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Today’s Headlines: ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris
President Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks Tuesday at the White House about his administration’s COVID-19 response.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

President Biden moves up the timetable for COVID-19 vaccines for “every adult American” but cautions against letting one’s guard down against the coronavirus.

TOP STORIES

‘Light at the End of the Tunnel’

President Biden said that the United States would have enough COVID-19 vaccines by the end of May to inoculate every American adult, two months earlier than previously expected.

The announcement came as administration officials warned that the decline in coronavirus cases appears to be stalling. It sets up a sprint to get most Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 while the coronavirus continues to batter communities around the U.S.

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The faster vaccination timetable is partly the result of a new agreement between Johnson & Johnson, whose vaccine was authorized for inoculations over the weekend, and Merck, which also will produce that vaccine in an unusual partnership between the two pharmaceutical competitors.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Biden said at the White House. “But we cannot let our guard down or assume that victory is inevitable.”

Yet some states are doing just that, underscoring the challenge for the administration. Before Biden spoke, the governor of Texas, the nation’s second most populous state, after California, announced that he was lifting anti-coronavirus restrictions. Mississippi did the same.

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Meanwhile, California is barreling toward what would be the widest reopening of businesses, schools and public spaces since the horrific surge of the fall and winter. But even with cases falling and vaccine distribution efforts slowly gaining steam, there are questions about whether the state is moving too fast.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— New data continue to show that areas of Los Angeles County hardest hit by the pandemic have low rates of COVID-19 vaccinations, while inoculations are the highest in neighborhoods that have been relatively spared the worst of the coronavirus’ devastation.

San Francisco will resume indoor dining today as the city moves out of the most restrictive coronavirus tier for reopening.

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— People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may soon be cleared to gather in small groups without masks, according to federal officials.

‘Domestic Terrorism’

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray called the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol an act of “domestic terrorism” and defended the bureau’s handling of intelligence in the days before a pro-Trump mob stormed past police and threatened the lives of lawmakers.

“I was appalled that you, our country’s elected leaders, were victimized right here in these very halls,” he told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “That attack, that siege, was criminal behavior. It is behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism.”

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Wray faced questions from the committee in a hearing that delved into the bureau’s handling of threats posed by domestic terrorists and right-wing extremists before the Capitol siege. The hearing was part of a series of congressional inquiries examining security failures in the Jan. 6 attack and the broader threat posed by domestic extremists.

Senators are scheduled to hear today from federal and military officials about their response to the siege, which left five people, including a police officer, dead.

More Politics

— As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two Arizona voting rights cases, most of the justices said they were in search of a middle-ground position that would block new voting restrictions if they could have a significant impact on people of color — but not automatically invalidate any rule just because it has a different impact based on race.

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— Throughout his campaign, Biden vowed to take a harder line with Saudi Arabia. His response to a report on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has angered both Saudi Arabia and its critics.

— Ten Senate Democrats released a letter asking Biden to support a plan to automatically extend unemployment benefits and send recurring relief checks to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on certain future economic indicators.

— Biden withdrew the nomination of longtime Democratic policy advisor Neera Tanden to be his budget director, an acknowledgment that she could not win the 50 Senate votes needed to secure confirmation.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

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A Crash’s Toll

By the time first responders arrived at the intersection near the U.S.-Mexico border, bodies lay on the highway where they had been flung by the force of the early morning collision. The wounded who were still able to walk after the violent crash wandered, dazed and in pain.

And what was left of the burgundy Ford Expedition — which was wrapped around the front of a white big rig at the intersection of State Highway 115 and Norrish Road in Imperial County — was still filled with passengers.

Normally the SUV would hold seven or eight people. But this one had just two seats, one for the driver, one for a front passenger. And when it collided with the empty tractor-trailer Tuesday at 6:15 a.m., 23 other men and women were jammed into the back of the vehicle.

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Twelve people died at the scene. One more person died after being taken to a hospital.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

One hundred twenty-four years ago this week, what is now Los Angeles Harbor officially began to take shape. The story that ran in The Times on March 3, 1897, began:

Yesterday morning this telegram was received at the Times office:

“WASHINGTON, D.C., March 2, 1897.

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“L.E. Mosher — Times, Los Angeles: Let the Eagle scream some more and louder, and yet more loud. San Pedro has won. Official report is public.

“HARRISON GRAY OTIS”

Whereupon the bird that perches upon the Times Building flapped his wings and his voice was heard in the land. The joyous shriek of the victorious bird filled all the circumjacence even to Cahuenga, and the populace gathered to assist him in making noise.

The cause of all that shrieking? The so-called Great Free Harbor Fight had been won by proponents of the selection of San Pedro as the harbor’s future home.

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As Charles Queenan wrote in a 1992 historical account, the fight “came down to a classic David and Goliath confrontation on the floor of the U.S. Senate between a hitherto undistinguished senator from California and a powerful railroad tycoon and his congressional cronies.”

The senator and his pro-Pedro allies, Times publisher Otis among them, won. Railroad baron Collis Huntington, who wanted the port in Santa Monica, lost.

A ship in Los Angeles Harbor in 1921
Los Angeles Harbor on Aug. 5, 1921: The passenger ship S.S. Harvard steams out, bound for San Francisco for its first coastal run after service in the U.S. Navy during World War I.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)

CALIFORNIA

Hate crimes against Asian Americans and other members of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in Los Angeles rose sharply in 2020, mirroring a national trend and causing concern among police and local advocacy organizations.

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— The winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain across California early in 2021 are probably not enough to negate what will be a critically dry year, state water officials believe. The water content of the overall Sierra Nevada snowpack was 61% of the average for March 2.

— A San Diego artist who watched in September as an excavator demolished his 32-year-old mural at a Logan Heights school has sued San Diego Unified School District and a construction company over the artwork’s destruction.

— Why don’t Angelenos jaywalk? It isn’t because nobody walks in L.A., columnist Patt Morrison writes.

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NATION-WORLD

— The United States and the European Union are jointly imposing sanctions on Russia for the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader who was recently jailed, according to senior officials from Biden’s administration.

— Demonstrators in Myanmar took to the streets again to protest last month’s military coup as foreign ministers from Southeast Asian countries met to discuss the political crisis.

— Nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted last week from a boarding school in the northwestern Zamfara state have been released, the state’s governor said.

— The Texas horned lizard has virtually disappeared east of Interstate 35, which runs down the middle of Oklahoma and Texas. Can it be saved?

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— It’s no simple feat to create must-see TV in an era when there’s more TV than anyone can watch in a lifetime. Here’s how the showrunners for 20 popular shows did it.

— Dasha Nekrasova’s directorial debut, “The Scary of Sixty-First,” transforms the speculation and suspicions around Jeffrey Epstein’s death into something that blends the ridiculous and the chilling.

— Six Dr. Seuss books — including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said.

— Comedian Chris D’Elia has been sued by a woman who says he violated child pornography and sexual exploitation laws by having sex with her and soliciting more than 100 explicit photos and videos when she was 17 years old.

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BUSINESS

— Wall Street’s love affair with blank-check investments — these days achieved via special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs won’t end well, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.

— L.A.'s trendy Melrose Avenue is brimming with optimism as customers return. But a hard truth remains: Business is nowhere near pre-coronavirus levels.

SPORTS

— The short-handed Lakers fell short against the Suns in a feisty game.

— Considering a trip to see Dodgers or Angels spring training games? Here’s what to expect.

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OPINION

— The California Energy Commission wants to delay a requirement that new homes be built only with electric appliances. But new homes need to be fossil fuel-free, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Is it possible to fix the University of California’s system of haves and have-nots?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Millions of human hearts fail each year, so why can’t we build artificial hearts to replace them? For decades, scientists have been trying — among them a small but dedicated team in a Cerritos laboratory. (The New Yorker)

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— As law enforcement agencies investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, they’re relying on methods and evidence as varied and diverse as the suspects they’re tracking. (BuzzFeed News)

ONLY IN L.A.

Every Sunday at 2 p.m., a group of community members meets on the corner of Folsom and Indiana streets, near the invisible boundary between East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, to talk about El Pino. Depending on whom you ask, it’s a tree, a movie star, a gathering place, “the symbol of this community” or a “sign of love.” But one thing they agree on: They fear for El Pino’s future.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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