California Sun

Good morning. It's Thursday, Aug. 1.

Trump strips medals from prosecutors in Navy SEAL case.
San Francisco's "cruelest landlord" gets her comeuppance.
And an incredible photo of one of the world's biggest trees.



Sen. Kamala Harris was shown on television screens in the press room during the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit on Wednesday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After a breakout performance in the first Democratic debate, Sen. Kamala Harris found herself on the defensive in the second one as rivals for the presidential nomination piled on to attack her record as a prosecutor in California. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii accused Harris of jailing people for marijuana, blocking evidence in a death row case, and fighting to keep cash bail. "The people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor, you owe them an apology," Gabbard said. Responding, Harris said her efforts to reform the criminal justice system became a national model. "That is my work," she said. "I am proud of it." The Hill | YouTube


The I-5 and Route 132 cross paths in the San Joaquin Valley.

A perfect storm of solar power production seems to be brewing in the San Joaquin Valley. As vast swaths of farmland are forced out of production by new groundwater rules, aggressive clean energy goals mean California will need to add hundreds, if not thousands, of square miles of solar plants. At least 20 square miles of solar have already been built in the valley. "It's a region with tremendous opportunity," an energy expert said. L.A. Times


A neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Two magazines published cover stories on the Paradise tragedy.

Writing in the California Sunday Magazine, Mark Arax argued that the worst fire in California history should never have happened. Yet it's bound to happen again. "From 1990 to 2010, the number of houses built in the wildland-urban interface grew by 1 million in California. The number of people rose by nearly 3 million. One out of every four Californians — more than 10 million people — now lived in the zone of wildfire."

In the New York Times Magazine, Jon Mooallem wrote that Paradise was no ordinary disaster. "We live with an unspoken assumption that the planet is generally survivable, that its tantrums are infrequent and, while menacing, can be plotted along some hazy, existentially tolerable bell curve. But the stability that American society was built around for generations appears to be eroding."

Also, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the hiring of nearly 400 additional seasonal firefighters this year. Sacramento Bee | A.P.


The family of the late San Francisco native Bruce Lee is unhappy with Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood." In the movie, Bruce Lee is depicted facing off with stuntman Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt. Lee's daughter, Shannon Lee, said her father comes across "as an arrogant asshole who was full of hot air." Tarantino, she said, "seems to have gone out of the way to make fun of my father and to portray him as kind of a buffoon." The Wrap | The Guardian


Those red spots at the bottom and near the top are people.

247 feet tall. 54,000 cubic feet of wood and bark. 2 billion leaves. 3,200 years old.

Those are some of the stats for one of the largest trees in the world, known as the President, in Sequoia National Park. Five years ago, National Geographic thought it would be cool to try to capture the entire tree in a single photograph. The result, above, took 32 days and 126 individual frames to stitch together the full photograph. (See a larger version). NPR | Petapixel


Northern California


The number of homeless in San Francisco is up 17 percent since 2017.

Mason Trinca for the Washington Post via Getty Images

The homeless crisis in San Francisco keeps escalating even as the city spends more than $300 million a year trying to ameliorate it. On June 18, the S.F. Chronicle dispatched 36 reporters across the city to document one day in the epidemic. The result offers glimpses of the humanity of the homeless. One woman, for example, scraped enough together to buy a taco with free chips for her 11-year-old daughter. She sneaked a few chips, but otherwise didn't eat. "No me importa," she said. S.F. Chronicle


San Francisco's city attorney has described Anne Kihagi as "among the most abusive and lawless landlords I've encountered." She's been accused of systematically driving tenants from rent-controlled apartments so she can bring in market-rate renters. Now she appears to be getting her comeuppance. A judge took the extraordinary step of wresting away her eight known remaining residential properties. "Ordinary remedies," he said, had proved insufficient. Mission Local


Finnegan Lee Elder, left, and Gabriel Christian Natale Hjorth were jailed in Rome.

Italian Carabinieri

Finnegan Lee Elder, a San Francisco teen accused in the fatal stabbing a police officer in Italy, punched a fellow student at a party in 2016, leaving the victim with a severe brain injury, sources told the S.F. Chronicle. Separately, Elder's parents spoke publicly for the first time since their son and a companion were arrested in the murder. "We grieve for the family of the officer," his mother said. | S.F. Chronicle


A top F.B.I. official cautioned against premature conclusions about the ideology of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooter, saying literature found in the gunman's home ran the gamut from left to right. An extremism expert lauded the authorities' circumspection, but he added, "He murders three young people of color, and right before he does it, he posts about mestizos, and then encouraged people to read a book republished by a Nazi publishing house. What more do you need?" Mercury News | S.F. Chronicle

Here's an interesting visualization of how illegal guns are made legal again with some simple modifications. N.Y. Times


The Grateful Dead performed at Winterland in San Francisco on March 20, 1977.

Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images

Jerry Garcia was born in San Francisco on this day in 1942.

As the most recognizable member of the Grateful Dead, Garcia came to represent the optimism of the 1960s. He saw joy as a duty, a philosophy that infused his rhapsodic guitar solos but also saddled him with a lifelong heroin addiction. His friend Ken Kesey once explained: "You're out there on the edge where it's beyond dangerous to your life — it's dangerous to your soul. And Garcia was on that edge for 30 years. It's like when the king asked Mozart why he drank so much, and Wolfgang said, 'Rock 'n' roll is hot, dry work.' Who are we to argue with such an artist?"

Garcia was just 53 when he died in 1995. His heart had given out. It felt to his devoted tribe of Deadheads as though one of America's most epic adventures had abruptly ended. He had left, TIME magazine wrote, "long after he might have, long before he should have." TIME | Rolling Stone


Southern California


The Edward Gallagher case became a cause célèbre among Republican lawmakers and the conservative news media.

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

President Trump intervened again on behalf of Edward Gallagher, the former Navy SEAL who was charged but acquitted of war crimes in Iraq. Trump ordered the military to punish the prosecutors by stripping them of medals received following the trial. "His announcement," the N.Y. Times wrote, "was a remarkable rebuke by a president of his own Navy leadership." N.Y. Times | S.D. Union-Tribune


Jets often fly low during training mission in Death Valley National Park.

A Navy fighter jet crashed in Death Valley while on a routine training mission, officials said. The F/A-18 Super Hornet crashed in an area often referred to as Star Wars Canyon, injuring seven people who were at a scenic overlook. The status of the pilot remained unknown late Wednesday. "We're looking for an aviator out there, hoping for the best," an official said. L.A. Times | A.P.


A bizarre new tale emerged from the college admissions scandal. Vanity Fair reported that a Los Angeles guidance counselor suspected something fishy was afoot when she got a call from Tulane University. An admissions officer said the college was delighted to accept the application of Eliza Bass, a black tennis whiz whose parents had never attended college. The problem: Bass was white, never played tennis competitively, and her father was a wealthy Orange County lawyer. Vanity Fair | CBS News


The L.A. Times has failed to keep pace with its East Coast counterparts.

A memo at the L.A. Times revealed that the storied newspaper is struggling to add subscribers a year after being bought by a biotech billionaire. By way of comparison, in 2002 the Times had a larger print circulation, at 965,633, than the Washington Post, at 746,724. But the Times has fallen far behind in the internet age. Its digital subscribers now total only about 170,000. The Post? 1.7 million. NeimanLab | Poynter


Fun fact: WD-40 is called WD-40 because it took engineers 40 attempts to perfect the formula. The ubiquitous lubricant was invented in 1953 by the awesomely named Rocket Chemical Company, a fledging company in San Diego with a staff of three. The original formula — known as "Water Displacement, 40th formula" — proved so effective that it remains unchanged to this day. The Atlantic |


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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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