Today: How a Napkin Could Have Saved the U.S. $231 Million

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I'm Davan Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times. Here are some story lines I don't want you to miss today.


How a Napkin Could Have Saved the U.S. $231 Million
A network of nine to 12 satellites called the Precision Tracking Space System was supposed to offer "unprecedented capability" to protect the U.S. and its allies against a nuclear missile attack by the likes of North Korea and Iran. More than $230 million was spent before outside experts determined the entire concept was hopelessly flawed, a Times investigation shows. One former Pentagon official told us the cost could have been prevented with proper vetting: "You could have done it on a napkin. All you had to do was put pencil to paper."
'The World's Most Persecuted Minority Group'
The ethnic Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are seen as dangerous outsiders by the country's Buddhist majority. The military government has stripped them of citizenship, confiscated their lands, restricted their movement and enforced a two-child limit on families. But fleeing the country for a better life has created its own set of risks and deadly abuses for those often described as the world's most persecuted minority group. Here is the story of one who tried to escape.
A Farewell to Two Masters
One was a master of the abstract; the other, a master of the "voyeuristic experience." Artist Ellsworth Kelly was a pillar of 20th century American art known for the clean, geometric forms and bright colors in his work. Haskell Wexler won two Academy Awards for cinematography but devoted much of his six-decade career to documentaries on war, politics and the plight of the disenfranchised. Both died Sunday.
If You Lived Here, You'd Be Homeless Now
Near freeways all over Los Angeles, tent cities for the homeless are cropping up. The growth of these encampments, in places that were never meant to be livable, raises some new and often uncomfortable questions for public agencies, especially Caltrans. "The need for action, however, could hardly be clearer," Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne writes. Here's why.
A Mother's Grief Leads to a New Law
Cally Houck lost both her daughters when the pair's rental car swerved into a truck. The vehicle was subject to a recall, but nothing on the books kept the company from renting it to them. Eleven years later, Houck's determination has resulted in the passage of a law to prevent others from suffering the same tragedy. This is the story of how she fought.

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Which California industry offers an average salary of $2,000 a week?
The answer might surprise you: California’s very own oil and gas industry. This sector employs 184,100 Californians from all backgrounds — which translates into $23.3 billion per year in wages. Learn more about how the energy industry brings prosperity to Californians.


— If you were handed $1,100 a month, would you amount to anything? They're trying it in Germany.
— Donald Trump left his mark on Atlantic City, for better and for worse.
— The feds did what the L.A. prosecutors didn't do: bring deputies to justice in a jail visitor's beating.
— Muslims seek a delicate balance in a secular Europe.
— Judge Harry Pregerson, leaving the bench at 92, always followed his conscience.
— Is the era of dam-building over? Backers of several major projects say it shouldn't be.
— Rose Parade hosts Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards prepare to banter one last time.
— Even for the active, a long sit shortens life and erodes health.


— A $374 headset? A $153 tape dispenser? The Department of Children and Family Services faces fresh criticism over its spending.
— Meet Dr. Dennis Mull, who makes the rounds at a South L.A. clinic with notecards instead of computer files.
— Two Russian sisters' low profile vanished with the San Bernardino attack.
Winds up to 40 mph are expected today in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.


— Iraqi government troops expect to retake the local government complex in the Islamic State-held Ramadi on Monday.
— Israel prepared long ago for the threat from Islamic State.
— Eleven people are dead after tornadoes sweep through the Dallas area.
— After police killings, activists and families urge Chicago leaders: "Stand up, or step down."
— How immigration issues could unfold during the 2016 campaign.
— South Korean single mothers turn to theater to strike back against stereotypes.


— The films that defined the times in 2015.
"It's almost Zen, this Rose Parade," says filmmaker and grand marshal Ken Burns.
— "Star Wars" crosses $1 billion in record time, topping "Daddy's Home" and "Joy" at the box office this weekend.
— Eight TV shows that were ahead of their time.
— Disneyland will close some attractions to build "Star Wars" land.


— At last: Worker salaries are poised to climb in 2016.
— Merchandise returns, an increasing headache for retailers, are creating a new huge industry.
— KoreAm Journal, an English-language Korean American magazine, is saying goodbye to print.
— Michael Hiltzik: A look at healthcare changes in 2015 and beyond.


— Losses by the NFL's Panthers and Patriots are stunning, and the way they lost is a bigger shock.
— The Iowa-Stanford Rose Bowl matchup is pretty good for a couple of also-rans.
— Peyton Manning denies allegations that he was provided human growth hormone.
— Kobe Bryant reveals how deeply the Lakers' 2008 Finals loss tormented him.


— A TV reporter in Detroit retires, then spends his time trying to track a killer. (BBC News Magazine)
— Greece wants to rebuild one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the Colossus of Rhodes. (The Guardian)
— Germany's highest court rules that people can force ex-lovers to delete naked pictures. (Deutsche Welle)
— Here are the 10 most pirated films of 2015. (Variety)


It may sound off the wall, but really it's on the wall: One alleyway is filled with animal-themed murals by 15 artists. Another has more than more than 22 works by muralists from Australia and beyond. Murals are spreading around L.A., especially after a nearly decade-long ban on new works was lifted in 2013. Get a look for yourself without having to hit the road.
Please send comments and ideas to Davan Maharaj.
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