California Sun

Good morning. It's Thursday, June 7.

Warnings of unintended consequences from a judge's recall.
A miserly voter turnout for a path-setting primary.
And two climbers redefine the possible on El Capitan.

The lede


Recall ripples

Michele Dauber, the Stanford law professor who led the campaign to recall Judge Aaron Persky, posed for a photo.

Jeff Chiu/A.P.

The recall of a judge who gave a light sentence in a sexual assault case was hailed by supporters as a victory for women.

It was the first recall of a judge in California in more than 80 years. Judge Aaron Persky of Santa Clara County Superior Court faced national outrage after he sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman.

Michele Dauber, a law professor who led the campaign to oust Persky, told the L.A. Times that the vote sent a message to arbiters of justice everywhere that sexual violence will not be tolerated. "If candidates want the votes of progressive Democratic women, they will have to take this issue seriously," she said. "If they do not, they will hear from women at the polls."

But legal groups said it also sent another message, one that is detrimental to judicial independence.

In a column for Vox, Rachel Marshall, a public defender in Oakland, said the recall would hurt poor and minority defendants by making judges reluctant to be merciful.

"It sends a dangerous message to judges everywhere," she wrote: "If we don’t like one decision you make, you’re out."

Read more in Vox and the Times.



George Soros, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Democratic donor, pumped money into California district attorney races.

Francois Mori/A.P.

George Soros and other wealthy political donors poured millions of dollars into district attorney campaigns across California, turning underdogs into contenders. The hope was to propel liberal prosecutors into office who would help reshape the nation's criminal justice system. But the gambit failed. Incumbent district attorneys in Sacramento, San Diego, and Alameda counties were well ahead of Soros-backed challengers.


Kevin de León squeaked by in his bid for the right to challenge Senator Dianne Feinstein in the general election. Many Democratic leaders see de León, a former state Senate leader, as one of the leading faces of a new generation eager for progressive change in California. But he has struggled to rival 84-year-old Feinstein, a candidate widely seen as a California institution.


Tuesday's primary was a big deal for California and the country. Even so, early returns suggested only about 22 percent of registered voters cast ballots. The L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez hit the streets to gauge voter engagement and found stunning apathy. “No offense,” a 63-year-old man told him, “but I never vote.” Why? “I don’t believe in the system,” he said.


Kevin Roose, a N.Y. Times tech columnist, said he wanted to hate the shared electric scooters that have been described as a plague of two-wheeled terror in California cities. But after giving them a try for a week, he just couldn't muster the sentiment. "E-scooters might look and feel kind of dorky, but they aren’t an urban menace or a harbinger of the apocalypse. In fact — sigh — they’re pretty great."

Northern California


Tommy Caldwell, left, and Alex Honnold at the top of El Capitan, which they climbed in record time.

Corey Rich/Reel Rock /Novus Select via A.P.

People once thought Yosemite’s El Capitan was unclimbable. Then the first climbers proved that wrong in 1958, summiting the wall in stages over the course of 18 months. Sixty years later, two elite climbers have again redefined what's possible. Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell climbed the world's most celebrated slab of granite in a record 1 hour, 58 minutes, and seven seconds.


Despite a nearly $13 million opposition campaign by a giant tobacco company, San Franciscans voted overwhelmingly in favor of a first-in-the-nation ban on flavored tobacco products. Supporters of the measure portrayed flavors such as berry, nacho cheese, and gummy bear as a ploy by tobacco companies to lure young people into addiction.


Bay Area voters backed a measure that would increase tolls on the Bay Area’s seven state-owned bridges by $3 over the next six years, raising an estimated $4.5 billion for transportation projects aimed at reducing congestion. The Bay Area's humming economy has produced a glut of commuters and attendant gridlock that ranks among the world's worst.


Stephon Clark was killed 23 seconds after encountering two Sacramento police officers last March. The N.Y. Times analyzed extensive police body camera and a helicopter footage frame-by-frame to find out why it escalated so quickly. It established five critical moments and a series of split-second decisions that resulted in the fatal shooting of Clark, an unarmed father of two boys.


Kevin Durant was a monster in Cleveland on Wednesday.

Carlos Osorio/A.P.

"The Warriors are on dynasty’s doorstep." Golden State took a 3-0 advantage in their N.B.A. finals matchup with Cleveland thanks to a monster performance by Kevin Durant. He put up a career playoff-high 43 points — along with 13 rebounds and seven assists — draining a long distance 3-pointer in the final minute to cap the performance. Game 4 is Friday in Cleveland.

Southern California


The border authorities are planning a significant escalation of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, lawyers in San Diego said. Under the program, called Operation Streamline, people crossing the border into California illegally will be moved through the criminal justice system in expedited group hearings. The number of people facing criminal prosecution is expected to increase substantially.


California officials were demanding answers from the Los Angeles County elections chief after more than 118,000 people were left off voter rosters on Tuesday, a debacle that set off anger and confusion at the polls. The blunder, blamed on a printing error, drew added consternation given the climate of distrust in the country's electoral process. "This can never be allowed to happen again," a county supervisor said.


Gabrielle DiMarco earned instant internet celebrity.


San Diego has a new hero. Her name is Gabrielle DiMarco, a 23-year-old college student who caught a foul ball in her full cup of beer at a Padres game — then chugged the drink as the crowd went wild. Video of the performance was shared widely on social media.


“The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth.” That's John Muir describing the diverse mountain wilderness east of Los Angeles that includes the second-highest point in Southern California. Desert Magazine published a new guide on the adventures to be had there.

Today I Learned


Did you know?

Mohamed Bzeek at the grave of a foster child whom he cared for.

Here are three random facts about California:

A Libyan-born Muslim in Los Angeles County has been fostering terminally ill children since 1989. There's a dire need for foster parents to care for such children. But Mohamed Bzeek, a portly man with a dark beard and a soft voice, has been the only one in the county known to do so.

Bzeek was profiled last year in the L.A. Times. He talked about the sorrow of burying about 10 children, some of whom died in his arms. "This one hurt me so badly when she died," he said looking at a photograph of a little girl in a coffin surrounded by flowers.

He added, "The key is, you have to love them like your own. I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best as a human being and leave the rest to God."

Albino redwoods are unable to produce chlorophyll.

mollie c/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

They call them ghost trees. Scattered throughout California's coastal forests are redwoods whose branches and foliage are pure white. Known as albino redwoods, the are extremely rare, standing roughly the height of a man.

For more than a century, their existence was a mystery to scientists. The trees lack chlorophyll, the green pigment that allows plants to make food from light via photosynthesis. They should be dead.

But in the last few years, scientists have posed a fascinating theory. The trees have been found to be sucking up toxic metals from the soil, while also drawing sugars from huge host trees to survive. “They are basically poisoning themselves,” a scientist told the Mercury News.

The relationship may be a symbiotic one, with albino redwoods sacrificing themselves to make the soil safer for other trees.

A painting of a Columbian mammoth, once prevalent in what's now California.

Charles R. Knight

Mammoths, rhinoceroses, saber-toothed cats, and weird horselike chalicotheres once roamed Southern California.

We know because their fossils were scattered across the region. Many were preserved in the La Brea Tar Pits, whose sticky asphalt was a death trap for the animals that roamed the fertile grasslands.

The large land mammals died out at the end of the last ice age, between roughly 12,000 and 15,000 years ago, victims, scientists believe, of hunting and climate change.

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Thanks for reading!

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

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