By Elvia Limón, Laura Blasey and Amy Hubbard

Hello, it’s Wednesday, March 2, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

Biden blasts Putin for Ukraine invasion

President Biden used his first State of the Union address to praise the West’s response to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s “premeditated and unprovoked” war with Ukraine while seeking to convince Americans that he has a plan to combat spiking inflation at home.

The speech comes amid geopolitical and domestic crises: a stalled legislative agenda, rising inflation, declining public support and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In an escalation of the U.S. response to Putin’s actions, Biden set out a series of actions to put pressure on Russia: He will ban Russian aircraft from American airspace, joining other European nations that have already taken that step.

In addition, the Justice Department will pursue Russian oligarchs in Putin’s inner cycle, Biden said.

Read more on Biden’s address here, including the full transcript.

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Huge Russian convoy advances on Kyiv

Russian forces have struck government buildings, a television tower and Ukraine’s main Holocaust memorial as they targeted residential neighborhoods and assembled a 40-mile-long column of tanks, artillery and other military vehicles outside Kyiv, in what appeared to foreshadow an imminent assault on the capital.

The specter of more violence and the scenes of civilians huddled in bomb shelters or pouring across Ukraine’s western borders came as Russia found itself increasingly isolated on the world stage, with sanctions inflicting immediate damage to its economy and currency.

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a news briefing from Geneva that about 677,000 people had fled Ukraine in the last six days.

More on Ukraine

  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine has set its sights on Kyiv. But first, it has to go through Irpin, where Russian soldiers lay dead, and people flee to safety across a river on a broken bridge.
  • For some Russians, the fighting in Ukraine is a distant distraction. But for millions of others, the war next door is already touching many aspects of daily life.
  • A full-on embargo of Russian oil and gas is considered by some analysts as the ultimate step in an escalating sanctions campaign. So why haven’t the U.S. and Europe done it?
  • Hungary’s right-wing nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, has buddied up to Russia for more than a decade. Now he’s feeling the heat.
  • When newspaper columnists and TV correspondents express shock at European conflict, they reveal a damning belief that war is acceptable elsewhere, writes television critic Lorraine Ali.

L.A. County is likely to drop its indoor mask order Friday

Los Angeles County will probably lift its universal indoor mask mandate Friday, a significant acceleration of the expected timeline after changes in federal face-covering guidance.

While nothing is set in stone, the potential changes would align L.A. County’s mask rules with those recently unveiled by the California Department of Public Health, meaning it would be strongly recommended — but not required — for both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents to wear masks in public indoor settings.

But the relaxation in L.A. County’s vaccine verification order won’t apply to cities with their own requirements.

Here is what to expect.

More top coronavirus headlines

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

MLB cancels the first two series of the 2022 season

Major League Baseball has canceled opening day, with Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the sport will lose regular-season games over a labor dispute for the first time in 27 years after acrimonious lockout talks collapsed in the hours before management’s deadline. Manfred said the league and union have not made plans for future negotiations.

Meanwhile, players took to social media with complaints and concerns about the owners’ tactics. Most revolved around the same frustrations. Players felt the owners waited too long to begin seriously negotiating. And they felt by canceling games amid a lockout that isn’t required in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, the owners were putting their own financial interests ahead of the long-term health of the game.

Trucks from L.A.’s port rumble down their tiny street day and night — and residents have had it

The trucks began appearing in the spring of 2019, and at first the residents of Drumm Avenue accepted the occasional rumble and whoosh of big rigs breezing past their homes.

But nearly a year later, not long into the pandemic, a daily convoy of 18-wheelers showed up, turning the once-quiet Wilmington street into a loud and dusty truck route. Diesel fumes hang in the air. Dirt cakes cars and windowsills. Outdoor conversations are strained, and residents wonder what happened.

What they don’t know, however, is the extent to which a series of decisions, made independently and over time by federal and state agencies, city departments and private businesses, is responsible for transforming their once-quiet neighborhood.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

A man holds a dog and guides a woman in a dark coat as she balances on a thin beam over rushing water.

A volunteer fighter helps a woman and her dog cross a river. The bridge over the Irpin River was destroyed to stop the advancing Russian tanks as people fled the besieged Ukrainian city of Irpin on Tuesday.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

The California drought continues after the state has its driest January and February on record. The California Department of Water Resources said that statewide snowpack had dwindled to 63% of the average for this time of year, after an extraordinarily dry start to the year.

The George Gascón factor in the L.A. mayor’s race. In a contest that has largely been dominated by discussion of homelessness and crime, the embattled district attorney has become a foil for two prominent candidates to voice their frustration with the direction of the city. Real estate developer Rick Caruso joined City Councilman Joe Buscaino in backing a second attempt to recall him.

New limits on ‘pretextual stops’ by LAPD officers are approved, riling the police union. Under the new policy, police can no longer use minor violations as an excuse to investigate motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians for more serious crimes unless they first have information that justifies the intrusion.

Trump-connected lawyer John Eastman under investigation. The Orange County attorney is at the center of an ethics investigation into whether he violated laws while advising President Trump on how he could overturn his election defeat in 2020, the State Bar of California said.

Woman warned the court her boyfriend was dangerous before he killed 4 at a Sacramento-area church. A custody battle and restraining order preceded a deadly shooting Monday when a 39-year-old man killed his three children and the person assigned by the court to supervise his visits with them.

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NATION-WORLD

Utah handling largest refugee resettlement in state history amid Afghan crisis. Of the 60,000 Afghan immigrants who have resettled in the U.S., just over 900 have moved to Utah. Gov. Spencer Cox last week announced a plan to help assimilate Afghan immigrants by offering them housing, education and work opportunities.

Thousands evacuated, at least 10 dead in Australia’s worst floods in decades. Extraordinary rainfall inundated the region, fueling destructive surges in swollen creeks near Brisbane. First responders searched for people trapped by the high water as the region braced for more storms.

Libyan lawmakers approve a new government, fueling tensions. The new government includes three deputy prime ministers, 29 ministers and six ministers of state. There are only two women in the Cabinet, overseeing the Ministry of Culture and Arts and holding the position of State Minister for Women Affairs.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Why it’ll cost extra to see ‘The Batman’ at AMC theaters. Chief Executive Adam Aron told investors that the company is bringing variable pricing to its theaters, an idea that U.S. movie houses have long resisted other than with matinees and other exceptions.

Songwriters take to the streets against Spotify. About 100 professional musicians gathered on Monday afternoon to protest the payouts and priorities of the audio streaming giant. Songwriters, the group contends, have suffered uniquely in the streaming era, for reasons that could be changed through law or company policy.

Boxing champ turned movie star Kali Reis: ‘We need to see more faces like this.’ On March 6, boxing’s first Indigenous American female world champ faces a new challenge: vying for the female lead prize at Film Independent’s 2022 Spirit Awards. She’s nominated for her acting debut in the indie thriller “Catch the Fair One,” which she also co-wrote.

BUSINESS

Spring break travel is back, and so are high prices: ‘Like bears coming out of hibernation.’ The rekindled demand is partially to blame for the higher prices. An analysis by the travel website Hopper says domestic airfares for spring break have jumped 21% compared with a year earlier, with hotel rates climbing about 30% from last year to near what prices were before the pandemic.

Sony bets big on Crunchyroll as the global anime audience grows. The company is consolidating its anime businesses under the Crunchyroll banner and adding more than 1,600 hours and 50 titles to better compete in the growing streaming market for Japanese animation. It previously operated two services.

SPORTS

Did Anaheim break the law in the Angel Stadium sale? Time for the judge to decide. Two years and two days have passed since the lawsuit seeking to nullify the land sale was filed. On Wednesday, the suit finally will be heard.

‘Life on the line,’ UCLA prepares for its latest attempt to end a losing streak against USC in men’s basketball. Diplomacy is not an option in the cross-town rivalry. No matter what it takes, UCLA needs to beat USC, and it needs to do so Saturday when the teams meet at Pauley Pavilion.

Bob Baffert sues Churchill Downs and others to be allowed to run in the Kentucky Derby. The complaint alleges that Baffert’s constitutional right to due process was violated when Downs suspended him for two years after the positive drug test for last year’s winner Medina Spirit.

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OPINION

The ultimate sanction: Listing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. President Vladimir Putin’s grand ambition is to be recognized as a great leader of a great power, and only one sanction in the U.S. arsenal would tarnish Putin’s image and his country’s reputation enough to potentially bring him back from the brink of world conflict.

Climate catastrophe is already here. What will it take for the world to act? While no one on the planet will be untouched, the suffering from climate change will be deeply unequal, borne overwhelmingly by the low-income countries and people who are least responsible for causing it.

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

A small home with power lines, blue sky and palm trees in the background.

An accessory dwelling unit on West 84th Street in Los Angeles.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Thousands of California homeowners have been adding accessory dwelling units to their property. The state and some local governments see ADUs as part of the solution to California’s housing crisis. Recent laws have made it easier to obtain permits while slashing local fees, but there are still plenty of hurdles. To help you better understand what’s involved, The Times utility journalism team interviewed city officials, builders, academics and other experts about the process for a great Q&A full of insights, such as:

If you’re interested only in generating rental income in the short term, you could go with a prefab unit that’s built to mobile home standards. But if you want an ADU that adds to the value of your home over the long term, you may want to spend more on a custom-designed structure. And if you need the extra space for a relative, converting your garage would be a less expensive alternative than starting from scratch.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

A car is submerged in water up to its windows. A man stands on the car's roof and another man paddles a kayak nearby.

March 2, 1938: A man stands on the hood of a submerged car in the area of 6th and June streets in Los Angeles during catastrophic flooding.

(Los Angeles Times)

Eighty-four years ago today, Los Angeles and surrounding counties were being inundated by torrents of rain. From late February through March 3, 1938, a weather phenomenon that would later become known in Southern California as El Niño drenched the area, causing widespread flooding and mudslides. About 100 people were killed, The Times reported in 1999. Among the tragedies: Five people died when the Lankershim Boulevard bridge at Universal City collapsed into rolling river rapids. Five members of a family in North Hollywood were killed. In Orange County, “an 8-foot wall of water toppled bridges and uprooted railroad tracks, tossing about barns and cars like bathtub toys. More than 50 people died, including 43 at a Mexican settlement in Atwood.”

In the aftermath of the 1938 storms, the Los Angeles River was forever changed, as it was deepened, widened and encased in concrete. Here are more archival photos from the disaster.

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