Sunday Reading – 04/17/16


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.

2016 NFL schedule release: Rams, Beyoncé add wrinkles – The good news for those charged with the ever-complex task of assembling the NFL schedule this year was there was no mammoth open-air Mass by the Pope to work around. Beyoncé wanting to add tour dates? That was an issue.

The schedule that was released Thursday — one week earlier than usual, in part because the league wanted to give teams a chance to add those extra Queen Bey dates in their stadiums — was No. 43,066 spit out by the league’s computers. It hung on the wall as the leader in the clubhouse for eight days, the favorite because, among other things, there were no dud weeks for television, just two teams (Washington and Green Bay) were stuck with three-game road stretches and only one (the Giants) has to play a road game the week after a Monday night game on the road.

…Every year, the league receives dozens of scheduling requests from teams. Few want to play in Florida in September, and an equally small number want Lambeau Field in December. There were no outside-the-box requests this year, besides those reflecting the craving for additional Beyoncé dates. Teams submit to the league lists of dates that are blocked in their stadium by other events, and mega-concert tours from the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift are the norm. This year, the schedulers had to tell teams they could not accommodate up-front all the requested blocked dates, and that they would have to wait for the schedule to come out to know if they could slot Beyoncé in for added shows.

…None of this is getting any easier with the ballooning number of quirks in the NFL schedule. The Monday night game in Mexico between Oakland and Houston necessitated that the two teams be at home the following week because of the schedulers’ desire to be conservative with the effect of altitude on the teams, and to allow for potential complications in getting through customs with equipment.

And yes, there have already been internal discussions about how the schedule will have to be constructed to accommodate a game in China in 2018. Read More > at NFL.com

BART to crack down on ‘seat hogs’ with fines – “Seat hogs” who take up more than their fair share of space on crowded BART trains will soon be in for an expensive penalty after BART directors approved a new rule Thursday making it a ticket-able offense to use an empty seat for a backpack or luggage, or to stretch out.

People who take up more than a single seat during commute hours will first be given a warning. After that, the first ticket will cost them $100. The penalty will increase to $200 for a second violation and to $500 after that.

People whose size or medical condition requires them to occupy more than a single space will be exempt.

The ordinance will be enforced from 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7:30 p.m., the peak hours for BART commuters. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Eating chocolate regularly ‘improves brain function’ according to new study – Good news for chocolate lovers: eating the sweet treat has been found to have a positive association with cognitive performance, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Appetite, researchers used data collected from a Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), in which 968 people aged between 23 and 98 were measured for dietary intake and cardiovascular risk factors, as well as cognitive function.

The researchers found that regularly eating chocolate was significantly associated with cognitive function “irrespective of other dietary habits”.

More frequent chocolate consumption was “significantly associated with better performance on [cognitive tests including] visual-spatial memory and organisation, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination”.

…High levels of flavanols are found in dark chocolate but less so in milk or white chocolate. High levels of flavanols are also found in tea, red wine and certain fruits such as grapes and apples. Read More > in the Independent

California gets ‘F’ for spending transparency in new scorecard – California finishes last in a new review of how states report spending on contracts and other items, with the report’s authors blaming “bureaucratic fragmentation” for the lack of a one-stop web site that would make it easier for average California residents to examine the payments.

Wednesday’s report by the California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund is the seventh by the group that examines the transparency of state governments’ checkbook-level spending. Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Oregon, and Connecticut are among the states with the best transparency websites, the report found.

California’s transparency website, on the other hand, “struggles with data fragmentation and user accessibility,” according to the report.

“You shouldn’t have to be an expert to be able to follow your tax dollars through California’s government,” Emily Rusch, the fund’s executive director, said in a statement. “Over the course of seven years, most states have made significant transparency improvements. Despite being home to Silicon Valley, California ranks LAST of all 50 states this year.” Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Microsoft sues U.S. government over data requests – Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) has sued the U.S. government for the right to tell its customers when a federal agency is looking at their emails, the latest in a series of clashes over privacy between the technology industry and Washington.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in federal court in the Western District of Washington, argues that the government is violating the U.S. Constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying thousands of customers about government requests for their emails and other documents.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

The government’s actions contravene the Fourth Amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, the suit argues, and the First Amendment right to free speech. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance

Here are all the companies racing to put driverless cars on the road by 2020 – 11 automakers are committed to having driverless car technology ready by 2020, some even declaring their fully autonomous car will be hitting the roads at that time. (Assuming the various necessary regulations are in place, of course.)

There are so many players in the game it can be hard to keep track, so we rounded all of them up. Here’s who is in the race to make driverless cars a reality just four years from now.

  • Tesla is aiming to have its driverless technology ready by 2018.
  • If Tesla succeeds in building a fully autonomous car by 2020, Uber has declared it will buy 500,000.
  • Google has never given a formal deadline, but has suggested it’s working on having the technology ready by 2020.
  • Toyota is looking to have a driverless car ready to go by 2020.
  • BMW will make semi-autonomous features standard in all their cars starting in 2020, but isn’t rushing to develop a fully autonomous car.
  • Volvo is aiming to make its cars “deathproof” by 2020 by rolling out semi-autonomous features in its cars, eventually working up to fully driverless ones. Read More > at Tech Insider

Driverless Shuttle Gives Momentum to GoMentum Station – California’s massive driverless test track GoMentum Station will begin running a driverless shuttle this year in a nearby business park in an agreement with EasyMile, the French maker of the EZ10 vehicle.

The GoMentum Station in Concord, Calif., offers about 20 miles of paved roads and urban infrastructure. Honda and Mercedes are currently testing automated vehicles at the facility, and recent reports have said that Apple is seeking to test a vehicle at GoMentum. It is operated by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.

EasyMile says about 1.5 million passengers have used the driverless shuttles it operates in Finland, France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland. The EZ10 is an electric shuttle people mover that carries about a dozen passengers and typically travels on a single track.

The GoMentum deal is the first of its kind in the U.S. that uses Shared Driverless Vehicles (SDV), according to the partners. EasyMiles’ European shuttle has no steering wheel but that will have to be added to meet California rules for driverless vehicles.

EasyMile is a joint venture of two French firms – Robosoft and Ligier Group. Ligier provides the body, chassis and other hardware while Robosoft provides the robotics and self-driving technology. Robosoft has been making robotic equipment for 30 years and counts clients in the military, healthcare, cleaning services, and goods and people transportation firms.

Two of the shuttles will begin operating this summer in the Bishop Ranch, a 585-acre business park in San Ramon, Calif., according to a release from the partners. There are about 650 companies operating at the ranch including AT&T, Chevron, General Electric, and Toyota. Read More > at Driverless Transportation

Christianity and Korea – South Korea is awash with evangelical Christianity.

This once resolutely shamanistic and Confucian country now seems to have more churches than corner stores. From miniscule, storefront chapels to the biggest church in the world, the skyline of every major city is ablaze with neon crosses. Evangelical Christians proselyte house to house, distribute pamphlets and church-emblazoned tissue packets on street corners, and cycle through town blaring sermons and homilies through bullhorns, urging you to either accept Jesus, or be prepared for the Devil’s wrath below. It is very rare to spend more than a few days in Korea without being preached to.

…What can be most surprising to a visitor to Korea is that only 29 percent of the population actually identifies as Christian – about three-quarters Protestant, one quarter Catholic. But their zeal is so enormous that it overshadows the 23 percent who are Buddhist, and the 46 percent who say they have no religion at all.

“It is kind of amazing” how zealous Korean Christians are, says Dr. Hwang Moon-kyung, Professor of History at the University of Southern California. “They give you the impression that South Korea is a very religious country when in fact it isn’t. But the ones who are religious tend to be very fervently religious.”

It is one of East Asia’s greatest historical riddles – how did this small, divided country go from being a place where Christianity was just a footnote – barely one percent of the population in 1900 – to one that produces more missionaries than any other country in the world, bar the U.S. Read More > in The Diplomat

Concord to pursue deal with Lennar to develop old naval station – A bitter fight to develop the first phase of Concord’s former naval weapons station — a barren stretch of land that the city hopes to transform into a vibrant community — ended Wednesday.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council agreed to negotiate with Lennar Urban, but asked the company to revise its terms, making them more favorable to the city. The powerful firm — which over the past two decades has won contracts for San Francisco’s Treasure Island, Vallejo’s decommissioned Mare Island Naval Station, Candlestick Point and the Hunters Point Shipyard — was the only developer left at the table.

Its chief rival, Catellus Development Corp., dropped out of the race in March, saying it had lost faith in the selection process. Catellus had accused Lennar of improper lobbying and said the city made backroom decisions that helped boost its competitor.

An independent investigator corroborated some of those allegations in February, saying that associates of Lennar had violated an agreement both companies made with the city by funneling nearly $17,000 into former Mayor Tim Grayson’s campaign for state Assembly. The investigator also said that Concord officials had decided, in an illegal closed-door meeting, to suppress a city staff report recommending Catellus for the contract.

The vote came over objections from some residents, who urged the city not to hand what could be a $6 billion contract to a company that had violated the city’s trust. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Salmon Caught Near Seattle Are Full Of Cocaine And Antidepressants – Things are not looking good in the Puget Sound.

Apparently, samples taken from the water showed high levels of Prozac, bug spray, cocaine, Zantac, ibuprofen and 77 other drugs. These drugs littered not only the water but also the tissue of juvenile chinook salmon.

The samples, taken from the water near sewage treatment plants in the estuaries of the Seattle area, were collected over two days in September 2014. While no one is exactly sure how the contaminants got into the water in the first place, researchers do know the levels are among the highest in the nation.

While the treatment plants are supposed to eradicate contaminants from the water, some drugs prove especially difficult to remove, such as ibuprofen and certain seizure drugs.

Unfortunately, the contamination levels likely won’t let up; according to one study, 97,000 pounds of drugs and chemicals could be entering the Puget Sound each year. Read More > at Elite Daily

Dairy Queen plans for expansion in California with 400 new stores, eyes Bay Area market – Fast-food restaurant chain Dairy Queen is planning a massive expansion throughout California within the next 10 years, and is eyeing the Bay Area market for growth.

The chain, known for their iconic soft serve ice cream, has identified more than 400 locations across the state where they hope to open new stores, with roughly half of them in Northern California and half in Southern California. The company, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A), currently has 98 locations in California and 17 in the Bay Area market, and is expecting to open stores within San Francisco.

…Driving Dairy Queen’s expansion plans is an effort to catch up to competitors in the state. Mettler said that, according to numbers from each company, Burger King and Jack in the Box each have 600 locations in California, while McDonald’s has over 1,300.

Mettler said the company has no approved locations yet among the 400 that have been identified, but that it’s actively looking for real estate in the market and for passionate store operators, who will be owners of each franchise.

The company’s system to identify the most valuable areas in which to open locations looks at population, employment and competitors. Mettler said that Dairy Queen is a family brand, so it targets areas where there are a high number of families and things like sports activities and churches. It also looks at where there is a strong demand for meals during lunch time. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

IRS Admits It Encourages Illegals To Steal Social Security Numbers For Taxes – This isn’t exactly the kind of story the IRS wants buzzing around at tax time. The IRS and Justice Department normally want ‘scared straight’ stories just before Tax Day. Ideally, when an indictment or conviction for tax evasion hits the news, it makes you think twice. Somehow, you think just a bit more about all those deductions, or if you really reported all your income, before you sign your return under penalties of perjury.

Instead, we have the top dog at the IRS, the IRS Commissioner himself, admitting that, well, there’s a problem with illegal immigrants and taxes. In fact, the top IRS official this time wasn’t talking about how the IRS wipes some hard drives or can’t find emails. He wasn’t even asking for a bigger budget to give bonuses to IRS employees.

This time, he was talking about illegal immigrants, and about the IRS turning a blind eye. Or maybe worse. The IRS actually wants illegal immigrants to illegally use Social Security numbers, he suggested. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen made the surprising statement in response to a question from Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., at a Senate Finance Committee meeting. The question was a touchy one. Gee, is the IRS collaborating with taxpayers who file tax returns using fraudulent information? It wasn’t put exactly that way. According to Senator Coats:

“What we learned is that … the IRS continues to process tax returns with false W-2 information and issue refunds as if they were routine tax returns, and say that’s not really our job. We also learned the IRS ignores notifications from the Social Security Administration that a name does not match a Social Security number, and you use your own system to determine whether a number is valid.”

Commissioner Koskinen was asked to explain this. He suggested that as long as the information is being used only to fraudulently obtain jobs, the IRS was OK with it. In fact, he said that the IRS actually had an interest in helping the illegal immigrants to crook these rules. In fairness, perhaps it’s just the ‘that’s not my department’ response that abounds in big government. Perhaps this just isn’t the IRS’s problem, but it sure seems odd to have any agency chief encouraging illegal immigrant theft of SSNs. Read More > in Forbes

Lowering saturated fats doesn’t cut heart disease risk, study finds – Replacing saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fat from corn oil and margarines doesn’t reduce heart disease risk or prolong life, according to newly published research.

Cholesterol levels were lower in those with diets that replace saturated fats with those oils and margarines, which contain a polyunsaturated fatty acid called linoleic acid. However, lower cholesterol levels didn’t translate into improved health.

The research examined unpublished results of a dietary trial that was double-blinded, randomized and controlled — considered the gold standard in science. Published Tuesday in the journal BMJ, the research was conducted by scientists led by Dr. Christopher Ramsden of the National Institutes of Health and colleagues from the University of North Carolina. It is available online at j.mp/satfats.

The finding adds to evidence contradicting the widely held belief that reducing saturated fat intake reduces the risk of heart disease. This has been an apparently unshakable bedrock principle of what are considered heart-healthy diets, recommended by cardiologists, medical associations and government agencies.

The emerging picture is much more complicated than would warrant an across-the-board rejection of saturated fats. Read More > in The San Diego Union-Tribune

Letting teachers carry guns? Fresno County school districts have mixed views – Kingsburg Joint Union High School District trustees approved a policy this week to allow teachers to carry guns on campus – but there’s no sign that other districts in Fresno County plan to follow Kingburg’s lead anytime soon.

Fresno Unified pointed to various safety measures, including the use of school resource officers, campus safety assistants and a partnership with Fresno police, as superior options to having armed teachers in class.

Kingsburg High’s policy allows up to five employees to carry guns on school grounds. A Kingsburg High staffer who wants to be able to have a gun on campus must complete training approved by Superintendent Randy Morris. A staff member’s discipline record, evaluation and conduct will also be taken into account. Read More > in The Fresno Bee

Millennials Like Socialism — Until They Get Jobs – Millennials are the only age group in America in which a majority views socialism favorably. A national Reason-Rupe survey found that 53 percent of Americans under 30 have a favorable view of socialism compared with less than a third of those over 30. Moreover, Gallup has found that an astounding 69 percent of millennials say they’d be willing to vote for a “socialist” candidate for president — among their parents’ generation, only a third would do so. Indeed, national polls and exit polls reveal about 70 to 80 percent of young Democrats are casting their ballots for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist.”

Yet millennials tend to reject the actual definition of socialism — government ownership of the means of production, or government running businesses. Only 32 percent of millennials favor “an economy managed by the government,” while, similar to older generations, 64 percent prefer a free-market economy. And as millennials age and begin to earn more, their socialistic ideals seem to slip away.

So what does socialism actually mean to millennials? Scandinavia. Even though countries such as Denmark aren’t socialist states (as the Danish prime minster has taken great pains to emphasize) and Denmark itself outranks the United States on a number of economic freedom measures such as less business regulation and lower corporate tax rates, young people like that country’s expanded social welfare programs. Read More > at CATO Institute

First came the Breathalyzer, now meet the roadside police “textalyzer” – We’re all familiar with the Breathalyzer, the brand name for a roadside device that measures a suspected drunken driver’s blood-alcohol level. It has been in use for decades. Now there’s a so-called “textalyzer” device to help the authorities determine whether someone involved in a motor vehicle accident was unlawfully driving while distracted.

The roadside technology is being developed by Cellebrite, the Israeli firm that many believe assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in cracking the iPhone at the center of a heated decryption battle with Apple.

Under the first-of-its-kind legislation proposed in New York, drivers involved in accidents would have to submit their phone to roadside testing from a textalyzer to determine whether the driver was using a mobile phone ahead of a crash. In a bid to get around the Fourth Amendment right to privacy, the textalyzer allegedly would keep conversations, contacts, numbers, photos, and application data private. It will solely say whether the phone was in use prior to a motor-vehicle mishap. Further analysis, which might require a warrant, could be necessary to determine whether such usage was via hands-free dashboard technology and to confirm the original finding. Read More > at Ars Technica

Now is California’s Watershed Moment – It is now safe to say that El Niño will not solve California’s drought. Though this should have been obvious from the start, there is a silver lining – it has bought the state more time to put better policies in place to create a sustainable water supply for years to come for all Californians.

We are at a true “watershed moment.” If we take decisive and effective action, our state can thrive within the limits of its current and future water resources. But if we fail to act (or act as we have in the past), the challenges our growing state will face each year will grow.

…Last year wasn’t great from a drought solutions perspective. Aside from mandatory conservation efforts, which were successful in temporarily reducing residential water use, few meaningful and substantive changes occurred to the way Californian manages its water in the long-term.

Last year, the drought wreaked $2.7 billion in economic harm on our economy. Eighteen native species of fish, including winter and fall run Chinook salmon, are at risk of extinction. Farmers last year fallowed 640,000 acres of land and 17,000 agriculture jobs were lost.

Hoping for more rain next year is not the answer. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

POPULATION: California’s influx slows, moving numbers stumble – One benchmark of California’s attractiveness to workers is my annual compilation of moving van statistics – inbound vs. outbound moves as tracked by three major carriers: United, Atlas and Allied. Moving vans are typically used by folks getting better-than-average jobs, so they’re a decent measure of middle-income or higher employment trends.

My trusty spreadsheet – looking at van line data back to 2005 – found 27,794 moves to California from elsewhere by the three major carriers last year. That’s down 6.6 percent from 2014 and the slowest inbound traffic since the recessionary year of 2009.

…So what I’m seeing brewing is a mild-but-noteworthy reluctance to move to California from elsewhere in the U.S.

It’s not just found in van traffic reports. State demographers – tracking all moves – estimated California suffered a net loss of 61,121 people to other states in the 12 months ended July 2015, the largest outflow in four years. The state population continues to grow due to births and inflows from other countries.

…However, here’s what’s really worrisome: Just ponder California through a house shopper’s budget, according to Realtors’ affordability math.

Back in 2012, that math showed median incomes in those six big California regions were an average 9 percent higher than what was considered sufficient to comfortably own a local median-priced home.

Last year, though, median incomes in those six California markets averaged just 80 percent of the pay needed to comfortably afford to buy. Read More > in The Press Enterprise

Federal government to probe state spending on delta tunnels – The Interior Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into possible funding irregularities involving the proposed delta tunnels, a $15 billion plan to dig giant twin pipes to siphon water directly from the Sacramento River and send it underground to farms and cities in the southern part of the state.

The decision, made public Monday, came after a nonprofit called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a complaint alleging that federal money intended to go for fish and wildlife was spent instead on planning for the tunnels.

Paula Dinerstein, the group’s senior counsel, said the federal Bureau of Reclamation gave the California Department of Water Resources more than $60 million under the authority of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, to pay for environmental studies. She alleged the statutory authority does not apply to the tunnels.

“This is not a contract to benefit fish and wildlife,” Dinerstein said, but rather to do work on a project “that is a detriment to fish and wildlife.”

Water consultant Patricia Schifferle, a critic of the tunnels, agreed, adding that it is “illegal to use federal funds for a purpose that Congress didn’t authorize.” If the inspector general finds the funds were misused, Schifferle said the state could be required to pay the money back, dealing a major setback to the tunnel project. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Obesity Is Now a Bigger Global Problem Than Hunger – The global obesity epidemic is about to get worse. In nine years, around one fifth of adults globally will be obese, a study published last week in the journal The Lancet predicts. More than one in eight are obese now.

The number of obese people now eclipses the number of people who are underweight. The report uses the clinical definition of obesity as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, while severely obese refers to a BMI of 35 or higher. Underweight is a BMI less than 18.5.

“The world has transitioned from an era when underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight,” the report says. It emphasizes that being underweight is still an issue in poor regions of the world, especially in South Asia and East Africa.

Looking at BMI patterns among adults from 1975 through 2014, the report found that the number of obese people has skyrocketed from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014. The number is predicted to climb past 1.1 billion by 2025. Read More > in The Fiscal Times

5 career-killing conversations to avoid at work – No matter how progressive, open and casual your workplace, there are some conversations that should be off-limits no matter what. A new study from corporate and leadership education and training firm VitalSmarts found that of 775 respondents to a recent VitalSmarts survey on workplace behavior, 83 percent of employees witnessed their colleagues say something that has had catastrophic results on their careers, reputations and businesses.

The study also found that 69 percent of employees admit to personally committing a catastrophic comment. These slips of the tongue and momentary lapses of judgment can be just as damaging on an individual’s career. Thirty-one percent say it cost them a promotion, a raise or even their job. Twenty-seven percent say it undercut or destroyed a working relationship, and 11 percent say it destroyed their reputation.

…”‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’ — that adage is true in what our research found. One survey respondent says he gave his manager feedback in a public meeting. While he didn’t feel the feedback was especially harsh, what he didn’t realize was that his manager’s boss was in attendance — and the respondent’s manager felt ambushed and humiliated,” Maxfield says.

…Just say no to discussing politics, religion or any other emotionally charged topic in the workplace, Maxfield says. One survey respondent says that in a meeting they made what they thought was an innocuous comment about the fact that they only watched Fox News. That offhand comment quickly devolved into a heated political battle, and tarnished their reputation at work from that moment on.

…”There’s a fine line between if you say, ‘Who came up with this ridiculous idea?’ or when you use an obscenity; then the attack becomes personal — especially if you’re using the ‘F’ word. Read More > at Network World

Broken Promises: The Housing Market in San Francisco (And Ten Ideas to Fix It) – San Francisco’s housing system is broken. The only way to fix it is through a radical change in our housing policy: a change that encourages (a lot of) building.

Failed public policy and political leadership has resulted in a massive imbalance between how much the city’s population has grown this century versus how much housing has been built. The last thirteen years worth of new housing units built is approximately equal to the population growth of the last two years

…If we do not change our current housing strategy, the natural result will be a type of cultural destruction. It’s easy to point to individual cases of displacement that pull on the heart-strings — a tech family is throwing out grandma to convert a duplex into a mansion (which is genuinely sad and should be prevented!) — but the real displacement is happening at a macro level. We are on a self-imposed path leading to only one place: a city that is entirely rich and, more or less, entirely white. That isn’t the fault of any one person on either side, but it is the fault of those that refuse to allow any rational policy response to people’s desire to live here.

In time, housing and everything else will become so expensive that we will price every working- and middle-class person out of the city. The gentrification wave will keep rolling. A bubble might burst here or there, but ultimately San Francisco is so self-destructively finite that all the regular people will be pushed to the East Bay, to Pacifica, to Daly City, etc. Read More > at Zac Townsend

Campuses are places for open minds – not where debate is closed down – Last month, in the early hours, an act of traumatising racist violence occurred on the campus of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Students woke up to find that someone had written, in chalk, the words “Trump 2016” on various pavements and walls around campus. “I think it was an act of violence,” said one student. “I legitimately feared for my life,” said another; “I thought we were having a KKK rally on campus”. Dozens of students met the university president that day to demand that he take action to repudiate Trump and to find and punish the perpetrators. Writing political statements in chalk is a common practice on American college campuses and, judging from the public reaction to the Emory event, most Americans consider the writing to be an act of normal free speech during the national collective ritual of a presidential election. So how did it come to pass that many Emory students felt victimised and traumatised by innocuous and erasable graffiti?

Emory students are not unique. Many other universities have been rocked by protests this year over what seem like small things to outsiders, such as Halloween costumes, dining hall food and sombreros. This new way of looking at things is spreading rapidly in the UK, too, with growing student demands for bans on words, ideas, speakers and, once again, sombreros. Students on both sides of the Atlantic are demanding that their campuses be turned into “safe spaces” where a subset of ideas and identities will not be challenged. What on earth is going on?

Part of the answer can be found in cultural shifts that have changed the meanings of many words and concepts used on campus, making it hard for people off campus to understand what the protesters are saying. One of us (Haslam) recently published an essay titled “Concept creep: Psychology’s expanding concepts of harm and pathology.” Many concepts are “creeping” – they are being “defined down” so that they are applied promiscuously to milder and less objectionable events.

Take bullying. When research on bullying began in the 1970s, an act had to meet four criteria to count: it had to be an act of aggression directed by one or more children against another child; the act had to be intentional; it had to be part of a repeated pattern; and it had to occur in the context of a power imbalance. But over the following decades, the concept of bullying has expanded in two directions.

It has crept outward or “horizontally” to encompass new forms of bullying, such as among adults in the workplace or via social media. More problematic, though, is the creeping downward or “vertically”so that the bar has been lowered and more minor events now count as bullying. Read More > in The Guardian

Why does MLB commish shun sense in frigid scheduling? – I’m not the smartest guy on the block. In high school I scored “See me” on the math Regents.

Still, if I were Commissioner of Major League Baseball, I would look at where the teams play to notice a bunch located in generally warm climates: Two in Texas, two in Florida, two in Southern California, one in Atlanta, one in Arizona.

Then I would look to find that seven teams play in either domed stadia or in ballparks with retractable roofs: Milwaukee, Arizona, Toronto, Seattle, Houston, Miami and Tampa Bay.

And then I would reach a radical conclusion: Schedule early April games in these cities or ballparks. Sure, it’s an extreme departure from the norm, but schedule with the good of the players, the fans and the quality of The Game in mind.

The forecast is fairly standard for early April nighttime Detroit weather: 39 degrees, 18 mph winds making it feel colder, and a 90 percent chance of rain. Read More > in the New York Post

Raiders’ smart, speedy rebuild points to playoff appearance in 2016 – The Raiders are this close to ending their 13-year playoff drought. After a promising 7-9 season followed by a great offseason so far, there are only two pieces of unfinished business to make it reality after the 2016 regular season.

Since ’14, general manager Reggie McKenzie’s moves have built up to this looming breakthrough. In ’15, the hiring of young player-friendly head coach Jack Del Rio also was another huge step.

Now the team is only two small steps from the playoffs. A little more running and run-stopping help through the draft, and Oakland will be at least an AFC wild-card team.

…With the signings of Sean Smith and Nelson, they don’t have to be so desperate in getting secondary help in the draft. Offensive line is no longer a pressing need, either. The Raiders’ lone big question mark on defense is inside linebacker — where second-year fifth-rounder Ben Heeney is the top option — and that should make them consider Alabama’s Reggie Ragland at No. 14 overall. They also need a versatile back to be effective splitting carries with Murray and spelling him in the passing game. Utah’s Devontae Booker would be a terrific option in the third round. Other than that, it’s filling out defensive depth for Del Rio. Read More > in the Sporting News

Is wine good for you or is it not? – …Pro-oenological forces point to a large body of evidence demonstrating wine’s positive effect on both the cardiovascular system and longevity. This viewpoint was given additional support this week by a new study in mBio led by Ming-liang Chen and Man-tian Mi of the Third Military Medical University in China. Using mice, the team showed that resveratrol, a molecule found in grapes and berries, reduced the formation of plaques in arteries—a cardiovascular condition known as atherosclerosis that limits blood flow and can trigger heart attacks and strokes.

The authors found that resveratrol acts in a surprising and indirect way. Mice fed a diet supplemented with resveratrol experienced a dramatic shift in the composition of their gut bacteria. Simultaneously, production of trimethylamine-N-oxide, a risk factor for atherosclerosis, was reduced. The team suspect that the remodelling of the gut microbiota was the cause for this drop. Indeed, when mice were also given antibiotics, the benefits of resveratrol disappeared. Thus, the study provides a plausible biological mechanism for how wine and other resveratrol-containing foods might promote cardiovascular health.

But anti-alcohol advocates can claim a victory of their own in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Tim Stockwell of the University of Victoria in Canada and Tanya Chikritzhs of the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University in Australia carried out a meta-analysis of 87 epidemiological investigations. They concluded that so-called moderate drinkers do not benefit from a reduction in mortality compared to abstainers. This finding strikes a blow at the very heart of the imbibers’ claim.

Dr Stockwell and Dr Chikritzhs contend that the inconsistency is due to a common misclassification error. Many of the studies the team examined had classified former drinkers as abstainers. This is incorrect, the authors argue, because former drinkers often give up alcohol for health reasons. Those who become teetotallers due to doctors’ orders are probably less healthy than the general population. So including them in a study creates a bias that artificially inflates the health benefits of alcohol. When the authors restricted their analysis to high-quality studies that included only lifetime abstainers and properly controlled for other confounding variables, the health benefits of moderate drinking vanished. Read More > in The Economist

Outrage after big labor crafts law paying their members less than non-union workers – …Few progressive causes have enjoyed as much recent success as the campaign to raise pay for the working poor. Most large cities in California have raised their minimum wage over the last several years, culminating in Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing the nation’s first statewide $15 minimum wage last week. On the same day, New York enacted a less-comprehensive wage increase that activists also greeted as a victory.

Less celebrated, and often unnoticed, has been a series of loopholes that cut union workers out of the very pay increases their leaders have championed. Such clauses have emerged as one of the labor movement’s most divisive issues, clouding an otherwise triumphant political moment for the unions that have backed new wage mandates.

Counterintuitive at first glance — organized labor’s historic goal has been to obtain more for workers, not less — union exemptions are absent from state and federal pay standards. Yet they have been written into the fine print of wage ordinances in a dozen California cities at labor leaders’ urging.

San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Santa Monica have all adopted union waivers in their most recent minimum wage laws. L.A. city officials are expected to indicate whether they will include such an exemption in their own $15 minimum wage at a hearing next week.

Critics see such provisions as a cynical collusion between politicians and big-city labor interests. By making unions the “low-cost option” for businesses seeking to avoid paying better wages, they assert, the exemptions are designed to drive up union membership — and revenue from dues — at the expense of workers. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

US faces ‘disastrous’ $3.4tn pension funding hole – The US public pension system has developed a $3.4tn funding hole that will pile pressure on cities and states to cut spending or raise taxes to avoid Detroit-style bankruptcies.

According to academic research shared exclusively with FTfm, the collective funding shortfall of US public pension funds is three times larger than official figures showed, and is getting bigger.

Devin Nunes, a US Republican congressman, said: “It has been clear for years that many cities and states are critically underfunding their pension programmes and hiding the fiscal holes with accounting tricks.”

Mr Nunes, who put forward a bill to the House of Representatives last month to overhaul how public pension plans report their figures, added: “When these pension funds go insolvent, they will create problems so disastrous that the fund officials assume the federal government will have to bail them out.”

Large pension shortfalls have already played a role in driving several US cities, including Detroit in Michigan and San Bernardino in California, to file for bankruptcy. The fear is other cities will soon become insolvent due to the size of their pension deficits. Read More > in the Financial Times

‘This Thing Has Tentacles’ – For two years, the former head men’s basketball coach at the University of Southern Mississippi directed his staff to complete the course work of prospective athletes while they were still enrolled in junior colleges, the National Collegiate Athletic Association said Friday.

Showing how the pressures of Division I college athletics can breed academic fraud far beyond the walls of a single campus, the university’s basketball staff completed more than 100 assignments in online courses for recruits attending two-year institutions. The case comes less than three months after the NCAA concluded that a former assistant football coach at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette made arrangements with the head of a Mississippi testing center to falsify the ACT scores of players and recruits.

“This thing has tentacles,” David Ridpath, a professor of sports administration at Ohio University and an advocate for reforming the academic side of college sports, said. “That’s been proven over and over again. High schools, testing sites, junior colleges — the corruption trickles down from the universities and affects all levels of education.” Read More > at Inside Higher Ed

Poll: Millennials are no more convinced about global warming than their parents – On Wednesday, the Harvard Institute of Politics released its latest poll on the political views of millennials. It surveyed more than 3,000 young Americans aged 18 to 29 — and the inquiry produced a striking data point when it comes to climate change.

The poll asked a question about on the subject based on prior CNN polling questions that have used the same wording. “Which of the following statements comes closest to your view of global warming?” respondents were asked.

They had three options, and here are the resulting percentages:

Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by emissions from cars and industrial facilities such as power plants and factories. 55%

Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by natural changes that have nothing to do with emissions from cars and industrial facilities. 20%

Global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven. 23%

Two percent of respondents declined to answer.

While this is a somewhat odd question setup, the overall result is pretty noteworthy. You could argue based on these results that 75 percent of millennials think global warming is happening – but at the same time, summing together the second two answers, the poll also suggests that fully 43 percent of millennials do not accept the mainstream science of global warming (namely, that it is human caused). Read More > in The Washington Post

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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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