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Today’s Headlines: Zelensky prods Biden to pledge more Ukraine aid in emotional speech to Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking to Congress
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to Congress, compares Russia’s invasion with Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11, and urgently asks for help.
(FedNet)
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By Elvia Limón and Laura Blasey

Hello, it’s Thursday, March 17, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Zelensky prods Biden to pledge more Ukraine aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed directly to U.S. lawmakers with an emotional request for additional financial support, weaponry and a no-fly zone to help his country fend off the Russian invasion, in a rare speech that essentially circumvented the White House and went directly to the American people.

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The first virtual address by a foreign leader to Congress — and certainly the first delivered by a T-shirt-clad leader in a war-torn capital — landed powerfully with lawmakers, who almost universally said more needs to be done to help the Ukrainian people.

Zelensky’s 17-minute speech had a deeply personal, emotional appeal. He likened the Russian invasion in Ukraine to some of America’s darkest moments: Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

In a sign of the political potency of the speech, within hours the White House rolled out a new $800-million package of aid that met many of Zelensky’s requests — 800 new antiaircraft systems, 9,000 shoulder-mounted missiles and 7,000 small arms such as machine guns.

Meanwhile, a Russian airstrike hit a theater in Mariupol where hundreds of people had taken shelter in recent days as a siege on the southern port city tightened, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

More about Ukraine

Fed raises interest rates for the first time since 2018

The Federal Reserve responded to the nation’s surging inflation by inching up interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point and signaling it plans more hikes in the months to come. It was the Fed’s first increase since 2018 and will lift the central bank’s benchmark rate from near zero, where it has been the last two years of the pandemic.

But with consumer prices accelerating at a 40-year high and hitting American household budgets with painful and unsettling effects, economists decried the central bank’s action as too little, too late.

Not that long ago, rising inflation looked like an unwelcome byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic that could be reined in with moderate application of higher interest rates. But the invasion of Ukraine has thrown a big wild card into the economic outlook.

More politics

  • After a decade-long prohibition, congressional earmarks make their return this week, sending more than $760 million in transportation, military, healthcare and other projects to California.

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

Which COVID rules have changed?

In recent days you might have noticed many unmasked people inside grocery stores or your favorite retailer. The lack of face coverings comes just days after Los Angeles County lifted its indoor mask mandate March 4.

The county made the move with a stamp of approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which declared that the county’s level of community transmission had officially dropped into the “low” category.

Under this new guidance, though, businesses can still choose to keep their mask requirement for customers and employees. L.A. County residents can also decide whether or not to wear a mask in any public space. Here are some more facts about the updated guidance from federal, state and county health experts on masks and other COVID-19 precautions.

More top coronavirus headlines

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

In California’s oil patch, the Ukraine war stirs one last hope

In Taft, Calif., amid the dusty hills and deserted main streets of California’s oil country, the last three years have delivered “one kick in the gut after another,” some say. Coronavirus, wildly fluctuating crude prices, lingering surface spills, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pledge to transition to a “carbon-neutral” economy and the recent closure of two local prisons have left many wondering just what the future has to offer.

In recent days, however, that grim outlook has given way to a potent mix of hope, anger, and desperation after President Biden’s ban on the importation of Russian oil. The executive order has sent domestic gas prices soaring. It has also given oil industry advocates a new cudgel with which to fight California’s pumping restrictions.

And now, as pressure mounts to help Californians struggling with prices at the pump, as well as increases in the costs of food, rent and other daily essentials, there’s a new proposal in Sacramento: A group of Democratic state lawmakers called for sending a $400 rebate to every California taxpayer to help soften the blow of the recent surge in gasoline prices.

The ex-Hollywood filmmaker bankrolling a far-right political revolt.

Reverge Anselmo, a former U.S. Marine, former novelist, ex-filmmaker, former vintner and guardian of a vast fortune, abandoned his stunning Shasta County estate in 2014 in a huff. He’d been battling the county over, among other things, his decision to construct a Catholic chapel without full permits on his vineyard.

Then, in 2021, Anselmo learned that far-right activists were making a documentary about efforts to recall Shasta County elected officials — so he began contributing to their efforts.

On Feb 1, Shasta County voters stunned the state’s political establishment by tossing Republican Supervisor Leonard Moty, a former police chief, on charges that he wasn’t conservative enough. The recall backers say they are just getting started. They plan to take control of the county by winning more Shasta posts in the June elections, while exporting their confrontational model to other communities nationwide.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

A pink robot with a small orange flag weaves through a crowd of confused people
Food delivery robots face many obstacles on their journeys, from dogs to sidewalk congestion. In this photo, a Coco sidewalk robot tries to deliver a food order as Ukrainian Americans rally in Westwood on Feb. 26. It’s not easy being a delivery bot, but the companies who make them say they have joined urban planning groups and offered to report problems such as dangerous sidewalks, partly in an effort to avoid the municipal pushback.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Overdue tuition and fees, even $41, can derail a community college education. New research suggests colleges’ policies around unpaid balances may be contributing to an enrollment decline while doing lasting financial harm to students.

Why the city of Fresno kept silent about losing $600,000 to a phishing scam. Officials believed they were wiring money to the contractor building a new police station in the city. The loss was kept secret from the public until recently — which city officials said was done to protect a federal investigation.

California bill would let parents sue social media companies for addicting kids. Assembly Bill 2408, or the Social Media Platform Duty to Children Act, was introduced by Republican Jordan Cunningham of Paso Robles and Democrat Buffy Wicks of Oakland with support from the University of San Diego School of Law Children’s Advocacy Institute.

‘I can’t breathe’: Video shows the death of a man pinned down while in CHP custody. Two years after a man died in police custody after being detained as a DUI suspect, attorneys for his family have obtained a video showing his last moments as California Highway Patrol officers hold him and forcibly draw his blood.

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NATION-WORLD

An eighth journalist is killed in Mexico this year. Prosecutors in the western state of Michoacán said reporter Armando Linares was shot to death at a home in the town of Zitacuaro. His killing came six weeks after the slaying of a colleague, Roberto Toledo, from the same outlet, Monitor Michoacán.

North Korean missile explodes in midair in a failed launch. South Korea’s military shared the news amid speculation that the North is preparing to launch its longest-range missile in its most significant provocation in years. Details of the missile explosion weren’t immediately known.

Iran frees British citizens detained for more than five years. Two British citizens who had been jailed in Iran for more than five years were on their way home Wednesday after the U.K. government settled a decades-old debt to Iran. The British government said a third detainee who holds U.S., British and Iranian citizenship was also released.

Magnitude 7.3 quake hits north Japan. It struck off the coast of Fukushima on Wednesday evening, triggering a tsunami advisory and plunging more than 2 million homes in the Tokyo area into darkness. The region was devastated by a deadly 9.0 quake and tsunami 11 years ago that also caused nuclear plant meltdowns.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

How Ghost — ‘an occult, pop, satanic sort of rock ’n’ roll band’ — conquered metal and the charts. Onstage at Anaheim’s Honda Center arena, Tobias Forge is not himself — he is Papa Emeritus IV, leader of the theatrical Swedish metal band that just released their fifth album. Offstage, he’s a thoughtful interview and quick with a joke, a family man with a wife and kids at home.

Barbara Morrison, jazz and blues legend who left a lasting imprint on L.A., dies at 72. A GoFundMe launched for Morrison in early March, after “she was sent to the hospital with cardiovascular disease,” raised more than $13,000. People who donated described her as “a national treasure” and “a legend.”

Court orders actor Jussie Smollett to be released from jail during appeal. Smollett’s attorneys had argued that he would have completed the sentence by the time the appeal process was finished and that Smollett could be in danger of physical harm if he remained locked up in Cook County Jail.

BUSINESS

Unveiling of Warner Bros. Discovery board of directors draws criticism. AT&T and Discovery announced its board members to oversee the soon-to-be Warner Bros. Discovery media company. But the move immediately drew criticism because the two companies failed to include a Latino board member.

Those sidewalk delivery bots? A Gen Z gamer might be piloting the next one you see. For all their AI and other advanced technology, such sidewalk robots — suddenly all over certain neighborhoods and college campuses — are backed by armies of human minders who track the last-mile delivery vehicles the way parents hover over toddlers taking their first steps.

SPORTS

Freddie Freeman, one of free agency’s biggest prizes, agrees to Dodgers deal. The contract, which is worth six years and $162 million, is the culmination of a once-quiet offseason for the team that is finishing with a seismic bang, giving the Dodgers four former MVPs on their roster.

Inside a UCLA season on the brink that prepared the Bruins for March Madness. The Bruins’ bid to reach a second consecutive Final Four has rarely been the-seatbelt-sign-is-now-off smooth. There have been some wacky setbacks, leading scorer Johnny Juzang falling off a scooter, center Myles Johnson accidentally elbowing two teammates in the face and forward Mac Etienne getting cited by police for allegedly spitting at taunting Arizona fans.

Von Miller agrees to a six-year contract with Buffalo Bills. Miller revealed the news on his Instagram account. The six-year contract averages $17.5 million per year for the first four years, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

David Price is ‘in the mix’ for a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation. This spring, the 36-year-old is hoping to rediscover more of his old form. And early in camp, he’s at least preparing for a potential return as a full-time starter.

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OPINION

Our divided U.S. should be able to unite for Ukraine. There’s a war going on. It’s no time for politics as usual, writes columnist LZ Granderson.

The image of a bloody mother and her unborn child symbolizes Russia’s brutality in Ukraine. The pregnant woman on the stretcher has become one of the most memorable images from the misbegotten Ukraine war. Her situation is as unthinkable, and gut-wrenching, as war itself.

ONLY IN L.A.

The exterior of Mr. Charlie's restaurant on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles.
(Aaron Haxton/Aaron Haxton)

TikTok proclaimed it ‘vegan McDonald’s.’ We tried it. There’s a new fast-food restaurant on La Brea Avenue, just south of Melrose. If you drive by over a certain speed, you might mistake its red and yellow signage for a McDonald’s.

But it isn’t a McDonald’s at all. It’s Mr. Charlie’s Frowny Meal. Almost 4 million people watched Lizzo review the restaurant on TikTok. Countless users have posted videos walking through the space, checking out the T-shirts upstairs and the artwork featuring what looks like Marilyn Monroe and Ronald McDonald’s love child all over the walls.

Owner Charlie Kim told food columnist Jenn Harris that he wanted to open a restaurant that offered plant-based versions of well-known fast-food items. The Not a Hamburger ($6) is an Impossible burger with pickles, mustard, ketchup and diced onion. The Not a Cheeseburger ($7) adds vegan cheese to the party. And yes, there are vegan nuggets.

So how does it compare to the real McDonald’s? Here’s what Harris had to say.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

MacArthur Park in Los Angeles
On a warm day at MacArthur Park in 1971, some ride bikes, some doze, kids run and play ball and some just watch the others.
(Los Angeles Times)

Fifty-one years ago today, some Angelenos were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by relaxing at MacArthur Park. The weather forecast looks promising today — perfect for recreating this pleasant scene. Just be sure to wear your green to avoid getting pinched!

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today’s Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at headlines@latimes.com.

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