Newsletter: Essential California: Trump still at war with state over earthquake early warning system

A woman embraces a boy as a powerful earthquake rocked Mexico City on Friday.
(Yuri Cortez / AFP/ Getty Images)

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


The Trump administration’s budget proposal released last week again zeroed out funding for the earthquake early warning program administered by the U.S. Geological Survey. This comes despite success just this month with a similar system in Taiwan and Mexico, where residents got precious seconds to prepare for violent shaking. Representatives from California say they’ll work to secure funding for it. Los Angeles Times

Homelessness crisis


Los Angeles County’s homeless population is increasing faster than the supply of new housing, even with the addition of thousands of beds in the last two years and millions of dollars beginning to flow in from two ballot measures targeting the crisis. A new report showed that officials two years ago far underestimated how much new housing would be needed when they asked city and county voters to approve the tax measures. Los Angeles Times

Laying down the law

U.S. District Court Judge David Carter’s unorthodox side was on display when the 73-year-old ex-Marine and Vietnam vet walked several miles to tour a massive homeless encampment along the Santa Ana River. He is presiding over a hotly contested case involving the encampment. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Why is L.A. trying to arrest its way out of homelessness? Los Angeles Times

And: Fighting the scourge of homeless patient dumping. Ventura County Star

The rise of fake video


The selfie’s shift from promotion to business has arrived. From one such static image, an algorithm can quickly create a moving, lifelike avatar: a video not recorded but fabricated from whole cloth by software. The technology is a triumph of computer science that highlights the gains researchers have made in deep neural networks, complex algorithms that loosely mimic the thinking of the human brain. But therein lies the danger. Los Angeles Times


Painful lesson: A new generation of students is plumbing a shameful past with USC’s first-ever history course on the Japanese American internment, the constitutional issues raised and the relevance today amid the war on terror. Los Angeles Times

New allegation: A former staffer to Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said the lawmaker discussed vulgar topics in the office and once encouraged her aides to play spin the bottle, according to a filing submitted to the state. Los Angeles Times

Up close: Going door to door with ICE on a Sunday morning. Wall Street Journal

Debunking an internet lie: No, that L.A. restaurant does not kill dogs and serve them to customers, because officials say it doesn’t exist. Associated Press


Interesting idea: “It’s a condom that men want to wear, not have to wear,” says a Torrance man who insists his new invention will change the industry. Daily Breeze


Fatal accident: A woman was killed and several people were injured when a girl suspected of carjacking led deputies on a short pursuit in Palmdale on Sunday and crashed into an SUV. Los Angeles Times

Sasquatch suit: A tall tale of Bigfoot in Big Bear sparks a lawsuit. The Press-Enterprise


Pet pot? Californians have been able to use marijuana for medical purposes for two decades, but soon even their ill pets may be able to take advantage of cannabis’ benefits. Los Angeles Times


Plus: Some in the pot industry now say a little marijuana can make you a better parent. Seriously. LA Weekly

Better safe than sorry? From Costco pizza and brown bag lunches to dozens of exploding grenades that hurl rubber balls, San Diego police rushed to purchase $50,000 of supplies for security in the areas near the border wall prototype project, much of it motivated by concerns about mass demonstrations that never happened. Los Angeles Times

The question of our time: How many Starbucks is too many Starbucks? It’s a question one coastal San Diego County city is asking. San Diego Union-Tribune

Unlikely encouragement: Could Trump’s infrastructure agenda actually help save California’s gas tax? Sacramento Bee


It’s cold: Freezing temperatures are forecast to sweep much of California this week, potentially endangering the state’s almonds and other lucrative Central Valley crops. Temperatures in most rural areas of the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of the state’s agricultural sector, were expected to fall to the mid-20s Tuesday morning. Los Angeles Times



Record setting: The King of Wakanda reigned as Disney’s “Black Panther” took in an estimated $235 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales for the four-day holiday weekend. The Marvel Entertainment release, the first global superhero blockbuster with an African American director and a mostly black cast, exceeded expectations and set records for a February opening and for a Presidents Day weekend debut. Los Angeles Times

Anniversary special: Celebrating “The Birds,” Alfred Hitchcock’s less beloved but still vital San Francisco thriller. San Francisco Chronicle

Heartfelt: A beautiful tale of loss (and almost loss) of a wedding ring. The New Yorker

Familiar story: “Dreamers” turned out for a mariachi opera that tells a heart-wrenching immigrant’s tale through the music of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, one of the most beloved mariachi ensembles. Los Angeles Times

Chasing ice: The Olympics are causing a traffic crush at some skating rinks. The Mercury News



Los Angeles area: sunny and 61. San Diego: sunny and 60. San Francisco area: mostly sunny and 53. Sacramento: mostly sunny and 55. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Maggie Green:

“When we moved to San Francisco, we drove from Virginia in one of the coldest Februaries on record. From the first we got pushed south by icy, closed interstates so that we had breakfast in New Orleans and crept along the southern edge of the U.S. But my most vivid memory of that drive was entering California — from Yuma, on the 8. All of a sudden the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and everyone was driving over the speed limit! It was like going through the tunnel into Toontown.”

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.