Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: A little-known disorder in the spotlight

 Bruce Willis poses for a photo at a movie premiere.
The aphasia community hopes Bruce Willis’ diagnosis will help reduce the stigma of invisible illnesses and lead to better understanding of a frustrating, isolating condition that affects about 2 million Americans.
(Charles Sykes / Invision/Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, April 2.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

Bruce Willis’ diagnosis brings aphasia into the spotlight. The actor’s family announced he was halting his acting career as a result of the disorder, which makes it difficult to speak, to find the proper words and to understand what is said or written. Living with the disorder has been compared to living in a country where you don’t speak the language. It is more common than Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis but far less known.

Will Smith has resigned from the film academy after the Oscars slap. Here’s the saga in brief: Award presenter Chris Rock made a (bad) joke. Will Smith slapped Rock. Smith won best actor. Smith apologized to Rock (the next day). The motion picture academy said it was reviewing Smith’s actions. The academy said Smith refused to leave the show. Questions popped up: Did he really? Rock did stand-up shows and shut down a fan yelling expletives about Smith. Then Smith resigned from the film academy, saying he had betrayed its trust: “The list of those I have hurt is long…. I am heartbroken.” You’re caught up.

California has its first openly transgender-appointed judge. Andi Mudryk, 58, is the first openly transgender person to be appointed to the bench in the Golden State, officials said. She will serve as a judge in Sacramento County Superior Court. Mudryk said her experiences as a transgender woman, a person with a significant disability, the parent of an adult Black man and the descendant of Jewish Holocaust survivors spurred a legal career spent advocating for the civil rights of all people.

In another first for California’s courts, the Supreme Court has its first Latina justice. Patricia Guerrero, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, was sworn in. Her ascension also restored the four-female majority on the seven-member court.

After a Times investigation, Congress is moving to curb toxic fumes on airplanes. The airline industry would be forced to adopt new measures to protect passengers and crew members from toxic fumes on airplanes under a bill introduced in Congress this week. The move comes after a Los Angeles Times investigation found that dangerous vapors contaminate the air supply on planes with alarming frequency, sometimes sickening passengers and crew and incapacitating pilots during flights.


Who should receive reparations in California for slavery? Eligibility based on lineage, says one expert, may be difficult and costly for some to prove. Public attention has also focused on whether all Black people deserve some form of restitution for the lingering effects of slavery. In its effort to determine who should receive reparations, members of the Reparations Task Force have found that every potential conclusion raises even more questions.

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California is considering treating poll workers with the same caution as domestic violence victims by letting them keep their addresses hidden from public records. The Legislature advanced a bill that would add some election workers to the state’s “Safe at Home” program. It’s one of a number of proposals in states across the country this year aimed at protecting election workers in the aftermath of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

The highly infectious BA.2 Omicron subvariant is now dominant in the U.S. Some experts are forecasting a springtime coronavirus wave — how big a surge has been up for debate. This week, the FDA gave the thumbs-up to an additional COVID-19 booster shot for those 50 and older and at least four months removed from their initial booster. Here’s where to get them in L.A. County.

An audit found “large-scale fraud” in California’s hospice industry. Auditors said the state Department of Public Health became aware of possible fraud by some for-profit hospices seeking licenses yet still approved them. In L.A. County there was a sharp increase in the number of hospices since 2010 without a proportional need for end-of-life care, the audit said, mirroring the findings of a 2020 Times investigation. Hospice patients received services for long periods of time and were often still alive when they were discharged — telltale signs of possible fraud.

L.A. County’s sheriff said he wasn’t part of a cover-up of an incident in which a deputy knelt on a handcuffed inmate’s head. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at a hastily called news conference that high-ranking members of his department had attempted to cover up the incident. He said he’d subsequently shaken up his “senior command” but wouldn’t provide details. (Here’s The Times’ original report on the violent detention.)


Some California renters will receive three more months of eviction protection. Lawmakers approved an emergency bill to extend the state’s eviction moratorium until June 30 — a boon for Californians who fell behind on rent during the pandemic. Now, government officials have three more months to disburse rent relief payments.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s nomination as U.S. ambassador to India has touched off a battle in the U.S. Capitol. More senators are expressing concern about his handling of sexual harassment allegations against a former top advisor as Garcetti and his aides step up their defense.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The great SoCal house hunt. The Times has published a multipart guide to buying a house. It includes a “what can I afford” calculator that is specific to Southern California and allows you to explore typical home prices by ZIP Code. Another fun one looks at the best way to use real estate sites: “For the casual shopper, these sites are a fun jaunt into the market, a voyeuristic way to spend an afternoon. But to the grizzled veteran who loved and lost, the one who has been outbid countless times, scrolling through listings becomes work. At this point, you’ll want to find the fastest, most efficient way to narrow your search.” Here’s the guide overview.

Chesa Boudin’s life made him a lightning rod for the progressive prosecutor movement. The San Francisco district attorney’s parents served decades in prison for their roles in a 1981 Brinks robbery near New York City that ended with three dead. When the Yale grad ran for D.A. in 2019 — promising to use incarceration as a last resort, tackle systemic racial inequities and prosecute police brutality — he’d never prosecuted a case. He hadn’t run for anything since class vice president in sixth grade. Now he’s facing a June 7 recall fueled by tech money, fears of crime and San Francisco politics. San Francisco voters’ verdict will reverberate far beyond the city, including in L.A., where county Dist. Atty. George Gascón faces a potential recall. Because if you can’t make radical change in San Francisco, what future does the progressive prosecutor movement have?

Feral pigs are biological time bombs. Dana Page is no cold-blooded killer, but the Santa Clara County parks official says “depredation” must be part of the toolkit to prevent wild pigs from ripping up parks, tearing up lawns, fouling rivers and reservoirs, and killing native fauna. Feral pigs are like roving rototillers, using their snouts and hooves to unearth dirt-dwelling insect larvae and eat acorns, invertebrates, eggs, small mammals and plants. Their feeding patterns not only cause enormous ecological damage, but their poop poses further threat. These generously sized mammals — adults range from 150 to 500 pounds — are known to spread more than 30 infectious diseases, 20 of which can be transmitted to humans. Nationwide, wild hogs inflicted harm more directly — by injuring and, in rare instances, killing people. Across the nation, federal officials estimate, pigs cause between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion worth of damage to agriculture and property every year. Prohibited from killing the pigs, Page is leaning on other land managers to share in a coordinated, continuous effort to slow the spread of swine.


Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Amy Hubbard. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to

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