Sunday Reading – 03/27/16


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.

Chocolate Can Boost Your Workout. Really. – Adding a little dark chocolate to a training diet may effortlessly improve endurance performance, according to a new study of sports nutrition. The findings provide ammunition both for athletes looking for an edge and those hoping for an excuse to indulge.

For some time, dark chocolate has been touted as a relatively healthy treat, with studies showing that small amounts may have benefits for the heart and brain. Most of this research has focused on the role of a substance called epicatechin, a plant nutrient found in cocoa. Dark chocolate is generally rich in epicatechin, though levels vary, depending on how the sweet was produced. Levels of epicatechin tend to be much lower in milk chocolate, which contains little cocoa, and white chocolate contains little or none of the nutrient. Read More > in The New York Times

Self-cleaning laundry may be on the way – Imagine doing laundry in a flash — just by hanging your clothes outside. Or what if you could get rid of that coffee stain just by standing under a bright light?

Researchers in Australia say they have found a way to alter fabric so that stains disappear after a few minutes of sun exposure.

They dip the fabric into a special solution that coats it with microscopic copper and silver particles. When hit with light, these particles jump to life and act a bit like bleach.

And if you want to wash your clothes, you still can. The researchers discovered that the coating continued to eat away at stains even after 15 washes. Read More > at CNN Money

The Kidnapping Hoax That Wasn’t: Vallejo Couple Files Suit Against City, Police – A Vallejo couple whose kidnapping claims were dismissed by local police as a Hollywood-inspired hoax have now filed suit against the city and two of its officers.

Denise Huskins and her boyfriend Aaron Quinn are seeking unspecified damages for alleged defamation and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, comes six months after the initial filing of a complaint for damages, as reported here in September.

Huskins and Quinn were taken from their Mare Island home last year, following a break-in. Huskins says she was sexually assaulted by the perpetrator before being released in Huntington Beach where her mother lives.

Cops almost immediately dismissed the couples’ claims at the time, calling it “an orchestrated event and not a kidnapping.” They were forced to apologize after the suspect, Matthew Muller, was caught and confessed to the crime. Read More > at California City News

NFL official: Don’t write off Las Vegas as possible home for the Raiders – Although we know the Raiders will be spending the 2016 NFL season in Oakland, everything after that is a jumbled mess.

Following the 2016 season, the Raiders could end up in Los Angeles, but only if the Chargers turn down their option to move.

The Raiders could also stay in Oakland; after all, the team does have two one-year options in their newest lease that would enable them to stay in the city until 2018.

What happens if Oakland and Los Angeles both fall through?

Viva Las Vegas!

…So far, Vegas has done one big thing that Oakland hasn’t been able to do: come up with a stadium proposal. Back in January, the Las Vegas Sands drew up plans for a $1.2 billion domed stadium that’s practically located on the strip.

The Vegas plan beats the Oakland plan, because Oakland currently has no plan and zero funding for any potential plan, which is why the Raiders are in their current situation. Read More > at CBSSports

The Promise of a $9 Computer – The device in question is C.H.I.P., a $9 computer released by Oakland-based start-up Next Thing Co. It can do mostly basic stuff: word processing, spreadsheets, Internet, games. Those offerings were enough to build some buzz; the company launched a Kickstarter in May of 2015, received more than $2 million worth of funding (overshooting its $50,000 goal), and began shipping out the first $9 computers in January.

There are catches to that price tag. Consumers will need to obtain a keyboard, a monitor, a mouse, and perhaps a USB wall charger if they don’t already have one for their phone. (PocketC.H.I.P., another offering, runs $49 and includes a built-in screen, keyboard, and mouse.) The good news is—and what makes this device special—that most of these “add-ons” are hanging around for cheap or free.

…It’s not a stellar computer, as far as processing speed goes. “It’s not going to replace your MacBook Pro,” Reininger says. It can only do one-off tasks and isn’t going to be lightning fast when it works. But maybe that doesn’t matter much? While the device is still too new to be utilized by students or low-income families—as is standard operating procedure, the first batch is in the hands of Kickstarter funders—there’s still the possibility that this, or something like it, could dramatically accelerate the spread of computer literacy. Read More > at Pacific Standard

California crime on the rise – After a decades-long decline in violent and property crime, early indications from cities across California point to a significant increase in lawbreaking.

In California’s 68 largest cities, violent crime jumped 11 percent in the first six months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. Among major U.S. cities, three California cities saw the largest increase in property crime in the country.

California introduced two major criminal justice policies in the last five years that both reduced the number of offenders in jail or prison.

In late 2011, the state began “realignment,” Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to reduce prison overcrowding by shifting responsibility for about 30,000 offenders from the state to the counties. County jails absorbed many, but roughly 18,000 fewer offenders were incarcerated in the first year after the shift, according to the nonpartisan think tank Public Policy Institute of California. In the most definitive look at the role realignment played in the state’s crime rate, a PPIC study in 2013 found that realignment could not be linked to an increase in violent crime. However, the study did find realignment could be blamed for a significant increase in auto theft — about 65 more auto thefts per year per 100,000 residents.

In 2014, voters approved Proposition 47, which reclassified several drug possession and small-scale property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. The total incarcerated population dropped by more than 10,000 in the months following Proposition 47’s passage.

Crime rates fluctuate year to year, and there has been no definitive research to date showing a relationship between crime trends and Proposition 47. But many law enforcement officials across the state have voiced concern that Proposition 47 may be to blame. Read More > at Cal Matters

Low Gas Prices Create a Detour on the Road to Greater Fuel Economy – Since agreeing to tough new federal fuel economy standards five years ago, automakers have been methodically improving the gas mileage of their vehicles and reducing emissions harmful to the environment.

But despite investing billions in fuel-saving technologies and introducing a raft of lower-mileage models and electric cars, the industry will be hard-pressed to meet its target of 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025.

Now, with a crucial midterm review of federal fuel-economy rules to begin this summer, automakers are expected to seek adjustments to the government’s formula for increasing mileage and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Proposed changes could include extending the time frame on mileage targets and expanding emissions credits to include enhancements for safety and autonomous driving — such as the move that carmakers announced last week to make automatic braking standard on all models by early next decade.

…Cheap gas prices are prompting more consumers to buy trucks and sport utility vehicles instead of small cars, hybrids or pure electric vehicles.

With gas prices hovering around $2 a gallon, sales of low-mileage pickups and S.U.V.s have skyrocketed. Meanwhile, electric and hybrid models are languishing in dealer showrooms.

A study of monthly vehicle sales by the University of Michigan shows that fuel efficiency gains have stalled since gas prices plunged last year. Read More > in The New York Times

How Self-Driving Cars Will Threaten Privacy – Allow me to join you, if I may, on your morning commute sometime in the indeterminate future.

Here we are, stepping off the curb and into the backseat of a vehicle. As you close the car door behind you, the address of your office—our destination—automatically appears on a screen embedded in the back of a leather panel in front of you. “Good morning,” says the car’s humanoid voice, greeting you by name before turning on NPR for you like it does each day.

You decide you’d like a cup of coffee, and you tell the vehicle so. “Peet’s coffee, half-a-mile away,” it confirms. Peet’s, as it turns out, is a few doors down from Suds Cleaners. The car suggests you pick up your dry cleaning while you’re in the neighborhood. “After work instead,” you say. The car tweaks your evening travel itinerary accordingly.

As we run into Peet’s to grab coffee, the car circles the block. Then, we’re back in the vehicle, en route to your office once again. There’s a lunch special coming up at the vegetarian place you like, the car tells you as we pass the restaurant. With your approval, it makes a reservation for Friday. We ride by a grocery store and a list of sale items appears on the screen. With a few taps, you’ve added them to your existing grocery list. The car is scheduled to pick up and deliver your order this evening.

We’re less than a mile from your office now. Just like every morning, your schedule for the morning—a conference call at 10 a.m., a meeting at 11 a.m.—appears on the screen, along with a reminder that today is a colleague’s birthday.

This is the age of self-driving cars, an era when much of the minutiae of daily life is relegated to a machine. Your commute was pleasant, relaxing, and efficient. Along with promising unprecedented safety on public roadways, driverless cars could make our lives a lot easier—freeing up people’s time and attention to focus on other matters while they’re moving from one place to the next.

But there’s a darker side to all this, too. Let’s rewind and take a closer look at your commute for a minute. Read More > in The Atlantic

$250K Per Year Salary Could Qualify For Subsidized Housing Under New Palo Alto Plan – Palo Alto is seeking housing solutions for residents who are not among the region’s super-rich, but who also earn more than the threshhold to qualify for affordable housing programs.

The city council has unanimously passed a housing plan that would essentially subsidize new housing for what qualifies as middle-class nowadays, families making from $150,000 to $250,000 a year.

The plan would focus on building smaller, downtown units for people who live near transit and don’t own cars, along with mixed-use retail and residential developments.

Sky-rocketing housing prices in Palo Alto have left some in limbo; with teachers, firefighters and other government workers not earning enough to afford cost of living.

…Some of the small two-bedroom, one-bath homes on her block are worth between $1.5 and $2 million – as teardowns. That’s just what the dirt is worth.

“Prices have just gone through the roof, making it unaffordable for middle-class people, your firefighters, your teachers, and, frankly, some of your doctors,” Palo Alto Vice Mayor Greg Scharff said. Read More > at CBS SF Bay Area

Is moderate drinking really good for you? Jury’s still out – Many people believe a glass of wine with dinner will help them live longer and healthier–but the scientific evidence is shaky at best, according to a new research analysis. The findings, published in the March 2016 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, may sound surprising: Countless news stories have reported on research tying moderate drinking to a range of health benefits–including a lower heart disease risk and a longer life.

But the new analysis took a deeper look at those studies, 87 in all. And it found that many were flawed, with designs suggesting benefits where there were likely none.

…When his team corrected for those abstainer “biases” and certain other study-design issues, moderate drinkers no longer showed a longevity advantage. Further, only 13 of the 87 studies avoided biasing the abstainer comparison group–and these showed no health benefits.

What’s more, Stockwell said, before those corrections were made, it was actually “occasional” drinkers–people who had less than one drink per week–who lived the longest. And it’s unlikely that such an infrequent drinking would be the reason for their longevity. Read More > at Science Daily

Our Water System: What a Waste – AMERICA has a water problem. To put it simply, the national network for providing safe, clean water is falling apart.

This state of affairs, which is the focus of a summit meeting on Tuesday at the White House, threatens more than our drinking water supplies. Water is used in every sector of industry, grows our food, affects our health and props up our energy system.

The price of this neglect will be high. In Flint, Mich., the mayor has estimated that it will cost as much as $1.5 billion to fix or replace lead pipes. Over all, repairing our water and wastewater systems could cost $1.3 trillion or more, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. We need to do this to improve water quality, protect natural ecosystems and ensure a reliable supply for our cities, agriculture and industry.

In cities across the country, billions of gallons of water disappear every day through leaky pipes. Houston alone lost 22 billion gallons in 2012. As the water expert David Sedlak at the University of California, Berkeley, has noted, the water system is facing a double whammy: It has reached the end of its service life just as climate change and population growth have increased its burdens.

…To fix our water systems, we need prices that lead to more rational water use and invite needed investment, data to track water resources and usage, and much more research and development.

Take prices, for example. Water prices should rise or fall according to supply and demand. The idea that the price should be the same in the dry season (when supplies are low and demand for irrigation is high) as the wet season (when supplies are high and demand is low) is nonsense. Read More > in The New York Times

First Look: The iPhone SE, and the rest of Apple’s big announcements – The launch of the iPhone SE, the first new high-end phone in a while that retains the 4-inch form factor of old, will dominate most of the headlines about Apple’s announcement event today, but there was a lot more in there as well, including a new model iPad Pro, an iOS update, and even some wearable news.

This new 4-inch model has an undersized price tag, too – $400 to start, for a 16GB model, and Apple said that it’ll be free on a two-year contract. You can order one Thursday, and they’ll start shipping the week after.

Apple TV saw several updates, including deeper integration with Siri – you can dictate your password to the remote instead of typing it in – better searchability, homescreen folders for better organization, and more as part of the tvOS 9.2 update. It also gets integration with iCloud’s photo library and new apps for things like podcasting.

Well, it’s the size of an original iPad, only it weighs less than a pound, packs a Retina display and has hardware designed to make it a proper desktop replacement, even at its relatively diminutive 9.7-inch size. It also has new “Pro Sound” speakers, making it a lot louder than previous models. Availability dates are the same as for the iPhone SE and it’ll start at $600 for a 32GB model. Read More > at Network World

Why Kids Must Learn About Religion Much Earlier – …But America has a huge problem, especially when it comes to understanding and respecting different faiths.

It’s great to react when there’s a crisis, but better yet, we need to start educating our children in schools at an early age about world religions. When I heard of the basketball chant, I could not help but think of the South Pacific song, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” The song refers to the idea that children aren’t born hating those who are different. Someone has to teach them before they are age 6, 7, or 8 to hate whom their relatives hated, the song says. These students made it to adolescence thinking it was somehow OK to spew anti-Semitic vitriol at a basketball game, that it was OK to recite something the Catholic church itself had denounced in 1965.

Whatever education the Catholic Memorial teens receive in the game’s aftermath may make a difference, but it will not erase the harm already done. Jewish families at the game heard the taunts. Hearing “You Killed Jesus,” reminds many Jews of how that same kind of accusation led to pogroms in eastern Europe and has fueled violence toward Jews throughout history.

In public schools, since the late 1990s and early 2000s, most state standards have required teaching about the world’s religions as a part of history or geography in middle and high school. That’s too late. Some private and public schools, such as the roughly 1,200 using the Core Knowledge curriculum founded by researcher E.D. Hirsch Jr., teach about world religions to children as early as first grade. But most schools shy away from such lessons because teachers lack training about religion or educators fear backlash from parents. Read More > in TIME

What Happens When Oil Hits $50? – The major beneficiary of the 54 percent jump in oil prices from the lows of $26 per barrel is the U.S. shale oil industry, which will utilize this rise to ramp up production and repair balance sheets. But any move above $45 per barrel will likely reverse all this good luck: The drop in production will halt and more will be added to the supply glut.

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword.

Speculation of a production freeze/cut by the combined cartel of Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) fuelled the current rise in crude oil prices, though, uncertainty about Iran’s participation remains.

The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) short-term energy outlook report forecasting a drop in average U.S. oil production from 9.4 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2015, to 8.7 million b/d in 2016 and 8.2 million b/d in 2017, also supported the rally.

The EIA expects crude oil prices to average $34/b in 2016 and $40/b in 2017. However, if oil prices reach $50/b, instead of decreasing, U.S. production will likely increase because many of the shale oil drillers on the brink of insolvency will view this as a Godsend and boost production to remain in business. They are just waiting to re-open the floodgates here. Read More > at Oil Price

Why Kohl’s is closing 9 stores in California – Kohl’s Department Stores plans to close 18 underperforming locations by mid-June, including nine in California — a move that will impact up to 1,800 workers.

Locally, the closures will affect the San Gabriel and West Hills stores in Los Angeles County and an Upland store in the Inland Empire. Three Orange County stores are also on the hit list, including Ladera Ranch, Cypress and Santa Ana. Additional closures will occur in Mira Mesa, Rancho Cordova and San Jose.

…The company reviewed a variety of factors, including local competition, the rent and expenses involved in keeping a store open and how each customer based has evolved.

Mansell noted that Kohl’s just saw five consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales growth and a 4 percent bump between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But that momentum, he said, was substantially offset by softness in early November and in January when demand for cold-weather goods was especially low.

A recent earnings report shows that Kohl’s posted an annual profit of $673 million for its 2015 fiscal year ended Jan. 30, down from $867 million for the previous fiscal year. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News

So when is the right time to put a beloved pet to sleep? – The arrival of a pet is a thrilling moment, and as Tiddles or Fido springs from his travelling basket into the arms of his adoptive family, no one is thinking that sooner or later the little creature is bound to die. No one, that is, apart from my nine-year-old son. Fifteen years ago, when I brought home our adorable kitten, Caspar, the child looked up briefly from his book and said, “Where are we going to bury him when he dies?”

…But now it strikes me as the most sensible thing that anyone could ask themselves when acquiring an animal. For unless your pet is a parrot, a Koi carp or a tortoise, you will almost certainly outlive it. And if it manages to avoid an untimely demise by accident or disease, you will probably have to determine the hour of its death.

Prof Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon who stars in Channel 4’s The Supervet, recently remarked that technological developments in treatment are now so advanced that keeping an animal alive is a moral decision: “The bottom line now is that anything is possible if you have a blood and nerve supply. That means that we have a line in the sand: not what is ‘possible’, but what is ‘right’.”

“Quality of life” is the expression that hovers around issues of heroic veterinary intervention. It is the quality of the animal’s life that is supposed to be the deciding factor, but inevitably the quality of the owner’s life seeps in. Read More > in The Telegraph

Study Finds Public Pension Promises Exceed Ability to Pay – When Detroit went bankrupt in 2013, investors were shocked to learn that the city had promised pensions worth billions more than anyone knew — creating a financial pileup that ultimately meant big, unexpected losses for Detroit’s bondholders.

Now, researchers at Citigroup say the groundwork has been laid for similar conflicts across the developed world: Governments have promised much more than they can most likely pay to current and future retirees, without revealing the disparity to investors who bought government bonds and whose investments could be at risk.

Twenty countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have promised their retirees a total $78 trillion, much of it unfunded, according to the Citigroup report.

That is close to twice the $44 trillion total national debt of those 20 countries, and the pension obligations are “not on government balance sheets,” Citigroup said.

“Total global government debt may be three times as large as people currently think it is,” the researchers warned, after gathering as much information as they could about various government pension plans and adjusting the amounts where necessary, to permit fair comparisons with bond debt. Read More > in The New York Times

The brute force of government spending on autopilot – …At least I could afford to pay to get my car back. California is filled with people who are one traffic ticket away from losing their means of independent transportation. They get a ticket for a busted tail light or a small-change moving violation. On paper, the fine is $100, but with surcharges, it’s more like $490. People who cannot pay often do not show up in court — which drives up the cost. According to the Judicial Council of California, about 612,000 Californians have suspended driver’s licenses because they didn’t pay fines. In 2013, more people — 510,811 — had their licenses suspended for not paying fines than the 150,366 who lost their licenses for drunken driving.

“For a lot of people, the car is the only asset they own in this whole damn world,” noted Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “When you take their car, you’re taking the thing that helps them make money.”

Herald is an author of a report about how traffic courts drive inequality that helped prompt Gov. Jerry Brown to institute an 18-month amnesty program to deliver Californians from a “hellhole of desperation.” Under the program, Californians can get their outstanding fines reduced by 50 percent — or 80 percent, if they make less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level. The amnesty program does not apply to parking tickets, reckless driving or drunk driving.

This is one of those issues that unites activists on the left and the right. The Western Center on Law and Poverty sees how the system crushes the working poor. Conservatives also see excessive fines and penalties as backdoor tax increases that lawmakers employ because they don’t need to sell them to voters. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Supreme Court Vacates Massachusetts Ruling That Found Stun Guns Ineligible for 2nd Amendment Protections – In 2015 the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, that state’s highest court, upheld the criminal conviction of a woman named Jaime Caetano for the crime of possessing a stun gun, which she obtained for purposes of self-defense against her violent and abusive ex-boyfriend. According to the Massachusetts high court, Caetano’s conviction must stand because a stun gun “is not the type of weapon that is eligible for Second Amendment protection.” Today the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that judgment and ordered the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to rehear the case.

At issue in Caetano v. Massachusetts is the reach of the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment precedents District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), which together recognize that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense, and that this right applies against legislative enactments by both the federal and state governments.

In its Caetano decision, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts found that Heller and McDonald were not controlling because stun guns are dangerous and unusual “modern” weapons that “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment enactment.” Yet as the U.S. Supreme Court observed today, that judgment “is inconsistent with Heller’s clear statement that the Second Amendment ‘extends…to…arms…that were not in existence at the time of the founding.'” In other words, the Massachusetts high court got Heller wrong and the U.S. Supreme Court just instructed that court to get it right the second time around. Read More > at Reason

Uber reportedly bought at least 100,000 Mercedes Benz S-Classes – Quick recap: ride-sharing behemoth Uber is famous for connecting passengers with people who have their own cars. (Well, among other things.) Uber doesn’t own a fleet of cars for would-be drivers to use, which makes the fact that the company seems to have purchased least 100,000 Mercedes Benz S-Classes from Daimler all the more fascinating. What gives? Germany’s Manager Magazin, which broke the story earlier today, was quick to point out one crucial similarity between the two companies: they’re both investing heavily in making autonomous cars a reality.

After all, Uber more-or-less raided Carnegie Mellon University last year in search of its brightest software engineers. A well-respected school in Pittsburgh might seem an odd target, but CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center had a stunning concentration of technical know-how — just the sort of talent to help make cars that can “see” and steer him or herself. When all was said and done, Uber wound up with roughly 40 researchers that were once part of an oft-trumpeted partnership with the company and the school.

Mercedes, on the other hand, has been working for a few years now to build autonomous driving technology into its street-ready vehicles. The premium S-Class has been able to park, maintain safe distances from other cars in tight, stop-and-go traffic without the aid of a driver. It’s possible we could see Uber’s technical talent build more intelligent systems on top of Mercedes’ foundation, but that requires a level of access that a prestigious carmaker would easily shy away from. Read More > at Engadget

Forget the name of a movie? Just describe it and this scary-accurate site will find it – What was that movie where all the old actors from old action movies get together in a single film and blow up lots of stuff? Which is the one where Brad Pitt plays death? And remember that movie where Tom Hanks’s best friend is a volley ball? Wait, what was that one movie where that girl was terminally ill but she got married anyway? No, the older one with the singer who was popular back then…

In can be beyond aggravating when you have the name of a movie on the tip of your tongue but just can’t seem to get it out. Now, there’s a site that can take the things you do remember about the movie and use them to find the name you’re thinking of.

It’s scary-accurate, and it’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.

A site called simply “What is my movie?” was created to showcase some next-level fuzzy search and deep search technology developed by Finnish startup Valossa, a company that was founded by computer science researchers and engineers from Finland’s University of Oulu. Read More > at BGR

New eligibility rules will benefit colleges, NBA – …Help might be on the way. The NCAA changed its system in January.

Previously, players had to declare themselves eligible quickly after the tournament’s end and about two months before the NBA draft. They could only declare and withdraw once; a second declaration forfeited their eligibility.

Now, players can attend the NBA combine and work out once with each NBA team. They can discuss their shortcomings with teams to get a feel for when they might be drafted, if at all. They can withdraw from the draft up to 10 days after the combine, which is in mid-May. If they withdraw, they can declare again and again.

…The rule is aimed at one-and-done players but it affects all underclassmen. Sixers forward Jerami Grant said earlier this season he does not regret leaving Syracuse after his sophomore year in 2014, when he fell to 39th, but, despite his breathtaking athleticism Grant often looks like a newborn foal in a stampede of stallions. Read More > at Philly.com

Antioch’s Somersville Towne Center acquired by New York investor – There’s a new owner of Somersville Towne Center — and the New York-based investor is looking to spruce things up immediately.

Time Equities Inc. purchased the 48-year-old shopping mall from Macerich Co. for $12.3 million, officials said this week.

The firm plans to spend at least $1 million on upgrades to the interior and exterior to give the center a fresher look, said Ami Ziff, the company’s director of national retail. The company is finalizing a plan for the improvements, he said.

…Towne Center includes anchor tenants Macy’s, Sears and Fallas, all of which own their respective buildings. Pleasanton-based ACRE Investment Co. owns the 90,000-square-foot building where Gottschalks was located before the retailer went bankrupt in 2009.

John Sechser, a retail broker with Transwestern, said the move “is exciting but not surprising” and it can be a good fit for a company with creativity and vision.

Some of the mall’s more than 50 tenants include Starbucks Coffee, Champs Sports, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, 24 Hour Fitness and Foot Locker. Spinoso Real Estate Group will locally manage and lease the mall.

Somersville Towne Center has faced some challenges over the years as residents have moved farther east and commuters don’t want to double back to shop after hours of driving, Sechser said. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times

Automated emergency braking to be standard on nearly all US new cars by 2022 – Not every breakthrough in the US auto industry is the result of a federal mandate. That’s the case right now, as 20 automakers have agreed to voluntarily add autonomous emergency braking (AEB) to their vehicles by September 1, 2022. That will cover roughly 99 percent of the cars sold in the US.

The companies in this agreement are: Audi, BMW, FCA, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo. This agreement covers all light-duty cars and trucks. By 2025, it will also include heavy-duty trucks with a gross vehicle weight of between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that this voluntary move will make AEB standard three full years before a regulatory mandate would be able to do it. Over that time, AEB technology could prevent 28,000 crashes and 12,000 injuries, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Read More > at Road/Show

E-cigarettes have a problem: They keep blowing up – Last year, self-balancing hoverboards went from must-have Christmas gift to borderline contraband in a matter of months. After faulty lithium-ion batteries caused dozens of fires, US regulators and e-commerce vendors banned their sale, cratering the industry.

Another fast-growing consumer electronic good appears to be following a similar path. More than 10% of adult Americans now use e-cigarettes, which are billed as a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco or marijuana because they heat, rather than burn, a liquid or plant, creating vapor not smoke. But as “vaping” has grown, there appear to be a growing number of instances of the devices exploding, and sometimes causing gruesome injuries.

Just since February, incidents of an exploding e-cigarette injuring a vaping enthusiast have been reported in Nevada, Maryland, Kentucky, Florida, and North Carolina. E-cigarettes are held close to one’s face or often tucked in a pocket, so these accidents can be incredibly dangerous, and disfiguring. One man lost an eye after his e-cigarette spontaneously combusted.

There are no reliable, up-to-date, industry-wide statistics on accidents caused by e-cigarette explosions. The US Fire Administration reported in 2014 (pdf) that 25 fires were caused by exploding e-cigarette devices between 2009 and 2014, and has not provided any update since then. But anecdotal evidence suggests that safety mishaps have grown with the market’s expansion. Read More > at Quartz

Why I Don’t Buy Organic, And Why You Might Not Want To Either – …The USDA, which oversees the foods labeled as “Certified Organic”, states quite clearly on its website about its role in organic, that “Our regulations do not address food safety or nutrition.” Foods labelled “Certified Organic” must adhere to certain rules and regulations but aren’t endowed with any particular nutritional or safety features. However, many consumers believe that the Organic label means the food has superior nutrition and is safer, especially in regard to pesticide residues. This is not true. Studies have shown no appreciable difference in nutrition between crops grown either organically or conventionally.

As for the safety issue. When most people hear the word “pesticide,” they imagine something scary in terms of toxicity to humans and the environment. The reality is that modern agriculture employs an integrated suite of non-pesticidal control measures, and the actual pesticides used today are mostly relatively non-toxic to humans. Organic farmers also use pesticides, and the products they are allowed to use are constrained with few exceptions by whether they can be considered “natural.” That is not a safety standard since many of the most toxic chemicals known are “natural.” Like all pesticides, these natural options are subject to EPA scrutiny, and so the pesticides that organic farmers are allowed to use are “safe when used according to the label requirements” which is the same standard for synthetic pesticides allowed on conventional crops. When it comes to pesticide residues on our food, there is a USDA testing program that demonstrates year after year that the pesticide residues on both organic and conventional foods are at such low levels that we need not worry about them. I confidently buy non-organic foods based on this public data that demonstrates that our system is working and that we consumers are well-protected. Read More > at Forbes

The Diablo We Know – The Case for Keeping California’s Last Nuclear Plant – Diablo Canyon is California’s last nuclear power plant. It has been the state’s most famous and most controversial plant ever since it divided Sierra Club members in the late 1960s. Perched amidst spectacular natural beauty on the California coast, Diablo faces threats on many fronts. State regulators are demanding that it build expensive cooling towers to ease its impact on marine life. Harsh claims are being made about its vulnerability to earthquakes. And there are lawsuits filed by environmental groups aimed at shutting it down.

The 30-year-old Diablo Canyon reactors, despite the “aging nuclear plant” tag from opponents, are in their prime: the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is preparing to vet reactors for license renewals in 20-year increments, which may allow Diablo to run for another 50 years and spare the climate 350 million more tons of carbon dioxide.1

Shuttering Diablo Canyon would have the same impact on carbon emissions as tearing down every wind turbine and rooftop PV panel in California.4 If Diablo Canyon is closed it will be replaced mainly by fossil fuels because replacing the nuclear power plant with an equivalent capacity of wind and solar would cost upwards of $15 billion compared to about $2.5 billion for a comparable natural gas plant. Read More > at The Breakthrough

#GrowthStall: Twitter’s Moment of Solemn Reflection – Monday, March 21, is the 10th anniversary of the first tweet, sent by Dorsey. (For the record: “just setting up my twttr.”) Since emerging from the San Francisco startup scene, Twitter has grown into the place where much of the world’s chattering class gathers. On Twitter, anyone can say anything to anybody—as long as they keep it under 140 characters. That constraint, once mocked, has given rise to a laconic, new form of mass communication.

Dorsey believes the next decade will be even more grand for Twitter. Last year the company acquired Periscope, along with another startup called Niche, for a total of $86 million. Dorsey is particularly high on Periscope’s potential to facilitate social conversations around live video streams of everyday events, big and small. He sees the app as yet another way that Twitter will serve, in the years ahead, as the biggest, most enlivening watering hole ever devised.

But even as Twitter’s annual revenue soared last year from $1.4 billion to $2.2 billion, the company lost $507 million. Its user base has stalled at roughly 320 million monthly active users. That’s a big audience, but nowhere near as big as the following of some important competitors—Facebook, for example, has 1.6 billion users. In the weeks after Twitter’s initial public offering in 2013, shares reached $73.71. Now the stock is at $17.03. “Their ad model and their advertising is not the problem. It’s the growth of new users,” says Carrie Seifer, president of digital, data, and technology at Mediavest USA, an ad buying agency. “Fresh customers are extremely important.” Read More > at Bloomberg

‘They can’t even’: Why millennials are the ‘anxious generation’ – Seventy years ago, there was “the greatest generation.” Later, Generation X became known as the slacker generation. Today, millennials are turning out to be the anxious generation.

Numerous recent studies have shown that millennials suffer from anxiety at a much higher rate than generations that preceded them. What’s wrong with kids these days?

A lot, actually. They’re the first generation raised with Internet. The first generation to experience “helicopter” parenting. They’re at once constantly exposed on social media but also permanently sheltered by overbearing parents. They’re not the first generation to experience a rough economy, but they certainly act as if they were.

Much has been written about how millennials are tender and delicate. They’re sometimes absurd, like when they don’t eat cereal because there is, apparently, too much clean-up involved — what with the bowl and the spoon. They draw headlines like “Do Millennials Stand a Chance in the Real World?”

But the spike in anxiety is a real issue, one that shouldn’t be lumped with their “omg! lol! I can’t even” social ineptitude. Read More > in the New York Post

Nina In New York: Standing At Work Probably Won’t Help You, But Sitting Will Definitely Still Kill You – According to new research out of Finland which scrutinized the twenty “best” studies completed on the effects of standing desks and their ilk, there is really no reliable evidence that swapping out your rolly chair will actually reverse the effects of sitting. At this point, it’s merely a fad, they say, and one based on flawed studies that are too small and confined, or studies which come to conflicting conclusions and cancel each other out. There’s no existing study which definitively proves that standing is any better for one’s health than sitting.

Of course, that doesn’t mean standing or walking while working for part of the day isn’t necessarily good for you. If you enjoy it, well, stand away. Just know that you’re probably not going to live any longer as a result. Read More > at CBS New York

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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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