California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Nov. 24.

California effectively begins ban on new fracking.
Foster parents of Turpin children are accused of abuse.
And Vandenberg rocket sets off to crash into an asteroid.

Please note: The newsletter will pause through the holiday weekend. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and delivery will resume Monday.



Pumpjacks filled an oil field in Kern County.

James William Smith

In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom said California would stop issuing new fracking permits by 2024. But he isn't waiting. California has effectively begun to ban the oil extraction method by denying permits in droves. In 109 denial letters since July, officials have commonly provided a novel rationale: that fracking could worsen the effects of climate change. Kern County, California's oil capital, is suing. S.F. Chronicle


In 2019, roughly 18,500 people between the ages of 16 and 24 were neither in school nor working in Bakersfield. Some think the problem has partly to do with the hardship of commuting to where many of the jobs are: at warehouses on the edge of town. So the city is testing an innovative program that lets vulnerable youth ride public transportation for free. They call it “universal basic mobility.” Oakland is trying it too. Bloomberg

The columnist Jay Caspian Kang had another idea: "Free E-Bikes for Everyone!" N.Y. Times


Even as the coronavirus picture improves statewide, hospitals remain strained in the San Joaquin Valley, where vaccinations lag and the hospitalization rate is quintuple that of the Bay Area. Some hospitals are so crowded that ambulance patients suffering strokes are being diverted to different facilities. Local health officials have pleaded with the state to make it easier to transfer patients to other regions. L.A. Times


A growing number of private employers and school districts are demanding flexibility from the state on vaccine mandates. Employers say they can't afford to lose workers. And some school leaders say they fear pushing Black and Latino students out of classrooms. “No matter what I think about the importance of the vaccination, and its ability to keep people safe, we need to keep our students in school,” Merced County schools chief Steve Tietjen said. Politico

More than 600 Google employees urged the company to rescind its vaccine mandate, calling it “coercive.” The pushback represents a tiny fraction of Google's total workforce. CNBC


Tommy Caldwell on El Capitan in Yosemite.

Corey Rich/Aurora Photos

William Finnegan, a great non-fiction writer, profiled Tommy Caldwell, a great rock climber:

"Caldwell’s limits have fascinated the climbing world for decades. He has very likely free-climbed more routes on El Capitan than anyone else, and has been featured on the cover of Climbing magazine an unseemly number of times. This small but intense community made him famous young and has not let him go. It pays his bills, relishes his struggles, celebrates his suffering, gilds his image, and assumes, in its opaque way, that he will continue to climb at the highest level and will not fall." The New Yorker


Northern California


At an event with little fanfare on Saturday, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary, delivered a poignant speech from Alcatraz Island on the 52nd anniversary of the island's occupation by tribal activists. The 1969 takeover awakened many Americans to the plight of Indigenous people. “I didn’t understand it then," Haaland said, choking up, "but my very existence as a Native child was in some ways an act of defiance against historic policies to exterminate Indigenous cultures, traditions, languages, and essentially us as a group of people." HuffPost

Watch Haaland's remarks. 👉 YouTube (~12 mins)


Water managers want San Francisco to reduce demand on the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite.

Tom Hilton/CC BY 2.0

San Francisco declared a water shortage emergency on Tuesday, asking residents to cut their water use by 5%. While October storms provided some relief, it wasn't enough to make up for two years of drought, and meteorologists say the rain forecast this winter looks grim. San Franciscans are already good water conservers, using an average of about 42 gallons a day, less than half the statewide average of 90 gallons. S.F. Chronicle | CBS SF


“What we saw was a breakdown of our societal norms.”

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced felony charges against nine people in Friday's $1 million smash-and-grab at Union Square luxury stores. Boudin, whom critics have portrayed as soft on crime, said Tuesday that he would seek to put two individuals behind bars because of the seriousness of the charges. As many as 40 people were involved in the theft, and officials said more arrests would follow. | L.A. Times


Southern California


The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off from Vandenberg Space Force Base at 10:21 p.m.

NASA launched a rocket from the Central Coast Tuesday night that will smash into an asteroid at 15,000 miles per hour. The mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is testing, for the first time, a method of planetary defense that could one day save the world. A NASA administrator described it as a replay of the Bruce Willis movie "Armageddon" — "although that was totally fictional,” he added. N.Y. Times | CNN

See the liftoff. 👉 @NASA


Investigative records suggest that Riverside County officials placed five children from the Turpin family — who endured horrific, life-long abuse by their parents — in a home where the foster parents have now been accused of sexual and psychological abuse. Charges leveled against the parents include lewd acts on a minor, child cruelty, and false imprisonment. A reporter reached out to the offices of the Riverside County sheriff, district attorney, and social services agency. None would answer questions about the case. Press-Enterprise


Before a practice in February, two Mater Dei High School football players met in the locker room for an initiation ritual. Called Bodies, it involved trading blows until someone surrenders. By the time it was over, the smaller player had suffered a traumatic brain injury. The fallout has led to felony charges and revelations that the Santa Ana school knew about the hazing. According to an investigator, the football coach told the injured boy's father: "If I had a hundred dollars for every time these kids played Bodies or Slappies, I’d be a millionaire." O.C. Register | L.A. Times


The small town of Ojai has the feeling of a place apart. Sequestered in a narrow valley east of Santa Barbara, the tranquil surroundings have attracted generations of artists, growers, and spiritual seekers. Then there's the light. Tectonic forces arranged the mountains in an east-west configuration, allowing copious sunshine. Sunsets linger, casting an alpenglow on the Topatopa Mountains so glorious and reliable that it's earned a name: the "pink moment." A time-lapse.👇

Geartooth Productions


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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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