Good morning. It’s Friday, Oct. 20.
- Gov. Gavin Newsom announces surprise visit to Israel.
- Judge overturns California’s ban on assault weapons.
- And L.A. hospital restrains psychiatric patients at sky-high rates.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a surprise stop in Israel while en route to China for climate talks, saying he wants to offer California’s support to victims of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre of civilians. He was expected to arrive today. Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, suggested the visit could win the nationally ambitious Democrat favor with the majority of Americans who are strongly sympathetic to Israel. Mercury News | KQED
- An Orange County pastor has been imprisoned in China since 2006 on what the U.S. says are bogus charges. Newsom is facing pressure to call for his release. Politico
- Protesters filled a city block in San Francisco on Thursday to call for the halt of U.S. military aid to Israel. They chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” while some chained themselves to the gates a federal building. S.F. Chronicle
- A social media post linked to a UC Davis professor appeared to call for violence against “zionist journalists” and their children. “They can fear their bosses, but they should fear us more,” the professor wrote, including emojis of a knife and drops of blood. UC Davis’ chancellor called the remarks “revolting.” Forward | ABC10
- Loay Elbasyouni, a NASA engineer who lives in Los Angeles, described the anguish of having elderly parents trapped in Gaza. “They have nowhere to go,” he said. “Every time I talk to them, it’s like the last call. ‘If we die, do this. If we die, remember us like this.'” The Guardian
- Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer’s decision to raise an Israeli flag outside City Hall has so angered Palestinian residents that they have held two protests in the last week. “You see with one eye when it comes to Palestinian issues,” said Ihab Elzaanoun. “That’s not justice.” Fresnoland
Laphonza Butler, appointed weeks ago by Gov. Newsom to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Dianne Feinstein’s death, announced on Thursday that she would not run for the office next year. Butler, 44, said the news may come as a surprise “because traditionally we don’t see those who have power let it go.” But she added, “This is not the greatest use of my voice.” Her decision removes the complication of a pseudo-incumbent from a race that features three Democratic members of Congress, a former baseball star, and a Los Angeles TV broadcaster. N.Y. Times | A.P.
A federal judge in San Diego overturned California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons Thursday, saying it violates the constitutional right to bear arms. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez conceded that powerful weapons like AR-15 rifles are commonly used by criminals. But he said the law also “makes criminals of law-abiding residents who insist on acquiring these firearms for self-defense.” Benitez had previously struck down the law in a 2021 ruling, which was reversed on appeal then revived by the Supreme Court. California planned to appeal again. A.P. | S.D. Union-Tribune
Kevin McCarthy is no longer speaker of the House. But more than two weeks after getting deposed, he has declined to move out of the coveted speaker’s office between the House and the Senate. Instead, he has been using it as a kind of headquarters to gather with his House allies. “They’ll have to force me out,” the California Republican said on Wednesday, chuckling as he walked beneath the sign bearing his name in gold lettering: “Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.” Washington Post
- Tensions flared during a House GOP meeting on Thursday when McCarthy snapped at Rep. Matt Gaetz. “Sit your ass down,” McCarthy said, according to a source cited by The Hill.
On this week’s California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman talks with Brian Conrad, a Stanford math professor who wrote recently in the Atlantic about the proposal to overhaul California’s math curriculum. Conrad has warned that the framework’s recommendations could limit career opportunities for students and exacerbate educational inequities. He cited San Francisco’s experiment with removing algebra from middle school, a policy the framework recommends adopting statewide. “The main effect,” he said, “was the opposite of equity.”
California, by some measures, is home to America’s greatest variety of plant and animal species. The state’s richness of life, scientists say, owes largely to two factors: the straddling of many latitudes along a north-south orientation, and the medley of elevations produced by California’s tectonic foundations. A mapmaker on Reddit once vividly illustrated this topographical diversity with a map that shows the highest point of every county in the U.S. Viewed this way, the elevation of the eastern half of the U.S. appears largely monochromatic, while California is an explosion of color. Reddit
The head of an illegal medical testing lab in Fresno County whose discovery fueled a wave of conspiracy theories was arrested on Thursday, federal officials said. A code enforcement officer called to the old Reedley warehouse last December found refrigerators filled with vials of blood, hundreds of bioengineered mice, and an inventory of biological agents that included HIV and the coronavirus. Prosecutors charged Jia Bei Zhu, a Chinese national who used several aliases, with distributing misbranded medical devices and making false statements to the FDA. L.A. Times | KFSN
A pair of reporters looked into the background of a homeless man who set up across the street from a school displaying signs offering free fentanyl to first-time users. His name is Joseph Adam Moore, 46, and he is a registered child sex offender. Records showed that Moore was convicted of molesting a child under 14 and forcible unlawful sex in the 1990s. Asked if he was actually selling drugs, he chuckled and said he was: “Yeah, this is actually happening.” SF Standard
A hospital in Los Angeles has been restraining psychiatric patients at a rate more than 50 times higher than the national average, an analysis found. Federal law forbids hospitals from restraining psychiatric patients except to prevent them from harming themselves or others. Yet at Los Angeles General Medical Center, a public hospital serving some of the city’s poorest people, there were 200 cases of patients being restrained for a total of 24 hours or more within a month, records dating from 2018 showed. Nearly 40 were restrained for the equivalent of a week or more. One woman spent an entire month in restraints. L.A. Times
The San Diego Architectural Foundation holds an annual competition called Orchids & Onions that recognizes the city’s best new buildings and projects. But, unusually among architecture contests, it also recognizes bad projects. The 2023 prizes, announced this week, included an Onion for SDG&E, which thought the best place for a new utility box was directly in the middle of a sidewalk. “They see a sidewalk for utilities rather than for a place for people,” the judges wrote, “and they can’t even put them in squarely.” S.D. Union-Tribune
- Every so often, the foundation awards a Grand Onion for projects of hideousness that go above and beyond. The last “winner” was an apartment complex in 2020. 👉 NBC San Diego | Orchidsandonions.org
In case you missed it
Five items that got big views over the past week:
- “With the exception of the Tenderloin … a walk through San Francisco is a stroll around an affluent Pacific capital of small bookstores and night markets and weekend festivals — so much so that one can almost wonder where the idea of a city in decline emerged.” Nathan Heller wrote about what really happened to San Francisco. New Yorker
- In July 2022, doctors diagnosed Chad Vanags with terminal Stage 4 lung cancer. Eight months later, his wife Stacie planted 1,100 flower seeds in their Ventura backyard. “It was like nature was telling me, ‘You’re going to need this,’” she said. “I can leave my tears in the garden.” L.A. Times
- “Hersh is my whole world, and this evil is the flood that is destroying it.” Rachel Goldberg wrote a gut-wrenching essay about her son Hersh, a 23-year-old born in Berkeley who was taken hostage by Hamas. N.Y. Times
- Last month, a viral video of a white woman harassing a Latino worker on a job site in Santa Barbara prompted a large protest. Now prosecutors have charged Jeanne Umana, 74, a retired UC Santa Barbara law professor, with two misdemeanor counts of trespassing and battery. Santa Barbara Independent | edhat
- “In Monterey Park, he organized a rally where his congregation members gave speeches and held picket signs. They printed T-shirts and baseball caps that said, ‘Marriage = Man + Woman.’ He kept those hats in the garage.” Geoffrey Mak wrote a moving essay on navigating his father’s rejection, and eventual acceptance and love, growing up in Southern California. New Yorker
Thanks for reading!
The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
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