Newsletter: A besieged embassy and the echoes of history

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A Besieged Embassy and the Echoes of History

After two days of clashes with American security forces, supporters of a pro-Iranian militia have withdrawn from the huge U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after the militia called off the siege. Authorities reported that core areas were not penetrated and there were no injuries among diplomatic personnel or U.S. forces guarding the facility.

Still, the incident is reverberating. U.S.-Iran tensions remain high and could spill over into further violence. The Pentagon is sending hundreds of additional troops to the Middle East. And U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is delaying a trip to Ukraine and four other countries.


The attack and its echoes of previous violence directed at U.S. embassies, as well as the Trump administration’s reaction, are worrisome to some former diplomats. They noted how quickly the events became politicized in the U.S., with President Trump boasting that the then-ongoing siege was the “anti-Benghazi.”

What Shade of Blue?

It was big news when the longtime GOP stronghold of Orange County saw registered Democrats outnumber Republicans last year. Lesser known is the ongoing fight between progressive and moderate Democrats there for the party’s soul. And it mirrors the debate across the U.S. among Democrats about whether a more centrist or more leftist candidate has the best chance to defeat Trump in 2020.

More Politics

— Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., whose new year will include presiding at a Senate impeachment trial of the president as well as leading the Supreme Court, has called for more focus on civic education at a time “when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale.”

— Trump tweeted that the first phase of a U.S.-China trade agreement will be signed at the White House in mid-January.

— Does Trump support democracy in Latin America? Critics say it depends who’s in power.

Most Powerful Under the Sun

Trump has routinely criticized renewable energy (“windmill noise cancer,” anyone?), but his Interior Department appointees have shepherded several large projects. Coming soon: Federal officials plan to approve a massive solar farm with energy storage in the desert outside Las Vegas, paving the way for a $1-billion project that would generate more power than any solar facility now operating in the U.S. But the fact the project will be on federal land is not sitting well with some environmental groups.

Everything’s (Mostly) Coming Up Roses

If the news in 2019 got you down, at least there’s hope for 2020. That was the theme of this year’s Rose Parade in Pasadena, where the weather was pleasant and the people even more so. For many, the event has become a wholesome annual respite from the divisive rhetoric gripping the nation, though there were a few signs of election-year politics. This year’s parade also was a celebration of diversity, overseen by Laura Farber, the first Latina president of the Tournament of Roses Assn., and featuring three Latina grand marshals. Here’s a look at the making of some of the floats.

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On this date in 1973, Times photographer Art Rogers filed a complaint with police accusing Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes of assaulting him at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

“Rogers said he was one of a half dozen persons photographing the coach huddling with his team during warmup drills five minutes before the Rose Bowl game,” according to an article at the time. “Rogers was crouched low, using a long lens, when the huddle broke up and Hayes charged out and jammed the camera into his forehead, Rogers said. ‘That ought to take care of you, you son of a bitch,’ Rogers quoted Hayes as saying. Rogers said there was no provocation.”

A brief article on April 7, 1973, reported that the misdemeanor battery charge against Hayes was dropped because Rogers “had received an ‘appropriate communication’ from Hayes.” In December 1978 Hayes was fired by Ohio State after punching a Clemson player at the Gator Bowl.

Jan. 1, 1973: Woody Hayes leaves a pregame huddle before the Rose Bowl game between USC and Ohio State. Right after this photo was taken, Hayes shoved photographer Art Rogers’ camera into his face.
(Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times)


— Officials say that violent crime in Los Angeles declined for the second consecutive year in 2019, but that gang-related homicides and crime related to homelessness remain persistent trouble spots.

— Columnist Steve Lopez has some thoughts on the year ahead, including a bit of movement on new strategies to address homelessness.

— Speaking of: Can Orange County cities find the political will to fix homelessness?


Nick Gordon, partner of the late Bobbi Kristina Brown — the only daughter of the late Whitney Houston and singer Bobby Brown — has died at age 30, his lawyer says.

— The swashbuckling “Spyfall” on BBC America is a lot like “Doctor Who” meets James Bond.

— Here are our 20 most anticipated TV shows of the new year. “Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens” is one of them.

— In “Dead to Me” on Netflix, Christina Applegate has a soul mate to lean on. In life too.


— The sale of marijuana for recreational purposes became legal on Wednesday in Illinois — prompting many to begin lining up hours early at dispensaries.

— Authorities say at least 16 inmates in a central Mexico prison were killed and five more were wounded in a riot that closed out a violent 2019.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, who is trying to hold on to power with elections looming in two months, has formally requested immunity from prosecution in three criminal cases in which he was indicted in November.

Hong Kong police used tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons against antigovernment protesters over New Year’s.


— The California Consumer Privacy Act means you have new privacy rights online. But you might have to show ID for some protections.

Google has overhauled its global tax structure and consolidated all of its intellectual property holdings back to the U.S., signaling the winding down of the “double Irish” tax loophole.


David Stern, the longtime NBA commissioner who led the NBA from the edges of disaster to unimaginable success, has died at age 77.

Santa Anita, trying to reset the clock after a disastrous year of horse fatalities, has seen two horses die since the racing season began last week.

— In the Rose Bowl, Oregon capitalized on Wisconsin’s turnovers, including one in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead touchdown, as the Ducks won, 28-27.


— Will 2020 be the worst year of Trump’s life? Jon Wiener, a professor of history emeritus at UC Irvine, thinks so (but he’s been wrong before).

— Why having robot co-workers might make you less prejudiced.


Pope Francis has apologized after slapping away the hand of a woman who grabbed him. (New York Times)

— Secrets of the periodic table: the hidden histories therein. (The New Yorker)


In the town of Johnsville (population: 20) northwest of Lake Tahoe, the locals hold a longboard competition each year. Surfing in the Sierra? No, it’s longboard skiing. The sport, featuring 12-foot-long wooden skis, was popular in the mid-1800s among young gold miners. Now, the Historic Longboard Revival Series draws those with a daredevil spirit from all around. Contestants wear period costumes and leather boots, which are affixed to handcrafted skis with just two leather straps. “And no cheatin’ or spittin’ is allowed, either,” says one organizer.

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