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.
25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites – Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, “Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression,” or does it mean, “Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default”? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of contronyms—words that are their own antonyms.
1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean “give official permission or approval for (an action)” or conversely, “impose a penalty on.”
2. Oversight is the noun form of two verbs with contrary meanings, “oversee” and “overlook.” Oversee, from Old English ofersēon (“look at from above”) means “supervise” (medieval Latin for the same thing: super-, “over” plus videre, “to see.”) Overlook usually means the opposite: “to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore.”
3. Left can mean either remaining or departed. If the gentlemen have withdrawn to the drawing room for after-dinner cigars, who’s left? (The gentlemen have left and the ladies are left.)
4. Dust, along with the next two words, is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.
5. Seed can also go either way. If you seed the lawn you add seeds, but if you seed a tomato you remove them. Read More > at Mental Floss
Don’t Ice Sprains – …One of the ineffective treatments he covers is the practice of treating sprains with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). He has a chapter titled “Don’t Ice Sprains.” Every day, twenty thousand people in the United States sprain an ankle, and most of them put ice on it, which is exactly the wrong thing to do! It all started with a doctor named Gabe Mirkin. In 1978, he wrote a book about sports-related injuries in which he recommended RICE, and that quickly became the standard treatment for sprains. But his “expert” advice was based on intuition rather than on evidence.
Numerous studies have now compared icing a sprain to not icing it and found no difference. In 2012, researchers in Amsterdam did a systematic review of eleven studies of RICE involving a total of 870 patients. They didn’t find any evidence that rest, ice, compression, or elevation improved outcomes. Instead, they found three studies where early movement led to better outcomes. A 2013 study in Taiwan found that strenuous exercise damaged muscle tissue, causing increased levels of creatine kinase and myoglobin in the blood, and ice therapy produced higher levels of these muscle-damage proteins, reflecting greater muscle damage. And the patients treated with ice reported more fatigue.
Offit explains that the key to healing is inflammation. Inflammation is painful, but it promotes healing. Inflammation increases blood flow. Increased blood flow brings clotting factors and immune cells to the area of damage, and it promotes the manufacture of new collagen. So anything that decreases blood flow can be expected to lengthen the time of healing. What decreases blood flow? Rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, often prescribed for the pain of sprains, also delay healing. In 2013, Dr. Mirkin recanted, saying that RICE was wrong. He also said that nobody believes in rest anymore. Indeed, bedrest used to be prescribed for low back pain, but today patients are encouraged to stay out of bed and be as active as possible; they heal faster with activity. Today a small but growing number of doctors no longer recommend RICE for sprains. But many authorities and many websites still recommend RICE. What should one do? Warmth can be applied, and gentle ankle exercises can be done without weight-bearing. Inflammation is painful, but tolerating the pain speeds recovery. Some patients might prefer delayed healing to pain, but they can only make an informed choice if they know the facts. Read More > at Skeptical Inquirer
Coronavirus Curfews Are Trending Again, Despite Total Lack of Evidence They Help – Coronaviruses don’t get more deadly or dangerous after dark. Yet across the country, leaders are imposing new curfews on their residents and businesses in the name of stopping COVID-19.
Those advocating for curfews argue that when it comes to places serving alcohol, earlier closures will mean fewer drunk patrons, better decisions, and better hygiene. (“Shenanigans happen at night,” said one public health professor.) Others suggest that limiting the hours people can shop or leave their houses recreationally will decrease opportunities for the virus to spread overall. And some leaders have suggested they’re doing it to send the right message about the pandemic.
But…there’s no evidence that this is indeed the case. And it’s just as likely that limited hours mean more people cramming their shopping, socializing, and errands into the same hours, making establishments more crowded and ensuring longer waits in transmission-friendly lines. Besides, not everyone has a job or home and family responsibilities that make state-approved socializing hours possible.
Public health experts have criticized curfews, although some have done so on the grounds that they don’t go far enough. The consensus seems to be that there’s just little logic in them.
George Mason Univesity epidemiologist Saskia Popescu told Cleveland.com that the challenge with imposing curfews is that “it not only is likely to condense patrons into a smaller window of time, but for things like an outdoor restaurant or even gym, that might be a time with slower business and fewer people, which would make it safer. A better course of action is to focus on those high-risk activities and either temporarily halt them or find ways to make them safer.”
“It seems like it’s spreading all over, but I’ve seen no evidence it helps anything,” Kent State University public health professor Tara C. Smith told Vox‘s Dylan Scott. “I’ve not seen a single public health person recommend this as an intervention. I’m mystified at their popularity.” Read More > at Reason
Ski resorts are still opening – with or without COVID guidance from California – California’s COVID guidelines are comprehensive, covering everything from amusement parks to schools. But there’s one very large gap that state public health officials haven’t covered yet: ski resorts.
Mammoth Mountain and several Southern California ski resorts have already opened for the season. Tahoe’s ski resorts are gearing up for their respective opening days — lifts may start spinning as soon as this weekend. A storm just delivered nearly a foot of snow to the Sierra Nevada.
The circumstances feel like a repeat of March, when ski resorts shut down because of the pandemic and the statewide order to stay at home, just as the biggest storm of the season hit the mountains.
Except this time, ski resorts say they’re prepared for the pandemic and they’re planning to open as scheduled — even though the state’s health department has not yet published COVID guidelines that are ski resort-specific. Read More > at SFGate
The Child-Neglect Pandemic – Yesterday, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced that, once again, the nation’s largest public school system would close, in response to spiking Covid-19 infections—throwing hundreds of thousands of children back into remote-learning environments. The human cost of school closures on children cannot be overstated. According to a new report from JAMA Network Open, the American Medical Association’s monthly open-access medical journal, “a total of 24.2 million children aged 5 to 11 attended public schools that were closed during the pandemic, losing a median of 54 days of instruction.” The report also declares that “missed instruction during 2020 could be associated with an estimated 5.53 million years of life lost. This loss in life expectancy was likely to be greater than would have been observed if leaving primary schools open had led to an expansion of the first wave of the pandemic.”
These are not the only concerns. The dramatic drop in reports of child abuse and neglect—more than 50 percent in New York City this spring—is largely the result of teachers not seeing students in person or communicating with them at all in many cases. Teachers account for about a quarter of reports to children’s services; the lack of in-person schooling means that more kids are left in dangerous situations for longer.
What little teachers see via class Zoom meetings is deeply concerning. A few days ago I spoke with M., a first-grade teacher at a Title I elementary school in Northern California. About 97 percent of the kids in her school receive free or reduced-price lunch. They are mostly Hispanic, with some African-American students as well. School has been completely remote since the spring, and there is no sign that it will return to in-person this school year.
In M.’s class of 30, about five kids never log in, though she and her co-teacher reach out regularly to the parents. The district has provided devices to each child but only one hotspot per home, which can rarely support all the kids—not to mention the friends and neighbors who have started to use it for themselves. Another four or five children are in class for the whole day. A number of kids’ parents work the night shift and may not be awake to ensure that their children log in. The remainder pop in and out, though the district gives them credit for being present as long as the parents or students send in one message to the teachers per day. Districts report that a third of their students are absent each day, but the number of kids not receiving any instruction is actually much higher. Read More > at City Journal
Fewer Americans Are Marrying Now Than Ever, But Those Who Do Love It More – Scholars at the Institute for Family Studies are reporting that even while the U.S. divorce rate has been steadily declining over the last few decades, that decline has picked up speed recently. New data out last week shows it has finally hit its lowest point in 50 years. In the world of family studies, this is absolutely stunning news.
Wendy Wang, the director of research at the Institute for Family Studies, explains, “For every 1,000 marriages in the last year, only 14.9 ended in divorce.” This comes from the newly released American Community Survey data conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1970, 15 out of every 1,000 marriages ended in divorce, meaning fewer couples in the United States are divorcing today than did 50 years ago.
Even more remarkably, Wang says that “the drop in the divorce rate is likely to continue in 2020, despite the pandemic.” The big question, of course, is why?
Wang told me the “main cause of this decline is the selection effect.” While fewer couples are marrying today, as shown in the graph below, these couples who are marrying are doing so later in life. They are more affluent, more selective in choosing a mate, and more likely to be religious than the general population. “These are all factors that reduce the risk of divorce,” Wang explained. Read More > in The Federalist
Spend or save? – Even with a rosier-than-expected budget forecast, Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers have some hard choices ahead of them.
Wealthy Californians who made financial gains amid the pandemic and a booming stock market helped the state reap $26 billion in one-time surplus funds, according to a Wednesday budget forecast from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. That could help the state reverse cuts to state employee salaries, courts and the UC and CSU systems and make good on payments owed to K-12 schools and community colleges. But California will still likely face a $17 billion deficit by 2024, leaving lawmakers with two unappealing choices — cut services or raise taxes, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.
Though the Legislative Analyst’s Office recommended lawmakers allocate a “significant portion” of the surplus to building reserves and paying down debt, leaders of the state Assembly and Senate intimated they have other plans.
- Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Lakewood Democrat: “It should be our priority to restore funds to critical programs that were cut and prevent additional cuts. I agree with Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ approach of making use of the $26 billion that has been identified.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom will unveil his 2021-22 budget in January, kicking off months of negotiations with the Legislature. Both will face pressure from unions and other advocacy groups to raise taxes as numerous safety nets collapse. While thousands of renters stare down an eviction moratorium that expires in February, the state is scrambling to find permanent homes for homeless Californians before federal funding dries up in December. And nearly 750,000 Californians will lose federal unemployment benefits at the end of December when certain provisions of the CARES Act expire, according to a new analysis from the California Policy Lab.
- Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California: “Stock market-driven revenues cannot mask the suffering Californians are experiencing at the other end of the income scale … It’s long past time for our leaders to tax privileged billionaires and corporations for investments that ensure today’s crises don’t become catastrophes.” Read More > at CalMatters
Consumer Reports study finds reliability issues with some EVs – There are probably always going to be teething issues with new products, and electric vehicles are no exception. According to the results of Consumer Reports’ most recent reliability study, owners of recent EV models have flagged some “significant problems,” which are thankfully covered under warranty.
The survey covered 329,000 vehicles and some EVs — Audi E-Tron, Kia Niro EV and Tesla Model Y — “had more than their share of problems,” according to Consumer Reports. Some E-Tron owners, for instance, identified drive-system electrical failures and issues with power equipment. Respondents who own the Niro noted other problems, like a bearing in the motor that needed to be replaced.
As a result, Consumer Reports no longer recommends the E-Tron or Niro. Audi and Kia said they’re taking steps to address the reported issues.
The survey has impacted reliability predictions for other EVs. Consumer Reports doesn’t have much data from its member on the Porsche Taycan just yet. However, it lowered its reliability prediction on that car from average to below average based on reports it received about other new EVs. As such, it’s no longer recommending the Taycan. Although the organization hasn’t tested the Ford Mustang Mach-E or the Mercedes-Benz EQC, it reduced its reliability predictions for those to below average too. Read More > at Engadget
‘It’s literally at record levels’: Prosecutors up and down California say they’ve seen a rise in domestic violence amidst the pandemic – State and federal prosecutors across California are trying to raise awareness about a disturbing trend that has held across the state since the start of the pandemic: domestic violence appears to be going up, as avenues for victims to report it are closing.
In a late-October virtual news conference, federal and state prosecutors from cities all over the state came together to share news of domestic violence trends in their areas and what they’re doing to stop it. Though domestic violence generally isn’t a prosecutable federal offense, federal agencies play a role in two ways: filing charges against people with domestic violence convictions who illegally possess guns, and distributing grants to state agencies.
One problem, prosecutors say, is shutdowns related to the pandemic have forced victims to remain in the home with their abusers, and prevents kids from being able to confide about abuse in their home to their teachers. To combat this, many offices are partnering with rideshare services to give free rides to victims, as well as keeping shelters and family justice centers open.
Schubert says her office has seen a 39 percent increase in police bringing domestic violence cases to county prosecutors for filing since the pandemic hit. In Ventura County, the increase has been drastic, Ventura District Attorney Gregory Totten said.
Victims of domestic violence can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. Those in Alameda County can contact the family justice center at 510-267-8800 or reach its 24-hour mobile response team at : 1-800 947-8301. Read More > in The Mercury News
Delta Conveyance Project will soak Californians – …Demonstrating once again that boondoggles have more lives than a cat, the deceased tunnel project most recently known as WaterFix is coming back in a new form.
In May 2019, the Department of Water Resources rescinded all approvals for WaterFix, a $15 billion-ish project that envisioned two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to get around pumping restrictions imposed to protect still-declining fish species. That cleared the way for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new plan, a single, smaller tunnel through the Delta. It’s now called the Delta Conveyance Project, and it’s coming for your money.
The Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority is already spending money on planning and engineering work, and the environmental review process has begun. But there is no finished, approved plan, and no one knows what the project will cost.
So in August, the California Department of Water Resources filed a lawsuit against every resident of the state in order to get a court to “validate” a financing mechanism for the Delta Conveyance Project. The lawsuit asks the court to approve the DWR’s bond resolution authorizing unlimited borrowing to pay for the tunnel project.
The lawsuit admits, “The design and physical characteristics of any such Delta conveyance facilities are not yet determined, nor has the Department approved a project for implementation.”
Not only does the DWR want the court’s advance approval for its plan to spend an unlimited amount of money building this boondoggle, the department also wants legal protection for its plan to “charge and collect amounts under the Water Supply Contracts” with State Water Project contractors.
In 1978, voters approved Proposition 13, which cut the property tax rate statewide to 1 percent. However, Prop. 13 allowed for the tax rate to be higher than 1 percent if needed to pay for debt approved by voters in prior years.
The bonds to finance the construction of the State Water Project were approved by voters in 1960.
Here comes the trick: the boondogglers are now referring to the proposed Delta Conveyance Project as “maintenance” of the State Water Project.
In other words, they’re sending the thing back through time to 1960 and claiming that voters approved it during the Eisenhower administration. If they get away with this, extra charges could go straight onto property tax bills without a vote. Read More > in The Orange County Register
As Covid-19 Surges, the Big Unknown Is Where People Are Getting Infected -The U.S. and Europe struggle to identify where coronavirus infections are occurring, making it hard to impose targeted restrictions
Western nations face a big challenge in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic: Ten months into the health crisis, they still know little about where people are catching the virus.
The problem is becoming more acute as new cases are breaking records in the U.S. and Europe and pressure grows on authorities to impose targeted restrictions on places that are spreading the virus, rather than broad confinement measures that are wreaking havoc on the economy.
In Germany, authorities say they don’t know where 75% of people who currently test positive for the coronavirus got it. In Austria, the figure stands at 77%. In Spain, the health ministry said that it was able to identify the origin of only 7% of infections registered in the last week of October. In France and Italy, only some 20% of new cases have been linked to people who previously tested positive.
Jay Varma, senior adviser for public health in the New York City mayor’s office, said 10% of the city’s infections are due to travel, 5% from gatherings, and another 5% from institutional settings such as nursing homes.
“The vast majority of the remainder—somewhere probably around 50% or more—we don’t have a way to directly attribute their source of infection,” Mr. Varma said. “And that’s a concern.” Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
Rules For Us and Rules For Them – Of all the quotable lines in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, few resonate as much as this one: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” That was, of course, the proclamation of the pigs who controlled the government, lest any of the lesser species harbor grandiose notions about their place in the barnyard’s pecking order.
That quotation has been referred to often in recent days after Gov. Gavin Newsom — fresh off of issuing a new set of edicts admonishing Californians to dine alone at home and curtail their Thanksgiving celebrations — was caught dining with his wife and 10 other friends at a birthday party for a prominent lobbyist at the French Laundry in Yountville.
…Sacramento’s public schools have yet to reopen as they await the final phase-in rules, but Newsom’s four children are back in classrooms at the high-end private school where he sends them. No one is surprised that governors live comfortable lives, but it’s a bit rich when they are immune from the rules that they wantonly impose on the rest of us.
It’s not just the governor, either. “Legislators from California and other states are gathering for an annual conference in Maui this week despite a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Golden State that resulted in travel warnings by health officials,” the Los Angeles Times reported. They are attending an annual conference sponsored by a nonprofit group that often pays legislators’ expenses.
Only one lawmaker has thus far admitted attending the conference this year. But as Politico reporter Jeremy White noted on Twitter: “[W]hy not just admit if you’re in Hawaii? We will find out sooner or later. If you want to keep it secret, don’t go!” Exactly. There’s nothing wrong with attending — but the timing is bad, and why not just admit it?
I find it odd that the legislators and Newsom are so tone-deaf that they couldn’t see the criticism coming, or understand why average Californians would be upset at the fracas — especially as officials call for tougher enforcement of the state’s travel and social-distancing rules. Even California’s mostly liberal commentators have been aghast. Read More > at The American Spectator
Column: The worst thing about Gavin Newsom’s French Laundry dinner? It was with a lobbyist – I have three questions about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s hypocritical foray into Yountville.
Why did Newsom attend his friend’s birthday party on Nov. 6 when he was telling his constituents to do one thing (dine in alone), while he and his wife did another (dined out with friends)?
How sincere was his subsequent apology following the very public spanking he received after the San Francisco Chronicle broke the news that he’d broken the rules?
And why does our governor hang out with a lobbyist who is trying to influence him on behalf of clients?
Taking the last one first, yes, I know that the birthday boy, Jason Kinney, 50, and the governor, 53, go way back. Kinney is a longtime political operative who bounces back and forth between government, political campaigns (he was the spokesman for 2016’s Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis for recreational use in California) and lobbying. That’s the way California’s unsavory political revolving door works.
But it’s Kinney’s role as a lobbyist that sounds alarms. For people in his job, it’s important to show the world you’ve got the governor’s ear. Doing so can help bring in business from companies eager — or desperate — to get the governor’s attention.
Thanks to Politico we know, for example, that Kinney’s lobbying firm represents several small amusement park operators who have been pushing the governor to let them reopen their rides. (They were allowed to briefly reopen before COVID-19 cases spiked and the restrictions were reinstated.) His firm’s biggest client is Marathon Petroleum, which, according to Politico, “is a member of a powerful oil industry organization that battled proposals to ban hydraulic fracturing.” In September, Newsom made what some think was a halfhearted call to ban fracking in the state. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times
As public pension costs soar, some Southern California agencies turn to controversial borrowing to fill deep holes – As the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression bears down on public agencies, California’s cities and special districts are slated to pay $5.03 billion to fill outstanding holes in their pension plans in 2022, a painful hike of 43% over what they paid to fill those holes in 2019, according to data from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.
That’s on top of the “normal cost” they pay to cover pensions each year. And it will get worse before it gets better: Agencies will kick in even more over the next five or so years to make up for losses suffered during the last recession.
“Cities in California are already facing a $7 billion general revenue shortfall resulting from the COVID-19 economic shutdown. … Any additional costs will make it extremely difficult for cities to maintain core services to residents.”
Older cities with their own fire and police departments have particular challenges, because public safety pensions are the most expensive. Cities also are far more dependent on local sales and hotel bed taxes, which have taken a beating in the pandemic. Water, sewer and other special districts generally have much steadier revenue streams from property taxes and service fees, and aren’t under much strain, said Dillon Gibbons of the California Special Districts Association.
…Toss in “pension holidays” (when funds looked so healthy that officials quit putting money into them, sometimes for years), a crippling recession, lengthening life spans, a spike in retirements and reductions in what pension plans expect to earn on investments, and you get a hole hundreds of billions of dollars deep. Or deeper.
Stanford University’s Pension Tracker looks at the hole through two different lenses.
- The rosier one, used by California officials, assumes that investments will earn returns of about 7%. That puts unfunded liabilities at $352.5 billion statewide, or the equivalent of $27,187 per household.
- The darker one, used by Stanford’s Joe Nation, a former Democratic state assemblyman and professor of public policy, assumes the much lower return rate of 3.25%. That pegs unfunded liabilities at nearly $1.1 trillion, or $81,634 per household.
If that hole isn’t filled up with meatier earnings and heftier contributions from public agencies and their workers, taxpayers will be called upon to fill it directly. Read More > in The Orange County Register
Rare-Earth Elements: A National Security Crisis – “The Middle East has the oil, but China has the rare earths,” spoken by Deng Xiaoping, Supreme Leader of China, in 1992. What did he mean and what did he know that we didn’t?
The “rare earths” that Deng was referring to are known as “Rare-Earth Elements” (REEs). They are composed of 17 complex elements that are unpronounceable but are essential in four industries: high tech, pharmaceuticals, national defense, and energy. The list of products in which they are used is almost endless: computers, iPhones, TV screens, guided missiles, fighter jets, sonar systems, electric grid, solar panels, 5G technology, and on and on.
OK, so what’s the problem?
The problem is we are almost completely dependent on China for these precious REEs!
Because they control almost 100% of the market, they can leverage, thru overproduction and price manipulation, to bankrupt their competition. In fact, in 2015, China relaxed REE export rules and flooded the market. Prices fell, forcing Molycorp, owner of the only functioning REE mine in the U.S. (at Mountain Pass in California), to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
We find ourselves in this position thru a combination of ignorance, apathy, incompetence, and being our own worst enemy. Until the 1990s, we were the leading exporter of REEs. Then, while we were undermining REEs’ exploration and mining, China expanded its supplies and tightened its control over production and exports. By 2008, they controlled over 90% of world production; by 2011, 97%. Read More > at Real Clear Defense
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines show ‘thrilling’ results. But when will they come to the Bay Area? – A second coronavirus vaccine has shown strong preliminary success rates, raising anticipation and expectations they may help end a pandemic that has upended daily life and continues to surge.
But the Bay Area faces a long road ahead in obtaining and distributing vaccines to local residents, and most people probably won’t be able to get vaccinated until summer 2021.Moderna announced Monday that its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective — becoming the second drug company in the last week to share promising early data on vaccines that could help end the pandemic.
The news comes a week after Pfizer and German firm BioNTech announced the coronavirus vaccine they are jointly developing is 90% effective.“What I believe is that by Memorial Day, in the U.S., anybody who wants a vaccine will get a safe and efficacious vaccine,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in an interview with Business Insider. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle
America’s Shockingly Moderate Electorate – The more things change, the more they stay the same—or so it seems in American politics, after the electorate returned the Democratic establishment to power after rejecting it for a rogue outsider four years ago. The surprise finding of the exit polls is that moderates and men provided the crucial swing voters who put Joe Biden into office.
Has the American electorate changed? The answer is that despite billions of dollars spent on persuasion, massive increases in turnout, a media with an agenda, and racial unrest, the changes in American voting patterns were minuscule.
We are one country divided by two parties. The nation is largely moderate, practical and driven by common sense over ideology. Most voters prefer compromise on health care, immigration, stimulus and other thorny issues that the extremes of the parties have pushed to the limits. Only 24% of voters identify as liberal, while 38% say they’re conservative, according to CNN exit polls. Another 38% are moderate. Despite the widespread publicity given the left, since 2014—a good year for Republicans—the percentage of self-identified liberals declined 2 points, while the share of conservatives increased 3 points.
By now everyone has heard that President Trump did worse in the suburbs and better with minorities than in 2016. While technically true, the suburban swing occurred before the 2018 midterms, and the minority shift was relatively small, except for Hispanic voters in Florida and the border towns of Texas. Some surprising findings have been overlooked. Mr. Trump’s margin of victory among white women increased from 11 to 13 points, according to CNN’s final adjusted exit polls. But his advantage among white men narrowed from 30 points to 23. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
Liberals Envisioned a Multiracial Coalition. Voters of Color Had Other Ideas. – The proposition seemed tailor-made for one of the nation’s most diverse and liberal states. California officials asked voters to overturn a 24-year-old ban on affirmative action in education, employment and contracting.
The state political and cultural establishment worked as one to pass this ballot measure. The governor, a senator, members of Congress, university presidents and civil rights leaders called it a righting of old wrongs.
“Women and people of color are still at a sharp disadvantage by almost every measure,” The Los Angeles Times wrote in an editorial endorsement.
Yet on Election Day, the proposition failed by a wide margin, 57 percent to 43 percent, and Latino and Asian-American voters played a key role in defeating it. The outcome captured the gap between the vision laid out by the liberal establishment in California, which has long imagined the creation of a multiracial, multiethnic coalition that would embrace progressive causes, and the sentiments of many Black, Latino, Asian and Arab voters.
“There’s more texture to California blue politics than you might think,” said Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University and policy director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run. “Identity politics only go so far. There is a sense on affirmative action that people resent being categorized by progressives.”
Latinos, too, appear sharply divided. Prominent Latino nonprofit and civil rights organizations endorsed the affirmative action proposition even as all 14 of California’s majority-Latino counties voted it down. Read More > in The New York Times
Project Roomkey funding ends soon. Over 11,000 Californians could become homeless, again – Gov. Gavin Newsom launched Project Roomkey in April, aimed at securing thousands of hotel rooms across California to shelter homeless individuals to prevent them from contracting COVID-19. The program targeted seniors, pregnant women and others at risk for being particularly vulnerable to having severe COVID-19 symptoms. More than 28,000 people — 17% of the state’s homeless population —have received shelter under the $150 million program, which was rolled out in most of the state’s 58 counties.
But Project Roomkey was never meant to be a permanent solution. Many counties have already shut down their programs, kicking clients out of rooms due to lack of funding or refusing to take more in. Come Dec. 30, statewide funding will end, forcing many others to shutter their programs completely or line up new monies to allow people to stay longer.
Statewide, only 5% of Roomkey clients have found a permanent home, according to an analysis by The Desert Sun.
The Desert Sun analyzed Project Roomkey by requesting client and placement data as of mid-October from all 58 California counties. Of the 45 counties that responded, 36 said they participated in the program. Thirteen counties did not respond.
Those 36 counties have served 28,716 Roomkey clients since April. Of those, 16% returned to homelessness, 40% are still in a hotel room but could face eviction come the new year, and 39% left the program but caseworkers don’t know where they went.
To be sure, since at least 11,620 Project Roomkey clients are still housed in hotel units across the state, total data is not yet complete.
What local officials do know is that while Project Roomkey succeeded in initially sheltering thousands of homeless individuals to curb the spread of COVID-19, funding was quickly depleted. Counties are now scrambling to find long-term housing solutions. Read More > in the Desert Sun
Solar and Wind Power Struggle as California Faces Blackouts – Rolling electric power blackouts afflicted roughly 2 million California residents in August as a heat wave gripped the Golden State. At the center of the problem is a state policy requiring that 33 percent of California’s electricity come from renewable sources such as solar and wind power, rising to a goal of 60 percent by 2030. Yet data showed that power demand peaks just before the sun begins to go down, when overheated people turn up their air conditioning in the late afternoon. Meanwhile, the power output from California’s wind farms in August was erratic.
Until this summer, California utilities and grid operators were able to purchase extra electricity from other states. But the August heat wave stretched from Texas to Oregon, so there was little to no surplus energy available. According to the San Jose Mercury News, California electricity grid operators warned in September 2019 that power shortages might become increasingly common when heat waves hit in the coming years.
California still has some natural gas power plants that can be ramped up to supply energy when renewable supplies fail. But “some folks in the environmental community want to shut down all the gas plants,” Jan Smutny-Jones, CEO of the Independent Energy Producers Association, a trade association representing solar, wind, geothermal, and gas power plants, told The Mercury News in August. “That would be a disaster. Last night 60 percent of the power in [the California Independent System Operator electricity network] was being produced by those gas plants. They are your insurance policy to get through heat waves.”
Union of Concerned Scientists analyst Mark Specht, by contrast, told NPR that “the solution is definitely not more natural gas plants. Really, if anything, this is an indication that California should speed up its investments in clean energy and energy storage.” Read More > at Reason
How the pandemic got people smoking again – The pandemic has encouraged us to pick up some pretty bad habits: bingeing (of television, food, and alcohol varieties), ghosting, doomscrolling, impulse shopping — but one that seems particularly counterintuitive is smoking. The choice to smoke feels strange right now for so many reasons: It’s an unnecessary expense in a time that has made our wallets tight, nicotine withdrawals can make users jittery, and it puts our lung health at risk.
We still are in the dark about some aspects of the coronavirus, but we know that it has taken the lives of more than 240,000 Americans and that it generally affects the ability of an infected person to breathe comfortably. At the beginning of the pandemic, being put on a ventilator was the death knell for thousands of people who were struggling with virus-related respiratory issues. A World Health Organization study found a “statistically significant association between smoking status and primary endpoints of admission to Intensive Care Unit (ICU), ventilator use or death” in Covid-19 patients.
Yet, the global tobacco industry, which is on track to be worth more than a trillion dollars by 2027, has not failed in this pandemic. As of 2018, 34.2 million American adults smoked tobacco. Smoking is deadlier than Covid-19; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it kills more than 480,000 Americans every year. Of all the times to dedicate ourselves to a deadly vice, why now?
Each year, cigarette sales decline by 3 to 4 percent, and it’s been that way since the 1980s. Just last year, sales declined by 7 percent, likely due to the rise of e-cigarettes and vapes. Altria Group, a major tobacco corporation, predicted before the US Covid-19 epidemic that cigarette sales in 2020 would drop by 4 to 6 percent. In fact, the decline in cigarette sales in the United States has not been as sharp as expected. As of July, sales were expected to decline only about 2 to 3 percent this year, despite a pandemic that has created an imminent threat to respiratory health. Read More > at Vox
‘Customers are calling us crying’: scams and soaring prices as Californians move out – Record numbers of residents have been leaving California in recent years, but in 2020 the growth of remote work, the lure of cheaper housing and a summer of unprecedented wildfires has accelerated the trend. As a result, the moving business in San Francisco’s Bay Area is booming, but the surge has come with its own set of problems.
Moving trucks are hard to find, prices to get out of the Bay are being pushed sky-high, and the supply side of the market – with high starting costs and because movers are required to obtain state licenses – has been slow to respond.
The shortage has created openings for an underground moving economy complete with scammers who take advantage of desperate California escapees, left without easy options.
Moving companies across the Bay have said they were booked up months in advance through the summer. It continued through the autumn – in typical years, the industry sees a lull after kids start school. A spokesperson at Gentle Giant moving company says it performed three times the number of moves out of San Francisco in September 2020 than a year earlier.
Even at U-Haul stores – the rental truck retailer with the largest fleet across the US – trucks are in short supply. With so many trucks departing the Bay Area, the exodus has left an imbalance of returning vehicles. The shortage has sharply driven up truck prices for one-way trips out of town. Read More > in The Guardian
LA, Bay Area vs. rest of California – The political gulf separating Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area from the rest of California is steadily widening. For the 12 propositions on this year’s ballot, an average gap of 10.6 percentage points separated LA and the Bay Area from the rest of the state, compared to about 6 percentage points in 2004, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis. This year, the divide was most apparent for Props. 15 and 16, which would have increased taxes on commercial property and reversed the state’s affirmative action ban, respectively. Los Angeles County and the nine-county Bay Area supported the measures, while the rest of the state opposed them. Both measures failed — a reflection of the fact that LA and the Bay Area make up a little less than half of the state’s registered voters.
The two regions don’t always vote in lockstep. For example, Los Angeles and four Bay Area counties supported Prop. 22 — a measure exempting Uber and Lyft from a state labor law — while five Bay Area counties opposed it. Still, their general ideological alignment is clear. Los Angeles and the Bay Area voted to pass Prop. 17, a measure granting parolees the right to vote, by a 34-point margin. The rest of the state also voted to pass Prop. 17 — but only by a margin of 2 points. Read More > at CalMatters