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Newsletter: Today: Uncle Sam Retracts the Clawbacks. A GOP Desert in L.A.

I’m Davan Maharaj, editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Times. Here are some story lines I don’t want you to miss today.

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Uncle Sam Retracts the Clawbacks

Four days after The Times wrote about a Pentagon program to claw back enlistment bonuses improperly given to thousands of California National Guard members a decade ago, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter suspended it, with the goal of resolving claims by July 1. That stops short of the blanket waiver some Congress members are seeking. But the Pentagon’s concern is that forgiving debts in cases where soldiers didn’t complete their six-year enlistment contracts would set a bad precedent.

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A GOP Desert in L.A.

For 818,000 voters in Los Angeles County this general election, the ballot will include Democrat, Libertarian and independent candidates, but the only Republican names will be Donald Trump and Mike Pence. It’s the result of California’s relatively new primary system in which the two candidates who finish with the most votes in June move on, even if they are from the same party. Here’s why the local GOP has mostly given up on parts of the San Fernando Valley and Central L.A.

More Politics

-- An aide says he once arranged for $50 million in payments for Bill Clinton, according to a memo on WikiLeaks.

-- Meet the man responsible for making sure Hillary Clinton’s election strategy works.

Once Again in Iraq, War Is Hell

The battle to drive Islamic State from northwestern Iraq is being aided by information gleaned from cellphones and computers captured in Syria. That doesn’t mean the war is going easily. Recent counterattacks, including a blitz into 10 neighborhoods of Kirkuk last week, show that ISIS can still put up a coordinated fight. And even when the militants flee, they are exacting a terrible toll: executions, kidnappings and poisoning the people and the land by setting fire to oil fields and destroying chemical plants. Molly Hennessy-Fiske reports from a town where noxious smoke has turned everything — even the sheep — gray. Watch the video here.

Sienna Moqtar and her daughter decorate the grave of Moqtar's brother with rocks. He died last week in the final days of Islamic State in Qayyarah. The bodies of two infant nephews are buried on the right.
Sienna Moqtar and her daughter decorate the grave of Moqtar’s brother with rocks. He died last week in the final days of Islamic State in Qayyarah. The bodies of two infant nephews are buried on the right.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times )
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Bus Rider Beware

Low-cost bus services, like the one involved in a crash that killed 13 people over the weekend, have grown rapidly as a way to ferry customers to and from casinos. Some safety experts say regulations haven’t kept pace. A rule requiring seat belts on newly built buses goes into effect next week — and it was first proposed after a crash in 1968.

George Lucas: The Museum Strikes Back

George Lucas’ quest to build a museum that houses his art collection has taken as many turns as the plots to his films. There were plans to build in San Francisco’s Presidio, then in Chicago. Now, he’s unveiled conceptual designs for two locations — one on San Francisco’s Treasure Island, the other in L.A.’s Exposition Park — in the hope that a museum can finally be built. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne offers a first look and lays out the complex politics that would go into a winning bid.

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YOUR ELECTION GUIDE

-- What to make of all of California’s 17 propositions on the ballot.

-- Here are the California Democrats whom President Obama has (and has not) endorsed for Congress.

-- Endorsements by The Times’ editorial board.

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CALIFORNIA

-- This man says he was the one who took a sledgehammer to Trump’s Walk of Fame star: “I fully will comply with the law once I set a time up with my attorney to [turn] myself in. I will gladly pay the damages to the site.”

-- Northern California is seeing 200% to 300% more rain than normal. So why is Southern California so dry?

-- The Southern California Flower Market wants to transform its property into a mixed-use community of offices, apartments and restaurants — and still sell flowers too.

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-- George Skelton remembers the late Tom Hayden as a role model for participatory democracy.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- The Museum of Modern Art in New York has acquired the original set of emojis, designed by Shigetaka Kurita and released to Japanese cellphone users in 1999.

-- At 75, Wonder Woman occupies a complicated place in pop culture.

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-- The first major virtual reality TV series is being unveiled today.

-- LACMA is teaching veterans how to make movies.

-- Kanye West took his fans at the Forum on an experimental trip.

NATION-WORLD

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-- Drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s lawyers say he is depressed and suffering hallucinations and memory loss because of harsh conditions in a Mexican prison.

-- Here’s how the wrong man was blamed for bringing HIV to the U.S. It didn’t help that Patient O (as in the letter) became known as Patient Zero.

-- Her arresting gaze was on the cover of a National Geographic bestseller. Now she’s in a Pakistani jail.

-- Even the Rev. Jesse Jackson on horseback can’t end a pipeline showdown in North Dakota.

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-- Talk of an NFL team moving to Las Vegas is one more sign of the city’s ambition to shed its image as just a gambling mecca.

BUSINESS

-- After the Wells Fargo scandal, Senate Democrats are calling on bank regulators to beef up rules on taking back executive pay over corporate wrongdoing.

-- The studio behind “The Hunger Games” wants to turn YouTube celebrities into movie stars.

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-- Surprise: Tesla turned a profit for the first time in three years.

SPORTS

-- The Lakers began the post-Kobe Bryant era with a 120-114 win over the Rockets.

-- The Cubs evened the World Series with the Indians in a 5-1 victory in Game 2.

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OPINION

-- Trump’s attack on libel law: What happened to America being first?

-- It’s the Supreme Court, not the Senate, that needs to do its job right now.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

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-- It was biggest theft of classified information in U.S. history. Read an excerpt from the book “The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell.” (The Guardian)

-- Why does Belize have so many Chicago Cubs fans? (Atlas Obscura)

-- Here’s what English could sound like 100 years from now. (Audible Range)

ONLY IN L.A.

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Timur Bootzin started staging a low-budget Halloween horror maze at his Los Feliz house in 2012. He was 12 at the time. Now, with his own entrepreneurial zeal and his parents’ permission, Bootzin’s backyard maze has grown to the point where the 16-year-old makes his actors sign contracts. As for this year’s theme, “you have your evil clowns, your zombies, but you don’t hear much about an apocalyptic wasteland.” Well, there is the election…

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.

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