Sunday Reading – 09/11/16


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.

This 224-page California voter guide is heftiest one ever, thanks to 17 ballot measures – In a season replete with clothing catalogs and campaign flyers, the biggest item stuffed in mailboxes this fall may be the Nov. 8 statewide voter guide, coming in at a record-setting 224 pages.

The information booklet covers all 17 statewide ballot propositions, a document that election officials believe is the most voluminous election guide in California history. And it hasn’t come cheap: The total cost for printing and mailing, done in Sacramento and taking seven weeks to complete, will come close to $15 million.

The qualification in late June of this fall’s large slate of statewide voter propositions, the most in more than 15 years, set in motion plans to roll out what became a hefty voter guide. State law requires the document be mailed to each of California’s 18 million voters, a two-week process that begins on Sept. 29. The printing started in the middle of August at a state government warehouse in Sacramento, and the final cost won’t be known until the effort concludes.

This fall, voters are being asked to wade through some of the most complex laws ever proposed, initiatives with details so granular that they could easily confound all but the most expert legal minds.

Leading the pack is Proposition 64, the much-talked-about effort to fully legalize marijuana use for California adults. The broad question may be straightforward, but the initiative is not.

Even the guide’s overview analysis of Prop 64 is 10 pages long. The actual proposed state law to make pot legal takes another 33 pages of the document, more than 17,000 words in all. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Oakland Raiders move the ball forward in plans to relocate team to Las Vegas – According to a report by KTNV, negotiations between Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis and Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson to bring the team to Sin City has taken another step forward.

The Las Vegas station reported on a meeting between the two men to hammer out a deal to build a new $1.9 billion stadium in the city for the football team prior to a draft of a bill financing the deal being sent to the state legislature.

One of the former sticking points that was reportedly eased was Adelson’s removal of a proposed 15 percent rate of return that was opposed by Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak.

Adelson’s team, however, continued to press for $750 million in public funding raised through hotel room taxes, but still proved unwilling to entertain the idea of a public-private profit-sharing component to the deal. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

How to Bring Back Manufacturing Jobs – America has a long-running crisis in manufacturing employment. Quite simply, year after year, the number of people employed in making things declines — the figure is down by nearly 5 million since 1996. And in election years like this one, it is common to hear politicians talk about how they will bring manufacturing jobs back.

Across the board — on both sides of the aisle, in every part of the country — there is an overwhelming desire to have more manufacturing jobs. This is partly due to nostalgia and symbolism. But it’s also driven largely by economics: Generally speaking, the manufacturing jobs that have been lost (and that remain) offer better pay, benefits, and job security than the service jobs that have replaced them. What’s more, manufacturing has a big multiplier effect — when you build machines at a factory, it calls an array of suppliers and service providers into action. Thanks to the power of manufacturing’s economic impact, states and cities are often willing to offer significant financial incentives to companies that are willing to open plants.

…I’ve written before about the strange state of affairs in the job market. Markets everywhere have become more efficient, thanks to technology and brilliant new platforms that grant buyers and sellers of goods and services the ability to meet one another online and agree on product and prices. And yet the labor market has become less efficient. As the most recent JOLTS report notes, there were some 5.6 million jobs open in the U.S. at the end of June, up from 2.4 million in June 2009. If human resources professionals could be 10 percent more effective at filling posts than they are, there would be an additional 560,000 people working today.

…But in manufacturing, there’s something else at work. As the Journal noted, the manufacturing industry has changed a great deal in recent years. It is more technology-intensive, more specialized, and depends on higher-value-added goods. As is the case with many other professions — including journalism and retail — the jobs have evolved to the point where they are fundamentally different. It’s one thing to weld a fender to a car body; it’s quite another to program, manage, and maintain the machines and robots that do the welding. All of which is to say that the level of skills and competencies manufacturing employers are seeking in their employees may be significantly higher than the level they were seeking 10, or 20, or 30 years ago. Read More > at Strategy+Business

Coal Rises From Grave to Become One of Hottest Commodities – For all the predictions about the death of coal, it’s now one of the hottest commodities in the world. The resurrection may have further to run.

A surge in Chinese imports to compensate for lower domestic production has seen European prices jump to near an 18-month high, while Australia’s benchmark is set for the first annual gain since 2010.

At the start of the year, prices languished near decade lows because of waning demand from utilities seeking to curb pollution and amid the International Energy Agency’s declaration that the fuel’s golden age in China was over. Now, traders are weighing the chances of extreme weather hitting major producers and China further boosting imports as factors that could push prices even higher.

What could light up the market further is the occurrence of a La Nina weather pattern. Last time it happened in 2010 and 2011, heavy rains flooded mines in Australia and Indonesia, the world’s two largest exporters. While some meteorologists have toned down their predictions for the weather phenomenon forming and having a lasting impact “another strong forecast” would cause prices to rise further, according to Fitch Group Inc.’s BMI Research.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said Friday that a La Nina has already set in and that there’s a 70 percent chance that it will continue into the winter. That’s in contrast to the U.S. Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center which on Thursday downgraded the chance of the event happening to 35 to 45 percent, compared with as high as 75 percent in June. Australia rates the possibility at 50 percent. Read More > at Bloomberg

Study: Latino population growth slips behind Asian Americans – The growth of the U.S. Latino population — once the nation’s fastest growing — slowed considerably over the past seven years and slipped behind that of Asian Americans amid declining Hispanic immigration and birth rates, a study released Thursday found.

The Pew Research Center study, which analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data, found that the U.S. Hispanic population grew annually on average by 2.8 percent between 2007 and 2014.

That’s down from the 4.4 percent annual growth from 2000 to 2007, before the Great Recession.

By comparison, the Asian American population grew around 3.4 percent on average annually during the same period.

William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, the slower growth is largely a factor of the economy. A slower economy is influencing families to hold off on having more children, and it’s discouraging migration amid stronger border enforcement, he said.

Kenneth M. Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy, said U.S. Hispanic women between the ages of 20 to 24 have seen a 36 percent decline in birth rates.

“That’s by far the largest decline of any other group,” Johnson said. Read More > in the Associated Press

University of California hires India-based IT outsourcer, lays off tech workers – The University of California is laying off a group of IT workers at its San Francisco campus as part of a plan to move work offshore.

The layoffs will happen at the end of February, but before the final day arrives the IT employees expect to train foreign replacements from India-based IT services firm HCL. The firm is working under a university contract valued at $50 million over five years.

This layoff may have huge implications. That’s because the university’s IT services agreement with HCL can be leveraged by any institution in the 10-campus University of California system, which serves some 240,000 students and employs some 190,000 faculty and staff.

This layoff affects 17% of UCSF’s total IT staff, broken down this way: 49 IT permanent employees will lose their jobs, along with 12 contract employees and 18 vendor contractors. This number also includes 18 vacant IT positions that won’t be filled, according to the university.

…Employees had been warned about the possibility of outsourcing, but the news did not come easy.

“It’s very troubling,” said one affected IT employee. Employees contacted asked that their names not be used. Although the university is partially state funded, “California employees are losing their jobs because you’re moving their jobs to Washington,” referring to the Dell data center. “That’s the first problem, the second problem is people are losing their jobs because outsourcers from another country are coming in to take their positions, that’s insulting.” Read More > at Computer World

The States Gaining And Losing The Most Migrants — And Money – …To measure the states that are most attractive to Americans on the move, we developed an “attraction” ratio that measures the number of domestic in-migrants per 100 out-migrants. A state that has a rating of 100 would be perfectly balanced between those leaving and coming.

Overall, the biggest winner — both in absolute numbers and in our ranking — is Texas. In 2014 the Lone Star State posted a remarkable 156 attraction ratio, gaining 229,000 more migrants than it lost, roughly twice as many as went to No. 3 Florida, which clocked an impressive 126.7 attraction ratio.

Most of the top gainers of domestic migrants are low-tax, low-regulation states, including No. 2 South Carolina, with an attraction ratio of 127.3, as well as No. 5 North Dakota, and No. 7 Nevada. These states generally have lower housing costs than the states losing the most migrants.

…High costs go a long way to explain which states are losing the most migrants. At the top, or rather, the bottom of the list is New York State, which had an abysmal 65.4 attraction ratio in 2014 and lost by far the most net migrants, an astounding 126,000 people. Close behind was Illinois, a high tax, high regulation, and low growth disaster area. In 2014 the Land of Lincoln had an abysmal 67.2 attraction ratio, losing a net 82,000 domestic migrants.

Most of the other top people-exporting states are in the Northeast and Midwest. But the West, traditionally the magnet for newcomers, now also has some major losers, including Alaska (80.1), New Mexico (84.6) and Wyoming (88.6). The outflow for some of these western states may get worse, unless prices for natural resources like coal, oil, gas and minerals do not recover in the near future.

And then there is the big enchilada, California. For generations, the Golden State developed a reputation as the ultimate destination of choice for millions of Americans. No longer. Since 2000 the state has lost 1.75 million net domestic migrants, according to Census Bureau estimates. And even amid an economic recovery, the pattern of outmigration continued in 2014, with a loss of 57,900 people and an attraction ratio of 88.5, placing the Golden State 13th from the bottom, well behind longtime people exporters Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Louisiana. California was a net loser of domestic migrants in all age categories. Read More > at New Geography

The Unemployable Graduate Crisis and How We Can Fix It – Around the world, millions of students have recently graduated from university and college and for many, September often marks a milestone month as they enter the world of work.

Unfortunately, this won’t be the case for everyone. In the UK, more than half of graduates are working in non-graduate roles, while in the US graduate unemployment and underemployment (those who work part-time but want full-time roles) currently stands at 5.5% and 12.6% respectively. After years of study and expense, what a shocking waste of talent and money and dreams. Year after year however I listen to concerned clients of Hays who are worried that each fresh wave of graduates simply will not possess the skills required to excel in the modern world of work, or even get their foot in the door.

What is going wrong?

There remains a fundamental mismatch between market demand and supply of skills. The longstanding concerns around a drought of STEM and digital talent have been well publicised, but the issue extends beyond that. Students are graduating with degrees offering neither technical nor vocational knowledge, yet these are what employers are often looking for first.

Recent research in the US found that while 87% of recent graduates feel well prepared to hit the ground running in their new job, only half of hiring managers agreed. The shortfall across hard and soft skills is plain to see – one in four roles go unfilled due to the technical skills gap and hiring managers report worrying gaps in graduates’ critical thinking, communication and leadership skills. Around the world, many graduates simply aren’t employable in the roles being created today, yet will have spent at least 3 years racking up debt to study a course that will not help them find a relevant role. Read More > at LinkedIn

Fumble the brats? No problem as Amazon looks to score with delivery to 49ers tailgaters – The biggest play on 49ers game days may be the handoff from Amazon couriers to tailgaters.

The San Francisco 49ers have teamed up with the Seattle-based e-commerce giant to offer pre-game tailgate delivery to Amazon Prime members in select parking lots around Levi’s Stadium.

The deal is the first tailgate delivery pact between Amazon.com Inc. and a National Football League franchise. It is part of an accelerating trend by sports franchises to make the “fan experience” — inside and outside stadiums — at least as important as the game on the field.

Financial terms of the 49ers-Amazon relationship were not disclosed.

For fans, the deal could be a game changer: Using the Amazon Prime Now app, they can restock the beer cooler, order brats, replace a lost football or fire up an additional grill — 25,000 items in all — and have the goods delivered to their parking spot within an hour for $7.99. (Two-hour delivery is free.) Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Nine Ways Star Trek Anticipated and Celebrated the Future – In the field of future technology, life has a tendency to imitate art. The creators of science fiction are often able to imagine something before science fact makes it possible. The real technology then catches up when somebody sees it in fiction and asks: how could we actually do that?

This is true of Star Trek perhaps more than any other science fiction franchise. It’s no coincidence, because the show’s creators consulted with scientists and technology experts about what was possible or might be possible. They took the future seriously and wanted to know what things might look like when we got there. In a lot of ways, they got it right.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first episode of the original series, let’s look at nine ways Star Trek anticipated the future, helping us to imagine the next wave of innovation and to think about how we will live with it.

…But a lot of other Star Trek technology is ahead of schedule. The communicator has already been and gone, in the form of the good old late-1990s flip phone.

Some compare the tricorder to certain new medical devices, but I don’t think that gets to the essence of it. You have to cast yourself back into a 1960s mindset and realize that what was really radical about the tricorder is that it was a handheld computer—at a time when your average computer took up an entire room.

Speaking of handheld computers, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” brought us what is clearly a touchscreen tablet computer—an iPad 15 years early. Read More > at Real Clear Future

Hippocrates’ theory linking pain and weather could be right, say scientists – It is nearly 2,500 years since the Greek physician Hippocrates noticed a connection between pain and the weather, but scientists have shown that it may well be true.

Researchers at Manchester University spent months tracking thousands of people who suffer from conditions like arthritis, back pain and migraines to see if their symptoms got worse in good or bad weather.

…He said: “We have long heard anecdotal evidence about how people with chronic conditions say they suffer more when the weather is bad – a lot of my patients tell me that they can predict the weather based on how they are feeling.

“But amazingly there has never really been any real research into it – even though that around 28 million people in the UK suffer from some form of chronic pain.

“I think there is definitely a possible link. In terms of physiology, it makes sense that air pressure, which can affect weather, would influence pain – particularly in arthritis.” Read More > in The Telegraph

If Football Teams Heeded Science and Reason, They Would Win a Lot More – …One is about as common as they come: punting. Football teams are afforded four downs to travel ten yards. If they surpass that distance, they are awarded another set of set downs. If they don’t, then they turn the ball over to their opponents. But overwhelmingly, if teams do not travel the ten-yard distance in only three tries, they elect to punt the ball to their opponents, effectively surrendering their final try in order to move their opponents father away from the end zone, where points are scored.

Punting is an everyday tactic. In fact, do the math and you’ll find that punters are paid, on average, tens of thousands of dollars for every appearance they make. But in 2002, economist David Romer at UC-Berkeley studied National Football League (NFL) games and punt data between 1998 and 2000, and found that teams would almost always be better off “going for it” on fourth down if the distance to-go was four yards or less.

“Even on its own 10-yard-line — 90 yards from the end zone — a team within three yards of a first down is marginally better off, on average, going for it,” ESPN’s Greg Garber reported.

When Romer updated his data through 2004, the conclusion only solidified. Punting was often a mistake, such a big one, in fact, that it might be costing teams who regularly do it an average of one and a half wins per year! In a sixteen game season, where a swing of two wins can make the difference between the postseason and the offseason, that’s huge! Read More > at Real Clear Science

A Common Sense Reform for California – On November 8, Californians will have to decide how to vote on seventeen statewide ballot measures. And the topics covered are complex and hefty, to say the least, including price controls on pharmaceuticals, recreational marijuana legalization, gun control, and the death penalty. To learn more about many of the statewide propositions, check out the Hoover Institution’s every-other-month California publication, Eureka.

One, measure, however, despite the best efforts of the California Democratic Party and their labor and environmental allies, is proving to be quite non-controversial. This one, Proposition 54 or the Legislature Transparency Act, just seems like common sense – and this is coming from someone who is skeptical of the passing policy via the initiative system. To best understand why Proposition 54 is a straightforward, common sense good governance reform, let’s examine how the opponents’ arguments (as taken from their No on Proposition 54 website) hold up under evaluation.

But first, what does Proposition 54 actually do? The measure has three components: 1) it requires the Legislature to publicly post all bills for at least 72 hours prior to a vote; 2) it requires the Legislature to record and then publicly post within 24 hours all public legislative committee and floor sessions; and 3) it permits any individual to record and then share public legislative meetings. Read More > at Real Clear Markets

Botanists’ ‘holy grail’ blooms near Antioch – A jolt of adrenaline is coursing through the normally placid botany community in the East Bay after the discovery of a prodigious patch of extremely rare wildflowers that, until a few years ago, were thought to be extinct.

The half-acre cluster of critically endangered Mount Diablo buckwheat was spotted at the 6,096-acre Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, near Antioch, by two botanists who saw a pink hue of growth on rolling hills that normally would be covered with California’s signature golden grasslands.

The finding came in May, but was announced Wednesday after months of secrecy usually reserved for matters of national security. East Bay Regional Park District officials declined to show The Chronicle exactly where the flower had been found out of fear that its location would be revealed, thus prompting hikers or vandals to flock there.

The plant with the cotton-candy-like flower had first been rediscovered in 2005, in minuscule amounts, in a remote area of Mount Diablo State Park after a 69-year absence from the biological record. The discovery of a second, much larger cluster, was likened by giddy scientists to seeing a unicorn a second time. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Tampons coming to men’s rooms at Brown University – Brown University’s student body president will be hand-delivering menstrual products to all nonresidential bathrooms on campus, including men’s rooms, with the help of 20 other students.

Viet Nguyen, President of the Undergraduate Council of Students, announced the initiative in a campus-wide email Tuesday, saying he wants to communicate the message that not all people who menstruate are women, according to Newsweek.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about why pads and tampons are a necessity, not a luxury, but not a lot of action. We wanted to take it into our own hands,” Nguyen explains in the email, observing that “low-income students struggle with having the necessary funding for food, let alone tampons.”

By putting menstrual products in women’s, men’s, and gender-inclusive bathrooms, Nguyen aims to “set a tone of trans-inclusivity, and not forget that they’re an important part of the population,” but is under no illusions that the effort will be universally popular. Read More > at Campus Reform

Google, Uber, and the Evolution of Transportation-as-a-Service – In the eight months since I wrote Cars and the Future, there has been an explosion in news about the future of transportation, much of it in the last few weeks:

• Ford announced plans for its own car-sharing service built around self-driving Fords
• Elon Musk penned a second master plan envisioning a future car-sharing service built around self-driving Teslas
• Nutonomy launched a trial in Singapore of its own ride-sharing service built around Renault and Mitsubishi vehicles modified to be self-driving
• Uber announced its own self-driving trial in Pittsburgh in partnership with Volvo. Uber also acquired self-driving startup Otto, founded by former members of Google’s self-driving team
• And, speaking of Google, Alphabet executive David Drummond stepped down from Uber’s board a day before the company announced an expansion of its Waze-based ride-sharing service from Israel to Uber’s home city of San Francisco

These five bits of news are presented in roughly the order they matter; Uber and Google matter most of all.

…That is indeed how the ride-sharing market has played out: as of earlier this year Uber provided over 80% of rides in the United States (the only market Lyft competes in), despite Lyft’s determination to spend hundreds of millions in subsidies and free rides. And, on the flipside, Uber left China earlier this month, tired of spending their own billions in a futile attempt to displace the dominant Didi.

Self-driving cars change these market dynamics in two important ways: first, drivers are no longer a scarce resource, which means there are no longer two-sided market forces at play. Second, the single best way to change consumer habits and preferences is through lower prices, and eliminating drivers is the most obvious way to do just that.

Small wonder then that Uber is investing so heavily in self-driving cars, including hiring a huge number of Carnegie Mellon researchers (thus the Pittsburgh location of the self-driving trial), as well as paying ~$680 million for Otto.

Kalanick told Business Insider that Uber is still behind. Read More > at Stratechery

Edible Battery To Power Internal Medical Devices – Imagine taking a pill with an ingestible sensor that takes measurements and sends information wirelessly to your doctor, or a pill that senses changes in your gut microbiome and adjusts its dose accordingly. Ingestible medical devices promise such applications, and many more, but a big challenge is making their power sources safe for our bodies.

“For decades, people have been envisioning that one day, we would have edible electronic devices to diagnose or treat disease,” materials scientist Christopher Bettinger said in a statement. “But if you want to take a device every day, you have to think about toxicity issues. That’s when we have to think about biologically derived materials that could replace some of these things you might find in a RadioShack.”

Bettinger and his team at Carnegie Mellon University have taken a big step towards that goal. They’ve developed a battery out of melanin, a pigment that occurs naturally in our skin, hair, and eyes. Melanins protect our bodies from free radicals, but they also bind and unbind metallic ions, a chemical process crucial to the function of batteries.

The team built the batteries using melanin and other biocompatible materials such as manganese oxide, copper, and iron. They found that the melanin battery could power a 5 milliwatt device for up to 18 hours. Read More > at Popular Science

Construction worker shortage weighs on hot U.S. housing market – The drumbeat of hammers echoes most mornings through suburban Denver, where Jay Small, the owner of company that frames houses, is building about 1,300 new homes this year.

That’s more than triple what he built a few years ago, when “you couldn’t buy a job” in the residential construction industry, he said.

Now, builders can’t buy enough workers to get the job done.

Eight years after the housing bust drove an estimated 30 percent of construction workers into new fields, homebuilders across the country are struggling to find workers at all levels of experience, according to the National Association of Homebuilders. The association estimates that there are approximately 200,000 unfilled construction jobs in the U.S. – a jump of 81 percent in the last two years.

The ratio of construction job openings to hiring, as measured by the Department of Labor, is at its highest level since 2007.

“The labor shortage is getting worse as demand is getting stronger,” said John Courson, chief executive of the Home Builders Institute, a national nonprofit that trains workers in the construction field.

The impact is two-fold. Without enough workers, residential construction is trailing demand for homes, dampening the overall economy. Read More > in Reuters

Life at the Nowhere Office – You wake up and wonder: What time is it? Your little touchscreen says 2:54 a.m. Or 7:21 a.m. Or whatever. It is always anytime. And anytime is check-in time. With one ear on your pillow you check the number of likes your latest Facebook post has harvested, the Retweets of your latest birdsong, and then onto the Inbox. After eyeballing what awaits in the day ahead, you sift through the messages and rank them on importance, returning to them when showered and fully awake.

Wherever you are, you respond to the most urgent requests and make sure to nowhere yourself by deleting your “sent from my iPhone” signature. You could be at your desk already, right? No one needs to know that you are two blocks away. You don’t want to convey that you are on the run and not giving them your full attention. So with some digital camouflaging you say: I am in a place where I can give you due consideration. At no point are we on the train, in a cafe, in bed, in the restroom. Except of course we are.

Many of us recognize this morning routine. It might seem mundane, but like any regime, it is has an aesthetic. In fact, this vignette reflects the ideals of het nieuwe werken, a Dutch term meaning “the new way of working,” a reorganization of the office that promotes flexibility and “efficient” design, combining the fruits of a digitally-connected world and organically-formed social structures. Hailed as a “silent revolution”, it purports to liberate creative and entrepreneurial potential that would otherwise go untapped. The modern “inspired” workspace serves as essential infrastructure to this new organization of work. Not only does it accommodate these new rhythms; it makes them look good. Read More > in the New Republic

Most humpback whales removed from endangered list, but threats remain – The vast majority of the world’s humpback whales, famous for putting on spectacular displays of leaping and splashing that this year have extended into San Francisco Bay, are being taken off the endangered species list in what one federal official called a “true ecological success story.”

But even as the government marks progress that has unfolded over more than four decades, scientists and conservationists said Tuesday that threats remain to humpbacks — including the leviathans that migrate along the California coast every year.

The decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to delist nine of the 14 subspecies of humpbacks under the Endangered Species Act was momentous, highlighting how worldwide protection of the blubbery giants has succeeded since whaling was banned in the United States, fisheries experts said.

However, problems persist with the Central American population, with a federal count of only 411 whales prompting the National Marine Fisheries Service to keep that population on the endangered list. Meanwhile, the Mexico population, with 3,200 animals, was downgraded from endangered to threatened after experts determined that a lot of the animals were still dying from entanglements in commercial fishing gear. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

6 Ways Recreational Pot Would Change California — and 7 Ways It Wouldn’t – California’s Proposition 64 would make recreational marijuana legal in the state. If the law passes, it would mean a big shift in the way the Golden State — already the largest market for pot in the U.S. — regulates marijuana. It could also mean big changes in enforcement, as well as the habits and health of Californians.

First, you won’t be able to purchase pot everywhere if it’s legalized for recreational use. Only specially licensed stores will be able to sell marijuana. The state will issue licenses to growers, distributors and sellers who will have to adhere to certain rules.

If you’re 21 or older, you’ll be able to buy and carry 28.5 grams (about one ounce) of marijuana flower, but if you’re carrying marijuana extract the limit is 8 grams. And if you decide to grow your own marijuana you’ll be able to cultivate up to six plants.

Smoking in public will still be illegal, as will driving while high and smoking on school grounds — though enforcement, especially of “driving while high,” will present some big challenges to law enforcement.

If you smoke somewhere you’re not allowed, you’ll be subject to a fine of no more than $100 for the first offense. If you rack up more offenses, you could be slapped with higher fines, and possibly jail time.

…Even if Prop. 64 passes in November, the earliest you’ll see pot shops catering to recreational users is January 2018.

The regulatory system itself could take more than a year to get going, says Lynne Lyman, the director for California’s Drug Policy Alliance and one of the people who helped write the initiative.

“The piece that takes longer to come into implementation is the commercial regulation,” Lyman says. “The regulatory agency must start issuing licenses no later than January of 2018 … [but] it’s possible that it’ll start earlier.” Read More > at KQED

Getting A Hickey Can Cause A Stroke, So Maybe Stop Sucking On Each Other’s Necks – When it comes to good sex, to each their own. If you like giving or receiving hickeys, by all means, do your thing. But know that some people are having strokes after getting a hickey, so you might want to make sure your partner doesn’t go too far when sucking on your body until you get a bruise.

I mean, if some idiot sends me to the ER because he didn’t get the message that hickeys are a terrible sexual activity, there will be hell to pay (if I don’t die from a hickey-induced stroke, of course). It’s kind of unbelievable. Julio Macias Gonzalez, a 17-year-old boy in Mexico City, started having convulsions at the dinner table after hanging out with his girlfriend. Doctors believe the suction from the hickey resulted in a blood clot and the teenager died shortly afterwards. In a mysterious twist, the girlfriend has now disappeared, and the Gonzalez family is looking for her to blame for their son’s death.

I mean, everything about this is just terrible. This is not the first time someone has died from a “love bite,” which no self-respecting human being should ever call a hickey. A woman had a non-fatal stroke after getting one in 2010 in New Zealand. Docs call it a “rare phenomenon,” but it does happen. Read More > at The Frisky

Hold the Phone: Santa Cruz is California’s Least Affordable City? – …While housing shortages and homeless epidemics have afflicted communities up and down the west coast, a major crisis has emerged in Santa Cruz, the liberal seaside city 80 miles south of San Francisco, known internationally for its surfing and laid-back boardwalk attractions.

With a swelling presence of Airbnb short-term rentals and university students, Santa Cruz has increasingly become unaffordable and inhospitable to many longtime low-income workers and middle-class families, and experts say the tech boom and housing crunch in nearby Silicon Valley is exacerbating the displacement.

…Santa Cruz, which was originally controlled by Mexico, was incorporated as a California town in 1866. The city is constrained by mountains and the ocean but has steadily grown since the gold rush, attracting agriculture and commercial fishing along with a vibrant resort community and tourism industry.

Housing development has not kept pace with the growth of the population, which is now 62,000 in the city and 270,000 total in Santa Cruz County. The county has added roughly one housing unit for every 10 new residents in recent years, according to county housing manager Julie Conway.

At the same time, the top five occupations in the area are low-wage jobs in retail, food service and cleaning, paying between $9.06 and $11.30 an hour, according to 2015 research. As a result, 63% of renters live in unaffordable housing, meaning their rent is more than 30% of their income.

By some measures, Santa Cruz is considered the “least affordable” small metro area in the US. Santa Cruz – which is about 58% white and 33% Latino – also recently counted nearly 2,000 homeless people, which translates to one of the highest concentrations in the country, according to the federal government. Read More > in The Guardian

Mercedes is working with Microsoft to make your commute more productive – At IFA 2016 in Berlin, Mercedes-Benz announced a new project called ‘In Car Office’ to incorporate more smart productivity features into your ride. The features are going to go live in Mercedes vehicles during the first half of next year, and will add Microsoft Exchange support, for one, letting your work calendar, to-do list and contacts help your vehicle offer up suggestions about destinations, calls to make and more.

The In Car Office feature obviously isn’t intended to turn your vehicle into a mobile workstation so much as it’s designed to help you more easily accomplish work-related tasks you’d probably field on-the-go anyway.

Mercedes’ In Car Office features will do things like pre-populate the navigation system with destination from your Exchange calendar, and also provide notifications offering to make calls using the in-car voice call system when you have upcoming meetings marked on your calendar. It definitely sounds like something that could lessen distraction and minimize manual input required for tasks that people already (unsafely) try to tackle during longer commutes or road trips during business hours. Read More > at Tech Crunch

Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST) Is Fading Away – Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) faces bigger problems than a monthly revenue miss that sent shares down $6 , or 4%, after the numbers were reported on Sept. 1. The company said it had revenues of $8.65 billion in July, against $8.64 billion a year earlier and that 12-month trailing revenue of $107.16 billion was up just 2% from a year earlier.

A bigger problem is that Costco’s primary market of upper middle-class suburbanites is aging out, and their kids are moving into smaller city dwellings, often without cars.

The same efficient marketplace that let to its success is killing the sales and middle management jobs it needs to keep selling.

…So far, most COST analysts are focused on the details of its reports, and not threats to the business model. Guggenheim has a neutral rating on Costco stock, noting that food prices have recently declined and gas prices remain low, depressing revenue. BMO Capital Markets has an outperform rating on the stock, with a $180 price target and other analysts seemed to see the low numbers as a buying opportunity.

But COST is suffering from a slow leak caused by a changing economy. Jobs based on economic friction are slowly being replaced by apps and the high-end jobs being found by younger workers are generally in cities or around university campuses. The new careers bring a new lifestyle, with smaller apartments, shorter commutes and a greater premium on space and time.

Costco delivers savings in exchange for the time it takes to load up a car and break bulk in a large home. But the new careers don’t lend themselves to either big cars or big homes. In most large cities, growth near the center is now matching, or exceeding, growth at the edge. COST is a creature of the edge city. Read More > at Investor Place

‘Guccifer’ Hacker Sentenced to 52 Months – A 44-year-old former Romanian taxi driver with few hacking skills but a knack for guessing his way into the email and social media accounts of celebrities and politicians has been sentenced to serve 52 months in U.S. federal prison.

Marcel Lehel Lazar, who went by the online nickname “Guccifer,” pleaded guilty May 25 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to aggravated identity theft and unauthorized access to a computer.

Lazar’s escapades drew attention to the vulnerability of web-based email accounts through low-tech attack methods. He targeted Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook and AOL accounts used by nearly 100 prominent people, gaining access through weak passwords and then accessing their correspondence.

U.S. prosecutors indicted Lazar in June 2014 just after he was sentenced to four years in Romania for similar offenses. His targets in that country included the former director of Romania’s intelligence service, George Cristian Maior.

He was released early to face the U.S. charges and was extradited in April of this year. The U.S. indictment covers Lazar’s activity between October 2012 and January 2014. Lazar released information from compromised accounts, including medical and financial information, prosecutors say.

Lazar caused a stir when he spoke to NBC News from a maximum security prison in Bucharest prior to his extradition. In the interview, broadcast in May following his extradition, he made an unsubstantiated claim that he accessed Clinton’s private email server and downloaded some material. Read More > at Data Breach

Lowe’s introduces LoweBot, a new autonomous in-store robot – Starting in the fall, Lowe’s shoppers in the San Francisco Bay Area will be greeted by autonomous robots. The LoweBot speaks multiple languages, and will be deployed to 11 stores to help guide home improvers to find items in store.

“This is a response to things people wanted since retail began, but up until now there just wasn’t the technology to be able to make that happen,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs.

The robots, made by Fellow Robots, use a 3-D scanner to detect people as they into stores. Shoppers can search for items by asking the bot what they want or typing items into a touch screen. The bot can guide them to those items using smart laser sensors, similar to the technology used in autonomous vehicles, said Marco Mascorro, chief executive officer of Fellow Robots.

As customers follow the bots to find items on store shelves, location-based special offers show up on a second screen on the back of the LoweBot. Read More > at CNBC

People in Los Angeles Are Getting Rid Of Their Cars – Eric Spiegelman grew up in a six-car family in the San Fernando Valley and has lived in Los Angeles for the majority of his life. At the end of May, he let the lease on his Volkswagen CC expire, opting to live car-free in a city synonymous with car culture. For the past three months, he’s been commuting to and from work exclusively via Uber and Lyft — mostly using Pool and Line, cheaper options that allow passengers to share trips with other riders on similar routes.

“It ran so contrary to the culture that I’d been brought up in, and also my sense of what was doable,” Spiegelman, 39, told BuzzFeed News. “It was the most unnatural feeling thing at first. But it was so freeing.”

An understandable sentiment — after all, Spiegelman is president of the LA Taxicab Commission.

Spiegelman had been studying the economics of riding Uber and Lyft versus a taxi or driving a personal vehicle when he decided to run the math for his own car. He made a spreadsheet outlining the cost of leasing his Volkswagen: $458 monthly for the lease itself, $158 for insurance, $70 for gas, and at least $72 for parking, for a total cost of about $758. Based on those calculations, he said he has saved more than $1,100 in the last three months, spending an average of $3.42 for each UberPool or Lyft Line ride to work in August. Read More > at BuzzFeed

By Staying Silent, Roger Goodell and the NFL Have Come Out on Top – Football’s supposed death knell has been ringing for years now. Malcolm Gladwell compared football to dogfighting in 2009; in 2012, Jets linebacker Bart Scott, considered one of the biggest, baddest men in the NFL, told a reporter, “I don’t want my son to play football,” sounding like a coal miner who wanted a better life for his kids. He was far from alone, with Hall of Famers past and future like Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Troy Aikman, RNC speaker Fran Tarkenton, and Adrian Peterson all joining in, saying they’d never let their kids play. (Peterson missed most of a season for beating his son with a switch, so you know the man knows from safety.) Fox broadcaster Terry Bradshaw said he imagined football would be less popular than soccer “in the next decade.” The pile-on was total, assisted by the NFL’s ham-fisted attempts to quell the existential threat to the game, including commissioning a National Institutes of Health study on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, but then pulling funding when it began to look like the study wasn’t going to lean in the NFL’s direction. This time last year, Will Smith, perhaps the biggest movie star in the world, was starring in Concussion, a big-budget Hollywood Oscar hopeful in which the Fresh Prince screamed, “Tell the truth!” at fictionalized NFL executives and physicians who were trying to cover up the fact that their game kills its players.

The film flopped. Nobody cared. Television ratings for 2015 games were up from 2014, and so on. The American public has listened to all the arguments about the immorality and dangers of football, and they have responded by … watching more football. I’m sorry, Mr. Bradshaw, but however scary CTE makes football seem, I’m not sure soccer’s gonna catch up.

The PR gauntlet the NFL has survived wasn’t just about concussions. The league has stared down an extraordinary number of PR nightmares over the past few years, almost all of its own making. Peterson’s child-abuse scandal? The gruesome Ray Rice domestic-violence saga? Deflategate? The unprecedented public antipathy toward commissioner Roger Goodell? The murder-suicide involving Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, a player who, shortly after killing his girlfriend, shot himself on team property in front of his coach? The piddling settlement agreed upon for players suing for medical benefits that was considered so unfair that a court threw it out? The NFL pancake-blocked every single one of these issues like Hall of Famer Mike Webster on a rollout pitch. (David Morse played Webster in Concussion.) These stories would have been crippling for any other organization, but the NFL just bulldozed right through them. Commissioner Goodell, a man so mocked that President Obama said he couldn’t believe how much money he makes, not only survived the Deflategate scandal but earned more than $31 million last year. That’s his lowest salary since 2011, and it’s more than the Cleveland Cavaliers paid LeBron James last year. Frankly, Goodell deserves it, no matter how imperious and autocratic and hypocritical he can seem. He’s making billions for the only bosses who count: the owners of the 32 NFL teams. Read More > in New York Magazine

America Is Smashing Russia and OPEC’s Grip On The Oil Market – Far from being threatened by recent weak prices, America’s status as an emerging energy superpower has solidified in 2016, weakening OPEC’s grip over the oil market along with Russia’s influence over Europe’s gas supplies. For the next U.S. president, the geopolitical environment could look a lot more benign, should the nation’s energy industry continue on its current path.

The start of the revolution occurred in February, when the first major U.S. gas export shipment from Cheniere Energy set sail for Brazil. According to Cheniere, the United States could be “one of the three biggest suppliers of LNG (liquefied natural gas) by 2020.” In recent months, U.S. LNG has even been exported to the energy-rich Middle East, a move British newspaper the Financial Times described as akin to “sending coal to Newcastle.”

But the shale gas revolution in the United States is rapidly overturning the “old order,” and the dust has yet to settle.

For decades it was thought U.S. oil production had peaked around 1970, as thirty years of declining production set in and the OPEC cartel’s manipulation of oil supply and prices gave a number of politically sensitive regions an uncomfortably large degree of influence over global markets.

But in 2009, driven by the newly economically viable hydraulic fracking extraction method, U.S. oil production rose, and it kept rising until global oversupply forced U.S. production cuts last year. Read More > in The National Interest

Pay by the mile or at the pump? A gas tax experiment – California faces a $59 billion backlog of deferred maintenance on roads and bridges.

Drivers in the state pay some of the highest gas taxes in the country but they haven’t kept pace with rising construction costs. And increasing fuel efficiency means revenues will fall even more in the future.

So state officials are testing out a new way to pay for road repairs: Charging people for the miles they drive instead of the gas they buy.

The experiment, the California Road Charge pilot, kicked off in July. I signed up and just received my first bill (although I checked my progress on my smartphone earlier in August).

The pilot program is a dry run, so I don’t actually have to pay anything. But my bill estimates how much I would owe the state based on the number of miles I’ve driven.

I owe $1.38 for the 349.8 chargeable miles I’ve driven. That’s subtracting the estimated $4.91 I paid in gas tax over the same period from the total road charge of $6.30, or 1.8 cents per mile.

For me, and for most small, fuel-efficient cars, the road charge would be a little more expensive than the gas tax. Read More > at KPCC

The California Voter Ordeal: 17 Decisions on the Ballot – Pity the California voter.

Seventeen voter initiatives are on the state ballot in November, a glut of citizen-lawmaking that could, among other things, end the death penalty, legalize recreational marijuana, impose a tax surcharge on the wealthy and place limits on prescription drug costs.

And considering that there really is no race for president in this overwhelmingly Democratic state, this is where the action is going to be through Election Day. By the time voters make it to the polls, analysts say, they are likely to have endured close to $100 million in television advertisements making the yea or nay case for these measures, usually framed in the most alarming sort of way.

California is a state with a long tradition of making law at the ballot box, but the last time there were this many initiatives was 2000.

…But a few forces have converged to cram the ballot with initiatives. First, since it is a presidential election year, turnout is going to be higher, and in California, a bigger turnout means more Democrats at the polls. (Republicans are more consistent in their voting practices; they are more likely to vote, even in even off-year elections.) Initiatives like ending the death penalty, legalizing marijuana or raising taxes on the wealthy are all likely to find support from Democratic voters.

And it was easier to get an initiative on the California ballot this year because fewer signatures were needed. Backers of an initiative must collect signatures from 5 percent of the number of voters who turned out in the last election for governor, which had a notably low turnout.

…Besides the one legalizing marijuana and the one putting an end to the death penalty, there is one that would make it easier to execute someone by setting time limits on appeals. Democratic officials and unions are pushing to extend an income tax surcharge passed in 2012, widely credited for helping the state balance its books. Mr. Brown is backing an initiative that would make more nonviolent criminals eligible for parole.

There is one that would impose background checks for people looking to buy ammunition. There is also a vote to ratify or nullify legislation passed that banned plastic bags, and one requiring performers in pornographic films to use condoms during sex scenes. Read More > in The New York Times

Amid Growing Debate About Homework, One School Bans It – More than 550 students at a Massachusetts elementary school will have less to carry home in their backpacks this year.

There will be no homework.

Kelly Elementary School in Holyoke has banned homework for the year with the intention of giving students all the instruction and extra help they may need during the school day.

“We want kids to go home tired; we want their brains to be tired,” Jackie Glasheen, principal of the school, whose kindergarten through 8th-grade students are nearly all poor and Hispanic, told ABC News. At home, she said, “we want them to engage with their families, talk about their school days and go to bed.”

Glasheen and the team of teachers who came up with the idea to end homework are among a growing number of U.S. educators and parents questioning the value of having children do schoolwork at home. Read More > at ABC News

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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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