If Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer steps down at the end of this term—as many are speculating she will—it would be the first major shakeup in California congressional politics in years. With that in mind, Golden State political hopefuls are already jockeying for position to succeed her. To be sure, many of the names being floated will never rise much further than this list, but here are some of the people who may try to succeed her.
And it might not be ending anytime soon+ READ ARTICLE
California’s three years of low rainfall is the region’s worst drought in 1,200 years, according to a new study.
Record high temperatures combined with unusually low levels of precipitation have been the primary causes of the dry conditions, according to the study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
“It was a surprise,” study author Kevin Anchukaitis told the Los Angeles Times of the findings. “I don’t think we expected to see that at all.”
The drought has led to tremendous economic costs in the state, including an expected $2.2 billion and 17,000 farming jobs this year alone, according to a report from the University of California, Davis. It’s also expected to increase food prices across the country.
And the problem may not be going away soon. About 44% of three-year droughts last continue past their third year, according to the Times.
Who says you have to celebrate at the homestead? This year, start a new tradition in one of these affordable getaways.
Are the usual holiday festivities feeling a little stale? This could be the perfect time to shake up your routine and celebrate the season with a much-deserved getaway. Yes, we know: Traveling at the tail end of the year is pricey. However, if you’re strategic about where and when you go, you might be surprised by just how low you can get that tab. Here you’ll find four festive trips, each with its own unique appeal. Though the destinations range from beach towns to ski meccas, they do have one thing in common: a reasonable price tag. Now that’s a gift.
When to Go: Dec. 31-Jan. 7. San Juan remains relatively affordable throughout the year thanks to its airport, which has the cheapest average fares (per mile) of the 75 busiest hubs in the U.S., according to the Department of Transportation. In a recent search, flying from Chicago early on New Year’s Eve costs a manageable $550. Hotels are also affordable compared with many Caribbean hotspots. On Hotels.com, four-star properties in San Juan start at $206 a night during the first week of 2015, vs. $304 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and $341 in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
What to Do: You can’t go wrong wandering the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. Stop by the massive Castillo San Cristóbal fort ($5) and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico ($6), one of the Caribbean’s largest museums. On Calle del Cristo browse shops such as El Galpon, which sells authentic Panama hats (prices from $60).
Next, head to Santurce, an up-and-coming area full of hip bars and eateries. “It’s always packed with locals,” says Ryan Ver Berkmoes, author of guidebook Lonely Planet Puerto Rico.
Hit the beach at nearby Ocean Park and Condado. For less than $20, you can rent a chair, buy a couple of cold beers, and feast on empanadas sold by street vendors. For a wilder dose of nature, explore the hiking trails and waterfalls at El Yunque National Forest, an hour outside the city. A guided tour is $60, including transportation from San Juan.
Interested in another good day trip? Try Playa Luquillo, the mile-long crescent of surf and sand about an hour east of San Juan. The beach here has a fun, social atmosphere and is known for its food vendors, says Ver Berkmoes. So grab a tasty fried snack and check out the scene.
How to Celebrate: The city’s biggest New Year’s party, complete with fireworks, happens at the Puerto Rico Convention Center (discounted tickets are $65 on Gustazos.com). For something more low-key, head back to Santurce and its central square, ringed with open-air bars and cafés, to toast 2015 with a $3 piña colada.
Jan. 6 is Día de Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day. Expect parades and festivals with food and live music (but keep in mind that some stores and restaurants will be closed).
Where to Stay: In San Juan, Le Consulat is a great bargain in the Condado luxury district, where it’s surrounded by hotels charging upwards of $300 a night. At $127 for a double, you get free Wi-Fi, a simple, modern room, and an outdoor pool. For a bit of a splurge, Ver Berkmoes recommends spending a couple of nights at the Gallery Inn, where each room is decorated with art and antiques. Doubles start at $220 a night.
When to Go: Dec. 19-26. Why not spend Christmas in the City by the Bay? The weather is temperate, most attractions are open, and hotel prices actually drop, says Chris McGinnis, a travel blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle. For instance, last year, rates at the city’s big convention hotels hit an annual low of $170 or less from Dec. 19 to 25, vs. a full-year average of $241, according to the visitors bureau. Plus, with the usual tourist hordes thinned, museums are less mobbed, and reservations at top restaurants are easy (or at least easier!) to snag. Flights, too, are reasonable this time of year. We found nonstop flights from Chicago starting at $305.
What to Do: Skip touristy Fisherman’s Wharf and check out the futuristic de Young Museum ($10; closed on Dec. 25), which displays 27,000 works from the 17th to 20th centuries. Don’t miss the observation tower. It has stunning views of Golden Gate Park. Nearby, the California Academy of Sciences houses an aquarium, a planetarium, and a living rainforest dome ($35).
The city is “brimming with sublime food,” says Michele Bigley, author of the Fodor’s San Francisco guide. In the buzzing Mission District, Bigley recommends La Taqueria for a behemoth burrito ($7) before catching a movie at the Roxie, one of the oldest theaters in the nation. Cap the night with a cocktail at Trick Dog, where drinks are named for local landmarks ($12).
Visit the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to see the NoCal bounty. “Occasionally you’ll spot famous chef Alice Waters shopping there,” says Anna Roth, food and drink editor of SFWeekly. In the same building, she recommends Hog Island Oyster Co. for seafood stew and, of course, oysters ($18 to $20).
How to Celebrate: Through March, an art project using 25,000 LED lights will illuminate the cables of the Bay Bridge. Check it out from the amazing Top of the Mark bar on the 19th floor of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins. For a more athletic option, glide over the city’s largest outdoor ice-skating rink, set along the waterfront on the Embarcadero ($14 with skates).
On Christmas Eve, indulge in an old-school meal at the House of Prime Rib, a city institution. “During the holidays it’s all decked out,” says Roth. “You’ll spend $40 or so for an entrée, but at least the martinis are cheap!”
Where to Stay: For a unique property in the heart of things, try the Herbert Hotel. Located just off Union Square, the Herbert has bright, sleek rooms (ask for one with a private bathroom) and hardwood floors. Doubles are $259 a night through Dec. 20 but drop to $155 Dec. 21–25. Prefer something with more of a neighborhood feel? The quaint San Remo Hotel offers rooms with windows from $99, though you will need to share one of several bathrooms.
When to Go: Dec. 15-22. Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula can get pretty busy at the end of the year. According to American Express Travel, Cancún is 2014’s most popular international destination for both Christmas and New Year’s. That appeal has some upsides—every major U.S. airline offers direct flights to Cancún. However, it also means crowds and, according to hotel researchers STR, a December average daily rate of $227.
For holiday travelers, Bacalar is an escape from that tourist frenzy. This small town overlooking Laguna Bacalar, or the “Lagoon of the Seven Colors,” is 3½ hours from Cancún, and 35 minutes from Chetumal. During the holidays, Bacalar hotels average a manageable $123 on Hotels.com. To visit, fly into Cancún and rent a car (about $40 a day) or take the $55 bus. Flights tend to be cheaper earlier in December, says Zachary Rabinor, CEO of tour operator Journey Mexico; we found one for $414.
What to Do: Tour Bacalar’s beautiful old Spanish fortress, Fuerte de San Felipe de Bacalar ($4, free on Sundays), originally built to protect the town against pirates. Later, hang with the locals at the town’s popular balneario (swimming facility); entry $2. The area is lined by small eateries and has plenty of thatched umbrellas where you can take a break from the Caribbean sun. Or, for just $1.50 an hour, rent a bike from Cocomoco rental shop and pedal along the bay. Obviously, you should be eating as many tacos as possible; the fish and shrimp options at La Playita are not to be missed (from $4).
The town also makes a great base for exploring the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben ($4), a 45-minute drive away. The site, closed to the public until 2002, is home to stone structures dating to the year 800—some still showing signs of their original red paint. Mexico’s biggest cenote (a natural sinkhole), the 300-foot-deep Cenote Azul, is about a mile outside of town—the water is so clear you can see down to the sparkling-white sand floor. Entrance $1, life vests $3.
How to Celebrate: Get in on the holiday spirit by checking out the town’s tree lighting. Then shop for locally made gifts at handicraft shops in the town center or near the entrance to the cenote. Also be sure to sample traditional Mexican Christmas goodies such as ponche (warm tropical-fruit punch stirred with cinnamon sticks), romeritos (sprigs of the romerito plant served with potatoes and mole), and bacalao (salted cod).
Where to Stay: The recently opened Bacalar Lagoon Resort ($115) consists of seven spacious cabanas set on a freshwater lagoon; snorkeling gear is available gratis. Nearby Rancho Encantado is a great value at $125. The rooms have thatched roofs, air-conditioning, and cool tile floors. Guests can get an outdoor massage, kayak on the lagoon, or just kick back in one of the property’s many hammocks.
When to Go: Dec. 25-30. For a ski trip that doesn’t break the bank, Dan Sherman of Ski.com recommends Keystone, the most affordable of Colorado’s Vail Resorts properties. In late December, a single-day advance-purchase lift ticket at Keystone costs $99, compared with $129 at Vail or Beaver Creek. Plus, Keystone is just 90 minutes from Denver, allowing visitors to fly into a large airport with well-priced flights. Trim the cost of your airfare even further by flying on Christmas Day, when flights from Chicago start at $245, vs. $315 on the 24th.
What to Do: Hit the mountain! Keystone offers an impressive mix of terrain, from “long-groomed cruisers” to the “trees and bumps of North Peak,” says Harold C. Jenkins, a travel agent at Corporate Vacations American Express Travel. The resort is also home to Colorado’s biggest night-skiing program, with the slopes open until 8 p.m. during the last week of the year. “Watching the sunset from the top of Dercum Mountain is spectacular,” says Sherman.
Buy your lift tickets at least a week in advance; you’ll save up to 25% off same-day rates. Feeling a little rusty? Ski School lesson prices drop around 20% when you book two days ahead (about $130, though 2014 holiday prices are still being finalized). Kids 12 and under ski free, with none of the holiday blackouts you see at other resorts.
For a break from the slopes, spend an afternoon in Breckenridge, a half-hour away. Grab coffee at local favorite Cuppa Joe and check out the stores and galleries in this former mining town.
How to Celebrate: You’ve been burning calories, so go ahead and splurge on a nice meal. In the village, Ski Tip Lodge offers a four-course prix fixe ($75), with dessert served by the toasty fireplace. Or hop a gondola to Der Fondue Chessel, located at the top of North Peak. You’ll get a full Bavarian meal—including fondue, of course—for $59 a person.
What time and place could be more appropriate for a sleigh ride? The resort offers hourlong rides that wind through Soda Creek Valley and include hot apple cider (adults, $30; kids, $20). Afterward, swing by Keystone Lodge to check out the model village carved out of chocolate.
Where to Stay: Unlike most resorts, Keystone is just a ski area, with no standalone town. While that results in fewer off-mountain activities, it also means most lodging is just minutes from the slopes. A two-bedroom condo at the Gateway Mountain Lodge, a five-minute walk or free shuttle ride from the lifts, starts at $419 per night. (Compare that with a two-bedroom in Vail, which starts at about $900.)
Prefer a standard hotel room? The Inn at Keystone ($235 a night for a double) is also walking distance from the slopes and has a rooftop hot tub with views of Keystone Valley.
No matter where you’re going this season, these four air-travel strategies will save you time, money, and hassle.
Check in the day before. Not only is online check-in your best chance at switching to a better seat (airlines release some prime spots 24 hours in advance), but if the flight is oversold, it reduces your chances of being bumped, says Wendy Perrin, travel advocate for TripAdvisor.com.
Get in the fast lane. Planning to travel a lot in 2015 and beyond? Apply for TSA PreCheck, the program that allows you to go through expedited security lines without removing your shoes, coat, belt, or laptop. Membership costs $85 and lasts for five years.
Load up on apps. Use your airline’s app to get the latest on your flight. MyTSA will update you on security wait times, and GateGuru is great for sussing out airport amenities.
Bookmark flightstats.com. Canceled flight? Use this site to vet your options, says Perrin. Flightstats will show you which airports and planes are delayed so you can look for a route that works for you, rather than blindly accepting whatever the airline rep suggests.
The path that Reese Witherspoon walks in her latest film took 60 years to become a reality
Wild, a film based on Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling memoir, in theaters Dec. 5, tells the tale of a woman wandering over more than 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. And that means one of star Reese Witherspoon’s most important co-stars is the trail itself.
Today there are more than 1,000 official national trails that sprawl across America like a nervous system. But in the beginning there were just two: the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. The latter, spanning about 2,650 miles of America’s West Coast, from Mexico to Canada, was the dream of a fellow named Clinton Clarke. In 1932, the avid hiker formally proposed a border-to-border trail connecting the peaks of the Pacific Coast, to preserve and protect America’s “absolute wilderness” before it was overrun by “motor cars” and industry.
“In few regions of the world—certainly nowhere else in the United States,” he later wrote in 1945, “are found such a varied and priceless collection of the sculptured masterpieces of Nature as adorn, strung like pearls, the mountain ranges of Washington, Oregon and California.” The Pacific Crest Trail, he said, “is the cord that binds this necklace.”
Clarke’s hero, and cause, was the explorer who would pitch his or her tent in the mountains night after night, desperate to hear the snowfall and see nothing brighter than the stars, seeking a “simpler and more natural life.” He believed that the “PCT” wasn’t just some track of dirt, but a means of forging “sturdy bodies,” “sound minds,” “permanent endurance,” “moral stamina” and “patriotic citizenship.” (As if it needed to be mentioned, Clarke was a dedicated Boy Scout.)
Clarke wasn’t the only person to dream of such a trail, but he was the most organized. To further the cause, he put together a whole federation of hiking clubs and youth groups dedicated to the project, known the Pacific Crest Trail System Conference. For years, he oversaw the massive task of scouting and constructing a route through the wilderness, connecting existing trails by building new ones, all while avoiding as much settled area as possible. Clarke served as the president of the conference for 25 years, which included big-name members like the Sierra Club, YMCA and photographer Ansel Adams. For this, he earned his place in history as the “father” of the trail.
The Pacific Crest Trail officially became the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in 1968, 11 years after Clarke died at the age of 84. The popularity of hiking had been growing and, as of 1963, America had a President and First Lady who were very interested in preserving the outdoors: Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Johnson proposed the study of a national system of trails, which would give the federal government a way to establish and oversee footpaths that weren’t on federal land. The volunteers who oversaw the Appalachian Trail were anxious for that kind of mandate, worried that handshake agreements allowing hikers to pass through private lands might otherwise dry up.
People like the Department of the Interior’s Daniel M. Ogden, who recounts the political battle for establishing a national system of trails in a 40th anniversary newsletter, pushed Congress to pass a bill based on the study Johnson requested. And Oct. 2, 1968, Johnson signed a “conservation grand slam” of four environmental measures: the National Trails System Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Redwood National Park Act, and the North Cascades National Park Act. The only two national scenic trails at the time, which require an act of Congress to be designated, were the Appalachian and the Pacific Crest.
By 1972, a council created by the government had come up with a final route for the trail that Clarke had imagined 40 years earlier. After years of construction and negotiation with private property owners, the trail was completed in 1993 with a “golden spike” ceremony reminiscent of the transcontinental railroad. That was also the year that the non-profit Pacific Crest Trail Association forged a partnership with the federal government to oversee and keep up the trail.
Many people have since completed the whole-hog, end-to-end trek. Others, like Cheryl Strayed, have settled for three-month, 1,100-mile adventures. So long as the hikers come out a little different on the other side, they should all be satisfying Clarke’s wish for what the trail would be. “It is simply a ‘track worn through the wilderness,'” he wrote in 1945, “for hardy adventurers who can enjoy the experience and benefits of a friendly struggle with Mother Nature.”
Southern California braced itself for another deluge
Drought-stricken California was due for a fresh deluge of rain on Wednesday, with forecasters warning of possible floods and landslides from a significant dump of precipitation. A band of rain on Sunday triggered three mudslides near Malibu and forced nine miles of the Pacific Coast Highway to close. Wet blasts since then have set off flooding, knocked out power and sparked mandatory evacuation orders for parts of California. Los Angeles on Tuesday saw its wettest Dec. 2 on record when 1.15 inches doused the city.
Southern California will be drenched again on Wednesday…
Previous individuals allegedly involved in revenge porn were charged with conspiracy
A Los Angeles man who allegedly posted nude photos of an ex-girlfriend online is the first person to be convicted under California’s “revenge porn” law, the city attorney announced Monday.
Noe Iniguez, 36, was sentenced by a judge to one year in jail and 36 months’ probation after he was found guilty of three criminal charges, including two for related restraining orders and a violation of the revenge porn statute. The city’s case, City Attorney Mike Feuer said in the statement, was largely based on Iniguez’s alleged postings in December 2013 on the Facebook page of the ex-girlfriend’s employer.
Signed into law last October and followed by a dozen states, it prohibits the unauthorized sharing of nude or sexual images of an individual with the intention of inflicting emotional harm. In the past, individuals allegedly involved in revenge porn have been charged with conspiracy by a federal grand jury and state courts.
Read more: A New Strategy for Prosecuting Revenge Porn
New machines are helping the retail giant get your stuff home on time+ READ ARTICLE
Across the country, laborers are hard at work lifting 700-pound shelves full of multivolume encyclopedias, propane grills or garden gnomes and dragging them across vast warehouse floors. Carefully trained not to bump into one another, the squat workers are 320 pounds and a mere 16 inches tall.
No, they’re not Christmas elves—they’re some of the most advanced robots that e-commerce giant Amazon now uses to ship its goods. In an exclusive video for TIME, photographer and videographer Stephen Wilkes captured these Amazon robots in action at the company’s Tracy, Calif., warehouse.
The robots are made by Kiva Systems, a company Amazon purchased for $775 million in 2012 to better handle the hundreds of worldwide orders Amazon customers make every second. Kiva’s robots bring shelves of goods out of storage and carry them to employees, allowing Amazon to retrieve more items for more customers simultaneously. Amazon began using these robots in July of this year, and there are now more than 15,000 of them in 10 of the company’s warehouses. They whir around like gears on a Swiss watch.
Three quarters of a billion dollars may seem like a lot to sink into a retrieving system, but Amazon’s profits depend on the company becoming ever more efficient at shipping orders. The cost of processing packages is growing faster than the company’s sales are. Amazon spent nearly $8.6 billion in 2013 on fulfillment, a 34% increase from the year before; the company’s total sales grew 22% in the same period. This year, Amazon is on track to spend a sum about as large as the entire economy of Mongolia just to push its packages. (Amazon as a whole lost $437 million last quarter, as the company reinvests income into its own growth.)
Amazon Senior Vice President of Operations Dave Clark says improvements such as the Kiva robots have significantly increased operations efficiency while making employees’ lives easier. Amazon has sometimes been criticized for the conditions in its fulfillment centers, with workers often logging over 10 hours a day and walking up to 15 miles in a shift to pick items off the shelves. Conditions at a Pennsylvania warehouse drew attention to Amazon’s employment practices during the summer of 2011, when temperatures there reportedly reached 110 degrees and employees regularly collapsed with heatstroke. (Amazon has since installed air-conditioners in its warehouses.) The Kiva robots cut out much of the hard “picking” work and bring items directly to workers, who then process the orders.
“[Kiva] eliminates the part that was not a fun part about picking,” Clark says.
The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are Amazon’s busiest of the year. Customers ordered 426 items per second on the Monday following Thanksgiving last year, the day online retailers have branded as “Cyber Monday.”
Clark insists the robots are “not about eliminating jobs.” Connie Gilbert, a picker at the Tracy fulfillment center, said more people have been hired to join her team since the Kiva robots were installed, because more robots mean more work. “The work pace is faster and the robots are continuously coming,” Gilbert says. “We have a lot more people that have come in to work and help us out.”
About 80,000 workers are expected to come on board as temporary help for the holidays this year. Many of them will be tasked with picking items from warehouse shelves — but others will ask a robot to do it for them.
Read next: Top 10 Gadgets of 2014
Citizens from L.A. to New York City staged protests following the announcement that a grand jury would not indict Officer Darren Wilson
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He was the longest-serving wrongfully convicted inmate in the state
A California man will leave prison Monday after 36 year behind bars, after new DNA evidence proved his innocence.
Michael Hanline, 68, will be released after DNA from the crime scene failed to match Hanline’s, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1980, Hanline was convicted of the first-degree murder of J.T. McGarry, also known as Mike Mathers, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Police reports that cast doubt on the testimony of Hanline’s then-girlfriend Mary Bischoff were not disclosed to defense attorneys at the time, even though they could have been used to discredit Bischoff or indicate that Hanline may have been framed.
Bischoff’s testimony was instrumental in convicting Hanline– she testified that McGarry owed her money, that there was a contract out on his life, and that Hanline said he would “blow his brains out.” She also said she saw Hanline leaving the house with a gun and come back muddy, even though Hanline says he was home that night.
Bischoff was smoking PCP-laced pot and using cocaine on the night in question, and she was also on drugs at the time she gave her testimony, leading the judge to adjourn court.
Hanline will be released from prison, but will have to wear a GPS ankle monitor. He is also expected to appear back in court in February for a pretrial hearing, because prosecutors have not yet decided whether to re-try him.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Hanline’s wife Sandee Hanline said. “I prayed that this day would come.”
Charles Manson took away my sister's right to happiness, and to life itself—he shouldn't be allowed his own
“How do you feel about Charles Manson being allowed to marry?” A flood of thoughts and emotions immediately surfaced when Time asked me the question. I am Debra Tate, the sister of Sharon Tate, who was brutally murdered by Manson and some of his followers in 1969.
One thing comes immediately to mind: what my mother would have had to say on the subject. She would be outraged and say something to the effect of, “Manson has no right to marry, as he took away my daughter’s right to happiness, and to life itself.”
I feel exactly the same way.
The state of California has long been viewed as a liberal state, but at what point is liberal too liberal? Those who commit such extraordinarily heinous crimes against humanity should be asked to forfeit their own rights to the pleasures of life—which include marriage, the birth of children, and family relations of any kind—as they denied their victims all of these most precious gifts. Why should we as a society allow those who take away life the privilege to enjoy all that life has to offer? I really struggle with this.
At the same time it proves a point I have been trying to make to the general public for the last ten years. That being, the very fact Charles Manson can convince a 26-year-old woman to be his wife shows the power he still possesses over the young and impressionable individuals who are looking for some bizarre form of leadership.
So should we allow someone like Charles Manson the privilege of getting married? Absolutely not.
Debra Tate is the author of the recently released Sharon Tate: Recollection.
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