Sunday Reading – 04/05/15


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.

Contra Costa County Looks to Become Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center – Amid rapidly increasing interest in the evolving reality of connected and even autonomous cars plying American roadways, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority hopes it can position itself as a global hub of research and innovation that will transform how we drive.

On Tuesday the authority unveiled a new, heavyweight partnership for testing connected and autonomous vehicle technology at the newly created “GoMentum Station” – a 5,000 acre test bed located at the Concord Naval Weapons Station in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area.

Authority Chair Julie Pierce said Honda will be the first major automaker to use GoMentum Station as part of its efforts to develop both connected vehicle and autonomous vehicle technology.

“This is all about the future. This is about our kids and our grandkids,” Pierce said of research into creating driverless cars. “I am thrilled to be able to announce today that Honda is the newest partner in the GoMentum program. They will begin testing their self-driving car technology at the GoMentum Station as soon as next week.” Read More > at Gov Tech

Abandoned in London, now living Dallas dream! – Unknown British player Efe Obada – who has been signed by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys – has admitted his dream move to the United States could be a major turning point in his life and “feels like a movie.”

The 22-year-old, who was abandoned and left homeless on the streets of London at the age of 10, has played just five games in his short career with the London Warriors of the BAFA National Leagues. Yet he has done enough to impress ‘America’s Team’ after being spotted by Warriors defensive coordinator Aden Durde, who served as an intern coach with the Cowboys last summer.

Durde has spent the past six months working with the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Obada on playing defensive end or tight end when he arrives in Texas for the NFC East team’s rookie mini-camps in May. Read More > at NFLUK

Richmond among cities with growing retirement debts – A new look at the retirement debt of one Bay Area city places the financial burden at more than $4,100 per resident.

The figures come courtesy of Daniel Borenstein, who reported on the pension obligations of the city of Richmond.

Borenstein writes Richmond is among “the growing list of cities that have dug deep holes of debt by failing to properly fund workers’ retirement plans, and must now make serious sacrifices to climb out.”

“Richmond has promised its employees pensions and retiree health coverage, but has only 61 percent of the invested assets it should to pay for benefits that have already been earned,” he writes. “The shortfall of $446 million works out to about $4,150 for every city resident.

“City officials have long-term plans to pay off the $320 million debt for pensions, but no idea how they will address the $126 million shortfall for retiree health benefits. Indeed, the city has set aside almost nothing toward that obligation. Read More > at California City News

Americans Keep Living Farther Away From Their Jobs – People who live in cities are facing ever-longer commutes to work. The pool of jobs that were within the typical commuting distance in the country’s biggest metropolitan areas shrank by 7 percent between 2000 and 2012, a new report finds.

For a report (PDF) released on Tuesday by the Brookings Institution based on Census Bureau data, researchers found that between 2000 and 2012, working became more inconvenient for people in almost every large metropolitan area in the U.S. Suburbanites saw nearby jobs shrink more than twice as much as city residents did (for the report, the researchers examined how many jobs in each metro area were located within the typical commuting distance for workers in that area).

…Even though there are now slightly more jobs in America’s big cities than before the recession, the data show the gains have been uneven. That’s concerning, partly because commutes can have a significant effect on the likelihood of people successfully finding a job. “When people live near their jobs, they’re more likely to be employed and the length of time they spend looking for jobs tends to be shorter,” says Natalie Holmes, senior research assistant at the Brookings Institution and one of the authors of the report. “It’s great that we’re continuing to recover jobs, but where jobs are located matters.” Read More > at Bloomberg Business

The Science of Near-Death Experiences – Near-death experiences have gotten a lot of attention lately. The 2014 movie Heaven Is for Real, about a young boy who told his parents he had visited heaven while he was having emergency surgery, grossed a respectable $91 million in the United States. The book it was based on, published in 2010, has sold some 10 million copies and spent 206 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Two recent books by doctors—Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, who writes about a near-death experience he had while in a week-long coma brought on by meningitis, and To Heaven and Back, by Mary C. Neal, who had her NDE while submerged in a river after a kayaking accident—have spent 94 and 36 weeks, respectively, on the list. (The subject of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, published in 2010, recently admitted that he made it all up.)

Their stories are similar to those told in dozens if not hundreds of books and in thousands of interviews with “NDErs,” or “experiencers,” as they call themselves, in the past few decades. Though details and descriptions vary across cultures, the overall tenor of the experience is remarkably similar. Western near-death experiences are the most studied. Many of these stories relate the sensation of floating up and viewing the scene around one’s unconscious body; spending time in a beautiful, otherworldly realm; meeting spiritual beings (some call them angels) and a loving presence that some call God; encountering long-lost relatives or friends; recalling scenes from one’s life; feeling a sense of connectedness to all creation as well as a sense of overwhelming, transcendent love; and finally being called, reluctantly, away from the magical realm and back into one’s own body. Many NDErs report that their experience did not feel like a dream or a hallucination but was, as they often describe it, “more real than real life.” They are profoundly changed afterward, and tend to have trouble fitting back into everyday life. Some embark on radical career shifts or leave their spouses.

Over time, the scientific literature that attempts to explain NDEs as the result of physical changes in a stressed or dying brain has also, commensurately, grown. The causes posited include an oxygen shortage, imperfect anesthesia, and the body’s neurochemical responses to trauma. NDErs dismiss these explanations as inadequate. The medical conditions under which NDEs happen, they say, are too varied to explain a phenomenon that seems so widespread and consistent. Read More > in The Atlantic

Geno Auriemma says men’s college basketball is ‘a joke;’ He’s right – …If you’re looking for a kind of unsightly poetry, there is this: On 44 occasions this season, the Final Four teams of Wisconsin (15), Kentucky (14), Michigan State (9) and Duke (4), like SU, have played in the 60s … and still have gone 44-0.

Ugly? The only thing uglier than the men’s game — which used to be such a splendid, aesthetic exercise — is a dog walking backward down your street. But not by much.

“This is entertainment we are talking about,” warned Auriemma. “People have to decide, ‘Do I want to spend 25 bucks, 30 bucks, to go see a college scrum where everybody misses six of every 10 shots they take, or do I want to go to a movie?’ We are fighting for the entertainment dollar here. And I have to tell you, it’s not entertainment from a fan’s standpoint.”

No, it’s basketball played as a three-legged sack race. And with all of the doinking by the players and the grinding allowed by the officials and the strangulation by those coaches who stress defense at the considerable expense of offense, it has all the appeal of a discarded cigar. Read More > at Syracuse

Four Important Questions about Voting in California – PPIC research fellow Eric McGhee was invited to testify about voter turnout in California last week before a joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments and Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting. Here are his prepared remarks.

California’s voter turnout in 2014 hit record lows in both the primary and the general elections. I’d like to put that turnout in broader context, and give some thoughts on potential solutions. In doing so, I’m going to briefly answer four questions:
1.Who votes, and who doesn’t?
2.What does California’s turnout look like over time and compared to the rest of the country?
3.What are some of the reforms that have been tried in the past, and how well have they worked?
4.What are the other possible reforms out there that have yet to be tried in California?

California’s electorate does not look like the state as a whole. Compared to non-voters, California’s voters are older, whiter, more educated, less likely to have recently moved, more likely to be homeowners, and more partisan. They are also wealthier, though most of the difference in income between voters and non-voters is a function of the more powerful effects of other factors such as age and education. And, PPIC research by Mark Baldassare has shown that non-voters have different opinions on important policy issues. In particular, they tend to be more supportive of a larger role for government.

These differences are very similar to what one would find in the rest of the country, but California’s profile on all of these dimensions is at one extreme. The state is relatively young, relatively mobile, with an especially large non-white population. Read More > at Public CEO

This is Microsoft’s ‘Spartan’ browser that will replace Internet Explorer – Microsoft has given the world its first look at its new “Spartan” Web browser that will replace Internet Explorer in Windows 10.

The new browser is noticeably trimmer than IE, without the sea of menu options and bells and whistles. Settings are mostly straightforward and super-slimmed down — just the bare essentials.

But the yet-to-be-named-browser-currently-called-Spartan (YTBNBCCS?) introduces a lot of new stuff that wasn’t in IE. There’s a lot to like.

Most importantly, Spartan is noticeably fast. It runs a new engine that Microsoft says it built from scratch. That appears to have paid off. Spartan loads complex websites quickly, and there’s practically no delay when playing videos.

…One unique Spartan feature is the ability to take notes right on a website. By clicking the pen and paper button, Spartan will let you annotate any website with a virtual pen or highlighter. This feature is pretty cool if you have a touchscreen PC — less so if you are using a mouse. You can also type notes onto the site and send cropped screenshots to OneNote.

The new browser also supports Cortana, Microsoft’s version of Siri. The virtual assistant will send you directions to a restaurant when you navigate to an establishment’s website. It’s not clear how else Cortana will be implemented in Spartan, but maps are a good start. Read More > at CNN Money

SD7: Steve Glazer files FPPC complaint on unions – Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, vying with Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla in the 7th State Senate District special election, filed a complaint Wednesday with the state’s political watchdog agency claiming labor unions are hiding their role in a group that’s attacking him.

Glazer informed the Fair Political Practices Commission that the “Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate” group received hundreds of thousands of dollars from union committees, but failed to list on its mailer the names of the top two union donors who had contributed $50,000 or more, as state law requires.

“The disclosure rules are in effect to give voters full knowledge of the special interests who are funding these communications,” Glazer said in a news release. “These groups are sophisticated political players who circumvented disclosure laws for the sole purpose of misleading voters.”

Glazer cited filings with the Secretary of State that show the State Council of Service Employees gave $185,000 and the California School Employees Association gave $75,000 to support this mailer. Read More > in the Political Blotter

Drought Etiquette: When Is Yellow No Longer Mellow? – …But is saving water really so uncomplicated?

Take the “mellow yellow” rule. It’s swell in theory, but after a day or so of following the no-flush regime, you’re reminded that the yellow stuff has a sometimes penetrating odor (never mind what you encounter after an asparagus dinner). Beyond the clever rhyme, when do cohabitants decide that yellow is no longer mellow? And do they adopt ground rules? Something like “a flush a day keeps the stink away”?

Let’s plumb the depths of some other pressing drought etiquette issues:

…For outdoorsy men and women — but from my experience mostly the men — there’s another water-saving option that might seem more attractive during the drought: yard urination. We’re talking about a discreet approach to bladder-voiding in an unseen corner of one’s own premises. Your intimates (and neighbors, and police, if they find out) may express disapproval of this form of fresh-air relief. Where do you stand?

Of course, not every issue in the book of drought etiquette centers on bodily functions or toilet operation. Often, we’re confronted with water-wasting in the world around us and we have to decide how ready we are to get in our family’s, friends’ and neighbors’ faces about it.

For instance, how do you respond to your partner or roommate when you notice they’re not taking a short, economical shower. Do you open the door to the bathroom and remind them that we’re in the midst of one of the worst droughts in state history? Read More > at KQED

Sprint Has Officially Saved RadioShack From Extinction – A US bankruptcy court has approved a plan to save RadioShack’s remaining retail stores.

RadioShack, founded in 1921 to serve the then emerging radio equipment market, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February. But some RadioShack stores will survive after the company was bought by hedge fund Standard General. In keeping the stores open, Standard is sharing store space with wireless carrier Sprint. As reported by Reuters, the stores will carry both the Radio Shack and Sprint names, and Sprint will occupy about a third of each store.

The deal came Tuesday amidst protests from lenders that could have killed RadioShack’s chances for survival. Reuters explains that RadioShack was forced to finalize a deal by April because Chapter 11 give companies only a few months to break leases, which is critical for retailers. Only about 1,740 of RadioShack’s more than 4,000 stores have survived the bankruptcy. But the new deal is expected to save as many as 7,500 RadioShack jobs still in place. Read More > in Wired

How Growers Gamed California’s Drought – Agriculture is the heart of California’s worsening water crisis, and the stakes extend far beyond the state’s borders. Not only is California the world’s eighth largest economy, it is an agricultural superpower. It produces roughly half of all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables consumed in the United States—and more than 90 percent of the almonds, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli and other specialty crops—while exporting vast amounts to China and other overseas customers.

But agriculture consumes a staggering 80 percent of California’s developed water, even as it accounts for only 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Most crops and livestock are produced in the Central Valley, which is, geologically speaking, a desert. The soil is very fertile but crops there can thrive only if massive amounts of irrigation water are applied.

Although no secret, agriculture’s 80 percent share of state water use is rarely mentioned in media discussions of California’s drought. Instead, news coverage concentrates on the drought’s implications for people in cities and suburbs, which is where most journalists and their audiences live. Thus recent headlines warned that state regulators have ordered restaurants to serve water only if customers explicitly request it and directed homeowners to water lawns no more than twice a week. The San Jose Mercury News pointed out that these restrictions carry no enforcement mechanisms, but what makes them a sideshow is simple math: During a historic drought, surely the sector that’s responsible for 80 percent of water consumption—agriculture—should be the main focus of public attention and policy.

The other great unmentionable of California’s water crisis is that water is still priced more cheaply than it should be, which encourages over-consumption. “Water in California is still relatively inexpensive,” Heather Cooley, director of the water program at the world-renowned Pacific Institute in Oakland, told The Daily Beast.

One reason is that much of the state’s water is provided by federal and state agencies at prices that taxpayers subsidize. A second factor that encourages waste is the “use it or lose it” feature in California’s arcane system of water rights. Under current rules, if a property owner does not use all the water to which he is legally entitled, he relinquishes his future rights to the unused water, which may then get allocated to the next farmer in line. Read More > in the Daily Beast

Bay Area pollution agency wants to ban open fireplaces – The term “home and hearth” evokes in many a vision of rosy-cheeked children snuggling with their families by a crackling fire, but proposed air pollution regulations may soon banish traditional open-air fireplaces from Bay Area households.

Air pollution regulators want to require all Bay Area property owners — upon selling or transferring their buildings or homes — to install federally certified fireplace inserts or wood-burning stoves that filter out fine particles both indoors and out, from the chimney. Otherwise, property owners would have to render the fireplaces inoperable when their buildings change hands by removing the fireplace, bricking it up or walling it off.

The agency proposing the rule, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, is holding public workshops across the region to discuss the proposed restrictions on wood burning. The idea is to help the roughly 1 million Bay Area residents who have respiratory illnesses, said Kristine Roselius, the spokeswoman for the management district, which is responsible for protecting air quality in the nine-county Bay Area.

The proposed rules could end up costing property owners hundreds or even thousands of dollars. District officials reckon, however, that it is a small price to pay for air quality improvements. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Sales taxes hit 10 percent in Hayward, San Leandro, Union City, Albany and El Cerrito – The sales tax in several East Bay cities is going up to 10 percent Wednesday as local governments increasingly turn to consumers as a preferred revenue generator despite concerns from both tax opponents and advocates for the poor.

While Hayward, San Leandro, Union City, Albany and El Cerrito are the first Bay Area cities to reach the 10 percent threshold, they may soon have company as the state Legislature considers changing the law to give cities and counties more latitude to ask voters for sales tax increases.

“A 10 percent sales tax is bad news for consumers, and it could get even worse,” said David Kline of the California Taxpayers Association.

When it comes to tax fairness, California gets high marks for its income tax, which targets the wealthy, but a demerit for its sales tax, which ranks among the highest in the nation, according to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, based in Washington, D.C. Read More > in the Oakland Tribune

‘Decline to state’ voters continue to grow – The number of registered voters in California with no political party preference jumped nearly 3 percent over the past two years, following a national trend that’s also reflected in the city and county of San Diego, according to a recent report.

Statewide, 23.57 percent of registered voters declined to choose a political party, up from 20.86 percent two years ago, according to the 2015 Report of Registration, released late Monday by Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Political observers attribute the rise of independent or ‘decline to state’ voters, as they are sometimes called, to an overall disenchantment with the Democratic and Republican political parties.

The Democratic Party continues to have the highest share of registered voters in California, at 43.15, though its percentage dipped by 0.7 percent. Voters who registered Republican account for 27.98 percent, down 0.9 percent from two years ago. Read More > in The San Diego Union-Tribune

Academic dishonesty at Stanford: What compels elite students to cheat? – Stanford University is the latest in a series of top American universities to admit it has a cheating problem.

With nearly 16,000 students enrolled at Stanford, a few incidences of cheating and plagiarism are expected each quarter. But in a letter sent Tuesday by University Provost John Etchemendy, the school is investigating “an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty,” during the winter quarter.

The school is concerned over incidents in a number of courses, particularly one of the school’s largest introductory courses where one in five students are suspected of having cheated.

…Studies have shown that today’s college and high school students are cheating at an ever increasing rate, and that high achievers are just as likely to cheat as everyone else.

Technology makes it easier not only to find information to plagiarize, but also to share work with other students. Additionally, many students do not see anything wrong with sharing their own work or borrowing heavily from the work of others due to the culture of collaboration that has arisen in the millennial generation, Etchemendy noted in his letter. Read More > in The Christian Science Monitor

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear First Amendment Case Challenging School Ban on American Flag Shirts – In an order issued today without comment or explanation, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a high-profile First Amendment case challenging a California school district which banned several students from wearing shirts bearing the image of the American flag.

The case originated in 2010 when the Morgan Hill Unified School District forbid several students from wearing American flag-themed shirts on Cinco de Mayo over fears that their attire would spark racial violence between white and Hispanic students. School officials told the offending students to either turn their shirts inside out or go home. The students went home and subsequently filed a legal challenge alleging that the First Amendment had been violated because the school allowed a “heckler’s veto” to trump their rights to peaceful free expression.

In February 2014, those students lost at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. “School officials anticipated violence or substantial disruption of or material interference with school activities, and their response was tailored to the circumstances,” the 9th Circuit declared in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District. “As a consequence, we conclude that school officials did not violate the students’ rights to freedom of expression.” Notably, the 9th Circuit claimed that its ruling should be distinguished from the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1976 precedent in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, in which the Court invalidated the suspension of three public school students for wearing black armbands in silent protest of the Vietnam War. According to the Supreme Court in Tinker, while school officials may have based their actions “upon their fear of a disturbance from the wearing of the armband… in our system, undifferentiated fears or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression.” Read More > at Reason

Extra Points: How the PAT Could Change by This Fall – Last year, in a general session at an NFL meeting, the league’s 32 teams agreed—almost unanimously—that the point after touchdown was passé. Had to go. Too automatic. And so eight days ago, when the competition committee gathered in Phoenix to go over potential rule changes for the 2015 season, the committee was stuck on the PAT fix. There was nothing the group thought it could sell that would get the required 24 votes from the teams. (A rule change needs a three-quarter vote to pass.) Find a compromise, the committee was told; the league can’t go another year with 99.6 percent extra-point efficiency—the league average for the past three years.

So on Tuesday, each team had a chance to express opinions on what the new rule should be. Thirty of 32 teams said they wanted the PAT to change, as teams, one by one, had a chance to advance their own solutions. But the opinions on what the new rule should be “were all over the map,” one competition committee member told me in Phoenix. “That’s the problem now. No one can agree, and now we have to come up with a compromise that’ll get 24 votes in May.”

This is the most likely compromise to be advanced, and the most likely way the league will amend how teams can score after a touchdown:

  • Teams will have a choice whether to go for one or two points after a touchdown, from different distances.
  • If the offensive team chooses to kick for one point, the scrimmage line will move from the 2-yard-line to the 15-yard line, making it a 32- or 33-yard attempt.
  • If the offensive team chooses to go for two points, the scrimmage line will be either the 1-and-a half- or 2-yard line. There was much debate about making it the 1, the 1-and-a-half or the 2. The feeling about putting it on the 1 was that it could turn into too much of a scrum/push-the-pile play, or a fluky puncture-the-goal-line-with-the-ball-and-bring-it-back play by the quarterback. Putting it at the 1-and-a-half or leaving it at the 2 would increase the chances of a real football play with some drama.
  • The defensive team would be able to score two points by either blocking the PAT and returning it downfield to the end zone, or by intercepting the two-point attempt and running it back, or recovering a fumble on the two-point play and returning it all the way.

Again, that’s not certain. Anytime you ask 24 teams to agree on anything, there’s a chance it won’t happen. Read More > at Monday Morning Quaterback

STEPHEN MOORE: Young Americans opting out of workforce – The great conundrum of the U.S. economy today is that we have record numbers of working-age Americans out of the labor force at the same time we have businesses desperately trying to find workers. For example, the American Transportation Research Institute estimates there are about 35,000 trucker jobs that could be filled tomorrow if workers would take these jobs — a shortage that could rise to 240,000 by 2022.

For skilled and reliable mechanics, welders, engineers, electricians, plumbers, computer technicians and nurses, jobs are plentiful. If you’re good at a trade and a reliable worker, you can often find a job in 48 hours. Says Bob Funk, president of Express Services, which matches almost a half-million temporary workers with employers each year, “If you have a useful skill, we can find you a job. But too many are graduating from high school and college without any skills at all.”

The lesson, to play off the famous Waylon Jennings song: Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be philosophy majors.

Three years ago, the chronic disease of the economy was a shortage of jobs. This shortage persists in some sectors. But the bigger problem is a shortage of trained employees and low-skilled employees willing to work. Patrick Doyle, the president of Domino’s Pizza, says the franchises around the country are having a hard time filling delivery and clerical positions. “It’s a very tight labor market out there now.” Read More > in The Washington Times

A bare-knuckle brawl in the 7th Senate District – …The top two vote-getters on March 17 – Steve Glazer and Susan Bonilla – will confront each other May 19 in a runoff. Glazer, a political consultant, is the mayor of Orinda and served as Jerry Brown’s 2010 campaign manager. Bonilla, D-Concord, is an Assemblywoman and chair of the Business and Professions Committee, an influential Capitol perch with leverage over legislation sought – or opposed – by any number of special interests. Bonilla’s committee wields authority over a wide range of regulatory issues, including the creation of new entities in the Department of Consumer Affairs; the licensing of health care professionals, building standards and vocational education, among others.

Both are Democrats and both want to fill the seat vacated by Democrat Mark DeSaulnier, who left for Congress.

But there are distinct differences.

Glazer is business-friendly with links to the political arm of the state Chamber of Commerce, who opposed a strike by BART transit workers and who has supported public charter schools. He sees himself as “socially progressive and fiscally conservative,” a posture similar to that of Brown, and considers himself an outside reformer of a Capitol crippled by partisanship and special interests, a position that he believes reflects the views of many in the district.

Bonilla, the former mayor of Concord and member of the Contra Costa Counnty board of supervisors, was elected to the Assembly in 2010 following a four-year stint on the board. She points to her experience as a state and local elected official, and notes her role in reaching a landmark compromise on legislation she authored — closely watched nationally — that established rules for Uber and Lyft drivers to carry insurance. The governor signed the measure. If the pro-labor Bonilla doesn’t win in May, she will remain as head of the powerful B&P committee – a fact not lost on myriad interests. Read More > at Capitol Weekly

Defense Department Keeps Losing ‘Sensitive’ Explosives Gear, Then Finding It For Sale On Ebay – The Pentagon may not know where some very sensitive equipment has disappeared to, but a variety of private resellers seem to have some idea where it might be found. A leaked US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) document obtained by The Intercept details the agency’s inability to keep track of its explosives-detecting equipment, bequeathed to it by the Defense Department’s Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

While it did manage to track down some of its missing equipment at various equipment resellers (the document lists a variety of URLs, including ebay.com and craigslist.org), it still has no idea how much of it is still in the military’s possession.

In all, more than 32,000 pieces of equipment were issued. Some kits are still in use, making it difficult to compile a precise inventory of what was issued and what might be missing.

The March 2014 document asks for assistance in locating missing devices to prevent them from being used against the US and its allies. It also points out that the failure to keep tabs on this equipment is mostly internal. Read More > at techdirt

How much firepower does your city need? – City officials around the state are debating how much firepower should be in the hands of local law enforcement officials.

The debates rage as watchdog groups around the state have fought back against everything from new armored vehicles to drone use to increased surveillance tactics by local agencies.

KQED’s California Report states, “Military-grade equipment usually comes to local police from two main sources — for free from the Pentagon, after being used in Iraq or Afghanistan — or purchased with assistance from Homeland Security grants. The trend began during the 1990s and escalated after 9/11. But today, especially after the events in Ferguson, Missouri, more questions are being asked about whether this is the right direction for a local police department to follow.”

Local officials in the city of Davis recently succeeded in getting city officials to return an armored vehicle purchased by the police department. In Oakland, the council passed restrictions on surveillance drones after heated public debate.

In Sacramento, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit over the use of cell-phone interception technology by the local sheriff’s department. Read More > at California City News

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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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