Newsletter: Essential California: Severe flu brings medicine shortages, packed ERs and a rising death toll

Adriana Gudinoperez, of Garden Grove, a patient with flu symptoms, looks at a nurse after being given ibuprofen in the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange on Friday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Jan. 6. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


Bad flu season

So many people have fallen sick with influenza in California that pharmacies have run out of flu medicines, emergency rooms are packed, and the death toll is outpacing that of previous years. Health officials said Friday that 27 people younger than 65 have died of the flu in California since October, compared with three at the same time last year. Los Angeles Times


Human error at play

Complacency, bureaucracy and an inadequate safety culture led to the failure last year of the Oroville Dam spillway, according to an independent investigation report released Friday. The findings point to human error by a number of organizations, but say that the dam’s owner, the California Department of Water Resources, was “somewhat overconfident and complacent regarding the integrity of its civil infrastructure.” Los Angeles Times

King steps aside

Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Michelle King, whose four-month medical leave left a leadership gap at a school system facing challenges on numerous fronts, won’t return to her position and plans to retire later this year, the district announced Friday. Los Angeles Times


She’s running

A woman who alleged that former Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra harassed her co-worker when he was a top legislative staffer says she’ll run for the district seat he vacated. San Fernando resident Yolanda Anguiano, a Democrat who works for a nonprofit and served as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s appointee on a planning commission, filed fundraising papers this week to run to replace Bocanegra in Assembly District 39 in April. Los Angeles Times


On the border: The Trump administration has proposed spending $18 billion over 10 years to significantly extend the border wall with Mexico. It comes as the administration intensifies negotiations in Congress on a package that may include granting legal status to about 800,000 people who were temporarily shielded from deportation under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Associated Press


After all these years: The delta smelt is heading for extinction, marking a half-century of failed California water policy. Los Angeles Times

About-face: The California Legislature unveiled a new policy Friday that for the first time would reveal the identities of some who have been accused of sexual misconduct, two months after refusing to disclose detailed information about years of allegations. Los Angeles Times

Trump vs. California: “It’s been less than a week since the California Legislature reconvened for the year, and already the No. 1 issue here is emerging: what to do about Donald Trump.Politico

Haggis is accused: Three additional women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, in support of a woman who sued him last month alleging that she was raped. Los Angeles Times


Another is accused: “Former employees of Four Barrel Coffee, San Francisco’s popular third-wave coffee roaster, filed a lawsuit on Friday in San Francisco Superior Court against the company and its founder Jeremy Tooker, alleging he sexually assaulted multiple women, harassed others and created a toxic workplace culture for Four Barrel’s female staff members.” San Francisco Chronicle

Tragic shooting: Four people were found shot to death Friday at a home in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said. Officers were in the 28800 block of Startree Lane to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting death of one male adult, two female adults and one male juvenile, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Los Angeles Times

Another shooting: Long Beach police shot and killed a gunman who was holding employees of a Holiday Inn hostage in the hotel lobby early Friday, officials said. Los Angeles Times

Impact: Rep. Brad Sherman says he’s changing the way his office operates in response to sexual misconduct allegations against a former senior aide. Los Angeles Times



1. Tips for buying marijuana in California: Bring cash, be careful, be patient, do your homework. Los Angeles Times

2. Inside Silicon Valley’s secretive, orgiastic dark side. Vanity Fair

3. How will California’s newest laws affect you? Los Angeles Times


4. Things to do in Los Angeles: Curbed LA’s winter pocket guide. Curbed LA

5. In one of L.A.’s most outrageous murder cases, a rattlesnake was the weapon. Los Angeles Magazine


“Boogie Nights” redux: The multibillion-dollar adult entertainment industry, long concentrated in the San Fernando Valley, has always embraced the future, dating back to its early adoption of VHS in the late ’70s. With virtual reality, it is once again leading the way, as more production companies explore the erotic potential of the medium. Optimism about the technology is running high with some believing that VR could even save the industry, which for years has been hit hard by piracy and amateur porn that is available free. Los Angeles Times


A wild tale: Read here about a group of bandits who kidnapped and tortured a gregarious 28-year-old marijuana dispensary owner who lived a block from the ocean in Newport Beach. They believed that he had $1 million in cash buried in the Mojave Desert that, faced with enough pain, he would lead them to. Los Angeles Times

Losing “Sunny,” Part 2: Who killed Adrienne Sudweeks? The hunt for clues goes cold. The Daily Pilot

A worthy remembrance: “After years of neglect and even scorn, Michael Curtiz, the director of ‘Casablanca,’ ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood,’ ‘Mildred Pierce,’ ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,’ ‘White Christmas’ and well over 100 more, is finally getting some respect,” writes film critic Kenneth Turan. Los Angeles Times

Satanists are back in vogue? There’s a heterodox generation of new self-described Satanists who are upending old “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Helter Skelter” stereotypes in service of radical politics, feminist aesthetics and community unity in the divisive time of Trump. Los Angeles Times


History lesson: “The Miss America pageant has never been a progressive event, but in 1968, it sparked a feminist revolution,” writes Roxanne Gay. Smithsonian Magazine


The Golden Globes kick off the 2018 awards season at 5 p.m. Sunday. Catch up on what you need to know before the show. Los Angeles Times

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.