Sunday Reading – 06/04/17


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.

Borenstein: Where did DA Peterson illegally spend campaign money? – That’s a key unanswered question in the saga of Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson’s illegal use of $66,372 in campaign funds.

The voters of Contra Costa deserve answers, especially now that Peterson has refused to resign and announced he will seek re-election. They deserve to know exactly how he used contributions that were supposed to fund his campaign.

…The FFPC investigation of Peterson, released in December, found that from 2011-15 the district attorney tapped his campaign bank account for approximately 600 personal expenditures.

Peterson withdrew cash from the campaign account. He transferred funds directly from the campaign account to his personal bank account.

And, according to the FPPC, he used the campaign debit card for expenditures that included “personal items such as meals at restaurants, gasoline, clothing, movie tickets, hotel rooms, cellular telephone bills, etc.”

But that’s all we know. The commission fined Peterson an unusually large $45,000 but failed to require that he publicly disclose where he illegally spent campaign money.

And the FPPC says it cannot legally release information gleaned through its investigation. If the commission is right, state legislators should change the law. What good are disclosure rules if the details of violations are kept secret? Read More > in the East Bay Times

California lawmakers take a (small) first step to doing away with Daylight Saving Time – Lawmakers in the state Assembly approved an effort on Thursday that could end with California voters scrapping the biannual tradition of moving their clocks ahead or behind by an hour.

Assembly Bill 807 is the second effort in as many years by the Legislature to revisit California’s use of Daylight Saving Time. The state’s voters first approved its use through a 1949 ballot measure. And because of that history, the issue must go back to voters if changes are to be made.

The proposal would, if placed on next year’s statewide ballot, seek to keep California on a single measurement of time all year — whether it be Pacific standard time or what’s now only a seasonal adjustment ahead by an hour. The bill by Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose) would ask voters to transfer a final decision to the Legislature.

Even then, no changes could be made without federal approval — which would mean the bill could end up changing nothing about timekeeping in California. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Fishwrap: Newspaper circulation at 77-year low – Circulation of daily newspapers has dropped to a 77-year low, signaling an end to print and a shift to all-digital delivery, according to a new industry review.

The Pew Research Center said that circulation has reached a new low of 34.6 million, six million less than papers sold in 1940.

Said Pew:

The estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2016 was 35 million for weekday and 38 million for Sunday, both of which fell 8% over the previous year. Declines were highest in print circulation: Weekday print circulation decreased 10% and Sunday circulation decreased 9%. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

What would California’s proposed single-payer healthcare system mean for me? – What is single payer? Is it the same thing as a “public option?”
•Under a single-payer plan, the government replaces private insurance companies, paying doctors and hospitals for healthcare.
•That’s different than a public option, in which the government offers an alternative to other insurance plans on the market.

How would this change how I get healthcare?
•No more coverage through work or through federal public programs — it would all be in one state-subsidized plan.
•Virtually all healthcare costs would be covered.

I’m on Medicare. What would this mean for me?
•Federal programs like Medicare and Medi-Cal would be merged into the single-payer plan.
•But there’s no guarantee the Trump administration would approve such a change.

Would this affect how much I spend on healthcare?
•No more co-pays, premiums or deductibles
•But Californians would be hit with higher taxes

What about overall healthcare costs for the state?
•A legislative analysis estimated overall costs would be $400 billion per year.
•Proponents of the plan are touting savings from the single-payer system and have come up with a lower annual price tag: $330 billion.

I work in the healthcare industry. How would this affect my job?
•There may be more time for patients instead of dealing with billing for doctors, but it could also affect their paycheck.
•Those who work at insurance companies or other administrative posts may lose their jobs. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

RadioShack’s Tweets Offer a Bleak Look Into the Retailer’s Demise – RadioShack has been in the retail business for almost 100 years. The end isn’t nearly as promising as the beginning.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, RadioShack—which filed for bankruptcy twice in two years—closed over 1,000 stores, leaving just 70 corporate locations and 500 dealer stores in operation across the U.S. Throughout the weekend, the consumer electronics retailer announced a liquidation sale that played out on social media. Social media represents a new plot twist for America’s dying retailers: How do you toast a brand’s final days when the world is watching?

RadioShack opted for unadulterated bleakness. The company’s social media handle on Twitter shared photos that depicted the sale of store fixtures, $25 grab bags stuffed with items pieced at $5 apiece, and deeply discounted printers. Here are some tweets that highlighted the carnage.

RadioShack, which generated nearly $6.3 billion in revenue at the company’s peak in 1996, saw sales sputter to under $3.5 billion less than two decades later as it failed to respond to the migration of consumer spending to online channels like Amazon.com (amzn, +0.63%). Electronics were one of the earliest consumer product categories to sell strongly online, resulting in price transparency that made it hard for physical retailers to compete. Best Buy (bby, -0.75%) has done a better job innovating to stay competitive, partly because it has focused on services to help it differentiate from the crowd.

But RadioShack, which operated over 7,300 stores at the company’s peak, will now only have 570 stores in total after the Memorial Day weekend closures. Read More > at Fortune

University of California’s Board of Regents Partied Hard, Billed the State, Then Raised Tuition – On the night of Jan. 25, members of the University of California’s Board of Regents piled into San Francisco’s lavish Intercontinental Hotel for a dinner party. By the end of the night, the 65-person party had racked up a $17,600 bill, or roughly $271 per diner—which they charged to the university. The next day, the same Regents voted to raise tuition by 2.5 percent or $336 for each in-state student.

From 2012 until May 17, 2017, the UC Board of Regents expensed luxury banquets totalling over $225,000, the San Francisco Chronicle first reported Sunday. University President Janet Napolitano’s office reimbursed the dinners in full, using UC funding. The news comes in the wake of a damning state audit that revealed $175 million in undisclosed funds belonging to Napolitano’s office. UC students say they’re not going to stomach the costs any more.

On Tuesday, the Board of Regents defended their dinner expenses, but said the board would have to buy their own meals going forward.

UC Regent Richard Blum, an investment banker and husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, told the Chronicle that “it’s kind of silly” to take issue with the the $200,000-plus tab, compared to the university’s $30 billion budget. “But having said that, there’s the perception problem.” Read More > at The Daily Beast

65% fail latest California Bar Exam – California’s famously difficult bar exam is facing pressure from the state’s law schools to lower its passing score, after only 35 percent of test takers passed the most recent test in February, the Wall Street Journal reports.

California requires a score of at least 144 to pass, a “cut score” that is the second highest in the nation, while New York and more than a dozen states require test takers to achieve a 133 or 135, respectively, to pass. Using those metrics, the Journal concluded that if California used the same metrics New York does, almost 90 percent of the bar’s test takers would have passed last July’s test — a much greater number than the only 62 percent who did.

The paper also reports there is growing concern about whether the California bar exam is testing for topics and knowledge that are actually applicable to skill sets needed to succeed as attorneys in the state. California is the nation’s second most prolific licenser of attorneys after New York, the paper reports, with around 10 percent of the American Bar Association accredited law schools located here. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Milpitas City Manager Placed on Leave – Milpitas City Manager Tom Williams has been placed on administrative leave amid ongoing turmoil and intrigue at City Hall. The announcement, issued Friday by City Attorney Christopher Diaz, caps off an extraordinary month in which Williams threatened a defamation and harassment lawsuit against Milpitas and its mayor, and was then accused of paying his personal attorney with his city credit card.

Williams has denied using the card to pay his attorney’s fees.

“I absolutely in no way misused a city credit card,” he told the Milpitas Post. “The accusations are ridiculous and another attempt by someone trying to hurt and retaliate against me.”

Who would want to hurt Williams? If the city manager is to be believed, perhaps Mayor Rich Tran. Recently-obtained legal documents show Williams has accused him of age-based discrimination and harassment that culminated with attempts at a frivolous investigation.

“You old guys need to move out of the way,” the 32-year-old Tran allegedly told Williams while expressing his desire to get rid of him and have him replaced with someone younger. “I told the voters I had to investigate you. So noth’en personal, but I gotta do what I gotta do.”

The city remains tight-lipped about Williams’ leave. City Attorney Diaz also refused to elaborate beyond his letter to the council stating that Williams had paid $7,000 to his San Francisco-based attorney through a city-issued charge card. Williams then attempted to charge another $30,000 in city funds for the same attorney, Diaz’s letter said. Read More > at California City News

Is Recycling Broken? – Is recycling in our cities broken?

Nationwide, recycling rates have hovered around 35 percent for the last five years, according to the EPA. “That’s a pretty low number,” says Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “I don’t know if I would go so far as to say ‘broken,’ but there are some definite challenges to getting those numbers up.”

One of those challenges arose as a result of cities trying to make recycling easier. Just a decade or two ago, residents sorted their recyclables for curbside pickup. But in order to increase household recycling rates, cities moved to “single-stream” recycling: One bin for everything — newspapers, glass, aluminum, tin, plastic and cardboard. Compliance is easier for residents and, since the city only needs one truck to pick up everything, it saves money. But the downside is that someone eventually does have to sort out the paper from the cardboard and the glass and cans from the plastic. It makes the process more expensive because now instead of just one household sorting it out, employees at a waste facility and big, costly machines do it. It also leads to more contamination and a decrease in the quality of the materials recovered. That, in turn, matters to the people who buy bales of recycled material and turn it into new products.

Another challenge is that the materials manufacturers are using are becoming more complex. “We are creating packages that are hard to recycle,” Hoover says.

Take a juice carton. Five years ago that carton was made of one kind of plastic or paper. Today, it’s typically made with two or more types of plastic, an aluminum layer and a paper layer all fused together with adhesive. “It makes a great lightweight, non-breakable, often stable package,” Hoover says, “but what it does on the recycling end is kind of stymie the recycling process.” It’s not only hard to separate out the different levels of packaging, but it’s also expensive to get the machinery that does the separating. Even then, not every piece is recyclable.

These increasingly complex materials are costing waste companies millions of dollars. Richard Coupland, vice president of municipal sales for Republic Services, notes that five years ago, the largest fraction of what his company was selling was newsprint. Today, he says, “there’s no supply and there’s no demand for it, and yet we bought huge pieces of equipment to extract newspaper and are still paying for those.” Read More > at Governing

Heads-up: Driving is about to be revolutionized – Navigation arrows, pedestrians outlined in red, magnified road signs, “ghost” cars that show you where to go – they’re all on-screen features found in many PlayStation and Xbox racing games.

But the line between playing a video game and driving an actual car is about to get blurry as augmented reality (AR) begins to migrate into vehicle windshields.

Toyota last year patented an AR windshield – a slab of glass that can display computerized text and graphics, just like a smartphone screen. And in December, car systems designer Harman took a stake in Navdy, a San Francisco-based startup that makes AR display units that sit above a vehicle’s steering wheel, with an eye to full windshield integration.

Industry observers say the wide-scale rollout of AR in cars is still a few years away, but it is coming – and they’re bullish on the technology making driving safer and more fun. Read More > at The Globe and Mail

This Is What the Demise of Oil Looks Like – From giant companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. to OPEC members such as Saudi Arabia, oil producers say their industry will enjoy decades of growth as they feed the energy needs of the world’s expanding middle classes. But what if they’re wrong? There’s a host of reasons to think they might be. Here’s what happens when you test their central assumptions.

The International Energy Agency sees oil demand rising more than 10 percent, to 103.5 million barrels a day by 2040, while companies predict even faster growth.

…About 60 percent of oil is used in transportation, which is also where the biggest technological changes are emerging.

All over the world, governments concerned about climate change or air pollution are pushing tighter fuel-efficiency standards, or creating low-emission zones for cars and even ships. The exposure of cheating on diesel-emissions test by Volkswagen AG, and similar accusations against other automakers has added to the pressure on regulators to toughen standards.

…Probably the most noticeable shift in transport will be the electric car. This won’t just be about cars with batteries, but part of the wider trend led by companies including Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. toward transportation as an on-demand service in driverless vehicles summoned from your smartphone, according to RethinkX, a think tank based in San Fransisco.

…Widespread switching to alternatives including natural gas and biofuels could displace about 13.5 million barrels a day of oil demand by 2040, according to the IEA. That’s more than double the gains from electric cars. Read More > at Bloomberg

Californians Love Medicare for All – Just Not the Bill – A majority of Californians favors a Medicare for All approach to health insurance coverage. Until they’re asked to pay for it.

That’s the finding of a new statewide survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

According to the survey, 65% of adults favor “having guaranteed health coverage in which all Californians would get their insurance though a single state government health plan” – in other words, a state equivalent of Medicare extended to everyone.

But approval drops to 42% if it means raising taxes – which almost certainly would be required in some form.

Whether an increase in taxes would be offset by lowering or eliminating health insurance premiums is yet unclear. Senate Bill 562 by Democratic Sens. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Tony Atkins of San Diego – which would adopt the “single payer” approach — has no clear financing mechanism thus far. Read More > at Calbuzz

Jerry Brown sends a message to water agencies on the Delta tunnels – and it’s direct – …Now, with Brown’s tenure in the corner office ticking away, decision time is upon California. Yes, I have written that before. But in the coming days, the U.S. Interior Department is expected to issue its final assessment of the impact of the tunnels on the Delta’s ecology and associated fisheries.

In anticipation of that, Brown, through his top aide Nancy McFadden, very recently summoned representatives of the main consumers of Northern California water to Sacramento. The unmistakable message to come of the meetings: fish or cut bait, or some more pungent variation of that saying.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Westlands Water District and the Kern County Water Agency, along with agencies in the Silicon Valley and East Bay, must decide if they’re in or out and whether they’ll pay their proportionate share.

…Without a doubt, lawsuits will be filed to block the tunnels. No one should be shocked if there is an anti-tunnel initiative on the 2018 ballot, as happened in 2016 when Stockton farmer Dean Cortopassi promoted a measure to block the project’s financing.

Brown spent $4 million to defeat the initiative. The next governor won’t be nearly as invested. Indeed, the leading Democratic candidates duck taking a stand one way or another on the tunnels. So San Joaquin Valley farming interests and the MWD face a decision. I’ll make up my mind after the final environmental assessments are issued. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Up to 25% of U.S. shopping malls may close in the next five years, report says – Between 20% and 25% of the nation’s shopping malls will close in the next five years, according to a new report from Credit Suisse that predicts e-commerce will continue to pull shoppers away from bricks-and-mortar retailers.

For many, the Wall Street firm’s finding may come as no surprise. Long-standing retailers are dying off as shoppers’ habits shift online. Credit Suisse expects apparel sales to represent 35% of all e-commerce by 2030, up from 17% today.

Traditional mall anchors, such as Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears, have announced numerous store closings in recent months. Clothiers including American Apparel, Bebe and BCBG Max Azria have filed for bankruptcy. The report estimates that around 8,640 stores will close by the end of the year.

Retail industry experts say Credit Suisse may have underestimated the scope of the upheaval. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Take a Load Off. The Robots That Fold Laundry Are Coming – Cars can now drive themselves. Cellphones talk to us. How long will it be until the dreams of every college student and overworked parent come true — and laundry can fold itself?

At least two companies are promising to bring laundry-folding robots for the home to market by the end of 2017. Known as Laundroid and FoldiMate, both machines work by analyzing each garment they take in, figuring out its ideal folding shape and delivering a drawer-ready stack of smoothly folded clothes.

Laundroid is slightly smaller than a typical refrigerator and looks like the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” except with drawers. The robot arms are inside.

The FoldiMate, more compact, has large clips dangling outside, making it look like a mash-up of a clothesline and a plastic oven. Read More > in The New York Times

Bay Area renters pay the most to live in these zip codes – In the pricey San Francisco Bay Area, some neighborhoods stand out for their eye-popping rents.

The most expensive Bay Area zip code for apartment rents covers the Presidio, the former military fort which is now mostly open space, according to a recent study from RentCafe, an apartment search website. Renters in that swath of San Francisco pay an average of $4,762 per month.

Among the top 20 most expensive Bay Area zip codes, seven were in San Francisco while the rest were in Peninsula cities including Palo Alto at $3,718 per month, Menlo Park at $3,657, Mountain View at $3,265, Redwood City at $3,209, Colma at $3,017, and two zip codes in San Mateo at $3,041 and $3,039.

The only two East Bay cities on the list were Berkeley and Oakland, where average rents were $3,130 and $3,149 respectively. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Giants’ Mara Exposes Kaepernick Conundrum – …By now, you’ve heard that Giants co-owner John Mara told Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB that he received numerous letters from fans saying how angry they would be if a Giants player protested like former Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick did.

“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said. “‘If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game.’ It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, more so than any other issue I’ve run into.”

…Third, and perhaps most important, Mara’s comments marked a departure from the wall of silence that has accompanied any public discussion of Kaepernick by teams.

Owners have gone out of their way to say little, if anything, about Kaepernick. Their silence, in many ways, is a statement: We’re unified in our opinion of Kaepernick, and we’re unified in not wanting to sign him.

Mara represents a break in that silence. Read More > at Bleacher Report

Obscure State Fund Takes Center Stage…Again – An obscure state fund, the Pooled Money Investment Fund, has taken center stage in California’s political theater with a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to borrow from the fund to help pay down the state’s massive public employee health care and pension debt. This is not the first time that this fund found its way from the back pages of the budget into the spotlight. Thirty-seven years ago the Pooled Money Investment Fund had a role in the debate over a California ballot measure supporting the main characters Howard Jarvis, Jesse Unruh, and, yes, a governor named Jerry Brown.

In his May revised budget, Gov. Brown proposed making a $6 billion payment against the pension debt by borrowing from the Pooled Money Investment Fund. That account holds money designated for state and local governments that has yet to be paid out. The idea behind Brown’s plan is that by investing the money in the state pension system, the money will grow at a faster rate than the interest it currently gathers thus reducing future state contributions to the retirement fund.

The gamble is that no hiccups in the financial landscape will leave the pooled money account short without the state’s ability to pay it back. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Who Will Pay for the Future if Not the Robots? – Robots are taking over the world’s workforce—and why shouldn’t they? For so many jobs, machines are faster, more consistent, smarter, and cheaper than you or I will ever be. As advances in artificial intelligence accelerate, robots will spread into all corners of the labor market: blue collar and white collar, service work and knowledge work alike. Along with their jobs, people will lose their incomes. When that happens, governments will also lose theirs. Where does the money come from without incomes to tax?

One San Francisco lawmaker is trying to get ahead of this likely revenue gap by going after the source of the problem: She wants to tax the robots. Supervisor Jane Kim has been meeting with labor leaders, academics, and tech types to explore the radical plan, a natural fit for a city where billionaire tech bros and liberal politicians both hold sway. But there’s at least one problem with Kim’s plan: No one can really agree on what a robot is.

…But it’s hard to imagine a future in which the US economy loses a third of its jobs to automation and governments just sit on their hands. “I do think that government is going to have to regulate it,” Kim says. “I mean, I know tech hates hearing that word, but we’re all part of a larger community and society, and there are implications when 37 percent of the workforce isn’t working anymore.”

Kim is not a robot-tax evangelist. She’s a supervisor in a city with one of the starkest income inequalities in the world. Robots and AI promise to further concentrate wealth in the hands of the elite techie class. So for Kim, a robot tax is an idea at least worth exploring, not hurriedly enacting next week. Read More > at Wired

Eat fat to lose weight? Scientists say it’s the smart thing to do – Eat fat to lose fat – wait, what? Nutrition experts and public health officials have been telling us for decades to eat less fat to lose weight. But it turns out a high-fat diet can actually help you lose weight, gain energy and fight obesity-associated conditions such as diabetes. Why did the experts lead us astray for so long? In short, weak science is to blame.

The origin of low-fat diet recommendations can be traced back to Sept. 24, 1955 – the day President Dwight Eisenhower suffered a heart attack. That event raised public awareness about the dangers of heart disease and gave one outspoken scientist, Ancel Keys, a platform to promote his research findings showing a correlation between heart disease and dietary fat consumption. The problem was the findings were merely correlative and didn’t show that consuming a high-fat diet causes heart disease. Despite the lack of hard scientific evidence, the American Heart Association released dietary recommendations in 1961 suggesting people reduce intake of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and increase intake of polyunsaturated fat.

These new recommendations prompted the food industry to develop a wide array of fat-free and low-fat foods. But what replaces fat when it is removed from foods? A large portion is replaced by sugar and the remainder by thickeners and emulsifiers. Health-conscious Americans jumped on the low-fat bandwagon and replaced butter with margarine, whole eggs with egg whites, and other common foods with their low-fat counterparts in an effort to promote better health. And after several decades, what are the results? A huge increase in obesity and diabetes, not only in adults but also in children. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

This New Jersey Township Tried to Block a Mosque, And Lost – After five years, 39 public hearings, and two lawsuits, the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge in New Jersey will finally be able to build a new mosque. On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced the terms of a settlement between the federal government and Bernards Township, the local body that refused to let the Society begin construction on a proposed house of worship based on alleged issues with minor details of its proposal, including the size of the parking lot.

As part of the settlement, the mosque plan will move forward. Leaders of the township will go through training on federal religious-freedom law. And the local board will have to establish new processes for resolving complaints. The settlement also resolves a lawsuit brought separately by the Islamic Society against Bernards Township, which will pay the Society $3.25 million in damages and attorney’s fees.

This case was a particularly nasty and controversial example of a local board discriminating against a religious group that wanted a place to worship. But while the Bernards Township case is distinctive, it’s in no way unique. Religious discrimination in the U.S. often happens in the most quotidian settings, including debates over zoning ordinances. Read More > at Route Fifty

Researchers find a more effective way to test self-driving cars – It’s tricky to test self-driving cars. Even if you have hundreds of thousands of miles under your belt, it’s still difficult to account for every possible real-world peril. Researchers think they can fast-track that experience, however. They’ve developed a sped-up testing process that should accomplish a lot in just a small amount of time. Instead of a holistic approach that gauges everything at once (and often goes for miles without a meaningful event), the new method breaks things down into individual components you can test frequently and repeatedly in simulations. If you want to gauge the car’s reaction to someone cutting you off, for instance, you just focus on that — you use stat analysis to determine how the car would behave in “boring” moments.

The team’s own experiments also limited their metrics to the likelihoods of crashes, injuries (including severity) and “conflict events.”

Based on estimates, the improvements would be dramatic… to put it mildly. Researchers believe that 1,000 miles under their method could be equivalent to between 300,000 and 100 million miles of real-life driving. You could match Waymo’s yearly driving experience (635,000 miles in 2016) in the space of a day.

Just don’t get too excited. The researchers are aware that they need to account for many, many more situations before this testing method is ready for practical use. How does a self-driving car handle jaywalkers, overloaded trucks or snow-covered streets? And of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see such a massive improvement with every car or every test. If the real results come even vaguely close to this, though, the automotive industry could be in for a shakeup. Read More > at Engadget

After plan to bring retail to BART stations goes bust, lawsuit seeks million dollar damages – A wide-ranging plan to bring dozens of retailers to BART stations throughout the Bay Area has fallen apart, with the transit agency and the company behind the plan each blaming the other in court for its failure.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a 2008 plan pitched by San Francisco housing developer Alexis Wong promised to bring retailers like Ghirardelli Chocolate and Dunkin’ Donuts to 43 BART stops throughout the system, using franchise outlets as the business model.

But BART says Wong’s company, TransMart, failed to meet a deadline to have nine retail stories up and running by last August, which lead the agency to decide to end the contract.

TransMart has now pushed back by suing BART for alleged breach of contract, saying the loss of the deal cost it as much as $95 million. The suit claims BART shrunk the amount of space it would make available for retail and didn’t respond to details quickly enough. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Chipotle: Hackers Dined Out on Most Restaurants – Restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill says customers’ payment card data was stolen by hackers via malware installed at the vast majority of its more than 2,000 restaurant locations.

Chipotle first disclosed April 25 that it was investigating a potential data breach involving card data.

On Friday, Chipotle said it’s completed its investigation, with the help of unnamed incident response firms, law enforcement agencies as well as the payment card networks, and is warning that many customers’ payment card data was compromised.

Chipotle says the point-of-sale malware attack ran from up to March 24 to April 18 – for more than three weeks. “The malware searched for track data (which sometimes has cardholder name in addition to card number, expiration date, and internal verification code) read from the magnetic stripe of a payment card as it was being routed through the POS device,” according to Chipotle’s security alert. “There is no indication that other customer information was affected.”

Officials at the company didn’t immediately respond to questions about the precise scale and scope of the breach, or the security defenses in place at its restaurants.

…The timing of publicly traded Chipotle’s data breach notification appears to have followed a by now well-worn public relations strategy. Namely, businesses with bad news tend to release it on a Friday, after markets have closed, in an attempt to minimize news coverage and capitalize on the fact that fewer people may be following news outlets on Saturday. Releasing such information during a holiday weekend – Monday is Memorial Day in the U.S. – potentially also helps bury the bad news. Read More > from Data Breach Today

When it comes to resurrecting dinosaurs will life find a way? – …In Jurassic Park, scientists create dinosaurs from the blood of insects preserved in amber and then fill any gaps in their DNA sequence with the DNA of a frog. Unfortunately, for anyone wanting to resurrect the dinosaurs, this process is what is known in scientific fields as complete film bullshit.

To de-extinct an animal of any type you need a source of its DNA because DNA is the starting material needed to retrieve an animal’s genome. The genome is the complete set of DNA inside a cell and the full set of instructions for creating an animal. So, for example, if we wanted to create a T. rex, we’d need a copy of the T. rex’s genome, but genomes, and DNA, are very fragile. While we’re alive our DNA is constantly breaking down and getting damaged, but our cells fix that for us so we can get by. But when we die our DNA starts to decay and the long strands of DNA that exist inside our cells get broken down into smaller and smaller fragments until there comes a time when there’s nothing left.

It was the Nobel Prize winning chemist Tomas Lindahl who worked out that DNA has a half-life of 521 years. That means that after roughly 500 years half of all the links in a strand of DNA will be gone, and 500 years after that half again. DNA is a disappearing entity.

“The bad news for dinosaur fans is there comes a point when there’s no DNA left to be found,” says Pilcher. “The oldest DNA that anybody has ever retrieved from a fossil was from a horse pulled out of the permafrost in Northern Canada. The horse was 700,000 years old.

“The theoretical limit for retrieving DNA is probably 1 to 2 million years, so we might find we get DNA from something a little bit older than that horse, but probably not that much older. Dinosaurs, well the things we think of as dinosaurs, T. Rex and Stegosaurus etcetera, went extinct 65 million years ago when a massive asteroid slammed into the Earth, so their DNA is just long gone; full stop.” Read More > at Factor

Moral Outrage in America Is Now for Everybody – Ask Americans about their personal views on moral issues, and they are more likely than ever to hold a liberal position. Ask them about the country’s moral values, and they’re becoming more and more pessimistic.

The church today finds itself in a precarious position, as an ethical shift pushes public opinion in favor of stances that Christians have traditionally sided against. Meanwhile, Americans from all political and theological stripes have their own reasons to be concerned over moral decline.

In a recent poll, Gallup found a widening embrace for more than a dozen moral issues, including record-high acceptance for gay relationships, divorce, pornography, polygamy, and physician-assisted suicide.

…In May, both Gallup and LifeWay Research released polls showing about 4 in 5 Americans are worried about the moral state of the country. This year, 77 percent say the country’s values are getting worse, the highest level since Gallup started tracking this topic 16 years ago. Read More > in Christianity Today

Tom Brady’s agent Don Yee bucks against football system and NCAA with Pacific Pro league – At the NFL Draft, virtually all players selected come from college football programs.

Within two years, that may change.

A disruptive new professional football league, a corporate football factory that will pay players straight out of high school and build them up mentally and physically for an NFL career, is on the verge of launching. And when Pacific Pro Football hits the field next summer, it may not only put NCAA football as we know it on a path to extinction, but also change the face of professional sports forever.

…First, the basics. PPF will consist of four teams to start play next summer, all based in Southern California and all owned by the league. They will play an eight-game season through July and August in mid-sized municipal stadiums, capped by a championship game, all before the NCAA and NFL seasons kick off.

The league hopes to eventually expand to other football hotbeds in Texas, Florida, the Midwest, and perhaps internationally. But that may be years down the line.

Players will earn an average salary of $50,000 for the summer, complete with benefits. They will also be eligible for worker’s compensation packages and lifetime benefits in the event they suffer a career-ending injury, which is just one of several elements Yee wants in place to protect his athletes.

…Players are expected to come from several places: either straight out of high school, from community college, or from established NCAA programs. The only restriction is they must be between 0 and 3 years removed from high school to conform with NFL draft eligibility standards. Read More > in the New York Daily News

Millennial Behavior Is About To Make Fools Of Peak Energy Demand Theorists – …Nearly one-half of America’s total energy consumption is associated with just two things: homes and cars. We’re told that Millennials would rather bike and rideshare than own a car, and that they rather AirBnB or share a tiny urban apartment than buy a suburban house. If true, it’s a big deal not just for energy markets but also retailers and manufacturers; a permanent behavioral shift like that would give credence to the new trope of “peak demand.”

Start with the peak-driving proposition that’s been so eagerly advanced over the past half-dozen years. Here, wishful thinking aside, recent trends are unequivocal. America’s affection for cars is far from over.

Over the past couple of years, the data show travel on America’s roads has been growing at a record pace. By year-end 2016 road travel had hit an all-time high, north of 3.2 trillion vehicle-miles. Gasoline demand has followed apace, also hitting new highs. So much for peak driving.

It’s true that because of the Great Recession driving in the U.S. declined by some by 50 billion vehicle-miles in 2009, and stayed flat for half-dozen years. It was the biggest drop and longest stagnation in road travel in automobile history. But the peak theorists confused the effects of economic deprivation with structural changes in behavior. It turns out that Millennial behavior during the recession—living in the basement rather than driving to work, and biking and sharing rides elsewhere—did not reflect a preferred lifestyle so much as an accommodation to the longest recession and slowest recovery in modern U.S. history.

And Millennials aren’t just driving more now, they’ve started buying cars too. Sales data and surveys show that Millennials exhibit more of a preference for new versus used cars compared to the gen Xers that immediately preceded them, and prefer SUVs and luxury cars rather than econo-boxes and electric vehicles. So much for peak oil demand. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

Antibiotic of last resort, vancomycin, fortified to kill resistant bacteria – Each year, more than 2 million people in the United States get antibiotic-resistant infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 23,000 of them die. Unless breakthroughs are achieved, that toll will keep rising.

If a new version of an antibiotic of last resort lives up to its promise, that date with doom may be averted. A study on this bolstered form of vancomycin by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla was released Monday.

Researchers led by Dale Boger, co-chair of TSRI’s Department of Chemistry, introduced three modifications to vancomycin, all lethal to bacteria and independent of each other. Superbugs need to overcome all three changes to survive, which is extremely unlikely, the study said. Read More > in The San Diego Union Tribune

How Facebook’s tentacles reach further than you think – …He reels off the familiar, but still staggering, numbers: the barely teenage Silicon Valley firm stores some 300 petabytes of data, boasts almost two billion users, and raked in almost $28bn (£22bn) in revenues in 2016 alone.

And yet, Mr Joler argues, we know next to nothing about what goes on under the bonnet – despite the fact that we, as users, are providing most of the fuel – for free.

“All of us, when we are uploading something, when we are tagging people, when we are commenting, we are basically working for Facebook,” he says.

…One map shows how everything – from the links we post on Facebook, to the pages we like, to our online behaviour in many other corners of cyber-space that are owned or interact with the company (Instagram, WhatsApp or sites that merely use your Facebook log-in) – could all be entering a giant algorithmic process.

And that process allows Facebook to target users with terrifying accuracy, with the ability to determine whether they like Korean food, the length of their commute to work, or their baby’s age.

Another map details the permissions many of us willingly give Facebook via its many smartphone apps, including the ability to read all text messages, download files without permission, and access our precise location. Read More > in the BBC

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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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