Good morning. It’s Friday, Dec. 23.
- Study shows Central Valley groundwater disappearing.
- Sam Bankman-Fried sent to house arrest in Bay Area.
- And the enchantment of Christmas in Yosemite Valley.
🎄 Please note: The newsletter will take a break next week and return on Tuesday, Jan. 3, reenergized for 2023. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday.
Groundwater depletion in California’s agricultural Central Valley has been a chronic problem for decades. But a new study found that it has worsened dramatically since 2019, shrinking at a rate 31% greater than during the last two droughts. Jay Famiglietti, a hydrology professor, called it “a full-on crisis” caused by a rush on underground water reserves before new pumping limits take hold. “The trajectory we’re on right now is one for 100% disappearance,” he said. L.A. Times
Cannabis workers are subjected to abuse, wage theft, threats of violence, and squalid and hazardous conditions, an L.A. Times investigation found:
“But California, birthplace of both the farm labor movement and counterculture pot, has largely ignored the immigrant workers who grow, harvest and trim America’s weed. Their exploitation and misery is one of the most defining, yet overlooked narratives of the era of legal cannabis.”
To wrap up the year, podcast host Jeff Schechtman recalled five favorite interviews of 2022, including the “Queen of the Desert” Susan Sorrells, iconoclastic L.A. Times columnist Gustavo Arellano, and comic turned art collector Cheech Marin. Listen to them all. 👉 California Sun Podcast
The disgraced cryptocurrency entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried will live under house arrest with his parents in Palo Alto after a federal court in Manhattan granted his release on $250 million bail Thursday. Just a few months ago, Bankman-Fried, who grew up in the Bay Area, was hailed as the savior of crypto industry. Now, with his fortune wiped out and charges mounting, he is drawing comparisons to Bernie Madoff. N.Y. Times | Wall Street Journal
Bankman-Fried will await trial in style: His parents live in a beautiful, historic home on Stanford’s campus. SF Standard
In the 1960s and 1970s, two UC San Francisco dermatologists conducted unethical experiments on at least 2,600 men at a prison hospital in Vacaville, including putting pesticides on the men’s skin and injecting it into their veins, an internal investigation found. Some of the subjects were mentally ill. On Thursday, UC San Francisco apologized for “its explicit role in the harm caused to the subjects, their families, and our community.” S.F. Chronicle | A.P.
Roughly 70% of Twitter’s top 100 ad spenders from before Elon Musk’s takeover weren’t spending on the platform as of last week, an analysis showed. That’s troubling for the San Francisco company given that about 89% of Twitter’s revenue last year came from ads. The pullback has been attributed to concerns over Musk’s capricious rule-making and controversial tweets. “Just as it can be hard to separate the art from the artist, many advertisers are struggling to separate Twitter from Mr. Musk,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.
In Los Angeles, student math and English grades fell in the early semesters of the pandemic. But by spring of 2022, the grades not only rebounded, but went up. At the same time, math and English proficiency rates on the state’s standardized tests dropped to their lowest levels in five years. The disconnect suggests parents are being misled, said Morgan Polikoff, associate professor of education at USC: “Schools are sending the signal via grades that kids are doing well again.” L.A. Times
As the Colorado River falls further into a state of collapse, the diplomacy between the seven states that share its water is becoming more personal. Some states now see California and Arizona reveling in profligate use, made possible by a 100-year-old compact that effectively promises them water when others have none. A water official described the mood in Colorado: “They are taking from us.” ProPublica
Give something they’ll open every day.
A San Diego County interior designer was found guilty on Wednesday of murdering her stepfather after she found nude pictures of herself on his computer. Prosecutors said Jade Janks, 39, drugged Thomas Merriman, 64, then choked him to death. The jury was shown a text Janks sent to an acquaintance: “I just dosed the hell out of him.” Janks appeared stunned by the jury’s verdict. NBC News | S.D. Union-Tribune
Cellphone video captured the pilot of a single-engine Cessna airplane attempting to land on the beach in Santa Monica on Thursday afternoon. The plane descended toward the shoreline, then slammed into the sand and water and flipped. The passenger, former Santa Monica mayor Rex Minter, was killed; the pilot was hospitalized in unknown condition. @DowntownLAScan | CBS News
Few places capture the spirit of the Christmas season more enchantingly than Yosemite. In December, a stillness descends over the park as visitation declines and snow blankets the valley. Children ice skate in the shadow of Half Dome, mule deer bound across meadows, and the historic Ahwahnee Hotel hosts lavish dinner pageants that date to the 1920s, when Ansel Adams played the part of the jester. At the Bracebridge Dinners, guests seated in the hotel’s soaring dining hall are beseeched to “let our conviviality abound!” as performers in Renaissance-period costumes sing and act and servers bring out seven courses. An East Coast food critic was so taken by the experience that he declared it “the world’s premier Christmas dinner.”
Below, a photo tour of Christmas in Yosemite. 👇
In case you missed it
Five items that got big views over the past week:
- You can camp in a remote ghost town founded by outlaws at the edge of Death Valley. Panamint City, pictured above, was a silver-mining town tucked in the folds of the Panamint Range in the 1870s. The photographer Sean Goebel posted a great picture tour.
- New maps that depict average greenhouse gas emissions per household across the U.S. revealed the stark disparity between neighborhoods close to city centers and everyone else. Explore your neighborhood. 👉 N.Y. Times
- California is one of just 10 U.S. states that fail to screen all school children for dyslexia. Last year, state lawmakers seemed poised to finally address the problem. Simply put, the effort “ran into the power of the state’s teachers union,” EdSource reported.
- On Feb. 28, 1957, a nervous Hollywood newcomer named Vikki Dougan wore a backless gown at the 14th annual Golden Globes awards and became the talk of the ceremony. LIFE published a photo gallery recalling “Vikki Dougan’s head-turning moment.“
- At the start of the fall, the dean of Berkeley Law learned that a student group had created a bylaw banning supporters of Zionism from speaking at its events. The story, he said, “went viral in a way that I could have never possibly imagined.” N.Y. Times
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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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