Sunday Reading 11/12/17


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 Won’t The Nightmare Dream Of Communism Die? – A century of Communism achieved four main results: poverty, oppression, war, and mass death. So why does anybody still think collectivism is ‘idealistic’?

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution that set off the long global reign of terror of Communism. (For obscure reasons having to do with the outdated calendar used in Russia at the time, the October Revolution actually happened in November, and the Soviet Union traditionally celebrated it on November 7.) A century of Communism achieved four main results for the people who suffered under it: poverty, oppression, war, and mass death.

Countries taken over by Communists, from China and Russia to Cuba and Venezuela, were either plunged from relative prosperity into starvation or walled off for decades from the growing prosperity of capitalist countries—often right next door, enjoying all the same benefits of geography and culture. Think of the contrast between East and West Berlin, between Cuba and Chile, between mainland China and Hong Kong, between North and South Korea.

Communist countries have imposed oppressive regimes telling everyone what to read, think, and say. Scientists could be sent to the gulag for teaching unapproved ideas about genetics. Dissidents have been sent to prison camps, tortured, harassed, locked in psychiatric wards, and simply murdered outright. Artists and intellectuals have fled by the hundreds, when they could, seeking asylum in non-Communist countries in search of the freedom to do their work.

Above all else, the history of Communism is a history of mass-scale horrors: the terror-famine in Ukraine, Stalin’s show trials and gulags, the mass starvation of China’s Great Leap Forward, followed by the anarchic terror of the Cultural Revolution, the Killing Fields of Cambodia—those are just the low points in a list that can go on and on. It is estimated that in the past 100 years, Communist regimes killed as many as 100 million people. Read More > in The Federalist

California Has Become A Graveyard For Independent Candidates – As the popularity of the major parties has declined, independent and minor party candidates have been doing well. During the last fifteen years, independent or minor party candidates have been elected to state legislatures in 25 states. Also during the last fifteen years, such candidates have either been elected, or come in second, for Governor or U.S. Senator in Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont. But in California, no independent or minor party candidate has come remotely close to being elected during this century, and virtually no such candidates have even appeared on the California general election ballot.

The states in which a candidate who was not a major party nominee was elected to the state legislature in the last fifteen years are: Alabama 2014; Alaska 2016; Connecticut 2017; Georgia 2012; Illinois 2002; Kentucky 2010; Louisiana 2015; Maine 2016; Massachusetts 2008; Minnesota 2002; Missouri 2011; Montana 2006; Nebraska 2016; New Hampshire 2014; New York 2015; North Carolina 2010; Pennsylvania 2017; Rhode Island 2016; South Carolina 2012; South Dakota 2010; Tennessee 2012; Texas 2016; Vermont 2016; Virginia 2015; and Wisconsin 2010. For states in which this happened multiple times in the last fifteen years, only the most recent year is shown.

In the past, California was fertile ground for independent candidates. During 1986-1999, an independent or minor party nominee was elected to the California legislature five times. Quentin Kopp won as an independent for State Senate in 1986, 1990, and 1994; Lucy Killea won as an independent for State Senate from in 1992; and Audie Bock was elected as a Green to the Assembly in 1999.

California is no longer favorable to independent candidates because in 2010, Proposition 14 passed. It says all candidates for Congress and partisan state office must run in the June primary, and then only the top two candidates may run in the general election. Superficially, this system treats all candidates equally. In reality, it does not. That is because Americans are in the habit of only paying attention to independent and minor party candidates after they know who the major parties have nominated, i.e.. after the primary is over. But under the California top-two system, by then, it is too late. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

The NFL Doesn’t Know How to Lose – Over the past 50 years, the league owners have built a world in which they only win. Their annual revenue, now halfway to their goal of $25 billion, climbs yearly. They’ve won every labor negotiation with ease. They have built an internal system in which they have full disciplinary control, so they (eventually) win every battle with players. They have control over television networks. Even when ratings dipped last season, NFL ad revenue was at an all-time high. That’s a half-century hot streak.

However, the 2017 season marks the first time the NFL has met problems that it cannot, in the parlance of our times, tweet through. This is an abbreviated list of the issues the league faces and seems unable to solve: double-digit ratings declines over the past two years; a protest debate in which players are pitted against the president of the United States, who in turn has pitted himself against the NFL; sponsors so unhappy that there was a war of words over whether football is hurting sales of Papa John’s pizza; news that CTE could soon be detected in living people; and more protracted and convoluted court battles, most recently featuring Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

For years, the league has screwed up multiple things and won. And because for so long defeat didn’t seem possible, the upper echelons of football power are simply not equipped for losing. Read More > at the Ringer

Cultivating community: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – …How to help build community up is one thing, but what about factors that tend to tear it down? What about the things that stand in the way of meaningful progress? Things that draw and lock us into perpetual and unproductive stasis?

Those are equally interesting. So today I identify the first of what will probably be more to come: Measuring success against impossible ideals rather than achievable goals.

…Whatever the reason, the underlying position remains the same: Even for those ideologically in favor of the effort, the project is a failure because it falls some degree short of perfect. As though perfect were ever a possible outcome.

This is ludicrous. People making the conscious decision to work together, to put their differences aside in pursuit of shared interests, to find initiatives with the potential to improve quality of life (and, with it, economic, social and/or environmental performance), and to navigate obstacles to actually get something done, constitutes success. Grand success. Why? Because it so greatly exceeds what can be reasonably expected in the course of the day-in, day-out operations of most places. Read More > at CNU Public Square

A Dangerous Self-Driving Car Is Still Better Than a Human Driver – The death of a Tesla Model S rider in May 2016, which occurred while the car was operating on autopilot, was a jarring resurrection of the debate behind the safety of autonomous vehicles. The death represented the only fatality in the history of the world from an autonomous vehicle—for comparison’s sake, there were 40,200 car-related fatalities in 2016 in the U.S alone. Nevertheless, the public and policymakers alike have made it clear that they demand an extremely high threshold of tested safety before self-driving cars can be let loose en masse. The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes autonomous cars need to be twice as safe as human drivers before they are allowed on the road.

That level of testing would take a long time: maybe 15 more years, or maybe 50 more. Is that high safety standard really necessary? Or is it holding us back? A new report by the RAND Corp. argues that instead of waiting for near-perfect driving, we should start putting autonomous vehicles on the road as soon as they are even just a little bit safer than humans. After all, doing so would already lower the number of lives lost in car accidents—even if some of those self-driven vehicles still crash, and even kill.

The report’s authors developed three basic models for the future safety of autonomous vehicles: one in which those cars are 10 percent safer than human drivers, one in which they are 75 percent safer, and another where they are 90 percent safer. Each of those models were run through different scenarios to evaluate how that technology could be advanced and to what degree our current level of motor-vehicle accidents might be decreased.

The authors found that widespread adoption of autonomous cars that are even 10 percent safer than average human drivers would likely save as many as 3,000 lives a year. Which means widespread adoption of self-driving cars could save hundreds of thousands of lives in just three decades’ time. Read More > at Slate

93-Year-Old WWII Vet Unseats Mayor in New Jersey – A 93-year-old World War II veteran who unseated an incumbent mayor in New Jersey Tuesday night is proof that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.

Vito Perillo, who served in the Pacific Theatre while enlisted in the U.S. Navy, says he was inspired to run for mayor of Tinton Falls after a pair of whistleblower lawsuits involving his local police department.

“I didn’t think I had a chance,” Perillo says.

But Perillo thought wrong. On Tuesday, voters sent incumbent mayor Gerald Turning packing. His 93-year-old challenger won with 53 percent.

“I think it’s great,” said his granddaughter, Melissa Balsamello. “He’s fulfilled a dream he always had.” Read More > at California City News

Risks of a Gluten-Free Diet – There is a simple reason we strongly promote science-based medicine – it results in the best outcomes for individuals. That is true by definition, since the SBM approach is to use the best evidence and science available in order to determine which interventions result in the best outcomes.

…The best overall advice we can give the public regarding healthy eating is to eat a variety of food with plenty of fruits and vegetables and watch overall caloric intake. Unless you have special medical considerations, simply eating a good variety of different kinds of food will take care of most nutritional concerns. It will result in you getting enough of what you need and not too much of anything that can increase your risk.

Having a restricted or narrow diet is always tricky, and runs the risk that you will be getting too little of some key nutrients and may be getting exposed to too much of others. This is the key risk of so-called “fad” diets, because they are often premised on a simplistic notion that specific foods or categories of foods are inherently bad and should be avoided. Therefore any diet which essentially consists of avoiding certain foods or heavily relying on others is likely to take you away from an optimal diet, and therefore be a net negative for your health.

The recent gluten-free fad is no exception.

…What, then, is the potential harm from restricting gluten from the diet in the millions of people who do not have gluten sensitivity? Potentially, all of the things I listed above may contribute to harm.

For many people they have settled on gluten sensitivity to explain real symptoms they may be having. In this case they may be missing the real cause of their symptoms. There is therefore an opportunity cost of making a false diagnosis.

Perhaps most significantly, a gluten-free diet is very difficult. You have to eliminate all wheat and similar grains from the diet. This has become somewhat easier recently as industry is cashing in on the gluten-free fad, but it is still a significant inconvenience and expense and therefore drain on quality of life. Read More > at Science Based Medicine

Cancer Doctors Cite Risks of Drinking Alcohol – The American Society of Clinical Oncology, which represents many of the nation’s top cancer doctors, is calling attention to the ties between alcohol and cancer. In a statement published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the group cites evidence that even light drinking can slightly raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer and increase a common type of esophageal cancer.

Heavy drinkers face much higher risks of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancers, the group cautions.

“The message is not, ‘Don’t drink.’ It’s, ‘If you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less. And if you don’t drink, don’t start,’” said Dr. Noelle LoConte, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the lead author of the ASCO statement. “It’s different than tobacco where we say, ‘Never smoke. Don’t start.’ This is a little more subtle.”

Other medical groups have cited the risks of alcohol as a possible cause of cancer. But this is the first time that ASCO has taken a stand. Read More > in The New York Times

Students who shut down University of Oregon president’s speech panic after they’re charged – Threatening to investigate students for disrupting campus events works wonders on their willingness to negotiate.

A week after they received formal charges of “disruption of university” and “failure to comply” for shutting down the State of the University speech by University of Oregon President Michael Schill, participants warned Schill that he had “escalated tensions” by holding them accountable (!).

Student, faculty and union leaders signed an open letter to Schill and the board of trustees, posted on the activist UO Student Collective Facebook page, that blames Schill for comparing the protesters to the fascists they claim to fight.

“Your actions since this event have potentially endangered these students by calling out their actions in a national venue” – Schill’s New York Times op-ed – and “obscure[d] the concerns which precipitated the protest,” they wrote.

…In other words, the head of a major public university must allow protesters on stage for as long as they want during his own speech announcing a major unrestricted donation to the school.

The signatories blame Schill for “online commenters” who are, unsurprisingly, criticizing and mocking the protesters. Read More > at The College Fix

Banking Access Strategies for Cannabis-Related Businesses – Proposition 64 approving production, distribution, sale, and possession of adult recreational cannabis—passed by California voters in November 2016— ushers in a new era in the state. When the measure takes effect January 1, 2018, adult recreational use of cannabis will join medical use as a legal practice in California. But a shadow hangs over Proposition 64. Cannabis possession and sale remain federal crimes, a conflict that threatens to frustrate the will of California voters.

One of the consequences of the clash between state and federal law is that California’s legal cannabis businesses are largely locked out of the banking system. Because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, an overwhelming majority of financial institutions do not serve the cannabis industry. As a result, cannabis businesses are generally unable to write checks, make and receive electronic payments, or accept credit and debit cards. The cannabis industry operates chiefly in cash, just as it did when it was in the illegal market. The lack of access to banking services is not just a California problem—it is a major concern in each of the 29 states and the District of Columbia that have broadly legalized medical use, or both medical and adult recreational use, of cannabis

The cannabis industry’s inability to get basic banking services is an urgent public policy issue requiring concerted action by state and local governments, the cannabis industry, and financial institutions.

Ensuring cannabis industry access to banking services is in the public interest for three reasons:

  • Large amounts of cash make cannabis businesses, their employees, and their customers targets of violent crime.
  • State and local government agencies that collect tax and fee payments in cash from the cannabis industry incur added expenses, demands on staff time, and risks to employee safety.
  • Normal access to banking services is an essential part of taking the cannabis industry out of the shadows and establishing it as a transparent, regulated, tax-paying part of the California economy. Banking relationships can help law enforcement officials and regulators distinguish legal cannabis businesses from illegal market operators. Read More > the State Treasurer’s Cannabis Banking Working Group

Uber works with NASA to get flying taxis ready by 2020 – At a speech at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Uber’s head of product Jeff Holden revealed the company has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to create the air traffic control system that will manage its low-flying taxi fleet, which it aims to have in the air by 2020. The company also announced that a third test city, Los Angeles, has been added to the program, joining Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai. According to Uber, its UberAIR service could compress a one and a half hour journey from LAX to the Staples Center during rush hour to under 30 minutes.

Uber released a slick video, seen above, alongside its announcement, illustrating just how it envisions the Elevate service being used. It closes with the line “closer than you think”. With NASA’s clout behind the project, the idea of a flying taxi service is not only closer, but a whole lot more credible, too. Read More > at Engadget

Target to close a dozen underperforming stores – In a move toward growth, Target has decided to close stores, and a dozen of them at that.

The Minneapolis-based Star Tribune first reported on the news Tuesday afternoon.

“We have a rigorous process in place to evaluate the performance of every store on an annual basis, closing or relocating underperforming locations as needed,” a spokeswoman for the big-box retailer told CNBC.

“Typically, a store is closed as a result of seeing several years of decreasing profitability,” she added.

The 12 stores — spread across states including Michigan, Florida, Illinois and Texas — will close on Feb. 3 of next year.

Meantime, Target is in the midst of vastly expanding its portfolio of smaller-format stores, which Chief Executive Brian Cornell has said are more profitable than the retailer’s big-box locations. This year, Target will have opened 32 pint-sized stores, with 35 openings planned for 2018. Read More > at CNBC

Annual Poll Release Shows Americans Still Have A Lot To Learn About Communism – …For starters, as of this year, more Millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country (44%) than in a capitalist one (42%). Some even said they would prefer to live in a communist country (7%). The percentage of Millennials who would prefer socialism to capitalism is a full ten points higher than that of the general population.

It seems that the majority of America’s largest generation would prefer to live in a socialist or communism society than in a free enterprise system that respects the rule of law, private property, and limited government. This is even more disconcerting when coupled with the fact that, despite Millennials’ enthusiasm for socialism and communism, they do not, in fact, know what those terms mean.

One remarkable finding of our study is that, to a high degree, Americans favor absolute protections for free speech, regardless of their views of communism or socialism. Communists and socialists more broadly have historically and ideologically favored state regulation of the press, speech, and popular assembly. Our results suggest that Millennials who favor socialism and communism have not thoroughly considered the implications of their political beliefs.

Communism isn’t back: It never left. We simply forgot about it. And as it rears its ugly head once more, openly and shamelessly, we seem far less prepared to meet the challenge in this century as we did in the last. Read More > from Victims of Communism

The California Marijuana Tax Problem: Why Prices Could Increase 70% in 2018 – Buying weed in California is about to get less risky and much more expensive. A patchwork of new policies, including special taxes, will roll out in the state before sales of recreational marijuana begin at the start of 2018.

California will include a 15% levy on all cannabis sales in the state, including medical pot products, starting in January. Meanwhile, local governments are also adding taxes for sellers and growers that could result in a 70% increase in the price of a small bag of good quality marijuana in parts of the state.

Between state and local taxes, some buyers will see an effective tax as high as 45% on adult-use cannabis in California. Proponents of legalization have long pointed to the collection of state and local taxes on marijuana sales as a big benefit.

The new cannabis industry in the state has a projected value of $7 billion with the potential to collect $1 billion per year in tax revenue. But industry leaders in California claim that the high taxes give illicit vendors the upper hand.

“High tax rates raise prices in legal markets, reinforcing the price advantage of black markets,” the global credit ratings firm Fitch Ratings said in a report. “California’s black markets for cannabis were well established long before its voters legalized cannabis in November 2016 and are expected to dominate post-legalization production.” Read More > at Fortune

Tencent is reportedly testing its own autonomous driving system – Tencent is making progress on its own autonomous driving system, according to Bloomberg. The report says that Tencent, one of China’s largest tech firms and the maker of WeChat, already has a prototype and is testing the system internally.

If Tencent’s autonomous driving tests goes well, that would help it catch up with fellow Chinese tech giant and rival Baidu, which recently launched a $1.5 billion investment fund as part of Apollo, its autonomous vehicle initiative, and plans to mass produce Level 4 self-driving cars by 2021 with BAIC Group.

Tencent has signaled its interest in autonomous driving technology for a while now. About three months ago, it announced an alliance to work on artificial intelligence technology for autonomous cars, with members including Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford computer scientist who played a key role in the development of Google’s self-driving car; Xu Heyi, the chairman of Chinese state-owned auto maker BAIC Group; and electric car startup Nio founder Li Bin. Read More > at Techcrunch

How white TV writers decide the stories Hollywood tells America – Hollywood prides itself on its progressive politics. Celebrities sported blue ribbons on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards to signal their resistance to President Trump. Winners mocked him onstage. They’ve routinely lambasted a White House that they view as hostile to immigrants, women and minorities.

But the self-congratulatory liberal bastion has its own problems with diversity, particularly in regards to the showrunners — executive producers and head writers who make hiring decisions — and TV writers who shape story lines and characters, according to a report commissioned by the racial justice organization Color of Change.

And efforts over two decades to diversify the writers’ rooms at TV networks have largely failed, the report found.

Hollywood essentially “whitewashes” the narratives that influence the country, with shows that ignore or gloss over racial injustice, said Darnell Hunt, a sociologist and dean of social sciences at UCLA, who wrote the report and also co-authors the annual Hollywood Diversity Report pegged to the Oscars.

Research has shown that television has a powerful influence in shaping views about African Americans.

The 83-page study examined 234 comedy and drama series across 18 broadcast, cable and digital platforms in the 2016-2017 season. Fewer than 10 percent of the shows were led by minority showrunners, and only 14 percent of writers across all shows were members of a minority group, even though minorities represent nearly 40 percent of the population. Read More > in The Washington Post

Millennial Home Buyers Send a Chill Through Rental Markets – Rising homeownership is adding to the jitters in the residential rental market, which has slumped recently after a long stretch near the top of the commercial real-estate industry.

For most of the current economic expansion, declining ownership rates have enabled landlords of apartments and single-family homes to raise rents far faster than the pace of inflation. Demand has been fueled by the millions of people who haven’t had the money, credit or desire to pursue the traditional American dream.

But amid a hot housing market, the homeownership rate is now rising, in part because millennials are reaching the age when they’re forming families and settling down.

The Census Bureau last week reported that ownership increased to 63.9% in the third quarter, the highest level since 2014. The rate was up from 63.7% in the second quarter and 63.5% a year earlier. It remains below the 69% clocked at the peak of the housing bubble a decade ago. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Insurers make billions off Medicaid in California during Obamacare expansion – Medicaid is rarely associated with getting rich. The patients are poor, the budgets tight and payments to doctors often paltry.

But some insurance companies are reaping spectacular profits off the taxpayer-funded program in California, even when the state finds that patient care is subpar.

Health Net, a unit of Centene Corp., the largest Medicaid insurer nationwide, raked in $1.1 billion in profit from 2014 to 2016, according to state data obtained by Kaiser Health News. Anthem, another industry giant, turned a profit of $549 million from California’s Medicaid program in the same period.

Overall, Medicaid insurers in the Golden State made $5.4 billion in profits from 2014 to 2016, in part because the state paid higher rates during the inaugural years of the nation’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Last year, they made more money than all Medicaid insurers combined in 34 other states with managed care plans.

Jennifer Kent, California’s Medicaid director, said that health plan profits were higher than anticipated during the ACA expansion. But she said the state expects to recoup a significant amount of money within the next year once audits are complete and other retroactive rate adjustments are made.

“We’re going to be taking a lot of money back. We’re talking billions of dollars,” Kent said in an interview Friday. No one should think “these plans just made off like bandits and we’re not going to see them again … We are very mindful we use taxpayer money.” Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Major news outlets shared Russian propaganda from Twitter – Now that it’s clearer just how many Twitter accounts have been linked to the Russian government (2,752 at last count), it’s becoming evident that many reputable news sites were tricked into sharing propaganda. Recode and media intelligence company Meltwater have determined that the Washington Post, CBS, the Miami Herald, Vox Media (which owns Recode) and other well-known media outlets shared tweets from Russian accounts without realizing that these “grassroots” posts were really misinformation efforts.

The study, which covers tweets from January 1st, 2016 through September 30th, 2017, noted that many of the accounts posed as activists on both major sides of contentious issues. As on Facebook, Russia’s “troll team” (the IRA) was trying to exploit social divisions. It’s not known how many of the accounts were created explicitly for propaganda purposes versus being hijacked, but at least some of them have shut down (whether through Twitter bans or otherwise). Read More > at Engadget

Why one of the biggest barriers to rebuilding Santa Rosa may be an endangered salamander – Santa Rosa was hit hardest by the fires that ripped through Wine Country last month. Roughly 3,000 homes were destroyed, equivalent to 5 percent of the city’s housing stock.

With the fires now out, obstacles are emerging that could prevent burned-out homeowners and developers from replacing those lost homes quickly. While the Bay Area in general is notoriously difficult to build in, both politically and economically, developers say that Santa Rosa in particular has stringent environmental regulations that add another burden to development.

Most of the city is subject to a hodgepodge of different federal, state and local agencies that have a say in land use, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and state and regional water quality boards.

…If a development is expected to affect an endangered species or its habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requires an environmental remediation plan with specific mitigations.

Multiply that across different agencies with different jurisdictions, different processes and different mitigation requirements and the cost and effort necessary to start building starts to accumulate. Adding to the complexity is that developers working on multiple sites may be subject to different environmental regulations.

As a result, Johnson said, a 10-acre site in a place like Merced might need 18 to 24 months to get entitlements. In Santa Rosa, it could take six or seven years. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

Op-Ed Is ‘Weinsteining’ getting out of hand? – The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandals and the ripples from the “#MeToo” movement are having indubitably positive effects — above all, exposing and bringing to account predators who have enjoyed impunity due to their power and status. But there are some pitfalls. Many people — not just men with skeletons in the closet — fear that careers may be destroyed over minor misconduct and ambiguous transgressions. Troubling rhetoric abounds, condemning all sexually tinged dynamics in the workplace, stereotyping men as abusers and women as perpetual victims in need of quasi-Victorian protections.

…More broadly, the #MeToo movement, which tends to lump together a wide range of male wrongdoing from rape to “creepy” or boorish behavior, raises a basic question about human relations in the working world: Can work and sexuality or romance ever mix? For many supporters of this campaign, the answer seems to be no.

Concerns that the post-Weinstein climate may lead to witch hunts against any man who flirts with a female colleague have been met with angry comments along the lines of “flirting in the workplace IS HARASSMENT.” A tweet by singer/songwriter Marian Call that got more than 2,000 retweets and nearly 6,500 “likes” asked, “dudes are you aware how happy women would be if strangers & coworkers never ‘flirted’ with us again … this is the world we want.”

But is it? It’s certainly not the world I want: Except in college, nearly every man I have ever dated was either a co-worker or, once I switched entirely to free-lancing, someone I met through work. This is not unusual, even in the age of dating websites and apps. An informal 2015 survey for the online magazine Mic found that men and women under 35 were almost twice as likely to have met their current significant other through work (17.9%) as through online dating (9.4%). Similar findings have emerged from other such surveys. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

What We Think Alzheimer’s Does to the Brain – Around 50m people worldwide are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease. And with rapidly ageing populations in many countries, the number of sufferers is steadily rising.

We know that Alzheimer’s is caused by problems in the brain. Cells begin to lose their functions and eventually die, leading to memory loss, a decline in thinking abilities and even major personality changes. Specific regions of the brain also shrink, a process known as atrophy, causing a significant loss of brain volume. But what’s actually happening in the brain to cause this?

The main way the disease works is to disrupt communication between neurons, the specialised cells that process and transmit electrical and chemical signals between regions of the brain. This is what is responsible for the cell death in the brain – and we think its due to a build up of two types of protein, called amyloid and tau. The exact interaction between these two proteins is largely unknown, but amyloid accumulates into sticky clusters known as beta-amyloid “plaques”, while tau builds up inside dying cells as “neurofibrillary tangles”.

One of the difficulties of diagnosing Alzheimer’s is that we’ve no reliable and accurate way of measuring this protein build-up during the early stages of the disease. In fact, we can’t definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s until after the patient has died, by examining their actual brain tissue. Read More > at Real Clear Science

Homelessness soars on West Coast as cities struggle to cope – Housing prices are soaring here thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: A surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. The liberal city is trying to figure out what to do.

“I’ve got economically zero unemployment in my city, and I’ve got thousands of homeless people that actually are working and just can’t afford housing,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien. “There’s nowhere for these folks to move to.”

That struggle is not Seattle’s alone. A homeless crisis is rocking the entire West Coast, pushing abject poverty into the open like never before.

Public health is at risk, several cities have declared states of emergency, and cities and counties are spending millions — in some cases billions — in a search for solutions.

San Diego now scrubs its sidewalks with bleach to counter a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. In Anaheim, 400 people sleep along a bike path in the shadow of Angel Stadium. Organizers in Portland lit incense at an outdoor food festival to cover up the stench of urine in a parking lot where vendors set up shop.

Homelessness is not new on the West Coast. But interviews with local officials and those who serve the homeless in California, Oregon and Washington — coupled with an Associated Press review of preliminary homeless data — confirm it’s getting worse. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

To Live and Die on TV – Another autumn Sunday and once again the news is grim for the National Football League. Ratings continue to fall, fans are leaving in droves and now sponsors are beginning to have second thoughts about wasting their advertising dollars on programming fewer and fewer suckers are watching:

Papa John’s International Inc. is evaluating its National Football League sponsorship in the wake of declining television football viewership, which the company has blamed in part on the national anthem protests that have roiled the league this season.

…And why is this, pray tell?

Total NFL ratings through the first seven weeks of the season declined by 5% compared with last year and by about 15% versus the same stretch in 2015, which was a strong season for the league. Media experts say many league offerings—from additional Thursday night games to the availability of games on digital devices and outlets—has led viewers to watch football elsewhere. “If the viewership decline continues, we will need to shift into things that work more effectively for us,” said Papa John’s President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie.

…In the end, however, it won’t matter. The NFL is doomed because broadcast and cable television itself is doomed, as folks pull the plug on cable and satellite and instead opt for pay-on-demand services. It was a nice run while it lasted, but it’s no coincidence that pro football metastasized from an also-ran to baseball in the 1960s to a steroid-fueled TV behemoth from the invention of Monday Night Football on. That vogue has now, it seems, run its course, and the ratings decline would likely be happening even without Kaepernick & Co. But they have certainly exacerbated it, and their continuing “protests” (about what? And what does football have to do with it?) are hastening the end of the sport’s hold on both the viewing public and advertising dollars. Read More > at PJ Media

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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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