Sunday Reading – 08/23/15


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.

10 Surprising Things Technology Will Make Obsolete by 2025 – …We don’t have a crystal ball, but if eyeing current trends, we can make some educated guesses about how things will go down.

Check out our list of 10 common things that might be gone by 2025. To be sure, we may be proven completely wrong on some of these. That happens. If that’s the case, please feel free to leave a comment or send us a note on August 18, 2025.

1. Car Mirrors – In recent years, camera-and-display setups have become standard in many higher-end cars. Each manufacturer may have their own pet name for this technology (see Honda’s LaneWatch, BMW’s Surround View, ans Lexus’ Side Monitor), but it’s all essentially a closed-circuit television system for the area surrounding your vehicle.

2. Plastic Credit Cards – Cash is dying; credit cards have been biting into that pie since the 1970s. But now credit cards are beginning to dematerialize into digital bits. This doesn’t necessarily mean that credit card companies will disappear. Indeed, for now, you still need them to use Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay (all the Pays!). We just won’t need to carry around physical cards anymore.

3. Cords and Chargers – The unsightly wires and cords that once ruled our technological lives are on the outs thanks to the continued development of technologies such as Bluetooth, NFC, and Wi-Fi networking. Sure, these technologies haven’t yet banished all the wires, but chances are very good that several of the accessories around you right now (your phone, printer, keyboard, or mouse) have, at the very least, the ability to communicate with one another without a physical connection.

5. Most Live Human Operators – To be a consumer today is to deal with robot customer service reps. While these automated operators don’t make you feel particularly valued by the companies you patronize, perhaps you can take some solace in the fact that their voice-recognition skills have improved tremendously over the past few years.

7. Delivery People – The post office is in the midst of a decades-long descent into nothingness. You know the story: Bytes replacing dead trees. Of course, the one thing the ol’ post office could always depend on was being tasked with delivering packages—you can’t email those over the webbernets.

Recently, the USPS went as far to squeeze out its last morsels of relevance by teaming up with Amazon to deliver packages on Sunday. But even this last saving grace for the post office may soon be on its way out, as an increasing number of companies (including and especially Amazon) experiment with drone delivery.

10. Shaming of Old Social Media Posts – In the future, politicians—including presidential candidates—will have to answer for decades of tweets, Instagrams, Tumblrs, Vines, Reddit comments, abandoned Tinder profiles, and whatever else. And what will probably happen is that, unlike today, the voters of the future will just learn to accept that people say and do dumb things in their younger days—because they will all have their own digital records to contend with as well. As long as it didn’t happen last week, they’ll probably be in the clear. Read More > at PC Magazine

Prop 65’s Small Business Victims

California gives immigrants here illegally unprecedented rights, benefits, protections – It started with in-state tuition. Then came driver’s licenses, new rules designed to limit deportations and state-funded healthcare for children. And on Monday, in a gesture heavy with symbolism, came a new law to erase the word “alien” from California’s labor code..

Together, these piecemeal measures have taken on a significance greater than their individual parts — a fundamental shift in the relationship between California and its residents who live in the country illegally. The various benefits, rights and protections add up to something experts liken to a kind of California citizenship.

The changes have occurred with relatively little political rancor, which is all the more remarkable given the heated national debate about illegal immigration that has been inflamed by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Democratic lawmakers and immigration activists, with diminishing opposition from the GOP, continue to seek new laws and protections. These measures include cracking down on employers withholding pay from low-wage workers and expanding state-subsidized healthcare to adult immigrants without papers.

These new initiatives face obstacles, but backers say such hurdles center on the hefty price tags of the programs, not political fallout from the immigration debate.

California officials have been spurred into action in part by the lack of action in Washington to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. The stall in Congress has motivated advocates to push for changes in state laws. But they acknowledge that their victories are limited without national reform. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Pack of wolves discovered in California – Wolves are back in northern California.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife posted pictures of five gray wolf pups and two adults in Siskiyou County to its website Thursday.

The agency said that after trail cameras recorded a lone wolf back in May and July, they placed more cameras in the area. One of the cameras took multiple photos of the pups and others snapped pictures of the adults.

Due to the proximity of the cameras, CDFW thinks that the adult wolf previously photographed in May and July was associated with the group of pups.

“This news is exciting for California,” Charlton H. Bonham, CDFW director, said on the agency’s website. “We knew wolves would eventually return home to the state and it appears now is the time.”

CDFW has designated this group as the “Shasta Pack.” Read More > in USA Today

Drought Brings Soul Searching to California Winemaking – At the rustic Smith-Madrone Vineyards high up on Spring Mountain, nobody has been thinking about the drought, which has absorbed so much of the conversation about California this year.

Instead, concerns have been about the unnaturally warm stretch in January and February, which set the growing season in motion early. Then came a cold snap in May, which caused many growers to lose 40 to 50 percent of their crop. Then, a cooler-than-expected July, and, for much of Napa Valley, an early harvest in August.

“It’s been a normally bizarre year,” said Stuart Smith, who, with his brother, Charles, has seen a lot of weather extremes in their 44 years growing grapes and making wine at Smith-Madrone. Now he’s worried mostly about forest fires.

The drought may have turned all of California into a pitiless desert in the popular imagination, but a week in July spent visiting fine-wine regions all around the state painted a more nuanced picture.

From the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, to El Dorado in the Sierra Foothills, to Napa Valley and the Sonoma Coast, the drought, now in its fourth year, has affected every area differently. Some regions have been hard hit, like eastern Paso Robles on the Central Coast and the Central Valley, source of much of the grapes that go into cheap bulk wines. But other regions, like the North Coast, are bearing up well.

While individual estates may feel the pain of the drought keenly, the California wine industry has continued to prosper through it.

Across the state, though, the drought has caused soul-searching in the wine industry, even at places like Smith-Madrone, as wineries rethink how they use water and the way they do business. And everywhere, the fervent hope is that El Niño, the periodic ocean weather system, will bring rains this winter to renew Western water supplies. Read More > in The New York Times

So Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Is Actually Getting Kinda Serious – The Hyperloop sounds like science fiction, Elon Musk’s pipe dream: leapfrog high speed rail and go right to packing us into capsules that fling us across the country in hours using what are, essentially, pneumatic tubes. It sounds crazy, when you think about it.

It’s starting to look a little less crazy.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced today that it has signed agreements to work with Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum and global engineering design firm Aecom. The two companies will lend their expertise in exchange for stock options in the company, joining the army of engineers from the likes of Boeing and SpaceX already lending their time to the effort.

…The Hyperloop, detailed by the SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk in a 57-page alpha white paper in August 2013, is a transportation network of above-ground tubes that could span hundreds of miles. With extremely low air pressure inside those tubes, capsules filled with people would zip through them at near supersonic speeds. Musk published the paper encouraging anyone interested to pursue the idea, since he’s kinda a busy guy.

That timing lined up with the beta launch of JumpStartFund, a startup that combines elements of crowdfunding and crowd-sourcing to tackle ambitious projects like revolutionary transportation infrastructure. JumpStartFund created Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, Inc, which brought together engineers willing to spend their free time working on the design in exchange for stock options.

The startup plans to start construction on a full-scale, passenger-ready Hyperloop in 2016. The prototype will run 5 miles through Quay Valley, a planned community rising from nothing along Interstate 5, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ahlborn says he’s got several potential investors. Read More > in Wired

Bay Area median home price approaches record; affordability drops – The median Bay Area home price rose to within a hair of its all-time high last month, as affordability continues to decline across the region, dipping close to an all-time low in San Francisco, according to new reports on the housing market.

The median price paid for new and resale homes and condos in the nine-county region rose to $661,000 in July, up 0.2 percent from June and 7.5 percent from July of last year, according to a CoreLogic report issued Wednesday.

The July price is just 0.6 percent below the twin peaks of $665,000 notched in June and July 2007.

Three Bay Area counties have already surpassed their 2007 peaks — San Francisco did so in May 2013, San Mateo in March 2014 and Santa Clara in May 2014, CoreLogic spokesman Andrew LePage said.

Sales, meanwhile, dipped between June and July, which is not unusual as summer wears on, but were still up from the same time last year. A total of 9,245 homes and condos sold in July, which was 0.2 percent fewer than June but 10 percent more than last July. This was the fifth consecutive month that year-over-year sales rose, a sign that things are returning to normal, LePage said. In March, sales were still 20 percent below average. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Central Valley sinking fast because of groundwater pumping – The floor of the Central Valley is sinking at a record pace as drought-gripped farmers pump out the groundwater beneath them, new satellite data show.

In some places the ground is dropping nearly 2 inches a month, according to measurements taken by the state and NASA. The sinking soil is dragging roads, bridges and other infrastructure with it, raising concern that state pumping restrictions scheduled to take effect in five years won’t arrive in time to head off costly damage and environmental ruin.

Dried-up aquifers in parts of the state have already left some farms and communities without a water supply, Gleick noted. Sinking land is just the latest problem.

Last year, areas around the Kings County town of Corcoran between Fresno and Bakersfield dropped 13 inches in eight months, according to the data released Wednesday. Arbuckle, in Colusa County north of Sacramento, sank 5 inches in six months, and points along the California Aqueduct, which carries water beside Interstate 5 in the San Joaquin Valley, fell 8 inches in four months.

Irrigation canals have begun to buckle, wells have fractured and even streets are cracking. State and federal officials fear that railroad lines and home foundations may be next. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Senate panel votes to raise California gas tax 12 cents a gallon – State lawmakers on Wednesday took the first steps toward raising taxes and fees on motorists and further restricting Californians’ tobacco use as the Legislature convened special sessions aimed at solving the state’s transportation and health care funding crises.

Members of a Senate committee tackling a huge backlog of roadway maintenance endorsed legislation that would generate $4 billion annually for repairs by increasing the gas tax 12 cents a gallon and boosting vehicle registration fees up to $100. Another panel approved bills to hike the legal smoking age to 21, regulate e-cigarettes and allow counties to place local tobacco taxes on the ballot.

While significant, the party-line votes taken by the committees were merely an opening salvo in a battle between Democrats and Republicans that will play out over the next few weeks about the fairness of fixing California’s crumbling roads and improving health care for the poor by imposing new taxes.

“We don’t want to dump the cost of our horribly maintained infrastructure on the next generation — it will be too late to solve the problem if we delay,” said Sen. Jim Beall, D-Campbell, whose transportation tax bill passed the committee 9-2, with all the yes votes coming from Democrats. The two no votes came from Republicans; two other Republicans abstained. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times

15,000 government emails revealed in Ashley Madison leak – Thousands of clients using the affair-oriented Ashley Madison website listed email addresses registered to the White House, top federal agencies and military branches, a data dump by hackers revealed.

The detailed data, released Tuesday, will likely put Washington, D.C., on edge. The nation’s capital reportedly has the highest rate of membership for the site of any city.

Indeed, more than 15,000 of the email addresses used to register accounts were hosted on government and military servers.

Buried in the list are emails that could be tied to multiple administration agencies, including the State Department and Department of Homeland Security, as well as several tied to both the House and Senate. Read More > in The Hill

Wal-Mart Is Getting Hit Hard by Thieves – Wal-Mart has a shrinkage problem, and it’s not the Seinfeld variety. It’s the kind that, in retail industry jargon, refers to stealing and losing stock to damage or poor inventory management.

In explaining a fairly dismal quarterly result on Tuesday morning, the massive retailer called out shrinkage again and again. In the press release, it was mentioned three times. In the conference call, it came up 13 times. That’s a lot of shrinkage. Walmart sales, in fact, were pretty decent, but expenses weighed on the company’s profit. Part of those expenses entailed writedowns for inventory that just disappeared. Store employees say they have seen everything from customers stealing meat in their pants to thieves bursting out a back door with a shopping cart full of electronics to be loaded into a waiting car.

What’s more, Walmart’s chief financial officer, Charles Holley, said he expects the problem to persist. Walmart is restarting a program to teach employees how to spot thieves, be they coworkers or would-be consumers. Meanwhile, it is auditing its entire supply chain to “close gaps” while it adds staff to parts of stores in which items tend to vanish. Many stores now station an employee at the exit to check customers’ receipts.

Walmart is also dealing with waste from poor management of stock rooms and inventory, said Holley. When backrooms get clogged with merchandise, it can be difficult to know what items need to be marked down and moved to the sales floor. And too much food is getting damaged or going bad before it can be sold. Read More > in Bloomberg

‘Female Viagra,’ first medication to boost women’s libido, approved by FDA – The Food and Drug Administration approved on Tuesday the first pill designed to boost sexual desire in women, but studies show some serious side effects, including drowsiness, fainting and nausea.

The little pink pill, often dubbed “Viagra for women,” had a modest effect in boosting women’s interest in sex during clinical studies. But there are “serious risks” of low-blood pressure and fainting with the drug, especially when taken while drinking alcohol, an FDA analysis said.

The side effects could give doctors pause if their patients demand the drug.

The approval of the drug, to be called Addyi, follows a lobbying campaign by the drug’s maker, Sprout Pharmaceuticals Inc., and by a group called Even the Score, partially sponsored by Sprout. In an online petition, Even the Score says the FDA “has approved 24 drugs for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction. For women, that number is zero.” Read More > at Market Watch

Head Lice Now Resistant to Common Meds in 25 States – Drug-resistant head lice are very likely coming to a school near you, U.S. investigators warn.

At least 25 states host lice populations that don’t respond to common over-the-counter treatments, a new analysis reveals.

Permethrin, part of the pyrethroid class of insecticides, has long been the go-to weapon against head lice, mosquitoes, bedbugs and other insects.

But continued exposure to permethrin has caused a huge swath of the dreaded insects to develop genetic mutations that render such drugs useless.

…Head lice, which can’t jump or fly, transmit by direct physical contact. They quickly infest the neck and head, feeding on blood and attaching their eggs to the base of hair shafts.

“They itch, but they do not transmit disease,” said Yoon. “So it’s not at all life-threatening, even if it’s very frustrating and uncomfortable.”

Six million to 12 million U.S. children are infested with head lice every year, “with parents spending about $350 million dollars annually on permethrin-laced over-the-counter and prescription treatments,” Yoon said. Lice infestations occur in rich neighborhoods as well as poor ones. Read More > at U.S. News & World Report

Comcast Admits Broadband Usage Caps Are A Cash Grab, Not An Engineering Necessity – For years the broadband industry tried to claim that they were imposing usage caps because of network congestion. In reality they’ve long lusted after usage caps for two simple reasons: they allow ISPs to charge more money for the same product, and they help cushion traditional TV revenues from the ongoing assault from Internet video. Instead of admitting that, big ISPs have tried to argue that caps are about “fairness,” or that they’re essential lest the Internet collapse from uncontrolled congestion (remember the debunked Exaflood?).

Over the years, data has shown that caps aren’t really an effective way to target network congestion anyway, can hinder innovation, hurt competitors, and usually only wind up confusing consumers, many of whom aren’t even sure what a gigabyte is. Eventually, even cable lobbyists had to admit broadband caps weren’t really about congestion, even though they still cling to the false narrative that layering steep rate hikes and overage fees on top of already-expensive flat-rate pricing is somehow about “fairness.”

Comcast is of course slowly but surely expanding usage caps into its least competitive markets. More recently the company has tried to deny it even has caps, instead insisting these limits are “data thresholds” or “flexible data consumption plans.” But when asked last week why Comcast’s caps in these markets remain so low in proportion to rising Comcast speeds (and prices), Comcast engineer and vice president of Internet services Jason Livingood candidly admitted on Twitter that the decision to impose caps was a business one, not one dictated by network engineering. Read More > at Tech Dirt

Records: California Plans Taking Land for Huge Water Tunnels – State contractors have readied plans to acquire as many as 300 farms in the California delta by eminent domain to make room for a pair of massive, still-unapproved water tunnels proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown, according to documents obtained by opponents of the tunnels.

Farmers whose parcels were listed and mapped in the 160-page property-acquisition plan expressed dismay at the advanced planning for the project, which would build 30-mile-long tunnels in the delta formed by the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers.

“What really shocks is we’re fighting this and we’re hoping to win,” said Richard Elliot, who grows cherries, pears and other crops on delta land farmed by his family since the 1860s. “To find out they’re sitting in a room figuring out this eminent domain makes it sound like they’re going to bully us … and take what they want.”

Officials involved in the project defended planning so far ahead regarding the tunnels.

“Planning for right-of-way needs, that is the key part of your normal planning process,” said Roger Patterson, assistant general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, one of the water agencies that would benefit from the twin tunnels.

The district serves 17 million people in Southern California as well as large farms and businesses.

Brown’s administration said re-engineering water flows of the delta — the largest estuary on the West Coast — is essential to undoing mistakes of past water projects and to supplying water to Southern California. Read More > in the Associated  Press

No one showed up for California’s green jobs rush – In 2012, California voters were peppered with grandiose promises, such that they could not resist approving Proposition 39. The measure, created and backed by wealthy environmentalist Tom Steyer, sought to raise taxes on corporations and use the money to fund green energy projects in schools.

He promised it would create 11,000 new jobs each year. What could go wrong?

There are inherent problems with the idea of green public-works projects, and still more problems with tax hikes. But this plan had the benefit of at least being elegant and simple. All of the facilities slated for green-energy improvements would be government-owned and government-run. There would be no NIMBY-style community pushback, nor significant added costs to ratepayers. Districts could apply for funds and choose projects that met their needs. If any such program could work, this was it.

Naturally, it did not work at all. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that the program has “created” just 1,700 jobs in three years — just under 600 jobs per year or roughly five percent of what was promised, at the cost of $175,000 per job. Even that paltry figure fails to account for opportunity costs — i.e. jobs lost statewide because of the forced diversion of economic resources away from productive industries and toward green energy. The number of net jobs created is likely zero or less than zero, which is to say that probably a few hundred or a few thousand jobs have been destroyed so far at a cost of $300 million.

That’s not to say no one has benefited. More than half of the $297 million given to schools under the program so far, AP reports, has gone to “consultants and energy auditors.” The rest of California’s taxpayers have received no benefit, except the privilege of serving as their host organism. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

What’s driving American firms overseas – AMERICAN companies are on the move. On August 6th CF Industries, a fertiliser manufacturer, and Coca-Cola Enterprises, a drinks bottler, both said they would move their domiciles to Britain after concluding mergers with non-American firms. Five days later Terex, which makes cranes, announced a merger which will involve moving its legally recognised headquarters from Westport, Connecticut, in New York’s tri-state area, to the tiny town of Hyvinkää, Finland. What’s driving these firms to pack up and go?

For more than 30 years companies, especially American ones, have been merging with foreign firms or acquiring them outright in order to shift their tax bases abroad. It started in 1982, when McDermott, a construction company, outsmarted America’s Internal Revenue Service (the IRS) by moving its base from New Orleans to Panama, where it had a subsidiary. Ever since, this kind of move, called a “corporate inversion”, has been an attractive way for American companies with overseas earnings to reduce their tax bills. Because the American taxman has unusually long arms, companies based in the United States who earn profits abroad can end up with piles of cash “stuck” overseas: earnings that face hefty corporate taxation the instant they are brought to America (for example to pay staff or to invest). An inversion might not affect a company’s day-to-day operations, but by changing the country of domicile officially, it can offer a way out. Since this means less revenue for Uncle Sam, the American government has been trying to desperately stop companies from fleeing and taking their revenue with them. But only rarely has the government been fleet-footed enough to catch them.

Pulling off a successful inversion requires only a modest sleight of hand. When company A (based in America, say) acquires company B (based in Ireland) the managers of the combined A+B entity get to choose a domicile. If they choose the United States, they are in effect choosing to pay relatively high American corporate rates—up to 39%—on all the overseas profits they repatriate; unusually, the IRS taxes income on a global basis. If they choose Ireland instead, they will have to pay a much lower tax rate (12.5%) on profits generated in Ireland, but the crucial bit is that they will pay only the local rate on whatever profits are generated in foreign subsidiaries—because Ireland, like most other countries, taxes on a strictly territorial basis. That means paying, for example, 39% on profits generated within the United States, 20% in Britain, or 0% in Bermuda. A third option is to choose a neutral country, such as Britain or the Netherlands which, like most of the world, also have lower rates and a territorial system. Few global companies would choose to stay in America given that choice, though plenty remain based there, often for publicity reasons. Walgreen’s bosses abandoned plans to move to Europe last year, but only after calls for a consumer boycott. The IRS managed to tighten some rules in September, which seems to have made it slightly harder for other companies to invert. Read More > in The Economist

Does Bay Area Transit App Make Racial Profiling Easier? – It may seem that everyone on the train has eyes glued to phone, but when it comes to transit agencies across the U.S. rolling out mobile apps for riders, some people have raised concerns about the high-tech approach when it comes to equitable transportation access. Now, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the year-old BART Watch app, which lets users report suspicious activity or crimes on public transit, is under scrutiny

Using the BART Watch app, riders can upload photos and location information and text directly with BART officials when sending an “alert.” After reviewing a month’s worth of app records, Oakland alt weekly East Bay Express found a disproportionate amount of alerts sent via the app to show a bias against black passengers and homeless passengers. Of 763 messages, 198 used race to describe the suspect, and 134 of those descriptions (68 percent) identified suspects as black. The Express reports that a 2008 survey indicated that 10 percent of daily BART customers are black and 48 percent are white.

The data shows that BART riders report Blacks for both alleged crimes and non-crimes at disproportionate rates compared to other racial or ethnic groups, and that people perceived as being homeless are also being targeted with a high number of complaints, often for sleeping, smelling bad, and other non-crimes.

Some pre-set categories users can select from when issuing a complaint include “disruptive behavior,” “panhandling,” “suspicious activity,” and “other,” which together made up 109 of the complaints regarding passengers identified as black by alert senders. Read More > at Next City

Steelers linebacker James Harrison makes sons – 6 and 8 – return participation trophies – There are no such things as moral victories as far as James Harrison is concerned.

The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker announced on Instagram that he was making his two young sons – ages 6 and 8 – return their “Best of the Batch” participation trophies because they didn’t actually win anything.

“I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing,” the five-time Pro Bowler wrote in a post that reads like a tough-love manifesto for parents.

“While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy.”

“I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.

“Cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues” Read More > in The New York Daily News

Big Battles to Watch In California Legislature’s Final Month – At most, there are only 20 days of official business left at the state Capitol. By the time it’s over, huge policy and political fights will have been waged, some of which may set the stage for debates left for the voters to settle in 2016.

Legislators return on Monday to Sacramento for the final sprint to the end of this year’s duties, the halfway mark of the two-year legislative session that began in January. Hundreds of bills are left to be debated, covering topics from environmental policy to privacy rights and long-term funding for roads and highways.

Here are our top picks for the battles worth watching:

California’s reputation on the international stage as a leader on climate change regulations has been front and center in recent months, and legislators may be on the verge of doubling down on that effort. Most notable are two bills to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and separate legislation to cut the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The greenhouse gas bills (SB 32 and AB 1288) push beyond the state’s 2006 landmark law, which seeks to shrink emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. AB 1288, by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would extend the state’s use of cap-and-trade as a tool to limit greenhouse gas emissions. SB 32, by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), would ratchet down emission levels by mid-century to 80 percent below 1990 levels. Read More > at KQED

AP EXCLUSIVE: California measure fails to create green jobs – Three years after California voters passed a ballot measure to raise taxes on corporations and generate clean energy jobs by funding energy-efficiency projects in schools, barely one-tenth of the promised jobs have been created, and the state has no comprehensive list to show how much work has been done or how much energy has been saved.

Money is trickling in at a slower-than-anticipated rate, and more than half of the $297 million given to schools so far has gone to consultants and energy auditors. The board created to oversee the project and submit annual progress reports to the Legislature has never met, according to a review by The Associated Press.

Voters in 2012 approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act by a large margin, closing a tax loophole for multistate corporations. The Legislature decided to send half the money to fund clean energy projects in schools, promising to generate more than 11,000 jobs each year.

Instead, only 1,700 jobs have been created in three years, raising concerns about whether the money is accomplishing what voters were promised. Read More > in the Associated Press

8 Things You Could Do in the Past That You Wouldn’t Do Today! 

Next Time Government Gives You Dietary Advice, Consider Doing the Opposite – In the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s advice manual for citizens, we are warned that “not eating breakfast has been associated with excess body weight.” But when researchers from Columbia University decided to test this notion, they found nothing of the sort: “In overweight individuals, skipping breakfast daily for 4 weeks leads to a reduction in body weight,” the study’s authors note. Other researchers did the same and came to similar conclusions. How many parents and overweight Americans took this advice as gospel when they could have been losing weight by skipping buttermilk pancake breakfasts?

We already know that government recommendations regarding health are often driven by a bunch of Chicken Littles. The leading organ of American scaremongering, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has gotten so much wrong over the years. There was the outrageous contention that 400,000 Americans were dropping dead from obesity every year. (They weren’t.) And then there were all the over-the-top warnings about the alleged risks of secondhand smoke. (They don’t really exist.)

Earlier this year, the bureaucrats behind the government’s dietary guidelines finally admitted there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. After years of warning Americans that high-cholesterol foods would kill them—eggs, shrimp and so on—the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will no longer list cholesterol among its “nutrients of concern” for overconsumption. Now some scientists argue that the state’s obsession with scaring citizens about fat may actually have made our health worse.

The popularity of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which government absurdly banned earlier this year, was driven in large part by government scaremongering about the evils of cooking with lard. But when contemporary researchers looked at the 1970s-era data underlying the dietary fat guidelines, they came to the conclusion that the data did not support the idea that eating less fat would translate to fewer cases of heart disease or that it would save lives. And studies show it hasn’t. Read More > at Reason

Tesla Hands Self-Driving Technology to Select Customers – Tomorrow, Tesla is to begin uploading the latest version of its Autopilot software to a select group of of its Model S electric cars. The owners of these vehicles will act as beta testers, putting their cars through wringers never imagined by the company’s pros. If all goes well, a wider roll out will come later in the year.

It’s like handing off DVD players to the first non-engineers ever to see them—guys who will not read the #$%^! manual and who will not use a ballpoint pen to set the digital clock so it won’t flash “12:00” forever and ever.

Tesla’s beta testers will indeed be drivers, not merely passengers, because Autopilot 7.0 represents only a small step up from the previous package of driver assistance systems. It will manage lane-keeping, mind the gap to the car in front and behind, and handle much of the braking and acceleration. But testers will still have to oversee all operations and register their alertness—if only for legal purposes—by hitting the turn signal indicator every so often. Read More > at IEEE Spectrum

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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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