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.
New Report: FBI Can Access Hundreds of Millions of Face Recognition Photos – Today the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) finally published its exhaustive report on the FBI’s face recognition capabilities. The takeaway: FBI has access to hundreds of millions more photos than we ever thought. And the Bureau has been hiding this fact from the public—in flagrant violation of federal law and agency policy—for years.
According to the GAO Report, FBI’s Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (FACE) Services unit not only has access to FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) face recognition database of nearly 30 million civil and criminal mug shot photos, it also has access to the State Department’s Visa and Passport databases, the Defense Department’s biometric database, and the drivers license databases of at least 16 states. Totaling 411.9 million images, this is an unprecedented number of photographs, most of which are of Americans and foreigners who have committed no crimes.
The FBI has done little to make sure that its search results (which the Bureau calls “investigative leads”) do not include photos of innocent people, according to the report. The FBI has conducted only very limited testing to ensure the accuracy of NGI’s face recognition capabilities. And it has not taken any steps to determine whether the face recognition systems of its external partners—states and other federal agencies—are sufficiently accurate to prevent innocent people from being identified as criminal suspects. As we know from previous research, face recognition is notoriously inaccurate across the board and may also misidentify African Americans and ethnic minorities, young people, and women at higher rates than whites, older people, and men, respectively. Read More > at Electronic Frontier Foundation
Sexual Violence and the State: 15 U.S. Cops in the News for Sex Crimes This Week – At least five members of the Oakland Police Department (OPD) are accused of paying a teenage runaway for sex. So far, two of the accused Oakland officers have resigned and three are on paid administrative leave. In addition, the Oakland police chief resigned last week, citing personal reasons. This week, the Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee endorsed a proposal to create an independent commission to take over the investigation, and the Oakland mayor removed interim police Chief Ben Fairow just six days after she appointed him without saying why.
Meanwhile, the allegations have spread to five nearby police agencies and the district attorney’s office. The now-18-year-old woman, going by Celeste Guap, said in interviews with media that she had sex with more than two dozen law-enforcement officials from area police departments—some while she was still underage—in exchange for money and tips about planned prostitution stings in the area. Under federal law, paying anyone under 18 for sex is defined as sex trafficking, even if the minor is acting independently. (One needn’t condone that definition to expect agents of the law to be guided by it.)
Guap said she started having sex with local cops when she was 17, after meeting OPD Officer Brendan O’Brien. O’Brien, whose wife committed suicide in 2014, took his own life in September 2015.
This week, one officer with the nearby Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office was placed on administrative leave, and the Richmond Police Department said several of its officers are under investigation. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, said an independent investigation had cleared its accused deputies of any wrongdoing. On Wednesday, an investigator with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office was placed on administrative leave. Read More > at Reason
The Local Motors Olli is a driverless EV minibus with IBM Watson inside – Local Motors, well known for the crowdsourced Rally Fighter off-road coupe, has been diversifying lately. After starting some 3D-printed projects, it has gone in yet another direction, announcing the Olli, an electric minibus that looks like a large phonebooth that’s been tipped on its side. And it’s autonomous.
Local Motors refers to the vehicle as a shuttle it will transport up to 12 people from location to location along a pre-set route. The plan is to allow an Olli to be summoned using an app or a kiosk. It uses lidar, cameras, and GPS to move along its route, making adjustments as needed to avoid collisions. Currently, all Ollis will be monitored full-time by a human overseer, and Local Motors states that it will assume liability in the case of an accident.
Olli uses IBM’s Watson, a cloud-based cognitive computing platform, to allow riders to vocally communicate with the vehicle. In addition to taking route requests, Watson allows an Olli to answer questions about the vehicle’s design and function or suggest restaurants based on the destination. Read More > in Auto Blog
Russia’s Track and Field Team Barred From Rio Olympics – Russia’s track and field team has been barred from competing in this summer’s Rio Games because of a far-reaching doping conspiracy, an extraordinary punishment without precedent in Olympics history.
The global governing body for track and field, known as the I.A.A.F., announced the decision on Friday, ruling in a unanimous vote that Russia had not done enough to restore global confidence in the integrity of its athletes.
The International Olympic Committee, the ultimate authority over the Games, is due to discuss the decision on Tuesday. If Olympics officials were to amend the ruling against Russia, it would be an unusual move, as they have historically deferred to the governing bodies for specific sports. Read More > in The New York Times
10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Cat Owner – Studies have shown that just watching cat videos on the internet can boost a person’s energy and create positive emotions—so it’s no surprise that actual cat ownership has a number of benefits. Here are a few.
1. OWNING A CAT IS BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
If you’re worried about your carbon footprint, it’s better to own a cat than a dog. A 2009 study found that the resources needed to feed a dog over the course of its life create the same eco-footprint as that of a Land Cruiser. Meanwhile, cats—which eat less in general and are more likely to eat fish than corn- or beef-flavored products—only have the approximate carbon footprint of a small hatchback.
2. THEY’LL HELP YOU COPE …
Losing a loved one is incredibly painful, but one of the best ways of coping is to own a pet. Cats have been shown to help people get over their loss more quickly, and show less physical symptoms of pain, like crying. Despite the fact that they are only animals, cats serve as a social support during difficult times. People in mourning report talking to their pet to work out their feelings, since it is often easier to talk to something that won’t respond and can’t judge than to another human being.
3. … AND FIND A SIGNIFICANT OTHER.
If you’re a single guy and you can’t seem to get a date, get a cat! A British poll found that 82 percent of women agreed they are more attracted to men who like animals. And while having a dog will do wonders for your dating life, a whopping 90 percent of single women said that men who own a cat are “nicer” than other guys. Listing that you own a cat on your dating profile could do wonders for the number of responses you get—but remember, a cat is for life, not just until you find a partner.
4. CAT OWNERS ARE SMART.
A 2010 survey of British pet owners by the University of Bristol found that people who owned cats were more likely to have college degrees than their dog loving counterparts. In 2014, a researcher in Wisconsin surveyed 600 college students and found that cat owners were actually more intelligent as well. (But it’s probably not the cat itself making the owner smarter: The researchers conducting the Bristol survey said that smarter people tend to work longer hours, and since cats require less attention than dogs, they are a better choice for the busy intellectual.) Read More > at Mental Floss
Laid-Off Americans, Required to Zip Lips on Way Out, Grow Bolder – American corporations are under new scrutiny from federal lawmakers after well-publicized episodes in which the companies laid off American workers and gave the jobs to foreigners on temporary visas.
…According to federal rules, temporary visas known as H-1Bs are for foreigners with “a body of specialized knowledge” not readily available in the labor market. The visas should be granted only when they will not undercut the wages or “adversely affect the working conditions” of Americans.
But in the past five years, through loopholes in the rules, tens of thousands of American workers have been replaced by foreigners on H-1B and other temporary visas, according to Prof. Hal Salzman, a labor force expert at Rutgers University.
In March, two Americans who had been laid off in 2014 by a New England power company, Eversource Energy, spoke at a news conference in Hartford even though they had signed nondisparagement agreements. Craig Diangelo, 63, and Judy Konopka, 56, said most of the 220 people facing dismissal had been required as part of their severance to train Indian immigrants with H-1B and other visas.
In a protest, departing employees posted American flags outside their cubicles. As they left, they took the flags down. Mr. Diangelo took a photograph of the flags in his final days at the utility. At the time, he and Ms. Konopka spoke with reporters, including from The New York Times, but they did not want to be quoted, even without their names. Read More > in The New York Times
Feds Quietly Consider Reviving EPA’s Human Testing Program – The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) met five times behind closed doors this past year to discuss the possibility of reviving Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) experiments exposing humans to harmful air pollutants.
NAS is examining the findings of a 2014 EPA inspector general reporting, which found the agency had exposed human test subjects to ostensibly deadly air pollutants without disclosing the risk of death or the total amounts of pollutants subjects would have to inhale.
But the lack of public participation in the study has Steve Milloy worried EPA could be trying to revive its “potentially illegal” testing regime, which has exposed children, asthmatics and people with heart disease to concentrated doses of pollutants. Read More > in The Daily Caller
Whirlpool is putting Innit’s smart recipes on its WiFi ovens (updated) – Getting recipes and other cooking tips directly on a connected appliance is increasingly becoming the norm, and Whirlpool is one of the next in line. The company announced that it’s Jenn-Air line of WiFi-equipped ovens will soon feature Innit recipes. While Innit aims to tackle the entire kitchen, including food storage and more, personalized recipes work with the connected oven and your tablet or phone. The appliance adjusts cooking to the weight and type of food to help ensure the results are what they should be.
Innit’s recipes are personalized by dietary and taste preferences, so you won’t have to worry about making adjustments to suit your needs every time. Step-by-step directions will be available right on the oven, allow you to follow along during the process. If you’re worried that it might get a bit awkward having to glance back at the oven from your cutting board, don’t fret: Innit’s guidance is available on a mobile device so you can keep the recipe near your workspace. Whirlpool is planning consumer trials later this year with the goal of bringing Innit’s food science to all Jenn-Air connected wall ovens next year. Read More > at Engadget
CDC outlines how it’ll cope with Zika outbreaks – If and when a mosquito infects a person in the continental United States or Hawaii with the Zika virus, US health officials will deploy a strike team to further limit the virus’s spread, with the ultimate goal of protecting pregnant women.
The rapid-response teams — which will help local officials with surveillance, mosquito control, and lab testing — were highlighted in a draft plan released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 58-page plan outlines how the agency will respond to even a single suspected case of local transmission, which experts say could occur for the first time this summer as mosquitoes grow more active and expand their habitats.
The CDC says it will update its plan if new information emerges about the virus’s possible spread.
These CDC Emergency Response Teams will offer support to local agencies, and once in the field will help track the source of infection. They will also reach out to pregnant women in the area to help them avoid mosquito bites and secure the local blood supply in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration. Read More > at Stat
What are the nutritional benefits of consuming coffee on a daily basis? – Numerous studies have found positive health benefits to regular coffee consumption, if done in moderation and without adding a lot of cream and sugar. Specifically, coffee has the following health benefits:
- Huge Source of Antioxidants – Coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. according to researchers at the University of Scranton. Antioxidants are important in fighting inflammation, which is linked to arthritis, many types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc.
- May protect against Type 2 Diabetes – A number of studies have found that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes. One study suggests that the risk of Diabetes drops by 7% for each daily cup of coffee.
- May help protect against cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and Dementia – One Finnish study found that drinking coffee was associated with a 65% decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
- May lower risk of Parkinson’s – Various studies have concluded that consuming coffee (and specifically, caffeine) are associated with lower incidences of Parkinson’s disease.
- May lower risk of heart disease – A Dutch study found that moderate coffee drinkers had a 20% lower risk of heart disease vs. non-drinkers, heavy-drinkers, or light-drinkers.
- May protect your liver – Coffee consumption has been linked with decreased risk of liver cancer and Cirrhosis. Read More > at Quora
Here’s Why Bank of America Is Slashing Up to 8,400 Jobs – The biggest U.S. retail bank by deposits Bank of America Corp. will soon be getting a little smaller.
On Tuesday, BofA said it was likely to slash up to 8,400 jobs. The Charlotte-based banking giant has seen fewer and fewer consumers in their physical branches, contributing to the closure of nearly 1,200 of the bank’s offices since the end of 2010, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Consumer banks have been adopting digital strategies—making face-to-face contact with a teller less relevant.
The announcement of the eventual job cuts, which was first reported by the Financial Times, to investors and analysts at Morgan Stanley’s Financials Conference. In a presentation, Thong Nguyen, BofA’s president of retail banking, said headcount for BofA’s retail banking business had fallen from over 108,000 in 2009 to about 68,400. Nguyen added that the headcount in the division was likely to continue to fall to the “low 60,000s,” which means thousands of more BofA retail employees will soon find themselves out of work. Read More > at Fortune
Ignoring People for Phones Is the New Normal – I think using your smartphone when you’re with other people is rude, but I still do it all the time. I try to apologize when I do—“Sorry, I just need to text this person/send this email/check this map real quick”—but lately I’ve felt even more rude asking someone else to stop using their phone. It seems needy and unkind to shame them for not giving me their full attention at every moment. When the whole gang is having an iPhone break, the path of least resistance is just to get my phone out, too, and thumb through Instagram.
Focusing on your phone in a social setting is known as “phubbing”—a portmanteau of “phone” and “snubbing.” (Hey, I didn’t make it up.) A new study published in Computers in Human Behavior looks at what motivates people to phub, and how it seems to have become just a normal part of life.
A group of 276 participants took several questionnaires that measured their experiences of phubbing and being phubbed, as well as scales for internet addiction, smartphone addiction, self-control, and fear of missing out. These all bore out in the expected ways; the people most likely to be glued to a screen while surrounded by friends were low in self-control, high in FOMO, and higher on the scales for internet and smartphone addiction. (It’s still questionable whether one can really be “addicted” to the internet, but these scales basically measure whether a person uses it compulsively, and whether it interferes with their life.) Read More > in The Atlantic
Housing Reform Is California’s Most Pressing Challenge – In his May Revise of the state’s budget, California Governor Jerry Brown included an interesting trailer bill policy item – streamlining the housing development approval process for projects that included a certain percentage of low-income units. Despite the state grappling with a growing housing affordability crisis, the policy proposal immediately drew a cold reception from legislators, “not-in-my-backyard” (NIMBY) groups, unions, and environmentalists. However, while not perfect, Brown’s “as-of-right” reform is an important first step to correcting the state’s most pressing policy challenge.
Why the most pressing? Statewide, California’s median home value per square foot is 2.3 times that of the rest of the nation. Its housing supply just hasn’t kept up with housing demand. The affordability crisis is even more acute in the Silicon Valley-Bay Area. The San Francisco and San Jose metro area’s median home value per square foot is 4.4 and 5.2 times, respectively, the nation’s median. And renting – historically the “affordable” option – isn’t any better of an alternative. California’s median multi-family rent list price is 1.2 times the nation’s level, (1.8 and 1.6 times in San Francisco and San Jose). But this is so pressing because for the first time in modern Californian history, the state’s is economically dependent on the Silicon Valley-Bay Area. And according to employers and employees in the region, housing affordability is their number one challenge and concern.
What needs to be done? The only long-term, structural solution to California’s housing crisis is to promote housing development. Any other solutions – like rent control and housing subsidies – are short-term fixes that do nothing to address the underlying cause. In fact, some of them, such as rent control, likely make the situation worse by encouraging further supply restraints and quality reductions. But standing in the way of housing development is rampant (and powerful) political forces, manifested mostly in the residentialist-NIMBY movement. By co-opting the local political system, these neighborhood movements prevent, slow down, and/or make prohibitively expensive housing development. Read More > at Real Clear Markets
Blue Voyagers – Residents of Democratic states seek escape from the tax man – What is it about blue states that makes people so eager to leave them? That’s a question worth pondering after seeing the results of Gallup’s latest State of the State poll, which, for the first time in eight years, found that more states lean Republican than Democratic. Only 14 states, the survey determined, are either solidly Democratic or trending that way, while in 20 states, the majority of residents are either solidly Republican or leaning right. Gallup deemed the rest toss-ups, with no clear advantage for either party.
The poll revealed other trends. Blue-state residents were far more likely to report that they wished to relocate. Seven of the eight states that residents are keenest to flee are solidly blue—led by Connecticut, where 46 percent of people want to follow the state’s leading employer, GE, to the exits. Also near the top of the list: New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, and New York. The only state in the Top Eight not predominantly Democratic is Ohio, which Gallup considers “competitive” (neither Republican nor Democratic). Rounding out the Top Ten are Republican-leaning Indiana and Nevada.
…Though demographers offer many reasons for why people move, Gallup focuses on just one: taxes. “Even after controlling for various demographic characteristics including age, gender, race and ethnicity, and education, there is still a strong relationship between total state tax burden and desire to leave one’s current state of residence,” noted Gallup. The polling organization divided the states into five broad categories—or quintiles—of taxation, ranking them from lowest to highest. Six of the ten states where residents were most eager to leave are among the country’s highest-taxed, including New York and New Jersey. A seventh, Illinois, ranks in the second-highest quintile. By contrast, eight states that residents were least interested in leaving were ranked in either the lowest or second-lowest tax quintile. The Gallup survey’s most pointed message for blue states might come from Oregon, one of only two Democratic-leaning jurisdictions that rank with America’s lowest-taxed states—and the Democratic state that residents are least interested in leaving. Read More > at City Journal
Glenn Reynolds: Shrink presidency to improve candidates – …Voter dislike for both Clinton and Trump is record-breaking. Now, being disliked doesn’t necessarily make you a bad candidate or a bad president. As writer Ashe Schow points out, the most-disliked candidate usually wins. And hey, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan were both disliked by an awful lot of people.
Even so: It’s hard to look at Clinton and Trump and seriously believe that, out of a nation of more than 300 million people, these are the very best two people to lead the country…
In my lifetime there have been a number of lousy presidents, and few really good ones. A company that consistently picked leaders whom many people disliked, and whose performance was often poor, would probably reevaluate its selection process. Maybe we should do so, too. But how?
We could limit the presidency to people who have been governors. That way, everyone involved would have experience as a chief executive. (It would also have the advantage of making senators focus on doing their job instead of running for president, as so many of them do from day one — so even if it didn’t produce better presidents, we’d probably get a better Senate).
We could also eliminate the popular vote and let the candidates be elected solely by the Electoral College, which in fact elects them now using the popular vote as guidance. They could actually interview for the job. With no national campaign, they’d have to make the case to small groups of people, face to face.
Or maybe we should just conduct a lottery among registered voters. How much worse could it be?
But these kinds of suggestions, aimed at the people doing the job, probably miss the real problem, which is the job itself: The presidency as it exists today is a mess. Presidents have too much power, too little accountability and too high a public profile. That makes the job attract the wrong sort of people, and then ensures they’re not up to it. Read More > at USA Today
Busybodies and Complicit Cops Make It Impossible to Parent – The title of this Time piece, “Parenting is Now Officially Impossible,” made me sit up. It’s true. Anything we do as parents can and may be used against us. It’s like living in a totalitarian state—we are not free to raise our kids as we see fit because we are being watched and judged. We make choices based on fear of busybodies and the authorities they can summon by punching three digits into their phone.
…Cunha blames social media, but it’s not just that. It’s a web of cops, judges and CPS employees who believe the same big lie the 911-callers do, that parents who are not supervising their kids’ every moment, either by choice or by accident, have put their kids in peril. The authorities are ready to jump in not just because they disapprove, but because they truly believe kids can’t survive on their own, even for an hour at the park, or a walk to school.
And so it IS impossible to be a parent… until we insist upon laws and punishments being grounded in reality instead of hysteria. The reality is that, even unsupervised, our kids are pretty safe. Not perfectly safe—but perfect safety is an illusion. A kid waiting in a car is not perfectly safe, but neither is a kid taken out of the car. A kid playing outside isn’t perfectly safe, but he’s safer, crime wise, than kids were in the ’70s or ’80s.
Absent indisputable and serious abuse or neglect, we must give parents back the right to raise their kids as they see best. This is such a fundamental right that it is sickening we have to demand it.
We may not be able to stop the Internet shaming. But we must make sure it stays on Facebook and does not turn normal, loving parents—the type who might even let their 11-year-olds ride the bus—into criminals. Read More > at Reason
Uber food delivery service expands to East Bay after successful S.F. launch – UberEats has added the East Bay to its growing food delivery network.
The service launched Tuesday in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, Emeryville and Piedmont and includes more than 100 restaurant partners, including dining hotspots like Kronner Burger, Duende and A16 as well as favorites like Zachary’s Pizza and A.G. Ferrari.
The service, Uber’s foray into the food-delivery business, has been live in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto and New York since last summer. It expanded into San Francisco a few months ago with great success, according to Susan Alban, general manager of UberEverything, the company’s on-demand delivery arm.
The service is free in the East Bay during its introductory period, but eventually the company will charge a delivery fee. Until then, Uber makes money from the service by taking a cut of the restaurant’s sales through the app.
The service requires downloading a separate UberEATS app, but uses the same network of drivers, which could give the company a competitive edge. With such a large pool of drivers, deliveries will be as prompt as rides. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times
Ballot Measure Prompts Legislature To Consider New Transparency Rules – Democrats who control the California Legislature have long opposed efforts to require bills to be public 72 hours before final votes. But now that a voter initiative is poised to qualify for the November ballot, the sands appear to be shifting a bit.
Asm. Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) says she’s skeptical that Democratic legislative leaders truly want a 72-hour rule in place, since she’s pushed proposals like this for years without ever being allowed a vote.
“Now, suddenly, with the threat of an initiative, all of a sudden they’re scrambling to pass a bill – it’s hard to believe it wouldn’t be a significantly weakened version of transparency,” Olsen says. “I’m awfully skeptical that Democrat leadership is eager to do this, knowing that there’s a very popular measure on the ballot.“
But Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), who has also long supported this rule, says she’s working to reach a compromise under which initiative backers would withdraw their proposal – and the Legislature would place its measure on the ballot instead. Read More > at Capital Public Radio
Newspaper declines accelerate, latest Pew Research finds, other sectors healthier – The 13th annual Pew Research State of the News Media Report documents another year of alarming declines for newspapers — the worst since the 2008-2009 recession.
Other sectors did much better, with revenues actually growing robustly both for cable channels (up 10 percent) and network news (up 6 percent for evening shows and 14 percent for mornings).
Cobbling together newspaper data that is less current and available than it once was, Pew estimates that the industry lost 7 percent of daily circulation in 2015 and 8 percent of ad revenues.
More up-to-date surveys of readership provide further cause for discouragement. Pew research in January 2016 found nearly everyone is following news of the presidential race. But only 5 percent said print newspaper coverage in the last week was their “most helpful” source (3 percent local papers and 2 percent national) — by far the lowest among available channels. Read More > at Poynter
California’s Reading Challenge – This summer, Californians of all ages and ancestries are reading.
Some are reading for work. Some are reading for fun. Either way, reading is good for us in all kinds of ways.
California’s 1,100 libraries are challenging themselves to sign up 1 million readers for summer reading programs between now and August 31.
The California State Library invites you to be one of those 1 million readers – and win some cool prizes if you read the most books over the next 10 weeks.
Here’s all you do to join the challenge:
1) Read or listen to a book. Print or e-book — your choice
2) When you finish, send an email with the book’s title to firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s it. The more books you read, the more chances to win! Read More > at Fox and Hounds
The 11 Angriest Cities in America, Ranked by Irrationality – America is a beautiful place filled with kind and gentle people, and a welcoming spirit. But we’re not talking about that. What we’re talking about is anger.
But we also want to be clear about something: our evaluation of a city’s anger doesn’t come from the deep well of extremely serious issues every city struggles with. There are a lot of really important and valid reasons to be angry in many cities. But this isn’t a story about those.
Instead we’re looking at the more irrational, often trivial anger-inducing behaviors that make up the DNA of a particular city’s inhabitants. Their general attitudes toward sports, traffic, tourism, food, other people from their city,…
10. Las Vegas
8. San Francisco
Californian anger is not like other anger. It isn’t quite the passive-aggressive anger you see up in Portland, or the face punching anger you see in Boston. Imagine the most chill guy you went to college with, likely on the ultimate frisbee team, having the worst day of his life, with event after event falling outside his favor. At first he’s like “whatever, this is just a crappy day, it’s cool, man.” But EVENTUALLY he just blows his f—ing top. That is California anger, and SF is your chill friend from college’s worst day, every day.
I’ve lived in SF for eight years now, and watched as the city has bent and adjusted itself to the second tech boom with the guilt of liberal rich kid, the city equivalent of Philip Seymour Hoffman in 25th Hour. It still takes the money coming into the city, but you can tell somewhere in its core, it doesn’t feel good about what it has done to the soul of the town. And the anger around the issues this has created: London housing prices, gross traffic starting at 2:30pm on every bridge, a wave of people moving there not for the energy and the ethos of the city but because of the riches and the restaurants, and pad that on top of the longer-lasting SF problems like an aggressive homeless population, and f—ing GIANT HILLS EVERYWHERE cramping your calves, and you have the Perfect Angry City Storm.
Still, it is only California anger after all, so it’s not rising above eight.
7. New York City
4. Washington, DC
1. Philadelphia Read More > at Thrillist
Macy’s has a new plan to fix its biggest problem – Macy’s sales have been declining amid a bigger slowdown in American retail.
But now, the company is planning a new makeover.
Macy’s is currently revamping its location in Columbus, Ohio at the Easton Town Center, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The company will launch this new test model on June 25.
This version of the store will have “lifestyle” sections and mini-stores, such as a spa and a LensCrafters, within the department store. One of these sections, called Restore, Nourish and Strengthen, will zero in on the profitable fitness boom and feature a juice bar and athletic clothing. It will even take a cue from Lululemon’s “educators” and call sales floor representatives “ambassadors.”
The makeover comes at a time when Macy’s is trying to get discount-addicted customers to pay full-price.
…There will even be personal shoppers through a program called “My Stylist @ Macy’s,” hinting that shopping at Macy’s is a high-end experience. Columbus Business Journal notes that the company is also testing out a program called Connect @ Macy’s, through which customers can pick up anything they buy online in the store – a way, arguably, to get people into the store for the “experience.” Read More > at Business Insider
Why is Microsoft buying LinkedIn? – Microsoft just surprised the world with its LinkedIn acquisition. Valued at $26.2 billion, it’s a huge price to pay for a social network, and it tops the charts as Microsoft’s biggest-ever acquisition. As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s first major acquisition, the success or failure of LinkedIn will define him as the leader of Microsoft’s increasingly service-driven future. While many are surprised at the cash figure, the question on everyone’s lips is, why does Microsoft want LinkedIn?
Nadella’s internal memo does a good job of providing a basic outline to partially answer that question, and more. Nadella points out that LinkedIn is “how people find jobs, build skills, sell, market and get work done.” It’s a key tool in the professional work space, with 433 million members and more than 2 million paid subscribers. Microsoft itself has more than 1.2 billion Office users, but it has no social graph and has to rely on Facebook, LinkedIn, and others to provide that key connection.
LinkedIn provides Microsoft with immediate access to more than 433 million members and a solid social graph that, thanks to its professional nature, is matched closely with the software and services Microsoft provides. In the same way that most kids play Minecraft, it’s reasonable to assume most adults in the US use LinkedIn for finding jobs, connecting with colleagues, or just general work-related networking. Read More > in The Verge
Oakland is the place to be, unless you’re a professional sports franchise – …There’s a bond between this city — a diverse, blue-collar town that was once the epicenter of the Black Power movement — and its basketball team, which, much like the city, has been on a tremendous upswing in recent years.
That bond isn’t permanent though. The Warriors are planning to leave East Oakland’s Oracle Arena — the NBA’s oldest venue — and move across the bay to San Francisco and a new, state-of-the-art facility near the water in the coming years.
The Oakland Raiders and A’s might be following them out of The Town soon thereafter. The Raiders haven’t made a secret out of their search to move to a city that would give them a new stadium on the cheap, and the A’s have an out clause in their lease with the city that would allow them to leave the cavernous and antiquated Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in 2018.
There’s deep irony to Oakland’s professional sports predicament. Oakland is now the Bay Area’s latest boomtown, and yet it could lose three of its most recognizable companies.
…All three of Oakland’s teams play alongside Interstate 880 in East Oakland. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was opened in 1966 and has been the home of the Raiders and A’s for the better part of the last 50 years. The next-door Coliseum Arena, now called Oracle Arena, opened in the same year.
Both facilities, owned jointly by the city of Oakland and Alameda County, received much-needed renovations, costing a combined $321 million in 1995 and 1996.
…The $1.4 billion Chase Center is expected to open in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood, just south of AT&T Park, in 2019, though that date could be pushed back as the team continues to fight through San Francisco’s notorious bureaucratic red tape and the threat of legal action by a well-funding group that opposes the building.
…The Raiders have looked into San Antonio — no go — San Diego, should the Chargers move — again, no go — and Las Vegas, where casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is keen to build a 65,000-seat domed arena.
…The city is ready for the Raiders to follow the Warriors out of town. Oakland politicians have done the PR analysis, Tavares said, and while losing the team would hurt their standing with many in the community, taking a stand against public subsidies for an NFL team would play well — especially in an area this progressive.
Nothing can happen with the A’s until the Raiders’ situation is settled, and given Davis’ inability to progress on his own, that might take a while.
Should the Raiders continue to be in neutral, as is expected, the A’s will reach an opportunity to break their lease before a new ballpark plan is reached. Would Montreal, Portland, or even, as commissioner Bob Manfred suggested last month, Mexico City prove better options? Read More > at Fox Sports
Los Angeles has fallen far behind the Bay Area—perhaps permanently – Looking at Los Angeles and San Francisco, two successful California cities in 1970 whose fortunes have since diverged radically, The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies tries to answer an old question: Why do some cities thrive while others stagnate? The authors chose their subjects wisely. Had they paired up any other American cities—say, Chicago and Dallas—too many disparate factors would have come into play. Cities in the same state, however, share a universe of government policies, whether concerning income-tax rates or right-to-work rules, grounding the comparison and lending credence to the conclusions.
Los Angeles and San Francisco have much in common: top-notch climates, natural amenities like oceans and mountains, thriving arts and culture communities, and major international airports. In 1970, both cities boasted powerful industry clusters, similar concentrations of manufacturing firms, and highly educated and technically oriented workforces employed by innovative companies (Amgen in L.A., Genentech in the Bay Area). Prior to the 1990s, Los Angeles actually produced more patents than the Bay Area.
Over the last 45 years, however, while the Bay Area’s economy has soared, with per capita incomes raising rapidly, incomes in L.A. have trailed those in America’s other big cities—in fact, they were on par with those of metro Detroit. The authors dismiss many popular explanations for the trend, from housing costs to immigration to government spending levels. One after another, these theories are investigated and rejected as effects rather than causes. What, then, accounts for the difference?
The authors draw conclusions broadly similar to those made by U.C. Berkley’s AnnaLee Saxenian in her 1996 book, Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128. The influence of San Francisco’s counterculture, they say, inspired the Bay Area’s tech sector to develop a new approach to management oriented around collaboration, distributed development, labor mobility, and open networks. In Los Angeles, by contrast, the entertainment industry emulated Silicon Valley’s networked organizational structure, but remained disconnected from—and in many ways indifferent to—the larger Southern California economy. As indicated by measures like interlocking board memberships, Los Angeles’s corporate community is less interconnected than San Francisco’s. Read More > at City Journal
Resilient Shale Producers Get Their Second Wind – Oil prices creeped above $50 per barrel recently, and already we’re seeing encouraging signs in the American shale industry. Fracking shale rock is a relatively expensive process, so when crude prices tumbled from a high of more than $110 per barrel two years ago to a nadir of under $28 per barrel this past January, America’s oil output correspondingly flagged as companies were forced to halt production, awaiting an uptick in the market. Thanks to supply disruptions abroad that have helped to ease the glut that precipitated oil’s price collapse, the market has somewhat rebounded, and as the FT reports U.S. companies are taking advantage.
…That last bit gets to the heart of one of shale production’s greatest strengths: the fact that the size of fracking projects are tiny relative to most conventional operations, and the relatively quick decline in output that necessitates continual re-drilling, both make for an environment that fosters innovation and encourages companies to discover new ways to adapt to today’s difficult market conditions.
American oil production has been down recently, but you’d be a fool to count it out. If demand grows—as OPEC predicts will happen in the second half of this year—or supply contracts further on more disruptions like the ones we’ve seen in Nigeria or Canada, prices could spike higher to $60 per barrel. That seems to be the price point most U.S. shale firms are hoping for, and if we see that the shale boom would once again hit its stride. That effectively puts a soft cap on today’s oil market, because the higher prices rise, the more American crude we’ll see.
And finally, keep this in mind: $60 may be the desired price for shale today, but that will continue to come down with time. In October 2014 the majority of shale production was believed to require an oil price of $75 to profit, but innovative new techniques and more streamlined operations have brought that breakeven price down significantly and, in true American fashion, will continue to do so. Read More > at The American Interest
New Research Reveals a Surprising Early Symptom of Alzheimer’s – We’ve all heard the stories of the grandma who got lost on her way home from the grocery store, or the great uncle who relies on GPS for the drive to his weekly doctor’s appointment, but now there’s research to back up the anecdotal evidence that trouble finding your way around may indicate a much bigger problem.
Problems navigating new surroundings crop up before memory loss, and long before any clinical diagnosis of the disease, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis asked study participants to use patterns and landmarks to make their way through a maze on a computer, the Huffington Post reports. The individuals were divided into three groups: early-stage Alzheimer’s patients, undiagnosed people with early markers for Alzheimer’s (considered “preclinical Alzheimer’s”), and a control group of clinically normal people. The study showed that individuals with preclinical Alzheimer’s had more difficulty learning the locations of objects. Read More > at CountryLiving
The Battle Over Obama’s Internet Surrender – It’s make or break for the internet as we know it. Unless Congress acts this summer, the Obama administration will end U.S. protection of the internet, handing authoritarian regimes the power they have long sought to censor the web globally, including in the U.S.
The battle lines were drawn last week when the Obama administration backed a plan submitted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, to free itself in September from the U.S. oversight that has kept the internet open since the 1990s. In response, bills were introduced in the Senate and House to block the Obama internet surrender.
The administration falsely spins the U.S. role as “largely clerical.” In fact, U.S. control over Icann and the root zone of the internet though a Commerce Department contract stops China, Russia and others from interfering with the engineers, developers and others who operate the open internet. The administration delayed ending its internet oversight by a year to find protections, but Icann’s 346-page plan falls far short.
Instead of shielding the internet from governments, the plan gives governments new powers. Authoritarian regimes would gain greater influence over the Icann board, and for the first time governments would have a vote on bylaw changes, removal of the board and the budget.
The Obama administration knows that the new internet-governance plan offers nothing like the guaranteed open internet under continued U.S. control. In a lame defense of the plan, Commerce official Larry Strickling last week told the Washington Post, “At the end of the day, this whole system is built on trust.” Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
The personalisation of cancer treatments is leading to better outcomes for patients. It will also pave the way to cures – “CURE” is not a word much used by oncologists. The best they normally talk of is “remission”. But the past five years have begun to change that. More than 70 new drugs have come to market, and describing the consequences of some of them as revolutionary is not hyperbole—at least for those patients lucky enough to respond positively to them. Being given a diagnosis of advanced melanoma, for example, was once tantamount to being handed a death warrant. Median life expectancy after such news was six to nine months. But recently developed “immuno-oncology” drugs, which co-opt the immune system to fight tumours, are so effective that, in around a fifth of cases, there is talk among experts that the patients involved have actually been cured.
This sort of upbeat news is reinvigorating the study of cancer. At this year’s meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), held this week in Chicago, doctors had a spring in their step. Not only do they have new drugs to deploy, they are also developing better ways of using existing ones. They are getting better at diagnosis, too, finding methods to study the weak spots of cancers in parts of the body conventional biopsies cannot reach, and also to pin down tumours that were previously unlocatable. The upshot is that they are beginning to be able to tailor treatments to the needs of individual patients, an approach called personalised medicine. Read More > in The Economist