The 12th Annual Oakley Harvest Festival – Saturday, October 23rd

The 12th Annual Oakley Harvest Festival will be held on Saturday, October 23rd from noon to 4:00 p.m. at Civic Center Plaza, 3231 Main Street.

Join us for this old-fashioned festival in the park that includes a pumpkin decorating contest, pie walk, costume parade and a canine costume parade. There will be arts & crafts, games, & balloon twisting. More than 35 vendors will be on site along with food vendors selling tasty treats. Admission and parking are free.

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Contra Costa to Lift Masking Requirements in Some Indoor Settings on Nov. 1

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations declining, Contra Costa County will lift masking requirements in certain indoor settings where everyone is fully vaccinated on Nov. 1. Eligible settings include controlled spaces not open to the general public, such as:

  • Offices
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Employee commuter vehicles
  • Indoor college classes
  • Organized gatherings in any other indoor setting, such as a religious gathering.

Eligible participating businesses, organizations, and hosts must verify that all patrons, employees, and attendees are fully vaccinated before allowing people inside their facilities not to wear face coverings. There can be no more than 100 persons present at these facilities, and the group of those present must gather on a regular basis. Those present should also not have COVID-19 symptoms.

“This will allow vaccinated people to feel safe removing their masks at the office and when they’re working out at the gym,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County. “Of course, people in these places can keep wearing masks if that makes them feel more comfortable.”

Indoor-masking requirements would remain in effect for the time being in public settings, such as bars, restaurants, and retail stores until other targets are met. Masking would also still be required in indoor K-12 school settings.

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California is the 3rd Safest State During COVID-19 – WalletHub Study

With around 57% of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and vaccination being essential for getting the economy back on track, WalletHub today released updated rankings for the Safest States During COVID-19, along with accompanying videos and audio files.

In order to find out the safest states during the COVID-19 pandemic, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across five key metrics. Our data set includes the rates of COVID-19 transmission, positive testing, hospitalizations and death, as well as the share of the eligible population getting vaccinated. Below, you can see highlights from the report, along with a WalletHub Q&A.

California’s Safety During Coronavirus (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 9th – Vaccination Rate
  • 5th – Positive Testing Rate
  • 6th – Hospitalization Rate
  • 2nd – Death Rate
  • 21st – Transmission Rate

Note: Rankings are based on data available as of 12:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.

To view the full report and your state’s rank, please visit:

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‘Dry scooping’ challenge turns pre-workout powder into a dangerous TikTok trend

From Tide PODS to planking, the internet has certainly seen its fair share of “challenges” over the past decade or so. Now, a new study is ringing the alarm bell about a troubling new online trend involving powdered pre-workout beverages. Researchers say the “dry-scooping” challenge, which has amassed over eight million views on TikTok alone, is potentially deadly.

Powdered pre-workout beverages containing tons of caffeine and other additives are intended to be mixed with water and then consumed. This dry-scooping phenomenon challenges online users to place a scoop of undiluted powder into their mouth followed by just a few sips of water. Considering that many pre-workout substances may be unsafe for adolescents, even when people prepare them properly, the idea that millions of teens are viewing this challenge is especially troubling to the researchers.

Study authors say anyone who participates in this challenge is putting themselves at serious risk of overconsumption or accidental inhalation of pre-workout powder. Even worse, some of these challenge videos show users mixing the pre-workouts with additional energy drinks or even alcohol. Read More > at the Study Finds

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New Laws Headed Your Way

from CalMatters

You’d be forgiven for not knowing Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the largest expansion of California’s college financial aid system in a generation — he did so during the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants’ first playoff game Friday night.

Hours later, it was all over: Newsom signed his final bills on Saturday, a day ahead of the Oct. 10 deadline to act on the 836 proposals state lawmakers sent to his desk. Of those, he signed 770 (92%) and vetoed 66 (7.9%), according to Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli.

Here’s a look at the significant new laws coming to the Golden State — as well as ideas Newsom prevented from becoming law.

Signed into law:


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California Ranks Among the Top 10 States with Bullying Problems – WalletHub Study

With schools returning to in-person learning this fall and a child experiencing bullying every seven minutes, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s States with the Biggest Bullying Problems, as well as accompanying videos.

To identify the states where bullying is most pervasive, WalletHub compared 47 states and the District of Columbia across 20 key metrics, ranging from “bullying-incident rate” to “truancy costs for schools” to “share of high school students bullied online.”

Bullying Prevalence & Prevention in California (1=Biggest, 24=Avg.):

  • 4th – % of High School Students Bullied on School Property
  • 27th – % of High School Students Bullied Online
  • 1st – % of High School Students Involved in Physical Fight at School
  • 12th – % of High School Students Who Missed School for Fear of Being Bullied
  • 26th – % of High School Students Who Attempted Suicide
  • 1st – Cost of Truancy for Schools Due to Bullying
  • 9th – State Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies
  • 2nd – State Anti-Cyberbullying Laws Requiring School Policy

For the full report, please visit:

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Sunday Reading – 10/10/2021

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.

Cargo ships anchored off LA face 4-WEEK wait to berth and trains in Chicago are backed up 25 miles with global supply chain on the brink of collapse: Americans face shortages of cars, shoes and exercise gear as holiday season looms – Dozens of cargo ships anchored off the coasts of Los Angeles face shocking wait times of up to four weeks and railyards and trucking routes are hopelessly clogged due to the lack of manpower to unload goods – with an expert warning that the government needs to intervene or face spiraling inflation and unemployment.

The backlog of billions of dollars of toys, clothing, electronics, vehicles, and furniture comes as the demand for consumer goods hit its highest point in history as consumers stay home instead of spending money on travel and entertainment.

Supply chains have lagged far behind consumer demand due to a lack of manpower at American ports and the restrictions that came with the COVID-19 outbreak early last year. These constraints, which include social distancing and mandatory quarantines, have severely limited the number and ability of port workers to do their jobs.

Consumer experts have warned Americans to begin doing their Christmas shopping now, to ensure goods arrive on time, and to ensure there’s time to try and find an alternative if a desired gift is one of the products that is currently scarce. Read More > in the Daily Mail

California and the West can see small glimmers of hope in weather outlooks for October – Outlook maps for October temperature and precipitation in the U.S. offer a glimmer of hope for California and parts of the West. For the first time in months, California’s precipitation outlook map isn’t colored a desiccated brown, indicating drier-than-normal conditions.

Likewise, the temperature outlook map isn’t glowing red, resembling a stove-top burner set on high.

On both maps for October, issued on Sept. 30 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California and neighboring states are colored a neutral white. That means experts predict equal chances that temperatures and precipitation will be above average, near average or below average.

If that sounds a little like cold comfort, remember that maps for months have placed California and the West in the hotter- and drier-than-average categories. So this is an improvement. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

U.S. Job Growth Falls to Slowest Pace of Year – U.S. job growth fell to the slowest pace of the year in September, as the Delta variant and a persistent shortage of workers restrained the ability of companies to hire.

The economy created 194,000 jobs in September, the smallest gain since December 2020 and down from 366,000 jobs added in August, the Labor Department said Friday.

Many workers gave up a job search and exited the labor force last month. The smaller pool of labor meant that despite the slowdown in hiring, the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% last month from 5.2% in August.

The figures add to evidence that fears about the coronavirus and global supply constraints continue to hold back the economic recovery. The biggest factor behind last month’s weak payroll gain was a decline in public-sector jobs, mainly at schools.

Most schools have reopened to host classes in person after teaching online earlier in the pandemic, but Covid-19 outbreaks have led to temporary closures. Also, some previous employees may be resisting returning to work to avoid getting sick, economists said. Economists also say the way the government adjusts its data for seasonal factors—complicated by hiring patterns during the pandemic—may have led to an imprecise figure for school employment.

Employment in private-sector industries rose by 317,000 in September, with modest gains across several industries, including leisure and hospitality businesses, retailers and factories. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

With the New Energy Reality, the Game Has Changed. Solar and Wind Alone Can’t Meet Growing Power Demand. – Demand for electricity in the U. S. has not materially changed over the last two decades. One reason is increased energy efficiency. The number of electronic devices has increased; however, each device uses less electricity. Also, the demand for electricity from industrial customers is slowly declining. However, if current climate policy proposals – electric vehicles and 100 percent electric homes – are adopted, electricity demand has the potential to rise steeply. 

Various organizations have predicted a substantial increase in electricity demand by 2050 if U. S. consumers switch from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles.  Additionally, If most homeowners change from natural gas to electric heat some analysts forecast that electricity generation must increase from 50 to 100 percent.  If this occurs, the grid that moves the electricity must substantially expand. Increasing electricity generation by 50 percent using wind and solar power is all but impossible.

If electricity demand does increase by 50 to 100 percent, then we must think in terms of adding generation that is reliable. This does not include wind or solar. Our baseload electricity generation must be reliable and affordable. Natural gas has been the recent choice and is responsible for the decline in carbon dioxide emissions in the U. S.  It is my view that a switch to small modular reactors is the optimal choice. 

Europe is currently providing an important case study on why increasing renewables can leave energy security and energy consumers in the lurch. Renewables are boom and bust energy sources. They can provide far more power than you need at some moments and then disappear for hours, days, or even weeks at a time if the weather is not cooperating. In Britain, where tens-of-billions of dollars have been spent erecting offshore wind turbines, often there has not been much of a breeze in the North Sea. Despite an enormous investment in renewable power, Britain is relying almost entirely on fossil fuels and nuclear energy to keep the lights on. With so much of the generating fleet unavailable, electricity prices in the U.K are soaring. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

Alameda Sheriff’s Office Takes Down Massive Cannabis Operation – The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office raided 18 illegal marijuana grow sites last week in what it calls the largest illegal cannabis growing operation in Bay Area history. Authorities seized hundreds of thousands of plants and upwards of $10 million in cash along with “millions of dollars in infrastructure, equipment, lighting, generators and supplies used to facilitate the grows,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly in a news release.

“The enormity and complexity of this illegal grow operation cannot be expressed in words or pictures, it’s unbelievable,” Kelly added.

Seven people were arrested. Sheriff’s officials have posted photographs of the bust on its Facebook page.

Five years after voters legalized recreational marijuana, California’s illicit cannabis market is as big as it has ever been. Local officials throughout the state have urged changes in Sacramento to temper the proliferation of rogue cultivation sites that wreak environmental havoc and invite criminal activity. Read More > at California County News

Newsom admin ripped for nursing home policies – California’s reputation as a national leader in the COVID response was turned on its head Tuesday, when state lawmakers launched a blistering attack on the Newsom administration’s handling of nursing homes amid the pandemic.

The rebuke of the California Department of Public Health came during a legislative hearing on the state’s process for licensing nursing homes, during which lawmakers repeatedly cited an investigation from CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener that found the state allowed Shlomo Rechnitz, California’s largest nursing home owner, to operate many facilities even as their license applications languished in pending status — or were outright denied. Rechnitz is now facing a lawsuit alleging that one of his homes — for which the state denied him a license — is responsible for the COVID-related deaths of 24 residents.

Wood also slammed Craig Cornett, the president of a nursing home industry group, the California Association of Health Facilities, for apparently saying that California “was the shining star in the nation” when it came to preventing coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes.

  • Wood: “We saw this pandemic playing out in Washington a couple of months before it started in California, and yet it took a couple of months … to begin to react. … I expect better from us, we deserve better here in California, and I’m appalled. If we were the best, I shudder to think what was going on in other states, and I’m pretty, pretty, pretty shocked by that.”

Cornett emphasized that “every death is a tragedy” but noted that “if there’s any silver lining to this very dark cloud” it’s how much progress the state has made in combating the virus.

“I appreciate your perspective,” Wood said, “but that cloud doesn’t have a silver lining for me.” Read More > at CalMatters

“We haven’t seen anything yet”: Food prices continue to climb – If you think you’re paying more at the grocery store – you’re not wrong. Wholesale prices are at record highs and some items are scarce, CBS Los Angeles reports.

According to the Labor Department, wholesale prices jumped 8.3 percent from August of this year compared to August of 2020 — the biggest gain since the department started tracking those prices more than a decade ago.

“We haven’t seen anything yet,” said SuperMarketGuru.Com editor and food industry analyst Phil Lembert. “Prices are going to continue to go up for a good year and a half.”

“The biggest increases we will see has to do with anything with animals,” he said, “Whether it’s eggs or milk or pork or beef.” Read More > at CBS

States, Cities Sit on Hundreds of Billions in Pandemic Relief – As Congress considered a massive COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. pleaded for “immediate action” on billions of dollars targeted to shore up their finances and revive their communities.

Now that they’ve received it, local officials are taking their time before actually spending the windfall.

As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states hadn’t spent a penny from the American Rescue Plan championed by Democrats and President Joe Biden, according to an Associated Press review of the first financial reports due under the law. States had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5%, according to the AP analysis.

Many state and local governments reported they were still working on plans for their share of the $350 billion, which can be spent on a wide array of programs.

Though Biden signed the law in March, the Treasury Department didn’t release the money and spending guidelines until May. By then, some state legislatures already had wrapped up their budget work for the next year, leaving governors with no authority to spend the new money. Some states waited several more months to ask the federal government for their share.

The law gives states until the end of 2024 to make spending commitments and the end of 2026 to spend the money. Any money not obligated or spent by those dates must be returned to the federal government. Read More > from the Associated Press

‘Firearms bubble economy’ makes 2021 second-highest gun sales year ever – With three months still to go, 2021 is already the second-highest year ever for firearms background checks and sales in America, putting it on a path to break 2020’s record.

But what is untold in the new FBI numbers for September is the continued trend of women buying weapons for the first time and new owners expanding their arsenals.

So far this year, there have been over 30 million checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. In 2020, there was a total of 39,615,395 checks.

Justin Anderson, the marketing director for Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, North Carolina, told us that the industry is in a sales bubble.

“Bubbles really started when Barack Obama was first elected president,” said Anderson, whom Secrets often taps for trends in the industry. He added, “Customers would buy their first gun and they were hooked. I’ve also seen a slow progression of guns becoming more socially acceptable again, which also creates more customers.”

That has clearly happened with minorities, especially women and African Americans, according to industry and government data. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Oregon wolf’s epic trip to Southern California could be among the century’s longest – An Oregon gray wolf’s epic walkabout in Southern California is pushing the boundaries of the endangered species’ range.

In late September, California wildlife officials received three reports of gray wolf sightings in Ventura County – one county up the coast from Los Angeles near the Los Padres National Forest. California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff then found recent wolf tracks in the same area.

The wolf is believed to be OR-93, a 2-year-old male from the White River pack, whose territory covers part of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation near Mount Hood.

“If this is OR-93, he’s traveled the farthest south we’ve seen since 1922 when one was captured in San Bernardino,” said Jordan Traverso, a spokesperson for the California wildlife agency. Read More > at JPR

The Great Office Refusal – …Since the pandemic began, tenants have given back around 200 million square feet of commercial real estate, according to Marcus & Millichap data, and the current office vacancy rate stands at 16.2%, matching the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. Between September 2019 and September 2020, the biggest job losses, according to the firm American Communities and based on federal data, have been in big cities (nearly a 10% drop in employment), followed by their close-in suburbs, while rural areas suffered only a 6% drop, and exurbs less than 5%. Today our biggest cities—Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago—account for three of the five highest unemployment rates among the 51 largest metropolitan areas.

The rise of remote work drives these trends. Today, perhaps 42% of the 165 million-strong U.S. labor force is working from home full time, up from 5.7% in 2019. When the pandemic ends, that number will probably drop, but one study, based on surveys of more than 30,000 employees, projects that 20% of the U.S. workforce will still work from home post-COVID. 

Others predict a still more durable shift: A University of Chicago study suggests that a full one-third of the workforce could remain remote, and in Silicon Valley, the number could stabilize near 50%. Both executives and employees have been impressed by the surprising gains of remote work, and now many companies, banks, and leading tech firms—including Facebook, Salesforce, and Twitter—expect a large proportion of their workforces to continue to work remotely. Nine out of 10 organizations, according to a new McKinsey survey of 100 executives across industries and geographies, plan to keep at least a hybrid of remote and on-site work indefinitely.

The shift of work from the office to the home, or at least to less congested spaces, threatens the strict geographic hierarchy of many elite corporations. Some corporate executives, like Morgan Stanley’s Jamie Dimon, are determined to force employees back into Manhattan offices, like it or not. It’s now a common mantra among like-minded executives, especially those connected to downtown office development, that workers are “pining” to return to the office. Some have even threatened employees who do not come back in person with lower wages and decreased opportunities for promotion, while offering to reward those willing to take the personal hit of coming back on-site every day. Read More > at Tablet

We may have greatly underestimated the dangers of sleep deprivation – Sleep deprivation research isn’t new. Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation can cause a number of health problems, ranging from aching muscles and headaches to depression, memory loss, decreased immunity, and even depression.

But we may still be underestimating the damage that sleep deprivation can cause. An often-overlooked effect of lack of sleep is the propensity for errors. Simply put, the more tired you are, the more likely you are to make mistakes.

“If you look at mistakes and accidents in surgery, public transportation and even operating nuclear power plants, lack of sleep is one of the primary reasons for human error,” said Kimberly Fenn, associate professor of psychology and director of the MSU Sleep and Learning Lab. Sometimes, this lack of sleep reaches alarming levels. “There are many people in critical professions who are sleep-deprived. Research has found that nearly one-quarter of the people with procedure-heavy jobs have fallen asleep on the job.”

Of course, some errors are basic and make no significant difference in the grand scheme of things. You may forget where you left your cup or make a typo in an email — that kind of thing doesn’t really matter. But for millions of people, the daily routine also involves driving, and sleep deprivation is a prime cause for traffic accidents. For people operating complex machinery or doing complex procedures, that risk is even higher. Read More > at ZME Science

Gallup: Trust In The Media Sinks to 36 Percent, Second Lowest Ever – Can the mistrust of the media get much greater? Gallup pollsters reported on Thursday that American trust in the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down four percentage points since last year to 36 percent, making this year’s reading the second lowest in Gallup’s trend.”

Overall, just seven percent of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” and 29 percent “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in newspapers, television and radio news reporting — which, combined, is four points above the 32 percent record low in 2016, during the Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton battle. 

More than half of respondents sound fed up: 29 percent of the public currently registers “not very much” trust and 34 percent say they have “none at all.” Read More > at NewsBusters

Facebook Will Not Fix Itself – Five years ago, I embarked on a mission to help Facebook change its culture, business model and algorithms. I had been involved with the company in its early days as an adviser and investor. Since then, I and countless others have pressed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to reform Facebook. I communicated with them privately. I spoke out in public. I wrote for TIME in 2019, urging Facebook and Silicon Valley to adopt human-driven technology over addictive, dangerous algorithms. Nothing happened.

The last three weeks have changed the game. The courageous Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen has transformed the conversation about technology reform, accomplishing more than what I and others had achieved in years of effort. The documents she provided to the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” series confirmed that harms from Facebook’s business model are not an accident, but rather the inevitable result of a dangerous design. In many cases, the documents show, Facebook chose to double-down despite awareness of the harm it was causing and the pressure for change. It is clear that policymakers and the media have consistently underestimated the threat posed by Facebook, buying into the company’s rosy claims about the power of connecting the world and giving benefit of the doubt where none was deserved.

Facebook will not fix itself. All incentives direct the company to stay on its current course. And recent history would support the cynic’s view that our democracy and government are too broken to rein in any large company. But we are now at a point where further inaction by Congress will likely result in ongoing catastrophes from which we may not recover for a generation or more.

Though it pays to keep one’s hopes and expectations in check when it comes to Congress, the present moment feels different from past technology scandals, especially those involving Facebook. Senators from both parties at this week’s hearing expressed support for Ms. Haugen’s testimony and for legislation to address it. In reality, few in Congress have a clear understanding of the regulatory path forward, but they know they want to find it.

Ms. Haugen expressed empathy for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but did not hesitate to note the moral failing of a CEO who prioritizes profits over the public good. I agree, but would add that this problem goes far beyond Zuckerberg and Facebook. Read More > at TIME

Big change to California hair salons: New law eases training requirements for stylists – California’s beauty industry is bracing for a big change after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Thursday that significantly cuts the number of hours of training required to be a barber or cosmetologist.

Barbers and cosmetologists will only have to get 1,000 hours of training to get their license, compared to up to 1,600 hours currently. They and other beauty professionals will also no longer have to take a hands-on exam. Finally, a separate program will be created for hairstylists, who will only have to get 600 hours of training.

Several states such as Iowa and Pennsylvania have eliminated a hands-on exam for at least some of their beauty professionals, and others such as Maine and Delaware are considering the same, according to a report from California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology which oversees the industry.

Several states such as Vermont and Texas have recently reduced the hours of training required to get cosmetology licenses,… Vermont and Texas now require 1,000 hours of training to be a cosmetologist, who can do everything from cutting hair to manicures except shaving. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

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Oakley’s Dia de los Muertos Celebration

Saturday, October 30th at the Oakley Civic Center Park (3231 Main Street, Oakley) for the 9th Annual Día de los Muertos event starting at 4:00 p.m.

The event’s activities and performances will be followed by a movie in the park featuring Coco, which is set to begin after 6:30 p.m. as it gets dark. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets, and snacks to enjoy the entire event.

We will be following all current COVID-related guidelines for outdoor events. For more information, call 925-625-7118.

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Contra Costa Establishes Criteria for Lifting Indoor Masking Order

Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano today announced the criteria that will be used to lift the current indoor-masking order in our county:

  • The county reaches the CDC’s moderate (yellow) COVID-19 transmission tier and remains there for at least three weeks; AND
  • There are fewer than 75 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county; AND
  • One of the following conditions is met: 
  • 80% of the total population is fully vaccinated
  • Eight weeks have passed since a COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by federal and state authorities for 5- to 11-year-olds

When these criteria are met – which is project to be at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022 – Dr. Farnitano will lift the local masking order, which requires everyone to wear face coverings in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status. After the local masking order is lifted, unvaccinated residents will still need to wear masks in indoor public settings under the state’s face-covering order.

Other COVID-19 related health orders that are in place at that time would not be affected, including the health order related to verifying vaccination or testing status as high-risk businesses. 

While COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have declined recently, transmission rates remain relatively high, and it will be weeks before the order is lifted. Contra Costa County has yet to reach the CDC’s moderate (yellow) tier and remains in the higher “substantial” (orange) COVID-19 transmission tier. 

The criteria were established by Dr. Farnitano in collaboration with other Bay Area health officers who enacted similar masking orders in early August as the delta variant fueled a surge in cases and hospitalizations. 

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Update – 10/06/21 Dutch Slough Restoration

The Dutch Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project is the first major tidal wetlands restoration site in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to be implemented by DWR. The project will transform 1,187 acres of land into tidal marsh to provide habitat for salmon and other native fish and wildlife.

The Dutch Slough project will be the Delta’s largest restored fresh water tidal marsh. The tidal marsh is designed to create conditions that will favor native aquatic species over non-native fishes such as largemouth bass. Young salmon in Marsh Creek will be able to hide from predators in the marsh at high tide. Scientists expect that the tidal marsh will provide rearing habitat where the young salmon can grow strong before they journey to the ocean, boosting their survival rates.

Construction on two of the parcels, Emerson and Gilbert, started in May 2018 and was completed late in 2019, followed by revegetation planting starting in late 2019. Restoration of the third parcel, Burroughs, will likely begin in 2022.

The construction included grading channels for the re-routing of Marsh Creek and marsh areas. When grading was completed the marsh areas were flooded by pumping water in from the adjacent sloughs

On Monday, October 4, 2021, DWR breached the Little Dutch Slough levee, allowing water from the Delta channels to flow in and out with the daily tides, reestablishing a tidal marsh, and creating a rich habitat for fish and wildlife. When completed there will be 5 breaches. The one on the Gilbert parcel and 4 on the Emerson parcel.

Gilbert Marsh
Water from Little Dutch Slough flowing into the Marsh
Aerial of Gilbert parcel February of 2020 pre-planting

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Waterfowl Hunting begins October 23

Those quiet weekend mornings are about to be interrupted with the sounds of shotguns. For many who are new to Oakley you can expect to hear the blasts shortly after the sun rises every morning but especially on the weekends. The following dates apply to most of California. To see what regulations apply to you see California Waterfowl

Waterfowl hunting regulations are set at two levels: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sets science-based frameworks based on waterfowl population and other data, with guidance from councils established in each flyway. Then the California Fish & Game Commission sets regulations that fit within those frameworks.


  • Ducks: Oct. 23-Jan. 31
  • Scaup: Nov. 7-Jan. 31
  • Geese: Oct. 23-Jan. 30
  • Early large Canada goose season: Oct. 2-Oct. 6 (except in the North Coast Special Management Area).
  • Late white-fronts and white goose season: Feb. 19-23 (except Sacramento Valley Special Management Area, where white-fronts are closed).
  • Special Youth Hunt days: Feb. 5-6.
  • Extended falconry season: Feb. 26-27
  • Veteran Hunt days: Feb. 12-13 (no geese allowed)


  • Ducks: Daily bag limit: 7, which may contain 7 mallards of which only 2 can be female; 1 pintail; 2 canvasback; 2 redheads; 2 scaup.
  • Geese: Daily bag limit: 30, which may include up to 20 white geese and up to 10 dark geese.
  • Early large Canada goose season: 10 large Canada geese
  • Possession limit ducks and geese: Triple the daily bag limit.


Brant SMAs:

    • Northern Brant, Nov. 8-Dec. 14; 2 per day
    • Balance of State Brant, Nov. 9-Dec. 15; 2 per day.

North Coast SMA: Canada geese, Nov. 8-Jan. 31, and Feb. 19-Mar. 10; no more than 10 per day, of which 1 may be a large Canada goose (no large Canada geese may be taken during the late season).

Sacramento Valley SMA: No more than 3 white-fronts may be taken Oct. 23-Dec. 21.

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Marsh Creek Regional Trail Closure – starting October 11

As part of the Dutch Slough Restoration project Marsh Creek will be rerouted through the project. Two new pedestrian bridges will be placed on Emerson parcel, one on each end of the new Marsh Creek alignment.  Preparation of the Marsh Creek bridge construction (at the southwest corner of Emerson) is scheduled to commence on October 11, at which time, the Marsh Creek Regional Trail must be closed to the public.  Closure will be in effect for 4 to 6 weeks when the new bridge and trail realignments are completed.

From the south the trail closure will start in Oakley, where the canal crosses the creek. On the north the closure will start at the bridge crossing from the Big Break trail. Signs will be posted along the Marsh Creek Trail and the Big Break Trail

Dutch Slough Tidal Restoration Project

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Sunday Reading – 10/03/2021

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.

What if they opened the office and nobody came? – For months, corporate hegemons, real estate brokers and their media acolytes have been insisted that a return to “normalcy,” that is, to the office, was imminent. Some companies threatened to reduce the incomes of remote workers, and others warned darkly that those most reluctant to return to the five-day-a-week grind would find their own ambitions ground down to the dust. Workers have been reported to be “pining” to return to office routines.

Fears of returning to the office due to the Delta variant have delayed a mass return to gateway cities. Office vacancies grew in August. Since the pandemic began, tenants gave back around 200 million square feet, according to Marcus & Millichap data, and the current office vacancy rate stands at 16.2 percent, matching the peak of the financial crisis. Overall, it is widely expected that office rents will not recover for at least five years.

Things could get ugly as some $2 trillion in commercial real estate debt becomes due by 2025, particularly in large, transit dependent central business districts, reflecting in part reluctance among commuters to ride public conveyances. This is a world-wide phenomenon—occurring in New York, Hong Kong, Paris, London, and other financial centers—and accompanied by a marked decline in business travel, with conventions and meetings particularly devastated.

…The shift towards dispersed and remote work suggests the beginnings of a new geographical and corporate paradigm. Suburbs and exurbs accounted for more than 90 percent of all new job creation in the last decade, but with the rise of remote work, proximity to the physical workplace has lost more  of its advantages. University of Pennsylvania Professor Susan Wachter notes that telework eliminates the choice between long commutes and inordinate housing costs. The areas where remote work is growing most are generally small cities, as well as Sunbelt locales in Florida and South Carolina.

The dispersion of work is not a matter of low-wage workers heading to cheap places to do low-status jobs. In metros over one million such as Raleigh-Cary, Austin, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Charlotte, professional and business-services jobs are growing much faster than they are in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles. The number of employees using the office started to drop as early as 2017 in San Francisco, the biggest winner in the tech economy.

The pandemic supercharged these trends. The disturbing rate of fatalities and hospitalizations in the Northeast, notably New York City, including Manhattan but particularly the poorest sections of the outer boroughs, chased many urbanites to the suburbs, exurbs, and beyond. Even as infections spread to other regions, it remained easier to endure the pandemic in a more spacious house, particularly if mass transit is not necessary.

The longer the pandemic lasts and new variants appear, the greater will be what new research from Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis refers to as  “residual fear of proximity.” The team suggests that when the pandemic fades, roughly 20 percent or more of all work will be done from home, almost four times the already growing rate before the pandemic. A study from the University of Chicago suggests this could grow to as much as one-third of the workforce and as high as 50 percent in Silicon Valley. Roughly 40 percent of all California jobs, including 70 percent of higher paying work, could be done at home, according to research by the Center of Jobs and the Economy. Read More > at the American Mind

Slower USPS mail service to begin Friday as part of cost-cutting plan – Post offices nationwide will begin to see some delays in mail service beginning on Friday as part of the postmaster general’s new plan to cut costs and save money.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced the 10-year plan in the spring, which outlined new investments in technology, training and fleets of delivery vehicles.

The USPS will implement the new service standards Friday, which could lead to longer transit times for some long-distance first-class mail and first-class packages.

Shorter post office hours will also affect delivery times under the new plan.

The changes are not expected to affect better than 90% of periodicals and 60% of first-class mail, USPS spokesperson Kim Frum told NPR.

Postal service fees for commercial and retail packages will also increase over the holiday season, between Oct. 3 and Dec. 26. Read More > from UPI

Military suicide rates increasing, new Pentagon survey finds – Suicide rates in the U.S. military increased from 2015 to 2020 and the trend shows no signs of slowing, Pentagon officials acknowledged Thursday while releasing the Department of Defense’s 2020 Annual Suicide Report.

Pentagon officials said 580 active-duty service members died at their own hands in 2020, a 15% jump over the 504 suicides recorded in the previous year. While 2019 was a drop from the previous year, the five-year trend remains on the increase, officials said.

The suicide rate increased from 2015 to 2020 — 20.3 to 28.7 suicides per 100,000 service members. A rise in the rate of suicide deaths across all services was observed, according to the study.

The researchers called suicide “the culmination of multiple factors and complex interactions” and said an in-depth examination of the risk factors associated with suicide was beyond the scope of the report. But they did highlight some issues that could contribute to military suicides, including relationship problems, financial difficulties and legal or administrative issues. Read More > in The Washington Times

The News is America’s New Religion, and We’re in a Religious War

We’ll tell you anything you want to hear. We lie like hell! We’ll tell you Kojak always gets the killer, and nobody ever gets cancer in Archie Bunker’s house… We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear! We deal in illusion, man! None of it’s true! But you people… do whatever the tube tells you… This is mass madness, you maniacs!

— from Network, 1976

After a few days away from the news I watched Network, a movie about a mad prophet whose prophesies come true. Anchorman Howard Beale’s seminal speech described how America could commoditize anything, even the awful truth that its mass media had raised an illiterate populace that followed The Tube as the word of God. “Turn them off!” Beale screamed, just before collapsing in religious fervor, but one eye peeked out to see how his revelation was selling. True to form, even Network made a pile of money and won four Oscars.

Forty-five years later, the film’s predictions still look right, but too optimistic. Back then, a few networks dominated, and the trend was the One Big Lie: the Missile Gap, the Domino Theory, 4 out of 5 dentists recommend Trident. What could be worse? Ambrose Bierce once said there were only two things more horrible than a clarinet — two clarinets. The only thing darker than Network’s dystopian future with television as the national religion is the world we’ve got: two religions.

The last week has been typical of life in the news-as-doctrinal-squabble era. On Sunday, September 19, a freelance photographer named Paul Ratje based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, shot pictures of U.S. Border Patrol Agents chasing Haitian migrants trying to cross the border. In several photos, the agents appeared to be carrying lengths of leather cord. The next day, a former aide to onetime presidential candidate Julian Castro named Sawyer Hackett tweeted, “Border patrol is mounted on horseback rounding up Haitian refugees with whips,” and “This is unfathomable cruelty towards people fleeing disaster and political ruin.”

In reality, as poor Ratje would later point out to local news interviewers, there were no whips, just reins, and “I’ve never seen them whip anyone.” But by then, the story was a viral sensation that had gone all the way to the top of American society.

On that same Monday, September 20th that Sawyer Hackett tweeted about “rounding up refugees with whips,” a reporter asked White House spokesperson Jen Psaki if the administration viewed “border agents on horseback using what appeared to be whips on Haitian migrants” as an “appropriate tactic.” Psaki said no, it was “obviously horrific,” but this apparently wasn’t a good enough answer for the faithful. MSNBC/NBC contributor and proud Moral Majoritarian Yamiche Alcindor demanded to know if action would be taken on a double-conditional: “if this is true,” if anyone would be disciplined for “using what seems to be whips on migrants.” When Psaki finally suggested waiting to comment until she actually knew something about the incident, Alcindor pressed: “Why won’t you say fired?”

In a flash, the word “whip” was in headlines across media and social media, and the idea that Border Patrol agents had hit Haitian refugees with actual whips was ubiquitous… Read More > at Substack

Food myths busted: dairy, salt and steak may be good for you after all – A new Swedish study says decades of official dairy wisdom is wrong. Here, a nutrition expert examines more science that questions standard health advice

Over the past 70 years the public health establishment in Anglophone countries has issued a number of diet rules, their common thread being that the natural ingredients populations all around the world have eaten for millennia – meat, dairy, eggs and more – and certain components of these foods, notably saturated fat, are dangerous for human health.

The consequences of these diet ordinances are all around us: 60% of Britons are now overweight or obese, and the country’s metabolic health has never been worse.

Government-led lack of trust in the healthfulness of whole foods in their natural forms encouraged us to buy foods that have been physically and chemically modified, such as salt-reduced cheese and skimmed milk, supposedly to make them healthier for us.

The NHS Eatwell Guide, fondly known to its critics as the Eat badly guide, still tells us to choose lower-fat products, such as 1% fat milk, reduced-fat cheese, or low-fat yoghurt. This is based on the inadequately evidenced postwar belief that saturated fat is bad for your heart.

How embarrassing, then, for government dietetic gurus, that a major study of 4,150 Swedes, followed over 16 years, has last week reported that a diet rich in dairy fat may lower, not raise your risk of cardiovascular disease.

This Swedish study echoes the findings of a 2018 meta-analysis of 29 previous studies, which also found that consumption of dairy products protects against heart disease and stroke.Advertisement

A body of research also suggests that consumption of dairy fat is protective against type 2 diabetes. Read More > at The Guardian

A sluggish economic recovery – California’s economy will recover more slowly than expected due to the unpredictability of the delta variant, according to a quarterly report released Wednesday by the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Despite having by far the nation’s lowest coronavirus positivity rate, California’s unemployment rate has essentially remained stagnant for months and in August was the second-highest in the country at 7.5%. The UCLA economists predict the Golden State’s unemployment rate will average 7.6% this year before improving to 5.6% in 2022 and 4.4% in 2023 — still above its pre-pandemic level of 4.2%. That’s a slower pace of improvement than forecasted for the national economy, in part because of California’s reliance on the hard-hit tourism, leisure and hospitality industries.

In an apparent bid to boost both consumer and worker confidence, California is turning to stricter safety measures — but not all parts of the state are following suit. The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday delayed until next week a vote on whether to require adults to show proof of vaccination to enter nearly any indoor establishment, while the county eased vaccine and testing requirements for theme parks. Also Wednesday, Santa Cruz County lifted its indoor mask mandate and Sacramento County signaled it might soon follow suit — a day after San Francisco expressed openness to the idea. Read More > at CalMatters

Absenteeism surging since schools reopened – Amonth into in-person learning for most California schools, some districts are reporting soaring rates of absenteeism due to stay-at-home quarantines, fear of Covid and general disengagement from school.

Even districts like Elk Grove and Long Beach that had relatively high attendance before Covid have seen big increases in chronic absenteeism — students who have missed more than 10% of school days.

“It’s very concerning. We need to pay close attention to these students,” said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, a nonprofit aimed at boosting school attendance. “Not only are they missing out on opportunities to connect with their peers, but they’re missing valuable classroom time to help them recover from learning loss from the previous year.”

The California Department of Education has not yet released statewide attendance data for the 2021-22 school year, but some school districts reported their attendance rates to EdSource. Oakland Unified posts its attendance publicly.

Stockton Unified said that so far, 39% of its students have been chronically absent, more than double the rate two years ago. The district’s truancy outreach workers are visiting up to 60 homes a day, offering incentives like prizes and backpacks, to encourage students to come to school. Read More > at EdSource

The FBI Has Released 2020 Crime Statistics–And the Murder Rate Increase Will Shock You – The Uniform Crime Report detailed a murder increase of nearly 30 percent.

The previous largest one-year change was a 12.7 percent increase back in 1968. The national rate of murders per 100,000, however, still remains about one-third below the rate in the early 1990s.

The FBI data show around 21,500 total murders last year, which is 5,000 more murders than in 2019. More than three-fourths of reported murders in 2020 were committed with a firearm, the highest rate ever reported.

Murder rose by 35 percent in cities with populations over 250,000, and also jumped more than 40 percent in cities with 100,000 to 250,000 residents. Even towns with under 25,000 people saw a roughly 25 percent increase in homicides.

Earlier this year, the FBI reported that murder was up at least 20 percent in every region of the country, including a 30 percent increase in the Midwest. Louisiana had the highest murder rate of any state for the 32nd straight year.

On the flip side, property crimes declined almost 8 percent, the 18th consecutive year estimates for these offenses fell. Read More > at PJ Media

Anti-Semitic Attacks in 2020 Outnumbered Attacks Against Muslims, Asians, Transgender People Combined – More American Jews suffered hate crime attacks in 2020 than Asians, Muslims, and transgender people combined, according to FBI crime tracking data.

The agency recorded 676 instances of criminal offenses motivated by prejudice or hatred of Jews, making anti-Semitic hate crimes the third most common type of hate crimes, trailing anti-black and anti-white attacks.

While the media and politicians have focused on an increase of domestic hate crime attacks against Asians—a trend that has also been the centerpiece of Chinese Communist Party propaganda operations—the FBI recorded just 274 total incidents in 2020. Americans who identify as Asian make up roughly 7 percent of the U.S. population. Jews, who make up just 1.75 percent of the population, are more than twice as likely to experience hate crimes as Asian Americans. Read More > in The Washington Free Beacon

Concentrating on Crime – Though academics, the media, and politicians can’t seem to agree on much when it comes to crime in the United States, three stubborn facts generally apply.

First, crime is heavily concentrated by place. As a general matter, 5 percent of the locations in a given city account for 50 percent of that city’s crime. This finding has been replicated so often that it is sometimes referred to as “the law of crime concentration.” As David Weisburd and Taryn Zastrow note in a recent Manhattan Institute report, “there is tremendous consistency in the degree to which crime is concentrated at hot spots across cities.” This is not just a matter of neighborhoods: between 3 percent and 5 percent of specific addresses on city blocks generate 50 percent or more of reported crimes… 

Second, violent crime is heavily concentrated in a relatively few individuals. In general, 5 percent of the criminal offenders (not 5 percent of the general population) in a given city commit about 50 percent of that city’s violent crime. One study found that just 1 percent of offenders were responsible for over 60 percent of violent crime.

Third and finally, crime is concentrated in time. It is predictable by hours, days of the week, and season. The small percentage of chronic offenders who generate the majority of serious crime and violence aren’t actively committing crime all day, every day. Instead, the criminal activity in crime hot spots and among chronic offenders tends to occur at night, during the weekends (Thursday night through early Sunday morning), and in the summer… Read More > at City Journal 

Chancellor of Contra Costa Community College District, two other administrators suspended – The chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District and two top administrators have been placed on paid administrative leave for reasons that have not been made public.

Chancellor Bryan Reece was suspended with pay Sept. 14 following a closed-door session of the district’s board of trustees.  Dio Shipp, the district’s head of human resources, was suspended in June. Eugene Huff, executive vice chancellor of administrative services, was placed on leave in August.

Tim Leong, a district spokesman, would not say if the suspensions are related.

District trustees have scheduled a closed-door meeting for 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss the potential discipline or dismissal of unnamed employees, according to the meeting agenda. Leong would not say if the meeting involves Reese, Shipp or Huff. Board President Andy Li did not return messages Wednesday.

The district, comprised of the Contra Costa, Diablo Valley and Los Medanos community colleges, serves about 51,000 students. Read More > at EdSource

California Adopts Vote-by-Mail System for All Future Elections – California voters will continue to automatically receive ballots in the mail in all future state and local elections, under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday.

After experimenting with a universal vote-by-mail system during the coronavirus pandemic — resulting in near-record high turnout — California will now become the eighth state in the U.S. to make the change permanent.

“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections’ integrity and transparency,” said Newsom in a statement announcing his intention to sign Assembly Bill 37. Read More > at KQED

New Ways to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Are Here, and Even Better Ones Are on the Way – In sharp contrast to every other top-ten cause of death, Alzheimer’s disease has long lacked affordable and accessible ways to diagnose it. While doctors have been able to tell patients with almost 100% certainty whether they have diabetes, heart disease or cancer, until recently, Alzheimer’s was a diagnosis of exclusion.

Doctors could look for signs of Alzheimer’s. They could test memory and other cognitive skills, judge a patient’s ability to perform routine tasks, and ask their friends and family about any behavior changes. MRIs could determine brain volume, which diminishes as Alzheimer’s progresses. But blood and other diagnostic tests were used only to rule out other possible causes of their symptoms, such as B12 deficiency or thyroid disorders.

This is changing rapidly. Today we have diagnostic tests that identify specific changes in the brain that are consistent with Alzheimer’s disease. Instead of using tests simply to rule out other causes, we now have tests that can pinpoint Alzheimer’s as the cause of a patient’s memory and cognitive decline.

In scientific circles, these diagnostic tests are called “biomarkers,” or biological indicators of whether someone has Alzheimer’s disease, what are the contributing factors, and whether it is progressing. While many diseases have one biomarker—with HIV, for example, viral levels in the blood correlate with health status—Alzheimer’s will need several biomarkers because it is not caused by one biological problem alone. Read More > at Real Clear Health

Power crisis deepens in Asia and Europe: What it means to shipping – There’s panic-buying of gasoline in the U.K. Natural gas prices in Europe and Asia are skyrocketing. Protests are breaking out across Europe due to spiking electricity bills. India and China are short of coal for utilities. Power is being rationed to factories in multiple Chinese provinces — and winter is coming.

According to Bloomberg, power use is now being curbed by tight supply and emissions restrictions in the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong.

Bloomberg quoted Nomura analyst Ting Lu as stating, “The power curbs will ripple through and impact global markets. Very soon the global markets will feel the pinch of a shortage of supply from textiles and toys to machine parts.”

Nikkei reported that an affiliate of Foxconn, the world’s biggest iPhone assembler and a key supplier of Apple and Tesla, halted production at its facility in Kunshan in Jiangsu Province on Sunday due to lack of electricity supply. Another Apple supplier, Unimicron Technologies, also halted production in Kunshan on Sunday, said Nikkei, citing regulatory filings.

The New York Times reported on power outages in the heart of China’s southern manufacturing belt, in Guandong. Factories in the city of Dongguan have not had electricity since last Wednesday. The Times interviewed a general manager of a Dongguan factory that produces leather shoes for the U.S. market who has kept his operation running with a diesel generator and who said that power outages began this summer.

Stoppages of Chinese factories would further delay deliveries of U.S. imports, which have already been waylaid by extreme congestion at ports in Southern California and, more recently, ports in China. Read More > at Freight Waves

Study: Nearly 1 in 5 high school kids uses trio of pot, vapes, cigarettes – More U.S. teens use e-cigarettes, traditional cigarettes and marijuana together, posing greater risks to their health and behavior than if they used only one substance, a new study finds.

Called “triple users,” this group score high on a profile of psychosocial risk, which includes fighting, risky sexual behavior and behaviors such as not wearing seat belts, according to lead researcher Thomas Wills.

These and other recent data show that a substantial proportion of high school students are using marijuana and that teens tend to use both marijuana and e-cigarettes.

In the data analyzed, the dual and triple users together made up a third of the adolescent users. Read More > from UPI

Bacon prices have skyrocketed to record levels, and they might not go down anytime soon – Bacon is more expensive for Americans than it has been in the past 40 years.

And yes, that is accounting for inflation.

That hankering for pork chops is costing you about 7% more than 12 months ago. The average price for that slab of bacon to accompany the Sunday morning spread has jumped nearly 28% during the past 12 months, inflation-adjusted Consumer Price Index data show.

The supply chain issues and inflationary pressures that have become all-too common in these pandemic times certainly have played theirs roles in the pork price hikes, alongside a slew of industry-specific influence. 

By some analysts’ expectations, the higher prices aren’t expected to ease anytime soon. Read More > at CNN

Boxing bouts fixed at 2016 Olympics, investigation finds – Boxing bouts for medals at the 2016 Olympics were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges, an investigation reported on Thursday.

Investigator Richard McLaren was appointed by the International Boxing Association, known as AIBA, and found AIBA officials selected referees and judges to ensure that bouts could be manipulated in Olympic qualifying and at the Rio de Janeiro Games. He also found signs the 2012 Olympics in London were affected.

“Key personnel decided that the rules did not apply to them,” said McLaren, who added there was a “culture of fear, intimidation and obedience in the ranks of the referees and judges.”

There isn’t a final figure on how many fights could have been affected. The investigation identified “in the vicinity of 11, perhaps less, and that’s counting the ones that we know were manipulated, problem bouts or suspicious bouts,” including fights for medals, McLaren said. Read More > from the AP

Anticipating an increase in student misbehavior, California releases new discipline guidelines – Schools should offer more counseling, suspend fewer students and address the underlying mental health challenges of students who misbehave in class, according to the state’s new school discipline guidelines.

The guidelines, released last month by the California Department of Education, are intended to help schools navigate an anticipated uptick in student misbehavior following more than a year of remote learning, said department spokesperson Scott Roark.

Educators expect more disruption and difficulties from some students due to the pandemic.

The guidelines match the goals outlined in a 2020 legal settlement between the state and Public Counsel related to literacy rates in California schools. Under the settlement, CADRE and Public Counsel were allowed to review the guidelines.

Discipline policies were part of the literacy lawsuit because students who fall behind academically in the early grades tend to be less engaged in school and have higher discipline rates, according to the settlement. Read More > at EdSource

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect, Sunday, October 3, for the San Francisco Bay Area.  

It is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to burn wood indoors or outdoors.

Hot inland temperature combined with smoke from wildfires is currently impacting air quality in portions of the Bay Area. Concentrations of ground-level ozone AND particulate matter pollution are forecast to be unhealthy. High levels of ozone and particulate matter pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions. It is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to burn wood or manufactured firelogs in fireplaces, woodstoves and inserts, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits, or any other wood burning devices.

You can help protect your health by staying indoors and avoiding unnecessary outdoor activities.

This AirAlert is provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Thank you for doing your part to Spare the Air!

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect, Saturday, October 2, for the San Francisco Bay Area.  

It is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to burn wood indoors or outdoors.

Hot inland temperature combined with smoke from wildfires is currently impacting air quality in portions of the Bay Area. Concentrations of ground-level ozone AND particulate matter pollution are forecast to be unhealthy. High levels of ozone and particulate matter pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions. It is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to burn wood or manufactured firelogs in fireplaces, woodstoves and inserts, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits, or any other wood burning devices.

You can help protect your health by staying indoors and avoiding unnecessary outdoor activities.

This AirAlert is provided by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Thank you for doing your part to Spare the Air!

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Oakley – Friday Night Bites with Live Music!

Civic Center Plaza on Friday, October 1st for Friday Night Bites. The food trucks will be open from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with a Concert in the Park from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. featuring Rock the Heat! Bring your lawn chairs and blankets.

This month’s line up includes The Fry Boys, Philly Cheesesteak, El Gran Taco Loco, Cocine Danzon, Wanna Waffle?, Daisy’s Dessert, and Chrome Coffee.

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Oakley’s Afghan Heroes 

On August 26, at around 1730, Ghost Company 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, out of Camp Pendleton, alongside service personnel from the U.S. Army and British Paratroopers, were at the Abbey Gate entry to the Kabul Airport in Afghanistan scrambling to evacuate citizens and Afghans from the country. They had extended their work by over an hour, working to save as many people as possible, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives.

The attack involved one suicide bomb near the Abbey gate of the airport. The Pentagon confirmed that 13 U.S. service members had been killed and 18 wounded after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan. The dead include 11 Marines, one soldier and one sailor, with many in their early 20s. At least 169 Afghans were killed and scores more wounded, Afghan officials said, according to the Associated Press.

From Geoff Ball, Ghost Company, Company Commander in an email sent to family:

…we had a third of our entire force to care for in a split second. But in less than 20 minutes after the bomb detonated, we had our first wounded at the airport hospital and this included a ten minute drive time. Senior leaders at the operations center remarked they had never seen a MASSCAS response move so quickly. The entire V21 team worked incredibly smoothly and efficiently during this moment and we lived up to our name, The Professionals. We held security, we moved our wounded, and due to our training, likely saved more than we should have.

… In less than 24 hours after we returned to our billeting area after the attack, the company was back on the line and watching over evacuees.

Among the survivors of the attack were Lance Corporal Dylan Rothwell and Corporal Osvaldo Ochoa-Gonzalez both from Oakley. They will be coming home in mid-December. To support and assist their sons with the grieving process the families created a Go Fund Me account to honor their fallen brothers and sisters. The account was used to purchase memorial bricks that will be placed at the Oakley Veterans Memorial to honor the Fallen 13. Thanks to all that supported that effort.

Fallen 13

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, Calif.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn.

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Mo.

Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Neb.

Our local heroes would love to hear from you.

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Why are Yellowjackets More Active Right Now?

10 Tips on How to Respond to Today’s Yellowjackets and Prevent Tomorrow’s

It’s a sunny late September afternoon and you head out to the patio to enjoy your lunch.
But, no sooner have you taken your first bite, when a yellowjacket appears. Then another, and another start circling your soft drink and your lunch. There goes your backyard meal plan, but why? Why are the yellowjackets so active right now and why are they attracted to my lunch?

“It’s the time of year when vegetation is dry and water is scarce, so, when worker yellowjackets are looking for food, they are attracted to whatever they can find. They can be drawn to sweet items such as honey, candy, fruit, and soft drinks; as well as red meat, chicken, fish, and even pet food. That means if you’re having a meal, grilling burgers, or at a picnic outdoors and you have any of these food items, at this time of year, yellowjackets will find you,” said District Operations Supervisor Terry Davis.

During late summer into early fall, the need to gather food, particularly proteins and carbs, intensifies for yellowjackets because they are raising males and new queens. Once the temperatures cool and the rest of the colony dies off, the new yellowjacket queens seek shelter until springtime when they emerge to create new colonies.

What Can You Do to Avoid Yellowjackets That are More Active, Right Now?

  1. Avoid eating or cooking meals outdoors if yellowjackets are present.
  2. Each evening, observe your yard for signs of yellowjacket nests.
  3. If you see any ground-nesting yellowjackets flying into a hole in the ground, or under shrubs, or into other vegetation, place something nearby to safely mark the location like a tool, hose, or small flag.
  4. Draw a simple map of your yard that shows where the potential nest is compared to the rest of the yard and tape the map to your front door or gate.
  5. Contact the District to request ground-nesting yellowjacket service.

During the District’s ground-nesting yellowjacket service, a District employee will use the map and the marking to find the nest to inspect it. If it turns out to be a ground-nesting yellowjacket nest, the District employee can treat the nest. More information on the District’s ground-nesting yellowjacket service guidelines can be found here.

Additional Recommendations to Reduce the Risk of Future Yellowjackets

  1. Tightly cover garbage containers
  2. Properly maintain compost piles
  3. Tightly cover can and bottle recycling bins
  4. Do not leave pet food outside
  5. Place pheromone traps outside and as far from doors and windows as possible in early spring to capture queens

Yellowjackets are considered to be beneficial insects because they eat garden pests and pollinate crops through daily foraging. However, these wasps will defend their nest if they sense a threat to the colony. Yellowjackets can sting and bite repeatedly which can be painful and may be life-threatening for individuals hypersensitive to wasp venom. The District provides ground-nesting yellowjacket service to reduce the risk of human harm from yellowjackets.

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Contra Costa County and East Contra Costa Fire Boards’ approvals give greenlight to Fire District annexation plans

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (Con Fire) and East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) today announced their boards of directors have each approved resolutions for the annexation of ECCFPD into the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. The agencies are now expected to make applications to the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) for formal
approval of the annexation.

When approved, Con Fire will absorb the firefighting staff, support staff, facilities and
equipment of today’s ECCFPD, (Oakley, Brentwood, Byron, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island and Knightsen) and the newly merged organization will provide improved fire
and emergency services to the more than 128,000 residents of eastern Contra Costa County.
The annexation approval process is expected to take four-to-six months followed by
operational and administrative consolidation of the two entities.

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Sunday Reading – 09/26/2021

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.

Why Hasn’t California Been Split Into Smaller States Yet?Like awaiting an earthquake, we are due — overdue, really — for another aggrieved someone to try once again to get voters or legislators or Congress — or all three — to agree to divvy up California into two or three or a half-dozen states.

Why would I think that? I leave the arithmetic to you: About 220 times in more than 170 years, some interest or power or politician waved around a cleaver and cried, “Hey, let’s chop up California!”

The last time this happened was three years ago, which is forever in politics.

In July 2018, one day before the November state election ballot was being sent to the printers, the California Supreme Court unanimously yanked the Three States Initiative off the ballot because of “significant questions” about its validity and “the potential harm” of leaving it on the ballot.

None of these votes and bills has the force of law; California can’t unilaterally divorce itself. The U.S. Constitution decrees that “no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

But all of these tries can at least roil state governance, and can even set in motion requirements like a “yes” vote of the people of California and an official request to Congress to approve the big breakup.

The closest we got to an actual breakup came, paradoxically, from the brother of the last Mexican governor of California. Andres Pico was an assemblyman in the new state of California. In 1859, his act to bisect California horizontally, around San Luis Obispo, got the blessing of the legislature, the governor and 3 out of 4 voters, and was sent to Congress — where it ran into a little impediment called the Civil War.

In starched-collar language, Pico’s act made the same point that splitter-uppers make to this day: “Whereas, the present boundaries of the State of California enclose an area of such extent and so diversified in physical and other features as to preclude, to an unwholesome degree, the possibility of uniform legislation, and render cumbersome and expensive the operation of government.” Read More > at Governing

America’s Farmers Fight Back Against California’s War on Bacon – Senators Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Cindy Hyde-Smith, (R-Miss.) were motivated to introduce new legislation called the Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression Act (EATS Act) in order to counter California’s Proposition 12 (Prop 12).

Protect the Harvest reports the congressional legislation was “introduced in the U.S. Senate aimed at preventing states and local governments from interfering with agricultural interstate commerce.” The EATS Act protects agricultural producers across the country from acts like California’s Prop 12, which requires livestock producers outside of California to conform to animal housing and other standards set by radical animal rights activists under the guise of “public health.”

“The EATS Act would prevent states from impeding agricultural trade from other states within the United States—consistent with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which provides the federal government with the duty to regulate interstate commerce,” said Sen. Hyde-Smith in a press release. “State and local units of government would still be able to regulate farming and ranching within their own jurisdictions, however, this legislation makes it illegal to impede trade from fellow states.”

More than twenty U.S. states have challenged Prop 12 and “several other states have adopted or contemplated laws that would affect the agricultural production outside their state” since it was signed into law in 2018, but “this pro-ag, pro-jobs legislation would establish a federal standard that fosters greater interstate commerce among states without interference from activist cit[ies] or state governments,” she said.

“It shouldn’t be up to California to tell other states how they should be producing their agricultural products,” Grassley told WNAX in an interview. “California is not only being unfair to its own consumers but to producers in other states and is likely violating the U.S. Constitution with Proposition 12.”

How bad is Prop 12 for producers and consumers? Yahoo News reported that under Prop 12, “bacon may disappear in California” while, simultaneously, America’s producers would lose access to one of the nation’s largest markets once the new standards are fully “administered and enforced” at the beginning of next year… Read More > at PJ media  

CA sets new median home price record – The median price of a single-family home in California shot to a jaw-dropping $827,940 in August — the fifth time the Golden State has broken its own record in the past six months, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Department of Finance. (It almost makes one nostalgic for last August, when California’s median home price broke the $700,000 barrier for the first time.) Evidence of sky-high prices is everywhere: In Los Angeles, $1 million homes are popping up in all kinds of neighborhoods, while the typical home value in Los Altos is approaching a cool $3.8 million. The costs have risen so steeply that a Sacramento program hasn’t been able to deliver grants to low-income families and people of color hoping to buy their first home — because the homes themselves are no longer within those Californians’ price range.

News of the increasingly expensive housing costs came a few days after Newsom signed a package of bills to ease California’s affordable housing crisis. It also comes about a week before California’s eviction moratorium is set to expire. Read More > at CalMatters

California Says Goodbye to Single-Family Zoning – Two days after his titanic victory in the September 14 recall election, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed historic legislation that essentially eliminates single-family zoning across the state of California.

SB9 (Atkins) will allow up to four dwellings (as many as two duplexes or two houses with attached units) to be built on almost any lot currently zoned for a single-family residence. The bill only allows cities to veto such development when there is a threat to health and safety. Historic districts and fire hazard zones are excluded. The bill also contains a provision requiring the developer to live on site for at least three years to curtail speculative buying.

Advocates of the bill say it will reduce sky-high housing prices in the state by increasing supply. Some point to the racist history behind so-called “exclusionary zoning” as well.

Over 200 cities were opposed to the bill, which critics note includes no price caps or other assurances of affordability. Instead, they argue it will destroy the character of single-family neighborhoods, drive down property values and/or and speed up gentrification in some Black and Latino areas.

SB9 “undermines the ability of local governments to responsibly plan for the types of housing that communities need, circumvents the local government review process, and silences community voices,” said League of California Cities Executive Director Carolyn Coleman, as quoted by CalMatters.

“Even worse, there are no provisions in SB9 that require new housing to be affordable, continuing the cycle of the construction of new units that are out of reach for a mini working-class families.”

There are very real concerns about the capacity of local infrastructure as well. More dwellings mean increased water and sewer use, trash collection, and parking woes. That’s according to 120 mayors and city council members from 48 cities who have complained about the bill’s usurpation of local control.

These dueling arguments will soon be thrust before voters. A group called Californians for Community Planning Initiative has filed a proposed constitutional amendment for the November 2022 ballot to restore local governments’ zoning and land-use powers.

Affordable housing advocates are willing to fight for what they believe was a necessary change in the status quo. As the governor said last week, “the housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity.”

In addition to SB9, the governor has signed SB8 (Skinner) and SB10 (Wiener). SB8 extends the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 through 2030. That law accelerates the approval process for home-building and limits local governments’ ability to downzone. SB10 will make it easier for cities to approve small apartment complexes of up to 10 units in single-family neighborhoods near transit or in urban infill areas. Read More > at California City News

Don’t be fooled: California’s new housing laws make significant changes to zoning – The word is out that major land zoning bills signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom don’t amount to much because they were so watered down by compromising legislators. Don’t believe it.

If my next-door neighbor can convert her single-family home into a fourplex, that amounts to a lot. Suddenly there are more cars parked on the street, more little kids screaming and more dogs leaving gifts on my lawn.

And she could do that under SB 9, the signature bill by Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) from the recently concluded legislative session.

Atkins’ bill and another, SB 10 by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would weaken single-family zoning — if not eliminate it — and make it easier to build multifamily dwellings.

SB 9, dubbed the “duplex bill,” would offer homeowners new options to build additional housing on their lots, regardless of whether they’re currently zoned for single-family only. They could add a granny flat, convert the house into a duplex or erect a triplex or fourplex.

SB 10 would be voluntary for cities. They could rezone a parcel for a new housing development of up to 10 units and streamline government permitting. A builder could bypass the California Environmental Quality Act, often abused by a project’s opponents. The project gets dragged out until it’s no longer economically feasible and is abandoned. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

State cracks down on Amazon – When it comes to organized labor, Gov. Gavin Newsom giveth and Gov. Gavin Newsom taketh away.

The governor on Wednesday signed into law one of the most controversial union-backed bills of the year, which takes aim at warehouse speed quotas that became infamous when reports surfaced of Amazon workers urinating in water bottles due to a lack of time to go to the bathroom. The new law requires warehouses to inform employees of work speed standards and the consequences for failing to meet them. It also prevents workers from being penalized for complying with health and safety laws — like going to the restroom — that slow the pace of their work.

But that win for the labor movement was somewhat offset by Newsom vetoing a bill that would have allowed farmworkers to vote by mail in union elections — a setback that comes just months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a state law allowing union organizers to meet with farmworkers on growers’ property. “I’m truly devastated that Gavin Newsom vetoed the most important union organizing bill of the year,” tweeted Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat and author of the warehouse bill. “Happy Hispanic Heritage Month.”

United Farm Workers, whose members on Wednesday began a 260-mile march from the Central Valley to Sacramento to urge Newsom to sign the vote-by-mail bill, tweeted, “Workers are now marching towards the French Laundry, hoping to finally meet with the Governor.”

The back-and-forth underscores a central tension in California’s labor movement: Unions represent just 16% of the state’s more than 15 million workers — a steep decline from the 1950s, when more than 40% of California’s workforce was unionized. A group of Newsom’s advisors recently argued the state should help workers form unions to reduce inequality and improve job quality. But would that help? And will workers re-embrace unions in an increasingly tech-based economy? CalMatters’ California Divide team answers those questions and more in a comprehensive explainer exploring labor’s role in California in the 21st century.

Meanwhile, another battle between labor and business groups is heating up ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline that marks the end of California’s expanded sick leave program, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports. Business groups say they can’t afford to extend the pandemic policy any longer; employees say they can’t afford to take time off without pay and don’t want to endanger others by coming into work sick. Read More > at CalMatters

The Boys Who Cried Wolf -After more than a year and a half of intense debate, there is still no definitive evidence that resolves the lab leak discussion. This is not unexpected, as the pandemic started in China, a totalitarian state in which information flow is tightly controlled. From the beginning, the Chinese government has objected to and impeded investigations of the lab leak theory that would normally be conducted through independent serological testing of lab workers, access to hospital records, inspection of laboratory records and pre-outbreak collections, etc. Nevertheless, little pieces of evidence have emerged here and there that lend credence to both the natural-origin zoonotic jump and natural-origin lab leak theories as plausible causes of the pandemic.

Regardless of how COVID-19 started, the premature suppression of the discussion of the lab leak theory highlights a new and unhealthy relationship between the mainstream media and science. It is alarming that journalists were labeling the lab leak hypothesis with all its different branches a “debunked” conspiracy theory as early as February 2020 based on studies that simply said that the virus was likely not engineered. Reframing this partial answer as a much broader and more definitive one, the press then cherry-picked comments from scientists who had collaborated extensively with the lab and whose apparent conflicts of interest were ignored in order to present their statements as proven facts.

…The media throughout 2020 reported a “scientific consensus” that the pandemic was a result of a zoonotic jump that is unrelated to lab activity without providing information on what questions the scientists it surveyed were asked, how many scientists were surveyed, and whether or not these scientists conducted investigations into the origin of COVID-19. It is clear that journalists have a powerful tool through which they are able to declare a scientific consensus before a matter is rigorously investigated.

Amplifying ignorance and absolutism in order to enforce unproven opinions as unquestionable “facts” is the opposite of how the scientific method functions. Irresponsible reporting and nonfactual declarations of scientific consensus on developing matters endanger public health just like a virus does, by undermining public trust in science. We should learn something from the boys who cried wolf. Read More > at Tablet

7 ways men live without working in America – Almost one-third of all working-age men in America aren’t doing diddly-squat. They don’t have a job, and they aren’t looking for one either. One-third of all working-age men. That’s almost 30 million people!

How do they live? What are they doing for money? To me, this is one of the great mysteries of our time.

I’m certainly not the first person to make note of this shocking statistic. You’ve heard people bemoaning this “labor participation rate,” which is simply the number of working-age men (usually counted as ages 16 to 64) who are working or are seeking work, as a percentage of the overall labor force.

It’s true that the pandemic, which of course produced a number of factors that made working more difficult never mind dangerous, pushed the labor participation rate to a record low. But the fact that millions of American males have not been working precedes COVID-19 by decades. In fact, the participation rate for men peaked at 87.4% in October 1949 and has been dropping steadily ever since. It now stands at 67.7%.

…Let’s start with this one because it’s a hot button issue. Conservatives and some liberals too have made the claim that state unemployment aid, coupled with $600 a week from the CARES Act, which was rolled out in March 2020, have reduced men’s need to work. (There are actually a variety of social programs at play, spelled out nicely here by think tank The Century Foundation, which estimates that overall these programs have pumped $800 billion in the economy.)…

…but it is the case that millions of men under 64 are at least partly living off of pensions and 401(k)s. This would include everything from C-suite executives to union members. And don’t forget municipal workers, who make up almost 14% of the U.S. workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are some 6,000 public sector retirement systems in the U.S. Collectively these plans have $4.5 trillion in assets, with 14.7 million working members and 11.2 million retirees… Read More > at Yahoo! News 

Unemployment rate stagnant – The numbers are irrefutable: Many Californians aren’t going back to work.

Although the Golden State created a whopping 44% of the nation’s new jobs last month, its unemployment rate remained the second-highest in the country at 7.5%, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department. That’s essentially unchanged from the 7.6% unemployment rate California notched in both July and June — and hardly different from the 7.7% rate in May, a month before the state ended most coronavirus restrictions and fully reopened its economy.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom: “We still have more work to do in regaining those jobs lost to the pandemic, but this is promising progress for California’s economic recovery.”

Nearly half of the 104,300 payroll jobs California added in August were government positions, a reflection of public schools desperately trying to fill teacher and substitute teacher shortages as kids return to campus. Santa Ana Unified School District, for example, is hiring so many people that its understaffed human resources department hasn’t been able to process payments quickly enough, forcing more than 100 educators to go without pay for more than a month.

Some experts had predicted that the federal government’s Sept. 4 cutoff of expanded unemployment benefits for 2.2 million Californians would prompt people to reenter the workforce, but there hasn’t been a noticeable shift so far. Around 55,000 Californians filed new jobless claims for the week ending Sept. 11, a decrease of fewer than 3,000 people from the week before, federal data show. And the Golden State lost more than 6,000 education and health services payroll jobs in August, exacerbating an already dire nurse shortage.

In a bid to attract new workers, the beloved Sacramento-area sushi restaurant Mikuni expanded benefits and hosted a job fair — but saw only three applicants. Eight of its nine locations will now close Mondays due to the staffing shortage.

The pandemic has hit working women especially hard. More than 40,000 women nationwide dropped out of the labor force between July and August as coronavirus outbreaks closed schools and the low-paying child care sector remained short nearly 127,000 workers.

Facebook’s monstrous empire – Facebook is at the center of yet another journalistic hurricane. The Wall Street Journal obtained a trove of internal Facebook documents, and used them for a series of articles about how rich celebrities get to break the company’s rules with impunity (including posting apparent revenge porn), how Instagram has created an epidemic of mental health problems among young girls, how drug cartels and human traffickers have used Facebook openly to run their operations, how company staff know perfectly well its algorithm fuels hate and extremism, and how the company’s systems are so toxic and broken that even Mark Zuckerberg himself couldn’t use it effectively to promote vaccination.

This reporting proves beyond any doubt that Facebook is a menace that cannot be reformed from the inside. All the root causes of these problems are directly produced by how the company is designed and operated. The Facebook empire needs to be broken up and its pieces strictly regulated.

One big source source of trouble is the Newsfeed algorithm, which has been repeatedly redesigned to get users to spend more time on Facebook. By 2017 the company was looking at a long-term decline in use among rich countries, and tried various strategies to reverse the trend. It turns out that the easiest way to do this is to reward inflammatory content, incentivize anger and hostility, and encourage fighting in the comments section. This worked at retaining users, but at the cost of sowing bitterness, division, paranoia, and extremism across the globe. Political parties from Poland to Spain to Latin America complained to Facebook that the changes incentivized polarization and extremism, the Journal reports.

Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) has a similar problem. The basic idea of that platform is to watch glamorous people post carefully-composed and -edited pictures about how great their lives are. Unfortunately this comes with a downside: It tends to make ordinary people who don’t have plastic surgeons, a full-time makeup team, a private jet, and the ability to spend six hours a day exercising feel bad about their bodies — particularly young girls, who already faced heavy social pressure to conform to a deliberately impossible beauty standard even before social media came along. Sure enough, the Journal reports that Facebook has known for years that Instagram was mass-producing anxiety, depression, and eating disorders among teen girls who use it, and did nothing about it. Read More > at The Week

A Landmark Autism Intervention Study Has Shown Dramatically Reduced Diagnosis Rates – We know that for autism, the causes and changes to the brain are happening long before birth. But in a groundbreaking new study, an intervention in infants showing early signs of autism has been able to reduce clinical diagnosis by two-thirds.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) describes a wide-ranging set of conditions affecting a person’s social, communication, and motor skills. Diagnosis is based on criteria outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 – such as persistent deficits in social interactions and reciprocating emotions, an absence of interest in friends, repetitive movements or speech, and extreme or unusual reactions to stimuli.

“These findings are the first evidence that a pre-emptive intervention during infancy could lead to such a significant improvement in children’s social development that they then fell below the threshold for a clinical diagnosis of autism,” says one of the study authors, University of Manchester child psychiatry researcher Jonathan Green.

This iBASIS-Video Interaction to Promote Positive Parenting (or VIPP) is what the team calls a parent mediated therapy. This is not in any way intended to be a ‘cure’ for autism, but an approach aimed at “reducing the long-term disability” of ASD.

Normally, diagnosis can occur from around two years of age, but there are also signs that can occur much earlier, such as avoiding eye contact and using fewer words than their peers. It’s these early symptoms that the researchers are interested in, as making small changes early on could lead to significantly better developmental outcomes later.

The researchers tracked 103 infants who had these early signs of ASD, aged as young as nine months all the way through to three years, in a randomized, blinded experiment.

Fifty of the infants received iBASIS-VIPP – a treatment that teaches parents to change the way they interact with their babies to stimulate their socio-communicative development, while the remaining 53 received normal care.

The results were staggering – of those who had received the iBASIS-VIPP treatment, only 3 of the 45 participants who were tested again at age three met the clinical threshold for being diagnosed with autism, versus 9 of the 45 who had received regular care. That’s a difference of two-thirds. Read More > at Science Alert

Are You Left-Handed? Science Still Yearns to Know Why – Why is it that a small subset of the population prefers to use their left hand for manual tasks, and why do we even show a preference in the first place? The body of research on these questions is a microcosm of the many challenges of doing scientific research and communicating it to the public. It’s a story of false leads, enduring myths, and hypotheses that become more and more complex as our understanding of genetics deepens.

What percentage of the population is left-handed? Sounds simple enough, but the devil is in the details. When researchers start to think about the question long enough, they realize it’s problematic. Questionnaires, like the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory, exist, sure, but some of their questions can rapidly become outdated. Ask a Millennial which hand they typically use to strike a match and you might be met with a confused face. Also, just because you write with your left hand does not mean you throw a ball with the same hand. This also brings up the issue of preference versus skill. You may prefer engaging in a manual task with your left hand, but in a test you may be revealed to be more skilled with your right hand. In fact, nearly a third of left-handed writers throw more accurately with their right hand (and a tiny percentage of right-handed writers throw best with their left).

Another kink to the story: when you ask Baby Boomers which hand they use to write, you might get deceptive numbers if your interest is in the underlying biology of handedness. That’s because for a good chunk of the twentieth century (and still in some cultures), it was common for schools to force the sinistral students to switch to the “correct” hand. Thus people born as left-handers were culturally forced to become right-handers. All of these problems have made it challenging to evaluate how common left-handedness is worldwide, with early estimates ranging from 1% to nearly 30%, but in 1994 the largest survey ever conducted and done in 32 countries provided the most reliable answer to date: 9.5%. Nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide reported using their left hand to write, with some variation from country to country. This was somewhat confirmed by an analysis of nearly 2.4 million individuals published last year which reported a range of 9.3% to 18.1% depending on how handedness had been measured. Read More > at McGill

America’s car crash epidemic – Cars killed 42,060 people in 2020, up from 39,107 in 2019, according to a preliminary estimate from the National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit that focuses on eliminating preventable deaths. (NSC’s numbers are typically higher than those reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because the NSC includes car deaths in private spaces like driveways and parking lots, and it counts deaths that occur up to a year after a crash.)

That increase occurred even as the number of miles traveled by car decreased by 13 percent from the previous year. It was the biggest single-year spike in the US car fatality rate in nearly a century, and 2021 is on pace to be even worse.

Between January and June of this year, NSC reports that car fatalities increased by 16 percent from the same period last year, with areas as diverse as Texas and New York City reporting sharp increases. If the trend continues for the rest of the year, nationwide deaths would reach the highest level since 2006. The NHTSA’s preliminary data estimate a lower but still dramatic 10.5 percent increase in car deaths between January and March 2021 compared to the same months last year.

According to several traffic experts I spoke with, the explanation for the 2020 fatality spike is relatively straightforward: With fewer cars on the road during quarantine, traffic congestion was all but eliminated, which emboldened people to drive at lethal speeds. Compared to 2019, many more drivers involved in fatal crashes also didn’t wear seat belts or drove drunk.

But why has the surge persisted and worsened this year, even as traffic has been picking back up and nearing pre-Covid-19 levels? We don’t entirely know, but it seems to have something to do with the pandemic altering traffic patterns. Read More > at Vox

iPhone 13 and 13 mini review: A subtle upgrade that’s all about the cameras – On paper, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini aren’t much to get excited about. Apple’s subtle refinement on the iPhone 12 models will be familiar if you’ve paid attention to developments in the Android world. Some of the changes are impressive, like bringing the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s excellent camera hardware to smaller phones and lower price points. Others, like a slightly smaller notch, bigger batteries, brighter displays, faster chips and expanded 5G support feel incremental. Still, they add up to make the iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 feel like worthwhile upgrades, especially to those looking to upgrade from older iPhones.

The main way to tell the iPhone 13 and its predecessor apart is by looking at the camera module. Instead of stacking the pair of lenses vertically, Apple laid them diagonally. The bump is also a little bigger and thicker and the extra wobbling this causes is mildly annoying. Also, this does mean your old iPhone 12 cases won’t fit.

Otherwise, the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are physically very similar to last year’s models. They both feature anodized aluminum and glass frames with flat edges with what Apple calls its “ceramic shield” covering the front.

Both the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are a hair heavier and thicker and have the same display sizes as before at 6.1-inch and 5.4-inch respectively. The iPhone 13 is heavier than the Galaxy S21, too, despite having a smaller screen. Though, its density, glass covering and shiny metal edges do make it feel more premium. Read More > at Engadget

Why the US isn’t ready for clean energy – In the near future, the energy made in the US is going to be much greener. The country’s current goal is for solar plants alone to make nearly half of US electricity by 2050. But we can’t just build solar plants where coal and gas plants used to be. They have to be built where it’s … sunny. And wind turbines have to be built where it’s windy. But that’s not always where the people who need the power are.

The distance from energy source to energy need is about to get a lot bigger. And the US is going to need more high-voltage transmission lines. A lot more. As soon as possible. While solar plants can be built relatively fast, high-voltage transmission projects can take up to 10 years. So experts say we need to start proactively building them, right now. Read More > at Vox

Coal Prices Surge as Power Crunch Upends Effort to Cut Emissions – Prices for coal are surging around the world as a shortage of natural gas spurs demand for the dirtiest fossil fuel to generate electricity.

Benchmark prices in Asia are at a 13-year high and within striking distance of a record. Stockpiles are plunging ahead of a northern hemisphere winter that forecasters predict could be unusually cold, indicating the crunch is unlikely to ease anytime soon. Increased costs for electricity providers threaten to put further pressure on inflation that’s already running at the fastest in years.

And of course it’s a disaster for the effort to curb global warming as officials from around the world prepare for the United Nations General Assembly this week and climate talks known as COP26 set for November. The only limiting factor is that the fuel’s grim long-term prospects have deterred suppliers from developing new mines, constraining their ability to expand production. That may put a ceiling on increases in consumption, but will only drive prices higher. Read More > from Bloomberg

Your car knows too much about you. That could be a privacy nightmare. – The car you drive says more about you than you think.

Over the last few decades, technology has given drivers remarkable improvements in both safety and convenience — but it has also turned cars into data-gathering machines. What information is collected, and where it ends up, is not always clear to car owners.

That’s a potential privacy disaster waiting to happen.

As Jon Callas, the Electric Frontier Foundation’s director of technology projects, explained to Mashable, newer cars — and Teslas in particular — are in many ways like smartphones that just happen to have wheels. They are often WiFi-enabled, come with over a hundred CPUs, and have Bluetooth embedded throughout. In other words, they’re a far cry from the automobiles of even just 20 years ago.

If your car knows where you go, and how long you stay there, it, like your cellphone, also hypothetically knows whether you’re a churchgoer, attend AA, or made a recent trip Planned Parenthood. And, depending on what features you’ve enabled, it may not keep that information to itself.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read More > at Mashable

How did America end up with the world’s largest tiger population? – There are about 10,000 tigers in the US. Thirty states allow private ownership of predatory exotics like tigers. The requirements are deceptively simple: a USDA conservation label form and a $30 license. Nine states require no permit or license whatsoever. This allows virtually anyone to own, breed and sell tigers.

Most of the trade is grounded in a high demand for tiger bones and products popular in the traditional Chinese medicine market – which is how I end up in Colorado, stepping through the 22,000-square-foot National Wildlife Property Repository, a mausoleum of 1.3m confiscated animal products.

Shelves of mounted tigers, skins, medicinals, gold tooth earrings, claw necklaces, skulls unfold in front of me – the scene is eerily reminiscent of the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, says Sarah Metzer, a US Fish and Wildlife Service education specialist. “What you’re seeing is maybe 10% of all of the seized goods from US ports of entry.” She pushes aside a zebra skin chaise longue to open a loading dock door. “There’s so much contraband we’re running out of space.”

While listed as “endangered” under the federal Endangered Species Act, the law allows private possession of captive-bred tigers as long as they’re used for “conservation”but experts say no tigers bred in captivity are ever released. In 1900, there were about 100,000 tigers in the wild. Today, about 4,000 remain in a handful of nations. If none return to the wild, how does private possession of the feline benefit the species? Read More > in The Guardian

Climate Change Ate My Homework: Politicians Blame Climate Change for Bureaucratic Failures – Never let a crisis go to waste, said Rahm Emanuel.  True to form, politicians, including New York City Mayor DeBlasio, are conveniently claiming that last week’s flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida is clear evidence of climate change. “Unfortunately,” said the Mayor, “extreme weather events are becoming the norm.”   

The data suggest it’s more complicated. Hurricanes are actually slightly less frequent today than they were a century ago. The average number of wildfires  has not increased over the last thirty years and, over the past century, the total number of  acres burned is far lower. 

Damages from hurricanes have increased because of far more development along the Gulf and east coasts. Furthermore, the federal government has subsidized flood insurance in these same areas and continues to do so. Not only have those subsidies encouraged coastal development, but also they provide an economic incentive for individuals, and state and local governments, to skimp on building more flood-resistant facilities. Vulnerable infrastructure—and more of it—will naturally yield greater infrastructural damage.

Similarly, damages from wildfires, especially in California, have resulted from a toxic combination of federal and state fire suppression policies, environmentalists’ demands that have prohibited removal of dead and diseased trees, restrictions on grazing that would remove dry grasses and, especially, poorly maintained power lines. Pacific Gas & Electric Company, for example, pleaded guilty to 85 counts of manslaughter because it failed to maintain power line equipment that caused the 2018 Camp Fire. To make matters worse, California’s restrictive development policies have forced homeowners to move farther away from cities and into mountainous areas where fire risk is greatest. Climate change isn’t responsible for those policies. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

To Be a Field of Poppies – The elegant science of turning cadavers into compost – …Each of their bodies was placed inside an eight-foot-long steel cylinder called a “vessel,” along with wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. Over the next thirty days, the Recompose staff monitored the moisture, heat, and pH levels inside the vessels, occasionally rotating them, until the bodies transformed into soil. The soil was then transferred to curing bins, where it remained for two weeks before being tested for toxins and cleared for pickup.

Half of the NOR soil would wind up in a forest on Bells Mountain, in southwestern Washington, near the Oregon border. A composted body produces approximately one cubic yard of soil, which can fill a truck bed and weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds. For many surviving relatives—apartment dwellers, for example—taking home such a large quantity of soil is unrealistic, so Recompose offers them the option to donate it to the mountain, where it’s used to fertilize trees and repair land degraded by logging.

But Amigo Bob was a farmer, so Jenifer rented a U-Haul and brought the whole cubic yard of him home. She turned the trip into a kind of pilgrimage, stopping to visit loved ones and the headwaters of their favorite rivers. Over the next few months, their farmer friends came by and filled small containers with the soil to use on their own land. Jenifer used some to plant a cherry tree.

I asked her what it was like to have her husband home again, piled up in her driveway.

“Well, it’s compost,” she told me. “It’s still precious because it was his body. But it’s also compost.” Read More > at HARPER’S Magazine

Instagram Is No Place for Kids – Social media is a minefield of adolescent anxieties, as any parent can attest. Numerous studies have suggested a connection between excessive use of online platforms (and the devices used to access them) and worrying trends in teenage mental health, including higher rates of depressive symptoms, reduced happiness and an increase in suicidal thoughts.

Even in this grim context, Instagram, the wildly popular photo-sharing app owned by Facebook Inc., stands out. Its star-studded milieu — glossy, hedonistic, relentlessly sexualized — seems finely tuned to destabilize the teenage mind. Studies have linked the service to eating disorders, reduced self-esteem and more.

So perhaps it isn’t surprising that an internal research effort at the company, revealed last week, found that teens associate the service with a host of mental-health problems. “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” said one slide. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

…In the very same post in which Facebook announced the changes, it also conceded that it was moving ahead with a new version of Instagram intended for children under 13. Dubbed Instagram Youth, the concept was so obviously distasteful that it earned the opprobrium of health experts and consumer advocates, lawmakers of both parties, and nearly every state attorney general in the country.

A letter from health experts could hardly have been blunter. “The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing,” it said. “Younger children are even less developmentally equipped to deal with these challenges, as they are learning to navigate social interactions, friendships, and their inner sense of strengths and challenges during this crucial window of development.” Read More > at Bloomberg

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