Sunday Reading – 10/27/15

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.

The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific? – It has a big impact on the diet of American citizens, and those of most Western nations, so why does the expert advice underpinning US government dietary guidelines not take account of all the relevant scientific evidence?

The expert report underpinning the next set of US Dietary Guidelines for Americans fails to reflect much relevant scientific literature in its reviews of crucial topics and therefore risks giving a misleading picture, an investigation by The BMJ has found. The omissions seem to suggest a reluctance by the committee behind the report to consider any evidence that contradicts the last 35 years of nutritional advice.

Issued once every five years, the guidelines have a big influence on diet in the US, determining nutrition education, food labeling, government research priorities at the National Institutes of Health, and public feeding programs, which are used by about a quarter of Americans each year. The guidelines, which were first issued in 1980, have also driven nutrition policy globally, with most Western nations subsequently adopting similar advice.

Concern about this year’s report has been unprecedented, with some 29 000 public comments submitted compared with only 2000 in 2010. In recent months, as government officials convert the scientific report into the guidelines, Congress has sought to intervene. In June, it proposed a requirement that the guidelines be based exclusively on “strong” science and also that they focus on nutritional concerns without consideration of sustainability. Other debated topics include newly proposed reductions in consumption of sugar and red meat.

…The 2015 report states that the committee abandoned established methods for most of its analyses. Since its inception, the guideline process has suffered from a lack of rigorous methods for reviewing the science on nutrition and disease, but a major effort was undertaken in 2010 to implement systematic reviews of studies to bring scientific rigor and transparency to the review process. The US Department of Agriculture set up the Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL) to help conduct systematic reviews using a standardized process for identifying, selecting, and evaluating relevant studies.

However, in its 2015 report the committee stated that it did not use NEL reviews for more than 70% of the topics, including some of the most controversial issues in nutrition. Instead, it relied on systematic reviews by external professional associations, almost exclusively the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC), or conducted an hoc examination of the scientific literature without well defined systematic criteria for how studies or outside review papers were identified, selected, or evaluated. Read More > at The BMJ

Taco Bell serves up booze and apps in San Francisco’s SoMa – Taco Bell Cantina opened at the corner of Third and Townsend Streets, where it will feature a beer and wine list as well as a tapas-style menu of shareable appetizers in addition to the standard Taco Bell menu.

The San Francisco spot is the second of two U.S. locations of Taco Bell Cantina, following the opening of the first one in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood this week. That location serves hard alcohol in the form of a sangria drink and something called a “twisted freeze.”

The opening of the Taco Bell Cantina restaurants marks the first time Taco Bell restaurants are serving booze. The eateries are part of an effort by the brand to expand in cities and target millennial consumers.

“These new urban restaurants are a critical part of our growth strategy in markets where people experience our brand differently,” said Brian Niccol, CEO of Taco Bell Corp. in a company statement. “Today’s consumers are living in more urban settings and our new restaurants cater to their lifestyle in adapting our traditional restaurant concept to fit their modern needs.”

Taco Bell’s urban concept also includes expanded technology, in the form of digital menu boards, TV monitors and mobile ordering. The company is also making an effort to tailor each restaurant to the style of local architecture. Read More > in The San Francisco Business Times

Mercury News editorial: Dump the Delta twin-tunnel water plan – Four years ago, the prestigious National Academy of Sciences took a comprehensive look at Gov. Jerry Brown’s Delta twin-tunnel plan and declared it riddled with holes and inconsistencies. Among other failures, the plan ignored the potential to reduce demand for Delta water through efficiencies and conservation.

On Tuesday, it was the Delta Independent Science Board’s turn. It, too, found gaping holes in the plan, saying its draft environmental impact report “falls short as a basis for weighty decisions about natural resources.”

California can’t wait for the next governor to look for realistic water strategies. Brown should give up on his $17 billion twin-tunnel boondoggle — a sop to agribusiness and Southern California cities at the expense of the Delta’s ecological health. Scientifically, politically and financially, it is a disaster, but the fight over it obscures consideration of reasonable alternatives.

The Delta Independent Science Board is made up of nationally respected water management scientists appointed by the Delta Stewardship Council. Its objective is “to help make the science underlying Bay-Delta programs, the application of that science, and the technical aspects of those programs the best that they can be.”

The twin-tunnel EIR may be the worst it can be, as the independent scientists’ 18-page report makes clear. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News

Beanballs Wars: Our Basest Instincts – At some point this afternoon, someone, at some point, is going to hit Bryce Harper with a baseball. He knows it, I know it, his teammates know it, everybody in the stadium knows it. The most exciting player in baseball, our youngest superstar in decades, perhaps the single-most marketable, charismatic asset the game has … and some dope pitching for a team out of the pennant chase (mostly) is gonna wing a 90-plus-mile per hour fastball at him. Like, right at Harper. And he’s going to hit him. And everyone seems to think this is OK.

Last night, Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer gave up a home run to Manny Machado, a two-run blast in the seventh to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead they would never relinquish. It was a thrilling homer all around. It gave the O’s the lead. It was Machado’s 30th of the season. It was on a 2-2 pitch with two outs against one of the best pitchers in the game. It went 435 feet. It was the platonic ideal of a home run.

Isn’t that great? Isn’t that what you want out of baseball?

Well, Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon didn’t think so. Papelbon, who is going to go down as a symbol of this year’s disappointment in Washington (something which seems somewhat unfair in the short term, but in the long term feels like a just balancing of the karmic scales), thought Machado showed too much joy in his breathtaking athletic achievement. We’ll have to take Papelbon’s word on this, since none of the clips from the homer seem to show Machado, you know, doing anything. So when Papelbon faced Machado in the ninth inning, he threw a pitch at Machado’s chin. When that missed, he threw another one.

After the game, Machado called Papelbon, who was of course tossed, a “coward.” But that’s not the end of it, because in the bizarre moral logic of a baseball beanball feud, it’s never really over. Now that the Nationals have hit the Orioles’ superstar, when they play today, the O’s have to hit the Nats’ superstar, because otherwise the world will spin out of its orbit and we will all die when our planet crashes into the sun.

Thus: Bryce Harper is gonna get plunked today. He has no illusions to the contrary.

It is at this point that I must talk linguistics and nomenclature. We always use the word “plunked” when someone is hit with a pitch, and it’s a funny word: It sounds like something a cartoon character would do. But it’s probably not the most accurate representation of being hit with a pitch thrown more than 90 miles per hour actually feels like. We should probably use words like “bludgeoned” or “attacked” or “assaulted.” Because that’s what it is. If someone throws a punch at someone, it is considered an aggressive, violent act. But the damage a punch can cause is nothing compared to what a fastball fired at you from 60 1/2 feet away can do.

And yet in the world of baseball, this is all considered absolutely fine. Read More > at Sports on Earth

California air regulators to order 10 percent carbon emissions cut for all fuel sold in state – California regulators are poised to restore a first-in-the-nation climate change program that requires a 10 percent cut in carbon emissions on transportation fuels sold in the state by 2020, despite oil industry objections that it could drive up gas prices.

After the program survived a lengthy legal challenge from fuel makers, regulators are expected to vote Friday on the clean fuel standard, which environmentalists and some business groups are hailing as one of California’s most important moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The California Air Resources Board estimates the economic impact to consumers would be a few cents per gallon, costing a typical commuter $5 to $21 extra in 2017, increasing to $12 to $48 annually in 2020. Read More > in the Associated Press

Local school district bans ‘Tag’ over emotional well-being of students – What have our schools become when administrators ban the game of tag over the emotional well-being of kids? Well, a laughing stock.

But that hasn’t stopped the Mercer Island School District from banning the harmless game without even consulting parents.

The school district’s communications director Macy Grade, in an email, told Q13 that the “rationale behind this [ban] is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students.”

Emotional safety? Are kids such wimps that they become traumatized while chased in a game they volunteer to play? Or is that the hyper-sensitive, hyper-protective school district feels the need to protect students from made up dangers to justify their paychecks?

They also address physical safety, wanting kids to “keep their hands to themselves.” After all, a pat on the back in a voluntary game of tag might … make you mildly uncomfortable?

Of course, the ban doesn’t make a lick of sense, particularly in the context of what other activities the school offers.

The school promotes competitive sports like football, which is like tag only instead of gently tagging someone and saying “you’re it,” students will viciously tackle their opponents. Further, the school also provides for wrestling; again, considerably more violent and dangerous than a game of tag. Read More > at MYNorthwest

Sitting Is Bad for Children, Too – Children who sit too much may face adult-sized health consequences, according to a sobering new study of healthy young girls. The study found that after a single session of prolonged inactivity, the children developed changes in their blood flow and arteries that, in grown-ups, would signal the start of serious cardiovascular problems.

There is plenty of evidence, of course, that uninterrupted sitting dents the health of adults. Many epidemiological studies have found associations between multiple hours of inactivity and increased risks for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, liver disease, metabolic syndrome and other conditions, including premature death.

Most worrying, these risks remain elevated even if someone regularly exercises but then settles into his or her chair for the rest of the day.

But those studies involved adults. Few experiments have directly examined the effects of sedentary time on young, otherwise healthy bodies, so it has not been clear whether children are affected by sitting too much to the same extent as their parents are.

…This decline in activity, the study concluded, is most pronounced among girls.

…So encourage young people to stand up and move around at least every hour, she says. A stroll around the classroom or living room should help. The girls in the study pedaled “at a very easy level” when they broke up their sitting time with cycling, Dr. McManus said, suggesting that vigorous exercise is not required to keep children’s arteries healthy.

Unfortunately, chairs are as alluring to the young as they are to grown-ups. “I was surprised by how easy it was to get the girls to stay still for three uninterrupted hours,” Dr. McManus said. “We’d expected that they would want to be up and moving around.” But they were content to sit, entertained by movies and iPads. Read More > in The New York Times

Oakley’s new police chief talks past, present, and future of local law enforcement – When Chris Thorsen quietly returned to his old job as police chief of Oakley, he did so without any of the fanfare or publicity that an incoming chief is normally accustomed to.

Not only that, Thorsen has decided not to wear his policeman’s uniform for now — an unusual decision — but these are unusual times. The city will break from its policing services contract with the sheriff and set out on its own next summer, and Thorsen has been tasked with overseeing that transition as the new city police chief. But his officers answer to Sean Fawell, a sheriff’s employee whose official title is “interim Oakley police chief.”

So, technically, there are two police chiefs in Oakley right now, and that’s why Thorsen wants to make it clear to his officers that they’re still members of the sheriff’s department, until further notice.

But when June comes around and Thorsen puts on his uniform and the number of chiefs gets narrowed down to one, it will hardly be his first rodeo. Thorsen cut his teeth in Oakley, serving as the city’s police chief from 2005-10, and then as Clayton’s police chief from 2012 until he was selected for his current job.

Since Thorsen’s first stint as chief, Oakley has swelled into a new type of town, from the rural area Thorsen remembers, into a bedroom community with easy freeway access, yet is still considered one of the safest places to live in Contra Costa County. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times

Book sales hang on as e-books wither – …In the first five months of 2015, publishers’ revenues from e-books sales fell 10% to $610.8 million, according to the Association of American Publishers, compared to a 2.3% drop in print book sales in the fiction, non fiction and religious categories (that the industry calls trade books.) Some of that relative decline might be explained by e-book prices that have risen: many people still prefer the tactile pleasure of a physical book and will choose that over a digital book for the same price.

In terms of market share, e-books generated 24.9% of publisher revenues between January and May, down from a peak of 26.5% in the year earlier period, according to the AAP, showing how print books have finally started to push back against e-books’ meteoric rise. In 2009, the year Barnes & Noble ( BKS -2.22% ) launched its Nook e-reader to compete with’s ( AMZN -2.23% ) ) Kindle, e-books generated a mere 3.2% of total trade revenues.

Given this, it has not been surprising to see Barnes & Noble reporting slight gains in comparable sales in its core book selling business after years of declines that had led many to wonder whether the largest remaining bookstore chain might suffer the same fate as Borders, which went out of business four years ago. In its most recent quarter, Barnes & Noble reported comparable sales in its core business rose 1%, while its Nook e-reader and digital content sales fell 22.4%. Read More > in Fortune

State investigating Richmond’s financial practices, reporting – The state controller’s office, saying some of Richmond’s financial reports just don’t add up, is investigating that city’s financial practices and reporting. But city officials say the controller’s office is the agency making mistakes.

Controller Betty Yee notified Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay of the investigation by her office’s Division of Audits in a letter dated Aug. 25.

In it, she itemizes more than a dozen discrepancies between two different types of financial reports the city submits to the state — and the differences are in the tens of millions, one as high as $113.7 million.

The letter also states that Richmond’s financial transactions report for the 2012-13 budget year failed to include the city’s sewer enterprise fund, a variety of balances and the discontinuation of the Richmond Housing Authority Properties operations. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Contra Costa Restores Health Care for Undocumented Adults – The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to restore primary health care services to undocumented adults living in the county. The services had been cut in 2009 during the economic downturn. The county had never ceased covering undocumented children.

Contra Costa, which includes the cities of Richmond, Concord and Antioch, now joins 46 other California counties that have approved non-emergency care to undocumented immigrants.

“Providing health care coverage to all is not only about the human morality issue that we should address, but also from a cost effective point of view … this is absolutely the right thing,” said Jane Garcia, CEO of La Clínica de la Raza, which serves 25,000 patients in Contra Costa, many of them low-income Latinos.

The program is not full scope insurance, but will provide preventive care. Health care providers and other supporters, such as Supervisor John Gioia, say that increasing access to preventive services will cut down visits to the emergency room and save the county money in the long run. Read More > at KQED

Achievement gap points to ineffectiveness of decades of reforms – The vast achievement gaps in the Smarter Balanced test scores released this month point to the ineffectiveness of reforms over the past 15 years or more that were intended to close those gaps, raising the question of whether a new set of reforms being introduced in California are more likely to succeed.

Those reforms include the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards; the Local Control Funding Formula, which allocates additional funds for high-needs children and grants local districts more decision-making powers; and a more comprehensive accountability system that emphasizes deeper learning skills, and promotes support for schools and teachers in place of punishment or sanctions.

Only 28 percent of African-Americans and 32 percent of Latinos who took the test in California met or exceeded standards on the English language arts section of the Smarter Balanced tests, which students took for the first time this spring. By comparison, 61 percent of whites and 72 percent of Asian-Americans met or exceeded standards in English language arts. The differences in math are even wider. Only 16 percent of African-Americans and 21 percent of Latinos met or exceeded the standard in math, compared with 59 percent of whites and 69 percent of Asian-Americans. Read More > at EdSource

Proposal to phase out fireplaces in Bay Area is dropped – Scorching public opposition has sunk a proposal to phase out old-fashioned wood-burning fireplaces in Bay Area homes.

The rule proposed earlier this year by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District would have barred homes from being sold or rented in nine Bay Area counties unless open-hearth fireplaces were replaced or retrofitted with cleaner wood-burning devices, or gas- or electric-fueled ones. To comply, homeowners also could have sealed off their fireplaces.

District officials said the rule was designed to protect the public against the dangers of wood smoke.

But in a series of public hearings last spring, hundreds of homeowners, landlords and real estate representatives attacked the requirement as too obtrusive and expensive.

Homeowners complained it could cost from several hundred dollars to $3,000 to comply depending on the home and device installed.

Now the district says it’s dropping the proposal in favor of a less expensive idea: To require home sellers and landlords whose properties have wood-burning fireplaces to disclose the health hazards of smoke. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times

Blind snapper Jake Olson cherishes ‘amazing’ experience of first game as USC player – Jake Olson achieved his initial goal, to be simply another player on the USC sideline.

Olson shared his teammates’ pregame exuberance and postgame frustration Saturday, as the Trojans suffered an upset loss to Stanford. Yet nobody won more than Olson, USC’s newest long snapper.

A blind, 18-year-old freshman from Huntington Beach, Olson suited up for his first game after he received final approval last week. Olson didn’t play in the game but experienced its emotional swings, savored the crowd noise and energy and anticipated the day when he might snap for a USC field goal or punt.

“I felt in place, having a uniform on,” Olson said Monday. “It felt right. Being there before, in a travel suit or not in uniform, something inside of me was saying, `Get in a uniform. That’s where you belong.’”

It’s been an emotional period for Olson, who enrolled last month not knowing if he would be allowed to join the team. Olson agreed to attend USC on a special scholarship for athletes with physical limitations, and last month the NCAA decided that Olson’s scholarship wouldn’t count against USC’s football total.

Olson received final medical clearance Sept. 14, and the next day, he walked onto the practice field in uniform and took the most significant steps in a long, difficult journey. Read More > in The Orange County Register

Heroin in the Midwest – A hydra-headed scourge – …The heroin epidemic in the Midwest is closely linked to the rampant opiate epidemic. As doctors prescribed opioid painkillers such as OxyContin more and more liberally, their abuse grew. Sales of prescription opioid painkillers have increased 300% since 1999, according to the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though the amount of pain Americans report to their physicians has not changed.

Three-quarters of heroin addicts used to take prescription drugs and switched to heroin, which is cheaper and more easily available on the black market. A gram of pure heroin costs less than half what it did in the 1980s, in real terms. “This is a doctor-caused epidemic,” says Tom Frieden, boss of the CDC. In states with higher prescription rate of opioid painkillers, such as Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, the number of heroin addicts is higher too.

In depressed areas in the Rust Belt, where poverty and unemployment rates shot up as factories shut down and jobs disappeared, the drug epidemic is ravaging once-idyllic communities. Indiana had a brutal wake-up call earlier this year when Austin, a small rural community just off the interstate between Indianapolis and Louisville, was the epicentre of the largest outbreak of HIV infections ever seen in the state. Nearly 200 people were infected in a population of just 4,200 because addicts injecting Opana, a prescription painkiller that delivers a potent high, shared needles, which is the fastest way for an infection to spread. “We have never documented anything like it,” says Mr Frieden. Read More > in The Economist

Volkswagen’s appalling clean diesel scandal, explained – It sounds like the sinister plot of some straight-to-DVD movie. Since 2009, Volkswagen had been installing elaborate software in 482,000 “clean diesel” vehicles sold in the US, so that the cars’ pollution controls only worked when being tested by regulators. The rest of the time, the vehicles could freely spew hazardous, smog-forming nitrogen oxides.

Suffice to say, regulators were livid once they caught on. On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Volkswagen had very flagrantly violated the Clean Air Act. Not only did the EPA order the German company to fix the affected vehicles,** but the agency has the authority to levy fines as high as $37,500 per car, a maximum of $18 billion. (To put that in perspective, the company’s pretax net income was about $4.7 billion last year.) The US government is also mulling criminal charges.

Volkswagen, in other words, is in deep shit. The company’s CEO, Martin Winterkorn, is now apologizing profusely and pledging an external probe to find out what happened. VW just halted US sales of its 2015 and 2016 clean diesel vehicles, including Passat, Jetta, Golf, and Beetle models. Meanwhile, VW’s stock price plummeted on Monday morning, the company losing nearly one-fifth its market cap in a blink

…Since 2009, we now know, Volkswagen had been inserting intricate code in its vehicle software that tracked steering and pedal movements. When those movements suggested that the car was being tested by regulators in the laboratory for nitrogen-oxide emissions, the car automatically turned its pollution controls on. The rest of the time, the pollution controls switched off.

Regulators didn’t notice this ruse for years. The problem was only uncovered by an independent group, the International Council on Clean Transportation, which wanted to investigate why there was such a discrepancy between laboratory tests and real-road performance for several of VW’s diesel cars in Europe. So they worked with researchers at West Virginia University, who stuck a probe up the exhaust pipe of VW’s clean diesel cars and drove them from San Diego to Seattle.

What the researchers found was jaw-dropping. On the road, VW’s Jetta was emitting 15 to 35 times as much nitrogen oxide as the allowable standard. The VW Passat was emitting 5 to 20 times as much. These cars were emitting much more pollution than they had in the labs. Read More > at Vox

New sexual assault survey suffers same problems as others – A new survey released Monday purports to prove that 1 in 5 women (or more) will be sexually assaulted while in college.

The survey, conducted by the Association for American Universities, included responses from 150,000 students at 27 colleges and universities, including many Ivy League schools. Despite this large number of responses, the survey still suffers from the same problems as so many others trying to prove the existence of “rape culture” and scare colleges into expelling innocent students based on no evidence (or evidence to the contrary).

The researchers who developed the survey acknowledged fairly up front in their report that a “non-response bias” may have resulted in estimates that are “too high because non-victims may have been less likely to participate.” The researchers also acknowledged the large difference in estimates across the 27 schools, meaning that “1 in 5” is not the national percentage of victimhood, despite what every other news outlet will be claiming.

“[M]any news stories are focused on figures like ‘1 in 5’ in reporting victimization. As the researchers who generated this number have repeatedly said, the 1 in 5 number is for a few [institutions of higher education] and is not representative of anything outside of this frame,” the researchers wrote. “The wide variation of rates across IHEs in the present study emphasizes the significance of this caveat.” Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Sacramento Sends Brown Sweeping Medical Pot Regulations – Together, Assembly Bills 266 and 243, along with Senate Bill 643, were dubbed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act — the culmination of an unprecedented effort to “draft regulations for an industry entirely from scratch,” as Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, put it, according to the influential Smell the Truth blog.

“Patients will still need a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis, and can have caregivers. But the state will do away with collectives and cooperatives in favor of licensed, background checked, commercial growers, distributors and sellers. The laws call for 12 types of state industry licenses, and dual local and state licensing. City and counties can ban medical cannabis activity, or tax it.”

…Despite liberalizing the state’s marijuana regime, the new rules would bar felons convicted of drug crimes from starting pot businesses. That measure, which law enforcement groups required for their support of the bills, has raised fresh concerns among some pro-legalization groups. “With few prospects of other employment and a potential ban from the legal pot market,” the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “felons may choose to sell it illegally, activists say.”

According to the relevant bill’s key language, the state’s new “licensing authority may deny the application for licensure or renewal of a state license” should an applicant already possess a “felony conviction for the illegal possession for sale, manufacture, transportation, or cultivation of a controlled substance.” Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all solving the same problems – Between them, Apple, Google, and Microsoft pretty much set the agenda for the entire consumer electronics industry. They employ a great number of the smartest and most creative technologists in the world and produce the most influential innovations. Whether it’s Windows, the iPhone, or Google’s titular search, these three American giants’ contributions have shaped our social and economic milieux as much as our technological one. Their futures promise to be as different as their pasts, however the present products and services on offer from each company show them to be closer than ever. They all seem to be solving the same problems.

Consider all the overlaps that have developed in recent times between the strategies of America’s three foremost tech corporations. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are getting into the connected car business that Microsoft has been in for years, while the latter’s Cortana personal assistant echoes the voice-activated Google Now and Siri software of its competitors. Where Apple has Continuity to keep people working across various devices, Microsoft has Continuum, and Google has the universality of the Chrome browser and its range of web apps. Besides the connected car and the connected you, all three are also connecting the TV — through AirPlay, Chromecast, and the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter — and developing app and gaming platforms such as the Xbox One, Android consoles, and the new Apple TV.

While their approaches and economic models differ, the near future that Apple, Google, and Microsoft perceive is remarkably similar. Ask any of them about the smartphone of tomorrow and you’ll get an answer that involves a grid of icons, an app store, a great display and camera, and broadly the same industrial design proportions and philosophy. This phenomenon isn’t limited to just devices, either, as Apple Music, Google Music, and Microsoft Groove amply demonstrate. Other big names like Twitter and Facebook, which started off as fundamentally different types of social networks, are also gradually eroding the differences between them and progressing toward a lowest common denominator singularity.

…True innovation requires the undertaking of significant risk, and the bigger a company becomes the more conservative it inevitably has to be. Apple is now the highest-valued company in the world and the issue of managing and meeting shareholders’ expectations is high on its list of priorities. Just last month, CEO Tim Cook took the unprecedented step of emailing TV host Jim Cramer to reassure the world that China’s stock market collapse wouldn’t hamper Apple’s growth. A couple of weeks earlier, Google redesigned its corporate structure so that all its long-shot and investment projects were managed by a parent company called Alphabet, and its billion-user consumer products remained under the Google umbrella. All these machinations and adjustments are precisely what Michael Dell sought to escape when he took his business private two years ago. If everyone is trying to appease the same growth-hungry stock market every 90 days, then it’s little wonder that the responses to it would be similar. Read More > in The Verge

Tesla Should Be Afraid of German Carmakers – German car companies have made clear they plan to match Tesla’s luxury electric vehicles with models of their own. Instead of being a disrupter able to capitalize on a technological breakthrough, Elon Musk’s company will only serve as a catalyst for industry incumbents. Tesla’s first-mover advantage is questionable, especially in Europe.

At the Frankfurt Motor Show, which will run until the end of next week, all four top German luxury car producers — Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche, Bayerische Motoren Werke and Daimler — stressed electric models, some of them explicitly meant to be “Tesla killers.” To be sure, most of these cars are still concepts, and they won’t make it to market before 2018, but given Tesla’s sales trajectory, there’s no need for its competitors to rush.

Porsche’s Mission E will accelerate from zero to 62 mph in 3.5 seconds, about as fast as the sportiest of Teslas, go 310 miles on a single charge and take 15 minutes to bring the charge level to 80 percent. The Audi E-tron Quattro SUV promises the same long range, about as much power and only slightly slower acceleration, reaching 62 mph in 4.5 seconds. Mercedes didn’t show its Tesla rival in Frankfurt but declared its intention to start selling one, with a range of 250 to 310 miles, in 2018. BMW has a slightly different strategy: It’s not promising any long-range miracle cars but expanding its product lineup — new plug-in models will be available as soon as next year along with the already produced i3 and i8. Read More > in Bloomberg

‘Smart Colorado’ Hearing From ‘Hundreds & Hundreds’ Of Parents About Pot Use – The results of a new study about the impact of Colorado’s marijuana legalization is raising troubling questions for parents. The study cites a significant increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths, hospital visits and school suspensions.

The parents CBS4’s Melissa Garcia spoke with say they’re concerned about their children seeing messages promoting pot all over town. Activists say it’s the way pot is marketed and sold that’s started to create some serious problems.

…According to a report released this month by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Colorado saw a 29 percent increase in emergency room visits, and a 38 percent increase in hospitalizations during retail marijuana’s first year.

The study states that over 11 percent of Colorado’s 12 to 17 year-olds use pot — 56 percent higher than the national average. It also cites a 40 percent increase in drug-related suspensions and expulsions — the vast majority from marijuana. Read More > at CBS Denver

First driverless pods to travel public roads arrive in the Netherlands – The first self-driving electric shuttle for use on public roads has been delivered to the Netherlands. The “WEpod” will take passengers between the two towns of Wageningen and Ede in the province of Gelderland from November.

Autonomous public transportation does exist in other parts of the world, such as the ParkShuttle bus in Rotterdam, the Heathrow Pod in London and the LUTZ Pathfinder in Milton Keynes, which run on special single trajectory lanes, or in pedestrianised areas. The WEpods in Gelderland will drive on regular roads amongst public traffic.

During its test phase it will not travel in challenging conditions, such as in rush hour traffic, at night or in bad weather. A control room will monitor the vehicle and safety of its passengers. The six-person vehicle has a maximum speed of 25 kilometres per hour.

The WEpod team intend to equip the vehicle with additional technical equipment such as cameras, radar, laser and GPS to track the environment the vehicle will travel in. Read More > in The Telegraph

The Hollywood Tax Story They Won’t Tell at the Oscars – …With campaign season over, you’re not likely to hear stars bringing up taxes at this weekend’s Academy Awards show. But the tax man ought to come out and take a bow anyway. Of the nine “Best Picture” nominees in 2012, for example, five were filmed on location in states where the production company received financial incentives, including “The Help” (in Mississippi) and “Moneyball” (in California). Virginia gave $3.5 million to this year’s Oscar-nominated “Lincoln.”

Such state incentives are widespread, and often substantial, but they don’t do much to attract jobs. About $1.5 billion in tax credits and exemptions, grants, waived fees and other financial inducements went to the film industry in 2010, according to data analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Politicians like to offer this largess because they get photo-ops with celebrities, but the economic payoff is minuscule. George Mason University’s Adam Thierer has called this “a growing cronyism fiasco” and noted that the number of states involved skyrocketed to 45 in 2009 from five in 2002.

In its 2012 study “State Film Studies: Not Much Bang For Too Many Bucks,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that film-related jobs tend to go to out-of-staters who jet in, then leave. “The revenue generated by economic activity induced by film subsidies,” the study notes, “falls far short of the subsidies’ direct costs to the state. To balance its budget, the state must therefore cut spending or raise revenues elsewhere, dampening the subsidies’ positive economic impact.” Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Americans Want Congress Members To Pee In Cups To Prove They’re Not On Drugs – While most Americans like the idea of drug testing for welfare recipients, they LOVE the idea of drug testing for members of Congress.

According to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, 64 percent of Americans favor requiring welfare recipients to submit to random drug testing — a measure pushed by Republican lawmakers in recent years — while 18 percent oppose it. But an even stronger majority said they’re in favor of random drug testing for members of Congress, by a 78 percent to 7 percent margin. Sixty-two percent said they “strongly” favor drug testing for congressional lawmakers, compared to only 51 percent who said the same of welfare recipients.

The House of Representatives passed legislation this year that would allow states to require food stamp recipients to pee in cups to prove they’re not on drugs. In 2012, Republicans pushed for drug testing of people seeking unemployment insurance benefits when they lose their jobs. At the state level, GOP lawmakers across the country have sought drug testing for an array of safety net programs. (Politicians sometimes refer to means-tested government benefits in general as “welfare,” although the term is more commonly a nickname for the relatively small Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.)

Democrats have frequently suggested that if drug tests are good for people getting a hand from the government, then they’re good for people running the government, too. Republicans usually don’t go along with that idea — the Kansas state legislature is one recent exception — but voters heartily approve.

While drug testing for both welfare recipients and lawmakers received support across party lines in the new poll, the congressional proposal was the one more likely to bring Americans together. Eighty-six percent of Republicans, 77 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents said they want drug testing for members of Congress. Read More > in the Huffington Post


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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