California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, June 25.

Big fires force evacuations in Northern California.
A photographer captures the misfits of Slab City.
And the latest target of the internet shaming machine.

The lede


Fiery summer

An air tanker dropped retardant on a wildfire near the Spring Lakes community in Lake County on Sunday.

Noah Berger/A.P.

Wildfires destroyed at least a dozen buildings and forced thousands of people to flee their homes in Northern California over the weekend. Officials said four large fires continued to burn late Sunday, propelled by erratic wind and hot weather.

The details:

The so-called Pawnee Fire grew to roughly 12 square miles in rural Lake County, about 60 miles east of the Mendocino Coast. Late Sunday, the blaze was uncontrolled and threatened roughly 600 structures.

A fire official told the S.F. Chronicle it was unusual to see such a fierce inferno so early in the season. He blamed exceptionally dry conditions.

A resident of nearby Spring Valley told the Press Democrat that her neighbors were "scared to death."
Farther north, the so-called Lane Fire spread to more than 4 square miles in Tehama County. It was only 10 percent contained late Sunday. Another blaze near Red Bluff, the county seat, had destroyed multiple structures, fire officials said.
Other fires were burning in Shasta, Tuolumne, and Calaveras counties.

Read more in the Sacramento Bee and A.P.



A proposal would make California the first state to outlaw the advertising and sale of gay conversion therapy. It has set off an emotional debate. At a hearing, Assemblyman Evan Low, who is gay, choked up as he talked about young people experiencing suicidal thoughts. "I have also had that," he said.


Bay Area-based researchers are on the cusp of moving genetic surgery from the lab to patients. If it succeeds, the hope is that — not too long from now — doctors could create a “pipeline” of gene therapies needed to cure thousands of single-gene disorders afflicting 350 million people around the world.


Starfish are making a comeback on the West Coast four years after being virtually wiped out by a mysterious disease. Researchers found that the colorful invertebrates changed their genes to ward off a deadly pathogen. The recovery represents a rare example of microevolution in the wild.


A church at Slab City, just east of Niland.

"A truly horrific and romantic landscape." A photographer ventured into the bowels of the Mojave Desert, where a tight-knit community of squatters lives on the site of an abandoned World War II base known as Slab City. Here are her pictures. (Heads up: There's nudity.)

Northern California


Isis Street should be everything that’s good about San Francisco. It's got funky flats, and neighbors who are artists, writers, and other creative types. It's walkable. And yet homeless campers have turned it into a hellscape of needles, waste, and rats. One toddler on the street created a game called “jumping over the poop.”


Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

Glide Memorial Church is a Bay Area institution whose message of radical inclusion has drawn Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, and Maya Angelou. But the church's future is now in doubt after a bishop declared that Glide was no longer a Methodist service, and instead populated by people of “other faiths such as Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and Wiccan.”


In 2012, Alex Vardakostas played the part of tech villain when he declared that his hamburger-cooking robot would be able to assemble around 100 burgers an hour. “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient,” he said. “It’s meant to totally obviate them.” Six years later, he’s as adamant as ever.


A young coastal marten.

Environmental Protection Information Center

"Super cute and super ferocious." The Humboldt marten — a cat-sized, weasel-like animal — has been pushed to the brink of extinction in part by marijuana cultivation in forests along California’s northern coast. Wildlife officials are now recommending that it be listed under the state’s endangered species act.


San Francisco City Hall was lit up for Pride weekend.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended San Francisco's 48th Pride Parade, which marched through the heart of the city on Sunday. This year's theme was "Generations of Strength." Here are photos of the most creative signs and colorful costumes.

Southern California


Tommy Trojan, at the University of Southern California.

U.S.C.'s reckoning is only beginning. Lawyers representing women alleging sexual abuse by a campus gynecologist expect the number suing the campus to reach at least several hundred and possibly thousands. If successful, the lawsuits could cost the university hundreds of millions of dollars.


Police and child protective caseworkers documented years of severe abuse allegations at the home of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos, sources said. Yet despite that history, he was never permanently removed from the home. Avalos died last Thursday with severe head injuries and cigarette burns covering his body.


An Irvine man was fatally shot while camping with his two daughters, ages 2 and 4, at Malibu Creek State Park. The authorities said Tristan Beaudette, a research chemist, was in a tent with the girls when he was shot in the chest. No arrests have been made, and the authorities had no word on a motive.


“It strikes me as wildly inappropriate." The City of Industry is charging its mayor $700 a month to rent a 5,500-square-foot house that it remodeled for $450,000. In fact, none of the tenants living in Industry-owned housing pays more than $700 a month, a price that has gone unchanged since the 1990s.

Digital age


The shaming of #PermitPatty

Alison Ettel tried to hide behind a wall when she saw she was being recorded.

Erin Austin

Public shaming has been having a moment in California. In the last few months, a drumbeat of viral videos has subjected people behaving obnoxiously, at best, and abusively, at worst, to the internet outrage machine.

There's been, among other cases, the Sacramento man who accosted a Laotian senior citizen for wearing a camouflage shirt; the Cal Poly fraternity member who was photographed wearing blackface; and the Oakland park-goer who called the police over a barbecuing infraction.

Now another tempest has erupted, courtesy of Alison Ettel, a 44-year-old woman who appeared to call the authorities over the weekend to report an 8-year-old girl selling bottled water without a permit on a San Francisco sidewalk.

Video captured by the girl’s mother, identified in reports as Erin Austin, was uploaded to Twitter and Instagram, where it rocketed around the world. Millions of views, a trending hashtag (#PermitPatty), and thousands of news articles later, Ettel’s life has been upended.

As the video spread online Saturday, Ettel told news outlets that she regretted her behavior. But it was too late. She faced death threats. Her company, TreatWell Health, which makes cannabis tinctures, faced calls for a boycott. By Sunday, several Bay Area retailers had pledged to sever ties with it, Leafly reported.

Many of Ettel's critics saw the bottled water episode as the latest example of white people calling the police on minorities doing everyday things. Ettel is white; the young entrepreneur, Jordan, is black.

Jennifer Jacquet, the author of “Is Shame Necessary?”, said shaming often serves a healthy societal role in regulating behavior. In that sense, anger over the singling out of minorities is highlighting a yearning for a new norm in America.

Even so, she said, the power that smartphones and social media now have to summon society-sized outrage means things can get ugly, fast.

“These individual cases make me uncomfortable,” Jacquet said. “I don’t like to see vigilantism used in quite this way. But taken as a whole, I do think this is a reminder that racism is still a real day-to-day occurence in America.”

Whether the latest rounds of shaming are making a difference is an open question.

Ettel, who declined through a spokesman to be interviewed, told the Huffington Post that race played no part in her behavior and that she only "pretended" to call the police after arguing with the girl’s mother about how much noise they were making.

Notably, during the video, both Austin and Ettel seemed cognizant that their personal tiff had the potential to play out on a global stage. When Ettel saw that she was being recorded, she ducked behind a wall. It was futile. “You can hide all you want," Austin said. "The whole world is going to see you, boo."

Thanks for reading!

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

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