California Sun

Good morning. It's Friday, Sept. 14.

Google's co-founder has become more withdrawn than ever.
The cats who really run things at Bay Area bookstores.
And a woman accused of faking pregnancy with a pillow.

The lede


Where's Larry?

A chair reserved for Google was empty during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 5.

Jose Luis Magana/A.P.

Earlier this month, Google co-founder Larry Page was called to testify before Congress about the ways state-sponsored actors have exploited internet platforms. He spurned the request.

But it isn't just Washington, according to a Bloomberg report. Colleagues say Page has become more withdrawn than ever. He hasn’t presented at product launches or on earnings calls since 2013, and he hasn’t done press since 2015.

As Google faces existential challenges, people in Silicon Valley have been asking: "Where in the world is Larry Page?"

Read the story at Bloomberg.




As maternal deaths multiplied in the U.S., the trend in California went the opposite way. Why? In 2006, a collaboration of medical professionals created guides that were distributed to hospitals. They targeted two preventable causes of maternal death: hemorrhage and preeclampsia. During a crisis, a doctor said, "having a checklist there that someone can read to you is a very important tool.”


Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she received details about the nominee from a person who requested confidentiality.

Jacquelyn Martin/A.P.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein referred information involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to federal investigators. She declined to discuss the matter publicly, but officials said it involved possible sexual misconduct between Kavanaugh and a Bay Area woman when they were both in high school. The White House called Feinstein's move desperate.


The C.E.O. of the nation’s largest retirement system — CalPERS — has no college degree. Marcie Frost took classes at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, but never finished. She rose up the ranks of Washington state government before being hired to run California's $362 billion pension system. Some retirees have been startled by the news.


An explosion of fall colors just south of Ukiah.

It's that time of year. Sunset Magazine put together a list of its 18 favorite spots for soaking up the season's fall colors across the American West — including Ukiah, where the foliage rivals Vermont’s.


Northern California


Steve Singleton and Michelle Last have been held together by devotion for nine years.

Erik Castro

"Broken: A year in the life of Steve & Michelle." A photographer spent 14 months following a homeless couple in Santa Rosa as they struggled to hold down jobs, find shelter, and live with danger on the streets of Sonoma County. "I’m tired," Michelle said at one point. "I can’t do this anymore."


Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay.

California State Parks is about to open an underwater trail unlike any other in the U.S. The "Emerald Bay Maritime Heritage Trail" will let divers venture into Lake Tahoe’s underwater world and explore a boat graveyard from the 1920s and '30s. Lake Tahoe is one of the world's clearest lakes.


The Sittigs' spacious living area offers sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay.

William Abranowicz/Architectural Digest

Here's the kind of living room you get as a Bay Area tech power couple. Jessica and Aaron Sittig, pals of Mark Zuckerberg, worked with restoration specialists on a meticulous update of their midcentury home on a San Francisco hillside. "We’d have eight-hour meetings about a door handle and hinges," a designer said. Architectural Digest took a tour.


If Owen was an author, he'd be Christopher Isherwood, an Aardvark employee said.

Ashley Urdang/KQED

Cats are a staple of independent bookstores, and the Bay Area has many. KQED went to meet nine of the store mascots, including Owen at San Francisco's Aardvark Books. "Owen’s the real boss around here," an employee said.


Southern California


The Kern County sheriff, Donny Youngblood, placed Wednesday's gun rampage in the context of the nation’s epidemic of mass shootings, calling it, "our new norm." The gunman was identified as Javier Casarez. A witness said the shooting may have been triggered by a love triangle involving Casarez, his estranged wife, and a co-worker.


Lorenzen Wright during his rookie year with the Clippers.

Mark J. Terrill/A.P.

"There’s gonna be rumors. There’s gonna be hearsay. But God knows the truth. And they will have to stand before the Lord." Lorenzen Wright was a first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. Fourteen years later, his bullet-riddled remains were found in a Memphis field. A murky lake, his ex-wife, and a $1 million life insurance policy are at the center of the harrowing story.


Ashley Bemis has been accused of scamming good Samaritans out of a least $11,000 in goods and cash.

Emily Strickland

A San Clemente woman, Ashley Bemis, has been accused of making up a firefighter husband to scam people into giving her donations. Now some of her alleged victims say Bemis had concocted other ruses too. One involved faking pregnancy with a pillow. "It was a whole new level of crazy," said a woman who hired Bemis as a nanny.


The Church of Scientology of Los Angeles on Sunset Blvd.

Scientology's real estate portfolio is reportedly worth $400 million in Hollywood alone. The group has collected historic buildings and erected new behemoths. Curbed mapped 16 properties of the real estate empire.


California Archive


Pio Pico with his wife and two nieces, circa 1852.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Pio Pico grew up as a Spaniard, became a Mexican, and died an American — without ever leaving California. The state's last Mexican governor, Pico's life in many ways embodied 19th-century California. Here's the extraordinary story of the man whose name is found on boulevards, libraries, schools, and parks across Southern California.


In case you missed it


A 1904 map shows San Diego.

U.S. Geological Survey

Here are five newsletter items that got big views over the past week:

Here's a fun rabbit hole for map nerds. The U.S. Geological Survey created a searchable map that lets you compare your city or region against historical maps. U.S.G.S.
A #MeToo project has collected hundreds of stories of sexual misconduct in the yoga world — including rape, groping, and inappropriate touching — with the largest share coming from California. KQED

San Francisco's Chinatown, circa 1900.

Arnold Genthe/Library of Congress

A photographer captured hundreds of photos of San Francisco's Chinatown before the 1906 earthquake reduced its densely packed blocks — along with much of the city — to rubble. Mashable
James Ransom was a smart, talkative 12-year-old in Orange County. Then, after suffering a concussion playing football, his mood darkened. A year later, he took his own life. Did a single hit lead to a child's suicide? Bleacher Report

Jalama Beach is great for camping and glamping.

Travel writer Ann Marie Brown listed eight of her favorite lesser-known beaches between the Redwood Coast and Santa Barbara County, including the isolated and windswept Jalama Beach outside of Lompoc. Visit California

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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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