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Newsletter: Today: Trump, the Unpopular Populist. Pot Shops and the High Class.

Donald Trump
President-elect Donald Trump at a news conference in New York.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

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.

TOP STORIES

Trump, the Unpopular Populist

Since winning the election, Donald Trump hasn’t extended many olive branches to those who didn’t vote for him. More often than not, he’s set those branches on fire. That combative approach along with his response to Russia has made him the only president-elect among the last seven to see his popularity drop during his transition to the White House, according to three new polls (which Trump says are “rigged”). Only 4 in 10 Americans approve of Trump, mostly along partisan lines. One bright spot for Trump: About 6 in 10 Americans have confidence in his ability to deal with the economy and jobs.

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More Politics

-- Trump is rattling the United States’ European allies with his comments about NATO, the EU and more.

-- Trump’s health secretary pick fought to limit coverage in one of America’s neediest states.

-- Michael Hiltzik breaks down what we know about Trump’s and Sen. Rand Paul’s Obamacare replacement plans.

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-- Many members of California’s delegation won’t attend the inauguration, but columnist Steve Lopez is heading out to “bear witness on behalf of my native state and as a member of the scabrous fraternity of ink-stained wretches.”

President Obama’s Big Commute

President Obama commuted sentences for 209 people and issued 64 pardons yesterday — among them retired Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, Studio 54 founder Ian Schrager and former baseball player Willie McCovey — but none more divisive than Chelsea Manning. The former U.S. Army private convicted of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks will be released after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence. Obama has already commuted more prison sentences than any other president, and aides say more will come Thursday.

Pot Shops and the High Class

For years, marijuana dispensaries had the signature look of tinted windows, security doors and graffiti murals. Now potrepreneurs in California are borrowing design tips from Apple and Whole Foods by featuring natural light and open-floor plans. The idea is to appeal to a more upscale crowd, including one of the biggest untapped markets, as one businessman puts it: “the Chardonnay mom.”

A marijuana shop that strives for an upscale retail experience.
A marijuana shop that strives for an upscale retail experience.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times )

Meanwhile, Back at Porter Ranch

It was the largest methane leak in U.S. history, a blowout that took five months to plug and forced thousands in Porter Ranch and other areas to leave their homes. Authorities say they still don’t know the cause of the leak at the Aliso Canyon underground gas storage field. But regulators took a step toward letting it reopen, at a third of its original size. Here’s why.

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They Fought Against Caste, Then India Fought Them

Outwardly, nothing sets apart Dalits, the people formerly known as “untouchables” under India’s premodern caste system. But they continue to endure social stigma and economic marginalization 70 years after the constitution outlawed such discrimination. So why is one U.S.-funded charity that has long fought for Dalits’ rights now under attack, accused by India’s government of harming the national interest?

We Want to Hear From You: What’s your most California moment? Send us your favorite stories and photos of the Golden State. It could be about the people and places you encounter every day, that amazing trip you took, or a moment you’ll never forget.

CALIFORNIA

-- The death toll from California’s winter storms continues to rise.

-- A former contestant on TV’s “The Apprentice” filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump, whom she has accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward her.

-- California is friendly territory for Planned Parenthood, but a national defunding push still has the organization worried.

-- A San Bernardino County judge ruled that prosecutors can call several journalists to testify in the public corruption trials of a former county supervisor and others.

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HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s dancing in “La La Land”: beautiful magic or overrated misstep? A dance critic weighs in.

-- The public voice of George Lucas’ museum has some thoughts about diversity, access and how this museum aims to be different.

-- Betty White gave out life advice on her 95th birthday. One tip: Snuggle often.

-- Video: Watch these top actresses describe the routes they took to connect with their characters.

NATION-WORLD

-- A prosecutor alleged that the wife of the Pulse nightclub gunman knew about the terrorist attack before it happened.

-- The Nigerian air force accidentally bombed a camp for displaced people, killing at least 52.

-- As the star attraction at Davos, China’s Xi Jinping pushes globalization: “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.”

BUSINESS

-- A utility’s own power lines allegedly caused devastating fires, but it’s still demanding that customers pay for the damage.

-- Snapchat has changed Venice, and the neighborhood doesn’t look as if it will be changing back.

SPORTS

-- Dylan Hernandez: You can take the Chargers out of San Diego, but you can’t take the Chargers out of the Chargers.

-- Look for Tim Raines to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Vladimir Guerrero is on the bubble.

OPINION

-- If Trump wants to try to unify the nation at his inauguration, he should look to Richard Nixon’s speech.

-- The Patt Morrison podcast: What will free speech and a free press look like in the Trump era?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- The reader in chief: President Obama’s world of books. (New York Times)

-- Why are people drawn to groups that haze them? (Aeon)

-- Want to be comfortably numb? Watch a home improvement show. (Vanity Fair)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Ray Dorr was a general contractor and a volunteer firefighter, but his claim to fame was as the keeper of one of California’s larger-than-life mining mysteries: the legend of Kokoweef. It started with a story his uncle passed down to him of a “lost river of gold” beneath the Mojave and grew from there. Dorr has died at age 88, but the legend lives on.

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.

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