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Essential California Week in Review: The death of Pop Smoke

Rapper Pop Smoke
Rapper Pop Smoke performs in Los Angeles in December.
(Scott Dudelson / Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Feb. 22.

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

Death of Pop Smoke. A group of people, including one wearing a mask and armed with a handgun, burst into a posh Hollywood Hills home Wednesday and fatally shot up-and-coming New York rapper Pop Smoke, who was in town for a five-day work trip, police say. Detectives are examining whether his killers may have learned of his location from social media posts.

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[In a too-brief life, Pop Smoke had already recast the sound, and center, of hip-hop.]

Determining the cause of the Kobe Bryant crash. As investigators try to determine what caused the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others last month, pilots and aviation experts are pointing to one likely scenario: spatial disorientation. Records obtained by The Times show that in 2015, the pilot had been disciplined by the Federal Aviation Administration for a weather-related flight rules violation.

[Fans without tickets to Monday’s memorial at Staples Center are being urged by police to stay home. Here’s how to watch from home.]

State of the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom called California’s homelessness crisis “a disgrace” in his State of the State address Wednesday, acknowledging that Californians have “lost patience” with state political leaders who largely neglected a human tragedy that has existed in plain sight for years.

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Ready for Super Tuesday? Here’s our voters’ guide to everything you need to know about voting in California’s presidential primary election on March 3.

$53 million awarded to California students. Two years ago, a group of students and their teachers sued the state of California for doing a poor job of teaching kids how to read. On Thursday, they won $53 million so that the state’s lowest-performing schools have the resources to do better.

Backtracking on solar? California officials voted Thursday to allow Sacramento-area developers to build homes that don’t come equipped with solar panels — a move solar installers and environmentalists said would undermine the state’s first-in-the-nation home solar requirement.

The Monrovia bear. For the second time in as many days, Monrovia residents woke to find an “old lady” roaming their neighborhood — one that was covered in fur and weighed hundreds of pounds. Wildlife officials tranquilized her so they could take her back to a better habitat.

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Examining LACMA‘s debt. It’s been seven years since Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan first revealed plans to raze four buildings on the museum’s campus. Questions about the radical nature of the planned redesign, which includes an unorthodox plan for a building that straddles Wilshire Boulevard, and about the project’s steep budget have come up at every turn.

California economy forecast. It wasn’t so long ago that economic growth in California and Los Angeles far surpassed that of the nation. Those days are coming to an end, according to one new report.

1. Horror, fatigue and constant calls: 24 hours with skid row’s firefighters. Los Angeles Times

2. Topanga retreat once owned by Neil Young seeks $1.45 million. Curbed LA

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3. Poly High teacher placed on leave following allegations of racial slur, inappropriate discipline. Long Beach Post

4. Inside the Marciano Art Foundation’s spectacular shutdown. Los Angeles Times

5. Naked burglary suspect in custody; victims say he entered home, made scrambled eggs, ate flan. Desert Sun

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

A decorated detective, a suspected mobster: How a secret alliance ended in claims of blood and betrayal. Los Angeles Times

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“How does Page Six still exist?” For more than four decades, Page Six has ruled the world of gossip about the famous and powerful. In an era when celebrities control the narrative and “power” is a dirty word, can it survive? Esquire

On crisscrossing America, alone and interconnected, as a digital nomad sleeping in your van: “The pavement of the Interstate Highway System unfurled before me, and I consumed it with the thoughtless velocity of an Instagram feed.” The Baffler

Poem of the week: “Being in This World Makes Me Feel Like a Time Traveler” by Kaveh Akbar. New York Times

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.)


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