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Today’s Headlines: Major water cutbacks loom for California as the Colorado River sees shortages

Lake Mead, behind the Hoover Dam,
Exposed banks of Lake Mead behind the Hoover Dam show how low water levels have dropped on the Colorado River-fed reservoir due to persistent and worsening drought.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Wednesday, June 15, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

A dire warning about the Colorado River

As the West endures another year of unrelenting drought worsened by climate change, the Colorado River’s reservoirs have declined so low that major water cuts will be necessary next year to reduce the risks of supplies reaching perilously low levels, said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton during a Senate hearing.

Federal officials now believe protecting “critical levels” at the country’s largest reservoirs — Lake Mead and Lake Powell — will require much larger reductions in water deliveries.

The needed cuts, she said, amount to between 2 million and 4 million acre-feet next year. For comparison, California is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year, while Arizona’s allotment is 2.8 million.

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U.S. abortion rate rises, reversing three decades of declines

Ahead of a historic Supreme Court decision on the fate of Roe vs. Wade, the nation recorded its first significant increase in the abortion rate in more than three decades, according to new statistics.

The rate rose 7%, from 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women and girls of child-bearing age in 2017 to 14.4 in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

Overall, there were 930,160 abortions in the United States in 2020, up 8% from 862,320 in 2017.

Bass pulls ahead of Caruso in the latest vote count for L.A. mayor

Mail-in votes are helping Rep. Karen Bass pull ahead of developer Rick Caruso in the primary election for Los Angeles mayor. Bass leads Caruso, 41% to 38%, respectively, according to results released Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Election officials continue to count mail-in ballots, and the final tally won’t be known for days or weeks.

Both candidates are assured of a spot in the Nov. 8 run-off because they are the top two vote-getters in the field. Election officials said last week that a significant number of voters mailed in ballots or dropped ballots off at vote centers, a trend seen throughout California.

More politics

  • In Tuesday’s primaries, Trump-endorsed candidates took on Republican lawmakers in South Carolina who defied him, and candidates who spread his election lies aimed to run Nevada’s voting.
  • The House gave final approval to legislation that would allow around-the-clock security protection for families of Supreme Court justices.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced his support for his chamber’s emerging bipartisan gun agreement.

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2028 Olympics could fuel a transit boom in L.A.

If planners and political leaders can pull it off, spectators of the 2028 Olympics would experience a very different Los Angeles than traffic-weary commuters know today, one that would endure long past the games.

Organizers want the more than a million spectators expected to come for the 17-day Olympiad to eschew cars and arrive at venues by public transit, on foot or by bike. That will probably require billions of dollars to fill gaps in the public transportation system.

Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is already on a building blitz with a subway extension to the Westside and a light-rail line in South Los Angeles, among other projects. But if the Olympic transportation planners are to meet their goals, more projects are likely to be needed to see a significant shift away from cars.

With its polygamist rulers gone, a community makes a comeback

Not so long ago, Hildale, Utah, and neighboring Colorado City — just across the border in Arizona — were the headquarters of one of America’s most extreme religious sects, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS.

Roughly 9,000 people lived in what was known as the community of Short Creek, and nearly all belonged to the church, which owned their houses, controlled the police force and set the rules with little interference from secular authorities. It all began to crumble about 15 years ago after the arrest and prosecution of its notorious prophet, Warren Jeffs.

With the FLDS on the brink of extinction, Short Creek is now a place to score fresh sushi, a good amber ale and maybe a room for the night in a comfy resort.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

Several people stand among the scorched remains of trees.
Firefighters douse hotspots left by the Sheep fire. Crews were turning the corner on the 990-acre blaze near Wrightwood in Angeles National Forest, with 35% containment Tuesday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Two El Monte police officers were killed in a shooting. El Monte city officials said the officers immediately took gunfire upon responding to a possible stabbing. Both were taken to L.A. County-USC Medical Center.

Hellish fires, low pay, trauma: California’s Forest Service firefighters are facing a morale crisis. A viral letter is the latest example of how low pay, grueling work and mental stress are driving experienced professionals out the door at a time when extreme wildfires are becoming more destructive.

Environmental groups pulled their support from the L.A. River Master Plan at the 11th hour. The groups had been threatening to walk away ever since L.A. County Public Works included far-reaching proposals submitted by famed architect Frank Gehry to transform the forlorn industrial confluence of the Los Angeles River and the Rio Hondo in South Gate into a cultural park.

Drag Queen Story Hour was disrupted by men shouting slurs and threats at a Bay Area library. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the Saturday incident as a potential hate crime and as harassment and annoyance of children, officials said. The five men were described as members of the violent, far-right extremist group the Proud Boys.

Eso Won, L.A.’s beloved Black-owned bookstore, will be closing its shop. James Fugate, co-owner of the 33-year-old Leimert Park bookstore, confirmed the news to Publisher’s Weekly after announcing it last week on “The Tavis Smiley Podcast” while talking about this summer’s reading list.

‘The longer we wait, the more young people are suffering.’ Teen mental health needs help. Big technology and media companies, local groups, youth leaders, basketball players and educators are pledging to come together in response to the U.S. surgeon general’s public health advisory last December, warning of an “urgent” need to address a national youth crisis.

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NATION-WORLD

A key eastern Ukrainian city teeters in a battle of ‘simply terrifying’ cost. The fight over Severodonetsk has moved into the city center, officials say, as Russia ramps up its artillery offensive and its military spending.

The Air Force has absolved its crew of blame for Afghan deaths during the chaotic evacuation of Kabul. Officials have concluded that air crew members acted appropriately and were not at fault when desperate Afghans clung to a military plane as it was taking off and fell to their deaths or were caught in the wheels.

Yellowstone Park was assessing damage after floods ‘never seen in our lifetimes.’ A torrent of rain combined with a rapidly melting snowpack caused a deluge of flooding that forced the evacuation of some parts of Yellowstone National Park, cutting off electricity and forcing park officials to close all entrances indefinitely.

Some Afghan refugees now have a chance to avoid a terrorism designation that blocked their path to the U.S. The exemption will be applied on a case-by-case basis after security vetting and is expected to help Afghans who fled their country after U.S. troops withdrew and the Taliban took over last August, as well as some Afghans who entered the U.S. earlier.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

A mischievous god, a reverend and a newly engaged man: Tom Hiddleston has been busy. The actor loves plumbing new depths within Loki as the Marvel character undergoes different iterations. He also stars as a 19th century vicar caught up in a mystery in “The Essex Serpent.”

With nearly 700 credits at age 93, legendary actor James Hong isn’t done yet. When he was booking his first roles in 1953, Hong had no idea how far his acting dreams would take him, the challenges he’d face as a Chinese American in Hollywood, or that he’d become one of the most prolific film and television performers in American history.

Disability advocates were offended by lyrics in Lizzo’s new song ‘Grrrls.’ So she changed it. The “About Damn Time” singer responded to what fans dubbed an offensive lyric on a new track by completely — and proudly — changing the line.

BTS’ rep clarifies K-pop band’s claim that it’s going on hiatus to focus on solo projects. J-Hope, Suga and Jungkook all said they already have plans for individual releases, although they didn’t share a timeline of when they could come out.

BUSINESS

Employers struggle with mental health help as traumas pile up for employees. Americans shaken from news of the Uvalde and Buffalo massacres are looking to their employers’ mental health resources and benefits for help. And the shootings come after the start of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, both of which saw an acceleration of requests.

What is a bear market? Big swings have become commonplace on Wall Street. Most stocks dipped Tuesday in their first trading after tumbling into a bear market Monday on worries that high inflation would push central banks to clamp the brakes too hard on the economy. Here’s why it’s called a bear market. (In brief: Bears hibernate, and bulls charge.)

Enter this queer-friendly salon needing a haircut, leave with a new sense of self. For the queer community, hair — with its gendered undertones — can be difficult to navigate. When salons are for women and barbershops are for men, where do you go to get a haircut? Queer customers travel from far and wide to get new looks in a safe space at Salon Benders.

Los Angeles chefs and food writers are snubbed at 2022 James Beard Foundation Awards. This is the first year since 2017 that L.A. chefs and restaurants were shut out of the culinary awards at the ceremony, held this year in Chicago.

OPINION

Don’t fear L.A.’s ban on gas stoves. Electric appliances are the future. Some of the resistance is rooted in attachment to gas stoves and fear of new technology. But just like with cars, electric appliances will ultimately become the norm not only because they are our ticket out of a planetary breakdown, but also because they are better.

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SPORTS

Major League Soccer has awarded the exclusive global streaming rights to its games to Apple. With the 10-year deal, Apple is creating a new subscription service to present the matches and related content such as highlight shows, replays and whip-arounds to live action throughout the league.

Joey Bosa explains the huge edge with Kahlil Mack lined up on the other side of the Chargers defense. Bosa says the new Chargers teammate is a much different pass rusher than he, which should be an advantage when they rush into the regular season.

Banned at Wimbledon, Russian players can compete at U.S. Open under a neutral flag. Athletes from Russia and Belarus will play at Flushing Meadows under a neutral flag. Since Russia began its attacks on Ukraine in February, Russian athletes have been prevented from taking part in many sports, including soccer’s World Cup qualifying playoffs. Belarus has aided Russia in the war.

ONLY IN L.A.

Does L.A. have an ‘addiction to cults and cultists’? Sure seems like it. When powerful professed men and women of God come to grief, they almost always do so over two transgressions older than the Commandments: sex and money.

These foibles and pitfalls can entice not just orthodox, IRS-blessed religions but also the self-made leaders of spiritual, self-help, self-fulfillment and human potential bodies that have grown here in Southern California as nowhere else, writes columnist Patt Morrison.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

 A woman surrounded by young children sings.
Dec. 25, 1975: Ella Fitzgerald sings with children at a Christmas party at a child care center in Watts.
(Penni Gladstone / Los Angeles Times)

Twenty-six years ago today, on June 15, 1996, legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald died. The Times’ obituary noted that Fitzgerald was “shy and never self-assured despite the flawless talent she possessed through a half-century career.” She often “asked anxiously as she left the stage, ‘Did I do all right?’”

Fitzgerald was born April 25, 1918, in Newport News, Va., was orphaned young and later lived with an aunt in New York. She gained notice at age 16 when she appeared in an amateur night contest at the Apollo in Harlem. “It was a dare from some girlfriends,” she told The Times in December 1966. She’d planned to dance. “I got up there and got cold feet. … The man said since I was up there I had to do something.” So she sang. She won the contest, which led to a job with Chick Webb’s band.

In the July 6, 1966, Times, jazz critic Leonard Feather wrote about the Newport Jazz Festival, where Fitzgerald performed. “If there was one artist whose work stood tall among all these giants, it was Ella Fitzgerald,” he wrote. “Never has there been heard a more moving example of the spirit, beauty, beat and total vocal control of which a jazz singer is capable. She can do anything to a melody except damage it.”

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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