Saturday, December 5th, starting at 4:00 p.m. – Christmas Tree Lighting

cl12 Join us at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, December 5th, starting at 4:00 p.m. at Civic Center Plaza (3231 Main Street). There will be non‐profit booths with games and activities, choir performances, free refreshments and more. Santa Claus will be on hand to visit and pose for photos. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the moment. The 30ʹ Christmas tree in front of City Hall will be illuminated at approximately 6:00 p.m.


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Happy Thanksgiving – 2015

In January 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just been re-elected for a third term. After nearly 10 years of double-digit unemployment and economic stagnation, the Great Depression was abating. War had engulfed Europe, and before year’s end the United States would be drawn into the worldwide conflagration at Pearl Harbor.

In his annual State of the Union address to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941, Roosevelt found it “unhappily, necessary to report that the future and the safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders.” He articulated the case for supporting our future allies in their defiance of dictators, while he simultaneously prepared the nation to fight.

What would we fight for? “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms,” FDR said. They are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

In 1943 Norman Rockwell produced a series of four paintings on these Four Freedoms. One of these painting, Freedom From Want, has come to exemplify the old American traditional Thanksgiving, and is most often referred to as the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.

Of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, Freedom from Want is the most seen pieces of art—often featured in art books and has become a nostalgic symbol of the American Thanksgiving holiday. The painting depicts an elderly couple serving a Thanksgiving turkey to a happy and eagerly awaiting family. The iconic Freedom from Want painting promotes the importance of family togetherness and traditional values.

The unity portrayed in Freedom from Want is what makes the painting a classic image for the Thanksgiving holiday, and despite efforts to recreate the image and the message the painting displays, no other artist has accomplished what Rockwell accomplished with Freedom from Want.

Where ever this Thanksgiving Day finds you and your version of Rockwell’s Thanksgiving dinner, remember that “freedom from want” eludes a growing number of people in our community today. Give a little of yourselves; there are collection barrels being distributed throughout your City to collect non-perishable food items and toys from various organizations in your community, or volunteer, these same organizations are always looking for help during the holiday season. Finally, take time and reflect how you have been blessed. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

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What Do You Know About Tri Delta Transit?

tri delta Tri Delta Transit was formed in 1977 under a Joint Powers Agreement to provide public transportation in the 225 square mile area known as eastern Contra Costa County.

Fleet – There are 92 revenue vehicles in the fleet.

Budget – The 2015-16 operating budget is $21,445,000. The capital budget is $23,904,000.

Employees – There are 209 employees – mostly east county residents. Thirty-five are agency employees (maintenance and administration) and 174 are contract (First Transit) employees.

Miles driven – The buses travel nearly 3,500,000 miles per year.

Fuel used – 600,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 140,000 gallons of gasoline per year.

Fuel economy – The fixed route buses average 4.1 miles per gallon and the paratransit buses average 7 miles per gallon.

Cost per passenger – On fixed route, each passenger costs $3.93. The paratransit (Dial-a-Ride) cost per passenger is $35.22.

Routes – Monday – Friday, 13 routes operate. On Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, 4 route operate.

Wheelchairs – Each year, 75,000 wheelchairs are transported on fixed routes and 47,000 on paratransit.

Bicycles – The bike racks on the fixed route buses are used to carry 62,000 bicycles each year.

Awards – has been named the 2014 best transit system of its size in North America by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for efforts to enhance service, efficiencies and overall effectiveness.

“This is the highest honor in our industry,” said Jeanne Krieg, Tri Delta Transit’s CEO. “This award is a tribute to our progressive and supportive Board of Directors as well as to the hard work and commitment of each Tri Delta Transit employee. The dedication, enthusiasm, and innovative spirit our employees show every day make me proud to lead our award-winning organization. We are very excited – and honored — to receive this award.” Tri Delta Transit was ranked #1 in the 4 million and under passenger category.

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Be Storm Ready

California receives much of its winter rain through relatively few, very large and sustained storms that come off the Pacific Ocean. Some of these storms are known as “Atmospheric River Events” because they transport a long band of moisture that resembles a river in the sky on weather maps. A well-known example of this type of storm is the so-called “Pineapple Express,” a storm named for the moisture it brings to the west coast from the tropics near Hawaii.

These types of storms typically deliver between 30 to 50 percent of California’s winter precipitation. While these storms are an important source of water supply for the State, they can also bring flooding and other impacts.

The correlation between strong El Niño conditions and the number of winter Atmospheric River Events is not well documented. El Niño does not guarantee an increase in Atmospheric River Events. However, an above average likelihood of increased seasonal precipitation due to El Niño, combined with the annual prevalence of Atmospheric River Events, means that Californians should prepare for the potential of major winter storm impacts. Here are some websites and videos to help you prepare:

California El Niño/Winter Outlook

Flood Prepare California

Flood Safety NOAA

Flood Smart: What to do during a flood

Storm Ready?

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Highway 4 Construction Work – Week of November 23, 2015

The SR-4 corridor construction area is a 55 mph zone and a double fine zone so remember to slow for the cone zone!

Full Freeway Closures

There are no eastbound full freeway closures planned for this week.

There are no westbound full freeway closures planned for this week.

State Route 160:
There are no full freeway closures planned for this week.

Highway Lane Closures

State Route 4:
There will be highway lane closures in the westbound direction of State Route 4 between A Street / Lone Tree Way and Railroad Avenue on Monday and Tuesday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.

There will be highway lane closures in the eastbound direction of State Route 4 between Bailey Road and Somersville Road / Auto Center Drive on Monday and Tuesday from 5:00 am to 12:00 pm.

There will be highway lane closures in the eastbound direction of State Route 4 between Somersville / Auto Center Drive and A Street / Lone Tree Way on Sunday and Monday evenings from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am and on Tuesday evening from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am.

There will be highway lane closures in the westbound direction of State Route 4 between A Street / Lone Tree Way and Somersville Road / Auto Center Drive on Monday and Tuesday evenings from 9:00 pm to 4:00 am.

State Route 160:
There are no highway lane closures of State Route 160 planned for this week.

Ramp Closures

*Please Note: The ramp closure hours listed are approximate windows for which each ramp may be closed to perform work. No two consecutive ramps will be closed simultaneously. Ramps will be open to detour traffic were applicable.

State Route 4:
The State Route 4 eastbound on ramp at Somersville / Auto Center Drive will be closed on Sunday and Monday evenings from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am.
eastbound offramp closure

The State Route 4 eastbound off ramp at Contra Loma Boulevard / L Street will be closed on Sunday and Monday evenings from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am.

The State Route 4 westbound on ramp at Contra Loma Boulevard / L Street will be closed on Monday and Tuesday evenings from 9:00 pm to 4:00 am.
westbound offramp closure
The State Route 4 westbound on ramp at A Street / Lone Tree Way will be closed on Sunday through Tuesday evenings from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am.
A street westbound on-ramp
The State Route 4 eastbound off ramp at A Street / Lone Tree Way will be closed on Sunday and Monday evenings from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am.

State Route 160:
There are no ramp closures of State Route 160 planned for this week.

Local Street Closures

There are no local street closures planned for this week.

Questions or comments can be directed to the Highway 4 widening hotline at (925) 756-0721 or visit our web site at

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Sunday Reading – 11/22/15

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

More Mexicans leave than enter USA in historic shift – For the first time in more than four decades, more Mexican immigrants are returning to their home country than coming to the United States, according to a report released Thursday.

From 2009 to 2014, an estimated 870,000 Mexicans came to the United States while 1 million returned home, a net loss for the United States of 130,000, according to the report from the Pew Research Center. That historic shift comes at a time when immigration has become a contentious focal point in the 2016 presidential race, as Republicans and Democrats argue over how best to modernize the nation’s immigration system.

Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the center, said the net decline in Mexicans was driven by the Great Recession in the United States that made it harder to find jobs, an improving economy in Mexico and tighter border security.

In coming years, he said, the number of Mexicans may increase again if the U.S. economy continues to improve. But steady growth of Mexico’s economy and tighter controls along the southwest border mean the United States won’t see another massive wave of legal and illegal immigration like it did in recent decades, when the number of Mexican-born immigrants ballooned from 3 million to nearly 13 million, he said. Read More > at USA Today

“Why Him, Why Me?” – Two tragic collisions on the football field, separated by 26 years, have brought together a high school linebacker and a former college running back in search of the answer to a life-altering question.

For the first few seconds after the collision, the game continues as if nothing has gone wrong. The crowd cheers in approval. A coach screams: “Great block!” Cody Seward, 17, who delivered the hit, stands and chases the play a few yards downfield. Only after the punt return ends does Cody turn back and notice Tyrell Cameron, 16, still lying there behind him. “Come on. Get up,” Cody says, but Tyrell doesn’t respond, and he doesn’t move.

Soon a trainer sprints toward the players, followed by a few coaches, Tyrell’s aunt and a chaplain, who huddles the group together in prayer. “Please, Lord, let this boy wake up,” the pastor says. An ambulance races onto the field, its wheels digging ruts into the grass, and one paramedic cuts off Tyrell’s jersey while another administers CPR. “Go, go, go!” a paramedic shouts. They strap Tyrell to a gurney and speed to the hospital. Cody walks back to the visitors sideline with 9 minutes and 11 seconds left in a Louisiana high school football game he no longer wants to play.

“But it can’t be that bad, right?” Cody asks, because nothing about the play was particularly violent or memorable. It had been a routine block made away from the ball on a punt return. Cody is only 5-foot-5 and 145 pounds, a diminutive linebacker who had never intentionally hurt anyone: He had spent most of his childhood acting in community plays and musicals before arriving at Sterlington High School, which to his disappointment didn’t offer a theater program. What it did offer was a 4,000-seat stadium with new artificial turf, a state-of-the-art weight room and a football team that serves as the cultural heart of a rural community in northern Louisiana. So Cody went out for the team, set a state record in an offseason weightlifting competition and earned his way into the defensive rotation. “All heart and hustle,” the coaches say of him, and now on the sideline of the field at Franklin Parish High, Cody wonders whether maybe his hustle had been the problem. Why hadn’t he let Tyrell stumble by him? Couldn’t he have relaxed on an inconsequential block in a meaningless fourth quarter? Why had he leaned into the hit with his shoulder? Read More > at ESPN

Mike Freeman’s 10-Point Stance: 3 Reasons the NFL Is Such a Mess This Year – This was said by Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer on ESPN this week: “The football has never been worse in the National Football League. The quality of product is horrific.”

People like to hate Dilfer, but the truth is, he says some interesting things. And smart things. Like all of us, sometimes he’s wrong and sometimes he’s right. On this topic, I think he’s right. It’s a sentiment I’ve also heard expressed repeatedly by assistant coaches all season. I heard it again when I ran it by some coaches after Dilfer said it.

Many people across the league agree with what Dilfer said. Many, many people. The NFL is a mess.

…Again, all subjective, but here are three big reasons various assistant coaches told me Dilfer might be right:

The running back factor: The position was supposed to be dead, and now we’re seeing how important it is. One of the reasons the Packers, for example, are struggling is they can’t control the tempo of the game, and one of the reasons the Vikings are one of the great surprises of the league is because they can.

Officiating: The officiating this year is easily the worst I’ve ever seen. Mistake after mistake. Part of it is something I’ve said before: The athletes are simply too fast for 50-year-old dudes to keep up with.

The quarterbacks: Some of the biggest names in the sport have struggled, been hurt or both. Go down the list: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo, Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill, Johnny Manziel, Tyrod Taylor. On and on it goes. Read More > at Bleacher Report

Latest state projections put California $11.5B in the black – Barring an unforeseen drop in revenue, the state of California could slide into the next fiscal year with a surplus of $11.5 billion, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office reported Wednesday.

“The state budget is better prepared for an economic downturn than it has been at any point in decades,” the analyst wrote in a fiscal outlook.

The LAO projection exceeds by $3.6 billion the most recent revenue estimates from the Brown administration over the summer. The news will likely come as a welcome shock to anyone who remembers that Gov. Jerry Brown entered office amid a roughly $26 billion deficit.

Legislators might want to keep the champagne bottles corked. The California Department of Finance projected in January that California faces $227 billion in long-term debt, the majority of which is related to public pensions.

That picture could get worse. On Wednesday, the board of the California Public Employees Retirement System lowered its projection of future investment returns by one percentage point, to a return rate of 6.5 percent, reported the Los Angeles Times. That means taxpayers will be on the hook for billions more in pension payments in the coming years than originally expected. Read More > in the Sacramento Business Times

Hidden in Plain Sight: Why California’s Economically Challenged Cities Matter – Nearly 12 million Californians live in an economically challenged city — that’s equal to the entire population of the state of Ohio — and a quarter of all challenged cities in the country are in California. The National Resource Network’s research highlights the critical role these cities play in the state’s economy and describe their potential to become significant catalysts for further economic growth if challenges are overcome.

This report illustrates why it is important for elected officials and policymakers to work with the leadership in these cities to make the most of resources that can improve their economies and their residents’ quality of life. Understanding, identifying and then overcoming the economic barriers in California’s cities is vital to our nation and, most of all, to the 12 million people who live there. Read More > at National Resource Network

Money and clout on the line for teachers union in 2016 – The California Teachers Association, one of Sacramento’s most powerful interests, is heading into an extraordinary year with decisions on the ballot, in the Capitol and in the courts holding the potential to impact its clout for many years to come.

Billions of dollars for schools will likely be at stake on the 2016 ballot as well as pivotal campaigns for state Legislature and a question about union pensions. Meanwhile, the Capitol is expecting a robust debate about how schools are evaluated and courts will hear two lawsuits challenging the teachers union.

CTA has become a force in Sacramento by pouring millions into influencing ballot measures and electing lawmakers, then millions more lobbying legislators after they take office. The union’s formidable political operation — spending about $200 million on campaigns and lobbying in the last 15 years — is funded by roughly 300,000 classroom teachers who pay approximately $1,000 each in annual union dues.

Recently, CTA has lost early decisions in two court cases, one that challenges the union’s financial muscle and another that says union rules prevent disadvantaged students from getting a proper education. CTA is appealing one case in California and the other before the U.S. Supreme Court next year.

The case that aims at union influence challenges CTA’s requirement that all teachers pay union dues. Today, about 29,000 California teachers have opted to pay less than the full dues in order to avoid a contribution to the union’s political activity. If the lawsuit is upheld, union dues could be voluntary. Read More > at CALmatters

One-armed first baseman Nephtali Flores is positively amazing – If you’re looking for inspiration heading into the holiday season, look no further than Nephtali Flores.

Flores, the first baseman, outfielder, backup catcher and relief pitcher at Santa Ana in California, is one of his team’s most versatile baseball players. And he does it all with just one arm.

Take in all that information one more time. Flores plays catcher, with one arm. He plays first base and outfield, where he has to switch the glove over to throw the ball. And he does it all seamlessly at a level high enough to justify a starting spot on a varsity baseball team.

“I was born this way, so I don’t know anything different,” Flores told the Orange County Register for a profile on his rise through baseball. “I can get by using just my left hand for everything. If not, I’ll figure it out and try to make up for it in other ways.”

Flores was inspired to continue chasing his baseball dream by Jim Abbott, the legendary one-handed pitcher who starred for the Angels and Yankees, among other teams. At each level Flores has had to convince coaches that he could cope, and his current leader is no different. Neither is the result. Read More > in USA Today High School Sports

Dan Walters: Is California’s economy booming? Not really – …Furthermore, California’s economy is not really booming.

A few sectors, principally the Bay Area’s technology industry, are doing very well, but recovery from the Great Recession elsewhere has been spotty.

Our job-growth rate is far from the nation’s highest, our unemployment rate is 10th highest, and our underemployment rate is third highest. We also are No. 1 in poverty with nearly a quarter of Californians impoverished.

Two days after de León delivered his upbeat speech to the British elite, the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy, chaired by fellow Democrat Eduardo Garcia, staged a hearing in Ontario on economic disparity.

Its staff briefing paper noted the state’s emergence from recession, but added, “Unfortunately the benefits of this recovery have not reached all areas of the state and only a select segment of the population is sharing in the resulting prosperity.”

While those on the economic ladder’s top rungs are doing very well, the report continued, “many other Californians, however, are not thriving and continue to experience significant levels of unemployment, steeply rising housing and higher education costs, and stagnant wages and incomes.” Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

CalPERS may lower its return target; taxpayers may have to contribute more – Experts have warned for years that the state’s largest public pension plan has overestimated how much its investments will earn, leaving taxpayers to pay billions of dollars more than expected.

Now the board of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System is reconsidering. As soon as Wednesday, the fund’s board could approve a plan that would slowly reduce to 6.5% the current 7.5% it says it expects to earn on its investments.

For taxpayers, that seemingly small change is significant.

Consider the average California Highway Patrol officer who now earns $105,000. Taxpayers currently contribute $47,000 a year for that officer’s pension.

If calculated using an expected investment return of 6.5% instead, according to CalPERS documents, the taxpayer contribution would be $68,000 — an increase of more than 40%. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Thompson: No sense in 49ers keeping Kaepernick on bench – …Imagine if Kaepernick goes elsewhere, gets better coaching and becomes a formidable quarterback once again. Meanwhile, the 49ers are shuffling through Shaun Hills and J.T. O’Sullivans trying to find their next franchise quarterback.

That would be a terrible indictment on the current staff.

…What Kaepernick needs is coaching. What he needs is a system to fit his game. All we’ve learned so far is that Tomsula and his staff can’t provide it — because we already know Jim Harbaugh did.

At his best, coached up effectively, Kaepernick can be a productive quarterback. At best, Gabbert can grow from a draft bust into a quality backup.

Only one of those is something worth Tomsula bringing up at his exit interview. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News

MURRIETA: Activists seek repeal of clapping ban – Riverside activists have threatened to sue the city of Murrieta if it doesn’t repeal a decorum policy that forbids clapping during the public comments and business item portions of council meetings.

“We are not messing around,” said Vivian Moreno, a Riverside free speech advocate who has argued against similar prohibitions on nonverbal communication during meetings in other area cities.

On Tuesday night, Moreno used the public comment portion of the city’s regular meeting to state the activists’ demands and upbraid the council for its “silly”policy, which asks members of the audience to raise their hands if they agree with something or flash a thumbs down if they disagree.

Other cities in the region have rules that restrict disruptive behavior – which, in Hemet, does include clapping – but Murrieta may be the only one that attempts to prescribe alternative actions for members of the public. Read More > in the Press Enterprise

The Internet Can’t Save Retail – In trying to explain dismal earnings reports from Macy’s, Nordstrom, and other traditional retailers, it would be easy to fall back on the trope that brick-and-mortar retail is dying and only e-commerce can save it from extinction. Results due this week from mass discounters such as Walmart and Target will likely reinforce the point.

After all, a cursory glance at a stock chart comparing Amazon with other retail giants seems to tell you everything you need to know about who is winning the fight for shopper dollars.

But a deeper look at e-commerce sales trends tells a different story. It suggests online shopping isn’t yet the saving grace retailers had hoped for when they began plunging billions of dollars into new websites to lure shoppers accustomed to ordering everything from books to dog food at the click of a mouse or touch of a screen.

In fact, e-commerce sales growth at companies like Walmart, Nordstrom, Gap, and JC Penney has actually been slowing, even as the companies sink more money into boosting online sales.

…Shopper traffic at brick and mortar retailers hasn’t posted positive growth since the first quarter of 2012. As retailers make it more attractive to shop online, the decline in store shoppers will continue its free fall.

So what can retailers do? Rubinson suggests taking a lesson from Netflix. Once just a run-of-the-mill provider of streaming video, Netflix realized the best way to hook consumers is to offer original content they can’t find anywhere else. JC Penney’s new CEO is trying something like this by paying attention to more exclusive, private-label products and rolling out 850 hair salons co-branded with InStyle magazine. H&M and Target have used limited-time partnerships with high-end designers to drive shopper interest.

Either way, retailers have to give shoppers a compelling reason to visit their stores by figuring out their own version of Orange Is The New Black. Because a new website or mobile app just isn’t going to cut it. Read More > at Bloomberg

From O.J. Simpson to Aaron Hernandez to Rae Carruth: The All-Degenerate NFL team – You think Greg Hardy’s a bad dude? You probably have some opinions about Ray Rice, Ray McDonald and Adrian Peterson, too.

While those guys have been in the headlines for beating up women and kids, and are first-string jerks, they can’t crack the starting lineup of the Daily News’ All-Degenerate Team.

We went position-by-position to field a 25-man roster — 11 on offense, 11 on defense and three on special teams — of the worst the NFL has to offer.

Like all rosters, this one isn’t perfect. There’s no shortage of running backs, wide receivers, linebackers and linemen to pick from, but not everyone on the list is a Hall of Fame criminal.

QB – Art Schlichter

The former Buckeyes quarterback — and draft bust — has admitted to blowing most of his money on gambling debts and bilking his family and friends out of $1.5 million. Currently surving an 11-year stint for a sports ticket scheme where he promised to land clients tickets to big-time college games, NFL games and even the Super Bowl, Schlichter’s been in and out of jail since 1995 due to his compulsive gambling problems.

WR – Tommy Kane

A controversial plea deal kept the father of four from facing second-degree murder charges for the stabbing death of his wife in 2003. Kane was instead sentenced to 18 years in prison on a reduced charge of manslaughter after psychiatrists testified that he was suffering from depression at the time of the killing, a decision that sparked protests in Montreal.

WR – Rae Carruth

The worst the NFL has to offer, Carruth participated in the execution of the mother of his unborn child by stopping his car in front of Cherica Adams’ car, trapping her so Van Brett Watkins St. could shoot her four times near Charlotte, N.C., in 1999. Read More > in the New York Daily News

English is not normal – English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world’s thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It’s weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels ‘normal’ only until you get a sense of what normal really is.

There is no other language, for example, that is close enough to English that we can get about half of what people are saying without training and the rest with only modest effort. German and Dutch are like that, as are Spanish and Portuguese, or Thai and Lao. The closest an Anglophone can get is with the obscure Northern European language called Frisian: if you know that tsiis is cheese and Frysk is Frisian, then it isn’t hard to figure out what this means: Brea, bûter, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk. But that sentence is a cooked one, and overall, we tend to find that Frisian seems more like German, which it is.

…English started out as, essentially, a kind of German. Old English is so unlike the modern version that it feels like a stretch to think of them as the same language at all. Hwæt, we gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon – does that really mean ‘So, we Spear-Danes have heard of the tribe-kings’ glory in days of yore’? Icelanders can still read similar stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1,000 years ago, and yet, to the untrained eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish.

The first thing that got us from there to here was the fact that, when the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (and also Frisians) brought their language to England, the island was already inhabited by people who spoke very different tongues. Their languages were Celtic ones, today represented by Welsh, Irish and Breton across the Channel in France. The Celts were subjugated but survived, and since there were only about 250,000 Germanic invaders – roughly the population of a modest burg such as Jersey City – very quickly most of the people speaking Old English were Celts. Read More > at Aeon

Why So Many Hate This Recovery – …Some of the discontent is understandable and three important factors are at work: The benefits of the recovery haven’t been spread evenly; there is noise in the numbers; and plain old ignorance. I place these three in order of declining legitimacy. Let’s jump right in:

An uneven recovery: For many people, the rebound from the 2008-2009 credit crisis has been mediocre or nonexistent. These folks are not delusional — their personal situations are bad. There are still too many people either unemployed or underemployed, and many workers haven’t had pay increases that keep up with even the country’s minimal inflation. Meanwhile, two of the biggest costs of living — housing and health care — have far outpaced wage gains.

When we look at how key factors affect the state of your personal recovery — three stand out: industry, education and geography. It is clear that some people have been enjoying a very robust recovery, while others have not. The major coastal cities, the industrial heartland and (up until the price of oil collapsed a year ago), the energy producing regions, have been booming. Read More > in Bloomberg

Anonymous issues second online threat to ISIS and promises ‘major cyber attacks’ in response to Paris tragedy – Anonymous has followed up its declaration of war against ISIS with another chilling message.

The hacktivist group has taken aim at the terrorists claiming responsibility for the attacks in Paris on Friday and promised:

“We are upping our game, you will now be hit by major cyber attacks.”

The masked hacker collective has stated it will be working intercept any ISIS communication and take down its online accounts

The warning comes alongside a video posted to YouTube in French that declares war on the terrorists.

Behind their signature mask, a spokesperson speaking in French said: “Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down. Read More > in the Mirror

S.F. looks at raising minimum age for buying tobacco to 21 – San Francisco would become the second major city in the country, after New York, to raise the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21 under legislation to be introduced Tuesday by Supervisor Scott Wiener.

The policy has gained traction around the country, with New York City making the change in 2014 and the state of Hawaii adopting it earlier this year. Santa Clara County is also one of about 80 governments around the country that have raised the cigarette buying age to 21, the same threshold as buying alcohol.

An attempt to pass the same law in the California Legislature stalled this year. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Foreign Students Pinch University of California Home-State Admissions – With foreigners enrolling in U.S. schools at record numbers, students such as Noah Hernandez, a freshman at the University of California, San Diego, are getting a global view of the world without leaving their home state. The school has thousands of Chinese students, including Mr. Hernandez’s roommate, who pay three times the in-state tuition.

“If I were running a school, it would make sense” to accept them, said the biology major, as a clutch of Mandarin-speaking students walked by.

Then he began thinking of a childhood friend, who also had a stellar academic record yet didn’t get into UCSD to study engineering. Now, he says he wonders “whether taking so many international students is fair to California students who are going to stay here and benefit the state.”

Mr. Hernandez illustrates the mixed feelings with which students and educators regard the foreign undergraduates flocking to public universities nationwide.

A record 974,926 international students were enrolled at accredited two- and four-year U.S. schools for the 2014-15 school year, a 10% rise over a year earlier, according to the Institute of International Education. About one-third of those students—304,040—are from China.

The growth in international students has contributed to tighter admission standards at many UC campuses. The UC system accepted 62% of in-state applicants in the 2014 school year, down from 84% four years earlier. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance

Nuclear power’s last stand it California: Will Diablo Canyon die – Solar plants’ end product does not change hour by hour, day or nighttime, unlike the wind farms and it propagating across the state. It needs less fuel and little land.

And in less than ten years, it may close, stopping the long history in California of nuclear power at the very instant the state — decided to stop climate change — needs carbon-free electricity.

The first of 10’s two operating permits from the federal government expires in 2024. National regulators are considering whether to renew those permits and keep Diablo hum through 2045. PG&E, nevertheless, seems to be having second thoughts.

Once ready to expand the permits of Diablo, business executives say they aren’t certain.

And any expansion will involve a fight. The plant sits within a labyrinth of earthquake errors, they all discovered after building started in 1968. Seismic security concerns have dogged the atomic industry in California for over 50 years, driving PG&E to abandon strategies for one of its first reactors. “We have got a good deal on our plates, and we simply do not need to undertake another large public problem right now,” said Tony Earley, PG&E Corp.’s CEO.

No nuclear plant will take Diablo’s position if it closes. California law prohibits building more until federal officials come up with an irreversible solution to take care of the waste. Thirty nine years following the law passed, that has not occurred.

Their minds have altered.

“The environmentalists’re playing with fire, as well as the people that will get burned are the people that live here.”

Recently, nuclear power seemed poised for a renaissance, as utilities planned new reactors all over the nation. The atomic springtime never came. Discouraged by high prices, long building programs and public opposition, most power companies constructed gasoline-burning plants, wind farms and solar facilities.

Diablo represents the last stand in California of nuclear power. However, the destiny of the plant might not be determined seismology, or by climate change.

It might depend on dead fish. Read More > at Archy tele

Here’s Why Black Friday Will Be a Bust This Year – Black Friday, the day retailers celebrate as one of the busiest in the holiday calendar, is losing its appeal this year and won’t be the shopping frenzy retailers count on.

That spells trouble for brick and mortar stores, which are already suffering from lackluster sales this fall.

Seven in ten Americans are unimpressed by Black Friday discounts, while the same number say shopping isn’t as fun as it used to be, according to Conlumino, a retail analysis firm. And three of five report that they would rather shop online than fight crowds and stress at stores.

Half of those surveyed by Conlumino also say that Black Friday is too much work for little benefit and the promotions are less generous than previous years. Nearly the same percentage believe shops shouldn’t open on Thanksgiving Day.

As excitement surrounding Black Friday drops off, so does the money that people spend. Shoppers on average spent $403.84 last year over Thanksgiving weekend, down from $409.73 in 2013, according to the National Retail Federation. That trend could continue. Forty-five percent of shoppers surveyed by Conlumino plan to spend less on Black Friday than last year. Only 18 percent plan to spend more. Read More > in The Fiscal Times

Google antsy as California slow on self-driving car rules – Hustling to bring cars that drive themselves to a road near you, Google finds itself somewhere that has frustrated many before: Waiting on the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The tech titan wants the freedom to give the public access to self-driving prototypes it has been testing on public roads since the summer. Before granting that permission, California regulators want Google to prove these cars of the future already drive as safely as people.

The Department of Motor Vehicles was supposed to write precedent-setting rules of the road by last Jan. 1. Nearly a year later, it is still struggling. After all, the agency is geared to administering driving tests and registering cars, not settling complicated questions the technology raises.

If the cars’ advanced sensors and computing power can drive better than humans, do they need a steering wheel and pedals? Would a person even need to be inside? Google says no on both.

Regulators don’t want to be blamed for unnecessarily stalling the arrival of robo-chauffeurs that can see farther, react faster and don’t text, speed or fall asleep. They’ve implored Google and traditional automakers also developing the technology to share safety data, but companies in competition don’t willingly reveal trade secrets. Read More > in the Associated Press

Drive a boat? You will need a license – A new era is at hand for boating in California. Most call it the “Boater Driver’s License.” Its official name is the California Vessel Operator Card (CVOC).

The Division of Boating and Waterways sent out its annual two-year registration certificates this month to the state’s 820,000 registered boat owners. It included a flyer on how the CVOC will be implemented.

Anybody who takes the wheel of a powerboat will be required to pass a safety course and written test, somewhat similar to how a special license certification is required to drive a motorcycle or a commercial truck.

Those with non-motorized boats, such as kayaks, canoes, rafts or drift boats, are not required to go through the program. But if you’re on a friend’s boat and you’re asked to take the wheel for a moment, you then would need the boater’s card. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

El Niño is here, and it’ll be ‘one storm after another like a conveyor belt’ – The strong El Niño in the Pacific Ocean is becoming even more powerful, setting the stage for an unusually wet winter in California that could bring heavy rains by January, climate experts said.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said El Niño is already strong and mature, and is forecast to continue gaining strength. This El Niño is expected to be among the three strongest on record since 1950.

“It’s official. El Niño’s here. It’s a done deal,” said Bill Patzert, climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. “So at this point, we’re just waiting for the impacts in California.”

Generally, El Niño doesn’t peak in California until January, February and March, Patzert said. That’s when Californians should expect “mudslides, heavy rainfall, one storm after another like a conveyor belt.” Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

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What does organic actually mean? from

By Nathanael Johnson

What does organic actually mean? It’s tricky, because the word “organic” has at least two distinct meanings. It arose as the name for a movement with a particular belief system. Later, it also became a formal regulatory label governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, most of us just want to know if organic means “better”: if it’s healthier, more sustainable, and, in short, worth the money.

My unsatisfying answer: It depends. There are spectacular organic farmers, and spectacular farmers who don’t comply with the organic rules (and their opposites). I equivocate here because the organic rules are more about process than outcomes. Instead of governing results — i.e. defining organic by the nutritional content of food, or environmental quality measurements on farms — the rules mostly govern the tools used in food production.

OK, let’s start with those official rules. What are they? And how good a job does each rule accomplish of actually making food “better”? I don’t aim to determine whether organic, overall, is “better” — I think that depends on the way farmers use their tools, not on which tools they use. Instead, I’ll try to tease apart the assumptions that link the rules to our judgements about goodness.

No synthetics

Basically, if humans made a substance, you can’t use it in organic farming. There are exceptions: There’s a list of approved synthetics that organic farmers can use under certain circumstances.

But the whole idea that “natural” is safer than synthetic is just wrong. It is true that we’ve had more time to get used to the natural hazards — and not as much trial and error to discover hazards in newer substances.

It’s often impossible, anyway, to say definitively whether something is natural or synthetic. The dividing line is subjective; “natural” means different things to different people. This hazy line between natural and non-natural has caused all sorts of controversy among farmers over the years. Julie Guthman, in her book Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California, lists some of the arguments on this issue:

Several grape growers mentioned their frustration that cryolite [used as an insecticide] was being phased out as an unallowable substance because it was no longer being mined … its synthetic forms were completely prohibited. Black plastic is allowed for solarization [heating] or for mulching as long as it is removed from the field after use, yet solarization completely kills all biological activity in the soil … Other comments: “We can use Bt [a bacterial insecticide] but not urea, compost but not [heated] oil. How can you be more natural than crude oil?” “Why is it perfectly acceptable to drive tractors around that not only use diesel fuel but also worsen soil compaction?”

The organic community continues to struggle with these contradictions. Currently there’s a movement to prohibit hydroponically grown plants from gaining organic certification.


This one seems simple, but it’s surprisingly confusing, because the definition of GMO is squishier than you might think. For the organic standards “no GMOs” means no plant or animal can be used in organic food if it has a gene from another species that’s been put there by humans. It also means no meat or dairy from animals fed on GM fodder. (Organic farmers can use manure from animals fed GMOs for fertilizer.)

But organic farmers can, and do, use plants that have been genetically modified with ionizing radiation or chemicals. There are several great organic crops made through this kind of mutagenesis, including my favorite organic brown rice.

And as scientists get more skilled at genetic engineering, the focus is shifting toward making small revisions in the genome rather than moving DNA from one species to another. The products of this kind of gene editing are not always defined as GMOs.

No sewage

Only non-organic farmers can use treated, sterilized municipal sewage for fertilizer. The technical term here is biosolids: dried, composted human poop that has come out of city sewage treatment. Organic people don’t like it because who knows what else besides crap ends up in there — motor oil, medications, Drano? But it sure would be more sustainable to close the cycle and reuse nutrients rather than flushing them into the ocean.

No radiation

Sometimes people expose foods to ionizing radiation as a food safety measure. There aren’t many foods that are irradiated — but some are, to kill disease-causing germs. You can tell because those foods have this label. Anyway, organic can’t do that.


Conventional farms often get fertilizer that is synthesized from the air and natural gas. Organic farms mostly get it from composted manure. In addition, organic farmers may use nitrogen from South American mines, which has the same characteristics of synthetic nitrogen, but also contains salt (a potential problem for soil health). You can read my deep dive on nitrogen fertilizer here. In brief: Both approaches to fertilizer are appropriate in their place, for complex reasons having to do with land use change and the nitrogen cycle.


To qualify as organic, farmers must rotate what they plant on any given plot of land. This breaks up insect pest life cycles and encourages biodiversity. Most conventional farmers do crop rotation, too — the classic Midwestern system alternates between corn and soy every year. Organic farmers often do longer rotations: corn, soy, alfalfa, for example.

Weed and pest control

This is a big one. When conventional farmers have a weed or insect problem, they often control it with a chemical pesticide. Organic farmers rely on plowing, weeding, pheromone traps, and by providing habitats for predatory insects.

Organic farms also have a set of approved pesticides that they can use — for instance, copper and sulfur are both widely used, as are oils, which are sprayed to smother insects. Organic pesticides tend to be less toxic than synthetic pesticides, but are used in larger quantities per acre.

You are a lot less likely to be exposed to pesticide residue if you eat organic — but keep in mind that the exposure to pesticide you get from residues is way below the tolerances set by the EPA.

Workers on organic farms don’t come into contact with the more toxic pesticides. But Guthman points out that they do come into contact with sulfur, which is “said to cause more worker injuries in California than any other agricultural input.”

Controlling weeds without herbicides creates complications for workers as well. Farmworkers have successfully banned the use of the short-handled hoe, which forced them to bend close to the ground as they weeded crops. But in California, organic farmers are allowed an exception to the rule — instead of a short-handled hoe, farmers can have their laborers weed by hand. The classic labor rights issues are just as fraught, or even worse, for workers on organic farms, both small and large.


OK — when it comes to organic meat and dairy, here’s the deal:

Organic feed

For animals to be organic, you gotta feed them organic corn or other organic kibble.


If it’s a ruminant animal — a grass eater — it’s got to be out on pasture at least 120 days a year.

Access outdoors

And if it’s a chicken, pig, or other non-ruminant, its must have access to the outdoors. Sometimes, however, that may just be a door to the terrifying beyondthat no animal ever uses.

No antibiotics, no growth hormones

If your animals are going to be organic, no growth hormones are allowed and no antibiotics are allowed, period. If the animal gets sick, however, the farmer is still required to treat it with antibiotics if they are needed — but then the animal is no longer organic.

Those are the main rules. Oh, you’ve probably seen a ton of labels — Oregon Tilth, California Certified Organic, Midwest Organic Service — but you can basically ignore those: These organizations just serve as the certifying agencies that check the USDA organic standards.

If farmers and environmental scientists were to design the perfect system, it might not be strictly organic. For instance, in some situations it would make more environmental sense to use a little bit of a synthetic pesticide than to spray the oils, copper, and sulfur that the organic program allows. Using compost and manure is really good for soils. But we also have to use some synthetic fertilizer if we want to shrink our agricultural footprint and stop cutting down forests. Even growth hormones make sense from a greenhouse gas perspective: A faster growing steer spends fewer days burping up methane and needs fewer acres devoted to feeding it. None of this is simple.

No one has ownership over the term organic. Yes, as a certification it is defined and regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other government agencies around the world. But before any of that, it was a set of principles. My reading of organic literature, and this review by the National Research Commission, suggests that organic belief systems are built on two main pillars:

  1. Managing biological systems: Organic practitioners strive to understand and influence their farms on an ecosystem level, controlling pests and nutrient cycles by creating habitat (in the soil, hedgerows, and fields).
  2. Avoiding synthetic chemicals: Organic practitioners often feel that synthetic chemicals are not as safe as natural chemicals because they haven’t been around as long, which means we’ve had less time to see potential dangers. They also often feel that synthetics allow farmers to fix problems too directly, which may prevent ecosystem-level management (see No. 1). For instance, if a farmer uses a highly effective synthetic pesticide to save her peppers from great horned tomato worms, she may not have the incentive to learn about the predator-prey relationship that (perhaps) might be manipulated to control the insects.

This stands in opposition what might be called the industrial belief system. The main pillars of that philosophy:

  1. Supporting humanity: The primary philosophical driver for many industrial practitioners is humanitarian: They want to feed people, and see themselves as a foundation for civilization. By providing food they allow others to specialize in other areas, building electric cars, discovering cures for cancer, writing “Hotline Bling,” etc.
  2. A quest for efficiency: If the goal is to free humanity from labor on the land, any improvement in efficiency is seen as honorable. Therefore we see tremendous emphasis placed on increasing yields and decreasing labor, both of which make food cheaper.

Any adequate analysis of agricultural sustainability should try on both these pairs of ideological sunglasses. It seems to me that the industrial partisans — looking through the rose-colored glasses of ever-improving efficiency and technological progress — have at times been blind to inefficiencies at the ecosystem level (dead zones in lakes and oceans, greenhouse gas emissions). Likewise, organic partisans — looking through the dark glasses of environmental decline and technological failure — have at times been blind to imperatives for land-use efficiency (there really is a lot of evidence that we can preserve more biodiversity by farming more intensively), and to the true humanitarian improvements that have come with industrialization.

We’ve got to do it all: Work in concert with ecosystems, grow the raw materials to support a thriving civilization, do it on a land area small enough to preserve wilderness, and accomplish that with tools that won’t hurt us. The organic ethos gets us part way there. To go the rest of the distance, we’ve got to embrace the good from both belief systems.

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