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Newsletter: California Republicans want to put the brakes on the bullet train

Trump’s travel ban is likely to head to the Supreme Court, the most controversial ad of the Super Bowl, California’s gearing up to fight the Zika virus, and prosecutors have charged an L.A. County jail guard with assault.

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, Feb. 7, and here’s what’s going on around California:

TOP STORIES

Putting brakes on the bullet train?

The long-troubled California bullet train project is facing yet another roadblock — this time from Washington, D.C. State congressional Republicans “have asked the Trump administration to block a pending federal grant for the state’s high speed rail project until an audit of the project’s finances is completed.” This comes after President Trump said this weekend that the state is “out of control” but also after he committed on the campaign trail to a dramatic increase in infrastructure spending. Los Angeles Times

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Becerra battles Trump: State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra has co-authored an amicus brief with 15 other state attorneys general in a lawsuit that argues President Trump’s executive order targeting people from Muslim-majority countries is unconstitutional. “On behalf of the nearly 40 million people of California, I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with [other] attorneys general ... to preserve the suspension of the Trump Administration’s travel ban,” Becerra said in a statement. The former L.A. congressman has also vowed to fight any move by Trump to withhold money from California for being home to sanctuary cities. Los Angeles Times

Plus: In bid to win reinstatement of the Trump administration’s ban on immigrants from several Muslim countries, government lawyers on Monday argued that the president has broad authority to exclude “aliens,” saying they have few rights in the U.S. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled a telephone hearing in the case for Tuesday afternoon. Los Angeles Times

Tough times in Richmond: The Bay Area city of Richmond is facing a crisis of its own doing. Over the years, generous retirement benefits for public safety employees have pushed the city to the brink of bankruptcy. It’s “a stark example of how pension costs are causing fiscal stress in cities across California,” Judy Lin writes. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

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Tricky trip to the motherland: “Tehrangeles,” as some people call it, has long been home to a vibrant Iranian expat community. But Trump’s controversial executive order throws the travel plans of these Angelenos into a state of uncertainty. The question now is: Will these locals ever be able to travel back? Los Angeles Times

One more for “The Gipper”: Ronald Reagan would have turned 106 on Monday, and more than 600 people came out to watch a wreath-laying ceremony at the former president’s grave in Simi Valley.  Los Angeles Daily News

Beware of bug bites: Remember Zika? The public fear over the mosquito-spread virus may have died down, and no one has contracted the virus in the state. Still, Californians are preparing for when the previous public health emergency makes its way here. Los Angeles Times

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Tech giants oppose travel ban: Tech giants are coming out in force against Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and travelers from seven mostly Muslim countries. Almost 100 companies including Apple, Facebook and Google signed a legal brief in opposition to Trump’s executive order. Los Angeles Times

No governor’s run for Thiel: PayPal co-founder and “bigly” Trump supporter Peter Thiel won’t be running for governor in 2018. In recent weeks, speculation had been brewing that the eccentric billionaire, who was one of the few tech magnates to back the president, would join the race, but a Thiel spokesman told The Times on Monday that this wouldn’t be happening. Los Angeles Times

The race to run Berkeley: The former head honcho at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Paul Alivisatos is in the pole position to replace Nicholas Dirks as the chancellor of UC Berkeley. San Francisco Chronicle 

City College goes free: San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim announced Monday that City College of San Francisco will be free for all city residents. The hope is that this will result in increased enrollment and more state funding. San Francisco Chronicle

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Nice work if you can get it: A BART janitor has been raking in more than a quarter of a million dollars from salary, overtime and benefits. To make matters worse, reporters found that Liang Zhao Zhang spends hours of his day — while still on the clock and sometimes accruing lucrative overtime pay — in a closet. KTVU

CRIME AND COURTS

Long-cold arson case: The LAPD has arrested three suspects in connection with a deadly arson fire almost 25 years ago that killed 10 people, including seven children. The tragedy is considered one of the worst arson fires in L.A. history, and the suspects in custody are “all linked to a violent sect of the 18th Street Gang known as the Columbia Lil Cycos.” Los Angeles Times

Reward for missing teens: The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the return of two Yolo County teens who disappeared last fall. Classmates Enrique Rios and Elijah Moore vanished 25 days apart, and Monica M. Miller of the FBI says, “Someone knows where Enrique and Elijah are or has other information that will help us find them.” Sacramento Bee

Man shot on freeway: Authorities say a California Highway Patrol officer shot and killed a man who was walking with a knife on the 10 Freeway in Santa Monica early Monday morning. Los Angeles Times

Guilty pleas:  Two transients, who are in their teens and early twenties, have pleaded guilty to two Northern California murders that occurred two days apart in 2015. Morrison Lampley, 24, and Lila Alligood, 19, first killed a man who was hiking a popular local trail, and then days later they ended the life of a 23-year-old Canadian tourist who was camping in Golden Gate Park. CBS San Francisco

DROUGHT AND CLIMATE 

Brown tagged by greens: Gov. Jerry Brown’s environmental record is now coming under fire from a dozen public-interest groups after the nation’s largest methane leak occurred at  the Aliso Canyon gas storage facility above Porter Ranch. “Despite Brown’s national profile for fighting climate change, and even as he serves as a foil to Trump’s anti-environmental policies, Brown is not as green as he could be,” the coalition of advocacy and public interest groups said in a statement. Los Angeles Daily News

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CALIFORNIA CULTURE 

‘Kobe’s shrine’ robbed: Several items of Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including several pairs of Nike sneakers signed by the retired superstar, have been boosted from his high school in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Inquirer 

The Cronut comes West: When a croissant meets a doughnut it’s called a Cronut, and a couple of years ago this hybrid pastry product took New York City by storm. Now its creator, famed pastry chef and James Beard Award winner Dominique Ansel, is establishing a L.A. beachhead in the form of a full-service restaurant, which will open later this year. Los Angeles Times

Historic crimes mapped: For those obsessed with all things L.A. noir, Los Angeles Magazine has mapped the region’s 100 most memorable crimes by neighborhood. It’s worth thumbing through. Los Angeles Magazine.

The cat’s meow: To some, the Santa Monica Mountains pumas are endangered celebrities who miraculously traverse highways along with more natural terrain and are worthy of protection. Dana Goodyear writes, “In Los Angeles, a place long mocked as hostile to nature, the lions are a symbol of stubborn, resilient wildness.” Still, these cats at their core are dangerous predators. The New Yorker

Changes at the Hollywood Reporter: The editor credited with transforming the Hollywood Reporter from a staid and struggling trade rag into a glossy and highflying magazine is stepping down after almost seven years in the post. Janice Min, 47, will stay with the publication’s parent company, and she’ll be replaced by Matthew Belloni. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles area: Showers with highs in the low 60s. San Diego: Scattered showers with highs in the mid-60s. San Francisco area: Rain with highs in the low 60s. Sacramento: Thunderstorms with highs in the low 60s. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Dick Gilfoy:

“It was 1948 when the four of us, all students at Verdugo Hills High, decided to ditch school and go rabbit hunting near Palmdale. Nearing Little Rock Dam, we ran out of gas. Now afoot, we continued on the road, finally seeing a light. It was 2 a.m. when we arrived at Chilao, where we knocked on a cabin door. We had walked 20 miles and gained 2,500 feet of elevation. After we called home, one of our dads came to retrieve us. Returning home, my father said, ‘You don’t have time to eat. Get going, school is starting.’ ”

Editor’s Note:

Today we welcome a new author to Essential California. Benjamin Oreskes is a reporter in The Times’ Metro section. He comes from Politico, where he wrote a newsletter about the European Union. Please contact him with questions, suggestions or comments at benjamin.oreskes@latimes.com.

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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