Joaquin Phoenix brought a message to milk and meat lovers, and California’s growers had a response. Police warn of mayhem as a wave of progressive district attorneys join the ranks of traditional tough-on-crime prosecutors. And specially trained dogs are helping citrus growers protect their crops.

It’s Arlene Martínez with news for Monday. 

But first, it’s the story of the 71-year-old man who stepped in to save the state’s oldest weekly newspaper from extinction. The Mountain Messenger’s alum includes Mark Twain. 

And later, don’t miss what Democratic presidential candidates had to say on whether California should continue to be allowed to set its own emissions standards. 

In California has your daily news, features and interviews from across USA TODAY Network newsrooms and beyond. Click here to get this straight to your inbox.

Joaquin Phoenix: Stop stealing milk for your coffee and cereal

Some California farmers weren’t particularly fond of Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix’s acceptance speech Sunday night at the Academy Awards. Phoenix won for his (incredible) portrayal of the lead character in “Joker,” and took his time in the limelight to lecture those who eat and drink animal products

“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow, and when she gives birth, we steal her baby. Even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable,” Phoenix said. “And then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”

Erik Wilson, who founded the popular My Job Depends On Ag movement that became a PBS documentary series last year, fired back at the activist actor.

“I find it interesting that not too far from that award show is the great Central Valley of California. Perfect area to grow all the vegan products that one can imagine,” Wilson said in a Facebook post. “But … he and the many folks in the entertainment industry support California’s politicians that deny the very water to grow their vegan food.”

California is home to the top milk-producing region in the country in Tulare County, which produced 10 billion pounds of milk and generated nearly $1.7 billion in revenues in 2018 alone. 

Read it in full: Joaquin Phoenix’s Best Actor Oscar acceptance speech.

And while we’re talking Oscars, take a photo peek behind the scenes of the year’s biggest night in movies.

A disease-tracking dog and big cats in the news

In an effort to help protect expensive crops, citrus growers throughout California have turned to man’s best friend. The scientist-trained dogs are helping sniff out a crop ailment called huanglongbing that has hit orange, lemon and grapefruit orchards elsewhere in California as well as in Florida and Texas.

The dogs can detect the disease weeks to years before it causes the visible problems of mottled leaves and deformed fruit. That’s critical because the disease is incurable and eventually deadly to trees.

In a Texas experiment, trained dogs were accurate 95% of the time in distinguishing grapefruit trees recently infected with the disease-causing bacteria that are spread by a tiny insect, the Asian citrus psyllid. 

A property owner who lost 12 animals to a mountain lion over two years received the go-ahead to off the cougar that committed the acts. It’s the first permit issued to kill a radio-collared mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains area. 

Not too far away, another mountain lion briefly eluded capture over the weekend when the cat made its way into a residential neighborhood. No animal or human was hurt before state Department of Fish and Wildlife authorities sedated and took the cat away.

As criminal justice is re-envisioned, police warn of mayhem

The installation of a new district attorney in San Francisco one the city’s powerful police union spent $650,000 trying to defeat — is bringing attention to a new brand of criminal justice and causing tension between law enforcement and the progressives now holding top prosecutorial positions across the country.

Three of them spoke with USA TODAY about their experiences pushing reform-oriented policies. Here’s some of what they said: 

“This country has been operating too long on a policy of jail and retribution,” says Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner, whose most recent move was to refuse prosecution of those caught with Buprenorphine-based medications commonly used to treat opioid use. “We need drug treatment, mental health treatment. The other policies don’t work.”

Boston-based Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney Rachael Rollins, the first woman of color to hold a DA post in the state and who calls herself “smart on crime,” says a hallmark of the progressive wave is relying “on numbers, not anecdotes.” She is busy hiring “technologists and data experts so we can document all this and show how these policies are making a difference.”

Joe Gonzales, the recently installed Bexar County DA in San Antonio, says he has already seen results from an approach that includes citing and releasing those stopped for minor drug infractions who are then steered to community service.

“In the last six months, around 1,400 people who would have been arrested before have been directed to other facilities, which means we’ve saved the county about $1 million in booking costs,” Gonzales says. “I like to say that jails are for people we’re truly afraid of.”

What else we’re talking about 

Vanessa Bryant opens up about losing Kobe and their 13-year-old daughter, “Gigi”: “God I wish they were here and this nightmare would be over.”

Tarmac-dancing airport workers in Fresno who posted their moves on TikTok and Twitter are fired for what bosses called “inappropriate behavior in the work environment.”

President Donald Trump proposes spending roughly $2 billion to add 82 miles of a U.S.-Mexico border wall

Did the LAPD misuse a gang database?

The state Department of Justice is investigating the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of CalGang — a criminal intelligence database used by law enforcement agencies across the state to identify and monitor alleged gang members — following reports that falsified or inaccurate records were submitted by officers in the agency’s Metropolitan Division

The LAPD’s Internal Affairs division is conducting its own investigation and has already removed some officers from active duty. 

“Transparency and accountability are fundamental to effective policing,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “Our state Legislature recently entrusted oversight of the CalGang system to DOJ. As part of that oversight responsibility, we will take appropriate measures to hold accountable those who misuse the CalGang system.”

Democratic presidential hopefuls talk emissions

The federal government has for decades granted California special power to set its own emission standards to limit the smog-inducing exhaust shrouding cities like Los Angeles.

The state was already regulating emissions before the federal government passed the Clean Air Act in 1963, so the Environmental Protection Agency allowed the state to apply for waivers to enforce emission standards tougher than the federal government’s.

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But under President Donald Trump, the EPA has worked to revoke the state’s special ability to set its own standards, arguing the issues caused by greenhouse gases are no different here than anywhere else. 

In September 2019, after the feds announced they planned on stripping the state’s authority to set emission standards, California Attorney Gen. Xavier Becerra filed suit. The tug-of-war has major implications for car manufacturers, who often choose to produce vehicles that comply with California’s stricter standards for the entire market.

The Desert Sun enlisted emission standards expert and UCLA environmental law profess Ann Carlson to ask each of the candidates running in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary election a question about the battle.

Check outhow they responded. And here’s what they said about:

In California is a roundup of news from across USA TODAY Network newsrooms. Also contributing: The Guardian, Fresno Bee, New York Times.

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