TIME California

California Cut Water Use by Almost a Third in July

A dry pipe drips water on Gless Ranch in Kern County
Lucy Nicholson—Reuters A dry pipe drips water on Gless Ranch in Kern County, Calif. in this file photo taken on July 23, 2015.

"This is the drought of the century"

(FRESNO, Calif.)—California cities cut water use by a combined 31 percent in July, exceeding the governor’s statewide mandate to conserve, officials said Thursday.

The strong water conservation figures show California residents are beginning to understand the dire need to cut back in a fourth year of drought, Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, said.

“This isn’t your mother’s drought or your grandmother’s drought,” she said. “This is the drought of the century.”

Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered cities to use 25 percent less water. In June, the state conserved 27 percent, compared to the same period of 2013, the year before Brown declared a drought emergency.

Marcus said record rain in July played a role in the savings, causing people to leave their sprinklers idle. Enforcement and strong messaging by water agencies were bigger factors, Marcus said.

“We have a movement in urban California,” she said.

Regulators are turning their focus to communities failing to conserve, she said. They are making personal visits with local officials in cities that haven’t responded to the mandate by Brown.

The state water board was also expected to release water conservation figures for each community.

San Diego used 29 percent less water in July. The San Jose Water Co. used 38 percent less water, and Fresno reported conserving by 31 percent.

Officials have not yet issued fines to underperforming water agencies, but they can be as high as $10,000 a day. Marcus said she favors other methods to achieve California’s goals.

“I believe that peer pressure and the bully pulpit (are) going to be most effective,” she said.

TIME photography

What a Day at the Beach Looked Like in 1948

There's still time to bring back belly-sliding before the end of beach season

As summer fizzles to an end and children trade beach balls for backpacks, beachgoers pay their final visits to the shore. But the beach today doesn’t look quite like it did in 1948—and not just because sea levels are rising.

When LIFE chronicled how Americans were enjoying their beaches in the late 1940s, its photographers found revelers from Cape Cod to California engaging in activities not often seen today. They were belly-sliding, trampoline flipping, tossing one another in the air on blankets and shooting grape juice from water guns.

Still, if one thing has remained constant over the years, it’s captured in LIFE’s homage to the freedom of the seaside. As the editors wrote:

But perhaps its greatest appeal lies in the fact that people on a beach can feel just about as free and equal as they were created. Poor clothes and poor surroundings are forgotten. Anyone with the price of a bathing suit can suddenly become a sandy, sunburned monarch in a kingdom of salt spray, hot dogs and growling surf.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

TIME California

California’s Crop Revenues Are Booming in Spite of the Drought

Gold-Rush Water Rights Pit Farmers Against State in Epic Drought
Bloomberg/Getty Images Workers arrange peppers as they harvested peppers on to a truck at the Uesugi Farm in Byron, California, U.S., on Thursday, July 16, 2015.

It's also employing more people than it ever has

The worst drought in at least 120 years has seemingly failed to hamper California’s agricultural sector, which drew in more than $33 billion in crop revenue in 2014: the second-highest ever recorded in the state. The highest — $480 million more — came the year before. The industry employed 417,000 people last year, the state’s largest agricultural workforce on record.

This information is presented in a new study out of the Pacific Institute, an environmental think tank in Oakland, which delivered the positive news with a caveat. The study partly attributes the record profits to a shift toward “higher value” crops — almonds, pistachios, wine grapes — but also to “unsustainable” methods of groundwater pumping, which could further worsen the increasingly arid earth in the state.

“One of the reasons that agricultural revenues and employment are as strong as they are is because of groundwater overdraft,” Heather Cooley, the lead author of the study, told the Desert Sun. “It can help insulate the agricultural sector from some of the short-term impacts, but it does create impacts and costs that are borne by others, both in current and future generations.”

On whole, California’s farms rely on groundwater for about 40% of all water used for irrigation, though the study is also careful to address discrepancies between regions across the state. Ten mostly coastal counties draw 90% of their irrigation water from the ground.

The same principle of variation applied to employment in 2014. Particularly infertile areas, like the San Joaquin Valley (whose poverty and unemployment levels have earned it the nickname “the Appalachia of the West”), saw the agricultural workforce markedly shrink.

Ultimately, the study’s primary concern is the depletion of California’s groundwater, which has “shifted the burden to others, including current and future generations forced to dig deeper wells, find alternative drinking-water sources, and repair infrastructure damaged by subsidence.”

TIME California

WW2-Era Tank Crushes Man to Death at Jelly Belly Family Reunion

The tank was owned by Jelly Belly's chairman, who collects military vehicles

A guest at a Jelly Belly executive’s family reunion in Faifield, Calif., was accidentally crushed to death by a World War II-era tank on Saturday afternoon, authorities said.

The victim, identified Tuesday by the California Highway Patrol as Kevin Wright, 54, was riding on the front edge of a 1944 M5 tank when the incident occurred, the Los Angeles Times reports. The tank belonged to Jelly Belly chairman and military vehicle collector Herman Rowland Sr., who hosted the family reunion on his private property.

Authorities said Dwayne Brasher, 62, the husband of Jelly Belly CEO Lisa Rowland Brasher, was driving the tank down a dirt hill when Wright lost his balance, fell, and landed directly in the military vehicle’s track. Drugs and alcohol do not appear to have been involved in the incident, a California Highway Patrol official said.

“The gentleman involved in this accident was a passionate person, always ready to lend a hand and we shared the same deep-rooted love of history. To have him die so tragically during our family reunion is impossible to comprehend. We are all still in a state of shock,” Rowland said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his family. We will do everything in our power to help them get through this enormous loss.”

[LA Times]

TIME Race

Women Booted From Train for ‘Laughing While Black’

03-napa-valley-wine-train
The Napa Valley Wine Train

It has prompted the hashtag #laughingwhileblack

A mostly black book club was kicked off a wine train in Napa Valley for being too loud but club members say their ejection was racially motivated.

The 11 women in the group, all but one of whom are black, told San Francisco station KTVU that they were being shushed even before the train left the station for laughing and talking about their recent book. Halfway through the ride, they were escorted off the train to police waiting outside.

“It was very humiliating, very degrading,” said Dininne Neal, ” and it made my mom cry, which made me cry.”

Wine Train spokeswoman Kira Devitt sent KTVU a written statement saying the train removes disruptive guests about once a month. “We do not enjoy asking guests to depart early, but we take these issues seriously to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all of our guests,” the statement read.

The incident set off a social media firestorm Monday with the hashtag #laughingwhileblack.

“We didn’t do anything wrong,” leader Lisa Johnson told KTVU, “and we still feel this is about race, we were singled out.

[KTVU]

TIME California

Wolves Have Officially Returned to California

Handout photo of wolf pack in Siskiyou County, California
California Department of Fish and Wildlife/Reuters A wolf pack is shown captured near Mt. Shasta in Siskiyou County, Calif. on Aug. 9, 2015.

And that's a good thing

Wolves are back in the Golden State.

Seven gray wolves have been spotted in California, the California Department of Fishing and Wildlife announced on its official site. The state that hasn’t had a confirmed wolf inhabitant since 2011 and that animal, known as OR7, has been missing from California for more than a year. Before OR7, no known wolf had called the state home since 1924.

The department reports the new group of wolves, dubbed the Shasta Pack, consists of five wolf pups and two adults. The pack was photographed in Northern California.

“This news is exciting for California,” said Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW Director, in a press release. “We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time.”

Gray wolves are listed as endangered in California under the Federal Endangered Species Act, making attempts harm, kill, harass or hunt them illegal in the state.

TIME legal

Prosecutors: Uber Hired Drivers With Criminal Records

An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.
Andrew Harrer—2015 Bloomberg Finance LP An Uber ride in Washington on April 8, 2015.

Prosecutors say Uber has knowingly continued to mislead consumers about the thoroughness of its screening methods

Uber hired 25 drivers in Los Angeles and San Francisco with criminal records ranging from property crimes, sex offenses and murder, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

“We are learning increasingly that a lot of the information that Uber has been presenting the consumer has been false and misleading,” George Gascon, district attorney of San Francisco, where Uber is based, said at a news conference, the New York Times reports.

The comments came after the attorneys announced they were filing a 62-page amended complaint to the original civil suit, filed in December, that claims the ride-hailing app has knowingly continued to mislead consumers about the thoroughness of its screening methods.

Gascon, who has led investigations, noted that the records Uber uses to check applicants for sex offenses are missing 30,000 individuals whose convictions occurred more than seven years ago, allowing them to escape the company’s notice.

Uber has said in the past that the limited scope of its background-check providers is required by some state laws, and is in fact a way for the company to help rehabilitate offenders. “We understand that there are strongly held views about the rehabilitation of offenders,” Uber said in a blog post dated July 15. “But the California state legislature decided — after a healthy debate — that seven years strikes the right balance between protecting the public while also giving ex-offenders the chance to work and rehabilitate themselves.”

Uber has noted that Live Scan, another method of vetting drivers favored by many of the company’s critics, is not subject to seven-year limits. The prosecutors’ complaint asserts that a Live Scan system would have been more effective.

Uber said it disagreed that the screening process used by taxi drivers was better than its own checks. “The reality is that neither is 100% foolproof—as we discovered last year when putting hundreds of people through our checks who identified themselves as taxi drivers,” Uber told TIME in a statement. “That process uncovered convictions for DUI, rape, attempted murder, child abuse and violence.” Uber also noted that its rival Lyft had settled a similar case last year for $250,000.

While traditional cabs are required to use Live Scan, Uber is not, but prosecutors believe that the company has oversold the effectiveness of its own checking methods.

[New York Times]

TIME natural disaster

Western Wildfires Are Draining Firefighting Resources

Chris Schulte
Ted S. Warren—AP Chris Schulte, incident commander for the Chelan Complex Fire, talks to reporters, Aug. 18, 2015, in Chelan, Wash.

"Nationally, the system is pretty tapped"

(CHELAN, Wash.) — Wildfires are putting such a strain on the nation’s firefighting resources that authorities have activated the military and sought international help to beat back scores of blazes burning uncontrolled throughout the dry West.

The situation is so urgent that the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise this week called in 200 active-duty military troops to help contain roughly 95 wildfires. It’s the first time since 2006 that the agency has mobilized soldiers for fire-suppression.

“Nationally, the system is pretty tapped,” said Rob Allen, the deputy incident commander for the fires around the Cascade Mountain resort town of Chelan. “Everything is being used right now, so competition for resources is fierce.”

The troops are all coming from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma and will be sent to a fire north of Republic, a town in central Washington, about 30 miles south of the Canadian border.

Fire managers at the center are able to enlist military help when there are not enough civilian firefighting teams, thanks to a 1975 agreement between the Defense, Interior and Agriculture departments.

The help can be crucial in particularly active years like this one, when the center’s firefighting teams and equipment are fighting hundreds of fires across many states. In the last two weeks alone, more than1,500 square miles have burned in the Lower 48 states, center spokesman Ken Frederick said.

“It’s like the fire season gas pedal has been pushed to the floor in a really short period of time, and that’s stressed our resources,” Frederick said. “And that’s got us relying on help from resources we don’t normally use.”

The fires in the Pacific Northwest get top priority when it comes to allocating pinched resources.

More than 1,000 people are battling the massive fires near Chelan that have burned more than 170 square miles and destroyed an estimated 75 buildings. They are just some of the huge blazes raging in the West.

A lightning-sparked fire in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest has grown to 63 square miles and destroyed at least 26 houses. An additional 500 structures are threatened by the flames near the community of John Day, also in Oregon.

In the Northern Rockies, so many wildfires have ignited this month that officials are letting some that might be suppressed under normal circumstances burn because manpower and equipment are committed elsewhere.

The area experienced a normal fire season until last week, when a combination of drought, high temperatures and lightning-packed storms created new blazes across western Montana and Idaho.

As of Tuesday, at least 95 fires were burning in the two states, about 30 of them considered large, according to the Northern Rockies Coordination Center in Missoula.

That included a group of fires in northern Idaho that have scorched 90 square miles and destroyed 42 homes in the last several days, as well as a wildfire in the western part of the state that led about 120 residents to evacuate and others to prepare to flee near McCall.

California is doing well in terms of resources, despite a pair of massive blazes in the north. Officials prepared for a drought-fueled fire season by bringing in several hundred more firefighters than in previous years.

In Chelan, about 180 miles east of Seattle, flames burned through grass, brush and timber. Air tankers established containment lines to keep the flames from reaching downtown, and utility workers replaced burned power poles and inspected wires.

No buildings have been lost in the Chelan fires in the past two days, officials said.

But nearly 1,000 people remained under mandatory evacuations.

On Tuesday, smoke was thick in the air of downtown Chelan. Particles of ash fell from the sky. Some residents wore surgical masks as they walked through town.

The firefighters sleep in the woods, get up every morning and work a full day, said Allen, the deputy incident commander.

“It’s hot. It’s dirty,” said Allen, who usually works for the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska. He said authorities were looking for all the resources they could muster.

“The military has been activated. We have National Guard here to help us out,” Allen said, adding that Canada loaned resources, too, and authorities were also talking to New Zealand and Australia.

Everyone is working to save Chelan, at the south end of Lake Chelan in the Cascade Range.

“Chelan is still at risk, but we have very significant amounts of structure protection,” said fire spokesman Brian Lawatch. “The name of the game today would be going on offense.”

The Chelan fires are about 30 percent contained, Lawatch said. That includes deliberate burnouts in some areas, plus trying to direct the fire into previously burned areas or areas with little fuel.

___

Geranios reported from Spokane, Washington. Associated Press writers Matt Volz in Helena, Montana, and Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

TIME California

California Lawmakers Renew Push to Pass Right-to-Die Bill

Luis Alejo
Rich Pedroncelli—AP Luis Alejo,D-Watsonville, at the Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 28, 2014.

At least two dozen states have introduced aid-in-dying legislation this year, though none has passed a bill

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — California lawmakers announced Tuesday that they are making a new push to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives after opposition from religious groups and hesitance from fellow Democrats helped stall efforts earlier this year.

The bill allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs was renewed by legislators in a special session on health care convened by Gov. Jerry Brown. It comes after at least two dozen states have introduced aid-in-dying legislation this year, though none has passed a bill. Doctors already may give life-ending drugs in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana.

The right-to-die movement has been galvanized by the highly publicized case of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, a California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally take her life. She argued in widely viewed online videos that she should have been able to access life-ending drugs in her home state.

“Californians should have more options available to those suffering constantly other than moving to other states or living in constant pain,” Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, said Tuesday at a press conference.

Religious groups and advocates for people with disabilities opposed a nearly identical California bill this year, saying it goes against the will of God and put terminally ill patients at risk for coerced death. The measure passed the state Senate but stalled in the Assembly.

Opponents said Tuesday that the new bill was a heavy-ended attempt to skirt the legislative process. The governor called the special session to address funding shortfalls for programs providing health insurance to the poor and home health aides, but lawmakers are using it to advance other contentious legislation related to health care.

“It is particularly troubling that in this rush to judgment, proponents are linking this bill with health care financing,” said Tim Rosales, a spokesman for the Californians Against Assisted Suicide that includes groups advocating for Catholics, oncologists and people with disabilities. “That should be truly frightening to those on MediCal (the state health insurance program for the poor) and subsidized health care, who quite logically fear a system where prescribing suicide pills could be elevated to a treatment option.”

Debbie Ziegler, Maynard’s mother, criticized religious groups, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, that have been lobbying against the bill.

“What right does anyone of a specific religious faith have to say I should act in accordance with their fate in my death?” she said.

Advocates also have turned to courts, where they faced recent defeats in New Mexico and San Diego, where the judge said the issue should be resolved by state lawmakers.

Elizabeth Wallner, a single mother with Stage 4 colon cancer who filed the San Diego lawsuit, urged lawmakers to allow people like her to have a peaceful death at home.

“I don’t want my son’s last image to be of me struggling and in pain,” she said.

The earlier California bill stalled in the Assembly Health Committee. Sens. Lois Wolk of Davis and Bill Monning of Carmel could not get support from fellow Democrats on the panel who lost parents to cancer and who were uncomfortable with allowing patients to kill themselves.

The new bill would bypass that committee.

The right-to-die advocacy group Compassion and Choices has said it would attempt to qualify a 2016 ballot measure if they lose in the Legislature.

TIME California

Customer Finds Hidden Camera in Starbucks Bathroom

Starbucks China
Zhang Peng—LightRocket/Getty Images A Starbucks cafe in Sanlitun, China on Aug. 8, 2015.

The restroom was used by both genders.

Police arrested a man after a customer found a hidden camera the restroom of an Orange County, Cali. Starbucks.

The suspect has been identified as Melcher Carrillo Alvarado, who confessed to the crime, authorities said.

A customer came upon the video camera on Friday after noticing a blinking blue light beneath a shelf. She found a camera, described to be the “size of a large marker,” pointing towards the toilet and used paper towels to remove it in order to preserve fingerprints. The single-person bathroom is used by both genders.

“You just never think it’s going to happen to you,” the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told NBC Los Angeles. “Once that device hit the floor and I saw the light, I immediately knew it was something, it was a camera.”

Investigators are currently trying to identify the people who were filmed with the camera.

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