Today's Headlines: A tenfold increase in virus cases and a warning – Los Angeles Times

Hello, it’s Tuesday, Jan. 18, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:
Waiting, and waiting, inside an ER
The Times’ Brittny Mejia visited Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, where the ER had 28 patients who had been camped out for hours — or even days. With more than 100 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, there weren’t enough in-patient beds.
The Omicron variant, while highly contagious, is also generally less severe than Delta. And yet the current surge — which has overwhelmingly made the unvaccinated seriously ill — has been complicated by factors that have piled up as the pandemic stretches on: Burned-out workers have left in droves, and although the vaccine has protected staff from getting really ill, it has forced many to call in sick. One doctor warned: Now is not the time to do anything that could land you in the hospital.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County reported more than 31,500 new coronavirus cases — marking a nearly tenfold increase from the number of new cases tallied a month ago.
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Here’s who ‘most likely’ betrayed Anne Frank and her family
A cold case team that combed through evidence for five years in a bid to unravel one of World War II’s enduring mysteries has reached what it calls the “most likely scenario” of who betrayed Jewish teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family. The team named prominent Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh, believing he could have disclosed the secret annex hiding place of the Frank family to German occupiers. Why? To save his own family from deportation and murder in Nazi concentration camps.
Hundreds of thousands of ‘suspicious’ disability insurance claims frozen
In the latest battle between California and scammers out to defraud its benefits system, the state said it froze 345,000 disability insurance claims that it suspected were fraudulently filed using stolen credentials of doctors and other medical providers.
Some legitimate claims may be among the suspected fraud attempts, which could delay disability checks to Californians in need.
Kevin de León wages an escalating fight with activists
For the last year, L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León has focused on reducing encampments in his Eastside district. His team, sometimes with outreach workers, has moved 74 homeless people off an El Sereno median strip and into converted motels; moved dozens from a section of Main Street in downtown; and moved about 90 people out of encampments around El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument and into temporary housing.
Those efforts have put De León in direct conflict with some of the city’s most outspoken homeless advocates, who say he is pursuing a policy of “banishment” for L.A.’s unhoused.
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Images of a blizzard of torn plastic wrappers, cardboard boxes and paper packaging on L.A. train tracks have generated national attention. The litter is the result of “organized and opportunist criminal rail theft,” says one official. Thieves steal from about 90 cargo containers a day; sometimes an organized group halts trains and recruits people living on the street to ransack the containers. Scavengers then pick through the mounds of litter. Tension is ratcheting up among rail operators, government officials and authorities over what can be done to reduce the thefts.
Young children are being newly hospitalized with COVID-19 at higher rates than at any point before in the pandemic. The latest surge has been especially alarming for many families with children who are medically fragile and younger than 5 — the age group still not eligible for COVID shots. There’s the notion that “‘if you’re vulnerable, then you need to stay home.’ Well, we are doing that. But how much longer can we?” said one mom. “My son deserves to live a life outside of his home.”
Nearly a century after the California grizzly was hunted to extinction, black bears are being killed by motorists in record numbers. The unprecedented surge in deadly vehicle strikes is likely the result of bears fleeing massive wildfires in the Sierra Nevada, as well as the effects of drought, according to biologists. Researchers say pregnant females and cubs are facing extreme hardship.
Native Americans want to ditch the name Squaw Valley. But the white county supervisor for this unincorporated area of Fresno County is opposed. At the heart of the battle is what “squaw” means and who decides whether it’s offensive.
For 9-year-old Sandy Banks, MLK saying he had “good hair” stuck with her. The Times columnist writes that she later realized what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. meant: “His hair was good because it was his hair; it was a Black man’s hair, and its worth didn’t rest on some arbitrary standard dictated by people who didn’t value him. That was when it dawned on me that I was part of something bigger than my family. I was connected to all these people by a history that both shaped our strengths and seeded our physical differences.”

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A winter storm was whipping the Northeast with snow and thunderstorms. The dangerous storm brought significant snowfall, strong thunderstorms and blustery winds to the northeastern U.S. on Monday. Buffalo, N.Y., had almost 18 inches of snow; Cleveland had 15; sleet, rain and wind gusts dogged Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Power outages affected tens of thousands, and hundreds of flights were canceled.
A Texas rabbi said he threw a chair at a gunman and escaped with two other hostages. The hostage-taker was ID’d as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, who was killed Saturday night after the last three hostages ran out of the synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, around 9 p.m. The rabbi credited past security training with helping get himself and others out safely.
Flights were sent to assess the damage to Tonga after Saturday’s volcanic eruption. New Zealand, which hopes to send in essential supplies today, and Australia sent military surveillance flights. Communications are extremely limited, but those who have managed to get messages out described their country as looking like a moonscape as they began cleaning up from the tsunami waves and volcanic ash fall.

“King Richard” and “The Harder They Fall” won big at the African American Film Critics Assn. Awards. The films were victorious in eight of 13 categories. Will Smith, considered a top contender in the lead actor category at this year’s Oscars, won for “Richard.” Netflix western “Harder” won for both picture and director Jeymes Samuel.
Lil Durk treated his MLK Fest audience to a duet with Morgan Wallen. The rapper welcomed the controversial country star to the Martin Luther King Freedom Festival stage to perform their hit “Broadway Girls.” Durk prefaced the appearance by asserting, “Can’t nobody cancel s— without me saying it.” Wallen appeared in a viral video last year that caught him using a racial slur.
Family and friends memorialize L.A. author Eve Babitz with laughter. At a two-hour ceremony, laughter smothered tears as attendees shared tales of growing up with Babitz, of staying sober with her, and falling in love with her. The anecdotes underscored Babitz’s brilliance and kindness, her uniqueness and wry wit, and her unyielding fervor to live life by her own rules.
Betty White’s 100th birthday was celebrated with sass, wit and tenderness on stage at the Cavern Club. “Golden Girlz Live” is more than just a drag show tribute to “The Golden Girls.” It was born out of a love for the show and its impact on the queer community. The original has maintained its popularity in the community, in part, because it’s about the power of friendship and chosen family, with four powerhouse actresses pushing back against both ageism and patriarchy.

Walmart cryptocurrency? Filings reveal that the retailer has plans for a coin, as well as a collection of nonfungible tokens.
The FAA approved a plan for some jets to fly near 5G airwaves. Some jetliners will be allowed to operate within zones where new 5G wireless services are set to begin Wednesday, significantly reducing the potential effect on flight schedules. The FAA said airline manufacturers had shown that the mobile-phone signals wouldn’t cause interference with critical aircraft equipment on certain Airbus SE and Boeing Co. models.
Russell Westbrook, Stanley Johnson spark Lakers’ victory over Jazz. The entire team celebrated a Westbrook three-point play that capped the triumphant night — a 101-95 victory in which the Lakers came back from a 10-point deficit in the second half.
The Rams dominate in their wild-card win over Arizona. Matthew Stafford passed for 202 yards and two touchdowns and the Rams’ defense put on a stellar display in a 34-11 playoff victory over the Cardinals.
Bijoya “BJ” Das, UCLA gymnastics floor choreographer, wants to keep breaking the internet. Das has already set the internet aflame with three viral floor routines. In her third year on the job, she’s trying to up the ante on the team’s trademark event by emphasizing each gymnast’s individuality.
Beijing will offer Olympic tickets only to “selected” spectators due to the pandemic. The announcement confirmed expectations that the Winter Games would have few onlookers at the venues, under even more strict conditions than imposed during last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
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In most of California, child care has surpassed housing as the largest monthly expense for households with young children. That’s unsustainable. The state should devote one-time money to help providers upgrade and expand their facilities so they can serve more children. But Congress needs to step up too: Revive the Build Back Better plan to subsidize some child-care costs and expand the child tax credit, The Times editorial board writes.
MLK was a critical race theorist before there was a name for it. For the first time, we’re observing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday under new laws in multiple states that ban the instruction of “divisive” interpretations of our racial past, writes law professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Teachers, public officials and students are in a bind. They’re charged with honoring King as a figure while disavowing the ideas that he lived and died to advance.
Trump and his enablers want to blow up the presidential debates. They shouldn’t get away with it, writes columnist Mark Z. Barabak.
The ocean may churn, the land may quiver, but L.A. has its light. Times columnist Patt Morrison delves into the quality of the light in our corner of the world — what poets have said, what detractors have said, what the peculiar magic is that’s behind it. “The way the sky looks — bluer, whiter, browner — is ‘the result of scattered sunlight, sunlight scattered by molecules.’ And you add in the particles, from the smog, the dust, the exhalations of the earth and the living things on it, the particles interplaying with sun deliver to our eyes the version of light and color that we see.”
And those fancy sunsets of ours aren’t just a product of hot-weather smog, she notes. Some of the best appear in the winter, “when a damp wind can broom away the grosser air.” (See the photo above for proof.)
Sixty-five years ago today, the first nonstop jet flight around the world was completed as three B-52 bombers landed near Riverside at March Air Force Base (now known as March Air Reserve Base). The Times reported in the Jan. 19, 1957, edition (Cold War tensions were a defining element of the ’50s) that the flight took 45 hours and 19 minutes, covered 24,325 miles and “proved conclusively that the United States can strike at an enemy anywhere on the globe with hydrogen bombs.”
The bombers were refueled midair, in daylight and darkness, by aerial tankers four times, the paper reported.
We appreciate that you took the time to read Today’s Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at headlines@latimes.com. — Amy Hubbard

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Amy Hubbard is the assistant newsletters editor. She’s worked in a range of departments at the Los Angeles Times since 1993, including as copy chief for daily Calendar, Travel, Books and the AM Copy Desk; SEO chief; and morning editor on the Metro desk. In 2015, she began a four-year stint at personal finance website NerdWallet, where she was the Banking editor. Hubbard is a graduate of the University of Missouri, Columbia, School of Journalism.
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