Today’s Headlines: Russia intensifies its assault on eastern Ukraine with fresh strikes

Tanks with Russian soldiers on the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine.
(Anatoliy Zhdanov / Sipa USA via AP)

By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Wednesday, April 20, and whether you’re a fan or foe, pot culture has pretty deep roots in California — including a numerical code now used ’round the globe: 420. That makes today a special day in the cannabis world. Scroll down to “Only in L.A.,” where we talk about The Times’ story on the Waldos, the group of guys who in high school first came up with that code. Meanwhile, Times food writer Stephanie Breijo spoke with some chefs collaborating with cannabis companies for gourmet edibles, such as: the Everything Bagel Munchies Bar, featuring salty seasoning sprinkled on sweet, hash-infused 5-mg THC dark chocolate. Yum?

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


Russia intensifies its assault with fresh strikes on eastern Ukraine


Determined to seize control of Ukraine’s industrial heartland, Russia intensified its assaults across the country’s east while keeping up the bombardment of Ukrainian forces in the besieged southern port of Mariupol.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that in 24 hours, Russian forces had launched strikes against more than 1,200 Ukrainian military facilities and targeted more than 1,200 troop concentrations, details that could not be independently verified.

Ukraine says Russia has begun its long-expected all-out assault on the east — and Moscow’s top diplomat confirmed that the struggle has entered its next stage. Western military officials and analysts warned that the current Russian attacks may be setting the battlefield for a larger and potentially far more brutal offensive planned by Moscow.

More about Ukraine

  • How Ukrainians who arrived at the U.S. border in the first weeks of the war were treated stands in stark contrast with how asylum-seekers are being received now — and shows how quickly the U.S. government can change its approach when there is the political will to do so.
  • Former MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance has joined the foreign military unit fighting for Ukraine and shared his experiences during an appearance on the cable news network.

The new mask-optional phase of the pandemic fuels fears and some cheers


A new mask-optional phase of the pandemic is arriving, sparking concern from some experts that the shift is occurring too soon. For months, local officials have been easing mask rules in public places such as supermarkets and shopping malls. But a federal court ruling striking down the federal mask-wearing order on public transportation systems accelerated the trend.

Parents of young children who cannot get vaccinated and advocates for people with compromised immune systems are alarmed. It’s unclear, for now, whether the lifting of the mask order at this time on public transit will dramatically worsen the pandemic. But making masks optional too soon on transit could create more vulnerabilities if another variant comes along.

More top coronavirus headlines

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

They called for defunding the LAPD. Now they’re looking to defeat City Council members

Labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez, college administrator Dulce Vasquez and community activist Eunisses Hernandez are running for Los Angeles City Council in the June 7 election, looking to unseat a trio of incumbents who have served on the body for nearly a decade.


Hernandez is running against Councilman Gil Cedillo on the Eastside. Vasquez is challenging Councilman Curren Price in South Los Angeles. Soto-Martinez is looking to unseat Councilman Mitch O’Farrell in Hollywood.

All three challengers are mounting credible campaigns, hoping to replicate the 2020 success of Nithya Raman, who became the first council candidate to unseat an incumbent in 17 years. Two years after the city erupted in protest over police killings, those candidates — and several others — will test the public’s appetite for reining in law enforcement spending.

Get the lowdown on L.A. politics. In this pivotal election year, we’ll break down the ballot and tell you why it matters in our L.A. on the Record newsletter. Sign up here.

Netflix loses 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter

After experiencing unprecedented growth during the pandemic, Netflix is now losing subscribers. The global streaming giant said it lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, missing its own projections of adding 2.5 million and marking the first decline in a decade.

The company estimated it would lose 2 million global subscribers in the current quarter. Although Netflix remains the dominant player in streaming with 222 million subscribers globally, it faces rising competition and an inevitable slowdown after a surge in business during the pandemic. Investors were rattled by the results. After Netflix released its earnings, the shares plunged 23% to $267.68 in after-hours trading.


She lost one son to violence. Now she’s fighting to keep her other two alive

Latasha Bracks’ eldest son, Tashon Logan, was shot to death at age 19 on March 31, 2019. She is not the first mother to bear the weight of raising children in a tough neighborhood with more gangs and guns than opportunity. But hers is an uncommon common story, one of atonement and second chances.

Bracks is a 47-year-old single mother and recovering addict who lived for two years in a rescue mission and a string of flophouses before finding a stable home to raise her family. She lost one son and almost lost another.

And as she works through the grief and pain of Logan’s slaying, she is newly focused. On bettering herself and her community. On her two remaining sons. On the job of keeping them alive.


A group of people stand in a room with drums, dancing and clapping.
Latasha Bracks, center, participates in a jam session at the March 12 opening of the Reverence Project Entrepreneurial Training Program at the Watts Coffee House.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

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Jacqueline Avant’s killer was sentenced to 150 years in prison. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sentenced Aariel Maynor, the man convicted in the murder of well-known philanthropist Avant to more than 150 years to life in prison, saying he shot a “highly vulnerable” 81-year-old woman in the back and then giggled about it afterward.

Grieving cyclists call for a safer Griffith Park after a 77-year-old is killed. Griffith Park, which occupies more than 4,000 acres of rolling hills, is popular with cyclists who whiz down its tree-lined roads, often crossing over from the nearby L.A. River bike path. But the few bike lanes that exist do not have barriers separating riders from cars.

Fontana settles with California over alleged environmental violations. Nine months after California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta sued the city of Fontana for allegedly flouting a state-mandated environmental review process when it approved the construction of a trucking warehouse next to a high school, city officials have enacted new regulations intended to rein in air pollution from logistic centers as a part of a legal settlement.

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Florida Gov. DeSantis pushes to end Disneyworld’s self-government. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the Legislature to repeal a law allowing Walt Disney World to operate a private government over its properties in the state, the latest salvo in a feud between the Republican and the media giant. The move comes after Disney announced it would suspend political donations in the state over the new Parental Rights in Education law, also dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

Biden restores a stricter environmental review of big infrastructure projects. A rule will restore key provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, a bedrock environmental law designed to ensure community safeguards during reviews for a wide range of federal proposals, including roads, bridges and energy projects authorized in the $1-trillion infrastructure law Biden signed last fall.


Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urges world finance leaders to fight food insecurity. Among the proposed solutions under discussion: reducing export restrictions, relieving price controls across countries and subsidizing small farmers globally. Failure to feed the world’s population risks not only starvation, but also social unrest and cross-border political upheaval.

Conflict in Israel resumes a risky balancing act. Days of violence in Jerusalem and an exchange of fire in Gaza overnight have raised the possibility that Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers will once again go to war, as they did less than a year ago under similar circumstances.


Abercrombie & Fitch was America’s hottest brand. A new documentary delves into how it became ‘what discrimination looks like.’ Netflix’s “White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie” examines the brand and its legacy, arguing that Abercrombie’s corporate culture was even more noxious than the cologne its employees dispensed with zeal at malls across the country.

Why the ‘weird puzzle’ of Apple’s new anthology took up to 40 rewrites to get right. “Roar,” an anthology series from “GLOW” showrunners Carly Mensch and Liz Flahive, is now streaming on Apple TV+. The Times caught up with Mensch, Flahive and writer Vera Santamaria to discuss what it was like to anthologize female experiences across different backgrounds and genres.

What we learned from the first weekend of Coachella 2022. Given the two years of repeated postponements and cancellations that got us here, it wasn’t surprising to see how pumped people were to be back at this most storied of music festivals. The prevailing mood was a kind of mellow euphoria even when the wind kicked up enough dust to obscure the surrounding mountains.

Why Gladys Knight and the Pips’ ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ is still the perfect pop song. The 1973 song, a huge R&B hit and the group’s only No. 1 pop single, is the stunning and succinct story of a woman torn.



Can NFTs save the restaurant industry or is the hype just virtual? Bored & Hungry is “the world’s first NFT-backed restaurant group.” It opened its doors for the first time earlier this month in Long Beach. NFTs, with the lure of potentially easy money, are clearly a powerful marketing scheme. But is there utility beyond that?

Buying Twitter is complicated. Here’s what Elon Musk faces. There are also federal laws that must be obeyed. Among them are disclosure requirements for would-be buyers and fiduciary obligations for the target company’s directors, whose duty is to the shareholders who elect them.


Chris Waller resigns after three years as UCLA gymnastics coach. UCLA said it will conduct a national search to find a replacement to steer the popular gymnastics program after the Bruins failed to qualify for the NCAA championships as a team for two consecutive years for the first time in program history.

Clippers player-by-player report cards for the 2021-22 season. Times staff writer Andrew Greif breaks down each Clippers player‘s situation by key stats, contract status, preseason expectations, current reality and what the future holds.

Another former Ram, Troy Reeder, is part of the Chargers’ scheme to rebuild a defense. Reeder is the latest ex-Ram to join the Chargers. He enjoys Brandon Staley’s scheme and leadership and the Chargers’ potential to become super.

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The latest scare tactic to rile the GOP base? The word ‘groomer.’ Conflating sex ed with encouraging sexual behavior is one of the oldest tricks in the GOP’s puritanical anti-sex, anti-birth-control, anti-woman playbook.

The tyranny of college rankings — and why we need to leave them behind. Students should ditch the U.S. News and other “best colleges” rankings and instead ask themselves what schools would best serve their personal goals.


Looking back at the absolutely unexpected and totally wild origin of 420. What do the Point Reyes lighthouse, French chemist Louis Pasteur and the Grateful Dead all have in common? Well, they’re all part of the origin story of how 420 methodically worked its way from a secret code to mainstream weed lingo. The tale starts in 1971, with five San Rafael High School students who, in keeping with their goofy sense of humor, met up at 4:20 p.m. to smoke as much cannabis as they could find.

A secret no more, 420 has become a representation of cannabis culture — love it or hate it — and a day and time that is observed by cannabis enthusiasts around the world. It was even a recent “Jeopardy!” clue. This year, two of those friends — a group known as The Waldos — spoke to The Times to explain what it was like to see the term take on a life of its own and their views on the future of weed.


A jockey crouches atop a horse running on a track.
Aug. 8, 1970: Bill Shoemaker rides a winner at Del Mar Racetrack.
(Los Angeles Times)

Seventy-three years ago today, on April 20, 1949, jockey Bill Shoemaker won his first race, at Golden Gate Fields in Albany, Calif. It was just one month after he made his professional debut. He would go on to have 8,833 wins over his long career. He won 11 Triple Crown races — four Derbys, two Preaknesses and five Belmonts, The Times reported in his 2003 obituary.


Shoemaker had 26 rides in the Kentucky Derby, more than any other jockey and in 1986 became the oldest jockey to win the Derby, at age 54.

In a 1988 autobiography, excerpted by The Times, he set the record straight on a few subjects, including the story that he was put in a shoebox the night of his birth. Shoemaker — who weighed 98 pounds as an adult — was 2 1/2 pounds when he was born. “One thing that became a legend about me was that I was put into a shoebox and shoved into the stove in my grandmother’s house when I was born.” He said he consulted his grandmother for the real story, who replied: “No, I didn’t stick you in no oven.” She said that after the doctor said “there were no chance” for the tiny infant, she wrapped him warmly and placed him on pillows “on the stove door.” Shoemaker said the heat from the oven kept him warm, “and I lived.”

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