East Bay Times wins Pulitzer for Ghost Ship Fire reporting

Editor’s note: Congratulations to my longtime friend Neil Chase and his staff. Neil also taught journalism at Northwestern.

“The East Bay Times has won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for its coverage of December’s Ghost Ship fire — the fifth time a Bay Area News Group paper has gained journalism’s highest award,” as the newspaper and others are reporting.

“In a Monday announcement, the judges said the Times received the award ‘for relentless coverage of the ‘Ghost Ship’ fire, which killed 36 people at a warehouse party, and for reporting after the tragedy that exposed the city’s failure to take actions that might have prevented it.’

“Bay Area News Group journalists, who produce coverage for the Times and the Mercury News, were the first to uncover problems with the city’s inspections and permitting of the Ghost Ship building, initially reporting the issue on BANG websites less than 12 hours after the Dec. 2 blaze. In subsequent days and weeks, the coverage expanded to encompass the lives of the victims, mostly young artists and musicians, and the housing crisis that has driven so many Bay Area residents into substandard dwellings like the Ghost Ship.

“A narrative story, ‘The Last Hours of the Ghost Ship,’ won enormous praise for taking readers inside the warehouse as the fire started, then raged out of control, and Oakland firefighters fought to save those inside. In the months since, BANG journalists have continued to report on the system breakdowns that allowed so many people to cram into a firetrap whose dangers should have been obvious. City officials have now begun to overhaul their fire inspection and other practices.

“‘Winning the most prestigious honor in journalism is humbling,’ said Neil Chase, executive editor of the East Bay Times and the Mercury News. ‘It’s testimony to the incredible efforts of our talented journalists and their dedication to serving this community and discovering the truth about what happened.’

“It was the third national award for the East Bay Times coverage of the deadly blaze.”

The rest of the article is here.

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Tesla overtakes GM as most valuable US automaker, at least for now

“A week after overtaking Ford in market value, Tesla, the upstart electric carmaker has on Monday dethroned General Motors as the most valuable US auto company,” the Financial Times is reporting.

“Shares of Tesla jumped as much as 3.5 per cent in early morning trade, giving it a market capitalisation of $51bn and helping it briefly surpass GM’s $50.7bn market value.

“Tesla has been on a blistering run this year, with the stock up more than 46 per cent since the start of January as it continues to report strong sales growth. It delivered over 25,000 vehicles in the first quarter, up 69 per cent from a year ago.

“By contrast, GM and Ford are down 2.3 per cent and 6.6 per cent for the year to date. Sentiment for shares in traditional carmakers has been hit by lacklustre US vehicles sales this year, stoking investors’ worries that the domestic auto industry has hit a plateau following a record 2016.”

The rest of the article is here.

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Returning to Las Mananitas in Cuernavaca for Spring Break

Spring Break! We hopped aboard an American Airlines plane in Sacramento and headed to Mexico City and its outskirts this weekend. It’s an easy flight, via Phoenix, and only a two-hour time difference. Like most families, our vacations are planned around our child’s school schedule (and in this case, his birthday). We love Mexico, and the exchange rate of $1 to 18.6 pesos is one the best in years.

We’re starting our trip in Cuernavaca, a Colonial city about one hour from Mexico City. We are returning to one of our favorite places “Las Mananitas.” (The last time we were in Cuernavaca was spring 2009: Obama was visiting, and George Rebane and Russ Steele were both writing columns for The Union. Now both are Former Union Columnists.)

I learned about Las Mananitas from Pimm Fox, once the business editor of The Chronicle, when we were colleagues. Pimm is a New Yorker, and he enjoyed trips to Mexico City and South America. We’ve been back to Cuernavaca a few times.

It’s an easy and inexpensive ride from the airport. We had a jovial conservation with the driver Vicente about the universities where his children went to school, the ’68 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and, of course, President Trump.

The grounds of Las Mananitas are redolent of the opening scenes of “Coming to America,” where zebras and other exotic animals roamed the grounds of Eddie Murphy’s (AKA the prince’s) house in Africa.

The hotel has impeccably manicured lawns, with peacocks and flamingos roaming among the guests. Visitors are entertained with classical guitar music in the afternoon. An American “expat” opened the hotel in 1955, about the same time that expats from the U.S. settled in Cuernavaca, known for its temperate climate. (This week, it is in the 70s and 80s).

The restaurant is wonderful, with al fresco dining, and it is a popular weekend getaway for Mexico City residents. Some have second homes here.  The rooms have patios, where you can enjoy breakfast: chilaquiles, fresh fruit and a pot of hot coffee. The hotel has a beautiful swimming pool, and it is within walking distance to thePalace of Cortés and other museums.

Toward the end of the week, we’re going to return to Mexico City for a visit to the The National Museum of Anthropology, Frida Kahlo museum, Tenochtitlan and the Zócalo, where our son wants to see where the recent James Bond movie was filmed. We’ll dig into the politics when we get to Mexico City.

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Sierra Theaters: Local entrepreneurs since 1979

From the current issue of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine:

Vintage movie theaters have helped define the charm of Gold Country towns for decades, including ones in Angels Camp, Colfax, Auburn and Grass Valley. But in an era of Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV, movie theater owners face challenging times.

Few have done a better job of upgrading their theaters to attract the iGeneration and others than the Getz family, owners of the Sierra Theaters in Grass Valley. Now operated by the Getz’s son-in-law Michael LaMarca and daughter Azriel and a spirited staff, Sierra Theaters epitomizes the kind of locally owned, family business that has helped our region thrive.

Mike Getz began his career in the movie business in the early ’60s. He helped launch the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” midnight phenomenon in theaters throughout the country. To view independent films locally, Mike and Barbara Getz started the Nevada Theatre Film Series in 1979.

In 1989, the Getz’s opened Sierra Cinemas—a four-screen, first-run movie theater in Grass Valley—now home to Nevada County’s first movie bar and café. In 2001, they opened Sutton Cinemas, a two-screen theater in the Brunswick Basin.

Then in 2003, they bought the historic Del Oro Theatre in downtown Grass Valley and began an extensive remodeling effort. Thousands of people filled the streets to witness the lighting of the tower—which had been dark for over 20 years. “It has become a jewel in the crown of Grass Valley redevelopment,” says one local.

The Art Deco-style building, built in 1941 by United Artists, received new seats, a state-of-the-art sound system and digital 3-D projection. On weekends, teenagers and 20- somethings line up beside retirees to watch the latest Star Wars release and other movies.

The theater’s exterior showcases local art- work: a public mural by trompe l’oeil artist John Pugh, featuring the South Yuba River. The Getz’s are passionate about the Yuba; Barbara is a longtime board member of SYRCL (South Yuba River Citizens League).

Last year, the Del Oro tower and marquee were again refurbished and updated, bring- ing the look of the historic building closer to its 1940s origins.

The Getz’s also have expanded the content beyond Hollywood movies. The Del Oro features live performances from New York’s Met Opera live in HD and London’s National Theatre.

(Photo: Kial James)

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Memories of Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla

Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla

We spent our honeymoon in the Caribbean: a week on Anguilla and a week on St.Barthélemy. We’ve been back a few times. It’s a long plane flight from the West Coast, usually involving a “red eye.”

The Rendezvous Bay Hotel on Rendezvous Bay in Anguilla is a hidden gem. On an island where celebrity sightings are common (Janet Jackson, Paul McCartney and Michael J. Fox, among others) and the hotels are expensive, this place is laid back and affordable. (I learned about this hotel from a former colleague at The Chronicle, Alex Barnum, whose family often went there for Christmas. Alex is now at the state EPA in Sacramento). I have never seen such a gorgeous beach. The water is as clear as Lake Tahoe.

Rendezvous Bay Hotel was Anguilla’s first beach resort. It opened in 1962. The owner was Jeremiah Gumbs, whom we got to know. He is a local hero, having led a protest in 1967 that lumped Anguilla into a self-governing state St. Kitts-Nevius-Anguilla, associated with Britain. Locals considered that heresy — like if you tried to merge Grass Valley and Nevada City.  Gumbs prevailed and Anguilla remained independent. His obituary was in the New York Times.

One time, during an afternoon on Rendezvous Bay, we saw Janet Jackson filming this video on the beach. It was in the ’90s. The Gumbs confirmed her presence while hotel staffers loaded the boat with lunch for the boat ride and filming episode. I found the video here:

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U.S. launches Tomahawk strike on Syrian air base

U.S. guided missile destroyers launched 59 Tomahawk land attack missiles on April 7, 2017, that struck the Al Shayrat airbase in Syria believed to be the origin of a chemical weapon strike on the town of Khan Sheikhoun. US Navy Video

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Appeals court upholds California’s cap-and-trade system

“‘A state appeals court handed a major victory to California’s signature climate-change program on Thursday in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ability to collect revenue from auctions its sponsored over the last five years,’ according to the Sacramento Bee.

“The 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld the California Air Resources Board’s program in a 2-1 decision, ruling that its auction sales do not equate to an illegal tax because the purchase of pollution credits by businesses is voluntary and the credits they buy are ‘a thing of value.’ The program was approved with a majority vote, and opponents believe a two-thirds vote was required to authorize a tax.

“’These twin aspects of the auction system, voluntary participation and purchase of a specific thing of value, preclude a finding that the auction system has the hallmarks of a tax,’ Justice Elena J. Duarte wrote for the majority.

“Justice Harry E. Hull, Jr., in his dissent, concluded that the program does amount to a tax, siding with the California Chamber of Commerce and Morning Star, a a Woodland-based tomato processor.

“Denise Davis, a spokeswoman for the California Chamber of Commerce, said the organization is deciding whether to appeal.

“’We are disappointed in the 2-1 decision,’ Davis said. ‘We are reviewing the decision and evaluating our options.’

“The decision is a victory for Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats who are working on a package that would extend the life of the program beyond 2020.

“’The court’s decision affirms the basic purpose and structure of the program – to deliver carbon reductions in a cost-effective and flexible manner, said Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the Air Resources Board. ‘The decision provides additional certainty for this keystone program, which supports all the other approaches California has underway to fight climate change.’”

The rest of the article is here.

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