Sunday Reading – 06/05/16


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.

Tough times for auto stocks as Uber rules the world – Most major car makers reported lousy sales in May. Sales fell at GM, Ford, Toyota and Honda.

Fiat Chrysler was the only major auto company to buck the trend, extending the company’s impressive sales growth streak to 74 consecutive months. Still, sales were up only 1.1% though, led mainly by strong demand for its Jeep brand.

The auto industry has, up until recently, been a bright spot for the U.S. economy. Sales hit a record last year, thanks to robust demand for trucks and SUVs as gas prices remained low.

But the slowdown in May is a troubling sign — especially now that energy prices have surged in the past few months.

…The auto industry is also still reeling from the Dieselgate scandal — which started when it was discovered that Volkswagen (VLKAF) cheated on emissions tests for years.

Mitsubishi (MBFJF) subsequently admitted that it had also lied about mileage tests. And the U.S. Department of Justice has asked Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler (DDAIF) to look into its emissions testing for possible irregularities.

And if you believe influential analyst Mary Meeker’s latest big tech trends report for venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins — Uber will be the only big customer left to buy cars (driverless naturally) in the future as ridesharing becomes even more prevalent.

…Clearly, the auto business is in transition. And that could mean that there are some good bargains for investors looking to sift through the rubble. But what makes investing in the auto industry so challenging right now is the fact that so much is changing. Read More > at CNN Money

Quantifying the Changing Face of San Francisco – Articles like “Is San Francisco Losing Its Soul?” or “San Francisco’s Alarming Tech Bro Boom: What Is the Price of Change?” have become the norm for describing the city. As the refrain goes, the rising cost of living in San Francisco is forcing out the city’s teachers, artists, and diversity, replaced by engineers and the 1% drawn by the tech boom.

Cities’ demographics are always changing, but many believe San Francisco’s transformation is uniquely extreme and damaging. Combine a booming economy with little housing development, and the increasing desire of young professionals to live in cities is a potent recipe for drastic movements of people. It has led to a city that some of its residents find unrecognizable.

But how much of this is sky is falling hyperbole? Does the reality match the perception?

It’s impossible to quantify the cultural changes to the city. But it is possible—using Census data—to test how much San Francisco’s demographics have been altered by new arrivals.

…The basic trends are what any San Francisco resident might expect. The people moving in are more likely to have higher levels of formal education, and they tend to be younger, White and Asian. The people moving out are less likely to have completed college, and they tend be older, African American and Hispanic.

Increased demand to live in San Francisco, and a housing supply that has barely budged, means change at a striking scale.

…San Francisco has long been one of the United States’ most diverse cities. Since World War II, it has been a city with large Asian, Hispanic, White and Black populations. Yet the city is in danger of almost entirely losing one of those groups.

Perhaps no aspect of the annual migration in and out of San Francisco is as notable as the mass “exodus” of African Americans.

…San Francisco is a particularly male city. It is home to the Castro, a center of American gay male culture, and the city’s main growth industry, tech, is heavily male.

The city was already unusually male in 2010, and the gender ratio skews more each year. Tech is a growing portion of San Francisco’s economy, and men make up about 75% of the city’s computer and math workers. That 75% ratio has been stable for years and has contributed to a growing wage gap between men and women in the city. Read More > at Priceonomics

Uber gets $3.5 billion in cash from Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia has invested $3.5 billion in cash in Uber, as the San Francisco-based ride hailing continues to rake in investment as it expands its global reach.

Uber confirmed the investment in a statement sent to reporters.

“We appreciate the vote of confidence in our business as we continue to expand our global presence,” Travis Kalanick, the company’s chief executive, said in the statement. “Our experience in Saudi Arabia is a great example of how Uber can benefit riders, drivers and cities and we look forward to partnering to support their economic and social reforms.”

Under the terms of the deal, Yasir Al Rumayyan, a a managing director at the Middle Eastern kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, will take a seat on Uber’s board. The all-cash infusion was part of a recent financing round that valued Uber at $62.5 billion, the New York Times reports, and is one of the largest ever investments in a privately held company by a single investor. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Spending the Marijuana Tax – While most attention focused on the marijuana initiative will revolve around whether the drug should be legalized for recreational purposes, there is a discussion to be had about the tax that would be applied to marijuana if the initiative passes.

The proposal carries an excise tax of 15% above and beyond sales and use taxes imposed by state and local governments. In addition, there is a tax levied in the cultivation stage on marijuana flowers and leaves measured on a per ounce basis. According to the fiscal impact calculated for the initiative summary, the revenue generated from the marijuana tax could be hundreds of millions of dollars to over a billion dollars annually.

Most of the money is dedicated for specific purposes covering administration of the law, treating serious substance abuse, training law enforcement on applying the law, black market prevention, and providing environmental cleanup for public lands damaged by illicit marijuana trade.

…Assuming those who intend to use the product and want to do so legally are willing to pay the tax, a new tax dedicated to general purposes might drum up more enthusiasm from non-users who are tired of hearing about all the tax plans floated this election season to fund basic government services.

The recent PPIC poll found support for legalizing recreational use of marijuana among likely voters, 60% to 37%. However, less than half of the adults asked (45%) said the generated tax revenue should be used as dictated by the initiative. There were no questions in the poll to determine if the money would be better spent in other areas.

With a crying need for transportation funding, for example, an argument could be made that new revenue would serve an important general purpose. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

New Online Hate-Speech Rules Threaten Free Speech (Op-Ed) – Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter have agreed to new European Union rules mandating that “hate speech” be swiftly removed from social networks. Sounds great, right? Not when you consider that this is a restriction on free speech — and that the EU is now deciding what Facebook, Twitter and YouTube users can and can’t say online.

Holocaust denial, for example, is hate speech under EU law. Most of us can agree that Holocaust denial is vile, but it’s definitely protected by the First Amendment — at least in the United States. But what about denial of the 1915 Armenian genocide, a position espoused by Turkey, a NATO member country?

…The new EU Code of Conduct fits neatly into a broader European effort to impose the continent’s own notions of free speech and free information on the Internet, and to wrest control of the Internet from the Americans.

…Underlying these efforts is the question whether any of this EU official harassment would be happening to European companies. The European elite resents and fears the fact that American companies dominate the Internet. They see that domination not only as an economic threat, but a cultural one as well. They don’t want their own kids growing up to be Americans.

It’s not even clear if the new EU Code of Conduct will be effective. Andrew Auernheimer, aka Weev, is a well-known American online troll who began to espouse far-right views, especially on Twitter, after his prison sentence in a hacking case was vacated in 2014.

“Twitter promises to stop hate speech,” Auernheimer tweeted today. “I’ve thousands of clean sockpuppets” — or disposable Twitter accounts created using false names — “stowed away for this exact eventuality.” Read More > at tom’s guide

We Asked a Cultural Historian: Are Apple Stores the New Temples? – In more ancient times, when communal experiences were mediated by religion, crowds used to gather outside temples on feast days. In Biblical times, for instance, on pilgrimage holidays like Passover, Jewish people were supposed to travel to Jerusalem, to be present at the Holy Temple, where the High Priest would make a sacrifice to God.

Nowadays, we have Apple Release Day—the Feast of St. Jobs—when faithful customers gather outside Apple stores and await the renewal of a next generation iPhone.

But is the Apple store really like a sacred space? To find out, Atlas Obscura brought a cultural historian to a Manhattan location for some feedback.

One of the first lessons from Erica Robles-Anderson, a professor at New York University, is that the collective experience of an Apple release does not come about by chance.

…Robles-Anderson studies the role of media technology in the production of public space. Recently, her work has focused on churches, and how they’ve used technology to enhance collective space. “We forget that cathedrals were basically high end technology,” she says. So were Stonehenge and the Buddhas carved into mountains. More recently, the first indoor installation of a Jumbo-tron was at California’s Crystal Church, one object of her study. “People have used technology for a long time to speak to the gods,” she says—to create collective experiences of the sublime.

These days, technology is more often talked about as a way to create personalized, individual experiences, but Robles-Anderson thinks that’s only part of the story. Communal ritual is always a part of technology: Early computers came into group spaces, like families and offices. (Mad Men understood this dynamic: the computer as an event weathered together.) Powerpoint presentations gather people to look at giant screens. Even using an iPhone to tune out the human beings around you requires being part of a larger group. Read More > at Atlas Obscura

Don’t Let 5% Unemployment Fool You About California’s Economic Health – “It’s the economy, stupid,” – now an iconic political statement, in many ways sums up decades of political science research showing that voters care about the current state and prospects of their pocketbooks. Of course, local, state, national, and even occasionally, international issues flare up and matter, but on a whole, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

Thus, heading into election season, it’s good to check in on Californians economic confidence. And once again, the Hoover Institution Golden State Poll surveyed just that. Overall, while the state is improving, there remain still hints of anxiety.

California’s unemployment rate has recently fallen to 5.3%, the lowest level since June 2007. But median household income is still almost 10% below pre-recession levels. While California has made strides from the depths of the Great Recession, more or less, it’s getting better because it isn’t getting worse. And this feeling is born out in the Golden State Poll.

Compared to the first Golden State Poll in September 2013, on the whole, personal finances are trending in the positive direction. In September 2013, by almost two-to-one, Californians said their finances were worse off than better off from a year prior. But now, at 23% better off vs. 25% worse off, the two are statistically tied. However, this impressive 14 point net swing in the better off direction masks the fact that a strong plurality (46%) says their finances are the same as a year ago. The lines are going in the right direction, but not dramatically enough to make a true dent in the dip so many Californians experienced. Read More > at Real Clear Markets

Curbing Our Enthusiasm Over Rising Home Prices – Home prices went up in March. That was the news Tuesday from S&P/Case-Shiller; all indications are that April was an up month too, and that this summer’s “selling season” will see continued price increases. Bit by bit, prices are regaining the ground lost during the long collapse from 2006 through early 2012.

In some ways this is great news. It means fewer underwater mortgages. It means better times for lenders, real estate agents and builders. It’s a sign of broader economic health.

Still, if there’s one thing we should have learned from the housing bust, it’s that rising home prices aren’t an unalloyed good. Rapid price increases in the early 2000s directly led to the subsequent crash. Sale prices lost all connection with both rents and incomes; after a certain point they were going up mainly just because they were going up, and buyers feared missing out. That couldn’t go on forever.

Home prices rose at about the same pace as median incomes in the 1990s. In the early 2000s, as already noted, the two became completely disconnected. During the real estate bust the two lines came closer together, now they’re diverging again. Housing is a lot more expensive, relative to income, than it used to be.

With pretty much any other good or service, higher prices are something to complain about. And yes, there are those who complain about high housing prices. But even with the big fall in the home-ownership rate since 2006, 63.5 of American households live in owner-occupied housing. For homeowners, housing isn’t just something one consumes; it’s an investment. And when your investment rises in price, that’s a good thing. Read More > in Bloomberg

Nation In Distress: US Death Rate Increased In 2015 For The First Time In A Decade – For the first time in a decade, the US death rate increased in 2015. According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control, the death rate in 2015 was 729.5 deaths per 100,000 people, which was up from 723.2 in 2014.

Federal researchers cautioned it was too early to tell what had pushed up the overall national death rate (preliminary data is not broken down by race, and final data will not be out until later this year), but they said the rise was real. While it is premature to ring an alarm now, if it continues, it could be a signal of distress in the health of the nation the NYT reports.

“It’s an uptick in mortality and that doesn’t usually happen, so it’s significant. But the question is, what does it mean? We really need more data to know. If we start looking at 2016 and we see another rise, we’ll be a lot more concerned” said Robert Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics.

“We are not accustomed to seeing death rates increase on a national scale. We’ve seen increases in mortality for some age groups, but it is quite rare to see it for the whole population. Many countries in Europe are witnessing declines in mortality, so the gap between the US and other countries is growing.” Read More > at Zero Hedge

Cash-only doctors abandon the insurance system – Fed up with declining payments and rising red tape, a small but growing number of doctors is opting out of the insurance system completely. They’re expecting patients to pony up with cash.

Some doctors who have gone that route love it, saying they can spend more time with and provide higher-quality care to their patients. Health advocates are skeptical, worrying that only the wealthy will benefit from this system.

In Wichita, Kan., 32-year old family physician Doug Nunamaker switched to a cash-only basis in 2010 after taking insurance for five years. (“Cash-only” is a loose description. Nunamaker accepts payment by debit or credit card too.)

Under the traditional health insurance system, a large staff was required just to navigate all the paperwork, he said. That resulted in high overhead, forcing doctors like Nunamaker to take on more patients to cover costs. Plus, the amount insurance companies were willing to pay for procedures was declining, leading to a vicious cycle. Read More > at CNN Money

95% of Beaches Get A or B Grade In Annual Report – Heal the Bay analysts assigned A-to-F letter grades to 456 beaches along the California coast for three reporting periods in 2015-2016, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution. Some 95% of beaches received A or B grades during the high-traffic summer season (April-October 2015), slightly above the statewide five-year average.

The severe drought now impacting California appears to be a major contributing factor to improved water quality at beaches statewide. With record low rainfall reducing the amount of polluted runoff funneled into our seas, beach grades across the state are consistently outperforming their averages.

Overall, only 12 of the 456 beaches (3%) monitored statewide received D or F grades during summer dry weather, when most beachgoers typically use the ocean. High bacteria counts at these sites are linked to such potential illnesses as stomach flu, ear infections and major skin rashes.

To avoid illness, ocean-goers can check the latest water quality grades at their favorite beaches, based on the latest samples, each week at beachreportcard.org.

This Year’s Top 10 Worst Beaches

  1. Cowell Beach, west of the wharf (Santa Cruz County)
  2. Clam Beach, near Strawberry Creek (Humboldt County)
  3. Shoreline Beach Park at Shelter Island (San Diego County)
  4. Monarch Beach, north at Salt Creek (Orange County)
  5. Santa Monica Pier (Los Angeles County)
  6. Marina del Rey – Mother’s Beach (Los Angeles County)
  7. Redondo Municipal Pier (Los Angeles County)
  8. Candlestick Point/Sunnydale Cove (San Francisco County)
  9. Pillar Point, end of West Point Ave. (San Mateo County)
  10. Pismo Beach Pier, 40 feet south (San Luis Obispo County)

Click here a for slideshow with details about challenges at each of the Bummers Read More > at Heal the Bay

9 Counties Running Out Of Water – This week, California lifted some — but not all — of its statewide restrictions on urban water use. This comes as Lake Mead’s water level, affected by the same dry conditions that have devastated California, reached its lowest level on record.

Unlike several past winters, this last one was relatively wet, relieving drought conditions in the northern part of the state and allowing the state to lift some of water restrictions. Conditions in much of the southern part of the state, however, remain unimproved. Southern California did not benefit from the wet weather, and some major counties have now been in a state of exceptional drought — the worst level classified by the United States Department of Agriculture — since early 2014.

Currently nine counties have at least 60% of their total area in exceptional drought conditions. During periods of exceptional drought, losses of crop or pasture as well as water shortages and restrictions are widespread.

…Nearly 61% of Fresno County is experiencing the worst level of drought. While this proportion represents one of the worst drought levels in both the state and the country, that actually represents a meaningful improvement for Fresno County and its nearly 1 million residents.

…While drought conditions have improved in much of the country and the state of California, conditions in Kern County did not improve. Between 60% and 80% of the county has been in the worst level of drought for more than two years.

…Orange County’s only natural lake dried up completely last year. The county relies on a large underground basin to supply water for the majority of its population. While Orange County Water District admits that the historic drought has lowered water levels in the basin, it contends that it is still within acceptable parameters. Read More > at 24/7 Wall St.

We Tried the Weirdest New Beers Out There—and We Mean Weird – From dung-smoked whale testicles—stay with us—to chocolate oyster stouts, experimental beers are having a moment. It might be a marketing moment. But nevertheless, a moment so important we enlisted Alex Delany, our trusted beer expert, and Josh Ocampo, our eager but experience-lacking beer amateur, to try a few out. Armed only with a bottle opener and two glasses, they faced a single hour of eight weird beers, and like the last drink during a long night, learned that the best approach was to take a shot, and ask questions later.

Hvalur 2 brewed by Stedji Brewery in Iceland, made with sheep dung-smoked whale testicles

The Verdict: A little malt and subtle caramel. Light on the testicles, big on the drinkability. Not for the faint of heart, but if you can get past the concept, a rewarding experience.

Squid Ink Beer, brewed by Pacific Brewing Laboratory in San Francisco, CA

The Verdict: Great for supporters of IPAs, aquatic adventures, or squids in general. An off-the wall-variation of the classic West Coast-style IPA. Impress your friends by drinking one while shredding some serious gnar on your boogie board.

Mangalitsa Pig Porter brewed by Right Brain Brewery in Traverse, MI

The Verdict: Tastes exactly like smoked pork, as advertised. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Read More > at bon appetit

Gov. Brown, Time to Cut the Losses on High Speed Rail – The California High Speed Rail project is a disaster. Far from resembling the project approved by the voters with the passage of Prop 1A in 2008, it has morphed into only a skeleton project, not very high speed, and will not deliver on the promise, of operating without a subsidy, and delivering passengers from the San Francisco TBT to LA Union Station in 2 hours and 40 minutes at a cost of $33 billion. All of this was to be completed by 2020.

No indeed, the New Business Plan now shows only a commuter line that will go from San Jose to about 20 miles north of Bakersfield. The cost is over $20 billion, will not go into service before 2025, and will exhaust all available funding.

Now even the funding for this skeleton section is in jeopardy. Cap and Trade revenues, were to provide for at least one-half the cost of this new plan. The May 2016 auction of Cap and Trade allowances just completed was a complete disaster.

The Auction was expected to generate around $600M in revenues; the auction produced only $10M. Complete funding from even this short skeleton of the project is now “dead in the water”. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

How to stay safe online: 15 ways to avoid being hacked – Every month or so there is a new hack that affects millions of regular people. Last year it was the TalkTalk hack. In 2016, the LinkedIn leak.

Then there’s malicious software, snooping eavesdroppers and small time scammers that are targeting us on a daily basis through phones, Wi-Fi and USB sticks. Staying secure online can feel like crossing a minefield – and is daunting to many of us. But by mastering some simple steps you can drastically improve your online security.

Never use the same password more than once

Many of us are guilty of having had the same password for every account for years and, even worse than that, the most common 25 passwords include “123456”, “password”, and “abc123”. The best way to keep your online accounts – from your internet banking to social media – secure is to never use the same password more than once.

Check if you’ve been hacked

If you’re worried that you might have been hacked or had any of your personal details compromised, it would be wise to change your usernames and passwords immediately. Before coming up with a string of new keys, though, you can use a service such as have i been pwned to find out if you have an account that has been compromised in a data breach.

Enter an email address or username into the search bar and it will tell you if you’ve been a victim.

Stay up to date

Downloading software updates as and when they’re available is a good way to protect yourself. Software updates for computers, phones, tablets, and other devices generally include improved security settings and patches that fix vulnerabilities. This is also true of updates to any apps or programs that you have installed on those devices.

To make sure you receive the updates as soon as they’re available you can enable automatic updates on your devices, often by looking in Settings.

Check before you download

Before downloading apps onto your phone or software on your computer do some research – check what it’s asking for access to (look for apps permissions in Settings), check an apps’ rating in the iOS or Google Play story, read reviews online, and make sure you’re downloading the official version. Read More > in the Telegraph

Will Robo-Ubers Kill Car Ownership? – …This is exciting stuff. Self-driving cars, in theory, could eliminate the crashes that kill 1.2 million people every year around the world. Trillions of dollars would never have to be spent on hospital stays and insurance payouts. The environment would benefit because driverless cars would take the most efficient route, never get lost and reduce congestion. But the real mindblower is what will come next: self-driving cars that you don’t own. Robotic cars that you summon when you want a ride.

Some huge companies are making colossal investments to make this vision real. In February 2015 Uber raided Carnegie Mellon University’s highly regarded robotics department, hiring away 40 of its top researchers.

This January, General Motors invested half a billion dollars in Uber’s rival, Lyft, for the purpose of developing its own on-demand driverless cars—then topped that two months later by spending a reported $1 billion on Cruise Automation, an automotive tech company. Ford and Google plan a joint venture with similar goals.

Yes, self-driving cars are revolutionary. But on-demand driverless cars? The changes would be so massive and fast and global, there’s almost nothing about daily transportation that wouldn’t change—mostly for the better.

Inexpensive robotic rides would mean there would be no particular reason to own a car. You wouldn’t have to buy one, maintain it, gas it up. You’d never be late because you had to push the snow off the windshield or shovel your driveway.

…If you prefer to drive yourself, you might still have that option. Some experts predict that self-driving cars in some form will become mainstream on public roads in about five years. It’s time to start warming up to the new self-driving era; it’s too late to change lanes now. Read More > at Scientific American

Watching The San Francisco Giants, So Strange And So Blessed – Last Monday, with a runner on first and two outs in the ninth inning of a scoreless game against the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence pinch-hit for his team’s starting pitcher, Johnny Cueto. When Pence popped up a fastball and tossed his bat away in a huff, the game seemed to be headed to extra innings. Then the ball found a kind patch of air of the sort unique to San Francisco—high enough to catch a current off the bay and get to wobbling, low enough to drop in a hurry—and it landed just beyond the outstretched glove of Matt Kemp. Seconds after the ball hit the grass, Brandon Belt crossed the plate, giving the Giants one of the season’s strangest and least beautiful walk-off wins.

Anywhere else, that win might have registered as a fluky example of the slim margins that sometimes separate wins from losses. But in San Francisco in 2016, this sort of thing has already taken on the look of fate. The Giants have won the World Series in every even-numbered year in the 2010s, and the 2010s are honestly not even that young anymore; each of those championships was characterized by the same good-but-also-smiled-upon vibe.

So far, this season has kept up that tradition. Despite having a run differential in the middle of the pack, the Giants hold the second-best record and second-largest division lead in baseball. They’ve won nine one-run games. Every evening, they seem to be playing not only to win but also to type.

It might all fall apart, of course. As has been the case in each of the seasons in which they’ve won a World Series, every indicator suggests that there’s an entire industrial-sized coop of chickens waiting to come home to roost. In the meantime, though, it’s worth checking in on this decade’s favored sons. This year’s version makes for a pretty handy study in what has made them what they are—so inexplicable, so inexorable, and so unique. This team, like the others, doesn’t necessarily have to be the best in baseball. It only has to be good enough to catch a break or two, and to take advantage when the breaks come. Read More > at Vice Sports

Commentary: How long before North Korea can nuke a U.S. city? –  It’s the near future, and North Korea’s regime is on the brink of collapse. As rumors swirl of palace coups, forces on both sides of the world’s most militarized border are on heightened alert. The U.S. military faces a much bigger problem. Somewhere in the Pacific, a North Korean submarine is believed to be carrying nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them. And nobody knows where it is.

It sounds like the plot of a “Hunt for Red October”-style technothriller. But if Pyongyang’s technicians continue at their current pace, experts say it is becoming ever more likely.

One thing is certain: North Korea is plowing considerable resources into building its nuclear capability. And it is clearly making progress – even if Tuesday’s failed missile test shows it still has a long way to go.

Japanese officials said what appeared to be a conventional Musudan rocket, which theoretically has the ability to reach Japan and the U.S. territory and military base of Guam, exploded either as or shortly after it left its launcher. North Korea is estimated to have some 20 to 30 of the missiles – first deployed in 2007, but yet to be launched successfully.

What North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants, most analysts believe, is simple – a rocket that can fire a nuclear warhead at least to regional targets. His ultimate ambition, however, is to be able to hit U.S. cities on the West Coast, most likely from a submarine that could hide itself at sea. Read More > at Reuters

U.S. Thumps China with Heavy Tariffs on Steel Imports – The U.S. Department of Commerce (“DOC”) has made its final decision on anti-dumping investigations on imports of corrosion-resistant steel and concluded that China, India, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan are selling these products in the U.S. market below their fair values and therefore, are subject to anti-dumping duties. The ruling marks yet another major step in stemming the torrent of unfairly-traded foreign imports.

Corrosion-resistant steel is coated with a corrosion or heat-resistant metal such as zinc and aluminum to prevent corrosion, thus extending the service life of the products made from the steel. It is used in making automobiles, trucks, appliances, and industrial and agricultural equipment.

The petitions, which were filed by six major U.S. steelmakers including Nucor NUE, U.S. Steel X, AK Steel AKS, Steel Dynamics STLD and ArcelorMittal USA – a part of ArcelorMittal MT – charge that a deluge of significantly subsidized imports of corrosion-resistant steel from China, India, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan are causing material injury to the U.S. steel industry. The petitions also charge that these producers benefit from a number of countervailable subsidies provided by their respective governments.

…The U.S. steel producers are still struggling to cope with falling steel prices as a result of the combined impact of imports and overcapacity in the industry. Low costs of production have allowed overseas producers (especially China) to sell their products at cheaper rates, leading to an industry-wide price decline.

China, which accounts for around 50% of global steel output, continues to pose a threat to the U.S. steel industry. The Chinese steel industry continues to reel under massive excess steel capacity and sluggish domestic demand amid a cooling economy. China’s economy rose at an annual rate of 6.7% in the first quarter of 2016, its slowest in seven years. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance

It looks like another one of ESPN’s most recognizable names is being shown the door – Chris Berman has been the face of ESPN for much of the network’s four decades on the air. But it is starting to sound as if Berman will be ESPN’s latest big-name personality to be pushed aside.

Eyebrows were raised when a report on Thursday from The Big Lead said the 61-year-old Berman was expected to retire when his contract expires sometime after the 2016 NFL season. Berman’s agent spoke with Richard Sandomir of The New York Times and quickly shot that report down.

“Chris is NOT retiring,” Berman’s agent told Sandomir. “[He] loves what he’s doing too much and is too young to hang ’em up.”

On Tuesday, Jim Miller, author of “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” was a guest on “The Dan Patrick Show” and discussed Berman’s future, saying that Berman would most likely stay with the network but that his role would be severely reduced.

“It’s clear that he will be changing roles,” Miller told Dan Patrick. “There is no doubt about it. He is going to ride out this football season. But I think that given his contract is up I believe sometime later this year, it’s time. It seems like we’ve been talking about Berman’s future since the dawn of man, and I think we’re finally at the point where it’s going to be reconfigured.”

But while ESPN has jettisoned other big names in the past year, including Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd, Keith Olbermann, and Jason Whitlock, Berman’s over-the-top personality is too big for the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports to just cut the cord completely. Read More > in the Business Insider

The End of Second Languages Is Near – Remember all those warnings that learning a second language would be a great asset in your future? It seems that years after your regrets about not paying attention and learning Spanish, technology has finally caught up and proven them wrong.

Tech company Waverly Labs is taking pre-orders for the kind of device you’d have seen in a space epic 30 years ago: a tiny smart earpiece, called “Pilot,” that real-time translates one language into another. Speak Spanish, hear English. Get it?

For decades, it’s been the work of science fiction to imagine a tiny earpiece translating someone’s words from another language to your own in real time. But in the last few years we’ve breached plenty of technological barriers to quick translation. Think of the dozens of languages available with Google’s translation tool, or the multiple apps that can translate signs, menus, and text in real time by using the camera on a smart device.

And all this without a live translator. This is just the latest in a series of technological advances in translation. The result: knowing the other language is unnecessary if you have the right tools. Read More > in The Daily Beast

Why a power grid attack is a nightmare scenario – Stores are closed. Cell service is failing. Broadband Internet is gone.

Hospitals are operating on generators, but rapidly running out of fuel.

Garbage is rotting in the streets, and clean water is scarce as people boil water stored in bathtubs to stop the spread of bacteria.
And escape?

There is none, because planes can’t fly, trains can’t run, and gas stations can’t pump fuel.

This is the “nightmare scenario” that lawmakers have been warning you about.

The threat of an attack on the nation’s power grid is all too real for the network security professionals who labor every day to keep the country safe.

“In order to restore civilized society, the power has got to be back on,” said Scott Aaronson, who oversees the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), an industry-government emergency response program.

While cybersecurity experts and industry executives describe such warnings as alarmist, intelligence officials say people underestimate how destructive a power outage can be.

The most damaging kind of attack, specialists say, would be carefully coordinated to strike multiple power stations. Read More > in The Hill

Initiative for Californians to vote on legalizing recreational pot on track, but opposition growing – The signatures are still being tallied and verified, but an initiative aimed at legalizing recreational use of cannabis in California is on track to easily qualify for the ballot this November.

Early Secretary of State reports show the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which is backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, submitted more than the needed 365,880 signatures just in Southern California. And more than three quarters of the signatures sampled from counties that have completed the verification process — 15 out of 58 in the state — have been deemed valid. In all, some 600,000 petition signatures were submitted earlier this month.

It may be a foregone conclusion that legalization will be on the ballot, but it’s not a sure thing that voters on Nov. 8 will give adults a green light to use marijuana.

A growing number of public safety groups are speaking out against legalization. And there’s still division over the complex initiative among members of the state’s diverse marijuana industry, which has taken root over the 20 years since use of medical cannabis use was legalized. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News

The latest party drug is chocolate, apparently – According to Ozy, at parties on both sides of the Atlantic chocolate is just one of the substances an offer at day-time raves which do not serve alcohol (and illegal drugs remain, you know, illegal).

Raw chocolate or cocoa can be taken in drink, pill or powdered form.

Club goers report that the positive effects of cocoa are really quite something. The “high vibe” medicine of raw cocoa provides users with a flood of happy endorphins as it enters the blood stream, and then magnesium which is a muscle relaxant. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that cocoa also contains flavanols which improve blood circulation and cognitive function.

It’s also becoming quite the lucrative cottage industry. One device for snorting cocoa selling for $50 has been made by chocolatier Dominique Persoone:

There are no hallucinogenic side effects to snorting cocoa, and of course no danger of needle sharing infections. It simply amplifies your experience of the music and other people, things which are usually dulled by alcohol. The effects may even be placebo – cocoa is not technically even mind altering enough to constitute drug status. Read More > in the Independent

Warning: Microsoft is hacking your computer – For months now, Microsoft has done everything in its power to shove Windows 10 down your throat. The free update is mandatory at this point, and we’ve heard from many Windows users who discovered their computers updated to the newest version automatically, without their knowledge or explicit permission. Microsoft kept offering excuses for these annoying occurrences, and even said it will stop pushing upgrades to Windows users who refuse to hop aboard the Windows 10 train.

Now, the company has come up with its most evil trick yet to get you to update your PC to Windows 10, and it’s based on the same methodology hackers use to trick people into installing malware.

Pop-ups often appear when you visit malicious websites and when you click the “X” to close them, malware is installed on your computer. Well, Microsoft just tweaked its Windows 10 upgrade alert pop-up so that the update is triggered when clicking the X, PC World explains.

The Get Windows X app that pushes the update prompt has recently changed the behavior of the “X” button. Earlier, users would have been able to dismiss the pop-up by pressing the button, as you would expect. But you can’t do that anymore. Pressing the X now has a different function. It tells the company you’re happy to have your computer updated at the time shown inside the pop-up. Read More > in the New York Post

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About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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