Sunday Reading – 02/09/20

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.

New High of 90% of Americans Satisfied With Personal Life – Nine in 10 Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal life, a new high in Gallup’s four-decade trend. The latest figure bests the previous high of 88% recorded in 2003.

These results are from Gallup’s Mood of the Nation poll, conducted Jan. 2-15, which also recorded a 20-year high in Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy. The percentage of Americans who report being satisfied with their personal life is similar to the 86% who said in December that they were very or fairly happy — though the happiness figure, while high, is on the low end of what Gallup has measured historically for that question.

Despite some variation, solid majorities of Americans have reported being satisfied with their personal life over the past few decades, with an average of 83% satisfied since 1979. The historical low of 73% was recorded in July 1979, as the effects of that year’s oil crisis took a toll on U.S. motorists. During that poll’s fielding dates, then-President Jimmy Carter delivered his “malaise speech,” which was interpreted by some as placing blame on Americans themselves for the rough economic spot the country was in.

2019 survey on 10 aspects of Americans’ lives found that they are most satisfied with their family life, their education and the way they spend their leisure time — and least satisfied with the amount of leisure time they have, their household income and their job. Read More > from Gallup

Record-High Optimism on Personal Finances in U.S. – Americans’ views on their personal financial situation have been climbing since 2018 and are now at or near record highs in Gallup’s trends. Nearly six in 10 Americans (59%) now say they are better off financially than they were a year ago, up from 50% last year.

These data come from Gallup’s annual Mood of the Nation survey, conducted Jan. 2-15. The survey was completed after months of historically low levels of unemployment and as the Dow Jones Industrial Average neared the 30,000 mark for the first time.

The current 59% of Americans who say they are better off financially than they were a year ago is essentially tied for the all-time high of 58% in January 1999. That was recorded during the dot-com boom, with conditions similar to the current state of the economy — a stock market rocketing to then-record highs and unemployment at multidecade lows — though GDP growth was higher at that time.

In addition to U.S. adults’ highly positive report on their current financial situation, Americans are also expressing peak optimism about their future personal financial situation. About three in four U.S. adults (74%) predict they will be better off financially a year from now, the highest in Gallup’s trend since 1977. Read More > from Gallup

America’s Quiet Policing Crisis – Across the United States, from cities to rural counties, police departments are confronting a recruitment crisis. “Going back to 2010, we had about 4,700 online applications. That dropped down to about 1,900 last year,” said Steve Anderson, chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, in a Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report last year. Seattle’s police department reported a 40 percent to 50 percent drop in applications, while Jefferson County, Colorado’s applications plummeted 70 percent. In total, 86 percent of police chiefs nationwide reported a shortage of sworn officers, with nearly half stating that the shortage had worsened over the past five years.

Currently, about 18,000 police departments in the U.S. are responsible for protecting over 300 million Americans. But there just aren’t enough cops to go around. This little-noticed staffing crisis could intensify over the next decade, especially as a glut of cops hired in the 1990s ages into retirement.

The current hiring struggles reflect the slow undoing of the past quarter-century’s trend of growing American police forces. Data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll (ASPEP)—which counts the national number of public employees—paint a stark picture. In the early 1990s, roughly 500,000 sworn officers worked in the U.S., equivalent to 213 per 100,000 people in the population. During this period, violent crime finally peaked after rising continuously for almost three decades, and then began a long drop. One reason for this substantial decline was a massive increase in the number of cops, not just in New York, but across the country. Substantial empirical evidence indicates that more cops on the beat means less crime on the street. Federal funding from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office helped; established by the 1994 crime bill, it increased the number of sworn officers by 150,000 over seven years. By the turn of the millennium, the number of officers per 100,000 people reached just under 240—a 12 percent increase over 1993.

For the next few years, this figure remained steady, nearing its per-capita high point again in 2008, before the Great Recession walloped state and local tax revenue. Police departments felt the pinch: a 2011 report from the COPS office found that more than 85 percent of police agencies reported cuts to their budgets. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of officers declined by nearly 20,000; from 2008 to 2018, per-capita rates fell 8 percent. Read More > at City Journal

California Is 2020’s 2nd Best State for Singles – WalletHub Study – With Valentine’s Day around the corner and about 34 percent of all U.S. adults having never been married, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2020’s Best & Worst States for Singles as well as accompanying videos.

To help unattached Americans improve their chances of finding love, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 29 key indicators of dating-friendliness. The data set ranges from share of single adults to movie costs to nightlife options per capita.

Dating in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 9th – % of Single Adults
  • 5th – Online-Dating Opportunities
  • 7th – Mobile-Dating Opportunities
  • 1st – Restaurants per Capita
  • 1st – Movie Theaters per Capita

For the full report, please visit:

State Senator Introduces Plan for California to Take Over PG&E – State Sen. Scott Wiener will unveil legislation today to let the state of California seize control of the embattled utility PG&E.

Wiener’s bill, which comes one year into PG&E’s bankruptcy case, would use eminent domain to force the company’s stockholders to sell their shares to the state of California, which would then take over operations. Wiener said the new entity could issue bonds to pay for it.

The structure of the new state-run utility would be modeled off the Long Island Power Authority in New York, Wiener said. Although the upper management would be state employees, the vast majority of utility workers would actually be employed by a newly created public benefit corporation that would be contracted by the state.

That structure would dispense with one of the biggest concerns of PG&E’s 24,000 employees, Wiener explained: The vast majority wouldn’t see any changes to their pensions, benefits or seniority because they still wouldn’t technically be state workers.

It’s unclear what sort of reception Wiener’s proposal will get in Sacramento, but lawmakers have appeared increasingly fed up with PG&E in recent months. His idea isn’t the only one out there: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is leading a group of local officials interested in taking over PG&E; and in September, San Francisco offered the utility $2.5 billion to buy its infrastructure within city limits, a bid the company rejected. Read More > at KQED

PG&E seizure: Real threat or a bluff? – Scott Wiener must be a glutton for punishment.

Just last week, the Democratic state senator from San Francisco failed, after repeated attempts and many revisions, to win Senate approval of his ambitious bill to force local communities to accept more multi-family housing.

Four days later, Wiener took on another, equally daunting issue by introducing legislation for a state takeover of bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and its transformation into the “Northern California Energy Utility District.”

It’s a political, legal and financial poker game that hinges on whether state seizure is a viable alternative or just a bluff.

“PG&E operates a monopoly as a privilege granted by the state of California, and that privilege can be revoked. I support public ownership of PG&E,” Wiener told Bloomberg, a financial news service.

At the very least, it would be costly. PG&E’s stock surged after Friday’s revised bankruptcy filing. Last year, it dropped to $3.55 a share but has since climbed to more than $17, giving it a market capitalization of about $9 billion, but an enterprise value, calculated by Yahoo Finance, of more than $32 billion, which is probably closer to what the state would have to pay.

Would the Legislature sanction a seizure? And could a state-owned utility assemble tens of billions of dollars to pay off stockholders and wildfire victims, service PG&E’s $25 billion in debts, invest additional billions in fire safety and still avoid jacking up its consumer power rates, which are already among the nation’s highest? Read More > at CALmatters

You can start voting in California now. But should you wait? – California is mailing ballots to millions of residents a month ahead of the March 3 presidential primary. That doesn’t necessarily mean voters should send them back right away.

While the state’s election is earlier than usual, a lot could change before election day.

Four other states will hold caucuses or primaries in the next month, beginning with Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses. Candidates could still drop out or lose momentum. While most campaigns will work to drive their potential supporters to the polls right away, some political experts see reasons to delay.

A candidate with a disappointing showing in early contests could opt to leave the race. Already, California’s ballots include the names of five Democrats who have already dropped out – Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Marianne Williamson, John Delaney and Joe Sestak. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

No, California Isn’t Iowa — But Don’t Expect Definitive Results on Election Night, Either – California voters can breathe a sigh of relief — the Democratic debacle in Iowa will probably NOT be repeated here come Super Tuesday.

But that doesn’t mean we’ll know who won the most delegates in the Golden State on March 3 — that answer could take weeks after Election Day to sort out.

How can both be true?

Put simply: We’re a big state that lets people register and vote both early and late. And since it’s a primary, the outcome will be determined by the number of delegates each candidate secures, which is essentially the result of a complicated math equation that can’t be completed until all the votes are counted.

…”Fifteen million ballots have already been sent out” through the mail, Padilla said, noting that voters in all 58 counties can vote early by mail, or in person, at their county elections office. In 15 of those counties, he added, there are also early voting centers in additional locations; and people can register to vote up to and through Election Day at any polling location.

That means once the polls close at the end of the day on March 3, all those votes have to be verified as legitimate and then be counted — which can take awhile in any race. (Counties have up to four weeks to audit and officially certify election results.)

…Here’s how it works in California: Most of the state’s 495 delegates are apportioned by congressional district. In order to get any delegates, a candidate must win at least 15% of the votes cast in that congressional district. But we won’t know for sure who reached that 15% threshold until all the votes in each district are fully counted and verified. Read More > at KQED

Judge may force Martinez to change its City Council districts; lawsuit headed to trial – The maps that determine who votes for each member of the Martinez City Council except for mayor may be in for a shakeup.

Next month, Judge Charles Treat will rule on a lawsuit by Martinez resident Felix Sanchez alleging the city’s council district map — enacted in 2018 — violates the state elections code. The suit accuses Martinez city officials of drawing up a gerrymandered map with the sole purpose of sparing any of the four council members from having to run against each other. The city’s mayor isn’t affected by the map because that position is elected at large.

One fact oft-cited by the lawsuit’s supporters is that two councilwoman — Lara DeLaney and Noralea Gipner — both list residences on the same block of Castro Street, yet each was given her own district. Council members, meanwhile, have said their main goals were to give everyone a piece of downtown and to ensure that minorities are evenly represented throughout the city.

In a May ruling dismissing a city motion to throw out the lawsuit, Treat compared the city’s map to an infamous Massachusetts district of 1812, drawn by then-Gov. Elbridge Gerry, which was widely panned as an attempt to keep Gerry’s own political party in power. The term “gerrymandering” was derived from Gerry’s name.

“Bluntly, the map verges on self-parody” and flouts state elections code requiring council members to consider “cohesiveness, contiguity, integrity, and compactness” when drawing up districts, Treat added then. Read More > in the East Bay Times

What Americans Think About Prostitution Laws – Support for sex worker rights crosses all sorts of demographic lines, according to a new poll from the group Data for Progress. The group found that 52 percent of American adults support decriminalizing prostitution, with replies equally split between “strongly support” and “somewhat support.” Just 35 percent were opposed, with 13 percent unsure.

For the survey, conducted last November and released last week, pollsters asked people if they would support or oppose “decriminalizing sex work as New Zealand did in 2003.” They explained that “this would remove criminal penalties for adults to sell and pay for consensual sex while also maintaining laws that criminalize violence.”

Among younger voters, enthusiasm for decriminalization was even stronger than in the general population. Sixty-five percent of 18- to 29-year-olds were in favor, with just 26 percent opposed. And 66 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds were in favor, with just 23 percent opposed.

Support among older groups alone was still substantial: 45 percent of 45- to 54-year-old respondents favored decriminalization, as did 43 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds and 42 percent of the 65-and-older crowd. The oldest cohort was the only one to feature stronger opposition to decriminalization than support, with 51 percent either somewhat or strongly opposed to the idea.

Support for decriminalization crossed not just age cohorts but also party lines. Support was highest among Democrats, with 64 percent in favor. But 55 percent of independents were also on board, along with 37 percent of Republicans. Read More > at Reason

Registered to vote? You’d be required to cast a ballot under California bill – A Bay Area lawmaker has a plan to improve voter participation in California: Require that everyone cast a ballot.

Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, introduced a bill Tuesday that would require all registered voters to return their ballots, either by mail or to a vote center, even if left blank. The measure, AB2070, would leave it up to the secretary of state, California’s chief elections official, to decide how to enforce the law.

Levine said California has done everything it can to make it easier to vote — including automating voter registration through visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles and eliminating the need to mail in ballots with a stamp — but turnout could still be better. About 64% of registered voters participated in the 2018 election, the highest midterm turnout in nearly four decades. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Private payrolls soar in January, the best monthly gain in nearly 5 years – The jobs market kicked off 2020 in grand fashion, adding 291,000 in private payrolls for the best monthly gain since May 2015, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody’s Analytics.

That was well above the 150,000 estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones and more evidence that the U.S. still is a good distance from full employment even with the jobless rate at its lowest point in more than 50 years. The total also was a sharp gain from the 199,000 in December, which was revised down 3,000 from the initial count.

Growth came across a swath of industries.

Leisure and hospitality led with 96,000 new jobs, but education and health services also contributed 70,000 and professional and business services added 49,000. On the goods-producing side, construction rose by 47,000, the best growth since the 62,000 added in January 2019, and manufacturing was up 10,000, the biggest monthly gain since last February. Read More > from CNBC

The Truth About the California Exodus – California is getting older, richer, and less politically powerful.

Talk of a “California Exodus” is sweeping the country—and so are anxieties about its effects on the rest of the West. In October, the Boise mayoral candidate Wayne Richey proposed at an election forum to build a $26 billion wall to keep out people moving from the Golden State. (His backup plan to stop the invasion of Boise? “Trash the place.”) A viral Wall Street Journal article recounted the plight of a small Idaho town buckling under the stress of thousands of inbound Californians. And this month, Texas Governor Bill Abbott issued a warning on Twitter to Californians moving to his state: “Remember those high taxes, burdensome regulations, & socialistic agenda advanced in CA? We don’t believe in that.” The sentiment was echoed in various warnings in Dallas newspapers about the awful “California-ing” of North Texas.

From one perspective, the answer is very clearly yes. In 2012, California gained 113,000 people on net through domestic and international migration. Last year, California lost more than 130,000 people on net to migration, according to its own demographers. The state still grew, thanks to births, but at the lowest rate on record. Now the U.S. state most synonymous with all varieties of growth—vegetaltechnological, and human—is at the precipice of its first-ever population decline.

…And while California’s overall out-migration isn’t unprecedented, some states and counties are taking in an unprecedented share of newcomers from there. The number of Californians moving to Idaho, for instance, increased by 120 percent from 2012 to 2018. The number of Los Angeles residents moving to Dallas and Houston declined in those years, but the number of Angelenos moving to Plano, Texas, tripled.

California’s population problem isn’t just about adults who are leaving; it’s also about the kids who aren’t there to begin with. The biggest issue, you could say, isn’t exodus, but genesis.

…As the state gets older, it’s also getting richer. California’s incoming residents are most likely to be 20- and 30-somethings making more than $100,000 a year with bachelor’s or graduate degrees, while its outgoing residents tend to be less educated and earn less than $50,000. Over time, this trend will make California wealthier in average income—but poorer in electoral power. William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, has projected that, for the first time ever, the state’s population slowdown will likely cost it a congressional district after the 2020 census. (Texas, he said, could gain three seats.) Read More > in The Atlantic

Can Californians Afford California – By many important measures, California has never been better off. Our state enjoys unprecedented wealth, employment and health.

Our economy created 3.4 million jobs in the ten years since the worst of the Great Recession, a 24 percent growth spurt, driving the unemployment rate to a record low 3.9%. Our job growth has accounted for one out of every seven new US hires. This rising tide has lifted every county with increased employment and income, albeit with great variation.

Measured by per capita income, California is the fifth-wealthiest state in the country.

The nine-county Bay Area would itself be the nation’s richest state. Coastal Southern California would be the nation’s 7th richest state. On the other hand, the San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire together would rank 48th among all states in wealth.

California continues to improve its health outcomes, ranking 12th among all states, compared with a ranking of 25th in 1994. Credit our low rates of smoking, obesity and occupational hazards, high physical activity, and enviable clinical care.

If you’re looking for a job or a healthy lifestyle, California remains a dream come true. But there’s a problem…

Many Californians can no longer afford California. Read More > at Fox and Hounds

Macy’s tries to convince Wall Street that America still needs department stores – Macy’s is making the case to investors that it is still “America’s department store.”

As the embattled retailer aims to get back to profitability and sales growth, it is meeting with investors Wednesday in New York to rally support for its turnaround plans. Among the key points it is making are that shoppers still go to malls, and that a department store chain can still offer customers something unique that they can’t just buy on Amazon.

To get back to growth, Macy’s is focusing on three pillars: Its role as a fashion destination, its role in providing value to shoppers and its role in celebrating America, CEO Jeff Gennette said, hinting at Macy’s events like its Thanksgiving Day parade.

A key test of this plan, however, will be if Macy’s can reach younger customers, as their spending power only grows.

Late Tuesday, Macy’s announced a major restructuring, in which it plans to shut 125 stores over the next three years, cut 9% of its corporate workforce and close some offices in Cincinnati and San Francisco. The steps Macy’s is taking are expected to generate about $1.5 billion in annual savings, which will be fully realized by the end of fiscal 2022, and partially reinvested back into its growth initiatives.

Macy’s is still, however, forecasting same-store sales, on an owned plus licensed basis, to be down 1% to flat three years from now, in fiscal 2022. Read More > at CNBC

Uber can resume testing its self-driving cars in California – Uber started scaling back its self-driving car tests after one of its vehicles hit and killed a pedestrian in March of 2018. While the company doesn’t seem primed to unleash a fleet of autonomous cars, it has been granted a new permit to resume testing in California. San Francisco — home to Uber’s headquarters — is likely to be the company’s main target, given its complex and twisting street layout. “While we do not have an update as to exactly when we’ll resume autonomous testing, receiving our testing permit through the California DMV is a critical step towards that end,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.

After the fatal crash, Uber stopped testing its self-driving cars in all four of its testing grounds — Tempe, Arizona; Toronto; San Francisco and Pittsburgh. However, the company resumed testing in Pittsburgh just months later, and has plans to begin tests in Washington, D.C. by the end of the year. About a year after the pedestrian was killed, the company raised a $1 billion investment in its self-driving division from three Japanese organizations — Softbank, Denso and Toyota — despite allegedly ramping down its efforts in the autonomous vehicle industry. Read More > at Engadget

Global Ocean Circulation Is Speeding Up – Contrary to previous predictions, the circulation of water in the world’s oceans appears to be accelerating, according to a study published in Science Advances today (February 5). Although the implications for this trend are, as yet, unknown, the discovery will be critical for informing future models of climate change, researchers say.

“This is quite an exciting paper,” says Joellen Russell, a geoscientist at the University of Arizona who was not involved in the study. “I think the results are robust, I think they’re important, and I think they are a little shocking,” she says.

The water of the Earth’s oceans is continuously circulating around the planet via currents, gyres, and eddies. These movements regulate the Earth’s climate by dispersing heat—they transport warm water from the tropics to the polar regions and drive cooler water back via the oceans’ depths. They also transport dissolved atmospheric gases, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide, and churn up nutrients from below. Ocean circulation is thus a fundamental process for life on Earth.

According to certain models—based on water temperature measurements and other factors—global warming has been predicted to weaken these currents. “Most people are expecting the global ocean circulation to slow,” says Russell, and consequently, for the seas to be more stratified in temperature gradient from the surface to their depths and therefore to be more stable with less mixing.

But, in contrast to these predictions, the new study that examines circulation on a global scale shows “a clear increase over the last twenty years . . . [in] the strengths of the currents,” says the University of Reading’s David Ferreira, who studies the dynamics of the oceans but who was not involved in the research. And that’s “pretty interesting,” he says. Read More > at TheScientist 

Fingerprint-dating tech could thwart lying criminals – Finding a person’s fingerprints at a crime scene isn’t always enough to convict them, as they can claim that those prints were left before the crime took place. That may be about to change, though, as scientists have now devised a method of dating fingerprints.

Led by Assoc. Prof. Young Jin Lee, a team from Iowa State University recently decided to investigate an existing theory – it suggests that as a fingerprint ages, ozone in the surrounding air reacts with unsaturated triacylglycerols deposited by the fingertip.

The scientists studied multiple prints from three volunteers, which were left on various surfaces over a period of seven days. Utilizing a technique known as mass spectrometry imaging, the researchers were able to reliably determine when each print was left, based on the rate at which its triacylglycerols had degraded.

The examination process didn’t harm the fingerprints, so they could still be used for identifying individuals. Additionally, the prints could still be dated even after having been dusted with forensic powder. Read More > at New Atlas

Secondhand Clothing Is Long on Hype, Short on Impact for Mall Retailers – The department-store industry has been wading deeper into secondhand waters for a while now. Nordstrom embraced the idea of dealing in used clothing in mid-2019, partnering with Rent the Runway by becoming a pickup and drop-off point for the apparel-renting outfit. In August, Macy’s added select merchandise from used clothing name thredUP to its inventory at 40 of its stores, as part of a pilot program. J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) unveiled a similar partnership just a few days later, releasing plans to open thredUP shops in 30 of its stores. Then just last week, Nordstrom launched its See You Tomorrow shop at its flagship New York City locale. See You Tomorrow will resell curated third-party items, as well as Nordstrom inventory that can’t quite be sold as new merchandise in stores.

This evolution of the secondhand-clothing business was inevitable. The entry of chain stores into the business, once limited to thrift stores and consignment shops, offers used apparel an enormous sales platform.

If thredUP’s outlook is anywhere close to being on target, though, secondhand apparel won’t end the “retail apocalypse” that’s hitting department stores particularly hard. It’s just not big enough. Indeed, the chain stores may be surprised just how much they end up cannibalizing themselves by adding other shopping options to the mix. Read More > at The Motley Fool

Are medical errors really the third most common cause of death in the U.S.? (2020 edition) – The claim that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US has always rested on very shaky evidence; yet it has become common wisdom that is cited as though everyone accepts it. But if estimates of 250,000 to 400,000 deaths due to medical error are way too high, what is the real number? A recently published study suggests that it’s almost certainly a lot lower.

…The attempt to quantify how many deaths are attributable to medical error began in earnest in 2000 with the Institute of Medicine’s To Err Is Human, which estimated that the death rate due to medical error was 44,000 to 96,000, roughly one to two times the death rate from automobiles. (This is the estimate to which the Yale investigators, led by Craig Gunderson with first author Benjamin Rodwin, compare their estimates.) In response to the study, the quality improvement (QI) revolution began. Every hospital began implementing QI initiatives. Indeed, I was co-director of a statewide QI effort for breast cancer patients for three years. Also, as I mentioned above, the estimates for “death by medicine” seemingly never do anything but keep increasing. They went from 100,000 to 200,000 and now as high as 400,000. Basically, when it comes to these estimates, it seems as though everyone is in a race to see who can blame the most deaths on medical errors, and each time a larger estimate is published the press gobbles it up uncritically. In contrast, each time a study publishes a more reasonable estimate, all we hear are crickets.

If the estimates between 200,000 and 400,000 are way too high, what is the real number of deaths that can be attributed to medical error? Here’s where the meta-analysis by Rodwin et al comes in, estimating the number of preventable deaths at just over 22,000 per year. It’s not even in the top ten. In fact, preventable deaths due to medical error represent less than 1% of all deaths. That number is, of course, still too high, and efforts to decrease should and will continue. (It can never be zero, given that medicine is a system run by human beings, who are inherently imperfect and sometimes make mistakes.) However, it’s nowhere near the third leading cause of death in the US. Read More > at Science-Based Medicine 

San Francisco’s Average Income Is The Highest In Nation. Here’s What That Means For Multifamily. – Don’t expect The City by the Bay’s multifamily market to slow down anytime soon, investors said Monday.

Residential properties in the San Francisco metropolitan area will likely see modest rent growth and ample investor interest accompanying the arrival of about 3,600 new units this year, a 2020 forecast from brokerage Marcus & Millichap found.

Residential rents grew 3.8% in San Francisco and neighboring cities in 2019, and Marcus & Millichap First Vice President of Investments Clinton Textor says he expects growth of about 5% to 7% this year, citing the area’s continued income growth and less-than-stellar housing output. Read More > at Bisnow

FDA Approves First-Ever Peanut Allergy Treatment – Aimmune Therapeutics Inc. shares jumped early on Monday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced late Friday a critical approval for the firm’s peanut allergy treatment.

Specifically, the FDA approved Palforzia for the mitigation of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, that may occur with accidental exposure to peanuts.

It’s worth pointing out that Palforzia is not only the first approved therapy for peanut allergy, but also it is the first approved therapy for any food allergy. Read More > at 24/7 Wall St

Debate over charters must consider access to good schools for underserved families – The nation’s first charter school opened in 1992 and there are now more than 7,000 across 43 states and Washington, D.C. Listening to the political debate about charter schools, though, you’d think they are a new idea — or at least one with little grounding in research or practice.

…A poll of 3,000 adults by Education Next shows 48 percent support charter schools and 39 percent oppose them. A poll of 1,000 voters by Democrats in Education Reform found 50 percent had a favorable view of them, and just 28 percent have an unfavorable one. Charter schools enjoy particularly strong support from Republicans, blacks and Hispanics.

Why has that support not translated into more favorable politics for charter schools? Blame special-interest politics. Many Americans also support political change on climate, guns and health care. Organized groups oppose many of those changes and, in our political system, organized interests generally wield more power than diffuse interests. At the national level this is particularly true for education where single-issue voters are rare. When it comes to charters, the education industry fights efforts at odds with its self-interest just like any other industry. And, by allowing parents to choose a school for their children, and entities besides school districts to open and operate schools, charter schools mean a significant shift to the power arrangements in education.

…Finally, and perhaps most importantly, discussions of charter school performance too often are more noise than signal. Extensive data on charter performance drawn from rigorous studies — across multiple cities and states, over time — allow us to safely make some generalizations about charter schools. Urban charter schools serving low-income and black and Hispanic students substantially outperform comparable schools and students.  Read More > in The Hill

Even after Oroville near-disaster, California dams remain potentially hazardous – An audit of 650 California dams considered hazardous found that only a small fraction have completed emergency plans required after the Oroville Dam spillway collapsed three years ago and forced the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people.

State Auditor Elaine Howle’s recent report says only 22 of the at-risk dams have finalized their plans, which are supposed to include inundation maps and specify what they would do “to minimize loss of life and property.”

Some 250 dam operators haven’t even bothered to submit plans, and there is a major backlog of plans awaiting approval, the report, Assessment of High-Risk Issues, concluded. The deadline for owners of “extremely high hazard” dams to submit emergency plans was Jan. 1, 2018. Owners of “high hazard” dams had until Jan. 1, 2019.

The state regulates more than 1,200 dams and assigns each a hazard rating based on how much harm and damage might result if they failed. A little more than half — 650 — were rated “high or extremely high hazard.” Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Liberalism’s ‘cesspit’?: IAN BIRRELL says tech giants have turned San Francisco into a dystopian nightmare of addiction, homelessness and criminality – …The beautiful city by the bay, where Tony Bennett famously left his heart and which poses as a beacon of progressiveness, has more billionaires per capita than any other on the planet.

Not long ago, a seven-bedroom home here recently sold for $38 million (£29 million), while at the Michelin-starred Saison restaurant, the ‘kitchen menu’ starts at $298 a head and reservations require a $148 deposit.

The city authorities have a huge $12 billion budget, handing their 31,800 staff average annual pay and benefit packages of an astonishing $175,000.

Yet the tide of homeless, addicted and mentally ill people washing up here has become so severe that a global expert on slums claimed San Francisco may be more unsanitary than some of the poorest parts of Africa and Asia.

Oracle, one of the technology giants based in the nearby Silicon Valley, has switched a conference for 60,000 people to Las Vegas due to the toxic combination of ‘poor street conditions’ and costly hotels.

…As one prominent academic tells me, it seems a cruel irony that so much squalor and despair is found in the Californian base of all those billionaire technology titans seeking to reshape the world in their image.

‘San Francisco has always had hobos but we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s become a vision of some kind of strange dystopian future,’ says Joel Kotkin, a widely respected professor in urban studies.

He can reel off damning statistics to back his claim that San Francisco symbolises the Golden State’s descent into ‘high-tech feudalism’ including America’s highest poverty levels, its worst rates of property crime and its biggest gap between top and middle incomes.

But one statistic stands out: almost half of homeless people in the United States are in California, according to a recent White House study.

And San Francisco, a comparatively small city that is home to tech giants such as Twitter, Uber and Airbnb, has the highest rate of ‘unsheltered’ citizens – at ten times the national level. Read More > in the Daily Mail


About Kevin

Mayor - 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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