Hello. I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. Josef Stalin's image is making a comeback in Russia, and a Vatican tribunal will judge bishops accused of shielding abusive priests. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss today.
Sunni vs. Sunni
It's hard to overstate Islam's Shiite-Sunni rivalry in Iraq. President Obama's planned new training camp harks back to the "Anbar Awakening," when the U.S. paid Sunni tribal fighters to help defeat Sunni radicals in the key -- and largely Sunni -- Anbar province. Then, as now, government Shiite militias had no credibility in Anbar and stood no chance. Can it work again?
In 1961, Nikita Khrushchev unveiled "de-Stalinization." The body of ruthless dictator Josef Stalin was banished from Lenin's tomb. Stalingrad became Volgograd. Later, Moscow acknowledged, and denounced, the pact with Adolf Hitler that carved up Poland. Now, the "Man of Steel" is making a comeback as Russia pines for lost empire. That suits President Vladimir Putin just fine.
In the Vatican's Court
A wave of scandals prompted the Roman Catholic Church, belatedly, to start cracking down on priests who sexually abuse kids. Bishops who shield them, however, largely escape punishment. Now, Pope Francis is creating a Vatican tribunal to judge such bishops. Advocates for the abused are wary -- after all, it's still church officials judging church officials -- but they say it's a start.
Civilians See Things Differently
How could L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck and the civilian Police Commission, using the same facts, disagree so sharply on the fatal shooting of a mentally ill black man? Beck, focusing on the moment Ezell Ford tried to grab an officer's gun, said it was justified. The commission found otherwise, suggesting there was no reason for officers to detain Ford in the first place. Such reasoning worries police, but they can probably expect more of it in L.A. and elsewhere.
Grief and Taxes
Want to cause grief for California politicians? Demand tax reform. Not the trim-here-loophole-there type, but real upheaval. New state Controller Betty Yee is boldly wading into this swamp. Collect from more people and rely less on the top 1%? Yep. Tax services? Most states do. Columnist George Skelton looks at her ideas for dragging the state tax system into the 21st century.
-- As L.A.'s housing shortage deepens, the City Council considers giving owners of "bootleg" apartments a chance to make them legal.
-- Ducks, geese and rice: the next casualties of California's drought?
-- The cost of cleaning spilled oil from Santa Barbara County beaches has topped $60 million. The plan is to bill the pipeline company.
-- Lightning sparks nearly 60 fires in Northern California.
-- Prosecutors drop a murder charge against a Georgia woman who took pills to end her pregnancy.
-- A Texas police officer apologizes for aggressiveness, caught on video, during a disturbance at a teen pool party.
-- In a Vatican meeting, Pope Francis urges Russian President Vladimir Putin to make a "sincere effort" toward peace in Ukraine.
-- An attack on the Temple of Karnak in Luxor raises fears of a campaign by militants against Egypt's fragile tourism industry.
-- German discount grocer Aldi plans to open the first of 25 Southern California stores in March.
-- Apple says it's driving a lot of cars around the world to gather data to improve Apple Maps.
-- Consumer groups say CarMax regularly sells used cars that are under recall without repairing them. They want the state to investigate.
-- Stanley Cup Finals: Chicago beats Tampa Bay, 2-1, in Game 4 to even the series at two games apiece.
-- The once-scorned bat flip, a la Yasiel Puig, seems to be going mainstream.
-- Charter's first telecast of a 2015 Dodgers game scores big TV ratings.
-- The latest scores and stats.
-- Documentary: How "The Wolfpack's" isolated brothers relate to the world through movies.
-- Apple Music may sound sweet, but pop music critic Randall Roberts has a few questions.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
-- It was an Aussie who brought us "American Announcer Speak." The Atlantic has the historical back story.
-- "It's not you, it's me." A New York Times writer breaks up with the Apple Watch.
-- Mary Stanik in MinnPost: A never-married presidential candidate? Why not?
Passings: Gary Linderman, 60, the "last man standing" in a toxic Oklahoma town.
ONLY IN CALIFORNIA
Now here's an interesting team: "Mama G's" high school history class; state prison inmates; an actor; a real estate agent; a few architects; and a huge measure of compassion. Today's Great Read chronicles a near-miracle they performed for Lancaster's town hero, a grievously injured Iraq war veteran, and his kids. They built a house.
Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.