Essential California: ‘Scariest man I’ve met in my 70 years’

Essential California: ‘Scariest man I’ve met in my 70 years’
John Meehan spent 17 months in a Michigan prison after pleading guilty in 2002 to drug theft. (Michigan Department of Corrections)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Saturday, Oct. 7, and here's what's happening across California:



"Scariest man I've met in my 70 years": John Meehan insisted he'd been a victim, in case after case. To prove it, he planned to unleash lawsuits against his accusers. The attorney he approached had other ideas. This is Part 5 of our six-part series "Dirty John." Los Angeles Times

The scene at USC: At the university's Keck School of Medicine, faculty members and students expressed shock and anger after a second dean departed amid accusations of questionable behavior. Los Angeles Times


Housing pitch: When the AIDS Healthcare Foundation waged an unsuccessful campaign this spring to crack down on "mega projects," affordable housing developers argued its ballot measure would hurt poor renters and thwart sorely needed construction. Now the huge nonprofit is getting into affordable housing itself, saying it can provide it quicker and cheaper than such groups. Los Angeles Times

Downtown boom heads south: The downtown L.A. development boom has spread south of the 10 Freeway, for better or worse. Los Angeles Times

Master of the river: Lewis MacAdams, a poet and founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River, has spent a lifetime fighting for a disrespected river. The hub of MacAdams’ life today is a cramped apartment in a Los Angeles retirement community. Each weekday morning historian Michael Block uses an audio-recording machine, archival photos and documents to retrace MacAdams’ influence in making river restoration a credible issue for Southern California nature lovers and policymakers from former Mayor Tom Bradley to Mayor Eric Garcetti. Los Angeles Times

Gun show goes on: A two-day gun and Western Americana show is scheduled for the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa beginning Saturday, despite concern from some people about the event's timing after Sunday's mass shooting in Las Vegas. Los Angeles Times


Mortality gap in L.A. County: The big gap in life expectancy in different parts of L.A. (76 in Lancaster, 90 in Malibu). SCPR

Red in deep blue: What it's like to be a conservative Republican in liberal San Francisco. SF Gate

New law: Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Friday that lowers from a felony to a misdemeanor the crime of knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection. Los Angeles Times

California versus Trump: President Trump's top immigration chief on Friday blasted California's new "sanctuary state" law, saying it would "undermine public safety," keep federal officers from performing their jobs and result in more arrests. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Is Trump's immigration crackdown causing more absenteeism in California schools? EdSource

Hollywood scandal: Harvey Weinstein is on "indefinite leave" as Hollywood is roiled by sexual harassment allegations against him. New York Times

Valley milestone: Twenty years ago, "Boogie Nights" changed the way America looked at the San Fernando Valley and its now-famous porn business. Press-Enterprise

Helping hands: A homeless man who drives for Uber and Lyft lost his home and and his livelihood when his car caught on fire. But strangers stepped in to help. Orange County Register



1. For second time in two years, his fiancee texts: "Active shooter." And so began a night of hell in Vegas. Los Angeles Times

2. At his local Starbucks, the Las Vegas gunman was remembered for berating his girlfriend. Los Angeles Times

3. Los Angeles apartments: What $1,500 rents you. Curbed Los Angeles

4. The top 10 California filming locations. Mercury News

5. The story that brought the allegations against Harvey Weinstein to light. New York Times


Remembering the victims: Wrenching stories of those killed in the Las Vegas massacre. Los Angeles Times

Plus: The surreal — and difficult — act of mourning in a city where tourists are gambling and partying amid the memorials to the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. Orange County Register

How Milo normalized white nationalism: Milo Yiannopoulos placed himself at the center of the far-right debate in California with a tour of college campuses that have sparked violence — and a free speech debate — at Berkeley. But the Yiannopoulos show was part of a much larger effort by Breitbart and others on right that normalized white nationalism in shocking ways. BuzzFeed

Death review: Could police have saved Cecilia Lam? She begged for years, and called 911 repeatedly, about an abusive boyfriend. But that was not enough, and many are now asking why. San Francisco Chronicle


A new muse: Two sisters created a star-studded film that uses the landscape of Northern California as a key character and muse. California Sunday Magazine

Big move: How Tom Petty's trip from Florida to Los Angeles became the stuff of music legend, and gave the City of Angels a devoted chronicler. New York Times

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.