Seven years ago, inside an eighth-grade classroom at Mount Vernon Junior High School in central Los Angeles, Deborah Membreno began to imagine a life beyond the chain-link fence surrounding the concrete schoolyard. Her outlook brightened the day an adviser from a University of California outreach program visited to talk about college.
The adviser who showed up at the school, where nearly 90 percent of students qualified for free lunch, was from the university’s Early Academic Outreach Program. She argued a positive side to being poor: The government would help pay for college.
“I thought I was smart,” Membreno says. “I had good grades. But before that day I didn’t think going to college was a possibility. My friends and I thought the cost would be too great.”
Membreno’s parents were undocumented Honduran immigrants trying to eke out a living. Her mom cleaned houses in the beachfront neighborhoods of Venice and Santa Monica. Her dad worked in a clothing warehouse downtown. They were divorced. Most of the time, Membreno lived with her father in a house with 12 other people: aunts, uncles, cousins, and a few nonrelatives.
The Early Academic Outreach Program adviser gave Membreno a chart listing the standardized tests and subjects needed for admission to the University of California—history, English, math, lab science, foreign language, visual/performing arts and electives—highlighting those courses that should be taken as Honors or Advanced Placement “to increase competitiveness.” At home that afternoon, Membreno framed the chart and hung it on the wall.
“I knew what I had to do,” Membreno says.
Last week, California saw something it hasn’t seen for a shockingly long time: rain. And snow. The precipitation was not enough to end the drought that has, for the past three years, turned the Golden State into a toasty shade of brown … but it was something.
The injection of moisture came courtesy of the “Pineapple Express,” a jet of moist air flowing to California from Hawaii. Such an atmospheric river sent from the tropics is not always something to be celebrated: The system tends to bring heavy rainfall and fierce winds. And this particular Pineapple Express, true to form, brought flooding and wind damage along with it. But it also brought moisture! Some 4 to 8 inches of it! Which, given a drought that some are saying could be California’s worst in 500 years, is something.
It is one of the most famous moments in cinematic history: the instant when Charlie Chaplin, playing a sadsack hobo, becomes The Tramp. Walking down a country road, heartbroken, Chaplin picks up his legs and spirits, waddling into the future.
Chaplin actually debuted the comic hobo one hundred years ago in 1914, as WNYC noted. But it’s in the 1915 movie The Tramp that he completed his transformation. Within the year, he was nationally famous.
Working on a project for the Oakland Museum of California, I found out that Chaplin had filmed this moment not in Los Angeles, but outside the still-tiny town of Niles, California, which is technically part of Fremont.
Last April, unknown attackers shot up 17 transformers at a California substation in what the then-chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Jon Wellinghoff called "the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred" in this country.
Though news reports about the incident at the Metcalf transmission facility came out in April, The Wall Street Journal just pieced together the larger story of the attack together from regulatory filings and outside reporting.
Various power-grid facilities are vandalized or damaged regularly, but the details of this particular attack are startling.
Before the attackers opened fire on the transformers, fiber optic lines running nearby were cut.
Whoever executed the maneuver knew where to shoot the transformers. They aimed at the oil-cooling systems, causing them to leak oil and eventually overheat. By the time that happened, the attackers were long gone.
Wellinghoff toured the site with Navy Seals, according to the Journal, and they were convinced that it was a professional job. Several people in the Journal story join Wellinghoff in talking up the physical (not cyber) threats to the grid’s stability.
Despite the great reporting in the WSJ story, thecentral question remains unresolved: Why did this attack occur? What did they want?
Read more. [Image: Google]
"Dad, help me."
"God, help me."
"Help me. Help me. Help me."
These were the last words of a mentally ill homeless man named Kelly Thomas, who was beaten into a coma by two Fullerton (California) police officers on the night of July 10, 2011. Thomas died five days later. Yet despite the fact that the beating was recorded on videotape, and the pleas of the beaten man were heard and recorded by audio devices worn by the officers, an Orange County jury Monday night acquitted both men of all of the criminal charges against them.
Read more.[Image: Alex Gallardo/Reuters]
California’s governor gets reflective on the meaning of education and its future in his state.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
As states rolled out new marketplaces for buying health care insurance this fall, California got mixed reviews. The state’s administration bragged that enrollment numbers are high, indicating that it would hit its target for getting people signed up for insurance in 2013. But over the last several weeks, reporters have wondered whether low enrollment among the state’s Latinos portends bad news to come: The Hispanic population is one of the youngest and least-covered in the country, and both the White House and California’s state governments were eager to see high enrollment numbers among that group.
At The Atlantic's Silicon Valley Summit on Monday, Governor Jerry Brown was hesitant to declare California’s enrollment efforts a success. “We’re rolling it out, but there are unknowns. Satisfaction would be too strong a word,” he said in an interview with Atlantic Editor-in-Chief James Bennet. Although leaders of the state’s health care team have praised the program in the press, Brown reported a more cautious posture among his staff. “We have very good people working on it, but they’re cautious in their optimism,” he said.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Out here in California, we had a Gold Rush. People swept in from across the world, anchoring in San Francisco Bay, and running for the hills.
As the men climbed into the Sierra Nevadas, they built towns here and there. These outposts were an arm of the mineral extraction industry. Part of the ecosystem, we might say now. And so, when the gold went, the people did, too. Many of the towns were abandoned, like the rest of the sacrificial landscape.
On October 31, a dark, undecorated house might be a sign of folks who just aren’t into Halloween. But the house might also belong to someone who isn’t allowed to participate in the holiday. A growing number of states are making Halloween particularly tricky for registered sex offenders. Whether through legislation or heightened surveillance, individuals with the “sex offender” label may be banned from decorating their houses, answering the knocks of trick-or-treaters, or even being at a residence where candy is handed out. Some states, including Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, place specific restrictions on all registered sex offenders, while others, like Florida and Georgia, only target offenders on parole or in conditional release programs.
Read more. [Image: Gary Cameron/Reuters]
Mapping firm Esri has today released an interactive map of the California Rim Fire, which is now in its 12th day. In the map above, you can explore the fire’s geography — its invasion of Yosemite National Park, its encroachment upon the Hetch Hetchy reservoir which supplies the Bay Area’s water supply, and its proximity to a cluster of Toulumne county communities, many of which are under evacuation orders.