California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, April 30.

A group of anti-vaccine moms form a survivalist "militia."
A "white gold" rush at the Salton Sea alarms environmentalists.
And hill-bombing skaters chase transcendence in San Francisco.



Lisa Tran vaccinated Shuq Wu, 91, at a walk-up vaccination site in Los Angeles' Chinatown.

Sarah Reingewirtz, L.A. Daily News/SCNG

California is now swimming in coronavirus vaccine doses. Yet some people are still having trouble getting it. The A.P. talked to elderly residents in the Bay Area who have been frustrated by demands to use online appointment systems. At this point, health experts say, it's going to take more effort to reach the unvaccinated. “It’s not as easy as putting up a mass vaccination site and saying if you build it, they will come,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist at UCSF.

"Very worrisome.” First vaccine appointments have dropped by half in Los Angeles County. L.A. Daily News | L.A. Times


How bad is California's drought? Wildlife officials are now trucking million of young salmon from inland hatcheries to the Pacific because the rivers are too dry to support them. California's iconic chinook salmon normally begin their lives upriver, then swim to the sea and return after three years to spawn. Hatcheries were added to mitigate the loss of natural spawning grounds. Officials said it would take about 146 truckloads and 30,000 miles of travel to transport the fish. S.F. Chronicle | A.P.


A screen grab from the homepage of "Mamalitia."

In 2019, three Northern California moms dubbed the Freedom Angels set out to fight new vaccine rules for schoolchildren. A year later, they turned their attention to public health guidelines prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, joining with far-right protesters at the state Capitol. Now one of the women has created a splinter group, a "mom militia" of survivalists called Mamalitia. Its goal: to train women how to operate guns, grow food, and homeschool kids. Sacramento Bee | CBS13

"We are creating the world that we want to live in." Here's the founder of Mamalitia, Denise Aguilar. 👉 @mamalitia


Northern California


A memorial of seven small crosses and one large one were added along Highway 33 on Jan. 2.

Eric Paul Zamora/Fresno Bee via A.P.

On New Year's Day, the solo driver of an SUV traveling along a rural highway in Fresno County swerved into an oncoming Ford truck that was carrying a 34-year-old woman and seven children, between ages 6 and 15. Everyone died. On Thursday, federal investigators issued preliminary results from a toxicology report on the driver of the SUV, 28-year-old Daniel Luna: He was drunk. He also had no driver's license. A.P.


A 2020 wildfire in the Bay Area that left two people dead was ignited by a man trying to conceal a murder, the authorities said on Thursday. On Aug. 16, Victor Serriteno, 29, had a date with 32-year-old Priscilla Castro, having connected through a dating app, officials said. Castro disappeared. Her body was found at the origin of the Markley fire near Lake Berryessa, which killed two men in their homes. Those deaths are now being treated as homicides. The exact cause of Castro's death remained unclear. S.F. Chronicle | CNN


President Biden’s labor secretary, Marty Walsh, said Thursday that "a lot" of gig workers should be treated as employees. He didn't begrudge the sucess of gig companies, he said in his first remarks on the matter: “But we also want to make sure that success trickles down to the worker." Last year, California voters overturned a state law classifying gig workers as employees. Shares of Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, all headquartered in San Francisco, plunged on Walsh's comments. Reuters | recode


Skaters rode down Market Street in San Francisco last summer.

Jeff Chiu/A.P.

"You are giving yourself to the speed. If you stay on the tight rope and you're tiptoeing it effectively, once you're on the other side, you feel amazing. It's like, holy shit. I just escaped that. That was beautiful."

The New Yorker produced a short documentary on the skateboarders who chase transcendence — and taunt death — by rocketing down the steep streets of San Francisco.


Southern California


A few days after Lady Gaga's dogwalker was shot and her French bulldogs stolen, a middle-aged woman showed up at a Los Angeles police station with the dogs. She claimed she found them tied to a pole, police said. She also inquired about the $500,000 reward the singer had offered. Now the woman has been arrested along with four alleged accomplices. L.A. Times | BuzzFeed


With environmental disaster has come economic opportunity at the Salton Sea.

Ysbrand Cosijn

The shrinking of California's Salton Sea has created a public health crisis as dust from the toxic playa billows across playgrounds and baseball diamonds. But it's also exposed some of the planet's best-known lithium resources, a crucial element in lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. That's set off a "white gold" rush that has alarmed environmentalists. NPR | CalMatters


☝️ Here's the facade of Parker Palm Springs, one of the most striking examples of the breeze block.

Historians have noted the use of pierced walls in Asia and the Middle East going back hundreds of years. But the breeze block became indelibly linked to Southern California during the inventive midcentury modern era of the 1950s and 1960s, when the perforated stone walls were employed to filter sun without hindering ventilation. They faded in popularity in the 1970s, though there have been whispers of a comeback. Curbed has a fantastic illustrated guide to Southern California's greatest breeze blocks.


On this week's California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Ron Brownstein, author of the new book, "Rock Me on The Water," on the year 1974 in Los Angeles. It was a time when generational talents in music and entertainment converged on the city. "It was, I believe, through the popular culture of the 1970s that a lot of the critique of American life that emerged out of the social movements of the 60s really was cemented into our culture," he said, "never to be dislodged."


In case you missed it


"Grapevine, Gorman, CA."

Annette LeMay Burke from "Fauxliage," published by Daylight Books

Five items that got big views over the past week:

The Bay Area photographer Annette LeMay Burke set out to find the strangest disguised cell towers across the American West. The result is “Fauxliage,” a beautiful new photography book on landscapes where something seems amiss. 👉 California Sun
The Washington Post recounted the incredible story of a hiker who became lost in the Angeles National Forest. Before his phone died, he sent a mayday text with a grainy image. Among those who saw it was a man with an unusual pastime: "I have always loved looking for where photos are taken." The race was on.
Slab City, a community of artists and drifters in California's Sonoran Desert, is where people go to escape society. Many so-called Slabbers have resisted vaccination. "The pressure for the vaccine is ridiculous," said a man who introduced himself as Pink Gorilla. Desert Sun
California and Texas took very different approaches to the pandemic and vaccination campaign. So which state has done a better job of inoculating highly vulnerable groups? Texas, by a significant margin. Kaiser Health News
Louis Moore had just served in Europe during World War II. Nellie Hatsumi Maeda was restarting her life after being incarcerated in a Japanese internment camp. When he saw her dancing at a club one night, he was mesmerized. Hailey Branson-Potts wrote about a California love story that is as bittersweet as it is beautiful. L.A. Times

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The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

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