Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Election day is almost here

Newsom stands at a lectern with a "Stop the Republican recall" sign.
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a rally against the recall effort in San Leandro, Calif., on Sept. 8.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 11.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

Getting ready for election day. With days to go, Democrats’ midsummer panic has given way to cautious confidence that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s outlook has brightened, aided by healthy voter turnout so far, a huge campaign funding advantage and the emergence of an ideal foil: Larry Elder.

School mandate is coming. All children 12 and older in Los Angeles public schools must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 under an order approved Thursday by the Board of Education, the first such mandate among the nation’s largest school systems.

So is a national one. President Biden on Thursday escalated his administration’s efforts. Employees at companies with at least 100 workers will be required to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Federal employees can no longer choose weekly testing.

Vaccines are lagging. As rural areas continue to struggle with hospitalizations, scientists and officials have long hoped full government approval of a COVID-19 vaccine would help allay stubborn concerns. But rates are still lagging in California.

Yes, it was hotter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday confirmed what many people felt and saw: California — along with Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah — recorded its hottest ever June-through-August, with dire consequences.

How Tahoe survived. Things looked grim for South Lake Tahoe as the Caldor fire barreled toward the treasured resort community last week. But the danger had largely abated by Sept. 4. Fire officials point to three key factors.

Mt. Shasta’s summer of pain. A brutal summer of record heat and punishing drought has claimed yet another California victim: the majestic, snow-covered slopes of Mt. Shasta. It’s also brought thunderous torrents of mud, boulders and trees.

Progress for Britney Spears. The pop star’s father filed Tuesday to end the court conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years. Jamie Spears said in a previous filing on Aug. 12 that he was planning to step down as the conservator.

Theranos trial begins. Prosecutors and defense attorneys sketched dueling portraits of fallen Silicon Valley star Elizabeth Holmes as her trial got underway Wednesday. Once hailed as a billionaire on paper, Holmes is now facing felony charges.

Taking on Amazon. The California Senate voted to regulate warehouse performance metrics, approving the first legislation in the nation that will require companies such as Amazon to disclose productivity quotas, among other standards meant to make warehouse work safer.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a Times subscriber.


ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Remembering 9/11: On the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, the toll of the war on terror has reached a terrible peak. Among the troops killed, no state lost as many as California. At home, the attacks upended U.S. immigration policy, paving the way for two decades of restrictive laws and unleashing Islamophobia.

Saving Britney Spears. A grass-roots campaign commonly referred to as the #FreeBritney movement goes beyond that of most music fandoms. Britney’s fan army has an altogether weightier goal: to shine a light on and shape the conversation around the 39-year-old singer’s fraught 13-year conservatorship. Their advocacy appears to be paying off.

Burned trees and billions in cash. An opaque carbon trading scheme is a linchpin of the state’s climate efforts — California is leaning on it to meet as much as half of its greenhouse gas reductions. Yet the program is under serious strain at home even as it is getting copied far beyond California.

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our game center at

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Laura Blasey. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to