Sunday Reading 09/24/17


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.

Here’s 13 Things That Make People Dislike You Immediately, According to Science – Everyone’s got a story about how they thought a certain friend was mean the first time they met, but realised later that he or she is actually the nicest person ever.

Generally, you’ve only got a few seconds to make someone want to spend more time with you. Everything matters – from your last name to the smell of your sweat (gross, we know).

Below, Business Insider rounded up various scientific findings on the traits and behaviours that make people dislike you, both online and in person.

1. Sharing too many photos on Facebook

If you’re the kind of person who shares snapshots of your honeymoon, cousin’s graduation, and dog dressed in a Halloween costume all in the same day, you might want to stop.

A 2013 study found that posting too many photos on Facebook can hurt your real-life relationships.

2. Having too many, or too few, Facebook friends

In a 2008 study, Michigan State University researchers asked college students to look at fictional Facebook profiles and decide how much they liked the profiles’ owners.

Results showed that the ‘sweet spot’ for likability was about 300 friends. Likability ratings were lowest when a profile owner had only about 100 friends, and almost as low when they had more than 300 friends. Read More > at Science Alert

Winemakers start to count the cost of last month’s 117-degree heat wave – August’s scorching heat wave could cause some Northern California winemakers to lose between 5 percent and 35 percent of their harvest, after grapes were left shriveling on the vine .

Bloomberg reports that varietals hit particularly hard in local wine regions like Napa and Sonoma, where temperatures soared as high as 117 degrees, could include cabernet and petit verdot, while most white and sparking wine grapes survived relatively unscathed.

How much fruit vintners will have to throw away is going to be very site-and-grape specific,” Tim Mondavi of Continuum told Bloomberg.

The record-breaking heat caused juices in the grapes to evaporate before they had ripened, which leads to a higher alcohol content and a flavor profile that makes them unsuitable for winemaking. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Fed keeps U.S. rates steady, to start portfolio drawdown in October – The U.S. Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday but signaled it still expects one more increase by the end of the year despite a recent bout of low inflation.

The Fed, as expected, also said it would begin in October to reduce its approximately $4.2 trillion in holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities acquired in the years after the 2008 financial crisis.

New economic projections released after the Fed’s two-day policy meeting showed 11 of 16 officials see the “appropriate” level for the federal funds rate, the central bank’s benchmark interest rate, to be in a range between 1.25 percent and 1.50 percent by the end of 2017, or 0.25 percentage points above the current level. Read More > at Reuters

The Consequences of the U.S. Baby Bust – As people in other wealthy countries fretted in the 1990s and 2000s over what falling birthrates would mean for economic growth and retirement-program finances, the U.S. seemed to have far less to worry about. Fertility here remained at or near the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman over her lifetime, and the country’s long-honed ability to attract immigrants and quickly integrate them into the workforce provided a further economic boost.

Times have changed. Immigration has been a contentious topic lately, and illegal immigration has gone into reverse since 2007. Still, legal immigrants are still arriving and contributing to population growth.

Babies are another matter. Over the past decade, the U.S. has joined the ranks of wealthy countries not producing enough of them to keep the population from falling, in the absence of immigration.

…The decline since 2008 is new enough that experts are still debating whether it’s a blip or a trend. Maybe it’s another of those millennial quirks — like putting off buying a car or moving to the suburbs — that will normalize as the economy continues to improve. The sharpest birthrate declines have been among teenagers, which seems like a positive development. Also, one could argue that population growth and economic growth aren’t so great anyway and we’d be better off with a steady-state economy.

I’m going to stick with the conventional assumptions, though, that economic growth is helpful in resolving societal conflicts, paying for social insurance programs, and generally making people’s lives better, and that population growth is a major driver of economic growth. In that case, the fact that U.S. births have fallen below the replacement rate is significant even if we can’t be sure they’ll stay so low, and worthy of more attention and consideration than it has gotten so far.

…So does the recent fall in the birthrate mean that the U.S. needs more immigration, to keep economic growth from slowing even further, or less immigration, to keep the foreign-born share of the population from getting so high that integration is endangered? My natural tendency is to lean toward the former, but I can understand if you disagree. This is a political question, and it seems like the falling birthrate mainly just makes it an even more contentious one. Read More > at Bloomberg

Toys ‘R’ Us Will Live Because Mattel and Hasbro Can’t Let It Die – Rest easy, kids. Toys “R” Us Inc. isn’t going anywhere, at least not if the makers of Barbie and Transformers have their way.

The toy chain filed for bankruptcy-court protection Monday night, another in a string of specialty retailers felled by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and the rest of the online onslaught. Toys “R” Us had been hobbled by more than $5 billion in debt, which required over $400 million a year to service.

Yet, the company, which operates about 1,600 stores globally, will likely survive because manufacturers such as Mattel Inc., Hasbro Inc. and closely held MGA Entertainment Inc. need the last remaining toy chain. These vendors are eager for whatever remaining leverage they have against the might of Amazon and Wal-Mart, the bane of all companies focused on a single category of shopping.

…In many respects, suppliers have been propping up Toys “R” Us for years, according to Moody’s Corp. analyst Charlie O’Shea; they give the chain exclusive products during the holidays and funds for promotions to help it compete with the general merchandisers. The manufacturers offer this support because they want a place to sell toys at full price, year round. Major brands have also been funding an overhaul of Toys “R” Us stores by adding more featured areas for top brands such as Mattel’s American Girl dolls.

In electronics, Best Buy Co. holds the same last-chain-standing mantle after Circuit City and HHGregg disappeared. In books, Borders went belly up, while Barnes & Noble Inc. remains. Similarly, KB Toys perished, and Toys “R” Us will likely limp along. Read More > at Bloomberg

Unions Battle Environmentalists for a Cut of California’s Electric Vehicle Subsidies – …We found out on Saturday, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills that set spending priorities for the $1.5 billion generated by the state’s recently renewed cap-and-trade system. The package includes $140 million in subsidies for electric vehicle purchases made through the California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP). That’s a slight boost from the $133 million appropriated last year—a win for the program’s environmentalist backers.

But that win came at a cost. Thanks to a pressure campaign by the California Federation of Labor, language was inserted into the bill specifying that any manufacturer participating in the program must be “fair and responsible in the treatment of their workers.” California’s labor secretary would be empowered to exclude manufacturers who violate these yet-to-be-established “fair and responsible” criteria.

That could spell big trouble for Nissan and Tesla. Both are major beneficiaries of the CVRP, and both have been tussling recently with the United Auto Workers. The union is currently trying to organize workers at Tesla’s plant in Fremont, California, and the union recently failed in a high-profile effort to do the same at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. Complaints have been filed against both companies for unfair and anti-union practices.

Given that some 48 percent of last year’s CVRP rebates for all-battery electric vehicles went to purchasers of Nissan and Tesla products, excluding those companies would be a major loss for the program and for California’s dream of 1.5 million zero emission vehicles by 2025.

…Thanks to CVRP, Tesla, Nissan, and other manufacturers have been making out like bandits on a rebate system that effectively taxes poor people’s energy consumption to pay for rich people’s trendy vehicles. A 2016 Berkeley study found that 83 percent of CVRP recipients had incomes over $100,000.

As one California senator has said of the CVRP program, “The state appears to be in the business of subsidizing a billionaire’s company and millionaires who want buy these boutique electric cars.” Now unions are looking to get in on this action, and lawmakers are evidently willing to deal them in. Read More > at Reason

Nest introduces Hello, its first video doorbell – …Nest says the device records 4:3 aspect ratio HD video with HDR and a 160-degree field of view. It also has a microphone button, a speaker, a light ring, and a status LED. And, of course, it connects to your phone via Bluetooth LE. According to Nest, the camera in the doorbell can let you see the person at your door from head to toe, with an aspect ratio that accommodates both the wide and tall view.

What’s more, the Hello incorporates some of Nest Cam IQ’s smart tech, with both person-detection and facial recognition. That means it knows when your grandmother’s at the door, as opposed to a stranger, and it’ll notify you appropriately. The Hello also has Quick Responses built in so you can just say “Leave package at the door” if it’s the mailman.

… If someone does come to the door, you’ll get a notification on your phone. If you want to look at just who came by your door in the past few days, there’s a feature called Sightline, that lets you look through days of footage. And ,last but not least, the Hello has a light underneath, which lights up the doorstep to welcome you home.

Nest hasn’t announced pricing just yet, but Hello should be available in the first quarter of 2018. Read More > at Engadget

How the opioid epidemic has affected the U.S. labor force, county-by-county – In 2016, Princeton economist Alan Krueger made headlines with a shocking finding that nearly half of prime age men (or men ages 25 to 54) who are not in the labor force take pain medication on a daily basis. Two-thirds of those men—or about 2 million—take prescription pain medication on a daily basis.

This fall, Krueger has published a follow-up to that research, taking an even closer look at the labor force implications of the opioid epidemic on a local and national level. The new paper and data, published in the Fall 2017 edition of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, makes a strong case for looking at the opioid epidemic as one driver of declining labor force participation rates.

In fact, Krueger suggests that the increase in opioid prescriptions from 1999 to 2015 could account for about 20 percent of the observed decline in men’s labor force participation during that same period, and 25 percent of the observed decline in women’s labor force participation.

The labor force participation rate—the proportion of people employed or looking for work in the U.S.—has been declining since the early 2000s, reaching a near 40-year low of 62.4 percent in September 2015. In 2016, Italy was the only O.E.C.D. country that had a lower labor force participation rate of prime age men than the U.S., and the participation rate of American women had fallen from the top group of O.E.C.D. countries to near the bottom. Read More > at Brookings

Why You Should Ignore Economists – If economists are so smart, why are they always wrong?

When I took Econ 101 and 102 as a young college student back in antediluvian times the textbook we were assigned was Paul Samuelson’s Economics: An Introductory Analysis. This book is the all-time best selling economics textbook and is still around today (19th ed.).

I had the 1961 edition. In it, Samuelson, a prominent Keynesian economist who won the Nobel prize in economics, predicted that the economy of the Soviet Union would overtake the U. S. economy in 23 years (by 1984). Even as late as the 11th edition (1980), Samuelson stood by his prediction.

As anybody who knows anything about the Soviet Union, their top-down centrally planned economy was a disaster that left its citizens in poverty. It was inefficient, wasteful, driven by coercion, politics, corruption, and cronyism. Consumer wishes were ignored. Goods were under-produced or overproduced. There were shortages of everything, except vodka and hydrogen bombs.

…Mainstream economists today aren’t much better.

For example, one would think that you could rely on those economic wizards at the Federal Reserve, those guardians tasked with the dual mandate of creating full employment and stable prices, but they got it wrong too. In the run-up to the Crash of ’08 and the Great Recession, Ben Bernanke, the then chairman of the Fed, not only didn’t see it coming but he failed to grasp the magnitude of the problem when it hit.

The truth is that almost no mainstream economist predicted the Crash of ’08 or the ensuing Great Recession. Most economists, Bernanke included, were forecasting that the economy would recover soon and any downturn would be mild, and certainly there was no recession on the horizon.

If these are the brightest guys in the room, why didn’t they understand what was happening? It makes you wonder if these guys really understand how economies work. The obvious answer is that they don’t. Read More > at An Independent Mind

The Hidden $700 Billion Debt Owed to Public Workers – States collectively owe more than $1 trillion in pension benefits to current public workers and retirees, but that oft-cited figure does not include the cost of other retirement benefits for government workers and public school employees.

That’s largely because states don’t bother accounting for their so-called “Other Post-Employment Benefits,” or OPEB, costs in the same way that they do for pensions. Instead of putting money away year-after-year to pay for those liabilities, most states fund OPEB costs on what accountants call a pay-as-you-go basis, meaning that revenue is appropirated from the state budget each year to meet those needs. The majority of OPEB is in the form of health care benefits, including retiree health insurance and other expenses like dental, vision, life, and disability insurance.

States paid more than $20 billion towards OPEB costs during 2015, according to a new analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts. That sounds like a lot of money, but it’s really just a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $692 billion owed to public workers over the next few decades.

Some states have done better than others when it comes to keeping up with OPEB costs, but only six states (Alaska, Arizona, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah) have set aside more than half of the the assets necessary to meet thier long-term OPEB obligations, according to Pew’s analysis. By comparison, 30 states have less than 10 percent of the necessary savings. Read More > at Reason

California condor takes flight in wild after near extinction – In a remote, rugged valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean, researchers closely monitor an endangered icon: the California condor.

The giant vultures flap their wings and circle the sky before perching on branches and observing their observers. Wildlife biologist Amy List uses a handheld antenna to track the birds, which wear radio transmitters and numbered tags.

“If we don’t know what they’re doing, we don’t know what’s going wrong,” said List, who works for the Ventana Wildlife Society, which manages the condor sanctuary in Big Sur.

Three decades after being pushed to the brink of extinction, the California condor is making a comeback in the wild, but constant vigilance is needed to ensure the endangered bird doesn’t reverse course.

One of the world’s largest birds with a wingspan up to 10 feet, the condor once patrolled the sky from Mexico to British Columbia. But its population plummeted in the 20th century due to lead poisoning, hunting and habitat destruction.

In 1987, wildlife officials captured the last remaining 22 condors and took them to the San Diego and Los Angeles zoos to be protected and bred in captivity.

Those efforts have led to a slow but steady recovery for a species that reproduces slowly compared with other birds. There are now roughly 450 condors, including about 270 in the wild in California, Arizona, Utah and northeastern Mexico. Read More > from the Associated Press

Cities urge CalPERS to help ease staff, pay cuts – The city manager of once-bankrupt Vallejo expects soaring police pension costs to reach 98 percent of pay in a decade. Lodi employees dropped from 490 to 390 in the last decade. And Oroville, after cutting a third of its staff, recently cut police pay 10 percent.

Eight cities struggling with rising pension costs urged the CalPERS board yesterday to analyze two ways to reduce the cost of pensions, even though the proposals were said by the CalPERS attorney to be unconstitutional under current law.

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, asked the CalPERS board to analyze the cost of suspending cost-of-living adjustments and giving current employees, for work done in the future, the lower pension for employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013, under reform legislation.

The chairman of the League of California Cities pension committee, Bruce Channing, Laguna Hills city manager, told the CalPERS board that cities throughout the state are “gravely concerned” about “unsustainable” pension costs and all options should be considered. Read More > at Calpensions

Key California Farm District Rejects Governor’s Delta Tunnels Plan – The board of the nation’s largest irrigation district on Tuesday rejected participation in Gov. Jerry Brown’s $16 billion plan to build two giant tunnels to re-engineer California’s north-south water delivery system, dealing a major blow to the project.

The board of Westlands Water District, a key player in the project’s success or failure, voted 7-1 against the project after more than an hour of tense discussion and comments from farmers, many of whom concluded the tunnels were too expensive.

The district already has invested millions of dollars toward planning but had not committed to shouldering a share of the hefty construction costs.

Westlands general manager Thomas Birmingham said he believes the no vote in Fresno could kill the tunnels project. Read More > from the Associated Press

Silicon Valley CEO Says Skip The Bay Bridge, Consider Taking A Flying Motorcycle – It may look like something straight out of Star Wars, but flying motorcycles are almost here.

They could be ready to hit the sky in just a few short years.

“Three years from now flying cars will be very hot,” said Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun.

It seems like the stuff of science fiction, but Thrun — engineer, entrepreneur and one-time driving force behind Google’s autonomous car program — says flying vehicles are just a few years, not decades away.

Thrun said, “We should not be getting stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel or the Bay Bridge anymore. You should just be able to go on your flying motorcycle and go wherever you want to go. That is actually becoming reality now.”

Thrun made that cheadline-grabbing claim during his talk on Day 2 of the Tech Crunch conference in San Francisco.

“We actually believe we’ll have our first product ready in February of next year. And it’s more of like a flying motorcycle than a flying car,” Thrun said.

It looks kind of like an airborne jet ski. Read More > at CBS Local

Toys ‘R’ Us Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection – Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late Monday, and is asking a judge to grant the giant U.S. toy store chain permission to borrow money in order to pay suppliers. The Wayne, NJ-based retailer is hoping to restructure $5 billion in long-term debt, and salvage what it can from the fast-approaching and critical Q4 holiday shopping season, which accounts for 40% of its net sales.

Toys ‘R’ Us Chief Executive Dave Brandon said, “Together with our investors, our objective is to work with our debtholders and other creditors to restructure the $5 billion of long-term debt on our balance sheet, which will provide us with greater financial flexibility to invest in our business, continue to improve the customer experience in our physical stores and online, and strengthen our competitive position in an increasingly challenging and rapidly changing retail marketplace worldwide.”

The filing is one of the largest ever by a specialty retailer, and reflects the massive changes sweeping across the retail industry. Leading up to the filing, nearly all the company’s vendors sought cash in advance before shipping products, and Toys ‘R’ Us was forced to scramble to raise $1 billion for suppliers.

The retailer said it has received a commitment for more than $3 billion in debtor-in-possession financing from lenders, including a JPMorgan-led bank syndicate, as well as existing lenders.

The company has 64,000 employees and nearly 1,600 stores, which it plans to continue operating as usual. Read More > at Connect Retail

$4.4 Billion Bay Area Transportation Plan — to Be Paid for by Higher Bridge Tolls — Sent to Governor – If you live in the Bay Area, you’ll be hearing a lot about Senate Bill 595 over the next year or so. If you’re a regular user of any of the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges — that’s all of them, except the Golden Gate Bridge — you’ll want to pay close attention.

SB 595, which won final passage Thursday and now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, provides for a vote in the nine Bay Area counties next year to raise bridge tolls by as much as $3. If the Bay Area Toll Authority, the agency that oversees the bridges, seeks that maximum $3 increase, tolls for a single crossing would be as high as $9 — the potential rush-hour tab for a trip across the Bay Bridge. (If you’re hyperventilating, just remember we’re still not in Verrazano-Narrows Bridge territory; the cash toll on the span between Brooklyn and Staten Island rose to $17 earlier this year.)

The higher tolls would pay for nearly three dozen transit and highway projects totaling $4.45 billion over the next 25 years. Read More > at KQED

Record bust: enough fentanyl to kill 32 million people seized in Queens – Agents made a record fentanyl bust in Queens and seized an amount large enough to kill 32 million people

Officers seized nearly 270 pounds of fentanyl, heroin and cocaine worth $30 million during separate busts, law enforcement officials said Monday. They also arrested four people.

“The sheer volume of fentanyl pouring into the city is shocking,” said Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan.

Investigators first recovered more than 140 pounds of fentanyl during a raid on a Kew Gardens apartment along with nearly 59 pounds of fentanyl mixed with other narcotics.

A fentanyl dose weighing just two to three milligrams can be deadly. The amount of pure fentanyl seized could have yielded approximately 32 million lethal doses. Read More > at Pix 11

California exodus? Poll finds voters consider moving due to sky-high housing costs – More than half of California voters say the state’s housing affordability crisis is so bad that they’ve considered moving, and 60 percent of the electorate supports rent control, according to a new statewide poll.

The findings from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies reflect broad concerns Californians have over the soaring cost of living. Amid an unprecedented housing shortage, rents have skyrocketed and tenants have faced mass evictions, especially in desirable areas.

“It’s an extremely serious problem,” said poll director Mark DiCamillo. “People are being forced to consider moving because of the rising cost of housing – that’s pretty prevalent all over the state.” Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

When Will Self-Driving Electric Cars Make Conventional Cars Worthless? – We’re entering a new era where transportation is an on-demand mobility service, not a product. Most owners will become real-time renters.

You’re not worrying about it yet, but tens of millions of conventional vehicles could one day be dumped in junkyards and weedy lots when self-driving, electric vehicles make them too expensive by comparison. That day is either close at hand, or a long ways off. It depends on who you ask (and whether they work in Silicon Valley or the sober consulting offices of Boston and New York).

RethinkX, a Bay Area think tank, predicts (pdf) that today’s car will become rolling typewriters far sooner than you think. By 2030, it expects shared, autonomous electric vehicles will account for 95% of all U.S. passenger miles traveled thanks to their low-maintenance and fuel costs, as well as their ability to work around the clock. Most of those miles will be logged in cities and suburbs. But gasoline cars are not going away anytime soon. They’ll likely account for 40% of all vehicles on the road by 2030, but they’ll just be used far less, and mostly in ex-urban and rural areas with less density than urban regions. Read More > at Route Fifty

Legal Marijuana Is Almost Here. If Only Pot Farmers Were on Board. – From the sky they look like citrus groves, neat rows of lush emerald-colored plants set amid the hills of Northern California.

But as a police reconnaissance helicopter banked for a closer look on a recent afternoon, the pungent smell of marijuana plants filled the cabin, wafting up from 800 feet below.

“That’s all weed,” squawked a deputy with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s office over the helicopter intercom. “They’re not in the program.”

More than nine months after California voted to legalize recreational marijuana, only a small share of the tens of thousands of cannabis farmers in Northern California have joined the system, according to law enforcement officers and cannabis growers.

Despite the promise of a legal marketplace, many growers are staying in the shadows, casting doubt on the promise of a billion-dollar tax windfall for the state and a smooth switch to a regulated market.

At the same time, environmental damage and crime associated with illegal cannabis businesses remain entrenched in the state despite legalization, law enforcement officials say. Read More > in The New York Times

Poll: A majority of Americans would pay more taxes for better roads

  • Three in four Americans say they’d pay higher taxes or more in tolls to fund transportation infrastructure, according to an HNTB poll reviewed by Reuters.
  • An even higher number of respondents said they’d be willing to pay more in such fees if there were legal mandates that the funds only be used on the intended projects. Illinois and New Jersey recently approved such mandates for transportation-related fees.
  • A similar share (73%) of respondents said they back public-private partnerships (P3s) to build and maintain transportation infrastructure while eight in 10 would support the addition of tolls to more highways.

The results of the HNTB poll mirror similar feedback from a national Bloomberg survey earlier this year, which found that just over half (55%) of Americans would support an increase in the federal gas tax if it meant improvements to roads and bridges in their state.

The federal gas tax has held at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, largely because lawmakers have been reluctant to pass along tax increases to their voters. The gas tax feeds the Highway Trust Fund, which supports state surface transportation projects. Meanwhile, states including California, Indiana and Oregon have raised their gas taxes this year to fund large-scale infrastructure spending programs.

An increase in the federal gas tax is just one of many financing options on the table for President Donald Trump’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure spend. Lawmakers disagree on the nature of the funding, with Republicans eschewing stimulus-like spending in favor of private-sector support and Democrats resisting private involvement in a public works program. The solution, however, is likely to include a mix of public and private funds. Read More > at Smart Cities Dive 


Time to Retire Social Security Numbers
– There’s no way to sugarcoat it: The hackers who breached the credit bureau Equifax scored big. They made off with the personal identities of 143 million Americans — names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. With that kind of information circulating on black markets, criminals can perpetrate all sorts of financial fraud, from opening credit cards in other people’s names to claiming their tax returns. It will upturn lives.

Along with hurricane recovery, addressing this problem should be an urgent priority for Congress. There should be two main focuses.

First, lawmakers should harden the country’s tactical defenses by passing a national data breach bill, requiring companies to disclose their cybersecurity policies, and creating new training opportunities to eliminate the country’s cybersecurity workforce shortage. But while these changes might help prevent the next attack, they will not do anything to help victims whose Social Security numbers are now in the wild. So, lawmakers should also adopt a more fundamental shift in strategy when it comes to protecting people’s identities: They should replace America’s outdated system of Social Security numbers with a secure alternative that effectively turns other forms of personal information into worthless trivia.

…We should replace the outdated, paper-based system of Social Security numbers with a secure identity system built for the digital era. To accomplish this, Congress must significantly expand the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, an initiative led by the Department of Commerce to create secure electronic IDs that can be used both commercially and in government.

These electronic IDs would allow individuals to prove their identities (or attributes about their identities) securely to other systems — a complete replacement of the 80-year-old SSN for the digital era. Individuals could use these electronic IDs for a variety of purposes, from applying for credit and signing legal documents to verifying they are over the age of 21 when ordering wine online. The State Department, which already has systems and processes in place to verify the identity of individuals who apply for passports, could issue these electronic IDs. The IDs themselves could be either physical or digital artifacts, such as a smartcard or digital certificate installed in a mobile app. Read More > at Real Clear Policy

Hundreds Of Bills Await Governor’s Pen As Calif. Legislature Adjourns – The California Legislature has adjourned for the year, after a flurry of votes into the early hours of Saturday morning. Lawmakers sent Governor Jerry Brown hundreds of bills -— about everything from a parks bond to pet stores. They also struck major housing, transportation and climate change deals this year, which many Capitol — watchers thought could not find support.

Democratic leaders point to those deals as three main accomplishments: billions of new dollars for road and bridge repair, an extension of the state’s climate change program — cap-and-trade — and a package of measures to address the state’s housing affordability crisis.

“I think it could by any objective measure be viewed as one of the most accomplished legislative sessions, if not perhaps the most accomplished legislative sessions in the history of California,” says Democratic Senate leader Kevin de León.

“Well, I’ve been through a lot of ‘most productive sessions ever.’ I could say this might be one of them,’” says Senator Jim Nielsen, the Republican vice-chair of the budget committee. “But I would say not in a ‘productive, good for the people of California’ way. Breath-taking tax increases this year, that are really going to hurt the middle-class, in fact everybody in California.”

All of the big deals could raise costs -— the housing package includes a new real estate transaction fee, fuel costs could rise as businesses comply with cap-and-trade, and the transportation bill increases the gas tax and vehicle fees. Read More > from Capital Public Radio

Rolling Stone, Once a Counterculture Bible, Will Be Put Up for Sale – From a loft in San Francisco in 1967, a 21-year-old named Jann S. Wenner started a magazine that would become the counterculture bible for baby boomers. Rolling Stone defined cool, cultivated literary icons and produced star-making covers that were such coveted real estate they inspired a song.

But the headwinds buffeting the publishing industry, and some costly strategic missteps, have steadily taken a financial toll on Rolling Stone, and a botched story three years ago about an unproven gang rape at the University of Virginia badly bruised the magazine’s journalistic reputation.

And so, after a half-century reign that propelled him into the realm of the rock stars and celebrities who graced his covers, Mr. Wenner is putting his company’s controlling stake in Rolling Stone up for sale, relinquishing his hold on a publication he has led since its founding. Read More > in The New York Times

Wildfire Suppression Cost Breaks $2 Billion Mark – Wildfires across the country this year have charred millions of acres, threatened homes and burned cultural landmarks. They’ve also set a record.

$2 billion – that’s how much it’s cost to beat back fires in 2017, making it the most expensive firefighting season in American history. These blazes have gobbled up 2.2 million acres of national forest land as of this week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal Forest Service, says it’s had to dig deeper into budgets to ward off the flames – even dipping into fire prevention funds.

That leaves little to no money for prescribed burning and other forest management techniques that can prevent a manageable blaze from growing into a behemoth.

Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue renewed his call on Congress to fix how his agency pays for wildfires – something Rep. Mike Simpson (R) has tried to accomplish for years. Read More > at Boise State Public Radio

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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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