Good morning. It’s Monday, Oct. 16.
- Weekend rallies show division over Middle East crisis.
- Fresno County clings to contested Squaw Valley name.
- And “Three’s Company” star Suzanne Somers dies at 76.
The escalating Middle East war after the Hamas slaughter of Israeli civilians has made the climate on California’s university campuses so tense that many students are afraid to speak their minds. At UC Berkeley, protesters recently denounced each other as terrorists and declared dialogue all but impossible. ChayaLeah Sufrin, who promotes Jewish programming at Cal State Long Beach, said she used to believe the campus was a place where students could talk about the complexities of the Mideast. She’s not sure now, she said. “I feel very hopeless about the situation.” L.A. Times
- The weekend brought more rallies, expressing solidarity with either Palestinians or Israelis, in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and other cities. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday shared a message for Israel. “California stands with you,” he said. KQED
- Officials confirmed that at least 27 Americans were among the dead in Israel. They included Daniel Ben Senior, a 34-year-old nurse from California who had moved to Israel to care for her parents. CNN | N.Y. Times
- A Berkeley law professor warned law firms against hiring students who have embraced anti-semitism. “It’s time for the adults to take over, and that includes law firms looking for graduates to hire,” he said. Wall Street Journal
Saturday was the last day for Gov. Gavin Newsom to act on more than 1,000 measures approved by the state Legislature in 2023. Among the final bills to get his signature were measures that will:
- lift the minimum wage for California health care workers to $25 an hour;
- ban watering grass that is “nonfunctional,” meaning no one walks on it, at commercial and public properties;
- legalize lowrider cruising across the state;
- and accelerate the development of affordable housing, one of more than 50 newly adopted bills aimed at clearing the way for more housing.
The columnist Conor Friedersdorf on the debate over mandatory diversity statements in academia:
“I’ve never seen a policy that threatens academic freedom or First Amendment rights on a greater scale than what is now unfolding in this country’s largest system of higher education: California’s community colleges.” The Atlantic
- Another view: “My academic freedom does not give me license to teach in a way that fails to be inclusive and responsive to the diversity of students,” said Shaun Harper, director of USC’s Race and Equity Center. Inside Higher Ed
In January, the federal government announced a name change for a community in the foothills of Fresno County from Squaw Valley to Yokuts Valley, part of a national push to eliminate the word “squaw,” regarded as a Native American slur. But you wouldn’t know anything changed at Fresno County Board of Supervisors meetings. Most of the board members have simply refused to adopt the new name. In September, they voted to hold a referendum on whether county officials should get final say over place names. High Country News
Suzanne Somers, the Bay Area actress best known for portraying the ditzy blonde Chrissy Snow on the 1970s sitcom “Three’s Company,” died on Sunday at her home in Palm Springs. She was 76. In 1980, Somers demanded equal pay with the male star of “Three’s Company,” played by John Ritter. Instead, she was fired. “I’ve been playing what I think is one of the best dumb blondes that’s ever been done, but I never got any credit,” she said. She went on to build a health business empire that included the ThighMaster, one of the most recognizable products in infomercial history. She earned hundreds of millions of dollars. N.Y. Times | A.P.
Last year, three Hells Angels were convicted of murdering a fellow member of the biker club who they felt was “creating problems,” according to prosecutors. His body was never found. Now prosecutors have revealed that a funeral director informed investigators that the Angels secretly cremated the body along with at least three other missing men, all former Hells Angels, at his funeral home in Fresno. They referred to the incinerator as the “pizza oven.” Mercury News | SFGATE
California has America’s tallest tree, lowest valley, and biggest alpine lake. Also on the list of superlatives, while less well known: the largest lagoon system. Humboldt Lagoons State Park is a picturesque expanse of wetlands along the coast in Northern California’s redwood country. There’s a boat-in campground in a secluded cove where the kayaking is blissful and the Roosevelt elk outnumber the humans. SFGATE | Visitredwoods.com
A few pictures. 👇
For years, coastal communities near the Mexican border have complained about the flow of cross-border sewage in the Tijuana River. In a column, Vivian Moreno, a San Diego City Council member, called it the biggest environmental emergency in the U.S. It’s not just about water quality, she said. It’s the stench. “The sewage that flows in the river and through the canyons can be smelled in homes that are miles away. Even when we shut all of our windows and doors, we can still smell it.” S.D. Union-Tribune
- A group of California Coastal Commissioners toured the polluted Tijuana River Valley last week. Donne Brownsey, the chair of the commission, said the experience almost brought her to tears. Courthouse News
As California shifts away from offshore drilling, a debate is raging over what to do with more than two dozen oil rigs lurking off the coast. Those who argue that the eyesores should be removed are facing an unexpected foe: environmentalists. That’s because the pilings under the platforms have become hotbeds of biological activity, where anemones, mussels, rockfish, and other sea creatures have transformed the industrial structures into vibrant artificial reefs. “It kind of crept up on me at some point that removing these things is immoral,” said Milton Love, a marine biologist. The Guardian
“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. I saw them during my visits home, wondering if his hate was driven by a denial of what he suspected about me but refused to confront.”
Geoffrey Mak wrote a moving and surprising essay on his journey navigating his father’s rejection, and eventual acceptance and love, growing up in Southern California. New Yorker
Not long after the end of World War I, with aviation fever surging, a school opened in Long Beach to train the next generation of pilots and aerial stuntmen. Among the earliest recruits was Wesley May, a young wingwalker who would pioneer several firsts, including cranking a propeller midair, synchronized wing walking, and most famously “air to air” refueling. On Nov. 12, 1921, May hopped from one biplane to another with a five-pound can of fuel strapped to his back and poured the fuel into its gas tank, a historic moment captured in the photo above.
The following spring, May joined a traveling “flying circus” created by the showman Ivan Gates. During an event at San Francisco’s Crissy Field on May 21, 1922, he performed his “bullet-drop,” which involved a delayed parachute release using a newly developed self-contained pack. Until then, parachutes were released by fixed cords, so spectators thought they were watching a man fall to his death. On this day, they were. May opened his chute successfully, but winds sent him careening into a tree. As he unbuckled, a tree limb snapped and he fell 50 feet to the earth, killing him. He was 24.
May’s odds of survival were never good. Deaths were so frequent that Gates stopped using the names of his stuntmen on his posters to avoid the cost of reprinting when they died. In a span of six years starting in 1922, more than half of the 48 pilots and stuntmen who performed for the circus died, according to the aviation historian Claudine Burnett. In 1932, Gates himself joined them: Said to be despondent over health and money troubles, he jumped from the 6th floor window of his Manhattan apartment, without a parachute.
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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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