Sunday Reading – 11/04/18


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.

Let Daylight Saving Time Die Already – Everyone not named Franklin D. Roosevelt hates Daylight Saving Time. The constant back and forth is confusing, especially for those who have an early Sunday morning commitment. The Standard Time Act of 1918 gave the federal government power to oversee national time zones. That power was extended with the passage of the Uniform Time Act of 1966, which allows the Department of Transportation (DOT) to set Daylight Saving Time for the entire country. Why DOT? Because “time standards are important for many modes of transportation,” or something like that. Despite decades of observance, however, more and more Americans are rebelling against the pointless concept.

Arizona, Hawaii, and territories like American Samoa and Puerto Rico have broken free of oppressive time changes. If a state wishes to follow suit, including those who choose to keep their state in the Daylight Saving Time zone year-round, it must seek approval from DOT.

In March, Florida signed off on the appropriately named Sunshine Protection Act. But thanks to the federal government, residents must wait on Congress to change federal law in their favor. They, too, will begrudgingly observe the time change this year.

Californians hoping to ditch the practice are planning to vote yes on Proposition 7, yet must similarly wait for congressional approval. Massachusetts is also considering a change to its laws, with more states following suit. The federal government still reserves the ability to deny a state’s request. Read More > at Reason

Why is it so hard to text 911? – People can livestream their every move on Facebook and chatter endlessly in group chats. But in most parts of the U.S., they still can’t reach 911 by texting — an especially important service during mass shootings and other catastrophes when a phone call could place someone in danger.

Although text-to-911 service is slowly expanding, the emphasis there is on “slow.” Limited funds, piecemeal adoption and outdated call-center technology have all helped stymie growth.

Emergency 911 centers stress that a phone call is still the best way to reach them, since calls provide them with location data and other needed details. But in some cases — for instance, if a person has a hearing disability, or when a call might attract the attention of assailants — texting is a far better way to call for help.

The 911 emergency system was developed for landlines. But now about 80 percent of U.S. 911 calls come from cellphones, according to the federal government’s National 911 Program. There is no legal requirement for call centers to offer text-to-911 services.

…The first text-to-911 was sent in 2009 in Iowa. Now, according to data collected by the Federal Communications Commission, more than 1,600 emergency call centers across the nation have configured systems to receive text message requests for 911 services, up from about 650 two years ago . But that’s barely a quarter of the roughly 6,000 overall in the country. Figures are a bit murky since they are self-reported to the FCC.

Implementing text-to-911 service usually starts with a state law requiring emergency centers to support it. Read More > from the Associated Press

LA Times Endorses 3 White Candidates in English, But Endorses Their Latino Opponents in Spanish – In one of the more bizarre stories of the 2018 election, the Los Angeles Times endorsed 3 white candidates (and 2 ballot measures) in its English language edition, but the paper then endorsed their 3 Latino opponents (and the opposite position on 2 ballot measures) in its Spanish language edition. Specifically, the Times endorsed:

  • United States Senator: Dianne Feinstein in English, Kevin de León in Spanish
  • Insurance Commissioner: Steve Poizner in English, Ricardo Lara in Spanish
  • Los Angeles County Sheriff: Jim McDonnell in English, Alex Villanueva in Spanish
  • Proposition 3 (Water Bond): No in English, Yes in Spanish
  • Proposition 7 (Daylight Saving Time): Yes in English, No in Spanish

This wasn’t a mere listing error: there’s 1-3 paragraphs of text for each endorsement, and the Spanish language edition even includes a photo of each endorsed candidate. This appears to be a case of blatant pandering where the LA Times simply got caught.

First reported by Latino Rebels yesterday, followed by a story on KCAL 9, the LA Times claimed this was simply an error, in which the endorsements of Hoy were run as the endorsements of the LA Times en Español.  However, Latino Rebels points out that these endorsements were not only posted online and in the weekly print edition of LA Times en Español but also issued again in a print supplement. Read More > in the OC Political

Llamas Could Lead Us to a Universal Flu “Vaccine” – Scientists have been on the hunt for a universal influenza vaccine for decades, but thus far, none has yet materialized for human use. That’s unfortunate, because one is desperately needed. Between 12,000 and 56,000 Americans die from the flu and associated complications each year, and in the most recent season, the death toll skyrocketed to 80,000. Yearly vaccination prevents an average of 4.3 million flu illnesses each year, but that number could be much higher.

The difficulty in battling seasonal flu owes to the disease’s diversity. There are numerous strains and types of influenza virus and their prevalence differs each year, forcing health officials to predict what strains to vaccinate against. When their predictions are correct, the flu vaccine is more efficacious. When they’re wrong, it is less effective.

A universal flu vaccine could finally end this inefficient guessing game. According to the National Institutes of Health, such a vaccine should be 75% effective, protect against group I and group II influenza A viruses (the most common to infect humans), last for at least one year, and be suitable for all age groups.

Fulfilling his estimate is a new potential “vaccine” candidate described in today’s issue of the journal Science. Nick S. Laursen of the Scripps Research Institute and his colleagues manufactured a treatment using antibodies – proteins that neutralize invading pathogens – from llamas that protected mice against numerous strains of influenza virus, including influenza A and B viruses, the two types to which humans are susceptible. *Laursen’s treatment is technically not a vaccine, but the effects are similar. A vaccine infuses a host with weakened or killed viruses, allowing their immune system to produce its own antibodies. Instead the treatment simply inserts the antibodies directly. Read More > at Real Clear Science

New Voter Fraud Cases Show Need to Secure Our Elections – If Americans cannot say with certainty that their votes will be counted, that the process is free of fraud, and the outcome is valid, what incentive do they have to turn out in the first place?

Unfortunately, the latest news on the election integrity front is less than inspiring.

In August, the Justice Department announced it was prosecuting 19 foreign nationals for illegally voting in North Carolina—some of them in multiple elections. Those prosecutions are ongoing.

A month later, Californians learned—just weeks before a tremendously consequential election—that a “processing error” had led to 1,500 people being improperly registered to vote in their state, including at least one noncitizen.

Unbelievably, this is only the latest in a series of snafus that have plagued the state’s new “motor voter” law. Earlier this year, the state Department of Motor Vehicles botched 23,000 registrations and double-registered potentially tens of thousands more.

Just this week, The Heritage Foundation has added 20 new cases to its online election-fraud database, which now documents 1,165 proven cases of election fraud spanning 47 states. Some 1,011 of these cases resulted in a criminal convictions.

The new entries run the election fraud gamut, but voters heading to the polls may find one from Philadelphia particularly disturbing.

The members of the election board responsible for administering polling station 43-7 during a March 2017 special election abused their authority to deny voters an opportunity to freely cast their ballots.

…Opponents of election integrity also want to deflect attention away from the broad popularity of the measures they attack. Voter ID, for example, is so uncontroversial that even in our bitterly divided era, a Rasmussen poll found that 70 percent of likely voters favor it. Read More > at the Daily Signal

The Week in Public Finance: What the Aging Population Means for State Finances – Declining working-age populations has already been a trend in 10 states over the past decade. But what’s happening in Connecticut and Vermont may be foreshadowing what’s in store for about one-third of the country. By 2026, a total of 17 states will move into the “super aged” category, meaning that at least 20 percent of their populations will be 65 or older, according to a recent report by Fitch Ratings.

That factor is expected to weigh down their economies and finances for years to come. “When you’re at that 20 percent or above point,” says the report’s lead author, analyst Olu Sonola, “you really start to see the structure of society change.”

In particular, working-age populations in Maine, Vermont and West Viginia are projected to decline by at least a half-percent by 2026. “This trend will strain economic growth in these states,” the report says, “with knock-on implications for revenue growth prospects and ratings.”

The majority of super-aged states are located in the Northeast and Midwest. On the other end of the spectrum, states with younger populations and, by consequence, stronger projected GDP growth are located in the South and West. Read More > at Governing

Rising Pension Costs Drive Proposed Tax Hikes Across California – Over 100 local governments will ask voters to increase taxes on Tuesday, which is nearly twice the record set in November of 2016. And while most elected officials are keen to cite needs such a public safety or other popular community services, skeptics posit that rising employee pension costs account for the bulk of these requests.

“The cause of this point-blank is CalPERS and our pension fund,” Lodi Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce said of a half-cent sales tax on the Nov. 6 ballot (Lodi News-Sentinel). Similarly, CalWatchdog writes that rising pension costs in Santa Ana have driven that city to the breaking point — even if city leaders don’t want to say so.

In Santa Ana, where voters are being asked to raise sales taxes by 1.5 percentage points on Nov. 6, the campaign for the tax hike rarely mentions pension costs.

But once again, a city bureaucrat framed the tax hike in more candid fashion.

“We’re not immune to the labor cost increases that are occurring throughout the state of California and throughout the country. We need to be able to provide additional services to the community. The question before the voters is what level of services do they want from their government?” Jorge Garcia, a top aide in the Santa Ana city manager’s office, told Bond Buyer.

Santa Ana’s pension bill is expected to go from $45.1 million in 2017-2018 to $81.2 million by 2022-2023 – an 80 percent increase.

The more bullish voices on California’s pension situation point out that CalPERS has been benefitting from better investment returns. As of July, the pension fund still had only 71% of the funds it needs to cover long-term obligations, however.

“That’s far below the 80 percent funding level that is considered the absolute minimum for a healthy pension system,” CalWatchdog says. Read More > at California City News 

Is Oroville Dam ready for the rainy season? Main spillway fixed, but work remains – State officials said Wednesday the damaged Oroville Dam flood-control spillway is ready for the rainy season, and will be able to fully blast water down its half-mile long concrete chute for the first time in nearly two years if lake levels rise.
Work on the adjacent emergency spillway is ongoing.

Both the main and emergency spillways that allow the dam to release water to prevent overflowing were severely damaged by heavy rains in February 2017. A massive crater erupted in the main flood-control spillway, and the never-before-used emergency spillway failed. The crisis at America’s tallest dam triggered the frantic evacuation of 188,000 Sacramento Valley residents as fear mounted that the structure could burst.

The Department of Water Resources said it has largely completed the $1.1 billion reconstruction and recovery project prompted by that near-disaster. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Why housing costs so much in California and why it may only get worse – California leads the nation in many categories from population to venture capital funding. Add lack of housing supply to the list.

The Golden State is under supplied by 3.4 million homes to meet its current housing needs, according to a report on housing underproduction from Up for Growth California, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. The national shortfall is 7.3 million homes, which means California makes up about half of that total.

Not only does the state not have sufficient housing, but the housing that does exist is expensive, out-of-reach to people making median household incomes, said Mike Wilkerson of Econorthwest, an economic consulting firm, who co-authored the report.

Addressing housing need is a complex issue, but in general, more new homes would help alleviate the problem, he said. The question is how do that, especially in places that want to avoid urban sprawl.

“Is there way to grow our amount of housing without growing our footprint?” Wilkerson said. “The answer is density.”

The report recommends that the state and local governments implement policies to encourage multifamily housing near transit stations that allow residents to reduce car trips. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

California Supports “Foreign” Big Oil – California is home to the largest crude oil reserves in America, but the States’ choice to not drill for that oil requires in-state manufacturers to “export” billions of dollars annually to oil rich foreign countries to import their oil to meet the state’s energy demands.

The subject of energy for the world’s fifth-largest economy is about finding a workable, sustainable balance across equally important concerns for our economy, our shared sense of social equality, our impact on the environment, and a truly sustainable energy future.

The state’s daily need to support its 145 airports (inclusive of 33 military, 10 major, and more than 100 general aviation) is 13 million gallons a day of aviation fuels. In addition, for the 35 million registered vehicles of which 90 percent are NOT EV’s are consuming DAILY: 10 million gallons a day of diesel and 42 million gallons a day of gasoline.

The USA is now a net exporter of crude oil, with crude oil exports exceeding imports. This oil boom coming from Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Colorado, is beneficial to 49 states, but not to California. The insurmountable condition of no pipelines over the Sierra Nevada Mountains results in California having no easy access to the over- supply of USA crude oil east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The American shale boom has important security implications as well, as America is now less dependent on crude oil from the turbulent Middle East, again, except for California.

…Both California’s in-state oil production, and Alaskan oil imports are both in-decline to meet the States’ energy needs. Shockingly, California increased crude oil imports from foreign countries from 5% in 1992 to 56% in 2017. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Intel starts testing self-driving cars in Jerusalem – Intel and its subsidiary Mobileye have started testing 100 self-driving cars in Jerusalem. In the “coming months,” the plan is to deploy the fleet in the U.S. and other regions, Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua wrote in a blog post.

Through this test, Intel/Mobileye hope to demonstrate that its cars are 1,000 times safer than human drivers “without the need for billions of miles of validation testing on public roads.”

These cars are equipped with 12 cameras to create a 360 view of its surroundings. Eight of those cameras are for long-range viewing purposes while the other four are for parking. In phase two of development, which will happen in the next few weeks, Intel/Mobileye will add a layer of radar and LIDAR.

Intel and Mobileye landed on Jerusalem as its test city to prove its tech can work “in any geography and under all conditions.” Shashua also noted Jerusalem is “notorious for aggressive driving” and doesn’t always have clearly marked roads. Jerusalem, he said, also has complicated merging situations and people walking outside of crosswalks. Read More > at Tech Crunch

Amid surge in inventory, Bay Area home prices rise more modestly – Signaling a market in transition amid a surge in new listings, the median price paid for a new or existing Bay Area home or condo last month was $815,000, down 1.8 percent from August but up 9.3 percent from September 2017, research firm CoreLogic said in a report Wednesday.

While still robust, that 9.3 percent gain was the smallest year-over-year increase for any month since June 2017, when it rose 9.2 percent. Last September, the median price was up 13.7 percent year compared with the previous September.

Sales in the nine-county region dropped sharply to 5,970. That was down 22.1 percent from August and down 18.9 percent year over year. That was almost twice the normal drop between August and September and the lowest sales count for the month of September since 2007. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

How California initiatives went from “power to the people” to a big money game – Californians will vote on 11 statewide initiatives when they go to the polls Tuesday. The state has one of the strongest direct democracies in the world—established more than a century ago in response to powerful railroad interests.

But in recent decades the initiative process has come to be dominated by the very forces it was invented to avoid: special interests with lots of money.

“The realities of the initiative process today are that if you don’t have money, you won’t be able to get a statute or a constitutional amendment through,” said Mary-Beth Moylan, a professor at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. “It really is so expensive.”

According to Moylan, it typically costs about $2 million—and in recent years as much as $7 million—to get an initiative on the ballot. It starts with a $2,000 filing fee and costs for lawyers, but by far the hardest, most expensive part is getting the requisite signatures to qualify.

A simple initiative requires five percent of the votes cast in the last election. With California’s massive population, that equals almost 400,000 signatures in just six months.

This year’s ballot features proposition campaigns bankrolled by the deep pockets of a powerful union, the Realtors Association, and Silicon Valley billionaires. Read More > at CALmatters

AP finds almost 4,900 migrants headed to Europe go missing – As global migration has soared to record highs, far less visible has been its toll: The tens of thousands of people who die or simply disappear during their journeys, never to be seen again. A growing number of migrants have drowned, died in deserts or fallen prey to traffickers, leaving their families to wonder what on earth happened to them. At the same time, anonymous bodies are filling cemeteries around the world.

In most cases, nobody is keeping track: Barely counted in life, these people don’t register in death, as if they never lived at all.

An Associated Press tally has documented at least 56,800 migrants dead or missing worldwide since 2014 — almost double the number found in the world’s only official attempt to try to count them, by the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration. The IOM toll as of Oct. 1 was more than 28,500.

…But even there, many of those who go missing are uncounted, including boatfuls of young Tunisians or Algerians and children whose parents lost track of them in the chaos of land border crossings. In all, The Associated Press found nearly 4,900 people whose families say they simply disappeared without a trace in Europe or en route, including more than 2,700 children whose families reported them missing to the Red Cross.

Of the world’s migration crises, Europe’s has been the most cruelly visible, with death playing out in videos and photographs. Images of the lifeless body of a Kurdish toddler on a beach, frozen tent camps in Eastern Europe, and a nearly numbing succession of deadly shipwrecks have been transmitted around the world, adding to the furor around migration. Read More > from the Associated Press

Waymo can test fully driverless cars on California roads – Get ready to see mysteriously vacant cars roaming around California streets. The state DMV has granted Waymo a permit to test fully driverless vehicles (not even an observer) on public roads, making it the first company in the state to receive permission. The self-driving vehicles will travel around parts of Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. Initial rides will carry Waymo employees, but the company eventually plans to offer trips to the general public like it did in Arizona.

The permit is relatively flexible. Waymo’s autonomous machines are allowed to drive day or night on both regular and rural roads, in fog (rather important for the San Francisco Bay Area) and in light rain. They can also travel on highways at speeds up to 65MPH. Read More > at Engadget

20 top lawyers were beaten by legal AI. Here are their surprising responses – In a landmark study, 20 top US corporate lawyers with decades of experience in corporate law and contract review were pitted against an AI. Their task was to spot issues in five Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), which are a contractual basis for most business deals.

The study, carried out with leading legal academics and experts, saw the LawGeex AI achieve an average 94% accuracy rate, higher than the lawyers who achieved an average rate of 85%. It took the lawyers an average of 92 minutes to complete the NDA issue spotting, compared to 26 seconds for the LawGeex AI. The longest time taken by a lawyer to complete the test was 156 minutes, and the shortest time was 51 minutes. The study made waves around the world and was covered across global media.

Those who took on the AI are 20 US-trained corporate lawyers with legal and contract expertise with experience at companies including Goldman Sachs and Cisco, and global law firms including Alston & Bird and K&L Gates. Read More > at Hackernoon

U.S. Consumer Confidence Hits 18-Year High on Jobs, Income Views – U.S. consumer confidence rose in October to an 18-year high amid optimism about jobs and the economy, according to figures Tuesday from the New York-based Conference Board.

The results, coming amid a rout in U.S. stocks, bode well for continued gains in consumer spending, which accelerated in the third quarter to the best pace since 2014. A solid job market is helping to support household confidence as well as Americans’ purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy. The figures add to signs of contentment with the economy ahead of next week’s U.S. midterm elections that will decide control of both houses of Congress.

The shares saying current business conditions are good and jobs are plentiful increased from the prior month. The outlooks improved for the economy and incomes, while a slightly smaller share said more jobs would be available in the next six months. Read More > in Bloomberg

America’s pot obsession challenges another great love — driving cars – Americans now spend an estimated 15 billion hours under the influence of marijuana each year — rising numbers that worry health professionals who say the car-loving country mistakenly believes that stoned driving is much less risky than drunk driving.

In 2017, 13% of nighttime weekend drivers were found to have marijuana in their system, according to the Centers for Disease Control, up from 9% in 2007. In fact, active marijuana ingredient THC, and not alcohol, is now the most commonly detected intoxicant in U.S. drivers, according to a drug-policy study out this month.

And unlike alcohol, one challenge lies with stopping a potential pot-related accident before it happens: accurate, low-cost roadside marijuana tests don’t exist. THC is not really a detectable intoxicant simply by using a breath test.

…Still there’s a real challenge in limiting pot-and-driving behavior, in part because its impact is hard to measure. Marijuana affects driving-related skills but its direct link to the cause of any specific crash is hard to pinpoint.

“While it is certain that the risk of driving under the influence of cannabis alone is much lower than under the influence of high levels of alcohol, it is difficult to determine levels of impairment after cannabis use,” said study author Kleiman, a professor at New York University.

“A few facts are certain: stoned-driving adds to accident risk, especially in combination with alcohol and other drugs,” he stressed.

The Governors Highway Safety Association largely agrees, reporting earlier this year that drug tests of car drivers killed in crashes found that significantly more had marijuana and opioids in their system than just a decade ago. Read More > at Market Watch

Rethinking Our Relationship with the News – It was one of the ugliest presidential elections in US history. On one side was a candidate who was smeared in the press as too sensitive to be a man and too brutish to be a woman. Fake news stories, planted by opposing forces, claimed the candidate supported a march toward war. Of course, it was hard to know what to believe; this same candidate had previously used every means possible to limit press freedoms and keep important information away from public eyes.

On the other side was a man widely rumored to have abused his power to sexually assault at least one woman young enough to be his daughter, a rumor his opponent happily exploited for personal political gain. It was claimed that if this man were elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”

It was the election of 1800. The candidates: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Fake news and consequent distrust of the media are nothing new. Politicians and power brokers have for centuries used the press and the gossip grapevine to manipulate the public. What is new is the speed and volume of information constantly bombarding our senses from a million different sources. It is easy to feel overwhelmed, and consequently to retreat to spaces filled with people who think and feel like we do. Media scholars refer to this as an “echo chamber,” where our existing opinions are reinforced and we are free from the discomfort of opposing viewpoints.

In the era of the multi-channel, 24-7 news cycle, many media companies are happy to feed us a smorgasbord of rhetoric and information that makes us feel comfortable right where we are—no need to try to grasp the big picture or understand other points of view. Unfortunately, of course, the world isn’t that simple.

Kelly McBride, vice president of the Poynter Institute, a leading journalism and media think tank, says that there is much more opinion content, sometimes sprinkled into straight news reporting, than there used to be. And frequently that content is left unlabeled. “The public, over and over again, does not understand the difference (between opinion writing and news reporting), and who can blame them because it’s confusing,” McBride says. “These are difficult questions to answer for a seasoned professional. They are near impossible for the public to determine.” This content then gets shared on social media, divorced from its original source, and it becomes even more difficult to separate fact from opinion. Read More > at Christianity Today

Audit Shows California Paid $4 Billion in Questionable Medi-Cal Claims – California paid at least $4 billion over four years in questionable Medi-Cal premiums and claims because it failed to follow up on eligibility discrepancies, according to an audit released Tuesday.

From 2014 through 2017, more than 450,000 people marked as eligible for Medi-Cal in the state’s system were listed as ineligible in county systems, the California auditor’s office said. Half of those discrepancies persisted for more than two years.

At least 170,000 people were listed as able to receive benefits after their temporary eligibility statuses had expired, “which may amass significant costs to the state,” the summary said. Some residents received temporary benefits for more than three years after their eligibility ran out, the report found. Read More > at NBC San Diego

When Adolescents Give Up Pot, Their Cognition Quickly Improves – Marijuana, it seems, is not a performance-enhancing drug. That is, at least, not among young people, and not when the activity is learning.

A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry finds that when adolescents stop using marijuana — even for just one week — their verbal learning and memory improve. The study contributes to growing evidence that marijuana use in adolescents is associated with reduced neurocognitive functioning.

More than 14 percent of students in middle school and high school reported using marijuana within the past month, finds a National Institutes of Health survey conducted in 2017. And marijuana use has increased among high-schoolers over the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Read More > at NPR

Driverless Cars Should Spare Young People Over Old in Unavoidable Accidents, Massive Survey Finds – If you were behind the wheel of a car about to crash, would you rather kill a bunch of cats or some kids? Would you choose to kill yourself and your passengers by crashing into a concrete median, or would you rather kill several elderly people crossing the street?

What if, instead of elderly, it was a pregnant woman and a child? Or two criminals? Or three homeless people? Or a couple of business executives?

These are precisely the questions that researchers, led by MIT postdoc Edmond Awad, tried to answer in their new paper, “The Moral Machine Experiment,” published Wednesday in Nature. The purpose of the study was to understand how people think autonomous cars should decide who to kill if and when the need arises. Their research is based on the responses of more than two million survey participants across 233 countries.

Awad’s team found that people generally preferred to save humans over animals, young over old, and more people over fewer. There were, however, some cultural differences about who to save first.

People living in Latin American countries preferred saving young people over older ones, for example, while the opposite was true for respondents from Asian countries. Most people, however, would rather spare pedestrians over passengers, as well as lawful people over jaywalkers—except in poorer countries, where drivers are generally more tolerant of jaywalking. Read More > at Motherboard

How close is London to getting an NFL franchise? – There is growing optimism within NFL circles that there could be a London-based franchise by 2022. NFL executive vice president Mark Waller told ESPN that was a “logical time frame from a business perspective” as the current collective bargaining agreement and media deals expire in 2020 and 2022, respectively. Waller pointed to how 29 of the 32 franchises have played in London since the International Series began in 2007, and they have seen for themselves “the passion, the size, scale and enthusiasm for the sport”.

“The fact that they can see it, touch it, play it, know that works, know they can travel back and be competitive in their seasons [the four winning teams in London in 2017 all reached the playoffs], I think we’re closer than ever,” Waller continued. “We have tested and continue to test all the variables. This year, playing three games [on successive Sundays] at Wembley has tested the field, tested the ability to sell out on consecutive weekends, which is how we’d have to schedule any franchise based here. I think we’re in good shape.”

Such has been the demand, when the opening of Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium was delayed and the Seahawks-Raiders game was moved to Wembley, that the 20,000 extra tickets sold out in a blink of an eye and it became the highest-attended London game. That record was then broken on Sunday for the Eagles-Jaguars match played in front of 85,870 fans. Only Dallas has hosted games with greater attendances in the NFL this season.

With the NFL unlikely to expand anytime soon beyond 32 franchises, it is going to need one owner to take the plunge and embrace the risk of relocation.
But there are other logistical difficulties, and any London-based franchise would have to be factored into the new CBA.

“It would be a significant change in the working conditions in one of our teams, so that would require agreement with our players’ union,” Waller said.

The NFL are in discussions with the U.K. government around economic and tax issues and these would have to be factored into the salary cap. Brexit is actually seen as making a franchise’s existence easier in London as it removes certain legal hurdles, whereas there could have been issues with the revenue-sharing model and draft system if the U.K. remained in the European Union beyond March 2019. Read More > at ESPN

Iranian Immigrant Starts GoFundMe, Raises Hundreds Of Thousands For Tree Of Life Synagogue Victims – An Iranian immigrant decided to send a message of unity following Saturday’s horrific, anti-Semitic shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, setting up a GoFundMe for victims of the attack, and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars overnight.

Shay Khatiri says he woke up Saturday morning in the home of a Jewish friend who was devastated by news of the attack on Tree of Life Synagogue, which left eleven people dead and six wounded, including four police officers. Inspired by his cross-cultural friendship he decided to help.

“She told me what happened and she was just broken,” Khatiri told CNN. “Seeing how upset she was, I wanted to donate to the congregation.”

But instead of donating from his meager bank account, Kahtiri pledged to ask members of social media to come together in the wake of the attack and do something to enrich the lives of survivors and of victims’ families, and to help the suffering congregation. He set up a GoFundMe with the hopes of raising $50,000. By Sunday evening, he’d raised nearly half a million.

GoFundMe has certified Tree of Life Congregation as the recipient of Kahtiri’s collected funds. After blowing through his initial goal, he’s now raised the fundraising goal to a million dollars.

“Everyone talks about how divided we are. But in such a tragic moment, Americans are always powerful and indivisible in trauma,” Kahtiri said in his interview with CNN. “Every time something happens, I am reminded of how great this country is.” Read More > in The Daily Wire

Walmart, Costco seen as top retailers in 2019: Moody’s – While e-commerce giants upended the retail sector, brick-and-mortar stores are beginning to adapt – and even thrive—in the evolving consumer landscape.

Last week, Moody’s Investors Service raised its outlook to Positive from Stable for the U.S. retail industry for the first time since 2015, with analysts saying they don’t believe Amazon will be able to steal the industry’s competitive advantage any time in the near future.

The ratings agency estimates only about 15 percent of sales are completed online.

However, some companies within the sector have been able to adapt to trends better than others and are poised to flourish in 2019.

Here’s a look at some of Moody’s retail winners for the coming year:

Walmart

Retail giant Walmart will continue to see a “payoff from sizable investments it has made for growth,” Moody’s said.

The firm noted Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com is one way the company has expanded its online platform, and it will “continue to be a force” in the digital space…

Costco

Membership-only warehouse club Costco Wholesale Corp. is another brand that is likely to do well next year.

According to Moody’s, discounters and warehouse clubs will generate $25.9 billion in 2019, making up just shy of one-quarter of the retail sector’s earnings power…

Dollar Tree

Moody’s cited dollar stores as an area of strength in 2018 – a trend it expects to continue through the coming year.

Income among dollar stores is estimated to grow by 5.8 percent and dollar stores are expected to comprise 4 percent of the retail sector’s overall earnings potential next year… Read More > at Fox Business

Google it: Supreme Court tackles class action settlement that left nothing for millions of online customers – The Supreme Court faces a difficult question: What happens when there are 129 million winners in a class action lawsuit, each of whom stands to receive 4 cents?

Federal judges in California thought they had an answer. Faced with a privacy invasion lawsuit first filed against Google in 2010, they approved an $8.5 million settlement that split most of the proceeds among six universities and nonprofit groups researching internet privacy issues.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers got more than $2 million.

Google users got nothing.

Enter Ted Frank, who directs the Center for Class Action Fairness at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market advocacy group. He objected to the settlement, as he has to numerous others. This time, he made it to the Supreme Court.

Frank’s beef is simple: The deal approved by federal district and circuit court judges benefited the lawyers and recipients, including programs at universities the lawyers attended. Google was not required to change its search function practices despite the privacy intrusion. And the 129 million-member class remained largely clueless. Read More > at USA Today

SF spends $300,000 to register noncitizen voters — a whopping 49 sign up – San Francisco’s effort to get noncitizen parents to the ballot box is pretty much a bust the first time out, with only 49 signing up to vote in the Nov. 6 election.

Back in July, the city began registering noncitizens — including undocumented immigrants — to vote in school board elections. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Killer cats: The invasive species in your backyard – The National Wildlife Federation defines invasive species as any kind of living organism — an animal, plant, seeds, even bacteria or fungus — that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm. It turns out that domesticated cats have no native range. Originally bred from wild cats and introduced to North America by European colonists, domesticated cats are now listed as one of the top 100 invasive species worldwide by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Domestic cats are directly responsible for the extinction of a number of animal species around the world, including 33 bird species. In the U.S., the popular pet is estimated to kill over 1 billion birds and over 6 billion other small animals every year. While the biggest threat are currently posed by feral cats — domesticated breeds that don’t have an owner and aren’t socialized to humans — even common house cats that are well cared for and fed will hunt and kill if let outside.

Cats also transmit diseases. In 2014, of the domestic animals that contracted rabies, which can then be spread to the local wildlife and humans, roughly 60 percent of them were cats.

Like nearly all invasive species, cats also have rapid rates of reproduction. Females can start breeding at just 6 months old and can breed every 4 months, producing up to 12 kittens every year. In just the last 40 years, the number of domestic cats across America has tripled. While it’s difficult to get an accurate count of feral cats, estimates suggest that today there are at least 30 million of them roaming our streets and neighborhoods. An additional 40 million pet cats have regular access to the outdoors. Read More > at CBS News

We’re not prepared for the coming dementia crisis – Many of us played the lottery this week in hopes becoming an instant billionaire. The chance of winning was less than 1 in 300 million, yet we all believed we could be “the one.” We like to believe that good things will come our way and tend to ignore real threats to our health as we age, even though the chances they will happen are high.

Retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently disclosed that she has now been diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease. At 65, she had a 1 in 10 chance of developing dementia. At 85, her odds increased to 1 in 3. Now we acknowledge with great sadness that the 88-year-old’s keen mind will fade away and that she, too, will succumb to the disease, just as her husband did.

How does this affect those of us who are reaching that magical Medicare age of 65? Should we pretend that dementia can’t happen to us and hope we beat the odds? Knowing our risk for developing a disease gives us the opportunity to plan for our future and to advocate for programs that will enhance services for those affected by this devastating disease.

Traditional Medicare is designed to provide medical coverage for participants who are seeking treatments for various diseases. If you develop pneumonia and are admitted to the hospital, everything is covered after the initial copayment. If you need rehabilitation, the first 20 days are generally covered, with an additional 80 days covered at a reduced rate provided you are improving and able to participate in therapy. Once you are not improving, you are either discharged home or become a resident of a nursing home under private pay for thousands a month. If you don’t have the resources to pay for a nursing home, you can forfeit personal assets and apply for a Medicaid program.

Fast forward to the 1 in 10 people older than 65 with Alzheimer’s disease or one of the many other dementia syndromes. They have a progressive, irreversible, non-curable disease that will continue to worsen despite the best medical care. As they decline, their debility increases, and they require an ever-increasing amount of supervision and physical assistance.

Today, the crisis in health care is how to care for the estimated 5.7 million Americans with Alzheimer’s. Unpaid family members already frequently provide a total of 18 billion hours of care each year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The crisis for tomorrow is how to take care of the projected 14 million Americans older than 65 who will develop the disease by 2050. Read More > at LMTonline

Political Differences Are Not a Crime in America – While America has always struggled between politically-opposing parties for a better future, the hyper-partisan nature in politics today is reaching unprecedented levels following the confirmation hearings of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. As it often does, history has repeated itself as political opponents rely on criminal accusations to silence political differences. However, the barriers in place against over-criminalization are less theoretical than in the past. During the administration of John Adams, political opponents were imprisoned under the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798 in an attempt to criminalize the criticism of political opposition to the government, generally, and of Adams, specifically. By the time Thomas Jefferson was elected president in 1801, he had effectively pardoned those convicted under the act before directing a similar attack on his opponent Aaron Burr.

In the United States today, an age burdened with a hyper-partisan political atmosphere, everyone takes sides. Entrenched in their respective echo-chambers, Americans intentionally limit communication to those with whom they agree. This provides little reason to critically evaluate the actions and decisions of America’s elected officials. Instead, Americans often turn to attacking them personally, choosing to lob criminal accusations against political opponents to rally quick support. Censorship is the goal, not consensus.

As the ritual of peacefully turning over the elected leadership approaches with the federal elections this November, a reaffirmation of the rule of law and America’s founding principles is in order. In the grand scheme of ideologies, even the two major parties are not so divided that one should resort to proposing that decisions of political rivals are akin to criminal misconduct.

Unfortunately, vague criminal laws are becoming the sword wielded by political elites and passionate lobbyists. Nearly every day there are accusations of the violation of politically-neutral laws that provide great flexibility to prosecute behavior of political rivals even when such behavior does not necessarily equate to criminal activity. Allegations of corruption and collusion, claims of obstruction of justice, and legal conspiracy theories rarely have foundational evidence to support the accuser’s claim. In the words of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart, “[there is] a difference between what you have a right to do; and what is the right thing to do.” In examining the decisions of U.S. elected officials, it is important to differentiate between actions which may deserve criticism yet fall immensely short of the requisite intent or knowledge to be deemed criminal. This is by design. Read More > in The National Interest

Macy’s Kicks Off Revamp Of 50 U.S. Stores In $200M Modernization Drive – Macy’s has begun relaunching stores as part of its Growth 50 program, the Dallas Morning News reports. The department store giant is spending more than $200M this year to renovate and modernize 50 of its most well-located stores to capitalize on its surprising turnaround that started last year and has continued through the first two quarters this year.

Under the Growth 50 initiative, stores will get new lighting, flooring, fitting rooms and bathrooms, an area for in-store pickups and the return of online purchases, more square footage devoted to dresses, and a light food and drink option. Two of the first stores to relaunch, at NorthPark Center in Dallas and Stonebriar Mall in Frisco, Texas, now have Starbucks in the stores, the Morning News reports.

In addition to physical upgrades, Growth 50 stores will gain additional staff to assist shoppers, especially in the expanded dress section. The NorthPark location will add five sales staff to that section alone, which has grown to 2,900 SF. All stores will add inventory across all sections from new brands in an attempt to stay nimble and keep interest high.

Macy’s has been aggressive in expanding to chase its recent success, even as it continued to close some of its worst-performing stores this year.

Two years ago, Macy’s was spoken in the same breath as Sears as they lost money and closed stores to slow down their collective march toward obsolescence. But Macy’s responded to its decline by diversifying and attempting to keep up with the times, such as its 2015 purchase of Bluemercury. Read More > at Bisnow

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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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