Essential California: Outbreak at UCLA hospital, campaign tensions, refinery explosion

Essential California is a daily collection of the best reporting on the Golden State. The newsletter is brought to you by reporter Alice Walton and California editor Shelby Grad.


Bacterial outbreak at UCLA medical center

Nearly 180 patients may have been exposed to potentially deadly bacteria from contaminated medical scopes at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center. At least seven patients were infected with the drug-resistant superbug, and it may have contributed to two deaths. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health are investigating. L.A. Times

Kamala Harris is not apologizing

In one of her first interviews since announcing her run for the U.S. Senate, state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris makes no apologies about running an aggressive campaign that some say is designed to keep other Democrats from jumping in the race. “I have always entered races early and run hard, and that’s what I’ve done in this race.” With about a year and a half before the election, Harris says, she still needs to beef up her knowledge on national security and foreign policy. L.A. Times

Convention Center problems

Downtown L.A. might be booming, but the hipster vibe isn’t lifting all ships. In the last four years, Los Angeles has lost out on 801 conventions, and organizers for about a third of those said it was because the Convention Center was too small or the area did not have enough hotel rooms. Those figures were released during a pitch for greater investment in the city. L.A. Times


Refinery scare: The big explosion at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance caused serious damage and left nearby residents shaken. It was a reminder of an earlier time when accidents in the South Bay’s refinery zone were fairly common and sometimes deadly. Some residents said Wednesday that they’ve seen a lot worse. L.A. Times 

“Sniper” a win for Warner Bros. CEO: When Warner Bros. executives began reviewing the dailies for “American Sniper,” they knew they had something special. Although the film may have seemed like a risky bet to some, it paid off with box-office records, giving the studio some breathing room through the rest of the year. “American Sniper” was among the first movies greenlighted by Warner Bros. Chief Executive Kevin Tsujihara. L.A. Times

Economics of extras: “Central Casting” isn’t just a cliche; it’s the name of the top extras agency in the world, with 96,000 people on its rolls. For some background actors, it can be a lucrative career with minimal effort. “Nowhere is Hollywood cronyism more prevalent than in the lucrative world of commercial extras, where the minimum bar -- the ability to look like a human being -- is so low.” L.A. Weekly

Starbucks makeover: The “most depressing Starbucks in America” is undergoing a major renovation. The Highland Park coffee shop will be closed through March as Starbucks installs new windows and upgrades the store’s patio. Eastsider L.A.


California’s child care: State lawmakers are considering a proposal to expand state-subsidized child care. The plan is to provide more vouchers to very low-income families so that they can place their infants or toddlers in day care. It is unknown how much the plan, which is backed by state Senate leader Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would cost. L.A. Times

2016 congressional races: The National Republican Congressional Committee will try to pick up six House seats in California next year. The party hopes to defeat Democratic Reps. John Garamendi of Walnut Grove, Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Julia Brownley of Westlake Village, Pete Aguilar of Redlands, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Scott Peters of San Diego. In a district that Democrats hope to keep as theirs, Rep. Janice Hahn endorsed state Sen. Isadore Hall to be her successor as she focuses on a run for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. L.A. Times

Smog and soot: Writer D.J. Waldie reflects on Southern California’s history of smog and a recent soot-mitigation plan adopted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “The air is better now, but advocates fear that momentum to make it safer has stalled now that the air looks clear even in summer.” KCET


Cal State enrollment: Fewer African American students are attending the Cal State system these days. The Los Angeles Times reports enrollment of African Americans at the 23 campuses:

-- 2004: 5.8%

-- 2013: 4.6%

At the same time, more Latinos are attending college within the Cal State system. Of the total undergraduate population, Latinos represented:

-- 2004: 22%

-- 2013: 35%

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.

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