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Today’s Headlines: Delta variant prompts a return to masks indoors in L.A.

People, many of them masked, wait for lunch at the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles on June 15.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Delta variant prompts a return to masks indoors in L.A.

With the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus continuing to spread throughout California, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is recommending that everyone wear masks in public indoor spaces — regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19. The announcement is one of the clearest signals yet of just how seriously health officials are taking the strain and the danger it poses, particularly to those who have yet to be inoculated.

Officials have said the Delta variant does not pose a risk to vaccinated people, but there is growing concern for those who have yet to receive all their required shots, or any doses at all.

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As of last week, 3 in 5 Californians, or 60.5%, had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While not a new mask mandate, the county is urging that, as a precaution, “people wear masks indoors in settings such as grocery or retail stores; theaters and family entertainment centers, and workplaces when you don’t know everyone’s vaccination status.”

L.A. County had confirmed 123 Delta variant cases as of last week, 49 of them among residents of Palmdale and Lancaster. Fourteen cases of the Delta variant were in people from a single household.

At this point, there is no widespread scientific consensus as to whether the Delta variant is more likely to cause more severe illness than other strains.

More top coronavirus headlines

— The Delta variant of the coronavirus has spawned a variant of its own that has gained considerable attention since being dubbed “Delta-plus” in India.

“Long COVID” is one name for a puzzling syndrome that can afflict people who have been infected with the coronavirus.

QR codes on Californians’ digital vaccine records can be scanned only with a compatible device or app. It’s a security measure, officials say.

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For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

Biden’s strained relationship with progressives

Last week, President Biden announced a $1-trillion infrastructure plan with the support of a handful of centrist Republicans and Democrats, but it fell far short of progressives’ demands on climate change and additional tax credits and subsidies for families, home health workers and college students.

Biden has kept progressives primarily happy during the first six months of his presidency. But the infrastructure plan poses a significant test to that relationship. He initially appeased progressives by promising to link the bipartisan deal with a second Democrats-only bill that would address child and elder care issues, stating that he wouldn’t sign one without the other.

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But when moderate Republicans threatened to pull their support, Biden issued a lengthy statement walking it back.

The president is scheduled to travel to Wisconsin to garner more support for the bipartisan infrastructure package, leaving the thorny questions about the legislative process to lawmakers. He’ll probably highlight the bipartisan plan’s climate change provisions, such as funding for a network of electric vehicle charging stations and significant investments in public transit and Amtrak.

More politics

— Biden sought to assure Israel that he would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. He met with outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin amid a major shakeup in Israeli politics and growing angst in Tel Aviv over the U.S. administration’s effort to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

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— The Supreme Court told judges to take a second look at the case of a handcuffed man who suffocated and died in a St. Louis jail after officers put their weight on his back as he was lying face down.

— Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Pope Francis met in Vatican City and talked for about 40 minutes. Photos that they tweeted showed a friendly and intimate exchange, but whether they discussed the politics dividing the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. remains anyone’s guess.

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

An effort to change military prosecutions

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Amy Marsh had never seen so much alcohol consumed at a work affair when she and her husband hosted a 2018 holiday party at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, she said. By the time she left for an off-base after-party, she said, she was drunk. Marsh said she wasn’t worried, though.

According to Marsh, who is married to an Air Force junior officer — she went with a noncommissioned officer who had been a mentor to her husband. What happened that night and in the months afterward nearly destroyed her marriage, ruined her husband’s Air Force career and left her to suffer in silence — her husband’s military colleague sexually assaulted her, she said.

Marsh says her treatment by the Air Force after she reported the incident two months later exemplifies what advocates and members of Congress say are long-standing deficiencies in the military system for handling sexual assault allegations.

Now, a push in Congress to overhaul military prosecution procedures — started by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) nearly a decade ago — is finally gaining traction after years of opposition from the Pentagon and its supporters in Congress.

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Facebook wins big

Facebook Inc. won a court ruling dismissing two monopoly lawsuits filed by the U.S. government and a coalition of states that sought to break up the company, dealing a blow to the effort of antitrust officials to take on the biggest tech platforms.

The decision by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington sent Facebook shares soaring; it pushed the company’s market value to more than $1 trillion. Boasberg granted the company’s request to dismiss the complaints filed last year by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general led by New York, saying in his opinion that the FTC failed to meet the burden for establishing that Facebook has a monopoly in social networking.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

On June 30, 1935, The Times reported on Muni, a trained bear, who drank sugar water out of a bottle. Animal trainer C.W. Webber had taken Muni for a walk that ended up at a beer parlor at Avenue 58 and North Figueroa Street. Then the police call of “drunk bear at beer parlor” went out.

As the story recounts: “Radio Officer Trippel and Button arrived with a perplexed stare, then glanced at C.W. Webber, animal trainer, who held the chain from the ring in Muni’s nose.”

Webber told the officers, “I was taking him for a walk,” according to the article. “He was thirsty and I gave him sugar water. He’s only sleepy.”

June 29, 1935: Muni the Bear drinks sugar water from a glass bottle.
(Los Angeles Times)

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CALIFORNIA

— Three children were found dead in an East Los Angeles home under what Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials described as suspicious circumstances.

— A couple who bulldozed and buried 36 Joshua Trees to make way for a home were recently fined $18,000 — a punishment authorities hope will deter others from destroying the trees.

— If there was any summer respite to be found, it was on the Russian River. But amid the West’s ever-intensifying drought, the river is taking the early hit, worrying those who live and make a seasonal living off its banks.

California is expanding to 17 the number of states to which it is restricting government-financed travel because of laws deemed to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the state attorney general said.

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NATION-WORLD

— Owners of units in the Miami-area oceanfront condo tower that collapsed last week were just days away from a deadline to start making payments toward more than $9 million in major repairs that had been recommended nearly three years earlier. Meanwhile, residents of its sister building, erected a year later by the same company, using the same materials and a similar design, wonder if they should stay or go.

— The Supreme Court rejected a Virginia school board’s appeal to reinstate its transgender bathroom ban. The justices left in place lower court rulings that found the policy unconstitutional.

Ethiopia’s government declared an immediate, unilateral cease-fire in its Tigray region after nearly eight months of deadly conflict and as hundreds of thousands of people faced the world’s worst famine crisis in a decade.

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— A new study is throwing cold water on the possibility of life in the clouds of Venus. But scientists have identified Jupiter as having enough water in the clouds and the right atmospheric temperatures to support life.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— In response to her sister Britney Spears’ remarks on her conservatorship, Jamie Lynn Spears says she supported her sister “long before there was a hashtag. And I’ll support her long after.”

— As country music faces a racial reckoning, a new question: Where are the Latino artists?

“Banksy: Genius or Vandal?” doesn’t open in L.A. until Aug. 30, but the unauthorized exhibition of the anonymous British street artist’s work is already stirring strong opinions.

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— Artistic director Chris Fields spills the secrets of Echo Theater Company’s success as it marks a milestone 25th anniversary with 25 alumni performing 25 monologues by 25 alumni playwrights.

BUSINESS

— After a brief dip, gasoline prices in the U.S. are on the rise again. The U.S. average price for a gallon of gasoline rose 2 ½ cents from last week to $3.09 per gallon Monday, according to the travel and fuel price tracking app GasBuddy.

— The first step in your Hollywood career shouldn’t be paying L.A. rent. Here’s how to take your first steps toward a career in the entertainment industry, according to experts.

SPORTS

Paul George — Playoff P — saved the Clippers’ season with 41 points in the team’s Game 5 victory over the Suns. Game 6 is Wednesday in L.A.

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Nyjah Huston probably looks like any other skateboarder grinding rails in the park or doing kickflips off the stairs in front of a library. Next month, Huston will play this misfit role on an international stage as his sport debuts at the Summer Olympics.

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Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

— The record-breaking heat baking the West Coast is another painful sign that climate change is here, and we have to adapt, writes The Times’ editorial board.

— The concentrated effort to house every homeless person living on Venice Beach should be allowed to proceed without interference from law enforcement over the next month, The Times’ editorial board writes.

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WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— UFOs, bioweapons and Havana Syndrome? They’re mysteries worth solving, but scientists say U.S. intelligence agencies aren’t equipped to solve them and their reports aren’t helping. (BuzzFeed News)

— The town of Lytton, British Columbia, set a record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada: 118 degrees Fahrenheit. (Vancouver Sun)

ONLY IN L.A.

YouTube is best known for virtual entertainment. Now it’s making moves offline with an agreement to lend its name to a 6,000-seat performance venue in Inglewood that will host creator events, esports competitions, award shows, concerts and other events. Once seen as a pariah in Hollywood, the company has worked to change its image by working closely with media companies.

Today’s newsletter was curated by Daric L. Cottingham and Laura Blasey. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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