U.S. Department of Education Releases “Return to School Roadmap” to Support Students, Schools, Educators, and Communities in Preparing for the 2021-2022 School Year

August 2, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) released the “Return to School Roadmap,” a resource to support students, schools, educators, and communities as they prepare to return to safe, healthy in-person learning this fall and emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. The Roadmap provides key resources and supports for students, parents, educators, and school communities to build excitement around returning to classrooms this school year and outlines how federal funding can support the safe and sustained return to in-person learning. Over the course of the next several weeks as schools reopen nationwide, the Roadmap will lay out actionable strategies to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance for K-12 schools, so that schools can minimize transmission and sustain in-person learning all school-year long. 

The Roadmap includes three “Landmark” priorities that schools, districts, and communities are encouraged to focus on to ensure all students are set up for success in the 2021-2022 school year. These include: (1) prioritizing the health and safety of students, staff, and educators, (2) building school communities and supporting students’ social, emotional, and mental health, and (3) accelerating academic achievement. As part of the Roadmap, the Department will release resources for practitioners and parents on each of these priorities, and will highlight schools and districts that are using innovative practices to address these priorities. The Department will also lift up ways that the American Rescue Plan and other federal funds can be used to address these priorities in schools and communities across the country, as well as outline additional investments from President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda that are needed to ensure our schools and communities can rebuild from the pandemic even stronger than they were before and address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, particularly for students in underserved communities.  

 “Over the past year-and-a-half, as a nation, we experienced struggles like never before. Schools, teachers, students, and families were challenged in ways none of us ever imagined. But from that struggle, came resilience. Teachers, principals, school staff, parents, and – mostly importantly – our nation’s students rose to the occasion. They demonstrated what is possible if we follow key mitigation strategies to keep our students and school communities safe. Now, we must use our renewed strength to focus on what matters most: winning the fight against COVID-19, getting our students back in classrooms for full-time in-person learning—together—and making our education system better than ever before so that all students receive the excellent education they deserve,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “I’m proud to be releasing these tools to help make sure students, parents, schools, educators, and communities receive the communication and supports they need to make this academic year a success, and I want all schools this year to lead with a clear focus on health and safety, student wellbeing, and academic acceleration as students return to classrooms nationwide.” 

The release of the Roadmap builds upon President Biden’s call to increase vaccinations among adolescents as students go back to school. Last week, the President called on school districts nationwide to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks, and the Administration directed pharmacies in the federal pharmacy program to prioritize this and to work with school districts across the country to host vaccination clinics at schools and colleges. Vaccination is our leading public health strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic—and it is our best way to prevent COVID outbreaks before they happen, so that schools and colleges can return to safe, in-person instruction all year long. To advance the President’s call to action, the Administration will release additional resources that school districts can use to increase vaccination rates among young people, and will continue to partner with communities nationwide to make sure parents and students have their questions answered and have easy access to the vaccine.  

As part of the launch of the Return to School Roadmap, the Department released: 

  • fact sheet for schools, families, and communities on the Return to School Roadmap, reviewing the three “Landmark” priorities, and elevating schools and districts that are addressing each in effective ways. 
  • A guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to vaccinations and steps for implementing the CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance.  
  • checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with vaccinating eligible children and masking up if students are not yet vaccinated.  

As part of the launch of the Roadmap, the White House also released a fact sheet highlighting the Administration’s efforts to safely reopen schools and support our nation’s students, including how the historic investment in the American Rescue Plan is advancing this work.  

Over the coming weeks, the Department will provide additional resources to schools, districts, and directly to parents and students as part of the Return to School Roadmap. This includes: 

  • Working with partners across the federal government to provide support to schools and districts and answer questions about expanding access to vaccinations for students 12+ and implementing CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance. 
  • Holding town halls with parents and parent organizations to highlight ways schools and districts are preparing to keep students safe during in-person learning and underscoring the importance of providing social, emotional, and mental health supports for students in addition to academic supports in our schools. 
  • Releasing implementation tools for schools, educators, and parents to address the three priority areas of health and safety; student wellbeing; and academics — in areas ranging from supporting schools in their efforts to address lost instructional and extracurricular time to providing information on how American Rescue Plan funds can be used to expand access to mental health supports for our nation’s students and educators, and provide additional academic supports.
  • Updating Volumes 1 and 2 of the Department of Education’s COVID-19 Handbooks to reflect the recently updated CDC K-12 guidance.  

Secretary Cardona and other Department officials will be traveling across the country to feature priorities from the Roadmap and highlight schools and communities as they prepare to welcome their students back this fall. The Secretary will also participate in a “Return to School Road Trip” in the fall, visiting schools and districts welcoming students back to in-person learning and successfully implementing the priorities within the Roadmap.  

The Roadmap is part of the Department’s broader efforts to support schools and districts in the safe and sustained return to in-person learning since the beginning of the Biden Administration. In addition to releasing the Roadmap, the Department has: 

  • Issued three volumes of the COVID-19 Handbook to support K-12 schools and institutions of higher education in their reopening efforts.  
  • Prioritized the vaccination of educators, school staff and child care workers.  
  • Published a Safer Schools and Best Practices Clearinghouse, which includes over 200 examples of schools and communities safely returning to in-person learning.
  • Held a National Safe School Reopening Summit.
  • Provided $122 billion in support through the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund for K-12 schools.
  • Released over $3 billion in IDEA funds within the American Rescue Plan to support children and families with disabilities impacted by the pandemic.
  • Released $800 million within the American Rescue Plan to support students experiencing homelessness who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
  • Released a report on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on underserved students.
  • Launched an Equity Summit Series focused on addressing school and district inequities that existed before, but were made worse by the pandemic.
  • Provided nearly $40 billion in funding for institutions of higher education within the American Rescue Plan, about half of which will provide direct aid to students at postsecondary institutions. 
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Bay Area Health Officials Issue Orders Requiring Use of Face Coverings Indoors to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma, and the City of Berkeley Indoor Masking Orders Take Effect Tuesday

The orders require all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings when indoors in public settings, with limited exceptions, starting at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, August 3rd.

Read More > here

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Oakley’s Kids’ Fishing Derby

The City of Oakley’s annual Kids Fishing Derby is virtually back! The Derby is for children ages 2 – 15 and there is no fee to register. 

The modified Kids Fishing Derby allows for children to fish anywhere that is permissible by law between August 23rd through September 7th. Simply catch a fish during this time period, snap a photo and register on our website at: www.oakleyinfo.com  

Be sure to visit the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife website at:  www.wildlife.ca.gov for helpful information, rules and laws regarding fishing in California.  Fishing sites include the Antioch/Oakley pier off of Bridgehead Road in Oakley, the pier at Big Break Regional Park in Oakley, lakes and other areas of the Delta.

The deadline to register and submit your photo is September 7th, 2021. 5 winners will be chosen at random and will receive a prize package including fishing gear. Winners will be announced and notified Friday, September 10th.

Participants and parents/guardians must observe all COVID19 health protocols including directives for face masks, social distancing and hand washing.

To submit your fish & photo, click here: https://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/8dHPfnr16U2N5

For more information, call Alicia O’Leary at (925) 625-7044 or email: oleary@ci.oakley.ca.us

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Sunday Reading – 08/01/2021

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

More ‘good fire’ could help California control future catastrophes – Prescribed burns are one of the essential tools of modern fire prevention, and researchers at the Berkeley forest have spent decades experimenting with them, learning how best to use fire to clear away highly flammable underbrush and make the forest healthier. Yet even as climate change drives wildfires to more dangerous extremes, California is setting fire to only a tiny fraction of the million acres a year experts like York say is needed to lessen the severity of wildfires that have exploded in recent years, burning through many of the state’s wildly overgrown landscapes and taking lives and homes with them. 

About a third of California’s 100 million acres of land is forested, so fire will always be a part of its landscape. But for York and many experts, the essential question as California confronts a future of climate-intensified fires is straightforward: “Do you want to control when and where your fires and smoke happen, with prescribed fire?” York asks. “Or do you want to wait until it comes to you, in a way you really have no control over?” 

Contradictory as it may seem, fire is part of the natural life cycle of forests. The forests of the American West are so well adapted to flames that many species, such as the giant sequoia, even rely on fire to survive: Its seeds need fire’s intense heat to release from their cones and germinate.  

Before white settlers arrived, an estimated 4.5 million acres of forest burned every year, set either by lightning or Native Americans, who used fire to manage the landscape. Both types of burns left scars in tree rings, which provide hundreds of years of historical records showing that burns occurred regularly every five to 20 years across many of the state’s forests, though smaller or gentler cultural burns not big enough to leave scars happened as often as yearly in some areas.

Those ancient forests, Native Americans and scientists say, looked much different than forests today. Then, only 40 to 60 trees per acre grew in much of the Sierra Nevada; today, hundreds of smaller trees crowd together on an acre—making forests more vulnerable to disease and pests, and primed to burn catastrophically.

In order to get the state back on track with its historical fire patterns, researchers suggest that about one million acres should be burned every year. The reality has been more than an order of magnitude away, despite persuasive evidence that prescribed burns are effective. Last year’s Creek Fire, for example, burned explosively through parts of the Sierra Nevada. But when the blaze approached Shaver Lake, near Fresno, it ran into big swaths of land that Southern California Edison had treated with prescribed fire over the past 20 years. The fire “dropped down to the forest floor” and became controllable, says Craig Thomas, the director of the Sierra-based Fire Restoration Group, likely saving lives and property. Yet, in 2019, the last year for which figures are available, only about 118,000 acres were deliberately burned in the state. Read More > at National Geographic

Nobody’s ‘Gonna Talk’ – The ballad of the Chowchilla bus kidnapping – In 1976, a school bus carrying 26 children and their driver disappeared from a small California town, capturing the world’s attention. Forty-five years later, we revisit the story.

…It’s hard to blame the town for sidelining it, because Chowchilla was not just the site of the largest kidnapping for ransom in American history, but also of one of the most idiotic crimes ever visited upon the state of California. It was a crime so perverse and unbelievable that it sounds like, for lack of a better phrase, utter bullshit.

What happened to Chowchilla is the story of a generation-defining crime that briefly shook the world, and the ripple effects it had on the state’s heartland. It’s about the huge differences between urban and rural California, the rich and the poor, how a town overcame being dragged to hell and back, and what we have to learn from the fading ghost stories of the 20th century.

It’s also about cars.

It’s 1976, 11 days after the bicentennial. The American Freedom Train, a government-sponsored restored steam locomotive, is rolling through the country hawking patriotic kitsch. In a few months, Jimmy Carter will surrender his peanut farm to become president of the United States and end the Nixon era. Evel Knievel is figuring out a really flashy way to try to go off and kill himself (a tank of live sharks). Elvis Presley is really sweaty and has a year to live. Alec Guinness is filming a shitty sci-fi movie called Star Wars and he hates it but doesn’t yet know what 2.25 percent of royalties in perpetuity is going to look like. Oh, and “Convoy,” a fake country song about truckers written by a New York ad guy, is popular. Really popular. You can’t avoid the damn thing. It’s turned CB radios into a huge fad for adults. (That’ll come up later.)

In Chowchilla, 150 miles southeast from San Francisco, it’s a normal July afternoon. Languid, hot, and unremarkable. A bus driver is picking up kids from summer school. His name is Ed Ray. A humble rancher with a humble day job, married to a humble bank teller named Odessa. Stocky, about 55 years old. Looks like a guy you don’t want to fight; a guy who works with his hands and knows his way around baling hay. He doesn’t talk much. He’s from down the road in Merced but went to high school here and doesn’t plan on going anywhere else.

…Ed presses on to his next stop. When he turns onto Avenue 21, he sees a white ’71 Dodge van blocking the road with its door open.

He tries to weave around the empty van when a guy in overalls with pantyhose covering his face jumps out in front of the bus with a revolver. The man walks to the driver’s side window and asks Ed, with no intimidation in his voice, “Would you open the door, please?” Ed opens it.

Two more identically dressed figures jump in, one with a rifle, which is quickly pointed at Ed. Everybody goes to the back of the bus. The one without a rifle starts to drive, and the one with the revolver hops in the van to follow them. They drive about a mile and park the bus in a bamboo thicket. Nobody’s yelling. It’s so calm, it’s violent. Twelve kids are ushered into the white van. Ray and the other 14 kids get into the back of a second van, this one green. There’s a partition behind the driver’s seat and the windows are sealed. It’s hotter than hell, and pitch black. Some of the kids sing songs to cheer up, like “If You’re Happy And You Know It” and “Boogie Fever” and “Get Down Tonight.”

Back in town, it doesn’t take long for people to get worried. You can set your watch by Ed. Something’s happened. “We got a phone call, and then immediately it was on television, on the local stations, that the bus was missing,” said Ronnie. “Parents began to wonder what was going on 15 minutes after their kids didn’t get home.”

The town becomes a CB radio posse. People start driving all over the county looking for the bus, for the kids, for Ed. By 6:30 pm, about two and a half hours since anyone saw the children, the sheriff’s department has a plane in the air. Ronnie, meanwhile, forms a small search party with two others. They go out in a Jeep with no top, driving through orchards with spotlights, looking for anything at all.

A couple of hours later, the bus is found by a police sergeant, empty, devoid of clues. Read More > at Vox

The biggest aspect of the Gavin Newsom recall no one’s talking about – Two polls released within the span of the past week have made it clear that many Californians do not know what to do at the bottom of the Gavin Newsom recall election ballot.

For those unfamiliar with the process, the ballot — which will be mailed out to voters beginning Aug. 16 — contains just two questions: 1. Should Gov. Gavin Newsom be recalled? 2. Which candidate should replace him?

If a majority of voters decide to recall Newsom, his replacement will be whichever candidate receives a simple plurality of votes on question two. The replacement — like Newsom, if he survives — would have to run for re-election in 2022.

Californians who vote “no” on question one can still vote for one of the 46 candidates on question two and have their votes counted, meaning the many pro-Newsom Democratic voters in the state will have a say in who might replace Newsom if the recall is successful — a scenario that seems highly possible given recent polling.

What those Democratic voters might do on question two has been the most under-discussed major story line of the Newsom recall.

Unlike the Gray Davis recall in 2003, where Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante ran as a backup plan of sorts, there are no elected Democrats at the bottom of the ballot this year, with YouTuber Kevin Paffrath emerging as the only Democrat who has polled over 1%. It has helped Newsom paint the recall as a partisan endeavor, and his team has a directive for Democratic voters looking for guidance on question two.

“Leave it blank,” Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click said via email. “Voting NO is the only way to block the Republican power grab and prevent the Republican takeover of California.”

Of course, leaving question two blank would leave Newsom’s replacement up to the state’s Republican voters, who currently seem to be preferring conservative radio host Larry Elder… Read More > at SFGate

Unemployment going in wrong direction – Another sign that things in California aren’t going back to normal: New unemployment claims jumped to their highest level since the state’s June 15 reopening, with more than 67,400 residents submitting claims for the week ending July 24, according to federal data released Thursday. Not only is that an increase of nearly 11,000 from the week before, but it also accounts for nearly 20% of all claims filed nationwide — even though California represents less than 12% of the country’s civilian labor force. Paradoxically, the uptick in jobless claims comes amid an outpouring of jobs, with many businesses struggling to hire workers. Job postings in California were more than 5% above pre-pandemic levels for the week ending July 27, according to Michael Bernick, a former Employment Development Department director and attorney at Duane Morris.

  • Bernick: “The conventional wisdom (has been) that hiring in California would come in September when the (federal) unemployment supplement of $300 ended, the schools reopened and child care became more available. The past few week’s numbers suggest that September may not bring that major reduction in unemployment claims or increase in hiring.” Read More > at CalMatters

How to spot a good fake ID – Good fake IDs will use the same card stock as real IDs. Their laminates won’t be able to be peeled back. Their photos will be photos that the person took themselves. Their data will be the actual data that the person inputted themselves, and the ID will be scannable. It’ll show that exact same ID’s data.

In order to spot a good fake ID, you have to be more clever than that. 

Here’s how you do it.

1. Check the edges

Feel the edge of your actual driver’s license. You’ll notice it’s smooth with rounded corners. This is because your ID is laser cut.

The edges of a fake ID might be rough, or have little threads. This is the sign of a hand cut or machine cut ID. These are fake.

2. Check the laminate

Laminate on hard plastic is difficult to do correctly. Fake IDs have come along way since the days where it’d just be glue-on laminate, but that doesn’t meant the laminate is perfect.

On your real ID, the laminate is almost unnoticeable, except for a slight glossy sheen. It ends at the end of the card, although if you look very closely at the edge of the card you can see two or three layers: the laminate, the card stock, and possibly another layer of laminate.

On fake IDs, the laminate is often not so well stuck on. The laminate gets folds or dirt underneath it, especially around the edges. It also frequently pokes a tiny bit beyond the edges, which you can see if you flash a light directly on the edges.

Even if the laminate is stuck on correctly, it’s difficult for fake ID manufacturers to get the same kind of laminate as real ID manufacturers. They use substitutes, which are often far too reflective. You can often see this extreme reflectivity on fake passports, too. Read More > at Trevor Klee

The Insect Apocalypse That Never Was – For the past four years, journalists and environmental bloggers have been churning out alarming stories that insects are vanishing, in the United States and globally. Limited available evidence lends credence to reasonable concerns, not least because insects are crucial components of many ecosystems. But the issue has often been framed in catastrophic terms, with predictions of a near-inevitable and imminent ecological collapse that would break ecosystems, destroy harvests, and trigger widespread starvation. Most of the proposed solutions would require a dramatic retooling of many aspects of modern life, from urbanization to agriculture.

Considering the disruptive economic and social trade-offs being demanded by some of those promoting the crisis hypothesis, it’s prudent to separate genuine threats from agenda-driven hyperbole. Are insect declines really threatening to precipitate a catastrophic ecological crisis? And, given the available data, what should a responsible society be doing?

…Headlines swept the world predicting imminent “ecological Armageddon,” a chilling turn of phrase provided by Dave Goulson, a professor at the University of Sussex and one of the paper’s co-authors. Goulson was a relatively unknown English biology professor at the time, but rapidly became the public face of the crisis narrative. Although these claims were received with immediate and widespread skepticism in the entomology community, journalists seized on the “end of world” narrative and energetically amplified it. “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here,” announced the New York Times Magazine in November 2018,..

…Of one of the major studies used to promote the apocalypse narrative (Sánchez-Bayo), Saunders noted an appallingly selective and apparently willful misrepresentation and manipulation of the data:

From a scientific perspective, there is so much wrong with the paper, it really shouldn’t have been published in its current form: the biased search method, the cherry-picked studies, the absence of any real quantitative data to back up the bizarre 40 percent extinction rate that appears in the abstract (we don’t even have population data for 40 percent of the world’s insect species), and the errors in the reference list. And it was presented as a “comprehensive review” and a “meta-analysis,” even though it is neither.

Reflecting broad concerns among ecologists, Saunders also worried about the failure of prominent news organizations like the New York Times to treat alarmist claims with proper skepticism, and argued that ideological group-think had captured the media on this issue:

Most journalists I spoke to have been great, and really understand the importance of getting the facts straight. But a few seemed confused when they realized I wasn’t agreeing with the apocalyptic narrative—”other scientists are confirming this, so why aren’t you?”

Professor Saunders has written a stunning four-part series on what she sees as the manipulation by narrative-promoting journalists and scientists [Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4]. Read More > ay Quillette

Las Vegas police solve an old murder case using record-low volume of DNA – Las Vegas police appear to have smashed a record while using ancestry to find cold case suspectsBBC News reports that Vegas law enforcement claims to have solved the 1989 murder of 14-year-old Stephanie Isaacson (pictured here) using the smallest known volume of DNA. Investigators sent just 0.12 nanograms of DNA samples, or about 15 cells, to Othram’s gene sequencing lab to help find a match. For context, a typical home DNA testing kit collects at least 750 nanograms.

Othram used the sequences to comb through ancestry databases and pinpoint the suspect’s cousin and identify Darren Roy Marchand as the culprit. The team confirmed the match by comparing the sample against Marchand’s DNA from an arrest for a 1986 murder case. Marchand was never convicted and died in 1995.

The breakthrough won’t necessarily thrill everyone, however. There have been concerns that law enforcement might violate privacy when conducting these tests, and the Justice Department has established guidelines precisely to prevent those kinds of abuses. While there’s no indication Vegas authorities crossed boundaries in the Richardson case, a much larger range of potentially solvable cases also widens the potential for more privacy violations. Read More > at Engadget

The Weird Case of a Man 3 Doctors Declared Dead Who Woke Up Just Before His Autopsy – Spanish prison authorities were baffled after a prisoner who was declared dead by three separate doctors woke up in the morgue – just hours before his own autopsy was set to commence.

The prisoner, then-29-year-old Gonzalo Montoya Jiménez, was found unresponsive in his cell during a morning roll call on 7 January 2018 and had been transferred to a hospital mortuary in a body bag when pathologists heard something strange.

Snoring. Coming from inside the bag.

Jiménez, who was serving time for robbery in the maximum security wing of Asturias Central Penitentiary in northwest Spain, was first attended by two doctors on duty in the prison, after he was found sitting unconscious in a chair in his cell, with no signs of violence being evident.

Sensing no vital signs, the doctors declared him dead, and an hour later a forensic doctor inspected the body, concurred with the first evaluations, and issued a third death report.

Only later in the morgue did physicians realize something was terribly wrong. Read More > at Science Alert

How Science Lost the Public’s Trust – But what does it mean to believe in science? The British science writer Matt Ridley draws a pointed distinction between “science as a philosophy” and “science as an institution.” The former grows out of the Enlightenment, which Mr. Ridley defines as “the primacy of rational and objective reasoning.” The latter, like all human institutions, is erratic, prone to falling well short of its stated principles. Mr. Ridley says the Covid pandemic has “thrown into sharp relief the disconnect between science as a philosophy and science as an institution.” . . .

Vaccines have been central to the question of “misinformation” and the White House’s pressure campaign against social media to censor it. Mr. Ridley worries about the opposite problem: that social media “is complicit in enforcing conformity.” It does this “through ‘fact checking,’ mob pile-ons, and direct censorship, now explicitly at the behest of the Biden administration.” He points out that Facebook and Wikipedia long banned any mention of the possibility that the virus leaked from a Wuhan laboratory.

“Conformity,” Mr. Ridley says, “is the enemy of scientific progress, which depends on disagreement and challenge. Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts, as [the physicist Richard] Feynman put it.” Mr. Ridley reserves his bluntest criticism for “science as a profession,” which he says has become “rather off-puttingly arrogant and political, permeated by motivated reasoning and confirmation bias.” Increasing numbers of scientists “seem to fall prey to groupthink, and the process of peer-reviewing and publishing allows dogmatic gate-keeping to get in the way of new ideas and open-minded challenge.”

The World Health Organization is a particular offender: “We had a dozen Western scientists go to China in February and team up with a dozen Chinese scientists under the auspices of the WHO.” At a subsequent press conference they pronounced the lab-leak theory “extremely unlikely.” The organization also ignored Taiwanese cries for help with Covid-19 in January 2020. “The Taiwanese said, ‘We’re picking up signs that this is a human-to-human transmission that threatens a major epidemic. Please, will you investigate?’ And the WHO basically said, ‘You’re from Taiwan. We’re not allowed to talk to you.’ ”

He notes that WHO’s primary task is forestalling pandemics. Yet in 2015 it “put out a statement saying that the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century is climate change. Now that, to me, suggests an organization not focused on the day job.” Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

California and Five Other States Ban… Gaming Computers? – Six states, led by California’s fulltime climate alarmists, this week enacted a ban on the sales of high-end gaming computers.

Niche Gamer reports that Dell is already following the 2017 law that just went into effect. According to the gamer-focused site, Dell has “pulled the sale of seven of its eight Alienware gaming desktops” from California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Trying to order one of the banned machines will trigger an alert: “This product cannot be shipped to the states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont or Washington due to power consumption regulations adopted by those states. Any orders placed that are bound for those states will be canceled.”

The offending component would seem to be the power-hungry NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card, but it’s no problem to order the card separately and install it yourself. I tried ordering one from Amazon without any hassle.

Gamers, you might have guessed, aren’t happy.

Since gamers typically love customizing or even building their own gaming machines, the six-state ban seems somewhat unlikely (cough, cough) to have much effect on the power consumed by gamers. Read More > at PJ Media

People Left Cities for Rural Zoom Towns. How Does That Impact Wildfire Risk? – On the other hand, we also saw the boom of “Zoom workers”—or knowledge workers who can conduct their work online. These workers typically work from anywhere. For these workers, the pandemic enabled them to move out of the city and work in more rural locations with natural beauty.

As such, the pandemic has given birth to a massive real estate boom in these so-called “Zoom towns” where knowledge workers relocated during the pandemic. These picturesque locations, particularly in the West, have seen a spike in real estate prices.

But there is tremendous risk associated with these growing Zoom towns in rural areas —almost all of them are in high wildfire risk areas. Living in a cabin in the woods seems idyllic until a spark of lightning ignites the forest and endangers your home.

We found that the Zoom town with the highest fire risk in our sample is Mariposa, CA, a picturesque town near Yosemite, followed by Springdale, UT, and Lake Arrowhead, CA. Meanwhile, the most expensive Zoom towns in our sample were Aspen, CO, and Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. The Zoom towns with the fastest price appreciation were Glen Ellen, CA, Truckee, CA, and Big Bear, CA, with annual price appreciation exceeding 25% in each location.

In general, our analysis finds that Zoom towns with lower home prices tend to carry higher wildfire risk. However, these same areas, which carry high fire risk, are also experiencing the highest appreciation in property values, as remote workers drive up demand. For those who deal with risk, such as the insurance industry, this can be a worrisome trend. Not only are more people moving to these higher-risk areas, but the property values (and subsequent potential losses) are growing at unprecedented rates.  Read More > at Priceonomics

National Police Association hits Congress for probing Jan. 6 attack while ‘ignoring’ 2020 violence – The National Police Association is criticizing Congress for investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot while “ignoring” the hundreds of protests that turned violent last year.

“There were at least 574 violent riots in 2020, and yet today’s Congressional hearings are focusing on only one riot, January 6th, 2021, and hearing testimony from only a few of the police officers involved,” association spokeswoman Betsy Brantner Smith told The Washington Times on Tuesday.

The retired police sergeant said immediately after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed in Minnesota police custody last May, “policing was attacked from all sides” despite law enforcement agencies grappling with “violent riots night, after night, after night.”

“Brave police officers attempted to defend stores, apartment buildings, churches, hotels, several of their own precincts and courthouses and even a Ronald McDonald House from looting, arson and vandalism,” she said, adding that one officer was paralyzed and countless others suffered “horrific” injuries.

Sgt. Bratner Smith pointed to a July poll which found that nearly two-thirds (66%) of 996 likely voters said they think Congress should investigate the “574 protests that involved acts of violence, including assaults on police officers, looting and arson” last year.

The poll was conducted by the NPA and Rasmussen Reports.

If Congress does not investigate the 2020 protests, she says the nation will experience “unprecedented levels of gun violence,” which has already been on the rise. Read More > in The Washington Times

Liquidation of cows.’ How the drought creates chaos on California ranches, dairy farms – Jennifer Beretta has been working as a dairy farmer since she was 6 and knows some of her family’s 700 cows by name. One of her favorites, a Jersey named Harmony, has won top prizes at the Sonoma County Fair.

But business is business, and right now business is bad. California’s devastating drought has dried up most of the Beretta Family Dairy’s pastures, driven up the cost of feed and made milking cows unprofitable. The Beretta family has sold off more than 40 of its cows this year, and could sell more before too long.

All over California agriculture, water sources are being reduced to a trickle. Fields have been idled and even some fruit and nut orchards are being dismantled because of shortages. Based on what happened during the last drought, the financial losses to agriculture will be enormous.

In short, California’s $50 billion-a-year farm economy is turning nightmarish. And nobody’s losing more sleep than the state’s dairy farmers and beef-cattle producers, who are scrambling for feed to keep their animals alive.

Raising cows for milk or meat is a $10 billion-a-year business in California — bigger than wine grapes, bigger than almonds, bigger than anything else in the agricultural sector. But the drought has quickly turned the economics of dairy and beef upside down. Faced with steep increases in the cost of feed — assuming they can find it — beef and dairy farmers are watching their profits disappear.

The result is, many are selling off animals at a pace rarely seen.

Where does the drought come in? Ironically, it could bring prices down in the short run. As ranchers and dairy producers cull their herds, more and more animals will get turned into hamburger meat, glutting the market.

But over the long haul, the situation will reverse itself because of the shrinkage in herd sizes. There will be fewer products in the coming months and years. Read More > in The Fresno Bee

Adding Human Gene Boosts Crop Yields by 50 Percent – Adding the human gene that produces the FTO enzyme to rice and potatoes boosts yields of those crops by 50 percent in field tests, report a team of researchers associated with the University of Chicago, Peking University, and Guizhou University. Their report in the journal Nature Biotechnology says the modified plants grew significantly larger, produced longer root systems, and were better able to tolerate drought stress. In humans, the FTO enzyme erases certain markers that regulate the production of proteins associated with cellular growth. In plants, the FTO enzyme similarly erases markers that inhibit their growth.

“The rice plants grew three times more rice under laboratory conditions,” reports the accompanying press release. “When [the researchers] tried it out in real field tests, the plants grew 50% more mass and yielded 50% more rice. They grew longer roots, photosynthesized more efficiently, and could better withstand stress from drought.”

“This is a very exciting technology and could potentially help address problems of poverty and food insecurity at a global scale—and could also potentially be useful in responding to climate change,” said University of Chicago Economics Nobelist Michael Kremer in the press release. Read More > at Reason

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65 Bar Glasses and What They’re Meant For

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BART increases service four weeks early starting 8/2/21

BART will return to near-pre pandemic service on August 2 instead of August 30 as originally planned. The August 2 change includes extending closing times to midnight Monday through Saturday.

In the meantime, BART will also add late-night limited trains leaving downtown San Francisco at 11:30pm serving nine stations on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from July 15-July 31, to give late night workers and people attending events and dining in San Francisco additional options until the August 2 schedule change. The interim limited service is a plan BART can accomplish as it readies staff for the much more robust schedule change beginning August 2.

August 2 systemwide schedule change

Starting August 2, 2021, BART will expand service hours and significantly increase service:

  • Weekday service will be 5am-12am (currently 5am-9pm) with 15-min frequencies on all lines from 5am-8pm and 30-minute frequencies from 8pm-midnight.
  • Saturday service will be 6am-12am (currently 8am-9pm) with 5-line service offering more options for Saturday riders, and for the first time, offering four trains per hour on most lines.
  • Sunday service will remain 8am-9pm with 3-line service and 30-minute frequencies to accommodate BART’s critical cable replacement project and other infrastructure rebuilding work.

BART was able to advance the major schedule change by working collaboratively with labor partners to accelerate the hiring, training, and shift sign-up process.

Late-night limited trains on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays

Beginning July 15, 2021, BART will run four trains leaving either Embarcadero or Civic Center at 11:30pm serving limited stops after regular BART service ends on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. These trains are in addition to the special service for A’s night games and the limited service provided for Giants’ night games.

The late-night limited service picks up passengers and departs at Embarcadero and Civic Center with limited service to the following stations: 16th Street Mission, and Daly City in San Francisco and West Oakland, MacArthur, Pleasant Hill, El Cerrito del Norte, and Bay Fair stations in the East Bay.

Four trains will leave Embarcadero or Civic Center at 11:30pm.

  • One train will take riders from Embarcadero and will stop at Civic Center, 16th Street Mission and Daly City stations only. No other stops will be made along the line. This train will be labelled: Civic ctr-16th St-Daly City ONLY
  • A second train will stop at Civic Center and Embarcadero and will take riders to West Oakland, MacArthur, and Pleasant Hill only. No other stops will be made along the line. This train will be labelled: West Oak-MacArthur-Pleasant Hill ONLY
  • A third train will stop at Civic Center and Embarcadero and will take riders to West Oakland and Bay Fair only. No other stops will be made along the line. This train will be labelled: West Oakland-Bay Fair ONLY
  • A fourth train will stop at Civic Center and Embarcadero and will take riders to West Oakland, MacArthur, and El Cerrito del Norte only. No other stops will be made along the line. This train will be labelled: W Oak-MacArthur-El Cerrito del Norte ONLY
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EXPLAINER: Employers have legal right to mandate COVID shots

From the Associated Press by By MAE ANDERSON and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR


Yes. Private companies and government agencies can require their employees to get vaccinated as a condition of working there. Individuals retain the right to refuse, but they have no ironclad right to legal protection.

“Those who have a disability or a sincerely held religious belief may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under civil rights laws, so long as providing that accommodation does not constitute an undue hardship for the employer,” said Sharon Perley Masling, an employment lawyer who leads the COVID-19 task force at Morgan Lewis.

Employees who don’t meet such criteria “may need to go on leave or seek different opportunities,” she added.

The EEOC listed some cases in which employers must offer exemptions. People who have a medical or religious reason can be accommodated through alternative measures. Those can include getting tested weekly, wearing masks while in the office, or working remotely.


Most employers are likely to give workers some options if they don’t want to take the vaccine. For example, New York City and California have imposed what’s being called a “soft mandate” — workers who don’t want to get vaccinated can get tested weekly instead.

If an employer does set a hard requirement, employees can ask for an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Then, under EEOC civil rights rules, the employer must provide “reasonable accommodation that does not pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.” Some alternatives could include wearing a face mask at work, social distancing, working a modified shift, COVID-19 testing or the option to work remotely, or even offering a reassignment.

Read More

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Utilities to Give Public Briefings on Readiness for 2021 Public Safety Power Shutoffs

In response to a directive by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the state’s investor-owned utilities will provide public briefings on their readiness for Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events in 2021.

The CPUC has taken a number of actions to hold utilities accountable for safely implementing PSPS events, which electric utilities are to utilize as a tool of last resort to mitigate the risk of wildfire. At the briefings, the CPUC will be joined on the virtual dais by leaders from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Department of
Fire and Forestry Protection (CAL FIRE).

At the briefings, the utilities will provide information about all aspects of their preparation for PSPS events and answer questions from the CPUC, Cal OES, and CALFIRE. There will also be opportunity for public comment. The briefings, available via remote access, will take place as follows:

2 – 5 P.M.
San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)

9 A.M. – NOON
Southern California Edison (SCE)

1 – 4 P.M.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)

9 A.M.- NOON
Small Multi-Jurisdictional Utilities
(Bear Valley Electric Service,
Liberty Utilities, and PacifiCorp)

Each briefing is available via webcast or phone, as follows:
Live webcast with English or Spanish captions:

Phone: 800-857-1917
passcode: 7218384#

Participants who choose to participate via webcast only will have audio and video, but will not be able to make verbal comment. If you would like to make comments during the meeting, please use the phone option.

The CPUC oversees the utilities’ execution of PSPS events and has been driving improvements in the following areas as the utilities prepare for 2021 PSPS events: notifications; support to medical baseline/access and functional needs; community resource centers; coordination with tribal communities; and steps to minimize the scope of PSPS events.

If specialized accommodations are needed to attend remotely, such as non-English or sign language interpreters, please contact the CPUC’s Public Advisor’s Office at public.advisor@cpuc.ca.gov or toll free at 866-849-8390 at least three days in advance
of the briefings. ■

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Newsom faces COVID quandary

From CalMatters – Emily Hoeven, CalMatters 

Gov. Gavin Newsom is confronting yet another COVID-19 conundrum.

A little more than a month after California fully reopened, the state’s coronavirus positivity rate has skyrocketed from 0.7% to 5.2% — a figure not seen since early February. The highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for nearly 83% of California’s sequenced coronavirus cases — up from 53% in late June and just 6% in late May. The color-coded reopening system is gone, but if it were still in place, at least 12 counties would be in the most restrictive purple tier. And California’s mask mandate is over, but local health officials are either requiring or recommending around 50% of the state’s population wear face coverings indoors.

With the Sept. 14 recall election hanging over his head, Newsom has avoided commenting directly on whether he would reinstate mask requirements or lockdown measures, instead emphasizing the importance of getting vaccinated. The coronavirus case rate among vaccinated Californians was 2 per 100,000 during the week of July 7-14, compared to 13 per 100,000 among unvaccinated Californians, the state Department of Public Health said Friday. The department also noted that Newsom’s vaccine lottery program slowed the rate at which California’s inoculation rates were declining.

Still, COVID is spreading fast even in counties with high inoculation rates — a trend experts attribute to high-density urban settings that bring people into contact with both unvaccinated residents and fully vaccinated people who may be asymptomatically passing the disease.

  • Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a UCSF epidemiology professor“The challenge in public health communication is we ultimately do want more people to be vaccinated. And the concern is communicating that we also need to wear a mask right now … (which may) dilute the message that we need to be vaccinated. The challenge is that both things are true.”

Perhaps the ultimate challenge facing California’s leaders: charting a long-term response to a virus that “will be with us chronically,” in the words of Solano County Public Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas.

The first hurdle on the horizon: fall school reopenings. California parent groups last week sued Newsom over a requirement issued last week that all students wear masks to school, and a federal appeals court ruled Friday that California violated parents’ rights by keeping private schools closed amid the pandemic.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Saturday, California had 3,786,031 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 63,741 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 43,464,658 vaccine doses, and 62% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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Consolidation maybe the future for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District

From Supervisor Burgis

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors yesterday, acting as the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Board of Directors, received an overview of the recently-completed Fire District Annexation Feasibility Study from consultant AP Triton.

Yesterday’s presentation culminates similar presentations to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) and Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District (RHFPD) governing boards last week. Each fire district board now has the responsibility to consider the findings and recommendations and make their individual determinations for the correct courses of action for the communities their organization serves.

Fire chiefs from the three cooperating fire agencies entered into the study in order to assess the financial and operational viability of annexations that might lead to more efficient, effective, and better-integrated fire and emergency services across the communities of Contra Costa County currently served by each district.

“This is an exciting day for ECCFPD and the residents of East Contra Costa County, said Supervisor Diane Burgis. Our actions today, and the decision by the ECCFPD governing board to continue to work with Con Fire is a long-awaited opportunity to form a regional sustainable solution to providing the level of fire service that our communities need and deserve.”
“Last year, along with our fire partners East Contra Costa Fire and Rodeo-Hercules Fire, we initiated an important feasibility study to determine the potential benefits of annexing either, or both, of these districts into Con Fire,” said Lewis Broschard, fire chief, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District. “These possible annexations have long been informally considered and this formal study, presented to our Board of Directors this week for their consideration and action, now gives us hard data to base decisions on relative to providing improved fire, rescue, and emergency medical services to much of the county.”

“With the acceptance of the AP Triton Study, the annexation discussions between East Contra Costa Fire and Con Fire are one step closer to approval,” said Brian Helmick, fire chief, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District. “The next step in this process will be for our staff to work with Con Fire staff to create a draft resolution for the boards to consider for approval at their regular scheduled August board meetings.”

Helmick added, “Our fire board and staff thank the Con Fire board and staff for the continued effort and collaboration through this discussion.”

“The Fire Board’s acceptance of the feasibility study report is an important step in the county’s move to more effective fire and emergency services,” said Fire Chief Bryan Craig, Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District. “Their understanding of the long-term needs of our communities will be instrumental in the eventual adoption of this important initiative.”
The feasibility study was co-sponsored by Contra Costa Fire Protection District, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, and Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District. It was undertaken late last year in an effort by the participating fire jurisdictions to examine the feasibility of combining two, or all three, fire agencies.

In its 200-plus pages and associated appendices, the feasibility study lays out the case for the consolidation of the three fire jurisdictions addressed. Chief among its findings and recommendations is that East Contra Costa, Rodeo-Hercules, and Con Fire should move forward with annexation, based on its analysis citing annexation would increase both the effectiveness and efficiency of the service delivery system and efficiency of the administrative functions.

Other recommendations included that the three districts should adopt substantially similar resolutions initiating the reorganization and that the agencies coordinate with the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCo) prior to consideration of the reorganization application.

Additional feasibility study recommendations were that standardized training programs specific to special team response be developed as part of any annexation actions. Also, the agencies should develop a balanced training program across all agencies, determining a training philosophy and standardized program that meets the communities’ needs.
As the individual fire boards of directors take up discussions and possible actions on the study’s findings and recommendations, each organization is conducting a variety of public outreach and comment activities for its residents.

For more on each of these, visit the following links:

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District — https://www.cccfpd.org/annexation

East Contra Costa Fire Protection District — https://www.eccfpd.org/

Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District — https://www.rhfd.org/annexation-study/

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Sunday Reading – 07/25/2021

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

The Car Market Is Insane. It Might Stay That Way for a While. – This is a historically terrible time to buy a car.

The entire auto industry has been hobbled for months by the worldwide shortage of semiconductor chips, which has prevented manufacturers from producing enough vehicles to meet the demand from Americans eager to spend their pandemic savings and stimulus checks. As a result, many dealerships are practically barren of inventory, and new rides are fetching record prices.

The cost of used vehicles, meanwhile, has rocketed into the stratosphere, F9-style. On Tuesday, the Department of Labor reported that the retail price of pre-owned cars and trucks jumped a record-breaking 10.5 percent in June, after rising 7.3 percent in May and 10 percent in April. It doesn’t matter if your heart is set on a tricked-out new Ford F-150 or you just want a lightly used Honda Civic to inconspicuously cart you from point A to point B. The market is brutal for everybody.

How long will we be stuck with these shortages? Is the car biz’s COVID hangover destined to linger on? Or will the industry, like the rest of our once-dreary-eyed economy, soon return to normal? When I asked, industry analysts told me that shoppers will likely have to wait until 2022 for the auto industry to settle, though exactly when is hard to say. Some of the pain, especially in the used car market, could begin to ease up earlier. But it could be well into next year before prices fall back to earth and customers see the sort of selection they’re used to at dealerships. Read More > at Slate

Why California is still on the economic brink – Looking at California’s latest unemployment numbers, you’d be forgiven for thinking the state is still under lockdown.

That’s because the jobless rate didn’t budge from May to June: It remained at 7.7%, just slightly down from April’s revised rate of 8%, according to figures released late last week by the Employment Development Department. Although employers added 73,500 jobs in June, total civilian employment only increased by 24,500 people — meaning thousands of open positions are going unfilled. At the same time, the number of jobless Californians grew by 11,000 people as unemployment ticked up significantly in some areas — San Diego, for example, saw its jobless rate skyrocket from 6.3% in May to 7% in June.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday touted the state’s progress on job creation as evidence of the California economy “roaring back.” Yet the press conference itself underscored the economic precarity that defines many Californians’ lives: Standing in front of a Sebastopol hotel converted into permanent supportive housing for homeless people, the governor signed into law a package allocating $10.3 billion for affordable housing and $12 billion to address homelessness.

The question hanging over the announcement — will it be enough? — also looms over California’s other major pandemic relief programs, including a $2 billion fund to pay off utility and water debt. As CalMatters’ Jackie Botts reports, official estimates of unpaid water and energy bills accumulated during the pandemic verge on $2.7 billion, affecting a few million Californians — and those figures continue to grow rapidly. 

Meanwhile, California’s struggling tourism industry received a one-time infusion of $95 million to boost travel in the Golden State. Yet the marketing campaign comes at a confusing time: As tourism officials pronounce the state open for business, Los Angeles County is again requiring masks indoors and a growing number of Bay Area and Sacramento-area counties are recommending them to ward off the rapidly spreading Delta variant. The statewide coronavirus positivity rate was 4.1% on Monday, a figure not seen since February; if California still had its tiered reopening system, at least 12 counties would be in the most restrictive purple tier.

Fears about the Delta variant’s economic impact were also reflected in the stock market. The Dow Jones, for example, fell by more than 700 points on Monday, notching its biggest one-day loss this year. Read More > at CalMatters

What California Could Have Done with the $30 Billion Lost by the EDD – It is, sadly, a fact of life that the public has become so inured to the vapor trail of zeroes involved in governmental financial mismanagement that sometimes those big numbers lose their meaning.

Take, for example, the loss to fraud of $30 billion by the California Employment Development Department.

While estimates of the actual amount – an exact amount will never be known – range from $12 billion to more than $40 billion, experts in the field tend to coalesce around the $30 billion figure.  It must be noted that that did not have to happen, that the EDD’s systems could have been fixed quickly and cheaply 15 months ago, preventing the vast majority of the loss. 

Sadly, it must also be noted that that money is never coming back; while law enforcement may occasionally tout the seizure and re-sale of the Ferrari a person bought with the ill-gotten gains from filing 147 fraudulent claims, an overwhelming percentage of the funds were stolen by organized international criminal syndicates and has disappeared permanently into the ether.

To put the scale of the problem into perspective, it may be helpful to consider what else, besides giving every resident $750 directly, could have been done with that $30 billion.

First, if the state hadn’t lost it to fraud California would not currently owe the federal government the $24 billion it borrowed to keep its system solvent.  That would mean that businesses across the state would not be faced – as they are currently – with paying additional money into the unemployment system to cover the debt.  While the issue is not completely settled, it now stands that each employer will have to pay an extra $21 per year per employee, with that number expected to grow each year until it reaches $420 per year per employee in 10 years.  This extra fee will damage already struggling small businesses in particular and definitely put a kink in California’s overall economic climate and at a competitive disadvantage compared to other states (at this point, the much-touted state budget surplus is not being touched to repay the funds).

So what else could the money have been spent on?

In no particular order, here’s a list:

  • Every business in the state could have received a grant of $30,000 to help recover from the pandemic.
  • Every student entering both the UC and CSU systems this fall could have had their tuition waived for the next four years… Read More > at the California Globe

EXPLAINER: How California could recall its governor – California will hold a recall election Sept. 14 that could remove first-term Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office. The date was set by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, a Democrat and Newsom ally, after election officials certified that 1.7 million valid petition signatures had been turned in to qualify the election for the ballot. Republicans are hoping for an upset in a heavily Democratic state where the GOP hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006. The election will be watched nationally as a barometer of the public mood heading toward the 2022 elections, when a closely divided Congress again will be in play. Here’s how it works:

California is one of 20 states that have provisions to recall a sitting governor. The state law establishing the rules goes back to 1911 and was intended to place more power directly in the hands of voters by allowing them to remove elected officials and repeal or pass laws by placing them on the ballot. Recall attempts are common in the state, but they rarely get on the ballot and even fewer succeed. However, in 2003, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Voters will be asked two questions: First, should Newsom be removed, yes or no? The second question is a list of replacement candidates from which to choose. If a majority of voters approve Newsom’s recall, the candidate who gets the most votes becomes governor. If Newsom is recalled, it’s likely his replacement could be elected with just a fraction of the votes. With dozens of candidates dividing those ballots it’s possible a winner could get 25% or less. Read More > from the Associated Press

Will California get tough on housing quotas? – …High on the agenda is the single most important issue facing California — an ever-growing housing shortage, particularly for low- and moderate-income families, that is the prime factor in our highest-in-the-nation poverty rate and a major barrier to expanding employment.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development declares that California should be building 180,000 units of new housing each year to meet demand, but actual production has been scarcely half of that level.

The department has dramatically raised regional housing quotas for the remainder of the decade, more than doubling those for the previous eight-year period, largely because construction fell short. In the six-county Los Angeles region, for example, the quota more than tripled from 412,137 units to 1.3 million.

Regional quotas have been divvied up into specific goals for local governments that are also much higher, particularly in suburban communities that have tended to resist new housing development.

While local governments generally don’t build housing themselves, the state requires them to make enough land available, through revised zoning, to meet their quotas.

…The Legislature’s role in the conflict is typified by one of the session’s most controversial measures, Senate Bill 9. It would effectively eliminate single-family zoning by allowing duplexes to be built on lots now zoned for one home and making it easier to split single-family lots into two parcels.

SB 9 has passed the Senate and will again be pending in the Assembly when the Legislature reconvenes. It’s drawing stiff opposition from dozens of cities affected by the state’s higher housing quotas, particularly those in Southern California. Read More > at CalMatters

Another former SF public works official arrested in public corruption scandal – The former Bureau Manager for San Francisco Public Works, Gerald “Jerry” Sanguinetti, has been arrested and charged with five felony counts of perjury and two misdemeanor charges for failing to file financial disclosure statements, District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced earlier this month.

Sanguinetti is accused of concealing $262,947 in income from his mandatory financial disclosures from 2013-2019 and then lying about it. The money was paid to a company named SDL Merchandising that made items for the city’s Public Works Department under a no-bid contract. It was owned by Sanguinetti’s wife.

Sanguinetti’s arrest is part of a broader pay-to-play scandal at San Francisco Public Works. Some payments to SDL Merchandising were approved by former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who was arrested on federal corruption charges last year. He is accused of participating in a range of bribery schemes. Read More > at California City News

4 wealthy donors fuel overhaul of California’s criminal justice system – Four wealthy activists intent on reshaping California’s criminal justice system are gearing up for their biggest test yet against police and prosecutor groups.

The Northern California donors, some with fortunes from major Silicon Valley firms, have already spent millions on progressive prosecutors and ballot fights that have helped untether the state from its tough-on-crime past. Now, California’s 2022 attorney general race could be a landmark moment.

In California, social justice advocates are preparing to defend the state’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is closely aligned with the reform movement and one of the nation’s most liberal AGs. The former state legislator was nominated to the post this year by Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Bonta’s election contest next year is expected to be a criminal justice bellwether.

The four donors — Patty Quillin, Quinn Delaney, Elizabeth Simons and Kaitlyn Krieger — channeled $22 million toward criminal justice ballot measures and allied candidates the previous two years, and their campaign contributions have steadily increased each election cycle. They spent $3.7 million alone to elect George Gascón, who rode the social justice wave that swept over America last summer to unseat incumbent Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey in November.

The last decade has brought a remarkable shift in how California punishes crime and oversees law enforcement. Voters and lawmakers have hit reverse on decades of stringent laws that swelled the state’s prisons, backing a raft of bills and ballot initiatives to diminish penalties and increase police accountability. Reformist district attorneys Gascón in Los Angeles and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco have moved away from traditional approaches. Read More > at Politico

Thieves are stealing California’s scarce water. Where’s it going? Illegal marijuana farmsAs drought grips most of California, water thievery across the state has increased to record levels. Bandits in water trucks are backing up to rivers and lakes and pumping free water they sell on a burgeoning black market. Others, under cover of darkness, plug into city hydrants and top up. Thieves also steal water from homes, farms and private wells, and some even created an elaborate system of dams, reservoirs and pipelines during the last drought. Others are MacGyvering break-ins directly into pressurized water mains, a dangerous and destructive approach known as hot-tapping. 

In Mendocino County, the thefts from rivers and streams are compromising already depleted Russian River waterways. In one water district there, thefts from hydrants could compromise a limited water supply for fighting fires, which is why they have put locks on hydrants.

It’s as predictable as a dreary economics lesson: When a commodity becomes scarce and demand soars, it’s worth stealing. 

Officials say water thefts are increasing at about the same rate as the decline in California’s water supplies. Complaints have risen sharply this year, mirroring the drought’s inexorable advance.

The most-common culprit of water theft: illegal pot farms. While farmers, ranchers and licensed marijuana growers scramble to obtain water through legal channels, clandestine operations are stealing it or purchasing it from illicit trucks.

In the Sierra Nevada, as many as 4,000 illegal grow sites are operating in Nevada County, according to county estimates. In the Antelope Valley, illegal grows have doubled from 200 last year to 400 today, according to county data, while other estimates put the number in the thousands.  Read More > at CalMatters

The FBI Turned A Blind Eye While Larry Nassar Assaulted Hundreds – Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted, abused, and traumatized hundreds of young women. Senior FBI officials knew about the abuse and at first, did little to stop it, according to a new Department of Justice report released Wednesday.

The 119-page document comes after an investigation into the FBI’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar, who has since been sentenced to at least 300 years in prison for his crimes.  

“The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to allegations of sexual abuse of athletes by former USA Gymnastics physician Lawrence Gerard Nassar with the urgency that the allegations required,” concluded a press release accompanying the report. “We also found that the FBI Indianapolis Field Office made fundamental errors when it did respond to the allegations, failed to notify the appropriate FBI field office (the Lansing Resident Agency) or state or local authorities of the allegations, and failed to take other steps to mitigate the ongoing threat posed by Nassar.” Read More > in The Federalist  

Newsom: Out-of-state homeless welcome to ‘new beginnings’ in California – California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he‘s not worried about a bill meant to combat homelessness exacerbating the problem because the state embraces everyone looking for “new beginnings.”

The Democrat made the comment when asked about the possible unintended consequences of signing the $12 billion AB-140 housing bill. Officials are required to “develop a framework for the California Dream For All Program, the goals of which would … [make] homeownership more affordable.”

“To the extent that people want to come here for new beginnings and all income levels, that’s part of the California dream and we have a responsibility to accommodate and enliven and inspire, and the California dream is still alive and well,” Mr. Newsom said Monday when asked if the Golden State — mired in a homeless crisis — might become a magnet for similar out-of-state populations. Read More > in The Washington Times

California Set to Spend Record Amount on Homelessness – California will spend a record $4.8 billion over two years to alleviate homelessness after legislators Thursday unanimously passed key details of a new state budget. The package, once signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, will mark the state’s largest financial commitment to date in assisting people without adequate and safe housing.

In a deal reached last month, Newsom and lawmakers agreed to expand last year’s program to convert former hotels into permanent housing with federal coronavirus relief dollars and provide an additional $2 billion over two years to local governments.

Appropriation and oversight details were released this week as part of a lengthy process to divvy up a $262.6-billion state budget boosted by a record cash surplus and federal pandemic relief. Read More > at Governing

U.S. Median Existing-Home Price Hit New High in June – The median U.S. home price rose to a new high of $363,300 in June as strong demand pushed home sales higher.

Existing-home sales rose 1.4% in June from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.86 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. June sales rose 22.9% from a year earlier.

The median existing-home price rose 23.4% in June from a year earlier, setting a record high, NAR said, extending steady price increases amid limited inventory.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 2.2% monthly increase in sales of previously owned homes, which make up most of the housing market.

The housing-market boom is easing slightly, as rising prices are prompting more homeowners to list their houses for sale. Homes sold in June received four offers on average, down from five offers the previous month, said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

But the number of homes for sale remains far lower than normal, and robust demand due to ultralow mortgage-interest rates is expected to continue pushing home prices higher.

Many homes are selling above listing price and receiving multiple offers. The typical home sold in June was on the market for 17 days, holding at a record low, NAR said. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Japan breaks the internet speed record – Scientists at Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) have smashed the internet transfer record by shifting data at 319Tbps, almost double the last speed test attempted in August 2020. At that speed, you could download over 7,000 high-definition movies in a second.

It involved addressing every part of the pipeline, upgrading the fiber optic line with four cores over the usual single core in typical lines, while the laser was amplified at its source. It also wasn’t shooting under any oceans or anything: The scientists used coiled cabling to simulate a 1,864-mile distance.

As you might expect at the cutting edge of high-speed internet, upgrading to this capability could be mightily expensive — though the four-core fiber optic cable should work with existing infrastructure. Read More > at Engadget

‘Woke coke’: Drug dealers marketing ‘ethically sourced’ cocaine – Brits looking to ease their conscience over their involvement in bloody drug wars overseas are now being targeted by cynical dealers selling what they claim is “ethically sourced” cocaine.

Users have revealed a high demand for the so-called “woke coke” at posh dinner parties across the UK.

Drug policy expert Neil Woods told the Daily Mirror: “I have been shown ads for ‘environmentally friendly sniff’ but it’s nothing but a very clever marketing ploy.

Woods argued there was no way no produce environmentally friendly or ethically sourced cocaine and it was another way to fuel the “obscene” amount of money being generated by the cocaine trade in the UK, which rakes in $4.95b annually.

“I’ve never heard of woke coke but I can tell you, no one in Colombia produces cocaine ‘ethically’.

“The trade inevitably involves bloodshed, the destabilisation of communities and an appalling cycle of violence. If demand goes up, so does production and the cycle of destruction continues. What you call fair trade cocaine is only going to bring more greed and bloodshed.”

Former soap actress Davina Taylor, who appeared on Hollyoaks in the UK, revealed that celebrities were hoovering up the story – and the marching powder.

In October she claimed: “In Chiswick everyone’s got woke coke – it’s from ‘sustainable sources’ in South America. Read More > in the New Zealand Herald

About 40% of Americans don’t get enough vitamin D – here’s how to tell if you’re deficient and how to treat itVitamin D is an essential vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium – one of the main building blocks of bones. It also plays a role in nerve and muscle health as well as boosting your immune system.

Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it’s exposed to sunlight, which is why vitamin D is sometimes nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin.” Few foods contain vitamin D, making sunlight the main source for most people worldwide.

But when sunlight isn’t regularly available, like during winter months or at higher latitudes, vitamin D deficiency can strike. In fact, an estimated 40% of US adults don’t get enough of the sunshine vitamin.

Severe deficiency can cause osteomalacia and osteoporosis, conditions where bones become less dense and more likely to fracture or break, says Kelly Springer, a registered dietitian.

Springer also notes that vitamin D has links to depression, but adds that there is still more research needed before doctors recommend vitamin D supplements to treat depression.


You can become vitamin D deficient for several reasons:

CHP Truckee officials: Don’t set your car on fire to scare away bears – California Highway Patrol officials in Truckee are issuing a bizarre warning for drivers: Don’t light your car on fire to keep bears away.

The CHP posted a picture Thursday of a deputy extinguishing the smoldering remnants of a fire on the hood of a car near an Interstate 80 entrance.

“We are always appreciative of additional fire extinguisher training, but in case anyone was wondering, no you cant light a fire on the hood of your vehicle to ‘keep the bears away,’” CHP-Truckee wrote along with the photo.

As California’s population grows, so does its black bear population — and both humans and animals are experiencing more and more unwanted interactions.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the best thing drivers can do in bear country is clear cars of trash, groceries and pet food.

And if you happen to have a run-in with a bear, experts say stay to calm. If a bear does approach you, the CDFW says to make loud noises by clapping or yelling and make yourself appear bigger by lifting and waving your arms.

“Really the best thing to do if you come into contact with a bear is to back away slowly and leave them be,” Sherman said. Read More > at Fox 40

California Is Planning Floating Wind Turbine Farms Offshore: Here’s How They Work – Northern California has some of the strongest offshore winds in the U.S., with immense potential to produce clean energy. But it has a problem. Its continental shelf drops off quickly, making building traditional wind turbines directly on the seafloor costly if not impossible. But floating wind turbine farms could be the solution.

A solution has emerged that’s being tested in several locations around the world: making wind turbines that float. In fact, in California, where drought is putting pressure on the hydropower supply and fires have threatened electricity imports from the Pacific Northwest, the state is moving forward on plans to develop the nation’s first floating offshore wind farms as we speak.

A floating wind turbine works just like other wind turbines – wind pushes on the blades, causing the rotor to turn, which drives a generator that creates electricity. But instead of having its tower embedded directly into the ground or the sea floor, a floating wind turbine sits on a platform with mooring lines, such as chains or ropes, that connect to anchors in the seabed below.

These mooring lines hold the turbine in place against the wind and keep it connected to the cable that sends its electricity back to shore.

Most of the stability is provided by the floating platform itself. The trick is to design the platform so the turbine doesn’t tip too far in strong winds or storms. Read More > at The Inertia

Smell You Later: The Weird Science of How Sweat Attracts – …For many people, body odour is so unappealing that they mask it with perfumes, deodorants, and antiperspirants. But what if our obsession with blocking BO is interfering with important lines of communication, those helpful messages aromas send about anxiety, illness, or even romance? When we spray or roll on a product, could we be blocking our chances of finding love, of finding the person—or perhaps people—who might desire us even more because of our scent?

In this era of swiping left and right in the search for a tryst or a soul mate, smell dating operates on a more analog premise. Instead of swiping, the strategy is wiping: namely, one’s perspiration onto a cotton pad. The premise is straightforward: smell-dating contenders work up a sweat doing high-intensity exercise, their perspiration-rich cotton pads are collected and placed in anonymous containers, and everyone lines up to sniff through the smelly samples. Participants then secretly rate their top preferences and give their picks to organizers, who reveal the matches. Like on the dating app Tinder, a match occurs only when two individuals pick each other’s pong.

The only criterion for a romantic match is scent, which is about as logical as any other dating filter. I mean, who cares if you both share a love of taxidermy, say, or the novels of Haruki Murakami? You’ll eventually smell the body odour of your lover, and it’s probably going to be a make-or-break moment. Smell dating skips to the chase (or, more accurately, it entirely skips the chase) and uses body odour as the first elimination round for mate selection—or date selection, at any rate. Read More > in The Walrus

The obesity research that blew up – A CDC researcher found that being a little plump might be healthier than being thin. The big surprise was the firestorm that followed.

In 2005, Katherine Flegal, a senior scientist studying obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published a counterintuitive paper in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Along with a CDC colleague and two statisticians from the National Cancer Institute, Flegal had analyzed a massive government dataset to estimate the number of deaths associated with excess body weight. While the researchers found that obesity was indeed linked to excess deaths, it turned out that people who were merely overweight — plump, perhaps, but not obese — were at less risk of early death than those of so-called normal weight.

Flegal’s was not the first such study to hit upon this seeming paradox, but it was an interesting result about weight, which is always a hot topic. As the paper’s first author she anticipated fielding a few calls from science journalists. But as she writes in an unusual essay for a forthcoming issue of the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, “We were unprepared for the firestorm that followed.’’

As that 2005 paper began to get attention, a renowned professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Willett, had already begun his own publicity campaign. Believing Flegal’s findings to be not only wrong but dangerous, Willett and a handful of his Harvard colleagues saw it as their mission to prevent the paper — which Willett deemed “really naive’’ and “deeply flawed’’ — from being taken seriously by other scientists, practicing physicians, or the public.

For more than a decade, Flegal writes, she would find herself the target of “an aggressive campaign that included insults, errors, misinformation, behind-the-scenes gossip and maneuvers, social media posts and even complaints to my employer.’’ Her essay offers an inside look at the sometimes political nature of science — and at how hard it can be for some scientists to consider changing their minds in the face of new data. That’s especially true in a field like public health, where passions run particularly high and the best intentions can sometimes run afoul of the pursuit of truth.

‘A pile of rubbish’

The official definition of “overweight’’ is a body mass index, or BMI, higher than 25 — for someone of either sex standing 5 feet 8 inches tall, the cutoff would come at about 165 pounds. Obesity begins at a BMI of 30, while an adult with a BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight.

Flegal’s 2005 paper used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative sample from in-office medical exams, to calculate the number of excess deaths associated with each BMI category. She and her co-authors accounted for confounding factors, including age, sex, race, alcohol use, and smoking. Every way they looked at it, a BMI between 25 and 30 seemed to be the least risky, even compared with so-called normal weight.

That study contradicted the findings of another CDC team that had been published the previous year, but it was consistent with an already growing body of research indicating that “overweight’’ is a fairly arbitrary category. Read More > from the Boston Globe

Expand Medicare? How About We Fix It First? – Last week, the Biden administration and congressional Democrats announced an agreement to pursue a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” package, which, among other things, would expand Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision benefits. (The administration also endorses lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 60, but that proposal does not appear to be included in the Democratic framework.) Meanwhile, the trustees charged with overseeing the program’s financial health are late with their annual report; when it is finally released, it is likely to warn that the program’s hospital insurance (HI) trust fund will run out of reserves within several years.

The disconnect between the Medicare agenda emerging in Congress and the program’s financial outlook is jarring. Medicare’s rising costs are central to the nation’s fiscal challenges. Before expanding the program further, Congress ought to ensure its current commitments can be met. 

While no release date has been announced, the wait for the annual report might end in the coming weeks because it could be awkward politically to push publication beyond summer. Medicare law stipulates that the annual trustees’ report should be delivered to Congress no later than April 1.  It is not difficult to see a connection between the current delay and what is occurring in Congress. The administration might want to avoid releasing a report warning of HI insolvency before the deal to expand Medicare is sealed. Last year’s report showed the HI fund running out of reserves in 2026 and projected a 75-year fix would require a 26 percent increase in the payroll tax rate. Read More > at The Dispatch

Prisons close as California inmate population dwindles – California authorities have ordered the closure of state prisons for the first time in nearly two decades: Four are destined to be shut down, and three more are being discussed for possible closure.

“The significant decrease in the state’s incarcerated population over the past year is allowing CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitati0n) to move forward with these prison closures in a thoughtful manner that does not impact public safety,”  Kathleen Allison, head of the state correctional system, said recently in a written statement.

Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy is slated to be deactivated by Sept. 30. The California Correctional Center, or CCC, built 58 years ago in Susanville, will be closed by June 2022. The Susanville prison — one of two in the area — has about 2,100 inmates and 1,100 staff members; Deuel about the same.

The closure of the two state prisons was included in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2020-21 budget.

In addition, the California Correctional Institution (CCI) in Tehachapi and the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad will close by June 2022.

Three more institutions apparently are being considered for closure, although there has been no official confirmation.

The steady population decline has stemmed in part from courts ordering the overcrowded prisons — at one point they were holding twice the number they were designed to hold — to shed inmates, as well as sentencing changes approved by voters and in the Legislature. Read More > at Capitol Weekly

Brazen shoplifting spurs California law for organized thefts – With violent smash-and-grab shoplifting costing California businesses millions of dollars annually, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Wednesday aimed at curbing organized retail theft.

The law reestablishes the crime of organized retail theft, which lawmakers first created in 2018 but allowed to lapse as of July 1. Prosecutors can again seek to charge the crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony. It applies to those who work with others to steal merchandise either from brick-and-mortar stores or online, with the intent to sell or return the merchandise.

The legislation also applies to someone who works with others to receive stolen merchandise, those who steal for others as part of an organized theft ring or people who do the recruiting or organizing for the theft ring.

The rings have become bolder in recent years, officials said, and videos of their smash-and-grabs have gone viral.

…police agencies in California will have to contend with local prosecutors, who decide whether to charge an offender with a misdemeanor or felony, if at all. Progressive district attorneys such as those in San Francisco and Los Angeles have pledged to avoid stiff penalties, sentencing enhancements and incarceration for certain crimes. Read More > from the Associated Press

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8 Foods You Can Buy in Bulk and Freeze for Later


Buying food in bulk and freezing it has so many benefits: You save time by going to the grocery store less, you save money buying larger quantities, and you ensure that you’ll always have something in the house for dinner. But there’s an art to buying bulk foods. Before you head to the store, check out this list of surprising items that you can buy in bulk and freeze for later.


Freezing cheese is a little-known but valuable way to save money on groceries. Purchasing huge blocks of it at warehouse stores like Costco will help you keep the price per serving down. Before sticking it in the freezer, cut the hunks into smaller portions, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and then seal them inside an airtight container or bag.

Any type of cheese can be frozen, but keep in mind that some will retain their textures and flavors better than others. Favorites like cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, provolone, and gouda freeze best, but when they’re thawed, they may have a crumblier texture. Some cheese-freezers suggest using thawed cheese in cooked dishes so its texture isn’t an issue.


Unlike cheese, dairy milk suffers no textural effects from being frozen—you can load up your freezer with extra gallons so you’ll be set for the month. Since milk expands as it freezes, you may want to pour milk into freezer-safe containers and leave space between the surface of the milk and the top of the container. To thaw it, just put it in the fridge the night before, and it will be ready for your morning cereal.


Nuts are high in protein and healthy unsaturated fats, and they’re easy to grab and go. With so many varieties and mixed options, buying nuts in bulk is a no-brainer. Many grocery stores have a dried-good section full of quality nuts at lower prices than pre-portioned packages. But the oils in nuts can turn rancid after a while, especially if they’re kept in a too-warm environment. If you buy them in bulk, pour out a week’s worth into an airtight container and put the rest of them in the freezer, sealed in a Ziploc bag. They’ll stay fresh for over a year.


Unless you have chickens, eggs are likely a mainstay of your shopping list. If you find a great deal on a few dozen at a roadside stand or Costco, you can freeze them—but not their shells. Since the liquids inside the shell expand when they freeze, the shell could crack, rendering the egg unsafe to eat. Instead, crack them and freeze the raw yolks and whites, or fully cook them and freeze in an airtight container.


When you have to feed a lot of people, beans are one of the cheapest ways to do it. Dried beans keep almost indefinitely in your pantry and cost pennies per serving, especially if you buy them in bulk.

A common complaint with dried beans is that they take a long time to soak and cook, but you can eliminate this hurdle by cooking a couple of 16-ounce packages of dried beans at once and freezing them, undrained, in one- or two-cup portions. To thaw, place the frozen beans in the fridge overnight. You can also add the frozen contents directly to soups or chili. This works for almost any legume: chickpeas, black beans, and even lentils.


Buying a lot of bananas at once may seem pretty risky, but bananas are easy to freeze: Peel the banana, slice or mash it, and place in an airtight bag until you need it. You can use the frozen bananas for smoothies, baking, or even as a snack for a teething baby.


Buying fresh fruit when it’s in season is a tried-and-true rule of home economics. Thrifty types know that you can buy strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries in bulk and freeze them for enjoying during the winter months. Check out farmers markets, roadside fruit stands, or even pick-your-own farms to find fresh berries for really low prices.

To keep berries from freezing into one big clump, lay them out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer with space between each berry. Once they’re fully chilled, you can place them in a plastic bag or container, and they’ll be much easier to add to smoothies, desserts, or oatmeal.


When super-nutritious leafy veggies like spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens are in season, you can buy a bunch and freeze them for later. Choose the best quality greens you can find, and once you get them home, wash them thoroughly. Remove the hard stems and chop into bite-sized pieces or ribbons. Blanch the greens in boiling water—which prevents the leaves from becoming mushy once defrosted—for up to one minute, then cool in a bowl of ice water. Finally, squeeze out as much water as you can from the leaves, seal in an airtight bag, and freeze.

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Remove these 7 things from your resume ‘ASAP,’ says CEO who has read more than 1,000 resumes this year

From CNBC Peter Yang, Contributor

We constantly hear about what you should put on your resume, but we rarely talk about what to leave off.

As the CEO of a resume writing service, I’ve read more than a thousand resumes this year so far, and I’ve seen a lot of “junk” that doesn’t belong — things that can hurt your chances of landing an interview.

If you want to write a resume that says “Hire me,” then every word, number, line and achievement must be carefully considered. So let’s hit the backspace button on seven commonly overlooked things you should remove from your resume ASAP — and why:

1. Irrelevant hobbies and interests

Love esports? Camping? Coin collectingGardening? Everyone has a hobby, and most people think that the more unique it is, the more it will make them stand out from other candidates.

But hiring managers don’t care about how you spend your free time — at least not immediately. They have deadlines and large piles of resumes to review, and right now, they’re just focused on finding candidates who meet the requirements.

Of course, it’s okay to include your hobby if it’s related to the position you’re applying for. If it’s a finance job, for example, mentioning that you like to dabble in cryptocurrency investing can be seen as a plus. But if you’re trying to land a medical research assistant role, don’t bother.

2. Too many soft skills

You must be thinking, But aren’t soft skills a good thing?

Yes, but to a certain extent. Too many candidates overdo it with the soft skills, and hiring managers are very aware of this common ploy, so you might lose credibility when start listing too many.

I generally recommend having more hard skills than soft skills. For the soft skills that you do include, make sure they are demonstrated and not just stated.

Instead of just saying you’re good at multitasking, for example, it’s better to include something like, “Led multiple projects from start to completion, leading to an X% increase in X.”

3. Your professional headshot

Unless you want to be chosen as the leading actor for a big screen movie, you don’t need to include a headshot.

In fact, there are potential drawbacks to doing so. For starters, some managers and recruiters have told me that they find it “unprofessional” or even a bit “tasteless.”

It can also lead to unconscious bias. Whether it’s the way you dress, your gender, race, or just how you old look — these are all things that can potentially impact a recruiter’s decision-making, even if it’s done unintentionally.

Lastly, there’s a small possibility that the photo can affect your resume format, leading to technical difficulties when it goes through applicant tracking systems.

4. Personal pronouns

Surprisingly, many candidates still make the mistake of using personal pronouns — “I,” “me,” “we” — on their resume.

Why leave out personal pronouns? Because it’s your resume, so it’s already implied that everything on it is about you. Instead of writing, “I managed 5 employees,” just put “managed 5 employees.”

5. The wrong kind of email

Hiring managers want candidates who are at least somewhat tech-savvy … and that means not having an email address from an outdated account like AOL or Hotmail.

When in doubt, just stick with a Gmail or Outlook address.

6. Your mailing address (if you’re applying out-of-state)

Including your mailing address on your resume used to be standard practice.

But if you’re looking to relocate and applying to out-of-state jobs, it may be wise to leave it out, especially because some employers only want to consider local candidates.

Recruiters don’t need to know exactly where you live during the early stages of the hiring process. It can also become a security risk if your information gets stolen.

Instead, consider noting that you intend to relocate:

Annie Johnson
(000) 000-0000
Relocating to New York, NY in Fall 2021

7. Job positions older than 10 to 15 years

Unless you’re a recent graduate or a senior executive with decades of experience, you should include no more than four or five positions that span no more than 10 to 15 years.

The older the position (unless it was at a big, well-known company, or is closely related to the job you want), the less hiring managers will care about it.

Rather than dive into outdated work experience, use that precious resume space to flesh out the details of your most recent jobs and accomplishments.

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M 1.7 – 3km NNW of Byron, CA

Date-Time21 Jul 2021 14:11:30 UTC21 Jul 2021 07:11:30 near epicenter21 Jul 2021 06:11:30 standard time in your timezone
Location37.895N 121.648W
Depth3 km
Distances3.2 km (2.0 mi) NNW of Byron, California4.4 km (2.8 mi) WSW of Discovery Bay, California5.9 km (3.6 mi) SE of Brentwood, California12.7 km (7.9 mi) SSE of Oakley, California77.4 km (48.0 mi) S of Sacramento, California
Location UncertaintyHorizontal: 0.5 km; Vertical 0.4 km
ParametersNph = 28; Dmin = 6.0 km; Rmss = 0.12 seconds; Gp = 224°
Version = 3
Event IDnc 73596896

For updates, maps, and technical information
see: Event Page or USGS Earthquake Hazards Program

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“Grown to be Great” — from California Grown

The Buy California Marketing Agreement, also known as California Grown. is introducing a new digital media campaign, called “Grown to be Great,” with the objective of inspiring consumers–especially those with a serious interest in cooking–to choose California specialty crops and share information about them on social media platforms.

The campaign debuted this month and will run for five months in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Arizona.

California Grown–overseen by CDFA–was formed in 2001 and is dedicated to connecting consumers with the Californians who grow and produce their food. The Grown to be Great campaign is funded in part by CDFA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

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Learn about CDFA’s Citrus Pest and Disease Division at new web page

CDFA’S Citrus Pest and Disease Division has a new web page with information about the division’s various activities, including the Asian Citrus Psyllid/Huanglongbing program. The division works closely with the The Citrus Pest and Disease Prevention Committee, which was created to advise the Secretary and the California citrus industry about efforts to combat serious pests and diseases that threaten the state’s citrus crops. 

The page also features information about quarantines, biocontrol and treatment, and it includes links to a number of resources that citrus producers may find useful.

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Sunday Reading – 07/18/2021

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

With virus cases rising, mask mandate back on in Los Angeles – Los Angeles County will again require masks be worn indoors in the nation’s largest county, even by those vaccinated against the coronavirus, while the University of California system also said Thursday that students, faculty and staff must be inoculated against the disease to return to campuses.

The announcements come amid a sharp increase in virus cases, many of them the highly transmissible delta variant that has proliferated since California fully reopened its economy on June 15 and did away with capacity limits and social distancing. The vast majority of new cases are among unvaccinated people.

The rapid and sustained increase in cases in Los Angeles County requires restoring an indoor mask mandate, said Dr. Muntu Davis, public health officer for the county’s 10 million people. The public health order will go into effect just before midnight Saturday. Read More > at ABC

In abrupt turnaround, California to let school districts decide how to enforce mask rules – The complications of managing COVID-era education took a dramatic turn Monday, when state officials issued a rule barring unmasked students from campuses, and then, hours later, rescinded that rule — while keeping in place a mask mandate for all at K-12 schools.

Instead, the latest revision allows local school officials to decide how to deal with students who refuse to wear masks, a spokesman for Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday night.

The statewide policy that prohibited unmasked students from campus had been intended to provide helpful clarity for local educators as they work to provide a safe environment for staff and students.

…Instead, local officials would have discretion about how to enforce the mask mandate, just as they had during the school year just concluded, said Alex Stack.

Even with mask enforcement left to schools, the state’s COVID-19 safeguards rank among the most stringent in the nation. California health and education officials are acutely concerned with cases of the Delta variant on the rise as the new academic year approaches. Read More . in The San Diego Union-Tribune

Jerry Brown bursts Newsom’s budget bubble – In front of a mostly masked crowd of children and families waving “California Roars Back” and “California for All” signs, the governor on Tuesday signed into law a budget bill containing his oft-touted $100 billion stimulus plan. The package, made possible by federal relief funds and a state surplus that Newsom said had swelled from $76 billion to more than $80 billion, served as a launchpad for the governor to campaign against the quickly approaching recall election without ever mentioning it. He ran through the budget’s highlights: stimulus checks for two-thirds of Californians, rent relief, small-business aid, a historic investment in public education.

  • Newsom: “People that have been directly impacted by this pandemic … we will pay 100% of your rent going back to April of last year … and going forward to Sept. 30 of this year. 100% of your rent. … And you say, ‘That’s great, but I’ve got this water bill, I’ve got this electric bill.’ We will pay 100% of those bills as well.”

Although the governor’s speech projected confidence and control, other developments appear to be more frenetic — potentially complicating Newsom’s attempts to prove his competency to voters.

For example: The new fiscal year began two weeks ago, but Newsom still hasn’t signed the full budget into law, leaving key details up in the air. On Monday, the state Department of Public Health issued a rule ordering schools to ban unmasked students from campus — only to reverse itself hours later, giving districts discretion in handling students who refuse to wear face coverings. Also Monday, a judge ruled that Newsom will not be able to list himself as a Democrat on the recall ballot due to a filing error his lawyers made last year.

Meanwhile, his predecessor and fellow Democrat Jerry Brown poked a hole in Newsom’s budget bubble by calling the state’s spending “not sustainable” in an interview with NBC News Los Angeles. He also said California would soon see “fiscal stress” — a prediction potentially reinforced by figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Labor Department. The Consumer Price Index, a key measure of inflation, jumped 5.4% in the year through June — marking the biggest rise since 2008.

In the Bay Area, for example, that translated to unleaded gas prices rising nearly 42% and used car and truck prices skyrocketing 44%. Read More > at CalMatters

Whatever Happened To Acid Rain? – Those of us who are non-millennials may remember back to the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s when the hottest environmental issue was acid rain. In fact, acid rain generated as much controversy and international conflicts as the big environmental issue of today, climate change, with scientists, policymakers, and politicians engaging in heated battles over this issue.  

But the issue seems to have disappeared since that time. Is the reason for this that we actually solved a pressing environmental problem, or did acid rain simply get pushed down the priority list as new, more urgent environmental issues came to the forefront?

Acid rain is rain or any other type of precipitation, including snow or fog, that is unusually acidic. Acid rain is caused by sulfur dioxide, or nitrogen dioxide emissions released into the air and react with water molecules before falling to the ground as rain or snow. Most sulfur or nitrogen dioxide comes from electrical power plants, with a smaller amount coming from cars and other vehicles and natural sources such as volcanoes and wildfires. Both emissions, move by circulating air and wind, can travel long distances so that acid rain may be found in areas far from its source.     

Acid rain can create highly acidic soils, adversely affecting the growth of forests and crops. Acidic waters can result in the death of fish and other aquatic species. Acid rain also enhances the deposition of mercury, which has adverse effects on human health. Direct impacts on human health have also been documented. A severe episode of acid fog, the Great London Smog of 1952, resulted in an increase in the daily average death rate from 252 to approximately 1,000, and acid fog was responsible for several severe air pollution episodes in southern California in the 1980s. 

What Happened?

A 93% reduction in annual sulfur dioxide emissions between 1990 and 2019! Read More > at ACSH

Inflation climbs higher than expected in June as price index rises 5.4% – Inflation surged in June at its fastest pace in nearly 13 years amid a burst in used vehicle costs and price increases in food and energy, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

The consumer price index increased 5.4% from a year earlier, the largest jump since August 2008, just before the worst of the financial crisis. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting a 5% gain.

Stripping out volatile food and energy prices, the core CPI rose 4.5%, the sharpest move for that measure since September 1991 and well above the estimate of 3.8%.

On a monthly basis, headline and core prices rose 0.9% against 0.5% estimates. Read More > at CNBC

Former Contra Costa Elections Chief Joe Canciamilla Pleads Guilty To Perjury, Personal Use of Campaign Funds – Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla has pleaded guilty to nine counts of grand theft and perjury for using election campaign accounts for personal reasons like paying off a loan and going on an overseas trip, county prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Canciamilla entered the plea Monday and will serve 365 days in county jail as well as two years’ probation, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.

A longtime politician in the county with history as a Pittsburg City Council member, a county supervisor and state Assemblymember before being appointed as county clerk/recorder in 2013 and subsequently winning election, Canciamilla resigned from that post in 2019.

Shortly afterward, he agreed to pay $150,000 to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, admitting to spending campaign funds on personal expenses like travel to Asia, restaurant meals, airfare, repayment of a personal loan and transfers to his personal bank accounts.

The District Attorney’s Office in June 2020 charged Canciamilla with 30 counts of perjury for making misstatements on campaign disclosure forms as well as four counts of grand theft for using the campaign funds for personal expenses from 2010 to 2016. Read More > at KPIX 5

Why Cops Are Quitting – In the past year, city police departments across the country have reported a dramatic drop in manpower, as cops retire, resign, or leave for the suburbs. The NYPD’s headcount fell to its lowest level in ten years. In Chicago, police retirements rose 15 percent. The San Francisco Police Department is short 400 officers; over 115 officers, including an entire unit dedicated to crowd control, have left the Portland PD; and nearly 200 have left the Minneapolis PD or are on leave, rendering the department unable to engage in proactive policing. A recent survey of police departments found that hiring fell an average of 5 percent in 2020, while resignations rose 18 percent and retirements a whopping 45 percent.

What’s behind this wave? Officers I spoke with who had left their old departments all offered the same explanation: since last year’s explosive protests, they no longer feel that they have the support of the public or of civilian officials. As one now-retired NYPD officer put it: “One day, the good guys became the bad guys and the bad guys became the good guys.”

That moment, the officers to whom I spoke agreed, came last June, when tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of major cities, calling for the “defunding” of police departments in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Analysis of an unnamed midsize, midwestern city estimated that resignations nearly quintupled specifically in the months following the Floyd protests, supporting the claims of officers on the ground.

The officers grew worried by the ferocity of some protesters, particularly those who came to perpetrate violence after the peaceful majority had gone home for the night. Seattle has a proud history of protest—and riot, one former officer who left the SPD for a suburb told me. But this time was different: “It was people blowing up police cars. It was people throwing gasoline on to police headquarters and seeing if they could light the headquarters. It was people cementing my coworkers into a precinct and seeing if they could light the precinct on fire.” Read More > at City Journal

Poll: Almost two-thirds of Americans believe China should pay pandemic reparations – Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the Chinese regime should pay reparations for the destruction caused by the human coronavirus pandemic, according to a TIPP Poll conducted for the Center for Security Policy.

That number rises from 63 percent to 78 percent if investigations reveal that the Chinese government released the SARS-CoV-19 human coronavirus on purpose.

About half of those surveyed believe that the virus “was developed in a lab,” with a quarter of the public convinced that the Chinese government created it “intentionally” in a lab and released it “intentionally.”

While southerners and Midwesterners are most likely to think that the Chinese government created the virus and is responsible for unleashing the pandemic, people in the more liberal Northeast are the toughest when it comes to making China pay reparations if an investigation reveals an accidental release from a government lab.

These are astonishing numbers. They reveal a powerful narrowing of the gap since the pandemic began a year and a half ago. The American people are taking an increasingly hard line toward the Chinese regime. Read More > at Center for Security Policy

Welcome to the new Cold War – “A nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.” That and a promise to “ensure predictability” by “a Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future” were the only things that Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin agreed on strongly enough to put in writing—in a 140-word joint statement, which was the sole tangible yield of the duo’s June 16 summit in Geneva, Switzerland.

Nuclear missiles and bombs are again the sum total of the relations between Russia and the United States. We are back to the pre-Gorbachev era. The “this is not the Cold-War” mantra is wearing thin. It is time to admit: It is a Cold War.

True, the enemy of the democratic West is not communist totalitarianism fueled by Marxist millennialism. Yet the ideology of the Putin regime is hardly less toxic and perhaps more incendiary. The normative gap between the liberal democracies and the system that Putin assiduously forged is already almost as deep as during the Cold War. 

Contrary to the prevailing view, Putin’s domestic regime is not merely a corrupt autocracy founded on propaganda, political manipulation, and repression. These descriptions amount to dangerous oversimplification because they vastly underestimate Putin’s ability to bend to his will millions of his compatriots.

Over the past two decades he has ceaselessly and systematically reshaped Russia’s national identity: the ways in which Russians see themselves, their country, and their history. He has rewritten, updated, or reawakened the elements of his country’s legitimizing myths—what he calls “spiritual bonds” (dukhovnye skrepy)—and deployed them in ways that proved deeply satisfying to tens of millions of followers. Read More > at AEI

Will Movie Theaters Become The Next Blockbuster Video Stores? – Walking into the last Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon is stepping into an aura of cinematic nostalgia.

Lining the walls are the vibrant blue and sunny yellow color schemes complete with candy and DVD rentals to refresh the memory of what it was like to scan the sea of titles before one finally came home with a movie and Milk Duds in hand.

What used to be a $5 billion company with more than 9,000 stores worldwide at its peak 17 years ago has been reduced to a single shop in central Oregon saved by a loyal clientele and the lure of tourism. Its grave may also be a preview of the movie industry’s reach outside streaming.

While grazing through the final Blockbuster, however, it became more clear why it went under. Nearly every movie I recognized on its shelves produced after 2010 was watched not by DVD or VHS, but through online streaming, where Blockbuster as the middle-man was eliminated. I couldn’t help but to wonder if the same process might play out with theaters due to streamed new releases, which accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Recent blockbusters at the box office have shown a bright spot for a hard-hit industry on the rebound as the nation re-opens. Disney/Marvel’s “Black Widow” hauled in more than $80 million, a new high for an opening weekend since the start of the pandemic. The movie also brought in $7.16 million Monday. Others are also posting big-box office returns, including “F9,” which pulled $70 million on its opening weekend, and “A Quiet Place Part II,” which hit $48 million over Memorial Day weekend.

While these numbers are hitting post-pandemic records, the boost in box office revenues may have been a product of pent-up demand, and the same movies are quickly ending up available online. Each title is now offered on streaming services for an extra cost, and WarnerMedia plans to release its 2021 movies in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. Read More > in The Federalist

What really happened in Iceland’s four-day week trial – The success of the trial made global headlines. But the actual results tell a more complex story.

Working fewer hours for the same pay? It’s no surprise that proved popular among employees in an Iceland-wide study, but the research also revealed there’s no tradeoff for companies, either: shorter working weeks are just as productive as long days.

A pair of trials covering 1.3 per cent of the Icelandic workforce revealed that slashing weekly hours led to better employee wellbeing, with less stress and burnout, while productivity stayed the same or improved. The positive results sparked union pressure in Iceland, and now 86% of Icelandic workers either work shorter weeks or have the right to ask to do so.

Naturally, this sparked headlines declaring the trial an “overwhelming success”. But as much as a four-day work week appeals – and it does have merit, reducing stress, sick days, and carbon emissions while saving jobs – there are a few caveats to note about this research before everyone stops coming into work on Fridays.

First, despite the headlines – including the one on this newsletter – Iceland didn’t trial a four-day work week. Instead, the two trials reduced hours from 40 each week to 35 or 36. Some could choose to manage their remaining hours over four days, but this project was about understanding the impact of fewer hours, not specifically the idea of a four-day week. After the trial, unions did successfully reduce working hours, but for some public sector staff by just 13 minutes a day and for shop workers only 35 minutes per week.

A second caveat: while productivity gains made up for fewer working hours, not all jobs can be done in shorter shifts, and the Icelandic government had to hire more healthcare workers at a cost of £24.2 million annually, though that’s not a significant increase on the government’s £5.1 billion annual budget.

One last caveat about this study: the headlines are based on a report by Icelandic research organisation the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) and UK thinktank Autonomy, but neither were directly involved with the trials. Instead, those two thinktanks – both of which actively lobby the government about shorter working weeks – summarised in English the results of a pair of Icelandic trials, both run by the local government working with unions… Read More > at Wired 

California moves to end unfair $230/year rooftop solar subsidy for rich – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to end an unfair rooftop solar subsidy that generally favors the rich.   The CPUC action highlights that after 25 years, the rooftop solar industry is mature and no longer needs to be subsidized on the backs of the poor and middle-class Californians.  

Whether it’s compensating rooftop solar owners at avoided (wholesale) cost or instituting a grid or standby charge to pay for the benefits of the electric distribution system, the position of Energy Fairness has been clear and consistent: both at the regulatory and legislative levels, policymakers should develop net metering policies that accomplish three simple goals:

  • Treat all customers fairly by avoiding cost-shifting
  • Accurately reflect the benefits and costs to the grid of rooftop or distributed solar
  • Don’t distort the marketplace by paying inequitable rates for excess rooftop generation.

Last week’s action by the CPUC comes on the heels of an effort by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to ween the rooftop solar industry off of its 25-year-old subsidies because, as she aptly noted, “…a non-rooftop solar customer pays $230 a year to subsidize those of us who have rooftop solar…We want people to have rooftop solar, but it can’t be on the backs of people who can’t have solar.” Read More > at Energy Fairness

A Massive Water Recycling Proposal Could Help Ease Drought – As the West withers under extreme drought, legislators in the US House of Representatives have introduced HR 4099, a bill that would direct the Secretary of the Interior to create a program to fund $750 million worth of water recycling projects in the 17 western states through the year 2027. (The bill, which was introduced at the end of June, is currently before the House Committee on Natural Resources.)

Part of the solution, the legislators say, is to fund the construction of more facilities that can recycle the wastewater that flows out of our sinks, toilets, and showers. You may think that’s gross and preposterous, but the technology already exists—in fact, it’s been around for half a century. The process is actually rather simple. A treatment facility takes in wastewater and adds microbes that consume the organic matter. The water is then pumped through special membranes that filter out nasties like bacteria and viruses. To be extra sure, the water is then blasted with UV light to kill off microbes. The resulting water may actually be too pure for human consumption: If you drank it, the stuff might leach minerals out of your body, so the facility has to add minerals back. (I once drank the final product. It tastes like … water.)

The recycled H2O can be pumped underground into aquifers, then pumped out again when needed, purified once more, and sent to customers. Or it may instead be used for non-potable purposes, like for agriculture or industrial processes. Read More > at Wired

Why Do Electric Cars Look The Way They Do? Because They Can – Free from traditional gas engines, EV designers are rethinking the shape of cars. We take a detailed look at the shape of things to come.

What should the cars of the future look like? How smooth, how tall, how spacious should they be? For more than a century, most automotive designers have had to work around an internal-combustion engine and transmission. Gas, diesel, and hybrid powertrains need room to spin and breathe—sometimes to the detriment of passengers. We’re so used to stumbling over the hump of a driveshaft tunnel and giving up kneeroom for the sake of a set-back engine that it never occurred to most of us that anything could be different. But in the future, especially the near future, with a focus on electric cars built on new, dedicated platforms, designers have a rare opportunity to reimagine what a car can offer.

“We have the opportunity to give the car a totally new kind of proportion,” says Steffen Köhl, Mercedes-Benz director of advanced exterior design. Köhl worked on the EQS, the first car on Mercedes’s new Electric Vehicle Architecture (EVA). The EQS is a luxury sedan with a long wheelbase, a sweeping bridge of a roofline, and a large, screen-filled cabin. Think of it as the S-class of EVs. The underpinnings of an EV allow for bigger interiors in smaller vehicles, he says. It can be “cabin-forward, with short overhangs in front and rear. Since the battery is flat ground, we can try a new kind of interior—smooth panels, the center console floating. There are no more ups and downs between the seats.”

Escaping the tyranny of the center tunnel is exciting to many designers. Imagine trying to decorate a room with an undulating hardwood floor. Furniture would be pushed to the side, with the center of the space unusable. In cars, designers regularly hide the hump with a shallow console in the front; in the back, they simply cover it with carpet and ignore it. But now that they can smooth out that hump, there’s a lot more room to play with. Köhl’s team on the EQS used this newly available real estate for an elegant multilevel console with room for a large bag in a pass-through by the driver’s knee. In Hyundai’s new Ioniq 5, which rides on the Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), the space is left open, giving driver and passenger the opportunity to bump knees romantically at stoplights, although that’s not in the press literature. The flat floor also allowed Hyundai designers to put in a deep console that slides rearward so front-seat occupants can enter or exit from either side of the car. Read More > at Car and Driver

Go Figure, China Isn’t Keeping Its Promises on Climate Change – China’s ruler, Xi Jinping, now promises that his country’s carbon emissions will begin to decline by 2030, while they’re growing at the fastest pace in more than a decade. Meanwhile, U.S. carbon emissions have slightly declined most years since 2007 — although last year’s significant drop is partially attributed to the drastic change in Americans’ behavior because of the coronavirus pandemic. Year by year, the United States is using less and less coal for energy production. In 2007, the U.S. generated 6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide; last year, it generated 4.5 billion metric tons. China, by contrast, generated an estimated 14.4 billion metric tons in 2020.

Earlier this year, Jordan McGillis, deputy director of policy at the Institute for Energy Research,  pointed out “with its March release of a new five-year plan (FYP), the 14th in its history, China has embarrassed its climate cheerleaders in the West. Beijing’s plan institutes no carbon cap, no coal phase-out, and no roadmap by which it will execute upon Xi’s words. Despite the carbon-neutral-by-2060 pledge, the FYP emphasizes the importance of coal to China’s continued development, not the emissions that come with its use.”

And now we learn from Reuters a new measurement of how much Chinese cities contribute to the generation of climate-warming gases: “Just 25 big cities — almost all of them in China — accounted for more than half of the climate-warming gases pumped out by a sample of 167 urban hubs around the world.”

It turns out that China is not, in fact, “waging an aggressive, multi-front campaign to clean up coal before eventually phasing it out,” nor is the regime in Beijing “tackling climate change with all guns blazing.” (The only things that Chinese rulers tackle “with all guns blazing” are Tiananmen Square protesters, Hong Kong dissidents, Tibet, and someday possibly Taiwan.) Lo and behold, it turns out that China, not the U.S., is the laggard in this relationship. Read More > at National Review

Wikipedia co-founder: I no longer trust the website I created – Chances are, if you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ve visited Wikipedia. It is the world’s fifth largest website, pulling in an estimated 6.1 billion followers per month and serves as a cheat sheet for almost any topic in the world. So great is the online encyclopaedia’s influence is so great that it is the biggest and “most read reference work in history”, with as many as 56 million editions. 

But the truth about this supposedly neutral purveyor of information is a little more complex. Historically, Wikipedia has been written and monitored by a community of volunteers who collaborated and contested competing claims with one another. In the words of Wikipedia’s co-founder, Larry Sanger who spoke to Freddie Sayers on LockdownTV, these volunteers would “battle it out”. 

This battle of ideas on Wikipedia’s platform formed a crucial part of the encyclopaedia’s commitment to neutrality, which according to Sanger, was abandoned after 2009. In the years since, on issues ranging from Covid to Joe Biden, it has become increasingly partisan, primarily espousing an establishment viewpoint that increasingly represents “propaganda”. This, says Sanger, is why he left the site in 2007, describing it as “broken beyond repair”. Read More > at UnHerd

Severely paralyzed man communicates using brain signals sent to his vocal tract – A severely paralyzed man has been able to communicate using a new type of technology that translates signals from his brain to his vocal tract directly into words that appear on a screen. Developed by researchers at UC San Francisco, the technique is a more natural way for people with speech loss to communicate than other methods we’ve seen to date. 

So far, neuroprosthetic technology has only allowed paralyzed users to type out just one letter at a time, a process that can be slow and laborious. It also tapped parts of the brain that control the arm or hand, a system that’s not necessarily intuitive for the subject. 

The USCF system, however, uses an implant that’s placed directly on the part of the brain dedicated to speech. That way, the subject can mentally activate the brain patterns they would normally use to say a word, and the system can translate the entire word, rather than single letters, to the screen. Read More > at Engadget

The lurking threat to solar power’s growth – A few lonely academics have been warning for years that solar power faces a fundamental challenge that could halt the industry’s breakneck growth. Simply put: the more solar you add to the grid, the less valuable it becomes.

The problem is that solar panels generate lots of electricity in the middle of sunny days, frequently more than what’s required, driving down prices—sometimes even into negative territory.

Unlike a natural gas plant, solar plant operators can’t easily throttle electricity up and down as needed, or space generation out through the day, night and dark winter. It’s available when it’s available, which is when the sun is shining. And that’s when all the other solar plants are cranking out electricity at maximum levels as well.

new report finds that California, which produces one of the largest shares of solar power in the world, is already acutely experiencing this phenomenon, known as solar value deflation.

The state’s average solar wholesale prices have fallen 37% relative to the average electricity prices for other sources since 2014, according to the Breakthrough Institute analysis, which will be published on July 14. In other words, utilities are increasingly paying solar plants less than other sources overall, due to their fluctuating generation patterns.

Wholesale prices are basically the amount that utilities pay power plants for the electricity they deliver to households and businesses. They shift throughout the day and year, edging back up for solar operators during the mornings, afternoons and other times when there isn’t excess supply. But as more solar plants come online, the periods of excess supply that drive down those costs will become more frequent and more pronounced.

Lower prices may sound great for consumers. But it presents troubling implications for the world’s hopes of rapidly expanding solar capacity and meeting climate goals.

It could become difficult to convince developers and investors to continue building ever more solar plants if they stand to make less money or even lose it. In fact, California construction has already been flat since 2018, the study notes. But the state will need the industry to significantly ramp up development if it hopes to pull off its ambitious clean energy targets. Read More > at MIT Technology Review

For the First Time, Tree DNA Was Used to Convict Lumber Thieves in Federal Investigation – In 2018, the Maple Fire ripped through Washington state’s Olympic National Forest, burning 3,300 acres and taking down dozens of bigleaf maple trees, a species prized for its wood, which is used to make high-end acoustic guitars. Local officials became suspicious that the conflagration might have been a tree theft gone wrong when they noticed large stumps surrounded by sawed off limbs amid the destruction.

Now, in a first for federal criminal proceedings, tree DNA has been used to convict two men of stealing the valuable trees from public lands and selling them to local mills, the Associated Press reports.

Richard Cronn, a research geneticist for the Agriculture Department’s Forest Service, showed via DNA analysis that the lumber Wilke sold to local mills matched the remains of three bigleaf maples in the charred national forest and had not been lawfully harvested from private lands with a valid permit as the defendant claimed.

“The DNA analysis was so precise that it found the probability of the match being coincidental was approximately one in one undecillion (one followed by 36 zeros),” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington. Read More > in the Smithsonian Magazine

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Coming Soon: Virtual Open House for our East County Integrated Transit Study

CCTA’s East County Integrated Transit Study (ECITS) virtual open house is just around the corner. The online meeting will provide Contra Costa residents an opportunity to share their transportation needs and priorities while experiencing the project through virtual informational stations. The study intends to identify potential near- and long-term high-capacity transit alternatives for the State Route 4 corridor, between the Antioch eBART station and the future Brentwood Intermodal Transit Center.
Learn More

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How to talk to kids about money

The ABCs of Money

Teaching kids about money can be tough, but it’s an important step. With back‑to‑school shopping season right around the corner, it’s a great time to talk about budgeting and spending!

Check out these articles and insights to help you get started

How to Talk to Kids About Family Budgeting

Teach kids critical life skills and help them feel included in family decisions. Fun for all ages.

The Most Important Financial Lesson You Can Teach Your Kids

Before teaching your kids how to write a check, there are fundamentals they should know first. Learn more about how this money lesson can pay off for your kids.

Help Kids Understand Money

Financial education can teach kids concepts they can use forever. Get tips from educators on how to teach the basics to your children.

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2021’s States with the Most At-Risk Youth – WalletHub Study

With about one in nine young Americans today neither working nor in school, exposing them to greater risk of poverty and violence, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s States with the Most At-Risk Youth, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To determine where young Americans are not faring as well as others in their age group, especially in a year made extremely stressful by the COVID-19 pandemic, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 15 key indicators of youth risk. The data set ranges from the share of disconnected youth to the labor force participation rate among youth to the youth poverty rate.

At-Risk Youth in California (1=Most at Risk; 25=Avg.):

  • 26th – % of Disconnected Youth
  • 38th – % of Youth Without a High School Diploma
  • 44th – % of Overweight & Obese Youth
  • 16th – % of Youth Drug Users
  • 25th – Youth Labor Force Participation Rate
  • 37th – Youth Poverty Rate
  • 1st – % of Homeless Youth
  • 32nd – Share of Population Aged 12 and Older Fully Vaccinated

For the full report, please visit:

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