California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Oct. 30.

School kids are told to remove depictions of Mexican culture.
San Jose is paying the homeless $15 an hour to pick up trash.
And a mountain lion garners a reputation as a horse killer.

The lede


Policing patriotism

Students from Cesar Chavez Elementary at the La Quinta library in September.

Maria Hassan, via Desert Sun

Students at an elementary school in the Coachella Valley were ordered to remove depictions of Mexican culture from a performance about Mexican Independence Day last month.

According to a report in the Desert Sun, it all started with a single resident's complaint about showcasing Mexican heritage.

Maria Hassan, the teacher who organized the performance at a local library, said the order came down from the city mayor herself: There could be no Mexican flags or references to Hispanic culture. Moreover, if the students wanted to perform again, they would be expected to perform "American" songs like "Yankee Doodle."

"I was very emotional," Hassan said, "and I had so many students around me."

Read the story in the Desert Sun.




Fir trees in the southern Sierra.

Between 2010 and 2016, the twin assaults of drought and bark beetles killed more than 100 million trees in California — with pine trees facing the brunt of the die-off. The drought's now over, but the beetles are chomping away and they've moved on to fir trees, which live higher up. "The beetles are just trying to find whatever's leftover," a biologist said, "and often times that's in higher elevations."


A 2015 law required that every child in California public schools be fully immunized. It appears to have worked: Between 2015 and 2018, the percentage of vaccinated kindergartners rose from 90.4 percent — below the 94 percent threshold needed to achieve herd immunity against measles — to 95.1 percent. At the same time, there's been a dubious rise in medical exemptions.


A bail bonds office in Bakersfield.

An army of campaign workers has descended on California’s shopping centers to beseech passersby for signatures on a petition that seeks to repeal a criminal justice measure abolishing bail. The sidewalk solicitors are being paid a whopping $3.25 a signature in an effort bankrolled, no surprise, by the bail bond industry.


California has a posse in its fight with the Trump administration over tailpipe emissions. State regulators and politicians have been quietly teaming up to counteract a federal rollback of greenhouse-gas limits. Even reddish states are resisting. Of the states siding with California, seven have Republican governors.


Tharp's Log is located in Log Meadow at Sequoia National Park.

How big are California's giant sequoias? So big that a Gold Rush prospector once made a cabin for himself inside one of their fallen logs. In 1856, Hale Tharp became the first white settler to enter the Giant Forest in what is now Sequoia National Park. He lived in a log with a hollowed-out chamber that stretched 55 feet. John Muir described it as a "noble den."


Northern California


Employees are seething at Google over the company's handling of sexual misconduct claims. After the N.Y. Times reported that a credibly accused executive was handed a $90 million exit package, a group of more than 200 engineers are organizing a "women’s" walkout later this week.


Meenakshi Moorthy sat on a edge at the Grand Canyon in an image posted to Instagram.

The authorities identified the two people who died in a fall from Yosemite's Taft Point. Both born in India, Vishnu Viswanath, 29, and Meenakshi Moorthy, 30, were a married couple living and working in the Bay Area. They chronicled their travels online. In March, Moorthy described herself as "a fan of daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs and skyscrapers."


The Downtown Streets Team works to instill dignity among its homeless workers.

Homeless people will be paid $15 an hour to pick up trash in San Jose. The program is intended to beautify the city while also helping struggling individuals get back on their feet. "We are working to transform lives," San Jose's mayor said.


In the rural north state, while other mountain lions feast on deer, one skilled cougar has earned a reputation as a horse killer. Ranchers who complain that the area is overrun by wild horses tip their hats to the big cat. "A lot of people who have lived here their entire lives, they’ve never seen populations like this — both of horses and of mountain lions," one local said. "And both make them uncomfortable."


Southern California


And so it begins. Chula Vista's police force has started using drones to respond to 911 calls. In four days, drones responded to 30 emergency calls and contributed to three arrests, including one for felony domestic violence. The police chief said the eye in the sky accelerates response times and makes officers safer. "And that," she added, "is going to be amazing for us in law enforcement."


Tyler Barriss appeared at Los Angeles Superior Court Jan. 3.

Irfan Khan /Los Angeles Times via A.P.

Last year, a 25-year-old from Los Angeles named Tyler Barriss called 911 and reported a fake hostage situation. It was done in response to a beef over a "Call of Duty" match. Minutes later, Andrew Finch opened the front door of his house in Wichita. He was almost instantly killed by police. A WIRED reporter spent months reporting the riveting story of folly, loss, and redemption.


HBO said it would start using "intimacy coordinators" for all sex scenes. Hollywood's approach to filming intimate moments has been surprisingly unruly. Sarah Scott recalled how another actor, Kip Pardue, placed her hand on his groin while on the set of a TV pilot — just months after the #MeToo movement erupted. "This isn’t a #MeToo thing," she alleged he said. “I’m not your employer. It’s not like I can fire you."


Mount Baldy is near Los Angeles, but seemingly worlds away.

Mount Baldy, in the San Gabriel Mountains, is the highest point in Los Angeles County. Just an hour from the beach, it's a serious mountain with challenging hikes, winter mountaineering, and steep ski routes. Rescues are common. Cheaters take a chair lift up to the perch at Top Of The Notch Restaurant at 7,800 feet, which LA Weekly once named the region's "best view with a restaurant."


Today I learned


A long line of voters in Los Angeles on Nov. 4, 1952.

Los Angeles Public Library

If you're feeling squeezed for time to vote on Nov. 6, you may be eligible for paid time off. California law allows employees to take up to two hours of paid time off if they don't have sufficient time outside of work to get to the voting booth.

The U.S. lags behind most industrialized nations in voter turnout. A Pew Research Center analysis found that 14 percent of Americans who didn't vote in 2016 cited being too busy as the reason.

That's why more employers are embracing the idea of cutting their workers some slack on Election Day. Bloomberg reported that a record 44 percent of U.S. companies planned to give employees paid time off to vote next week. Lyft instituted a no-meetings policy. Patagonia plans to close all of its stores for the day.

The simplest solution, the Washington Post editorial board recently argued, would be to simply move Election Day.

"Nearly every other modern democracy holds elections on weekends or makes Election Day a national holiday," it said. "The United States' refusal to follow that model ... has not only depressed voter participation but has also resulted in a skewed electorate."


Thanks for reading!

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

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