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Essential California: The wildfire death toll grows in Northern California

Drone footage reveals the devastation wrought by the deadly Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa. An astounding number of women have shared stories of alleged sexual misconduct by producer Harvey Weinstein. A USC administrator has left his post in the wake of allegations that he sexually harassed female colleagues. President Trump has nominated Kirstjen Nielsen, a top aide to Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, to head the Department of Homeland Security.

Credits: Associated Press, Travis Geske, Getty, KTLA

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It's Thursday, Oct. 12, and here's what's happening across California:



Where was the warning?

As fast-moving fires invaded neighborhoods across Northern California this week, residents in Napa and Sonoma counties said they were alerted to the approaching disaster by frantic shouts from neighbors, honking horns, blaring smoke alarms and even the noise of an American flag whipping in the intense winds. But it's becoming increasingly clear that at least some residents did not receive warnings on their cellphones similar to an Amber Alert. The so-called Wireless Emergency Alert sends a loud, screeching alarm or vibrations to all cellphones in a geographic area unless a user specifically opts out. Los Angeles Times

Here are the latest stats:

— Fire officials reported at least 23 fire-related deaths as of late Wednesday morning. Los Angeles Times

At least 3,500 structures have been destroyed in more than 15 Northern California fires, covering collectively more than 170,000 acres. Los Angeles Times


— Did power lines cause some of the fires? SF Gate

— This is a good time to look at your own fire insurance. Los Angeles Times

— A list of wineries damaged by the fires. Mercury News

USC scandals

A USC administrator responsible for raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the university has left his post amid allegations that he sexually harassed female colleagues, the latest blow to a campus already dealing with the arrest of an assistant basketball coach and the departures of two medical school deans accused of misconduct. David Carrera, a university vice president who helped lead USC's historic $6-billion fundraising campaign, is the subject of an internal university investigation in which dozens of employees have been interviewed about his treatment of women, university officials confirmed Tuesday in response to inquiries from The Times. Los Angeles Times

Plus: A federal grand jury in New York has issued sweeping subpoenas to USC, Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State, the four schools whose assistant coaches have been charged in the college basketball bribery and corruption case, according to a person familiar with the process. USC has turned over laptop computers used by Tony Bland, the associate head coach facing charges that include soliciting a bribe and wire fraud, in addition to those of head coach Andy Enfield and assistants Jason Hart and Chris Capko, according to two people with knowledge about the situation who spoke on the condition they not be identified because of the ongoing legal proceedings. Los Angeles Times

The world of casino security

The casino hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, with all their glitzy delights, aren't just palaces of distraction. They're miniature surveillance states. A typical facility might be armed with thousands of cameras that record gamblers as they enter, while they play and when they leave. The footage is stored as potential evidence and monitored by internal security forces who are prepared to dispatch a response within moments. So how was Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock able to sneak in an arsenal and kill 58 unsuspecting country music festival-goers? Los Angeles Times



Problem deputies: The debate over a secret list of 300 Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies with histories of dishonesty or other similar misconduct is now before the California Supreme Court. In an order filed Wednesday, the court said it would consider an appeal made by Sheriff Jim McDonnell in his attempt to reveal to prosecutors the names of these deputies. Los Angeles Times

Bigger picture: Here's what the Los Angeles Times' "Dirty John" series reveals about domestic abuse. Los Angeles Times

Scary numbers: Enrollment has dropped even more than anticipated in the Los Angeles Unified School District, exacerbating budget problems and signaling that efforts to reverse the decline are falling short. Los Angeles Times

Tough as nails: This female L.A. city editor entered a man's world, and newspapering was never the same. An appreciation of Agness "Aggie" Underwood. LA Weekly


Health insurance surcharge: California's health insurance exchange said Wednesday it has ordered insurers to add a surcharge to certain policies next year because the Trump administration has yet to commit to paying a key set of consumer subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Los Angeles Times

Steyer gears up: Tom Steyer, a San Francisco environmentalist and a major political donor, is calling on all Democrats to support the impeachment of President Trump. Los Angeles Times

"He's better than this": L.A. billionaire Thomas Barrack is one of Donald Trump's closest advisors. Here's how he rate the president's efforts so far. Washington Post


Huge settlement: Los Angeles will pay $15 million to end a legal battle involving a man who was gravely injured by a car while crossing Franklin Avenue. His attorneys had accused the city of failing to address dangerous conditions at the Hollywood intersection. Los Angeles Times


The law is changing: Violent incidents videotaped or streamed live on sites such as Facebook by attackers or accomplices could result in tougher punishment in California under a law signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown. Los Angeles Times

Shooting settlement: The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to pay $1.9 million to the family of a man in a wheelchair who was fatally shot by police in a Lincoln Heights apartment two years ago. Los Angeles Times

Shooting in Long Beach: Two men were killed and two others were wounded when gunfire erupted inside a Long Beach liquor store Tuesday night, police said. Los Angeles Times


Whale problems: "A local whale expert says basic etiquette was broken when three people on two personal watercraft attempted to get 'selfies' with about 10 orcas Friday, Oct. 6, off Huntington Beach." Orange County Register


Blue Apron gets a break: Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday put the brakes on an effort to further regulate the burgeoning meal subscription business, in which firms deliver to customers original recipes and proportioned ingredients needed to prepare food at home. Los Angeles Times

Miller is honored: Former L.A. Kings broadcaster Bob Miller, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, will be the latest local icon to have a statue outside Staples Center. Los Angeles Times

Ready for some football? California's football teams are struggling with attendance and fan support in general. Wall Street Journal

Check it out! Roll past the Santa Monica house that announced Frank Gehry's talents and annoyed his neighbors. Los Angeles Times

X marks the spot: Yesterday was X Day in L.A. to celebrate the punk band. L.A. Daily News


Los Angeles area: partly cloudy, 75, Thursday; sunny, 80, Friday. San Diego: sunny, 72, Thursday; sunny, 73, Friday. San Francisco area: sunny, 68, Thursday and Friday. Sacramento: sunny, 76, Thursday; sunny, 78, Friday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Poul Nielsen:

"The year was 1974; the month was October. I'm a Danish citizen and had just finished my military service at the age of 21. During that service I had a driver's license, and now I was going for a four-week holiday in Los Angeles and California. I rented a car at a dealer in downtown L.A., but when the owner saw my Danish driver's license and found out that it didn't expire until the year 2023, he didn't believe it. He had never seen anything that crazy! Well, I did get to rent a car and have done so in California many times since that day."

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.