Today’s Headlines: Rapidly spreading Omicron heading our way, officials say

A man in a mask walks in an empty airport terminal
A man walks through a deserted portion of an airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, the country where the Omicron variant was first detected.
(Jerome Delay / Associated Press)

Hello, it’s Tuesday, Nov. 30, and, in case you missed it, Merriam-Webster announced its word of the year. It’s kind of a no-brainer: “vaccine.” The rate at which people went to the dictionary site to look up that word rocketed 601% over 2020.

What was interesting — and felt heartening — was that among the other “top lookups of 2021” was the word “perseverance.” It’s a good word to keep in mind now that a new variant is grabbing headlines. More on that below:


As WHO looks at the Omicron threat, Biden says the U.S. is prepared


The World Health Organization warned that Omicron posed a “very high” global risk of new outbreaks, and some governments moved to impose travel bans and border closures in a bid to keep the highly mutated variant at bay. But health authorities believe Omicron is already in wide circulation.

President Biden announced a ban on international visitors from South Africa and other nations in the region but added: “Sooner or later, we’re going to see cases of this new variant here.” The U.S. is prepared, he said. His administration was already working with pharmaceutical companies to formulate updated vaccines, he said, although “we do not yet believe that additional measures will be needed.”

How bad will Omicron be? Here’s what scientists need to figure out

The next chapter of the pandemic could feature an Omicron variant that spreads more readily than Delta and blows past the defenses of a fully vaccinated immune system. At the other end of a wide spectrum of possibilities, humanity could catch a break.

Almost two years into a pandemic, scientists need to take the measure of the SARS-CoV-2 virus yet again. But this time, they have a variant changed by an unprecedented number of mutations with worrisome histories. And they are assessing its strengths and weaknesses in a population of potential hosts that ranges from uninfected-and-entirely-susceptible to vaccinated-and-boosted.


More top coronavirus headlines

  • As L.A. prepares to enforce its vaccine mandate for patrons at a host of indoor businesses, venues expect some unpleasantness.
  • The percentage of vaccinated L.A. County residents who have gotten COVID-19 booster shots is much lower in poorer neighborhoods, health data show.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now saying all vaccinated adults should get a booster as long as they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot at least six months ago or their Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago.
  • Omicron has cast a shadow over Asia’s cautious reopening. A return to border and social restrictions could upend months of progress in countries such as Singapore, often a bellwether for the rest of Asia.

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

Some California cities aim to blunt the new duplex law

With California on the verge of allowing multi-unit housing in neighborhoods previously reserved for single-family homes, some cities are rushing to pass restrictions on the new developments.

Among other restrictions, local plans are aiming to limit the size and height of new development, mandate parking spots and require that such housing be rented only to those making moderate or low incomes.

More politics

  • Alright, alright: Matthew McConaughey isn’t running for Texas governor just yet.
  • Days after firebrand conservative Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado was harshly criticized for making anti-Muslim comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat whom she likened to a bomb-carrying terrorist, the two spoke by phone. The call ended abruptly after Boebert rejected Omar’s request for a public apology.
  • The failure of California’s “Rigs to Reefs” program, an effort to transform oil platforms into underwater artificial reefs, stands as a cautionary tale to those who have called for a drilling ban after thousands of gallons of crude washed ashore in Orange County in October.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting and the latest action in Sacramento.

The confessions of a prolific serial killer have L.A. detectives chasing ghosts

In hundreds of hours of interviews with investigators, former boxer Sam Little claimed to have committed 93 murders across the U.S., a number of them in Los Angeles. The scraps of detail he offered —a year, an intersection, a landmark — left the FBI and local police scrambling to fill in the blanks and corroborate his chilling confessions.

With Little’s death last year in a California prison and the lead investigator’s retirement next month, detectives hoping to close cases are launching a public push for answers.

Here are clues on 16 people he claimed to have killed in L.A. whom police haven’t identified.

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An L.A. gun store theft exploded into an LAPD scandal. LAPD and L.A. County district attorney records and interviews by The Times show that what started out as a probe into missing firearms and the manager of the gun store at the Los Angeles Police Academy spiraled in the last year and a half, spurring a cascade of allegations of criminal activity, misconduct and corruption on the part of officers and commanders.

The San Diego City Council moved forward with a vaccination mandate. City employees, including police officers, must be vaccinated under the mandate, which was passed despite strong opposition from the police union.

Four children and a woman were found shot to death in a Lancaster home. A single-story home on a quiet street in Lancaster became a scene of tragedy Sunday night when a father shot and killed his four children and their grandmother, authorities said. A man was arrested Monday morning.

An attorney hired by City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office has admitted to bribery. The lawyer agreed to plead guilty to one count of bribery in a nearly $2.2-million kickback scheme arising from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s 2013 billing fiasco, prosecutors said.

A 100,000-pound tree crashed onto an Encino home. A 64-year-old man was killed when the massive oak fell onto the house late Sunday. Two other people were rescued.

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Iran nuclear talks resume in Vienna amid muted hopes. Negotiators resumed talks over reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, with hopes of quick progress muted after the arrival of a hard-line new government in Tehran led to a more than five-month hiatus.

Leftist opposition candidate holds a commanding lead in Honduran vote. Candidate Xiomara Castro held the lead Monday as Hondurans appeared poised to remove the conservative National Party from power after 12 years of rule.

Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein were “partners in crime,” a prosecutor said. In opening statements at Maxwell’s trial, the prosecutor said she was central to the late Epstein’s scheme to sexually abuse teenage girls. The defense countered that Maxwell, like so many women before her, was being made a scapegoat for a man’s bad behavior.


A blond woman in a dark coat poses for a portrait against a dark wall.
Kirsten Dunst shows her flair for the dramatic. The actor was photographed Nov. 8 for a Times interview about her collaboration with director Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog.”
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)


Chris Cuomo is under fire again for advising his brother. Details of the CNN anchor’s involvement in managing brother and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal are raising new concerns inside the cable news network.

There’s a new crop of “raunchy as hell” Christmas movies. Spiced with bawdy dialogue, rowdy characters and outrageous shenanigans, VH1’s new “Naughty or Nice” holiday film slate brings a sharper edge to the tried-and-true blandness of the Christmas movie genre.

Prosecutors ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling that overturned Bill Cosby’s conviction. Cosby, convicted of sexual assault, was freed after three years in prison. A news release from a former prosecutor is key to the case, one that prosecutors say has been treated as an immunity agreement, which they argue could set a dangerous precedent.

“I didn’t want to be gay.” In “Coming Out Colton,” a new Netflix series premiering this week, Colton Underwood, the onetime star of “The Bachelor” franchise, takes viewers through his journey as a reality TV celebrity, former pro athlete and current Christian who came out in April.


Jack Dorsey is stepping down as Twitter’s chief executive. Dorsey is ceding the position to the company’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal. The move is effective immediately, though Dorsey will stay on the board of the social media company until his term expires in 2022, Twitter said.

Google workers say they were fired for following the company’s “Don’t Be Evil” slogan. Three former employees have sued the tech giant, claiming they were wrongfully fired for challenging a plan to collaborate with the Trump administration’s border security agencies.


Lee Elder, first Black golfer to play the Masters, has died at 87. A native Texan who developed his game during segregated times while caddying, Elder made history in 1975 at Augusta National, which had been an all-white tournament until he received an invitation.

Did the Trevor Bauer uncertainty lead to Max Scherzer signing with the Mets? The Dodgers are one of the most affluent franchises in the majors. And yet the Dodgers deemed Scherzer’s cost too rich, with his time on the team unofficially ending Monday. One likely factor: the uncertainty surrounding Trevor Bauer.

The Dodgers’ pivotal offseason took another turn for the worse. Hours after the Scherzer news, Corey Seager, another star free agent, opted not to return to Los Angeles. The shortstop instead agreed to sign a 10-year, $325-million contract with the Texas Rangers.

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The Supreme Court is hearing a case asking it to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Please, jurists, do not take abortion rights away from any women, anywhere, The Times’ editorial board writes.

What will virtual reality and artificial intelligence mean for sex, love and intimacy? Personalized chatbot AI friends are one thing, but surely romance, love and sex would depend on a mutual — uniquely human — give-and-take. Maybe not.


A small colorful building sits amid dense plants and trees.
Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge on Nov. 16.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Visit the magnificently massive and gnarly pepper tree of Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona del Mar. See the “12-tatami-mat tea house” at the Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens in Pasadena. Or walk the paths of the Central Garden — a kind of living artwork with a fast-moving stream and a waterfall that drops into a pool — at the Getty Center Gardens in Brentwood. Those are three of our 16 most beautiful and inviting public gardens in Southern California.


On this day in 2007, Evel Knievel died at age 69. As The Times said in Knievel’s obituary, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil’s jumps over Greyhound buses, live sharks and Idaho’s Snake River Canyon made him an international icon in the 1970s. Below, he’s pictured getting ready for a stunt in L.A.’s Memorial Coliseum in February 1973. The Times reported that he successfully leaped a stack of 50 junk cars.

From The Times’ article: “He walks with a valiant limp, the badge of his trade, and carries a silver-tipped walking stick a riverboat gambler might have twirled in style. Evel Knievel’s cane, however, is hollow and loaded with vials of vodka and scotch, which help him enliven even the faint pleasures of his morning coffee.”

Note: We’d like to thank readers who noticed bad math in a recent From the Archives photo of Leo Carrillo from 1937, which was 84 (not 75!) years ago.

A man on a motorcycle in a helmet that says "Evel," with an empty stadium in the background.
48 years ago: Evel Knievel on his motorcycle at Memorial Coliseum in 1973.
(Los Angeles Times)

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— Amy Hubbard and Laura Blasey