Greetings from Palm Springs. I’m Robert Hopwood, online producer for The Desert Sun, bringing you a daily roundup of the top news from across California.
In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.
Fight for Mt. Wilson continues; bark beetles add fuel to fires
The fight to protect Southern California’s Mt. Wilson Observatory and nearby broadcast towers, valued at more than $1 billion, continues. The observatory is threatened by the Bobcat Fire, which started Sept. 6 in the Angeles National Forest near Azusa.
Back fires set throughout the day Tuesday near the observatory were effective in decreasing the intensity and spread of the flames, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
“While there is still much work to be done in the southwest and in the northern sections of the fire, your firefighters did incredible work around Mount Wilson today,” the forest service tweeted about 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The fire, which has burned 44,393 acres and is 3% contained, meanwhile expanded to the northeast overnight, according to the L.A. Times. It also jumped Highway 2, which resulted in more evacuation orders for nearby residents.
The Creek Fire, meanwhile, burning just south of Yosemite National Park, exploded into a megablaze due to a dangerous combination of drought and the state’s obsession with suppressing wildfires.
“This is a situation many of us have been dreading over the past five years,” Chris Dicus, a professor of wildland fire and fuels management at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, told The Desert Sun. “All it would take is a single spark to ignite these trees, and that’s what we saw happen.”
And then there is the bark beetle. Although native to the region, the beetle wreaks havoc during droughts. According to firefighting officials, between 80% and 90% of the Creek Fire’s fuel came from beetle-killed timber.
Other fire news
Could Disneyland reopen soon?
Under pressure from the amusement industry and tourism-dependent cities, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday vowed action “very, very shortly” that could reopen Disneyland and other shuttered theme parks.
“We will be making announcements soon as it relates to theme parks and amusement parks,” he said at a briefing on the coronavirus and the state’s wildfires. “I am not here today to make that presentation, but want folks to know we are actively working in a number of sectors.”
Newsom recently unveiled a new framework that moves counties through four color-coded stages of reopening based on their recent per-capita case counts and recent positivity rate, which is a measure of how many coronavirus tests are coming back positive.
To unpack the new system and find out where California is in an ever-evolving public health crisis, The Desert Sun spoke with Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at UC Irvine, who has been tracking the pandemic and the government’s response.
“I like the idea of the color-coded system in terms of you’ve got four tiers, probably the first three of which are the most important,” Noymer says. “I think people can understand that you’re in a crisis zone (purple), or you’re in the red zone which is still serious, or you’re simmering which is orange, or you’re moving in the right direction which is yellow.”
In the Q&A, Noymer discusses COVID-19 metrics, testing incentives, what we should expect from the upcoming flu season and school reopening.
Ventura County, meanwhile, has updated its Halloween guidance. Instead of not allowed, trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treating – a car-to-car alternative – are now listed as “not recommended.” The county’s changing guidelines could still be adjusted before the holiday.
Nation’s possible first ‘Second Gentleman’ enters spotlight
Douglas Emhoff, Sen. Kamala Harris’ husband, could become the nation’s “first Second Gentleman.” The 55-year-old entertainment lawyer also could become the first Jewish American in that role.
Emhoff, who is more used to dealing with musicians and movie studios than presidential nominees, describes what happened when his wife agreed to become Vice President Joseph Biden’s running mate, comparing to a scene from the movie “Men in Black.”
Campaign aides barged into their apartment with binders and equipment, he said.
“And I’m like, ‘Wait! Don’t we have like a week to kind of ease into this?’” Emhoff recalled during a recent campaign event. “Nope. And it was just, ‘Get to work.'”
The day after Harris delivered her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Emhoff made his first full public remarks to an LGBTQ Caucus virtual meeting at the convention. Soon after, he was headlining a fundraiser, and those have continued at a steady pace.
People keep asking Emhoff what his priorities will be if becomes the first male spouse of the nation’s first female vice president.
“Everyone’s got an opinion on this, which is nice to hear,” Emhoff said during a recent fundraiser. “Which means people are actually excited about the prospect of someone like me in this role – and I get that.”
More Golden State news
A 10,000-seat sports and entertainment arena initially slated for downtown Palm Springs is moving to 43 acres of vacant land just north of Palm Desert. The new arena, which will be home to an American Hockey League expansion team, is expected to fuel tourism, housing development and enrollment at the CSU San Bernardino and UC Riverside campuses situated nearby.
Lawmakers in San Diego want Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign AB 331, which passed the legislature and has been sitting on his desk for two weeks, the San Diego Union Tribune reports. The law would require ethnic studies for high school students.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union Tribune.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Battle to save Mt. Wilson Observatory continues; arena good news for CSU
NYT Will ‘Re-Report’ Blockbuster Podcast After Main Character’s Terrorism Hoax Charges
The New York Times is putting together a team of journalists to “re-report” its critically acclaimed podcast on the Islamic State after one of its central characters was arrested for allegedly faking his background in terrorism.
“We are going to look for the truth of his story and inevitably we are going to also ask the question about how we presented him so we are going to put together a group of reporters and take a new look at the story, his story and inevitably how we presented his story,” executive editor Dean Baquet told staff on Wednesday, according to a readout of the meeting provided to The Daily Beast.
Caliphate, hosted by Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter Rukimini Callimachi, focused at length on the story of “Abu Huzayfah,” a Canadian who said he traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State before eventually becoming disillusioned after taking part in brutal, public executions.
But last week, Canadian police upended the story when they arrested 25-year-old Shehroze Chaudhry and charged him with concocting a terrorist hoax.
Initially, both the Times and Callimachi stood by the podcast and its characterization of Huzayfah. Callimachi, who features as both a narrator and protagonist in the podcast, said on Twitter, “The narrative tension of our podcast ‘Caliphate’ is the question of whether his account is true.”
But in a new statement on Wednesday, the Times said it is “undertaking a fresh examination of his history and the way we presented him in our series.”
In its initial statement late last week, the Times had said its reporters first interviewed Huzayfah in mid-2016 and spent a year-and-a-half reporting his story across three continents. It said challenges in verifying his story were a central part of the narrative. For example, Huzayfah claimed he joined ISIS before the caliphate was formed and his passport, school transcripts and geolocation of photos didn’t line up.
One chapter of the podcast was dedicated to processing these inconsistencies. “We believe the series was responsible journalism that helped listeners understand the power and pull of extremism,” the initial statement said.
However, Baquet said Thursday that, given the allegations Huzayfah may have fabricated part of his story, the newspaper would re-examine the whole podcast.
“So if you look at the whole series we did make it clear in the series that there were questions about his story but given what happened in Canada, given the allegation he made everything up we are going to re-report it,” he said.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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‘I just cannot see that it would warrant $70,000’
Donald Trump’s hair is back in the news amid the New York Times report that on his unearthed tax returns, he wrote off “more than $70,000 to style his hair during The Apprentice” — but his locks have long been a fascinating topic.
While the New York Times report is vague and there many unknowns — was it $70,000 a year or $70,000 over the 11 years he appeared on the reality show, it didn’t specify — we couldn’t resist picking hairstylist to the stars Ted Gibson’s brain about the pricey expenditure. After all, Trump’s locks are notorious, mostly because they’re puzzling, and Gibson is notorious himself, as the hairstylist with the most expensive haircut in the U.S. — at $2,400.
“I think that if it’s $70,000 in a year,” Gibson says to Yahoo Entertainment, “that’s a lot of money. It’s an exorbitant amount of money, of course,” of the figure, which is more than the median U.S. household income.
Especially for someone whose hair has looked “the same” for more than a decade.
“Sometimes the cut is a little different than other times, but generally it’s the same coif every single day,” the hair pro continues. “So I wonder if ‘beauty’ would be included,” in the $70,000. “Is it also spray tans? Obviously, his hands are a different color,” than his face, “which is usually a sure sign than some kind of tanning is involved.”
And if it’s $70,000 over the 11 years Trump was on The Apprentice, the Starring By Ted Gibson salon owner says, “it’s not a lot of money” for a celebrity — breaking down to approximately $6,363 a year. But either way, “I suspect that if he was getting his hair done for The Apprentice, production has a budget for that. That wouldn’t come out of his pocket.”
And it seems unlikely that Trump has a pricey hair coloring bill. After all, his former hairstylist on the early seasons of The Apprentice, Amy Lasch, has said that his hair coloring wasn’t a professional job, in her opinion, because it was different shades. Lasch speculated that “someone in his inner circle” was doing the color, suggesting “his wife or maybe his daughter,” referring to Melania Trump or Ivanka Trump.
Gibson can see Trump being a DIY color guy, explaining, “As a busy person myself, I color my own hair. I generally cut my own hair because I don’t have a lot of time to go to a barbershop — and I own a salon!” He explains that if he looks in the mirror on a given morning and thinks he needs a trim, he just does it himself and that goes for color too. (It helps that he’s married to a hair colorist, Jason Backe, who’s also his business partner.)
“I’m assuming that he colors his hair himself,” says Gibson, who doubts Melania helps. “No way. She doesn’t even want to hold his hand, so she’s probably not going to touch his hair.”
We mention how Trump’s barber of 30 years, Adrian Wood, from Paul Molé Barber Shop in Manhattan, said in an interview that he was never allowed to cut the top of the reality star’s hair when he was giving him his $30-something gentleman’s cut. Wood was only allowed to clean up the sides. The top was a no-touch zone.
“I believe that,” Gibson replies. “So more than likely, he would go to the barbershop every two weeks and they would just clean up around his ears … and everything else would stay the same. He wants that top to be longer to cover up a certain spot, I’m sure.”
As for the top, “We know that it’s a comb-over. We know that the piece on the top is a lot longer,” Gibson says.” And “it doesn’t move. If the wind blows, the whole thing blows. So it could be that he trims it himself around the ears and back. I just cannot see that it would warrant $70,000 on a tax return.”
One thing is for sure, Trump’s hair is a captivating thing.
“It always has been,” says Gibson, who’s not surprised that Trump has left it the same all these years despite the endless scrutiny. “I think it’s his signature. After getting so many comments on it, why would you change it? If he changed it, he would turn into someone else. And obviously, he likes himself.”
Gibson has worked with some of the most famous celebrities of all time and that continues as he and his husband Backe opened up a futuristic L.A. smart salon, Starring By Ted Gibson, which is home to his famous $2,400 cut.
“It is an experience,” he says when asked what a customer gets for the price tag. “The thing about what I deliver is you have six degrees of separation from celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Sandra Oh, Debra Messing, Lupita Nyong’o, Hailey Bieber, Ashley Green and Zoe Saldana — the list goes on and on,” he says of his famous clientele.
Celebrity connections aside, “it’s the first smart salon in the world, powered by Amazon and Alexa,” he explains. When they designed it, “We used the idea of: What would a salon of the future look like? Because going to a salon and the salon business hasn’t been updated in forever. We wanted semi-private areas where a woman could sit and get her hair done — like when you’re flying first-class and you have your own little area,” or pod, “where you have music, your food and beverage. So that’s what we came up with.”
Their clients have their own “clouds,” which are 13-feet high, by nine-feet long by eight-and-a-half feet wide. They are decorated beautifully, including 11 different light modes, all put on and off by Alexa, so customers can see how their hair color looks under different kinds of light, so there are no surprises when you later look at your hair color at home in the bathroom mirror. There are also mood-enhancing lights, so if a client is having a stressful day, they put on the “chill” mode and the “cloud turns to this really beautiful blueish color.”
The salon, which only opened 11 months before the pandemic, was also “COVID safe before there was a need to be COVID safe.” That’s because of the more than six feet between clouds, but also that clients book and pay for their appointments online. When they arrive, there’s a secure front and back entrance. And there are no touch points between stylist and client — no front desk attendant or assistants — they go right to their cloud and interact only with the stylist. If you like a product used by the stylist, you can order it on the app and get it sent to your home within days, as no retail products are sold in the store.
“And you get a great haircut!” on top of that, Gibson says. “We really thought about what the salon experience should be for women — before it was even a thought about how it feels going to a salon and being in an enclosed in space” amid the pandemic. “We’re really proud of it.” (While Gibson’s cuts are $2,400, haircuts and colors with lead stylists other than Gibson and Backe begin at $150 a cut.)
As we wrap up, we ask if there’s anything Gibson wants to add after our chat about Trump’s hair, “Um… vote!” he says. “That’s all I’ll add. Vote.”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
Walmart is updating its iconic Supercenter store for the digital age
Walmart (WMT) is unveiling a “completely new look and feel” for its iconic Supercenter stores for the digital age of shopping.
In an announcement on Walmart’s blog on Wednesday, chief customer officer Janey Whiteside shared details of an increasingly “customer-centric” layout more befitting of the shift toward online shopping, where sales for the world’s largest retailer have boomed.
“The design creates an elevated experience that appeals to shoppers through a sleek design aesthetic; a layout that spotlights products, and an end-to-end digital navigation that guides customers throughout their journeys,” Whiteside wrote.
Walmart has tested the digitally-enabled store concept, and they’re “excited by the initial feedback from customers and associates,” the executive said.
“By creating a system that acknowledges our app navigation from beginning to end, we create an optimized omni experience for both customers and associates,” she added.
The company will begin updating 200 Supercenters and some Health Centers and Neighborhood Markets in the fiscal year, while closing to 1,000 stores next fiscal year.
Additionally, the big-box retailer plans to revamp its interior and exterior signage to tout the Walmart mobile app’s icon.
“As customers enter the store, they are greeted with clean, colorful iconography and a store directory that encourages them to download and use the Walmart app while they shop,” Whiteside added.
Inside the store, shoppers will be able to identify sections spotlighted with bold typeface. The stores will also feature colorful signage promoting the mobile app. Whiteside added that the aisles will be “with letter and number combinations to guide customers from phone to product.”
Whiteside noted that Walmart was inspired by “airport wayfinding systems” that direct large crowds through the store faster.
“We developed simple yet thoughtful designs to replicate these navigation efficiencies, which will help us move customers through the store more quickly,” she added.
At the checkout, there will be self-serve kiosks and contactless payment options through Walmart Pay. Some of the sections in the store will offer the Scan & Go for on-the-spot checkout.
Walmart operates a fleet of more than 4,700 stores in the U.S. Approximately 90% of the U.S. population lives within ten miles of a Walmart.
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.
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