California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, Feb 11.

Gavin Newsom pulls border troops in rebuke to Trump.
Death cap mushrooms become an increasing menace.
And one of the world's most charming train rides.



U.S. border patrol officers blocked migrants hoping to cross from Tijuana to San Diego last month.

Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

Gov. Gavin Newsom planned on Monday to withdraw hundreds of California National Guard troops from the southern border. The move was intended as a rebuke to President Trump's warnings of an illegal immigration crisis. "California will not be part of this political theater," Newsom planned to say in his State of the State address on Tuesday.


California quietly released a list of its 781 lowest-performing schools for the first time in four years. States are required to identify underperforming schools to receive additional federal aid. Education officials said they hope the list will help target efforts at improvement, while avoiding the stigma of being labeled as a bad school. You can search the database over here.


A rendering of a proposed tower that would be the tallest in Sacramento.

The Washington Post published a survey — with eye-catching graphics — of the American West's changing skylines. Once flat and wide, cities are increasingly rising tall and sleek. San Diego, Los Angeles, and Sacramento are each considering projects that would surpass or rival the cities' tallest buildings.


The Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train traveled past San Clemente pier.

Allen J. Schaben/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Traveling between San Luis Obispo and San Diego, the Pacific Surfliner crosses through quaint towns, rugged coastline, and expansive farmland. The stations are also part of the thrill: Spanish Colonial in Santa Barbara, Mission Revival in San Diego, and a collision of Spanish Colonial and Art Deco in Los Angeles. Travel + Leisure named the Pacific Surfliner among the world's 10 most scenic train rides.


Northern California


An 1880 drawing of the Bee offices in Sacramento.

California State Library

When James McClatchy helped launch the Bee in Sacramento in 1857, he declared, "The object of this paper is not only independence, but permanence." The McClatchys went on to create one of the powerhouses of American journalism. Now, amid the great downsizing of the digital age, the company is offering buyouts to hundreds of staffers while upgrading its C.E.O. housing stipend to $35,000 a month.


In 2015, a female member of the California Air National Guard reported that someone had urinated in her boots. The authorities are now investigating accusations that high-ranking officers at the military base in Fresno tried to cover up the incident, including the destruction of evidence. Some have taken to calling the saga "Pissgate."


A shuttle bus picked up workers in San Francisco en route to tech campuses outside the city.

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

San Francisco author Rebecca Solnit pondered the changing character of San Francisco in the shadow of Silicon Valley: "I look in wonder at the store clerks and dishwashers, wondering how they hang on or how long their commute is. Sometimes the tech workers on their buses seem like bees who belong to a great hive, but the hive isn't civil society or a city; it's a corporation."


Death caps at various stages of growth.

Justin Pierce/Wikimedia Commons

There’s a species of mushroom called "Amanita phalloides" — also known as a death cap — that tastes pleasant, but can kill you. The fungus has become a constant menace in the Bay Area. And with California soaked by rain, poison control experts have been on high alert.


Edna first showed up as a wee kitten.

Employees at a San Francisco fire station are distraught after reportedly being told to get rid of their pet, Edna, a feral cat that wandered into the station four years and became a part of station life. Workers have been sharing photos of Edna via the Instagram account @fire_cat_edna and are asking for support, using the hashtag #ednastays.


Southern California


The New River in Calexico is among the country's filthiest rivers.

David McNew/Getty Images

As Washington debates spending billions on a southern barrier, people in the border town of Calexico wonder why something isn't done to address their city's unfolding public health crisis. For generations, sewage has poured into their river from the Mexican side of the border, carrying with it pathogens that cause tuberculosis, encephalitis, polio, cholera, hepatitis, and typhoid. "It's a pit of infection," one resident said. "It smells like farts if you open your window."


Authorities confiscated 1.7 tons of methamphetamine hidden inside containers at the port of Los Angeles, the largest ever seizure of the drug on U.S. soil. The haul — which was bound for Australia and also included lesser amounts of heroin and cocaine — had a street value of a staggering $911 million. Six people were arrested.


One piano wasn't enough for host Alicia Keys.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Female performers dominated the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday with wins in many top categories, a departure from last year when just one woman earned a solo award. The night's big winners were Kacey Musgraves and Childish Gambino, who took home four awards each.

The ceremony was also defined by the alienation of the hip-hop community. Childish Gambino was a no-show, and he along with Kendrick Lamar and Drake declined invitations to perform. "The Recording Academy should be embarrassed about that," the Washington Post wrote.


"Halter" by Eric N. Mack transforms an abandoned gas station.

Lance Gerber, via Eric N. Mack and Desert X

Desert X is upon us. The ambitious art biennial features 19 installations and performances scattered across the arid Coachella Valley. There's a giant rainbow made of painted rebar, a defunct gas station draped in silk, and an animated drawing overlaid on a windfarm that can only be seen through a smartphone. The Desert Sun has a guide.


Erosion along the sandstone cliffs of San Diego have left the coast honeycombed with intricate arches and sea caves. One of the most impressive features is the giant open ceiling cave, pictured above, at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Measuring about 50 feet wide and 50 feet tall, it's been called one of San Diego's seven natural wonders.


Today I learned


A 1942 Navy recruitment poster.

The military played a significant role in establishing San Francisco as a gay refuge.

During World War II, San Francisco became a dumping ground for gay men dishonorably discharged from military service. The men were brought to Treasure Island Naval Hospital, where they endured nonconsensual experiments to discover the "cause and cures" of homosexuality.

Faced with returning home in disgrace or staying in a city that had a reputation for welcoming outcasts and free spirits, many chose the latter. Other gay people in search of a safe haven followed. The demographic change in the 1940s was so pronounced that a city tabloid reported it under the headline, "Homos Invade S.F.!"

In the 1950s an emerging counterculture took root that celebrated sexual diversity, further establishing the Bay Area as a center of gay life.

A couple generations later, San Francisco and its neighbor across the bay, Oakland, became America's capitals of same-sex marriage. According to figures released in 2016, San Francisco had the highest rate of men marrying men, at 3.2 percent of marriages, and Oakland had the highest rate of women marrying women, at 2.1 percent of marriages.


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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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