The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.
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Appeals court rules for environmentalists in Delta water fight - An appeals court says federal officials should have consulted wildlife agencies about potential harm to a tiny, threatened fish before issuing contracts for water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday ruled that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in renewing 41 contracts a decade ago. The appeals court sent the case back to a trial judge for further proceedings.
The ruling arises from one of several lawsuits filed by environmentalists seeking to protect the Delta smelt. The ruling won’t affect water flows since protections for the smelt were kept in place during the lawsuit. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News
The IRS uses computers?! The horror! – Vintage 1960s era short film shows IRS defending its use of computers.
A Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation - Early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she had been raped by a stranger somewhere off campus after a night of drinking at a popular Tallahassee bar called Potbelly’s.
As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear.
For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football.
Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship. Read More > in The New York Times
Sticker shock at the steak house; beef prices highest in 27 years - Indeed, Hendee estimates his menu prices have risen roughly 20 percent in the last 18 months, as beef has hit its highest price in almost three decades.
A good steak hasn’t cost this much in America since Ronald Reagan was president. A dwindling number of cattle and growing export demand from countries such as China and Japan have caused the average retail cost of fresh beef to climb to $5.28 a pound in February, up almost a quarter from January and the highest price since 1987.
Everything that’s produced is being consumed, said Kevin Good, an analyst at CattleFax, a Colorado-based information group. And prices likely will stay high for a couple of years as cattle producers start to rebuild their herds amid big questions about whether the Southwest and parts of the Midwest will see enough rain to replenish pastures.
“Here’s the problem,” Hendee said. “From the time that a bull meets a cow in the pasture until I get a T-bone out of the deal is two full years. And the market is still reeling from the 2009 and 2011 drought.”
During the depths of the drought, Texas ranchers dumped their cattle into slaughterhouses. So for the past couple of years, fewer cows have given birth to fewer calves, interrupting what’s usually a steady supply of cattle. Read More > at KENS5
Prisons and Jails Are Main Source of CA’s Psychiatric Housing - Jails and prisons are the largest “mental institutions” in California, holding far more people with severe psychiatric illnesses than state hospitals, according to a report released last Tuesday by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association.
“For a state with 38 million people — 1 in every 8 Americans lives in California —there are almost no public psychiatric beds available for individuals with serious mental illness,” the report states.
There are a total of 4,652 beds at Metropolitan, Patton, Napa, and Atascadero state hospitals, but 88 percent of them are reserved for mentally ill individuals who have been charged with crimes, according to the report. Another state hospital at Coalinga, the report says, is used almost exclusively for sexually violent predators.
There are more than 33,000 mentally ill inmates in California’s major prisons, according to the Associated Press. That’s 28 percent of the 120,000 inmates in those prisons.
According to Tuesday’s report, 26 of California’s 58 counties have no psychiatric inpatient beds. Read More > at Public CEO
6 Social Media Mistakes That Will Kill Your Career - Just because you’re not posting drunken selfies doesn’t mean you’ve got this social networking thing down. There are a number of more subtle social media mistakes that could hurt your career. Here are six to avoid.
You might not recognize the name Kelly Blazek, but her story is one that’s probably familiar.
Blazek, the founder of the Cleveland Job Bank for marketing communications professionals, sent a scathing reply to recent graduate and job-seeker Diana Mekota, who contacted Blazek via LinkedIn to ask for advice on searching for a job and to connect via the professional networking site.
Blazek’s reply quickly went viral, and she’s become a prime example of what not to do on social media; the story is a cautionary tale about the ubiquitous nature of social media and the power of a viral story. But don’t assume you’re safe because you’re not spewing vitriol or posting drunken selfies — there are other, more subtle social media mistakes you might be making that could just as easily kill your career.
Mistake 1: Not Keeping Professional and Personal Separate
The lines between personal and professional get more and more blurred, and nowhere is this more apparent than on social media, says Chris Duchesne, vice president of Workplace Solutions at Care.com. It’s critical to keep all public interaction professional, regardless of which social media site you’re on, he says.
“It’s a good rule of thumb to never post anything you wouldn’t want a boss or prospective employer to see,” Duchesne says, and always assume that, no matter how strict your privacy settings are, that your post will be seen. Read More > at CIO
Fact or Fiction? People Swallow 8 Spiders a Year While They Sleep - Rod Crawford has heard plenty of firsthand accounts of spider-swilling slumberers. “Once or twice a year, someone tells me they once recovered a spider leg in their mouth,” says Crawford, the arachnid curator at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle.
Luckily for all of us, the “fact” that people swallow eight spiders in their sleep yearly isn’t true. Not even close. The myth flies in the face of both spider and human biology, which makes it highly unlikely that a spider would ever end up in your mouth.
Three or four spider species live in most North American homes, and they all tend to be found either tending their webs or hunting in nonhuman-infested areas. During their forays, they usually don’t intentionally crawl into a bed because it offers no prey (unless it has bed bugs, in which case that person has bigger problems). Spiders also have no interest in humans. “Spiders regard us much like they’d regard a big rock,” says Bill Shear, a biology professor at Hampden–Sydney College in Virginia and former president of the American Arachnological Society. “We’re so large that we’re really just part of the landscape,”
More than anything, spiders probably find sleeping humans terrifying. A slumbering person breathes, has a beating heart and perhaps snores—all of which create vibrations that warn spiders of danger. “Vibrations are a big slice of spiders’ sensory universe,” Crawford explains, “A sleeping person is not something a spider would willingly approach.” Read More > in Scientific American
Drakes Bay Oyster Co. takes fight to U.S. Supreme Court - The Drakes Bay Oyster Co. filed a petition Monday to take its fight to stay open to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., is seeking to have a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned by the high court.
“If this judgment is not overturned, government agencies will have the power to deny a permit to any individual or business for any reason, without judicial review,” Lunny said in a statement. “Citizens must have recourse in the face of an arbitrary and capricious decision.”
The appeal to the high court is the latest legal maneuver as the oyster farm attempts to remain open in the face of a federal government order to shut down.
The oyster operation could know as soon as October if the court will take the case, said Peter Prows, who is among the attorneys representing Lunny.
One reason the Supreme Court might want to hear the case is to resolve split rulings the U.S. court of appeals system has issued on interpretations of federal law. The splits in this case are on jurisdiction to review agency actions for abuse of discretion, applicability of the National Environmental Policy Act and prejudicial error under the Administrative Procedure Act, Prows said. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News
Bill seeks to ease California’s affordability housing crisis - Most Californians can’t afford their rent.
The state’s affordability crisis has worsened since the recession, as soaring home prices and rents outpace job and income growth. Meanwhile, government funds to combat the problem have evaporated.
Local redevelopment agencies once generated roughly $1 billion annually for below-market housing across California, but the roughly 400 agencies closed in 2012 to ease a state budget crisis. In addition, almost $5 billion from state below-market housing bonds, approved by voters last decade, is nearly gone.
A state bill seeks to replace some of those funds and create more than 10,000 low- and moderate-income homes annually through a $75 fee for recording real estate documents. But the proposal has drawn criticism from some in the real estate industry who say it unfairly saddles homeowners and businesses with added costs. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times
Attention Shoppers: Fruit and Vegetable Prices Are Rising - Grocery shoppers may soon need more green in their wallets to afford their next salad.
The cost of fresh produce is poised to jump in the coming months as a three-year drought in California shows few signs of abating, according to an Arizona State University study set to be released Wednesday.
The study found a head of lettuce could increase in price as much as 62 cents to $2.44; avocado prices could rise 35 cents to $1.60 each; and tomatoes could cost 45 cents more at $2.84 per pound. (The run-up in produce prices is in line with other projections showing that overall food cost gains are expected to accelerate this year.)
The latest projections were compiled by Timothy Richards, an agribusiness professor at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business. He studied the drought’s effect on farmland and consumer purchasing trends to determine the eight fresh fruits and vegetables likely to see the largest price increases this spring and summer.
And the price increases may already be happening. Grocery prices rose by 0.5% for the second-straight month in March, according to the Labor Department’s consumer-price index, released Tuesday. It was the largest two-month gain in the food-at-home category since 2011. Fruit and vegetable prices rose 0.9% last month, after a 1.1% gain in February. Meat and dairy prices are also increasing. Meanwhile, overall consumer prices rose just 0.2% last month, as broader inflation in the economy remains tepid.
California is the largest domestic producer of each of the products Mr. Richards identified, ranging from grapes to peppers. And in the case of avocados, it’s the only state with a significant crop. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
Study Links Casual Marijuana Use to Changes in Brain - Young people who occasionally smoke marijuana may be rewiring their brains, with their pot use causing structural changes to brain regions related to motivation, emotion and reward, a small study says.
Recreational pot use by a small group of young adults caused significant changes to the shape and density of both the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain involved in reward and addiction, and the amygdala, which helps process emotion and form long-term memories, the study authors reported.
These changes show that pot users’ brains adapt to even low-level marijuana exposure, potentially making a person more vulnerable to drug addiction or changing their thought processes and emotions in unknown ways, the researchers said.
Previous research had revealed similar changes in brain structure among heavy marijuana users. But this is the first study to show that even casual use of the drug can alter a person’s brain, said study lead author Jodi Gilman, a researcher with the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Medicine. Read More > at Health Day
StoreDot: Inside the nanotech that can charge your phone in 30 seconds - In offices in a dusty street near the Diamond Exchange building in Ramat Gan, something interesting is afoot: a company called StoreDot is working on battery technology that many mobile users will have been longing for for some time.
The basis of StoreDot’s work was discovered during a University of Tel Aviv research project into Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that a certain peptide molecule that ‘shortens’ neurons in the brain causing Alzheimer’s was also seeming to show high capacitance, thanks to an ability called ‘charge trapping’ — where electrons are effectively held in place.
According to Professor Gil Rosenman, who worked on the project and is now StoreDot’s chief scientist, two of these molecules can be used to create a viable crystal only two nanometers long. These crystals form the NanoDots at the heart of Storedot’s technology.
…In layman’s terms, StoreDot has created a ‘buffer’ that stores electrical current coming from the wall socket over a period of around thirty seconds, then letting it flow slowly into the lithium. Myersdorf says that eventually, the company plans to get rid of the lithium in the battery altogether.
Changing the chemical reactions occurring inside the battery should also improve battery life in long run — allowing thousands of charge cycles instead of hundreds today — while still keeping the same weight and form factor. Read More > at ZDNet
The Feud That’s Endangering Boxing - A hostile rivalry between two promotion companies is preventing some of the most intriguing potential matchups in boxing from happening—including Pacquiao vs. Mayweather.
The rift has several causes, including a dislike between Arum and De La Hoya. The two men have split up the boxing world. In the Top Rank corner: Tecate, HBO, Pacquiao and a solid stable of fighters. On the Golden Boy side: Corona, Showtime, Mayweather, and a solid stable of fighters. Unfortunately for boxing fans, the two promoters won’t allow their fighters to battle each other. The rival networks and beer makers have been forced to align themselves with the promoters, and the fighters are mostly powerless. The current situation allows the promoters to control their own fiefdom, and as a result, competition is less fierce.
But the Golden Boy-Top Rank rivalry isn’t only affecting how fights are made. Some fighters are actually running out of worthy opponents. For example, Golden Boy fighter Canelo Alvarez has already fought Mayweather. But he won’t be able to fight Pacquiao or Bradley, similarly elite boxers, because they are Top Rank Fighters. As the promotional rivalry goes on and becomes more bitter, more fighters will find their options—and their marketability—limited.
And, of course, this feud has implications for the two best fighters in the world, who are both welterweights. The undefeated Mayweather has gone through all of the best welterweights in the world, and Pacquiao is the painfully obvious choice as an opponent. They have never fought each other. They are both still near the top of their games. So it seems obvious that they should fight. The feud between their promotional firms ensures that they can’t, however—and that other promising matchups can’t happen, either. And this is actually hurting the sport. Read More > in The Atlantic
Glow-in-the-dark roads make debut in Netherlands - Light-absorbing glow-in-the-dark road markings have replaced streetlights on a 500m stretch of highway in the Netherlands.
Studio Roosegaarde promised us the design back in 2012, and after cutting through rather a lot of government red tape we can finally see the finished product.
Back in October 2012, Daan Roosegaarde, the studio’s founder and lead designer, told us: “One day I was sitting in my car in the Netherlands, and I was amazed by these roads we spend millions on but no one seems to care what they look like and how they behave. I started imagining this Route 66 of the future where technology jumps out of the computer screen and becomes part of us.”
Part of that vision included weather markings — snowdrops, for instance, would appear when the temperature reached a certain level. For now though, the 500m stretch of the N329 highway in Oss features only the glow-in-the-dark road markings, created using a photo-luminescent powder integrated into the road paint, developed in conjunction with road construction company Heijmans. Read More > in Wired
Small U.S. Colleges Battle Death Spiral as Enrollment Drops - Dowling, which got a failing grade for its financial resources from accreditors last month, epitomizes the growing plight of many small private colleges that depend almost entirely on tuition for revenue. It’s been five years since the recession ended and yet their finances are worsening. Soaring student debt, competition from online programs and poor job prospects for graduates are shrinking their applicant pools.
“What we’re concerned about is the death spiral — this continuing downward momentum for some institutions,” said Susan Fitzgerald, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service in New York. “We will see more closures than in the past.”
Moody’s, which rates more than 500 public and private nonprofit colleges and universities, downgraded an average of 28 institutions annually in the five years through 2013, more than double the average of 12 in the prior five-year period.
Dozens of schools have seen drops of more than 10 percent in enrollment, according to Moody’s. As faculty and staff have been cut and programs closed, some students have faced a choice between transferring or finishing degrees that may have diminished value.
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years. The growing acceptance of online learning means higher education is ripe for technological upheaval, he has said. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance
Antioch Council grapples with budget, how to spend Measure C funds - The Antioch City Council conducted a study session at their regular meeting on Tuesday, April 8th, regarding the city budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year and beyond. The tone of the meeting was set early on by City Manager Steve Duran.
“The thing we want to focus on tonight…is…making hard decisions about the structural deficit that we’re running,” he said.
He also stated that the city was going to run out of money in just a few years if steps weren’t taken to both increase revenues and decrease the rate of spending.
“Before Measure C we were going about 100 mph toward a wall that said economic destruction, and Measure C slowed us down to about 80 [mph],” Duran added.
Following Duran’s comments, Finance Director Dawn Merchant, gave a budget presentation. In the staff report which she provided to the Council, it states that reserves will be, “fully depleted in 2019-20.” She went on to answer questions the Council had asked at their previous session. She informed them that not continuing to fund library maintenance would, according to library personnel, possibly result in a reduction in hours from the current 35 per week at the downtown library. Read More > in the Antioch Herald
Kawakami: 49ers must lay down the law right now - First, sports franchises aren’t ever going to be fully stocked with angels; team executives are trying to win games and they make most of their choices based on gathering as many players who can help them win as possible, within reason.
The 49ers didn’t build Levi’s Stadium because fans and sponsors loved their character, they built it because people want to see exciting and successful football.
The issue here is how lenient the 49ers have been and how far this can go before the franchise loses much of its direction and dignity.
Second, we don’t yet know what exactly happened with Smith at LAX on Sunday or what the legal repercussions might be. It would be grossly unfair to presume only the worst, though some may accuse me of doing exactly that right now.
But I’m not making assumptions about Smith in this or any instance; I’m just talking about the accumulation of legal miseries that can erode much of what a team wants to say and believe about itself. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News
1 in 68 Children Now Has a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why? – Rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are not creeping up so much as leaping up. New numbers just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that one in 68 children now has a diagnosis of ASD—a 30 percent increase in just two years. In 2002, about one in 150 children was considered autistic and in 1991 the figure was one in 500.
The staggering increase in cases of ASD should raise more suspicion in the medical community about its misdiagnosis and overdiagnosis than it does. Promoting early screening for autism is imperative. But, is it possible that the younger in age a child is when professionals screen for ASD—especially its milder cases—the greater the risk that a slow-to-mature child will be misperceived as autistic, thus driving the numbers up?
The science stacks up in favor of catching and treating ASD earlier because it leads to better outcomes. Dr. Laura Schreibman, who directs the Autism Intervention Research Program at the University of California, San Diego embodies the perspective of most experts when she says, “Psychologists need to advise parents that the ‘wait-and-see’ approach is not appropriate when ASD is expected. Delaying a diagnosis can mean giving up significant gains of intervention that have been demonstrated before age six.” Read More > in The Atlantic
It’s not just athletes — college screws everyone - In its recent ruling that athletes at Northwestern University have the right to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board cited the case of senior quarterback Kain Colter, who naively thought that he could pursue a pre-med degree while also playing on the school’s football team.
When he attempted to enroll in a required chemistry class during his sophomore year, “Colter testified that his coaches and advisors discouraged him from taking the class because it conflicted with morning football practices. Colter consequently had to take this class in the summer session, which caused him to fall behind his classmates who were pursuing the same pre-med major. Ultimately he decided to switch his major to psychology which he believed to be less demanding.”
In other words, despite the fact that Division I athletes are making oodles of money for their schools, their interests are not being served by coaches or administrators. Athletes’ academics and future career prospects are being sacrificed for a few more points on the field.
But athletes are not alone. Regular students are also contributing to the university’s bottom line through tuition payments and the spigot of federal financial aid — yet their interests are not being served, either.
In exchange for their eye-popping tuition checks, students are getting a dizzying array of pointless classes that don’t prepare them for the real world. Colleges have gotten more and more esoteric in what they teach, more specialized to the point of being useless to anything but . . . academia. Read More > in the New York Post
Walgreens urged to leave US to gain tax benefit - Walgreens has come under pressure from an influential group of its shareholders, who want the US pharmacy chain to consider relocating to Europe, in what would be one of the largest tax inversions ever attempted.
At a private meeting in Paris on Friday, investors owning close to 5 per cent of Walgreens’ shares lobbied the company’s management to use its $16bn takeover of Swiss-based Alliance Boots to re-domicile its tax base.
The move, known as an inversion, would dramatically reduce Walgreens’ taxable income in the US, which has among the highest corporate tax rates in the world.
The investor group, which included Goldman Sachs Investment Partners and hedge funds Jana Partners, Corvex and Och-Ziff, requested the meeting after becoming frustrated by Walgreens’ refusal to consider relocating, according to people familiar with the matter. Read More > in The Financial Times
This Is the End of Facebook as We Know It - Facebook, the company that makes billions from connecting people to each other, is about to make it harder to have a conversation. In the coming weeks, Facebook’s mobile app will be losing its chat feature, a move that will no doubt annoy many regular users. But the gutting likely won’t end there. According to many Facebook watchers, the end of chat is just the first cut in what could eventually lead to the end of Facebook as a single, unified app altogether.
Facebook notified users and confirmed to the press yesterday that instant messaging functionality will be disappearing from its iOS and Android apps in the coming weeks. If users want to keep chatting, they’ll have to download Facebook’s separate Messenger app. It’s one thing to roll out specialized apps like Messenger, Paper, and Camera as optional alternatives for using Facebook, but quite another to force the issue and risk a real sacrifice in user engagement. Some people will upgrade to the Messenger app right away; many others will not. The net result, at least in the short-term, will be fewer people to chat with. Why would Facebook make that kind of sacrifice?
The resounding consensus among the Facebook experts I talked to is that the company is finally making the jump to thinking and acting like an app maker, a software company the keeps functionality narrow and targeted. While users may grow attached to services that work the way they’re used to, like the full-featured Facebook app, the growing Silicon Valley consensus is that people really want a more bite-sized future.
“In mobile we see simple, clear, snackable experiences winning,” says Matt Murphy, who manages the app-focused iFund at venture capital shop Kleiner Perkins. “When you introduce complexity, it can dilute the overall experience.” Read More > at Wired
It Doesn’t Matter Where You Go to College - It just matters that you go.
This month, high school seniors across America are receiving college decision letters of acceptance and rejection. Many of these students, and their parents, will think that where they go to college will significantly affect their employment future.
They think wrong. Today, whether you go to college retains some importance in your employment options. But where you go to college is of almost no importance. Whether your degree, for example, is from UCLA or from less prestigious Sonoma State matters far less than your academic performance and the skills you can show employers.
Research on the impact of college selection has focused on comparing the earnings of graduates of different colleges. In 1999, economists Alan Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale published a widely-read study that compared the earnings of graduates of elite colleges with those of “moderately selective” schools. The latter group was composed of persons who had been admitted to an elite college but chose to attend another school.
The economists found that the earnings of the two groups 20 years after graduation differed little or not at all. In a larger follow up study, released in 2011 and covering 19,000 college graduates, the economists reached a similar conclusion: Whether you went to University of Penn or Penn State, Williams College or Miami University of Ohio, job outcomes were unaffected in terms of earnings. Read More > in TIME
Hollywood-Style Police Surveillance Technology Inches Closer to Reality - When sheriff’s deputies here noticed a burst of necklace snatchings from women walking through town, they turned to an unlikely source to help solve the crimes: a retired Air Force veteran named Ross McNutt.
McNutt and his Ohio-based company, Persistent Surveillance Systems, persuaded the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to use his surveillance technology to monitor Compton’s streets from the air and track suspects from the moment the snatching occurred.
The system, known as wide-area surveillance, is something of a time machine – the entire city is filmed and recorded in real time. Imagine Google Earth with a rewind button and the ability to play back the movement of cars and people as they scurry about the city.
“We literally watched all of Compton during the time that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,” McNutt said. “Our goal was to basically jump to where reported crimes occurred and see what information we could generate that would help investigators solve the crimes.” Read More > at Public CEO