California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, Dec. 13.

Gavin Newsom takes a page from Texas to go after assault rifles.
Leaks reveal price markups at Southern California hospitals.
And incredible video of a giant phantom jelly in Monterey Bay.



Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday vowed to empower private citizens to sue sellers and manufacturers of assault weapons in California, modeling the proposal after the legal framework used in Texas to outlaw most abortions after six weeks. The move seemed to contradict Newsom's past criticism of the Texas law, which he described as a cynical attempt to undercut federal rights. But he suggested the U.S. Supreme Court rewrote the rules on Friday when it left the Texas law in place. "If TX can ban abortion and endanger lives," he wrote, "CA can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives." A.P. | S.F. Chronicle

Constitutional experts said Newsom's gambit appeared to be legally sound. Mercury News


Tony Thurmond talked to students at Van Nuys High School on April 28.

Brian van der Brug/L.A. Times via Getty Images

California’s first superintendent of equity lives in Philadelphia, where he has a separate job. Daniel Lee is a psychologist and life coach with no prior experience in California. But he is a close friend of Tony Thurmond, California's superintendent of public instruction, who was instrumental in hiring for the $180,000-a-year position. Asked if anyone other candidates were interviewed, Thurmond replied, "I can't recall." Politico


As she approaches the end of her first full year in office, Vice President Kamala Harris sat for a wide-ranging interview with the S.F. Chronicle's Tal Kopan:

On the possible overthrow of Roe v. Wade: “I don’t mean to sound alarmist, I mean this: Women will die."
On a widely discussed Politico story about her distrust of Bluetooth headphones: “Really?”
On two high-profile departures from her office: Not much. Harris sidestepped those questions, Kopan wrote.

Cory Poole

For the rest of December, as conditions allow, you should be able to see a comet in the night sky over California. Cory Poole, a photographer in Redding, was shooting a timelapse of the celestial object, known as Comet Leonard, above Mt. Lassen over the weekend when he got an extra surprise: a brilliant meteor sailed through the frame. He created the resulting photo above by stacking exposures to highlight Leonard in the upper right, then blending in the shot of the green streaking meteor.

Check out Poole's Instagram, as well as his 2022 calendar for sale.


Northern California


A security guard watched the entrance to a Louis Vuitton store in San Francisco on Nov. 30.

Ethan Swope/Getty Images

A story examining local frustration over the direction of San Francisco cited the boarded-up storefronts, attacks on Asian American seniors, and brazen drug dealing. While San Franciscans take pride in their liberal bent, the reporters wrote, some are now fed up. LeAnn Corpus, a third generation San Franciscan, said she no longer takes her son downtown after dark. “This city just doesn’t feel the same anymore.” A.P.

"A shameful disgrace." "Absolutely despicable. "Filled with false claims." Critics on Twitter objected to the A.P.'s framing of the crime problem in San Francisco. Here's a useful data analysis, which shows that burglaries and vehicle thefts have spiked, while most forms of crime remain below 2017 levels. 👉 S.F. Chronicle


On Dec. 2, the Record Searchlight published a feature about Alissa Johnson, a cellist in Redding whose talents one musical director described as "genius." Yet Johnson lives on the streets, derailed by a troubled life. Days after the story published, she got word that a reader wanted to pay off her cello, a $7,300 instrument that she acquired on a payment plan last year. She had $6,649 left to pay. Johnson was so overcome that she could hardly speak: "I wish I could give them a hug, like 1,000 hugs or maybe how about like 6,600 hugs." Record Searchlight

Hear Johnson play. 👉 Record Searchlight


Last year, the Glass fire reduced a magnificent forest to ash in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma County. So one recent Saturday, about 60 volunteers went to work planting 4,500 redwood saplings in its place. “This replanting of burned forest is a microcosm of what it will take for us to rebuild from what ails humanity and planet both," a leader of the project said. "It’s like nothing I have experienced in the past half-dozen years.” The Press Democrat published some great photos from the event.


Scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute recently stumbled upon a beautiful and terrifying jelly more than half a mile below the surface of the Monterey Bay. Known as a giant phantom jelly, the rarely seen creature has a bell as wide as 3 feet and ribbon-like arms that grow more than 30 feet. The MBARI deep sea rover captured 4K video. YouTube (~1 min)


Southern California


San Diego prosecutors this month charged about a dozen anti-fascists in connection with assaults during a pro-Trump rally last January, in what experts believe is the first case in the U.S. to level a conspiracy charge against the far-left group. Until now, accused antifa members have been charged individually for crimes such as rioting and arson. A conspiracy conviction would mean defendants could be punished for more serious offenses committed by co-conspirators. S.D. Union-Tribune


The columnist David Lazarus was leaked records from a hospital in Encinitas that revealed how arbitrary price markups happen in real time. One listed the price for sutures, also known as stitches, at a basic “cost per unit” of $19.30. Yet the “computed charge per unit” was $149.58 — an apparently preset 675% markup. "Call it institutionalized price gouging," Lazarus wrote. L.A. Times


The star glowed above Altadena.


'Tis the season for hilltop light displays, and one of California's most charming is a giant star in the foothills above Altadena. It was first lit in 1928 on the property of Frank Nightingale, an outdoor lighting pioneer who popularized the idea that gardens should be illuminated in the same manner as living rooms. The current owner of the property, Phil Elkins, has kept the tradition alive not only during the holidays but whenever the community needs a lift. That's why the star remained lit for more than a year during the pandemic, hovering, as Elkins put it, like "a light in the midst of darkness."


5 questions with ...


Photo: Mark Velasquez

Marlen Porter, an owner of Amplify Wines, a small winery in Santa Maria.

Q. What is one place everyone should visit in California?

A. The elephant seal rookery at Piedras Blancas. Not only is it a beautiful part of the California coast near San Simeon, it is a rare opportunity to see hundreds of elephant seals up close in their natural habitat! Watching the males fight during mating season is particularly thrilling.

What’s the best book you've read or podcast you've listened to recently?

As far as podcasts go, I've been enjoying the latest season of “Up and Vanished,” which is about an Indigenous woman named Ashley Loring who went missing in 2017. Book would be “Hitchcock/Truffaut,” a great series of interviews François Truffaut did with Alfred Hitchcock in the '60s and then later revised in the '80s exploring Hitchcock's final works. It is an unparalleled look into the creative process.

What’s a hidden food gem in your area?

Angeles de Puebla. It's our local taco spot near the winery, and everything they make is superb. Delicious tortillas made in-house, al pastor off the trompa, suadero that melts in your mouth — unbeatable.

You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three California figures, dead or alive, do you invite, and why? How would you get the conversation started?

Our love of music informs so much of what we create, so it would have to be three different generations of Californian musicians: Madlib, Charles Mingus, and David Axelrod. I'd start by putting on a record and opening a bottle, discussing the threads between the wine and the music, and let the night go from there.

What are some of the challenges you find as a winemaker in California today that the average wine consumer wouldn't know about?

It is incredibly expensive to make wine in California as a small producer who doesn't come from money. The cost of grapes, rent for our winemaking space, cost of labor — it all adds up. We've always aspired to keep our wines affordable, to be enjoyed every day, so it can be an uphill battle to make the economics work out. But there's nowhere else we'd rather be; the quality of the fruit, and the quality of life, just can't be beat.

“5 questions with …” is a weekly feature by Finn Cohen, who edits the California Sun. Conversations are sometimes edited for brevity. Someone you’d like to see interviewed? Let him know:


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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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