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Newsletter: Today: The Dance With a Pariah Nation

CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

President Trump appears cautiously optimistic about meeting with North Korea.

TOP STORIES

The Dance With a Pariah Nation

President Trump said CIA Director Mike Pompeo “had a great meeting with Kim Jong Un and got along with him really well, really great” (and suggested it could help Pompeo be confirmed as secretary of State next week). South Korea announced it will try to hammer out a peace agreement with the totalitarian North at a summit later this month. The developments are coming fast — perhaps a bit too rapidly for some experts concerned that Pyongyang could be rewarded for it waywardness. But during a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who’s had his own concerns over the North Korean process, Trump did say he would not meet with Kim “if we don’t think it’s going to be successful.” Here’s a closer look at what we know.

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More Politics

-- Gov. Jerry Brown formally mobilized 400 California National Guard members for transnational crime-fighting duties, thus preventing any effort by Trump to have the troops focus on immigration enforcement on the Mexican border. The governor announced that federal officials have agreed to fund the plan.

-- Former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who has alleged an affair with Trump, has been released from her confidentiality agreement with the National Enquirer’s parent company after reaching a settlement.

-- Trump claimed he didn’t fire FBI Director James Comey because of the Russia case, despite what he said last year.

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End of the Castro Era

For the first time in almost six decades, the man leading Cuba will not be named Castro. Raul Castro, brother of the late Fidel, is expected to step down as president today. As Times foreign correspondent Patrick J. McDonnell saw on the streets of Havana, the occasion is generating lots of buzz, some apprehension but little expectation of change.

A poster of Fidel and Raul Castro still stands in Havana, Cuba, this week.
(Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press )

A Human Face on the Opioid Crisis

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Brittany Pettersen wants to end opioid addiction. As a 36-year-old Colorado state legislator, she’s supporting a number of measures. Yet for years, she said she “honestly never wanted to touch the issue of opioids because it was too personal.” It’s because her mother struggled with drug abuse for three decades. “I felt like if I can’t help my mom how can I help anyone else?” Now, her outlook has changed.

Harvest of Blame

In the Central Valley city of Delano, known for its grapes and as a center of the farmworker movement, there is a sense of unease. A month ago, a married couple died in a crash as they tried to escape federal immigration agents. Some blame ICE for being too aggressive, while ICE has blamed the deaths on California’s “sanctuary” policies. Police questioned whether the agents gave them false information after the crash, while prosecutors say they won’t press charges. But amid the finger-pointing and unanswered questions, six children are orphans.

Can You Dig It?

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Picture this: A 12-foot-wide tunnel, 30 to 70 feet underground, running for 2.7 miles parallel to Sepulveda Boulevard on L.A.’s Westside. That’s what Elon Musk wants to build as a testing ground for a tunnel network that could whisk people across Los Angeles County. He wants an environmental review exemption to do it. The L.A. City Council’s public works committee has signed off, though Musk’s Boring Co. needs further approval — and not everyone is thrilled with this fast-track approach.

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MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- Why the Hayward fault is one of California’s most feared, as explained by the U.S. Geological Survey’s David Schwartz.

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-- Who’s dying next on “This Is Us”? Probably not Beth, says actress Susan Kelechi Watson, who plays Beth on the TV show.

CALIFORNIA

-- A bill for the state to license special banks to handle billions of dollars generated by the legal marijuana market has passed its first hurdle in Sacramento.

-- The Riverside City Council has fired City Manager John Russo, whose large pay had drawn scrutiny in recent weeks and led to the mayor’s filing a lawsuit against the city.

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-- Los Alamitos, which has been at the center of the anti-sanctuary movement, is being sued for enacting an ordinance that exempts it from state sanctuary law.

-- The L.A. City Council agreed unanimously to pay up to $3 million to settle a lawsuit lodged by a woman who was injured when the person carrying her piggyback tripped on a Hollywood sidewalk.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- Producer Bill Mechanic resigned from the motion picture academy’s board of governors with a blistering letter about the organization’s leadership, but he’s not sure the letter’s going public is a good thing.

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-- Something’s missing from the newly reinstalled antiquities collection at the Getty Villa: the Getty kouros, a sculpture labeled “Greece (?) about 530 B.C. or modern forgery.”

-- Chiwetel Ejiofor had to face his own feelings about religion and faith for a starring role in the fact-based Netflix movie “Come Sunday.”

-- A concert at Disney Hall where the performers wear the speakers as dresses? Sure!

CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

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On this date in 1966, Julie Christie met with the media at the Beverly Hills Hotel the morning after her surprise Oscar victory for best actress in “Darling.” She beat out favorite Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music.” When Christie was asked whether she thought she had had a chance of winning, she replied, “Good God, no.”

NATION-WORLD

-- An island-wide blackout hit Puerto Rico. Nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria, the U.S. territory is still struggling to repair its increasingly unstable power grid.

-- China carried out live-fire military drills off its southeastern coast in what was seen as a warning to Taiwan of the consequences of pursuing independence from Beijing.

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-- German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned an assault in Berlin on two men wearing Jewish skullcaps. One said he isn’t Jewish but was trying to prove to his friend it was safe, “but it ended like that.”

-- The deployment of chemical weapons inspectors into the Syrian city of Duma was delayed after unidentified assailants fired on a United Nations security team, an official said.

-- Attention, women: Your choice of blood pressure medicine may affect your risk of pancreatic cancer.

BUSINESS

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-- Netflix, which has clashed with movie theaters, may be ready to get into owning cinemas to screen its original work. The idea would be to give itself a boost for awards consideration.

-- In court, Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes called the federal government’s antitrust case against a deal with AT&T “ridiculous.”

-- Sears opened its first-ever store in Chicago 93 years ago. This summer, it will close its last department store in the city.

SPORTS

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-- The first three weeks of the regular season have revealed a number of serious concerns for the Dodgers, but Corey Seager isn’t one of them, according to columnist Dylan Hernandez.

-- Columnist Helene Elliott says the Anaheim Ducks’ getting swept in the NHL playoffs by the San Jose Sharks should be a wake-up call.

OPINION

-- The Supreme Court should level the sales tax playing field and treat those who buy and sell goods online no differently from those who buy them in a brick-and-mortar store.

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-- The Coachella festival makes millions, but its exploited Mexican neighbors reap none of it, writes columnist Gustavo Arellano.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- “We endeavor to teach our children to be leaders, not lemmings”: A look at Tammie Jo Shults, who made the Southwest Airlines emergency landing in Philadelphia this week and once broke barriers as a fighter pilot. (Washington Post)

-- From a young age, twins Marcia and Millie Biggs have had similar features but very different skin color, which has challenged some people’s idea of race. (National Geographic)

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-- How two classical composers feel about losing out on the Pulitzer Prize to rapper Kendrick Lamar. (Slate)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Call it the attack of the giant tumbleweeds. Residents of Victorville got a stark reminder this week that they live in the desert when strong winds caused untold numbers of the thorny orbs to pile up outside their houses, in some cases completely covering entrances. Crews removed the tumbleweeds very carefully. No word on whether they whistled the cowboy classic “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” while they worked.

If you like this newsletter, please share it with friends. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.

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