Sunday Reading – 06/11/17


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.

If you don’t like California’s gas tax increase, you’re not alone – California voters overwhelmingly oppose a recent tax and fee package pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic-dominated Legislature to pay for road repairs, a new poll finds.

The gas tax law, which ushers in a 10-year program to raise more than $52 billion for transportation projects, is so unpopular it could backfire on Democrats in upcoming elections.

Fifty eight percent of voters oppose Senate Bill 1, including 39 percent who say they strongly reject the legislation, according to the survey from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. Only 35 percent favor the law, which raises taxes on gasoline and diesel and hikes vehicle registration fees to fix roads and highways. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Hayward Tweeted an Image of a Taco, and the Phrase ‘Let’s Taco Bout It,’ to Promote Tonight’s Sanctuary-City Discussion – This morning, just hours before Hayward city council’s scheduled discussion of whether or not to become a sanctuary city, the city’s official Twitter account posted an image of a taco and the phrase “Let’s Taco About It” — a Tweet that has activists accusing the city of bigotry.

Luis Reynoso, a member of Hayward’s school board, said the Twitter post shows that city council is “out of control.”

“They have no control over what city staff is doing, when there’s so much bigotry and racism in Hayward,” he told the Express.

For months, Reynoso has been highly critical of city council and its handling of the sanctuary-city issue, accusing officials of dragging their feet. Read More > at East Bay Express

Can you commit manslaughter by sending texts? We’re about to find out – An involuntary manslaughter trial began Tuesday for a Massachusetts woman who as a teen texted her boyfriend and urged him to commit suicide.

The woman, Michelle Carter, faces a maximum 20-year prison term if convicted at a bench trial in Bristol County. Attorneys for Carter, who was 18 at the time of the texts, had tried to fend off the charges, saying her texts to 17-year-old Conrad Roy were protected speech under the First Amendment. The state’s top court, the Supreme Judicial Court, set no line in the sand on when speech loses its constitutional protection. Instead, the court upheld the indictment for involuntary manslaughter on “the basis of words alone.”

Roy, who was found dead about 50 miles south of Boston in a Fairhaven parking lot, took his own life via carbon monoxide fumes inside his truck. The authorities also claim Carter was on the phone with Roy for nearly an hour while he was killing himself.

Some of the text messages entered into evidence show Carter urging the boy, who was battling with depression, to carry out what he had been contemplating. Read More > at ars Technica

Prop. 57: Criminals far and wide love it – The ADDA and prosecutors throughout California have grown hoarse warning about the public safety disaster known as Prop. 57.

But even we didn’t envision that it would actually incentivize crime by luring criminals here from other states. Yet that’s exactly what appears to be happening.

As Torrance police arrested two suspects from Colorado late last month in a vicious home invasion robbery, a private citizen began filming the incident. The citizen asked one of the suspects why he was there. The suspect’s response? “Prop 57.” The inference we must draw is that the thugs came to California to commit their crimes because they counted on lenient punishments under Prop 57 if they were caught.

Prop. 57 will flood our streets with thousands of dangerous criminals released early from prison, a fact that has been made clear as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has begun publishing the release criteria. Inmates are now eligible for parole after serving 50 percent of the sentence for their primary offense – regardless of any enhancements that had been added onto the sentence, and regardless of previous strikes for brutal crimes such as rape and murder. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

An IBM Breakthrough Ensures Silicon Will Keep Shrinking – Today, an IBM-led group of researchers have detailed a breakthrough transistor design, one that will enable processors to continue their Moore’s Law march toward smaller, more affordable iterations. Better still? They achieved it not with carbon nanotubes or some other theoretical solution, but with an inventive new process that actually works, and should scale up to the demands of mass manufacturing within several years.

That should also, conveniently enough, be just in time to power the self-driving cars, on-board artificial intelligence, and 5G sensors that comprise the ambitions of nearly every major tech player today—which was no sure thing.

For decades, the semiconductor industry has obsessed over smallness, and for good reason. The more transistors you can squeeze into a chip, the more speed and power efficiency gains you reap, at lower cost. The famed Moore’s Law is simply the observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, in 1965, that the number of transistors had doubled every year. In 1975, Moore revised that estimate to every two years. While the industry has fallen off of that pace, it still regularly finds ways to shrink.

…“The world’s sitting on this stuff, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars. They’re all highly dependent on more efficient computing power. That only comes from this type of technology,” says Hutcheson. “Without this, we stop.”

Take self-driving cars as a specific example. They may work well enough today, but they also require tens of thousands of dollars worth of chips to function, an impractical added cost for a mainstream product. A 5nm process drives those expenses way down. Think, too, of always-on IoT sensors that will collect constant streams of data in a 5G world. Or more practically, think of smartphones that can last two or three days on a charge rather than one, with roughly the same-sized battery. And that’s before you hit the categories that no one’s even thought of yet. Read More > at Wired

Selling Stuff Is No Longer the Point of Retail Stores – …That’s the future of retail, according to a new breed of startups that have embraced physical stores as places for “brand experiences” rather than mere sales. Consider Outdoor Voices, an athletic apparel brand that has gained a cultlike following among young, primarily female fitness enthusiasts. The company’s four stores are home base for gatherings like “dog jogs,” community yoga, and brunch parties. As CEO Tyler Haney explained at the TechCrunch event, its stores “are not about revenue, but community.”

A statement like that might induce eye rolls from a traditional retail executive. But it’s worth considering in a year when store closings are on pace to break a 20-year record. Macy’s (m, +0.07%), Sears (shld, -0.71%), J.C. Penney (jcp, -4.28%), Staples (spls, +1.09%), and Kmart are all shuttering stores this year. Payless, the Limited Stores, Wet Seal, MC Sports, Gander Mountain, and Rue21 declared bankruptcy in 2017. The retail landscape is so ugly that CEOs are issuing mea culpas about missing the e-commerce wave, as J. Crew’s chief recently did. “If I could go back 10 years, I might have done some things earlier,” Mickey Drexler conceded to the Wall Street Journal.

…In the middle of it all are the upstarts, among them Glossier, Outdoor Voices, Warby Parker, Harry’s, Bonobos, Rent the Runway, Everlane, and Cuyana. They are leveraging newly available real estate to experiment with boutiques, showrooms, and pop-up shops. Using physical spaces to build offline community has another advantage: It’s one place where Amazon doesn’t care to compete. The company’s sensor-packed Amazon Go convenience stores, set to open later this year, won’t even have cashiers. Read More > at Fortune

Driving Stoned: San Diego Scientists Try To Find DUI Limit For Marijuana – On Friday and Saturday nights, according to roadside surveys conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of five drivers has a drug other than alcohol in their system.

The agency says the drug that showed the greatest increase between 2007 and 2014 was marijuana.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says after alcohol, marijuana is the drug most commonly involved in crashes.

Despite this, some argue marijuana does not necessarily make a driver unsafe.

…The study is just getting underway, so it will be some time before any results are announced.

Grant said previous research suggests in modest doses, marijuana does not greatly increase the risk of accidents. But that is not to say he is encouraging people to drive stoned.

…But Scripps Mercy Hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Michael Sise, believes any amount of marijuana makes someone unsafe to drive.

In his decades of experience as a trauma surgeon, Sise has seen too much carnage caused by drug-impaired drivers.

“Basically, buzzed driving is dangerous driving,” he said. “So, arguing over amounts right now is probably not the way to think about it. And I think all of us should be responsible drivers. Bottom line is, if you’re buzzed, from whatever, you should not drive.” Read More > at KPBS

Walmart takes on Amazon’s grocery pickups with automated kiosks – Walmart isn’t letting up in its quest to one-up Amazon whenever possible, especially when it comes to in-person pickups. The retailer is testing a kiosk in Oklahoma City that lets you pick up your online groceries at any time of the day or week. Instead of parking and waiting for a staffer to bring out your food, you enter a pickup code and wait for the kiosk to automatically fetch the order from bins inside. You need to spend at least $30 and order during store hours, but there are no special fees or other limitations. If you can’t fetch your groceries until 3AM on Sunday, you’re fine.

Whether or not you see more kiosks like this in the US will depend on feedback over the next several months. Walmart is already exploring a similar concept in the UK, however, and it’s also experimenting with vending machine-like “Pickup Towers” in five cities across the US (Atlanta, Bentonville, Detroit, Houston and Raleigh) that streamline the process of retrieving non-food orders.

It won’t be shocking if Walmart pushes forward. Amazon just opened its first drive-through grocery store, and it’s already piloting an internet-powered grocery store with no checkout lines. If Walmart doesn’t automate some of the shopping experience, there’s a risk that Amazon will snap up those customers reeled in by the prospect of faster shopping. Read More > at Engadget

DOJ: Almost 60,000 Drug Overdose Deaths in 2016; ‘Largest Annual Increase in American History’ – “For Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses now are the leading cause of death,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told employees of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday.

“On an average day, 90 Americans will die from an opioid-related overdose. About four people will overdose and die while we sit here this morning,” Rosenstein said.

Outlining the “horrifying surge in drug overdoses,” Rosenstein noted that in 2015, more than 52,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses, 33,000 of them from heroin, fentanyl and other opioids.

“The preliminary numbers for 2016 show an increase to almost 60,000 deaths. That will be the largest annual increase in American history,” Rosenstein said. Read More > at CNS News

Self-driving cars should help pay to pave the way for the future – We all know self-driving cars are poised to redefine how people and goods move. Less well-known is how these autonomous vehicles will also upend traditional funding streams for transportation investments.

With all the talk in Washington of a trillion dollar infrastructure package, these transformations demand special consideration.

Up-to-date and well-maintained infrastructure is not only important for all road users, but also essential for successful deployment self-driving cars. A predictable driving environment with well-marked traffic lanes, clear signage and modern traffic signals is needed for the current technology to operate safely. Further, experts predict that autonomous vehicles will perform better if they can communicate with other cars and roadside infrastructure using connected vehicle technology, which can help to avoid collisions and mitigate congestion.

…So what is to be done? While the future of autonomous driving could be detrimental to existing transportation revenue sources, the technology itself provides a unique opportunity for a fair and straightforward fee assessed per mile traveled.

But maintaining, repairing and upgrading existing infrastructure is not cheap. Plus, if companies design autonomous cars to obey traffic laws, they will reduce the millions of dollars that cities and states collect in traffic fines. Smartphone apps in cities such as Washington, D.C., have already reduced revenue from parking violations by a little over $6 million. If self-driving cars are part of shared fleets, then governments could lose even more parking and registration revenues. Read More > in The Hill

Majority in US Still Say Religion Can Answer Most Problems – A slim majority of Americans (55%) say religion can answer all or most of today’s problems. Although this percentage has declined substantially over time, it has been relatively stable over the past year and a half and is up from the all-time low of 51% in May 2015.

The current results are based on Gallup’s May 3-7 Values and Beliefs poll.

In 1957, a time of greater religious commitment in the United States, 82% of Americans said that religion could answer all or most of the day’s problems. As recently as 2002, 66% of U.S. adults expressed the same sentiment. But the measure has declined since then, reaching 51% — the all-time low — in May 2015. However, Americans’ views on religion’s relevance in answering problems have since stabilized in the 53% to 55% range. The broad trend aligns with declines in church attendance and fewer Americans saying they believe in God or a creationist viewpoint.

Meanwhile, the 34% of Americans who today say religion is “largely old-fashioned and out of date” is up from 7% in 1957 and near the all-time high of 35% for this view. The remaining 10% of Americans today have no opinion on whether religion can solve today’s problems. Read More > from Gallup

California regulators weigh whether the state needs more power plants – California energy officials are, for the first time, rethinking plans to build expensive natural gas power plants in the face of an electricity glut and growing use of cleaner and cheaper energy alternatives.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced Tuesday that it has put a hold on a $2.2-billion plan to rebuild several old natural gas power plants while it studies clean energy alternatives to meet electricity demands. And the California Energy Commission may decide as early as Thursday to halt a natural gas project in Ventura County.

The scrutiny comes after a Los Angeles Times investigation found that the state is operating with an oversupply of electricity, driven largely by the construction of gas-fueled generating plants, leading to higher rates. The state’s power plants are on track to be able to produce at least 21% more electricity than needed by 2020, according to the Times report.

Californians are footing a $40-billion annual bill while using less electricity, paying $6.8 billion more than they did in 2008 when power use in the state was at its all-time high. Electricity consumption has since fallen and remained largely flat. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Shoppers are abandoning Searshere’s where they are going instead – The company’s decline has left a multi-billion-dollar market up for grabs, as shoppers abandon its stores and spend their money elsewhere.

Most of these customers are migrating to off-price retailers like Home Goods, Marshalls, TJ Max, and Ross Stores, and to a lesser extent, JCPenney, according to a new analysis by Cowen & Company analyst Oliver Chen.

Home Goods has seen the biggest gains as a result of Sears’ decline over the past two years, followed by Marshalls and TJ Maxx, according to a Cowen survey. Read More > at Business Insider

Irregularities alleged in California Democratic chair race – The losing candidate in the race for California Democratic Party chair said Monday she was cheated out of the party’s top job, throwing fuel on a simmering conflict between the party establishment and many of its activists.

Kimber Ellis has disputed the results of the May 20 election since they were announced but has said little about why she doubted them until releasing a six-page memo outlining her team’s preliminary findings of a review of the ballots.

“Based on the information contained here, the actual vote count is in question,” the memo said. “It is believed that the wrong individual is serving as chair.”

With a message of taking on corporate influence in politics, Ellis rode a wave of enthusiastic support from supporters of Bernie Sanders, nurses and other party activists, many of them new to party politics. She lost the chairmanship by 62 votes to longtime party insider Eric Bauman.

Before Bauman formally took over, outgoing party chair John Burton agreed to let Ellis’ allies review ballots and other records related to the election. Ellis says some of the records were not made available and the review was cut short.

Ellis’ memo alleges that some people who cast ballots were ineligible. She said there were “multiple documented instances” of one person serving as a proxy vote for multiple delegates in violation of party rules. She said “several individuals” who served as proxies did not appear to be registered Democrats and one was not registered to vote in the correct assembly district. Read More > from the Associated Press

When Will Robots Deserve Human Rights? – Films and TV shows like Blade Runner, Humans, and Westworld, where highly advanced robots have no rights, trouble our conscience. They show us that our behaviors are not just harmful to robots—they also demean and diminish us as a species. We like to think we’re better than the characters on the screen, and that when the time comes, we’ll do the right thing, and treat our intelligent machines with a little more dignity and respect.

With each advance in robotics and AI, we’re inching closer to the day when sophisticated machines will match human capacities in every way that’s meaningful—intelligence, awareness, and emotions. Once that happens, we’ll have to decide whether these entities are persons, and if—and when—they should be granted human-equivalent rights, freedoms, and protections.

We talked to ethicists, sociologists, legal experts, neuroscientists, and AI theorists with different views about this complex and challenging idea. It appears that when the time comes, we’re unlikely to come to full agreement. Here are some of these arguments.

Why give AI rights in the first place?

We already attribute moral accountability to robots and project awareness onto them when they look super-realistic. The more intelligent and life-like our machines appear to be, the more we want to believe they’re just like us—even if they’re not. Not yet. Read More > at Gizmodo

Is it time to break up the Giants? – The San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse has been a bastion of stability during the team’s run of three World Series victories and six first- or second-place finishes in the National League West since 2009.

Catcher Buster Posey, the face of the franchise, has grown accustomed to looking around and seeing Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence in the immediate vicinity. Each summer, Posey and the other Giants mainstays take comfort in the knowledge that management will do everything in its power at the trade deadline to upgrade the club’s chances of closing with a rush.

It’s been a long time since “buy, sell or hold” was a topic of debate on chat boards and Bay Area sports talk radio.

The harsh reality of pending change is reflected in the NL West standings this year. The Giants are tied for last in the division with a massive amount of ground to make up to become relevant. The nucleus is aging, the roster has numerous holes, and for the first time in a while, the front office might have to think about sending players packing rather than seeking reinforcements.

…The Giants’ Opening Day payroll of $181.5 million was the fourth-highest in the game, and the roster is filled with contracts that will be difficult to unload. Other than Bumgarner — who will earn a total of $24 million in 2018-19 if the Giants exercise their two club options — there’s not a Chris Sale on the roster who combines age, affordability and performance in such a way that San Francisco can expect to receive a mother lode of young talent in return. Read More > at ESPN

Your Former Sears May Soon Be a Giant Parking Lot for Uber Drivers and Amazon Workers – …Fitch essentially predicts that well-located malls – calculated by their proximity to population density plus the per capita income of that region – will prosper in the future as distribution and pickup centers for e-commerce retailers like Amazon (AMZN) , the giant online corporation which saw its stock hit a record $1,000 a share on Tuesday, rather than shopping destinations.

And, with excess parking facilities, Fitch said some mall real estate investment trusts, REITs, are already considering how they will transform the space into hubs for Uber drivers and self-driving cars to carry out the delivery services.

With anchor stores such as Macy’s (M) , J.C. Penney (JCP) , and Sears continuing to close stores in droves, and leaving mall owners struggling to drive foot traffic, it’s hard not to imagine Fitch’s prediction coming true very soon. Read More > at The Street

Study shows networks are losing viewers to their cell phones – TVs are quickly becoming viewers’ second screen — a phenomenon made crystal-clear as networks aired their season finales last month.

The live ratings for the shows — across all networks tumbled 30 and 40 percent from a year ago as viewers more and more turned to their mobile devices for entertainment.

The the result are coming at a very inopportune time: as networks begin to talk their book to Madison Avenue, which is about to place some $70 billion in TV ad commitments.

Only six of 61 returning network show finale episodes saw an uptick in ratings versus the prior year, according to Nielsen numbers for live plus same-day TV viewing in the 18-to-49-year-old category.

Everywhere else, it can only be described as a bloodbath. Read More > in the New York Post

New Poll Shows What College Students Really Think About Safe Spaces – A majority of students do not actively endorse safe spaces on campuses, according to a recently released study.

Sixty-two percent of students did not agree with or felt indifferent to safe spaces, according to a poll of 1,659 current college students taken by LendEDU, a student loan consolidation and refinancing organization. Of those surveyed, 37 percent agreed that safe spaces “are completely out of touch with reality” and 25 percent said they were indifferent. Thirty-six percent said they felt safe spaces are “absolutely necessary.”

This poll was conducted from May 5 to May 11 through the polling company Whatsgoodly. The poll asked students to respond to the question, “Do you agree with college campuses establishing safe spaces?” Read More > at The Daily Signal

Trump Proposes Major Overhaul of Outdated U.S. Air Traffic Control System – President Trump, in a speech Monday, promised to replace the current government-owned and operated air traffic control system with a private “self-financing, non-profit organization” relying on user fees, not taxes, to fund itself.

The idea is not new. Canada, the U.K. and Germany are among the roughly 50 countries that privatized air traffic control.

…As a 2016 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report found, the FAA has done a pretty terrible job managing and modernizing a system upon which some two million air travelers every day rely.

Despite repeated attempts by Congress to reform the FAA’s management, personnel, and organizational practices, its “costs continue to rise while operational productivity has declined,” the report concluded.

The FAA’s budget had increased 95 percent, from $8.1 billion to $15.9 billion from 1996 to 2012 while maintaining the same number of air traffic control facilities. Personnel costs also doubled from $3.7 billion to $7.3 billion over the same time period while the number of overall FAA personnel declined by four percent.

…This and organizational culture “resistant to change” produced spiralling costs and the sandbagging of many the tech modernization efforts the agency undertook. Of the fifteen major FAA systems upgrades examined in the report, eight were both behind schedule and over budget, costing taxpayers $3.8 billion in cost overruns, and delaying the average project by more than four years.

These results are in stark contrast to the performance of other nations’ far more commercialized air traffic control systems which Poole says have seen “safety either improved or remained the same; that costs were reduced and efficiency increased, and that investments were made in new technology. ” Read More > at Reason

Why Aren’t American Teenagers Working Anymore? – …Why aren’t teens working? Lots of theories have been offered: They’re being crowded out of the workforce by older Americans, now working past 65 at the highest rates in more than 50 years. Immigrants are competing with teens for jobs; a 2012 study found that less educated immigrants affected employment for U.S. native-born teenagers far more than for native-born adults. Parents are pushing kids to volunteer and sign up for extracurricular activities instead of working, to impress college admission counselors. College-bound teens aren’t looking for work because the money doesn’t go as far as it used to. “Teen earnings are low and pay little toward the costs of college,” the BLS noted this year. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Elite private universities charge tuition of more than $50,000.

Or maybe, as cranky old people have asserted for generations, teenagers are just getting lazy.

A recent BLS analysis offers another theory, backed up by solid data. It appears that millions of teenagers aren’t working because they’re studying instead.

Over the last few decades, education has taken up more and more of teenagers’ time, as school districts lengthen both the school day and the academic year. During the school year, academic loads have gotten heavier. Education is also eating up teenagers’ summers. Teens aren’t going to summer school just because they failed a class and need to catch up. They’re also enrolling in enrichment courses and taking courses for college credit.

In July of last year, more than two in five 16- to 19-year-olds were enrolled in school. That’s four times times as many as were enrolled in 1985, BLS data show. Read More > at Bloomberg

Public Administrators See Financial Crisis Ahead for California Municipalities – A relatively small but growing number of public finance experts and administrators are projecting an impending financial crisis for California municipalities—which will become particularly acute when the next recession hits.

The Los Angeles Times, East Bay Times and Sacramento Bee and many other California newspapers have recently run a series of stories documenting concerns voiced by an increasing number of elected officials, public administrators and other experts regarding the impending fiscal crisis that California municipalities face as a result of skyrocketing public pension costs.

Acting Modesto City Manager Joe Lopez recently delivered a sobering assessment about the City of Modesto’s rising pension costs, telling the Modesto City Council that the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) is not sustainable in its current form, according to a Modesto Bee report.

The City of Modesto projects that within eight years it will pay nearly 72 cents in pension costs for every $1 in salary. “For every one police office,” Lopez said, “three-quarters of the next police officer is a pension payment. That is a very scary place to be,” Lopez said, according to the Modesto Bee report. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Did the California Assembly break transparency laws? – The California Assembly is being accused of violating a transparency law by voting on 95 bills without making them public three days in advance.

The Assembly, rushing to make a Friday deadline to pass legislation out of that house, breached a constitutional amendment passed by voters last fall, said Sam Blakeslee, a former state Republican lawmaker who co-sponsored Proposition 54.

Ninety-five bills were amended fewer than three days earlier, the Sacramento Bee reported. One measure would repeal a law making it a crime to use fake documents to conceal citizenship status. Another would prohibit the state from contracting with private prisons out of state.

Proposition 54 states that except in emergency cases, a bill with any amendments must be published online “in its final form” at least 72 hours before a vote or it cannot be passed.

However, the measure doesn’t define “final form.” Read More > at KPCC

Toyota’s flying car project takes a tentative test flight – Toyota is working on developing flying cars, with the aim of having a single driver vehicle ready to fly in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The idea is that a small flying car will be able to smoothly transition from driving to the skies, in order to delivery the Olympic torch for its last leg to officially open the games.

The project isn’t yet ready to dazzle the world, as you can see in the Associated Press video above. This early prototype of the car is basically structural scaffolding, batteries and rotors, but it does manage to get about head height before ungracefully returning to earth.

The flying car is being created in partnership with Cartivator Resource Management, a small tech company that Toyota invested nearly $400,000 in to help bring this project to life. This test flight took place at a school field in central Japan, near Toyota’s own home base.

Toyota has been exploring a range of new tech and transportation options, including luxury yachts under its Lexus brand. The company is also re-imagining itself as an energy concern — though it just ended a partnership with Tesla it had entered into to co-develop electric vehicle technologies last week.

Next steps for the flying car project include refining the design using the new money invested by Toyota, and hoping to fly with a pilot on board sometime in 2019, ahead of the intended launch of a fully functional vehicle in time for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic games. Read More > at Tech Crunch

NOAA Predicts Fewer Storms in 2017, Still 6.9M Homes at Risk, Rebuilding Could Exceed $1.5 Trillion – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts the 2017 hurricane season will see fewer storms than both 2016 and the 30-year average. Yet, nearly 6.9 million homes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at potential risk of damage from hurricane storm surge inundation, with a total reconstruction cost value (RCV) of more than $1.5 trillion, according to CoreLogic’s 2017 Storm Surge Report.

CoreLogic’s Dr. Tom Jeffery said, “Despite the fact that this year’s hurricane season is predicted to have fewer storms than last year, it doesn’t mitigate the risk of storm surge damage.”

Risk was examined along the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines across 19 states and the District of Columbia, as well as for 86 metro areas.

Where’s Most At-Risk Homes?

  • Atlantic Coast 3.9 million at-risk homes (RCV of $970 billion)
  • Gulf Coast nearly 3 million (RCV of $593 billion)
  • Florida nearly 2.8 million
  • Louisiana 808,000
  • Texas 536,000
  • New Jersey nearly 470,000

Read More > at Connect

12 Possible Reasons We Haven’t Found Aliens – In 1950, a learned lunchtime conversation set the stage for decades of astronomical exploration. Physicist Enrico Fermi submitted to his colleagues around the table a couple contentions, summarized as 1) The galaxy is very old and very large, with hundreds of billions of stars and likely even more habitable planets. 2) That means there should be more than enough time for advanced civilizations to develop and flourish across the galaxy.

So where the heck are they?

This simple, yet powerful argument became known as the Fermi Paradox, and it still boggles many sage minds today. Aliens should be common, yet there is no convincing evidence that they exist.

Here are twelve possible reasons why this is so.

4. Intelligent life self-destructs. Whether via weapons of mass destruction, planetary pollution, or manufactured virulent disease, it may be the nature of intelligent species to commit suicide, existing for only a short time before winking out of existence.

5. The universe is a deadly place. On cosmic timescales – think billions of years – life may be fleeting. All it takes is a single asteroid, supernova, gamma ray burst, or solar flare to render a life-harboring planet lifeless.

6. Space is big. The Milky Way alone is 100,000 light years across, so it’s conceivable that the focused signals of intelligent aliens, which are limited to the speed of light, simply haven’t reached us yet. Read More > at Real Clear Science

California’s 2018 governor’s race is going to be big. Find out who’s in and what’s next – At a time when California is the epicenter of the liberal resistance to President Trump, Democratic politicians looking to lead the state’s 39 million residents are laying the groundwork for what could shape up to be the most contentious gubernatorial contest in the state in nearly a decade.

Voters won’t cast ballots until 2018, but candidates are already raising millions of dollars, and courting donors, key political leaders and activists as they chart their paths for a shot at leading the state that boasts the sixth largest economy in the world.

The state’s next governor will also have to grapple with an enormous set of challenges: dealing with a large population of residents in the U.S. illegally in the face of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, fixing the state’s crumbling infrastructure, managing a state budget that is vulnerable to wild gyrations because of its dependence on taxing the incomes of top earners, balancing the cities’ and the farms’ thirst for water, and many others.

Democrats are dominating the race to-date, no surprise given their 19-point edge in voter registration, supermajorities in both houses of the state Legislature and the fact they have held every statewide elected office since 2011.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are a direct contrast in style to the termed-out governor they hope to replace: philosophical, Latin-quoting Jerry Brown. Both are larger-than-life personalities who built their careers, in part, on their personal charisma. The pair, along with state Treasurer John Chiang, are predicating their candidacies on building upon the economic stability Brown forged in the aftermath of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Although the candidates running to replace Brown are ideologically similar, their backgrounds and experiences will shape their campaigns. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

75% of black California boys don’t meet state reading standards – Across ethnicities and economic status, girls outperform boys on English in standardized tests

Three of four African-American boys in California classrooms failed to meet reading and writing standards on the most recent round of testing, according to data obtained from the state Department of Education and analyzed by CALmatters.

More than half of black boys scored in the lowest category on the English portion of the test, trailing their female counterparts. The disparity reflects a stubbornly persistent gender gap in reading and writing scores that stretches across ethnic groups.

The data provide a unique glimpse of how gender interacts with race and class in mastery of basic reading, writing and listening skills tested on state exams. While California publishes separate figures on the performance of various ethnic and economic groups, it does not make public a more detailed breakdown of how boys and girls are performing within those groups. State officials say they do not sort the data that way because of complexity, cost and time constraints. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News

Will The Rock Be Their Fortress, Their Deliverer? – For normal people, the Trump administration is still in its settling-in, getting-to-know-you phase. For paid political obsessives, however, it’s high time to start freaking out about the next batch of presidential prospects. Which is why, as a veteran Washington journalist, I spent my birthday last weekend investigating one of the 2020 field’s early buzz generators: My kids and I hit the local cineplex to see the new Baywatch, starring pro-wrestler-turned-actor-turned-possible-White-House-dark-horse Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Do not laugh. Not about Baywatch—what’s more magical than cameos by David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson?—and certainly not about The Rock. Since last summer, the preternaturally charismatic Johnson has been musing aloud about maybe, someday running for high office. When he revived the idea in a cheeky GQ piece last month (“Dwayne Johnson for President!”), approving chatter broke out across the ideological spectrum, from lefty Michael Moore to the righties at National Review.

And that’s without anyone even knowing where Johnson stands on the political spectrum. (He is a registered Republican who has been gently critical of Trump and has attended both parties’ nominating conventions, yet steers clear of hard-edged politicking.) “He’s a culturally unifying figure with a message of gratitude and hard work that also happens to be culturally edifying,” declared National Review’s cover story/mash-note. “The Rock is the right celebrity for our polarized time. The politics can wait.”

Just a few months ago, most Washington establishment types would have sneered at the notion of a political naif running for president on little more than box-office juice, huge pecs, and a dazzling smile. But that was before a real-estate heir turned reality-TV star won the Oval Office with zero political experience, even less interest in policy, and no ideological moorings. Read More > in The Atlantic

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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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