Today’s Headlines: L.A. County orders travelers to wear masks

By Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Friday, April 22, and our last chance to plug one of our favorite events of the year. The Festival of Books is just that good. Admission is free, and there are literally hundreds of authors, poets, artists, chefs, journalists, celebrities and musicians to see. A few favorites: Amanda Gorman will be there. And Michael Connelly, onetime crime reporter for The Times. And Billy Porter — interviewed by our newsletter colleague Justin Ray.

Justin told us this was “one of the most wonderful yet hardest assignments I have ever had as a journalist.” Porter’s memoir, “Unprotected,” struck a deep chord: “Hearing about his struggles as a Black, gay man reopened wounds and forced me to confront my own traumas.” He said he was “excited and nervous to talk to someone who has been such an inspiration to me.” That’s going to be a good interview. Scroll down for fest info in “Your Weekend.”

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

TOP STORIES

In L.A. County, you must still mask up

Despite recent changes at the federal level, the county will continue to require travelers to wear face coverings when aboard public transit or in indoor transportation hubs such as airports. The order went into effect today and means the nation’s most populous county again has face-covering rules that go beyond those set by the state.

On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health unveiled its own updated guidance strongly recommending residents mask up when using public transit, though it’s no longer required.

In other coronavirus news

  • A company accused of handing out fake results for hundreds of coronavirus tests will pay more than $20 million in a settlement announced by Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer. If you got tests from Sameday, you could be eligible for a refund.
  • Nervous about flying without a mask and want your money back? The Times’ Hugo Martín says there’s not a lot of clarity but looks at what various airlines are saying about refunds.
  • A top CDC medical officer has advice for the vulnerable who are traveling, including getting an N95 mask: “They’re itchy and scratchy and the air is hot for some people. But millions of healthcare providers have learned how to wear them, and you can too.”

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

Russia claimed Mariupol amid fresh evidence that its troops killed civilians

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the battle for the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol as newly released satellite images from just outside the city revealed an apparent burial site where a local official said Russian troops were depositing dead civilians.

After weeks of fighting, the once-thriving city of nearly 500,000 people is now a sea of rubble, three-fourths of its population displaced or dead.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian families were at the mercy of Russian troops in Rubizhne’s bombed cultural palace. Times Middle East bureau chief Nabih Bulos spoke with those sheltering there and took poignant photos of the devastated structure.

A caretaker at the Rubizhne Cultural Palace sits at the top of the stairs to the basement, where a dozen people were sheltering Tuesday.

(Nabih Bulos / Los Angeles Times)

Biden announced another $800 million in Ukraine defense aid

The president said the U.S. would send the assistance to help Ukraine stave off Russia’s renewed offensive in the country’s eastern Donbas region, sending a strong message to Moscow that the West intends to stay in the fight for as long as it takes.

The tranche of defense aid, which follows a similar $800-million package last week, will include more heavy artillery and offensive weaponry that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested as the war shifts into a ground conflict that could go on for months.

More politics

  • Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at UC San Francisco about the maternal health crisis in the U.S., with women dying at a higher rate for pregnancy-related causes than in other wealthy, developed nations. Last week, she held the administration’s first Cabinet-level meeting on efforts to improve outcomes for pregnant women.
  • Column: There’s a rot at the core of the Republican Party, and neither the party nor the country will heal until it’s excised, writes Mark Z. Barabak.

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

Is a hybrid work schedule the new normal?

People are going back to work in Los Angeles County. Levels of office populations vary among types of businesses, categories of buildings and even the size of companies, with large employers more likely to be back at the office than small ones. But there is one constant: Most people aren’t going to the office daily because their companies are concocting schedules that allow them to work remotely some of the time.

“Everybody has some version of a hybrid model where it isn’t necessarily five days a week” at the office, said John Barganski of Brookfield Properties, the largest office landlord in downtown Los Angeles.

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CALIFORNIA

Tenants complain about mold and broken pipes at these South L.A. apartments, even after the city intervened. Since late December, tenants at Chesapeake Apartments have filed complaints about issues that include mold, vermin and gas and electrical problems. Most of those complaints came after the code enforcement department concluded a required inspection that gave the complex a clean bill, raising questions about city oversight when problems at a property have persisted for years.

A mountain lion was struck and killed on the 405 Freeway near Brentwood. The animal died just one day before the groundbreaking of L.A.’s highly anticipated wildlife bridge designed to provide safe passage for animals hemmed in by urban sprawl. Some initially feared the victim was L.A.’s famed P-22. But the cougar was identified as P-97, 18 months, who had recently separated from his mother.

In a video, Mike Tyson appeared to punch a fellow passenger on a plane. The former heavyweight champion appears to hit the man, seated behind him on a JetBlue flight, several times as someone calls out to him to stop.

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NATION-WORLD

The Supreme Court upheld the exclusion of Puerto Ricans from a benefits program. The court held by an 8-1 vote that making residents of Puerto Rico ineligible for the Supplemental Security Income program, which provides benefits to older, disabled and blind Americans, did not unconstitutionally discriminate against them. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, was the lone dissenter.

The Florida Legislature voted to strip Disney of self-government. The state House approved dissolving Walt Disney World’s private government over the company’s opposition to a measure that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The move could have huge tax implications for Disney and serves to further sour the relationship between the state and one of its major political players.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a California family seeking to recover a Pissarro painting looted by the Nazis. The family wants to recover the work, looted by a Nazi official in 1939 and eventually put on display in a Spanish museum. The 9-0 ruling does not resolve the dispute but sends the case back to a courtroom in Los Angeles to decide the matter based on California law.

Texas reminded motorists to drive safely. It didn’t work out as planned. Scientists studying highway collision data from Texas found that motorists who passed a message board announcing annual traffic fatalities were actually 4.5% more likely to get into an accident over the next 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) than drivers unburdened by the information.

Tales of loss caused by the Shanghai lockdown are ramping up. By the time the city recorded its first official COVID death on Monday, some residents were mourning other losses during the citywide lockdown, which left many without food or medical care. One nurse reportedly died after an asthma attack went untreated. Her family brought her to a hospital, but it was closed for disinfection. Although many Chinese cities have locked down, The Times’ Stephanie Yang reports that the deteriorating situation in Shanghai has become particularly contentious.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Pamela Adlon mined her own “invisibility” to create one of TV’s best comedies. Adlon has been prepping for the end since the beginning. The “Better Things” creator, star, showrunner, director and producer never assumed her loosely autobiographical comedy about a single mom and working actor raising three kids would charm critics, win a Peabody Award and last five seasons.

Amber Heard’s defense team raised lurid details of Johnny Depp’s alleged drug use. Under cross-examination in the defamation trial between the actors, Depp launched a charm offensive that occasionally earned giggles from courtroom observers. His approach also clashed with embarrassing private texts, prior testimony and more being presented by the defense.

A complaint about “inappropriate behavior” against Bill Murray shut down a film shoot. Filming on Aziz Ansari’s directorial debut, “Being Mortal,” was halted this week following the reported complaint involving co-star Bill Murray. Searchlight Pictures confirmed the production had been suspended but would not comment on an ongoing investigation.

BUSINESS

CNN’s streaming service has shut down less than a month after its launch. Just nine days after the completion of the merger that created Warner Bros. Discovery, new management announced it was pulling the plug on CNN+. The decision to cut bait so quickly comes on the heels of the disastrous quarterly earnings for streaming behemoth Netflix.

Elon Musk says he has financing ready to buy Twitter. Musk detailed in documents filed with U.S. securities regulators where the $46.5 billion would come from, putting pressure on the company’s board to negotiate a deal.

Former President Obama says the way Americans communicate on social media has weakened democracy. Speaking at a conference at Stanford, he said “citizens no longer know what to believe” thanks to false information spreading online. This is leading to political skepticism among citizens, he added. Obama said his meetings with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had showed him employees at these platforms were “sincere in trying to limit content that encourages hate speech or violence,” but the companies have a financial incentive to keep as many users engaged as possible.

Shareholders gained 50 times as much as U.S. workers during the pandemic. A new study shows that shareholders in some of the biggest U.S. companies, including Amazon and McDonald’s, reaped wealth gains that far outstripped pay increases for their workers.

OPINION

Elizabeth Warren knows how Democrats can win the midterms. It starts with canceling student loan debt, writes columnist Jean Guerrero.

I’m so sick of Rick Caruso, writes columnist Nicholas Goldberg. Caruso had the support of 8% of the electorate in February, polls showed. Then he spent about $10 million on digital and television advertising and lo and behold, as of last week, he has 24% support. A 1976 Supreme Court decision in effect declared that rich people have a constitutional right to buy their way into public office.

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SPORTS

Major League Baseball extended Trevor Bauer’s leave from the Dodgers through April 29. Bauer has missed 105 games since the league first put him on leave in July. He could ask for that time to be credited against any suspension as part of a negotiated agreement, but Bauer — who was cleared in February of sexual assault allegations — has maintained he has done nothing wrong and should not be suspended.

For as well as the Dodgers have played as a team, they are still waiting for their leadoff hitter to make his typical MVP-caliber impact. So far, Mookie Betts has been arguably the club’s worst hitter, beginning the season just eight for 45 (.178 average) with two doubles, three RBIs, no home runs and a team-worst .511 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

UCLA’s new NIL initiative aims to connect athletes directly with local businesses. Westwood Exchange will allow businesses, donors, fans and alumni to register with the school so that they can connect directly with athletes seeking name, image and likeness deals that could include autograph sessions, private lessons in their respective sports, public appearances, athletic camps and social media promotion, among other possibilities.

YOUR WEEKEND

People mill among tents on a college campus bordered by trees.

Crowds enjoy the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held for the first time at the USC campus in 2011.

(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Make the most of the Festival of Books. The 27th Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is upon us, and after two years of virtual events, it’s back in person at USC. On April 23 and 24, more than 550 authors, poets, artists, chefs, journalists, celebrities and musicians will be featured in indoor and outdoor panels, readings, performances, cooking demonstrations and more throughout the campus. Here’s what to know before you go. More details about ticketing, parking, public transportation, events and COVID-19 protocols can be found at latimes.com/FestivalofBooks and on the festival’s social media pages on Facebook and Twitter and The Times events Instagram.

Go to Coachella to eat. Food columnist Jenn Harris recommends what to dine on if you’re attending the second weekend of the festival. She went for the first weekend and had some pricey — and amazing — sushi (17 courses, $375). For (a lot) less, she also recommends the loaded Korean BBQ fries from Kogi in the Indio Central Market tent: beer-battered, tossed in chile salt, plentifully bestrewn with shredded cheese, short rib, kimchi, salsa and sesame seeds. There are also samples from the Lay’s chip tent of three flavors — dill, loaded baked potato and truffle — for absolutely free. She has even more delicious recommendations.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

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Seismologist Lucy Jones on her daily routine, career and “having it all.” You know her as California’s favorite authority on earthquakes, dubbed by some “the Beyoncé of earthquakes” or “the Meryl Streep of government service.” It’s a role she’s honed with humor and social media. But have you ever wondered what her days are like? As part of the Cut’s series on how successful women manage their lives, Jones shared her morning routine, her thoughts on starting a pandemic podcast, how she feels about those nicknames (“somewhat embarrassing”) and winding down with her viola da gamba.

Meet the newest star of the right’s outrage machine. For months, a Twitter account called Libs of TikTok has been re-sharing videos and social media posts, largely from LGBTQ people, with framing designed to provoke backlash against the original posters. The anonymous person behind the account has called them “predators” and “groomers,” and said they should be fired from their jobs. With a devoted following that includes conservative officials and media figures, the account has helped shape a new wave of anti-LGBTQ policy and rhetoric. Through digital records, the Washington Post was able to identify the woman behind the account as Chaya Raichik and learn more about the account’s rise and influence.

It’s pronounced Yoor-uh-nus, thank you very much. If NASA decides to take the recent suggestion of the space-science community, it will put a spacecraft in orbit around Uranus and investigate its atmosphere. “Name any aspect of the Uranian system, and planetary scientists can give you a list of unanswered questions about it,” reports the Atlantic. “Unlike the other planets, Uranus spins on its side, which means summers of constant sunlight and winters of complete darkness; it was probably knocked over by a giant impact many eons ago, but what kind?” Scientists would love to know what its rings (yes, it has rings) are made of and whether the moons have subsurface oceans. Studying the planet would allow them to learn about ice giants, a topic about which there is precious little information.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

As Fernando Valenzuela winds up, his eyes roll up toward the sky.

April 7, 1986: Fernando Valenzuela pitches on opening day at Dodger Stadium against San Diego. He got the win as L.A. beat the Padres 2-1.

(Los Angeles Times)

Forty-one years ago today, on April 22, 1981, Fernando Valenzuela threw his third shutout in four starts with the Dodgers. The game was in Houston. In the next day’s edition, The Times wrote: “The legend of Fernando Valenzuela rolled through the Astrodome Wednesday night, getting larger by the moment, but the 20-year-old at the center of it all was the picture of calm. He just pitched his usual game, which is, of course, a shutout, smiled some embarrassed smiles, and that was another night in the big time.”

The Times delved into Valenzuela’s impact on the team as well as Major League Baseball and the Latino community in the “Fernandomania @ 40” podcast. And columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote last year about the phenomenon, recalling how he and his friends would practice the Fernando windup: “Start with your hands clasped near your waist. Lift them up above your head while glimpsing toward heaven. Fling your arm as far back as possible, then swing it across your chest to rain down deliverance at imaginary batters with no prayer against you.”

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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