California Sun

Good morning. It's Tuesday, June 23.

Experts say social gatherings are driving the pandemic.
California's police unions see their influence plummet.
And the time Johnny Cash set a national forest on fire.



Family and friends celebrated high school graduates in Manhattan Beach on June 11.

Jay L. Clendenin/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Coronavirus transmissions have been rising in parts of California, but to health experts' surprise, much of the spread does not appear to be linked to protests or reopening businesses. Instead, officials have been blaming social gatherings, as lockdown-weary Californians appear to be letting their guard down. Sacramento Bee | L.A. Times

A family in Shasta County held a large gathering. Then 12 of them tested positive. KRCR


An emergency room doctor painted a mural honoring medical workers in San Francisco on Monday.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Coronavirus hospitalizations jumped 16 percent in the last two weeks as the state reported more than 46,000 new infections. That amounts to more than a third of California's total coronavirus cases. "Those that suggest we're out of the woods, those that suggest this somehow is going to disappear, these numbers tell a very, very different and sobering story," Gov. Gavin Newsom said. "We're not out of the first wave." | L.A. Times

On Monday, California shattered its single-day record for most new coronavirus cases, adding more than 6,000 infections. S.F. Chronicle


Other coronavirus developments:

San Jose police were looking for a woman who appeared to purposely cough on a 1-year-old after a dispute over social distancing at a yogurt store. It was caught on video. KGO | Mercury News
“This is not about being weak.” Four former California governors joined Newsom in a public service announcement urging people to wear face masks. A.P.
Citing encouraging stats, San Francisco plans to accelerate its reopening. Hair salons, museums, and other businesses can now open on Monday, June 29, rather than mid-July. S.F. Chronicle | S.F. Examiner

The power of California's police unions has been sharply reduced.

Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

State and local politicians in California once feared the power of police unions to kick them out of office. Now? “The consensus feeling is there has been an abandonment by the majority of our elected officials," said a top law enforcement lobbyist. “They are saying we are toxic and no one wants to talk to us.” L.A. Times


Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders on Monday announced a budget deal they say will close the state's projected $54 billion deficit while avoiding steep cuts to education and safety net programs — for now. Details were sparse, but the deal relies in part on pay cuts for state workers. “We have provisions against teacher layoffs,” Newsom said. “That is good news. That was foundational." Sacramento Bee | A.P.


Trona is an isolated community on the road to Death Valley.

"After 53½ years, if I'd have searched this whole world over, I could have not found a better wife."

California, a place the size of a country, is many things. Among the more unusual is Trona, a Mojave Desert community that locals joke exists beyond the edge of the known world. Here's a moving little portrait of life in Trona by the director Dave Ma. Vimeo (~3 mins)


Northern California


President Trump on Monday temporarily suspended Silicon Valley's favorite visa, the H-1B. The move severely hampers the tech industry, which hires tens of thousands of high-skilled foreign workers each year. The CEO of Box echoed the reactions of several tech leaders when he tweeted, "This is unbelievably bad policy on every level." Silicon Valley Business Journal | CNN


The Google campus in Mountain View has increasingly become a site of protest.

Michael Short/Getty Images

More than 1,600 Google workers are demanding that the company stop selling its technology to the police. In a letter circulating internally, the signatories argue that American policing began as a way to protect wealth gotten from slavery. "We should not be in the business of profiting from racist policing," it says. "We should not be in the business of criminalizing Black existence while we chant that Black Lives Matter.” Reuters | TechCrunch


Mark Zuckerberg has forged an uneasy alliance with the Trump administration, writes media columnist Ben Smith. Zuckerberg gets a pass on scrutiny from Washington while Trump gets access to Facebook's viral power. "Both men are getting what they want, and it’s fair to wonder whether this is a mere alignment of interests or something more." N.Y. Times

Patagonia, based in Ventura, became the latest brand to join an ad boycott of Facebook. Hollywood Reporter | The Guardian


Southern California


People protested the killing of Andres Guardado in Gardena on Sunday.

Jason Armond/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Santa Ana imposed a curfew Monday, anticipating “possible civil unrest.” A flyer circulating online had called for a protest over the police killing of Andres Guardado near Gardena. Community members have demanded to know what prompted deputies to open fire on the 18-year-old last week. Top officials have yet to offer a full explanaton. O.C. Register | KABC


Steve Bing, a philanthropist, film producer, and influential political donor, fell to his death from a building in Century City on Monday, officials said. Foul play was not suspected. Bing, who inherited $600 million at age 18 and was close with Bill Clinton, was thrust into the public eye during two paternity cases that involved the British actress Elizabeth Hurley and the billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian. L.A. Times | Deadline


California archive


Johnny Cash in 1969.

Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

It was on this week in 1965 that Johnny Cash ignited a wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest that drove off 49 of the area's 53 endangered California condors.

In those days, the gravelly-voiced singer had fallen so deep into amphetamine use that the people around him feared for his life. Cash had driven his camper along with his nephew into the Sespe Creek wilderness to get some fresh air. According to a biography, the fire began after the two men pulled to the side of the road. The nephew believed Cash, who had been popping pills and swigging whiskey, lit a fire to keep warm and let it get away from him. Cash claimed it started from the sparks of a defective exhaust system on the camper.

Either way, the blaze grew rapidly, tearing through 500 acres and taking firefighters a week to put out.

It was surely the drugs talking when Cash derided the majestic California condor.

Trent Townsend

Cash didn’t help his case when questioned by investigators. Here’s one back-and-forth during a deposition, according to Cash’s retelling in his 1997 autobiography:

“Did you start this fire?”

“No, my truck did, and it’s dead, so you can’t question it.”

“Do you feel bad about what you did?”

“Well, I feel pretty good right now.”

“But how about driving all those condors out of the refuge?”

“You mean those big yellow buzzards?”

“Yes, Mr. Cash, those yellow buzzards.”

“I don’t give a damn about your yellow buzzards. Why should I care?”

In the end, Cash was fined $125,000, equivalent to about $1 million in today’s dollars.

A few years later, Cash turned his life around thanks in part to a sensational performance at Folsom Prison that revived his career and thrust him into a new role as a voice for the downtrodden. The condors also recovered. From just 22 remaining in the early 1980s, conservationists have since helped hatch more than 1,000 chicks. Despite Cash's slur, it’s impossible not to be awed as they soar overhead with flaming orange heads and wings that spread 10 feet tip to tip.


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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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