Today’s Headlines: Audit launched after ‘Housewives’ scandal takes State Bar to task

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Friday, April 15, and before we get started, we’d like to highlight a great new project from our Books colleagues, an abundantly readable and useful guide to literary L.A. Two favorites from among the offerings: L.A. writers talk about their top places to go for inspiration or to hang out with other writers, and a list of more than 60 unique indie bookstores to explore. The guide helps set the stage for the Festival of Books — our 42nd — back at USC on April 23-24.

The book tunnel at the Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles.

(Mark Boster / For The Times)

Now, on to the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

After the ‘Real Housewives’ scandal, a long-awaited audit slams the State Bar

The audit was ordered last year by the California Legislature after a Los Angeles Times investigation that documented how the now-disgraced attorney Tom Girardi (of reality TV fame) cultivated close relationships with the agency and avoided discipline despite scores of complaints and lawsuits from cheated clients. It found the Bar had failed to effectively discipline corrupt attorneys, allowing lawyers to repeatedly violate professional standards and harm members of the public.

Auditors cited the examples of specific, unnamed attorneys with disturbing track records who received little or no discipline. One had 165 complaints over seven years, many of which were dismissed outright or closed after the Bar issued private letters to the lawyer. Another was accused of failing to give clients money from their settlements. “When the State Bar finally examined the attorney’s bank records,” an auditor wrote, “it found that the attorney had misappropriated nearly $41,000 from several clients.”

Ukraine says its missile sank Russia’s flagship. Russia says it sank while being towed

As Russia warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO, its military was dealt a serious loss with the sinking of its flagship in the Black Sea. Ukrainian officials reported firing a missile at the ship. A Pentagon spokesman could not confirm that a Ukrainian missile had struck the ship, only that there had been an explosion on board that caused a fire.

The Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged the fire but didn’t provide a cause and later said the ship sank while being towed in a storm. The sinking of the Moskva is a major blow for the Russian fleet and a tactical and public relations coup for Ukraine at a pivotal moment — when the country is bracing for a massive Russian offensive in the eastern and southern regions.

More on Ukraine

  • Millions have fled the country amid war, but millions more have stayed to help. Some have taken up arms, but others are helping in different ways. There is the teacher who peels potatoes in a soup kitchen. The DJ manning emergency call lines who says she keeps “a small room in my brain” to hold all the pain she has heard. There are psychologists trying to help people process trauma in real time and students risking their lives to spirit supplies to soldiers on the front lines. We rounded up stories of ordinary people who have become heroes.
  • The U.S. and its NATO allies are recalibrating their response in Ukraine, scaling up defense aid. But it’s not clear an enhanced response will help Ukraine win the war or avoid a years-long conflict likely to cost billions in additional aid, further disrupt global economic markets and lead to more bloodshed on the front lines.

Feinstein defended herself against fresh accusations she could no longer cut it in the Senate

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) pushed back on a news report that renewed questions about her age and capacity to fulfill the job responsibilities of the Senate. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that four senators — including three Democrats — and one Democratic House member said Feinstein’s memory was rapidly deteriorating and that it appeared she could no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff.

Feinstein, 88, said in a statement that “the real question is whether I’m still an effective representative for 40 million Californians, and the record shows that I am.”

More politics

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting and the latest action in Sacramento.

Some Christians are challenging what it means to be ‘pro-life’

The Republican Party, evangelical Christianity and the antiabortion movement have been inextricably joined in a battle that for the last five decades has shaped the contours and passions of American politics. The powerful alliance is a major reason President Trump was elected and able to shift the Supreme Court rightward.

As the nation awaits the court’s opinion in a case that could dismantle Roe vs. Wade, the ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion, an increasingly vocal minority of former conservatives have been condemned by many in their faith as supporting a grave sin.

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CALIFORNIA

Voters say the state is moving in the wrong direction and they feel a financial squeeze. High gasoline prices, low housing affordability and persistent homelessness were cited as the biggest challenges in a new survey of California voters on some of the most prominent economic topics.

L.A. mayoral hopefuls are courting Asian American voters. With promises to appoint more Korean Americans, interviews with ethnic media and ads in Mandarin and Vietnamese, candidates are wooing the city’s fastest-growing ethnic group, who make up nearly 1 in 10 voters. In past elections, Asian Americans were sometimes considered an afterthought.

Ed Buck sentenced to 30 years in prison. For nearly a decade, the wealthy, white Buck, a fixture of West Hollywood’s political scene, lured young Black men at the lowest points in their lives into what he called “party and play” sessions. He was sentenced to prison for drug and sex crimes that included providing lethal doses of methamphetamine to two men.

“We need to ensure that this is the safest and the cleanest city that it can be.” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti in his final State of the City speech acknowledged the uptick in violent crime and the unsanitary and bleak conditions on the streets that have dogged his last year at City Hall.

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NATION-WORLD

Pfizer says a booster shot for kids is called for. The company says new data show healthy 5- to 11-year-olds could benefit from another kid-sized COVID shot. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases and deaths in Africa dropped to their lowest levels since the pandemic began.

Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen prison inmates. The Holy Thursday ritual, at a prison near Rome, symbolizes humility and service and highlights his papacy’s attention to those on society’s margins.

A U.S. jury found an Islamic State “Beatle” guilty of murdering Western hostages. A jury found British national El Shafee Elsheikh guilty of murder and other charges for his role in a hostage-taking scheme that took roughly two dozen Westerners captive a decade ago, resulting in the deaths of four Americans, three of whom were beheaded. The notorious “Beatles,” militants so nicknamed because of their accents, were known for their cruelty.

A U.N. envoy said he saw “a light at the end of the tunnel” for the war in Yemen. The envoy expressed hope regarding the more than seven-year war in the Arab world’s poorest country. But he noted in an address to the Security Council that the two-month cease-fire underway was fragile and that reports of military operations around the oil-rich central province of Marib should be addressed urgently.

A day after the bloodletting — 62 gang killings that convulsed El Salvador — the crackdown began. El Salvador’s security forces arrested more than 10,000 suspected gang members in two weeks. Under a state of emergency, they were able to do so without having to give explanations or allow access to a lawyer.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

The mundane and the inane collide with the profound in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The Michelle Yeoh A24 action sci-fi pic has drawn acclaim since opening. Where did all these zany ideas come from? Ask filmmaking duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert and they might have a different answer each day.

Frank Langella was reportedly fired from a Netflix series over alleged “unacceptable conduct.” According to Deadline and Variety, “The Americans” and “Dracula” star was investigated and determined to be involved in unacceptable conduct on the set of the series “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Netflix’s adaptation of the work of Edgar Allan Poe. The role will reportedly be recast.

When? Who? How? What you need to know about Coachella 2022. We have a quick primer on the fest, which answers, among other important questions, what’s good to eat on site: The food and drink options are exemplary. L.A. standouts like Bridgetown Roti, Ronan, Tacos 1986, Bar Flores and Best Friend will be serving, as will pricier sit-down options from chefs like Burt Bakman, Minh Phan and Theresa Montano.

BUSINESS

Mortgage rates in the U.S. surged, reaching 5% for the first time in more than a decade. Higher mortgage rates are adding to pressure on would-be buyers in a market where purchase prices are still skyrocketing two years into the pandemic housing boom. While some people are putting off their searches after getting priced out, the supply of listings is so tight that bidding wars remain common.

Elon Musk says he’s ready to buy Twitter? Wall Street is skeptical. Skepticism about any deal is warranted. Musk settled fraud charges with federal financial regulators in 2018 after he used Twitter to announce that he had a deal to take his electric car company Tesla private when he did not. He also hasn’t spelled out details on financing to purchase Twitter.

Analysts say password sharing is now a bigger problem for streamers. As competition for customers among streaming services heats up, so has the proliferation of online marketplaces where passwords are being sold illegally at bargain-basement prices. Such marketplaces have sprouted from password sharing — which has become a growing headache for streamers.

Meet eight trailblazing weed shop owners who survived the war on drugs — and City Hall. In April 2021, nearly 20 months after L.A. started accepting license applications in a fraught process, the first social equity dispensaries opened. These trailblazers are adamant they didn’t get to this point alone, and a year later, they’re still optimistic despite their challenging journeys.

OPINION

Sheriff-coroners are the norm in California. They shouldn’t be. In 48 of the state’s 58 counties, the elected sheriff is also the coroner. They’re two very different jobs that routinely come into conflict, The Times’ editorial board notes, such as when sheriff’s deputies arrest a person who then dies in their custody. It may be in the sheriff’s political interest to show that some medical condition caused the death rather than an unlawful tactic by deputies. Only two other states permit combining the sheriff and coroner positions. It’s a bad practice, and California should fix it.

California air quality officials released a groundbreaking proposal to require all new cars sold to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. It’s a much-needed mandate to avoid a disastrous heating of the planet and curb air pollution, but regulators can do better. Some environmental groups have called on them to set a sales target of at least 75% zero-emission vehicles by 2030. Others have called for reaching 100% by 2030. If they are not willing to go that far, the editorial board writes, regulators must at least strengthen the rule to ramp up more quickly.

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SPORTS

Dodgers surge in eighth inning to defeat Reds in home opener. The game delivered emotion, history and a memorable ‘Fred-die!’ welcome, writes columnist Bill Plaschke. Freddie Freeman delivered the crushing blow in the team’s 9-3 win against the Cincinnati Reds, lacing a leadoff double in the eighth to spark the team’s six-run game-winning rally.

The Clippers will host the Pelicans in tonight’s NBA play-in elimination. The matchup at Crypto.com Arena against New Orleans will be the second game of the NBA’s play-in tournament for both teams. But as an elimination game, where the winner earns a first-round series against top-seeded Phoenix and the loser’s season ends, “it is a Game 7” in feel and function, guard Terance Mann said.

YOUR WEEKEND

A woman sits among full shelves in a bookstore.
Mary Williams, co-owner and general manager, in Skylight Books: “We’re constantly evolving to dodge the next threat.” Read how Skylight became a beloved L.A. bookstore.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Go book shopping. Our literary guide, mentioned at the top of the newsletter, is a great weekend read, or use it to hunt down great local bookstores.

Re-create those vending-machine honey buns. Whether called “big” or “jumbo,” they’re marked by a uniformly light-brown coloring and a flattened, oblong dough spiral laced with a powdery cinnamon filling. Surprisingly, it took about as much engineering to make Ben Mims’ homemade honey bun as it probably did for the industrial scientists to create their packaged version. But it’s enlightening and exciting to find out that you can make a childhood favorite even better than it was before with just some playful maneuvering.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.; subsequently, it is the third leading cause of grief. “Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states.” The chance that these mourners develop incapacitating, prolonged grief may be higher because of the untimely, unexpected — often preventable — nature of the deaths, having had to experience sorrow amid isolation, and other factors. The U.S. is pushing to move on past the crisis. But for millions and millions, the grief continues. “There’s no end,” said a woman whose husband died along with two other close relatives. “It changes. It morphs into something different. But it’s ongoing.” The Atlantic

Welcome back! Here’s free food and a Lizzo concert. Big tech firms are rolling out the fun wagon for workers, trying to soften the blow of a mandatory return to the office. Those workplaces are often gleaming marvels of architecture, built for billions of dollars prior to COVID, with the “long-held belief that in-person collaboration is still better for fostering creativity, inspiring innovation and instilling a common sense of purpose.” The pandemic, however, showed that workers were often just as productive from home, and it seems nobody has missed the commute. To help ease the office return, Microsoft in February offered employees life-size chess, spring basket making and a beer, wine and “mocktail” garden. One expert said employers needed to focus on developing a successful approach to hybrid work rather than showering workers with inducements that, at some point, will have to come to an end. New York Times

And one more quick one: Seattle is holding a contest, and the grand prize is … being allowed to paint the roof of the Space Needle. That’s a 605-foot-tall tower. Suffice it to say, you must be a Washington resident and not acrophobic. Seattle Times

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A man in a baseball uniform and holding a glove in one hand hands a notebook to a fan among a crowd in the stands.

Jackie Robinson returns an autograph book to a fan during Dodgers spring training in the Dominican Republic on March 6, 1948.

(Associated Press)

Seventy-five years ago today, Jackie Robinson put on a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform and broke Major League Baseball’s color line. April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day, in honor of the player who was chosen by Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey not just for his talent but also his strength of character — being able to withstand the insults and hostility hurled his way. In its April 16, 1947, edition, The Times said Robinson had “signalized his official debut as a Dodger by sprinting home with the deciding run … and playing perfect ball at first base.”

Sports writer and author Ron Rapoport recounted an interview he had with Robinson in 1972 just four months before the icon’s death. He says Robinson would have seen a day dedicated to him as “just another example of white America’s patronizing indifference to the struggle of Black America.” Robinson spoke of his anger over the lack of Black managers in the game: “It’s hard to look at a sport which Black athletes have virtually saved and when a managerial job opens they give it to a guy who’s failed in other areas because he’s white.” As for his number being retired that year: “I couldn’t care less if someone is out there wearing 42. It is an honor, but I get more of a thrill knowing there are people in baseball who believe in advancement based on ability.”

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today’s Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at [email protected]

Eleanore Beatty

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