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Today: Warnings of new Russian interference

Email sent: Feb 21, 2020 8:01am

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U.S. intelligence officials warn: Russia is at it again.
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Los Angeles Times

Today's Headlines

U.S. intelligence officials warn: Russia is at it again.

TOP STORIES

Warnings of New Russian Interference

U.S. intelligence officials reportedly delivered an alarming message to lawmakers in Congress last week: They warned that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election campaign to help President Trump get reelected, three officials familiar with the closed-door briefing told the Associated Press.

That warning, first reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post, is raising questions about the integrity of the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s administration is taking the proper steps to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. saw in 2016.

The Times’ report said the disclosure angered Trump, who complained that Democrats would use the information against him. The day after the briefing, Trump is said to have berated the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire. This week, Trump announced that Maguire would be replaced by Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist — though administration officials said the timing is coincidental.

The news came on the same day GOP political operative Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months behind bars for crimes committed during the special counsel and congressional investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who has been the target of Trump’s jibes, rebuked the president’s repeated attacks on prosecutors and the courts and called Atty. Gen. William Barr’s intervention in the sentencing of Stone, one of Trump’s longtime allies, “unprecedented.”

Warren Regains the Spotlight

This week’s Democratic presidential debate was not only former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s first appearance; it also drew the largest audience ever for a primary debate. And what those viewers saw was a highly effective performance from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (and from Bloomberg, not so much). Now, Warren is trying to get her campaign back into contention, as Sen. Bernie Sanders tightens his grip on front-runner status.

Warren’s campaign said it pulled in $2.8 million in donations in one day Wednesday — her largest one-day fundraising haul and even more than the $2.7 million the Sanders campaign says it raised.

More Politics

— The Republican National Committee is sending documents labeled “2020 Congressional District Census” to people across the country just weeks before the start of the official nationwide population count. Critics say the misleading mailers are designed to confuse people and possibly lower the response rate of the actual census.

— Speaking in L.A., Pete Buttigieg warned Democrats against nominating Bloomberg or Sanders, saying that either would be a “very, very tough sell” to voters in November.

— Will there be more presidential caucus chaos? “Everybody in Nevada is just praying and focused on not being Iowa,” one official says of Saturday’s caucus.

Horror, Fatigue and Constant Calls

Last year, Los Angeles Fire Department Station No. 9 logged nearly 22,800 emergency calls across just 1.28 square miles — about 7,500 more than the city’s next-busiest station. It’s also in the heart of one of the most troubled places in L.A.: skid row. “We see things that people never see in their lifetimes — we’ll see multiple times in one day,” says one of the roughly 60 firefighters who work there. This report from Times staff writer Benjamin Oreskes takes you inside 24 hours in the life of a skid row firefighter.

L.A. firefighters on skid row put an overdose patient into the back of an ambulance.
L.A. firefighters on skid row put an overdose patient into the back of an ambulance. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A War With the Press

When a newspaper in Nicaragua covered anti-government protests that were brutally repressed by police, the government went to war with the press — harassing, arresting and sometimes torturing journalists. Now, Nicaragua’s president has barred La Prensa, the country’s last daily newspaper, from accessing two of its most essential ingredients: newsprint and ink.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

He was one of the world’s biggest drug traffickers and one of its richest men. He was Mexico’s most-wanted fugitive, eluding authorities after a prison escape for years and achieving legendary status in Mexico and the United States. When Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was arrested on Feb. 22, 2014, Mexican government and law enforcement celebrated a major victory — or so they thought. In July 2015, he would escape prison once again through a clandestine tunnel The Times called “a minor engineering masterpiece.” He was recaptured in 2016 and convicted in the U.S. on international narcotics smuggling charges in 2019.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in 2014
Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman after his recapture in 2014. He escaped from prison, again, in July 2015.  (Mario Guzman / European Pressphoto Agency)

CALIFORNIA

USC will offer free tuition to families making under $80,000 and a break for homeowners. The school is trying to widen access for more middle- and low-income students.

— Two years ago, a group of students and their teachers sued the state for doing a poor job teaching kids how to read — 53% of California third-graders did not meet state test standards that year, and scores have increased incrementally since. Now they’ve just won $53 million so that the state’s lowest-performing schools can do better.

Amie Harwick, the prominent family and marriage therapist slain at her Hollywood Hills home, was strangled before falling to her death from a balcony, officials say. A former boyfriend, Gareth Pursehouse, has been charged with her murder.

— Officials have voted to let Sacramento-area developers build homes that don’t come equipped with solar panels — a move solar installers and environmentalists say will undermine the state’s first-in-the-nation home solar requirement.

— A block-long swarm of bees in Pasadena sent five people to the hospital and temporarily shut down Colorado Boulevard. The source: a hive that had been living on the exterior of the top floor of a Howard Johnson hotel.

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YOUR WEEKEND

— The world of tacos is dominated by men. Meet three women making names for themselves around L.A.

— At the Griffith Observatory, you can take a picnic and take a pal. Just remember, we are all stardust.

— The eight best things to do in L.A. including the Lantern Festival.

— Should emotional support animals be allowed on a plane? Make your voice heard.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— At a rally, Trump complained that “Parasite” won the Oscar for best picture, suggesting the award should not have gone to a film from South Korea. It’s the first non-English-language film ever to win the top honor. “Let’s get ‘Gone With the Wind’ back, please?” Trump said.

— In his brief life, Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke had already recast the sound and center of hip-hop. Los Angeles police say at least four people were involved in his shooting death at a Hollywood Hills home this week.

— Critics say the Los Angeles County Museum of Art can’t afford its new Peter Zumthor-designed complex. Director Michael Govan says it can. The Times reviewed its tax forms and debt to find out who’s right.

Al Pacino is a movie star. So why return to TV? Because it’s “kind of dangerous.”

— “She has butt tassels!” How a Filipina burlesque show is breaking cultural barriers, two pasties at a time.

NATION-WORLD

— In Canada, a dispute over a natural gas pipeline project that crosses traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en indigenous band in northwestern British Columbia is presenting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with the biggest challenge of his more than four years in office.

— The latest German far-right racist attack, in which a gunman stormed three hookah bars and killed nine people of foreign descent, has deeply unsettled a nation with tight gun-control laws and a long struggle to come to terms with its Nazi past.

— For all of Iranians’ demands for reform, it won’t come in today’s parliamentary elections. A mass disqualification of nearly half the 15,000 candidate applicants has targeted reformists and moderates, including 90 incumbents. That suggests a sweep for hard-liners.

— The U.S. and allies including the U.K. have joined Georgia in blaming Russia for last year’s cyberattack against the former Soviet republic, including its president’s official website, the courts, businesses and the country’s main broadcaster.

BUSINESS

ViacomCBS stock tumbled 18% on Thursday. The company faces stiff challenges as it struggles to compete in the streaming age.

— It wasn’t so long ago that economic growth in California and Los Angeles far surpassed that of the nation. A new report says those days are coming to an end.

— In 2018, SpaceX said it would build its Mars spaceship and rocket at the Port of Los Angeles. Then it changed its mind, and now it’s changed it again — the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a new permit for the company.

SPORTS

Andre Ethier says the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal “is all a byproduct of analytics.” And the Cubs’ Yu Darvish suspects that if it had happened in Japan, the team would have been disbanded.

— Traditionally, when baseball fans have been hit by foul balls, the law has said too bad. A new lawsuit could upend a century-old doctrine and make teams liable.

— Four-time WNBA champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist Seimone Augustus has signed with the Sparks.

Deontay Wilder makes his mark before the fight even begins. The World Boxing Council champion has become famous for his elaborate costumes that cost as much as $60,000.

OPINION

Bloomberg’s presidential candidacy is making his Democratic rivals look awfully good, writes columnist Robin Abcarian. Mark Green, his Democratic rival for New York City mayor in 2001, recalls “the helpless feeling that there was no strategy that could counter his spending.”

— Despite complaints about bias, the University of California shouldn’t dump the SAT and ACT, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— As L.A. says goodbye to Kobe Bryant, it’s worth a closer look at the half-life of famewho stays in our collective memories and why, columnist Patt Morrison says.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Death photography is a centuries-old tradition. In an era of iPhones, the tools are different but the significance is the same. (New York Times)

— Fans clamor to watch esports stars play “Fortnite” and “League of Legends.” But chess? Here’s a look into an old game’s new wave. (NBC News)

ONLY IN L.A.

Jason Schneidman is the go-to hairstylist for some of L.A.’s wealthiest, including James Corden, Mark Ronson, Jonah Hill and Billy Eichner. He’s also the groomer of choice to some of the city’s poorest. Once a month, he provides free haircuts, trims and shaves for the poor and homeless at the Will & Ariel Durant branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. He says he understands what some of them are going through. He’s been sober for 15 years now, but he previously struggled with drug addiction. “Honestly, man, all I want to do these days is surf and serve,” he said.

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