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Today’s Headlines: Coastal fire destroys at least 20 homes in Laguna Niguel

An aerial view of homes on fire
Homes in the Coronado Pointe community in Laguna Niguel burn Wednesday.
(KTLA)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Thursday, May 12, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Fire ravages houses in Laguna Niguel

A fire fueled by intense ocean winds barreled into a gated community overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Laguna Niguel on Wednesday, burning at least 20 homes in the latest sign of the drastic effects that climate change and drought are having on California fire danger.

The Coastal fire broke out on a cool but gusty day and spread rapidly, cresting up a canyon before burning huge ridgetop homes. Hundreds of residents fled the flames while firefighters spent the night in pitched house-to-house battles trying to prevent the blaze from spreading deeper into the subdivision.

The destruction underscored the year-round danger of fires in Southern California, even in cool conditions.

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Skid row is an overdose ‘epicenter.’ Why is treatment far away?

Skid row has long been the downtown zone where Los Angeles has shunted services for its most destitute. Yet when people want to try to wrench free from opioid addiction, the closest options for getting daily doses of methadone may be miles away in Boyle Heights, Westlake and South Park.

Medications such as methadone have been a crucial way to help people escape opioid addiction. L.A. health officials have long been frustrated by the lack of methadone treatment in skid row, but opening a new clinic isn’t a simple task.

Methadone is “the most regulated area of healthcare,” said Dr. Brian Hurley, medical director of the Division of Substance Abuse Prevention and Control for the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Hurley said that although the county can approve or deny contracts for methadone providers, the location needs to be approved federally and by the state.

Abortion takes center stage in political ads

In the aftermath of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would end federal protection for abortion, politicians on both sides of the aisle and interest groups have spent more than $3 million on ads that ran on television or appeared on social media trying to motivate voters. They have also placed ads on Google and other websites; the total amount of digital spending is unknown.

Scores of ads have aired more than 11,500 times on television since Politico on May 2 reported the draft opinion overturning the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the nation.

While campaigns always react to the news of the day, few strategists or political experts could recall a domestic development that had the potential to rattle elections as much as the end of Roe.

More politics

  • Senate Democrats failed to advance a bill to establish a federal right to abortion, but they still hoped the effort would draw a sharp political contrast with Republicans.
  • After missing multiple self-imposed deadlines, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders remain at odds over how to offer relief from California’s high gas prices.
  • For nearly 40 years, a private lunch with the president was a bedrock of the vice presidency. Is Kamala Harris missing an opportunity?
  • Black feminist author Barbara Smith fears the Supreme Court’s expected ruling against abortion rights will be just the beginning.
  • Here’s a look at some of the major climate-related provisions in the now-defunct Build Back Better plan, and which ones still might pass.
  • Veterans of the Lincoln Project are using lessons learned in 2020 to combat Russian lies and misinformation, writes Times columnist Mark Z. Barabak.

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

Ukraine retakes territory in the east

Ukraine pressed its counteroffensive against Russian troops — pushing them back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv — in what observers say could bring a new phase to the conflict, even as U.S. intelligence officials warned that Moscow was preparing for a protracted war.

Driving back Russian troops to fewer than a dozen miles from the Russian border, the Ukrainian military said it was able to claw back a constellation of settlements north of Kharkiv. The Ukrainian forces are now so close to Russia that, for the first time, a civilian in Russia died in cross-border shelling, according to Russian officials.

California again faces rising anxiety about the coronavirus

California is approaching another summer amid growing anxiety over COVID-19 as outbreaks increase and officials try to determine when this new wave will crest. Although case rates are climbing, experts note they are doing so at a more modest pace than the first Omicron surge.

California’s per capita COVID-19 hospitalization rate is also lower than some states on the East Coast. But with Memorial Day, graduations, proms and other seasonal events on the horizon, officials are concerned about the trend worsening.

Health officials across the state widely agree that it’s prudent to take precautions when coronavirus transmission is high — including wearing masks in indoor public spaces, being up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters, and gathering outdoors when possible or increasing ventilation when meeting indoors.

More top coronavirus headlines

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

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

A firefighter with a hose and burning structure in the background
Firefighters battle the Coastal fire at Coronado Pointe in Laguna Niguel. The fire destroyed homes in a gated community.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Vivian Villanueva holds sway in the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, officials say. In interviews, more than 20 current and former sheriff’s officials said Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s wife exerts real influence within the department. Though she does not have a formal role, her involvement has tipped the scales on important issues including promotions and transfers.

May gray and June gloom are threatened by climate change. Enjoy them while they last. This effective planetary sunscreen is crucial this year as California braces for a summer of heat, continued drought and dangerous wildfire conditions.

A Glendale third-grade teacher showed gay pride videos. A year later, a furious debate erupts. The conflict is unfolding as teaching about gender identity in public schools has joined other politically fraught, divisive debates, including on critical race theory, social emotional learning and vaccine mandates for COVID-19. Here’s what California law and education policies say about such issues.

Anthony Avalos’ family and L.A. County reach a tentative $32-million settlement. Brian Claypool — one of the lead attorneys representing the relatives of the 10-year-old Lancaster boy who prosecutors say died of child abuse and torture by his mother and her boyfriend — said the landmark agreement was reached just days before a trial was set to begin in Los Angeles that would have spotlighted lapses by the county’s Department of Children and Family Services.

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NATION-WORLD

Vegas mob lore has floated to the surface along with bodies at Lake Mead. As extreme drought lowers the water level of Nevada’s Lake Mead, the discoveries of two sets of skeletal remains earlier this month have captivated and horrified two distinct groups that typically do not have much in common: mob historians and climate scientists.

U.S. overdose deaths reached a record 107,000 last year, the CDC says. The latest numbers set another tragic record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic. Last year, overdoses involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were up 23% from the year before. There also was a 23% increase in deaths involving cocaine and a 34% increase in deaths involving meth and other stimulants.

A judge says Trump must pay $110,000 and meet other conditions to end a contempt finding. A New York judge said he was close to releasing Donald Trump from a contempt finding but only if the former president met certain conditions, including paying $110,000 in fines accrued for failing to turn over documents in a state civil investigation.

The U.S. has identified Native American boarding schools and burial sites. A first-of-its-kind federal study of Native American boarding schools that for over a century sought to assimilate Indigenous children into white society has identified more than 400 such schools that were supported by the U.S. government and more than 50 associated burial sites, a figure that could grow exponentially.

An Al Jazeera reporter was killed while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank. Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, was a respected and familiar face in the Middle East, known for her coverage of the harsh realities of Israel’s military occupation of the last three decades. The network and a reporter who was wounded in the incident blamed Israeli forces.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Theater is back, but recovery is proving perilous. Many arts organizations stayed afloat during the worst of the pandemic shutdowns through government pandemic grants and loans, augmented with generous donor support. That aid has long since dried up. And though performances have resumed, a recent study found that operating capacity, audience attendance and ticket revenue were all down.

Carla Morrison reclaims her mental health in song and on social media. She took a three-year break from writing songs. When she started making new music again, the songs centered on her mental health. Her single, “Ansiedad (Anxiety),” the first song she released after her hiatus, is about the anxiety she’s dealt with since she was a kid.

Comedian Josh Johnson gives crowds a therapy session with a shot of bourbon for his new special. We talked to Johnson to dig deeper about how he got to this moment in comedy, how it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, and why therapy is important not just for your mind but for your jokes too.

The Erika Jayne/Tom Girardi saga upended ‘Real Housewives.’ Here’s where things stand. It’s now been six months since the “Beverly Hills” reunion. In advance of the Season 12 premiere, Hamilton discusses developments that have occurred in the off-season, where the legal case against Tom Girardi stands now and what he’ll be looking for in Erika’s storyline this season.

BUSINESS

Republicans took away Disney’s special status in Florida. Now they’re gunning for Mickey himself. In 2024, the copyright protection for Mickey Mouse — twice extended since 1984 — will expire, putting the original character into the public domain. A group of Republican lawmakers has vowed to oppose any effort to extend the protection as a way to punish Disney, which they accuse of having a progressive agenda.

U.S. inflation hit 8.3% last month. It slowed in April after seven months of relentless gains, a tentative sign that price increases may be peaking while still imposing a financial strain on American households.

The first Starbucks stores in California have unionized as a national campaign pushes on. Workers at two Santa Cruz stores voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the national union, called Workers United. The wins added to the momentum of a union campaign that went public in late August and reversed decades of failed attempts to form unions at Starbucks.

SPORTS

Reid Detmers’ no-hitter is more than an outlier. The Angels can pitch! What was so welcome to see about Detmers’ no-hitter — besides his glee, of course — was that it was not some random interruption of another summer of pitching futility. It was a herald, a loud and joyful notice that October might finally return to the Angels’ schedule.

‘I’m growing impatient’: Five takeaways from Jeanie Buss’ interview with The Times. The Lakers controlling owner spoke about the team’s “extremely disappointing” season and more.

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OPINION

Abortion rights activists are targeting Supreme Court justices’ homes. That’s fine by columnist Robin Abcarian. If they had been able to protest outside the Supreme Court itself, perhaps the protesters would not have targeted the justices’ neighborhoods in the first place. But that was not an option.

Conservative Christians will regret overturning Roe. They’re sacrificing religious liberty to do it. American Catholics have a sense of what is at stake when the government tries to control private life. That’s why most of them want to protect abortion rights.

ONLY IN L.A.

A man walks by a restaurant entrance
A pedestrian passes Hop Woo restaurant on Broadway in Chinatown.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Chef Lupe Liang and his trilingual menu embodied the spirit of Chinatown. Yening “Lupe” Liang, the chef and co-owner of Hop Woo BBQ & Seafood, died last week at age 61, his family announced. Liang wanted Cantonese cuisine to be accessible to all and was credited with being the first restaurateur in Chinatown to offer his menus in Spanish.

In an appreciation of Liang’s legacy, food writer Eddie Lin pays tribute to the chef, who embraced the multiethnic mixture of L.A. after immigrating to Baja. He writes: “With its roast ducks dangling through the window, hanging lanterns, laughing Buddha at the door, the restaurant could be lumped among many Chinese restaurants of its kind in L.A. or anywhere else in the country. But Lupe’s was extraordinary.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A multistory white building built in a curve, with mature palm trees and Model T-era cars parked along a driveway.
Circa 1925: The Beverly Hills Hotel.
(Los Angeles Times)

One hundred and ten years ago today, on May 12, 1912, the Beverly Hills Hotel opened. Two days later, the Los Angeles Daily Times, as it was then known, devoted a single paragraph on Page 16 to the hotel’s “opening banquet.” “Covers were laid for 200, and the guests embraced a number of the financiers of Los Angeles who are interested in [Beverly Hills property]. The large dining room was beautifully decorated with asparagus plumosus, roses and carnations. A concert was given in the lobby following the banquet.”

The Times provided a much bigger splash a decade ago when the hotel — known for its celebrities, trysts and parties — hit the century mark. An article by Times colleague Jessica Gelt included the reminiscences of pool manager Svend Petersen: “He remembers talking with Ingrid Bergman for hours; teaching Faye Dunaway to swim for her role in ‘Mommie Dearest’; being in awe of Princess Grace (‘You didn’t dare to say hello because she was so elegant’); and sneaking the Beatles (who were disguised in fake beards and oversized clothes) into an upper cabana in 1964, after they performed on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ while a thousand kids screamed out front.” More memories and photos.

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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