Sunday Reading – 03/28/2021


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.

Brace yourself—the globe faces another epic toilet paper crisis – The world really doesn’t need more toilet paper problems. But unfortunately the biggest producer of wood pulp — the raw material for products including bath tissue — is warning that the global crunch in shipping containers could start creating supply snags.

Suzano SA primarily ships its pulp in cargo vessels known as break bulk. With demand surging for ships that carry ribbed steel containers, the squeeze is starting to spill over to break bulk and threatens to delay the company’s shipments, Chief Executive Officer Walter Schalka said in an interview.

Of course that’s happening at a time when demand for residential toilet paper has gone way up and consumers have taken to stockpiling and panic buying. Schalka is concerned that the shipping problems are going to snowball and only get worse from here. Significant disruptions to the pulp trade could eventually impact supplies of toilet paper if producers don’t have ample inventories. Read More > at Fortune

State approves plan to keep the lights on during summer heatwaves – A plan to avoid the rolling blackouts that hit California during last August’s record-breaking heat storm was unanimously approved by the Public Utilities Commission on Thursday, March 25.

The proposal, pulled together in the seven months since outages shut down power to 800,000 homes and businesses over a two-day period, is designed to get the state through the next two summers at a time when climate change is driving ever-more extreme weather. The new plan orders electric utilities to line up more available power and includes steps to reduce demand during critical periods.

The proposal was amended to address some of environmentalists’ concerns that it could increase the use of fossil fuels when the state is pursuing an ambitious goal of eliminating those greenhouse gases from the electric grid by 2045.

The environment-driven changes to the plan eliminates a provision that would have allowed for the redevelopment or repowering of mothballed gas-fired generators and added restrictions for the use of diesel generators by large commercial operations. Read More > in The Orange County Register

Writing on paper, instead of tablet or smart phone, boosts brain activity – Writing on paper, instead of on a tablet or smart phone, boosted the brain activity of a group of Japanese university students when they tried to recall information they’d learned an hour earlier.

Researchers detailed paper’s brain-boosting powers in a new study, published Friday in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

In addition to aiding memory formation and recall, writing on paper is also more efficient. During the study, volunteers using paper completed their learning task 25 percent faster than the university students using tablets and smart phones. Read More > at UPI

We All Do It, But Is It Actually Safe to Reuse Plastic Water Bottles? – Every minute about 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased, creating huge amounts of waste, which mostly ends up in landfills. Today, many people reuse their water bottles by refilling them. This avoids having to repeatedly buy new bottles, saving money, and reducing the amount of plastic waste.

However, these bottles are designed to only be used once, so some people are concerned about where it is actually safe to reuse them. We asked eight experts ‘Is it safe to reuse plastic water bottles?’ and the consensus was 75 percent ‘likely’.

Of the eight experts, six answered that it is likely that it is safe to reuse plastic water bottles.

Studies of chemical leaching and microplastics have found that these occur at very low levels and are unlikely to pose serious health threats, unless bottles are repeatedly exposed to very high temperatures.

The more likely risk is that of contamination, so if you do reuse a water bottle – remember to wash it regularly. Read More > at Science Alert

Latest Data Show Bees Are Still Thriving At An Alarming Rate – The latest numbers on honeybee colonies have been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and they show that the Beepocalypse we keep being warned about has been postponed for another year.

Instead of going extinct, as activist fundraising campaigns assured us would happen unless efficient targeted seed treatments were replaced by mass spraying of plants with antiquated pesticides still certified “organic”, bees are doing great. The only fluctuations are “statistical wobble” that can happen any time – or due to economics. Honey production was down in 2020, like every sector of the economy except government, and that could have impacted some businesses more than others. Alabama had 7,000 colonies in 2019 and 7,000 in 2020. California had 335,000 in 2019 and 320,000 in 2020, but many of those bees “travel” and there was a lot less of that last year.

Overall, the change was under 4 percent. That is what I mean about statistical wobble. There is no mass die-off, no colony collapse disorder, no beepocalypse yet again. While it could be just the usual variation in nature, more likely is that there was less demand for honey last year, and if bees are not making money, they cost money. So the ones that died each month may not have been replaced as companies went out of business like so many companies did. With 40 million pounds of honey just sitting around by the end of 2020, there was certainly no reason to increase bee numbers. Read More > at Science 2.0

The death of the American city – Even the New York Times admits that, in the past decade, cities have gone from “engines of growth and opportunity” to places where class relations are increasing fixed, with only the upper end of the income spectrum doing well. Gotham’s one percent earns a third of the entire city’s personal income. That’s almost twice the proportion for the rest of the country. But such class disparity is becoming the norm; in the tech haven of San Francisco, which has the worst levels of inequality in California, the top 5% of households earn an average of $808,105 annually, compared with $16,184 for the lowest 20%.

Predictably, those at the bottom of this new feudal structure suffer the most; today, the old saying that “the city air makes one free” all too often means freedom to be poor, to experience endemic homelessness, collapsing public infrastructure and rising crime.

And that was before Covid hit. Already many poor urban residents subsisted on transfer payments or worked in service industries. They were paid, usually poorly, to clean now-empty offices or work in restaurants and hotels. The lockdowns, whether justified or overwrought, have since pummelled these low-income workers; roughly 40% of Americans earning under $40,000 a year lost their jobs last March.

All of which meant America’s urban districts were ripe for civil unrest when George Floyd died last May, and these festering conditions exploded into the worst national rioting in decades. Parts of many cities went up in flames, the damage of which was obscured by mainstream media’s mantra of “mostly peaceful protests”. The constant rioting and demonstrations in Portland, once seen as a paragon of new urbanist-led revival, has all but destroyed its downtown, which is now largely bereft of pedestrians.

Remarkably, despite the dramatic rise in homicides, the city seems likely to continue its programme of de-funding the police. In many cities — Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco, St. Louis, New York — “progressive” district attorneys have worked assiduously to restrain law enforcement. In California, where it is no longer considered a felony to steal anything worth less than $1,000, there has been a surge in property crime, including a huge rise in car thefts. San Francisco, for example, has seen the drug store Walgreens close ten outlets since 2019, citing elevated levels of theft and weak law enforcement. Meanwhile New York’s bodegas, small markets in ethnic neighbourhoods, experienced a 222% increase in burglaries last year. Read More > at UnHerd

The truth about lying – …Across cultures, people believe that behaviors such as averted gaze, fidgeting and stuttering betray deceivers.

In fact, researchers have found little evidence to support this belief despite decades of searching. “One of the problems we face as scholars of lying is that everybody thinks they know how lying works,” says Hartwig, who coauthored a study of nonverbal cues to lying in the Annual Review of Psychology. Such overconfidence has led to serious miscarriages of justice, as Tankleff and Deskovic know all too well. “The mistakes of lie detection are costly to society and people victimized by misjudgments,” says Hartwig. “The stakes are really high.”

Psychologists have long known how hard it is to spot a liar. In 2003, psychologist Bella DePaulo, now affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her colleagues combed through the scientific literature, gathering 116 experiments that compared people’s behavior when lying and when telling the truth. The studies assessed 102 possible nonverbal cues, including averted gaze, blinking, talking louder (a nonverbal cue because it does not depend on the words used), shrugging, shifting posture and movements of the head, hands, arms or legs. None proved reliable indicators of a liar, though a few were weakly correlated, such as dilated pupils and a tiny increase — undetectable to the human ear — in the pitch of the voice.

Three years later, DePaulo and psychologist Charles Bond of Texas Christian University reviewed 206 studies involving 24,483 observers judging the veracity of 6,651 communications by 4,435 individuals. Neither law enforcement experts nor student volunteers were able to pick true from false statements better than 54 percent of the time — just slightly above chance. In individual experiments, accuracy ranged from 31 to 73 percent, with the smaller studies varying more widely. “The impact of luck is apparent in small studies,” Bond says. “In studies of sufficient size, luck evens out.” Read More > at knowable magazine

California Supreme Court Rules It’s Unconstitutional To Imprison People Just Because They Can’t Afford Bail – In a unanimous California Supreme Court decision, the state’s top justices ruled Thursday that courts must consider a defendant’s ability to pay bail before setting exorbitant demands that keep many people locked up in pretrial detention.

Cash bail is intended to be a mechanism of making sure that people who have been charged with crimes eventually return to court and keep their noses clean while they’re free. In reality, the practice has become a system where many people, particularly poor people, are stuck in jail not because they’re flight risks or deemed dangerous, but simply because they cannot pay what’s asked of them. These people essentially end up serving the equivalent of jail sentences before ever being convicted.

“The common practice of conditioning freedom solely on whether an arrestee can afford bail is unconstitutional,” Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar wrote early in the 29-page ruling for the court. “Other conditions of release—such as electronic monitoring, regular check-ins with a pretrial case manager, community housing or shelter, and drug and alcohol treatment—can in many cases protect public and victim safety as well as assure the arrestee’s appearance at trial. What we hold is that where a financial condition is nonetheless necessary, the court must consider the arrestee’s ability to pay the stated amount of bail—and may not effectively detain the arrestee ‘solely because’ the arrestee ‘lacked the resources’ to post bail.” Read More > at Reason

How a cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal may lead to higher prices at the gas pump in California – With gasoline prices already on the rise, a grounded cargo ship halfway around the world may add one more element of upward pressure and push the average price of regular gas in California past the $4 per gallon mark.

The massive container vessel that turned sideways during high winds in a sandstorm Tuesday has blocked the Suez Canal in both directions. Despite efforts of dredgers and tugboats to push the vessel out of the way, officials said Thursday it could take days or even weeks to dislodge the 200,000-ton ship called the Ever Given.

According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in San Diego came to $3.93 on Thursday, two cents higher than a week earlier and up 73 cents a gallon since Christmas. The last time the average price in San Diego for regular gas topped $4 a gallon was Nov. 13, 2019.

About half of crude oil supply to California refineries comes from foreign sources and according to the California Energy Commission, in 2019 Saudi Arabia accounted for 25.6 percent of that (87.6 million barrels). Iraq, another Middle Eastern country, accounted for 17.2 percent (58.7 million barrels), the third-highest.

Saudi Arabia is the second-largest exporter of oil through the Suez Canal, behind Russia. Read More > in The San Diego Union-Tribune

How to beat the woke: Never apologize, rally friends and punch back harder – Americans hate woke culture, as I noted in these pages not too long ago. Black, white, Republican and Democrat, a large majority of Americans oppose it. Even people like former President Barack Obama, Bill Maher and ultra-liberal comedienne Sarah Silverman hate it (Maher calls it “Stalinist”).

But it keeps going. Why is that? And what can you do about it — especially if you or someone you are close to comes under attack? In short, it keeps going because it’s easy and fun — and you have to make it less so.

Never apologize, don’t act afraid, and, to borrow a phrase from Obama, “punch back twice as hard.” Call the mob out for what it is: a bunch of bad people trying to pretend they stand for something moral. Going after people for their political views this way isn’t an act of morality. It’s an attempt at political terrorism, and it’s un-American.

The second lesson: Stick together. The woke mob tries to isolate its victims and to make others afraid to stand up for them. Instead, it’s important to ask for help from friends and potential supporters, if you’re a target, and to offer it to the targets if you’re on the sidelines. Solidarity. Read More > in the New York Post

Why Does American Infrastructure Cost More and Take Longer To Build Than It Used To? – In time-lapse videos from 2016 that are making the rounds again, Dutch crews can be seen building an entire highway overpass over a single weekend. That has stirred discussion of a longstanding question: Why is construction of public infrastructure slow and expensive in the United States compared with other advanced countries? New York City subways offer one famous example: The Second Avenue line now being partially constructed nearly 100 years after being proposed costs six times as much as a comparable project in Paris.

In a 2019 paper, Leah Brooks of George Washington University and Zachary D. Liscow of Yale University sought to explain a striking fact: “Real spending per mile on Interstate construction increased more than three-fold from the 1960s to the 1980s.”  

…Brooks and Liscow pinpoint the early 1970s as the inflection point for increased spending on highway projects. What was happening around that time? The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires environmental impact review for federally funded projects, was passed in 1970. California passed its considerably more stringent CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) the same year, and it was signed by none other than Gov. Ronald Reagan. In 1972 and 1973, Congress added additional federal laws that provided key leverage in fighting construction projects on the basis of loss of species habitat and wetlands. The U.S. Supreme Court helped out with the 1971 case of Citizens To Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, which multiplied the chances to go to court over development by curtailing judges’ deference to agency decision making. All of these laws and decisions have made it much easier for citizens to contest infrastructure projects, driving up their cost and delaying their implementation and completion. Read More > at Reason

Ford Gives 30,000 Employees The Option To Work From Home Permanently – On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. announced that 30,000 employees worldwide will have the option of working from home — for good.

In July, these Ford employees can return to the office for tasks that require meeting in-person, such as group projects. They can choose to work from home for any other assignment. The flexible hours sometimes accorded to employees working from home will need to be approved by Ford managers.

Why is Ford’s move significant after Facebook and other companies have stated that they are moving towards remote work? The automotive sector has yet to have another company besides Ford make a formal announcement that remote work was becoming permanent for at least part of their workforce. Toyota and General Motors have announced that they are bringing remote employees back to the workplace in June or July.

It is also significant that large-scale employers are navigating towards keeping the work-from-home model intact, possibly enhancing employee quality of life through better work-life balance.

If there is at least one positive to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote work has accelerated much more than expected, and that trend is becoming permanent in many locations. Additionally, working remotely is showing a trend towards creating happier and healthier employees. Read More > at Forbes

Rare California condor, gray wolf events – In two once-in-a-century events, the endangered California condor will return to the northern part of the state, and a rare gray wolf has entered Fresno County in the species’ farthest trip south in modern history.

The Yurok Tribe and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to release four or six captive-bred juvenile California condors each year for 20 years throughout Redwood National Park, which intersects with ancestral Yurok territory, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The birds, which almost became extinct in the 1970s, can live to about 60 and have magnificent 10-feet wingspans.

The rare gray wolf, OR-93, entered Fresno County on Monday after crossing into California from Oregon on Jan. 30. Gray wolves are endangered in California, where fewer than 12 live.

California, get ready for water cutbacks. Cities, farms receive grim warning about supply -The rainy season is nearly over, there’s been no “March miracle” and the possibility of parched lawns and fallowed farm fields is growing.

State and federal officials issued remarkably bleak warnings Tuesday about California’s summer water supplies, telling farmers and others to gear up for potential shortages.

The Department of Water Resources, in a rare turnabout, actually lowered its forecast of the deliveries it expects to make to the cities and farms that belong to the State Water Project. In its new forecast, the agency said its customers can expect just 5% of contracted supplies. In December the expected allocation was set at 10%.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies water mainly to farmers through the Central Valley Project, said that due to worsening hydrological conditions, the 5% water allocation promised to its customers south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta “is not available for delivery until further notice.” Read More > from The Sacramento Bee

Scientists can implant false memories — and reverse them – MEMORIES ARE TRICKY and can comprise much more than our actual recollections.

Our minds can make memories out of stories we’ve heard, or photographs we’ve seen, even when the actual recollections are long forgotten. And, new research suggests, this can happen even when the stories aren’t true.

“I find it so interesting, but also scary, that we base our entire identity and what we think about our past on something that’s so malleable and fallible,” psychologist Aileen Oeberst at the University of Hagen in Germany tells Inverse.

Oeberst is the first author of a study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examines false memories and what can be done to reverse them. False memories, the study suggests, are more than unsettling. When they take root, they can disrupt a courtroom — and the fate of the individuals there.

The psychologists implanted false memories in 52 subjects with a median age of 23, thanks to critical assistance from the subjects’ parents.The parents identified events that had and had not happened to their kids — and generated two events that were plausible but had not happened. The researchers then asked the test subjects to recall each event, true or not, including details like who was present and when it happened.

They met multiple times; by the third session, most participants at least believed the false events had happened. More than half had developed actual false memories of them. Read More > at Inverse  

California – Budget surplus = hard choices – By now you know that a lot of money is flowing into California — and a significant amount comes with very few strings attached, raising questions about how it will be spent and who will make those decisions. If lawmakers approve Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget, there would be “no reasonable checks and balances on the governor’s COVID-19 spending authority,” and he would also have virtually unlimited control over billions of dollars in federal stimulus, according to a recent report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. As lawmakers debate these provisions, financial requests from lobbyists and activists are pouring into the Capitol, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. Among them:

  • A coalition of county governments, hospitals and nonprofits want $8 billion for broadband internet.
  • The California Cable and Telecommunications Association wants $1 billion for a high-speed internet development program.
  • The California Chamber of Commerce wants the state to pay down its staggering unemployment insurance debt.
  • The California Medical Association wants to expand health care coverage.
  • State employees want their salary cuts to be reversed. Read More > at CalMatters

Gavin can raise unlimited money in a recall. Candidates to replace him can’t – Last week, Team Newsom officially launched their offense campaign, “Stop The Republican Recall.” Within the first 48 hours, the campaign raked in more than $538,000 from online donors.

Most of the donations were $100 or less and 95% came from inside California. Even though out-of-state donors made up 5% of donations, money to help Newsom fight the recall came from all 50 states, the campaign reported.

Unlike a normal governor’s race, in a recall, there are no contribution limits for the incumbent. Because the recall election is technically treated as a ballot measure, donors who want to support Newsom are not subject to the normal $32,400 individual donation limit.

It could mean an incredible cash advantage for Team Newsom in the coming months. Read More > from The Sacramento Bee 

Porch Pantry in Oakley Provides Food for Those in Need – An East Bay woman is helping those in need right from her front porch.

Heather Ochoa of Oakley has set up a pantry outside her front door where people can come and grab food that they need.

“We’re always here for you,” Ochoa said. “No matter what, Monday through Sunday, you can always come and get food. You can personally message me anytime. We’re always available for everyone.”

Ochoa said when the pandemic first started, she noticed that the number of people needing food skyrocketed. At the same time, many food banks were cutting staff because of health concerns.

That’s when Ochoa decided to open up the pantry at her home. Every day, she picks up food donations from various stores and places the items out on her porch for others to help themselves. She also makes deliveries, regularly bringing food to elderly families and to families with children. Read More > at NBC Bay Area

Why Is Tower Records Coming Back Now, of All Times? – In 1965, Heidi Cotler got a job at Tower Records. She worked in the books department, which had opened not long after the record store did. The job suited her countercultural style. “There was no dress code. There was no hair code. As long as you didn’t smell and your butt wasn’t hanging out, you were pretty much good to go. You had to wear shoes, most of the time.”

Cotler says the vibe at Tower—what we’d now call its corporate culture—all came from its founder, Russ Solomon. He was cool, he was free-spirited, and he hired lots of cool and free-spirited young people to create the kind of company he wanted. He didn’t care much about rules as long as the job got done. “We ran on basically just sheer idiocy for a long time,” Cotler says, “and it worked because we adored Russ. He had respect for us, and in a business where you’re being paid $1.25 an hour, to be respected at 19 or 20 years old is a pretty heady thing. You really have to respect that and not screw it up.”

…Meanwhile, Tower continued to expand its brick-and-mortar model, including internationally. At its peak, it had about 200 stores worldwide—London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Mexico City, Buenos Aires. The company borrowed a lot of money to finance its big ambitions, and when sales started shrinking, the debt became unmanageable. Tower lost $10 million in 2000. It lost $90 million in 2001. In 2004, it went bankrupt. Its last U.S. store closed in 2006.

For many years, nothing much happened with Tower, as people were getting their music from iTunes and then Spotify. But then an opportunity seemed to arrive: the unexpected comeback of vinyl records. People are rediscovering the pleasures of having a record player. Last year, for the first time since 1986, vinyl outsold compact discs. “Customers seem to want a more physical experience, like touching something, listening to a vinyl, a sense of community,”  Zeijdel says. “When we were doing market research, a lot of kids, basically, what they’re doing with vinyl is that’s their alone time and their quiet time. They put the phone away, they listen to a vinyl, and just then decompress.”

Tower planned to relaunch with a big coming-out party at the South by Southwest Festival in 2020. That didn’t happen because of COVID, so it’s been a bit of a soft launch, but Tower Records is back in business. You can visit the website, buy a vinyl record, a CD, even a cassette tape, or slake your Tower nostalgia with a logo T-shirt. Everything comes to you wrapped in that familiar yellow bag that, if you’re of a certain age, will bring back fond memories of taking home the new Liz Phair album. Read More > at Slate

Data Prove People Self-Censor In Fear of Woke Mobs – While there is confusion about what these mobs hope to do beyond “cancelling” others, new data make it clear that these mobs have already deeply damage democratic discourse as many Americans have been scared into silence for fear of saying the wrong thing and being cancelled.

For instance, it is well known that college students regularly self-censor; the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found in its 2020 survey that students — notably those in the political minority — are limited in what they say and are uncomfortable and reluctant to challenge peers and professors on controversial topics. Sixty percent of students report that they have at one point felt they could not express an opinion on campus because they feared how other students, professors, or college administrators would respond.

These forces of fear and extremism have pervaded into high schools as well, with real fear of speaking up against the irrational and narrow woke mobs on the part of parents and families. Recent news stories on our elite high schools note that “[parents are] terrified of running afoul of the new orthodoxy in their children’s private schools” such that “they could face profound repercussions if anyone knew they were talking. Read More > at Real Clear Policy

2021 Job Killers – For the 21st consecutive year, CalChamber is releasing our Job Killer list that identifies pending legislation that will significantly harm California’s business climate if enacted by:  (1) discouraging employers from locating to California; (2) discouraging employers from growing their workforce in California; (3) eliminating jobs in California; or (4) significantly increasing costs on employers, which limits their ability to expand employee wages, benefits, and jobs. Although we see this type of legislation introduced year after year in California, it is especially surprising and harmful this year given that we are still currently in a pandemic, and many sectors of our economy are still suffering.

Much of California has been completely shut down or at a reduced capacity for the past year.  Unemployment is still high, with approximately one million individuals out of work compared to the year before the pandemic hit.  According to EDD, almost every sector of the economy saw a reduction in their workforce in 2020.  Small businesses have shut down, or are barely holding on.  It is estimated that about 44% of small businesses are at risk of shutting down permanently as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Small business revenue is down more than 30% in California, with some sectors being down more than 70%.    According to Visit California, hospitality and tourism lost $59 billion in 2020 and California is not likely to reach pre-pandemic travel related spending until 2025.  And while the increased vaccine distribution is promising and providing optimism that we may be close to the end of this pandemic, no one knows for sure. The Governor and federal government continue to remind people to be vigilant against the virus to curb any rise in infections.

Despite the uncertainty, loss, and devastation to California’s economy, the Legislature has introduced bills to:  (1) increase taxes on targeted groups of Californians, even though California currently has a $15 billion surplus with another $151 billion coming from the federal relief package to state and local governments, schools and other sectors; (2) expand labor and employment mandates including additional protected leaves, new threats of litigation and costs, and forced unionization, all of which will burden struggling employers; and (3) even though it is well acknowledged that California has a significant housing shortage, there are bills to limit or eliminate housing production in the State.  There is also a bill that will eliminate oil and gas production in this State to address climate change, even though it will put thousands out of work and make California more reliant on importing oil and gas from other states or countries with less restrictive environmental laws than California.  And finally, a proposal has been introduced to completely overhaul the entire healthcare system in California, while we are still in a pandemic, and have the Government take over and manage it. Read More > at Capitol Insider

Could these bills help California build more affordable housing? – California housing is crowded, expensive and difficult to find, but if a package of bills proposed by prominent Senate Democrats becomes law, some cities could look very different a decade from now.  

Duplexes and small apartment buildings would spring up from single-family lots. Public housing projects, effectively stifled since the 1950s, would dot the landscape of the state’s larger cities. Housing developments would emerge in the carcasses of vacant strip malls and abandoned big-box stores. 

What that means in practice is wresting more control of housing from cities and counties. Local officials don’t plan to go along quietly. This battle of wills stretches back years, but some of the most aggressive legislation to give the state more control will be taken up in this year’s session.

The state needs 1.8 million new housing units by 2025, but is only producing about 80,000 units on average each year, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development… Read More > at CalMatters

Lockdowns and Domestic Violence – The NYPD found ten-year-old Ayden Wolfe unresponsive and covered in cuts and bruises on the floor of his Harlem public-housing apartment, his family desperately attempting CPR. He was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late; he died two hours later. Wolfe’s stepfather, 34-year-old Ryan Cato, had beaten the boy for two days. He now faces murder and child-endangerment charges.

Ayden’s brutal killing is a tragedy in its own right, but it is not unique. Crime surged in American cities last year: shootings and homicides, and domestic violence, too. The tumultuous events of 2020—the pandemic, lockdowns, mass protests and riots, and the push to defund police departments—means that no one is sure exactly what to blame for the overall spike. But in the case of domestic offenses, the cause is clear: Covid-19 restrictions, imposed as a public-health measure, put potential victims into closer proximity with their victimizers, resulting—predictably—in more violence.

Researchers have been looking into the lockdown-domestic-violence link since states began imposing Covid restrictions. A recent survey of studies, published by the Council on Criminal Justice, estimated that the imposition of a lockdown in a given jurisdiction led to an 8 percent increase in domestic violence. That figure matches other estimates, including another CCJ report that found a 10 percent increase in domestic violence calls for service last March and April. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a 9 percent increase in calls between March and May compared with 2019. Read More > at City Journal

Israeli company claims oral COVID-19 vaccine on its way – An Israeli-American pharmaceutical company is preparing to launch a Phase I clinical trial for what could become the world’s first oral COVID-19 vaccine.

Oramed’s technology can be used to orally administer a number of protein-based therapies, which would otherwise be delivered by injection. Oramed is in the midst of a Phase III clinical trial through the US Food and Drug Administration of an oral insulin capsule for type I and type II diabetics.

“An oral COVID-19 vaccine would eliminate several barriers to rapid, wide-scale distribution, potentially enabling people to take the vaccine themselves at home,” Kidron said. “While ease of administration is critical today to accelerate inoculation rates, an oral vaccine could become even more valuable in the case that a COVID-19 vaccine may be recommended annually like the standard flu shot.” Read More > in The Jerusalem Post 

Blue Shield balloons COVID costs – Partly as a result of hiring Blue Shield to run vaccine distribution, California’s COVID-19 response will cost $2 billion more than projected, with the state estimated to spend more than $15 billion through 2022, according to figures released last week by Newsom’s Department of Finance. California also recently signed a two-month, $13 million contract with management consulting firm McKinsey & Company to assist the state and Blue Shield in distributing vaccines. However, only eight counties and one city have signed agreements to join Blue Shield’s provider network, the state Department of Public Health said Friday. Of those, only Kern County signed a contract directly with Blue Shield, while the remaining eight jurisdictions signed a memorandum of understanding with the state that reverts some of Blue Shield’s authority back to local public health officials, the Los Angeles Times reports.

California appears to be the only state to have hired a health insurer to run its vaccine distribution — and it seems Blue Shield may have been chosen largely because of its lengthy relationship with Newsom. Over the past 16 years, Blue Shield has given nearly $23 million to the governor’s campaigns and special causes, California Healthline reports.

  • State Sen. Sydney Kamlager, a Los Angeles Democrat“I don’t think having Blue Shield step in is going to get teachers vaccinated any quicker. I don’t think it’s going to get the 70-year-old Black folks vaccinated any quicker. … And they’re not doing it for free.” Read More > at CalMatters

About Kevin

Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-UPI, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Trustee RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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