By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard
Hello, it’s Wednesday, March 23, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:
Ukrainians go on the counteroffensive
Ukrainian forces defending the capital, Kyiv, managed to wrest back control of a strategic outlying town that Russian troops had earlier captured, Ukrainian officials said, but invading troops were reported to have breached the besieged port city of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s most harrowing attacks on civilians.
Russia’s massive but seemingly foundering invasion of its western neighbor lurched toward the beginning of a second month, as Western officials redoubled warnings that an increasingly frustrated Russian President Vladimir Putin might resort to the use of chemical or other unconventional weapons. That concern was expected to be prominently raised at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit Thursday, with President Biden in attendance.
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More on Ukraine
- Germany’s Parliament paid tribute to Boris Romantschenko, who survived several Nazi concentration camps during World War II only to be killed last week during an attack in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. He was 96.
- Moscow’s war machine includes a popular TV talk show whose host, Dmitry Kiselyov, takes on anyone who contradicts Putin.
Rivals take aim in Rick Caruso’s first debate
The first attack against mayoral candidate Rick Caruso came less than 10 minutes into the debate at USC’s Bovard Auditorium. City Councilman Joe Buscaino quipped that he was glad Caruso “finally” was on the debate stage.
Nearly all of the big-name candidates for Los Angeles mayor took aim at Caruso, attacking the real estate developer over his police spending plan, his support for L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón and his personal yacht in the first televised forum to feature all five onstage.
The attention on Caruso underscored his threat in the race. Since entering last month, Caruso has been spending big on his campaign. While most of the other candidates have had to raise money in $1,500 increments — the maximum permitted per donor per election cycle — Caruso, the developer of the Grove, Americana at Brand and other shopping centers, has been able to tap his personal wealth.
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Judge Jackson rejects GOP attacks during Senate questioning
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, hit back against Republican claims that she was lenient toward criminal defendants, including those convicted of possessing child pornography. She also promised to serve as an “even-handed” justice who would be independent and impartial.
In response to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jackson described child pornography as a “sickening and egregious crime” that she had to deal with regularly as a sentencing judge. She rejected the allegation from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that she favored light treatment for these defendants.
What should Californians do to prepare for the Omicron subvariant BA.2?
Is California doing enough to prepare for a potential increase in cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.2 this spring? California has made great strides in improving access to vaccinations and testing, but officials say there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Los Angeles County isn’t seeing as high of a percentage of BA.2 cases as places like New York and Chicago, but the L.A. County Department of Public Health is saying nationwide trends suggest that Angelenos “should be prepared to mitigate the risk of increased transmission associated with this more infectious subvariant.”
“The best way to blunt another surge in cases from increasing hospitalizations and deaths is to increase vaccination and booster coverage,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
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Disney had a tight-lipped employee culture. Then Florida happened
An extraordinary scene unfolded on the Burbank lot of Walt Disney Co. About 100 Disney employees gathered outside the Roy E. Disney Animation Building hoisting signs saying, “Disney Say Gay” and “#disneydobetter.” They posed for a group photo before heading over to rally in front of the lot’s Alameda Avenue gate.
The protests culminated weeks of mounting employee blowback against Chief Executive Bob Chapek’s response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, derisively nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, which bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade, and could impose limits for other age levels.
But the ongoing revolt by staff also signifies a significant break with Disney’s normally insular company culture, in which employees have long been fiercely loyal and protective of the company.
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PHOTO OF THE DAY
Is there rain in store for Southern California after this warm week? Spring is off to a warm start in Southern California, with temperatures expected to be 15 to 20 degrees above normal through Wednesday. But after that, cooler readings and some rain are expected early next week.
Average L.A. County gas tops $6 a gallon even as prices keep falling nationwide. In L.A., the average cost of $6.01 per gallon topped California’s average of $5.86 and the nationwide average of $4.24, according to the American Automobile Assn.
Dozens of community colleges failed to turn over fraud data on possible fake enrollment. Despite a request from the chancellor’s office, nearly 40% of campuses failed to submit any information on enrollment fraud involving fake student bots, deepening concerns about the extent of possible wrongdoing and how it may be affecting the system’s plunging enrollment.
73% of voters in L.A. Unified do not believe every neighborhood has a good school. A poll of likely voters underscores feelings among the public that an equitable learning opportunity remains unavailable to all students — and that those with the least continue to face the greatest burden.
Inspector general identifies 41 Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who allegedly belong to gang-like groups. In a letter Monday, Inspector General Max Huntsman wrote that the list is based on information gleaned from investigations conducted by the Sheriff’s Department. Huntsman did not name the deputies and said his office has identified additional possible members from other sources.
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A tornado strikes New Orleans as storms move into the Deep South. There were no immediate reports of injuries from the New Orleans tornado. Other tornadoes spawned by the same storm system hit parts of Texas and Oklahoma, killing one person and causing multiple injuries and widespread damage.
Trudeau’s party strikes a deal to stay in power in Canada until 2025. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his Liberal Party has reached an agreement with the opposition New Democratic Party that would keep the Liberals in power until 2025. The Liberals won the most seats in Parliament in an election in September but failed to secure a majority.
Wallets and ID cards but no survivors found after China Eastern crash. Rescue workers scoured a remote mountainside Tuesday for the wreckage of an airliner that a day earlier inexplicably fell from the sky and burst into a huge fireball. The steep, rough terrain and the huge size of the debris field were complicating the search for the plane’s black boxes and survivors.
Nine million children are to be vaccinated against polio in Africa. The urgent vaccination campaign has started in Malawi, where drops of the inoculation are being placed in the mouths of children across the country, including in the capital, Lilongwe, and the country’s largest city, Blantyre. UNICEF and other partners are supporting governments with the vaccination drive after it was confirmed in February that a 3-year-old girl was paralyzed by wild poliovirus in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
How scammers and con artists became TV’s laziest way to hook viewers. Television is awash in stories of people faking it until they (almost) make it. Occasionally, the formula is successful, but increasingly, these scammer shows are useless but expensive clutter, like so many unsold LuLaRoe leggings stuffed into boxes in a suburban garage.
We found Black cinema’s wild, fearless and underappreciated director Christopher St. John. He is best known for his role as a radical in the original “Shaft,” but “Top of the Heap” showed his fearless filmmaking. A look at why you should know his work.
We should talk about history-making, Oscar-nominated ‘Encanto’ composer Germaine Franco. Sunday’s Academy Awards will feature the first-ever live performance of the soundtrack’s surprise No. 1 hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” Franco is the award-winning Mexican American percussionist and composer of the spellbinding score.
Beyoncé will perform live at the 2022 Oscars, singing ‘Be Alive’ from ‘King Richard.’ Billie Eilish and Finneas, Reba McEntire and Sebastián Yatra will perform three of the other four nominated songs, while the final nominee — Van Morrison — won’t be heard live during the show at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
BuzzFeed plans more cuts to its news division as the top editor departs. The changes came as BuzzFeed announced its first earnings as a public company. The company reported that fourth-quarter revenue increased 18% due to growth in advertising and content sales.
Study: 1 in 3 workers in the U.S. earn less than $15 an hour. Women and people of color are more likely than their white and male counterparts to be lower earners.
Rams GM: Aaron Donald wants to come back. We’d like Odell Beckham Jr. back too. Donald has three years remaining on the six-year, $135-million deal he received in 2018, but the Rams intend to give the three-time NFL defensive player of the year a new contract as a reward for his performance — and to entice him to return for a ninth season and beyond.
Caleb Williams is among the top 10 USC players to watch during spring football. Williams has the dual threat talent to completely transform the Trojans offense, and early reports out of USC are that he has already effortlessly stepped into a leadership role.
Tournament of Roses owes the city of Pasadena $400,000 in the ‘Rose Bowl’ trademarks case. The conflict stemmed from the Tournament of Roses’ decision in December 2020 to move the annual New Year’s Day bowl game to Texas because California’s stringent COVID-19 protocols would not have allowed fans to attend the game.
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Is Trump losing his mojo? Several of his candidates are struggling in primaries. Idaho, where the governor faces a fellow Republican, is among the places a Trump endorsement falls flat. This suggests that Trump’s sway over Republican voters — and, by extension, the Republican Party — is diminishing the further he gets from the White House.
Speaking Russian doesn’t make me a supporter of Putin’s war. Russian-speaking immigrants to the U.S. are facing backlash, but that does nothing to help those suffering in Ukraine.
ONLY IN L.A.
There’s little that’s quite so L.A. as L.A. real estate. Case in point: a Richard Neutra beauty shaped like a boxcar that’s selling for $8 million. But it’s the people as much as the lumber and land that make real estate quintessential Los Angeles. Writes The Times’ Jack Flemming: “Built in the 1950s, the ultra-stylish estate is owned by beauty mogul Cassandra Grey, founder of Violet Grey and widow of Brad Grey, the movie producer who ran Paramount Pictures for 12 years. For her work in the industry, she’s been dubbed ‘L.A.’s high priestess of beauty.’” Read about more only-in-L.A. homes and see the photos in Jack’s weekly Real Estate newsletter.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Eighty-one years ago this week, Jimmy Stewart kicked off a career in the military. The press and fans turned out for the Army induction of the actor, who was fresh off a best actor Oscar win for “The Philadelphia Story.” The Times reported on March 23, 1941: “Jimmy reported along with 18 other less well-known young men at 7:15 a.m. … ‘Hullo,’ the actor said sleepily, then broke into the slow grin. ‘Uh, it’s a little early in the morning.’”
Stewart had taken flying lessons since adolescence and earned a commercial pilot’s license, a background that led him to Army flight school and, subsequently, flying combat missions over Europe. He flew 25 missions, earned multiple medals, and rose to the rank of colonel.
Stewart said acting actually came in handy during his time in World War II. He reminisced of tapping those skills while serving as bomb group commander: “We hit Brunswick in 1944, and there was a lot of flak, a lot of fighter interference, a lot of airplanes going down. To be effective — even to defend ourselves — we somehow had to hold the bomb group together. That meant I had to sound like I knew what I was doing and wasn’t scared … and believe me, it was a better performance that I put on that day that I’d ever done in my life before. I was scared as hell!”
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