California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, Oct. 12.

California kept its prison factories open during pandemic.
Reports of unofficial ballot drop boxes across the state.
And Kobe Bryant hovers over Lakers' championship win.



California's prison system has halted rehab programs, religious services, and educational classes. But one operation has kept humming throughout the pandemic: prison factories. At the women's prison in Chino, inmates described stitching masks for 60 cents an hour while being forbidden from wearing them. Then an outbreak hit. “This should appall everyone who wants to live in a civilized society,” a criminal justice advocate said. L.A. Times


A worker prepared the Senate room where Judge Amy Coney Barrett will face four days of hearings.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images/Pool

There's nothing Democrats do can to stop Senate Republicans from confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett this week. Even so, California's senators will be under immense pressure as the hearings kick off Monday. Dianne Feinstein, 87, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has faced questions about whether she is up for the battle. Kamala Harris, a sharp questioner, must balance expectations for "gotcha" moments with the demands of a presidential ticket that is ahead in the polls and eager to avoid any missteps. S.F. Chronicle | L.A. Times

Harris said she'd attend the hearings remotely, accusing Republicans of failing to take adequate coronavirus safety measures. Politico | The Hill


State election officials have received reports of unauthorized "ballot drop off" boxes across the state. In one case, a Santa Clarita pastor put a gray container in front of his church with a sign that read, "Official Ballot Drop Box.” It wasn't. The pastor, Jerry Cook, didn't respond to a reporter's requests for comment. O.C. Register | CBSLA

Pro tip: California lets you track when your ballot is mailed, received, and counted. 👉 ballottrax


Northern California


San Francisco is on track to lose more than 700 lives to drug overdoses this year — roughly two a day. That's a dramatic increase from the 441 people who died from overdoses in 2019 and four times the number of people in the city who have died from Covid-19. “It’s exponentially growing," San Francisco's chief forensic toxicologist said. S.F. Chronicle

A state senator announced a renewed effort to legalize safe injection sites, which allow drug users to consume in the presence of medical professionals. CBS SF | S.F. Examiner


BART ridership has been hovering around 12% of pre-pandemic levels.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Plunging BART ridership. Sales tax revenue in free fall. A 20% drop in apartment rents. The highest office vacancy rate in a decade.

Six months into the pandemic, the data from California's most expensive big city is now unequivocal. "Yes," the Chronicle wrote. "People are leaving San Francisco." S.F. Chronicle


PG&E may have sparked the deadly Zogg fire in Shasta County. Fire investigators seized electrical equipment belonging to the utility near the origin of the fire, which has destroyed more than 200 structures and left four people dead since erupting late last month. If found responsible, the utility would face substantial liability costs just months after emerging from bankruptcy. A.P. | KQED

Hot and windy weather was expected to return to Northern California this week, prompting PG&E to warn of preemptive power shutoffs. Sacramento Bee | Mercury News


Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong wants to put a stop to political talk in the workplace.

Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

The free exchange of ideas has been a cornerstone of Silicon Valley. But after a tumultuous year, some CEOs are rethinking their policies on free speech. Last month, Brian Armstrong, the CEO of the cryptocurrency company Coinbase, essentially barred political activism in the workplace, offering a severance package to anyone who didn't get on board. Five percent of his staff chose to leave. S.F. Chronicle | Quartz


Southern California


Fans gathered at a mural of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are your 2020 NBA champions, ending a decade-long drought with their defeat over Miami in six games. The performances of Lebron James and Anthony Davis were inspired, wrote the columnist Bill Plaschke. But he added: "The biggest star was the memory of the late [Kobe] Bryant, whose spirit hovered over everything and whose influence was felt everywhere." L.A. Times

Celebrations got rowdy outside the Staples Center, as maskless revelers ignored pleas to stay home. A number of people were arrested. CBSLA | L.A. Times


The columnist Steve Lopez wrote about trouble at Vroman’s Bookstore, a Pasadena institution founded in 1894 that has survived wars, recessions, and big-box chain bookstores. Now the pandemic has pushed it to the brink of closure. The list of dying mom-and-pops is growing, Lopez wrote. "The Los Angeles we love is dying." L.A. Times


Ammar Campa-Najjar faced a backlash after meeting with a controversial activist.

Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images

Ammar Campa-Najjar, a San Diego-area Democrat running for Congress, gave an interview to the founder of Defend East County, a far right online community where racist banter has thrived. Campa-Najjar smoked cigars with the founder, Justin Haskins, and said he was unsure whether he'd vote for Donald Trump or Joe Biden. kpbs


Disney and California are in an increasingly tense standoff over the state's refusal to allow Disneyland to reopen. In Florida, Disney World opened in July, a move that was attacked at the time as an invitation to disaster. Yet after three months there have been no coronavirus outbreaks. "Disney’s wide-ranging safety measures appear to be working," the N.Y. Times wrote.


California archive


A bronze plaque memorializes John Denver on the shores of Pacific Grove at Monterey Bay.

David Litman

Colorado’s greatest champion is memorialized on a rocky shore at Monterey Bay. John Denver became a folk music hero in the early 1970s with earnest songs about the pleasures of nature at a time of war and rising cynicism.

He lived for much of his life in Colorado, a state whose soaring wilderness became a theme in his music. But in the final year of his life, Denver stayed on California’s Central Coast, where he kept a home in Carmel and indulged his love of aviation over the Pacific.

John Denver, seen in 1979, made a home near Monterey Bay in 1996.

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

On this day in 1997, Denver played a morning round of golf with some friends, then headed to Monterey Peninsula Airport to take his new two-seater aircraft, a Rutan Long-EZ, for a spin over the bay. Roughly 15 minutes after takeoff, he was dead.

An investigation concluded that Denver likely tilted a rudder inadvertently while trying to adjust a tricky fuel valve in the cockpit, causing him to lose control and veer into the sea. He was 53.

Denver’s ashes were scattered in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. The plaque at Monterey Bay was added in 2007 and included a few lines from a Denver song about the wind — a symbol, he wrote, “of all that is free.”


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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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