|Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, April 17.
Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:
Progress and a pause. More than half of California adults are at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19, a promising milestone reached just one day after the state opened eligibility to all residents 16 and older. Officials said Tuesday they were optimistic they could still hit vaccination targets even after pausing the administration of Johnson & Johnson’s shots. Federal health agencies recommended that pause while they studied reports of very rare but dangerous blood clots.
Back to school, sort of. L.A.’s first schools reopened this week to excited students and nervous yet relieved parents, though challenges remain ahead. State and Los Angeles school officials are plotting strategies for post-pandemic education, including more days in class.
College admissions. In a pandemic year that also saw the removal of standardized testing requirements, the UC system reported more applications, more rejections and more heartbreak. Meanwhile, enrollment at many community colleges has plummeted.
Kristin Smart breakthrough. After decades of suspicion, San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s detectives arrested Paul Flores and his father in the 1996 disappearance of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student — a startling breakthrough in a case that has long maddened investigators. Prosecutors say Paul Flores killed Smart during an attempted sexual assault.
Homelessness deal. The Los Angeles City Council appears to be heading toward settling a federal lawsuit by agreeing to provide new housing or shelter for thousands of homeless people, while being able to use anticamping laws to clear anyone still on the streets.
ArcLight closure. In a stunning blow to moviegoers in Southern California, the owner of Pacific Theatres and ArcLight Cinemas said the popular cinema locations will not reopen. Hollywood heavyweights are rallying to save the theaters. But the problems that led to their closure are not unique to the chain, and it may not be the last to fall victim.
Failed rally, fanned flames. When white nationalists failed to turn out in threatening numbers Sunday at a Huntington Beach rally, many antiracism counterprotesters saw it as a victory. Yet experts who track extremist movements say that the truth is more complex and troubling. “It fires up the base,” said one.
Are they ready? Long Beach embraced the chance to house immigrant children. But some critics question whether city leaders fully understand the risks of partnering with a complex and logistically challenged federal agency.
Satellite view. The state plans to put not one but two satellites in orbit to help it hunt for hard-to-find “super-emitters” of methane and carbon dioxide — both of which are still major obstacles in the fight against climate change. Regulators and scientists say faster, more accurate monitoring is urgently needed.
A taste of home. Why do flights from Central America often have the enticing aroma of fried chicken? It’s Pollo Campero, and for many Guatemalans and Salvadorans, there’s nothing quite like it.
Will Villaraigosa run? Some analysts say a well-known Democrat should run in the likely recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom to blunt Republicans’ chances. State Democratic leaders urge a united front and are discouraging Democrats from running. But former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hasn’t ruled it out — prompting speculation that he might.
Jobless and giving up. California’s economy is slowly picking up as businesses reopen and new unemployment claims fall, but stubborn unemployment persists as many simply stop looking for work.
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This week’s most popular stories in Essential California
1. History: Prince Philip loved the informality of the California desert near Palm Springs. Desert Sun
2. How Wine Country’s insular nature played a role in Dominic Foppoli’s alleged misconduct. San Francisco Chronicle
3. Gustavo Dudamel is Paris Opera’s next music director. What does this mean for L.A.? Los Angeles Times
4. “It’s definitely a scene again”: Inside the return of Hollywood power dining. The Hollywood Reporter
5. Gold Rush past, post-George Floyd present: Placerville drops noose on city logo after months of debate. Los Angeles Times
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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads
On the joyous return of hugs: The last year is believed to be the first time that millions of people stopped touching for a prolonged period of time. Many described a new kind of longing, what’s been called touch deprivation or “skin hunger.” Los Angeles Times
The diplomat who disappeared: In 1974, John Patterson was abducted by the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico — a group no one had heard of before. The kidnappers wanted $500,000 and insisted Patterson’s wife deliver the ransom. The Atlantic
Why flights from Central America often have the enticing aroma of fried chicken: Though Pollo Campero has dozens of outlets in the U.S. too, travelers returning from Central America bring back loads of its fried chicken — a literal taste of home. Los Angeles Times
Poem of the week: “When I Think of Tamir Rice While Driving” by Reginald Dwayne Betts. Poets.org
Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)