Winter storms ease California drought conditions

The latest estimate from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows almost 17% of the Golden State has exited drought completely.
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Los Angeles Times
Today's Headlines
Click to view images A pedestrian crossing a street in downtown Los Angeles is silhouetted against the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains on Wednesday. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

By Elvia Limรณn, Kenya Romero

Hello, it's Friday, March 3, and here are the stories you shouldn't miss today:

TOP STORIES

More than 16% of California is no longer in drought, report shows

California's remarkably wet winter has helped ease drought conditions considerably, with large swaths of the state — including the coast of Humboldt County, much of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada and the Santa Monica Mountains north of Malibu — no longer considered to be in drought, according to federal officials.

The latest estimate from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows almost 17% of the Golden State has exited drought completely, with an additional 34% now classified as "abnormally dry."

More about the storms

Surveillance AI's next step: learning who your friends are

Surveillance technology has long been able to identify you. Now, with help from artificial intelligence, it's trying to figure out who your friends are. With a few clicks, this "co-appearance" or "correlation analysis" software can find people who have appeared in surveillance frames together.

Vintra, the San Jose-based company that showed off the technology in an industry video presentation last year, sells the co-appearance feature as part of an array of video analysis tools.

Although co-appearance technology is already used by authoritarian regimes such as China's, Vintra seems to be the first company marketing it in the West, industry specialists say.

Pandemic food benefits are ending for millions of Californians. Now what?

Nearly 3 million households in California will stop receiving extra federal food benefits granted during the COVID-19 pandemic, a squeeze on budgets that comes as people continue to struggle with the rising cost of living.

Now, the pressure is on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers to fill the gaps as experts warn of worsening food insecurity and food banks are scrambling to prepare for an influx in clients.

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

Trump can be sued over Jan. 6 harm, Justice Department says

Former President Trump can be sued by injured Capitol Police officers and Democratic lawmakers over the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the Justice Department said in a federal court case testing Trump's legal vulnerability for his speech before the riot.

The Justice Department said it took no position on the lawsuits' claims that the former president's words incited the attack on the Capitol. Nevertheless, Justice Department lawyers said the court should reject Trump's argument that "absolutely immunity" shields him from being sued.

More politics

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Hidden, illegal casinos are booming in L.A.

Offering mostly electronic forms of gambling, casitas — Spanish for "little houses" — can bring in tens of thousands of dollars a week. The ultimate beneficiaries, authorities say, are members of the Mexican Mafia, the prison-based syndicate that oversees Latino street gangs in Southern California.

With so much money at stake, Mexican Mafia members and their underlings have little tolerance for anyone who disrupts their rackets, authorities say. Those suspected of stealing from casitas have been beaten, shot, kidnapped and killed, court records show.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

Gurdeep Singh Saggu a member of Sikh Motorcycle Club USA, outside Garden City, Kan.
Gurdeep Singh Saggu a member of Sikh Motorcycle Club USA, outside Garden City, Kan. Read more: "Sikh motorcyclist joins a cross-country ride against hate: 'I have to do this'" (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Plummeting salmon population could trigger the closure of fishing season in California waters. California Chinook salmon populations have fallen to their lowest levels in years, according to new estimates released by state and federal scientists.

Assemblyman submits bill to cut paper receipts. We have the receipts from his last attempt. More than three years after criticism from the paper industry and business groups torpedoed his bill to cut paper receipts, Assemblymember Phil Ting reintroduced his so-called Skip the Slip legislation, citing environmental and health benefits.

California faces hefty court fines for lagging efforts to prevent prisoner suicides. A federal judge said she will begin fining California potentially tens of thousands of dollars daily after more than 200 prison inmates killed themselves during eight years in which state corrections officials failed to complete court-ordered suicide prevention measures.

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NATION-WORLD

Who's benefiting from Russia's war on Ukraine? The war in Ukraine has jacked the global arms trade, fueling a new appetite for materiel not just in Moscow and Kyiv but also around the world.

Russia accuses Ukrainian saboteurs of launching a cross-border attack. Russian officials say Ukrainian saboteurs have crossed into western Russia and attacked villages there, as the war extends into its second year.

U.S. approves new arms sales to Taiwan worth $619 million. The U.S. has approved more arms sales to Taiwan, including $619 million worth of munitions for F-16 fighter jets, in a decision likely to be yet another point of friction between the U.S. and China, which claims the island as its own territory.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Wayne Shorter, influential jazz saxophonist and composer, dies at 89. Wayne Shorter, a saxophonist and composer who had been universally acknowledged as one of the most original and influential jazz artists of the last six decades, died Thursday.

Harry and Meghan are asked to vacate their home in England, in a further royal rift. Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, have been asked to vacate their home in Britain, suggesting a further fraying of ties with the royal family amid preparations for the coronation of his father, King Charles III.

Will Smith gives first awards acceptance speech since Oscars controversy. Will Smith delivered his first acceptance speech since the 2022 Oscars after he received the Beacon Award on Wednesday at the African American Film Critics Assn. Awards.

BUSINESS

PG&E can keep operating Diablo Canyon — at least for now. Pacific Gas & Electric cleared a major hurdle in its bid to operate the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant beyond 2025, with a federal agency ruling that PG&E can keep the reactors humming while the company navigates a lengthy relicensing process.

DOJ pushes companies to punish white-collar crime by clawing back exec pay. Companies found to have committed crimes will get reduced fines from the U.S. Justice Department if they claw back compensation paid to executives and employees responsible for misconduct.

SPORTS

LeBron James has a tendon injury in his foot and will be reevaluated in three weeks. The Lakers say LeBron James has a tendon injury in his right foot and will be reevaluated in approximately three weeks, the first official statement from the team since James became injured in Dallas.

A No. 1 seed is still in play for UCLA. Former coach Ben Howland understands why that matters. No. 4 UCLA clinched the Pac-12 regular season title, but the Bruins know the job isn't finished and hope to clinch a No. 1 West seed come NCAA tourney time.

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OPINION

California gave up on mandating COVID vaccines for schoolchildren. Gov. Newsom, the Legislature and the courts have ensured the COVID vaccine won't be required for California K-12 students. The science supports them. Here's why that's wise.

Supreme Court should not yank away the lifeline for people drowning in student debt. The question before the Supreme Court is whether President Biden's plan was authorized by an act of Congress, the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act of 2003, that empowers the secretary of Education to waive or modify loan provisions in response to a national emergency. The answer is yes, or at least it should be.

YOUR WEEKEND

Lingua Franca opens on this L.A. landmark. Nearly six years in the making, the highly anticipated restaurant Lingua Franca — from the owners of one of L.A.'s most lauded sandwich shops — is finally open. Wax Paper's Lauren and Peter Lemos are turning out inventive but still-homey dishes in the Elysian Valley/Frogtown neighborhood, situated along the bike path and overlooking the L.A. River.

The best places to eat and drink in L.A. right now. From South Gate to Highland Park, we've got you covered. Here are the best restaurants and bars to visit in L.A.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

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TikTok's latest trending beauty filter, Teenage Look, returns users to their younger selves. With filters and new AI tools, TikTok users are getting a heavy dose of nostalgia with a new trending filter that's making them look like their younger selves. CNN.

'Bare minimum Monday' marks the latest quiet quitting trend. Ever heard of quiet quitting? Well, there's a new trend: "Bare minimum Monday." Instead of experiencing the "Sunday Scaries" or "Monday blues," a TikTok content creator suggests taking a different approach to the beginning of the week. ABC.

Three years since the pandemic wrecked attendance, kids still aren't showing up to school. Before the pandemic, about 8 million U.S. students were considered chronically absent, according to the research group Attendance Works.

"I think people have been a little bit under the false impression that when COVID became more endemic, that that would then result in a significant improvement in attendance. And I'm not seeing that," said Hedy Chang, the executive director of Attendance Works. NPR.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

An image from a video shot by George Holliday on March 3, 1991, shows Los Angeles police beating Rodney King.
An image from a video shot by George Holliday on March 3, 1991, shows Los Angeles police beating Rodney King. (Los Angeles Times)

Footage of Los Angeles police officers severely beating Rodney King causes a global outcry

It was March 3, 1991, when George Holliday saw and recorded footage of L.A. police officers beating Rodney King from outside of his window. The violent images produced an immediate public outcry and brought the Police Department under intense criticism. Witness accounts of King's arrest described repeated striking and kicking.

The four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in their trial for the beating of King, which ignited outrage over a racially charged case that had triggered a national debate on police brutality. After the verdicts were announced, thousands of looters ransacked stores and torched buildings in a chaotic rampage through the Los Angeles area as National Guard troops moved into the streets and a dusk-to-dawn curfew was clamped into force in numerous cities.

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