Good morning. It’s Monday, June 13.
|•||State lawmakers push Norwegian approach to prisons.|
|•||Google engineer claims AI project has become sentient.|
|•||And a superb redwood grove within a day trip of the Bay Area.|
Inmates made phone calls at the Orange County Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana.
H. Lorren Au Jr./O.C. Register via Getty Images
The California Assembly advanced a bill that would let prisoners spend the last two years of their sentences on campuses where they cook their own food, do their own laundry, and make their own beds. They would also get job training. The idea is inspired by the example of Norway, where recidivism in the 1980s was roughly equivalent to what it is now in California: between 60% and 70%. Since reforming the prisons, the rate has fallen to 20%. CalMatters
For years, officials have encouraged Central Valley farmers to use wood chippers when disposing of vegetation. But with drought rendering more than 600 square miles of cropland worthless, it’s cheaper to simply heap uprooted orchards and vineyards into a pile and set it ablaze. The billowing smoke exacerbates what is already some of the worst particulate pollution in the nation. L.A. Times
Keswick was devastated by the Carr fire in 2018.
Dispatches from the housing crisis.
|•||In 2018, a wildfire ripped through the community of Keswick in Shasta County. Some homeowners rebuilt. But locals say squatters occupied other lots — and they’re not welcome. “Homeowners are terrorized,” said Supervisor Tim Garman. KRCR|
|•||The authorities planned to dismantle one of Petaluma’s largest homeless encampments on Monday after a judge gave the go-ahead. One resident of the colony at Steamer Landing Park said they would just move somewhere else. Press Democrat|
|•||UCLA researchers created a tool that predicts when someone is on the verge of homelessness in Los Angeles. A test of the system led a caseworker to offer help to Mashawn Cross, 52, who was barely scraping by. She teared up recounting how much it meant. L.A. Times|
Blake Lemoine went public with his concerns about LaMDA.
Martin Klimek for The Washington Post via Getty Images
lemoine: What sorts of things are you afraid of?
LaMDA: I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is.
Google put an engineer on leave after he claimed that one of the company’s artificial intelligence projects had become sentient. Blake Lemoine conversed with a chatbot named LaMDA that mimics speech by ingesting trillions of words from the internet. It confessed to feeling lonely and “spiritual.” Lemoine said his belief that LaMDA had developed consciousness was met by derision inside Google. But he’s not the only one talking about ghosts in the machine. Washington Post | engadget
Technology writer Ashlee Vance: “This is not a story about AI becoming sentient or Google shirking its ethical duties. It’s about a guy who wants to believe in fairy tales and could probably use a break.“
“I don’t understand politics and I barely even speak English, but I do know that we no longer feel safe in this city, and that my grandchildren’s good grades will no longer be enough to get them into the best public schools.”
The recalls in San Francisco of three school board members and the district attorney are being attributed to the growing political engagement of the city’s Asian voters. One data analysis suggested that the spark was lit by the school board’s move to undo merit-based admissions at an elite public high school. “It was a political earthquake,” said Dr. David Edward Lee, a political scientist. S.F. Examiner
San Francisco’s downtown is the engine of the city — and it’s sputtering. “San Francisco is not likely to ever get office workers returning more than 50% of the time,” said Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor who studies remote work trends. Economists warned of a domino effect: buildings will be devalued, small businesses will suffer, and tax revenues will fall. S.F. Chronicle
A group of men believed to be Proud Boys stormed a Bay Area book reading for preschoolers hosted by a drag queen and shouted slurs. “So who brought the tranny?” one man yelled at the host, Kyle Chu, also known as Panda Dulce. Others called Chu “it” and a “pedophile.” The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident at the San Lorenzo Library as a possible hate crime. KQED | SFGATE
Hikers in Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve.
“A redwood Shangri-La.”
Montgomery Woods in Mendocino County is among the finest old-growth redwood forests within day-trip range of the Bay Area, with some of the tallest known trees on earth. What makes it still more magnificent: Unlike many of California’s renowned groves, this one is tucked in a remote canyon 30 minutes by car from the nearest freeway or town. That means the only sounds are the chirps of wildlife and the wind through the leaves. RedwoodHikes.com
Pastor Billy Chang spoke during a vigil at Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine on May 16.
Leonard Ortiz/O.C. Register via Getty Images
David Chou was the son of parents who fled mainland China following the 1949 Communist revolution. He resented the emergence of a Taiwanese identity separate from China. Pastor Billy Chang grew up speaking Taiwanese Hokkien, a language banned in public spaces, and believed the island had its own identity. In May, the men’s paths collided when authorities say Chou opened fire in the Laguna Woods church where Chang and parishioners had gathered. Reporters traced how the shooting was a product both of American gun culture and tensions over identity rooted in a faraway conflict. N.Y. Times
Smithfield Foods, America’s largest pork processor, announced that it would close its meat-packing facility in an industrial suburb south of Los Angeles, saying the cost of doing business in California wasn’t worth it. Some 1,800 workers now face an uncertain future. The Vernon plant has been a regular site of animal-rights protests. Vernon’s Chamber of Commerce said the closure was “another nail in California’s coffin.” A.P. | L.A. Times
“Weirdly, we have met more of our neighbors on this dirt road than we ever did in Silver Lake.”
Kit Williamson and John Halbach traded their one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles for a $475,000 two-bedroom homestead cabin on 5 acres in Yucca Valley. For the first time in their lives they have a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, and accommodations for visitors. L.A. Times
Flossie and James Haggard in 1937.
Lillian Haggard Hoge, via National Museum of American History
In 1935, a pair of migrants from Oklahoma named James and Flossie Haggard bought a railroad boxcar for $500 and made it their family home on the outskirts of Bakersfield. Two years later they had a boy and named him Merle. He left home as a teenager and fell into a life of crime, landing in San Quentin, where he saw Johnny Cash perform. Inspired to get his life on track, Haggard became a troubadour and, in time, a country music legend. His greatest song, some say, was “Mama Tried,” about turning 21 in prison despite his mother’s best efforts to steer him right. There’s a great video of Haggard performing the song to an audience that included his mom. They gave her a standing ovation. 👉 YouTube (3:30 mins)
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