Need Some Wood Chips/Mulch For Your Landscaping?

The City of Oakley and Diablo Water District teamed with West Coast Arborists, Inc. (WCA) will once again offer free wood chips!

Wood chips will be available for pick-up on Saturday, February 24th and Saturday, March 17th from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the City Yard at the corner of Neroly Road and Main Street (entrance on Neroly Rd). Oakley residents need to bring their own tools/shovels and bags/containers to load and carry the mulch, and a tarp to cover if necessary. Residents are asked to not take more than 5 yards at a time.

The wood chips are from trees pruned and/or removed from the Oakley/Brentwood area. The chips are organic, coarse, mixed with leaves and twigs, and the quality varies. It is not like the commercial bark products one might purchase from a landscape store, but provides the same benefits – retains moisture in the soil (minimizes evaporation), discourages weeds from growing, helps protect roots from extreme temperatures, reduces soil compaction, and slowly decomposes while releasing nutrients into the soil. Kelley Gilleran, Certified Arborist with WCA, said, “It’s best to apply a 4’ foot circle of chips around your tree and/or shrubs, at least 3” inches deep, and keeping it a few inches away from the trunk.”

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A Well-Maintained Property is a Valuable Asset to the Neighborhood and Community

Whether you’re a homeowner, tenant, or landlord, having pride in the community and pride in your home is the foundation of a great city. To facilitate and encourage this basic tenet, a great deal of Code Enforcement’s efforts are focused on educating residents and raising awareness on the importance of maintaining properties in order to protect property values, livability, and the quality of a neighborhood.

Though not all-inclusive, the following are some of the more common areas of concern Code Enforcement addresses and the expectations associated with each:

  • Graffiti: Must be removed within 72 hours of notification.
  • Inoperable Vehicles: Flat tires, missing parts, or vehicles sitting on jacks are not
    permitted and must be removed from public view.
  • Vehicle/RV/Boat Parking: Permitted on improved surfaces (cement/brick/pavers) in
    most instances. Always apply for an encroachment permit before performing work
    or expanding any parking area.
  • Trash and Debris: Appliances, household items, materials kept out of public view.
  •  Garbage Service: Mandatory for all residents.
  • Landscape Maintenance: Weeds and/or bare dirt are not acceptable. Grass must be
    kept less than 8 inches in length. Weeds and dead brush must be removed and
    bushes and trees may not encroach any sidewalk or street.
  • Basketball Hoops/Ramps: Can be out as long as they are not blocking the street or
    sidewalk. (Interferes with Street Sweepers and Emergency Vehicle access)
  • RV’s/Campers/Sheds: Cannot be used as additional living quarters.
  • Garbage Cans: Must be out of view (behind a fence or permanent structure EXCEPT
    for the 24 hours prior to and after scheduled pickup.

Code Enforcement’s goal is to keep Oakley a healthy, safe, and beautiful place to live. With a population of over 40,000 and a staff of three we are counting on you to assist us by
reporting potential concerns. Our goal is to return every contact within one business day. To help us be more effective and ensure small concerns don’t become bigger issues, please
don’t hesitate to contact us. ALL REPORTS ARE ANONYMOUS.

You can reach us three different ways. Call us at 925-625-7031, email us at codeenforcement@ci.oakley.ca.us , or visit our web site at http://www.ci.oakley.ca.us and click on the “Report a Concern” icon. Please be prepared to provide us with the address or street/crossstreet and details of the concern.

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The Time to Prevent Yellowjackets is Now

The weather warms; you fire up the grill, throw on the chicken, and plan to enjoy dinner on the patio. Within minutes, there’s one yellowjacket hovering around the grill, then, more and soon several yellowjackets force you to change plans and move your meal indoors. This scenario is no surprise, because 2017 turned out to be a record-setting year for yellowjackets in Contra Costa County.

The District received a record-breaking 1,352 requests for ground-nesting yellowjacket inspections — up 142 percent compared to the average number of requests the District received during each year of California’s recent five-year drought.

The 411 on Yellowjackets

    • Four common species of yellowjackets are in Contra Costa County.
    • Two species build nests in trees and areas above ground, two species build underground nests that are out of obvious view.
    • All eat smaller pest insects and provide incidental pollination to plants.
    • Risk to public health
    • All can sting and bite repeatedly to defend their nests.
    • All are dangerous for those who are allergic.
    • Underground nests make unexpected encounters more likely.
    • Underground species can be scavengers and may be inclined to go after our food.

The key to reduce the risk of yellowjackets this year is to be proactive now.

Why Yellowjackets Live Under Our Feet

Yellowjacket queens hibernate over winter. They emerge when the weather warms to look for a suitable nest location which can be:

  • An abandoned rodent burrow
  • Between railroad ties
  • Among the roots of some shrubs
  • Under log piles or any other subterranean void

Once she finds the location, the queen builds a nest out of chewed up wood scrapings or plant fibers. The nest is where the queen raises workers that will forage for food to feed the growing colony.

How to Reduce the Risk of Yellowjackets This Year

Yellowjacket traps are an effective way to reduce the population of yellowjackets on your property. With ground-nesting yellowjacket activity expected to begin now that the weather has been unseasonably warm, it is time to put up traps to catch the yellowjackets that emerge from their nests.

  • Find reusable yellowjacket traps at many home and garden stores.
  • Hang traps high in trees at the edge of your property and as far away from where people or pets live and play.
  • Using fruit juices in the traps at this time of year may attract queens.
  • Also, use the pheromone insert that is sold to attract the worker yellowjackets because it mimics their own hormones and attracts them to the traps.

What to do if You Find a Ground-nesting Yellowjacket Nest on Your Property

People often encounter ground-nesting yellowjacket nests by accident while working or playing in the yard. When someone walks or uses equipment on the ground, the vibration can be felt in the underground nest causing yellowjackets to emerge — biting and stinging repeatedly as their first line of defense. That is why the first thing to do if you see yellowjackets coming out of a hole in the ground or out from under a bush on your property is:

  • Place a flag, tool or any other handy item on the ground relatively near the nest to mark the nest for inspection and then get to a safe location.
  • Once you are safely away from the yellowjackets, draw a simple map to show the layout of your yard and where the nest is located.
  • Tape the map to your front door or gate.
  • Call the District or go online to request ground-nesting yellowjacket service.

What Happens During the District’s Ground-nesting Yellowjacket Inspection

A District employee typically responds to your request within 48 hours, Monday – Friday. The District employee will use the map and the item you have left near the nest to locate it and verify that they are yellowjackets. Then, the District employee will treat the nest with an insecticidal dust. Once treated, keep people, pets and water away from the nest for 8 hours as yellowjacket activity can continue while foraging workers return to the nest posing the risk that they may sting or bite.

For more information on the District’s free service to treat ground-nesting yellowjacket nests, visit the District’s website.

And remember, to reduce the risk of yellowjackets before they become unwelcome guests at your outdoor barbecue this summer, act now. Hang up traps, follow the instructions, and use a fresh attractant insert to stay one step ahead of the colony before the yellowjackets set another record this year.

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New tax refund scam: You end up with the money and then the thieves move in

from the Kansas City Star

In the latest tax scam, crooks are depositing falsely claimed tax refunds into taxpayers’ own bank accounts, according to an alert from the Internal Revenue Service.

It’s a “new twist” on an old scam and it is spreading quickly, according to the IRS update Tuesday of an alert first issued Feb. 2. The update went out after officials saw a few hundred cases of the scam grow to several thousand cases in a few days.

This scam starts like many others: Crooks steal taxpayers’ information from tax preparers and use it to file a false tax return in those taxpayers’ names. The return uses false information to qualify and claim a tax refund.

Instead of sending the money to accounts the crooks control, this scam sends the money to the bank accounts of the taxpayers whose information was stolen, the IRS said.

“Thieves are then using various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers,” the agency said.

In one version, the IRS said, scammers call and pose as a collection agency working for the IRS. They tell the taxpayer about an erroneous refund sent to their account and ask them to forward the mistakenly deposited funds to the collection agency.

Another version of the scam uses automatic or robo calls to send a recorded message. It threatens the taxpayer with criminal charges, arrest and “a ‘blacklisting’ of their Social Security” numbers, the IRS said. The recording then provides a phone number for the victim to call to return the erroneous refund.

A victim of such scams who sees an erroneous refund appear in his account should contact his tax preparer immediately, the IRS said. Also, he also should talk with his bank or other financial institution where the account is because the account may need to be closed.

Returning the money to the IRS must follow what the agency called “established procedures” described in Topic Number 161 – Returning an Erroneous Refund – Paper Check or Direct Deposit, the alert said.

Individuals who become the victim in these scams also may call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Businesses should call 800-829-4933.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/business/personal-finance/article199847159.html#storylink=cpy

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Marsh Creek Restoration Project Adds Willow Whips

In the winter of 2013 the City of Oakley Public Works Department completed a restoration and enhancement project which restored approximately three acres of natural riparian habitat to Marsh Creek adjacent to Creekside Park. Throughout the years, the Public Works Department has been monitoring the success of the restoration project and mitigating any damages caused by both nature (beavers, flooding, drought) and vandalism.

In February of 2018 Parks Division staff, along with a volunteer, began a mitigation planting project. This project consisted of locally harvesting a variety of California native Willow species to then plant at the restoration site. Approximately 600 willow whips were harvested and planted. The Oakley Parks Division is committed to the success of this restoration project and the return of a natural riparian habitat for both fauna and wildlife within Marsh Creek.

Martin Contreras and Roman Cervantes Parks and Landscape Division staff, and volunteer Barry Margesson (volunteer and current member of Friends of Marsh Creek) are shown planting Willow whips around a natural scour that formed from heavy rains in the winter of 2016. The scour is a great natural addition of diversity and ecological value to this restoration project. The scour is expected to grow both up and downstream and may eventually connect to Marsh Creak to create a side channel which would provide a significant additional habitat that is currently lacking from Marsh Creek.

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News from Meals On Wheels – Intergenerational Program

MOWSOS’ Friendly Visitors program is expanding to include an innovative and exciting Intergenerational Program. Throughout the years, Friendly Visitors volunteers have asked to bring their kids along during visits. Now, through additional funding from the County we are able to expand our program to include younger community members.

Our Intergenerational Program will engage isolated seniors and young people of all ages with the goal of enhancing the lives of all participants. Together we will create memorable experiences though sharing a meal, playing games, arts and crafts projects, and just getting to know one another. We will raise awareness of the needs of our elderly population, as well as provide the next generation with a heightened sense of community service and volunteerism.

“What we are doing is instilling the next generation with the idea that we all need to care and be responsible for one another. This is why this program excites me,” Cynthia Black, Health and Wellness Division Manager.

The Intergenerational Program’s first event was a Valentine’s Day Cookie Contest at the Sycamore Place in Danville in conjunction with the National Charity League (NCL), Vista Oak chapter. Seniors and mother-daughter teams partnered to compete for the most creative cookie design.

“The experience gave my daughter and me the chance to connect with others in our community, be social with the elderly, and help where it is needed,” Catherine, NCL Member.

Stay tuned for more from our Intergenerational Program! For more information about the Friendly Visitors Program, please contact Cynthia Black at cblack@mowsos.org or (925)239-2484.

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Sunday Reading – 02/18/18

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.

Why Picky Eaters Are Partial to Calamari and Not Squid – Which sounds more appealing: Biscotti alla farina de vermi or a mealworm cookie? While both terms are used to describe the same insect-based sweet, a recent study published in Nature Sustainability explores why someone may be more enticed by the sound of one description versus the other.

The researchers’ goal was to investigate how to spark interest in environmentally sustainable foods—such as recycled wastewater—that can stir up strong feelings. Getting people to eat insect-based dishes and artificial meats is a challenge, particularly in Europe and the United States. And part of that might have to do with how they’re described.

Previous findings suggest that presenting emotionally charged situations in a foreign language can decrease people’s emotional judgments and responses to them. So, for this study, researchers described three sustainable dietary options—artificial meats, recycled water, and insect-based cookies—to participants in both their native tongue and second language. The idea, they write, is that using a foreign language keeps foods from eliciting disgust from skeptical diners. Read More > at Atlas Obscura

Cities Aren’t Meeting Housing Goals, But New State Law Won’t Help Much – Hundreds of cities and counties across the state are going to have to make it easier to build new homes, says one state agency, if the housing supply is to keep up with demand. But it will never happen if politics continue to interfere.

The Department of Housing and Community Development’s statewide determination summary found that 378 jurisdictions will have to fast track their home construction approval process to comply with Senate Bill 35, one of several pieces of legislation passed last year to address the housing crisis. The law requires “localities that have failed to meet their regional housing needs” to untangle and accelerate their permit approval process.

Streamlining the homebuilding permit process is a critical component to easing the state’s housing crunch, in which a severe shortage of units has produced steep home prices that are unaffordable for many.

Don’t expect SB 35 to produce a homebuilding boom, though. It has too many restrictions that will dilute its efficacy. The law does not require localities to streamline permits for single-family homes, homes in a coastal zone, and homes built on sites where rent-controlled housing, or “housing that has been occupied by tenants within the past 10 years,” once stood. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

BOMBSHELL UN DOSSIER – UN aid workers raped 60,000 people as it’s claimed organisation employs 3,300 paedophiles – The claim is in a bombshell dossier that former senior United Nations official Andrew Macleod handed over to DFID Secretary Priti Patel last year.

In it, Professor Macleod also estimated there are 3,300 paedophiles working for the world body’s various agencies alone.

Thousands more “predatory” sex abusers specifically target aid charity jobs to get close to vulnerable women and children.

And there has been an “endemic” cover-up of the sickening crimes for two decades, with those who attempt to blow the whistle just getting fired.

Professor MacLeod worked as an aid boss for the UN all over the world, including high profile jobs in the Balkans, Rwanda and Pakistan – where he was chief of operations of the UN’s Emergency Coordination Centre.

He is campaigning for far tougher checks on aid workers in the field as well as the abusers among them to be brought to justice, and wants the UK to lead the fight.

The professor’s grim 60,000 figure is based on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s admission last year that UN peacekeepers and civilian staff abused 311 victims in just one 12 month period over 2016.

The UN also admits that the likely true number of cases reported against its staff is double that, as figures outside of war zones are not centrally collated. Read More > in The Sun

A mysterious syndrome in which marijuana users get violently ill is starting to worry researchers – Mrs. X knew something was wrong when she burned herself in the bath for the third time.

The Australian woman — whose experience was documented anonymously in a published case study — had experienced sudden and severe episodes of illness for nine years. She’d get nauseous and a feel like the room was spinning, which was followed by violent vomiting and severe stomach pains. As it turned out, she had a mysterious syndrome that doctors are only now beginning to recognize.

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS, appears to occur in people who use marijuana frequently for years. Aside from quitting marijuana, there are no known treatments.

Until now, cases of CHS were presumed to be incredibly rare. But some recent evidence indicates cases could be on the rise, and a new study from emergency clinicians at New York University Langone suggests the syndrome may affect far more people than initially thought. The worst part may be that patients have no idea that cannabis may be causing their symptoms, since paradoxically, weed is sometimes used to treat nausea.

“This is something that’s poorly understood that doctors don’t know about,” Joseph Habboushe, an assistant professor at NYU Langone and the lead author on the paper, told Business Insider. “It could affect millions.”

The scientists behind the latest study, published in the journal Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, looked into CHS by examining a large sample of adults admitted to an emergency room in New York City. The researchers surveyed thousands of patients in an attempt to find only those who used marijuana frequently — at least 20 days per month — and ended up with 155 people who met their criteria. All of those individuals smoked nearly every day or multiple times a day, often for five years or more.

Among those patients, roughly a third had symptoms that qualified them for a diagnosis with CHS. Read More > at Business Insider

The Case for the “Self-Driven Child” – We are raising the anxious generation, and the conversation about the causes, and the potential cures, has just begun. In The Self-Driven Child, authors William Stixrud and Ned Johnson focus on the ways that children today are being denied a sense of controlling their own lives—doing what they find meaningful, and succeeding, or failing, on their own. Screen time, the authors say, is part of the problem, but so are well-meaning parents and schools, who are unwittingly taking from children the opportunities they need to grow stronger, more confident, and more themselves. Stixrud and Johnson answered questions from Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

What makes you think that children do not have enough control over their lives?
Stixrud: We know that a low sense of control is highly associated with anxiety, depression, and virtually all mental health problems. Researchers have found that a low sense of control is one of the most stressful things that people can experience. And since the 1960’s, we’ve seen a marked rise in stress-related mental health problems in children and adolescents, including anxiety, depression, and self-harm. Just in the last six or seven years, there has been an unprecedented spike in the incidence of anxiety and depression in young people….

Is this a new problem?
Stixrud: It’s one that has progressed over several decades. When psychologist Dr. Jean Twenge compared college students from the 1960’s to college students in 2002, the latter reported a dramatically lower sense of control over their lives. Changes in our culture in the last 10 or 15 years appear to have contributed to an even sharper decline in a sense of control. For one, kids play much less than they did even a decade ago, as their time is taken up by more school hours, more scheduled activities, and more screen time than ever before. Researcher Peter Gray was one of the first to connect fewer opportunities to play to a decline in a sense of control. When kids could spend most of their Saturday playing, they could choose their own games and how to play them. They had a lot more autonomy and a lot more agency than kids do today. A typical Saturday now is often packed with homework and organized sports events. Read More > at Scientific American

Will Amazon Go Capture the Holy Grail of Retail? – Even before it opened, Amazon Go began drawing deep skepticism over whether it could possibly work. Would Amazon be able to create a convenience store in which shoppers gathered their goods and walked out the door having been automatically charged for their purchases? The technology behind it — like driverless cars — has captured the public’s imagination. A reporter from The New York Times staged a shoplifting heist with a four-pack of vanilla soda around the time the store opened in Seattle last month, and failed. The Amazon Go technology worked, and he got charged for the soda. Others have, though, managed to outsmart the system.

But as shoppers gauge the gee-whiz aspects of the store and convenience of not having to wait in line, Amazon is sharply focused on the shopper. The company is always watching. More than 100 cameras in the 1,800-square-foot store are capturing shoppers’ every move to total up the purchase, but that’s just the start.

Amazon isn’t saying what its plans are for Amazon Go — whether the company will roll out dozens more soon, or exactly how the store serves a greater corporate strategy. But many say that by recording shopper behavior at such a detailed level and being able to analyze it, Amazon is hot on the trail of the Holy Grail of retail: really understanding why shoppers do what they do.

“The big enigma has always been why does a customer buy; what causes someone to pick something off the shelf, put it in their basket and pay for it?” says Marshall L. Fisher, Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions. “That’s the number-one issue in retailing. One obvious step is directing traffic to the store or website. But then once you’ve got the customer in your crosshairs, how do you get them to buy?” Read More > at knowledge@wharton

Can Congestion Pricing Fix Traffic Woes? – One day soon, drivers in New York City may be charged a toll to enter the heart of the city, the part of Manhattan from Wall Street to Central Park. Imposing such a fee would not only aim to cut traffic, it would also raise much-needed revenue to fix the city’s struggling subway system.

If the idea takes hold, it would be the first time a U.S. city imposes tolls to drive on its most congested roads. A handful of large cities in other countries — including London, Singapore, Stockholm and Milan — use similar “cordoned” toll systems.

New York City itself debated the idea a decade ago when Michael Bloomberg was mayor, but the proposal languished in the state legislature. This time, though, there’s a key difference: It’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state’s most powerful politician, pushing the idea — and amid a new sense of urgency to address the city’s increasingly clogged roads and frequently failing subways. Read More > at Governing

Concussions Can Be Detected With New Blood Test Approved by F.D.A. – The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a long-awaited blood test to detect concussions in people and more quickly identify those with possible brain injuries.

The test, called the Banyan Brain Trauma Indicator, is also expected to reduce the number of people exposed to radiation through CT scans, or computed tomography scans, that detect brain tissue damage or intracranial lesions. If the blood test is adopted widely, it could eliminate the need for CT scans in at least a third of those with suspected brain injuries, the agency predicted.

Concussion-related brain damage has become a particularly worrisome public health issue in many sports, especially football, affecting the ranks of professional athletes on down to the young children in Pop Warner leagues. Those concerns have escalated so far that it has led to a decline in children participating in tackle sports.

…One of the challenges of diagnosing concussions is that symptoms can occur at different times. In some people, they appear instantly, while in others they can show up hours or even days later. Symptoms also vary from person to person. Some experience sensitivity to noise, others lose their balance, and still others become sensitive to bright light.

“A blood test to aid in concussion evaluation is an important tool for the American public and for our service members abroad, who need access to quick and accurate tests,” said Jeffrey Shuren, director of the F.D.A.’s medical device division. The agency, often criticized for the pace of its approvals, noted that it had cleared this diagnostic device in less than six months. Read More > in The New York Times

Single-payer healthcare in California? Why advocates are playing the long game – By many measures the rambunctious campaign for a single-payer health care system in California appears to be floundering.

A bill that would replace the existing health care system with a new one run by a single payer—specifically, the state government—and paid for with taxpayer money remains parked in the Assembly, with no sign of moving ahead. An effort by activists to recall Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon for shelving the bill has gone dormant. And an initiative that would lay the financial groundwork for a future single-payer system has little funding, undercutting its chances to qualify for the ballot.

But even if single payer is a lost cause in the short term, advocates are playing a long game. For now, it may well be less a realistic policy blueprint than an organizing tool.

By many measures the rambunctious campaign for a single-payer health care system in California appears to be floundering.

A bill that would replace the existing health care system with a new one run by a single payer—specifically, the state government—and paid for with taxpayer money remains parked in the Assembly, with no sign of moving ahead. An effort by activists to recall Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon for shelving the bill has gone dormant. And an initiative that would lay the financial groundwork for a future single-payer system has little funding, undercutting its chances to qualify for the ballot.

But even if single payer is a lost cause in the short term, advocates are playing a long game. For now, it may well be less a realistic policy blueprint than an organizing tool. Read More > at CALmatters

CalPERS’ Big Move on Amortization: What Does It Mean for Cities? – In a major decision Tuesday, the California Public Employees Retirement System voted to shorten the amortization period for new pension liabilities from 30 to 20 years. The move will speed up the rate of debt payments to CalPERS, likely increasing cities’ annual pension costs and heightening pressure on the state’s municipalities.

CalPERS says the new schedule will save cities money over the long term — a sentiment echoed by Newport Beach Finance Director Dan Matusiewicz. But just three months ago, a cavalry of municipalities appeared before the board warning that such a change would test their ability to cope.

“Each new approach only adds to the costs of cities and therefore to the taxpayers,” Hayward City Councilwoman Sara Lamnin told the CalPERS board in November as it was considering speeding up debt payments.

Dane Hutchings, a lobbyist for the League of California Cities, also said the impact could be dire for some cities. Read More > at California City News

California #MeToo advocate hit with new claims of misconduct – California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a vocal #MeToo leader, faces fresh allegations of misconduct in her office, including frequent discussions about sex and alcohol consumption at the Capitol.

San Diego lawyer Dan Gilleon filed a formal complaint Wednesday with the Legislature detailing the allegations on behalf of four anonymous former employees in Garcia’s office.

The complainants allege that Garcia regularly talked about her sexual activity, including with other members, in front of staff. They also allege Garcia drank alcohol while doing official Assembly business and pressured staff to join her in drinking at the office or at bars. Read More > at Yahoo!

Judge: Thousands of Sex Offenders May Be Eligible for Release Under Prop. 57 – In August, we covered the very public spat between Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and Gov. Jerry Brown over Proposition 57. Mims, like many members of law enforcement, contended that the ballot measure would mean early release for all sorts of serious offenders, including those convicted of sex crimes. The governor said that wasn’t true, calling her statements “unbecoming of a public official.”

Alas, it looks like Mims was right.

“California must consider earlier parole for potentially thousands of sex offenders, maybe even those convicted of pimping children, a state judge said Friday. Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner preliminarily ordered prison officials to rewrite part of the regulations for Proposition 57.

The 2016 ballot measure allows consideration of earlier parole for most state prison inmates, but Gov. Jerry Brown promised voters all sex offenders would be excluded.”

Judge Sumner said the language of the ballot measure permits no such exclusion.

“If the voters had intended to exclude all registered sex offenders from early parole consideration under Proposition 57, they presumably would have said so,” Sumner said.
Plenty of people are expressing shock and disgust over the judge’s decision, but early critics of the ballot measure are literally saying, “we told you so.” Read More > at California County News

The Failed Promise of High Speed Rail – In 2008, now 10 years ago, voters passed the 10 billion dollar Prop 1A bond measure to fund a High Speed Rail project that would, in phase one, connect San Francisco to Los Angeles, promising passengers a one-seat ride between these cites in 2 hours and 40 minutes.

The train was to run on dedicated tracks and was to be up and running by 2020. The projected cost of $33 billion was to be funded one-third by Prop 1A funds, one-third by Federal funds and one-third by private investment. The voters of California were promised that the $10 billions from Prop 1A bonds would be all the funding required from the State’s residents. Importantly the train was promised to run without any operational subsidy.

Now 10 years later, here is the reality. The train won’t be operational until well beyond 2030. The projected initial costs and timelines have been proven completely bogus. Now the Authority admits to even more delays. The last stated budget, now at $68 billion will climb again. Expect to see well over $100 billion.

Federal funding stopped long ago, at a total of $3.3 billion. Expected private investment despite multiple efforts, has failed to come forth at all.

Now California voters are in addition to Prop 1A funds, paying extra taxes because Cap and Trade revenues are being diverted to the Project. Expect to see funds diverted from the SB-1 law, advertised as being to fix pot holes in highways, to the project also. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Get Married If You Earn About as Much as Your Partner! – In honor of the one day every year when even the most wonkish tax policy nerds can set aside the calculators and spreadsheets for a bottle of wine and some red roses, here’s some cold, hard, unemotional data about the financial consequences of government-recognized matrimony.

The upshot: If you earn about the same income as your would-be spouse, your bank account will be better off if you don’t get married.

According to a new analysis from the Tax Foundation, couples who earn roughly the same amount of money are most likely to face a tax penalty for getting hitched, and couples at both ends of the income spectrum are more likely to be penalized for tying the knot than middle-income earners.

For example, two people who each earn $15,000 and are jointly raising one child would end up paying more than $600 in extra federal taxes if they get married.

At the higher end of the scale, a couple that earns more than $250,000 jointly would have to pay an additional Medicaid surtax if they get married, but the same surtax only kicks in at $200,000 for individuals. Under the tax reform bill passed in December, tax rates for married couples are exactly double the tax rates for unmarried individuals (a significant change from the old tax code)—until you hit the top marginal bracket of 37 percent, which kicks in at $500,000 for singles but $600,000 for couples. That means most people won’t see any significant marriage penalty at lower income levels, but couples earning well into the six figures could end up paying thousands in additional taxes after their wedding. Read More > at Reason

Facebook lost around 2.8 million U.S. users under 25 last year. 2018 won’t be much better. – Facebook is losing young users even quicker than expected, according to new estimates by eMarketer.

The digital measurement firm predicted last year that Facebook would see a 3.4 percent drop in 12- to 17-year-old users in the U.S. in 2017, the first time it had predicted a drop in usage for any age group on Facebook.

The reality: The number of U.S. Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic declined by 9.9 percent in 2017, eMarketer found, or about 1.4 million total users. That’s almost three times the decline expected. There were roughly 12.1 million U.S. Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic by the end of the year.

There are likely multiple reasons for the decline. Facebook has been losing its “cool” factor for years, and young people have more options than ever for staying in touch with friends and family. Facebook also serves as a digital record keeper — but many young people don’t seem to care about saving their life online, at least not publicly. That explains why Snapchat and Instagram, which offer features for sharing photos and videos that disappear, are growing in popularity among this demographic. Read More > at Recode

The East Bay’s Changing Demographics – By 2030, if trends of the past 15 years continue, Oakland’s Black population could fall to as few as 70,000 people from 140,000 in 2000, declining from roughly 35 percent of the city’s total population to a mere 16 percent.

Things have been moving in the same direction in Berkeley. In 2000, Black people numbered about 14,000, or 13 percent of the city’s population. Today, their numbers have fallen to about 9,700, and by 2030, Berkeley’s Black residents could number just 7,000 — just 5 percent of the total.

Even in Richmond, there’s been a rapid exodus. One third of Black residents have left over the past 15 years, dropping from 35,000 to 23,000. If this continues at the same rate, Richmond’s Black population might drop from 35 percent of the total population to just 11 percent by 2030.

Although the reasons for their out-migration are varied, experts and activists agree that much of it has to do with the cost of housing and economic inequality. Carroll Fife, director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment’s Oakland office, said that a big reason Black residents are leaving is because affordable housing has become unattainable. Rents have risen enormously over the past six years, and home prices exceed the average household wealth, pushing home purchases far out of reach. In Richmond, the story is much the same. And Berkeley’s housing market, where homes now sell for over $1 million on average, has become nearly as gilded as San Francisco’s. Read More > in the East Bay Express

Boom and Gloom: An Economic Warning for California – …In 2009, as the last recession took hold, California state revenue fell 19 percent, versus 8 percent for state revenues nationwide, according to Moody’s Analytics. There has been a strong rebound since then, but the gains are unlikely to last. That is because California’s government relies on a heavily progressive income tax that generates most of its revenue from a relatively small number of wealthy taxpayers whose incomes are erratic.

Even a blip in the stock market can punch holes in the state’s budget. And because stock prices have more than doubled during Mr. Brown’s term, it seems like a good bet that whoever succeeds him will face challenges. If and when that day comes, any proposal to increase taxes will probably be unpopular. Mr. Brown already raised income taxes to address the state’s last budget mess, and California taxpayers took a further hit as a result of the new tax bill, which curbed the deductibility of state and local taxes on federal returns.

A recession would also further expose problems that have festered for decades. Across California, cities and school districts are having trouble keeping up with ballooning pension obligations, squeezing teacher salaries and state services. In warning about budget troubles to come, Mr. Brown was making a case for adding more of today’s surplus to the state’s rainy day fund to cushion the blow of the next downturn.

…Even in prosperity, California has plenty of problems. The bulk of its recent gains have flowed to wealthier coastal cities, leaving inland areas behind, and a severe housing shortage has led to punishing rent increases and rising homelessness.

Still, economists generally agree that the state’s long-term prospects are bright. It is home to many of the world’s most valuable and innovative companies, and it attracts an outsize portion of the skilled work force and venture capital financing, helping it create new industries as old ones slow down or fade away. Read More > in The New York Times

Advertisers Tuning Out TV in Sign of Trouble for Media Companies – Television-advertising sales in the U.S. fell 7.8 percent to $61.8 billion last year, the steepest drop outside of a recession in at least 20 years, while sales at cable networks slumped for the first time in almost a decade. And there’s no sign of a pickup in 2018, excluding cyclical events like the Olympics and the midterm elections, according to data from Magna Global.

The decline in TV viewership is accelerating as online rivals Google and Facebook have increased their investments in video, capturing almost every new advertising dollar entering the marketplace. Television ad sales have fallen even as global advertising grows, leading research firms and analysts to predict that the business may never recover.

“In a healthy economy, we’re looking at no growth in advertising from traditional media companies,’’ said Michael Nathanson, an analyst with research firm MoffettNathanson. “That’s a worrying trend.’’

That would be a serious blow to media companies that have built multibillion dollar businesses on sponsor-supported TV networks. Domestic TV advertising revenue declined at the world’s largest media companies in the most recent quarter, striking Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox Inc., Comcast Corp.’s flagship NBC network and Viacom Inc. Read More > at Bloomberg

Crestline woman says she saw Sasquatches in Lake Arrowhead, sues state to get species recognized – …After being told by insistent forest rangers they had seen a bear, and believing she would never be taken seriously by anyone in an official capacity, Ackley, a Bigfoot enthusiast and researcher of more than 20 years, teamed up with documentary filmmaker Todd Standing, the man behind the Netflix film Discovering Bigfoot, and sued the state in San Bernardino Superior Court on Jan. 18.

The lawsuit alleges the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Natural Resources Agency have been derelict in their duty by not acknowledging the existence of the Sasquatch species, despite a mountain of documented and scientific evidence. It has had a chilling effect on the study of the Sasquatch, considered illegitimate and relegated to the category of “paranormal research.” It has damaged Ackley’s “livelihood, public image and credibility,” as well as others dedicated to the study of the bipedal hominid, according to the lawsuit.

Ackley’s biggest concern is that the government, by not acknowledging Bigfoot’s existence, could be endangering the public.

“People have to be warned about these things. They are big,” Ackley said. “We’re totally vulnerable to these things.”

Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan declined to comment, citing the lawsuit. He did say that Bigfoot is not a recognized species by his agency. Read More > in the San Bernardino Sun

Can New California Water Storage Projects Win State Funding? – If California taxpayers are going to spend $2.7 billion on new water storage projects, the projects had better come with many more environmental benefits.

That was the message sent by the California Water Commission, which on February 2 released its first analysis of 11 projects vying for a share of the riches. The money will come from Proposition 1, a ballot measure approved by voters in 2014, which empowered the state to issue nearly $2.7 billion in bonds for water storage, whether new reservoirs, groundwater recharge or some form of hybrid.

But according to Prop. 1, the money can only pay for “public benefits” associated with the projects, not just the cost of storing water. This includes environmental enhancements like improving streamflow for fish, the capacity to capture or convey floodwaters, recreational amenities and emergency response capabilities.

The State Water Commission is charged with vetting the public benefit claims. This is a weighty undertaking, because such a thing has never been done before.

In its initial review of the projects, the commission found that none would deliver all the public benefits claimed in their applications. Some were very far off the mark, the commission found, especially concerning environmental benefits. In a few cases, the commission actually zeroed-out the claimed benefits. Read More > at News Deeply

Straight Outta Weed: Compton Bans Marijuana Sales – Compton, which has produced weed-loving musical artists from DJ Quik to Dr. Dre, has been called the “birthplace of hip hop and weed culture.” Now its residents are trying to shed that image.

Compton voters defeated two measures that would have allowed recreational and medical marijuana within city limits last month. If you want marijuana in Compton, you’ll have to get it on the city’s always sizable black market.

“Drugs have pillaged black and brown communities,” 61-year-old James Hays Jr., told the Los Angeles Times. “It has taken all of our talent away from us. It makes our neighborhoods bad neighborhoods to live in.”

“The voters in Compton decided this decision was the healthiest and most forward-looking for our community,” explained Councilwoman Emma Sharif. “I don’t believe bringing marijuana into the community would’ve been good for the community.”

After years of sky-high crime rates and government corruption, Compton residents are finally getting a taste of normalcy. Crime is down, there’s new leadership, home prices are rising, and big developers are coming to the city. The risk of opening the doors to the nearly all-cash legal cannabis industry is just too high, residents wager. The city also estimates it would have cost $6 million in added enforcement and processing of license requests. Read More > at California City News

Why Purebred Dogs Are Sick, Miserable, and Ugly – This week, the Westminster Kennel Club is hosting its popular annual dog show, where canines of all shapes and sizes get to strut their stuff in front of discerning judges. Seems like harmless fun, but many purebred dogs are, or soon will be, in poor physical health—the result of an emphasis on cosmetic, and not functional, physical characteristics.

Humans and dogs have been intertwined in a symbiotic relationship that dates back some 15,000 years. Through these millennia, we’ve crafted them into all sorts of crazy configurations, forging them into what are now highly recognizable and popular breeds. But for many purebreds and their owners, the adherence to extreme breeding standards has resulted in misery, with pedigree dogs suffering from an array of physical and behavioral problems. Some breeds have even passed the point of no genetic return—but that doesn’t mean solutions to the problem don’t exist. We just have to change the culture around purebreds first.

…Much of the blame can, quite fairly, be directed at breeders, dog show (or pedigree) culture, and consumers themselves, who create demand for purebreds. There’s a commonly held belief that the winning breed at the Westminster show experiences an uptick in consumer popularity, but a 2004 study debunked this notion. Purebreds are popular among dog owners for their own sake, selecting breeds according to size, energy, personality, aesthetics, and many other factors. Owners then often expect their purebreds to be “true to form,” placing pressure on breeders to produce dogs with the requisite characteristics. Dog breeders tend to get a bad rap (and some most certainly deserve criticism), but high-quality breeders exist for a reason, ensuring that deleterious genetic aspects and personality flaws are weeded out. They also prepare puppies for their future homes and screen for potentially poor owners.

That said, many breeds have health problems because we’ve crafted them into impossible shapes that wouldn’t be found in a state of nature; dogs are descended from a wolf-like ancestor, with most recognized breeds exhibiting only a superficial resemblance to their evolutionary forebears. What’s more, many of the dogs that we used to breed for work are now exclusively bred for their appearance. Read More > at Gizmodo

36 people who could challenge Trump in 2020 – The field of Democrats who could jockey for a White House bid in 2020 is growing by the day, as more and more potential candidates are eyed as possible challengers to President Trump.

Many potential candidates have sought to stand out from the field through vocal opposition to the Trump agenda — voting against the bipartisan two-year budget deal or calling for the president’s resignation.

Here are 36 potential candidates, from top contenders to long shots, who could run in 2020:

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) Read More > in The Hill

New York Times CEO: Print journalism has maybe another 10 years – The newspaper printing presses may have another decade of life in them, New York Times CEO Mark Thompson told CNBC on Monday.

“I believe at least 10 years is what we can see in the U.S. for our print products,” Thompson said on “Power Lunch.” He said he’d like to have the print edition “survive and thrive as long as it can,” but admitted it might face an expiration date.

“We’ll decide that simply on the economics,” he said. “There may come a point when the economics of [the print paper] no longer make sense for us.”

“The key thing for us is that we’re pivoting,” Thompson said. “Our plan is to go on serving our loyal print subscribers as long as we can. But meanwhile to build up the digital business, so that we have a successful growing company and a successful news operation long after print is gone.” Read More > at CNBC

Budweiser Is Becoming Obsolete, Just Like All of These Things – As we progress together as a society, the newer generation tends to hold on to, or abandon, certain things from the previous generation. When we heard that Budweiser has fallen again in its market share of domestic sales in the U.S., we wondered what else is either obsolete, or becoming obsolete, anymore. Take a look at these things that are no longer relevant to the new generation.

1. Budweiser – Yes, “America’s beer” is becoming obsolete, as the newer generations are seeking more interesting beers to drink. Budweiser fell to No. 4 in domestic sales in the U.S. This represents a shift in what millennials are interested in. I guess Budweiser is no longer the “King of Beers.”

6. Cashiers – The cashier counter is already starting to make its way out the door. Slowly, we are starting to see more and more self-checkout counters at the grocery store. Even that may be going away soon as well. Amazon just opened its first “Amazon Go” store, where you can just grab what you need and not even stop at a counter to pay.

8. Golf – Golf is an industry that isn’t getting much play. The new generation is losing interest in the old sport, and the sales of clubs and rounds have been going down dramatically. The game of golf is a past time for all people, but the newer generation may be a little more interested in other things.

11. Motorcycles – Harley-Davidson was once the symbol of the open road. Many people would often imagine taking to the road on one of these hogs. The iconic brand represents about half of the large bike sales in the U.S., but sales of Harley’s have been slipping. Surely, if it stays on this trend, there may not be many on the road in the next decade or so.

16. Manners – Manners are the most egregious thing of all to fall into obsolescence. For some reason, the previous generation did a horrible job of teaching manners to their offspring. Now, we have an entire generation of people who don’t say “excuse me” or “please” and “thank you.” Read More > at Cheat Sheet

Bay Area home prices shoot up 12% in January as inventory plunges – The Bay Area’s median home prices shot up 12 percent in January from the prior year amid a worsening housing shortage.

Single-family home inventory hit a three-year low, pushing the Bay Area’s median price for single-family homes and condos to $880,000, compared to around $774,000 in January 2016. The price was down slightly from November 2017’s all-time peak of of $910,350. San Francisco’s median price for homes and condos was $1.2 million.

The dearth of inventory, particularly for homes under $1 million, is pushing prices upwards, said Selma Hepp, chief economist for Pacific Union, the state’s largest non-franchise brokerage. In January, the number of home listings under $1 million plummeted 22 percent from the prior year to 4,871 listings. There were 3,061 homes over $1 million listed for sale. Homes between $2 million and $3 million shot up 42 percent. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

The Major Issue Plaguing Accident-Prone Amtrak – Four mishaps in four months, three fatal, would be evidence that America’s national railroad is failing — except that America doesn’t have a national railroad. Amtrak runs its trains across a motley collection of fragmented tracks owned by freight railroads and commuter railroads. That means it has no consistent control over keeping people safe when it comes to crossings and speed, the biggest causes of crashes.

The first crash killed three Amtrak passengers right before Christmas in Washington state. There, the regional commuter railroad, Sound Transit, had built new tracks that allowed for higher speeds — but opened up the tracks before it finished installing technology that automatically governs speed when a human operator has failed to do so. In that case, the Amtrak train was going nearly three times the legal speed limit when it derailed on an overpass, falling to a highway below.

In the second crash, last week, an Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat crashed into a garbage truck on the tracks in Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

These tracks, too, aren’t owned by Amtrak. They’re owned by the private freight company CSX, which leases them to a local railroad.

…Without a government commitment to building a network of safe tracks and trains, private passenger train operators are just as stuck as Amtrak. And that commitment isn’t just money: It means taking swaths of land along railroad corridors, including in densely populated areas, via eminent domain.

It’s a big cultural decision: Does America want to be more like Europe and Asia, where people live more closely together, making tens of billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure to move them around economical? Or does it want to get out of the railroad business completely ​in much of the country — and put the money saved toward achingly slow improvements from Washington to Boston?

As it is, Amtrak is providing bad and unsafe service to everyone — and safe high-speed service to no one. Read More > in the Manhattan Institute

Consumer Spending Update: Confidence Rockets to New Four-Year High – Economic and consumer confidence have jumped to four-year highs.

The overall Rasmussen Reports Economic Index rose nearly seven points from 139.3 in January to 145.9 for February. Enthusiasm about the economy started to grow immediately following the 2016 presidential election and continues to show the highest level of confidence since this tracking began in 2014. In President Obama’s final years in office, this index reached a high of 121.5 only once in January 2015 and was at 108.1 in his last month in the White House.

The survey of 1,500 American Adults was conducted on February 1-2, 2018 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology. Read More > at Rasmussen Reports

Sports Illustrated Takes Stand Against Sexual Harassment By Putting Naked Women On Cover – (Satire)Sports Illustrated recently announced that it will take a stand against sexual harassment by photographing stark-naked women for the cover and contents of its upcoming swimsuit issue.

“We just want young girls to know that taking their clothes off to please the male gaze is totally empowering and not at all objectification,” SI editor-in-chief Jerry Smith said.
After the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements set off a media firestorm last fall and drew attention to how pervasive sexual harassment is in the workplace and on the street, SI staff has been trying to figure out a way to “stay woke.”

“We knew having women pose in swimsuits with all those hashtags swirling around out there wouldn’t be a good look,” said publisher John Shapiro. “This year we wanted to do something really empowering for women. Which is why women won’t be wearing swimsuits. They won’t wear anything at all.”

In a recent editorial meeting, a staffer suggested cancelling the famous swimsuit edition altogether and instead feature members of the Olympic gymnastics team who banded together to put a serial sexual assaulter behind bars last month. This idea was quickly swatted down, according to sources familiar with the matter. Read More > in The Babylon Bee

Bay Area residents want more housing, but … – Fed up with soaring prices that are increasingly putting home ownership, or even a decent rental, out of reach, Bay Area residents overwhelmingly say they want more housing built, according to a new poll. But it better not make their commutes worse.

Residents said they support everything from new single family homes to housing for the homeless in their communities, tossing aside NIMBY concerns that sometimes throw a wrench in building plans. But there were limits to their enthusiasm. Respondents balked at building anything that would cut into the Bay Area’s cherished open spaces or funnel more people onto crowded local freeways and public transit, making their treks to work longer.

The responses, in a five-county poll conducted for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and this news organization, left some housing advocates hopeful that public sentiment is shifting in favor of building more housing. But the survey also illustrates the hurdles the Bay Area faces in solving its housing shortage. Read More > in The Mercury News

When do CalPERS rates become ‘unsustainable’? – The use of the word “unsustainable” had a distant echo this month as the League of California Cities issued a study of CalPERS rates, a move to get stronger local options for controlling rising pension costs.

Over the next seven years, the study found, city CalPERS costs will increase more than 50 percent. The annual pension bite for the average city will reach 15.8 percent of the general fund, nearly doubling from 8.3 percent a decade ago.

A key finding of the study by Bartel Associates actuaries, using CalPERS data and survey replies from 229 cities, is that “city pension costs will dramatically increase to unsustainable levels.”

Nearly a decade ago the CalPERS chief actuary then, Ron Seeling, made a similar prediction at a seminar sponsored by the Retirement Journal in August 2009. The CalPERS investment fund had just lost $100 billion during the financial crisis and market crash.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat anything,” Seeling said. “We are facing decades without significant turnarounds in assets, decades of — what I, my personal words, nobody else’s — unsustainable pension costs of between 25 percent of pay for a miscellaneous plan and 40 to 50 percent of pay for a safety plan … unsustainable pension costs. We’ve got to find some other solutions.” Read More > at Calpensions

Climate Change Just Got a Little Less Terrible – There are some 20,000 research papers listed on Google Scholar, a search engine for academics, that mention the worst-case scenario for climate change, one where an overpopulated, technology-poor world digs up all the coal it can find. Basically, it’s the most cataclysmic estimate of global warming.

This scenario is important to scientists. It focuses minds on the unthinkable and how to avoid it. According to a provocative new analysis from the University of British Columbia, it’s also wrong.

This is good news. The researchers contend that current goals of reducing coal, oil and gas consumption may be closer than we think, thus allowing us to set the bar even higher in our efforts to reduce pollution. The bad news is that this is good news in the way a destabilizing climate-shift is preferable to planetary extinction: We are still in a lot of trouble. Nevertheless, if the study is verified by other scientists and catches a wave into the realm of policy makers, it could help accelerate initiatives to arrest global warming.

The basic issue has to do with coal. Quite simply, the more we burn, the faster we destroy the atmosphere. The darkest scenario assumes much more coal burning will take place in this century than is likely to happen, according to the study’s authors. Their first paper, published in May, made it seem like the only people who see more coal use than the Trump administration are climate-scenario designers. For example, the most extreme worst-case storyline assumes that by 2100 coal would grow to 94 percent of the world energy supply. In 2015, that figure was about 28 percent. Read More > in Bloomberg

Silicon Valley’s Tax-Avoiding, Job-Killing, Soul-Sucking Machine – Four companies dominate our daily lives unlike any other in human history: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. We love our nifty phones and just-a-click-away services, but these behemoths enjoy unfettered economic domination and hoard riches on a scale not seen since the monopolies of the gilded age. The only logical conclusion? We must bust up big tech.

…Over the past decade, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—or, as I call them, “the Four”—have aggregated more economic value and influence than nearly any other commercial entity in history. Together, they have a market capitalization of $2.8 trillion (the GDP of France), a staggering 24 percent share of the S&P 500 Top 50, close to the value of every stock traded on the Nasdaq in 2001.

How big are they? Consider that Amazon, with a market cap of $591 billion, is worth more to the stock market than Walmart, Costco, T. J. Maxx, Target, Ross, Best Buy, Ulta, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Saks/Lord & Taylor, Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Sears combined.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Google (now known as Alphabet) are together worth $1.3 trillion. You could merge the world’s top five advertising agencies (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, IPG, and Dentsu) with five major media companies (Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, CBS, and Viacom) and still need to add five major communications companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and Dish) to get only 90 percent of what Google and Facebook are worth together.

And what of Apple? With a market cap of nearly $900 billion, Apple is the most valuable public company. Even more remarkable is that the company registers profit margins of 32 percent, closer to luxury brands Hermès (35 percent) and Ferrari (29 percent) than peers in electronics. In 2016, Apple brought in $46 billion in profits, a haul larger than that of any other American company, including JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, and Wells Fargo. What’s more, Apple’s profits were greater than the revenues of either Coca- Cola or Facebook. This quarter, it will clock nearly twice the profits that Amazon has produced in its history.

…Our government operates on an annual budget of approximately 21 percent of GDP, money that is used to keep our parks open and our military armed. Does big tech pay its fair share? Most would say no. Between 2007 and 2015, Amazon paid only 13 percent of its profits in taxes, Apple paid 17 percent, Google paid 16 percent, and Facebook paid just 4 percent. In contrast, the average tax rate for the S&P 500 was 27 percent.

So, yes, the Four do avoid taxes . . . and so do you. They’re just better at it. Apple, for example, uses an accounting trick to move its profits to domains such as Ireland, which results in lower taxes for the most profitable firm in the world. As of September 2017, the company was holding $250 billion overseas, a hoard that is barely taxed and should never have been abroad in the first place. That means a U. S. company is holding enough cash overseas to buy Disney and Netflix. Read More > in Esquire

Is California Starting to Circle the Drain? – I recently became a crime victim for one of the few times in my life. My car was burgled while I was up in the Bay Area on my weekly sojourn to the Peoples Republic of Berkeley. I say “burgled” rather than “broken into,” because there was no smashed window, or picked lock, nor did I leave the car unlocked. Rather, I was the victim of a clever gang of organized car burglars in the Bay Area who are using sophisticated scanners to copy and boost the key-fob signal for recent model keyless entry and ignition cars. Once you latch on to the signal, the car door unlocks at the touch of your hand, as people with such models know. (I learned about this security flaw subsequently as I looked into how this could have happened.) All of the restaurants and retail establishments in my neighborhood have posted printed signs saying “leave no valuables in your car; frequent car thefts in the area.” I have taken electronic countermeasures against this happening again.

This kind of activity is epidemic in the Bay Area right now. There were 30,000 car thefts reported in San Francisco last year (much higher in the Bay Area as a whole). The police are doing very little about it. Read More > at Power Line

Too Much Netflix, Not Enough Chill: Why Young Americans Are Having Less Sex – Happy Valentine’s Day! Fifty years after the sexual revolution, sex in America is in decline. Americans are having less sex, the share of Americans who say they never once had sex in the past year is rising, and—perhaps most surprising—this revolution in sexual behavior is being led by the young. Although this sexual counter-revolution began before the #MeToo movement arose in response to the sexual abuse, misconduct and insensitivity of men ranging from Harvey Weinstein to Bill O’Reilly, the cultural outrage over men’s bad behavior is likely to accelerate this trend.

American adults, on average, are having sex about nine fewer times per year in the 2010s compared to adults in the late 1990s, according to a team of scholars led by the psychologist Jean Twenge. That’s a 14 percent decline in sexual frequency. Likewise, the share of adults who reported having sex “not at all” in the past year rose from 18 percent in the late 1990s to 22 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the General Social Survey. (The GSS, which is fielded every two years and is directed by the University of Chicago, is a large, nationally representative and federally funded survey of American adults covering a range of attitudes and behaviors.)

Similar trends are apparent among younger men and women. In the early 2000s, about 73 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 had sex at least twice a month. That fell to 66 percent in the period from 2014 to 2016, according to our analysis of the GSS.

…What’s driving this sexual counter-revolution? It’s too early to offer definitive answers, but a few hypotheses seem especially plausible.

First, while they are not socially conservative, the members of the millennial (born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) and iGen (born since the mid-1990s) generations are more cautious on average than earlier generations, and hence more inclined to focus on the emotional and physical risks of sex, rather than its joys. Raised by helicopter parents, these young adults take fewer risks. As a group, they drink less, drive less, and they also hit the sheets less. Today’s young adults have gotten the message—think MTV’s 16 and Pregnant—that sex and pregnancy can be a threat to them and their future. Tyrone, a 20-year-old man, put it this way to Twenge for her book, iGen: His generation is having less sex “because of fear of pregnancy and disease.” He added, “There’s a bunch of commercials and television shows and stuff trying to teach you a lesson.” Read More > in Politico

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