Today’s Headlines: UCLA guarantees students a place to live

By Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Friday, March 18, and we have Bruin bookends for today’s newsletter.

Scroll down to see From the Archives mark the 93rd anniversary of the first students using UCLA’s Westwood campus. At the campus’ official 1929 opening, 5,500 students were enrolled. It’s a very different world now: The school’s enrollment is more than eight times higher, and students in California are facing a crisis in affordable housing. Last fall, over 16,000 UC and Cal State students were on waitlists for a place to live.

But somehow, despite having the smallest footprint of all UC undergrad campuses, UCLA has built enough housing for every student who wants it — and is charging about 30% below market rental rates for it. Now, as Teresa Watanabe reports, the university has become the first and only UC campus to guarantee housing for four years to first-year students.

Now, on to the other stories you shouldn’t miss today.

TOP STORIES

Russian attacks, civilian deaths and chaos

As Russia launched an onslaught of new attacks on civilian sites across Ukraine, U.S. officials ratcheted up their criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his apparent responsibility for potential war crimes. Targets of hits included a school and a theater where more than 1,000 people had been sheltering. “Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime,” Blinken said. The State Department has begun a legal process to document likely war crimes, he said.

More Ukraine news

  • It’s hard to think of a more unlikely combo than war zones and cinnamon buns. But there’s no lack of takers in Kyiv as bakeries, hair salons and coffee shops reopen their doors and the city’s remaining residents seek a dose of normalcy.
  • Not everyone is determined to make Russia’s Putin an economic pariah over the war in Ukraine. Nations including China, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Mexico are signaling a desire to maintain trade ties and other links while staying impartial over the war.

A dose of truth, courtesy of Arnold

It’s hard not to like Arnold Schwarzenegger at this particular moment, writes columnist Anita Chabria. The actor and former California governor released a nine-minute video aimed at the people of Russia, expressing his respect for them while eviscerating Vladimir Putin’s state-controlled version of the invasion of Ukraine. By noon, it had been viewed nearly 6 million times on Twitter and 400,000 times on Telegram, a platform still available inside Russia.

Here’s what we know about the proposed California tax rebate

First off, it’s not a done deal. But a group of Democratic state lawmakers has proposed sending each California taxpayer a $400 tax rebate check to reduce the financial pain of gas prices and the rising costs of everyday goods. Our Q&A looks at the odds that it’ll pass, why it’s $400, and other things we know. Such as: All Californians who pay state income taxes would receive the rebate, regardless of income. So, you and Mark Zuckerberg would each get $400. Married couples would receive $800.

A study revealed the likely reason for the ‘stealth’ Omicron’s recent success

The ability to spread more easily from person to person appears to be the superpower that is driving an upstart sibling of the Omicron variant into wide circulation, a group of scientists has surmised.

Epidemiologists can watch Omicron “subvariants” compete against one another in a race to infect people and tell you which is winning. But scientists who study the evolution of viruses would like to understand not just which is winning but also why. As they gain more insight into how individual mutations change a virus’ behavior, they can be better prepared for its next genetic shift.

More top coronavirus headlines

  • More than half of Los Angeles Unified teachers who responded to a union poll want to continue the district’s indoor mask mandate.
  • “It’s a nightmare” in Hong Kong, where in just a matter of weeks the city of more than 7 million has transformed from one of the safest places to be during the global pandemic to having what’s believed to be the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths in the world.
  • In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. cigarette smoking dropped to an all-time low, with 1 in 8 adults saying they were smokers. Some experts said tobacco company price hikes and pandemic lifestyle changes probably played a role.

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

The Jan. 6 defendant the government forgot to indict

Lucas Denney of Texas was arrested on eight charges and accused of — among other things — swinging a metal pole at an officer during the Jan. 6 Capitol rioting, as well as recruiting others to travel to Washington equipped for a fight. The government had 30 days to indict him. But they lost track of his case for months. So he pleaded guilty to a single charge, potentially avoiding decades in prison.

More politics

  • Billionaire Rick Caruso is expected to vastly outspend his competitors in the Los Angeles mayor’s race. But supporters of Rep. Karen Bass have launched an independent expenditure committee to help her compete. J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath have put in $250,000.
  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office gave a non-public, city-ordered report into allegations of sexual harassment in his office to the Senate panel that reviewed his nomination as U.S. ambassador to India. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley wants the report in his investigation into whether Garcetti was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by former aide Rick Jacobs.

Get more about the mayoral election, Los Angeles politics and the people who run this town in our L.A. on the Record newsletter.

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CALIFORNIA

A California lawmaker proposed protections for transgender kids traveling from other states. A bill by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would render unenforceable in California any out-of-state court judgments seeking to remove children from their parents’ custody because they have received gender-affirming surgeries, hormone therapy and other transgender medical care.

Will these Queen Mary relics find new homes or be sold for scrap? Eight bidders have offered to take one or more of the 20 lifeboats that the city of Long Beach has removed from the 86-year-old ocean liner turned tourist attraction and floating hotel. The bidders are not required put up any money, but they have to prove to the city that they have the finances and ability to take possession and restore the lifeboats.

The case against Ron Jeremy was suspended. A judge suspended court proceedings in the rape case against Jeremy after a lawyer raised doubts about the disgraced porn star’s mental health.

You have until March 31 to apply for rent payment help. If you missed paying rent because of the pandemic, you have two weeks left to apply for state help in paying what you owe. The Housing Is Key program will pay all of the rent debt that eligible renters have run up since April 2020. Landlords can apply too if their tenants meet the program’s criteria and provide the necessary paperwork.

The L.A. school board election field is set, and it includes a pivotal race to replace Monica Garcia. For more than 15 years, Garcia has been a force on the board, but term limits have opened up her seat this year to four hopefuls, who plan either to build on her legacy or to push the district in a new direction.

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NATION-WORLD

The Russian detention of WNBA star Brittney Griner was extended to May 19. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. and one of the most recognizable players in women’s basketball, was detained at a Moscow airport in February after Russian authorities said a search of her luggage revealed vape cartridges. A judge has now extended her arrest, according to state media.

Barely even campaigning, Macron leads the French presidential race. As he runs for reelection next month, French President Emmanuel Macron released pictures of himself working nights and weekends at the Elysee palace, where he is spending most of his time focusing on the war in Ukraine — while avoiding traditional campaign activities. If it’s a campaign strategy, it seems to be paying off.

The FBI has identified six suspects in the bomb threats at Black colleges. The nation’s historically Black colleges remain on edge after receiving dozens of bomb threats in recent weeks. Federal law enforcement agencies said they were working aggressively to make arrests in the 59 cases, calling the issue their “highest priority.” All six suspects are juveniles, according to the FBI.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Ukraine’s president has the world’s ear. Watch his TV show on Netflix to see why. Before taking office in 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky’s most notable role came in the startlingly prescient half-hour comedy series “Servant of the People,” which ran from 2015 to 2019. Now, the affable actor, comedian and political satirist with a populist bent has channeled his media savvy and his sincerity to press his country’s case.

Amy Schumer found happiness. Her moving, funny Hulu show is the result. “Life & Beth” is frequently very funny, full of bright comic turns, and often quite moving, even beautiful, sometimes just for the space of a shot, in a way that might make you reconsider a character. It’s sentimental in the end, but that is what sometimes happens when artists grow happy in their life, writes TV critic Robert Lloyd.

Wendy Williams vowed to return to her canceled daytime talk show. Declining to appear on camera on “Good Morning America,” the talk-show host addressed speculation about her health and mental well-being. She said she was “absolutely” of sound mind and conducted her interview with the same no-nonsense humor she’s known for.

“Los Angeles has it all.” As Mexican pop-rock band Maná prepares for the first of its eight shows at the Forum, the band’s Fher Olvera and Sergio Vallín tell The Times how L.A.’s Latino community inspires them.

BUSINESS

Amazon closed its $8.5-billion purchase of MGM. The deal gives Amazon control of one of Hollywood’s most storied brands, with a catalog of more than 4,000 film titles, including the James Bond and “Rocky” franchises, plus such classics as “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Mortgage rates soared, topping 4% for the first time since 2019. Inflation and rising home prices continue to erode Americans’ buying power, and rising borrowing costs add to the challenge of buying a home.

OPINION

What happens when “tough on crime” meets weak on police reform? Not public safety. Few things demonstrate this more clearly than the most recent meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission. On Tuesday, the commissioners heard a breakdown of a new report from the LAPD’s inspector general, outlining just how ineffectual some of their oversight work has apparently been, writes columnist Erika D. Smith.

Here’s the “hall of shame.” Columnist Michael Hiltzik says hundreds of Western businesses and corporations have gained praise for withdrawing from Russia, even if that entails a hit to their sales and profits. He lists some of the 80 companies that have resolved to keep operating in Russia, including: Subway, Reebok and Bacardi.

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SPORTS

UCLA rallied to beat Akron and advance in the NCAA tournament. With his team trailing by eight points and less than eight minutes to play, gritty UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell scored eight of his team’s final 10 points, pushing the fourth-seeded Bruins to a 57-53 comeback victory over 13th-seeded Akron in the tournament’s first round.

Mick Cronin’s new contract is expected to make him the highest-paid coach in the Pac-12. Only hours before his team’s NCAA tournament opener, the UCLA basketball coach was rewarded with a new six-year contract. The deal, which runs through the 2027-28 season, replaced the two-year extension he signed after guiding the Bruins to the Final Four last year.

The Dodgers are raving about Freddie Freeman. Players gathered for the first time since news broke that Freddie Freeman was joining the team on a six-year, $162-million contract. There was excitement over adding a superstar of Freeman’s caliber, anticipation for the potency of their lineup, plus appreciation, as players praised the front office and ownership for making another major acquisition that reaffirmed the team’s place as World Series contenders.

Speaking of the Dodgers … Trevor Bauer will not begin the season with the team. MLB and the players union agreed to extend Bauer’s administrative leave through April 16. Bauer was cleared last month of criminal charges stemming from a San Diego woman accusing him of sexual assault, but Commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to suspend him. Manfred could also delegate the discipline to the Dodgers.

Sean McVay’s offense has another weapon. The Rams have agreed to terms with free-agent receiver Allen Robinson, an eight-year veteran who has amassed more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season three times.

YOUR WEEKEND

Brandy Williams uses her frontyard as a studio “lab” for her landscape design business called Garden Butterfly.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles)

Sign up now for the Native Plant Garden Tour. The Theodore Payne Foundation event will be held April 23 and 24 and features landscapes where at least 50% of the plants are California natives. You can find details here and also an interview with landscape designer Brandy Williams or, as The Times’ Jeanette Marantos writes, “an artist who paints for pollinators, primarily with succulents and what she calls ‘California friendly’ plants.”

If you want some outdoorsy fun sooner, you may still have time to join a Worm Moon group hike and yoga session in Griffith Park. Last night’s full moon was called the Worm Moon because it’s a time when earthworms emerge and the soil warms up, writes Mary Forgione over at The Wild. Hikers who want to explore parts of Griffith Park will meet up at 6 p.m. for a ramble followed by yoga (donation based). You can find details on signing up at We Explore Earth on Instagram.

Find the fermented drinks of Mexico on the streets of L.A. Most people outside Mexico are familiar with the country’s tradition of distillates and beers. Far fewer have experienced an entire other galaxy of beverages that are much less available here in Southern California. They are made using Indigenous-based practices, typically inside people’s homes, usually with a plant, like corn. For weeks, The Times’ Daniel Hernandez tracked street vendors, stores and restaurants in L.A. County that sell tejuino, tepache and pulque with great expectations, and moderate success.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

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As the world takes in the grim realities of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many Syrians have watched with a horrifying sense of déjà vu. The legacy of Syria’s war, and Russia’s role in it, looms large over Ukraine, offering potential lessons to Putin, analysts said: that “red lines” laid down by the West can be crossed without long-term consequences; that diplomacy purportedly aimed at stopping violence can be used to distract from it; and that autocrats can do terrible things and face international sanctions — and still stay in power. New York Times

It stands 322 feet tall, taller than the Statue of Liberty, with gleaming white side boosters that flank a bright orange rocket booster. On top sits the Orion spacecraft that is designed to transport as many as four astronauts to the moon. Below are the powerful engines that would shoot the rocket off the launchpad to explore deeper into space than any human mission since the Apollo era that ended 50 years ago. After more than a decade of work — a journey marked by political turmoil, controversy, cost overruns and delays — the monster Space Launch System rocket is getting ready to fly. But just last week NASA’s inspector general, Paul Martin, told Congress that his office had calculated the cost for the first three flights of the SLS to be an “unsustainable” $4.1 billion each. In an era when SpaceX and other companies are building rockets that can be reused for multiple flights, Martin said, “relying on such an expensive, single-use rocket system will … inhibit if not derail NASA’s ability to sustain its long-term human exploration goals to the moon and Mars.” Washington Post

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A group of people carrying books and book bags, some wearing hats, walk up the steps to a large brick building.

March 18, 1929: Chemistry students head to class at a Westwood campus still under construction.

(Los Angeles Times)

Ninety-three years ago today, professor Hosmer W. Stone’s Chemistry 1A class became the first to attend UCLA at the school’s brand-new Westwood campus. The Times reported on March 19, 1929: “Laboratory classes in chemistry will be the only ones to be held on the Westwood campus this semester, the rest of the university holding to the original plan of occupation of the new site next September. The removal of the science courses to Westwood was necessitated by the destruction by fire of California Hall, that housed the chemistry laboratories on the present campus, in the early morning hours of January 3, last.”

Two months later, however, the real move from the Vermont Avenue location began: On May 31, 1929, following afternoon classes, “students, professors and staff gathered on Heliotrope Drive. From there, a 10-mile caravan began to the new campus in Westwood.” More than 500 cars and trucks loaded with items including books and furniture made the trip. On arrival, students began building up some sweat equity in their education by carting everything in.

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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