Sunday Reading – 05/29/16


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.

For the Love of God, Please Chill Out About That New Study About Rats and Cell Phones and Cancer – Here we go again. As you may have already discerned from the panicky headlines exploding across your feed – “Cellphone-Cancer Link Found in Government Study,” “Major Cell Phone Radiation Study Reignites Cancer Questions,” and so on – new data were just released which suggest a link between cell phone use and cancer.Well, in rats. But only male ones. And the group of rats those rats were compared to seemed weirdly immune to the cancers in question. Also, the male rats exposed to the cell-phone radiation lived longer than the ones who weren’t. Also also, the cell-phone-radiation rats only got the cancers in question at the rates they were supposed to, given the previously observed prevalence of these cancers in rats.

Has your heart rate slowed yet? Good. This sort of unnecessary panic is what happens in the age of hypercompetitive social-media science journalism, and it sucks.

As Megan Thielking and Dylan Scott of STAT News report, the big, $25-million study, some of the results of which were released late last night, was conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. To oversimplify a bit, it involved dosing a bunch of rats with what researchers believe to be levels of cell-phone radiation equivalent to what humans are hit with when they use cell phones, and then comparing their health outcomes to a control group that wasn’t exposed to the radiation.

The headline finding, as STAT puts it, is that the rats who used adorable miniature cell phones — I know that’s not really how the study was conducted, but I can’t get that image out of my head — experienced “higher incidence of two types of cancer: malignant gliomas in the brain and schwannomas in the heart” than the control group asked to turn their rodent-phones in to the researchers for the duration of the study (sorry).

Then STAT lays out what it describes as “major caveats”: Read More > at Science of Us

The time has come to divorce big-time football from our universities – The question we must struggle with now that we understand the full extent of what happened at Baylor University is simple yet evades anything close to an easy answer.

How do we make football less important?

Baylor, in case you somehow missed it, announced yesterday that it had suspended football coach Art Briles with the intention of firing him. An investigation commissioned by the school found that administrators repeatedly failed to support victims of sexual assault, and the football program “hindered enforcement of rules and policies, and created a cultural perception that football was above the rules.”

…The whole system needs to change, and drastically. University presidents are not equipped to deal with what football has become. Nor is the NCAA. This isn’t some extracurricular activity anymore. It’s big business and getting bigger. It’s long past time we treated it that way.

Baylor and the other schools in the Power 5 conferences should spin their football teams off and form a minor league. Keep the names and the jerseys, sure, but operate the program as a franchise completely outside of the president’s sphere of responsibility. Appoint a commissioner to oversee the whole thing. Dispatch with all the goofiness of requiring players to attempt to get a degree while also working 50 hours a week at football (they can return to school on scholarship once their playing days are over). Pay them. Read More > at For The Win

Are employers required to grant prayer breaks to Muslim employees? – …The company had hired the workers, Somali immigrants from Green Bay, several months earlier and accommodated them with both prayer rooms and a bus service to help with the 40-minute commute. A dispute arose in January after the non-Muslim workers complained the Somali workers were taking extra breaks for prayer time, sometimes without communicating with supervisors. The company told workers to stick to two 10-minute breaks, and 53 workers walked off the job in protest.

Muslim beliefs require five daily prayers, spaced throughout the day, and many Muslims adjust their prayer times to accommodate work, school, or travel. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires employers to accommodate a religious practice such as prayer unless it causes the company “undue hardship” by decreasing “workplace efficiency.”

“Unless they can prove ‘undue hardship,’ and that is definitely what is at the heart of the matter,” then the policy change is illegal,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director told The Christian Science Monitor in January. “What one company thinks is an undue hardship is not actually. It is always a matter of debate and compromise.”

The company hired translators to help navigate the cultural and linguistic barriers in the prayer-break dispute. The workers offered to take their third break without pay, but the company was concerned about the cost of work stoppages. Read More > in The Christian Science Monitor

The superbug that experts have been dreading has just reached the US – A type of bacteria that’s resistant to the last antibiotic we have left against superbugs has made it to the US, and it signals something doctors have been dreading for years – the end for antibiotics.

The bacterium, a strain of Escherichia coli, was found in the urine of a Pennsylvania woman. The strain is resistant to the antibiotic colistin, which doctors have been using as an absolute last-resort for bacteria that are extensively drug-resistant.

…Antibiotics work by attacking a specific mechanism used by bacteria to function, but because bacteria are able to reproduce so quickly, natural selection has led to superbugs that have altered this mechanism and rendered the antibiotics useless.

And we’re quickly running out of time to come up with new options – we’ve had antibiotics for about 85 years, and even in the first 10 years of use, bacteria were becoming resistant. In the 75 years since then, we haven’t managed to create enough antibiotics to outrun the bacterial evolution.

And now, the one antibiotic we had left, colistin, is beginning to fail. Read More > at Science Alert

Water board moves to dismiss record fine against irrigation district – State water regulators are proposing to dismiss a record $1.5-million fine they intended to levy against a Northern California irrigation district accused of ignoring drought-related cuts in water diversions.

The State Water Resources Control Board slapped the fine on the Byron Bethany Irrigation District last summer for continuing to divert supplies after the board ordered senior rights holders to stop river and stream withdrawals.

The action was a high-profile attempt to enforce use limits on agricultural districts that argue their senior water rights are beyond the state’s reach.

…Byron Bethany, which had a 1914 right to take water from the southern end of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, continued to divert for nearly two weeks after the curtailment order was issued, the board said.

The district, which supplies water to about 160 growers and 15,000 residents in the master-planned community of Mountain House, argued that the state had no authority over its senior rights and asked for a hearing. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

California’s Recovery Loses Luster as Tax Increases Set to Lapse – California’s three-year boom run is showing signs of fatigue.

Shaking off recession-era comparisons to Greece, the most-populous U.S. state rebounded with surpluses and an economy fueled by the fast-growing technology industry, which garnered it eight bond-rating upgrades.

Governor Jerry Brown is now forecasting that revenue growth is slowing along with the economy after April’s income-tax collections lagged expectations, in part because of the sputtering stock market. Even if voters in November decide to keep a temporary income-tax increase from ending — a measure that Brown hasn’t endorsed — the budget would “barely be balanced,” his administration said this month.

“We see the state at somewhat of a crossroad,” said Bernhard Fischer, senior fixed-income analyst at Principal Global Investors, which holds $6.2 billion of municipal bonds, including those issued by California. “They need to prepare to address the expiring tax increases and prepare for spending cuts. Maintaining balanced budgets is critical for the long-term credit of the state.”

Following the housing-market crash, California dealt with budget shortfalls so severe it was forced to issue IOUs in 2009 when lawmakers couldn’t agree on a fix. The tax increase, approved on the November 2012 ballot, helped California reverse its fiscal fortunes, leaving officials in 2013 debating how to use a surplus. As it arrived, Brown paid down debt and socked money away to use the next time the economy tumbles into a recession. Read More > at Bloomberg

A single injection can eliminate type 2 diabetes in mice for months – Scientists have made a discovery that could lead to better treatments for diabetes in the future, with a protein injection administered directly into the brains of rodents with type 2 diabetes putting the animals into remission for several months.

Both mice and rats were injected with a low dose of synthesised Fibroblast Growth Factor 1 (FGF1), a growth-promoting protein known to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic mice. But while FGF1 had previously been shown to restore healthy blood sugar levels in mice for up to two days after injection, the same hormones injected directly into the animals’ brains provided a dramatically extended effect: up to 17 weeks of what the researchers call a “sustained remission”.

While it might not be quite a cure, it’s still a big improvement on previous research with FGF1, and the findings could lead to a new potential target for diabetic treatments – focusing on the brain’s role in regulating blood glucose levels, rather than other organs and organ systems in the body. Read More > at Science Alert

Opponents rally against Brown’s plan to exempt affordable housing – Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to exempt certain affordable housing projects from local permitting is running into steep opposition from influential organized labor and environmental advocates.

Brown wants to allow certain projects with onsite affordable housing to sidestep requirements for conditional use permits, planned unit development permits and other local approvals. But labor and environmental groups oppose the governor’s plan because they say it “blows a hole” in the California Environmental Quality Act, and would restrict urban planning control by local governments.

…Brown’s housing bill is one of several pending proposals in Sacramento attempting to curb California’s housing supply and affordability crisis. Lawmakers are currently considering a bill to ease land-use rules on rentable secondary housing units. And another effort by Assembly Democrats would secure $650 million in subsidies for low-income rental housing… Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Which Cities in California are Most Dangerous? – What city in California is the most dangerous? Which city is the safest? When looking at the crime numbers in the state, most people would assume that Oakland is the most dangerous city in California. However, using crime statistics alone to determine a city’s level of danger or safety is something that criminologists and the FBI warn against. There are a myriad of other factors that combine to affect crime and public safety in a city. Together with the data visualization firm 1point21 Interactive, we analyzed several of these factors along with the latest crime data from the FBI to find out which cities in California with a population of 100,000 or greater are the most dangerous in the state.

Overall Rankings

We analyzed data across three key dimensions – Crime, Police Presence, and Community Factors. Within these dimensions, we identified and ranked 14 metrics that influence the safety of a city. The table below displays the results of our study.

1 San Bernardino
2 Stockton
3 Modesto
4 Vallejo
5 Salinas
6 Oakland
7 Antioch
8 Pomona
9 Victorville
10 Inglewood
11 Richmond
12 Sacramento
13 Lancaster
14 San Francisco
15 Riverside
16 Fairfield
17 Long Beach
18 Santa Maria
19 Los Angeles
20 Fresno

In the state of California, there were a total of 1,105,242 crimes (2,848 crimes per 100,000 people) committed in 2014;. 151,425 of these were what classified as violent crimes. Violent crime, as defined by the FBI, includes instances of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, all of which involve felony charges. Weighed heaviest in our rankings, violent crime had the biggest impact on public safety. Read More > GDD Law

Patterson Vacates Controversial Councilwoman’s Seat – A Patterson councilwoman was booted off the dais last week amid a year-long clash with colleagues that often turned ugly and included allegations of death threats lobbed against a fellow council member.

Sheree Lustgarten’s seat was declared vacant by the council Friday on the grounds that she resided, for at least three consecutive weeks, at a residence in Gustine. The vote was 4-1 with Lustgarten as the lone dissenter.

Lustgarten has been at odds with her fellow council members since an incident in which she was accused of mistreating elderly patrons at the Hammon Senior Center. In 2015, she became the target of a recall effort, but that campaign was later suspended.

In September, Council Member Dennis McCord won a restraining order against Lustgarten, claiming she had threatened his life. That order was later extended for two years. The council also accused her of past incidences of criminal wrongdoing and recently asked California Attorney General Kamala Harris to determine whether it precluded her from holding public office.

In the end, it was the councilwoman’s alleged residency outside city limits that did her in. Read More > at California City News

Scientists weigh in against the NFL’s war on physics and Tom Brady – If you’re not an American football fan, think of this as a story of a $13 billion company that can’t get its head around basic science.

Fans are all too aware of the multi-year battle—with an estimated joint cost of $20 million—between the National Football League (NFL) and a marquee player, Tom Brady of New England Patriots. In 2015, an NFL investigation found it was “more probable than not” that Brady was “generally aware” of supposed efforts to deflate footballs below league-sanctioned levels in an effort to make it easier to grip, though whether that would even help is disputed.

…On May 24, a group of 21 scientists and engineers at major American universities weighed in on the legal battle uninvited, filing a friend-of-the-court brief (pdf) to back Brady’s request for a hearing. They say that the NFL’s science is deeply flawed and that “courts should not be powerless to consider the absence of scientific proof when a proceeding is so interlaced with laws of science.”

…We are talking about the Ideal Gas law. As temperatures fall, as they do in late-season NFL games, the pressure of the air inside the football is also reduced. This is “natural, inevitable, and not subject to debate,” the brief says. The scientists point out that even the NFL concedes that footballs deflate naturally. But they believe that Brady is responsible for some unspecified further amount of deflation.

The scientists think this also makes very little sense. The NFL is assigning Brady blame for some additional amount of deflation, but the pressure ranges the league cites are within the margin of error of the tools the NFL used to measure the pressure on the football, that is, between .14 and .53 pounds per square inch.

…Consider this further bit of analysis. The scientists gathered temperature data for more than 10,000 NFL outdoor games since 1960. They assumed a locker-room temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit and that footballs were inflated to 13 pounds per square inch of pressure ahead of each game, and found that 61% of games would have been played in temperatures that would lead to “deflated” footballs as judged by the NFL. Read More > at Quartz

Carmakers Need a New (Business) Model – Toyota is investing in and planning to collaborate with Uber, the largest ride-hailing service. Volkswagen is investing $300 million in Tel Aviv-based Uber rival Gett. And that’s just Tuesday’s news. In January, General Motors put $500 million into Lyft, another Uber competitor. Earlier this month, Apple invested $1 billion in Chinese ride-hailing company Didi and Fiat Chrysler made a deal with Alphabet to develop self-driving minivans.

After almost a century of making cars and selling them in more or less the same way, automakers (and others) are getting the sense that the business of automotive transportation might be about to change radically. Here’s Toyota executive Shigeki Tomoyama on the Uber deal:

Ridesharing has huge potential in terms of shaping the future of mobility. Through this collaboration with Uber, we would like to explore new ways of delivering secure, convenient and attractive mobility services to customers.

A new way of delivering “mobility services” probably means a new business model. Now, carmakers sell vehicles to customers (through dealers, usually) and often provide financing. In a future dominated by self-driving cars, it may be that car ownership will give way to on-demand mobility — a car shows up, takes you where you need to go, and moves on to the next passenger. That’s what Uber and the other ride-hailing companies are banking on. So is Alphabet, which has made the most progress so far in developing wholly autonomous vehicles. Read More > at Bloomberg

Why Lease When You Can Own? Rooftop Solar Facing Tough Question – It’s tough to argue with free. That’s why the no-money-down solar lease became the most popular choice for U.S. rooftop power.

Now, though, the equation is changing. Falling costs are making it easier for consumers to buy solar systems outright, and banks and solar installers are promoting loans with no upfront payments. That’s a threat to companies such as SolarCity Corp., Sunrun Inc. and Vivint Solar Inc., which built their businesses on people signing decades-long contracts.

Installation growth is slowing for the big three U.S. rooftop solar installers, and GTM Research, an industry consultant, is forecasting the percentage of consumers buying rather than leasing residential systems will expand to 45 percent this year, from 38 percent in 2014. Shares in all three companies have plunged more than 40 percent this year, for a variety of reasons including a failed acquisition bid for Vivint and questions about SolarCity’s strategy.

Greg Gill, a retired IBM employee, was looking for ways to cut his $400 monthly utility bill. He considered leasing, but decided in the end to pay $32,370 for a 7.3-kilowatt system that was installed in September at his home outside Sacramento.

Gill charged it on a credit card (to earn rewards) and then paid it off in cash, he said. His April utility bill was $1.18, he earned a $10,000 tax credit and he’s expecting an 11 percent return on the investment. Read More > at Bloomberg

Demand plummets for California pollution credits – ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are taking a hit as demand has plummeted for pollution credits that are supposed to fund the initiative.

Only about a tenth of the available pollution credits were sold in an auction last week, according to results released Wednesday by the California Air Resources Board. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration says revenue from the program was $600 million short of the $2.4 billion anticipated in the current fiscal year.

Gov. Jerry Brown built a cushion in his budget proposal, but the shortfall will still force the Democratic governor and state lawmakers to scale back their ambitions for the money. A quarter of the revenue is earmarked for Brown’s high-speed rail project, with the rest funding a wide variety of programs aimed at reducing emissions or mitigating the damage from climate change.

What programs to fund and how much to spend will be the subject of negotiations with the Legislature, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for Brown’s Department of Commerce.

California launched the pollution-restriction program in 2012. Known as “cap-and-trade,” the program is designed to control emissions of heat-trapping gases and to spur investment in clean technologies. It limits how much pollution businesses can spew, making them buy permits, which are auctioned quarterly or sold on the secondary market.

The plummeting demand for pollution credits comes as a state appeals court considers a challenge to the program by the California Chamber of Commerce. Read More > from the Associated Press

Wells Fargo launches 3% down payment mortgage – First-time buyers and low- to moderate-income buyers have largely been sidelined by today’s housing recovery.

The common cry is too-tight credit. Lenders have kept the credit box restrictive because they are gun-shy from the billions of dollars in buy backs and judicial settlements stemming from the mortgage crisis that they still face today. Now, the nation’s largest lender, Wells Fargo, says it is opening that box with a new low down payment loan — a loan it claims is low-risk to the bank.

Branded “yourFirstMortgage,” Wells Fargo’s new product has a minimum down payment of 3 percent for a fixed-rate conventional mortgage of up to $417,000. Down payment help can come from gifts and community-assistance programs. Customers are not required to complete a homebuyer education course, but if they do, they may earn a 1/8 percent interest rate reduction. The minimum FICO score for these loans, which are underwritten according to Fannie Mae standards, is 620. Mortgage insurance can either be rolled in to the cost of the loan or purchased separately by the borrower. Read More > at CNBC

Bendable Smartphones Are Coming – A little-known startup in China is gunning to be the first to sell bendable smartphones this year, seeking to upstage Samsung Electronics Co., which has started to dabble in flexible-screen technology.

Moxi Group, based in Chongqing, says it will ship 100,000 of the devices in 2016. They are, at the very least, unique. The phones, which will sell for about 5,000 yuan ($765) apiece, are designed to be rolled into a bracelet and worn on the wrist. The touchscreens work when curled up, or can be unfurled into rectangles to use just like any other smartphone.

For now, the gadgets will only feature black and white displays. with a color version to follow later. Still, that gives Moxi enough bragging rights to beat out other smartphone makers in being first to release bendable products. Read More > at Bloomberg

Insects in Concord attack were regular honeybees, not killer bees – The perpetrators of a hellacious rampage of stinging that killed two dogs and caused pandemonium in a Concord neighborhood this month were not Africanized killer bees after all, but regular neighborhood honeybees, state agricultural officials said Tuesday.

Scientists at the California Department of Food and Agriculture tested the mitochondrial DNA of seven of the crazed bees that blanketed Hitchcock Road in Concord a little over a week ago and found only European genes.

To be precise, the Concord bees were of the family Apidae, the genus Apis and the species mellifera, of the eastern European mitotype — otherwise known as European honey bees, according to the department’s entomology laboratory in Sacramento.

“They are not Africanized,” said Steve Lyle, the agriculture department spokesman. “No hint, no sign of Africanized ancestry was present.” Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Rising Competition From The Genetically Engineered – I assert: Genetic engineering of human offspring will start some time in the 2020s. It will take off sharply in the 2030s. The rapid rate of advance of CRISPR gene editing technology combined with the rapid rate of decline of genome sequencing costs will make this possible. People will jump on offspring genetic engineering because they want kids that will excel at something. The range of desired areas of excellence is quite large (ballet dancing, novel writing, software development, painting, music composition, musical instrument playing, investing, managing, etc). The challenge: what to choose for the genetic endowment of your kids.

The desire for super kids will lead to frustration for many, even if their gene selections do exactly what’s advertised.

Why frustration? Consider making babies capable of excelling at sports. Imagine basketball fans who want to have a kid who excels in the NBA (ditto other pro sports such as golf, tennis, football, and baseball). The people who decide to make a super basketball player will be frustrated by the results because others will be doing the same. Sports is made up mainly of losers. That won’t change even as the level of play rises. Will someone in the late 2020s be able to select genes that make a basketball player better than Michael Jordan? Sure, get his DNA, identify what makes him great, fix all the harmful mutations, and add some mutations that other great basketball players have that he doesn’t have. But lots of people will do that. Making a sports winner really isn’t the best strategy for prospective parents. There are just too few winners in sports and way way more losers. Offspring genetic engineering will not change that.

What’s worse: careers in sports will get shorter. Suppose you choose the best known genetic variants to make a sports star baby in 2028. Well, every year the babies will get better. Kids born 2032 will grow up to be better athletes than your baby born in 2029. Each year the best known gene choices will get better and people making a baby a few years later will make better players than you did. So 15-20 years latter increasingly better players will show up to compete every year, knocking off the previous best. Winners won’t stay winners for long. Read More > at Future Pundit

Danger on tracks: Seven people hit by Bay Area trains in five days – Four people were hit by trains in different Bay Area cities on Monday, bringing the total number of people struck since Thursday to seven, five of whom have died.

People have been hit by three different passenger train lines and a freight train on tracks in the East Bay, on the Peninsula and in San Francisco. While there are no final determinations of whether the deaths were accidents or suicides — in one case a man was wearing headphones and another man may have been on a bicycle — seven people hit in five days is renewing talks of safety and suicide prevention along Bay Area rail lines.

“Suicides on railroad tracks are among the most troubling issues facing the rail safety community,” said Nancy Sheehan, state coordinator for California Operation Lifesaver, a rail safety group. “Any time you are walking on the tracks it’s private property. Sadly, every single one of these deaths could be prevented if people were obeying the laws.” Read More > in The Mercury News

AT&T wants to pull the plug on land-line service – AT&T is pushing a bill in the California legislature that would allow it to phase out landlines starting in 2020 if there is an alternative, like cell phones, available to customers.

Bill sponsor and San Jose Assemblyman Evan Low told local CBS affiliate KPIX that the bill will help the company cut costs by ending maintenance on expensive copper wires and routing stations, while making sure customers are still connected. AT&T estimates about 4.5 million users in California still have landlines, though.

The idea is already receiving push back from consumer advocates, with some saying it is purely a cost-saving measure and has little to do with modernization. They also worry that it could prove disastrous during times of emergency, when there’s no electricity available to charge a cell phone. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Black Market Ride-Sharing Explodes In Austin After Voters Drive Out Uber And Lyft – Almost as soon as Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin two weeks ago, a black market for unregulated ride-sharing emerged to meet the huge demand for transportation here.

Tens of thousands of riders and drivers are now connecting through Facebook and Craigslist, sidestepping onerous city regulations passed late last year aimed at traditional ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft that required drivers to be fingerprinted, among other things.

When a ballot proposal that would have replaced the city ordinance failed, Uber and Lyft left town as promised. Since May 9, there have been no ride-sharing services available in this city of almost a million people. Getting around town has become almost impossible unless you own a car.

So it’s no surprise that tech-savvy Austinites have taken matters into their own hands.

One tech company, New Hampshire-based Arcade City, is helping to facilitate this new black market on its Facebook page, with a closed group of would-be riders and drivers. The group now has more than 24,000 members. Read More > in The Federalist

Amazon Passes Walmart As No. 2 In Electronics – Amazon has become the second-largest retailer of consumer electronics in the world, behind only Best Buy.

The feat, charted by TWICE Magazine’s annual Top 100 Consumer Electronics Retailers report, comes less than 17 years after the e-tailer launched its first online tech store.

In the process, the House That Jeff Bezos Built has leapfrogged multitudes of mighty electronics merchants like Apple, Target and Sears, and arguably helped vanquish others, like Circuit City and Sony Stores.

This time around, Amazon has edged out the world’s largest retailer — Walmart — for the No. 2 spot on the TWICE hit parade, relegating the discount chain to third place. Read More > at Twice

Goodbye, empty nest: Millennials staying longer with parents – Many of America’s young adults appear to be in no hurry to move out of their old bedrooms.

For the first time on record, living with parents is now the most common arrangement for people ages 18 to 34, an analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center has found.

Nearly one-third of millennials live with their parents, slightly more than the proportion who live with a spouse or partner. It’s the first time that living at home has outpaced living with a spouse for this age group since such record-keeping began in 1880.

The remaining young adults are living alone, with other relatives, in college dorms, as roommates or under other circumstances. Read More > from the Associated Press

Sorry, There’s Nothing Magical About Breakfast – …As with many other nutritional pieces of advice, our belief in the power of breakfast is based on misinterpreted research and biased studies.

It does not take much of an effort to find research that shows an association between skipping breakfast and poor health. A 2013 study published in the journal Circulation found that men who skipped breakfast had a significantly higher risk of coronary heart disease than men who ate breakfast. But, like almost all studies of breakfast, this is an association, not causation.

More than most other domains, this topic is one that suffers from publication bias. In a paper published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013, researchers reviewed the literature on the effect of breakfast on obesity to look specifically at this issue. They first noted that nutrition researchers love to publish results showing a correlation between skipping breakfast and obesity. They love to do so again and again. At some point, there’s no reason to keep publishing on this.

However, they also found major flaws in the reporting of findings. People were consistently biased in interpreting their results in favor of a relationship between skipping breakfast and obesity. They improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited others’ results. And they also improperly used causal language in citing others’ results. People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad.

Good reviews of all the observational research note the methodological flaws in this domain, as well as the problems of combining the results of publication-bias-influenced studies into a meta-analysis. The associations should be viewed with skepticism and confirmed with prospective trials.

Few randomized controlled trials exist. Those that do, although methodologically weak like most nutrition studies, don’t support the necessity of breakfast. Read More > in The New York Times

Work at things that are central to your life”: The argument for never retiring – In the US, a traditional career is designed as a marathon, with the finish line at age 65. After a 40-year grind, we’re expected to stop working and revel in a life of idle, stress-free days funded by hard-earned pension plans.

But not everyone wants to stop: For the few who’ve found a way to blur that proverbial work-life dichotomy, retirement is more dead end than welcome repose.

“To work at things that are central to your life and your perception of yourself, why would you want to retire from that? I want to die at my desk,” says legendary designer Milton Glaser in a new book Twenty Over Eighty: Conversations on a Lifetime in Architecture and Design (out May 24).

Retirement, Glaser says, is an obsolete concept invented to stimulate the economy. Taking a cue from an 1881 German government scheme that paid pensions to any worker over the age of 70, US companies once saw retirement as a tactic to “pasturize” elderly factory workers who were slowing down production speed in the Industrial Age. Aging workers often became too slow or clumsy on assembly lines, explains the New York Times; to convince them to leave their jobs to younger men, factories offered handsome pensions.

But not all work is physical labor, and many seniors can’t stand the thought of spending their remaining healthy years—and hard-earned wisdom—idling in leisure parks, cruises and retirement communities. As a counterpoint to our contemporary era’s fixation on prodigies, PR-savvy millennial upstarts and “30-under-30s,” the 20 sharp and accomplished octogenarians (and some nonagenarians) profiled in Twenty Over Eighty are living testament of how to carve out joyful, sustainable career paths—and avoid burning out too early. Read More > at Quartz

Eating too LITTLE salt may INCREASE your risk of a heart attack or stroke, claims controversial new research – It has long been held that a diet high in salt is dangerous to the heart, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.

But, in a dramatic U-turn, the scientific evidence has suggested the opposite can also be true.

A global study has found that, contrary to past belief, low-salt diets may not be beneficial.

Rather, they can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and death, compared with average salt consumption.

The study, published in the reputable Lancet journal, has garnered strong reaction, with one expert declaring his ‘disbelief’, while others are critical of the study’s methods, and calling its findings into question.

The research was carried out by investigators at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences.

They analyzed more than 130,000 people across 49 countries, focusing on whether the relationship between sodium (salt) intake and death, heart disease and stroke differs in people with high blood pressure compared to those with normal blood pressure.

Their findings showed that regardless of whether people have high blood pressure, low-salt intake is linked to a greater incidence of heart attacks, stroke, and deaths compared to average intake. Read More > in the Daily Mail

Is Motorola about to bring back the Razr? – It only seems like yesterday we were all walking about with clamshell phones and the only way to access the internet was using a chunky PC.

How times have changed?

But earlier this week Nokia announced it’ll start making smartphones again, and now we have a not-very-cryptic video from Motorola, suggesting the Razr will also be making a comeback.

The question remains, what will the 2016 Razr look like? Will it be just a super thin smartphone, or will there be some sort of hinge action going on here?

You won’t have to wait long to find out, with the date June 9th 2016 appearing in the title and end of the video. Read More > at T3

Airbus unit unveils 3D-printed electric motorcycle – What weighs 77 pounds, goes 50 mph (80 kph) and looks like a Swiss cheese on wheels?460x

An electric motorcycle made from tiny aluminum alloy particles using a 3D printer.

European aeronautics giant Airbus unveiled the ‘Light Rider ‘ in Germany on Friday. Manufactured by its subsidiary APWorks, a specialist in additive layer manufacturing, the motorcycle uses hollow frame parts that contain the cables and pipes.

The frame weighs just 13 pounds, about 30 percent less than conventional e-motorbikes. Read More > from the Associated Press

California graduation rates up again, especially for migrant students and English learners – California high school students graduated at a rate of 82.3 percent in 2015, up 1.3 percentage points from the year before. Those numbers represent a slightly larger increase than the state has seen in recent years and bring graduation rates to another record high, according to state Department of Education data released Tuesday.

While the statewide increase is not a huge jump, the increase for student populations that have historically struggled in schools was significantly higher than the statewide rate.

The biggest gains were posted by migrant students and those learning English. Rates for English language learners jumped four percentage points, to 69.4 percent, while 80.7 percent of migrant students graduated, 4.4 percentage points higher than the year before.

The graduation increase for English learners is encouraging for educators because there are so many students with this designation in California schools. About a quarter of the state’s 6.2 million kids in public schools speak a foreign language at home and receive targeted instruction to improve their English skills. Read More > at KPCC

How the Internet Affects What (and How) We Read – …The Pew Research Center study found that small screens don’t necessarily deter readers from spending time with long-form journalism, while mobile readers spend about twice as much engaged time (123 seconds) with long-form stories as they do with short-form ones (57 seconds). While this is heartening for those of us invested in long-form journalism, the study also includes other valuable data about mobile reading habits, including how readers discover stories, what they’re reading, and when they’re reading them.

How readers discover stories largely foretells how they’ll read them. Readers spend more time with stories they discover through internal links, as opposed to those they find through referral sources. If you clicked through to the Pew study above, you already registered your interest in that study, and it would follow that you’re prepared to spend time with it. By the same token, not all social networks are created equal: while researchers found that Facebook drives more overall traffic, they also found Twitter attracts readers who spend more time with stories.

Certain topics attract more time and attention than others. For example, mobile readers committed more than eight minutes to long-form journalism related to crime. Compare that to 99 seconds for science and technology pieces. In fact, mobile readers actually spend more time with shorter articles than they do with long-form pieces related to science and technology.

When it comes to overall traffic, US politics and government draws—by far—the greatest number of readers, averaging about twice as many visitors per article (2,296) as science and technology (1,125). If NASA wants people to read about Mars, it would do well to enlist Donald Trump as a spokesperson. Read More > at PC Magazine

Study: LEGOs Are Becoming More Violent – There’s little doubt that popular media has grown increasingly violent of late. In television shows, movies, and video games, violence is more prevalent and more graphic. Game of Thrones, and the now yearly arrival of the latest Marvel movie, are hallmarks of this trend.

Even children’s toys can’t escape the trend. A new study published to PLoS ONE finds that violence is growing increasingly common in LEGO sets.

Since 1949, LEGO has granted children of all ages an outlet to express their creativity. The near 600 billion parts produced over that time have been used to craft all sorts of wondrous creations.

LEGO builders are still free to erect whatever they choose, but the tendered designs and themes, as well as the parts themselves, are becoming more violent in nature.

To discern the finding, a group of researchers from New Zealand conducted two experiments. First, they analyzed a massive database of LEGO parts and sets to uncover the proportion of parts that are weapons and the proportion of sets that contain weapons. Though the data contains a number of outliers, there seems to be a broad trend of rising weaponization. The change is particularly apparent since the turn of the century. In 2001, just 3 percent of LEGO sets sold contained weapons. In 2014, that proportion was nearly 30 percent! Read More > at Real Clear Science

California Needs Millions Of Homes — Why Aren’t They Built? – Just one decade ago California’s housing market crashed, resulting in mass foreclosures and dramatic declines in home values. Today, we face a very different problem — a severe housing shortage.

There just aren’t enough homes. Supply is low, demand is high and home prices continue to rise. In fact, home prices in California are so high that middle and lower-income families are being priced out of home ownership.

The average California home price of $450,000 is twice the national average.

In order to meet the demand for housing and to make homes more affordable, California developers would have to build millions of new homes — a million in Los Angeles alone — just to keep up. And it’ll be hard to keep up if California’s ultra-strict environmental regulations continue to get in the way.

Those who have already purchased a home are in a good shape. Home prices will likely continue to see incremental gains. But my guess is you have friends and family who would like to own a home someday. If they’ve yet to purchase a home or are looking to rent, they may find themselves priced out of the market.

Liberal state lawmakers attempting to address the issue have only come with temporary solutions to the “affordability problem.” So far, what’s been suggested is for the state to heavily subsidize a few low-income housing programs. These policies are out of touch with reality. They limit housing choices, stifle opportunities and are a waste of taxpayer money. Read More > at Investor’s Business Daily

California housing shortage sets up battle over land-use control – Once upon a time, California city officials used two tools to shape how their communities evolved – setting property tax rates and controlling land use.

The former vanished when voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, not only cutting property taxes by more than half, but sharply limiting future tax bites.

In response, city officials relied more on land use to keep their municipal engines running – aggressively seeking profitable development, such as sales tax-generating retail complexes, and using, or misusing, “redevelopment” to subsidize favored developers.

A few years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature repealed redevelopment, saying it was being distorted and had become a vehicle for siphoning property taxes from school districts – about $2 billion a year – that the state had to make up.

…Meanwhile, cities’ landuse powers have steadily eroded as the state increasingly tells local governments what they can, cannot and must do.

Meanwhile, the governor’s Office of Planning and Research has morphed into a writer of rules under recent state laws seeking to reduce carbon emissions by compelling local governments to favor “transit-friendly,” high-density housing and disfavor low-density housing whose residents drive cars.

California’s chronic and worsening housing shortage will fuel what shapes up as a new clash over state land-use powers. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

With State Transportation Funds Strained, Counties Ask Voters for Help – …Brown’s budget proposal would raise money money by imposing a $65 “road improvement fee” on all vehicles and increasing the state gasoline tax, among other provisions. The plan proposes $36 billion in spending on streets, highways, trains and transit over the next decade.

But adoption of the governor’s proposals, or of any long-term fix for funding the state’s transportation infrastructure, depends largely on a special session of the Legislature the governor called last year. So far, the special session has gone nowhere.

That leaves cities and counties across the state waiting to find out what long-term role the state will play in helping pay for their transportation needs.

That uncertainty increased this week when the California Transportation Commission gave final approval for a plan to cancel $754 million in highway, rail, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects it had expected to fund over the next five years. The commission also put another $755 million in spending on hold.

…Kiana Valentine, a legislative representative for the California State Association of Counties, says the state has $135 billion in unmet transportation needs — everything from roads, to bridges to trains and buses. Traditionally, lawmakers relied on the federal and state fuel taxes to meet some of these needs. Read More > at KQED

Katrina: What the Media Missed – Remember the dozens, maybe hundreds, of rapes, murders, stabbings and deaths resulting from official neglect at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina? The ones that never happened, as even the national media later admitted?

Sure, we all remember the original reporting, if not the back-pedaling.

Here’s another one: Do you remember the dramatic TV footage of National Guard helicopters landing at the Superdome as soon as Katrina passed, dropping off tens of thousands saved from certain death? The corpsmen running with stretchers, in an echo of M*A*S*H, carrying the survivors to ambulances and the medical center? About how the operation, which also included the Coast Guard, regular military units, and local first responders, continued for more than a week?

Me neither. Except that it did happen, and got at best an occasional, parenthetical mention in the national media. The National Guard had its headquarters for Katrina, not just a few peacekeeping troops, in what the media portrayed as the pit of Hell. Hell was one of the safest places to be in New Orleans, smelly as it was. The situation was always under control, not surprisingly because the people in control were always there.

…There were problems, true: FEMA melted down. Political leaders, from the Mayor to Governor to the White House, showed “A Failure of Initiative”, as a recent House report put it. That report, along with sharply critical studies by the White House and the Senate, delve into the myriad of breakdowns, shortages and miscommunications that hampered relief efforts.

…”The Coast Guard, the National Guard, the military in general performed heroically,” said Sen. Robert Barham, R-Oak Ridge, who monitored the Superdome operation from Baton Rouge as head of the Louisiana State Senate’s Homeland Security Committee. His opposite number in the Louisiana House, Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, said, “They (the Guard) did a yeoman’s job.” Both said they were getting very different pictures from TV than they got from the Guardsmen at the Dome, and the state fish and wildlife department, another key player in the rescue operation. Read More > at Real Clear Politics

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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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