Local Events for Saturday, August 20

Antioch Multicultural Festival

Saturday, August 20
12:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Waldie Plaza
702 W 2nd St, Antioch, CA 94509

The City of Antioch, in partnership with the Backyard Movement, is holding a festival to celebrate Asian and Pacific Island cultures. It will feature dance and music performances, artwork, and plenty of food. There will also be a kids’ activity area with jump houses, games, and face painting. Join this fun community celebration!

Jazz, Blues and Funk Festival

Saturday, August 20
12:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Sunday, August 21
12:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Pittsburg Civic Center
65 Civic Ave, Pittsburg, CA 94565

Get your groove on with the Pittsburg Blues Festival! Headliners include Kalimba, Foreverland, and many more artists. Enjoy free music on the lawn or upgrade to VIP reserved seating.

Buy Tickets

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5 cybersecurity tips for students going back to school

from Malwarebytes

The new school season is upon us. And while you are getting ready to go back to school, now is a good opportunity to check you are doing all you can to stay as safe as possible online.

Make sure you are doing these five things:

1. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)

MFA has become a necessary security measure in a world where passwords still rule. It’s added security for your school-related accounts—and actually any online accounts you have, including social media.

MFA is an additional layer of security, after you enter your username and password. This could be a code generated by an app, a push notification you need to accept, a physical key you plug into your computer, or similar.

Use it wherever it is offered to you. Yes, it makes logging in take slightly longer, but it really does make your accounts safer.

2. Use strong passwords

By “strong”, we mean the best possible password string you can come up. If, for example, your school IT administrator sets a maximum password length of 10 and allows a mix of alphabets and numbers, then make your password 10 characters long with the maximum complexity you can.

And while we’re on the subject of passwords, remember to use a unique password for each of your online accounts. If you use the same email and password combination for every account, then if one gets breached you have to assume they have all been breached.

Of course, it’s impossible to remember a strong password for every account you have. This is where password managers come in. They can generate passwords for you, and will remember them all too. Just make sure you use a super strong password for your password manager itself, and protect it with MFA.

Lastly, never share passwords with anyone.

3. Be wary of links and attachments

When it comes to phishing and malware campaigns, danger doesn’t just lurk in emails. It’s on social media, SMS, chat platforms, gaming platforms, and other online watering holes, too.

Remember: if someone sends you an unsolicited link or attachment, you’re right to be suspicious. Treat it as suspect, and always verify with the sender if they’re someone you know, preferably via other means than the medium with which you received the link or attachment.

4. Share with caution

Students can do this in (at least) three ways:

  1. Limit what you share. Don’t give away personal details on social media, including those which tie you to your school.
  2. Be smart about what information you allow apps to access. Does that calendar app really need access to your location?
  3. For high school and college students, think twice before sharing private photos with someone. Consider that they may be shared with others, and how you might feel if that happened.

5. Lock down your files

The school does its part to secure your most important data, but you have a part to play, too.

You can start by locking down the devices you bring to school, such as your smartphone and laptop. Make sure there’s at least a password or code that stops anyone from casually picking up your device, and then opening it.

If you use the cloud to store files, learn how to secure that properly—the cloud-of-your-choice will have a guide on that. Remember, the cloud can only be as secure as you, the user, makes it.

It’s easy when you know how

Thankfully, securing data doesn’t get any more complicated for regular users than the five tips we have listed above. Remain vigilant and remind yourself that cybersecurity and privacy are shared goals and responsibilities. Students should do their part in the same way that your school’s IT team is doing theirs.

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect Tuesday, August 16, for the San Francisco Bay Area.

A Spare the Air Alert is in effect Tuesday, August 16, for the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Wildfire smoke combined with hot temperatures and vehicle exhaust are expected to cause unhealthy levels of smog, or ozone, in the #BayArea. Smoke from the Six Rivers Lightning Complex Fire may also create hazy skies.

Change your daily commute by carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, biking or walking instead of driving alone. Doing this will help reduce pollution levels and health concerns when temperatures are high. To learn how to change your commute online, visit 511.org.

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More Mosquitoes Test Positive for West Nile Virus in Contra Costa County

The Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) reports more mosquitoes have tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV) in Contra Costa County. The mosquitoes were collected from a trap in an agricultural area east of Brentwood.

This is the second group of mosquitoes to test positive for WNV so far this year in Contra Costa County. A previous group of mosquitoes that tested positive for WNV was from Oakley.

The news of more WNV-infected mosquitoes comes a week after the District announced the discovery of an invasive mosquito species in Contra Costa County. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes can transmit the causative agents of Zika virus, Dengue fever, Chikungunya virus, and Yellow fever, making it even more important that all Contra Costa County residents take steps to tip, toss and take action to reduce the risk of mosquitoes.

  • Tip over any size outdoor container to toss out any amount of standing water
  • After tossing out the water, take action by scrubbing the inside of any outdoor container because Aedes aegypti eggs can stick to bird baths, buckets, outdoor pet dishes, garden pots for plants, and anything else that can hold water outdoors.
  • And report mosquito issues by calling (925) 685-9301 or online.

“The source of mosquitoes is often right in our own backyards. That’s why we’ve always provided residential inspections, and now that we’ve discovered invasive Aedes aegypti, we are going door-to-door in the affected area to conduct inspections and treatment if necessary, in an effort to prevent this mosquito from spreading across Contra Costa County. Backyard inspections are critically important when it comes to Aedes aegypti because they are tiny mosquitoes that are well adapted to living around our homes, depositing eggs in almost any container that can hold water. The key to controlling them is to find, drain these containers and keep them dry because a single missed source could re-infest an entire neighborhood,” said Steve Schutz, Ph.D., Scientific Program Manager.

In addition to dumping out and scrubbing outdoor sources of standing water, the District recommends residents use EPA-registered insect repellents when mosquitoes are present. The most effective repellents contain one of the following active ingredients:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.

Always follow the instructions on the label when using an insect repellent.

WNV is a virus that comes from certain birds, mostly crows and jays. Mosquitoes become infected after biting an infected bird. Contra Costa County residents can report dead birds by phone at (877) WNV-BIRD (968-2473) or online. County residents can also request mosquito service for residential property by calling (925) 685-9301 or online.

Since 2005, 75 people in Contra Costa County have been diagnosed with West Nile virus. In 2006, two people died from the disease. For human case information, please visit the California Department of Public Health Vector-Borne Disease Section online.

Aedes aegpyti mosquitoes become infected with Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, or Yellow fever after biting an infected person. At this time, there are no reports of local transmission within California. Any cases of these diseases have been acquired due to travel; however, the more widespread these mosquitoes become, there is an increased risk of potential local transmission. This is why the District is working to control these mosquitoes in Contra Costa County. Residents who are being bitten by day-biting mosquitoes should contact the District by calling (925) 685-9301 or online.

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Sunday Reading – 08/14/2022

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

The dangers of monkeypox hysteria – They’ve been repeating it ever since the start of the Covid pandemic: “We are entering an ‘age of pandemics’ — this is just the beginning”. And they’ve been true to their word: no sooner had the threat of Covid started to wane, and most people had started to put the nightmare of the past two years behind them, than we were told that another dangerous virus had begun to rapidly spread across continents: monkeypox, a rare disease normally limited to West and Central Africa, where it is endemic.

Since May 2022 there have been a spate of outbreaks reported in the US, UK, Australia, mainland Europe and Canada. On July 23, with more than 16,000 reported cases (and five deaths, all in Africa) in 75 countries and territories, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, its highest alert for a disease, raising the status of the outbreak to a global health emergency — even though the WHO’s advisory panel opposed the declaration nine-to-six. The last time the WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern was in February 2020 for Covid, so people naturally drew parallels.

Such comparisons are completely unfounded. And yet, as the outbreak continues to make headlines around the globe, panic is once again setting in. A recent poll revealed that one in five Americans fears they’ll get monkeypox. This is especially true for young people, many of whom now claim they are more scared of monkeypox than Covid

Meanwhile, three US states, including California, have declared states of emergency over the monkeypox outbreak, just as they did for Covid-19, potentially allowing them to enact mask mandates, lockdown orders, and other restrictions. And two weeks ago, a south London school sent reception classes home until the end of term after a child came into contact with a monkeypox case, sparking fears of an outbreak. The school said it was acting on advice of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and were “obliged to follow these precautionary guidelines”. Authorities also advised parents to avoid hugging their child.

It is simply baffling that anyone would willing to go down this road again — shutting down schools; denying children physical contact — with everything that we now know about the devastating effects of such measures on children’s mental and physical well-being throughout the Covid pandemic. But that doesn’t seem to register. Today, we are seeing the first stirrings of yet another bout of mass hysteria, with politicians, the media and public health officials (including the WHO) all repeating the same mistakes they made with Covid-19: spreading misinformation about the nature of the disease, and sowing unnecessary panic and fear among those who risk little or nothing from it, while denying those who actually are at risk the kind of targeted messaging and protection they deserve.

…As the WHO writes: “the ongoing outbreak of monkeypox continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men (MSM) who have reported recent sex with one or multiple partners. At present there is no signal suggesting sustained transmission beyond these networks.” So far, there has been a relatively small number of cases outside of this group: health officials have reported around 100 monkeypox cases among women worldwide — about 1% of the global total — while cases among children are even rarer. Read More > at Unherd

Will 4 a.m. be the new 2 a.m.? – Should bars and nightclubs be allowed to sell alcohol until 4 a.m. instead of the current 2 a.m. cutoff? That’s the question California lawmakers are set to answer this week as part of the suspense file, an opaque, twice-annual procedure in which they rattle through a list of hundreds of bills at breakneck speed, passing or killing them without a word of explanation. One of the proposals on Thursday’s suspense file — authored by San Francisco Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney and state Sen. Scott Wiener — would launch a pilot program allowing qualifying bars, taverns, nightclubs and restaurants in Cathedral City, Coachella, Fresno, Oakland, Palm Springs, West Hollywood and the city and county of San Francisco to sell liquor until 4 a.m.

The measure is supported by West Hollywood and the city and county of San Francisco, among others. “Many bars and venues are still facing mountains of debt as a result of the last few years,” Wiener said in a late June statement. “We need to give them every possible tool to help them survive — including allowing them to stay open until 4 a.m. Nightlife is a core part of who we are as a state, and our world-class bars and nightclubs deserve a fighting chance.”

But opposition to the bill has steadily been mounting. The Los Angeles County Democratic Party in late June voted to oppose the measure. Last week, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer withdrew his city from the pilot program, citing “recent anxiety on a local level” about increased drunk driving and deaths. And on Friday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to oppose the bill, arguing it wasn’t an improvement over a 2018 version vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that would have included Los Angeles among its pilot cities. Read More > at CalMatters

Men have a higher risk of cancer because of ‘intrinsic biological differences’ NOT because they eat, drink and smoke more, major study claims – Men drink and smoke more than women — but that is not the reason they have a higher cancer risk.

A major study suggests biological differences are the real reason behind the disparity between sexes. 

Understanding these differences could help to improve prevention and treatment, researchers say. 

The study looked at 300,000 middle-aged and older Americans who did not have cancer over 15 years.

Men were more than twice as likely to develop the disease compared to women — even when lifestyle factors were ruled out.

Researchers suggested differences in genes, hormones and the immune system all play a role. Read More > at Daily Mail

Amazon’s Roomba Deal Is Really About Mapping Your HomeAmazon.com Inc. hasn’t just bought a maker of robot vacuum cleaners. It’s acquired a mapping company. To be more precise: a company that can make maps of your home.

The company announced a $1.7 billion deal on Friday for iRobot Corp., the maker of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. And yes, Amazon will make money from selling those gadgets. But the real value resides in those robots’ ability to map your house. As ever with Amazon, it’s all about the data.

A smart home, you see, isn’t actually terribly smart. It only knows that your Philips Hue lightbulbs and connected television are in your sitting room because you’ve told it as much. It certainly doesn’t know where exactly the devices are within that room. The more it knows about a given space, the more tightly it can choreograph the way they interact with you.

\Slightly more terrifying, the maps also represent a wealth of data for marketers. The size of your house is a pretty good proxy for your wealth. A floor covered in toys means you likely have kids. A household without much furniture is a household to which you can try to sell more furniture. This is all useful intel for a company such as Amazon which, you may have noticed, is in the business of selling stuff. Read More > at Bloomberg

Scientists Join Lawsuit Against Biden Admin Over Censoring COVID-19 Information On Social Media – Several well-known doctors and scientists joined a lawsuit against the Biden administration Tuesday over social media censorship of COVID-19 information.

Drs. Jayanta (Jay) Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff and Aaron Kheriaty joined the lawsuit filed by the states of Missouri and Louisiana, alleging that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) worked with Big Tech companies to censor Americans discussing the pandemic. The doctors alleged they were censored on social media platforms for expressing views in opposition to the positions of the federal government, their representation, the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), said in a Tuesday press release.

Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, and Kulldorff, a former professor of medicine at Harvard University and member of the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Subgroup, were co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration. The declaration advocated for a targeted approach to protect society’s most vulnerable from COVID-19 and against widespread lockdowns and mandates aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. Both men have faced intense pushback from pro-lockdown figures, including some government officials, for their public opposition to policies like stay-at-home orders and vaccine mandates.

Recently unearthed government records show that health officials at the CDC coordinated with Big Tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, to advise them on what kind of content to flag as misinformation on their sites. Those platforms either removed, suppressed or added warning labels to thousands of pieces of content that contradicted CDC guidance throughout the pandemic, a study found. Read More > at the Daily Caller

Food crisis: Inflation forcing change in eating habits – Most people, especially families with children, are being forced to change their eating habits because of the rampant inflation sucking up every spare penny and driving prices to historically high levels.

By a 2-1 margin, inflation is changing eating habits, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports survey. It found that 63% are changing, while 31% are not.

Hit hardest are families with children — with 72% changing their habits to accommodate higher prices for basics such as eggs, milk, butter, and bacon — and women under 40 at 73%.

Rasmussen found that nearly all Americans, 89%, have been paying more since President Joe Biden took office, and 61% believe they will still be paying more in a year.

Notably, there was virtually no difference between Republican and Democratic reactions to the question of paying more. The survey analysis found that 88% of Democrats are paying more for food than they were a year ago, and 90% of Republicans said they are too. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Inflation: Grocery prices increased 13.1% in July – Americans can still expect sticker shock when they head to their local grocery stories due to inflation.

Despite inflation cooling down a bit in July, up 8.5%, Americans are still paying significantly more for food.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July Consumer Price Index (CPI), the cost of food rose 10.9% , with food in the at-home category rising 13.1%, higher than the year-over-year rise in recent months. For the overall food category, that’s the highest increase since May of 1979, but for the food-at-home category, which is household groceries, it’s the highest since March of 1979, according to Steve Reed, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Compared to June of 2022, the grocery category increased 1.4%

On a 12-month basis, cereal and bakery products led the spike with an increase of 15% — with flour and prepared flour mixes up 22.7%. This leap was followed by the other food at-home categories including dairy and related products, up 14.9%, with milk specifically up 15.6%, which is only up 0.1 on monthly basis.

Meanwhile, the meats, poultry fish and eggs category, up 10.9%, saw a bit of relief where the cost of beef and veal decreased 0.1% and hot dogs dropped 6.0% compared to last month, but it was largely offset by eggs, up 38% compared to a year ago and 4.3% compared to June of 2022. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance

U.S. Postal Service to temporarily hike prices for holiday season – The U.S. Postal Service filed a notice Wednesday of a temporary price hike for this year’s peak holiday season, which it said would help cover extra handling costs.

The agency said the adjustment was approved by its board of governors and is now pending review by the Postal Regulatory Commission. The price increase would go into effect on Oct. 2 and remain in place until Jan. 22, 2023.

The agency said the adjustment is similar to past years and will allow it to remain competitive during the peak shipping season.

The price increases depend on the weight of the package and the distance of the delivery. Commercial priority mail packages will see a 75 cent hike, and heavy, long-distance deliveries could see increases of up to $6.50. Read More > at CNBC

With 87,000 new agents, here’s who the IRS may target for audits – As the Democrats’ spending plan moves closer to a House vote, one of the more controversial provisions — nearly $80 billion in IRS funding, with $45.6 billion for “enforcement” — has raised questions about who the agency may target for audits.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said these resources are “absolutely not about increasing audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans,” in a recent letter to the Senate.

However, with the investment projected to bring in $203.7 billion in revenue from 2022 to 2031, according to the Congressional Budget Office, opponents say IRS enforcement may affect everyday Americans.

Overall, IRS audits plunged by 44% between fiscal years 2015 and 2019, according to a 2021 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report.

While audits dropped by 75% for Americans making $1 million or more, the percentage fell by 33% for low-to-moderate income filers claiming the earned income tax credit, known as EITC, the report found.

Ken Corbin, chief taxpayer experience officer for the IRS, said returns claiming the EITC have “historically had high rates of improper payments and therefore require greater enforcement,” during a May House Oversight Subcommittee hearing.

Since many lower-income Americans are wage earners, these audits are generally less complex and many may be automated. Read More > at CNBC

$4,104,725,000,000: Federal Tax Collections Set Record Through July – The federal government collected a record $4,104,725,000,000 in total taxes in the first ten months of fiscal 2022 (October through July), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement.

That was up $503,787,000,000—or 13.9 percent—from the then-record $3,600,938,000,000 (in constant July 2022 dollars) that the Treasury collected in taxes in the first ten months of fiscal 2021.

The record $4,104,725,000,000 in total taxes that the federal government collect in the first ten months of this fiscal year included $2,263,483,000,000 in individual income taxes; $1,233,770,000 in social insurance and retirement taxes; $82,711,000,000 in customs duties; $67,496,000,000 in excise taxes; $26,662,000,000 in estate and gift taxes; and $116,315,000,000 in what the Treasury calls “miscellaneous receipts.” Read More > at CNSNEWS

Chesa Boudin, Contra Costa D.A. join group urging California Supreme Court to overturn three-strikes ruling – A state appeals court says district attorneys who oppose California’s “three strikes” law, like George Gascón of Los Angeles, must still charge sentence-lengthening strikes when a defendant has serious prior convictions. But a group of current and former prosecutors, including Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton and former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, says the ruling would allow judges to usurp the will of voters and is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn it.

The appellate ruling, issued June 2, “threatens the very core of the prosecutor’s well-settled discretion and role as an elected official,” the 73 prosecutors said in a brief to be filed Friday with the state’s high court.

In addition to Boudin, who was recalled from office by San Francisco voters June 7, and Becton, who was re-elected to a four-year term the same day, the signers included District Attorneys Alvin Bragg of New York, Wesley Bell of St. Louis, Kimberly Foxx of Chicago and Lawrence Krasner of Philadelphia, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Two former Los Angeles County district attorneys, Gil Garcetti and Ira Reiner, also signed the court filing.

The state’s high court has not decided yet whether to grant review of the ruling. Gascón has asked the court to take up the case and overrule the appellate court. Prosecutors in his office, represented by the 800-member Association of Deputy District Attorneys, filed the suit challenging his policies. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

How higher education lost its shine – There has been a significant and steady drop nationwide in the proportion of high school graduates enrolling in college in the fall after they finish high school — from a high of 70 percent in 2016 to 63 percent in 2020, the most recent year for which the figure is available, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Many observers have suggested three principal explanations for the falloff: the Covid-19 pandemic, a dip in the number of Americans under 18 and a strong labor market sucking young people straight into the workforce.

But while the pandemic made things worse, the enrollment downturn took hold well before it started; there were already two and a half million fewer students at colleges and universities by the time that Covid set in than there were in 2012. Another million and a half have disappeared since then.

Demographics alone cannot explain the scale of this drop. And statistics belie the claim that recent high school graduates are getting jobs instead of going to college; workforce participation for 16- to 24-year-olds is actually lower than it was before Covid hit, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports.

Myriad focus groups and public opinion surveys point to other reasons for the dramatic downward trend. These include widespread and fast-growing skepticism about the value of a degree, impatience with the time it takes to get one and costs that have finally exceeded many people’s ability or willingness to pay. Read More > at The Hechinger Report   

Are San Francisco’s NIMBYs Finally Getting Their Comeuppance? – San Francisco’s homegrown hostility to new development has made it the epicenter of California’s housing crisis. It will now become a testing ground for a newly empowered state government’s ability to force liberalizing reforms on a city that repeatedly refuses to build.

On Tuesday, the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) announced that it would be launching an unprecedented review of San Francisco’s housing policies and practices “aimed at identifying and removing barriers to approval and construction of new housing there.”

Over nine months, the HCD’s Housing Accountability Unit will examine how exactly the city ended up with the state’s longest approval times for new construction and its highest housing and construction costs.

State law requires cities to submit housing elements once every eight years showing how they’ll update their zoning regulations to meet their projected housing demand.

For a long time, the preparation of housing elements was a perfunctory and meaningless exercise. Some cities didn’t do them at all. Others produced unrealistic plans that couldn’t conceivably result in the predicted amount of housing actually being built.

In recent years, a series of legislative fixes require cities to produce more realistic housing elements. State officials at the HCD have proven increasingly willing to reject housing elements that don’t meet these new standards….

The city could be hit with escalating fines or lose access to state infrastructure and affordable housing dollars. Courts are also empowered to appoint a planning expert to write San Francisco’s housing element for it.

There’s reason to think that neither of these remedies would actually be applied. The state might not find it politically practical to cut off one of its largest cities from infrastructure and housing funds….

One state remedy that might be more impactful, Elmendorf said, is an as-of-yet untested “builder’s remedy.”

State law says that cities without a compliant housing element can’t use their zoning code to reject projects that include some affordable units. Theoretically, this would allow developers to build projects at unlimited densities anywhere in a city. Someone could propose a skyscraper in a single-family neighborhood, and city officials couldn’t stop it. Read More > at Reason

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2022’s Best & Worst States to Have a Baby – WalletHub Study

With the average birth costing over $3,000 for mothers with insurance, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst States to Have a Baby, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To determine the most ideal places in the U.S. for parents and their newborns, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 32 key measures of cost, health care accessibility and baby-friendliness. The data set ranges from hospital conventional-delivery charges to annual average infant-care costs to pediatricians per capita.  

Having a Baby in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 34th – Hospital Cesarean-Delivery Charges
  • 33rd – Hospital Conventional-Delivery Charges
  • 46th – Avg. Annual Cost of Early Child Care
  • 2nd – Infant Mortality Rate
  • 9th – Rate of Low Birth-Weight
  • 27th – Midwives & OB-GYNs per Capita
  • 24th – Pediatricians & Family Medicine Physicians per Capita
  • 42nd – Child-Care Centers per Capita
  • 6th – Parental-Leave Policy Score
  • 39th – % of Residents Who Are Fully Vaccinated

For the full report, please visit: https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-to-have-a-baby/6513

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The 2022 Grape Harvest has started in Oakley

Have you seen those vines burdened with a heavy load of grapes? Yep, they’re ready to harvest and it appears like another good year for California wine. Generally the harvest starts can start in early August  in Oakley and last into to October.  Growers and winemakers are checking sugar content daily to determine which vineyard will be picked next.

Starting the harvest is determined in large part by the sugar level in the grape. The wine industry uses the term “brix” to designate sugar level. A small piece of testing equipment called a “refractometer” allows a winemaker to assess the ripeness of the grape. A grape is placed in the device and the percentage of brix is displayed on a scale seen through the eye piece. A brix level of 25- 26 is good for picking red grapes. Other varieties will have less or more. White wine and rosés require a brix level around 22 – 23. The winemaker will also use flavor as a determining factor of when to pick grapes.

Nearly 80 percent of Oakley’s roughly 500 acres of vineyards are planted in Zinfandel, a variety of red wine grape. Other varieties of grapes in Oakley include: Mourvèdre, a grape used to make both strong, dark red wines and rosés; Carignane, another red wine grape, is one of the world’s most widely available grapes. These three varieties also make up most of Oakley’s ancient vines (80 – 120 years old).

There are other grapes grown in Oakley: Palomino is a white grape; Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape; other red grapes include; GrenachePetite Syrah, Sirah, Barbera and Alicante Bouschet.

The harvest will continue through the first of October so be wary of slow moving farm equipment on the roads. Oakley’s vineyards are dispersed throughout the community making the movement of vehicles including tractors, forklifts and trucks essential to a timely harvest and this means your friendly farmers will be sharing the road with you more frequently as they drive their “implements of husbandry.”

The California vehicle code defines implements of husbandry as a vehicles used exclusively in the conduct of agricultural operations. For a complete list of implements of husbandry, see Vehicle Code section 36000. They are generally identifiable by the a slow-moving vehicle emblem, a large orange triangle on the back of the equipment, and are exempt from registration, brakes, lights, size limitations (within specific guidelines and with the exception of weight) and identification plates when operated or moved over a highway.

When approaching one of these “implements of husbandry” do so with caution, they probably can’t hear or see you. Follow at a safe distance and pass only where appropriate and remember, that driver has the same legal rights as you do in your car.

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Explore the Antioch Sand Dunes – Saturday, August 13 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM

501 Fulton Shipyard Rd, Antioch, CA 94509

Here’s your chance to explore this refuge that is usually closed to the public! This 1 mile guided tour will focus on the wonders of Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. Wear sturdy shoes for the sandy hike along the dunes. All ages are welcome and no reservations are required. Call 707-769-4200 for more information

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First Invasive Aedes Mosquitoes Found in Contra Costa County

The Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) has identified the invasive mosquito species Aedes aegypti in Contra Costa County. The mosquitoes were found in Martinez. This is the first group of invasive mosquitoes reported in Contra Costa County.

The District is conducting surveillance and treatment in the area where these mosquitoes were identified with the goal of eliminating them before they become widespread in Contra Costa County; however, they are known to be very difficult to eradicate.

“These mosquitoes are very aggressive day-biters that can transmit the causative agents of Zika, Dengue, chikungunya, and yellow fever. They can hide among vegetation and debris which makes them very challenging to find and eliminate. As we take our responsibility of protecting public health very seriously, we are setting additional traps, and going door-to-door in an effort to find and control these invasive mosquitoes and prevent them from becoming established in the County,” said Paula Macedo, General Manager.

Aedes aegypti are not native to California but can be found around the world in tropical and subtropical areas. They are common in the Southeastern United States and Arizona. More than 10 years ago, they were first discovered in Southern California, and over the years, they have been found in communities from San Diego County north to Shasta County. In 2019, Aedes aegypti were discovered in San Joaquin, Sacramento, and Yolo Counties.

These invasive mosquitoes are very small (about 1/4 inch), with black bodies and white stripes. Females can lay individual eggs that can remain dormant for up to six months before being exposed to water in which they can develop from egg to adult in a week or less. They are often introduced through travel, particularly as people move from area to area and may unknowingly transport these mosquitoes in potted plants or other outdoor items.

The District asks Contra Costa County residents to tip, toss and take action to reduce the risk of these new mosquitoes.

  • Toss out any amount of standing water.
  • These mosquitoes’ eggs can stick to surfaces, so after dumping out the water, scrub bird baths, containers, outdoor pet dishes, garden pots for plants, and anything else that can hold water outdoors.
  • And report any day-biting mosquitoes by calling (925) 685-9301 or online.

Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District, an independent special district and public health agency, is located at 155 Mason Circle in Concord.

Posted in Vector Control | Leave a comment

August 13 & 14, 2022, 6:30PM-8:00PM – Big Break Campfire: Geology

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday Reading – 08/07/2022

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.

Can Californians afford electric cars? – Affordable and efficient electric vehicles are critical to California’s efforts to tackle climate change and clean up its polluted air — by 2035, the state plans to ban all new sales of gas-powered cars.

But the state’s incentives and rebates for lower-income people who purchase electric cars have suffered from inconsistent and inadequate funding.

This year’s funding for some of the programs ran out in April — the waitlists have been shut down because of the backlogs. And even for the rebates that are still available, the obstacles are substantial: Program administrators are inundated with requests for the money, resulting in months-long waits — at the same time that prices are surging and electric cars are in short supply.

The troubled state subsidy programs raise a crucial question: Can California enact a mandate that requires 100% of all new cars to be zero emissions when a large portion of the population can’t buy them? 

If most Californians can’t afford to replace their old, higher-polluting gas-powered cars, many of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s climate goals are in jeopardy, along with statewide efforts to clean up the nation’s worst air pollution. Read More > at CalMatters

A handful of states are driving nearly all U.S. electric car adoption – California — no surprise — leads the U.S. in electric vehicle ownership, accounting for 39% of all EVs registered nationwide.

  • Look more closely at the numbers, however, and it turns out EVs represent less than 2% of all vehicles on the road in the Golden State.

Reality check: We’re a long way from a “tipping point” for electric vehicles. In fact, the EV revolution has barely begun in the U.S. and it’s playing out in super-slow motion — even in places where plug-in cars make the most sense.

Why it matters: Automakers are pouring billions of dollars into electric vehicle development in the face of urgent warnings about climate change. But with more than 278 million cars, SUVs, and pickups overall on U.S. roads, the historic shift away from gasoline will take years, if not decades, to play out.

  • Axios is tracking the transition, using monthly vehicle registration data from S&P Global Mobility.

The latest data: 4.6% of the new vehicles registered in the U.S. this past May were electric, according to the research firm’s most recent data.

  • That’s more than double EVs’ share of monthly registrations in May 2021 (1.9%).

Yes, but: EVs still account for only about 0.6% of all registered vehicles in the U.S. Take California’s EVs away, and it’s just 0.4%.

By the numbers: As of April 1, Florida has the second-highest share of the country’s EVs, at 6.7%. Then comes Texas (5.4%), Washington (4.4%), and New York (3.6%).

  • Yet, EVs account for only 1% or less of all vehicles within each of these states.
  • Besides California, the states or areas with the highest share of EVs within their own borders: Hawaii (1.3%), and the District of Columbia (1.2%). Read More > at Axios

Electric Car Drivers: Why You Might Not Be Pumped Over Privacy-Jolting Mileage Taxes – The environmental impact of electric cars may still be unknown, but leaders are growing concerned about the threat they pose to the financing of the nation’s highway system. Because freeways and bridges are funded, in large part, through federal and state taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, the battery-powered future will test whether roads can just be paved with good intentions.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are trying to devise new ways to raise that fuel tax revenue, which in fiscal year 2020 delivered $35 billion to the federal government and an additional $51 billion to state and local governments. But experts say that proposed fixes to the anticipated highway funding shortfall – involving charging drivers for the miles they travel by tracking their movement – pose a significant threat to personal privacy and liberty.  

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed with bipartisan support last year, authorized the Department of Transportation to launch new pilot programs to test ways to collect necessary fees. These include a range of high-tech means such as accessing location data from third-party on-vehicle diagnostic devices, smart phone applications, telemetric data collected by automakers, motor vehicle data obtained by car insurance companies, data obtained from fueling stations, and “any other method that the Secretary [of Transportation] considers appropriate.”

“Location data” – that is, information about where people are and where they’ve been – “is highly sensitive,” said Lee Tien, legislative director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that defends civil liberties in cyberspace. It can reveal “what they do, who they’re with, where they worship, what medical procedures they’re having.” Read More > at Real Clear Investigations

California scorns fossil fuel but can’t keep the lights on without it – California wants to quit fossil fuels. Just not yet.

Faced with a fragile electrical grid and the prospect of summertime blackouts, the state agreed to put aside hundreds of millions of dollars to buy power from fossil fuel plants that are scheduled to shut down as soon as next year.

That has prompted a backlash from environmental groups and lawmakers who say Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approach could end up extending the life of gas plants that have been on-track to close for more than a decade and could threaten the state’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2045.

That plan was a last-minute addition to the state’s energy budget, which lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature reluctantly passed. Backers say it’s necessary to avoid the rolling blackouts like the state experienced during a heat wave in 2020. Critics see a muddled strategy on energy, and not what they expected from a nationally ambitious governor who has made climate action a centerpiece of his agenda.

The legislation, which some Democrats labeled as “lousy” and “crappy,” reflects the reality of climate change. Heat waves are already straining power capacity, and the transition to cleaner energy isn’t coming fast enough to meet immediate needs in the nation’s most populous state.

Officials have warned that outages would be possible this summer, with as many as 3.75 million California homes losing power in a worst-case scenario of a West-wide heat wave and insufficient electrical supplies, particularly in the evenings.

It’s also an acknowledgment of the political reality that blackouts are hazardous to elected officials, even in a state dominated by one party. Read More > at Politico

Home prices cooled at a record pace in June, according to housing data firm – Rising mortgage rates and inflation in the wider economy caused housing demand to drop sharply in June, forcing home prices to cool down.

Home prices are still higher than they were a year ago, but the gains slowed at the fastest pace on record in June, according to Black Knight, a mortgage software, data and analytics firm that began tracking this metric in the early 1970s. The annual rate of price appreciation fell two percentage points from 19.3% to 17.3%.

Price gains are still strong because of an imbalance between supply and demand. The housing market has had a severe shortage for years. Strong demand during the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated it.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage crossed over 6% in June, according to Mortgage News Daily. It has since dropped back in the lower 5% range, but that is still significantly higher than the 3% range rates were in at the start of this year. Read More > at CNBC

Redwood National and State Parks will no longer let you hike to Hyperion, the world’s tallest tree – The area around Hyperion, a massive coast redwood known for being the tallest tree in the world, has been closed indefinitely due to damage to the forest caused by trampling visitors. 

The 380-foot tree is located deep within Redwood National Park and, despite not being accessible by any trail, has attracted scores of visitors since its height was “discovered” in 2006. According to the National Park Service, tree enthusiasts who have bushwhacked off-trail into dense vegetation to reach Hyperion’s base have caused enough habitat destruction to warrant the closure of the entire area, plus a $5,000 fine and potential jail time for those who decide to make the trip anyway. 

According to the park service’s website, visitors have caused some degradation to Hyperion’s base, and ferns no longer grow around the tree due to stepping and trampling. The hike to the tree is also particularly hazardous, since it is completely off-trail and located in an area without any cell phone reception and barely any GPS coverage. 

…Arguello said that because of natural patterns of tree growth and decay, there’s a good chance Hyperion won’t even be the tallest tree for much longer – one reason why the park hasn’t created a trail that leads to it. 

“At some point, the top will blow out or some other tree will grow faster, and it won’t be the tallest tree. We don’t want to make yet another official trail that we have to maintain for a tree that likely won’t be the tallest tree in the future,” Arguello said. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

The Crisis Facing Nursing Homes, Assisted Living and Home Care for America’s Elderly – Since January 2020, 400,000 nursing home and assisted living staff have quit, citing pandemic exhaustion as well as the low pay and lack of advancement opportunities typical of the field. The job losses arrive when America already faces an elder caregiver shortage, as 10,000 people daily turn 65 and birth rates decline. The labor shortage gripping America’s workforce across industries is felt most acutely in home health care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home health and personal care aides are actually the fastest growing industry, projected to grow 33 percent in the next decade, much faster than all occupations. But there still simply aren’t enough workers to fill the demand.

For decades, elder care in the U.S. has been bolstered by an immigrant workforce. …Immigrants occupy nearly 70 percent of jobs at the Alexandria, Va., facility, and are 40 percent of home health aides. But today, international migration to the U.S. is at record-lows. And with native-born Americans apparently reluctant to take elder care jobs, economists like Watson are raising alarm bells: Who will care for America’s elderly?

It’s a particularly important question as the crisis we’re in now is nothing compared to what’s coming: The percentage of people over the age of 85 — the group that most needs care — is predicted to double to 14 million by 2040, in part because Americans are living longer. In 2050, 84 million elderly people will live in AmericaVirginia alone is projected to be short 23,000 nurses in the next decade. Read More > at Politico

Why California has wild zebras – Nearly every day, dozens of drivers pull up on the side of Highway 1 in San Simeon, California to make sure their eyes are not deceiving them. In utter disbelief, they stop and stare at what look like zebras, grazing peacefully along the shores of the West Coast. 

These zebras did not escape from a nearby zoo. Nor are they part of a safari park whose confinements are so large they seem invisible. Believe it or not, they used to be the personal property of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. When Hearst died and his estate fell into disarray, the zebras were let loose into the Californian countryside where, thanks to a legal loophole, they were allowed to stay. 

Making a new home for themselves in the grasslands of San Simeon, Hearst’s zebras managed to survive. Actually, they thrived. Thanks to some unexpected similarities between the ecosystems of the West Coast and the African savannah, the state of California now houses the largest wild zebra herd outside of Africa. Read More > at Big Think

Why Old Spice, Colgate and Dawn are locked up at drug stores – Most of the products on the drug store shelf are behind lock and key, even everyday items such as deodorant, toothpaste, candy, dish detergent, soap and aluminum foil. Manufacturers that supply lock cases and devices to chain stores have seen their businesses boom.

Walgreens and Rite Aid have said that the problem of organized retail crime — rings of criminals that steal products from stores and then often resell them on online marketplaces — is causing them to lock more products up and close some stores.

Locking up their shelves is a last resort for stores, but it has never been more widely practiced. It’s also become a growing irritation for shoppers and a source of frustration for some employees who must walk around the store with keys at the ready.

The reason why stores resort to locking up these products is simple: to prevent shoplifting. But these decisions are far more nuanced and fraught for stores than you may think. Companies must walk a delicate line between protecting their inventory and creating stores that customers don’t dread visiting.

Stores look to protect “the vital few” products that are most profitable for them to sell, said Adrian Beck, who studies retail losses at the University of Leicester. And they’re willing to accept higher theft on the lower-margin “trivial many,” he added.

Shoplifters target smaller items with higher price tags, often called “hot products,” which typically are what retailers most frequently lock up. One criminologist created an apt acronym, CRAVED, to predict the stuff at highest risk: “concealable, removable, available, valuable, enjoyable, and disposable.” Read More > at CNN Business

Scientists baffled as Earth spins faster than usual – Scientists have been left baffled after discovering the Earth is spinning faster than normal — making days shorter than usual.

New measurements by the UK’s National Physical Laboratory show that the Earth is spinning faster than it was half a century ago.

On June 29, the Earth’s full rotation took 1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours — the shortest day ever recorded.

Scientists have warned that, if the rotation rate continues to speed up, we may need to remove a second from our atomic clocks.

“If Earth’s fast rotation continues, it could lead to the introduction of the first-ever negative leap second,” astrophysicist Graham Jones reported via TimeandDate.com. 

“This would be required to keep civil time — which is based on the super-steady beat of atomic clocks — in step with solar time, which is based on the movement of the sun across the sky.

“A negative leap second would mean that our clocks skip one second, which could potentially create problems for IT systems.” Read More > in the New York Post

The Surprising Benefits of Yawning – Yawning—such an odd physiological phenomenon. Humans yawn, and so do dogs, monkeys, birds, and just about every known vertebrate species other than giraffes (yes, that is also odd).

Why do we yawn? Obviously, people and other animals yawn when they are tired; we all know that. But there must be more to it—there must be a biological purpose beyond letting chatty dinner guests know that they’ve overstayed their welcome.

…Yawning, as far as we know, does not improve overall oxygen levels.

Tyler Huston is a nurse, paramedic, and breathing specialist based in British Columbia who practices and teaches breath control therapy for rehabilitation from physical and/or psychological injury as well as for optimizing athletic performance. He is not a big fan of yawning in the context of competition, although he told me that it might have a very specific value for an athlete like Ohno.

Second, based on brain-scan studies, yawning increases the activity of a small area of the brain called the precuneus, which plays an important role in spatial orientation, memory, and consciousness. So, perhaps it helps with focus and attention.

And third, there is the social function of yawning. Yes, it may be a social cue to bug off, but depending on the circumstances, it may also be a call for vigilance. On a family road trip, for instance, a driver’s yawn may be an important signal that they need a break. Read More > at Psychology Today

Humans settled in North America 17,000 years EARLIER than previously believed: Bones of mammoth and her calf found at an ancient butchering site in New Mexico show they were killed by people 37,000 years ago – Bones of an adult mammoth and her calf have been uncovered at a 37,000-year-old butchering site in New Mexico, which suggest humans settled in North America 17,000 years than previously believed.

A team of scientists, led by The University of Texas at Austin, extracted collagen from the bones, allowing them to carbon date the settled age of 36,250 to 38,900 years old.

The bones were discovered in a three-foot-tall pile, with 95 percent belonging to the adult, and featured slaughter marks and fractures from blunt force impact

The discovery adds to the growing evidence that there were societies before people crossed the Bering Strait land bridge some 20,000 years ago. The bridge, also called Beringia, connected Siberia and Alaska during the last Ice Age, and allowed people to come from Asia into North America. Read More > in the Daily Mail

The Decline and Fall of Newspapers – A few years ago, you would have unfolded your newspaper and read opinion and analysis like this. Those days are gone. Today, most of us get our news and commentary online, perhaps supplemented by network or cable television, although TV viewership is far smaller than in the days of  “The Big Three.” Buried alongside those iconic broadcasters is the public’s confidence in news from all sources. Only 16% of Americans say they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers, only 11% in TV news. Those numbers keep sinking. Today, if Walter Cronkite ended his broadcast, “And that’s the way it is,” most people would just smirk.

How dramatic is this change in the way we get our news? What’s driving it? What have we gained and lost? And how do these changes affect our deeply divided nation?

The most important point is the most obvious: The changes are huge – and irreversible. One recent study shows that in our country of 332 million people, no newspaper has a print circulation of more than 1 million. Only nine have more than 100,000 subscribers. Among the 25 largest papers, only one showed an increase in circulation, and it serves a retirement community. It’s shocking, really, that a paper with less than 50,000 subscribers is among the nation’s largest.

The decline is relentless. Print papers are losing one out of eight subscribers every year. Their daily circulation, over 63 million at its peak in the 1980s, is now about one-third that size. Over 25% of all American newspapers have died in the past 15 years.

What is driving this tectonic shift, away from print and toward online news? In a word, technology. Cheap, ubiquitous computing is killing print papers by introducing competition and choice. This new, competitive environment has destroyed papers’ profitable monopolies for local advertising dollars. Read More > at Real Clear Politics

Families With Young Children Have Left Urban Areas in Droves – A new report is shedding light on the urban exodus that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The exodus wasn’t driven by young professionals alone; it was driven by young families with children. That fact has contributed to steep public school enrollment declines in places like Los Angeles and could alter the future of large cities.

The new data comes from the Economic Innovation Group (EIG). In 2021, 68% of large urban counties experienced a decline in population, EIG found. Between 2019 and July 2021, the number of children under age five in these counties fell by 358,000 or 5.4%.

“Some high-cost, coastal cities have seen families flee at faster rates than others, and not just those with children under five,” according to EIG. “Manhattan saw a whopping 9.5 percent decline in the number of children under five. San Francisco lost 7.6 percent, and has lost over 10 percent since 2019. In every one of the top 20 most populous counties in the United States, the number of children under five has declined faster than the overall population, and in nearly all of these top metro areas, so too has the count of all children declined (those under 18).”

Santa Clara lost 6.2% of its under-fives and 4.1% of those under age 18. Los Angeles County lost 5.6% of its under-fives and 3.1% of those under age 18.

As EIG notes, some of this is already reflected in school enrollment data. During the 2020-2021 school year, the share of eligible children enrolled in pre-k programs dropped for the first time in 20 years. However, more pain likely awaits. That’s because the under-five population consists of children who would have been attending pre-K-12 in the years to come.

EIG researchers say the declines are driven by declining birth rates, low immigration, and remote work options that allow families to put down roots in more far-flung areas. The data also provides clues about where migrating families are going. Read More > at California City News

California Lawmakers Approve Drug Injection Sites for Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco – Aiming to prevent overdose deaths, California lawmakers have again given approval for its major cities to experiment with supervised injection facilities that would provide users a place to inject drugs under the supervision of health workers.

California’s state Senate passed S.B. 57 on Monday, joining the Assembly (which passed it in June) in allowing San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland to approve organizations to operate these injection sites, following a lengthy approval process that includes public meetings.

Lawmakers attempted to launch these injection facilities in San Francisco back in 2018, but then-Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill, partly because he worried that he couldn’t protect operators from federal prosecution (which everybody involved already knew was a risk) but really because his nanny state–style approach to addiction was to use government force to mandate people into drug treatment.

Newsom has said he is “open” to the idea of these injection sites but stopped short of fully endorsing them. It’s not clear whether he’s going to sign S.B. 57 into law, but advocates are hopeful. Read More > at Reason

Wolf ‘milestone’: 11 pups born to Northern California packs this year – Northern California welcomed 11 new wolf pups this year, state wildlife officials said, news hailed as “a conservation milestone” by wolf advocates.

Two of the state’s three wolf packs have produced new pups this year, according to a wolf management report published Tuesday by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Lassen pack, located in western Lassen and northern Plumas counties, had five pups. The Whaleback pack in eastern Siskiyou County added six, officials said.

“These furry little tykes are really something to celebrate,” said Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a news release.

Two wolf packs producing pups back-to-back was considered “a conservation milestone,” Weiss said. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Why fossil fuels are here to stay – The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in the year 2050, the two leading energy sources in the U.S. will be gas and oil. Renewables, while the fastest growing category, are only anticipated to supply about 20% of the energy mix. The Chinese are among those who have an appreciation for the inevitability of fossil fuels. China has more than a thousand coal-fired electric power plants, and coal use in China continues to increase, year after year.

The characterization of wind and solar power as “sustainable” and “renewable” is misleading. Only the fuels, wind and sunshine, are free. The infrastructure necessary to capture, concentrate, and deliver energy is not sustainable. Both wind and solar suffer from inherent limitations to which there is no conceivable technological solution. They are dilute and intermittent. There is no mechanical fix that can make the sun shine at night or the wind blow during a calm. Battery storage is insufficient by many orders of magnitude.

Mining raw materials for battery manufacture has environmental consequences. Lithium-ion batteries and solar panels wear out and accumulate in landfills as toxic waste with the potential for groundwater contamination. Renewable energy sources are entirely unsuitable for aviation and long-distance transport and cannot meet varying demands for electricity. It is a utopian fantasy to imagine that solar and wind power will ever be able to make more than marginal contributions to the energy mix.

For a long time, one of the arguments for phasing out fossil fuels was that the supply is limited and it was prudent to switch to alternative sources before exhaustion. The singular example was M. King Hubbert’s Peak Oil Theory. When U.S. oil production peaked in 1970 and then systematically declined for 38 years, Hubbert’s theory appeared to be verified. But the introduction of new production technologies reversed the trend, and by 2018 U.S. oil production had exceeded the peak of 1970. When the supply of oil became so abundant that the price briefly became negative on April 20, 2020, a stake was driven through the heart of Peak Oil Theory.

It’s now apparent that the magnitude of the worldwide petroleum resource exceeds ten trillion barrels, and we’ve only produced about 10 to 20% of that total. Without even a consideration of unconventional resources such as oil shales, we have enough petroleum to last for several decades. And, at current consumption rates, both coal and gas resources are sufficient for hundreds of years. Read More > in The Washington Times

California county’s secession measure will be on 2022 ballot – Voters in Southern California’s San Bernardino County will have the chance to decide in November whether they want the county to potentially secede from the state.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Wednesday to put the secession measure on the 2022 ballot, the Southern California News Group reported. One supervisor was absent.

The secession idea was initially floated by real estate developer Jeff Burum at the board’s July 26 meeting.

Secession would require approvals by the California Legislature and U.S. Congress.

According to county spokesman David Wert, a finance team conducted a per-capita comparison of federal and state revenue received by California counties based on data from the state controller. The data show San Bernardino County ranks 36th out of 56 counties for per-capita revenue received from the state and federal governments, Wert said.

“If the worst thing that comes out of this is a study that will be ammunition for our state representatives to fight for more money for us” that would be acceptable, said board Chairman Curt Hagman.

Home to 2.1 million people east of Los Angeles, San Bernardino is the fifth-most populous county in California and the largest in the nation by area. It’s physically larger than Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined. Read More > from AP

As monkeypox strikes gay men, officials debate warnings to limit partners – Thousands of gay men clad in leather, latex —and often much less — partiedalong Folsom Street here last weekend during the annual kink and fetish festival.Even afterthe city had just declared the monkeypox outbreak striking its gay community a health emergency — one day after the World Health Organization urged men to sleep with fewer men to reduce transmission — San Francisco public health officials made no attempt to rein in festivities or warn attendees to have less sex.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weighs whether to recommend limiting sex partners,health officials in San Francisco, Chicago, New York and other U.S. cities battling surges disproportionately sickening gay men are avoiding calls for sexual restraint, wary of further stigmatizing same-sex intimacy.

Public health authorities typically emphasize safer sex over abstinence to prevent the spread of diseases through intimate contact. But monkeypox is presenting new challenges in calibrating the right message to stop the rare virus from becoming endemic while limiting government intrusion into the bedroom.

More than 6,600 cases of monkeypox have been detected in the United States, prompting the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency Thursday to galvanize awareness. The virus primarily spreads through exposure to an infected person’s rashes or lesions, and this is the first outbreak in which contact during sex appears to be the significant driver. While infections are heavily concentrated among men who have sex with men, others can contract the virus through nonsexual contact and sharing contaminated items.

Many public health officials and activists who spent decades on the front lines of the battle against HIV/AIDS say they have learned it is futile to tell people to have less sex. That stance puts them at odds with the WHO, a top New York epidemiologist who condemned the city’s messaging and others within the gay community who say gay men deserve direct warnings before it is too late to end the outbreak. Read More > in The Washington Post

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Monkeypox – How it Spreads and Prevention

From the CDC

How it Spreads

Monkeypox spreads in a few ways.

  • Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
    • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
    • Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
    • Contact with respiratory secretions.
  • This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
    • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
    • Hugging, massage, and kissing.
    • Prolonged face-to-face contact.
    • Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
  • A pregnant person can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.

A person with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

Prevention

Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
  • Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
    • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
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2022 Estuary Blueprint

. Map of the San Francisco Estuary Partnership Study Area

The San Francisco Estuary Partnership is proud to share with you the 2022 Estuary Blueprint! The Estuary Blueprint is a collaborative and consensus-driven five-year roadmap to achieving a healthy, resilient San Francisco Estuary.

This updated plan identifies the top actions needed for:

  • Increased climate resilience.
  • Improved water quality for animals and people.
  • Healthier habitats and wildlife.
  • Thriving human communities.

The 2022 Estuary Blueprint aligns priority actions with Plan Bay AreaBay Adapt, the Delta Plan, the Water Quality Control Plan for the San Francisco Bay Basin, the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture’s Implementation Plan, and many other regional plans.

2022 Estuary Blueprint.

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Big Break August Naturalist Series

Nature’s Lego: August 5th, 10:00am

Join us for an in-person Big Break Littles! Bring the little ones to the park for nature before nap time.
Registration Required
Email bigbreakvisit@ebparks.org or
call 510-544-3050

Delta Discoveries August Every Saturday and Sunday 12:00am-2:00pm

The Delta reveals wonders to those willing to seek it! Bring your family and visit us every Saturday and Sunday from 12am-2pm to discover the hidden world of Big Break through crafts.
Drop-in. Free Program.

Geology: August 14th, 6:30-8:00pm

Gather the family for an evening in the park! Bring a picnic dinner to enjoy before the festivities begin! We’ll explore the wonders of Big Break through activities and a campfire (and S’mores of course!)
Drop-in. Free Program.

Nature with Naturalists

Trash Talk: August 13th, 11:00am
Critter Clues: August 20th & 21st, 11:00am
Birding Basics: August 28th, 11:00am

Explore the wonders of nature in the California Delta. Guided by a Big Break Naturalist, you will uncover what makes this area important for plants, animals, and people.
Drop-in. Free Program.

GARDEN CLUB August 26th & 27th, 1:00pm

The Delta has a rich history of growing food to feed people across the globe. Learning from this we’ll plan our gardens together! For all knowledge levels, all garden sizes, plants in the ground or pots.
We’ll share information, ideas and seeds to grow vegetables, flowers and native pollinator gardens.
Program the same both days. Attend one or the other.
Drop-in. Free Program.

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Lectures on the Delta’s History at Los Medanos College – Fall 2022 and Spring 2023

The Los Medanos College’s Lifelong Learning Center offers lectures for adults seeking personal growth and enrichment. Learn about the Delta’s rich heritage and history through a series of lectures by Carol Jensen, Delta historian and member of the National Heritage Area Advisory Committee. The lecture topics range from the Delta islands to ghost stories and everything in between.

The first lecture will take place Tuesday, August 16 from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. The topic will be Byron Hot Springs: The Most Fabulous Resort in the West.

You do not need to be a student of Los Medanos College to take part in the programs. The programs are fee-based, not-for-credit courses.

Learn More About and Register for the Lifelong Learning Center Lectures
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Solar Storm from Sun’s Atmospheric Hole Releases Geomagnetic Storm to Hit Earth on August 3

A solar storm from a hole in the atmosphere of the Sun released a geomagnetic storm which has been projected to hit Earth on Wednesday, August 3.

The prediction is made by the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The solar outburst triggered a G-1 class geomagnetic storm, which is relatively weak compared to other categories out of SWPC’s five-tier scale of space weather events.

However, it can still hit our planet’s magnetic field, disrupting both radio and satellite technology, as well as affecting navigation with the global positioning system (GPS).

In recent months, our solar system’s only star has generated multiple storms amid its increasing solar activity under the current Solar Cycle 25.

With space weather experts predicting the cycle peaking by 2025, solar storms, including solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), are also likely to elevate.

Read More > at Nature World News

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First Mosquitoes of 2022 Test Positive for West Nile Virus in Contra Costa County

The Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) reports a group of mosquitoes has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV) in Contra Costa County. The mosquitoes were collected from a trap in the city of Oakley. This is the first group of mosquitoes to test positive for WNV so far this year in Contra Costa County.

Certain species of birds may carry WNV. Once a mosquito bites an infected bird, the mosquito can become infected with the ability to transmit WNV to another animal or a person through a single mosquito bite.

WNV can grow more efficiently when temperatures are consistently warmer than 55 degrees. The District advises County residents to take action to reduce the risk of WNV by avoiding mosquito bites.

“It is important that Contra Costa County residents take precautions to avoid mosquito bites by using an effective insect repellent when outdoors, especially at dawn and dusk. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin that can be bitten. And, if possible, avoid being outdoors where mosquitoes are present,” said Steve Schutz, Ph.D., Scientific Program Manager.

Another way to reduce the risk of mosquitoes is to dump out any amount of standing water. Mosquitoes develop from egg to biting adult in water. Even the small amount of water that can collect in a bottle cap can produce mosquitoes. Also, make sure window and door screens do not have any rips or tears and that screens fit properly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when used as directed, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective. The District recommends using EPA-registered insect repellents with one of the following active ingredients:

  • DEET
  • Picaridin
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.

Always follow the instructions on the label when using an insect repellent.

Contra Costa County residents can report dead birds by phone at (877) WNV-BIRD (968-2473) or online. County residents can also request mosquito service for residential property by calling (925) 685-9301 or online.

Since 2005, 75 people in Contra Costa County have been diagnosed with West Nile virus. In 2006, two people died from the disease. For human case information, please visit the California Department of Public Health Vector-Borne Disease Section online.

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California releases monkeypox data for first time

from CalMatters

Amid mounting concern over the spread of monkeypox and calls for California to declare a state of emergency, state health officials on Friday released the first public breakdown of the 786 reported probable and confirmed cases so far. Among the key takeaways from the cases for which demographic information is available:

  • Men make up more than 98% of cases.
  • Gay and lesbian people account for nearly 92% of cases, followed by bisexual people at 5.6% and heterosexual people at 2%.
  • White people comprise 44.8% of cases, followed by Hispanic and Latino residents at 35.8%, Black Californians at 8.7% and Asian people at 6.1%.
  • Nearly 75% of cases have occurred in Californians between the ages of 25 and 44.
  • 11 people have been hospitalized due to monkeypox, and no one has died.

State Public Health Officer Tomás Aragón said in a statement that his team is “committed to fighting stigma against the LGBTQ community. … No single individual or community is to blame for the spread of any virus. Monkeypox can affect anyone and it spreads by skin-to-skin contact, as well as from sharing items like clothing, bedding and towels.”

  • The department also said Friday that while it works to obtain more vaccines, more than 30 facilities and providers can now administer an antiviral prescription drug for those who have already contracted monkeypox. The state also now has the capacity to process more than 1,000 monkeypox tests a week, the agency said.

In other virus news: COVID reinfections — when someone who recovered from a previous COVID infection tests positive again — accounted for 1 in 7 of California’s new cases reported through the first three weeks of July, with more than 50,000 documented reinfections, according to California Department of Public Health data shared for the first time with the Mercury News. “It begs for a new research agenda to understand the risk factors” for people who are repeatedly reinfected, said Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of UCSF’s Department of Medicine.

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Sunday Reading – 07/31/2022

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.

These California Counties Have the Worst Commutes – Workers who have been reluctant to return to the office most often cite commuting as their number one sticking point. The average American spent 26.6 minutes on a one-way trip to or from the office in 2019. That’s 53 minutes a day. There are only so many podcasts that can ease the pain of that statistic.

Of course, people in some places have it much worse than others. California is notorious for its traffic. The average one-way commute in California is over 29 minutes long!

Stacker recently compiled a list of California counties with the longest commute times. The information is based on U.S. Census Bureau Data from 2019. 

CALIFORNIA COUNTIES WITH THE WORST COMMUTES

1. Contra Costa County

-Average commute time: 38.7 minutes

-#33 longest among all counties nationwide

2. Calaveras County

-Average commute time: 38.3 minutes

-#38 longest among all counties nationwide

3. San Benito County

-Average commute time: 35.7 minutes

-#81 longest among all counties nationwide. Read More > at California County News

The Covid Virus Keeps Evolving. Why Haven’t Vaccines? – ON MARCH 16, 2020, the first volunteer received a shot of Moderna’s then-experimental Covid-19 vaccine, just 63 days after the company had generated a genetic blueprint of the new virus. But Moderna’s rival beat it to the marketplace: Pfizer’s Covid vaccine would be authorized for use in the United States less than a year later, a record-breaking achievement. Previously, the fastest a vaccine had ever been developed was for mumps—which took about four years.

The speed at which both companies were able to deliver their vaccines can be credited to mRNA technology. Instead of using the virus itself to spur an immune response, as older vaccines do, scientists instead spur it using a programmable piece of genetic code called mRNA. The mRNA tells the body to make a version of the coronavirus’s distinct spike protein, so it can make antibodies to neutralize that spike. The mRNA is quickly broken down, but the memory of the spike protein lingers in the immune system, so it’s ready to launch an attack if it encounters it again.

The promise of mRNA technology was its adaptability. Vaccine makers touted its plug-and-play nature. If the virus mutated to evade current vaccines, scientists could simply swap in a new piece of mRNA to match the new version of the virus. But today, despite waves of variants including DeltaOmicron, and the latest threats—Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5—the Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots still target the original virus that was identified in late 2019. Why haven’t variant-specific boosters arrived sooner?

While the currently available vaccines have greatly reduced death and hospitalization due to Covid-19, “their effectiveness does appear to wane with time,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, during a June 28 VRBPAC meeting. Initial booster shots helped restore some protection against severe disease, but their effectiveness also seems to fade.

…While the process of updating an mRNA booster goes rather quickly, testing and manufacturing it at scale takes longer. Variant-specific vaccines still need to go through animal and human testing to make sure they’re safe and generate an immune response. The FDA has said that vaccine makers can bypass large trials for updated Covid vaccines and instead test them in smaller groups of volunteers, similar to what’s done for the annual flu vaccine. Then, companies need to study volunteers’ blood to compare the immune response generated by the modified booster to the one generated by the original vaccine. The whole process from start to finish takes Moderna about six months, says Miller. Read More > at Wired

California Siphons Financial Benefits from Some Foster Youth – California county child welfare agencies regularly reimburse themselves for caring for foster youth by applying for and taking the children’s Social Security benefits — money that advocates say should instead be going to the children.

Some children in foster care have disabilities and are from low-income families, qualifying them for a Social Security program called Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. Others are like Tanner, eligible for survivor benefits because one or both of their parents died.

The state does not track how much money is withheld from these children, who make up a fraction of California’s 55,000 foster kids.

Advocates say taking the money hurts young people who are most in need of financial support, while it covers only a drop in the bucket of California’s child welfare system, which consumes nearly $5 billion in federal, state and local funds a year.

State and county child welfare officials say they’re using the money as intended – to provide for foster children as if they were their parents.

Federal dollars only pay for foster care for some children whose families meet strict poverty criteria, and states and counties must pay the full costs for other kids in their custody.

The Social Security benefits, when they’re available, are viewed as an offset of those costs. Read More > at Governing

Richer people left San Francisco in the pandemic. And they took billions of dollars with them – The average income of people who moved out of San Francisco surged during the early part of the pandemic, as more wealthy, white-collar workers, many of whom could work remotely, left the city.

From 2019 and 2020, the number of people listed on a tax return in San Francisco fell by 39,202, a drop of 4.5%, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service. Residents who left made an average of about $138,000 per year in 2019, up 67% from the prior year, when departing residents had an average annual income of around $82,000. San Francisco’s net out-migration, which is the number of people on filings who moved out subtracted by the number of people who moved in, nearly tripled in one year.

The agency cited data from tax returns received between 2019 and mid-July 2021. Separate Census data showed a 6.3% population drop in San Francisco between July 2020 and 2021, the largest in the country.

The total income in 2019 of people who had left the city by the time they filed their 2020 returns was about $10.6 billion, which compares to $3.8 billion for those that came to the city. A net loss of almost $6.9 billion. The net loss in the previous year was also negative, but much less at $2.6 billion, according to the IRS.

Ted Egan, San Francisco’s chief economist, said the flood of high-income residents leaving will not have a direct hit on municipal coffers, as the city doesn’t collect a personal income tax. Voters also repealed the remnants of a payroll tax in 2020.

But fewer people living in the city means less business for local shops and directly contributed to the plunge in sales tax revenue from $165 million in 2019 to $88 million in 2020. City officials don’t expect sales tax revenue to recover to pre-pandemic levels until the fiscal year starting in July 2025. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Bananas may improve heart health, especially for women – It may sound bananas, but new research shows eating this potassium-rich food can improve heart health.

Avocados and salmon also are high in potassium, helping counteract the negative effects of salt in the diet and lowering blood pressure, researchers said. Other potassium-rich foods include a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, dairy products and fish.

Every 1-gram increase in daily potassium was associated with a 2.4 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure for these women. No link between potassium and blood pressure was found in men.

Participants were followed a median of 19.5 years (meaning half were followed longer, half for a shorter time). During that time, 55% of participants were hospitalized or died due to heart disease.

After adjusting for such factors as age, sex, body mass index, use of tobacco, alcohol and lipid-lowering drugs, diabetes and prior heart attack or stroke, researchers found that people with the highest potassium intake had a 13% lower risk of heart-related problems compared to those with the lowest intake. Read More > at UPI

Most Americans Think Government Is Corrupt, a Third Say Armed Revolution ‘May Be Necessary’ Soon – A new poll from the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics finds a majority of Americans think the government is corrupt and stacked against them.

To probably no one’s surprise, 73 percent of poll respondents who identify as “strong Republican” respondents agreed with the statement that the government is “corrupt and rigged against everyday people like me.” But Republicans are far from alone in this sentiment. Fifty-one percent of “very liberal” voters agreed with the same statement.

Overall, 56 percent of survey respondents said that the government is corrupt. This included 66 percent of all Republican respondents, 63 percent of independents, and 46 percent of Democrats.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters found that a significant number of people expect that extreme measures may be necessary to protect against government overreach. 28 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “it may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government.” Thirty-six percent of Republicans, 35 percent of independents, and 20 percent of Democrats agreed. 

While some have portrayed this as a sign of increasing polarization or extremism, I think it’s the kind of poll question that makes for dramatic results but doesn’t really tell us much. Agreeing that armed revolution “may” (or may not!) be necessary at some unspecified point in the future doesn’t mean you think it’s terribly likely to be necessary.

One interesting finding is that people across the board believed that their political opponents might agree with them if they were better informed. Asked about “people who you disagree with on political issues,” half said that “the root of the problem” is that these people “are misinformed because of where they get their information.” Fifty-one percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats, and 37 percent of independents believed this. Read More > at Reason

California leads the nation in data breaches – A new report from Forbes Advisor shows California led the nation in data breaches between 2017-2021, with 325,291 victims losing more than $3.7 billion.

Forbes used FBI data from the federal agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center to determine how many Americans were impacted during the five-year period, which type of breach was the most common and which resulted in the highest financial loss.

The most expensive breach for Golden State residents came from compromised email accounts, which cost 14,925 victims more than $1.18 billion. That was followed by 12,205 victims duped by online romance schemes at a cost of $516.2 million.

Other ripoffs came in the form of investment scams (5,270 victims lost nearly $440 million), real estate fraud (11,365 victims lost $176.4 million) and personal data theft (31,742 victims lost $163.4 million).

Texas weathered the second-biggest financial loss in the Forbes report with 179,217 people impacted by data breaches at a total cost of more than $1.8 billion. New York was next (141,170 victims lost $1.77 billion), followed by Florida (198,830 victims lost $1.72 billion) and Ohio (64,926 victims lost $776.8 million) to round out the top five. Read More > at The Press-Enterprise

Ranchers Are Selling Off Their Cattle in Unprecedented Numbers Due to the Drought, and That Has Enormous Implications for 2023 – Thanks to the horrific drought which is absolutely devastating ranching in the Southwest, ranchers are now in “panic mode” and are selling off their cattle at an unprecedented rate.  In fact, some are choosing to sell off their entire herds because they feel like they don’t have any other options.  In recent days, seemingly endless lines of trailers waiting to drop off cattle for auction have gone viral all over social media.  Everybody is talking about how they have never seen anything like this before, and if the drought in the Southwest persists the lines could soon get even longer.  In the short-term, this is going to help to stabilize meat prices.  But in the long-term the size of the U.S. cattle herd will steadily become much smaller, and that has very serious implications for our ability to feed ourselves in 2023 and beyond.

North Texas has become the epicenter for this rapidly growing crisis.  Thanks to the drought, there simply is not enough grass and not enough water, and so many ranchers have been forced to make some really tough decisions

For many of these ranchers, it is imperative that they get something for their animals while they still can.

According to the USDA, the vast majority of the pasture and range land in the region is now in either “poor” or “very poor” condition

Normally, many cattle ranchers would feed hay to their cattle under such circumstances, but the price of hay has absolutely skyrocketed over the past year

So now even if you can find hay for sale it is usually so expensive that it is simply not economical.  Without any other options that make sense, some cattle ranchers in Texas have actually decided to go ahead and sell their entire herds.

The good news is that a flood of beef is coming into the supply chain right now.

And that will certainly help keep short-term prices stable.

But what will we do next year and beyond? Read More > at America First Report

Your brain “wakes up” more than 100 times each night. That’s normal — and maybe good – It’s common for humans to bemoan a night of fragmented sleep and prize one that’s completely uninterrupted, but a new study conducted on mice — which share basic sleep mechanisms with us — suggests that brief, repeated “wake-ups” during sleep are completely normal, and may actually augur well for one’s memory. The research was recently published in Nature Neuroscience.

Sleep is a complex neurological process characterized by shifting brain patterns, fluids flushing in and out of the skull, and a drop in body temperature, all with the apparent aim of restoring the brain as its waking functions are disabled.

In this process, the hormone norepinephrine appears to play a significant role, even though it’s released at lower levels during sleep compared to when we’re awake. Observing the brains of mice as the critters slept, scientists from the University of Copenhagen watched norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) levels rise and fall in a steady, oscillatory pattern, and noticed that this rhythm coincided with frequent, fleeting spurts of arousal in the brain.

“We have learned that noradrenaline causes you to wake up more than 100 times a night,” co-first author Celia Kjærby, an assistant professor from the Center for Translational Neuromedicine, said in a statement.

“Neurologically, you do wake up, because your brain activity during these very brief moments is the same as when you are awake. But the moment is so brief that the sleeper will not notice,” PhD student Mie Andersen, the other co-first author of the study, added.

Furthermore, the researchers noticed that when norepinephrine’s oscillation had a greater amplitude — meaning a larger disparity between peak levels of the hormone and the lowest levels — it led to more complete awakenings but also increased the frequency of sleep spindlesbrain wave patterns experienced during sleep associated with learning and memory processing.

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“You could say that the short awakenings reset the brain so that it is ready to store memory when you dive back into sleep,” Maiken Nedergaard, a Professor of Glial Cell Biology at the University of Copenhagen, speculated.

Indeed, when the researchers artificially reduced the amplitude of norepinephrine’s oscillation in mice’s sleeping brains, either through genetic engineering or pharmaceuticals, they found that the mice performed worse on memory tests compared to unaltered controls. Read More > at Big Think

Inside The Corrupt World Of Alzheimer’s Science (And What Its Failure Means For All ‘Settled Science’) – An international cabal of scientists who believe in their own righteousness. Scientific journals, conferences, and grants that suppress dissent. Tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer, Big Pharma and venture capital money. Decades of research — and precious little to show for it all.

I’m not describing Covid, global warming, or any other highly politicized scientific debate. I’m talking about Alzheimer’s research. The implications for the rest of science, policy, and education, however, are deep and troubling.

…All that is to say we care about Alzheimer’s like we care about cancer, heart disease, and others that have touched us personally. Did you know, however, that despite being officially diagnosed over a century ago; despite all the grants, institutes, and money poured into it; and despite Americans’ personal interest in solving it, we haven’t discovered a single cure?

Ever since Dr. Alois Alzheimer first identified the disease that now bears his name, we’ve taken an interest in the plaque deposits found in the brains of deceased patients. Follow-up research into the disease was slow to pick up, however, only gaining serious interest in the 1970s, when Congress established the National Institute on Aging (attached to the National Institutes of Health), and then gaining speed in the 1980s with private institutes joining the fray.

The main driver of these plaques was finally discovered in 1984 and identified as Amyloid beta. The discovery was electric, and quickly gained adherents.

Three years after, in 1987, STAT News reports, a new study further discovered “mutations in a gene called APP that increases amyloid levels and causes Alzheimer’s in middle age, supporting the then-emerging orthodoxy.”

By 1991, Science magazine reports, many scientists considered the amyloid thesis settled fact. Even serious studies casting doubt on the hypothesis were largely disregarded, including a 1991 study that found that, “although the brains of elderly Alzheimer’s patients had amyloid plaques, so did the brains of people the same age who died with no signs of dementia.”

At the same time, scientists began to wonder if Amyloid was the cause of the disease, or merely a sign of the damage the actual cause was doing to the brain; the difference between, say, a terminal disease and the tombstone left behind after it’s taken its toll.

The science, however, was settled, and alternative hypotheses would no longer be considered.

“In more than two dozen interviews,” a 2019 STAT News expose revealed, “scientists whose ideas fell outside the dogma recounted how, for decades, believers in the dominant hypothesis suppressed research on alternative ideas: They influenced what studies got published in top journals, which scientists got funded, who got tenure, and who got speaking slots at reputation-buffing scientific conferences.”

Straying outside the dogma would get you marked as a “traitor,” one prominent scientist explained, and could cost the heretic published articles, prominent posts, grant money for research, and speaking slots at prestigious conferences.

The 100-year anniversary of Dr. Alzheimer’s discovery might have been the year for skeptics to have their say, pointing out that despite decades of research and money, no cure yet existed. But that very year, Science reports, “a breathtaking Nature paper entered the breach.”

The study built on existing amyloid theories but discovered what its author called “the first substance ever identified in brain tissue in Alzheimer’s research that has been shown to cause memory impairment.”

It went off like a bomb, reinvigorating a dogma that had been showing signs of age after decades of failure. Over the next 15 years, the 2006 study would be cited in more than 2,000 other scholarly works.

Then in 2022, it would be exposed as seemingly fraudulent by a host of credible scientific investigators.

Fraudulent, as in, literally using falsified images to make its case. The “substance,” it turns out, might not even exist. Read More > in The Federalist

Proposed Delta tunnel enters next phase – The latest chapter in California’s decades-long water wars was released Wednesday, in the form of a 3,000-page report outlining the potential environmental impacts of Newsom’s proposal to overhaul the state’s massive water management system via a 45-mile underground tunnel that would allow more water to be funneled south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta. But, as CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports, the plan is far from final: It has yet to receive a price tag, though a 2020 cost estimate for an alternate tunnel path clocked in at just under $16 billion. And, if eventually approved, the project likely wouldn’t be completed until 2040 at the earliest. In the meantime, Californians have until Oct. 27 to submit public comments on the report, which has already faced pushback from environmental advocates who say it will harm endangered fish.

The news comes as Californians have water — or the lack thereof — on the mind. A whopping 68% of Californians — and 77% of likely voters — say the supply of water is a big problem in their part of the state, up from 63% and 69% last year, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey released late Wednesday night. The same percentage of adults, 68%, say state and local governments aren’t doing enough to address California’s drought, even as 45% say they personally have done a lot to reduce water use.

When it comes to likely voters, 59% told the institute they approve of Newsom’s handling of the environment, and nearly 9 in 10 said candidates’ stance on the environment will help determine their votes in this year’s gubernatorial election.

Delta tunnel: Salmon at risk from massive water project, state report says – California’s water agency today released a long-awaited environmental report outlining the details and impacts of a controversial proposal to replumb the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and pump more water south.

In the report, state officials said the tunnel project could harm endangered and threatened species, including the Delta smeltwinter-run chinook salmon and steelhead trout. To offset the “potentially significant impacts” on the rare fish, the Department of Water Resources says thousands of acres of other wetlands would have to be restored — which critics say is a slow and inefficient way to provide new habitat.

The draft environmental impact report is a major step in planning a tunnel that would fundamentally reshape California’s massive water management system. 

The report outlines the proposed path of a 45-mile tunnel that would pipe water from the Sacramento River, bypassing the Delta, and funnel it into Bethany Reservoir, the “first stop” on a state aqueduct that funnels water south. 

The goal of the project, which has been planned in various forms since the 1960s, is to shore up water supplies against environmental catastrophes such as earthquakes and the weather whiplash and sea level rise of climate change, according to California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot.

Water agencies that can eventually sign on to receive the tunnel project’s water stretch from the Bay Area and Central Coast to the Central Valley and Southern California. Read More > at CalMatters

Moving sea otters up the Northern California and Oregon coast — and maybe into San Francisco Bay — is feasible, federal government concludes – Relocating sea otters to places in Northern California and Oregon where they haven’t lived for generations, including possibly using helicopter rides to move a few dozen from the Monterey Bay area into San Francisco Bay, is feasible and could help expand populations of the endangered marine mammals.

But there are sensitive economic issues that have to be worked out first, chief among them how it might affect commercial fishermen who catch species such as Dungeness crab that sea otters also like to eat.

That was the conclusion Wednesday from a new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 200-page study, required by Congress, provided momentum to the growing idea among many marine biologists and environmentalists that the best way to help restore endangered sea otters is to spread their numbers out over a wider area across the West Coast.

The report does not give approval to relocating otters, most of which currently live in California between Santa Cruz and Morro Bay. More study would be needed, Fish and Wildlife Service officials said, to choose the best locations and learn exactly how otters would impact local fishing economies, including crab, clams, abalone and other shellfish.

Some areas that have been considered are San Francisco Bay, the Sonoma Coast and Drake’s Estero Lagoon in Marin County.

The idea is to expand otters’ genetic diversity and reduce the risk of one big event like an oil spill wiping out a large chunk of the sea otter population by moving small numbers so they can re-establish populations. Read More > in The Mercury News

Californians and other Americans are flooding Mexico City. Some locals want them to go home – Mexico has long been the top foreign travel destination for Americans, its bountiful beaches and picturesque pueblos luring tens of millions of U.S. visitors annually. But in recent years, a growing number of tourists and remote workers — hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., Silicon Valley and points in between — have flooded the nation’s capital and left a scent of new-wave imperialism.

The influx, which has accelerated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to continue as inflation rises, is transforming some of the city’s most treasured neighborhoods into expat enclaves.

In leafy, walkable quarters such as Roma, Condesa, Centro and Juarez, rents are soaring as Americans and other foreigners snap up houses and landlords trade long-term renters for travelers willing to pay more on Airbnb. Taquerias, corner stores and fondas — small, family-run lunch spots — are being replaced by Pilates studios, co-working spaces and sleek cafes advertising oat-milk lattes and avocado toast.

And English — well, it’s everywhere: ringing out at supermarkets, natural wine bars and fitness classes in the park.

At Lardo, a Mediterranean restaurant where, on any given night, three-quarters of the tables are filled with foreigners, a Mexican man in a well-cut suit recently took a seat at the bar, gazed at the English-language menu before him and sighed as he handed it back: “A menu in Spanish, please.”

Some chilangos, as locals are known, are fed up.

Recently, expletive-laced posters appeared around town.

“New to the city? Working remotely?” they read in English. “You’re a f—ing plague and the locals f—ing hate you. Leave.” Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

CNN Exclusive: FBI investigation determined Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt US nuclear arsenal communications – On paper, it looked like a fantastic deal. In 2017, the Chinese government was offering to spend $100 million to build an ornate Chinese garden at the National Arboretum in Washington DC. Complete with temples, pavilions and a 70-foot white pagoda, the project thrilled local officials, who hoped it would attract thousands of tourists every year.      

But when US counterintelligence officials began digging into the details, they found numerous red flags. The pagoda, they noted, would have been strategically placed on one of the highest points in Washington DC, just two miles from the US Capitol, a perfect spot for signals intelligence collection, multiple sources familiar with the episode told CNN.  

Also alarming was that Chinese officials wanted to build the pagoda with materials shipped to the US in diplomatic pouches, which US Customs officials are barred from examining, the sources said.    

Federal officials quietly killed the project before construction was underway.    The Wall Street Journal first reported about the security concerns in 2018.      

The canceled garden is part of a frenzy of counterintelligence activity by the FBI and other federal agencies focused on what career US security officials say has been a dramatic escalation of Chinese espionage on US soil over the past decade.        

Since at least 2017, federal officials have investigated Chinese land purchases near critical infrastructure, shut down a high-profile regional consulate believed by the US government to be a hotbed of Chinese spies and stonewalled what they saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities.    

Among the most alarming things the FBI uncovered pertains to Chinese-made Huawei equipment atop cell towers near US military bases in the rural Midwest. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the FBI determined the equipment was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons. Read More > at CNN

55% of America’s Top Startups Were Founded by Immigrants. Why Won’t Congress Let in More? – Immigrants are 80 percent more likely than native-born Americans to found a firm, according to a study released this May by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But more than that, a report released this week by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) indicates that immigrants are disproportionately responsible for starting high-value companies.

According to the NFAP, a nonprofit that researches trade and immigration, immigrants have started 319 of 582, or 55 percent, of America’s privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more. Over two-thirds of the 582 companies “were founded or cofounded by immigrants or the children of immigrants,” notes the NFAP. For comparison, approximately 14 percent of America’s population is foreign-born.

Together, the immigrant-founded companies are valued at $1.2 trillion and employ 859 people on average. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has the largest valuation at $125 billion, employing 12,000 workers; Gopuff, a food delivery service valued at $15 billion, has 15,000 employees; Stripe, a payment platform valued at $95 billion, employs 7,000; and Instacart, a grocery delivery service valued at $39 billion, has 3,000 workers.

Lawmakers have introduced a number of measures this year meant to bring more entrepreneurial and highly educated immigrants to the United States, but many of these have been included in—and eventually stripped from—larger bills. The House-passed America COMPETES Act contained provisions that would’ve established nonimmigrant visa programs for “entrepreneurs with an ownership interest in a start-up entity” and “essential employees of a start-up entity,” but they didn’t make it into the narrower Senate competition bill. More recently, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D–Calif.) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would’ve streamlined green cards for immigrants with doctoral degrees in STEM fields. But it wasn’t included in the House-passed NDAA. Prospects for meaningful immigration reform now look slim, especially with the midterms coming up. Read More > at Reason

Deaths from heart failure rise among young Americans – A growing number of younger American adults are dying of heart failure, with Black Americans being the hardest-hit, a new study finds.

Heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart muscle cannot pump blood as well as it should, leading to symptoms like fatigue, breathlessness and swelling in the legs. The condition is treatable, but it can prove deadly if it progresses to a severe stage.

While heart failure is usually diagnosed in older people, it can strike young adults — particularly if they have risk factors like obesity and diabetes.

In the new study, researchers found that heart failure deaths among Americans younger than 45 have been on the rise since 2012. That was after years of remaining stable or, at times, dipping.

There was also a clear racial disparity: Young Black adults consistently had a threefold higher death rate than both white and Hispanic Americans their age.

Experts said the reasons for the rising heart failure toll are unclear, but increasing rates of obesity and diabetes could be at work.

As for the racial disparity, they called it worrying, but not unexpected. It’s well known that heart failure disproportionately affects Black Americans.

The study also found wide variation among states. The Southeast had some of the highest heart failure death rates, reaching eight deaths per 100,000 in Mississippi. That compared with rates under two per 100,000 in all Northeastern states. Read More > at UPI

Hershey warns ‘trick-or-treat’ supply chain may cause candy shortage – Trick-or-treaters on the hunt for Kit Kats, Twizzlers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups might be in for a disappointment, or rather the people who like to hand them out might.

Hershey warned Thursday that it might not be able to meet demand for its signature candies at Halloween and over the holiday season because of a scarcity of raw ingredients and capacity challenges. It’s the latest kink in the global supply chains that got mangled during the coronavirus pandemic and now must absorb the logistical fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The war has made some ingredients scarce, and the efforts of European nations to isolate Moscow by restricting its oil and gas imports will affect Germany’s energy market, where the Pennsylvania-based company said it sources equipment and supplies.

Hershey said it began producing Halloween candy and chocolate in the spring. But because its everyday and seasonal products use the same production lines, the company was forced to recalibrate. When asked why the company had not shifted to an “all-hands-on-deck” operation to produce as much seasonal candy as possible, chief executive Michele Buck said it opted to prioritize the more immediate need of replenishing store shelves now. Read More > in The Washington Post

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Patriots Jet Team Foundation 9th Annual Benefit Gala – Saturday, September 17th

In Celebration of Our

Patriotic Heroes…

Join us this year for a spectacular evening with our Guest Speaker, Heather “Lucky” Penney.

Saturday, September 17th

We are very excited to announce that the event Guest of Honor/Speaker is Heather “Lucky” Penney most widely recognized for her service on September 11th. The first and only woman in the 121st Fighter Squadron, Heather deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom for initial combat operations as a nighttime SCUD Hunter in the western deserts of Iraq, also supporting Special Operations Forces. 

During the evening you will be treated to a dazzling Patriots Jet Team flight performance, Live Music, a Champagne Reception, Delicious Dinner with Drinks, and a high energy Auction!

Early Bird Tickets $225, after August 25th $275

Register Now

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