Gunman kills 6, himself at a birthday party shooting in Colorado Springs, authorities say

A man killed six people and then himself at a birthday party in Colorado Springs early Sunday, according to police.

The shooting happened just after midnight in the 2800 block of Preakness Way in the Canterbury Mobile Home Park, Lt. James Sokolik said in a news release.

Investigators believe the shooter, who has not been publicly identified, was the boyfriend of a woman at the party.

“He drove to the residence, walked inside and began shooting people at the party before taking his own life,” Sokolik said in a statement.

All six of the people killed were adults. Family, friends and children had gathered at the trailer for the party. The children were not hurt and are now in the care of relatives, Sokolik said.

Police responded to the shooting at 12:18 a.m. and arrived to find six bodies. One man was alive but mortally injured. He died at a hospital.

Colorado Springs police Chief Vince Niski said in a statement that the police department was “incredibly shaken” by the killings.

“This is something you hope never happens in your own community, in the place that you call home,”  he said.

“When these types of unspeakable acts happen, there is nothing that can be done to fully rebuild what was lost or replace those who are no longer with us.”

Gov. Jared Polis released a statement offering his prayers and condolences to the victims, their families and anyone impacted by the killings.

“The tragic shooting in Colorado Springs is devastating, especially as many of us are spending the day celebrating the women in our lives who have made us the people we are today,” he said. “Multiple lives were taken today by this terrible act of violence. Families torn apart, and at a birthday party no less.”

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Orange County girls water polo player of the year: Nicole Struss, Laguna Beach

LAGUNA BEACH — Nicole Struss wiped her eyes as tears rolled down her face and seemingly silenced the splashes and churns of the busy pool a few yards away.

They were tears of appreciation, and the Laguna Beach High senior let them speak.

Struss, who is the Register’s Orange County girls water polo player of the year, expressed how much former high school teammate — and her future UCLA teammate — Quinn Winter meant to her early development with the Breakers.

“I literally get emotional thinking about her and all that she has done for me,” Struss said while recounting text messages and rides to club practices she received from Winter. “She was always looking out for me, and keeping things so positive and happy, and she’d always give me the best advice if I ever needed anything.”

With that support, along with the guidance of Laguna Beach coach Ethan Damato, Struss emerged as one of Laguna Beach’s top all-time players, as well as one of its all-time leaders.


Nicole Struss is the Orange County girls water polo player of the year. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

This spring, she led the Breakers in and out of the pool to the Surf League title and 8-0 overall record in a season shortened because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A team captain with three other seniors, the 5-foot-9 center scored 14 goals, drew 13 exclusions and five penalties and added nine assists.

Struss shared the Surf League MVP honor with teammate Emma Lineback, marking the third straight year that she has earned the top honor in the toughest league in the county.

“She goes down as one of our (all-time) best players, on arguably one of the best teams,” Damato said. “I called her this year our fearless leader. I think everybody looks to her when the going gets tough. You know she’s going to bring it.”

During the times when it appeared unlikely the season would be played, Struss was challenged to be positive. Laguna Beach aspired to win its third consecutive CIF-SS Division 1 title, but after the playoffs were canceled, the team found gratitude for the chances it received to play.

It was, however, an emotional process for Struss to find that perspective.

“As one of the leaders of the team, it was my role to give my input and try to keep everyone as positive as we can,” Struss said. “It was about making the most out of the time that we had together because at the end of the day, we all love playing together, but we also love just spending time with each other, and we were lucky that we able to spend time with each other.”

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The Latest: France welcomes EU curb on AstraZeneca vaccine

By The Associated Press

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the decision from the European Union not to renew its order for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Macron said the EU policy is aiming at “responding in particular to the variants… We see that some other vaccines are more efficient.”

The bloc’s Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, said Sunday the EU Commission has not ordered AstraZeneca shots for after June. Two weeks ago, the EU launched legal proceedings against the pharmaceutical group for allegedly failing to respect the terms of its contract.

South Africa halted earlier this year the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after preliminary data indicated it may be only minimally effective against the variant which is dominant in the country.

In France, the variant first identified in Britain has become largely dominant and the South African variant represents only a small percentage of the virus detected in the country.

Across the Channel, Britain has made the AstraZeneca vaccine the centerpiece of its successful vaccination campaign.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— India’s vaccination campaign falters due to a lack of vaccines even as new infections, deaths soar

— Party-goers across Spain rejoice as nation’s state of emergency is lifted

— Vaccine deserts: Some countries have no COVID-19 jabs at all

— EU says US patent waiver proposal isn’t a magic bullet

— As US reopens, campuses tighten restrictions for virus

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Follow more of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

NEW DELHI — India opened vaccinations to all adults this month, hoping to tame a disastrous coronavirus surge sweeping the country, but since then the pace of administering the shots has only dropped, with states saying they only have limited stock.

New infections are still rising at record pace in the world’s second-most populous nation. Alongside a slowdown in vaccinations, states have gone to court over oxygen shortages as hospitals struggle to treat a running line of COVID-19 patients.

On Sunday, India reported 403,738 confirmed cases, including 4,092 deaths. Overall, India has over 22 million confirmed infections and 240,000 deaths. Experts say both figures are significant undercounts.

India’s Supreme Court said Saturday it would set up a national task force consisting of top experts and doctors to conduct an “oxygen audit” to determine whether supplies from the federal government were reaching states.

Complaints of oxygen shortages have dominated the top court recently, which just stepped in to make sure the federal government provided more medical oxygen to hospitals in the capital, New Delhi.

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BARCELONA, Spain — Impromptu street celebrations erupted across Spain as the clock struck midnight on Saturday, when a six-month-long national state of emergency to contain the spread of coronavirus ended and many nighttime curfews were lifted.

In Madrid, police had to usher revelers out of the central Puerta del Sol square, where the scenes of unmasked dancing and group signing esembled pre-pandemic nightlife.

Teenagers and young adults also poured into central squares and beaches of Barcelona to mark the relaxation of restrictions.

“Freedom!” said Juan Cadavid, who was reconnecting with friends. The 25-year-old Barcelona resident was also rejoicing at the prospect of going back to work at a Michelin-star restaurant that has been closed for the past seven months due to pandemic-related restrictions.

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BRATISLAVA — Slovakia’s government is set to discuss possible use of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine with Moscow after it was successfully tested in a Hungarian lab.

Slovakian Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said he will talk with his country’s experts and “the Russian side about further developments on this issue.”

Hungary offered Slovakia assistance in inspecting the Russian-made vaccine after the Slovak State Institute for Drug Control said it had not received enough information about the Russian jab from its producer to be able to assess its benefits and risks.

The regulator also said the doses it received from Russia differed from those under review by the European Union’s medicines authority.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets Sputnik V abroad, called the findings “fake news.” It welcomed the results of the Hungarian tests and said it asked the Slovak drug regulator to apologize “for spreading incorrect information about Sputnik V.”

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan is struggling with a third surge of coronavirus cases, despite a complete closure of all business and transport that began this weekend and continues until May 16, the end of the Eid holidays.

Pakistan reported 118 more deaths and 3,785 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day Sunday. It has now seen nearly 19,000 deaths in the pandemic.

All businesses are now closed except for essential food stores, pharmacies and fuel stations. Public transport in major cities and town is either at halt or allowed only with 50% capacity while intercity passenger transport is completely shut. Federal authorities also extended school closures to May 21

After receiving the first consignment of 1.2 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday, the government is trying to ramp up inoculations.

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DUBAI — Dubai’s long-haul carrier Emirates will begin shipping aid from the World Health Organization and other groups into India for free to help fight a crushing outbreak of the coronavirus, the airline said Sunday.

The offer by Emirates, which has 95 flights weekly to nine cities in India, initially involves aid already in Dubai but may expand across the carrier’s network as time goes on. That could mean major savings for aid groups as airfreight costs have skyrocketed amid the pandemic. Demand for flown cargo stands at record levels worldwide.

Emirates made the announcement at Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, already home to a WHO warehouse.

A WHO worker on a forklift moved boxes of tents made in Pakistan and rolls of net shades from South Korea preparing for the initial flight planned for next Thursday. That will be used to construct field hospitals for India’s overwhelmed health care system.

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ROME — The Italian Health Ministry has set out guidelines for visiting people in nursing homes in the latest sign of reopening in the onetime epicenter of COVID-19 in Europe.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed a decree Saturday setting out a plan that, among other things, requires visitors to either be fully vaccinated, have proof of having had COVID-19 and recovered, or a negative test result in the past 48 hours.

As in other countries, Italian nursing homes and long-term residential facilities were devastated by the pandemic, especially during the first wave of infections in the spring of 2020. The total nursing home death toll isn’t known, since so many COVID-19-suspected deaths were not counted because residents were not tested.

Italy has largely reopened after its wintertime lockdown, even though it is continuing to add around 10,000 confirmed infections and around 250-300 deaths per day. The 224 deaths reported Saturday brought Italy’s confirmed toll to 122,694, second only to Britain in Europe.

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MADISON, Wisc. — U.S. states asked the federal government this week to withhold staggering amounts of COVID-19 vaccine amid plummeting demand for the shots, contributing to a growing U.S. stockpile of doses.

From South Carolina to Washington, states are requesting the Biden administration send them only a fraction of what’s been allocated to them. The turned-down vaccines amount to hundreds of thousands of doses this week alone, providing a stark illustration of the problem of vaccine hesitancy in the U.S.

More than 150 million Americans — about 57% of the adult population — have received at least one dose of vaccine, but government leaders are doing everything they can to persuade the rest of the country to get inoculated.

The Biden administration announced this week that if states don’t order all the vaccine they’ve been allotted, the administration will shift the surplus to meet demand in other states.

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ISTANBUL — Produce markets were allowed to open Saturday across Turkey as the country’s strictest lockdown continues amid an economic downturn with double-digit inflation.

The markets, or “bazaars,” are integral to Turkish food culture. Producers bring their fruits and vegetables to nearly every neighborhood on set days of the week.

The full lockdown that began in late April and is set to last until May 17 has curtailed this tradition and limited it to Saturdays in designated marketplaces.

Idris Taka, a vendor selling vegetables at an open-air market in Istanbul on Saturday, says he has taken a financial hit. “We could work four to five days a week and now we can work one day out of 17 days,” he said.

Critics have said the Turkish government’s measures to fight a surge in cases have been inconsistent and impractical. Residents have been ordered to stay at home, but millions are exempt from the lockdown and continue to work in factories, hospitals, agriculture and tourism. Foreign tourists are also exempt.

Prices continued climbing in April with year-to-year inflation hovering above 17%.

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STOCKHOLM — The Swedish military says 200 conscripts have been sent home from a major military exercise involving thousands of soldiers in southern and central Sweden due to a suspected outbreak of coronavirus infections.

The “Sydfront 21” drill with over 3,500 participants from 13 different units of the Swedish Armed Forces is the first major military exercise in the Scandinavian nation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exercise leader Maj. Ake Palm told Swedish broadcaster TV4 that the military made the decision to send some soldiers home after several conscripts with cold-like symptoms either tested positive or were suspected to have been infected.

Alf Johansson, head of the exercise’s communications, defended holding the drill in the middle of the pandemic.

“This is a very important exercise for the army to train together so that we can maintain our ability to defend Sweden,” Johansson told the Swedish news agency TT.

Sweden, a nation of 10 million, has recorded just over 1 million coronavirus cases, with 14,173 deaths.

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HELENA, Mont. — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced that Montana will share COVID-19 vaccines with Canadian truck drivers from neighboring Alberta.

According to a memorandum of understanding signed Friday about 2,000 truck drivers from Alberta who transport goods from Canada to the U.S. will be eligible to be vaccinated at a highway rest stop near Conrad.

The vaccines will be available between May 10 and May 23. A similar program to vaccinate truck drivers from Canada began in North Dakota last month.

The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana has given around 1,000 vaccines to their relatives and neighbors across the border.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The owner of a Northern California bar was arrested on suspicion of selling made-to-order fake COVID-19 vaccination cards to several undercover state agents for $20 each.

The plainclothes agents from California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control were told to write their names and birthdates on Post-it notes. They say bar employees cut the cards, filled out the identifying information and bogus vaccination dates, then laminated the finished product.

Vaccination cards are being used in some places as a pass for people to attend large gatherings. The European Union is considering allowing in tourists who can prove they have been vaccinated.

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming’s governor is barring state officials from requiring people to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they may have access to state property or services.

Republican Gov. Mark Gordon announced the directive against “vaccine passports” Friday.

Gordon in a statement encourages Wyoming residents over 16 to get vaccinated but calls it “a personal choice based upon personal circumstances.”

The Cheyenne Post reports Gordon’s directive encourages Wyoming’s cities, towns, counties and private businesses to provide full access to places and services regardless of a person’s vaccine status.

Over 180,000 people in Wyoming, or almost one-third of the state’s population, have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

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Why California’s economy needs more bad news

What’s feels like bad news for your wallet may actually be good news for California’s economy.

As the year started, I concluded in a column that certain “negative” trends could actually be foreshadowing economic recovery from the pandemic smackdown. With 2021 one-third complete, I’m reviewing seven economic benchmarks I suggested we should be watching.

You may wince at some signposts of a healthier California business climate. Stuck in traffic? Yup, this is good economic news. Rising prices for gasoline, rent and loans suggest there are more upbeat consumers who are willing to pay up.

But too few job seekers, flat hotel prices and no evictions also suggest there’s still room for improvement.

More unemployed

The state needs more job seekers — technically the “unemployed” — to put its employment picture completely back to full health.

In 2021’s first three months, California added 402,500 employed residents — 151,000 fewer jobless and 251,500 folks returning to the job market.

Still, the 18.9 million in California’s workforce — folks employed plus those officially unemployed — is 600,000 people shy of pre-pandemic levels.

What’s unknown is whether this shortfall is due to reluctant hiring or folks too skittish to return to work. In any event, folks need to believe job hunts can be successful or they’ll stay home.

Higher gas prices

Hey, we all love paying less at the pump but such savings typically signal a weak economy.

California drivers paid $3.89 a gallon for regular gas in April, a 25% jump from December when we saw the cheapest year-end prices since the Great Recession days of 2009.

A global business recovery has ballooned demand for crude oil, gasoline’s key ingredient. Its price, by one benchmark, is up 29% so far in 2021.

So, pain at the pump, while bad for your budget, is actually good news.

Foreclosures, evictions

Getting evicted from one’s residence — a common occurrence in the harshest of business climates — has been largely prohibited by various government mandates in the pandemic era.

Property owners, for the most part, have been treated better than renters in this downturn. But lately, the government seems less inclined to prevent landlords or lenders from recouping losses via evictions.

Bubble Watch tracks housing risks. Read it here!

When the moratoriums are finally lifted, hopefully, a vigorous economy can catch the fallen.

Higher interest rates

The year started with the widely watched 30-year mortgage rate hitting its record low of 2.65%.

Since then, it’s moved up to roughly 3%. This modest concession by the rate-cutting Federal Reserve signals the economy is improving.

The central bankers say they’ll signal again when rates will significantly rise as the economy is deemed cured. Take them at their word and watch interest rates.

Frequent traffic jams

The year started with traffic congestion down 69% vs. the crowded commutes of 2019 in San Francisco and off 68% in Los Angeles, according to the TomTom index.

As May started, San Francisco drivers enjoyed only a 24% reduction in traffic jams from the pre-pandemic average and 28% in Los Angeles.

Packed freeways are a sure sign of an economic rebound!

Big rent hikes

Landlords were forced to fight for renters in 2020 to keep their units occupied for the first time since the Great Recession ended.

Rents in early 2021 have, to put it politely, “stabilized.” According to a Zillow index, San Francisco rents in April were down 8% over 12 months and essentially flat Los Angeles, much like December.

No increase in discounts may pain some renters, but it’s a trend with hope built in. The rebound will be complete when tenants are reminiscing about the pandemic’s rent bargains.

Borrowing sprees

In dire economic times, folks don’t borrow unless they’re forced to, so more lending is actually good news.

Consider that a debt-per-capita measurement for California shows borrowings have grown at a 2.4% annual rate since 2003, according to the New York Fed.

But the pandemic’s wallop pushed consumer debt growth down to just an 0.3% annual rate in the spring of 2020 — the slowest in three years.

Debt growth back to 1% at 2020’s end shows renewed optimism.

Pricier hotel nights

Tourism has been dead for a year, so what it costs to spend a night in a hotel will be a key industry stat to watch.

California hotel owners had to slash room rates by 24% in 2020 just to stay in business, according to TravelCalifornia. There was little improvement in the first quarter as rates were down at a 28% annual pace.

This spring’s reopenings of many attractions statewide — notably theme parks — should give the leisure and hospitality business a much-needed boost.

Pricier vacations will hint at tourism’s comeback.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

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Elon Musk, owner of Hawthorne-based SpaceX, shows humility and hubris as ‘SNL’ host

By ANDREW DALTON | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Elon Musk showed a combination of humility and hubris as he opened his highly anticipated hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live.”

The 49-year-old Tesla CEO, SpaceX founder and one of the world’s richest men opened his monologue by mocking his monotonal speaking style, saying no one can tell when he’s joking.

“It’s great to be hosting ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and I really mean it,” said Musk standing on the stage in a black suit with a black T-shirt. “Sometimes after I say something, I have to say that I mean it.”

He added, in explanation, that he is the first person with Asperger’s syndrome to host the show. “Or at least the first person to admit it,” he said.

It may have been the first time Musk has publicly said he has the mild form of autism.

Musk also joked about his Twitter account, which has more than 50 million followers, and the tweets that led some critics to object to his being invited to host the show.

“Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that’s just how my brain works,” he said.

Then Musk added a boast that got his biggest laugh of the night, and an applause break from the studio audience.

“To anyone who’s been offended, I just want to say I reinvented electric cars, and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship,” Musk said. “Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”

Musk didn’t appear in the show’s unconventional and heart-warming cold open, in which cast members and their moms did brief bits for Mother’s Day as musical guest Miley Cyrus sang her godmother Dolly Parton’s inspirational “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”

But Musk brought his own mother, model Maye Musk, on stage to talk about what he was like when he was 12.

The casting choice brought criticism from those who felt the show was celebrating a man for his exorbitant wealth in a time of great inequality and a man who spread misinformation to his huge Twitter following as he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

Playing on Musk’s reputation as an innovator, NBC live-streamed the episode globally on YouTube, the first time “Saturday Night Live” has ever been viewable simultaneously around the world.

Musk took his first stiff stab at acting in the show’s first sketch, a mock soap called “Gen Z Hospital,” playing a doctor in a fake beard who delivered bad news to a group of youths in their own lingo.

“You all might want to sit down, what I’m going to say might be a little cringe,” Musk said. “Your bestie took a major L.”

He had small roles in subsequent sketches. He played one of a party full of people out for the first time after quarantine, and he did a German-ish accent in a bleached, spiked wig as the director of an Icelandic talk show.

And on “Weekend Update” he played a character close to himself, donning a bow tie and glasses as a financial analyst named Lloyd Ostertag, throwing an extended plug for Musk’s favored cryptocurrency dogecoin.

After “Update” anchor Michael Che struggled to understand, Musk as Ostertag admitted, “Yeah, it’s a hustle.”

While Musk is likely the wealthiest host of the show ever — Forbes Magazine puts his fortune at $177 billion — several other business leaders, politicians and other non-entertainers have hosted the sketch comedy institution in its more than four decades on the air.

Steve Forbes, a publishing executive from a wealthy family and a longshot presidential candidate, hosted in 1996.

Donald Trump hosted twice, in 2004 as businessman and host of “The Apprentice” and in 2015 as a presidential candidate. The show’s sketches began making him their primary target the following year, but the choice to team with him has brought harsh criticism in the years since.

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton

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Angels’ Joe Maddon values Patrick Sandoval as ‘middle-inning closer’

ANAHEIM — Two games into Patrick Sandoval’s season, he’s shown encouraging signs of being ready to take the next step in his big-league development.

Eventually, that will likely lead Sandoval into the Angels’ rotation.

In the meantime, though, Manager Joe Maddon said there’s no need to rush him to high-leverage spots in the bullpen, because he said there’s plenty of value to be had as a long reliever.

“I love middle-inning closers,” Maddon said. “That’s been a big part of the success that I’ve been around in the past. In Tampa Bay, it was really prevalent, and to a certain extent in Chicago. I’ve loved that concept. If you’ve got a guy that’s in the middle, that holds down a small deficit or a small lead, those guys can be very valuable too.”

Sandoval, 24, reached the big leagues as a starter in 2019, and he’s been inconsistent in spotty opportunities in that role. He brought a 5.33 ERA into this season, appearing in 15 of 19 games as a starter.

In two relief outings this week, Sandoval has allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts. He pitched 3 1/3 innings against the Dodgers on Friday night.

“I just think overall command has gotten better with the fastball,” Maddon said. “He actually placed it pretty good yesterday. His strike throwing was a lot better. His changeup is always good, it seems. I love his slider too. Velocity, I thought, was up, but more than anything, I think the delivery is at the point where he’s able to throw strikes more consistently. And as he does that, he can become very effective because the mix is outstanding.”

As for putting Sandoval into the rotation soon, Maddon doesn’t seem to feel any of the current six starters need to be replaced. Maddon has expressed confidence in José Quintana, who has the worst numbers of the Angels’ starters.

“Right now, with everybody being well, I’m good with waiting (for Sandoval to start),” Maddon said. “He’s definitely going to be a starter at some point. But he’s doing some really good work right now. And we’re just gonna leave it there for the moment.”

COBB TO IL

The Angels placed Alex Cobb on the injured list with a blister on his right middle finger. Cobb had been in line to start on Monday in Houston.

The Angels also scratched left-hander José Suarez from his start on Saturday at Triple-A Salt Lake, so he could be an option to take Cobb’s turn in the rotation.

The Angels did not add anyone to the roster for Saturday’s game, so they played with just 25 active players.

BUTERA’S TRIP

Drew Butera had an eventful 24 hours from the time he found out he was being traded to the Angels on Thursday night to the time he started and finished behind the plate in Anaheim on Friday.

“It was one heckuva day, I’ll tell you that,” Butera said Saturday.

The journeyman catcher was not on the Texas Rangers’ active roster, but he was traveling with the team on the taxi squad. They had played in Minnesota on Thursday afternoon. He returned to Texas with the team after the game, and found out he was headed to Anaheim.

Butera barely made his flight Friday morning out of Dallas. He said the line at the airport was so long that his equipment bag and personal bag got left in Texas. He grabbed his glove and carried it on to the plane, so that’s all he had when he arrived.

The Angels decked him out in borrowed gear. He went from meeting to meeting learning the signs and the pitchers, and then he started the game. He even had a hit in his first at-bat against live pitching in a month.

“I felt really good last night, for not playing in a month,” he said. “It felt good to be back there.”

ALSO

Tony Watson (calf strain) could be activated as soon as Sunday, the first day he’s eligible, Maddon said. If he’s not ready by Sunday, it could be “shortly thereafter,” Maddon said. “He’s really really close.” …

Anthony Rendon (left knee contusion) is also making progress and could be activated as soon as he’s eligible next weekend in Boston, Maddon said. “I don’t think that’s out of the question, but we’ll see as the week progresses,” Maddon said. …

The tests on Chris Rodriguez’s shoulder showed “everything was pretty clean,” Maddon said, encouraging him that Rodriguez could be able to return around the time that his 10 days are up on May 16…

Outfielder Scott Schebler and right-hander Ben Rowen both cleared waivers and were assigned to Triple-A. They had been designated for assignment earlier in the week.

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Whicker: Lakers’ future, postseason and beyond, in peril

This is what can happen when you place all your eggs in two baskets.

What happened last year can happen again, too.

The Lakers have detoured themselves into the possibility of a play-in game or two, in order to win another NBA championship.

The play-in route is not insurmountable. UCLA went through it a couple of months ago and still got to the Final Four. But it is surely dangerous. The Lakers might have to play Golden State and Stephen Curry, the league’s deadliest variant.

A loss there, and the Lakers might have to play a loser-off-the-island game against Memphis. The Grizzlies have Ja Morant, another assignment for which there is no instruction manual.

The play-in tournament has suddenly become an A-list event. It could include Curry, Morant, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Trae Young, LaMelo Ball or some combination thereof. It also means that some must-see players won’t make the playoffs at all.

If the goal is to make sure more teams actually play interested basketball down the stretch, it has accomplished that. Even the hopeless Timberwolves have been difficult to beat, and they finished 3-0 against Utah.

If there is a valid criticism, it is in defense of the No. 7 team, which often is too good to be lumped with the slackers. Last year, Dallas was 43-32 and seventh in the West. Not only that, it was eight-and-a-half games ahead of eighth-place Portland, and would not have deserved this mild form of relegation.

The Lakers have Phoenix on Sunday, the Knicks on Tuesday, Houston on Wednesday, and then a two-game back-to-backer at Indiana and New Orleans. Trying to stay atop Zion Williamson for eight seconds is not the easiest way to end a five-game week.

We know more about the most recent North Korean cabinet meeting than we do about James’ health. We do know that Dennis Schroder will be in the COVID-19 protocol until Wednesday at the earliest and May 17 at the latest, which would be the day before the play-in begins.

The Lakers could fake it fairly well if they just had Schroder and Anthony Davis, who was brilliant in a shattering loss at Portland on Friday. At least Schroder would provide tip-of-the-spear defense, and would shift the burden from Alex Caruso, who also excelled at Portland.

What’s more troubling is Schroder’s admission, to German media, that neither he nor James was vaccinated as of last week. That’s difficult to believe, as meticulous as James is, but it’s indefensible if true. It takes a high degree of carelessness to actually get COVID-19 within the strict parameters of the NBA these days.

We’re finding out a lot about the Lakers in their hour of deprivation. We’re finding out Kyle Kuzma hasn’t always maximized this chance to step to the front, the way Michael Porter Jr. has in Denver with Jamal Murray out. The Lakers needed Kuzma to rise at Portland and he shot 2 for 11. In his past five games, he has scored 2, 24, 6, 25 and 4.

We’re finding out the Lakers haven’t found out what to do with Andre Drummond, who hasn’t impeded a league-wide stampede through the Lakers’ paint. Montrezl Harrell didn’t play a second Friday because he couldn’t handle Portland’s size, according to Coach Frank Vogel. All of us have seen games in which Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter couldn’t handle Harrell either.

Expanding the lens, we see the perils and possibilities of what happens when you turn over the roster to Klutch Sports and you lay everything on Davis’ wavering health and James’ age.

James turned 36 in December. He has opened an impressive second-half lead on Father Time, but the old guy with the white beard is still undefeated. One hint is the way injuries linger, the way they did two years ago and do now.

Most Lakers fans would say the glow from the 2020 championship is worth any complication in 2021. The possibility still exists that James will burst from the phone booth and lead the Lakers to their finest hour yet. Fortunately for James and his ankle, this isn’t his Last Dance.

But we do know two things: The Lakers have a bleak post-James future unless they can lure someone like Williamson, Young or Luka Doncic. And their roster was set up for long-term winning before they vaporized it to get Davis.

Did we ever dream the Lakers would be lamenting an injury to Talen Horton-Tucker, or figuring out tiebreakers in the dwindling games remaining? No, but that is why they play the games, even the extra ones.

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Lakers, with play-in likely, pitted against NBA history

A seventh-seeded team has never, ever won an NBA championship.

In one way, that reads like an invitation to the Lakers, and why shouldn’t it in this season of the unprecedented? There’s never been a year like this one, that has seen the NBA stack seasons so closely together, seen players bungee in and out of lineups, and seen the standings all out of whack in both conferences from what many observers would rank as their title favorites.

No one epitomizes all these disconnected threads like the Lakers, who could be in line to get healthy at the right time to make another spell-binding run. But they also might not – which adds a chill to the kind of history they’re hoping to upend.

With a loss Friday night to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers (37-30) weren’t just disappointed, but they were also frustrated – a clear sense of opportunity lost permeated the result. While the team has been losing a lot lately, it was one of their better efforts in adverse circumstances of the past two weeks, with Anthony Davis notably scoring 36 points (his second-highest scoring game of the season) and looking more like, well, Anthony Davis.

But all that, just to come up on the short end. While Davis has summed up previous defeats by saying he expects the Lakers to be fine in the end, there was no such assurance after the latest that likely cost the team their chance to avoid the play-in tournament. How hard they played only added to the sting.

“We got our hearts up and competed tonight,” he said. “It’s a tough one to swallow for sure.”

There is a mercurial quality to Davis that sometimes makes it hard to draw out his best. That was no problem Friday as Davis’ intensity charged the Lakers’ effort, especially on defense in the last few possessions as he blocked Robert Covington at the rim.

The competitiveness also brought an added irritation to the closing minute, which grew as Kyle Kuzma missed a 3-pointer that could have been a lay-up, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso committed late fouls that could have been stops instead. As the buzzer went off, Davis seemed to be in spirited discussion with Caldwell-Pope, which carried over into his postgame session as he rued the Lakers’ “mental mistakes” that cost them the game.

In one light, the Lakers needed more of that from Davis, who has played tentatively and beneath the level of a returning All-NBA first-team player since returning from his 30-game layoff. When he plays to his potential, it raises the ceiling – and the accountability – of the whole team.

“I think it’s very important at this time to get everybody back to playing like AD,” Kuzma said. “I think tonight was probably one of his better games since he’s been back. He’s done a good job of being confident out there with his movements. That’s the number one thing that we all want to see out of him..”

But the Lakers aren’t a wrecking ball until they are at full strength, and it’s worth questioning if that will happen this season. LeBron James was not his explosive self even in his return after 20 games missed from a high ankle sprain, and he may miss more games in the coming week still (which includes two final back-to-back series). There’s also no telling how soon Dennis Schröder will be ready to play after missing the past week and likely much of this week in the COVID-19 protocols. It is possible the point guard, who has been one of the most important players this season, won’t be conditioned in time for the start of the play-in tournament, which begins May 18.

The preparation for the play-in might be the whole goal now, as the Lakers are, in essence, two games behind Portland now that the Trail Blazers own the tie-breaker. The attitude adjustment has been evident in the team’s shifting language toward the play-in, which they’ve gradually begun to accept.

“We can’t worry about that, you know, we’re just going to compete to win as many games as we can and wherever we land we’re confident,” Lakers Coach Frank Vogel said.

There is a karmic flavor to the Blazers being the ones who nearly lock the Lakers into the play-in tournament: Last year it was Portland who had to play its way in, only to be crushed in the first round by the Lakers. Injuries caught up to the Trail Blazers in a big way in the bubble, as they finished the series without Damian Lillard and with C.J. McCollum playing through a fracture in his spine.

The Lakers believe they can shift closer to the team that started the season 21-6, that was the unquestioned top defense in the NBA, that willed its way to close wins over teams like Milwaukee, Boston and Denver, and that even the top two seeds in the West won’t be excited to face. But there is still way to go from here to there, and the set-up either seems like a playoff run that could be one of the most epic in NBA history, or the half-hearted finish to a season that has spun out of their grasp.

Maybe at least one bit of history is in their favor: The lowest seed to ever win it all was the No. 6 Houston Rockets in 1995. Like the Lakers, they had won the title the year before.

As returning champions, it’s in the Lakers’ nature to believe in their ability to overcome the odds. They’re not counting themselves out in a play-in tournament, and they sure aren’t counting themselves out of the title itself.

“Hopefully we don’t have to play in the play-in because we won a couple of these games down the stretch, and that’s the goal and that’s the plan,” Caruso said. “But, I’m confident. I said this after the last game too. I’m naïve in the fact that I think we can win any game that we play in.”

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CIF-SS boys soccer playoff pairings for all divisions

CIF-SS BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFFS

Games at 3 p.m. or 5 p.m.

DIVISION 1

First round, Thursday, May 13

Cathedral, bye

Millikan at Newport Harbor

Santa Margarita at Mira Costa

Los Alamitos at San Clemente

Notre Dame/SO at North Torrance

Tesoro at Santa Ana Valley

Paramount at Godinez

University at JSerra

Santa Ana at Loyola

Santa Barbara at Palos Verdes

Mater Dei at Edison

Century at Capistrano Valley

Harvard-Westlake at Downey

Mission Viejo at Anaheim

Channel Islands at Long Beach Poly

Servite, bye

DIVISION 2

First round, Thursday, May 13

Valencia/P, bye

Dos Pueblos at Pacifica/O

Woodbridge at Warren

El Dorado at St. Francis

Laguna Beach at Aliso Niguel

Redlands East Valley at Arlington

Norwalk at Saddleback

Oxnard at San Marcos

Santiago/GG, bye

Lakewood at Hart

Tustin at Camarillo

Estancia at Huntington Beach

Bellflower at Fullerton

Long Beach Wilson at Foothill

Katella at Bell Gardens

Santiago/C, bye

DIVISION 3

First round, Thursday, May 13

Norte Vista, bye

Esperanza at Westminster

Westlake at Oak Park

Northwood at La Mirada

California at Sonora

Hueneme at West Torrance

Buena at Leuzinger

Canyon/A at Montebello

Santa Fe at Villa Park

Oaks Christian at Los Amigos

Schurr at Beckman

Corona at Valley View

Lynwood at El Rancho

Moorpark at Valencia

Agoura at Alta Loma

Salesian, bye

DIVISION 4

Wild card round, Tuesday, May 11

A: Claremont at Riverside Poly

First round, Thursday, May 13

Winner A at Desert Hot Springs

Animo Leadership at Beverly Hills

Cajon at Oak Hills

Vista Murrieta at Arroyo Valley

Santa Monica at Calabasas

South Torrance at Fillmore

King at Ganesha

Troy at Pasadena

La Serna at Montclair

Bishop Amat at Ayala

Fontana at Los Osos

Santa Paula at Nogales

Carter at Chaparral

Damien at Desert Mirage

Crescenta Valley at Eastvale Roosevelt

Sierra Vista at Palmdale

DIVISION 5

Wild card round, Tuesday, May 11

A: Silverado at Tahquitz

B: Ramona at Rancho Mirage

C: Chino at Indio

D: Rancho Alamitos at Crean Lutheran

E: Marshall at Diamond Bar

F: Glendale at Quartz Hill

G: Brentwood at West Ranch

H: Hawthorne at Cate

I: Eastside at La Quinta

J: Coachella Valley at North/R

First round, Thursday, May 13

Winner A at Mountain View

Grand Terrace at La Salle

Winner B at Murrieta Valley

Foothill Tech at Valley Christian/C

Winner C at Palm Springs

Winner D at St. Margaret’s

Eisenhower at Upland

Winner E at Baldwin Park

Winner F at Granite Hills

Rubidoux at La Canada

Winner G at Dunn

Sultana at Diamond Ranch

Winner H at Artesia

Winner I at Beaumont

Garey at Bloomington

Winner J at Citrus Hill

DIVISION 6

Wild card round, Tuesday, May 11

A: Woodcrest Christian at Northview

B: Burbank at Verbum Dei

C: Crossroads at Canyon Springs

D: Antelope Valley at Monrovia

First round, Thursday, May 13

Winner A at Nuview Bridge

Fairmont Prep at Vista del Lago

Lakeside at Cornerstone Christian

Los Altos at Temple City

Winner B at Pasadena Poly

Bassett at Da Vinci

Sage Hill at Palmdale Aerospace

Hemet at Linfield Christian

Winner C at South Hills

San Jacinto at Indian Springs

Ontario Christian at Orange Vista

Flintridge Prep at Adelanto

Pioneer at Aquinas

Heritage at Arroyo

Samueli at Tarbut V’Torah

Winner D at Charter Oak

DIVISION 7

First round, Thursday, May 13

University Prep, bye

Rosemead at International School of Los Angeles

Paraclete at Buckley

Apple Valley, bye

de Toledo at Whitney

St. Pius X-St. Matthias at Windward

West Covina at Vasquez

Holy Martyrs at Mary Star

Desert Christian/BD at Duarte

Rowland at Pilibos

Maranatha at Pacifica Christian/SM

Capistrano Valley Christian at Riverside Prep

Whittier Christian at San Jacinto Valley Academy

Waldorf OC at Lucerne Valley

Milken at St. Monica

Sierra Canyon, bye

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Americans must reject racism in all of its forms

Are White Americans being discriminated against? Some might be aghast at the idea that one might have such a thought, and, considering the historic discrimination that people of color have endured throughout American history, some might dismiss the thought as a foregone conclusion. However, I challenge those people to think about this idea newly.

An increasing number of White Americans feel that they are being discriminated against. “Reverse racism,” as highlighted by researchers at Tufts University, reveals that America isn’t living in a “post-racial” society.

Despite the outcry from many members of the public and their political allies regarding our society’s horrid obsession with race, many still regard race as a critical way to classify others.

Yet, many White Americans feel that the tide has shifted in the American consciousness whereby anti-Black was formerly the mainstream, and now the mainstream is anti-White. To those who just read that sentence and are nodding their heads in support, I ask you to reconsider.

Retributive racism will only cause an endless cycle of back-and-forth hatred and further degrade our society.

Racism, America’s original sin, continues to plague America from making true progress as a united nation, free of racial division and bias. Just as one group appears to be making significant progress, another finds itself moving backward. The cause of this, I believe, is that many have a distorted version of racism. That is, rather than viewing racism as judging others by the color of their skin, racism has been modified to be about power dynamics; the powerful class is the only class that can be racist and less powerful classes cannot.

In practice, that means White people cannot say things about people of color that people of color can say about White people, no matter how vile and racist the statement may be.

Without needing to conduct a poll, I say (or rather hope) that most Americans would agree that one should be judged by the content of their character as opposed to the color of their skin. Yet, despite our nation’s exceptional praise for the late Rev. Dr. Martin L. Kin g Jr., it seldom happens that we practice what we preach.

Race does not exist in any discernible way outside of the power we give it. At the most basic biological level, race has no significance in the actions of people, and yet we continue to use race to divide people into groups, a misguided practice that has had severe consequences since our great country’s inception.

A joint survey from NPR and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that “more than half of whites — 55 percent — surveyed say that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against White people in America today.”

These feelings breed a sense of resentment, anger and distrust that leads to further division and distrust between Americans of all races and all classes.

The question that all Americans must pose to themselves is the length by which this divided house can endure, for a house divided cannot stand. The United States must rid itself of racism if it is to remain a dominant and prosperous nation; otherwise, our focus will remain on race and not what matters.

It is as if the sins of our forefathers and slavery have come full circle. Many White Americans are beginning to feel that being White is a negative thing. This subjective feeling has taken an objective stance in the hiring field, where many companies are overtly advertising positions, and choosing employees for positions, based on their race.

It is easy to see the irony in this: that hiring — or not — someone based on the color of their skin is the very definition of racism.

I cannot help but envision our true potential as a nation if we defeat America’s original sin of racism. If we work together and form a united front, then we can combat poverty, crime and poor education while encouraging innovation and economic opportunities that would benefit every American.

I can only hope that we leave race behind to focus on what really matters: each other.

Armstrong Williams is a syndicated columnist.

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