Hello. I'm Davan Maharaj, the editor of the Los Angeles Times. Here are some story lines you shouldn't miss today.
After a bitter election campaign in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risked Israel's ties with the U.S. in the name of national security, he appears to have survived a close call. It's uncertain what a new governing coalition will look like, but one thing is clearer: Social well-being at home is becoming as important to many Israelis as a hard line against enemies abroad.
The real madness
March Madness is here, and all seems well with college basketball. Far from it, writes our Chris Dufresne. Coaches stifle the game with timeouts and numbing clock-shot management. The national scoring average has hit a new low. The exodus of one-and-done players to the NBA bleeds the talent pool. Dufresne doesn't stop there. He offers a five-point rescue plan.
No longer beating the taxman
Its top executives are paid millions each year, and it has $4.2 billion (yes, with a B) in financial reserves, yet Blue Shield of California is listed as a nonprofit. The San Francisco health insurer pays no state taxes. California’s taxmen quietly stripped Blue Shield of its exemption from state income taxes last year. Is Blue Shield a nonprofit in name only? Read business writer Chad Terhune’s exclusive on how the company has taken advantage of the state tax exemption for decades.
That sinking feeling
Parts of the Central Valley are sinking a foot a year. The culprit: Farms that pump more water from a huge aquifer than nature can put back. Roads break and dikes crack, but that isn't the worst. As ground subsides, future aquifer storage space is lost. That means, eventually, that some farms will have to go dry. The state, belatedly, is imposing rules. Will they be enough?
-- A look at how handwriting evidence might hold up against Robert Durst, accused in the 2000 murder of writer Susan Berman.
-- A report calls for big changes in how L.A. handles illegal dumping and street trash.
-- A cop wanted in a killing. Another caught smuggling. A PR nightmare for an LAPD struggling to improve its image.
-- Racist and homophobic texts by San Francisco police trigger reviews of criminal convictions.
-- The heat wave takes the bloom off the California Poppy Reserve in the Antelope Valley.
-- Kevin, a house cat missing since 2013, is found in Riverside after traveling across the U.S.
-- The Secret Service director asks Congress for patience after yet another scandal.
-- Who needs the Olympics? Bostonians wonder whether hosting the Games might be worse than record snowstorms.
-- Eligible Oregonians will automatically be registered to vote when they obtain or renew driver's licenses.
-- Islamic State militants gain a toehold in Afghanistan.
-- An Iraqi town celebrates a rout of the Islamic State.
-- A larger supply of Southern California homes could help lift the housing market out of a slump.
-- Starbucks brews up controversy with its "Race Together" campaign.
-- The FCC chairman tells Congress that there were "no secret instructions" on his net neutrality plan.
-- Bill Plaschke on one reason UCLA made the NCAA tournament: a long history of sheer entertainment value.
-- "I'd skip my annual physical before I skipped an NCAA bracket." Chris Erskine on an annual ritual.
-- The latest sports scores and stats.
Passings: Jack Haley, 51, former UCLA and NBA basketball player known in part for his close friendship with Dennis Rodman.
-- Documentaries have undergone radical transformations since the days when Robert Flaherty shot “Nanook of the North.”
-- "An Apartment in Berlin": A film examines 20,000 Israelis' relocation choice.
-- Pop music review: Kendrick Lamar's new album, "To Pimp a Butterfly."
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
-- Is there a font of youth? How the right typeface might help sway health behavior.
-- Latinos in the U.S.: How to fire up America.
-- Was Abraham Lincoln a mileage reimbursement cheat?
-- Russians and Americans: The curious incident of the cat and the missile.
ONLY IN L.A.
Columnist Steve Lopez asks: "When 9 out of 10 registered voters skip an election in a service-deficient city with a projected budget deficit of $160 million, and several thousand votes are enough to win a City Council seat in a metropolis of 4 million people, why even bother with elections?" Read how voter apathy can result in real damage.
Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.