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Newsletter: Today: Don’t Touch the Water

CALEXICO, CALIF. -- FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2018: The New River flows from the U.S.-Mexico border from Mex
The New River flows through a 30-foot gap in the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times )

This river on the California-Mexico border was once designated the most polluted in America.

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Don’t Touch the Water

Yesterday we told you about the challenges of building a border wall in the Rio Grande Valley, but there’s another spot that’s treacherous in a different way: the New River, whose putrid green water flows north from Mexico’s sprawling city of Mexicali into Calexico on the California side and through the Imperial Valley. Though there’s already a border fence, it parts for 30 feet to let the river flow. Border Patrol agents dare not touch the water; some even joke about three-eyed fish swimming in it. Yet migrants risk their health and take the plunge to cross. Now there are plans to put a barrier in the river — and improve its water quality.

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river
In February 2006, a man and woman carry their clothes in bags as they fight the current and pollution and head from the U.S. side back to Mexico in the New River, long branded the most polluted river in America.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times )

So. Many. Questions.

President Trump angrily insists there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and the Russians, but special counsel Robert S. Mueller III apparently isn’t convinced. After speaking with prosecutors on Mueller’s team, Trump’s lawyers prepared a list of nearly four dozen questions that could be posed during an interview, according to sources with knowledge of the process who declined to speak publicly. It’s not known whether Trump is still open to sitting down for an interview with the special counsel’s office, but back in March, Mueller raised the possibility of a subpoena in a meeting with Trump’s legal team, the Washington Post reports.

More Politics

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-- Gov. Jerry Brown announced a lawsuit by California and 16 other states against the Trump administration to stop it from rolling back aggressive fuel economy standards. Brown also echoed Trump’s name-calling, labeling Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt as “Outlaw Pruitt.”

-- Speaking of Pruitt, two of his top aides resigned amid ethics investigations. It was also revealed that a lobbyist helped broker Pruitt’s $100,000 trip to Morocco, then the lobbyist won a $40,000-a-month contract from, you guessed it, Morocco.

-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got a warm welcome at the State Department. He vowed to return the “swagger” to a staff that has been demoralized by budget cuts and unfilled vacancies.

-- On a high-stakes trip to China, top Trump officials will address trade and technology.

Yes, There Will Be a Test

Austin Beutner has been an investment banker, a philanthropist, a deputy mayor and a publisher of the L.A. Times. Now he’s been named the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, second-largest in the nation and beset by problems. But with no background leading a school or school district, Beutner is already facing the skepticism of those who wanted an educator in the role. Columnist Steve Lopez has some advice of his own and from others for his former boss: Listen and learn, because there will be a test — many of them.

A Missing Piece of the Puzzle

It’s a question that has vexed investigators for decades: Why did the Golden State Killer suddenly veer from Northern California to Southern California in his string of rapes and killings in the 1970s and ’80s? The suspect in custody had deep roots in Sacramento, the Central Valley and the East Bay, where many of the crimes took place — but apparently much less so in Southern California.

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Is This Broadway or Hollywood?

“SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Mean Girls,” “Angels in America,” “Carousel,” “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “My Fair Lady.” It could be your Netflix queue. Instead, these are the top nominees at the Tony Awards, and as theater critic Charles McNulty notes, it was an anemic year for original ideas, a few bright spots excepted. Here’s the complete list of nominees, plus a look at how a special Tony Award puts Bruce Springsteen one letter closer to EGOT status.

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MUST-WATCH VIDEO

-- Scenes from a May Day march, which brought out relatively smaller numbers in L.A. than in years past.

-- Molly Shannon discusses the challenge of building a sympathetic character in the dark comedy “Divorce.”

CALIFORNIA

-- At the border with Tijuana, activists say 25 caravan migrants from Central America have been processed by the Border Patrol as they request asylum.

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-- State lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow all California residents, regardless of immigration status, to serve on state boards and commissions.

-- A parolee driving a motor home with two of his children on board led police on a hours-long car chase across Los Angeles-area freeways and into Kern County.

-- A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a lawsuit by a homeless Los Angeles man, who wants to hold the city liable for euthanizing the birds he kept in boxes and cages.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- Avicii, the Swedish disc jockey and producer who died last month, took his own life, as his parents had alluded to in a letter they released about his death.

-- The new HBO documentary “Being Serena” shows off tennis champ Serena Williams’ strengths but doesn’t shy away from moments of weakness.

-- Zoe Saldana discusses her character Gamora and what comes after the film “Avengers: Infinity War.” (But don’t read this if you are trying to avoid spoilers.)

-- Classical music critic Mark Swed says a new musical universe opened up at, appropriately enough, Caltech.

CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD

Arnold George Dorsey was born on this date in 1936, the son of a British Army officer stationed in India and the ninth of 10 children. When he took up singing, he changed his name to Gerry Dorsey. Then, at a manager’s suggestion, he changed it to Engelbert Humperdinck, the name of a 19th century German opera composer. In 1967, he scored a career-making hit with a remake of “Release Me” — and he’s been performing it to this day.

NATION-WORLD

-- European leaders and other supporters of the landmark Iran nuclear deal are pushing back against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that he had documents proving Tehran lied about its attempts to build an atomic bomb.

-- Thousands of Puerto Ricans marched to protest pension cuts, school closures and slow hurricane recovery efforts as anger grows across the U.S. territory over looming austerity measures.

-- Airstrikes in Syria killed at least 23 civilians on Tuesday in one of the country’s last pockets of Islamic State-controlled territory, according to Syrian state media and an opposition-linked monitoring group.

-- Does exposure to animals during childhood buffer the body’s response to stress as an adult?

BUSINESS

-- Uber, Lyft and other companies based on gig jobs may face a shakeup under California’s new work rules for independent contractors.

-- Go, go, Power Rangers … out of Los Angeles and to a new corporate home at Rhode Island-based Hasbro. Haim Saban has sold them off for a second time.

-- United Airlines is overhauling its pet travel policy, including banning the transport of dozens of breeds of dogs and cats in the cargo compartment.

SPORTS

-- Ahead of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, the horse My Boy Jack may be overlooked now, but he could sneak into the winner’s circle.

-- Say what? A Cleveland Browns executive said he decided against drafting Josh Rosen after a random conversation with the UCLA quarterback’s girlfriend at an airport.

OPINION

-- Surveillance technology is turning our cities into spies for ICE, whether we like it or not.

-- The L.A. City Council is finally working to legalize sidewalk vendors, those fine purveyors of tacos and T-shirts. Columnist Gustavo Arellano argues that the proposal isn’t perfect, but it’s a start.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- “He dictated that whole letter”: Dr. Harold Bornstein now says he didn’t write a glowing letter praising Trump’s health by himself and says the president’s former bodyguard “raided” records from his office. (CNN)

-- Did Kanye West take the red pill? (Vanity Fair)

-- The Taj Mahal’s white walls are changing color, and India’s Supreme Court wants the government to get foreign help to fix it. (BBC)

ONLY IN L.A.

Where can you find a Queen Anne-style mansion, complete with its own aviary and something called “the Turkish smoking room”? No need to consult your Rand McNally. It’s in Altadena and was built in 1888 and commissioned by none other than Andrew McNally, co-founder of the famous atlas publishing company. It’s on the market for $3.79 million, but you can look it up here for free.

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