Sunday Reading – 02/14/16

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.

Kids who played shoot-em-up games in the ‘90s were probably (mostly) OK – The persistent suggestion that video gaming leads to violent behavior prompts innumerable eye-rolls and Internet rants from gamers. But it’s persistent because it’s surprisingly hard to nail down a solid answer to the question. A lot of the research just raises more questions, so consensus remains elusive, despite claims to the contrary.

A fair number of studies suggest that there is a link, but those can be contrasted with other research that says there isn’t. The problem is that there are so many different factors to take into account, along with a swiftly-changing medium and difficulty in obtaining high-quality data—we’d need an avalanche of research to answer the question definitively.

While it’s not an avalanche, a group of researchers, led by biological psychologist and video game violence skeptic Peter Etchells, has published an analysis suggesting that players of violent games might face a very small increase in risk for behavioral problems. They’re the kinds of small results that would be met with disappointment by authors who were hoping to find an effect, but they’re there. And yet, as always, this analysis isn’t the final word. Read More > at ars technica

Greener Power Likely Coming to Lafayette – City leaders want residents to have a choice of where their electricity comes from.

After weighing all the options, Lafayette City Council members voted to move forward with Marin Clean Energy – a nonprofit that procures electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal, and small hydro, then partners with PG&E to deliver it – so that they can conduct a membership analysis. Assuming the analysis is positive in terms of rates and environmental impact, the city will join MCE.

he energy used in homes, businesses and municipal buildings is now provided solely by PG&E, which currently reports that 27 percent of its energy production comes from renewable sources. The utility is working toward one-third of its energy portfolio from renewables by 2020.

By going with MCE, residents will have a choice of power options: stay with PG&E, or pick from MCE’s power options: “light green” with 56 percent renewable energy, “deep green” 100 percent renewable, or “Local Sol” with 100 percent local solar. Read More > in the Lamorinda Weekly

This Is Why You Can’t Afford a House – The rising cost of housing is one of the greatest burdens on the American middle class. So why hasn’t it become a key issue in the presidential primaries?

There’s little argument that inequality, and the depressed prospects for the middle class, will be a dominant issue this year’s election. Yet the most powerful force shaping this reality—the rising cost of housing—has barely emerged as political issue.

As demonstrated in a recent report (PDF) from Chapman University’s Center for Demographics and Policy, housing now takes the largest share of family costs, while expenditures on food, apparel, and transportation have dropped or stayed about the same. In 2015, the rise in housing costs essentially swallowed savings gains made elsewhere, notably, savings on the cost of energy. The real estate consultancy Zillow predicts housing inflation will only worsen this year.

Driven in part by potential buyers being forced into the apartment market, rents have risen to a point that they now compose the largest share of income in modern U.S. history. Since 1990, renters’ income has been stagnant, while inflation-adjusted rents have soared 14.7 percent. Given the large shortfall in housing production—down not only since the 2007 recession but also by almost a quarter between 2011 and 2015—the trend toward ever higher prices and greater levels of unaffordability seems all but inevitable. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Want Romance? Go to Church, Study Finds – The Institute on Family Studies released a study Thursday which found that couples who attend worship services together or when only the man attends services are happier than couples in which neither partner or only the woman attends.

Titled “Better Together: Religious Attendance, Gender, and Relationship Quality,” the study was authored by W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and Nicholas H. Wolfinger, professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the University of Utah.

“Seventy-eight percent of men and women in couples who regularly go to services together, or where only the man attends regularly, report that they are ‘very happy’ or ‘extremely happy,’ after adjusting for differences in race, age, education, marital status, region, and other factors,” read the study.

“By contrast, 67 percent of men and women in relationships where neither partner attends are happy, and just 59 percent of people in couples where only she attends regularly report they are very happy. Clearly, shared attendance and his attendance are linked to higher self-reported relationship quality.” Read More > at Christian Post

STAT-Harvard poll: Americans say no to ‘designer babies’ – Most Americans oppose using powerful new technology to alter the genes of unborn babies, according to a new poll — even to prevent serious inherited diseases.

They expressed the strongest disapproval for editing genes to create “designer babies” with enhanced intelligence or looks.

But the poll, conducted by STAT and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that people have mixed, and apparently not firm, views on emerging genetic techniques. US adults are almost evenly split on whether the federal government should fund research on editing genes before birth to keep children from developing diseases such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease.

A majority, however, wants government regulators to approve gene therapy to treat diseases in children and adults.

Scientists recently used CRISPR to repair a gene that causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy and another gene that causes a rare inherited liver disease, both in mice. CRISPR has also been used in human cells growing in a lab dish to correct a gene that causes inherited blindness. While much research remains to be done, the technique holds promise as a treatment for numerous disorders. Read More > at STAT

Raiders sign lease to play 2016 season in Oakland – The Raiders signed a lease to stay in Oakland this year, officials announced Thursday afternoon at a news conference.

The team’s agreement with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority comes the week before the Feb. 17 expiration date of the Raiders’ current lease. The new deal includes one-year options for 2017 and 2018.

Raiders owner Mark Davis also announced at the news conference that the team has hired real estate executive Larry MacNeil to represent its interests in negotiations with Oakland and Alameda County. MacNeil served for 10 years as chief financial officer for the San Francisco 49ers, and was an architect of the Levi’s Stadium deal in Santa Clara. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Whole Foods May Put Tattoo Parlors Inside New Millennial-Focused Stores – Whole Foods Market Inc. Co-Chief Executive Officer Walter Robb, seeking to appeal to younger, budget-conscious shoppers, says his company’s new 365 chain is going to try some tactics outside of the conventional grocery-store playbook.

Whole Foods has advertised that it’s looking to find suppliers and vendors to set up shop in its 365 stores through a program called “Friends of 365.” The new chain’s website says shoppers may see other businesses, such as body-care product sellers, record shops and tattoo parlors, inside 365 stores and on its outdoor patios.

The new locations will help Whole Foods “reach more communities than we would be able to with our mother ship,” Robb said during an interview on Bloomberg TV. Read More > at Bloomberg

Feel the Burn: Aloe Vera Added to Prop. 65 List – There are two very different types of actors in the realm of making our economy tick. Entrepreneurs wake of every day trying to think of new ways to innovate, to expand, and thus create new jobs. Then there are the regulators in Sacramento who wake up every day thinking of new, creative ways to add burdens and barriers to operating your business in California and beyond. Their latest regulatory red alert: Aloe vera.

You read that correctly: Aloe vera. In December of last year, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published its intent to list Aloe vera, whole leave extract to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. Despite the widely accepted extensive health benefits of Aloe vera, an unelected regulator in Sacramento can now tell you and all consumers it will cause cancer, even if no cases of cancer from Aloe vera exposure exist.

The problem is that the 800+ chemicals listed in Proposition 65 are not devised to protect consumers, but rather serve as a cash cow for private trial lawyers to sue small business and reap the hefty settlement payout. Since 1986, nearly 20,000 lawsuits have been filed, adding up to over half a billion dollars in settlement payments by business owners. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Windows 10 Worst Secret Spins Out Of Control – Back in November Microsoft confirmed Windows 10’s worst kept secret: its extensive telemetry (or ‘spying’ as it has been labelled) cannot be stopped. What no-one realised until now, however, is just how staggering the extent of this tracking really is…

Blowing the lid on it this week is Voat user CheesusCrust whose extensive investigation claims Windows 10 contacts Microsoft to report data thousands of times per day. And the kicker? This happens after choosing a custom Windows 10 installation and disabling all three pages of tracking options which are all enabled by default.

The raw numbers come out as follows: in an eight hour period Windows 10 tried to send data back to 51 different Microsoft IP addresses over 5500 times. After 30 hours of use, Windows 10 expanded that data reporting to 113 non-private IP addresses. Being non-private means there is the potential for hackers to intercept this data.

Taking this a step further, the testing was then repeated on another Windows 10 clean installation again with all data tracking options disabled and third party tool DisableWinTracking was also installed which tries to shut down all hidden Windows 10 data reporting attempts. At the end of the 30 hour period Windows 10 had still managed to phone home with data 2758 times to 30 different IP addresses.

A further interesting fact is these tests were conducted using Windows 10 Enterprise Edition – the version of Windows 10 with most granular level of user control and far more than the standard Windows 10 Home edition used by most consumers. All of which confirms, this controversial data tracking simply cannot be stopped. Read More > at Forbes

Six bold NFL predictions for 2016 -Predicting what will happen in a given NFL season is hard. Who saw Cam Newton winning MVP or a 7-8-1 Panthers coming within a game of a perfect 16-0 regular season? With that in mind, here are six crazy predictions for the 2016 season that we (kind of) expect to come true.

1. The Broncos miss the playoffs

2. The Raiders end their 13-season playoff drought

3. Colin Kaepernick returns to the Pro Bowl – Read More > in FTW

What Ever Happened To Waterbeds? – For kids and adults alike, waterbeds used to be the coolest—until suddenly they weren’t. After a heyday in the late 1980s in which nearly one out of every four mattresses sold was a waterbed mattress, the industry dried up in the 1990s, leaving behind a sense of unfilled promise and thousands upon thousands of unsold vinyl shells. Today, waterbeds make up only a very small fraction of overall bed and mattress sales. Many home furnishing retailers won’t sell them, and some that do say it’s been years since they last closed a deal.

So what happened? Although they were most popular in that decade of boomboxes and acid-washed jeans, waterbeds had been gaining steam since the late 1960s, and in retrospect seem to have more substance to them than other notorious fads. How did our enthusiasm for sleeping atop gallons and gallons of all-natural H2O drain away so quickly?

…Although many associate waterbeds with strait-laced suburban living, back in the ‘70s they were a symbol of the free-flowing counterculture movement—more likely to be sold with incense and Doors albums than with fluffy pillows and high thread count sheets. “That fluid fixture of 1970s crash pads” was how a New York Times story from 1986 described them. The names of manufacturers and distributors reflected this: Wet Dream, Joyapeutic Aqua Beds, and Aquarius Products were a few that rolled with the times.

…Here’s the thing about waterbeds, though: They were high maintenance. Installing one meant running a hose into your bedroom and filling the mattress up with hundreds of gallons of H2O—a precarious process that held the potential for a water-soaked bedroom. Waterbeds were also really, really heavy. In addition to the filled mattress, the frame—which had to support all that water weight—could be a back-breaker. When the mattress needed to be drained, an electric pump or some other nifty siphoning tricks were required. Waterbeds could also spring leaks (as Edward Scissorhands showed), which could be patched but, again, added to the cost and hassle.

In the ’90s, it became clear that the novelty of waterbeds couldn’t overcome the additional work they required. By that time, competitors like Tempur-Pedic and Select Comfort were also coming out with mattress innovations that offered softness and flexibility without making customers run a garden hose through their second-floor bedroom window. Read More > at Mental_Floss

Californians Are Voting With Their Feet – California has something of a migration problem. Yes, the state’s population growth rate has been hovering just under 1% for a few years with natural increases and international net migration staying just strong enough for the state to continue growing, but California’s consistent net domestic out-migration should be concerning to Sacramento as it develops state policy. As the adage goes, people vote with their feet and one thing is clear, more people are choosing to leave California than come.

…By understanding who these net domestic out-migrants are, we can get a better sense as to why more people are leaving California than coming to the Golden State. Using the Census Bureau’s March Supplemental Current Population Survey, we can get an approximation of just that. Between 2004 and 2015, roughly 930,000 more people left California than moved to the Golden State -just three years saw net domestic in-migration. The biggest beneficiaries of California’s net loss are Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

California is bleeding working young professional families. Approximately 18% of the net domestic out-migrants are children (ages 0 to 17), while another 36% are those between the ages of 40 and 54. From this we can tell that 1) children aren’t packing up and leaving on their own – they are going with their parents and 2) those in the heart of their prime working-age are moving out. Moreover, while 18-to-24 year olds (college-age individuals) make up just 1% of the net domestic out-migrants, the percentage swells to 17% for recent college graduates (25 to 39 year olds). While California may still be doing decently well at attracting college students, they aren’t sticking around.

…Knowing that net out-migrants are more likely to be middle-class working young professional families provides some hints as to why people are leaving California for greener pastures. For one, California is an extraordinarily high cost-of-living state. Whether it is the state’s housing affordability crisis – California’s median home value per square foot is, on average, 2.1 times higher than Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington’s – California’s very expensive energy costs – the state’s residential electric price is about 1.5 times higher than the competing states – or the Golden State’s oppressive tax burden – California ranks 6th, nationally, in state-local tax burdens – those living in California are hit with a variety of higher bills, which cuts into their bottom line. Read More > at Real Clear Markets

The quake-maker you’ve never heard of: Cascadia – Mother Earth slowly reveals her secrets, and this time, it’s a fault line deep in the belly of the planet.

Its name is a whopper: The Cascadia subduction zone.

Its gargantuan size and potential power amaze earthquake experts, who say it could cause the worst natural disaster in the history of North America — if it ruptures entirely.

This quake-maker sits at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, where the seabed meets the North American tectonic plate. In all, it stretches 700 miles along the Pacific Northwest, from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island to Washington to Oregon to northern California’s Cape Mendocino.

In fact, “the Cascadia” already has made history, causing the largest earthquake in the continental United States on January 26, 1700. That’s when the Cascadia unleashed one of the world’s biggest quakes, causing a tsunami so big that it rampaged across the Pacific and damaged coastal villages in Japan.

Now it’s a question of when the Cascadia will strike again, scientists say.

…Everyone knows the Cascadia’s cousin in California: the San Andreas Fault. It gets all the scary glamor, with even a movie this year, “San Andreas,” dramatizing an apocalypse in the western U.S.

Truth is, the San Andreas is a lightweight compared with the Cascadia.

The Cascadia can deliver a quake that’s many times stronger — plus a tsunami. Read More > at CNN

Dan Walters: California has 5 would-be governors – Five Democrats – all middle-aged men, interestingly – are emitting varying levels of vibration about running.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who rose to political prominence as mayor of San Francisco and pulled back from seeking the governorship in 2010, is the only declared candidate. He’s busily raising money and trying to get as much media attention as his powerless office allows.

John Chiang, state controller before segueing into the state treasurer’s office in 2014, all but announced his candidacy on Tuesday, telling a group of business executives, in response to a question, that he’s “strongly leaning toward running,” and adding, “I’m almost there.”

Antonio Villaraigosa had a mixed record as mayor of Los Angeles and has been out of office for three years, but he is trying to maintain a presence by traveling the state on what he describes as an effort to educate himself about its issues.

Former Controller Steve Westly, who made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2006, has maintained a low public profile, but has been quietly talking to political insiders and interest groups about giving it another try. He has considerable personal wealth.

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has been trying to gain some attention not only on climate change but on gasoline prices and on income equality, about which he obviously has personal knowledge. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

The Top 3 Myths About Beatlemania – On February 9, 1964, the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, reaching an audience of over 70 million.

Overnight, America emerged from post-Dallas national mourning, thanks to the upbeat musical ministrations of those four loveable strangers from Liverpool.

One minute, no one had even heard of the Beatles; the next, thousands of hysterical girls spontaneously descended upon New York’s newly rechristened JFK International Airport to welcome the quartet.

“Beatlemania,” we called it.

The U.S. had never seen anything like it — and neither had the English, who promptly press-ganged more guitar groups to mount a “British invasion.” Read More > at PJ media

How RFID Chips Are Changing The NFL – The chip technology that’s making your credit card more secure is also bringing big changes to football. This past year, every NFL player got hooked up to the internet with little chips. Equipped into their shoulder pads are now two radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips that wirelessly communicate location data. The quarter-sized tags also contain an accelerometer for measuring speed. The technology is sold by Chicago-based location tracking solutions company Zebra Technology.

Every NFL stadium has 20 receivers placed around the field for picking up the data coming off the RFID tags. The chips are sending out a wireless signal 25 times a second to these receivers. From there, that data takes 120 milliseconds to get beamed to Zebra’s NFL command center’s server located in San Jose, California. And during games, the data is sent to broadcasters in under half a second.

For now, the majority of this data is used by broadcasters to show viewers the exact location and speed of every player on the field. This is all new data NFL fans never previously had access to. “NFL statistics hadn’t changed for 20-25 years,” said Jill Stelfox, vice president and general manager of location services at Zebra. With this new data, game analysis can include player speed and location for every play with extreme accuracy.

But football coaches are starting to use the chips during practice too. Players are increasingly getting hooked up with heart rate monitors, hydration patches and other wearable technology. Zebra’s RFID tags also have Bluetooth radios, so all that biometric data can be collected in real time. Using a Microsoft Surface Tablet, an app alerts coaches if a player has been running for too long, they’re dehydrated, or if their heart rate is too elavated. The NFL doesn’t currently allow for this kind of biometric data collection during games, though — during the game, coaches must still rely on their instincts and experience. However, these chips will be used for in-game analysis one day, Stelfox said. Read More > in Forbes

No plug? Why is Google working on wireless charging for cars – Google is working on wireless charging for its already driverless cars, according to recent reports.

IEEE Spectrum revealed that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, filed documents at the US Federal Communication Commission that suggest Google is working towards plugless charging for its cars.

…Both of the prototype chargers produced by HEVO and Momentum Dynamics employ resonant magnetic induction to transfer power from charger to receiver. HEVO’s chargers are shaped like large hockey pucks, and can be embedded in pavement. Self driving cars with wireless receivers would merely need to be parked over the chargers to power up.

…Manufacturers hope to eventually develop resonant magnetic induction technology to the point where cars will be able to charge as they drive. Not only would this enable cars to carry lighter batteries, but it would also increase travel ranges for electric cars. Currently, the inability to travel great distances between charging stations is one of the concerns electric car manufacturers must face. Read More > in The Christian Science Monitor

CSU threatens unprecedented 5-day strike in April – The California State University faculty union will bring teaching to a halt at all 23 campuses in April — an unprecedented move for the 470,000-student university system — unless an agreement over salaries is reached before then, it announced Monday morning.

The strike would be held for five days: April 13-15 and April 18-19.

“We don’t want to strike, but we will,” said Jennifer Eagan, president of the California Faculty Association and a professor at CSU East Bay. “The faculty will not back down.”

Citing the state’s economic recovery and the additional funding flowing to the massive university system, the union is demanding 5 percent raises for its members and an additional 1.2 percent for some faculty, a proposal that would cost nearly $102 million, according to CSU. The 5 percent raises alone would cost $82 million.

The union argues CSU can afford it, and that it must make faculty pay a priority. The average salary of its members, including part-time employees, is about $46,000, the union reports. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News

November: Ballot props lining up – One thing about California’s lineup of looming ballot propositions: You can’t say they aren’t interesting.

The general election isn’t until November, but the array of measures facing voters is taking shape.

From school bonds to the environment to condoms to drugs to plastic bags, and more, voters already are set to vote on seven propositions on the November ballot.

And there are more in the wings: Backers of another 66 proposed initiatives are in the process of gathering signatures. Those include legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and boosting the minimum wage.

The longest list of propositions on a single California ballot, 48, was on the Nov. 3, 1914 ballot. Read More > at Capitol Weekly

Legislators ask California for $23M for Earthquake Early Warning System – Three state lawmakers introduced bills Monday that would direct $23 million in state funds toward an Earthquake Early Warning system being developed for the West Coast.

The concurrent legislation in both the Assembly and the state Senate would fund California’s portion of the $38 million ShakeAlert system that experts say could offer more than a minute warning before a temblor reaches a community. The system could slow trains, stop elevators at the nearest floor and give people a chance to take cover.

The legislators said California is expected to end the next fiscal year with a reserve of $11.5 billion, making the investment only a small fraction of that overall budget. The bills strike language from an earlier law that prohibited using general fund dollars to develop the warning system.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that California accounts for $3.5 billion, or 66 percent, of the nationwide annual losses from earthquakes. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News

Rebellion in California – …At a nondescript gas station in the town of Redding, you notice the first sign of the breakaway movement: a rack of forest-green sweatshirts bearing a yellow seal marked with a bold black double X. It’s the seal of the State of Jefferson, an idea that dates back more than 70 years and is currently being revived by a passionate group of separatists. They are pushing to split from the Golden State and form a new state roughly the size of North Carolina, but with one-fifth of the population. It’s a move that would require approval from both the California Legislature and the U.S. Congress.

The fight to create Jefferson is the longest of long shots, a Hail Mary pass made by folks who are sick of being underrepresented in the state legislature and ignored by California’s urban centers. Cut off from the seats of power by geography, alienated by the state’s left-leaning politics and tendency toward regulation, enduring stubbornly high unemployment, facing the decimation of traditional industries such as logging, and harboring few prospects for economic growth, these disaffected citizens — overwhelmingly white and mostly conservative — share many of the concerns about central state overreach as the militia members who recently took control of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. They, however, are committed to a political solution rather than an armed rebellion.

…Of the 120 state representatives and senators in the California State Legislature, only seven hail from the 25 counties north of Sacramento, which have a combined population of about 2 million.

…Any such case would rely on a challenge to the Supreme Court’s 1964 decision in Reynolds v. Sims, a landmark in that era’s voting-rights struggle. In Reynolds, the plaintiffs argued that urban districts of Alabama (home to a significant percentage of the state’s black citizens) were harmfully underrepresented in the state’s legislature. The court ruled 8-1, on the “one man, one vote” principle, that state legislatures had to be apportioned on the basis of population, not geography. The way Chief Justice Warren put it in his famous decision was, “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres.”

That meant that in a state like California, the system for apportioning legislators — in which each county had one state senator, regardless of population — had to change. In 1964, L.A. County had 6 million residents and just one senator, the same representation as Lake County, with 14,000 residents. Today, thanks to Reynolds, L.A. County, with 9.8 million people, has eight state senators whose districts are completely within its borders, while 11 counties in the northern part of the state share just 1.

That, Baird says, means that the residents of rural northern California, where trees and acres are much more plentiful than people, don’t stand a chance of getting anyone to listen to them.

To solve that, he says a brand-new state is the best solution. In Baird’s imagining, Jefferson would have less government, more local control, and an almost archetypal incarnation of the democracy envisioned by the Founding Fathers. It is, at its heart, a fundamentalist vision. Read More > at the New York Daily News

Upfront: Coyote crazy – West Marin residents have lately been reporting a strange sight on Highway 1 near the Slide Ranch turnoff. It’s all the talk at Beth’s Community Kitchen in Bolinas and elsewhere: A coyote has taken to staring down automobile drivers as they drive through this twisting, turning section of highway, before attacking the car and then skulking off back into the wilderness. The coyote runs up to the cars, usually at night, forcing drivers to stop as the beast stares and sniffs around the vehicle.

The coyote “attacks” have happened a bunch of times, to enough people, to warrant calls to figure out what’s going on with the animal. Or, animals, as the latest grist out of Bolinas has it that there are now two coyotes acting a little weird, or a lot weird: Drive-by coyote stare-downs have now become part of the normative experience for a Bolinas-based individual who makes numerous nighttime airport runs every week. We are not identifying this individual, who fears retribution at the vengeful paws of these bushy-tailed beasts. He would only say, “It’s a terrifying, yet beautiful thing to behold.”

There are three possible scenarios to explain the behavior, ranging from least probable, kind of fun to consider and most probable. The least probable problem with the coyote, or coyotes, is rabies. This sort of “Old Yeller” type of aggression usually comes at the end-stage of the disease, the “terror stage” or “zombie stage” of rabies, at which point the animal is going to die, Bloch says.

These coyote attacks have been going on for at least three weeks. If it were rabies, Bloch says, the coyote would likely be dead by now. “If this is going on longer than a week or so, then it’s likely not rabies. And we don’t suspect rabies, just because it is pretty rare.”

Whew, it’s not rabies. It is possible, but not probable, that the coyote has eaten something—perhaps a fly agaric mushroom (amanita muscaria) which has hallucinogenic properties—and has subsequently been tripping its tail off. The cars would therefore be some sort of coyote vision, a dark vision of human interlopers, who must be stopped before the rents get any higher in West Marin. That would be kind of cool.

Bloch could not completely rule out the possibility that coyotes are having psychedelic experiences out on the feral fringes of civilization, and in fact she has been counseling dog owners of late on the dangers of poisonous mushrooms in our midst. Read More > at Pacific Sun

End of the Road May Be Near for Side Mirrors – BEFORE engineers dreamed of eliminating drivers in cars, they imagined eliminating the side mirrors. The protuberances are ugly, create aerodynamic drag, and their associated blind spots are the bane of parking-challenged drivers everywhere.

But now, a long-sought solution looks closer to finally stripping cars of their Mickey Mouse ears, as many automakers demonstrate video systems that replace side mirrors with cameras.

…In a customized Mercedes-Benz CLS, Continental demonstrated how its system would work. Thumb-size video cameras on the exterior of the car replace the side-mounted mirrors and use interior screens on the left and right side of the dashboard to deliver views of what is next to and behind the car.

The screens are near where a driver would normally look to check a mirror, and the camera views are wider than what a physical mirror can provide, eliminating blind spots along the side of the car. The cameras, which can automatically adjust to reduce glare from sunlight or increase brightness at night, are also helpful in tight parking spots.

…We were in an exotic-looking BMW i8 sports car with tiny cameras on stalks instead of side mirrors. Together with a camera just above the rear window, the three views can be displayed on a high-resolution monitor that replaces the rearview mirror. A glance up gives the driver a picture of what is beside and behind the vehicle. Read More > in The New York Times

I don’t care how you do it. Someone has to fix the cable box. – Last week, the Federal Communications Commission revealed a proposal that would loosen the cable industry’s hold on the cable box — that flat, gray or black box that sits on your TV stand and is largely ignored until you move to your next home.

Great, you may say. Why would any normal person care about something so boring? The truth is, this proposal could actually make that set-top box an interesting product. Not only could it affect how you watch your TV shows, movies and videos — it could also make products such as the Apple TV, the Amazon Fire TV and others a far more integral part of your home. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

As my colleague Brian Fung outlined last week, the immediate impact for consumers if this proposal is approved would be that they’d be able to save some money by not renting their cable box from their provider. On average, consumers pay $20 a month to rent the devices. But a more interesting development may be a little more nebulous: It could also change the way we watch television, by allowing other companies to make set-top boxes that can completely replace the one you get from your cable company.

And that’s been the source of a lot of controversy. Read More > in The Washington Post

Why Are Fewer American Women Getting Abortions? – American women are having significantly fewer abortions than in the past. Since 2010, the Associated Press recently reported, the number of abortions nationwide has decreased by about 12 percent. This decline has been happening, slowly and steadily, for a quarter of a century: Since 1990, the rate of abortions has fallen by more than a third, and the raw number of abortions has fallen by more than half.

If public opinion has not shifted on the issue, then why are American women getting fewer abortions? There are a number of possible explanations, although none are fully satisfying. The decline seems to be driven by three very different groups of women: those who can’t access abortions; those who no longer need to get abortions because of the availability of contraception; and those who don’t want to get abortions. For all these groups, one thing that seems clear: Americans don’t just see abortion as a political issue, and certainly not just as a health issue. Despite Americans’ increasingly progressive attitudes toward nearly every other aspect of reproduction and sexuality over the last half century, abortion continues to be a source of cultural conflict, a deeply personal and moral choice that defies the neat application of political language like “rights” and “freedom.” Abortion was, and is, a major tension point of the culture wars, but it has not followed the same political trajectory as its sister issues.

…Another explanation could be that the need for abortions has gone down. One important aspect of this is the decline in teen pregnancies. In 2010, teen pregnancy reached its lowest point in 30 years, and between 2002 and 2011, the rate of abortions among girls aged 15-19 decreased by 34 percent, according to the CDC. Over the last decade, teen pregnancy has “dropped off precipitously in a way that’s pretty amazing in terms of public-health outcomes,” said Mara Gandal-Powers, a lawyer at the National Women’s Law Center. “We know that’s because teens are, one, using contraception more and, two, using multiple methods of contraception at the same time.”

But among other American women, the situation is less clear. Since certain portions of the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2012, birth control has become free for many American women, since the law requires most insurance plans to cover contraception without charging individuals. According to the CDC, roughly 62 percent of American women of childbearing age used some sort of contraception as of 2013. Yet according to a report by a company that tracks the pharmaceuticals industry, women aren’t necessarily using more birth control. For example, the number of prescriptions for the pill—the most popular form of contraception—has only increased slightly the past half decade, rising from 93 to 95 million between 2009 and 2013. Read More > in The Atlantic

This radioactive life – Radiation is everywhere. The question is: How much?

Radiation is a part of life. There are radioactive elements in most of the materials we encounter on a daily basis, which constantly spray us with radiation. For the average American, this adds up to a dose of about 620 millirem of radiation every year. That’s roughly equivalent to 10 abdominal X-rays.

…Natural background radiation originates from outer space, the atmosphere, the ground, and our own bodies. There’s radon in the air we breathe, radium in the water we drink and miscellaneous radioactive elements in the food we eat. Some of these pass through our bodies without much ado, but some get incorporated into our molecules. When the nuclei eventually decay, our own bodies expose us to tiny doses of radiation.

It’s no reason to panic, though.

“The human species, and everything around us, has evolved over the ages while receiving radiation from natural sources. It has formed us. So clearly there is an acceptable level of radiation,” Rokni says.

Any radiation not considered background comes from manmade sources, primarily through diagnostic or therapeutic medical procedures. In the early 1980s, medical procedures accounted for 15 percent of an American’s yearly radiation exposure—they now account for 48 percent.

…Yearly radiation exposure varies significantly depending on where you live. People at higher altitudes receive a greater dose of radiation showered from space per year. Read More > at Symmetry

Mexico’s oil industry now has an organized-crime problem – Mexican oil prices fell after a brief rally earlier this week, slipping to $24.47 a barrel on Tuesday and prolonging the slide of one of the country’s most lucrative exports.

In addition to the continuing downstream pain — or the brutally low prices oil is being sold for on the market — Mexico’s oil industry is dealing with a severe theft problem preventing an increasing amount of its production from ever getting to market.

Pipeline theft in Mexico rose 52% in 2015 according to an Associated Press report, a spike that comes after a 43.7% annual increase recorded in 2014.

Drug cartels have also found fuel theft especially profitable.

In Tamaulipas state, which is close to Gulf of Mexico oil production, authorities “found that a cell of the deadly Zetas gang was organizing oil robbery and transporting the crude into Texas,” journalist Ioan Grillo reported in 2011.

Documents released by the Mexican government in early 2014 revealed that oil theft affected every Mexican state, with Los Zetas territory in Tamaulipas and Veracruz states experiencing the most rapid growth. Read More > at Business Insider

Posted in Sunday Reading | Leave a comment

2016 General Municipal Election-City of Oakley

779The City of Oakley will conduct its next General Municipal Election on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 for three (3) members of the City Council to be elected at-large for full, four-year terms. Residents are encouraged to vote.

To find out if you are registered to vote, please visit http://www.cocovote.us and click “Voter Registration”, then click “Am I Registered?”, complete the required questions, and click “Search”. You may also contact the County Registrar’s Office at 925-335-7800.
You can register to vote if you…

  • are a citizen of the United States AND
  • are a resident of the State of California AND
  • are 18 years of age by the day of the election AND
  • are not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony.

You need to re-register to vote if you…

  • have moved since the last election OR
  • have changed your name since the last election OR
  • want to change your political party affiliation

Voter registration forms are typically available at Oakley City Hall, the Oakley Library, the Oakley Post Office, Contra Costa County Elections Department and DMV Branches.
If you need information on registering to vote or on absentee ballot regulations, please contact the County Registrar’s Office at 925-335-7800.

Posted in City Info | Leave a comment

Ask Smithsonian: Why Do We Kiss?

By Alicia Ault
smithsonian.com
February 8, 2016

Love snuggling up to a sweetie and smooching? That’s romantic, but—spoiler alert—kissing can be a disgusting and dangerous activity.

While kissing, couples exchange 9 milliliters of water, 0.7 milligrams of protein, 0.18 mg of organic compounds, 0.71 mg of fats, and 0.45 mg of sodium chloride, along with 10 million to 1 billion bacteria, according to one accounting. Many pathological organisms can be transmitted through mouth-to-mouth contact, including those that cause colds and other respiratory viruses, herpes simplex, tuberculosis, syphilis and strep.

That last part doesn’t sound too romantic, but romance has very little to do with why we, as a species, are drawn to this very intimate contact. Humans are biologically driven to push their faces together and rub noses or touch lips or tongues.

At its most basic, kissing is a mating behavior, encoded in our genes. We share the vast majority of those genes with the mammalian species, but only humans (and occasionally our close primate relatives like chimps and bonobos) kiss.

But the reason for kissing is still mostly a mystery, even to scientists who have spent decades studying the behavior. It’s not possible to say which is the overriding factor: that people kiss because of a psychological attraction, or because of a subconscious urge to mate with the chosen kiss-ee. Most likely, it’s a combination of the two. “You can’t have psychology without a biological brain,” says Rafael Wlodarski, who has devoted much of his career to philematology—the science of kissing.

Wlodarski, a postdoctoral researcher with Oxford University’s social and evolutionary neuroscience research group, has found that kissing helps heterosexuals select a mate. Women in particular value kissing early on. Saliva is full of hormones and other compounds that may provide a way of chemically assessing mate suitability—that’s the biological brain stepping in.

Women are also more likely to say that a first kiss could be the decider for selecting a mate. Can the biological drive overcome the perception that your chosen one is a bad kisser? Wlodarski says it’s hard to separate the two, but that “I would hazard a guess that if someone thinks someone is a bad kisser it’s because their smell wasn’t right,” he says. Women have to be more selective because they face greater consequences when they make a poor mating decision—like having to carry a baby for nine months, says Wlodarski.

Kissing in heterosexual relationships—for both men and women, but particularly women—also cements the intimacy bond over the length of a relationship, says Wlodarski. Interestingly, Wlodarski and his Oxford colleagues have found that people who kiss more frequently seemed to be happier and more satisfied in their relationships, whereas intercourse frequency did not make a difference.

Wlodarski says he’s hoping to determine why kissing makes people feel more bonded. That is one of many unanswered questions about kissing—and that’s only for heterosexuals. Researchers are just scratching the surface in understanding kissing behavior in homosexuals, he says. “It’s an extra level of complexity.”

And what about non-sexual kissing? Even though it may not be a mating device, it still probably arose out of that biological imperative, says Wlodarski. A kiss on the cheek is an evolutionary modification that’s shown up in larger, more complex societies where it’s a sign of respect or admiration.

Not every culture is down with the full-on mouth kissing enlivened by a wandering tongue. That seems to be a modern, and Western, convention, perhaps from the last 2,000 years, says Wlodarski. A study published in 2015 found that less than half of the cultures surveyed engage in romantic, sexual kissing.

There’s evidence—at least from written history—that in the past, kissing was primarily mutual face or nose rubbing, or even sniffing in close proximity. In Hindu Vedic Sanskrit texts, kissing was described as inhaling each other’s soul.

Now that does sound romantic.

It’s your turn to Ask Smithsonian

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/ask-smithsonian-why-do-we-kiss-180958059/#zbd5dVFrWRddc7py.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Calling Bay Area High School Students: Apply for the 2016 MTC Summer High School Internships

779 The annual High School Internship Program, sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), is now accepting applications for paid summer internships with transportation agencies throughout the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Since 2000, the internship program has been providing Bay Area students the opportunity to work for a variety of local transit, planning and public works agencies. The program was conceived by MTC’s Minority Citizens Advisory Committee to encourage young people to consider careers in transportation.

Students will be employed, either full-time or part-time, for up to 250 hours between June and August under the mentorship of a transportation professional at the public agency. Previous interns have left the program with skills in marketing, public outreach, data analysis, AutoCAD, Geographic Information Systems and other valuable skills. “The internship program is not only about helping students build technical skills, but also about giving them a head start and experience with the job application process,” says MTC Internship Program Coordinator Yulee Kim. “Applicants compete with other students for a position, answer typical job application questions, and many of them go through a formal interview process at the public agency.”

Thirty-nine paid internships are available throughout Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties. A list of internship opportunities and the online application are available at: http://jobs.mtc.ca.gov/InternshipOpportunities/jobinternship.html.

To apply, students can submit the completed application online, including an attached one-page document that describes, in the applicant’s own words, a transportation problem in his or her community and what the applicant thinks could be done to resolve it. A letter or letters of recommendation from a teacher, principal, counselor, religious leader or employer also must be included. Students must live and go to school in the same county that they are applying for, must have completed tenth grade and must be at least 16 years old by the start of the program in June. Students graduating in 2016 also are eligible to apply for the internships. The application must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on March 20, 2016.

MTC is the regional transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oakley’s Graffiti Reward Program

Help keep our community clean by reporting any graffiti crimes as soon as possible. Call Oakley Police Dispatch for crimes in progress : (925) 625-8060. For other reports of graffiti call Code Enforcement: (925) 625-7031.

7792

Posted in City Info | Leave a comment

Highway 4 Construction Work – Week of February 08, 2016

The SR-4 corridor construction area is a 55 mph zone and a double fine zone so remember to slow for the cone zone!

Full Freeway Closures

Eastbound:
There are no eastbound full freeway closures planned for this week.

Westbound:
There are no westbound full freeway closures planned for this week.

State Route 160:
There are no full freeway closures of State Route 160 planned for this week.

Highway Lane Closures

State Route 4:
There will be highway lane closures in the westbound direction of State Route 4 between Railroad Avenue and Contra Loma on Monday through Friday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.

There will be highway lane closures in the westbound direction of State Route 4 between State Route 160 and Laurel Road on Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am.

There will be highway lane closures in the westbound direction of State Route 4 between State Route 160 and Hillcrest Ave. on Wednesday and Thursday from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am and on Saturday morning from 12:00 am to 5:00 am.

There will be highway lane closures in the eastbound direction of State Route 4 between Bailey Road and Contra Loma on Monday through Friday from 4:30 am to 12:00 pm.

There will be highway lane closures in the eastbound direction of State Route 4 between Laurel Road and State Route 160 on Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.

There will be highway lane closures in the eastbound direction of State Route 4 between A Street/Lone Tree Way and State Route 160 on Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 pm to 5:00 am

State Route 160:
There will be lane closures in the northbound direction of State Route 160 between State Route 4/State Route 160 connector ramp and Main Street on Tuesday through Friday from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm

Ramp Closures

State Route 4:
There are no ramp closures planned for this week.

State Route 160:
There are no ramp closures of State Route 160 planned for this week.

Local Street Closures

There are no local street closures planned for this week.

Questions or comments can be directed to the Highway 4 widening hotline at (925) 756-0721 or visit our web site at http://widensr4.org.

Posted in Highway 4 Construction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Reading – 02/07/16

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.

Does God Decide, Care Who Wins the Super Bowl? – An old gospel hymn says God’s eye is on the sparrow, but what about panthers and broncos? Not the ones from Carolina and Denver matched up for the National Football League’s Super Bowl 50, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.

The poll found most Americans are skeptical about divine intervention on the football field. They say God doesn’t determine who wins or loses. And most believe God has bigger things to be concerned about.

The phone survey of 1,000 Americans found almost 9 out of 10 (85 percent) say “no” when asked, “Does God determine winners and losers in the Super Bowl?” About 1 in 10 (11 percent) says “yes.” One in 25 (4 percent) doesn’t know.

Americans who identify as evangelicals (15 percent), as members of a non-Christian faith (18 percent), or as attending a religious service at least once a week (13 percent) are more likely to say God determines the Super Bowl winner. So are those with graduate degrees (15 percent). Read More > at LifeWay Research

Should biologists stop grouping us by race? – More than a decade after leading geneticists argued that race is not a true biological category, many studies continue to use it, harming scientific understanding and possibly patients, researchers argued in a provocative essay in Science on Thursday.

“We thought that after the Human Genome Project, with [its leaders] saying it’s time to move beyond race as a biological marker, we would have done that,” said Michael Yudell, a professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University and coauthor of the Science paper calling on journals and researchers to stop using race as a category in genetics studies. “Yet here we are, and there is evidence things have actually gotten worse in the genomic age.”

Categorizing someone as “black” can affect medical care, research has shown. Doctors might miss cystic fibrosis in “black” patients because it is considered a “white” disease, a 2015 study suggested. Similarly, because blood disorders called thalassemias are considered a Mediterranean/white disease and sickle-cell anemia a black disease, they are sometimes misdiagnosed when they strike the “wrong” racial group, Yudell and his colleagues wrote.

Using race as a category has other harmful consequences. The higher rates of hypertension and breast cancer deaths among African Americans, for instance, likely reflect socioeconomic, environmental, and other nongenetic factors. “So many health disparities are not about race but are about social conditions,” such as education, and access to health care, Yudell told STAT, so analyzing health data through the prism of race can blind scientists to factors that contribute more to those disparities. Read More > at Stat

Super Bowl 50 Further Divides San Francisco – …But these festive trappings cannot mask the tensions that have roiled San Francisco in recent years — tensions that are coming to the surface as football fans flood into town and attend over-the-top pregame events. In a city divided over gentrification, sky-high housing prices and the technology industry’s influence on local government, even the nation’s biggest party has become a battleground.

The cost of hosting the Super Bowl — estimated at about $5 million for the city — has unleashed a storm of anger among residents already resentful of the influx of expensive restaurants, high-end stores and rich, young tech workers who have snapped up apartments in historically low-income neighborhoods. To tidy up for the tourists, the city’s large homeless population has been swept out of view, which some people here see as evidence that this city, long a seat of leftist activism, has sold itself to corporate interests.

Some residents say city funds would have been better spent on affordable housing or on addressing the homeless encampments that dot the sidewalks. Last year, the mayor kicked up controversy when he said that the homeless would have to leave the streets before the Super Bowl; he has since backed away from those comments. But on Wednesday, advocates for the homeless staged a sizable protest, setting up a tent next to Super Bowl City, only to be surrounded by police officers in riot gear.

Just how much money the Super Bowl will bring is unclear. Sports economists have questioned the benefits, arguing that the tourists who flock to the game often just displace others who would have come instead, especially in a city like San Francisco, where hotels are almost always near capacity. The city lost more than $10 million hosting the America’s Cup yacht race in 2013, a public fiasco still fresh in many minds. Read More > in The New York Times

Lone Star Shale Producers Defy OPEC – For a state that prides itself on being “bigger” in every sense of the word, Texas is managing to handle smaller oil profit margins awfully well, as a number of producers in the state’s two shale basins are keeping output up despite plunging prices.

And even as some producers find ways to turn a profit with today’s profits, many in the industry that have seen their margins erased are nevertheless still busy pursuing a forward-looking strategy: drilling but not yet fracking wells. This approach essentially lines up projects to bring online the minute prices rise high enough to justify them. This so-called “fracklog” is a widespread phenomenon, and it’s growing. For Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world’s petrostates, that’s a terrifying prospect, because it means what if and when we see the global glut erased and prices start trending back upwards, these new American supplies will flood the market and bring those prices right back down again.

And while producers amass this fracklog, plenty of companies are innovating ways to keep output up despite the fact that America’s oil benchmark is currently lingering below $32 per barrel. The shale boom isn’t done yet. Read More > at American Interest

The Tragic Data Behind Selfie Fatalities – The selfie is inescapable.

Though in its waning days as a buzzword, it continues to pervade every facet of daily life. In the course of any given week, “selfie” is mentioned in 365,000 Facebook posts and 150,000 tweets. A comb of Instagram hashtags turns up more than 50 million results for the word.

Like any wide-spread activity, the selfie is not immune to tragedy. In pursuit of the ultimate profile pic, stick-yielding youths often go to extremes: They perch themselves on cliffs. They pose beside wild animals. They play chicken with oncoming trains. And sometimes, they don’t make it out alive.

While selfie deaths have received a fair amount of coverage (last year’s viral post about how more people die from selfies than shark attacks comes to mind), the extent of the problem, and the data behind it, hasn’t been appropriately explored.

So, we went through three years of news archives, compiling every reported instance of a selfie-related death (that is, a death that was precipitated by taking a selfie). This is by no means a conclusive study (there are, no doubt, unreported cases), but it still gives us a visage into both the scope of the issue, and those who are affected by it. Here’s what we found: since 2014, 49 people have died while attempting to photograph themselves; the average age of the victims is 21 years old, and 75% of them are male. Read More > at PriceEconomics

Scientists have discovered what causes Resting Bitch Face – Queen Elizabeth has it. So does fashion designer Victoria Beckham. And actress Kristen Stewart — poor thing, she’s practically the poster girl.

Among the slew of pop culture icons said to be afflicted with so-called Resting Bitch Face (alternatively known as Bitchy Resting Face), the vast majority are women, though Kanye West is among the male examples. All of them have been mocked by Internet commenters for having a certain unintentional expression when their faces are not in motion — a look best described as vaguely annoyed, maybe a little judgy, perhaps slightly bored.

Since the RBF meme took over the Internet in 2013, fueled by a viral mock-PSA about “Bitchy Resting Face,” legions of people have identified the dreaded phenomenon in celebrity listicles, in their own social circles, even in the mirror.

…But there was one big difference, she added. FaceReader, being a piece of software and therefore immune to gender bias, proved to be the great equalizer: It detected RBF in male and female faces in equal measure. Which means that the idea of RBF as a predominantly female phenomenon has little to do with facial physiology and more to do with social norms. Read More > in The Washington Post

Will Robots Make Humans Unnecessary? – …The Luddites were an occasionally violent group of 19th-century English textile workers who raged against the industrial machines that were beginning to replace human workers. The Luddites’ anxieties were certainly understandable, if—as history would eventually bear out—misguided. Rather than crippling the economy, the mechanization the Luddites feared actually improved the standard of living for most Brits. New positions that took advantage of these rising technologies and the cheaper wares they produced (eventually) supplanted the jobs that were lost.

Fast-forward to today and “Luddite” has become a derogatory term used to describe anyone with an irrational fear or distrust of new technology. The so-called “Luddite fallacy” has become near-dogma among economists as a way to describe and dismiss the fear that new technologies will eat up all the jobs and leave nothing in their place. So, perhaps the HR assistant who’s been displaced by state-of-the-art applicant tracking software or the cashier who got the boot in exchange for a self-checkout kiosk can take solace in the fact that the bomb that just blew up in their lives was just clearing the way for a new higher-skill job in their future. And why shouldn’t that be the case? This technology-employment paradigm has been validated by the past 200 or so years of history.

Yet some economists have openly pondered if the Luddite fallacy might have an expiration date. The concept only holds true when workers are able to retrain for jobs in other parts of the economy that are still in need of human labor. So, in theory, there could very well come a time when technology becomes so pervasive and evolves so quickly that human workers are no longer able to adapt fast enough.

…So why might 2016 be so much more precarious than 1930? Today, particularly disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, \3D printing, and nanotechnology are not only steadily advancing, but the data clearly shows that their rate of advancement is increasing (the most famous example of which being Moore’s Law’s near-flawless record of describing how computer processors grow exponentially brawnier with each generation). Furthermore, as the technologies develop independently, they will hasten the development of other segments (for example, artificial intelligence might program 3D printers to create the next generation of robots, which in turn will build even better 3D printers). It’s what futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil has described as the Law of Accelerating Returns: Everything is getting faster—faster.

…”I believe we’re reaching an inflection point,” explains software entrepreneur and author of the book Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford (read the full interview here).”Specifically in the way that machines—algorithms—are starting to pick up cognitive tasks. In a limited sense, they’re starting to think like people. It’s not like in agriculture, where machines were just displacing muscle power for mechanical activities. They’re starting to encroach on that fundamental capability that sets us apart as a species—the ability to think. The second thing [that is different than the Industrial Revolution] is that information technology is so ubiquitous. It’s going to invade the entire economy, every employment sector. So there isn’t really a safe haven for workers. It’s really going to impact across the board. I think it’s going to make virtually every industry less labor-intensive. ”

To what extent this fundamental shift will take place—and on what timescale—is still very much up for debate. Read More > at PC Magazine

Anger and citizenship – The Iowa caucuses are in the rear-view mirror, the New Hampshire primary looms on the horizon, and by most media accounts, the leitmotif of Campaign 2016 is “anger.” As in: a lot-of-Americans-are-angry-and-that-explains-the attraction-of-certain-candidates, whether that be the anti-political-correctness anger of Donald Trump voters, the anti-government anger of Ted Cruz voters, or the Obama-hasn’t-been-radical-enough anger of Bernie Sanders voters. For those of us with long cinematic memories, it’s rather reminiscent of the Howard Beale character in Network, urging people to stick their heads out the window and holler, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

I get it. My own reactions to the papers I read daily, the magazines I read weekly, and the news programs I watch occasionally are not often conducive to a happy blood pressure reading. Yet whatever my sympathies may be with this, that, or the other wrath du jour, I hope that, as the 2016 campaign unfolds, the electorate will begin to understand that anger is not a particularly healthy metric of public life.

The first Marquis of Halifax, George Savile, a 17th-century English statesman and a notable phrase-maker, ranks second only to the immortal Dr. Johnson in the number of entries in The Viking Book of Aphorisms. There, I find this small gem: “Anger is never without an argument, but seldom with a good one.” Does that ring a bell or two, my fellow Americans? It should, given the character of the presidential “debate” thus far. And that warning bell suggests that we’ve got a problem. For serious debate, conducted with civility, is the lifeblood of democracy.

Civility does not preclude passion. Given the gravity of the issues before us in 2016 – which involve the future of freedom around the world and the dignity of the human person here at home – passion is entirely welcome. But passion is not anger. Anger is a glandular thing. An angry politics is a politics of the gut. A passionate politics, informed and disciplined by reason, can be a politics of the intelligence, a politics of great ideas: a politics, if you will, of sound moral judgment. And sound moral judgment is rarely, if ever, the child of anger. Read More > at Denver Catholic

Enough With Ethanol – …Here is a stunning factoid: Iowa grew 2.4 billion bushels of corn on 13.2 million acres of land in 2014. Much of that corn is used as feedstock for animals and for ethanol plants. Less than 4,000 acres out of those 13.2 million are used for sweet corn– the tasty variety humans eat, and the kind you see at roadside stands and farmer’s markets across the state. In total, 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop, the world’s largest, is used to produce ethanol.

Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, observed that ethanol “costs more than traditional fuel, and it’s worse for the environment than traditional fuel. It’s a terrible, terrible deal.”

What are the problems with ethanol? It leans on a subsidy that smacks of a giveaway to a narrow, special-interest group. It is inefficient and expensive. It has been blamed for increasing food costs. It puts toxic pollutants into drinking water. It makes water bills for Midwestern residents higher. Runoff from the vast quantities of fertilizer used to grow all that corn each summer creates a huge algae bloom and dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Nor is ethanol even a green energy source — it barely generates more energy than it takes to produce it, which is only a marginal improvement from when it was a net negative source of energy. That improvement is courtesy of more productive farming techniques and more efficient methods of converting the biofuel into burnable alcohol. But it still increases emissions of nitrogen oxides, a main ingredient in smog, and other hazardous pollutants. The Environmental Working Group argues that ethanol causes more environmental problems than it solves. Read More > at Bloomberg

Honda Orders Stop-Sale on 2016 Civic, Official Recall Pending – Honda has issued a stop-sale and safety-recall notice for 2016 Civics equipped with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine due to a manufacturing inconsistency that could cause engine damage or failure. Although an official campaign number has not yet been issued by NHTSA, what appears to be official Honda dealership correspondence detailing the action was recently posted to an enthusiast forum on the CivicX website, indicating the stop-sale of vehicles currently in dealer inventory and the plans to recall and inspect affected vehicles already in customers’ hands.

Issued on January 30, 2016, Honda Service Bulletin number 16-017 states: “A small number of engines were produced with piston pin snap rings that may not be completely seated. If the snap ring is not completely seated, it will come out allowing the piston pin to contact the cylinder wall which can damage the engine.”

While Honda has not yet taken official public action, the automaker told Autoblog, “While the specific details of this action are still being determined, American Honda has provided preliminary information to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration and intends to provide more details in a formal notification to NHTSA on Friday, February 5.” Honda also said that cars with the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine were not affected. Read More > at Car and Driver

San Francisco’s tech bros told: quit changing the gayborhood – When Cleve Jones, a longtime gay activist who led the creation of the Aids Memorial Quilt, went to his local gay bar in the Castro district, he saw something that shocked him.

“The tech bros had taken over The Mix. They commanded the pool table and the patio. These big, loud, butch guys. It was scary,” he said. “I’m not heterophobic, but I don’t want to go to a gay bar and buy some guy a drink and have him smirk and tell me he’s straight. They can go anywhere. We can’t.”

Residents of San Francisco’s historically gay Castro district are worried that it’s changing, as speculators come in to flip the few remaining ramshackle old Victorians and the old-timer gay bars shutter. In a recent small survey, 77% of people who have lived in the neighborhood for 10 or more years identified as gay, while only 55% of those who moved in the past year did.

When an iconic building was on the market earlier this year, it was between two potential tenants: a gay strip club and a SoulCycle. The SoulCycle won. This winter, The Gangway, the oldest gay bar in town, is closing down. Read More > in The Guardian

Silicon Valley’s High-Tech Super Bowl Stadium Could Be a Target for Hackers – As many as a million fans in Denver orange and Carolina blue are expected to descend on the Bay Area this weekend for the Super Bowl. Of those, some 70 thousand of the luckiest, wealthiest, and best connected will get to watch the game from inside the state-of-the-art Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Completed in 2014, the stadium lives up to the reputation of its Silicon Valley home. Crammed full of networking equipment and 400 miles of fiber-optic cable, it was built with an outsize capacity for supporting Internet-connected devices. Underneath the stadium seats, 13,000 wi-fi access points broadcast a free wireless network to the assembled fans, who are never more than 10 feet from a node. The entire arena can handle a traffic load that’s four times higher than NFL’s minimum standard for football stadiums.

The stadium’s connectivity is aimed at solving a problem that is increasingly plaguing older venues: During well-attended games, cell and wireless networks can easily get clogged up when too many fans tweet, post photos, and stream video all at once. The networks built into Levi’s Stadium are designed to banish this modern nightmare—but their sheer scale makes the stadium an attractive target for cyberattacks.

…Herberger estimates that between fans’ mobile devices and the stadium’s built-in connections, there will be somewhere around 100,000 devices connected to the stadium this weekend. In one potential attack, hackers could infiltrate attendees’ phones through a security hole in stadium infrastructure—its wi-fi network, for example, or its official app. By infecting a large group of devices, the hacker could establish a botnet, a network of connected devices that work together to complete larger-scale attacks like sending spam or flooding a server with requests in a denial-of-service attack. The huge network “becomes a gigantic single point of failure, like the Death Star, for a bot,” Herberger said. “It’s a nice, juicy target to conscribe into your botted army.”

…If you’re one of the bigwigs or high-rollers attending the game, how can you keep your own devices safe? Make sure you’re connecting to the authentic stadium wi-fi and not a malicious knockoff—or better yet, avoid wi-fi in favor of generally more secure mobile data. Installing a virtual private network can help keep more sensitive information safe.

But the best thing to do is use your device as little as possible, and disconnect from networks unless you’re using them. “Consider everything public,” Herberger said. “If you’re afraid of seeing it on The New York Times, then don’t do it.” Read More > in The Atlantic

The Chipotle Effect: When Companies Believe Their Own Hype – Earlier this week the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finally closed the books on the investigation of the E. coli outbreaks at multiple Chipotle locations last December. The news of dozens (at one point thought to be hundreds) of customers getting sick made headlines nationwide and drove the burrito purveyor into a frenzy of apologies and promises of improved safety.

Other than telling us that people have stopped getting sick, though, the government investigators don’t seem to be providing us with much information on what caused the outbreaks. Chipotle CEO Steve Ells attempted to reassure customers and investors alike at a recent conference, saying that due to the company’s increased emphasis on food safety, the risk of another infectious outbreak was “near zero.”

Whether it was the carnitas or the cilantro-lime rice, though, there’s good reason to think that it could happen again. The problem with Chipotle is much bigger than rules about which head of lettuce is washed in which sink. It’s about what happens when corporate marketing becomes more important that the product itself, and it can only be fixed by understanding what a company like Chipotle exists to accomplish in the first place.

Instead of focusing on actual food quality, the company seems to have been distracted by lifestyle trends and politically popular marketing gimmicks. Last April, the company announced that it had fully eliminated from its menu any ingredients that had been improved with genetic engineering. Despite agreement among food safety experts that genetically modified foods face no novel health risks, Chipotle invested a large amount of time and effort attempting to eliminate all GM ingredients from their operations. By September, however, the company’s lawyers were responding to a lawsuit alleging that they had failed, and had misled customers with their claim.

On the flip side, the company has also famously been unable to obtain steady supplies of some of the ingredients that do meet their requirements, like non-conventionally raised pork. They even warned investors in 2014 that the effects of global climate change might cause them to stop serving guacamole, although the Washington Post quickly responded by reassuring readers that “Chipotle’s guacamole isn’t going anywhere (for now).” Read More > at Forbes

State water board extends mandatory water conservation measures through October – Despite record January rainfall, above-average snowpack and rising reservoirs, the state water board stuck to its conservation guns Tuesday, extending the existing drought-related emergency regulations — with minor adjustments — for eight more months.

The State Water Resources Control Board sent a message to California urban water users: A few months of El Niño-fueled storms do not a drought-buster make. So, residents had better keep conserving.

“We look at this as an insurance policy, or as increased security in case the drought continues,” explained Max Gomberg, SWRCB climate and conservation manager.

An extension of the May 1 plan takes effect Feb. 13, the date the plan expires. The new regulations will continue the governor’s goal of 25 percent water conservation through October but provides relief for cities and private water suppliers that can show they’ve added residents, are in a hotter climate zone, and have supplemented potable water with recycled or desalinated supplies. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News

Long-term marijuana use tied to worse verbal memory in middle age – As marijuana becomes more accessible to young and old alike in the U.S., researchers warn that long-term use of the drug may cause lasting harm to at least one type of brain function.

A new study based on following thousands of young adults into middle age finds that long-term marijuana use is linked to poorer performance on verbal memory tests, but other areas of brain function do not appear to be affected.

“We did not expect to find such a consistent association with verbal memory for chronic exposure to marijuana,” especially since the link held even when other factors like cigarette smoking, alcohol use and other behavioral factors associated with marijuana use were accounted for, said lead author Dr. Reto Auer of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

…Researchers found that as past years of marijuana use increased, verbal memory scores decreased. In practical terms, the results meant that for every additional five years of exposure, 50 percent of marijuana users would remember one less word from a list of 15 tested words.

“Recreational marijuana users use it to get high, to benefit from the transient change it produces,” Auer told Reuters Health by email. “But this transient effect might have long term consequences on the way the brain processes information and could also have direct toxic effects on neurons.” Read More > from Reuters

Unemployment: The All-but-Certain Fate of Too Many Poor Black Boys – Study after study has proven that when children are sequestered in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, their educational and economic opportunities are stunted, creating enduring cycles of poverty.

But a new paper, written by a team of researchers led by the Stanford economist Raj Chetty, indicates that these findings have yet another critical element: Concentrated poverty can be significantly more detrimental to young boys than to young girls.

In America it’s generally been true that men are more likely to be employed than women. According to the most current data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even as women have entered the workforce in greater numbers, men’s labor-force participation rate is around 69 percent, while women’s is around 57 percent. This division in the labor force holds among middle- and upper-income families, but Chetty and his fellow researchers find that when poor kids become adults, a reverse gender-employment gap appears, with poor boys more likely than poor girls to become unemployed adults.

…But the outcomes are significantly worse for poor black boys. Girls from poor families are more likely to find work and to get further in school than boys who grew up in similar circumstances. The researchers detected a similar gender gap among poor children who grew up in single-parent households, but of all the variables tested, growing up in concentrated poverty and growing up in an area that was predominately black were the strongest predictors of adult male unemployment. Read More > in The Atlantic

Sometimes, life presents us with unbearable dilemmas—like when you drop your last cookie on the kitchen floor. Do you quickly pick it up and eat it? Does eating a cookie off the floor make you a savage? When you drop a piece of food on the ground, how much time do you really have before it becomes contaminated?

Agencies find new water source from the sewer – In the wake of drought and environmental concerns, more water agencies in California and across the West are finding a new water source for human consumption in an unexpected place: the sewer.

The treated sewer water isn’t going directly to your tap after treatment. In most cases, it’s put into an aquifer and withdrawn later — years later.

Meanwhile, underground microbes and the natural filtration of the aquifer further improve the water quality, said Cindy Forbes, deputy director of the California Water Resources Control Board’s Division of Drinking Water, in a telephone interview.

“Water injected today can’t leap in front of water injected yesterday,” Forbes said, explaining why the treated sewer water will stay in the ground for a long time.

The market for treated wastewater first moved to outdoor use, like watering golf courses, schools and parks.

Now, with environmental and drought concerns and population growth, the use of this water is being planned for humans in a larger way. Read More > in the Daily Bulletin

Here’s how marijuana legalization would work in California – California was the first state to allow medical marijuana. Now, two decades later, voters are expected to be asked whether to legalize recreational use of the drug.

The legalization measure most likely to qualify for the statewide November ballot is the product of months of negotiations between groups with varying interests, from drug-law reformers, to growers and distributors, to famous financiers and politicians. Here’s a primer.

Q: So, is California going to legalize pot?

A: The state’s marijuana industry is often described as a wild west of sorts: There are no regulations, taxes or environmental protections for recreational cannabis. The measure would legalize possession of 1 ounce of marijuana and cultivation of six plants by adults over the age of 21, and create laws for distribution and sale. It would impose a 15 percent tax on retail sales, and cultivation taxes of $9.25 per ounce of flowers and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Localities could ban recreational marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions with local voter approval.

Q: Could I grow my own?

A: Personal cultivation is allowed, but no more than six plants could be cultivated, harvested, dried or processed in each home or apartment, or on its grounds. The initiative would allow industrial hemp to be grown as an agricultural product as well as for agricultural or academic research.

Q: What about children?

A: Marijuana businesses would be banned from locating within 600 feet of schools, and cannabis products could not be advertised or marketed to children. Specifically, the law says pot products can’t be designed in a way that appeals to kids, or could easily be confused with candy or other enticements. Advertising could only be displayed where roughly 72 percent of the audience is expected to be 21 years of age or older, as determined by audience-composition data. Minors convicted of marijuana-related offenses would have to complete drug-prevention education or counseling and community service.

Q: Could you drive after you’ve smoked?

A: The measure would retain existing laws that make it illegal to drive while impaired by marijuana. Here’s how it would work: The California Highway Patrol would get $3 million a year for four years to come up with protocols to determine whether a driver is too high to drive. Motorists also would be barred from having an open container of marijuana or pot products while driving, operating or riding in the passenger seat of a car, boat or aircraft.

Q: Could you go to work high?

A: The law would maintain the rights of employers to require drug-free workplaces or enact policies prohibiting marijuana use by employees during work hours. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Oil companies doled out big donations in climate bill fight – Oil companies that convinced California lawmakers last year to abandon part of a landmark bill to fight climate change donated more than $250,000 to their campaigns for re-election in the second half of 2015 — with more money going to Democrats than Republicans.

Since the state Senate bars its members from accepting campaign checks in the final weeks of the legislative session, a large share of the money went to lawmakers in the state Assembly, with five assemblymembers receiving more than $10,000 each from Chevron, Exxon and Tesoro, campaign finance statements show.

In all, the companies donated $148,400 to Democrats and $114,400 to GOP legislators, writing most of the checks after the end of the 2015 legislative session in September, when Big Oil persuaded the Legislature to amend Senate Bill 350, a clean energy initiative that sought in part to cut the use of petroleum in cars and trucks in half by 2030. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News

Google Search Probe by U.S. Should Get New Look, Utah Says – U.S. antitrust officials should consider revisiting their closed investigation into Google’s search practices in light of claims by the European Union that the company manipulates results, said Utah’s attorney general.

The Federal Trade Commission’s decision in 2013 not to bring a case against the company was followed about two year later by the European Commission’s complaint accusing Google of abusing its dominance of the search-engine market.

“The issue of local search result fairness is an evolving issue in a fast-paced digital economy,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a joint letter with the attorney general for the District of Columbia. “We encourage the commission to consider new information and developments that have become available both domestically and internationally since closing its Google investigation.”

The FTC’s decision not to bring a case over whether Google skewed search results to favor its own services disappointed companies and consumer advocates who were critical of the Internet giant. Google agreed to stop certain practices, including removing restrictions on the use of its online search advertising platform and offering companies the option of keeping their content out of Google’s search results.

The decision to close the probe came after FTC staff had recommended bringing a case against Google, arguing it had unlawfully maintained a monopoly over Internet search that harmed consumers, according to a document the FTC inadvertently released as part of a public records request. Read More > at Bloomberg Business

If You Go Near the Super Bowl, You Will be Surveilled Hard – Super Bowl 50 will be big in every way. A hundred million people will watch the game on TV. Over the next ten days, 1 million people are expected to descend on the San Francisco Bay Area for the festivities. And, according to the FBI, 60 federal, state, and local agencies are working together to coordinate surveillance and security at what is the biggest national security event of the year.

The Department of Homeland Security, the agency coordinating the Herculean effort, classifies every Super Bowl as a special event assignment rating (SEAR) 1 event, with the exception of the 2002 Super Bowl, which got the highest ranking because it followed the September 11 terror attacks—an assignment usually reserved for only the Presidential Inauguration. A who’s-who of agencies, ranging from the DEA and TSA to the US Secret Service to state and local law enforcement and even the Coast Guard has spent more than two years planning for the event.

All of which means that if you’re attending the game, or just happen to be in the general vicinity of the myriad events leading up to the Super Bowl, you will be watched. Closely. The festivities started Saturday and run through February 7, when the Carolina Panthers meet the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Here’s a sampling of the technology Big Brother can use to surveil you during the Super Bowl in the Bay Area.

Coordination is key. The San Francisco Bay Area is a big, dense place, and the Super Bowl festivities stretch from the stadium in Santa Clara to the streets of San Francisco. The SFPD isn’t giving officers any time off. The FBI and Santa Clara police have spent months running drills in and around Levi’s Stadium, cribbing from, and improving upon, tactics other cities have used when hosting The Big Game. Major cities throughout the Bay Area spent the fall preparing for the madness, and have established coordination centers throughout the area. Read More > at Wired

The Guardian Angels are back! New York crime-fighting gang head back on subway patrols for the first time in 22 years after spree of slashing attacks – An infamous New York crime-fighting gang are back on patrol on the city’s subways for the first time in more than 20 years after a series of attacks on passengers.

The Guardian Angels gained fame in the 1980s as they fought against rampant crime that was synonymous with New York City right up until the mid-nineties.

Now a terrifying spree of recent slashing attacks on the subways has prompted the red-beret wearing gang to resume their patrols as they fear the city is slipping back into its dark days of crime.

‘Riders are coming up and asking us: ‘Please, you’ve got to come back in force,’ Curtis Sliwa, who founded the group in 1979, told The New York Post. ‘I think it’s become obvious that the police need help, the MTA needs help. They can’t handle it.’

Teams of 12 volunteers will now take morning or afternoon shifts to maintain a 24 hour presence on the carriages.

The Guardian Angels stopped patrolling the subways and Central Park in the 1990s after a increase in policing around the time Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office although they continued in parts of Brooklyn and the Bronx. Read More > in the Daily Mail

Oakland Raiders have a new home waiting for them in Levi’s Stadium – Before his death in October 2011, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis had been trying to solve one of the most difficult sports riddles in California.

How do you build a new NFL stadium in such a fiscally challenged state?

Davis wanted a shiny new facility to replace his old one, which opened in 1966. But another money-saving possibility also attracted his interest. His chief executive, Amy Trask, was having discussions with the San Francisco 49ers about building and sharing a new stadium in the Bay Area.

“It certainly was not his first choice, but he did understand the economic efficiency of sharing a building,” Trask told USA TODAY Sports.

The idea pretty much died when Davis did, said Trask, now an analyst with CBS Sports. Yet now there’s even more reason to consider it again, experts and various stakeholders told USA TODAY Sports.

…But they won’t, and only one person gets to say why not: Mark Davis, who took over team ownership after his father died. Davis didn’t respond to an interview request about whether his feelings on the subject might change now that his bid to move to Los Angeles appears to be a longshot. He has steadfastly rejected the possibility of Levi’s Stadium and instead hoped to build a separate stadium in Oakland. After not making progress there, he joined forces with the San Diego Chargers to pursue a $1.7 billion shared stadium in Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles. Read More > at USA Today

Stocks end sharply higher, but post worst January since 2009 – U.S. stocks closed sharply higher on Friday, booking a second straight weekly gain but posting the worst January performance since 2009.

Friday’s surge came amid a global equity rally following a surprise decision by the Bank of Japan to push a key interest rate into negative territory that some said could push the Federal Reserve to ease up on its plans to steadily raise interest rates.

…Some market participants attributed the day’s rally to the belief that easy monetary policy around the world will force the Fed to keep its own interest rates lower for longer, providing support for stocks.

Randy Frederick, managing director, at Schwab Center for Financial Research, blamed the stock market’s monthly losses on the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates in December and said the BOJ move plus a lackluster reading on fourth-quarter U.S. growth may give policy makers pause. “It shows that the economy is softer and provides one more reason for them to hold off on another rate hike,” Frederick said.

Two other themes Friday were concerns about company earnings and the continued impact of plunging oil prices, though crude-oil futures CLH6, -4.94% ended higher on Friday. Read More > at Market Watch

Women expand their home on the range – …As unique as Schneider seems, she is far from alone. According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, the number of women-operated farms increased from 5 percent to 14 percent between 1978 and 2007. Today, counting principal operators and secondary operators, women account for 30 percent of all farmers in the United States, or just under 1 million.

As striking as those numbers are, particularly when considering the financial risks and physical demands that accompany the work , researchers say they would like to learn more about the full contribution these women make, and what it means for the future of farming and ranching in the United States.

Researchers have observed some possible reasons why more women are farming and ranching. Some women regard themselves less as entrepreneurs and more as gentle stewards of the land, or bulwarks against corporations overtaking family farms and developers sweeping in with seductive offers. Others are drawn to the farm-to-fork movement, where locally grown produce and meat hold much greater appeal. Also, more women are inheriting farms and ranches.

Downsizing and mechanization have also made the work more affordable and less physically demanding — although “smaller parcels tend to require more physical labor because they are typically managed using hand tools and practices,” said Breanne Wroughton, program assistant for the California Farm Academy at the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, Calif. Read More > in The Washington Post

Flint water victims can’t sue the government. That’s another crime. – Michigan’s state and local officials poisoned Flint’s water with lead but innocent federal taxpayers are the ones having to foot the cleanup bill. President Obama has pledged to hand Flint $85 million in aid money. This sounds like a lot, but the fact of the matter is that it is far less than what Flint’s victims would have gotten if a corporation — rather than government — had been the culprit. That’s because, unlike private companies, the government is shielded from liability lawsuits.

This would be an excellent argument for the wholesale privatization of public utilities, but, alas, privatization is a dirty word in the liberal lexicon.

After initially giving Michigan Governor Rick Snyder only $5 million in going away money to help Flint residents buy water filters and bottled water, President Obama finally acquiesced this week to pleas for more help and authorized another $80 million. Now he’s also considering Snyder’s request for extending Medicaid eligibility to all Flint children up to age 21 regardless of their income or insurance status.

Setting aside the Medicaid expansion, the $85 million in federal aid combined with the $28 million in state aid that Snyder has arranged, works out to on average $1,000 for each of Flint’s 99,700 residents — or about $4,000 for a family of four.

But consider the horror they are confronting:

As has been widely reported, 6.4 percent of Flint’s nearly 8,500 kids are now testing for dangerously high lead levels in their blood stream — up from 3.6 percent before the city switched them from Detroit water to toxic Flint River water. Many of these children have developed rashes and brittle bones and face the prospect of permanent brain damage, diminished IQ, and behavioral difficulties. But kids are not the only ones hurt. Around 85 people have been diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease — a particularly horrible form of pneumonia — compared to around six to 13 in a normal year. Ten of them have already died. Read More > in The Week

Posted in Sunday Reading | Leave a comment