Bike Highway Study

A bike highway is a high-quality, uninterrupted, long-distance bikeway that reduces barriers to destinations that people want to travel to and from, especially places which may normally be difficult to bike to. Bike highways may consist of a mix of on-street facilities and fully-separated trails and should be designed so as to accommodate people of all ages and abilities riding bikes, as well as people walking and rolling where appropriate and feasible. For this Study, Caltrans is evaluating bike highways parallel to State highway corridors.

Caltrans Bay Area (District 4) manages nearly 1,400 miles of State Highway corridors throughout the Bay Area. The goal of this Study is to understand where Bike Highways may be installed alongside State Highway corridors.

The Study builds off of the recommendations included in the 2018 Caltrans District 4 Bike Plan and the 2017 California State Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, Toward an Active California.

What are YOUR priorities for a Caltrans Bay Area Bike Highway? The survey will be open through February 28. Survey

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Extended Closure for Paintersville Bridge

From February 23 to March 19

Caltrans is alerting motorists that beginning Tuesday, February 23 at 5:00 AM the Paintersville bridge on State Route 160 near Courtland will be temporarily closed for an extended period. Additional construction is needed to maintain and keep the bridge operational. The bridge will remained closed through March 19 at 9:00 PM.

Residents and area visitors are encouraged to use the Steamboat Slough and Walnut Grove Bridges. No two bridges will be closed at the same time. Motorists may also use Interstate 5 in Sacramento County as an alternate route. Current truck restrictions will apply. California legal trucks having a kingpin-to-rear-axle of more than 30 feet are not recommended on State Route 160.

Weather conditions could delay or cancel this scheduled work. For motorists using the State Route 84 Real McCoy and SR-220 Ryer Island Ferries as a bridge detour, additional ferry information is located on the Caltrans Delta Ferries website. Please note: the Real McCoy Ferry remains closed until February 25 due to a routine US Coast Inspection.

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Feed the Soul – Don’t Let Hunger Win

They are the people we see every day who are the hidden hungry – seniors right in your neighborhood who are food insecure. Meals on Wheels Diablo Region fights hunger every day by delivering a daily meal, but for so many vulnerable seniors, one meal isn’t enough! Too many seniors try to stretch the meal we deliver so they have something for dinner and to provide the food they need to take with their medications at night.

MOW Diablo Region’s Feed the Soul Campaign needs to raise $28,000 during the month of February to provide 4,600 breakfasts to seniors who are victims of food insecurity. But we can’t do it without your help!

We are two-thirds of the way toward meeting our goal, but the month is almost over, and we don’t want hunger to win! Please join our sponsors Chevron, CSAA Insurance Group, NBC Bay Area, Telemundo 48, and Mt. Diablo Resource and Recovery with your donation today.

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The Shop Oakley Coupon Book is Now Online!

The Shop Oakley Coupon Booklet is digital for 2021!

The digital Shop Oakley coupon booklet is FREE to consumers and is easy to access. Simply visit the link below and display the coupon on your digital device to collect your savings.

Please help support these local businesses that provide goods and services in our community. This year’s booklet contains savings at more than 20 businesses in Oakley including restaurants, home improvement, pet care, beauty, healthcare and more.

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Sunday Reading – 02/21/2021

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.

Gavin Newsom recall – An effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was launched on June 10, 2020. Supporters have until March 17, 2021, to collect the 1,495,709 signatures needed to trigger a recall election. If supporters turn in enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election, the additional procedural steps dictate a recall election take place within 60 to 80 days of signature verification.

Recall supporters say Newsom mishandled the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, did not do enough to address the state’s homelessness rate, and supported sanctuary city policies and water rationing. In June 2020, Newsom said President Donald Trump‘s (R) supporters were behind the recall effort, which he also said would cost the state $81 million.

Newsom was elected as California’s governor in 2018 with 61.9% of the vote. Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall a sitting California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis (D). Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was chosen as Davis’ replacement.

A recall election would present voters with two questions. The first would ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second would ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required. In the 2003 recall of Davis, 135 candidates ran and the winner received 48.58 percent of the vote. Read More > at BallotPedia

Recall collects 1.5 million signatures – The campaign to recall Newsom announced Friday, February 12, that it’s collected more than 1.5 million signatures, the amount necessary to trigger a recall election. Although only a portion of those signatures have been verified so far, the milestone suggests there’s a good chance Newsom could soon be facing the biggest political test of his career as the Republican National Committee and the California Republican Party pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into the recall campaign. Powerful Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have closed ranks around Newsom in recent weeks, with top state officials like Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Treasurer Fiona Ma saying they wouldn’t throw their hats in the ring should the recall qualify.

Nevertheless, Democratic strategists say the party may have to consider putting another candidate on the ballot if they want to ensure a Republican doesn’t capture the gubernatorial seat. And speculation over who may run if the recall qualifies is already running wild: Amid swirling rumors, Caitlyn Jenner, a longtime Republican, announced last week that she does not plan to run for governor. Read More > at CalMatters

School Openings – Tensions ramp up – Top Democratic lawmakers dealt a political blow to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday by unveiling a school reopening package without his input — a move to which the governor did not take kindly.

The bold step suggests that Newsom and lawmakers have significantly different interpretations of what’s necessary to get kids back in the classroom, especially when it comes to vaccines. The package introduced by three Democratic Assemblymembers would require local public health departments to offer vaccines to on-site school employees, while Newsom’s plan, introduced in December, maintains vaccinations aren’t a prerequisite to reopening.

Lawmakers are planning to vote on the bill on Monday — which could force Newsom to choose between abandoning his own proposal or potentially slowing reopenings by vetoing the bill, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports.

  • Assemblymember Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, on the possibility of a joint deal“I don’t know — you’d have to talk to (Newsom). Our intention is to pass the bill on Monday.”
  • NewsomMy “plan is grounded in the same science that’s been recognized by the medical professionals at the (CDC), by … Dr. Fauci, and by the president himself. While the Legislature’s proposal represents a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough or fast enough.”

The lawmakers’ proposal largely preserves the funding structure of Newsom’s original plan: $2 billion for reopening costs and $4.6 billion for learning loss. It calls on school districts, once they enter the red tier, to offer some sort of in-person instruction to K-6 students and older vulnerable students by April 15. If they don’t, they won’t receive full funding. Newsom had wanted elementary schools to reopen by Feb. 16, a plan rebuffed by districts, unions and lawmakers.

Meanwhile, tensions over school closures continue to grow. After a profanity-laced video surfaced Wednesday of a Bay Area school board president saying parents “want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” enraged residents began circulating a petition calling on board members to resign. Students and families infuriated by the San Francisco school board delaying a reopening vote held a protest Thursday in which they logged into remote classes outside closed campuses. In Los Angeles, some families are boycotting online classes altogether. Read More > at CalMatters 

California loosens rules for youth sports during pandemic – California public health officials on Friday loosened the rules for youth sports, allowing all outdoor sports to resume in counties where COVID-19 case rates are at or below 14 people per 100,000.

The new guidance clears the way for sports like baseball, softball, gymnastics and cheerleading to resume Feb. 26 for at least 27 counties, including places that are in the most restrictive tier of the state’s virus designations.

High-contact outdoor sports like football, basketball and rugby can also resume under that standard, but only if all coaches and players 13 and older get tested once a week. Test results must be available within 24 hours of competition. Read More > from the Associated Press

State Auditor Releases Scathing Audit of the Failure to Mitigate Homelessness in California – California State Auditor Elaine Howle recently released a rather scathing audit of the management or mismanagement of Homelessness in California. She said that the state continues to have the largest homeless population in the nation “likely in part because its approach to addressing homelessness has been disjointed.”

In her cover letter to the Governor, President pro Tempore of the Senate, and Speaker of the Assembly, Howle said “At least nine state agencies administer and oversee 41 different programs that provide funding to mitigate homelessness, yet no single entity oversees the State’s efforts or is responsible for developing a statewide strategic plan.”

The state’s plan to mitigate homelessness is not designed to achieve this, as the audit shows. Because if the 9 agencies and 41 different programs were, they would no longer be needed, the federal and state funding would dry up, and public employee union jobs would be lost. In California, no program ever sunsets.

“The State continues to lack a comprehensive understanding of its spending to address homelessness, the specific services the programs provide, or the individuals who receive those services.” Read More > at California Globe 

Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: A Tale of Two Revolutions – To put it in a nutshell. No Gutenberg, no Luther. No Luther, no Reformation. At one point, Luther (1483-1546) was publishing a book (more like a pamphlet) every three or four weeks. The advent of moveable type and the printing press (ca. 1440) made it possible for an obscure monk’s critique of late medieval Catholicism to travel all over Europe. The printing press made it relatively easy to disseminate the Bible, particularly the New Testament and the Psalms, more widely than ever before — by magnitudes.

It is no coincidence that just at that time Luther published his Bible in German (1522-1534) — thus essentially inventing the modern German language — and Erasmus of Rotterdam produced the first printed New Testament in Greek in 1516, the Reformation rocked European civilization to the core. Vernacular editions of the Bible soon became available in all the languages of Europe. In fact, the proliferation of vernacular Bibles helped break the hegemony of Latin as the language of theology and intellectual discourse — a language that only a tiny and well-educated percentage of the European population could read.

In 1823, just three years before his death, Thomas Jefferson explained to his old friend John Adams that the proliferation of inexpensive printing would help liberate oppressed peoples all over the world. If books can be smuggled into nations living under despotic rule, and people can see their natural rights articulated by individuals like John Locke or Voltaire, they will never rest until they have secured the blessings of liberty….

Now we are in the early adolescent phase of a more profound revolution, and it too is rocking the world. It’s hard for us to measure the disruption (though we can intuit it) and the revolutionary potency of digital communication. But it is clear that the Internet and social media are essential elements in the bewildering cultural and political wars of our time. Marshall McLuhan was right: In many respects, the medium is the message.

If you wanted to voice your political views or your discontentment with the state of things before 1995, you could write a letter to your local newspaper that would be scrutinized by a copy editor for civility, grammar, and diction, and whittled down to manageable size before ever appearing in print. If you wrote something incendiary or abusive, the editor would either throw your letter in the trash or call you on the telephone — back then you had to provide actual name, address and phone number to get a letter considered — and talk you down off the ledge of your strongest pronouncements.

Publishing your views to the world was, in short, tedious and time consuming, and if you wanted your opinions to reach the world through a “platform,” there was a gatekeeper to see to it that you played by basic rules of civility.

Today, if you want to voice your political views or your discontentment with the state of things, you sit down at your computer, choose your platform (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tik-Tok, your blog) and key in your perspective, whether it is brief (“Lock Her Up!”) or a 75-page manifesto….

We live in the first time in human history when everyone who has access to a laptop and the Internet can publish. No wonder it’s a little anarchic. The digital revolution has given everyone a printing press, a darkroom and a distribution network, at essentially no cost… Read More > at Governing  

California DMV warns 20 months of records may have been exposed – A ransomware attack on a company called Automatic Funds Transfer Services (AFTS) has had a ripple effect on customers. One of those is the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which has warned drivers in the state about a potential data breach.

The DMV told TechCrunch that the incident may have put at risk “the last 20 months of California vehicle registration records that contain names, addresses, license plate numbers and vehicle identification numbers.” AFTS, which the agency has used to verify changes of address since 2019, doesn’t have access to drivers’ other personal information. The social security numbers, birth dates, voter registration, immigration status and driver’s license details of DMV clients were not affected by the incident.

The agency, to which more than 35 million vehicles are registered, has secured an emergency contract with another vendor, so it shouldn’t have any downtime as a result of the attack. Reports last year indicated California’s DMV makes tens of millions of dollars by selling clients’ personal information to the likes of private investigators.

Hackers struck AFTS with ransomware earlier this month. Along with verifying addresses, the company processes payments and invoices for clients across the US. Other organizations say that the attack has impacted them and potentially compromised customer data. Read More > at Engadget 

How to prevent AI from taking over the world – Right now AI diagnoses cancer, decides whether you’ll get your next job, approves your mortgagesentences felonstrades on the stock market, populates your news feed, protects you from fraud and keeps you company when you’re feeling down.

Soon it will drive you to town, deciding along the way whether to swerve to avoid hitting a wayward fox. It will also tell you how to schedule your day, which career best suits your personality and even how many children to have.

And yet from the beginning AI has been dogged by huge concerns.

What if AI develops an intelligence far beyond our own? Stephen Hawking warned that “AI could develop a will of its own, a will that is in conflict with ours and which could destroy us.” We are all familiar with the typical plotline of dystopian sci-fi movies. An alien comes to Earth, we try to control it, and it all ends very badly. AI may be the alien intelligence already in our midst. 

…Finally, there is the problem of what happens if AI is too good at what it does. Its beguiling efficiency could seduce us into allowing it to make more and more of our decisions, until we “forget” how to make good decisions on our own, in much the way we rely on our smartphones to remember phone numbers and calculate tips. AI could lead us to abdicate what makes us human in the first place – our ability to take charge of and tell the stories of our own lives.

The best and most direct way to control AI is to ensure that its values are our values. By building human values into AI, we ensure that everything an AI does meets with our approval. But this is not simple. The so-called “Value Alignment Problem” – how to get AI to respect and conform to human values – is arguably the most important, if vexing, problem faced by AI developers today. Read More > at the New Statesman  

News Analysis: The tragedy of Dianne Feinstein – If Dianne Feinstein hadn’t lived the life she had, her story might be the product of a screenwriter’s over-fertile imagination.

The synopsis: After surviving an abusive childhood, Feinstein overcomes personal loss — she is widowed at age 45 — and repeated electoral defeat to become a pioneer for women in politics and powerful member of the U.S. Senate. Along the way she survives a mayoral recall effort, a brutal Senate reelection campaign, an attempted bombing of her home and a gruesome brush with death.

The opening scene: November 1978, San Francisco’s Beaux-Arts City Hall, where former Supervisor Dan White has just shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Feinstein, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, rushes to Milk’s aid. She reaches for a pulse and plunges her finger in a bullet hole.

The closing scene: Deep into her ninth decade, Feinstein is no longer the politically revered figure she once was. There is talk of mental decline, of selfishly overstaying her time in office and calls for the Democrat to resign from the Senate for the good of her state and the country.

…Bipartisanship, which is to say working with people with whom you may have deep and stark disagreements, is widely disdained these days as a form of retreat and surrender. It is, however, at the core of what Feinstein has always been: a believer in deliberation and political decorum, in practicality and legislative pragmatism. “Compromise,” she has said to the derision of fellow Democrats, “is not a bad word.”

Today, Feinstein is a subject of scorn, considered by many a relic who is well past her prime, who refuses to yield to someone younger, more vibrant, more politically pugnacious and more reflective of California’s kaleidoscopic racial and ethnic diversity.

History, with its long view, is likely to be much kinder. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

New wearable device turns the body into a battery – Researchers at CU Boulder have developed a new, low-cost wearable device that transforms the human body into a biological battery. 

The device, described today in the journal Science Advances, is stretchy enough that you can wear it like a ring, a bracelet or any other accessory that touches your skin. It also taps into a person’s natural heat—employing thermoelectric generators to convert the body’s internal temperature into electricity. 

“In the future, we want to be able to power your wearable electronics without having to include a battery,” said Jianliang Xiao, senior author of the new paper and an associate professor in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder. 

The concept may sound like something out of The Matrix film series, in which a race of robots have enslaved humans to harvest their precious organic energy. Xiao and his colleagues aren’t that ambitious: Their devices can generate about 1 volt of energy for every square centimeter of skin space—less voltage per area than what most existing batteries provide but still enough to power electronics like watches or fitness trackers. Read More > CU Boulder Today

Bill Gates roasted for saying rich countries should eat ‘100% synthetic beef’ – Some people on Twitter have beef with Bill Gates again.

The Microsoft founder-turned-global health philanthropist discusses ways to tackle climate change in his new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need,” which hit shelves on Tuesday. And among his calls to action: switching to synthetic beef to reduce methane emissions, aka the gases that cattle and sheep release when they belch or pass gas.

While Burger King has experimented with adding lemongrass to the diet of some of its beef herd to limit the methane emissions that contribute to climate change, and researchers are feeding seaweed to cattle in Maine and New Hampshire in another attempt to cut down the methane these herds release, it’s simply a biologic fact of life that the bacteria in the digestive tracts of livestock releases methane as it breaks down food. “I don’t know if there’ll be some natural approach there,” Gates said.

His solution: the richest countries should hold the beef, period, and switch to plant-based or synthetic proteins.

“I do think all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef,” Gates told Technology Review. “You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time. Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the [behavior of] people or use regulation to totally shift the demand.” Read More > at Market Watch

Ending Elon Musk’s Renewable Energy Credits Racket – Government assistance was once reserved for the needy. Today, the government assists the incredibly affluent, a word that inadequately describes a man like Elon Musk, who is now the wealthiest single individual in the world. His current net worth of approximately $185 billion exceeds that of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – who differs from Musk in that he makes his money selling stuff that people want to buy.

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted how members of Congress and industry stakeholders are up in arms over SpaceX’s recent request for nearly $1 billion in federal subsidies. But beyond general subsidies, Musk also amasses significant sums each year from government mandates that effectively coerce his competitors into buying what he’s selling.

What they’re buying isn’t electric cars, as many people mistakenly believe, but rather government credits others amassed for building them. 

Mr. Musk sells these renewable energy credits (RECs) to other car companies that have little choice but to buy the credits or build electric cars themselves to comply with government mandates pertaining to “zero emissions” vehicles, a standard that only electric vehicles meet. Even though they are only “zero emissions” if one doesn’t consider the emissions produced during their manufacture, or via the utility plants that power these energy hogs. Read More > at Real Clear Energy 

The Narrative is Overshadowing Truth in the Texas Energy Crisis – From those who oppose the green new deal, the situation in Texas is caused by wind turbines freezing over in West Texas. The Texas energy market has gone crazy for turbines and they cover West Texas like tumbleweed. They froze up and could not produce energy. Those that did not freeze up were running at efficiency rates of about 5%.

From those who support the green new deal, including much of the mainstream media, the wind turbines had nothing to do with the problem. The fossil fuel and nuclear power generation facilities froze over. Valves, coal stacks, pumps, and other equipment froze. Natural gas pressure cratered. We should stop blaming the turbines. In fact, if you followed some reporters online or news stories, you’d think the wind turbines had nothing to do with the problem.

The truth is actually more complex and the truth has a lot to do with Texas’s pursuit of renewable energy.

Put simply, renewable energy is so heavily subsidized by the federal government, energy companies have no financial incentive to expand baseload capacity from fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Not only that, but the wind and solar farms do not have to pay to maintain the reliability of the system like fossil fuel operators do. In other words, there is no ramp up obligation for wind and solar in part because they can’t and they have no incentive to install technology to store their excess power for times the grid needs it. Read More > at Erick-Woods Erickson, EE Show

This Blizzard Exposes The Perils Of Attempting To ‘Electrify Everything’ – The massive blast of Siberia-like cold that is wreaking havoc across North America is proving that if we humans want to keep surviving frigid winters, we are going to have to keep burning natural gas — and lots of it — for decades to come.

That cold reality contradicts the “electrify everything” scenario that’s being promoted by climate change activists, politicians, and academics. They claim that to avert the possibility of catastrophic climate change, we must stop burning hydrocarbons and convert all of our transportation, residential, commercial, and industrial systems so that they are powered solely on electricity, with most of that juice coming, of course, from forests of wind turbines and oceans of solar panels. 

This blizzard proves that attempting to electrify everything would be the opposite of anti-fragile. Rather than make our networks and critical systems more resilient and less vulnerable to disruptions caused by extreme weather, bad actors, falling trees, or simple negligence, electrifying everything would concentrate our dependence on a single network, the electric grid, and in doing so make nearly every aspect of our society prone to catastrophic failure if — or rather, when — a widespread or extended blackout occurs.

This blizzard proves that during extreme weather winter, solar panels and wind turbines are of little or no value to the electric grid.

This blizzard proves that our natural gas grid is part of our critical infrastructure and that we shut it down at our peril. The natural gas network is essential because it can deliver big surges in energy supplies during periods of peak demand. In January 2019, U.S. natural gas demand set a record of 145 billion cubic feet per day. That record will be smashed during this blizzard, and daily volumes will exceed 150 Bcf. That is an enormous amount of energy. In fact, on the coldest days of winter, the amount of energy delivered by the gas grid is roughly three times as great as the energy consumed during the hottest days of the summer.  Read More > at Forbes

Illegal pot grow? Antifa? Rumors swirl about Creek Fire cause, but officials’ lips sealed – Six months since the start of the biggest single wildfire in California history, investigators still don’t know what caused it.

The Creek Fire began burning on Sept. 4 around 6:30 p.m. in the Big Creek drainage, in the forest wedged between Shaver and Huntington Lakes. It quickly raced through both lakes, Mammoth Pool and the San Joaquin River Canyon, burning a total of 379,895 acres before fire managers declared full containment on Dec. 24.

Answers to the fire’s mysterious cause remain beyond reach.

The U.S. Forest Service, which is in charge of the investigation, has declined to rule out any causes or provide a timeline for wrapping up the probe.

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magisg, who oversees that area, said he receives multiple calls and emails a week inquiring about the fire’s cause.

Magsig said speculation around the cause includes unsubstantiated theories about an escaped campfire near Camp Sierra, arson at the hands of anti-fascist protesters, and a law enforcement operation eradicating an illegal marijuana garden around Big Creek that got out of control.

He said, to date, there has been no evidence to support any of these theories.

The fire ruined a total of 853 structures, the bulk of which were single-family homes, according to the Forest Service. It also damaged 64 structures, including 34 houses.

In total, Olow said fire suppression cost just under $200 million. Adding on property damage, Magsig said the fire cost upwards of $500 million. Read More > in the Fresno Bee

Housing costs key factor – Goodbye, Silicon Valley. Hello, Silicon Slopes.

The tech hubs of San Francisco and San Jose fell precipitously in this year’s ranking of U.S. cities’ economic performance released Wednesday morning by the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that’s published the index every year since 1999. San Francisco and San Jose, which ranked Nos. 1 and 5 last year, respectively, fell to Nos. 24 and 22. Meanwhile, the Provo-Orem region in Utah captured the No. 1 spot, and Salt Lake City rose to No. 4. Utah, the report notes, “has been a recipient of the tech sector’s out-migration from the more expensive coastal cities of California,” attracting companies like Qualtrics, Vivint and SmartCitizen.

The report — which ranked cities based on jobs, wages, high-tech growth, housing affordability and household broadband access — found that the pandemic’s shift to remote work has likely affected California more than any other state. With companies like Salesforce, Twitter, Square, Dropbox, Yelp and Pinterest permitting most employees to permanently work from home, downtown San Francisco is reeling. And Silicon Valley companies Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Oracle recently decamped to Texas, though Google is still planning to expand its offices in San Jose and San Francisco.

  • Kevin Klowden, executive director of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics:“The pandemic has had an outsized impact on cities where the economic effects of the current recession are exacerbated by high housing costs.”

Of the 10 cities that saw the biggest drop in rankings, three were in California: Salinas, Santa Cruz and Oakland. The report attributed this partly to “extremely high housing costs” due to their proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area, noting that many residents don’t have “jobs and salaries in high-tech industries to compensate for high costs of living.”

But costs can even be prohibitive for those who do. After CJ Paillant, a product manager for a Silicon Valley software company, lost his job early in the pandemic, his $5,400 monthly rent payments began piling up. He and his roommate now owe $43,805 in rent, CalMatters’ Laurence Du Sault reports.

  • Paillant“I got stuck in my luxury apartment. Now I’ve got to raise this money. My life feels like a movie.” Read More > at CalMatters

Pigs can play video games with their snouts, scientists find – Four pigs – Hamlet, Omelette, Ebony and Ivory – were trained to use an arcade-style joystick to steer an on-screen cursor into walls.

Researchers said the fact that the pigs understood the connection between the stick and the game “is no small feat”.

And the pigs even continued playing when the food reward dispenser broke – apparently for the social contact.

Usually, the pigs would be given a food pellet for “winning” the game level. But during testing, it broke – and they kept clearing the game levels when encouraged by some of the researchers’ kind words.

The research team also thought that the fact the pigs could play video games at all – since they are far-sighted animals with no hands or thumbs – was “remarkable”. Read More > in the BBC

In Nevada, Tech Companies Could Soon Establish Their Own Local Governments – Large tech companies would have the ability to effectively create their own governments under legislation expected to be proposed in the Nevada State Legislature.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has obtained a copy of draft language on so-called “Innovation Zones.” The idea was first articulated by Gov. Steve Sisolak in his State of the State address last month.

These zones would first operate under the jurisdiction of the county in which they are located. But eventually, the tech companies could form their own three-member Board of Supervisors. They would have the power to tax, to form school districts, and to offer a range of other services typically provided by local governments.

The existing local government model is “inadequate alone to provide the flexibility and resources conducive to making the State a leader in attracting and retaining new forms and types of businesses in fostering economic development in emerging technologies and innovative industries,” the draft proposal says.

Blockchains, LLC has already expressed a desire to establish its own “smart city” in Nevada and would likely be among the first if legislation is approved. Read More > at California City News 

Once again, the Olympics are being used to obscure human rights violations. Will the IOC finally take a stand? – …The 2022 Winter Games in Beijing are even more concerning, given China’s appalling human rights record against dissenters and religious minorities. Last week, yet another well-sourced article was published about the abuses against the Muslim Uighurs in a complex of prisons and re-education camps that have, by some estimates, swallowed up a million people. This time, the accusation is of systemic rape and forced sterilization.

New U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang province genocide, echoing his predecessor Mike Pompeo. 

Early this month, 180 human rights groups called for a boycott of the 2022 Olympics in response to IOC’s inaction. 

Because, as ever, the IOC has looked away. Even though China gave it assurances that it would improve its human rights record when it was awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics, also in Beijing. Instead, China cracked down harder than ever.

The IOC could take a stand. The IOC must take a stand. Read More > at Yahoo! Sports

Dinosaur-Killing Impact Came From Edge Of Solar System, New Theory Suggests – For decades, the prevailing theory about the extinction of the dinosaurs was that an asteroid from the belt between Mars and Jupiter slammed into the planet, causing cataclysmic devastation that wiped out most life on the planet.

But new research out of Harvard University theorizes that the Armageddon-causing object came from much farther out than originally believed.

According to this new theory, the devastation came not from a relatively nearby asteroid, but from a sort of long-distance comet that came from the edge of the solar system in an area known as the Oort cloud.

The gravity from Jupiter pulled the comet into the solar system. At that point, according to Amir Siraj, a Harvard student who co-authored the paper with Professor Avi Loeb, “Jupiter acts as a kind of pinball machine.”

The theory goes: Jupiter’s gravity shot this incoming comet into an orbit that brought it very close to the sun, whose tidal forces caused the comet to break apart. Some of the comet’s fragments entered Earth’s orbit, and one — 50 miles across, roughly the size of Boston — slammed into the coast of Mexico. Read More > at NPR

Twitter nets $1.14 billion loss for 2020 – Twitter’s net income for 2020 was down $1.14 billion as compared to 2019, the company announced Wednesday.

“2020 net loss was $1.14 billion, representing a net margin of -31 percent and diluted EPS [earnings per share] of -$1.44,” a company statement reads, in part. “This compares to 2019 net income of $1.47 billion, representing a net margin of 42 percent and diluted EPS of $1.87.”

Twitter reported a 19% increase in costs and expenses, with total revenue of $3.72 billion. The company also had tax-related adjustments. Read More > at Disrn

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Contra Costa Extends COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility to Essential Workers

Teachers, grocery workers and other frontline essential workers who live in Contra Costa County can now sign up to receive safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to them. 

Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) today updated its eligibility policy for COVID-19 vaccine to extend vaccination eligibility to residents who work in the education and childcare sector, food and agriculture workers, and emergency services workers as defined by Phase 1B of California’s vaccination plan

“We are committed to protecting all of our educators by ensuring they can access the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Diane Burgis, chair of the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors. “It is critical that we prioritize the health and well being of all the essential workers who have cared for us and our families throughout the pandemic.” 

Residents in these groups, as well as county residents who are 65 years and older who have not yet been vaccinated, can sign up to access state and federal sites through MyTurn ( or by calling 1-833-422-4255.  

Essential workers and residents 65 years and older can also request immunization appointments through CCHS and join the county waiting list for COVID-19 vaccine. However, due to a temporary reduction in vaccine supply from the state, all appointments at county sites are filled through the next two weeks at least.  

People who need to cancel an existing appointment or who received a first dose of vaccine through CCHS and need to make a second-dose appointment should call 1-833-829-2626. 

When more appointments do become available, CCHS will continue to prioritize county residents who are 65 or older as well as eligible essential workers, particularly those who live or work in the local communities most heavily affected by the pandemic. 

CCHS continues to move forward with a workplace-based outreach effort to immunize essential workers in high-risk jobs in the county’s hardest-hit communities, including food and agriculture workers. Workers at sites selected for the program will be contacted by their employers. 

Visit for more information about the state health guidelines, and state data regarding COVID-19.

For Contra Costa data and COVID-19 health information, visit

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Would you like to serve in the Measure X Community Advisory Board?

The Community Advisory Board was established on February 2, 2021 following passage of Measure X – a countywide sales tax measure providing general purpose revenue for County programs estimated to generate at least $81 million annually.

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is seeking individuals that represent broad and diverse voices, perspectives and expertise, including but not exclusive to: budget justice advocacy, children’s services, community health, consumer advocacy, faith leadership, senior services, fire and public safety protection, housing and homelessness, labor union representation, legal advocacy, local businesses, mental health services, non-partisan civic organizations, policy organizations, public health, racial justice and equity, safety net services, substance abuse services, taxpayers, and youth services, to serve on the newly established Measure X Community Advisory Board. 

The Measure X Community Advisory Board is composed of 10 Supervisorial District seats and 7 At-Large seats, for a total of 17 seats and is responsible for the following:

  • Overseeing an annual assessment of community needs, focusing primarily on the priority areas identified in the Measure X Needs Assessment, including emergency response (fire/medical), health care, safety net services, preventative care, affordable housing, and support for early childhood, youth, families, and seniors;
  • Creating a detailed priority list of the top service gaps based on the results from the Needs Assessment;
  • Using the Needs Assessment to make funding priority recommendations to the Board of Supervisors annually;
  • Providing an Annual Report on the outcomes and impact of allocated funds; and

To be considered, candidates must either live or work in Contra Costa County. The Community Advisory Board will initially meet as needed to develop recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, then shall meet at least quarterly. During COVID-19, Committee members will meet via online conferencing as permitted by the Governor’s Executive Order N29-20 issued on March 17, 2020. 

Members of the Community Advisory Board will receive no compensation for their service and must complete State required ethics training as well as County training on the open meeting laws, including the Ralph M. Brown Act and Better Government Ordinance. Initial members of the Committee shall serve staggered terms of two or three years, with subsequent appointments serving three-year terms, with a maximum of six years served consecutively by any member. Currently elected or appointed public officials, including, but not limited to, Mayors, City Councilmembers, City Managers and Fire Chiefs are not eligible for appointment. Candidate interviews will take place during the month of March and the Board of Supervisors plans to make final appointments in late March or April 2021. 

Application forms can be obtained from the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors by calling (925) 655-2000 or by clicking on the following link on the County website: Application Form. For paper applications, use this form and return to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors by email (, or mail to County Administration Building, 1025 Escobar Street, 1st Floor, Martinez, CA 94553 no later than 5pm on Thursday, March 11, 2021.

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California Is 2021’s 2nd Most Sinful State – WalletHub Study

Every state has virtues and vices, and vices are especially hard to conquer during the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harmful behavior on the individual level can result in staggering economic costs, considering that gambling addiction costs the U.S. $5 billion per year and smoking costs dwarf that with over $300 billion per year.

In light of these statistics, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Most Sinful States, as well as accompanying videos. To determine where the U.S. has the most moral growing to do, WalletHub compared the 50 states based on seven sinful behaviors: anger and hatred, jealousy, excesses and vices, greed, lust, vanity and laziness.

Here are some highlights from the report:

Sinfulness of California (1=Most Sinful; 25=Avg.):

  • 12th – Anger & Hatred
  • 7th – Jealousy
  • 21st – Greed
  • 2nd – Lust
  • 2nd – Vanity

For the full report, please visit:

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School Openings in California – Map reveals disparities

From CalMatters

It’s the question on everyone’s minds: When will Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers announce a school reopening deal?

Though Newsom said he hoped to unveil a plan last week, Friday came and went without any mention of an agreement — or of the issues on which the governor and legislators disagree, though negotiations were rumored to be intense and difficult.

But the state on Friday did release, for the first time amid the pandemic, maps that reveal which of California’s schools have physically reopened — and the divide is stark, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports. Most private schools appear to offer some form of in-person learning, while the majority of public schools remain in remote learning. Similarly, hundreds of small, rural or inland elementary schools have reopened, while many of the state’s largest urban districts are physically closed.

Further complicating California’s fraught debate over returning to campus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday new school reopening guidelines — ones that are generally less restrictive than the Golden State’s. For example, the CDC guidelines would permit middle and high schools to reopen in areas with double the infection rate currently allowed by the state. The CDC also does not see vaccinations as a prerequisite for returning to campus — a stance shared by Newsom, but opposed by powerful teachers unions.

  • Newsom on Friday: “The CDC guidelines are very consistent with where we want to go with our efforts.”

However, both the CDC and Newsom emphasized the importance of local control — suggesting that California’s school reopening map may not change much in the months to come.

Plans to resume school sports also appear to have slowed down. Though Newsom last week said he hoped to release updated guidance within “the next number of days,” his office on Thursday said “details” would be forthcoming within the next “two weeks.” This frustrated many supporters of Let Them Play CA, which on Thursday delivered more than 12,000 letters to Newsom’s office asking him to let sports continue.

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Extended Closure for Real McCoy II Ferry

Caltrans has announced the State Route 84 (SR-84) Real McCoy II ferry will be out of service until February 25, 2021 for its required 5-year U.S. Coast Guard inspection. The Delta’s companion ferry, the State Route 220 (SR-220) J-Mack ferry can be used for crossings, while the Real McCoy II ferry is out of service. The J-Mack ferry is on demand 24 hours per day. The State Route 84 Miners Slough Bridge can also be used to access Ryer Island.

For the latest information, call the Caltrans Ferry Update Line at (510) 622-0120. Motorists can also find additional information on Caltrans’ Delta Ferries webpage.

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Beware of CORONAVIRUS Scams!

Today scammers are preying on people’s desire for COVID-19 vaccinations. They may email, text, or call you requesting personal or financial information, telling you that you can pay to get the shots early or to have your name put on a waiting list, or selling products that claim to treat or prevent COVID. No government agency will do any of these things. Do NOT respond to this type of message.

Learn how to avoid being the victim of a scam.

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States That Had the Quickest Weekly Unemployment Claims Recovery – Updated WalletHub Study

Despite the fact that the U.S. has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year, new unemployment claims decreased week-over-week on February 1, and were 88% below the peak during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help add some context to these statistics, WalletHub just released updated rankings for the States Whose Weekly Unemployment Claims Are Recovering the Quickest, along with accompanying videos and audio files.

To identify which states’ workforces are experiencing the quickest recovery from COVID-19, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three metrics based on changes in unemployment claims. Below, you can see highlights from the report, along with a WalletHub Q&A. To see the states most recovered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.  

Change in California Weekly Unemployment Claims (1=Quickest Recovery, 25=Avg.):

  • 196.19% Change in Unemployment Claims (Latest Week vs 2019)
    • 132,839 the week of February 1, 2021 vs 44,850 the week of February 4, 2019
    • 26th quickest recovery in the U.S.
  • 261.76% Change in Unemployment Claims (Latest Week vs Start of 2020)
    • 132,839 the week of February 1, 2021 vs 36,720 the week of January 1, 2020
    • 13th slowest recovery in the U.S.
  • 624.81% Change in Unemployment Claims (Since Start of COVID-19 Crisis vs Previous Year)
    • 11,794,830 between the week of March 16, 2020 and the week of February 1, 2021 vs 1,887,744 between the week of March 18, 2019 and the week of February 3, 2020
    • 17th quickest recovery in the U.S.

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

How might a state’s efficiency at administering the COVID-19 vaccine affect unemployment?

“States that are able to more efficiently vaccinate their residents will likely see better job growth than states that are less efficient. The more a state vaccinates, the safer conditions in that state will become and the sooner businesses will be able to fully reopen and have the resources to expand hiring,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “Currently, some states are far more efficient than others. For example, North Dakota has used all of its vaccine supply, while Alabama has only used less than 60%.”  

How could the fact that vaccine rollout is slower than expected affect unemployment?

“Since vaccine rollout is slower than expected, that could slow the reduction in the unemployment rate this year. Without having most of the population vaccinated, we can’t achieve a full recovery, which means businesses will continue to not be able to hire in full force,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “If we can put more resources into achieving widespread vaccination, we can expect to make bigger strides in reducing unemployment. We should be concerned with educating people on the benefits of getting vaccinated, too, so that a higher percentage of the population will choose to receive the vaccine.”

How has unemployment in California recovered?

“California’s unemployment claims have experienced the 17th slowest recovery in the U.S. For the week of February 1, California had 132,839 new unemployment claims, an 87% decrease from the peak during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. 

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Sunday Reading – 02/14/2021

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.

The Decade in Review: A Political Earthquake in California Local Government – The last ten years have seen an extraordinary shift in local government representation across California. Historically conservative majorities on City Councils have collapsed, beginning in November 2016, and ushered in hundreds of newly elected local officials that are substantially more diverse — and substantially more progressive — than the state has likely ever seen. 

The adage that “there’s no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole” was the zeitgeist of local politics for decades. And while infrastructure may remain relatively non-controversial, in today’s City Halls there are most certainly partisan ways to fill budget gaps, manage pension obligations and assert local control over hot button issues such as immigration, public safety, public healthy, housing, environmental regulations and other key matters. 

So while conservatives controlled a plurality of seats over years of our tracking at GrassrootsLab, a remarkable turn of events transpired in 2016 — Democrats took control of City government on a statewide level. Moreover, since that inflection point, the Republican share of local seats has been in complete freefall for three cycles now, with the GOP losing a substantial share of seats in 2016, 2018 and 2020. 

…Contra Costa County, on the other hand, which has been one of the few remaining battlegrounds in State legislative politics and home to various centrist legislators, has swung notably left. Less than half of Contra Costa City Officials were Democrats at the outset of the decade, now they number more than two-thirds. Read More > at California County News 

CDC says schools are safe, but Biden continues to ignore science, doctors – “There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely. Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for the safe reopening of schools.”

  – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky

Great news, right? If you’re a single parent who’s been trying to work while raising children and attempting to home school for the past 10 months, that CDC assessment may qualify as the best news you’ve heard in your adult life.

But on cue, here comes the teacher unions that don’t seem to have the wellbeing of students near the top of their priority lists. Youth suicides continue to skyrocket amid the pandemic, while kids increasingly zoom out from Zoom classes and fall further behind in their education. Some unions argue that conditions for safely reopening still aren’t there, pointing to a need for all teachers to be vaccinated despite Walensky pointing to data that say vaccinations are not a prerequisite. Read More > in The Hill

Local control likely preserved – Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers are primed to unveil this week an elementary school reopening plan — one that seems likely to preserve the current model of local school districts negotiating agreements with teachers unions, raising questions as to whether the deal will actually accelerate students’ return to campus.

Newsom at a Tuesday press conference emphasized that “we can safely get back our youngest children … into schools in small cohorts.” But the question of teacher vaccinations — the main sticking point in reopening negotiations — appears likely to be resolved on a district-by-district basis, suggesting that the state’s patchwork of school reopenings won’t be replaced by a standardized system anytime soon. 

How soon teachers can expect to get vaccinated will depend largely on where they live, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports. While Marin County and the city of Long Beach have already begun vaccinating some teachers, others — including Santa Clara and San Mateo counties — have no estimate of when teachers might get vaccinated. And districts differ on vaccination policies. Alameda Unified plans to bring back K-5 students on March 8 without vaccinating teachers, whereas the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified sees vaccinating all teachers as a prerequisite to reopening schools.

The upcoming proposal appears likely to retain local control, “recognizing that each county is uniquely positioned as it relates to this pandemic,” Newsom said.

  • Newsom: The plan “would allow for collective bargaining, allow for localism, but at the same time set up expectations that our default and our priority is to get our kids safely back into school.”

Still, Newsom acknowledged “it’s very unlikely” all teachers will be able to receive a vaccine “before the end of the school year” — suggesting that districts with such a requirement could remain shuttered through the spring.

Meanwhile, another educational challenge is brewing. Thousands of California families chose to keep their kids out of kindergarten amid the pandemic — and many will enter first grade next school year behind the curve, putting immense pressure on an already strained system, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports. Read More > at CalMatters

New data shines light on student achievement progress — and gaps — in California and US – New education data released today by researchers at Stanford University shows a complex, nuanced — and in some places, troubling — picture of student achievement and racial gaps based on standardized test scores across California and the nation. 

In California, average math and reading test scores rose for all student groups except Black students over the past decade, while gaps in test scores among most student groups remained steady or narrowed. The exception was the gap between Black and white students, which widened.

Approximately 55% of California’s 6.1 million public school students are Latino, 22% are white, 9.3% are Asian and 5.3% are Black. The data was compiled by Stanford’s Educational Opportunity Project, headed by Sean Reardon, a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. The project has updated its database with millions of new test scores, demographic information and other data from 57 million students nationwide. Read More > at EdSource

California Massively Increased the Amount of Housing the Bay Area Has To Allow. YIMBY Lawsuit Says ‘Eh, Could Be More.’ – In a man-bites-dog story for the ages, California activists are suing the state for planning for too little housing.

On Thursday, the pro-housing development groups YIMBY Action and YIMBY Law filed a petition in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, against the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), arguing that the department failed to consider the Bay Area’s imbalance between jobs and housing when determining how many new homes the region has to plan for.

That failure to consider the jobs-housing balance, their petition claims, violates state laws and has resulted in HCD giving the Bay Area a planning quota that’s short over 100,000 homes.

Understanding what’s at stake in the YIMBY groups’ lawsuit requires some background on the exceptionally bureaucratic, acronym-heavy Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process by which the state government hands down housing production goals to California’s metropolitan regions.

Every eight years, HCD gives the state’s regional government councils—which in the Bay Area is the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG)—a quota for how many new housing units they’re projected to need. Regional governments like ABAG then divide up that regional quota among local governments. These local governments are then required to change their zoning laws to accommodate however many units the state and regional governments are saying they need.

Government agencies determining needs, setting quotas, and handing down plans is no free marketer’s dream. At the same time, this RHNA process is the main way by which California’s state government can force localities to loosen zoning laws that prevent developers and property owners from building housing where the market will bear it.

That’s the idea, at least. Read More > at Reason

Cops playing copyrighted music to stop video of them being posted online – On several occasions, cops have started playing popular music when they realize they’re being filmed. The odd behavior has a point: they hope that copyright-strike algorithms on YouTube, Instagram and other social media sites will prevent the video being posted and shared.

Instagram’s enforcement of their own policy seems to be unpredictable and  inconsistent, and it’s hard to tell what the algorithm will catch during a livestream. There have also been plenty of high-profile of incidents of DJs and artists being penalized for playing their own songs (fans of the Verzuz series may remember Swizz Beats warning Beenie Man and Bounty Killer not to perform their own songs for more than 90 seconds). And for prominent activist accounts like Devermont’s, the stakes are particularly high: too many violations can risk getting your entire account banned.  Read More > at BoingBoing 

Mob Vandalizes Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s Home – A group of far Left activists upset over Sacramento’s homeless policies descended on Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s home last weekend, terrifying his family and causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

“This was not protest. This was anarchy,” the mayor wrote in a statement. The assailants — clad in black and wearing helmets — lobbed rocks, destroyed artwork, and repeatedly called out his children by name.

The mayor has received criticism after the deaths of several unsheltered homeless people during rainstorms last month. The California Homeless Union has demanded Steinberg’s resignation and said it will launch a recall effort if he fails to do so.

The group has refused to condemn the violence, California Public Radio reports. Read More > at California City News

How Fossil Fuels, Ironically, Are Critical In The Development Of Renewable Energy Sources – We talk increasingly about “critical minerals,” sources for elements spanning the periodic table that are vital, considered to be strategically important, and for which substitutes are very difficult and expensive or simply non-existent.

In the grand competition among nation states to “decarbonize” and reach “net zero”, the rush of one-upmanship ignores an important truth: Hydrocarbons are critical minerals, permeating all facets of human existence and endeavor.

Every defense and non-defense technology, every consumer and industrial product, every vision of the future requires the molecules derived from combinations of carbon and hydrogen with other elements.  These form the basis for materials without which we cannot live.  If nothing else, the pandemic has shined a light on the immense significance of materials supply chains.  Without medical grade plastics for ventilators and intravenous equipment, food grade plastics to secure and support distribution of supplies and countless other indispensable applications, our very survival is at risk.

Because of the overwhelming focus on fuels and fuel combustion, the “easy” alternative solutions for hydrocarbon energy fuels greatly understate and misrepresent the materials requirements and challenges.  From blades for wind turbines to tires (and much else) for electric vehicles (EVs), hydrocarbons will continue to be primary ingredients for all energy technologies and modes of transportation.  Plastics comprise roughly 50 percent of materials content by volume of conventional internal combustion vehicles.  This will increase with demand for advanced materials to support electric and electronic components, and to reduce vehicle weight as makers strive to improve performance of batteries. Read More > at Forbes

Great white shark numbers up significantly in Monterey Bay – Researchers have discovered a “dramatic increase” in the number of great white sharks swimming in Monterey Bay in recent years, including an area off Santa Cruz County where a surfer was killed last year, according to a new study published Tuesday.

Juvenile great white sharks—younger animals that are between 5 and 9 feet long—that traditionally concentrated in warm waters off northern Mexico and Southern California have moved north since 2014 as  have warmed, the study found.

After they are born, great white sharks stay in warm waters near the shore to feed on fish, rays and squid, said Sal Jorgensen, a marine researcher with UC Santa Cruz and co-author of the study, which was published in Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed journal from the publishers of Nature.

After two or three years, they grow larger than 10 feet long and swim out to deeper, colder waters. Their teeth widen and become more serrated. They reach sizes of 17 to 19 feet long and eat sea lions and other marine mammals, often in colder waters in places such as the Farallon Islands. Read More > at 

Three countries are due to reach Mars in the next two weeks – A small fleet of spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates, China, and the United States will reach Mars this month after launching from Earth last year. The march to the Red Planet marks a marathon of firsts: it’s the UAE’s first foray into deep space, China’s first independent attempt to land on Mars, and NASA’s first shot at deploying a Martian helicopter.

The rare convoy of Mars-bound spacecraft launched off Earth in a slim, roughly two-month window last summer when Earth and Mars lined up just right in their orbits around the Sun. This planetary alignment only happens once every two years, and three countries took advantage of it in 2020, just as outer space reemerged as a playground for scientific discovery and displays of national power.

First in line to reach Mars this month is the Emirati Hope orbiter. After launching seven months ago on a Japanese H-IIA rocket, the car-sized Hope probe will arrive in Mars’ orbit on February 9th. It will spend nearly two years surveying the planet’s atmosphere to study daily changes in Martian weather. It puts the UAE on track to be the first Arab nation to deploy an interplanetary probe and join a small group of spacefaring countries that have done the same.

Trailing behind the UAE’s Hope probe is China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, which will reach Mars a day later on February 10th. The five-ton spacecraft will hang out in Martian orbit to survey the Utopia Planitia region, where a large deposit of water ice lies beneath the planet’s surface. Three months later, in May, Tianwen-1 will deploy a lander and rover bundled together for a landing at Utopia Planitia — a daring attempt to become the second country to land and operate a rover on the Martian surface.

Later this month, China’s Tianwen-1 rover will get some company on the planet’s surface. NASA’s Perseverance rover, nicknamed “Percy,” will touch down on February 18th at the Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient river delta believed to bear traces of past life. Its touchdown location is some 1,600 miles away from China’s rover (about the distance between Miami and upstate New York). It’s NASA’s ninth mission to the Martian surface. Like any robot destined for a Mars landing, Perseverance will endure the infamous “seven minutes of terror” — a blazing dash through Mars’ atmosphere for a fully automated soft landing. To mission managers, it’s akin to taking your hands off the steering wheel of a $2.4 billion car.

In that sliver of time, the spacecraft will need to use a combo of parachutes and four propulsive engines to slow itself down from 12,100 mph at the top of Mars’ atmosphere to complete stillness on the Martian surface. A 14-minute communication delay between Mars and Earth means Perseverance’s wicked descent to the Jezero Crater — an unpredictable territory with cliffs, vast sand dunes, and large boulder fields — must be fully automated. By the time mission engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory get word that Perseverance entered Mars’ atmosphere at around 3:48PM ET, the rover will have already made it to the surface — or crashed on impact. Read More > at The Verge 

The Most Amazing Fact About Koalas – Koalas are absolutely fascinating creatures. Females have two vaginas, and males have a bifurcated penis split into two prongs. They also have one of the smallest brains in proportion to body weight of any mammal, perhaps an adaptation to their eucalyptus diet, which probably isn’t nourishing enough to support a large brain. Koalas also digest their food for as long as 200 hours!

But all of those incredible factoids pale in comparison to this one: koalas have fingerprints that are almost indistinguishable from human prints!

Maciej Henneberg, a forensic scientist and Wood Jones Professor of Anthropological and Comparative Anatomy at the University of Adelaide, originally made the discovery back in 1996. As reported by NewScientist:

With his colleagues Kosette Lambert and Chris Leigh, Henneberg obtained three male koalas that had been killed by cars and a 46-year-old female chimpanzee that had died in captivity. Using a scanning electron microscope, they compared the koala and chimp prints with those from humans. Strangely, given that chimpanzees are our closest relatives and themselves have human-like fingerprints, the koala prints were even more like those of humans.

Even more amazing, primates and koalas’ ancestors branched apart between 70 and 80 million years ago, suggesting that both independently evolved their fingerprints. Read More > at Real Clear Science 

A Chance to Liberate Booze Delivery — if Government Allows It – It is a story almost as old as America itself: technology advancing faster than government can keep up. Everything from the invention of rail travel to the development of drones has challenged governments to keep up with the pace of change. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that alcohol delivery is the latest frontier to stress the always uneasy relationship between government and technology.

Uber’s recent announcement of its $1.1 billion acquisition of the drinks delivery service Drizly is being hailed as a gamechanger that could “turbocharge” the growth of online-enabled alcohol delivery. While the deal will no doubt expand alcohol delivery options in many places, delivery of booze — bottles, cans and even pre-mixed cocktails — has already been experiencing exponential growth during the pandemic as more and more Americans are sheltered in place and ordering groceries, takeout meals and just about everything else to their door.

In fact, the online alcohol delivery marketplace grew by 80 percent in 2020, according to data from IWSR Research, an industry observer. A majority of states did their best to respond to the crisis by authorizing many forms of to-go and delivery alcohol during the pandemic.

But most of these reforms were only temporary emergency orders. The reality is that alcohol delivery is still subject to a host of restrictive laws and rules that will limit substantial growth unless more durable reforms are enacted. Eleven states still do not allow alcohol to be delivered from retailers such as grocery or liquor stores at all, while many other states do not allow third-party independent-contractor services such as DoorDash and Grubhub to facilitate these deliveries. Read More > at Governing  

Build the Electric Vehicle Supply Chain From the Mine Up – In a span of just 24 hours, two major announcements signaled a turning point for electric vehicles (EVs). First, President Biden announced that the entire federal vehicle fleet – some 650,000 cars and trucks – would be moving to made-in-America EVs. A day later, General Motors announced its intention to stop producing combustion-engine cars by 2035. The pivot to EVs has become a sprint.

This moment offers both the potential for significant progress in reducing emissions and the opportunity for the U.S. to win the accelerating race for the future of the auto industry and the millions of jobs it supports. But if we don’t get serious about building the domestic-mineral supply chain to support it, it’s a race we could lose.

…What we need now is a commitment to prioritize the production and a mines-to-markets strategy that enables us to build infrastructure for the electrification of transportation that will support American industry and millions of American workers.

There’s no time to lose. Demand for the minerals and metals of the EV revolution is poised to soar. The World Bank projects that demand for some key metals like lithium and nickel is expected to jump 500 percent by midcentury. We will need to produce the same amount of copper – so essential to the electrification of various industries – in the next 25 years as humanity has produced in the last 5,000.

Despite trillions in mineral reserves, the U.S. has drifted into an alarming mineral-import reliance that has become a glaring economic and national security vulnerability. A report from the U.S. Geological Survey confirms that we are now completely import-reliant for 17 key minerals and 50 percent or more import-reliant for 29 others. Reversing this situation and reshoring critical mineral production will require balanced policy that encourages production and robust domestic demand. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

The spiraling environmental cost of our lithium battery addiction – Here’s a thoroughly modern riddle: what links the battery in your smartphone with a dead yak floating down a Tibetan river? The answer is lithium – the reactive alkali metal that powers our phones, tablets, laptops and electric cars.

Lithium-ion batteries are a crucial component of efforts to clean up the planet. The battery of a Tesla Model S has about 12 kilograms of lithium in it, while grid storage solutions that will help balance renewable energy would need much more.

Demand for lithium is increasing exponentially, and it doubled in price between 2016 and 2018. According to consultancy Cairn Energy Research Advisors, the lithium ion industry is expected to grow from 100 gigawatt hours (GWh) of annual production in 2017, to almost 800 GWhs in 2027.

But there’s a problem. As the world scrambles to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, the environmental impact of finding all the lithium required to enable that transformation could become a serious issue in its own right. “One of the biggest environmental problems caused by our endless hunger for the latest and smartest devices is a growing mineral crisis, particularly those needed to make our batteries,” says Christina Valimaki an analyst at Elsevier.

In South America, the biggest problem is water. The continent’s Lithium Triangle, which covers parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, holds more than half the world’s supply of the metal beneath its otherworldly salt flats. It’s also one of the driest places on earth. That’s a real issue, because to extract lithium, miners start by drilling a hole in the salt flats and pumping salty, mineral-rich brine to the surface.

Then they leave it to evaporate for months at a time, first creating a mixture of manganese, potassium, borax and lithium salts which is then filtered and placed into another evaporation pool, and so on. After between 12 and 18 months, the mixture has been filtered enough that lithium carbonate – white gold – can be extracted.

It’s a relatively cheap and effective process, but it uses a lot of water – approximately 500,000 gallons per tonne of lithium. In Chile’s Salar de Atacama, mining activities consumed 65 per cent of the region’s water. That is having a big impact on local farmers – who grow quinoa and herd llamas – in an area where some communities already have to get water driven in from elsewhere. Read More > at Wired

Solar Panels Are Starting to Die. What Will We Do With The Megatons Of Toxic Trash? – Most people seem to believe that wind and solar panels produce no waste and have no negative environmental impacts. Unfortunately, these people are wrong.

In reality, everything that humans do has an environmental impact, whether it be mining, using a coal-fired power plant, or even tourism. When it comes to energy and environmental policy, the real question to ask is not “will there be an impact?” but rather, “can the impacts be minimized?” and “do the benefits outweigh the costs?”

Because everything has an effect on the environment, it is important that everyone understands the impacts of all energy sources so we can make the best possible energy decisions. We are constantly making trade-offs in our lives whether we recognize it or not.

A recent article in Grist warns of a looming onslaught of solar waste as solar panels in the United States begin to reach the end of their 25 year lifetimes. The article begins:

“Solar panels are an increasingly important source of renewable power that will play an essential role in fighting climate change. They are also complex pieces of technology that become big, bulky sheets of electronic waste at the end of their lives — and right now, most of the world doesn’t have a plan for dealing with that.”

Unlike other forms of electricity generation, like nuclear plants or coal plants, there doesn’t seem to be any foresight on how to deal with the waste that will be generated when solar panels and wind turbines reach the end of their short lifetimes. Remember, nuclear plants can run for 80 years, as can coal plants with proper maintenance and upkeep, but even the best wind turbines and solar panels will last for just 25 years, creating staggering amounts of waste products. Read More > at Center of the American Experiment

The First U.S. Funeral Home That Turns Bodies Into Compost Is Now Open – For almost a decade, Katrina Spade has been developing a new way to deal with dead bodies.

In 2011 as a graduate student in architecture, Spade began questioning what would become of her corpse after death. Unsatisfied with the options available, she spent years refining her own solution: “natural organic reduction.”

This December, after years of feasibility studies, fundraising, and legislative efforts, Spade’s company, Recompose, started turning its first customers into compost.

Recompose’s process centers around the “vessels,” a stack of gleaming white hexagonal steel tubes, currently housed in a nondescript warehouse in Kent, Washington. When someone dies, staff place the body, as well as wood chips, straw, and alfalfa, into the container, which provides the optimal amount of heat, water, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen for decomposition. Over the next 30 days, naturally-occurring microbes—and a few turnings with a tool similar to a dough hook—break the body down. The resulting soil (about 1 cubic yard worth) dries for two weeks to a month before it’s distributed to families or donated to an ecological restoration project.  Read More > at Vice 

What’s Going On With All These Coronavirus Variants? An Illustrated Guide – OK. So what in the heck is going on with all these variants? Why is everyone so worried? And how do they work?

To answer these questions, let’s go back in time to January 2020, when we were all blissfully going about our lives, eating in restaurants, cramming into elevators at work and dancing at house parties on the weekends.

Back then, the coronavirus looked a bit like this (well, not really, but if it was made of Legos, it would look like this).

The virus is basically a ball with little “spikes” on the surface poking out.

Now, our cells aren’t stupid. They don’t just let any virus inside willy-nilly. Not in the slightest. The cell actually goes to great lengths to keep intruders out. For anything to enter, the intruder must figure out a way for its spike to bind to another spike on the cell’s surface. You can think of this binding as a secret handshake. The handshake tells the cell, “Oh, it’s OK. We can let this guy inside.”

That’s exactly what SARS CoV-2 has done. Sometime in 2019, probably in China, SARS CoV-2 figured out a way to interact with a specific “spike” on the surface of human cells, called ACE2. This interaction wasn’t perfect. The spike and the ACE2 didn’t fit together perfectly. Read More > at NPR Goats and  Soda

Facebook Knew Calls for Violence Plagued ‘Groups,’ Now Plans OverhaulFacebook Inc. in 2019 redesigned its flagship product to center on what it called Groups, forums for like-minded users. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg called them the new “heart of the app.”

Now the social-networking giant is clamping down on Groups. The effort began after Facebook’s own research found that American Facebook Groups became a vector for the rabid partisanship and even calls for violence that inflamed the country after the election.

The changes, which Facebook escalated after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, involve overhauling the mechanics of a product that was meant to be central to its future.

Facebook executives were aware for years that tools fueling Groups’ rapid growth presented an obstacle to their effort to build healthy online communities, and the company struggled internally over how to contain them.

The company’s data scientists had warned Facebook executives in August that what they called blatant misinformation and calls to violence were filling the majority of the platform’s top “civic” Groups, according to documents The Wall Street Journal reviewed. Those Groups are generally dedicated to politics and related issues and collectively reach hundreds of millions of users.

Roughly “70% of the top 100 most active US Civic Groups are considered non-recommendable for issues such as hate, misinfo, bullying and harassment,” the presentation concluded. “We need to do something to stop these conversations from happening and growing as quickly as they do,” the researchers wrote, suggesting measures to slow the growth of Groups at least long enough to give Facebook staffers time to address violations. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal 

Sheryl Sandberg Downplayed Facebook’s Role In The Capitol Hill Siege—Justice Department Files Tell A Very Different Story – Just after the Capitol Hill riots on January 6, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer admitted the company’s ability to enforce its own rules was “never perfect.” About the shocking events of the day, she added: “I think these events were largely organized on platforms that don’t have our abilities to stop hate and don’t have our standards and don’t have our transparency,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer, shortly after the Capitol Hill riots on January 6.

Forbes reviewed data from the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University, which has collated a list of more than 200 charging documents filed in relation to the siege. In total, the charging documents refer to 223 individuals in the Capitol Hill riot investigation. Of those documents, 73 reference Facebook. That’s far more references than other social networks. YouTube was the second most-referenced on 24. Instagram, a Facebook-owned company, was next on 20. Parler, the app that pledged protection for free speech rights and garnered a large far-right userbase, was mentioned in just eight.

The references are a mix of public posts and private messages sent on each platform, discussing  plans to go to the Stop the Steal march, some containing threats of violence, as well as images, videos and livestreams from the breach of the Capitol building. Read More > at Forbes

The missing continent it took 375 years to find – It took scientists 375 years to discover the eighth continent of the world, which has been hiding in plain sight all along. But mysteries still remain.

In 2017, a group of geologists hit the headlines when they announced their discovery of Zealandia –Te Riu-a-Māui in the Māori language. A vast continent of 1.89 million sq miles (4.9 million sq km) it is around six times the size of Madagascar.

Though the world’s encyclopaedias, maps and search engines had been adamant that there are just seven continents for some time, the team confidently informed the world that this was wrong. There are eight after all – and the latest addition breaks all the records, as the smallest, thinnest, and youngest in the world. The catch is that 94% of it is underwater, with just a handful of islands, such as New Zealand, thrusting out from its oceanic depths. It had been hiding in plain sight all along.

In addition to New Zealand, the continent encompasses the island of New Caledonia – a French colony famous for its dazzling lagoons – and the tiny Australian territories of Lord Howe Island and Ball’s Pyramid. The latter was described by one 18th-Century explorer as appearing “not to be larger than a boat.”

Zealandia was originally part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which was formed about 550 million years ago and essentially lumped together all the land in the southern hemisphere. It occupied a corner on the eastern side, where it bordered several others, including half of West Antarctica and all of eastern Australia.

Then around 105 million years ago, “due to a process which we don’t completely understand yet, Zealandia started to be pulled away”, says Tulloch. Read More > in the BBC

California builders not in much of a homebuilding mood – California homebuilders modestly increased their single-family construction plans in 2020, but the expansion badly trailed a national building boom.

In an odd pandemic year that boosted homebuying, California recorded 61,700 new permits for single-family residences, according to Census Bureau data compiled by the St. Louis Fed. My trust spreadsheet tells us that 2020 permits in California were 4% higher than 2019’s pace, but that’s fairly meek growth …

1. Single-family permits rose 14% elsewhere in the U.S.

2. Only 11 states performed worse than California.

3. California’s slice of the nation’s single-family home creation fell to 6.3%, below its 6.9% average in the previous five years.

California’s meager production of new homes was certainly a reason statewide sales price leaped 11% in a year, pushing the median sales price for an existing single-family home to $659,380. Limited choices and higher prices didn’t deter too many house hunters as sales rose 3.5% vs. 2019.

Now, builders claim the state is a tough place to build as regulations make construction costly and new land hard to develop. Let’s also note that California is one of the nation’s most-profitable places for new-home construction, and developers seem in no hurry to bolster the supply shortage. Read More > in The Mercury News 

Who should be accountable for Employment Department mess? – It may be difficult to believe, but there is a state law, the State Leadership Accountability Act, that commands state agency heads to personally ensure that their programs are performing honestly and effectively.

Its stated rationale is that “prevention and early detection of fraud and errors in program administration are vital to public confidence and the appropriate and efficient use of public resources.”

It’s difficult to believe because California’s government is afflicted with managerial messes for which no one is held personally accountable, such as the truly horrendous meltdown of the Employment Development Department.

EDD was inundated with applications for state and federal unemployment insurance benefits early last year when Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down much of the economy to battle COVID-19.

As claims processing bogged down, the department waived many anti-fraud validation procedures and just shoveled money out the door. That led to at least $11 billion in fraudulent payments and an official rebuke from the U.S. Department of Labor about California’s laxity.

In reaction to fraud, EDD began holding up or even canceling benefit payments. Meanwhile, the feds told the state to revisit cases that lacked the required verification and claw back any excess payments. Read More > at CalMatters

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Preliminary Grape Crush Report for 2020

A news release from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service

SACRAMENTO, CA – February 10, 2021 – The 2020 crush totaled 3,542,038 tons, down 13.9% from the 2019 crush of 4,115,413 tons. Red wine varieties accounted for the largest share of all grapes crushed, at 1,813,964 tons, down 15.9% from 2019. White wine varieties crushed totaled 1,590,335 tons, down 9.8% from 2019. Tons crushed of raisin type varieties totaled 42,425, down 30.5% from 2019, and tons crushed of table type varieties totaled 95,315, down 29.1% from 2019.

The 2020 average price of all varieties was $674.72, down 16.8% from 2019. Average prices for the 2020 crop by type were as follows: red wine grapes, $791.33, down 22.4% from 2019; white wine grapes, $554.74, down 5.9% from 2019; table grapes, $162.41, down 38.2% from 2019; and raisin grapes, $250.58, up 2.3% from 2019.

In 2020, Chardonnay continued to account for the largest percentage of the total tonnage crushed at 15.2%. Cabernet Sauvignon accounted for the second largest percentage of the total crush at 14.1%. Table grape varieties crushed for wine accounted for less than 3% of the total crush for the first time since 2016. Raisin varieties crushed for wine were a record low at 1.2% of total crush.

District 13 (Madera, Fresno, Alpine, Mono, Inyo Counties; and Kings and Tulare Counties north of Nevada Avenue (Avenue 192)), had the largest share of the State’s crush at 1,229,676 tons. The average price per ton in District 13 was $314.25.

Grapes produced in District 4 (Napa County) received the highest average price at $4,577.62 per ton, down 20.7% from 2019. District 3 (Sonoma and Marin counties) received the second highest average price at $2,417.48 per ton, down 15.1% from 2019.

The 2020 Chardonnay average price of $827.85 was down 9.3% from 2019 and the Cabernet Sauvignon average price of $1,230.96 was down 30.5% from 2019. The 2020 average price for Zinfandel was $519.04, down 11.0% from 2019, while the French Colombard average price was up 4.2% from 2019, at $287.52 per ton.

Prices reflect adjustments due to smoke damage, as reported by purchasers. For more information about how purchasers reported smoke damaged grapes, go to:

The entire Grape Crush Report is available online at

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Where California Stands in the Vaccine Rollout

From CalMatters

California is slated to launch on Monday its new vaccine distribution system helmed by Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente — one that will inherit longstanding concerns over supply, equity and speed.

Here’s a closer look at where things stand with California’s vaccine rollout ahead of the major transition.

— Supply. The 1 million doses flowing into California this week is “simply not enough,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently. After running out of doses Thursday, Los Angeles was forced to close the mass vaccination site at Dodger Stadium and four other locations through at least Monday. But supply is ramping up elsewhere: CVS Health will today begin vaccinating Californians at certain pharmacy locations, though most appointments have already been snapped up.

— Equity. If the state adheres to the timeline Newsom announced on Monday, it will today launch a vaccination demographics dashboard and a framework to prioritize Californians with disabilities and underlying health conditions. Newsom and lawmakers are also expected to unveil a school reopening package today with a priority framework for teachers — though some didn’t need to wait. Teachers at an expensive private school in North Hollywood managed to obtain vaccines through a “special program,” despite Los Angeles County educators not yet being eligible for doses. Meanwhile, questions have emerged over the state’s current guidelines, which permit cannabis workers to get doses alongside frontline health care workers.

— Speed. California now ranks 30th nationwide in the number of doses administered per capita, a significant improvement from last month, when it ranked 45th. But time is of the essence: More contagious strains of the virus are spreading, and on Wednesday Newsom announced California’s first two cases of the South Africa variant, which is thought to reduce vaccine efficacy.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 3,371,556 confirmed cases (+0.3% from previous day) and 45,456 deaths (+1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

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California is the 13th Most Expensive State for Car Insurance – WalletHub Study

With Presidents’ Day approaching and with COVID-19 causing drastic changes in people’s driving habits and personal finances, WalletHub today released a new report on the States with the Cheapest & Most Expensive Car Insurance, along with a review of California’s Best Cheap Car Insurance Companies (plus accompanying videos and audio files).      

Based on WalletHub’s analysis, California was determined to be the 13th  most expensive state for car insurance in 2021. You can find some additional highlights below.
Top 5 Cheap Car Insurance Companies in California:

  1. Grange Insurance
  2. Wawanesa
  3. USAA
  4. Travelers
  5. CSAA Insurance

Other Key Findings:

  • Full coverage car insurance costs 198% more than minimum coverage in California, on average.
  • 16-year-olds pay 246% more for car insurance than 55-year-olds in California, on average.
  • Drivers with a DUI pay 144% more for car insurance than drivers with a clean record in California, on average.
  • 61 million Americans have reduced their car insurance coverage due to COVID-19.
  • 105 million Americans say they’re not getting their money’s worth from their car insurance.
  • 55 million Americans have second thoughts about owning a car due to COVID-19.

WalletHub Q&A (available also in audio format)

How has COVID-19 affected people’s car insurance choices?

“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on people’s car insurance choices, considering that 61 million Americans have already reduced their car insurance coverage because of the pandemic, according to WalletHub’s new car insurance survey,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “This trend of reducing car insurance coverage seems likely to continue through 2021, given current sentiment. Roughly 105 million say they’re not getting their money’s worth from their car insurance right now.”

What’s the best way to save money on car insurance?

“The best way to save money on car insurance is to compare quotes from the cheapest car insurance companies and choose whichever provider offers the lowest rates. The best cheap car insurance companies in California right now are Grange Insurance, Wawanesa and USAA, according to WalletHub’s editors, so they’re a good place to start,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “In addition to regularly comparing quotes and switching insurers when a good deal is available, drivers should make sure to take full advantage of car insurance discounts and, most importantly, drive safely. Accidents and moving violations can quickly result in increased insurance costs.”

What’s a common car insurance mistake that drivers should avoid?

“One common car insurance mistake that drivers should avoid is failing to even consider switching insurers. More than 4 in 10 people think that switching car insurance companies will be hard, according to WalletHub’s new survey, but it can actually be pretty straightforward and produce significant savings. The difference between the cheapest and most expensive car insurance companies in California is about $1,177 per year,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst.

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Take BART to get vaccinated at the Oakland Coliseum site and get a free ride home

BART is prepared to support the large-scale vaccinations at the Oakland Coliseum and for a limited time will offer a free BART ride home for those who have been vaccinated at the site.

The vaccination site, which opens on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, will be in the parking lot of the Oakland Coliseum, which is accessible from the Coliseum BART station.

Starting Tuesday, BART will have extra staff at the Coliseum BART station during BART operating hours to provide anyone who has received a vaccine a free $7 BART ticket on-site after showing their vaccination card with a matching date. $7 is enough fare to get home to any station in the system, except SFO station. 

BART is also working to ensure those individuals who have mobility challenges will have assistance getting between the Coliseum BART Station and the vaccination site. It can be a long walk and BART is taking steps to make sure help is in place for those who need it.

The vaccination site will be jointly operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of California through the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and is part of the wider effort to create 100 vaccination sites nationwide in the President’s first 100 days.

BART’s limited promotion of a free ride home from Coliseum is only available for the Coliseum site until further notice. It is not being offered for other vaccination locations in the Bay Area. The free ticket is non-refundable and is only available on-site during BART’s operating hours and on the same day of the person’s appointment as verified by the date on the vaccination card. Riders should check train arrival and departures times to and from the Coliseum Station for the day of their appointment to plan their trip.

BART will monitor ridership to and from the station to ensure social distancing on trains remains possible.

Registration for vaccine appointments will be available through the state’s MyTurn scheduling system.

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Extended Closure for Steamboat Slough Bridge

Caltrans is alerting motorists the Steamboat Slough bridge on State Route 160 near Courtland will be temporarily closed for an extended period beginning this week. Additional construction is needed to maintain and keep the bridge operational. The bridge will remain closed from 5:00 AM on February 8 through 5:00 AM on February 27. However, weather conditions could delay or cancel the scheduled work.

Caltrans urges motorists to use the Walnut Grove and Paintersville Bridges as detours or Interstate 5 in Sacramento County as an alternate route. Motorists should plan accordingly and expect additional travel time. For motorists using the State Route 84 Real McCoy and SR-220 Ryer Island Ferries as detours, additional ferry information is located on the Caltrans Delta Ferries website.

For more information, please visit the Caltrans District 3 News Webpage.

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Contra Costa Transportation Authority East County Integrated Transit Study

Why study transit, and why now?

East County’s population is growing! East County’s population has grown by over 100,000 people in the past decade. There has also been a surge in super-commuters – people whose commute is more than 90 minutes per day. To support our residents, commuters, and visitors, we’ve decided to take a closer look at how people travel through the SR-4 corridor.

For more information check out our frequently asked questions (FAQs) document.

We want to provide as seamless as possible travel options for our residents, commuters and visitors – people like you. We want to come up with solutions that are sustainable, smart, user-friendly, and efficient.


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One Meal Isn’t Enough!

They may be your neighbor, your teacher in high school, the guy who fixed your first car, or even a family member. They are seniors who contribute so much to our community but because they are now homebound and isolated, they have become the hidden hungry. Meals on Wheels Diablo Region delivers enough food for one meal a day, but for so many of the seniors we serve, one meal isn’t enough.

During the month of February, MOW Diablo Region has launched the Feed the Soul campaign to raise $28,000 in 28 days! Your donation will help us provide 4,600 breakfast bags to our most vulnerable seniors.

We know the meal we deliver is sometimes the only meal a senior will eat all day. We also know that many seniors divide the meal so they will have something for lunch, dinner, and something left at night to take with medications. A breakfast bag from MOW Diablo Region provides additional food to get them through the day, such as fresh fruit, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, coffee, and tea.

Our senior neighbors, who contribute so much to our communities, should not have to ration food! Please join our sponsors, NBC Bay Area, Telemundo 48, Chevron, CSAA Insurance Group, and Mt. Diablo Resource Recovery in helping Meals on Wheels Diablo Region prevent hunger in vulnerable seniors by making donation today through Feb. 28th to the Feed the Soul Campaign.

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