Arlene Martinez

Large predators such as mountain lions are being found in places they haven't been seen before.

Mountain lions, increasingly squeezed by homes and highways, are creeping toward official protected status. The 2020 World Ag Expo is high on a newly legal crop: hemp. And take a look at how UCSD spent half of a $10 million donation and appears to have nothing to show for it.

It’s Arlene Martínez, back with news for Thursday.

But first, Happy Galentine’s Day! Show your bestie some California love with an Ice Cube pin, Rainbow flip flops or a Golden State-shaped cutting board. #breadandbutter

Mountain lions head for special status

Mountain Lion standing on rock

Some California mountain lions this week moved one step closer to being listed under the state’s Endangered Species Act. The designation means the cougars would be better protected against being killed, and land and water deemed vital to their recovery would be safeguarded. A recovery plan would also enter the mix.

Two nonprofits, the Mountain Lion Foundation and Center for Biological Diversity, petitioned the state in June to protect the cougars who call the Santa Monica Mountains in Ventura and Los Angeles counties home.

“There have been several recent studies from mountain lion researchers that have been showing evidence that these populations are really struggling,” said the center’s biologist, TIffany Yap. “So much so, that some of them are predicted to potentially become extinct within 50 years or less.”

Those who study the population estimate the number of cats living in the Central Coast and Southern California to be between 255 and 510, but note more studies are needed.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reviewed the request and determined there’s enough scientific evidence to support the petition. It heads next to the state Fish and Game Commission.

Last month, a landowner who had lost several animals to a mountain lion received a state permit to kill the cat. Some people were upset by the death, arguing the problem is people encroaching on the cats’ land.

Film tax breaks, a cashless economy, drought and coronavirus

L to R: Ray McKinnon, Jack McCullen, Matt Damon and Christian Bale in "Ford v Ferrari."

Golden State residents gave two of the Oscars’ best film nominees $35 million in tax breaks. You’re welcome, “Once Upon a Time …  in Hollywood” and “Ford v. Ferrari.”

A cashless economy is most likely to exclude people of color, immigrants and disabled people. That’s what prompted state Sen. Jerry Hill to introduce legislation that would require all California brick-and-mortar businesses to accept cash.

Drought, we didn’t have a chance to miss you, and you’re back in 1/10th of the state.

Riverside County spent $1.3 million to quarantine 195 people for 14 days while they were evaluated for coronavirus. Local elected officials want the feds to pay them back.

How to squander a $10 million donation from a dead man

The distinctive Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, is named for Theodor Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss.

In the fall of 2015, a San Diego philanthropist died of cancer and left behind millions of dollars for one of America’s premier research institutions, the University of California, San Diego.

After Charles “Skip” Kreutzkamp died, his family trust donated $10 million to the university. More than half the money has been spent and UCSD has little to show for it, an investigation revealed.

No research has been performed, at least eight people hired with the funds have been laid off and investigators are questioning whether the oncologist who solicited the gift — Dr. Kevin Murphy — misused the money for personal gain.

The San Diego-based inewsource spent months looking at thousands of documents to understand how one of the biggest donations for research was squandered. It also dove deep into how a school that receives more than $1 billion in research funding from taxpayers each year handles its resources.

What else we’re talking about

Nordhoff High senior Armando Gomez wrestles against Fillmore High's Adrian Scott during a practice session at Rio Mesa High involving several area wrestlers who will compete in the CIF-Southern Section Individual Championships on Friday and Saturday. Doctors told Gomez he would never wrestle again after an accident nine months ago sliced a good share of six of his fingers. Instead, he won his second straight Citrus Coast League title and qualified for the CIF Individuals.

He lost a good part of six fingers in a metal shop accident nine months ago. This weekend, wrestler Armando Gomez will head to Huntington Beach after qualifying for the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division Individual Championships.

The Sacramento-based McClatchy newspaper chain files for bankruptcy protection. Its California newspapers include the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

It’s the story behind a Tahoe firefighter cradling a baby kangaroo and how to help wildlife affected by the Australian brushfires.

$1 million can get you into a single-family home in San Diego County.

‘This will never happen again in our lifetimes

Chad Sanden holds a hemp board, twice as strong as oak wood, at the Hemp Building Association booth at the 2020 World Ag Expo.

The 2020 World Ag Expo is high on a newly legal crop, with no shortage of converts preaching to the annual show’s 100,000-plus attendees the gospel of hemp.

“It’s not every day that agriculture gets a new plant to grow. This will never happen again in our lifetimes,” said Christian Gray with HiLo Seed Company, one of the expo’s partners around hemp this year.

The federal government made growing hemp legal in 2018 and it quickly became a popular choice. There are more than 500,000 acres of hemp licensed to some 17,000 growers nationally, a 460% increase over 2018, according to the advocacy group Vote Hemp.

Last year, the organization had the only hemp booth at the World Ag Expo, held each year in Tulare County. This year, there are more than 30 booths occupying an entire corner of the 2.6 million-square-foot exhibition space.

The greatest love of all (learning to love yourself)

I’ll leave you with this reflection on learning to love that thing about ourselves we tried for so long to get rid of, by LA Times food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson:

See you tomorrow!

In California is a roundup of news from across USA TODAY Network newsrooms. Also contributing:Good Jobs First, CalMatters, CNN, Associated Press, inewsource.