California Sun

Good morning. It's Wednesday, July 17.

Scientists warn of mounting heat and wildfires.
A pagan-like gathering of America's ruling class.
And photographers create the ultimate Yosemite video.



It's the heat.

David McNew/Getty Images

Over the past decade, California has experienced half of its 10 largest wildfires and seven of its 10 most destructive fires. New research suggests rising heat has been a primary driver: Since 1970, California summers have warmed by about 2.5 degrees. In that same period, California's annual burned area has increased more than fivefold. "Each degree of warming causes way more fire than the previous degree of warming did," said a climate scientist. "And that's a really big deal." The Atlantic | Grist

One of the most detailed studies on rising temperatures suggests that cities across California can expect to see their number of extremely hot days per year double or triple by midcentury. S.F. Chronicle | KQED


California doesn't have enough health care providers who accept Medi-Cal patients, so it's forgiving the medical school loans of those who pledge to do so. The first awards went out this month. Bryan Ruiz's hands were still shaking an hour after he heard that the $300,000 he owed was being wiped away by California taxpayers. "This really is life-changing," he said. L.A. Times


Rep. William Dannemeyer in 1989.

Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

William Dannemeyer died at 89. The Orange County congressman spent much of his career fighting liberal causes, making him immensely popular with voters and establishing the county as a citadel of conservatism in the 1980s. His passing is a reminder of the profound partisan shift that has occurred in Orange County, where all seven House seats are now held by Democrats. In Dannemeyer's day, it was "more patriarchal, much more white, and Christian," a political science professor said. "That Orange County is just gone now." L.A. Times | N.Y. Times


CNBC ranked the top states to do business using 60 measures of competitiveness across 10 categories. In two of those categories, California came in dead last: cost of doing business, and business friendliness. On the positive side, the state took No. 1 in technology and innovation, and access to capital. "Companies come here to get in on the gold rush of venture capital," CNBC said, "but high costs and regulation can stifle the dream." CNBC


The Yosemite Valley.

Two photographers hiked more than 200 miles over the course of 10 months in Yosemite National Park, hunting down the most beautiful views to create two epic time-lapse videos. If they don't make your heart swell at California's natural beauty, nothing will. Yosemite HD | Yosemite HD II

"For every Yosemite, the Sierra holds hundreds of equally lovely but barely known alpine valleys; for every Tahoe, dozens of high mountain lakes." Here are 21 wonders of the Sierra Nevada. Sunset magazine


Northern California


Berkeley's kitchens are going full electric. The City Council voted to make Berkeley the first city in California to prohibit natural gas in newly constructed buildings, starting next year. Natural gas was cited as a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the city. Berkeleyside/Twitter

A separate ordinance would do away with gender-specific language in Berkeley's municipal code. "Manhole" would be changed to "maintenance hole," for example, and "manpower" would be changed to "human effort." Berkeleyside


Peter Thiel, right, is a Trump supporter, a rarity in Silicon Valley.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump said his administration would look into allegations by Peter Thiel that Google had been infiltrated by Chinese agents. "Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government,” Trump said in a tweet, adding, "The Trump Administration will take a look!"

In an interview on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program, Thiel demurred when asked for evidence to back up his claim, saying he was just "asking questions." Axios | recode


Alejandro Toledo, the former president of Peru, was arrested in California in connection with Latin America's biggest graft scandal. The 73-year-old has been living for years in the Bay Area, where he worked as a visiting professor at Stanford University. He says charges that he took $20 million in bribes are politically motivated. BBC | Reuters


A view of Daffodil Hill.

Wikimedia Commons

In a tradition going back generations, people have flocked to Daffodil Hill in Amador County each spring to walk among thousands of daffodils that erupt in white and yellow blooms. Now it's ending. The owners of the ranch said tourists had loved the attraction to death, causing a parking and traffic nightmare. "This is the modern era," a county official said, "and the word getting out about these kinds of things is completely viral and insane." KCRA | Washington Post


Southern California


Los Angeles County will pay $53 million to settle a lawsuit that said tens of thousands of women were given invasive group strip searches at a jail. Women described being told to remove their clothes and lift and spread their body parts, in full view of one another, as deputies laughed and yelled degrading comments. "It's a nightmare I will never forget," one former inmate said. L.A. Times | A.P.


An alleged MS-13 gang member posed in an image released by federal prosecutors.

U.S. Department of Justice

Federal authorities announced charges against members and associates of the MS-13 gang, who they accused of a "medieval-style" murder spree in Southern California that left seven people dead. In one case, the indictment said a rival gang member was targeted for defacing MS-13 graffiti. He was abducted and driven to the Angeles National Forest, where MS-13 members dismembered his body and cut out his heart. L.A. Daily News | BuzzFeed


Abigail Disney has criticized Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger for his nearly $66 million yearly salary.

Michael Kovac/Getty Image

Abigail Disney, an heiress of the Walt Disney empire, is calling the company out over working conditions at her family's theme parks. She said she was troubled by conversations she had with workers at Disneyland Park in Anaheim last year.

"Every single one of these people I talked to were saying, 'I don't know how I can maintain this face of joy and warmth when I have to go home and forage for food in other people's garbage,'" Disney said. "I was so livid when I came out of there because, you know, my grandfather taught me to revere these people that take your tickets, that pour your soda." Washington Post | Yahoo News


Los Angeles's single largest power source for the past three decades has been a coal plant in Utah. It's scheduled to shut down in 2025 as the city moves to end its reliance on fossil fuel. But now Los Angeles is preparing to turn to another polluting fuel, building a natural gas-fired power plant at the same site. L.A. Times


A megapod of dophins traveled along the coast near Laguna Beach on Sunday.

Gif created from video by Chuck Patterson

Southern California has the greatest density of dolphins per square mile of any place on Earth. That makes it a great place to see so-called mega pods, which can number in herds of up to 10,000. A San Clemente waterman recently filmed a surreal gathering of dolphins leaping alongside a boat. O.C. Register | Facebook


Today I learned


A giant statue of an owl, seen in 1925, is a centerpiece at Bohemian Grove.

Bancroft Library/U.C. Berkeley

There's a retreat in the woods of Northern California where members of America's ruling class gather each summer to listen to lectures, party boisterously, and burn an effigy in front of a 30-foot tall owl statue.

Founded in San Francisco in 1872, the Bohemian Club began as an intellectual haven for creative types. Over time, it morphed into one of the country's most exclusive clubs. Their summer gathering — happening now — is held within four square miles of Sonoma County redwoods known as Bohemian Grove. Attendees have included Jack London, William Randolph Hearst, Charles Schwab, Kevin Starr, and Bob Weir. Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush have all passed through.

Future presidents Ronald Reagan, left, and Richard Nixon, right, listen as Harvey Hancock, a campaign manager for Nixon, spoke at the Bohemian Grove in the 1960s.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

On opening night, a Druidic ritual sets the tone for the 18-day encampment. During the "Cremation of Care" ceremony, a human effigy representing the "dull cares" of everyday life is ignited before the owl shrine as men in bright robes stand sentry nearby. Walter Cronkite once provided the voice of the owl.

Naturally, it's all been irresistible grist for conspiracy theorists, who see the club as a shadowy lair for warmongers and archcapitalists to plot the new world order. The fantasy gains credibility in real events, like the planning meeting for the Manhattan Project that was held at the grove in 1942.

Grove attendees in 1908.

Bancroft Library/U.C. Berkeley

Other observers, like journalist Jon Ronson — who once investigated the club — see something else: a glorified frat party. "The Elvis impersonators, the pseudo-pagan spooky rituals, the heavy drinking," he once wrote. "These people might have reached the apex of their professions but emotionally they seemed trapped in their college years." Bold Italic

A photographer has a new book out on the Bohemian Grove called "Parliament of Owls.” aperture | Press Democrat



An item in Monday's newsletter was misleading about the proportion of sunflower seed production that occurs in California. The state dominates the production of only a certain type of seed — certified hybrid seeds for planting — not all sunflower seeds.

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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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