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Essential California: What happens when Chinese tourists run out of money?

Good morning. It is Thursday, Aug. 13. You think it’s bad when your kid asks for a puppy? Just wait till they see the fainting goats at this Northern California ranch. Here's what is happening in the Golden State:

TOP STORIES

Fire danger

A new heat wave means firefighters in California are on heightened alert for wildfires. There are currently 16 fires raging throughout the state. “Years of drought leading to tinder dry brush, thunderstorms in the last two months followed by hot, dry winds, and punishing summer heat have sent fires from Napa County to Eureka near the Oregon border on a tear.” Los Angeles Times

Global economy

China’s decision to devalue the yuan is being felt in the Southland, where its trade, tourism and investment dollars are a serious part of the economy. Malls may be particularly hard hit as they’re popular destinations for wealthy tourists with cash to burn. Nearly 2.2 million Chinese tourists spent $24 billion last year on trips to the United States. Los Angeles Times

DROUGHT

New restrictions: Your shower is getting a makeover. The state Energy Commission approved the nation's strictest requirements for shower heads. Over the next three years, the amount of water coming out of the shower will reduce from 2.5 gallons a minute to 1.8 gallons. Los Angeles Times

Storm coming: Sea surface temperatures are on the rise and they’re the surest sign yet that El Niño could soak California this winter. That timing won’t help firefighters during the brutal wildfire season and it’s not even certain that it will help the state’s drought. Los Angeles Times

#shadeballs: Yes, 96 million balls in the Los Angeles Reservoir will save hundreds of millions of gallons of water from evaporation. But their greater purpose is to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality standards. They’re also a great way to get people talking about water issues. Los Angeles Times

Tough times: This photo gallery shows the harsh conditions in the Central Valley as water becomes a scarce resource. Boom

Drought brainstorm: No matter what your mother said, there are such things as bad ideas. What are the worst ideas when it comes to solving California’s drought? Wired

Weather systems: They’re in a fight -- it’s El Niño vs. the Blob. A winner could be declared this winter. 89.3 KPCC

L.A. AT LARGE

Freeway in the park: Staff writer Carolina Miranda remembers when one of the city’s prettiest parks, Hollenbeck Park, didn’t have a freeway running through it. “The result is a dissonant juxtaposition of urban planning elements: a bucolic city park, with fountains and quacking ducks, paired with the grinding gears of stop-and-go traffic on the 5, which runs right overhead,” she writes. Los Angeles Times

Uncertain future: Could Frank Gehry's plans for the L.A. River jeopardize its federal funding? The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers just signed off on a $1.3-billion plan for the waterway. City Lab

Memory freeway: These days, Los Angeles occasionally considers turning freeways into parks. Thirty years ago, there were talks to turn the Los Angeles River and its greenspace into a freeway. Lanes from the San Fernando Valley to downtown would have been dedicated to buses and carpoolers, and another stretch from downtown to Long Beach would have been set aside for trucks. Los Angeles Times

Party train: The XTrain between Los Angeles and Las Vegas will launch on New Year’s Eve. At least, that’s according to its latest Facebook post. The train has been in the works for five years. Los Angeles Magazine


ESSENTIAL CALIFORNIA DESIGN CONTEST

Calling all artists: What does your California look like?

The snow-capped mountains in the Essential California logo are more a dream than reality these days. We still have the naval ships of San Diego, the Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. At least, that’s what our California looks like.

Submit your drawing of California here, and it could end up on a new Los Angeles Times tote bag. Selected drawings will be voted on by Essential California readers. The winner will receive a free tote bag and a package featuring some of our favorite treats from the Golden State.

Please act fast! The deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Friday.


POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Secret recording: Don’t mess with the police union, apparently. Garden Grove's Bao Nguyen recently found himself being surreptitiously recorded by the president of the Garden Grove Police Assn., which backed Nguyen’s opponent in the last election. That opponent was City Councilman Phat Bui and Nguyen has some choice words for him on the tape. OC Weekly

Fight for identity: In Arcadia, longtime residents are trying to fight against the trend of wealthy Chinese investors purchasing homes only to tear them down and build new, oversized mansions. Signs are now popping up on city streets urging the recall of council members who some feel have allowed “mansionization” to flourish. Los Angeles Times  

Working conditions: The University of California’s decision to pay its employees at least $15 an hour is bringing renewed attention to what some say is an unfair working condition. The system has a vast network of subcontractors who do the same work as employees but who make substantially less and often have to work holidays and weekends with little job security. Los Angeles Times

COURTS AND CRIME

Workplace rules: The $6 million that Bumble Bee Foods will have to pay in the gruesome death of one of its employees is the largest payout for workplace safety violations involving a single victim in a California criminal prosecution. Jose Melena was in a 35-foot-long oven making repairs when other employees bringing tuna into the oven shut the door and turned it on. Los Angeles Times

Communal grief: The community at the Tannery Arts Center is finding ways to grieve together in the wake of 8-year-old Madyson Jordan Middleton’s murder. Compounding the grief is that her alleged killer is another member of the community, 15-year-old Adrian “A.J.” Gonzalez. “First we have to accept it, because it happened. It’s a reality. We have to accept it and we have to find ways to heal people,” said neighbor Malima Kone. San Francisco Chronicle

More allegations: Three more women have come forward and accused comedian Bill Cosby of rape or sexual harassment. The alleged encounters took place in the 1970s and 1980s. Los Angeles Times

TRANSPORTATION

Built for cyclists: Davis is now home to the country’s first protected intersection built to protect cyclists from turning cars. The design is based on similar setups in the Netherlands. “The basic reason is that absent this infrastructure, roads across the US are often designed solely with cars in mind.” Vox

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Movie night: Meet the man who hosts screenings of classic movies at an iconic Hollywood cemetery. John Wyatt started hosting the film screenings at Hollywood Forever more than a decade ago. "You know that feeling when you love something so much and you want to share it? It's like dropping a bomb. It's really, really gratifying,” he said. Los Angeles Times

Cone or dish: Ten essential ice cream shops in San Diego. Eater San Diego

Tummy rumblings: They’re the most Instagrammed foods in Los Angeles. BuzzFeed

GOLDEN STATE PERSPECTIVES

Jails not on the agenda: You might not have known that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was about to spend more than $1 billion building jails – because it wasn’t on the agenda. But that didn’t prevent the supervisors from approving a plan on Tuesday to build two new jails despite their legal and moral obligation to notify the public well in advance of their meetings. The Times’ editorial board asks: Why even have agendas? Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

It will be a hot one in Riverside. Temperatures there are expected to reach 100 degrees. In Los Angeles, it will be mostly sunny with highs reaching 90. San Francisco will have low clouds and then sunshine and 70 degrees. San Diego will have clear skies and 80 degrees.

AND FINALLY

Today's California Memory comes from Christine Nuernberg:

I remember radio reports of terrible auto accidents on Highway 101 in the late 1940s. The road was three lanes with the center lane used for passing and left hand turns. Soldiers returning to Camp Pendleton would be racing back to make curfew, pass a slower moving car using the center lane and have a head-on collision. Very sad but a somewhat regular occurrence.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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