Today’s Headlines: Bruce Willis’ diagnosis trains the spotlight on a little-known disorder


By Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Friday, April 1, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


Willis brings attention to an invisible illness


Living with aphasia has been compared to living in a country where you don’t speak the language. Gestures, sign language or other forms of communication may not be much help. And the people who want to help you struggle to understand.

“You know what things are. You are the person you were — but others don’t know that,” said Lyn Turkstra, a professor of speech language pathology and neuroscience at McMaster University in Canada. “All of a sudden, you can’t express thoughts and feelings as you once could, and if it is progressive, you’re feeling it slip away gradually.”

Bruce Willis’ retirement from a four-decade acting career after an aphasia diagnosis has put the little-known disorder in the spotlight. People living with aphasia, as well as their caregivers and advocates for treatment of the disorder, say they hope his 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.

Ukraine braces for all-out Russian assault in the east

As the war entered its sixth week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned his nation of a buildup of Russian troops in the east and more bloodshed to come as he and Western officials cast doubt on Moscow’s pronouncements of a partial military pullback around Kyiv, the capital. In an overnight video address, he said there was an “accumulation” of Russian troops in Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine claimed by pro-Russian secessionists, and cautioned his people not to read too deeply into recent peace talks.

Leaders around the world were also scrambling to address a deepening global energy crisis triggered by steep international sanctions on Russia. As Europe grappled with low stockpiles of fuel, President Biden announced that the United States would release a million barrels of oil a day from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve for six months in a bid to control energy prices.


More on Ukraine

  • Hundreds or possibly thousands of foreign nationals have swooped into Ukraine in recent weeks to join the battle against the Russians. But not everyone has made the cut.
  • TikTok and Twitter are capturing the Ukraine war in frighteningly real time. The invasion of Ukraine has spawned a deluge of online content that has helped counter Russian disinformation and changed how we understand war.

A deeper look at D.A. Gascón and L.A.’s surge in violent crime

Proponents of the effort to recall Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón have accused him of creating a “pro-criminal paradise” and causing a crime spike through policies aimed at reducing mass incarceration. But a Times analysis paints a far more complicated picture of the surge in violence.

Recall proponents claim there are no consequences for criminals in L.A. County, but during Gascón’s first year in office, prosecutors filed felonies at a rate nearly identical to the rate during Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s two terms as the county’s top prosecutor. And homicides, aggravated assaults and car thefts aren’t just climbing in L.A. but also in jurisdictions that are home to more traditional prosecutors, leading some criminologists to suggest those who blame Gascón for Los Angeles’ recent bloodshed are overreaching.

Gascón’s policies appear to have had a much more direct impact on misdemeanors, records show.

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. Over a two-year period, nearly 400 pilots, flight attendants and passengers reported receiving medical attention after these “fume events,” and four dozen pilots were described as impaired to the point of being unable to perform their duties, The Times found.

More politics

  • President Biden marked Transgender Day of Visibility by denouncing “hateful bills” being passed at the state level as the White House played host to “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider, the first openly transgender winner on the popular quiz show.
  • Some California renters will receive three more months of eviction protection. State lawmakers approved an emergency bill to extend the eviction moratorium until June 30. The extension highlights the bureaucratic challenges thousands of tenants and landlords have faced over the last year in accessing billions of dollars in emergency rent relief.

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Most in the state favor COVID rules even as they’re being lifted, a poll finds. The majority of Californians still support COVID-19 restrictions, including requirements to show proof of vaccination at large outdoor gatherings or to enter places like indoor restaurants and bars, a new survey suggests.


Parents told the U.S. Education secretary that their kids hadn’t been the same since COVID. Miguel Cardona conducted a California listening tour this week with parents who shared their children’s struggles. It was also his opportunity to talk up the Biden administration’s proposed budget, which includes increased education funding.

A sports gambling ring that drew bets from professional athletes has been busted. Five men have agreed to plead guilty to federal crimes for their roles in the illegal Southern California operation, authorities said. The ring was started by a former minor league pitcher who used his contacts to build a gambling business, developing a client list that included unnamed pro athletes and expanding into a major enterprise that employed three former MLB players as agents who recruited bettors.

This is Jorts the labor advocate and cat. Columnist Anita Chabria introduces us to “an internet feline, fluffy and orange, who really, really loves organized labor. And trash cans, which he falls into on a regular basis. And his sister Jean, who tries to stay off social media. But Jorts does not like Newsom, or his treatment of farmworkers.”

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Scientists finally finished decoding the entire human genome. The full genetic blueprint for human life is now fully assembled as scientists added the missing pieces to a puzzle that was nearly completed two decades ago.

In a surprise move, a Turkish prosecutor is seeking to shelve the Khashoggi slaying trial. The prosecutor in the case against 26 Saudi nationals charged in the slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi made a surprise request that their trial in absentia be suspended and the case be transferred to Saudi Arabia.


The U.N. is seeking a record $4.4 billion for Afghans struggling under Taliban rule. The United Nations’ aid-coordination office is launching its biggest appeal for funds for a single country, calling for $4.4 billion in donations to help impoverished Afghanistan at a time when much of the world’s attention is on Russia’s war in Ukraine.


Did Will Smith refuse to leave? Reports by several media outlets, citing anonymous sources familiar with what transpired, cast doubt on the academy’s assertion that the actor was asked to leave after slapping Chris Rock during the Oscars. They suggested that the organization’s leaders and the show’s first-time producer, Will Packer, conveyed mixed, and perhaps even contradictory, messages about whether Smith should be removed and furthermore suggested that they never formally asked him to leave.

The Razzies were planning to poke fun of Bruce Willis, but they had a change of heart. The Golden Raspberry Awards, which recognize the worst of cinema, created a standalone category for Willis after he appeared in eight movies last year before his diagnosis was announced. The group initially defended their decision but reversed course after receiving backlash this week.

How the Red Hot Chili Peppers rediscovered the best version of themselves. After forming in L.A. in the mid-1980s, the band is somehow still thriving. Today, the day after the band was set to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chili Peppers will release “Unlimited Love,” their 12th studio album in a career that’s contained no shortage of turmoil.

Four men, one without a shirt, pose for a photo.
Anthony Kiedis, left, Chad Smith, John Frusciante and Flea — the Red Hot Chili Peppers — at Mates Studio in Los Angeles on March 21.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)


Hugs from Mickey are coming back. Also high-fives from Pluto and autographs by Mulan. The Walt Disney Co. announced on social media that its Disneyland and Disney World theme parks would end social-distanced interactions as early as April 18.


Here’s the real reason a tech startup bought BevMo. When an East Coast startup called Gopuff paid $350 million for California’s biggest liquor chain, it wasn’t immediately clear what the tech company planned to do. Two years later, Gopuff has built a California beer and snacks delivery operation around those physical locations and their all-important liquor licenses, but trouble may be ahead.

The Inglewood Forum will become Kia Forum in a naming rights deal. Kia has purchased naming rights to the historic sports and music venue, The Times confirmed. The deal is scheduled to be announced at a ceremony on Monday, but a sign bearing the new name has already been installed.


Republicans hope the justices will keep rolling back rights after striking down Roe vs. Wade. As emboldened Republicans made clear during Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearing, conservatives are playing a long game that doesn’t stop with curbing abortion rights. Republicans are now openly questioning other familiar court precedents, writes columnist Jackie Calmes.

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Clippers doomed by familiar formula as DeMar DeRozan scores 50 in Bulls’ win. The Clippers were reminded what it’s like to be on the other end of a deflating comeback in a 135-130 loss after a series of mistakes of either focus, execution or both.

LeBron-less Lakers see postseason hopes take another hit in loss to Jazz. The Lakers continue to teeter of the edge of not making the NBA postseason play-in tournament following their 122-109 loss to the Utah Jazz.


The Rams are thrilled to have Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner on their side. The team added depth at linebacker by agreeing to a deal with the Pro Bowl player who always has been a nemesis to NFC West rivals during 10 seasons with the Seahawks.

“Aim higher and higher.” The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is ready for the 2022 season, and many in the Angels organization believe the two-way sensation can improve on his historic 2021 season.


A sign says "Merced wild and scenic river." In the background are people on whitewater rafts.
The Merced offers a series of roller coaster-like wave trains that roll past pine forests and poppy-filled canyon slopes.

Book a whitewater rafting trip. The time to do so is now. This year’s snowpack is on the light side at around 65%, which means that most of California’s streams will have shorter seasons. Here’s a rundown on eight of the state’s best whitewater streams, where outfitters offer mellow trips suitable for nervous novices, as well as outings for those who don’t mind occasional raft flips or a swim downstream.

Go to Ojai during Pixie Month. The celebration of the pixie tangerine starts today. Local Ojai businesses offer up tangerine-themed dishes, drinks and activities this month (such as the pixie tangerine body polish treatment at Ojai Valley Inn). Alongside the pixies, our colleague Rachel Schnalzer has a few other recommendations in her Escapes newsletter, including timing your visit to coincide with the studio tours of the Ojai Studio Artists’ Second Saturday program. Read more.


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A growing cohort of amateur DNA detectives are turning philanthropist to catch killers. An unquenchable desire for true crime content spurs these donors to fund a technique pioneered in the Golden State Killer case. Authorities pinpoint a suspect’s identity by combing through consumer genetic databases to find the person’s relatives. “Why just listen to a murder podcast when you can help police comb through genealogical databases for the second cousins of suspected killers and their unidentified victims? So far donors around the country have given at least a million dollars to the cause. They could usher in a world where few crimes go unsolved — but only if society is willing to accept, and fund, DNA dragnets.” New York Times

Twelve unforgettable descriptions of food in literature. From “Under the Jaguar Sun,” by Italo Calvino: “We had eaten a tamal de elote — a fine semolina of sweet corn, that is, with ground pork and very hot pepper, all steamed in a bit of corn-husk—and then chiles en nogada, which were reddish brown, somewhat wrinkled little peppers, swimming in a walnut sauce whose harshness and bitter aftertaste were downed in a creamy, sweetish surrender.” Plus 11 more in the Atlantic.

It’s almost time for her annual kick in the butt. Times staffer Rubaina Azhar has tips for getting through the month of Ramadan fasting. Among her tips: Don’t skip the pre-fast meal, sehri, and, once the sun sets, don’t overeat at iftar. Plus: Naps and cool showers can help. She also advises non-Muslims who are trying to be supportive: “Mostly, a fasting person wants a modicum of understanding. Be patient with them. They may not be thinking clearly because they haven’t eaten in a long while and their usual sleep pattern has been disrupted.” Ramadan, she notes, can help Muslims “enhance their understanding of sacrifice and gratitude and, most important, strengthen their relationship with God, or Allah.” Los Angeles Times


A man rests his chin on his hand and looks peeved. In the background of his home is a small car.
April 2, 1964: Emil Seliga sits in his Los Angeles home along with a car.
(Los Angeles Times)

Fifty-eight years ago today, Emil Seliga discovered his MG inside his house — “I knew what day it was,” he told The Times. The April 2, 1964, edition said Seliga and his wife “easily agreed on the No. 1 suspect” in the April Fools prank: son Paul. The 17-year-old said he’d “been thinking about it a long time.” He and a friend inched the car through the yard, around the pool and “through the rumpus room twin doors.” It took about 45 minutes. Then the honor student finished doing his homework.

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