Sunday Reading – 10/10/2021


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.

Cargo ships anchored off LA face 4-WEEK wait to berth and trains in Chicago are backed up 25 miles with global supply chain on the brink of collapse: Americans face shortages of cars, shoes and exercise gear as holiday season looms – Dozens of cargo ships anchored off the coasts of Los Angeles face shocking wait times of up to four weeks and railyards and trucking routes are hopelessly clogged due to the lack of manpower to unload goods – with an expert warning that the government needs to intervene or face spiraling inflation and unemployment.

The backlog of billions of dollars of toys, clothing, electronics, vehicles, and furniture comes as the demand for consumer goods hit its highest point in history as consumers stay home instead of spending money on travel and entertainment.

Supply chains have lagged far behind consumer demand due to a lack of manpower at American ports and the restrictions that came with the COVID-19 outbreak early last year. These constraints, which include social distancing and mandatory quarantines, have severely limited the number and ability of port workers to do their jobs.

Consumer experts have warned Americans to begin doing their Christmas shopping now, to ensure goods arrive on time, and to ensure there’s time to try and find an alternative if a desired gift is one of the products that is currently scarce. Read More > in the Daily Mail

California and the West can see small glimmers of hope in weather outlooks for October – Outlook maps for October temperature and precipitation in the U.S. offer a glimmer of hope for California and parts of the West. For the first time in months, California’s precipitation outlook map isn’t colored a desiccated brown, indicating drier-than-normal conditions.

Likewise, the temperature outlook map isn’t glowing red, resembling a stove-top burner set on high.

On both maps for October, issued on Sept. 30 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California and neighboring states are colored a neutral white. That means experts predict equal chances that temperatures and precipitation will be above average, near average or below average.

If that sounds a little like cold comfort, remember that maps for months have placed California and the West in the hotter- and drier-than-average categories. So this is an improvement. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

U.S. Job Growth Falls to Slowest Pace of Year – U.S. job growth fell to the slowest pace of the year in September, as the Delta variant and a persistent shortage of workers restrained the ability of companies to hire.

The economy created 194,000 jobs in September, the smallest gain since December 2020 and down from 366,000 jobs added in August, the Labor Department said Friday.

Many workers gave up a job search and exited the labor force last month. The smaller pool of labor meant that despite the slowdown in hiring, the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% last month from 5.2% in August.

The figures add to evidence that fears about the coronavirus and global supply constraints continue to hold back the economic recovery. The biggest factor behind last month’s weak payroll gain was a decline in public-sector jobs, mainly at schools.

Most schools have reopened to host classes in person after teaching online earlier in the pandemic, but Covid-19 outbreaks have led to temporary closures. Also, some previous employees may be resisting returning to work to avoid getting sick, economists said. Economists also say the way the government adjusts its data for seasonal factors—complicated by hiring patterns during the pandemic—may have led to an imprecise figure for school employment.

Employment in private-sector industries rose by 317,000 in September, with modest gains across several industries, including leisure and hospitality businesses, retailers and factories. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

With the New Energy Reality, the Game Has Changed. Solar and Wind Alone Can’t Meet Growing Power Demand. – Demand for electricity in the U. S. has not materially changed over the last two decades. One reason is increased energy efficiency. The number of electronic devices has increased; however, each device uses less electricity. Also, the demand for electricity from industrial customers is slowly declining. However, if current climate policy proposals – electric vehicles and 100 percent electric homes – are adopted, electricity demand has the potential to rise steeply. 

Various organizations have predicted a substantial increase in electricity demand by 2050 if U. S. consumers switch from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles.  Additionally, If most homeowners change from natural gas to electric heat some analysts forecast that electricity generation must increase from 50 to 100 percent.  If this occurs, the grid that moves the electricity must substantially expand. Increasing electricity generation by 50 percent using wind and solar power is all but impossible.

If electricity demand does increase by 50 to 100 percent, then we must think in terms of adding generation that is reliable. This does not include wind or solar. Our baseload electricity generation must be reliable and affordable. Natural gas has been the recent choice and is responsible for the decline in carbon dioxide emissions in the U. S.  It is my view that a switch to small modular reactors is the optimal choice. 

Europe is currently providing an important case study on why increasing renewables can leave energy security and energy consumers in the lurch. Renewables are boom and bust energy sources. They can provide far more power than you need at some moments and then disappear for hours, days, or even weeks at a time if the weather is not cooperating. In Britain, where tens-of-billions of dollars have been spent erecting offshore wind turbines, often there has not been much of a breeze in the North Sea. Despite an enormous investment in renewable power, Britain is relying almost entirely on fossil fuels and nuclear energy to keep the lights on. With so much of the generating fleet unavailable, electricity prices in the U.K are soaring. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

Alameda Sheriff’s Office Takes Down Massive Cannabis Operation – The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office raided 18 illegal marijuana grow sites last week in what it calls the largest illegal cannabis growing operation in Bay Area history. Authorities seized hundreds of thousands of plants and upwards of $10 million in cash along with “millions of dollars in infrastructure, equipment, lighting, generators and supplies used to facilitate the grows,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly in a news release.

“The enormity and complexity of this illegal grow operation cannot be expressed in words or pictures, it’s unbelievable,” Kelly added.

Seven people were arrested. Sheriff’s officials have posted photographs of the bust on its Facebook page.

Five years after voters legalized recreational marijuana, California’s illicit cannabis market is as big as it has ever been. Local officials throughout the state have urged changes in Sacramento to temper the proliferation of rogue cultivation sites that wreak environmental havoc and invite criminal activity. Read More > at California County News

Newsom admin ripped for nursing home policies – California’s reputation as a national leader in the COVID response was turned on its head Tuesday, when state lawmakers launched a blistering attack on the Newsom administration’s handling of nursing homes amid the pandemic.

The rebuke of the California Department of Public Health came during a legislative hearing on the state’s process for licensing nursing homes, during which lawmakers repeatedly cited an investigation from CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener that found the state allowed Shlomo Rechnitz, California’s largest nursing home owner, to operate many facilities even as their license applications languished in pending status — or were outright denied. Rechnitz is now facing a lawsuit alleging that one of his homes — for which the state denied him a license — is responsible for the COVID-related deaths of 24 residents.

Wood also slammed Craig Cornett, the president of a nursing home industry group, the California Association of Health Facilities, for apparently saying that California “was the shining star in the nation” when it came to preventing coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes.

  • Wood: “We saw this pandemic playing out in Washington a couple of months before it started in California, and yet it took a couple of months … to begin to react. … I expect better from us, we deserve better here in California, and I’m appalled. If we were the best, I shudder to think what was going on in other states, and I’m pretty, pretty, pretty shocked by that.”

Cornett emphasized that “every death is a tragedy” but noted that “if there’s any silver lining to this very dark cloud” it’s how much progress the state has made in combating the virus.

“I appreciate your perspective,” Wood said, “but that cloud doesn’t have a silver lining for me.” Read More > at CalMatters

“We haven’t seen anything yet”: Food prices continue to climb – If you think you’re paying more at the grocery store – you’re not wrong. Wholesale prices are at record highs and some items are scarce, CBS Los Angeles reports.

According to the Labor Department, wholesale prices jumped 8.3 percent from August of this year compared to August of 2020 — the biggest gain since the department started tracking those prices more than a decade ago.

“We haven’t seen anything yet,” said SuperMarketGuru.Com editor and food industry analyst Phil Lembert. “Prices are going to continue to go up for a good year and a half.”

“The biggest increases we will see has to do with anything with animals,” he said, “Whether it’s eggs or milk or pork or beef.” Read More > at CBS

States, Cities Sit on Hundreds of Billions in Pandemic Relief – As Congress considered a massive COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. pleaded for “immediate action” on billions of dollars targeted to shore up their finances and revive their communities.

Now that they’ve received it, local officials are taking their time before actually spending the windfall.

As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states hadn’t spent a penny from the American Rescue Plan championed by Democrats and President Joe Biden, according to an Associated Press review of the first financial reports due under the law. States had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5%, according to the AP analysis.

Many state and local governments reported they were still working on plans for their share of the $350 billion, which can be spent on a wide array of programs.

Though Biden signed the law in March, the Treasury Department didn’t release the money and spending guidelines until May. By then, some state legislatures already had wrapped up their budget work for the next year, leaving governors with no authority to spend the new money. Some states waited several more months to ask the federal government for their share.

The law gives states until the end of 2024 to make spending commitments and the end of 2026 to spend the money. Any money not obligated or spent by those dates must be returned to the federal government. Read More > from the Associated Press

‘Firearms bubble economy’ makes 2021 second-highest gun sales year ever – With three months still to go, 2021 is already the second-highest year ever for firearms background checks and sales in America, putting it on a path to break 2020’s record.

But what is untold in the new FBI numbers for September is the continued trend of women buying weapons for the first time and new owners expanding their arsenals.

So far this year, there have been over 30 million checks through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. In 2020, there was a total of 39,615,395 checks.

Justin Anderson, the marketing director for Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, North Carolina, told us that the industry is in a sales bubble.

“Bubbles really started when Barack Obama was first elected president,” said Anderson, whom Secrets often taps for trends in the industry. He added, “Customers would buy their first gun and they were hooked. I’ve also seen a slow progression of guns becoming more socially acceptable again, which also creates more customers.”

That has clearly happened with minorities, especially women and African Americans, according to industry and government data. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Oregon wolf’s epic trip to Southern California could be among the century’s longest – An Oregon gray wolf’s epic walkabout in Southern California is pushing the boundaries of the endangered species’ range.

In late September, California wildlife officials received three reports of gray wolf sightings in Ventura County – one county up the coast from Los Angeles near the Los Padres National Forest. California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff then found recent wolf tracks in the same area.

The wolf is believed to be OR-93, a 2-year-old male from the White River pack, whose territory covers part of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation near Mount Hood.

“If this is OR-93, he’s traveled the farthest south we’ve seen since 1922 when one was captured in San Bernardino,” said Jordan Traverso, a spokesperson for the California wildlife agency. Read More > at JPR

The Great Office Refusal – …Since the pandemic began, tenants have given back around 200 million square feet of commercial real estate, according to Marcus & Millichap data, and the current office vacancy rate stands at 16.2%, matching the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. Between September 2019 and September 2020, the biggest job losses, according to the firm American Communities and based on federal data, have been in big cities (nearly a 10% drop in employment), followed by their close-in suburbs, while rural areas suffered only a 6% drop, and exurbs less than 5%. Today our biggest cities—Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago—account for three of the five highest unemployment rates among the 51 largest metropolitan areas.

The rise of remote work drives these trends. Today, perhaps 42% of the 165 million-strong U.S. labor force is working from home full time, up from 5.7% in 2019. When the pandemic ends, that number will probably drop, but one study, based on surveys of more than 30,000 employees, projects that 20% of the U.S. workforce will still work from home post-COVID. 

Others predict a still more durable shift: A University of Chicago study suggests that a full one-third of the workforce could remain remote, and in Silicon Valley, the number could stabilize near 50%. Both executives and employees have been impressed by the surprising gains of remote work, and now many companies, banks, and leading tech firms—including Facebook, Salesforce, and Twitter—expect a large proportion of their workforces to continue to work remotely. Nine out of 10 organizations, according to a new McKinsey survey of 100 executives across industries and geographies, plan to keep at least a hybrid of remote and on-site work indefinitely.

The shift of work from the office to the home, or at least to less congested spaces, threatens the strict geographic hierarchy of many elite corporations. Some corporate executives, like Morgan Stanley’s Jamie Dimon, are determined to force employees back into Manhattan offices, like it or not. It’s now a common mantra among like-minded executives, especially those connected to downtown office development, that workers are “pining” to return to the office. Some have even threatened employees who do not come back in person with lower wages and decreased opportunities for promotion, while offering to reward those willing to take the personal hit of coming back on-site every day. Read More > at Tablet

We may have greatly underestimated the dangers of sleep deprivation – Sleep deprivation research isn’t new. Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation can cause a number of health problems, ranging from aching muscles and headaches to depression, memory loss, decreased immunity, and even depression.

But we may still be underestimating the damage that sleep deprivation can cause. An often-overlooked effect of lack of sleep is the propensity for errors. Simply put, the more tired you are, the more likely you are to make mistakes.

“If you look at mistakes and accidents in surgery, public transportation and even operating nuclear power plants, lack of sleep is one of the primary reasons for human error,” said Kimberly Fenn, associate professor of psychology and director of the MSU Sleep and Learning Lab. Sometimes, this lack of sleep reaches alarming levels. “There are many people in critical professions who are sleep-deprived. Research has found that nearly one-quarter of the people with procedure-heavy jobs have fallen asleep on the job.”

Of course, some errors are basic and make no significant difference in the grand scheme of things. You may forget where you left your cup or make a typo in an email — that kind of thing doesn’t really matter. But for millions of people, the daily routine also involves driving, and sleep deprivation is a prime cause for traffic accidents. For people operating complex machinery or doing complex procedures, that risk is even higher. Read More > at ZME Science

Gallup: Trust In The Media Sinks to 36 Percent, Second Lowest Ever – Can the mistrust of the media get much greater? Gallup pollsters reported on Thursday that American trust in the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly has edged down four percentage points since last year to 36 percent, making this year’s reading the second lowest in Gallup’s trend.”

Overall, just seven percent of U.S. adults say they have “a great deal” and 29 percent “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in newspapers, television and radio news reporting — which, combined, is four points above the 32 percent record low in 2016, during the Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton battle. 

More than half of respondents sound fed up: 29 percent of the public currently registers “not very much” trust and 34 percent say they have “none at all.” Read More > at NewsBusters

Facebook Will Not Fix Itself – Five years ago, I embarked on a mission to help Facebook change its culture, business model and algorithms. I had been involved with the company in its early days as an adviser and investor. Since then, I and countless others have pressed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to reform Facebook. I communicated with them privately. I spoke out in public. I wrote for TIME in 2019, urging Facebook and Silicon Valley to adopt human-driven technology over addictive, dangerous algorithms. Nothing happened.

The last three weeks have changed the game. The courageous Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen has transformed the conversation about technology reform, accomplishing more than what I and others had achieved in years of effort. The documents she provided to the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” series confirmed that harms from Facebook’s business model are not an accident, but rather the inevitable result of a dangerous design. In many cases, the documents show, Facebook chose to double-down despite awareness of the harm it was causing and the pressure for change. It is clear that policymakers and the media have consistently underestimated the threat posed by Facebook, buying into the company’s rosy claims about the power of connecting the world and giving benefit of the doubt where none was deserved.

Facebook will not fix itself. All incentives direct the company to stay on its current course. And recent history would support the cynic’s view that our democracy and government are too broken to rein in any large company. But we are now at a point where further inaction by Congress will likely result in ongoing catastrophes from which we may not recover for a generation or more.

Though it pays to keep one’s hopes and expectations in check when it comes to Congress, the present moment feels different from past technology scandals, especially those involving Facebook. Senators from both parties at this week’s hearing expressed support for Ms. Haugen’s testimony and for legislation to address it. In reality, few in Congress have a clear understanding of the regulatory path forward, but they know they want to find it.

Ms. Haugen expressed empathy for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but did not hesitate to note the moral failing of a CEO who prioritizes profits over the public good. I agree, but would add that this problem goes far beyond Zuckerberg and Facebook. Read More > at TIME

Big change to California hair salons: New law eases training requirements for stylists – California’s beauty industry is bracing for a big change after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Thursday that significantly cuts the number of hours of training required to be a barber or cosmetologist.

Barbers and cosmetologists will only have to get 1,000 hours of training to get their license, compared to up to 1,600 hours currently. They and other beauty professionals will also no longer have to take a hands-on exam. Finally, a separate program will be created for hairstylists, who will only have to get 600 hours of training.

Several states such as Iowa and Pennsylvania have eliminated a hands-on exam for at least some of their beauty professionals, and others such as Maine and Delaware are considering the same, according to a report from California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology which oversees the industry.

Several states such as Vermont and Texas have recently reduced the hours of training required to get cosmetology licenses,… Vermont and Texas now require 1,000 hours of training to be a cosmetologist, who can do everything from cutting hair to manicures except shaving. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

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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