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.
Auditor blasts State Bar for inconsistent discipline of bad lawyers, shoddy finances – The State Bar of California doesn’t consistently protect the public from bad lawyers and lacks financial accountability, according to a state audit released Thursday.
Instead of focusing resources on enforcement, the bar spent more than $76 million to purchase and renovate a building in Los Angeles, the audit says.
The agency struggles to resolve complaints in a timely way, potentially delaying discipline, the audit concludes. Efforts to reduce a backlog that topped 5,000 cases in 2010 included a rush of settlements, some of them “inadequate.” Efforts to reduce the backlog prompted settlements in 1,500 cases — more than in any of the other four years assessed in the audit.
In fact, the California Supreme Court returned 27 cases the State Bar settled in 2011 for re-examination due to the appearance of insufficient discipline. Upon further consideration by the bar, 21 or the 27 cases resulting in recommendation of further discipline, including five disbarments. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times
Google to remove ‘revenge porn’ from search results – In a significant step to combat “revenge porn,” Google will honor requests to remove from search results nude or sexually explicit images posted on the Internet without consent.
Google says it will remove the search results the same way it does other sorts of highly sensitive personal information such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers.
“Our philosophy has always been that search should reflect the whole Web,” Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search said in a blog post provided to USA TODAY. “But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victim — predominantly women.”
Victims will be able to submit requests through an online form in coming weeks, Google said.
“We know this won’t solve the problem of revenge porn — we aren’t able, of course, to remove these images from the websites themselves — but we hope that honoring people’s requests to remove such imagery from our search results can help,” Singhal wrote. Read More > in USA Today
Bay Area customers choke on Starbucks’ decision to close La Boulange pastry shops – Many La Boulange customers were steamed when Starbucks disclosed plans to shutter all 23 locations of the beloved pastry shop chain, which was started in San Francisco, and that outrage boiled over into social media.
Starbucks Corp. acquired the La Boulange bakery chain for $100 million three years ago. This week the Seattle-based coffee company said it is closing all 23 pastry shops. Starbucks says it will focus on expanding the baked goods under the La Boulange brand in its coffee outlets. Perhaps expecting its decision to be unpopular among La Boulange’s dedicated Bay Area customer base, Starbucks’ announcement was released about the time the Golden State Warriors took the court to play the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning the NBA Championship. Various posts on social media Tuesday night speculated that this wasn’t a coincidence.
Customers did get a morsel of good news today. La Boulange’s founder hinted that a new version of the popular cafes may rise from the chain’s ashes. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times
How To 3-D Print a Steel Bridge – A Dutch startup has unveiled plans to build the world’s first 3-D-printed bridge across an Amsterdam canal, a technique that could become standard on future construction sites.
Using robotic printers “that can ‘draw’ steel structures in 3-D, we will print a (pedestrian) bridge over water in the center of Amsterdam,” engineering startup company MX3D said in a statement, hoping to kick off the project by September.
The plan involves robotic arm printers ‘walking’ across the canal as it slides along the bridge’s edges, essentially printing its own support structure out of thin air as it moves along.
Specially-designed robotic arms heat the metal to a searing 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,500 degrees Celsius) to painstakingly weld the structure drop-by-drop, using a computer program to plot the sophisticated design.
So far, the robotic arm has been used to print smaller metal structures, but the bridge will be the first ever large-scale deployment of the technology, MX3D spokeswoman Eva James said. It is hoped that the bridge, which also involves the Heijmans construction company and Autodesk software, will be a first step toward seeing the technique used on construction sites, especially those involving dangerous tasks such as on high buildings, she said. Read More > in Industry Week
Why NBC cut Brian Williams loose as anchor — and really had no choice – In the end, NBC simply could not bring Brian Williams back to the anchor chair.
It wasn’t just that he had irreparably tarnished his own credibility, and that of his network, by fabricating a tale of Iraq War bravery. It was that the rank and file of his own news division was vehemently opposed to Williams returning to “NBC Nightly News.”
That put the newly arrived NBC News chief Andy Lack in the awkward position of trying to keep Williams at the company without alienating those who produce the network’s journalism. There are many old wounds among those who believe Williams became increasingly aloof and even blame him for the relocation of many news staffers to the far end of 30 Rock.
The result: NBC announcing yesterday that Williams has been relegated to the post of breaking news and special events anchor for MSNBC. That’s the low-rated cable channel where he once anchored a 9 p.m. news show—from Secaucus—as a kind of spring training as he prepared for the big-league assignment of succeeding Tom Brokaw.
The struggling channel is trying to recast itself by jettisoning some of the liberal opinion hosts who populate the daytime in favor of more straight news (though MSNBC doesn’t have its own reporters). And the reassignment for Williams clearly represents a compromise hammered out by lawyers that will keep him at the company, which was paying him at least $10 million a year.
But while the move puts the respected and well-liked Lester Holt at the helm of “Nightly News”—the first African-American to be sole anchor of one of the Big Three evening newscasts–it raises two important questions: Read More > at Fox News
Federal Debt to Exceed 100 Percent of GDP by 2040 – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wants to “blow up the tax code and start over,” but the bloated government edifice supported by those taxes could use a little demolition too. The Congressional Budget Office’s 2015 Long-Term Budget Outlook is out, and the takeaway is “If current laws remained generally unchanged, federal debt held by the public would exceed 100 percent of GDP by 2040 and continue on an upward path relative to the size of the economy—a trend that could not be sustained indefinitely.”
…The federal government has spent more money than it takes in for years. The deficit has shrunk and grown a bit during that time based on specifics of policy and the economy, as have projections of just how much the debt will pile up in the years to come. But nobody has yet seriously suggested that revenues and spending will match up anytime soon.
In the latest outlook, the CBO does offer some suggestions for avoiding a mass national drowning in a sea of red ink, just in case politicians are short of ideas. To maintain national debt at the current 74 percent of GDP, the feds would have to “slash” spending by 5.5 percent or increase revenues by 6 percent. To return the national debt to its 50-year average of 38 percent of GDP, the feds would have to actually reduce spending by 13 percent or increase revenues by 14 percent. Read More > at Reason
How painkillers are turning young athletes into heroin addicts – …It is, by any measure, an epidemic. Heroin is not new or chic, but its use and abuse are spiking. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics, heroin-overdose deaths rose gradually from 2000 to ’10 but then almost tripled in the following three years to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people. Heroin use cuts across demographics. Young, old. Male, female. Wealthy, indigent. Urban, rural and, most of all, suburban. But public authorities devoted to prevention and law enforcement, from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have been struck by a growing concentration in an unlikely subset of users: young athletes.
About a decade ago Jack Riley, the DEA’s chief of operations, recognized that high school athletes were becoming “unwitting customers of the cartels,” which target people susceptible to prescription-drug abuse. The number of addicts and overdose victims has grown substantially since then. “In the athletic arena, if anything can be likened to a weapon of mass destruction, it’s heroin,” Riley says. “It is that pervasive now.”
While hard data for heroin use among young athletes are difficult to come by, the anecdotal evidence is abundant and alarming. A seven-month SI investigation found overdose victims in baseball, basketball, football, golf, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, volleyball and wrestling—from coast to coast. Riley saw this as a volunteer in a youth basketball league in St. Louis. He coached a player who, years after suffering an injury, succumbed to a heroin overdose. The cartels, Riley says, “have developed a strategy, with the help of street gangs, to put heroin in every walk of life. They recognize how vulnerable young athletes are.”
To understand the increasingly busy intersection of heroin and sports, it’s essential first to understand the general path to the drug. According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a full 80% of all users arrive at heroin after abusing opioid painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. And according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, one in 15 people who take nonmedical prescription painkillers will try heroin within the next 10 years. While opioid painkillers can cost up to $30 per pill on the black market, heroin, which is molecularly similar, can be purchased for $5 a bag and provides a more potent high. “It’s an easy jump,” says Harris Stratyner, a New York City addiction specialist. Read More > in Sports Illustrated
Hell No Don’t Raise The Gas Tax – …The gas tax isn’t the only thing that hasn’t changed in 20 years, though. The entire way we fund infrastructure improvements and the uneconomical mandates we put on road building also haven’t changed. Politicians should examine these, to make sure we are spending money as wisely as possible, before simply demanding more from our paychecks.
Currently, local and state governments collect the federal gas tax and send it to Washington. There, it goes through the political sausage grinder before being sent back to local and state governments to pay for infrastructure projects. This might have made some amount of sense when the federal government was constructing the interstate highway system. With that task largely complete, however, this system breeds waste and inefficiency.
It also suborns infrastructure needs to the political horse-trading that is too prevalent in Washington. Money is allocated based on political clout, rather than a clear assessment of needs. My home state, Illinois, ends up sending more money to Washington than it receives back.
Only in Washington does this kind of system make sense. It would make far more sense actually to cut the federal gas tax and allow local and state governments to tax, and spend, where the needs actually are.
…The first solution to any perceived problem should not be higher taxes. America does have infrastructure in critical need of repair. Propping up a failed system with higher taxes is perhaps the worst policy prescription, however. We must reform the system first. Then, and only then, can we begin a discussion of how best to fund it. Read More > in The Daily Caller
Delivery by drone in 30 minutes? Amazon says it’s coming – Online retail giant Amazon.com Inc. said it is developing the technology to use drones to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less, a broad expansion of unmanned flight that is raising concerns about safety, security and privacy..
Using commercial drones to quickly deliver packages is probably years away. But when government regulations catch up with emerging technologies, it could revolutionize the way people shop for items they need quickly, Paul E. Misener, vice president of global public policy for Amazon.com, said Wednesday.
The Federal Aviation Administration proposed rules in February that would severely restrict the use of commercial drones. The House panel held a hearing Wednesday on their economic potential as well as concerns about safety and privacy.
The FAA’s proposed rules would require operators to keep commercial drones within eyesight at all times, which limits the distance they can fly. The restriction probably would prevent drone delivery as proposed by Amazon.
FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker said more research is needed before the government allows widespread use of commercial drones. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times
The male Pill is coming – and it’s going to change everything – Vasalgel is a non-hormonal male contraceptive owned by the medical research organisation the Parsemus Foundation. It’s poised as the first FDA (Food and Drug Administration panel) approved male contraceptive since the condom.
What’s more, it’s estimated to hit the US market around 2018-2020 – and could change the way we view contraception for ever.
It’s easy, too. One injection would last for years. Research tells us that at least half of men would use it.
Vasalgel is essentially a polymer that’s injected under local anesthetic into the man’s sperm-carrying tubes, accessible through the scrotum — not in his penis or testicles as some authors have erred. It works by blocking sperm and is expected to be reversible through a second injection that dissolves the polymer.
We’ll know for sure its length of efficacy and whether it’s fully reversible after the medical trials, which begin in 2016. Read More > in The Telegraph
A woman will appear on redesigned $10 bill in 2020. Who will it be? – Will it be Susan B. Anthony or Harriet Tubman? Eleanor Roosevelt or Rosa Parks? Or another important woman from American history?
These will be among the names the nation ponders after the Obama administration’s announcement late Wednesday that a woman will be featured on the $10 bill, the first time in well over a century that a female portrait will grace the United States’ paper money.
The redesigned bill will be unveiled in 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the right of women to vote. The Treasury Department is launching a massive public campaign to solicit suggestions through social media and town halls for what the bill should look like and who should be on it. The only requirements for candidacy are that the woman be deceased and embody the theme of the bill’s new look: “Democracy.”
The debate over who should be the face of the new $10 bill could become part of a wider conversation about the social and economic progress of women. Selecting just one person for such a symbolic role may involve trade-offs, forcing officials to decide which major milestone in American history to highlight.
As it proceeds, the Treasury Department could also face backlash over its decision to replace or de-emphasize the current face of the $10 bill, Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first secretary of the treasury, who advocated for a national currency. (Officials said some bills could still portray Hamilton, perhaps in combination with a woman.) Read More > in The Washington Post
Why Roger Goodell might be in tough spot on Tom Brady suspension – Tom Brady is said to be seeking total exoneration, and it appears he’s entitled to it. The idea that Brady and the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs for a competitive advantage has been discredited by everyone from sidewalk chemists to Web physicists to unlicensed ceramicists, not to mention your own common sense. But most importantly, it is utterly shredded in a new scientific analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, which shows the only inflation problem is in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s head.
The NFL paid millions for a fundamentally flawed report by lawyer Ted Wells that made Brady and the Patriots out to be slam-dunk guilty, based on more than 100 pages of mathematical analysis of ball pressurization . . . that turns out to erroneous. The AEI’s report totally rejects the finding that the footballs used by the Patriots in the AFC Championship had a significant drop in air pressure compared to the Colts. But the truly damning sentence is this one, buried in its erudite phrasings and equations: “The Wells report’s statistical analysis cannot be replicated by performing the analysis as described in the report,” the AEI concludes.
…Goodell is now in a truly interesting and awkward position. In one week he will hear Brady’s appeal. He has said, “I very much look forward to hearing from Mr. Brady and to considering any new information he may bring to my attention.”
Well, here is a boatload of very inconvenient new information.
Does Goodell stand by the conclusions of the Wells report, dig in and refuse to budge — thus establishing that he’s incapable of fairly considering evidence and is a serial abuser of his powers? Does he try to parse and sidestep the AEI analysis, by claiming that the scientific evidence is just a small part of the case against Brady? Trouble with that is, more than half of the Wells report’s 243 pages is taken up by pressure gauges and pounds-per-square-inch analysis – all of which must be thrown out according to AEI. If the balls weren’t deflated, then what’s left? Read More > in The Washington Post
Millions of Samsung Galaxy Phones May Be Vulnerable to Hackers – If you’re one of the millions of users of a Samsung Galaxy phone, you might be a potential target for a malicious hacker.
A report released today by NowSecure, a security firm located in Chicago, found that a glitch in Swift, the keyboard software used by default on all Samsung Galaxy devices could allow a remote attacker to compromise your phone.
This particular bug makes the phone vulnerable to what is known as a “man in the middle” attack. The Swift software consistently sends requests to a server, checking for updates. To someone with the right knowhow, though, it’s possible to impersonate Swift’s server and send through software that can be used to gain control of the device.
The main problem with this vulnerability is that there’s no real solution. The Swift keyboard is so integrated into Samsung’s software that it cannot be removed or disabled — even if it is switched out with a different keyboard app. Steering clear of unsecured Wi-Fi networks will make you less likely to be targeted, but it won’t render you invulnerable. Read More > at MSN Money
Wary Palm Springs Guards Its Cheap, Plentiful Water – The California narrative about water is generally a tidy tale about the arid south scrambling to come up with water from the relatively wet north. But plenty of other angles deserve mention, starting with the fact that the state’s best-known desert communities — those in the Coachella Valley — have both cheap and plentiful water.
The Palm Springs region and its 400,000 residents and 124 golf courses aren’t gobbling up an extreme chunk of Colorado River supplies, as many assume. It’s blessed with huge underground aquifers that are tapped with an efficient water infrastructure that has drawn admiring looks for decades. Its residents, tourism industry and business community have deeply benefited from state laws that require water rates to be linked to the actual cost of providing water.
…This hugely favorable status quo is why rates at the Desert Water Agency have barely budged in recent years. With a base rate of from $1.16 to $1.83 per 100 cubic feet of drinking water, depending on the community, Coachella Valley water bills are far less than those in San Diego County, which are based on a rate of over $4 per 100 cubic feet, or San Francisco (over $5). Read More > at Public CEO
The NFL Team That Is Solving Millennials – The San Francisco 49ers are getting ready for the fall, when they’ll face their most daunting opponents. The Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals come to mind. At the moment, however, they are preparing to face a force many find truly terrifying: millennials.
The 49ers coaching staff, led by new head coach Jim Tomsula, realized that they are dealing with the same problem as millions of parents, even if they are dealing with massive, athletic millionaires. The issue is how to relate to a generation—generally described as 18-to-34-year-olds—that has been raised on smartphones and instant information.
So the team consulted with experts ranging from Stanford University researchers to advertising executives to learn how, exactly, the young brain works.
As players arrived for voluntary workouts and minicamps this spring and summer, they noticed sweeping changes designed to cater to how research shows millennials learn. That means making concessions for people with shorter attention spans, a desire to multitask and, yes, a need to check their phones all the time.
Facing this new reality, the 49ers turned the typical meeting, which on some teams can go for as long as two hours, into 30-minute blocks, each followed by 10-minute breaks that allow players to do what young people do. That is, as Tomsula puts it, to “go grab your phone, do your multitasking and get your fix” before returning the meeting.
…Another change involves sending alerts to players’ calendars instead of a printed schedule. Coaches were fearful of this move at first. In football, missing a meeting is a grave offense; now you’re introducing the chance that a technological bug could cause a player to miss one? But after a few weeks of meetings, which are used in the NFL to discuss strategy and review film, that concern has proved unfounded. No one has missed anything. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
Warriors end 40-year wait with NBA title — and more excellence ahead – This journey took 40 years. That’s how long it had been since the Warriors, as a franchise, had won a championship. In that sense, and in the sense that the Warriors had only recently, from 1995 through 2012, endured a 17-year stretch in which they made but one playoff appearance, it has been a long and torturous road for Golden State.
But in another way, this has been remarkably quick. Five years ago, the Warriors were a joke of a franchise, pried from the bumbling clutches of Peter Cohan and sold to forward-thinking owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, for what now seems to be a sparse sum, $450 million. Lacob and Guber had bought a dud, through and through, a franchise imbued with losing.
…And they are poised for more. NBA MVP Stephen Curry, is 27. Burgeoning young All-Star Klay Thompson is 25, as is another burgeoning youngster, Draymond Green. Versatile and developing forward Harrison Barnes is 23. The fifth starter with that core — 30-year-old center Andrew Bogut throughout the season, 31-year-old guard Andre Iguodala during the Finals and won Finals MVP — is probably replaceable going forward, possibly by another 25-year-old, Festus Ezeli, whose Game 6 impact included 10 points and four rebounds.
The Warriors are young, and perhaps their biggest obstacle in this postseason — or, at least, second-biggest, behind Cavs star LeBron James — has been their own inexperience. But this was an especially intelligent crew, a mix of youthful starters and veterans like Iguodala, Bogut, Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa, that learned on the fly.
The win over the Cavaliers was, like much of their postseason, the culmination of lessons learned. Throughout these playoffs, the Warriors have gotten better as each individual series has gone on, gleaning some lesson from an important moment, the kind of moments that have, in the past two playoffs, caused this team to unravel. This time, they showed remarkable adaptability and resilience. Read More > in the Sporting News
In Turnabout, Disney Cancels Tech Worker Layoffs – In late May, about 35 technology employees at Disney/ABC Television in New York and Burbank, Calif., received jarring news. Managers told them that they would all be laid off, and that during their final weeks they would have to train immigrants brought in by an outsourcing company to do their jobs.
The training began, but after a few days it was suspended with no explanation. In New York, the immigrants suddenly stopped coming to the offices. Then on June 11, managers summoned the Disney employees with different news: Their layoffs had been canceled.
“We were read a precisely worded statement,” said one of the employees, who was relieved but reluctant to be named because he remains at the company. “We were told our jobs were continuing and we should consider it as if nothing had happened until further notice.”
Although the number of layoffs planned was small, the cancellation, which was first reported by Computerworld, a website covering the technology business, set off a hopeful buzz among tech employees in Disney’s empire. It came in the midst of a furor over layoffs in January of 250 tech workers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. People who lost jobs there said they had to sit with immigrants from India, some on temporary work visas known as H-1B, and teach them to perform their jobs as a condition for receiving severance.
But it remained unclear on Tuesday who had initiated the change of strategy at Disney/ABC or whether it was part of a larger change in direction, because Disney executives declined to discuss it. Read More > in The New York Times
California Water Cuts Leave City Days Away From Running Out Of Water – The community of Mountain House is days away from having no water at all after the state cut off its only water source.
The community’s sole source of water, the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, was one of 114 senior water rights holders cut off by a curtailment notice from the state on Friday.
That means Mountain House leaders must find someone to sell them water, hopefully, the GM says, to have enough until the end of the year.
“We don’t want this town to become a ghost town, it was a beautiful master-planned community,” he said. Read More > at CBS Sacramento
Wildfire season 2015: Here’s how many Bay Area homes are at risk – More than 2 million homes in California, including roughly 400,000 in the greater Bay Area, are at high or extreme risk of wildfire this year, according to a recent study.
The Golden State’s estimated 2 million homes at risk constitute more than 1 in 4 of the national figure, 4.5 million, said Verisk Insurance Solutions, which publishes an annual study. This year’s 2015 Fireline State Risk Reports looks at 13 states believed to be most at risk, including three new ones: Montana, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
Montana and Idaho have the highest percentage of homes at risk for damage by wildfires, at 27 percent and 25 percent, respectively. But California has by far the highest overall total, roughly three times Texas’ total of about 706,000.
And the Bay Area is all too familiar with the horrors of conflagrations on the borders where urban areas and nature intersect. The epic Oakland Hills firestorm in October 1991 killed 25 people and injured about 150 others, caused an estimated $1.5 billion in property damage and destroyed close to 3,000 homes and hundreds of apartment and condominum units in the hills on the eastern edges of Oakland and Berkeley.
Verisk said, not surprisingly that worsening drought conditions in California and elsewhere in the Western U.S. could make this “one of the most devastating wildfire seasons on record.”
Verisk created a California report for me showing total homes at risk in California counties, according to its analysis. Nearly 398,000 homes in the greater Bay Area made the risk list, led by 76,8000 in Alameda County, 63,300 in Santa Clara County, 53,100 in Santa Cruz County and 49,600 in Contra Costa County. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times
Toilet-to-Tap Is Coming to San Diego Sooner Than You Think – The drought and growing public acceptance have turned a process once derided as “toilet to tap” into something politically palatable, and water officials across San Diego County are planning to make reused wastewater drinkable and widespread within a matter of years.
In the city, a $2.85 billion multi-part project, branded Pure Water, is hoping to use wastewater to start producing 30 million gallons a day of drinkable water within the next six years. That’s two years sooner and twice as much water as envisioned just months ago.
“The drought has definitely pushed this project,” said John Helminski, the assistant director of the city of San Diego’s water department. “The fact that we don’t know how long the drought will last. We’re already in the fourth year of drought – if we continue, it could get a lot worse than it is today.”
The city is not alone. The Padre Dam Municipal Water District in East County and a separate group of North County water agencies are each pursuing major projects to recycle wastewater.
Some water utilities already operate separate “purple pipe” recycled water programs that recycle some wastewater – but only well enough to use for irrigation and certain industrial uses. The purple pipe water flows through separate pipes from our drinkable water. The treated wastewater-turned-drinking water is heavily treated and would flow through the same pipes to homes and offices as regular drinking water. Read More > at Public CEO
Court Battles Loom Over California’s Senior Water Rights – Now that California officials have ordered water cutbacks for some of the oldest and most protected water rights holders in the state, we’re about to see if those orders will stick.
In a historic move, more than 100 “senior” water rights holders have been notified that they must stop pumping water from streams and rivers.
The orders are expected to launch a flurry of lawsuits, with water right holders challenging the state’s fundamental authority to cut off senior rights. Court rulings could dramatically alter how water rights are handled in the state.
Water is doled out in California based on how long ago it was claimed, with the earliest rights going back to the Gold Rush. In the pecking order, newer “junior” water rights are the first to be cut back when water supplies get low, so senior rights holders can continue to get water deliveries. Almost 9,000 junior water rights holders have already been ordered to stop using water this year.
But with a record-low snowpack and worsening drought conditions, the State Water Resources Control Board is now cutting back older rights, going back to 1903. “We’re now at a point that the demand in our key river systems is outstripping supply,” says Caren Trgovcich, State Water Board Chief Deputy Director.
The order affects 276 rights held by individuals and several agricultural water districts, amounting to 1.2 million acre-feet of water. Violators could face fines of $1,000 a day and $2,500 for each unauthorized acre-foot of water they draw. Read More > at KQED
Inside a counterfeit Facebook farm – …Casipong inserts earbuds, queues up dance music, and checks her clients’ instructions. Their specifications are often quite pointed. A São Paulo gym might request 75 female Brazilian fitness fanatics, or a bar in San Francisco’s Castro district might want 1,000 local gay men. Her current order is the most common: fake Facebook profiles of beautiful American women between the ages of 20 and 30. Once a client has received the accounts, he will probably use them to sell Facebook likes to customers looking for an illicit social media boost.
Most of the accounts Casipong creates are sold to these digital middlemen — “click farms” as they have come to be known. Just as fast as Silicon Valley conjures something valuable from digital ephemera, click farms seek ways to create counterfeits. Just Google “buy Facebook likes” and you’ll see how easy it is to purchase black-market influence on the internet: 1,000 Facebook likes for $29.99; 1,000 Twitter followers for $12; or any other type of fake social media credential, from YouTube views to Pinterest followers to SoundCloud plays. Social media is now the engine of the internet, and that engine is running on some pretty suspect fuel.
Casipong plays her role in hijacking the currencies of social media — Facebook likes, Twitter followers — by performing the same routine over and over again. She starts by entering the client’s specifications into the website Fake Name Generator, which returns a sociologically realistic identity: Ashley Nivens, 21, from Nashville, Tennessee, now a student at New York University who works part-time at American Apparel. Casipong then creates an email account. The email address forms the foundation of Ashley Nivens’ Facebook account, which is fleshed out with a profile picture from photos that Braggs’ workers have scraped from dating sites. The whole time, a proxy server makes it seem as though Casipong is accessing the internet from Manhattan, and software disables the cookies that Facebook uses to track suspicious activity. Read More > at The Week
Americans Prefer Living in Neighborhoods With Guns – American Voters overwhelming prefer living in a neighborhood where they have the option of owning a gun than to live where nobody is allowed to be armed.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% of Likely U.S. Voters would feel safer living in a neighborhood where nobody was allowed to own a gun over one where they could have a gun for their own protection. Sixty-eight percent (68%) would feel safer in a neighborhood where guns are allowed, while 10% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.) Read More > at Rasmussen Reports
Gap to slash hundreds of S.F. headquarters jobs, shutter 180 stores – Clothing giant Gap, Inc. (NYSE: GPS) will lay off 250 workers at its San Francisco headquarters and shutter 175 stores, the company said Monday.
Closing the stores will result in a decline of $300 million in annual sales as well as one-time costs of up to $160 million. The cuts will save the company $25 million annually.
“These decisions are very difficult, knowing they will affect a number of our valued employees, but we are confident they are necessary to help create a winning future for our employees, our customers and our shareholders,” said Gap Global President Jeff Kirwan.
Most of the job cuts and store closures will be in North America. About 26 percent of its stores in North America will close.
The 250 positions will be trimmed from Gap’s headquarters, according to the company. The stores will close in phases, with 140 stores closing this fiscal year and the balance closing over the next few years. A “limited number” of European stores will also shutter. No Gap Outlet or factory stores will be affected. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times
What if Pearl Harbor happened and nobody noticed? – Last week, while people were going on about the white woman who posed as black to get an NAACP job, Hillary Clinton’s (latest) campaign relaunch and President Obama’s trade-bill debacle in the House, a much bigger story slipped by with much less hoopla: the successful seizure of a vast trove of federal personnel records, reportedly by the Chinese.
And then it got worse. “Hackers linked to China have gained access to the sensitive background information submitted by intelligence and military personnel for security clearances, U.S. officials said Friday, describing a cyberbreach of federal records dramatically worse than first acknowledged.”
And there are lessons in this debacle, if we are willing to learn them.
Aside from regular federal personnel records, which provide a royal route to blackmail, intimidation and identity theft for present and retired federal workers, the hackers also stole a trove of military and intelligence records that could be even more valuable. The forms stolen were Standard Form 86, in which employees in sensitive positions list their weaknesses: past arrests, bankruptcies, drug and alcohol problems, etc. The 120 plus pages of questions also include civil lawsuits, divorce information, Social Security numbers, and information on friends, roommates, spouses and relatives.
…The U.S. military, even in its current somewhat shrunken state, remains an irresistible force in conventional warfare. But this trove of information is perfect for “fourth-generation warfare,” in which conventional strengths are bypassed in favor of targeted attacks on a stronger nation’s weaknesses. With this sort of information, China will find it much easier to recruit agents, blackmail decision-makers and — in the event of a straight-up conflict — strike directly at Americans in the government, all without launching a single missile.
That’s why experts are calling this security breach a “debacle” and “potentially devastating.” Some are even calling it a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”
…What do we do? Well, so far the federal government is offering free identity-theft protection to its employees, but that response is like putting a Band-Aid on a severed limb — so pathetic it’s not even cosmetic. This isn’t like a broken code, where we can just change things around and be almost as good as new. Once out, this information will remain current for years, and there’s no easy or effective way of doing much about that.
But we can learn our lesson, at least. The United States is highly vulnerable to cyberwar, and not very good about defending against it, especially in the lame-and-inept government IT sector, which has not distinguished itself in terms of competence. Read More > at USA Today
CA Water Rights Hit Hard – After floating the possibility for months, authorities followed through on threatened curtailments on California’s most senior water rights holders.
“The action by the State Water Resources Control Board, after weeks of warnings, affects 114 different water-rights holders in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds, as well as the Delta region,” the Sacramento Bee reported. Not since 1977 have restrictions dug so deep into the state’s so-called riparian rights system.
State officials told the New York Times that further restrictions are all but a foregone conclusion, with reassessments to be conducted on a weekly basis.
“The reductions announced Friday apply to more than 100 water right holders in the San Joaquin and Sacramento watersheds and delta whose claims to water came after 1903,” reported the Times. “While the cuts will fall primarily on farmers, some will affect small city and municipal agencies, as well as state agencies that supply water for agricultural and environmental use. Water can still be used for hydropower production, as long as the water is returned to rivers.”
Despite the blanket expansion of cuts, some rights holders fared better than others. San Francisco, where rights date to 1901, avoided the strictures for now. Meanwhile, in the state’s agricultural heartland, the pain was sharply felt. According to the Bee, residents drawing water from the federal Central Valley Project and the State Water Project “have lost about one-third of their water this year. The University of California, Davis, estimates that more than 560,000 acres of farmland will sit idle.” Read More > at Public CEO
Challenges face tule elk management in Point Reyes National Seashore – Once thought extinct, tule elk have returned in force in Marin and now have become the source of concern as well as controversy as herds in West Marin are managed against the backdrop of drought, working farms and tourism.
Tule elk can be found in only one national park: Point Reyes National Seashore.
The elk were plentiful in Marin until hunted to extirpation in the 1850s. They largely disappeared from the rest of California too, and were whittled down to a single, small herd in Bakersfield by the mid-1870s. From that group, the state began a repopulation program and today there are 4,000 tule elk in California — the only place where the species can be found.
The elk were re-established in Marin in 1978 on Tomales Point over a 2,600-acre preserve and placed behind fencing. Over time, the population flourished to a point where the National Park Service decided to start a second free-ranging herd in 1998.
“It’s a great story of recovery from almost being completely gone,” said Melanie Gunn, Point Reyes outreach coordinator.
But the comeback has not been without its share of issues. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times