October 10, 2017 Last Updated 8:28 am

Wine Country wildfires prove deadly; Day of decision for Catalunya as late afternoon speech will reveal intentions

Morning Brief: The annual October fire season in California has already led to 10 deaths, with more than 100 reported missing, as strong winds have caused fires to hopscotch along

The Oakland Hills fire of 1991 was a frightful ordeal for those involved, a media show for a while, a nightmare thereafter. I live in the Bay Area at the time and was getting my hair cut in Walnut Creek the day a grass fire began the disaster that ultimately killed 25 people and destroyed over 3,000 dwellings.

The firefighters thought they had controlled that fire on Saturday, but the next day it re-ignited and quickly spread. The 49ers were playing that day, and were still very good, beating the Detroit Lions 35-3 (one of the reasons I remember it so well). Fans at Candlestick Park could smell smoke in the air as strong, dry winds blew westward (rather than eastward from off the ocean).

San Francisco Chronicle, Peter Fimrite, Jill Tucker, Kurtis Alexander and Demian Bulwa:

10 dead as Wine Country fires burn at least 1,500 structures, force evacuations

A swarm of fires supercharged by powerful winds ripped through Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties Monday, killing at least 10 people, injuring dozens of others, destroying more than 1,500 homes and businesses, and turning prominent wineries to ash.

Starting in the middle of the night, the fires hopscotched across neighborhoods, raced across fields and jumped freeways. Wind gusts up to 70 mph pushed walls of flames nearly 100 feet high, throwing embers ahead like hot fingers into strip malls and subdivisions. Many people who fled the surge had enough time to grab car keys, perhaps a pet, but not much more.

And some didn’t get out. Sonoma County sheriff’s officials said seven people had died in that county. Two people died in a blaze in Napa, state fire officials said. At least one person was killed in Mendocino County.

The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa), Mary Callahan, Paul Payne, Randi Rossmann, Julie Johnson AND J.D. Morris:

Sonoma County’s worst natural disaster: Firestorm leaves 7 dead, 1,500 structures destroyed

Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes hours before sunrise, when the ruin wrought by flames in several terrifying hours became apparent over a rural and urban landscape spanning more than 50 square miles. In Sonoma County alone, officials said 100 people were reported missing…

“The volume of structures and neighborhoods that have been completely destroyed is incredible,” said Assistant Santa Rosa Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal, who lost his own Larkfield home Monday. “There are areas where, as far as the eye can see, is complete devastation with entire neighborhoods burned to the ground.”

Photo: Fires in California by Bill Janis, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic


Today, at 6pm local time, Carles Puigdemont, President of the Generalitat of Catalunya, is expected to address parliament and declare Catalan independence… or maybe something else. No one really knows.

The reason for the doubt is that so many things are weighing on supporters of independence: the threat of violence (and even murder) by Spanish officials; the lack of support from other nations; Catalunya-based businesses threatening (or actually) relocating in order to stay within Spain and the EU; and the messy referendum that resulted in over 90 percent voting for independence, but with turnout less than 50 percent.

One way or another, today will be an historic day, fateful, maybe tragic, maybe glorious… in retrospect.

Catalan News, ACN:

Catalan president could declare independence today

A crucial event may happen today in the Catalan Parliament. The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, will make a statement this afternoon at 6pm and independence could be declared. The Catalan president is supposed to explain how he plans to implement the results of the referendum. He has already said that the vote was binding, and 90% of the voters went for independence.

Exactly what he will say is not entirely clear. One possibility is that the Catalan president prepares a declaration of independence, but keeps the door open to mediation, as he suggested in recent days. Indeed, the outcome of the parliamentary session in the Catalan parliament could be a combination of independence and mediation.

ARA, Gerard Pruna:

The Government imposes news blackoot on the content of Puigdemont’s speech

(Government spokesman Jordi) Turull has warned that he would not give any details of the president’s speech, since it is Parliament where the president must unveil the details of his plan. “The government’s deliberations are secret,” the spokesman stressed, rejecting all questions about the contents of the president’s speech.

The same argument has been used to not answer the questions about how many offers of international mediation have been received by the Generalitat. All these aspects, he said, will be resolved by the president during his speech this afternoon.



We await news from Rodale regarding whether they have completed a deal with Hearst. But while we wait for that news we also await Q3 earnings from many publishers who must report to investors (neither Rodale nor Hearst have to meet that requirement).

Each quarter has seemed vitally important, though often the news gets muddled because there are so many things an executive can do to make their P&Ls look a bit better than they really might be. But, eventually, the piper must be paid, and the awful state of things revealed. This quarter might be that time for a number of publishers, especially those that have already signaled that they are looking to divest properties or make staff layoffs.

Another company that doesn’t have to reveal earnings is Condé Nast. What we learn about its performance is usually discovered in its actions: is it launching a new title, or laying off staff.

Hidden in a story about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, after the author tries to make it about politics, are a couple interesting paragraphs about Condé Nast. I think a good editor would have deleted them as irrelevant to the main point of the story, and lacking evidence, but… here they are.

The Weekly Standard, Lee Smith:

The Human Stain: Why the Harvey Weinstein Story Is Worse Than You Think

That’s why the story about Harvey Weinstein finally broke now. It’s because the media industry that once protected him has collapsed. The magazines that used to publish the stories Miramax optioned can’t afford to pay for the kind of reporting and storytelling that translates into screenplays. They’re broke because Facebook and Google have swallowed all the digital advertising money that was supposed to save the press as print advertising continued to tank.

Look at Vanity Fair, basically the in-house Miramax organ that Tina failed to make Talk: Condé Nast demanded massive staff cuts from Graydon Carter and he quit. He knows they’re going to turn his aspirational bible into a blog, a fate likely shared by most (if not all) of the Condé Nast books.

Si Newhouse, magazine publishing’s last Medici, died last week, and who knows what will happen to Condé now. There are no more journalists; there are just bloggers scrounging for the crumbs Silicon Valley leaves them. Who’s going to make a movie out of a Vox column?

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