California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, July 3.

Scheduling note: The Sun will pause on July 4 and 5. That means we'll be back in your inbox on Friday.

Officials brace for fireworks blazes on July Fourth.
A paradise of peaks and lush forest in Alpine County.
And extreme heat takes aim at Southern California.

The lede


A combustible holiday

July Fourth fireworks over Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, like a number of California cities, bans all fireworks.

But that hasn't stopped July Fourth merrymakers from unleashing a storm of amateur pyrotechnics over the city every year.

The hot and dry conditions fueling an out-of-control wildfire across Yolo and Napa counties have residents and fire officials on edge ahead of the Wednesday celebration.

The authorities are pleading, as they do every year, that people leave the fireworks to the professionals and attend any number of sanctioned displays across the state.

Helpfully, newspapers have been published viewing guides. A sampling:

Northern California:

Santa Cruz | Bay Area | Sonoma County | Humboldt County

Read more about the Northern California wildfires at the Press Democrat and S.F. Chronicle.



Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican congressman from the Central Valley, tried to make arrangements to tour a California facility where immigrant children are being detained. But when he showed up, he was denied entry. "If they wanted to show the conditions," he said, "and what a lovely facility they run, then why wouldn't they want people to come in and report on it?"


Senator Kamala Harris spoke at the "Families Belong Together" rally in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Willy Sanjuan/Invision/A.P.

“@SenKamalaHarris, why are you supporting the animals of MS-13?” That's the White House Twitter account addressing Senator Kamala Harris in an extraordinarily rare political attack by a government entity. Harris responded with a tweet pointing to her prosecutorial record of fighting gangs. "That’s being a leader on public safety," she wrote. "What is not, is ripping babies from their mothers.”


CALmatters broke down the state's homeless data. A few takeaways:

According to a federal estimate, California's homeless population is roughly 130,000 on any given night. That’s a quarter of country's homeless population.
Over the last couple years, California has had the largest increase in homelessness of any state.
About 70 percent of California's homeless are unsheltered, meaning they sleep in parks or under bridges rather than at provided shelters. That's the largest percentage of any state.


The so-called California Alps border Hope Valley in Alpine County.

Alpine County is California's least populous county. It has no high schools, banks, or traffic lights. But what it lacks in conveniences it makes up for in natural beauty. Known fondly as the California Alps, the county just south of Lake Tahoe is a paradise of grassy valleys, Sierra peaks, secluded lakes, and lush forests.

Northern California


A memorial to those who died in the art collective known as the Ghost Ship warehouse.

Ben Margot/A.P.

Max Harris and Derrick Almena, the men accused of involuntary manslaughter in Oakland’s 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse fire, are poised to accept plea deals of six and nine years in jail. “These people are going to be out in a few years and walking the streets," said the father of one of the 36 people who died. "They’re getting a sweet deal.”


A man lay on the sidewalk in San Francisco. The city's squalor has horrified some visitors.

Ben Margot/A.P.

San Francisco's street life has become so appalling that a major medical association is pulling its annual convention out of the city because its members don't feel safe. The group's visits were estimated to pump about $40 million into the local economy. “It’s the first time that we have had an out-and-out cancellation over the issue," a travel official said.


The U.S. metro with the fastest rising rents? Sacramento. The capital city's median rent hit about $1,700 in the last few months, up 8.2 percent from a year earlier. That's roughly triple the national figure. The surge has been blamed on an influx of high-rent refugees from the Bay Area.


A number of motorists came forward with accounts of illegal stops and seizures by Rohnert Park police officers along a major marijuana transportation corridor of Highway 101. Now, records for 800 pounds of seized marijuana have gone missing.


The free speech activist Mario Savio spoke to students in U.C. Berkeley's Sproul Plaza in 1964.

U.C. Berkeley, University Archives

A New Yorker feature on the free-speech fracases in Berkeley questioned whether the First Amendment should be reinterpreted for the digital age. A law professor said the response to trolls and white supremacists has been "Nothing we can do, it’s speech." But he asked: What if society cared just as deeply about the harm caused by incendiary speech?

Southern California


Sand dunes in Inyo County. The California desert is expected to get dangerously hot.

Heat wave incoming: Forecasters said temperatures would rise through the week across Southern California, peaking on Friday or Saturday. Temperatures were expected to reach into the upper 80s along the coast, into triple digits in the inland valleys, and as high as 120 degrees in desert areas. An extreme heat watch was issued for Friday and Saturday.


Already accused by prosecutors of sexually assaulting two women, Harvey Weinstein was indicted on additional charges that he forced a third woman to have sex with him. One of the new charges could carry a life sentence. The disgraced producer's lawyer said he'd plead not guilty.


Francisco J. Ayala donated $10 million to U.C. Irvine's School of Biological Sciences, which then bore his name.

Wikimedia Commons

Francisco J. Ayala, one of the world’s most eminent evolutionary biologists, resigned from U.C. Irvine after a university investigation found that he sexually harassed four faculty members and graduate students. In a statement, Ayala, who immigrated from Spain, suggested the accusations resulted from cultural differences.


LeBron James rode during a charity event in Akron, Ohio, in 2009.

Phil Long/A.P.

LeBron James, who is coming to Los Angeles, doesn't like to drive. Turns out he is a dedicated cyclist. He even has spandex. "Unfortunately for LeBron," wrote the L.A. Times' Matthew Fleischer, "and for the tens of thousands of other people in this city who ride, L.A. has a bad attitude when it comes to cyclists."

Today I learned


Did you know?

White crosses along Fort Irwin Road are stenciled with the dates of vehicle accidents.

Frank Foster

Here are three random facts about California:

About 50 simple white crosses line a dusty road leading to a military post in the Mojave Desert.

They're not for soldiers killed in combat, but motorists who died in crashes along the 31-mile Fort Irwin Road linking the Barstow area and Fort Irwin National Training Center.

The accidents have been blamed on the design of the two-lane stretch. Paved in the 1940s, it had no shoulders and sat flush with the desert. When a driver drifted even slightly off the pavement, a wheel was likely to catch in the sand and send the vehicle tumbling.

The placement of crosses by Fort Irwin officials was initially meant as a warning to other motorists. They were left as memorials, some with children’s toys placed on them. Crashes became less frequent after safety upgrades were made about 13 years ago. L.A. Times | 500px

Inmate firefighters left an assignment while battling a wildfire in Guinda on July 1.

Noah Berger/A.P.

Prisoners make up roughly a third of California's wildfire-fighting force.

More than 3,700 inmates, men and women, earn less than $2 an hour to do grueling work — typically digging containment lines or clearing brush — and sometimes risk their lives. Their labor is estimated to save California up to $100 million a year.

That's in part why criminal justice reformers are critical of the program. California's inmates serve voluntarily. But critics say the inherent power imbalance leads to exploitation. The Atlantic | N.Y. Times

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in 2009, took an unstatesmanlike jab at a rival.

Rich Pedroncelli/A.P.

In 2009, Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano heckled Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a gathering in San Francisco, shouting "You lie!" and telling the Republican leader "kiss my gay ass!"

Later, Schwarzenegger sent a letter to lawmakers vetoing a bill that Ammiano had sponsored. But it was accompanied by another message.

The first letters at the start of seven consecutive lines spelled: "Fuck You." Schwarzenegger's press secretary called it a "strange coincidence." A mathematician put the odds that it was unintentional at roughly 2 billion to one.


Monday's newsletter misspelled the name of a Los Angeles Times columnist. He is Bill Plaschke, not Plashke.

Thanks for reading!

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

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