Good morning. It’s Tuesday, Sept. 20.
- California clears the way for human composting.
- Architects take “fire-resilient” homes to new level.
- And tension between L.A. Times and its billionaire owner.
California just legalized human composting. Under a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday, residents will have the option of placing deceased loved ones in a container filled with wood chips that is aerated to let microbes and bacteria grow. After about a month, the remains decompose and become soil. The California Catholic Conference opposed the measure, suggesting it violates a “norm of reverence” toward the dead. SFGATE | L.A. Times
California medical professionals reacted to President Biden’s claim on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” that “the pandemic is over,” even as more than 400 people continue to die daily:
- Dr. Eric J. Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, called Biden’s remark a fantasy: “Far too many people are dying and suffering. And new, worrisome variants are on the horizon.” L.A. Times
- Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford, said the president is right: “Research for better treatments should continue, but the lockdowns, restrictions, and fear-mongering need to stop.” Mercury News
- Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of medicine at UC San Francisco, said he couldn’t say whether the pandemic was over: “It’s a judgment call. But clearly the threat is far lower than it was.” @Bob_Wachter
With more and more homes being built in fire-prone parts of California, the question many residents seem to be asking is not whether people should live there, but how they should live there. The answers from elite architects have included minimalist design, buffer zones, backup electricity, and lots of concrete. The architectural writer Vivian Schwab shared four case studies, including a “superlatively fire-resilient” home near Lake Tahoe, pictured above. ArchPaper
By one estimate, people caused 84% of U.S. wildfires over two recent decades. That’s led to an increasing number of campfire bans across the West. Jennifer K. Balch, a fire scientist, described it as a regrettable, if necessary, trend: “One of the key markers of the human species is our ability to use and manipulate fire. To take that out of our camping experience is counter to millennia of gathering around a fire.” Washington Post
Sherri Papini, the Redding woman who faked her own kidnapping in 2016, was sentenced on Monday to 18 months in prison. Judge William B. Shubb said the sentence reflected the number of large number people harmed by the hoax, including the Redding community that believed her for years. Papini’s lawyer said the sentence was fair. “She knows she has to pay her price,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a crash to change your life.” N.Y. Times | Sacramento Bee
There’s a new marijuana shop in Ukiah called “Cookies.” A bite mark incorporated into the design, according to some observers, evokes that of a certain Cookie Monster who hangs out on Sesame Street. Some locals are upset, saying the signage is too attractive to children. Others just seemed disappointed that Ukiah, which has several pot shops already, wasn’t really getting a cookie shop. Ukiah Daily Journal
☝️ Here’s what the approach to Northern California’s Lassen Peak looks like.
The scenic highway through Lassen Volcanic National Park climbs right up next to the mountain, reaching roughly 8,500 feet before winding back down the other side. Still active, Lassen Peak erupted a mere century ago, a blink in geological time. Its beauty is awe-inspiring. But so too, according to the travel writer Sam McManis, is being in the presence of what feels “almost like a living, breathing entity.”
Here’s a great timelapse of the drive. 👉 YouTube
Current and former staff members of the L.A. Times described tensions between the newsroom and its novice billionaire owner, Patrick Soon-Shiong. A flashpoint has been meddling in coverage by Soon-Shiong’s social justice-crusading daughter, Nika Soon-Shiong, who is 29. “They don’t care that much about the institution’s history,” one former Times executive said. “They’re not super interested in the media in general, in terms of how it works.” Politico
The trial of Paul and Ruben Flores in the death of Kristin Smart has featured highly charged testimony over the past few weeks. Two women accused Paul Flores of raping them, pointing him out in the courtroom. At another point, a juror broke into sobs when an archaeologist testified that stains under the deck of Ruben Flores’ home were consistent with human decomposition. And last week, a former acquaintance of Paul Flores testified that he admitted killing Smart. “There was nothing alive behind his eyes,” she said. SFGATE
A developer is planning to build a surf resort in the arid Coachella Valley, insisting that it will be “a model of water efficiency.” A group of residents fighting the project isn’t buying that. “It’s mind-boggling,” said Alena Callimanis. “You just can’t do a surf park in the middle of the desert, and here, with our drought conditions. It’s just crazy.” L.A. Times
The Long Beach restaurant Restauration was such a prolific violator of Covid restrictions in 2021 that the city cut off its gas. The owner, Dana Tanner, then used an unauthorized line. When officials removed that, she converted her kitchen to electricity. Tanner ended up broke, facing a raft of charges. On Monday, however, a judge waived her $5,000 penalty in the case. “I understand why you violated the law because you had to feed your family and pay your bills,” Judge Christopher J. Frisco said. Long Beach Post
On Sept. 10, a group of fishermen off the coast of San Diego captured footage of a pair of extremely rare megamouth sharks. Discovered in 1976, megamouths grow up to 18 feet in length and swim with their mouths wide open, usually in the deep sea. Confirmed sightings number fewer than 300. The September event is the first where two megamouths were seen together. A Scripps scientist speculated that they were mating. NBC San Diego | Newsweek
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
Give the gift of the California Sun.
Forward this email to a friend.
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.