Sunday Reading – 04/15/18


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.

Marijuana laws for every city and county? Our database shows California slow to accept Prop. 64 – Fewer than one in three California cities (144 out of 482) allow any kind of cannabis business to operate in their borders. And just 18 of the state’s 58 counties permit cannabis businesses in their unincorporated areas.

Also, fewer than one in five California cities welcome medical marijuana dispensaries, while fewer than one in seven allow recreational cannabis stores, where anyone 21 and older has been able to shop for legal weed since Jan. 1.

These are some of the findings in a first-of-its-kind investigation, tracking and compiling the cannabis ordinances in all 540 city and county jurisdictions in California, a study conducted by Southern California News Group and other Digital First newspapers. Read More > in The Orange County Register

Tesla email reveals company’s effort to silence an alleged victim with cash – Tesla had a clear message to DeWitt Lambert, a black employee alleging racial discrimination: take our money and stay quiet.

“In terms of settlement, we are willing to pay Mr. Lambert [redacted], but only if we are to resolve this matter before there is media attention, preferably within the next few hours,” the Tesla general counsel, Todd Maron, wrote to the worker’s lawyers last year. “If there is media attention first, there will be no deal.”

The message, which a lawyer shared with the Guardian this week, provides a stark illustration of what some say is Tesla’s aggressive legal and media strategy in the face of serious complaints and potential negative press. The controversial PR tactics of Elon Musk’s car company have been on full display this week as the corporation has worked to publicly blame the victim of a fatal crash involving its autonomous technology. Read More > in The Guardian

How about housing some homeless in your backyard? – Here’s an idea that wouldn’t survive the laughter in most U.S. communities.

But this is California and more specifically, Los Angeles. So, local government is moving ahead with a plan to move some of the county’s exploding homeless populations off the streets and — wait for it — into your backyard.

The idea is to build little homes or large huts, depending on your scale, in the backyard of willing homeowners. A kind of YIMBY — Yes In My Backyard.

According to the county’s pilot program, rents to homeowners would be covered by government low-income housing vouchers with homeless tenants contributing 30 percent of their income, assuming they have some. If they don’t, well, who are you to question the wisdom of well-intentioned government spending more of your money to fix an intractable problem?

Without addressing the lack of income for rent, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said, “Many, many of them are just regular people like you and me who just lost their job or lost their house and really don’t have other choices.” Read More > at HotAir

4 in 10 millennials don’t know 6 million Jews were killed in Holocaust, study shows – More than one-fifth of millennials in the U.S. — 22 percent — haven’t heard of, or aren’t sure if they’ve heard of, the Holocaust, according to a study published Thursday, on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. The study, which was commissioned by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and conducted by Schoen Consulting, also found that 11 percent of U.S. adults overall haven’t heard of the Holocaust or aren’t sure if they did.

Additionally, 41 percent of millennials believe two million Jews or fewer were killed during the Holocaust, the study found. Six million Jews were killed in World War II by Nazi Germany and its accomplices.

Two-thirds of millennials could not identify in the survey what Auschwitz was. Read More > from CBS News

Breaking: Referendum to Split Calif. Into 3 States Will Be on Ballot – One of several proposals aiming to split California into multiple smaller states has reportedly reached an important new goal thanks in large part to the efforts of its billionaire champion.

According to a press release this week, the CAL 3 initiative surpassed the number of signatures needed to present the measure to voters in this year’s election. If state officials determine the documents are genuine, it would then qualify as an initiative to be added this November.

Tim Draper, a venture capitalist whose idea would see the state’s population roughly split into thirds to create a trio of new states, celebrated the feat that he says will allow Californians to weigh in directly at the ballot box. Read More > in The Western Journal

The State Pension Funding Gap: 2016 – Many state retirement systems are on an unsustainable course, coming up short on their investment targets and having failed to set aside enough money to fund the pension promises made to public employees. Even as contributions from taxpayers over the past decade doubled as a share of state revenue, the total still fell short of what is needed to improve the funding situation.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the pension funding shortfall and the budgetary challenges facing individual states, but without new policies that commit states to fully funding retirement systems, the impact on other essential services—and the potential for unpaid pension promises—will increase.

…In 2016, the state pension funds in this study cumulatively reported a $1.4 trillion deficit—representing a $295 billion jump from 2015 and the 15th annual increase in pension debt since 2000. Overall, state plans disclosed assets of just $2.6 trillion to cover total pension liabilities of $4 trillion.

Investment returns that fell short of state assumptions caused a major part of the increase in the funding gap. The median public pension plan’s investments returned about 1 percent in 2016, well below the median assumption of 7.5 percent—a disparity that added about $146 billion to the debt.1 Assumption changes—primarily states lowering the assumed rate of return used to calculate pension costs—accounted for another $138 billion in increased liabilities. Read More > at Route Fifty

Retail defaults soar to record high in 2018 – Moody’s said in a report on Tuesday that retail sector defaults hit a record high during the first three months of 2018 as the rise of e-commerce and decline of malls continues to eat away at profits.

Struggling Sears and bankrupt Claire’s are among the nine retailers that defaulted on their debt during the first quarter despite the healthy overall economy. All but one of the retailers are based in the United States.

Moody’s cited the “fallout of changing consumer behavior and advancing e-commerce for traditional brick-and-mortar retail.”

Four retailers defaulted during February and another four defaulted in March — tied for the most in a single month since December 1998. And that’s on top of the 13 retail defaults in 2017, including one by bankrupt Toys “R” US according to Moody’s.

The retail defaults pushed the default rate of high-risk US corporate borrowers to 3.9%, compared with 3.4% at the end of 2017, Moody’s said.

Much like a consumer who fails to pay off loans, companies that default on their debt often encounter trouble finding financing in the future. Read More > at CNN Money

A change to California’s housing supply law could spur a big expansion in home building – A Bay Area lawmaker’s housing proposal could expand the size and scope of home building efforts in California at an unprecedented scale.

The legislation, Senate Bill 828, from state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would require cities and counties to rezone land in their communities to permit many more homes than are currently in their plans.

Under the bill, local governments could have to double the amount of land made available for condominium and apartment complexes, and zone even more parcels for residential development in an effort to address a shortage of homes in the state that Wiener has estimated stands at 4 million.

Wiener wants to implement the new zoning through changes to the state’s housing supply law, which for the last 50 years has aimed to spur the construction of enough housing at all income levels to keep pace with California’s growth.

The law compels cities and counties to zone enough land in their communities to accommodate projected population increases, so theoretically developers have enough places to build. But numerous factors, including developers’ construction and financing costs, competing state environmental regulations and often lengthy approval processes for projects, have stalled actual production.

The existing housing supply law says local governments must plan to have enough land zoned for residential construction to meet housing production goals across a range of income levels. The state resets the numbers and reallocates the targets to local governments every eight years.

…Just two of 539 cities and counties met housing production goals at all four income levels during the eight-year period that ended in 2014, according to a Times review of housing department data. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes – When I downloaded a copy of my Facebook data last week, I didn’t expect to see much. My profile is sparse, I rarely post anything on the site, and I seldom click on ads. (I’m what some call a Facebook “lurker.”)

But when I opened my file, it was like opening Pandora’s box.

With a few clicks, I learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronica band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number and full name. Facebook also had my entire phone book, including the number to ring my apartment buzzer. The social network had even kept a permanent record of the roughly 100 people I had deleted from my friends list over the last 14 years, including my exes.

…Mr. Zuckerberg repeatedly said Facebook has a tool for downloading your data that “allows people to see and take out all the information they’ve put into Facebook.”

But that’s an overstatement. Most basic information, like my birthday, could not be deleted. More important, the pieces of data that I found objectionable, like the record of people I had unfriended, could not be removed from Facebook, either.

…Digging through your Facebook files is an exercise I highly recommend if you care about how your personal information is stored and used. Here’s what I learned.

When you download a copy of your Facebook data, you will see a folder containing multiple subfolders and files. The most important one is the “index” file, which is essentially a raw data set of your Facebook account, where you can click through your profile, friends list, timeline and messages, among other features.

One surprising part of my index file was a section called Contact Info. This contained the 764 names and phone numbers of everyone in my iPhone’s address book. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that Facebook had stored my entire phone book because I had uploaded it when setting up Facebook’s messaging app, Messenger. Read More > in The New York Times

Home Values Are Rising by $800 a Day in San Jose – Typical U.S. homeowners are gaining more than $50 of equity in their homes during every eight-hour workday, according to an analysis from Zillow. Price gains in some parts of the country have been significantly higher. In booming tech cities San Jose, San Francisco and Seattle, appreciation of the typical home added the equivalent in wealth of a six-figure annual salary.

Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas said, “For homeowners that have already or are very close to paying off a mortgage, this supplemental ‘income’ – especially if allowed to accumulate over several years – can essentially serve as a kind of second job that pays directly to a homeowner’s bottom line, without nearly as much actual work involved in collecting it.”

Read More > at Bloomberg

What are the marijuana laws in your California city? Explore our database of local cannabis policies – With a patchwork of marijuana laws spread throughout California, reporters from this news organization have spent months collecting policy information from all 482 cities and 58 counties in the state.

We wanted a way for individuals to be able to see the specific policies in the cities where they live, work and visit. And we wanted businesses to be able to see where they could open, how tax rates compare and more.

Readers can sort this local marijuana policy data alphabetically or by score (points) that show how lenient a city is (higher points) or how strict a city is with its marijuana regulations (low points). They can also filter searches by county or by which places allow which business types, from recreational sales to medical testing labs (more on those types below the database). And they can select certain cities for side-by-side comparisons of their policies. Read More > in the Orange County Register

What Prayer Is Good For — and the Evidence for It – For most believers, it isn’t a substitute for data-based solutions. It is a personal resource that complements other thoughtful action.

Whenever there is a national tragedy such as a mass shooting or natural disaster, two phenomena can reliably be observed. First, people offer or ask for prayers. Second, others respond by criticizing, even mocking prayer. They argue that we need to turn to science, not faith, to solve problems. Atheist public intellectuals often make a similar case against prayer: that because evidence that it is effective is lacking, it is a waste of precious time and energy. It appears many critics don’t realize that empirical evidence reveals that prayer can be quite helpful.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, over half of American adults pray daily, and less than a quarter seldom or never pray. Prayer is not exclusive to the religiously affiliated. Pew finds that 20 percent of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated pray daily and that another 18 percent pray weekly or monthly. And despite people’s tendency to frame debates about the value of religious beliefs and practices in political terms, daily prayer is a bipartisan activity; 42 percent of people who pray daily are Republican and 40 percent are Democrat. People all over the world from different cultures, faiths, and backgrounds regularly pray

…A number of studies suggest that prayer is positively associated with well-being and physical health. For instance, a nationwide survey of older adults found that the negative effects of financial problems on health were significantly reduced among those who regularly prayed for others. Religious practices such as prayer also contribute to perceptions of meaning in life, which promote psychological well-being. Some studies have found mixed results when it comes to the association between prayer and mental health. Results from a large national survey helped clarify this relationship. Researchers found that prayer is psychologically beneficial for those who perceive God as loving but may cause anxiety for those who view God as distant and unresponsive. Other research suggests, not surprisingly, that the content of prayer matters. For example, among a sample of cancer patients, those who focused their prayers on thankfulness and concern for others were found to have the least symptoms of depression. Read More > in the National Review

Cheating in Boxing: All the Ways Boxers Steal Wins – Just 27, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has already fought 52 times as a pro. (This is more than boxers including Rocky Marciano, “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather did during their entire careers.) 49 of them, he won. His most recent bout was a draw against Gennady Golovkin, but even that could be viewed as a triumph. After all, Canelo-GGG I was a PPV hit and the second stood to be even bigger.

Except Canelo twice tested positive for Clenbuterol, throwing the rematch in doubt. He then pulled the plug entirely, withdrawing before he could be suspended. Canelo insists this is all an innocent misunderstanding caused by eating tainted meat. (Clenbuterol is allowed in cattle feed in Mexico to reduce fat and boost lean muscle, though not in the United States.) Golovkin, however, feels that repeated rule breaking by Canelo is, at last, being exposed: “Before the first fight, I knew he was not clean.”

Whatever the case, it’s all part of boxing’s rich tradition of fighting dirty. Here’s a brief guide to the dark side of the ring.

Low Blows
Noted Practitioner: Andrew “The Foul Pole” Golota

Rabbit Punching
Noted Practitioner: Jack “Kid Blackie” Dempsey
Low blows take an undeniable toll on your opponent, but they’re hard for referees to miss. Anyone who continually employs them will likely wind up DQ’ed like Golota. Quick punches to the back of an opponent’s head or neck are also illegal, but far easier to conceal.

Lacing
Noted Practitioner: Dempsey again
Sometimes you don’t need to hit an opponent to hurt them. Before every fight, a boxer laces up the gloves. Some boxers then turn these laces into a weapon. During the fight, a conscious decision is made to drag the laces across an opponent’s face. This can be particularly damaging on cuts and eyes. Read More > at Real Clear Life

Wiener scales back bill that would allow taller housing near public transit – State Sen. Scott Wiener scaled back a controversial housing proposal that would strip local governments of their ability to block construction of taller and denser apartment and condominium buildings near public transit stops, and conceded the bill might not make it through the Legislature this year.

The San Francisco Democrat introduced amendments to his SB827 late Monday that would lower the maximum height of buildings that could go up as a result of the bill to five stories from eight. Also, the bill would take effect in 2021 instead of 2019.

Wiener made the amendments ahead of the bill’s first hearing April 17 in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. If passed, the bill will then head to the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.

The measure would override local height limits on proposed four- and five-story apartment and condo buildings in residential areas if they are within a half mile of major transit hubs, such as a BART or Caltrain station. It also would limit cities’ ability to block denser buildings within a quarter-mile of highly used bus and light-rail stops, but amendments eliminated new height requirements. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

California’s Largest Water District Agrees To Spend Billions On Delta Tunnel Project – California’s largest water district has given key support to a $17 billion project long sought by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California agreed to take on about two-thirds of the cost of the Delta tunnels project, which involves construction of two 40-foot-wide, 35-mile-long pipes. These would carry water under the Delta from its northern end to connections with central and Southern California water districts.

Supporters argue it represents the best option for the increasingly strained Delta and for Southern California cities thirsty for water.

“This project is better of the environment,” said Steve Blois of the Calleguas Municipal Water District in Ventura County. “It’s the cheapest source of new water that’s available to us currently. It provides us much greater reliability.”

All of those points are contested by opponents of the project. They argue pumping out fresh water before it can reach the Delta will increase salinity in a fragile ecosystem. Read More > at Capital Public Radio

Sex workers fear violence as US cracks down on online ads: ‘Girls will die’ – Phoenix Calida’s friends are preparing for death. Some are sending photos of tattoos to make it easier to identify their bodies. Others are giving instructions for eulogies.

Calida, 35, is a Chicago-based sex worker who has depended on websites that host classified ads, such as Craigslist and Backpage.com, to meet and screen clients. But the US government’s recent crackdown on those platforms has abruptly eliminated many workers’ primary source of income, forcing some to turn to the streets or to rely on abusive pimps, greatly increasing the risk of violence.

“Girls are going back to the streets and they are going to die in the streets, and nobody cares,” said Calida, a mother of two, who said she used to do street work and fears she will have to start again to make ends meet. “Everybody is terrified.”

Congress recently passed legislation with bipartisan support that purports to combat online sex trafficking by making websites criminally liable for users’ content. But some say the Online Sex Trafficking Act (Fosta) and Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (Sesta) will have the opposite effect. Critics argue that the legislation broadly censors online speech, takes income away from people who engage in consensual sex work, and helps traffickers get away with crimes by pushing the industry underground. Read More > in The Guardian

London Mayor Launches Knife Control Campaign – London saw more murders in February and March than New York City (37 vs. 32), for apparently the first time. This has led to calls for both heavier policing and social media censorship. London’s murder number total for 2018 so far is now over 53 (vs. 130 total in 2017), with at least 35 from stabbing, and its murder rate over the past three years has gone up nearly 40 percent.

The comparison between London and New York might be less about London becoming more of a hellhole and more about New York City becoming amazingly less of one. In 1990 that American city had 2,245 murders, and as the Financial Times reports, “In the 20 years to 2009, the number of murders, robberies and burglaries in New York was down 80 per cent, twice the US national average, and lower than it had been in 1961.” While London has more and more relied on racially unbalanced stop-and-frisk searches to futilely cope with crime, New York has found that curtailing those practices, has not, despite law-and-order fears, led to increasing crime.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has sent 300 more police on the streets this month and threatened all knife-wielders, whether they’ve assaulted anyone or not, with “the full force of the law.” (For all the good it has done them, London has banned carrying a knife in public without “good reason” for years already.) For many Londoners, carrying a knife in a dangerous city is an understandable matter of self-defense. But too often, the government doesn’t consider your own self-defense a good reason to allow you to innocently carry a tool, both in London and in American debates over the right to carry a gun. Read More > at Reason

Dangers of Marijuana Edibles That People Never Talk About – With marijuana becoming legal in more places, more people are putting down their joints and trying edibles. But outside of knowing how quickly the high can kick in, there isn’t a lot of discussion about the negative side effects weed edibles can have.

Here are some of the dangers of marijuana edibles that people don’t talk about, and should.

Confused glands

Anyone who regularly eats edibles may comment that it gives them cotton mouth. This is just one sign of how marijuana edibles can manipulate your body’s ability to function properly. Wikileaf tells us that consuming too much THC affects the submandibular gland’s ability to know that it needs to produce saliva. A lack of saliva long-term can negatively impact your oral health, or even your throat.

Hallucinations

While altered brain function is more well-known side effect of eating cannabis edibles, not enough people recognize how dangerous that can be.In some cases, eating too many edibles can lead to frightening hallucinations and hyperventilation due to fear. This is only made worse by the fact that the high from edibles tends to last longer.

Acne

THC raises testosterone levels in the body. When this happens, the Huffington Post says, the skin’s oil glands begin to over-produce and cause breakouts. While there is debate over how much THC has to be ingested to actually cause acne, it’s widely agreed that is also ages skin more rapidly.

Extreme lethargy

Once the marijuana wears off, fatigue begins to set in. Both mental and physical fatigue are common side effects, which can make getting through your day incredibly difficult. This may cause you to have trouble being productive during the day, and can be increasingly dangerous if you have to drive or operate heavy machinery. Read More > at Cheat Sheet

Why Americans’ life expectancy is getting longer – Americans appear to be aging slower than they used to, which may help explain recent gains in life expectancy, researchers say.

The researchers compared how biological age changed in the United States compared to age in years (chronological age). For the study, the investigators looked at national health surveys conducted 1988-1994 and 2007-2010.

The study suggests that the explanation for recent gains in life expectancy goes beyond simply keeping sick people alive.

To calculate biological age, the researchers used several benchmarks for metabolism, inflammation, organ function, blood pressure and breath capacity.

While all age groups had a decrease in biological age, not all people were faring the same.

Older adults had the greatest decreases in biological age, and men had greater declines than women. Read More > from UPI

Battle for Napa Valley’s future: Proposed curb on vineyards divides county – Fifty years ago Monday, Napa County passed an ordinance that has defined the course of its history and, one could argue, determined the history of California wine.

The Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, passed by the Board of Supervisors on April 9, 1968, resolved to protect the valley’s most precious resource: land.

Here, land holds an extraordinary potential for producing fine wine grapes, and Napa residents wanted to protect it from strip malls and subdivisions. Agriculture, which in Napa means viticulture, was declared the “highest and best use” of this unique, unmatched slice of earth.

Now, a half century later, Napa has arrived at another turning point, this time with a June ballot initiative that could alter the course of its history again.

Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, on a mail-in ballot to be tallied June 5, seeks to curb further vineyard development to preserve the streams, oak trees and natural habitats on the Napa Valley hillsides. It’s a proposal that has bitterly divided the valley. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

News is entertainment and entertainment is news – The United Nations described it as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” the military offensive that led to the exodus of Rohingya Muslims in the Myanmar province of Rakhine. Almost a half-million men, women and children have fled persecution or death in the region over the past year, crossing the border to Bangladesh, or climbing into small boats for the trip to Thailand and Malaysia. One refugee called the slaughter in Rakhine “house-to-house killing.”

CBS brought the horrible situation back to center stage on Sunday, March 25, with a show focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, noting in particular the plight of children and the cries of the people facing gruesome government hostility. It is a newsworthy story, with so many aspects that could be reported on weekly, along with all the other stories of global consequence.

Instead, the broadcast highlighted a classic problem with the U.S. news media. You see, the broadcast didn’t run on CBS News. It was a storyline on a CBS Entertainment series, “Madam Secretary.”

Over at CBS News, a few hours earlier, CNN’s Anderson Cooper conducted a “60 Minutes” interview with a porn star who claims to have had sex with Donald Trump in 2006; that episode drew 21 million viewers, triple that of “Madam Secretary.”

…None of the broadcasts featuring Daniels has offered viewers a portrait of her character and credibility, other than the mysterious disc sitting on someone’s bookshelf. The media have given her and her attorney more credibility than they could have ever hoped for. The Washington Post, in eight stories published on March 27, 2018 alone, devoted a combined 8,160 words of copy to Daniels and her lawyer; her column inches in the major national dailies must total the millions by now.

The genocidal slaughter of Rohingya villagers gets news coverage among U.S. media but not to the degree that Daniels has commanded. The same lack of intense coverage applies to the mass slaughter of millions of innocent people in Syria, Rwanda, Yemen, the Congo and Nigeria.

Coverage of Stormy Daniels’ claims, and so much more like it, also squeezes out in-depth coverage of the enormity of our national infrastructure problem; the vulnerability of our electric grid that poses a national security risk; the size of our national debt; the crises facing us in Social Security, Social Security Disability, Medicare and Medicaid; the erosion and pending collapse of the health care insurance industry; or the emergence of health care technology that will transform life as we know it. Read More > in The Hill

Shock: Facebook Is Tracking You Even If You’re Not on Facebook – Facebook’s problems just keep accumulating, drip by drip—or more like splash by splash. It’s now been discovered that Facebook not only collects and uses the personal data of its members but also collects the data of those who never signed up for Facebook.

So if you’re one of those who blames Facebook users for allowing their personal data to be compromised, don’t be so smug. Facebook may be sharing your personal data as well.
Daniel Kahn Gillmor, senior staff technologist at the ACLU, discovered that, although he never joined Facebook or any other social network, Facebook has a detailed profile on him.

Facebook obtains information from those not on Facebook in two different ways: from other Facebook users and by tracking people who visit other other sites on the web.

When people sign up for Facebook, they’re encouraged to upload their contacts to make it easier for Facebook to connect them with their friends. That allows Facebook to access personal contact information for people who never signed up for the platform or gave their permission to share their information. Facebook knows that these contacts are friends of the new Facebook user, and can start compiling additional details on these non-members. Read More > at PJ media

Kohl’s Gets In On The Small Store Revolution With Early Success – After department store chain Kohl’s seemed like it was going the way of Sears, a shift in strategy appears to have turned things around.

After a dismal first quarter in 2017, the chain shrunk many of its 1,160 locations across America from 90K SF to 60K SF, and the change has paid off with strong holiday sales and a bump in its gross margin, Fortune reports.

The smaller stores allow for fewer costs thanks to a number of factors: smaller inventories, optimized with a big push into data; fewer registers and smaller footprints corresponding to fewer person-hours required for staff; and fewer fixtures leading to lower electricity costs. The smaller stores also have been revamped to be more open, with fewer walls and brighter ceilings improving both the customer experience and the flexibility of stocking.

Kohl’s is taking its strategy one step further by opening 12 35K SF stores across the country and plans on adding even more, much in the same way that Target has seen early success with smaller locations. But unlike Target, Kohl’s is focusing on smaller towns with this new shape.

As an influx of department and big-box stores either go bankrupt or close locations, Kohl’s is betting that several markets that were victims of closures from the likes of J.C. Penney or Sears are now underserved in terms of retail. The upshot of such a strategy is that Kohl’s is now part of an exclusive club of soft goods retailers adding locations, rather than taking them away. Read More > at Bisnow

California may soon allow passengers in driverless cars – In early April, California’s new rules that allow automakers, tech giants and just about anybody to test fully driverless cars on its roads finally took effect. But before those companies can realize their ride-hailing robot taxi ambitions, they have to wait for the state to adopt a proposal issued by the California Public Utilities Commission. The public utility regulator’s proposed rules would allow autonomous vehicles to give rides to the public as part of a pilot program — that is, so long as their creators meet a few conditions.

To start with, only cars with backup drivers can initially take passengers. That won’t be a problem, since only one (unnamed) company has applied for permission to test no-driver cars in California, thus far. However, the rules are expected to extend to fully driverless cars in the future. Companies must also provide the service for free — the CPUC plans to develop regulations for paid rides, but that’ll come after this initial set of rules get approved.

Cars participating in pilot programs can’t do pick ups and drop offs at airports, and passengers must be 18 years and older. Any company that chooses to take part must regularly file reports indicating the number of miles their self-driving vehicles travel, the rides they complete and the number of disabled passengers they serve. Finally, they need to wait 90 days after getting an autonomous testing permit from the DMV before their vehicles can start driving passengers around. Read More > at Engadget

The missing billions spent on gasoline in California each year – California drivers already pay more for gasoline than motorists in just about every other state.

But even after taking into account state gas taxes, blending requirements aimed at reducing air pollution and other environmental and climate fees attached to each gallon of fuel, it appears drivers in the Golden State pay a lot more than they should.

UC Berkeley professor Severin Borenstein calls the price differential “California’s mystery gasoline surcharge” that roughly translates into a premium of 20 to 30 cents on every gallon pumped in the state.

And that’s not chump change when one considers Californians consume 40 million gallons a day. Multiply that over an entire year and Borenstein says that comes to between $3 billion to $4 billion that is unaccounted.

And here’s the kicker: A state committee that looked into the price discrepancy and turned in its report to the California Energy Commission last fall did not come up with a firm explanation.

Borenstein is calling for the formation of a commission to find the exact reasons for the price differential.

“Somebody should keep looking at this,” he said.

The story has taken on a bit more urgency now that gasoline prices are trending back up. The average price of regular reached $3.50 a gallon in California this week, the highest since August 2015. Read More > in the San Diego Union-Tribune

An ambitious California bill would put the state in charge of controlling prices in the commercial healthcare market – In one of the most aggressive efforts in the nation to curb soaring healthcare spending, a new California measure would put the state in charge of setting prices for hospital stays, doctor’s visits and most other medical services covered by commercial insurers.

The bill, backed by labor unions and consumer groups, is certain to rouse fierce opposition from physicians and hospitals, setting the stage for a brawl between some of the Capitol’s top lobbying heavyweights. Proponents also face friction on the left from advocates of single-payer healthcare, who espouse an alternate vision of how to overhaul the state’s healthcare.

The measure, which will be unveiled at a news conference Monday, would establish a commission that would set rates for healthcare services based off what the government pays for such services under Medicare.

The commission, which would be an independent state entity, would determine the rates for all services covered by commercial health plans, including those offered by employers to their workers and those sold in the individual marketplace. Public health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, would not be affected by those price caps. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

The grieving father leading the fight to repeal California’s sanctuary state law – At this point, California is fighting a war on two fronts in an effort to save their besieged sanctuary state law known as SB54. The federal government is suing the state to repeal three recent laws enacted covering various aspects of immigration enforcement. Simultaneously, several cities and at least one county are suing them from the inside, declaring that they are exempt from the laws. But now the internal revolt will be taken to the next level.

In 2010, Don Rosenberg lost his son to a car accident caused by an unlicensed immigrant driver. Since that time he’s been on a crusade to get rid of illegal immigrants. It’s some new territory for him since he describes himself as a life-long liberal who likely wouldn’t have much in common with most conservatives, but on this point he’s passionate. And now he’s leading the charge to gather enough signatures to put a referendum up for a vote. If passed, it would repeal SB54 entirely.

They’re still hammering out the final language, but the proposed measure wouldn’t force local officials to arrest illegal immigrants if they don’t wish to, but will require them to provide reasonable cooperation and the timely sharing of information. Further, it will open up the books so citizens can keep track and see if the local authorities are cooperating with ICE. Read More > at Hot Air

Hot-air dryers suck in nasty bathroom bacteria and shoot them at your hands – Washing your grubby mitts is one of the all-time best ways to cut your chances of getting sick and spreading harmful germs to others. But using the hot-air dryers common in bathrooms can undo that handy hygienic work.

Hot-air dryers suck in bacteria and hardy bacterial spores loitering in the bathroom—perhaps launched into the air by whooshing toilet flushes—and fire them directly at your freshly cleaned hands, according to a study published in the April issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The authors of the study, led by researchers at the University of Connecticut, found that adding HEPA filters to the dryers can reduce germ-spewing four-fold. However, the data hints that places like infectious disease research facilities and healthcare settings may just want to ditch the dryers and turn to trusty towels. Read More > at Ars Technica

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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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