Sunday Reading – 04/10/16


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.

What To Do When You Catch A Liar – It’s a hard fact to accept, but your friends and co-workers lie to you regularly. The real challenge lies in how you respond once you catch someone in the act.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Even though most people lie a lot—roughly two to three times during a ten-minute conversation, studies show—you don’t catch them nearly as often as you might think. Researchers from the University of California analyzed the results of 253 studies and found that we only spot about half the lies we’re told (53% to be exact). In other words, we’re about as likely to identify a lie as we are to win a coin toss.

The scary thing is that people who are trained in detecting deception—judges, customs agents, law enforcement officers, and even CIA agents—don’t fare much better. They can only spot a lie about 60% of the time.

When you do catch someone lying to you, it’s usually a real whopper. These are the kinds of lies that are so insulting to be the recipient that it’s hard to think straight. In these moments, you want to keep the conversation constructive, without letting the liar off the hook, which is a difficult thing to pull off.

…Option #1: Do nothing. Nobody likes being lied to, and the natural reaction is to call the liar out, but that’s not always the smartest thing to do, especially at work. Before you do anything, ask yourself, “What’s at stake besides my ego?” Carefully weigh the pros and cons before you take action. Consider who, if anyone, should know about the lie and the implications it has for the company. Sometimes, the animosity you avoid by staying silent is worth more than the satisfaction you receive from speaking out. Other times, the lie is serious enough that people have to know. Read More > at Forbes

The sugar conspiracy – In 1980, after long consultation with some of America’s most senior nutrition scientists, the US government issued its first Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines shaped the diets of hundreds of millions of people. Doctors base their advice on them, food companies develop products to comply with them. Their influence extends beyond the US. In 1983, the UK government issued advice that closely followed the American example.

The most prominent recommendation of both governments was to cut back on saturated fats and cholesterol (this was the first time that the public had been advised to eat less of something, rather than enough of everything). Consumers dutifully obeyed. We replaced steak and sausages with pasta and rice, butter with margarine and vegetable oils, eggs with muesli, and milk with low-fat milk or orange juice. But instead of becoming healthier, we grew fatter and sicker.

Look at a graph of postwar obesity rates and it becomes clear that something changed after 1980. In the US, the line rises very gradually until, in the early 1980s, it takes off like an aeroplane. Just 12% of Americans were obese in 1950, 15% in 1980, 35% by 2000. In the UK, the line is flat for decades until the mid-1980s, at which point it also turns towards the sky. Only 6% of Britons were obese in 1980. In the next 20 years that figure more than trebled. Today, two thirds of Britons are either obese or overweight, making this the fattest country in the EU. Type 2 diabetes, closely related to obesity, has risen in tandem in both countries.

At best, we can conclude that the official guidelines did not achieve their objective; at worst, they led to a decades-long health catastrophe. Naturally, then, a search for culprits has ensued. Read More > in The Guardian

A fleet of trucks just drove themselves across Europe – About a dozen trucks from major manufacturers like Volvo and Daimler just completed a week of largely autonomous driving across Europe, the first such major exercise on the continent.

The trucks set off from their bases in three European countries and completed their journeys in Rotterdam in the Netherlands today (Apr. 6). One set of trucks, made by the Volkswagen subsidiary Scania, traveled more than 2,000 km and crossed four borders to get there.

The trucks were taking part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge, organized by the Dutch government as one of the big events for its 2016 presidency of the European Union. While self-driving cars from Google or Ford get most of the credit for capturing the public imagination, commercial uses for autonomous or nearly autonomous vehicles, like tractors from John Deere, have been quietly putting the concept to work in a business setting.

When trucks autonomously follow one another, it’s called “platooning.” They’re connected by wifi and can leave a much smaller gap between vehicles than when humans are at the wheel. Platooning can reduce fuel use by up to 15%, prevent human error from causing accidents, and reduce congestion, according to a study by research firm TNO. It also can reduce expenses. Two trucks clocking 100,000 miles annually can save €6,000 on fuel by platooning, compared to driving on cruise control, according to TNO. Read More > at Quartz

Google expanding self-driving vehicle testing to Phoenix, Arizona – Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) is expanding its testing of self-driving cars to the Phoenix, Arizona metro area, the company said on Thursday, making it the fourth U.S. city to serve as a proving ground for the autonomous vehicles.

The company’s Google unit has conducted driverless vehicle testing for six years in Mountain View, California, where it is based, and expanded testing to Austin, Texas last summer. In February, Kirkland, Washington, which is home to significant wet weather, was added as a testing site.

Major automakers, and technology companies led by Google, are racing to develop and sell vehicles that can drive themselves, but they have complained that safety rules are impeding testing and ultimate deployment of such vehicles. Read More > at Reuters

California senator with ties to taxi industry takes on surge pricing by Uber and Lyft – State Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) wants California to take an active role in setting customer prices for Uber, Lyft and other rideshare companies. His bill sailed through the Senate committee he leads Tuesday, ratcheting up a fight between the popular tech companies and those who believe the industry needs more regulation.

SB 1035 is one of the Capitol’s biggest broadsides against Uber and Lyft this year, taking aim at the core of the companies’ business model — the ability to lower prices when demand is low and hike them at times of high demand.

Hueso said he was concerned for consumers and workers. It isn’t fair, he said, for a couple to pay $10 for a ride to a restaurant, then face a $60 bill on the way back. The state also should protect drivers from receiving rates that are too low.

…But before Hueso’s bill, no one had formally been pushing the agency to take such a step. Tech advocates testified at Tuesday’s hearing that the bill would, in fact, lead to state regulation over prices.

…Its advancement sets up a fight between power players over the big policy question of how much the state should regulate ridesharing companies. Hueso has long and deep ties to the taxi industry and has taken numerous steps to add regulations to rideshares while blocking efforts to ease them. Meanwhile, Uber alone has spent millions in lobbying over the last few years. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

California’s Growing Imported Electricity Problem – California’s SB 350 requires the state to procure 50% of electricity from renewable energy and double energy efficiency savings by 2030. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” wants states to “to act more like California.”

Yet, beyond power rates 45% above the U.S. average, California has another problem that makes it less of a model than some proclaim. California now imports 33% of its electricity supply from fast growing neighbors, with about 65% of that coming from the Southwest and 35% coming from the Northwest. These numbers increase most in summer months when air conditioning loads peak. Imports have been rising rapidly: in 2010, California “only” imported 25% of its power.

Per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California imports because “its wholesale power markets in the region are relatively open and generation from outside the state is often less expensive.” In fact, California imports about 6% of its electricity from out-of-state coal-fired power plants, with another 14% coming from ”unspecified imports,” of a cloudy origin that is generally attributed to hydropower, gas, nuclear, and other renewables.

Besides having the most expensive electricity west of the Mississippi River in the continental U.S., California already has the least reliable electricity. California easily leads the nation with nearly 470 power outages a year, compared to 160 for second place Texas, which is really amazing because Texas produces 125% MORE electricity! (here). California’s reliability problems will be multiplied as more wind and solar enter the power mix, intermittent resources located in remote areas that cannot be so easily transported to cities via the grid. Read More > at Forbes

Job growth to slow in California, but no recession on horizon: forecast – Growth in California is slowing, but the tech boom and the sturdy job market in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area should help the state ward off a recession until at least 2018, economic forecasters predicted on Wednesday.

For now, however, a slowdown in the United States economy has begun to affect the economy in California, causing activity to slow in the Golden State, according to the closely watched UCLA Anderson Forecast.

“At least through the end of 2018, we are not forecasting a recession” in California or the U.S., said Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist with the Anderson Forecast.

Still, the forecast projected that the pace of job growth in California will slow significantly this year. Even worse, by next year, the rate of employment expansion will slow to only half the pace of last year. Read More > in The Mercury News

Walk, Jog or Dance: It’s All Good for the Aging Brain – More people are living longer these days, but the good news comes shadowed by the possible increase in cases of age-related mental decline. By some estimates, the global incidence of dementia will more than triple in the next 35 years. That grim prospect is what makes a study published in March in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease so encouraging: It turns out that regular walking, cycling, swimming, dancing and even gardening may substantially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Exercise has long been linked to better mental capacity in older people. Little research, however, has tracked individuals over years, while also including actual brain scans. So for the new study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and other institutions analyzed data produced by the Cardiovascular Health Study, begun in 1989, which has evaluated almost 6,000 older men and women. The subjects complete medical and cognitive tests, fill out questionnaires about their lives and physical activities and receive M.R.I. scans of their brains. Looking at 10 years of data from nearly 900 participants who were at least 65 upon entering the study, the researchers first determined who was cognitively impaired, based on their cognitive assessments. Next they estimated the number of calories burned through weekly exercise, based on the participants’ questionnaires. Read More > in The New York Times

Making Salt Water Drinkable Just Got 99 Percent Easier – Access to steady supplies of clean water is getting more and more difficult in the developing world, especially as demand skyrockets. In response, many countries have turned to the sea for potable fluids but existing reverse osmosis plants rely on complicated processes that are expensive and energy-intensive to operate. Good thing, engineers at Lockheed Martin have just announced a newly-developed salt filter that could reduce desalinization energy costs by 99 percent.

The Reverse Osmosis process works on a simple principle: molecules within a liquid will flow across a semipermeable membrane from areas of higher concentration to lower until both sides reach an equilibrium. But that same membrane can act as a filter for large molecules and ions if outside pressure is applied to one side of the system. For desalinization, the process typically employs a sheet of thin-film composite (TFC) membrane which is made from an active thin-film layer of polyimide stacked on a porous layer of polysulfone. The problem with these membranes is that their thickness requires the presence of large amounts of pressure (and energy) to press water through them.

Lockheed Martin’s Perforene, on the other hand, is made from single atom-thick sheets of graphene. Because the sheets are so thin, water flows through them far more easily than through a conventional TFC. Filters made through the Perforene process would incorporate filtering holes just 100 nm in diameter—large enough to let water molecules through but small enough to capture dissolved salts. It looks a bit like chicken wire when viewed under a microscope, John Stetson, the Lockheed engineer credited with its invention, told Reuters. But ounce for ounce, its 1000 times stronger than steel. Read More > at Gizmodo

Merle Haggard, RIP – Fifty-nine years ago, two men and a woman sat around a table in Bakersfield, drinking red wine and cursing the state of the union. “Ain’t no jobs to be had,” one man said.

“I know it, I know it,” said the other. “An honest man might’s well quit trying.” And then he added: “I know where there’s a bunch of money. It wouldn’t be no trouble to get it.”

The trio, now thoroughly drunk, decided to break into a restaurant on Highway 99. No one would catch them, they reasoned, because it was 3 in the morning. And so they headed out to the roadhouse with a baby in tow, and they started trying to pry their way in through the back door.

Unfortunately for the crooks, they had been too drunk to read the clock correctly: It was actually 10 p.m., and the joint was still open. And that was how Merle Haggard, who had already spent more than a little time behind bars for a variety of petty offenses, got a ticket to San Quentin.

It was in that prison, inspired by one of Johnny Cash’s concerts-behind-bars, that Haggard the inept burglar decided to turn his life around. We’re all fortunate that he did. In the time since he left San Quentin in 1960, Haggard—who died today on his 79th birthday—built one of the richest bodies of work in the history of American popular music. Read More > at Reason

Can’t accept autonomous liability? Get out of the game, says Volvo – Volvo has an easy answer for all the hand-wringing about whose responsible when self-driving cars crash.Volvo chief executive officer and president Håkan Samuelsson says one of the most vexing challenges facing the auto industry can be solved with a simple statement: Manufacturers should be held responsible if their autonomous technology causes car accidents. Two days after the Swedish automaker pledged to be “fully liable” for accidents caused by its self-driving technology, Samuelsson pushed the entire industry to follow Volvo’s lead.

“We are the suppliers of this technology and we are liable for everything the car is doing in autonomous mode,” he said Thursday during an appearance in Washington DC. “If you are not ready to make such a statement, you shouldn’t try to develop an autonomous system.”

Google and Mercedes-Benz have made similar pledges, but it’s not yet clear whether other automakers will follow. A spokesperson for the Auto Alliance, an industry trade group representing major OEMs says the organization has no position on whether the industry should be held liable. Read More > at Engadget

California Women’s Well-Being Index – When women thrive, their families and communities prosper. Yet despite decades of progress, women still face persistent disparities on a range of issues, from economic security to health to participation in political leadership. By viewing women’s well-being as encompassing various distinct yet interrelated components, policymakers, advocates, service providers, and community members can begin to craft policy solutions that help make California a place where all women and their families can thrive.

The California Women’s Well-Being Index is a multifaceted, composite measure that consists of five “dimensions”: Health, Personal Safety, Employment & Earnings, Economic Security, and Political Empowerment. Each dimension is composed of six indicators that have been standardized and combined to create dimension scores, on a scale from zero to 100, for each of California’s 58 counties. The five dimension scores have been combined to create an overall Women’s Well-Being Index score for each county.

Marin, 77.3
San Mateo, 71.7
Placer, 70.6
El Dorado, 65.2
Sonoma, 65.1
Alpine, 64.3
Napa, 64.3
San Francisco, 64.2
Contra Costa, 63

Read More > at California Budget & Policy Center

Twitter Gets NFL Thursday Night Games for a Bargain Price – Twitter Inc. just did its first broadcast deal, and it’s a big one. The company will stream 10 Thursday night National Football League games during the 2016 season, a package that cost the service around $10 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.

This is a triumph for Twitter, which is struggling to attract new users and expand its content beyond the posts of journalists, politicians and celebrities. Success with NFL games will also pave the way for more video deals that could include other professional sports, political content, and eventually entertainment, Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said in an interview.

“This is one element of a much broader strategy to provide the next generation of real-time content,” said Noto, who was the NFL’s Chief Financial Officer until 2010. He joined Twitter in 2014, and last year the social media company signed an agreement to distribute NFL highlights and other clips.

For the NFL, this is a chance to experiment. The league is aware that a growing number of households are comfortable streaming video over the Internet, and this is an opportunity to appeal to so-called cord-cutters, as former cable-TV subscribers are known. The NFL has streamed selected games, but this is its first season-long streaming deal. Read More > at Bloomberg

California lawmakers propose new oral swab field test for drivers high on pot – With medical marijuana in widespread use and a ballot measure planned to legalize recreational pot in California, state officials Tuesday proposed using new technology to catch the increasing number of motorists who are driving while high.

Legislation would allow law enforcement officers to use oral swab tests to strengthen cases when there is probable cause that a driver is impaired and the driver has failed sobriety field tests.

A hand-held electronic device would test for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and pain medications, including opiates, on the swab, according to Republican Sen. Bob Huff of San Dimas, who authored the bill. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

March Sees Record Gun Sales – Gun sales broke records yet again in the month of March.

The FBI performed 2,523,265 firearms-related background checks between March 1 and March 31, according to the agency’s records. That’s a new record for the month. It’s nearly 35,000 more checks than the previous record set in March 2014.

Despite the new record, March saw the fewest checks of any month so far in 2016.

The March record is the eleventh straight monthly record for background checks. The unprecedented streak, which began in May 2015, has included all-time records for both monthly and yearly sales. With 7,682,141 checks processed through the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System, 2016 is currently on pace to set another all time yearly sales record. Read More > in The Washington Free Beacon

Here’s How Much a Baseball Game Will Cost You This Year – So you want someone to take you out to the ballgame. With the start of this year’s Major League Baseball season underway, here’s how much it would cost for a day out at the ballpark.

The average cost would be $77.92 for two people, according to a study of MLB stadium prices by interest rates aggregator GOBankingRates. That estimated total is made up primarily of the anticipated cost of MLB tickets this year, which the company expects will come in at $41.41 for a pair of tickets, averaged across all 30 major league ballparks.

Spending doesn’t stop there. The estimated total also includes purchases that most fans make at a typical baseball game: food, beverages and parking. Using last year’s stadium prices, you can expect to pay around $8.73 for two hot dogs, $11.89 for two beers and $15.89 for a few hours’ worth of parking at a game.

How much you’re likely to fork out at an MLB game, however, does differ from ballpark to ballpark. The gap between the cheapest and most expensive stadium is around $110, and that’s not including the cost of other possible items like souvenirs and merchandise.

Oakland Athletics  – $63.71

San Francisco Giants  – $90.81

Read More > at Fortune

California water-saving rules to ease, but nobody’s off the hook – Poised to ease California’s mandatory drought rules after rebounding rain and snow levels this winter, state water officials on Monday made it clear that — even where reservoirs are 100 percent full — no community is likely to get an entirely free pass from conservation targets this summer.

…The board’s original rules gave water providers targets, ranging from 8 percent to 36 percent, depending on how much water they were using per capita. Places like Santa Cruz and Hayward, which has among the lowest per-capita use in California, were given 8 percent targets, while communities like Bakersfield and Beverly Hills, with high per-capita use, were given 36 percent.

Those numbers were eased slightly last month, when the board allowed water providers to reduce targets by up to 8 percent if they had unusually hot weather, high rates of population growth or robust supplies of water from desalination and recycling.

Following a public hearing April 20, the water board will impose softer rules in May, Marcus said.

“Our emergency authority is something we should use judiciously,” she said. “We certainly are open to adjusting those tiers for people.”

But even areas that have received deluges of water this winter won’t get their targets reduced to zero, she said, hinting that 4 percent might be the lowest level of conservation required. An example is the Marin Municipal Water District, where all seven reservoirs are 100 percent full. Read More > in The Mercury News

Stem cell therapy halves deaths from heart failure – Stem cells can repair a damaged heart and potentially halve the number of people dying from heart failure, scientists have shown, in a major breakthrough for regenerative medicine.

For more than a decade scientists have been convinced that stem cells were the future of organ repair because they can become any cell in the body, reversing damage which was thought to be permanent. Finding new ways to treat organ failure is critical because there is a growing shortage of donor organs in the UK.

Now, in the largest trial ever conducted, doctors in the US have proven that even the most serious cases of heart failure can be repaired using stem cells harvested from a patient’s own bone marrow.

End-stage patients, whose only hope was a heart transplant, were treated with stem cells in a single operation. Doctors found the group were 37 per cent less likely to have been admitted to hospital in the 12 months following the operation and half as likely to have died than those on placebo.

The procedure takes just two hours and most patients were discharged a day after surgery. Read More > in The Telegraph

Exclusive: U.N. audit identifies serious lapses linked to alleged bribery – The United Nations’ internal investigations office has uncovered serious lapses and due-diligence failures in the world body’s interaction with organizations tied to an alleged bribery scheme involving a former U.N. General Assembly president.

The 21-page confidential report by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services’ (OIOS), reviewed by Reuters, outlines the results of an audit ordered by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in response to charges against John Ashe, General Assembly president in 2013-2014, and six other people.

U.S. prosecutors say Ashe received $1.3 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen including Ng Lap Seng, a billionaire real estate developer who heads Macau-based Sun Kian Ip Group and was seeking to build a U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau.

Francis Lorenzo, a suspended deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic who prosecutors said helped facilitate Ng’s bribes and received bribes himself, pleaded guilty in March and agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities.Sheri Yan, chief executive of Global Sustainability Foundation, a New York-based NGO, and Heidi Hong Piao, its finance director, accused of facilitating bribes to Ashe, pleaded guilty in January. Julia Vivi Wang has not yet entered a plea, and Ng’s assistant Jeff Yin pleaded not guilty. Read More > in Reuters

30% of bank jobs are under threat – Digital disruption is turning finance on its head — and destroying tons of traditional banking jobs along the way.

A wave of innovation has made it possible for people to get their banking done without walking into a branch if they don’t want to. People can now deposit checks using a smartphone or digitally fire off cash to friends using Venmo.

The end result is a pretty sweet experience for consumers…but an imminent threat to people who work at bank branches.

The downsizing of the bank workforce is about to accelerate as more technology takes over jobs humans used to do, according to a new Citigroup report. Another 30% of bank jobs could be lost between 2015 and 2025, mainly due to retail banking automation, Citi warned. Read More > at CNN Money

Synthetic Drugs: An Emerging, Evolving Threat – While states are focused on the opioid epidemic, they may not be paying enough attention to the lab-created drugs that are hard to control.

In early 2010, teenagers began overdosing on “bath salts.” The substance looked innocent — white powder or crystals that were sold freely in gas stations, convenience stores and tobacco shops. But bath salts had nothing to do with bathing. They were snorted, producing a euphoric high that’s been described as “excited delirium.” They could also bring on intense hallucinations, paranoia, heart attack, kidney failure and death. Unlike heroin or cocaine, which come directly from the poppy flower and coca plants, respectively, bath salts came from cathinones that were synthesized in labs.

…Faced with the dangers of synthetic drugs, states and localities promulgated emergency orders that outlawed specific compounds used to make the drugs. Legislatures passed laws that added problem compounds to state schedules of restricted drugs. They also enacted so-called “analogue laws” to restrict the sale of look-alike drugs. Law enforcement, often working with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), targeted retail sales.

These approaches seemed to work. Synthetic cannabinoids disappeared from the counters of retail stores. Visits to the ER for overdoses declined, as did calls to poison control.

In 2015, calls to the nation’s 55 poison control centers regarding synthetic drug overdoses doubled, rising from 3,700 in 2014 to roughly 7,800 in 2015. Many of the largest increases were in the East and Southeast.

…Controlling these substances is by no means straightforward. For policymakers, synthetic drugs pose confounding choices. The early attempts — outlawing the compounds used in making the drugs and banning look-alikes — gave prosecutors and law enforcement the tools they needed to remove synthetic cannabinoids from gas station and convenience store shelves. Since then, however, matters have gotten more complex. Overseas chemists continue to create new synthetic cannabinoids designed to evade state and federal restrictions. Identifying these substances is time-consuming for drug labs. Meanwhile, more compounds are constantly appearing. “We are entering new frontiers every day with this stuff,” says DEA spokesperson Rusty Payne. “With the advances in chemistry and science, things that used to take years to develop and synthesize now take months, maybe even weeks.” Read More > at Governing

Can Self-Driving Cars Kill Traffic Lights? – But just as many predict that autonomous cars could eliminate now-common aspects of driving, from parking spaces to gas and brake pedals, the technology could also make traffic lights obsolete. That’s the vision of MIT’s Senseable City Lab and its collaboration with the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETHZ), and the Italian National Research Council (CNR).

The researchers are studying the use of what they call “slot-based” intersections, which would allow self-driving cars to adjust their speed and thread through a junction without stopping or even slowing down.

“When sensor-laden vehicles approach an intersection, they can communicate their presence and remain at a safe distance from each other, rather than grinding to a halt at traffic lights,” Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab, told the Boston Globe. Read More > in PC Magazine

What are the Panama Papers? A guide to the biggest data leak in history – The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC.

The documents show the myriad ways in which the rich can exploit secretive offshore tax regimes. Twelve national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.

A $2bn trail leads all the way to Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s best friend – a cellist called Sergei Roldugin – is at the centre of a scheme in which money from Russian state banks is hidden offshore. Some of it ends up in a ski resort where in 2013 Putin’s daughter Katerina got married.

Among national leaders with offshore wealth are Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister; Ayad Allawi, ex-interim prime minister and former vice-president of Iraq; Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Alaa Mubarak, son of Egypt’s former president; and the prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. Read More > in The Guardian

Vegas move could indeed happen for Raiders – The NFL hasn’t slammed the door on a potential Raiders move to Las Vegas, and for good reason. Eventually, at least 24 owners could indeed vote to approve the relocation from Oakland to Nevada.

That’s why the league previously sent out talking points that don’t rule out the Raiders in Vegas, and it’s why the Commissioner didn’t dismiss the possibility during a press conference following the annual meetings.

As one source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT during the league meetings last month, several teams definitely would be against the move, with the opposition primarily coming from old-guard teams like the Giants and Steelers. Still, the thinking is that there are enough new-school owners to not be troubled by the fact that gambling is legal in Las Vegas.

Indeed, the NFL already stages multiple games per year in London, where betting is open and accepted and easily accessible. Read More > at Pro Football Talk

Bay Area job market evolves: ‘Soft’ tech jobs in, manufacturing out – Move over factory workers. Make room for coders.

The Bay Area job market has climbed to record heights in recent months, much as it did during the dot-com era. But the shift in demand for tech and computing skills has created a very different economic landscape for workers.

“When you talk about technology, there has been a major movement from the hard stuff — computers, semiconductors, peripherals — to the soft stuff,” said Christopher Thornberg, principal economist and founding partner with Beacon Economics. “It used to be a lot about developing new hardware. Now, the hardware has faded in importance compared with the software. It’s all about the applications these days.”

Fewer Bay Area people are working in factories and other production facilities, in stores, on building projects, in banks and mortgage offices.

Instead, many more are working in the “softer” side of high-technology — jobs that include the Internet, software, mobile communications, social media and research and development. Health care, hotels and restaurants catering to higher-paid tech workers have also greatly added to their ranks of employees during the 15 years since the peak of the dot-com bubble, according to this newspaper’s analysis of official statistics from the state’s Employment Development Department. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News

America’s million-doctor shortage is right around the corner – The doctor is disappearing in America.

And by most projections, it’s only going to get worse — the U.S. could lose as many as 1 million doctors by 2025, according to a Association of American Medical Colleges report.

Primary-care physicians will account for as much as one-third of that shortage, meaning the doctor you likely interact with most often is also becoming much more difficult to see.

…“The real problem is we don’t have enough doctors in the right places and in the right specialties,” Olds said, noting that doctors tend to cluster in big cities, and are far more scarce in rural areas and in other small communities as well as certain parts of some big cities.

…Experts say it’s not just that primary-care doctors are paid less; they also typically work longer hours and have to be well-versed in a wide array of medical issues, to refer patients to the appropriate specialists. Read More > at Market Watch

U.S. military suicides remain high for 7th year – The Pentagon reported Friday that 265 active-duty servicemembers killed themselves last year, continuing a trend of unusually high suicide rates that have plagued the U.S. military for at least seven years.

The number of suicides among troops was 145 in 2001 and began a steady increase until more than doubling to 321 in 2012, the worst year in recent history for servicemembers killing themselves.

The suicide rate for the Army that year was nearly 30 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, well above the national rate of 12.5 per 100,000 for 2012.

Military suicides dropped 20% the year after that, and then held roughly steady at numbers significantly higher than during the early 2000s. The 265 suicides last year compares with 273 in 2014 and 254 in 2013. By contrast, from 2001 through 2007, suicides never exceeded 197. Read More > at USA Today

States Where the Middle Class Is Dying – Despite the country’s unemployment rate falling below 5% in January for the first time since 2008, and the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006, concerns about wage growth — particularly among middle earners — remain. Since 2010, as the country began to recover from the Great Recession, income of the top 20% of households grew 3.7% from 2010 through 2014. During that time, incomes of the middle 20% of households declined 0.7%.

Based on income earned before taxes by the third quintile — the middle 20% of earners in each state — middle class incomes in Rhode Island declined the most in the country. Incomes among middle class Rhode Island households fell by 3.1% from 2010 to 2014, while income among the state’s fifth quintile, the top 20% of state households, grew by 4.5%. Based on an analysis of household incomes among America’s middle class, these are the states where the middle class is suffering the most.

Consumption is by far the largest component of GDP. Because middle income families typically spend large shares of their income on goods and services, America’s middle class is expected to drive up consumption — and by extension, GDP. While high income households are able to spend enormous sums of money, there is often only so much an individual can spend, even on luxury goods.

Click here to see the states where the middle class is dying.

Read More > at 24/7 Wall St.

Most of Europe Is a Lot Poorer than Most of the United States – But I’m digressing. Let’s get back to whether people in places such as Denmark (or anywhere else in Europe) enjoy more prosperity than their American counterparts.

Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute has put together some apples-to-apples data suggesting the answer is no. At least if the goal is more economic output and higher living standards.

Most European countries (including Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium) if they joined the US, would rank among the poorest one-third of US states on a per-capita GDP basis, and the UK, France, Japan and New Zealand would all rank among America’s very poorest states, below No. 47 West Virginia, and not too far above No. 50 Mississippi. Countries like Italy, S. Korea, Spain, Portugal and Greece would each rank below Mississippi as the poorest states in the country.

And here’s the table Mark prepared.

7791 Read More > at the Foundation for Economic Education

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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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