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Essential California: It's OK to get crabby again

Good morning. It's Jan. 2, 2016. Here's what you don't want to miss this weekend:

TOP STORIES

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Biomass plant closures: It should have been a good year for turning wood and waste into electrons. A record-setting drought forced growers to bulldoze thousands of acres of trees, and hardly anyone in the Central Valley has permission to light bonfires anymore. But more than trees have withered in California's sun. Los Angeles Times

Two claws up: It's been a tough season for lovers of California rock and Dungeness crabs. High levels of a toxic alga that could poison humans were detected offshore, prompting state health officials to take the crustaceans off the menu. But just in time for New Year's Day, officials partly lifted the advisory Thursday, saying Californians can now safely eat crabs caught along the coasts of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Los Angeles Times

Ones to watch: From Charlie Munger to Loretta Sanchez, the California political people to watch in 2016. Sacramento Bee

Winding road: Celebrating 75 years of the Pasadena Freeway — it's a highway out of another era in more ways than one. KPCC

Underground movement: Groundwater pumping is causing major problems not just in drought-hit California but across the globe. Desert Sun

THIS WEEK'S MOST POPULAR STORIES IN ESSENTIAL CALIFORNIA

1. The do's and don'ts of visiting San Francisco if you want to avoid the cliches. SFGate

2. Gov. Jerry Brown likes his redwood cabin with no electricity or cellphone service. New York Times

3. Higher pay, hoverboards and vaccinations: Here are some of the hundreds of new state laws for 2016. Los Angeles Times

4. The arrival of a giant container ship in Los Angeles heralds a new era in shipping. Los Angeles Times

5. It cost this high school band $1.2 million to play in the Rose Parade. Marketplace

CALIFORNIA COMMENTARY

Air of defeat: L.A.'s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is on the ropes right now because of the massive methane leak from a gas well at Porter Ranch — the equivalent by one estimate of 7 million additional cars on the road every day. Los Angeles Times

Fact versus fiction: Myths are making Los Angeles' homeless crisis worse. One myth: "People choose L.A. as a place to be homeless because of the warm weather." Los Angeles Times

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View from above: As part of her look back at 2015, columnist Robin Abcarian tries to solve a mystery: North of the Santa Ynez Mountains, past the Los Padres National Forest, the flat expanse of the San Joaquin Valley looms. Sometimes the square crops are punctuated by odd, circular fields. Los Angeles Times

ICYMI, HERE ARE THIS WEEK'S GREAT READS

Rare find: Independent bookstores in Los Angeles are a dying breed. But Caravan Book Store remains open. "A raft in a downtown awash in rising rents and fast entertainment, it is a refuge where pages matter more than page views, Gutenberg more than Google." Los Angeles Times

Mystery figures: The two Russian sisters sold cellphones at a kiosk at the Montebello Town Center. Now, they find themselves as figures on the investigation into the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. Los Angeles Times

#SBStrong: In San Bernardino, where the cycle of bad news never seems to end, residents resolve to fight back against helplessness and hope to give their children a better life. Los Angeles Times

Power player: As San Bernardino tries to recover from bankruptcy and urban decay, a look at its political structure: James Penman says he fought dysfunction at San Bernardino's City Hall. His critics see his tenure as city attorney differently. Los Angeles Times

Freeway homeless: All over Los Angeles, ad-hoc tent cities are cropping up along, above and under freeways, a phenomenon that is upending how we think about the biggest and most conspicuous kind of infrastructure in the region. Los Angeles Times

LOOKING AHEAD

Monday: The penalty phase begins in the case of Daniel Patrick Wozniak, an actor convicted of the dismemberment murder of a neighbor and the slaying of his friend to cover up the crime.

Tuesday: Quentin Tarantino puts his handprints and footprints in cement at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

Wednesday: The People's Choice Awards are handed out at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live.

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Friday: Hillary Clinton is scheduled to be in L.A. for a fundraiser.

As 2016 begins, we want to thank you for reading Essential California. We'd also like to express our gratitude to all the journalists whose work we've cited over the last year. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Alice Walton or Shelby Grad.

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