Today’s Headlines: U.S. offers Sweden security guarantees as the war in Ukraine enters a new phase

Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from the besieged Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant
Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Tuesday.
(Associated Press)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Thursday, May 19, and before the news, we’d like to shout out The Times’ “101 best California experiences,” which landed today. This is staffer Christopher Reynolds’ vast compendium of go-to spots in the Golden State, i.e. Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay (one of our personal favorites), Big Sur (for lunch at clifftop Nepenthe), and the upstairs mezzanine of L.A.’s the Last Bookstore. We asked longtime travel writer Reynolds what made the list special:

“For me, one of the most striking things about this project was the way it showed me connections between places I’d never connected before,” he said. Such as? “Starting a century ago, Sabato Rodia spends about 30 years building his Watts Tower from whatever scraps he can get ahold of. Meanwhile, a few hundred miles to the north, Julia Morgan is designing Hearst Castle to accommodate the whims … of her rich sponsor.” These “vastly different projects,” he said, all these years later evoke “the mix of privilege and desperation, adaptation and improvisation” that underpin today’s California.

So, we invite you to take a spin through the 101.


Now, on to the stories you shouldn’t miss today.


The war in Ukraine enters a new phase as the U.S. offers Sweden security guarantees

The first Russian soldier to be tried for war crimes pleaded guilty to killing a Ukrainian civilian as fears grew over the fate of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered in Mariupol. The uncertainty surrounding the Ukrainian fighters adds one more tense chapter to a battle that has become a focal point in the war.

Though Moscow has now won the fight for Mariupol, its long siege has emerged as a symbol of the grinding road ahead for Russia’s military. But the longer the conflict lasts, the longer the Kremlin risks entrenching its isolation and galvanizing Western allies to join together.

That was manifested when Finland and Sweden formally handed in their applications to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Plus, the U.S. is offering Sweden a number of unspecified security guarantees that could include money and weapons.

Did the Buffalo mass shooting suspect’s 90% white hometown fuel his hate?

Conklin, N.Y., has long enjoyed — even taken pride in — its speck-on-the-wall anonymity, a town unnoticed by and unconcerned with most of the outside world. But the world and its messiness landed fiercely there when one of its own allegedly killed 10 people and wounded three more in a racially motivated shooting 3 ½ hours away in Buffalo.

An avowed white supremacist, who wrote a 180-page manifesto to explain his views and the carnage they would unleash, is the son of a town that doesn’t know how to explain him.

His rage, according to police, played out in hate-filled online netherworlds populated by mostly young men who spout venom, crave attention and are becoming an increasing danger in towns like this, where extremism is seeping into the mainstream.

How a Laguna Woods church luncheon turned into a deadly scene

Behind the pulpit of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church was Pastor Billy Chang. He had spent two decades pastoring the Laguna Woods congregation before moving to Taiwan two years ago. And on Sunday morning, he was back as a guest preacher. In the back of the sanctuary was a stranger in a black T-shirt who read a newspaper throughout the sermon.

Chang read from the Book of Isaiah. They were prescient words. About three hours later, the parishioners would have to find that strength mentioned in the scripture to save their own lives when the stranger locked them in the auditorium and pulled out a gun.

When Dr. John Cheng — an Orange County sports medicine physician and father of two teenagers — saw the man shooting elders, he jumped into the line of fire. Cheng died at the scene. Five other parishioners were shot and taken to hospitals.

A third of the U.S. should be considering masks, officials say

Coronavirus infections are on the rise in the United States and could get even worse over the coming months, federal health officials warned as they urged the hardest-hit areas to consider reissuing calls for indoor masking.

About a third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at higher risk — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. Those are areas where people should already be considering wearing masks indoors. But Americans elsewhere should also take notice, officials said.

However, officials were cautious about making concrete predictions, saying how much worse the pandemic gets will depend on several factors, including to what degree previous infections will protect against new variants.

More top coronavirus headlines

  • Los Angeles County is doing significantly better than New York City so far in this latest spring wave of Omicron cases, and officials remain hopeful that California can avoid the significant increases in coronavirus hospitalizations seen on the East Coast.
  • President Biden’s top health official, Xavier Becerra, has tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms.
  • A Tujunga doctor accused of issuing fake COVID-19 vaccination cards and injecting some of his patients with blood plasma that he received from donors faces multiple felony and misdemeanor charges.

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

A ‘no party preference’ prosecutor could shake up California’s attorney general’s race

Sacramento Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert has spent three decades in courtrooms prosecuting murderers and rapists. Now she wants to be the state’s top cop. It will likely take persistence and political good fortune to succeed in the race for California attorney general as an unaffiliated, independent candidate — a campaign in which she hopes to cast off her former Republican reputation and secure one of two spots on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Schubert is running to unseat Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, the Democratic incumbent appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year as the first Filipino American to hold the job. Should she advance to November, the race could become one of the fiercest competitions of 2022, testing the political viability of both independent candidates and a tough-on-crime platform reminiscent of California campaigns from the 1990s.

More politics

  • With less than three weeks remaining until election day, Rep. Karen Bass, developer Rick Caruso and City Councilman Kevin de León are now left competing for L.A.’s undecided voters.

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

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Two crying women hug; one holds a votive candle. Next to them a sign says "Celebration of Life" and "Aaron Salter Jr."
In mourning: Janate Ingram, left, and Cariol Horne, both of Buffalo, attend a vigil in the city on Tuesday for victims of the mass shooting at Tops Friendly Market.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)


The LAUSD expects enrollment to plummet by an ‘alarming’ 30% in the next decade. The predicted steep drop comes as school officials contemplate the district’s future. It could mean tough choices ahead about academic programs, campus closures, jobs and employee benefits — and could force, over that time, a dramatic remake of the nation’s second-largest school system.

A CSU official was accused of harassment. Women are questioning why he wasn’t disciplined. Two women who alleged inappropriate behavior by a Cal State vice president said they were dismayed he did not face any discipline or undergo corrective action by Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki after an investigation concluded he had engaged in inappropriate touching and made unwanted sexual comments to women while working at another university.

A woman serving a life sentence in California prison led a $2-million unemployment fraud scheme, prosecutors say. Federal authorities charged 13 people and arrested five in connection with a California unemployment insurance benefits scheme they believe netted at least $2 million under the direction of the state prison inmate.

The average price of gas in Los Angeles leads the nation at a record-breaking $6.08. On Wednesday, the average cost for a gallon of regular gas in Los Angeles reached $6.08, leaping 2.3 cents overnight and breaking a record set earlier this year, according to the latest data from AAA.

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An investigation has found that U.S. troops did not violate the law in a 2019 airstrike in Syria. The U.S. military investigation found that American troops did not violate the law of war or deliberately cause civilian casualties in the airstrike, which killed dozens of people including women and children. It did find that the military committed procedural mistakes in the aftermath of the attack.

Portugal and Britain find monkeypox cases in men as the outbreak spreads. Massachusetts has also reported a rare case of monkeypox in a man who recently traveled to Canada. Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, a rash and lesions on the face or genitals resembling those caused by smallpox. A vaccine developed against smallpox has been approved for monkeypox, and several antivirals also appear to be effective.

Biden invokes Defense Production Act for the baby formula shortage. The order requires suppliers of formula manufacturers to fulfill those orders before other customers. Biden is also authorizing the Department of Defense to use commercial aircraft to fly overseas formula supplies that meet federal standards to the U.S.

Urvashi Vaid, a pioneering LGBTQ activist and author, dies at 63. Vaid led the nation’s oldest LGBTQ advocacy organization during the height of the AIDS crisis and fought for fundamental reforms long before same-sex marriage and other basic rights were won.


Megan Stalter always knew she was ‘special.’ The rest of us are finally catching up. The comedian’s profile ascended rapidly during the pandemic, when she performed nightly on Instagram Live. Increasingly, though, Stalter has brought her lovably unhinged alter egos to projects filmed outside her living quarters, including her breakout role in HBO’s “Hacks.”

How the actors of ‘Reservation Dogs’ find themselves in their characters. “It’s not just that we have Indigenous creators on this project; it’s that we’re bringing our ways, every step through. Whether it’s FX bringing on Indigenous publicists or focusing on Indigenous media; we’re including community members every step of the way. I didn’t even know that could happen.”

Science fiction is creating a strange new world of prestige TV. With storylines rooted in the Cold War or climate change or any number of other deep-seated earthbound concerns, no fewer than four new series (and counting) are boldly proclaiming an emerging new era this season. Why this sudden surge?


An app promising protection from sky-high overdraft fees has hidden costs. The pitch from Dave, a fast-growing West Hollywood financial app, is nearly irresistible: The company promises a cash advance with no fees even without a credit check. But that no-fee claim? It comes with an asterisk. Dave asks for tips. Consumer advocates say the tips and what they consider to be inflated express fees charged by Dave and other startups that have entered the cash-advance business are actually disguised interest charges that obscure their true cost.


U.S. Soccer has achieved its equal pay goal, splitting World Cup revenue evenly between men and women. U.S. Soccer has agreed to separative collective bargaining agreements with its men’s and women’s national teams that will guarantee equal pay for players on both sides, likely ending the six-year legal fight between the women’s squad and the federation over salaries and working conditions.

Jaime Jarrín and Charley Steiner are among the Dodgers broadcasters to test positive for the coronavirus. The team announced that “a few members” of its broadcast team had tested positive, and that none of its broadcasters will travel to Philadelphia and Washington for upcoming series. Those games will instead be broadcast remotely.

Pac-12 scraps divisions moments after the NCAA paves the way. The Pac-12 will now match the teams with the highest conference winning percentages in its title game after 11 seasons of matching winners of the North and South divisions. Other conferences are expected to follow.

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Vancouver’s safe drug-use sites are wrenching to see. California should open them anyway. State legislators are considering opening safe injection sites like those pioneered in British Columbia nearly 20 years ago, both to save lives and curtail open consumption. Columnist Anita Chabria visited Vancouver and found a tangle of perspectives that, at heart, comes down to whether we think success in fighting addiction has to be abstinence, or something lesser.


What if we could redesign L.A. from the ground up? There’s a lot to unpack about the way our city looks and to whom. L.A. is the land of “multiple things can be true.” Palm trees tower over some of the most beautiful and iconic blocks in the city that don’t have any shade. Some of the best views in the city can be seen from the tops of parking garages. Some Angelenos don’t do carbs, but they can’t shake the Cheesecake Factory-ification of the Grove and the Americana at Brand.

The latest issue of The Times’ Image magazine explores architecture, art, home and the visual language of classic L.A. apartment signs. When you peel away the artifice, surprises are inevitable. An unexpected, better reality is always possible, writes editor Ian Blair.


A bearded man lies on his stomach on the floor, yelling at a leaping frog.
May 24, 1981: Denny Matasci cheers on his champion, E. Davey Croakett, at that year’s Jumping Frog Jubilee.
(Los Angeles Times)

Ninety-four years ago today, on May 19, 1928, the first Jumping Frog Jubilee was held at Angels Camp, Calif. A 2014 Times story said the source of the tiny Gold Rush town’s “frog obsession” could be traced back to 1865, “when Mark Twain spent a few months at a nearby cabin and was inspired to write ‘The Celebrated Jumping frog of Calaveras County.’”

The contest is held each year on the third weekend in May. A couple of weeks before the inaugural event, on May 6, 1928, The Times wrote about preparations for the impending contest: “The bar-room floor of the old Angels Camp Hotel has been cleaned, scrubbed and put into shape for use as the arena, and buckshot will be strictly barred. Surrounding hills are being combed for entries in the race.” The article noted that the event would mark “the passing of the old mining camp and usher in the new era of speed” as the town had just finished paving its streets.

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