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Today: The Trouble With El Niño.

I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. A "Godzilla" El Niño could bring a little relief and a lot of headache; and NATO and Russia may be playing some risky war games. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss today.

TOP STORIES

The Trouble With El Niño

If the warming trend in Pacific waters spawns the "Godzilla" El Niño some forecasters predict, it could ease California's brutal dry spell. It also could wreak havoc -- floods and mudslides like those set off by the El Niño of 1997-98. Moreover, water officials worry that people already are getting complacent about conserving. Even if it is a big one, it probably won't end the drought.

Games Armies Play

The military exercises are aimed at "hypothetical opponents," but the intent is clear: Russia is preparing for a conflict with NATO, and vice versa. A report by a respected London-based think tank warns that this can be risky business along tense borders. A wrong move, taken the wrong way, could spark a live fight. One recommendation: The two sides need to talk more.

Calamity in China

China's economic boom might be blunted, but a side effect is not. Another industrial-scale accident stunned the nation when explosions rocked the port city of Tianjin, killing scores and injuring hundreds. It's a reminder of cut corners and lax regulation in a full-speed economy. Beijing typically tries to keep a lid on news about such disasters, but that's getting harder to do.

Our Man in Havana

When John Kerry helps hoist Old Glory at the U.S. Embassy in Havana today, he'll be the first Secretary of State to visit there since 1945. The flag will be the easy part. He also needs to stand up firmly for human rights to avoid seeming to appease a repressive Castro regime without offending the guys who run it. Said one Latin America scholar: "This is a tall order."

Big Bird's Boost

HBO, home of "Game of Thrones" and "True Detective," is hardly known for child-friendly shows. Now it's diving straight into kid world with a deal to be the first-run home of "Sesame Street." New episodes will continue to run on PBS nine months after their HBO premieres. It was a deal of necessity for the nonprofit Sesame Workshop, which has been hurt by declining DVD sales.

CALIFORNIA

-- A former L.A. County sheriff's captain agrees to plead guilty in the long-running jail scandal.

-- A man fights off a bear near Yosemite and drives himself to a hospital; and a grizzly that killed a Yellowstone hiker is euthanized.

-- A puma known as P-32 is killed crossing the 5 Freeway in Castaic.

NATION-WORLD

-- What former President Carter can expect as he and his doctors weigh cancer treatment options.

-- Connecticut's Supreme Court extends a death penalty ban to inmates left in limbo by a 2012 change in the law.

-- Pakistan's military OKs death sentences for six who took part in a school attack that left 151 people dead.

-- A whistle-blower who worked at the Hanford nuclear weapons site clean-up project wins a $4.1-million settlement.

BUSINESS

-- Exxon Mobil  is fined more than $500,000 for a Torrance refinery explosion in February.

-- Uber's car-leasing program may violate state laws, regulators say.

SPORTS

-- "Canelo" Álvarez embraces a Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry for his fight with Miguel Cotto.

-- Former New York Jets linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali on punching quarterback Geno Smith: "I should have walked away."

-- Sports scores from si.com.

ENTERTAINMENT

-- "Straight Outta Compton" music tracks sample a culture's infancy. Theaters step up security for the film's debut.

-- How "Fear the Walking Dead" will stand out in the zombie universe: Create the perfect L.A. apocalypse.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- The Atlantic on J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the revival of modern myth-telling.

-- Zócalo Public Square: How we fell in love with the open road.

-- DNA may have solved the mystery of Warren Harding's love life (N.Y. Times)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Wonder why those lawn replacement outfits were so eager to remove yours for free? Turns out there were some big payouts they could tap in the Metropolitan Water District rebate program. Some of those $2-per-square-foot deals added up to $70,000. No apparent rip-offs -- most takers seem to have broken even after installing drought-friendly options. Judge for yourself. 

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.

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