Sunday Reading – 03/22/15


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.

Wisconsin voter ID law survives Supreme Court challenge – With the 2016 presidential elections just around the corner, the United States Supreme Court on Monday announced that it would not examine the constitutionality of a state law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot.

The justices had been asked to hear a challenge to a 2011 voter photo ID law enacted in Wisconsin. The action clears the way for Wisconsin officials to begin asking for photo ID at the polls, but it is not clear if the statute will be enforced in the state’s general election on April 7.

Supporters of the Wisconsin measure say it helps prevent voter fraud and fosters public confidence in the election process.

Opponents argue that requiring someone to show a drivers license or other photographic proof of identity is a substantial burden to would-be voters – particularly among minority and low-income citizens who may lack the required photo ID or the underlying documents necessary to obtain one.

…Currently, 31 states ask would-be voters to present some form of identification before being permitted to cast a ballot. Of those, seven states maintain a strict photo ID requirement. They are Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Read More > in The Christian Science Monitor

California’s $1-billion emergency drought relief is tiny drop in bucket – No matter how much longer California’s drought lingers, politicians don’t have the power to make it rain. So on Thursday they tried the next best thing – they proposed showering the state’s parched landscape with money.

Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers from both parties unveiled a $1-billion-plus plan to improve the state’s water infrastructure, provide emergency assistance to struggling communities and protect wildlife.

…Only a small fraction of the proposal announced Thursday – $27.4 million – involves new funding, which would largely be used to deliver food and water to struggling Californians in the Central Valley.

Most of the legislation involves spending bond funds already approved by voters or paying out money faster than previously scheduled, and some projects may not be completed for years.

For example, the proposal would tap the $7.5-billion water bond approved by voters in November, spending $272.7 million to safeguard drinking water and support recycling and desalination initiatives.

The biggest chunk of funding in the legislation does not directly address the drought at all. The proposal includes $660 million for flood control projects, part of a bond measure that was passed a decade ago and is scheduled to expire next year. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

‘Shoot the gays’ initiative likely to be circulated – A Southern California attorney’s “shoot the gays” initiative is not destined to become law — for one thing, it’s clearly unconstitutional. But Attorney General Kamala Harris is scheduled to clear it for circulation in May, and she may not have any choice.

Matt McLaughlin, a lawyer from Huntington Beach in Orange County, paid his $200 filing fee Feb. 26 to submit the “Sodomite Suppression Act” to the voters. Declaring it is “better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God’s just wrath,” it would require that anyone who touches a person of the same gender for sexual gratification be put to death by “bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

The measure would also make it a crime, punishable by 10 years in prison and permanent expulsion from the state, to advocate gay rights to an audience that includes minors. It specifies that its constitutionality can be judged only by a state Supreme Court that has been purged of LGBT justices and their advocates. And it authorizes private citizens to step in as executioners if the state fails to act within a year. Another provision would require that the text of the initiative be posted prominently in every public school classroom.

It seems inconceivable that such a proposal would collect the 365,000 valid signatures it would need to make the 2016 state ballot. Or, if it did, that the voters would approve it. Or that any court this side of Uganda or Saudi Arabia would uphold it.

…But McLaughlin’s measure is currently before Harris, whose options appear to be limited. Once the sponsor has paid the required fee, state law directs the attorney general to prepare a title and a maximum 100-word summary of the initiative and forward it to the secretary of state for a 90-day period of public signature-gathering. The secretary of state’s website says Harris is scheduled to take those actions by about May 4.

Does she have the power to refuse if the measure is patently unconstitutional? Harris isn’t saying; her office did not return repeated phone calls. But some veteran practitioners of election law said they don’t think so.

“The statute is clear: that the office has to prepare a summary provided the proponents have paid $200 and followed the right procedures,” said attorney Robert Stern, author of the state’s 1974 Political Reform Act. He said he’s never heard of a case in which the attorney general refused to issue a title and summary. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Amazon.com gets go-ahead from FAA to test drones for delivery – Amazon.com is inching closer to a future where packages will be delivered by drone..

The online retail giant, which has been aggressively opening new distribution centers to shorten delivery times, was granted permission Thursday by the Federal Aviation Administration to test an unmanned aircraft design.

The “experimental airworthiness certificate” comes with several restrictions: Drones must be flown during the day and at 400 feet or lower; the aircraft must stay within sight of the pilot and observer; and the pilot must have, at minimum, a private pilot’s license and current medical certification.

Amazon is also required to give the FAA a monthly update with information including the number of flights conducted, unusual malfunctions and any loss of communication links. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

What Californians Could Spend $100 Million Fighting Over in 2016 – Last week, pension-reform advocates in California announced plans to again push a 2016 ballot measure that would pave the way for cuts to public employees’ pension plans. The move sets the stage for a clash between organized labor and fiscal conservatives whose price tag could rival even the most expensive of Senate races.

The plan’s backers, former San Jose Democratic Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego Republican city councilman and congressional candidate Carl DeMaio aim to cut the state’s exploding pension debt: As of 2013, the 130 pension systems had $198 billion in unfunded liabilities, compared to $6.3 billion in unfunded liabilities in 2003, according to the state controller. In 2014, Reed proposed eliminating protections for employees’ benefits, a move that would allow lawmakers to close the gap by cutting pension payouts—including payouts to employees who’d already paid into their plans.

It’s a direct challenge to the state’s unions, and one that Dave Low, executive director of the California School Employees Association, promised that labor would answer forcefully. “If that’s the direction they go,” he said, “it’s going to be World War III.”

And what an expensive war it will be: In 2005, unions spent about $100 million against a series of ballot measures on teacher tenure, union campaign spending, and other topics pushed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, including $60 million from the California Teachers Association alone. Read More > in the National Journal

Your Inevitable Robocar Future – …Science fiction portrays autonomous cars as inevitable, but will we really see them anytime soon? We already have self-parking cars from companies such as BMW, Lexus, and Toyota, in which an onboard sensor detects a suitable parking spot and a built-in computer controls steering, accelerator, and brake to maneuver the car into the spot. But automatic parking (even the neat trick of automatic parallel parking) is a long way from automatic driving, although it might not be as long as you think. Google, famously, has been testing a fleet of cars that can operate in auto-drive mode. Google cofounder Sergey Brin was asked in 2013 when driverless cars might become mainstream, and he replied, “You can count on one hand the number of years until ordinary people can experience this.” With nearly every major car company—including Audi, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Tesla, and Volkswagen—testing robotic car prototypes, and with robocars already legal (albeit with restrictions) in California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada, the fulfillment of Brin’s prediction is probably not far off.

Some are also predicting that we won’t need to own cars when they’re all self-driving. If you can summon a robotaxi in minutes with a few taps on your smartphone, who needs the hassle and expense of car ownership? (Since you in effect “whistle” for such a car, in a high-tech version of whistling for a taxi, robocabs and similar self-delivering vehicles are sometimes called whistlecars.) If this all sounds very Uber-like, know that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has declared that replacing the company’s current fleet of human-driven vehicles with self-driven vehicles is inevitable and will make the service incredibly cheap because there will be “no other dude in the car” to pay for. A similar idea is the deliverbot (also called the robotruck), an unmanned vehicle for delivering packages and other cargo.

But a car that can drive itself is only the beginning. The long-term vision is to combine smart cars with smart roads. That is, an advanced connected car will drive autonomously, and it will tap into the sensors and beacons that will festoon future roads and highways, leading to the ideal of crash-avoiding or crashless vehicles. This will also enable platooning, in which cars drive at a steady speed and follow each other at a set distance. The resulting car train or road train will be completely controlled by vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication and interaction with the so-called automated highway system (or intelligent transport system). The ultimate goal is an autocar that is so intelligent and so safe that you could fall asleep in it—the pie-in-the-sky, head-on-the-pillow sleeper car. Read More > at IEEE Spectrum

The odds of a perfect bracket? It’s not 1 in 9.2 quintillion – It’s no secret that the odds of picking a perfect bracket in the NCAA tournament are not good.

The number being tossed around a lot lately is 1 in 9.2 quintillion, which is a 9 with 18 zeroes after it. To be even more specific, the odds are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808.

But those odds, according to one Duke University mathematics professor, are only calculated by essentially flipping a coin to determine the outcome of every game. We, of course, have more information available to us before each game tips off.

For example, a 16 seed has never beaten a one seed, so it’s possible to come up with a better number for the overall odds.

The Duke professor, Jonathan Mattingly, determined the overall odds to be closer to 1 in 2.4 trillion. Read More > in the Chicago Sun Times

Colts propose 9-point plays; yes, 9-point plays – …Your favorite NFL team is down by nine points in the final minutes and instead of heading to the exit, you’re rooting for that last-second touchdown … two-point conversion … and game-tying 50-yard kick!

No, really. The Indianapolis Colts have proposed a ‘bonus point’ after successful two-point conversions.

Any team can propose any rule change so the competition committee, which will make recommendations next week at the owners meetings, presents all proposals to the media. Not all proposals are brought up to a vote.

…There were other, more mundane, rule changes suggested. Significant changes to the use of video replay, including reviewing all fouls called by game officials, will be presented by the NFL’s competition committee at next week’s meetings.

The committee is submitting a proposal by the Detroit Lions that would allow the instant replay system to correct an officiating error. That would include such judgment calls as pass interference. Currently, no penalties are reviewable.

…New England proposed that everything except scoring plays or turnovers be challengeable. Washington suggested increasing a coach’s number of challenges from two to three, regardless of whether he is successful on an early challenge.

Also to be discussed in Phoenix will be a proposal by the Patriots to place fixed cameras on all boundary lines. That would guarantee coverage of the goal lines, end lines and sidelines regardless of where network cameras are positioned. Read More > in the Indy Star

Creativity by outside campaign groups didn’t start with East Bay race – Steve Glazer had the last laugh Tuesday over a union-funded outside spending group that spent $68,000 trying to peel off Republican support for the Orinda Democrat, who nevertheless finished first in Tuesday’s special election in the East Bay’s 7th Senate District. Glazer and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, will face off May 19.

Much of the attention in the weeks before Tuesday’s vote was on the actions of an outside spending group called the Asian American Small Business PAC. The PAC sent mailers touting the sole Republican in the race, Michaela Hertle, even though Hertle dropped out weeks ago and endorsed Glazer, who unions opposed.

It wasn’t the first time an independent committee seemingly took a sneaky/creative approach to shaping the general election runoff to their liking. And it likely won’t be the last in California’s top-two primary landscape. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Ummmm… Here are Seven Facts You… uh… May Have Not Known About ‘Um’ and ‘Uh’ – “Uhhhhh.” “Ummmm.”

Listen to any speech or prolonged conversation and you’ll likely find it peppered with one or both of these two filler words. One of my professors in college probably uttered “um” over one hundred times per fifty-minute lecture.

When utilized, filler words are generally thought to signal that the speaker has paused to think but still has more to say, allowing the continuation of a thought. Linguists, psychologists, anthropologists, and other scientists have studied their use for decades. Here are some of the most interesting facts and findings on filler words:

1. They may not technically be words. While some scientists, like Professors Herbert Clark and Jean Fox Tree, have argued that, “uh and um are conventional English words, and speakers plan for, formulate, and produce them just as they would any word,” others, like the University of Edinburgh’s Martin Corley and Oliver Stewart, contend that “there is little evidence to suggest that they are intentionally produced, or should be considered to be words in the conventional sense.”

2. Fillers come in many languages. In Arabic, speakers often say “ya’ni” (“I mean”) or wallāh (“by God”). Filipinos say “ah,” “eh,” “ay,” and “ano.” The French utter “euh” (which sounds like a very French thing to say). American Spanish speakers say “este” and “o sea.” Koreans say “eung,” “eo,” “ge,” and “eum.” The Japanese say “eeto,” “etto,” “ano,” “anoo,” etc.

3. Men prefer “uh.” Women prefer “um.” While fillers constitute roughly 1% of all words spoken by American men and women, the two sexes differ in their favorites. According to research published in 2011 from Stanford’s Eric Acton, um was “the 24th most spoken word among women, and the 43rd among men,” while uh was “ranked 25th for men and 62nd for women.” Read More > at Real Clear Science

US sets new record for denying, censoring government files – The Obama administration set a new record again for more often than ever censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.

Its backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end grew remarkably by 55 percent to more than 200,000. It also cut by 375, or about 9 percent, the number of full-time employees across government paid to look for records. That was the fewest number of employees working on the issue in five years. Read More > in the Associated Press

Irrepressible US Shale Defies OPEC – When OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, chose not to cut production last November, it effectively consigned its members to a prolonged period of low prices and the financial strain, palliated only by the hope that the bear market would soon squeeze American shale producers. The petrostate cartel essentially abdicated its market-fixing role on a bet that the relatively high cost of hydraulic fracturing would make American firms the world’s new swing producers, but as the FT reports, that bet is looking more and more suspect.

OPEC is now saying that it expects U.S. production to possibly taper off in late 2015, certainly later than most member countries would like. Every month that American output continues in the face of cheap pricing puts tremendous strain on petrostate regimes that rely so heavily on oil sales for budgetary revenue. The Saudis have a sovereign wealth fund big enough to allow them to weather these market conditions for another 20 years, but the rest of OPEC is not so well-prepared.

The cartel is next scheduled to meet in June, but all signs point to continued inaction as the group battles for its share of an oversupplied market. Meanwhile, U.S. companies will continue to find ways to bring down their own costs. We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: bet against American innovation at your own peril. Read More > at The American Interest

Chris Borland retires from NFL at just 24 years old, makes his own sense of head injuries – A big, talented young guy out of the University of Wisconsin, Chris Borland, a star rookie for the San Francisco 49ers about to become a bigger star if he managed to stay healthy in a violent game now retires at the age of 24 because he does not want to live the next years of his life worrying about brain injuries.

Borland, who was absolutely one of the best defensive players in the league one Sunday last season against the Giants when he made 13 tackles, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that he began to think about the decision he made for good last Friday during training camp last season. He talked about making a real good stop on a running play and thinking he had sustained a concussion, but playing through it because he was a kid trying to make the team.

“I just thought to myself, ‘What am I doing? Is this how I’m going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I’ve learned and knew about the dangers?'” Borland told ESPN.

Chris Borland, an outside linebacker, does not sink the National Football League, the most popular sport we have ever had in this country, by walking away the way he does. The league will survive and continue to prosper greatly. There will be more voices from his, not just from the league but from the league’s loud media, saying that Borland does not speak for them or their own concerns about playing football for a living; that his fears are not theirs.

…Nobody will stop watching pro football because Chris Borland retires at the age of 24. You still better pay attention to this. Borland was working on a four-year contract worth around $3 million, and there was more where that came from. He made more than 100 tackles last season. He was on his way. Now he decides he does not want to make a living in a sport where the bill that can be presented later on in your life can ruin the rest of your life. Read More > in the New York Daily News

Microsoft is killing off the Internet Explorer brand – While Microsoft has dropped hints that the Internet Explorer brand is going away, the software maker has now confirmed that it will use a new name for its upcoming browser successor, codenamed Project Spartan. Speaking at Microsoft Convergence yesterday, Microsoft’s marketing chief Chris Capossela revealed that the company is currently working on a new name and brand. “We’re now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be in Windows 10,” said Capossela. “We’ll continue to have Internet Explorer, but we’ll also have a new browser called Project Spartan, which is codenamed Project Spartan. We have to name the thing.”

Internet Explorer will still exist in some versions of Windows 10 mainly for enterprise compatibility, but the new Project Spartan will be named separately and will be the primary way for Windows 10 users to access the web. Microsoft has tried, unsuccessfully, to shake off the negative image of Internet Explorer over the past several years with a series of amusing campaigns mocking Internet Explorer 6. The ads didn’t improve the situation, and Microsoft’s former Internet Explorer chief left the company in December, signalling a new era for the browser.

…Microsoft is clearly testing names with market research, but it’s unclear when the company plans to unveil the final name for its Internet Explorer successor. Judging by Microsoft’s own research, it’s obvious the company will move as far away from Internet Explorer as possible, and it’s likely Project Spartan will have the Microsoft name attached to it. Read More > at The Verge

Los Angeles is Willing to Pay Highest Price Ever for Water – Los Angeles is offering rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley more money than the city has ever paid for water — $700 per acre-foot. At this price, rice farmers could make more money selling water than they can make on their crops.

That makes it easy to say “yes,” says Lance Tennis, whose family has about 900 acres near Chico, an hour north of Sacramento. He says rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley feel compelled to help their parched neighbors to the south, but they wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.

“We’re rice growers, not water marketers,” Tennis says. “It’s something you would never want to commit to on an ongoing permanent basis because these water rights are very precious, very valuable to us — they’re the only thing that makes this land up here worth what it is — the ability to grow rice.”

Assuming the drought doesn’t curtail his local water district’s own supply, farmers like Tennis could get about $2,100 this year for every acre they agree to fallow. That’s because it takes more than three acre-feet of water to grow one acre of rice. By contrast, selling the rice nets a profit of between $1,000 to $1,500. Read More > at KQED

Carlos Ghosn On Phases Of Autonomous Vehicles – Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan, has laid out a time table for steps toward fully autonomous vehicles. It all takes place in the next 10 years. Stop-and-go autonomy in the same highway lane comes in 2016.

“By the end of 2016, Nissan will make available the next two technologies under its autonomous drive strategy,” said Mr. Ghosn. “We are bringing to market a traffic-jam pilot, a technology enabling cars to drive autonomously – and safely – on congested highways. In the same timeframe, we will make fully-automated parking systems available across a wide range of vehicles.”

No lane changing. This just frees the driver from the need to keep on applying the brakes every time a wave of slowing travels back thru a column of cars.

Ghosn predicts automated lane changing on highways in 2018, automated city driving in 2020 (but with human driver needed for occasional intervention) and full driverless autonomy in 2025.

So fully automated highway driving comes much sooner than for cities. But none of these dates are far away. Surely the mass layoffs of truck and taxi drivers start by 2030 if not several years sooner. Read More > at Future Pundit

Hertz Puts Video Cameras Inside Its Rental Cars, Has ‘No Current Plans’ To Use Them – Last week we wrote about the hypothetical situation of CCTV cameras being installed in every home. It turns out that this particular dystopia is closer than we thought: an article by Kashmir Hill on the Fusion site passes on the news that Hertz is putting cameras inside its rental cars as part of its “NeverLost” navigational system:

Hertz has offered the NeverLost navigational device for years, but it only added the built-in camera feature (which includes audio and video) to its latest version of the device — NeverLost 6 — in mid-2014.

“Approximately a quarter of our vehicles across the country have a NeverLost unit and slightly more than half of those vehicles have the NeverLost 6 model installed,” Hertz spokesperson Evelin Imperatrice said by email. In other words, one in 8 Hertz cars has a camera inside — but Imperatrice says that, for now, they are inactive. “We do not have adequate bandwidth capabilities to the car to support streaming video at this time,” she said.

So why did it install them?

“Hertz added the camera as a feature of the NeverLost 6 in the event it was decided, in the future, to activate live agent connectivity to customers by video. In that plan the customer would have needed to turn on the camera by pushing a button (while stationary),” Imperatrice explained. “The camera feature has not been launched, cannot be operated and we have no current plans to do so.”

But of course, Hertz would hardly go to the trouble and expense of fitting its cars with this feature unless, at some future point, it did plan to use them. Morever, that future use might go well beyond “live agent connectivity”, as Hill rightly points out:

you could imagine camera mission creep, such as Hertz using it to capture video of what a trouble renter is up to in the vehicle, or to see who is really driving the car, or to snoop on a singing — or snuggling — driver. Read More > at techdirt

Delta drama: Two female employees of small reclamation district sue board members alleging sexual harassment, retaliation – Reclamation District 799 has a pretty simple job: maintain its 8.9 miles of levees between Oakley and Bethel Island and keep the tiny Delta island dry.

While the 8.9 miles of levees have held over the past year, a legal storm threatens to breach the diminutive government agency with allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation by two male trustees against one current and one former female employee.

On Wednesday, the board had scheduled a special meeting to discuss firing or disciplining levee Superintendent Kristy Petrosh. But following a divisive meeting full of emotional outbursts and an invitation to step outside and settle things, the board postponed a vote.

Just two months earlier, district Administrator Angelia Tant claims she was forced to retire, the latest in a string of departures at the agency. The women have now sued the district and board members Richard Kent and Arthur Hanson, alleging the two district residents and landowners demeaned them over the past year with sexist taunts, calling one “momma or “good-looking” and the other “gorgeous.”

Normally tasked with beaver dam removal, pump maintenance and levee supervision, Petrosh often drove around on a tractor. She alleges that Kent and Hanson forced her to get tractor-driving certification, a standard to which none of her male predecessors was held. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times

Smart Home Buying Guide: Home Automation – …”Smart home” is a pretty broad term, covering a huge number of connected gadgets, systems and appliances that do a wide variety of different things. “Home automation” is slightly less broad, referring specifically to things in your home that can be programmed to function automatically. In years past, those automations were pretty basic — lamp timers, automated holiday lighting and so on — but that’s fast been changing thanks to the recent sprawl of smart-home tech aimed at mainstream consumers.

The possibilities are immense, ranging from lights and locks to cameras and coffee makers. The common denominator is automation, and a promise that these devices can save you time, save you money or make your life a little easier. An automated lamp might turn on by itself as soon as you walk into the room. An automated thermostat might turn the heat down when it detects you’ve left for the day, then back on when it thinks you’re on your way back.

To cut through all of it and figure out what’s most relevant to you, imagine a typical day at home. Are there any devices you regularly turn on and off? Do you regularly adjust your home environment depending on what you’re doing? Those regular habits and activities are typically the best candidates for automation. Figure out which ones are most important to you, and you’ll have a much better idea of what to look for in the smart home space.

Some of the most popular categories along these lines are lighting, home security, climate control and kitchen automation. Read More > at c|net

Baseball has trouble keeping children interested – …Baseball is cerebral and slow-paced by nature. It’s a simple game that has been muddled by the trends of recent years. Kids, particularly in the inner city, aren’t playing baseball with the frequency of the past, and the interest level in watching baseball isn’t there either, as the kids interviewed for the Globe story pointed out.

The media landscape has also changed, with baseball stories now reading like technical documents. The human stories of players and their histories have gone the way of their WARs and WORPs, and I’m not sure kids see that as fun.

In our day, we loved baseball cards and all we cared about was batting average, home runs, and RBIs. It was simple. It was easy to be a fan.

Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, or Willie Mays used to step into the box and swing at the first good pitch he saw. Now, batters are encouraged to look at more than four pitches per at-bat.

As a result, we’re seeing more called third strikes. At-bats take forever, attention is lost, and the outcome isn’t as good as it used to be.

In 2010, there were 28 players with 85-plus RBIs, 85-plus runs, and 20-plus home runs. In 2011, there 20. In 2012, there were 24. In 2013, there were 14. Last season, there were 11.

…Lastly, players are getting hurt with greater frequency.

With all the advancements in understanding the human body and the claim that strength and conditioning coaches do baseball-specific work with their players, why are there so many oblique, hamstring, quadriceps, and shoulder injuries? Is it time to return to the days when players didn’t overtrain and really stuck to baseball-related exercises?

Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo injured an oblique by trying to make a shortened swing on a ball inside. Some of the strongest people to ever play the game — Dave Winfield, Rice, Eddie Murray, and Bo Jackson — never had oblique injuries. Read More > in The Boston Globe

New Pot Bill Is a Giant Leap for Science – The historic marijuana bill debuted by three senators Tuesday is one small step for marijuana patients and one giant leap for science.

The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act is a multi-pronged approach at easing the tension between states and the federal government. The foundation of it is simple: a proposal to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I substance (like heroin) to a Schedule II substance (like Adderall).

Supported by Senators Rand Paul, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Corey Booker, the bill would render the hyper-restrictive Controlled Substances Act (CSA) inapplicable to individuals who legally medicate with marijuana and the dispensaries who provide it. If passed, it would permit the 23 states (and the District of Columbia) where medical marijuana is legal to enforce the laws they’ve passed without fear of prosecution.

Beyond shielding the patients, doctors, and distributors from archaic laws, the bill would open the door to medical research on the drug that has been banned for decades.

Under the DEA’s current structure, testing Schedule I substances is near impossible. In two decades, just 15 researchers in the U.S. have made it through the process to gain approval. Even if a research is granted permission to test (which many cannot even procure the huge funds necessary to apply), another huge hurdle awaits. Read More > at the Daily Beast

California’s Social Priorities, A New Report – California has achieved a great deal since 1970, including much cleaner air, water and more effective resource stewardship notwithstanding a population increase from approximately 19.9 million in 1970 to over 38 million by 2014. 2 Nevertheless, the state continues to face significant, and in many cases increasingly adverse educational and social equity challenges. As summarized in more detail below:

• California’s grade 9-12 dropout rates remain high and, contrary to national trends, the state’s population of adults with less than a high school education significantly increased from 1970 and currently accounts for nearly 20% of the state’s adults, second highest in the nation. The number of Americans with less than a high school education fell by over 23 million during 1970-2012, and rose in only four states: California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. California’s net increase—over 515,000 adults—was greater than the increase in the other three states combined (409,000).
• The state’s population of high school and community college graduates grew much slower than in the rest of the country, and the population of 4-year or more college educated adults barely kept pace with average national growth rates. In contrast, Texas, also a large, high-immigration state, has added high school and community college-level educated adults more rapidly than the national average since 1970, while the number of adults with less than a high school education declined.
• California’s capacity to generate new jobs has severely diminished over time. During 1970-1990, the state generated nearly 5.6 million new jobs and 14.5% of the total employment growth in the country although it accounted for less than 10% of the nation’s population in 1970. From 1991-2013, the state produced 2.6 million new jobs, just 9.7% of the net U.S. employment growth, and well below the state’s 12% share of the nation’s population in 1990. Although the state’s population rose by roughly similar amounts in 1970-1990 (9.8 million) and 1991-2013 (8.6 million), California was unable to generate even half the number of jobs during 1991- 2013 than were created in 1970-1990.

California continues to lead the country, and by some measures even the world, in environmental quality and climate change initiatives. But public policy must evolve to leverage these environmental achievements into corresponding improvements in educational attainment and middle class job creation. With more than 18% of the nation’s poor, and less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, California should also embrace the challenge of leading the world in the creation of middle class manufacturing jobs for the rapidly evolving clean and green technology that California’s laws mandate, California’s educational and technology sectors invent, and California’s venture capital investors bring to the global market.

Instead, California’s policies, and regulatory and legal costs and uncertainties, tend to divert thousands of middle class jobs even in emerging green industries (including those not requiring high school diplomas) to other locations, including the Tesla battery manufacturing facility, which moved to Nevada. The loss of projects that help achieve important environmental objectives, create high quality jobs, and comply with California’s strict environmental and public health protection mandates, continues to occur in part because well-funded special interest groups ranging from business competitors to labor unions file “environmental” lawsuits as leverage for achieving narrow political or pecuniary objectives rather than to protect the environment and public health. This study suggests that the state must work much harder to ensure that California’s landmark environmental laws are not misused or pursued in a manner that adversely affects other, equally important policy priorities for California’s large undereducated and underemployed population. Read More > at New Geography

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About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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