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Essential California: Assessing the state's case against two antiabortion activists

‘One of the biggest investigations' in years. ‘Unprecedented.’ That’s how the Senate Intelligence Committee is describing its Russia investigation. Federal prosecutors say Compton's former deputy treasurer spent years skimming off the top. "La La Land" is expected to give L.A. tourism a major boost. Who's Farhan Zaidi?

Good morning and welcome to the Essential California newsletter! It's Thursday, March 30, and here's what's happening across California:



California vs. two antiabortion activists

Two antiabortion activists were charged this week with felony invasion of privacy. The case, which was brought by Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, appears to be on solid ground, according to several legal experts. They also said they knew of few criminal prosecutions like the kind Becerra has filed. Los Angeles Times

Ex-deputy treasurer charged

The former deputy treasurer of Compton has been charged with stealing $3.7 million from the city over more than six years. Salvador Galvan, 47, of La Mirada, was arrested in December of last year and had worked for the Compton treasurer's office since 1994. Los Angeles Times

Farmworkers union underpaid its own employees

A Monterey Superior Court judge ruled earlier this week that the "United Farm Workers America failed to pay two dozen of its organizers for some of the hours they worked, including overtime and meal periods, for more than four years." Remember, this is the union that's supposed to be protecting farmworkers from wage abuse. Los Angeles Times


Earthquake retrofit passes: The Santa Monica City Council has passed the nation's most extensive seismic retrofitting effort, which will require safety improvements to as many as 2,000 buildings suspected to be vulnerable in an earthquake. Los Angeles Times

Stephen and the Jews: Trump advisor Stephen Miller is a son of Santa Monica, and his support for Trump's controversial immigration policies has divided his childhood synagogue where he learned Hebrew and Judaism. Hollywood Reporter

Oil refinery controversy: The Torrance City Council is being called "spineless" for not taking a tougher stand on a troubled local oil refinery. On Wednesday, the council chose not to endorse a plan to phase out use of hydrofluoric acid. Daily Breeze


Wrong side of the border: In Tijuana, people like José Mares who have recently been deported are trapped in purgatory. LA Weekly

Who may build the wall? A number of Bay Area businesses have thrown their hats in the ring to build Trump's border wall. The owners of these businesses may not agree with the policy, but they don't want to miss out on the payday. San Francisco Chronicle

"Sanctuary city" popularity: A new poll finds that so-called sanctuary cities aren't as popular in California as one might expect. Sacramento Bee



Money for the roads: Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders announced a $5.2-billion road-funding package that raises gas taxes and user fees on motorists. This proposal will probably involve a major political struggle to pass it in the Legislature. Los Angeles Times

The rebellion speaks: "How do Californians see themselves and their state in this strange and dangerous historical moment?" One writer speaks to people around the state in an effort to answer that question. The Nation

New lieutenant governor candidate: Los Angeles physician Asif Mahmood, a Democrat and supporter of a "Medicare for all" national healthcare plan, has announced he'll run for California lieutenant governor. Los Angeles Times

More time to get tenure: A new assembly bill would give teachers more years to prove they deserve tenure. Associated Press

Fight over retirement payments: California and Congress are heading for another confrontation. This time it's about a program that would create a state-sponsored individual retirement accounts program. Bloomberg


Official arrested: Federal agents in San Diego have arrested the attorney general for the Mexican state of Nayarit on charges that he conspired to smuggle heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine into the U.S. Los Angeles Times

Death penalty sought: The state will seek the death penalty against Scott Dekraai, who killed eight in a Seal Beach rampage in 2011. Los Angeles Times

Police confrontation examined: After a confrontation with Sacramento police, a man was left with severe brain damage. He's currently not under arrest but could end up being charged with obstructing an officer. Sacramento Bee


Fossil footprints stolen: A set of ancient fossil footprints has been stolen from Death Valley National Park. Associated Press


New zoo resident: The Sacramento Zoo is asking guests to please be quiet, because its newest resident — a 4-year-old Sumatran tiger — is still settling in. Sacramento Bee

That dang line: Disneyland is still searching for a way to reduce the thing that people hate the most about the park: the lines. Orange County Register

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a UFO? For whatever reason, California leads the nation in the number of UFO sightings recorded each year. The state has had more than 12,000 reported sightings of unidentified flying objects. Los Angeles Times

Make a reservation: A "Breaking Bad" pop-up restaurant has opened in downtown Los Angeles. ABC7

What we'd lose: If the National Endowment for the Arts' funding disappeared, events like the free summer shows at California Plaza, which are called Grand Performances, would likely disappear too. Los Angeles Times


San Diego and Los Angeles area: sunny Thursday and Friday. San Francisco area: cloudy Thursday, sunny Friday. Sacramento: sunny Thursday, cloudy Friday. More weather is here.


Today's California memory comes from Derek Humphry:

"When I immigrated from England to California in 1978, I bought a little house on 18th Street in Santa Monica. As we were unpacking, neighbors kept coming up to us with pies — meat, apple, fruit. Soon our fridge was bursting. I was pleased but puzzled. After making some inquiries, I learned that this was an old American custom, providing food for a new arrival at a disturbing time when it is difficult to cook. It helped that this was a tight-knit community — nearly everybody on 18th Street had worked at the Douglas aircraft plant at Santa Monica Airport at the end of the road."

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.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.