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Today’s Headlines: An endgame to an endless war

U.S. Marines and an Army helicopter
U.S. Marines disembark from an Army helicopter at Camp Bost in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in October 2017.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

President Biden is expected to announce his plan to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year.

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An Endgame to an Endless War

President Biden is planning to withdraw all remaining troops from Afghanistan and will complete the pullout before Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the United States’ longest war, U.S. officials said.

The plan, which Biden is expected to announce today, means that many of the few thousand troops in Afghanistan will remain after May 1, a deadline the Trump administration set last year in a deal with the Taliban.

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But two decades after they arrived, U.S. troops appear all but certain to exit Afghanistan within five months, leaving the Afghan government to fight largely alone against an enemy that has been gaining ground and that has balked at a U.S.-led push for a peace settlement.

For Biden, the decision marks a final judgment that no military solution in Afghanistan is possible, despite more than 2,200 U.S. service members dead, more than 20,000 wounded and nearly a trillion dollars expended on the war; at the least, many tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed in the conflict. Unless he switches course, Biden will achieve the exit from an unpopular war that eluded two predecessors.

Instead, Biden wants to focus “on the challenge of competition with China, on the challenge presented by the current and future pandemics” and other international threats, according to a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity at the request of the White House.

But there is also the looming risk that Afghanistan will descend further into chaos and civil war.

More Politics

— Lifting kids out of poverty could be Biden’s legacy. Yet the future of his policies remains uncertain as he seeks to make permanent pandemic benefits for families and the administration’s ambitions run into spending limits.

— Biden will address a joint session of Congress for the first time on April 28 after an invitation from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

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The J&J Pause

Local and state officials nationwide worked to keep their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns on track after federal health agencies recommended pausing the use of Johnson & Johnson shots while they studied reports of very rare but dangerous blood clots.

The White House said Pfizer and Moderna were producing enough of their own vaccines to meet Biden’s goal of having enough doses for every American adult by the end of May, and in California officials said they were optimistic they could still hit vaccination and reopening targets.

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But the announcement was still a blow to the U.S. inoculation effort, raising concerns that the news could spark unnecessary fear about vaccine safety.

Officials are investigating blood clots suffered by six women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and another is in critical condition. About 7 million Johnson & Johnson shots have been administered. By comparison, about 185 million shots of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been given out in the United States, without raising similar concerns about clotting.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Sixty-one elementary and 11 early-education campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District opened for the first time in more than a year.

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Merced County is the only county left in the strictest section of California’s reopening road map, a heartening sign of progress statewide in the battle against the coronavirus.

— California has reopened enrollment for its state health insurance exchange, hoping more people will buy coverage now that the federal government is offering new assistance that could lower monthly premiums.

A Cold-Case Arrest

Early one Saturday morning nearly 25 years ago, Kristin Smart left a college party and vanished.

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Investigators focused their suspicions on Paul Flores, a classmate of Smart’s at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the last person seen with her. Despite multiple rounds of interrogations and searches using radar and cadaver dogs, Smart’s body was never found. Without hard evidence, authorities couldn’t tie Flores to Smart’s disappearance and presumed death.

That changed Tuesday when San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s detectives arrested Flores, 44, on suspicion of murder. Flores’ father, Ruben Ricardo Flores, 80, was also arrested and is accused of helping his son dispose of Smart’s remains, Sheriff Ian Parkinson said.

The arrests were a startling breakthrough in a case that has maddened investigators and haunted Smart’s family for decades.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

It’s a week of milestones for the Dodgers. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson started a game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, making his debut as the first Black player in Major League Baseball. In a 1954 interview with The Times, Robinson called for continued progress in racial integration, and he made a specific prediction: Someday, a major league franchise would move to the West Coast, he said.

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The Dodgers were ultimately one of the teams to make that move. Robinson retired after the 1956 season and the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles after the next, playing their first game on April 18, 1958. The team and the league continue to celebrate of Robinson’s life and achievements, especially each April 15 on Jackie Robinson Day.

three people stand on the field at Dodgers Stadium
April 11, 1987: Dodgers President Peter O’Malley accompanies Jackie Robinson’s wife and daughter, Rachel Robinson and Sharon Robinson, at ceremonies commemorating Robinson’s first major league game.
(Hyungwon Kang / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— When white nationalists failed to turn out in threatening numbers at a Huntington Beach rally Sunday, many counterprotesters viewed it as a victory. Those who track extremist movements say that the truth is more complex and troubling.

— Last year, contrary to what many residents and homeless advocates perceived, the number of people sleeping on Hollywood’s streets declined by 12%, reversing an upward trend of several years.

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— One of the worst droughts in memory in a region straddling the California-Oregon border could mean steep cuts to irrigation water for hundreds of farmers this summer to sustain endangered fish.

— Could a developer demolish the Cinerama Dome? Yes, but here’s what would have to happen first.

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NATION-WORLD

— A Minnesota police officer who fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb and the city’s chief of police resigned as a national outcry built over his death.

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— The Supreme Court is set to decide soon whether conservative Christians have a constitutional right to refuse to work with same-sex couples while participating in a city-funded foster care program that forbids such discrimination.

— Women seeking an abortion pill will no longer be required to visit a doctor during the pandemic, U.S. health officials say — reversing a Trump administration policy over which medical groups had sued.

— On YouTube, North Korean refugees are finding fame, profit and understanding with tales of escape, makeup style comparisons and cooking videos.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Awards shows are struggling to draw TV audiences. Should the Oscars be worried?

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— Director Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” has won praise for its portrayal of people living on the margins of American society. But critics say it glosses over some harsher realities, including those of Amazon warehouse workers.

— In real life, Ma Rainey had a unique look. Morphing Viola Davis into the blues singer for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” meant staying away from “pretty.”

— Fruit carts flying over MacArthur Park. An exploded clock at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Snapchat have collaborated to release a series of AR monuments.

BUSINESS

Univision Communications and Grupo Televisa plan to merge their entertainment assets to create a powerful new Spanish-language media company with one foot in the United States and the other in Mexico.

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— Investment firm Blackstone Group spent $4.7 billion to buy Utah-based Ancestry. It’s not a question of whether they’ll use Ancestry’s trove of genetic data — it’s how, writes columnist David Lazarus.

SPORTS

UCLA’s men’s basketball team is No. 1 in the latest version of the 2021-22 CBS Sports preseason top 25 basketball rankings, portending another fun season in the wake of the team’s unexpected run to the Final Four.

— After spending last year in a Florida bubble, the Sparks will return to L.A. for the 2021 season with a new roster and a new home court — for now, anyway.

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OPINION

— The reality is there isn’t a single thing Black folks can do to solve white racism, but the onus is placed at their feet anyway, columnist LZ Granderson writes.

— The effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is a revolt of red California against the state’s blue political and cultural establishments, columnist Mark Z. Barabak writes.

— How American parents have been doing it all wrong: Toss out the toys, lay off the praise and stop yelling, as columnist Robin Abcarian learned from this book author.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Living through a pandemic is an experience so earth-shattering, it seems impossible to forget. But our memories are already changing. (The Atlantic)

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— Now that the Biden administration is temporarily allowing it, a new, first-of-its-kind telehealth abortion provider has opened to help pregnant people access care. (Marie Claire)

ONLY IN L.A.

Our home heritage is as multi-everything as Los Angeles itself, writes columnist Patt Morrison. The city is home to Spanish revival and Mission revival — whitewashed walls, red-tile roofs, wrought iron, exotic plants — and Midcentury Modern and Craftsman classics. Then there’s the really wild ones: grand Queen Anne Eastlake homes that once covered Bunker Hill and storybook cottages out of a fairytale.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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