Sunday Reading – 07/12/15


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.

‘Uber for kids’ Shuddle trips on Calif. child care rules – Is a car-hailing company for kids a limo operator or a nanny service?

That’s the question facing Bay Area startup Shuddle and the California Public Utilities Commission, who are at legal loggerheads over how a ride-hailing company serving unaccompanied minors should be regulated.

Back in November, the CPUC issued Shuddle a cease and desist letter noting that the company had not yet registered with TrustLine, a state agency that uses fingerprints to run background checks on those working in the child care field.

CPUC officials tell USA TODAY that Shuddle remains in non-compliance, which could lead to the commission ordering the company to “stop operating and take steps to make sure that happens, such as petitioning the court to shut off their phone service,” CPUC director of news and information Terrie Prosper said. “Safety is our top priority.”

But late Tuesday, Shuddle CEO Nick Allen and Shuddle’s attorney Tara Kaushik told USA TODAY that last week the company began the process of running its hundreds of drivers through TrustLine. That said, Allen adds that “we believe our screening process is comprehensive, safer and faster.” Read More > at USA Today

The crazy economics of inflight Wi-Fi – It’s summer time, and that means millions of Americans will soon make their way to airports across the country. An amenity featured on more and more flights these days is Internet access delivered directly to your laptop, tablet or smartphone via onboard Wi-Fi hotspot. But, depending on what airline you take your Internet experience could vastly differ.

The inflight Internet market in the U.S. doesn’t seem to follow any basic rule of competition. On an American or Delta plane you could wind up paying $10 to $20 to surf for the duration of your flight, and “surf” might be a generous word in this case. If there are a lot of other people using the same network on your plane, speeds might be so slow you’ll wind up paddling your way through the web.

At the other end of the spectrum, JetBlue offers complementary Internet access to all of its passengers. Instead of delivering a sluggish Internet experience, its Fly-Fi service is the fastest in the biz delivering speeds over 10 Mbps, and doesn’t restrict high-bandwidth applications like Netflix on its networks.

Why is there such a huge discrepancy in pricing and speeds? It’s a combination of business model and technology, according to Tim Farrar, satellite telecom analyst for TMF Associates. Different airlines use different types of networks to connect their planes, and some are old and pokey, while others are new and speedy. However, the main reason you might find yourself paying more for less on board some flights has to do with how inflight Internet fits into your airline’s overall business plan, he says.

For most major airlines, Internet is a revenue generator. For instance, the biggest player in onboard Wi-Fi, Gogo, has built its business on the idea that business travelers will pay almost any price to work above the clouds, because ultimately they’re not footing the bill—their employers are. Read More > at Forbes

Millennials have turned away from ‘cool’ Christianity, but traditional churches are making a comeback – Yes, 18-to-35-year-olds are still leaving mainline pews in ever-increasing numbers and some are leaving the faith entirely. But many are leaving in search of a different kind of church — a church that is traditional, reverent, and decidedly uncool.

There are more than enough statistics to remind us that each generation cares less about religion than the last, and that Millennials have far outpaced them all.

Research by the Pew Center, the Public Library of Science, and the Barna Group confirms those suspicions. It tell us that Millennials are quickly evacuating the church. They pray less, attend services less often, are less reliant on religion, and are less religiously affiliated than their parents and grandparents were at their young age.

Most recently, a particularly concerning poll by the PLOS found that Millennials are not just less religious, but also less spiritual. Researchers concluded that the results indicate, “A movement towards secularism among a rapidly growing minority.”

…“They aren’t looking for politics from the pulpit, they aren’t looking for entertainment from the pulpit. What they are looking for is prayer and spirituality from the church,” Hahn said.

Information from the Barna Group reflects this desire for church tradition. More than 40 percent of those 18-to-29-year-olds “have a desire for a ‘more traditional faith, rather than a hip version of Christianity,” the report stated. Read More > at Red Alert Politics

Ken Stabler’s NFL career worthy of Pro Football Hall of Fame – On a day we all heard the news that Ken “The Snake” Stabler passed away at the age of 69, it is difficult not to think that the greatest honor a pro football player can hope for will come too late for the former Raider, whenever it does come.

Stabler was one of the greatest players of his generation. Every pro football career, modern or vintage, offensive side of the ball or defensive, should be judged in this manner: How did he fare against his peers?

…The Snake was terrific during his era. A member of the All-Decade Team of the 1970s — and one of the few on the prestigious squad not enshrined in the Hall — Stabler won both a league MVP (1974) and a Super Bowl (XI). He posted the second-highest passer rating (103.4) of the decade in 1976 and led the NFL in yards per attempt during the 1970s (7.7), while placing third in touchdown passes. All this, despite not earning the starting nod from Raiders coach John Madden until mid-1973.

…Without Stabler, the Raider mystique of Davis and Madden, and “the Commitment to Excellence” motto, would be significantly diminished. Let’s hope The Snake’s career is not diminished any longer. A player and personality for his time, he is deserving of a spot among the legends of the game. Late is better than not at all. Read More > at NFL

Therapists Struggle To Treat Vampires And Other People With Alternate Identities – There are people out there who are certain that they are vampires. No, they’re not kids who saw Twilight too many times and can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction—human vampires are people who truly believe that they gain energy by consuming another person’s blood. There are whole online communities devoted to it. But even human vampires have relationship or family issues, so they sometimes turn to psychologists or other clinicians. A new paper published in Critical Social Work looks at the fraught relationships between people who have alternate identities and the clinicians trying to treat them.

“We live in an age of technology and live in a time when people can select new, alternate identities to fit how they understand themselves better,” says DJ Williams, a professor of social work at Idaho State University and one of the authors of the new study, in a press release. People who identify as vampires tend to be socially and psychologically stable. More often than not, they tend to keep their alternate identities private because they fear being discriminated against or misunderstood. And though no one knows how many there are in the world, real-life vampires may be more common than you might think.

“People with alternative identities have the same set of issues that everybody has,” Williams says. “People of all kinds sometimes struggle with relationship issues or have a death in family or struggles with career and job-type issues. Some of these people with alternate identities may come to a therapist with these issues, and if clinicians are open and educated about this group they should be able to help the individual much better.” Read More > in Popular Science

25,000 Tons of Rock Fell Off Half Dome and Nobody Noticed – Last week thousands of people squeezed their way into Yosemite National Park, and you can bet that nearly all of them spent some time gaping up at Half Dome, the park’s crowning attraction. And yet not a single one of them noticed when a 5 million pound slab slid off the face of this rock and came crashing to the valley floor.

It wasn’t until July 5th that a pair of climbers over halfway up the 2,000 foot cliff face noticed that there was a massive section of missing rock preventing them from reaching the next place to anchor their rope. “There was a big dirt outline where the ledge was supposed to be,” wrote Dave Miller on the climbing website SuperTopo, relaying the information from his perpelexed friend to a message board. Yes, it’s weird that nobody noticed a 5 million pound slab of rock slide off the face of the most iconic attraction in the one of the most popular national parks in the country. But it turns out huge slabs of rock fall off mountains in Yosemite all the time.

Yosemite Valley—the main drag of the national park—sees about 60 rock falls a year. “That equates to about one a week,” says Greg Stock, Yosemite’s chief geologist. Most of these occur due to a process called exfoliation, a result of the unique geologic processes that formed the valley.

…But what makes the cracks snap is a mystery. In this case, Stock guesses that rain might be the culprit. “Water can get in the cracks, build pressure and push outward,” he says. The Half Dome slab—measuring around 200 feet tall by 100 feet wide and 3 to ten feet thick—probably fell off sometime in the late night between between July 2 and 3, when there was heavy rainfall in the park. Read More > at Wired

Taco Bell unrolls on-demand delivery with Palo Alto startup – Starting today, Taco Bell customers might not have to leave their homes to get tacos and quesadillas.

Through a partnership with on-demand delivery service DoorDash, Taco Bell will start offering delivery at more than 200 restaurants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County and Dallas areas. Taco Bell’s parent company is Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands (NYSE: YUM).

Here’s how it works: Customers place their orders via the DoorDash mobile app or website, then the Palo Alto startup puts in the order at Taco Bell. Doordash’s delivery people pick it up and drive it to the customer. The app will also notify customers when it gets close to their location.

There is no minimum order, but a flat fee of $3.99 is added to the delivery, and according to Recode, DoorDash will tack on extra costs for individual meal items, which vary among markets. The delivery time is reportedly around 38 minutes. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Why California’s proposed e-cigarette regulation went up in smoke – On its face, designating electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product may not seem entirely relevant to a law that would have prohibited use of the product in bars and restaurants.

After all, Senate Bill 140 would have banned “vaping” in certain public spaces just as with regular cigarettes, regardless of what the alternative was labeled in statute.

But when a policy committee insisted on removing the term “tobacco” from the bill Wednesday, Sen. Mark Leno and scores of health advocates suddenly abandoned their own measure.

Removing the word tobacco from e-cigarettes is “exactly what Big Tobacco wants,” said Leno, a San Francisco Democrat, in an interview after the vote.

…E-cigarette manufacturers insist that their product does not contain tobacco. Amid their urging, Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray, chair of an Assembly governmental organization committee, pushed for the removal of tobacco from the bill Wednesday. The committee accepted the hostile amendment to Senate Bill 151 against the pleas of Leno and health organizations such as the American Cancer Society.

Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, a chemical that is made by several types of plants including the tobacco plant, according to Medical News Today. Nicotine is one of 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Fairness or social engineering? HUD rule requires affordable housing in wealthier neighborhoods – Local governments will be required to provide access to affordable housing in wealthier neighborhoods under a rule issued Wednesday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If they fail to meet this obligation, these localities would no longer be eligible for community development block grants and other HUD funding.

HUD contends the regulation will give localities clearer guidelines for meeting the Fair Housing Act’s requirement to promote equal opportunity. States and localities will be required to integrate data on race, poverty, and access to education and employment into their planning decisions.

HUD contends low-income and minority individuals need access to better schools and job opportunities, and shouldn’t be trapped in certain neighborhoods.

The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule was proposed two years ago and is opposed by many conservatives, who contend it’s a form of social engineering by government and usurps the authority of local governments to make zoning decisions. Read More > in The Business Journals

No more showers at state beaches – Starting Wednesday, outdoor showers at all state beaches are shut off as a way to conserve water during the drought, California State Parks officials announced this week.

The move is designed to save up to 18 million gallons of water annually. The restrictions will apply only to outdoor showers and “rinse stations,” not to indoor campground showers.

The change may not be popular, but will help the state agency whittle away at its water usage at a time when every drop counts, officials said.

Instead of rinsing off, beachgoers may want to use a towel to brush sand away or bring water from home in a reusable jug, as many surfers do now, officials said.

At Carlsbad State Beach — one of 63 beaches in California affected by the change — visitors had mixed reactions to the news. Read More > in The San Diego Union Tribune

California motorcycle lane-splitting bill shelved for the year – Legislation that would have legalized motorcycle lane-splitting has been shelved for the year after passing the Assembly several weeks ago with bipartisan support.

Motorcyclists are prohibited from zipping between lanes in every state but California, where the practice isn’t explicitly banned or endorsed. Assembly Bill 51, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, would have regulated it.

But the measure didn’t have enough support in the Senate this week to clear a vote in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee before a July 17 deadline.

The legislation would have allowed motorcyclists to split lanes at speeds of 50 mph or lower and banned them from driving more than 15 mph faster than the traffic around them.

…Nearly two-thirds of drivers across the state frown on lane-splitting, according to a new survey by the state Office of Traffic Safety. The survey found opposition to lane-splitting was nearly 78 percent in Santa Clara County and 68 percent in Alameda County. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times

The Great Common Core Textbook Swindle – Only one in eight Common Core-aligned textbooks actually meet Common Core standards—and none by textbook giants Pearson or Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—but they were repackaged and sold to public schools anyway, at taxpayers’ expense.

Cheryl Schafer was a veteran math teacher by the time Common Core arrived in New York back in 2010. It was apparent to her almost immediately that teachers didn’t have the materials they needed to teach to the new national standards.

Take a middle school staple like the Pythagorean Theorem: “One text series had it as a sixth grade unit, one had it at eighth grade, and the Common Core wanted us to teach it in seventh grade,” Schafer recalled. “So it didn’t matter what you were using: There was disagreement all over the place.”

In response to the new standards, textbook publishers touted new editions they said were aligned to the Common Core. But nearly all of them were just repackaged versions of earlier books.

And even five years later, the vast majority of textbooks say they’re aligned with the Common Core when they actually aren’t, creating a huge burden for teachers whose performance is often tied to their students’ test scores based on those standards.

…As political fights over Common Core continue to rage, the new standards have largely become a fact of life for most American teachers. They’re expected to teach to a test for those new standards. How each child performs on those tests is playing an increasing role in evaluations of the teachers themselves—and, increasingly, it even affects their pay.

That’s why teachers need materials that actually align with the Common Core: Their paycheck could depend on it.

So if a teacher is saddled with a textbook that doesn’t align with the Common Core, they need to spend time patching together materials that will. That might mean a handful of chapters from one book paired with lesson plans from the Internet or another text, plus an assignment or evaluation created from scratch. Read More > at The Daily Beast

This Is How Much Energy It Takes to Legalize Weed – …Texas A&M University professor Gina S. Warren examined these problems nationally in a recent report published in the Columbia Environmental Law Journal. Writes Warren:

“Indoor marijuana cultivation is highly energy-intensive. Overall, energy costs account for about one-third of the cost of production. With $6 billion in energy costs annually, marijuana cultivation is one of the most energy-intensive of the major industries in the United States. It consumes six-times as much energy as the pharmaceuticals industry and requires eight-times as much energy per square foot as the average US commercial building. It is estimated that marijuana currently consumes at least one percent of all of the nation’s electricity. And in California, which reportedly has the largest marijuana growing industry in the United States, consumption totals three percent of California’s total electricity consumption. The energy consumption is expected to grow exponentially as marijuana becomes legalized throughout the country.”

The volume of heat and light needed for growing quality cannabis plants accounts for much of the energy use. As Berkeley University researchers reported in 2013, lamp lights used for indoor-plant growing are 500 times more intense than standard reading lights and match the intensity of lamps used in hospital operating rooms. Another report found that the electricity used for a small hydroponic unit yielding just five pounds of cannabis crops a year would be the same amount as used by the average US home.

When Colorado’s recreational weed law first passed, Boulder County proposed a number of measures to push growers toward using renewable energy—important given the state’s plans to comply with EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The county originally told commercial and medical weed growers that they had until October 22, 2014, to find a way to offset at least 51 percent of their power consumption with on-site renewable energy generation, with the expectation for them to make all energy use renewable by this October.

That plan was reconsidered, though, when everyone realized there wasn’t enough renewable energy supply in the state to absorb the impact of the pot industry’s usage. Read More > at Mother Jones

Coming soon: An Uber for trash – A seven-year-old startup out of Atlanta plans to launch an app that will offer on-demand trash pick up, similar to how the Uber app can provide a ride service. The Uber comparison isn’t just a metaphor — the company has hired the founding CTO of Uber, Oscar Salazar, as its chief technology advisor and to help launch the app.

The company is called Rubicon Global and it manages a network of independent waste haulers, who bid on picking up trash from business customers like 7-Eleven and Wegmans. The company claims to offer businesses lower trash bills and using its software can more efficiently find places to recycle, resell and haul off the garbage.

…With this new mobile app, Rubicon Global is looking to move beyond its business customer base. The company says ordering a garbage pick up won’t be as quick as ordering an Uber car, which usually takes just several minutes to arrive. The Rubicon Global app will probably take closer to a few hours, or even the next day, when it first launches.

Down the road, the company hopes the on-demand trash pick up process will take closer to 30 minutes. The app is currently in beta testing. Read More > in Fortune

Aid-in-dying bill withdrawn due to lack of support – Lawmakers abruptly withdrew a bill Tuesday that would allow dying patients to end their lives with doctor-prescribed drugs after it became clear the proposal did not have the votes needed to make it through a key committee.

Authors of the assisted-dying bill could not persuade enough fellow Democrats on the Assembly Health Committee to support SB128 in time to meet upcoming legislative deadlines. Instead of forcing a vote they knew would fall short, bill authors Sens. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, and Bill Monning, D-Carmel, withdrew SB128 from being heard by the committee on Tuesday.

Supporters insisted the legislation, which had already passed the Senate, is still viable.

“The issue is not dead,” said Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, who was shepherding the legislation through the Assembly. “We will continue to explore everything we can so that people who are waiting — there are people actively waiting for this to pass — that we do everything we can to make sure they can live out the rest of their days as they choose.”

The bill could be put aside for the rest of the year and taken up by the Assembly in 2016. That delay could give bill supporters time to persuade reluctant Assembly members or see if there is a lineup change in the committee where it stalled.

…Six Democrats on the committee had expressed reservations or opposition, five of whom are members of the Latino caucus who represent Southern California districts. The lawmakers are Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles; Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego; Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina; Freddie Rodriguez, D-Pomona; Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles; and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Gun sales spike in June – Background checks for gun sales spiked 11% in June compared to last year, making it the busiest June ever, according to the FBI’s background check data.

Last month the FBI conducted nearly 1.53 million background checks, which are required for all in-store purchases, but not for sales at gun shows or between individuals. That’s the highest volume of checks in June since 1999, when the FBI started keeping track.

Gun background checks have climbed annually since 2003 with the exception of just three years, one of which was 2014, indicating a clear jump in gun sales.

Michael Bazinet, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry group, said the increase is driven in part by the influx of more women and first-time gun owners into the market. Read More > at CNN Money

Ranking the States by Financial Condition – In new research for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Senior Research Fellow Eileen Norcross ranks each US state’s financial health based on short- and long-term debt and other key fiscal obligations, including unfunded pensions and health care benefits. The study, which builds on previous Mercatus research about state fiscal conditions, provides information from the states’ audited financial reports in an easily accessible format, presenting an accurate snapshot of each state’s fiscal health.

With new spending commitments for Medicaid and growing long-term obligations for pensions and health care benefits, states must be ever vigilant to consider both the short- and long-term consequences of policy decisions. Understanding how each state is performing in regard to a vari­ety of fiscal indicators can help state policymakers as they make these decisions.

A closer analysis of the individual metrics behind the ranking shows how each state’s fiscal condi­tion should be assessed. Notably, nearly all states have unfunded pension liabilities that are large relative to state personal income, indicating that all states need to take a closer look at their unfunded pensions, which represent a significant portion of each state’s economy. Another finan­cial crisis could mean serious trouble for many states that are otherwise fiscally stable.

Top Five States

Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Florida rank in the top five states.

Bottom Five States

Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York rank in the bottom five states, largely owing to low amounts of cash on hand and large debt obligations.

California just escaped the bottom 5, ranked at number 44. Read More > at Mercatus Center at George Mason University

Blocking brain protein could stop memory loss caused by ageing – There might be a way to stave off the memory loss people experience as they get older.

As people age, a protein that disrupts brain cell repair gradually builds up in the blood and cerebrospinal fluid. The offending protein, called beta2-microglobulin (B2M), has now been shown to affect how mice perform in memory tests.

Work is already under way to identify drugs that mop up or destroy B2M which will allow the researchers to test if the same applies to humans. If so, the same drug could offer a solution.

Villeda’s discovery is the first detailed investigation of a so-called “anti-elixir” factor, in other words one that builds up with age and causes brain degeneration.

Most research aimed at reversing ageing so far has focused on “elixir” factors – agents that bring back lost youth. For example, when the the blood of young mice is injected into old mice, it halts brain and muscle degeneration, helps fractured bones heal and prevents heart damage.

Ultimately, the best strategy to combat ageing might be through treatments combining “pro-youthful” factors with drugs that neutralise “pro-ageing” factors like B2M. Read More > at New Scientist

Why This Iowa Town Is Raffling Off the Chance to Tase a Public Official – It is, apparently, “Taser Time” in Van Meter, Iowa. The town of roughly 1,100 residents is raffling off the chance to tase one of its public officials—either city administrator Jake Anderson or councilman Bob Lacy, depending on who nets the most votes. Tickets are going for the low, low price of $5, and all proceeds will benefit local law enforcement.

Van Meter police chief Bill Daggett told CityLab that the town needs the funds for a second patrol car, after one was recently wrecked on the job. “It’s about fundraising,” he says. “It’s not about ‘We’ve got to tase somebody.’”

Shortly after announcing the event, the police department revised its flyer to clarify that the lucky ticket holder could opt to “save” the official by not using the Taser. Above all, Daggett says, Anderson and Lacy’s volunteerism “speaks to how much they care about the community.” Read More > at City Lab

FasTrak Flex: Get ready for the Bay Area’s next set of express lanes – Starting this month, drivers will be able to get their hands on the latest version of FasTrak’s transponder, which will allow them to breeze along the soon-to-open express/toll lanes on Interstate 580 — and only get charged if they’re driving solo.

The so-called FasTrak Flex will allow drivers to indicate how many people are inside their vehicle so carpoolers get a free ride and cheaters can more easily get caught.

The Flex tags are not mandatory yet, but they will be this fall on the new I-580 express lanes in the Tri-Valley and in the coming years in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties as carpool lanes are converted into pay-to-use lanes.

About 22 miles worth of express lanes are expected to open on I-580 in October. They will span over two lanes eastbound from Hacienda Drive in Pleasanton to Greenville Road in Livermore and one lane westbound from Greenville to San Ramon Road/Foothill Road. By the year 2020, the Bay Area could have more than 300 miles of toll lanes.

Drivers in these lanes would pay a toll electronically, based on congestion levels. When traffic is thick, a person might pay several bucks depending on the length of a trip. When traffic eases, the cost might be under a dollar. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News

S.F. pier killing resonating in campaigns, immigration debate – From the presidential stage to California’s local political contests, it may be accused killer Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican citizen with a string of deportations and drug-related felonies in the U.S., who becomes this year’s Willie Horton and shapes the debate over illegal immigration.

Lopez-Sanchez, who is accused in the shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 on the Embarcadero in San Francisco last week, admitted Sunday to the killing in a jailhouse interview with KGO-TV and said he chose to return repeatedly to San Francisco, a sanctuary city that by policy does not detain immigrants solely because he felt protected from deportation.

The details of the case, including San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s decision to release Lopez-Sanchez despite requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to detain him, lit up the Sunday talk shows, Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign as Republicans seized on it as evidence of the Obama administration’s immigration policy failures.

Just as Willie Horton, who committed armed robbery and rape while on a weekend prison furlough, dropped a bomb into the 1988 presidential campaign, the 2016 election cycle could be shaped by Lopez-Sanchez.

In California, conservative critics demanded that high-profile Democrats — including Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — be held accountable for sanctuary policies they insist contributed to the killing.

But some immigrant advocates, including Mirkarimi himself, noted that the city is among more than 320 jurisdictions following similar sanctuary policies, which he defended as necessary to maintain critical trust with immigrants living in those cities and towns illegally. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Chicago Has Had More Than 12,000 Shootings Since 2010 – When Marshall Hawkins walks around his neighborhood, he carefully picks a route based on the places where people haven’t been shot.

“If there are flowers on the block, you can go there,” the 38-year-old said. “If there’s been police tape or gunshots, you avoid it.”

Such is life for the former North Sider in his adopted Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Same for his kids, a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old.

“On days that I can’t pick them up and drive them to school, I give specific directions. ‘Don’t take this street. Go this way. Not that way,’ ” Hawkins said.

One danger spot: 64th and Troy, the site of two fatal shootings since November. In a city pockmarked with gun violence, that corner stands out. But it’s not alone.

Since New Year’s Day 2010, there have been more than 12,000 shootings in Chicago. More than 14,000 people were hit in those shootings, including more than 2,000 who died.

The total number of shootings refers to incidents in which someone was wounded by gunfire during a criminal act between Jan. 1, 2010, and July 6, 2015. It equates to about six shooting incidents per day. Read More > at DNAinfo

Editorial: Marijuana growers are wrecking California – The cost of inaction couldn’t be more clear.

Acres of ancient trees are disappearing and illegal marijuana farms are popping up in their place. Streams and rivers are being sucked dry, diverted sometimes miles away through plastic pipes into tanks. Several species of fish, along with a rare breed of wild rodent, are on the verge of extinction.

All of this is happening now, all across California, but particularly in the North Coast and in our national parks in the San Joaquin Valley. All of this environmental destruction is occurring to grow marijuana and meet consumer demand.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around for how things have turned out in the nearly 20 years since California legalized medical marijuana, much of it must land at the feet of consumers, and of lawmakers.

Apathetic consumers seem unaffected by the environmental damage that weed causes. We buy fair-trade coffee and free-range chickens. Where’s the outrage about the environmental impact of marijuana?

Through the inaction of lawmakers, pot remains unregulated and spreads like weeds. Add to this the drought and speculation that California will soon join Washington and Oregon in making pot legal for recreational use, and our state has the makings of an ecological disaster on its hands. Read More > in The Fresno Bee

Chinese chaos worse than Greece – While the world worries about Greece, there’s an even bigger problem closer to home: China.

A stock market crash there has seen $3.2 trillion wiped from the value of Chinese shares in just three weeks, triggering an emergency response from the government and warnings of “monstrous” public disorder.

And the effects for Australia could be serious, affecting our key commodity exports and sparking the beginning of a period of recession-like conditions.

“State-owned newspapers have used their strongest language yet, telling people ‘not to lose their minds’ and ‘not to bury themselves in horror and anxiety’. [Our] positive measures will take time to produce results,” writes IG Markets.

“If China does not find support today, the disorder could be monstrous.”

In an extraordinary move, the People’s Bank of China has begun lending money to investors to buy shares in the flailing market. The Wall Street Journal reports this “liquidity assistance” will be provided to the regulator-owned China Securities Finance Corp, which will lend the money to brokerages, which will in turn lend to investors.

The dramatic intervention marks the first time funds from the central bank have been directed anywhere other than the banks, signalling serious concern from authorities about the crisis.

At the same time, Chinese authorities are putting a halt to any new stock listings. The market regulator announced on Friday it would limit initial public offerings — which disrupt the rest of the market — in an attempt to curb plunging share prices.

…Jordan Eliseo, chief economist with ABC Bullion, said it was important to remember that the amount of wealth Chinese citizens have tied up in the stock market is relatively minor compared with western investors.

Stocks only make up about 8 per cent of household wealth in China, compared with around 20 per cent in developed nations.

“The market crash there is generating headlines, but it’s not going to have the same impact as a comparable crash would in a developed market,” he said. Read More > at New.com.au

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Are the American Dream – The story of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is the story of America. The illegitimate offspring of a cheese puff and a Dorito, the snacks are a triumph of food science. With their finger-staining red pigment, infinite shelf life, sui generis squiggly shape, and well-calibrated esophageal burn, Flamin’ Hots flaunt qualities impossible to find in nature, brought into existence by applying advanced technology to frivolous goals.

The creation story of this irresistible snack is quintessentially American, too. Richard Montanez, a longtime janitor at the Frito-Lay plant in Rancho Cucamonga, California, was watching someone cook corn with butter and chile when inspiration struck: Why not add Mexican spices to the famous corn-based puff? Montanez—who spoke no English—whipped up a test batch, designed some mock packaging, and soon found himself convincing the top brass at the $11 billion subsidiary of PepsiCo to give his idea a shot. It would go on to become the company’s top-selling product line.

But this inspiring tale of culinary innovation has an ending that’s all too common in America as well. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos—especially popular with teenagers—ran afoul of federal nutrition guidelines for foods sold in schools. The delicious snack was eliminated from vending machines in the gigantic Los Angeles Unified School District, as well as in other schools across the country. Pasadena’s Jackson Elementary even confiscated the bright orange bags when kids brought them from home. (See “Food Freedom in 2015,” page 46.) This miracle of culinary chemistry became a symbol of unhealthy eating—and a target for food nannies everywhere.

People love to fight over food. Anything human beings can digest comes pre-loaded with cultural, biological, and emotional significance, making it perfect fodder for politicians and other scolds who want to start squabbles. From former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s bans on large fountain sodas to the Los Angeles City Council’s attempts to zone fast food joints out of low-income neighborhoods, the powerful especially love to dictate the diets of the poor. The results are condescending, with a certain tone-deafness not just to the difficulties of feeding a family on a limited budget, but to cultural differences as well. Read More > at Reason

California’s Water Rates Rise – Millions of Californians expecting relief on their water bills for taking conservation measures instead are experiencing higher rates and drought surcharges.

Water departments are increasing rates and adding fees because they are losing money as their customers conserve. They say they still have to pay for fixed costs including repairing pipelines, customer service and enforcing water restrictions—and those costs aren’t decreasing.

The financial blow is only expected to grow because Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has ordered communities to slash water use anywhere between 8% and 36% from 2013 levels in response to the four-year drought. Those cuts are expected to leave agencies with a $1 billion hole in revenue, and they’ll likely turn to customers to plug it, according to state estimates.

While intensive conservation reduces strains on local water supplies, it can spell trouble for government budgets.

Santa Barbara, for example, expects to lose $5 million if residents hit the city’s 20 percent water-use reduction target. Residents are going above and beyond and reached 37 percent in May. That’s good for water supply but bad for financial stability. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

We’ve finally hit the breaking point for the original Internet – It’s finally happened. The North American organization responsible for handing out new IP addresses says its banks have run dry.

…IP addresses are crucial to the operation of the Internet. They’re the numbers behind URLs like “google.com” or “facebook.com.” They identify every device that connects to the Web, from servers to connected cars. The original designers of the Internet thought they’d only need around 4 billion unique combinations, derived from the series of dots and digits that make up IP addresses everywhere.

By 2020, humanity will be living alongside 25 billion Internet-connected devices, according to Gartner researchers. The rising global demand for Web-enabled devices is far outstripping the original system’s ability to keep up. Left, uh, unaddressed, this problem would have put a stranglehold on the Web, keeping it from growing. It would’ve kept you from using new devices like smartwatches or smart refrigerators. Entirely new technologies we haven’t dreamt of might never have emerged. We’d have been stuck with the Internet that we now have, forever.

If you haven’t already guessed, we have a backup system in place so that Xboxes and Playstations of the future can continue to get online. Internet engineers have actually been anticipating this day for decades.

The solution is known as IPv6, short for “version 6.” It’s an upgrade of the old IP numbering system, known as IPv4. While it won’t replace the old system, it’s considered the future of the Internet. It has to be, by necessity. At ARIN, large requests for IPv4 addresses will now be subject to rationing or waitlisting.

…Luckily, IPv6 offers 340 trillion trillion trillion possible unique combinations. Hopefully this will last us a while. Read More > in The Washington Post

Competing for Hispanic Catholics: Secularism, other faiths battle for souls – …A Pew report released in May found that the Catholic Church lost 3 million members since 2007, now comprising about 20 percent of the US population. Of that, about 34 percent is Hispanic. Put another way, for every new member the Church gains, another six leave, including many Hispanics.

The allure of secularism combined with efforts by other Christian denominations to appeal to Latino sensibilities has resulted in a mad scramble by Catholic leaders to create welcoming communities before a mass Hispanic exodus dramatically reshapes its once certain future.

Here in Salt Lake City, where the dominant Mormon population is known for its strong emphasis on community, the Catholic Church faces a specific set of challenges.

…Research suggests that the Catholic Church in the United States can no longer count on Latinos to keep the numbers up: They are increasingly as likely as their non-Hispanic peers to embrace secularism or other religious traditions, just a generation or two removed from their immigrant parents.

Plus, increased competition from other faiths in Latin America, especially Pentecostalism, means Catholicism has lost some of its hold even before immigrants arrive in the States.

So in just a few years, the Church in America could experience a decline in population at levels never before seen in this country.

The reasons are complex, with geography, resources, and pressure from other religious groups all challenging the conventional wisdom that Hispanic Catholics would sustain the Church here for generations to come. Read More > in the Crux

Whatever happened to the All-Star Game? – As difficult as it may be for the pigskin-saturated mind of a modern sports fan to grasp, there was a time when the baseball All-Star Game was one of the top five events on the sports calendar.

It went like this:

1. World Series

2. Heavyweight Title Fight

3. All-Star Game

4. Rose Bowl

5. (tie) Kentucky Derby, Indianapolis 500

And this was long before the All-Star Game was played at night. Those who could watched on TV. The rest had a radio on at work. If neither had been available, then reading about it in the afternoon or morning paper was sufficient. People cared. Baseball was by far America’s No. 1 sport and there was an undeniable aura surrounding what was commonly referred to by the scribes of the day as the “Mid-Summer Classic.”

…The games quickly became a major American happening. Then, as now, just who the All-Stars should be stirred deep emotions. Yankees manager Joe McCarthy employed six Yankees among the 12 players he used to win the 1939 game at, yup, Yankee Stadium (chosen because there happened to be another World’s Fair on Long Island that year). Four years later McCarthy showed the baseball world he could win by any method he chose. He benched all of his Yankee players in a 5-3 AL victory. Our own Bobby Doerr made him look good with a three-run homer.

The All-Star Game mattered to everyone. Ted Williams went to his grave saying his biggest thrill in baseball was his two-out, game-winning three-run homer off Claude Passeau at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium in 1941. The Cardinals’ Red Schoendienst was always remembered for his 14th-inning game-winning homer in Comiskey Park nine years later. Right at the top of Stan Musial’s accomplishments was his 12th-inning game-winning homer off Boston’s Frank Sullivan at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1955.

Need I mention Pete Rose and Ray Fosse?

…This is all so much ancient history because just about everything has changed. First of all, there is football. The NFL rules. People aren’t glued to baseball.

Those who remain primarily interested in baseball are now confronted with a world in which interleague play has shattered the mystery of the American League playing the National League. When you have an interleague game every night it kind of spoils the fun. And now let’s talk about pitchers.

Somewhere along the way it became fashionable to get as many pitchers into the game as possible. As recently as 1980 managers Chuck Tanner (NL) and Earl Weaver (AL) used five pitchers apiece. Within 10 years managers were up to eight twirlers per. Read More > in The Boston Globe

Oops. ​California doesn’t have the world’s 7th largest economy after all – It became a proud talking point this year for the Brown administration and other Democratic leaders: California’s gross domestic product had beaten out Brazil, giving the Golden State the honor of having the world’s seventh largest economy.

Last week we were knocked down a notch.

Revised numbers from the World Bank show that Brazil’s economic output slightly overcame California’s GDP in 2014, with $2.31 trillion for California and $2.35 trillion for Brazil.

With 41 paid vacation days a year, Brazil is not exactly one of the most productive countries on Earth. But it has 200 million people — five times as many as California.

The downgrade of California is not due to a drop in its economic output, rather an increase in the GDP of Brazil. Read More > in the Sacramento Business Journal

Apple and Google Tempted by Cars That Can Buy Morning Coffee – Cars in the next few years will be able to find the fastest route for the morning commute as well as order coffee, pay for it and guide the driver to pick it up.

This transformation of the auto into a full-service mobile device adds up to a potential goldmine. Revenue from the data streams and connectivity components could become a 180 billion-euro ($200 billion) market by 2020, McKinsey & Co. estimates. That’s a rich target for Apple Inc. and Google Inc., and automakers are fighting for a claim as well.

Instead of just producing transport hardware, “we have to get into the service industry in a larger way,” Tony Douglas, BMW AG’s mobility services unit, said to a roomful of executives at a recent conference in Munich.

“The transportation industry is ripe for disruption. Either we kind of drive that disruption and gain from the new business models that will emerge, or we let someone else do it.”

BMW, Volkswagen AG’s Audi and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz compete head-to-head on everything from new models to passenger comforts. But the threat of an Apple car has helped prod them to make a joint bid to acquire Nokia Oyj’s HERE digital map business, which may fetch as much as $4 billion, people familiar with the matter have said.

Fine-grained location data is considered crucial to set up new services – like a coffee-buying car – and eventually guide automated vehicles. Owning HERE would ensure the German automakers have an alternative to Google. Relying on the search company’s maps could mean giving up key customer information. Read More > at Bloomberg

Oregon launches program to tax drivers by the mile – David Hastings is a rare American. This long-time hybrid car owner from Oregon wants to pay higher taxes for roads and bridges and says the current 30 cents per gallon state gas tax barely affects him.

“I’ve been free-loading on the highways for 20 years driving electric cars or hybrid cars, getting at least 40 miles to the gallon. So I haven’t been paying my share,” Hastings said.

Now, Hastings will pay more thanks to OReGO — the first pay-by-the-mile program in the U.S.

Oregon’s Department of Transportation has been working on it for 15 years as a way to eventually replace the gas tax, which has been flat due to an influx of high mileage vehicles and people driving less.

Right now the program is voluntary and being capped at 5,000 participants, but an ODOT official told Fox News the ultimate goal is to make it mandatory and change the way states pay for roads — forever. Read More > at Fox 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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