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Today’s Headlines: Unprecedented water restrictions ordered in Southern California

Diamond Valley Lake in Riverside County
Dropping water levels leave a “bathtub ring” around Hemet’s Diamond Valley Lake in June. The reservoir is a drinking-water storage facility for 18 million Southern Californians. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Water District declared a water shortage emergency and moved to restrict outdoor watering to once a week in parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties and areas of the Inland Empire.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Wednesday, April 27, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Unprecedented water restrictions ordered

Southern California water officials took the unprecedented step of declaring a water shortage emergency and restricting outdoor watering to just one day a week in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties — an action that will affect about 6 million people.

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The outdoor watering restrictions will take effect June 1, according to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and will apply to areas that are dependent on water from the drought-ravaged State Water Project.

Villanueva backs off investigation of Times reporter who revealed cover-up

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department was targeting a Times journalist in a criminal leak investigation for her reporting on a departmental cover-up, but after a barrage of criticism from politicians, the newspaper and press freedom groups, he backed off his announcement and denied that he considered the reporter a suspect.

The sheriff lashed out at Times staff writer Alene Tchekmedyian during a morning news conference in which he suggested two longtime foes leaked her a surveillance video showing a deputy kneeling on the head of a handcuffed inmate.

Escape from Mariupol: 10 minutes to pack up, then a risky 11-hour drive

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It had taken 11 hours of driving, bargaining for passage through 20 checkpoints manned by stern-faced Russian soldiers, along with the knowledge that every mile took you farther away from home, probably for good. But by 6 p.m., the three families crammed into a worn-down Mercedes van had made it out of Mariupol, Ukraine.

Volodymyr Korotky is a 56-year-old mechanic who left Mariupol with his family and only two suitcases with clothes he could save from his destroyed apartment. He and his wife, along with nine other people, arrived at the parking lot of an Epicenter store, a sort of Ukrainian Home Depot, on the edge of Zaporizhzhia, which has become the primary node for the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Melitopol, Berdyansk and Mariupol.

More about Ukraine:

What we got wrong about Black and Korean communities after the L.A. riots

“The Black-Korean conflict was an enduring storyline during the violence that erupted after four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King in 1992. It was a palatable narrative of racial conflict in which white racism was not directly implicated,” writes Times columnist Frank Shyong.

“It was a politically convenient story for the Los Angeles Police Department, which was glad to see headlines dominated by stories of racial conflict in which the police were not at fault. And the narrative’s consequences live on — not just in neighborhoods like South L.A., but in the ways that Black and Asian American people think of themselves.”

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“In parts of Koreatown and South LA, each block tells different stories about the riots. Each old building is a testament to survival and community; every empty lot, a eulogy.”

More about the L.A. riots, 30 years later:

  • The L.A. uprising scars were not only physical. The destruction and fires were followed by loss of livelihood, loss of business and income. There have been talks of restoration and revitalization of the empty lots over the years, but nothing has come to fruition.
  • “Never forget that Latinos played a far bigger role in the riots than we care to remember or admit,” writes Times columnist Gustavo Arellano. “Latinos were killers and the killed, assaulters and the assaulted, looters and the looted.”

Kamala Harris testing positive for coronavirus underscores rising cases in California

The announcement that Vice President Kamala Harris has tested positive for the coronavirus underscores the sensitive place in which Californians and the rest of the nation find themselves more than two years into the pandemic.

After the winter Omicron surge, the daily tally of new infections fell steadily for months, prompting California health officials to lift many restrictions.

But public health officials and experts have warned that California is not out of the danger zone. Cases have been slowly rising in recent weeks amid the proliferation of even-more-infectious Omicron subvariants; namely, BA.2.

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More top coronavirus headlines:

  • More than half of Americans, including 3 in 4 U.S. children, have been infected with the coronavirus, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers estimated in a report.
  • Disneyland visitors who take the bus from the Toy Story Parking Area or the monorail from the Downtown Disney District can now unmask during the ride.

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

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

A family looks distraught as they sit in a car with their two dogs.
10 minutes to pack, then a risky 11-hour drive to escape Mariupol. Katerina Gubochkkna, daughter Oksana Strishko and grandson Dima Strishko arrive in Ukrainian-held territory. They’re among thousands fleeing Russian-occupied areas.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Will a Hidden Hills socialite face a murder trial for running over two young brothers? Rebecca Grossman, co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, is accused of going as fast as 81 mph on a residential strip and going more than 70 mph at the moment of the fatal crash, prosecutors have said. Grossman faces 34 years to life in prison if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty and is out on $2 million bail.

Wildlife officials have busted a white-sturgeon poaching ring, authorities say. Eight men were arrested on suspicion of poaching white sturgeon from Sacramento Valley waterways, the department said last week. A ninth man was arrested on suspicion of selling Dungeness crab and red abalone on the black market.

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Lawyers in City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office badmouthed a co-worker. Now he’s getting a $1-million payout. The City Council signed off on the payment last month after receiving a confidential legal memo warning that the “vitriol and spite” expressed in those emails — and many others written by lawyers in Feuer’s office — would have severely undermined the city’s credibility at trial.

‘Baby Brandon’ was found safe after kidnapping from a San Jose apartment. Officials from the San Jose Police Department and the FBI told reporters that three suspects had been arrested in connection with the incident but declined to identify them or to clarify what relationship they may have had with the abducted 3-month-old.

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NATION-WORLD

The Supreme Court leans in favor of Trump over Biden in an asylum border dispute. The justices gave a mostly skeptical hearing to the Biden administration’s bid to repeal a Trump policy requiring tens of thousands of asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their cases to be heard. Several of the court’s conservatives said they agreed with Texas state lawyers and Trump-appointed judges who ruled that U.S. immigration officials may not allow these migrants to enter this country.

An activist’s self-immolation stirs questions on faith and protest. Wynn Bruce, a 50-year-old climate activist and Buddhist, set himself on fire last week in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, prompting a national conversation about his motivation and whether he might have been inspired by Buddhist monks who self-immolated in the past to protest government atrocities.

Harvard pledged $100 million to atone for its role in slavery. The school said it planned to identify and support direct descendants of dozens of enslaved people who labored at the Ivy League campus. President Lawrence Bacow announced the funding as Harvard released a report detailing many ways the college benefited from slavery and perpetrated racial inequality.

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America’s homeless population is getting older as more ‘retire onto the streets.’ Academics project their numbers will nearly triple over the next decade, challenging policymakers from Los Angeles to New York to imagine new ideas for sheltering the last of the baby boomers as they get older, sicker and less able to pay spiraling rents. Advocates say much more housing is needed, especially for extremely low-income people.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

A year ago, they were picking fruit with their dad. Today, they’re the hottest act in Latin music. In mid-February, a snippet of Yahritza y Su Esencia’s breakup ballad “Soy El Unico” — written by Yahritza Martinez, 15, and performed with two of her brothers — went viral on TikTok. Now the sibling trio’s debut EP, “Obsessed,” is the No. 1 Latin album on Apple Music.

Hollywood editors feel insulted by this year’s Oscars. Nearly a month after the ceremony, the American Cinema Editors released a video statement blasting the organization. Emotions are still running high over the academy’s much-maligned decision to hand out eight less-starry awards before the live show began, in a ratings-seeking gambit that ultimately failed.

A war of words has erupted between HBO and Jerry West over alleged ‘character assassination.’ HBO has indicated it has no plans to honor Jerry West’s demand for a retraction of his portrayal in “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” which the NBA icon and former Lakers legend says is “cruel” and “deliberately false.”

The practice of same-day streaming for film releases is ‘dead,’ a cinema group leader says. It’s not exactly a secret that movie theater operators hated it when Hollywood studios released films for home viewing and in cinemas at the same time during the pandemic. The head of the trade group that represents movie theaters pronounced such strategies “dead.”

Halyna Hutchins’ family was surprised by a massive ‘Rust’ data dump and calls for discretion. The rising star cinematographer‘s final moments were captured on film released by authorities, as she fought for her life last fall after Alec Baldwin accidentally shot her on the set of the low-budget western.

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BUSINESS

Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter includes a $1-billion termination fee. The fee would have to be paid if Musk isn’t able to deliver the funding for the acquisition as promised, for example, or if Twitter were to accept a competing acquisition proposal or recommend that shareholders vote against Musk’s offer.

Musk’s amorphous vow to restore free speech to Twitter has resonated among Republicans, who see themselves — starting with their de facto leader, former President Trump — as unfairly targeted by Twitter’s content moderation efforts. To them, it’s a symbolic blow to big tech.

SPORTS

Pay inequality led Brittney Griner to Russia. We must fix it. In a guest commentary, Griner’s agent writes that female players are so underpaid compared to men that more than half of the WNBA supplement their incomes between seasons by playing for professional clubs overseas, where they can make six to seven times the maximum WNBA salary. That’s how a star player like Griner ends up in Russia, where she was arrested, her agent says.

Without a pick until the third round, champion Rams shoot for another Hollywood ending. The Rams won’t have marquee billing in the draft — they are without a first-round pick for the sixth year in a row — but they will continue their Hollywood theme by conducting business and making their picks from a palatial Hollywood Hills home.

Dick Barnett wouldn’t let basketball’s most overlooked three-peat be lost to history. It’s about much more than basketball success, and it is being told in a documentary film titled “The Dream Whisperer.” The first look will be presented Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival, in a theatre complex at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

The drought is over for the L.A. Kings: For the first time since the 2017-18 season, the Kings will have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. They clinched a playoff spot Tuesday without even playing.

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OPINION

Will Twitter survive Elon Musk? I’m (probably) sticking around to find out. As long as the next Twitter can mercilessly satirize twits and embolden subcultures, Musk can’t kill it.

The tentacles of Putin’s propaganda reach my doorstep in Venice Beach. I was taken aback when the Russian tradesman in my house clearly believed Putin’s propaganda about the Ukraine invasion.

ONLY IN L.A.

A multi-story home sits in the background. In the foreground is a large grassy yard and trees.
Betty White’s Brentwood home.
(Anthony Barcelo)

A golden property? Betty White’s Brentwood home is for sale at $10.575 million. White, who died in December at 99, bought the home with her husband, game show host Allen Ludden, in the 1960s, writes our colleague and Real Estate newsletter author Jack Flemming. Built a decade earlier, the Colonial-style house is tucked behind gates and features splashes of stone and pops of yellow across the exterior.

The 3,000-square-foot floor plan features five bedrooms and six bathrooms but is being marketed as a tear-down. Listing photos show only the exterior, and potential buyers won’t be able to go inside. But it could still fetch a high price in Southern California’s hot market — L.A. County has seen two land sales north of $10 million so far this year, including a three-acre plot in Bel-Air that traded hands in March for $25 million.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

From a distance, a small island with a multi-story building is seen. In the background are hills with trees and homes.
Former maximum-security prison Alcatraz, in the San Francisco Bay.
(Caroline Purser / Getty Images)

Eighty-six years ago today, an Alcatraz inmate made the first reported attempt to escape the maximum-security prison in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Over the course of the facility’s history as a prison (1934-1963), 36 men tried 14 separate escapes, according to the FBI. The first was Joe Bowers, inmate No. 210, on April 27, 1936. The federal Bureau of Prisons said Bowers had a job burning trash at the incinerator on Alcatraz. He was working when he “began climbing up and over the chain link fence at the island’s edge. After refusing orders to climb back down, Bowers was shot by a correctional officer … then fell about 50-100 feet to the shore below.” An early account, from The Times’ April 28, 1936, edition, said Bowers intended to take “the ‘long chance’ of skirting the wall, dropping into San Francisco Bay, and swimming … more than a mile [in the] swift San Francisco Bay currents” but was shot before he could carry out his plan.

In 2012, The Times wrote about the much better-known escape attempt by Frank Lee Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin on June 11, 1962. (See “Escape From Alcatraz” with Clint Eastwood.) After an elaborate ruse involving homemade drills, false wall segments and dummy heads with human hair, the trio “slipped away … on a raft made of raincoats.” No bodies were found, and the U.S. Marshals Service said at the time they’d keep looking until the men were “apprehended, proved to be dead or self-surrender” — or until the 99th birthday of each escapee, at which time the outstanding warrants will be retired. If alive, Lee would be 96; John Anglin, 92; and Clarence Anglin, 91.

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today’s Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at headlines@latimes.com.

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