CALIFORNIA: Aftershock: The latest catastrophe in a string of disasters rocks the state to the core, forcing Californians to ponder their fate and the fading luster of its golden dream

Lisbon in 1755 was the Los Angeles of its day, a great city made rich by trade, a capital of the world. But it was a decaying place, ruled by a King who sired bastard sons by comely nuns until he lost his mind. The wealthy traveled in sedan chairs during the day but rarely ventured out at night. Those who did wore long capes to hide their illegal weapons.

It was about 9:30 on All Saints Day when the streets began to heave and toss, darkening the city under a cloud of dust raised from collapsing buildings. Church bells clanged...

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