Sunday Reading – 10/02/2022

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Since last Thursday, these 10 states have seen the largest increases in their averages: California (+67 cents), Oregon (+59 cents), Washington (+53 cents), Wisconsin (+46 cents), Alaska (+44 cents), Nevada (+36 cents), Michigan (+30 cents), Arizona (+29 cents), Indiana (+22 cents) and Ohio (+21 cents). https://gasprices.aaa.com/

California gas prices are rising again. Here’s why, and how high experts say they could go – Gas prices are rising yet again in California — one of several regions in the U.S. where refinery problems have squeezed supplies and caused local spikes severe enough to reverse an extended decline in the U.S. average gas price, according to experts.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas in California on Tuesday was $5.88 — up 9 cents overnight and 43 cents from a week ago, and more than $2 higher than the national average price, according to data from the American Automobile Association.

And prices in the state could continue to rise for several weeks — by as much as 75 cents per gallon in some areas, analysts said.

But the cause of California’s recent spike in prices is different from when drivers were paying record-high costs earlier this year, said Severin Borenstein, an economist and faculty director of the Energy Institute at Haas at UC Berkeley.

But for California this time around, local refinery problems are the culprit behind higher prices at the pump. Similar disruptions at refineries in the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes and Plains have caused prices to surge there as well, GasBuddy analyst Patrick De Haan said Monday in a blog post .

In the Bay Area and Northern California, drivers are paying some of the highest prices for gas in the state, the AAA data shows. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

As gas prices soar, state on brink of sending rebates – Remember when Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers struck a deal a couple of months ago to send millions of California taxpayers between $200 and $1,050 to help cover the rising cost of living?

Well, a week from today, the state is set to begin depositing the first round of payments in Californians’ bank accounts. And, although some taxpayers likely won’t see their refunds until January 2023 — and some of the state’s most vulnerable residents won’t get checks at all — for many people the timing will be opportune.

That’s because gas prices are rising again after nearly 100 days of decline nationwide. The uptick is particularly pronounced in California, where the average price of a gallon of regular shot to $6.18 on Thursday, up from $6.04 just the day before and $5.52 a week ago, according to AAA.

The state Assembly in June formed a select committee to investigate why California’s gas prices are so much higher than the rest of the country’s. The committee has met just twice since then, according to its website.

  • Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, the Camarillo Democrat who leads the panel, told me in a statement: “The Select Committee on Gasoline Supply and Pricing has been investigating long term solutions to address California’s high gas prices. The Committee will be releasing a report in the next few weeks with recommendations, based on testimony from numerous stakeholders and industry experts, for the Legislature to consider in the upcoming session.”

Meanwhile, the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog on Tuesday asked Newsom to declare a special legislative session to investigate why Californians are paying nearly $2 more per gallon at the pump than other American drivers. Consumer Watchdog also suggested the state should enact a windfall profits tax on the oil and gas industry, which it said has “declared war on the state of California and is raising prices unreasonably to punish the public and lawmakers for enacting tough new (environmental) laws.” Read More > at CalMatters

Are California’s public pension funds headed for another crisis? – Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was shock enough for pension funds holding Russian assets, suddenly worth little.

Then, the prolonged conflict and lingering pandemic drove inflation to heights not seen in 40 years — raising interest rates and putting an end to a decade-long bull run in stocks, the biggest driver of pension fund gains.

The collateral damage wrought by the disruption as well as fears of a protracted recession are now raising questions about the finances of the multibillion-dollar systems relied upon by more than 4 million California public workers to carry them through their retirement.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, the nation’s largest state pension fund, experienced a 6.1% investment loss in the fiscal year that ended June 30. It was the first annual loss since the Great Recession for the fund that provides pension benefits to employees of the state and nearly 2,900 counties, cities, special districts and other public employers. Assets fell to $440 billion after topping $500 billion last year.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, the nation’s largest teachers’ pension plan, lost 1.3% last fiscal year, its first decline too in more than a decade.

And things may not get better anytime soon.

Growth in advanced economies is expected to drop sharply from 5.1% in 2021 to 2.6% this year, according to a forecast released this summer by the World Bank that is 1.2 percentage points lower than its January projection — leading to worries that lackluster market returns may extend indefinitely.

In California, current and retired employees covered by CalPERS, CalSTRS and other public-sector pension plans have some of the nation’s best protection against such downturns.

A set of related court decisions called “the California rule” guarantees, with only rare exceptions, that the benefits promised to a public employee the day they begin work are the same ones they will get the day they retire. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Amid ambitious climate moves, concerns remain – There’s never a shortage of environmental news in California, so let’s dive right into the latest:

Why the next big Bay Area earthquake could happen on a fault many don’t even know exists – A lesser-studied fault system along the western side of Silicon Valley could generate a magnitude 6.9 earthquake — the same size as 1989’s infamous Loma Prieta — every 250 to 300 years, a new Stanford study found.

The study adds to the understanding of how much risk the densely populated Silicon Valley region may face from the faults running underneath, which are particularly difficult to study using traditional geologic methods.

“The important message here is that we talk a lot about the San Andreas Fault and the Hayward Fault as being potentially hazardous, but we do know that there are many other faults underneath the San Francisco Bay Area that are capable of generating earthquakes,” said Stephen DeLong, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who specializes in understanding earthquake hazards in Northern California. DeLong peer-reviewed the Stanford study.

“The possibility of these moderate earthquakes every few hundred years is consistent with what we’ve previously thought about these faults,” DeLong said.

The faults are the Shannon-Monte Vista Fault and Berrocal-Sargent Fault; they are collectively known as the Foothill Thrust Belt faults . They lie east of the San Andreas Fault and span the inner edge of the Sierra Azul mountain range, extending from south of Gilroy through Silicon Valley past Palo Alto. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

The terrifying flesh-eating drug meant for horses that is now hitting the streets of America: ‘Tranq dope’ Xylazine accounts for a third of OD deaths in Philadelphia – and causes festering wounds when injected – Health officials are warning of a terrifying flesh-eating drug which is being increasingly found laced into heroin, cocaine and other narcotics – leading to a soaring number of drug overdoses across the country.

Doctors say xylazine – a muscle relaxant intended for large animals like horses – has been appearing in the illicit drug scene in cities across the US, joining fentanyl as one of the primary narcotics used to cut opioids.

The drug prolongs the highs felt from heroin, but results in users passing out for hours at a time, while injection points ulcerate and lead to grisly wounds that spread across the body. 

Some users even report severe soars erupting across their body where they never injected the drug, and many are left disfigured as fingers, arms, feet, legs and toes are forced to be amputated.

In Philadelphia – considered to be ground zero for the xylazine crisis – about one-third of all fatal opioid overdoses in 2019 were related to the drug.

But because xylazine itself isn’t an opioid, doctors warn that many hospitals don’t know what they are seeing when an overdose victim comes in and cannot detect it in tests, and are unable to treat patients the way they would normal opioid overdoses. Read More > at Daily Mail

Resistance-breathing training found to lower blood pressure – A team of researchers with members from the University of Colorado, the University of Arizona and Alma College, all in the U.S., has found that resistance-breathing training can lower blood pressure as much as some medicines and/or exercises. The study is published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Hypertension, also known as chronic high blood pressure, can lead to a wide variety of health problems, from loss of vision to strokes and heart attacks. For that reason, doctors take it seriously. Typically, patients are directed to modify their diet and to exercise more. If that does not fix the problem, medications are prescribed. In this new effort, the researchers looked into a new type of therapy to reduce blood pressure levels—resistance-breathing training.

Resistance-breathing training involves breathing in and out of a small device, called, quite naturally, a POWERbreathe, every day for several minutes. The device forces the patient to use their breathing muscles to push and pull air through it, making them stronger. And that, the researchers found, also reduces blood pressure. The device has been in use for several years as a means to assist athletes, singers and people with weak lung muscles. Read More > at Medical Xpress

Two Bombings in One Night? That’s Normal Now in Sweden. – Since 2018, there have been almost 500 bombings—yes, bombings—in what is known as one of the most stable societies in the world.  

There’s not just a bombing problem. There are shootings, too. 

Sweden, which has a population of around 10 million, has the highest per-capita number of deadly shootings of 22 European countriesForty-seven people have been shot dead so far this year, which, while far from American levels of gun homicide, is extreme for Europe. Other European countries have come to look at Sweden with horror

It may be shocking for Americans to learn that in Sweden—the land of IKEA, Spotify and Greta Thunberg—all of this is going on. Perhaps the reason you don’t know about it is because of the uncomfortable reality of how we got here.

Among shooting suspects, 85 percent are first- or second-generation immigrants, according to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, as immigrant neighborhoods have become hotbeds for gang crime. National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg has described the violence as “an entirely different kind of brutality than we’ve seen before” and his deputy, Mats Löfving, says that 40 criminal clans now operate throughout the country. Spreading fear are “humiliation robberies,” targeting children and youth, in which victims are subjected to degrading treatment by assailants, such as being urinated upon. Just this week, four men were sentenced for robbing, beating and urinating on an 18-year-old, who was also filmed by his tormentors. 

All of which is why, for the first time ever, crime emerged as a top priority among voters ahead of this past weekend’s general election. Swedes made their concerns plain on Sunday, when they awarded the country’s most strident anti-immigration party more than 20 percent of the vote. Read More > at Common Sense

‘Total Chaos’: Russian Mobilization Exodus Accelerates Amid Border Closure Rumors – …Tens of thousands of conscription-age Russian men like Logvin have fled to neighboring countries in recent days amid growing fears that the Kremlin is likely to impose an exit ban in an attempt to retain manpower reserves. 

Russia could close its borders to those eligible for mobilization as early as Wednesday, independent media outlet Meduza reported Sunday, citing sources. 

The sense of a closing window has led to unruly scenes on Russia’s land borders with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia — countries that do not require a visa for visiting Russians. In particular, there has been a crush at Russia’s sole border crossing with Georgia in the foothills of the greater Caucasus mountains. 

In the four days since the announcement of Russia’s first mobilization since World War II, about 260,000 men of military age have left the country, independent media outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe reported Sunday, citing a Kremlin source.

With tightened entry requirements for European Union countries bordering Russia, most of those leaving the country have been heading for the South Caucasus nations of Georgia and Armenia as well as Belarus, Turkey and Central Asian countries. Read More > in The Moscow Times

EV Tax Credits Fund Income Inequality, Environmental Harm – The federal government is a perpetual gravy train for the well-off. It uses taxpayer money to forgive the Paycheck Protection loans of the connected and the student debt of college and graduate students. It gives $52 billion in subsidies to the $528 billion semiconductor industry. Recently, it extended its $7,500 tax credits for upper-income individuals who purchase electric vehicles (EVs”).  

These gifts to private entities cost the American taxpayer trillions without considering the societal impact. Proving that subsidies go to those needing handouts the least is easily established. The King of Subsidies seems to be Elon Musk, the world’s richest man. Musk proudly denounces subsidies to the rich and that he personally does not take government subsidies. His denials follow the Bill Clinton response “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” 

The investigative online magazine, Business Insider, reveals his companies (Tesla, Solar City, SpaceX) received a total of $2,32 billion in subsidies and pandemic payments and $517 million in environmental tax credits. Subsidy Tracker calculates his companies received $3.3 billion in government subsidies and loan forgiveness despite the fact that his ventures appear to have significant problems, including exploding rockets, solar panel fires and crashing self-driving cars.

As enacted, the Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”) subsidies are limited to EVs made in North America. Foreign countries like South Korea want a scoop of U.S. gravy. Seoul does not qualify under the law for the handouts; however, it brazenly asks the Biden administration to postpone or amend its rules until Hyundai, with the number 2 spot in the EV market, completes its EV factory in Georgia in 2025. Of course, the U.S. is considering the request; it’s our money it gives away. 

The progressive elites in Washington sold the IRA as a mechanism to foster middle-class EV ownership. But, like many promises, this is another federal bait and switch operation.  Read More > at Real Clear Energy

‘Historic moment’ in race to beat Alzheimer’s: Experimental brain plaque-busting drug ‘significantly slows decline of patients battling early stages of the disease’ – An experimental Alzheimer’s drug slows the mental deterioration of patients battling the earliest stages of the cruel disease by more than a quarter, promising trial results revealed today.

Lecanemab, given as an injection, combats the build-up of toxic plaques in the brain — which is thought to cause the memory-robbing disease.

The firms behind the medicine claim their results prove the longstanding theory that destroying this substance (amyloid) can effectively halt the disease in its tracks.

Leading experts today hailed the results of the 1,800-person trial, calling it a ‘historic moment’ and the first breakthrough ‘in a generation’.

But they noted that lecanemab has only been tested on patients gripped by the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and that it won’t be a ‘silver bullet’ for all causes of dementia or cure the disease. Read More > at Daily Mail

Chevron sells San Ramon HQ property as it shifts more workers to Texas – Chevron sold its San Ramon headquarters complex on Wednesday, moving to downsize its California presence as the company shifts more workers to Texas.

The oil giant sold the 92-acre site at 6001 Bollinger Canyon Rd. to Sunset Development, which owns the massive, adjacent Bishop Ranch property. The price wasn’t immediately available. Sunset previously sold the same property to Chevron in the 1980s.

Chevron also leased 400,000 square feet of office space in Bishop Ranch, which will serve as its new headquarters. It’s less than a third of the size of the 1.3 million-square-foot property that it just sold and can accommodate around 2,000 employees, according to Sunset. It’s slated to open next year.

Chevron is one of numerous California-headquartered companies that have grown in Texas, though it’s keeping its headquarters in the Bay Area unlike recent departures like Charles Schwab, HPE and Tesla . Chevron already has nearly 8,000 workers in Houston, the nation’s energy hub. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

THE 5 DOG BREEDS TO GET
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Rainfall Totals In Oakley for September 2022

Average precipitation in September

0.18″

Rainfall Totals in September 2022

0.79″

Accumulated Monthly Totals through September 2022

0.79″”

Average annual precipitation

13.22

Percent of average YTD

395%

Weather data – https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/oakley/california/united-states/usca2070

A rainfall year season is defined as the 12-month period beginning July 1 that continues through June 30 of the subsequent year.

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5 things to teach your kids about social media

from Malwarebytes

With children now back at school, it’s time to think about social media, and their use of it.

Are they already firing out tweets, chatting in Discord channels, or even just looking to set up a Tik-Tok account? Now is the time to consider giving your kids some security and privacy tips for all their social media needs.

1. Get to grips with default settings

Most sites are in the business of making your data their business. EULAs and privacy policies are frequently terribly confusing for grown ups. Expecting a child to make sense of 1,000 very legal words is unfeasible. Social networks are absolutely in the business of providing services for free, and then using analytics to drive advertising on their sites.

Often, privacy settings are defaulted in a way which makes it easier for marketing/advertising/data-gulping to take place. Some examples:

  • Allow third party/relevant advertising tailored to your interests
  • GPS location set to on (usually ties into the targeted advertising point above)
  • Find your friends (in other words, import your address book and make connections between email addresses and social media profiles)

These are things which may sound helpful, and no doubt are to some, but everybody using an app does not need any or all of these enabled by default. With this in mind, here’s what to tell your kid about default settings:

Look out for anything mentioning offers, location, advertising, relevant content, and finding friends. All of these options and settings help the site you’re using to operate, but they’re not necessarily going be helpful for you too. Before you start posting, ensure options like location in particular are disabled unless you have a very good reason for needing it.

2. It’s all about location

We touched on this briefly above, but this is a key component of your “Please watch out for these things” conversation. Trolling. Doxxing (grabbing personal details in a way which identifies an individual and then publishing them online). Swatting (sending fake emergency calls to law enforcement which results in armed officers crashing through your door). All of these things are very bad, and you don’t want your child getting tangled up in any of it.

Sadly, location services on social networks can cause problems in this area. Sometimes location is kept private for the user only. Other times, the location is in full view. It may be somewhat generic and say a major city like London, or it may drill down to a street.

Even without tech related issues or troublesome settings, the real-world can also give details away. Thanks to open-source tools, reverse image searches, and crowd-sourcing data, it’s never been easier to give the locational game away:

  • A letter in a photograph with your address on it
  • Unique identifiers (views outside a window, for example)
  • Regional dialects or other specific references in the background of video footage

Almost anything can provide somebody with the clue to get an idea of where your child may be living. Here’s what to tell your child:

Pay close attention to the world around you if you’re a fan of streaming, Tik-Tok, or selfies. Keep your home, identifiable locations, and anything with your name and address on it out of shot. Even grown ups make these mistakes, so it’s very easy to accidentally do it yourself. Oh, and if you’re going on holiday you may wish to reference it only once you’ve returned home. Tales of empty houses being broadcast to the world at large on social media may not end well.

3. The value of anonymity

Back in the olden days, most of us were online using a pseudonym. It wasn’t massively common to have your real name or other potentially unique identifiers following you around from site to site. In fact, for the first few years of my security career, writers and journalists referred to me as my online handle because they didn’t actually know my name.

This is a far cry from what we currently have, with real names everywhere, verified profiles, authentication, and the common refrain that only people with something to hide don’t use their real name.

The reality is, people don’t use their real name online for all sorts of valid reasons. There might be domestic abuse or harassment issues. They may live somewhere where free speech or being critical of their government is frowned upon.

However, it’s important to note that you don’t have to be in one of the above awful scenarios to insist on anonymity of one form or another. Indeed, going down the anonymous route from the get-go may help ward off potentially unpleasant situations at a future date anyway.

Most sites will allow you to use whatever visible username you like. A few insist on real names, but it’s unlikely your kids are currently hanging out on Facebook. While you’re usually asked to put a real name alongside your online handle, it’s not mandatory and there’s a good chance nobody will ever check what you put there. Nor are the platforms likely to suddenly lock an account and demand additional verification of some kind at a later date. Here’s what you should tell your children about this issue:

There’s nothing wrong with being anonymous on social media, and unless the site explicitly asks for a real name and additional information you shouldn’t feel pressured into handing it over. Keeping yourself anonymous also helps to ward off some of the issues related to location oversharing. Pick the level of generic anonymity that you’re comfortable with.

4. Watch out for the fakers

Social media is rife with scams, and scammers will happily target anyone in front of them. In fact, some will actively target children specifically because of their likely inexperience in spotting a fake-out. Kids are also unlikely to use additional security measures like two-factor authentication. This means less work for the attacker. Fortunately you can help with this.

Any platform you can think of has scams particularly suited to it. Instagram is awash with Bitcoin scams and bogus competitions. Twitter has lots of phishing, NFT scams, bogus video game downloads, and get rich quick schemes. Facebook sees a fair amount of fake PlayStation sales and more generic Messenger scams. Compromised verified accounts, which add legitimacy to fraud, are common across all platforms.

What you should tell your kids:

Every site has its own groups of scammers, each with their own preferred method of attack. Spend a few minutes reading the site’s security pages to ensure you keep your account safe from harm. If an offer or deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Very few social media giveaways are genuine.

If you receive direct messages from strangers, or you’ve been notified that you violated a website policy and need to re-verify your identity, come and tell us and we’ll take a look for you. Never, ever grant someone access to your account…even if they claim to be employees for the site. This is never going to be a genuine request from a member of staff and you may lose your account.

5. Be honest and respect privacy

Many times, young children and teens don’t want the hassle of locking everything down and micromanaging passwords or security settings. They may already have email addresses and various social media accounts. Are those email addresses locked down? Using two-factor authentication? Do your kids know their way around the various security settings across all of their logins? How about password managers?

In these cases, parents often offer to help. Where younger children are concerned, I know some parents who use one of their pre-locked down email addresses to tie social media accounts to. Most of the time, you don’t really need to do much with whatever address you link to Twitter or Tik-Tok or anywhere else, you just need it to tie your username to. As a result, hooking the accounts to a secure email managed by parents can be a quick and easy win for everybody.

Of course, there are privacy issues here to consider. The older the child, the more likely they may be to send other social media users direct messages. Parents should be open about this; some platforms send a digest of all private messages to the connected email account. You can turn this feature on and off in Twitter, for example, but every site is different. You should see how your child feels about this. Some may not care, but others most definitely will. What to tell them:

I’m happy to micromanage the security practices behind the scenes. The trade-off is that some, or all, of what you do may be sent back to me through the email used to register the account. We can check how the site in question works in relation to this, and set it in a way you’d be comfortable with. Remember that sites often change existing features or add new ones, and we may have to adjust as we go.

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BART’s Add Fare machines undergo major upgrades to improve customer experience

BART is focused on making transit easier to use. Crews have made several upgrades to our fare collection machines to speed up the experience.

Riders can now use credit and debit cards to pay for parking inside stations

BART Add Fare Machines inside stations, which also serve as parking payment machines, now accept credit and debit cards. This upgrade is perhaps the biggest customer experience improvement to date for those who drive and park at BART stations as riders can now use a credit or debit card to pay for parking at a machine. BART also offers the official BART app as an easy method for paying for all types of parking at BART with a credit/debit card, Venmo, or PayPal. Previously these machines only accepted cash, which was an inconvenience for riders.

The End of a Pocket Full of Quarters

This upgrade is also an improvement for all riders who must add funds to exit. In 2019, BART began rolling out “Add Value” machines in the paid area that accepted credit and debit cards for adding any arbitrary amount of funds to Clipper cards. However, these machines didn’t accept parking payments and the “Add Fare” machines were still in place— causing confusion about which machines accepted credit/debit cards and which ones were cash only.

It was not uncommon for a rider needing to exit a station to end up with a pocket full of quarters because the “Add Fare” machines only accepted cash for the small amount needed to exit. Now Add Fare machines allow riders to decide to either add the amount needed to exit or however much money they would like.

Previously the default “add amount” was $10, and riders had to subtract $1 and 5c many times to get to the minimum amount to exit. Now riders can select the minimum amount to exit quicker.

Upgrading all fare machines to accept EMV chip cards or mobile devices will be the next step in modernizing this equipment. Riders will likely see a note stating the machines are “swipe only” until the EMV technology is configured.

Larger Bills Now Accepted

Crews have also reprogrammed the Add Fare machines to accept $10 and $20 bills. Previously the machines only accepted $5 and $1 bills, and people with larger bills had to use change machines outside of the paid area, adding time and hassle to the experience.

Clipper for Parking Payment

We frequently get asked why folks can’t use funds on Clipper to pay for BART parking. Clipper is a regional fare card for all transit in the Bay Area administered by the MTC. It doesn’t accept BART parking payment. However, BART has requested the next generation of Clipper allow for BART parking integration.

Avoid Payment Machines with Apple Pay or Google Pay

Riders who use Clipper on their phone or Apple Watch can avoid fare machines altogether.  Riders can instantly load cash value onto their Clipper card in Apple Pay or Google Pay and the money is immediately available for use, and you don’t need to use. You can add funds at any point of your trip.

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All Mosquitoes Are Not The Same – How Newly Discovered Invasive Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Differ from the West Nile virus Mosquitoes Already in Contra Costa County

West Nile virus (WNV) first appeared in Contra Costa County in 2004. During the 18 years since then, County residents have become used to the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District’s (District) message that it’s important to dump out standing water to prevent mosquitoes because mosquitoes need to develop from egg to adults in water.

Now, the District’s message is that it’s important to Dump and Scrub to prevent mosquitoes. Why has the message changed? The message changed because the District has found a new species of mosquito in Contra Costa County — one that is not native to Contra Costa County or California — and it’s a mosquito that we do not want to become established here because it can spread additional diseases that our existing mosquitoes do not. It has other differences as well because all mosquitoes are not the same. Let’s compare Contra Costa County’s WNV mosquitoes to these new Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

WNV Mosquitoes

Disease Risk

Contra Costa County has two species of mosquitoes (Culex tarsalis and Culex pipiens) that are efficient at transmitting West Nile virus.

  • WNV is a virus that infects certain birds, typically in the Corvid family (crows and jays.)
  • Culex mosquitoes can become infected with WNV after biting an infected bird.
  • An infected mosquito can then spread WNV by biting another bird, mammal, or human.
  • These mosquitoes cannot transmit the virus from person to person. Humans are considered dead-end hosts for WNV.

The Eggs

WNV mosquitoes produce egg rafts which contain, on average, 100 – 300 mosquito eggs all stuck together.

  • These egg rafts float on the surface of the water in natural sites like creeks and ponds, or in artificial containers such as rain barrels, neglected swimming pools, or horse troughs where the eggs can develop into adult mosquitoes within 7-14 days.
  • Dumping out water can kill the egg rafts and deny mosquitoes a place to develop.
  • Once the egg rafts are out of the water, they are unable to hatch and are no longer viable.

When They Bite

WNV mosquitoes are known to be most active in the hours just before and after dawn and dusk, and they will bite a person on any area of exposed skin.

What They Look Like

Culex mosquitoes that can transmit WNV are considered medium-sized mosquitoes. They can vary in color but tend to be brown with light markings.

Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes

Disease Risk

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are not native to Contra Costa County and are capable of spreading viruses including Zika, Chikungunya, Dengue, and Yellow fever.

  • This mosquito becomes infected by biting infected people, so if Aedes aegypti become established in Contra Costa County, one infected person can potentially become the source of a disease outbreak.
  • While these diseases are not common in California, a few travel-related cases are reported every year.

The Eggs

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes lay individual sticky eggs in small containers that can hold water including buckets, jars, birdbaths, and plant saucers.

  • These eggs, which look like tiny footballs, stick to the inside of containers along the water line. When the eggs become submerged, they will hatch and develop into adult mosquitoes within about a week.
  • Because they are sticky, the eggs are not removed when the water is dumped out. That is why is important to dump out the water at least weekly and scrub the eggs off of the container before reusing it. Using a toilet brush or bottle brush along with a mild bleach solution (10%) will help kill the eggs.
  • Aedes aegypti eggs can remain viable for months, so, for example, if a bucket containing eggs is stored for the winter and put back outside next spring, once it fills with sprinkler or rainwater, the eggs will hatch and will develop into adults capable of spreading disease.

When They Bite

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known to bite people during the day and they are known as “ankle biters” that will often bite legs or feet.

What They Look Like

Aedes aegypti are very small, about a 1/4 of an inch (about the size of a pencil eraser). They have black legs and bodies with white stripes.

What Can We All Do To Prevent These New Mosquitoes

As you can see, while these new mosquitoes also have the ability to transmit disease, they are very different in their behavior and biology. District employees are currently going door-to-door in Martinez where the Aedes aegypti were first found, to inspect front and backyards to look for and eliminate these invasive mosquitoes before they become permanently established and spread to other areas of Contra Costa County.

The best thing Contra Costa County residents can do is dump out standing water at least weekly and scrub containers to remove any Aedes aegypti eggs and contact the District to report any day-biting mosquitoes.

Together, we can stop these new mosquitoes from making Contra Costa County their new home.

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Adult Mosquito Control Notification for Martinez Waterfront – Wednesday, September 28

Notification of Action

Due to the high number of mosquitoes in the area, the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District will be using truck-mounted, ultra-low volume sprayers to control adult mosquitoes along the Martinez Waterfront:

DATE: Wednesday, September 28, 2022

TIME: Between sunset (approximately 6:15 p.m.) and 9:00 p.m., weather permitting.

LOCATIONMartinez (Waterfront Area)

The area to be treated is bordered on the north by the Carquinez Strait; on the south by Rail Road Tracks/Waterfront Road; on the east by Pacheco Slough, and on the west by Rail Road Tracks/Embarcadero Street.

MATERIALS USED: The insecticide to be used is Zenivex E4 RTU applied at a rate of 1.5 ounces per acre by truck-mounted ultra-low volume sprayers.

MAP: (For a larger, interactive map, please click here – available shortly after this notification is published.)

For more information, visit our website.

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National Coffee Day – September 29, 2022

Best Coffee Cities in America + National Coffee Day Deals – WalletHub Reports

With National Coffee Day around the corner and coffee consumption up 14% since January 2021, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best Coffee Cities in America, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary. Alongside that report, WalletHub also released its list of top coffee deals and discounts offered by retailers during the holiday.

To determine the best local coffee scenes in America, WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across 12 key indicators of a strong coffee culture. The data set ranges from coffee shops, coffee houses and cafés per capita to the average price per pack of coffee.

Top 20 Cities for Coffee Lovers
1. San Francisco, CA11. New Orleans, LA
2. Seattle, WA12. Boston, MA
3. Orlando, FL13. San Diego, CA
4. Honolulu, HI14. Long Beach, CA
5. Portland, OR15. Chicago, IL
6. Tampa, FL16. Los Angeles, CA
7. Pittsburgh, PA17. Cincinnati, OH
8. Miami, FL18. Atlanta, GA
9. Sacramento, CA19. Washington, DC
10. Denver, CO20. Austin, TX

Best vs. Worst

  • Miami and Hialeah, Florida, have the lowest average price for a pack of coffee, $3.41, which is 2.4 times lower than in Honolulu, the city with the highest at $8.11.
     
  • Fremont, California, has the highest average annual spending on coffee per household, $229.62, which is 3.5 times higher than in Hialeah, Florida, the city with the lowest at $65.06
     
  • Gilbert, Arizona, has the highest share of households that own a single-cup/pod-brewing coffee maker, 28.11 percent, which is 2.6 times higher than in Hialeah, Florida, the city with the lowest at 10.93 percent. 
     
  • Orlando, Florida, has the most coffee shops, coffee houses and cafés (per square root of population), 0.4497, which is 7.4 times more than in Laredo, Texas, the city with the fewest at 0.0607.
     
  • Portland, Oregon, has the most coffee and tea manufacturers (per square root of population), 0.0216, which is 43.2 times more than in Riverside and San Bernardino, California, the cities with the fewest at 0.0005. 

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:
http://wallethub.com/edu/best-cities-for-coffee-lovers/23739/

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Movie in the Plaza- Saturday October 1st 

Bring your family and friends down to Civic Center Plaza to enjoy our final Summer Movie in the Plaza for the year happening Saturday, October 1st featuring Encanto!

Bring your lawn chairs and blankets! Grab a yummy treat from one of the downtown restaurants and enjoy the playground before the movie begins at dark.

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Inaugural Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Week Kicks Off – September 25 through October 1

In recognition of the critical role the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta plays in California’s economy and environment, Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, has designated the last week of September as Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Week.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 119 establishes Delta Week, which kicks off on September 25. Delta Week recognizes the Delta’s importance to all Californians and celebrates the Delta’s unique features. In his comments, Sen. Dodd lauded the stewardship and restoration efforts of the Delta Protection Commission and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy.

“Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Week will be an opportunity to highlight the Delta’s importance to all Californians,” says Bruce Blodgett, the Commission’s Executive Director. “The Delta is amongst the most fertile agricultural regions in the world. The Delta’s agricultural value led to the passage of the Delta Protection Act of 1992 to make sure our farmland in the Delta is protected. The social, cultural and economic values led to the creation of the Sacramento-San Joaquin National Heritage Area by Congress. Valuing the needs of the Delta is fundamental to protecting California’s economy and environment. The Commission looks forward to continuing to work with federal, state, and local agencies to protect, maintain, enhance, and enrich the overall quality of the Delta environment and economy.”

For more information, visit the Commission’s website at delta.ca.gov or Sen. Dodd’s website at sd03.senate.ca.gov.

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Sunday Reading – 09/25/2022

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Broken Promises: How Prop 64 Spawned Crime, Exploitation and Public Corruption in California – Nearly six years ago, California voters approved Prop 64, legalizing recreational marijuana in California. They were banking on a promise that legalization would not only create a windfall, but would snuff out the unregulated market and replace it with a safe and orderly system.

That hasn’t happened. As a scathing new series by the Los Angeles Times documents, there is now more illegal cannabis being grown in California than ever before; the black market is more dangerous than ever before; people and lands are being exploited; and public corruption has reached new depths.

“The pitch for Proposition 64 focused on grand benefits: an end to drug possession laws that penalized the poor and people of color, and the creation of a commercial market that in 2021 generated $5.3 billion in taxed sales,” The Times reports

“But California failed to address the reality that decriminalizing a vast and highly profitable illegal industry would open the door to a global pool of organized criminals and opportunists.”

With few penalties for illegality, the big boys moved in. Cartels and other crime syndicates set up vast grows in places like Covelo in Mendocino County and Juniper Flats in the Inland Empire. Now, locals are terrified for their safety. People have been kidnapped or killed. Weapons like AK 47s are regularly found on properties during marijuana raids. Local law enforcement is overwhelmed. Read More > at California County News

Dozens of California cities, counties could OK new recreational marijuana markets – More than two dozen California cities and counties could establish new recreational marijuana markets through ballot measures in November, creating up to 150 retail licenses and countless other business opportunities for plant-touching and ancillary companies.

All in, at least 28 municipalities are in line to include some cannabis ballot initiatives this fall, the largest cohort since California started regulating adult use in 2018, according to MJBizDaily research.

“These upcoming ballot measures are encouraging,” said Dirk Voss, director of compliance and government for Zen Cannabis, which sells edibles and other THC- and CBD-infused products in California and other states.

“If passed, it will open up additional operational dispensaries throughout the state if those cities move forward and actually license dispensaries at the local level.”

The majority of referendums will ask voters to approve or prohibit marijuana businesses, particularly retail.

Most of the ballot initiatives are centered near dense population centers in Southern California, particularly near L.A. and San Diego.

But some extend far north, including Red Bluff, where voters will decide whether to permit the first recreational marijuana businesses in historically conservative Tehama County. Read More > at MJBizDaily

Is it the end of the road for falling gas prices? – Fewer drivers fueling up helped the national average pump price to drop four cents in the past week to reach $3.67. But it’s the smallest weekly decline in months and may signal that the streak of daily falling national average gas prices, approaching 100 days, is nearly finished.

“All streaks have to end at some point, and the national average for a gallon of gas has fallen $1.34 since its peak in mid-June,” said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson. “But there are big factors tugging on global oil prices—war, COVID, economic recession, and hurricane season. All this uncertainty could push oil prices higher, likely resulting in slightly higher pump prices.”  

Meanwhile, most of the country is now using less expensive winter blend gasoline, so modest pump price reductions have occurred. Only California has yet to make the switch, but that happens on November 1.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas demand decreased from 8.73 million b/d to 8.49 million b/d last week. And total domestic gasoline stocks declined by 1.8 million bbl to 213 million bbl. Although gasoline demand has decreased, fluctuating oil prices have led to smaller pump price decreases. If oil prices spike, the national average will likely reverse as pump prices increase.

Today’s national average of $3.67 is 24 cents less than a month ago but 48 cents more than a year ago. Read More > at AAA

California’s newest housing law – Gov. Gavin Newsom has some catching up to do. 

On Thursday, the governor returned to California after three days in New York City spent touting his administration’s climate policy achievements and coming up with novel insults for his critics and political opponents. On his desk: a stack of roughly 650 bills awaiting his signature or veto before a constitutionally-mandated deadline one week from today.

Among the bills he signed almost immediately: A proposal to ban cities from requiring new developments near public transit to set aside space specifically for parking. 

  • Newsom: “Reducing housing costs for everyday Californians and eliminating emissions from cars: That’s what we call a win-win.”

For supporters of the bill, authored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, a Burbank Democrat, it was a fitting conclusion to the governor’s week of climate advocacy. Advocates argue that the measure will allow for denser, less car-dependent homes and businesses, while also cutting the price tag of building them. 

But like any bill that touches on housing policy, local control or car-culture — or in this case all three at once — the debate drew strange coalitions to either side.

Friedman’s bill isn’t the most monumental housing proposal in recent California memory. But it’s a part of a distinct trend as the housing affordability crisis gets more attention. This year the governor also signed a bill allowing for the conversion of empty storefronts into apartments. Last year, Newsom green-lighted the construction of duplexes in most of the state’s neighborhoods. That followed a series of new laws making it easier for homeowners to build granny flats.  

No wonder some YIMBYs are declaring a tentative kind of victory. In California politics, to be pro-housing now seems to be the mainstream position.  Read More > at CalMatters

S.F. had bold plan to cut chronic homelessness in half in 5 years. The numbers only got worse – In 2017, San Francisco’s top officials announced an audacious goal: Cut the city’s chronic homelessness number in half over the next five years.

A few months earlier, the city had received a gift to help reach that goal — $100 million in private donations from a nonprofit to supplement the city’s more than $250 million annual homelessness budget.

As San Francisco approaches the end of the five years in December, it seems clear the city will fail to cut the number of chronically homeless in half. In fact, that number is higher than it was in 2017 — 2,691 compared with 2,138.

Despite a reduction over the past three years in overall homelessness and an explosion in the city’s budget to tackle the crisis, moving the needle on chronic homelessness remains elusive. The group is defined as those who have a disabling condition and have been unhoused more than a year, or more than four times over three years adding up to 12 months.

People who are chronically homeless can have complex health needs and be the most vulnerable and challenging to support. Alcohol or drug use was the main cause of homelessness for chronically homeless people, compared with job loss for others, according to a small survey done as part of this year’s larger homelessness count.

While the city and Tipping Point made some progress, the city is failing because despite housing thousands of chronically homeless people, the number of those newly becoming chronically homeless snowballed, officials and advocates said. The pandemic, inefficient systems and changes in city leadership also slowed the effort. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland Audit Blasts Inability to Account for What Happened With $70 Million In Homeless Funding – The city of Oakland spent $69 million over four years housing unsheltered people, but has no idea if any of those nearly 9,000 people ever found permanent housing, according to a new report from the City Auditor.

The highest-profile homelessness issue right now in the City of Oakland is the on-againoff-again clearing of the Wood Street encampment, which could benefit from a $4.7 million state grant to turn it into something more stable and less dangerous. But throwing money at the problem might be the problem, according to a new report from the Oakland City Auditor. The Bay Area News Group reports that a new audit from that office says the city has spent $69 million over the last four years to get unhoused people sheltered, but can’t actually say whether anyone was permanently sheltered, because they’re failing to keep track of whether anyone found permanent housing.    

The full, 135-page audit details that the city has sheltered 8,683 people in temporary shelters, all run by third parties like nonprofits, but got “mixed results” on the $69 million they spent. The report notes that these nonprofits never tracked how many people found permanent housing (nor did the city ask for this information), and more bafflingly, the city has no idea how many beds are available on any given night  (and again, the city has not been asking for this crucial data). Read More > at SFist

California’s latest power grid problems are just the beginning – Growing demand for electricity and the fickle nature, for now, of greener technologies such as wind and solar are making it hard to progress toward the state-mandated goal of a grid that’s 100 percent emissions-free by 2045. Renewables provided 36 percent of the state’s power supply on average so far this year.

Those constraints were behind the recent decision by the Legislature, at Newsom’s urging, to postpone the retirement of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant despite the fact that activists thought they’d secured its closure — and the governor himself once supported the idea.

The 10 days of triple-digit temperatures across the state this month sent power demand surging to a record level, bringing state regulators close to ordering rolling blackouts, a potentially deadly move and a political disaster.

It was the realization of a nightmare scenario a top state energy official said he’s been considering for months.

“Oh, my lord, we are in a very bad situation compared to even the worst case that we anticipated,” Siva Gunda, vice chair of the California Energy Commission, said he recalls thinking in the spring, when supply chain delays and a tariff on solar imports — compounded by severe drought — started to look like a multi-year power crisis.

“Enough isn’t being done right now” to avoid a worrying gap in the power supply in the future, said state Sen. John Laird, a Democrat from Santa Cruz who has argued the state needs massive new investment in renewable energy and batteries to move off fossil fuels.

Now, by a state estimate, California will need to deploy renewable energy at five times its average pace to meet its mandated goal of 100 percent emissions-free power by 2045. All that while contending with rising temperatures, drought and wildfire.

That uncomfortable reality gave Laird some sleepless nights, he recalled in an interview. He is close friends with people who fought for decades to shut the nuclear plant, worried there might be an accident along the seismically active Central Coast, among other concerns.

He eventually voted to keep Diablo Canyonopen, a difficult decision he said was driven by projections that California would not have enough new wind and solar power in time to make up for its closure. The last-minute scramble by Newsom and the Legislature could postpone the plant’s demise until 2030, reversing a deal made six years ago between green groups, labor and regulators to close it in 2025. The nuclear plant provides up to ten percent of the state’s power. Read More > in Politico

California’s dead will have a new burial option: Human composting – California will begin allowing an alternative burial method known as human composting in 2027, under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday.

Assembly Bill 351 by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) will create a state regulatory process for natural organic reduction, a method in which human remains naturally decompose over a 30-to-45-day period after being placed in a steel vessel and buried in wood chips, alfalfa and other biodegradable materials. The nutrient-dense soil created by the process can then be returned to families or donated to conservation land.

Supporters say it’s an eco-friendly alternative to traditional end-of-life options. Cremation, for example, is an energy-intense process that produces carbon dioxide emissions, while traditional burial uses chemicals to embalm bodies and a nonbiodegradable coffin to store them.

California will join Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Vermont in allowing human composting. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

U.S. beer shortage looms with gap in carbon dioxide supply – The supply chain crisis and an extinct volcano are spurring a new beer shortage.

  • “We’ve been running delivery to delivery for the past few weeks, and we are certainly concerned about the supply,” Aeronaut Brewing’s co-founder Ronn Friedlander told Axios Boston’s Mike Deehan.

Zoom in: A carbon dioxide production shortage caused by natural contamination at the Jackson Dome — a Mississippi reservoir of CO2 from an extinct volcano — is forcing brewers to cut back.

  • Brewers across the country are reporting production delays in getting beer to the market and drafting contingency plans to switch to nitrogen.
  • Nightshift Brewery outside Boston shut down a facility after being told their carbon dioxide supply was “cut for the foreseeable future, possibly more than a year.”
  • Others are paying 3-4x as much.

Zoom out: The carbon dioxide shortage is the newest threat to the beer industry’s rebound from the pandemic.

  • Beer makers — particularly small, independent craft brewers — are struggling with inflation and supply chain troubles.
  • “It’s become a struggle to keep the doors open,” one brewer recently told Bart Watson, an economist at the Colorado-based Brewers Association. Read More > at Axios

Lupus Patients Go Into Remission in ‘Spectacular’ Immunotherapy Trial – Five seriously ill lupus patients have seen their disease driven into remission after a single infusion of modified immune cells, in a small trial that borrows from cancer therapy to harness patients’ own cells to treat the autoimmune condition.

Scientists are calling the results “spectacular” and “incredibly exciting”, saying the findings may herald a new era of managing autoimmune diseases that, like cancer, are notoriously hard to treat.

Lupus is a lifelong condition that, at its worst, causes organ damage on top of disabling joint pain and affects around 1 in 1,000 people, mostly women of childbearing age.

Like many other autoimmune diseases, the root causes of lupus remain an unclear mix of genetic and environmental factors. Read More > at Science Alert

Twitter and Facebook and YouTube lose; the First Amendment wins – A federal appeals court just struck a massive victory for freedom of speech.

On Friday afternoon, in a brilliantly argued 90-page decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Texas law stopping the biggest social media companies from censoring their users.

The ruling will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, setting up a hugely important battle. If the high court confirms the Fifth Circuit’s view, companies like Twitter will mostly lose the power to censor their users for legal speech. If not, their censorship could become even more aggressive.

The social media companies have successfully argued in other cases that their own First Amendment rights allow them to clamp down on users with opinions they don’t like.

But Judges Andrew S. Oldham and Edith H. Jones rejected that view. They distinguished between the companies’ ability to say what they like, including commenting on users’ posts, and their right to censor.

The judges noted that the issue of discrimination based on political viewpoints is even larger than social media companies. The argument that social media giants have made could extend to other Internet companies and even banks. Read More > at Substack

‘Out of control’ STD situation prompts call for changes – Sharply rising cases of some sexually transmitted diseases — including a 26% rise in new syphilis infections reported last year — are prompting U.S. health officials to call for new prevention and treatment efforts.

“It is imperative that we … work to rebuild, innovate, and expand (STD) prevention in the U.S.,” said Dr. Leandro Mena of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a speech Monday at a medical conference on sexually transmitted diseases.

Infections rates for some STDs, including gonorrhea and syphilis, have been rising for years. Last year the rate of syphilis cases reached its highest since 1991 and the total number of cases hit its highest since 1948. HIV cases are also on the rise, up 16% last year.

The rate of cases has been rising, too, hitting about 16 per 100,000 people last year. That’s the highest in three decades.

Rates are highest in men who have sex with men, and among Black and Hispanic Americans and Native Americans. While the rate for women is lower than it is for men, officials noted that it’s has been rising more dramatically — up about 50% last year.

That ties to another problem — the rise in congenital syphilis, in which infected moms pass the disease on to their babies, potentially leading to death of the child or health problems like deafness and blindness. Annual congenital syphilis cases numbered only about 300 a decade ago; they surged to nearly 2,700 last year. Of last year’s tally, 211 were stillbirths or infant deaths, Mena said. Read More > at AP

Where Did Puerto Rico’s Disaster Relief Go? – Almost five years ago to the day, Hurricane Maria wrought catastrophic damage on Puerto Rico. Now another hurricane has caused an island-wide power outage, provoking new questions about the use of billions in federally-allocated disaster relief funds. 

One million households are without power in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona, then a Category 1 storm, made landfall on the island’s southwestern coast Sunday afternoon. These outages began even before the storm came ashore, with power lines coming down as the storm’s gusts reached the island. Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, has described the damage as “catastrophic” and many remain impacted by mudslides and widespread flooding after parts of the island received nearly 3 feet of rain. 

While officials have voiced confidence that electricity would be restored quickly, the blackout comes amid a wave of scrutiny: Billions of dollars were allocated by the federal government to rebuild Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and recovery efforts are projected to cost U.S. taxpayers another $50 billion, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates. But corruption by FEMA officials in Puerto Rico has slowed down progress dramatically. Back in 2019, FEMA’s deputy regional administrator in charge of Maria recovery was indicted as part of a $1.8 billion bribery scheme involving an Oklahoma-based electric company. Officials on the island were also indicted for allegedly steering $15 million in federal rebuilding contracts to preferred contractors. And the Jones Act shares some of the blame since its restrictions on shipping to U.S. territories like Puerto Rico drive up costs for imported products significantly and delay the arrival of necessary supplies during emergency situations. 

Congress has begun to ask questions about how exactly that money has been spent over the last five years. At a subcommittee hearing last Thursday of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, officials from the Government Accountability Office told lawmakers that 80 percent of the territorial government’s disaster relief spending has gone to emergency relief, such as removing debris, dwarfing investments in the island’s infrastructure. These experts also confirmed to lawmakers that only 19 percent of relief money allocated has been spent, forcing some lawmakers to ask when Puerto Rican officials plan on spending the remaining funds and moving forward on infrastructure improvements. Read More > at Reason

Scientists calculated the global population of ants: there are 20 quadrillion, or 2.5 million per person – An estimated 20 quadrillion ants roam the earth, scientists have estimated. 

The astonishing number — 20,000,000,000,000,000 — means there would be about 2.5 million ants per single human living today. 

To come up with the figure, scientists combed 489 published studies that surveyed the number of ants in a given environment.

It’s unclear whether this astronomical number has remained steady or has grown over time, Schultheiss told The Post. A 2019 study found that since the 1970s up to half of the world’s insects may have disappeared, Insider previously reported.

But when it comes to ants, “we have no idea,” Schultheiss said. 

With more than 12,500 known species, ants are present on almost every continent, according to Antmaps.org, a site that shows where ants have been spotted in the world.

An average ant colony can contain 250,000 individuals, Insider previously reported.

Ants are crucial in keeping our environments healthy, according to the website of the Harvard Forest.

Sally Pipes: What’s at fault for lower life expectancy? Health care has less influence than individual choices. – …Between 2020 and 2021, American life expectancy decreased 0.9 years. That follows a drop of 1.8 years in 2020.

But there are many factors that influence our longevity more than the health care system does. In fact, much of the decline in life expectancy has little to do with our health care system.

Life expectancy has gone down in most countries, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. In an Oxford University study of 29 well-off countries, 27 saw a fall in life expectancy in 2020.

But the coronavirus alone doesn’t fully explain the U.S. decline. New CDC research attributes it mostly to two factors, the pandemic as well as “unintentional injuries.”

Sixteen percent of the decline in life expectancy between 2020 and 2021 was a function of an increase in accidents and unintentional injuries.

The age-adjusted death rate for unintentional injuries increased nearly 17% between 2019 and 2020.

Fatal car crashes increased by 6.8% from 2019 to 2020, resulting in nearly 40,000 lives lost — the highest number since 2007, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Drugs are claiming more lives too. Drug overdose deaths from April 2020 to April 2021 reached 100,306 — a 28.5% increase from the prior period. In the 12 months ending March 2022, overdose deaths surpassed 109,000.

The increase in traffic and drug deaths is tragic. But even before 2020, Americans got into more traffic accidents and overdosed more often than people in other countries.

A 2016 CDC report concluded that the United States had the worst car-crash death rate among 20 affluent nations. And a 2018 study of 13 peer countries published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that the U.S. had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths.

Americans are also disproportionately likely to die from gun violence. The U.S. firearm homicide rate is more than eight times that of Canada — and 23 times Australia’s.

Individuals’ choices and behavior contribute to these higher death rates. The U.S. health care system does not have the power to stop people from abusing drugs, driving recklessly or shooting one another. Read More > in the Chicago Tribune

NTSB calls for all new vehicles to include alcohol monitoring tech – The National Transportation Safety Board is calling on its sister agency to implement regulation requiring all vehicles sold in the US to include blood alcohol monitoring systems. The NTSB sent the recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday after completing an investigation into a horrific collision last year that involved drunk driving and the death of two adults and seven children.

According to statistics published by the NHTSA, nearly 43,000 people died on US roads last year, marking the highest that number had been in 16 years. While traffic deaths fell slightly between April and June, Ann Carlson, the agency’s acting administrator, said a “crisis” was still underway on the country’s roads. 

The NTSB says all new cars sold in the US should include an integrated system that passively detects if the driver is under the influence of alcohol. It notes that such a system could be combined with advanced driver monitoring technologies to prevent accidents. Separately, the agency recommends that the NHTSA incentivize automakers to include tech that prevents speeding-related collisions. The NTSB does not have the authority to regulate or enforce any safety measures it suggests. It has been calling on the NHTSA to explore alcohol monitoring technologies since 2012. Read More > at Engadget

These planes are battery operated. Will that fly? – A handful of airlines, including United, Mesa and Air Canada have started putting orders in for a battery-operated aircraft called the Heart Aerospace ES-30. The Swedish-made four-propeller, battery-powered plane seats up to 30 people and could fly short-haul routes such as Palm Springs to Los Angeles or Denver to Aspen without emitting any carbon. It’s slated to be in the air by 2028.

Meanwhile, tiny single-passenger electric planes are also getting the green light to fly, with some used by militaries in Europe. Electric seaplanes are being tested and used in Canada. And analysts at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory are now projecting that hybrid electric 50- to 70-seater planes could be in service within a decade.

Electric planes could solve major headaches for airlines, manufacturers and industry experts say. They could help companies achieve promises to cut emissions and make shorter plane routes financially feasible by minimizing fuel and maintenance costs.

But major challenges remain, starting with battery technology, which needs to advance rapidly to make commercial travel viable. On top of that, the planes will need regulatory approvals, and airlines will need to convince passengers that flying thousands of feet in the air on battery power is safe, too. Read More > in The Washington Post

A new train tunnel across the Bay? Here are early maps – Since launching in early 2021, the Link21 project to create a new train tunnel across the Bay has offered grand plans but few specifics.

But now, that’s begun to change. This week, the project’s planners released the most detailed maps yet showing the possible route of the train tunnel — or tunnels, as the case may be.

At a meeting of the governing body of the Capitol Corridor, which is jointly planning the Link21 project alongside BART, planners unveiled two conceptual maps.

One shows BART and regional rail trains — like Capitol Corridor or Caltrain — traveling side by side in a shared alignment from Oakland and Alameda to the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco.

The other design shows two tunnels, one for BART trains and one for regional rail trains. The regional rail tunnel would travel directly from Oakland to the Salesforce Transit Center, while the BART tunnel would travel from Alameda to Mission Bay, before veering north to connect to the Market Street subway. Read More > in the San Francisco Examiner

SF, LA Top List of Cities People Are Moving Away From – A new report from real estate brokerage firm Redfin shows two California cities — San Francisco and Los Angeles — topping a nationwide list of places people are moving away from. One big reason? High mortgage rates, inflation, and other economic factors.

“More homebuyers left the Bay Area than any other metro in July and August. That’s determined by net outflow, a measure of how many more Redfin.com users looked to leave a metro than move in,” according to the website. 

“Next come Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C. and Boston, all expensive job centers highly populated by remote workers with the flexibility to relocate.”

The top relocation destination for San Franciscans was Sacramento. For Angelenos, it was San Diego. These cities ranked #2 and #3 respectively on Redfin’s list of the Top 10 Metros by Net Inflow. Read More > at California City News

Nightmares Are a Good Predictor of Future Dementia – We spend a third of our lives asleep. And a quarter of our time asleep is spent dreaming. So, for the average person alive in 2022, with a life expectancy of around 73, that clocks in at just over six years of dreaming.

Yet, given the central role that dreaming plays in our lives, we still know so little about why we dream, how the brain creates dreams, and importantly, what the significance of our dreams might be for our health – especially the health of our brains.

My latest study, published in The Lancet’s eClinicalMedicine journal, shows that our dreams can reveal a surprising amount of information about our brain health. More specifically, it shows that having frequent bad dreams and nightmares (bad dreams that make you wake up) during middle or older age, may be linked with an increased risk of developing dementia.

…I found that middle-aged participants who experienced nightmares every week, were four times more likely to experience cognitive decline (a precursor to dementia) over the following decade, while the older participants were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

Interestingly, the connection between nightmares and future dementia was much stronger for men than for women. For example, older men who had nightmares every week were five times more likely to develop dementia compared with older men reporting no bad dreams. In women, however, the increase in risk was only 41%. I found a very similar pattern in the middle-aged group. Read More > at Real Clear Science

Implant may reduce OCD symptoms with electrical pulses – When traditional treatments fail to help patients with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), an implant that zaps the brain with electrical pulses just might, a new research review shows.

It found that the remedy — known as “deep brain stimulation,” or DBS — can offer significant relief to as many as two-thirds of such patients. On average, it can reduce OCD-triggered symptoms by nearly half, the review found.

“[OCD involves] intrusive and bothersome thoughts that the individual cannot silence, and compulsions that are repetitive, ritualistic behaviors performed to reduce the anxiety produced by the compulsions,” said study author Dr. Sameer Sheth. He is an associate professor of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

An estimated 3% of the global population is thought to be affected. For those with severe OCD that is uncontrolled, the symptoms can be “all-consuming,” Sheth said. Examples of OCD include repeated handwashing, ordering and arranging, repeating words in one’s head, and checking and double-checking. Read More > at UPI

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Delta Conveyance Project Draft EIR Comment Period Extended to December 16

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Delta Conveyance Project was released for public review and comment on July 27, 2022. Today, the Department of Water resources (DWR) is announcing the comment period has been extended, by request. The new end date for the comment period is Friday, December 16, 2022.

There are several ways to submit public comment on the Delta Conveyance Project Draft EIR, including by:

  • Email: deltaconveyancecomments@water.ca.gov  
  • Online: Comment Form
  • U.S. Mail: CA Department of Water Resources, Attn: Delta Conveyance Office, P.O. Box 942836, Sacramento, CA 94236-0001
  • Verbally at a Virtual Public Hearing: Wednesday, September 28, 2022 | 5:30pm – 7:30pm. Additional information here.

Where to Access the Draft EIR

  • Review Onlinewww.deltaconveyanceproject.com
  • Review In-Person: A digital copy of the Draft EIR is available at the following locations:
    • DWR Office: 3500 Industrial Blvd., Room 117, West Sacramento, CA 95691 
    • Libraries: A full list of libraries across the state where the public can access the Draft EIR can be found here

Additional Information and Resources

To help access, navigate and review the Draft EIR, DWR has prepared several accompanying informational resources on the specifics of the proposed project, and the Draft EIR and public review process, including tips for how to make effective comments:

About the Draft EIR

About the Delta Conveyance Project

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Oakley – Hometown Halloween Decorating Contest

Residents are invited to enter their own festive house by October 19th. Bring out the spider webs, goblins, and ghouls to decorate your house. Decorations installed by a professional service will not be eligible. The contest is open to any home within the City of Oakley limits. Limited to the exterior front yard and roof only. Entries will be posted online for the public to vote on.

Entry Deadline: October 19th, Winner Announced: October 28th

Click here to enter

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Oakley Library Hosts Teokalli Traditional Aztec/Mexica Dancers

Tuesday, September 27th at 6:30pm at the Oakley Library

Teokalli (meaning “House of Creation” in the Nahatl language), showcase ancient dances and music of Mexican origin. Celebrate Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month with this colorful, dynamic, and educational in-person performance.

Funding for this project has been provided by/contributed by the City of Oakley. Support for this project has been provided by the Friends of the Oakley Library.

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How to help your child manage their online reputation

from Malwarebytes

Posted: September 14, 2022 by Jovi Umawing

Whether your child has been socially active online for a while now or you just handed your young one their first ever smartphone, now is an excellent time to think about managing their online reputation.

The concept may sound overwhelming, but doing it is easy. Since you’re no doubt talking to your kids about how to keep themselves safe online, you might as well open up about online reputations and how to create or maintain a positive one.

What’s an online reputation?

An online reputation is a culmination of what you post online about yourself and what other people post about you. Essentially, it’s your child’s online presence seen from the point-of-view of other people. Your child must understand what they should and shouldn’t be sharing online, publicly on social media, or privately in chat.

It’s equally crucial for your child to understand that what they do online can adversely affect others and themselves offline.

Why should your child manage their online reputation?

In principle, managing a personal online reputation is similar to how businesses manage theirs. Business owners know the value of having a good reputation online—it opens up excellent business opportunities, and increases trust and loyalty of the brand.

A positive reputation is important to individuals, too. Otherwise, people miss out on job opportunities they like or may not get admitted to good schools, among others. The first scenario is particularly true since employers often check applicants’ social accounts to get a glimpse of who they are as part of the hiring process.

Online reputation management 101

Here are some lines of conversation you can use to help kids learn about managing their online reputation:

Think before you post

A pre-teen or a teen may already know about this, but it’s essential to keep driving this home. Once something is on the internet, it can’t be fully taken back, even if it’s deleted. If in doubt, don’t post it.

There’s a story of one Twitter user who got accepted at the most coveted NASA internship. But because a tweet contained vulgar language and “NASA” was hashtagged, a former NASA engineer saw the tweet and commented on the language this user used. NASA eventually canceled the internship.

Private things should stay private, but sometimes they don’t

While one should be careful about what they post online in public, your kid should also know what not to post or share in private. 

Stress that just because they post something privately doesn’t mean it’ll remain private. Secrets get passed on, accounts get hacked, and online repositories get breached, leaking sensitive data. It’s best not to share something you don’t want millions of internet users to see.

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters, an organization that aims to teach parents on how to keep their children safe online, says it best: “A good general rule when it comes to content is the T-shirt test—if you wouldn’t wear it on a T-shirt, then don’t post it online.”

Err on the side of caution. We’ve heard countless stories of inappropriate images being passed around because someone decided to trust their partner with their sensitive photos.

Be positive with how you conduct yourself online

Agree with your child that, to the best of their abilities, they will:

  • Be respectful of others.
  • Be kind and helpful.
  • Stick to the rules.

We teach our kids these rules when navigating the real world, and the same rules should apply online.

This is also an excellent opportunity to talk to them about the many personas they might encounter online. The most notable are the bully, the troll, and the groomer. 

Tell them to block a user and report them to the site they’re on if they see any bullyingtrolling, and grooming behavior. And it’s not just social media, blocking and reporting should apply to video gaming communities with which your child is associated as well.

Search yourself

It’s safe to assume that everyone who uses the internet has entered their name into a search engine at least once.

Searching your child’s name is a good way to check what people have said about them across multiple social media posts. You can also search for their email address, account usernames, and phone numbers to see if these have made their way into some corner of the internet. And make this a regular thing.

If, say, an email address ends up in a list of leaked data that you or your child is not aware of, you now know they need to change their password and (perhaps begrudgingly) enable two-factor authentication (2FA).

Let’s make it right

We all make mistakes, and we often believe such mistakes will continue to haunt our online lives. Because the internet never forgets—or at least that’s what the adage says.

To a degree, that is true, as some organizations keep data about all of us, not giving us a deadline for deletion. Many internet users can now appeal to “higher powers” to be forgotten. There’s a lot of reading and understanding involved in this subject, so ensure you and your child understand their rights and how they can submit a request.

Your child’s past shouldn’t define their future. People eventually grow up. Their thoughts and feelings about certain things change—often for the better. So if there is anything online that shows incriminating content about or from your child, make it right together by filing for takedowns. 

Final thoughts

Every internet user has a sort of brand reputation, whether or not they are aware of this. The sooner you tell your kids about online reputation and the importance of having and maintaining a good one, the better they will be at leaving positive digital footprints online early on.

More than words, parents and guardians should also model the behavior. Thankfully, it’s never too late to start.

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2022’s Best & Worst States for Teachers – WalletHub Study

With World Teachers’ Day around the corner but teachers making an average of $2,150 less per year than they did 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst States for Teachers, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

In order to help educators find the best opportunities and teaching environments in the U.S., WalletHub analyzed the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 24 key metrics, ranging from teachers’ income growth potential to the pupil-teacher ratio to whether the state has a digital learning plan.

Teacher-Friendliness of California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 38th – Avg. Starting Salary for Teachers (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 11th – Avg. Salary for Teachers (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 40th – Quality of School System
  • 50th – Pupil-Teacher Ratio
  • 18th – Public-School Spending per Student
  • 9th – Teachers’ Income Growth Potential
  • 17th – Projected Competition in Year 2028
  • 4th – 10-Year Change in Teacher Salaries
  • 1st – Existence of Digital Learning Plan

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159

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BART to bring free outdoor music series to stations in September and October

The sounds of rock, Latin music, and more will bring joy to BART riders in the months of September and October as the latest “welcome back” gesture by the agency to encourage riders to return to transit and reinforce the role public transit plays in fueling the Bay Area’s economy and culture.

BART is relaunching its Sound Tracks Music Program, which debuted last year, with a diverse lineup of local musicians in September and October:

  • Wednesday, September 21
  • Wednesday, September 28
    • 5-6:30pm
    • El Cerrito del Norte Station
    • Performer: Patrón Latin Rhythms
  • Friday, October 7 with Litquake

The bands will play acoustic sets in outdoor free plaza areas near or on BART property. All are invited to attend, and attendees may bring chairs to enjoy the show. The Oct. 7performance will feature readings by finalists from BART Lines, the agency’s first short story contest, in partnership with the Bay Area literary festival Litquake.

The free music performance series follows BART’s 50% discount in September as well as its 50th Anniversary Celebration and Family Fun Festival on Sept. 10, which was attended by thousands. The outdoor series will help riders and neighbors make the most of the weather while supporting local artist during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The free music series is a collaboration between BART’s Office of External Affairs and BART’s Art Program to bring live performances to BART stations and to celebrate culture and the communities we serve.

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Sunday Reading – 09/18/2022

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Americans Spent More on Taxes Last Year Than on Food, Health Care, Education, and Clothing Combined – New consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides some sobering perspective on how much Americans are paying in taxes. The data covers consumer spending across a wide variety of categories in 2021. Overall, taxes accounted for about 25 percent of average consumer spending.

The BLS measures spending per “consumer unit,” which it describes as “either (1) all members of a particular household who are related by blood, marriage, adoption or other legal arrangements; (2) persons living alone or sharing a household with others or living as a roomer in a private home or lodging house or in a permanent living quarters in a hotel or motel, but who is financially independent; or (3) two or more person living together who use their income to make joint expenditure decisions.”

On average, each “consumer unit” paid more than $16,000 in taxes last year. This outpaces average spending on food, clothing, education, and health care combined.

The mean for total spending per unit on health care, food, education, and clothing was $16,721.42. This included an average of $8,289.28 on food, $5,451.61 on health care, $1,226.14 on education, and $1,754.39 on apparel.

The mean for total spending per unit on taxes was $16,729.73. This included $8,561.46 in federal income tax, $2,564.14 in state and local income taxes, $2,475.18 in property taxes, $5,565.45 in Social Security deductions, and $105.21 in other taxes, offset by an average stimulus payment of $2,541.71. Read More > at Reason

Is Biden facing a winter of discontent? US braces for crisis as rail workers plot strike costing $2 BILLION a day, 15,000 nurses walkout in Minnesota and West Coast ports could shutdown amid contracts dispute – America is bracing for chaos as tens of thousands of railway, port, and hospital workers look set to strike over the winter – plunging the country into further disruption.

As many as 60,000 railway workers, 15,000 nurses, and 22,000 West Coast port workers are plotting mass walkouts as they seek better working conditions.

Several US freight railroads said they were preparing for widespread strike and service interruptions Friday, a deadline set by two holdout labor groups in protracted talks with railroad carriers about better benefits.

The burgeoning strike would cause mass interruptions to the nation’s expansive rail system, which are used to ferry goods shipped and flown in overseas across the country, and would costs carriers roughly $2 billion a day.

The holdout from workers that transport these products – who on average earn at least $64,300 a year – already disrupted the nation’s passenger rail Monday, rattling commutes and cross-country travel for thousands of Americans in preparation for the walkouts.

Compounding the crisis are burgeoning protests from tens of thousands of workers at America’s hospitals, as more than 15,000 nurses in Minnesota staged statewide walkouts over low pay and staffing shortages. Registered nurses in the state currently make an average of $84,030 each year.

Also on the edge are the country’s more than 22,000 West Coast port workers, who man the highly trafficked twin hubs of Los Angeles and Long Beach. They are also seeking better working conditions, amid staffing issues and overwork that has become commonplace during the pandemic – despite LA workers earning six-figure salaries. Read More > at the Daily Mail

The fall of Los Angeles – For much of the 20th century, Los Angeles symbolised the future. Over the course of the century, the population grew 40-fold to nearly four million people.

But now, for the first time in its history, the population of Los Angeles is in decline, falling by 204,000 between July 2020 and July 2021. LA was once a magnet for investors. But recently many of the area’s corporate linchpins – including aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum and Hilton Hotels – have left, taking with them high-paying jobs and philanthropic resources.

Worse still, conditions in LA today are bordering on the medieval. Anyone visiting some of the most famous districts of urban Los Angeles – notably downtown, Hollywood and Venice Beach – sees clear signs of destitution, including sprawling homeless encampments, vast numbers of people living in vehicles and rampant crime. Last year, a UN official compared conditions on LA’s Skid Row, a poor downtown neighbourhood, to those of Syrian refugee camps. Smash-and-grab thefts at local 7-Elevens and the persistent theft of goods from railyards suggest this is a city that has lost control to the modern version of lawless highwaymen.

So-called progressives have long dreamed of transforming the famously sprawled Los Angeles into a dense, transit-oriented, sun-kissed version of New York. But despite massive corporate and government investment, attempts to do this have failed. Rather than a vibrant hipster paradise, LA’s urban core is dominated by the homeless, the poor, government workers and a few creative types – making for an odd juxtaposition of homeless camps and low-rent hotels alongside high-end restaurants and artists’ lofts. Meanwhile, newly built luxury apartments have suffered vacancy rates as high as 14 per cent – remarkable in a city so short of housing. Read More > at Spiked

Here’s California Flooring It to the ‘Clean’ Energy Future … With Its Transmission Slipping Badly – California’s precariously out-of-date hybrid power grid can’t handle the state’s growing amounts of solar and wind energy coming online, with system managers already forcing repeated cutbacks in renewables and a continued reliance on conventional energy to keep the grid stable, according to state data.

The shortcomings of the transmission grid, which energy consultants in this bellwether state have warned about for years, raise the prospect that marquee products of the growing battery economy such as electric vehicles – “emission free” on the road – will be recharged mainly from traditional electricity-generating power plants: energy from fossil fuels, some of it from out of state.

Writ large, the transmission problem threatens the zero-carbon future envisioned by green advocates nationwide. “We’re headed toward duplicate systems whose only benefit is to permit the occasional use of ‘clean power,’” said Grant Ellis, an independent electrical engineering consultant in Texas.

California, along with the rest of the desert Southwest, is adding solar and wind installations at a rapid pace. The state is projected to add four gigawatts of utility-scale solar energy this year alone, enough to power 2.8 million homes. The question is whether that’s going to be enough.

So-called “curtailments” of renewable power have become much more frequent for the state’s blackout-prone power grid because the state hasn’t constructed enough transmission lines, transformers, poles, and other infrastructure to keep up. The amount of renewable energy curtailed in California tripled between 2018 and 2021, according to operator statistics. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

The biggest bet yet – If you thought the 2020 proposition campaigns were a budget-busting doozy — dominated as they were by a the $200 million in spending from Uber, Lyft and Doordash — the 2022 version is shaping up to be even doozier. 

First, take the two competing sports betting measures:

  • The campaign backing Prop. 26, which would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and horse racing tracks, has now raised $107 million while the “No” campaign has scrounged together $42 million.
  • The backers of Prop. 27, which would green-light online sports betting anywhere in the state, have raked in $173 million, while its opponents have raised $150 million.

Doing some quick arithmetic, that works out to nearly half a billion dollars for two props. For perspective, that’s more than than all the money raised on both sides of every proposition on the ballot in 2018 or 2016 or 2014 or…

And there are still 56 days before Election Day.

Not that money necessarily buys you love. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board came out with a double-barreled non-endorsement, urging its readers to vote “no” on both the measures, which it called “foolish” and motivated by naked greed. Read More > at CalMatters

Why Wine Country is no longer ‘for regular people,’ according to some Bay Area residents – Priced out. Astronomical tasting fees. Rip-off. 

These were some of the sentiments shared by Bay Area residents after The Chronicle reported last week that it has been an unusually slow summer in Wine Country. Would-be Wine Country travelers took to social media — and emails and comments to The Chronicle — over their frustrations and hesitation to visit the Bay Area’s most popular wine destinations: Napa and Sonoma

Many reminisced about “the good old days” when tastings were free or $20 and suggested alternative wine regions that are more affordable, such as Livermore and Amador County. 

Wineries have reported raising tasting fees to offset higher costs of labor and production due to the pandemic, supply-chain issues and inflation. A new report released this week from winery analysis company Community Benchmark revealed additional data that visitation has dropped across 400 West Coast wineries in May, June and July compared to 2021 and 2019. 

The resurgence of international travel, plus inflation and rising gas and airfare costs are all factors that could have impacted tourism this summer. But tasting fee increases and the recent switch to a reservation-only model seem to be among the biggest deterrents in future Wine Country trips for Bay Area residents.  Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Inflation: Consumer prices rise 8.3% over last year in August, tanking stocks and clinching rate hikes – Inflation rose more than expected in August even as prices moderated from four-decade highs reached earlier this year.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in August reflected an 8.3% increase over last year and a 0.1% increase over the prior month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday. Economists had expected prices to rise 8.1% over last year and fall 0.1% over last month, according to estimates from Bloomberg.

On a “core” basis, which strips out the volatile food and energy components of the report, prices rose 6.3% over last year and 0.6% over the prior month in August.

Expectations were for a 6.1% annual increase and 0.3% monthly increase in core CPI. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance

This should be the absolute peak of hurricane season—but it’s dead quiet out there – To state the obvious: This has been an unorthodox Atlantic hurricane season.

Everyone from the US agency devoted to studying weather, oceans, and the atmosphere—the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration—to the most highly regarded hurricane professionals predicted a season with above-normal to well above-normal activity.

For example, NOAA’s outlook for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, predicted a 65 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. The primary factor behind these predictions was an expectation that La Niña would persist in the Pacific Ocean, leading to atmospheric conditions in the tropical Atlantic more favorable to storm formation and intensification. La Niña has persisted, but the storms still have not come in bunches.

To date the Atlantic has had five named storms, which is not all that far off “normal” activity, as measured by climatological averages from 1991 to 2020. Normally, by now, the Atlantic would have recorded eight tropical storms and hurricanes that were given names by the National Hurricane Center.

The disparity is more significant when we look at a metric for the duration and intensity of storms, known as Accumulated Cyclone Energy. By this more telling measurement, the 2022 season has a value of 29.6, which is less than half of the normal value through Saturday, 60.3. Read More > at ars Technica

How fed up are San Franciscans with the city’s problems? New S.F. Chronicle poll finds pervasive gloom – San Francisco has long seen skirmishes between factions of its overwhelmingly Democratic electorate, but fissures are widening, positions are hardening and the public sees little hope of fixing the chronic problems that have plagued the city for decades, according to one of the most comprehensive surveys of city residents ever done.

Even as San Francisco gradually recovers from the crushing blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of respondents expressed deep worry, frustration and continued pessimism about civic life in the city, The Chronicle’s SF Next poll of 1,653 residents found.

The result is a city that has already ejected from office its district attorney and three school board members. Unhappiness with law enforcement has led to rallies by Asian Americans protesting violence against their elders and a lack of police protection and prosecutions. Frustration over homelessness and its impact on street life in the Castro district led to a threat by the neighborhood’s merchants’ association to withhold business taxes.

Roughly one-third of the respondents said they were likely to leave within the next three years. A large majority, 65%, said that life in the city is worse than when they first moved here. Less than one-quarter of respondents said they expected life in San Francisco to improve in two years. More than one-third said it would worsen. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Mortgage demand from homebuyers falls 29% since last year, as interest rates surge past 6% – Mortgage demand appears to have nowhere to go but down, as interest rates go up.

Application volume dropped 1.2% last week compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. The week’s results include an adjustment for the observance of Labor Day. Since last year, homebuyers’ demand for mortgages has fallen by nearly a third.

Mortgage rates, which had been easing slightly through July and August, pushed higher yet again, after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell made it clear to investors that the central bank would stay tough on inflation, even if it caused consumers some pain.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) increased to 6.01% from 5.94%, with points decreasing to 0.76 from 0.79 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment. Read More > at CNBC

Study: Cannabis use during pregnancy may harm child’s long-term mental health – Offering a cautionary tale to pregnant individuals who think smoking a joint is no big deal, new research links prenatal cannabis exposure to social, emotional and behavioral problems in offspring that may persist into early adolescence: ages 11 to 12.

Researchers analyzed roughly a dozen measures, ranging from rule-breaking to aggression, a “sluggish cognitive tempo” and “psychotic-like experiences.”

In a research letter published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, the investigators said the affected children also may face a greater risk of “psychiatric disorders and problematic substance use” as they enter the peak period of vulnerability in later adolescence.

For the study, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis analyzed data from the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study of 12,000 youth, the largest long-term study of brain development and children’s health in the United States. Read More > at UPI

Could Beavers Save California from Climate Change? – California beavers have long been reviled for their ability to destroy farmland. But a crushing heat wave and lingering drought have led scientists to take a second look.

“Beaver dams improve water quality and control water downstream, repair eroded channels, reconnect streams to their floodplains, and the ponds and flooded areas create habitat for many plants and animals,” according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). “It might be odd, but beavers are an untapped, creative climate-solving hero that helps prevent the loss of biodiversity facing California.”  

DFW is now looking to hire personnel for its new Beaver restoration unit. The head of the unit will help update state beaver policies and propose “nature-based restoration solutions” including the development of artificial beaver dams. The goal is to help beavers help us, since they’re increasingly seen as warriors against the effects of climate change.

For this project, DFW has a budget of at least $3 million over the next two years. It will eventually hire five new people to oversee the restoration program.

Beavers are a native California species. They have historically been found along the coast throughout the Central Valley, Colorado River basin, and into the Sierra Nevada and Cascades mountain ranges. Read More > at California County News

A daily multivitamin could keep your memory sharp as you age – Taking a daily multivitamin and mineral tablet may slow the gradual cognitive decline that happens naturally as we get older.

At the end of a three-year trial, people who had taken a commercially available multivitamin-mineral supplement had a cognitive age that was 1.8 years younger than those who took a placebo.

“It’s an eye opener,” says Laura Baker at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The benefits of taking multivitamin pills have been debated among doctors. They were once widely recommended as an “insurance policy” for people with poor diets, based on studies that found those who take them tend to have better health.

But these studies weren’t randomised, placebo-controlled trials – the best kind of medical evidence – and when such trials were done, they found no benefit from taking supplements for most healthy people. It seemed the earlier results arose because vitamin tablets are more popular with people who look after their health in many other ways.

The latest research is a randomised trial in nearly 2300 US people aged between 65 and 100 years old. Read More > at the New Scientist

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It’s Constitution Day

Constitution Day, is an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. It is normally observed on September 17, the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America….

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East Bay Regional Park District – Its Calving Season

August to October is calving season in Regional Parks. Be mindful that human interaction can create danger to both calves and people. Here are some tips to keep calves and people safe. 

• Admire calves from a distance. Do not approach, touch, or take selfies with calves. • Do not get between a mother cow and its calf. 

• Do not worry if you see a calf by itself. The mother cow is usually nearby and will return. 

• Leash up your dog around cattle and keep it away from any calves. 

If you believe a calf is in distress, injured, or sick, please report it to park staff at (510) 881-1833.

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Heart of Oakley Festival – Saturday, September 24th

Mark your calendars! The Heart of Oakley Festival returns Saturday, September 24th at Oakley Civic Center Plaza from 11am-5pm.

This family friendly event includes:

  • Live music
  • Artisan makers
  • Food trucks
  • Beer, wine and more!

For more information visit the link in our bio and follow @OakleyRecreation on Instagram for vendor highlights. 

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