1970, crews extracted orca calves from a super pod in the waters off Whidbey Island. Onlookers heard the humanlike wailing of the animals in distress. Of the whales, shipped to marine parks on four continents, only one is still alive. An earnest group is working hard to return her home. Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, 52, may never “learn to feed herself again…. But she doesn’t have to be denied her native waters, or her family,” one proponent said. She might be able to communicate again with her mother, now thought to be in her 90s. Seattle Met

    FROM THE ARCHIVES

    Four young men in overcoats and ties wave and smile as they descend from an airplane.

    Feb. 7, 1964: The Beatles — Ringo Starr, left, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison — arrive at JFK Airport in New York for their first American tour.

    (Associated Press)

    Fifty-nine years ago today — in a marathon session — the Beatles recorded the bulk of their debut album, “Please Please Me,” at Abbey Road Studios in London. Tracks recorded in the Feb. 11, 1963, session included “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout,” which was the final track of the day. According to Beatles lore, John Lennon had a cold; it was feared if they tried to record the song any earlier in the session, he’d lose his voice. After hours of recording, a shirtless Lennon completed the throat-shredding vocal. And so began Beatlemania.

    Almost one year later, on Feb. 7, 1964, John, Paul, George and Ringo landed in New York for their first American tour. It included 32 shows in 26 venues in 24 cities in 33 days. More pics of young Beatles.

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