Sunday Reading – 06/26/16


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.

 

As the Olympics Near, Brazil and Rio Let the Bad Times Roll – In 2009, when Rio de Janeiro won the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games — beating out Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago — Brazil was flying high. Although it had not escaped the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, it had suffered less economic damage, and come back more quickly, than other countries, including the United States. With the economy booming, the federal government felt so flush that its popular president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had instituted a series of expensive social programs that helped push millions of poor Brazilians toward a better life. The Economist magazine predicted that Brazil would soon be the world’s fifth-largest economy, leapfrogging Britain and France.

The Games begin in six weeks, but nobody is partying anymore. The economic — and social, and political — conditions facing Brazil and Rio have changed drastically. A huge corruption scandal that began at the country’s giant oil company, Petrobras, resulted in exposés and investigations into dozens, if not hundreds, of high-ranking politicians and members of the business elite. Lula’s handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, is being impeached, for covering gaps in the government’s budget in ways that were allegedly illegal. (She has never been connected to the larger scandal, however, despite having once been the chairwoman of Petrobras.) Lula himself is under investigation.

The country’s economy has also fallen off a cliff, its gross domestic product dropping by 3.8 percent last year alone. Both the state of Rio de Janeiro and the city are broke — and the federal government is not in great shape, either. Teachers and the police have had their paychecks delayed. Those much-praised social programs have been cut back. Inflation is on the rise. So is crime. The state security budget has been cut. Just days ago, armed men attacked Rio’s largest public hospital, successfully freeing a drug kingpin. Plus there’s the Zika virus, which has hit Brazil hard. According to the International Monetary Fund, Brazil’s economy has slipped to ninth in the world, behind not only Britain and France, but also India and Italy.

…Cities that hold Olympics rarely, if ever, break even on the Games. In Rio’s case, it won’t even be close. Brazil originally budgeted more than $14 billion to hold the Olympics, money that would be spent on infrastructure — stadiums, transportation improvements, the Olympic Village and so on — as well as security and other logistical requirements.
Continue reading the main story

That number is now estimated at about $20 billion. But Rio is only likely to reap, at most, $4.5 billion in revenue, said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College whose recent book, “Circus Maximus,” examines the economic consequences of the Olympics and the World Cup. Read More > in The New York Times

We Can’t End Bullying and We Shouldn’t Even Try—Lest We Breed a Generation of Wimps – …No wonder one of the most comprehensive studies on bullying to date — conducted by two University of California Los Angeles researchers who reviewed more than 140 studies — found that schools’ efforts to curtail bullying have been woefully ineffective. Similarly, a University of Ottowa researcher reported that most anti-bullying programs “yielded nonsignificant outcomes.”

Teaching kids that we can eliminate power imbalances is not egalitarian; it’s cruel. We should be teaching kids how to deal with them. Except in cases where children are being truly physically harmed by a bully, adults should teach them to exercise their own agency by standing up to people who are trying to exploit them.

…The research backs this up. In 2010, UCLA researchers found kids who stood up to bullies were more mature, deemed more socially competent by their teachers, and more liked and respected by their peers. Empowered kids may be more likely to stand up for their classmates, too — not a trivial consideration, given that another study found that nearly six in 10 bullying situations cease when students stand up for their peers.

Conversely, as Helene Guldberg, a developmental psychologist has pointed out, anti-bullying intervention from well-intended adults often “undermines the child’s ability to manage situations themselves.” Read More > at Heatstreet

Is Middle America Due For a Huge Earthquake? – …To those reared on the coasts, with a traditional understanding of earthquakes as arising from titanic disagreements at the edges of tectonic plates, this all sounds quite strange. Indeed, the USGS earthquake hazard map of the United States, might also come as something of a shock. The familiar culprits are there: the entire West Coast predictably lights up as a long, narrow hazard zone—from the cascades to southern California. But in the center of the country there’s also a bewildering, giant fuchsia bullseye—smack in the middle of what should be the stable interior of North America.

In 1999, FEMA identified four hazards in the United States that, were they consummated in all their destructive wonder, would be worthy of the title “catastrophic.” They were: a major earthquake hitting Los Angeles, a major hurricane hitting Miami, a major hurricane hitting New Orleans (check), and a giant earthquake hitting the Central US.

The source of all this anxiety is the fabled New Madrid Seismic Zone. In the winter of 1811 and 1812, three earthquakes of magnitude 7, and possibly as high as 7.7, and countless punishing aftershocks thereafter, rocked the sparsely inhabited frontier of the American Midwest. The earth had slipped somewhere deep under the frontier settlement of New Madrid, Missouri, and the resulting earthquakes opened up chasms, diverted the Mississippi, threw trees to the ground and landslides into the river. It created temporary waterfalls and lasting lakes. Meanwhile, existing lakes were turned inside out, as cracks in the ground spewed volcanoes of sand and water into the air. Boatmen caught in the maelstrom said the Mississippi appeared to run backwards. The quakes woke New Yorkers, rang church bells in Charleston, South Carolina, buzzed bemused Torontonians a country away, and brought down chimneys from St. Louis to Cincinnati. Because the deep rock in the middle of the continent is older and colder than out west, strong shaking was felt over an area 10 times that of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. An alarmed President James Madison even wrote Thomas Jefferson from DC about the tremors.

The shocks occurred on what today is the least understood seismic zone in the United States. And depending who you ask, another major earthquake here represents either a towering threat for which the Central U.S. is woefully unprepared, or a wildly overhyped phantom costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in needless infrastructure improvements. Read More > in The Atlantic

Minority babies outnumber whites among US infants – White babies are now outnumbered by minority babies, according to new population estimates from the Census Bureau.

In 2015, racial and ethnic minorities made up 50.2 percent of babies under a year old. That year, there were 1,995,102 minority babies born, just slightly more than the 1,982,936 white babies born.

The 2015 data was released Thursday, as was updated data for previous years. These new figures show that in 2013, minority babies also outnumbered non-Hispanic white babies by about 1,000 births. In 2014, white babies were outnumbered by about 16,000.

While whites are expected to become the minority in the U.S. population in the coming decades — estimates run from 2044 to 2055 — it has been difficult to predict exactly when the shift will come. Fertility rates are impacted by a number of factors, including the health of the economy, and immigration flows can also be unpredictable.

Census bureau data, like the birthrate figures released Thursday, indicate that the shift from a majority white nation to one with no majority racial or ethnic group is starting with the youngest age groups in the country. In 2015, 50.3 percent of children younger than 5 were minorities. Read More > at McClatchy DC

5 Weekends in One Month Happens More Often Than Every 823 Years – 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays in a month – happens only every 823 years? This popular urban myth has been circulating on the internet for a while. However, it is precisely that: a myth.

Before you get too excited about this once-in-a-lifetime event and start telling your family and friends, know this: any such claims are false. Special combinations of days like 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays occur much more often than every 823 years!

If you own an email, Twitter, Facebook or any other social media account, chances are that you have come across an email or a post that claims that an upcoming month has a very rare specific combination of days. A recent version goes something like this:

July 2016 will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. This happens only once every 823 years. The Chinese call it silver pockets full.

The combinations of days that these messages or emails refer to are also not very special. This is because the first three weekdays of any 31-day month are repeated 5 times within that month. So, any month that has 31 days and begins on a Friday will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. Similarly, any 31-day month that begins on a Tuesday, will have 5 Tuesdays, 5 Wednesdays and 5 Thursdays.

Every year has 7 months with 31 days. Each of these months have at least 3 weekdays that happen 5 times during the month. For example, August 2014 has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. October 2014 has 5 Wednesdays, 5 Thursdays and 5 Fridays. Read More > at Time and Date

Led Zeppelin has won its copyright trial over Stairway to Heaven – A Los Angeles jury has ruled that Led Zeppelin didn’t copy a riff from Spirit’s 1968 instrumental “Taurus” for their own 1971 hit “Stairway to Heaven,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. While the jury agreed that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (the song’s co-writers) had heard “Taurus” before writing “Stairway to Heaven,” they didn’t find the two songs similar enough to constitute a copyright infringement on Page and Plant’s part.

The song’s legal journey began in May 2014, when Michael Skidmore — a trustee representing the estate of former Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe — filed a suit claiming Led Zeppelin had knocked off “Taurus” for the “Stairway to Heaven” introduction. (The suit was enabled by the band’s decision to remaster “Stairway to Heaven” as part of a reissue of its parent album Led Zeppelin IV in 2014, a release that refreshed the statute of limitations on the song’s alleged infringement.) A judge sent the suit to trial in April of this year and the trial began in earnest on June 14th, with Plant, Page, and bandmate John Paul Jones all giving testimony.

The verdict is the latest in a series of high-profile copyright rulings that have earned the interest of the larger musical community. A different jury found that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams copied Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” for their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” in March 2015, a ruling that cost Thicke and Williams $7.3 million. (The penalty was later reduced to $5.3 million, and Thicke and Williams appealed the ruling in December 2015.) Later that year, a judge ruled that Jay Z and Timbaland weren’t liable for an uncleared sample of Baligh Hamdi’s “Khosara Khosara” included in the rapper’s 2000 hit “Big Pimpin’,” a decision that meant the case wasn’t seen by a jury. Read More > in The Verge

The Case Against Greenpeace – The pressure on businesses to fold in the face of environmental scare campaigns can be enormous. But in federal court in Georgia, Canada’s Resolute Forest Products is suing Greenpeace for defamation, racketeering, conspiracy and other alleged offenses.

In March we told you about a separate defamation lawsuit filed by Resolute that is currently winding its way through Canadian courts. The company has since filed in the U.S. because that’s where many of the alleged offenses occurred and it’s home to many of Resolute’s customers and (thanks to Greenpeace) former customers. The Journal’s owner News Corp. is a Resolute customer.

Resolute’s complaint is a civil case under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) law, meaning if successful it could result in treble damages.

But before passing judgment on Resolute’s lawsuit, readers may want to consider the company’s claims. In its filing Resolute says Greenpeace “has published staged photos and video falsely purporting to show Resolute logging in prohibited areas and others purporting to show forest areas impacted by Resolute harvesting when the areas depicted were actually impacted by fire or other natural causes.” The First Amendment was not created to protect the fabrication of evidence.

The Resolute complaint also says that “Greenpeace and others working with it have aggressively targeted Resolute’s customers with extortive threats and other illegal conduct. To identify those customers, Greenpeace employees and agents have impersonated Resolute employees, its customers, and others to illegally misappropriate proprietary customer and supply chain information.” Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

12 Perfect Places to Grill & Chill in the Bay Area This Summer – Is there anything more quintessentially summer than grilling outdoors? Nope. While most anywhere can be a picnic spot if you try hard enough, at these spots it’s encouraged. Just please remember to carry out what you carried in (pick up your trash)! Here are the Bay Area’s best BBQ and picnic spots, from San Francisco to San Jose! Happy grillin’!

East Bay

Lake Temescal
Oakland

Perched in the Oakland Hills, Lake Temescal is a city refuge perfect for lazy weekends in the sun. You’ll find BBQ pits and picnic tables at the North Temescal, Stream Side, Park View and Big Rock locations, and there’s even a small beach area on the lake which you can swim in…although I’d do so cautiously.

Cesar Chavez Park
Berkeley

Be sure to watch your food carefully since dogs are allowed to roam free at this park. Located on the water in Berkeley, you’ll find everything here from wheelchair-accessible walking paths, tables, BBQs, port-a-potties, and a view like no other. While it does get windy here, just bring a kite along and make the most of it.

Del Valle Regional Park
Livermore

Who knew Livermore was hiding this little gem? Now you do. Kayak rentals, fishing, camping, bonfire pits, picnic areas…They even have a small store in case you forget the essentials like firewood, sunscreen, hats, and more!

Lafayette Reservoir
Lafayette

125 picnic tables ready and waiting for you! Available on a first-come, first-served basis there are also 44 barbeques available. East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) plants catfish in the summer months for fishing…so you could always go that route for lunch. Other features include boat/kayak rentals, 928 acres of hikeable space, and dogs are allowed on leash! You can even reserve a site online, which seems so ahead of its time compared to other locations. Read More > at Eventbrite

California’s skyrocketing housing costs, taxes prompt exodus of residents – A growing number of Bay Area residents — besieged by home prices, worsening traffic, high taxes and a generally more expensive cost of living — believe life would be better just about anywhere else but here.

During the 12 months ending June 30, the number of people leaving California for another state exceeded by 61,100 the number who moved here from elsewhere in the U.S., according to state Finance Department statistics. The so-called “net outward migration” was the largest since 2011, when 63,300 more people fled California than entered.

“The main factors are housing costs in many parts of the state, including coastal regions of California such as the Bay Area,” said Dan Hamilton, director of economics with the Economic Forecasting Center at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

“California has seen negative outward migration to other states for 22 of the last 25 years.”

A recent poll revealed that an unsettling sense of yearning has descended on people in the Bay Area: About one-third of those surveyed by the Bay Area Council say they would like to exit the nine-county region sometime soon. Read More > in The Mercury News

Boys Bear the Brunt of School Discipline – The way schools respond to boys’ behaviors plays a significant role in shaping their educational outcomes years later.

In fact, behavioral problems in early childhood have a larger negative effect on high school and college completion rates for boys than girls, according to a new study from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. They’re also less likely to learn and more likely to be held back in school.

…“One of the big things that jumped out in the study was the fact that the same behavior problems in boys and girls were penalized a lot more in boys than girls,” Owens says. “So in addition to the fact that boys come to school on average having more problems, they also get penalized more for having these behaviors.”

Among many other finding, for example, the study showed that in elementary school, boys on average report significantly greater exposure to negative school environments and peer pressure compared to girls. And in high school, they report significantly higher rates of grade repetition and lower educational expectations.

Those findings, Owens says, are largely in line with the rhetoric about schools not being set up for boys’ education attainment. Read More > at U.S. News and World Report

Can Self-Driving Cars Share the Road With Old-School Vehicles? – When it comes to the much-anticipated advent of autonomous vehicles (so-called driverless cars, though that term isn’t completely accurate), there is good news and bad news. The good news is that autonomous vehicles will soon be driving among us. The bad news—or we could call it the challenging news—is that we will likely be in for a generation-long transitional period, when autonomous cars share the road with traditionally driven ones. It would be one thing to prepare for a brave new world where human drivers have been magically removed overnight from the equation altogether, but the messier reality for businesses trying to capitalize on the technology, their regulators, and the rest of us, is that we all need to prepare for a hybrid transportation system that can accommodate both humans and machines going about their daily commute, interacting safely.

The signs that autonomous vehicles could be commonplace in 8–12 years are everywhere. For starters, ever since cruise control became standard, the degree of automation present in our existing cars has been ratcheting up. For the leap into full automation, more money is being invested, more partnerships created, and vehicles tested. Apple invested $1 billion into Uber’s Chinese competitor, Didi Chuxing Technology Co., while General Motors Co. bought Cruise Automation, a software technology company. Strategic alliances between firms that can provide complementary innovations to one another appear to be a key feature of the impending AV era. Automakers understand that the current disruption of rideshare apps have spurred a small segment of the population to forego car ownership. They can surmise that eventually, ridesharing app companies will be able to purchase fleets of AVs to operate continuously, which will cut costs for everyone. As a result, they are investing early on to carve out their continued role in the transportation ecosystem. For instance, GM has invested in the rideshare company Lyft; the two companies will test a fleet of autonomous electric taxis by 2017. Volkswagen has invested $300 million in Gett, a popular European rideshare app. Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Fiat Chrysler will utilize Alphabet’s AV technology in trial runs in 100 Chrysler minivans. Read More > at Slate

San Francisco has become one huge metaphor for economic inequality in America – According to a recent study by the California Budget Center, San Francisco ranks first in California for economic inequality. The average income of the top 1% of households in the city averages $3.6 million, 44 times the average income of the bottom 99%, which stands at $81,094. The top 1% of the San Francisco peninsula’s share of total income now extends to 30.8% of the region’s income, a dramatic jump from 1989, where it stood at 15.8%.

The region’s economy has been fundamentally transformed by the technology industry springing from Silicon Valley. But due in part to policies pushed by mayor Ed Lee, which provided tax breaks for tech companies to set up shop along the city’s long neglected mid-Market area, the city is now home to Twitter, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, Dropbox and others. In short, the Bay Area has become a global magnet for those with specialized skills, which has in turn helped fueled economic vibrancy .

The economic growth has reduced unemployment to 3.4%, a commendable feat. But the strength of recent job growth combined with policies that have traditionally limited housing development in the city and throughout the peninsula has proven to be a perfect recipe for an affordability crisis. In 2015 alone, the Bay Area added 64,000 in jobs; in the same year, only 5,000 new homes were built.

With the average house in San Francisco costing over $1.25 million and median condo prices over $1.11 million, the minimum qualifying income to purchase a house has increased to $254,000, as estimated by the the California Association of Realtors. Considering that the median household income in the city currently stands around $80,000, it is not an exaggeration to say that the dream of home ownership is now beyond the grasp of the vast majority of today’s renters. Read More > at Quartz

Mamma Mia! listening to Mozart lowers blood pressure…but ABBA has no impact – Relaxing to a soothing Mozart symphony can lower the blood pressure as much as cutting salt from the diet or exercising, a new study has shown.

But for people concerned about their heart, it might be wise to stay clear of ABBA, which has no impact at all.

Scientists in Germany played Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in g minor, dances by Johann Strauss and songs by ABBA to 60 volunteers, monitoring their blood pressure before and after the experiment.

They found that Mozart lowered systolic blood pressure (the pressure in blood vessels when the heart beats) by 4.7 mm Hg, Strauss 3.7 mm Hg but the Swedish pop group made no significant difference. Read More > in The Telegraph

PG&E agrees to close Diablo Canyon in 2025 – In a momentous decision with far-reaching consequences, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has announced it will not pursue license renewal for the two reactors at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant and will close it in 2025 — ending a tumultuous 31-year relationship with the community and leading to an annual economic loss of about $1 billion locally.

The closure is part of an agreement with labor and environmental organizations announced Tuesday in which the utility agrees to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewable power and electricity storage to offset the power that will no longer be produced by the nuclear plant.

Closing Diablo Canyon will mean the end of an era in nuclear power in California. Diablo is the last nuclear power plant operating in the state, after the 2012 shutdown of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station south of San Clemente.

Diablo Canyon employs nearly 1,500 workers and contributes more than $1 billion to the local economy, according to the Economic Vitality Corp. It is San Luis Obispo County’s largest private industry employer, with an average annual salary of $157,000 in 2014, according to PG&E.

…PG&E officials said its decision to close Diablo Canyon was influenced by several factors. Among them a state policy requiring utilities to increase renewables in their portfolios to 50 percent by 2030; the subsequent growth of solar and wind production; and the loss of customers because of community choice aggregation, which allows local jurisdictions to group power purchases to lower prices. Read More > in The Tribune

Closing The Prop. 47 Loophole That’s Boosting Organized Crime – When California voters passed Proposition 47 in 2014, they did it with good intentions. By changing non-violent crimes like theft, forgery, and drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors, voters hoped to focus corrections resources on hardened criminals, while funding crime prevention programs and rehabilitating low-level offenders.

Unfortunately, the reality of Prop. 47 hasn’t lined up with the lofty expectations. Career criminals have found loopholes in the law that allow them to avoid facing any serious consequences for their behavior. For example, organized crime groups have exploited the reduced punishments for property crimes, causing that type of offense to spike dramatically.

Shoplifting, in particular, has exploded under the new sentencing rules. While some consider it a minor crime, retail theft has real consequences for its victims. This is especially so for small, locally owned businesses, which already face a razor-thin profit margin. Right now, as long as a shoplifter only steals $950 worth of goods at a time, they cannot be charged with a felony. Organized crime groups have figured this out, sending low-level criminals on multiple shoplifting trips with little fear of a lengthy jail sentence if caught. Business owners have even reported thieves walking in with calculators to ensure they stay under the $950 threshold. In some areas, the situation has gotten so bad that the police have stopped arresting shoplifters because they don’t face any jail time. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

In The Federal Government, All The Workers Are Way Above Average – In Lake Wobegon, it is said, “all the children are above average.” So, apparently, are all the workers in the federal government.

Of course, Lake Wobegon was a fictional town in the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” and so that impossible claim was whimsical. But when it comes to the federal government, this absurd rating of worker performance is all too real.

A review of federal worker performance ratings by the Government Accountability Office found that 99.5% of them got a “fully successful” rating or above. More than a third were given the highest rating of “outstanding.”

At the other end of the spectrum, just 0.4% of federal workers were rated as “minimally successful” and 0.1% as “unacceptable.”

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of dealing with federal bureaucrats, or who has read countless reports from government auditors detailing gross incompetence across every federal agency, can attest to the fact that these ratings are ludicrous. Read More > at Investor’s Business Daily

With Central Valley population soaring, Amtrak adds expanded service to East Bay – With mounting housing prices pushing residents farther from the Bay Area’s booming economy, Amtrak on Monday launched expanded service between the Central Valley and East Bay.

The additional daily round-trip service between Bakersfield and Oakland’s Jack London Square will allow commuters to arrive roughly a half-hour earlier in the day, said San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission spokesman David Lipari, offering what the commission hopes will be more convenient service for commuters. The earliest arrival time in Oakland is now 10:26 a.m., Lipari said.

“What we’re seeing is that the communities within the valley are growing,” Lipari said. “Traffic congestion is increasing, and so we need to put more behind the intercity rail to offer another option for people who want to get up and down the state and into the Bay Area.”

…”It’s a pretty effective way to move people in and out of the Bay Area and in and out of the valley,” Lipari said. “And, we’re looking at more opportunities for expansion in the future.”

The commission is also looking at adding a midcorridor start at possibly Merced or Fresno that would allow trains to arrive in Oakland by 8 a.m. He said that service could be expected within the next few years. Read More > in the East Bay Times

Moving to Arizona Soon? You Might Need a License – …Over the years, states across the country have added licensing requirements for a bewildering variety of jobs, requiring months or years of expensive education, along with assessing costly fees.

Today, nearly 30 percent of the American work force needs a license to work, up from about 10 percent in the 1970s, according to Morris Kleiner, a professor of public affairs at the University of Minnesota, who has studied the issue.

The Obama administration and the conservative political network financed by the Koch brothers don’t agree on much, but the belief that the zeal among states for licensing all sorts of occupations has spiraled out of control is one of them. In recent months, they have collaborated with an array of like-minded organizations and political leaders in a bid to roll back licensing rules.

On Friday, the White House announced that it would provide $7.5 million in grants to organizations interested in working with states to reduce overly burdensome licensing and make it easier for licensed practitioners to work across state lines, an issue of particular importance to military families. Read More > in The New York Times

Three Oakland Police Chiefs Resign Within Nine Days – The California city of Oakland has seen three police chiefs resign in just over one week, as the Oakland Police Department (OPD) reels from scandals involving teen prostitution and racist text messaging.

The first to go, OPD Chief John Whent, was a two-decade veteran of the department. He resigned June 9 amid an ongoing investigation into at least five OPD officers, who were all accused of paying an 18-year-old woman for sex. The sexual activity allegedly began when she was still underage, and came to light following the suicide of OPD officer Brendan O’Brien, the man who helped her get acquainted with other officers.

While Chief Whent cited “personal” reasons for his resignation, it coincided with him and the department coming under fire for, at least, being clueless about the situation and potentially helping cover it up.

After Whent’s resignation, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf appointed Ben Fairow as interim OPD Chief. But Fairow was subsequently removed from the position after just six days, without a reason given publicly. Paul Figueroa took over in Fairow’s wake… then resigned on Friday himself.

Figueroa’s resignation came as the OPD was rocked by yet another scandal: a cache of racist text messages and emails shared between OPD officers. An internal investigation into the messages is now underway. Read More > at Reason

Allegations of California Election Corruption Are Widespread – Thousands of voters in the June 7th California Primary election showed up at the polls across the state to discover their political party registrations had been changed.

Hundreds of “dead voters” were recently uncovered in Southern California, the majority of them in Los Angeles County. Some of these deceased voters have even been voting for years, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Fraudulent dead voters are concerning, but voter fraud is an even bigger problem in close races where election outcomes are decided by only a handful of votes, says Linda Paine, founder of the Election Integrity Project.

But after the June 7th primary, dead voters may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Thousands of Republican and Democratic voters reported to the Election Integrity Project that they arrived at their designated polling stations on June 7th to find that their party affiliation was changed. Most reported being re-registered “No Party Preference,” California’s version of “Decline to State.” Others said their registrations were dropped, or they received the wrong ballot, which in many cases prevented them from voting for President in the primary.

The Election Integrity Project’s Linda Paine said they noticed a pattern in several Southern California counties during Election Day. However, as the polls closed, Paine said they were contacted by large numbers of voters throughout the state upset that their party affiliation was changed, and had to vote using a provisional ballot. What Election Integrity Project wants to know is how many other voters this happened to. Read More > at Flashreport

Hunters, conservationists sue over Mendocino County pot laws – A group of conservationists and hunters is suing Mendocino County, saying it violated state environmental laws when it increased limits on the cultivation of medical marijuana without studying the impacts of the decision.

The Mendocino County Blacktail Association — dedicated to maintaining healthy herds of Columbian black-tailed deer, in part for hunting — is seeking an injunction against the urgency ordinance and demanding the county complete an environmental impact study. The ordinance allows people to grow up to 99 plants on a 10-acre parcel with a permit from the Sheriff’s Office. The limit without a permit is 25 plants per parcel, the earlier maximum.

“The impacts from this rapidly growing industry must be analyzed fairly, just as logging, roads, agriculture and housing must do,” said Paul Trouette, the group’s president.

Trouette also operates a private company — Lear Asset Management — that cleans up illegal marijuana gardens. As such, he’s seen first-hand the environmental degradation some outlaw pot growers cause, including poisoned wildlife, illegally diverted and contaminated streams, tree cutting and erosion from illegal grading. Deer are among the victims of the industry, the lawsuit notes. Read More > in The Press Democrat

This cable industry proposal would let you ditch your cable box forever – For weeks, cable providers such as Comcast have been resisting a federal proposal that would force them to make their channels available to anybody who wanted to design new user interfaces for them. Instead of browsing the channel lineup through cable-provided menus and devices, consumers should have access to a greater variety of choices, argue the regulators who proposed the move.

Now the industry has come out with a counterproposal that it hopes will keep away the toughest of the regulations proposed by the Federal Communications Commission. In meetings with top agency officials this week, representatives from Comcast, AT&T and a slew of industry organizations offered a compromise. The deal would allow consumers to get rid of their set-top boxes altogether, saving the roughly $230 a year on average that households pay for the box.

Through an app designed by your cable company, you would be able to search and view all kinds of content not limited to your regular cable lineup; instead, you would also be able to access Netflix-style streaming video content right from the same app. Consumer advocates say this form of integrated search that unifies cable and streaming programming benefits consumers.

The cable industry’s proposal also includes intellectual property safeguards built in to prevent piracy — one of the primary objections the industry had to the FCC’s proposed rules. Every cable and satellite company with over 1 million subscribers would have to offer such an app, if the idea is approved. Read More > in The Washington Post

California’s state religion – In a state ruled by a former Jesuit, perhaps we should not be shocked to find ourselves in the grip of an incipient state religion. Of course, this religion is not actually Christianity, or even anything close to the dogma of Catholicism, but something that increasingly resembles the former Soviet Union, or present-day Iran and Saudi Arabia, than the supposed world center of free, untrammeled expression.

Two pieces of legislation introduced in the Legislature last session, but not yet enacted, show the power of the new religion. One is Senate Bill 1146, which seeks to limit the historically broad exemptions the state and federal governments have provided religious schools to, well, be religious.

Under the rubric of official “tolerance,” the bill would only allow religiously focused schools to deviate from the secular orthodoxy required at nonreligious schools, including support for transgender bathrooms or limitations on expressions of faith by students and even Christian university presidents, in a much narrower range of educational activity than ever before. Many schools believe the bill would needlessly risk their mission and funding to “solve” gender and social equity problems on their campuses that currently don’t exist.

The second piece of legislation, thankfully temporarily tabled, Senate Bill 1161, the Orwellian-named “California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016,” would have dramatically extended the period of time that state officials could prosecute anyone who dared challenge the climate orthodoxy, including statements made decades ago. It would have sought “redress for unfair competition practices committed by entities that have deceived, confused or misled the public on the risks of climate change or financially supported activities that have deceived, confused or misled the public on those risks.” Read More > in The Orange County Regsiter

Chemists Were Wrong About Splenda – Medicinal chemists — organic chemists who study drugs — frequently develop an ability that is sometimes informally called “eyeball toxicology,” or the ability to determine a rough idea of the toxicity of a substance just by seeing its chemical structure on paper. It is a form of intuition. The longer you do the job, the better you get at it.

It would be reasonable to call this skill a “highly educated guess,” which is acquired through years of studying the relationship between the structures of a variety of chemicals and their toxicity. It’s not perfect, but we often get it right. It could just as easily called acquired toxicological judgement. Or, “that is one nasty looking molecule!”

But, it failed miserably with the artificial sweetener Splenda (sucralose). To many medicinal chemists, sucralose looked like bad news, but turned out to be just the opposite. Read More > at the American Council on Science and Health

California Electric Car Rebate Is Done (For Now, At Least) – California’s electric vehicle rebate program has had its cash-flow cut off, for the time being anyways, according to recent reports from EV buyers.

The Golden State’s new budget, still awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, was approved Wednesday and includes nothing for the state’s many vehicle subsidies (for electric vehicles, “environmentally friendly” heavy trucks, etc). Seemingly, this spells the end of the state’s electric vehicle (EV) rebate — at least until some kind of deal or workaround is put together.

For the time being, the state’s clean-vehicle program is simply putting those interested in rebates onto a waiting list.

So, what’s the reason for dropping of the rebate, and the other incentives as well? Wasn’t the plan that Governor Brown revealed back in January supposed to see $500 million spent on low-carbon transportation programs over the next year (including $230 million to be spent on the low-emission vehicle rebate program for consumers, and a further $30 million to be spent on electric vehicle incentives for low-income residents in the San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles)?

Apparently, the issue is that the revenue expected from the most recent cap-and-trade auction in the state didn’t come through. The auction saw “significantly lower than expected” revenue, going by comments made recently by a Brown administration finance official to a legislative budget committee. Read More > at Clean Technica

Deep Thunder Can Forecast the Weather—Down to a City Block – IBM has combined its computing power with the Weather Channel’s impressive forecasting platform to create a new tool called Deep Thunder. Yes, the name is badass, and I encourage you to say it while speaking like Xerxes from 300. Deep Thunder can, its makers claim, forecast weather events that happen on the scale of a city block—a scale known as hyperlocal. But don’t plan on getting access to it unless you are a paying client. Deep Thunder forecasts for businesses who pay top dollar to know how the slightest changes in weather will affect their bottom line.

Weather forecasting is among the most demanding work in computing. “It’s a physics problem,” says Lloyd Treinish, IBM’s chief scientist. “How is energy exchanged at the surface, how does moisture convect and form into clouds, how does a thunderstorm form.” Each of those problems can be described as a set of equations. Of course, the closer you look at the weather, the more equations you have to perform to tease out all the effects of all the little interactions.

Let’s say you run a wind farm. Deep Thunder can give you 3-D wind models. Bought a farm? Deep Thunder can help you prepare for surprise storms. And if you own an airline, a weather oracle can help you fine tune your operations—from tightening delays to reconfiguring your runways. Hell, weather even matters if you work in retail. According to Trenish, Deep Thunder can tell you whether a single thunderhead is going to pass over your store—bring out the raincoats and umbrellas!—or pass you by, with a sensitivity of around one-fifth of a mile. Read More > at Wired

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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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