Sunday Reading – 08/06/17


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.

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? – …The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

To those of us who fondly recall a more analog adolescence, this may seem foreign and troubling. The aim of generational study, however, is not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now. Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.

Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy. Read More > in The Atlantic

Not a shot! Anti-vax movement prompts Brooklynites to withhold inoculations from their pets, vets say – Some Brooklynites are refusing to vaccinate their pets against virulent and potentially deadly illnesses — some of which could spread to humans — thanks to a growing movement against the life-saving inoculations, according to borough veterinarians.

“We do see a higher number of clients who don’t want to vaccinate their animals,” said Dr. Amy Ford of the Veterinarian Wellness Center of Boerum Hill. “This may be stemming from the anti-vaccine movement, which people are applying to their pets.”

…Core vaccines for canines include distemper, hepatitis, and rabies, the only shot required to get a pet license in New York state, without which, owners can get fined.

…A Clinton Hill–based veterinarian said she has heard clients suggest the inoculations could give their pups autism, however, echoing the argument of those who oppose vaccinating kids. But even if pooches were susceptible to the condition, their owners probably wouldn’t notice, according to the doctor. Read More > in the Brooklyn Paper

Has Bullet Train Been Hoisted on Its Own Petard? – California officials are notorious for ladling on one environmental regulation after another, forcing developers to spend years or even decades producing waist-deep environmental-impact reports and dealing with endless regulatory hassles and litigation. The main tool environmentalists use to stop growth is the 1970s-era California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It’s the equivalent of placing a “sue me” sign on every job site.

CEQA (pronounced “see-Kwa”) is so prone to abuse that virtually everyone in the Capitol, Republican, and Democrat, agrees it needs to be revamped. A reason the law never actually gets reformed is the political power of the environmental groups and unions who use it to their own advantage. It’s the perfect tool for opponents of growth, while unions can threaten suit to hold projects hostage until they get the wage rates they demand.

CEQA also remains uncorrected because of a disturbing double standard. Whenever there’s a big publicly funded project backed by prominent lawmakers, the first thing backers do is to exempt it from the act’s requirements. Why reform a poorly functioning law when it can be used to stop projects you don’t like, but never inhibits the ones you do like?

…There’s no project that Gov. Jerry Brown seems to care about more than the $64-billion-plus high-speed rail system that is designed to link Los Angeles to San Francisco. It’s an amazing boondoggle in the making, the largest state-created infrastructure project ever built in the United States.

That $64 billion number is no doubt a down payment, given the degree to which such infrastructure projects always bust the budget. Voters approved $9.95 billion in starter funds by passing a 2008 statewide ballot initiative, but there’s not enough money identified to pay for the full project. The feds aren’t going to bite, certainly not with a Republican president and Congress. Funds from the state’s cap-and-trade system alone won’t get it built. Moreover, California already has a well-functioning, quick and low-cost method to get people from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. One can fly from SFO to LAX in an hour and 20 minutes on Southwest Airlines.

It also turns out the “ironclad” promises the bullet train’s backers made to voters in Proposition 1A weren’t so ironclad, after all, causing one of its most prominent advocates to turn against it. The rail system probably won’t meet the promised arrival times of two hours and 40 minutes, given that the latest plan routes the train along much-slower commuter tracks in major urbanized areas. It won’t be able to lure private investment. The ticket-price estimates are too low, and there’s little chance the bullet train can operate without ongoing subsidies. The lower courts held up bond spending because of the system’s funding plan, but higher courts declared that the project could proceed anyway.

…But then in late July, the California Supreme Court did something quite astounding. In a 6-1 ruling, it decided that this state infrastructure project must live under state environmental law. Imagine that. As the Los Angeles Times reported, “In 2014, the state asked the federal Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, to exempt the project from any legal injunctions that could stop construction.” State officials even argued that “the project was exempt from state law,” which triggered a separate lawsuit in the federal courts. Read More in The American Spectator

Prove Paris was more than paper promises – Beyond US President Donald Trump’s decision in June to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a more profound challenge to the global climate pact is emerging. No major advanced industrialized country is on track to meet its pledges to control the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change.

Wishful thinking and bravado are eclipsing reality. Countries in the European Union are struggling to increase energy efficiency and renewable power to the levels that they claimed they would. Japan promised cuts in emissions to match those of its peers, but meeting the goals will cost more than the country is willing to pay. Even without Trump’s attempts to roll back federal climate policy, the United States is shifting its economy to clean energy too slowly.

The Paris agreement offered, in theory, to reboot climate diplomacy by giving countries the flexibility to set their own commitments. As of July 2017, 153 countries have ratified the agreement — 147 of which have submitted pledges to reduce emissions, also known as nationally determined contributions. The idea is that as each country implements its own pledge, others can learn what is feasible, and that collaborative global climate protection will emerge. That logic, however, threatens to unravel because national governments are making promises that they are unable to honour. Read More > at Nature

A futuristic ride in Mercedes’ self-driving car – We’re all used to seeing “concept cars” — those bits of automotive frippery that manufacturers trot out at motor shows every few months. Generally, they’re either design tinsel that will never see the light of day, or previews of cars that will soon appear in showrooms.

And then there’s the Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion.

Catchy name aside, this odd-looking creation has had such a varied life that its maker refuses to call it a “concept.” It’s a research project instead, hence the name (the ‘F’ is a German prefix denoting ‘research vehicle’ status).

The F 015 made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas more than two years ago. It’s packed with advanced (or what was considered advanced in 2015) autonomous technology, and can, in theory, run for almost 900 kilometers on a mixture of pure electric power and a hydrogen fuel cell.

But while countless other vehicles are still trying to prove that cars can, literally, drive themselves, Merc’s offering takes this for granted. Instead, this vehicle wants us to consider what we’ll actually do while the car is driving us around.

The steering wheel slides into the dashboard to create more of a “lounge” space. The seating configuration allows four people to face each other if they want to talk. And when the onboard conversation dries up, a bewildering collection of screens — one on the rear wall, and one on each of the doors — offers plenty of opportunity to interact with various media. Read More > at CNN

NASA Is Hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to Save Earth from Aliens – NASA is looking for a Planetary Protection Officer to protect the planet from potential alien contamination. The U.S. government’s official employment site posted the job advert, open to U.S. citizens and nationals for applications until August 14.

The job comes with a six figure salary—$124,406 to $187,000 per year—and security clearance is listed as “secret.” The role involves stopping astronauts and robots from getting contaminated with any organic and biological material during space travel.

“NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration” the job advert reads. “This policy is based on federal requirements and international treaties and agreements.” Read More > at Newsweek

Honolulu Becomes First City to Ban Texting While Crossing Streets – Honolulu’s recently passed ban on texting while crossing the street will do little to promote public safety while subjecting citizens to a whole new set of petty fines and government intrusions.

The “distracted walking” bill, the nation’s first in a major city, bans anyone from “looking in the direction of the screen of a mobile device” while crossing a street. Violators are subject to fines ranging from $15 to $99, depending on the number of offences

…Indeed, little suggests that Honolulu is a particularly dangerous place for pedestrians, nor that ticketing smartphone users in the streets will make it much safer.

In Smart Growth America’s ranking of 104 cities on their Pedestrian Death Index, Honolulu came in well below average at 82nd, with 1.76 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents.

The small but entertaining literature on those injured while distracted by their devices also undercuts the notion that smartphone users are uniquely endangered by road crossings. Read More > at Reason

After legalizing weed, California’s black market could remain huge – Legalizing marijuana, California voters were told last year, would create a “safe, legal and comprehensive system” allowing adults to consume the drug while keeping it out of the hands of children. Marijuana would be sold in highly regulated stores, the Proposition 64 campaign promised, and California would gain new tax revenue by bringing the cannabis marketplace “out into the open.”

Voters overwhelmingly bought the message, with 57 percent approving Proposition 64. But as state regulators prepare to begin offering licenses to marijuana businesses on Jan. 1, it turns out that a huge portion of the state’s weed is likely to remain on the black market.

That’s because California grows a lot more pot than its residents consume, and Prop. 64 only makes marijuana legal within the state’s borders. It also didn’t give an automatic seal of approval to every cannabis grower. Those who want to sell legally must be licensed by the state and comply with detailed rules that require testing plants, labeling packages and tracking marijuana as it moves from farm to bong.

Exactly how much cannabis circulates in California is unknown because most marijuana grows—and purchases—have been illegal for so long. But economists hired by the state government estimate that California farms produce about 13.5 million pounds of cannabis each year, while state residents annually consume about 2.5 million pounds. That leaves 11 million pounds of pot that likely flows out of California illegally, according to the economic report commissioned by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which regulates cannabis farmers. Other analyses have similarly found that roughly 80 percent of California-grown marijuana leaves the state. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Half of Detroit’s 8 mayoral candidates are felons – Half of the eight mayoral hopefuls on Detroit’s primary ballot next week have been convicted of felony crimes involving drugs, assault or weapons, a Detroit News analysis shows.

Three were charged with gun crimes and two for assault with intent to commit murder. Some of the offenses date back decades, the earliest to 1977. The most recent was in 2008.

Tuesday’s Detroit mayoral primary election is the first since the city exited bankruptcy in 2014. The field of eight will be narrowed to two who will face off in the fall.

Under state election law, convicted felons can vote and run for office as long as they are not incarcerated or guilty of certain fraud-related offenses, or crimes involving a breach of the public trust. The Detroit News reviewed the backgrounds of all the mayoral contenders.

While some refute circumstances that led to their criminal convictions, three said their past is a motivating factor in their decisions to run. Read More > in The Detroit News

UC Davis’ Katehi will teach one course per quarter, conduct research in $318,000 position – Former UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi will teach one engineering course per quarter over the next nine months in her new $318,000 faculty position, school officials said Monday.

Her first course this fall is a one-unit graduate seminar scheduled to meet 50 minutes each Friday, according to a listing on the Office of the University Registrar website.

UC Davis officials said Katehi will also conduct research. Specific details of her research topic were unavailable Monday.

Katehi, 63, resigned as chancellor last August after months of controversy, culminating with a $1 million, four-month investigation launched by University of California President Janet Napolitano. She was granted a year of paid leave and is scheduled to return as a professor in September.

Besides her salary, she will get research funding of $150,000 that does not serve as personal compensation, according to a July 6 letter signed by Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter. That comes from a total of $400,000 allocated for her research through June 2021.

Katehi is supposed to use the $150,000 on a student to help her with scientific proposals, a student assistant to help her put content online, research-related travel and an open source website. She has nearly two dozen U.S. patents and has supervised 44 doctoral students, according to her College of Engineering profile. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

All Apple had to do to sell iPads was make them cheaper – It’s been about a year and a half since Apple introduced the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. It was a great device, but it also made Apple’s tablet lineup more confusing than ever. I wrote at the time that Apple seemed to be just throwing ideas out there, trying to see what would make customers get back in the store and buy more iPads. I also noted that it wasn’t even clear what the “best” iPad was anymore. It’s taken a while, but Apple has streamlined its lineup, making clear separations among products in terms of both price and feature set. As a result, iPad sales increased year over year for the first time since the holiday quarter of 2013 (when Apple sold a whopping 26 million tablets).

But this quarter’s turnaround wasn’t driven by Apple’s “future of personal computing” vision promised by the iPad Pro. Nor was it driven by the Pro’s useful features, which will only get more compelling when iOS 11 launches this fall. No, sales increased because Apple finally made a plain iPad that isn’t terribly ambitious — just affordable.

The basic iPad that Apple introduced in March was a bit of an anomaly for the company. It doesn’t usher in a fresh design or any impressive features. In fact, it is, in some ways, a step backward from the iPad Air 2 it replaced: It’s a little thicker and heavier, unusual for a new Apple product. More importantly, the display isn’t laminated to the glass and doesn’t include antireflective coating. But Apple bet that these changes would more than make up for the new iPad’s $329 price, and this recent sales turnaround shows it was right. Read More > at Engadget

No, Facebook Did Not Panic and Shut Down an AI Program That Was Getting Dangerously Smart – In recent weeks, a story about experimental Facebook machine learning research has been circulating with increasingly panicky, Skynet-esque headlines.

“Facebook engineers panic, pull plug on AI after bots develop their own language,” one site wrote. “Facebook shuts down down AI after it invents its own creepy language,” another added. “Did we humans just create Frankenstein?” asked yet another. One British tabloid quoted a robotics professor saying the incident showed “the dangers of deferring to artificial intelligence” and “could be lethal” if similar tech was injected into military robots.

References to the coming robot revolution, killer droids, malicious AIs and human extermination abounded, some more or less serious than others.

…Facebook did indeed shut down the conversation, but not because they were panicked they had untethered a potential Skynet. FAIR researcher Mike Lewis told FastCo they had simply decided “our interest was having bots who could talk to people,” not efficiently to each other, and thus opted to require them to write to each other legibly.

But in a game of content telephone not all that different from what the chat bots were doing, this story evolved from a measured look at the potential short-term implications of machine learning technology to thinly veiled doomsaying.

There are probably good reasons not to let intelligent machines develop their own language which humans would not be able to meaningfully understand—but again, this is a relatively mundane phenomena which arises when you take two machine learning devices and let them learn off each other. It’s worth noting that when the bot’s shorthand is explained, the resulting conversation was both understandable and not nearly as creepy as it seemed before. Read More > at Gizmodo

Energy, Pump Prices and Consumers – …What we’ve seen is the impact of U.S. energy production. U.S. output has meant added supply to global crude markets, putting downward pressure on those markets. This has contributed to savings at the gasoline pump for American consumers, allowing more disposable income for groceries and other purchases, summer vacations and other activities.

In 2015, AAA reported, Americans saved more than $115 billion on gasoline compared to the year before, an average of more than $550 per licensed driver. Earlier this month, AAA said the average price of gasoline around Independence Day – in the heart of the summer driving season – was the cheapest the country had seen all year. AAA’s Jeanette Casselano:

“The combination of tepid demand and increased gasoline and crude output continues to put downward pressure on gas prices.”

America’s energy renaissance has delivered for America – in consumer savings at the pump and home heating costs, in economic growth, increased security and environmental benefits because of increased use of cleaner-burning natural gas.

Our sense is that most Americans – Sen. Schumer being among the few exceptions – are quite aware of trends at the gasoline pump, and many likely connect those trends with increased domestic energy production. Regular Americans fill their own fuel tanks, are cognizant of what they have paid for gasoline and have valued the savings. That’s a good energy storyline. Read More > at Energy Tomorrow

A Dangerous, ‘Silent Reservoir’ for Gonorrhea: The Throat – The human throat houses billions of bacteria, most of them harmless. But one species is becoming more common, and it is anything but benign.

Drug-resistant gonorrhea has been on the rise for years; the World Health Organization has reported an increase in more than 50 countries. Now scientists say the epidemic is being driven by a particular mode of transmission: oral sex.

“The throat infections act as a silent reservoir,” said Emilie Alirol, the head of the sexually transmitted infections program at the Global Antibiotics Research and Development Partnership. “Transmission is very efficient from someone who has gonorrhea in their throat to their partner via oral sex.”

Oral gonorrhea is hard to detect and treat. Even more worrisome, these bacteria pick up resistance to antibiotics directly from other bacteria in the throat — and then are communicated to sex partners.

Only one commercially available antibiotic still consistently works against drug-resistant strains. And now there’s a new worry: so-called super gonorrhea, impervious to every standard treatment. Read More > in The New York Times

The Case for Cursing – You know when you stub your toe and involuntarily utter an expletive? You probably didn’t give it much thought, but you might have been on to something.

As children we’re taught that cursing, even when we’re in pain, is inappropriate, betrays a limited vocabulary or is somehow low class in that ambiguous way many cultural lessons suggest. But profanity serves a physiological, emotional and social purpose — and it’s effective only because it’s inappropriate.

…But swearing is beneficial beyond making your language more colorful. It can also offer catharsis. A study co-authored by Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, found that swearing can increase your ability to withstand pain. So when you stub your toe and howl an expletive, it might help you tolerate the pain better.

…Another study Dr. Stephens conducted, currently under review, tested the effect of swearing on strength. During bicycle and hand-grip exercises, researchers asked subjects to repeat curse words and neutral words while pedaling against resistance and squeezing a hand dynamometer, then recorded their results. In both cases, swearing improved performance.

…Some research also finds a link between swearing and honesty. For example, a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science concluded “profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level.”

Dr. Jay said other research showed that people perceived those who use profanity as more honest, too. The idea is that liars have to use more brain power and require more thinking time to make up lies, remember lies or to just avoid telling the truth. Truth tellers, on the other hand, get to the point faster, which might mean speaking impulsively and without a filter. Read More > in The New York Times

U.S. Homeownership Finally Reversing from 50-Year Nadir? – The sharp downward spiral of homeownership may have ended. The ownership rate climbed in 2Q 2017 to 63.7%, an increase of nearly a full percentage rate from a year ago when it reached a 50-year low, according to numbers released by the Census Bureau. Economists believe the ill effects of the housing crash stemming from the great recession may be reversing course.

The sustained improvement is credited to an increase in new-owner households and a drop in renter ones. And the trend is viewed as a positive for the housing market and the U.S. economy overall, since new-home construction provides a big boost.

The trend may signal a shift for the multifamily sector too, which is seeing new supply delivered to the market, and a national vacancy rate that is climbing. Reis Inc. reports it climbed to 4.4% for the quarter, up from 4.2% a year earlier. Read More > in the Wall Street Journal

Could Football Ever End? – It seems crazy to imagine the end of football. The game is so beloved, so profitable, and, frankly, such a cultural mirror that it feels like a permanent feature of American life. Without football, what the heck happens to Sunday? (Or Saturday, or Monday night, or an ever-expanding number of weekday nights.)

There are a lot of institutions and franchises and schools with a deep interest in football’s continued prosperity. The game is a godsend for the entertainment industry, which is why it commands billions.

That’s why if football ever vanishes, it will likely vanish from within.

From the players. And parents.

…Let’s be clear: football, an overtly physical game of speed and collision, has always carried bodily risk. Busted knees. Degraded hips, shoulders, ankles, fingers. Careers at the pro level tend to be mercilessly short, and players often leave with chronic pain, which can continue long after leaving the sport.

…Football has always been a trade-off. There are many, many former players among us who feel every second was worth it. And there will always be players willing to take a chance with their health for a shot at their dream. They’re not the only American laborers making such a choice, and in football, there’s potentially millions to be made. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

‘Troublesome’ diversity study shows Hollywood doesn’t ‘want to change’: analysts say – Despite a year that brought historic awards recognition and box office success for diverse films such as “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight,” Hollywood continues to face an “inclusion crisis” when it comes to opportunities for women and people of color, according to a USC study on diversity in the movie industry released Monday.

“White, straight, able-bodied men remain the norm on screen in film,” declared the report from the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, which examined the demographic profile of characters in the 900 top-grossing films from 2007-2016 (except 2011).

In fact, of the nearly 40,000 characters portrayed on screen over that period, the study found:

• Fewer than a third of speaking roles were girls or women.

• Only 3.1-percent of the speaking roles were Latinos, vastly below their numbers in the actual population — 17.8 percent, according to the latest U.S. Census survey.

• Just 1.1 percent of roles were Lesbian, gay or bisexual-identified — with zero trans characters.

• Last year, just 2.7 percent of roles depicted disabled people; by contrast, 18.7 percent of the U.S. population overall identifies as disabled.

• Of the 100 most popular films of 2016, a quarter didn’t have a single African-American or black in a speaking role. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News

California’s bullet train is likely to face more environmental hurdles after a high court ruling – California’s high-speed train project is likely to continue to be buffeted by environmental challenges as a result of a decision by the state’s top court.

In a 6-1 ruling last week written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the California Supreme Court decided that federal rail law does not usurp California’s tough environmental regulation for state-owned rail projects.

The decision has broad significance, lawyers in the case said.

It clears the way for opponents of the $64-billion bullet train to file more lawsuits as construction proceeds and also allows Californians to challenge other rail uses, such as the movement of crude oil from fracking. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

The latest CTE study needs to be put in context – The latest CTE study made big headlines when it was released this past week.

And for many of those in the medical and football communities, the headlines are a problem.

The study, conducted by Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University and published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, proclaimed that 110 of the 111 brains of deceased NFL players that it studied were found to have the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The findings were trumpeted in the Globe and several national media outlets, replete with startling pictures of brain fragments of the deceased players.

The implication of the study was obvious — football causes brain injuries, and brain injuries lead to CTE, which leads to a host of mental problems. Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel, a PhD candidate at MIT, retired from football last week following the report’s release.

…The BU study was a “convenience sample” of 202 brains donated by families of former football players who demonstrated cognitive issues in life. Since there is still no way of diagnosing CTE in living people, no meaningful testing has occurred to determine the true causes of CTE and the role of football and other sports.

We don’t know whether CTE is hereditary or caused by outside factors such as alcoholism or chemical dependence. And we don’t know why some people afflicted with CTE die young and others make it to old age. Read More > in the Boston Globe

Bone Machine: 3D Printing Is Revolutionizing Plastic Surgery – At first glance, the line of cheerfully colored plastic skulls atop professor Laurent Lantieri’s bookshelf might be out-of-season Halloween decorations. But a closer look reveals something less than cheery: jagged holes, missing jaws and crumpled eye sockets. The skulls represent something very real — injuries that Lantieri has fixed.

Only the most seriously injured — whether by trauma or disease — end up in Lantieri’s office at Paris’ Georges Pompidou Hospital. The plastic surgeon has been repairing deformities since 1994. In 2010, he and his team carried out the world’s first full face transplant.

That’s starting to change. Today, when Lantieri heads into the OR, he has a customized repair kit tricked out with titanium plates that are exact replicas of the patient’s own bones and screws that have been hand-fitted to secure existing bones to the new replacement parts.

Since 2008, he has been working with Materialise, a Belgian additive manufacturing and design company, to build better parts. Using a 3D CAT scanner, Lantieri creates a 3D scan of a patient’s face. Materialise clinical engineers then use a virtual 3D model of the patient’s undamaged bones, based on a CT scan, as a guide to build patient-specific implants that replace the damaged bones. A shattered cheekbone on the left side of a person’s face is replaced with a mirror image from the right side. A destroyed orbital socket can be made whole by matching it to the remaining socket.

Once the model is approved, Materialise uses Concept Laser 3D-printing machines to “print” the new implants — first as a prototype that Lantieri can measure against a 3D model of the skull to ensure a perfect fit, and then as the final product. Read More > at GE Reports

To Understand How Religion Shapes America, Look To Its Early Days – Religion has played an outsized role in U.S. history and politics, but it’s one that has often gone unrecognized in U.S. museums.

“As a focused subject area, it’s been neglected,” says Peter Manseau, a scholar and writer installed last year as the first full-time religion curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

America’s exceptional commitment to religious freedom stems from the diversity of its faith traditions. The rebellious attitudes prevalent in frontier settlements fostered the growth of evangelical movements. African slaves introduced Islam to America. The drive to abolish slavery was led largely by Christian preachers.

…The persecution that Puritans faced in England was a key factor driving them to the New World. So it also was with Quakers, Baptists, Shakers, Jews, and other religious minorities, all of whom saw America as a place they would finally be free to practice their faith.

“This country, somewhat uniquely, is a nation of transplanted religions,” Manseau says, “interacting with the beliefs and practices that were here, but also with new traditions coming in, learning and needing to negotiate, to compromise, and finding ways to live together. The practical implication of this diversity was religious freedom and the disestablishment of any particular church.” Read More > at NPR

Many Americans are too drugged-out to work – A slew of reports finds a fresh reason for the chronic inability of American companies to fill skilled jobs: not a lack of skills, and hence a training-and-education crisis, but a surfeit of drug abuse. Simply put, prime-working age Americans without a college diploma are often too drugged-out to get the best jobs. Opioids remain at high levels, but the surge in drug use is now heroin and the powerful contaminant fentanyl.

The reports suggest a circularity to the crisis in America’s rust and manufacturing belts: the loss of jobs and wage stagnation has led to widespread disaffection, alienation and drug abuse; and drug abuse has led to joblessness, hopelessness and disaffection.

But the numbers are all over the map. Some employers and economists say up to half of job applicants do not clear drug tests; others say it is 25%. In the chart above, Indeed economist Jed Kolko, using data from the U.S. Current Population Survey, found that 5.6% to 5.7% of working-age adults didn’t work last year because of illness or disability, an unknown percentage of which were because of drug use.

What was evident, Kolko told Axios: A “clear, steady upward trend in illness/disability as reason for not working among prime-age adults. And even more striking, the level and trend are very similar for men and women, even though most of the attention on this issue is going to men.” Read More > at Axios

US economy expanded at stronger 2.6 percent rate in Q2 – The U.S. economy revved up this spring after a weak start to the year, fueled by a surge in consumer spending. But the growth spurt still fell short of the optimistic goals President Donald Trump hopes to achieve through tax cuts and regulatory relief.

The Commerce Department said Friday that growth in the gross domestic product, the economy’s total output of goods and services, expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter. That’s more than double the revised 1.2 percent pace in the first quarter.

The improvement was powered in large part by robust consumer appetite for items such as clothing and furniture.

The 2.6 percent GDP gain came in close to economists’ expectations.

“Consumers continue to drive the economy’s growth, but firmer business investment is also a plus,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Weaker housing construction was the only significant drag on growth in the quarter.” Read More > from the Associated Press

Oakland gives pot convicts first chance to open marijuana businesses as part of reparations for war on drugs – Convicted pot felons that want to own a legal marijuana business in Oakland will now be prioritized under new, radical permit rules designed to make amends for the United States’ war on drugs.

The city’s new Equity Permit Program calls for 50 per cent of all licenses for medical marijuana facilities to go to Oaklanders imprisoned for a pot offence in the last 10 years, or to residents of six neighbourhoods that police have excessively targeted for drug arrests.

“Communities of colour have been negatively and disproportionately impacted by disparate enforcement of cannabis laws,” reads the ordinance introducing the rules.

Oakland city council voted unanimously to approve the program — the first of its kind in the U.S. — last month. Read in the National Post

Marxist group disbands because members were too rich, white – A Marxist student group at Swarthmore College disbanded itself earlier this year after realizing that its members were too rich and too white to be real commies.

According to screenshots confidentially provided to Campus Reform by an individual with access to the group’s private Facebook page, the demise of the Swarthmore Anti-Capitalist Collective (SACC) came in the wake of a farewell letter from a member who had decided the group could never be an effective proponent of “unproblematized anticapitalist politics” due to its “history of abuse, racism, and even classism.”

…The farewell letter corroborates Guerra’s understanding, asserting that “SACC’s fundamental failure” was that “at its formation, it was made up of entirely white, with the exception of one person of color*, students,” and to make matters worse, “not one of [the founding members] are from low-income and/or working class backgrounds.”

Arguing that “low-income people of color should never be an afterthought in a group whose politics supposedly focus on their liberation,” the author then went on to accuse SACC of having a “history of abuse, racism, and even classism that was never adequately addressed or recognized despite constantly being brought up as an issue.” Read More > at Campus Reform

A Bird’s-Eye View of a Bad Wildfire Season in the West – Flying from Los Angeles to Seattle on Friday afternoon, it was abundantly clear that the 2017 wildfire season in Western states is fully underway: It was easy to spot blazes on the trip north, including a fire in the vicinity of the California-Nevada border north of Reno.

Although the Long Valley Fire, which started July 11 near Doyle, California, was 100 percent contained after 10 days, that doesn’t mean the blaze is completely out. A large plume of smoke continued to emanate from the impacted area near Pyramid Lake. In all, the Long Valley Fire consumed nearly 84,000 acres of grass and sagebrush, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s incident report.

As Climate Central reported, since the beginning of the year, there have been 37,000 fires that have burned through 5.2 million acres of land. As of Friday, there were 47 major fires in nine states.

That included the Detwiler Fire near Yosemite National Park in California, which has burned nearly 82,000 acres and destroyed 63 residences, 67 minor structures, and one commercial structure, according to a CalFire incident report. As of Sunday, that blaze was 85 percent contained. Read More > at Route Fifty

Advertisements

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
This entry was posted in Sunday Reading. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s