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Today’s Headlines: Biden says U.S. would intervene militarily in Taiwan if necessary

President Joe Biden during a prime-time address
President Biden said Monday that the U.S. would intervene militarily in Taiwan if China were to invade the country.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Tuesday, May 24, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Biden says U.S. would intervene militarily in Taiwan if necessary

President Biden said the United States would intervene militarily in Taiwan if necessary, in an apparent shift away from the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” that quickly ratcheted up tensions with China.

The comment — not the first instance of Biden’s blunt rhetoric on the world stage causing confusion and geopolitical uncertainty — suggested a willingness by the president to go further in defending Taiwan than he has in aiding Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has received tens of billions of dollars in arms and intelligence assistance in the war launched by Russia but not the direct intervention of U.S. or North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops.

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More politics

  • Many people want at least partial student loan forgiveness when the moratorium on making repayments expires at the end of August. Most economists say the overall impact of reducing student debt would be modest, but others say forgiveness would enable the beneficiaries to move forward with their lives.
  • After 2016 and 2020 misses, pollsters are seeking ways to reach more voters and better weight results, writes columnist Mark Z. Barabak.
  • Ramit Varma, a little-known candidate who poured $4 million of his own money into Los Angeles’ mayoral race, dropped out to endorse Rick Caruso.

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

Anaheim mayor resigns amid a corruption probe

Two prominent Orange County political leaders resigned within 24 hours of each other amid fallout from a sprawling federal public corruption investigation linked to the proposed sale of Angel Stadium and allegations that a secretive “cabal” controlled Anaheim’s politics.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu announced that he was stepping down after being accused of bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice and witness tampering in an affidavit supporting a search warrant application earlier this month.

The announcement in a two-paragraph statement from Sidhu’s attorney came after another prominent figure caught up in the probe, Melahat Rafiei, announced she was stepping down as a member of the Democratic National Committee and state party secretary.

Pentagon says more high-tech weapons are headed to Ukraine

Nearly 50 defense leaders from around the world met and agreed to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine, including a Harpoon launcher and missiles to protect its coast, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III told reporters.

And Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “low-level” discussion is underway on how the U.S. may need to adjust its training of Ukrainian forces and on whether some U.S. troops should be based in Ukraine.

The U.S. withdrew its few troops in Ukraine before the war and has no plans to send in combat forces. Milley’s comments left open the possibility that troops could return for embassy security or another noncombat role.

More on Ukraine

Four high-ranking men at CSU campuses were accused of sexual harassment. All were treated differently

The four were all high-ranking men at different California State University campuses — three were vice presidents for student affairs. Each was accused of inappropriately touching women. And each case was handled differently.

Two of the accused men were allowed to continue working while under investigation, but a third was placed on leave. Two campuses hired outside firms to investigate; another farmed its investigation out to a different campus. In the fourth case, no formal investigation was even conducted.

Hundreds of pages of investigative reports, settlement documents and other records released to The Times, as well as interviews with experts and former university officials who oversaw such cases, highlight the inconsistent manner in which the California State University system investigates and resolves sexual harassment complaints across its 23 campuses.

The amazing story of Reggie, L.A.’s celebrity alligator

Reggie, the most famous alligator in Los Angeles, lives in a beautifully landscaped midcentury dwelling just outside Los Feliz. Between the two fences that separate Reggie’s enclosure from the public is a sign with the thumbnail version of his remarkable journey to the Los Angeles Zoo 15 years ago today. Some visitors stop to read it; a lot of them don’t. But once upon a time people gathered by the hundreds just to catch a glimpse of the celebrity gator.

You could buy T-shirts emblazoned with Reggie’s likeness. His name appeared in headlines from Long Beach to London. A decent chunk of L.A.'s budget — $180,000 — went to Reggie-related expenses. What Reggie makes of his unusual life story is a mystery. An alligator brain is the size of a peanut.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

A man in a blue polo shirt stands in a destroyed apartment and holds an object in his hand.
Kyiv’s suburbs struggle to return to being “a happy place,” even with Russia gone. Denis Alyoshyn salvages what he can from his destroyed apartment. His wife lost her leg in a Russian bombing on March 1.
(Liliana Nieto del Rio / For The Times)

CALIFORNIA

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said California needs urgent, aggressive water conservation. He met with leaders of the state’s largest urban water suppliers and implored them to step up efforts to get people to reduce water use. He warned that the state could be forced to impose mandatory water restrictions throughout the state.

SoCal drought battle: Keeping trees alive despite unprecedented watering restrictions. Water agencies and officials are working to get the message out on the importance of trees and keeping them alive during the drought.

California has new rules covering medical malpractice payments. Newsom signed a bill to raise the amount of money that patients can receive in medical malpractice cases, increasing pain and suffering payments for the first time since lawmakers placed a cap on monetary damages nearly five decades ago.

Police say they won’t march in San Francisco Pride Parade. They said they will not march in this year’s Pride Parade in protest over organizers’ new decision not to allow officers to wear their uniforms during the annual LGBTQ event. Firefighters and sheriff’s deputies said they also would not march.

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NATION-WORLD

School counselors sound a cry for help after the Buffalo shooting. For many schools, the shooting rampage in Buffalo, carried out by an 18-year-old who had been flagged for making a threatening comment at his high school last year, prompted staff discussions on how they might respond differently.

Australia swears in a new center-left prime minister in a major political shakeup. The nation’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was sworn in while vote-counting continued to determine whether he would command a majority in Parliament. On Saturday, the center-left Labor Party ousted the conservative coalition that had been in power for nine years.

World Food Program presses billionaires ‘to step up’ amid the war in Ukraine. Agency Executive Director David Beasley built upon a social media back-and-forth he had with Elon Musk last year, when the Tesla CEO challenged policy advocates to show how a $6-billion donation sought by the U.N. agency could solve world hunger.

Court ruling extends uneven treatment for asylum-seekers. In one of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings, Cubans and Venezuelans are often released to pursue asylum, while other nationalities are often turned back.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

The internet is breaking your brain. This musical is here to help. Numerous musicals have addressed the web: “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Mean Girls,” “Be More Chill.” But “Octet,” the Dave Malloy musical making its West Coast premiere, manages to capture a life lived Too Online in a way that no stage show has before now.

John Waters’ day in L.A.: thoughts on his novel, Johnny Depp, Woody Allen and the U.S.A. “Liarmouth: A Feel Bad Romance” is Waters’ debut novel, but it’s full of the wild characters and shocking twists he’s known for in film. He spoke with The Times on the last leg of his promotional tour, living up to his reputation as a subversive and playful conversationalist — if also sweet, gentle, almost subdued.

At the Broad, we took a walk alongside Takashi Murakami through augmented reality. The AR is part of “Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow,” his first solo exhibition at the museum. “Murakami points his phone at the canvas as if to snap a photo. Suddenly, two holes open up on the floor in front of it, as seen on his phone, and two silver avatars rise from beneath the floor. They are the AR versions of early Murakami characters, Hiropon and My Lonesome Cowboy. They wear futuristic bodysuits, with My Lonesome Cowboy’s hair sculpted into spikes and Hiropon donning giant, Princess Leia-like buns.”

BUSINESS

These five workers left restaurant jobs in the pandemic. Where are they now? The Times interviewed longtime workers about why they left their jobs during the pandemic and where they’d since landed. All sought more flexibility and a less intense work schedule. Some have gravitated back to the industry they vowed to swear off, as many people continue to find their feet in a scrambled labor market.

Starbucks is leaving the Russian market, shutting 130 stores. In a memo to employees, the Seattle coffee giant said it decided to close its 130 stores and no longer have a brand presence in Russia. Starbucks said it would continue to pay its nearly 2,000 Russian employees for six months and help them transition to new jobs. The move follows McDonald’s exit.

SPORTS

Trea Turner’s slide is stupid smooth. In August, the Dodgers shortstop joined internet lore with his slide at home plate in a game against the Phillies. Turner said his method was an instinctual one to avoid pain. He said players often slide too close to the bag, jamming their foot or, worse, injuring their hand. Or they slam too hard onto the ground, leaving bruises and raspberries. “He makes it look easy because he wants it to be easy on his body.” Watch it: It’s good for repeat viewings.

The NFL is finally fostering opportunities for minorities and women eyeing leadership positions. The NFL can’t tell team owners whom to hire, but it is hoping that its coaching ranks become more diverse and reflective of its players, about 70% of whom are Black.

Elbow issue of Rams’ Matthew Stafford delays Allen Robinson connection. Robinson gives the Rams a different look at the wide receiver as they prepare to defend their Super Bowl title with offseason training.

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OPINION

Sure, reduce pot taxes. But California needs bigger fixes to its broken marijuana market. Newsom wants to eliminate the cultivation tax, a smart, small step toward fixing the state’s marijuana mess that was created, in part, by Proposition 64. Legalization came with political compromise on taxes and rules that have stymied efforts to move illegal pot operators into the legal marketplace.

Will the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard hell trial never end? The trial exposes not only the chasm that often exists between perception and reality but also how desperate we are to fill it with theories, explanations, justifications and blame. Not even the most generous reading from either side leaves us with a winner, much less a hero, writes columnist Mary McNamara. So what are we looking for?

ONLY IN L.A.

A customer looks into the window of Norms Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood
Norms Restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard in West Hollywood in 2019.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Here are the 25 best classic diners in L.A. The sturdy white mugs, ever full. The staff, cheerful and no-nonsense. The canonical menu: eggs every which way, pancakes, burgers and melts. We frequent diners — or coffee shops, if you prefer, and not the kind that serve single-origin pour-overs — for their beautiful predictability.

In Southern California, diners come in all shapes (though the design of L.A.’s most fabled diners was codified in the mid-20th century with Googie architecture.) The Times’ Food staff checked out plenty of the area’s timeless, crowded rooms and greasy spoons to pull together their list of 25 favorites.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A man in a head-to-toe furry costume pushes an umbrella stroller with a baby in it.
Aug. 16, 1979: Bret Pardo, pushing 7-month-old daughter Stephanie, came as Chewbacca to a “Star Wars” contest at a North Hollywood theater. Those in costume got to see the film for free.
(Boris Yaro / Los Angeles Times)

Forty-five years ago this week, on May 25, 1977, “Star Wars” was released. An article in the May 22 Times Calendar section called it “the year’s most razzle-dazzling family movie, an exuberant and technically astonishing space adventure in which the galactic tomorrows of Flash Gordon are the setting for conflicts and events that carry the suspiciously but splendidly familiar ring of yesterday’s westerns.”

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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