Sunday Reading – 09/29/19


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.

School completely bans mobile phones and teachers say kids’ behaviour changes – A school said its total ban on pupils using mobile phones has improved exam results and behaviour.

The ban, which has been running for a year, has “made a massive difference” said Ann Webb, headteacher at Ysgol John Bright, in Llandudno .

The strict rule applies at any time during the school day, even during breaks or at lunchtime. Staff are also asked not to use mobile phones in front of pupils.

Mrs Webb said pupils are now more sociable and concentrate better in lessons. Read More > at Wales Online

Road Funds as Political Football – …Newsom said, “While the White House tries to bully us and concoct new ways to make our air dirtier, California is defending our state’s clean air laws from President Trump’s attacks.”

What catches the eye is Newsom’s reference to “bullying” by the federal government to withhold transportation funds to bring the state into line. Isn’t that what Governor Newsom threatened to do in his first week in office when he said he was going to withhold gas tax money from local governments that didn’t build enough housing?

Should anyone be surprised that transportation funds have become a political football? Money spent on the roads should be a non-partisan issue but it is seized upon to make political points. Money is the chief bargaining chip in governmental disputes so when the federal government wants the state to toe a line it threatens to withhold transportation money. The state uses the same stick against local government.

Meanwhile, California remains at the bottom of many lists dealing with road conditions and traffic. The Reason Foundation annual survey of roads placed California 42nd in the nation. The report said over half of urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just eight states; and nearly half of rural primary mileage in poor condition is just from eight states. Only California and Texas are on both lists.

Wallethub placed California 47th in a list of Best & Worst States to Drive In. U.S. News and World Report names Los Angeles as the worst traffic city in the nation and San Francisco third. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

‘OK’ is now a hate symbol, the ADL says – The “OK” hand gesture is now a hate symbol, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL added that symbol along with several others on Thursday to its long-standing database of slogans and symbols used by extremists.

The finger-and-thumb OK sign is universally known for meaning everything is all right or approval of something. But the ADL says while not everyone means it to be hateful, the sign has been co-opted by the alt-right.

The OK hand gesture and its link to white nationalism began as a hoax cooked up by users of the website 4chan, who falsely linked it to white supremacy, according to the ADL.

It was meant to bait the media or people with liberal ideals to overreact, ADL experts say, and therefore look ridiculous for condemning such an innocuous sign. But in 2019, the sign was adopted by some white nationalists.

“At least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy,” the ADL posted in its report.

Their experts point to Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, who stands accused of massacring 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in March. Tarrant was pictured using the OK symbol during a courtroom appearance soon after his arrest. Tarrant has pleaded not guilty. Read More > from CNN

California Shocked To Find Bill Decriminalizing Retail Theft Resulted In… More Retail Theft – A few years ago, California passed one in a series of bills aimed at emptying the jails and prisons. Proposition 47 carried the disingenuous name of “the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act and its stated purpose was to keep non-violent offenders out of jail. To achieve this goal, the state decriminalized a number of lesser offenses, including retail theft. The law raised the value of the amount of merchandise someone could steal while still only being charged with a misdemeanor to nearly one thousand dollars.

To the great surprise of the government, people noticed this change and began taking advantage of it. They have now recorded multiple years of steadily increasing, organized robbery. These plots are known as “mass grab and dash” thefts and they generally involve large numbers of young people all entering a store at the same time, grabbing armfuls of merchandise and dashing back out to their vehicles and hitting the highway. Not only are robberies on the rise, but arrests and prosecutions are down. Who could possibly have predicted this? (CBS Sacramento)

After searching police reports and arrest records, CBS13 found that while the rate of these grab and dash crimes is on the rise, the rate of arrest is down. We turned to law enforcement and the retail industry for answers. Both blame a California law intended to make “neighborhoods safe.”

“It’s a boldness like we’re seeing never before and just a disregard for fellow human beings,” said Lieutenant Mark Donaldson, Vacaville PD.

He explained these crimes have evolved into more than just shoplifting. It’s organized retail theft and he says it’s happening across the state. Cities like Vacaville, with outlets and shopping centers located near major freeways, tend to be a target for these organized retail crime rings.

Nobody is seriously contesting the numbers. The local and state police organizations blame prop 47. FBI crime data supports the contention. Retail sales organizations have tracked this trend and agree. Read More > at Hot Air

Homeless people could lose the right to sleep on sidewalks if Western cities have their way – As California and other states in the West continue to wrestle with an explosion of homelessness, a growing number of local governments have set their sights on a court decision that has allowed people to legally bed down on sidewalks overnight.

On Wednesday, the city of Los Angeles will join L.A. County and dozens of other municipalities in submitting an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to Martin vs. City of Boise — a landmark lawsuit involving seven homeless people who were cited for camping on public property in Boise, Idaho.

If the court were to take up the case, which is far from certain, it could reverse a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that has prevented cities and counties from sending law enforcement to enforce ordinances to shoo away homeless people or to clear their encampments.

The deadline to submit amicus — or friend-of-the-court — briefs is Wednesday.

Last September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that criminally punishing homeless people solely for sleeping when there are not enough shelter beds or housing constituted cruel and unusual punishment and violated the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In July, attorneys Theodore B. Olson and Theane Evangelis, both with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a firm with offices in L.A., announced that they planned to ask the Supreme Court to take up the case. In doing so, they cited the “urgent crisis” of homeless encampments.

The Boise ruling, which covers nine states, has led to a public health crisis, those who support challenging it say. In many cities, sidewalk encampments — and trash and filth that sometimes accompany them — have become a common sight as the homeless population has grown. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Millennials Continue to Leave Big Cities – Large U.S. cities lost tens of thousands of millennial and younger Gen X residents last year, according to Census figures released Thursday that offer fresh signs of cooling urban growth.

Cities with more than a half million people collectively lost almost 27,000 residents age 25 to 39 in 2018, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of the figures. It was the fourth consecutive year that big cities saw this population of young adults shrink. New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington and Portland, Ore., were among those that lost large numbers of residents in this age group.

The drop in young urban residents last year was smaller than in 2017, when big cities lost nearly 54,000 residents in this age group. But the sustained declines signal a sharp reversal from the beginning of the decade, when young adults flooded into cities and helped lead an urban revival. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

California boosts efforts to eradicate invasive swamp rats

Read More > from the Associated Press

The Problem With Switching to Electric Cars – …There’s a problem with that rosy response: If Americans drive their electric cars anywhere near as much as they do with their current gas-guzzlers, it would cancel out the carbon reduction brought on by electrification.

It’s a common refrain that the transportation sector is now the greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, making up 29 percent of the U.S. in 2017. Of the 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases produced by transportation in the United States in 2017, 59 percent of it came from passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Add heavy-duty trucks (23 percent) and that number goes up to about 82 percent of transportation emissions.

With 75 percent of Americans still driving to work by themselves, changing over to electric cars looks like a promising step for reducing emissions. But a host of timing and technical challenges stand in the way. Electric vehicles accounted for just two percent of the 5.3 million cars sold last year, and Americans are holding on to their cars longer than ever; at current rates, it would take about 15 years for the current 263 million vehicle fleet to turn over. Ramping up EV sales would require radically ambitious incentives. Many EV skeptics note that the vehicles themselves are resource-intensive to manufacture, and electric cars take about twice as much energy to build than a traditional internal combustion car. And before mass electrification of cars and decarbonizing the grid, Americans will need to reckon with two big facts: The population is growing and people are driving more.

…Even with increased fuel efficiency, climate targets prove difficult to reach. Since 1990, the state’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have helped reduced tailpipe emissions by 5 million metric tons, and fuel efficiency has grown by 35 percent from 1990 to 2016. But emissions still rose by 21 percent over that period. Why? Because driving—as measured in vehicle miles traveled, or VMT—increased by 50 percent, more than cancelling out the technological gains.

“California expects to have 50 million people by 2050, we’re just shy of 40 million today,” says Steve Cliff, deputy executive director of California Air Resources Board (CARB). “If VMT were to grow at the same rate relative to today, it would be completely unsustainable—not only from a climate and air-quality perspective, but for congestion and fiscal obligations, too.”

To reduce the state’s carbon emissions from transportation another 20 percent by 2035, CARB outlines three things that need to happen: more electric cars, greater use of less-carbon-intensive fuels, and fewer miles driven. That means putting about 5 million electric vehicles on the road, reducing carbon intensity of fuel by 20 percent by shifting to renewable sources such as hydrogen and biodiesel, and reducing driving by about 20 percent. Read More > at City Lab

SF residents buy boulders, place them on sidewalk to thwart homeless tents – Residents of a San Francisco side street are so fed up with tents pitched on the sidewalk by homeless people that they have trucked in boulders to discourage camping.

About two dozen of the massive rocks, each weighing hundreds of pounds, create barriers on a half-block stretch of Clinton Park, a side street off Market and Dolores streets. The boulders don’t block the sidewalk, but do limit the space available for tents.

Neighbor David Smith-Tan told KTVU that his family received a letter from the neighborhood about a month ago addressing the sidewalk problem.

“A bunch of my neighbors, we all chipped in a few hundred dollars and I guess this is what they came up with,” he said. Read More > at SFGate

USDOT Grants to Accelerate AV Use in Rural, Suburban Areas – Autonomous shuttles and other self-driving vehicle projects are moving beyond test-track environments and into more rural and suburban locations.

California’s Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) is leading several projects where AVs will serve seniors, while another will provide transportation for residents with physical disabilities and serve a county hospital. A third pilot project will install connected vehicle and other infrastructure along a two-mile stretch of Interstate 680 in San Ramon.

These, and seven other AV-related projects across the country, are being funded by a $60 million U.S Department of Transportation grant to test “automated driving systems” (ADS). More than 70 projects from across the country competed for the ADS grants.

The projects in Contra Costa County, a region in the Bay Area, represent an outgrowth of AV research and development at the GoMentum Station, home to a former naval weapons station that now serves as a 21,000-acre AV testing facility. GoMentum is owned and operated by AAA of Northern California and Nevada

The three pilots “offer an opportunity to take the technology beyond the gates of GoMentum to test the safety, performance and applicability of these solutions in communities,” said Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. CCTA’s three pilot projects were awarded $7.5 million by USDOT, which will cover about 30 percent of the projects’ overall costs.

…Back in California, officials plan to provide about two to six shared autonomous vehicles operating a fixed route in a gated community in Walnut Creek, serving older residents through a one-year pilot. Another project in Martinez, Calif., will introduce up to two autonomous shuttles with seating for up to five passengers and room for one to two wheelchairs. The project will run for roughly 18 months.

“The future plan is to scale the pilot to include the entire Contra Costa County region,” said Iwasaki. Read More > at Government Technology

Outrage, Bias, and the Instability of Truth – …But – this does not mean the system is necessarily rigged to such an extent that it does not work at all. What’s interesting, as the Guardian article points out, is that people from all across the political and belief spectrum (essentially everyone) thinks the system is rigged, but always against them. The left thinks the system is rigged against them, and so does the right, and so do the moderates. They can’t, of course, all be right. But they can all be partially right, and partially wrong. There are biases in the system, but there are biases in every direction. This doesn’t mean there aren’t problems or imbalances that need to be fixed. What it does mean is that you cannot dismiss any fact you find inconvenient as fake news promoted by biased experts working for the opposition.

Unfortunately the solution requires a lot of effort. It is not only a mean sitting between two extremes, the mean is on top of a hill and is easily pushed down hill in either direction. It is a high-energy state that requires work to maintain.

That work involves the various processes of critical thinking. We have to evaluate experts, authorities, and claims based upon objective criteria – facts and logic. But more than this (because even flat-earthers think they do this) we need to step back from our beliefs and our own biases and try to chart as objective a path as possible. We have to try to prove ourselves wrong. We need to divorce our own identities and sense of worth and tribalism from any particular conclusion, and take pride instead in the validity of the process.

We need to do all these things and a hundred more, because critical thinking is not easy. That’s why, I think, many people tend to fall for the low energy state of the extremes. It’s easy to have a simple narrative that explains everything, for your side to be always right and the other side to be always wrong. It’s easy to think of the other side as being evil, because then you don’t have to take their perspective seriously. You never have to admit that perhaps they have a point, even if you disagree with their conclusion. You don’t have to confront the perhaps uncomfortable truth that there are different value systems that are equally valid. You don’t have to work to understand the other side, you can simply rail against the simplistic cartoon you have been presented with.

You also get to feed off the emotions of outrage, anger, and self-righteousness. And you never have to experience the negative emotions associated with cognitive dissonance, of confronting information or opinions which conflict with your own. Read More > at NeuroLogica

Three Mile Island nuclear power station is closing: Will you miss it? – From the Department of Mixed Feelings: The nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island will be shut down for the last time Friday, bringing an end to its active life as a power generating station on a spit of land in the middle of the Susquehanna River.

This may be cause for celebration if you are one of the survivors of the March 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island Unit Two, the sister reactor on the island that made “TMI” one of the midstate’s calling cards. It was the nation’s worst commercial nuclear accident.

When operating at full tilt, Three Mile Island historically employed about 675. Exelon spokeswoman Lacey Dean said that number has shrunk to 515 since the closing was announced this spring as some workers either retired or took other positions within Exelon Generation.

Documents filed with the state Department of Labor & Industry have stated that 112 workers at the plant will be laid off effective Oct. 1.

Three Mile Island was licensed to operate through April 2034, but Exelon decided to close it now because of new, post-Marcellus Shale natural gas boom economics that have pushed the single-reactor power station into the non-profitable category in recent years.

Exelon’s decommissioning plan calls for the plant to spend most of the next 60 years in a “dormancy” stage, in which most activity will center around storage of spent fuel, and a wait for residual contamination levels to naturally break down until major reactor buildings and components can be dismantled.

At that point, there would be a fresh burst of activity on the island as the reactor building, cooling towers and other major components of the nuclear power station are torn down, and the site is regraded and, pending environmental surveys, released for its next use. Read More > at Penn Live

Attacks on Saudi oil – why didn’t prices go crazy? – Energy experts and scholars like me have long wondered what the impact would be from a major attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. For decades, the Saudis were the world’s top exporter and swing producer, able to change output to meet fluctuations in market demand. Would an assault on their oil bring panic and an extreme rise in prices?

Now there is an answer. The recent drone and missile attacks at Abiqaiq, the Saudi’s largest oil processing center, caused the worst sudden supply disruption in history, knocking out nearly 6 million barrels per day, half of the country’s total production and about 5% of global supply.

But not much happened in the aftermath. There’s been renewed rhetorical fire and fury between Iran and the U.S., a plan to deploy U.S. “air and missile defense” troops in Saudi Arabia, and a promised increase in U.S. sanctions. Yet almost no panic in the oil market occurred, no surge in prices and no sign of a stock market collapse.

To understand this, one must look at how dramatically the global oil market has shifted in the past decade, particularly the role of the U.S.

…This history helps explain why some observers, in the heat of the moment, thought that the attacks on Saudi facilities at Abiqaiq would push prices up 30% or more. World prices did rise to US$69 per barrel the day after the attacks, but quickly fell back to around $64, where they’d been for much of the summer.

The new reality of world oil supply that has recently emerged explains why panic remains unlikely with current conditions. And central to this reality is the radically new role played by the U.S., one that will not wither or weaken anytime soon.

In just six years, America’s production of crude oil rose so rapidly that it surpassed that of both Russia and Saudi Arabia, increasing from 5.5 million to 12.2 million barrels per day. It is now forecast to reach over 13 million barrels per day in 2020. Adding to this other petroleum liquids, especially those derived from natural gas, the total rises to 18 million barrels per day, a level no country has ever before achieved. Read More > at The Conversation

Allowing Medical Marijuana in Schools – K-12 students in California would be able to take medical marijuana at school under a bill awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.

The bill, approved by the state legislature last month, would give local school boards the option to allow a student’s parent or legal guardian to administer medical marijuana to their child on campus under certain conditions. To be eligible, a student must be taking a non-smokable, non-vapable form of the drug, ordered through a valid written medical recommendation from a doctor. The cannabis can’t be stored on campus, and the parent or guardian would have to sign in each time they visit the school to administer the drug.

The measure, named “Jojo’s Act” after a San Francisco teenager who uses medical cannabis to treat a severe form of epilepsy, was passed by state lawmakers last year but vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said it was too broad. Read More > at Route Fifty

California Dreamin’: Car-Loving State Faces Tough Transportation Choices – California’s crusade against planet-warming emissions seems at times disconnected from the reality of its gridlocked freeways. But that hasn’t stopped a push for change.

State officials want new cars to burn less gasoline for each mile they travel, and to use cleaner fuel. They are making electric cars easier to buy and adding bike lanes along major thoroughfares. Cities and counties have ripped apart streets to build new rail lines and bus corridors.

But California will have to do far more if it wants to meet a crucial 2030 climate change goal. Then, state greenhouse gases must fall roughly 40% from what they are now. It’s a steep, unprecedented drop — and whether California can transform transportation will determine whether it can meet those goals.

The challenge is huge. Even as power plants and other sectors have cleaned up, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in California have actually grown in recent years, a sign that cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars have been unable to overcome population growth, a growing economy and suburban sprawl.

More worryingly, transportation accounts for about 40% of the state’s emissions tally, more than any other sector, with most of the pollutants coming from passenger vehicles.

Slashing emissions likely requires a dramatic shift in lifestyle and human behavior: more housing packed next to transit, motorists retiring their gas-burning vehicles to drive electric cars, and an intricate but well-functioning transportation system that encourages people to drive less. Read More > at Governing

How Do These Massive Asteroids Keep Sneaking Up On Us? – We’re heading a bit off the beaten path here, but a couple of interesting science items in the news are raising questions. The first bit of news is that on July 24th, an asteroid (named 2019OK) that’s bigger than a football field passed by the Earth at a distance of 40,400 miles. That’s less than one fifth the distance from the Earth to the moon. In astronomical terms, that’s an extremely near miss. If it had hit us it wouldn’t have been an extinction-level event like the dinosaurs faced, but it would have done one hell of a lot of damage no matter where it came down.

The second part of that story is possibly more alarming. Despite NASA having spent years tracking all of the dangerous asteroids in near-Earth orbit, nobody saw this one coming until 24 hours before it arrived. Even if we had some grandiose (and as yet fictional) plan in place to divert killer asteroids, there’s no way we could have even gotten our shoes laced up before that one would have been setting the world on fire. This led Buzzfeed to ask how these giant rocks keep sneaking up on us. An FOIA request to NASA produced some of the background conversations taking place at the agency.

“This object slipped through a whole series of our capture nets,” Paul Chodas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in an email to his colleagues two days after the July 25 flyby, describing what he called the “sneaky” space rock. “I wonder how many times this situation has happened without the asteroid being discovered at all.”

The emails were obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and provide a detailed, behind-the-scenes look as NASA officials scrambled to figure out why the asteroid wasn’t spotted until it was nearly whizzing past Earth. Other emails show internal agency scientists frustrated by a media response that called the event a “city killer” that “just missed the earth.”

“This one did sneak up on us and it is an interesting story on the limitations of our current survey network,” Johnson wrote in a July 26 email.

While it’s easy to point fingers, we probably shouldn’t be so quick to pin the blame on NASA. One of my favorite radio hosts, Micah Hanks, believes that dumping the blame on NASA for this miss is shortsighted. In fact, it’s amazing that we’re finding and tracking so many of these rocks as it is. Read More > at Hot Air

This Startup Is Building Giant Robots to Grow Our Food – We humans spend most of our time getting hungry or eating, which must be really inconvenient for the people who have to produce food for everyone. For a sustainable and tasty future, we’ll need to make the most of what we’ve got by growing more food with less effort, and that’s where the robots can help us out a little bit.

FarmWise, a California-based startup, is looking to enhance farming efficiency by automating everything from seeding to harvesting, starting with the worst task of all: weeding. And they’ve just raised US $14.5 million to do it.

…Weeding is just one thing that farm robots are able to do. FarmWise is collecting massive amounts of data about every single plant in an entire field, practically on the per-leaf level, which is something that hasn’t been possible before. Data like this could be used for all sorts of things, but generally, the long-term hope is that robots could tend to every single plant individually—weeding them, fertilizing them, telling them what good plants they are, and then mercilessly yanking them out of the ground at absolute peak ripeness. It’s not realistic to do this with human labor, but it’s the sort of data-intensive and monotonous task that robots could be ideal for.

The question with robots like this is not necessarily whether they can do the job that they were created for, because generally, they can—farms are structured enough environments that they lend themselves to autonomous robots, and the tasks are relatively well defined. The issue right now, I think, is whether robots are really time- and cost-effective for farmers. Capable robots are an expensive investment, and even if there is a shortage of human labor, will robots perform well enough to convince farmers to adopt the technology? That’s a solid maybe, and here’s hoping that FarmWise can figure out how to make it work. Read More > IEEE Spectrum

East LA Sheriff’s Deputies File Suit Claiming Harassment, Violence By ‘Banditos’ Clique – In an unprecedented lawsuit, eight Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies Wednesday accused a group of their colleagues at the department’s East L.A. station of being members of a secret “criminal gang” that violates their civil rights with a campaign of harassment and physical attacks.

The lawsuit describes in detail how members of the “Banditos” clique allegedly control station operations.

In one of the more explosive allegations, the lawsuit claims Banditos declined to provide backup to deputies they don’t like, endangering them and the public.

The suit also claims Banditos encourage deputies to increase their arrest numbers by planting evidence on suspects.

The Banditos are a group of nearly 100 deputies who wear matching tattoos of a skeleton with a thick mustache, sombrero, pistol and bandolier, according to the suit. It says about 30 members and prospects work at the East L.A. station, adding the others work elsewhere or have retired.

The Banditos control the East Los Angeles station “like inmates running a prison yard,” the lawsuit alleges. It describes members of the group as maintaining control by intimidation of other deputies and control of key positions, including dispatcher, scheduling deputy and training officer. Read More > at LAist

Will you still need me, will you still feed me: Yes, your cat bonds with you – It’s a common stereotype that dogs bond strongly with their owners and are highly dependent on them, while cats are aloof and independent—and therefore exhibit weaker attachment to their humans. Cat lovers would beg to differ, and now there’s some science to bolster our case. According to a new study by scientists at Oregon State University, most kittens and cats show a marked attachment to their owners or caregivers, especially when stressed, on par with prior studies involving dogs and human infants. And that bonding ability is likely one reason cats have flourished in human homes.

“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans. I think a lot of people don’t think about the fact that the majority of cats use their owners as a source of security when they’re stressed,” said co-author Kristyn Vitale. “We have this stereotype that cats don’t depend on their owners. But it makes sense [that they would], because they are still living in a state of dependency in human homes.” Read More > at Ars Technica

Shareholders allege FedEx covered up damages caused by NotPetya attack – FedEx shareholders are accusing the company’s executives of failing to disclose the full extent of the NotPetya ransomware attack while also selling tens of millions of dollars worth of their own stock in the company, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

Stock owners filed a lawsuit on Sept. 17 alleging that FedEx brass provided “materially false and misleading statements” about the ransomware attack that locked up systems at company subsidiary TNT Express more than two years ago. NotPetya wreaked havoc on corporate giants including Maersk, the British advertising firm WPP and the pharmaceutical conglomerate Merck. The White House blamed Russia for the attack, which caused more than $10 billion in damages and spurred a number of high profile lawsuits in the private sector.

In this case, the suit alleges FedEx failed to inform its shareholders that TNT Express customers were abandoning the company in favor of other logistics providers as a result of NotPetya. The company later said the cyberattack would cost $400 million, though that figure failed to account for the full cost of remediation, lost business and reputational damages, the suit alleged.

In an earnings call, FedEx brass “assured investors that all critical TNT systems were fully restored, and the remediation efforts would be completed by the end of September 2017,” the suit states.

Then, in the year that followed, while the company sifted through the damages, FedEx founder Frederick Smith sold $31 million worth of stock, and chief operating officer David Bronczek made $12 million by selling many of his own shares. Read More > at CyberScoop

Myth Busting: Cell Phone Cancer – It seems every time you turn around there’s another menacing lurking threat to our health. Or is there? Chances are, if you look a little closer at the headlines, past the sensational sell-the-papers hype, and past the quacks who turn a profit by pitching woo, you’ll find that the truth is closer to… nothing wrong here, move along.

So when I recently listened to someone talking about how talking on cell phones was going to give you cancer, and how carrying them in your hip pocket was bad for ‘women’s… areas’ and yes, that really is how he said it complete with the awkward pause, I realized that it was past time to shed a little light on this particularly devious junk science that has become a popular myth. No, your cell phones aren’t dangerous. At least, not like that. Now, texting and driving? Oh, yeah, that’ll drive your mortality risk through the roof. Don’t do it. But carrying your phone in your pocket, or putting it to your ear while talking? Not a risk.

But don’t take my word for it.

As noted, the RF waves given off by cell phones don’t have enough energy to damage DNA directly or to heat body tissues. Because of this, it’s not clear how cell phones might be able to cause cancer. Most studies done in the lab have supported the idea that RF waves do not cause DNA damage.” (emphasis mine) –American Cancer Society

Many people are concerned that cell phone radiation will cause cancer or other serious health hazards. The weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.” — FDA

And although the National Institute of Environmental Health Studies produced a study stating that they had seen an increase in certain very specific tumors in male (and they don’t know why not female) rodents, they also found that the males lived longer in their study than normal because certain kidney diseases were not showing up. On top of that there are the usual concerns with any sort of study like this: mice are not humans and although frequently used as a model mammal for studies, that is because they are small and easily raised in captivity, not because they are reliably a close analogue to humans. Also, they were exposed to a far higher dose of the radio frequency radiation over their entire bodies than a human ever would be. We can safely acknowledge that sunbathing does more damage than cell phone usage, and move on with our lives. Read More > at Cedar Writes

California High-Speed Rail board votes to bring trains to San Francisco – California’s ongoing bullet train project is late, over-budget, and politically assailed everywhere from Sacramento to the White House, but the nearly $80 billion venture still (pardon the term) chugs along, as the High Speed Rail Authority board voted Tuesday for routes that will eventually connect trains to the Bay Area.

Out of four route proposals, board members favored a Merced-to-San Jose connection designated Alternative Four, one that “blended configuration between San Jose and Gilroy in the existing Caltrain and Union Pacific Railroad corridors before continuing to a dedicated high-speed rail alignment through Pacheco Pass” through a tunnel.

For the future San Jose-to-San Francisco route, board members also picked a “blended configuration between…within the existing Caltrain corridor.”

The connection from San Jose to Los Banos will run 84 miles. The Bay Area portion of the route will run 51 miles, from Diridon Station up to the Transbay Transit Center.

The routes favored at Tuesday’s vote may change in the future. Actual construction remains years away—the earliest environmental impact reports on the planned connection between San Jose and Merced won’t appear until early 2020. Read More > at SF Curbed

Invasive Mosquitoes Plunge Deeper Into California – Two invasive species of mosquitoes that can carry Zika, dengue, yellow fever and other dangerous viruses are spreading in California—and have been found as far north as Sacramento and Placer counties.

There are now 16 counties where Aedes aegypti, commonly known as the yellow fever mosquito, has been detected, according to the state Department of Public Health. Five of those counties have also detected Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito.

These mosquitoes, distinguished from other species because they primarily sip human blood during the day instead of at night, can spread the Zika virus, which infected more than 1 million people during an epidemic that began in 2015 in Brazil. The virus also can spread during sex.

More than 3,000 babies were born with microcephaly in Brazil during the epidemic. Microcephaly is a condition in which a baby’s head is much smaller than expected, and can occur because the baby’s brain has not developed properly.

In California, these invasive mosquitoes were detected in 2011 in Los Angeles County, and since have spread northward into the Central Valley. Read More > at Route Fifty

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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