California Job Growth Continues Slowdown

From Beacon Economics

The latest data release from the California Employment Development Department shows the labor market slowdown continuing, according to an analysis released jointly by Beacon Economics and the UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. The state shed 1,400 jobs in June, the latest numbers available.

In addition, at this point in 2016, California had added 159,900 jobs compared to just 65,400 jobs so far this year. The state’s employers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract candidates to fill skilled positions and high housing costs in many parts of the state are making it increasingly difficult to fill lower-wage positions.

“There are proximate reasons for the slowing of the labor market—retail shedding jobs, slowing tech investment, a movie industry that is taking a breather—but there are always proximate reasons,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics and Director of the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. “The ultimate issue is not labor demand—broad measures of the California economy still show robust expansion. The problem is labor supply. The lack of housing has caused the state’s labor supply become anemic over the last few years and now that labor markets are at full employment there simply isn’t the slack left to allow for stronger growth rates.”

Key Findings:

  • Looking at the sum of state’s metropolitan areas paints a brighter picture, with roughly 19,100 jobs added in June by this metric. This is largely a result of the historically noisy figures in the summer and problems with the seasonal adjustment process. So far this year, the sum of the state’s metropolitan areas have added up to 66,700 jobs, compared to 160,100 at this time in 2016. Payrolls at private establishments in the state also paint a brighter picture, increasing by 7,400 positions during the month.
  • Despite the slowdown, gains in the Golden State remain near national levels. From June 2016 to June 2017, year-over-year job gains in California stand at 1.6%, matching the 1.6% growth rate in the nation overall.
  • The state’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.7% in June. Additionally, with year-over-year gains in payrolls continuing to outshine growth in the state’s labor force (+0.3%), there is further indication that the recent slowdown is being driven by a lack of supply of workers, not a lack of demand by employers.
  • Administrative Support led all industry sectors in the latest numbers, adding 11,000 positions in June. The strong month-to-month gains helped push year-over-year gains into positive territory in June (0.8%).
  • The Construction sector also had a strong month, adding 8,100 payroll positions in the latest numbers. With a lack of available inventory and strong demand for residential real estate throughout the state, the Construction sector should continue to see growth over the next year.
  • The Transportation, Warehouse, and Utilities sector also contributed to statewide growth, adding 3,800 payroll position in June. With e-commerce becoming the go-to for many shoppers, logistics related employment should continue to see steady gains in the coming years, while traditional brick-and-mortar stores will need to adapt.
  • The Government sector saw the steepest declines this month, shedding 8,800 payroll positions. The driving force behind this decline was Local Government, which shed 11,100 payroll positions. This was primarily a result of a larger than usual month-to-month drop for public schools. From 2011 to 2015 the average drop during the month was 20,200, compared to 31,400 in 2016 and 32,000 in 2017. Despite this one-month dip, growth remains positive for the year for Government overall (1.4%) and for Local Government (1.5%).
  • The Information sector (-8,100 jobs) and the Manufacturing sector (-5,000 jobs) also shed jobs in June. The weak month helped drive year-over-year growth into negative territory for both these sectors. Other sectors posting sizable declines during the month were Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (-3,000 jobs), Wholesale Trade (-2,000), and Retail Trade (-2,000).
  • Regionally, the state’s metropolitan areas added roughly 19,100 jobs in June. In the San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco (MD) (+4,900), San Jose (+2,600), and the East Bay (+1,900) added significantly to payrolls. In Southern California, Orange County (+3,600), Los Angeles (MD) (+2,900), and Ventura (+2,100) expanded payrolls. In the Central Valley, Sacramento (+1,900), Fresno (+800), and Merced (+800) added significantly to payrolls. In percentage terms, Merced (+1.2%) posted the largest month-to-month payrolls gains and Hanford (-0.8%) posted the steepest declines.
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Water wasted to the sea?

From – California Water Blog

 

If we farmed the Central Valley or managed water supplies for San Francisco, San Jose or Los Angeles, we might think that fresh water flowing from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers through the Delta to San Francisco Bay is “wasted” because it ends up in the Pacific Ocean as an unused resource. However, different perspectives emerge as we follow the downstream movement of river water through the Delta and into San Francisco Bay.

If we were Delta farmers or administered Contra Costa County’s water supply, we would value river water flowing through the Delta because it repels salt intrusion (Jassby et al. 1995) and protects water quality for drinking, growing crops and meeting other customer needs.

If we were responsible for protecting at-risk species, we would value river water flowing through the Delta to the Bay and ocean because it stimulates migration and spawning of native salmon, delta smelt, longfin smelt, and splittail while reducing the potential for colonization and spread of non-native fish (Brown et al. 2016). River flow reduces toxic selenium concentrations in clams eaten by sturgeon, splittail, and diving ducks (Stewart et al. 2013), and it delivers plankton and detritus to fuel production in downstream food webs (Sobczak et al. 2002).

If we managed a Bay Area storm water district or sewage treatment plant, we would value water flowing from the Delta into the Bay because it dilutes and flushes such urban contaminants as metals, microplastics, and nutrients (McCulloch et al. 1970).

If we directed restoration projects around the Bay, we would value water flowing from the Delta into the Bay because it brings sediments required to sustain marshes that otherwise would be lost to subsidence and sea level rise (Stralberg et al. 2011; Schoellhamer et al. 2016). Sediment input from rivers also sustains mudflats (Jaffe et al. 2007) used as habitat and probed for food by more than a million willets, sandpipers, dunlins and other shorebirds during spring migration (Stenzel et al. 2002).

If we fished the Pacific for a living, we would value river flow into the Bay because it carries cues used by adult salmon to find their home streams and spawn (Dittman and Quinn 1996), it brings young salmon to the sea where they grow and mature, and it creates bottom currents that carry young English sole, California halibut and Dungeness crabs into the Bay (Raimonet and Cloern 2016) where they feed and grow before returning to the ocean.

If we liked to romp along the shore or served on the California Coastal Commission we would value rivers flowing to sea because they supply the sand that keeps California’s beaches from eroding away (Barnard et al. 2017).

Finally, if we were among those who want to conserve California’s landscape and biological diversity, we would value river water flowing to the sea because it creates one of the nation’s iconic estuaries and sustains plant and animal communities found only where seawater and fresh water mix (Cloern et al. 2016).

Is the fresh river water that naturally flows through the Delta to San Francisco Bay and on to the Pacific Ocean “wasted”? No. The seaward flow of fresh water is essential to farmers, fishers, conservationists, seashore lovers, and government agencies that manage drinking water supplies, restore wetlands, protect coastlines, and clean up sewage and storm pollution. Wasted water to some is essential water to others.

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Message from Oakley Police Chief Thorsen 4th of July- A Look Back

I’ve been your Chief of Police for several July 4th holidays. My first year, 2005, I was taken off guard by the amount of illegal firework activity that occurred. Over the ensuing years, we employed several different strategies in response to the July 4th holiday. From zero tolerance, to a hands off approach, and everything in between.

For the most part, our past efforts were unsuccessful at curbing the illegal activity. This past year, we tried a new strategy. Many of you provided information on specific locations where firework activity occurred in past years. In advance of the July 4th holiday, our officers visited many of those locations. Others received letters asking them to forgo their fireworks this year.

In addition to the Police Department, our Code Enforcement team was out assuring weeds and other hazards were abated prior to the holiday. The City provided yard signs reminding residents that fireworks have an adverse effect on some veterans and pets.

On July 4th, we had extra staff patrolling the streets. They focused their efforts on those who had been previously warned and those who were “the worst of the worst” with respect to the size and amount of fireworks.

Over the course of a three hour period, our officers responded to several hundred fireworks related calls. They seized a large quantity of illegal fireworks and issued several citations. If found guilty, the recipients of those citations will be looking at fines in the neighborhood of $1,000.

The reports have been mixed, depending on what area of the City you live in. Some residents reported the firework activity was the same as last year. Other neighborhoods reported a reduction in activity. Most importantly, the fire department reported no firework related fires or injuries in Oakley. This is an improvement over last year.

For those who curtailed your activity this year, on behalf of the City of Oakley, the Police Department and your community, THANK YOU! We will continue our efforts in this area.

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Sunday Reading – 07/23/17

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.

As California’s labor shortage grows, farmers race to replace workers with robots – …That’s because immigrant farmworkers in California’s agricultural heartlands are getting older and not being replaced. After decades of crackdowns, the net flow across the U.S.-Mexico border reversed in 2005, a trend that has accelerated through 2014, according to a Pew Research Center study. And native-born Americans aren’t interested in the job, even at wages that have soared at higher than average rates.

Stated bluntly, there aren’t enough new immigrants for the state’s nearly half-million farm labor jobs — especially as Mexico creates competing manufacturing jobs in its own cities, Taylor said. He has calculated that the pool of potential immigrants from rural Mexico shrinks every year by about 150,000 people.

…Response has been uneven, at best. Vast areas of the Central Valley have switched from labor intensive crops such as grapes or vegetables to almonds, which are mechanically shaken from the tree. The high-value wine grape industry has re-engineered the bulk of its vineyards to allow machines to span the vines like a monorail and strip them of grape clusters or leaves.

Fresno’s raisin industry, however, has a tougher problem to solve on a tighter profit margin. To fully mechanize, it may have to change not just its vineyard design, but the grape variety itself, much like the tomato industry developed a tough skinned Roma to withstand mechanical harvesters.

When labor shortages and price shocks hit in the early 2000s, growers altered vineyards so that machines could shake partially withered Thompson seedless grapes onto paper trays, a method that can slash more than 80% of labor costs, according to U.C. Davis researchers. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Grade Inflation is Worse Than We Thought – American high schools are giving out higher and higher grades even as real academic ability stagnates. USA Today reports:

Recent findings show that the proportion of high school seniors graduating with an A average — that includes an A-minus or A-plus — has grown sharply over the past generation, even as average SAT scores have fallen.

In 1998, it was 38.9%. By last year, it had grown to 47%.

That’s right: Nearly half of America’s Class of 2016 are A students. Meanwhile, their average SAT score fell from 1,026 to 1,002 on a 1,600-point scale — suggesting that those A’s on report cards might be fool’s gold.

The erosion of intellectual standards is worse at the elite level: “the upward creep is most pronounced in schools with large numbers of white, wealthy students. And its especially noticeable in private schools, where the rate of inflation was about three times higher than in public schools.” This is probably explained at least partly by the attitudes of overbearing parents whose children are in the Ivy League rat race: Giving out anything less than an A is likely to lead to email protestations and parent-teacher conferences with mom and dad.

It’s also significant that even as high school grades become less and less meaningful, pressure is building in the educational establishment to de-emphasize or dumb down alternate measures of achievement, like the SAT, which are supposedly unfair to the poor and disadvantaged, and class rankings, which create too much rancor and competition. In the long run, though, this will only help boost the fortunes of elite students even further: Without a strong objective component in the college admissions process, quickly-inflating GPAs will help rich students roll their competitors from below. Read More > at The American Interest

As Workouts Intensify, a Harmful Side Effect Grows More Common – …Rhabdo, as many experts call it, has long been documented among soldiers, firefighters and others whose professions can be physically demanding. An Army study in 2012 estimated that about 400 cases of the condition are diagnosed among active-duty soldiers each year. On occasion there have also been large clusters of college athletes hospitalized with it after particularly grueling workouts.

But doctors say they are now seeing more of it among weekend warriors driven in part by the popularity of high-intensity workouts. Spinning in particular has gained a huge following; large chains like FlyWheel, SoulCycle and others report millions of rides and tens of millions in annual sales. Studies show that high-intensity exercise offers myriad health benefits, but for a small subset of people, many of them beginners, rhabdo can crop up and quickly turn ugly.

…But in general it occurs when people simply do not give their muscles time to adjust to an aggressive new exercise, experts say. A little damage to muscles is a good thing because that stimulates them to grow and adapt to stress. But when the stress is too great, fibers are destroyed. When that happens they break apart and release compounds that can be harmful to the liver, such as a protein called myoglobin, which causes brown or tea-colored urine, a classic symptom of rhabdo.

While almost any intense activity can cause rhabdo, it almost always strikes people who are doing something new. That is why people should always progress from light to moderate and then vigorous intensity when doing a new exercise, said Eric Rawson, chair of the department of health, nutrition and exercise science at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. Read More > in The New York Times

Self-Driving Taxis Could Have a Vomit Problem – It didn’t take long for Pritam Singh to learn a key lesson about working for Lyft. People are disgusting. They have a nasty habit of throwing up in moving vehicles.

Rideshare drivers are acutely aware that customers tend to do that, along with slightly less annoying things like wiping hamburger-greasy fingers on armrests and turning floor mats into swamps of slush. Singh, who ferries passengers for Lyft Inc. in Manhattan several evenings a week, drops about $200 a month cleaning — really, sometimes it feels like sanitizing — his Toyota Camry.

For General Motors Co., Uber Technologies Inc. and others mulling a foray into robotaxis, the bill could be in the tens of millions of dollars annually. When you add things like insurance, inventory storage and the steadily shrinking value of beat-up cars? Billions.

…GM’s Maven unit, which competes with Avis’s Zipcar in the hourly rental business and leases vehicles to Uber and Lyft drivers, has studied how much abuse rideshare vehicles take. In addition to the damage inflicted and filth deposited by customers, the costs for insurance and parking — pricey in cities like New York and San Francisco, where ride hailing is popular — will be substantial, said Peter Kosak, GM’s executive director of urban mobility. Read More > at Bloomberg

A New Theory on Why We Haven’t Found Aliens Yet – After decades of searching, we still haven’t discovered a single sign of extraterrestrial intelligence. Probability tells us life should be out there, so why haven’t we found it yet?

The problem is often referred to as Fermi’s paradox, after the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Enrico Fermi, who once asked his colleagues this question at lunch. Many theories have been proposed over the years. It could be that we are simply alone in the universe or that there is some great filter that prevents intelligent life progressing beyond a certain stage. Maybe alien life is out there, but we are too primitive to communicate with it, or we are placed inside some cosmic zoo, observed but left alone to develop without external interference. Now, three researchers think they think they may have another potential answer to Fermi’s question: Aliens do exist; they’re just all asleep.

According to a new research paper accepted for publication in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, extraterrestrials are sleeping while they wait. In the paper, authors from Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and the Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade Anders Sandberg, Stuart Armstrong, and Milan Cirkovic argue that the universe is too hot right now for advanced, digital civilizations to make the most efficient use of their resources. The solution: Sleep and wait for the universe to cool down, a process known as aestivating (like hibernation but sleeping until it’s colder). Read More > at Slate

Sex Robots Are Here And Could Change Society Forever – …In other words, Abramson, who has written a number of published works relating to human sexuality and the intersection of sex and law, is arguing that robots and sex robots by themselves aren’t necessarily an imminent problem but rather what people do with them.

In a recently published report titled “Our Sexual Future With Robots,” researchers for the Foundation for Responsible Robotics aimed to study and further understand all of the possible kinds and uses of sex robots, as well as what effect they could have in the the next five to 10 years

They pointed out that several companies are creating and selling sex robots with a price range from roughly $5,000 to around $15,000. Some products, like Harmony by Abyss Creations, are sold with specific body configurations and characteristics including weight, bra size, nipple size, skin tone, eye color, and lip color. Others, like Roxxxy from TrueCompanion.com, are customizable, giving consumers a chance to choose among many options for complexion, from “Caucasian,” “Asian,” “Tanned,” to “Light Skin African,” or “Dark Skin African.”

Another anthropomorphic feature for the androids are personality traits. Harmony can display simulated orgasms through facial expressions, shifting eyes and the emulation of sounds she “hears.” Depending on consumer preferences, Roxxxy Gold can be pre-programmed with distinctive personalities, including “Wild Wendy,” an outgoing and audacious personality, and “Frigid Farrah,” which exudes bashfulness.

Many of these robots are also embedded with sensors throughout their bodies so that they can respond to touch and movement. The “Frigid” setting causes the sex robot to act more reserved and “turned off” from sexual advances, especially when it is touched in an area humans consider private, according to the Foundation for Responsible Robotics study. (RELATED: People Prefer Soothing Young Female Voices For AI Robots)

“Rapists don’t give a shit about the victim, and worse yet, don’t believe they will ever be caught,” Abramson said when asked if sex robots could possibly decrease sexual assault rates. “If marriage doesn’t deter rape, why would a robot?” Read More > in The Daily Caller

When athletes gotta go … where do they go? – AS JORDAN GROSS jogged off the field at Bank of America Stadium against the Giants, Panthers fans cheered and high-fived him without knowing exactly where he was headed.

Gross just couldn’t ignore the urge any longer. Maybe it was the humidity or all that sweet tea, but in 2013, after a decade of playing tackle in Carolina, Gross had finally reached his bathroom breaking point. It’s simple math, really: Players drink gallons of water but can’t leave the field for even 30 seconds for fear of a turnover happening midstream. Over the years, Gross had tried every technique NFL players and other hyper-hydrated athletes use to surreptitiously relieve themselves during games. He’d experimented with the time-honored slow release into his pants, but they were white, for starters, and it just left Gross feeling soggy and slow. He kind of enjoyed the “T-Pee curtain” method, going inside a hut of towels or parkas. But worrying that his teammates would prank him by walking away midflow occasionally gave Gross stage fright — aka paruresis, or what urologists refer to as “ballpark bladder.” His tight pants, no-fly spandex and all the tape on his gloved hands and mangled fingers made it cumbersome to kneel behind the bench and pee into a cup (a method that was so popular among his teammates that rookies often had a hard time differentiating which cups contained actual Gatorade).

And so, in one of the final home games of his career, during a TV timeout with the defense on the field, the three-time Pro Bowl blocker figured he had nothing to lose — he would proudly march off the field toward a small bathroom used mostly by field staff, where for once he could pee in peace.

Or so he thought. Inside the bathroom, Gross was almost immediately slip-sliding around the polished concrete floor in his cleats and struggling mightily with his gloves and pants… Read More . at ESPN

The Airports of the Future Are Here – …The sky portal of the 2040s, however, is likely to be free of such delights. Many of us will be driven to the terminal by autonomous cars; our eyes, faces, and fingers will be scanned; and our bags will have a permanent ID that allows them to be whisked from our homes before we even set out. Some of these airports will no longer be relegated to the outskirts of town—they will merge with city centers, becoming new destination “cities” within a city for people without travel plans. Shall we get dinner, watch a movie, see a concert, shop? People will choose to go to the airport. Your employer may even relocate there.

These are the types of infrastructure investments and technologies that will, in theory, allow airports to largely eradicate the dreaded waiting. Travelers will migrate around the terminal faster and see fewer walls and physical barriers thanks to the abundance of sophisticated sensors, predicts Dallas-based architecture and design firm Corgan. The company recently assembled its concepts of how airports will evolve, based on extensive research of passenger experiences at various airports and the greater role technology may play.

One day, the airport will know “everything about everyone moving in the airport,” said Seth Young, director of the Center for Aviation Studies at Ohio State University. The goal will be to deploy “a security infrastructure that’s constantly screening people from the door to the gate, and not having this toll-booth mentality,” he said. “We know that 99.9 percent of the passengers are clean, so why are we wasting time screening all of those?”

Much of this technology is likely to be seen outside the U.S. first, given the advanced age of most American airports and the more robust infrastructure funding available in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. In the 2017 Skytrax awards, only 14 airports in the U.S. even made the top 100. Read More > in Bloomberg

Sears will sell appliances on Amazon as its retail stores dwindle – Sears announced today that its Kenmore branded products will now be sold on Amazon, meaning it’s now joining forces with the company that contributed to its downfall. It’s no secret that Sears has been struggling — the company has lost around $10 billion in the last few years and has closed over 200 Sears and Kmart stores this fiscal year. In 2016, Sears said it would explore other outlets for its brands, including Kenmore, and today’s announcement appears to be a result of that venture.

Along with the move to Amazon, Sears also announced that its smart home appliances are now Alexa integrated. “We’re excited that Kenmore has added Alexa functionality to these products and we think customers will love the convenience of cooling their home, starting their laundry, and more, using only their voice,” said Director of Alexa Smart Home Charlie Kindel in a statement.

Sears plans to expand Amazon distribution to the complete line of its Kenmore products and will continue to provide delivery and installation services to its customers… Read More > at Engadget

China mall introduces ‘husband storage’ pods for shopping wives – A Chinese mall has introduced “husband storage” facilities for wives to leave their spouse while they shop, it’s reported.

According to The Paper, the Global Harbour mall in Shanghai has erected a number of glass pods for wives to leave any disgruntled husbands that don’t want to be dragged around the shops.

Inside each individual pod is a chair, monitor, computer and gamepad, and men can sit and play retro 1990s games. Currently, the service is free, but staff told the newspaper that in future months, users will be able to scan a QR code and pay a small sum for the service using their mobile phones. Read More > in the BBC

San Diego’s effort to turn sewage into drinking water could get huge financial boost from feds – The federal government is poised to invest as much as $492 million to get Pure Water, the city of San Diego’s effort to turn sewage into drinking water, off the ground.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce that San Diego is one of a dozen applicants chosen to participate in a low-interest loan program under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. The invitation, which comes after initial vetting by the EPA, doesn’t guarantee funding but signals a very high likelihood of acceptance. Invited applicants from past years routinely obtained the funding amounts they sought.

The $492 million would go toward paying for the first phase of Pure Water — a $1.2 billion facility to be constructed across the street from the North City Water Reclamation Plant near Miramar Road. Officials have said consumers will get the first drops of recycled water by 2021, when the plant is slated to produce 30 million gallons a day. Read More > in The San Diego Union-Tribune

Big pipeline to protect water lifeline for 500,000 East Bay residents is OK’d – The water supplier for 500,000 Contra Costa County residents will spend $19.4 million more to protect its main water lifeline from the risks of earthquakes, pollution and leaks — and protect the public from drownings.

The Contra Costa Water District board unanimously approved a contract Wednesday to replace another mile-long, dirt-lined section of the Contra Costa Canal in Oakley with a 10-foot-diameter pipeline between East Cypress Road and Sellers Avenue.

Water managers worry that Delta water deliveries to district customers in Eastern and Central Contra Costa County could be crippled if an earthquake damaged the canal. They say they also worry about risks of pollution spilling into the open canal, and water seeping outward and flooding neighboring properties.

“We are looking to make changes to ensure our water supplies are secure going into the future,” said Jennifer Allen, a water district spokeswoman. “When the canal was built in the 1930s and 1940s, this was very much a rural area, but the landscape has changed a lot.”

A closed pipeline is stronger than a dirt-lined canal, less likely to leak water, and less vulnerable to pollution leaking in or water seeping out, officials said. In addition, people don’t face the drowning danger that they face with an open canal.

To help pay for the pipeline, the district is getting a $14 million state grant, cutting the local share of the pipeline project to about $5.4 million, officials said. Read More > in the East Bay Times

Whatever happened to O.J. Simpson’s white Ford Bronco? – O.J. Simpson was in the backseat. Al “A.C.” Cowlings was at the wheel. Yet as the celebrated pair led police on a low-speed chase watched by 95 million TV viewers nationwide 20 years ago Tuesday, the spotlight did not belong solely to the men.

They shared it with the car in which they rode: the 1993 white Ford Bronco.

More than a half-dozen news helicopters tracked it. More than two dozen squad cars pursued it. And hundreds of people on freeway overpasses in Los Angeles gawked, or cheered or waved as the passing vehicle rode into infamy, and …

Then what?

…And so as the anniversary fast approached, two decades after the chase ended peacefully outside Simpson’s home, where police found a fake beard and mustache and Simpson’s passport inside the car, the 1993 white Ford Bronco appears to have carried out the original plan.

It’s on the lam. Read More > at USA Today

Even the Smallest Acts of Generosity Make You Happier, New Study Reveals – Whether you’re doing someone a simple favor or buying a gift for a friend, small acts of kindness can go a long way.

In a recent study by researchers at the University of Zurich, “A Neural Link Between Generosity and Happiness,” scientists conducted an experiment using “functional magnetic resonance imaging” (fMRI) to understand how small acts of generosity relate to happiness and illuminate certain areas of the brain. The scientists saw a relationship between generosity and happiness, noticing a “warm glow” in the brain as a result of completing acts of kindness.

When people were selfless and generous towards others, their happiness levels increased, which the scientists saw when areas of the brain including the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), the ventral striatum and the orbitofrontal cortex (OCF) would light up. These areas were affected when people felt rewarded for doing something nice for others. To the contrary, people whose actions were greedy and selfish demonstrated far less brain activity and these areas of the brain did not experience that “warm glow.” Read More > in the Entrepreneur

That Drug Expiration Date May Be More Myth Than Fact – The box of prescription drugs had been forgotten in a back closet of a retail pharmacy for so long that some of the pills predated the 1969 moon landing. Most were 30 to 40 years past their expiration dates — possibly toxic, probably worthless.

But to Lee Cantrell, who helps run the California Poison Control System, the cache was an opportunity to answer an enduring question about the actual shelf life of drugs: Could these drugs from the bell-bottom era still be potent?

…In his lab, Gerona ran tests on the decades-old drugs, including some now defunct brands such as the diet pills Obocell (once pitched to doctors with a portly figurine called “Mr. Obocell”) and Bamadex. Overall, the bottles contained 14 different compounds, including antihistamines, pain relievers and stimulants. All the drugs tested were in their original sealed containers.

The findings surprised both researchers: A dozen of the 14 compounds were still as potent as they were when they were manufactured, some at almost 100 percent of their labeled concentrations.

…Cantrell and Gerona knew their findings had big implications. Perhaps no area of health care has provoked as much anger in recent years as prescription drugs. The news media are rife with stories of medications priced out of reach or of shortages of crucial drugs, sometimes because producing them is no longer profitable.

Tossing such drugs when they expire is doubly hard. One pharmacist at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston said the 240-bed facility is able to return some expired drugs for credit but had to destroy about $200,000 worth last year. A commentary in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings cited similar losses at the nearby Tufts Medical Center. Play that out at hospitals across the country and the tab is significant: about $800 million per year. And that doesn’t include the costs of expired drugs at long-term-care and retail pharmacies and in consumer medicine cabinets. Read More > at NPR

North American shale taking over the world? – THE GROWTH of US shale has an important effect on global oil supply and hence the profitability of large parts of the industry.

There is never a dull moment in the oil market. From 2003 to 2008, oil markets went through the age of resource scarcity when demand was driven upward by Chinese growth, and supply was constrained by underinvestment and contracting OPEC spare capacity. In June 2008, these conditions drove oil prices to $140 per barrel. Shortly thereafter the global financial crisis brought demand and prices crashing down. As the economy recovered in 2009, the US shale oil industry started blossoming. The rig count grew from 876 in June 2009 to 1,931 in November 2014, and US oil production nearly doubled from 5.1 million barrels per day (MMb/d) in January 2009 to 9.5 MMb/d in December 2014. US shale has been a game changer for the US oil industry and turned the US into a crucial player in global oil supply. Pad drilling, longer laterals, and increased intensity led to better well productivity and lower cost per barrel for US shale producers.

…The outlook for oil prices is constructive due to a tightening supply and demand balance in the near term. This tightening is driven both by strong demand and slower growth in supply. On the demand side, reporting agencies revised their global demand growth estimates upwards, expecting an increase of 1.6 MMb/d in 2016 and 1.4 MMb/d in 2017.

On the supply side, there is a battle between how accurately OPEC complies with its cuts and the magnitude and speed of the US shale recovery. As of this writing, OPEC compliance has come in between 90-100%. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated US production was 8.9 MMb/d in 2016 and forecasts it to grow to 9.2 MMb/d in 2017. We believe US production will be greater than EIA’s estimate, as the EIA underestimates improvements in shale productivity. Read More > at the Oil and gas Financial Journal

Water Wars Loom As State Plans to Boost Streamflow for Imperiled Fish – On the heels of the worst drought in California history, state officials are telling water users in the San Joaquin River basin to give up a major share of their water supplies—permanently.

The timing, in some ways, couldn’t be worse for farmers who struggled through the drought. On the other hand, the time is right for imperiled salmon that live in the river and its tributaries. This iconic species may not survive the next drought without more water.

The State Water Resources Control Board announced in September that it plans to return the San Joaquin River to 40 percent of its “unimpaired flow.” This means the amount of water that would naturally flow through the river without existing dams and diversions.

…Supporters of flow increases note that the San Joaquin River today is routinely far below the 40 percent target – sometimes near zero. In many of its reaches, the river becomes a series of stagnant pools for weeks or months at a time. Read More > at KQED

The Fifth American War – On four prior occasions in American history the country nearly split apart, as seemingly irreconcilable cultural, economic, political, social, geographical, and demographic fault lines opened a path to hatred and violence.

During the Jacksonian Revolution of the 1830s, factions nearly ripped the country apart over whether the East Coast Founders’ establishment of a half-century would relinquish its monopoly of political power to reflect the new demographic realties of an expanding frontier — and its populist champions often deemed unfit for self-governance. For the most part, the Jacksonians won.

Three decades later the nation divided over slavery, prompting the most lethal war in American history to end it and force the defeated Confederate southern states back into the Union.

The Great Depression, and the establishment’s inept responses to it, left a quarter of the country unemployed for nearly a decade — hungry and desperate to expand government even if it entailed curtailing liberty in a way never envisioned by the Founders. The result was eventually the redefinition of freedom as the right of the individual to have his daily needs guaranteed by the state.

In the 1960s, the hippie movement — fueled by furor over the Vietnam War, civil-rights protests, and environmental activism — turned holistic in a fashion rarely seen before. A quarter of the country went “hip,” grooming, dressing, talking, and acting in a way that reflected their disdain for the silent majority of “straight” or “irrelevant” traditional America. The hipsters lost the battle (most eventually cut their hair and outgrew their paisley tops to join the rat race) but won the war — as the universities, media, foundations, Hollywood, arts, and entertainment now echo the values of 1969 rather than those that preceded it.

Now we are engaged in yet a fifth revolutionary divide, similar to, but often unlike, prior upheavals. The consequences of globalization, the growth of the deep state, changing demographics, open borders, the rise of a geographic apartheid between blue and red states, and the institutionalization of a permanent coastal political and culture elite — and the reaction to all that — are tearing apart the country. Read More > in the National Review

It looks like the state of California is bailing out Tesla – The California state Assembly passed a $3-billion subsidy program for electric vehicles, dwarfing the existing program. The bill is now in the state Senate. If passed, it will head to Governor Jerry Brown, who has not yet indicated if he’d sign what is ostensibly an effort to put EV sales into high gear, but below the surface appears to be a Tesla bailout.

Tesla will soon hit the limit of the federal tax rebates, which are good for the first 200,000 EVs sold in the US per manufacturer beginning in December 2009 (IRS explanation). In the second quarter after the manufacturer hits the limit, the subsidy gets cut in half, from $7,500 to $3,750; two quarters later, it gets cut to $1,875. Two quarters later, it goes to zero.

Given Tesla’s ambitious US sales forecast for its Model 3, it will hit the 200,000 vehicle limit in 2018, after which the phase-out begins. A year later, the subsidies are gone. Losing a $7,500 subsidy on a $35,000 car is a huge deal. No other EV manufacturer is anywhere near their 200,000 limit. Their customers are going to benefit from the subsidy; Tesla buyers won’t.

This could crush Tesla sales. Many car buyers are sensitive to these subsidies. For example, after Hong Kong rescinded a tax break for EVs effective in April, Tesla sales in April dropped to zero. The good people of Hong Kong will likely start buying Teslas again, but it shows that subsidies have a devastating impact when they’re pulled.

In California, the largest EV market in the US, 2.7% of new vehicles sold in the first quarter were EVs, up from 0.4% in 2012, according to the California New Dealers Association. California is Tesla’s largest market. Something big needs to be done to help the Bay Area company, which has lost money every single year of its ten years of existence. And taxpayers are going to be shanghaied into doing it. Read More > at Business Insider

Having an Affair Is Going Out of Style – …Now consider extramarital sex. On first glance, that seems to be a steady though hardly ubiquitous activity. As Nicholas Wolfinger notes, over the last 30 years of the General Social Survey, attitudes toward extramarital sex seem to have held fairly steady, as has the amount of extramarital sex (with about 15 percent answering yes to the question “Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?”).

And yet, when you peer closer at the data, it turns out that extramarital sex is changing before our very eyes. While the overall rate of people reporting extramarital flings is the same, the demographics of the people who report the adultery are changing dramatically. And not necessarily in the direction you might think.

The millennials, with their Tinder and their sexting and their God-knows-what-they-get-up-to-on-those-interwebs, are not driving this trend. It’s the baby boomers, with their Jimi Hendrix box sets and their Viagra prescriptions and their dog-eared copy of “The Joy of Sex” that they thought they’d lost four moves ago. People under the age of 55 are actually having markedly less extramarital sex than people in that age group did in the 1990s. But people over the age of 55 are busy making up for their missed action.

This kind of survey data can’t tell us exactly why folks over the age of 55 are having more extramarital sex than ever, while those under that age are having less. Some of it is probably age effects: People get bored with their marriage, or the couple develops relationship problems or sexual problems. But Wolfinger notes that some of it also seems to be cohort effects. The boomers came of age in the era of peak sexual libertinism, and they are carrying that peak with them as they age through the demographic charts. Younger generations, meanwhile, marry later (which may explain some, though not all, of the skew), and when they get married, they seem to stay faithful. We don’t have to ask whether sex has changed over the centuries; we are watching it do so before our very eyes. Read More > at Bloomberg

Senate Democrats Are Losing Their Minds at the Thought of Senator Kid Rock – Kid Rock is seriously mulling a Senate run.

The rock star took the internet by storm last week when he began promoting a campaign website and posting images of yard signs. The Michigan native, who is a staunch Republican, has been confirming that the potential of his run is very, very real.

Rock’s serious flirtation with a run is starting to send jitters through an already nervous and fractured Democratic Party. The Boston Herald reported last week that Senate Democratic leaders are emailing constituents worried about the potential of a Kid Rock Senate run. Elizabeth Warren sent this ominous email to supporters last week:

I know a lot of people are thinking: this is some sort of joke, right? Well, maybe this is all a joke — but we all thought Donald Trump was joking when he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower and announced his campaign, too. And sure, maybe this is just a marketing gimmick for a new album or tour — but we all thought Donald Trump was just promoting his reality TV show, too.

The email directs readers to a fundraising page for Kid Rock’s potential opponent, Stabenow. Read More > at Independent Journal Review

San Francisco bans chocolate milk … because anything enjoyable is obviously evil – In the battle to provide nutritional choices for schoolchildren, isn’t chocolate milk better than no milk at all?

According to San Francisco legislators and school officials, the answer, apparently, is no.

Students from elementary through high school grades will no longer be able to enjoy this cafeteria staple in the coming school year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Chocolate milk will officially be banned in elementary and middle grades in the fall followed by high school in the spring as school officials seek to dictate what is considered healthy for students.

…Los Angeles Unified School District eliminated chocolate milk for six years, but after a study of 21-schools last year, the district reversed its decision in order to “increase milk consumption and reduce waste,” according to the Chronicle.

An American Heart Association study from 2009 even found that chocolate milk provided the same nutritional value as white milk and had no adverse effects on the childrens’ weight. Read More > at Bizpac Review

Opinion – Is California anti-family? – In its race against rapidly aging Europe and East Asia, America’s relatively vibrant nurseries have provided some welcome demographic dynamism. Yet, in recent years, notably since the Great Recession and the weak recovery that followed, America’s birthrate has continued to drop, and is now at a record low.

Nowhere is this decline more marked than here in California. Once a state known for rapid population growth, and above-average fecundity, the state’s birthrate is also at a historic low. The results are particularly dismal in coastal Southern California. Los Angeles’ population of people under 17 already has dropped a precipitous 13.6 percent, with drops even among Latinos and Asians, while Orange County has fallen by 6 percent since 2000. The national growth, in contrast, was up 2.2 percent. Despite claims that people leaving California are old and poor, the two most recent years of data from the IRS show larger net losses from people in the 35 to 54 age group. Net out-migration is also larger among those making between $100,000 and $200,000 annually. This is your basic child-bearing middle class.

…Housing affordability certainly drives migration. Major metropolitan areas where the cost of housing is at least four times that of annual incomes have seen a net out-migration of 900,000 since 2010. This compares to a net gain of 1.1 million in the more affordable areas.

…Hardest hit of all are the groups who will dominate our future — young people, minorities and immigrants. California boomers, as we discussed in a recent Chapman University report, have a homeownership rate around the national average, but for people aged 25 to 34 the rate is the third-lowest in the nation, behind just New York and Washington, D.C. The drops among this demographic in the San Jose and Los Angeles areas since 1990 are roughly twice the national average.

…These changes will define, and perhaps undermine, our economy by creating a dearth of new workers. Between 2013 and 2025, the number of high school graduates in our state is expected to drop by 5 percent, compared to a 19 percent increase in Texas, 10 percent growth in Florida and a 9 percent rise in North Carolina. Read More > in The Orange County Register

Synthetic or conventional oil? The verdict is finally in – AAA conducted an extensive scientific analysis to find out. The results, published earlier this month, aren’t shocking, but they could guide consumer behavior toward spending a bit more money to get a long-term review.

Synthetic is better. A lot better.

“Synthetic oil outperformed conventional oil by an average of nearly 50 percent in its independent evaluation, offering vehicles significantly better engine protection for only $5 more per month when following a factory-recommended oil change schedule,” the organization said in a statement.

In the study, AAA found that “synthetic engine oils performed an average of 47 percent better than conventional oils in a variety of industry-standard tests,” John Nielsen, the organization’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair, said in a statement. Read More > at Business Insider

Audi measured brain waves to find out how we’ll spend time in our self-driving cars – Cars are going to drive themselves sooner or later — so what will we do with all that extra commuting time so we’re not stuck twiddling our thumbs?

That’s what Audi is looking to find out with a new study, conducted as part of a collaboration with the human-machine interaction experts of the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering. It put test subjects in a super futuristic autonomous car simulation, then assigned them a series of attention-demanding tasks while monitoring brain activity with EEG sensors.

It’s called The 25th Hour project—an allusion to the 50 minutes or so the average driver spends behind the wheel, and the “extra” hour they could gain without having to drive.

“In future, people traveling from A to B will be able to surf the Internet at leisure, play with their children – or do concentrated work,” Melanie Goldmann, head of culture and trends communication at Audi, said in a statement about the project, making it clear that efficiency was the main focus here.

…Audi and its peers in the auto industry are intent on creating a worthwhile rider experience for good reason. A report published by Intel and Strategy Analytics last month projects that self-driving cars will create a massive $7 trillion “passenger economy” by 2050, with 250 million hours of commuting time per year dedicated to these new spaces.

Some of that cash could come in the short term for automakers by selling in-car advertising — but even more could come from the increased productivity of those hours, as Audi just demonstrated here. The car as a smart mobile workspace model is already being put into motion, as Volvo and BMW have announced Skype for Business integrations for some of their vehicles. Read More > at Mashable

The smartphone is eventually going to die, and Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are racing to kill it – Every major technological shift has created big opportunities for the few entrepreneurs who see it coming early — in the seventies, Apple and Microsoft made big bets that the PC would be a much bigger market than gigantic room-sized mainframes, while the mainframe industry decried the PC itself as a fad. We see who won that one.

Similarly, Microsoft didn’t fully realize the potential of smartphones, until well after Google and Apple proved them wrong. Now, Google’s Android is the most popular operating system in the world, full stop. And the iPhone has propelled Apple to record profits and to the status as the company to beat in tech.

Well, it seems like time is a flat circle. Right now, we’re seeing the earliest growing pains of augmented reality and virtual reality — tech that overlays the digital world onto our human senses. It means information, projected into your eyes and ears, as you need it. Why carry a phone when Netflix and WhatsApp are floating in front of you?

Some call it a fad, or just something that’s too new and untested to be considered a real threat to the smartphone. And yet, there’s a veritable arms race to build these augmented reality platforms of the future.

Amazon’s Alexa is primarily thought of as a digital voice assistant, but having a virtual “person” tell you the time and weather definitely qualifies as augmented reality. Microsoft has its reality-bending HoloLens “hologram” goggles. Facebook and Snapchat have both built augmented reality straight into the camera. Even Google-backed startup Magic Leap thinks its yet-to-released goggles have a shot at becoming a new platform.

The net result is a race to build whatever is going to do the smartphone what the PC did to the mainframe. What these companies all have in common is that they missed the boat on building smartphone operating systems of their own. Now, it’s on them to build whatever comes next. Read More > in the Business Insider

Giants must take wrecking ball to lineup at trade deadline – All across MLB front offices, general managers are huddled with their staffs and plotting their teams’ courses through the July 31 trade deadline. Columnists and commentators play along, with virtually all discussions revolving around whether teams should be buyers or sellers.

Thanks to their being a perennial contender for a postseason berth since 2010, the San Francisco Giants have for years been identified as buyers. But this year, with the team on pace to lose 100 games and sitting an astounding 27 games out of first place, the Giants are generating discussion about whether they should be sellers. Inevitably, that discussion leads to the trade value of a couple of specific players, but that misses the point entirely. The Giants shouldn’t be buyers or sellers — they need to be a wrecking crew.

Thanks to the changing nature of the game, the roster philosophy the Giants used in constructing three world championships in five years — exceptional defense and contact hitting from their everyday players — is obsolete. Stated more starkly, the Giants could have every player on their roster healthy and playing to expectations, and they’d still have a hard time playing .500 baseball, let alone making it to the postseason. It’s not that the players have gotten old or even that their skills have eroded; it’s that the Giants have no more chance to be a top-tier MLB team than does an NBA team that is exceptional in every aspect of the game except shooting 3-pointers. Read More > at ESPN

Are your food choices killing you? – “Sugar in ‘health foods’ nearly killed me,” ran the headline in London’s Daily Telegraph. It was a review of a documentary in what might be called the “this food will kill you” genre. Hardly a week goes by without a screaming headline about how the risks of cancer and other diseases are raised by eating, drinking (or not eating or drinking) one food or another. Over the past 20 years, books and documentaries make the case that salt, fats, cholesterol, GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, or in this case sugar itself is the driving cause of obesity, cancer or some other malady.

As in the case of this flawed and misleading film, the problem, and the purported reasons for the problem, are misunderstood, distorted, exaggerated or even fabricated, often because of ideological biases. But it’s sometimes because of the nature of the studies that journalists relied upon to make their case. They are often thinly researched or problematically documented.

A much more sober Genetic Literacy Project story showed the problems with one such study — it purportedly showed how drinking orange or grapefruit juice raised the risk of melanoma by about 25 percent on average. While this experiment was well-constructed, it illustrated the problems that often show up in nutrition/disease research: you have to understand how the math works. Read More > at the Genetic Literacy Project

The Cost of a Hot Economy in California: A Severe Housing Crisis – A full-fledged housing crisis has gripped California, where the lack of affordable homes and apartments for middle-class families is severe. The median cost of a home here is now a staggering $500,000, twice the national cost. Homelessness is surging across the state.

…The extreme rise in housing costs has emerged as a threat to the state’s future economy and its quality of life. It has pushed the debate over housing to the center of state and local politics, fueling a resurgent rent control movement and the growth of neighborhood “Yes in My Back Yard” organizations, battling long-established neighborhood groups and local elected officials as they demand an end to strict zoning and planning regulations.

Now here in Sacramento, lawmakers are considering extraordinary legislation to, in effect, crack down on communities that have, in their view, systematically delayed or derailed housing construction proposals, often at the behest of local neighborhood groups. The bill was passed by the Senate last month and could be acted on as soon as this week.

The bill sponsored by Mr. Wiener, one of 130 housing measures that have been introduced this year, would restrict one of the biggest development tools that communities wield: the ability to use zoning, environmental and procedural laws to thwart projects they deem out of character with their neighborhood.

It is now the subject of negotiations between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders as part of a broader housing package intended to encourage the construction of housing for middle- and lower-income families that is also likely to include the more traditional remedy of direct spending to build more housing units. Read More > in The New York Times

Why this group is trying to stop Amazon from buying Whole Foods – Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, sees Amazon the way some Rust Belt workers see global trade — as a threat to American jobs.

So on Monday, Perrone plans to file a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that letting Amazon buy Whole Foods would trigger a wave of store closures and eventually quash customer choice.

“Amazon’s reach will ultimately reduce the number of grocery competitors that consumers can choose from,” he wrote in the complaint. “Regardless of whether Amazon has an actual Whole Foods grocery store near a competitor, their online model and size allows them to unfairly compete with every single grocery store in the nation.”

…The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has roughly 1.3 million members across North America, working for retailers at a typical wage of about $18 an hour, including benefits. Members are employed at stores such as Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons. Whole Foods, for contrast, isn’t unionized.

The union, Perrone said, is worried that America’s shifting shopping preferences will spark a crisis in its industry the same way automation and trade with China and Mexico has wiped out factory work. Read More > in The Washington Post

Moonbeam Brown Unhinged: ‘Existence of humanity rests on extending California’s cap and tax law’ – Existence of humanity rests on extending Governor Brown’s cap and tax law.

California Governor Brown presented testimony in hearings where he demanded that the California’s cap and tax law which is the centerpiece of the state’s carbon fighting schemes and which expires in 2020 be extended to year 2030.

An L. A. Times article discussing Brown’s testimony indicated that “he warned of mass migration, forest fires, floods, disease and other pestilence should lawmakers not act.”

Brown admonished lawmakers that California’s cap and tax law serves as a model for carbon-reduction efforts across the world, from China to neighboring Oregon.

Brown failed to address the lawmakers regarding how the extension of the California cap and tax law will stop the building by China of more than 700 new coal plants in the next ten years. Read more at > Watts Up With That?

Amid foreign worker shortage, Bar Harbor businesses turn to local labor – Businesses in Maine that rely on summer help are hoping that Congress will come to the rescue.

Because of new limits on the seasonal worker visa program, restaurants, hotels and other tourist-centered operations are scrambling to find seasonal employees. Until Congress opens the door to more H-2B foreign workers, those businesses are finding ways to attract locals onto the payroll.

…Until then, Bar Harbor area employers are enticing workers in other ways. Higher wages are part of the solution. Searchfield says some businesses are also weighing new schedules that might appeal to older workers in the region, interested in working only a day or two each week. Read More > in the Bangor Daily News

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These major retailers are closing more than 4,000 stores in 2017

From Clark Howard

The reality is that America has been over-stored. We have far too many retail locations, shopping centers and branches of different chains. But stores that are meeting your needs with low prices will continue to thrive.

In the meantime, here’s our updated list of major retailers that are closing stores in 2017:

These major retailers are closing more than 4,000 stores in 2017

Gymboree – 350 stores

The Gymboree Corporation is moving forward with plans to close hundreds of locations as it works to restructure in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

After filing for bankruptcy protection in June, the struggling children’s clothing retailer says it will close approximately 350 stores, mostly across its Gymboree and Crazy 8 brands. The company also operates Janie and Jack stores.

Closing sales at affected stores are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, July 18.

True Religion – 27 stores

Designer jeans and clothing retailer True Religion has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“After a careful review, we are taking an important step to reduce our debt, reinvigorate True Religion’s iconic brand and position the company for future growth and success,” said John Ermatinger, President and CEO of True Religion.

At least 27 stores are expected to close during the bankruptcy process, according to a list compiled by USA Today.

Reuters reports that a True Religion executive blamed the company’s struggles on the growth of “athleisure” – casual clothing designed for both exercise and everyday wear.
The retailer hopes to emerge from bankruptcy in about four months.

Sears & Kmart – 43 additional stores

Sears Holdings has announced that eight Sears and 35 Kmart stores are shutting down.

Before this latest news that came in a July 7 blog post, the struggling retailer had already closed about 250 unprofitable locations this year alone.

Liquidation sales at the closing stores begin as early as July 13. They will close their doors forever in early October. Here’s the list.

J.C. Penney – 138 stores

J.C. Penney is delaying plans to close 138 stores because sales are up since the retailer announced that it was shutting them down.

USA Today reports that liquidation sales at those locations have been postponed until May 22 and store closures have been pushed back six weeks to July 31.

Macy’s – 68 stores

Macy’s isn’t finished shrinking its retail footprint quite yet.

The struggling department store chain confirmed in February that it plans to close about 34 stores “over the next few years” after shutting down nearly 70 locations in fiscal year 2016.

The company has not yet revealed which locations may soon be on the chopping block.

Ascena Retail Group – At least 268 stores

Ascena Retail Group, the women’s clothing retailer that owns the brands Ann Taylor, Loft, Dress Barn, Lane Bryant, Justice and several others, is planning to close hundreds of stores.

During a recent earnings call, company executives announced that 667 stores are part of its fleet optimization program.

At least 268 of those stores will definitely be closed by July 2019. The remaining 399 stores will be shut down if rent concessions aren’t obtained through negotiations with landlords.

The company didn’t specify which locations will be closed.

Michael Kors – 100 to 125 stores

Michael Kors is closing between 100 and 125 of its retail stores over the next two years.

According to a May 31 news release, the company is making the move to improve the profitability of its store fleet. Revenue was down in the most recent quarter.

The clothing and handbag retailer didn’t reveal a list of the stores on the chopping block.

Payless ShoeSource – 512 stores and counting

In April, Payless ShoeSource announced that about 400 of its roughly 4,400 stores would be closing immediately. The closures took place in nearly every state across the country.
Now as part of its ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Payless has announced the closure of 112 more stores.

The discount footwear chain is also petitioning the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Eastern District of Missouri to allow the shuttering of another nearly 300 stores.

If approved, that would bring the total amount of stores closed to over 800.

Bebe Stores – 180 stores

Women’s clothing retailer Bebe Stores shut down all of its roughly 180 locations nationwide.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission dated April 21, the company said it expected to close all stores by the end of May after liquidation sales.

The retailer’s future remains unclear, though some speculate it will continue as an online-only merchant.

Rue21 – 400 stores

Teen clothing retailer rue21 has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In a May 15 news release, rue21 said it has entered into agreements with its lenders to reduce the company’s debt and provide additional capital in support of its restructuring.

In April, the retailer began the process of closing about 400 of its 1,179 stores in order to focus on its more successful locations.

A message on rue21.com read, “It’s true – we are closing some stores. It was a difficult but necessary decision. But the good news is we still have hundreds of locations across the country, and our website rue21.com, open for business!”

Rue21 said it expects to continue normal business operations during the Chapter 11 reorganization process.

RadioShack – 1,000 stores

After 96 years in business, consumer electronics retailer RadioShack will have just 70 corporate and 500 dealer stores nationwide — down from 7,300 at its peak.

Over the Memorial Day holiday, RadioShack closed more than 1,000 stores across the country.

“At the end of this month, RadioShack will be closing its doors at all but 70 retail store locations as we migrate to RadioShack.com and we cannot thank you, the RadioShack family, enough for sharing in the journey throughout the years,” the company said in a news release.

Abercrombie & Fitch – 60 stores

You can add Abercrombie & Fitch to the growing list of retailers that will be closing stores this year.

According to a news release, the company plans to shut down about 60 U.S. locations during fiscal 2017 as leases expire. Fortune reports that A&F will have 670 remaining stores, down from 839 just five years ago.

Guess – 60 stores

Guess is planning to pull the plug on 60 of its stores this year.

CEO Victor Herrero told analysts of the decision during a Q4 earnings call on March 15. It’s expected that most of the closures will be among the flagship Guess brand stores and Marciano locations.

Guess brands operate 945 retail stores in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Some 400 of those stores are in the United States.

Crocs – 160 stores

Crocs announced in a March 1 press release that the brand will be trimming some 160 stores from its 558-store portfolio by the end of 2018.

The Limited – 250 stores

After more than 50 years in business, The Limited closed all of its nearly 250 stores across the country on January 8. The retailer indicated that its website would live on, but no merchandise is for sale.

Wet Seal – 171 stores

Bankrupt clothing store Wet Seal shut down all of its 171 stores, according to the Wall Street Journal. A message on the retailer’s website read, “Thanks babe, it’s been real.”

American Apparel – 110 stores

Made in the USA clothing manufacturer American Apparel has closed its remaining 110 stores.

According to a news release from January 10, Canada-based Gildan Activewear’s $88 million bid at a bankruptcy auction won the rights to American Apparel’s brand and some assets.

However, retail store assets were not part of the purchase, according to Gildan.

BCBG – 120 stores

High-end women’s clothing chain BCBG is closing about 120 stores, mostly in the U.S., according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Star Tribune reported in early February that liquidation sales have started and are expected to run eight to 10 weeks before the stores close for good.

The company’s mini-shops within Macy’s will remain open.

Gander Mountain – Undetermined

After filing for bankruptcy in March, outdoors retailer Gander Mountain has a new owner.

Liquidation sales are being held at all 126 stores, but Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, the new owner, says he intends to keep dozens of locations open.

A final list of stores has not been released, but Lemonis is providing updates on Twitter.

hhgregg – 220 stores

After more than six decades, electronics retailer hhgregg is going out of business.

Liquidation sales have begun at the retailer’s 132 stores, which will close by the end of May. In March, the company announced the closure of 88 locations.

The news comes after hhgregg failed to find a buyer by its April 7 deadline.

GameStop – 150+ stores

After reporting a drop in fourth quarter sales, GameStop announced March 24 that it plans to close between 2% to 3% of its global store footprint, which means at least 150 stores.

GameStop has struggled due to weak sales of certain video games and “aggressive console promotions” from its competitors.

Staples – 70 stores

Staples said in March that it will close 70 locations throughout North America by the end of 2017.

During a recent earnings call, Staples said same store sales in North America were down 7% during the fourth quarter of 2016. The drop in sales was blamed on lower foot traffic.

CVS – 70 stores

Back in December 2016, we first told you that CVS had plans to close 70 locations across the country in early 2017.

In late February, we began to get the first reports from local media about exactly which locations already have been or will soon be shuttered, including more than 10 stores in Illinois.

Family Christian – 240 stores

Family Christian, the biggest seller of Christian books and merchandise in the nation, announced February 23 that 240 stores in 36 states would be permanently closed by May 13.

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Contra Costa Transportation Authority Announces International Partnership and Collaboration Agreement With Intelligent Transport Systems Japan

Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) Executive Director Randell Iwasaki announced today CCTA and GoMentum Station’s collaborative agreement with Intelligent Transport Systems Japan (ITS Japan). This collaboration between CCTA and ITS Japan to test at GoMentum Station was signed on July 10, 2017 and is aimed to further accelerate connected vehicle applications and share autonomous vehicle technology data.

“We can learn, advance and redefine mobility in California and beyond by collaborating with our latest international partner, ITS Japan,” CCTA Executive Director Randell Iwasaki said. “As the managing entity for GoMentum Station, which was recently designated by USDOT as one of ten Autonomous Vehicle Proving Grounds, CCTA is excited to collaborate with ITS Japan. This partnership will facilitate sharing autonomous vehicle knowledge between California and Japan as well as accelerate research and development of Connected Vehicles/Autonomous Vehicles through GoMentum Station’s partnerships.”

“Since its inception, ITS Japan have been collaborating with US counterpart and partners as our mobility challenges are mutual and can only be met by learning from our collective research and development,” says Hajime Amano, President of ITS Japan, “Our delegation was very impressed by GoMentum Station’s achievements in the two years and we believe ITS Japan members can greatly benefit from testing and engaging with GoMentum Station as one of the leaders in the world of autonomous transport testing and launching this successful program.”

Over the last two years, other Japanese-based entities, such as Honda, have been testing at GoMentum Station. This latest collaborative agreement is expected to expose other entities to the advantages of testing at GoMentum Station located at a secure site in Concord, California.

About GoMentum Station

GoMentum Station in Concord, California is where the Contra Costa Transportation Authority leads and facilitates a collaborative partnership among multiple automobile manufacturers; original equipment manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers; communications suppliers; technology companies; researchers and academia; public agencies and other partners. At GoMentum Station, technology, innovation and commercialization will converge to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure. More information about GoMentum Station is available at gomentumstation.net.

About the Contra Costa Transportation Authority

The Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) is a public agency formed by Contra Costa voters in 1988 to manage the county’s transportation sales tax program and oversee countywide transportation planning efforts. CCTA is responsible for planning, funding and delivering critical transportation infrastructure projects and programs that connect our communities, foster a strong economy, increase sustainability, and safely and efficiently get people where they need to go. CCTA also serves as the county’s designated Congestion Management Agency, responsible for putting programs in place to keep traffic levels manageable. More information about CCTA is available at ccta.net.

About ITS Japan:

The main objectives of ITS Japan are to further research and development in the broad range of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) – related fields and the deployment of ITS, to exchange information with Europe and North America, to promote debate on ITS’s potential uses, and to organize the ITS World Congress. The mission at ITS Japan is to promote research and development on and the deployment of ITS. We aspire to facilitate the creation of road transportation systems that are safe, comfortable, and kind to the environment, thereby providing a base for solid economic growth and contributing to a more affluent society. We work on a world-wide scale to make road transportation systems that interact ideally with humans so as many people as possible can enjoy the benefits of ITS.

Posted in Autonomous Vehicle, shared autonomous vehicle, Transportation | Leave a comment

Sen. John McCain diagnosed with brain tumor

I’m sure the majority of you have heard that Arizona Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor, that killed Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Beau Biden, the son of former vice president Joseph Biden.  Senator McCain is a patriot, who fought for his country and has served his people and now faces challenges that may be insurmountable. Our prayers are with him.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive cancer that is the most common of all malignant brain tumors. Glioblastoma tumors are usually highly malignant, or cancerous. These are grade 4 tumors, which means they can grow fast and spread quickly. Glioblastoma tumors make their own blood supply, which helps them grow. It’s easy for them to invade normal brain tissue. The median survival time following treatment is about 12 to 16 months.  Up to 30 percent of patients live past the two-year mark, and 10 percent live more than five years, some patients even live more than 15 to 20 years, however this is clearly the exception.

If Senator McCain is unable to finish his term of office, which ends in 2022, the governor of Arizona would appoint his successor. According to Arizona state law that person would have to be a Republican and would serve until the next general election, 2018. Whoever wins the 2018 election would serve the remainder of the term through 2022.

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