California’s drought is getting worse: The National Weather Service says one-third of the state is now suffering from “exceptional” drought, the highest category of drought conditions. The latest areas to be added to the “exceptional” list are in Central and Northern California. The U.S. Drought Monitor – yes, there is such an office – says no part of the state had “exceptional” drought conditions a year ago. California has been enduring its hottest year on record, with temperatures about five degrees above average. Meanwhile, rainfall totals around the state are mostly between 30 percent and 50 percent of normal. Officials say the current drought is now on par with the state’s severe drought in the 1970s. The big difference: California had 20 million residents in the ’70s, compared to more than 38 million now.
Californians now lead both parties in the House of Representatives: Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected Majority Leader yesterday. He joins San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader. McCarthy’s ascension is expected to have mixed implications for California. It gives lawmakers here a direct channel to the levers of power in the House. But McCarthy opposes many of the initiatives favored by the state’s Democratic delegation, who make up a majority of California’s representatives. That includes Obamacare and the state’s high-speed rail project. McCarthy succeeds Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor as Majority Leader. Cantor resigned his leadership post after losing a primary fight last week.
L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon once asked colleague Wendy Greuel to shift her council district boundaries so his home would be in the district he represented, according to L.A. prosecutors. Alarcon and his wife are on trial for lying about where he lived when he ran for office in 2006 and 2008. During opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Michele Gilmer said she might call Greuel to testify. The Alarcons deny any wrongdoing – saying they stayed in Sun Valley when their primary residence was being repaired.
Legendary lyricist Gerry Goffin has died at his home in Los Angeles. Goffin is best known for his work with his ex-wife, Carole King. They teamed on such songs as “Up on the Roof,” “Will You Lover Me Tomorrow” and (You Make Me Feel Like A) “Natural Woman.” He also penned songs for other big artists, including Diana Ross and Rod Stewart. He wrote Whitney Houston’s 1980’s megahit “Savin’ All My Love For You.” Goffin and King have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and were the subject of a Tony-nominated musical. He was 75.
Five years after his death, Michael Jackson’s career is going stronger than it has in decades. An Associated Press analysis finds that Jackson’s estate has earned more than $600 million since the pop star overdosed on a powerful anesthetic in 2009. Last month, a hologram of Jackson moonwalked across a Las Vegas stage, a new album debuted recently at No. 2 on the charts and a Cirque du Soleil show based on Jackson’s songs has given nearly 500 performances worldwide. Some of the earnings support Jackson’s children and his mother, but the AP says much more has gone to erase the singer’s huge debt, and to run his estate. That includes paying off a $45 million tax bill.