I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss today.
Let's Do This, Iowa
We've seen the debates, the Twitter fights and the polls. Today, voters finally weigh in on this year's wacky presidential race. Here's what is at stake for the candidates in Iowa, a state that reflects the sharp political divisions found throughout the U.S. As for Iowa's arcane caucus process: We have everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
A Pink Taser and Poisoned Hamburger Patties
Cortney Shegerian went into hiding after her former husband was one of three men to escape from the Orange County jail. She assumed a fake name, and until he was recaptured, the people around her feared for her life. Why? Shegerian had played a central role in putting him behind bars, participating in a law-enforcement scheme to lure him out of Iran. Read why she worked to turn in her husband.
Be Careful Out There
A powerful storm hit Southern California on Sunday, bringing unusually strong winds that are expected to last into Monday morning. Gusts of up to 70 mph toppled trees, including one that killed a person in San Diego; instruments recorded wind topping 115 mph near Castaic. The storm also brought significant rain and snow.
Fighting Islamic State: All Together Now?
A coalition of 65 nations is battling Islamic State, but is each member pulling its own weight? Ahead of a key meeting in Rome on Tuesday, Pentagon officials say some partners are not. The U.S. has given the most aid, $4.5 billion, in the Syrian crisis, and has conducted 68% of the airstrikes in Iraq and 94% in Syria since August 2014.
Wanted in L.A.: Swiss Train Engineer
Metrolink is trying to rebuild ridership, but its on-time track record suffered a blow last year. Records show 4,395 delays, nearly double the number in 2014. One big reason: Metrolink was breaking in a sophisticated system to prevent accidents by automatically slowing or stopping trains. But that wasn't the only issue.
Too Poor to Retire, Too Young to Die
At 79, Dolores Westfall is on the move. Unlike some who travel in their retirement, Westfall makes her journey in a RV nicknamed Big Foot, working odd jobs to make ends meet after collecting her monthly income of $1,200 in Social Security and a $190 pension. There's the $50,000 she owes on her credit cards, and a $268 monthly loan payment for her rig. And she's not alone in her predicament. Are you or do you know someone who is? Tell us on Facebook.
China's Wary Eye on Salafist Muslims
Salafism, the ultra-conservative school of thought within Sunni Islam, is gaining popularity in China, much to the concern of officials in the officially atheist Communist government. How is it affecting Muslim communities there, as well as the country’s relationship with Saudi Arabia? Take a trip to China's "Little Mecca" to find out.
OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND
-- A high-pressure mass above Southern California has kept the brunt of El Niño away.
-- Casinos in Southern California are going all in to lure millennials.
-- No, the gas leak hasn't turned Porter Ranch into a ghost town.
-- As the National Park Service turns 100, we take a look back and forward.
-- Diversity is a big winner at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
-- Tales of a new Chinatown: San Gabriel Valley stories from "Flower Drum Song" author C.Y. Lee.
-- Stoner Jesus Bible Study: The creed includes weed for these Colorado Christians.
-- Pacifica: A coastal town's long and stormy relationship with El Niño.
-- Fugitive Orange County inmates are back in jail as the Sheriff's Department examines what went wrong.
-- USC's non-tenure-track faculty are awaiting results of a vote to unionize.
-- Europeans are removing the welcome mat for migrants.
-- Nigerian Boko Haram extremists burned homes with villagers still inside.
-- Occupy movement protesters fight on, now in support of Bernie Sanders.
-- Heidi Cruz is her husband's not-so-secret weapon, but could she hurt his campaign?
-- A family struggles to find answers for a boy with rare stiff skin syndrome.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
-- At this point, "Spotlight," "The Big Short" and "The Revenant" may be the strongest contenders for the best picture Oscar.
-- Q&A: With movie comedies "a little bit one-note," Zach Galifianakis tackles TV.
-- "Kung Fu Panda 3" punches "The Revenant" from the top of the box office.
-- As God in the comedic play "An Act of God," Sean Hayes has his OMG moment.
-- Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen gets a hero's welcome back at Disney Hall.
-- Super Bowl 50 will draw an estimated $4.2 billion in bets, most of them illegal.
-- Big U.S. banks will be rolling out ATMs that take smartphones, not cards.
-- Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully hopes to end his career Oct. 2 in San Francisco.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
-- A woman comes to terms with not having kids but finding other ways to nurture. (Washington Post)
-- A New Hampshirite argues that the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus need to go. (Vox)
-- Look inside the "Murder Castle" of one of Chicago's earliest serial killers. (Chicagoist)
ONLY IN L.A.
Many memories were made, and no doubt some forgotten, at the dive bars in Westwood near the UCLA campus. The last of them, O'Hara's, played "Closing Time" for the final time Saturday night, as the area continues to go upscale. What's a thirsty and cash-strapped student to do now? For one, Santa Monica is just an Uber or a Lyft ride away.
Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.