Sunday Reading – 06/18/17


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.

Why Amazon is buying Whole Foods – …There are a couple of strategic plays at work for the online retail giant.

For starters, acquiring Whole Foods’ 440 US stores — many of them in prime locations — could bolster the network for AmazonFresh, the company’s grocery delivery service.

“To ship efficiently groceries to consumers, you need physical distribution (item-picking to put parcels together, click-and-collect points) close to the consumer,” analysts at Bernstein wrote in a research note. “Stores are ideally located for that. They won’t look like stores in five years’ time, but they will be in those locations.”

AmazonFresh’s rollout has gone slower than expected, according to analysts at Credit Suisse.

The move also makes a lot of sense, given the weapon Amazon unveiled in March: AmazonFresh Pickup.

The service allows customers to order groceries online, then set a time for pickup as soon as 15 minutes after. So far, there are only two locations, both in Seattle, but AmazonFresh Pickup could scale rapidly after Friday’s deal. Read More > at Business Insider

Teen Found Guilty of Manslaughter for Texting Suicidal Boyfriend – On the night of July 12, 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy III killed himself by inhaling carbon monoxide in a Kmart parking lot in Fairhaven, Kansas. His 17-year-old girlfriend, Michelle Carter, was hundreds of miles away in Plainville, Massachusetts. Yet today Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Roy’s death. She faces up to 20 years in prison.

Why? Because Carter had repeatedly texted Roy prior to his death, “you just need to do it.” Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz declared this illegal, even though there is no law in Massachusetts against encouraging suicide.

This was a bench trial, so the judge rather than a jury determined the verdict. His ruling threatens the very core of how our legal system approaches speech

The law has traditionally treated some sorts of speech, such as defamation, as a type of nonviolent harm. And in some crimes, such as incitement or conspiracy, the law says speech can be a proximate cause of violence. But this ruling treats speech itself as a form of literal violence—as the immediate cause of death. As the American Civil Liberties Union put it in a statement, the prosecution’s theory is that Carter “literally killed Mr. Roy with her words. This conviction exceeds the limits of our criminal laws and violates free speech protections guaranteed by the Massachusetts and U.S. Constitutions.”

…Whatever her motives or her poor choices, the important legal question is whether her words actually caused Roy’s death. And it was carbon monoxide poisoning that killed Conrad Roy, not Michelle Carter’s messages.

Carter’s punishment does not fit the crime. Involuntary manslaughter is a conviction for a negligent surgeon, for an abusive husband who unintentionally kills his spouse, for a drunk driver who accidentally runs someone down. A reckless text is not a reckless, swerving car. Words are not literal weapons, and the moral turpitude of Carter’s comments does not change that. Read More > at Reason

Here’s how $183 billion in taxpayer dollars will be spent in California’s new budget – California lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a $183.2-billion state budget, a plan that broadly boosts government spending while also continuing the recent effort to build up cash reserves.

Both houses of the Legislature ratified the spending blueprint after completing negotiations earlier in the week with Gov. Jerry Brown. While most of the budget was put in place during Thursday’s lengthy floor sessions in the state Senate and Assembly, a handful of related bills won’t be considered until later.

Brown is expected to sign the plan into law before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

Here’s a look at some of the most important changes to California government services and programs in the coming 12 months.

One-third of the budget goes to public schools

The budget allocates $74.5 billion to K-12 schools and community colleges, a mix of state revenue and property taxes. That’s $3.2 billion more than the final tally of funds for the current year. The budget spends more than $11,000, on average, for each student — a figure that’s grown by about a third since 2011

California’s largest government program is healthcare

While schools get the largest slice of California tax dollars, the combination of federal and state funds makes healthcare the single biggest function of state government — with a total price tag of $105.6 billion in the budget approved by the Legislature. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Envisioning the Car of the Future as a Living Room on Wheels – Swiveling seats? Movies projected across the windshield? Social media feeds on the windows? As driverless car technology develops, companies, design institutes and researchers are asking the question: What does the car of the future look like on the inside?

With companies like Google, Uber and others racing ahead to develop fully autonomous vehicles, the era of the driver hunched over the steering wheel may eventually give way to a living room on wheels. But with its long development lead times, designers are already thinking about how such technology will change the interiors of cars.

“When people are in an autonomous vehicle, their expectations will shift,” said Hakan Kostepen, executive director for strategy and innovation at Panasonic’s automotive systems unit, a major industry supplier. “They will want their personal space to become one of smart mobility, connecting them and relevant information to act upon.”

When cars are fully autonomous, how we sit, inform and entertain ourselves will be up for grabs. If steering wheels are no longer needed, how do we best configure seating positions? What should be done with the space now occupied by a dashboard, once a vehicle handles all driving tasks and even decides when it needs to be serviced? Read More > in The New York Times

Democrats pass new recall rules, Republicans cry foul – Democratic lawmakers voted Thursday to change the rules governing recall elections in an effort to save one of their own members, despite protests by Republicans that the move amounts to “blatant electioneering.”

The changes would give people time to rescind their signatures from recall positions and let lawmakers weigh in on potential costs of holding a recall election. It could delay recall election efforts by more than two months.

Democratic Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton is facing a recall effort over his vote to increase the gasoline tax earlier this year. Democrats charge the backers of the recall are misleading voters to believe the recall will repeal the tax increase. If Newman is successfully recalled, Democrats will lose their Senate supermajority. – Read More > from the Associated Press

Could Illinois be the first state to file for bankruptcy? – Illinois residents may feel some solidarity with the likes of Puerto Rico and Detroit.

A financial crunch is spiraling into a serious problem for Illinois lawmakers, prompting some observers to wonder if the state might make history by becoming the first to go bankrupt. At the moment, it’s impossible for a state to file for bankruptcy protection, which is only afforded to counties and municipalities like Detroit.

Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection could be extended to states if Congress took up the issue, although Stanford Law School professor Michael McConnell noted in an article last year that he believed the precedents are iffy for extending the option to states. Nevertheless, Illinois is in a serious financial pickle, which is why radical options such as bankruptcy are being floated as potential solutions.

Ratings agency Moody’s Investor Service earlier this month downgraded Illinois’ general obligation bonds to its lowest investment grade rating, citing the state’s growing pile of unpaid bills and its mounting pension deficit. Illinois, by the way, has the lowest credit rating of any state. Lower ratings mean higher borrowing costs, since lenders view such borrowers as riskier bets. Read More > at CBS News

A Self-Driving Grocery Store With No Human Workers Is Open in Shanghai – A self-driving supermarket without any human staff has opened its doors in Shanghai. There are no lines at Moby, and it can drive itself to a warehouse whenever it’s out of stock.

The entire experience of Moby is meant to feel like futuristic shopping, down to the hologram greeter. You need to download an app to even get in the door—it only opens on phone recognition. You place your items in a “smart basket,” and when you leave, you just walk out the door. The building scans what you’ve bought and charges your account accordingly. With solar panels on the roof, it recharges itself.

The 24-hour market is the brainchild of the Swedish company Wheelys, which developed the store alongside China’s Hefei University and Himalayafy, an offshoot of Wheelys focused on Moby-specific tech. Although the whole thing might sound dehumanizing, Wheelys comes from a very human reaction to financial collapse in rural areas across the globe. Read More > in Popular Mechanics

Apple finally joined the self-driving car race. Here’s a look at the road ahead. – Tim Cook finally acknowledged one of the most poorly kept secrets in the tech industry: Apple is working to develop self-driving car technology.

Self-driving car development is one of the hottest trends in both the automotive and tech industries. The biggest companies in the world are busy launching projects, announcing partnerships, and spending massive amounts of money to develop the first viable autonomous platform. Apple was one of the last major names without any public skin in the game, so its official entry, no matter how ambiguous, is a big deal.

At first glance, its seems like Apple’s roadmap to self-driving development appears to be strikingly similar to that of one of its chief rivals: Google.

Google’s project, which has evolved into the standalone company Waymo, began with designs to create a self-driving vehicle from the ground up before pivoting to focus on developing a software and hardware package which could be marketed to automakers instead. If Apple has actually scrapped its ambitions to build a car, it could be moving in the same direction.

…Instead, Ramsey thinks that Apple’s automotive project will end up back where it started: making a car. “On a fundamental level, Apple’s design-oriented model lends itself more to building an Apple Car, rather than the AI around it,” he said. Read More > at Mashable

The McGregor-Mayweather Fight Will Be Dumb As Dogs–t – After what feels like years of chest-puffing and across-the-aisle shit talking, Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather have finally agreed to fight each other for what will undoubtedly be a huge pile of money. The fight will take place in Las Vegas on August 26. It will be a 12-round bout at 154 pounds, and dumb as hell.

On paper, the matchup might seem intriguing: Mayweather has home-field advantage, but is 40 years old and has technically been retired for almost two years, while the 28-year-old McGregor has a two-inch reach advantage and a track record of flattening the jaws and ambitions of many a UFC featherweight and lightweight with his meaty left hand. He is one of the best fighters in the UFC and he’s made his name by punching the snot out of people, a skill that would seem to translate to boxing fairly easily. Boxing and MMA are close enough that his age and vigor could help close gap with Floyd, right?

No, of course not! McGregor may be one of the better boxers in MMA, but that means little for his prospects in a fight with an actual boxer, let alone an all-time great. He’s never fought anyone remotely approaching Mayweather’s level, and barely made it out of a boxing match with Nate Diaz. (The Stocktonian is a hero and a fine boxer, but McGregor turned the tide in their rematch with an avalanche of leg kicks more than anything.)

…This publicity stunt of a fight will, naturally, make both men very rich, and if McGregor makes the December return to the Octagon he is projected to (that is, if he is motivated to fight someone like Tony Ferguson for a mere seven figures after carrying what will be a record-shattering PPV event), he will do so for a shitload of money. He seems to believe he has a genuine chance at winning. As much as it would rule to see the UFC’s loudmouthed fight king knock Mayweather on his ass, he will not win. He’s fighting on Mayweather’s turf, to lock down a career payday. The fight will be a spectacle—a uniquely dumb one that will serve its purpose, which is to make a shitload of money. The sports qua sports of it are ancillary. That was never the point. Read More . at Deadspin

Five Reasons To Wear The Same Thing Every Day – A few years ago, I began to intentionally wear the same outfit every day—a dark grey T-shirt and khaki pants. At first, I tried it just as a one week experiment. I wanted to see what people would say and how I’d reflect on this experience.

…Whether you’re thinking about minimizing your wardrobe, adopting a life uniform, or simply wanting to consume less, here are five reasons why you should try this one-week experiment:

1. Reduce decision fatigue.

We cannot escape decisions. Even in our dreams, we’re thinking about what to do next. Every option drains us. Decisions with larger consequences take more of our energy, too. When tired, people make more short-term, instant-gratification decisions. Conspicuous consumption becomes more common amidst this fatigue. While it might seem small, adopting a more universal, uniform outfit might provide you greater decision-making power for the day.

2. Recognize what looks good on you, repeat.

Since I’ve adopted a minimalist lifestyle, I have looked for basics that work across situations. My most frequent outfit these days tends to be a nice-fitting black T-shirt and casual khaki pants. By wearing one thing for a week, I was tested. Would I get bored? Did this really look good on me? Interestingly, I recognized what clothes were most important to me. Finding your “look” can take time, but realizing what you feel confident and comfortable in is empowering.

3. Minimize your wardrobe.

Minimalism is about focusing on what matters most, while ridding the rest. It quickly applies across situations; especially, for clothing. Over the years, I’ve actively applied this philosophy avoided replacing items. Slowly, I’ve centered on my most important items. My closet is smaller and neater than ever before. And when I look for something to wear, I effortlessly see my favorites. Read More > at Forbes

What the latest Fed rate hike means for mortgage rates – …“This move by the Fed to increase short-term rates was expected, and we expect to see another increase from them before the end of the year,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist for Freddie Mac. He notes that 30-year fixed mortgage rates are still close to a seven-month low, “which is very good news for those potential homebuyers in the market and even those who may be looking to refinance.”

However, Freddie Mac expects mortgage rates to “start rising slowly as the year progresses, yet still remaining right around 4%,” Becketti adds.

Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic, says, “Fixed-rate mortgage rates are likely to gradually edge higher over the next six to 12 months. Rates are likely to rise to 4.25% to 4.50% by the end of 2017.”

Fratantoni also expects 30-year rates to be near 4.5% by the end of the year — and above 5% by the end of 2018. Read More > in USA Today

Bay Area inflation soars, worst since 2001 – Bay Area consumer prices soared in April, triggering the worst bout of inflation since 2001, the year of the dot-com collapse and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to a government report issued Wednesday.

What are the culprits behind the rise in inflation? Prices have skyrocketed for natural gas and electricity service, and for gasoline.

PG&E is the primary provider of natural gas and electricity services for residential customers in the Bay Area.

Housing costs also were a factor. The cost of renting jumped 6.2 percent, while the cost of owning a home rose 6.5 percent. Read More > in the Mercury News

Snowbound California roads still getting a major plow job – There may be no more potent reminder of California’s humongous snowfall than the plows still clearing roads that snake across the state’s highest mountains as summer approaches.

Crews have been digging, blowing and blasting for months — and the work is not finished, though an approaching heat wave could speed up the process.

“We’re almost at the middle of June and we still have lots of passes that aren’t open,” said Florene Trainor, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation.

The only road through Yosemite, Highway 120, remained closed this week as crews dig out from snows that topped 20 feet and drifted well over 50 feet.

On a recent day, the park’s entrance station at 9,945-foot high Tioga Pass was buried in snow. Read More > at SF Gate

California Lawmakers Seek to Subvert Government Transparency – California voters in November overwhelmingly passed Proposition 54, a constitutional amendment to promote transparency by requiring all bills in their “final form” to be published online for 72 hours before legislators vote on them. It’s designed to stop last-minute gut-and-amend bills where the leadership pushes through substantive measures that haven’t been vetted—or even read by most members who vote on them.

It’s no secret that many legislative leaders dislike the proposal. For years, reform-minded lawmakers have proposed similar measures—but they never made it before the voters. Opponents of the rule say they are all for transparency, but that requiring such a long period of time for the public and critics to review all bills makes it difficult to get complicated and important measures put together as the legislative deadline approaches.

One would think that Prop. 54’s passage would have settled the argument, but a fracas last week in the Assembly suggests that core debates over the measure are far from settled and might soon find themselves hammered out in court.

The Legislature adjourned June 2 following the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin. Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), assured that bills coming from the Senate waited 72 hours before a final vote. But Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), is accused by Proposition 54’s backers of allowing at least 89 bills to be voted on without having been published for a full 72 hours before the vote.

There’s a question over terminology in the proposition’s language: “No bill may be passed or ultimately become a statute unless the bill with any amendments has been printed, distributed to the members, and published on the internet, in its final form, for at least 72 hours before the vote, except that this notice period may be waived if the governor has submitted to the Legislature a written statement that dispensing with this notice period for that bill is necessary to address a state of emergency … .” The issue involves the term “final form.”

The initiative’s proponents say final form means the final form before a vote in each house of the Legislature. But the Assembly argues that final form “does not pertain to a vote to move a bill to the opposite house and instead applies to legislation presented on the floor of the second house,” according to a Sacramento Bee explanation. Read More > at Reason

TV Cord Cutting Poised To Smash Records During Second Quarter – So we’ve already noted that with the rise of streaming video competition, more people cut the TV cord last year than any other time in history. MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett has noted that 2016’s 1.7% decline in traditional cable TV viewers was the biggest cord cutting acceleration on record. SNL Kagan agrees, noting that traditional pay TV providers lost around 1.9 million traditional cable subscribers. That was notably worse than the 1.1 million net subscriber loss seen last year. And once you factor in the fact that people are buying and moving to new homes without signing up for cable, the full numbers are actually worse.

And things are only going to accelerate as companies like Dish (Sling TV), Sony (Playstation Vue), Google (YouTube TV), Amazon and others flood the market with cheaper, more flexible, streaming alternatives.

Pay TV providers already lost roughly 789,000 subscribers this year. Wall Street analysts expect the second quarter to see more than 1 million subscriber defections away from cable. The second quarter is already historically the worst of the year for cord cutting, as college students cancel school service and pad the defections. Read More > at Tech Dirt

Explosion in Tattooing, Piercing Tests State Regulators – …Nearly four in 10 people born after 1980 have a tattoo and one in four have a piercing some place other than an earlobe, the Pew Research Center has reported. (The Pew Charitable Trusts funds both the center and Stateline.)

Besides tattoos and pierced navels, today’s self-expression through body art may include branding, scarification (scratching, etching or cutting to produce a design in the skin), or subdermal implants (placing objects under the skin for ornamentation).

Nearly every state has some type of body art law, but laws vary widely. Most states do agree on one thing: age limits. At least 45 states prohibit minors from getting tattoos, and 38 states prohibit body piercing and tattooing minors without parental permission, according to NCSL.

In the last four years, states have considered 167 bills on body art and tattooing, and 33 have become law, Farquhar said.

…The sharp increase in hepatitis C cases in the last few years has intensified states’ concern about sterile and sanitized needles and equipment and associated health and safety training.

The number of new hepatitis C infections in the United States tripled between 2010 and 2015, to more than 2,400, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last month. The CDC blames the increase on the rise of injection drug use associated with the opioid epidemic and says major research studies have not shown hepatitis C to be spread through licensed, commercial tattooing facilities. Read More > at Route Fifty

Mortgage Delinquencies Drop to a 10-Year Low – CoreLogic’s Loan Performance Insights Report shows that, in California, 2.7% of home mortgages were in some stage of delinquency (30 days or more past due, including those in foreclosure) in March 2017. That figure represents a 0.6 percentage point decline in the overall delinquency rate compared with March 2016 when it was 3.3%.

California’s foreclosure inventory rate, which measures the share of mortgages in some stage of the foreclosure process, was 0.3% in March 2017 compared with 0.4% in March 2016. The serious delinquency rate, 90 days or more past due, including loans in foreclosure, was 1.0%, down from 1.4% in March 2016.

Overall delinquency rates have also improved across the U.S., falling to 4.4% in March from 5.2% the year before. Read More > at Connect Media

How NBA star Stephen Curry deals with making millions less than other top players – The Golden State Warriors got a real deal on one of the NBA’s best players.

Stephen Curry took home another championship win on Monday night when the Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers to clinch the 2017 NBA Finals. The victory marks Curry’s second championship with his team in the past three years. But though he’s one of the sport’s top athletes, he’s not even close to being its highest-paid.

Curry earned a $12.1 million salary for the 2016-2017 season, rounding out a four-year contract for $44 million he signed in 2012. That makes him the 82nd highest-paid player in the NBA, Business Insider reports, well behind LeBron James’ $30.9 million and teammate Kevin Durant’s $26.5 million for the season.

But Curry doesn’t dwell on the fact that he’s pulling in less than his peers. Instead, he focuses on advice his father, former NBA player Dell Curry, once gave him: Don’t worry about how much other people have.

“One thing my pops always told me is you never count another man’s money,” Curry says in an interview with Tim Kawakami of The Mercury News. “It’s what you’ve got and how you take care of it. And if I’m complaining about $44 million over four years, then I’ve got other issues in my life.” Read More > at CNBC

DA: East Bay buffet owners stole $6.5 million, forced workers to live in racially segregated dorms– While they were offering the public all-you-can-eat deals on pot stickers, sesame balls and egg rolls, the owners of a Bay Area Chinese restaurant chain were allegedly hiding a sinister secret.

Behind closed doors, according to authorities, the former owners and managers of Golden Dragon Buffet in Brentwood, New Dragon Buffet in San Leandro, Golden Wok Buffet in Roseville and Kokyo Sushi Buffet in Hayward were saving money by failing to pay their workers minimum wage. State investigators estimate they committed $4.5 million in wage theft from 2009-2013, and cheated California out of another $2 million in taxes.

In December, a Contra Costa grand jury indicted eight of Golden Dragon’s owners and managers — Brandon Quang, Yu Chen, Rongdi Zheng, Guo Cai Feng, Feng Gu, Lin Jiang, Zhou Xian Chen and Shao Rong Zhang — on 28 charges, including conspiracy, wage theft and workers compensation fraud. That same month, authorities raided four locations connected to the buffet chain, but Quang avoided arrest and fled the country. So did Feng and Jiang. All three are believed to be in China. Read More > in the East Bay Times

Oil Falls as U.S. Stockpiles Rise and IEA Sees 2018 Supply Surge – Oil fell as the International Energy Agency said new production from OPEC’s rivals will be more than enough to meet growth in demand next year, countering the oil group’s efforts to reduce supplies by cutting its own output.

Industry data showing U.S. crude stockpiles increased last week added to concerns about the glut continuing, pushing futures down as much as 1.6 percent in New York. The American Petroleum Institute signaled U.S. inventories probably climbed a second week, ahead of data from the Energy Information Administration which is forecast to show a decline.

New supplies from OPEC’s competitors will exceed growth in demand next year, the IEA said in a report Wednesday. The dollar weakened, leading oil to pare losses from the lows of the day. Read More > in Bloomberg

Senators unveil road map for self-driving car legislation – A bipartisan trio of U.S. senators said on Tuesday they planned to introduce legislation to remove regulatory roadblocks to the introduction of self-driving cars, including sorting out conflicts between state and federal rules.

Republican Senator John Thune, who chairs the Commerce Committee, Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the panel, and Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, said in a joint statement that existing federal vehicle regulations written over recent decades did not account for self-driving cars without a human driver behind the wheel.

Thune said the senators hoped to reach agreement based on “prioritizing safety, fixing outdated rules, and clarifying the role of federal and state governments.”

Federal auto regulations pose significant legal hurdles that must be cleared before fully self-driving cars can be sold without steering wheels and gas pedals, a government report said last year.

The Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on self-driving cars on Wednesday. Mitch Bainwol, head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an auto trade group, will tell the panel that Congress should work to eliminate state or local laws that could “unduly burden or restrict the use of self-driving vehicles in the future.” Read More > at Reuters

Can We Blame the Mafia on Lemons? – When Gaspare Galati took over management of the Fondo Riella in 1872, he knew he was in for a headache. The ten-acre lemon and tangerine farm just outside of Palermo should have been a prime piece of property, bringing its owner a slice of the booming citrus market that had northwest Sicily overflowing with wealth. Instead, it seemed cursed. Galati’s late brother-in-law, who had left him charge of the farm, had died of a heart attack after receiving a series of mysterious, threatening letters. And everyone knew that the farm’s warden, Benedetto Carollo, had been stealing more than his share of the profits for years.

Galati was a surgeon and a family man, well-respected by everyone in town, so he went by the book. First, he tried to lease the property—but Carollo made it impossible, harassing potential tenants and tanking the farm’s reputation by stealing pre-sold lemons off the trees. Eventually, Galati figured he’d nip the problem in the bud: he fired Carollo.

He must have thought that would be the end of it. Instead, in July of 1874, his new warden—Carollo’s replacement—was found lying between two rows of lemon trees, with multiple bullets in his back. After Galati hired yet another warden, more threatening letters began pouring in, accusing him of firing a “man of honor” in favor of an “abject spy.” If Galati didn’t re-hire Carollo, one missive said, he, too, would suffer the fate of his late warden—but “more barbarous.” In other words, someone was making him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

The local police were suspiciously resistant to arresting Carollo, and the local judges were loathe to convict him. Galati spent the next year figuring out how deep this thing went. Eventually, having seen too much, he was forced to flee to Naples with his family. He’d accidentally gotten himself entangled with a nascent crime ring that would soon be known far and wide: the Sicilian Mafia. And all it took was inheriting a lemon grove. Read More > at Atlas Obsucra

U.S. Needs 4.6M New Apartments by 2030 – Delayed marriages, an aging population and international immigration are increasing a pressing need for new apartments, to the tune of 4.6 million by 2030, according to a new study commissioned by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA). It’s important to note that:

  • Currently, nearly 39 million people live in apartments, and the apartment industry is quickly exceeding capacity;
  • In the past five years, an average of one million new renter households were formed every year, which is a record amount; and,
  • It will take building an average of at least 325,000 new apartment homes every year to meet demand; yet, on average, just 244,000 apartments were delivered from 2012 through 2016.

Based on research conducted by Hoyt Advisory Services and commissioned by NAA and NMHC, the data includes an estimate of the future demand for apartments in the United States, the 50 states and 50 metro areas, including the District of Columbia. For the purposes of this study, apartments are defined as rental apartments in buildings with five or more units. The data are available on the website http://www.WeAreApartments.org. Read More > at National Multifamily Housing Council

The Electric, Driverless Revolution Is About to Hit the High Seas – It’s not just in Google laboratories that the revolution in electric, driverless transportation is gathering pace: a Norwegian shipping company is aiming to be able to deliver cargoes by sea on unmanned vessels from 2020.

The fully electric, zero emissions YARA Birkeland will set sail next year in Europe, Oslo-based Yara International ASA said a statement Saturday. By 2019 it will be able to work by remote control and at the start of the next decade it will be able to deliver on a fully automated basis. The container ship, being built by Kongsberg Gruppen ASA, will transport fertilizer.

…While shipping lanes contain less traffic than on-land roads, maritime trade still comes with its own complications that will provide challenges for automation. Those include strong ocean currents, bad weather and — in some parts of the world — piracy.

The new vessel will allow Kongsburg to test out new technology that could ultimately curb pollution from the shipping industry, which accounts for about 2.3 percent of global emissions. Read More > at Bloomberg

This is how Big Oil will die – …Yet I argue here that technology is about to undo a century of political and economic dominance by oil. Big Oil will be cut down in the next decade by a combination of smartphone apps, long-life batteries, and simpler gearing. And as is always the case with new technology, the undoing will occur far faster than anyone thought possible.

To understand why Big Oil is in far weaker a position than anyone realizes, let’s take a closer look at the lynchpin of oil’s grip on our lives: the internal combustion engine, and the modern vehicle drivetrain.

Cars are complicated.

Behind the hum of a running engine lies a carefully balanced dance between sheathed steel pistons, intermeshed gears, and spinning rods — a choreography that lasts for millions of revolutions. But millions is not enough, and as we all have experienced, these parts eventually wear, and fail. Oil caps leak. Belts fray. Transmissions seize.

…The point has been most often driven home by Tony Seba, a Stanford professor and guru of “disruption”, who revels in pointing out that an internal combustion engine drivetrain contains about 2,000 parts, while an electric vehicle drivetrain contains about 20. All other things being equal, a system with fewer moving parts will be more reliable than a system with more moving parts.

And that rule of thumb appears to hold for cars. In 2006, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimated that the average vehicle, built solely on internal combustion engines, lasted 150,000 miles.

Current estimates for the lifetime today’s electric vehicles are over 500,000 miles.

The ramifications of this are huge, and bear repeating. Ten years ago, when I bought my Prius, it was common for friends to ask how long the battery would last — a battery replacement at 100,000 miles would easily negate the value of improved fuel efficiency. But today there are anecdotal stories of Prius’s logging over 600,000 miles on a single battery. Read More > at Medium

What Did California Learn From The Drought? – A report from the Public Policy Institute of California says the state’s cities and suburbs responded well to the unprecedented mandate to cut water use by 25 percent during the drought.

The PPIC says by some measures, the state’s water conservation requirement was a success. Californians cut water use 24 percent on average while the economy grew. But report authors call the mandate a “blunt instrument” that increased tension between the state and local water agencies.

Instead, the report notes the strategy state regulators implemented near the end of the drought was more appropriate. The so-called “stress test” required local agencies prove they had enough water for three dry years. The PPIC says this “trust but verify” tactic served the state as well as urban and suburban water suppliers.

“This is a good approach going forward,” says Ellen Hanak, director and senior fellow at the PPIC. “There’s no way in a state as large and geographically diverse as California, that the state, from Sacramento, is going to be in a position to know better than the local managers what the conditions are locally.” Read More > from Capital Public Radio

NASA Just Gave Us 10 Good Reasons to Hunt For Near-Earth Asteroids – Our Solar System suddenly feels a little more cluttered, with NASA’s Near-Earth Object mission having just released a year’s worth of survey data, putting a bunch of new space rocks on our radar.

Most of the asteroids, comets, and general clumps of cosmic dandruff are too far away to be considered a threat to our planet, but NASA will be sure to keep a close eye on 10 objects that thinks could be big and near enough to be considered a hazard.

As the name suggests, NASA’s Near-Earth Orbit Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) is an orbiting telescope that looks for objects in our Solar System with orbits that could bring them close to our planet.

…To get some idea of the total number of objects out there, take a look at the video clip below, which shows the orbits of asteroids in grey, near-Earth objects in green, and comets in yellow:

Read More > at Science Alert

Bail Reformers Seek to Keep the Poor from Being Stuck Behind Bars – Should poverty keep a citizen in jail after an arrest but before conviction, even if the defendant poses no further risk of harm or flight?

There is a push on to change the way bail works so that it’s less punishing to the poor. The Connecticut legislature passed a bill (at the governor’s urging) last week to make bail less oppressive. A measure in California is temporarily stalled while opposing sides hammer out details.

The conflict pits civil rights and criminal justice reform advocates against law-and-order politicians who campaign on tough stances and the bail industry which is financially dependent on the revenue generated by the bail process.

The California bill would introduce a county-level pretrial service that would evaluate and help courts determine which criminal defendants are actual flight risks and attempt to create a system through which people are not stuck in jail awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail. The goal: Get nonviolent offenders back home and reduce chances they lose their jobs, housing or face other negative consequences simply because they are merely accused of crimes.

Such a change necessarily means an industry dependent on people seeking out financial assistance to make bail is going to take a hit. And they’re not remaining quiet about it. According to KQED, insurance companies for the bail industry have spent more than $170,000 lobbying lawmakers over the past few months. While debating the bill, Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Temecula) warned that people would lose their jobs, and reducing bail demands would “decimate an industry dominated by women and minority owners, and it will cost the state millions of dollars annually in lost taxes.”

Stone’s complaint that defendants should be forced to seek out bail or rot in prison cells in order to keep people in the bail industry employed may not be a particularly compelling argument to many, but California lawmakers do seem concerned about costs. The California Assembly’s analysis of the legislation notes that it’s going to impose hundreds of millions in costs to create these new county-level pretrial services that the state will be obligated to fund. Yet the analysts don’t seem to be able to put any sort of price tag on how much counties will save by having fewer people in their jail cells, labeling the prospect as “unknown but significant.” Read More > at Reason

Gas Tax Poll Sends a Tremor Through the Political Landscape – A tremor ran through the 2018 California elections with the release of the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll that shows widespread disdain for the recently passed gas tax and vehicle fees–even before collection of the tax begins in November. The gas tax issue could sway California elections from the governor’s race on down, especially if an initiative effort to repeal the measure makes the ballot.

There is a long way to go before November 2018. Other issues could come to dominate that election. A test of the gas tax could come earlier if the recall effort against Democratic senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) qualifies for the ballot.

But the potential of a gas tax revolt is offering interesting shadows in my cracked crystal ball as we look ahead to 2018.

The IGS poll found California registered voters opposed the gas tax plan 58% to 35%. Those strongly opposing the plan stood at a solid 39%. Strong supporters were only at 14%.

…If the gas tax repeal were on the ballot and the idea gained the passionate support indicated by the poll, candidates for office would face the simple question. Are you for or against the ballot measure—for or against repealing the gas tax for which many legislators approved? Voters well could use the candidate’s response to the question to determine for whom they will vote in the election.

The candidates for governor and other statewide offices would face the same question as legislative candidates. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Off-Cycle Local Elections Moving to Even Years – Between February and June of this year, 38 cities in Los Angeles County held elections to fill almost 100 seats on local city councils. The election dates were spread throughout five months, totaling seven different election dates (2/28, 3/7, 4/4, 4/11, 4/18, 5/16, 6/6). It is no wonder turnout is so low in Los Angeles, reaching only 8.43% in the City of L.A.’s most recent election. How are Angelenos expected to keep up?

Some relief may come with the implementation of Senate Bill 415, also known as the California Voter Participation Rights Act (CVPRA), introduced by Senator Ben Hueso and signed by Governor Brown in 2015. The regulations of this bill will require cities, counties and school districts that hold their regular elections on an off-cycle (a date other than June or November of even years) and that have low turnout (at least 25% below average) to move their elections to align with statewide elections.

According to the new law, public agencies in the state must begin compliance, or at least adopt a plan to comply, by January 2018. The deadline to implement these changes is November 2022, but the majority of cities in Los Angeles County have already begun to comply. In fact, of the 27 cities with scheduled elections this November, 22 have already moved their elections to the even year, and three have plans in place to comply by 2020 or 2022. Read More > at California County News

Ann Taylor, Dress Barn, Loft, Lane Bryant: Store closures on the way – Ascena Retail Group — which owns the Ann Taylor, Dress Barn, Loft, Lane Bryant, Justice, Maurices and Catherines stores — plans to shutter between 250 and 650 locations over the next two years.

Chief executive David Jaffe made the announcement during a conference call with investors Thursday, and he didn’t specify how many store closures will affect each brand. Ascena could not be immediately reached for comment.

Jaffe said 250 locations will definitely close down, and another 400 will close their doors unless the company can negotiate lower rents at those locations.

Ascena is far from the only company feeling the pressure. Stores that were once staples of American malls are failing rapidly, largely because of increasing competition from digital retailers like Amazon (AMZN, Tech30).

Earlier this week, Hudson’s Bay (HBAYF) — owner of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor — said it is cutting its workforce by 2,000 jobs.

…And without their thriving tenants, malls have been hit hard by the retail woes. A June 2 report from Credit Suisse estimates 20% to 25% of American malls will close within the next five years. Read More > at CNN Money

10 Predictions For Flying Cars, and When They’ll Happen – Ever since the Jetsons burbled through the sky in saucer-like pods, commuting to work in a flying car has been part of the American dream of the future. But when are flying cars actually going to happen?

Some billionaire transportation magnates, like Tesla CEO Elon Musk, say that the whole concept is bunk (for what it’s worth, Stephen Colbert agrees). But that hasn’t stopped the other half of the tech world, like Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and a plethora of foreign companies and innovators from trying to put personal transportation in the skies. Here are ten predictions and milestones for keeping track of the casual commuter’s ascent to the skies.

Dubai’s setting ambitious goals for flying cars, aiming to have a fully autonomous drone taxi — the Ehang-184 — in the skies in July 2017, or next month. The vehicle is basically a giant quadcopter with a tiny cockpit on it, that allows one passenger (who weighs less than 220 pounds) sit inside, plug in a destination on the screen, and sit back for the ride. Dubai has also literally promised jet packs though, so we’ll see if it happens in a few weeks.

Airbus is also going for a vertical take off, or VTOL, model, and hopes to have a working prototype sometime in 2017. Many flying car companies see VTOL aircraft as the future, rather than more plane-based designs like AeroMobil’s, because they would be better at operating in tight urban areas.

In 2016, Uber Products head Jeff Holden said that the ride-sharing service could be using flying taxis “within a decade.” Uber’s plan, outlined at the lofty elevate summit, is to use VTOL aircraft to bridge short-hop commuter flights — like the trip across the San Francisco bay — for commuters, in conjunction with car services (in other words, these aren’t flying cars, they’re just cheap helicopters). Read More > at Inverse

Why we can’t trust academic journals to tell the scientific truth – …The idea that the same experiment will always produce the same result, no matter who performs it, is one of the cornerstones of science’s claim to truth. However, more than 70% of the researchers (pdf), who took part in a recent study published in Nature have tried and failed to replicate another scientist’s experiment. Another study found that at least 50% of life science research cannot be replicated. The same holds for 51% of economics papers (pdf).

The findings of these studies resonate with the gut feeling of many in contemporary academia – that a lot of published research findings may be false. Just like any other information source, academic journals may contain fake news.

Some of those who participate in the March For Science movement idealise science. Yet science is in a major crisis. And we need to talk about this instead of claiming that scientists are armed with the truth.

…There are multiple reasons for the replication crisis in academia – from accidental statistical mistakes to sloppy peer review. However, many scholars agree (pdf) that the main reason for the spread of fake news in scientific journals is the tremendous pressure in the academic system to publish in high-impact journals. Read More > in The Guardian

The Death of Retail Is Greatly Exaggerated – It’s not even half over, and 2017 has already been a year for the record books for traditional retailers. Just not in the way they would like.

National brands like J.C. Penney (jcp, +3.29%), Macy’s (m, +0.04%), and Sears (shld, -0.14%) kicked off the year by reporting awful holiday season results—and then announcing hundreds of store closings. Big names from Ralph Lauren (rl, +0.01%) to Staples (spls, 0.00%) followed suit, bringing the number of national chains’ store closings to a whopping 2,770 as of mid-May. Credit Suisse in April forecast that 2017 would see the highest number of closures since the Great Recession.

…Symptoms of an industry-wide meltdown? Well, not exactly. Retail industry spending in the first four months of the year rose 3.6% compared with the same period in 2016, according to Department of Commerce data. The National Retail Federation expects that growth to pick up even more this year, thanks to low unemployment and a strong stock market.

But the way consumers spend has changed, perhaps irrevocably. And for stores that can’t adapt, there’s likely to be more pain ahead.

One of the biggest problems is shoppers’ discount addiction. The rise of Amazon (amzn, -0.31%) and of smartphones as shopping tools has pitted retailers against one another in a never-ending price war and put unbearable pressure on the least capable outlets.

The shift online has also meant less need for America’s sprawling malls and megastores. The U.S. has almost twice the retail square footage per capita of Europe, creating unsustainable oceans of store space. Just as bad? Many retailers’ supply chains are out of date, leaving them unable to keep up with consumers’ fast-changing and localized tastes. Read More > at Fortune

The soft bigotry of Denver’s public pooping laws – This is gross for a number of reasons.

First, the obvious: The Denver City Council has voted unanimously to decriminalize a number of offenses, including defecating in public. Also, urinating in public. Camping on public or private land without permission. Panhandling. And lying across public rights-of-way, such as sidewalks.

Democrat Mayor Michael Hancock and city officials explained the new ordinances are designed to protect immigrants — legal and the other kind — from “unintended consequences.” These consequences were fines and longer jail terms, as has been customary in most places for violating the behavioral norms of civilized American society. Read More > at Hot Air

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning – …The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew know what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response—so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children, ages 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents)—of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. According to the CDC, in 10 percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch the child do it, having no idea it is happening. Drowning does not look like drowning

  1. “Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.” Read More > in Slate
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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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