Sunday Reading – 11/14/2021

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.

Northern California gas prices hit records in several cities. See costs in your area – Sacramento and several other Northern California cities hit their highest recorded gas price average within the last week.

Sacramento’s highest recorded average price of regular gasoline was $4.68 on Nov. 5.

Four days later and the price has decreased less than 1 cent, according to the American Automobile Association.

San Francisco hit $4.85 on Nov. 5 and hasn’t seen much movement since. Oakland hit its record average gas price of $4.76 on Tuesday.

And just last week, California ranked among the 10 U.S. states with the largest weekly pump price increase.

Here are the regular gas prices in California by county. See where you land: Read More > in The Sacramento Bee

U.S. Inflation Reached 30-Year High in October – U.S. inflation hit a three-decade high in October—rising at a 6.2% annual rate—as pandemic-related supply shortages and continued strength in consumer demand continued to push up prices.

The Labor Department said the consumer-price index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services, increased at the fastest annual pace since 1990. Inflation also topped 5% for the fifth straight month.

The so-called core price index, which excludes the often-volatile categories of food and energy, in October climbed 4.6% from a year earlier, higher than September’s 4% rise and the largest increase since 1991.

On a monthly basis, the CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.9% in October from the prior month, a sharp acceleration from September’s 0.4% rise, and the same as June’s 0.9% pace.

Price increases were broad-based in October, with higher costs for new and used autos, energy, furniture, rent and medical care, the Labor Department said. Prices fell for airline fares and alcohol. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End – I’m a Class A truck driver with experience in nearly every aspect of freight. My experience in the trucking industry of 20 years tells me that nothing is going to change in the shipping industry.

Let’s start with understanding some things about ports. Outside of dedicated port trucking companies, most trucking companies won’t touch shipping containers. There is a reason for that….

The ‘experts’ want to say we can do things like open the ports 24/7, and this problem will be over in a couple weeks. They are blowing smoke, and they know it. Getting a container out of the port, as slow and aggravating as it is, is really the easy part, if you can find a truck and chassis to haul it. But every truck driver in America can’t operate 24/7, even if the government suspends Hours Of Service Regulations (federal regulations determining how many hours a week we can work/drive), we still need to sleep sometime. There are also restrictions on which trucks can go into a port. They have to be approved, have RFID tags, port registered, and the drivers have to have at least a TWIC card (Transportation Worker Identification Credential from the federal Transportation Security Administration). Some ports have additional requirements. As I have already said, most trucking companies won’t touch shipping containers with a 100 foot pole. What we have is a system with a limited amount of trucks and qualified drivers, many of whom are already working 14 hours a day (legally, the maximum they can), and now the supposed fix is to have them work 24 hours a day, every day, and not stop until the backlog is cleared. It’s not going to happen. It is not physically possible. There is no “cavalry” coming. No trucking companies are going to pay to register their trucks to haul containers for something that is supposedly so “short term,” because these same companies can get higher rate loads outside the ports. There is no extra capacity to be had, and it makes NO difference anyway, because If you can’t get a container unloaded at a warehouse, having drivers work 24/7/365 solves nothing.

What it will truly take to fix this problem is to run EVERYTHING 24/7: ports (both coastal and domestic),trucks, and warehouses. We need tens of thousands more chassis, and a much greater capacity in trucking. Read More > at Medium

Boxes and Boxes Seen Strewn Along LA Railroad Tracks Amid Cargo Container Theft – Union Pacific railroad said there was a rash of cargo container break-ins as the containers were being hauled by train near downtown Los Angeles, as officials are trying to clear the backlog of cargo at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Thousands of boxes as far as the eye could see were strewn along the railroad tracks near Valley Boulevard and North Mission Road in Lincoln Park in footage captured by NewsChopper4 Monday.

The boxes appeared to have fallen or been tossed off cargo containers being hauled by Union Pacific trains.

Several container doors were wide open – including a FedEx container with boxes tipping over.

The section of the track is bordered by homeless encampments on both sides.

Union Pacific issued a statement saying they’re aware of the thefts and are working with local law enforcement to address the issue.

Union Pacific transports goods from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where the backup continues. Read More > at NBC Los Angeles

California parents sue after giving birth, raising someone else’s baby for months – Two California couples gave birth to each others’ babies after a mix-up at a fertility clinic and spent months raising children that weren’t theirs before swapping the infants, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles.

Daphna Cardinale said she and her husband, Alexander, had immediate suspicions that the girl she gave birth to in late 2019 wasn’t theirs because the child had a darker complexion than they do.

They suppressed their doubts because they fell in love with the baby and trusted the in vitro fertilization process and their doctors, Daphna said. Learning months later that she had been pregnant with another couple’s baby, and that another woman had been carrying her child, caused enduring trauma, she said.

The Cardinales’ complaint accuses the Los Angeles-based California Center for Reproductive Health (CCRH) and its owner, Dr. Eliran Mor, of medical malpractice, breach of contract, negligence and fraud. It demands a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages.

The two other parents involved in the alleged mix-up wish to remain anonymous and plan a similar lawsuit in the coming days, according to attorney Adam Wolf, who represents all four parents.

The lawsuit claims CCRH mistakenly implanted the other couple’s embryo into Daphna and transferred the Cardinales’ embryo — made from Daphna’s egg and Alexander’s sperm — into the other woman.

The babies, both girls, were born a week apart in September 2019. Both couples unwittingly raised the wrong child for nearly three months before DNA tests confirmed that the embryos were swapped, according to the filing. Read More > at WDSU News

A Primer on Vehicle-Miles-Traveled Taxation Concepts – For some years the idea of replacing the pay-at-the-pump gas tax with a “vehicle miles traveled” system has been floating in the civic ether.  The reasoning took a few different paths, mostly centered around the issue of the fairness of “user fees” compared to purchase taxation, an idea that was boosted by the proliferation of non-gas using vehicles like electric cars (why am I paying gas taxes for the roads when the Tesla driver pays nothing?, etc.)

Basically, a VMT would be just that – a tax based on how many miles a vehicle moves over the roadways instead of paying a tax every time the gas tank is filled.  Proponents say it is intended to be “cost neutral” for the typical driver.

For example, right now – and these are general AVERAGES – Californians drive each personal car about 13,000 miles per year.  At a miles per gallon figure of 25, that means that – at $1.19 per gallon (the state, fed, sales tax plus fees like cap and trade total) –  a typical motorist will pay $618 per year, or 4.8 cents a mile, in taxes (again these are averages of typical personal vehicle and do not reflect trucks, commercial vehicles, taxis, the use of diesel fuels, etc.).  Most VMT concepts so far have floated a per-mile number in that range as their target.

That is the basic top-line proposal – but exactly how it would work has as many possible twists and turns and off-ramps and on-ramps and side streets as the Orange Crush in southern California being combined with Lombard Street in San Francisco.

There are five basic ways the fee could be calculated:

  • Straight miles – turn the car on, drive 10 miles – no matter where or when – and pay 10 miles in taxes.
  • Highway/major artery miles – no (or a lower) fee for driving around town but the tax would start when one entered a freeway and/or major artery (think Wilshire Boulevard).
  • Congestion miles – a lower tax on any driving during “off-peak” hours, but miles driven during typically heavy traffic times for that specific roadway would be taxed (think the toll lanes in Orange County).
  • Time miles – Similar to congestion miles, but not tied to specific traffic patterns, just the time (and not necessarily the amount of time) of the beginning and/or end of the trip – middle of the night low or no tax, mornings a tax, etc.
  • Cordon miles – Driving in certain areas and/or on certain roads would be taxed while driving elsewhere would not, or be taxed less (this could also be done not just by the mile but also an added tax/fee upon entering a particular area). Read More > at California Globe

Asia, Not the US Is the Main Source of Global Warming – … The New York Times’ Coral Davenport wrote, “The United States is historically the largest source of the pollution that is heating the planet.” That is precisely the widespread misconception which leads Americans to believe the climatic fate of the entire planet is in our hands if only Congress would throw enough money at it. The trouble is the United States has not been “the largest source” of greenhouse gas emissions since 1950, when Europe overtook it for five decades. In recent decades, the U.S. has accounted for an exceedingly small fraction of worldwide increases in carbon dioxide, and an even smaller share of other greenhouse gases.

The first graph “Annual share of global CO2 emissions” shows the U.S. share of global COemissions has been falling during most postwar decades – recently from 23.9% in 2000 to 14.5% in 2019. Meanwhile, carbon emissions in Asia rose from 35.8% of the global total in 2000 to 55.6% in 2019.

Focusing on carbon dioxide overstates the U.S. share of global greenhouse gas emissions, however, because CO2 accounts for 80% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions but only 65% for the whole world. Non-carbon greenhouse gases far more potent and long-lasting than CO2, such as methane and nitrous oxide, are a much bigger problem outside the U.S.

When all greenhouse gases are included, the World Resources Institute finds “Emissions from the United States contribute only 12.67% to global emissions,” while just five Asian nations –China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia– contribute three times as much –39.2%.

With only a 12.67% share of greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. political promises to change the world climate by subsidizing “green energy” companies or products is an impossible mission. The U.S. share of emissions cannot possibly keep falling fast enough to make up for rising emissions in Asia.

Passenger vehicles, for example, account for 16.4% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but the U.S. accounts for 12.67% of such emissions worldwide. That means totally banning and destroying all American passenger cars and trucks (commute and shop only with bikes or walking shoes) could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.1%. Spending decades and billions to gradually replace most passenger vehicles with EVs would have an immeasurably trivial effect. The small American tail cannot wag this fat Asian dog. Read More > at the American Institute for Economic Research

Greener—and Poorer – A fixation on renewable energy, along with the closure of natural gas and nuclear plants, has helped drive the cost of electricity and gas in California higher than anywhere else in the continental U.S. And the lion’s share of these costs is borne by low-income families. Adjusted for cost of living, California has the nation’s highest poverty rate—about 7.1 million people—due in part to the high costs of essentials like housing, gas, and electricity.

This is largely the result of California’s regressive tax policies. The state sales tax, property tax, and any user fee, be it a road toll or bus fare, hits lower-income workers harder because these levies take no account of the payer’s lower earnings. A $100 fee hits the budget for a lower-tiered earner harder than it does a higher-tiered one. Consider the gas tax. One of the biggest financial shocks for consumers in recent months has been the ever-escalating cost of fueling their cars. A gas tax is a recessive excise tax that disproportionately penalizes lower- and middle-class households, since they spend a larger proportion of their annual income on gasoline than do high-income families.

California’s gas tax grew even worse for families this year when an automatic tax increase went into effect in July, thanks to Senate Bill 1, passed in 2017. The law incrementally and automatically raises the fuel excise tax each year, ostensibly to help fund road and bridge repairs. Californians affected by the bill have pleaded with Governor Newsom to intervene, given recent economic troubles, but he has remained silent on the issue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at $4.44 a gallon, Los Angeles-area consumers paid 32.1 percent more than the $3.361 national average in August 2021. These costs put a disproportionate burden on low-income residents.

Many progressive elected leaders favor nudging residents away from gas-powered cars altogether in favor of electric vehicles. But EVs cost on average between $10,000 and $15,000 more than a similar gas-powered model. EVs make up a mere 3 percent of car sales nationwide, but about 40 percent of EV registrations are in California. Nearly 80 percent of battery-powered cars sold last year in the United States were Teslas. A midrange Tesla costs $60,000 and up, but it’s a great deal for high-income earners in California, due to a $7,500 federal tax credit and generous state incentives and subsidies—“Green Welfare for the Rich,” as the Wall Street Journal described it.

Los Angeles County’s transit agency is now considering using congestion pricing to charge those driving on the roads and highways that they are already paying for with their state taxes, including at the pump. This pricing structure would charge drivers based on how far they travel, and how congested roads are when they travel. In essence, this is a toll, for which both high- and low-income drivers pay the same rate. You don’t have to be an economist to understand that low-income households typically drive more miles each day to get to work, since they can’t afford to live in more expensive urban areas where most of the jobs are. Read More > at City Journal

The Dirty Truth About Clean Technologies – There’s a dirty secret hidden in every wind turbine. They may convert moving air cleanly and efficiently into electricity, but few know much about what they are made of. Much of the material inside wind turbines are the product of brutal encroachments on our natural world.

Each unit requires cement, sand, steel, zinc and aluminum. And tons of copper: for the generator, for the gearbox, for the transformer station and for the endless strands of cable. Around 67 tons of copper can be found in a medium-sized offshore turbine. To extract this amount of copper, miners have to move almost 50,000 tons of earth and rock, around five times the weight of the Eiffel Tower. The ore is shredded, ground, watered and leached. The bottom line: a lot of nature destroyed for a little bit of green power.

A visit to the Los Pelambres mine in northern Chile provides a clear grasp of the dimensions involved. It is home to one of the world’s largest copper deposits, a giant gray crater at an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,800 feet). The earth here is full of metalliferous ore. Just under 2 percent of the world’s copper production comes from this single pit.

Dump trucks, 3,500-horsepower strong, transport multi-ton loads down the terrace roads that line the mine. The boulders are transported by conveyor belt almost 13 kilometers (8 miles) into the valley, where the copper is extracted from the rock. This processing requires huge amounts of electricity and water, a particularly precious commodity in this arid region.

Few are aware of this fact as they drive their electric vehicle, use electricity from wind or solar power, or have a lithium-ion storage facility set up in the basement – making them feel like pioneers in sustainability. Many don’t realize how extremely polluting the production of raw materials from which climate technologies are manufactured really is. Who knew, for example, that 77 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted during the manufacture of one ton of neodymium, a rare earth metal that is used in wind turbines? By comparison: Even the production of a ton of steel only emits around 1.9 tons of CO2.

According to calculations by the International Energy Agency (IEA), global demand for critical raw materials will quadruple by 2040 – in the case of lithium, demand is expected to be as high as 42 times greater. According to IEA head Fatih Birol, these materials are becoming “essential components of a future clean global energy system.” Read More > at Der Spiegel

Inside Death Valley Junction, the forgotten California town with two residents and an opera house – If you’re taking U.S. Route 95 north out of Las Vegas, turn left at the alien-themed brothel, drive 7 miles beyond the giant cow, over the California border into the low desert, and you’ll find it. 

A tiny town with no stores, no bars, no restaurants, only two residents and a mysterious building that makes no sense at all. 

Death Valley is both the lowest land in America and the hottest place on Earth. Its ancient salty lake bed, when plundered for its valuable minerals a century ago, gave rise to fringe communities on the edge of the desert and on the edge of life. One of those towns is Death Valley Junction. 

The settlement is like nowhere else in California. The old elevated Death Valley Railroad that once carried borax out of the valley to Los Angeles now splinters into the sand. Derelict cottages and sand-beaten mills bake in the sun, looking like they could blow away in a strong wind. The place is in disrepair, save for a lone icon of American eccentricity, the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, that is open for business today, if you can find the lobby. Read More > at SFGate

This is California’s Fastest Shrinking County – Lassen County in the Sierra Nevada is the state’s fastest shrinking county, according to a new analysis from 24/7 Wall St.

The website reviewed population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates Program to develop a list of the counties with the greatest population decline in each state. Only four states — Delaware, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Washington — had no counties with a population decline from 2010 to 2020.

“Economic opportunity — or lack thereof — can be a major factor that causes people to relocate,” according to 24/7 Wall St. “Most of the fastest shrinking counties in every state have an unemployment rate and a poverty rate greater than or equal to that of the state itself. Other factors, like prevalence of violent crime, lack of recreational activities, and other less desirable qualities can be factors that cause residents to leave an area in droves.”

From 2010-2020, Lassen had a population change of -14.0% (34,895 to 30,016). The May 2021 unemployment rate in Lassen was 5.3% compared to 7.5% for the state.

Lassen’s population decline is a trend seen in many rural areas and was discussed at length in this report from the USDA Forest Service last year.

Read 24/7 Wall St.’s full methodology and see a list of the fastest shrinking counties in America here. Read More > at California County News

Letting babies eat eggs could help avoid allergy later, study says – Feeding eggs to infants could reduce their risk of egg allergy later on, new research suggests.

For the study, researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York, analyzed U.S. government data from more than 2,200 parents who were surveyed about their children’s eating habits and food allergies from birth to 6 years of age.

“We found that children who hadn’t had egg introduced by 12 months were more likely to have egg allergy at 6 years,” said lead author Dr. Giulia Martone, who is scheduled to present the findings Sunday at a meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, in New Orleans.

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. Read More > at UPI

Learning about risks at the playground – When I was in kindergarten, the playground roundabout was for older kids. I longed to be old enough to give it a try. On the first day of first grade, I saw it was gone. Someone had fallen off and broken a collarbone. I would never have my chance.

Germany is making playgrounds riskier so children will grow up “risk competent,” writes Lenore Skenazy on Reason.

Insurance companies pushed for equipment, such as taller climbing structures, that teach children how to assess risks. They cited a 2004 study that found that “children who had improved their motor skills in playgrounds at an early age were less likely to suffer accidents as they got older,” reports The Guardian.

In the U.S., many “play scholars” want more exciting playgrounds, writes Skenazy.  “Unfortunately, that runs smack into our culture’s habit of underestimating kids, overestimating danger, and hiring trial lawyers.” Read More > at Linking and Thinking on Education

Native American Lawsuit Challenges Colorado Ban On Native American “Mascots” As Discriminatory – The banning of Native American (American Indian) depictions for sports teams gets a lot of press, most famously the Washington Redskins renaming themselves the Washington Football Team.

There’s a side to this issue that I had not thought of, but is argued in a lawsuit just filed in Colorado. That when the government is involved in such name bans, it is discrimination against American Indians because it deprives them of the ability to have things named after them. It is, according to the argument, the worst form of cultural appropriation, more like cultural depravation.

In Colorado in 2021, legislation was passed banning the use of American Indian mascots, broadly defined. Now the law is being challenged in a lawsuit filed on November 2, 2021, on behalf of the Native American Guardians Association (NAGA) and individuals by the Mountain States Legal Foundation

As it turns out, not all Native Americans support the law as written. The Native American Guardians Association supports the respectful use of Native American names and imagery in certain instances, and it fears that erasing all such imagery and iconography could also erase Native American history from school grounds. The group is troubled enough by the law’s free speech and equal protection implications, and they are challenging its Constitutionality on those grounds.

There’s no question that many American Indian-themed “mascots” and team names can be demeaning. But not all of them are or were. The Guardians agree with most Americans that no person or nation of people should be a “mascot.” That is why they oppose the use of American Indian mascot performers and caricatures that mock Native American heritage — such as Lamar (Colorado) High School’s former mascot, Chief Ugh-Lee or the Atlanta Braves’ former Native American caricature Chief Noc-A-Homa — in sports and other public venues.

But The Guardians also believe that culturally appropriate Native American names, logos, and imagery can be an important and educational way to honor Native Americans, and to help public schools neutralize offensive and stereotypical Native American caricatures and iconography while teaching students and the general public about American Indian history, a history shared by all Americans. The law doesn’t attempt to differentiate between the two, sweeping the potentially good away with the bad. Read More > at Legal Insurrection

Falling asleep at this time may protect your heart – The time you go to bed may affect your risk for heart disease. In fact, researchers say, there is a heart health sweet spot for falling asleep: from 10 to 11 p.m.

An analysis of data from more than 88,000 adults tracked for around six years revealed a 12 percent greater risk among those who dropped off from 11 to 11:59 p.m. and a 25 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease among people who fell asleep at midnight or later. Falling asleep earlier than 10 p.m. was associated with a 24 percent increase in risk, according to a report published Monday in the European Heart Journal—Digital Health.

“The body has a 24-hour internal clock, called circadian rhythm, that helps regulate physical and mental functioning,” a co-author of the study, David Plans, a neuroscientist and experimental psychologist who is a senior lecturer in organizational neuroscience at the University of Exeter in the U.K., said in a statement. “While we cannot conclude causation from our study, the results suggest that early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock, with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health.” Read More > at NBC News

Virgin Galactic has sold 100 tickets to space since increasing flight prices to $450,000Virgin Galactic reopened ticket sales for its trips to the edge of space at a higher price back in August, and the company says it has sold 100 of the $450,000 tickets so far. They used to cost $250,000 each.

Overall, around 700 people, including Elon Musk, have reserved a spot on a Virgin Galactic flight. The company hopes to sell 1,000 tickets before starting commercial trips, which it recently delayed (again) to the fourth quarter of 2022. As The Vergenotes, Virgin Galactic has so far only let people who made a refundable $1,000 deposit buy tickets. The company plans to let more people reserve a spot starting in early 2022. Read More > at Engadget

NASA pushes back crewed moon landing to 2025 – NASA has officially adjusted its timeline for the Artemis III mission and won’t be landing on the Moon in 2024. The agency is now aiming to land the first woman and next American man on the lunar surface in 2025 at the earliest, NASA administrator Bill Nelson has announced. NASA was originally targeting a 2028 launch date for its return to the Moon, but the Trump administration moved that date up by four years back in 2017. In a conference call with reporters, Nelson said “the Trump administration’s target of 2024 human landing was not grounded in technical feasibility.”

In addition to the unrealistic deadline, Nelson blamed Blue Origin’s lawsuit against the agency for the delay. It had to put its contract with SpaceX on hold and pause work on the lunar lander that’s meant to take astronauts to the surface of the Moon for a couple of times. NASA lost almost seven months of work on the lander as a result, which had cast doubts on the 2024 landing even before Nelson made his announcement. Read More > at Engadget

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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