Southern California

Most new religions, like most new businesses, die a quick crib death. Scientology, however, is not about to disappear. Scholars put the number of adherents in this country at about 25,000—a far cry from the millions of members its leaders claim, but hardly insignificant for a group that was founded about 50 years ago. Despite all its bad press, the allegations that it terrorizes its critics, its cult-like secrecy and hounding of apostates, and its very weird science-fiction cosmogony, it has become a part of the fabric of communities across the country.

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ON A SULTRY MORNING in late September, I drove for two hours on the traffic-choked roads north of Cairo to Al Adwa, a Nile Delta town of dusty alleyways, mosques, and crumbling red brick houses. This is where Mohamed Morsi, the president of Egypt, was raised. Morsi left nearly four decades ago, but he returns regularly to visit his younger brothers, who still work the family farm, and to celebrate Islamic holidays.

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George Lucas's biggest fear was losing control of Star Wars. So why did he give it up?

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The Coptic Christian who made the Islamopohobic video put his co-religionists at risk

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A few years before the Beach Boys made their first record, the three brothers who formed the original core of the group sang together in the bedroom they shared in a tract home in suburban Southern California. Close quarters fed close harmony, and Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson taught themselves to emulate the sound of the pre-rock vocal groups—the Four Freshman and the Hi-Lo's, in particular.

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Not long ago, apropos of the film version of Eugene O’Neill’s “Strange Interlude,” I wrote an article in which I said that so far as I knew, the moving pictures had not yet turned out a play of significance, that even when the play on which the film was based had been of some importance, the screen result had not.

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Western Civilization

Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art 1945-1980 An Initiative of The Getty Foundation I. The bohemian luxe of a big white room full of Beatrice Wood’s ceramics, with dozens of fantastically shaped bowls, teapots, and chalices clothed in shimmering metallic glazes, is one of the capital impressions from “Pacific Standard Time,” an extravaganza involving exhibitions at more than sixty southern Californian cultural institutions.

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In one of its many attempts to get its budget deficit under control, in 2008 California decided to cut its reimbursement rates to medical providers for poor and disabled persons enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. The result was that providers began to cut back on services, and pharmacists stopped filling prescriptions because the reimbursements came to less than the cost of the drugs. California, for all intents and purposes, was no longer upholding the federal mandate to provide Medicaid patients with “meaningful access” to care.

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Today at the White House President Obama hosts another group of students who won a national championship. But it's not the hockey team from Boston College or the swimmers from Texas. It's the Rock'n'Roll Robots from Southern California. And who are the Rock'n'Roll Robots? I'm glad you asked. They're a group of Girl Scouts who were part of a team that won a national robot-building competition for students.

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President Obama's speech in New Orleans on Sunday, commemorating the fifth anniversary of Katrina, didn't have one clear message so much as two. The city has rebuilt and, in some ways, rebuilt itself into something better. But a lot of work, too much work, remains unfinished. If you read my dispatches from New Orleans two weeks ago, then you know that was the impression I, too, took away. One question that Obama didn't address was "why"--as in "why bother"? From the first days after the storm, people began asking whether it was time just to give up on New Orleans.

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