Sunday Reading – 03/22/2020


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.

National gas prices — including in California — likely to fall under $2 due to coronavirus crisis: Expert – Coronavirus has caused gas prices nationwide to plummet, and they will likely drop below the $2 mark soon across the country — including, eventually, in California.

That’s according to Patrick DeHaan, an analyst for the fuel pricing website GasBuddy.com.

The national average of a gallon of regular unleaded dipped under $2.20 on Thursday. That’s roughly 25 cents lower than a month ago and 35 cents lower than a year ago, AAA reports.

California gasoline prices, which continue to be among the highest in the nation at $3.28, have also dropped by double digits in the past week.

With local, state and federal officials urging residents to hunker down indoors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, fewer people are taking to the roads. That’s leading to to cheaper gas. Read More > at KTLA

How Desperate Are Gamblers with No Sports to Bet On? This Desperate. – March Madness. Spring Training. Opening Day. The NBA. NASCAR. UFC. Golf. All gone. Sports fans face a desolate viewing and betting landscape as social distancing causes sports leagues across the globe to shut everything down. Coronavirus has had a significant effect on every aspect of our lives. Not only has sports programming ground to a halt on both radio and tv, but casinos have felt a huge hit as well. Many have shut their doors altogether, meaning no table-game revenue and no sports-book revenue. Gamblers just have nothing to bet on.

So what can a poor gambler do to stay entertained? How bout betting on the weather?

On Monday, the offshore betting outfit Bovada opened up several options to bet on, including the day’s highest wind gust, who will be the next contestant evicted on Big Brother, and the over/under on the temperature in major U.S. cities, among many others. The New York Post reports:

“We’re trying to cope with the loss of sports,” Pat Morrow, the head odds maker for sportsbook company Bovada, told The Post Tuesday.

“You’re probably talking about an individual loss of freedom, people are going to start feeling a little cooped up more sooner than later and if we can just have those little breaks, whether it’s betting on something silly … we’re all just trying to find different outlets to forget what’s happening.”

On Monday, Bovada opened up wagers on the weather and players can now bet on what the maximum temperatures will be in cities like Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Gamblers can also bet on the expected rainfall and on popular TV shows like American Idol and Westworld.

Morrow told The Post that they’ve lost about 95% of their normal betting volume. Desperate times call for desperate measures, both for the company and for individual bettors. Read More > at PJ Media

Can the Government Just Close My Favorite Bar? – I regret to inform you that we have always lived in a country in which political officials can order private businesses closed.

A key constitutional foundation of the American system of federal powers is that the national government is one of enumerated powers specified in the text of the written Constitution but that state governments are ones of general jurisdiction which hold the residual of public power, lacking only the exceptions that have been specifically carved out by written constitutions. Traditionally, this doctrine was known as the “police power,” which was conventionally understood to include the power of the state to make all necessary laws to protect the welfare, safety, morals and health of the community.

This general background of police powers underwrites myriad routine restrictions that state and local governments put on social life. It is what allows local governments to authorize health inspectors to examine the kitchens of restaurants and order them to close if they discover problems. It is what allows fire marshals to limit the number of people who can occupy a public venue. It is what allows police officers to arrest people for urinating in the street. It is what allows government officials to prevent you from just accumulating mounds of garbage in the backyard of your suburban home. It is what allows government officials to tell you that you cannot keep a Bengal tiger as a pet in your house. It is what allowed states to ban free-standing billiard halls or bowling alleys as contributing to public disorder. Read More > at The Volokh Conspiracy

Blood Donors Are Urgently Needed for Hospital Patients: WE NEED YOU – Amidst novel coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention measures, Vitalant and other blood centers nationwide are urging healthy individuals to donate blood—and organizations to maintain scheduled blood drives—to ensure patients have the lifesaving blood they need.

Healthy people are strongly encouraged to make a blood donation appointment by calling 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825) or going online to vitalant.org.

Public health officials are enacting a number of measures to limit COVID-19—and Vitalant supports these initiatives.

Representing all blood banks, the AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks) Inter-organizational Task Force on Domestic Disasters and Acts of Terrorism recently urged healthy individuals to make and keep donation appointments—and ensure blood drives continue.

Currently, all blood types and components are needed, with a significant need for platelets and type O blood donations. Read More > at American Security Today

Rethinking the Coronavirus Shutdown – Financial markets paused their slide Thursday, but no one should think this rolling economic calamity is over. If this government-ordered shutdown continues for much more than another week or two, the human cost of job losses and bankruptcies will exceed what most Americans imagine. This won’t be popular to read in some quarters, but federal and state officials need to start adjusting their anti-virus strategy now to avoid an economic recession that will dwarf the harm from 2008-2009.

The vast social-distancing project of the last 10 days or so has been necessary and has done much good. Warnings about large gatherings of more than 10 people and limiting access to nursing homes will save lives. The public has received a crucial education in hygiene and disease prevention, and even young people may get the message. With any luck, this behavior change will reduce the coronavirus spread enough that our hospitals won’t be overwhelmed with patients. Anthony Fauci, Scott Gottlieb and other disease experts are buying crucial time for government and private industry to marshal resources against the virus. . . .

Perhaps we will be lucky, and the human and capitalist genius for innovation will produce a vaccine faster than expected—or at least treatments that reduce Covid-19 symptoms. But barring that, our leaders and our society will very soon need to shift their virus-fighting strategy to something that is sustainable.

Dr. Fauci has explained this severe lockdown policy as lasting 14 days in its initial term. The national guidance would then be reconsidered depending on the spread of the disease. That should be the moment, if not sooner, to offer new guidance on what might be called phase two of the coronavirus pandemic campaign. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Flattening the Curve of a Recession – The American economy has perhaps four to six weeks before retail shutdowns, millions working from home, and quarantines initiate a severe recession. Even a week is costly, to workers and to employers, many with only a thin cushion of capital on which to rely when revenues fall short. The longer today’s pressures last, the more likely it is that they will force layoffs and other more lasting cutbacks by businesses, many of which will face bankruptcy. Recent monetary easing might help contain the severity of the coming recession, as might fiscal-stimulus measures, such as the contemplated payroll tax cut. Washington and the states have an opportunity to do more by targeting the way today’s emergency measures would create recessionary conditions.

Typically, recessions occur when excesses in one or more sectors precipitate a sharp cutback. In 2008, the problems began in housing, which had become overbuilt because, among other things, financial institutions had lent to buyers with dubious credit. When this unsustainable situation became apparent, construction activity collapsed, as did mortgage lending, while real estate prices collapsed. The loss of jobs, declines in wealth, and the surge in bankruptcies led to more widespread cutbacks in consumer and business spending and brought on the Great Recession.

At present, the United States and the world face something very different from what economists understand as a recession: a supply shortfall. Quarantines have kept people from productive work, first in China and now globally. Work from home cannot fill the gap, especially where factories and many service industries are concerned. Consequent production shortfalls have denied other producers the parts and materials they need to meet their output schedules. Consumers eager to buy face a paucity of retail options as public-health measures have closed restaurants, events, and retail facilities. Demand remains strong—it’s the lack of supply that now constrains economic activity.

Different as today’s situation is, however, it will, if it persists, inevitably morph into a familiar, demand-driven recession. Business may keep idle workers on the payroll for a while, either in response to government mandates or loyalty, but firms, which must pay taxes, rent, and interest on their debts, are limited in how long they can meet such expenses while facing revenue shortfalls from the shutdowns and supply constraints. Soon, managers will turn to more lasting layoffs and staff reductions, and many firms will face bankruptcy. Other businesses will shelve expansion plans, leaving more sectors of the economy facing a shortfall in demand for their products. The number of firms facing such constraints will surely grow while the economic pause persists—and the greater that number grows, the deeper the world economy will fall into recession.

Monetary easing, such as the Federal Reserve has recently implemented, and the kinds of fiscal measures contemplated by the administration could blunt such recessionary effects. It’s doubtful, however, that these measures could fully counteract the entire downward push once the process gains momentum. Better, before that momentum builds, to take additional, less-common policy measures that might short-circuit the transition from today’s supply-short pause to a demand-short recession. Read More > at City Journal

Will the Bay Area run out of food? Nope. The supply chain is healthy – Those picked-over grocery-store shelves don’t tell the full story. The Bay Area is not in danger of running out of food, industry members and experts say, and the food supply chain is as healthy as ever.

“We’re not seeing any challenges on the supply side at all,” said Michael Janis, managing director of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, which sells produce to local stores, restaurants and catering companies.

Even before six Bay Area counties issued “shelter in place” orders on Monday, long lines snaked through many grocery stores here, and items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer appeared to be in short supply as residents prepared to hunker down in their homes to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. But despite the rush, the supply chain for food products like fruits, vegetables and meat has not yet been disrupted — even if it’s taking some stores a little longer to restock the shelves.

“Food is not going to run out,” said Karan Girotra, a professor of operations and technology and an expert in supply chain management at Cornell Tech in New York City.

People are buying more food, but they’re not eating more, Girotra explained: “What’s happened is the pattern of shopping has changed. People are panicked and are buying more goods than usual.” Unlike hand sanitizer, which is being consumed more than usual, “when shoppers buy a month’s supply of food, it’s not going to be used in a week.” Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle 

66-million-year-old ‘wonderchicken’ offers lesson in resilience – Birds are the only dinosaurs to have survived the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period some 66 million years ago. But bird bones from that era are extremely rare, so paleontologists know little about how those creatures persevered.

Before Dr. Field and one of his students CT scanned the rock to see what else might be buried in there, they didn’t expect to find much. But when the X-ray image appeared on the screen, Dr. Field recounts, there was “this incredible, complete bird skull staring straight out of the block at us.”

The fossil offers rare clues about why birds endured the asteroid impact that wiped out their fellow dinosaurs. This tale of survival could illuminate modern lessons for resilience in the face of global catastrophe.

“The most resilient things in the history of the world have been the plants and animals and other organisms that have survived mass extinctions, particularly the one at the end of the Cretaceous,” says Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh who was not involved with the study. “That asteroid hit and everything changed in an instant. So if you want to think about resilience, looking into the fossil record to see what survived is a great place to start.”

Because of its chicken-like face, the researchers nicknamed this ancient bird species “wonderchicken.” They also gave it a scientific name: Asteriornis, after the Greek Titan goddess of falling stars, Asteria.

This specimen came from shallow marine limestone in Belgium, suggesting that Asteriornis was a shorebird. Its slender sandpiper-like legs corroborate that idea, says Dr. Field.

Compared with its iconic dinosaur contemporaries, Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex, Asteriornis would’ve been a humble creature, says Dr. Field. The bird probably would’ve been quite small even among chickens and ducks alive today. Read More in The Christian Science Monitor

Playboy kills iconic magazine, citing coronavirus woes – The latest victim of the coronavirus: Playboy.

The nudie mag founded by Hugh Hefner 66 years ago will no longer publish a printed edition, it said on Wednesday, citing coronavirus supply chain woes that have only served to exacerbate its already sagging newsstand sales.

“Last week, as the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to content production and the supply chain became clearer and clearer, we were forced to accelerate a conversation we’ve been having internally,” CEO Ben Kohn said in a post on Medium.com.

The iconic magazine was already on the decline prior to the coronavirus pandemic as porn has proliferated online. It was still being published monthly as recently as 2017, but was scaled back to a quarterly mag without ads in early 2019.

The spring 2020 issue now hitting newsstands will be its last before it goes all digital next year. Read More > in the New York Post

We Can Be Critical Of Virus Response Later-For Now There’s Plenty To Be Proud Of – CoronaVirus is changing our lives constantly, and being stuck at home is boring. Faced with a worldwide pandemic and a fear unknown in scale in modern times federal, state, local governments are adjusting their response daily or sometimes a few times a day. While most levels of government are being open (and ruining what’s on TV) we won’t know if those responses are successfully blunting the outbreak for a few weeks. Truth be told won’t know what is right or wrong until the crisis is over and we find out if the curve is flattened. However, we do know now is that there are many people and organizations of which Americans should be proud. Americans have a history of pulling together in a crisis and that’s what we are doing. critical of virus response

Does Macy’s tell Gimbel’s? That was an expression about competitors not working together or share business secrets years ago when Macy’s and Gimbel’s were department stores located one from each other in Manhattan. Last week we learned that because of this health crisis, competitors are working together in a way not seen before.

Competitors Walmart and Target, CVS and Walgreens, have all volunteered part of their parking lot real estate for drive-through COVID-19 testing. Having worked with many of those retailers in my marketing days, I can report that they usually charge big dollars for companies to use their parking lots for promotions. In other words, volunteering their spaces is a big deal.

America should show pride for the F.D.A., which went around their standard procedures to fast track approval for the Roche Labs rapid CoronaVirus test, which provides answers in an hour or two as opposed to the usual day or two. The rapid test will enable more people to be tested faster.

After meeting with the President, competitors LabCorp and Quest agreed to allow more of their sites to provide CoronaVirus testing, first to the outbreak areas of Washington State and California, and by now across the country.

On Sunday, President Trump held a conference call with food industry executives to discuss how they’re managing the growing crisis. According to reports, the administration and food industry agreed about ways “stores can stay open and stocked.” They promised the President that they would continue to have staple items for the public. Read More > at The Lid

Baltimore Mayor Begs Residents To Stop Shooting Each Other So Hospital Beds Can Be Used For Coronavirus Patients – Baltimore Mayor Jack Young urged residents to put down their guns and heed orders to stay home after multiple people were shot Tuesday night amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Young said hospital beds are needed to treat positive COVID-19 patients and not for senseless violence. Seven people were shot Tuesday night in the Madison Park neighborhood, as Baltimore reported its fifth positive coronavirus case Wednesday.

“I want to reiterate how completely unacceptable the level of violence is that we have seen recently,” Young said. “We will not stand for mass shootings and an increase in crime.”

“For those of you who want to continue to shoot and kill people of this city, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Young implored. “We’re going to come after you and we’re going to get you.”

He urged people to put down their guns because “we cannot clog up our hospitals and their beds with people that are being shot senselessly because we’re going to need those beds for people infected with the coronavirus. And it could be your mother, your grandmother or one of your relatives. So take that into consideration.” Read More > at CBS Baltimore

Why there will soon be tons of toilet paper, and what food may be scarce, according to supply chain experts – Stuck rationing toilet paper because you didn’t stockpile during the coronavirus panic over the last few days? Don’t worry, according to supply chain experts.

“All the grocery stores are going to have pallets of toilet paper sitting in the aisles, and nobody is going to buy it, because who needs to buy toilet paper when you’ve got a year’s worth sitting in your garage?” Daniel Stanton, a supply chain expert and author of “Supply Chain Management for Dummies,” tells CNBC Make It.

But what about food?

Even if the COVID-19 pandemic stretches over months (President Donald Trump said it could last until August), there will be no big food shortages, especially on staples like milk, eggs, cheese, bread and meat, according to three supply chain experts who spoke to Make It.

But your favorite brand or the exact kind of fruit you want could be scarce.

“The brand that you normally want may not be available. But, hey, there’s some other kind of pasta. Or instead of rice, we’re going to have potatoes for dinner,” Stanton says.

“The U.S. produces a huge amount of food. We’re also an exporter of food, so we’re going to be okay,” he adds. Read More > at CNBC

$100 billion Bay Area transportation measure pushed back – An ambitious plan to generate $100 billion in new funding for Bay Area transportation has been postponed indefinitely.

The coalition of business advocacy and public policy groups behind Faster Bay Area said Wednesday they have pushed plans for a nine-county measure from the November 2020 ballot to an undetermined date in the future. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council and SPUR said in a statement that the disruption and uncertainties related to COVID-19 were behind the postponement.

“Under normal circumstances, this was a very challenging task,” the groups said in a joint statement. “These are not normal circumstances. It has been determined that we need to push out beyond the 2020 election cycle and continue our efforts on a different time frame.” Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times

PG&E Bankruptcy Deal Moves Forward as Governor Drops Opposition – Newsom ended his opposition to a $23 billion plan to help PG&E emerge from bankruptcy in summer 2020.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus and its economic fallout may have softened California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stance on Pacific Gas & Electric’s bankruptcy plan. According to reports, Newsom ended his opposition to a $23 billion plan to help PG&E emerge from bankruptcy in summer 2020.

The plan is for PG&E, one of California’s big three utilities, to recover from its bankruptcy in June and take advantage of the $21 billion in funding that the state’s wildfire insurance fund makes available. The fund was established to help PG&E and other power companies from their financial liabilities stemming from destructive wildfires courts linked to PG&E’s transmission and distribution equipment.

…The governor also called on PG&E to replace its entire board of directors. The utility has agreed to shake up some of its board, but not all of it. Read More > at T&D World

Cooped up, bored and on a budget? Here’s how to stream TV without paying a dime – Sports are shut down. Some people are temporarily out of work or might be soon. Budgets for luxuries — like premium TV —are tightening.

So how do we stay entertained without breaking the bank with $20-a-pop movies on demand? Streaming services, of course.

It turns out that if you string together various streamers’ current free-trial offers just right, you can have a pandemic’s worth of entertainment without paying a dime.

Some smaller streaming services are offering extended free-trial periods during the coronavirus crisis:

Acorn TV has extended its usual seven-day free trial to 30 days for new subscribers with the promo code FREE30. The streamer features British, Australian and Canadian television shows, foreign-language thrillers and more. After the trial it’s $5.99 a month or $59.99 for the year.

Sundance Now is extending its seven-day free trial to 30 days for new customers with the promo code SUNDANCENOW30. The streamer features true-crime series, original dramas and exclusive thrillers. After the trial it’s $6.99 monthly or $4.99 a month with an annual membership.

Shudder is extending its normal seven-day free trial to 30 days with the promo code SHUTIN. The streamer features horror movies and shows, plus thrillers and suspense. After the trial it’s $4.99 a month or $47.88 a year. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Truckers Are Keeping American Supply Chains — and Americans — Alive – Groceries began reappearing on American store shelves this week, thanks to the strength of a supply chain that includes farmers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers — all of whom are literally risking their lives to stay on duty.

A crucial part of that supply chain is the American trucker, who makes sure that goods are delivered in a timely fashion. That is always the case, but it is especially true in the sudden global emergency we face today.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported last year that 3.5 million Americans are employed as truck drivers. Many work long hours, and a disproportionate number of them are military veterans.

They are on the front lines once again.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) noted Sunday:

Major national crises tend to expose underlying truths about society that otherwise go unnoticed during life’s regular routines. They reveal the individuals among us who are truly essential to upholding the high standard of living we’ve collectively come to expect. They remind us of America’s unsung heroes.

The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic is no different. The spread of Coronavirus in the U.S. will test government institutions, challenge private industry and place inordinate demands on our most critical workforce. It will marshal the full strength of our nation and elevate its essential core.

And just as they do when a hurricane strikes or a blizzard hits, America’s professional truck drivers will be on the front lines delivering critical supplies and aid to fellow citizens.

Over the past week, Americans have rushed to stock up on goods as they prepare to hunker down to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. We’ve watched schools, businesses, major sports and other cultural pillars come to a complete stop as personal health and well-being take top priority.

But one thing that won’t stop: trucking.

Read More > at Breitbart

Better Late Than Never: Microsoft Hits Huge Milestone for Windows 10 – The company announced Monday that there are now a billion active machines running the Windows 10 operating system.

Note that this number includes Xbox Ones, laptops, personal computers and more.

The good news here is that while Microsoft hit the original goal that it set for devices running Windows 10, this goal was reached two years later than expected. Most of this delay was due to competition with Apple and Alphabet.

Microsoft had been planning to put Windows 10 on a billion devices within three years of the release. However, this timeline was extended after the Windows Phone flopped and failed to challenge Apple’s iPhone and Alphabet’s Android for market share.

Also, Microsoft reached this milestone just a couple months after it ended support for its Windows 7 operating system. Obviously, this helped with an influx of devices and culminated in crossing the billion mark. Read More > at 24/7 Wall St

Inside the daring mission to reach the bottom of all Earth’s oceans – Victor Vescovo wanted to be the first person to reach the deepest points of all five oceans – but first he had to build a submarine that was up to it.

Victor Vescovo is ready to make history. It’s 12.37pm on Saturday August 24, 2019, and the 53-year-old Texan is about to attempt to pilot his bespoke submersible to the bottom of the Molloy Deep, a nodal basin (one that is unaffected by tidal movements) 5,550 metres deep, located in the Fram Strait, between the Arctic Ocean and the Norwegian and Greenland Seas. To arrive here, 48 crew members and passengers on the research vessel DSSV Pressure Drop have sailed 17 hours from the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard into the open expanse of the Arctic Ocean. By diving down to the seabed, Vescovo hopes to become the first person in history not only to touch down on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, but to have explored the deepest point of all five of the Earth’s oceans.

The Five Deeps expedition got under way in December 2018, when Vescovo took his submersible, called Limiting Factor, to the 8,376m depths of the Atlantic Ocean’s Puerto Rico Trench. Since then he has made contact with the Antarctic Ocean’s 7,433m South Sandwich Trench, the Indian Ocean’s 7,192m Java Trench, and the Pacific Ocean’s 10,925m Mariana Trench, en route to his last stop at the top of the world. Read More > at Wired

Why the US Sucks at Building Public Transit – American cities are facing a transportation crisis. There’s terrible traffic. Public transit doesn’t work or go where people need it to. The cities are growing, but newcomers are faced with the prospects of paying high rents for reasonable commutes or lower rents for dreary, frustrating daily treks. Nearly all Americans, including those in cities, face a dire choice: spend thousands of dollars a year owning a car and sitting in traffic, or sacrifice hours every day on ramshackle public transit getting where they need to go. Things are so broken that, increasingly, they do both. Nationwide, three out of every four commuters drive alone. The rate in metro areas is not much different.

“Without an integrated system of transit in our metropolitan areas the great anticipated growth will become a dream that will fail,” predicted Ralph Merritt, general manager of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “because people cannot move freely, safely, rapidly, and economically from where they live to where they work.”

Although Merritt’s words could just as well apply today, he said them 66 years ago in 1954. This is a crisis facing American cities right now in 2020, but it’s an old crisis. The only thing that has changed is the problem has gotten worse.

Like most crises, there is no single cause. Our cities, and our federal government, have made a lot of mistakes. Some were obvious at the time, others only in hindsight, but most have been a combination of the two. We keep doing things that stopped being good ideas a long time ago.

Many of those mistakes have to do with housing policy, which is inextricably linked to transportation policy. But the most obvious cause of our transportation crisis is a simple one: America sucks at building public transportation.

Why is this? Why does the U.S. suck at building good, useful public transit? Read More > at Vice

Attorney General Barr urges DOJ to prioritize prosecuting coronavirus scammers –  Scammers who have been taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic by spreading COVID-19-themed spearphishing emails have caught the attention of the Department of Justice.

In a memo sent to all U.S. attorneys Monday, Attorney General William Barr prioritized prosecuting cybercriminals seeking to exploit fears about the coronavirus.

“The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated,” Barr said in the memo, which CyberScoop has obtained.

For months, scammers have been impersonating health authorities such as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to send malware in coronavirus-themed spearphishing emails to victims worried about infection or community spread of the virus. Read More > at Cyberscoop

Dramatic increase in mortality among the unmarried – Mortality – or the frequency of deaths – has been steadily declining in Norway over the last hundred years in comparison to people of the same age.

Our health has been improving and our life expectancy is increasing.

But for many decades, a large segment of society has not taken part in this positive development in health.

Those who are not married.

Øystein Kravdal is a demographic researcher and an expert on changes in our population.

He has become aware of a startling fact: The difference in mortality between unmarried people and married people in Norway has increased sharply over the last 40 years.

Unmarried adult men now have almost twice the mortality rate of married men of the same age. Unmarried adult women also have much higher mortality rates than married women.

What can explain these disparities?

Kravdal and his research colleagues have no clear answers.

But they’re speculating. Read More > at Sciencenorway

Oil prices keep tumbling, with no sign of stopping – An epic battle between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Shrinking demand for jet fuel, gasoline and diesel. And now an unprecedented travel ban between the United States and Europe. It’s a nightmare scenario for the oil market.

US crude oil plunged another 6% to $31 a barrel on Thursday after President Donald Trump announced the travel restrictions with Europe in a bid to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Crude dropped to as low as $30.02 a barrel. At that level, it was down 27% for the week.

The travel ban is only intensifying fears in the oil patch about demand destruction for energy products.

Russia, seeking to halt the rise of US shale oil, refused to go along with OPEC’s proposal last week to cut production. Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC, retaliated against Russia by promising to flood the market with cheap oil.

The big problem for the oil market is that jet fuel demand is cratering. Thousands of flights have been canceled and more will likely be nixed because of restrictions and nervous travelers. Read More > at CNN Business

How Long Does it Take to Make Your Money Back After a Bear Market? – By my count there have been 24 bear markets since 1928, good enough for one every 3-4 years. The average fall from grace has been a 33% drop, lasting just shy of a year from peak-to-trough.

Obviously, the bear market you’re experiencing will never be average but the current iteration isn’t even in the top half of the worst bears in history. There have been 14 larger drawdowns throughout history. Certainly this one could still have some legs but that’s where we stand at the moment.

No one wants to hear this right now because we’re living in scary times but things will get better eventually. They’re likely to get worse before they get better, potentially much worse, but I have faith in our human spirit to continue moving forward.

The question is not only how bad can it get but how long will it take to make our money back?

…If it takes a number of months or potentially years to make your money back, that gives investors time to take advantage of higher expected returns. For those who are net savers, this means plenty of time to deploy capital at lower prices than we were being offered in recent months. For those with diversified portfolios who won’t be making new contributions, this means opportunities to slowly rebalance into the pain.

Here’s something I can say with 100% certainty — every bear market in the history of U.S. stocks has led to new all-time highs at some point in the future.

Is it possible this time is different?

Sure, anything is possible.

I choose to believe things will be better in the future. People will still wake up in the morning looking to become better people and make something of themselves. Innovation is not going away nor is the human spirit. Read More > at A Wealth of Common Sense

Even more confusion over tax vote – State law says that “special purpose” taxes, which Measure C clearly is, must have two-thirds approval by voters. But three years ago, the state Supreme Court cast doubt on that principle in upholding the basic right of voters to impose taxes via the initiative process.

Writing the 5-2 majority opinion, Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar declared, “Multiple provisions of the state Constitution explicitly constrain the power of local governments to raise taxes. But we will not lightly apply such restrictions on local governments to voter initiatives.”

He thus implied that special purpose taxes placed on the ballot by voters via initiative may not be affected by the two-thirds vote requirement, but was not explicit, touching off a running legal battle.

Since then, some special tax measures failing to receive two-thirds votes have been validated by local judges, citing Cuéllar’s opinion, but most have not.

An early test arose in two San Francisco tax measures, both placed on the ballot in 2018 via initiatives personally sponsored by members of the city’s Board of Supervisors, one for early childhood education, the other to battle homelessness.

Both received less than two-thirds votes, but a local judge, Ethan Schulman, validated them anyway.

However, Fresno Superior Court Judge Kimberly Gaab went the other way on a sales tax measure to improve city parks. The tax hike received just 52.2% of the votes and when its sponsors sued to have it declared a winner, Gaab wrote, “The two-thirds vote requirement applies to all special tax proposals, regardless of the proponent of the proposal.”

…the Supreme Court will have to tell us what it meant in that 2017 case. Sooner would be better than later as the roster of disputed tax measures grows. Read More > at CALmatters

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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