Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: Maui devastated by deadly wildfire

A fire-ravaged neighborhood in Lahaina
Search crews walk the streets in Lahaina, looking for people among the wreckage of this week’s devastating wildfires.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Aug. 12.

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

Death toll in Maui fires rises to 67: ‘We have not yet searched buildings.’ Hawaii Gov. Josh Green says the fires are probably the state’s deadliest natural disaster in decades.

Fires, landslides, rising seas: What drives Californians to stay in disaster-prone areas? Natural disasters devastate certain pockets of Southern California on a regular basis. So why don’t people leave?

What makes for a transgender haven? California and other blue states are figuring it out. Transgender rights advocates say new laws can do only so much if they aren’t properly implemented and funded, and designed to help the community’s most vulnerable members.

Striking city workers become the latest to take part in L.A.’s sizzling season of labor action. Thousands of L.A. government workers walked off their jobs for 24 hours, calling for better pay and staffing improvements.

WGA and AMPTP resume negotiations amid signs of a possible thaw in the standoff. After more than 100 days of striking, the Writers Guild of America resumed negotiations with studio representative the AMPTP on Friday afternoon.


Photo of the week

A woman in a white robe holds a glowing light over someone lying down
Lahila Oppenheimer, right, provides soothing light as guests lay on the floor and relax during a sound bath event inside the Shatto Chapel at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A sound bath in one of Los Angeles’ oldest churches will take you to a higher plane. Sound baths are everywhere in L.A., even in churches. Here’s what it’s like to experience the singing bowls and gongs in grand, acoustic settings.

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Boots. Bones. An ID with a familiar face. Hikers who found Julian Sands tell their story. The hikers who found the actor’s remains in a remote canyon on Mt. Baldy in June are haunted by what was missing from his safety gear.

Athlete, honor student, murderer? How did a UC Davis student spiral into an accused killer? Testimony in Carlos Reales Dominguez’s competency trial raised the question: Why did no one intervene as he spiraled from high school honor student to accused murderer?

Why are more students chronically absent in California, U.S.? A study examines the troubling trend. California had among the highest increases in chronic absenteeism in the country, about 1 million additional students were chronically absent compared with the year before the pandemic.


New coronavirus subvariant Eris is gaining dominance. Is it fueling an increase in cases? It’s possible the Eris subvariant, formally known as EG.5, may have an even further immune-escape advantage than other members of the Omicron coronavirus family.

Ship Alaska’s homeless population off to California? They say no way, ‘Alaska’s my home.’ An Alaska mayor wants to send homeless people to Los Angeles. Here’s what they have to say about that.

Tory Lanez was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the shooting of Megan Thee Stallion. The rapper was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for shooting Megan Thee Stallion after an argument in the Hollywood Hills in 2020.

Narcan, citizenship and therapy: L.A. public library has changed with the times. The L.A. city librarian oversees more than books. His world encompasses the complexities, joys, possibilities and sadness of Los Angeles.

L.A. County supervisors propose $25 minimum wage for hotel and theme park workers. Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn proposed a measure that would boost the minimum pay to $25 for hotel and theme park workers in L.A. County unincorporated areas.

The University of California admits a record number of California first-year students for fall 2023, led by Latinos. The UC admitted a record number of California first-year students for fall 2023, led by Latinos and an increase in Native Americans who helped make up the largest ever group of underrepresented students offered admission.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

A man surfs
A surfer takes advantage of a good south swell and warm water as he surfs on a hot summer day at Malibu Surfrider Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Where to catch a wave this summer in SoCal, for every kind of surfer. Summertime is in full swing, and you’ve got a freshly waxed surfboard and some of Southern California’s finest surf breaks just waiting to be explored — traffic be damned.


Is L.A. walkable? They walked 41 miles in a day and have thoughts. Wanting to get to know the city better, two friends thought walking from Santa Monica to Griffith Park would be a great idea. Here’s what happened.

Kesha, Dr. Luke and their vicious battle over the truth. Kesha publicly accused Dr. Luke of having raped her. He denied it, and the ensuing scandal raged for the last decade. The Times examined what really happened between the pop star and the producer.

Oral history: Inside a Lakers trade critics slammed that made Pau Gasol a Hall of Famer. The Lakers’ deal to acquire Pau Gasol from Memphis changed the path of each franchise, led the Lakers to two NBA titles and landed Gasol in the Hall of Fame.

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