Sunday Reading – 02/05/17


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.

7 Reasons You Can’t Shake That Cold – No matter how vigilant you are about avoiding germs, chances are you’re going to end up with a cold at some point this season. The standard cough, sore throat, and stuffy nose typically subside on their own within a week—but every now and then you get one of those whoppers that seems to drag on forever. If your cold symptoms are overstaying their welcome, or you feel like you’re getting worse instead of better, here’s what could be to blame.

You’re stressed. Feeling especially frazzled lately? The stress hormone cortisol can suppress your immune system, which makes it easier to catch a cold and harder to get rid of one. “Relieving stress through yoga, meditation, weight training, or cardio exercise can boost your endorphins, which can have a positive effect on boosting your immune system,” says Vikram Tarugu, MD, a board-certified physician in Florida.

You’re skimping on sleep. It may feel like overkill to turn in early just because you have the sniffles. But you’re probably sleep-deprived to begin with, and your body needs adequate rest to fight off infection efficiently. Getting some extra shut-eye might be the tonic you desperately need.

You’re a smoker. There are plenty of reasons to quit, but here’s one more: Not only do smokers typically have more severe cold symptoms than non-smokers, but smoking can make your cold stick around longer. Read More > at Prevention

Polygamy remains a crime as U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear case from ‘Sister Wives’ – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear arguments from the husband and four wives who star in the television show “Sister Wives,” letting stand a lower court ruling that kept polygamy a crime in Utah.

The appeal by Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn Brown sought to remove the penalties for a practice that has caused consternation in Utah since the first Mormon settlers arrived. Some of the state’s politically active polygamists vowed Monday to continue efforts to decriminalize plural marriage.

Salt Lake County’s Darger family — husband Joe and wives Vicki, Valerie and Alina — on Twitter turned their attention to trying to remove the criminal penalties through the political process.

…After the Supreme Court’s 2015 rulings that legalized gay marriage, some polygamists and libertarians believed polygamy was the next step in marriage rights. Some lawyers also thought the Browns represented the best chance in decades for polygamy to win in the courts because all five spouses were consenting adults with no taint of crimes such as sexual abuse or fraud. Read More > in The Salt Lake Tribune

Water, water everywhere in California – and not enough reservoir space to store it – After five years of drought, could California really have so much rain and snow there’s no room to store all the water?

The answer – as the state’s water picture careens from bust to boom – is yes.

One month into an exceptionally stormy 2017, river flows though the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta have been so powerful that the massive pumps that ship north-state water to Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley have roared at full throttle for weeks. The federal and state pumping stations near Tracy delivered more water in January than in any month in the last 12 years, according to a Sacramento Bee review of data supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

With more rain and snow in the forecast, the pumps could stay at capacity for the next week or two. But pump operators probably will have to dial back because they’re starting to run out of space in key reservoirs south of the Delta, said John Leahigh, who oversees day-to-day water management for the State Water Project, which delivers supplies to water agencies throughout California.

“This is definitely a 180 that we’ve done in terms of water supply,” Leahigh said.

Thursday brought more news of California’s progress against what has been a withering drought. Snow surveyors found a whopping 90 inches of snow at Phillips Station, a long-standing measuring spot near Echo Summit. That translates into 28.1 inches of “snow-water content,” a leap of 22 inches in a month. The Phillips snowpack is at 153 percent of historical average and sits at its highest measurement for early February since 2005.

Across the entire Sierra Nevada, the results were even more impressive: Snow-water content stood at 173 percent of historical average. Many spots have as much snow as they typically have on April 1, when the snow season peaks. A healthy snowpack means extra water becomes available in summer, when lawns and crops get thirsty in California’s arid central and southern expanse and demand soars. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Scientists have turned cooking oil into a material 200 times stronger than steel Researchers have found a way to turn cheap, everyday cooking oil into the wonder material graphene – a technique that could greatly reduce the cost of making the much-touted nanomaterial.

Graphene is a single sheet of carbon atoms with incredible properties – it’s 200 times stronger than steel, harder than diamond, and incredibly flexible. Under certain conditions, it can even be turned into a superconductor that carries electricity with zero resistance.

That means the material has the potential to make better electronics, more effective solar cells, and could even be used in medicine.

Last year, a study suggested that graphene could help mobile phone batteries last 25 percent longer, and the material has the potential to filter fuel out of thin air.

But these applications have been limited by the fact that graphene usually has to be made in a vacuum at intense heat using purified ingredients, which makes it expensive to produce.

Until we can find a cost-effective way to mass produce the over-achieving material, it’s pretty much limited to labs.

But scientists in Australia have now managed to create graphene in normal air conditions, using cheap soybean cooking oil. Read More > at Science Alert

Red State, Blue City – The United States now has its most metropolitan president in recent memory: a Queens-bred, skyscraper-building, apartment-dwelling Manhattanite. Yet it was rural America that carried Donald Trump to victory; the president got trounced in cities. Republican reliance on suburbs and the countryside isn’t new, of course, but in the presidential election, the gulf between urban and nonurban voters was wider than it had been in nearly a century. Hillary Clinton won 88 of the country’s 100 biggest counties, but still went down to defeat.

American cities seem to be cleaving from the rest of the country, and the temptation for liberals is to try to embrace that trend. With Republicans controlling the presidency, both houses of Congress, and most statehouses, Democrats are turning to local ordinances as their best hope on issues ranging from gun control to the minimum wage to transgender rights. Even before Inauguration Day, big-city mayors laid plans to nudge the new administration leftward, especially on immigration—and, should that fail, to join together in resisting its policies.

But if liberal advocates are clinging to the hope that federalism will allow them to create progressive havens, they’re overlooking a big problem: Power may be decentralized in the American system, but it devolves to the state, not the city. Recent events in red states where cities are pockets of liberalism are instructive, and cautionary. Over the past few years, city governments and state legislatures have fought each other in a series of battles involving preemption, the principle that state law trumps local regulation, just as federal law supersedes state law. It hasn’t gone well for the city dwellers. Read More > in The Atlantic

The Twilight of Statewide Telephone Polling? – A few weeks ago, on the heels of the now infamous presidential polling misses in Wisconsin, Michigan, and elsewhere, we learned that the Field Poll – perhaps the most venerable polling organization in California for the last 60+ years – was forced to shut its doors. The proximity in time of these events was not a coincidence. Telephone pollsters, particularly at the state and local level, are becoming an endangered species. Indeed, only about a third of Californians really use a landline phone anymore, so calling those numbers has become pretty pointless. And as for cellphones, the frequent mismatch between area codes and actual places of residence means that drawing samples of folks living in a specific geographical area is becoming less a science than . . . well, it may not even be an art at this point.

These and other developments have sent survey response rates plummeting — and the costs of conducting a quality poll skyrocketing. Most media, politicians, and other public-minded organizations simply cannot afford the luxury of monitoring public opinion anymore. And even when pockets are deep enough to commission a quality poll, securing demographic representativeness between the sample and the population is far from assured. Hispanics, Millennials, and people without college degrees are much less likely to take surveys, and while pollsters apply massive statistical weights to overcome this problem, the effectiveness is debatable; the young people (for example) who respond to surveys tend to differ from those who don’t in important ways (interest, personality, time), so over-counting the former to make up for the latter can sometimes make things worse. Simply put, obtaining a “random probability sample” in statewide telephone polling is about as easy these days as getting a ticket to Hamilton.

The difficulties don’t end with finding survey respondents. We have also learned that the president-elect’s level of support was understated in many traditionally “blue state” phone polls because some respondents were embarrassed to tell survey interviewers (who are disproportionately young, female, and non-white) that they planned to vote for Trump – saying they were “undecided” even though they knew what they planned to do. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

The Vice & Virtue Index: How Our Spending Changes in January – After the bacchanal that is the December holidays, an estimated 44% of Americans will attempt to right the ship by making New Year’s Resolutions. According to a survey by Marist, resolutions will range from the subjective (“be a better person”) to the quantifiable (“lose weight”, “spend less money”).

That second category of goals is measurable, and it got us thinking: do resolutions leave their mark on consumer data? Do we actually spend money differently in January than we did in December? We wanted to find out, so we analyzed data from Earnest, a Priceonomics customer. We analyzed a dataset of more than 10,000 anonymous user responses on spending habits.

We found that spending patterns lined up with common self-improvement targets. After the holidays, spending dropped in “vice” categories like alcohol, fast food, and beauty. At the same time, there was an uptick in spending on “virtue” categories like health clubs and diet foods.

It turns out we do put our money where our mouth is when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. At least in January that is. Read More > at Priceonomics

Now It’s Getting Serious: 2017 Could See a Bacon Shortage – Call it the first sign of the aporkalypse: The nation could be facing a bacon shortage, with stocks of the salty strips at their lowest since 1957 due to a surge in demand (bacon ice cream, anyone?).

Recent data from the USDA shows that 2016 inventory for frozen pork belly, which puts the B in your BLT, is down 35.6 million pounds from 2015 levels.

For now, the nation’s pork farmers are meeting the heightened demand, said Rich Deaton, President of the Ohio Pork Council, which is championing bacon’s cause to make America’s breakfast tables great again.

“Rest assured. The pork industry will not run out of supply. Ohio farmers will continue to work hard to ensure consumers receive the products they crave,” Deaton said.

But in the meantime, the 67 percent year-on-year drop in inventory levels has led to a spike in pork belly prices, with January already seeing a hike of 20 percent. Read More > at NBC News

9 Reasons You Should Eat Dark Chocolate Every Single Day
1. Dark chocolate just makes you happy. Not just because it tastes so dang good ― which definitely helps ― but because it contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s used by the brain to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happiness.

2. Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content contains a solid amount of soluble fiber. A 100-gram bar of 70-85 percent chocolate has 11 grams of fiber. Soluble fiber helps keep cholesterol down, keeps you feeling fuller longer, and is good for your digestive health.

3. Eating dark chocolate might be good for your brain. That’s right, eating chocolate may keep your brain sharp and help you ward off dementia. A four-decade long study found that people with frequent chocolate consumption preformed better on brain-powered tests.

4. It’s good for your heart, too. Eating dark chocolate may lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. One study showed that eating chocolate five or more times a week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 57 percent.

5. Dark chocolate makes for happier babies. And who doesn’t want a happy baby? A Finnish study found that mothers who ate more chocolate during pregnancy had happier, less fussy babies. This is great news for pregnant women everywhere. Read More > in the Huffington Post

California eyes statewide immigration sanctuary – Legislative Democrats in California have advanced a bill that would provide statewide sanctuary for immigrants by restricting local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The measure marks California Democrats’ first formal effort to resist President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved SB54 in a 5-2 party-line vote on Tuesday — less than a week after Trump signed an order threatening to withdraw some federal grants from established sanctuary cities.

Democrats say the legislation is necessary to prevent fear of deportation in families with members living in California without authorization. Read More > from the Associated Press

Raiders to host Patriots in Mexico City next season – Building off the tremendous success of the 2016 game in Mexico, the NFL will return to Mexico City in 2017 when the Oakland Raiders host the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced today at his press conference in Houston in advance of Super Bowl LI.

The date and time of the game will be determined in conjunction with the release of the NFL schedule this spring. The game in Mexico is the fifth international game confirmed for 2017, adding to the four previously announced games in London, and a testament to the NFL’s increased commitment to growing the game beyond the borders of the United States.

“We have a tremendous fan base in Mexico,” Goodell said. “Their passion for football is inspiring, and we look forward to another memorable game in Mexico City between two great teams next season.”

The Raiders will play in Mexico for the second consecutive season after earning a 27-20 win over the Houston Texans on November 21 before a sellout crowd of 76,473 in the first-ever Monday Night Football game played outside of the United States. Read More > at NFL.com

The Internet Is Mostly Bots – Look around you, people of the internet. The bots. They’re everywhere.

Most website visitors aren’t humans, but are instead bots—or, programs built to do automated tasks. They are the worker bees of the internet, and also the henchmen. Some bots help refresh your Facebook feed or figure out how to rank Google search results; other bots impersonate humans and carry out devastating DDoS attacks.

Overall, bots—good and bad—are responsible for 52 percent of web traffic, according to a new report by the security firm Imperva, which issues an annual assessment of bot activity online. The 52-percent stat is significant because it represents a tip of the scales since last year’s report, which found human traffic had overtaken bot traffic for the first time since at least 2012, when Imperva began tracking bot activity online. Now, the latest survey, which is based on an analysis of nearly 17 billion website visits from across 100,000 domains, shows bots are back on top. Not only that, but harmful bots have the edge over helper bots, which were responsible for 29 percent and 23 percent of all web traffic, respectively.

“The most alarming statistic in this report is also the most persistent trend it observes,” writes Igal Zeifman, Imperva’s marketing director, in a blog post about the research. “For the past five years, every third website visitor was an attack bot.” Read More > in The Atlantic

Walmart’s latest move to undercut Amazon Prime is a huge win for shoppers – Walmart (WMT) has unveiled its latest move to undercut Amazon Prime (AMZN).

And the net result is a big win for consumers.

On Tuesday, Walmart announced a new initiative that will see 2 million frequently ordered things like baby products, cleaning supplies, and some food items enjoy two-day free shipping. And unlike Amazon Prime or Walmart’s previous “Shipping Pass” program, there is no membership fee to enjoy this perk.

Marc Lore, former head of Jet.com and now head of Walmart’s e-commerce operations after Walmart purchased Jet for $3 billion last year, said on a conference call that, “In today’s world of e-commerce, two-day free shipping is table stakes. It no longer makes sense to charge for it,” according to Reuters.

And in this, Lore is saying that if you want to be a real player in online shopping, you need to offer free two-day shipping. Anything less is simply unacceptable to customers.

Of course, if you’re a consumer, this is great news: the things you need to buy all the time are going to continue getting cheaper and easier to buy. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance

Housing Crunch Exacts a Heavy Price on Californians – California is producing less than half the new homes it needs to meet demand in the Golden State.

In its first comprehensive analysis since the year 2000, California’s Department of Housing and Community Development paints a bleak picture of the state’s housing landscape. While it points to some hopeful developments, the report suggests lawmakers will need to consider serious policy changes if California is going to build the projected 1.8 million new homes needed by 2025.

…Still, the report suggests there are big consequences resulting from the failure to meet housing needs. When you factor housing in, California has the highest poverty rate in the country. Housing instability affects people’s health, and kids’ academic performance. And as people move further from jobs, long commutes increase pollution.

Overall, the report concludes the lack of housing costs the California economy almost $240 billion a year. Read More > at KQED

The 10 Best Cities in America to Raise the Next Rock Star – If you want to raise a budding musician, make sure you’re not in a music lesson desert. We ranked America’s best cities for teaching kids how to rock out. Did yours make the list?

You never know where the next music star is going to come from. But now, thanks to a new report from Care.com, we know exactly which cities are the best for raising young musicians, based on the availability of music lessons for kids.

So, where can parents find the best selections of music lessons for their kids? To determine this, our data analysts looked at the number of providers offering music lessons per student in each city or Metropolitan Statistical Area.

And the results might surprise you.

New York and Los Angeles didn’t even crack the top 10; instead, the top of this chart is owned by cities like Gainesville, Florida (i.e., the birthplace of Tom Petty) and Ann Arbor, Michigan (i.e., the home base of Iggy Pop).

Below, we’ve provided the full ranking of 111 cities: Read More > at Care.com

9 Flying Cars That Just Might Take You to Work One Day – Spurred by technology advances and demand for transportation alternatives in increasingly congested cities, entrepreneurs around the globe are vying to become the first to develop a commercially viable “flying car.” The designs vary greatly, and most aren’t actually cars capable of driving on roads. Here are some examples:

Vahana

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is working at its Silicon Valley research center on a driverless flying taxi that at first will have a pilot, but will later be autonomous. The vertical takeoff-landing, all-electric aircraft is a cockpit mounted on a sled and flanked by propellers in front and back. Airbus plans to test a prototype before the end of 2017, and to have the first Vahanas ready for production by 2020.

Lilium Jet

German technology company Lilium Aviation is working on a two-seater aircraft that will take off vertically using 36 electric fan engines arrayed along its wings. The aircraft will hover and climb until the fans are turned backward slowly. After that, it flies forward like a plane using electric jet engines. The company has been flight-testing small scale models. The aircraft will have an estimated cruising speed of up to 190 mph and a range of 190 miles. Read More > at Popular Mechanics

This Tiny Submarine Cruises Inside A Stomach To Deliver Drugs – A tiny self-propelled drug-delivery device might someday make taking antibiotics safer and more efficient. Think of it as a tiny submarine scooting around inside your stomach, fueled by the acid there.

Oral antibiotics are commonly prescribed life-saving drugs. Once an antibiotic is swallowed, it takes a trip to the stomach, where there’s lots of acid. That stomach acid can break chemical bonds in the antibiotic and deactivate it.

To keep that from happening, doctors often prescribe acid-reducing medications like Prilosec or Prevacid. But they can cause side effects such as headache, diarrhea and fatigue.

So scientists at the University of California, San Diego, came up with a device designed to both reduce stomach acid and deliver medication without the side effects.

The swallowable device reacts with stomach acid release of tiny hydrogen bubbles. The bubbles scoot it around the stomach, and a magnesium core reduces acidity as it goes. The tiny device is covered by a special polymer, like a jacket, that is sensitive to changes in the acidity. Once the acid in the stomach is neutralized, the polymer dissolves and the submarines unload their antibiotic payload. Read More > at NPR

Forget Autonomous Cars—Autonomous Ships Are Almost Here – …Although robotic ships of this sort are some ways off in the future, it’s not a question of if they will happen but when. My colleagues and I at Rolls-Royce anticipate that the first commercial vessel to navigate entirely by itself could be a harbor tug or a ferry designed to carry cars the short distance across the mouth of a river or a fjord and that it or similar ships will be in commercial operation within the next few years. And we expect fully autonomous oceangoing cargo ships to be routinely plying the world’s seas in 10 or 15 years’ time.

Remotely controlled ships, piloted by people on shore, and autonomous ships, which can take actions for themselves, are the latest beneficiaries of increasing digital connectivity and intelligence. These developments in electronic sensors, telecommunications, and computing have sparked interest in a range of autonomous vehicles including cars, planes, helicopters, trains, and now ships. Companies and academic researchers around the world are working hard to turn these ideas into reality.

…That people should be seriously interested in robotic ships is easy enough to explain: Such ships are expected to be safer, more efficient, and cheaper to run. According to a report published by the Munich-based insurance company Allianz in 2012, between 75 and 96 percent of marine accidents are a result of human error, often a result of fatigue. Remotely controlled and autonomous ships would reduce the risk of such mistakes and along with it the risk of injury and even death to crew members, not to mention the dangers to the ship itself.

The threat posed by piracy to ships and their crews would also be reduced. That’s because uncrewed ships could be built so that they’d be very difficult to board on the high seas. Even if pirates got aboard, access to the controls could be made unavailable. Indeed, the computers in command could immobilize the ship or have it steam in a circle, making it relatively easy for naval authorities to reach it. Recapture would also be easier than is usually the case in such situations because there would be no crew held hostage. And without a captured crew to ransom, the target of the piracy is significantly less valuable. Read More > at IEEE Spectrum

Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD): A Great American Tragedy Nears Its End – Final chords are fast approaching for what was once America’s best-known, and largest retailer. The “experiment” of hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert, who once promised to turn the company around, instead hangs like a weight around his reputation, even on Forbes’ billionaire list.

The stock’s latest fall, 13% on Jan. 30, takes the value of Sears down to $640 million. That’s 71% below where it was in 2016. In 2007, SHLD stock traded at $190 per share. That’s more than $10 billion wiped away.

During its 2016 fiscal year, which ended in January, Sears lost $1.129 billion on revenue of $25.1 billion. For the first three quarters of fiscal 2016, SHLD had lost $1.6 billion on revenue of $16 billion. Writer-analyst Brian Sozzi has been documenting the sad state of Sears stores since 2013, and nothing has been done about it.

If anything, they’ve gotten worse

…Three companies killed Sears. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT) was killing Kmart long before Sears bought it. Amazon, of course, built efficient e-commerce infrastructure after SHLD had dismantled its. Costco was the final nail in the coffin.

You can add a few other suspects to the line-up — W.W. Grainger Inc. (NYSE:GWW) for business purchases, Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) and Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE:BBY) in those verticals. The spinoff of the credit card unit into Discover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS) didn’t help.

Business is a dog-eat-dog world, and Sears has gotten chewed up. Read More > in Investor Place

From Marijuana Mecca to Dead Zone? Calaveras Voters to Consider Commercial Pot Ban – In October, California Marijuana Policy covered the booming cannabis industry in Calaveras County, where hundreds of marijuana growers have flocked to set up shop. Now, a massive pendulum swing could be afoot.

In May, voters in Calaveras will be given the option to approve a total ban on commercial pot growing in their county—a tremendous shift for a region currently awash in weed. The initiative, which will come via special election, was approved unanimously by supervisors last week after a petition garnered more than 5,000 signatures.

To understand this stark turnaround, you need to know how Calaveras became so cannabis-rich in the first place. After all, it was desperation rather than an affinity for marijuana that led Calaveras to adopt its urgency pot ordinance last year.

The county had been absolutely devastated by the 2015 Butte Fire, which is considered one of the most destructive in the state’s history, and it was searching for a way to boost anemic revenue. It worked. After greenlighting some 800 marijuana grows, cash flowed into county coffers. But disillusionment soon followed.

“When you’ve heard the stories I’ve heard, it rips your heart out,” said resident Bill McManus, who is pushing for the ban. “People who were brutalized by the Butte Fire and came back after it was cleaned up, ready for people to move back and they found that they were surrounded by pot growers.” The deluge, critics say, has led to crime, overwhelming odors and severe environmental damage. Read More > at California County News

Self-Driving Cars Should Be Regulated Like Drugs – …Two philosophy professors at Carnegie Mellon University over in Pittsburgh have a novel idea about how to do that: In an op-ed published Thursday in IEEE Intelligent Systems, they suggested that AV regulations should mirror the U.S. drug approval process.

So they recommend testing AVs out in phases, first testing out the vehicles in simulated environments that provide a series of “unforeseen” situations—the “pre-clinical trials,” if you will. When the vehicle’s decision-making process is deemed sufficient in a range of contexts, it can be slowly rolled out in selective settings in the real world, closely watched by drivers and monitors with special training. As each “trial” is declared successful, regulators can gradually grant companies permission to expand the testing into different roads and eventually different cities.

Companies like Google and Uber have been doing a limited amount of testing on public roads, but London calls for more coordination with the federal government. “Some groups would have a van that would just deliver packages in Pittsburgh, but consumers aren’t going to want to buy a car that they can only drive in [one city],” says London. “So what are the places that are sufficiently similar to Pittsburgh that the car would also do well in, and what are the places that are sufficiently different that we need to validate the car’s ability to drive there. Those are questions that should be sharpened.”

So rather than having individual companies vet the process, federal regulators would used the data shared with them to establish what an “acceptable performance” entails before moving on to the next phase—how many hours of driving in the city does it takes, for example, or how many accidents are tolerable. Over time, market restrictions can be relaxed as the system is refined. Read More > at City Lab

York takes what-the-hell gamble on tandem of Lynch, Shanahan – Evidently Brent Musburger’s retirement caused the 49ers to get off the dime on their general manager hire and select former Stanford, Tampa Bay and Denver safety and now former Fox No. 2 analyst John Lynch.

And no, we didn’t skip over any steps. That’s the resume, kids. We’d throw in his front office or coaching experience as well, but he has none. He’s been a player and a broadcaster, and that’s it. Hell, except for the player part, Musburger’s seen more football than Lynch.

And while we’re at it, York jumped over Fox’s analyst hierarchy by not taking it’s No. 1 sidekick, Troy Aikman, instead, so even broadcasters think this is a breach of sanity. The only way he would have been further outside the norm is if he had hired Katie Nolan of Garbage Time, whose resume includes bartender, wit and on-air raconteur, though she might have gone to Jaguars camp one summer.

In short, York went so far out of the box that he didn’t even bother to send away for any boxes at all. Lynch and Kyle Shanahan with their zero games of experience in their present positions here to save the 49ers from their essential . . . uhh, is Yorkery a word? Read More > at CSN Bay Area

California Shouldn’t Secede from the U.S. It should divide in two. – Efforts to divide California into more manageable and homogeneous parts are as old as the Bear Flag that was raised over the state capitol at statehood in 1850. When I was a legislative staffer in Sacramento in 1980, a state assemblyman named Stan Statham had a serious proposal that attracted bipartisan support. He recognized that California’s people (now 40 million) would be better served if its competing constituencies had more in common.

Lots of people have their favorite maps for new states. For decades, the natural dividing line ran due east from the coast, just north of Bakersfield; it emphasized the differences between northern and southern California. My favorite design was for three states: one centered on Los Angeles, one centered on San Francisco, and everyone else in a third state. More recently, in 2009, then GOP assemblyman Bill Maze proposed creating two states: a Coastal California state and an Inland California state. The big population centers of San Francisco and Los Angeles would be in the first, but the inland state would include some large coastal counties such as Orange (home of Disneyland) and San Diego.

The new states would be far more in sync on policy. The coastal state would emphasize environmental values, the “next big thing” economy of Silicon Valley, and the multicultural diversity of L.A. The inland state would have vast water resources, abundant agricultural lands, and its own cutting-edge facilities in sectors ranging from aerospace to data processing. The two states would provide an escape from the current political conformity of California, which is dominated by public-sector unions and progressive activists. Read More > at National Review

Expect More Conflict Between Cities and States – With the federal government and most states controlled by conservative Republicans this year, Democrats are looking to Democratic cities and counties to stand up for progressive policy.

But they may want to temper their expectations. State lawmakers have blocked city action on a range of economic, environmental and human rights issues, including liberal priorities such as minimum wage increases, in recent years. And the stage looks set for more confrontation between cities and states this year.

Already, state lawmakers in Texas and Arkansas are weighing bills that would ban cities from declaring themselves “sanctuaries” and withholding cooperation with federal immigration officials.

Lawmakers in Kentucky, Virginia and six other states are considering preventing localities from allowing transgender people to use some restrooms that match their gender identity. In Montana, one lawmaker wants to prevent local governments from banning texting while driving. Read More > at The Pew Charitable Trusts

Why Hollywood as We Know It Is Already Over – …Hollywood, these days, seems remarkably poised for a similar disruption. Its audiences increasingly prefer on-demand content, its labor is costly, and margins are shrinking. Yet when I ask people in Hollywood if they fear such a fate, their response is generally one of defiance. Film executives are smart and nimble, but many also assert that what they do is so specialized that it can’t be compared to the sea changes in other disrupted media. “We’re different,” one producer recently told me. “No one can do what we do.”

That response, it’s worth recalling, is what many editors and record producers once said. And the numbers reinforce the logic. Movie-theater attendance is down to a 19-year low, with revenues hovering slightly above $10 billion—or about what Amazon’s, Facebook’s, or Apple’s stock might move in a single day. DreamWorks Animation was sold to Comcast for a relatively meager $3.8 billion. Paramount was recently valued at about $10 billion, approximately the same price as when Sumner Redstone acquired it, more than 20 years ago, in a bidding war against Barry Diller. Between 2007 and 2011, overall profits for the big-five movie studios—Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Disney—fell by 40 percent. Studios now account for less than 10 percent of their parent companies’ profits. By 2020, according to some forecasts, that share will fall to around 5 percent. (Disney, partly owing to Star Wars and its other successful franchises, is likely to be a notable outlier.)

Show business, in many ways, has entered a vicious cycle set off by larger economic forces. Some 70 percent of box office comes from abroad, which means that studios must traffic in the sort of blow-’em-up action films and comic-book thrillers that translate easily enough to Mandarin. Or in reboots and sequels that rely on existing intellectual property. But even that formula has dried up. Chinese firms, including Dalian Wanda, are rabidly acquiring companies such as Legendary Entertainment, AMC, and Carmike Cinemas, a smaller theater chain, with an apparent goal of learning how Hollywood does what it does so China can do it better. As The Wall Street Journal reported last summer, more sequels bombed than did not. Fortune called it “a summer of big flops.” MGM’s Ben-Hur, which was produced by Mark Burnett, cost $100 million and yet grossed only $11 million in its opening weekend.

But the real threat isn’t China. It’s Silicon Valley. Hollywood, in its over-reliance on franchises, has ceded the vast majority of the more stimulating content to premium networks and over-the-top services such as HBO and Showtime, and, increasingly, digital-native platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. These companies also have access to analytics tools that Hollywood could never fathom, and an allergy to its inefficiency. Read More > in Vanity Fair

Should California, Oregon and Washington join Canada? #Calexit talk envelops West Coast – The #calexit movement, formed in response to Donald Trump winning the presidential election, has enveloped California’s West Coast neighbors and spiritual counterparts, Washington and Oregon. The three Pacific Coast states overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton. She received 55 percent of the vote in Washington, 62 percent in California and 52 percent in Oregon.

Is this crazy talk? Probably. But residents of the Best Coast have a lot in common with our northern neighbors. The three states have long been working with British Columbia to combat climate change. All three new potential provinces have legalized cannabis, which Canada is moving toward. Don’t forget Canada’s universal health care. We love health care for all here on the coast. Read more > in The Seattle Times

Freeways Without Futures – Communities across North America are facing a watershed moment in the history of our transportation infrastructure. With cities, citizens, and transportation officials all looking for alternatives to costly highway repair and expansion, these ten campaigns offer a roadmap to better health, equity, opportunity, and connectivity in every neighborhood, while reversing decades of decline and disinvestment.

Freeways Without Futures
Scajaquada Expressway, Buffalo, New York
I-345, Dallas, Texas
I-70, Denver, Colorado
I-375, Detroit, Michigan
I-980, Oakland, California
Route 710, Pasadena, California
Inner Loop, Rochester, New York
I-280 Spur, San Francisco, California
I-81, Syracuse, New York
Route 29, Trenton, New Jersey

Interstate 980

 Oakland, California

In the city of San Francisco, two of North America’s most successful freeway removals have yielded celebrated results: the Embarcdero and Octavia Boulevards. Now, just across the bay, the City of Oakland is considering replacing an underutilized below-grade section of Interstate 980 with a surface boulevard that would reconnect West Oakland to Downtown.

The project, which has gained widespread support in recent months, would reuse the freeway space for major regional rail service running under a surface boulevard.

While the idea of removing I-980 has been discussed since its completion in the mid-80s, the current leading design concept came from a citizen-led campaign called ConnectOAKLAND, started in 2014 to advocate for the removal of the freeway and the reconnection of the street grid. ConnectOAKLAND’s vision would create or re-open 21 new city blocks—totaling approximately 17 new acres of high-value, publicly controlled land.

“With imaginative engineering and design, [I-980] could be replaced by a boulevard lined with housing at all price levels, reknitting the urban landscape,” wrote John King of the San Francisco Chronicle, in a major review of the concept last year. Read More > at CNU

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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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