U.S. Armed Forces Day

Army Day, Navy Day and Air Force Day were combined in 1949 to be Armed Forces Day, celebrated the 3RD SATURDAY IN MAY.

Army Day formerly was the date the US entered World War I, April 6, 1917.

Navy Day formerly was President Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday, October 27, as he was a driving force behind the U.S. becoming a major sea power.

Air Force Day formerly was August 1, the day the War Department established a division of aeronautics in 1947, marking the 40th anniversary the Army’s Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps.

On Armed Forces Day, May 15, 1995, Secretary of Defense William Perry said: “In World War II, the United States Armed Forces helped defeat the forces of aggression and oppression on two sides of the globe … In the Cold War, we faced down the global Soviet threat. Today, our forces stand guard, at home and abroad, against a range of potential threats …”

Secretary Perry continued: “On Armed Forces Day, the nation says thank you to our men and women in uniform, their families, and the communities that support them … Daniel Webster said, ‘God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it.’”

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NEW TOOL: Type in your address, see your risk of wildfire in California

First Street Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit research group, added huge amounts of new data to its Risk Factor tool, which allows users to type in their address and learn its fire risk, ranging from minor to extreme. The feature is available for properties across the country and is especially valuable for people living in wildfire-prone California. Risk Factor launched in 2020 with a tool for determining a home’s risk to flood. 

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The Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District’s 95th Anniversary

This year, the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) is celebrating 95 years of protecting public health. Wow!

95 years is certainly an impressive accomplishment, but how did the District get here? Let’s take a look at the District’s history.

In the early 1900s, scientists discovered mosquitoes can transmit the causative agents of disease. At the same time, the problems with mosquitoes in Contra Costa County were so bad, particularly along the coastal areas of the county, that businesses and schools were closed, and Realtors could not sell homes. As Californians learned mosquitoes pose a risk of disease or harm, in 1915 state lawmakers approved legislation to create and finance mosquito abatement districts in the state.

In 1926, the people of Contra Costa County voted to create the Contra Costa Mosquito Abatement District (CCMAD), and in 1927, 95 years ago, we opened our doors and have been protecting public health in Contra Costa County ever since.

The District’s original jurisdiction only included the waterfront from Martinez to Antioch. CCMAD focused primarily on reducing the risk of mosquitoes by using engineering methods such as digging ditch networks, dredging, building, and repairing levees.

As different mosquito-borne diseases impacted more County residents throughout Contra Costa County, they petitioned CCMAD for mosquito control services. Additional CCMAD offices were established. Over time, CCMAD increased the number of services and control options.

  • In the 1950s, CCMAD began using mosquitofish as a biological method of controlling mosquitoes.
  • In 1970, CCMAD offered ground-nesting yellowjacket control.
  • In 1986, CCMAD became a county-wide agency.
  • In 1993, Contra Costa County transferred its rat and rabies risk reduction program to CCMAD, prompting the District to officially change its name to the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District.

Today, the District is a public health agency dedicated to protecting all Contra Costa County residents from mosquitoes and other vectors of disease. The last 95 years have been an incredible journey for the District. Here’s to 95 more years of protecting public health!

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The American West is primed for a summer of fire

BY PHILIP KIEFER | PUBLISHED MAY 6, 2022 4:51 PM

More than 1.2 million acres of the US have burned from wildfires so far this year. That’s roughly 500,000 acres more than the 10-year average—and across much of the West, peak fire conditions haven’t even set in yet. Currently, 11 large fires are burning uncontained in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, and New Mexico. And with much of the country in a deep drought, the rest of the spring and early summer are likely to look just as fiery, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest.

This year reflects a broader transition in fire behavior across the US, as hotter days and more variable rainfall have let a relatively concentrated “fire season” in the West turn into year-round disasters and risk. But the months of June, July, and August are still particularly fire-prone. On May 1, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) released its predictions of fire weather through August.

It’s important to note that the center can only forecast fire potential. “Whether you actually realize that potential is dependent on actual weather events,” says Jim Wallmann, a meteorologist at the NIFC. Windy days, lightning, and rain will all shape the actual season. “The bad news,” he says, is that during peak season will be “busy” from Wyoming to California.

Late spring

Right now, the US is very, very dry. The Mountain West, from California to the Rockies, is more than two decades into its most serious drought of the last 1,200 years, which has killed trees and left vegetation exceptionally fire-prone. Meanwhile, patches of extreme and exceptional drought through Arizona, New Mexico, and the southern Great Plains have set the stage for 2022’s biggest fires so far. One, on the eastern slope of the Rockies, has burned more than 160,000 acres, and is threatening the prairie town of Las Vegas, NM.

The outlook for the rest of May doesn’t look much better. The NIFC expects a normal monsoon season in the Southwest late June or early July that will wet grasses and end the most volatile fires. But until then, windstorms will continue to roll through the region as they have all spring, which spread new fires in open grasslands from Colorado to Nebraska.

Read More > Popular Science

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First Dead Bird of 2022 Tests Positive for West Nile Virus in Contra Costa Co.

The Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) reports the first dead bird of the year has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV) in Contra Costa County. The dead bird, an American crow, was picked up in an area of Brentwood close to Discovery Bay.

Certain birds carry WNV. Once a mosquito bites an infected bird, the mosquito can become infected. Mosquitoes can spread the virus when they bite another bird or person. To reduce the risk of WNV, the District recommends Contra Costa County residents report dead birds because dead birds are often the first sign of WNV in a particular location.

WNV can grow more efficiently when temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees. With hot daytime and warm overnight temperatures in the forecast, the District advises County residents to take steps to reduce the risk of WNV by avoiding mosquito bites.

“Infected mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus to people through a single mosquito bite, but fortunately, the virus is easily preventable. With temperatures on the rise over the next several days, it’s important that Contra Costa County residents take precautions to avoid mosquito bites by using an effective insect repellent when outdoors, particularly around dawn and dusk. Wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin that can be bitten. And avoid being outdoors where mosquitoes are present, if possible,” said Steve Schutz, Ph.D., Scientific Program Manager.

Other ways to reduce the risk of mosquitoes is to dump out any amount of standing water because mosquitoes can develop from egg to adult in something as small as a bottle cap full of water. And make sure window screens do not have rips or tears and fit properly in openings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when used as directed, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective. The District recommends using EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.

Always follow the instructions on the label when using insect repellent.

Contra Costa County residents can report dead birds by phone at (877) WNV-BIRD (968-2473) or online. County residents can also request mosquito service for residential property by calling (925) 685-9301 or online.

Since 2005, 75 people in Contra Costa County have been diagnosed with West Nile virus. In 2006, two people died from the disease. For human case information, please visit the California Department of Public Health Vector-Borne Disease Section online.

Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District, an independent special district and public health agency, is located at 155 Mason Circle in Concord.

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Saturday, May 21 – 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM – Locke Asian Pacific Spring Festival

Presented by the Locke Foundation, the festival will have Lion Dance, music, martial arts, food, demonstrations, and more! Enjoy historic Locke and the festival with your whole family. Free admission and free parking.

Map

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May 20 – Bike to Work Day 2022

Don’t feel like you’ll be ‘road ready’ in time for Bike to Work Day? Preparing to bike commute isn’t as difficult as you might think. Take a little time to get familiar with your bike, figure out how to carry your stuff, and find a good route or even a bike buddy.

Take the guesswork out of preparing for May 20 with our Six Tips & Tricks to Get You Ready for Bike To Work Day!

Bike + BART: Taking Your Bike on Board

If commuting all the way from home to work seems daunting, it’s not cheating to make the distance more manageable by adding BART to your commute. Although bikes are always allowed on BART, there are some rules to be aware of:

  • Bikes are never allowed on crowded cars
  • Bikes are not allowed in the first car
  • Bikes are not allowed in the first three cars during commute hours
  • Folded bikes are always allowed in all cars
  • Bicyclists must use elevators or stairs, not escalators

To read the full list of rules, visit the Bikes on BART webpage.

More information

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Sunday Reading – 05/15/2022

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.

California to open first new state park in 13 years – At a scenic spot where two rivers meet amid sprawling almond orchards and ranchlands between San Jose and Modesto, California’s state park system is about to get bigger.

On Friday, as part of his revised May budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom is scheduled to announce that the state is acquiring 2,100 acres near the confluence of the San Joaquin and Tuolumne rivers to become a new state park — an area rich with wildlife and brimming with possibilities to reduce flood risk and restore some of California’s lost natural heritage.

The property in Stanislaus County, 40 miles east of San Jose and 10 miles west of Modesto, is known as Dos Rios Ranch. It will become the first new state park established since 2009, when the U.S. Army donated four miles of beaches in Monterey County to become Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

That 13-year gap in new parks is the longest since the state parks department was created in 1927.

…Located on the Pacific Flyway, the ranch, which now has 20-foot-high trees where flat hayfields grew 10 years ago, is a stopover for more than 250 species of migrating birds from Canada and Alaska, including the endangered Aleutian Canada Goose. It is also home to neo-tropical song birds and endangered species such as brush rabbits and Swainson’s Hawks.

…The state expects to take title to the land, which River Partners will donate, by the end of next year, and public access will begin in late 2023, Quintero said. Newsom’s budget will shift $5 million to draft a general plan, conduct title searches and research potential legal claims and easements, and to cover other costs.

Parking lots, restrooms, interpretive signs on trails and picnic areas should be built in less than five years, with plans after that for a campground, he added. Quintero noted that the San Joaquin Valley has the fewest state parks of any region in the state. Read More > in The Mercury News

Bill advances to let California teens get vaccinated without parental consent – California kids 12 and older are one step closer to being able to get vaccinated without parental consent after a key legislative committee on Thursday passed a controversial bill on a 7-0 vote despite hundreds of people expressing fierce opposition.

Just five of the eight bills introduced this year by a vaccine working group of Democratic lawmakers are still alive — and state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco’s proposal to allow kids ages 12 to 17 to receive FDA-approved vaccines without a parent’s permission is by far the most contentious.

The hearing illuminates the increasingly urgent challenges state lawmakers will face as California approaches the new start date of its postponed student COVID vaccine mandate, which is no earlier than July 2023: How can the state boost low youth vaccination rates while simultaneously building trust in the community — and supporting families whose kids may experience adverse reactions? Read More > at CalMatters

Shootings of Police Up 35% So Far This Year – Recent headlines give the impression that it’s dangerous to be a cop right now. In just the past six months, we’ve seen a Baltimore police officer ambushed and shot dead in her cruiser, a Houston cop shot by a serial felon during a routine traffic stop, an NYPD officer slashed with a machete, and dozens more attacks on law enforcement officials.

New data from the Fraternal Order of Police, a national law-enforcement union, suggest that these incidents are part of a larger trend. According to the FOP, 123 law-enforcement officers were shot in the line of duty this year through May 1, a 35 percent increase relative to the first five months of 2021. Nineteen of those officers died. The FOP believes that this year may turn out to be even worse than 2021, when 346 officers were shot and 63 killed by gunfire.

…Data published by LEOKA suggest that officer killings, at least, got worse in 2021, rising to 73 felonious killings versus 46 in 2020. The FOP and LEOKA data aren’t really comparable—they report different numbers for the overlapping years—but the trend in the former suggests that we should expect to see similar rises in shootings and ambushes once the full data for 2021 are available. Those ambushes, like the aforementioned murder of Baltimore officer Keona Holley, have attracted particular attention; the Department of Justice has raised concerns about such attacks as far back as 2015.

A simple way to understand these trends is that they mirror the increase in violent crime—principally homicides and shootings—that has gripped the country over the past two years. As violence on the streets increases, one would expect that cops would be more under threat.

But the surge in ambush-style attacks is reason to think that there may be a second effect, whereby offenders are not only more violent in general but also feel less inhibition in attacking cops directly. Increasing hostility toward the police, particularly from civilian leadership, may give offenders more of a sense that they can get away with assaulting officers while also suggesting to officers that they will face administrative and reputational consequences for defending themselves. Read More > at City Journal

Prepare for possible blackouts this summer – On the hottest days this summer, California could face an energy shortfall equivalent to what it takes to power about 1.3 million homes — a number that could soar to 3.75 million if extreme weather and wildfires harm the grid, state officials said Friday. The sobering outlook follows Newsom’s April 27 letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, in which he said the federal government’s inquiry into imported solar cells and modules is delaying California solar energy and storage projects representing at least 4,350 megawatts. (One megawatt powers about 750 to 1,000 California homes.)

  • Also hampering the state’s ability to execute on its clean energy projects, according to Newsom’s letter: supply chain constraints, increased shipping costs, the rising cost of lithium and pandemic lockdowns. And California’s severe drought has also reduced available hydropower.
  • To keep the lights on in a state that two years ago saw its first rolling blackouts in nearly two decades, the state is considering delaying — again — the planned 2023 closure of four gas-powered plants along the Southern California coast, Newsom’s cabinet secretary, Ana Matosantos, told the Sacramento Bee. Newsom himself recently expressed openness to delaying the planned 2025 closure of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Meanwhile, consumers can expect electricity prices to go up. Californians will likely see annual rate increases of between 4% and 9% between now and 2025, said officials from the state Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission and California Independent System Operator. Read More > at CalMatters

A Summer of Blackouts? – Soaring gasoline and electricity prices may turn out to be only part of Americans’ energy woes this summer. In recent months, a host of power suppliers have issued warnings that millions of residents could endure rolling blackouts because of the growing inability of America’s evolving energy infrastructure to meet power needs. From western states like Utah, Colorado, and California to midwestern states like Illinois, energy providers have cautioned that rising prices, shortages due to the closure of some coal and nuclear plants, and the unreliability of renewables like wind and solar have reduced energy surpluses. That’s left some places with little margin for error during peak usage times in mid-summer—potentially prompting the kind of blackouts California saw last year. The warnings have spurred calls to slow down climate-change-driven efforts to retire nuclear and fossil-fuel generating plants. They have also emerged as an issue in local elections this November.

In December, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, responsible for overseeing the dependability of the continent’s electric grid, issued a study cautioning about insufficient capacity to meet the energy needs of various regions, beginning as early as this summer and extending for the next decade. The study pointed out, for instance, that the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which coordinates and oversees the power grid for 15 midwestern and southern states serving more than 40 million people, has noted that the closing of plants representing significant sources of energy had accelerated a shortfall in power reserves, potentially with dire consequences.

…Adding to the region’s woes is that California, which has increasingly come to rely on power generated elsewhere as it has shut down fossil-fuel and nuclear generating facilities, now must deal with a decline in one of its major energy sources, hydroelectric power. A West Coast drought has drained many rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, potentially limiting hydro power output this summer and possibly provoking a repeat of the blackouts that hit the state last year. The situation has sparked debates over whether California should be slowing down its conversion to renewable energy.

Earlier this month, California governor Gavin Newsom, who helped negotiate the shutdown of the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon, reversed course and committed to keeping the plant, which generates about 10 percent of the state’s energy, open for several more years… Read More > at City Journal

California Targets Loud Exhaust with Sound-Activated Camera Enforcement – Well known for stringent emissions and modification regulations, the California State Legislature has approved a five-year automated enforcement pilot program targeting loud exhaust from cars. If signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom, the camera-enforcement program will begin January 1. The bill specifies six undisclosed cities throughout California to take part in this experimental program.

Before panic sets in among West Coast enthusiasts, it’s important to read the fine print of the nuanced Senate bill. California has long specified the decibel level at which stock or modified exhaust systems are deemed too loud—95 decibels for cars and 80 for motorcycles built after 1985—and this hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the means of enforcement.

A “sound-activated enforcement system” means sensors are activated when noise levels exceed legal limits, and smart cameras are used “to obtain a clear photograph of a vehicle license plate,” the text of Senate Bill 1079 reads. Similar to speed-camera thresholds found around the world, these cameras are triggered by high decibel levels and can zero in on the offender’s plate. It is not immediately clear how these cameras will pinpoint vehicles in traffic, or how they will differentiate between cars and motorcycles.

Compared to Assembly Bill 1824, which repealed the fix-it ticket option in favor of a mandated fine, SB 1079 provides more progressive protections for road goers. Signage is required to notify motorists before they enter an enforcement zone. First time offenders will not be charged and only subsequent violations will incur fines. Additionally, participating city governments are required to create payment plans, deferment options, and fine waivers for low-income vehicle owners who demonstrate a temporary or indefinite inability to pay. Read More > at Autoweek

How high will California gas prices go next? Experts say cost will keep rising – Regular gasoline for $6 a gallon everywhere in California, all the time?

It’s getting close, experts say.

Sacramento’s average price for a gallon of regular hit an all-time high Wednesday of $5.80, up 16 cents from a week ago and about $1.73 from last May.

Statewide, the average was $5.85, up 9 cents from a week ago and inching toward the record of $5.92 hit in March.

That record is likely to be shattered.

“Unpredictable, but more likely higher two weeks from now,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.

That’s because “the key drivers behind the higher gasoline prices in California have not changed much,” said Sanjay Varshney, professor of finance at California State University, Sacramento.

Supplies remain tight, as port backups continue and truckers still face shortages of drivers and equipment.

The federal Energy Information Administration predicted this week that crude oil prices would remain above $100 a barrel this year. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

California wants more electric cars. But many public chargers don’t work – If electric cars are to transform California, it needs to be easy to charge them.

There’s a hitch: More than a quarter of public charging stations in the Bay Area don’t work, according to a recent survey.

Concerned about reliability, a retired professor of bioengineering from UC Berkeley, David Rempel, decided to test charging stations around the Bay Area. Rempel got support from the San Rafael nonprofit Cool the Earth, which provided funding and volunteers.

They fanned out across the region’s nine counties over three weeks in February and March, visiting 181 public charging stations with a total of 657 plug-in kiosks. Testers tried to charge their electric cars for at least two minutes and noted any problems.

They found 73% of public kiosks in working order. But nearly 23% had inoperable screens, payment failures or broken connector cables. On another 5%, the cables were too short to reach the vehicles’ charging inlet. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Smarter cars won’t last you decades – You’ve heard the stories: Irv Gordon’s three-million-mile Volvo; Rachel Veitch had the oil in her Mercury Comet changed every 3,000 miles since 1964; a 102-year-old man drove the same car for 82 years. In the car world, we think of these rare owners as moral heroes. Whatever their reason—sentimentality? Yankee thrift? Obsessive compulsion?—they’ve sacrificed the novelty of the new for a durable relationship. They’ve won a marathon most of us don’t bother running.

I’ve been thinking a lot about long-haul car owners as we race toward a technology inflection that will upend the more than a century-old custom of car ownership. Rather than maintain their vehicles lovingly over decades, the Rachel Veitchs and Irv Gordons of the not-so-distant future—if any might still exist—will be compelled to trade them in for reasons that would have read like science fiction to car buyers of the past. 

In essence, it won’t make sense to form a bond with a vehicle that’s not really yours and runs on software someone else controls.

Today, there are two forks in the car-ownership longevity story. One is the Right to Repair movement, which casts resourceful owners of cars (and, more broadly, all sorts of consumer products) against companies that use software to wall off increasingly complex systems from independent mechanics and DIY tinkerers. This is a philosophical as well as legal debate, with physical property rights slamming up against the limited rights granted via intellectual property (i.e., software) license. Although the self-reliance team won this round, the industry is not finished with them yet. The pressure for automakers to control every aspect of a new, software-focused operating environment will be significant.

The other fork involves vehicles outlasting the technologies that enable their features. That includes digital obsolescence in general and, most recently, the sunsetting of the 3G cellular network. Hundreds of thousands of car owners are now learning a hard lesson about the limitations of end-user licenses, as some of the features for which they’d paid a premium disappear, literally into thin air, with automakers under no obligation to replace them in kind.

Unlike most goods, where signing on the dotted line “exhausts” a seller’s rights while conferring them to the purchaser, the right to use software is granted to customers by license. That long document in tiny print, which we scroll past and punch the “I agree” button, spells out precisely how, where, and when a customer can use a piece of software. With the 3G case as an example—highlighting the importance of reading terms of use documents carefully—cars are joining the ranks of devices for which ownership doesn’t guarantee the right to use all features in perpetuity. Read More > at Popular Science

Inflation barreled ahead at 8.3% in April from a year ago, remaining near 40-year highs – Inflation rose again in April, continuing a climb that has pushed consumers to the brink and is threatening the economic expansion, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday.

The consumer price index, a broad-based measure of prices for goods and services, increased 8.3% from a year ago, higher than the Dow Jones estimate for an 8.1% gain. That represented a slight ease from March’s peak but was still close to the highest level since the summer of 1982.

Removing volatile food and energy prices, so-called core CPI still rose 6.2%, against expectations for a 6% gain, clouding hopes that inflation had peaked in March.

The month-over-month gains also were higher than expectations — 0.3% on headline CPI vs. the 0.2% estimate and a 0.6% increase for core, against the outlook for a 0.4% gain.

The price gains also meant that workers continued to lose ground. Real wages adjusted for inflation decreased 0.1% on the month despite a nominal increase of 0.3% in average hourly earnings. Over the past year, real earnings have dropped 2.6% even though average hourly earnings are up 5.5%. Read More > at CNBC

Gasoline prices set record Tuesday – According to AAA, the cost at the pump for both regular gasoline and diesel fuel reached their highest recorded average price Tuesday morning.

The national average of a regular gallon of gasoline was $4.374, up five cents from Monday, and $5.55 for diesel, up one cent from Monday.

The nation’s 10 largest weekly increases, AAA reports, were in Michigan (+26 cents), New Jersey (+25 cents), Connecticut (+19 cents), Kentucky (+19 cents), Indiana (+19 cents), Rhode Island (+19 cents), Illinois (+18 cents), Washington, D.C. (+18 cents), Alabama (+18 cents) and Tennessee (+18 cents).

The nation’s 10 most expensive markets continue to be in California ($5.82), Hawaii ($5.28), and Nevada ($5.11), followed by Washington ($4.83), Oregon ($4.81), Alaska ($4.73), Washington, D.C. ($4.69), Arizona ($4.66), Illinois ($4.59) and New York ($4.51).

For the week ending March 14, weekly retail average gasoline prices across all grades was $4.41 a gallon, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported, the highest on record. Read More > at The Center Square

Biden administration cancels oil and gas lease sales in Alaska, Gulf of Mexico – The Interior Department will not move forward with planned oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet, it announced Wednesday night.

A spokesperson for the department confirmed the Cook Inlet lease sale would not proceed due to insufficient industry interest. Meanwhile, the planned sale of two leases, lease 259 and lease 261, in the Gulf of Mexico will not proceed due to contradictory court rulings on the leases, the spokesperson confirmed.

Shortly after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order freezing all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands. Last summer, Judge James Cain, a Trump appointee, struck down the ruling, prompting the Biden administration to appeal. Read More > in The Hill

11 Insanely Corrupt Speed-Trap Towns – Caught stealing from motorists, these towns disbanded their police forces or even disbanded their governments altogether.

MARICOPA, CALIFORNIA

In the 2000s, the town of Maricopa gained a reputation for targeting drivers, especially farm workers, in the hopes that they’d be undocumented immigrants, thus allowing the small police department to impound their cars without much fuss.

Jennie Pasquarella, an attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, told the Los Angeles Times that Maricopa “has been a shining example of impoundments gone wrong. They’re essentially creating a racket to steal people’s cars.”

When drivers began avoiding the town, one gas station owner put up a large sign at his station: “Stop the Maricopa Police Dept. Out of Control Traffic Tactics. Your Voices Have the Real Power! Speak Up & Tell Them to Stop!”

A Kern County grand jury report accused Maricopa police of targeting Latino motorists and seizing vehicles from undocumented immigrants. The grand jury report urged the debt-ridden town to get rid of its police department and then get rid of itself through disincorporation.

Maricopa chose the former, disbanding its police force in 2012 and contracting with the county for law enforcement.

In a similar California case, the town of Maywood outsourced its law enforcement in 2010, a year after the state attorney general released a scathing report on its police force. The report found lax oversight, unchecked and excessive force, sexual assaults, illegal searches and arrests, and an abusive vehicle checkpoint and impound program that Maywood relied on for revenue. Read More > at Reason

A Little Truth About Microplastics – …A 2015 study in Science estimated the “flow of plastic waste from 20 populous coastal countries,” says Bailey. The U.S. is at the bottom of the list, “dumping less than 1% of the plastics that end up in the oceans annually.”

No surprise that China is the “leader” of ocean plastic polluters – it accounts for 28% of all “plastics thrown into the oceans each year.” About 60% is “discarded by the fast growing East Asian economies of China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.” The inescapable fact is much of the world outside the West doesn’t practice disciplined waste disposal hygiene.

Are they really a threat to animals?

The only honest answer is “who knows?” The puzzle is best summed up by an article in The Conversation, which says “while many studies find microplastics can affect the gene expression, growth, reproduction or survival of an animal, others conclude that microplastics have no negative effects.”

For instance: 

“More than 100 laboratory studies have exposed animals, mostly aquatic organisms, to microplastics,” says Nature magazine. The findings – “that exposure might lead some organisms to reproduce less effectively or suffer physical damage” – however, don’t easily lead to bright-line answers, as microplastics come in “many shapes, sizes and chemical compositions, and many of the studies used materials that were quite unlike those found in the environment.”

(Emphasis a wholly owned commentary of the author.)

Nature further notes that while it’s possible microplastics attract chemical pollutants and “then deliver them into animals that eat the contaminated specks … animals ingest pollutants from food and water anyway,” and it’s not implausible that the particles, “if largely uncontaminated when swallowed,” could help to remove pollutants from their systems. That’s good, right?

At the same time, it’s also possible that animals ingesting microplastics don’t get enough real food to survive. Not so good. Read More > at Issues & Insights

Port labor talks collide with supply chain crunch – Plan to buy something online in the next few months? Then you have a stake in high-intensity negotiations set to begin Tuesday between 22,000 dockworkers and the shipping companies that do business at 29 West Coast ports accounting for nearly 9% of the United States’ gross domestic product.

The talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association — slated to take place in San Francisco — come as U.S. ports are just beginning to recover from a pandemic-induced supply chain crunch that resulted in massive backlogs of ships and goods and skyrocketing inflation rates.

But progress hinges on contract negotiations going smoothly: “If anything further disrupts the supply chain it will be devastating,” said Jim McKenna, president and CEO of the Pacific Maritime Association.

  • The contract between the dockworkers’ union and shipping companies is set to expire July 1, and although talks are expected to extend past that date, lead negotiators on both sides said they’re heading into the conversation on good terms.
  • Nevertheless, signs of conflict cropped up last week, when the Pacific Maritime Association, representing the shipping companies, released a self-commissioned study that found automated terminals at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports had higher efficiency, lower greenhouse-gas emissions and better work opportunities than non-automated terminals.
  • Frank Ponce De Leon, speaking for union workers at the ports: “It’s apparent that the report is a self-serving document by one party to a labor contract, and even worse is an insult to all workers who have seen their jobs outsourced to machines. … We haven’t seen an overall increase in productivity at the ports, just a shell game to mask the human cost of job destruction.” Read More > at CalMatters

Is watching pornography bad for men — but good for women? – Pornography is a male-dominated industry that targets a prominently male audience. Scenes frequently focus on men’s pleasure and narrowly depict women as willing objects of male lust and desire.

That makes a new finding somewhat ironic. Nicolas Sommet, a senior researcher at the LIVES Centre of the University of Lausanne, and Jacques Berent, a researcher and lecturer in social psychology at the University of Geneva, conducted a large, three-year study, the results of which were published in February in the journal Psychological Medicine. They found that watching pornography is associated with decreased sexual functioning in men and increased sexual functioning in women.

In June 2015, Somet and Berent anonymously surveyed just over 100,000 individuals predominantly from French-speaking countries with an average age of 21. Participants answered questions about their relationships, their sexual functioning and satisfaction, as well as how frequently they viewed pornography. Subjects were also asked to take the survey again in 2016 and in 2017. About a fifth of the original survey-takers completed these follow-ups.

Reviewing the data, the researchers found that the more men reported watching pornography (on a vague, eight-point scale from “never” to “very often”), the lower they rated their sexual competence and their sexual functioning, as determined by factors like desire, arousal, and ability to reach orgasm. Moreover, as men’s porn use increased, their female partners also reported decreased sexual satisfaction.

The situation was markedly reversed for women. Women who watched more pornography reported greater sexual competence and functioning compared to women who watched less. Read More > at Big Think

Collaborative Junk Science Is the Core of the Delta VA – After years of exclusionary backroom negotiations over Bay-Delta voluntary agreements (VA) , earlier this week the State made a ham-fisted attempt to greenwash these proposed voluntary agreements, sending this email inviting a handful of people who had participated in VA conversations years ago to participate in “two workshops to finalize the governance and decision-making process for the implementation of the VA program.”  (DWR subsequently sent a revised email to NRDC and several other organizations, while still excluding numerous Tribes, conservation groups, and other stakeholders.)

Inviting previously excluded groups to join a meeting to “finalize” the voluntary agreements is not a legitimate collaborative process.  Indeed, the conservation groups that participated in VA negotiations between 2012 and 2019 repeatedly raised major concerns – concerns that were repeatedly ignored and never addressed, because these conservation groups were never equal partners in this process.  NRDC will not be participating in this sham collaboration to “finalize” a plan that will likely wipe out salmon and other endangered species in the Bay-Delta.  Restore the Delta likewise declined this invitation, eloquently explaining here that this was not a real collaboration. 

But the problems run deeper, because the governance and decision-making scheme proposed in the voluntary agreement process is inherently biased.  It is designed to empower the participating water districts to have even more say over decision-making and what constitutes “science.” 

Giving the contractors more say over science is problematic because the participating water districts – and the California Department of Water Resources — have a vested interest in trying to show that fish don’t need water so that they can divert ever more water from this imperiled watershed.  DWR and these water districts have spent decades using junk science and “combat science” to try to manufacture scientific doubt about the importance of flow, using that “science” in order to fight environmental protections for salmon and other endangered species.  Read More > at NRDC

US casinos had best month ever in March, winning $5.3B – Inflation may be soaring, supply chains remain snarled and the coronavirus just won’t go away, but America’s casinos are humming right along, recording the best month in their history in March.

The American Gaming Association, the gambling industry’s national trade group, said Wednesday that U.S. commercial casinos won more than $5.3 billion from gamblers in March, the best single-month total ever. The previous record month was July 2021 at $4.92 billion.

The casinos collectively also had their best first quarter ever, falling just short of the $14.35 billion they won from gamblers in the fourth quarter of last year, which was the highest three-month period in history.

Three states set quarterly revenue records to start this year: Arkansas ($147.4 million); Florida ($182 million), and New York ($996.6 million).

The numbers do not include tribal casinos, which report their income separately and are expected to report similarly positive results. Read More > at ABC News

Signs of success in California campaign to keep monarch butterflies from disappearing – Monarchs leave the California coast in late winter, heading to inland areas to breed. When they get to the Central Valley this time of year, they need milkweed to lay their eggs; the plant’s pointy green leaves are also food for the caterpillars. The successive generations of butterflies also need other blooming plants like yarrow that provide nectar to refuel for the next stage of their journey, as they travel farther east in California and to other Western states.

The butterflies’ beautiful orange-and-black markings and epic migrations have endeared them to generations of Californians. They also play an important role as pollinators, and scientists say that protecting them helps other butterflies and bees too. Loss of habitat along with pesticide use have caused the monarch population to decline sharply: While 1.3 million were found in California in 1997, their numbers dropped to fewer than 2,000 in winter 2020-21.

But the latest California count, announced in January, shot up to 250,000, which gave conservationists hope for a rebound, though insect populations can swing wildly from year to year. Laws saw evidence of the larger population earlier this April, when she found 12 caterpillars at another restoration site in Bakersfield. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

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2022’s Best & Worst Cities for Basketball Fans – WalletHub Study

With the NBA playoffs kicking off on April 16 and the NBA projected to have $10 billion in revenue this season (which is higher than pre-pandemic revenue), the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst Cities for Basketball Fans, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To find the best cities for professional- and college-basketball fans, WalletHub compared more than 290 of the largest cities across 21 key metrics, ranging from the performance level of each city’s NBA and NCAA Division 1 basketball teams to ticket prices to stadium accessibility.

Best Cities for Basketball FansWorst Cities for Basketball Fans
1. Los Angeles, CA284. Bethlehem, PA
2. Boston, MA285. Evansville, IN
3. Salt Lake City, UT286. Stephenville, TX
4. San Francisco, CA287. Jersey City, NJ
5. Philadelphia, PA288. St. George, UT
6. Miami, FL289. Pocatello, ID
7. San Antonio, TX290. Daytona Beach, FL
8. Washington, DC291. Montgomery, AL
9. Houston, TX292. St. Paul, MN
10. Oklahoma City, OK293. New Britain, CT

Best vs. Worst

  • Charlotte, North Carolina, has the lowest average ticket price for an NBA game, $63.11, which is 3.2 times less expensive than in San Francisco, the city with the highest at $203.30.
     
  • The Milwaukee Bucks have the highest performance level among NBA teams, 71.26 percent, which is 2.6 times better than that of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team with the lowest at 27.65 percent.
     
  • The Gonzaga Bulldogs have the highest performance level among college basketball teams, 93.33 percent, which is 12.1 times better than that of the Chicago State Cougars, the team with the lowest at 7.72 percent.
     
  • Miami has the highest fan engagement for NBA teams, 42.78, which is 28.9 times higher than in New York, the city with the lowest at 1.48.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit: 
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-cities-for-basketball-fans/11034

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Why you should be taking security advice from your grandmother

from Malwarebytes

We tend to accept that younger folks are supposed to be more tech savvy, given they’ve grown up with computers and the Internet pretty much their whole lives. If you go back about 15 or so years, a lot of security advice focused on the “warning your grandmother away from scams” routine.

The default assumption was that people over a certain age simply did not know about computers and the threats that come with them. Grandparents were the short-hand, go-to frame of reference for examples in posts about scams or fraud: Watch out for grandfather this; your grandmother will fall for that.

Your grandfather knows what he’s doing

Crude, age-based categorisations were always dubious, and they are looking more and more baseless as the years tick by. Tech has now been around for a long time, whether it had some Internet bouncing around inside it or not. The oldest gamers playing on machines like Binatones in the 1970s might now be approaching 70 years of age themselves. Many studies have come and gone in the last couple of years declaring certain age groups to be at risk at one time or another. The interesting part is that more and more are declaring that younger age groups are at the greatest risk.

Older folks are dodging COVID-19 scams and all sorts of other shenanigans. Meanwhile, the news is definitely not as good the lower down the age slide we go.

Over here, Barclays twenty-somethings are most likely to be caught by scams. Over there, The Better Business Bureau finds that year after year it’s the younger folks getting stung by scams. In this direction, the UK’s Local Government Association has warned that it’s 16-34 year olds mostly feeling fakeout wrath. Some of the surveys listed claim that those in both the 31-40 or 71+ ranges are more susceptible to forms of advance fee fraud, but that seems to be about the only real negative mark against them.

Everything else is grim reading for the younger netizens out there.

Are digital natives in trouble?

new study has just landed and guess what? It’s more misery for the so-called “digital native” generation (and, perhaps, those just on the fringes).

The Financial Times reports that a joint study by Visa and Aston University’s Institute for Forensic Linguistics brings bad tidings for the young. One in four 18-34 year olds trust scam messages, which is “more than double” of those over 55.

Gen-X, forgotten again.

Crunching numbers

We cover the “urgent action” type scams a lot, because it’s a core component of so many fakeouts. Nothing has people clicking links they shouldn’t click faster than the threat of losing access to accounts or finances. According to the study, some 70% of messages analysed contained some kind of “Hurry up please” messaging.

Gift cards and Bitcoin—cybercriminals’ favourite currencies—feature heavily, as you’d expect. And it’s no surprise that aspects of younger culture are tied up in the most common scam messages.

More than 50% of 18-34 year olds had sent cash to fakers pretending to be friends or family. Again, this is likely another tick in the pandemic box. There’s a lot more stats in the report itself [PDF], but that’s not what I’m most interested in. Despite it being focused on the language of fraud, there’s one key aspect which isn’t really touched upon.

Reports state that a quarter of 18-34 year olds don’t check for spelling and grammar mistakes. As the PDF itself notes that poor spelling, typography, and grammar are often indicators of a scam message, we may wonder how this disconnect is happening—and how to address it.

Annoying your spell-check for fun and profit

Security advice nowadays tends to steer clear of the “Your grandfather doesn’t understand computers” routine for the previously mentioned reasons. It’s just a bit crass and not particularly accurate.

And there may be other age-related pieces of security advice to reassess too.

Misspelling and errors have been a feature of scams for years, and a useful red flag we could advise people to watch out for. But does that advice still work for a generation that’s grown up on social media and messaging apps, and loosened its adherence to language norms by communicating with emojis and paired-down, abbreatived, vowelless blasts of text?

Some People Write On Social Media Like This.

others write everything in lower case and don’t even bother to consider throwing in the occasional comma or even a full stop because their messages are still entirely understandable

The rules have mostly gone out the window, and the “watch out for typos” advice might have to go with it. After all, you can’t tell people to beware strange spelling when everyone is officially doing their own thing.

Some good news for Gen Z and Millennials

Thankfully, “watch out for typos” is far from the only piece of security advice we can give when warning people away from bogus SMS messages or suspicious emails. When we warn you away from a phish, we give you several things to look out for in combination. It’s the same for a malware scam, or a bogus phone download, or something targeting young gamers.

The survey recognises this, and stresses the importance of picking out combinations of factors to spot a scam. It’s not just typos: It’s combinations of certain words, pressures exerted on the recipient, mismatches between sender and links given, and a dash of ambiguity. One of these alone probably won’t help, but a few of them together most likely will.

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East Bay Regional Park District – What to do Around Cattle

Cattle grazing has been part of the ecosystem in the East Bay hills since the 1800s and part of the East Bay’s ecosystem for many tens of thousands of years. Grazing cattle play an important role in reducing wildfire risks and maintaining a healthy ecosystem for native plants and wildlife.

If you see cattle in the parks:

  • Keep dogs on leash in areas where cattle are present.
  • Give cattle distance. If cattle are blocking the trail, approach slowly, speak normally, and allow them to move away. If necessary, go off-trail to pass.
  • Do not try to get close, touch, or pet them.
  • Close pedestrian gates behind you and never cut or alter fencing.

To report an incident involving aggressive cattle or a trail accident call 510-881-1833 or submit an online Park Watch Report.

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May 15, 2022, 6:30PM-8:00PM – Big Break Campfire: Bears

Gather the family for an evening in the park! Bring a picnic dinner to enjoy before the festivities begin! We’ll explore the wonders of Big Break through activities and a campfire (and S’mores of course!)

Drop-in Program. Free Program. Meet at the Visitor Center

https://www.ebparks.org/parks/big-break

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Blood Moon total lunar eclipse is coming Sunday

A Blood Moon total lunar eclipse will occur on May 15-16, 2022 and will look similar to this view of one from July 2018. Here’s everything you need to know about the event. (Image credit: ESA/CESAR–M.Castillo)

Sunset in the Bay Area this Sunday will come with a rare treat: a blood moon, during a total lunar eclipse.

What’s more, since the moon will be near its perigee, or closest point to Earth, it will also be considered a “supermoon.”

During the event a larger-than-usual full Moon—May’s “Flower Moon”—will enter the center of Earth’s shadow for a whopping 84 minutes, turning an eery dark copper-reddish color as it does so.

The moon will already be in a partial eclipse when it rises on the West Coast at 8:06 p.m., just four minutes before sunset. The total eclipse starts at 8:30 p.m. and lasts until 9:54 p.m, and the ensuing partial eclipse ends around 10:50 p.m.

On Sunday, the moon will rise from the southeastern horizon and become darker and redder as it climbs into the sky.

This will be the first of two lunar eclipses in 2022. The next one will take place on Nov. 8, 2022. It will be visible at least partially from Asia, Australia, North America, parts of northern and eastern Europe, the Arctic and most of South America, according to TimeandDate.com.

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Oakley’s Junior Recreation Leader Program

The Junior Recreation Leader program is a summer volunteer program designed for youth age 13-15. The work hours are generally Monday – Friday, between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Recreation Center (1250 O’Hara Avenue) and camp is held both indoors and outdoors. Candidates who are available to volunteer at Oakley Summer Fest on Saturday, July 2nd will be scheduled between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. (not the entire day). Junior Recreation Leaders are expected to be punctual and must be picked up at the end of their shift.

Apply now

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Guide: Where to watch gray whales this spring

From the San Francisco Chronicle

Gray whales are on the move — with their calves in tow.

The majestic marine mammals have begun their springtime migration north along the California coastline, escorting their 1,000-pound newborns from Baja’s shallow lagoons to Alaska’s arctic waters.

The whales’ northbound voyage takes them closer to shore than their southern sojourn, meaning Bay Area residents may catch a glimpse of the mottled giants with or without binoculars (though binoculars are recommended). The parade of migrating pairs peaks between now and mid-May.

Marine experts recommend heading out in the morning hours, when the sun is angled away from the water, and scanning the ocean’s surface for the telltale puffs of steam rising from the whales’ blowholes. If you’re whale watching near the bay, it’s a good idea to go during a rising tide, when currents bring them closer in. Before heading out to the coast, it’s a good idea to check surf zone forecasts and coastal advisories.

Here are seven locations that offer the best chance of spotting whales.

Bodega Head

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Muir Beach Overlook

Read More > here

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Sunday Reading – 05/08/2022

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.

How will California handle a huge budget surplus? – What to do with the extra cash is now a point of contention among the Capitol’s dominant Democrats.

Should they satisfy the demands of progressive activists who want to transform California into a European-style welfare state?

Should they be conservative by increasing reserves, reducing debt and/or making one-time commitments, such as public works projects, to minimize permanent commitments?

Or should they give at least some of the money back to taxpayers, albeit not necessarily the rich ones who provided the bounty.

Those questions loom anew as the Capitol begins a six-week dash to June 15, when a new budget must be completed.

As Gov. Gavin Newsom finalizes his May 15 budget revision, it’s obvious that it will project a surplus bigger than the $29 billion he initially cited in January.

How much bigger? Last week, Democratic legislators estimated that the general fund surplus could hit a staggering $68 billion — and that doesn’t count the extra money, perhaps as much as $37 billion, that, by law, must be spent on public education.

Newsom and legislative leaders agree that at least some of the extra cash should be in the form of no-strings grants to California families, but there’s no agreement on how much or who would — and would not — qualify for the election year payouts. Read More > at CalMatters

California prepares for energy shortfalls in hot, dry summer – California likely will have an energy shortfall equivalent to what it takes to power about 1.3 million homes when use is at its peak during the hot and dry summer months, state officials said Friday.

Threats from drought, extreme heat and wildfires, plus supply chain and regulatory issues hampering the solar industry will create challenges for energy reliability this summer and in the coming years, the officials said. They represented the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission, and the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s energy grid.

State models assume the state will have 1,700 fewer megawatts of power than it needs during the times of highest demand — typically early evening as the sun sets — in the hottest months when air conditioners are in full use.

One megawatt powers about 750 to 1,000 homes in California, according to the energy commission. Under the most extreme circumstances, the shortfall could be far worse: 5,000 megawatts, or enough to power 3.75 million homes.

The state — and residents — have multiple tools to avoid blackouts. Power can be purchased from other states and residents can lower their use during peak demand, but power shortages still are possible during extreme situations, officials said. Reynolds urged people to consider lowering their energy use by doing things like cooling their homes early in the day then turning off their air conditioners when the sun goes down. Read More > in the Associated Press

California lost population for the second year in a row after a century of growth. What’s happening? – California’s population shrank slightly for the second year in a row last year, with the state losing 117,552 residents — and several Bay Area counties were crucial in helping to drive the decrease.

Napa, San Mateo, Marin and San Francisco counties were all among the top 10 counties with the largest percentage decreases in their populations, according to a new report from the state. Each of those counties lost nearly 1% of their population, though 34 of the state’s 58 counties lost net population.

The state Department of Finance released new annual population estimates Monday that show California’s overall population decreased by 0.3% in 2021, only the second year since data collection began in 1900 that the state saw an overall decline.

That said, the rate of the decline slowed from 2020, when state officials estimated the population decreased by 0.46%, a net loss of 182,083 people.

The Finance Department said the population dip reflects a host of factors: a slowdown in the birth rate while deaths increase as Baby Boomers age, a surge in deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, increased out-migration to other states and a drop in foreign immigration due to federal delays processing migrants. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Exodus: Bay Area, California population dropped in 2021 as people exited – The population in the Bay Area and California shrank during 2021 for the second consecutive year in a slump that was driven in large part by big declines in San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, according to a new state report.

In an unsettling twist, San Jose no longer has 1 million residents, the state Department of Finance report determined.

As of 2021, San Jose — still the Bay Area’s largest city —  had an estimated population of 976,500. The U.S. Census official report released in 2020 had placed San Jose’s population at 1.01 million people.

The Bay Area population declined by slightly more than 50,400 people in 2021, a decrease of 0.7%, which was more than twice the rate of the overall California population decrease of 0.3%, or nearly 117,600 people, this news organization’s analysis of the new state Finance Department report shows.

The Bay Area population nosedive accounted for 42.9% of the population decline statewide, even though the nine-county region represents just 19.4% of California’s total population.

San Jose lost nearly 14,700 residents in 2021, which was a 1.5% decrease from 2020 — and a rate of decline that was five times greater than the pace statewide.

San Francisco lost 6,700 residents, a drop of 0.8%, while Oakland lost 5,600 residents, a decline of 1.3%, the state population estimate shows.

Rounding out the 10 largest cities in the Bay Area in 2021: Hayward had 160,591 residents, a decline of 1,153, or 0.7%; Sunnyvale had 156,234 residents, an increase of 908 people, up 0.6%; Santa Clara had 130,127 residents, up 1,005 people, a 0.8% increase; Berkeley had 124,563 residents, up 3,294, or 2.7%; and Concord had 123,634 residents, a decline of 1,121 people, or 0.9%. Read More > in The Mercury News

Want to beat Bay Area traffic? Get ready to pay. Express tolls are surging – Bay Area freeway commuters are learning quickly what the “surge” means in surge toll pricing.

After a pandemic slumber that kept commutes quiet and demand and toll costs for express lanes low, freeways are clogged once more.

Now prices are rising and tempers are flaring over the growing network of express lanes crisscrossing the region in the Bay Area as motorists contend with a slew of new toll lanes on Interstates 880 and 680, and Highway 101. Drivers are finding that the luxury of cruising past backups in the free lanes is often costing more than double what it did in 2020.

On northbound I-880, toll costs are up over 100% topping out at an average of $8.30 for the evening commute. Contra Costa drivers are facing a nearly six-fold increase in costs since a 12-mile extension of toll lanes on southbound I-680 between Martinez and Dublin was rolled out in August.

Meanwhile, drivers stuck in traffic on the other lanes of the freeway are growing furious, with increasing reports of solo drivers posing as carpoolers to get a free pass in the fast lane.

The express lanes are part of a 130-mile network on course to expand to more than 500 miles in the coming decades. They promise solo drivers a more reliable commute for a price that fluctuates depending on the flow of traffic. Drivers who — using the honor system — set their FasTrak transponder to two or more passengers can jet along most express lanes for free. On I-680 you only need one passenger.

But figuring the costs of toll lanes can be dizzying for commuters. Unlike toll bridges, express lanes use variable prices that spike during peak congestion hours. Read More > in The Mercury News

Contra Costa D.A. Diana Becton had ‘familial ties’ with defendant her office cut plea deal with, victim’s attorney says – An attorney for a victim who was sexually abused as a minor said this week that the Contra Costa County district attorney should have recused herself from the criminal case against the defendant because her family has ties with him, and her office agreed to a plea bargain that reduced his charges and penalties.

Vince Finaldi, a lawyer representing the unnamed victim, who is now an adult, said he was “alarmed” that District Attorney Diana Becton “did not formally recuse herself from this case given her close familial ties to the interested parties,” according to a May 4 letter he sent to State Attorney General Rob Bonta asking for an investigation into possible conflict of interest.

Finaldi said last month he was asking Bonta to probe the situation and on Wednesday his law firm provided The Chronicle with a copy of the letter he sent to the attorney general. Becton, responding to the allegations, said Thursday she will “initiate an independent internal investigation about how this case was handled and I will take the appropriate administrative action once that investigation is complete.”

She also said that her office prosecuted the case without her involvement.

The defendant in the case, Jesse Armstrong, is the godson of Becton’s husband of two years, Alvin Bernstine, Finaldi wrote in his letter to Bonta.

In March, Armstrong was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty in Contra Costa County to lewd acts against a minor, unlawful intercourse with a minor and meeting with a minor for a lewd purpose, according to Finaldi’s letter. He had been charged with seven felonies and faced up to seven years in prison, Finaldi said in his letter. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Dream hacking: Is this the dystopian future of advertising? – Now that our homes are littered with “listening” smart devices and we are inseparable from our phones, it can seem like sleep is the only part of our lives that is off-limits to marketers trying to influence us. But this blissful bedtime bastion may not hold out much longer. Last year, a team of 38 experts in the fields of sleep and dreaming signed onto an opinion piece warning that dream advertising is on the way.

It makes sense that marketers would seek to access our dreams. Warranted or not, dreams have special meaning for millions of people. Dreaming is when our brains can form strong associations.

The American Marketing Association New York’s 2021 Future of Marketing survey of 400 marketers from various U.S. firms found that three-quarters aim to deploy dream advertising technologies by 2025.

In the lab, scientists have already pioneered methods of altering the content of our dreams, albeit in a very basic way. In 2020, Adam Haar Horowitz, a PhD student in the Fluid Interfaces group at MIT, used a novel device called Dormio to “incubate” subjects’ dreams with basic ideas. The system detects when a wearer enters hypnagogia, the transitional state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep, then plays them specific auditory stimuli with the aim of altering their dreams. In Haar’s published study on Dormio, he and his co-authors successfully used the system to make subjects dream about trees.

Now, Dormio and “trees” are a long way from realizing fully-formed dream advertising, perhaps the ultimate form of “product placement.” Still, the ubiquity of microphones in the bedroom raises a disturbing, albeit unlikely, possibility:

Most of us have smart devices on our wrists or at our bedsides as we sleep. These easily could be used to subtly initiate dream advertising. Imagine waking up to your phone emitting the enticing sounds of a carbonated beverage filling a cup, and a faint voice whispering, “Coca Cola…” The reason this is unlikely is because such messaging would constitute a blatant violation of consent and privacy, and thus would be quickly quashed in courts when discovered. Read More > at Big Think

High diesel prices pinch everyone’s pocketbooks, not just truckers delivering goods – It is no secret that the price of gasoline is creating unprecedented pain at the gas pump for California vehicle owners. However, whether you own a vehicle or not, every California household’s budget is impacted by the prices at the pump due to the historic rise in cost of another fuel: diesel.

Look around your house or your office. Everything in it, from the food in your fridge to the chair you are sitting in, to the phone or tablet on which you may be reading this article, was brought by a trucker. More than 80% of all goods consumed by Californians are delivered exclusively by trucks. If you got it, a truck brought it. And despite much progress on alternative fuels, diesel still fuels 97% of the big rigs on the road today.

According to data released by the Energy Information Administration on March 28, the average price of diesel in California was $6.29 per gallon, which is $2.04 higher than just a year ago. That is a 64% increase in cost in just a single year. The impact of these costs is two-fold: Increased prices for consumers and economic pain for truckers.

To cover the increased cost of diesel, truckers must increase the rates charged to haul freight. These increased rates are then passed on to consumers via higher costs at the retail level. So, you are paying for high prices of fuel both at the pump and at the grocery checkout line.

Truckers are also partially absorbing these costs. Independent truckers and small trucking companies are particularly hurt by this crisis. These companies operate in markets which do not always compensate for the increased cost of fuel, much less a 64% year-over-year increase in diesel prices. The impact to small fleets is especially concerning because more than 95% of the trucking companies in the country operate 20 or fewer trucks. These companies are the backbone of the industry and are struggling to keep up with out-of-control costs.

The shock of bare shelves, out-of-stock notices and long delivery times are still fresh in people’s minds. Supply-chain disruptions are unfortunately real and here to stay if events such as these unforeseen increases in diesel prices continue to keep us from getting on track. Read More > in The Fresno Bee

Subway lost more than 1,000 US locations last year, filings reveal – Subway is still the nation’s biggest fast-food chain — but its lead keeps getting smaller.

The struggling sandwich giant — which has lately tussled with franchisees over controversial ad campaigns and allegations of corrupt regional managers — shuttered 1,043 more outlets across the US than it opened in 2021, according to public filings this week.

The dip — which shrank Subway’s total footprint by nearly five percent to 21,147 locations — wasn’t as steep the net loss of 1,609 US restaurants Subway suffered in 2020. But it was worse than the 999 it lost in 2019 before the coronavirus hit, according to federal disclosures filed by the company.

In February, Subway said sales across the US steadily improved throughout 2021, although industry experts said the gains were mainly because of price inflation and that the chain continued to lag the competition. Read More > in the New York Post

Experts reveal exactly how much sleep you need to live a better life in your later years – Seven hours is the ideal amount of sleep people middle aged and older need, according to experts.

They found that too little or too much sleep can lead to poorer cognitive performance and mental health.

This affects things like processing speed, visual attention, memory and problem-solving skills.

Sleeping patterns and habits of almost 500,000 people aged between 38 and 73-years-old were studied.

The research shows that those who slept longer or shorter than seven hours were more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, and worse overall wellbeing. Read More > in the New York Post

U.S. Gas Production Slows At The Worst Possible Time – Growth in natural gas production in the biggest producing regions in the United States is on the decline due to the lack of sufficient pipeline network, as prices soar at home alongside a major uptick in LNG exports destined for gas-thirsty Europe. 

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, U.S. natural gas prices have increased approximately 50%, Reuters reports, and producers in Appalachia and West Texas are now struggling with a shortage of pipelines to move product to market 

Appalachia accounted for 37% of total U.S. gas production, while West Texas accounted for another 19%, Reuters said, citing a warning by Bank of America analysts that Appalachia was nearing the limits of its takeaway capacity, heralding a potential halt to production growth.

The timing of this pipeline shortage comes as Europe is seeking alternatives to Russian gas, with U.S. LNG the preferred replacement. Currently, the U.S. has the capacity to export 9.8 billion cu ft daily, according to Reuters, while Europe’s largest economies import Russian gas at a rate of 18.3 billion cu ft daily. Pandemic demand recovery for natural gas, inflation and energy shortages at home will affect American consumers. Read More > at Oil Price

Falling Inventories Could Stifle U.S. Plans To Help Europe Replace Russian Oil – The U.S. energy industry has taken its role of savior of Europe seriously. After boosting LNG exports to a record because of Europe’s thirst for energy, oil exports from the U.S. are now on the rise, as well, but the trend may not be sustainable. Reuters’ John Kemp wrote in a recent column that the United States became a net exporter of crude oil and fuels last month, with the difference between imports and exports at 3 million barrels daily. He also noted, however, that a lot of this oil was coming from inventories that had now fallen to the lowest since 2008.

Since July 2020, Kemp noted, U.S. oil inventories had declined by 421 million barrels. Strategic oil reserves are also low, and fuel inventories are below the average for this time of the year, especially in distillates, which are 30 million barrels below the average.

From an immediate perspective, the fact that the U.S. is stepping in to fill the gap left by sanctioned Russian oil is good news for both U.S exporters and European importers. In the longer term, however, the plan may hit an inventory wall. 

If U.S. exporters are dipping into their reserves to send enough oil to Europe, this means that U.S. oil production is not rising fast enough–a fact the Biden administration has been lamenting for some time. 

Higher exports that do come from inventories may become another issue the administration finds problematic, particularly in the wake of a ban on oil exports that was proposed by Congressional representatives to keep the reins on retail fuel prices before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Now, prices at the pump are even higher than they were in December when the legislators proposed the ban. Read More > at Oil Price

Murder charges filed in Sacramento shooting – Three men have each been charged with three counts of murder in the April 3 Sacramento shooting that killed six and wounded 12, Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced Tuesday. All three men — brothers Smiley and Dandrae Martin, both booked in Sacramento County jail, and Mtula Payton, who prosecutors allege was out on bail for felony possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting and remains at large — are eligible for the death penalty, though prosecutors haven’t yet decided whether to pursue that option. However, capital punishment is for all intents and purposes outlawed in California — Newsom placed a moratorium on the practice on his first day in office, and the state hasn’t executed anyone since 2006.

At the Tuesday press conference in downtown Sacramento, prosecutors seemed frustrated with state laws they suggested have constrained their ability to charge suspects:

Ford Reports Devastating Losses Thanks to Electric Vehicle Gamble – Major U.S. automaker Ford blamed its sizable investment in electric vehicle (EV) company Rivian for its dramatic revenue decline in the first quarter of 2022.

Ford reported revenue of $34.5 billion between January and March, a 5% decline relative to the same period in 2021, and a net loss of $3.1 billion, according to the company’s earnings report released Wednesday. The Detroit automaker said its large investment in Rivian accounted for $5.4 billion in losses during the first quarter.

“A net loss of $3.1 billion was primarily attributable to a mark-to-market loss of $5.4 billion on the company’s investment in Rivian,” Ford said in the earnings report.

Ford maintains a roughly 12% stake in Rivian, CNBC reported in November.

Rivian has posted massive profit losses of its own and its share price has plummeted nearly 70% over the last six months. The value of Ford’s roughly 102 million Rivian shares has fallen from about $17.5 billion to $3.2 billion since November.

Automakers have increasingly turned their attention toward manufacturing electric vehicles as governments push aggressive green energy plans. President Joe Biden has promised to craft policies to ensure 50% of new vehicle sales in the U.S. are emissions-free by 2030 and every addition to the federal government’s 600,000-vehicle fleet is electric by 2035.

However, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe recently suggested that the supply chain for EV batteries is still far behind where it needs to be to achieve many of the goals pushed by Western governments, the WSJ reported.

“Put very simply, all the world’s cell production combined represents well under 10% of what we will need in 10 years,” Scaringe said last week. “Meaning, 90% to 95% of the supply chain does not exist.” Read More > at The Star News Network

Job openings hit a record high March as businesses still struggle to find workers – The US labor market remained historically imbalanced through March as employers struggled to match a limited number of available workers with outsize job openings.

The number of job openings totaled a record 11.5 million at the end of March, according to Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Wednesday. That’s up from the 11.3 million seen at the end of February. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected openings to decline to 11 million through the month.

Over the past year, the monthly JOLTS report has become the go-to release for tracking the labor shortage and its intensity. Job openings surged to record highs throughout 2021 and have since stabilized at levels nearly twice as high as the pre-pandemic norm. Yet the number of Americans looking for work recovered at a much slower clip, leaving the labor market with a massive gap between supply and demand that’s persisted into 2022. Read More > at Insider

The FDA Finally Admits We Should Treat COVID-19 Like The Flu – Top officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote Monday that, going forward, Americans will have to accept COVID-19 as another respiratory virus like influenza.

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock and the agency’s top vaccine official, Dr. Peter Marks, wrote that COVID-19 will be in circulation for the foreseeable future and must be accepted as another common virus in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Like with influenza, this new reality will likely require annual COVID-19 shots to be tailored around the most threatening strains of the virus, the officials wrote.

“Widespread vaccine- and infection-induced immunity, combined with the availability of effective therapeutics, could blunt the effects of future outbreaks. Nonetheless, it is time to accept that the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is the new normal,” the officials wrote. “It will likely circulate globally for the foreseeable future, taking its place alongside other common respiratory viruses such as influenza. And it likely will require similar annual consideration for vaccine composition updates in consultation with the [FDA].” Read More > at The Daily Caller

Why getting COVID is still nothing like getting the flu — even if it’s just as ‘normal’ – Health officials are saying it, friends are saying it: COVID-19 seems on track to become as common and familiar to us as influenza. But experts stress that there are still limitations to this comparison — COVID is still, and may always be, no ordinary flu.

…But there are still key differences between the two infectious diseases that limit just how much we can learn from the yearly flu.

While the disease manifestation might be similar in the two, the underlying viruses are still very different, Dr. Jorge Salinas, an assistant professor of infectious disease at Stanford, said — and the virus that causes COVID-19 is still not very well understood.

…Experts also noted COVID is far more infectious than the flu, which means that it puts more people at risk of severe disease and death by way of infecting far more people.

…COVID also brings the potential for long-term effects, including neurological complications, heart disease and diabetes, something that the flu does not have on a large scale, experts said.

…Finally, COVID is still too new and unpredictable to compare to the seasonal flu, which comes and goes over the winter, experts said. While COVID has shown signs of being worse during the winter, like the flu, that is largely a product of behaviors like spending more time indoors. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

FDA sharply limits use of Johnson & Johnson shot due to rare blood clots – Federal regulators announced new restrictions Thursday on the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, saying the risk of a rare and life-threatening blood clot syndrome outweighed the benefits of the vaccine for people who are 18 or older and can get another shot, unless they would otherwise remain unvaccinated.

The FDA said only people who are unable to receive other vaccines because they are not accessible or clinically appropriate should receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been associated with a rare, but potentially deadly blood clotting and bleeding syndrome called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. The condition usually occurs within one to two weeks of vaccination, and a commonly used treatment to treat clotting, heparin, can cause additional harm. Read More > in The Washington Post

Will CA follow Redondo Beach model for homeless? – What’s the best way to help people experiencing homelessness access the care and services they need to get back on their feet? One approach is Newsom’s proposal to create a court framework to compel people with serious mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders into treatment; two San Diego city council members submitted a funding request this week to expand a city program that could place more homeless people into conservatorships.

And then there is the approach Redondo Beach took amid the pandemic: moving its homeless court program outdoors, in a central location where the unhoused tend to congregate, and incentivizing attendance by promising defendants they won’t be jailed for showing up. Participants are instead connected to housing programs, mental health and substance abuse services and legal assistance. The court has had an average attendance rate of 80% since September 2020, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports — and now Democratic Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of Torrance is carrying a bill to expand such efforts statewide by offering counties grants to tailor homeless courts to their own communities. Read More > at CalMatters

Gun bug: 33 months of 1 million-plus gun sales – Sales of firearms have fallen from their recent highs but are continuing in a nearly three-year-long string of 1.25 million sales a month.

A new analysis of FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System data indicates that gun sale background checks have crossed the 1.25 million threshold for 33 straight months, sustaining the highest-ever era of gun purchases.

“It is clear that those looking for the ‘new normal’ of firearm sales following the two outsized years of 2020 and 2021 can find all the evidence needed to know that law-abiding citizens are turning out by the millions each month to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” he added.

Those two years saw the highest-ever number of FBI background checks for gun sales due to violent Black Lives Matter protests, surging crime, and the presidential election. During that period, gun sales surged, especially among women and black Americans, due to safety concerns.

And they have stayed high, though not at the 2020 and 2021 peaks, said NSSF. Helping drive sales has been the elimination of restrictions on carrying firearms in half of the states and President Joe Biden’s constant call for gun control and bans. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Governor, legislators won’t budge in high-speed rail dispute – California Democrats are locked in one of the most consequential disputes in modern state history over the future of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail project after a decade of troubled construction.

The $105 billion bullet train project — for which $10.3 billion has been spent so far — would be the largest single investment in state history, the most ambitious civil works effort in the nation and now a symbol to many experts of how not to build a railroad, all of which define the stakes in the current impasse. 

The feud has festered for 16 months, since Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the Legislature for a $4.2 billion appropriation in early 2021. The request has triggered a standoff with Assembly Democrats, who have steadfastly refused to hand over the last remaining funds from a 2008 bond measure for high-speed rail.

…But serious problems remain unresolved in the Central Valley, and new issues with utility relocations along the future tracks are again holding up construction. 

The rail authority estimated in 2008, when voters approved $9 billion for the system, it would cost $33 billion and start running by 2020. But slow land purchases, delays in environmental documents, employee turnover and litigation over the last 14 years keep putting the goal further out of reach.

“There is no confidence in the project,” said Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Los Angeles Democrat. “We had an end date of 2020 and now we don’t have an end date.” 

The latest estimate, made earlier this year, set the cost at $105 billion. The new price tag is based on some estimates made in 2019, not accounting for the spurt of inflation in construction materials and labor, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the non-partisan adviser to the Legislature. The risk is that the real cost is still not known.

“This project is big and complex and complicated and difficult and needs oversight,” said Laura Friedman, a Glendale Democrat and  chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee. “It seems like there’s pressure being put on us to very quickly give them their money and just move on. ‘Legislature, get out of our way,’ which to me is really, really committing legislative malfeasance.”

The Senate has maintained its long silence on the rail project. Senate Transportation Committee chair Lena Gonzalez, a Democrat from Long Beach, declined an interview request and to answer written questions. In a statement, she said she is working on a “robust transportation funding package.”  Read More > at CalMatters

Over 60 million Americans have taxes so simple the IRS could do them automatically – For many Americans, doing your taxes isn’t all that complicated. It’s just data entry.

The actual work of doing your taxes mostly involves rifling through various Internal Revenue Service forms you get in the mail. There are W-2s listing your wages, 1099s showing miscellaneous income like from one-off gigs, 1098s showing mortgage interest or tuition payments, etc.

But here’s the thing about those forms: The IRS has them, too. For many people, the IRS has all the information it needs to calculate their taxes, send taxpayers a filled-out return, and have them sign it and send it right back to the IRS if everything looks in order.

This isn’t a purely hypothetical proposal. Countries like Denmark, Belgium, Estonia, Chile, and Spain already offer such ”pre-populated returns” to their citizens. And a new paper estimates that at least 41 percent of American households — some 62 million tax filing units — could have their entire tax returns handled this way with no further intervention necessary. Read More > at Vox

A New Report Explains How California Screwed Up Marijuana Legalization – Six years after California legalized recreational marijuana, the black market still accounts for roughly two-thirds of the state’s cannabis sales. Since legalization was supposed to eliminate the black market, that embarrassing situation represents a stark failure to fulfill the promise of Proposition 64, the 2016 ballot initiative that allowed recreational consumers to buy marijuana from state-licensed retailers.

Regulatory costs, high taxes, and local bans on retailers are the main factors impeding the transition to a legal market, according to a new report from Reason Foundation, the organization that publishes this website. The report, written by Geoff Lawrence, the foundation’s managing director of drug policy, focuses on the latter two issues. It recommends tax relief, which Lawrence shows would be compatible with continued growth in state marijuana revenue, and incentives aimed at encouraging local governments to allow retail sales.

…While California legislators have no control over federal tax law, they do decide how much the state will collect from marijuana producers and sellers. In addition to state income taxes, which currently average nearly 9 percent of net earnings for corporations, the state levies include a cultivation tax of $10.08 per ounce of flower and $3 per ounce of leaves (both of which are indexed to inflation), plus a 15 percent retail excise tax. The state also collects a general sales tax of 7.25 percent, which rises to an average of 8.82 percent when local levies are included. And the state allows local governments to impose additional taxes on growers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.

All told, Lawrence calculates, the effective tax rate on marijuana in California ranges from $42 to $92 per ounce, depending on the jurisdiction, compared to an estimated wholesale production cost of $35 per ounce. California’s taxes are notably higher than those collected by other states that have legalized marijuana. “Colorado and Oregon both exempt cannabis transactions from general state sales taxes,” Lawrence notes. “Colorado assesses a 15% wholesale transfer tax and a 15% retail excise tax while Oregon assesses only a 17% retail excise tax.” A 2020 Reason Foundation report calculated that total taxes amounted to $526 per pound in Colorado and $340 per pound in Oregon. In California, Lawrence found, the total burden per pound “ranges from $677 to $1,441.”

Those taxes, along with state and local regulations, give black-market dealers a clear advantage over legal sellers. Read More > at Reason

50 years on, the lessons of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study still reverberate – This year marks the 50th anniversary of The New York Times’ exposé of the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study, thanks to a frustrated social worker who tipped off the press. By the time it broke in 1972, experiments had been conducted on unsuspecting Black men in the area surrounding Tuskegee, Alabama, for 40 years. All 400 or so of the male subjects had contracted syphilis, and all had been told they were receiving treatment for the disease—except they were not.

The researchers in charge of the study instead deliberately withheld treatment in order to monitor the progression of the disease as it advanced unchecked. The study’s exposure led to a public outcry and heated debate over informed consent, ultimately giving rise to a number of regulations to prevent such an ethical lapse in the future. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study has since become a vital case study in bioethics, but public awareness of its existence is spotty at best. A new paper published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine seeks to remedy that, and it argues that federal regulation is not enough to prevent similar unethical research.

“Citizens have an obligation to remember the victims of any major catastrophe, as people do with 9/11,” the paper’s author, Martin Tobin, told Ars. “The men in Tuskegee suffered major injury, including death, at the hands of the premier health arm of the US government. A failure to remember what happened to these men is to add another layer of injury to what they already endured.”

Unlike many ethically questionable research projects, the Tuskegee study was notable because it wasn’t done in secret. It had the full support of many prominent leaders in the medical profession. The idea originated in 1932 with Taliaferro Clark, then director of the Venereal Disease division of the Public Health Service (PHS), the precursor to today’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Clark read about a 1928 study with white men conducted in Oslo, Norway. He thought it would be a grand idea to conduct similar research using impoverished Black sharecroppers in Macon County, Alabama, many of whom had contracted the disease. At the time, syphilis was a significant health concern, and the effects of the disease were believed to depend on the patient’s race.

Subjects were recruited with the help of a Black nurse named Eunice Rivers; her involvement was key to gaining the sharecroppers’ trust. In exchange for their participation, subjects were promised free physical examinations, free transportation to and from the clinic, hot meals on those days, and free treatment for any minor ailments. Rivers was also able to convince many families to agree to an autopsy in exchange for funeral benefits—a major concern for the project’s leaders. “If the colored population become aware that accepting free hospital care means a post-mortem, every darkey will leave Macon County,” one of the doctors on the project wrote to a colleague.

However, the researchers lied to the men about their condition; they told them they were being treated for “bad blood” rather than syphilis. They also lied about the “treatments”; the men were given dummy pills, even after penicillin was found to be effective against syphilis and became widely available. And they lied about the need for painful lumbar punctures to check for neurosyphilis, telling the subjects they were therapeutic rather than purely diagnostic. Read More > at ars Technica

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California Is 2022’s 10th Worst State for Working Moms – WalletHub Study

With Mother’s Day tomorrow and 68% of women with children under age 18 having been in the labor force during 2021, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst States for Working Moms, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

In order to help ease the burden on mothers in the workforce, WalletHub compared the attractiveness of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for a working mother based on 17 key metrics. The data set ranges from the median women’s salary to the female unemployment rate to day-care quality.

Life as a Working Mom in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 49th – Day-Care Quality
  • 22nd – Pediatricians per Capita
  • 30th – Ratio of Female Executives to Male Executives
  • 50th – Female Unemployment Rate
  • 19th – % of Single-Mom Families in Poverty

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-working-moms/3565

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Spring 2022 – Oakley’s Garage Sale Do’s & Don’t’s

Garage Sales are a great way of cleaning out the house while making a little extra money for your family. Each weekend a handful of garage/yard sales are held throughout Oakley, which we welcome. However, in the event that you would like to hold a sale, please be aware of the City Municipal Code pertaining to signage and sales.

Don’t:

  • Don’t have a sale that exceeds 3 calendar days
  • Don’t have more than 3 garage or yard sales a year

A permit & collection of a tax may be required if a person holds more than 3 sales a year, as it can be argued that the resident is operating a business on their single-family residential lot.

  • Don’t post signs in the public right of way this includes:

– streets

– landscaped medians or landscaped strips along roadways

– telephone poles, power poles, street lights, & street signs

– sidewalks or curbs

– City trees

Neither sign is legal and each may come with a citation

Do:

  • Conduct your sale during daylight hours
  • Place signs on private property, but only WITH permission of the property owner
  • Remove signs & directional information at the conclusion of your event
  • Remove all sale items from public view after your event has ended
  • Consider providing a neighborly notification to those that live near you. That they may prepare for the additional traffic to be expected in your neighborhood.

Any signs placed on utility poles, traffic lights, traffic signs, street signs, fire hydrants or trees will be removed and the cost for removal and any damage caused by the sign will be charged to the person sponsoring the garage sale. Please note that while the City always strives for voluntary compliance, citations can and will be issued, thus potentially reducing the net gains of your sale. Help ensure your garage sale profit does not go towards paying for an unnecessary citation by observing the Municipal Code.

The Code Enforcement Division aims to work in partnership with the residents of Oakley to promote and maintain a safe and desirable living and working environment. Help us promote a community appearance we can all feel proud of and maintain property values by complying with City municipal codes.

If frequent garage sales are a problem, or if the contents of those sales do not fit the profile of a garage sale, concerned neighbors can call our Code Enforcement Division at 925-625-7031 or email codeenforcement@ci.oakley.ca.us.

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California Is 2022’s 8th Most Gambling-Addicted State – WalletHub Study

With the gambling industry bringing in record-breaking profits last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Kentucky Derby soon to kick off, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Most Gambling-Addicted States, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary, along with its Kentucky Derby Facts & History infographic.

In order to call out the states where gambling addiction is most prevalent, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 20 key metrics. The data set ranges from the presence of illegal gambling operations to lottery sales per capita to the share of adults with gambling disorders.

Gambling Addiction in California (1=Most Addicted, 25=Avg.):

  • 27th – Casinos per Capita
  • 30th – Gaming Machines per Capita
  • 26th – Lottery Sales per Capita
  • 1st – Gambling-Related Arrests per Capita
  • 1st – Legality of Daily Fantasy Sports
  • 1st – Legality of Sports Gambling

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/states-most-addicted-to-gambling/20846

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Five Key Findings From a Huge Study of Dog Life Expectancy

From Real Clear Science

By Ross Pomeroy
April 29, 2022

Veterinary scientists associated with National Taiwan University and The Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom have completed a massive study of pet dogs’ life expectancy in the United Kingdom, providing unprecedented, evidence-backed estimates of how long owners can expect their pooches to live.

The researchers made use of the VetCompass database for their study. VetCompass is composed of anonymous patient data from primary-care veterinary practices in the UK. During the study period from January 1st, 2016 to July 31st, 2020, the researchers monitored 876,039 dogs from 18 recognized breeds as well as crossbred dogs, observing a total of 30,563 confirmed deaths.

Here are six of the key findings:

1. Small Terriers Claim the Longevity Crown. Jack Russell and Yorkshire Terriers can be expected to live 12.7 and 12.5 years respectively. A few terriers in the study nearly made it to age 20.

2. Bulldogs and Pugs Live the Shortest. Bulldogs and Pugs usually live no more than eight years on average. This almost certainly owes to their squashed snouts, a result of inbreeding, which can severely hamper their ability to breathe. Disturbingly, the researchers found a life expectancy of just 4.55 years for the smaller French Bulldog. They noted, however, that this could be a statistical anomaly owing to the fact that French Bulldogs exploded in popularity within the UK over the past decade, meaning that the study would have registered the deaths of a lot of young dogs, skewing the findings. An update to the data with a longer study period would likely find that French Bulldogs live about as long as other Bulldogs.

3. Neutering Seems to Boost Life Expectancy. Neutered females lived about a year and a half longer than their fertile counterparts, while neutered males lived about a year longer. This is in keeping with prior research suggesting that neutered dogs are less susceptible to infection and have fewer behavioral issues, making them less likely to get into fights with other dogs or be euthanized for being dangerous to humans. The researchers warned that this finding should be treated with caution, however. “Neutering may also act as a proxy for stronger owner responsibility and better care, as it is often considered responsible dog ownership,” they wrote. “Thus, neutered animals may benefit from additional survival advantages related to enhanced owner care.”

4. Mixed-Breed Dogs Are Generally Long-Lived. Diverse genetics is generally a good thing, and this shows in the life expectancy of mixed-breed dogs – around 11.8 years. Only Springer Spaniels, Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, and Yorkshire Terriers can be expected to live longer.

5. Females Outlive Males. Females can be expected to live about four months longer than males. This seems partly due to neutering, however, as female dogs tend to derive more of a longevity advantage from the procedure.

Source: Kendy Tzu‐yun Teng et al. Life tables of annual life expectancy and mortality for companion dogs in the United Kingdom. Scientific Reports. (2022) 12:6415 | https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-10341-6

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