Sunday Reading 11/15/2020


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.

OC couple has been married 71 years and, together, beat the coronavirus – Meet Sam and Edith Gollay, extenders of life, defeaters of the coronavirus and experts on how to stay together for more than seven decades. Sam is 98. Edith is 92. They were married in 1949 during the Truman administration. They have been married longer than Bill Murray, Stevie Wonder, Rush Limbaugh and Jill Biden have been alive.

They were married before the invention of the credit card, super glue, the microchip, the Barbie doll and the polio vaccine.

“We are survivors,” Sam said, wearing his World War II Naval Air Force veteran’s cap. He was a field mechanic stationed at Pearl Harbor (after the base was bombed by the Japanese) until the end of the war in 1945.

Here’s a quick secret to long life, according to Sam.

“Luck,” he said, and he meant it. He considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. He’s beaten cancer five times.

“FIVE TIMES,” he yells. “Four gall bladders and one colon.”

And that’s just the start.

Just wait until you hear the one about how he hurt his foot.

Best thing that ever happened to him … aside from meeting Edith.

At their advanced ages, Sam and Edith have help. They are both in wheelchairs, and they need caregivers to help them get through their days.

“I get out of bed on my own, and I dress myself,” Sam says proudly.

But, in the midst of a pandemic, the caregivers coming and going isn’t always safe.

In July, a caregiver came to the Gollay house sick. She told them it was just a case of allergies.

It was not.

“I was so mad,” Edith said.

The caregiver had the coronavirus. Within a week, both Sam and Edith had the coronavirus. And it got real bad, real fast. They were both admitted to the hospital.

The Gollays were kept in separate rooms on different floors. Sam got the worst of the illness. He had to be on oxygen 24 hours a day, and the medicine he was taking made him loopy. He didn’t recognize Edith.

“It was scary,” Edith said. “I was all by myself. The nurses were afraid to come in.” Read More >in The Orange County Register

Talking to the manager won’t help with this! Women named Karen say the oft-memed moniker has ruined their LOVE LIVES – as experts reveal the name has seen a 31% drop in dating app interest – Women named Karen say their love lives have taken a hit since the name became synonymous with pushy, entitled middle-aged women — and more recently, racist ones who target people of color.

The dating app Wingman asked its users named Karen how their results from the app have changed this year over last, and they reported receiving nearly a third fewer matches this year than in 2019.

They also said they get fewer responses to messages and an alarming drop in overall engagement.

According to the app’s data, women named Karen have received 31 per cent fewer matches this year compared to last, and messages sent by women named Karen got 1/3 fewer responses than last year.

Overall, Karens have seen a 45 per cent drop in engagement.

Women with other spellings of the name — Karin, Carin, Caren — have seen a smaller drop, 22 per cent, but a drop all the same. Read More > at Daily Mail

The Death Of Car Ownership: How Tech Is Killing The $3 Trillion Auto Industry – Uber and Lyft were the first to disrupt the $8 trillion global transportation industry by making car ownership less necessary and with the ride-hailing industry now worth $60 billion and on track to top $85 billion by 2023, the transportation revolution is well underway.

But Uber and Lyft can’t finish what they started.

Their business models are broken. They’ve failed to grasp the enormity of the parallel revolution in ESG, or “impact” investing.

And this is where the disruptors become the disrupted.

A startup that launched in late 2019 in Canada is pushing aggressively into the United States, and it’s not just challenging Uber and Lyft—it’s challenging the entire auto industry by taking the ride-sharing revolution to the next level.

The company is Facedrive (TSXV:FD,OTC:FDVRF) and it’s not only the first in the world to offer a carbon-offset ride-sharing solution that Big ESG Money loves …

It’s also planning to put another nail in the coffin of traditional car ownership with its recent acquisition of a pioneer in the electric vehicle subscription space. Read More > at Oil Price

Some fights aren’t over – California still has 1.2 million votes left to count from last week’s election, but the 2022 ballot is already taking shape — and some potential measures may fight 2020 battles all over again.

When voters approved Proposition 22 — exempting Uber and Lyft from a state labor law requiring most companies to reclassify independent contractors as employees — some lawmakers saw an opportunity to overturn the law itself. Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican, said he plans to introduce a bill in January to repeal the law, known as Assembly Bill 5. If that fails, he said he may try to put it on the 2022 ballot.

  • Kiley“I think voters emphatically rejected the premise of AB 5. If people are going to deny the efforts to repeal the rest of AB 5, they will have to answer why they are defying the will of the voters.”

And although Prop. 15 — a measure that would have raised taxes on commercial properties — failed this time around, the measure’s proponents don’t seem likely to back down.

Also likely to land on the 2022 ballot: A referendum on California’s flavored-tobacco ban, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Aug. 28. Three days later, the tobacco industry filed a referendum request.

Speaking of referendums, voters this year rejected Prop. 25, overturning a 2018 law that would have replaced California’s cash bail system with an algorithm assessing a person’s flight risk. But that fight, too, is far from over. The state Supreme Court could hear a case challenging the constitutionality of cash bail as soon as next month — meaning the justices could order their own reworking of the bail system.

The Myth of the Latino Vote and What Newsrooms Must Learn From 2020 – In 2016, when it became clear that Donald Trump would become president, media outlets across the U.S. were blindsided by the results. They pledged to do better representing the larger communities that make up America. That included conservatives, those in rural areas (a complex group on its own) and, yes, Latinos.

Four years later, though Trump did not win reelection, former Vice President Joe Biden’s narrower margin of victory in spite of polls predicting a landslide have media outlets asking similar questions all over again. The increased percentage of Latino voters for Trump in particular caught many off guard. How could pollsters get it wrong again? And is the media, and a lack of diversity in newsrooms, part of the problem?

While Hispanics are credited with helping Biden in Arizona, Trump made significant gains in the Hispanic vote in Florida and Texas. That jump was particularly stark in South Texas, where Biden won in most counties but by a much narrower margin than Hillary Clinton did four years ago.

As a country, we continue to be surprised that Latinos are not a monolithic group and that not all vote for Democrats. Since President Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection, Republican candidates have pretty consistently received one-quarter to one-third of the Hispanic vote, according to Geraldo L. Cadava, an associate professor at Northwestern University who wrote a book on the topic. Read More > at ProPublica

US divorce rates have hit a 50-year LOW because people are more ‘selective’ about their spouses and couples who marry older are staying together longer – Divorce rates in the U.S. have hit a 50-year low and marriage rates are at their lowest level on record, according to new data.

Census data analyzed by the Institute for Family Studies on Tuesday shows that out of every 1,000 marriages in 2019, only 14.9 ended in divorce, the lowest level since 1969.

It continues a long-term decline in divorce rates from a peak in 1980 – and initial data from 2020 suggests that the trend is likely to continue this year, despite the pandemic and lockdowns that many predicted would push couples to split.

The new analysis by IFS Research Director Wendy Wang shows that the median length of marriages has increased by nearly a year in the past decade, to 19.8 years.

At the same time, people are getting married at a lower rate now than they ever have before.

‘For every 1,000 unmarried adults in 2019, only 33 got married. This number was 35 a decade ago in 2010 and 86 in 1970,’ Wang wrote.

Though the data is very preliminary, there are signs that the divorce rate will continue to drop this year, despite the economic and emotional stresses of the pandemic. Read More > at the Daily Mail

Dwindling options – Proposition 15 is dead — and with it, one of California’s few remaining hopes of infusing money into local governments and schools staring down massive deficits.

The Associated Press called the race late Tuesday night with 51.8% of voters opposing and 48.2% supporting the campaign to raise taxes on commercial properties. For Prop. 15‘s supporters, it signaled how close they were to winning a majority of the vote. For its opponents, it underscored the enduring power of Prop. 13, the landmark 1978 measure that capped property taxes and limited state and local governments’ ability to raise new revenue, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

Prop. 15 would have raised up to $11.5 billion annually, funneling 60% to local governments and 40% to schools and community colleges. But the money wouldn’t have been available until 2022 — too late for schools trying to physically reopen campuses and brace for even larger budget deficits next year, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports.

What exactly lawmakers will do to address the problem remains unclear. California’s earlier bet on a federal stimulus package didn’t pay off, and though schools and local governments are staking their hopes on President-Elect Joe Biden providing financial relief, that bet may not pay off either.

That leaves Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators with two unappealing choices: Raise taxes, or cut services that primarily benefit the poor.

Trump signs law to give California more help eradicating giant swamp rodents – President Donald Trump on Friday signed a law giving California a potential boost in federal funding for its campaign to eradicate a giant swamp rodent that has made its way into Central Valley waterways, threatening the region’s irrigation network.

It allows the federal government to give increased funding to eradicate a swamp rat species known as nutria. California was eligible for part of a $1.75 million per year pot, but this bill increases potential funding up to $12 million per year.

Nutria, a large South American rodent, were found in Merced County two years ago, alarming California wildlife officials because of the rodents’ potential to harm infrastructure that moves water to Central Valley farms and Southern California cities. They have since been found in San Joaquin County, the Delta and throughout the Valley.

More than 1,600 nutria have been killed in California so far, according to figures from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. California officials are hoping they can kill off all the nutria in the state in the next five to seven years. Read More > in The Modesto Bee

A new way to plug a human brain into a computer: Via veins – On Wednesday, a team of scientists and engineers showed results from a promising new approach. It involves mounting electrodes on an expandable, springy tube called a stent and threading it through a blood vessel that leads to the brain. In tests on two people, the researchers literally went for the jugular, running a stent-tipped wire up that vein in the throat and then into a vessel near the brain’s primary motor cortex, where they popped the spring. The electrodes snuggled into the vessel wall and started sensing when the people’s brains signaled their intention to move—and sent those signals wirelessly to a computer, via an infrared transmitter surgically inserted in the subjects’ chests. In an article published in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery, the Australian and US researchers describe how two people with paralysis due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) used such a device to send texts and fool around online by brain-control alone.

It took training once the subjects got home. The electrode-studded stent could pick up signals from the brain, but machine-learning algorithms have to figure out what those signals—imperfect reflections of a mind at work even under ideal conditions—actually represent. But after a few weeks of work, both patients could use an eye tracker to move a cursor and then click with a thought, using the implant. It doesn’t sound like much, but that was enough for both of them to send text messages, shop online, and otherwise perform activities of digital daily life.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved what Oxley calls a “stentrode” for widespread use yet, and the company is still chasing funding for more tests, but these preliminary results suggest that it’s a functioning brain-computer interface. The signal it receives isn’t packed full of information. For now, all the stentrode is picking up is one bit of information—either a telepathic mouse-click or the absence of that click. But for some applications, maybe that’s enough. “There’s been a lot of talk about data and channels, and really what should matter is, have you delivered a life-changing product to the patient?” Oxley says. “Just with a handful of outputs restored to the patient that they’re in control of, we’ve got them controlling Windows 10.” Read More > at ars Technica

Uber and Lyft won exemptions from California’s gig-work law through Prop. 22. Here’s who’s still affected – With the passage of Proposition 22, Uber, Lyft and cohorts won exemption from AB5, California’s gig-work law that makes it harder for companies to claim that workers are independent contractors rather than employees.

AB5 already had a hefty list of of exemptions and more were added this summer with a related law.

That leaves some observers wondering: What professions are still affected under AB5? Did Prop. 22 essentially gut the law?

It did not, many lawyers say.

Occupations which AB5 could impact the most include janitors, retail workers, grounds maintenance workers and childcare workers, according to Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. Construction workers, home health aides and medical technicians are also potentially affected, according to other lawyers.

In addition to janitors, retail workers and others, truck drivers represent another big category where misclassification lawsuits are in full swing. So far courts have agreed with the industry’s contention that it has a federal preemption from state laws because it engages in interstate commerce. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Election Night Crime Spree Rocks East Bay – While most of the nation was watching election returns last Tuesday evening, Oakland Police spent the night chasing robbery suspects who hit multiple marijuana businesses in the city.

The crime spree was large and violent and resulted in several hospitalizations, according to the Mercury News. A jeep rammed into one storefront’s gate. One of the suspects was also shot by police. Oakland Police say at least 50 suspects were involved.

The violence unfolded over a chaotic span of more than four hours, as Oakland police were monitoring expected election-night protests downtown. With no clear presidential winner on Tuesday evening, downtown was relatively quiet.

Oakland Deputy Chief Roland Holmgren said the number of robberies and attempted robberies numbered in the dozens. He described the perpetrators as a “caravan of armed robbers.” His department was assisted by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team. Three officers needed to be hospitalized. read More > at California City News

Walmart will test self-driving delivery services with electric cars – Walmart isn’t about to let rivals like Amazon delve further into self-driving deliveries without offering a response. As CNBC reports, the retailer has teamed up with GM’s Cruise for a self-driving delivery pilot due to start early 2021 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The project will have an autonomous EV fetch your local store orders.

This will save you time and money while also helping to reduce Walmart’s impact on the planet, the company said. It also suggested this was particularly helpful while the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, noting that it was a truly “contact-free” delivery option.

This isn’t Walmart’s first driverless delivery alliance. It has also forged partnerships with companies like Ford and Udelv. GM’s Cruise is a major ally, though, and the all-electric nature of the pilot might be alluring for the eco-conscious. Read More > at Engadget

What will it take for humans to trust self-driving cars? – They’re coming—but are we ready to let a computer take the wheel?

Self-driving cars are already cruising our streets, their spinning lasers and other sensors scanning the world around them. Some are from big companies such as Waymo—part of Google’s parent conglomerate Alphabet—or General Motors, while others are the work of outfits you might not have heard of, including Drive.ai or Aptiv. But what makes some of us so wary of these robotic chauffeurs, and how can they earn our trust?

To understand these questions, it first helps to consider what psychologists call the theory of mind. Put simply, it’s the recognition that other people have brains in their heads that are busy thinking, just like ours (usually) are. The theory comes in handy on the road. Before we venture into a crosswalk, we might first make eye contact with a driver and then think, He sees me, so I’m safe, or He doesn’t, so I’m not. It’s a technique we likely use more than we realize, both behind the wheel and on our feet. “We know how other people are going to act because we know how we would act,” explains Azim Shariff, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, who has written about this issue in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

But you can’t make eye contact with an algorithm. Autonomous cars generally have backup humans ready to take control if necessary, but when the car is in self-driving mode, the computer’s in charge. “We’re going to have to learn a theory of the machine mind,” Shariff says. What that means in practice is that self-driving cars will need to provide clear signals—and not just turn signals—to let the public know what that machine mind is planning.

One solution comes from Drive.ai, a company ­running self-driving vans in Texas. The bright-orange-and-blue vehicles have LED signs on all four sides that respond to the environment with messages. They can tell a pedestrian who wants to cross in front of the car, “Waiting for You.” Or they can warn them: ­”Going Now/Please Wait.” A related strategy is intended for passengers, not pedestrians: Screens in Waymo vehicles show car occupants a simple, animated version of what the autonomous vehicle is seeing. Those displays can also show what the car is doing, like if it’s pausing to allow a human to cross. “Trust is the willingness to make yourself vulnerable to somebody else,” Shariff says. “We engage in it because we can pretty easily predict what the other person will do.” All of which means that if the cars are predictable and do what they say they will do, people will be more likely to trust them. Sound familiar? Read More > at Popular Science

“Avocado Hand”: As the Fruit Soars in Popularity, So Do Gruesome Injuries – Over the last decade, emergency room physicians started noticing it more and more… Patients, primarily in their early thirties, coming in with grisly knife injuries to their non-dominant hands, almost all of which required surgical repair. Each time, the cause was the same – they were slicing an avocado.

The trend has since garnered a name: “Avocado Hand,” and deservedly so. A study published earlier this year to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that between 1998 and 2017 there were an estimated 50,413 avocado-related knife injuries in the United States. The bulk of those – 27,059 – occurred between 2013 and 2017, suggesting a rapid increase in recent years closely correlated with the fruit’s rise in culinary popularity.

This past week, a team of doctors from the United Kingdom published a study exploring thirty-five documented incidents of avocado-related hand injury, seeking to characterize them and discern methods of prevention.

The overwhelming majority of injuries occurred when attempting to remove the avocado’s large, hard seed, called a “stone”.

“All patients reported that they had pressed the knife tip down perpendicularly onto the avocado seed and that it slipped off it and plunged into their hand,” the doctors wrote. Read More > at Real Clear Science

Our Two Minority Parties – As the results of the election come gradually into sharper focus, both parties have good reason to be frustrated. Both have been rebuked in some important respects by the electorate. And both rebukes are justified. If the parties are willing to learn from them, the result might be good for our politics.

In a sense, the election epitomizes our era of negative partisanship. Each party ran primarily by highlighting the danger of the other, and the public took both warnings to heart. The Democrats ran against Donald Trump, and look to have persuaded the electorate to dismiss him. The Republicans ran against the increasingly radical Democratic activist base, and look to have persuaded the electorate to reject them. Neither party has gained a mandate, and both are left wondering how they can build a majority coalition in the coming years. That could end up being a constructive question.

President Trump was not decisively repudiated in this election. He narrowly lost a few states that he had narrowly won last time. But Trump ran behind the modal Republican in many places, so that a meaningful number of the voters who said no to the Democrats also said no to Trump. And the sheer number of Americans who said no to the president is pretty staggering. This election was a referendum on the incumbent to an even greater degree than a normal reelection race because the challenger was so bland and weak a figure. Very few voters could be excited about Joe Biden. And yet he has drawn a massive turnout and, as 21st-century presidential races go, looks likely to win fairly comfortably. What Biden offered these voters had amazingly little to do with him. He offered an opportunity to reject Donald Trump.

And Republicans need to grasp that voters were right to want to reject Donald Trump. Over and over again, Trump has shown himself profoundly unfit for the presidency — and his behavior since Election Day has only added further evidence to the pile…

But voters have also rejected the woke Left and the activist base of the Democratic Party, electing more Republicans to Congress across the country and so diminishing the Democrats’ majority in the House, probably keeping a Republican Senate (though we may not know that until the two Georgia runoffs in January), and in any case almost certainly closing off the possibility of Court-packing, adding states to the Union, or killing the filibuster… Read More > in the National Review

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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