Sunday Reading – 07/19/2020


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.

To unite the country, we need honesty and courage – …We need the honesty and courage to recognize and acknowledge that there are reasonable people of good will who do not share even some of our deepest, most cherished beliefs. This is true for Christians, like ourselves, or members of other traditions of faith, as well as for religious skeptics and atheists. It is true for conservatives as well as progressives, for libertarians as well as socialists.

We need the honesty and courage to treat decent and honest people with whom we disagree — even on the most consequential questions — as partners in truth-seeking and fellow citizens of our republican order, not as enemies to be destroyed. And we must always respect and protect their human rights and civil liberties.

We need the honesty and courage to be willing to change our beliefs and stances if evidence, reason, and compelling argument persuade us that they are in need of revision — even at the cost of alienating us from communities in which we are comfortable and rely on for personal affirmation, solidarity, and support. Read More > at MSN

63% Say Most News Organizations Are Politically Biased – Following the high-profile resignation of a New York Times opinion page editor, most voters are eager to find fair and balanced media coverage but think the majority of news organizations these days are politically biased.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 58% of Likely U.S. Voters agree with this statement – “As places like The [New York] Times and other once-great journalistic institutions betray their standards and lose sight of their principles, Americans still hunger for news that is accurate, opinions that are vital and debate that is sincere.” Just 24% disagree with the statement from editor Bari Weiss’ resignation letter. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But 63% believe most major news organizations in this country have their own political agenda. Only 27% feel these news organizations generally remain impartial. Read More > Rasmussen Reports

FCC makes 988 the 3-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – The FCC voted today to make 988 the official three-digital number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The new rules require phone service providers to direct all 988 calls to the hotline, but the 988 function won’t go into effect until July 16th, 2022, and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel criticized the rules for not including a texting provision.

All telecommunications carriers, including VoIP service providers, will be required to direct 988 calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can also be reached by calling 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) and through online chats. Carriers have two years to make the necessary changes. For some, that will mean switching from seven-digit dialing to 10-digit dialing. It will also give the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline time to prepare for an influx of calls. Read More > at Engadget

Coronavirus: Five Reasons Public Health Experts Have Lost Credibility – Of all the things we have lost this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – from the people we love to the jobs that put food on the table – one of the more pernicious is the loss of faith and confidence that Americans have in their public health institutions. How did it happen?

It’s not simply a matter of being wrong. It’s okay to be wrong, especially when confronted by a situation in which confusing and contradictory evidence changes on a daily basis. As long as experts admit to being wrong and can explain why, trust can actually increase because the public appreciates transparency.

A loss of credibility, therefore, happens for other reasons. In the case of coronavirus, we believe there are five reasons: Incompetence, waffling, moving the goalposts, disregarding unintended consequences, and being political.

Moving the goalposts. At the beginning of the pandemic, public health officials urged the need to “flatten the curve,” the goal of which is to prevent a spike in infections that overwhelms healthcare systems. This is an achievable and necessary goal.

Over time, however, “flatten the curve” took on a new meaning. Instead of slowing the spread of the disease – to decrease the burden on overloaded hospitals and buy time for the development of drugs or vaccines – the goal became to stop disease transmission entirely. This is a ludicrous goal because – like stopping the spread of the common cold or influenza – it is nearly impossible. Similarly, “finding a cure” became a common refrain, despite the fact that there may never be a good vaccine or antiviral for coronavirus.

Being political. The absolute worst way to damage credibility is to choose sides in our toxic culture war. Yet, public health experts did precisely that, too.

Many of the same experts who endorsed strict lockdowns in order to “stay home, stay safe” then endorsed anti-racism protests in which thousands of individuals crammed together on city streets. Public health advice is supposed to be apolitical and evidence-based. Such blatant political advocacy did not go unnoticed. A damning headline in Politico noted, “Suddenly, public health officials say social justice matters more than social distance.

Exacerbating all of these problems is extreme partisanship, in which point-scoring and blame-shifting are seen as more important than creating a unified front. This failure of leadership stretches from the White House down to Governors’ Mansions and City Halls across the nation. Read More > from the American Council on Science and Health

China’s Deepening Geopolitical Hole – China is fast losing friends just when it needs them most. In the last few months alone, China’s relations with India have suffered a devastating blow after a bloody border clash left at least 20 Indian soldiers (and an unspecified number of Chinese soldiers) dead. To punish Australia for daring to call for an international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus, China imposed tariffs on Australian barley and threatened other punitive measures. On July 14, China’s foreign ministry denounced Japan’s recent Defense White Paper in unusually harsh language, raising doubts about the rapprochement Xi has been trying to engineer with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Chinese leaders have only themselves to blame for their growing international isolation. With an inflated sense of their power, they have overplayed a weak hand and driven friendly or neutral countries such as the UK, Canada, India, and Australia into the arms of the US, now China’s principal geopolitical adversary. Read More > at Project Syndicate

Around 130 Twitter accounts targeted in bitcoin scam hack, company says – Hackers who breached Twitter accounts belonging to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, rapper Kanye West and other high profile users had targeted roughly 130 accounts, only taking over a small number, the company said.

Attackers gained access to “a small subset” of the 130 accounts on which they initially focused, gaining control and sending tweets in their name, Twitter said in an update Thursday. By impersonating influential users like former president Barack Obama, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the hackers urged millions of followers to send bitcoin to the same address as part of a scam that netted more than $110,000.

While Twitter has since removed all of the tweets, the incident marked a major breach for the social media site, resulting in questions about its ability to safeguard accounts belonging to influential newsmakers. It’s also led to suggestions that the attackers would have had access to the direct messages of the users they breached, a level of visibility that could have exposed private messages sent on the site.

Twitter said it was still investigating that question, as of Thursday evening. Read More > at CyberScoop 

In Shadow of Pandemic, U.S. Drug Overdose Deaths Resurge to Record – Drug deaths in America, which fell for the first time in 25 years in 2018, rose to record numbers in 2019 and are continuing to climb, a resurgence that is being complicated and perhaps worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — an increase of 5 percent from 2018. Deaths from drug overdoses remain higher than the peak yearly death totals ever recorded for car accidents, guns or AIDS, and their acceleration in recent years has pushed down overall life expectancy in the United States.

It looks as if 2020 will be even worse. Drug deaths have risen an average of 13 percent so far this year over last year, according to mortality data from local and state governments collected by The New York Times, covering 40 percent of the U.S. population. If this trend continues for the rest of the year, it will be the sharpest increase in annual drug deaths since 2016, when a class of synthetic opioids known as fentanyls first made significant inroads in the country’s illicit drug supply. Read More > in The New York Times

Bill would add taxpayers to list for juries in California – Paying taxes in California could make you eligible for jury duty under a proposal backed by some prominent state lawmakers on Wednesday who worry the people deciding criminal and civil cases are “wealthier and whiter” than the population.

People selected for jury duty in California come from two lists: registered voters and people with driver’s licenses. But state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, said those lists miss a wide swath of the population, including many lower-income residents and people of color.

Wiener’s proposal would require county courts to also pull jurors from a list of people who paid their state taxes. Read More > from the Associated Press

Police will no longer make traffic stops under Berkeley proposal – The city will work to create a new transportation department with a “racial justice lens” and a Specialized Care Unit staffed by a “network of crisis responders” to respond to non-criminal calls, among other changes.

…Under the mayor’s revised item, the city will now move forward with Councilmember Rigel Robinson’s proposal to create BerkDOT “to ensure a racial justice lens in traffic enforcement” and find ways to eliminate or reduce “pretextual stops based on minor traffic violations.”

The city will also now work to develop a pilot program to “re-assign non-criminal police service calls” to a new Specialized Care Unit staffed by a “network of crisis responders.” The city auditor’s office will also take a deep dive into police calls and traffic stops. Read More > at Berkeleyside

Russian government hackers targeting coronavirus vaccine research, UK, US and Canada warn – The Russian government hacking group known as Cozy Bear or APT29 has been targeting coronavirus vaccine research, U.K., U.S., and Canadian government officials said Thursday morning.

The hackers have been trying to breach programs in all three countries, the officials said in a security assessment issued by the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). Agencies from the U.S. and Canada contributed to the effort.

The hacking is aimed predominantly at “government, diplomatic, think-tank, healthcare and energy targets,” the NCSC said in the assessment.

State-backed hackers worldwide are interested in targeting research on coronavirus-related vaccines and treatments, the U.S. Department of Justice has warned.

“Whatever country’s or companies’ research lab is first to produce that is going to have a significant geopolitical success story,” the assistant attorney general for national security, John Demers, said during a panel discussion earlier this year. “We are very attuned to increased cyber intrusions to medical centers, research centers, universities — anybody that is doing research in this area.” Read More > at CyperScoop

Across U.S., Green Mega-Projects to Power Cities Aren’t Playing Well in Mayberry – From New York to California, local opposition is thwarting wind and solar projects seen as essential to transitioning from fossil fuels. Many opponents support renewable energy in theory and express concern about climate change. And many landowners have partnered with environmental groups to block or delay natural gas pipelines designed to run through their property.

But enough of them just can’t stomach the outsize “green” projects themselves – wind farms with 500-foot-tall turbines (around the height of the United Nations Secretariat Building) and solar spreads covering many square miles that forever change the idyllic look of rural communities and threaten pristine desert habitat.

The opposition has been brewing for years and now poses a threat to states with plans to rapidly accelerate the buildout to meet ambitious renewable energy goals by 2030. The backlash is powerful because it’s coming from across the political and economic spectrum, including professionals, environmentalists, farmers, activists and concerned parents.

…Big environmental groups cheered the buildout in the California desert – one of the best solar locations in the world. But Kevin Emmerich, a retired national park ranger who has lived in the Mojave since the early 1990s, witnessed firsthand a problem that has long thwarted fossil fuel projects: threats to wildlife.

Specifically, he saw how the projects were crushing tens of thousands of acres of pristine habitat for the threatened desert tortoise and other species just to send power to the Los Angeles area. His nonprofit group, Basin and Range Watch, spearheaded the opposition starting about a decade ago, providing research to pressure federal and local officials to reject projects in the desert.

Emmerich estimates that 70,000 acres of tortoise habitat in California have been destroyed, adding to the recent push for its listing as an endangered species. “There is huge potential to build solar on rooftops and degraded agricultural lands,” says Emmerich. “Why destroy pristine desert when you have many alternatives?” Read More > at Real Clear Investigations

Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born – The world is ill-prepared for the global crash in children being born which is set to have a “jaw-dropping” impact on societies, say researchers.

Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century.

And 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100.

Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born.

The fertility rate – the average number of children a woman gives birth to – is falling.

If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall.

In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime.

It has nothing to do with sperm counts or the usual things that come to mind when discussing fertility.

Instead it is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children. Read More > in the BBC

National Gunfire Trends – February 2020 – July 2020 Compared to Same Period 2019

ShotSpotter has been tracking gunfire trends in response to the global pandemic followed by civil unrest in the US after the killing of George Floyd. The graph above shows gunfire per square mile per week across all ShotSpotter coverage areas in the US in the first half of 2020 and 2019. In 2020 gunfire appears to trend upward as the shelter-in-place orders for COVID-19 took effect in mid-March and then spike after the protests began. These unprecedented events appear to be fueling higher gunfire rates overall in 2020 relative to 2019. Read More > at ShotSpotter

Why our public health leaders didn’t push face masks early and are now regretting it – In a recent Pew survey of American adults, 65% said they wore a mask all or most of the time when inside of stores or businesses. However, only 44% said they thought that all or most of the people in their community wore a mask.

Why are so many Americans not wearing one? To answer that question, I’m going to ask another.

…On Feb. 29, the U.S. surgeon general begged people not to buy masks, saying they were “not effective in preventing general public from catching #coronavirus.” On March 8, Dr. Anthony Fauci went on “60 Minutes” and said “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.”

That means that the curmudgeonly group of reluctant mask wearers had a lot to hang their hat on: the literal words of the nation’s top health officials from three months ago. Given the inconvenience, that doubt is enough to keep them from wearing a mask most of the time in businesses.

The result of mask reluctance has been that politicians are having to catch up and force adherence to mask wearing through regulation…

By now, the scientific community has all come around on the fact that it’s time for people to wear masks. The WHO, the CDC, the Utah Department of Health, and Herbert fervently agree: Masks are the Natural Cure “They” Do Want You to Know About. Read More > in The Salt Lake Tribune

The Harm in “Harm Reduction” – Every major city in the United States seems to have its designated opioid district, a tucked-away part of town where normal rules are suspended and the drug trade shapes the social order: Kensington in Philadelphia, the Tenderloin in San Francisco, Pioneer Square in Seattle. The scenes are sadly familiar: disheveled men and women living under blue tarpaulins, dealers doing hand-to-hand transactions between large trash receptacles, and dope fiends searching with their fingertips for the last good vein. Methadone clinics and rescue missions operate amid a steady rumble of ambulances and police cruisers, vehicles sent not to enforce public order but to manage the status quo.

Political leaders have long sought to transform these places. Among progressive policymakers, the prevailing trend is “harm reduction,” a public-health approach that accepts widespread drug use and directs resources toward mitigating its negative consequences. Harm reduction began with needle exchange and methadone clinics, which helped, respectively, to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases and to stabilize addicts with opioid replacements. Now, as Western nations confront the opioid crisis, cities in Canada, Australia, and Europe have adopted a new harm-reduction strategy: so-called safe-injection sites, where addicts can take drugs—predominantly heroin and methamphetamine—under the supervision of medical professionals, who intervene in case of emergency.

Public-health officials and progressive leaders often cite Vancouver, Canada, as the gold standard of harm reduction. Over the past 30 years, Vancouver has implemented the full range of harm-reduction strategies. The centerpiece of the city’s current efforts is the Insite safe-injection facility on East Hastings Street, which has drawn the attention of academics and media from around the world. Advocates argue that such facilities can prevent fatal overdoses, reduce rates of infection, connect addicts to social services, and mitigate street disorder, with few negative consequences.

What’s happening in Vancouver can hardly be categorized as a success, however. Though harm reduction has brought some benefits, such as reducing the transmission of HIV, it has also compounded the problems of addiction, homelessness, and public disorder. Vancouver’s concentration of services in its own opioid district, the Downtown Eastside, has created a veritable death trap for addicts around British Columbia, who travel there to obtain drugs, overdose, and then perish in the streets.

On the surface, Vancouver is an unlikely location for an opioid epidemic. In popular imagination, the crisis is taking place in impoverished inner-city slums or forgotten rural communities. According to the influential “deaths of despair” hypothesis, the opioid crisis is most pronounced in communities exposed to “prolonged economic distress,” leading to a decline in life expectancy for middle-aged men. But Vancouver is neither West Baltimore nor West Virginia—it’s one of the world’s most prosperous and progressive cities, with a booming economy, liberal leadership, and universal health care. And yet, despite this affluence, the city faces one of the worst drug problems on record. Since 2008, overdose deaths in British Columbia are up 151 percent, with Vancouver’s numbers driving much of the increase. According to CTV News, Vancouver’s “paramedics and dispatchers are feeling fatigued and burnt out” by the pace of opioid overdoses, “and some are experiencing occupational stress injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder.” Read More > at City Journal

Cash Remains Healthy as the Pandemic Rages – Will the COVID-19 pandemic hasten the abolition of cash? That was certainly the hope of central bankers and politicians who don’t like the uncontrollable nature of physical money. Banknotes and coins are virtually impossible to trace, allowing people to engage in anonymous transactions and to store value out of reach of grasping officials, which had officials hoping that the arrival of the pandemic would taint physical money as a nasty virus vector and so accelerate the move to a cashless world.

But that’s not what’s happening. Sure, contactless transactions have increased while people make purchases from home. But demand for cash is also up, as people hedge against uncertainty by holding on to a means of exchange that weathers emergencies and circulates beyond the reach of political whims.

Many U.S. dollars are held outside the United States by people who have limited faith in the political and economic stability of their own countries and see American currency as a reasonably stable store of value. But about a quarter of Americans make little or no use of banks, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found in 2017. These “unbanked” and “underbanked” Americans primarily do business in cash, fueling demand for banknotes and coins.

That’s not just an American phenomenon. “Banks are issuing more notes than ever and yet they seem to be disappearing off the face of the earth,” the Wall Street Journal reported at the end of 2019. “Central banks don’t know where they have gone, or why, and are playing detective, trying to crack the same mystery.” Read More > at Reason

How many hot dogs can a person really scarf down in 10 minutes? – On the Fourth of July, as they have done for years, renowned competitive eaters descended on New York City to compete in the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. The event was a bit different this year, of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Only 10 people competed, and there was no live audience. But Joey “Jaws” Chestnut still managed to set a world record, scarfing down 75 hot dogs (buns included) in 10 minutes.

Surprisingly—and perhaps a bit horrifyingly—he could have eaten a few more. In a new study, a researcher calculates that a human could theoretically devour 83 hot dogs in 10 minutes—a rate of consumption similar to that of a grizzly bear chowing down on animal flesh.

…The winning number of hot dogs has ballooned, Smoliga found, from 10 in 1980 to a gargantuan 74 in 2018–the previous record, also held by Chestnut. “We haven’t gotten twice as fast in the 100 meters or twice as fast in the marathon over 100 years,” Smoliga says. “It doesn’t compare to anything else that we’ve seen in sports.”

These skyrocketing numbers are likely due to competitors stepping up their training, he says, by practicing downing large amounts of food or water in a limited time. The goal is to train the stomach to relax and rapidly stretch, allowing these professional eaters to “take in this enormous volume that most people can’t,” says David Metz, a gastroenterologist at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Read More > at Science

86-percent of shootings in Oakland go unreported, police say – More than 180 assaults with a firearm have been reported in Oakland so far in 2020, according to a report from the Oakland Police Department.

That is 34-percent up from last year.

However, police say about 86-percent of shootings across the city are not reported.

ShotSpotter, a tool that the department utilizes, shows the location where a gun was fired and alerts the department in less than 30 seconds.

The technology is used in more than 16-square miles in Oakland.

In the first six months of 2020, more than 2,600 ShotSpotter alerts were made in Oakland, which is 24-percent higher than this time last year.

Police say in 2019, an average of 10 incidents involved gunfire a day with at least 50 shots accounted through ShotSpotter. Read More > at KRON4

California Law Would Reform, Broaden Police Accountability – Public access to police officer disciplinary and use-of-force cases in California, including records about racist and discriminatory acts by cops, would be greatly expanded under legislation introduced Monday in Sacramento.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, announced the effort to reform and broaden Senate Bill 1421, the landmark police accountability law she sponsored in 2018, and which took effect Jan. 1, 2019. That law requires police to release to public records about officer shootings, use of force, sexual misconduct and dishonesty.

Senate Bill 776 would expand the existing law, include fines for public agencies that fail to provide records and allow the public to seek punitive damages if they are forced to sue to obtain the records. Read More > at Governing

Amazon’s smart shopping cart knows what you’re buying – In its bid to further automate grocery shopping, Amazon today unveiled a smart shopping cart that can automatically detect products placed inside it and let customers pay for shopping without visiting a cashier. The “Dash Cart” — the company calls it — looks like any other grocery cart, but uses a mix of cameras, sensors and a built-in scale to work out a person’s purchases and then deducts the total amount from the card associated with their Amazon account.

The process might sound familiar, especially considering Amazon has opened a number of automated Go stores over the past year. However, the Dash Cart relies on its own smarts rather than an array of wall-mounted cameras. It will be deployed at one of Amazon’s first true grocery stores — which means it won’t be Whole Foods or Go store — in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles later this year.

According to Amazon, the Dash Cart is designed for “small- to medium-sized grocery trips and fits two grocery bags.” Upon arrival, customers will sign in using a QR code in the Amazon app and then place products into their own bags while shopping. The cart will beep when the product is correctly identified or flash orange if it needs to be re-added. Read More > at Engadget

Newsroom or PAC? Liberal group muddies online information wars – Rep. Max Rose, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress this November, couldn’t have written a better headline himself.

“Rep. Max Rose Deploys With National Guard to Get Hospital Ready For Coronavirus Patients,” read an April 17 article about the freshman congressman from New York. The article — boosted into circulation in New York by thousands of dollars in targetedFacebook ads — was mostly a rewrite of the congressman’s press release from the previous day. The same thing happened the next month: A May 28 press release touting coronavirus legislation of Rose’s quickly turned into an article with almost exactly the same headline as the release.

The articles and Facebook ad dollars look like the efforts of a run-of-the-mill political group. But they are actually from a news outlet: CourierNewsroom.com, also known as Courier, which was created and funded by the Democratic-aligned digital organization Acronym. Courier has spent over $1.4 million on Facebook ads this election cycle, mostly to promote its flattering articles and videos about more than a dozen endangered House Democrats at the top of the Democratic Party’s priority list this November, according to Facebook’s political ad tracker.

But because Courier is organized as a media outlet, it does not have to disclose its donors or the total money it spends promoting Democratic politicians.

The $1.4 million in Facebook ads is likely just a fraction of the money behind the Courier project, which includes a newsroom of at least 25 people and eight separate websites with content often focused on local issues in presidential swing states. But this activity — creating an unregulated advertising stream promoting Democratic officeholders, more akin to a PAC than a newsroom — diverges from other partisan news outlets that are proliferating online as local newspapers struggle.

And in setting up the enterprise, Acronym — which is financed by some of the deepest pockets in progressive politics, such as liberal billionaires Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the majority owner of The Atlantic — has stirred outrage and provoked debate about the ethics of such political tactics and the future of the press. Read More > in Politico

NBC Contributor Reveals He Never Had Coronavirus After Network Documented His Recovery– An NBC medical expert who was brought on air nearly a dozen times to detail his struggle with COVID-19 never had the virus, he revealed this week.

After believing he had the coronavirus in spite of getting negative tests, virologist and NBC News science contributor Dr. Joseph Fair tweeted Tuesday that he had tested negative for the antibodies and that the illness that hospitalized him in May “remains an undiagnosed mystery.”

Fair appeared on Today from a New Orleans hospital bed in May 14, where he speculated he got the virus through his eyes while on a packed flight two weeks earlier. This happened, he said, despite taking precautions like wearing a mask and gloves.

Today host Hoda Kotb noted during the interview that Fair had received four negative tests for the virus but said, “clearly you have it.” Fellow host Craig Melvin called Fair’s “false negative” tests “scary,” and cohost Savannah Guthrie called it a “cautionary tale.”

Fair speculated his tests came back negative because he delayed going to the hospital for more than week when he first felt ill, and he said his doctors felt he must have the virus. Read More > in The Washington Free Beacon

‘I’m… At A Loss For Words’: The Unraveling Narrative Behind The Atlantic’s Defund-The-Police ‘Shooting’ Tale – When social justice activist and lawyer Derecka Purnell was just 12 years old, she and her sister watched a police officer shoot a young boy in a city recreation center because he had ignored the basketball sign-in sheet. This jarring, emotional, and deeply unsettling story was published July 6 at The Atlantic, in the section reserved for ideas, under the bold, attention-grabbing headline, “How I Became a Police Abolitionist.”

Purnell’s deeply personal story of shattered innocence and shattered bones at the end of a policeman’s gun was shared widely among top journalists and activists. “I started her article thinking abolition was impossible and ending thinking it must happen,” the president of a social justice think tank at Harvard wrote on Twitter, quoting his mother. “This is a beautifully written piece,” the Atlantic’s constitutional law editor agreed. “Derecka is the future,” an activist journalism executive declared.

There’s a major problem with Purnell’s story, however. Based on a Federalist investigation of newspaper archives and the police department records, and questions to The Atlantic, the police union, and the office of the mayor, it does not appear to have ever happened. Read More > in The Federalist

California rejected 100K mail-in ballots because of mistakes – More than 100,000 mail-in ballots were rejected by California election officials during the March presidential primary, according to data obtained by The Associated Press that highlights a glaring gap in the state’s effort to ensure every vote is counted.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging, California is part of a growing number of states increasing mail-in balloting to avoid crowds at polling places. President Donald Trump is among those questioning the integrity of vote-by-mail elections while supporters say they are just as reliable as polling places and offer greater flexibility for voters.

But while polling places include workers who can assist people who have questions about filling out ballots, a voter doesn’t have support at home and so problems can arise.

The California secretary of state’s election data obtained by the AP showed 102,428 mail-in ballots were disqualified in the state’s 58 counties, about 1.5% of the nearly 7 million mail-in ballots returned. That percentage is the highest in a primary since 2014, and the overall number is the highest in a statewide election since 2010.

Two years ago, the national average of rejected mail ballots in the general election was about 1.4% and in the 2016 presidential election year it was 1%, according to a U.S. Election Assistance Commission study.

The most common problem, by far, in California was missing the deadline for the ballot to be mailed and arrive. To count in the election, ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received within three days afterward. Statewide, 70,330 ballots missed those marks. Read More > from the Associated Press

Absentee ballots didn’t get counted because of late delivery, misdelivery and bad postmarks, post office says – The U.S. Postal Service has identified hundreds of absentee ballots for the April election that never made it to voters or couldn’t be counted because of postmark problems, a new report says.

The post office’s internal watchdog chalked the problems up to receiving outgoing absentee ballots at the last moment from election officials, inconsistent postmarking of ballots and one mail carrier’s inattention to getting absentee ballots to voters in Fox Point.

The 17-page report by the postal service’s inspector general accounts for some but not all of the problems that marred voting for the April election for state Supreme Court. Nearly 1 million people turned to mail voting because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The report offers a cautionary tale for Wisconsin and other states as election officials brace for record-shattering absentee ballot requests this fall.  Read More > in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Recent California earthquakes may have made the Big One more likely– In Southern California, the landscape is fractured in the shape of an enormous letter Z. The top arm is made up of a winding series of cracks that were responsible for quakes that rattled the city of Ridgecrest last year. The diagonal section is an ancient fault called Garlock that runs to the west. And along the bottom sits the mighty San Andreas.

Earthquakes along this lengthy fault, which runs more than 800 miles through California, are an ever-looming concern—and a new study suggests that in the next year, a large quake near the bustling city of Los Angeles could be three to five times more likely than previously thought. The research, published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, found that the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquakes made a future quake along the nearby Garlock fault more likely. If a big enough quake hits Garlock, it could trigger the San Andreas fault as well—a series of events that the researchers estimate has about a 1 in 87 probability of occurring within the next year.

However, the overall probability of such an event remains low. The research team estimates that there is a 2.3 percent chance of a magnitude 7.7 earthquake occurring on the Garlock fault in the next year, and a 1.15 percent chance of a similar quake hitting San Andreas.

“So, the sky is not falling,” says study co-author Ross Stein, CEO of Temblor, Inc., a company that assesses risks from hazards such as earthquakes. “But it is significantly higher, in our judgement, than what it would have been had the Ridgecrest earthquake not occurred.” Read More > at National Geographic 

America’s Coal Fleet Is Essential to Its Recovery – Along with the financial trauma, business shutdowns and changes to our normal routines have lowered electricity demand in most parts of the country. Electricity demand across the 28 states that comprise some of the largest electricity markets in the country has declined by more than eight percent. However, electricity demand will increase as the economy recovers, and policymakers must be mindful that reliable and affordable electricity is essential to support the recovery. Our own polling shows that reliability is first and affordability is second when it comes to concerns about electricity.

Most people take for granted the nation’s fleet of coal-fueled power plants, even though 47 states rely on coal for electricity. The coal fleet provides roughly 20 percent of our electricity nationwide but a lot more in many states. The coal fleet is essential for delivering both reliable and affordable energy that can help us return to a new normal, whatever that turns out to be.

In fact, the coal fleet is one of the two most reliable and fuel-secure sources of electricity our nation has (Nuclear is the other one). Coal-fueled power plants maintain, on average, more than a two-month supply of coal stockpiled on-site, which means they can operate for long periods in the unlikely event that coal deliveries are interrupted. On-site coal stockpiles also provide fuel security (aka fuel assurance) for the same reason. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

One-Third of U.S. Workers Want Permanent Remote Work – Remote work became the norm for many businesses across the United States in recent months, and most American workers hope it stays that way even after the public health danger from the coronavirus subsides, a new poll found.

A survey by Morning Consult shows that three quarters of workers would like to work from home at least one or two days a week even after they can head back into an office—with a third indicating they would like to work from home every day.

Prior to the pandemic, approximately 5% of U.S. adults worked from home all the time and 43% did so occasionally. To limit the spread of Covid-19 infections, schools and many businesses have closed and turned to online learning and remote work. That’s led approximately 42% of the American labor force to work from home full time, according to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. Read More > at Route Fifty 

Full Steam Ahead for Commuter Train Despite Lack of Funds – California rolled out its vision for high-speed trains between San Jose and San Francisco on Thursday, plotting a 30-or-so-minute ride on what would be one of the busiest stretches of the state’s proposed 520-mile rail system — even as the project is mired in financial uncertainty.

The California High Speed Rail Authority is calling for 220-mph trains, coming from the Central Valley, to merge onto the Caltrain commuter line for a 49-mile jaunt up the Peninsula. Stops would be made at San Jose’s Diridon Station, a new hub in Millbrae and at the Caltrain depot in San Francisco. The San Francisco stop would eventually move to Transbay transit center.

Service between the Bay Area’s largest cities, scheduled to begin in 2031, is expected to take less than 45 minutes, including the stop in Millbrae near San Francisco International Airport.

“The funding picture always evolves,” said Boris Lipkin, a regional director for the rail authority, in an interview. “We’re taking the steps and doing what we need to do to bring high-speed rail to Northern California.”

Public comment on the environmental impact report for the Bay Area segment is being taken through Aug. 24, and rail officials intend to finalize a plan next year. Read More > at Governing

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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