Newsletter: Essential California: USC faces angry students over former medical school dean


The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are looking to slash health risks from air pollution. A former FBI profiler played a key role in convicting a man of murder -- he was found innocent 11 years later. Hall H at Comic Con is the most important ro

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, July 20, and here’s what’s happening across California:


USC faces angry students over ex-dean’s alleged behavior

In a meeting with bewildered and at times angry students, the dean of USC’s medical school said Wednesday that the university had launched multiple internal investigations into the conduct of his predecessor, Carmen Puliafito, after The Times reported that he associated with criminals and drug abusers who told of using methamphetamine and other drugs with him. “These allegations, if they are true, are horrible and despicable,” said Rohit Varma, dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “He’s a man who had a brilliant career, all gone down the drain. I’m standing in this place where my predecessor now has this taint. It is sad.” Varma also said he recently spoke to Puliafito. “He called me yesterday and he apologized for what had happened and for putting me and the school and SC through what has happened, and he informed me that he’s going to go and get help.” Los Angeles Times


Huge cost of cleaning port pollution

The nation’s largest port complex will seek to slash air pollution and health risks to Southern Californians by replacing diesel trucks and cargo equipment with zero-emissions technology over the next two decades, according to a plan released Wednesday. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach remain Southern California’s largest single source of air pollution, and the cleanup comes with a huge price tag: $14 billion. Los Angeles Times

Aliso Canyon gets the green light to reopen

The Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near Porter Ranch, which was shut down after a massive leak forced thousands to flee their homes, can reopen at a reduced capacity, state officials determined. Residents are unhappy about the decision and vow to fight. Los Angeles Times


A hellacious fire raging on Yosemite’s western edge

It temporarily cut off power to Yosemite National Park and threatened to destroy the historic gold-mining town of Mariposa, sending its residents fleeing. It sent its smoke as far north as Idaho, and it burned so hot it created its own weather system. If the Detwiler fire, which has moved with frightening speed this week through the rugged terrain of rural Mariposa County, was looking to make a dramatic statement, it undoubtedly succeeded. Los Angeles Times


Be a good citizen, Snapchat. Don’t just apologize. Disappear from Venice. You know, like one of those photos on your app.”


-- Columnist Robin Abcarian on the tech-fueled gentrification that is reviving and destroying Venice. Los Angeles Times

Plus: A small coffee shop that has been the center of multiple anti-gentrification protests in Boyle Heights was vandalized Wednesday. Los Angeles Times

That’s the ticket: In what might be the Broad’s hottest ticket since opening, the Broad museum plans on Sept. 1 to release tickets for the highly anticipated exhibition “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” opening Oct. 21. Los Angeles Times

Hungry? Famed New York chef and food legend David Chang’s guide to eating in L.A. LAist


Drawing a line: Tow companies are refusing to haul away homeless RVs that violate city laws, citing concerns about health safety (including fleas). Daily News

Hmmm: So why did the city manager of Azusa suddenly resign? Residents are asking questions. San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Skyline shift: Downtown L.A. could be getting a new 66-story building next to Staples Center and the Wilshire Grand. L.A. Downtown News



It’s nuts: Are California’s new official nuts actually nuts? Experts say no. Los Angeles Times

Cap and trade basics: So what exactly is California’s cap and trade program? The only system of its kind in the country, it’s designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from facilities such as oil refineries, food processors and power plants. Here’s a guide. Los Angeles Times

California ban concerns: California’s ban on public-funded travel to states with “anti-LGBT laws” has some in Texas and the South worried, and others fighting back. “If anything, what it does provide is a great opportunity for political types in Alabama to have new fodder for a new commercial,” said an Alabama Republican. “I think you’ll see words like ‘Hollywood liberal.’ ” New York Times

Pot boom: Officials believe it’s possible there will one day more pot businesses in Sacramento than Starbucks — or McDonald’s. Sacramento Bee


Boom times: Downtown San Jose, for decades a relatively sleepy business district compared with San Francisco, is seeing its own tech boom led by Google and now Adobe. Mercury News

Rainbow flag suit: San Diego Rep. Susan Davis and three other House members have been sued for displaying a rainbow flag outside their Capitol Hill offices. The plaintiff: Chris Sevier, an attorney who has an ongoing campaign against same-sex marriage. San Diego Union-Tribune


Vintage security cameras: Some of the security cameras used by BART are from the 1970s. San Francisco Chronicle


Police dog dies: A tragedy in the Central Valley as a Fresno County sheriff’s K-9 is killed by friendly fire during a SWAT operation. Fresno Bee


Redwood survivor: There was much concern that a strand of redwood trees in the hills of Orange County would not survive the drought. But to the surprise of many, they are thriving. Orange County Register

Tunnel vision: There are still many questions over the fate of Jerry Brown’s delta tunnel project, and time is ticking away. News Deeply



Farewell, L.A.: “The city at times stumbles, flails and fails. But it is always a place where the future happens first. Long ago, the lights of Los Angeles mesmerized me. I still believe they light the path to what America will next become.”

-- Ronald Brownstein appraising L.A. in his last column for The Times. Los Angeles Times

Lowering expectations: SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk on Wednesday downplayed expectations for the upcoming demonstration flight of the company’s giant Falcon Heavy rocket, saying there was a “good chance” the vehicle would not make it to orbit in its first launch. Los Angeles Times


Faster, if you pay: Disneyland is launching a digital version of its FastPass, but it’s going to cost you (even more). Los Angeles Times

Grocery guide: Rating the Trader Joe’s items you should stock up on and those you should avoid. Coconut cold-brewed coffee anyone? San Francisco Chronicle

Landmark figure: Betty Dukes, the Bay Area Wal-Mart greeter who took the retail giant all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the largest gender bias class-action lawsuit in U.S. history, has died. Associated Press

Hall H and beyond: Your guide to Comic-Con. Los Angeles Times



Los Angeles area: sunny and 84. San Diego: partly cloudy and 78. San Francisco area: partly cloudy and 68. Sacramento: sunny and 93. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Susan Mack:


“In 1963 I was a 9-year-old living in Anaheim, not far from Disneyland. Our little neighborhood was surrounded by orchards and groves. One day a neighbor boy and I walked to a nearby orchard and began picking plums. An old lady came out of her farmhouse and called to us, motioning for us to come to her. Keith ran away, but I nervously went to her. I thought I was in a lot of trouble! Then she said to me, ‘They aren’t ripe yet. Come back next week.’ I want to be that kind of old lady.”

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.