California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Elizabeth Holmes faces years behind bars after guilty verdict.
Apple becomes the first company to hit $3 trillion value.
And the coolest thing to do in each Northern California county.



Here's how California's drought situation looked in early fall. 👇

Dark red is "exceptional drought"; red is “extreme"; orange is “severe”; tan is “moderate."

U.S. Drought Monitor

And last week. 👇

U.S. Drought Monitor

After a very wet December, California's Sierra snowpack is now nearly 150% of normal; the state's reservoir levels have surged by about 50 feet since September at Folsom Lake and by almost 90 feet at Lake Oroville; and the portion of California gripped by "exceptional drought" has fallen from nearly half of the state to just a fragment of Modoc and Siskiyou counties. Yet after all that, it would still require a very wet January and February to offset the water deficits of the past two winters. The outlook for the next couple weeks, according to the climate scientist Daniel Swain: Drier and hotter than normal. @Weather_West | S.F. Chronicle


Coronavirus roundup:

New data showed that every infected person in Los Angeles County is on average transmitting the virus to two other people. By contrast, the effective transmission during last winter's surge never exceeded 1.4. L.A. Times
Gov. Gavin Newsom promised that schools would get at-home Covid-tests in time for students to safely return to campus. Yet many districts resumed classes on Monday without receiving a single test. Officials blamed shipping delays. L.A. Times
A judge barred the Navy from punishing a group of SEALs, including several from Southern California, who refused to get vaccinated on religious grounds. “Even the direst circumstances cannot justify the loss of constitutional rights,” he wrote. S.D. Union-Tribune | Washington Post

The official motto of the California Conservation Corps is “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions, and more.” Founded in 1976, the corps invites Californians between the ages of 18 and 25 to spend a couple years in "the Cs," carving wilderness trails, planting trees, and, increasingly, responding to wildfires. Despite the motto, corps members talk about being transformed by the experience. National Geographic


Smoke-filled skies in Carpinteria in 2017.

David McNew/Getty Images

Elizabeth Weil wrote movingly about coming to terms with California's new climate reality:

"We need to stop thinking a dashing rescuer in a red slicker or yellow fire-​resistant shirt should come save us from wildfire. We don’t fight hurricanes. We don’t fight tornadoes. No one assumes there will be an armed defense from an earthquake or a flood. Instead, we bolt our houses to our foundations. We raise our homes on stilts. Now we, Californians of the Anthropocene, need to grow up, take responsibility and stop expecting to be saved." N.Y. Times Magazine


Northern California


Elizabeth Holmes walked outside the courthouse in San Jose after being found guilty on Monday.

Nick Otto/AFP via Getty Images

Elizabeth Holmes was convicted Monday of duping investors into believing her blood-testing startup Theranos had developed a medical device that could detect diseases from a few drops of blood. A jury found Holmes guilty of four of 11 charges of fraud in what was described as “a mixed bag for the prosecution." It was an epic loss, however, for Holmes, who in 2014 was lauded as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. She now likely faces three or so years in prison, legal experts said. A.P. | Mercury News

N.Y. Times: "In Silicon Valley’s world of make-believe, the philosophy of 'fake it until you make it' finally gets its comeuppance."


Ali Badr, an Egyptian immigrant and Uber driver, was unarmed, barefoot, and not resisting. Yet video showed that a San Ramon police officer set a dog on Badr one day in December 2020 after receiving a report of a stolen vehicle. Video showed the dog ripping into Badr's arm for more than a minute as he wailed over and over, “What I did? What I did?” The police later charged him with resisting arrest. S.F. Chronicle | SFist


The Richmond District has traditionally had some of the lowest crime rates in San Francisco. But burglaries there shot up 87% in 2020 and another 6% in the first 11 months of 2021. Business owners now describe an atmosphere of spiraling lawlessness: Seakor Polish Deli had its first break-in in 44 years; at Joe’s Ice Cream, thieves repeatedly pilfer the tip jar; Toy Boat, a cafe, was hit by a string of burglaries. “San Francisco used to be the safest place,” said Max Young, a longtime resident. “Is it different now? Absolutely.” L.A. Times


Apple became the first $3 trillion company on Monday after tripling its market value since 2018.

"Combine Walmart, Disney, Netflix, Nike, Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Morgan Stanley, McDonald’s, AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Boeing, IBM and Ford," the N.Y. Times wrote.

"Apple is still worth more."


Howland Hill Road weaves through towering coast redwoods.

Howland Hill Road was carved through dense forest in the 19th century to connect inland mining operations to the harbor at Crescent City. The 6-mile route located deep within Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park now serves as one of the most scenic redwood drives anywhere. It was included in a great feature naming the "coolest thing to do in each Northern California county." SFGATE

The Relaxation Channel uploaded a three-hour, 4K video of the drive along Howland Hill Road. YouTube


Southern California


Kelly Ernby, an Orange County prosecutor who ran for state Assembly in 2020, died suddenly a week after telling friends she was sick with Covid-19. She was 46. Ernby, a Republican, was an outspoken critic of vaccine mandates, exhorting attendees at a rally last month about the dangers of government overreach, the Daily Titan reported. “There's nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now,” she said. O.C. Register | L.A. Times


A protester held a sign about Ashli Babbitt during a rally in New York last summer.

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The Associated Press did a deep dive on the life of Ashli Babbitt, the San Diego woman who was fatally shot by a police officer during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. In the months before her death, Babbitt had become consumed by the QAnon conspiracy theory and posted angry screeds on social media. “Nothing will stop us,” she tweeted Jan. 5. “They can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours....dark to light!”


Beverly Hills has one gun store. After a series of high-profile smash-and-grab and home invasion robberies, business is booming. “This morning I sold six shotguns in about an hour to people that say, ‘I want a home defense shotgun,’” said owner Russell Stuart. "Everyone has a general sense of constant fear, which is very sad. We’re used to this being like Mayberry.” Los Angeles Magazine


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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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