FREE Emergency Preparedness Training – Saturday, May 22, 2021 at 10:00 am – 11:00 am

Here’s the Zoom Registration link to the training:  

https://bit.ly/2PCwKmU

Please share with your consumers and their families. The training is limited to the first 100 people.

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Saturday, May 8, 2021 10:00 AM to 12:45 PM. Training day for Volunteers for the Dockwalkers Program. The training qualifies as community service.

California’s Boating Clean and Green Program is looking for individuals to become Dockwalkers to help keep California waterways clean. The program is an education and outreach program conducted through California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways and the California Coastal Commission.

For the past two decades, Dockwalkers have taught more than 100,000 boaters about keeping waterways clean from oil, fuel, sewage, and marine debris. Dockwalkers raise awareness about clean boating practices by distributing educational materials at marinas, boat launch ramps and boating events, or wherever boaters are.

Free, virtual Dockwalker trainings will be offered through the Zoom video conferencing system starting. Participants must be 15 years or older. The training qualifies as community service. Interested persons must register for Dockwalker training in advance. Anyone who is interested in this effective educational program can view training videos online to learn more about the program and view success stories. 

Marinas and yacht clubs are also encouraged to participate in the Dockwalker Program. Participating facilities receive educational materials and tools to operate a clean boating facility and minimize water quality impacts. This program provides marinas with points towards a Clean Marina designation provided by Clean Marina Program. Participation in the Dockwalker Program counts towards the nomination of the Club of the Year, under the community service category.

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2021’s Best & Worst States for Working Moms – WalletHub Study

With Mother’s Day around the corner and mothers regaining jobs lost due to COVID-19 at a faster rate than fathers, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst States for Working Moms, as well as accompanying videos.

In order to help ease the burden on mothers in the workforce, WalletHub compared the attractiveness of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for a working mother based on 17 key metrics. The data set ranges from the median women’s salary to the female unemployment rate to day-care quality.

Life as a Working Mom in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 49th – Day-Care Quality
  • 47th – Child-Care Costs (Adjusted for Median Women’s Salary)
  • 24th – Pediatricians per Capita
  • 3rd – Gender Pay Gap (Women’s Earnings as % of Men’s)
  • 30th – Ratio of Female Executives to Male Executives
  • 48th – Median Women’s Salary (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 49th – Female Unemployment Rate
  • 6th – Parental-Leave Policy Score
  • 14th – Avg. Length of Woman’s Work Week (in Hours)
  • 19th – % of Single-Mom Families in Poverty

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-working-moms/3565

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Additional Resources from Mental Health America (MHA)

Adapting After Trauma and Stress

Podcasts:
Past Trauma Affects My Relationships
I’m Exhausted from Explaining My Trauma

Article:
Is All Trauma the Same?

Webinars:
Protective Factors for Healing From Trauma In BIPOC Communities
Owning Your Feelings & Moving Through Emotional Discomfort

Processing Big Changes

Podcasts:
Dealing with Change
I Don’t Want to Change

Getting Out of Thinking Traps

Podcasts:
Why Am I So Hard on Myself
Stopping Stupid Thoughts

Webinar:
Strategies for Healthy Emotion Regulation During Uncertain Times

Practicing Radical Acceptance

Podcast:
Does Being Positive Make You Happy?

Taking Time for Yourself/Self-Care

Podcasts:
How Do I Love Myself
How Do I Find Balance in My Life

Articles:
6 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion
8 of the Best Meditation Apps

Webinar:
Cultivating Gratitude To Support Wellbeing

Worksheets:
Self-Care Checkup
Daily Wellness Chart
Guided Journal

Dealing with Anger and Frustration

Podcasts:
I Get Mad at Little Things
How to Tell Someone You’re Mad
I’m Really Angry at the World

COVID-19
A wealth of articles, webinars, blogs, and podcasts about how to deal with the mental health struggles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at mhanational.org/covid19.

External resourcesResources mentioned below come from MHA’s trusted partners, supporters, and associate members.

BetterHelp: BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that matches you with a licensed therapist who you can video call, live chat, or exchange messages with. Check out their article: What Is Radical Acceptance And How Can It Help Me? Learn How To Use Radical Acceptance To Your Advantage

Brightline: Brightline is the first comprehensive behavioral health solution designed to support kids, teens, and parents across a range of common family challenges.

ChoicesInRecovery.com: Support and information for people with Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective, and Bipolar Disorder and their caregivers, including Strategies for Success that can be used daily by people living with mental health conditions.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Clinic at Rutgers University (DBT-RU): DBT-RU is a research and training clinic that provides comprehensive Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) services to individuals in the community. Be sure to watch their Radical Acceptance video.

DRK Beauty: DRK Beauty is a well-being and mental health digital platform that helps womxn of color discover and craft their own unique well-being journey. We blend a powerful mix of community, content, programming, and services that speaks to the psychological, spiritual, and physical needs of our community, ultimately empowering them to blossom, all through a convenient app.

Equoo: Equoo is a game that teaches individuals psychological skills in a fun and captivating way to deal with emotional and mental stressors in a healthy and productive fashion.

Happify: Happify brings you effective tools and programs (via the web and an app) to help you take control of your feelings and thoughts using proven techniques developed by leading scientists and experts who’ve been studying evidence-based interventions in the fields of positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Check out their video, How to Defeat Negative Thinking.

IDONTMIND: IDONTMIND is a mental health awareness campaign and lifestyle brand working to get people talking about their minds and to generate positive messaging about mental health. Check out their online journal for articles on all things mental health.

Lyf: Lyf is a social media app where users share highly personal aspects of themselves without the fear of judgment. Lyf users receive support during some of their most grueling, challenging, confronting or even “embarrassing” stages of their lives from other people who have no preconceptions about their fellow Lyfers. Lyfers have the opportunity to connect with and chat to others on the same life paths or journeys; whether it’s a struggle or celebration, in Lyf, you aren’t alone.

Make Sure Your Friends Are Okay: Through merchandise and social media, Make Sure Your Are Okay is building a community of like-minded people who want to help us get the world talking.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN): NCTSN was created to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. Be sure to check out their Pause, Reset, Nourish (PRN) to Promote Wellbeing handout.

notOK App: The notOK App® is a free app that takes the guesswork out of asking for help when you’re feeling vulnerable.

Open Notes: More and more health care systems are sharing psychotherapy notes. This page provides information for doctors, social workers, and other health care professionals and suggests how open notes may become powerful tools in mental health therapy.

PositivePsychology.com: PositivePsychology.com is a science-based online resource of courses, techniques, tools, and tips to help you put positive psychology into practice. Be sure to check out their radical acceptance worksheets, including Focus on the Present for Radical Acceptance.

Postpartum Support International: The mission of Postpartum Support International is to promote awareness, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing in every country worldwide.

PsychHub: PsychHub is the world’s largest online platform for mental health education with revolutionary Learning Hubs to take you from knowledge learned to behavior changed.

PsychoSocial: PsychoSocial is a mental health multimedia business created by mental health professionals in a joint effort to raise mental health awareness and destigmatize mental illness. Check out their handout on Positive Affirmations.

Supportiv: Supportiv is a digital peer-to-peer support network that enables people to process, cope with, heal from, and problem solve mental health (anxiety, depression) + daily life struggles (loneliness, family pressure, parenting challenges, relationship conflicts, work stress) in safe, professionally moderated micro-community chats.

This is My Brave: This is My Brave is an organization that works to bring stories of mental illness and addiction out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

This Way Up: This Way Up provides online courses that teach practical, psychological skills designed to help you manage difficult emotions, tackle unhelpful thoughts, and gain control over symptoms of anxiety and depression. Be sure to check out their handout, Calming Your Emotions During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

wikiHow: wikiHow is an online community consisting of an extensive database of how-to guides. Check out their course, created in collaboration with MHA: Boost Your Well-Being: wikiHow’s Healthy Mind Masterclass.

YogaPose: YogaPose is the largest free digital library of yoga poses searchable by symptom. As a form of holistic healing, we are utilizing yoga as a form of alternative medicine to help or ease the symptoms of both mental and physical illnesses. Users are able to search the Yoga Pose database of comprehensive yoga poses based on the ailment they are experiencing. Each yoga pose profile features an easy-to- follow Yoga Pose video, medical information, and related flows.

Youper: Youper uses Artificial Intelligence to deliver evidence-based therapy techniques to support people’s mental health anytime and anywhere.

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Sunday Reading – 05/02/2021

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.

California home prices hit record high – Never has it cost so much to buy a house in California.

The median price for a single-family home shot up to a staggering $758,990 in March — a nearly 6% increase from the previous record of $717,930 set in December and a whopping 24% increase from March 2020, according to figures released Friday by the state Department of Finance. It’s at least the sixth time the Golden State’s housing market has broken its own record amid the pandemic — it did so five times in 2020 alone, cracking the $700,000 median price mark for the first time in August.

Meanwhile, housing production has strayed farther and farther from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign goal of building 500,000 units annually as the state’s homeless population swells to record levels. California approved permits for 102,800 new housing units in 2020 — an 8.8% decrease from 2019, itself a 3.8% decrease from 2018. Lawmakers are currently considering a raft of bills to increase affordable housing production after similar efforts faltered in past years.

Further complicating matters, California’s eviction moratorium — which expires in two months — is structured in such a way that an untold number of residents are falling through the cracks, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias reports. For example, tenants who owe money directly to landlords are eligible for relief, but not tenants who took out loans to pay their rent in full. And relief is conditional on landlords giving the OK — which they may be disincentivized to do, particularly for rent-controlled apartments.

California loses congressional seat for first time – For the first time in its 171-year history, California’s political voice is about to get a little quieter.

After months of delay, the U.S. Census Bureau today released new population estimates for each state. The bad news for California: It loses a seat in Congress, down from 53 House districts to 52.

The worse news: Not only does that mean the state will have one fewer representative in the House, it also means one fewer vote in the Electoral College that decides the presidency and proportionately less of the $1.5 trillion in federal money distributed by population each year. 

Maybe the hardest news to take of all: While California is seeing its national stature shrink ever-so-slightly, that power is being shunted to our faster-growing rivals, Texas (which adds two seats) and Florida (which gets one). In all, seven House seats will shift among 13 states, the smallest change since 1941.   

The federal government is required to conduct the census every ten years. That data is used to dice the country up into 435 roughly equally sized congressional districts. Read More > at CalMatters

PPIC: California’s stalled population growth – The state’s population growth has been slowing for at least 20 years, but growth came to an effective stop between 2019 and 2020, increasing just 0.05%.

Demographers break population growth into natural increase—births minus deaths—and net migration—the flow in minus the flow out. Recent trends are being driven by slowdowns in both categories: the state’s population is aging as its birth rates decline, and net migration has turned negative in the past few years, after almost a decade of growth. CDC data shows that deaths accelerated dramatically in the second half of 2020 during the strongest COVID surge, and births are also down. The CDC’s July 2021 report may show that natural increase—which has been slowing down for many years—took a sharp downturn during the pandemic.

Net migration can be divided into international and domestic flows, and most of the recent migration shift is domestic: a function of residents leaving California for other states. While immigration from other countries has declined, it has not changed nearly as much. Nor are these patterns really new. In most of the past 30 years, domestic migrants moving to other states have been replaced by immigration from other countries. What is relatively new is a domestic outflow large enough to be a drag on the state’s overall population growth, with net outflows of about 170,000, 240,000, and 260,000 in each of the past three years. Read More > at Capitol Weekly

California Is Awash in Cash, Thanks to a Booming Market – As the pandemic raged last May, California was reeling. Spending on unemployment assistance and health care had jumped, while tax revenues were on the verge of cratering. State officials, just months earlier counting on a $5.6 billion budget surplus, now anticipated a $54 billion shortfall. Severe cuts would be needed, making an already frightening recession even worse.

Then Wall Street came to the Golden State’s rescue.

The stock market, after a steep but brief downturn in March 2020, has soared to new heights, prompting a record number of companies — many of them based in California — to go public. The rising market minted new millionaires and padded the incomes of the state’s wealthiest residents, who typically own a lot of stock. And for California, that meant a windfall. Its taxes on such stock-based gains are the highest of any state, and its largest revenue source is personal income taxes.

According to its most recent forecast, California is expecting a roughly $15 billion budget surplus next fiscal year, which runs from July through June. It is putting money into its rainy-day fund and is expected to reverse some cuts, including to the wages of state workers, which were imposed just a few months ago. The state is so flush that it is running its own stimulus program, writing one-time checks of $600 or $1,200 to poorer households and spending some $2 billion on aid for small businesses. Read More > in The New York Times

San Francisco Contends With a Different Sort of Epidemic: Drug Deaths – More people died from overdoses than from the coronavirus in San Francisco last year. Some think the toll, tied to homelessness, should force the city to re-examine its approach to illicit drugs.

The drugs killed them in plain view — in front of the public library, at the spot on Powell Street where the cable car used to turn around. Others died alone in single-room apartments or in camping tents pitched on the pavement, each death adding to an overdose crisis that is one of the worst in the nation.

Drug overdoses rose across the country during the coronavirus pandemic. But in San Francisco, they skyrocketed, claiming 713 lives last year, more than double the 257 people here who died of the virus in 2020.

San Francisco’s overdose death rate is higher than West Virginia, the state with the most severe crisis, and three times the rates of New York and Los Angeles. Although overdose data from the past year is incomplete, one researcher found that San Francisco — where overdoses have more than tripled since 2017 — has more overdoses per capita than any major city on the West Coast.

The drug deaths in San Francisco — about two a day — stem from a confluence of despair. Fentanyl, an opioid that was not a severe problem for the city just a few years ago, has fully permeated its illicit drug market and was a factor in most overdoses last year. A culture of relative tolerance toward drug use has allowed it to spread quickly. And fentanyl, much more powerful than heroin, has found fertile ground among the city’s thousands of homeless residents, who have died of overdoses in large numbers.

Unlike areas in the rural Midwest that have also been devastated by fentanyl, San Francisco has a well-funded and sophisticated public health system. The overdose crisis is calling into question the city’s nonjudgmental tolerance of illicit drugs and adequacy of its programs that focus on providing users with clean needles and medication to reverse overdoses. Read More > in The New York Times

Blighted San Francisco Diagnoses Its ‘Perilous Trifecta’ — and Bungles the Cure – San Francisco is coming undone. In recent years, the city has manifested a series of visible and persistent inequalities, with a spoils-to-the-victor world for its technological elite, and a chaotic, brutalized world for its dispossessed. In the city’s Tenderloin district, men openly hawk drugs on the street corners, desperate addicts are crumpled across the sidewalks, and first responders dart through the chaos to revive overdose victims.

The city has become a web of contradictions. There are thousands of new millionaires, and, by the latest estimates, 18,000 people in and out of homelessness. The headquarters of Uber, Twitter, and Square are blocks away from the open-air drug markets of the Tenderloin, Mid-Market, and SoMa. Wealthy families attending an art opening at the Civic Center have to cross through the tent encampments that line the sidewalks.

Residents, property owners, and small businesses—who pay an enormous premium to live and work in San Francisco—have begun to erupt in frustration. Citizens tell pollsters that homelessness is the city’s most pressing issue and business owners tell pollsters that “conditions on [the] streets have progressively deteriorated.”

City Hall has begun coming to terms with the crisis. Mayor London Breed recently hired a director of mental health reform, Dr. Anton Nigusse Bland, who compiled a statistical summary of the problem. People have long known that San Francisco has a homelessness problem, but Nigusse Bland discovered a population-within-a-population—the so-called “perilous trifecta”: 4,000 men and women who are simultaneously homeless, psychotic, and addicted to alcohol, meth, or heroin. About 70 % of them have been on the streets for more than five years; 40% have been on the streets for more than 13 years.

This is the city’s fundamental predicament. How do you help people in the grips of the perilous trifecta? What interventions could make progress? Where do social workers even start? It’s almost impossible to understate the depths of this challenge. Read More > at Real Clear Investigations

California spent $50 million for a COVID vaccine scheduling website. It flopped – The good news: More than one-third of all eligible California adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The not-so-good news: Few of them scheduled their jabs using the $50 million MyTurn website that the state specifically designed to help residents book vaccination appointments.

“Only 27% of vaccinations booked each day use MyTurn,” wrote Barbara Feder Ostrov of CalMatters, who described the state-funded website as “a lightning rod for many Californians frustrated by their inability to get vaccinated quickly and return to a normal life.”

MyTurn, initially pitched as a one-stop-shop where Californians could easily schedule vaccination appointments, appears to have instead become the state’s latest bumbling technology fiasco. CalMatters reported that the site has been used to schedule an estimated 100,000 appointments a day, but that’s not enough to help the vast majority of Californians.

“The technology was hastily deployed, leading to inevitable glitches because it wasn’t vetted enough before it was unveiled,” wrote Feder Ostrov. “It can’t reliably cope with the state’s constantly changing rules and wide variety of local eligibility qualifications. And the vaccine supply hasn’t kept up with demand, so until very recently, appointments were unavailable for most people.” Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

U.S. Household Income Surged by Record 21.1% in March – Household income rose at a record pace of 21.1% in March as federal-stimulus checks helped fuel an economic revival that is poised to endure with an easing pandemic.

The 21.1% March surge in income was the largest monthly increase for government records tracing back to 1959, largely reflecting $1,400 stimulus checks included in President Biden’s fiscal relief package signed into law in March. The stimulus payments accounted for $3.948 trillion of the overall seasonally adjusted $4.213 trillion rise in March personal income.

Spending was also up sharply, increasing 4.2%, the Commerce Department said on Friday. That was the steepest month-over-month increase since last summer.

Consumers shelled out more money on goods, particularly big-ticket items such as autos and furniture, compared with services in March. But economists expect that to change in the coming months due to widespread vaccinations and the broader reopening of the economy.

“If we have Covid-19 cases under control, that would ideally make way for us to reopen the services sector of the economy,” said Pooja Sriram, U.S. economist at Barclays. “That, in fact, is a crucial aspect of ensuring that this recovery continues.”

Americans will have cash to spend. The personal-saving rate surged to 27.6% in March, the second highest rate on record, eclipsed only by last April when a first round of government aid was distributed early in the pandemic. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Why Your Grocery Bills Are Going Up (And Are Only Expected to Get Bigger) – Americans spent a lot of money on groceries over the past year—and it isn’t just because they were eating more meals at home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices jumped 3.9 percent in 2020, nearly triple the rate of inflation.

Unfortunately, this trend seems poised to continue. The US Department of Agriculture estimates grocery bills could increase by another 3 percent in 2021, while some experts are betting on even longer-term problems.

So, what’s causing the spike? A perfect storm, really. Bad weatherstockpiling, increased demand from China, global shipping interruptions, and inflation caused by the extreme money printing by central banks all get honorable mentions. But a significant number of the factors to blame can be traced back to the government’s lockdowns and regulatory policies.

Meat processing plants were one of the industries hardest hit by the lockdowns. Many were forced to close for extended periods of time, and others invested in expensive new equipment and technology to reduce their in-person workforce. These costs were of course ultimately borne by the consumer, and the closures led to supply chain disruptions. Both made the price of meat go up. Read More > at the Foundation for Economic Education

Everyday products are about to get more expensive, companies warn – Toilet paper, baby care products, soft drinks and many other everyday products are about to get more expensive.

Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Coca-Cola have all warned that they’ll raise prices on many of their products as raw material costs rise. Plastic, paper, sugar, grain and other commodities are all getting more expensive as demand outpaces supply. Companies are also paying more for shipping as fuel costs rise and ports experience longer delays because of congestion.

The potential hit to consumers’ wallets comes as the economy returns to some semblance of normalcy. Vaccine distribution continues at a steady pace, promising to put the worst of the pandemic and business shutdowns in the past. States have been loosening restrictions and businesses are reopening to a lot of pent up demand from people who have been staying cautiously close to home during the pandemic. Read More > at WBIR 10 News

Facebook, Google, other corporate giants flooded Newsom with record $226 million in charity donations in 2020 – Facebook, Google and Blue Shield of California are among the companies that contributed $226 million to government causes on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s behalf last year, an unprecedented level of spending that is raising alarms about the influence large corporations are amassing in Sacramento.

State records reviewed by The Times show that so-called “behested payments” surged in 2020 compared with the year prior, when companies gifted $12.1 million on Newsom’s behalf. The governor’s haul last year during the COVID-19 pandemic was six times as much as that reported by former Gov. Jerry Brown during his final eight years in office combined.

With no limit on how much money can be donated by organizations or individuals at the behest of the governor, millions of dollars flowed in to prop up public services during the pandemic and fund Newsom’s favored programs, including an effort to address homelessness and a public safety campaign promoting the importance of wearing masks.

The corporations say they were simply trying to help the state in a time of need. But no matter how noble the cause, critics fear the donations could allow corporations to hold more sway in state government. They noted many of the donors have other business before the governor, received no-bid government contracts over the last year or were seeking favorable appointments on important state boards, which they say creates the appearance of a pay-to-play system. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

The wires may be there, but the dollars aren’t: Analysis shows why millions of California students lack broadband – Depending on a student’s access to reliable internet, the last year of virtual school has ranged from enriching to impossibly discouraging. 

Which kids have access follows a stark pattern: Across urban and rural areas alike, public schools with more students in poverty were far more likely to serve households that lacked a basic broadband connection at home in the months before school went online, according to an unprecedented CalMatters analysis. For the vast majority, the barrier to access was not a lack of internet infrastructure — indicating that the more common obstacle was affordability. But for the state’s small population of rural students, those two obstacles unite, leaving three in ten households without a reliable connection.

Though schools have scrambled to deliver laptops, tablets and hotspots to students, and promoted low-income internet plans offered by telecoms companies like AT&T and Comcast, one in five California households with K–12 students told the Census Bureau in late March they don’t always have the internet access needed for virtual school. Interviews with over 30 students, teachers, researchers, advocates and education leaders revealed that hotspots and discount broadband are often unreliable, leading to a year of education disrupted by screen freezes, distorted audio, and getting booted out of Zoom classes.

Barriers to home broadband access generally boil down to two main factors. Has an internet company connected the household to its complex above- and below-ground network of high-speed fiber, copper wires, cables, towers and antenna? If so, is the household able to afford the plan?

Efforts to solve California’s digital divide have often focused on the former: funding broadband infrastructure in remote parts of the state. If only we could get telecommunications companies to build out the last miles of high-speed fiber to California’s remote communities, we could close the gap, the thinking went.

Yet CalMatters’ analysis, backed up by a 2019 study from the California agency that regulates internet service providers, paints a more complicated picture. Cost stood out as a more common barrier for most California students, in rural and urban areas alike. In other words, even if high-speed broadband were available to every California household, many families wouldn’t feel they could afford it. Read More > at CalMatters

Not in our Backyard – Rural America is fighting back against large-scale renewable energy projects

Renewable energy is politically popular. Polling data show that about 70 percent of Americans want more wind energy and 80 percent want more solar. Regulators at the local, state, and federal levels have responded to this popularity by passing a myriad of goals, mandates, and subsidies to encourage the development and consumption of wind and solar energy. The Sierra Club claims that “over 170 cities, more than ten counties, and eight states across the U.S. have goals to power their communities with 100% clean, renewable energy.

In addition to their political popularity, a spate of academic studies released over the past few years have claimed that the U.S. can run most or, all, of its economy solely on renewables. No oil, coal, natural gas, or nuclear required. Although renewables are popular among voters and professors at elite universities, they also have several problems, including their intermittency, need for high-voltage transmission lines, and resource intensity. Several analyses, including one done in 2019 by the Natural History Museum in London, have documented the enormous amounts of metals and rare-earth elements that will have to be mined in order to manufacture the vast amounts of solar panels and wind turbines needed for such a large effort.

But the most important — and the most obvious — challenge in converting to a renewables-only economy is commandeering the enormous amounts of land needed to accommodate the staggering amounts of solar and wind generation capacity that will be required to meet domestic energy needs. As longtime consulting electric engineer Lee Cordner summed it up, “Where are you going to put it? How are you going to connect it? And how are you going to pay for it?” This paper addresses those issues. Read More > at American Experiment

Electrification To Fight Climate Change: The Challenge Of A Lifetime – The reality is obvious: the climate goal of electrification could surge U.S. electricity demand. As we seek to decarbonize, more of our economy electrifies and more of the load shifts to the grid. In the U.S., this is a really big deal. Hovering around 4,100 terawatt hours, most Americans probably do not realize that our national power consumption has been flat since The Great Recession of 2007-2009. No wonder then that the coal industry might be electric cars’ biggest fan.

A overwhelming statistic illustrates our Herculean task for electric cars: we have 270 million oil-based cars (i.e., internal combustion engine) and only around 2 million that run on electricity. The amount of electricity that could be needed to change this may be incalculable but we know it is immense. Packing a mighty punch, oil-based gasoline has 100 times the energy density of a lithium-ion battery utilized in electric cars.

Experts at the University of California, Berkeley calculate that by 2050 the U.S. will need almost 90% more electricity than it did in 2018, in a scenario where all new passenger vehicles sold by 2030 are electric, with buildings and factories also electrifying quickly. This analysis is part of a comprehensive 2020 study looking at what it would take to make the power grid 90% carbon-free by 2035.

Again, none of this is hard to imagine. All we have to do is look at Norway, where electric cars account for about 55% of new sales, thanks to a plethora of government incentives. At an astounding 26,500 kWh per person per year, Norway has the second highest (after Iceland) electricity use rate in the world, more than double that of the U.S. And at almost $70,000/capita/year/, Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, so residents can afford much higher cost electric cars. For measure, the U.S. has nearly 65 times more people and 100 times more vehicles than Norway.

Americans will not buy into the “electrify to fight climate change” goal if costs are too high. We are engaged in a very delicate dance on climate policy. Public opinion polls show that nearly 70% of Americans would not pay just $10 a month in higher electric bills to combat climate change. The wind and solar power and CO2 reduction schemes that we want to utilize have already been proven expensive, as seen in such green-tinted policies coming from CaliforniaGermanyDenmarkAustralia, and Ontario. Read More > at Forbes

California Has A Recycling Problem – It’s like magic: Every week, plastics, mixed paper and cans go in a big blue bin, are hauled out to the curb and then — poof! — recycled into something new in some distant facility. 

In reality, there’s more myth than magic at work. 

“Twenty to 40% percent of what ends up in somebody’s curbside bin has a chance of being landfilled,” said Jeff Donlevy, general manager with Ming’s Recycling in Sacramento. “And a lot of it has to do with mislabeling and contamination of materials.”

In 2016, the state sent over 9 million tons of potentially recyclable materials to China. The materials had an estimated value of over $2 billion — if they could be properly sorted, cleaned and recycled. Allen and others claim China would typically pick out the most valuable materials and burn or dump the rest. 

Two years later, China and other countries stopped taking recyclable materials from the U.S., in part because it was becoming less profitable. That created a serious problem for California. Read More > at Capital Public Radio

Ford, BMW and Honda cut production due to global chip crisis – Despite the best efforts of chip makers, the production crisis sparked by a global shortage in semiconductors is getting worse. Demand has outsripped supply in the wake of a pandemic-induced buying spree that saw the public snap up everything from gaming consoles to TVs during lockdowns. As a result, many of the tech products that rely on these chips — like the PS5, Xbox Series X/S and the iPhone 12 — have quickly sold out, suffered delays or been prone to extended shipping times. Now, the situation is deteriorating for one of the worst hit sectors: Automotives. Bloomberg reports that car makers across three continents are currently warning of production cuts.

In the span of 12 hours, Ford in the US said the chip shortage could halve production in the current financial quarter; Japan’s Honda announced it will halt production at three domestic plants for five to six days next month; and BMW warned of delays at its facilities in Germany and England. 

What started as a blip caused by factory shutdowns during the pandemic, has morphed into widespread disruption on the back of high demand for chips across other industries. Vehicles use semiconductors to power their advanced driver assistance systems, including anti-lock braking and parking assist. The more tech is squeezed into cars, the more chips they will inevitably require. 

The news is hardly better for the tech industry. Coming off mammoth financial results, both Apple and Samsung have admitted the chip shortage will cause a significant impact in the near-term. Despite their push to make more in-house processors, the announcements underline Apple and Samsung’s reliance on a vast procurement network. Read More > at Engadget

Millions Are Skipping Their Second Doses of Covid-19 Vaccines – More than five million people, or nearly 8 percent of those who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, have missed their second doses, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is more than double the rate among people who got inoculated in the first several weeks of the nationwide vaccine campaign.

Even as the country wrestles with the problem of millions of people who are wary about getting vaccinated at all, local health authorities are confronting an emerging challenge of ensuring that those who do get inoculated are doing so fully.

The reasons vary for why people are missing their second shots. In interviews, some said they feared the side effects, which can include flulike symptoms. Others said they felt that they were sufficiently protected with a single shot.

Those attitudes were expected, but another hurdle has been surprisingly prevalent. A number of vaccine providers have canceled second-dose appointments because they ran out of supply or didn’t have the right brand in stock. Read More > in The New York Times

Pausing the J&J vaccine was a damaging failure to balance costs and benefits – It’s been a week since the FDA and CDC lifted their pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine. The pause lasted only 11 days, but the damage has been done. The move destroyed public confidence not only in what could have been an important vaccination tool both at home and abroad, but possibly also in the entire vaccination endeavor. What were they thinking?

In imposing and then lifting the pause, both the CDC and FDA leadership stressed that safety was their priority. Unfortunately, that priority crowded out all other considerations, especially the particular benefits of the J&J vaccine. Everyone acknowledged that the health complications in question were extremely rare: blood clots in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, or CVST) coupled with low platelet counts in six vaccine recipients (later upped to 15) out of more than 7 million doses administered. But in their zeal to protect the public, the agencies became practitioners of the precautionary principle.

J&J’s is the only Covid-19 vaccine available that can be given in a single dose. It is also transported and stored in regular refrigerators, in contrast to the ultra-cold freezers needed for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. These attributes make it the vaccine of choice for hard-to-reach populations like the homebound, the elderly, and rural residents who might otherwise go unvaccinated.

During the pause, many among these groups had to forgo the benefit of being vaccinated. Some undoubtedly contracted Covid-19. Some will likely go on to die—an irreversible cost. In addition, the pause undermined public confidence in the J&J vaccine, and possibly Covid-19 vaccines in general, which could result in many people skipping vaccination and thus additional infections, illnesses, and deaths. Read More > at City Journal

Cuomo Aides Spent Months Hiding Nursing Home Death Toll – The effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office to obscure the pandemic death toll in New York nursing homes was far greater than previously known, with aides repeatedly overruling state health officials over a span of at least five months, according to interviews and newly unearthed documents.

Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aides engaged in a sustained effort to prevent the state’s own health officials, including the commissioner, Howard Zucker, from releasing the true death toll to the public or sharing it with state lawmakers, these interviews and documents showed.

A scientific paper, which incorporated the data, was never published. An audit of the numbers by a top Cuomo aide was finished months before it became publicly known. Two letters, drafted by the Health Department and meant for state legislators, were never sent.

The actions coincided with the period in which Mr. Cuomo was pitching and then writing a book on the pandemic, with the assistance of his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, and others.

And they came as the governor’s approach to nursing homes was receiving intensifying scrutiny from critics and Republicans, including former President Donald J. Trump, whose administration made a public show of requesting nursing home death data from four states with Democratic governors, including New York. Read More > in The New York Times

Why fully investigating COVID-19’s origins still matters – As terrible as COVID-19 has been, it’s entirely possible — likely, even — that we’ll face another pandemic unless we identify how this crisis began and fix our biggest shortcomings. Yet, well more than a year after the outbreak, we still lack a credible, comprehensive international investigation into the origins of the pandemic. That should frighten everyone.

Although global media reports have repeatedly referenced a “World Health Organization investigation” into COVID-19 origins, it may surprise many people to learn that this review process was not carried out by the WHO and was not, by the admission of its leader, even an investigation. Instead, an independent committee of experts organized by the WHO, with a very limited mandate, spent only two weeks on the ground in Wuhan, China, engaging in a highly curated, restricted study tour during which they were denied access to basic essential information. 

On the day this international committee and its Chinese counterparts released their highly incomplete joint report — which significantly echoed the Chinese government’s position on COVID-19 origins — WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom released a statement highlighting the difficulties the international experts experienced accessing raw data and rejected the joint study team’s recommendation to restrict the scope of the examination and to conduct no further examination of a lab-leak hypothesis for the pandemic’s origin.  

…It’s harder to understand why the international expert committee recommended no further examination of the lab incident hypothesis. Perhaps some of its members felt that even limited collaboration with their Chinese counterparts, made possible through a restricted process, was better than none at all.

But any effort to prevent a full investigation into all pandemic-origin hypotheses with unrestricted access to all relevant records, samples and personnel in China and beyond should be recognized for what it is — a threat to all of us and to future generations. Everyone on Earth is a stakeholder in getting to the bottom of how this terrible crisis began and our many other ensuing failures as essential first steps towards addressing our greatest vulnerabilities. Read More > in The Hill

Do Brain Implants Change Your Identity? – It is almost a quarter of a century since the F.D.A. first approved the use of a deep-brain-stimulation device—to treat essential tremor and advanced Parkinson’s disease. Today, at least two hundred thousand people worldwide, suffering from a wide range of conditions, live with a neural implant of some kind…As we enter this new era of extra-human intelligence, it’s becoming apparent that many people develop an intense relationship with their device, often with profound effects on their sense of identity. These effects, though still little studied, are emerging as crucial to a treatment’s success.

The human brain is a small electrical device of super-galactic complexity. It contains an estimated hundred billion neurons, with many more links between them than there are stars in the Milky Way. Each neuron works by passing an electrical charge along its length, causing neurotransmitters to leap to the next neuron, which ignites in turn, usually in concert with many thousands of others. Somehow, human intelligence emerges from this constant, thrilling choreography. How it happens remains an almost total mystery, but it has become clear that neural technologies will be able to synch with the brain only if they learn the steps of this dance.

….For the great majority of patients, deep-brain stimulation was beneficial and life-changing, but there were occasional reports of strange behavioral reactions, such as hypomania and hypersexuality. Then, in 2006, a French team published a study about the unexpected consequences of otherwise successful implantations. Two years after a brain implant, sixty-five per cent of patients had a breakdown in their marriages or relationships, and sixty-four per cent wanted to leave their careers. Their intellect and their levels of anxiety and depression were the same as before, or, in the case of anxiety, had even improved, but they seemed to experience a fundamental estrangement from themselves. One felt like an electronic doll. Another said he felt like RoboCop, under remote control.

Many people reported that the person they were after treatment was entirely different from the one they’d been when they had only dreamed of relief from their symptoms. Some experienced an uncharacteristic buoyancy and confidence. One woman felt fifteen years younger and tried to lift a pool table, rupturing a disk in her back. One man noticed that his newfound confidence was making life hard for his wife; he was too “full-on.” Another woman became impulsive, walking ten kilometres to a psychologist’s appointment nine days after her surgery. She was unrecognizable to her family. They told her that they grieved for the old her. Read More > in The New Yorker

Most Societies Completely Misunderstand Yawning – Yawning, it seems, is a form of social empathy, a subtle communication that we’re feeling what our friends feel. This is why yawns are contagious, and seem to be more contagious amongst friends and family compared to acquaintances or strangers. This infectious quality doesn’t just apply to humans, but to all sorts of animals. For example, a recent study found that yawning seems to help lions synchronize their movements.

Moreover, as Novella noted, yawning is theorized to help keep animals alert, and to remind conspecifics to do so as well.

One of the most intriguing explanations for yawning is that it helps us thermoregulate, often to keep the brain cool.

“Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in the regulation of skin blood flow, and the thermoregulation this blood flow does. Increases of serotonin have been shown to increase body and brain temperatures, a change that causes the body to trigger more yawns, in an attempt to cool itself,” Ada McVean wrote for the McGill Office for Science and Society. Read More > at Real Clear Science

‘Self-driving’ cars are still a long way off. Here are three reasons why – Experts talk about six levels of autonomous vehicle technology, ranging from level 0 (a traditional vehicle with no automation) to level 5 (a vehicle that can independently do anything a human driver can).

Most automated driving solutions available on the market today require human intervention. This puts them at level 1 (driver assistance, such as keeping a car in a lane or managing its speed) or level 2 (partial automation, such as steering and speed control).

These capabilities are intended for use with a fully attentive driver prepared to take control at any moment.

Level 3 vehicles have more autonomy and can make some decisions on their own, but the driver must still remain alert and take control if the system is unable to drive.

For higher levels of automation, a human driver won’t necessarily be involved in the driving task. The driver would effectively be replaced by the AI self-driving software.

Level 4 is a “self-driving” vehicle that has a bounded scope of where and when it will drive. The best example of a level 4 vehicle is Google’s Waymo robotaxi project. Other companies are also making significant progress in developing level 4 vehicles, but these vehicles are not commercially available to the public.

Level 5 represents a truly autonomous vehicle that can go anywhere and at any time, similar to what a human driver can do. The transition from level 4 to level 5, however, is orders of magnitude harder than transitions between other levels, and may take years to achieve.

While the technologies required to enable higher levels of automation are advancing rapidly, producing a vehicle that can complete a journey safely and legally without human input remains a big challenge.

Three key barriers must be overcome before they can be safely introduced to the market: technology, regulations and public acceptance. Read More > at The Conversation

Body’s natural pain killers can be enhanced – Fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine—these substances are familiar to many as a source of both pain relief and the cause of a painful epidemic of addiction and death.

Scientists have attempted for years to balance the potent pain-relieving properties of opioids with their numerous negative side effects—with mostly mixed results.

Work by John Traynor, Ph.D., and Andrew Alt, Ph.D., and their team at the University of Michigan Edward F. Domino Research Center, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, seeks to side-step these problems by harnessing the body’s own ability to block pain.

“Normally, when you are in pain, you are releasing endogenous opioids, but they’re just not strong enough or long lasting enough,” says Traynor. The team had long hypothesized that substances called positive allosteric modulators could be used to enhance the body’s own endorphins and enkephalins. In a new paper published in PNAS, they demonstrate that a positive allosteric modulator known as BMS-986122 can boost enkephalins’ ability to activate the mu-opioid receptor.

What’s more, unlike opioid drugs, positive allosteric modulators only work in the presence of endorphins or enkephalins, meaning they would only kick in when needed for pain relief. They do not bind to the receptor in the way that opioids do instead binding in a different location that enhances its ability to respond to the body’s pain-relieving compounds. Read More > at Medical Xpress

People Emerge From Cave After Intense 40-Day ‘Deep Time’ Experiment – What happens if you put 15 people together in a dark cave and take away their ability to track the passage of time? An extraordinary experiment in France has attempted to answer this question, and the results are fascinating.

The environment was most certainly rough, with the temperature fixed at 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) and the relative humidity pinned at an oppressive 100%. Not a single ray of sunlight leaks into this cave, requiring the team to depend exclusively on artificial lighting. And with no way to communicate with the outside world, team members lost touch with their friends, families, and the daily news cycle.

Importantly, they also lost track of time, as no clocks of any sort were allowed in the cave. For this was the point of the “Deep Time” project, organized by the Human Adaptation Institute, which is seeking to understand how humans adapt and work together to recreate “synchronization outside the usual indicators,” as the group explains at its website.

When asked how long they had stayed in the cave, the team collectively figured it was around 30 days (though, as The Guardian reports, one person estimated the total duration at 23 days!). That the team had somehow lost track of 10 whole days (or more) is somewhat astounding and testament to our dependence on clocks or the day-night cycle to keep track of time. Our internal clocks, it would appear, really, really suck, and are subject to considerable drift—even across the relatively short time span of 40 days.

This research will hopefully shed light on the physiological and cognitive processes involved with social isolation, clock-deprivation, and the tracking of time, but there’s a practical aspect to this as well. This work could ultimately lead to improved conditions for submarine crews, miners, and operators of boring machines. It could also be of benefit to future explorers on the Moon and Mars, who would likewise experience disruptions to a 24-hour day. Read More > at Gizmodo

California trucks salmon to Pacific; low river levels blamed – California officials will again truck millions of young salmon raised at fish hatcheries in the state’s Central Valley agricultural region to the Pacific Ocean because projected river conditions show that the waterways the fish use to travel downstream will be historically low and warm due to increasing drought.

Officials announced the massive trucking operation on Wednesday, saying the effort is aimed at ensuring “the highest level of survival for the young salmon on their hazardous journey to the Pacific Ocean.”

“Trucking young salmon to downstream release sites has proven to be one of the best ways to increase survival to the ocean during dry conditions,” Jason Julienne, North Central Region Hatchery Supervisor said in a statement.

More than 16.8 million young salmon from four Central Valley hatcheries will be trucked to coastal sites around the San Pablo, San Francisco, Half Moon and Monterey bays. Read More > from the Associated Press

Rebuilding Big Basin – Big Basin Redwoods State Park exemplifies both the destruction of California’s wildfires and the resilience of nature: 97% of the state’s oldest park burned in one day last summer as lightning-sparked wildfires ravaged forests of giant redwoods. CalMatters’ Julie Cart was one of three reporters invited to tour the park and observe its regrowth. What she saw was humbling — thousands of dead, blackened trees litter the ground — but also hopeful: Towering redwoods still dominate the skyline, and vivid green shoots are already sprouting out of the ground. Check out Julie’s report for a firsthand account of the park’s transformation — and what it will take to rebuild.

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May 1–31:Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Jewish American Heritage Month

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is a month to celebrate and pay tribute to the contributions generations of Asian/Pacific Americans have made to American history, society and culture.

The origin of Asian/Pacific-American Heritage Month dates back to the 95th Congress (1977-1978) when five joint resolutions were introduced proposing that a week in May be designated to commemorate the accomplishments of Asian/Pacific Americans. The House of Representatives introduced three joint resolutions (H.J.Res.540H.J.Res.661H.J.Res.753) to designate the first 10 days in May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week while Senator Daniel Inouye also introduced S.J.Res.72 in the Senate to designate the beginning of May as Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.  A 4th joint resolution (H.J.Res.1007) was introduced in the House by Rep. Frank J. Horton and proposed designating 7 days in May beginning on May 4th as Asian/Pacific American Week. This joint resolution was passed by Congress and became Pub.L.95-419. This law directed the President to issue a proclamation designating the week beginning on May 4, 1979 as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. 

On March 28, 1979, President Carter issued Proclamation 4650, the first presidential proclamation, for Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In this proclamation, President Carter spoke of the significant role Asian/Pacific Americans have played in the creation of a dynamic and pluralistic American society with their contributions to the sciences, arts, industry, government and commerce.

Jewish American Heritage Month is a month to celebrate the contributions Jewish Americans have made to America since they first arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654. Jewish American Heritage Month had its origins in 1980 when Congress passed Pub. L. 96-237, which authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation designating a week in April or May as Jewish Heritage Week.  President Carter issued this first proclamation, Presidential Proclamation 4752, in April 1980.

Between 1981 and 1990, Congress annually passed public laws proclaiming a week in April or May as Jewish Heritage Week and Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush issued annual proclamations which detailed important events in the history of the Jewish people. In 1991, Congress passed Pub. L. 102-30 which requested the President designate the weeks of April 14-21, 1991 and May 3-10, 1992 as Jewish Heritage Week. Between 1993 and 2006, Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush issued a series of annual presidential proclamations designating a week in April or May of each year as Jewish Heritage Week.

Then on February 14, 2006, Congress issued House Concurrent Resolution 315 which stated:

“Resolved … that Congress urges the President to issue each year a proclamation calling on State and local governments and the people of the United States to observe an American Jewish History Month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.”

Pursuant to this, on April 20, 2006 President George W. Bush issued the first Presidential Proclamation which designated May 2006 as Jewish American Heritage Month. 

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The long-awaited iOS 14.5 update is finally rolling out with a new privacy tool

From Vox By Rebecca Heilweil  Apr 26, 2021, 10:52am EDT

On Monday, Apple is rolling out a long-awaited privacy feature for iOS. The latest version of the company’s mobile operating system, iOS 14.5, will prompt iPhone and iPad users to opt out of tracking in apps that monitor their behavior and share that data with third parties.

This new feature is a significant step for user privacy, as it gives people more control over their mobile phone app data and how it’s used by companies, like Facebook and Google, to target ads. At the same time, the move has frustrated app developers and tech companies that have relied on the reservoir of user data for years, and who fear they’re likely to be cut off from it in the near future.

The biggest difference most people will see with the introduction of the new privacy tool, called App Tracking Transparency, is a pop-up that appears when you open an app that tracks you:

Apple

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An easier way to pass taxes?

From CalMatters

The California Supreme Court may have just made it a lot easier to pass certain kinds of taxes. The state’s highest court on Wednesday declined to review an appeals court’s ruling permitting San Francisco to fund child care and early education programs with a tax approved by 51% of voters. Under a ballot measure California voters approved in 1996, any tax increase proposed by local government to fund specific programs must be passed by two-thirds of voters. But the child care tax was placed on the San Francisco ballot by residents collecting signatures, and that initiative power is “one of the most precious rights of our democratic process” and must be interpreted broadly, the appeals court ruled.  

The state Supreme Court in September declined to review a similar case, clearing the way for San Francisco to pay for homeless services with a citizen-proposed tax passed by a simple majority of voters. But the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which appealed both cases, isn’t backing down: It’s considering sponsoring yet another ballot measure that would require two-thirds of voters to approve any local tax increase, the San Francisco Chronicle reports

  • Laura Dougherty, lawyer for the HJTA“If politicians simply copy and paste a government tax proposal into a citizens’ initiative petition, they can dramatically reduce the voter approval needed to impose it.”
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Tri Delta Park and Ride starts construction in Oakley

The proposed project will construct 172‐space park and ride lot along with bus bays and a kiss and ride loop. The project will encourage carpooling and transit use in east Contra Costa County. Buses will shuttle riders from the park and ride lot to the new eBART Station in Antioch. Construction is expected to be completed in September 2021

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How dry is California? From the California Water Blog

By Jay Lund, UC Davis Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

California is in the second year of a drought. Governor Newsom (last) week made his first drought declaration.  

Just how dry is this drought, so far?  What are some likely implications?  And what might State and local governments do about it?

How dry is it? 

California Data Exchange Center has some excellent collections of water data:  https://cdec.water.ca.gov/index.html

Precipitation – Northern California has received about 48% of average historical precipitation for this time of year.  This is the 3rd driest water year on record, so far.  Only 1924 and 1977 were drier in precipitation over the last 101 years.  At this time of year, there will probably be little more precipitation until fall.

Snowpack – Statewide snowpack is about 30% of average for this date.  Snowmelt will only help reservoir storage a little this year, but we will be glad to get any of it.

Temperatures – Temperatures have been warmer than historically, and we should watch how they develop over the year.  In the 2012-2016 drought, warmer temperatures increased evaporation and dried soils much more quickly, further reducing streamflows, groundwater recharge, and stressing already-dry forests and aquatic ecosystems.

Surface water runoff – With warmer temperatures, this year might develop to rank drier in streamflow than precipitation, but it is too early to tell yet.  Historically, precipitation this low would lead to Sacramento Valley annual streamflow of about 5-6 million acre-ft, compared to an average of about 18 million acre-ft., more than 2/3 loss of average surface water available. 

Reservoir storage – Statewide, reservoirs are at about 74% of their long-term average.  Last year was dry, and this year’s runoff hasn’t helped.  The table below shows the major Sacramento Valley reservoirs are all quite low.  Shasta, Oroville, Folsom, and New Bullards Bar are all lower today than they were on this date in any year of the 2012-2016 drought.  This is especially concerning remembering that in both 2014 and 2015, Shasta ran out of cold water early, killing about 95% winter run juveniles, in 2014 suburban water utilities were quite worried for their Folsom supplies, and in 2015 levels were low enough to build a salinity barrier in the Delta.  This drought seems to be off to a faster start than the 2012-2016 drought.

The Colorado River’s huge reservoirs are very low, 56% of average storage (only 41% of capacity). Colorado River drought plans are being triggered.

What are some likely implications? 

The drought could end quickly, or it could go on for several more years.  We will all hear informed (and uninformed) speculation on this.  The informed speculation will be interesting, but perhaps not useful (such as the great El Nino distraction of the previous drought).

Cities seem mostly well prepared for this drought with stored surface and groundwater, and water banking and purchase agreements with farmers. They have continued drought preparation and water conservation efforts since the last drought.  Conditions for cities might worsen with additional dry years, so more water purchases might be negotiated, given the surplus water conveyance capacities available this year.  There will likely to be calls for more water conservation, mostly to help save water for potential additional dry years and to make some water available for other uses.  Urban water use is only 20% of all water diversions, so conservation mostly tends to help cities bank water for later, but isn’t bad for others either.

Agriculture is a much greater water user and has less banked water, but still has access to considerable groundwater, which compensated for about 70% of lost irrigation water in the previous drought.  Water markets and selective fallowing will further reduce the economic impacts of remaining agricultural shortages, as they did in the previous drought.  Some farmers surprised by shortages in the 2012-2016 drought should be better prepared for this one, so far.  Droughts these days are tougher on agriculture than cities, given their relative water demands and greater difficulties preparing irrigated agriculture for drought, especially with the growing share of more profitable, but hard-to-fallow, permanent crops. Farm worker unemployment is likely in regions with more fallowing.

Groundwater always becomes a problem during drought, with less surface water inflows and much more pumping, mostly for agriculture.  Users of shallower rural wells suffer most directly from this.  This drought will make implementing the State’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) for ending groundwater overdraft much more difficult, but also provide opportunities for local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and state regulatory agencies (DWR and SWRCB) to provide more forceful and specific guidance and motivations for implementing practical and effective local groundwater management (meaning more pumping cut-backs and less delusional recharge estimates).

Rural drinking water supplies always worsen with drought.  This process will continue in every drought until SGMA is well-implemented and better support exists for rural water systems.  A few rural water systems have been connected to more secure supplies since the last drought and quite a few deeper wells have been drilled. But we should expect to hear of rural community and household water supplies becoming scarce or dry – hopefully fewer than before.

The Delta is always dicey in drought.  Lower freshwater flows greatly reduce water availability for exports and reduce water quality in various ways (not just salinity).  These conditions are worse for native species and better for invasive species.  It seems hard to predict exactly what will happen in the Delta’s ecosystem with drought, but it is usually not good.  Although sometimes less bad than predicted, each drought seems to bring a step decline in native fishes which does not recover after the drought. 

With such low reservoir levels, calls to reduce freshwater and environmental outflows from the Delta seem likely (rhetorical outrage machines will run overtime again.)  Any reductions in Delta environmental outflows should probably be stored (not exported), to support environmental flows in future drought years if needed.  And at the end of the drought, any remaining stored environmental water in reservoirs should be sold if it results in earlier resumption or increases in Delta exports – this has not been the case in previous droughts.  Ecosystems should see some benefits from any necessary drought reductions in outflow that benefit other water users (Lund and Moyle 2015). 

Ecosystems have the greatest difficulty preparing for drought, so they are the most vulnerable.  We are the least organized to prepare ecosystems for drought, manage them in drought, and recover them after drought.  In California’s highly variable climate, no wonder our ecosystems are declining.

Forest ecosystems will be stressed by drier and warmer-drier conditions, leading to greater spread of tree diseases and insect infestations.  The previous drought killed over 100 million trees in California and increased catastrophic wildfires for several years after the drought, with wildfire damages and loss of life far greater than all traditional drought damages combined.

Native fish populations always seem to decline during drought, and fewer recover after the drought.  This drought ratcheting effect on aquatic ecosystems has been part of this ecosystem’s ongoing declines. 

Waterbirds need wetlands, which become scarcer during drought.  Fortunately, waterbirds need less water than fish, and California’s system of national, state, NGO, and private refuges, duck clubs, and rice farming has become well organized over decades to support the Pacific Flyway.  In recent droughts, these groups have collaborated, planned, and managed wetlands for migratory waterbirds quite effectively.  They show what can be done when environmental interests are effectively organized and funded.

Should the Governor have already declared a statewide drought?

The Governor declared drought emergency conditions in two counties clearly hard hit by this drought and where an emergency declaration will facilitate tangible and effective state and local actions to reduce drought impacts.  The Governor’s statement also moves forward a range of activities that prepare for additional State drought actions regionally and statewide, without yet making a statewide drought emergency declaration. 

Droughts are long disasters, and they are mismanaged by both panic and complacency.  The current measured incremental approach seems wise.  It makes clear that State government is neither complacent nor panicked, and allows limited state agency resources to focus on and emphasize particularly urgent problems early while foreshadowing that other actions are being prepared, and that others should help prepare as well.   It allows public and media attention to grow as drought conditions and needs worsen, and allows this attention to adapt as the situation evolves.  If drought conditions become truly dire and widespread, draconian changes in public behavior will be needed.  And to get such a public response, it will be necessary to maintain (and in these times build) public trust in water management institutions by acting in measured ways.

We all should prepare for a dry time, and for the likelihood of drier times.  This could be a long haul, prepare earnestly, and don’t get exhausted too soon.  And prepare to make one outcome of this drought be better preparation for the next drought.

Link to post on California Water blog

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This year’s first supermoon, the ‘Pink Moon,’ will rise tonight

The first supermoon of the year will happen Monday, appearing up to 30% brighter and 14% bigger than a typical full moon. On average, supermoons are about 7% bigger and about 15% brighter than a typical full Moon.

It’s the first of two supermoons in 2021: Another is coming down the pike in May. The two moons are “virtually tied” in terms of size and brightness, according to NASA.

Traditionally called the Pink Moon, because it often corresponded with the early springtime blooms of a certain wildflower native to eastern North America: Phlox subulata—commonly called creeping phlox or moss phlox—which also went by the name “moss pink.” 

This full Moon will be visible after sunset and reach peak illumination at 8:33 P.M. PDT.

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Sunday Reading – 04/25/2021

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.

More taxpayer rebates on the way? – California is so flush with money that it may be forced to issue taxpayer rebates for only the second time in state history — but this rare occurrence is poised to become a lot more frequent, according to a Wednesday report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Current law prevents California from spending more tax revenue per resident than it did in 1978, when adjusted for inflation, and requires any surplus revenue to be split between schools and taxpayer rebates. But as the gap between California’s rich and poor residents grows wider and voters approve ballot measures that hike taxes, among other factors, the state is increasingly likely to collect more tax revenue than it is authorized to spend. That excess revenue could top $10 billion by 2024-25, according to the legislative analyst. “As a result, we anticipate the Legislature will need to make — potentially major — changes to the state budget in the coming years,” the office wrote.

  • The legislative analyst“For example, this year, the Legislature could decide to issue refunds and provide additional funding to schools. This response might not be sustainable over the long term, however. As existing program costs increase, revenues available for appropriation could be insufficient to meet current service levels. Consequently, changes to the state’s revenues and expenditures” — taxes and programs — “would be required.” Read More > at CalMatters

A Young Autistic Pennsylvania Lawmaker Overcomes the Odds – When Jessica Benham talks to her fellow members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, she avoids eye contact, focusing instead on their foreheads. That’s not just a personality quirk. It’s a function of autism. “Some of the things that I do to cope are not noticeable to other people,” she says. “Or they might think are a little odd.” Even so, she manages not to feel entirely out of place in the Legislature. “I don’t think you can look at state legislators,” she jokes, “and think ‘these are the most socially graceful people ever.’”

“I’m not disabled because I’m autistic,” she insists. “I’m disabled because of the way the world treats autistic people. I often have to overcome people’s preconceptions before I can do other things. That’s my life. And I’m good at it.” When she took the oath of office as a freshman Democrat earlier this year, Benham became the first openly autistic person to serve in any legislature in the United States. “I didn’t run to be the first of anything,” she says. “I ran to make a difference.”

She is distinctive from her colleagues in one other way: She is bisexual. A 30-year-old bisexual autistic female might seem to many an unlikely candidate for office. There was a time when Benham would have agreed. “People do not often look at a queer disabled woman and see leadership,” she says.

After earning degrees in political science and communication studies from Bethel University in Minnesota, her mother’s alma mater, Benham went on to receive an M.A. in communication from Minnesota State, and an M.A. in bioethics from the University of Pittsburgh, where she also taught for several years. Read More > at Governing

The Postal Service is running a ‘covert operations program’ that monitors Americans’ social media posts – The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News.

The details of the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public. The work involves having analysts trawl through social media sites to look for what the document describes as “inflammatory” postings and then sharing that information across government agencies.

When contacted by Yahoo News, civil liberties experts expressed alarm at the post office’s surveillance program. “It’s a mystery,” said University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone, whom President Barack Obama appointed to review the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. “I don’t understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues.”

“This seems a little bizarre,” agreed Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program. “Based on the very minimal information that’s available online, it appears that [iCOP] is meant to root out misuse of the postal system by online actors, which doesn’t seem to encompass what’s going on here. It’s not at all clear why their mandate would include monitoring of social media that’s unrelated to use of the postal system.” Read More > at Yahoo! News

Drought emergency inflames political tensions – Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a regional drought emergency Wednesday, but stopped short of issuing a statewide proclamation or mandating water conservation measures — a decision that drew ire from some lawmakers.

Newsom’s emergency declaration applies to the Russian River watershed, which spans Sonoma and Mendocino counties and serves hundreds of thousands of Californians. The region relies on rainfall and is isolated from state and federal aqueducts, making it especially vulnerable to the drought parching California. Newsom’s order authorizes state agencies to restrict the amount of water diverted from the river and speed up contracts for certain services, such as relocating endangered fish stranded in drying puddles, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports.

Although the declaration also calls for a number of statewide actions — such as improved monitoring of groundwater pumping and reporting of dry wells — it wasn’t enough to satisfy lawmakers who have repeatedly called on Newsom to declare a state drought emergency and ensure Central Valley farmers receive enough water.

  • State Sen. Scott Wilk, a Santa Clarita Republican: “While the overwhelming majority of the state is experiencing extreme drought conditions, Governor Newsom has chosen to only serve his French Laundry wine and cheese crowd.”
  • Newsom: “We need to … approach the challenges with a laser-like recognition that you can’t focus this state as a one-size-fits-all solution, meaning we have to target our solutions regionally.”

The governor added that he will “add other counties to that list as necessary … based upon actual conditions on the ground.” He also said it isn’t yet necessary to mandate water conservation, noting that Californians in urban areas are using 16% less water than they were at the start of the last major drought in 2012. Nevertheless, a major Bay Area water agency — which receives about 25% of its water from reservoirs on the Russian River — on Tuesday approved mandatory water restrictions for its 200,000 residents.

Tensions are also rising on the Oregon-California border, where the federal government recently told farmers they will only get a tiny portion of the water they need even as endangered fish remain at risk. Read More > at CalMatters

Column: Newsom recall is serious — and may turn bizarre – Gov. Gavin Newsom appears certain to face a recall election later this year and once it qualifies for the ballot, as it is expected to do, the intense level of attention the campaign has received so far will pale in comparison to what comes next.

A flood of candidates are expected to run to replace Newsom. The list of announced and potential candidates is growing almost daily and ranges from former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox to Olympic gold medalist and transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner to former adult film actress Mary Carey.

Recall election voters will face two questions: Should Newsom be removed from office? Who should replace him?

If the governor is recalled, which requires a majority vote, the candidate with the most votes replaces him. That could be a relatively small number. With a likely large field, some analysts predict a candidate could become governor with between 20 percent and 30 percent of the vote.

It’s pretty easy to get on the ballot. A replacement candidate can either pay about $4,000 in filing fees — $500 more than in 2003 — or collect 7,000 valid signatures and submit them two months before the election.

poll released March 30 by the Public Policy Institute of California had Newsom’s job approval at 53 percent among likely voters. Only 40 percent said they would vote to recall him while 56 percent said they would not. The state budget has a burgeoning surplus. Read More > in The San Diego Union-Tribune

Caitlyn Jenner announces run for governor of California: ‘I’m in!’ – Reality television star Caitlyn Jenner announced plans Friday to run for governor of California.

“I’m in! California is worth fighting for,” Jenner tweeted.

Jenner, a Republican, also filed paperwork to seek the governorship and has hired several well-known Republican operatives to guide her burgeoning campaign.

She’s hoping to unseat Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces an all-but-certain recall election later this year. Read More > at Fox News

Judge Says All of Skid Row’s Homeless Must Be Offered Shelter by Fall – The city and county of Los Angeles have about 180 days to secure shelter for the entire homeless population of skid row. That mandate came from Judge David O. Carter, who sided with a group of homeowners and business owners in a lawsuit against the city and county Tuesday.

In his scathing opinion, Judge Carter said that “Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks, and highway systems due to the inaction of city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn.” He blamed officials for focusing on building permanent housing — an inherently slow process — at the expense of offering temporary shelter.

“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets,” the judge said. Once temporary shelter is offered, the city will be permitted to enforce laws keeping its streets and sidewalks free of encampments, he added.

The county had asked to be removed from the lawsuit, arguing it is already doing enough to address the crisis. Both city and county officials say they are now considering an appeal. Read More > at California County News

Public school enrollment hits 20-year low – California’s public schools lost more than 160,000 students amid the pandemic, the largest enrollment drop in two decades and a likely harbinger of serious educational and financial challenges.

The sharp 2.6% decline, announced Thursday by the California Department of Education, doesn’t capture the full effects of the pandemic. The enrollment tally comes from a one-day headcount in October and doesn’t include students who may have left the public school system afterward. But the drop is already steeper than the 155,000-student decline state officials were projecting in January. And it’s disproportionately affecting the state’s youngest students: 88% of the drop occurred in kindergarten to sixth grade, while public preschool enrollment fell by more than 6,000 students.

  • State Superintendent Tony Thurmond“While there are many reasons to stay optimistic that enrollment will rebound as conditions improve … we must also help schools identify opportunities to engage with families who either sought new options for their students during the pandemic or need additional resources and support.”

California’s public school enrollment was already decreasing before the pandemic, partly due to slowing population growth. But it also appears that many parents decided to pull their kids out of public school as the Golden State continued to offer its students the least amount of in-person learning in the country. Charter schools saw their enrollment jump by more than 15,000 students amid the pandemic, according to state data. Meanwhile, some families decided to hold off on school altogether. Potentially tens of thousands more children than usual will enter first grade next school year without having been through kindergarten, stretching an already strained system even tighter.

  • Lorin Yin, a San Francisco public school parent“There’s no version of this where we would have voluntarily left the school. I feel pushed out of the school system. I feel like I’m not fleeing it, I feel like I’m being kicked out.”

Districts aren’t at risk of losing state funding due to declining enrollment until the 2022-23 school year. But after that, smaller rosters could cause state funding to drop by $10,000 per student or more. Read More > at CalMatters

America Is Short of Home Builders as Well as Homes – America needs more houses. But there aren’t as many home builders around to make them as there used to be.

The Commerce Department on Friday reported that construction began on 1.74 million homes in March, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. That was a big move up from February’s 1.46 million housing starts, when winter storms stifled construction, and marked the highest level since July 2006, when the housing bubble was coming undone.

The stepped-up pace of building reflects a remarkable resurgence in the housing market that the Covid-19 crisis set off, as low interest rates and city dwellers flocking to the suburbs substantially boosted demand. There could be some bumps ahead, since rates have been trending higher, and some demand was likely pulled forward by families who would have eventually exited cities in any case.

But a combination of a growing economy, more Millennials starting families and changes in where people and businesses can locate as a result of the remote-work revolution suggest that the need for new homes will only increase. Freddie Mac estimates that as of the end of last year the country was 3.8 million single-family homes short of what is needed to meet long-term demand.

Before the housing bubble burst, that demand would have been easier to meet. There were far more home builders then, particularly speculative builders who build homes without a guaranteed buyer. In the tally of U.S. businesses it conducts every five years, the Census Bureau in 2007 counted 32,158 spec builders operating in the country. In 2017, it counted 15,483. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

California Has Seen a Staggering Amount of Unemployment Fraud During the Pandemic – This is one of the most infuriating scandals ever to plague our state. The department, which is responsible for paying out unemployment insurance claims, has been incapable of paying legitimate claims even as it has paid as much as $31 billion in fraudulent ones, often to inmates. Think about those staggering losses. They would be enough to make a dent in any number of the state’s infrastructure, budgetary, and debt-related problems.

The stories are as unbelievable as the Weekly World News‘ latest Elvis sighting. Here’s a desk-pounder from CBS Los Angeles: “A Fresno girl who just celebrated her first birthday is collecting $167 per week in unemployment benefits after a claim was filed on her behalf stating that she was an unemployed actor.”

The Southern California News Group reported last month that one man “is suspected of using the identities of 23 inmates and others to obtain more than $3 million in state unemployment benefits.”

Approximately 10 percent of the paid claims have been fraudulent, with another 17 percent under suspicion. This will be “the largest fraud investigation in the history of America,” according to one expert interviewed by CALmatters. Part of the blame, it notes, is from “the state’s own failure to cross-check unemployment applications with prison rolls.” Read More > at Reason

Hundreds of U.S. scientists feared compromised by China – More than 500 federally funded scientists are under investigation for being compromised by China and other foreign powers, the National Institutes of Health revealed Thursday.

The federal health officials told a Senate committee that they are fighting to keep up with large-scale Chinese efforts to corrupt American researchers and steal intellectual property that scientists hope will lead to biomedical advances.

China has targeted research throughout the economy from corn growers to cancer researchers. Last year, Dr. Lauer said, more than 90% of the scientists under investigation had received support from China.

U.S. officials also have sounded the alarm that China has tried to hack COVID-19 research and is intent on pilfering U.S. science and technology because it believes American innovation will enable it to overtake the U.S. as a global superpower. Read More > in The Washington Times

China launches app to report people with ‘mistaken opinions’China has launched a mobile application for citizens to report online comments against the ruling Communist Party and the country’s history ahead of the party’s upcoming 100th anniversary.

The new programme allows internet users to report those who spread “mistaken opinions” online in order to create a “good public opinion atmosphere”, an arm of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a notice.

The offences that can be reported include “distorting” the party’s history, or any comments against its leaders and policies, defaming national heroes and “denying the excellence of advanced socialist culture”, the notice said.

The phrase “historical nihilism” is often used in China to describe questions and doubts over the history of the country that the Communist Party propagates.

Earlier this year, China also passed legal amendments against those who “insult, slander or infringe upon” the memory of China’s national heroes and martyrs, setting a jail time of up to three years. Read More > at the Independent

Why A Free People Cannot Exist Without Free Speech – Free speech is perhaps the most important liberty Americans enjoy. People exercise it every day without even thinking about it, and for good reason it is mentioned in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But free speech is more than just the words in the Bill of Rights. Before there was a law, there was the idea of free speech. The law limits the government to protect the right, but does not define the right.

More than simply a legal issue, free speech is a part of American culture—an important distinction. If free speech meant only the words in the Constitution, if all it guaranteed were that the government could not jail us for our words, it would be a dead letter. Governments across the world guarantee rights in their laws yet violate them daily.

Indeed, free speech was not invented in 1791. The law only codifies what the Founders and their contemporaries already believed: that a free people must be allowed to openly express themselves, and that the cure for bad ideas is good ideas, not censorship.

The First Amendment is essential, but the American people believe in the principle of free speech. That includes more than just being free of government punishment. It includes the idea that no power — be it government, corporation, or mob — should be able to suppress the free exchange of ideas. Read More > in The Federalist

Work from home forever? After COVID, Californians want to ditch daily commutes, survey says – Californians who swapped mind-numbing traffic and packed trains for “commutes” to a home office or living room don’t want to go back to their old daily grind.

That’s according to a University of Southern California survey released Monday, which found more than half of those surveyed who are now telecommuting want to keep working from home at least three days a week after the pandemic ends. Just 18% are hoping they’ll go back to in-person work every day.

The survey, from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the California Emerging Technology Fund, looked at the impact access to broadband Internet has had on people’s ability to work, learn and conduct doctor’s visits remotely.

Like other research on remote working during the pandemic, the survey found wealthier workers are more likely to telecommute — those who were considered “low-income,” meaning they earned less than 200% of the federal poverty level, were twice as likely to report they are working in-person five days per week compared to higher earners. Just over half of people with access to broadband Internet were working at least some of the time from home.

Almost one-third of current telecommuters, 31%, say they would be happy working from home five days a week if they had that option. Read More > in The Mercury News

State preschool program lags behind – Despite spending $1 billion more on preschool than the next highest-spending state, California is falling behind in preschool access and quality, according to an annual report released Monday by the National Institute for Early Education Research. California ranked 15th nationally for preschool access in 2019-20, a step down from 14th place the year before. The report found that the Golden State would need to create around 500,000 new preschool seats to reach 90% of 3- and 4-year-olds. As it was, California’s preschool enrollment fell by more than 6,000 students amid the pandemic — a drop also seen in kindergarten and K-12 enrollment. Quality is also a concern: The state’s preschool program only met six of 10 quality standards and its transitional kindergarten program only met three standards, while six states met all 10 standards.

Newsom’s administration in December released a master plan for early learning and child care, including universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and universal preschool for all 3-year-olds with disabilities or from low-income families. But the proposal was light on details of how the state would create and pay for such programs. Read More > at CalMatters

Can Schools Punish Kids for Off-Campus Snapchats? – In the 1969 case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited public school officials from punishing students for exercising their First Amendment rights on school grounds unless the speech at issue “would materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline and in the operation of the school.” This year, the Court will hear arguments in a new case that asks whether that rule should be interpreted to let school officials punish students for off-campus social media posts.

Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. originated in 2017, when a high school freshman and junior varsity cheerleader went on Snapchat to complain about her failure to make the varsity cheerleading squad. The student—known by the initials B.L. because she is a minor—posted a picture of herself and one of her friends with their middle fingers raised. The post went up on a Saturday, accompanied by this message: “f–k school f–k softball f–k cheer f–k everything.” That post soon came to the attention of a cheerleading coach, which led to B.L.’s suspension from the squad.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that the school was prohibited from imposing that sort of punishment for constitutionally protected speech. “Tinker does not apply to off-campus speech—that is, speech that is outside school-owned, -operated, or -supervised channels and that is not reasonably interpreted as bearing the school’s imprimatur,” the appeals court held.

The Mahanoy Area School District wants the Supreme Court to reverse that ruling. Social media and related new technology act “as a megaphone for off-campus speech, ensuring that it reverberates throughout the classroom and commands the school’s attention,” the district’s lawyers told the justices. But thanks to the 3rd Circuit, school officials have been left with no authority “to discipline students for off-campus speech, no matter how obvious it is that the speech is directed at the school and will significantly disrupt the school environment.” Read More > at Reason

Renewable Energy Boom Risks More Blackouts Without Adequate Investment In Grid Reliability – In recent congressional hearings, political leaders pointed to recent electricity blackouts in Texas and California caused by extreme weather as reasons for why the federal government should increase taxpayer subsidies and mandates for renewable energy sources. 

But that’s a hair-of-the-dog cure that’s unlikely to work. Both the heat-driven August 2020 electricity shortage in California, and the cold-driven February 2021 shortage in Texas, were caused in large part by over-reliance, not under-reliance, on weather-dependent renewables like solar panels and wind turbines. As demonstrated by the temporary freeze-up of even nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants during the Texas coldsnap, what the grid needs more reliable baseload generation — not more intermittant supplies. Without infeasibly massive investments in battery storage and other load smoothing technologies, Federal policies that force states to become more reliant on renewables will only increase the probability and frequency of blackouts. 

In California, state electricity regulators over-relied on solar panels, despite warnings from the state’s grid operator that doing so was dangerous, since most of the state’s peak electricity use occurs during and after the sunset…

Over the last decade in Texas, investors sunk over $53 billion on weather-dependent energy sources, mostly wind turbines, which alongside frozen fossil fuel plants were largely unavailable during the cold snap in February. That was only partly because of the cold and mostly because of low wind speeds. The costs of the blackout, which lasted for days, will end up costing Texans nearly $200 billion.

Renewables don’t have to cause blackouts. Germany generated 37.5% of its electricity last year from wind and solar and didn’t suffer from a decline in electricity reliability. California would have avoided its blackouts had it not shut down a large nuclear plant and several natural gas power plants over the last decade. Texas may have avoided the blackouts had state regulators simply required, or compensated, natural gas suppliers to winterize their equipment while verifying that work had been completed.  Read More > at Forbes 

Ditch Google for good with these apps and gadgets – From smartphones to maps, Google has a gadget or an app for almost any job. Perhaps you haven’t realized it, but you can easily have the company’s software and hardware looking after most aspects of your life, including your schedule, communications, home, digital memories, and much more. 

But maybe you don’t want so many dealings with an internet giant keen to collect as much data about you as possible. 

Whether you disagree with Google’s ad targeting, its company ethics, software design, or something else, know that you have options. 

Vivaldi instead of Google Chrome

Google’s browser is packed with plenty of features, but Vivaldi might just have even more: it’s customizable, free, speedy, and smart. 

You get tab stacking for keeping related web pages close together, built-in note taking for those sprawling research projects, and a clever tab tiling mechanism to avoid having to open up window after window. You’ll also get support for mouse gestures to browse the web with a swipe, and a lot of options for changing the look of the browser. 

As you’re probably aware, Google keeps a close watch on what you’re searching for and likes to stuff its results pages with plenty of ads in case they might get you to buy something. 

In contrast, DuckDuckGo prides itself on how little it knows about you. It also keeps its non-targeted ads down to a minimum—which you can easily turn off completely as well.  Read More > at Popular Science

How anarchists captured Portland – The sign is Petunia’s special take on a Portlandian phenomenon that my wife Heather has come to call a “don’t-hurt-me wall” — a now-widespread attempt by local business owners to make anarchists think twice before vandalising their shop or café.

“We are a small, women and locally owned business,” Petunia’s sign pleads. “We are struggling like so many of us in this hard time, and love our community. Please don’t cause us any damage.” Welcome to Portland; the progressive dream that has turned into a nightmare.

…But its attempt to reason with the anarchists — by highlighting how it is a struggling small business, locally owned and run entirely by women — speaks volumes about day-to-day life in my home city, where negotiating with vandals has become an essential skill. Indeed, Portland is full of signs in windows and on lawns pleading with anarchists to move on and hurt someone else. These residents know they cannot depend on the police to either prevent crimes or arrest those who commit them, and who can’t manage to come together and face down a small but violent mob of misanthropes.

The streets of downtown Portland, once a bustling home to independent boutiques, are now lined with boarded-over windows and closed businesses. No neighbourhood is secure from the current wave of terror; the breaking of shop fronts, arson and harassment of sleeping citizens in their homes are all commonplace.

…So long as rioters claim to fight for the oppressed, they appear to have carte blanche. If they decide they don’t like this article, if they come to my house to menace my family as they have done to Andy Ngo, Mayor Wheeler and countless anonymous citizens of Portland, will the police intercede? I honestly don’t know.

The truth is, I rarely see any evidence of even basic law enforcement here in Portland. The police are extremely slow to respond to emergency calls. The citizens and businesses have, over the last year, been left to fend for themselves against criminals thinly cloaked in progressive slogans. And given the way the Mayor and City Council have undercut the police and allowed them to be demonised by the anarchists, it is easy to understand their reluctance — they are doing a difficult job, under a microscope, where only their mistakes count. Read More > at UnHerd

The Failed Promise of Organic Foods – It’s useful to remember what the “organic” designation was – and was not – meant to be. The goal was simply to fortify trust in the fast-growing but fragmented organic food market. “Let me be clear about one thing,” said Dan Glickman, the Clinton Administration’s Secretary of Agriculture who oversaw the organics designation. “It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.”

The key determinant of whether something qualifies as organic is something rather mundane: the production method. For crops, the origin of the seed is key — it must be organically grown and cannot be the product of genetic engineering (e.g. GMOs or gene editing). There is a widespread impression that organic food is grown without chemicals – and seemingly-credible outlets contribute to this impression.

The reality is that all farmers – both organic and conventional – use both chemical and non-chemical containment methods. More than 100 fertilizers and inputs (pesticides, insecticides or fungicides) are authorized by organic farming regulations in both Europe and the United States. Read More > at Real Clear Markets

The Government Is Making Us Fat and Susceptible to Viruses – In all the coronavirus coverage, one issue that rarely makes the headlines is the correlation between body weight and the severity of COVID-19’s effects. And one angle that virtually never makes the headlines is how the government funds the unhealthy foods that increase obesity rates, thereby increasing our susceptibility to such diseases.

Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study showing that nearly 80 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 were overweight or obese. After age, body weight is the second greatest predictor of COVID-related hospitalization and death. Almost three quarters of all Americans ages 20 and up are overweight, and close to half of that group is considered obese.

That might be one of the reasons why Asian countries whose populations have low body mass indexes (BMI) have fewer deaths per capita from COVID-19, while the United States has one of the highest death rates from the virus in the world.

…Not only is the U. S. government not making any efforts to reduce the obesity epidemic, it is actively subsidizing food that contributes to the problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that people fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables, yet the vast majority of its food subsidies—$170 billion from 1995 to 2010—go toward the major ingredients of junk food, such as corn, wheat, rice, soy, and milk.

The resulting susceptibility to disease goes well beyond the current pandemic. In 2018, JAMA reported that poor diet is the number one cause of chronic disease in the United States. Small wonder, given that more than 122 million Americans are diabetic or prediabetic, 240 million are overweight or obese, and nearly 60 percent have some form of cardiovascular disease. Read More > at Reason

Science isn’t necessary to decide on getting the COVID-19 vaccine – In the debate over whether one should – or should not – get a COVID vaccine much has been said about the “science.” However, I’m not sure any encyclopedic knowledge of “science” is required to make this health decision. Simple statistical analysis should suffice to inform one’s ultimate decision.

Statistics is primarily a study of probabilities. Fortunately, as it regards COVID mortality rates, these probabilities are now known. That is, COVID mortality statistics broken down by age cohorts are now “known knowables.”

For example, through statistics as of April 7, the odds an American under the age of 25 would die from COVID were 1-in-106,217. On the extreme other end of the age spectrum, the odds an American 85 or older would die from the disease were an eye-opening 1-in-39.4. (Not surprisingly, albeit under-reported, the largest category of COVID victims by age cohort is Americans 85 and older).

This means that the probability a person in our country’s oldest age cohort (85 and older) will die from or with COVID is 2,696 times greater than the nation’s youngest citizens (those under the age of 25).

One’s race and whether one would qualify as obese are other important variables that either increase or reduce one’s mortality risks of COVID. As I’ve learned in my research, mortality among minority populations is significantly higher than non-minorities. I also recently learned that 68 percent of COVID victims met the medical definition of “obese.”

That is, one’s age, race, as well as one’s “body mass index” are all crucial variables in correctly calculating one’s own specific “risks” of dying of COVID-19. And, again, “health risks” CAN be quantified when seeking to calculate one’s own probability of dying from COVID. Read More > at AL

It’s About Time for Us to Stop Wearing Masks Outside – But now, as we’ve come to know more about the virus, as vaccinations are ramping up, and as we’re trying to figure out how to live with some level of COVID in a sustainable way, masking up outside when you’re at most briefly crossing paths with people is starting to feel barely understandable. Look: I believe masks (and even shaming) are indispensable in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Despite early waffling, public health experts are virtually unanimously in support of them and have remained so even as our early dedication to scrubbing surfaces and Cloroxing veggies wound down.

In other words, as the pandemic has progressed, so has our understanding of what safety measures are truly most useful, and which aren’t worth the alcohol wipes. And I would like to calmly suggest that now is the time we should consider no longer wearing masks when we walk around outside.

When it comes to coronavirus spread, evidence shows that being outdoors is very, very safe. A paper published in Indoor Air looked at 1,245 cases in China and found just one instance of outdoor transmission, which involved people having a conversation, which means they had to be close to one another for some period of time and face to face. According to data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, shared earlier this month with the Irish Times, of 232,164 cases in Ireland, just 262 were associated with “locations which are primarily associated with outdoor activities.” That is, about 0.1 percent. A meta-analysis published online in November in the Journal of Infectious Diseases suggests it’s possible the upper bound of cases potentially contracted outdoors is higher; it estimates that the total is less than 10 percent. When I called Nooshin Razani, an author on that report and an associate professor of  epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, she emphasized that the real number of instances of outdoor transmission was “probably lower” than 10 percent, since the cases she and her team counted were sometimes murky: cases that occurred at construction sites, or summer camps where people were sharing bunks. That is, these scenarios likely involved some indoor time as well. They also tended to involve people who were spending time together over a period of days. “Most of the cases that happened outdoors had something about the circumstances you could point to and say, ‘That was a risk,’ ” says Razani. Just one case involved joggers—who were jogging together. Still, Razani said she couldn’t comment on whether it was OK to go maskless on a sidewalk where you’re able to mostly, but not perfectly, stay distanced from others. In an article in National Geographic by science writer Tara Haelle, other experts note that yes, we have data that the outdoors is very safe, and yet, if you can’t distance, even briefly, you might want to pull up your mask, partly out of respect, and also just to be safe. Read More > at Slate

Why We Need to Electrify America’s School Bus Fleet – The diesel exhaust emitted by America’s some 480,000 school buses is especially harmful for the growing lungs of the 26 million children they transport every school day. Levels of pollution are even worse inside the bus than outside on the roadway, and recent studies have shown that the fleet’s emissions can be associated with higher rates of school absenteeism and lower test scores. This impact is particularly concerning for children of color who live in communities that already experience dangerous levels of pollution and therefore high asthma rates.

School bus fumes are also harmful to workers and neighborhoods. Every school day, drivers, attendants and maintenance technicians are exposed to dangerously high levels of air pollution on the bus, in parking lots and at service yards. This pollution spreads into the neighborhoods where these buses idle, which, as activists in New York have documented, are predominantly low-income communities of color that already suffer severe air pollution. As a result of these environmental factors, Black children are twice as likely to suffer from asthma and experience disproportionately higher rates of school absenteeism. It’s partly due to this air-pollution exposure over a lifespan that people of color are more likely to die from COVID-19.

There is a better way. Electric school buses are free of tailpipe emissions, and the technology is now effective and reliable. It’s time to make the transition from smoke-belching school buses to emission-free vehicles powered by electricity. Read More > at Governing

Police say they found mafia fugitive on YouTube, posting cooking tutorials – An alleged mafia fugitive hiding from Italian police in the Dominican Republic was arrested after being spotted showing off his cooking skills in instructional videos he posted on YouTube, according to news reports.

Marc Feren Claude Biart, an alleged member of the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization based in southern Italy, reportedly hid his face in the cooking videos but failed to hide his tattoos, leading to his identification. The man had been hiding since law enforcement “ordered Biart’s arrest in 2014 for criminal drug trafficking on behalf of the ‘Ndrangheta’s Cacciola clan,” according to The Washington Post.

The 53-year-old Biart didn’t keep his recipes secret but “was always careful to hide his face in his Italian cooking tutorials, filming the YouTube videos while laying low from police on a sandy beach in the Caribbean,” the Post wrote. It’s not clear whether the videos are still online, but Biart and his wife “appeared to have uploaded several cooking tutorials for Italian recipes to YouTube, including ones where Biart’s tattoos were visible,” the Post wrote. Read More > at ars Technica

Omega-3 supplements do double duty in protecting against stress – A high daily dose of an omega-3 supplement may help slow the effects of aging by suppressing damage and boosting protection at the cellular level during and after a stressful event, new research suggests.

Researchers at The Ohio State University found that daily supplements that contained 2.5 grams of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, the highest dose tested, were the best at helping the body resist the damaging effects of stress.

Compared to the placebo group, participants taking omega-3 supplements produced less of the stress hormone cortisol and lower levels of a pro-inflammatory protein during a stressful event in the lab. And while levels of protective compounds sharply declined in the placebo group after the stressor, there were no such decreases detected in people taking omega-3s.

The supplements contributed to what the researchers call stress resilience: reduction of harm during stress and, after acute stress, sustained anti-inflammatory activity and protection of cell components that shrink as a consequence of aging. Read More > at Medical Xpress

Country Cat, City Catphoto essay – Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are without question my favorite species to watch and photograph. That passion has led me to observe the same bobcats over years, including a truly special mother who has raised multiple litters of kittens in a suburban environment. Bobcats live throughout the Bay Area, and the march of development into their habitat has forced them to adapt to an increasingly urban life. Relatively few bobcat population studies exist, but a recent one on bobcats south of San José found them in low-to-medium-density housing areas, while the cats were less likely to be in areas with more than five houses per roughly 2.5 acres. Other small studies in Northern California suggest bobcat populations face a multitude of threats, although recent California bans on trapping, hunting, and use of rodenticides that can kill bobcats have offered some protection. How do bobcats adapt to living in suburban settings and raise their kittens surrounded by humans?

The leap | Locating a rodent under the ice plant, the mother bobcat leaps to pounce on her prey. Here, she missed her quarry, but a talented hunter like this mother is successful in approximately one in three attempts. Bobcats often hunt in late afternoon, and their strategies include leaping in the air and coming down on the prey, lunging horizontally across the top of a gopher hole, or plunging a paw into a hole. Bobcats typically kill their prey with a bite to the back of the neck or the throat. Rodenticides can kill bobcats when they consume poisoned prey and can increase their susceptibility to mange (parasitic mites). These poisons, banned in California for consumer use in 2014, were also outlawed here for commercial use, with a narrow range of exceptions, as of January 1, 2021. Read More > at Bay Nature

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As dry conditions persist, drought impacts in 2015 provide insights — from the California Farm Water Coalition

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National Prescription Drug Take Back Day – Saturday, April 24

The Oakley Police Department, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice-Drug Enforcement Administration will be hosting an unused prescription drug drop off this Saturday, April 24th from 10-2.

The National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.

The Oakley Police Department encourages Oakley residents to take advantage of this program. The collection site is at the Police Department, 3231 Main Street. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Year Round Pharmaceutical Disposal Locations

WALGREEN CO.3416 DEER VALLEY RD.ANTIOCH, CA 9453111 milesMap
SAFEWAY INC3365 DEER VALLEY ROADANTIOCH, CA 9453111 milesMap
SAFEWAY INC3110 BALFOUR AVENUEBRENTWOOD, CA 9451314 milesMap
KAISER PERMANENTE PHARMACY #5724501 SAND CREEK RD, 1ST FLR, RM 1125SAND CREEK MOB PHARMACYANTIOCH, CA 9453113 milesMap
KAISER PERMANENTE PHRMCY #571KFHP DEER VALLEY MOB15601 DEER VALLEY ROADANTIOCH, CA 9453113 milesMap
KAISER FOUND HLTH PLAN3400 DELTA FAIR BLVDKFHP MAIN PHARMACY #551ANTIOCH, CA 9450914 milesMap
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It’s Earth Day and California Is 2021’s 5th Greenest State – WalletHub Study

It’s Earth Day and the U.S. having experienced a record number of billion-dollar natural disasters in 2020, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Greenest States, as well as accompanying videos.

In order to showcase the states doing right by Mother Earth, WalletHub compared the 50 states in terms of 25 key metrics that speak to the current health of the environment and residents’ environmental-friendliness. The data set ranges from green buildings per capita to the share of energy consumption from renewable resources.
Greenness of California (1=Greenest, 25=Avg.):

  • 1st – Water Quality
  • 8th – LEED-Certified Buildings per Capita
  • 17th – % of Renewable Energy Consumption
  • 4th – Energy Consumption per Capita
  • 7th – Gasoline Consumption (in Gallons) per Capita

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/greenest-states/11987

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Governor Newsom takes action to respond to drought conditions

by CDFA’s Office of Public Affairs

Governor Newsom today in Mendocino County

With much of the West experiencing drought conditions and California squarely in a second consecutive dry year, Governor Gavin Newson today directed state agencies to take immediate action to bolster drought resilience and prepare for impacts on communities, businesses and ecosystems if dry conditions extend to a third year.

In addition, the Governor proclaimed a regional drought emergency for the Russian River watershed in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, where reservoirs are at record lows following two critically dry years and accelerated action may be needed to protect public health, safety and the environment.

“California is facing the familiar reality of drought conditions, and we know the importance of acting early to anticipate and mitigate the most severe impacts where possible,” Governor Newsom said. “Climate change is intensifying both the frequency and the severity of dry periods. This ‘new normal’ gives urgency to building drought resilience in regions across the state and preparing for what may be a prolonged drought at our doorstep.”

The text of today’s emergency proclamation can be found here.

With an extremely low Lake Mendocino as a backdrop, the Governor today announced that he is directing state agencies to work with regional and local governments – including groundwater sustainability agencies – to identify watersheds, communities, public water systems and ecosystems that may require coordinated state and local actions to address drought impacts and protect people, natural resources and economic activity.

To encourage Californians to reduce water use and conserve supplies in case drought conditions continue next year, the proclamation also directs state agencies to partner with local water suppliers to promote conservation tips and messages through the Save Our Water campaign. The campaign and website were critical resources for Californians during the 2012-2016 drought and remain a trusted information source on using water wisely.

The proclamation directs additional actions to coordinate with California Native American tribes; accelerate funding for water supply enhancement, conservation and species protection projects; work with counties to encourage and track reporting of household water shortages including dry residential wells; provide technical and financial assistance for water systems at risk of water shortages; support the agricultural economy and food security; and evaluate and take action to protect terrestrial and aquatic species.

To address acute drought impacts in the Russian River watershed, the proclamation directs the State Water Board to consider modifying requirements for reservoir releases or diversion limitations to ensure adequate supplies for critical purposes. The regional state of emergency also enables flexibilities in regulatory requirements and procurement processes to mitigate drought impacts.

Under the Governor’s direction, state agencies have been working together since November to prepare for continued dry conditions. The Governor recently formalized that coordination through the Drought Resilience Task Force, which includes the Natural Resources Agency, California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Water Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Water Resources Control Board, Department of Finance, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, California Health and Human Services Agency, California Public Utilities Commission and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

Other recent actions by state agencies to address dry conditions include:

  • The state has launched a new drought preparedness website detailing current conditions, the state’s response and informational resources for the public.   
  • The State Water Board has identified water suppliers at extreme financial risk that may need additional support due to the combined impacts of COVID and drought.
  • The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has updated its Dry Well website that tracks reports of water supply outages.
  • DWR has drafted a Drought Contingency Plan that explains how it will manage the State Water Project in a manner that protects fish and wildlife.
  • The State Water Board has issued letters to approximately 40,000 water right holders across the state, advising them to plan for potential shortages by closely managing water use.
  • Last month, DWR released a report, prepared with extensive stakeholder involvement, that evaluates the water shortage risk of more than 4,000 small water providers.
  • Informed by that report, this month the State Water Board completed its first-ever comprehensive look at California water systems that are struggling to provide safe drinking water to communities and how to help them. The assessment identifies both failing water systems and those at risk of failing, offering the most in-depth view of long-term drinking water safety the state has ever had.
  • CDFA is coordinating closely with the USDA to provide aid to growers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife is working with California Native American tribes and commercial and recreational salmon representatives to manage impacts to iconic salmon in the basin.

The 2012-2016 drought helped usher in some important water resilience policies that position the state to better handle another drought. These include:

  • Enactment in 2014 of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to require and empower local agencies to bring overdrafted groundwater basins into sustainable conditions by 2042.
  • Enactment of legislation to establish new standards for indoor, outdoor and industrial use of water.
  • Funding for disadvantaged communities lacking access to safe drinking water through the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Act.
  • Increase in the frequency of water use reporting.
  • Expanded state authority to order failing public water systems to consolidate with better-run systems.
  • Tighter landscape efficiency standards for new developments.

Office of Public Affairs | April 21, 2021 at 2:03 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: https://wp.me/p2eYDv-5TS

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How To Use Clipper on Your iPhone and Apple Watch

Now you can pay for transit easily with your iPhone and Apple Watch. Please ensure you have an iPhone 8 or later, Apple Watch Series 3 or later, and the latest versions of iOS and watchOS respectively. You cannot transfer blocked cards, TransLink cards and cards with a Gator Pass or VTA SmartPass to Apple Wallet.

How to Transfer a Plastic Clipper Card to Apple Wallet

How to Transfer a Plastic Clipper Card to Apple Watch

How to Add a New Clipper Card

How to Add Value to Clipper

How to Tag Your iPhone or Apple Watch on a Clipper Reader

How to Remove Clipper from Apple Wallet or Move to Another Apple Device

Trouble with Clipper in Apple Wallet?

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2021’s Most Diverse Cities in America – WalletHub Study

With the U.S. needing to stamp out hatred after anti-Asian hate crimes spiked by nearly 150% in 2020, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Most Diverse Cities in America, as well as accompanying videos.

To determine the places in the U.S. with the most mixed demographics, WalletHub compared the profiles of more than 500 of the largest cities across five major diversity categories: socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household and religious.

Most Diverse Cities in AmericaLeast Diverse Cities in America
1. Houston, TX491. Huntington, WV/ Saco, ME
2. Jersey City, NJ493. Parkersburg, WV
3. New York, NY494. Lewiston, ID
4. Dallas, TX495. Rochester, NH
5. Los Angeles, CA496. Keene, NH
6. Gaithersburg, MD497. Barre, VT
7. Silver Spring, MD498. Bangor, ME
8. Arlington, TX499. Orem, UT
9. Long Beach, CA500. Brattleboro, VT
10. Danbury, CT/ Chicago, IL501. Provo, UT

Key Stats

  • Bloomington, Minnesota, has the highest income diversity, which is 2.3 times higher than in Camden, New Jersey, the city with the lowest.
     
  • Oakland, California, has the highest racial and ethnic diversity, which is 3.9 times higher than in Hialeah, Florida, the city with the lowest.
     
  • Thornton, Colorado, has the highest industry diversity, which is 2.8 times higher than in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the city with the lowest.
     
  • Caldwell, Idaho, has the highest occupational diversity, which is three times higher than in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the city with the lowest. 

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit: 
https://wallethub.com/edu/most-diverse-cities/12690

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Concord Naval Weapons Station Concord Reuse Project Area Plan Implementation

The City of Concord Local Reuse Authority (LRA) seeks Statements of Qualifications (SOQ) from qualified Master Developer real estate teams (Respondents) to respond to this Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the development of approximately 2,350 acres (Development Footprint) comprising a portion of the 5,046-acre property formerly known as the Inland Area of the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS), located in the City of Concord in Contra Costa County. The CNWS property is being disposed of through the federal Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC).

The RFQ can be found here: Request for Master Developer Qualifications 

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Sunday Reading – 04/18/2021

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.

Booze and corruption: A brief history of the Bay Area’s infamous Secret Sidewalk – The Secret Sidewalk — as it’s best known locally — technically isn’t a sidewalk at all. What appears to be an accidental walkway off Highway 84 in Dresser, Calif., about 40 miles southeast of San Francisco, is actually the former Sunol Aqueduct. Walking along the former aqueduct has been illegal for decades, but the site may one day soon be a legitimate Bay Area park.

Because some sections of the aqueduct rise above ground and are encased by solid concrete, the appearance gives the impression of a sidewalk, and thus, the nickname stuck. In the 1970s, it was the preferred spot for teenage debauchery.

Long before teenagers sneaked to the Secret Sidewalk, the Sunol Aqueduct delivered millions of gallons from Alameda Creek in Niles Canyon throughout the San Francisco Bay Area nearly 100 years ago. When the Sunol Aqueduct was completed in 1924, Spring Valley Water delivered water through its aqueduct and by underground pipelines underneath the Dumbarton Bridge.

And while Spring Valley Water was an integral part of San Francisco life, it was also a company allegedly rooted in corruption. According to an article by FoundSF, which took a deep dive into the company’s history, Spring Valley Water monopolized water rights in San Francisco between 1860 to 1930.

…Nearly 26 years out of commission, the Sunol Aqueduct remains intact despite Ramirez stating it’s a liability. That was one of the reasons Mission Clay Products demolished a portion of the aqueduct that crossed its property in 2018, according to KNTV.

The S.F. Public Utilities Commission has also debated demolishing some parts of the Sunol Aqueduct, but Ramirez admits that it would be a huge undertaking. In 2009, there were talks between the S.F. Public Utilities Commission and the East Bay Regional Park District, which owns most of the land around the aqueduct, to create a public trail. Some portions of the Secret Sidewalk would be preserved and used as part of the trail, and it’s a project the Public Utilities Commission is still interested in realizing, Ramirez said. Read More > at SFGate

There Will Be Less Bay Area Commuters Post-Pandemic – Around 34 percent of California’s Bay Area residents plan to commute to the office less in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a major shift that could reshape the region’s work and transit systems, according to a new poll.

The percentage of fully remote workers is expected to increase to 16 percent — a total of 640,000 people — up from 10 percent before the pandemic, according to the poll last month of 1,000 registered voters in the nine Bay Area counties. The Bay Area Council, a business group, sponsored the poll, which was conducted by EMC Research.

The impact on transit has been uneven, with public transit, carpooling, walking and biking all falling significantly during the pandemic, according to the poll. Only a partial rebound is expected: 15 percent of respondents are taking public transit at least twice a week during the pandemic, down from 29 percent. Only 20 percent expect to take it after the pandemic, and 64 percent of respondents believe public transit is currently unsafe. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Meanwhile, car ridership has stayed high during the pandemic, with 77 percent of poll respondents using a car at least two to three times per week, up from 76 percent before the pandemic. That percentage is expected to dip only slightly, to 74 percent, after the pandemic. Five of the Bay Area’s eight toll bridges, including the Bay Bridge, now have over 90 percent of their pre-pandemic traffic levels, according to a Chronicle analysis. Meanwhile, BART daily ridership was as much as 88 percent below projections last month. Read More > at Governing

Complex water politics – A controversial bill that would have banned fracking and other oil extraction methods and prevented gas wells from operating near homes, schools and health care facilities died in the state Legislature on Tuesday — freeing the governor from having to take a stance on the lightning-rod issue ahead of an almost-certain recall election. Although lawmakers had introduced the bill at Newsom’s behest, their proposal was much more ambitious than what he’d asked for. Newsom refused to disclose his position on the bill, likely to avoid alienating labor unions representing oil and gas workers on one side and environmental groups on the other.

Though the bill could still be amended and revived, its failure in a nine-member Democratic-majority committee suggests it won’t be heading to the governor’s desk anytime soon. But Newsom is already tangled in another politically thorny environmental battle as drought looms on the horizon: Who should be prioritized for the state’s scarce water?

The governor evaded questions as to whether he would declare a drought emergency — which would allow him to mandate conservation and relax environmental restrictions on some water sources to divert more to farmers — at a Tuesday press conference at which he signed a $536 million wildfire prevention bill. Last week, a bipartisan group of Central Valley lawmakers called on Newsom to declare an emergency to ensure the agricultural industry receives adequate water. Environmental advocates and tribal members are urging Newsom not to prioritize ag at the expense of endangered species and wetlands. 

  • Newsom on Tuesday: “We are mindful of the urgency as it relates to anxiety now entering the second year of drought conditions. And we will be very, very forthright if we make a determination of drought emergency. But again, that has to come with certain benefits that otherwise couldn’t be accrued without it.” 

Tensions could heighten later this week, when the federal government is expected to announce allocations from the federally owned Klamath Project along the California-Oregon border, where farmers and Indigenous tribes are competing for scarce water resources. 

Drought disaster vs. drought emergency – To assist California, which is the nation’s largest food supplier, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently declared a drought disaster for 50 counties. That makes growers throughout the state who have been struggling with parched conditions eligible to seek federal loans.

A drought disaster sounds alarming, but officials say the reality is more mundane: It simply opens up emergency federal loans to California farmers who are struggling with back-to-back dry years. Growers in the 50 counties but also in all the counties next door (including 16 in Oregon, Arizona and Nevada) are eligible for loans. 

This federal designation is very different from declaring a drought emergency under California’s Emergency Services Act, which would allow the governor to take more sweeping actions affecting all Californians, such as mandating conservation, waiving some state regulations and reallocating funds. Under state law, declaring a drought emergency would require “conditions of disaster or of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within the state” that local governments can’t cope with on their own. 

Rain and snow in much of the state are roughly half of average. The state deemed the snowpack on California’s mountains “well below normal.” The two major reservoirs are at about half of their capacity. And streamflow rivals levels during the peak of the last drought, which started in 2012 and continued through 2016.  Read More > at CalMatters

California raised fuel taxes 4 years ago, and it’s still short on money for road repairs – California’s ambitious road repair program faces financial trouble—a projected $6.1 billion annual shortfall— four years after the state adopted the highest fuel tax in the nation in a plan to fix its battered highways

The new estimates reflect an unexpected decline in fuel tax revenue related to the coronavirus pandemic and a mix of new assumptions about how California roadways might deteriorate as climate change accelerates.

The shortfall figure was included in a 287-page draft report, “The State Highway System Management Plan,” prepared by the state transportation department for the California Transportation Commission, which got a briefing on it last month.

California’s transportation revenues, like most other states, has been hurt by a reduction in traffic volume during the COVID pandemic.

The Federal Highway Administration reported that vehicle miles traveled on California roads in January was down 15.2% from a year earlier. The December volume dropped 12.9%. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Should Government Track the Miles You Drive? – CNBC’s Kayla Tausche asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a March 26 interview what sort of taxes he perceived as possible ways to pay for infrastructure projects.

“First, a gas tax,” she asked. “You called it old-fashioned to raise the gas tax. Do you still believe that? Could that go up?”

“Well,” said Buttigieg, “the gas tax has traditionally been part of how we fund the Highway Trust Fund, but we know that it can’t be the answer forever because we’re going to be using less and less gas.

“We’re trying to electrify the vehicle fleet,” he explained.

Indeed, President Joe Biden last week called for spending $174 billion in tax dollars to promote electric vehicles, or EVs.

But, as even Buttigieg conceded, this would create at least one problem: If an ever-increasing number of Americans start driving electric cars, what will happen to the federal revenue derived from the tax on gasoline, which is now used to fund transportation infrastructure through the Highway Trust Fund?

“What about a mileage-based tax?” Tausche asked Buttigieg.

This is a tax the government would charge a person for every mile they drive.

“I think that shows a lot of promise,” said Buttigieg.

…“The Commission cast a wide net, reviewed many funding alternatives, and concluded that indeed the most viable approach to efficiently fund federal investment in surface transportation in the medium to long run will be a user charge system based more directly on miles driven (and potentially on factors such as time of day, type of road, and vehicle weight and fuel economy) rather than indirectly on fuel consumed,” said its report.

“However much revenue Congress decides to raise at the federal level, the Commission believes it is critical to move forward with a [vehicle miles traveled] fee system,” its report concluded.

Ultimately, this would require tracking the miles driven by every car. The commission conceded this would raise what it called “privacy concerns.”

“There is a very real concern among policy makers and the general public that a road pricing system that charges based on when and where individuals travel inherently threatens privacy,” said its report… Read More > at The Daily Signal

Two Reasons Why Gasoline Prices Are Soaring – Gasoline prices in the U.S. are primarily driven by four components: crude oil prices, refining costs, retail distribution and marketing costs, and taxes. Since taxes and retail distribution costs are generally stable, the biggest factors in gasoline price trends are changes in oil prices and refining costs, the EIA says.

At the end of March, U.S. gasoline prices had increased for 17 consecutive weeks—the longest streak of rising national average gasoline prices since 1994, according to EIA’s surveys. 

On March 29, the U.S. regular retail gasoline prices averaged $2.85 per gallon, when it dropped two cents compared to the previous week for the first weekly decline since November 2020. It was in November that crude oil prices started to rise following the first good news about vaccine candidates.

…The switch from winter to summer-grade gasoline drives gasoline prices higher. Summer gasoline is more expensive to produce than winter-grade fuel because of a longer production process and more costly blending components than the fuel sold in the winter. 

This summer, U.S. gasoline prices are expected to be the highest since the summer of 2018, according to the latest estimates of the Energy Information Administration. Read More > from Oil Price

Emissions – the ‘business as usual’ story is misleading – More than a decade ago, climate scientists and energy modellers made a choice about how to describe the effects of emissions on Earth’s future climate. That choice has had unintended consequences which today are hotly debated. With the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) moving into its final stages in 2020, there is now a rare opportunity to reboot.

In the lead-up to the 2014 IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), researchers developed four scenarios for what might happen to greenhouse-gas emissions and climate warming by 2100. They gave these scenarios a catchy title: Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). One describes a world in which global warming is kept well below 2 °C relative to pre-industrial temperatures (as nations later pledged to do under the Paris climate agreement in 2015); it is called RCP2.6. Another paints a dystopian future that is fossil-fuel intensive and excludes any climate mitigation policies, leading to nearly 5 °C of warming by the end of the century. That one is named RCP8.5.

RCP8.5 was intended to explore an unlikely high-risk future. But it has been widely used by some experts, policymakers and the media as something else entirely: as a likely ‘business as usual’ outcome. A sizeable portion of the literature on climate impacts refers to RCP8.5 as business as usual, implying that it is probable in the absence of stringent climate mitigation… 

Happily — and that’s a word we climatologists rarely get to use — the world imagined in RCP8.5 is one that, in our view, becomes increasingly implausible with every passing year. Emission pathways to get to RCP8.5 generally require an unprecedented fivefold increase in coal use by the end of the century, an amount larger than some estimates of recoverable coal reserves. It is thought that global coal use peaked in 2013, and although increases are still possible, many energy forecasts expect it to flatline over the next few decades. Furthermore, the falling cost of clean energy sources is a trend that is unlikely to reverse, even in the absence of new climate policies.

Assessment of current policies suggests that the world is on course for around 3 °C of warming above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century — still a catastrophic outcome, but a long way from 5 °C. We cannot settle for 3 °C; nor should we dismiss progress. Read More > at Nature

Homelessness up — again – A staggering 161,548 Californians were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2020 — a nearly 7% increase from the year before and the largest uptick in the country, according to new federal data. The point-in-time count — which advocates say is a significant underestimate — underscores the massive scope of California’s homelessness crisis even before the pandemic pushed millions of people closer to losing their homes. In 2020, the Golden State accounted for 28% of the country’s homeless population and 51% of its unsheltered population.

It may take years to measure the pandemic’s full effects on California’s homelessness situation, since this year’s January count was postponed due to COVID-19. And there are a lot of moving parts: Thousands of unhoused Californians have found shelter via Newsom’s Project Homekey program, but others are struggling to stay afloat amid skyrocketing home prices, rising rents and inadequate housing production. In this comprehensive explainer, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias explores why California’s housing costs are so high — high enough, in fact, that nearly one in three residents are considering leaving the state. Read More > at CalMatters

Our Garages Aren’t Ready For the EV RevolutionFord Motor Co.’s slick, new electric sleigh, the Mustang Mach-E, can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet like a 4,500-pound toaster. It’s a pragmatic trick, but not much more than that. It takes the machine 10 hours to draw enough juice to travel 30 miles. Anyone riding the silent pony further than the local coffee shop will probably need an upgraded outlet.

Americans will need 26 million new charging outlets installed at their homes and apartment buildings over the next decade, requiring some $39 billion in investments, if the country’s auto industry is going to go entirely electric by 2035, according to a new study by Atlas Public Policy, a Washington D.C.-based research firm. The findings highlight a reality we’re already too familiar with: range anxiety has given way to charge anxiety, as electric-curious drivers no longer wonder how far they can go, but if there will be working, relatively quick options to “fill up” once they arrive. While much has been made about the lack of charge points in rural states, the problem begins and ends at home.

Ironically, the home-charging hurdle is almost as high as that of public charging, according to the Atlas analysts. To fully flip the switch to electric vehicles, the country will need another $39 billion in infrastructure investments by 2031, enough for 495,000 outlets in public stations and workplaces,  Atlas reckons. Read More > from Bloomberg

US housing market is nearly 4M homes short of buyer demand – The U.S. housing market is 3.8 million single-family homes short of what is needed to meet the country’s demand, according to a new analysis by mortgage-finance company Freddie Mac.

The estimate represents a 52% rise in the nation’s home shortage compared with 2018, the first time Freddie Mac quantified the shortfall.

The figures underscore the severity of the housing deficit, which is a major factor fueling the current red-hot housing market. The shortage is especially acute for entry-level homes, which makes it more expensive for first-time home buyers to enter the market, said Sam Khater, chief economist at Freddie Mac. Read More > at Fox News

The price of lumber is up 193%—and about to spike even higher – From the onset, the pandemic was a perfect storm for surging lumber prices. At the same time that sawmills were limiting production during the early months of the crisis, the pandemic was spurring a do-it-yourself boom among Americans stuck at home. That supply and demand mismatch was made worse by record low interest rates and a historically tight existing housing inventory which caused buyers to rush to new construction. The backlog is so big that prices aren’t falling despite wood production hitting a 13-year high in February.

Don’t expect demand to drop anytime soon.

“The pipeline for lumber and other wood products demand remains quite deep in 2021…Builders have plenty of ongoing projects to keep working through, which is keeping lumber and panel demand high, and making it very difficult for mills to ramp production up fast enough to rebalance the market,” says Dustin Jalbert, senior economist at Fastmarkets RISI, where he specializes in wood prices.

Jalbert foresees an eventual lumber correction, but there’s no guarantee it will return to the April 2020 price of $358 per thousand board feet. If a correction does occur, it will likely be the result of the cost of lumber overwhelming builders at the same time as rising interest rates tamp down homebuying. That hasn’t happened yet, despite current lumber prices adding at least $24,000 to the price tag of a typical new single-family home, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Read More > at Fortune

U.S consumer prices surge in March, CPI finds, pushing inflation to 2 1/2-year high – Consumer prices rose in March for the fourth month in a row and the pace of inflation hit the highest level in two and a half years, underscoring new pressures emerging on the economy as the U.S. recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

The consumer price index jumped 0.6% last month, the government said Tuesday, spearheaded by the rising cost of oil. Economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.5% increase in the CPI.

The rate of inflation over the past year shot up to 2.6% from 1.7% in the prior month, marking the highest level since the fall of 2018.

The yearly rate of inflation is widely expected to surge in the next few months.

A chief reason is a faster U.S. economic recovery fueled by massive fiscal stimulus and a sharp drop this year in new coronavirus cases. That’s boosting demand for a wide array of goods and services at a time when when many key materials are in short supply. Read More > at MarketWatch

There are now more jobs available than before the pandemic. So why aren’t people signing up? – The number of job vacancies soared to nearly 15 million by mid-March, but discouraged, hesitant and fearful job seekers means many positions are still unfilled, according to new data from online job site ZipRecruiter.

Online job postings plunged from 10 million before the start of the pandemic last year to just below 6 million last May, as lockdowns and shutdown orders forced businesses to close their doors and reduce or lay off workers.

Now, as vaccinations increase and companies are again able to make projections, they’re staffing up to capture booming demand, with the number of open positions across all online listings soaring 5 million above the pandemic’s start.

…There are also plenty of good reasons for workers to still hang back, from ongoing concerns about the coronavirus, to childcare and managing remote learning, to family obligations, to holding out for better opportunities.

Economic impact payments, or stimulus checks, have also played a factor for some who are sitting out the labor market, some employers say.

Factory owners and employers lament that the generosity of unemployment benefits and stimulus payments have some workers avoiding returning to work because they make more money not working. Read More > at NBC News

America’s Largest Fast-Food Chain Is on a Downward Spiral, Reports SaySubway is America’s largest fast-food chain by the number of locations, so it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever see a world without it. But the chain closed more locations than any other rival last year and rumors of a troubled operation and an impending sale are swirling.

Subway has shuttered nearly 1,800 domestic locations since the beginning of 2020, with its total number of restaurants decreasing from 23,800 in 2019 to slightly more than 22,000. During that same time period, sales plummeted from $10.2 billion to $8.3 billion.

The chain has also reduced its staff, with some estimating that about 500 employees at the company’s headquarters have lost their jobs since early last year. CEO John Chidsey’s cost-cutting measures reportedly included moving HQ from Connecticut to Florida, a rumor which Subway has denied. However, the company did relocate a number of its C suite executives, as well as its culinary and marketing teams to Miami last month, according to Business Insider. Read More > at Eat This, Not That!

Former Disney Channel star Alyson Stoner speaks out about her ‘harrowing’ experience as a child actor: ‘My childhood is officially gone’ – In the early 2000s, Alyson Stoner became known as an actor, singer, and dancer. She landed roles in movies like “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Step Up,” as well as Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and “Camp Rock.” She also performed as a background dancer for artists such as Missy Elliott, Will Smith, and Eminem.

In a new video essay and op-ed for People magazine, she’s sharing her side of the story for the first time – one that includes facing sexual harassment, severe eating disorders, child labor law violations, and other “harrowing” experiences.

Stoner details auditioning for scenes depicting sexual violence one minute and princess toy commercials the next, and the emotional toll it took on her six-year-old self. At 12, she says she became malnourished and chronically stressed due to “inappropriate and hazardous” set conditions that violated child labor laws. At 17, she says she checked herself into rehab against the advice of her team, who told her she would risk “losing momentum” and continued to send her to auditions while she was on bedrest. Read More > at Insider

Unseen: The Boy Victims Of The Sex Trade, Part I – Boys and young men lured into the sex trade and victimized in ways the public generally assumes applies mostly to women and girls. But there is growing evidence that in New England and across the United States there are likely thousands of male victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, far more than previously understood.

In Massachusetts alone, more than 411 boys have been referred to the state Department of Children and Families since 2018 for concerns they were victims of commercial sexual exploitation — about 15 percent of the total number of referrals, according to state data. An additional 109 youth were identified as trans or non-binary, state data shows.

The state just started collecting this data in 2016, and it is widely considered to be an undercount. Definitive data is still lackingbut recent studies show boys and young men are being exploited at much higher rates. A 2016 national study found more than a third of young people involved in the U.S. sex trade were boys and young men. That same year, a federal study found a third of male youths experiencing homelessnes said they traded sex for something of value — putting their numbers in the thousands on any given night nationwide.

Yet too often male victims of sexual exploitation go unseen and unhelped, specialists say, their stories stifled by personal shame, stigma and a world that has trouble seeing boys and young men as victims at all, especially gay and trans youth and boys of color. Read More > at GBH

Survey: Relying on TV, social media for COVID-19 news leaves people less informed – People who obtain their news about COVID-19 from television and social media are less knowledgeable about the virus than those looking for other sources, according to the results of a survey published Monday by Current Medical Research & Opinion.

Compared to those who trust other sources, such as government websites, to provide them with accurate news about the pandemic, respondents who relied on TV were up to 15% less likely to correctly answer questions on the virus and related risks, the data showed.

Respondents who cited Facebook as a trusted news source on COVID-19 early in the pandemic were roughly 10% less likely to have correct information. Read More > from UPI

Texas and Florida Continue to Beat Lockdown States: Fauci ‘Not Sure’ Why Open States are Winning – Dr. Anthony Fauci is unsure why Texas and Florida continues to defy the settled “science” on COVID-19. Since the states did away with the mask mandates and authorized all businesses to re-open, there has not been a disproportionate surge in COVID cases, hospitalizations, or deaths.

Dr. Fauci was asked why Texas hasn’t seen the often predicted surge on MSNBC this week. “I’m not really quite sure,” he said. “It could be they’re doing things outdoors.”

Fauci added in his MSNBC interview that it may take weeks to see any effects from re-opening the state on the number of COVID cases.

Texas has become one of the biggest targets for lockdown and mask advocates. The state has even hosted a baseball game with 100% attendance. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have also taken stands against COVID passports.

The Lone Star State has continued to beat many lockdown states in terms of daily cases and daily deaths with a COVID infection based on government data provided by the NY Times. The COVID cases in Texas continue to decline steadily despite the state’s reopening and elimination of the mask mandate. Read More > at Trending Politics

Team Of Lawyers Suing WHO And Related Orgs. For Misleading World About COVID – The WHO made pronouncements that protected China and blocked the world from the truth, leading to catastrophic consequences. Now they are being called on to pay the piper. A group of lawyers has gotten together and is taking a run at the World Health Organization’s leadership for the various ways they helped screw the world over.   Along with WHO Director Tedros Adhanom, included as defendants in the suit are Dr. Christan Drosten, the head of virology at Berlin’s Charité Hospital, and Dr. Lothar Wieler, the head of the RKI, the German counterpart of the U.S. Center for Disease Control. la

The attorneys putting together the suit are even accusing the defendants of ‘crimes against humanity.’

Their class-action suit is being filed in the US, based on three issues:

1) The nature of the pandemic. Is it a pandemic in the authentic sense of infection rates? Or because of the prevalence of testing? Or is there a tie-in to corporate greed?

2) Are the restrictions offered because they genuinely make us safer? Or because they ramp up fear and make otherwise unpalatable options not only more palatable but demanded by the public — like all kinds of medical tests and treatments.

3) Was Germany specifically lobbied by ‘experts’ so that they would be a national role model whose example was trusted and followed by the rest of the world? Read More > at The Lid

Unwelcome and tough to evict: California’s costly, uphill battle against invasive species – California spends $3 million a year attempting to eradicate nutria, a large, homely, orange-toothed rodent that destroys wetlands and bores holes into levees. Another $3 million a year goes to educating boaters about quagga mussels, which hitch rides on hulls and cling to equipment in the state’s vast water transport system.  And, for the last 20 years, authorities have spent more than $34 million to manage Atlantic cordgrass in the San Francisco Bay-Delta.

These costs represent only a fraction of the costs “because eradication is rarely successful and control is an unending process,” according to a report that state officials presented to the Legislature in January.

The environmental damage in the United States is estimated at $120 billion to $137 billion per year. One of California’s most destructive foreign pests was the Mediterranean fruit fly, which infested fruit orchards around the state beginning in the 1970s and cost hundreds of millions to combat.

The economic and environmental impacts are getting worse, abetted by a changing climate and a smaller world where exotic creatures can hitch a ride across the globe. Read More > at CalMatters

Once On The Brink Of Eradication, Syphilis Is Raging Again – In 2000, syphilis rates were so low that public health officials believed eradication was on the horizon. But the rates started creeping up in 2001, grew steadily for the next two decades, then spiked 74% since 2015. There were nearly 130,000 cases nationwide in 2019, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In California and the U.S., about half of syphilis cases are in men who have sex with men. More than a third of women in the western United States who have syphilis also use meth, a drug that has seen its own surge in recent years.

These are just some of the trends causing overall national cases of sexually transmitted diseases to hit an all-time high for the past six years in a row, reaching 2.5 million. And the consequences are now trickling down to babies who are contracting syphilis from their mothers; these congenital syphilis rates nearly quadrupled between 2012 and 2019.

This was all before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S., and with contact tracers and testing supplies diverted from STDs to COVID, the CDC is predicting 2020 numbers will be no better.

While syphilis is not benign — it can cause blindness, deafness, or brain damage — it is easy to treat. Typically, a shot of penicillin in the buttock will cure it.

But diagnosing syphilis can be tricky, says Park, who treats patients with STDs at the San Francisco City Clinic… Read More > at NPR

Drug overdose deaths surged during coronavirus pandemicWhy it matters: The stubborn increase of such “deaths of despair” shows that the opioid epidemic still has room to grow and that some of the social distancing steps we took to rein in the pandemic may have brought deadly side effects.

By the numbers: More than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the 12 months leading to September 2020, according to preliminary federal data released this week.

  • That represents a 29% increase in overdose deaths for the months between October 2019 and September 2020 compared to the prior year.
  • While overdose deaths from drugs had begun rising in the months leading to the pandemic — after dipping slightly in 2018 for the first time in years — the biggest spike in deaths occurred in April and May 2020, when shutdowns were strictest.

Of note: While the earliest years of the opioid epidemic were worst among white Americans in rural and suburban areas, Black Americans are now suffering disproportionately.

Details: Experts connect some of the increase in overdose deaths to the social isolation and temporary closure of many treatment programs during the pandemic. Read More > at Axios

CA bullet train hopeful over Biden’s infrastructure plan – State rail officials are taking the glass-half-full view. Rather than lamenting the fact that high speed rail is absent from the president’s infrastructure plan, they’re pointing to supportive statements from Biden and his team, and insisting there’s time before Congress irons out a final deal to claim a share for California’s fast train.

“It’s a lot of money,” Brian Annis, the High Speed Rail Authority’s chief financial officer, said of rail’s piece of the $2.3 trillion plan. “We’re talking $80 billion with a ‘b,’ and I can’t say we know how big our slice is going to be.”

Unfortunately, when the president’s team laid out the pieces, California HSR’s sections appear to have been left of the box. Instead, Biden and his team are proposing $80 billion “to address Amtrak’s repair backlog; modernize the high traffic Northeast Corridor; improve existing corridors and connect new city pairs; and enhance the grant loan programs that support passenger and freight rail safety, efficiency and electrification.”

In the same summary, the White House notes “there are currently projects just waiting to be funded that will give millions more Americans reliable and fast inter-city train service.” It’s just high-speed rail isn’t mentioned among them. Read More > at Capitol Weekly

Study: 2.5 billion T. rex roamed Earth, but not all at once – One Tyrannosaurus rex seems scary enough. Now picture 2.5 billion of them. That’s how many of the fierce dinosaur king probably roamed Earth over the course of a couple million years, a new study finds.

Using calculations based on body size, sexual maturity and the creatures’ energy needs, a team at the University of California, Berkeley figured out just how many T. rex lived over 127,000 generations, according to a study in Thursday’s journal Science. It’s a first-of-its-kind number, but just an estimate with a margin of error that is the size of a T. rex.

“That’s a lot of jaws,” said study lead author Charles Marshall, director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology. “That’s a lot of teeth. That’s a lot of claws.”

The species roamed North America for about 1.2 million to 3.6 million years, meaning the T. rex population density was small at any one moment. There would be about two in a place the size of the Washington, D.C., or 3,800 in California, the study said. Read More > from the Associated Press

 

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