Newsletter: Essential California: More questions about how USC handled its former med school dean

In retaliation for sanctions passed by Congress, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the U.S. to cut 755 of its diplomatic staff in Russia. President Trump isn’t declaring defeat in efforts to scrap Obamacare. A homeless woman in Pacific Palisa


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, July 31, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Complaints of drinking, abusive behavior dogged USC medical school dean

Doctors and other employees at USC’s Keck School of Medicine complained repeatedly about what they considered then-dean Dr. Carmen Puliafito’s hair-trigger temper, public humiliation of colleagues and drinking problem. When Puliafito came up for reappointment in 2012, many were adamant he be removed, according to current and former university employees as well as four letters of complaint reviewed by The Times. USC chose to keep him as dean. Los Angeles Times


Netflix has big debts along with big subscriber numbers

Netflix has 104 million subscribers worldwide, up 25% from last year and almost quadruple from five years ago. Its series and movies account for more than a third of all prime-time download Internet traffic in North America. Its more than 50 original shows garnered 91 Emmy Award nominations this year, second only to premium cable service HBO. But there’s another set of numbers that could spell trouble for the company’s breakneck growth. Netflix has accumulated a hefty $20.54 billion in long- and short-term debt in its effort to produce more original content. Los Angeles Times

The mystery woman in Pacific Palisades

Times columnist Steve Lopez tells the remarkable story of the Pacific Palisades community’s quest to learn the identity of a homeless woman in the upscale area. The tale spans from the Pacific Ocean to Northern Europe. Los Angeles Times

L.A. City Hall promised reforms; then the movement stalled

As an election loomed this year, Los Angeles politicians were eager to prove that moneyed interests had not bought City Hall. Five City Council members called for a ban on campaign contributions from real estate developers seeking city approvals, saying it would address the perception that L.A. engages in “pay-to-play” politics. But that crusade appears to have stalled. Los Angeles Times


On again: A state appeals court judge ruled Saturday that Southern California Gas Co. can resume operations at its Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility, the source of the biggest methane leak in the country’s history. Los Angeles Times

Taking sides: Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar is speaking out against vandalism and race-based tactics being used against art galleries and a coffee shop in Boyle Heights amid gentrification concerns, saying the actions were “unacceptable” and would not be tolerated. Los Angeles Times

Mall survival: So what should the luxury South Coast Plaza mall do with the Sears store? Some ideas might surprise you. A car dealership, anyone? Orange County Register

Traffic alert: If you’re making an evening run to Los Angeles International Airport in the next three weeks, it’s best to avoid parts of the 405 Freeway. Lanes on the busy freeway that many drivers use to get to and from the airport will be fully or partially closed at night for 15 weekdays. Los Angeles Times

Adding up: Sticker shock for Jewish parents in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Times


A low-key style: California Treasurer John Chiang has won three statewide elections, yet remains nowhere near as well-known as his gubernatorial rivals Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa. Los Angeles Times

Something missing: After November’s supersized ballot, which sparked the most expensive ballot measure election in California history, the political arena where initiatives are crafted has been in a summer of stagnation. That’s surprising, given the short time frame left for organizing an effort to get on the ballot in 2018. Los Angeles Times

A lesson from above? Amid a desperate housing crisis from San Diego to San Francisco, what can California learn about development from Vancouver? Quartz

Plus: The national implications of Venice Beach’s weird scene being evicted amid rising property values. The Atlantic

And: So how long can Marin County wall itself off from the realities of housing and population growth? CalMatters

Crazy in love: If you can stomach it, check out what could be Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new $90-million spread in Bel-Air. Los Angeles Times


Van crash: At least eight people were injured Sunday afternoon when a two-car collision sent a van hurtling into a group of people dining at a popular local restaurant in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood of Los Angeles, police said. Los Angeles Times

Sentence stirs anger: One of the Los Angeles Police Department’s top investigators sharply criticized a plea deal given to an off-duty city firefighter who choked a man unconscious, and he asked a judge to view video of the violence before sparing the defendant jail time, according to court records. Los Angeles Times

LAPD responds to Trump: President Trump’s comments encouraging law enforcement officers to be “rough” with people they arrest have met with concern and some outrage from Los Angeles law enforcement, which has been working for decades to end that type of behavior. Los Angeles Times

Long reach: A look at how the Mexican Mafia controls its turf from inside prison. San Diego Union-Tribune

ICE intrigue: In Hayward, immigration agents came looking for one man but ended up arresting two others. Mercury News


Lights out: In Joshua Tree, an effort to make the Milky Way much clearer by clamping down on light pollution. Los Angeles Times


No joy in Spudville tonight: Californians are flocking to Idaho, where some locals aren’t exactly rolling out the welcome wagon. Sacramento Bee

In control: One of America’s hottest — and more secretive — painters does his work from a sprawling Echo Park studio. “He’s probably an artist who’s in more demand today than any other,” said collector Alberto Mugrabi. “He’s so good that he controls everything. He controls when galleries make shows, he controls who they sell a painting to — he’s on top.” New York Times

Speaking out: For decades, Louise Steinman has taken the short trip from her Silver Lake home to the central Los Angeles Public Library, where she runs the acclaimed Aloud program. The city has changed much, but the library, designed with a whisper from ancient Egypt, remains an elegant landmark bordered by skid row and high-rise architecture preening against the skyline. Steinman thinks a lot about how such contrasts echo through the city’s cultural and intellectual life. Los Angeles Times

China pivot: After a much-hyped march into the movie business, Dalian Wanda Group is in retreat from Hollywood. Los Angeles Times

Grim tale: Panhandling on San Francisco’s Market Street, with a newborn child. San Francisco Chronicle

In Riverside: Another California imam has drawn criticism after delivering a sermon laced with inflammatory remarks about Jews. Los Angeles Times

Small but big: For Tesla’s new “affordable” car, less could be more. Wall Street Journal


Los Angeles area: sunny and 84. San Diego: mostly sunny and 77. San Francisco area: mostly sunny and 68. Sacramento: sunny and 101. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California: former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (July 30, 1947), Treasurer John Chiang (July 31, 1962), Angels owner Arte Moreno (Aug. 1, 1946), state Sen. Toni Atkins (Aug. 1, 1962), former L.A. Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti (Aug. 5, 1941).

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.