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Essential California: The secret life of a USC dean

George Romero, the father of the modern movie zombie, died Sunday at 77. Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau died Saturday at 89. DACA seemed doomed when Trump was elected, but "Dreamers" have faced mixed messages. The Dodgers had a remarkable weekend, with play resuming after the All-Star break. 

Credits: Anne Cusack / Associated Press / KTLA

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Monday, July 17, and here's what's happening across California:



The secret life of a USC dean

During his tenure as dean of the USC Keck School of Medicine, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them, a Los Angeles Times investigation has found. The renowned eye surgeon's skill in the operating room was matched by his gift for attracting money and talent to the university. He stepped down as dean last year. Los Angeles Times

Gearing up for the midterm election

As chairman of the committee charged with overseeing the executive branch, Rep. Darrell Issa was once known as President Obama's toughest critic. Now the richest man in Congress has found himself with protesters at his door, no committee to lead, and a tough race expected in 2018. Los Angeles Times

How to think about casting movies

Should only a blind person be allowed to play a blind person in a movie? That thorny question rages at the center of a debate in Hollywood over authenticity in casting. "The increasingly fraught and emotional dialogue pits the progressive ideals of inclusion not just against historical business practices but also the definition of acting itself." Los Angeles Times


A Hollywood legend dies: Martin Landau, the Oscar-winning actor who appeared in classic films such as Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" and starred in the "Mission: Impossible" television series in the 1960s, has died at age 89. Los Angeles Times

And: Filmmaker George A. Romero, father of the modern zombie film and creator of the "Night of the Living Dead" franchise, has died at 77. Los Angeles Times

Dirty tricks on hold? In a twist that reveals the small world of Golden State politics, former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — the top contenders to be California's next governor — each hired advisors who know the most intimate details of the other's extramarital affair. Los Angeles Times

Venice problems: "Venice Beach had roughly 700 fewer housing units in 2015 than in 2000, as apartment development stalled and wealthy homeowners gobbled up adjacent properties and leveled them." Wall Street Journal

More and more: As the number of homeless Angelenos rises, towing companies are refusing to haul away RVs and campers that are unregistered or have overstayed the 72-hour limit on city streets. The companies cite the unsanitary conditions of the vehicles and the inability to recoup the cost of towing them. Los Angeles Daily News


DACA dilemma: Instead of a clear policy, Melody Klingenfuss and thousands of other DACA recipients have faced mixed messages, contradictory leaks and a lack of clarity about their future from the Trump administration. There has been talk of deportations, only to have the president himself sound a less dire tone, and that's upset anti-illegal immigration activists too. Los Angeles Times


On the train: The Los Angeles Metro system's Gold Line "connects enough smart institutions to explode stereotypes about public transportation and Southern California itself." San Francisco Chronicle


The healthcare debate: Somewhere in California, one child's medical expenses in 2014 totaled $21 million — a bill covered entirely by Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid. Los Angeles Times

Intriguing stuff: "Olympic gold medalist and transgender activist Caitlyn Jenner is the latest celebrity to reveal she has considered launching a run for Senate." Los Angeles Times

And for the Democrats: Sen. Kamala Harris was in the Hamptons over the weekend to meet with Hillary Clinton's biggest backers. New York Post

Down by the bay: The Croatian consulate wanted to move from its tony Westwood offices to San Pedro's Croatian Cultural Center. This week the deal to make that happen fell apart. Daily Breeze


Arrests at protests: At least two people were arrested Saturday afternoon during dueling rallies staged in Hollywood by supporters and detractors of President Trump. Los Angeles Times


The fallout: Investigators looking into the frighteningly close call involving an airliner that nearly hit planes on the ground at San Francisco International Airport will try to determine why the pilots made such a rookie mistake and nearly landed on a busy taxiway instead of the runway. Associated Press

Got a light? A group of men is suspected of stealing large quantities of cigarettes from Walgreens locations across the eastern San Fernando Valley, including in Burbank, according to authorities. Los Angeles Times

Animal cruelty A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge has sentenced a 26-year-old California man to 16 years in prison for killing 21 cats, some of which he lured from people's homes. The Mercury News


Preview, please: Here's what to watch for in the vote to extend California's cap-and-trade program. Los Angeles Times


Go Lakers! This year's Las Vegas Summer League Lakers are exciting a fan base looking for some positivity after four years of lacking it. Now they have rookie Lonzo Ball, and hope has returned. Los Angeles Times

Tech tourism: Here's where you should go to try out Silicon Valley's newest wares. San Francisco Chronicle

But it's so good: "By all rights, consumers and companies should be celebrating one of the longest [economic] expansions on record. California has surpassed the rest of the nation by some measures, and San Diego County looks stronger than much of the state. Yet happy days don't seem to be here again." San Diego Union-Tribune

Where to drink? Here are 10 breweries in San Diego where you definitely can quench your thirst. Los Angeles Times


Sacramento and Los Angeles area: sunny Monday and Tuesday. San Diego: partly cloudy Monday and Tuesday. San Francisco area: cloudy Monday and Tuesday More weather is here.


This week's birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson (July 19, 1949) and Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (July 23, 1936).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.