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Today’s Headlines: Plans for a massive new reservoir whip up old controversy

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By Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Tuesday, May 31, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

California’s drought has resurrected a plan for the controversial Sites Reservoir

A long-dead proposal to flood a bucolic valley north of Sacramento and create a massive reservoir for thirsty Southern California is finding new life — and opposition — amid the effects of climate change and worsening drought.

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The Sites Reservoir was conceived in the 1950s and abandoned in the 1980s, but the megadrought has renewed interest in the plan, much to the dismay of environmentalists. The controversy has transformed the western Sacramento River valley into a battleground.

“Sites Reservoir won’t provide a lot of water,” said one environmentalist. “It will be costly, though, and hard to stop because it enables elected officials to say, ‘Look, we’re doing something about megadrought. It’s become their solution to climate change.”

Street fighting raged in a key east Ukrainian city that lay in ruins

Russian troops pushed farther into Severodonetsk, fighting street by street with Kyiv’s forces in a battle the mayor said had left the city in ruins and driven tens of thousands of people from their homes. Military analysts painted the fight for the city as part of a race against time for the Kremlin. Severodonetsk is key to Russian efforts to complete the capture of the eastern industrial region of the Donbas quickly — before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defense.

Meanwhile, European Union leaders reached a compromise to impose a partial oil embargo on Russia at a summit focused on helping Ukraine with a long-delayed package of sanctions that was blocked by Hungary. The watered-down embargo covers only Russian oil brought in by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline. EU Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter the agreement covered more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia.

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In Texas, the visitations, funerals and burials began

Monday should have been the first day of a joyous week for Robb Elementary School students — the start of summer break. Instead, the first two of 19 children slain inside a Uvalde, Texas, classroom were being remembered at funeral visitations. Over the next 2½ weeks, people in the southwestern Texas town will say goodbye to the children and their teachers, one heart-wrenching visitation, funeral and burial after another.

Related: Governors diverged — by party — on gun control in the wake of the shooting, with Democrats urging gun legislation and Republicans urging that schools be “hardened,” which could bring more guns on campuses. But President Biden said there might be some bipartisan support to tighten restrictions on the kind of high-powered weapons used by the Texas gunman.

What student loan forgiveness would mean to these borrowers

The pandemic repayment pause gave loan holders a glimpse of what life could look like if they didn’t have the debt. To learn more about their experiences, The Times interviewed over a dozen borrowers. Several talked about how they approached paying for college and the ways in which they tried to avoid debt. Millennial borrowers said they felt older generations didn’t understand their experience.

Student loan holders also talked about what might come next as President Biden reportedly considers a plan to forgive at least $10,000 in debt for people making under $125,000 a year. One borrower, facing $150,000 in debt, said: “I’m not a supporter of Biden ... Yes, I could possibly benefit from this policy. But do I agree with it? Yes and no.”

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The suspense in California’s June 7 primary election is in races far down the ballot

With the lack of suspense in California’s marquee races, the greatest challenge facing voters may be rousing themselves enough to cast ballots to decide other contests that could sway the balance of power in Congress and the future of state criminal justice policies. The low-intensity vibe threatens to boil down the June electorate to habitual voters and hard-core partisans, a result traditionally favoring Republicans.

Among the more intriguing twists in statewide races is the emergence of candidates shunning affiliation with any political party, including a top candidate for California attorney general. Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert, a career prosecutor who shed her GOP registration in 2018 and switched to “no party preference,” hopes to finish in the top two in the primary. If successful, Schubert in November would face off against Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, a Newsom appointee known for his liberal stance on criminal justice.

More politics

  • Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo is facing a spirited challenge to his reelection. Community activist Eunisses Hernandez has gathered campaign funding and prominent backing. The race revolves around public safety — Hernandez has backed abolishing police — and the cost of housing. Hernandez points to development approved by Cedillo as people in the district, from L.A.’s Eastside to Pico-Union, have been priced out or evicted.
  • Kevin de León’s bid for L.A. mayor may be lagging. But he’s resurrected himself before. As in his other campaigns, he’s leaning heavily on his personal story, hoping voters will relate to someone who has struggled as they have.
  • The central message of Gina Viola’s L.A. mayoral campaign: eliminating the Los Angeles Police Department over time and redirecting the money toward social services.

For context, dish and occasional deep dives on local elections, sign up for our L.A. on the Record newsletter, sent to your inbox each Saturday.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

A man in uniform kneels to put a miniature flag in the ground at a gravestone. Behind him, two young boys hold flags.
Capt. Oliver Kay, an Iraq veteran who served in the British and U.S. armies and is now a U.S. Army reservist, marks Memorial Day with sons Xavier, left, and Max at Los Angeles National Cemetery on Sunday.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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CALIFORNIA

Efforts are underway to rebuild Greenville, Calif., from the ashes of the Dixie fire. Can it be made to survive the next wildfire? The second-largest wildfire in California history — and the first ever to burn from one side of the Sierra Nevada to the other — decimated the town of about 1,000 people. The Dixie Fire Collaborative has embarked on a multi-stage process to gather community input and create an architectural plan for the downtown.

These L.A. school board races are like no other in recent memory, with no record spending and little mudslinging. But there’s a lot at stake leading up to the June 7 primary for three board seats: Topmost is overseeing the academic and emotional recovery of students from the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, the board must navigate rapidly dropping enrollment.

The results of a Compton City Council race were overturned in the wake of a vote-rigging scandal. The scandal, around a race that was decided by one vote, prompted criminal charges against the winner last year. Two-term Councilman Isaac Galvan must be replaced by his challenger, Andre Spicer, after a judge determined that four of the votes cast in the election were submitted by people who did not live in the council district the men were vying to represent.

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NATION-WORLD

The Pacific season’s first hurricane made landfall in Mexico. The strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in May in the eastern Pacific swept ashore on a stretch of tourist beaches and fishing towns in southern Mexico.

Israel’s prime minister defended a march marked by violence and racism. Authorities called up thousands of police, forcibly cleared out Palestinians and risked another war with the Islamic militant group Hamas to ensure that tens of thousands of mostly right-wing Israelis could parade through a dense Palestinian neighborhood and hundreds could visit a bitterly contested holy site.

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A man in a wig threw a cake at the “Mona Lisa.” Seemingly disguised as an old woman in a wheelchair, he threw the confection at the priceless work of art at the Louvre in Paris. He yelled out, “Think of the Earth!” There was a smear of frosting left on the glass protecting the painting.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

“Top Gun: Maverick” broke the longtime Memorial Day weekend box office record. The film soared to the highest-ever opening for the holiday weekend by raking in $156 million at the domestic box office in its first four days of release. It was Tom Cruise’s biggest box office debut. Related reading: There’s just one thing that is not clear in “Top Gun: Maverick” — and it happens to be a pretty important thing: Who exactly is the enemy? (warning: contains mild spoilers). That question is left intentionally fuzzy, with the film offering vague and contradictory hints about the antagonist that don’t quite add up. The fact is, ambiguity about the enemy has been baked into the “Top Gun” franchise from the beginning.

Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” is running up the music charts after featuring significantly in the fourth season of “Stranger Things.” As of Sunday, the English singer-songwriter’s 1985 track was No. 1 on the iTunes charts and No. 106 on Spotify’s top 200. Google-search traffic for the song has also skyrocketed since the latest chapter of “Stranger Things” debuted Friday on Netflix, peaking on Saturday night.

Let David Sedaris offend you. Author and humorist David Sedaris loves his job — which after all is making people laugh for a living — but that doesn’t mean he worries too much about offending people. It’s a tricky stance at the moment, with comics being attacked onstage. He discusses touring, Twitter and his bittersweet new book, “Happy-Go-Lucky.”

BUSINESS

An L.A. company is aiming to solve the problem of urban congestion and emissions by swapping delivery trucks for cargo e-bikes. URB-E provides the vehicles, training clients on how to put their own drivers on the e-bikes, and offers an e-bike valet service to help manage charging. The company’s target is high-volume cargo. Containerized boxes make it easier to move cargo off trucks coming into cities and onto trailers for e-bike delivery. “We’re really specifically not focused on ‘get me a burrito, a coffee, a toothbrush in 15 minutes,’ ” said CEO Charles Jolley. “We’re trying to replace trucks and vans with something that’s 90% less energy.”

OPINION

America needs a Memorial Day for gun-violence victims. Memorial Day is a time to remember our war dead, those in the armed services who gave their lives to protect our nation. These days, we face another war, this one from within our borders. Our violent society, armed to the teeth with guns, has failed to protect children, young adults, employees, shoppers and the faithful attending religious services.

The F-18s and other military gear in “Top Gun: Maverick” are courtesy of the Pentagon in exchange for control of the script, writes professor and documentarian Roger Stahl. “Until recently, the scholarly consensus had been that this phenomenon was isolated to perhaps a couple of hundred films. In the past five years, however ... the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have exercised direct editorial control over more than 2,500 films and television shows. These discoveries raise questions about the government’s reach at a time when deciphering propaganda from fact has become increasingly difficult.”

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SPORTS

Santa Anita is ahead of the horse racing safety curve in advance of national regulations. Monday was the last big day for Santa Anita in its marathon six-month season with three Grade 1 races. The infield had a carnival atmosphere over the Memorial Day weekend, with rides, games — even Corgi races. But the real transformation at the legendary Arcadia track has been its attention to — and success at — improving equine safety.

His dad was a cop in the Bronx, but it was baseball that saved Andrew Velazquez. He was a teen in New York when he reached a crossroads — one that his father recognized. One track could lead toward a potential future in baseball and the other down a path of possible destruction. Velazquez is now a shortstop with the Angels, a diminutive defensive whiz who has transformed the infield with his spectacular play.

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

People walk among old wooden buildings. A wooden sign in the foreground says "Fuller St."
Bodie State Historic Park in 2009.
(Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times)

After we published the 101 best California experiences, travel writer Christopher Reynolds’ big list of things to do across the state, we heard from readers with their recommendations. Reynolds featured half a dozen, which share a theme: They are east of Interstate 5, “away from the beaches that dominate so many California stereotypes.”

Here’s one from reader Carol Vyn of Newport Beach (and it’s one of my favorites too): Bodie State Historic Park in Mono County. “Bodie is a ghost town whose busiest days were in the 1870s and 1880s, when its population neared 10,000. By the 1960s, the town had emptied. That’s when the state stepped in and made it a park. ‘Time has been suspended. It has been many years since we visited. Our children loved it, as did we,’ Vyn wrote.”

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Spotlights illuminate a series of buildings. A crowd fills the street in front.
Circa 1935: A nighttime view shows the House of Charm and the tower of the Palace of Science at the California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
(Los Angeles Times)

Eighty-seven years ago this week, the California Pacific International Exposition opened in San Diego’s Balboa Park. As sister paper the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2021, the 1935-36 expo opened “as a grand carnival on May 29, 1935, and closed on Nov. 11. It reopened the following year on Feb. 12 and ran for another seven months.” The 7.2 million visitors were given a reprieve from the gloom of the Great Depression with attractions that included a “daring Nudist Colony” and Gold Gulch, a simulated Gold Rush town.

As The Times reported in its May 30, 1935, edition on the launch of the event, there was also “Alpha, the ten-foot mechanical man” at the Palace of Science; a 50-foot-long “sculptured replica of the power line from Hoover Dam to Los Angeles”; and at the “House of Magic,” a model kitchen with a sink that had “a hidden electric dishwasher which does about everything but put the dishes back on the shelves.”

The report included a photo of people with their faces pressed to a tall fence: “Hundreds of visitors to the [exposition] rushed to the Zoo Gardens trying to get a view of nudists through holes in the fence.” The report said “about twenty daughters of the sun go about quite scantily clad behind these walls for the purpose of demonstrating the advantages of outdoor life.”

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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