Good morning. It’s Monday, Jan. 8.
- David Leonhardt criticizes “misguided war on the SAT.”
- Elon Musk’s drug use worries Tesla and SpaceX leaders.
- And “Oppenheimer” cleans up at the 81st Golden Globes.
Researchers have produced the first comprehensive estimate of mountain lion numbers in California and it is significantly less than previously thought. There are between 3,200 and 4,500 of the big cats in the state, according to university and state scientists who used GPS data and scat samples to model population densities. For decades, state wildlife officials have relied on a back-of-the-envelope estimate of roughly 6,000 mountain lions. The charismatic animals are not listed as endangered, but scientists have warned that they face an “extinction vortex.” L.A. Times
In 2020, the University of California abandoned the SAT test in admissions. “This test is a racist test,” one regent declared at the time. “There’s no two ways about it.” Two years later, the Cal State system took the same step. In a 2,700-word piece on Sunday, the journalist David Leonhardt argued that testing critics may be doing more harm than good to the cause of diversity. The anti-SAT movement, he wrote, is “an example of how polarization can cause Americans to adopt positions that are not based on empirical evidence.” N.Y. Times
California’s ban on carrying guns in most places has been blocked again. In weeks of legal whipsawing, a federal district court’s injunction of the law in December was put on hold by one panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges, then reinstated on Saturday by a different set of appellate judges. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said the latest ruling “puts the lives of Californians on the line.” S.D. Union-Tribune | A.P.
- Concealed carry permits, issued by sheriffs, vary wildly by county. Over the decade starting in 2012, Orange County issued roughly 65,000. San Francisco issued 11. CalMatters
Some executives and board members at Tesla and SpaceX believe Elon Musk’s erratic behavior is being driven by his use of drugs like LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, mushrooms, and ketamine, the Wall Street Journal reported in an article that cited anonymous sources. In one incident, SpaceX executives talked privately about Musk slurring and rambling during an all-hands meeting. One person described the event as “nonsensical,” “unhinged,” and “cringeworthy.” Wall Street Journal
John Griffith, a spokesman for California State Parks who exudes the enthusiasm of Jack Black, has a talent for creating hit videos on the wonders of California’s flora and fauna. A decade ago, he delighted millions with his dance moves as the leader of a California Conservation Corps crew. In his latest viral video, he explains what happens when a redwood falls: In short, they become factories of new life. @redwoodsrising
A judge on Friday reinstated the case against a former UC Davis student accused of a murderous stabbing rampage last spring after doctors deemed him “restored to competency.” Carlos Reales Dominguez, 22, was committed to a state hospital in August after he presented what one psychologist described as a “textbook example of schizophrenia.” In court on Friday, Dominguez appeared dramatically changed, almost unrecognizable from the gaunt young man with wildly unkempt hair who appeared in court last summer. Davis Enterprise | Sacramento Bee
“This is an extremely significant case.”
In 2016, a storm caused 20 feet of bluffs to fall away along a residential street in Half Moon Bay, threatening to send homes toppling into the ocean. Residents asked the Coastal Commission for permission to build a sea wall, but to their shock, the commission said no in 2019. “Sea walls eat away at the beach,” one commissioner explained. The homeowners sued and won. In September, the commission appealed the ruling. The outcome of the case — which could land before the Supreme Court — has the potential to reverberate up and down the California coastline. Mercury News
A staircase with vibes of the hobbit community in “Lord of the Rings.”
A former 1930s speakeasy with live jazz and stiff whiskey.
And a high school football field with one of the city’s grandest views.
Hometown reporters gave their picks for places to visit in San Francisco in 2024. S.F. Chronicle
A few years ago, researchers surveying the deep sea between Los Angeles and Catalina discovered thousands of discarded DDT waste barrels on the ocean floor. Now they’ve found what appears to be a massive dumping ground for World War II weaponry. They also made another discovery: more than 60 whale carcasses, known as whale falls. Across the entire world, only about 50 naturally occurring whale falls have ever been identified. L.A. Times
Before Syed Rizwan Farook died carrying out a deadly terrorist attack on San Bernardino County workers in 2015, he took out a $250,000 life insurance policy. For years, the beneficiaries, Farook’s mother and sister, fought U.S. government attempts to seize the payout. Now they’ve given up. In December, the government seized the funds; prosecutors have said it will be disbursed to victims’ families. “I think my client wanted closure, and litigation would have opened wounds she didn’t want opened,” an attorney for the family said. Press-Enterprise
Passengers over the weekend described the mix of horror and confusion they experienced when a section of their Alaska Airlines plane — en route from Oregon to Southern California — ripped away at 16,000 feet late Friday. “We literally thought we were going to die,” said Sreysoar Un, who sat one row back from the gaping hole. Her 12-year-old son dropped his phone and watched it fly out into the sky. There was a moment of hysteria. “There’s a fucking hole in the side of the plane!” someone yelled. A woman clasped the hand of a stranger sitting to her. Wall Street Journal | N.Y. Times
“Oppenheimer” dominated the 81st Golden Globes in Beverly Hills on Sunday night, taking home five wins including best drama. “Poor Things,” a surreal science-fiction romance, pulled off an upset victory over “Barbie” in the best comedy or musical category. “Succession” was the big winner on the television side with four wins including best drama. See the full list of winners and nominees. 👉 Variety
- Margot Robbie, Timothée Chalamet, Emma Stone, Cillian Murphy — 56 red carpet looks. Entertainment Weekly
- The funniest moment of the night: Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell couldn’t help but dance. @SpencerAlthouse
- Here’s where you can stream the nominees. 👉 Hollywood Reporter
On Friday, a number of readers encountered popup warnings when clicking links in the newsletter. MailChimp, my email service, suggested a fix, which I implemented. It seems to have worked, but please let me know if you’re still seeing the popups.
Friday’s newsletter placed an item about a beached boat in Point Reyes under the incorrect heading. Point Reyes, just north of San Francisco, is in Northern California, not Southern California.
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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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