California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, July 21.

Water theft soars to record levels during drought.
Poway synagogue shooter admits guilt and hate motive.
And a food writer searches for California's barbecue tradition.



As California's drought emergency grows more dire, water theft has soared to record levels. Officials say illicit marijuana operations are providing the demand for black market water pumped from city hydrants, water mains, and rivers. In Mendocino County, it's gotten so bad that they put locks on hydrants. “Any way that you can imagine that somebody is going to grab water, they’re doing it,” said the county sheriff. CalMatters


A man skated in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

"This is, like, this is unprecedented.”

The sun turned red in New York City on Tuesday after smoke from wildfires in the American West drifted thousands of miles across the continent. By midday, the air quality was as bad as any major city in the world. Meteorologists warned people with sensitive lungs to stay indoors. Los Angeles Magazine | CBSNewYork

Satellite imagery showed smoke sweeping across the country. 👉 @NWSNewYorkNY


Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Tuesday to create an open access broadband network that reaches all corners of the state. The $6 billion plan will prioritize underserved areas such as rural communities and tribal lands, a need highlighted during the pandemic. Supporters of the bill hailed it as a historic step toward closing the digital divide. Visalia Times Delta | Sacramento Bee


The Hitching Post in Casmalia is part time capsule and part restaurant, Rao wrote.

The food writer Tejal Rao set out to learn what makes California barbecue what it is. She sampled cuts cooked beside coals made from red oak fires in Santa Maria, California's barbecue heartland, then visited a grill in Los Angeles that does Puebla-style barbacoa and another in West Oakland that serves whole hog barbecue on weekends.

"If you plot California barbecue out on a timeline," Rao wrote, "it doesn’t simply start at one point and end at another. It swirls and zigzags and folds back onto itself — layers and layers of styles swaying, coexisting, branching and overlapping in a great big cloud of sweet red-oak smoke." N.Y. Times


Northern California


Police officer William Ma helped an elderly woman cross the street in Chinatown on March 18.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In San Francisco, a bitter divide has emerged between residents of Chinese descent and the city’s Asian American leaders. Furious and afraid after a string of attacks against older people of Asian descent, the residents are demanding more police patrols. The leaders, committed to criminal justice reform, don't want to involve law enforcement. “I haven’t heard of anyone in the Chinese community who doesn’t want more police,” said Leanna Louie, a former Army intelligence officer. “We are very dissatisfied with Asian representatives. We are going to work furiously to replace them.” N.Y. Times


Fred Zalokar, an accomplished marathoner who went missing during a hike in Yosemite over the weekend, was found dead by park rangers on Tuesday. Over his career, Zalokar, 61, ran the four original 100-mile races in America in a single year, traveled to 137 countries, and summited the tallest peaks on five continents. He went missing Saturday while on a solo trip up Mount Clark. His body was discovered near the summit. Reno Gazette Journal | KRNV


"Never forget that home is not a building."

In the Bay Area, top income earners make 12.2 times more than the lowest earners, the highest level of income inequality in the state. Though Elizabeth Herrera and her husband David Lima have always worked, they have shuffled with their four children through unsafe apartments, relatives’ couches, shelters, and the streets. This short documentary on their lives, intimately filmed by Herrera, challenges assumptions about what homelessness looks like. 👉 N.Y. Times (~12 mins)


Daniel Sorine

In 1974, a young photographer named Daniel Sorine snapped pictures of two random mimes in New York City's Central Park. He was impressed, he said, by their "unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity.” Sorine tucked the photos away and forgot about them for 35 years. When he finally pulled them out, he realized he had photographed a young Robin Williams, then a student at Juilliard and still years from his first foray into standup on the stages of San Francisco. Williams would have been 70 today. PetaPixel


Southern California


John Earnest attended an arraignment hearing in San Diego County Superior Court on April 30, 2019.

Nelvin C. Cepeda-Pool/Getty Images

John Earnest, a 22-year-old former nursing student, pleaded guilty to murder on Tuesday, admitting that he shot congregants at a Poway synagogue in 2019 in an attack that left one person dead and three others injured. Earnest said he was driven by a hatred of Jews, prosecutors said. He was spared the death penalty but agreed to spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole. S.D. Union-Tribune | A.P.


Thomas J. Barrack Jr. participated in a panel discussion in Beverly Hills in 2019.

Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a Santa Monica businessman and close friend of former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday on charges he secretly acted in the U.S. as an agent for the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors said Barrack, 74, used his access to the White House to advance the foreign policy goals of the Persian Gulf nation, once inserting pro-UAE language into a Trump campaign speech. Barrack denied wrongdoing. Washington Post | L.A. Times


A Drug Enforcement Administration special agent from Orange County has become the first federal law enforcement officer to be charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Mark Ibrahim, who was arrested Tuesday, entered the restricted grounds around the Capitol building and repeatedly showed off his badge and gun to other protesters, prosecutors said. A video posted online showed him carrying a flag with the words “Liberty or Death.” A.P. | Politico


A picture of Charles Morton was displayed during a memorial service in San Bernardino on Sept. 25, 2020.

Irfan Khan/L.A. Times via Getty Images

A couple was charged with manslaughter after their gender reveal party ignited a fire that killed a firefighter last year, the authorities said. The El Dorado fire erupted on Sept. 5 when Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angela Renee Jimenez used a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device that ignited dry grass at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains. Strong winds stoked the blaze, which raced through national forest land. On Sept. 17, flames overran an area where firefighters were cutting fire breaks, killing Charles Morton, 39. The couple pleaded not guilty. Press-Enterprise | Desert Sun


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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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