Newsletter: Essential California: Silicon Valley may be headed for a reckoning

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks in Chicago in 2017. Zuckerberg embarked on a rare media mini-blitz Wednesday amid a privacy scandal involving a data-mining firm.
(Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, March 23, and here’s what’s happening across California:


After more than a year of headlines about Russian interference, stolen data and sexual harassment, the tech industry is headed for a reckoning. No longer are the stakes confined to the intricacies of your news feed. At risk is access to the truth and the ability for a society to rise above the rancor. Los Angeles Times

Outrage in Sacramento


In the face of growing public tension, Sacramento police have released video footage of officers fatally shooting an unarmed black man in his backyard after a chaotic nighttime pursuit last weekend. Los Angeles Times

Plus: The shooting sparked a day of protests Thursday in which hundreds blocked Interstate 5 and blocked access to a Sacramento Kings game. Los Angeles Times

Big deal in governor’s race

Republican businessman John Cox has nudged ahead of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for second place in California’s race for governor, while Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has shored up his front-runner status among voters, according to a new poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. Los Angeles Times

Orange County homeless update

Just days ago, Orange County hailed a plan to shelter the homeless being evicted from the Santa Ana River by building temporary shelters in three cities. But those plans have already collapsed amid lawsuits and political pressure. O.C. now is removing hundreds of homeless but has nowhere to put them. Los Angeles Times

Note to readers: A technical problem prevented some readers from accessing yesterday’s story about the difficulties of policing marijuana-induced DUIs. Here’s the link — and our apologies.


A nothingburger? No less than three times in recent weeks, authorities have asked thousands of Montecito residents to pack their bags and leave, warning them that if they stay behind they’re risking their lives and possibly those of first responders who could charge into to rescue them as they did during a deadly mudflow in January. Each time since that incident, the disaster that weather forecasters and officials warned could happen did not materialize. This week’s storm appears to have been no different. Los Angeles Times

Plus: The Montecito nightmare that never ends. Will there be an evacuation for every storm? Los Angeles Times

Soccer intrigue: “L.A.’s new soccer team already has a devoted, rowdy fan base, and the Los Angeles Football Club hasn’t even played its first home game yet.” Los Angeles Magazine

Weigh in: Are you joining the March for Our Lives against gun violence on Saturday? The L.A. Times wants to hear from you. Los Angeles Times


GOP in L.A.: A gymnasium in East Los Angeles is an odd setting for a Republican summit, but it offered the kind of symbolism former Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes is seeking these days: For the GOP to stay relevant in California, it has to try something new. Los Angeles Times

Democratic state of play: Democratic candidates are trying something new to cope with anti-Nancy Pelosi campaign attacks: Disavowing her. Los Angeles Times

Very interesting: “Two Republicans running in competitive California congressional races contracted with Cambridge Analytica, the political data firm embroiled in controversy over its use of improperly obtained personal information from more than 50 million Facebook users.” Mercury News

KDL profiled: Kevin de León’s Senate campaign is testing the muscle — and the limits — of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.” Politico Magazine

Beware of the hype: “Recreational marijuana may be legal in California, but much of the state remains a ‘pot desert,’ according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of state licensing data.Sacramento Bee


Duty to protect: The California Supreme Court, reviving a lawsuit against UCLA, decided Thursday that the state’s colleges may be held liable for failing to protect students in the classroom from violence by classmates. Los Angeles Times

The life of a drug trafficker: His second birthday party was interrupted by a car bomb. Now sentenced to five years in prison on drug trafficking-related charges, a drug kingpin’s son describes growing up. Los Angeles Times

Prison death: An inmate at the state prison in Otay Mesa was dead for days last April before prison staffers realized it, according to a recently released autopsy report. San Diego Union-Tribune


Lost: Eight years ago, Bill Ewasko traveled traveled alone to Joshua Tree National Park. Ewasko, who was a runner and Vietnam veteran, set out to go on a backcountry hike and was never seen again. New York Times Magazine

Cadiz update: “A company’s controversial plan to sell groundwater from the Mojave Desert ran into new opposition as a Southern California water district voted against the proposal.” Desert Sun


More on the Facebook mess: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been on a mea culpa tour of sorts. He gave several interviews to explain how a company that did work for the Trump campaign was able to harvest the profiles of around 50 million Facebook users. “What I would really like to do is find a way to get our policies set in a way that reflects the values of the community, so I am not the one making those decisions,” Zuckerberg said. “I feel fundamentally uncomfortable sitting here in California in an office making content policy decisions for people around the world.” Recode

Plus:Silicon Valley operates in a regulatory Wild West. But with repeated and high-profile data breaches piling up, its days of unchecked authority might be numbered.” Quartz

New movie: Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” is often captivating, but cultural sensitivity gets lost in translation, writes film critic Justin Chang. Los Angeles Times

Ageism in the workplace: ProPublica estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its estimated total U.S. job cuts during those years.” ProPublica


Los Angeles area: partly cloudy, 66, Friday; partly cloudy, 62, Saturday. San Diego: partly cloudy, 64, Friday; partly cloudy, 61, Saturday. San Francisco area: partly cloudy, 54, Friday; rainy, 53, Saturday. Sacramento: partly cloudy, 59, Friday; rainy, 56, Saturday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Ty Tran:

“As a Southern California native, I never understood that nebulous phenomenon called rain until I moved away for medical school and experienced actual seasons. Growing up, my only memories of rain were punctuated by either an overabundance (El Niño ’97/’98) or a lack thereof (the drought years). Until recently, it’s been the latter, and nowhere is drought more evident than when hiking: Creeks you swear should be there are missing, and the pungent smell of dry chaparral fills the air. But after a big storm, the taupe landscapes around towns like Lebec, Frazier Park and Gorman along the 5 are replaced by stunning emerald foothills blooming with wildflowers in every hue imaginable. And for those few weeks a year, Southern California is lush and breaks the cycle of endless summer.”

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.