Newsletter: Essential California Week in Review: The Nativity reimagined with refugees

A nativity scene at Claremont United Methodist Church depicts the Holy Family separated as refugees in cages.
(The Rev. Karen Clark Ristine)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Dec. 14.

Thank you to the readers who have already written in to tell us about how how this year’s California headlines have affected their lives. If you haven’t already, we’d love tohear about your experiences for a year-end feature we’re working on.

Use this form to tell us about how a news event or issue affected you, and we’ll share some of the responses in the coming weeks.

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

Top stories

Claremont Nativity scene goes viral. A Methodist church in Claremont unveiled a Nativity scene that depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as refugees in cages, likening one of the most well-known images of the Christmas season and photos that have become synonymous with criticism of the Trump administration’s border separation policies.


The scene makes people uncomfortable — but that’s the point, writes columnist Sandy Banks.

Clean energy crossroads. Power plants in Redondo Beach, Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Oxnard have become part of an early battleground in an increasingly urgent debate: How much natural gas does California need on its power grid, and for how long?

How to “adult.” “Adulting” classes for college students and postgrads have swelled in popularity in recent years, in part because many high schools have largely abandoned “life skills” courses. At UC Berkeley, students learn to create and stick to a personal budget, build a resume and apply for jobs and navigate romantic relationships.

MLB opioid testing. Five months after Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died in a hotel room with opioids in his bloodstream, Major League Baseball and its players union have agreed on a new drug policy that would add opioid testing for major leaguers and would not punish marijuana use in the major or minor leagues.

Recovering from the Big One. To understand what the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake would look like, the L.A. Times went to Christchurch, New Zealand, which was devastated by a magnitude-6.2 earthquake in 2011. Here’s what we found.

What Californians want for PG&E. After years of deadly wildfires and the recent season of sweeping blackouts, a new poll of California voters finds most would impose major changes to the operations and control of Pacific Gas & Electric.

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom rejected PG&E’s proposal to pull itself out of bankruptcy, complicating PG&E’s ability to remain in control of the company.

The 101 best restaurants. With familiar names and brand-new entrants, this ranking is our current working definition of where to eat in Los Angeles.

From UCLA gymnast to “Watchmen” hero. Ex-UCLA gymnast Sadiqua Bynum is one of the youngest and most successful black stuntwomen in an industry that is just beginning to experience the effect of efforts to increase diversity in all of Hollywood.

California’s drought is mostly gone. Recent rains have saturated California and reduced the portion of the state deemed to be abnormally dry to just 3.6%, according to the Drought Monitor released Thursday. That means 96.4% of the state is drought free.


The “Beverly Hillbillies” estate sells. The mansion in Bel-Air has sold for the highest price in California history. The buyer? Lachlan Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch.

1. The struggle is real for some restaurant chains, and they hope younger diners can save them. Orange County Register

2. The spectacle of Altadena’s Christmas Tree Lane. Curbed Los Angeles

3. Elon Musk hits traffic pylon with new cybertruck after dinner in Malibu. Gizmodo

4. Here are 10 stunning waterfalls in Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties. The Press Democrat

5. The suite life arrives in Silver Lake with a new boutique hotel. The Eastsider

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The rise and fall of facts: How fact-checking as a practice came to be, and why it matters. Columbia Journalism Review

To bring a boy’s murderers to justice, a prosecutor wrestled with his own childhood abuse. Los Angeles Times

Meet Mia Lehrer, the doyenne of L.A. landscape design. To Lehrer, making L.A. more livable is all about peeling back the concrete. Curbed

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Diya Chacko for all her help on the Saturday edition.)