Newsletter: Today: Syria, on Second Thought ...

After President Trump upended America’s policy on Syria, his national security advisor says certain conditions must be met before U.S. troops are pulled.


Syria, on Second Thought …

Two and a half weeks ago, President Trump stunned the international community and prompted his secretary of Defense to resign in protest by announcing a pullout of American forces from Syria “now,” claiming they had defeated Islamic State terrorists there. Last week, Trump said Iran “can do what they want” in Syria. But on a Sunday visit to Jerusalem, national security advisor John Bolton seemingly walked the president’s urgent vow back, saying U.S. forces would not leave Syria unless the defeat of Islamic State and the protection of allied Kurdish forces were ensured — conditions that could take a long time to achieve. Just this weekend, a U.S.-backed militia captured two American militants in a battle with Islamic State in Syria. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo will be barnstorming the Middle East this week, swinging through at least eight countries in eight days, in an effort to portray “America as a force for good in the region.”

Doubling Down on the Shutdown


With a partial government shutdown heading into its third week and its effects becoming more disruptive, there is no end in sight. President Trump suggested “very serious talks” would start today. But, if he doesn’t get his way on billions of dollars for a wall on the southern border, Trump is raising the prospect of using emergency powers to begin construction of one that “can be of steel instead of concrete, if that works better.” The shutdown is causing not only financial hardship for 800,000 federal workers and wreaking havoc at national parks, but it’s also beginning to affect businesses. Still, at least one attraction has remained open and staffed with National Park Service rangers: a historic clock tower in the federally owned building that houses the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Studying Up for a Strike

As 30,000 teachers union members get ready to go on strike Thursday, representatives of United Teachers Los Angeles and the L.A. Unified School District are tentatively scheduled to meet for a negotiation session this morning. If the teachers walk, the district is planning to bring in highly paid substitutes and to supervise students in auditoriums and other large spaces, according to records obtained by The Times. The school board may also vote on a plan to allow parents to volunteer on campuses without the regularly required state Department of Justice background checks.

Call Them Unpredictable

The critically lambasted film “Bohemian Rhapsody” wasn’t high on most prognosticators’ lists to win a top prize at the Golden Globes, but win it did — along with the road-trip movie “Green Book” and Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix-backed movie “Roma” — to throw some surprises into the awards season. Though the Globes aren’t seen as a true precursor to the Academy Awards, they at least raised some interesting points of discussion as Oscar nomination voting starts today. This year, the show was less political and showed signs of more inclusion, as TV critic Lorraine Ali observes. (Though Christian Bale did thank Satan for helping him portray former Vice President Dick Cheney on-screen.) Here are all the winners — and our fashion critic’s picks for best and worst on the red carpet — and that mysterious Fiji Water photo-bomber.

Golden Globes co-host Sandra Oh made some awards show history with her “Killing Eve” victory.
(Allen Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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-- Gavin Newsom will be sworn in as governor of California today. Right now, things couldn’t be much better for Newsom, but they’re almost certain to get worse. An economic contraction, a natural disaster, a rebellion among Democratic lawmakers — all threaten the incoming governor’s footing.

-- A Times review of hundreds of pages of public records and several hours of radio transmissions shows that first responders on the front lines of the Woolsey fire struggled during the first critical hours, stymied by communication breakdowns and a scarcity of air tanker support, equipment and firefighters.

-- These Rohingya refugees actually want to return to Myanmar. The difference is they’re Hindus, rather than Muslims.

-- Whether it’s good news or bad, readers in the northern Sierra Nevada can always blame the Mountain Messenger, California’s oldest weekly newspaper with a cantankerous editor-publisher.

-- Lava and quakes have transformed the island of Hawaii in some interesting ways.


-- Nine years after the McStay family disappeared from their Fontana home, the man accused of killing them is headed to trial in San Bernardino.

-- A federal appeals court has ruled that St. James Catholic School in Torrance, already embroiled in allegations of nuns stealing money, can be sued for firing a teacher with breast cancer.

-- Torrance police detectives are continuing to work to identify a suspect or suspects in a shooting at the Gable House Bowl that left three people dead and four others injured.

-- Flu season has just begun to ramp up, but officials say more than 40 people in the state have already died of influenza.


-- A USC study that tracks gender, race and age among directors across the top 100 performing films found major gains for black directors last year, but growth remains elusive for nearly every other underrepresented demographic group.

-- Lifetime’s documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” explores decades of alleged sexual abuse by the singer — and an industry’s complicity.

-- Shtick, stereotypes and self-parody: How the Amazon Prime series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” gets Jewish culture wrong.

-- Why is Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” so much better than the movie? We asked showrunner Barry Sonnenfeld.


-- Rewriting the narrative of the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes, authorities in Houston say they’ve arrested an African American man and that their original description of the suspect as white with blue eyes had been wrong.

-- Academics with foreign ties living in Iran are on alert after the arrest of a demographer whose research led her to question the country’s decision to urge people to have more children.

-- Polish officials have shut down 13 “escape room” sites for safety flaws. The prime minister asked people to report such lapses after five teenage girls were killed in a fire.

-- Antelope Wells, N.M., is the desert border crossing close to where a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl died last month. When our reporter visited there, she found some forbidding terrain and foreboding feelings.


-- Longtime producer Susan Zirinsky is replacing CBS News President David Rhodes in March, becoming the first woman to lead the storied division in the network’s history.

-- Can strangers share a kitchen, living room and other communal spaces without driving one another crazy? Welcome to “co-living,” which is fairly common in Europe and being tried out in L.A.

-- Only months before the opening of its $1-billion Star Wars expansion, the Disneyland Resort announced price increases of up to 25% for daily tickets, annual passes and parking.


-- The Chargers scored a 23-17 wild-card victory over the Baltimore Ravens and will face the New England Patriots on Sunday. After Sunday’s game, they danced and sang in the locker room.

-- Alabama and Clemson are playing in the College Football Playoff championship game tonight in San Jose. A little rain may be just the thing this game needs.


-- As California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom needs to address what no one wants to talk about: “unfunded public pension liabilities, regulatory abuse that stymies economic development and a sick, decrepit state tax code,” as columnist George Skelton sees it.

-- Columnist Virginia Heffernan thinks right-wing blowhards are having a tough time with this whole women-in-power thing in Congress.


-- In a “60 Minutes” interview, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says there’s “no question” Trump is racist. (CBS News)

-- “A baguette-bedecked beauty queen bedevils bigots in Vietnam.” (The Economist)

-- Mass tourism is threatening to undermine the essence of Barcelona’s Boqueria, one of the world’s great markets. (Roads & Kingdoms)


Would you drive 25 miles east of downtown L.A., then put on a blindfold and take a picture? If you’ve seen the hit Netflix thriller “Bird Box,” you just might. Fans have been flocking to a 1908 Craftsman-style home in Monrovia that was featured in the movie to get a shot of themselves on the steps leading up to the property. As one 15-year-old said: “Just seeing the house, it almost makes you want to go in — even though you know the characters aren’t going to be there.”

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