Newsletter: Today: All’s Not Quiet on Multiple Fronts

President Trump speaks at the National Day of Prayer Service in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday.
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)

Developments in North Korea, Venezuela and the Middle East, along with sparring with China over trade, have left the White House scrambling.


All’s Not Quiet on Multiple Fronts

A missile launch in North Korea. A failed uprising in Venezuela. A fresh round of finger-pointing at China over trade. President Trump’s unconventional foreign policy appears in disarray amid a series of setbacks and growing signs that the president and his advisors are on the verge of losing several risky policy bets. The challenges don’t stop there. Islamic State’s leader reappeared on video after Trump touted that it was “being badly beaten at every level.” And the U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier strike force and additional bombers to the Middle East “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force” — a statement issued not from the Pentagon or the president, but from national security advisor John Bolton.


More Politics

-- House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has scheduled a vote for Wednesday to hold Atty. Gen. William Barr in contempt of Congress, escalating the battle between the Democratic-led House and Trump’s administration. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin says the administration won’t be turning Trump’s tax returns over to the House.

-- The Trump administration may change the way it determines the national poverty threshold, putting Americans living on the margins at risk of losing access to welfare programs.

-- Michael Cohen, the former Trump lawyer and fixer, said there “remains much to be told” as he headed to begin a three-year prison sentence for crimes including campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments made on Trump’s behalf.


-- Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker is proposing that all gun owners be licensed by the federal government, a process that would include an interview and safety training.

-- Ronna McDaniel is stuck between her Romney roots and being the chairwoman of Trump’s Republican Party.

Quandary of Riches

For all of California’s problems, the state government is rolling in taxpayer cash. ”No governor has entered office with the kind of fiscal tail wind that Gov. Gavin Newsom enjoys,” writes Sacramento bureau chief John Myers. The question now: How much of it will be spent and on what? Democrats in the state Legislature have lots of plans for all that money, and how Newsom plays along with them or pushes back could set the tone for his term in office.

A Dire Warning and a Mystery

It’s hard to imagine a more dire assessment from scientists: Because of human activities, nature is in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals, according to the United Nations’ first comprehensive report on biodiversity. Meanwhile, off the coast of California, scientists are trying to figure out a mystery: an increase in sightings of once-common basking sharks. Researchers think environmental factors have something to do with it, but they hesitate to draw conclusions because there is so little baseline information about the species.

An Environmentalist’s Dilemma

Lithium is used in batteries that are expected to play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, yet mining the silvery-white metal exacts a steep toll on the land. Now, this debate over what’s been called “white gold” is coming to California, where an Australia-based battery firm wants to drill into a prehistoric lake bed on the edge of Death Valley National Park to see whether it contains economically viable concentrations of lithium.


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At 5:15 a.m. on this date in 1952, Los Angeles residents experienced the flash from a nuclear device test in Nevada. A story in the next morning’s Los Angeles Times reported: “Despite a cloudy sky, the intense brilliance carried 300 miles between here and the atomic test site to fringe downtown buildings in a brief aura of fierce light.” The photo below was taken from a balcony at the Times building; the light ray from atop City Hall is from the Lindbergh Beacon.

May 7, 1952: View of Los Angeles City Hall from a balcony at the L.A. Times building at 5:15 a.m. as an A-bomb is exploded in a test in Yucca Flat, Nev., about 300 miles away.
(Los Angeles Times)


-- Experts say stricter vaccine laws, enacted in the aftermath of a 2014 measles outbreak at Disneyland, have helped prevent a major outbreak in the state this year.

-- Meanwhile, critics of a new vaccine bill say it will risk kids’ medical privacy. Is that a real threat or a red herring?


-- Prosecutors say a key witness scheduled to testify this week in the involuntary manslaughter trial involving the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 people has died in a car crash.

-- Can it be? More rain is possible in L.A. County this week after downpours hit the area Monday.


-- L.A. mom Earcylene Beavers has taken in more than 1,000 foster kids over the years. Now, she is being featured in the HBO documentary “Foster.”

-- Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini are taking female friendship to a dark place in Netflix’s “Dead to Me.”

-- How did that Starbucks cup end up on “Game of Thrones”? Might as well let the cup explain for itself.

-- The Met Gala in New York chose “camp” as its theme, and as the photos show, the participants did not disappoint.


-- Two years later, Trump’s travel ban continues to tear thousands of families apart.

-- Syrian troops have reportedly stormed rebel-held areas in the northwestern provinces of Hama and Idlib, marking the government’s latest bid to reassert control over the opposition’s last major territory.

-- Myanmar has freed two Reuters journalists after imprisoning them for more than 500 days for reporting on military atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.

-- Fäviken, the restaurant in Sweden made famous by the TV show “Chef’s Table,” is closing for good. Chef Magnus Nilsson told us why.


-- Federal dietary rules are required by law to be updated every five years. In the past, nutritional experts focused on improving public health did this. Under Trump, a former lobbyist for the high-fructose corn syrup industry is overseeing the process.

-- More than 200 workers at Riot Games walked out of the video game developer’s Los Angeles headquarters to protest the company’s handling of two sexual discrimination lawsuits.


-- The owner of disqualified Kentucky Derby horse Maximum Security called Churchill Downs “greedy” and vowed to appeal the decision, only to find out later that appeals are not allowed.

-- Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora won’t accompany the the team to the White House. Columnist LZ Granderson says his decision shows how athletes are no longer content to be used as political props.


-- Facebook has the right to ban extreme voices, but it needs to tread lightly.

-- Americans want a “normal” president after Trump. So, columnist Jonah Goldberg asks, why are Democrats going radical?


-- Hundreds of former federal prosecutors have signed on to a letter asserting Trump would have been charged with obstruction if he were not president. (Medium)

-- “The many ways Iran could target the United States.” (The Atlantic)

-- What does Twitter’s algorithm think it knows about you? (Vox)


Landscape architect Willem van Muyden became known as a green thumb to the stars after spending more than a decade working for Elizabeth Taylor and counting Steven Spielberg among his other clients. Now, a home in Tarzana — with a lazy river, waterfall, trails and terraced gardens designed by Van Muyden — is on the market for $2.399 million. But you can take a peek for free here.

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