Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Chaos amid Afghanistan evacuations

A line of people boarding airplanes on a tarmac
Tens of thousands of Afghan men, women and children have left the country on military transport aircraft.
(Nabih Bulos / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Aug. 28.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week.

A crisis was already brewing in Afghanistan. As U.S. troops withdrew from the country, desperate people tried to leave — including at least 24 students from the Cajon Valley Union School District. Afghan families in California have pleaded with lawmakers’ offices for assistance.

Attack at the airport. A bombing in Kabul on Thursday disrupted an already chaotic evacuation effort, killing well over 100 Afghans and 13 U.S. service personnel, including two from Riverside County. President Biden blamed the attack on Afghanistan’s offshoot of the Islamic State group, vowing retaliation, and the United States military struck back at Islamic State on Saturday, bombing a member of the militant organization in Afghanistan.

Fires spread. The destructive Caldor fire crept close to Lake Tahoe, bringing an early end to the vacation season. Uncontrolled wildfires have turned summer into a time of fear for communities in Northern California. And some ecologists say that logging, thinning and other forest management tactics are no longer useful.

Questions as recall draws near. What if Gov. Gavin Newsom fails to realize a “no recall” majority of the ballots cast? And many Democrats are flailing for answers about how to approach the ballot’s second question: If Newsom is recalled, who do you want to replace him?

Elder investigation. Amid a series of controversial episodes, California regulators have launched an investigation into whether recall election gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder failed to properly disclose his income sources. Also, Elder had a private charity that he aborted around 2015; now questions loom over where the money went.

Pfizer approved. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a landmark step.

Still, coronavirus infections are on the rise. New cases are up in L.A. County among vaccinated people, with young adults seeing the greatest increase. There are also signs that unvaccinated people tend to engage in behaviors that are more likely to spread the coronavirus.

A state mandate? Lawmakers are now considering one of the most politically challenging government mandates yet: requiring Californians to show proof of vaccination to enter many indoor business establishments and forcing workers to get vaccinated or tested regularly.

Firefighters and police push back. Coronavirus cases are surging within the LAPD as city officials work to finalize a vaccination mandate, and those who oppose the requirement search for ways to circumvent it. Meanwhile, an LAFD captain attacked the city’s requirement in a video, prompting an internal investigation.

Ron Jeremy indicted. Adult film star Ron Jeremy has been indicted in Los Angeles on more than 30 counts of sexual assault stemming from allegations made by more than 20 women that span the last quarter-century, prosecutors said.

Sirhan Sirhan is recommended for parole. The man convicted of assassinating Sen. Robert F. Kennedy at a Los Angeles hotel more than 50 years ago was recommended for release by a California parole board panel Friday, the first step toward making him a free man. The parole board staff still has 90 days to review the matter. After that, Gov. Gavin Newsom — or whoever might replace him following next month’s recall election — could still decide to block Sirhan’s release.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads.

A toxic environment. Between anti-lockdown rallies, pushback against mask mandates and a restaurant catering to the unvaccinated, Orange County has seized the spotlight as a nexus of aggressive COVID-19 denialism and anti-Asian racism — even if the protesters are a small minority.

Molly Shannon is a comedy legend. She talked to The Times from her Los Angeles backyard about a tragedy that shaped her: the deaths of her mother, younger sister and cousin in a car accident when she was 4. The comedian opened up about the experience, speaking for the first time publicly about some of the problems she faced while coping after the incident.

Buy a luxury building, then lower the rent. A housing fix for California’s middle class? In hopes of plugging the state’s affordable housing shortage, some California government agencies are purchasing buildings, usually luxury ones, and doing the opposite of most real estate buyers.

L.A. parking, like poker, is not solely a matter of luck. With patience and skill, you can improve your odds and game the system. Take it from a pro. Here are 13 tips every driver should know.

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Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Laura Blasey. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to