Today: Bin Laden's Books. Black Sand Beaches

Hello. I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. Another oil spill has fouled the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel, and now we know what Osama bin Laden was reading. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss today.


Bin Laden’s Bookshelf

If his reading list is any guide, Osama bin Laden was a policy wonk, a serious micromanager and a thoughtful family man -- in addition to the sponsor of the worst-ever terror attack on U.S. soil.  A trove of materials seized from Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan reveal much about his years in forced solitude, though not a lot about the workings of Al Qaeda. Among the declassified documents: transcripts of congressional hearings; recruitment questionnaires asking, "What objectives would you like to accomplish on your jihad path?" and information about sports nutrition, silkscreening and the video game "Delta Force: Xtreme 2" --  presumably for the children and wives who holed up with the terror chieftain.

Black Sands

Painful memories of a 1969 environmental disaster came gushing back when an oil pipeline ruptured off the 101 Freeway, sending at least 21,000 gallons of crude into the biologically rich Santa Barbara Channel.  This spill was dwarfed by the one half a century ago, which killed countless sea animals, led to curbs on offshore energy exploration and catalyzed the modern conservation movement. Cleanup of this week’s leak will take days, and two state beaches, Refugio and El Capitan, will remain closed through Memorial Day weekend.

The Real Deal

The poker player named Claudico had a maddening, passive-aggressive style, but his opponents never saw him sweat. That’s because Claudico is an artificial intelligence robot, facing off against four top Texas Hold ’Em pros in the latest contest between Man and Machine. The competition was not just for sport; researchers dream of one day using the calculations powering Claudico to fight cyberwars, plan medical treatments, conduct negotiations and a host of other tasks requiring urgent action with limited information. Read on to see if the bot came out on top.

Charting a New Course

Advocates of charter schools spent more than $2 million on the L.A. Unified School District board election -- and this week it paid off. For the first time, supporters of charter schools have a seat and an official say in how the country’s second-largest school system is run. Ref Rodriguez, the co-founder of a charter school, owes his win, at least in part, to a subtle shift in Los Angeles politics. Unlike his predecessor, Mayor Eric Garcetti has shown little interest in influencing school district policy, and that created an opening for charter school proponents in their proxy campaign against the teachers union (which spent $1 million supporting Rodriguez’s opponent). No district in the nation has more charters than L.A. Unified's 211 -- and about 15% of district students are on those campuses.


--David Ryu's Los Angeles City Council victory turns the tide for Korean Americans.

--Organized labor comes up short in a Democratic state Senate runoff in the East Bay.

--A state doctors group ends opposition to an aid-in-dying bill.

--Capitol Journal columnist George Skelton reminds us who is left out in Gov. Brown's budget choices.


--The Texas criminal justice system shows signs of fraying after a bloody biker melee.

--Islamic State fighters capture the ancient town of Palmyra in Syria.

--A Mexican town is under siege, as police and the army stand by.

--Scientists unearth the earliest known stone tools in Kenya.


--L.A. businesses see peril in tying minimum wage increases to inflation.

--Five banks are ordered to pay $5.7 billion in fines over currency manipulation.

-- Spotify adds video, news and podcasts to its streaming service.

--Hotel Indigo is coming to downtown L.A.'s Metropolis development.


--Dodger pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu will have surgery on his left shoulder.

--California natives load the lineups of women's World Cup soccer teams.

--The latest scores and stats.


--After 33 years in late-night TV, David Letterman signs off.

--"Son of Saul" turns Cannes festival upside down.

--Actress Angela Bassett goes behind the camera for "Whitney."


--New Yorker staff writer Mark Singer remembers William Zinsser.

--Even after income rises, many Americans are still too scared to spend.

--The plan for a 1,500-mile corridor to help Monarch butterflies get from Mexico to Minnesota.



This city has a long history of tearing down its architectural treasures -- think the Ambassador Hotel -- but this week preservationists and fans of space-age architecture got some good news. The City Council voted unanimously to designate the Norms diner on La Cienega Boulevard a historic and cultural monument, taking another step toward preserving the Googie-style architectural landmark.

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.