Sunday Reading – 07/24/16

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.

Verizon is reportedly close to buying Yahoo for $5 billion – Remember when Verizon bought out AOL (Engadget’s parent brand) last year? Then get ready for deja vu: the communications giant is reportedly in closing talks to purchase Yahoo later this year. Sources familiar with the deal have told Bloomberg and ReCode that Verizon is offering almost $5 billion to take over Yahoo’s core business and real estate holdings. The deal still isn’t finalized, but sources say it’s close. That’s good news for Tim Armstrong, who’s been hoping to use the buyout to expand the AOL userbase from 700 million to almost two billion.

For Yahoo, the selling processes is the end of a long journey. When Marissa Mayer took over as CEO in 2012, the company’s core services were struggling to maintain relevancy. Mayer restructured the firm to focus on mobile development, cut fat and eventually performed a “reverse spin-off” to save on taxes, moving all of its business except Alibaba into a new company. Despite this, the company still wound up pitching a sale to bidders earlier this year. It looks like they may finally have a buyer.

Even so, don’t place any bets just yet: negotiations are still ongoing, and the presumptive sale could still fall apart. Even if it does, one thing is clear — Yahoo’s days as an independent company seem to be numbered. Read More > at Engadget

A Smear Campaign Against Russia’s Olympic Heroes – Vladimir Putin wants you to know that he’s strong. We know he wants us to know this because, instead of practicing martial arts in seclusion, he has written a book on judo that will be handed out to 7 million Russian elementary-school students. He spent his 63rd birthday skating with NHL stars. He rides around on horses sans shirt.

Putin wants you to know that his country is strong, too—Russia is a nation that produces powerful, athletic men and women. “We are strong and self-confident,” he said in a 2014 address on Crimea that he delivered to the country’s Federal Assembly. The West wants Russia to dissolve like Yugoslavia did, he explained, but such a thing will not happen. Why not? Because Russia is mighty enough to annex Ukrainian territory and best the rest of the world in displays of athletic prowess.

Russia did not accidentally host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the most expensive in the history of the games, and said to be Putin’s pet project. Russia did not accidentally bribe FIFA officials to win the privilege of hosting the 2018 World Cup. And Russia did not accidentally overlook its own state-run doping program. It did these things on purpose, and it did them to bring glory to Russia and Putin himself.

It looks like that plan will backfire. On Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected an appeal that would’ve allowed Russian track-and-field athletes to compete in Rio de Janeiro. Russia’s runners and throwers have been banned by that sport’s governing body since November. Now, it looks likely that the country’s entire Olympic contingent will be forced to stay home. On Monday, the World Anti-Doping Agency released its latest report detailing a massive, coordinated system to dope up Russian athletes. Anti-doping officials from several nations have asked the International Olympic Committee to bar Russia from the Rio Games; the Associated Press is reporting that “Russia’s top Olympic official expects a final decision by Sunday.” A program that existed because Russian officials were desperate for the athletes who competed under their flag to win gold will probably ensure that Russian runners, and swimmers, and gymnasts will not be permitted to compete at all. Read More > at Slate

U.S. Gasoline Demand Reaches Record Levels – Last week the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its most recent Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO), and the forecast now calls for record U.S. gasoline consumption this year:

Motor gasoline consumption is forecast to increase by 130,000 b/d (1.5%) to 9.29 million b/d in 2016, which would make it the highest annual average gasoline consumption on record, beating the previous record set in 2007 by 0.1%. The increase in gasoline consumption reflects a forecast 2.5% increase in highway travel (because of employment growth and lower retail gasoline prices) that is partially offset by increases in vehicle fleet fuel economy.

This projected increase follows several years of lower gasoline demand that resulted from persistently rising gasoline prices over the past decade. From 2002 to 2012 the average retail price of gasoline rose nearly every year, from an annual average of $1.39/gal in 2002 to $3.68/gal in 2012. Consumers responded to these higher prices in multiple ways, which cumulatively led to falling gasoline demand. Some even suggested that U.S. gasoline demand had permanently peaked, as a result of more fuel efficient vehicles and increasing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

But gasoline prices fell the past two years. With the oil price collapse that began in the second half of 2014, the average retail price of gasoline fell to $3.44/gal in 2014 and then plunged to $2.52/gal in 2015. The average retail price fell to under $2.00/gal earlier in 2016, and is on pace to average even lower this year than in 2015. Read More > in Forbes

Court rules for California in water tunnel fight – Gov. Jerry Brown’s $15.7 billion plan to build two giant water tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has cleared a hurdle after a ruling by the California Supreme Court.

The court said Thursday that state officials do not have to pay landowners rent to access thousands of acres of private property to conduct preliminary tests for the project. If the state had lost, it could have added millions of dollars to the cost of the governor’s plan.

State officials had argued the tests would not significantly interfere with or damage the land, and the state should only be required to compensate landowners for any actual damage or interference.

More broadly, they argued that paying to use the land to conduct tests to see whether a project is feasible would delay public works projects and make some of them too expensive to pursue.

Property owners said the tests the state planned to conduct on their lands were lengthy and invasive and required fair compensation. Read More > at KPCC

Justice Department sues Pennsylvania town for rejecting mosque – The Justice Department is taking a Pennsylvania town to court over a municipal board’s denial of a zoning application for a mosque, accusing officials of discriminating against a local Muslim organization on the basis of religion.

The Bensalem Township violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act when its zoning board in 2014 rejected a zoning request that would have allowed the Bensalem Masjid to build a mosque in the town, Justice Department attorneys wrote in a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

“Our Constitution protects the rights of religious communities to build places of worship free from unlawful interference and unnecessary barriers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to challenge unjustified local zoning actions around the country when they encroach upon this important civil right.” Read More > in The Washington Times

Stem cells engineered to grow cartilage, fight inflammation – With a goal of treating worn, arthritic hips without extensive surgery to replace them, scientists have programmed stem cells to grow new cartilage on a 3-D template shaped like the ball of a hip joint. What’s more, using gene therapy, they have activated the new cartilage to release anti-inflammatory molecules to fend off a return of arthritis.

The technique, demonstrated in a collaborative effort between Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Cytex Therapeutics Inc. in Durham, N.C., is described July 18 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The discovery one day may provide an alternative to hip-replacement surgery, particularly in younger patients. Doctors are reluctant to perform such operations in patients under age 50 because prosthetic joints typically last for less than 20 years. A second joint-replacement surgery to remove a worn prosthetic can destroy bone and put patients at risk for infection. Read More > at Science Daily

Why Placebos Really Work: The Latest Science – Scientists are finding a growing number of ways placebos appear to bring about real health benefits in patients.

The research could someday lead to increased use of placebos—substances that have no apparent pharmaceutical effect—in treatments for common diseases.

Studies have shown that administering placebos reduces pain and symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and migraines, even when patients know they are taking a placebo. Scientists are exploring if they can get the same result in chronic back pain and cancer-related fatigue.

Parkinson’s-disease researchers discovered that stopping patients’ real medication and substituting a placebo continues to ease their symptoms, likely because the body is preconditioned to trigger the same response.

Numerous studies have documented neurobiological effects that placebos have in the brain, resulting in the release of neuromodulators that can help reduce pain and symptoms of illness. New evidence suggests the fake drugs may also affect the body, in particular the immune system, according to an animal study published online in July in the journal Nature Medicine. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Bay Area home sales: June median price sets record high – The median price for single-family homes in the Bay Area set yet another record last month, reaching $755,000.

But even as the price tag went up, the number of sales went down, reflecting what by now is an all-too-common refrain in the region’s housing story: high cost, low supply.

June marked the fourth straight month of year-over-year declines in the number of houses sold in the nine counties. In some counties, the trend toward declining sales was even more pronounced. On a year-over-year basis, sales dipped for the fifth month in Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties. In Contra Costa County, sales were down year-over-year for the third straight month.

Even so, some real estate agents pointed to a silver lining. They reported a leveling of prices in numerous communities and — continuing a months-long trend — a lot less frenzied bidding. Read More > in The Mercury News

Fewer People Are Starting Their Own Businesses – Bad news for aspiring entrepreneurs: Now might not be the best time to launch your own business.

Total entrepreneurial activity in the U.S.—measured by the number of people starting and operating new businesses—fell to 12% in 2015, from 14% in 2014, according to a report released Tuesday by Babson College. The drop reverses upward growth in small business activity during the previous four years.

The findings could indicate that employees are satisfied with their jobs and unwilling to strike out on their own. But the research could also show a lack of confidence in the small business environment in the wake of the recession, Babson professor Donna Kelley told CNBC. The Small Business Optimism Index, a metric from the National Federation of Independent Business, has remained below its 42-year average since the recession. Read More > at Money

Two words may sink adult-use marijuana: vertical integration – Prop. 64 is one of the most controversial proposals on the November ballot. Despite major financial support from the venture-capital world, the initiative is not popular among people who know the cannabis industry best — legacy cultivators whose work has made California marijuana the nation’s best and most popular variety.

Many independent and craft growers are becoming increasingly vocal about their opposition to Prop. 64, which would establish a legal framework and regulation for a commercially unique ag product worth billions of dollars.

“The growing consensus is that this is a really bad regulatory framework,” Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The lack of industry support is hugely problematic for proponents of Prop. 64, which by mid-July had already received $125 million in support from Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Facebook co-founder Sean Parker.

The reluctance of industry pros to climb on board the Prop. 64 bandwagon means other groups opposed to the initiative — including many cities and counties and law enforcement organizations — have a united front and compelling story to tell voters over the next four months.

In that story, Prop. 64 is nothing more than a scam by global investors to industrialize and dominate California’s marijuana patch.

Two words define how that domination will occur — vertical integration. Read More > at California County News

The soon-to-be biggest thing in football has no idea what he’s in for: Inside 425-pound Motekiai Langi’s path to BYU – On Feb. 4, 2015, BYU announced its recruiting class for the upcoming season. The list was typical, with a heavy presence of players from Utah and a bent toward Californians and Texans. But as the athletics department tweeted out each recruit’s information, several of the program’s communications staffers hatched a plan. One name, they figured, might go viral. They’d include a photo. That would rile up Twitter. And then, they decided, they’d wait a bit longer to send the next tweet.

That name was Motekiai Taukolo Langi, a 6’7″, 410-pound, zero-star lineman from Tonga. His profile alone would have been enough to garner notice, but in the photo accompanying it, Langi is a human snarl, the left side of his upper lip curled toward his nose, his brow not so much furrowed as it is an awning shading his deep-set eyes. He appears to be staring down the rest of the world, ready to clobber it.

The communications staff was right. For a few hours, Langi was the Bigfoot of football Twitter. ESPN’s sports business reporter and arbiter of Twitter tidbits, Darren Rovell, speculated that the whole thing might have been a hoax. “Is BYU trolling us?” he wrote. “No video or pictures of him playing on the Internet. Four total photos on Facebook.” Soon thereafter, BYU’s football media relations director, Brett Pyne, tweeted a photo of Langi standing next to 6’7″, 265-pound defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, who was a third-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft. The older player looked willowy in comparison. This was no hoax.

…Meanwhile, Langi was a 17-year-old employee of a pig farm on Tongatapu, the largest of Tonga’s 169 islands. He’d just finished a five-day football camp near his home, led by Moore and Mone Angilau, a former high school player, but Langi thought little of his performance. By then, the teenager weighed about 400 pounds, and despite a frame that would put most professional linemen to shame, he’d never touched a football before the camp.

His learning curve that week was steep, to say nothing of the equipment issues he faced. With a head so large it didn’t fit in a traditional high-school helmet, Langi was forced to share an oversized model with an American defensive lineman who’d come over for the camp. That dictated his position: He couldn’t go helmetless, so offensive line it would be. “I was on the line, swaying around, and flags were flying,” Langi recalls of the Friday game. “I figured, maybe I should just stay still.” That, and pancaking smaller players, was the extent of what he gathered in a week he never imagined would change his life. Read More > in Sports Illustrated

Sears Is Fighting a Losing Battle Against J.C. Penney in Appliances – Back in January, J.C. Penney announced plans to return to the appliance market after a three decade absence. Since beginning in February with a small-scale test in just three metro areas, it has steadily expanded its ambitions, intruding into one of the last remaining areas of strength for struggling retail giant Sears Holdings.

In May, J.C. Penney began selling appliances nationwide through its website. More recently, it has started opening appliance showrooms in more stores, as part of a broad rollout that will put appliance showrooms in nearly 500 J.C. Penney locations by the fall. Sears is trying to defend its market share in appliances through aggressive promotions, but it is fighting a losing battle.

Not surprisingly, J.C. Penney is offering substantial discounts to build customer awareness of its new appliance sections. The company has been offering discounts of up to 20% on name-brand appliances, according to Fortune. That’s fairly significant in a category where initial markups tend to be modest. Read More > at The Motley Fool

The State of Smart Homes – The promise was big, the hype was bigger, but the reality, well, let’s just say, not exactly earth-shattering.

Several years after the concept of the smart home started making waves—the first Nest thermostat was introduced in October of 2011—the smart home market is still more promise than practical reality. Certainly, progress has been made, and with the forthcoming version of the HomeKit-enabled Home app in iOS10 slated for this fall, more is on the near-term horizon.

But, it’s also fair to say that most people haven’t exactly been caught up in a wave of smart home euphoria. Other than the modest success of web-enabled home security cameras, most consumers haven’t felt compelled to equip their homes with connected light bulbs, appliances and other smart devices.

It’s not hard to see why. First, as has already been discussed ad infinitum, there’s a standards problem—as in, there are way too many of them, and battles exist at nearly every potential layer of the communications stack. As a result, the process of finding products that will work together is a much harder (and more limiting) research project than it should be.

…In fact, it’s this desire to be “phone-free” at home that, in part, has triggered the growing interest in voice-based devices like Amazon’s Alexa. By leveraging a fixed location appliance that doesn’t require anything but your ability to speak to it, you can accomplish a number of things more easily, more quickly, or just plain more possibly than having to dig into your pocket or purse to get your phone, find an app, launch it and then do whatever it is you want to do. Read More > at Techpinions

Covered California rates to jump average of 13 percent in 2017 – After two years of moderate rate increases, Californians who get their coverage through the state health insurance marketplace will see their 2017 premiums increase by an average of

13.2 percent.

That’s more than triple the average 4 percent rate increases that consumers have seen since the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange started offering coverage in 2014. The preliminary rates for Bay Area counties are even higher than the state average, with San Francisco premiums set to increase by nearly 15 percent.

Lee blamed two of the biggest plans — Anthem, which sells Blue Cross plans, and Blue Shield of California — for helping to drive the double-digit rate increase. He cited Anthem’s weighted average increase of 17.2 percent and Blue Shield’s of nearly 20 percent, but noted those increases vary by region.

Additional factors behind the hike included rising medical costs, particularly prescription drugs, and the end of two federal programs designed to stabilize premium increases, Lee said. While the end of the federal programs is expected to have a one-year impact, other trends are ongoing. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Over a fifth of state’s recycling centers close amid plummeting prices – More than a fifth of California’s recycling redemption centers have closed in the last year, stripping consumers of easy access to recycling and limiting their ability to collect the deposits they made when purchasing bottles and cans.

More closures may follow, as the state’s subsidy payment program, meant to help centers survive market fluctuations, has failed to keep up with rapid decreases in the value of plastic, glass and aluminum. The payment formula, advocates say, is too slow to cover the real costs of recycling.

The Legislature hasn’t been able to agree on a solution to prevent further closures or solve the program’s problems.

California is one of 10 states to charge residents a refundable fee, or deposit, when they buy bottles and cans. Consumers can then claim those deposits at redemption centers.

…Lawmakers say the state’s three-decade-old recycling program needs a major redesign. The business model no longer matches the reality of state recycling rates and the fund used to pay out refunds has suffered in recent years. Read More > in The Orange County Register

Hate in Haight: KKK Actively Recruiting in San Francisco – Ultra progressive San Francisco doesn’t exactly seem like prime recruiting ground for white supremacist groups, but far be it from us to question the wisdom of the KKK’s marketing department.

On Thursday, officials from the Ku Klux Klan confirmed that they’ve been actively courting new members in the City by the Bay, which explains a series of disturbing KKK flyers turning up in the Haight neighborhood.

“Our organization is actively recruiting in all of California and all of the United States,” said Will Quigg, grand dragon of the group’s West Coast region. “We’re getting a lot more calls, especially in the last few months with what Obama’s doing, what Hillary’s doing and especially Black Lives Matter calling for war and saying they’re trying to kill all whites.”

The Haight flyers appeared to be exploiting the heightened tensions between African American communities and police. Read More > at California City News

This Guy Trains Computers to Find Future Criminals – …Before his sentence, the judge in the case received an automatically generated risk score that determined Loomis was likely to commit violent crimes in the future.

Risk scores, generated by algorithms, are an increasingly common factor in sentencing. Computers crunch data—arrests, type of crime committed, and demographic information—and a risk rating is generated. The idea is to create a guide that’s less likely to be subject to unconscious biases, the mood of a judge, or other human shortcomings. Similar tools are used to decide which blocks police officers should patrol, where to put inmates in prison, and who to let out on parole. Supporters of these tools claim they’ll help solve historical inequities, but their critics say they have the potential to aggravate them, by hiding old prejudices under the veneer of computerized precision.

…His tools have been used by prisons to determine which inmates to place in restrictive settings; parole departments to choose how closely to supervise people being released from prison; and police officers to predict whether people arrested for domestic violence will re-offend. He once created an algorithm that would tell the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which workplaces were likely to commit safety violations, but says the agency never used it for anything. Starting this fall, the state of Pennsylvania plans to run a pilot program using Berk’s system in sentencing decisions. Read More > at Bloomberg

The Golden State’s Fiscal Fraud – …Thanks to budget legerdemain, Brown and his Democratic allies in the legislature have posed themselves as the fiscal saviors of California, making brave choices to balance the books and get the economy growing again. But the fact is, the nation’s largest and still-wealthiest state is in a fiscal fix from which it will be tough to extricate itself.

Democrats boast of running a “surplus.” What they don’t say is they only run a surplus by excluding costs for the state’s out-of-control public-pension programs. If a company did this, it would be accused of fraud. In California, this gets you re-elected.

California’s total debt is $118.17 billion, but when you add in what it really owes, that surges to an unbelievable $757 billion — roughly equal to 46% of the state’s total income. This is why the Mercatus Center at George Mason University recently ranked California 44th in the nation in terms of fiscal health.

Meanwhile, a recent survey of the nation’s CEOs again ranked California’s business climate dead last in the nation. Not surprisingly, according to business consultant Joe Vranich, this has led to some 1,687 companies moving out of California since 2008 — the latest being California fast-food icon Carl’s Jr. Read More > at Investor’s Business Daily

Kids in crisis: One-third of California 11th-graders surveyed say they are chronically sad – In a potential crisis crossing demographic lines, one-third of California’s 11th-graders and one-quarter of seventh-graders reported feeling chronically sad or hopeless over the past 12 months, a survey released Monday showed.

The California Healthy Kids Survey also found that about 19 percent of both ninth-graders and 11th-graders seriously considered attempting suicide.

When it comes to depression and anxiety among high school students, the trend “is not moving in the right direction,” said Anne Ehresman, executive director of Project Cornerstone, which focuses on building child-supporting communities and runs programs in more than 200 schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Despite the findings, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson noted that drug and alcohol use dropped and school safety — including fewer students carrying guns on campus — improved. Read More > in the East Bay Times

Security cameras on all BART cars by next year – BART’s promise to equip each of the 669 railcars in its current fleet with working security cameras won’t be fulfilled until 2017, say officials for the transit system.

BART vowed to install additional video surveillance cameras after The Chronicle revealed in January that the majority of what look like security cameras on its trains are empty housings designed to fool and deter wrongdoers. The revelation came after BART police, investigating a fatal on-train shooting, said they were unable to retrieve usable video from a camera near the incident.

A subsequent outcry from riders prompted BART officials to say they would replace the decoys in 470 cars that lack real cameras and repair an additional 48 cameras that weren’t working. The transit agency estimated the cost at $1.4 million but repeatedly declined to predict when the work would be completed. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Texas Governor: Attacking Police Should Be A ‘Hate Crime’ –  On Monday, Abbott called on the Texas legislature to pass a law he called the “Police Protection Act,” which would make any crime committed against a police officer a hate crime. That distinction would increase the penalties imposed against anyone convicted of attacking police.

“Under current law, assault with bodily injury is generally punishable as a Class A misdemeanor, while assault on a public servant, including a law enforcement officer, is a 3rd degree felony,” a press release from Abbott’s office stated. “Under Governor Abbott’s proposal, in cases where the assault is on a law enforcement officer, the penalty would increase to a 2nd degree felony.”

The proposal comes on the heels of the anti-police massacre in Dallas where five officers were gunned down and killed by a single gunman, making it the deadliest day for law enforcement since 9/11. On Sunday, three police officers in Baton Rouge were gunned down by a man who was intending to kill law enforcement officials.

“At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the State will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities,” Abbott said in a statement. Read More > in The Fedrealist

State Supreme Court sides with Southern California in sale of delta islands – The state Supreme Court has cleared the way for Southern California’s powerful Metropolitan Water District to buy five islands at the epicenter of the delta’s water system, officials said Friday.

Some officials and environmentalists in Northern California fought to halt the sale, worried about what the MWD planned to do with the land. The agency has said it might use some of the land to provide access for the construction of a proposed delta tunnel system, a controversial project some oppose amid California’s five-year drought.

A cohort of counties, water agencies and environmental advocacy groups mounted a series of legal challenges aimed at postponing the sale. But the high court on Thursday turned those back, allowing the MWD to proceed with its $175-million purchase of the farm islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

…Thursday’s Supreme Court order does not toss out the original lawsuit filed by San Joaquin County to block the sale. It simply allows the island purchase to move forward while that case and others play themselves out.

It could be months or even years until all the legal challenges to the purchase are resolved, officials said. Read More > in The Mercury News

10 Things That Will Soon Disappear Forever –  Ten years ago, thousands of Blockbuster Video stores occupied buildings like this all over the country, renting DVDs and selling popcorn. Today, all but a handful are closed. The company’s shares once traded for nearly $30. Now Blockbuster is gone, scooped up (and then erased) by the DISH Network in a bankruptcy auction.

Obsolescence isn’t always so quick or so complete, but emerging technologies and changing practices are sounding the death knell for other familiar items.

Keys, at least in the sense of a piece of brass cut to a specific shape, are going away. At the office, most of us already use a card with a chip embedded to get access. But for getting into your house (and your car), the technology that will kill off the key is your smart phone. Connecting either via Bluetooth or the Internet, your mobile device will be programmed to lock and unlock doors at home, at the office and elsewhere.

Burger-flippers have targets on their backs as fast-food executives are eager to replace them with machines, particularly as minimum wages in a variety of states are set to rise to $15.

Diners will notice reduced staffing up front as outlets such as Panera (PNRA) turn to touch-screen kiosks for order placing.

The amount of mail people are sending is plummeting, down 57% from 2004 to 2015 for stamped first-class pieces. So, around the country, the U.S. Postal Service has been cutting back on those iconic blue collection boxes. The number has fallen by more than half since the mid 1980s. Since it costs time and fuel for mail carriers to stop by each one, the USPS monitors usage and pulls out boxes that don’t see enough traffic. Read More > at Kiplinger

Turkey Coup: How Facetime and social media helped Erdogan foil the plot – The apparently failed coup against President Erdoğan of Turkey continued to unfold Saturday morning, in what remains a very uncertain and fluid situation. Friday night, during the most chaotic sequence of events, Erdoğan gave an interview via a video chat service on his iPhone, where he asserted the legitimacy of his government’s authority and called on the Turkish people to take to the streets against the coup. The picture of him talking via Facetime is already one of the iconic images of the night.

Meanwhile, around the country, Facebook’s real-time map of its live video streams showed large numbers of users in Turkey, mostly streaming either the events of the moment or showing people out on the street protesting the military takeover.

…In the past, taking control of the national TV or radio stations would have been enough to eliminate the threat of the leader speaking to the nation, at least for the crucial hours of transition. Instead, Erdoğan was able to connect to broadcasters via Facetime—specifically, to CNN—and get his message out. Once the word was out, it reinforced the ability of services like Periscope and Facebook Live to generate common knowledge about the situation. Having people be able to see what is happening—and having people know that others can see what’s happening too—is a crucial prerequisite for successful collective action in situations like this. And in this case, it seems that people did not want this coup to happen. Streaming video technology makes that common-knowledge threshold easier to reach, and the government may have made sure it kept running as a result. Read More > at Vox

Could MLB trim its season to 154 games? – After taking steps recently to shorten the games, will Major League Baseball’s next significant move be to trim the length of the season?

Sounds radical. But with negotiations already underway to craft a new collective-bargaining agreement, the practicality of playing 162 games in the span of 183 days — as influenced by the often grueling scheduling demands of TV networks — is a topic that is generating plenty of discussion between MLB officials and the union.

The idea of returning to a 154-game regular season has gained momentum recently. Exhausted players have complained about the rigors of the modern travel schedule, which can force teams to jump as many as three time zones on consecutive days.

The American League switched to a 162-game schedule in 1961 after expanding by two teams, which then allowed the 10 teams to play each other 18 times. The NL didn’t go to 162 games until the following season, when it also went to 10 teams. Read More > at Newsday

The first ever dementia vaccine could be trialled in humans within 3 years – Scientists working in the US and Australia have made progress on a vaccine candidate that could prevent and, in some cases, even reverse, the onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other related diseases.

This could be a big deal in the treatment of these diseases, seeing as the new drug is able to specifically target the tau proteins and abnormal beta-amyloid that can build up and cause Alzheimer’s.

Even better, it could be ready for human trials in as little as two to three years, according to researcher Nikolai Petrovsky from Flinders University in Australia. Read More > at Science Alert

Tim Blair: Stop pointing the finger at victims of terror – It’s a peaceful Sunday afternoon. You’re relaxing at home when someone knocks on the front door. Your peaceful day is about to end. As you open the door, it is kicked in with such force you are dashed to the floor. Three masked men rush in.

You try getting to your feet but are felled again when one of the men punches you in the face. His accomplices haul you to a kitchen chair where you are bound and gagged.

…Armed police enter the house. Instead of pursuing the thieves, however, they surround you in the kitchen, where you are still bound and gagged. For some minutes they regard you in complete silence. Their arms are crossed.

Finally, an officer speaks. Leaning close in to your face, he says: “Why can’t you just be nice to people?”

Now, all of that might seem highly unlikely. In what possible world would authorities blame victims rather than culprits? Yet after every terrorist attack on Western targets, this is precisely what happens.

…After last week’s Islamic terror attack on Nice, which left 84 dead and many others seriously ­injured, the Greens leader Richard Di Natale decided to focus not on the attacker and his motivation, but on how the West should respond.

“This horrendous crime occurs at a time when the world is still reeling from the senseless acts of violence in Istanbul and Dallas,” Di Natale said in a statement.

“In the face of attacks like this we must strengthen our commitment to peaceful democracy, respect for diversity and building cohesion in our global community.”

Excuse me? “We” must? Why is it our responsibility? Read More > in The Daily Telegraph


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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