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Essential California: NAFTA talks begin again with some thorny issues on the horizon

Trump went back to blaming both sides for the deadly weekend violence in Charlottesville. The much-hyped musical "Hamilton" opens today in Los Angeles. An LA City Council committee rejected a plan to put 15 homes near a freeway interchange. What's planned for Queen Mary Island: Shops, restaurants, sports venues and more. 

Credits: Don Bartletti / Getty / KTLA

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Wednesday, Aug. 15, and here's what's happening across California:



Remember NAFTA?

President Trump's "buy American" mantra has particular appeal among his blue-collar base and others who support giving preference to U.S. companies when it comes to federal government purchases. But as Trump's team opens talks Wednesday aimed at rewriting the North American Free Trade Agreement, inserting a "buy American" provision into the landmark pact could prove to be one of the most contentious issues. NAFTA prohibits preferential treatment for American companies when they bid on U.S. government contracts, with a similar restriction on Mexico and Canada when dealing with their own government procurement. Los Angeles Times

And the view from Mexico: "The problem is, there's a sense [in Mexico] that victory for Trump will have to come at the expense of Mexico." Los Angeles Times

Wells Fargo fallout continues

Stephen Sanger, the chairman of Wells Fargo & Co., will step down from the board of the embattled bank effective Jan. 1 and be replaced by former Federal Reserve official Elizabeth A. "Betsy" Duke, the bank announced Tuesday. Two other long-serving directors, Cynthia H. Milligan and Susan G. Swenson, also will retire at the end of this year. They're the latest casualties in the bank's long-running scandal over sham accounts, which has spurred a wide-ranging shakeup at the San Francisco financial giant. Los Angeles Times

The school construction boom ends

The opening of the $160-million Maywood Center for Enriched Studies in southeast Los Angeles County, as a new school year began Tuesday, marks the end of the line for the country's largest new school construction project, which cost $10 billion and took 20 years. The arrival of the new campus also means that Bell High School, the final district campus operating year-round, at last has returned to a traditional schedule. Now, though, enrollment is shrinking, not growing; the $5 billion left over to renovate older campuses is not nearly enough; and the district also could be hard-pressed to maintain its new landmarks. Los Angeles Times

The monument will come down

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery announced plans Tuesday to take down a monument commemorating Confederate veterans after hundreds of people called for its removal, with some threatening vandalism. Los Angeles Times


Get ready! If you're in California, you won't be able to see a total eclipse next week, but a partial eclipse will be visible in every state. Just don't look directly at it without eye protection specifically designed to do so. Los Angeles Times

More accusations: A third woman has come out publicly and now claims she was sexually assaulted by director Roman Polanski as a teen. Los Angeles Times

LAPD officer cleared at raucous meeting: Three people were arrested at a meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday after a group of about 30 activists repeatedly interrupted commission President Matt Johnson as he tried to make a statement condemning this weekend's violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Los Angeles Times

Save the Queen? The struggling Queen Mary might be getting a life preserver — a huge shopping and entertainment complex next to the famed ship in Long Beach. Curbed Los Angeles



In San Francisco: Citing concern over violent clashes at a Charlottesville rally of white nationalists last weekend, a group of California lawmakers called Tuesday for the National Park Service to rescind a permit issued for a pro-Trump rally scheduled for Aug. 26 at Crissy Field in San Francisco. Los Angeles Times

Plus: In the wake of what happened in Charlottesville, Bay Area law enforcement agencies are girding for protests. San Francisco Chronicle

Free speech: Carol T. Christ, UC Berkeley's 11th chancellor, unveiled plans Tuesday for a "Free Speech Year" as right-wing speakers prepare to come to campus. Christ said the campus would hold "point-counterpoint" panels to demonstrate how to exchange opposing views in a respectful manner. Los Angeles Times

A fight for all-boys' schools: L.A. Unified opened a boys' school in part to comply with its interpretation of a federal regulation after it launched the single-sex Girls Academic Leadership Academy in Mid-City last year. But it's also the kind of unusual offering that the district hopes will help its ongoing fight to recapture enrollment — and revenue — lost to charter schools. Los Angeles Times

Church property sold! The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles plans to proceed with the sale of the St. James the Great church property in Newport Beach, citing a legal obligation. Los Angeles Times



In Canoga Park: The Los Angeles city attorney's office has filed a lawsuit against the owner of a Canoga Park home, claiming the residence is a hub of white supremacist gang members and drug activity. Los Angeles Times

Accused of murder: A man was arrested on suspicion of murder after the body of his girlfriend was found stuffed inside a trash can Sunday in a Stockton neighborhood, police said. Los Angeles Times


Give the loot! After years of planning for one of the biggest California water projects in decades, a key question remains unanswered: Who exactly will pay for it? Decision time is approaching for the agencies that will have to pick up the nearly $17-billion tab for building two massive water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the heart of the state's water works. Los Angeles Times


Fight over "The Walking Dead": Four executive producers of the hit cable series "The Walking Dead" are suing AMC, alleging that they were not paid their fair share of the show's profits. Los Angeles Times

He's back: Adrian Gonzalez is expected to rejoin the Dodgers this week. The domino effect of his return could lead to reduced playing time for center fielder Joc Pederson. Los Angeles Times

Depp's former money guy in trouble: Federal investigators from three agencies are probing a top Hollywood business-management firm facing fraud allegations from a former client, actor Johnny Depp. The Wall Street Journal

Price reduced: Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Costner has lowered his asking price for a 10-acre oceanfront spread in Carpinteria. It's dropped from $60 million to $55 million. Los Angeles Times

Cool interview: Funky Sole's Clifton Weaver is a scholar of groove. LA Weekly

Hamilton-mania: More than 2,500 "Hamilton" fans filed into the gilded Hollywood Pantages Theatre on Monday evening to hear a conversation with some of the brains behind the phenomenon. Los Angeles Times


San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles area: partly cloudy Wednesday, sunny Thursday. Sacramento: sunny Wednesday and Thursday. More weather is here.


Today's California memory comes from John Horgan:

"Our family moved from San Francisco 20 miles south to suburban San Mateo in 1947. It was a different world. We lived 100 yards from what was then called the Borel Estate, a sprawling tract of open space pocked with a grand private home, outbuildings and a barn, among a few other things. As kids, we used the estate's creek, trees and, sometimes, its horses for our various youthful adventures. We were generally free to come and go as we pleased. It was a natural playground. But progress finally intruded. By the early 1960s, a freeway appeared on the southern periphery, the estate was sold, and development got underway. But those happy post-WWII-era memories remain."

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.