Today’s Headlines: A fifth of California water agencies expect drought shortages

A manmade channel snakes through an arid landscape.
An aerial view of the Los Angeles Aqueduct as it flows south in its concrete-lined channel alongside Highway 395 south of Lone Pine.
(Los Angeles Times)

Hello, it’s Thursday, Dec. 1, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


In some California areas, continued drought could bring aggressive water-saving actions

Most of California’s urban water agencies believe they have enough supplies to last through another seven months of drought, but nearly 20% of them — including many in Southern California — say they could be facing significant shortages, according to a new state report.

The California Department of Water Resources’ first water supply and demand assessment surveyed the state’s urban water agencies to see how they manage tight supplies through conservation efforts and improved drought planning.


Of 414 reporting agencies, 82% said they did not anticipate any shortages as long as conservation efforts continued. Officials said the findings highlighted that, in many cases, water-saving efforts were making a difference. Agencies expecting challenges — many of them in Southern California — said aggressive actions and a full ban on outdoor watering could be in the offing.

‘Zero COVID’ means ending the policy could cause a massive health disaster

Nearly three years into a pandemic that has killed more than 6.6 million people worldwide, the official death toll in China stands at 5,233 — a stunningly low number. Although most countries long ago stopped trying to eliminate the coronavirus and decided to live with it instead, China has gone to extreme lengths to prevent it from spreading.

Now, the country’s leaders are facing enormous pressure to ease up on those restrictions. But zero COVID has turned China into a coronavirus tinderbox.

With outbreaks scrupulously suppressed and vaccination rates lagging, the population is likely to have little natural immunity. If the rules were to be relaxed too much, experts fear the country of 1.4 billion would experience a public health emergency on a massive scale.


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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries became the first Black party leader in Congress

House Democrats tapped Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to lead them in the next Congress. The historic selection of Jeffries as the incoming minority leader means he will replace Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) in January as the highest-ranking African American in the House and become the first Black lawmaker to lead either party in the chamber.

Jeffries will be joined in the top tier of Democratic leadership by Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as minority whip and California’s Rep. Pete Aguilar of Redlands as House Democratic Caucus chair. Another Californian, Rep. Ted Lieu of Torrance, won a contested race for caucus vice chair.

Democrats say their new leadership team is reflective of America’s diversity.

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Ukraine is fighting to keep Russia from regrouping

As snow flurries and freezing temperatures set in, the last thing Ukraine’s leaders want is for the war’s front lines to harden in place as well.

Any wintertime letup in combat operations, Ukrainian officials believe, would give Russia’s beleaguered army a chance to rest, regroup and try to seize momentum that has eluded Moscow’s forces throughout more than nine months of fighting. So even during the coming cold months, Ukraine is determined to keep up military pressure on a numerically superior but faltering foe.

But Russia is employing a pressure tactic of its own: deliberate destruction of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, with civilian morale as an indirect target.

A mistrial was declared in the Danny Masterson rape trial

Jurors said they were unable to reach a decision on the actor’s innocence or guilt. The jury deadlocked after hearing weeks of testimony, including from the three women who accused Masterson of raping them.

In failing to reach a decision, the Los Angeles County Superior Court panel left unresolved the women’s claims that the actor, who is best-known for his role on the sitcom “That ‘70s Show,” violently assaulted them at his Hollywood Hills home in the early 2000s.

Like Masterson, the three women were members of the Church of Scientology at the time of the alleged attacks, and prosecutors in the trial delved into the faith’s arcane rules for its followers. Two of the women testified that they had delayed reporting Masterson, fearing that church officials would sanction them for doing so.

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A person with a buzz cut and a white jumpsuit with bloody handprints raises a fist in   protest
Sympathetic and worried from afar: Lijian Jie yells during a Tuesday vigil at USC for those suffering under China’s strict COVID lockdowns. Southern California’s Chinese immigrants are watching the protests across the Pacific.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)


A catfishing cop pretended to be 17 and “groomed” a California girl before killing her family. Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez said it was still under investigation how long the digital relationship between Austin Lee Edwards, 28, and the 15-year-old Riverside girl had gone on, and what platform they used to meet or communicate, but said investigators believed many typical “sextortion” strategies were used in this case.

Palm Springs burned down their homes. Black and Latino residents are seeking reparations. The city apologized in 2021 for razing and burning homes in the area known as Section 14, actions that happened in the 1950s and 1960s. But advocates say there has been no action in 14 months. Now survivors have filed a claim against the city for what a state official called a “city-engineered holocaust.”

A storm could bring feet of snow to the Sierra Nevada and rain and wind to L.A. Officials issued a winter storm warning for the Sierra Nevada that began Wednesday night and will extend into Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service. Authorities are discouraging travel on mountain highways and have said another storm system is expected to hit Northern California over the weekend.

San Francisco supervisors will allow police to deploy robots that kill. Supervisors voted to grant city police the power to use potentially lethal remote-controlled robots in emergency situations, following an emotionally charged debate.

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In Ukraine’s war-shrouded capital, a play about a murderous dictator hits close to home. A Kyiv drama company’s staging of “Caligula,” the absurdist play by Albert Camus about a tyrannical Roman emperor going mad, has been playing to packed houses, although performances are often interrupted by air-raid alerts that send cast and audience alike hurrying to bomb shelters.

The U.S. Virgin Islands reached a $105-million settlement with Jeffrey Epstein’s estate. The settlement ends a nearly three-year legal saga for officials in the U.S. territory, which sought to hold Epstein accountable after he was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls and of causing environmental damage on the two tiny islands he owned.

Colombia asked for legal status for its citizens already in the U.S. Gustavo Petro, who was elected Colombia’s first leftist president in June, wants the Biden administration to grant temporary legal status to its citizens now living in the United States, noting its own efforts to address regional migration by hosting 2 million Venezuelans who fled their homes.


Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac’s songbird, has died at 79. McVie sang lead vocals and played keyboard on some of Fleetwood Mac’s most enduring hits, such as “Don’t Stop,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Songbird,” “Hold Me” and “Little Lies.” Her family said in a statement she “passed away peacefully” at a hospital following “a short illness.”

“Love Actually” is like fruitcake: Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. It’s that most wonderful time of the year again, when people start getting very heated about Richard Curtis’ 2003 rom-com Christmas collage, writes columnist and culture critic Mary McNamara. But such Grinchy criticism proves the film’s place in the culture even more definitively than the praise.

Happy Spotify Wrapped to all who celebrate — especially Bad Bunny. The music streamer unveiled the most-streamed artists, songs, albums and podcasts of 2022 as part of its annual Spotify Wrapped campaign, in which the company rolls out its end-of-year streaming stats for total and individual listeners.

Review: A thrilling new museum exhibition shows how L.A. artist Alexis Smith upended taboos. Smith’s art exudes a period flavor, writes art critic Christopher Knight. Rummaging through artifacts of the recent past, it is heavy on motifs from the 1940s and 1950s — a time just before and during the artist’s childhood, but also the tumultuous, transitional early years of modern American art’s emergence onto a world stage.


The Fed will keep rates higher for longer to cut inflation. The Federal Reserve will push rates higher than previously expected and keep them there for an extended period, Chair Jerome Powell said. He also signaled that the Fed might increase its key interest rate by a smaller increment this month.


Enjoyed the Benghazi hearings? You’re gonna love the GOP era of “angertainment.” Inflation and crime are so last year. Republicans are now laser-focused on something really important: Hunter Biden’s laptop.

U.S. border killings evade justice. An international commission can change that. An international commission is assessing border agents’ responsibility in the death of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas in 2010.

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Mexico’s offense finally came to life, but it wasn’t enough to stay alive at the World Cup. Mexico beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in its final match of World Cup group play. But a tiebreaker eliminated El Tri as Poland advanced after a 2-0 loss to Argentina.

Former Dodgers star Yasiel Puig now says he is not guilty in his sports betting case. Puig has withdrawn from an agreement to plead guilty to a charge of lying to federal investigators in a sports betting probe and has decided to plead not guilty, his representatives said. Without the agreement, Puig could face trial and a maximum sentence of five years in prison.


An illustration of giant Christmas lights alongside a highway that snakes through a few mountains.
(Illustration by Ross May / Los Angeles Times; photos by Carolyn Cole, Gabriella Angotti-Jones, Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Find Christmas cheer at these 28 sparkling SoCal holiday light shows. This year’s wide variety of nighttime light shows includes freebie strolls or drive-throughs as well as pricier extravaganzas. In Rolling Hills Estates, South Coast Botanic Garden is partnering with Moment Factory and Fever to present “an enchanted night walk amongst the stars.” Woodland Hills offers Candy Cane Lane, an annual neighborhood holiday decor extravaganza. And then there’s the L.A. Zoo’s “Animals Aglow” holiday event, which features oversized flora and fauna with some serious glow and animation. Check out the full list.


A tent is seen in the top of a tree. In the background is a bell tower with a clock.
Nov. 5, 2007: Sather Tower is seen behind a tree–top tent occupied by protesters at UC Berkeley.
(Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

Sixteen years ago today, on Dec. 1, 2006, protesters began occupying trees on a 1.5-acre grove at UC Berkeley. At the root of the protest was the university’s plan to chop down dozens of evergreen coast live oaks to build a $125-million sports training facility.

“Over the course of the protest, hundreds of people spent time in the trees, some for days, some for months,” The Times wrote in 2008. “Those involved argued that the trees, many of them 85-year-old oaks, should be preserved because the grove was one of the few natural areas on the campus.”

The protest didn’t end until Sept. 9, 2008. After university officials won the legal right to oust the tree-sitters, the final four protesters gave up their perch on the top of a 90-foot redwood.

Times staff writer Amy Hubbard contributed to this report.

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