Today: Missing Shamu and Calling Dr. Strangelove

I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss today.

TOP STORIES

Still Mourning Scalia

Republicans, who object to President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, are likely to discover in Merrick Garland a superbly qualified judge with a cautious, centrist record. But it’s less the man that they are fighting than the loss of the court’s conservative majority. For more than 40 years, the liberal judges have been sidelined, losing 5 to 4 on important social issues. If confirmed, look for his vote to shift the balance of power on such issues as gun control and the environment.

Couldn’t They Have Waited?

Southern California Gas Co. knew that the wells in its Aliso Canyon facility near Porter Ranch were deteriorating. In 2014, the utility asked state officials for a rate hike to pay for a plan to test the wells. The request is still pending, but that didn’t stop Southern California Gas from boosting production. Critics contend that that decision contributed to the recent blow-out.

Calling Dr. Strangelove

The small motors that help keep rocket interceptors on course as they fly toward incoming warheads are crucial to the nation’s defense against a sneak attack by North Korea or Iran. A panel of outside experts recommended testing these components of the nation’s homeland missile defense system, but the U.S. Missile Defense Agency disagrees. The tests, it argued, will not guarantee that the arsenal is “free from workmanship or quality problems.”

'Trump’s Personal Pravda'

The late Andrew Breitbart founded his conservative news site for the purpose of fighting Big Government, Big Journalism and Big Hollywood, and he didn’t like what he saw in Donald Trump. Not so for Steve Bannon, Breitbart’s successor, who has alienated reporters and editors. They accuse Bannon of creating “an unaffiliated media Super PAC for the Trump campaign.”

A Future Without Shamu

After years of stubborn resistance to criticism, protests and dissent, SeaWorld has decided to stop its orca breeding program. The decision, said its chief executive, will allow the park to “focus on positive, energetic, inspirational and creative things.” But the question is: Can a SeaWorld without orcas survive financially?

CALIFORNIA

— Airbnb is making significant inroads in Los Angeles County with listings increasing 42% in the last half of 2015. The hotel industry once thought such short-term rental websites catered only penny-pinching millennials, but no more.

— When seismologists think about the Big One — a devastating earthquake for Southern California — they look to the San Andreas Fault as the most likely culprit. But the San Jacinto Fault, cutting through the Inland Empire, has become a strong contender.

— The construction site at the Wilshire Grand, soon to be L.A.’s tallest skyscraper, has gone three years without a major accident. That ended when a worker fell 53 floors onto Wilshire Boulevard.

— After four weeks, the prosecution has rested in the trial of Lonnie Franklin Jr., the so-called Grim Sleeper, accused of the killings of at least nine women in South Los Angeles.

NATION-WORLD

— The sanity board evaluation of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who faces court martial for desertion, concludes that the soldier had eccentric beliefs and behaviors but still knew right from wrong.

“Trump was sent to us by God,” says a former intelligence officer in the Israeli army, who champions the Republican front-runner for his conviction that Israel is a buffer against a “Muslim takeover” in the West.

— After three years of patience, insistence, doctor visits and threats of legal action, an Uzbek man underwent a sex change operation and married his high school sweetheart.

— Bucking the trend in other Western states, the Utah House of Representatives passed a measure to loan $53 million for a planned export facility in California that would ship coal to Asia.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Kenneth Turan: “Allegiant” will undoubtedly draw crowds, loyal to the Veronica Roth’s mega-selling young-adult novels. But most moviegoers will be lost in the convolutions of the story and the inflated production.

— Marcia Clark came clean on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” over rumors of a romance with Christopher Darden, her fellow prosecutor during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

— Novelist Glen David Gold recounts the time he interviewed the late Umberto Eco, who emphasized that writing is meant to educate and entertain and never to exclude.

— A performance that nearly gassed its audience. A video showing cars colliding on the 6th Street Bridge. Topless entertainers in a Mexican stage show. Readers weigh in with memories of the Los Angeles arts scene, circa 1970s and ’80s.

BUSINESS

— A cash bid of $56 million beat out two other offers as the parent company of the Los Angeles Times came closer to owning the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise. The U.S. Department of Justice, however, filed a lawsuit to block the deal on antitrust grounds.

— Uber has launched Passport, its first cross-border service for riders needing a one-way lift from San Diego to as far south as Ensenada or east to Mexicali.

SPORTS

— A Los Angeles-based cyclist has pleaded guilty to buying performance-enhancing drugs and selling them online to professional and amateur athletes.

— No. 12-seeded Yale upsets fifth-seeded Baylor. March Madness is upon us. Bookmark this page for bracket updates.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Broadway’s hottest show, “Hamilton,” may have popular appeal, but don’t mistake it for history. (Zócalo Public Square)

— The relentless rise in tourism to the Galápagos could spell doom for the islands’ biodiversity. (Scientific American)

— Words you don’t often hear: “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” spoken by notorious the Liberian warlord once known as General Butt Naked. (The New Yorker)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

The “Elizabeth H.”, a 45-foot fishing boat, was two miles off San Clemente Island last month when skipper Nick Haworth noticed his dog was missing. Luna, a blue-eyed German shepherd-husky mix had fallen overboard, and Haworth was devastated. He combed the waters for two days before giving up. Five weeks later, Navy crews found Luna sitting on the side the island’s main road, a little hungry but just fine. She hopped into their vehicle and was reunited with her owner on Thursday.

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.

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