Newsletter: A major escalation with Iran

Qassem Suleimani, right, greets Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran in 2015.
Qassem Suleimani, right, greets Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran in 2015.
(Office of Iran’s supreme leader)

Here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


A Major Escalation With Iran

Concerns about a broader conflict in the Middle East are running high after the Pentagon announced that President Trump had ordered a U.S. airstrike that killed Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in Baghdad.

Suleimani was considered one of the most powerful figures in the region, responsible for spreading Iran’s influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, often through violence. The U.S. blamed him for approving a siege of the American Embassy in Baghdad this week, and the Pentagon said Suleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”


In ordering Suleimani’s killing, Trump has taken one of the biggest gambles of his presidency. To heighten the political risk, Trump appears to have acted without advance consultation with Congress, and in the hours immediately afterward, he merely tweeted an image of the U.S. flag rather than make a public statement. The State Department urged U.S. citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” as Iran has vowed “harsh retaliation.”

As he enters the last year of his term, Trump has seen his attempts to use diplomatic pressure and financial incentives in hotspots like Iran and North Korea yield few results. But few observers had predicted such a radical shift with Tehran.

More Politics

— Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced that he had raised more than $34.5 million in the final three months of 2019, a haul that will allow him to run an extensive campaign in the new year as Democratic voters begin the process of selecting a nominee.

Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and Obama Cabinet member and the sole Latino in the presidential race, has ended his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

A Milder Vape Ban

In September, Trump announced his intent to ban all vaping flavors other than tobacco. Yesterday, his administration announced a plan for something quite different: a temporary ban on many candy- and fruit-flavored e-cigarettes. But the ban does not extend to refillable, tank-based vaping systems purchased in most vape shops, nor does it include popular menthol-flavored cartridges. The new policy will also leave Juul largely untouched and may even benefit the company.

The Reality of ‘Driving While Black’

A new state analysis appears to confirm what many have long suspected — and have come to refer to as “driving while black”: Black drivers in some of California’s largest cities are stopped and searched by police at higher rates than white and Latino motorists. The state Department of Justice report found that black people accounted for 15% of all stops examined in California, though they make up only about 6% of the state population.

Port Pollution

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach make up the nation’s busiest seaport, which handles roughly 40% of U.S. imports and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. But it comes at the cost of people’s health because of diesel-powered trucks, ships, locomotives and cargo-handling equipment. Indeed, ships are poised to become the region’s largest source of smog-causing pollutants by 2023. While air quality officials say they want to reduce ships’ emissions, people living nearby are concerned not enough is being done.

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On this date in 1914, the Plaza Church, a historic Catholic church in downtown Los Angeles, held closing Christmas festivities. The Times reported that about 2,000 children of Mexican descent received presents and candy. “Santa Claus was on hand in regulation red and white,” an article the next day said. “The good old saint was personified by Jose E. Villasenor. Father Michael gave an address to the children on ‘The Babe of Bethlehem,’ and under the direction of Father Diego the children sang.”

Jan. 3, 1914: Gifts for 2,000 Mexican American children are spread out at the rectory at Plaza Church in Los Angeles.
(Los Angeles Times)


— After a slow start to the wet winter season, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is solid thanks to a series of storms at the tail end of 2019.

— A Southern California quarantine zone has been expanded in an effort to stop the spread of citrus greening disease, which threatens the state’s multibillion-dollar industry.

— A Beverly Hills plastic surgeon has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against a mortuary and crematorium alleging they colluded with his in-laws to deny him half of his wife’s ashes after she died of stomach cancer.


— January is prime pruning time for roses and fruit trees in Southern California. These classes will show you how.

— Eight great vegetable dishes from some of L.A.’s best restaurants.

— Our travel editor made these stupid travel mistakes so you don’t have to. But honestly, they’re not that stupid.

— On a winter weekend getaway to Julian in San Diego County, you’ll find there’s more to this town than apple pie.


— The Golden Globe Awards are Sunday night. If you’re planning to watch, here’s what you need to know. Meanwhile, voting for the Oscar nominations has begun, and this is film critic Justin Chang’s dream ballot.

— The rumors about the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were true: Rage Against The Machine, Frank Ocean and Travis Scott will indeed headline this April.

Female directors in Hollywood are still underrepresented, but the gap is narrowing. A new report says the number of women directing top-grossing movies rose to the highest level since 2007.

RuPaul is coming to Netflix with his most ambitious creative swing to date: “AJ and the Queen,” a road trip drama following a red-wigged New York City drag queen and a smart-mouthed 10-year-old girl.

Dr. Phil’s Beverly Crest home just hit the market for $5.75 million. A dozen guns adorn the dining room wall, and bizarre figurines of bears and rabbits eye you from every living space.


— For the first time since 2010, the federal government is sending U.S. firefighters — including some from California — to help combat Australia’s wildfires, which have burned about 12.35 million acres of land and killed at least 17 people.

— For years, ultra-Orthodox Jewish families priced out of increasingly expensive Brooklyn neighborhoods have been turning to New York City’s suburbs. Now, two violent attacks worry many that anti-Semitic intolerance is boiling over.

Turkey’s parliament has authorized the deployment of troops to Libya to support the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli that is battling forces loyal to a rival government seeking to capture the capital.


— About 1,200 Americans have finished paying their 2020 Social Security tax. You’ll probably be paying all year.

— The public outcry over the high price of medicines has done little to stop drugmakers from raising prices again for 2020.


U.S. Soccer is without a CEO or full-time coaches for 13 of its 14 age-group national teams and has an operational deficit that is expected to top $20 million for fiscal 2020 thanks to a half-dozen high-profile lawsuits.

— The Angels have signed veteran catcher Jason Castro to a one-year deal.


— Will the Supreme Court protect democracy or Trump in 2020? It can’t do both.

— Some conservatives want a new war on porn, and they’re trying to use the Trump moment to steer the GOP away from its commitments to individual liberty.


— Who was Gen. Qassem Suleimani? This in-depth 2013 profile said he “appears to exist in a special category, an enemy both hated and admired.” (The New Yorker)

— “The 20 most powerless people in the art world.” (Hyperallergic)

Choirs are apparently cool again. (The Guardian)


It’s the logo Southern Californians can’t escape: blue cartoon caricatures of three guys named Mark, Dan and Wayne and the words “Western Truck Exchange,” placed on thousands of truck mudflaps. It may just be the best logo in Los Angeles, though we can think of a few other contenders. So, who are these three guys and what do they look like in real life today? Read on.

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