Sunday Reading – 11/03/13


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.

For some Wiccans, Halloween can be a real witch - Like lots of people, when October 31 rolls around, Trey Capnerhurst dons a pointy hat and doles out candy to children who darken the door of her cottage in Alberta.

But she’s not celebrating Halloween. In fact, she kind of hates it.

Capnerhurst says she’s a real, flesh-and-blood witch, and Halloween stereotypes of witches as broom-riding hags drive her a bit batty.

“Witches are not fictional creatures,” the 45-year-old wrote in a recent article on WitchVox.com.

“We are not werewolves or Frankenstein monsters. We do not have green skin, and only some of us have warts.”

Warts or not, many witches say they have mixed feelings about Halloween.

Some look forward to the day when witchcraft is front and center and no one looks askance at big black hats. Others complain that the holiday reinforces negative stereotypes of witches as evil outliers who boil children in black cauldrons. Read More > at CNN

Hayward May Starve Free Food-Sharing Programs With Costly Regulations - The owner of a Japanese restaurant near Hayward’s Portuguese Park says homeless people visiting the block stone-floored monument near ‘C’ Street for small-scale food-sharing handouts spit on his windows, rummage through his garbage dumpster and defecate in his parking lot.

But, a controversial plan to regulate the practice of small vendors serving the city’s homeless at city parks will not do anything to shore up the problem of unruly behavior and litter at the events, opponents say, only make it more difficult for the poor to be feed and private groups to afford the additional costs of their charity.

“The city’s proposed ordinance seems to be misdirected overkill aimed at charitable meal providers and not fairly related to the problem of street waste,” says Dr. Sherman Lewis, a well-known planning advocate in Hayward and professor at Cal State East Bay. “Giving food to poor people is not a behavior that needs to be so heavily regulated.” Read More > at Public CEO

FAA Finally Lifts Epically Dumb Ban on Mobile Device Use on Planes - Our long national nightmare is over. The Federal Aviation Administration has finally seen the error of its ways and will permit airlines to allow passengers to use electronic devices during takeoff and landing. Because, no, playing Dots isn’t going to bring down Boeing’s latest high-tech airliner.

The ban on mobile devices has been in effect since the early 1990s, when cellphones began to crop up, and the FAA and airlines summarily freaked the hell out for no good reason. Despite no direct evidence that the use of mobile phones or other electronic devices would interfere with the plane’s systems, the ban continued — even after the FAA hired an outside safety agency to find if anything could go wrong. They didn’t. But the FAA and airlines decided to continue the policy. Until today.

The FAA’s announcement requires airlines to prove that electronic devices are safe to use on their planes from gate to gate, and the agency expects all carriers to get the thumbs-up from the Feds by the end of the year. Read More > in Wired

Goodbye, $100 oil. Hello, $3 gasoline! – Crude-oil stockpiles in the U.S. are heading toward a record, pushing off a return to $100-a-barrel oil, and giving drivers a shot at $3-a-gallon gasoline.

“With the overhang of crude supplies building over six weeks, we are unlikely to see $100 oil again very soon,” said Kevin Kerr, president of Kerr Trading International. “This is good news for refiners and ultimately consumers” as it should depress gasoline prices at the pump.

U.S. weekly crude supplies have jumped nearly 8% since mid-September, according to figures from the Energy Information Administration. Read More > at Market Watch

Lawmakers distance themselves from Calderon - California legislators scrambled Thursday to distance themselves from allegations of bribery and corruption against Democratic Sen. Ronald Calderon of Montebello, a day after details of a federal probe of his activities aired on a television network.

The Capitol was roiling over comments attributed to Calderon in a report by the Al Jazeera cable network, based on what it identified as a sealed FBI affidavit, that he had enlisted other lawmakers to help him influence policy. In exchange, the affidavit alleges, the senator accepted $88,000.

On Thursday, the FBI said it has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the leak of the sealed document.

Meanwhile, Democrats whose names surfaced in the affidavit wasted no time defending themselves. Senate leader Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and Sens. Ted Lieu of Torrance and Kevin de León of Los Angeles issued statements denying that they did anything wrong. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

13 Nutrition Lies That Made The World Sick And Fat - Nutrition is full of all kinds of nonsense. The worst examples are listed here, but unfortunately this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Here are the top 13 nutrition lies that have made the world both sick and fat.

1. Eggs Are Bad For Your Health

Eggs are so incredibly nutritious that they’re often called “nature’s multivitamin.”

2. A Calorie is a Calorie

It is often said that the only thing that matters for weight loss is “calories in, calories out.”

The truth is that calories matter… but the types of foods we eat are just as important.

3. Saturated Fat is Unhealthy

For many decades, people have believed that eating saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease.

In fact, this idea has been the cornerstone of mainstream nutrition recommendations.

However, studies published in the past few decades prove that saturated fat is completely harmless.

A massive study published in 2010 looked at data from a total of 21 studies that included 347,747 individuals. They found absolutely no association between saturated fat consumption and the risk of heart disease.

7. Meat is Bad For You

Blaming new health problems on old foods has never made sense to me.

One example of that is meat… which humans have been eating throughout evolution, for millions of years.

For some very strange reason, many people are now blaming meat for diseases like heart disease and type II diabetes, which are relatively new. Read More > at Authority Nutrition

San Jose Case Could Change the Way Cities, Counties Adopt and Enforce Affordable Housing Ordinances - The California Supreme Court in September agreed to hear the California Building Industry Association’s challenge to San Jose’s inclusionary housing ordinance. The city’s ordinance requires developers proposing 20 or more residential units to set aside 15 percent of those units as affordable. The ordinance provides two alternatives to this set-aside requirement: Developers can construct the affordable units at another site, or pay a fee into the city’s affordable housing fund.

San Jose’s ordinance is not new or novel. In fact, many cities and counties across California have adopted these so-called inclusionary housing ordinances in response to ongoing pressure from Sacramento requiring local government to do anything and everything to aid in the development of affordable housing. Thus far, cities and counties have primarily adopted these ordinances through their traditional zoning authority, and that’s where the trouble starts.

Many developers loath these requirements, and the development community as a whole has brought various legal challenges against them. In the San Jose case, in particular, the Building Industry Association, or BIA as it is widely known, is alleging these inclusionary housing requirements are not an exercise of the city’s traditional zoning authority. Instead, the BIA believes these requirements are exactions, which are typically lodged against developers to mitigate an anticipated negative impact of a development.

Why does this distinction matter? It matters because it can drastically affect how cities and counties adopt and enforce these ordinances. It also matters because this is the first time the California Supreme Court has agreed to weigh in on the issue of whether inclusionary housing requirements, as a whole, are exactions. If the state’s highest court sides with developers and determines the requirements are exactions, cities and counties will need to meet a more rigorous constitutional standard in order to adopt and enforce them. Read More > at Public CEO

Of Gods and Cubicles: Religion, the Office and the Law - An evangelical Christian opposes biometric hand-scanning at his mine where he works, citing a Bible passage about hand marks given by the antichrist; two Muslim truck drivers objects to delivering alcohol. What do these people have in common?

They filed recent religious-discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, part of a rising tide of such grievances over the last several years, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday

The EEOC received 3,811 religion-based complaints, known as charges, in fiscal 2012, the second-highest level ever and just below the record of 4,151 in 2011.

These charges are still far below those for sex- and race-based discrimination, which were each the subjects of more than 30,000 complaints 2012, but the increasing numbers suggest that issues of religion in the workplace are becoming more fraught and complex. Experts cite immigration, more frank conversations about faith and spirituality and growing assertiveness among workers as reasons for the number of complaints.

The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, a secular group in New York, recently released a national survey of 2,000 workers in which about a third reported witnessing religious bias at work. Even many Christians — the nation’s majority religious group — believe discrimination against them is a serious problem. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Fixing California: The Green Gentry’s Class Warfare - Primarily, this modern-day program of class warfare is carried out under the banner of green politics. The environmental movement has always been primarily dominated by the wealthy, and overwhelmingly white, donors and activists. But in the past, early progressives focused on such useful things as public parks and open space that enhance the lives of the middle and working classes. Today, green politics seem to be focused primarily on making life worse for these same people.

…The green gentry today often refer not to sentiment but science — notably climate change — to advance their agenda. But their effect on the lower orders is much the same. Particularly damaging are steps to impose mandates for renewable energy that have made electricity prices in California among the highest in the nation and others that make building the single-family housing preferred by most Californians either impossible or, anywhere remotely close to the coast, absurdly expensive.

The gentry, of course, care little about artificially inflated housing prices in large part because they already own theirs — often the very large type they wish to curtail. But the story is less sanguine for minorities and the poor, who now must compete for space with middle-class families traditionally able to buy homes. Renters are particularly hard hit; according to one recent study, 39 percent of working households in the Los Angeles metropolitan area spend more than half their income on housing, as do 35 percent in the San Francisco metro area — well above the national rate of 24 percent.

Similarly, high energy prices may not be much of a problem for the affluent gentry most heavily concentrated along the coast, where a temperate climate reduces the need for air-conditioning. In contrast, most working- and middle-class Californians who live further inland, where summers can often be extremely hot, and often dread their monthly energy bills. Read More > in New Geography

U.S. threatens to take $3.52 billion from California schools in testing dispute - Reinforcing its threat to punish California for dumping its old standardized state tests next spring, the U.S. Department of Education said that decision could cost the state at least $3.5 billion.

The state could lose $15 million it receives to administer a federal program for poor children, known as Title I. More critically, a letter sent Tuesday by Deborah S. Delisle, an assistant secretary of education, hinted California risks significantly more money from other federal initiatives, for the lowest-performing schools, English-language learners, disabled students, rural schools, migrant children and teacher training. Those totaled about $3.5 billion last school year.

The dispute between state and federal education officials boils down to whether students need to take standardized tests in English and math every year, and whether the public should be able to see those results. Federal officials say the law requires that, but California believes that’s unreasonable. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News

Some Basic Weed Warnings - It’s a proven fact: You can’t overdose by smoking marijuana. But new research suggests that pot might be harmful for people with damaged hearts.

That’s just one takeaway from a slew of studies released by the San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In addition, a review of recent forensic toxicology conference proceedings and an interview with Nikolas Lemos, chief forensic toxicologist and lab director in San Francisco, suggest that marijuana will one day come with basic warning labels like: “People with heart problems should check with their doctor before using pot”; “don’t combine with alcohol”; and “may cause drowsiness and impair judgment.”

…The Office of the Medical Examiner also deals with the aftermath of San Francisco’s vehicular collisions and Lemos emphasized that cannabis should not be combined with alcohol, as the two substances multiply each other’s effects.

National Highway Traffic Safety Association research in The Netherlands showed that people with a blood alcohol content of 0.04 percent acted like they had 0.09 percent when given a low dose of cannabis. A high dose of pot turned drivers with 0.04 percent blood alcohol into the sloshed equivalent of someone with a 0.14. Read More > in the East Bay Express

A Great Global Wine Shortage Is Here—and It May Only Get Worse – It isn’t only France that’s suffering from a dearth of wine—it’s the entire world, says a report released on Monday (Oct. 28) by Morgan Stanley Research.

And the shortage is only getting worse.

Last year, global supply for wine already barely exceeded demand. Adjusting the demand to include non-wine uses (such as making vermouth), there was actually an undersupply of about 300 million cases, marking the largest such shortfall in almost 50 years.

At the current pace, a global shortage of wine is fast approaching. “Data suggests there may be insufficient supply to meet demand in coming years, as current vintages are released,” the report says.

The problem is something of a two-headed monster.

Global wine consumption has been on the rise almost without interruption (save for a short stint between 2008 and 2009) since the late 1990s. Read More > in The Atlantic

California reservoirs in dire need of a wet winter - Gone is the healthy water storage that floated California through two dry years. Major reservoirs around the state need gully-washing storms this winter.

“Whatever the storms bring this winter, that’s what we will have to cope with next summer,” said Steve Haugen, watermaster at the Kings River Water Association, which closely monitors Pine Flat Reservoir.

Northern reservoirs face similar challenges, though water storage is not as low as Pine Flat. Shasta, Oroville, Trinity, New Melones, Don Pedro and Exchequer are hovering at one-third to one-half of capacity, far lower than average for late October.

Dwindling reservoirs should be a wake-up call to Californians, said Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources. The state has not declared a drought, but now is the time to prepare additional water-conservation ideas for next year.Read More > in the Fresno Bee

City Council to Vote on Raising Cigarette Purchase Age - In the latest move to snuff out smoking in New York, the City Council could vote Wednesday to bar anyone under the age of 21 from buying cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

Under federal law, no one under 18 can buy tobacco anywhere in the country, but some states and localities have raised it to 19.

Public health advocates say a higher minimum age discourages, or at least delays, young people from starting smoking and thereby limits their health risks. But opponents of such measures have said 18-year-olds, legally considered adults, should be able to make their own decisions about whether or not to smoke.

Some communities, including Needham, Mass., have raised the minimum age to 21, but New York would be the biggest city to do so. Read More > at NBC New York

‘Aftermath’ Dares to Unearth Terrible Secrets of Poland’s Lost Jews - On July 10, 1941, half the residents of Jedwabne, a Polish village 85 miles northeast of Warsaw, murdered the other half. The mob, led by the mayor, were Catholics; their 1,600 victims were Jewish, slaughtered over several nightmarish hours with bats, knives, rifles and other improvised weapons. Those who survived the massacre were then rounded up in a barn donated by a local farmer, which was then set ablaze. A plaque erected at the site blamed Nazis for the massacre, but, in fact, Nazis had only authorized it. Locals walked by the plaque for half a century, knowing the truth, but saying nothing.

Jedwabne’s terrible secrets were at last laid bare in Neighbors, an explosive account of the massacre by Princeton University historian Jan T. Gross. That 2001 book shattered carefully held myths, promulgated by Communist leaders, that Poles were only victims of World War II, not perpetrators. (Poles — who unlike many European countries never officially collaborated with the Nazis — lost close to 6 million citizens to the Nazis, or about 17 percent of the population. Just over half of those were Jewish.) Now, 12 years later, comes Aftermath — premiering stateside Nov. 1.

It’s a film inspired by Jedwabne that has forced the country to once again face certain unthinkable aspects of its past. Since its October 2012 premiere at the Warsaw Film Festival, the movie has been a lightning rod. Major news outlets have dismissed it as anti-Polish propaganda, its non-Jewish star Maciej Stuhr has been the target of vicious anti-Semitic attacks, and its producer says he has been blacklisted by the country’s national film council. Read More > in The Hollywood Reporter

Data Shows Google’s Robot Cars Are Smoother, Safer Drivers Than You or I – Data gathered from Google’s self-driving Prius and Lexus cars shows that they are safer and smoother when steering themselves than when a human takes the wheel, according to the leader of Google’s autonomous-car project.

Chris Urmson made those claims today at a robotics conference in Santa Clara, California. He presented results from two studies of data from the hundreds of thousands of miles Google’s vehicles have logged on public roads in California and Nevada.

One of those analyses showed that when a human was behind the wheel, Google’s cars accelerated and braked significantly more sharply than they did when piloting themselves. Another showed that the cars’ software was much better at maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead than the human drivers were.

“We’re spending less time in near-collision states,” said Urmson. “Our car is driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.”

In addition to painting a rosy picture of his vehicles’ autonomous capabilities, Urmson showed a new dashboard display that his group has developed to help people understand what an autonomous car is doing and when they might want to take over. “Inside the car we’ve gone out of our way to make the human factors work,” he said. Read More > at MIT Technology Reveiw

California public agencies gamble – and lose – on pension bonds - Desperate to cover a $40 million shortfall in its pension fund for retired police officers and firefighters, the city of Richmond turned to an exotic loan.

But instead of tightening spending after it issued the $36 million pension obligation bond in 1999, city leaders increased the retirees’ pensions.

Today, Richmond still owes more than $12 million on the bond, plus about $5 million in interest, and its pension fund remains roughly $12.5 million short. To narrow that gap and cover the debt, the city is dipping into proceeds from a supplemental property tax on residents and businesses.

The city’s fiscal approach has residents like Joe Bako scratching their heads. “When you’re short on funds, you don’t start spending more,” said Bako, 33.

Some public officials and investment bankers have portrayed pension obligation bonds as a good way to shore up pension funds. The proceeds can be invested in the stock market, reaping returns potentially higher than the bonds’ interest rate.

But that gamble is not panning out so far for at least five pension obligation bonds issued by California public agencies between 1999 and January, an analysis by The Center for Investigative Reporting has found. Read More > at My Desert

Wells Fargo warns of looming retirement crisis - There’s a major crisis building as baby boomers envision golden years that shine the way their parents’ did. One big problem: They don’t have the financial resources or huge generational cohort behind them to support their retirement dreams.

In my opinion, the situation quickly slips into a vicious cycle as real estate, stocks and other assets fall in value as boomers cut back on their spending to either save for retirement or stretch their retirement income. Don’t expect to hear that premise from those in the business of selling stocks and real estate, however.

The latest figures from Wells Fargo paint a bleak picture indeed. The San Francisco bank finds that 37 percent of middle-class respondents say, “I’ll never retire, but work until I’m too sick or die.” And 42 percent say they can’t pay today’s bills and save for retirement. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

The Baseball Experts Got It Wrong - ESPN bills itself as “the worldwide leader in sports,” and it’s a rare media success story these days, flush enough with cash to hire Nate Silver away from The New York Times. Back in March, the ESPN web site published the predictions of 43 baseball “experts” on the 2013 season. The experts included some former players such as Nomar Garciaparra and Curt Schilling, along with longtime baseball journalists such as Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian.

Not a single one of ESPN’s 43 predictions had either the Red Sox or the Cardinals in the World Series.

Sports Illustrated magazine, home of the world-famous swimsuit issue, offered its own team of seven experts, with their own predictions. “SI.com’s baseball experts fill you in on everything you need to get ready for 2013,” the magazine promised. Alas, not a single one of Sports Illustrated’s seven “baseball experts” picked either the Red Sox or the Cardinals to make it to the World Series.

The Baseball America Web site has its own team of ten editors, with their own predictions. Not a single one of them picked the Red Sox to go to the World Series, and only one of them, Jim Callis, called the Cardinals.

So, of the 60 baseball “experts” in total, not a single one of them picked the Red Sox to win the American League pennant. Only one of the 60 picked the Cardinals to win the National League pennant. Read More > at Reason

Hollywood looks to the Bible for screenplay potential - Studios and filmmakers are rediscovering a classic text as source material for upcoming mainstream films: the Bible.

Nearly 10 years after the blockbuster success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which earned $611.9 million worldwide, studios are looking to the Good Book for good material.

Future films include:

  • LD Entertainment is financially backing ”Resurrection,” a drama set immediately after Jesus’ death and directed by “Hatfields & McCoys” director Kevin Reynolds.
  • Paramount will release “Noah,” a $125 million adaptation starring Russell Crowe in 2014.
  • 20th Century Fox is developing “Exodus,” a Moses film starring Christian Bale.
  • Warner Bros. has another Moses-themed film titled “Gods And Kings,” which Steven Spielberg flirted with directing.
  • Warner Bros. also is working on a film on Pontius Pilate, rumored to possibly include Brad Pitt.
  • Sony is producing Will Smith’s “The Redemption of Cain,” on the sibling rivalry of Cain and Abel.
  • Lionsgate has been developing “Mary Mother of Christ,” described as “a prequel to ‘The Passion of the Christ”’ and rumored to include Ben Kingsley.

Alongside the string of upcoming Bible-related films, producers from the History channel’s “The Bible” miniseries just announced that the series’ film adaptation “Son of God” will be released in theaters nationwide in February with 20th Century Fox. Read More > at Religion News Service

Olympic countdown: Tough sledding for Sochi organizers - Security is among the most pressing concerns for organizers, who have faced questions about Russia’s law banning gay “propaganda,” passed in June, and the city’s ability to host thousands of visitors in an area where venues, hotels and transportation infrastructure are being built from scratch. Sochi’s budget of $50 billion for the Games will make it the most expensive in history.

Construction cranes loom over half-finished high-rise hotels; workers are laboring through the night on unfinished road and landscape projects; commuter traffic routinely chokes the narrow coastal roads that lead to the Olympic Park and mountain venues.

Then there is the question of weather. Balmy conditions, from the rocky beaches to the Rosa Khutor Alpine ski venues, recently had visitors shedding their jackets for shirt sleeves.

While there is snow on the highest elevations of the western slopes of the Caucasus range, there wasn’t a flake to be found at the Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Center. Read More > at USA Today

Hopkins otherworldly in decision win - Light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins, known for fighting at a measured paced and usually being in — let’s be honest — boring fights, was forced into a bit of a brawl with mandatory challenger Karo Murat. And at age 48, Hopkins was more than up to the task.

…Hopkins, of Philadelphia, was making the first defense of the belt he won in March by easily outboxing Tavoris Cloud to become the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title.

It was the second time that the ageless Hopkins had broken that record. He also did it in 2011, at age 46, when he traveled to then-light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal’s turf in Montreal for a rematch of a controversial draw and outpointed him to break heavyweight legend George Foreman’s record.

In beating Murat, Hopkins added to his historic legacy by becoming the oldest fighter to defend a world title, winning easily on the scorecards, 119-108, 119-108 and 117-110. ESPN.com also had Hopkins winning, 116-111. Read More > at ESPN

What Is the Exactly Perfect Time to Drink Your Coffee? – Most people drink coffee first thing in the morning. But is that the right way to do it? If you’ve ever had coffee and felt like it didn’t work, you’ve run into the field of chronopharmacology—the study of how medications and drugs interact with your biology.

When it comes to coffee, the main piece of biology to consider is your body’s level of cortisol—a hormone related to stress and alertness. The more cortisol in your body, the more naturally alert you are, explains Steven Miller at NeuroscienceDC. The more alert you are, the less effective coffee is going to be. So you should really time your caffeine doses with your dips in cortisol, Miller says:

Although your cortisol levels peak between 8 and 9 AM, there are a few other times where–on average–blood levels peak again and are between noon to 1 PM, and between 5:30 to 6:30 PM. In the morning then, your coffee will probably be the most effective if you enjoy it between 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM, when your cortisol levels are dropping before the next spike. Read More > in the Smithsonian

Brown Seeks Supreme Court Permission to Send Inmates out of State - As Brown’s Supreme Court mandated deadline for reducing overcrowding approaches, he is back at the US Supreme Court’s doorstep, asking for permission to send thousands of California inmates to out of state private prisons. Governor Brown told federal judges that he is beginning the process of appealing their decision to block him from leasing the new beds while his administration and inmate lawyers work out longer-term solutions to California’s growing overcrowding problems.

Governor Brown also recently asked for a three year extension on his deadline for reducing overcrowding, but in February, Supreme Court Judges only gave him a two-month extension.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) spoke out in opposition of sending inmates to private prisons, calling it a waste of taxpayer funds, and saying that it fails to address the true root of the overcrowding population in favor of shuffling inmates to other prisons on the taxpayer’s dime. Read More > at California County News

Amazon Stock May Be Up, but the Company Still Doesn’t Make Any Money - Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos, its founder and chief executive officer, are having a moment. They are the subject of a new, admiring bestselling book, The Everything Store, by Brad Stone. Bezos just plunked down $250 million to buy The Washington Post. The buoyant stock, up 64 percent in the past year, got a nice jolt on Friday as investors were enthused about its third-quarter results: revenues were up 24 percent from a year ago, and Amazon issued a positive forecast for the Christmas season. The company is killing it in books and retailing goods, has a rapidly growing cloud storage and computing business, and is getting into original content and devices. It sports an impressive market capitalization of about $166 billion.

And yet.

The company, first founded in 1994, still doesn’t make any money. In the third quarter, it reported a $41 million net loss.

Historically speaking, it is rare for a company to be in hypergrowth mode when it is nearly 20 years old and has annual sales of about $65 billion. That’s why investors love Amazon. But historically speaking, it’s also very rare for a company that has been around for 20 years—large or small—not to make money, to run on margins so thin that they can easily be eaten up by interest cost, or capital expenditures, or the loss of value in an investment like Living Social. (Amazon.com had to write down its investment in the daily deal company by $169 million in the most recent quarter.) Read More > at The Daily Beast

Why the Future of Starbucks Is in Tea - In 1987 Starbucks had a mere 17 stores. The business was one of the earliest coffee shop chains, and it was testing new waters. As it turned out, the water was just about the perfect temperature. Now, Starbucks operates more than 17,650 locations across the globe, and its brand is universally recognized. In the beginning, CEO Howard Schultz had to bet on the future of coffee and convince customers that paying real money for real coffee was something worth doing. Yesterday, Schultz and Starbucks made the same leap of faith with tea.

While Starbucks has long served tea, the company took its relationship with the dried leaves to a new level last year when it purchased Teavana for $620 million. That brand is now the face of Starbucks’ first stand-alone tea bar, located in New York City. Teavana is also going to be used as a rebranding for Starbucks’ other tea brand, Tazo.

The drive to revolutionize tea consumption is based in Schultz’s belief that Starbucks can take a huge share in a relatively untapped market. The company has forecast the global tea category at more than $40 billion, while other observers have pushed that even higher.

The Teavana concept isn’t meant to simply be a Starbucks spinoff, either. The stores are much more minimal in appearance, no coffee is served, and the locations will focus more on selling bagged products for home consumption. Read More > at The Motley Fool

Science has lost its way, at a big cost to humanity - In today’s world, brimful as it is with opinion and falsehoods masquerading as facts, you’d think the one place you can depend on for verifiable facts is science.

You’d be wrong. Many billions of dollars’ worth of wrong.

A few years ago, scientists at the Thousand Oaks biotech firm Amgen set out to double-check the results of 53 landmark papers in their fields of cancer research and blood biology.

The idea was to make sure that research on which Amgen was spending millions of development dollars still held up. They figured that a few of the studies would fail the test — that the original results couldn’t be reproduced because the findings were especially novel or described fresh therapeutic approaches.

But what they found was startling: Of the 53 landmark papers, only six could be proved valid.

…Eisen says the more important flaw in the publication model is that the drive to land a paper in a top journal — Nature and Science lead the list — encourages researchers to hype their results, especially in the life sciences. Peer review, in which a paper is checked out by eminent scientists before publication, isn’t a safeguard. Eisen says the unpaid reviewers seldom have the time or inclination to examine a study enough to unearth errors or flaws. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

San Jose halts student car washes unless rules about discharge into storm drains are met - Don’t expect to see teens standing on corners waving signs at motorists encouraging them to participate in a school car wash any time soon in San Jose.

While car washes have become a favorite tool for school clubs, teams, cheerleaders and classes to raise funds for trips, uniforms or supplies, the city of San Jose is now saying stop.

Lincoln High School cheerleaders scheduled an Oct. 20 car wash in the Hoover Middle School parking lot along Naglee Avenue to raise money to attend a national competition in April.

On Oct. 17, emails went out to neighborhood elists inviting area residents to “please bring your car(s).”

On Oct. 18, a second email went out to the elists reading, “We had a visit from the city of San Jose Environmental Services Department who said that the car washes at Hoover are in violation of water discharge laws, therefore we had to cancel this and all future car washes.”

Jennie Loft, acting communications manager for San Jose’s Environmental Services Department, said the city had indeed stepped in.

“Anything that is not storm water or rain water is considered a pollutant,” Loft said. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News

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