Sunday Reading – 10/09/16


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.

Felons in County Jails Now Eligible to Vote in California Elections – Tens of thousands of felons sitting in county jails across the state will be eligible to vote in California elections under a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Wednesday. The move is either a major victory for voter enfranchisement or a self-serving political tactic, depending on which side of the aisle you’re on.

The ACLU has called AB 2466 “a step towards ending the shameful legacy of Jim Crow in California.”

“Since slavery was abolished, felony disenfranchisement laws, which strip individuals of their vote because of a criminal conviction, have been silencing the political voice of communities of color… Co-authored by Asm. Shirley Weber and Sen. Holly Mitchell, the bill clarifies voter eligibility and guarantees a more inclusive electorate.”

Senate Republicans and law enforcement groups opposed the legislation.

“We believe that there have to be consequences to your action, and the consequences of being a convicted felon are that you can’t vote and you can’t possess firearms,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, who also serves as president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association. Read More > at California County News

3 nightmare election hack scenarios – The question on the mind of many voting security experts is not whether hackers could disrupt a U.S. election. Instead, they wonder how likely an election hack might be and how it might happen.

The good news is a hack that changes the outcome of a U.S. presidential election would be difficult, although not impossible. First of all, there are technology challenges — more than 20 voting technologies are used across the country, including a half dozen electronic voting machine models and several optical scanners, in addition to hand-counted paper ballots.

But the major difficulty of hacking an election is less a technological challenge than an organizational one, with hackers needing to marshal and manage the resources needed to pull it off, election security experts say. And a handful of conditions would need to fall into place for an election hack to work.

…Still, a couple of conditions would need to be in place for hackers to change the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

First, hackers would need a tight national election where hacking the results of one or two swing states could change the results.

Remember, the U.S. president isn’t elected by the national popular vote, but through the Electoral College, where each state gets a number of votes based on its population.

The bad news is the current presidential campaign is shaping up to be a tight race, with Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton running neck-in-neck in more than a dozen states as of late September. Read More > in Network World

Elephant Bar abruptly shutters half its Bay Area locations with no explanation – Asian fusion restaurant chain Elephant Bar abruptly closed half its Bay Area restaurants last weekend with no warning, leaving customers in Concord, Cupertino, Dublin and Campbell wondering why their sites had closed.

Calls to Elephant Bars that are still open in Daly City, Fremont and Hayward were not returned late Tuesday. A fourth local store, Burlingame, also remains open. The chain’s main office did not respond to a request for comment.

The Dallas, Texas-based chain has 25 restaurants across the West Coast and Southwest, including California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. The African safari-themed decor is mixed with pan-Asian fusion food on the menu and the restaurants locally have been popular spots for parties and groups. Read More > in The San Francisco Business Times

Birds Avoid Mid-Air Collisions By Following These Two Simple Rules – The experience is familiar to everyone. You’re walking down a crowded sidewalk, see that you’re about to walk into another person head-on, and then you both engage in a graceless left-right-left samba. It’s an awkward encounter that seems avoidable, and if people were more like birds, it would be. That’s according to new research published last week that describes two simple but crucial adaptations that allow birds to fly in dense flocks without colliding.

…To uncover the birds’ internal programming, the researchers constructed a 70-foot-long tunnel outfitted with bright lights so that the test subjects—male Budgerigars or “budgies”—could easily see each other. Using high-speed video cameras to capture every movement, they then released a bird at each end of the tunnel and recorded their near-misses as the budgies barreled towards each other.

Over the course of four days, seven budgie pairs made 102 flights with no mishaps. And when the researchers reviewed the video, they saw that the birds avoided any aerial mishaps thanks to two evolutionary traits. About 85 percent of the time, the birds turned right upon approach. “This seems to be a simple, efficient and effective strategy for avoiding head-on collisions,” Srinivasan said.

The budgies also seemed to decide whether to fly over or under an approaching bird, and the pairs rarely made the same choice—a secondary level of compexity humans don’t have to worry about on the sidewalk. How the bird’s make these decisions is an open question; the researchers speculate that either each budgie prefers one flying height over the other, or flock hierarchy determines who flies high and who flies low. Read More > at Audubon

Fears of ‘the big one’ rise as researchers find a SECOND fault line that runs parallel to San Andreas in Southern California – Researchers have revealed a newly discovered fault line running parallel to the San Andreas fault in Southern California.

The new Salton Trough Fault, which runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault, could impact current seismic hazard models in the earthquake-prone region that includes the greater Los Angeles area, seismologists say.

The newly identified strike-slip fault within the Salton Sea, just west of the San Andreas Fault, is in an area where a swarm of nearly 200 small earthquakes hit last week, raising concerns they might trigger a larger earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault. Read More > in The Daily Mail

NFL’s ‘Monday Night Football’ Keeps Dropping In Ratings – There’s no denying that the numerous #BoycottNFL online campaigns and fan outrage aimed at the National Anthem protests in the NFL have taken a toll in terms of viewership. Additionally, cord-cutting continues to eat into traditional TV’s ratings at an alarming rate. But could there be something else at play?

We’re barely a year removed from the NFL setting all-time records in viewership, yet now the league is on pace for its lowest ratings in years. That’s a sharp and unexpectedly sudden turn.

Given the politicized controversies and the variety of streaming options this year, have we reached a cumulative point of football fatigue? The numbers suggest so. Read More > at Forbes

Caffeine consumption in older women seems to reduce risk of dementia – A new study suggests a significant relationship between caffeine and dementia prevention, although it stops short of establishing cause and effect.

The study, published in the Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, found that higher caffeine intake in women 65 and older was associated with reduced odds of developing dementia or cognitive impairment.

Among the women in the study, self-reported consumption of more than 261 milligrams of caffeine per day was associated with a 36 percent reduction in the risk of dementia over 10 years of follow-up. That level is equivalent to two to three eight-ounce cups of coffee, five to six eight-ounce cups of black tea or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola. Read More > in The Washington Post

New California law allows test of autonomous shuttle with no driver – A bill signed into law on Thursday by California Governor Jerry Brown allows a self-driving vehicle with no operator inside to test on a public road, a key step enabling a private business park outside San Francisco to test driverless shuttles.

Self-driving cars are already allowed to test on California public roads by 15 automakers, technology companies and startups, including Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O), Ford (F.N), Honda (7267.T) and Tesla (TSLA.O). But under current state regulations, a person must be in the driver’s seat for monitoring, and the car must have brakes and a steering wheel.

The bill introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla allows testing in Contra Costa County northeast of San Francisco of the first full-autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel, brakes, accelerator or operator.

A project at the Bishop Ranch office park in the city of San Ramon to deploy driverless shuttles from French company Easymile had been on hold pending passage of the bill. Easymile already operates the shuttles in Europe.

New legislation was necessary because although driverless vehicles can be tested on private land like the office park, the shuttle will cross a public road on its loop through the campus. Read More > at Reuters

The Rise and Fall of the 1-900 Number – On the 16th episode of the 7th season of Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy threatened to kill a lobster.

“You want to save Larry the Lobster,” Murphy told the viewers, “dial 1-900-720-1808. If you want to kill him, dial 1-900-720-1909. Now, unless you call in to save him, we’re going to boil Larry’s little butt right here on national television…The phone company is going to charge you 50 cents, but isn’t it worth 50 cents to save Larry’s life? Or look at it this way: Isn’t it worth half a buck to see us boil Larry on TV?”

At least four times during that April 1982 episode, Murphy petitioned the audience to call in, even telling Larry the Lobster’s life story. By the end of the show, almost 500,000 people had placed calls. The episode caused such an unexpected spike in calls that AT&T, the phone carrier, later created a team to keep track of man-made events that could disrupt its system.

AT&T billed more than $200,000 that night, marking a glorious moment for the young 900 number business. In the late 1980s, dialing a number with the 900 prefix on your landline phone became a way to gain access to a web of information on any number of subjects before the Internet as we know it existed.

…Information services, where people could call a 900 number and hear a recorded or live message, were also coming into their own in the early- and mid-1980s. (Other prefixes, notably 976, had already attracted millions of calls to regional services.) In 1982, more than a million people called what eventually came to be known as Dial-A-Shuttle at 1-900-909-NASA to listen to live conversations between ground control and the astronauts. That same year, during the infamous Tylenol tampering scare, Johnson & Johnson used a 900 number to release updates to the public. Read More > at Priceonomics

We Are Closer To Curing All Diseases Than We Think – …The desire to ‘cure all disease’ is laudable, and $3 billion is a nice, albeit small amount of money in the grand scheme of medical research funding. However, a really important question we should all be asking is can we really find cures for all diseases? Well, according to scientists, it depends on which ones you’re talking about. But in general, while we might not be there yet, we may be closer in our understanding of the causes of disease than we think.

In the case of infectious disease, the objective to “cure, prevent, and manage” is trickier than it looks. Eric Rubin, an immunology and infectious diseases researcher at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that pathogens—which are any infectious disease-causing bugs like bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms—evolve at different rates. The ones that evolve at a slow rate, like the bacterium that causes leprosy or the one that causes Guinea worm disease can be cured. But addressing rapidly evolving pathogens like the flu is far more challenging.

…When it comes to cancer, things are a bit different. With over 100 different types of cancer—each of which impacts individuals differently based on an array of factors including age, sex, racial/ethnic group, and geographic location—the progress being made is significant.

“Even though it’s 200 plus diseases, with the trajectory we are on now, in the next couple of decades, we are going to have a tremendous amount of progress being made in managing [cancer] and for an increasing large number of patients, curing [it],” says Ronald DePinho, president of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Read More > at Popular Science

What’s the Future of Ownership? –  I feel like I have more junk in my life than ever before. Why are we talking about the end of ownership?

That’s a complicated question, but let’s start with three things: First, we seem to be losing control over the media that we consume. When we purchase digital media—e-books and the like—we remain tethered to the services from which we bought them. Furthermore, we’ve largely ceded management of our music and film collections, for example. We used to buy physical copies of media and do with them what we wanted, but we now pay companies such as Netflix and Spotify for access to streaming content. We have more options than ever before, but all those possibilities come at the expense of ownership.

Meanwhile, the rise of the so-called sharing economy is creating a situation in which we may not even own our cars, and it’s entirely possible that other objects in our lives will soon follow suit.

The third component is that even when you do outright own a physical object, you can’t always do with it whatever you want. If some companies had their way, we wouldn’t even be able to modify our smartphones (or tractors, or other high-tech gear)!

Let’s start with the media question. I refuse to think there’s a good reason to get nostalgic about lugging books and CD cases around with me everywhere.

I’m with you on that, but there is a downside. Today, even items that we theoretically “own” sometimes aren’t really ours. Back in 2009, Amazon remotely deleted copies of 1984 from customers’ Kindles, a telling reminder that digital media never really belongs to us. The company claimed that the version of the book had been published in error and refunded users’ money, but it’s something that would have never happened with physical copies of a book. Read More > at Slate

Bay Area’s 10 most congested freeways (No. 3 is a surprise) – For just the second time in the two decades that Bay Area freeway congestion levels have been tracked, the morning commute from the East Bay across the Bay Bridge is not the worst. It’s in second place.

The new honor — if that’s the right phrase — goes to the afternoon slog out of San Francisco from Highway 101 to the Treasure Island portion of the Bay Bridge. That 6-mile stretch can take an hour to cover, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission annual report, issued Monday.

And the newest hot spot is a stunner: The morning trek from Interstate 680 in East San Jose to Interstate 280 in Cupertino was just another slow drive in 2014, ranking 20th. Last year it soared to No. 3.

TOP 10 CONGESTED LOCATIONS

1. San Francisco/Bay Bridge, PM eastbound
(from 101/80 to Treasure Island)

2. East Bay/Bay Bridge/S.F., all day westbound
(from Highway 4 in Contra Costa County to 101 in San Francisco)

3. Interstates 680/280, AM southbound/northbound, Santa Clara County
(from South Jackson Avenue in San Jose to Foothill Expressway)

4. Highway 101, PM southbound, Santa Clara County
(from North Fair Oaks Avenue to Oakland Road)

5. Interstate 80, PM eastbound, Alameda County
(from West Grand Avenue to Gilman Street)

6. Interstate 880, AM southbound, Alameda/Santa Clara counties
(from Highway 238 to Highway 237)

7. Interstate 680, PM northbound, Alameda County
(from Mission Boulevard to Calaveras Road)

8. Highway 101, AM northbound, Santa Clara County
(from Silver Creek Valley Road to North Fair Oaks Avenue)

9. Interstate 880, PM northbound, Alameda County
(from Mowry Avenue to A Street)

10. Highway 101, PM northbound, San Mateo County
(from Woodside Road to Hillsdale Avenue)

Source: Metropolitan Transportation Commission Read More > in The Mercury News

The push to legalize pot for all has deeply divided the medical marijuana community – Come November, medical pot dispensary operator Lanette Davies won’t be joining others in her industry in voting for Proposition 64, a measure that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

The initiative could create a flood of new customers for Davies’ nonprofit Canna Care pot shop, which is located in the back of an industrial park on the outskirts of Sacramento. But Davies fears the Nov. 8 ballot measure will result in big corporations driving out small operators, and the government setting steep taxes and fees on cannabis that will put it out of reach for many of her mostly low-income customers.

She is not the only one concerned. Proposition 64 has split the medical cannabis community, with some seeing new opportunity and others fearing it will wreck a system that is working for nearly 800,000 medical pot card holders.

The division was exposed recently when the California Growers Assn. conducted a survey of 770 industry members, mostly marijuana growers and activists, according to Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the group.

He said 31% of those who responded — some 238 industry members — opposed the ballot measure, while 31% supported it and 38% were undecided. With hundreds of its members in opposition, the growers association decided to stay neutral on Proposition 64. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Gun sales hit 17th straight monthly record, up 27 percent – Gun sales hit the 17th consecutive monthly record in September according to FBI data released on Monday, and overall sales are up 27 percent compared to the same period last year.

A total of 1,992,219 background checks were processed through the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System for the month of September, higher than the 1,795,102 conducted in September 2015.

The number of checks run through the FBI’s NICS system is a reliable indicator of how firearm sales are trending, though there is no precise correlation between the number of checks and the number of guns being sold. Licensed dealers are required to run a check in the database every time they make a sale, but sometimes turn buyers down.

Sales have surged in the wake of ammunition shortages and fears that the Obama administration may seek to restrict Second Amendment rights in the president’s waning days in office. Experts say the equipment being sold indicates interest has spiked out of growing interest in self-defense and hunting. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

The Fastest Thing on America’s Freeways? A Full-Size Pickup – …But you won’t need any of these tricks of the trade if you’re willing to do just one thing: Purchase and operate a heavy-duty full-size pickup truck from an American-brand manufacturer.

Think about it. Unless your driving experience is limited to Manhattan or San Francisco, you know that three-quarter-ton “bro-dozers” are the fastest things on America’s freeways. A year ago, I wrote a piece for this very magazine about attempting to surreptitiously modify a freeway sign so the Lamborghini Huracan I was driving could “legally” do 180mph. I also talked about the fact that I gave said Lambo a solid run to the redline in the first four gears on that same road.

What I didn’t say: Shortly after dropping down to a relaxed 110mph or so, I was flashed out of the left lane by a Ford F-350 King Ranch crew cab, operating at a velocity considerably above the rated speed of its tires or stock speed limiter. You know what I did? I pulled over and let him by—and within five miles I watched him blow by a Texas state trooper without so much as a look. You can bet, however, that when I went by that same trooper, he checked his radar gun with considerable interest.

…The fact remains, however, that if you are driving a late-model F-250 or (as the rental agencies say) similar, particularly one that is obviously outfitted as a “work truck” with a toolbox in the bed and a few scratches around the body, you are utterly immune from speeding enforcement in at least 49 of the 50 states. (They might do things differently in Hawaii. I couldn’t tell you.) You can do 85 in a 65 or 100 in a Texas 80, no sweat. I’ve never seen a truck of this description pulled over for speeding anywhere. Not once, in three decades and over a million miles’ worth of driving. No one, not even John Dean, gets that kind of immunity from prosecution. Read More > at Road and Track

In denying O’Bannon case, Supreme Court leaves future of amateurism in limbo – Seven years after former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA over whether Division I men’s basketball and football players ought to be compensated for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied petitions by both O’Bannon and the NCAA to review the case.

The denial was expected. The Supreme Court only accepts about 1% of cases for review and frequently declines to hear cases of substantial importance to large classes of people—including, as illustrated here, thousands of college athletes, former college athletes and their respective universities.

The denial also leaves in place a 2015 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in favor of O’Bannon. A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel consisting of Judges Sidney Thomas, Jay Bybee and Gordon Quist found that certain NCAA amateurism rules violate federal antirust law. Those rules, the court determined, constituted an anti-competitive conspiracy by the more than 1,200 member NCAA colleges, conferences and affiliate organizations. The purpose of such a conspiracy was to deny men’s basketball and football players of the monetary value of their names, images and likenesses when used for commercial purposes.

While O’Bannon prevailed at the Ninth Circuit, he and many college athlete advocates hoped that the Supreme Court would review the case and decree a more substantial remedy. There were expectations, for example, that student-athletes might receive significant compensation through licensing agreements and other arrangements related to broadcasts and other commercial products. Read More > in Sports Illustrated

California opens pathway for cars that lack steering wheel – California regulators have changed course and opened a pathway for the public to get self-driving cars of the future that lack a steering wheel or pedals.

It’s not going to happen immediately — automakers and tech companies are still testing prototypes.

But, in a shift, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles said in a revision of draft regulations released late Friday that the most advanced self-driving cars would no longer be required to have a licensed driver if federal officials deem them safe enough.

The redrafted regulations will be the subject of a public hearing Oct. 19 in Sacramento.

…The DMV’s new document coincides with the release last week of a 112-page federal proposal under which any self-driving car should pass a 15-point safety assessment before the public can get ahold of it. Among other things, the safety assessment asks automakers to document how the car detects and avoids objects and pedestrians, how hardened it is against cyberattacks and what how its backup systems will cope should the software fail. In incorporating the federal approach, California dropped a proposal that a third-party company certify the safety of self-driving cars. Read More > in the Associated Press

A Rabbi’s Enduring Sermon on Living Your Last Five Minutes – Thirty years ago, amid the somber prayers of Judaism’s holiest day, Rabbi Kenneth Berger rose to deliver the Yom Kippur sermon. He spoke to his congregants about a tragedy many of them, including his daughter, had witnessed eight months earlier in the Florida sky: the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Rabbi Berger focused on one particular detail, the revelation that Challenger’s seven astronauts had remained alive for the 65,000-foot fall to the ocean. He called the homily “Five Minutes to Live,” and he likened the crew members to Jews, who are called during the High Holy Days to engage in the process of “heshbon ha-nefesh,” Hebrew for taking stock of one’s soul.

“Can you imagine knowing that in a few moments death was imminent?” Rabbi Berger said at the Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Tampa, Fla. “What would we think of if, God forbid, you and I were in such circumstances? What would go through our mind?”

Not quite three years later, Rabbi Berger was on a flight to Chicago from Denver returning from a family vacation. The plane’s tail engine exploded en route, crippling the controls, and for 40 minutes, the passengers prepared for a crash landing.

The rabbi’s wife, Aviva, fainted from the shock. Rabbi Berger reached across the seats and gathered the hands of his daughter Avigail, 16, and son Jonathan, 9, trying to reassure them, Avigail would later recall. The plane burst into flames after it hit the ground in Sioux City, Iowa, killing 112 people, including the rabbi and his wife, both in their early 40s. Read More > in The New York Times

Nature has a dog problem – Man’s best friend can sometimes be wildlife’s worst enemy. Free-roaming dogs, both feral and owned animals that run loose, spread rabies and other diseases, kill wild animals and have caused extinctions. They’re even to blame for thousands of human deaths every year. And yet dogs get little of the hatred aimed at feral cats — and only a fraction of the attention from scientists.

Perhaps that needs to change.

A new study places the domestic dog among the four invasive mammals that have caused the most extinctions of native species. Cats and rodents are the worst, responsible for 63 and 75 extinctions, respectively — mostly birds. Dogs have caused around 10 extinctions and threaten another 156 species, Tim Doherty of Deakin University in Australia and colleagues report September 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So while dogs aren’t as bad as cats on the extinction scale, their impact shouldn’t be ignored, especially when you look more closely at the harm they can do. Read More > at Science News

LEGENDARY OUTDOOR BRANDS BASS PRO SHOPS AND CABELA’S TO COMBINE – Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Incorporated (NYSE:CAB), two iconic American outdoor companies with similar humble origins, and with a shared goal to better serve those who love the outdoors, today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Bass Pro Shops will acquire Cabela’s for $65.50 per share in cash, representing an aggregate transaction value of approximately $5.5 billion.

In addition, upon closing Bass Pro Shops will commence a multi-year partnership agreement with Capital One, National Association, a wholly-owned national banking subsidiary of Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE: COF), under which Capital One will originate and service the Cabela’s CLUB, Cabela’s co-branded credit card, and Bass Pro Shops will maintain a seamless integration between the credit card program and the combined companies’ retail operations and deep customer relationships. All Cabela’s CLUB points and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Rewards points will be unaffected by the transactions and customers can continue to use their credit cards as they were prior to the transaction. Capital One intends to continue to operate the Cabela’s CLUB servicing center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A driving force behind this agreement is the highly complementary business philosophies, product offerings, expertise and geographic footprints of the two businesses. The essence of both Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s is a deep passion to serve outdoor enthusiasts and support conservation. The combination brings together three of the nation’s premier sporting brands: Cabela’s, a leader in hunting; Bass Pro Shops, a leader in fishing; and White River Marine Group, a worldwide leader in boating, which is part of Bass Pro Shops. Read More > at Bass Pro

California sees sharp increase in crime, fueling political debate – Orinda, an affluent, bucolic Contra Costa County town, would seem to be an unlikely scene for a vicious street crime.

However, one day last week, two armed robbers wearing Halloween masks confronted a couple, both 70 years old, as they unloaded groceries in their driveway. They battered the man, even though he surrendered his wallet, and shot his wife twice before fleeing.

It will be recorded as one of the approximately 170,000 violent crimes committed in California this year – and after several decades of decline, armed robberies, rapes, homicides and other violent crimes are on the upswing.

Just hours before the Orinda couple were assaulted, the FBI released its annual state-by-state breakdown on crime, revealing that in 2015, California saw a 7.6 percent increase in violent acts from the previous year to 166,883, or 426.3 per 100,000 population.

That was 2 1/2 times the 3 percent national increase, the 13th highest of any state. Moreover, California’s overall violent crime rate is also the nation’s 13th highest. Our homicide rate increased by 8.5 percent, well over the 4.9 percent recorded nationally.

…This year’s crop of crime-related measures follows Brown’s historic “realignment” that has sharply reduced the state’s prison population in response to federal court pressure, and Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that reclassified six nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Saving the Planet, very slowly and very expensively – “In the late 1800s, it took railroad companies six years to lay 1,907 miles of track for what was to become the Transcontinental Railroad (or as Barack Obama calls it, the Intercontinental Railroad). . . .

As best, it will now take seven years for California to lay 119 miles of track — on relatively flat ground in the middle of nowhere. . . .”

“The total construction cost estimate has now more than doubled to $68 billion from the original $33 billion, despite trims in the routes planned. The first, easiest-to-build, segment of the system — the “train to nowhere” through a relatively empty stretch of the Central Valley — is running at least four years behind schedule and still hasn’t acquired all the needed land. . .”

If you read the two links above, you will get an idea of how the details of this project have gone from bad to worse. Note that they are building this thing in 22-MILE SEGMENTS! With separate contracts! Starting where there are almost no prospective passengers! So this project demonstrates that the fight against Climate Change is the moral equivalent of war. Right?

If Sacramento were really determined to reduce the use of fossil fuels through this project, they would have started construction in a more populated corridor where people could have maybe used a new train. Or over the Bakersfield to LA stretch, where there is currently no passenger train service. An Amtrak ticket buys you a bus ride for that segment of your trip. Read More > at Ace of Spades

It’s time to free speech on campus again – …Years later, the sanctity of free speech in our country is hardly guaranteed — at least not on our college campuses, where freedom of expression and the free flow of ideas should incubate discovery and learning. This is an irony that gives me pause even as I write this.

As president of the University of California system, I write to show how far we have moved from freedom of speech on campuses to freedom from speech. If it hurts, if it’s controversial, if it articulates an extreme point of view, then speech has become the new bête noire of the academy. Speakers are disinvited, faculty are vilified, and administrators like me are constantly asked to intervene.

In the 1960s, as exemplified by the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, students on campuses demanded and received the ability to protest the Vietnam War. This was free speech, loud and angry and in your face. Today many of the loudest voices condemning speech and demanding protection are students on those same campuses. Listening to offensive, or merely opposing, views is subject to frequent criticism. What has happened, and what are we to do about it?

…I begin, however, by agreeing with the sentiment expressed by Clark Kerr, the George Washington of the University of California:

“The University is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making students safe for ideas. Thus it permits the freest expression of views before students, trusting to their good sense in passing judgment on those views. Only in this way can it best serve American democracy.” Read More > in the Boston Globe

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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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