Today’s Headlines: Russian forces press on Ukraine as Zelensky prepares to speak with Congress

By Elvia Limón and Laura Blasey

Hello, it’s Wednesday, March 16, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

European leaders travel to Ukraine as attacks kill civilians

Russian forces pressed their assault on Ukraine’s capital as the leaders of three European nations — all members of NATO — traveled to the war-torn country in a unified show of support.

In Washington, the White House said President Biden would attend an emergency session of NATO next week in Brussels as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pushed his call for urgent military aid in a speech to the Canadian Parliament, a message he is likely to repeat today to the U.S. Congress.

In Kyiv, overnight blasts hit a high-rise apartment building in the capital’s western Sviatoshynskyi district, leaving four people dead and 35 injured. Shock waves from the shelling damaged a subway station just three miles from Zelensky’s office, bringing the war’s destruction close to the city center.

More on Ukraine

  • Zelensky will address the U.S. House and Senate this morning in a virtual session. Here are five major questions hanging over what could prove to be a historic address.
  • Pierre Zakrzewski, the camera operator who accompanied injured Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall in Ukraine, was killed by the incoming fire that struck their vehicle. Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, a consultant working with Hall and Zakrzewski, also died in the incident.
  • A journalist who held up an antiwar sign behind the anchorwoman of one of Russia’s most-watched news shows was released after her arrest.
  • In a rapidly growing wave, thousands of Ukrainian Jews have fled to Israel.

As drought deepens, Californians are saving less water

California will end winter in a perilous position as record-shattering dryness converges with lagging water conservation efforts in nearly every part of the state, officials said Tuesday.

After months of cutting back, new data from the State Water Resources Control Board show that rather than conserving water, Californians increased urban water use 2.6% in January, compared with the same month in 2020.

Conditions today are more extreme than even in the recent past. January and February, typically the heart of California’s wet season, were the driest ever recorded. Officials said more must be done to prevent worst-case drought scenarios, including increased restrictions and mandatory water cuts.

Gov. Gavin Newsom asks Disney to relocate jobs to California over Florida LGBTQ bill

In just a few short words on Twitter, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Walt Disney Co. to reconsider its plans to relocate 2,000 jobs from Southern California to a new campus in Florida. The tweet is in response to the fallout from Florida moving closer to cementing its “Parental Rights in Education” bill, often referred to by the LGBTQ community as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would limit instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro announced the move last summer and noted that Florida’s nonexistent income tax and low cost of living influenced the decision. Recently, LGBTQ employees with the House of Mouse expressed their hurt and anger in a statement over Disney’s lack of response to the bill.

More politics

  • A new survey by the Brennan Center for Justice found 1 in 6 election officials nationwide said they have been threatened, part of a dramatic rise in tensions fueled by former President Trump’s baseless attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting and the latest action in Sacramento.

Coronavirus cases are rising in Europe. Is it a warning for California?

Rising coronavirus cases in Europe are a potential warning sign that another pandemic wave is possible this spring in California and the U.S., experts say. The recent increases documented in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe are in contrast to the continued declines in California and the United States.

But conditions across the pond have routinely been a harbinger of things to come stateside, and experts say a close watch is warranted. Andy Slavitt, a former senior advisor to President Biden’s pandemic response team, has noted that based on trends in Europe, the U.S. could see a new rise in coronavirus cases this spring.

In California, health officials have repeatedly warned that potential new surges or the emergence of some new coronavirus variant would not be a surprise.

More top coronavirus headlines

  • An effort by Republican state lawmakers to end Newsom’s COVID-19 state of emergency was blocked in the Democratic-controlled California Legislature on Tuesday.
  • China’s new coronavirus cases Tuesday more than doubled from the previous day as the country faces its biggest outbreak by far since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Pfizer is expected to request authorization this week for an additional COVID-19 booster dose for seniors, according to a person familiar with the matter. It would add a fourth dose to the regimen.

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

Composting is a life changer for Californians fighting climate change

The pandemic that got some people knitting and others remodeling their homes drove others to plant vegetable gardens and to reconsider their relationship with food, including leftover fruits and vegetables.

They might feel powerless against global climate change, but at least they can keep onion skins and carrot peels out of the landfill, where they would turn into methane, a potent, heat-trapping gas.

And it’s not just affluent do-gooders with $300 designer compost bins who are popularizing the movement. From South L.A. to the San Fernando Valley, people are getting their hands dirty with mulch.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

Kyiv residents recover, pack and clean out their damaged homes in a residential building after what authorities said was a Russian bombardment in the Vynogradir district on Tuesday.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

An LAFD chief deputy was allegedly drunk during a major fire. An investigation by a private law firm cleared Chief Deputy Fred Mathis through a rationale that has outraged department insiders: The firm concluded Mathis “was technically off duty while he was likely intoxicated as he had put himself out sick” that day. He retired days later, receiving a roughly $1.4-million payout.

L.A. County empties a troubled juvenile hall ahead of a state board investigation. The L.A. County Probation Department hastily transferred more than 100 youths out of its long-troubled Central Juvenile Hall over the weekend, ahead of a planned inspection from state regulators who previously found the county’s juvenile halls “unsuitable” to care for juveniles.

A survey finds many L.A. Asian Americans fear racial attacks and oppose police funding cuts. The poll also found high political engagement, with 92% saying they were very or somewhat likely to vote in this year’s midterm elections. Asian Americans make up 11% of registered voters in L.A. County and 9% in the city of Los Angeles.

L.A. County gas prices have jumped 22% in the last three weeks. The average price for a gallon of regular-grade gas in the county rose from $4.79 on Feb. 23 to $5.83 as of Tuesday, according to the American Automobile Assn. Gas prices have begun to stabilize slightly in the last few days, however.

L.A. County will pay $3.8 million in the death of a man shocked with a Taser. In a memo recommending supervisors settle the case, county lawyers said that although the deputies claimed their actions were reasonable, the payout was needed because of “the high risks and uncertainties of litigation.”

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NATION-WORLD

Climate change is making pollen season nastier. As the world warms, allergy season will start weeks earlier and end many days later — and it’ll be worse while it lasts, with pollen levels that could as much as triple in some places, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications.

Germany moves to disarm far-right extremists and restrict gun access. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the far right poses the biggest extremist threat to democracy in Germany and said authorities would seek to tackle the issue through prevention and tough measures, such as removing gun licenses from suspected extremists and combating conspiracy theories online.

Police arrest a suspect in the deaths of homeless men in New York and Washington. A gunman has been stalking homeless men asleep on the streets, killing at least two people and wounding three others in the cities in less than two weeks.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

The powerful ‘Phoenix Rising’ shows how Evan Rachel Wood found the strength to speak out. In HBO’s two-part documentary, Wood recounts the alleged abuse she endured during her relationship with shock rocker Marilyn Manson.

Rising playwright Benjamin Benne combats former President Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric with ‘Alma.’ Set days after the 2016 presidential election, the poetic yet realistic dramedy peers inside the one-bedroom La Puente apartment of Alma, an undocumented immigrant who works hourly-wage jobs, and Angel, her American-born daughter who is expected to take the SAT the following morning.

Jussie Smollett’s family wants him out of jail during the appeals process because of threats. Smollett’s legal team wants the embattled actor to be released from the Cook County Jail in Illinois because he is facing threats while serving his 150-day sentence for orchestrating a hate crime against himself and lying to police about it.

BUSINESS

A worker objected to Google’s Israel military contract. She says the company retaliated. More than 500 Google workers have rallied behind a colleague who alleges she is being pushed out of her job because of her activism within the company, the latest flare-up between the tech giant and employees who speak out against its business practices and workplace conditions.

‘The One’ already has a winning bid, but its developer wants one last shot. Nile Niami’s Skyline Development announced it is looking for new investors to raise $250 million in a last-ditch bid to retain ownership of his magnum opus. On Friday, a Bankruptcy Court judge is set to consider whether to approve the winning auction bid by Fashion Nova’s Richard Saghian.

Santa Barbara’s Chick-fil-A isn’t the first — drive-through backlash is a California tradition. Drive-throughs have proved immensely popular, but since the 1990s they’ve been plagued by complaints over noise, traffic and the environmental impact of idling cars.

SPORTS

Former Dodger Corey Seager will take on a new and unfamiliar role with the Rangers. Seager established himself as an elite hitter at a premium position when healthy over seven years in Los Angeles. Texas will be different. With the Rangers, he’s a big-money superstar.

The Rams’ left tackle Andrew Whitworth will retire after 16 seasons. Whitworth, 40, was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro. He is one of only five NFL offensive linemen to play into their 40s and the oldest to start at left tackle.

USC’s Chevez Goodwin seeks a Hollywood ending to a six-year college career. After two years spent more than 2,000 miles away from home, after a college career that spanned three schools and the second-most basketball games played in Division I (171), Goodwin’s last ride will start where it all began in South Carolina.

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OPINION

Good job, senators! Bringing more sunlight into our evenings is way overdue. The U.S. Senate voted quickly and unanimously to make daylight saving time the only time. Now the House and President Biden should endorse the end to the clock-changing madness.

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Paleontologists have discovered a new saber-toothed catlike species in San Diego. The predator, which hunted in the forests and coastal areas of the region 42 million years ago, has been given the name Diegoaelurus, or “San Diego’s cat,” the San Diego Natural History Museum announced. Scientists estimate it was about the size of a bobcat.

The discovery of Diegoaelurus — which is now the earliest known cat-like predator in North America west of the Rocky Mountains — was unveiled Tuesday.

The animal’s lower jaw and several teeth, including a long canine, were discovered in Oceanside in 1988 and had been stored in the museum’s vast fossil collection since. But it wasn’t until recently that scientists were able to confirm it was indeed a new species unique to the San Diego County region.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A damaged building and an automobile on Beacon Street

A building and an automobile on Beacon Street in San Pedro were damaged by the Long Beach earthquake in 1933.

(Los Angeles Times)

In March 1933, the Long Beach earthquake killed about 115 people and collapsed hundreds of buildings. About 230 school buildings alone around Southern California were destroyed, heavily damaged or judged unsafe to occupy. The quake happened on the 46-mile-long Newport-Inglewood fault and was estimated at magnitude 6.3.

In 2008, The Times’ Molly Hennessy-Fiske reported that the great quake “helped define the region’s reputation as ‘earthquake country.’ It was the first destructive quake to occur in the region after a period of rapid growth in the early 20th century.”

The disaster brought about the Field Act, which required tougher building standards for new schools, from elementary schools through community colleges, and retrofitting for older schools.

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today’s Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at [email protected]

Eleanore Beatty

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