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Newsletter: Today: ‘Psychographic’ Wizardry or Psychobabble?

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Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix speaks at the 2016 Concordia Summit in New York. The company suspended Nix on Tuesday.
(Bryan Bedder / Concordia Summit)

How proficient was Cambridge Analytica at manipulating voters? Some have their doubts.

TOP STORIES

‘Psychographic’ Wizardry or Psychobabble?

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has resulted in the suspension of its chief executive, prompted investigations on two continents, taken down Facebook’s stock price a notch and raised countless questions about data privacy, modern politics and why Facebook’s top executives have been so quiet. But is Cambridge Analytica truly a mastermind of electoral manipulation? Some Republican campaign professionals, data scholars and former clients paint a different picture, one that’s more snake-oil salesman than Svengali. The company’s real draw, they say, was getting in the good graces of conservative billionaire Robert Mercer.

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Trump’s Triple Jeopardy

A former Playboy model, a onetime contestant on “The Apprentice” and a porn actress say they all have stories to tell about President Trump and have gone to court to make their cases. In L.A., 1990s-era Playmate Karen McDougal is seeking to end a confidentiality agreement keeping her from speaking about her allegations of a 2006 affair with Trump, after a similar move earlier by porn star Stormy Daniels. And in New York, a judge ruled that Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007, can proceed with a defamation lawsuit against him. “No one is above the law,” the judge said. The White House and Republican leaders on Capitol Hill responded with silence.

More Politics

-- Trump said he had a “very good call” to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection, drawing a searing blast from Sen. John McCain and others in the GOP.

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-- Trying to persuade Trump to back down from his increasingly public battle with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talked to the president via TV, just as the Fox News personalities do.

-- One longtime Fox analyst who won’t be doing so anymore: retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, who told colleagues he is done with a network he says has become “a propaganda machine” for Trump.

-- And one lawyer who won’t be joining the president’s legal team on the Russia investigation: Theodore Olson, who has long been considered a legal superstar.

New Fears as an ‘Atmospheric River’ Arrives

The most powerful rainstorm of the year is moving into Southern California, forcing mass evacuations in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and bringing fears of more flooding and debris flows. The storm could deliver a direct hit to areas burned in the Thomas fire. By Friday, rainfall totals are expected to hit 3 to 6 inches along the coast and up to 10 inches in the mountains and foothills above Montecito, Carpinteria and Ojai. For some people, this is the sixth evacuation since December. “I’ve gotten to the point where I just leave all my important documents in a Ziploc bag, ready to take at a moment’s notice,” said one resident.

MONTECITO, CA - MARCH 20, 2018 - Candra Emmeluth, right, gets help from daughter Jamie, as her son
At a nearby park, members of the Emmeluth family fill sand bags to protect their home in Montecito.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

The LAPD Will Open the Video Vault

As more police work is captured on video from body cameras and patrol cars, law enforcement agencies across the country have wrestled with when and how to release the recordings, if at all. After years of secrecy, the LAPD’s civilian bosses on the Police Commission have now decided video from “critical incidents” will automatically go public within 45 days after they occur — unless the chief and two commissioners move to delay it. But there are still concerns it could hurt some investigations or court cases, and watching the video can be emotionally wrenching.

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End L.A.’s Homelessness by 2028?

L.A. leaders including Mayor Eric Garcetti have made bold pronouncements about homelessness before. Lately, Garcetti has been saying L.A. can cut the city’s “unsheltered” population in half in the next five years and reduce it to “functional zero” by 2028 — which happens to be six years after his final term ends. Meanwhile, each City Council member has made a nonbinding pledge to back the approval of at least 222 units of supportive housing in his or her district before July 1, 2020. And in Orange County, some residents are pushing back against a proposal to create “camp” shelters in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach.

MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, calls for a border wall with California. Was it a joke? You decide.

-- Caitriona Balfe, who plays time-traveling leading lady Claire in “Outlander,” reflects on the show’s course-shifting third season.

CALIFORNIA

-- Columnist Steve Lopez checks in on a trial involving California Coastal commissioners that’s making a case for how to save the coast.

-- The U.S. Supreme Court sounded ready Tuesday to strike down a disclosure law requiring pregnancy centers, including those that are faith-based, to notify women that the state offers subsidies for abortion.

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-- Cal State turned away 32,000 students last fall because campuses were too full. Now, trustees are focusing on how to fix that.

-- Former NFL lineman Jonathan Martin pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of making criminal threats involving former Miami Dolphins teammates and classmates at Harvard-Westlake School.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- The latest sound recordings being singled out for preservation by the Library of Congress include the Temptations’ “My Girl,” Run-DMC’s “Raising Hell” and Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

-- Three California Court of Appeal judges heard arguments for and against veteran actress Olivia de Havilland‘s lawsuit over her depiction in FX’s 2017 docudrama “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

-- The scene of leering pirates auctioning off women as brides on the Pirates of Caribbean attraction in Disneyland will be gone forever next month, replaced by a scene considered less offensive.

-- Playwright Lauren Yee has found a demand for stories rooted in Asian culture, with productions in L.A., Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and now Costa Mesa, where “Cambodian Rock Band” is premiering.

CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

Broncho Billy Anderson became the first cowboy movie star by appearing in “The Great Train Robbery” in 1903, before he and even motion pictures came to Hollywood. “I remember we went to Westlake [now MacArthur] Park to shoot a picture in 1907,” he once said. “Ben Turpin jumped into the lake to get a duck. The cops arrested us, but the prosecutor let us go.” Anderson, who was born on this date in 1882, died in 1971.

NATION-WORLD

-- The suspect in a spate of bombing attacks in Austin blew himself up with an explosive device as authorities closed in, police said.

-- Authorities say a 17-year-old student pulled out a handgun at a high school in Maryland and wounded two classmates before being killed in an exchange of gunfire with a school resource officer.

-- The Transportation Security Administration has denied allegations that its airport security agents scan or review the data held on electronic devices carried by passengers on domestic flights.

-- At the White House, Trump met with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia to help push through long-stalled arms deals for the desert kingdom and to discuss Iran. No women were seen in either delegation.

-- In a Q&A, chess master Garry Kasparov warns of a Russia increasingly devoid of freedoms under Putin.

BUSINESS

-- The Uber robot car crash that killed a pedestrian is raising many questions. Key among them: Will robot cars kill people at significantly lower rates than drunk, stoned, tired or distracted human drivers do now?

-- The majority of American households now subscribe to at least one digital video streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu, according to a new survey.

SPORTS

-- Soccer star Landon Donovan came out of retirement for the second time in 16 months to join a team in Mexico and found something he says he lost in the U.S. years ago: his joy for the game.

-- Lawyers for former USC assistant basketball coach Todd McNair are asking a judge to order the deposition of the president of the NCAA as they pursue a suit saying McNair was defamed.

OPINION

-- Northern California hangs on to too much of its water, while Southern California treats its rainstorms as if it they were toxic, flushing the water out to sea. It’s time to change that.

-- Joaquin Avila was a “lion” for voting rights, writes columnist Gustavo Arellano. But did his efforts actually fix ballot box discrimination?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- The heartbreaking final days of Sudan, the last male northern white rhinoceros, in words and pictures. (CNN)

-- Trump’s national security advisors warned him not to congratulate Putin. He did it anyway. (Washington Post)

-- “Driving while black”: the humiliation of being racially profiled. (The Undefeated)

ONLY IN L.A.

Many Dodger fans have been crying foul over the team raising its ticket prices, but here’s one increase they could cheer: The price of Dodger Stadium’s Seat 1 in Row D of Section 302, normally about $50 a game, will be raised to $150 this season, with the difference going to the Kirk Gibson Foundation to help raise funds for Parkinson’s disease research. The seat is where the ball from Gibson’s famous 1988 World Series home run landed. Gibson, who is battling Parkinson’s, even has name for the spot: “I personally call that Seat 88.”

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