Good morning. It’s Wednesday, May 17.
- Kayakers and swimmers drown in fast-flowing rivers.
- Local officials resist protections for Joshua trees.
- And a look back at the egg wars of early San Francisco.
A pair of Washington reporters recounted a jarring exchange they had with Sen. Dianne Feinstein in an elevator. When one asked how colleagues had responded to her return after a long absence, she replied, “No, I haven’t been gone. You should follow the — I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.” Asked if she meant she’s been working from home, Feinstein, 89, said: “No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting. Please. You either know or don’t know.” Slate | L.A. Times
River kayakers and swimmers are falling victim to the hidden dangers of California’s melting snowpack, which has made waterways run higher, faster, and colder:
- On April 19, a 17-year-old kayaker drowned along a remote stretch of the South Yuba River. KTXL | CBS Sacramento
- On April 28, a 25-year-old man disappeared under the water after he entered the Kaweah River to save a man and a 7-year-old girl who were stuck on a rock. FOX26
- The following day, a man went missing on the America River, and five kayakers were pulled by rescuers from the rough waters of the Truckee River — shivering, but alive. Auburn Journal | KTVN 2 News
- And last weekend, two men went missing in separate incidents on the Tule and American rivers. Lake County Record-Bee
Since 1984, when just 23 California condors remained in the wild, the species has mounted a remarkable comeback thanks to aggressive conservation efforts. There are now about 350 of the magnificent vultures flying free across the American West and Baja California. But this spring, at least 20 of them died over a matter of weeks in a bird flu outbreak, a die-off that set the species’ recovery back by years. On Tuesday, federal officials announced the emergency use of a bird flu vaccine to protect the remaining condors. A.P. | Audobon Society
Congressional hearings featuring Silicon Valley tech luminaries have typically been contentious. But during Senate testimony on Tuesday from Sam Altman, the 38-year-old ChatGPT CEO who has become the leading figure in artificial intelligence, everyone largely agreed on the risks and opportunities of the technology. He implored the lawmakers to regulate A.I. “I think if this technology goes wrong,” he said, “it can go quite wrong.” N.Y. Times | Axios
“One industry is still booming in SF. Fentanyl.”
A political advocacy group funded primarily by the venture capitalist Michael Moritz has plastered pastel-colored ads on San Francisco’s streets that ridicule the government’s response to the fentanyl crisis. Kanishka Cheng, a co-founder of TogetherSF, said the aim was to shock people into action. “We want people to stop looking the other way,” she said. S.F. Chronicle | SFist
Weibao Wang, an engineer at Apple, was among a small group with knowledge of the company’s autonomous-driving project. In 2017, prosecutors said, he began secretly working for the U.S.-based subsidiary of a Chinese company that was developing similar technology. When investigators searched Wang’s Mountain View home in June of 2018, they found large amounts of Apple’s proprietary data. Later that day, he flew to China and never returned. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors charged Wang with stealing trade secrets. Wall Street Journal | Mercury News
Elon Musk has seldom been shy about blasting controversial opinions out to the world. But his Monday tweet likening the financier George Soros to a Jewish comic-book villain who “hates humanity” was notably ugly, wrote Yair Rosenberg: “Criticizing George Soros is not inherently anti-Semitic. … But Musk was not taking issue with a particular statement or position put forward by Soros; he was presenting him as an avatar of evil.” The Atlantic
When the Gold Rush set off one of the largest human migrations in history, certain scarcities emerged in California, including food. Eggs became precious. Without them, after all, there could be no cakes, no breakfast scrambles, no pudding. Miners who struck it rich in the goldfields were willing to pay obscene amounts for them. So when a bounty of eggs was discovered in the seabird nests of the Farallon Islands off San Francisco, rival gangs pounced. Lithub recalled the egg wars of early San Francisco.
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Environmentalists have fought for years to safeguard the Joshua tree, the iconic plant that, in one writer’s description, “gestures awkwardly toward the heavens.” But local officials in the Mojave Desert say protections are unnecessary and threaten efforts to build sorely needed homes. “Virtually every residential lot in the town of Yucca Valley has multiple Joshua trees of various ages, from pups to mature trees,” said Curtis Yakimow, the town manager. “They’re everywhere.” Wall Street Journal
In October 2019, a 19-year-old from Newport Beach named Jack Elliott disappeared while boating with college friends on a Texas lake. It took years to unravel what happened: He had fallen into the boat’s propeller after a girl he was kissing gave him a “playful little shove.” But in their panic, his friends hatched a plan to hide the truth from authorities. Now three of those young people are going to jail after a Texas judge sentenced them for their roles in the tragedy. O.C. Register
A group of North Hollywood strippers are poised to become the first strip club dancers to unionize in the United States since 1996. After a protracted fight over unsafe workplace conditions, including groping by inebriated customers, dancers at Star Garden said Tuesday that they are joining the ranks of the Actors’ Equity Association, a union of actors and stage managers. “This is not just a win for the dancers at this club, but the entire strip club industry,” said Lilith, a dancer. L.A. Times | NPR
Several reports said Major League Soccer is expected to announce San Diego as the home of its next expansion team. The franchise, the league’s 30th, would play its first games in 2025 at Snapdragon Stadium backed by an investment group that includes Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour, who would be majority owner, and the local Sycuan Band tribe of the Kumeyaay Nation. The fee for the expansion rights is a record: $500 million. S.D. Union-Tribune | CBS Sports
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