Sunday Reading 06/30/19


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.

Feds are Fighting for the Dogs – Rescued from Fighting Rings – Most dogs found in fighting operations used to be euthanized, in part because they could not be adopted until a criminal case ran its lengthy course, leaving the animals to languish.

But in recent years, the recovery and placement process has been streamlined by using a legal technique commonly associated with drug dealers, fraudsters, and terrorist financiers—civil forfeiture, in which property involved in a crime can be legally seized before an indictment or a conviction (in this case, the dogs). Read More > at American Security Today

California cities face $600K fines if they break state housing law in Newsom’s budget deal – California will punish cities and counties that don’t meet their housing goals under a deal Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced Thursday.

If a court finds that a city or county violates a state law that sets targets for how much housing a community must plan to build, the fines could range from $10,000 to $600,000 per month, according to the bill language published Thursday.

Local governments would have a year to comply before the fines kick in after a court finds them in violation of the law. The fines would increase over time if the local government remains out of compliance.

The deal is the latest attempt by Newsom to punish communities that aren’t building enough. He sued Huntington Beach in January, arguing the Orange County city isn’t allowing enough housing for low-income people. He’s also threatened to sue other cities that don’t meet their targets.

Lawmakers and Newsom on Thursday also announced a deal to divide up the $650 million already designated for homeless aid.

Under the agreement, $275 million will go to big cities including Sacramento that have more than 300,000 people. Counties will get $175 million and regional agencies called continuums of care will receive $190 million. That leaves $10 million to be allocated later. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

Can smart home devices get viruses? Experts separate fact from fiction … – Can smart home devices get viruses? There’s been a lot of talk about the idea of IoT (Internet of Things) devices being infected by viruses, not least because Samsung this month recommended scanning its QLED televisions for viruses every few weeks.

Security experts from Avast and Symantec have set out to separate fact from fiction. They say that while a virus isn’t impossible, it is extremely unlikely – but there are four other ways the security of your smart home can be compromised, and we outline some simple steps you can take to reduce the risks

A poorly-secured device
The main protection here is to buy devices from reputable brands. These will have a professional approach to security, and keen to protect their reputation by acting quickly to deal with any vulnerabilities discovered. We saw a good example of this recently with Nest cameras, where Google was extremely fast to block a security hole.

HomeKit certification is an excellent form of protection. Apple requires that all HomeKit-certified devices use end-to-end encryption, and are ‘mutually authenticated.’ For example, when a Philips Hue hub switches on a Hue bulb, the hub checks the security credentials of the bulb before issuing the instruction, and the bulb checks the security credentials of the hub before obeying it.

Access to your home Wi-Fi network
Once someone has access to your home Wi-Fi network, many smart home apps allow immediate control of your devices. This is obviously particularly worrying with locks and cameras.

This too is easy to secure by having a strong password on your router, and ensuring that you have changed the default login details. For example, many routers default to admin/admin or admin/password as their administrator login. Read More > 9to5Mac

Sweet Summer Story: KraftHeinz Covering Permits/Fines For Kids’ Lemonade Stands – For generations, American parents have taught their children the entrepreneurial spirit by helping them open front-yard lemonade stands. Sometimes even stocked with homemade cookies.

But there’s a problem, a big problem. In 36 of the 50 states, these innocent little kids’ projects are illegal by municipal code. No license to sell. No permit. Whatever. Some grumpy neighbors, who can’t remember being young, have even complained to authorities.

Cue familiar ‘Ride to the Rescue’ music: This summer, however, America’s really small business people all over the country have a savior. Country Time Lemonade, owned by KraftHeinz, will pay kids’ permit fees or fines.

Yeh, sure, it’s a great PR move. But it also helps a lot of parents who these days too often feel besieged by governments and society making their kids’ upbringing more difficult than it need be or already is. @CountryTime issued a statement:

Lemonade stands help kids build strong work habits, have fun, and become young entrepreneurs. The reality is, they are being shut down because of old, arcane and very real permit laws.

But not only is the drink maker helping youngsters get legal, it’s launched a website to show which states recognize lemonade stands as legal and developed helpful advice on how citizens can go about changing the laws and codes in their town and state through a website called Legal-ade.  Read More > at Hot Air 

US economy grew at solid 3.1% rate in first quarter – The U.S. economy grew at a healthy 3.1% rate in the first three months of this year, but signs are mounting that growth has slowed sharply in the current quarter amid slower global growth and a confidence-shaking trade battle between the United States and China.

The gain in the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, was unchanged from an estimate made a month ago, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. However, the components of growth shifted slightly with stronger business investment and consumer spending slowing more than previously estimated.

The 3.1% growth in the first quarter marked a rebound from a 2.2% growth rate in the fourth quarter of last year. But it was slower than a sizzling increase of 4.2% in the second quarter and a solid increase of 3.4% in the third quarter last year. For all of 2018, GDP grew 2.9%, the best annual gain since 2015. Read More > from the Associated Press

Role of aspirin in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease – The benefits of aspirin therapy for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease clearly outweigh the risks of bleeding, and low-dose aspirin is uniformly recommended in this setting. However, no clear consensus exists about whether, and if so in whom, aspirin therapy is appropriate for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Three trials of low-dose aspirin versus placebo in three populations at increased risk of myocardial infarction or ischaemic stroke in the absence of established cardiovascular disease were reported in 2018… Read More > at Nature

Selfies are five times more deadly than shark attacks – The figures, which were compiled by India’s Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, revealed that between October 2011 and November 2017 at least 259 people died taking photos of themselves.

This is compared to just 50 people that were mauled and died in shark attacks in the same period.

According to the statistics, while women take the majority of selfies, it is men who take the most risks trying to take the perfect picture, making up three-quarters of selfie-related deaths.

They have passed away in a variety of ways, including drowning, vehicle crashes, shootings and falling from heights. Read More > at the Daily Star

The Post Office Faces Fiscal Doom, Though It’s The Most Popular Federal Agency – The unofficial motto of the U.S. Postal Service does not say anything about persevering through a profound agency financial crisis. But according to recent congressional testimony by Postmaster General Megan Brennan, the agency will run out of money within five years.

Despite pervasive electronic communications and all the now competing forms of delivery services, that would be a national economic calamity.

Nothing could replace a service that delivers in excess of 150 billion pieces of mail a year — 47 percent of the entire world’s mail — at various rates that allow many businesses to ship and sell.

The effects on commerce would be huge, not to mention the sudden unemployment of in excess of 615,000 workers, the country’s third largest labor force after the federal government and Walmart.

Despite the Postal Service’s chronically recurring financial crises, the Gallup folks just discovered the Postal Service remains easily the most popular agency, albeit a quasi-federal one. Read More > at Hot Air

Why can’t California pass more housing legislation? – In the first half of 2019, members of the California Legislature introduced roughly 200 bills that addressed the state’s worsening housing crisis. By the end of May, most of them had been nixed by the Byzantine nature of California politics.

When the May deadline for floor votes on new legislation passed, Curbed LA referred to itas the “May Massacre” and “the worst month in California’s housing policy history.”

Los Angeles Times writer Liam Dillon called the results “a bloodbath for California Housing.”

Speaking to Curbed SF, a Bay Area lawmaker’s aide, referencing one of Game of Thrones’bloodiest scenes, referred to the session as “a red wedding.”

The state remains stuck years-deep in a housing crisis that has dominated both California politics and the larger national discourse, with conservative and liberal voices sounding off on the issue.

Lawmakers from Gov. Gavin Newsom on down have made noise about fixing the state’s housing policy. Newsom declared in a May speech that “Housing is our great challenge” and called the crisis “a glaring headline” that must stop.

So why can’t California pass real housing reform?

Part of the problem is that, for better or for worse, the legislature is working the way it was designed. Similar to the U.S. federal government model upon which California’s process is based, it’s difficult to create seismic shifts in state law all at once.

“We all represent different communities, and different communities are tackling—or not tackling—this in different ways,” says Assemblymember Phil Ting, also of San Francisco.

“The biggest opposition to a lot of the reforms has been from suburban communities or small towns or cities. Even in the Bay Area, many of the reforms that we’ve been talking about get significant opposition from Marin and the Peninsula,” says Ting. Read More > at SF Curbed

San Francisco’s grand plan to ban online e-cigarette sales – Nearly 90 percent of all San Francisco high school students who vape get their fix by shopping online or through friends. Just 13.6 percent actually buy their pods at a physical store. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is acutely aware of this teenage reality — these statistics are laid out in Health Code ordinance No. 190312, which prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes in San Francisco, in person and online. The ordinance’s authors are specifically concerned with curtailing e-cigarette use among the youth population, noting that the number of teenagers who had tried vaping at least once rose by 1.5 million from 2017 to 2018. The ban will last until the US Food & Drug Administration reviews the health risks of vaping, which likely won’t happen until 2022.

The board passed the legislation on Tuesday, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed has 10 days to sign it. She’s already said she will. When that happens, San Francisco will be the first US city to ban the sale of e-cigarettes.

But, in a digital-first world, what does vaping prohibition actually look like?

The ordinance will go into effect seven months after the mayor signs it, so likely in early 2020. When that happens, San Francisco plans to lodge a fine of $1,000 and penalties of up to $1,000 per violation at any retailer that sells e-cigarettes or flavored tobacco products to a city resident.

Of course, the ban also affects adult e-cigarette users, many of whom begin vaping to help quit smoking traditional cigarettes. Cigarette sales remain legal in San Francisco.

Under San Francisco’s new rules, it will be up to consumers and watchdogs to report websites willing to ship e-cigarettes to the city. There’s no tracking mechanism to ensure vaporizers don’t make it to San Francisco; there’s no algorithm blocking websites from adding the city to its shipments. Just a threat of penalties if someone complains. Read More > at Engadget

Forget Free College, Let’s Talk About Apprenticeships – The unemployment rate is already at its lowest level in 30 years and blacks, Hispanics, and women are experiencing historically-low unemployment rates thanks to a tight job market. Furthermore, there are 7.5 million open jobs, but millions of these jobs require skills that many American workers simply do not possess.

This skills gap is a problem for workers and employers. A record-high 25% of small business owners cited finding qualified workers as their most important problem last month.

Enter apprenticeships, an age-old idea that is gaining new clout as a way to train, upskill, and reskill students and workers.

Apprenticeships are supported by the left and right, but the federal apprenticeship program has been criticized for not attracting young people, because it is dominated by trades that many young people just do not see as viable career opportunities.

The Administration’s new Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship program brings key stakeholders together (including academia, nonprofits, employers, and industry associations) to create industry-specific high-quality apprenticeships.

This new industry-driven approach could start to solve the public relations problem plaguing apprenticeships by expanding beyond blue-collar jobs to white-collar industries such as technology, health care, and banking. Students and sidelined workers may better see themselves in careers as pharmacy technicians, bank branch managers, and software developers. Read More > at Real Clear Education

Remember the Youth Soccer Team That Was Rescued from a Cave Last Summer? – A year after their dramatic rescue from a flooded cave in Thailand, the Wild Boars youth soccer players have seen their world reshaped by disaster tourism, an image-conscious military junta and the war to tell their story.

…The exhibit, Tham Luang Incredible Mission: The Global Agenda, celebrated what the global press had called the feel-good story of the year—the 18-day, 10,000-person mission to rescue 12 Wild Boars youth soccer players and their assistant coach, Ekapol Chantawong, from a flooded cave near the Thailand-Myanmar border.

Seventy-seven days before the team assembled at the Siam Paragon, they had biked after a practice up to Tham Luang Nang Non, the Great Cave of the Sleeping Lady. While they explored, the usual July rains came ahead of schedule. Millions of gallons of water rushed through the porous limestone, and the Boars had to flee to an elevated rock 2½ miles from the mouth of the cave. It took nine days to find them there, and it required elite cave divers, industrial-grade water pumps, several nations’ militaries and miraculous fortune to get them out.

What happened after the rescue at Tham Luang? For all the attention devoted to the boys’ fates while they were in the cave, less has been made of what has happened to them since. They faced likely death; 10,000 strangers congregated to save them; they lived; the world’s news cycle spun on to the next thing.

As I would learn once I visited Thailand, what came after the miracle was an earthbound, all-too-human cottage industry. In the year after the rescue, international media conglomerates jockeyed for the rights to the boys’ story, government officials steered the boys’ public relations, and the Wild Boars’ soccer team mostly fell apart.

Initially, Thai officials followed recommendations from psychiatric specialists: After one team interview with a Thai broadcaster, they announced a six-month moratorium on media access, enforced by a governmental task force called the Creative Media Committee.

Protected from the swarming press, the boys returned home to Mae Sai. At Wat Phra That Doi Wao (the Scorpion Temple), the Boars participated in mountaintop Buddhist ceremonies and the practice of merit-making for Saman Gunan, the former Thai Navy SEAL who had drowned while installing oxygen tanks along the rescue route. They also returned to practice with Nopparat Khanthavong, the Wild Boars head coach who had injured his neck fighting volunteers restraining him from sprinting into the cave during the rescue.

…So, less than two months after the rescue, the committee broke its own press embargo. On Aug. 23, ABC News aired an interview with the Boars, noting that 800 media organizations had competed for the opportunity to do so… Read More > in Sports Illustrated

The most controversial tree in the world – Amid 250 acres of gorgeous organisms, this specimen was the homeliest of the bunch. Twelve feet tall, with spindly gray branches and raw cankers shredding its trunk, it was not likely to be featured in any baby photos that day. Yet I had come all the way from Vermont to see it. The draw for me wasn’t looks; it was the fact that the tree was alive at all. Here was a 10-year-old American chestnut, one of the first in a century to make it that long.

The American chestnut has been called the redwood of the East. From Georgia to Maine, up and down the spine of Appalachia, no other tree could match its grandeur. Its trunks soared 100 feet high and could reach 10 feet in diameter. With crowns that spanned a fifth of an acre, its prodigious nut crops were essential food for everything from bears to passenger pigeons. It was known as the cradle-to-grave tree because people were born in rot-resistant chestnut houses, warmed by chestnut fires, entertained by chestnut fiddles, and laid to rest in chestnut coffins.

Then, in 1876, a nurseryman imported some Japanese chestnut seeds that carried a fungus to which the American chestnut had no resistance. The blight was discovered in 1904 at the Bronx Zoo, a few hundred yards from where this scraggly young tree now stands, and it spread with shocking speed. By 1950, four billion American chestnuts—99.9 percent of the species—had died, their bark ripped open to reveal a sickly orange rot girdling their trunks.

The sign at the base of the tree read “American Chestnut Trial, Castanea dentata, Darling 4.” What it didn’t indicate was that this tree and two other chestnuts growing nearby were the only genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the New York Botanical Garden. Born in a lab in Syracuse, Darling 4 was engineered by geneticists who inserted a wheat gene into a wild chestnut embryo extracted from an immature nut. The gene gives the chestnut the ability to make an enzyme that detoxifies the blight—a skill none of the four billion American chestnuts that preceded it ever developed.

Before it can be released into the wild, the transgenic chestnut has to pass a battery of ecological tests at SUNY designed to ensure that it acts just like a natural chestnut. Then it must be approved by the United States Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. So far the tree has aced all the tests. Approval is looking likely. And that is why, to those who are concerned about GMOs, it is the most dangerous tree in the world. Read More > at Pacific Standard

The Lightyear One is a solar-powered car with an eye-watering price – Ever wanted to own an electric car that can charge itself? Soon, that could be a very real possibility. Dutch clean mobility company Lightyear today debuted its long-range prototype, the Lightyear One, with a range of 725 km (450 miles) and a small battery that can be charged directly via sunlight, or from conventional charging stations.

The idea is that you could take the car on long roadtrips because it isn’t dependent on charging infrastructure the way that traditional electric vehicles like Teslas are.

The roof and hood of the car are covered with five square meters of solar cells beneath safety glass, which the company claims is “so strong that a fully-grown adult can walk on them without causing dents.” And it is designed to be very lightweight, making it more power efficient. Read More > at Engadget

U.S. Cops Are Facing a Recruitment Crisis. Will It Force Them to Change Their Ways? – …Recruitment of law enforcement officers is down in areas around the country, and the drop in numbers is stark.

“The number of full-time sworn officers per 1,000 residents decreased, from 2.42 in 1997 to 2.17 in 2016,” the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported last summer. The raw number of police officers in the U.S. also declined slightly, from 724,690 in 2013 to 701,169 in 2016.

Nationally, 66 percent of police departments report seeing declining numbers of applications, according to a survey of 400 law enforcement agencies by the the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

The FBI suffers similar recruiting challenges, with special agent applicants plummetingfrom 68,500 in 2009 to 11,500 last year. This year, the Bureau doubled its recruitment advertising budget in an effort to attract more warm bodies.

A healthy job market gets some of the credit for the police recruitment crunch but, as Jones and Wexler describe, law enforcement has lost its gloss in the eyes of many Americans. Public opinion of law enforcement slid to a 22-year low in 2015, according to a Gallup poll. Read More > at Reason

America’s housing market is competitive, unequal, and often just getting by. Just like us. – The American housing market mirrors our society, the decisions we make, and the problems they leave us with, according to a report out Tuesday.

Inequality is widening as competition remains fierce for scant resources. Finding housing is getting harder for those of lesser means – and people of color – and maybe a tiny bit better for everyone else. And homeownership provides a bit of an economic edge – for those who can grab it.

Housing is tight. In 2018, the vacancy rate for owner-occupied homes was the lowest since 1995. The vacancy rate for renters matched 2016 for the lowest since 1985. (The combined rate was 4.4%, the lowest since 1994.)

More higher-income people are renting – the Harvard researchers say there were 311,000 more tenant households earning more than $75,000 in 2018 than the year before. That’s great for developers and landlords, but not so hot for households that need lower-cost rents.

Homeowners have it a little easier than renters, the Harvard researchers conclude, at least in one sense. The share of owners who are cost-burdened keeps falling, and in 2018 hit its lowest level of the century. Also, the amount of equity Americans hold in their homes just keeps rising, along with home prices, providing nest eggs for children’s higher education, small business formation, retirement, and more.

That’s nice work if you can get it, but not everyone can. More areas of the country are increasingly unaffordable. Higher-cost homes mean bigger down payments must be saved – no easy feat when rents are so expensive – or a greater debt burden for those who choose to make small down payments. Read More > at MarketWatch

Does public banking loom in California? – The concept of public banking in California is making a comeback.

By law, currently California cities and counties typically have one place to deposit the funds they collect from taxes, fees and fines: private commercial banks. Billions of dollars of public money are handled by commercial banks — for a fee.

Last month, the Assembly on a bare majority vote approved AB 857, by Assembly Democrats Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles and David Chiu of San Francisco. The measure amends existing banking law to allow California municipalities to establish their own public banks. The bill was sent to the Senate, where the Banking & Financial Institutions Committee approved last week and sent to it to Governance and Finance.

With a public bank, the “shareholder” is the public, not private individuals. The goal of personal profit is replaced with whatever benefits the community. If a municipality prioritizes low interest small business loans in a blighted area in order to bring jobs to an impoverished community, the public bank is there as a resource. Municipalities can, in turn, use their rich deposits to secure low interest loans for infrastructure development, low income housing, and other projects commercial banks are loath to loan money to, especially at low interest rates.

Advocates say that a public bank — a common institution generations ago and in the 19th century — can save a municipality “millions or even billions of dollars” in fees and interest “by cutting out the middleman and private shareholders.” The California Public Banking Alliance suggests that cities could save millions just by refinancing their debt. Read More > at Capitol Weekly

Sign Of The Times? Weather Patterns All Over The Planet Are Going Absolutely Nuts – We have never seen global weather patterns go as crazy as they have so far in 2019.  Record high temperatures are being shattered all over the planet, but meanwhile some parts of the U.S. were just buried by massive amounts of snow.  The sixth largest city in India is literally running out of water due to extremely dry conditions, but in middle America it just won’t stop raining.  In fact, the Midwest is getting hammered by more severe storms as I write this article.  Meanwhile, Australia is being forced to import enormous amounts of wheat due to the extraordinary drought that nation is currently experiencing.  Everywhere you look around the globe we see bizarre weather extremes.  Worldwide weather patterns are shifting dramatically, and many believe that what we have witnessed so far is just the beginning.

Do you have an explanation for what is going on?  Because the truth is that most of the experts don’t.

Just look at what is happening in Colorado.  Some parts of the state got up to 20 inches of snow on Saturday, and as a result Colorado’s snowpack is currently more than 4,000 percent above normal

On the other side of the world, the problem is that there isn’t any meaningful precipitation at all.

More than 4.6 million people live in the city of Chennai, India.  Thanks to a drought that never seems to end, the main reservoirs that normally supply that city with water are rapidly going dry… Read More > at End Of The American Dream

Toys R Us Poised For Limited Comeback – About a year after Toys R Us shut all of its domestic stores in one of the largest retail closures in U.S. history, a handful of stores under that name will reportedly open again ahead of this year’s Christmas shopping season.

Driving the revival is a former Toys R Us executive, Richard Barry, who has been pitching a renewed chain to toymakers, Bloomberg reports, citing anonymous sources. All together, initial plans call for about six new Toys R Us stores at unspecified locations, and an e-commerce site.

Barry is now CEO of Tru Kids Brands, which won the rights to the Toys R Us brand last year, as well as the former company’s other assets, including Babies R Us, Geoffrey the Giraffe and Imaginarium, CNN reports.

How much of the U.S. toy market a revived Toys R Us would gain is an open question. When the chain disappeared, other major retailers, such as Walmart and Target, wasted no time in expanding their toy selections, thus raising their game in the sector as last year’s holiday season approached. Read More > at Bisnow

Breaking the booze habit, even briefly, has its benefits – According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 86 percent of adults over 18 report having had an alcoholic drink or drinks at some point in their lifetime, and 56 percent say they’ve had alcohol in the past month. Still, abstaining from alcohol — on a short-term basis or longer term — is becoming more common.

The “sober curious” or “sober sometimes” movement started as a challenge for those who felt they’d partied a little too hard over New Year’s weekend. First there was “Dry January,” when people could brag on social media about how they were taking a break from booze. Now there’s “Dry July” and even “Sober September.” And the movement has spread across the U.S., with people challenging each other to see what life is like without alcohol and share in that experience.

Short breaks improve health

So far, there are a handful of studies that point to some benefits of abstinence for even moderate drinkers — in addition to the widely recognized benefits for people who have alcohol use disorder.

A 2016 British study of about 850 men and women who volunteered to abstain from alcohol during Dry January found that participants reported a range of benefits. For instance, 82 percent said they felt a sense of achievement. “Better sleep” was cited by 62 percent, and 49 percent said they lost some weight. Read More > at MPR News

8 Facts About the Animals of ChernobylThree decades after the Chernobyl disaster—the world’s worst nuclear accident—signs of life are returning to the exclusion zone. Wild animals in Chernobyl are flourishing within the contaminated region; puppies roaming the area are capturing the hearts of thousands. Tourists who have watched the critically acclaimed HBO series Chernobyl are taking selfies with the ruins. Once thought to be forever uninhabitable, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has become a haven for flora and fauna that prove that life, as they say in Jurassic Park, finds a way.

1. THE ANIMALS OF CHERNOBYL SURVIVED AGAINST ALL ODDS.
The effects of the radioactive explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986 devastated the environment. Around the plant and in the nearby city of Pripyat in Ukraine, the Chernobyl disaster’s radiation caused the leaves of thousands of trees to turn a rust color, giving a new name to the surrounding woods—the Red Forest. Workers eventually bulldozed and buried the radioactive trees. Squads of Soviet conscripts also were ordered to shoot any stray animals within the 1000-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Though experts today believe parts of the zone will remain unsafe for humans for another 20,000 years, numerous animal and plant species not only survived, but thrived.

2. BEARS AND WOLVES OUTNUMBER HUMANS AROUND THE CHERNOBYL DISASTER SITE.
While humans are strictly prohibited from living in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, many other species have settled there. Brown bears, wolves, lynx, bison, deer, moose, beavers, foxes, badgers, wild boar, raccoon dogs, and more than 200 species of birds have formed their own ecosystem within the Chernobyl disaster area. Along with the larger animals, a variety of amphibians, fish, worms, and bacteria makes the unpopulated environment their home. Read More > at Mental Floss

Fentanyl rising as killer in San Francisco — 57 dead in a year – Fentanyl, the synthetic painkiller that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and has ravaged drug users on the East Coast, appears now to be fully embedded on San Francisco’s streets, surpassing prescription pills and heroin as the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths in the city.

In 2010, just six overdose deaths in San Francisco were attributed to fentanyl. In 2018, that number hit 57. By comparison, 39 overdose deaths were attributed to heroin last year and 53 to prescription opioids like oxycodone and codeine.

Though the 2018 numbers from the city’s Public Health Department are preliminary and need to be confirmed, anecdotal reports from drug users and people working with them in the community back up the overdose stats.

Fentanyl hit the San Francisco market first as a powerful contaminant of other street drugs, leading people to overdose because they didn’t even know they were taking it. Now, in a dangerous trend, it’s replacing heroin and prescription pills as some users’ narcotic of choice. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

OPINION – The suicide of expertise: Glenn Reynolds – According to Foreign Affairs magazine, Americans reject the advice of experts so as “to insulate their fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.” That’s in support of a book by Tom Nichols called The Death of Expertise, which essentially advances that thesis.

Well, it’s certainly true that the “experts” don’t have the kind of authority that they possessed in the decade or two following World War II. Back then, the experts had given us vaccines, antibiotics, jet airplanes, nuclear power and space flight. The idea that they might really know best seemed pretty plausible.

…And these are not isolated failures. The history of government nutritional advice from the 1960s to the present is an appalling one: The advice of “experts” was frequently wrong, and sometimes bought-and-paid-for by special interests, but always delivered with an air of unchallengeable certainty.

On Syria, experts in Barack Obama’s administration produced a policy that led to countless deaths, millions of refugees flooding Europe, a new haven for Islamic terrorists, and the upending of established power relations in the mideast. In Libya, the experts urged a war, waged without the approval of Congress, to topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi, only to see — again — countless deaths, huge numbers of refugees and another haven for Islamist terror.

It was experts who brought us the housing bubble and the subprime crisis. It was experts who botched the Obamacare rollout. And, of course, the experts didn’t see Brexit coming, and seem to have responded mostly with injured pride and assaults on the intelligence of the electorate, rather than with constructive solutions. Read More > at USA Today

CSU hid a $1.5 billion surplus while raising tuition. Where is the accountability? – Here we go again: Another scandal involving a state-funded entity hoarding a secret stockpile of money. This time, an investigation by California State Auditor Elaine Howle discovered $1.5 billion in surplus funds hidden in outside accounts controlled by the California State University system.

Yes, that’s billion with a “b.” While CSU was squirreling away this massive fortune, it was simultaneously raising tuition costs for students and begging the California State Legislature for more money.

“CSU put the money, which primarily came from student tuition, in outside accounts rather than in the state Treasury,” according to a story by The Sacramento Bee’s Sawsan Morrar. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

About Kevin

Councilmember - City of Oakley, Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit, Transplan, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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