Sunday Reading 11/19/17

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.

Lawmakers to Californians: Do as we say, not as we do – With a declaration that “public servants best serve the citizenry when they can be candid and honest without reservation in conducting the people’s business,” lawmakers passed the California Whistleblower Protection Act in 1999.

The idea was to protect workers who report misconduct, so that they can blow the whistle on bad actors without losing their jobs. The bill at that time covered workers at state agencies and California’s two public university systems. Lawmakers expanded it in 2010 to cover employees of the state’s courts.

But one group of California government workers has never had whistleblower protection under the law: those who work for the lawmakers themselves. It’s an example of how the Legislature sometimes imposes laws on other people that it doesn’t adhere to itself.

“Lawmakers make laws that affect all of us, including them, and they are softening the blow of regulations for themselves,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who chairs the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

“It feels like double talk.”

The Legislature’s exemption from the Whistleblower Protection Act has garnered attention in recent weeks, as a groundswell of women complaining of pervasive sexual harassment in the state Capitol publicly call for such protections for legislative employees.

But the whistleblower act isn’t the only area of the law in which the Legislature has demonstrated a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality: Read More > at CALmatters

Tesla wants to electrify big trucks, adding to its ambitions – After more than a decade of making cars and SUVs — and, more recently, solar panels — Tesla Inc. wants to electrify a new type of vehicle: big trucks.

The company unveiled its new electric semitractor-trailer Thursday night near its design center in Hawthorne, California.

CEO Elon Musk said the semi is capable of traveling 500 miles (804 kilometers) on an electric charge — even with a full 80,000-pound (36,287-kilogram) load — and will cost less than a diesel semi considering fuel savings, lower maintenance and other factors. Musk said customers can put down a $5,000 deposit for the semi now and production will begin in 2019. Read More > from the AP

Wal-Mart Joins Retailers Planning to Try Out Tesla Truck – Customers are starting to place orders for Tesla Inc.’s new all-electric Semi truck, with retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. preordering for both its U.S. and Canadian units.

“We have a long history of testing new technology — including alternative-fuel trucks — and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle,” Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg said in an email. “We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.”

While electric passenger cars get all the buzz, the move to electrify big rigs has been moving swiftly under the radar, given their high emissions profiles and hefty fuel costs. Adding autonomous features on top of electrification can also help operators save on labor costs, a major upheaval for a commercial trucking industry that’s gone virtually unchanged for decades.

Lundberg said Wal-Mart has preordered five of the electric trucks for the U.S. and 10 for Canada. Read More > in Bloomberg

‘Juuling’: The most widespread phenomenon you’ve never heard of – A new front has opened in the never-ending game of cat and mouse between teenagers and adults — over Juuling, a discreet form of vaping that is the most widespread phenomenon you’ve likely never heard of.

In some high schools, the “Juuling in the bathroom” problem has gotten so intense that administrators are sending home e-mails warning parents about the dangers of e-cigarettes in general — and, in particular, about a brand called Juul, which makes sleek devices that are easily concealed and often mistaken for thumb drives.

…The e-mail also schooled parents who may be unfamiliar with the whole vaping trend. “Electronic cigarettes are devices that utilize stored electricity to heat a liquid into vapors, which are then inhaled by the user,” the letter read. “The liquid can be anything from a flavored water-type mixture to liquid nicotine to THC, the principal active element of marijuana.”

A Juul “starter” kit costs $49.99 if you buy it online from the company. It includes a re-chargeable Juul device, a USB charger, a warranty, and a four-pack of the flavored Juul pods. On its website, the company promises a “powerful vapor experience” and says the nicotine in one pod is approximately equivalent to a whole pack of cigarettes, “or 200 puffs.” Read More > in the Boston Globe

New rules with hefty fees set for growing and selling marijuana in California – California officials proposed new rules Thursday for the growing, transporting and sale of marijuana when the state begins issuing licenses in January, and industry officials said the regulations and hefty fees are a mixed bag.

The regulations, which are subject to public hearings before they are finalized, do not limit the size of cannabis farms, but require every plant to be traced from farm to sale. Security will be required at farms, trucks and pot shops, and cannabis cannot be marketed toward minors.

The license application fee for sellers and others will be $1,000 annually, but there are additional license fees of $4,000 to $72,000 charged to retailers based on how much they sell.

Also, an additional fee for testing firms will range from $20,000 to $90,000, while an added charge for distribution licenses will go from $1,200 to $125,000 depending on the amount of product moved.

While those planning small pot farms worry about the rules allowing large corporate growing operations, others see restrictions as burdensome for an industry that has thrived for decades without regulation. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

America Doesn’t Have Enough Dentists – …According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 5,000 localities lack adequate access to dental care, which the department defines as having fewer than one dentist for every 5,000 residents. About 55 million Americans live in those areas. In Michigan alone, there are 270 such zones, mostly in inner cities and rural areas.

That’s why Sheppard and other state lawmakers want to authorize dental therapists—mid-level health care professionals akin to physician assistants or nurse practitioners—to fill cavities and treat other basic dental problems. The goal is to get more trained dental professionals into the field. The idea is being opposed by much of the established dental industry: The American Dental Association (ADA) and state-level trade organizations of dentists have opposed such bills, citing concerns about therapists’ level of training…

That seems to be working in Minnesota, which became the first state to legalize dental therapists in 2009. There are now more than 70 licensed to practice, working under the supervision of dentists. The Federal Trade Commission has urged dental school accreditors to clear the way for mid-level professionals like these, arguing that they can “increase the output of basic dental services, enhance competition, reduce costs, and expand access.” Read More > at Reason

They confessed to minor crimes. Then City Hall billed them $122K in ‘prosecution fees’ – …Garcia, 41, a longtime desert resident, had been snared by the lowest level of the eastern Coachella Valley’s criminal justice system, where homeowners who commit some of the smallest crimes can be billed for the cost of their own prosecution. Garcia got in trouble with Coachella City Hall in 2015 after a city code inspector discovered he had expanded his living room, making space to run a small day care center, without first getting building permits. Silver & Wright, a law firm contracted as Coachella’s city prosecutor, took the building permit case to criminal court, filing 29 misdemeanor charges. Garcia signed a plea agreement, brought his house up to code, paid a $900 fine to the court and moved on with his life. But then, this April, Silver & Wright mailed Garcia that hefty bill for the cost of his case, saying if he didn’t pay up a lien would be put on his property and the city could potentially sell the house from under his feet.

Garcia’s case may sound strange, but in the low-income cities of the eastern Coachella Valley, it is not. Empowered by the city councils in Coachella and Indio, the law firm Silver & Wright has repeatedly filed criminal charges against residents and businesses for public nuisance crimes – like overgrown weeds, a junk-filled yard or selling popsicles without a business license – then billed them thousands of dollars to recoup expenses. Coachella leaders said this week they will reconsider the criminal prosecutions strategy, but the change only came after defense attorneys challenged the city in court, saying the privatized prosecutors are forcing exorbitant costs on unsuspecting residents. Read More > in the Desert Sun

Harvard Business School professor: Half of American colleges will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years – There are over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, but Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that half are bound for bankruptcy in the next few decades.

Christensen is known for coining the theory of disruptive innovation in his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Since then, he has applied his theory of disruption to a wide range of industries, including education.

In his recent book, “The Innovative University,” Christensen and co-author Henry Eyring analyze the future of traditional universities, and conclude that online education will become a more cost-effective way for students to receive an education, effectively undermining the business models of traditional institutions and running them out of business.

…Christensen is not alone in thinking that online educational resources will cause traditional colleges and universities to close. The U.S. Department of Education and Moody’s Investors Service project that in the coming years, closure rates of small colleges and universities will triple, and mergers will double. Read More > at CNBC

Elon Musk’s growing empire is fueled by $4.9 billion in government subsidies – Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space.

And he’s built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies.

Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.

The figure compiled by The Times comprises a variety of government incentives, including grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits that Tesla can sell. It also includes tax credits and rebates to buyers of solar panels and electric cars.

A looming question is whether the companies are moving toward self-sufficiency — as Dolev believes — and whether they can slash development costs before the public largesse ends.

Tesla and SolarCity continue to report net losses after a decade in business, but the stocks of both companies have soared on their potential; Musk’s stake in the firms alone is worth about $10 billion. (SpaceX, a private company, does not publicly report financial performance.) Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Studies Show Voters Need a Graduate-Level Education to Understand Ballot Measures – Last month, the Oregon Supreme Court concluded that a ballot measure was so confusing, the attorney general would have to rewrite it.

Opponents of a proposed health-care tax plan argued that the measure’s obtuse language and run-on sentences would mislead voters, and the court largely agreed.

Such legal disputes over ballot language are common. This year alone, lawsuits have been filed over more than a dozen measures, says Josh Altic, who oversees the Ballot Measures Project at Ballotpedia, a nonpartisan website that provides explanations and background information about ballot measures.

This year, Ballotpedia tried to assess the complexity of ballot measures by using readability tests that estimate the level of education needed to understand a document. Of the 27 measures on ballots in nine states this year, the average question would require a graduate-level education to read and understand, the website found.

Election officials and voting rights experts say complex ballot measures are a problem because the average American adult reads at about a seventh- or eighth-grade level… Read More > at Governing

California at bottom in nationwide ranking of accountability systems; state board president disagrees – Another prominent education research and advocacy organization that disapproves of California’s approach to school accountability has ranked California’s new system at the bottom nationwide in a report released Tuesday.

The low score by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute reflects a core disagreement over how best to identify and work with schools needing help. California education leaders are unapologetic about the route they’ve chosen, and they say the Fordham analysis contains a key error.

Like Bellwether Education Partners, which harshly criticized the state’s approach in an August analysis, Washington, D.C.- and Ohio-based Fordham gives high grades to states that will rank schools with an A-F letter grade or a similar method that’s understandable at a glance. States will use rankings to select the lowest-performing schools, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

California’s color-coded school dashboard does not give a summary school ranking. Each measure of performance, whether test scores, graduation rates or student suspension rates, gets a separate color rating. Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board of Education say that this approach focuses attention on specific areas that need work. While this is more complex — and, some critics say, confusing — advocates say it is more helpful in diagnosing problems. Read More > at EdSource

New Blood Pressure Guidelines Mean Yours Might Be Too High Now – Heart experts released new guidelines for blood pressure on Monday and that means millions more Americans will now be diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Anyone with blood pressure higher than 130/80 will be considered to have hypertension, or high blood pressure, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology said in releasing their new joint guidelines.

Everyone, even people with normal blood pressure, should watch their diet and exercise to keep blood pressure from going up, the new guidelines stress. And smoking is a major blood pressure risk.

Blood pressure of 120/80 or above is considered elevated; 130/80 to 139/89 is now considered Stage 1 hypertension and anything 140/90 or above will be considered stage 2 hypertension. If blood pressure reaches 180/120 or higher — and either number in the blood pressure reading counts — people will be classified as in hypertensive crisis with need for immediate treatment or hospitalization.

Previously, people were not considered to have high blood pressure until the top reading hit 140. “Normal hasn’t changed. We are still saying that it is great and it is normal to have a systolic blood pressure reading below 120 and a diastolic reading under 80,” Whelton said. Read More > from NBC News

US leads world in oil and gas production, IEA says – International energy markets are set for “major upheaval” as the US cements its status as the world’s largest oil and gas producer, while China overtakes it as the biggest oil consumer.

The predictions come from the International Energy Agency’s annual energy forecast.

It believes that global energy demand will rise 30% by 2040, driven by higher consumption in India.

At the same time, the renewable energy sources will become more important.

The IEA, which tracks the energy for 29 countries, said the US – once reliant on imports – is becoming the “undisputed global oil and gas leader”.

It expects the US to account for 80% of the increase in global oil supply to 2025, driven by increases in shale.

That will keep prices down and help make the US a net exporter of oil – in addition to gas – by the late 2020s. Read More > at BBC

Can Tesla avoid becoming the BlackBerry of electric cars? – It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of a semi-autonomous, or even an electric car driving on public roads was incredibly far-fetched. Sure, there were hybrids from companies like Toyota and Honda, but nothing that anyone with a straight face would call cool. Tesla changed all that, first with its roadster but then (more importantly) with its Model S and Autopilot. Its cars had an EV range over 200 miles and made caring about the environment and driving “the future” a status symbol. Tesla changed everything in the automotive world and now, well now, the industry has caught up and Elon Musk’s company is mired in what he calls “production hell.”

Tesla — even with all its faults — has been incredibly important to the auto industry. In 2006 Musk dropped his master plan to sell high-end EVs to the well off to help create an electric car for everyone. Car startups, even from established automakers, tend to die a sad long death (anyone remember Saturn or more recently Scion?). But Tesla had hype and a grand vision on its side. It took a while though — 11 years before the company delivered the first of its affordable Model 3s to customers.

It was more than the fear of missing out on the self-driving future that lit a fire under automakers. With the Model S, Tesla demonstrated that people actually wanted an electric car. So, while it was working on generating the capital and buzz for its Model 3, automakers like GM pounced, and introduced their own electric cars. The result is the Bolt. A long-range EV with a price tag of just under $30,000 with tax credits applied. Detroit took Tesla’s plan and beat it to market.

Meanwhile Tesla is struggling to get its Model 3 out of its factory. “The problem is its popularity has risen so much that scale has become a bigger and bigger part of its business and it is no longer in reality a tech company, it is a manufacturing company for better or for worse,” Ramsey said. Read More > at Engadget

Why driverless cars will be the next battlefield in the culture war – Investors and companies globally have sunk nearly $100 billion into developing self-driving vehicles over the past few years. And with good reason: Self-driving cars are real, they’re going to be spectacular, and they’re going to happen a lot sooner than you think.

Just last week, Waymo, the driverless car subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, announced it would begin a robo-taxi service in Phoenix. The city has been a hotbed of autonomous vehicle testing due to its regulatory friendliness and predictably pleasant weather.

Of course this doesn’t mean highways will soon be filled with swarming packs of autonomous vehicles zooming along at 80 miles per hour, just inches from each other’s bumper. It’s one thing to be able to purchase a fully autonomous car (maybe within a few years) that works in certain places under certain conditions; it’s quite another for many or most cars on the road to be driverless (maybe a few decades) anywhere, anytime. One recent gone-viral prediction comes from Bob Lutz, a former top executive and design guru at General Motors. In an essay for Automotive News, Lutz wrote that “in 15 to 20 years — at the latest — human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways.” Read More > in The Week

Germany Is a Coal-Burning, Gas-Guzzling Climate Change Hypocrite – The latest round of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which runs from Nov. 6 to 17, is loaded with symbolism. The conference is being chaired by island nation of Fiji, which is severely affected by rising seas and desertification caused by climate change. The location of the meeting in Bonn, Germany, meanwhile, was intended to underscore the cooperation between those responsible for global warming and those in the path of its destruction. Of all the cities of the industrial world, Bonn was selected not just because it is the seat of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, but also because it is in Germany, the industrial giant that has an international reputation as a pioneer and righteous leader in climate protection.

Just this summer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel read U.S. President Donald Trump the riot act for pulling out of the Paris climate accord, chiding the United States for ignoring and perpetuating climate change. For years, Germany’s Energiewende, or renewable energy transition, was held up as a best practice for other nations to follow. After all, in just 15 years Europe’s biggest economy turned a third of its electricity generation green by subsidizing investments in solar energy and wind power. In doing so, it added 300,000 jobs to the economy. Even while it was in the process of phasing out nuclear power, Germany managed the transition while its factories hummed along, the economy posting record growth and trade surpluses. In the late aughts, Merkel was dubbed “the climate chancellor” for her engagement on behalf of the climate.

Yet Germany’s image as selfless defender of the climate, which was once largely deserved, is now a transparent fiction. Germany has fallen badly behind on its pledges to sink its own greenhouse gas pollutants. In fact, Germany’s carbon emissions haven’t declined for nearly a decade and the German Environment Agency calculated that Germany emitted 906 million tons of CO2 in 2016 — the highest in Europe — compared to 902 million in 2015. And 2017’s interim numbers suggest emissions are going to tick up again this year.

…Germany is Europe’s largest producer and burner of coal, which accounted for 40.3 percent of net power production in 2017: 15.5 percent from hard coal and 24.8 percent from lignite, also known as brown coal, among the dirtiest of fossil fuels, which Germany mines more of than any other country in the world. Germany’s electricity sector itself is responsible for more than a third of the country’s CO2 emissions. Even more damning: Germany is still digging new open-cast mine pits — as well as subsidizing the industry as a whole, although it has promised to phase out coal in the indefinite future (hard coal use will end in 2018). Among Europe’s power plants, Germany’s brown coal stations constitute six out of 10 of the worst polluters. The lignite power plants, which run 24/7 year-in, year-out, produce so much power that German utilities sell the surplus abroad. Read More > at Foreign Policy

Hate Crimes in 2016: New FBI Numbers Show Little Change – After widespread worry over a supposed spike in election-adjacent hate crimes last year, many of the alleged incidents turned out to be hoaxes or misunderstandings. Now new data from the FBI further undermines the idea that 2016 saw a sort of crime wave spurred by prejudice.

There were 271 more incidents deemed hate crimes in 2016 than the previous year, according to the latest Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data. There were also 257 more law enforcement agencies reporting last year, so that increase could largely or even entirely be a matter of getting more complete statistics. The higher numbers mostly represent small increases in incidents classified as anti-Hispanic, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, or anti-white.

The most common motive animating hate crimes in 2016—and throughout the past decade—was anti-black bias. That accounted for 2,114 incidents last year. Another 888 incidents were deemed to be based on anti-white bias, 448 incidents on anti-Hispanic bias, and 381 incidents on anti-Islamic bias.

…White Americans were the most likely to commit offenses categorized as hate crimes in 2016, accounting for 46.3 percent of all known offenders. This is actually down quite a bit from previous years. In 2015, 48 percent of known offenders were white and in 2011 it was 59 percent. In 2007, nearly 63 percent of all known offenders were white.

Looking at data over the past 10 years provides some other interesting comparisons, too. While the number of hate crime classifications was higher in 2016 than in any of the four preceding years, it was lower than in 2011 and significantly down from 2006-08.

We’re also seeing significantly fewer victims (a designation that can encompass individuals, businesses, government entities, religious groups, etc.). Last year, the data show 7,615 individual victims. In comparison, there were 7,713 hate-crime victims in 2011 and 9,652 victims in 2006. Read More > at Reason

Wireless Industry Aims to Limit Local Control over Wireless Facilities, After Efforts in California Defeated by the League – The wireless industry is circulating a draft bill in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee that would force local governments to lease out publicly owned infrastructure, eliminate reasonable local environmental and design review, and eliminate the ability for local governments to negotiate fair leases or public benefits for the installation of “small cell” wireless equipment on taxpayer-funded property.

Earlier this year, the wireless industry pursued similar legislation, SB 649 (Hueso), in California that sought to achieve many of the elements present in this draft bill. The bill failed because industry’s effort met overwhelming opposition from over 325 cities. Opposition focused on concern about shifting authority away from our residents, businesses, and communities over to a for-profit industry whose shareholder returns potentially outweigh their considerations for the health, safety, aesthetic, and public benefits of the communities we serve.

Cities throughout California share the goal of ensuring that all residents have access to affordable, reliable high-speed broadband and eagerly welcome installation of wireless infrastructure in a way that is in collaboration with the industry. Read More > from The League of California Cities

New brain technologies pose threats to privacy and autonomy that are all too real, experts warn – With Elon Musk aiming to build brain implants so people can communicate telepathically, fMRIs already (approximately) reading minds, under-the-radar companies working on computer chips to control brain activity that generates intentions, and technologies promising to boost brain performance like Bradley Cooper’s in “Limitless,” it might seem like neuroscience has become neurofiction. But the advances, and the threats they pose, are all too real, experts warned on Wednesday.

In an essay in Nature, 27 neuroscientists, physicians, ethicists, and artificial intelligence experts argue that these and other powerful “neurotechnologies,” originally conceived to help people who are paralyzed or have other neurological disorders, could “exacerbate social inequalities and offer corporations, hackers, governments or anyone else new ways to exploit and manipulate people.”

Calling themselves the Morningside Group, the experts conclude that ethics guidelines for experimenting on people and developing artificial intelligence don’t even acknowledge the dystopian possibilities of neurotech. Whether the issue is privacy (will devices be able to read your thoughts as you walk around, as cameras now capture your image?) or autonomy (will devices that read thoughts and “autofill” what you want to do next make people feel their free will has been hijacked?) or other issues, “the ethical thinking has been insufficient,” said Dr. Rafael Yuste of Columbia University, a neuroscientist who co-authored the essay. “Science is advancing to the point where suddenly you can do things you never would have thought possible.” Read More > at Stat

Can Religious Symbols Be Tolerated on Public Lands? – Is a long-standing commemorative cross on public land socially divisive and a governmental endorsement of religion? Or, to the contrary, is a constitutional challenge to that cross an act of gratuitous social divisiveness?

Last week, in American Humanist Association v. Maryland, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling of the federal district court of Maryland and held that a cross on state-owned land violated the Constitution. The state of Maryland was joined in its defense of the cross by twenty-five other states.

The forty-foot-tall stone cross known as the Bladensburg Memorial, located just outside Washington, D.C. at a busy highway intersection in Bladensburg, Maryland, was erected in 1925, that is, 93 years ago, as part of a commemoration of Americans killed in World War I. The cross stands at Veterans Memorial Park, which is land owned by the state of Maryland’s Roads Commission. The district court observed that the Memorial “was constructed and financed by the American Legion and a private group of citizens whose purpose was to remember and honor Prince George’s County’s fallen soldiers” and has been used “almost exclusively as a site to commemorate veterans on secular patriotic holidays for its entire history.” There had been no allegations, the district court observed, that any “rabbis, imans, or non-theists” had ever been excluded from using the Memorial “for their own purposes.” After the case was filed in the district court, the National Park Service placed the Memorial on the National Register of Historic Places.

…The appeals court made a point of discussing the public cost of maintaining the cross. Maryland acquired the land on which the cross stands in 1961, and since that time has spent a total of $117,000 of public money “to maintain and repair the cross.” The Court did not shy away from highlighting that this average annual public expenditure of around $2,000 per year, together with an additional $100,000 that has been set aside for restoration, was not “de minimis.” And in its conclusion, the Court stressed that not only the display but also “the maintenance of the Cross violates the Establishment Clause.” Such a conclusion, if upheld on appeal by the Supreme Court, could be used to attack every cross or other religions symbol of any kind on any public land, including Arlington Cemetery, for instance. Read More > from Crisis

California has millions of good-paying jobs for workers without a bachelor’s degree – Workers who want to earn at least $35,000 a year increasingly need to have some training beyond high school but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree.

That’s the conclusion of a Georgetown University study on the nation’s workforce that goes beyond the narrative that all students need to aim for a four-year college degree.

While the nation has lost more than a million good-paying blue-collar jobs, researchers have found that there is a restructuring underway, as new good positions that don’t require a bachelor’s degree have been created in California and elsewhere.

“The dominant storyline is that you need to have a four-year college degree to have a chance of a good job,” said Neil Ridley, a co-author of the report. “And while that is true to some extent, what we found is that there are more good jobs than people realize for workers who don’t actually have a four-year degree.” Read More > at EdSource

Coming to a Theater Near You: Subscriptions, Toys and Downloads – With the movie business in the doldrums, theater operators are looking for new ways to make money.

Cinemas have been stuck at about 1.3 billion tickets a year since 2010, leading them to increase prices to get sales growth. That tried-and-true method has faltered in 2017, a dismal year for the North American box office with bombs ranging from “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” to “Baywatch.” Revenue in the U.S. and Canada is down 4.9 percent so far this year, with the worst summer in decades and the bleakest October since 1996.

So movie-theater chains are getting creative.

  • AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the biggest cinema chain in the U.S., plans to test sales of movie-related merchandise in 35 theaters next year. If it works, expect to see more toys and tchotchkes at stores nationwide later in 2018.
    “In a venue where you would think the enthusiasm would be highest in a movie theater on your way out the door, we do nothing,” Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron said on a conference call. “We’re going to try it.”
  • AMC also plans to start selling online rentals of older movies through its website, working with partners who already provide films on the internet. Such an idea would’ve once been considered anathema — a movie-theater chain giving film buffs a reason not to leave home.
  • Cinemark Holdings Inc. is testing Cinemark Movie Club, a subscription service that would compete with MoviePass, which lets customers go to one movie a day for $10 a month. Cinemark hasn’t provided a lot of details on the new service, but said it’s designed to boost attendance and revenue.
  • Regal Entertainment Group is testing out demand-based pricing, which might let moviegoers pay lower prices for box-office flops and higher prices for top hits. AMC is also experimenting with demand-based pricing. Read More > at Bloomberg

‘Fear is everywhere’: a quiet paranoia haunts post-Weinstein Hollywood – …Immolated, too, is Hollywood’s sense of itself as a progressive beacon. Weinstein, who backed Hillary Clinton and offered to fund women directors, reportedly hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to spy on and intimidate his accusers. Police in the US and UK are investigating allegations he raped and assaulted multiple women.

Meanwhile many viewed CK, the Emmy-winning comedian, as something of a feminist but on Thursday the New York Times reported that he allegedly masturbated in front of at least two female comics. His production company cancelled the New York premiere of his new film, I Love You, Daddy, about a television writer whose 17-year-old daughter is seduced by an older movie producer who is rumored to be a pedophile.

Off screen, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) launched an investigation into Corey Feldman’s claims about a pedophile ring while LA prosecutors have formed a special Hollywood sexual assault task force. Los Angeles still had palm trees and balmy November sunshine, but to many in Hollywood it seemed an unfamiliar land where money, power and big-hitting lawyers now count for little.

Some media outlets and websites have run stories based on social media postings with negligible efforts to verify them. “Convicted by Twitter. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the lawyer for one accused director. The actors Charlie Sheen and Ed Westwick issued vehement denials in response to separate allegations.

…From afar it may seem Hollywood rings with denunciations. In reality, there is a hush.

“It would be the end of my career,” a junior executive told the Guardian after declining to go on the record about a former boss’s harassment. “I’ve discussed this with colleagues. We’re all amazed he hasn’t been outed. But no one wants to be the first to go public.” Half a dozen others – executives, actors, writers and crew members – with allegations against other industry figures echoed the sentiment.

Actors such as Rose McGowan, who came forward to publicly accuse Weinstein, are a small, brave minority, said Sam Asi, a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the Golden Globes. Read More > in The Guardian

Men with cardiac arrest more likely than women to receive CPR in public: Study – America’s hang-ups over sexuality and gender could cost women their lives when their heart suddenly stops, a new study suggests.

Simply put, women suffering from cardiac arrest in a public setting are less likely to get lifesaving CPR from a passerby than men are, researchers reported.

…But the study showed people do hesitate, especially when the victim is a woman. About 45 percent of men who suffered cardiac arrest in a public setting received CPR from a bystander, compared with only 39 percent of women, the researchers found.

The investigators suspect bystanders might be worried about touching a strange woman’s chest in public, even if it is to save a life.

The reason the researchers believe that is because people acted very differently when a woman collapsed at home, where she had an equal chance of receiving CPR. Read More > at UPI

UConn to help men stop ‘mansplaining,’ ‘interrupting others’ – The University of Connecticut is recruiting 20 male students for an 11-week program to help them stop “mansplaining” and “interrupting others.”

The Men’s Project is hosted by the school’s Women’s Center and vows to train men to “positively influence their peers by challenging social norms that promote gender based violence.”

But while the program frames itself as a way to promote bystander intervention, the Men’s Project has a broader agenda, as weekly meetings will feature discussions on “topics related to gender socialization, masculinities, social justice and gender-based violence.”

The application, which went live last week, is open to all “male-identified students.”

“In your experience, what are some things you would like to work on, or what are some things you have been told men need to work on? (Ex: Mansplaining, Relationships & Gender Norms, Interrupting Others, etc),” the application asks, adding that participants may be asked to prepare for the weekly meetings by “reading or journaling.” Read More > at Campus Reform

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Saturday, November 25, 2017 is Small Business Saturday®

Small Business Saturday was originally sponsored by American Express and the non-profit National Trust for Historic Preservation. From the very start, the day has been promoted through advertising on both social media and more traditional means such as television and radio advertisement.

As a consumer, you can choose to spend your money at local small businesses on this day rather than going to the big box retailers at the local mall. After all, the best way to support small businesses is to go and spend money at them rather than somewhere else. You can also tell your friends to do the same, perhaps making a point of organizing a shopping day where you only visit small, local enterprises instead of chain stores. While you may or may not end up paying more, it’s important to remember that spending your money at a small business generally puts more money into the local economy than if you’re spending that money in a chain store.

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Join Senator Glazer At His Holiday Open House!

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BART’s Guaranteed Carpool Parking Program Expands to Orinda and Rockridge

Beginning November 13th, BART will reserve parking spaces in the permit area at the Orinda and Rockridge BART stations for commuters using the carpool app, Scoop. This opening is an expansion of the Carpool to BART program which currently operates at Concord, Dublin/Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, Millbrae, and San Bruno BART stations.

The Scoop to BART Carpool program aims to expand BART’s parking capacity, to create an easier parking experience for commuters. Most of the agency’s 48,000 parking spaces fill by 8:00 a.m. each weekday. Ninety-five percent of those spots are taken by solo drivers, according to a 2016 passenger survey. BART’s new program offers commuters the opportunity to secure a parking space in exchange for a shared trip.

Scoop makes it easy to enjoy this new program, as evidenced by the program’s popularity at the Dublin/Pleasanton station. The app matches commuters into carpools the night before the trip to the station, and provides drivers with information on how and where to park.

To get guaranteed parking at Orinda and Rockridge BART stations: download the app at, use promo code BARTLOVE05 to receive a $5 credit, type in the BART station name, and schedule a ride either before 9:00 p.m. the night before the morning commute or by 3:30pm for that evening’s commute. Shortly after the deadline, Scoop notifies commuters who have matched with one of their 65,000+ users. Scoop coordinates with BART to help verify carpoolers and ensure smooth operations every morning.

Contra Costa residents going to the Orinda station are also eligible for discounts on the Scoop app through a partnership between 511 Contra Costa, Contra Costa Transportation Authority and Scoop.

This program was developed by MTC, BART and Scoop, and made possible with funding from a Federal Transit Administration Mobility On Demand Sandbox grant. The grant includes enhancements to the app that will make the trip to BART seamless for commuters. Scoop to BART commuters will be able to find a match, pay or receive money for the carpool, and pay for BART parking through the app. Enhancements will also synchronize travel times with BART schedules, add stations as destinations within the app, and allow drivers to indicate whether their vehicles are wheelchair accessible.

BART, MTC, and Scoop plan to continue expanding this service to additional BART stations throughout this and next year.

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Odds are, the Flu is on Your Next Flight

source for this information

More than 2500 respondents were surveyed on October 2 6, 2017 with the question, “Would you cancel a nonrefundable flight if you had a cold or the flu?” and 75.1% said “ No.”

Data for germs on a plane was taken from Travelmaths report


1. Stock Up on Sleep: Getting enough sleep before and after a trip is one of the best, easiest, and cheapest ways to boost your immune system to prevent a cold. Sleep deprivation weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting sick, so be sure to take an extra nap or two before your next trip.

2. Wear a Mask: If your immune system is weak or you need to avoid becoming sick at all costs, donning a mask is the way to go. Be sure to get a medical grade N95 mask instead of a disposable paint mask as N95 masks are designed specifically to protect you from germs and other pollutants.

3. Sanitize Your Serving Tray: On your next flight, come prepared with disinfecting wipes to wipe down your seat’s serving tray before use. Do not use the serving tray if you forget to bring wipes. Your immune system will thank you.

4. Use Hand Sanitizer: Germs easily travel between your hands and mouth — especially when eating. As mentioned in the serving tray tip above, be sure to sanitize your hands before eating.

5. Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water several hours before and after your flight is another way to help fight off a cold. When you are dehydrated your immune system is more susceptible to germs. Try to drink about three liters of water a day.

6. Gargle Your Cough Away: While there is little data to back up the idea that rinsing your mouth with mouthwash will stop a cold in its tracks, gargling with hot water and salt can temporarily relieve a sore throat as well as ease a cough you may have caught on your flight.

7. Prioritize Zinc over Vitamin C: If you do catch a cold, or are one of the 75% who choose to fly when sick, skip taking vitamin C (it doesn’t work, really) and opt for Zinc instead, which science suggests helps treat colds more effectively than vitamin C.

8. Switch Seats: If someone audibly and visibly ill sits next to you, and the cabin is not full, politely and quietly ask the flight attendant to switch seats.

9. Get Your Flu Shot: While a flu shot only protects you against a small subset of the flu virus, it is worth the time and investment to shield yourself from the new “big baddies” of the upcoming flu season. If you fly internationally, be sure to also be up to date on the rest of your vaccines.

10. Sleep on the Plane: This is an ideal time to catch up on your sleep — especially if you’ve booked an overnight flight. If you’re a light sleeper, bring a small pillow and blanket with you to help get more comfortable — and don’t forget the earplugs. You’ve got a lot of extra time, and naps are a great way to kill a few hours and recharge — you might as well catch up on your rest.

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Should I Use Bait or Traps to Control Rats and Mice?

So far this year, a record number of residents have requested rat and mouse inspections at their homes, exceeding the District’s 22-year average.

With cooler weather on the way, that trend isn’t likely to change. Weather extremes typically drive rodents indoors.

Fortunately, residents can be proactive to keep each home and property rat and mice-free. One option stands out above the other.

“As a public health agency, we recommend homeowners consider using snap traps before using bait to reduce the risk of unintended or secondary poisoning to other animals,” said District Program Supervisor Jonathan Rehana.

Here are a few guidelines for both options:

Snap Traps
i. Read and follow trap instructions.
ii. Remove dead rats and mice from the traps daily.
iii. Traps are easily set and reusable. Be sure to use the proper size for either rats or mice.
iv. Snap traps are best used indoors and out of reach of children or pets.
v. For outdoor use, place a box with a small hole on each side over the snap trap to reduce the risk of injury to non-target animals

i. Read and follow product instructions.
ii. Rat poison, which is also referred to as bait, should be secured inside a tamper-resistant bait station to prevent non-targeted animals from exposure.
iii. Bait stations should be placed outdoors.
iv. Check bait stations on a weekly basis and replenish with bait as necessary.

Certain baits that contain rodenticides (poisons designed to kill rodents) can poison non-targeted animals such as birds and mammals when they eat the rodenticides directly or when they eat already poisoned rodents. This is known as secondary poisoning.

Not all rodenticides cause secondary poisoning, but many can. Before placing rodenticides, consider the potential impact on non-target animals.

The District’s Rats & Mice Program uses products designed to protect public health while minimizing the risk of secondary poisoning. All products are registered with the EPA and are applied by trained and certified vector control technicians.

For more information on rat and mouse prevention and control or to request a District inspection, visit our website.

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East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy Science and Research Grant Program Request for Proposals

The East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy is now accepting funding proposals for our science and research grant program. Attached please find the Request for Proposals. The Conservancy is looking to fund small science and research grants that will contribute to our understanding of target special status species and how to better manage their habitat. More background about the Habitat Conservancy can be found online at our website:

Under this Science and Research Grant Program (Grant Program), the Conservancy may fund research that endeavors to illuminate, and where possible to resolve, uncertainties associated with management of natural communities and covered species. Research selected for funding will aid in achieving the biological goals and objectives of the East Contra Costa County HC/NCCP and inform management actions and/or contribute to the general understanding of a covered species. Such research will generally relate to the following:

· Efficacy of natural community enhancement/creation/restoration techniques,

· Refining ecological requirements of covered species,

· Response of covered species and natural communities to implementation of management actions within the Preserve System, or

· Strategies to conduct management or monitoring actions that support and/or lead to better management of natural communities or covered species.

Awarded projects may work with the Conservancy and EBRPD to access over 13,000 acres of conserved lands in east Contra Costa County for research. More details about the program, how to apply, and submittal requirements are included in the attached RFP. Proposals will be accepted until Thursday, January 25th, 2018 at 5 p.m.

The RFP may also be found online at the Conservancy’s website, in the news and updates section.

FINAL_ECCC_Grant Program_Nov 2017

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