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.
Sierra Nevada snowpack hits biggest level in nearly 30 years – The statewide Sierra Nevada snowpack — the source of nearly one-third of California’s water supply — is at its highest level since 1995, boosting hopes that an end to the drought is near, but also raising concerns that a few warm spring storms could melt it too early and trigger major flooding.
Not since Toy Story packed movie theaters, Steve Young led the 49ers to their fifth Super Bowl win, and gasoline cost $1.28 a gallon has there been so much snow in California’s most famous mountain range at the end of January.
“It’s absolutely massive,” said Kevin “Coop” Cooper, a ski resort consultant who lives near South Lake Tahoe. “I’ve spent so much time with my snow shovel that I named it. My wife thought I was having an affair.”
The snowpack was 208% of its historical average for this time of year on Tuesday, a day ahead of the high-profile Feb. 1 snow survey that state officials planned to take near Highway 50 by Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort with TV cameras in tow. The last time there was as much snow, 28 years ago, on Feb. 1, 1995, it was 207% of normal.
The huge bounty is the third largest statewide since 1950, when consistent statewide records began, according to a Bay Area News Group analysis of historical data. Only 1952 (267% of average) and 1969 (230%) had larger amounts on Feb. 1.
In a few places, like Highland Meadow in Alpine County, the snowpack is the largest in recorded history. Read More > in The Mercury News
McDonalds President Says It Might Be ‘Impossible’ to Operate in These Key States – While the pandemic accelerated both discussions and movement of businesses, talk of how California’s high tax rates and liberal leadership has made it “impossible” to do business in the state is anything but new. So are alarm-raising statements about how big business is fleeing the Golden State en masse.
In 1933, one state official wrote that “if we set up a tax on one of their supercolossal $7,000,000 productions, [the movie industry] would no doubt transfer their operations to” Florida. Similar fears of a business exodus to Nevada pushed local legislators to give a property tax break to equipment manufacturers in the 1960s.
More recently, Elon Musk told the audience at the All In Summit in Miami that the Golden State had “gone from a land of opportunity to the land of taxes, over-regulation and litigation.” He had earlier moved the Tesla (TSLA) – Get Free Report offices from the Silicon Valley to Austin, Texas at the end of 2021.
While discussions around the tech exodus took place throughout much of 2020 and 2021, a new discussion has begun around an industry that exists in every state in the country: the fast food business.
In the fall of 2022, the state passed what shortens to the FAST bill — the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act could require fast-food restaurants to pay workers up a minimum wage of $22 an hour with an annual raise of 3.5%.
While initially passed, the law has faced significant pushback both from the industry and local voters. A referendum vote has been set to November 2024 and implementation is blocked until that takes place.
Industry leaders have predictably been very vocal against the law. In an open letter from January 25, McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger wrote that it “makes it all but impossible to run small business restaurants.”
“Under the FAST Act, an unelected council of political insiders, not local business owners and their teams, would make big decisions about crucial elements of running a business, fracturing the economy in the process,” Erlinger wrote while adding that paying fast-food workers such a wage could raise the cost of eating at a McDonald’s by as much as 20%. Read More > at The Street
Concord to part ways with developer of Naval Weapons Station mega-project – The Concord Naval Weapons Station project, the Bay Area’s largest planned housing development, has stalled out yet again.
At the end of a two-hour special meeting on Saturday, the Concord City Council voted to end negotiations with the project developer, in what likely spells another multi-year setback for the controversial mega-development that has been in the works for two decades.
The city has been consistent in its demand the development includes more affordable housing than the state requires.
The deal ultimately fell through over concerns about the amount and type of affordable housing, and the involvement of developer Albert Seeno III, who is currently in multiple legal battles with his father over control of the family’s building empire.
The council voted 3-2 to allow a term sheet — a draft of a contract for the project — with Concord First Partners and a consortium of developers that includes Seeno III, to expire on Jan. 31. Earlier this month, the council had delayed its decision on whether to accept the contract until Saturday.
This isn’t the first time Concord has failed to come to a deal to develop the former weapons site. The city parted ways with the project’s previous developer, national homebuilding giant Lennar Corp.
Concord wants a guarantee that local labor is used, which was a sticking point with Lennar. The company pulled out of the project in March 2020 when its initial exclusive negotiating agreement expired and its negotiations with local labor unions failed.
Now that the city no longer has an exclusive negotiating agreement with Concord First Partners, a development group, other developers can present proposals to the city.. Read More > in The Mercury News
Another one for the 2024 ballot – Atop a November 2024 ballot already teeming with contentious propositions, a new initiative qualified this week that might be the biggest doozy of them all: A proposal to hobble the ability of state and local governments to raise taxes.
In the spirit of California’s 1978’s tax revolt, the proposed constitutional amendment would require the Legislature to put any new statewidetax up for a popular vote. Local governments would have to do the same. Other fiscal tighteners include expanding the definition of what a “tax” is and requiring all local taxes raised for a specific purpose to win a two-thirds majority, undoing a series of recent state Supreme Court rulings that loosened that rule.
California Business Roundtable, an advocacy group that represents the state’s biggest businesses, is the public face of the campaign — though much of its funding has so far come from major real estate firms.
Opponents, which include advocates for local government and organized labor groups, have responded to the measure like a declaration of war. Read More > at CalMatters
Why Gasoline Prices Are Rising Today – Refining margins in the United States hit $42.41 per barrel on Tuesday, more than double the five-year average for this time of the year, as refinery maintenance and unplanned outages reduce capacity while the global fuel market is tightening with the Chinese reopening and the looming EU ban of Russian fuel imports by sea.
The crack spread hit $42.41 per barrel this week, compared to a five-year average for January at $15.56, according to a Reuters analysis of dta from Refinitiv Eikon.
The tightening global fuel market coincides with some refineries still recovering from the Winter Storm Elliott at the end of December—on Christmas Eve, as much as 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of the U.S. Gulf Coast’s refining capacity was shut down due to the freezing temperatures.
Additionally, refiners plan longer maintenance periods early this year after foregoing or doing just basic maintenance at refineries for a few seasons. First, it was COVID that prevented workers from being sent to refineries for maintenance. Then it was the rebound in demand – especially in 2022 – during which refineries ran at near capacity to meet consumption. So this refinery maintenance season is expected to be longer and involve a higher number of refineries across the U.S., temporarily driving operational capacity lower and fuel prices higher
Gasoline prices in the United States have risen in recent days.
Drivers appeared to have the advantage of the recent milder weather in much of the United States by fueling up and hitting the road, AAA said on Monday.
“The increase in gasoline demand and slightly more expensive oil pushed the national average for a gallon of gas higher by 12 cents since last week to $3.42.” Read More > at Oil Price
Heating bills on the rise due to increasing natural gas prices – As of this week, PG&E projects that residential energy bills will be about 32% higher from November through March, in comparison to that same time period last year.
According to Utilities, natural gas prices have been rising — driven by higher demand and tighter supplies on the West Coast — and global price increases after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It’s not just gas bills going up, but a large portion of California’s electricity comes from natural gas-fired power plants. Read More > at ABC 30
Amid soaring energy costs, state regulators vote to give Californians early bill relief – Californians are going to get much-needed breaks on their utility bills sooner rather than later this year to help defray soaring energy costs.
The California Public Utilities Commissioners Thursday voted to hasten springtime credits given to customers through the state’s cap and trade programs paid for by major greenhouse gas emitting companies.
Normally given in April, commissioners opted to ask utilities to give the so-called climate credits — roughly $90 for PG&E residential electric and gas customers — as soon as possible in February or March.
But for many households, the credits barely defray the painful monthly cost of utilities amid an extended West Coast cold snap and the dramatic increase in natural gas prices.
People are using more energy to heat their homes this year compared to last winter because of colder temperatures — and it costs more for each kilowatt-hour of electricity or therms-per-month for gas. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle
Offshore Oil And Gas Is Back, Baby – At last week’s World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, several speakers had harsh words for the oil and gas industry, including UN head Antonio Guterres and the IEA’s chief Fatih Birol. Their message was clear: we need to stop producing oil and gas to solve the climate problem.
While this was happening, however, the world continued to need energy, and oil and gas continued to be the optimal form of energy for most of the things we need energy for. So, with demand forecast—including by the IEA—to surge this year above the growth rate of supply, new drilling is flourishing. Especially offshore.
In December last year, Oilprice reported that the stocks of offshore drilling contractors such as Transocean, Valaris, and Noble Corp were skyrocketing amid robust demand for their services, with day rates for drilling rigs surging as well.
Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that rates could top $500,000 per day, up from about $400,000 at the moment, with offshore drilling picking up everywhere as demand shows no signs it is about to start declining, no matter what apocalyptic visions climate speakers try to paint. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance
Now they’re coming from CANADA: Northern border sees 743% spike in illegal migrants trying to cross in a year due to ‘easier entry than Mexico’ – as cops release eerie images of asylum seekers trudging through 12F snow – Border Patrol working in the north of the US have reported a 743 percent rise in migrant encounters compared to the same period a year ago.
Robert Garcia, the chief patrol agent for the Swanton Sector – which covers Vermont, New York and New Hampshire – said he was troubled by the increasing popularity of the people-smuggling route.
He warned traffickers are exploiting desperate asylum seekers with potentially lethal consequences, amid freezing temperatures and dangerous passages.
Meanwhile the Grand Forks sector, which covers Minnesota and North Dakota, has reported 90 apprehensions in the three months since October 1.
The figure is more than for the whole of the 2022 fiscal year, when 80 were apprehended between September 30, 2021 and October 1, 2022.
It comes as a surprise as officials focus on clogging the southern border, which has reached crisis point as thousands migrants seek entry from Mexico.
Border Patrol said the number of migrants encountered in the sector during the 2023 fiscal year – which began in October – had already surpassed the 12 months of 2022’s fiscal year. In December, a record 441 people were apprehended in the sector. Read More > in the Daily Mail
Can a City Thrive When Its Downtown Is Empty? – The office recession is real, with downtowns in major cities still missing a majority of their pre-pandemic workforce. San Francisco offers a case study in terms of the consequences.
San Francisco already suffers an all-time record office vacancy rate of 27.6 percent. Meta has just put up 34 stories of office space — 435,000 square feet, enough space for 2,000 workers — for sublease.
Even before the tech slowdown, San Francisco’s downtown was as empty as any city’s in the country. Its heavy concentration of technology and finance companies were among the first to embrace the move to remote work. The nature of their businesses has made them the most likely to remain remote. That turned out to be great for the city’s health — San Francisco has had one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the country — but terrible for its economy. Already, the city is facing a $728 million shortfall — more than 10 percent of the general fund budget — over the next two fiscal years.
Mayor London Breed has ordered city agencies to plan on budget cuts of 5 percent in the coming fiscal year and 8 percent the following year. “I’m telling departments, and I’m telling everyone else in the city, that things could get worse,” Anna Dunning, the mayor’s budget director, said Wednesday.
The office recession is happening everywhere. Around the country, with rare exceptions such as Austin, Miami and Salt Lake City, downtowns are notably emptier in nearly every city. Retail and restaurant spending in Boston’s Financial District was down 20 to 25 percent last year, compared to 2019. The number of workers showing up downtown remains more than 40 percent below pre-pandemic levels in New York, Philadelphia and Washington. The number of workers showing up in Pittsburgh’s downtown is down by half. One Los Angeles office tower just went on sale asking for half its sales price back in 2015.
By most measures — office key swipes, cellphone tracking data, population loss — San Francisco has taken the biggest hit. All the factors that make Americans more likely to work remotely — not just working with computers but long commute times; expensive housing; a highly educated workforce; and liberal politics — are conspiring against the city now.
Meta isn’t the only tech company surrendering its lease. Other tech firms including Twitter and Adobe have scratched local jobs. Downtown isn’t helped by rising interest rates and construction costs. If downward pressure on rents continues, the city will lose 35 percent of its commercial property tax revenue by 2028, according to Ted Egan, the city’s chief economist.
The city’s tourism sector still hasn’t recovered either, thanks in part to diminished travel from China and other Asian countries. Hotels remain half-empty. San Francisco relies heavily on conventions, which have yet to bounce back. VMware Explore, a big tech conference that drew 10,000 people to the city last year, won’t be coming back this year. Read More > at Governing
California has a big housing deadline on Wednesday — and most Bay Area cities aren’t prepared – When Feb. 1 arrives and Bay Area cities and counties are required to have state-approved plans showing how they will build more housing in the next eight years, this much is certain: Most will miss the deadline.
As for what that means, all bets are off.
Fewer than a dozen of the region’s cities and counties have turned in adopted plans, known as “housing elements,” to the state office of Housing and Community Development as of Monday. This is one day before jurisdictions are required to be “in substantial compliance” with state requirements that every community do its share to add 441,000 new houses, apartments and condominiums to the nine-county region by 2030.
According to that department’s regulations, being out of compliance means that developers can build larger projects than what cities may now allow, providing they provide specified amounts of below-market-rate housing. But the murkiness of the new playing field also makes it likely that questions of what it means to be compliant will be argued in court.
The basics are this: By Feb. 1, Bay Area cities and counties are required to have adopted new housing elements that are in “in substantial compliance” with state expectations. If they don’t, then developers are allowed to build housing that fits state standards even if it is larger or denser than what local zoning allows — an option called the “Builder’s Remedy.”
The current status is dire, according to the most recent figures from the office of Housing and Community Development.
Only nine Bay Area cities have filed adopted drafts with the state, five of them within the last week. San Francisco and Oakland are expected to do the same on Tuesday. Another 13 have filed two versions of their proposed housing elements, while 71 jurisdictions have made single filings — one, San Anselmo’s, arriving at the state just last week.
Since the state has 90 days to comment on an initial draft, and 60 days to comment on a revised version, this means that a single city has completed all its paperwork and being certified: the island community of Alameda. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle
California housing politics enters uncharted waters – Cities across the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area had until Wednesday to show state regulators how they plan to approve a sufficient quantity of housing over the next decade.
Some submitted their plans on time. Most did not. Some made an earnest effort to comply. Others not so much. Some will have their plans accepted. Others have already had theirs rejected. Suburbanites viscerally opposed to new construction and density in their neighborhoods are incensed. Pro-development activists are celebrating a “Zoning Holiday.”
As of Thursday afternoon, of the 109 cities and counties in the region, 66 have either had their plans rejected, or failed to submit one at all. Two have had their plans approved and finalized: San Francisco, which approved a plan for 82,000 additional units, and the city of Alameda, which agreed to make room for another 5,000 homes and apartments. Emeryville and Redwood City have both gotten tentative thumbs- ups, too.
With housing scofflaws abounding, the question remains: What’s the state going to do about it?
First, a brief primer on how we got here:
- Since the late 1960s, the state has been telling local governments how much housing they need to plan for to accommodate a growing population.
- Throughout most of the law’s history, the state hasn’t done much to actually ensure that locals comply.
- In recent years, a series of laws authored mostly by Bay Area Democrats in the Legislature ramped up the state’s housing goals and gave the law teeth.
- Also on the books: The “builder’s remedy” that forces cities and counties that are out of compliance with state planning rules to approve any housing anywhere, as long as 20% of its units are set aside for low-income renters and buyers.
Advocates on both sides of the issue have been alternately clamoring for, and dreading, a “builder’s remedy” bonanza. But housing experts note that we’re in uncharted waters.
Southern California may provide some glimpse of the Bay Area’s future. The state has been slow-rolling its housing plan deadlines, region by region, and much of Southern California fell out of compliance in mid-October. The legal battles are on: Huntington Beach has vowed to “unleash” its city attorney against the state’s mandates and housing groups are suing Beverly Hills to see whether the builder’s remedy applies there. Read More > at CalMatters
California rejected Berkeley’s housing plan. Here’s why, and the potential consequences – Berkeley’s Housing Element was rejected by the state this week, city and state officials confirmed, exposing one of the East Bay’s biggest cities to potential fines and the threat of developers trying to build projects that aren’t constrained by local zoning restrictions.
Berkeley did not fully analyze potential housing sites, and the city must commit to removing permit constraints and upzoning wealthier neighborhoods, according to a letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development to the city.
The immediate ramifications of the state’s rejection are disputed. The state has said that cities that aren’t in compliance are subject to the builder’s remedy, which allows developers to get approval for housing projects with at least 20% lower income affordable units or 100% moderate income units, even if they aren’t consistent with local zoning.
Jordan Klein, Berkeley’s Planning & Development Department director, said the city was not subject to the builder’s remedy because the city was in “substantial compliance” with state law — but HCD reiterated that the city was out of compliance.
“Several stakeholders have inquired as to whether HCD’s latest letter means that housing projects in Berkeley are eligible for ‘builder’s remedy’ and can disregard the City’s zoning rules. However, the City has met the statutory requirement to adopt a Housing Element that is in substantial compliance with State law by January 31, 2023,” Klein said in a statement.
Alicia Murillo, a spokesperson at HCD, told The Chronicle that Berkeley “has not met the statutory requirement to adopt a Housing Element that is in substantial compliance with State law,” which leaves it open to the builder’s remedy. Under state law, the city may not reject such applications for zoning reasons, but may do so for specific reasons including a threat to public health and safety or to comply with state or federal laws. Projects also must follow California Environmental Quality Act and state Coastal Act guidelines.
Klein said in response that the builder’s remedy was not dependent on state certification and the Association of Bay Area Governments, as well as Berkeley, have the position that cities can rule their plans are mostly compliant and continue to enforce zoning regulations.
“If an applicant seeks to pursue a project that isn’t compliant with zoning rules, it would be up to the courts to decide whether ‘builder’s remedy’ is available,” Klein said.
Berkeley and other Bay Area cities have until the end of May to be certified. After that, they could be blocked from certain grant funding such as for transit and face fines. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle
Bills, bills and more bills at CA Legislature – They’ve been back for nearly a month, so it’s time for California lawmakers to deliver on some of their campaign promises. That means the legislative session is starting to pick up steam.
Let’s get to the highlights from a busy Monday at the state Capitol (warning: prepare for quite a bit of déjà vu):
Public safety: Republican legislators unveiled a package of bills — acknowledging the recent mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, as well as the deaths of two officers in Riverside County — but also bringing back some prior ideas.
The Assembly GOP caucus proposals include:
– Assembly Bill 328, by Riverside-area Assemblymember Bill Essayli, would reinstate the 10 or 20 years-to-life mandatory sentencing enhancement for using a firearm in the course of a violent crime
– AB 335 by Modesto-area Assemblymember Juan Alanis, would repeal Proposition 47, approved by voters in 2014 to reduce some theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.
– AB 27, by Orange County Assemblymember Tri Ta would prevent courts from reducing sentences for those charged with felonies with a firearm.
– AB 75 by Assemblymember Josh Hoover, from Folsom re-ups an effort to increase penalties for serial theft offenses.
– AB 88 by Murrieta Assemblymember Kate Sanchez, would require district attorneys to notify crime victims of parole hearings.
– Granite Bay Assemblymember Joe Patterson proposed requiring more transparency into when and why inmates are being released early.
- Essayli: “We don’t need more gun control. We need crime control.”
While Assembly Republican leader James Gallagher of Chico said he believes there will be “bipartisan support for these reasonable reforms,” some GOP lawmakers acknowledged the reality that many of these bills won’t pass, noting that similar bills introduced by Democrats had failed, too. Read More > at CalMatters
The Reason There’s Been No Cure for Alzheimer’s – In 2019, the celebrated science writer Sharon Begley wrote a startling investigative story for the health and medicine publication STAT about why Alzheimer’s research was mired in decades of failure. She asserted this wasn’t just due to the complexity of the brain or the infernal nature of Alzheimer’s itself. There was another reason that had less to do with the nature of the disease, and more to do with the nature of research.
As she wrote:
“The most influential researchers have long believed so dogmatically in one theory of Alzheimer’s that they systematically thwarted alternative approaches. Several scientists described those who controlled the Alzheimer’s agenda as ‘a cabal.’ In more than two dozen interviews, scientists whose ideas fell outside the dogma recounted how, for decades, believers in the dominant hypothesis suppressed research on alternative ideas…This stifling of competing ideas, say a growing number of scholars, is a big reason why there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s.”
The story of this theory starts in 1906, when a German psychiatrist named Alois Alzheimer was studying the brain of a recently deceased woman with dramatic short-term memory loss. During the autopsy, Alzheimer saw dense plaques and tangles in her brain. Eventually, his finding set off decades of research into the nature and effect of those clogs.
In 1984, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, published one of the first reports on what those plaques were made of—a protein fragment called beta-amyloid. In 1987, Dr. Rachael Neve, then an assistant professor and molecular biologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, with colleagues, cloned the amyloid precursor protein gene, as did several other labs. Meanwhile, other scientists around the world were associating amyloid proteins with Alzheimer’s as well, characterizing the proteins, and finding genetic defects related to amyloid in people with an inherited form of the disease.
It looked pretty clear: the amyloid clumps must be causing the disease. So it would make sense that clearing this debris would return a brain to health.
But there was a problem with this theory. Some people with Alzheimer’s disease didn’t have discernible plaques. And some people had discernible plaques without symptoms of the disease. Neve herself didn’t believe that there was enough evidence to blame the plaques. And it turned out that once drugs were developed to clear the plaques, when they were given to patients in clinical trials, the patients didn’t improve.
Still, the amyloid believers persisted. Not just persisted. The goal of mitigating amyloid in the brain has held a vise-like grip on Alzheimer’s research for decades, despite the fact that, one by one, the drugs designed to address amyloid—around twenty of them— have shown virtually no beneficial effects on patients.
One way to understand the persistence of the amyloid theory is to look at the incentives of big academic medicine, big governmental medicine, and big pharma. For decades, time, effort, and money have been sunk into this single hypothesis. If we just make the right intervention in the process of amyloid being deposited in the brain, the logic goes, Alzheimer’s can be beaten.
Acknowledging that this theory may be a dead end would mean entire careers and billions of dollars have all been devoted to the wrong idea. Not only that—there is no clear path to the right one. Read More > at The Free Press
Here’s exactly how Netflix will prevent you from password sharing – We knew it was coming, and we knew it was coming soon: Sharing Netflix passwords outside of your household is about to become a lot harder. But we had no idea how, exactly, Netflix plans to prevent people from sharing their passwords – until now.
Here’s how it will work.
“To ensure uninterrupted access to Netflix, connect to the Wi-Fi at your primary location, open the Netflix app or website, and watch something at least once every 31 days. This creates a trusted device so you can watch Netflix, even when you’re away from your primary location,” the company wrote in an updated Help Center document.
If you’re traveling, you’ll be able to watch Netflix simply by logging into your account. But if you’re away for an “extended period of time” — presumably, more than 31 days — Netflix says that “your device may be blocked from watching Netflix.” The solution to this is requesting a “temporary access code to continue watching,” Netflix says.
There’s a caveat to this. The updated help document(Opens in a new window), spotted by The Streamable(Opens in a new window), doesn’t appear to be online anymore, though it is accessible via Wayback Machine(Opens in a new window), which keeps old snapshots of websites on the internet. So it’s possible that Netflix will change certain details before it starts enforcing the Wi-Fi connection rule.
Fortunately, Netflix (still) doesn’t plan to automatically charge users for sharing their account with someone who doesn’t live with you. The company will likely tread carefully before enforcing any drastic measures upon its users; while the company’s subscriber count was up in the last quarter, that’s largely thanks to Netflix’s new “Basic with Ads” subscriber tier, and it comes at the end of a tough year(Opens in a new window) for the streaming giant. Chasing away subscribers with overzealous anti-password sharing measures is probably the last thing Netflix needs. Read More > at Mashable
Netflix Claims It Errantly Posted Password Sharing Rules that Would Block Devices Outside of Subscribers’ Homes in U.S. – Netflix will be rolling out enhanced efforts to curb password sharing in the United States by the end of March; that much we know for sure. That was confirmed by co-CEO Greg Peters in January as part of the company’s fourth-quarter 2022 earnings report. However, the exact specifics as to what those efforts will look like have yet to be revealed by the world’s largest streamer; at least not officially.
Earlier this week, the streamer’s official domestic Help Center detailed new protocols to prevent people from using someone else’s account to access Netflix’s platform. The new rules would require subscribers to verify their home devices every month and devices outside of the home would be blocked and encouraged to create an account of their own.
The news that Netflix would be blocking devices without a full explanation of what that would mean for people who travel for a living, students in college who live away from their parents, people with multiple homes, and more was not well received by users — whether they were subscribers or those who stream on a subscriber’s account.
However, those new rules were removed from the Netflix website as of Wednesday, Feb. 1, leading to confusion as to exactly what the world’s largest streamer was planning for its already-announced initiative. It turns out, according to a Netflix spokesperson, that those rules are in fact currently in place, just not yet in the United States.
“For a brief time yesterday, a help center article containing information that is only applicable to Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, went live in other countries,” the spokesperson told The Streamable. “We have since updated it.”
The Netflix spokesperson confirmed that if and when the company was to make a change that significant, it would not begin rolling it out without first communicating the details to customers. Over the past year, the service has been testing anti-password-sharing measures in several Latin American countries in an effort to find the best solutions before launching them to subscribers around the world; unfortunately, like the idea of devices being blocked, those tests often resulted in significant pushback from customers. Read More > at The Streamable
“Objectivity Has Got To Go”: News Leaders Call for the End of Objective Journalism – We previously discussed the movement in journalism schools to get rid of principles of objectivity in journalism. Advocacy journalism is the new touchstone in the media even as polls show that trust in the media is plummeting. Now, former executive editor for The Washington Post Leonard Downie Jr. and former CBS News President Andrew Heyward have released the results of their interviews with over 75 media leaders and concluded that objectivity is now considered reactionary and even harmful. Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor-in-chief at the San Francisco Chronicle said it plainly: “Objectivity has got to go.”
Notably, while Bob Woodward and others have finally admitted that the Russian collusion coverage lacked objectivity and resulted in false reporting, media figures are pushing even harder against objectivity as a core value in journalism.
We have been discussing the rise of advocacy journalism and the rejection of objectivity in journalism schools. Writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. This movement includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy.
Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll decried how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. In an interview with The Stanford Daily, Stanford journalism professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social justice.” He rejected the notion that journalism is based on objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about morality.” Thus, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.” Read More > at Johnathan Turley
Four-day school week gaining popularity nationally. Why isn’t it happening in California? – School districts across the country are increasingly turning to four-day school weeks to save money, increase student attendance and recruit new teachers. But the trend isn’t taking hold in California. Only two tiny, remote California school districts, Leggett Valley Unified in Mendocino County and Big Sur Unified in Monterey County, have shortened the week for students.
The four-day week isn’t feasible for most schools in the state. California’s Education Code requires schools to hold classes five days a week or have their funding reduced. Over the years state legislators have given exemptions to a handful of school districts in remote areas of California, although they must still meet the requirement for annual instructional minutes. Some of the districts that gained approval for a four-day week have reverted to a five-day schedule and others never instituted the truncated week.
Despite its growing popularity across the nation, four-day school weeks are controversial. The truncated school schedule allows for additional flexibility for school staff and families, but students on four-day schedules typically go to school for fewer hours and score lower on English language arts and math tests, according to research.
At the beginning of 2020 there were 650 U.S. school districts on a four-day schedule, and now there are 850, said Paul Thompson, an associate professor of economics at Oregon State University who has done extensive research on the topic. Ninety percent of the schools are in rural areas and 10% are in suburban or urban neighborhoods, he said. In 2020 Texas, had no school districts on a four-day schedule, Thompson said, and now there are nearly 50.
Thompson says that the most significant benefit of a four-day week is that it offers flexibility to district administrators, teachers and students.
Teachers in four-day districts are usually on the clock on the day that students are out of school, although working on campus is often optional, Thompson said. Teachers use the time for grading or class preparation. They take professional development courses or teach remedial courses to students trying to catch up. Some teachers also use the day to take care of personal appointments and errands that would have meant a day off work and the need for a substitute, he said. Read More > at EdSource
Heart attacks on the rise among young adults, but many are unaware of risk – …Certain healthy habits can help prevent heart problems — but getting younger adults to accept their risks remains an obstacle.
“It is alarming that younger people don’t feel that they’re at risk for heart disease, but it’s not surprising,” said Dr. Laxmi Mehta, director of preventative cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
“Most young people think heart disease only happens in old people, but that’s not the case,” Mehta said in the release.
The medical center surveyed 2,000 Americans, finding that nearly half of those under age 45 believed they were not at risk for heart disease.
…The survey found about 32% of Americans aren’t confident they would know if they were having a heart attack.
“If something suddenly seems new and it doesn’t make sense to you, seek medical attention. Don’t Google it to figure it out. Don’t ask somebody else. Let healthcare professionals decide if you’re having a heart attack or not,” Mehta said. “When it comes to a heart attack or stroke, every second counts. In fact, you shouldn’t even drive yourself to the hospital. Call an ambulance so lifesaving care can begin right away.”
To preserve your heart health, Mehta recommends following the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8. This includes knowing your numbers for weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Also important are good lifestyle habits like eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking and vaping, sleeping at least seven hours per night and getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week.
Also, see your primary care physician every year to stay ahead of any developing issues. Read More > at UPI
1.5 Degrees Was Never the End of the World – How hot is too hot for planet Earth? For years, there’s been a consensus in the climate movement: no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The figure comes from the Paris Agreement, a climate treaty ratified in 2016, and world leaders such as President Joe Biden bring it up all the time: “If we’re going to win this fight, every major emitter nation needs [to] align with the 1.5 degrees,” he said in November. Youth activists at the Sunrise Movement call 1.5 degrees a “critical threshold.” Even the corporate world is stuck on 1.5 degrees. Companies including Apple, Google, and Saudi Aramco—the world’s largest oil company—claim to be transitioning their operations in alignment with the 1.5 goal.
But here’s the thing: 1.5 degrees, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, isn’t based on any scientific calculation. It doesn’t represent a specific planetary threshold or ecological tipping point. It was first proposed during international climate negotiations as a moral statement, a rebuke of the idea that the world could accept some disruption and suffering in order to burn fossil fuels just a bit longer. That’s the takeaway of a new study on the history of the target from two French academics, Béatrice Cointe from the Centre for the Sociology of Innovation and Hélène Guillemot from the Centre Alexandre Koyré, both funded by the French National Centre for Scientific Research. From the perspective of the present, it’s a relief that 1.5 degrees doesn’t represent a scientific threshold, because we are almost certainly going to blow past it. As a rebuke, however, it may live on.
Nothing about the 1.5-degree target was inevitable. For decades, the number on the lips of most climate negotiators was 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. And you do still hear that number as the go-to target in some climate circles. But in the late 2000s, a negotiating bloc called the the Alliance of Small Island States argued that this was simply too much warming for their vulnerable nations. Their atolls would be overtopped by the sea; their coastal cities would flood. So they called for a lower target, and 1.5 seemed like a reasonable half-step down from 2 degrees. Read More > in The Atlantic
The mystery of North America’s missing eastern dinosaurs – Hidden within North America is a long-forgotten continent once ruled by a bizarre cast of dinosaurs – but only a handful of fossils have ever been found.
It was a typically warm, humid day in the Late Cretaceous. A strange, pallid mass was floating in the cobalt-blue waters of a shallow sea, above what is now New Jersey. It was a dead dinosaur, the bloated carcass of a monstrous, 6.4m (21ft)-long distant relative of Tyrannosaurus rex.
With an athletic frame and jaws full of flesh-ripping teeth, Dryptosaurus aquilunguis looked remarkably like its cousin, but with a bloodcurdling twist: on the ends of its stubby little arms were great, grasping “hands”, complete with an array of unwieldy eight-inch (20cm) talons. Its fingers were meat hooks, its teeth like piercing bananas. This ancient beast could wrap its hands around you while it bit your head off.
The peculiar dinosaur had staggered its final steps some weeks earlier, though this was just the beginning of its adventures. First its body slipped into the local river – possibly after a flood – where it bobbed around, miraculously avoiding the attention of marauding crocodiles. Eventually, it was flushed out into an ancient inland sea. As the fallen giant decomposed, it sank to the bottom. There its body parts would remain, safely interred in their silty crypt for the coming 67 million years.
That was, until this peaceful sleep was interrupted by workers at the West Jersey Marl Company one summer’s day in 1866. They had been digging up a seam of green, muddy rock to sell as fertiliser when they uncovered a jumble of suspiciously large bones.
The fossils caught the attention of a young zoologist, Edward Drinker Cope – a “dandyish character” with a luxurious moustache who would go on to discover many of the most iconic dinosaurs in North America. He promptly identified the New Jersey remains, writing that they belonged to a “totally new gigantic carnivorous Dinosaurian!” Other than this, it wasn’t immediately clear just how special the find really was.
Today the remains of the Dryptosaurus are tucked away in a small drawer at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Pennsylvania – a neat arrangement of crumbling vertebrae, jaw fragments, occasional limb bones and teeth. But it turns out these sparse artifacts aren’t just all that’s left of this single individual, nor are they simply the last physical evidence of its species. In fact, they’re among the few surviving remnants of an entire continent – a forgotten land of strange dinosaurs most people have never heard of. How has this happened? And what was it like?
Hidden beneath North America is a secret past. For 27 million years in the Late Cretaceous, it was cleaved into two pieces. In the west was the ancient continent of Laramidia. In the east, the long-vanished continent of Appalachia. Between them was a shallow, predator-infested sea, the Western Interior Seaway. At times, it was decidedly tropical – almost like a warm bath, but swimming with crocodiles, sharks, and the gaping mouths of 18m- (59ft)-long mosasaurs.
As far as dinosaurs were concerned, the two halves might as well have existed on different planets – they were totally isolated from each other. Though they were contemporaries, Dryptosaurus would never have sparred with a T. rex, ripped the flesh from a triceratops, or fled from the flattening feet of a brontosaurus.
To this day, the last relics of Laramidia can be found in rock layers that stretch from the otherworldly, cacti-filled landscapes of the Mexican desert to the frigid oilfields of western Alaska. In the east, the last hints of Appalachia lie under a region extending from the cypress swamps of Mississippi to the arctic tundra around Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. Read More > at BBC Future