Hello. I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. FIFA's Sepp Blatter says "So long," and Congress and the president agree on new rules for the NSA. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss today.
The Blatter Bombshell
Was it really just a few days ago that Sepp Blatter, the combative head of the governing body for international soccer, declared: "Why would I step down?" Apparently, he found a reason. FIFA's leader -- elected to a fifth consecutive four-year term on Friday -- announced that he was stepping down on Tuesday. Unhappy sponsors as well as a widening criminal investigation could be behind the move. U.S. officials tell The Times that Blatter is a target of the far-reaching investigation into FIFA corruption, which already has resulted in charges against 14 people.
Scaling Back Surveillance
Congress has voted for a sweeping rollback of government surveillance powers, approving a program that bans the National Security Agency from collecting and storing Americans' telephone dialing records. Passage by the House and now the Senate comes at a time of growing concerns about privacy. Nonetheless, the Senate’s 67-32 vote on Tuesday also reflected unease among lawmakers that Sunday's abrupt expiration of the surveillance program, caused by congressional deadlock, posed a national security risk. The new system authorized by the USA Freedom Act allows intelligence agencies to access the same kind of call records -- though only by obtaining a court order to request the information from telephone companies. President Obama quickly signed the bill.
A Chilling Coda to a Massacre
James Holmes had music blasting through his ear buds when he opened fire on the crowded Colorado movie theater. His victims were "numbers," a "conglomerate mass," he said. The jury in his murder trial heard from the defendant himself this week -- not from the witness stand but from 22 hours of videotaped interviews with a court-appointed psychiatrist. The result was a frightening window into the troubled mind of a killer, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. "This one guy in the front row was smiling," Holmes says at one point, looking puzzled. "I thought it was kind of odd … he was alive and moving a little bit."
Trying to Outrun a Crisis
Consider the life of a young Greek citizen. The country has been mired in the depths of Europe's economic woes since 2008, and many of its young adults can't even remember a time of optimism and prosperity. Their parents and grandparents can recall better days, but high unemployment, low wages and tough austerity measures have crushed the youths' spirits. "What we are seeing in Greece is a lost generation," says one scholar. With Greece threatening to default on a looming International Monetary Fund payment, many young adults are seeing only one alternative: moving to other European Union countries where jobs are easier to find. But who will be left to rebuild?
Water Report Card: Good, Not Great
The numbers are in: Californians heeded Gov. Jerry Brown's call to arms and dialed back urban water usage by 13.5% in April compared with the same month in 2013. One environmental expert called that impressive, coming as it did after the "absolutely embarrassing" conservation efforts of earlier this year. The good news: Californians achieved that savings during a relatively warm, dry April, so we can credit conservation, not favorable weather. The bad news: Residents, businesses and urban water suppliers still have a long way to go to fulfill Brown's April 1 order for a 25% cut, and they'll have to do so during the hot, dry summer months ahead.
-- An appeals court has ruled that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was within his rights when he reduced the prison sentence of a politician's son.
-- A bill written by three law students to make Capitol lobbying more transparent is opposed by -- guess who -- lobbyists.
-- City of Industry elects three new council members with ties to the Perez family.
-- The latest chapter in the Airbnb saga: Two L.A. lawmakers propose a ban on short-term rentals at any residence other than the host's primary residence.
-- A shake-up at the TSA is the result of months of tests at U.S. airports, in which undercover agents routinely sneaked explosives and weapons past screeners.
-- The U.S. and other allies have pledged more help for Iraq in its fight against Islamic State militants.
-- With the Republican presidential field now topping a dozen, the primary election calendar is drawing increased interest.
-- President Obama, in an interview released Tuesday, hints at the possibility that the U.S. would allow Palestinian efforts to get U.N. recognition.
-- Pinterest has a new money-making strategy: click to buy.
-- A breakthrough insulin drug, developed by a Valencia company, needed 10 years to get U.S. regulators' approval. Now comes the hard part: getting people to use it.
-- L.A. real estate mogul Rick Caruso moves into a new venture, hotels, in seaside Santa Barbara.
-- The NBA Finals begin tomorrow, the fifth in a row for LeBron James. How did he take a limping Cleveland team this far?
-- What kind of a hockey town has Tampa, Fla., become in the decade since the Lightning won the Stanley Cup? Helene Elliott asks. The team opens its series against Chicago today.
-- The latest scores and stats.
-- Susan King interviews the prolific Steve Martin, who is receiving this year's AFI Life Achievement Award.
-- Two titans of country music, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, talk to Randy Lewis about their new duo album, "Django and Jimmie."
-- How will "Entourage," the movie, with its hard partying and boys' club scene, play in 2015? Amy Kaufman talks to the creator and the stars.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
-- Take a deep dive with the New York Times Magazine into a strange, frightening world of Internet trolls, based in Russia, who are attempting to wreak havoc in U.S. communities.
-- NPR reports on the human rights crisis that one Nobel Peace Prize winner doesn't want to address.
-- The Downtown News examines a continuing fight between Metro and Arts District residents.
ONLY IN L.A.
Remember the Bel-Air mansion that a neighbor derisively refers to as the "Starship Enterprise"? The L.A. Department of Building and Safety ordered that construction be stopped after complaints about a destabilized slope. But work on the hilltop property's lavish features continued, concealed by tarps and potted plants -- "shenanigans" in the words of an aide to Councilman Paul Koretz. Now officials are referring the developer, Mohamed Hadid, to the city attorney for prosecution. That'll make you think twice about that unpermitted addition.
Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.