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Newsletter: Today: The Vice President Doth Protest … Too Much?

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. President Donald Trump greets U.S. Vice President Mike Pence .
President Trump, left, greets Vice President Mike Pence before an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in June. Pence on Sunday vehemently denied any plan to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.
(Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Pence 2020? Perish the thought. 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

The Vice President Doth Protest … Too Much?

“Laughable and absurd.” “Disgraceful and offensive.” “Categorically false.” Vice President Mike Pence wants to make it perfectly clear that he is not considering a run at the presidency in 2020. His statement was in response to a report that Pence and a number of other Republicans appear to be positioning themselves, as President Trump faces low poll numbers and the ongoing Russia investigation. Too soon to be talking about 2020? Remember, Trump did file his reelection paperwork almost immediately after taking office.

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More Politics

-- Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions wants to find and prosecute those responsible for what he called an “unprecedented rise in leaks” and threatened a more aggressive stance toward journalists.

-- Republicans have matched an all-time high number of governor’s seats, after West Virginia’s Jim Justice switched parties. Will it last?

-- Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants to prevent “abuse of federal power” on immigration but has expressed concerns about a “sanctuary state” bill in Sacramento.

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A Monumental History Lesson in the California Desert

What can an old iron mine in the California desert tell us about the future? The Eagle Mountain tract was once part of Joshua Tree National Monument, before Congress cleaved it off in 1950, clearing the way for the largest open-pit mining operations in the U.S. Decades later, the site stands empty. Plans for a landfill died after court battles. Now, a private company wants to use the pits for a $2-billion hydropower project. Consider it a case study as the Trump administration considers removing federal monument protections at a number of places in the West.

Rise of the Middle Kingdom on the African Continent

For more than a decade, China has invested in African countries, helping them to build bridges and stadiums; in return, Beijing got access to natural resources that fueled its economic boom. Lately, the relationship has entered a new phase: China has been pouring money into infrastructure across the continent, including a railway system in Ethiopia. It opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti. And it is bringing digital TV to 30 African countries, with programming that is favorable to China’s image. In this series, the L.A. Times, with help from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, traveled to Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, and found that China is no longer an emerging superpower; in many ways, it has already arrived.

Video: A Boxer’s Fight for His True Self

For every boxer, the journey is a struggle. For Pat Manuel, a five-time amateur boxing champion, there have been additional challenges as the first boxer in U.S. history to fight first as a woman and later as a man. “The toughest part of transitioning has been having pre-set matches inexplicably fall out,” he said. Times journalists followed Manuel for three years to produce this article and half-hour documentary.

When Pat Manuel stepped into the boxing ring at the South El Monte Community Center last spring, the
When Pat Manuel stepped into the boxing ring at the South El Monte Community Center last spring, the bout became the first in U.S. professional boxing history to feature a fighter who has transitioned from female to male.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Who Will Decide What USC Does Next?

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USC’s board of trustees includes philanthropists, accomplished alumni, Hollywood insiders and industrial tycoons — 57 voting members in total. Only three have commented on one of the biggest scandals in the university’s history, involving former medical school dean Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito. It is they who will decide what to do next. Here’s a closer look at the board and how a small executive committee, whose membership USC won’t reveal, is overseeing the investigation.

Video: Jazz Feeds a Senior’s Soul, but It Doesn’t Pay the Rent

Steve Hideg is a proudly old-school drummer. The 85-year-old Hungarian immigrant lives to plays jazz, the music of his adopted homeland. He wears a suit and tie to his gigs because “I’m going to look jazzy.” And he’s learned to get by on discipline, occasional help from friends and his once-a-week job as a musician — though his rent in East Hollywood is roughly $1,000 a month and his Social Security is about $100 short. “Even when I have only one meal in a day,” he told columnist Steve Lopez, “I’m never hungry.”

OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND

-- A dream and a reality, the 2028 Olympics give Los Angeles a chance to imagine its future.

-- “Death by a thousand cuts”: Some staffers say all those empty State Department offices are sapping morale.

-- Randy Newman has some things to say on Vladimir Putin, science versus religion and more in his new “Dark Matter” album.

-- Tracking the “eye of God.” A total solar eclipse comes to North America.

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-- As home prices rise, mortgage lenders are making it easier to buy a house.

-- Inside the Dodgers’ magical season: Unknown rookies, come-from-behind wins, prophetic text messages and a chance at history.

MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- Mexico City’s oldest dance hall keeps on grooving after 80 years.

-- The subjects of the documentary “Step” give a demonstration of their art.

-- A mandala in Hermosa Beach depicts the amount of bottles and cans used by the average American in a year.

CALIFORNIA

-- The state has refused to release key information about the cleanup of lead-tainted soil at 2,500 homes near a closed battery recycling plant in Vernon. Here’s what we’ve been able to find out.

-- A transgender 8-year-old girl and her parents are suing her former Orange County private school for allegedly preventing her from expressing her gender identity.

-- The man whom immigration agents arrested minutes after he dropped off his daughter could be deported as early as today.

-- A tiny Sierra Valley town voted to pull out of CalPERS. Now, city retirees are seeing their pensions slashed.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- John Cho is front and center in the indie drama “Columbus.” “It felt like a little bit of a dream,” he said. “Projects this small and this unusual are hard to make real, but it happened.”

-- Times art critic Christopher Knight looks at HBO’s “Brillo Box,” the true story of how a $1,000 purchase became a $3-million Warhol work of art.

-- “I think the wheels really come off”: Liev Schreiber on the new season of the Showtime series “Ray Donovan.”

-- Rep. Maxine Waters’ “reclaiming my time” moment has been given a gospel rendition and been remixed as a dance song.

CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

Stan Freberg took an unconventional path to stardom with his irreverent humor, with groundbreaking radio shows, studio albums and hundreds of commercials. Some of the parodies didn’t sit well; his spoofs of Ed Sullivan and Arthur Godfrey, two of TV’s biggest stars in the 1950s and early ’60s, were locked in the Capitol Records vault after lawyers’ protests. “My records are not released; they escape,” he would say. Freberg was born on this date in 1926 and died on April 7, 2015.

NATION-WORLD

-- “There is too much anger out there”: The bombing of a Minnesota mosque saddens and worries Muslims.

-- How shelters reach out to male victims of domestic violence in the United States.

-- Two Chinese tourists discovered the hard way that giving the outlawed Hitlergruss, or Nazi salute, in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin is no laughing matter.

-- Russia’s Vladimir Putin went fishing in Siberia. Naturally, he was shirtless.

BUSINESS

-- When the next crisis hits, will we have a better way to close a failing financial giant?

-- Faraday Future plans to refurbish an old tire factory near Fresno to take on Tesla.

SPORTS

-- Pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was sharp in the Dodgers’ sweep-clinching 8-0 victory over the New York Mets.

-- Can former Trojan Ricky Town reinvent himself at Ventura College?

OPINION

-- Our immigration system is broken, and Trump’s tough orders, edicts and declarations won’t fix it.

-- Venezuela’s descent into dictatorship shows democracy can be lost: See the David Horsey cartoon.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- A survivor of the Hiroshima bombing 72 years ago has fought for decades for a world without nuclear weapons. (The Globe and Mail)

-- Why a lack of diversity at technology companies makes the world worse off. (The Atlantic)

-- Architectural Digest offers 18 of “the most stunning university libraries around the world.”

ONLY IN L.A.

The water is $5 and beer $14 a pop. That much will be familiar when the Chargers kick off the exhibition season Sunday at their home for the next three seasons in Carson. But much of the StubHub Center experience will be an experiment. The venue holds 27,000, less than half the size of every other stadium in the NFL, and it will have Jack Nicholson-style on-field seats. Then there’s the club where a field goal could land in your buffalo wings, if they forget to raise the net.

Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.

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