Today: Torrents in the Mind -- and the Middle East

Hello. I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss this Memorial Day, when Americans remember those who died during military service.


Intense Battles

As U.S. officials debate how to counter the gains made by Islamic State fighters in the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Sunday defended President Obama’s strategy in the region. Carter emphasized that the U.S. can help fight the militant group, but Iraqis must “develop the will to fight.” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an administration critic regarding U.S. military strategy, renewed his call for American ground forces to engage the militants, but Carter maintained the responsibility lies with the Iraqis going forward.

A Beautiful Mind

Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash Jr., whose life as a genius and tortured schizophrenic was chronicled in the 2001 film ”A Beautiful Mind,” died Saturday along with his wife in a car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. Nash, 86, was considered one of the greatest mathematicians of his time. He won the 1994 Nobel Prize in economics for his work in the far-reaching field of game theory, a discipline used in such diverse applications as  arms talks, trade negotiations and elections. Nash eventually recovered from his ravaging illness.

El Niño Strikes

California isn't the only state suffering through a drought. A month of unusually heavy rainfall has brought an end to Texas’ five-year drought. The source of all this abundant rainfall is a building El Niño in the Pacific Ocean – a phenomena that could affect California’s tenacious drought conditions. El Niño has now brought flooding to parts of Texas, forcing at least 2,000 people to evacuate. More rains are expected in coming weeks. 

The Yuck Factor

After four years of drought, it’s time for California to consider the once-unthinkable – drinking treated sewage water. The idea has never gained much traction here because of the unavoidable yuck factor. But sewage offers a ready supply of water for this parched state. It could amount to hundreds of billions of gallons, which are now just being flushed out to sea. 

Working Women

Over just a few decades, women have gone from being virtually nonexistent in animation to the biggest group graduating from animation schools, such as USC’s John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts. The students are still entering an industry in which women are frequently left out of the top creative positions, but that’s changing. Within the still male-dominated field are such female luminaries as “Brave” co-director Brenda Chapman and “Frozen” co-director Jennifer Lee. 

The Public's Eye

Courtroom artists have provided a window into legal proceedings for centuries, and even after the proliferation of photography and video, sketch artists have remained a vital link to the public. Federal courts ban all cameras, and judges in California have wide discretion to keep cameras out. And so Mona Shafer Edwards has become a fixture in Los Angeles courtrooms, capturing the drama of high-profile cases in a few strokes of a pen. “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, O.J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers and Lee Marvin became memorable subjects for the former fashion illustrator. “The cold eye of the camera doesn’t pick up the essence of the story unfolding before you,” she says. “A camera doesn’t capture the soul.”


-- A "family hero" of the Vietnam War will be remembered in Westwood. 

-- Protesters warn against using chemicals in the Santa Barbara County oil spill cleanup.

-- Worth watching: the relationship between L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson and Councilman-elect David Ryu.

-- After much experimentation, an L.A. photographer finds his creative outlet


-- A vet wounded in Afghanistan makes a painful journey back to civilian life.

-- Burundi's crisis deepens as an assassinated opposition leader is buried.

-- Female peace activists cross the Korean DMZ amid heavy security and criticism.

-- Cleveland protests after the Brelo verdict are peaceful, but tension remains.


-- The PennySaver, an advertising newsletter that was a fixture in Southern California mailboxes for decades, is going out of business.

-- LAX is expected to be more crowded than usual this summer.

-- A second opinion could save your life.


-- Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia wins the Indianapolis 500 for the second time.

-- Carl Edwards wins the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600.

-- The UCLA softball team beats Missouri to advance to the Women's College World Series, beginning Thursday.

-- The latest scores and stats.


-- Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' wins the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

-- U2 aims for intimacy and presence in its latest tour, coming to the Forum on Tuesday. 

-- Passings: Comedian Anne Meara, wife of Jerry Stiller and mother of Ben Stiller, dies at 85.


-- A fuel shortage is shutting down business in Nigeria.

-- Too wrinkly to rock? Confessions of an aging music fan.

-- Preserving memories of loved ones in voice mails.


Four years into the California drought and after urban residents and businesses were ordered to cut water use  25%, rebates for ripping out thirsty green turf looked pretty enticing. But wouldn’t you know it, the demand for rebates has outstripped the Metropolitan Water District’s program in Southern California. The goal was to encourage sustainable landscaping, not pay for complete front- and backyard makeovers, one official says.

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.