California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, June 12.

Berkeley scraps the age-old practice of library fines.
Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk feud over killer robots.
And one of the world's prettiest places at Lake Tahoe.

The lede


Amnesty at the library

Berkeley Public Library is doing away with overdue-book fees.

Melinda Stuart/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Some libraries have dispatched debt collectors to track down patrons with overdue fines.

But Berkeley, ever the trailblazer, is taking a different approach. The city's library board voted last week to do away with late fees — once and for all.

According to Berkeleyside, library officials discovered that many of the 11,000 or so patrons barred from using the library over unpaid fines came from lower-income parts of town.

“The current practice unintentionally tells some people they are not welcome,” a library official said.

Berkeley's decision adds momentum to what looks like a burgeoning nationwide movement. Last year, Los Angeles got rid of late fines for children's books (a move Berkeley took decades ago). Among those that have eliminated all late fees are Baltimore, Nashville, and Salt Lake City.

So should Berkeley brace for a free-for-all? Not quite. The library will go after patrons for replacement costs if a book is more than six weeks late. And repeat offenders will be blocked from borrowing more books.

Read the story in Berkeleyside and the East Bay Times.



A family of Syrian refugees in San Diego County in 2016. The number of arrivals of Syrian refugees in California has plummeted under the Trump administration.

Lenny Ignelzi/A.P.

The effects of the Trump administration's curtailing of the refugee program have been stark in California, once a haven for the displaced. Resettlement agencies are shutting down offices, and refugees are no longer regularly arriving at the major airports. In the 2016 fiscal year, California took in 1,450 refugees from war-torn Syria. Today, not a single Syrian refugee has arrived in the state since November.


A revolt is growing among professors across California's community colleges. A number of academic senates have passed votes of no confidence in system Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. They are angered in part by a new funding formula that rewards colleges according to performance metrics such as the number of degrees awarded. "You're going to have this mad scramble to start conferring as many degrees as possible to students," one professor said.


The L.A. Times Editorial Board has declared its allegiances in the Great Electric Scooter Wars of 2018. "More people using bikes and scooters means fewer car trips, less traffic, and less pollution," it wrote. "Scooters are not a scourge; they’re a solution."

Northern California


"For us, it's a quality of life issue." "We will never be able to afford a house." "I'm crying as I write this." KQED collected the stories of people who are leaving the Bay Area. Some described heartbreak and fear. Others expressed excitement at the prospect of being freed at last from the region's brutal cost of living.


Mark Zuckerberg, left, and Elon Musk don't see eye to eye on the potential for mayhem in artificial intelligence.

Manu Fernandez, Stephan Savoia/A.P.

Elon Musk has been sounding the alarm about artificial intelligence, which he believes is “potentially more dangerous than nukes.” Mark Zuckerberg disagrees, so he invited the Tesla founder to dinner and tried to convince him he was wrong. But Musk didn't budge. He fears that machines smarter than humans could turn against us. Whether he's right is a debate playing out across the tech industry.


A Stockton family's pit bull is being hailed as a hero after fire broke out in their apartment building. As the flames neared, the female pup began yelping wildly, then raced into the baby's room and began dragging her off the bed by her diaper. The infant's mother said the pair have a special bond. "She's in her bed every day," she said. "They take baths together and everything."


Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968.

Jim Marshall

The country singer stepped on stage at Folsom Prison in 1968 after a yearslong descent into drug addiction. “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash,” he said by way of introduction, eliciting a giddy roar. Cash sang about longing, sin, and misfortune. The result was electric, spawning a best-selling record. But Cash's prison shows not only made him a superstar, they gave him his cause: a lifelong dedication to prisoner rights.


Tahoe's Emerald Bay at sunrise.

melfoody/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

"Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe is one of the prettiest places on the planet," wrote Tom Stienstra, an outdoors columnist. The giant cove is filled with cobalt-blue water surrounded by a mountain rim, and dotted by Fannette Island, the lake's only island. Camping season just opened there. Paddling in the bay's water on a calm morning, Stienstra reports, "is ecstasy."

Southern California


This is peculiar. In one of the Orange County congressional races where Democrats feared that vote-splitting might cause them to be shut out of the general election, a virtully unknown candidate who only recently registered as Democratic pumped $1 million into his campaign with weeks to go before the primary. The biggest chunk of money went to a Delaware company that specializes in “conservative campaign solutions.”


After a Chula Vista teacher was accused of sexually harassing and groping three female students, an investigation concluded that his conduct had been “severe and pervasive.” Yet in a departure deal, he got paid leave and officials agreed to conceal the misconduct findings from other schools or potential employers.


Free college is coming to San Diego this fall. California is covering the first year of community college statewide. And San Diego's community college district announced that it would cover the second year of tuition at its campuses. The costs of transportation, textbooks, and housing, however, are another matter. The county's average rent hit a record $1,887 a month in March.


Have you noticed less cloud cover in Southern California? A new study found that stratus clouds above the region had decreased by between 25 to 50 percent since the 1970s. The culprits were increasing temperatures and heat radiated from urban sprawl. That's a bad sign for fire danger. Less cloud cover leads to drier vegetation and more ready fuel for wildfires.


U.S.C.'s Kendall Ellis closed in on Purdue's Jahneya Mitchell in the final stretch of the 1,600-meter relay at the women's N.C.A.A. track and field championships.


"I just don't know if Purdue is going to get caught." "No, there's no way ..." "Here comes S.C." "U.S.C. is not going to catch Purdue, I don't think. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness!" "Oooh!" "Looks what's just happening!" "OOOH!" "U.S.C. wins!" "Oh my gosh!" "Unbelievable!"

Today I learned


Did you know?

City Councilmember Joe Colla atop a truncated interchange in San Jose in 1976.

Ray Spallone

Here are three random facts about California:

In 1976, a half-built interchange in San Jose had stood for years as an unsightly island 110 feet in the air.

A group of activists became so frustrated by the stalled project that they conspired to pull off headline-grabbing stunt. They convinced a crane operator to hoist an old Chevy to the edge of the ramp, then got a helicopter pilot to deposit an accomplice, City Councilman Joe Colla, next to it.

A photo of Colla with arms outstretched above the caption "Where do we go from here" made national news. Suitably shamed, leaders in Sacramento got back to work on the freeway project.

Colla died in 1995. So he sadly wasn't around a couple years ago when the county commemorated the achievement by christening the structure the Joe Colla Interchange. Mercury News

Parrots hanging out in Long Beach. The birds have thrived in California.

tdlucas5000/CC BY 2.0

The boisterous sounds of Latin American jungles echo across California.

They come from flocks of brightly colored parrots of at least 10 different species that have made an unlikely home in the arid state.

Their origins in California date back as far as the 1940s, when parrots arrived via the pet trade. Over time, owners are thought to have accidentally introduced them into the wild. In some cases, traders may have let large numbers loose.

The birds — red-crowned parrots, yellow-chevroned parakeets, lilac-crowned Amazon parrots, and others — thrived from San Francisco to San Diego, thanks in part to a ready diet of nuts and fruits from California farms.

While the birds are lovely to look at, their songs are not for the weak-hearted. Parrots are notorious for maniacal squawking. | California Parrot Project

The remoteness of Goat Canyon Trestle means few have seen the engineering wonder.

El Cajon Yacht Club/CC BY 2.0

The world's largest wooden trestle is wedged in a remote desert gorge near the California-Mexico border.

Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge, spanning 600 feet and rising 200, was built in 1933 in a seat-of-the-pants engineering feat along a train line from San Diego to Imperial County that became known as the "impossible railroad."

An intricate spiderweb of redwood beams, the trestle was built at a curve to resist the wind. More commonly used steel was rejected out of fear that it would buckle amid the area's severe temperature swings.

The rail line was abandoned a decade ago, but its most magnificent feature has remained a big attraction for hikers who walk 12 miles roundtrip to get there. Atlas Obscura | California Through My Lens

Thanks for reading!

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

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