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.
The stunningly positive impact of asking your coworkers: “How are you?” – The business case for investing in employee satisfaction and inclusion is clear: When employees feel like they belong at work, they’re happier, more productive, and more engaged—which means they do better work and drive higher returns for their employers. Plus, working with a ton of grumps is a drag.
So, how do you make your employees happy? Conventional wisdom advocates for accolades (think “employee of the month” awards), financial benefits (promotions, bonuses), face time with senior leadership, and employee networking groups.
Beneficial as these measures are, a new study conducted by the consulting firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young) suggests the key to employee satisfaction and belonging is far simpler, and less expensive. EY surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 employed Americans, seeking to understand how they define belonging, what makes them feel included or excluded at work, and the emotional impact of inclusion and exclusion in the workplace.
Above any other measure, nearly 40% of American workers surveyed said they feel the greatest sense of belonging and happiness at work when colleagues simply check in with them, asking how they are doing both personally and professionally. This finding fits in nicely with a 2017 workplace survey from the American Psychological Association, which found that employees who felt supported by their managers were more than twice as likely to be satisfied with their jobs. Read More > at Quartz
FDA plans curbs on e-cigarette sales over concerns about surge in teen vaping – The Food and Drug Administration, alarmed by a huge increase in vaping among minors, is expected to impose severe restrictions on the sale of e-cigarette products throughout the United States — actions that will probably have a significant impact on an industry that has grown exponentially in recent years with little government oversight.
As soon as next week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is expected to announce a ban on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes in tens of thousands of convenience stores and gas stations across the country, according to senior agency officials. The agency will also impose such rules as age-verification requirements for online sales, the officials say.
Gottlieb also is expected to propose banning menthol in regular cigarettes. The agency has been collecting public comments on such a prohibition, which is a major goal of the public health community but is likely to be strongly opposed by the cigarette industry. Read More > in The Washington Post
Can I trust my bathroom scale? – Bathroom scales meant for home use display your weight with a dial or on a digital screen. These scales measure your weight in one of two ways: mechanically, with springs, or electronically, with circuits that bend under weight, altering the current coursing through them. In general, digital bathroom scales are more accurate than mechanical ones. But for the most accurate reading, any bathroom scale must be set up correctly and used consistently.
“First and foremost, you have to make sure you are weighing yourself on a hard, flat surface,” said Tom Dorsey, e-commerce manager at Lifetime Brands, which sells both our top pick and runner-up bathroom scales. Placing the scale on carpeting or a slant will cause the pressure on the four sensors in the corner of the scale to be uneven, and the reading to be inaccurate. And ideally, you need to use the scale in the same place on that hard surface every time. Digital scales sold for at-home use can still be fairly accurate, but “when you move them, you can get funny readings,” explained Kurt Labanowski, a regional sales director for Rice Lake Weighing Systems, who has been working in the medical scale industry for nearly two decades.
For the most accurate reading, Meredith Yorkin, a dietician at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, advises that you “always calibrate before you hop on. Every single time.” (The manufacturer suggests doing it after you move the scale, but more frequent calibration accounts for, say, someone bumping or shifting the scale between readings.) A few years ago, Yorkin and her colleagues studied whether bathroom scales were accurate enough for a weight loss program she was developing, and more broadly, for medical research in general. Could participants weigh themselves on whatever they had in their bathroom and get a suitable reading? Her team found that the digital bathroom scales they tested—a wide-ranging sample of scales that study participants brought in from their own homes—were sufficiently accurate. Read More > at Engadget
Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ Ruse Exposes The Folly Of State Tax Incentives – Looks like Amazon pulled a fast one on states with its promise of a big new HQ2. After getting states to cough up billions of dollars in special tax giveaways, Amazon announced it was changing plans, and splitting the alleged new headquarters in two. When will states learn that trying to seduce big companies this way is a losing strategy?
Unless the news reports are wildly off base, Amazon plans to open its new “headquarters” in two locations — Long Island City, N.Y., and Crystal City, Va.
Wait. Didn’t Amazon (AMZN) make a huge deal a year ago about how it was going to open a second headquarters that would be “a full equal to our current campus in Seattle”? And that it would create 50,000 good-paying jobs, along with $5 billion worth of investments?
State and local governments sure thought so. They went on an embarrassing campaign to lure Amazon. Most of the offers are still secret, but some details emerged.
Maryland offered $8.5 billion in tax incentives and infrastructure projects to win HQ2. New Jersey was willing to give Amazon $7 billion in tax credits and incentives. Detroit offered $4 billion. Chicago, $2 billion. Washington, D.C., promised to create Amazon University to train future company employees.
If Amazon ever was serious about opening a second headquarters “equal to” the first, it isn’t any longer. The new plan looks more like a generic expansion project, and the HQ2 promotion looks more like a ruse.
By dangling the prospect of a big, bold, gleaming new headquarters, Amazon got more than 200 cities to offer up millions of dollars in free information about their workforce, infrastructure plans and the like. They also told Amazon precisely how far they’ll go to get a piece of its business. Read More > at Investor’s Business Daily
What You Don’t Know About Coal – Since Obama said he would put coal companies out of business, Wall Street has ignored coal producing, making it the most undervalued sector in the market.
It’s true, coal production did go down for four years, but since Trump was put in office, that has turned around. Don’t get me wrong; the U.S. isn’t burning more coal — it’s exporting it, both to China to replace low-quality coal and to Germany, which shut down its nuclear power plants.
There will soon be more than 8 billion people on this planet, and they all want electricity. The lowest-cost producer of power is coal, and we have lots of it.
One professional organization estimates that there are 1,004 billion tonnes of coal reserves left, equivalent to 130 years of global coal output. The U.S. has been called the “Saudi Arabia of Coal” and has enough to last 500 years.
Coal is cheap and plentiful. Coal plants are also low-cost and easy to build. Therefore, consumption growth is driven by the low cost of building and running coal-fired power plants and the strong demand from emerging market countries like China and India for electricity. Their growing infrastructures and populations demand electricity.
There are 1.3 billion people currently without electric power in the world, and they want refrigerators and TVs just like everyone else. Read More > at Energy & Capital
How AT&T Fooled the Federal Judiciary – HBO has long been the crown jewel of American television. It was HBO, in the 1990s and 2000s, that kick-started the golden age of television, funding and running shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.” And it is HBO that still captures broad audiences with shows like “Game of Thrones.”
So it’s disheartening to see this venerable institution of pop culture wielded as a weapon by AT&T — HBO’s new owner since the blockbuster merger in June between AT&T (a telecommunications giant) and Time Warner (a media giant). Last week, HBO went dark for both DISH and DISH-Sling, the main competitors to DirecTV and DirecTV Now,
AT&T’s television services. This brazenly anticompetitive strategy does not portend a happy future for the viewing public, or for HBO itself.
At the risk of saying “we told you so,” it was widely predicted before the merger that AT&T would use HBO and other Time Warner media properties in just this way. When the Justice Department sued (unsuccessfully) to block the merger last year, its case was premised on the idea that AT&T would use its ownership of such properties to hurt its rivals in telecommunications. And now it is doing so.
Post-merger, AT&T has the means and the incentive to raise prices on valuable content (like HBO or the coverage of the N.C.A.A. “March Madness” basketball tournament) for cheaper, “unintegrated” telecom competitors that have been saving consumers money. If its rivals refuse to pay up, it can withhold the content entirely, diminishing them as competitors. Read More > in The New York Times
BART Transforming Land Around Stations Into Housing, Mixed-Use Hot Spots – Thousands of housing units and development will be in the works around Bay Area Rapid Transit stations in the coming decade. BART plans to build 20,000 housing units by 2040 across BART-owned land systemwide including at stations in Contra Costa County, said Carol Holmes, BART’s assistant general manager for planning, development and construction. He was the keynote speaker at Bisnow’s Future of Contra Costa County event Wednesday.
In addition to projects cropping up around BART stations, panelists discussed major projects planned in the county, economic drivers and the local multifamily market.
BART has partnered with many developers around the Bay Area to build not just housing, but also office and mixed-use developments at or near its stations.
“We’re a big proponent of affordable housing. There’s a housing crisis. We all know it,” Holmes said. “So we’re trying to be a part of that effort to try and increase the affordable housing so that people can actually purchase a home.”
He said of the housing units to be built, BART plans to have 35% be affordable.
“What I’m also trying to do is make BART a destination,” Holmes said.
By creating more transit-oriented development at BART stations, the agency is creating places that are activated and safer and where people want to go, he said. Building close to BART has also enhanced property values within a quarter-mile of a station. Read More > at Bisnow
San Francisco Just Passed the Largest Tax Increase in City History. It’s Anybody’s Guess if It’s Legal. – San Francisco voters just passed a huge tax increase on business to pay for homelessness services, but it’s anyone’s guess if the new levy is legally enforceable.
On Tuesday, some 60 percent of Bay City residents voted in favor of Proposition C, a ballot initiative that would raise an estimated $300 million a year for housing, mental health treatment, and other services for the city’s 7,500 homeless residents through a hike in the city’s business gross receipts tax.
That’s a huge amount of new revenue, increasing the take from the city’s current business taxes by some 33 percent, and nearly doubling the $380 million the city currently spends on the homeless.
Because it’s a gross receipts tax, it would tax companies’ total revenue, regardless of how profitable they are.
…Despite a commanding win at the polls, the future of Prop C is still very much up in the air thanks to a confusing court ruling which has left California’s cities unsure of what percentage of the vote tax initiatives must win to become law. The California Constitution requires that “special taxes”—those dedicated to funding a specific government program—must be approved by two-thirds of voters. That would seem to invalidate Prop. C, which garnered only 60 percent of the vote.
However, in August 2017, the California Supreme Court ruled that some constitutional limitations on ballot initiatives only apply to those measures placed on the ballot by local governments, and not to citizen initiatives that earn their spot on the ballot through signature gathering campaigns. While that particular case did not specifically address voting thresholds, it has nonetheless provided ammo for those claiming that special taxes put on the ballot as citizens initiatives—which would include Prop. C—need only a simple majority approval. Read More > at Reason
Hit or miss, Samsung’s foldable phone is a big deal – That’s what we were all thinking as Samsung’s Justin Denison whipped out a prototype folding smartphone. A phone that can open up to become a 7.3-inch tablet would be pretty handy when out and about. Like when writing on the go, or watching Netflix on a train or in a hotel room, for a start. A pocket-sized device that could double in size when required would be awfully handy.
But, the as-yet nonexistent Samsung device that will carry its Infinity Flex Display could easily crash and burn. Purely on a technical level, its initial form is bulky as hell. This is in order to accommodate the display and its flexing hinge. The prototype that Denison showed off at Samsung’s Developer Conference looked as bulky as a Nokia Communicator, anathema to users who love their svelte Galaxy S8s and S9s. Read More > at Engadget
Oil falls as rising production feeds concerns of an oversupply – Oil futures edged lower Thursday, as recent data showing sizable increases in crude output from major producers fed oversupply concerns.
Crude output in Saudi Arabia, Russia and the U.S. had climbed ahead of U.S. sanctions on the Iranian energy sector, which were expected to contribute to tighter global oil supplies. The sanctions began earlier this week, but the U.S. granted eight countries temporary waivers—allowing them to continue buying Iranian oil.
Meanwhile, data showing strong crude imports by China in October helped to limit losses in oil prices. Read More > at Market Watch
Amazon is launching a new delivery program and hiring thousands of drivers, with a warning against ‘peeing in bottles’ – Amazon is launching a new last-mile shipping program this holiday season.
For the first time, the company is planning to hire and manage thousands of full-time drivers to transport packages to customers from Amazon delivery outposts across the US, the company confirmed to Business Insider on Monday.
Amazon will manage these drivers directly, meaning the company will set their wages, provide them delivery vehicles, and schedule their routes. The drivers are seasonal but will have the option to apply to continue their employment with Amazon following the holiday season.
In the past, instead of hiring drivers, Amazon has relied on delivery services provided by UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service, as well as contractors employed through its Flex delivery program and third-party courier companies it calls delivery service partners, or DSPs.
The company’s move to hire its own drivers follows a recent push to expand its network of DSPs. Amazon has been trying to grow its delivery options as the company’s shipping costs have exploded, nearly doubling from 2015 to 2017, to $21.7 billion. Read More > at Business Insider
Why This Is a Very Scary Time for Young Men – When a recent Canadian study of about 30,000 students between 7th and 12th grade found that more boys than girls were victims of physical dating violence, the reaction was one of disbelief. Accusations of male sexual harassment were exploding from the university campuses to the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies, begetting the #MeToo movement.
The most memorable perpetrators of sexual assault against women committed heinous acts: some women had been drugged and raped; others had been fired after they rebuffed an overt sexual assault. But many other acts were considered by both men and women to be normal fun and flirtation. During the media frenzy, abuse against men was never even reported as a footnote as men—good and bad—were accused and labeled as sexual predators.
In the past 38 years, more than 270 studies, with an aggregate sample size of more than 440,000, have found that “women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners” from teenage years on. Since studies of teen dating violence began in the eighties, researchers have found that female high school students are four times as likely as male high school students to be the sole abuser of the other sex (5.7% vs. 1.4%).
The best studies of dating violence differentiate by the severity of violence (according to the Conflicts Tactics Scale). For example, a study conducted by Caulfield and Riggs found that 19% of women vs. 7% of men slapped their female partner. However, when it came to kicking, biting or hitting their partner with a fist, 13% of women vs. 3% of men engaged in those more severe forms of violence. The more specific the questions are, the more both sexes acknowledge the women were between two and three times as likely to hit, kick, bite, or strike their partner with an object. Read More > Minding the Campus
Waymo blames self-driving collision on pesky human – Waymo has admitted in a blog post that one of its test vehicles hit a motorcycle in Mountain View. The company has defended its technology in the post, though, clarifying that the event was caused by human error. Apparently, the test driver took control of the vehicle after seeing a passenger car to the left moving into their lane. Waymo says they moved the car to the right lane without noticing that a motorcycle had moved from behind to pass the test vehicle. The test car sustained minor damage, but the collision was unfortunately serious enough to send the motorcyclist to the hospital.
According to the Alphabet-owned company, it was exactly the type of incident self-driving vehicles could prevent. Its technology, in particular, has the ability to see 360 degrees in every direction, which means it could see both the passenger car and the motorcyclist. Waymo says the simulation it ran after the event showed that its platform would have reduced the test vehicle’s speed and avoided the collision altogether. Read More > at Engadget
Girl Scouts sue Boy Scouts over trademark as boys welcome girls – The Girl Scouts of the United States of America filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday, after the Boy Scouts decided to drop “Boy” from its namesake program and start welcoming older girls.
The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court is an attempt by the Girl Scouts, founded in 1912, to avert an erosion of its brand and membership as the Boy Scouts, founded two years earlier, tries to reverse its own decades-long membership decline.
It was filed after the Boy Scouts, which accepts children 11 to 17 years old, said in May it would change its name to Scouts BSA in February 2019, and make girls eligible to earn its highest rank, Eagle Scout.
In the complaint, the Girl Scouts said the Boy Scouts have no monopoly over such terms as “scouts” and “scouting” when it offers services to girls.
It also said the name change threatens to “marginalize” Girl Scouts activities and has already sown confusion, with families, schools and communities nationwide being told the organization no longer exists, or merged with the Boy Scouts.
“Only GSUSA has the right to use the Girl Scouts and Scouts trademarks with leadership development services for girls,” and the Boy Scouts infringements are “new and uniquely damaging to GSUSA,” the complaint said. Read More > from Reuters
Handicapping the #1 Overall Pick Race, Where the Raiders Are in Pole Position – With the contenders and pretenders sorting themselves out as we have hit the midway point of the season, the race for the worst record is clearing up some. But there are still several contenders. Here’s a breakdown of how it is likely to shake out.
#1 Oakland Raiders: Oakland still plays the Chiefs twice, the Chargers, the Steelers, and at the Ravens and Bengals. As hard is it to believe based on how awful they’ve looked, the toughest part of the schedule is still to come. The home game against Denver, and the key showdown at Arizona, are the only two games where they are likely to be an underdog of less than double digits. If the Raiders play like they have to this point, Jon Gruden is likely to have coached a team to the worst record in the league in his return from the broadcasting booth.
#2 Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals have two wins over the 49ers and zero over the rest of the league. They play five of the last eight games on the road, and will be big underdogs in all five. The Rams are one of the remaining home games. That means the quest for the top pick likely comes down to a game against Detroit, and the home matchup against the Raiders. If the Cardinals beat the Raiders at home then the Raiders are the prohibitive favorite to get the first overall pick. If the Raiders win, then it’s going to be a race to the end. Read More > at Read More > at The Big Lead
What can get done in a divided Washington – With their newly minted House majority, Democrats will quickly have to strike a balance between their base’s desire to seek revenge on President Donald Trump and their electoral mandate to actually get something done. That means talking about wonky things like trade and taxes — and yes, on some issues they may even have some common ground with a president so hated by the left.
Once their election high wears off, Democrats will have to find policy victories where they can get them — while also avoiding two years of pure obstruction that could risk alienating swing voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. There’s a risk that Trump will pursue his agenda through executive fiat, and Democrats will want to have their say on a few policy areas where they agree with the president.
…With the Capitol divided, the Trump administration is expected to focus on forging an infrastructure deal with Congress and potentially working to rein in drug prices — two policy areas typically more aligned with liberals, according to interviews with six current and former administration officials and Republicans close to the White House.
“If there is anything bipartisan, it’s lowering drug prices,” Trump said at a White House bill-signing ceremony last month.
Also high on the priority list is infrastructure, which Trump has long talked about and which some of his former top aides even advocated for him to tackle as his first major push after the inauguration… Read More > at Politico
Gavin Newsom’s dilemma: Making a change, while following Jerry Brown’s lead – “The biggest question is: Does Gavin take the same approach on spending that Gov. Brown has?” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, a group that advocates for the state’s biggest companies.
“The economy defined a lot of Gov. Brown’s priorities… Gavin can define his own priorities, until the economy defines him.”
Brown won his third term in 2010 in the depths of a recession, and, through a combination of program cuts and tax increases, spent his first few years digging the state out of a $26 billion deficit. Much to the irritation of legislative leaders, Brown, by then 72, earned the reputation as the “adult in the room” who reined in Democrats’ desires to spend more. Even when the economy began to recover, he lectured legislators with Bible stories about saving grain for years of famine, and handed them playing cards with pictures of his dog saying, “Bark if you hate deficits!”
Newsom takes the reins during a strong economy, with low unemployment and state coffers flush with $9.4 billion in reserves. He campaigned on an ambitious—and costly—agenda, and will soon negotiate a state budget with legislative leaders who share his interest in expanding housing, health care and preschool. They expect Newsom to deliver—and if Democrats win a supermajority, could potentially pass a tax hike without any Republican support. Read More > at CALmatters
Here’s What Nutritionists Really Think About Bacon – You’d be hard-pressed to find a nutritionist in 2018 who will say that you should absolutely never eat a certain food, and that’s true for bacon as well. As a general rule, nutritionists will say that it’s completely fine to eat bacon, but you should think of it as a treat, not a staple.
“There are foods that I place into a ‘sometimes’ category,” explained nutritionist Nikki Ostrower. “I believe that these foods should not be part of a regular day-to-day diet but consumed on an occasion. Bacon falls into this category, as it is extremely high in fat.”
Want numbers? Let’s take a look at bacon’s nutrition facts. Two slices of bacon contains 70 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat (that’s 10 percent of the daily recommended fat intake), 30 mg of cholesterol (10 percent of daily recommended cholesterol intake), and 360 mg of sodium (15 percent of daily recommended sodium intake).
So, bacon is OK in moderation, but how much of it should we be eating? Holistic registered dietitian and Meg the Dietitian founder Meg Hager said it varies from person to person. “Two slices once a week might be OK for a younger person without health conditions, whereas two slices once a month might be more appropriate for someone else.” Read More > in the Huff Post
Are you ready for a chip implant? – You walk into a grocery store and pick up eggs. No smartphone? No problem. You swipe your hand across a reader, and the amount is deducted from your bank account.
If that sounds far-fetched, you obviously haven’t been to Sweden recently, where thousands of people have reportedly had chips implanted in their bodies.
A company called Biohax has already “installed” around 4,000 chips in customers, inserted just below the thumb. They can use the implant to open secure doors, pay for tickets, and share emergency information with medical personnel. The chip is about the size of a Tylenol pill, and the procedure — which costs $180 — is similar to getting a tetanus shot.
“The chip implant is a secure way of ensuring that a person’s digital identity is linked to their physical identity. It enables access management in a way that protects individual self-sovereignty and allows users to control the privacy of their online activity,” Dr. Stewart Southey, the Chief Medical Officer at Biohax International, told Fox News. Read More > at Fox News
Liberal Democrats more likely than other groups to be politically active on social media – Many Americans have been politically active on social media, from encouraging others to take action to using issue-related hashtags. And liberal Democrats were more likely than other ideological and partisan groups to have engaged in these activities, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of survey data collected this summer.
Liberal Democrats are especially likely to use social media to mobilize others or find like-minded groups. Some 44% of liberal Democrats say they have used these sites in the past year to encourage others to take action on an issue that was important to them, while a similar share (43%) have taken part in a group that shares their interest in a cause, according to a survey of U.S. adults conducted May 29-June 11, 2018. These shares fall to around a third or fewer among conservative or moderate Democrats and among conservative, moderate or liberal Republicans. Read More > at Pew Research Center
Social media growth is over in the U.S. — which is its most valuable market – Social media companies aren’t growing as quickly as they used to. In some cases, they aren’t growing at all.
In the United States, things are even worse for them: They’re shrinking.
Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are no longer adding new users in the United States. Facebook’s daily user base has been the same for the past three quarters. Twitter and Snapchat have both lost users in the U.S. or North America, respectively, in back-to-back quarters.
American users are incredibly valuable to these tech giants. Social media users in the U.S. generally have more disposable income than those in emerging markets, which makes them more attractive to more advertisers. As a result, these users generate more advertising revenue for social media companies, on average, than users in other parts of the world. By a wide margin. Read More > at Recode
A Decade Ago, 19% of Students Sought Treatment for Mental Health Problems. Now 34% Do – The fact that more students are seeking treatment does not necessarily mean things are getting worse. More people talking openly about their mental health could mean more people are leading better lives. It also doesn’t have to mean more people need treatment now than did a decade ago. As I’ve frequently observed regarding hate crime statistics, more comprehensive reporting should not be confused with an increase in the underlying thing being counted.
Of course, it could also be the case that young people really are more stressed out, anxious, and depressed than they used to be. Depression and suicide rates are on the rise, generally speaking, and not just for young people. Student loan debt is significantly larger than it was a decade ago, and thus the stakes for doing well in college are higher. Getting a degree is no longer an automatic ticket to a well-paying job, campuses are political and ideological powder kegs, social media has all of us on display all the time. These are all good reasons for students to be stressed.
My sense is that mental health issues have become dramatically destigmatized on college campuses. I have even seen campus personnel list their traumas and triggers in their online biographies (underneath their preferred pronouns). That’s broadly a good thing, because many people need help, and will seek if they feel it’s normal to both have problems and get help for them.
But colleges might also be inadvertently encouraging students to view their more mundane struggles or frustrations as symptomatic of underlying mental health issues. I’m thinking of all the student-activists who claim to be suffering from PTSD, possibly because it makes them seem more dedicated to their cause. Recall that trigger warnings could actually make some people more anxious and less resilient to trauma. I think it’s reasonable to be concerned that 1) young people are very stressed out, often legitimately, and 2) campuses occasionally fail to emotionally equip them to handle life beyond college. Both things can be true. Read More > at Reason
Pittsburg City Manager Joe Sbranti to retire in December – Joe Sbranti announced on Tuesday that he will retire on Dec. 31, after 22 years with the city of Pittsburg and eight years as city manager.
“Joe Sbranti will be deeply missed in city government, city planning, and the community,” Mayor Pete Longmire said. “His leadership is second to none.”
Sbranti was an engineering consultant for a decade before he went ot work for the city, as a senior civil engineer. He began with overseeing the management of the city’s capital construction projects and was the project manager for construction of the city’s $25 million three-story City Hall, which was dedicated in 1999.
Sbranti was promoted to city engineer in 2002, and to assistant city manager in 2009. In 2011, he was named city manager. Read More > in the East Bay Times
Non-Citizen Voting in SF School Board Elections Falls Flat – Just 49 San Francisco residents have signed up for a $310,000 program that allows non-citizens to vote in local school board elections. That brings the cost of the program to a whopping $6,327 per voter.
San Francisco voted in 2016 to allow non-citizens with children in the school system to weigh in on members of their school board.
“We assumed that it would be many thousands, potentially that could register, and so far we’re at 49,” San Francisco Director of Elections John Arntz told CBS News. “We had to create a separate database. We created a separate ballot for these folks. We have separate roster pages for the polling places, we have a separate registration affidavit. We have a separate vote by mail ballot application, we have a separate website page.”
Many would-be voters were likely spooked by the following warning on the San Francisco Department of Elections website.
Any information you provide to the Department of Elections, including your name and address, may be obtained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies, organizations, and individuals. In addition, if you apply for naturalization, you will be asked whether you have ever registered or voted in a federal, state, or local election in the United States. You may wish to consult with an immigration attorney, an organization that protects immigrant rights, or other knowledgeable source before providing any personal information to the Department of Elections and before registering to vote in San Francisco Board of Education Elections. You can find a list of nonprofit organizations that specialize in protecting the rights of immigrants on sfelections.org.
San Francisco is one of a handful of jurisdictions that now allows non-citizens to vote in local elections of some sort. Chicago allows non-citizen voting for school board members. New York did so until 2003 when it began appointing them. Several cities in Maryland also allow non-citizens to vote in mayoral and city council races. Read More > at California City News
Supreme Court Makes Decision in Age-Discrimination Case – All local and state political agencies—no matter their size—need to comply with a federal law banning discrimination against employees on the basis of age, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Tuesday.
The case stems from a dispute between a small Arizona fire district and two firefighters, who were laid off in 2009 during a budget crisis. John Guido and Dennis Rankin were the oldest employees with the district and they later filed an age discrimination lawsuit.
But the issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Mount Lemmon Fire District discriminated against Guido and Rankin. Instead, the justices were looking at the question of whether a small public agency like Mount Lemmon could even be sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
The fire district, which at the time of the lay off had just 11 full-time employees, argued they were exempt from the law, as is the case with private-sector employers with fewer than 20 workers. But Guido and Rankin, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the law covers any public employer.
In a short opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sided with the firefighters. All the other justices joined the 8-0 decision, with the exception of new Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who wasn’t on the court when it was heard in early October. Read More > at Route Fifty
Lowe’s latest store closures aren’t the first in Marvin Ellison’s short CEO tenure, and might not be the last – Lowe’s Cos. Inc.’s Monday announcement that it would shutter 51 “underperforming” stores, 20 of them in the U.S., is the second set of closures in Marvin Ellison’s short tenure as chief executive of the home renovation retailer, and analysts say they might not be the last.
The company announced in August that it would close all 99 Orchard Supply Hardware stores, located in California, Oregon and Florida, and its distribution facility by the end of fiscal 2018.
On the second-quarter earnings call discussing the move, Ellison said the company had to simplify for better results. Read More > at Market Watch
Amazon Tests a New Boundary: How Many Headquarters Can a Company Have? – After getting dozens of cities to prostrate themselves with offers of financial incentives and zoning changes and other inducements to win Amazon’s “second headquarters,” the Wall Street Journal reports Amazon intends to pick two winners — likely from a short list of New York City, Dallas, and Crystal City, Virginia. That means Amazon is likely to collect two location incentive packages instead of just one, and we will end up with HQ2 and HQ3, or HQ2a, or something.
Or, if you hate fun, you could describe it in more prosaic terms: Amazon will continue to be a company with the normal number of headquarter offices (one), and it will establish two large satellite offices, much in the way you would have expected a company of its size to do over time — but typically without the fanfare and bidding wars it has created for itself here.
Consider, for example, Google. Google has over a million square feet of office space in New York City, where it has over 7,000 employees, the most the company has at any location outside the Bay Area. Its campus covers two entire city blocks in Manhattan, from Eighth to Tenth Avenues between 15th and 16th Streets, with a presence that expands into surrounding buildings. Google is even taking over most of a refurbished pier that sticks into the Hudson River.
Nobody calls this Google’s “second headquarters.” It’s just the New York office — a large office, but then, Google is a large company. Nobody is confused about where Google’s headquarters is: Mountain View, California. Read More > at Intelligencer
A Real Immigration Crisis Is Coming to America Sooner Than You Think – So is this caravan crisis all sound and fury? No. While the immediate threat to the United States is virtually nil and legitimate refugees must be treated in accordance with international and U.S. law, we should also recognize this event for what it is: a harbinger. America, completely secure in her own hemisphere for nearly two centuries, still has neighbors. And the future does not look good for those neighbors.
Latin America is already incredibly violent. As a report this spring from the Igarape Institute detailed, seventeen of the twenty countries on Earth with the highest murder rates are Latin American, as are forty-three of the fifty most violent cities. Honduras, where this caravan originated, is one of the most violent countries on earth. Tegucigalpa has a murder rate that is twenty times the size of London’s murder rate.
Neighboring El Salvador is even worse. In 2015 it became the most violent country on earth not at war . Though homicides have fallen significantly since then El Salvador still has the highest murder rate in Central America. Nicaragua is far safer at the moment but President Daniel Ortega has unleashed paramilitaries and pro-government vigilantes on his political opponents. He will continue to rule by the gun, with predictable consequences for Nicaraguans.
The picture to both the north and south is not much better. Mexico is a stable middle-income country with a GDP over $1 trillion. It also remains mired in a brutal drug war and is on its way to the most violent year in its modern history. Cuba is isolated and ignored, but regime collapse or an epidemic could precipitate a new Cuban refugee flotilla off Florida’s shores. Like Mexico, Brazil broke its own grim murder record with 63,880 homicides in 2017. The country duly elected a far-right law and order authoritarian, Jair Bolsonaro, as president this week.
…It is the long-term trajectory of Latin America that should really worry Americans. There is little reason for optimism about the future of most countries in the Western Hemisphere. While globalization and a winners-take-all economy are hollowing out America’s middle class, these dynamics are likely to have catastrophic effects on Latin America’s even more unequal societies. The ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution will stall and reverse many of the gains poorer countries have made through comparative advantage and globalization. A great deal of manufacturing will probably return to the United States and Europe, particularly if political or environmental events cause significant disruptions to global supply chains. Read More > at The National Interest
California lost more residents to other states than it got last year – About 130,000 more residents left California for other states last year than came here from them, as high costs left many residents without a college degree looking for an exit, according to a Sacramento Bee review of the latest census estimates.
They most often went to cheaper, nearby states — and Texas. Since 2001, about 410,000 more people have left California for Texas than arrived from there. That’s roughly equivalent to the population of Oakland.
California has seen more than 15 consecutive years of net resident losses to other states. The trend was sharpest at the height of the housing boom between 2004 and 2006. It slowed markedly during the housing bust but quickened again during recent years.
The state’s overall population continued to grow because the number of births exceeded the number of deaths by about 220,000 in 2017, according to the California Department of Finance. The state also added about 185,000 residents via net immigration from abroad. Read More > in the Santa Cruz Sentinel
Six Horrible Problems with Social Media That Most People Haven’t Grasped Yet – 1. It’s changing us all into brands. At its most innocuous, we get a false picture of everyone’s life. If you look at my Facebook pictures, they’re all of me traveling. I’m at the Eiffel Tower. Here’s me decked out with my hot ex-girlfriend at the Empire State Building. Woah, there’s me with Alcatraz in the background. You don’t see me right now — without a shower, wearing sweats and a t-shirt in a messy room, grinding out this column while my ex-girlfriend is probably plotting to murder me (just kidding, hahahah – well, as far as you know).
2. It’s destroying attention spans and making us shallow
How many people are living life through their social media instead of the real world? It’s so bizarre to see people facing away from the action to get a selfie or ignoring their friends or dates to check Twitter. It’s rude to look at your cell phone when you’re at dinner with someone, but we pretend like it’s not because we all do it at one time or another. But, if you can’t make it through a twenty-minute conversation without checking the beeps, whizzes, and bings coming from your phone, you have a problem. Sadly, most people have that problem….
3. It’s cutting us off from alternative views
Social media companies want to keep you happy because if you’re happy, you will keep coming back to their websites. So what’s more likely to make you happy? A well-written piece by someone who disagrees with you and challenges what you believe or well-written propaganda that supports what you already believe is true? If you think it’s #1, you are probably lying to yourself. What most people call “truth telling” is someone who repeats back to them what they already believe to be true…
4. It’s turning us into a-holes
The main idea behind diversity is supposed to be that as we spend more time around people who are different from us, we find out how similar we all are at heart and learn to like each other. Unfortunately, when we’re dealing with lots of anonymous people and others who are acting like jackasses in hopes of being noticed, all we learn is that people who are different from us are horrible people… Read More > at PJ Media
State-run retirement savings plan ready to launch – It’s been a while since the state rolled out a new mult-billion program that could touch the lives of 7.5 million Californians, not to mention one intended to be self-supporting with no money from taxpayers.
But now CalSavers is scheduled to launch a pilot Nov. 19 for an on-the-job retirement savings plan, formerly known as Secure Choice, that will be open to all eligible employers next July.
It’s facing opposition from a coalition of business groups and a taxpayers suit to shut it down.
Employers with five or more employees, who do not offer a retirement plan, will be required by state law to offer the CalSavers plan to their employees in three waves based on employer size. Employees can opt out.
…A federal judge hearing the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association request for an injunction halting CalSavers, and a ruling that CalSavers is invalid under federal law, directed both sides in the case to file supplemental briefs by Nov. 15.
The key issue is whether CalSavers is exempt from the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). An exemption is required by the CalSavers authorizing legislation to avoid exposing employers to liability and burdensome federal regulations. Read More > at Calpensions
Cocaine Back in a Big Way, DEA Warns, with Rising Overdose Deaths – The 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA)1 is a comprehensive strategic assessment of the threat posed to the United States by domestic and international drug trafficking and the abuse of illicit drugs. The report combines federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement reporting; public health data; open source reporting; and intelligence from other government agencies to determine which substances and criminal organizations represent the greatest threat to the United States.
Illicit drugs, as well as the transnational and domestic criminal organizations who traffic them, continue to represent significant threats to public health, law enforcement, and national security in the United States. Drug poisoning deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States; they are currently at their highest ever recorded level and, every year since 2011, have outnumbered deaths by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide. In 2016, approximately 174 people died every day from drug poisoning (see Figure 1). The opioid threat (controlled prescription drugs, synthetic opioids, and heroin) has reached epidemic levels and currently shows no signs of abating, affecting large portions of the United States. Meanwhile, as the ongoing opioid crisis justly receives national attention, the methamphetamine threat remains prevalent; the cocaine threat has rebounded; new psychoactive substances (NPS) are still challenging; and the domestic marijuana situation continues to evolve. Read More > from The DEA
Not: Diversity preaching media is far whiter, more male than US workforce – The American media that promotes diversity in politics, schools and jobs isn’t very inclusive.
In not taking a page from their own headlines, the news industry is 77 percent white and 61 percent male, according to the latest report from the Pew Research Center.
Overall, the U.S. workforce is 65 percent white, 53 percent male.
The numbers are similar to others taken by the industry itself. For example, according to Pew, “the American Society of News Editors in 2012-2015 estimated that newspaper employees were 87 percent-88 percent white, 63 percent-64 percent male, and 56 percent-57 percent white and male. Surveys by the Radio Television Digital News Association in 2012-2016 estimated that television newsroom staff were 77 percent-79 percent white and 56 percent-60 percent male, while radio newsroom staff were 87 percent-91 percent white and 61 percent-69 percent male.” Read More > in the Washington Examiner
Millennial Men Leave Perplexing Hole in Hot U.S. Job Market – Weary of long days earning minimum wage, he quit his job in a pizzeria in June. He wants new employment but won’t take a gig he’ll hate. So for now, the Pittsburgh native and father to young children is living with his mother and training to become an emergency medical technician, hoping to get on the ladder toward a better life.
Ten years after the Great Recession, 25- to 34-year-old men are lagging in the workforce more than any other age and gender demographic. About 500,000 more would be punching the clock today had their employment rate returned to pre-downturn levels. Many, like Butcher, say they’re in training. Others report disability. All are missing out on a hot labor market and crucial years on the job, ones traditionally filled with the promotions and raises that build the foundation for a career.
Men — long America’s economically privileged gender — have been dogged in recent decades by high incarceration and swollen disability rates. They hemorrhaged high-paying jobs after technology and globalization hit manufacturing and mining.
The young ones have fared particularly badly. Many of them exited high school into a world short on middle-skill job opportunities, only to be broadsided by the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Employment plummeted across the board during the 2007 to 2009 recession, and 25- to 34-year-old men fell far behind their slightly-older counterparts. Read More > at Bloomberg