Sunday Reading – 06/28/2020


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.

Bay Area cities must build nearly 450K homes, the state says – Ready or not, the Bay Area’s new state-mandated housing development goals have arrived, and the numbers are bigger than ever before.

Bay Area municipalities are expected to be responsible for planning, zoning and approving a combined 441,176 new homes between 2023 and 2030, according to the state’s most recent Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) determination.

That’s up from the 187,990 Bay Area cities were tasked with generating between 2015 and 2023, marking a 135 percent increase, or more than doubling the goals in the coming decade.

The news comes as most cities in the region are already struggling to meet the existing housing development goals.

The RHNA increase this year was roughly what local leaders expected it would be, driven by the existing housing shortage and paired with the projected rate of employment and population growth in the region. And it’s still a far cry from the 229 percent increase that Southern California saw.

But the question is whether cities will actually build that many homes. Though municipalities are required to set aside enough land to build their share of housing, there’s no punishment from the state if they don’t meet the development goals. Read More > at San Jose Spotlight

Americans Disagree About What Racism Is, And It’s A Big Problem – According to a recent NBC News poll, 62 percent of Americans polled said racism is a “major problem.” Last year, Gallup found that 42 percent are “very worried about race relations.” In 2001, when Gallup began that survey, the percentage was only 28 percent, and in 2010 it was a mere 13 percent.

There are many plausible explanations for this jump, including a spate of media-highlighted, race-related police shootings and the controversial presidency of Donald Trump. What is less clear is how our society can reverse this trend. One tremendous obstacle to improving race relations is that Americans cannot even agree on what racism is.

There are two basic definitions of racism in the United States, one roughly associated with progressives and one roughly associated with conservatives. The former describes racism as the failure to acknowledge and seek to redress systemic discrimination against select disadvantaged minority groups. It is very broad and captures everything from unconscious bias to white supremacy. The latter views racism as making assumptions about, or taking action towards, an individual or group on the sole basis of their race. It is narrow and generally requires belief, intent, and animosity.

These definitions don’t simply differ; to a great extent they actually contradict each other. Much of the contradiction stems from the fact that the progressive definition of racism requires that an advantaged individual or group must be attacking the less privileged. The more conservative and narrow definition of racism requires no appeal to power structures, only to bias, and can be committed by anyone towards anyone. Read More > in The Federalist

PG&E power shut-offs are coming back. Here’s what you need to know. – For the millions of Californians sticking close to home during the coronavirus pandemic, unwelcome news from PG&E has landed: The dreaded Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) may be coming back.

The beleaguered company claims that, unlike last year’s days-long shutoffs, this year any power outages due to dangerous wildfire conditions will be shorter and smaller.

“PG&E is upgrading its electric system to prevent wildfires and reduce the impact of future PSPS events on our customers,” PG&E said in a statement. “The company’s efforts this year are expected to reduce the number of customers affected by a potential PSPS event by about one-third compared to a similar weather event last year.”

Here’s what you need to know before we head into another summer and fall of potential PSPS events.

Update your contact information to receive alerts

The utility company will notify customer at 48 hours, 24 hours and just prior to shutting off power. Alerts will be sent through automated calls, texts and emails.

To update your contact information with PG&E, you can use their website or call 866-743-6589. Even if you think PG&E has your information, it’s good to check in to make sure they have your specific address on record and not only your zip code. Read More > in the SF Gate

Judge prohibits California from putting cancer warning on weed killer Roundup – Despite three trial verdicts awarding nearly $200 million to cancer victims who used Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, California cannot require a cancer warning on the product label because it is contradicted by “the great weight of evidence,” a federal judge ruled Monday.

In issuing a permanent injunction against the state’s attempt to place a cancer warning on the world’s most widely used weed killer, U.S. District Judge William Shubb of Sacramento did not prevent California from including Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, on its own list of probable human carcinogens.

…under Supreme Court rulings, cannot require a private company to change its label or say anything about its products unless the statement is “purely factual and non-controversial.” A cancer warning on Roundup would not come close to meeting that standard, he said, because most regulatory bodies — including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and most of its counterparts in Europe — have found no connection between the herbicide and the disease.

California relied on a finding in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, that glyphosate was a probable cause of cancer in humans.

But Shubb said the state “may not skew the public debate” by “relying solely on the IARC’s determination, when the great weight of evidence indicates that glyphosate is not known to cause cancer.” Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Over Past 15 Years, a Quarter of US Newspapers Have Folded – It is well known that the digital transformation of the local news business robbed newspapers of much of their print advertising and subscription revenue. They have tried to transform themselves into digital properties with online advertising and paid subscriptions for products people read online. For the most part, it has failed. One outcome is that an extraordinary quarter of all American newspapers have closed in the past 15 years. Many others are on their last legs.

A major new research report from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill covers the carnage in great detail via a 124-page document called “News Deserts and Ghost Newspapers: Will Local News Survive?” The analysis points out that vast parts of America have been left without any newspaper.

Due to the shuttering of local papers, half of the journalists in the industry lost their jobs over the same period. The other major by-product is that 1,800 American communities have been left without a newspaper at all. At the start of the period examined, which was 2004, there were 9,000 local papers in the United States. Print circulation across the country has dropped by 5 million since then.

Seventy of the papers that have closed are dailies. About 2,000 weeklies and other “non-dailies” are gone. Read More > at 24/7 Wall St

Lost continent of Zealandia mapped in unprecedented detail – Earth’s mysterious eighth continent doesn’t appear on most conventional maps; that’s because almost 95% of its land mass is submerged thousands of feet beneath the Pacific Ocean.

Zealandia — or Te Riu-a-Māui, as it’s referred to in the indigenous Māori language — is a 2 million-square-mile (5 million square kilometers) continent east of Australia, beneath modern-day New Zealand. Scientists discovered the sprawling underwater mass in the 1990s, then gave it formal continent status in 2017. Still, the “lost continent” remains largely unknown and poorly studied due to its Atlantean geography.

Now, GNS Science — a geohazards research and consultancy organization owned by the government of New Zealand — hopes to raise Zealandia (in public awareness, at least) with a suite of new maps and interactive tools that capture the lost continent in unprecedented detail. Read More > at Live Science 

California Voters to Decide on Restoring Affirmative Action, Allowing Parolees to Vote – California voters will weigh in this fall on restoring affirmative action and allowing people on parole to vote, after the Senate gave final approval to the two constitutional amendments on Wednesday.

The measures were both priority bills for the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, and passed amidst growing calls for lawmakers to address racial injustice in the state.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 would overturn a ban on affirmative action in California. Voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996 with support from then-Gov. Pete Wilson. It prohibited the state from considering race, gender and ethnic diversity in hiring, contracting and college admissions.

The second measure placed on the November ballot would grant the right to vote to the roughly 40,000 Californians on parole for a felony.

ACA 6 would add California to the growing list of states that are expanding voting rights to formerly incarcerated citizens in recent years. Read More > at KQED

Keep Your Cat Out Of Your Dating Profile, CSU Researchers Warn Men – Men who like cats are less likely to get a date. That’s the takeaway from a study by Colorado State University, which found that women are less likely to swipe right — or say yes — to men if they’re posing with a cat in a picture.

Scientists showed hundreds of women photos of two men, both men pictured with and without a furry companion. Their responses showed that the men’s luck got noticeably worse when women saw the picture with a cat.

“Men holding cats were viewed as less masculine; more neurotic, agreeable, and open; and less dateable,” the authors wrote.

When shown the cat-free picture of one of the subjects, 38% of women said they were likely or very likely to casually date him, while 37% said they’d consider a serious relationship with him.

But a picture of the same man holding a cat gave the respondents paws for thought — and those numbers dropped to 33% for each category. Meanwhile, the proportion of women saying they’d never consider getting involved with him rose from 9% to 14%. Read More > at CBS Denver

The Wet Rag and More Weird Rules MLB Is Implementing for Its Pandemic Season – First there are the changes to the rules of the game. There will be a universal DH. Games that go past nine innings will start each additional inning with a runner on second base. The rule instituted this winter limiting position player pitching appearances to blowouts won’t go into effect after all. Active rosters will be expanded to 30 players at the start of the season and eventually be contracted to 26 as the season progresses.

Where things really get wild is with the health protocols. The first draft of the health manual was 67 pages, but the final copy clocks in at a whopping 101 pages. It’s that long because the league really did think of everything. (You can read the whole thing here if you really want.)

They’re really, really concerned with players touching the same surfaces as other players. This is from The Athletic’s Jayson Stark:

All hitters will now have to bring their own pine-tar rags, bat donuts and other equipment to and from the on-deck circle — and will have to retrieve their own caps, gloves and sunglasses from the dugout if an inning ends with them on base or batting. All pitchers will now have to bring their own rosin bag to the mound and use only their own baseballs for bullpen sessions. And baseballs used in batting practice can be used only that day, then need to be cleaned and sanitized, and not be re-used for at least five days. So one thing is clear: Teams are going to have to have thousands of baseballs in the old storage closet.

Similarly, pitchers are not allowed to transmit their germs to the baseball by licking their fingers and are instead allowed to carry a “wet rag” to moisten their fingers on the rubber.

Spitting is out, too.

“Players or managers who leave their positions to argue with umpires, come within six feet of an umpire or opposing player or manager for the purpose of argument, or engage in altercations on the field are subject to immediate ejection and discipline, including fines and suspensions,” the full entry reads. Read More > in Sports Illustrated 

California Pot Merchants Hit by New Labeling Requirement – Beginning on January 1, 2021, products containing any amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, sold in California will be required to carry a label alerting consumers to possible reproductive harm caused by using the products. The requirement brings THC into compliance with Proposition 65, which was enacted into law in 1986 as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.

The labeling requirement follows a state study reported in October 2019 that added THC to a list of some 900 chemicals that the state has identified as potential causes of cancer or reproductive harm. Marijuana smoke has been included on the list since 2009.

The threat to cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) comes from two main directions. First, the products must warn of the presence of THC no matter how tiny the amount. CBD products, which contain less than 0.3% THC, also must be labeled.

The second wave of growth for the cannabis industry, dubbed Cannabis 2.0, revolves around the sale of derivative products, including THC-laced food and non-THC products like ointments and creams that use CBD.

According to a report in Cannabis Business Executive, “Many cannabis and CBD products rely on the consumers’ belief that the product is harmless and even therapeutic.” A warning label could shatter that belief and abruptly choke off sales. Read More > at 24/7 Wall St

Los Angeles councilman charged in ‘staggering’ bribery scheme – A Los Angeles councilman was charged Tuesday with accepting bribes from a host of developers, including a Chinese billionaire, as part of a sweeping “pay-to-play” scheme, authorities said.

Jose Huizar, 61, was arrested at his home on a federal racketeering charge amid an ongoing FBI corruption probe, according to federal prosecutors in California.

Huizar is accused of turning his city council seat into what U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna described as a “money-making criminal enterprise that shaped the development landscape in Los Angeles.”

Huizar accepted illicit cash from developers in exchange for help in securing approvals for major real estate projects, according to the criminal complaint.

The money was provided as collateral to help Huizar settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by a former staffer, according to the complaint.

The ongoing FBI corruption probe has already swept up a former aide to Huizar, a real estate consultant, a political fundraiser and former City Council Member Mitchell Englander.

Englander faces up to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to obstructing a public corruption investigation related to his acceptance of gifts — including cash, hotel rooms and expensive meals — from a developer during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs in 2017. Read More > from NBC News

Self-powered alarm fights forest fires, monitors environment – Smokey the Bear says that only you can prevent wildfires, but what if Smokey had a high-tech backup? In a new study, a team of Michigan State University scientists designed and fabricated a remote forest fire detection and alarm system powered by nothing but the movement of the trees in the wind.

As detailed in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, the device, known as MC-TENG—short for multilayered cylindrical triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG)—generates  by harvesting energy from the sporadic movement of the tree branches from which it hangs.

TENG technology converts external mechanical energy—such as the movement of a tree branch—into electricity by way of the triboelectric effect, a phenomenon where certain materials become electrically charged after they separate from a second material with which they were previously in contact.

…”The self-powered sensing system could continuously monitor the fire and environmental conditions without requiring maintenance after deployment,” he said. Read More > at PHYS.org 

The Right Way to Breathe During the Coronavirus Pandemic – Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. It’s not just something you do in yoga class – breathing this way actually provides a powerful medical benefit that can help the body fight viral infections.

The reason is that your nasal cavities produce the molecule nitric oxide, which chemists abbreviate NO, that increases blood flow through the lungs and boosts oxygen levels in the blood. Breathing in through the nose delivers NO directly into the lungs, where it helps fight coronavirus infection by blocking the replication of the coronavirus in the lungs. But many people who exercise or engage in yoga also receive the benefits of inhaling through the nose instead of the mouth. The higher oxygen saturation of the blood can make one feel more refreshed and provides greater endurance. Read More > at Real Clear Science

Why the World’s Most Advanced Solar Plants Are Failing – The government’s leading laboratory for renewable energy has released a new report detailing the strengths and flaws of concentrated solar energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published the report with the stated goal of using very mixed feedback on existing concentrated solar projects to create a list of suggested best practices going forward.

The NREL report “is titled CSP Best Practices, but it can be more appropriately viewed as a mix of problematic issues that have been identified, along with potential solutions or approaches to address those issues,” it begins. What’s inside includes problems shared across concentrating solar power (CSP) projects as well as general issues of large-scale construction. There are also issues with specific kinds of CSP plants based on their designs.

Parabolic trough CSP plants use solar collectors to heat water and generate steam heat, the same as a traditional coal or even nuclear power plant. But in between is a stage called heat transfer (HTF), where a fluid medium like oil or liquid metals carries the heat from the collection area to the turbine.

The CSP report says some of the issues with these systems are the extreme and dangerous heat of the HTF and the waste hydrogen produced by these processes. Designers have also positioned elements vertically at a higher cost, when most CSPs are built in rural places with plenty of space.

The other kind of CSP plant is a tower design, where mirrors concentrate the solar power directly into a central reservoir usually made of molten salt. These plants take a very long time to come to temperature and are subject to leaks and underperformance. All of these factors mean that molten salt plants have not yet reached their performance goals or the numbers their builders have often promised locals served by these grids. Read More > at Popular Mechanics

IEA: The Energy Sector Will Never Be The Same Again – In its annual report World Energy Investment 2020, published late last month, the International Energy Agency describes ‘drastically altered’ energy markets in the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic. It documents the largest fall in energy sector investment ever and uncovers historic shifts along the way, such as that for the first time ever there will be more consumer spending on electricity than on oil. More crucially, it asserts that the sudden fall in investment flows, in all energy sectors, leaves a troubling legacy for the future, for conventional and for ‘clean’ energy.

The report states bluntly, ‘The energy industry that emerges from the crisis will be significantly different from the one before.’

But how? The IEA does not predict. Instead it lays out the main factors that investors should be monitoring.

For its new report the IEA draws upon its extensive tracking of investment and capital flows. It looks at capital expenditures by companies and governments. It examines investment from institutional investors and venture investors to assess the levels of investment now flowing into energy supply (major fuels, electricity supply), efficiency, and R&D. Its estimates for 2020 are based on actual data though mid-May and assume a U-shape (not V-shape) economic recovery.

What the agency expected last year was that total energy investment (fuel, power, end use and efficiency) would grow by 2%, the largest annual rise in six years. Now it is expected to fall from $1.9 trillion to $1.5 trillion, a 20% decline in 2020 compared to last year. Of course, this decline – the largest recorded – is due to the pandemic and the shocking fall in energy sector revenues (government and corporate), which are likely to fall by over $1 trillion this year. Read More > at Oil Price

This California city defunded its police force. Killings by officers soared. – Twelve years ago, officials in Vallejo, Calif., reluctantly took a step that activists are now urging in cities across the country: They defunded their police department.

Unable to pay its bills after the 2008 financial crisis, Vallejo filed for bankruptcy and cut its police force nearly in half — to fewer than 80 officers, from a pre-recession high of more than 150. At the time, the working-class city of 122,000 north of San Francisco struggled with high rates of violent crime and simmering mistrust of its police department. It didn’t seem like things could get much worse.

And then they did. Far from ushering in a new era of harmony between police and the people they are sworn to protect, the budget cuts worsened tensions between the department and the community and were followed by a dramatic surge in officers’ use of deadly force. Since 2009 the police have killed 20 people, an extraordinarily high number for such a small city. In 2012 alone, officers fatally shot six suspects.

…Nevertheless, some Vallejo residents and public officials who have seen the reality of a dramatically smaller police department view the current calls to slash law enforcement budgets with caution. Beyond consequences such as decreased responsiveness to burglaries, car thefts and other lower-priority offenses, this city has learned the hard way that a smaller police force is not necessarily a less deadly one. Read More > in The Washington Post

How We Used Internet During Lockdowns Proves Ending Net Neutrality Was The Right Call – June 11 marked the second anniversary of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eliminating Title II regulations on internet providers, including the rules that many dubbed “net neutrality.” You probably didn’t even realize it, did you?

There’s a good reason for that, because all the doomsday predictions for how the FCC’s move under Chairman Ajit Pai would destroy the internet did not come to pass.

If anything, how well American internet service has performed during the pandemic and stay-at-home orders proves criticism of repeal was way overblown. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr wrote of the economic lockdown period that “America’s Internet infrastructure is showing strength, speed, and resilience,” outpacing other countries.

In Europe, for example, Netflix and YouTube were asked to slow their content to lower resolutions so the data would not interfere with more important communications in countries with sluggish internet. Bret Swanson, a visiting fellow at American Enterprise Institute, pointed out that Netflix came up with an alternative solution of prioritizing slower speeds for areas with bigger health crises or less robust broadband. Swanson notes this smart solution “is the type of traffic management Netflix and other advocates of strong net neutrality spent the last 15 years telling us was evil.” Read More > in The Federalist

Prominent Researchers Say a Widely Cited Study on Wearing Masks Is Badly Flawed – Outside researchers are calling for the retraction of a study published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that claimed to have discovered a strong correlation between public facemask-wearing and a subsequent decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases. In the challenged study, a team of atmospheric chemists led by Texas A&M chemist Renyi Zhang sought to compare how trends in confirmed diagnoses changed before and after mask-wearing had been mandated in Wuhan, China, Italy, and New York City.

The researchers calculated that mandated masking reduced the number of confirmed cases by more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6 to May 9, and by more than 66,000 in New York City from April 17 to May 9. In addition, the researchers argued that while recommendations like social distancing and frequent hand washing slowed the epidemic, the dramatic reductions in viral transmission in Italy and New York City occurred only after wearing masks in public was mandated. The reduction in confirmed cases occurred, they argued, because masking prevents the transmission of the disease by blocking the atomization of virus-containing respiratory droplets (coughing, sneezing, talking) and their subsequent inhalation by uninfected people. On that evidence, they concluded the airborne spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is the dominant route of infection.

Almost immediately, the study received pushback from outside statisticians and epidemiologists who argued that the study is severely flawed by sloppy statistical analyses. A group of critics has now sent a letter to the editors of the PNAS asking them to immediately retract the study. In addition, an evaluation of the study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health also urges the PNAS to strongly consider retraction.

According to the critics, the study’s two most egregious errors were claims that other non-pharmaceutical interventions—e.g., social distancing, quarantine, and handwashing recommendations—had essentially no effect on pandemic trends until facemask-wearing was mandated, and the subsequent conclusion that because masks were so allegedly effective, “airborne transmission represents the only viable route for spreading the disease.” The letter urging retraction observes, “While masks are almost certainly an effective public health measure for preventing and slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the claims presented in this study are dangerously misleading and lack any basis in evidence.”

As PNAS retraction letter co-signer Harvard emergency medicine physician Jeremy Faust notes on Twitter: “Masks matter. So does good science. Let’s do both.”

What must be borne in mind is that this fight about the PNAS study’s methodology is not over whether or not wearing facemasks is a useful tool in blunting the COVID-19 pandemic. Accumulating evidence shows that wearing facemasks in public does significantly contribute to reducing the spread of COVID-19. Read More > at Reason 

Lawmakers end bid to legalize sports betting in California – California lawmakers on Monday ended a bid to put a measure on the November ballot that would legalize sports wagering in the nation’s largest market, potentially setting up a showdown with tribal casinos in 2022.

The tribes had hoped to put their own version on the November ballot to legalize sports wagering at racetracks and tribal casinos, but say they will be delayed unless they win a court-ordered extension of the deadline to verify petition signatures.

Both sides blamed the coronavirus pandemic for delaying what they initially hoped would be votes this fall.

The California Nations Indian Gaming Association said Monday that internet sports betting would have “threatened brick-and-mortar establishments” and would “reward out-of-state commercial business entities and raise regulatory challenges.”

More than 1 million people have signed the tribes’ ballot measure to legalize sports wagering at racetracks and tribal casinos, said spokesman Jacob Mejia.

But the group has not yet submitted its signatures for verification, and the deadline for completing that entire process is Thursday. If the signatures are verified later, the measure will be on the November 2022 ballot. Read More > from the Associated Press

California governor, lawmakers agree how to close deficit – California will make up its estimated $54.3 billion budget deficit in part by delaying payments to public schools and imposing pay cuts on state workers, according to an agreement announced Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders.

The agreement avoids billions of dollars in permanent cuts to public schools and health care programs, including proposals from Newsom that would have made fewer low-income older adults eligible for government funded health insurance and would have eliminated programs aimed at keeping people out of nursing homes where the coronavirus has spread with deadly consequences.

Instead the agreement, which still requires legislative approval, would make up the deficit in part by imposing $2.8 billion in pay cuts to state workers and delaying roughly $12 billion in payments to public schools to future years. The rest would come from borrowing from some restricted funds that must be paid back, spending cuts to other programs and temporary tax increases on businesses that would bring in $4.4 billion in new revenue.

Some of those cuts and delayed payments would be eliminated if the federal government sends the state more aid by October. Read More > from the Associated Press

California’s bullet-train project faces unprecedented woes – Even before the coronavirus pandemic, it wasn’t clear how California would pay for its dream of running 220-mph bullet trains from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Now, the project is as close to the precipice as it’s ever been. The California High-Speed Rail Authority faces two new threats: Its largest source of funding is evaporating and state legislators have attempted to derail the agency’s plans en masse.

The culmination of woes has cast new doubt on the viability of the rail plan and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strategy to focus on building the system’s Central Valley segment first.

…In an unprecedented move, a bipartisan majority of the Assembly rebuked the agency’s plans for the Central Valley segment. The move, led by Frazier and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, was cosponsored by 63 of 80 members.

The resolution demanded the High-Speed Rail Authority not award contracts to build the Central Valley track and electrical grid until the Legislature signs off on funding. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Breathtaking new map of the X-ray Universe – A German-Russian space telescope has just acquired a breakthrough map of the sky that traces the heavens in X-rays.

The image records a lot of the violent action in the cosmos – instances where matter is being accelerated, heated and shredded.

Feasting black holes, exploding stars, and searingly hot gas.

The data comes from the eRosita instrument mounted on Spektr-RG.

This orbiting telescope was launched in July last year and dispatched to an observing position some 1.5 million km from Earth. Once commissioned and declared fully operational in December, it was left to slowly rotate and scan the depths of space. Read More > from the BBC

Your Mexican Beer Might Be Coming From Europe – The next time you open a bottle or can of the popular Mexican beer called Dos Equis, according to Beer Business Daily, it might have been produced not in Mexico at all, but roughly 5,400 miles away in the western Netherlands.

When the Mexican government declared a state of emergency in the face of the coronavirus on Mar. 31, one provision was the effective closing of what it considered non-essential businesses. To the dismay of cerveza-lovers on both sides of the border, this included breweries.

We drink a lot of Mexican beer in this country. Five examples made the list of the 31 biggest beer brands in America.

The most popular of these is the perhaps unfortunately branded Corona Extra, which is America’s sixth-largest-selling beer.

Constellation, which owns Corona, was able to continue producing some suds with a skeleton crew in Mexico exclusively for the U.S. market. On the other hand, Grupo Modelo, which produces Dos Equis, America’s 20th-most-popular beer, shut down its operations entirely until restrictions were lifted — perhaps imperiling the brew’s impressive performance in recent years as one of America’s fastest growing beer brands.

Luckily for lovers of the beer, Grupo Modelo is owned by Holland’s Heineken company, and the firm made the decision to transfer production of Dos Equis to its main brewery in the Dutch municipality of Zoeterwoude for the moment, shipping it across the Atlantic to make up for any shortages in the U.S. supply chain. Read More > at 24/7 Wall St

Big Tech Monopolies Are a Threat to First Amendment – The current rules regulating free speech and the “monopoly social media” (Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, Google/YouTube — together, the MOSM) are a mess, but the basic principles should be obvious. They should be treated as the new public square, and subject to First Amendment requirements. Ideally, Congress would establish a “public square trust” on each of the MOSM properties — a section for political speech sites that would be clearly protected from the censorship whims of the private company owners, or from an employee revolt.

The MOSM have become such a dominant location for political speech that they deserve to fall under the First Amendment, even though they are private companies. The Supreme Court has itself pointed the way under two key precedents: Packingham and Marsh.

“A fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then after reflection, speak and listen once more,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. “A basic rule, for example, is that a street or a park is a quintessential forum for the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Kennedy noted that while in the past it wasn’t always easy to identify the most important places for free speech to be protected, in the 21st century it is clear. “It is cyberspace,” he wrote, “the vast democratic forums of the Internet in general, and social media in particular.”

A respected swing vote on the high court before he retired in 2018, Kennedy noted that seven in 10 Americans use at least one Internet social networking service and that governors in all 50 states and nearly every member of Congress communicate with their constituents via social media.

Given these court precedents, it is inconceivable under our Constitution that the MOSM could decide, for example, that only Democrats could speak on their sites while censoring Republicans, or that only Republicans could speak while censoring Democrats. Even as private companies, they have reached such an extreme level of power and importance as our stage for political speech that they fall under the Marsh and Packingham standards. Read More > at Real Clear Politics

The Internet of Things Has a Consent Problem – As we add connected devices to homes, offices, and public places, technologists need to think about consent.

Right now, we are building the tools of public, work, and home surveillance, and we’re not talking about consent before we implement those tools. Sensors used in workplaces and homes can track sound, temperature, occupancy, and motion to understand what a person is doing and what the surrounding environment is like. Plenty of devices have cameras and microphones that feed back into a cloud service.

In the cloud, images, conversations, and environmental cues could be accessed by hackers. Beyond that, simply by having a connected device, users give the manufacturer’s employees a clear window into their private lives. While I personally may not mind if Google knows my home temperature or independent contractors at Amazon can accidentally listen in on my conversations, others may.

For some, the issue with electronic surveillance is simply that they don’t want these records created. For others, getting picked up by a doorbell camera might represent a threat to their well-being, given the U.S. government’s increased use of facial recognition and attempts to gather large swaths of electronic data using broad warrants.

How should companies think about IoT consent? Transparency is important—any company selling a connected device should be up-front about its capabilities and about what happens to the device data. Informing the user is the first step.

But the company should encourage the user to inform others as well. It could be as simple as a sticker alerting visitors that a house is under video surveillance. Or it might be a notification in the app that asks the user to explain the device’s capabilities to housemates or loved ones. Such a notification won’t help those whose partners use connected devices as an avenue for abuse and control, but it will remind anyone setting up a device in their home that it could have the potential for almost surveillance-like access to their family members. Read More > at IEEE Spectrum 

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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