California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Sept. 15.

California's coronavirus rate drops to lowest since March.
Wildfire creeps worryingly close to Mt. Wilson Observatory.
And false rumors of legalized pedophilia in California.

California wildfires


Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke to President Trump at McClellan Airport on Monday.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

On Monday, Air Force One touched down at a smoke-shrouded airfield in Sacramento County, where officials briefed President Trump on the wildfires that have now burned 3.2 million acres of California. Gov. Gavin Newsom urged Trump to take heed of the dangers of the changing climate. “The hots are getting hotter. The dries are getting drier,” he said. Trump expressed doubt, citing the need to thin overgrown forests. "It’ll start getting cooler," he said. "Just you watch." L.A. Times | S.F. Chronicle | A.P.

The two leaders made nice. "We actually have a very good relationship. Good man,” Trump said. CalMatters


A Black Lives Matter protest near the airfield grew tense as at least two vehicles struck protesters. At another point, a crowd chanting "You can't stop the revolution" surrounded a CHP cruiser. One protester climbed on top of the vehicle, which sped forward and flung him onto the pavement. As many as three people were injured, reports said. KCRA | L.A. Times

A couple videos of the CHP cruiser incident. 👉 Reddit | @JodiHernandezTV


Smoke rose from a wildfire in the San Gabriel Mountains in 2016.

Jonathan Alcorn/AFP via Getty Images

Trump has a point about forest management. Experts say California's wildfire predicament is certainly linked to warming temperatures, but also forests that have become overgrown after a century of aggressive fire suppression. Vegetation is far denser than it was historically. In some places, the number of trees per acre has doubled or tripled. S.F. Chronicle


Former Gov. Jerry Brown on those who might ponder fleeing California: “Tell me: Where are you going to go? What’s your alternative? Maybe Canada. You’re going to go to places like Iowa, where you have intensifying tornadoes? The fact is, we have a global crisis that has been mounting and the scientists have been telling us about. For the most part, it’s been ignored. Now we have a graphic example.” N.Y. Times


Smoke rose behind the Mt. Wilson Observatory in the Angeles National Forest on Monday.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

"The fire will probably be upon us today.”

A wildfire in the Angeles National Forest has crept to within 1.6 miles of the Mt. Wilson Observatory, the historic telescope that was once the biggest in the world. Firefighters were poised for battle. "We're not going anywhere," one captain said. "We are committed here." Pasadena Star-News | Pasadena Now


Also threatened: the Emerald Triangle. The August Complex Fire, now larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, is now moving toward the heart of California's celebrated marijuana farming region — with the harvest just a few weeks away. Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall said his greatest fear is that cannabis workers won’t evacuate in time if the fire comes. Press Democrat |

Climate scientist Daniel Swain: "I would expect the August Complex to become California’s first true modern 'megafire' in the coming days — a single contiguous event burning over 1 million acres."




Students were separated by plastic barriers at a tutoring center in Los Angeles last week.

Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

California's coronavirus infection rate has dropped to its lowest level since the state began reporting data in late March. Over the last seven days, just 3.5% of Covid-19 tests statewide came back positive. A month ago, the rate was nearly twice as high. Hospitalizations are also sharply down. L.A. Times | Mercury News


San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he was "appalled" by the new law.

State Senator Melissa Melendez called it "absolutely disgusting."

Sen. Ted Cruz said its aim was "more adults having sex with children."

Conservative voices have railed against a bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last Friday, with many claiming it legalizes pedophilia. That's false. Under a 1944 law, judges are granted discretion in deciding whether to list someone as a sex offender if they have engaged in vaginal intercourse with a minor. Senate Bill 145 extends that discretion to cases of oral or anal sex, a distinction that supporters say ends discrimination against LGBTQ youth. Reuters | PolitiFact


The shooting of two L.A. County sheriff's deputies over the weekend has transformed into a political talking point across Los Angeles and the nation, with speculation swirling about whether the shooter's motives were linked to anti-police messaging of recent protests. “Words have consequences,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said, apparently stoking the idea. L.A. Times

With the help of anonymous donors, a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case was increased to $200,000. L.A. Daily News


A movie critic declared Michael Mann's "Heat" the greatest heist movie ever made. The 1995 crime drama had three big stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro — and Los Angeles. "Watching 'Heat' recently," Gerardo Valero wrote, "I was struck by how very little of the film has aged: not the fads, the pace, or the attitudes. It is 25 years old and it looks as if it could have been made yesterday."

A clip from the classic diner scene. 👉 YouTube (~2 mins)



Google marked the start of Hispanic Heritage Month on Tuesday with a Google Doodle of Felicitas Mendez, a civil rights pioneer from Orange County. Long before the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation in 1954, Mendez was among a group of Mexican-American families who filed a federal lawsuit demanding that their children be allowed to attend an all-white school. Against all odds, the court agreed. In 1946, Judge Paul J. McCormick ruled that segregation violated the Constitution by suggesting inferiority among children where none exists.

It was a radical decision for the time, and ultimately paved the way for a bill to desegregate all California schools. The law was signed by Gov. Earl Warren, who later joined the Supreme Court and presided over the Brown v. Board of Education case that overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine.

Mendez died in 1998 after working as a nurse for more than 30 years. In 2011, her daughter Sylvia accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in recognition of her family's fight for equal rights. She sobbed. “My parents just wanted what was best for their children," she said. Google | Library of Congress


California wonders


"I don't know what happens when we go. But I know I am not the body."

One of San Francisco's must-see structures is a Victorian-era columbarium, one of the few remaining places in the crowded city to be laid to rest. Built in 1897, its ornate walls hold the ashes of more than 80,000 people. Here's a beautiful short film about the columbarium as seen through the eyes of Emmitt Watson, its caretaker of more than 30 years. The Atlantic (~3:30 mins)

Below, a few more views of the interior.


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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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