San Francisco Bay Ferry 2050 Survey

San Francisco Bay Ferry is looking for input from the Bay Area community to help them finalize a Ferry Service Vision for the year 2050.

Take their short, 5-minute survey to share your water transit priorities and enter for a chance to win a raffle prize at the end of the survey. Consider sharing the survey with your friends, family and network so everyone has an opportunity to contribute!

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East Contra Costa Historical Society Museum Opens for the Season

Saturday, April 1
2 PM to 4 PM

East Contra Costa Historical Society Museum
3890 Sellers Avenue, Brentwood 94513 

The East Contra Costa Historical Society Museum opens for the season on Saturday, April 1. Docents will be available to lead tours through the house and grounds. Mistress Karlberg will give lessons in the Eden Plains Schoolhouse. All members of the family to enjoy local history!

The Museum will remain open on Saturdays and the third Sunday of each month through October.

Learn More about the Museum Opening
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The City of Oakley is accepting applications for a Library Commissioner

The City of Oakley is accepting applications for a commissioner to fill the remainder of the current term ending June 30, 2025. The deadline to apply is April 10, 2023 at 6pm.

The Library Commission typically meets on the third Thursday evening of January, March, May, July, September and November.  Information about the County Library Commission can be found on the Library’s website, The County of Contra Costa and the City of Oakley do not provide compensation for commissioners.

Apply Here

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Marsh Creek Watershed Council Logo Contest for High School Students

The Marsh Creek Watershed Council (MCWC) is currently hosting a logo contest for high school students throughout the Watershed. Logo contest submissions are due on May 1, 2023, by 11:59pm PDT and announcement of the winner is expected in June 2023. 

MCWC Logo Contest Flier

MCWC Logo Contest Submission Form

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Sunol Wildflower Season: Now – Apr 30

Spring brings an abundance of wildflowers to the Regional Parks. Enjoy a rich diversity of wildflowers in bloom in Sunol Wilderness Regional Preserve with wildflower walks and activities during the Sunol Wildflower Season. Wildflower Season activities take place on weekends through the end of April. More Info.

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Seasonal Jobs at the  East Bay Regional Park District

The East Bay Regional Park District is seeking student laborers and gate attendants for the 2023 summer season. Whether you are looking for entry-level work experience or returning for another season of teamwork and interaction with the public, the Park District offers a supportive and fun work environment. More Info.

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San Joaquin Asparagus Festival – April 14 – 16

The annual San Joaquin Asparagus Festival is back at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. Enjoy asparagus related dishes, family activities, live music, cooking demonstrations, and the Miss San Joaquin Asparagus Festival Scholarship Pageant. Find out more on the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival website.

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Sunday Reading – 03/26/2023

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.

Here’s where California’s reservoirs stand after latest round of rain – After this month’s heavy rain, California’s reservoir levels are continuing to push upward, with many past their historic water storage averages for this time of year — something many reservoirs have not seen since late 2019 or 2020.

The statewide average water storage level is 107% of the historic average for this time of year, adding up to 27 million acre-feet of water stored across the state and marking the first time since 2020 that water storage levels surpassed the historic average.

Five of the state’s eight largest reservoirs have also matched or surpassed their historic averages — Shasta and Oroville in the northern part of the state, San Luis in the western San Joaquin Valley, and Don Pedro and McClure in the central Sierra foothills. Two others, Berryessa in Napa County and New Melones in the central Sierra foothills, are both above 90% of their historic averages, while Trinity Lake in the north state is at around 50% — still an improvement over three months ago.

Other reservoirs that serve as major water suppliers throughout California, including New Bullards Bar, Folsom, Camanche and Sonoma in the northern half of the state, Millerton and Pine Flat in the center and Casitas in the southern half of the state, have also surpassed their historic averages for this time of year, ranging from Folsom and New Bullards Bar’s 110% to Pine Flat’s 154%. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Fed hikes rates by a quarter percentage point, indicates increases are near an end – The Federal Reserve on Wednesday enacted a quarter percentage point interest rate increase, expressing caution about the recent banking crisis and indicating that hikes are nearing an end.

Along with its ninth hike since March 2022, the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee noted that future increases are not assured and will depend largely on incoming data.

“The Committee will closely monitor incoming information and assess the implications for monetary policy,” the FOMC’s post-meeting statement said. “The Committee anticipates that some additional policy firming may be appropriate in order to attain a stance of monetary policy that is sufficiently restrictive to return inflation to 2 percent over time.“

That wording is a departure from previous statements which indicated “ongoing increases” would be appropriate to bring down inflation.

While comments Fed Chair Jerome Powell made during a news conference were taken to mean that the central bank may be nearing the end of its rate-hiking cycle, he qualified that the inflation fight isn’t over. Read More > at CNBC

America’s vagrancy crisis laid bare: California hosts a third of the nation’s homeless, half of its street sleepers and SIX of the top 10 of cities worst hit by tent encampments – America’s homelessness scourge is huge and shows few signs of getting better.

California is by far the worst hit. It has about a third of all the country’s homeless people, and Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, and other Golden State cities have among the largest numbers of unsheltered people in the country.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development says 582,462 people did not have a permanent home on the single night in January last year when researchers carried out their most recent snapshot survey.

Some 60 percent of the destitute were in shelters, crashing with friends or relatives, or had other temporary digs. The rest were ‘unsheltered’ — sleeping in cars, on the streets or in derelict buildings.

o capture the scale of the problem, analyzed the department’s data, which were released at the end of last year, to show which US states and cities have the worst homelessness rates.

They show that about a third of the entire US homeless population — 171,521 people — are in California. That includes more than half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population, 115,491 people.

California also added 9,973 homeless people between 2020 and last year’s survey.

The Golden State has the country’s highest rate of homelessness, with 44 non-housed people out of every 10,000 residents. It is followed closely by Vermont, Oregon, and Hawaii.

Los Angeles is the state’s hotspot, with 65,111 homeless people.

But five other metropolitan hubs — San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco — also feature in the top 10 of America’s worst-hit cities, each with their own roughly 10,000 homeless.

Some 70 percent of Californians say homelessness and the cost of housing are a ‘big problem’ for the state, according to a survey last month by the Public Policy Institute of California, a think tank. Read More > at Daily Mail

Gavin Newsom wants voters to approve his plan to fund housing for mentally ill people – Californians would vote on a plan to fund housing for people with mental illness under a proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled Sunday.

Newsom is calling on lawmakers to place a measure on the 2024 ballot to authorize new bond funding and existing tax revenue to fund new residential centers where people with mental illness could live and receive treatment. The measure is directed at people with severe mental illness who are homeless, or who need intensive treatment but are falling through the cracks in the state’s overburdened system.

The measure would authorize billions of dollars in bond funding to construct residential mental health treatment centers that would create beds for thousands of people. Newsom said he hasn’t settled on the final number, but is looking at requesting between $3 billion and $5 billion.

The initiative would also change the state’s Mental Health Services Act, a measure voters passed in 2004 that charges a 1% tax on income over $1 million to fund mental health services. State leaders have tried to use the funding for housing in the past, but were stymied in court. Newsom’s proposal would earmark $1 billion in revenue from the tax for housing and residential services each year. It would also expand the uses of the tax revenue to include treatment for people with drug addiction.

Newsom’s office estimates the state needs 6,000 more treatment beds to address the mental illness crisis on its streets. His proposal would fund construction of new “campus-style” facilities where people can live and be treated, as well as smaller “cottage”-like settings and individual homes, according to his office.

The bond funding would also be used to house the more than 10,000 homeless veterans living in California, according to Newsom’s office. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

A tale of two audits – California spends billions and billions of your money, but it’s not always clear how much difference it makes. Any legislative requests for audits have to get the blessing of a joint Assembly-Senate committee, which decided the fate of several proposals Wednesday.

Between 2018 and 2021, California spent nearly $10 billion trying to tackle the state’s homelessness crisis. Between 2021 and the end of this year, lawmakers plan to spend at least $12 billion more. Meanwhile, the population of Californians sleeping on sidewalks, beneath underpasses and alongside railroad tracks has only grown.

So where is all that money going?

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers wants to know. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to order the State Auditor’s Office to answer some fairly basic unanswered questions about state homelessness policy: 

  • How much of it has been spent on services and how much on overhead? 
  • How effective are various state-funded programs at actually getting people permanently into homes? 

Last month, the Newsom administration put out a report that offered a bird’s eye view of state homelessness spending. But that report notably did not get into how the money ought to be spent. That task now falls to the auditor.

Sen. Dave Cortese, a Campbell Democrat, initially proposed the audit after touring an encampment in San Jose last fall. Since then, he’s been joined by Cupertino Democratic Assemblymember Evan Low and three Republicans — Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh of Rancho Cucamonga, Sen. Roger Niello of Sacramento and Assemblymember Josh Hoover of Folsom. Read More > at CalMatters

Who drives EVs in CA? – Who buys electric cars in California?

In the latest installment of CalMatters’ series “Race to Zero: California’s bumpy road to electrify cars and trucks,” environmental reporter Nadia Lopez and data reporter Erica Yee analyzed statewide data to reveal a strikingly homogenous portrait of who owns electric vehicles in California. 

The highest concentrations of electric cars are in ZIP codes where residents are at least 75% white and Asian. And they are congregated in Silicon Valley cities and affluent parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties. In contrast, electric cars are nearly non-existent in Latino, Black and low-income communities.

  • Kevin Fingerman, an associate professor of energy and climate at California State Polytechnic University Humboldt: “It makes sense why we would see way more concentrations of EVs in densely urban areas or populated areas. The barriers to people owning electric vehicles across the demographics in the state are real. But they’re solvable.” 

The portrait reveals the enormous challenge that California faces to electrify the fleet. If people who buy electric cars are largely white or Asian, highly educated, wealthy suburbanites, will they be accessible to all Californians — no matter their race, income and location — in the coming decade? 

California’s ambition to battle climate change and clean up air pollution hinges on its ability to electrify its 25 million gas cars to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The next decade will be telling for the state as it enforces a historic mandate that requires 35% of cars sold in California, beginning with 2026 models, to be zero-emissions, ramping up to 68% in 2030 and 100% in 2035. 

As part of the report, Nadia highlights the good and bad experiences of drivers in California, offering a glimpse into the challenges the state faces to meet the mandate.

  • Urvi Nagrani, 35, an EV owner in Los Altos: “People living in Silicon Valley have home chargers. But we need to have better options for renters because it hasn’t gotten much better for me as a renter.” 

Her reporting indicates that state leaders face an array of obstacles that are causing the wide gaps in electric vehicle ownership: High upfront vehicle costs, lack of chargers for renters and inadequate access to public charging stations in low-income and rural communities. Read More > at CalMatters

Ford’s EV business lost $2 billion in 2022, offset by big profits in fleet and legacy unitsFord Motor said Thursday its electric vehicle business lost $2.1 billion last year on an operating basis, a loss that was more than offset by $10 billion in operating profit between its internal combustion and fleet businesses.

The Detroit automaker expects 2023 to unfold along similar lines, forecasting an adjusted loss of $3 billion for its EV unit, adjusted earnings of about $7 billion for its internal combustion unit, and adjusted earnings of roughly $6 billion for its fleet business.

The financials are the first detailed look at unit profitability as Ford unveils a new financial reporting structure that aims to give Wall Street a better understanding of how its electric vehicle business is evolving — and how profits from its internal combustion businesses are funding its electric transformation.

The reformatted reports follow a sweeping reorganization, announced in March 2022, that divided Ford’s global business into five business units: “Ford Blue,” its traditional internal combustion engine business; a new “Ford Model e” electric vehicle unit; “Ford Pro,” containing its commercial and government fleet business; “Ford Next,” which includes nonautomotive mobility solutions and other future tech; and its existing Ford Credit financial services subsidiary. Read More > at CNBC

Bay Area school enrollment has plummeted. So why has student population spiked in this East Bay city? – Over the past five years, 85% of school districts in the Bay Area registered a drop in enrollment, with some losing nearly a third of their students. It’s a trend largely driven by falling birth rates, a rise in homeschooling, and a steady stream of people leaving the state.

But in Dublin, both the schools and the city have seen the exact opposite: Its student population has tripled since 2009. Dublin Unified is one of less than 15% of all Bay Area school districts that have grown its enrollment over the last five years — and only one of six districts to have grown with over 5,000 students.

In the decade between 2010 and 2020, Dublin’s population jumped by 60%, a result of more than 8,000 new homes popping up during that time. Meanwhile, other cities in the East Bay reported population increases one third or less of Dublin’s, and the population of many — such as nearby Danville — barely rose at all.

Over the last two decades, Dublin Unified has built five new elementary schools and is upgrading three others. They’ve expanded a middle school and a high school and begun planning for a new K-8 campus. A second high school, Emerald, is nearly finished and slated to open its doors next January. That’s all been paid for by four bond measures totaling $850 million, on top of three additional parcel taxes. Each of those bonds, which increased property taxes on Dublin residents, were passed with 57-73% of the vote, depending on the year.\

Throughout the Dublin district’s expansion, students’ test scores have steadily increased, fueling a rush of young families to the city. Today, Dublin students surpass the achievement levels in neighboring San Ramon Valley and Pleasanton schools — a magnet that, for years, has spurred families to places such as Palo Alto or Fremont.

On top of that, it takes under an hour to commute from San Francisco by car and public transport and, according to families, feels “just far enough” from the area’s major metro areas. Crime rates in Dublin are more than 60% lower than Hayward, 70% lower than San Francisco and nearly 80% lower than Oakland — another lure for families seeking safer neighborhoods. Read More > in The Mercury News

Unemployment Spikes to Highest Levels Since Pandemic Began in These Bay Area MetrosNews of tech layoffs keeps rolling in, and it’s showing no sign of stopping. On Monday morning, Amazon let go of another 9,000 employees, after laying off 18,000 workers in January due to poor end-of-year profits. 

Though the majority of laid-off workers were not based in San Francisco, experts say the ongoing tech bloodbath is starting to impact the local economy. 

San Francisco’s unemployment rate jumped from 2.0% to 2.8% in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though some of that spike might be due to expected seasonal turnover, city economist Ted Egan said the spike could be a major cause for concern.

“The number of unemployed residents of San Francisco jumped by 4,500 in January, according to the BLS,” Egan said. “This was the largest jump since the start of the pandemic.” 

Unemployment rates increased in both the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan regions between December and January: The SF metro region jumped from 2.6% unemployment to 3.3%, while the San Jose metro area saw a similar uptick, rising from 2.4% to 3.1% unemployment, according to the bureau’s data. 

Some of these preliminary unemployment numbers might change as the state’s Employment Development Department releases new data for February and March, Egan says.

It’s not just tech workers getting laid off; Egan also added that the number of job listings in San Francisco has declined precipitously since the middle of 2022, indicating that new jobs may be harder and harder to come by.

Still, the region’s unemployment rate is still well below the 13% high it reached at the height of the pandemic in 2020. Read More > in The San Francisco Standard

After years of medical progress, American children are now less likely to reach adulthood – Child and teen deaths surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by fatal injuries, in a dramatic change after decades of progress from medical advancements in pediatric diseases, according to an editorial published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers analyzed death certificate data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found pediatric mortality increased by 20% from 2019 to  2021 – the largest increase in 50 years.

For decades, the overall death rate among Americans 19 and younger has been steadily decreasing because of breakthroughs in prevention and treatment for conditions like premature births, pediatric cancer, and birth defects, said lead author Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University.

But the new findings represent a reversal in this trend, “meaning that our children are now less likely to reach adulthood.”

Researchers found this spike is largely driven by an increase in injury-related deaths, such as suicide, homicide, overdose deaths and car accidents, which all began climbing before the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Suicide rates began rising in 2007 and increased by 70% by 2019.
  • Homicide rates began rising in 2013 and increased by 33% by 2019.
  • Overdose deaths began rising in 2019, shortly before the pandemic.

The study also showed most of the deaths were attributable to older children ages 10 to 19. But deaths among younger children – 1 to 9 years old – had also increased by 8.4% in 2021. The only age group that didn’t experience a significant increase were infants. Read More > at USA Today

Drug shortages upend hospitals care, cancer treatments – Supplies of some essential drugs used in hospitals are hitting 10-year lows, forcing rationing and pharmacy workarounds.

Driving the news: Drug shortages are the worst they’ve been in a decade, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists — a sign of how much we rely on low-margin manufacturers with limited capacity for basics like the inhalation drug albuterol and some common cancer treatments.

What they’re saying: Quality control issues, selected plant closures and other manufacturing woes have added up, Michael Ganio, senior director of pharmacy, practice and quality at ASHP told Axios.

Between the lines: Oncology drugs have been hit particularly hard in recent months, putting experts on high alert.

  • Those in short supply include methotrexate, an injectable chemotherapy drug, and one of several generics produced by Illinois-based Akorn Pharmaceuticals, which shuttered operations last month due to bankruptcy.
  • Manufacturing delays and increased demand have also led to shortages of the cancer treatments cisplatin, and fluorouracil, per ASHP.
  • Pluvicto — used to extend survival among patients with metastatic prostate cancer — will take months to be made available to patients again, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • “People will die from this shortage, for sure,” Jonathan McConathy, director of the division of molecular imaging and therapeutics at the University of Alabama, told WSJ.
  • A survey of health systems conducted by the group End Drug Shortages Alliance found the injectable Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), used for treating bladder cancer, was being rationed or was not available for use at all.
  • “This is a terrible crisis. We should be doing everything we can to give every single one of these patients the best chance of survival,” Laura Bray, a board member of the alliance, told CNN.

Between the lines: Manufacturing delays and quality problems are blamed for the shortages. But that’s often because there aren’t many alternative sites to pick up the slack in the system due to the challenging economics of the market, experts say. Read More > at Axios

Long COVID Comes Into the Light – Even before 2020’s first horrific wave of COVID-19 deaths subsided, reports surfaced warning of a brutal second punch: Instead of recovering quickly after a mild infection, some people were suffering from symptoms that lingered or even intensified in the weeks and months that followed.

The condition came to be called long COVID. In those early days, everything about it was uncertain, from what symptoms it caused to how long they’d last and how hard they would hit. Some speculated that the effects might be effectively incurable, and that a large percentage of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 would wind up succumbing to this life-altering condition. “Months of illness could turn into years of disability,” warned the Atlantic’s Ed Yong. Given the bodies piling up in makeshift morgues, it seemed reasonable to assume the worst.

Long COVID is an unusual condition not only in its kaleidoscope of symptoms but also in the fact that it hadn’t been identified initially by doctors who encountered similar sets of symptoms in their patients. It was, rather, described by COVID patients themselves who, in the early months of the pandemic, found themselves mysteriously unable to get better. The complaints of early “long-haulers” were then picked up and amplified by activists, whose lobbying persuaded the government to allocate more than $1 billion in research funds. “Long COVID has a strong claim to be the first illness created through patients finding one another on Twitter,” researchers Felicity Callard and Elisa Perego wrote in the journal Social Science & Medicine. (They both suffered from long COVID themselves.) Patients desperately searching for answers were understandably dismayed to find little clarity from the medical community about their strange illness.

Now, three years later, the research is catching up to the anecdotal reports and the early evidence, and a clearer picture of long COVID has emerged. It turns out that, like COVID-19 itself, a lot of our early guesses about it turned out to be considerably wide of the mark. This time, fortunately, the surprises are mostly on the positive side. Long COVID is neither as common nor as severe as initially feared.

How long could long COVID symptoms be expected to last? Researchers in Australia tried to answer that question by conducting phone interviews with every single person who was diagnosed with COVID-19 in the state of New South Wales between January and May 2020. They found that recovery followed a curve, with 80 percent of patients fully recovered after 30 days and 91 percent recovered after 60 days. Thereafter, the population of symptomatic patients continued to slowly dwindle, with 4 percent of the original patient population still suffering symptoms after four months. Their most common complaints were coughing and fatigue. Read More > at Slate

Are you getting enough vitamin C per day? And why it matters. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is concerned that Americans aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals. On its website, it notes that vitamins and minerals “are critical for several important bodily functions,” but lists several obstacles that need overcoming. These include iron deficiency in 20 percent of pregnant women, vitamin and mineral deficiencies among Black and Hispanic women especially, and “more than half of children younger than 5 years old suffer(ing) from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.” 

One known factor contributing to such deficiencies is that, with the exception of vitamin D, vitamins and minerals are not produced in one’s body, so the nutrients thereof must be obtained through food, drink or supplementation. Among the most sought after and important vitamins needed today is vitamin C. 

While most people get enough vitamin C from a healthy diet, vitamin C deficiency is common among people who smoke, anyone with gastrointestinal conditions or cancers, and among children because they often avoid the food sources richest in vitamin C. 

Severe vitamin C deficiency can lead to diseases such as scurvy, bleeding gums, fatigue, joint pain, bruising and the inability to heal quickly from wounds. Vitamin C deficient people are also at higher risk for infections generally. 

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C for adults 19 and older is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. While pregnant and breastfeeding, women should increase that amount daily to 85 mg. Smokers should get an additional 35 mg beyond such recommendations. 

And unlike over supplementation concerns that exist with other vitamins and minerals, “vitamin C is relatively safe” says Willet. “Because vitamin C is water-soluble, taking too much of it and experiencing symptoms of toxicity as a result is very rare,” adds Naidoo. In such rare circumstances, symptoms of too much vitamin C may include diarrhea, nausea or kidney stones. Read More > at USA Today

The Most Important Benefit of Weight Lifting Isn’t Bigger MusclesBuilding buffness. Getting ripped. Toning up. No matter what it’s called, becoming more muscular is generally top-of-the-mind for any young person who regularly visits the weight room. Less thought about is another key benefit, one that’s not as easily seen but is more long-lasting and consequential: weight training is the best way to strengthen bones.

For a long time, conventional wisdom, put in place by omnipresent marketing, heralded calcium intake as the key to strong bones. Recent large studies, however, show that supplementation of the mineral, often found in meat and dairy products, only has a modest effect on bone density, and doesn’t reduce fractures at all.

Lifting weightshowever, does. The stress placed on bones by squatting, pressing, deadlifting, pulling, or doing pretty much any motion with added resistance kicks bone-synthesizing cells called osteoblasts into high gear. They start producing collagen, other specialized proteins, and hydroxyapatite — the bone mineral — and forming these raw materials into more bone for your spine, femur, tibia, and any other bones that are bearing the added weight. The result is a stronger skeleton, one more resistant to fracture.

As your skeleton is literally the foundational structure of your body, that’s a big deal. The average person loses about 1% of their bone mass each year after age forty. For about three million Americans each year, this decline eventually results in a potentially debilitating condition called osteoporosis, in which bones become so weak and brittle that a fall or even a mild stressor like bending over or coughing can cause them to crack. Two million osteoporosis-related fractures occur each year, sometimes resulting in permanent enfeeblement. According to Harvard Medical School, “six out of 10 people who break a hip never fully regain their former level of independence”.

Aerobic activities like walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling are all fantastic forms of exercise. Easily accessible and often recommended to older adults, they offer myriad health benefits. However, none come close to building bone like weight training does.  Read More > at Real Clear Science

Cannabis use in adolescent years may create reproductive complications in women, according to new study – In a new study, University of California, Irvine researchers found that exposure to the compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, a component of cannabis) at a young age could lead to depleted ovarian follicles and matured eggs in adulthood by nearly 50 percent.

The study, which is published online in the journal Toxicological Sciences, shows that the use of cannabis earlier in a female’s life could have long-term effects on her ability to conceive.

“Given that more and more teenagers and young adults are using cannabis, especially with easier access to the substance, this study’s findings are especially important,” said senior and corresponding author Dr. Ulrike Luderer, professor of environmental and occupational health at the UCI Program in Public Health. “It is imperative to widely broadcast the consequences of early-life exposure to cannabis on reproductive health in adulthood.”

Roughly 3.3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 and 4.8 million people aged 12 and older had reported using cannabis, based on a 2019 survey. Up until this point, very few studies have been conducted that demonstrate the long-term negative public health impacts of cannabis use, and even more unclear are the reproductive health implications on women. Read More > at Medical Xpress

Meet the ‘glass-half-full girl’ whose brain rewired after losing a hemisphere – In most people, speech and language live in the brain’s left hemisphere. Mora Leeb is not most people.

When she was 9 months old, surgeons removed the left side of her brain. Yet at 15, Mora plays soccer, tells jokes, gets her nails done, and, in many ways, lives the life of a typical teenager.

“I can be described as a glass-half-full girl,” she says, pronouncing each word carefully and without inflection. Her slow, cadence-free speech is one sign of a brain that has had to reorganize its language circuits.

Yet to a remarkable degree, Mora’s right hemisphere has taken on jobs usually done on the left side. It’s an extreme version of brain plasticity, the process that allows a brain to modify its connections to adapt to new circumstances.

Brain plasticity is thought to underlie learning, memory, and early childhood development. It’s also how the brain revises its circuitry to help recover from a brain injury — or, in Mora’s case, the loss of an entire hemisphere.

Scientists hope that by understanding the brains of people like Mora, they can find ways to help others recover from a stroke or traumatic brain injury. They also hope to gain a better understanding of why very young brains are so plastic. Read More > at NPR

A driver’s guide to hydroplaning and how to handle it – Hydroplaning, also referred to as aquaplaning, is when water, sometimes mixed with other contaminants, gets underneath an automobile’s tires’ contact patches and separates the tires and vehicle from the road surface. The car is then technically riding on slippery wetness rather than the grippy road because the tires cannot displace the water fast enough.

Hydroplaning occurs when the amount of water on the road overwhelms the tires’ abilities to remove water from underneath the tire through the tire tread grooves. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean it only happens when there’s a massive amount of precipitation raining down from the sky. Depending on how bald your tires are or how underinflated they are, it could even happen on a slippery road surface during a light rain.

Hydroplaning is also more likely to occur at higher speeds. 

Technically, hydroplaning can occur anywhere there is smooth pavement or a surface that can trap water underneath the tires. This is especially true on roads with standing water like runoff or puddles. Because of the speed, it might be more likely to experience hydroplaning on a highway.

How to react when you’re hydroplaning

Resist your immediate urge to overreact.

Let off the gas.

Firmly hold the steering wheel. 

If you’re sliding straight ahead, keep the wheel straight. If you’re sliding toward the edge of a turn, turn the wheel slightly in the direction the car is moving. Just be aware that the direction of your tires will matter when you regain traction, so you don’t want them all twisted up.

Ride it out until you feel the car regain traction.

Pull over, take a deep breath and calm down before you get back on the road. Read More > at Popular Science

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CPUC Opens Public Inquiry on High Winter Natural Gas Prices

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has continued its work to examine the causes of recent high natural gas prices on the wholesale markets by launching a new proceeding to investigate the causes and impacts of the winter 2022- 2023 natural gas price spikes and the potential for recurrence; the impact of the price spikes on natural gas and electric prices and customer bills; the potential threats to natural gas and electric reliability and price volatility in summer 2023 and beyond, and potential mitigations; and utility communications to customers to determine whether they were sufficient or require modifications.

The wholesale price of natural gas in California, and throughout the Western U.S., has been extraordinarily high this winter, starting in late November 2022. In February 2023, natural gas prices trended downward but are still high compared to February 2022. As a result, customers have seen higher bills from their utility company, which pass on the cost they pay for natural gas directly to the customer without a mark-up. High natural gas prices can have an immediate impact to customers, and also a delayed impact when electric rates increase because the natural gas-related costs of running electric power plants are higher than earlier forecasts.

While the CPUC does not regulate natural gas prices or natural gas producers, given the impact of the high prices on utility customers, and given the role that natural gas plays in electricity production, upon seeing the price spikes in December 2022, the CPUC promptly took several actions. One of which was to hold a public En Banc on Feb. 7 at which important data was gathered. For example, the California
Energy Commission (CEC) presented price comparisons between this winter and last winter, showing that natural gas prices for delivery on December 22, 2022, were nearly seven times higher compared to the same day in 2021. Additionally, the CEC showed that the price spikes were not unique to California and were experienced in other Western states.

The examination in the proceeding opened March 16, 2023 (formally called an Order Instituting Investigation), will include whether factors beyond normal market forces were at play, determine whether action by the CPUC may prevent or mitigate future price spikes, and consider whether other
entities have jurisdiction to mitigate high natural gas prices.

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Volunteers need for April 1 planting along Marsh Creek

Save the date for Saturday, April 1, 2023 (8am-12pm) to participate in a native planting event along Marsh Creek. The meeting place for this event is located at (37.934621, -121.708705), off Central Boulevard due West of N. Estates Drive in Brentwood, CA. 

April 1 Native Planting Event Information and Sign-Up

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2023’s Best & Worst States for Doctors – WalletHub Study

With National Doctors’ Day coming up on March 30 and the median physician’s salary at around $208,000, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2023’s Best & Worst States for Doctors, as well as expert commentary.

To identify the best states for those in the business of saving lives, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 19 key metrics. The data set ranges from the average annual wage of physicians to hospitals per capita to the quality of the public hospital system.  

Practicing in California (1=Best, 25=Avg.):

  • 44th – Avg. Annual Wage of Physicians (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 41st – Avg. Monthly Starting Salary of Physicians (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 41st – Hospitals per Capita
  • 22nd – Insured Population Rate
  • 43rd – Projected % of Population Aged 65 & Older by 2030
  • 7th – Projected Physicians per Capita by 2030
  • 19th – Punitiveness of State Medical Board
  • 13th – Malpractice Award Payout Amount per Capita
  • 10th – Annual Malpractice Liability Insurance Rate

For the full report, please visit:

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Oakley Community Meeting for 55 Acre Park – Wednesday, March 29th at 7pm

Wednesday, March 29th at 7pm at the Oakley Recreation Center

The future 55 acre ark is located at the north end of Sellers Avenue and presents a one of a kind opportunity to create a park space allowing Oakley residents to play in their own backyard. You are invited to join the conversation.

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Bus Bridge Alert: Major track work between Rockridge and Orinda on five non-consecutive weekends (first closure weekend 4/1-2)

BART’s next major track improvement project will focus on a portion of the Yellow Line. On five non-consecutive weekends in April, May, and June workers will replace an interlocking between Rockridge and Orinda stations. Interlockings allow BART to safely move trains from line to line and are an essential part of the system. Free buses will replace train service between Rockridge and Orinda stations on all five weekends.

The weekend dates for this project are April 1-2, April 15-16, May 13-14, May 27-29 (Memorial Day weekend), and June 10-11. Riders can expect delays of 30 minutes in the work area on shutdown weekends.

Yellow Line trains will run every 30 minutes on shutdown weekends. On each night of the weekend shutdowns the last scheduled departure from Antioch to Orinda that normally leaves at 11:44pm will be cancelled. Riders traveling westbound from Antioch must catch the earlier train at 11:14pm each night.

The equipment being replaced is decades old and has outlived its design life. Riders will enjoy a smoother, safer, more reliable, and quieter ride once the projects are complete. The Yellow Line is the busiest in the BART system.

This upcoming work is part of BART’s overall effort to improve the safety and reliability of the 131-mile, 50 station system. There are now more rebuilding projects happening across BART than at any point in its 50-year history. You can learn more about the progress of this work by reading the 2022 Measure RR Annual Report published by the independent Measure RR Bond Oversight Committee.

You can keep up with the latest updates for trackway repair projects that impact service by going to our Alerts and Advisories page. BART’s Trip Planner has been improved to show the full customer journey including bus bridges. 

Learn more about the work happening between Rockridge and Orinda stations on our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page and Fact Sheet for the project.

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Meet the Business Planning Experts – March 23rd from Noon-1pm.

Has your business been disrupted by events of the past 3-5 years? Are you facing complex, critical decisions to allow your business to adapt to changing times? Then this event is for you. Come hear about free counseling services that are available to Oakley small businesses from our panel of experts.
Click here to register
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Sunday Reading – 03/19/2023

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.

Drought Monitor

Get latest info at

Borenstein: California’s population boom is over, plan accordingly – California’s years of major population growth have ended, and a state forecast suggests that the numbers might peak by as early as 2030 and then start to decline.

At the turn of the century, when the population was about 34 million, state forecasters were predicting 45 million by 2020 and 59 million by 2040. That isn’t happening.

Instead, California’s population hit 39.5 million in 2020, dipped down to 39.0 million in the first two years of the pandemic and, according to data published by the California Department of Transportation, will max out at about 40.5 million by the end of the decade.

Whether it’s talk of a new BART transbay tube, keeping underutilized schools open or continuing to sink billions into high-speed rail, it’s time for local and state government officials to recalibrate. Projects that were conceived based on the assumption of an expanding California population will no longer make sense. We shouldn’t keep planning and budgeting as if the state’s numbers will continue to grow significantly.

The days of California’s population boom are over. The Caltrans forecast, prepared in 2021, shows the population holding at about 40.5 million through 2036 and then dropping to 39.0 million by 2050.

There are many reasons, says Hans Johnson, senior fellow and demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California. Birth rates have been lower than expected. Deaths have been higher. International migration into the state has not been as high as forecast.

And, most important, domestic migration out of the state has exceeded expectations. Simply put, people are leaving California for cheaper housing elsewhere, lower taxes or someplace less crowded.

The out-migration has gotten much attention since the start of the pandemic. But this is not a new trend. For each year of the past two decades, more Californians have left the state for other parts of the country than have done the reverse. Read More > in the East Bay Times

Could the Bay Area lose BART? – Everything to know about the rail system’s ‘fiscal cliff’.

When it came to financial independence, none of the largest transit agencies in the country did it better than BART.

Fares have been the bedrock of BART’s financial model ever since its first trains zipped across the Bay Area 50 years ago. Next to Caltrain, no other U.S. rail agency in 2019 had a higher farebox recovery ratio — the percentage of operating expenses covered by fares — than BART.

Even in tough economic times, the system stayed afloat — and expanded — as long as commuters packed into BART trains, making it a standard-bearer for financial self-sustainability in the transit world.

Now, the business model that had been both an outlier and a point of pride for the Bay Area’s regional rail system could become its undoing.

BART is the connective tissue for the Bay Area’s public-transit network, but has had one of the nation’s most anemic ridership recoveries, down roughly 60% of 2019 figures, since telework took hold across the region.

Its pre-COVID ridership is unlikely to return in the next decade, making BART’s future especially perilous as transit agencies across the Bay Area and the nation project massive budget shortfalls.

In its worst-case scenario, BART would impose mass layoffs, close on weekends, shutter two of its five lines and nine of its 50 stations and run trains as infrequently as once per hour. Those deep cuts, agency officials say, could lead to the demise of BART.

When will BART reach its ‘fiscal cliff’?

After transit ridership fell to all-time lows in April 2020 during the depths of the pandemic, the federal government stepped in with a temporary lifeline. It provided unprecedented subsidies to the nation’s transit agencies, helping them avert doomsday-level cuts in service.

Of the $4.5 billion that went to the Bay Area’s 27 transit agencies, BART received about $1.6 billion, which it used to make up for a dramatic loss in fare revenue and restore service cuts made in 2020.

The transit agency will run out of federal money in January 2025 — six months earlier than previously projected.

How steep is the fiscal cliff?

Even before the pandemic, officials projected BART would be in the red in the coming decade, incurring small annual operating deficits.

Those projections pale in comparison to the agency’s latest forecast: a $143 million budget deficit by 2025.

By the following fiscal year, the funding gap will grow to $300 million annually — about 30% of BART’s current operating budget. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

California pushes for $360,000 per person in reparations despite major deficit – The state-endorsed California Reparations Task Force is pushing to give every black resident $360,000 in reparations despite a major budget deficit.

In 2020, the United States Census Bureau recorded approximately 2.251 million black people residing in California, of whom 1.8 million had at least one ancestor who was a slave, Fox News reported , making the total reparations cost around $640 billion. It is unknown where the state will come up with the funds, however, as Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) reported that California is facing a budget deficit of $22.5 billion for this coming fiscal year.

Chas Alamo, the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office’s principal fiscal and policy analyst, appeared at the Reparation Task Force’s second in-person meeting, in which he proposed further steps that could be taken to fulfill the reparations plan. He proposed several different paths the task force could take to make reparations state law, including the creation of a new agency that would oversee the dispensation of reparations.

“The creation of a new agency would be initiated through the governor’s executive branch and reorganization process, but other options exist,” Alamo said, California Black Media reported. “Regardless of the path, to initiate a new agency or enact any other recommendation that makes changes to state law, fundamentally both houses from the state legislature would have to approve the action and the governor will have to sign it.”

The task force is due to submit a final report and its accompanying recommendations by July 1. The state legislature, which created the commission amid the fallout from George Floyd’s death in 2020, will then vote on the proposal, at which point it will be sent to Newsom to sign.

So far, neither the panel nor any government agency has suggested how the reparations will be paid for. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

San Franciscans line up at board meeting to sing and shout their support for a reparations plan to give every black resident $5M, wipe personal debt, provide $97K incomes and homes for just $1 – and no one asks how the city will foot the bill – San Francisco residents lined up at a city board meeting last night to share their full-throated support of a wide-eyed reparations plan that would award every black resident $5million, wipe their personal debt, guarantee $97,000 incomes for 250 years and $1 homes. 

But no one at the emotional meeting – where residents burst into song and begged to be made ‘whole’ – asked  how the struggling, debt-addled city might pay for it. 

Reparations are being considered in various Democratic cities around America as a means of providing compensation to the descendants of enslaved African-Americans. 

Many say they are owed not just for the time their ancestors were enslaved, but also for generations afterwards, because African Americans have been incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates than white Americans. 

The proposals put forward in San Francisco last night are among some of the most generous to be heard to date. 

Those who advocated for them last night did so whole heartedly. One sang a verse from the 1964 Civil Rights anthem by Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come. 

The Board of Supervisors who heard the suggestions last night can vote to adopt some or all of the recommendations.  Read More > at the Daily Mail

Costs of Student Loan Forgiveness to Taxpayers Nearly Double Initial Estimate — How It Breaks Down – In January, President Biden proposed a revamp of the student loan income-driven repayment (IDR) program that would cost taxpayers $138 billion over ten years. However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a revised estimate yesterday predicting the change would actually come with a price tag of $230 billion — or higher.

Initially, the White House calculated that the new program implementation would cost $77 billion for outstanding loans and $61 billion for new loans. The CBO’s recent estimate reflects $76 billion in existing debt and $154 billion in future debt, attributing the substantial increase in projected new loans to:

  • More borrowers taking advantage of the plan
  • Schools increasing tuition to capitalize on the demand
  • The government automatically enrolling delinquent borrowers into the plan

If the Supreme Court rules against Biden’s student loan cancellation plan of up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness per borrower, taxpayers can likely expect an even larger bill over the next decade. In this instance, the CBO projects an additional $46 billion in program costs, bringing the total to $276 billion. That’s because borrowers will flock to the plan as their next best option. Read More > at GOBankingRates

California bill would fund deportation defense for all immigrants, including those with felonies – In California, when the federal government tries to deport someone the funds for that person’s legal defense may come from an unlikely source: the state budget. 

Each year the state sets aside about $45 million for grants to nonprofits that provide defense and other legal services to low-income immigrants and their families. So far, the program called One California has paid for legal representation for more than 1,000 Californians facing detention, deportation or family separation, state officials say.   

The money also provides outreach, education services and “affirmative immigration relief,” which is when an immigrant applies for asylum directly to immigration authorities while not involved in deportation proceedings.

Not everyone can access these legal reserves. Immigrants who have been convicted of serious or violent felonies are excluded from accessing state funds for legal representation during removal proceedings.   

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from Los Angeles, wants to remove that barrier to legal support. In February he introduced a bill that would expand the One California program by excising its exclusions for immigrants convicted of serious or violent felonies. Read More > at CalMatters

’Unprecedented’: A monster avalanche has buried a major California highway for weeks – If it was just another avalanche, residents of California’s Sierra Nevada might yawn. Winters in the mountains are chock full of wobbly snow, especially this winter.

But last month’s avalanche just north of the town of Lee Vining, on the Sierra’s east side, was different. It buried a portion of a major U.S. highway, cut off a string of small communities heavily reliant on one another and stranded food deliveries, mail and even people. For weeks, road crews have been struggling with how to get rid of it.

Technically a series of avalanches, the sprawling icy mass tumbled down more than 2,000 feet, splintering into several slides before crossing Highway 395 sometime around Feb. 25. Snow now sits as thick as 40 feet and spans, on and off, across nearly three miles of road along the shores of Mono Lake. The avalanches carried with them trees, power lines and fences designed to catch rocks.

Highway 395, the region’s only north-south thoroughfare, was closed near Lee Vining at the time of the inundation because of a snowstorm, so no one was on the road during the avalanches, and it’s remained shut since. State highway officials say it won’t likely reopen for several more weeks, at best. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Bay Area will end sales of gas furnaces and water heaters. Here’s what it means for you – If you live in the Bay Area and your natural gas-powered water heater stops working after 2027, you will be required to install an electric model instead. 

Bay Area regulators voted Wednesday to adopt rules to phase out the sale and installation of natural-gas furnaces and water heaters over the next eight years, one of the most ambitious plans in the country to replace gas appliances with electric alternatives.

The rules, approved by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, are meant to reduce air pollution from some of the worst home-appliance offenders. The main pollutants targeted are nitrogen oxides, or NOx, which can cause acid rain and smog as well as increase risk for asthma and other respiratory diseases. 

People will be able to repair their gas appliances if they break — but the rules take effect when existing gas-powered furnaces or water heaters no longer work and need to be replaced. New construction will also be required to have zero-NOx — effectively, electric — furnaces and water heaters. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

CA Seeks EPA Authorization to Ban Gas and Diesel Vehicle Sales. Policy Could Spread to Other States Too. – Last year, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted its Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII) regulation. ACCII requires 35% of light-duty vehicle sales to qualify as “zero emission” by 2026 and 100% by 2035. Essentially, this amounts to a ban on new sales of traditional gasoline and diesel-powered cars and trucks. To implement the policy, California will need authorization in the form of a Clean Air Act waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If EPA grants the waiver, millions of American consumers—including many outside of California—could soon lose the option to buy the car or truck THEY want.

California isn’t the only state that would be affected by this decision. When, and if, California is given an EPA waiver to set its own vehicle and emissions policies, other states are allowed to adopt those same policies too. In fact, 15 states already follow California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, including four that automatically pass any California vehicle policies for which the EPA grants a waiver. Two more states follow California’s Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards.

Altogether, these states and the District of Columbia account for 40% of the U.S. population. If EPA authorizes California to move forward with an outright ban on gasoline and diesel vehicle sales, it’s possible each of those states and others will enact the same ban. That would put California in charge of dictating what vehicles more than 125 million Americans are able to buy. No unelected state government regulators should have that power. Read More > at AFPM

Increase in mortality rate among kids, teens largest in decades: research – The country saw the largest increases in the mortality rate in decades among young kids and teenagers in 2020 and 2021, according to a research article released Monday. 

Two researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and one from the University of Washington’s pediatrics and epidemiology department and Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that the U.S. mortality rate for people ages 1 to 19 rose by 10.7 percent from 2019 to 2020 and by 8.4 percent from 2020 to 2021. 

Both increases were the largest in decades after a “great period” of declining pediatric child mortality rates. 

Most of the increase came from older children, ages 10 to 19, but the rate also increased among children 1 to 10. Only infants younger than 1 did not have a significant increase in mortality during this time. 

The researchers found that the increase was not strongly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic but a rise in injuries, which are defined as external causes of death such as transportation, firearms and poisoning. This type of fatality was tracked separately from the noninjury causes of death, which are internal, like diseases. 

The researchers stated that the pandemic might have fueled already increasing rates of suicides and homicides. 

The number of homicides among 10- to-19-year-olds increased by more than 39 percent from 2020 to 2021, while the number of deaths from drug overdoses for this group increased by 113.5 percent. 

Meanwhile, transportation-related deaths for people 10 to 19 rose 15.6 percent in 2020 after years of falling.  Read More > at The Hill

Uber, Lyft defeat unions in CA Prop. 22 fight – Hundreds of thousands of California rideshare drivers finally have clarity on their job classification — but it’s not the outcome their unions were hoping for.

California appeals court ruled Monday that drivers can indeed be treated as independent contractors and not employees of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other platforms, reports CalMatters’ Grace Gedye.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, you’re probably thinking of Proposition 22 from 2020. Monday’s ruling upheld the initiative, which exempted rideshare companies from a law that would have required them to classify the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Californians who provide rides or deliveries as employees. 

Rideshare companies poured more than $224 million into the initiative, according to Ballotpedia. At the time, it was the state’s most expensive ballot measure, only surpassed last year by two sports gambling propositions. The money paid off, with voters passing Prop. 22 by a 58% to 42% margin. 

Though Prop. 22 granted workers some benefits, including a partial health care subsidy under certain conditions, drivers still don’t have access to other workplace benefits, such as minimum wage, sick leave, unemployment benefits and more. Read More > at CalMatters

Inflation Isn’t Going Away – Prices continued their upwards climb in February, as core inflation rose by 0.5 percent—the highest monthly increase since September of last year.

Though Tuesday’s consumer price index report was in line with expectations, the Department of Labor’s data seemed once again to dash any hopes for a quick resolution to the inflation crisis that has strained Americans’ wallets for the past year. The annualized inflation rate for February fell slightly to 6 percent, but the underlying numbers show that prices continue to grow at a stubbornly high rate.

In February, overall prices increased by 0.4 percent and so-called “core inflation” (which filters out more volatile categories like food and fuel prices) showed a monthly increase of 0.5 percent. Rent continues to be a primary driver of overall price increases, climbing another 0.8 percent in February and up 8.1 percent over the past 12 months.

Driven in significant part by those rising housing prices, February was the third consecutive month where the core inflation rate increased. That could put more pressure on the Federal Reserve to continue hiking interest rates to combat rising prices—despite other signals, like this week’s rapid collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, that rising interest rates come with their own costs.

“Every measure of CPI inflation is down from its peak over the summer, partly because some of that inflation was truly transitory and partly because the Fed’s rate hikes [have] kept the economy from getting much hotter and kept long-run inflation expectations anchored. That is good,” tweeted Jason Furman, a Harvard economist and former White House economic advisor. “But, still way too high and no sign of falling.”

Without the recent banking turmoil, Furman predicted that the Federal Reserve would respond to the accelerating core inflation with another rate hike of 50 basis points. Now, however, it’s difficult to know how the central bank will respond to the dual threats of rising inflation and ongoing instability in the banking sector. Read More > at Reason

Bay Area prices soar amid jumps in prices for food and utilities – The pace of inflation has worsened in the Bay Area, driven by a jump in consumer prices for a broad range of categories, the government disclosed Tuesday in a disquieting new report.

The Bay Area inflation rate as measured by consumer prices rocketed higher by 5.3% on a yearly basis in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

That was a considerably faster annual increase than the 4.9% increase in consumer prices that the government reported for the Bay Area in December. The government announces updates for the Bay Area’s overall inflation rate every two months.

One of the major factors: Costs for utility-provided electricity and natural gas — primarily the result of fast-rising PG&E monthly bills — increased by a huge amount in February compared to the same month the year before.

The price paid by consumers for natural gas piped into the home by utilities soared by 32.6% in February, nearly matching the 34.5% increase in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Consumer costs for utility-provided electricity jumped 13.6% in February, the same as the January increase.

Food prices, which have consistently been the primary factor behind the inflation surge, zoomed higher by 8% in February on a year-to-year basis. Read More > in The Mercury News

‘Who’s making dinner?’ Record 60 MILLION Americans are now living in multigenerational households as spiraling living costs force retirees, adult children and grandkids to move under one roof – Overstretched families are increasingly opting to move in with their parents and grandparents so they can band together on rent, mortgages and childcare.

Around 60 million American households are now thought to be ‘multigenerational’ – that figure has quadrupled since the 1970s, according to data collected by Pew Research.

It is more than just a trend among 20-somethings. Couples in their 30s and 40s are resorting to moving in with their grandparents to help out with rising costs. 

The demand for multigenerational homes is so high that developers are designing and marketing properties with that purpose in mind – with multiple kitchens, bathrooms and converted basements.

The findings come as soaring inflation – which sits at 6.4 percent – pours cold water on young people’s dreams of living independently.  Read More > in the Daily Mail

Epic battle over a Bay Area housing project lasted 12 years. Now, it’s finally getting built – After a 12-year battle, the California Supreme Court declined this week to hear an appeal from a neighborhood group attempting to stop the development of a 315-unit apartment building in Lafayette, clearing the project’s last hurdle and allowing it to move forward.

The project, known as the Terraces of Lafayette, became the poster child of the Bay Area housing wars as it faced two lawsuits, a ballot referendum and over 100 public hearings that delayed the project for more than a decade after its initial application was approved by the city.  

But now, with the court’s decision Wednesday, the project’s developers, O’Brien Land Co., said that they intend to see their building plans through.

Lafayette Mayor Carl Anduri said in a statement that the courts have “once again affirmed” the city’s compliance with the Housing Accountability Act and environmental review.

“The litigation is over, and we should now focus on welcoming new residents to our community,” Anduri said.

Pro-housing groups are also celebrating the move as a victory that marks a shift in the Bay Area’s housing debate, as state lawmakers move to make blocking new housing more difficult and the Newsom administration works to hold cities accountable to their state-mandated plans to build more housing. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Concord starting fresh — again — in search for Naval Weapons Station master developer – The largest development project in the Bay Area needs a new master developer — again.

Concord City Council members this week discussed next steps in finding a new team to develop the Naval Weapons Station, a massive project 20 years in the making and which is expected to take four decades to complete.

The new suitor will be Concord’s third in less than three years. In late January, the council voted 3-2 to cut ties with Concord First Partners following revelations of internal strife and legal battles within the Seeno family, troubles first reported by this news organization.

Council members said they had lost faith and trust in the Seenos, a powerful family who operate an East Bay building empire. The family’s Discovery Builders Inc. led the Concord First Partners consortium, along with Lewis Management and Oakland developer Phil Tagami’s California Capital & Investment Group.

Concord officials have returned to the drawing board and, after the last deal went sour, are taking more precautions. A council study session this week began drafting a questionnaire to help narrow down the field of prospective developers. City Council is expected to approve recommended questions by the end of April.

After reviewing submitted questionnaires, the city’s next step would be to invite chosen developers to submit proposals.

During the last search, there was a focus on whether developers had a willingness to negotiate with local labor groups. This time around, one key item all council members agreed on was requiring its next master developer to disclose litigation against them on a rolling basis.

Guy Bjerke, director of economic development and base reuse for Concord, told council members that a handful of developers have already expressed interest, including Irvine-based City Ventures, New York-based Brookefield Properties and Australia-based Lendlease. Read More > in The Mercury News

California and Huntington Beach Sue Each Other Over Housing – California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta announced a lawsuit against the City of Huntington Beach Thursday for violating state housing laws. Hours later, Huntington Beach turned around and sued the state, challenging its authority to compel the seaside town to build more than 13,000 homes over eight years.

At a press conference, Newsom called Huntington Beach “Exhibit A” for “what’s wrong with housing in the state of California.” The state’s lawsuit primarily focuses on the city’s accessory dwellings ban. Subsequent lawsuits are expected to target additional housing policies in the city.

Huntington Beach is now taking aim at the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) itself, which determines where and how much housing must be built. The city’s lawsuit cites Huntington Beach’s charter city home-rule authority. It also accuses the state of violating the city’s 1st Amendment protection for compelled speech, the Commerce Clause, and 14th Amendment due process rights.

Political observers saw this fight coming from a mile away. Huntington Beach settled a similar lawsuit with the state in 2020. But last November, a Republican majority regained control of the City Council. Voters widely elected candidates who vowed to stand up for local control.

The governor has called the city’s effort a waste of time. Read More > at California City News

Drama in Antioch: City spokesperson fired amid political firestorm involving police, City Hall – When a burglar busted through the front window of a local restaurant and ransacked the place last month, few could have predicted it would create a political firestorm that would lead to the firing of the city’s spokesman.

But that’s exactly what happened — and the drama is far from over.

In the three weeks since the break-in at Hillcrest Restaurant and Taphouse, tensions brewing between Antioch’s police department and City Hall have boiled over, as complaints about the slow police response to the burglary devolved into a game of finger-pointing. The city spokesman, Rolando Bonilla, was sacked over a provocative quote falsely attributed to the city’s police chief, which has led to calls for an investigation and a scathing memo by the chief demanding answers.

The chief has also accused the city’s mayor, Lamar Thorpe, of muzzling the department’s attempts to spread good news. And all this has come as eight officers — or about 10% of the police force — are on leave while a federal grand jury continues to review evidence against Antioch and Pittsburg officers and weighs potential criminal charges.

The most recent controversy reached a pinnacle earlier this month when Antioch City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson terminated the city’s contract with Bonilla, over a quote the spokesperson sent to a media outlet — and attributed to police Chief Steven Ford — blaming the Antioch police union for “circus-like antics” after the union president criticized the city over waning officer staffing levels.

When Ford saw the quote, he was furious. He fired off a memo to Johnson, as well as the city attorney and human resources director, accusing Bonilla of “negligence” and of violating his contract, and demanded a retraction from the news outlet, KRON4. The news station swiftly updated its story to reflect that the quote hadn’t actually come from Ford. Read More > in The Mercury News

Antioch city manager placed on leave amid City Hall turmoil – City Manager Cornelius “Con” Johnson has been placed on administrative leave, the Antioch City Council decided Tuesday evening.

The council vote was announced when council members emerged from a closed session meeting — and came as a shock to Johnson, who said he was out sick Tuesday.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Johnson told the Bay Area News Group after the decision. “I wasn’t there in closed session, so this is a surprise to me.”

Mayor Lamar Thorpe and Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker were absent when colleagues Michael Barbanica, Lori Ogorchock and Monica Wilson voted to place Johnson on leave. Torres-Walker later called for a national search for his replacement to begin immediately.

The City Council appointed Johnson, a former San Francisco police commander and longtime Antioch resident, as the city manager in October 2022, awarding him a two-year contract worth $266,400 a year.

The reasons behind his leave are unclear. Read More > in The Mercury News

After a Botched EV Push, General Motors Is in Deep Trouble – I once believed that GM had everything needed for a successful EV program. The Detroit carmaker invested billions in overhauling its factories and building new ones. Its EV plans looked rock solid, with more than a dozen EV models planned, some in the mass-market segments. GM even started partnerships with battery makers and raw material suppliers to ensure it has everything in place for a successful execution of its EV plan.

I smiled when Mary Barra vowed to surpass Tesla by 2025, although I thought if anyone were to challenge the EV leader, it would be GM. With all the resources, all the money, and all the factories, GM had a shot at being an important player in the EV arena, even without selling more EVs than Tesla. GM proved me wrong despite all this, with a disappointing EV production in 2022 and no sign of improvement in 2023.

Many believed electric vehicles were just a gimmick, despite Tesla’s strides in a market dominated by ICE vehicle makers. Then they thought that legacy carmakers would blow Tesla out of the water when they finally began building electric vehicles. If GM’s struggles are anything to go by, they couldn’t be further from the truth. Traditional automakers have tried for years to match Tesla’s production, sales, and technology without coming anywhere near.

GM is just one example. The Detroit carmaker started producing its iconic GMC Hummer EV 15 months ago. All the manufacturing prowess couldn’t help it build more than a dozen trucks per day, far below the target. And it wasn’t because the truck could not find customers, even at $110,000. The Hummer has a waitlist of more than 80,000 people, and many are more than happy to pay the price, especially as GM has closed the order book. GM simply can’t produce more, and those already at dealerships have been affected by a stop-sale order since last October because of water ingress into the battery pack. Read More > at Autoevolution

Women now binge drinking more than men for first time in history, doctor warns – For the first time in history, women are outpacing men in binge drinking, which is a growing concern among health officials as overall drinking for young adults is on the rise. As the pandemic came to an end, they seem to be drinking more than ever.

In 2020, during the pandemic, we saw a continuing decline in binge drinking among college-age students. Most were isolated or at home as classes moved online. Group activities or parties where drinking would be prevalent simply were not happening.

“In 2021, there has been an uptick, particularly among women. Now it turns out on college campuses women are actually binge drinking more than men, for the first time in history,” said Dr. George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Koob said while drinking overall was down during the pandemic, deaths associated with alcohol were up 25% for not just college students but the general population. Koob believes isolation contributed to mental health problems and substance abuse across the board.

“It’s what we call the alcohol deprivation effect. People tend to really rebound in drinking after a period of not drinking.” Koob said. “We are a little concerned that this spring and spring break is going to be a return to a good amount of binge drinking. I just want to caution everyone that when you start hitting the binge drinking level you start doing really bad things to your body.”

So, where does this leave this new group of women who are binge drinking more than ever before? Koob said knowing what a standard drink is and your limit is important to taking care of your health.

“A standard drink is 1.5 ounces of vodka, 12 ounces of beer, or five ounces of wine,” said Koob. “When you go past a standard drink, you really are getting to the point where alcohol ultimately becomes a toxin. You can easily overdose.” Read More > in the Washington Examiner

A Class Action Reveals the Horrifying Truth: ‘Boneless Wings’ Are Breast Meat! – Last January, Aimen Halim visited a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Mount Prospect, Illinois, where he bought an order of “boneless wings.” Unbeknownst to Halim, these were not “wings” at all: They were actually spicy, deep-fried chunks of chicken breast meat. That horrifying discovery was just the beginning of the Chicago resident’s ordeal, which is the basis of a would-be class-action lawsuit that he filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

It was bad enough that Halim paid good money for what he assumed was deboned chicken wing meat. Had he “known that the Products are not actually chicken wings,” the complaint says, he “would have paid less for them” or “would not have purchased them at all.” Worse, Halim is now living in a constant state of “uncertainty” regarding the nature of those products.

While Halim “currently believes the marketing and advertising of the Products are inaccurate,” the lawsuit says, “he lacks personal knowledge as to Defendants’ specific business practices, and thus, he will not be able [to] determine whether the Products are actually made of chicken wing meat. This leaves doubt in his mind as to the possibility that at some point in the future the Products could be made in accordance with the representations made regarding the Products.”

Halim is represented by Treehouse Law, a Los Angeles outfit that bills itself as the country’s “premier consumer class action firm.” His lawyers argue that Buffalo Wild Wings’ shocking scam violates the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and constitutes breach of express warranty and common law fraud. They propose a class action on behalf of Halim and “similarly situated” consumers across the country, who they say are “entitled to restitution, disgorgement, and/or the imposition of a constructive trust upon all profits, benefits, and other compensation obtained by [Buffalo Wild Wings] from its deceptive, misleading, and unlawful conduct.”

Instead of acknowledging its wrongdoing, Buffalo Wild Wings added insult to injury by mocking Halim’s claims. “It’s true,” the company tweeted this week. “Our boneless wings are all white meat chicken. Our hamburgers contain no ham. Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo.” Read More > at Reason

Bees learn to dance and to solve puzzles from their peers – Social insects like bees demonstrate a remarkable range of behaviors, from working together to build structurally complex nests (complete with built-in climate control) to the pragmatic division of labor within their communities. Biologists have traditionally viewed these behaviors as pre-programmed responses that evolved over generations in response to external factors. But two papers last week reported results indicating that social learning might also play a role.

The first, published in the journal PLoS Biology, demonstrated that bumblebees could learn to solve simple puzzles by watching more experienced peers. The second, published in the journal Science, reported evidence for similar social learning in how honeybees learn to perform their trademark “waggle dance” to tell other bees in their colony where to find food or other resources. Taken together, both studies add to a growing body of evidence of a kind of “culture” among social insects like bees.

“Culture can be broadly defined as behaviors that are acquired through social learning and are maintained in a population over time, and essentially serves as a ‘second form of inheritance,’ but most studies have been conducted on species with relatively large brains: primates, cetaceans, and passerine birds,” said co-author Alice Bridges, a graduate student at Queen Mary University of London who works in the lab of co-author Lars Chittka. “I wanted to study bumblebees in particular because they are perfect models for social learning experiments. They have previously been shown to be able to learn really complex, novel, non-natural behaviors such as string-pulling both individually and socially.” Read More > at ars TECHNICA

FBI says Americans lost $10.3 billion to internet scammers in 2022 – If you know someone who fell for an online scam last year, you’re far from alone. The FBI reports that Americans submitting incidents to the agency lost $10.3 billion to internet scams in 2022, a steep jump from $6.9 billion in 2021. While there were fewer complaints (800,944), certain ripoffs were still very problematic. Investment scams were the most common and costliest schemes. Related fraud losses jumped from nearly $1.5 billion in 2021 to $3.3 billion, and most of that value came from cryptocurrency scams — losses surged from $907 million to almost $2.6 billion in 2022.

There were some bright spots. While investment scams were the on the rise, ransomware complaints fell sharply. There were just 2,385 complaints about these digital extortion attempts versus 3,729 the year before, and they led to a relatively modest $34.3 million in losses. And while phishing was the most prevalent scam type with over 300,000 complaints, the damages were limited to $52.1 million.

The FBI warns that its figures don’t represent the entirety of online scams in the US. Not everyone who was the victim of a ransomware attack reported it to the bureau, Executive Assistant Director Timothy Langan says. However, he says the reports help law enforcement spot trends and otherwise deal with threats. The Investigators have better sense of what they need to address, even if they don’t have the full picture. Read More > at Engadget

Historic decline in IQ could stem from poor education, study shows – A recent study suggests that, for the first time in nearly 100 years, Americans’ average intelligence quotient (IQ) is declining. 

The professors who authored the study theorize that the quality of education could play a role in reversing the IQ gains enjoyed by previous generations.

The study, published in a spring 2023 edition of Intelligence, measures IQ test results among 18- to 60-year-olds to examine the phenomenon first observed by philosopher James Flynn

Professors from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and the University of Oregon in Eugene explain the Flynn effect: starting in 1932, average IQ scores increased roughly three to five points per decade. In other words, “younger generations are expected to have higher IQ scores than the previous cohort.”

Data from the sample of U.S. adults, however, imply that there is a reverse Flynn effect. From 2006 to 2018, the age groups measured generally saw declines in the IQ test used by the study, the International Cognitive Ability Resource (ICAR).

Overall declines held true across age groups after controlling for educational attainment and gender, but the study shows that the loss in cognitive abilities is steeper for younger participants. “[T]he greatest differences in annual scores were observed for 18- to 22-year-olds,” the authors write. Read More > at Campus Reform

Putin purge? 39 top Russians dead by ‘suicide,’ COVID and ‘shaman rites’ – It’s a particularly deadly time to be on Russian President Putin’s bad side — 39 bodies, piled up since war broke out in Ukraine, collectively underscore the point.

Just this month, two former bigshots bit the dust.

Sergey Grishin, a financial fraudster and oligarch who sold Harry and Meghan their Montecito, California, mansion for $14.7 million, perished from sepsis on March 6.

Coincidence or not, this happened after he criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Virologist Andrey Botikov — who helped develop the controversial Sputnik V Covid vaccine — went in a less subtle manner on March 1: He fell victim to a belt around his neck.

Energy bosses, politicians and outspoken critics are among those who have paid the ultimate price.

Putin and leaders of Russia’s bloodthirsty Kremlin, according to Russian expert Jon O’Neill, have their fingerprints on at least some of the deaths that range from the mysterious to the gruesome to the seemingly accidental. Read More > in the New York Post

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Motorcycling in California’s Central Valley – Tuesday, March 21

Tuesday, March 21
7 PM

Jean Harvie Center
14273 River Road, Walnut Grove

Join the Sacramento River Delta Historical Society for a talk from David Stuart, coauthor of the new book Motorcycling in California’s Central Valley. This is a pictorial history with more than 200 photos focusing on San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties and covering 1900 to 1970. For more information about this talk, call Tom Herzog with the Sacramento River Delta Historical Society at (916) 871-4060 or e-mail:

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Bethel Island and Far East Islands – Tuesday, March 21

Tuesday, March 21
1 PM to 3 PM

Los Medanos College Brentwood Center
1351 Pioneer Square, Brentwood, CA 94513

Interested in learning more about the Delta? Los Medanos College’s Lifelong Learning Center is hosting a series of lectures on the history of the Delta. The lectures are being taught by Carol Jensen, local historian and Delta National Heritage Area Advisory Committee member.

At this lecture, Carol will discuss the history of the eastern islands in Contra Costa County. It is from these far eastern islands that asparagus, vegetables and fruit was grown, packed and canned to feed Europeans and military troops during five wars. Where is the ingredient source that secured the beer reputation that proclaims, “Guinness beer is great?” It is not the water from the Irish River Liffey after all. It is the grain farm production of our own “Far East” Contra Costa County.

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Applications for Civil Grand Jury Service Sought

The Contra Costa County Superior Court is accepting applications for Civil Grand Jury Service for the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 term.

The Civil Grand Jury is made up of 19 members who serve for one year, July through June, to monitor, review and report on city and county governments, special districts and school districts.

Every effort is made to ensure that the Grand Jury reflects the makeup of the residents of the county. Approximately 75 applicants will be selected to be interviewed by the Grand Jury Selection Committee, which is composed of Superior Court Judges. After interviews, the judges will nominate approximately 30 applicants to constitute a grand jury pool from which the final panel of 19 will be selected by random drawing.

The drawing is scheduled to be held on Friday. June 16, 2023.

Individuals selected for service will be expected to be available from June 20 to June 23 and June 26 to June 29, to attend an orientation where they will meet with department heads, become familiar with their colleagues, learn about juror responsibilities and procedures, and select committees on which they will serve.

Grand jurors must be a United States citizen, 18 years of age or older, who have been a resident of Contra Costa County for at least one year prior to selection. They cannot currently hold any elected position within the county. Applicants should have reliable transportation to Martinez, and must be prepared to devote at least 30 hours per week to Civil Grand Jury service. Applicants should have access to a computer, be familiar with Microsoft Word, and be able to send and receive email. Citizens who work should apply only if they can be released from their jobs to perform the jury duties.

Applicants selected as one of the 30 nominees will be fingerprinted before the drawing. Jurors receive a stipend for attending full jury and committee meetings and are reimbursed 62.5 cents per mile for allowable jury travel.

Persons interested in applying may contact the Office of the Civil Grand Jury at (925) 608-2621 , or visit the website at to receive additional information regarding service on the Civil Grand Jury. Application deadline is Friday, March 24, 2023.\

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2023’s Best Cities for St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations + Infographic – WalletHub Reports

With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and at least $6.85 billion expected to be spent for the holiday this year, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2023’s Best Cities for St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations, as well as expert commentary. It also released stats about the holiday in its St. Patrick’s Day Facts report.

To determine the best cities for celebrating Irish-American heritage, WalletHub compared 200 of the largest U.S. cities across 15 key metrics, ranging from Irish pubs and restaurants per capita to the lowest price for a three-star hotel on St. Patrick’s Day to the weather forecast.

Top 20 Cities for St. Patrick’s Day
1. Boston, MA11. Henderson, NV
2. Philadelphia, PA12. Worcester, MA
3. Chicago, IL13. Fresno, CA
4. Pittsburgh, PA14. San Francisco, CA
5. New York, NY15. Tampa, FL
6. Reno, NV16. Syracuse, NY
7. Santa Rosa, CA17. Cedar Rapids, IA
8. Naperville, IL18. Orange, CA
9. Buffalo, NY19. Dayton, OH
10. Boise, ID20. Milwaukee, WI

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:

St. Patrick’s Day Facts

  • 174%: Increase in beer sales on St. Patrick’s Day compared to the rest of the year (153% more spirits are sold compared with the average day).
  • $1.84 Million: Market value of a leprechaun’s pot of gold.
  • $6.85 Billion: Amount that will be spent collectively on St. Patrick’s Day 2023 ($44 per person celebrating).
  • 31.5 Million: Number of Americans who claim Irish ancestry, second only to German and 6.4 times Ireland’s population.
  • 37: Number of people killed in drunk-driving crashes over St. Patrick’s Day holiday in 2020, with one life claimed every 58 minutes.

For the full report, please visit:

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Clean California Community Days – Friday, March 17 to Monday, March 27

Get involved in the 11-day event as we work together to clean up our communities and spread the word about taking pride in keeping California clean. One way to get involved is by hosting or joining a clean up event in your community. Register your clean up event with Clean California using this form or look for a clean up event near you.

Find Out More About Clean CA Community Day
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