2021’s Best States to Live in America – WalletHub Study

With nearly 15 million people having moved last year, many of them influenced by COVID-19, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Best States to Live in, as well as accompanying videos.

To help Americans settle down in the best and most affordable place possible, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 52 key indicators of livability. They range from housing costs and income growth to education rate and quality of hospitals.

Living Conditions in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 50th – Housing Costs
  • 49th – Homeownership Rate
  • 30th – % of Population in Poverty
  • 2nd – Income Growth
  • 22nd – % of Insured Population
  • 28th – % of Adults in Fair or Poor Health
  • 7th – Avg. Weekly Work Hours
  • 1st – Restaurants per Capita
  • 25th – WalletHub “States that are Recovering the Quickest from COVID-19” Rank

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-to-live-in/62617

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect Saturday , 6/19 for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy. High levels of ozone pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions. You can help protect your health by avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.

You can help improve air quality by working remotely, taking transit, walking or biking, and by driving less every day.

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Tips on staying safe in extreme heat from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services

Summer is right around the corner and with it comes the occasional extreme heat streak (like this week). While some of the warmer weather comes with the summer territory, high record temperatures can lead to emergency situations. By following a few important steps, you can keep yourself, your loved ones, neighbors, and pets comfortable and safe during a heat wave.

Don’t let a heatwave turn into an emergency.

Avoid strenuous activity and direct exposure to the sun during the hottest part of the day. If you can, stay cool at home indoors.  If your home does not have air conditioning, find a public indoor location to keep cool. You can also contact your local county to find out if cooling shelters are available in your area. A few hours in air conditioning can help your body better react to the heat when you go outside.

If you must go outside, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. A hat can help shade your face from the direct sunlight. Protect your skin by using sunscreen with SPF 30 or above.

It’s important to stay hydrated when temperatures rise. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Make sure your pets have plenty of fresh, cool water. Keep their water bowl out of direct sunlight.

Never leave children or pets in the car – no exceptions. Even when temperatures outside are mild, the temperature inside the car can reach 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes.

ENERGY CONSERVATIONS TIPS & FLEX ALERTS

Flex Alerts ask consumers to voluntarily conserve electricity when there’s an anticipated supply shortage. When you use less energy during a Flex Alert, you reduce the likelihood of rotating power outages.

Flex Alerts are issued a day before so consumers can prepare by shifting energy use from afternoon to morning.

BEFORE AN ALERT

  • Pre-cool your home by lowering the thermostat to 72 degrees
  • Close blinds and drapes to keep the heat out
  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Charge mobile devices, laptops, and medical equipment
  • Use dishwashers, washing machines, and other major appliances before 3pm

DURING AN ALERT

  • Avoid using major appliances
  • Set your thermostat to 78 degrees
  • Unplug or turn off electrical devices that are not in use
  • Use fans when possible

Be prepared to reduce your energy use – sign up to receive Flex Alerts.

STAY INFORMED

Stay alert for information about upcoming extreme heat conditions. Anyone is at risk for heat-related illness. Check in on neighbors who may have mobility issues or no air conditioning.

For more tips on conserving energy, visit: https://www.flexalert.org/save-energy

Link to this article on Cal OES website

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect Friday, 6/18 for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy. High levels of ozone pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions. You can help protect your health by avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.

You can help improve air quality by working remotely, taking transit, walking or biking, and by driving less every day.

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The California ISO issued a FlexAlert for today from 5 to 10 p.m.

The California #ISO issued a #FlexAlert today from 5 to 10 p.m., encouraging consumers to reduce their energy use to help relieve stress on the grid. Go to http://FlexAlert.org for conservation measures.

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Are you ready for a “Flex Alert”

Flex Alerts are voluntary calls for consumers to conserve electricity.

A Flex Alert is typically issued in the summer when extremely hot weather pushes up energy demand as it reaches available capacity. This usually happens in the evening hours when solar generation is going offline and consumers are returning home and switching on air conditioners, lights, and appliances.

View Today’s Outlook for current grid conditions

Sign up to receive Flex Alets – http://www.caiso.com/TodaysOutlook/FlexAlert/FlexAlertSubscriptionForm.html

Energy savings hints – https://flexalert.org/save-energy/energy-saving-tips

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Draft Plan Bay Area 2050 Released

After three years of public discussion and technical work and an unprecedented outreach effort, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) released the Draft Plan Bay Area 2050 Document and Implementation Plan for public comment in late May, with the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) released in early June. 

Plan Bay Area 2050 is a long-range plan charting the course for the future of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. The Draft Plan Bay Area 2050 focuses on four key issues: the economy, the environment, housing and transportation; outlines 35 bold strategies for growth and investment through 2050; and identifies a path to make the Bay Area more equitable for all residents and more resilient in the face of unexpected challenges. The Draft Plan Document, Implementation Plan, and EIR are available for review at planbayarea.org/draftplan2050, with comments accepted through July 20th at 5:00 PM. The Final Plan Bay Area 2050 will be considered for adoption by the ABAG Executive Board and the Commission in the fall.

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Real hot weather – How to stay cool and sleep at night

Weather.com forecast

Tuesday – forecast 90 record high 110

Wednesday – forecast 102 record high 114

Thursday – forecast 109 record high 117

Friday – forecast 105 record high 110

Saturday – forecast 99 record high 102

Creative Ways to Stay Cool 

  1. Cool your pulse points by running cold water or ice cubes over your wrists for a few minutes. Because the veins are closest to the surface of your skin here, the cooling sensation works much faster to lift the heat from your whole body.
  2. Place a cold cloth or cold pack on the back of your neck and leave it there for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Eat small meals rather than large ones as digestion raises the body’s core temperature.
  4. Freeze a couple of water bottles (freeze one for Fido, too, and put it in the pet’s bed to keep him cool) and use them to cool down pulse points.
  5. Fill a bowl with cool water, and dip your little piggies right in. Add some ice if you’re brave, but don’t overdo it. 
  6. Freeze your sheets, gather your bedsheets into a bag and place them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before bed.
  7. Pick a fight with your significant other just before bedtime. That way you don’t have to sleep with that heavy-breathing, heat-radiating mammal for once. Sleeping alone has its perks, including plenty of space to stretch out. Snoozing in spread-eagle position (with your arms and legs not touching each other) is best for reducing body heat and letting air circulate around your body.
  8. Turn off the lights. Take advantage of natural light as much as possible. Keep rooms cool after dark by using lights minimally or not at all.
  9. Cool a whole room by hanging a wet sheet in front of an open window. The breeze blowing in will quickly bring down the room’s temperature.
  10. Sleep like an Egyptian. Those Nile-dwellers knew how to do it right. The “Egyptian method” involves dampening a sheet or towel in cool water and using it as a blanket. Place a dry towel under your body to avoid soaking the mattress.
  11. Place a Fan In Front of a Bowl of Ice, put a bowl of ice (or frozen water bottles) in front of a regular fan. The air from the fan will blow several degrees cooler, providing some relief from the heat.
  12. Get a leg up on hydration by drinking a glass of water before bed. Tossing and turning and sweating at night can result in dehydration, so get some H2O in the tank beforehand.
  13. Protect your pets. A couple of ice cubes in their water bowl can also make a big difference and, of course, keep them out of hot cars.

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Recalling a California governor, explained

California is one of 19 states that allow voters to remove state officials before the end of their term. No reason is necessary — the only requirement to put a recall on the ballot is enough voter signatures. That number must be 12% of voters in the last election for the office, and must include voters in at least five counties. The magic number for Newsom’s would-be recallers: 1,495,709 valid signatures.  

Election officials announced on April 26 that the recall campaign submitted 1,626,042 valid signatures — enough to qualify for the ballot. State officials must complete a few more steps to finalize the process, and then:

  • An election will be held later this year. A date depends on when various preliminary steps are done, but could be as soon as September.
  • Voters will be asked two questions: Do they want to recall Newsom, yes or no? And, if more than 50% of voters say “yes,” who should replace him? 

If more than 50% of voters opt for a “yes” on the recall question, whoever comes first on the replacement list is immediately hired as the state’s next chief executive. 

The California Constitution provides that voters may recall a state officer and, in the same election, elect a successor. The Constitution prohibits an officer who is the subject of a recall election from being a candidate for successor.

This is where things get strange. There’s no limit on the number of candidates who can run to replace an official on a recall ballot. And whoever gets the most votes wins — even without a majority. So it’s entirely possible that someone could be elected in a recall while winning less than half the votes. That’s what happened in 2003, when then-Gov. Gray Davis was recalled by 55% of voters. More than 100 people ran to replace him, carving up the votes and allowing action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger to win with 48.6% support.

Candidates for governor must be a U.S. citizen, registered to vote in California, and have not been convicted of a felony involving bribery or embezzlement. All it takes to run is paying a filing fee of about $4,000 or submitting signatures from 7,000 supporters. Candidates to replace Newsom have until 59 days before the election to file the required paperwork.

Registered voters will get a ballot in the mail. Options for returning your ballot — at a polling place, drop-off box or by mail — will depend on where you live.

Attempts to recall politicians are extremely common in California, and growing more common nationwideSuccessful recalls remain rare.

The only California governor ever recalled — and just the second nationwide — was Gray Davis. At the start of his second term, the Democrat faced the wrath of voters over his handling of the electricity crisis, a massive state deficit and an increase in vehicle license fees. 

Since then, only one other gubernatorial recall has made the ballot in the U.S. — the 2012 attempt to throw Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker out of office. It failed. Read More > at CalMatters

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Sunday Reading – 06/13/2021

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.

Masks at work? California can’t decide – Masks at school, but not at the store. Well, unless you work at the store. But store employees may only have to wear masks until June 28. As long as they’re fully vaccinated. But it’s up to businesses to figure out how to verify employees’ vaccination status. Or not.

If that sounds confusing, then it’s an accurate portrayal of the patchwork of policies various state agencies unveiled Wednesday, six days before California’s grand reopening.

First, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s top health officer, announced that California will on June 15 align its mask rules with that of the federal government: Fully vaccinated people can forgo face coverings in most settings, with notable exceptions including K-12 school classrooms and public transportation.

Then, the standards board of the state’s workplace safety agency voted to repeal the mask policy it passed last week after changing its mind twice. It will consider modifying the policy yet again on June 17, with changes — which could include allowing fully vaccinated workers to go maskless — set to go into effect June 28.

In the meantime, even stricter emergency regulations will snap back into place — meaning all employees, even those who are fully vaccinated, must wear masks and physically distance, among other requirements.

As if those announcements — intended to answer the unresolved questions hanging over California’s full reopening — weren’t complicated enough, other key details were left up in the air. Chief among them: How will businesses distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees? And although businesses have some leeway to determine customers’ vaccination status, can one of the options — the honor system — be relied on to keep everyone safe?

For answers to your reopening-related questions, check out this Q&A from CalMatters’ Ben Christopher. Read More > at CalMatters

California tells public to prepare for heatwave; power prices soar – The California power grid operator told the public to prepare to conserve energy next week if needed as homes and businesses crank up their air conditioners to escape what is forecast to be a brutal heatwave.

Already, power prices across the U.S. West spiked to their highest since the February freeze when natural gas pipelines and wind turbines froze in Texas leaving millions without power.

The California ISO, which operates the state’s power grid, said in a release that “It is still too early to know the precise impact that next week´s high temperatures will have on the electric grid.”

But the ISO said it will notify the public if it needs to take steps to reduce electricity use, including a call for public conservation and if the grid becomes seriously stressed, rotating outages.

Last summer, a heatwave in August forced California utilities to impose rotating blackouts that left over 400,000 homes and businesses without power for up to 2-1/2 hours when energy supplies ran short.

High temperatures next week will reach the low 90s degrees Fahrenheit (about 34 C) in Los Angeles on Monday-Wednesday, which is about 20 degrees higher than the normal high for this time of year, according to AccuWeather forecasts.

The group responsible for North American electric reliability has already warned that California is the U.S. region most at risk of power shortages this summer because the state increasingly relies on intermittent energy sources like wind and solar… Read More > in the Daily Mail

74% of California and 52% of Western U.S. now in ‘exceptional’ drought – Drought conditions in California remain at record highs, with most of the state now classified in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, reflecting conditions across the Southwest, according to a new report from climate scientists.

Much of the Bay Area and the northern Central Valley have been included in the most severe “exceptional drought” zone, along with much of southeast California, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported.

The new projections, released Thursday, show that every acre of California is affected by dryness and that the entire Bay Area and around 74% of the state are at least in “extreme” conditions. In the Western U.S., that condition extends to about 53% of the region.

At the start of the rainfall season last fall, the dryness conditions affected 85% of the state. A year ago, only 3% of California was listed in “extreme drought” and none was in “exceptional drought.”

The least affected drought areas in California, a relative thin area along the Mexico border and a coastal pocket near Oregon, were described as being in “moderate drought.” Read More > from the San Francisco Chronicle

Water: Amazing new map shows the path of every raindrop that hits the United States -Water is like electricity. Most people don’t think about it much until it’s gone.

Now, as California and other Western states find themselves heading into a severe and worsening drought, a new interactive map is providing a breathtaking journey that shows where America’s water comes from and ends up.

The project is called River Runner. It allows anyone to click on any place where a raindrop would fall in the United States, and then track its path through watersheds, into creeks, rivers, lakes and ultimately the ocean.

“It has implications for where our pollution goes, and how everyone lives downstream of somewhere else,” said Sam Learner, a 27-year-old web developer who built the map in nine days using massive databases from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The map —  located at river-runner.samlearner.com — zooms across detailed 3-D topography showing natural features, buildings, highways and other landmarks. Read More > in The Mercury News

Infestation can occur in California’: What to know about the tick time-bomb – The Weather Channel recently announced that most of the U.S. will be a “a tick time-bomb” in 2021, and displayed a map showing that in California, the threat ticks pose this year is slightly above average. And despite the drought — which would normally be a deterrent for ticks — scientists are noticing more of those bloodsuckers on the coast than ever.

To better understand how weather patterns this year might affect tick season in California, SFGATE spoke with Colorado State University tick researcher Daniel Salkeld, who sits on the board of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation and authored a recent and terrifying study concerning suitable tick habitats in California.

The study found that disease-carrying ticks once thought to mostly inhabit woodlands are also abundant near Northern California’s coastline, lying in wait within the grassy areas on sand dunes that people walk through to get to the beach. And here’s the kicker: in these coastal environments around the Bay Area, the study found that as many as 31% of the ticks carried harmful bacteria. Read More > at SF Gate

Newsom and California lawmakers approved to receive pay raise amid improving economy – Gov. Gavin Newsom, California legislators and other state elected officials were approved to receive a 4.2% salary increase this year after a state panel cited improving state finances and higher raises going to rank-and-file state workers as factors in the decision.

The California Citizens Compensation Commission, which is appointed by the governor, voted 4 to 0 to approve the pay hikes at its annual meeting Tuesday, Chairman Tom Dalzell said. The increases take effect in December.

Dalzell noted that other state employees were already getting slightly higher raises. Read More > from the Los Angeles Times

The dream team: Scientists find drug duo that may cure COVID-19 together – COVID-19 continues to claim lives around the world and is infecting millions more. Although several vaccines have recently become available, making significant strides towards preventing COVID-19, what about the treatment of those who already have the infection? Vaccines aren’t 100% effective, highlighting the need—now more than ever—for effective antiviral therapeutics. Moreover, some people can’t receive vaccines due to health issues, and new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that can penetrate vaccine-conferred immunity, are being reported, indicating that we need to think beyond prevention.

Given this need, a team of researchers based in Japan, the US, and the UK launched a project to develop effective therapeutics. This team included several researchers based at Tokyo University of Science: Visiting Professor Koichi Watashi, Dr. Hirofumi Ohashi, Professor Shin Aoki, Professor Kouji Kuramochi, and Assistant Professor Tomohiro Tanaka. Their goal was clear and simple: finding a cure for COVID-19.

To achieve this goal, the researchers first established an experimental system for screening drugs that may help to control infections. This system used a type of cells called VeroE6/TMPRSS2 cells, which were manipulated to efficiently be infected with and produce SARS-CoV-2. “To determine whether a drug of interest could help combat infection by SARS-CoV-2, we simply had to expose VeroE6/TMPRSS2 cells to both the drug and SARS-CoV-2 and then observe whether the drug’s presence served to hinder the virus’s efforts to infect cells,” explains Professor Watashi.

The researchers used this experimental system to screen a panel of drugs that are already approved for clinical use, including drugs like remdesivir and chloroquine that have already being approved or are being trialed as treatments for COVID-19. In an exciting outcome, the researchers found two drugs that provided effective SARS-CoV-2 suppression: cepharanthine, which is used to treat inflammation, and nelfinavir, which is approved for the treatment of HIV infection. Read More > at Medical Xpress

Health officers in 10 greater SF Bay Area counties make statement on schools – A delegation of health officers from 10 counties and one city in the greater San Francisco Bay Area released a statement Friday supporting the opening of California schools for full-time in person learning across all grades for fall 2021. 

Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and the city of Berkeley all joined the effort, saying “lack of in-person learning has disrupted education, weakened the social supports provided by school communities, negatively impacted mental health, and prevented participation in the rituals and shared milestones that tie our communities together.”

Schools in California aren’t required by law to reopen and while Gov. Gavin Newsom has encouraged schools to reopen with economic incentives, he hasn’t issued a mandate to force reopening.  Read More > SF Gate

Alameda County’s new COVID death toll is 25% lower than thought – A quarter of all deaths previously attributed to COVID-19 in Alameda County weren’t actually caused by the coronavirus, the Alameda County Public Health Department announced today.  

That puts the county’s new official COVID-19 death toll at 1,223, down from 1,634.

The 25% decrease—or 411 cases—is due to the fact that COVID “wasn’t a direct cause” of death in these cases, according to county health officials. 

County officials decided to revise the numbers after they reviewed guidance from the California Department of Public Health about how to classify deaths as being caused by COVID-19. The new count more accurately reflects how many people died as a direct result of, or complications from, a COVID-19 infection. Read More > at Oaklandside

Taxpayers Fleeing California Take $8.8 Billion In Gross Income to Other StatesCalifornia, with its relatively large tax burden compared to other states, has seen a taxpayer exodus in recent years and, along with it, billions in taxable gross income.

State-to-state migration data recently released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) shows that California lost an estimated net 70,534 households—or 165,355 taxpayers and their dependents—in the years 2017-2018, with those fleeing taking around $8.8 billion in net adjusted gross income with them.

Interstate migration flows are influenced by a number of  factors, including retirement, job opportunities, and housing costs…

The top three beneficiaries of the California exodus were Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. The bulk of the departing Californians filed their taxes in Texas, with the Republican-led state seeing a net inflow of 72,306 taxpayers and their dependents, and a gross income boost of some $3.4 billion. Read More > in The Epoch Times

10% of LA County Residents Are Preparing to Leave – One in ten LA County residents plans to move out in the next year, according to the USC Dornsife-Union Bank LABarometer livability survey, released last week. That number represents a 40% increase from 2019 when 7% reported plans to leave the county.

Satisfaction with the quality of life in Los Angeles is below the state average but largely unchanged since 2019. Interestingly, residents perceive less crime, vandalism, and drug and alcohol use in their neighborhoods compared to two years ago.

But LA County is experiencing a surge in violent crime. According to Sheriff Alex Villanueva, there has been a 95% increase in homicides this year. Aggravated assaults are up 12.8%, rapes are up 7%, arson is up 22.4%, and grand theft auto has increased by 40%. Read More > at California County News

Will psychedelics become legal in California? – Amid growing scientific research into therapeutic uses for psychedelic drugs and a progressive push to soften punishment for drug crimes, California lawmakers are considering a bill to legalize magic mushrooms, Ecstasy and several other hallucinogenic substances. 

The proposal has set off an intense debate over how far California should go to embrace novel medical treatments and destigmatize drug use without compromising public safety. While research into the potential benefits of psychedelics to treat PTSD, depression and anxiety is becoming increasingly mainstream in academic settings, the bill goes beyond medical applications to allow recreational use of psychedelics. 

Senate Bill 519 would decriminalize the possession and non-commercial sharing of psychedelics by people age 21 or older. It would not permit the sale of psychedelics in government-sanctioned shops the way cannabis is allowed under state law, but sets up the framework for California to move toward regulating psychedelic drugs in the future. 

The measure passed a major hurdle last week, clearing the state Senate with the bare minimum of votes necessary, and now moves to the Assembly, where it will likely continue to divide Democrats who control the Legislature. Read More > at CalMatters

Half of the pandemic’s unemployment money may have been stolen – Criminals may have stolen as much as half of the unemployment benefits the U.S. has been pumping out over the past year, some experts say.

Why it matters: Unemployment fraud during the pandemic could easily reach $400 billion, according to some estimates, and the bulk of the money likely ended in the hands of foreign crime syndicates — making this not just theft, but a matter of national security.

Catch up quick: When the pandemic hit, states weren’t prepared for the unprecedented wave of unemployment claims they were about to face.

  • They all knew fraud was inevitable, but decided getting the money out to people who desperately needed it was more important than laboriously making sure all of them were genuine.

By the numbers: Blake Hall, CEO of ID.me, a service that tries to prevent this kind of fraud, tells Axios that America has lost more than $400 billion to fraudulent claims. As much as 50% of all unemployment monies might have been stolen, he says. Read More > at Axios

Oil hits multi-year highs in third weekly gain on demand recovery – Oil prices reached fresh multi-year highs on Friday, closing out a third straight week of gains on an improved outlook for worldwide demand as rising COVID-19 vaccination rates help lift pandemic curbs.

Brent crude futures settled at $72.69 a barrel, rising 17 cents after reaching their highest since May 2019. For the week, Brent was up 1%.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled at$70.91 a barrel, up 62 cents, settling at their highest since October 2018. WTI was up 1.9% on the week.

U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N) said it expects Brent crude prices to reach $80 per barrel this summer as vaccine rollouts boost global economic activity. read more

“The rollout of the vaccine in North America as well as Europe is helping to restore demand at the same time that OPEC+ has reigned in production,” helping propel oil prices, said Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston.

Data showing road traffic returning to pre-COVID-19 levels in North America and most of Europe was encouraging, ANZ Research analysts said in a note. Read More > at Reuters

Solar Power’s Land Grab Hits a Snag: Environmentalists – MOAPA VALLEY, Nev.—This windswept desert community is full of clean energy supporters including Suzanne Rebich, an airline pilot who recently topped her house with 36 solar panels. About 200 homes generate their own solar energy and a quarter of the local electricity supply comes from hydroelectric power.

All the same, many here are dead set against a planned solar plant atop the Mormon Mesa, which overlooks this valley 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Slated to be the biggest solar plant in the U.S., the Battle Born Solar Project by California-based Arevia Power would carpet 14 square miles—the equivalent of 7,000 football fields—with more than a million solar panels 10 to 20 feet tall. It would be capable of producing 850 megawatts of electricity, or roughly one-tenth of Nevada’s current capacity.

“It will destroy this land forever,” Ms. Rebich, 33, said after riding her bicycle on the 600-foot high mesa.

Across the U.S., more than 800 utility-scale solar projects are under contract to generate nearly 70,000 megawatts of new capacity, enough to power more than 11 million homes, equivalent to Texas and then some. More than half this capacity is being planned for the American Southwest, with its abundance of sunshine and open land.

These large projects are increasingly drawing opposition from environmental activists and local residents who say they are ardent supporters of clean energy. Their objections range from a desire to keep the land unspoiled to protection for endangered species to concerns that their views would no longer be as beautiful. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

McDonald’s Is Testing Voice Automated Drive-Thrus In Wake Of $15 Minimum Wage Proposals – As policymakers nationwide consider minimum wage hikes, executives at McDonald’s are testing new ways to automate their restaurants.

During an investor conference last week, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski announced that the fast food giant is experimenting with voice-ordering technology at ten restaurants in the Chicago area. The system is reportedly 85% accurate.

Kempczinski believes that the technology will appear in restaurants across the country within the next few years.

“There is a big leap between going from 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the U.S. with an infinite number of promo permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather — I mean, on and on and on and on,” said Kempczinski. “Do I think in five years from now you’re going to see a voice in the drive-thru? I do, but I don’t think that this is going to be something that happens in the next year or so.” Read More > in the Daily Wire

CPUC Approves First Driverless Vehicle Passenger Ride Service in State – The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the first vehicle company, Cruise, to have passengers in a driverless vehicle in California.

While eight other companies currently operate driverless vehicle testing permits in California without a safety driver needing to be present, Cruise was the first chosen by CPUC to participate in the Driverless Pilot program to give driverless ride services.

However CPUC has also given numerous limitations under the new permit. According to a CPUC press release, Cruise will not be able to charge for any autonomous vehicle (AV) rides and will have to submit quarterly reports to CPUC about the passenger service operation. And while no safety driver is needed, a remote safety operator will be linked in remotely and can still step in if something goes wrong. Passenger safety will also be a big sticking point for Cruise, as CPUC also requires a Passenger Safety Plan for driverless car operations.

However, CPUC’s push for passengers also comes as a need to help convince consumers of their safety. Many Americans have balked at the prospect of driverless cars, especially after a 2018 incident in Arizona where a self-driving car accidently killed a woman due to the car’s programming not including the recognition of jaywalkers. According to an American Automobile Association (AAA) survey, 54% are too afraid to try a self-driving car, with 32% being unsure of using one. Read More > at California Globe

Millions of electric cars are coming. What happens to all the dead batteries? – The battery pack of a Tesla Model S is a feat of intricate engineering. Thousands of cylindrical cells with components sourced from around the world transform lithium and electrons into enough energy to propel the car hundreds of kilometers, again and again, without tailpipe emissions. But when the battery comes to the end of its life, its green benefits fade. If it ends up in a landfill, its cells can release problematic toxins, including heavy metals. And recycling the battery can be a hazardous business, warns materials scientist Dana Thompson of the University of Leicester. Cut too deep into a Tesla cell, or in the wrong place, and it can short-circuit, combust, and release toxic fumes.

That’s just one of the many problems confronting researchers, including Thompson, who are trying to tackle an emerging problem: how to recycle the millions of electric vehicle (EV) batteries that manufacturers expect to produce over the next few decades. Current EV batteries “are really not designed to be recycled,” says Thompson, a research fellow at the Faraday Institution, a research center focused on battery issues in the United Kingdom.

That wasn’t much of a problem when EVs were rare. But now the technology is taking off. Several carmakers have said they plan to phase out combustion engines within a few decades, and industry analysts predict at least 145 million EVs will be on the road by 2030, up from just 11 million last year. “People are starting to realize this is an issue,” Thompson says.

Governments are inching toward requiring some level of recycling. In 2018, China imposed new rules aimed at promoting the reuse of EV battery components. The European Union is expected to finalize its first requirements this year. In the United States, the federal government has yet to advance recycling mandates, but several states, including California—the nation’s largest car market—are exploring setting their own rules.

Complying won’t be easy. Batteries differ widely in chemistry and construction, which makes it difficult to create efficient recycling systems. And the cells are often held together with tough glues that make them difficult to take apart. That has contributed to an economic obstacle: It’s often cheaper for batterymakers to buy freshly mined metals than to use recycled materials. Read More > at Science

Federal prisoners hold $100 million in government-run accounts, shielded from some criminal scrutiny and debt collection – Federal prison inmates are keeping large sums of money — in some cases more than $100,000 each — in government-run deposit accounts effectively shielded from court orders for things like child support, alimony or other debts, and not subject to the same scrutiny as accounts owned by non-incarcerated citizens, according to court documents and interviews.

Within the Federal Bureau of Prisons system, which houses roughly 129,000 inmates in facilities throughout the United States, there are more than 20 inmate accounts holding more than $100,000 each for a total exceeding $3 million, a person familiar with the program told The Washington Post. In all, the combined value of such inmate accounts recently topped $100 million, this person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the program that have remained out of public view.

The program run by the Bureau of Prisons has long frustrated and angered law enforcement officials from other agencies, who say it poses significant risks for abuse, money laundering and corruption, yet the agency, already plagued with staffing and management problems, has for years resisted efforts to change it because its leaders maintain they are already diligent about making inmates pay what they owe. Read More > in The Washington Post

An Italian Artist Auctioned Off an ‘Invisible Sculpture’ for $18,300. It’s Made Literally of Nothing – From the department of “They sold that for how much?!” comes today’s story, about an Italian artist who, for the cool price of €15,000 ($18,300), recently auctioned an artwork that is… well, nothing. 

Last month, the 67-year-old artist Salvatore Garau sold an “immaterial sculpture”—which is to say that it doesn’t exist. 

To be fair, the artist might disagree on conceptual grounds. For Garau, the artwork, titled lo sono (which translates to “I am”), finds form in its own nothingness. “The vacuum is nothing more than a space full of energy, and even if we empty it and there is nothing left, according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, that nothing has a weight,” he told the Spanish news outlet Diario AS. “Therefore, it has energy that is condensed and transformed into particles, that is, into us.”

Lo Sono went up for sale in May at the Italian auction house Art-Rite. The pre-sale estimate valued the piece between €6,000-9,000, according to AS, but competing bidders pushed the price tag to €15,000. Read More > at artnet news

Man stuck for days inside giant fan at California vineyard – Authorities rescued a man who said he had been trapped for two days inside a large fan at a Northern California vineyard.

The man was discovered Tuesday by a deputy responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle parked near the winery in Santa Rosa, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

The deputy saw a hat on a piece of farming equipment and then found the man stuck inside the shaft of a vineyard fan. Firefighters rescued him.

“The man indicated he liked to take pictures of the engines of old farm equipment,” the statement said. “After a thorough investigation, which revealed the farm equipment wasn’t antique and the man had far more methamphetamine than camera equipment, the motivation to climb into the fan shaft remains a total mystery.”

The 38-year-old man required medical treatment but is expected to make a full recovery, the office said. Read More > in the Associated Press

Simone Biles, Mesmerizing in Slow Motion

The Doubling of Life Expectancy Is the Greatest Achievement in 100 Years

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2021’s Best Cities for Gamers – WalletHub Study

With this year’s video game hardware sales up 81% compared to the previous year, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Best Cities for Gamers, as well as accompanying videos

To determine the best places to be a serious gamer, WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across 22 key indicators of gamer-friendliness. The data ranges from average internet speed to video-game stores per capita.

Top 20 Cities for Gamers
1. Irvine, CA11. Los Angeles, CA
2. Austin, TX12. Raleigh, NC
3. San Francisco, CA13. Oakland, CA
4. Seattle, WA14. Plano, TX
5. Orlando, FL15. Madison, WI
6. Anaheim, CA16. Durham, NC
7. Fremont, CA17. Denver, CO
8. San Diego, CA18. Atlanta, GA
9. Washington, DC19. Portland, OR
10. San Jose, CA20. New York, NY

Best vs. Worst

  • Las Vegas has the most video-game stores per square root of the population, 0.031378, which is 26 times more than in Boston, the city with the fewest at 0.001209.
     
  • Irvine, California, has the highest average download speed, 89 Mbps, which is 3.6 times higher than in Buffalo, New York, the city with the lowest at 25 Mbps.
     
  • Gilbert, Arizona, has the highest share of households with a broadband connection, 95.80 percent, which is 1.5 times higher than in Detroit, the city with the lowest at 64.40 percent.
     
  • Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has the cheapest monthly internet cost, $41.88, which is three times cheaper than in Anchorage, Alaska, the city with the most expensive at $123.85.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit: 
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-cities-for-gamers/36270

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Bears in Oakley

Last Friday morning a video of a black bear wandering an Oakley neighborhood near Marsh Creek on the north side of E. Cypress Rd. was captured by a ring doorbell system. According to East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) wildlife managers the sighting was described as “remarkable”. In the days following a bear, probably the same one, was reported at various locations along Marsh Creek and in a Discovery Bay neighborhood.

Where did it come from?

EBRPD noted that a bear was sighted at Bird’s Landing in Solano County a couple days before, so there is some speculation that if it was the same bear, it swam across the Sacramento River and a couple of sloughs to get to Oakley. Spring is the time of year when juvenile male bears leave their mothers to establish their own territories. In May a bear was spotted in a tree in San Anselmo.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel believe that the bear is traveling southeast from its drought and wildfire-scarred habitat in the Vaca Mountains and may have swum the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers to East County in search of food and other resources.

Bears in California

The California grizzly bear (who adorns our state flag) is an extinct population or subspecies of the brown bear, generally known as the grizzly bear.  Within 75 years after the discovery of gold, the California grizzly had become extinct. The last known grizzly in the Bay Area was killed in the 1880s near Bonny Doon north of Santa Cruz. In August  of 1922, Jesse B. Agnew was the last to hunt and kill a California grizzly at Horse Corral Meadows in Tulare County. After the sighting of one lone bear near Sequoia National Park in 1925, the California grizzly was never seen again.

The state is now home to only two subspecies of black bears: the California black bear (Ursus americana californiensis) and the northwestern black bear (Ursus americana altifrontalis). Experts believe the Klamath Mountains form the border between the two. In California, black bears are usually brown, reddish brown and sometimes blond or blue-grey. It’s uncommon to see true black bears in the west. EBRPD wildlife managers tell us the statewide bear population has increased from an estimated 10,000-15,000 bears in 1982 to now about 30,000-40,000 bears.

From the CDFW website – “There are hundreds of thousands of acres of wild habitat in nearby Lake, Solano, Colusa, Sonoma and Napa counties where bears are present. The Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County, the lands around Lake Berryessa and the Cache Creek area provide wild habitat for bears and other wildlife. These rugged areas, however, are not that far from population centers in the greater Bay Area where dispersing and foraging bears could accidentally end up.

Black bears very rarely pose any kind of public safety threat and are not often a threat to domestic dogs and cats. For the most part, they do their very best to stay as far away from people as possible.”

From KGO – “Whether it’s in a backyard in Los Angeles or in a tree in suburban Marin County, if it feels like you’re starting to hear of more bear sightings in more unusual places, you’re not exactly wrong. Experts say they’re noticing this happening, too.

According to Rebecca Barboza, a wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the reasons for this vary, but an increasing bear population combined with the drought are believed to be leading factors.”

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Delta Conveyance Project to Host Informational Webinars

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is hosting four informational webinars between July and September 2021 to provide background information related to preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  

While not a requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act, DWR is planning the webinars to keep the public and interested stakeholders informed about the current progress related to preparation of the Draft EIR. Each webinar will feature presentations from technical staff about the approaches, methodologies and assumptions to be utilized in conducting impact analyses in the Draft EIR. Information about impact findings and specific mitigation measures is not expected to be available but will be included in future outreach efforts following publication of the Draft EIR.

All information and materials related to the webinars can be found here.

Webinar Schedule and Registration Information

  • Operations of the State Water Project and Delta Conveyance 
    Wednesday, July 14, 2021 | 6:00pm – 7:30pm 
    REGISTER HERE 
  • Fisheries
    Tuesday, August 3, 2021 | 6:00pm – 7:30pm
    REGISTER HERE 
  • Climate Change
    Wednesday, August 25, 2021 | 6:00pm – 7:30pm
    REGISTER HERE 
  • Environmental Justice 
    Thursday, September 16, 2021 | 6:00pm – 7:30pm
    REGISTER HERE

Topic Details

  • Operations of the State Water Project and Delta Conveyance
    • State Water Project (SWP) basics, including how water moves through the Delta and current SWP operations
    • Future challenges and risks to SWP
    • Methods to model operations for Delta Conveyance Project environmental review
    • Interpretation and use of modeling results
    • Water quality requirements and related operational constraints
  • Fisheries 
    • Environmental setting details, including fish species evaluated, migration patterns and fish life cycles
    • Fish screen considerations
    • Models, data and analytical methods being used for evaluating potential impacts 
  • Climate Change
    • DWR’s overall climate change planning efforts, including the Department’s Climate Action Plan
    • Purpose of climate change analysis for the Delta Conveyance Project
    • Current climate change data
    • Approach to climate resiliency evaluation in the Draft EIR
    • Climate change and other resource area analytical methods being used for evaluating potential impacts, including for air quality and traffic 
  • Environmental Justice
    • Environmental Justice (EJ) Survey results overview, including lessons learned about EJ outreach in the Delta
    • Environmental Justice evaluation methodology to be included in the Draft EIR, including National Environmental Policy Act methods considered and the use of EJ Survey data 

Webinar Format
The webinars will include a presentation and an opportunity to ask clarifying questions regarding the material presented. 

The webinars will be conducted using Zoom and can be accessed through the internet or by using your phone. For instructions on how to use Zoom, click here. Closed captioning will also be provided. Meeting material will be available in English and Spanish, and a simultaneous Spanish translation will be offered during each webinar. 
 
Additional information regarding planned webinar topics will be sent out and posted prior to each session, along with the Zoom link and call-in information. 

If you cannot attend but are interested in the information covered, the presentation and a video recording of each webinar will be made available. If you have any questions on the content covered before or after each event, please email DeltaConveyance@water.ca.gov
 
About the Delta Conveyance Project The proposed Delta Conveyance Project would modernize the water transport infrastructure in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) by adding new facilities to divert water and upgrading the current conveyance system to also include a tunnel for conveyance. If approved, these updates would ensure climate resiliency and the reliability of the state’s largest source of safe, affordable and clean water for 27 million Californians, 750,000 acres of farmland and continued support for local water supply projects such as regional stormwater capture, water conservation, recycled water and groundwater management. The Delta is the center of California’s vital water distribution system and a critical link in how water is moved to all parts of the state, however, the infrastructure that moves this water through the Delta is outdated and at risk of failure due to sea level rise or seismic activity. The infrastructure updates proposed as part of the project would give DWR the flexibility to divert, move and store water, consistent with all regulatory requirements, when it becomes available for use when supplies may otherwise be limited.
 
The project is currently in the initial planning and permitting phase, including compliance with state and federal environmental review processes and all other required regulatory approvals. Additional project-related information and resources can be found here.

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FREE Emergency Preparedness Training on June 29th at 12:00 noon to 1:00.

Emergency Preparedness Training Registration

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$56.5B Drop in Credit Card Debt during Q1 2021 & Cities with the Biggest Paydowns – WalletHub Reports

After a record-setting year for credit card debt reduction in 2020, U.S. consumers maintained their strong performance during the first quarter of 2021, paying off $56.5 billion in credit card debt, according to the personal-finance website WalletHub’s latest Credit Card Debt Study, released today.

Although credit card debt levels are becoming more manageable nationwide, some areas have bigger payment problems than others. With that in mind, WalletHub compared more than 180 of the largest cities based on how much residents owe to credit card companies – specifically, how those balances changed in Q1.

Please find key takeaways below, along with commentary from WalletHub experts (audio and video files included).

Cities with the Biggest Debt PaydownCities with the Smallest Debt Paydown
Santa Clarita, CAFargo, ND
New York, NYBuffalo, NY
Chesapeake, VAAkron, OH
Chula Vista, CACedar Rapids, IA
Pembroke Pines, FLMilwaukee, WI
Pearl City, HIToledo, OH
Santa Ana, CACleveland, OH
Virginia Beach, VALewiston, ME
Rancho Cucamonga, CAMadison, WI
Plano, TXDetroit, MI

Credit Card Debt Study Key Stats:

  • Continued Debt Reduction. Credit card debt decreased by $56.5 billion during Q1 2021, following a record paydown of $82.1 billion in 2020.
     
  • Bigger Paydown Than Normal. Consumers’ Q1 2021 credit card debt paydown was 51% larger than the post-Great Recession average for a first quarter.
     
  • Rising Charge-Offs. At 2.95% for Q1 2021, the credit card charge-off rate is up by 14.3% compared to last quarter.
     
  • Ease Your Debt. The best balance transfer credit cards currently offer 0% APRs for the first 15-20 months with no annual fee and balance transfer fees as low as 3%.
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FDA approves Biogen Alzheimer’s treatment

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Summer 2021 – All Fireworks Are Illegal in the City of Oakley!

Summer is nearly here, Sunday, June 20, and Fourth of July celebrations are just around the corner. Please be reminded that the use, possession, manufacture, and sale of fireworks is illegal in the both the City of Oakley and the County of Contra Costa. The dry conditions make unlawful fireworks activity an extreme fire hazard. Our local firefighters are stretched thin enough without the added burden of an unnecessary fire resulting from irresponsible behavior. In an effort to curb the use of illegal fireworks, the Oakley Police Department will have extra staff members on duty. Fireworks will be seized and citations will be issued to those found in possession of fireworks. Please help us avoid tragedy this year by setting an example to your friends, children, and family by not participating in illegal firework activity. Report Illegal Fireworks

Oakley Municipal Code 4.1.102

“No person shall possess, manufacture, sell, use or discharge, or offer to do so, any fireworks (including “dangerous,” “safe and sane,” and other fireworks) as defined in or pursuant to Health and Safety Code Sections 12502 through 12534, other than emergency signaling devices, as defined therein, properly used by railroads, peace officers, firefighters, and motorists.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 240 people on average go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the 4th of July holiday. The most common places to be burned are hands and fingers — with sparklers being the biggest offender.

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Sunday Reading – 06/06/2021

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.

Masks at work, unless all vaccinated – California is set to fully reopen its economy and end its mask mandate on June 15 — but it appears many of us could still be wearing masks well past that date. That’s because the state’s workplace safety agency on Thursday night passed rules that require employees to wear masks unless everyone in the room is fully vaccinated — something almost impossible to ascertain for many businesses, as the state is not creating a vaccine passport system

However, the Cal/OSHA standards board also emphasized it will consider further loosening restrictions. It initially voted to reject the rules it eventually adopted, but that would have kept even stricter emergency regulations in place. The about-face occurred after a heated debate that lasted more than nine hours and drew about 800 participants.

Business groups said the loosened rules — which still have to be reviewed by the state Office of Administrative Law — strained credulity.

Industry groups also pushed back on a requirement that employers provide N95 masks for unvaccinated workers. Labor groups, meanwhile, said heightened safety standards are necessary to protect workers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who could overturn the rules via executive order, declined to take a stance on the issue Thursday. But he extended through the end of the year two other temporary pandemic measures: the ability for restaurants to offer to-go alcoholic drinks and expanded outdoor dining.

  • Newsom: “I’ve been up and down the state, and parklets have taken off everywhere. All I can say is, ‘Eat your heart out, Paris.’”

Another thing that’s stayed the same: California’s vaccination rate, which has continued to fall despite Newsom’s $116.5 million vaccine incentive program. But the governor’s administration is optimistic it will start ticking up today, when the state unveils the first 15 winners of a $50,000 cash prize. The next 15 winners will be announced June 11, and 10 Californians will win $1.5 million each on June 15, the date of the state’s grand reopening. You can find more information about the program here. Read More > at CalMatters

Gavin Newsom Says He Will Not Lift California State Of Emergency, Give Up Emergency Powers On June 15 – “The one thing I am certain of is: There’s uncertainty in the future,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday at an event to pick winners in the state’s lottery-style Covid-19 vaccination incentive program.

Asked if he would, on June 15, lift the state of emergency that has given him the extraordinary powers to mandate such restrictions, the governor said, “The emergency remains in effect after June 15.” That date is Newsom’s own self-declared deadline to lift most Covid restrictions.

Asked to explain the reasoning behind the decision, Newsom said, “Because we’re still in a state of emergency. This disease is still in effect. It is not taking the summer off.”

The governor indicated he may need those emergency powers in the near future. “Some modifications may need to be in order on the basis of changing conditions,” he said.

Newsom was also pressed repeatedly at the event to clarify what some called the “confusing” recommendation of a CalOSHA board the night before. After a seven-hour public meeting, the board seemed to approve recommending masks be required in the workplace if everyone is not vaccinated. That would leave mask requirements in place past Newsom’s stated deadline to lift most Covid restrictions. It would also seem to penalize unvaccinated workers. The board set up a subcommittee to further study the issue.

The governor today said he was unable to be definitive about the meaning of the board’s recommendations. Read More > at Deadline

The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins – Since December 1, 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has infected more than 170 million people around the world and killed more than 3.5 million. To this day, we don’t know how or why this novel coronavirus suddenly appeared in the human population. Answering that question is more than an academic pursuit: Without knowing where it came from, we can’t be sure we’re taking the right steps to prevent a recurrence.

…On February 19, 2020, The Lancet, among the most respected and influential medical journals in the world, published a statement that roundly rejected the lab-leak hypothesis, effectively casting it as a xenophobic cousin to climate change denialism and anti-vaxxism. Signed by 27 scientists, the statement expressed “solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China” and asserted: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

The Lancet statement effectively ended the debate over COVID-19’s origins before it began. To Gilles Demaneuf, following along from the sidelines, it was as if it had been “nailed to the church doors,” establishing the natural origin theory as orthodoxy. “Everyone had to follow it. Everyone was intimidated. That set the tone.”

The statement struck Demaneuf as “totally nonscientific.” To him, it seemed to contain no evidence or information. And so he decided to begin his own inquiry in a “proper” way, with no idea of what he would find.

…Behind closed doors, however, national security and public health experts and officials across a range of departments in the executive branch were locked in high-stakes battles over what could and couldn’t be investigated and made public.

A months long Vanity Fair investigation, interviews with more than 40 people, and a review of hundreds of pages of U.S. government documents, including internal memos, meeting minutes, and email correspondence, found that conflicts of interest, stemming in part from large government grants supporting controversial virology research, hampered the U.S. investigation into COVID-19’s origin at every step. In one State Department meeting, officials seeking to demand transparency from the Chinese government say they were explicitly told by colleagues not to explore the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s gain-of-function research, because it would bring unwelcome attention to U.S. government funding of it.

There are reasons to doubt the lab-leak hypothesis. There is a long, well-documented history of natural spillovers leading to outbreaks, even when the initial and intermediate host animals have remained a mystery for months and years, and some expert virologists say the supposed oddities of the SARS-CoV-2 sequence have been found in nature.

But for most of the past year, the lab-leak scenario was treated not simply as unlikely or even inaccurate but as morally out-of-bounds. In late March, former Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield received death threats from fellow scientists after telling CNN that he believed COVID-19 had originated in a lab. “I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis,” Redfield told Vanity Fair. “I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science.”

As months go by without a host animal that proves the natural theory, the questions from credible doubters have gained in urgency. To one former federal health official, the situation boiled down to this: An institute “funded by American dollars is trying to teach a bat virus to infect human cells, then there is a virus” in the same city as that lab. It is “not being intellectually honest not to consider the hypothesis” of a lab escape. Read More > at Vanity Fair

California eyes shuttered malls, stores for new housing – California state lawmakers are grappling with a particularly 21st-century problem: What to do with the growing number of shopping malls and big box retail stores left empty by consumers shifting their purchases to the web.

A possible answer in crowded California cities is to build housing on these sites, which already have ample parking and are close to existing neighborhoods.

But local zoning laws often don’t allow housing at these locations. Changing the zoning is such a hassle that many developers don’t bother trying. And it’s often not worth it for local governments to change the designations. They would prefer to find new retailers because sales taxes produce more revenue than residential property taxes.

However, with a stubborn housing shortage pushing prices to all-time highs, state lawmakers are moving to pass new laws to get around those barriers.

A bill that cleared the state Senate last week would let developers build houses on most commercial sites without changing the zoning. Another proposal would pay local governments to change the zoning to let developers build affordable housing. Read More > from the Associated Press

School district challenges pile up – California is on track to notch a nearly record-breaking number of teacher retirements this year — but the tsunami is barely registering as a ripple in many school districts, partly because a record amount of students are also dropping out of public school, CalMatters’ Eli Wolfe reports. But other challenges loom: Many districts are scrambling to find enough teachers to staff summer school sessions, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hire for positions that were already hard to fill before the pandemic, such as special education teachers. Meanwhile, many educators feel ill-equipped to handle the mental health challenges and trauma that students will likely bring into the classroom after a year of isolation and Zoom school. California doesn’t mandate mental health training for K-12 teachers, and its average student-to-counselor ratio last year was 601 to 1 — more than twice the recommended ratio, the Los Angeles Times reports.

They Rage-Quit the School System—and They’re Not Going Back – …Espitia is a part of a wave of parents and caregivers who withdrew their children from US public schools and elected to homeschool because of the pandemic—and she’s part of a group that isn’t going back. The crisis gave rise to a diverse swath of families that are using tech to totally customize their kids’ learning, and they might even change what “going to school” means in the post-pandemic world.

While homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, it has never been considered the American norm. In 2019, homeschooled students represented just 3.2 percent of US students in grades K through 12, or around 1.7 million students. By comparison, 90 percent of US students attend public school. But a March 2021 report from the US Census Bureau indicates an uptick in homeschooling during the pandemic: In spring 2020, 5.4 percent of surveyed households reported homeschooling their children (homeschooling being distinct from remote learning at home through a public or private school). By fall 2020, the figure had doubled to 11.1 percent.

The pandemic may also have given rise to a more diverse group of homeschoolers. In 2012, 84 percent of homeschool families were white. The US Census Bureau’s survey indicates that homeschooling rates increased across all ethnic groups in the past year, and the greatest shift was among Black families, who reported a 3.3 percent rate of homeschooling in spring 2020 and 16.1 percent later in the fall.

Others are striking out to build entire microschools of their own. The promise of a blank canvas appealed to Ivi Kolasi, a parent in Berkeley, California. She and her husband work in tech. Kolasi’s two older stepdaughters, in the sixth and 10th grades, were in public school, and she was already skeptical of traditional classroom learning. The pandemic hit just as her youngest daughter was entering preschool. Could the pandemic be Kolasi’s chance to set her on a different path?

Over the past year, she researched alternative schooling movements, the kinds with lofty names like Democratic schools and maker education. She teamed up with three other preschool families, hired a private teacher, and set up a microschool in her sun-filled attic. On any given school day, the children visit the Oakland Zoo, tend their hydroponic garden, or re-create Yayoi Kusuyama’s dot artwork with multicolored stickers on the wall of the “obliteration room.” Kolasi hopes to expand in the coming years—to move the classroom out of her home, recruit more students, hire a Mandarin instructor, and give her child the years of expansive, creative educational experience that Kolasi has dreamed of. Read More > at Wired

Several Earthquakes Shake Lake Tahoe – With A Big One Overdue, Is It Coming Soon? – Multiple earthquakes rattled the Lake Tahoe region on a week ago Friday, the latest in a sequence that began in late April.

“This summer I have felt two of the strongest I’ve ever felt,” said Lynn Thompson, who was among those shaken by the most recent series of earthquakes near her Tahoe home. “We’re rocking and rolling up here.”

Many in the Tahoe area were wondering what’s next?

“Hm – I wonder if that’s going to be the foreshock, right?,” asked Graham Kent, Director of the Nevada Seismological Lab.

He knows it’s the question that’s got everyone rumbling.

The recent influx of quakes in the region, including one in Truckee just weeks ago, has his attention. Though he says the series isn’t necessarily abnormal, and he’s not worried yet.

Tahoe sits on major fault lines more than a thousand years overdue to rupture, but he says his concern will come when the magnitude hits above 5. Read More > at CBS Sacramento

Outdoor dining, to-go drinks could be here to stay – When the pandemic ravaged businesses across the country, it hit the restaurant industry especially hard. The California Restaurant Association last August warned that of the 90,000 restaurants operating in the state, at least 30% would close without significant government aid. As California counties and cities prepare to reopen entirely to pre-pandemic capacity limits, state and city leaders are exploring ways to permanently adopt some of the emergency measures.

Two bills making their way through the state Legislature, one in the Senate and one in the Assembly, aim to permanently allow restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages. And several cities across the state are voting on whether to extend or cement their outdoor dining programs.

Democratic state Sen. Bill Dodd introduced a bill to allow continued off-site alcoholic beverage sales after realizing how much businesses in his Napa Valley district relied on tourism and alcohol sales to stay afloat.

Dodd’s bill passed unopposed out of the Senate and is now being heard in the Assembly. Alcohol Justice, an industry watchdog group, is the main opposition to the legislation and argues that the bill could threaten public health and safety by increasing drunk driving. Read More > at CalMatters

House Hunters Are Leaving the City, and Builders Can’t Keep Up – They had a down payment. They were prequalified for a mortgage. They were willing to move almost an hour’s drive eastward. But the number that really mattered was “32.”

If a saleswoman standing in a model unit plucked a bingo ball with that number from one of several buckets arrayed on a marble kitchen island, Jezreleen and Eric Namayan would get to pay $662,000 for a five-bedroom home in River Islands, a master planned community built around 13 man-made lakes in California’s Central Valley. If not, the home would go to one of the dozens of other prospective buyers who had lined up next to them on a Zoom webcast of the drawing. The Namayans would remain in a two-bedroom condominium with two teenagers while struggling to penetrate the white hot post-pandemic housing market.

“When they started getting closer to our lot, I almost felt like I was outside looking at myself,” Mrs. Namayan said.

Tired of being cooped up, eager to take advantage of low interest rates and increasingly willing to move two or more hours from the urban core, buyers have propelled new home construction to its highest level since 2006. That was the year when the mid-2000s housing bubble started deflating on its way to what would become the financial crisis and Great Recession.

River Islands, the development where the Namayans hoped to live, is in Lathrop, Calif., which has a population of 25,000. It sits about a half-hour beyond Altamont Pass, whose rolling hills and windmills mark the border between Alameda and San Joaquin Counties. Though technically outside the Bay Area region, Lathrop’s farms and open fields have been steadily supplanted by warehouses and subdivisions as it and nearby cities have become bedroom communities for priced-out workers who commute to the Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

In Livermore, on the eastern side of Alameda County, the typical home value is nearing $1 million, according to Zillow. That falls to $500,000 to $600,000 over the hill in places like TracyManteca and Lathrop. The catch, of course, is that many residents endure draining, multihour commutes.

The pandemic may have upended that economic order, in California and elsewhere. Thousands of families that could afford to do so fled cities last spring, and while some will return, others will not — particularly if they are able to continue to work remotely at least part of the time… Read More > in The New York Times 

Following big-money donations – When Newsom announced his first gubernatorial bid in 2015, donations to his wife’s nonprofit jumped 30%. Since then, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s nonprofit The Representation Project has received more than $800,000 from a dozen corporations that regularly lobby the state Legislature — many of which have also donated to Newsom’s own political committees and given money to other charities at Newsom’s behest, a Sacramento Bee investigation found. Some of the companies, including Kaiser Permanente, have received prominent no-bid state contracts amid the pandemic. Although the corporations say their donations to Siebel Newsom’s nonprofit are separate from their lobbying efforts, the practice has come under fire from ethics experts and other watchdogs — especially since it appears to be increasingly common.

As CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reported last year, Attorney General Rob Bonta — who Newsom recently appointed to the role — solicited more than $560,000 from companies that lobby the Legislature and redirected it to groups that employ his wife. Mia Bonta, who is now running for her husband’s vacant Assembly seat, is receiving thousands of dollars from gaming interests — which may have something to do with the fact that her husband is in charge of writing the title and summary for a recently qualified ballot measure that would allow tribal casinos and horse-racing tracks to conduct sports betting. Read More > at CalMatters

‘Shrinkflation’ – We already know that top inflation metrics have recently surged, and executives at companies like Costco are warning that price hikes are hurting their customers. Now, there’s a new inflation consequence hitting consumers: “Shrinkflation.”

I’d never heard the term before today, but new reporting from the Washington Post explains how some companies are dealing with inflation in their supply costs by shrinking the sizes of their products, to avoid the customer backlash that comes with raising sticker prices.

“Consumers are paying more for a growing range of household staples in ways that don’t show up on receipts — thinner rolls, lighter bags, smaller cans — as companies look to offset rising labor and materials costs without scaring off customers,” the Post reports. “It’s a form of retail camouflage known as ‘shrinkflation,’ and economists and consumer advocates who track packaging expect it to become more pronounced as inflation ratchets up, taking hold of such everyday items such as paper towels, potato chips and diapers.” Read More > at the Foundation for Economic Education

Lumber Is Crazy Expensive Right Now. Biden Is About To Make It Worse. – Amid surging lumber prices that are already adding an average of $36,000 to the construction cost of new homes, the Biden administration is moving forward with plans to double tariffs on lumber imported from Canada.

The Commerce Department announced on Friday that it was taking the first step toward hiking so-called “anti-dumping tariffs” on Canadian lumber from an average rate of 8.99 percent in 2018 to 18.32 percent for 2019. Yes, 2019. If approved through what is likely to be a lengthy review process, the tariffs would apply retroactively to purchases made for the past two years. That means American importers could be on the hook for millions of dollars in taxes they didn’t even know they would owe—taxes that will likely be passed down the supply chain in the form of higher prices.

That’s only the first bit of insanity here. Anti-dumping tariffs, in theory, are meant to cancel out what’s seen as unfair subsidies for foreign competitors to American companies. They are supposed to be deployed in order to prevent import prices from becoming so low that they threaten domestic producers—even though there’s really nothing terrible about low prices for imports.

But lumber prices are anything but low right now. In fact, they are up over 250 percent in the past year, and the price per thousand feet of board lumber just hit an all-time high. Read More > at Reason

Uber and Lyft rides are pricier due to a lack of drivers (and the waits are longer, too) – Uber and Lyft rides have been almost twice as expensive over the past few months in the US, because the ride-hailing companies have been having difficulties meeting demand. More and more people are going back to their old routines after getting fully vaccinated, which translates to higher demand for rides as passengers fire up their apps to go to work or to meet friends. In fact, Uber had its biggest total gross bookings this March. Not all ride-hailing drivers are keen on getting back on the road yet, however, and as The New York Times says, both Uber and Lyft admit prices are up as a result. 

In the event that demand outstrips supply, ride-hailing services typically resort to surge pricing to entice more drivers to a certain area. Surge pricing has been more common recently, though, and in some cases, can cost riders as much as a plane ride. A recent analysis by Rakuten Intelligence found that the cost of a ride in April was up 40 percent from the same period last year.

A few days ago, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said at a JP Morgan media conference that “surge level prices have increased” and wait times are longer as driver supply can’t keep up with the demand in the US. According to Uber’s latest earnings report, there were 3.5 million active drivers and couriers in the first quarter of 2021, down 22 percent from a year ago. Read More > at Engadget

Small NorCal Gas Station Boasts The Most Expensive Gas In The Country – A small, independently-owned gas station in the Northern California enclave of Mendocino now has a claim to fame: the most expensive gas prices in the nation.

Schlafer’s Auto Body & Repair, located in Mendocino — about 150 miles north of San Francisco — is currently charging $6.73 per gallon of regular, the San Francisco Gate reports.

It is the most expensive single gas station in the nation, according to GasBuddy.

For context, the average price of gas in Los Angeles County Thursday was $4.23 per gallon, according to AAA. California’s average gas price sits at $4.20 per gallon, while the nationwide average is at $3.04. Read More > at CBS Los Angeles

The Political Economy of Ransomware – Ransomware is really good at extorting money, and it can also be good at extracting geopolitical concessions. On May 7, Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million to restore its systems after DarkSide used encryption to hold hostage the pipeline, which supplies nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel to 50 million people. Then, late last month, the cyber insurance company CNA paid a staggering $40 million in ransom. The problem is that, although it may be comforting to believe that these events have nothing to do with geopolitics, next time around the hackers may want something more than bitcoins.

Many scholars and observers agree that coercion is inherently difficult in cyberspace, but ransomware is quickly emerging as a counterexample. Ransomware has been able to successfully extort victims not simply because of the use of cryptocurrency, which is more difficult to trace than cash, nor just because Russia offers safe havens to cyber criminals, as some have argued. In fact, insights from game theory show that extortion using encryption has been successful so far also because it is, in many ways, a better technology for hostage-taking compared to preexisting methods, such as sieges and blockades.

This means that a failure to reconsider the fundamentals of cyber coercion could lead to strategic surprise, if U.S. policymakers fail to anticipate states using encryption coercively. For example, in 2014 North Korea tried to coerce Sony into dropping the release of The Interview because it found the movie’s portrayal of Kim Jong Un objectionable. Their next attempt at cyber coercion may leverage totally different tools.

Ransomware’s prevalence is reminiscent of the “Golden Age of Piracy.” It is fast becoming one of the biggest cyber threats in both the public and private sectors. Cybersecurity Ventures projected that, in 2021, a ransomware attack would occur every 11 seconds and the total economic damage from ransomware attacks would amount to $20 billion. The average ransom paid is rising fast as well, from $115,123 in 2019 to $312,493 in 2020. This number is likely to grow even more in 2021, as companies are frequently paying ransom amounts in the millions. In a survey of 5,000 IT managers across 26 countries, 51 percent said they had suffered a ransomware attack within the past year. The sectors affected are also diverse, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, retail, energy, and financial services. By any measure, ransomware has become a successful business model for cyber criminals. Read More > at War on the Rocks

Will there be resource wars in our renewable energy future? – Thanks to its very name — renewable energy — we can picture a time in the not-too-distant future when our need for non-renewable fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal will vanish. Indeed, the Biden administration has announced a breakthrough target of 2035 for fully eliminating U.S. reliance on those non-renewable fuels for the generation of electricity. That would be accomplished by “deploying carbon-pollution-free electricity-generating resources,” primarily the everlasting power of the wind and sun.

With other nations moving in a similar direction, it’s tempting to conclude that the days when competition over finite supplies of energy was a recurring source of conflict will soon draw to a close. Unfortunately, think again: while the sun and wind are indeed infinitely renewable, the materials needed to convert those resources into electricity — minerals like cobalt, copper, lithium, nickel, and the rare-earth elements, or REEs — are anything but. Some of them, in fact, are far scarcer than petroleum, suggesting that global strife over vital resources may not, in fact, disappear in the Age of Renewables.

To appreciate this unexpected paradox, it’s necessary to explore how wind and solar power are converted into usable forms of electricity and propulsion. Solar power is largely collected by photovoltaic cells, often deployed in vast arrays, while the wind is harvested by giant turbines, typically deployed in extensive wind farms. To use electricity in transportation, cars and trucks must be equipped with advanced batteries capable of holding a charge over long distances. Each one of these devices uses substantial amounts of copper for electrical transmission, as well as a variety of other non-renewable minerals. Those wind turbines, for instance, require manganese, molybdenum, nickel, zinc, and rare-earth elements for their electrical generators, while electric vehicles (EVs) need cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and rare earths for their engines and batteries.

At present, with wind and solar power accounting for only about 7% of global electricity generation and electric vehicles making up less than 1% of the cars on the road, the production of those minerals is roughly adequate to meet global demand. If, however, the U.S. and other countries really do move toward a green-energy future of the kind envisioned by President Biden, the demand for them will skyrocket and global output will fall far short of anticipated needs. Read More > at Slate

Humans aren’t overpopulated. We’re aging and shrinking – The 20th century saw the greatest population surge in human history, rising globally from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6 billion in 2000. That trend is over. The majority of demographic data suggest that, despite previous concerns about overpopulation crises, the bigger problem for most parts of the planet will be too few babies.

Data clearly reflects this phenomenon. In Japan, people buy more diapers for the elderly than babies. China, which long enforced a one-child policy, recently raised its child limit to three; the nation expects its population to peak and then decline in 2030. And the population growth rate in the U.S. is at historic lows, reminiscent of the Great Depression era.

A new study published in npj Urban Sustainability explores the future of underpopulation and how it’s likely to affect sustainability goals. Using demographic data from United Nations reports, the study argues that the underpopulation problem is dynamic and twofold: Populations are simultaneously shrinking and ageing.

“Globally, people above 65 years old are the fastest-growing segments of the population and in 2019, for the first time in human history, they outnumbered children younger than 5 years old,” the researchers wrote. “In 2020, 9% of the global population was above 65 years old, accounting for 728 million people. This population is projected to increase more than twofold, reaching 1.55 billion in 2050 and accounting to 16% of global population, at medium fertility rates.” Read More > at Big Think

Why churches keep winning big against California – California churches are coming out of the pandemic smelling like roses.

The state agreed this week to two settlements that block it from imposing new coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship tougher than those for similar secular activities, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher and I report. It’s the latest legal blow churches have dealt Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration amid the pandemic: The U.S. Supreme Court in February knocked down California’s ban on indoor worship and in April paused its ban on at-home religious gatherings. The rulings from the nation’s highest court prompted California to allow houses of worship to reopen indoors at full capacity in April — something other businesses won’t be able to do for another two weeks.

  • Paul Jonna, a lawyer with the Thomas More Society, which represented the plaintiffs in the two cases: The settlements “memorialize what the Supreme Court has already articulated. … If it’s okay for Costco, it’s okay for churches. That’s the standard.”

In the settlements, the state also agreed to pay the two plaintiffs’ legal bills: $1.6 million for South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista and $550,000 for Father Trevor Burfitt, a Catholic priest with congregations across Southern California. Last month, Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena secured a $1.35 million settlement under similar conditions.

The California Department of Justice, which entered into the settlements, did not respond to a request for comment.

That brings the tab for California’s losing streak against churches to at least $3.5 million — as compared to $6 million lawmakers set aside Tuesday in a budget deal for “legal challenges to the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response.”

California’s pandemic restrictions have been challenged in court at least 83 times, according to a CalMatters database. Although state and federal judges have generally upheld Newsom’s emergency powers, lawsuits over religious freedom have been the notable exception. Read More > at CalMatters 

A Self-Driving Truck Got a Shipment Cross-Country 10 Hours Faster Than a Human Driver – Self-driving cars are taking longer to come to market than many expected. In fact, it’s looking like they may be outpaced by pilotless planes and driverless trucks. A truck isn’t much different than a car, but self-driving technology is already coming in handy on long-haul trucking routes, as a recent cross-country trip showed.

Last month TuSimple, a transportation company focused on self-driving technology for heavy-duty trucks, shipped a truckload of watermelons from Arizona to Oklahoma using the truck’s autonomous system for over 80 percent of the journey. The starting point was Nogales, at Arizona’s southern end right on the border with Mexico. A human driver took the wheel for the first 60 miles or so, from Nogales to Tucson—but from there the truck went on auto-pilot, and not just for a little while. It drove itself all the way to Dallas, 950 miles to the east (there was a human safety driver on board the whole time, but not controlling the truck).

If you look at the most direct route, it’s pretty straightforward: there’s one fork where I-10 splits off and merges with I-20, but other than that, it’s straight on through ‘til morning. Literally, in this case; the truck drove the route in 14 hours and 6 minutes, as compared to the given estimate of the average time it takes a human to drive the same route—24 hours and 6 minutes.

Last summer, TuSimple announced plans to build a nationwide network of self-driving trucks, complete with digitally-mapped routes, terminals, and a central operations system. They already operate seven routes between Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, and Dallas, and are in the process of adding routes to Houston and San Antonio.

They haven’t had to jump too many legal hurdles, at least not at a federal level; federal regulations don’t cover automated driving systems at present, with responsibility left to individual states. Texas is an optimal state in which to carry out tests like this: tons of space, good weather, huge highways running both north-south and east-west, and a 2017 bill allowing vehicles to operate without a driver. Read More > at Singularity Hub

A rogue killer drone ‘hunted down’ a human target without being instructed to, UN report says – A “lethal” weaponized drone “hunted down a human target” without being told to, likely for the first time, according to a UN report seen by the New Scientist.

In the March 2020 incident, a Kargu-2 quadcopter autonomously attacked a person during a conflict between Libyan government forces and a breakaway military faction, led by the Libyan National Army’s Khalifa Haftar, the Daily Star reported.

The Turkish-built Kargu-2, a deadly attack drone designed for asymmetric warfare and anti-terrorist operations, targeted one of Haftar’s soldiers while he tried to retreat, according to the paper.

The drone, which can be directed to detonate on impact, was operating in a “‘highly effective’ autonomous mode that required no human controller,” the New York Post reported. Read More > at Business Insider

Stem cell therapy could reverse Type 2 diabetes for some, study finds – Stem cell therapy using cells produced from a patient’s own bone marrow may reduce reliance on insulin or other medications for Type 2 diabetes treatment, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

A clinical trial conducted at Vinmec Research Institute of Stem Cell and Gene Technology in Hanoi found that stem cell treatment allowed some patients to reduce or eliminate their need for other medications for at least some period of time, researchers said.

Bone marrow stem cells are able to turn into any cell type and as such have been widely explored for disease treatment, including research in recent years to evaluate their potential against diabetes. Read More > from UPI

Death penalty faces critical test – The death penalty in California could be on the precipice of a dramatic change.

On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court will begin hearings in a case challenging the state’s application of the death penalty. The state’s highest court will consider whether to raise the bar for when a jury can sentence a defendant to capital punishment, a decision that could affect pending cases and potentially reverse death sentences for the 704 inmates already on California’s Death Row. It’s a move supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who in October took the unprecedented step of filing a brief urging the state Supreme Court to change how California applies the death penalty, arguing the current process is “infected by racism.”

The landmark hearing follows Newsom’s Friday executive order mandating an independent investigation into the case of Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper, who was convicted in 1985 of a quadruple murder but continues to maintain his innocence. Also Friday, Newsom granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and eight medical reprieves, including pardons for two inmate firefighters who were facing deportation.

California’s reexamination of the death penalty comes amid a fraught debate over public safety in the wake of a string of mass shootings and a surge in gun violence. A lot of political futures — including Newsom’s — could be on the line. The governor angered some Californians by ordering a halt to the death penalty in 2019, just three years after voters rejected an attempt to end capital punishment. Recall organizers cite the order as a key reason to vote him out of office.

Capital punishment could also play a pivotal role in next year’s state attorney general race, with Newsom appointee Rob Bonta opposed to the death penalty and his main challenger so far, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, in favor of it.

recent poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that although 44% of California voters support repealing the death penalty, a sizable 21% remain undecided. Read More > CalMatters

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Oakley PD Bike Rodeo Saturday, June 12th and Saturday, July 17th

The Oakley Recreation Division and Police Department are co-hosting a bicycle rodeo next Saturday, June 12th from 9:00 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of the Oakley Recreation Center, 1250 O’Hara Avenue.

A bicycle rodeo is a clinic to teach children the skills and precautions to ride a bicycle safely. This ride-though event for kids 13 and under will feature helmet-fitting, safety tips, an agility course, and free helmets while supplies last.

A second bike rodeo will take place on Saturday, July 17th. For more information, call (925) 625-8060.

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June is National Men’s Health Month

Did you know that men, on average, die almost five years earlier than women? Part of the reason is that men are more reluctant to go to the doctor, according to menshealthmonth.org.  In fact, studies show that women go to the doctor twice as much as men.

Additionally, Men’s Health Network notes that certain conditions are more prevalent in men, which patients and their doctors should keep an eye on through regular appointments.

Thus, the purpose of Men’s Health Month is to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among both men and boys.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men in the U.S.

In fact, heart disease accounts for 1 in 4 male deaths across the country. While heart disease is common, it is often preventable. Since heart disease is a common condition in men, Men’s Health Month is the perfect time to learn more about how you can prevent heart disease in yourself or in someone you love.

How to Improve Your Heart Health

Prostate Cancer Affects One in Nine Men.

According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 175,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed each year, and prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. Given these statistics, it’s important to ensure that at-risk men are being screened for prostate cancer—especially considering men’s known reluctance to seek preventive care.

On the bright side, however, prostate cancer typically grows slowly, so many cases don’t require immediate treatment and aren’t life-threatening. Still, the earlier prostate cancer is caught, the easier it can be contained. It’s always better to be on the safe side.

Focus on Prostate Cancer

Be proactive in looking for early signs of testicular cancer

According to Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Dorota Hawksworth, a urologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, testicular cancer is very rare, but is most common amongst males between 15 and 34 years of age.

“Many men have no known risk factors,” said Hawksworth, “the known risk factors [for testicular cancer] can’t be changed.”

These risk factors include a personal history of undescended testicle or prior testicular cancer, family history of testicular cancer, HIV infection, diagnosis of Klinefelter’s disease, age, race, and ethnicity, Hawksworth noted. White males develop testicular cancer at a rate four times higher than that of Black males, according to cancer.gov.

What You Need to Know About Testicular Cancer

Mental Health is One of the Most Stigmatized Issues Affecting Men.

Many men—perhaps more than we think—struggle with their mental health and the stigma that surrounds it. The American Psychological Association reports that 30.6% of men have suffered from depression in their lifetime. Again, men’s hesitation to seek care may be worsening this issue.

Men are notorious for not talking about their feelings, and no, that’s not just another stereotype. It’s an actual trend psychologists have documented. In the eyes of many men, discussing emotions is just another form of vulnerability that can lead to discomfort. It can be scary for many men to begin sharing their feelings, but the payoff is worth it: men who express their feelings verbally are less likely to express them violently.  

Mental Health For Men

The Average Man Should Be Making Better Lifestyle Choices to Protect His Health.

The stats back it up: men drink more heavily and smoke more frequently than women. We hate to be Debbie Downers, but habitual drinking and smoking can have severe health implications. Drugs and alcohol can cause issues ranging from lung and heart disease to liver problems to preventable accidents.

Plus, men tend to make less healthy choices in the kitchen. Women eat far more fruits and vegetables than men, while men prefer meat and dairy. Yes, we know we’re starting to sound like a broken record about the impact of cultural factors, but it’s likely that social norms are influencing this trend, too. Cultural expectations can play a subliminal role in men’s dietary choices and can have consequences over time.

Partly due to health behaviors, men have a shorter life expectancy than women. This gap has only continued to widen over time, and men are currently expected to live 5 fewer years than women, on average. So if anyone asks why we need a month for men’s health, this disparity in lifespan should speak for itself—men simply aren’t as healthy as they could be, and it’s time to fix that.  

Healthy Bites for June

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