Today’s Headlines: Biden announces sanctions against Russia for Ukraine invasion

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Wednesday, Feb. 23, and we hope you’re staying warm as one of the coldest storms of the season continues to make its way through Southern California today. The temperature in downtown L.A. isn’t expected to break 60 degrees, which means we’ll probably have to switch our cold brew coffee for a hot drip. But luckily, it looks as though we’ll get to enjoy a warmer weekend.

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

TOP STORIES

Biden announces sanctions against Russia

President Biden has announced that the United States will levy its first tranche of economic sanctions against Moscow, responding in concert with European allies to what he described as “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine” while holding stronger measures in reserve.

U.S. sanctions will hit “large Russian financial institutions” in a way that will “cut off Russia’s government from Western financing,” Biden said, adding that similar measures would soon also target “Russian elites” and their family members, including the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main domestic security agency that succeeded the Soviet-era KGB.

Biden’s announcement came hours after Germany, after overnight consultations with the White House, said it was halting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

More about Ukraine

A look inside the nation’s first overdose prevention center

Last year, a record 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. In reaction, some elected officials and activists have ramped up efforts to open centers where drug users can be monitored as they shoot up and immediately receive treatment if they begin to overdose.

A pair of sites in New York City, privately funded and run by a nonprofit called OnPoint NYC, are similar to centers long open in Canada, Europe and Australia. To date, OnPoint NYC’s two overdose prevention centers have served 678 people and intervened in 134 overdoses, according to the New York City Department of Health.

Although they remain illegal under federal law, in recent days the U.S. Department of Justice has hinted that it intends to greenlight such sites — a drastic pivot from the Trump administration’s stance.

L.A. County could relax mask rules in places with vaccine verification

Vaccinated Los Angeles County residents may soon be able to go maskless in indoor settings that check for proof that they’ve received their doses, a county supervisor said. Details of that forthcoming shift remain scarce. But such a change would be a potentially significant loosening of rules in a region that has been more reluctant to relax such requirements even as the Omicron wave recedes.

In a post on Twitter, Supervisor Janice Hahn said it appears the new order would take effect Friday and allow “vaccinated people to take off their masks indoors at places that check for proof of vaccination.” This potential development doesn’t come out of left field. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week that changes along these lines were in the works.

More top coronavirus headlines

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

L.A. City Council votes to bring back Herb Wesson

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to allow former Councilman Herb Wesson to return to City Hall for the next 10 months, setting the stage for a courtroom showdown over his eligibility for the post. Council members appointed Wesson as the temporary voting replacement for Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was suspended by his colleagues in October and is fighting bribery and other corruption charges.

Lawyers for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California have promised to fight the appointment in court, saying the city’s term-limit law does not permit Wesson — who has already served three terms — to return to the council chamber. The group also wants a judge to strike down the council’s suspension of Ridley-Thomas, restoring his duties and his $223,800 annual salary.

More politics

  • A bill introduced Tuesday — in the wake of a potential student enrollment crisis at UC Berkeley — would exempt public universities’ housing developments from California’s arduous environmental review process.
  • The Department of Defense is considering a request from U.S. Capitol Police and the Washington, D.C., government to have the National Guard help respond to an expected truck convoy aimed at disrupting traffic around the Capitol ahead of the March 1 State of the Union.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has formally rejected President Trump’s effort to block release of documents from his administration to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee.
  • Five leading candidates for mayor of Los Angeles squared off Tuesday night in the first televised debate of the campaign, but the most stinging barbs of the evening were directed at a sixth candidate who didn’t attend — billionaire and civic activist Rick Caruso.

Sign up for our L.A. on the Record newsletter to get the lowdown on L.A. politics in this pivotal election year.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

A puppy sits outside the train station in Kozacha Lopan, Ukraine, on Monday as residents try to figure out if the trains are still running. .

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

California voters lean toward legalizing sports betting in a new poll. A poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times finds 45% of California voters would back an effort to legalize sports betting. One-third of voters said they are opposed to such an effort while the remaining 22% of respondents are undecided.

Slow Down. Speed limits are being lowered across Los Angeles. The city is lowering the speed limits by five miles per hour along 177 miles’ worth of road, part of a broader push to prevent deadly crashes.

Beekeepers turn to anti-theft technology to protect their hives. For beekeepers who rent their hives to California almond growers, thefts have become so prevalent that they are turning to GPS tracking devices, surveillance cameras and other anti-theft technology to protect their precious colonies.

LA Pride is moving to Hollywood in June. After a two-year hiatus, the event will be leaving its familiar parade route in West Hollywood for Hollywood. Organizers promise the storied parade will also offer more experiences that represent a broader range of the LGBTQ community.

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NATION-WORLD

Ahmaud Arbery’s killers found guilty in federal hate crimes trial. The three white men convicted of fatally shooting Arbery in Georgia were found guilty of violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him because he was Black. The jury reached its decision after several hours of deliberation.

Supreme Court will decide whether web designer has a right to turn away same-sex couples. The justices agreed to decide whether a conservative Christian woman who designs websites has a free-speech right to turn away same-sex couples, even though a Colorado civil rights law requires businesses to be fully open to all without regard to their sexual orientation.

This used to be Islamic State’s capital. Residents are still desperate to leave. Raqqa is now free of the extremist group, but many of its residents are trying to leave. Those with property are trying to sell it to save up for the journey to Turkey. Those without money struggle to get by.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

The end of an era: ‘Wendy Williams Show’ to be replaced by Sherri Shepherd talk show. After 13 seasons on air, “The Wendy Williams Show” is officially coming to an end as its eponymous host continues to battle Graves’ disease, a thyroid-related autoimmune condition that has forced her to take a break from television.

Britney Spears signs a $15-million book deal. After dueling over her sister’s tell-all book, Spears is about to get her own take in print with publisher Simon & Schuster. The deal comes just months after the singer ended her 13-year conservatorship.

Facing a ratings crisis, the Oscars telecast plans an emphasis on entertainment over awards. Not every award will be presented live during the telecast. The affected categories are film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design and sound as well as documentary short subject, animated short and live-action short.

BUSINESS

U.S. home-price growth picks up once again in cities. A measure of home prices in 20 U.S. cities gained 18.6%, up from 18.3% the previous month, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index showed.

DJ Calvin Harris spins a $25-million compound onto the market. East Coast-inspired, the traditional-style main house features a clean, white exterior marked by hedges and ivy.

SPORTS

Women’s soccer players reach $24-million settlement with U.S. sport’s governing body. The agreement promises the players $24 million plus bonuses that match those of the men, though it is less than they had sought in damages. The deal marks the end of a six-year legal battle over equal pay.

Is it too late for the Lakers to find an identity? Some scouts think so. Time is not on their side, the scouts said, even if the Lakers showed some life in their last two games before the All-Star break.

How four Black coaches from LAUSD schools guided their teams to title contention. Coaches Reggie Morris Jr., Nick Halic, Derrick Taylor and Lloyd Webster are LAUSD grads giving back to students the way they were taught as young men, writes columnist Eric Sondheimer.

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OPINION

Vladimir Putin’s wish and the consequences he can’t control. Putin always wins policy disputes because he’s a gangster-autocrat — nobody who wants to stay out of prison or the grave disputes his policies. But that doesn’t mean those policies have been successful. His Ukraine strategy has been backfiring for years.

ONLY IN L.A.

Vito Paulekas was a freak. He was also a painter, a sculptor, a marathon dancer, a felon, an enthusiastic devotee of free love and a civic leader. He enlightened many, infuriated others and was the sort of influencer who would have blown up on TikTok and Instagram. Too bad he was born about 100 years too soon.

In the 1960s, he helped change the way a generation danced, leading a ragtag troupe of young dancers (known as the Freaks) into clubs around L.A. If you’ve ever been to a Grateful Dead show or seen the “Woodstock” movie, you’ll find ample evidence of his impact.

Nonetheless, in the years since his 1992 death, his legacy seems to have been forgotten.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A man in military gear with a gun holds a baby next to a woman holding a baby and two small girls with dolls.

March 30, 1942: Cpl. George Bushy, a member of the military guard that supervised the removal of people of Japanese descent, holds the youngest child of Shigeko Kitamoto, center, as she and her children are removed from Bainbridge Island, Wash.

(Associated Press)

Eighty years ago today, a Japanese submarine shelled the Ellwood Oil Field near Santa Barbara. “On its face, the shelling of Ellwood beach … was not one of World War II’s major events,” The Times wrote in 1992, on the 50th anniversary of the event. “It caused no injuries and only $500 damage to a shed and catwalk at the seaside Barnsdall-Rio Grande Oil Co. field.” Yet it “confirmed public fears that Japan was capable of bringing its war to America’s doorstep.” It also hastened the roundup of 120,000 West Coast Japanese Americans and citizens of Japan residing in the U.S. into prison camps.

Only four days before the shelling, on Feb. 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt had signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the forcible removal of people of Japanese descent from their homes for placement in the camps. Marking the 80th anniversary of the order, The Times’ Jeong Park wrote that the ranks of survivors were thinning. “As Japanese Americans mourn the passing of a generation, they are trying to preserve the memory of what their elders went through.” The focus is on telling their stories creatively, with tech including podcasts and virtual reality.

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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