As the saying goes, all politics is local. And that couldn't have been clearer this week in and around Murrieta, Calif., a sleepy conservative enclave 60 miles north of San Diego.
Local leaders here made a loud stand against the planned movement of immigrant detainees to their city from overcrowded U.S. Border Patrol stations in Texas — and in the process rather purposefully thrust their city into the national political spotlight.
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And I am Renee Montagne. Here in California today, a controversial gun control bill gets its first hearing. It was introduced in the wake of last month's mass murder near the campus of UC Santa Barbara. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: When California lawmakers began debate today, expect the case of Elliott Rodger to come back into focus.
Cliven Bundy's ranch is just a few miles off Interstate 15 in southern Nevada, near the tiny town of Bunkerville. The dirt road that gets you there snakes through a hot and forlorn patch of desert. You know you've found it when you see a spray-painted sign for Bundy Melons.
"What we say is, we raise cows and melons and kids. That's what we do here," says Bundy, smiling as he hoses down a dusty sidewalk that leads into the family's ranch house.
It's been a little more than a year since San Jose, Calif., increased the city's minimum wage by $2 per hour, with adjustments for inflation. Now at $10.15 an hour, it's one of the state's highest.
Back in 2012, as voters were debating the wage hike, some in the restaurant and hospitality industry warned that an increase would be bad for the sector. It would deter new businesses from opening, they said, and would cause existing businesses to slash hours for employees.
So how are San Jose's businesses faring today? The answer is, it depends.
A married couple apparently killed two police officers and another woman in Las Vegas. The husband and wife, also killed in the shooting, appear to have held anti-government and anti-law enforcement views.
The attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, are renewing focus on programs aimed at requiring treatment for people who are mentally ill as a way to prevent mass shootings and other violence.
In California, a 2002 law allows authorities to require outpatient mental health care for people who have been refusing it. Proponents argue that this kind of intervention could prevent violent acts.
But counties within the state have been slow to adopt the legislation, and mental health professionals are divided over its effects.
Today is Graduation Day at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. And, of course, it will be an emotional time for the school's principal, Frank DeAngelis. He'll be giving his final sendoff to a senior class. Mr. DeAngelis is retiring at the end of this school year. He's one of just a few staffers who stayed on at Columbine after the 1999 mass shootings there. Fifteen people died, including the two gunmen, who were also students. As NPR's Kirk Siegler reports, the massacre and the school's response to it defined Mr. DeAngelis's career.
As fire managers in the drought-stricken Southwest gear up for another long and expensive wildfire season, federal fire scientists are trying to better understand the physics behind what makes blazes spread.
Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 11:59 am
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is one of the nation's most troubled law enforcement agencies.
Eighteen current and former deputies are facing felony charges as part of a federal probe into allegations of widespread prisoner abuse in county jails. The federal government is also investigating alleged cases of deputies on patrol using excessive force during routine traffic stops, and targeting blacks and Latinos.
Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 5:13 pm
At a recent rally in Fresno County, Calif., farmers in plaid shirts stood side by side with migrant farmworkers in ball caps, holding signs that read "sin agua, no futuro" and "no water, no food." Fresno is the top agriculture-producing county in the U.S., with more than $6 billion in annual sales.
Protesters argued that farms could go out of business without more water, and there would be mass layoffs. That rhetoric may be familiar, but the two groups' alliance is decidedly unusual.
While it appears the 2009 attack at Fort Hood was different in many ways from what occurred Wednesday, the latest attack is focusing attention again on security measures there. Meanwhile, we are learning more about the alleged shooter, Specialist Ivan Lopez.
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Here's some good news about the water situation in Northern California: More rain is falling today. San Francisco has seen eight inches over the past week and down south, L.A., has seen four. That's more rain than those two cities received over the whole past year. But the drought is still on and is still severe. And California's farmers are still looking at a bleak situation.
In northern Nevada, a place famous for its wide, open spaces and expansive cattle operations, ranchers are in a bind due to the historic drought.
Much of the state is desert, so when people talk about drought, they're really talking about the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. It's at barely 20 percent of average.
This is a huge concern for farmers and ranchers like Julie Wolf, because the mountains store the snow that melts and feeds rivers and reservoirs. These bodies of water then allow the desert to bloom with grass and alfalfa for her cattle.
Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 1:13 pm
When Pete Olsen talks about drought on his fifth-generation dairy farm in Fallon, Nev., he's really talking about the snowpack 60 miles to the west in the Sierra Nevada.
The Sierras, Olsen says, are their lifeblood.
That is, the snowmelt from them feeds the Truckee and Carson rivers and a tangle of reservoirs and canals that make this desert bloom. Some of the highest-grade alfalfa in the world is grown here. And it makes perfect feed for dairy cows, because it's rich in nutrients.
Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 5:37 am
Los Angeles may be known for its celebrities, glitz and glam, but the city's mayor, Eric Garcetti, is focused on something decidedly less flashy: infrastructure.
Take the city's airport LAX, for example. You'd be forgiven for mistaking its terminals for a cramped bus station. And stepping out onto the curb can feel like an assault on the senses, with the horns, aggressive shuttle drivers and travelers jostling for taxis.
Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 8:23 pm
At a 10,000-foot summit in Yosemite National Park, Frank Gehrke clicks into his cross-country skis and pushes off down a small embankment onto a meadow of crusty snow. He's California's chief of snow surveys, one of the most influential jobs in a state where snow and the water that comes from it are big currency. He's on his monthly visit to one of a dozen snowpack-measuring stations scattered across the high country of the Sierra Nevada.
Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 11:26 am
Think your commute is bad? Try 580 miles, one-way.
Door to door, that's how far Rory Richardson travels between his home in western Montana and his job on the oil fields near Williston, N.D. Often, he makes the trip on a plane his company charters to shuttle workers between here and the Northwest.
"It's no fun coming over to North Dakota," he says, clutching a duffel bag and a cooler of food as he walks out of Williston's one-room airport and into the biting North Dakota winter.
Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 10:49 am
A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state's fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.
On a Sunday at dusk, Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder train is jampacked, filled with people heading to their jobs in North Dakota towns like Minot, Williston and Watford City.
Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 4:13 pm
This is one of the best times of the year to spot gray whales off the coast of Southern California as they migrate south for the winter. But recently, there have been an unusually high number of sightings of other whales.
"We've had so many whales," Dan "The Whale Man" Salas tells the guests on his boat. "This is all in the last two weeks. We've had orcas, we had a sperm whale, we've got humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales. Yesterday we had a massive pod of gray whales, so we never know what we're going to see out here."