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Today: Nigeria's Tough Guy. Iraq's Rambo.

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


TOP STORIES

Nigeria's Tough Guy

Rocked by insurgents, corruption and a sick economy, Nigerian voters seemed hungry for a tough guy. They got one in Muhammadu Buhari. Thirty years ago, he overthrew the government, jailed journalists and even locked up a beloved Nigerian musician before he was tossed out. Now he's back -- a new president hailed as a savior.

Irag's Rambo

Millions view his YouTube videos. Fans swarm him wherever he appears. Meet "Iraqi Rambo," a warrior in the fight against Islamic State whose nom de guerre -- Abu Azrael -- is an archangel of death in Islam. Convalescing in Baghdad with a cast on his arm -- "a shell blast threw me off the armored carrier I was on" -- Azrael consents to a sit-down interview. It's a tightly choreographed affair that would make any Hollywood PR firm proud.

The Proverbial Drop in the Bucket?

The vast majority of water guzzled in California feeds the state's agricultural regions, including our verdant rice fields. When he declared the first-ever set of mandatory drought restrictions, Gov. Jerry Brown focused on other minor players: golf courses, campuses and cemeteries. Brown's order did require agricultural districts in depleted groundwater basins to share data on usage with the state.

Making It Their Business

Right-wing politicians in Indiana and Arkansas are backpedaling on their new religious freedom laws. It has nothing to do with a change of heart on gay rights. It has everything to do with corporate America's change of heart, which started years ago. Giants like Apple and Wal-Mart traditionally shy away from social debates, but they're leading the charge on this one.

Step on a Crack ...

It's hard not to on L.A.'s sidewalks. Crumbling, buckling walkways are almost the norm. So are delay and buck-passing on how to fix them. The good news: L.A. is promising to spend $1.3 billion on repairs over the next three decades. The sorry news: It took a lawsuit on behalf of disabled people to break the logjam.

40,000 and Counting

School arts programs have taken a beating. L.A. Unified alone slashed arts spending by 41% between 2008 and 2013. A rare bright spot: the Music Center’s Spotlight program, an initiative that has benefited 40,000 students over the last 27 years. This week, 14 finalists in the program performed before family and friends at Disney Hall. What’s it take to earn a spot on the stage? Read Jeffrey Fleishman’s account.

CALIFORNIA

-- Getty fortune heir Andrew Getty, who was found dead Tuesday, had a medical problem that put him at "grave risk," records show.

-- The latest L.A. Fire Department recruits are largely white and overwhelmingly male despite efforts to achieve more diversity.

-- A website and hotline for helicopter noise complaints begins operation for all of L.A. County.

-- Mayor Robert Garcia aims high for Long Beach. He sees a future high-tech hub.

NATION-WORLD

-- Veterans with the highest suicide risk often don't qualify for medical care.

-- A rural Indiana town fights a frightening surge in HIV caused by drug abuse.

-- Eleven educators are convicted in an Atlanta schools cheating scandal.

-- Sen. Robert Menendez, Democrat from New Jersey, is indicted on corruption charges.

-- Thailand's leader, who was installed by a coup, is granted broad powers.

BUSINESS

-- A developer plans a 33-story apartment tower at 4th and Hill streets in downtown L.A.

-- American Apparel is cutting about 180 jobs as it struggles to make a comeback.

-- McDonald's is giving 90,000 workers raises and vacation time at its company-owned outlets.

SPORTS

-- Backers of an NFL stadium in Carson issue a report saying it could bring a $500-million economic boost.

-- San Diego now has what Carson and Inglewood have had for weeks: renderings of what a proposed new NFL stadium would look like.

-- Seahawks star Richard Sherman delivers a message on a visit to Compton Dominguez High, his alma mater.

-- The latest sports scores and stats. NCAA tournament bracket.

ENTERTAINMENT

-- "Furious 7": We look back as a franchise does the same. Also, a review of the new film.

-- Bob Barker returns to "The Price Is Right" for April Fools' Day.

-- Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell is "doing fine" after fainting and being hospitalized.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- "Mad Men" is the unsexiest show on TV.

-- Killer robots and the rule of law.

-- Russian artists face a choice: Censor themselves, or else.

ONLY IN L.A.

Bob Baffert doesn't play favorites. He just trains them. This year he has two, American Pharoah and Dortmund, leading the early odds for the Kentucky Derby. Baffert is no stranger to the run for the roses, but these two guys, housed 20 yards apart at Santa Anita Park, are special. Do they get along? "They don't even know each other," Baffert says. "But they will." 

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.


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