Sunday Reading – 05/01/16


he 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.

6 Things You Can Do to Raise Boys Who Become Great Men – I remember the day we found out that the baby we were expecting was a boy. His name had been picked out since I was in middle school and my husband and I were elated. As the news settled into our minds I remember panicking one day. I was going to have to learn the names of different types of dinosaurs. And construction vehicles— calling them “trucks” would not be sufficient with a curious little guy at my side. My mental list went on and on. I grew up with one sister, what would I do with a boy? Wisdom from my aunt comforted my anxious heart: “They all start out the same way and when they get bigger, you love them so much you just figure it out.”

My aunt was right. We made it through the diapering, the middle-of-the-night feedings, the laundry, the first tooth, and the first year of his life. As my son grew to develop more boy-specific interests, I grew in my boy knowledge.

1. Teach Him How to Treat Women

One of the most important things a woman should look for when she’s thinking about marrying a particular man is how he treats his mom. The way that a young man talks about—and talks to—his mother is guaranteed to carry over into the way he communicates with his wife.

2. Show Him How to Express His Feelings

Whether male or female, we all feel things. Unfortunately for men, society puts extra pressure on their gender to keep everything bottled up. The problem is that someday the pressure will become too much and that bottle will explode. We can teach our young guys how to express their emotions without putting holes in any walls, or worse, relationships. Give boys a safety net at home where they can express and process the drama that happens outside of those caring walls.

3. Help Him to Learn Self-Control

Self-control is a virtue that can grow with our boys. When they are two, self-control means not melting down in every grocery store aisle. Around age one we began teaching our son a trick to calm himself down when he was out of control. Our direction in these situations was “fold your hands together and find some self-control.” Read More > at PJ Media

Why did Dee Gordon take steroids? Better question: Why wouldn’t he? – “Why wouldn’t he do it?’’ said the friend, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic. “Think about it, why wouldn’t Dee take that chance? Why wouldn’t anyone?

“So he got caught. So what? It was better than spending his career in the minors. His image may be shot, but he’s still has got his $50 million in the bank and can take care of his family for the rest of his life.

…Gordon cheated. He’ll be docked $1.65 million in salary. And yes, he’ll still be guaranteed the remaining $48.35 million.

If he never cheated, perhaps he would be in the minors the rest of his career, never making $1.65 million in his entire life.

…So, if banned substances aided his rise and will gross him $48.35 million, was it worth it? Even if it means destroying your image in baseball?

You make the call.

Gordon, if nothing else, ruins every stereotype you may have had about a steroid user. You don’t have to be big and strong and hitting home runs. Gordon is 5-foot-11, weighs 172 pounds, and has eight career homers.

…Gordon, while his appeal was still being heard, played the first three weeks of the season. He played a vital role in the Marlins’ 4-2 victory Thursday night over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, scoring a run on a balk, driving in the game-tying run, completing the Marlins’ first four-game sweep at Dodger Stadium.

He’s out until after the All-Star break, but left the Marlins a nice parting gift, to the consternation of many. Read More > at USA Today

Texting and Driving? Watch Out for the Textalyzer – Over the last seven years, most states have banned texting by drivers, and public service campaigns have tried an array of tactics — “It can wait,” among them — to persuade people to put down their phones when they are behind the wheel.

Yet the problem, by just about any measure, appears to be getting worse. Americans confess in surveys that they are still texting while driving, as well as using Facebook and Snapchat and taking selfies. Road fatalities, which had fallen for years, are now rising sharply, up roughly 8 percent in 2015 over the previous year, according to preliminary estimates.

That is partly because people are driving more, but Mark Rosekind, the chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said distracted driving was “only increasing, unfortunately.”

…The most provocative idea, from lawmakers in New York, is to give police officers a new device that is the digital equivalent of the Breathalyzer — a roadside test called the Textalyzer.

It would work like this: An officer arriving at the scene of a crash could ask for the phones of any drivers involved and use the Textalyzer to tap into the operating system to check for recent activity.

The technology could determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws, which prohibit drivers from holding phones to their ear. Failure to hand over a phone could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license, similar to the consequences for refusing a Breathalyzer. Read More > in The New York Times

Robots Are Now Handling Pills. Will Pharmacists Be Liberated or Out of Work? – Filling prescriptions is a repetitive, often mundane task: the perfect job for a robot. And artificial intelligence has finally matured to the point where doctors trust robots (with human supervision) to do it. For five years now, the UCSF Medical Center has relied on an almost entirely automated “robot pharmacy” to fill prescriptions, and a fleet of thousands of autonomous robots to deliver them.

Rita Jew, director of the UCSF program, says the robots have worked for five years with 100% accuracy. Humans are only involved twice: they stock medications in barcode-labeled canisters that the robots pluck off a rack (Jew calls stocking the canisters the “holy process” because there are so many checks for human error), and they grab the portioned, packaged, and labeled medications the robot spits out.

…Robots are faster and more accurate than people—a recent study from a medical center in Houston found that in one year their pharmacists made an average of almost five medication errors for every 100,000 prescriptions. That’s not a lot, but it’s a lot more than zero.

This bionic competition has some pharmacists worried about whether humans have a role in the future of their profession. A paper published in the American Journal of Pharmacy Education last year warned of a potential glut of more than 40,000 pharmacy school grads by 2022. Read More > at KQED

World War II Amnesia – Seventy-seven years ago, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, triggering a declaration of war by Great Britain and its Empire and France. After Hitler’s serial aggressions in the Rhineland, the Anschluss with Austria, the Munich Agreement, and the carving up of Czechoslovakia, no one believed that a formal war over Poland would lead to anything greater than yet another German border grab. The invasion of Poland would likely be followed by loud but empty threats for Hitler to stop, and a phony war of inaction and grumbling.

But after dismembering Poland, and dividing its spoils with the Soviet Union, Hitler unexpectedly absorbed Denmark and Norway the next spring. Then in May 1940, he successfully invaded Belgium, France, Holland, and Luxembourg. He tried to bomb Britain into submission. The conflict eventually spread to the Mediterranean and became truly a “world war” in 1941 with the surprise Axis attacks on the Soviet Union and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Sixty million people would perish in the six years of war, more than any man-caused or natural calamity in history—and World War II would become one of the few conflicts in history in which the losers suffered far fewer fatalities than did the winners. Yet the lessons of World War II endure and had, until recently, guided our foreign policy successfully.

The war taught us that deterrence matters, far more than multiparty arms-limitation treaties, world bodies like the League of Nations, or guarantees from dictators at widely publicized summits. Hitler’s Nazi military in 1939 was weaker and smaller than the combined might of the Western European democracies. Its planes and tanks were no better and in many cases clearly inferior to French armor and British fighters and bombers. Yet Hitler guessed rightly that after six years of appeasing Germany, the democracies were in no mood for war in 1939-40. He was again proven right when France, which had helped to defeat Germany in World War I, collapsed in just six weeks.

Deterrence, however, is not just calibrated by soldiers and weapons. The mettle of leaders counts just as much. Today, the military of Vladimir Putin’s Russia is hardly omnipotent. But Putin’s unpredictable aggression is predicated on his belief that the more powerful democracies will not want to deal with the hassles and costs of stopping him. Read More > at the Hoover Institute

The Collapse of the Old Oil Order – Sunday, April 17th was the designated moment. The world’s leading oil producers were expected to bring fresh discipline to the chaotic petroleum market and spark a return to high prices. Meeting in Doha, the glittering capital of petroleum-rich Qatar, the oil ministers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), along with such key non-OPEC producers as Russia and Mexico, were scheduled to ratify a draft agreement obliging them to freeze their oil output at current levels. In anticipation of such a deal, oil prices had begun to creep inexorably upward, from $30 per barrel in mid-January to $43 on the eve of the gathering. But far from restoring the old oil order, the meeting ended in discord, driving prices down again and revealing deep cracks in the ranks of global energy producers.

It is hard to overstate the significance of the Doha debacle. At the very least, it will perpetuate the low oil prices that have plagued the industry for the past two years, forcing smaller firms into bankruptcy and erasing hundreds of billions of dollars of investments in new production capacity. It may also have obliterated any future prospects for cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers in regulating the market. Most of all, however, it demonstrated that the petroleum-fueled world we’ve known these last decades — with oil demand always thrusting ahead of supply, ensuring steady profits for all major producers — is no more. Replacing it is an anemic, possibly even declining, demand for oil that is likely to force suppliers to fight one another for ever-diminishing market shares. Read More > at Real Clear World

California’s Minimum Wage Hike Debate…Or Debacle? – A few weeks ago Governor Jerry Brown suddenly, and seemingly without warning, reached a deal with union groups under which California’s minimum wage will be sharply raised to $15 per hour by 2022. The measure was quickly rubber-stamped by the state legislature and puts California firmly on a path to one of the highest wage floors in the nation.

The complete lack of public debate over this policy decision harkens back to the smoke-filled rooms of old-time power politics, where the public had little say over what actually happened in the halls of power. And in the rush to shove this measure forward without any deliberation, the state is now forced to bear a policy that will, in all likelihood, do more harm than good to the very people the state is trying to, in theory, help.

…There is no doubt that some workers will be helped by a higher minimum wage. But others will lose hours or lose their job altogether. And those who are helped may end up losing critical government benefits. In the end, since those who need help the most are also most likely to be negatively impacted by higher prices and reduced access to employment, there may not be a net positive impact on poverty. Many empirical studies show just that—a higher minimum wage does not reduce poverty. It is a failed policy tool.

Sadly, the negative impacts of California’s measure could have been reduced with a few logical changes. Exempting young workers or those in training and using a lower rate for non-profits or certified small businesses would have made sense. Giving companies credit for providing benefits or exempting workers who earn secondary income (tips and/or commissions) would also have been rational and commonsense provisions. But the politically calculated rush to slam the measure into law before any formal opposition could be mounted precluded debate on any such considerations.

Another critical aspect of the wage increase that should have been deliberated is the serious regional disparity created. California is a large and diverse state with many different types of economies; what’s good for the goose is clearly not always good for the gander. The negative economic impacts will be far worse in inland areas of the state where the proportionate increase in labor costs will be much higher. Yet the power groups behind the wage increase, who are largely based in the expensive coastal economies, felt fine imposing this wage hike on all areas of the state, despite how clearly inappropriate it is for some regions. Read More > at Beacon Economics

NBCUniversal Announces DreamWorks Animation Acquisition – NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA), today announced the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ: DWA). One of the world’s most admired family brands, DreamWorks Animation creates animated feature films, television series and specials, live entertainment and related consumer products. The studio will become part of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, which includes Universal Pictures, Fandango, and NBCUniversal Brand Development.

Under the terms of the agreement, DreamWorks Animation has an equity value of approximately $3.8 billion. DreamWorks Animation stockholders will receive $41 in cash for each share of DreamWorks Animation common stock. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of DreamWorks Animation and Comcast, and the controlling shareholder of DreamWorks Animation has approved the agreement by written consent.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2016, subject to receipt of antitrust approvals in the U.S. and abroad, as well as the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions.

Following the completion of the transaction, DreamWorks Animation CEO and co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg will become Chairman of DreamWorks New Media, which will be comprised of the company’s ownership interests in Awesomeness TV and NOVA. Katzenberg will also serve as a consultant to NBCUniversal.

The acquisition gives NBCUniversal broader reach to a host of new audiences in the highly competitive kids and family entertainment space, in both TV and film. It includes popular DreamWorks Animation film franchise properties, such as Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. It also includes a thriving TV operation that is a significant supplier of family programming, with hundreds of hours of original, animated content distributed across linear and SVOD platforms in more than 130 countries. Additionally, DreamWorks Classics, a large library of classic characters, including Where’s Waldo, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, will become part of the NBCUniversal portfolio, along with a successful consumer products business. Read More > at Business Wire

How to Spot and Avoid Credit Card Skimmers – Skimmers are are essentially malicious card readers that grab the data off the card’s magnetic stripe attached to the real payment terminals so that they can harvest data from every person that swipes their cards. The thief has to come back to the compromised machine to pick up the file containing all the stolen data, but with that information in hand he can create cloned cards or just break into bank accounts to steal money. Perhaps the scariest part is that some skimmers don’t prevent the ATM or credit card reader from functioning properly.

Classic skimming attacks are here to stay, and will likely continue to be a problem even after banks make the shift to EMV chip cards, according to Stefan Tanase, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. Even if the cards have a chip, the data will still be on the card’s magnetic strip in order to be backwards compatible with systems that won’t be able to handle the chip, he told us. Now, months after the U.S. rollout of EMV cards, some merchants still require customers to use the magstripe.

…When you approach an ATM, check for some obvious signs of tampering at the top of the ATM, near the speakers, the side of the screen, the card reader itself, and the keyboard. If something looks different, such as a different color or material, graphics that aren’t aligned correctly, or anything else that doesn’t look right, don’t use that ATM. The same is true for credit card readers.

If you’re at the bank, it’s a good idea to quickly take a look at the ATM next to yours and compare them both. If there are any obvious differences, don’t use either one, and report the suspicious tampering to your bank. For example, if one ATM has a flashing card entry to show where you should insert the ATM card and the other ATM has a plain reader slot, you know something is wrong. Since most skimmers are glued on top of the existing reader, they will obscure the flashing indicator.

Even if you can’t see any visual differences, push at everything, Tanase said. ATMs are solidly constructed and generally don’t have any jiggling or loose parts. Credit card readers have more variation, but still: Pull at protruding parts like the card reader. See if the keyboard is securely attached and just one piece. Does anything move when you push at it? Read More > at PC Magazine

Sports Authority Scraps Reorganization Bid, Will Liquidate – Sports Authority Inc. has abandoned hope of reorganizing and exiting bankruptcy and instead will count on buyers to save parts of its sprawling retail chain, company lawyer Robert Klyman told a judge Tuesday.

“It has become apparent that the debtors will not reorganize under a plan but instead will pursue a sale,” Mr. Klyman told Judge Mary Walrath at a hearing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

Loaded with more than $1.1 billion in debt, Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy protection in March, saying it would attempt to trim operations and restructure while looking for buyers as an alternate path. Now, a sale of its remaining holdings is the only path forward for the distressed retailer, which employs thousands.

The company closed some stores at the time of the bankruptcy filing and said it would shutter others. A May 16 auction is set for the bulk of Sports Authority’s operations. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Honesty on Pension Debt: It’s Now or Never – Governments don’t go bankrupt for one reason alone. But every financially troubled government in recent years has had a poorly managed pension plan in the background. Detroit’s public-employee pensions were essentially looted via bonus benefit payments. The city borrowed to fill the gap, then defaulted on the borrowing. Similarly, the bankrupt California cities of Stockton and San Bernardino granted massive, retroactive pension-benefit increases during the stock-market bubble of the late 1990s.

Emanuel’s Chicago is itself in the midst of a pension crisis. Despite layoffs, unpaid furloughs, and budget cuts, Chicago’s public schools recently instructed principals to stop spending money to help fund a large pension contribution due June 30. Just last week, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned a Hail Mary Chicago law to reduce pension benefits and raise employee contributions.

As for Puerto Rico, its government-employee plans are practically broke, through a combination of insufficient contributions, excessive investment risk, and sweetheart deals for participants. Indeed, one of the plans’ main “assets” today is low-interest loans made to public employees to take overseas vacations.

No federal bankruptcy law applies to Puerto Rico, so Congress and the Obama administration must construct a rescue plan on the fly. Reform-minded members of Congress, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch, R.-Utah, want any legislation to require all state and local governments to accurately disclose their pension liabilities. But draft legislation from House Republicans would require this of Puerto Rico alone. Read More > at Real Clear Policy

1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion – For many of us, the most pressing question about exercise is: How little can I get away with? The answer, according to a sophisticated new study of interval training, may be very, very little. In this new experiment, in fact, 60 seconds of strenuous exertion proved to be as successful at improving health and fitness as three-quarters of an hour of moderate exercise.

Let me repeat that finding: One minute of arduous exercise was comparable in its physiological effects to 45 minutes of gentler sweating.

…“It depends on who you are and why you exercise,” said Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University who oversaw the new study.

“If you are an elite athlete, then obviously incorporating both endurance and interval training into an overall program maximizes performance. But if you are someone, like me, who just wants to boost health and fitness and you don’t have 45 minutes or an hour to work out, our data show that you can get big benefits from even a single minute of intense exercise.” Read More > in The New York Times

Almost half of California 2014 income taxes paid by top 1 percent – The wealthiest Californians paid nearly half of the state’s income taxes in 2014 after seeing an uptick in their average income from 2013, according to updated income distribution data compiled by the state Franchise Tax Board.

The Top 1 percent weren’t the only ones who saw their average incomes – and share of the tax burden – increase in 2014. For the first time in years, average adjusted gross incomes increased across all five taxpayer groupings analyzed by the tax agency.

Wealthier filers had the largest gains, though. And only the top two-fifths of filers had average incomes in 2014 that exceeded average incomes 20 years ago, after adjusting for inflation.

The financial well-being of California’s wealthiest taxpayers is a major concern of state budget planners. California’s revenue stream relies heavily on income taxes, a volatile source that recently prompted words of warning from Moody’s credit rating service. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

The Auto Emissions Crackup – As expected, Volkswagen ’s scandal over emissions cheating is spreading to other car makers. Porsche, Audi, Mercedes and GM ’s Opel division in Germany are recalling cars for failing emissions tests. In France, Renault and Peugeot have been raided by police. Japan’s Mitsubishi admitted on Tuesday that it had been fudging mileage data for 25 years, putting the company’s survival in doubt.

In an honest world the scandal would now spread to the agencies and politicians that conspire to set implausible rules and then help create ways around them for industries that employ millions of their voters and whose products are of vital daily purpose to virtually everyone in their societies.

The crackup here is bigger than the crackup of a single regulatory initiative.

The problem only begins with agencies maniacally hoeing their row because it’s theirs, beyond reason, with science reduced to their useful idiot. Take the Environmental Protection Agency standard that Volkswagen, in its still-unexplained obsession with reconquering the U.S. market with diesel cars, is guilty of flouting. EPA’s latest target of 0.07 grams of nitrogen oxide per mile represents a 90% reduction from NOx output of the average car on the road today. It represents a 97% reduction compared to the 100 million pickup trucks on the road.

The law of diminishing returns, if agencies behaved rationally, would have caused EPA long ago to declare victory on nitrogen oxide and turn to other matters. But acting rationally is not an agency interest. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

The Family SUV That Never Forgets – The Updated Land Rover Discovery Sport – The 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport is the car that never forgets thanks to the world-first integration of Tile’s advanced tracking app. The premium compact SUV is the first vehicle to incorporate the pioneering technology in addition to enhanced new design, convenience and safety features.

The rush to work or the school run can often result in important items being left behind, but the new Discovery Sport is designed to make forgotten wallets and missing bags a thing of the past. The app uses Tile tags, tiny Bluetooth trackers that can be attached to important items and used to track their whereabouts using smartphone technology.

With the average person spending 15 minutes a day searching for lost items*, the unique in-vehicle app promises to put an end to this wasted time. Once the app is initiated using the central touchscreen, customers are alerted if specified items are not inside the vehicle and are even able to get on-screen directions to their last known location.

Jaguar Land Rover is the first automotive company to integrate Tile with its in-car entertainment system. The partnership allows customers to establish a list of ‘Essentials’ using the vehicle touchscreen, which are always checked when the app is initiated. If items are lost inside the vehicle, customers are able to sound a 90-decibel alarm on the Tile tag, to help locate them. Read More > at Jaguar Land Rover

100 days to the Rio Olympics: why the feelgood message feels like a tough sell – The great and the good of the Olympic “family” gathered in Greece last week amid much mutual backslapping for the vaguely absurd flame‑lighting ceremony that links the ancient Games to its modern incarnation.

That very afternoon, tragedy hit when a much heralded new cycleway built for the Games in Rio de Janeiro crumbled into the sea, killing two people and leaving three more missing. The contrasting events seemed to underline the gap between rhetoric and reality as the daily countdown to the Rio Games dips into double figures.

A couple of days earlier Bloomberg reported the Rio chief of staff, Leonardo Espindola, saying the state was “nearing a social collapse” and that a funding crisis could make it difficult to carry out basic functions, such as fuelling police cars and maintaining hospitals. Weighed against such dire warnings, the ability of a modern pentathlete to get from A to B feels less like a matter of life and death.

…Some aspects are not unique to an Olympics at this stage – last-ditch panicking over venues that are not yet finished, fretting over ticket sales and the public appetite is almost de rigueur and it is true to say that every Olympics faces searching questions at this point in its life cycle and that most are luxuriating in praise by the time the curtain comes down, even if criticism may return at greater volume afterwards. Twelve months out from London’s Games, the capital was on fire amid widespread looting and with 100 days on the clock from Wednesday there was still a huge panic over security provision to come.

On the other hand some factors, such as the Zika virus and the political and economic crisis convulsing the country, are more specific to a Rio Games which has by turns beguiled and alarmed International Olympic Committee members since the bold leap into South America was taken in 2009. Read More > in The Guardian

Who invented baseball? $3.2 million documents at Laguna Niguel auction house might finally prove it – The handwritten “Laws of Base Ball” documents just sold at auction to an anonymous buyer for $3,263,246, prompting SCP Auctions Vice President Dan Imler to predict that baseball will never be the same.

That’s a pretty good return on investment for an initial purchase of $12,000. But more on the transaction in a bit.

“Someday soon, the average baseball fan will answer the question, ‘Who is the founding father of baseball’ with the name Doc Adams,” Imler said. “This is not only the greatest manuscript in the world of sports, this is one of the greatest manuscripts in American history.”

Daniel Lucius “Doc” Adams was the president of the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club when he jotted down the rules of match play for presentation at the Base Ball Convention of 1857.

Until that moment, baseball had been a pastoral, recreational sport. Teams didn’t always have the same amount of players. Fields weren’t always configured the same way. Sometimes games were decided by the first team to score 21 runs.

Adams’ Laws of Base Ball established that the bases would be 90 feet apart, there would be nine players per side and that a regulation game would be nine innings. Some of the original rules didn’t last, like the one putting the pitcher’s mound 45 feet from home plate.

Today’s mound is 60 feet, six inches from home plate. But you get the idea. Read More > in the Orange County Regsiter

Plan to enlarge Los Vaqueros Reservoir gains momentum – For nearly two decades, Los Vaqueros Reservoir — a sprawling lake in eastern Contra Costa County nearly 3 miles long and 170 feet deep — has been a popular spot for boating, fishing, hiking and a key source of water for local residents.

But now, after years of drought and new money available from a 2014 state bond measure to fund water projects, a long-standing idea to dramatically enlarge the reservoir to help provide drought insurance to cities all the way to San Jose is gaining momentum.

…The plan, which would cost roughly $800 million, is simple: Raise the earthen dam by 51 feet, to 269 feet high. That would make it the second tallest dam in the Bay Area, eclipsed only by Warm Springs Dam, at 319 feet tall, on Lake Sonoma near Healdsburg.

The proposal would expand the size of Los Vaqueros, located in the rolling hills near the Alameda-Contra Costa county line, from its current 160,000 acre-feet capacity to 275,000 acre-feet, enough water when full for the annual needs of 1.4 million people.

Other water agencies — including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the East Bay Municipal Utility District and the Alameda County Water District — are in early talks with the Contra Costa Water District, which owns the reservoir, over whether they would help pay to construct the project so they could draw water from the enlarged lake, particularly during dry years. Read More > in The Mercury News

More Teenage Girls Seeking Genital Cosmetic Surgery – Fat thighs. Hairy arms. Muffin tops. Breasts that are too big or not big enough. To the long list of body parts that adolescent girls worry about and want to tinker with, the Internet age has added a new one: the vulva.

So many teenagers are seeking cosmetic surgery to trim or shape the external genitalia that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued guidance from its Committee on Adolescent Health Care to doctors last week, urging them to teach and to reassure patients, suggest alternatives to surgery that may alleviate discomfort, and screen them for a psychiatric disorder that causes obsession about perceived physical defects.

…Girls 18 and younger account for less than 2 percent of all cosmetic operations, but almost 5 percent of all labiaplasties. (The most popular cosmetic procedures for teenagers are ear surgery, with 11,288 procedures last year; nose surgery with 10,308; and breast reductions with 3,698.)

What’s driving the trend for labia surgery? Well, for one, doctors say, many young girls shave or wax their pubic hair, exposing the genital area. According to a 2012 study, more than 70 percent of girls and young women ages 12 to 20 said they routinely shaved or waxed the pubic area. Read More > in The New York Times

Kansas Required Work for Food Stamps. Here’s What Happened. – Abraham Lincoln once said, “No country can sustain, in idleness, more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive.”

Over the past several years, the number of Americans on food stamps has soared. In particular, since 2009, the number of “able-bodied-adults” without dependents receiving food stamps more than doubled nationally. Part of this increase is due to a federal rule that allowed states to waive food stamps’ modest work requirement. However, states such as Kansas and Maine chose to reinstate work requirements. Comparing and contrasting the two approaches provides powerful new evidence about the effectiveness of work.

According to a report from the Foundation for Government Accountability, before Kansas instituted a work requirement, 93 percent of food stamp recipients were in poverty, with 84 percent in severe poverty. Few of the food stamp recipients claimed any income. Only 21 percent were working at all, and two-fifths of those working were working fewer than 20 hours per week.

Once work requirements were established, thousands of food stamp recipients moved into the workforce, promoting income gains and a decrease in poverty. Forty percent of the individuals who left the food stamp ranks found employment within three months, and about 60 percent found employment within a year. They saw an average income increase of 127 percent. Half of those who left the rolls and are working have earnings above the poverty level. Even many of those who stayed on food stamps saw their income increase significantly. Read More > at The Daily Signal

Bathrooms and Fear – I don’t find transgender people scary, and I’m not concerned they are out to molest my kids. I do think there’s a genuine risk that predators could use a choose-your-bathroom approach as a method of getting access to victims, but I’m not sure whether that makes sexual predators more dangerous than they already are (and both adults and children will remain at vastly higher risk from people they know and associate with voluntarily). But here’s the thing: in viewing the situation that way, I’m fighting against what our culture is screaming at me to think.

Our kids are much safer than they’ve been in generations, but our culture relentlessly demands that we be terrified for their safety — specifically including their safety from “stranger danger.” The very media outlets that will spend today suggesting that you’re bigoted and ignorant if you worry about “a man in my daughter’s bathroom” will tomorrow go back to making money by scaring the living shit out of you about how your daughter is in constant peril from kidnappers and rapists and child molesters and crime, crime, crime. The culture that tells you today that your fear is irrational will tomorrow return to telling you to embrace fear you can’t rationalize. This message isn’t all law-and-order, either. The leftward-leaning side of the culture telling you today that you’re a bigot for fearing rape in a Target bathroom will return tomorrow to telling you you’re living in a rape culture and that you ought to be accepting of the stories, insights, and fears of the people who face that culture. In short, having long refused to hold you accountable for your fears, and having stoked them and encouraged you to indulge them, the culture is now abruptly demanding that you justify them logically. That strikes me as unfair. Read More > at Pope Hat

How To Cheat For 20 Years In The NCAA And (Almost) Get Away With It – UNC’s long history of academic fraud isn’t enough to goad the NCAA into significant action.

The NCAA has sent its Amended Notification of Allegations to UNC and UNC released it Tuesday.

Bottom line? Women’s basketball is going to take the fall. Our guess is you can just about kiss Sylvia Hatchell goodbye. She’s going to be the patsy in this mess.

…So to sum it up: despite criminal charges being filed, despite several investigations including the Martin and Wainstein reports, despite being put on probation by the accreditation agency the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, despite Julius Peppers’ damning transcript being made public, despite the lawsuit which revealed Michael McAdoo’s plagiarism and began the exposure of wholesale systematic fraud, despite the other lawsuits by student-athletes, despite the unquestionable enrollment of dozens of football and men’s basketball players in these fake classes, despite unauthorized grade changes, despite hiring an assistant men’s basketball coach in Sean May without making clear that his degree was in fact earned (May talked extensively about taking independent study classes while at UNC which he said freed up his time considerably), which took place in the middle of the scandal in a giant middle finger to everyone, despite the NCAA investigation, football and men’s basketball have a reasonable shot at getting away with a nearly 20-year effort to push players through school by means of fake classes taught in some cases without even the beard of a “professor” like Nyang’oro.

…On the other hand, while the NCAA may not be able to tie anyone in basketball or football directly to the academic fraud, the fraud still exists. The transcripts still show the athletes who were enrolled in those “classes.” It’s entirely possible, and would be appropriate, if the NCAA voided every single event UNC won with an ineligible player, up to and including the Final Fours in 2005 and 2009.

…For two decades, possibly longer, this university brought in athletes who had little chance of succeeding academically and rather than helping them to catch up, created false classes so the university could take advantage of their physical talents before casting them aside. They certainly didn’t care about treating them fairly. Read More > at SB Nation

Facebook Isn’t the Social Network Anymore – …Now there are signs that it may have peaked. Not as a media platform, or as a place where people simply spend time on the web, and certainly not as a business. But as a social network per se—a place where people go to connect with friends and acquaintances—Facebook may be just beginning to wane.

To be clear, people are using Facebook as much as ever. At last count, it had 1.6 billion active users, with more than 1 billion logging in each day. It’s just that fewer of those people are using it to actually socialize. According to confidential company data obtained by the tech blog the Information, Facebook has seen a decline in “original sharing”—posts by people about themselves and their personal lives, as opposed to articles they’re sharing from elsewhere on the web.

Whatever its effect on the company’s overall numbers, the phenomenon is real. Posting photos of your baby or your vacation, status updates that convey your mood or what’s on your mind, flirtatious messages to a secret crush—these are interpersonal interactions, the kind you’d typically share with people close to you, or at least people you have reason to believe are well-disposed toward you. But as Facebook has grown, and the average user’s friend list along with it, it has escaped the notice of almost no one that what you share on Facebook you might as well be sharing with the world.

…Facebook has reportedly formed a task force to reverse this decline in personal sharing. They’ve experimented with new language to prompt more personal status updates. They’ve added new reactions beyond the like button to encourage people to share and react to posts that express sadness or ambivalence. Zuckerberg has been touting Facebook live video as a fresh, spontaneous way to connect with people that obviates the pressure to carefully craft your message. He has explicitly pitched it as an attempt to recapture the “raw,” “visceral” feeling that Facebook lost long ago. The company has formidable resources at its disposal, and when it sets its collective mind to something, it often succeeds. Read More > at Slate

US housing crunch: The price isn’t right – …Slavicek embodies a vexing reality for many Americans, not just in San Francisco, but also in other major urban centers across the United States. Over the past decade, the promise of good jobs, a diverse culture, boutique restaurants, and a high quality of life has lured people young and old back into cities. The urban renaissance has been one of the nation’s great postwar success stories.

…And in many cases the squeeze has fallen hardest on the working middle class. True, low-income residents and immigrants – often priced out of neighborhoods they have lived in for generations – bear much of the burden for the platinum mortgages and rent bills, as they have in such housing cycles throughout history. But public-service workers, police, teachers like Slavicek, and other middle-income residents – lacking the welfare support and housing assistance of the very poor – are being hit particularly hard. They are increasingly being forced to make a fundamental choice: keep the jobs they have and settle for interminable commutes and smaller living spaces, or relocate to more affordable cities altogether.

…US Census Bureau statistics show that in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Seattle the number of low-income and affluent households has been rising while the population of middle-income residents appears to have been declining. This has led to a rising gap between the rich and the poor, tilting some cities toward a “barbell economy” – one with big populations at the two extremes and no middle – similar to many third-world cities.

Experts say the trend not only runs counter to the deeply American belief that hard work pays off; in the long run, it could also cost top cities the economic, racial, and cultural diversity that makes them so desirable. “We are seeing an exodus of families and single folks who simply cannot keep up economically with the increasing cost of housing,” Mr. Cohen says. “With this displacement along class and race lines, we turn our cities into … wealthy enclaves. We can’t allow that to happen.” Read More > in The Christian Science Monitor

Legislation would cut red tape to build ‘granny flats’ – A Fremont lawmaker wants to alleviate California’s housing crisis by relaxing land-use rules on rentable accessory dwellings. The result would significantly change how local governments regulate those types of residences.

The goal, say supporters, is to boost the state’s affordable housing supply, especially within urban centers.

Observers say the Golden State is facing a critical housing shortage as prices skyrocket, especially in the Bay Area. Secondary or accessory dwelling units known as “granny flats” — a category that includes cottages and small studio apartments — have emerged as one way to rapidly bring units on the market.

Many local governments have restrictions on accessory housing units, which end up stifling development. A 2012 study by the University of California, Berkeley, found that strict parking rules, accessory dwelling size and setback restrictions in some California cities make it more difficult to build the units.

Assembly Bill 1069 would limit a city or county’s ability to reject the accessory units if they meet certain thresholds. It increases the allowable size of accessory units to 50 percent of a lot’s primary dwelling when attached to the existing residence, instead of 30 percent. The legislation also would streamline permitting deadlines, eliminate some fees and limit an agency’s ability to impose parking standards on accessory dwellings if they meet other standards. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Momentum keeps building toward possible Raiders move to Las Vegas – Three months ago, the Raiders came in third in a three-team race to Los Angeles. They may end up winning a one-team quest for Las Vegas.

Vincent Bonsignore of the L.A. Daily News reports via Twitter that a “huge week” is coming for the effort to build a stadium in Las Vegas where the Raiders would play. As Bonsignore points out, the next big step is approval of the funding mechanism for a Vegas venue.

It’s apparently a “huge week” because, as noted by the Twitter page of the Las Vegas Sands (the casino that is pushing to build the stadium), Raiders owner Mark Davis will attend the second meeting of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee. It’s set for Thursday, April 28, at 8:00 a.m. local time. Read More > at NBC Sports

Millennials Embrace Cars, Defying Predictions of Sales Implosion – In recent years, it has become widely accepted that millennials don’t like cars.

According to conventional wisdom, the generation born from about 1980 to 2004 prefers public transportation or Uber. They get jazzed about the latest iPhone, not the new Ford Focus. Cue dire predictions for the auto industry.

Turns out the doomsayers may be wrong. Millennials — also known as Generation Y — accounted for 27 percent of new car sales in the U.S. last year, up from 18 percent in 2010, according to J.D. Power & Associates. They’ve zoomed past Gen X to become the second-largest group of new car buyers after their boomer parents. Millennials are starting to find jobs and relocating to the suburbs and smaller cities, where public transport is spotty.

Millennial car buyers are emerging at a pivotal moment for the industry. Boomers’ share of new auto purchases peaked in 2010 and will only go down from here, according to John Humphrey, senior vice president of automotive operations at J.D. Power.

Mark Reuss, who runs global product development at General Motors Co., never bought into the theory that Gen Yers disdain the automobile. “That’s insane,” he said earlier this month. The reason millennials haven’t been buying cars is that “they don’t have jobs. Our internal research says that they’ve only been able to afford used cars, if anything at all.” Read More > in Bloomberg

California jurors misusing the Internet could face fines – Jurors who threaten to derail trials by researching them on Google or posting comments about them on Twitter are often dismissed with nothing more than a tongue-lashing from a judge.

But that may soon change in California. Legislation supported by state court officials would authorize judges in some counties to fine jurors up to $1,500 for social media and Internet use violations, which have led to mistrials and overturned convictions around the country.

As jurors and judges have become more technology savvy in recent years, the perils of jurors playing around with their smartphones have become a mounting concern, particularly in technology-rich California. A 2011 state law made improper electronic or wireless communication or research by a juror punishable by contempt.

Supporters of the latest California measure say a potential fine would give teeth to existing prohibitions against social media and Internet use and simplify the process for holding wayward jurors accountable. Read More > from the Associated Press

Why are we so bored? – It amazes me when people proclaim that they are bored. Actually, it amazes me that I am ever bored, or that any of us are. With so much to occupy us these days, boredom should be a relic of a bygone age – an age devoid of the internet, social media, multi-channel TV, 24-hour shopping, multiplex cinemas, game consoles, texting and whatever other myriad possibilities are available these days to entertain us.

Yet despite the plethora of high-intensity entertainment constantly at our disposal, we are still bored. Up to half of us are “often bored” at home or at school, while more than two- thirds of us are chronically bored at work. We are bored by paperwork, by the commute and by dull meetings. TV is boring, as is Facebook and other social media. We spend our weekends at dull parties, watching tedious films or listening to our spouses drone on about their day. Our kids are bored – bored of school, of homework and even of school holidays.

There are a number of explanations for our ennui. This, in fact, is part of the problem – we are overstimulated. The more entertained we are the more entertainment we need in order to feel satisfied . The more we fill our world with fast-moving, high-intensity, ever-changing stimulation, the more we get used to that and the less tolerant we become of lower levels.

Thus slower-paced activities, such as reading reports, sitting in meetings, attending lectures or studying for exams, bore us because we are accustomed to faster-paced amusements.

Our attention spans are now thought to be less than that of a goldfish (eight seconds). We are hard-wired to seek novelty, which produces a hit of dopamine, that feel-good chemical, in our brains. As soon as a new stimulus is noticed, however, it is no longer new, and after a while it bores us. To get that same pleasurable dopamine hit we seek fresh sources of distraction. Read More > in The Guardian

San Francisco Torn as Some See ‘Street Behavior’ Worsen – San Francisco, America’s boom town, is flooded with the cash of well-paid technology workers and record numbers of tourists. At the same time, the city has seen a sharp jump in property crime, up more than 60 percent since 2010, though the actual increase may be higher because many of the crimes go unreported.

Recent data from the F.B.I. show that San Francisco has the highest per-capita property crime rate of the nation’s top 50 cities. About half the cases here are thefts from vehicles, smash-and-grabs that scatter glittering broken glass onto the sidewalks.

The city, known for a political tradition of empathy for the downtrodden, is now divided over whether to respond with more muscular law enforcement or stick to its forgiving attitudes.

The Chamber of Commerce and the tourist board are calling for harsher measures to improve what is euphemistically called the “condition of the streets,” a term that encompasses the intractable homeless problem, public intravenous drug use, the large population of mentally ill people on the streets and aggressive panhandling. The chamber recently released the results of an opinion poll that showed that homelessness and “street behavior” were the primary concerns of residents here. Read More > in The New York Times

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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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