California Sun

Good morning. It's Thursday, Oct. 25.

A U.S. senator calls out tech leaders for a lack of charity.
California indie bookshops are ranked among the world's best.
And cannabis harvest season arrives in Northern California.

The lede


Calling out tech

A San Francisco ballot measure would raise taxes on the city's wealthiest companies to combat homelessness.

Are tech leaders stingy?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein appears to think so. In an interview with KQED, she criticized San Francisco's tech elite for what she said was a lack of charitable engagement.

"What I see as the downside, to be very candid, is I don't see tech as very civically involved, and I think they have to be," she said. "Like when I was mayor, the C.E.O.s of the big banks — I could go in and ask them to help with any civic cause. Cross my heart. I never got a 'no.' Bank of America, Wells — all of them said 'yes.'"

Read the story at KQED.




A dusty road in the San Joaquin Valley. People can breathe microscopic fungal spores when the soil is disturbed.

Caused by a fungus that thrives in dry soil and warm weather, valley fever has been on the rise in California. The disease can saddle patients with severe, lifelong reactions including fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, and rashes. "The disease is just awful," a scientist said. Researchers now fear climate change is just going to make it worse.


The consensus view among researchers, analysts, and California’s gubernatorial candidates is that the state’s housing crisis results primarily from too few homes being built. The public, it turns out, doesn’t see it that way. In a new poll, just 13 percent of Californians said insufficient homebuilding was a primary cause of the affordability crisis.


Rep. Maxine Waters, a Los Angeles Democrat, appeared to be among the targets in a wave of explosive devices mailed to figures vilified by President Trump and other conservatives. Trump has repeatedly called Waters "low-IQ Maxine." She's derided him as a liar and simpleton.


Skylight Books maintains a busy events schedule.

Opened in 1996, Skylight Books became a hub of Los Angeles's literary scene. The quaint spot in the Los Feliz neighborhood has eclectically stocked shelves and events pretty much nightly with authors, podcast hosts, celebrities, and poets. The shop — along with others in San Francisco, Pasadena, Placerville, and San Diego — was included in a list of the world's best independent bookstores.


Northern California


Google headquarters in Mountain View.

Reporter Charles Duhigg wrote a parable of Silicon Valley's view of the world. "The only thing that matters is the future," a former Google engineer said. "I don’t even know why we study history. It’s entertaining, I guess — the dinosaurs and the Neanderthals and the Industrial Revolution, and stuff like that. But what already happened doesn’t really matter. You don’t need to know that history to build on what they made. In technology, all that matters is tomorrow."


Tim Cook, Apple's C.E.O., unleashed a blistering attack against what he called the "data industrial complex." “Our own information — from the everyday to the deeply personal — is being weaponized against us with military efficiency," he said, without naming two of biggest data brokers, Google and Facebook. He added, "We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance."


Flames rose from a fire at an apartment complex under construction in Oakland on Tuesday.

Will Tran/KRON4 News, via A.P.

At least nine fires have broken out at housing construction sites in the East Bay since 2012 — the most recent one on Tuesday. They appear to have the hallmarks of a serial arsonist, whom some suspect is targeting housing for personal or political reasons. One developer called the blazes the work of a "cowardly urban terrorist."


A 23-year-old man housesitting for his parents in Fresno set the home on fire trying to kill spiders with a blowtorch, officials said. More than two dozen firefighters responded to the blaze, which caused about $10,000 worth of damage. Fire officials recommended bug spray as a safer method of pest control.


Honeydew Farms in Humboldt County.

It’s cannabis harvest season in Northern California. "I’m seeing big, colorful beautiful flowers with all the colors of fall and they’re sparkling and glistening with these magical cannabinoid flowers that will bring so much goodness," a grower said. "It’s a magical time." Here's a collection of photos from the marijuana fields.


Southern California


Former President Obama with congressional candidates, from left, Josh Harder, T.J. Cox, Gil Cisneros, Katie Porter, Harley Rouda, and Mike Levin in Anaheim in September.

Ringo H.W. Chiu/A.P.

Democrats hope to flip at least six fiercely competitive House seats in California. While they are guardedly optimistic, Republicans have been energized by the fracas surrounding Justice Brett Kavanaugh. "Orange County — even though they’re kind of coastal Chardonnay, Tommy Bahama’s Republicans — stuff like the Kavanaugh hearings has made them really mad,” a Republican strategist said.


Robert Rundo, right, at a march in Southern California last year, as identified by ProPublica.

The F.B.I. arrested the leader of a violent California neo-Nazi gang after he fled to Central America. Robert Rundo, 28, of Huntington Beach, is the founder of the so-called Rise Above Movement, which was accused of committing violent acts at protests throughout California last year. Two other members of the group were also arrested.


In San Bernardino County, people are 20 times more likely than other California residents to have their Facebook account or iPhone secretly surveilled by the police. Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing the county sheriff's office after being stonewalled in its effort to find out why.


Darius Miles.

"Dudes like me ain't supposed to talk about this type of stuff. I'm about to tell you some real shit." Darius Miles, the former Los Angeles Clipper, wrote a thoroughly riveting account of what it's like to go from high school straight to the N.B.A., with insights like this one: "Listen, it takes a long time to go broke buying Ferraris. What makes you go broke are shady business deals."


California the beautiful


Racetrack playa is an almost perfectly flat dry lake populated with eerie stones.

Rocks scattered on an ancient dry lakebed in Death Valley have graceful trails behind them, as if they were inching across the surface.

For decades, no one fully understood the forces behind the "sailing stones" of Racetrack playa. Then a few years ago, researchers solved the mystery. Turns out, when the playa is flooded, the rocks are nudged by sheets of floating ice that slide across the water with the wind.

To visit the playa, you need four-wheel drive and fortitude. It's reachable only by driving 26 miles of washboard-surface road. But the reward, one travel writer said, is akin to walking on the moon without a space suit.


Thanks for reading!

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

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