Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Biden bans Russian oil

A digital sign shows gas prices from $6.95 up to $7.55 per gallon
The Mobil station at the corner of Beverly and La Cienega boulevards advertises prices higher than the norm throughout the area. It’s one of a handful of notoriously expensive stations in L.A. as gas and oil prices rise.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, March 12.

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

Russian oil is banned. President Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. will ban the importing of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal, broadening the economic sanctions leveled against Moscow over its war in Ukraine.

Ukraine and NATO are now L.A. campaign issues. Several candidates in the June 7 municipal election have begun criticizing the Democratic Socialists of America, whose supporters in L.A. are looking to unseat at least two City Council members, over the group’s response to the overseas conflict.

Buscaino spends donor funds on family trips. Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is running for mayor, has spent tens of thousands of dollars from his officeholder account on trips to Hawaii, Italy and elsewhere for his family, according to a Times analysis. The spending is allowed under city ethics rules but far exceeds the amount spent by other elected city officials.

EPA restores California’s authority on pollution. The Biden administration on Wednesday reinstated the state’s authority to set its own motor vehicle pollution standards. The decision reverses an attempt by the Trump administration to block the state from using its vast market power to push the auto industry in a greener direction.


Food assistance program hits a ‘crisis point.’ County offices in charge of administering monthly food benefits to low-income Californians are understaffed and overwhelmed, leading to delays in services as the state stalls a promised boost in funding for the CalFresh assistance program.

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Schools face uncertain futures. With state funding based on the number of students, districts across California are bracing for the effect of declining enrollment — the result of falling birthrates, out-of-state migration, the high cost of living and charter schools, along with the pandemic.

So who bought “The One”? Richard Saghian, owner of fast-fashion juggernaut Fashion Nova. Saghian, who considers himself a real estate collector, beat our four other bidders with a $141-million offer for the largest home in Los Angeles.

Sexual abuse plagued L.A. County detention camp. At least 20 women say they were sexually assaulted over the course of a dozen years at Camp Scott, Los Angeles County’s all-girls juvenile detention facility, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Inflation rose again in February, and it will keep rising. Inflation surged in February to a four-decade high, with the cost of gasoline and other consumer goods and services climbing at an accelerating pace. The rise will probably be exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Officials urge Californians to conserve water. The start of this year has been the driest in California’s history. With the severe drought now in a third year, the state faces depleted reservoirs, a meager snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and a worsening water shortage on the Colorado River.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

How the LAPD blew up a neighborhood. A bomb technician’s concerns about illegal fireworks police planned to detonate went unheeded, and the blast destroyed much of a neighborhood. In the months since, authorities have attempted to reconstruct what happened, producing an inspector general report that paints the clearest picture to date of a “catastrophic failure.”

P-22, is that you? Sometime around dusk on Tuesday, the celebrity mountain lion known as P-22 made his way along Silver Lake Boulevard without much fanfare. The 123-pound big cat managed to traverse 3 ½ miles of residential neighborhoods from his usual stomping grounds around the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park to a spot not far from the Silver Lake Reservoir.


Disney’s live-in theme park could change how we vacation. Designed to mimic a cruise to space, the Galactic Starcruiser is Star Wars at its most technologically advanced. Yet its primary influences are participatory theater. If the Starcruiser works, it could mainstream the concept of a LARP — a live-action role-playing game. If it fails, it would serve as an expensive cautionary tale.

A legacy of pollution still haunts the Dominguez Channel. As residents in neighborhoods along the channel complained of poor air quality, health problems and black slime in the water, it took officials two months to figure out the cause: A massive fire that ripped through a Carson warehouse had unleashed a flood of toxic runoff. Residents and their advocates believe government agencies meant to oversee their health and safety did far too little, far too late.

As a med student, he saw women nearly die from illegal abortions. Dr. Warren Hern doesn’t have to imagine what could befall many women in America if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe vs. Wade. In 1963, he treated dying women as a medical student. Hern is now recommitting himself to his life’s work at 83.

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

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