Today's Headlines: Losing Our Religion. Favela Lives Matter.

Hello. I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. A major new study finds the U.S. is becoming less Christian, and Verizon discovers new life in AOL. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss today.

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TOP STORIES

Losing Our Religion

The U.S. is becoming notably less Christian, the Pew Research Center reports. That doesn't mean we're going pagan, not by a long shot; but data show that millennials are less religious as they age, and they're not alone. One of many possibilities: the link between religious conservatism and politics is a turn-off. Find out what else is at play. You can see the full Pew report here.

You've Got AOL

Remember dial-up Internet and those screeching modems? ("You've got mail!") That was AOL in the '90s. It hasn't been just sitting on its thumbs since. It's been working hard on clever mobile advertising tech, so clever that Verizon is buying AOL for $4.4 billion. Find out what this old "digital trailblazer" has that Verizon wants -- and what might happen to its Huffington Post. 

Trading Places

Usually it's Republicans in the Senate who stymie President Obama. This time it was fellow Democrats, or at least enough of them to stall his quest for a Pacific trade pact. Unions and progressives say it would shift U.S. jobs overseas. That view may not align with Main Street's. Polls show a big shift of Democratic voters in favor of free trade. This fight's far from over.

A Boo for Hollywood

Lack of female directors has been an acknowledged problem in Hollywood. Now, the ACLU is pushing the debate beyond talk. Two years of study, data on hiring and talks with 50 female directors prompted the group to demand that the state investigate for gender discrimination. "It's not that it's an equal playing field," one director says. "It's no playing field at all."  

Rubio Rocks the Tax Boat 

For decades, the idea has dominated Republican economic policy: Lower tax rates, especially in higher brackets, will generate enough growth to pay for them. Critics say it benefits mainly the rich. Sen. Marco Rubio, who's running for president, has a plan to rock that old boat a little: Cut the top rates less and offer a big credit for families with kids. Expect some lively debate.

Favela Lives Matter

In Brazil's impoverished favelas, police are at war with drug gangs. Gunfire often hits innocents, with devastating effect. Too often, it's not from the bad guys, as the family of a 14-year-old learned recently in Rio's Complexo de Alemao favela. In today's Great Read, find out how citizens have banded together to defend themselves -- not from the gangs, but from the cops.

CALIFORNIA

-- Columnist Steve Lopez, no stranger to skid row, offers L.A. politicians some pointed alternatives to double-talk on the problem of homelessness.

-- A man trying to stay out of prison for selling medical marijuana gets some unexpected allies: two California congressmen.

-- It's no drought buster, but more wet weather is headed our way later this week.

-- Who supports whom and why in next week's vigorously contested L.A. school board elections.

NATION-WORLD

-- At least five people are killed when an Amtrak train derails in Philadelphia.

-- More misery in Nepal as a second deadly quake strikes. A U.S. Marine chopper on an aid mission was missing.

-- The FDA proposes letting gay men donate blood, with a few caveats.

-- A University of Virginia dean sues Rolling Stone magazine over a notorious campus rape story.

-- Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin discuss a lot but seem to settle little.

BUSINESS

-- Verizon and Sprint agree to pay $158 million to settle an investigation of "cramming" charges on customer bills.

-- Jeep, Dodge and Hyundai fair poorly in a tough insurance industry crash test for SUVs.

 SPORTS

-- Houston romps over the Clippers, 124-103, to force a Game 6 in their NBA playoff series. The Clippers now lead 3-2. 

-- NFL Deflategate investigator Ted Wells defends his report on Tom Brady and the Patriots.

-- The latest scores and stats.

ENTERTAINMENT

-- Majestic meets "Mad Max" in the maelstrom that is the Cannes film fest.

-- A new "Fugitive" movie is in the works at Warner Bros.

Passings: Rachel Rosenthal, 88, experimental performance artist. Frank DiPascali, 58, Bernie Madoff aide turned government witness.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- Jeb Bush versus Karl Rove.

-- "It ain't over till it's over." Happy 90th Birthday, Yogi Berra.

-- A brief history of the remarkable California Coastal Trail.

ONLY IN L.A.

It's called Visual Arts 104A: Performing the Self, an intriguing name with some intriguing requirements. In the final exam, students are asked to make nude "gestures" in front of class in a darkened room. Nudity isn't required, but someone thought it was and now UC San Diego and professor Ricardo Dominguez are in a bright spotlight. Read how that's working out.

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.

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