Sunday Reading – 01/02/2022


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.

Here’s Why California Is Losing Population for the First Time – Net domestic migration hit a decade-long low, ballooning from a loss of 34,000 in 2012 to 277,000 in 2021. Over the last 10 years, California lost more than 1.625 million net domestic migrants—more than the population of Philadelphia. Altogether, 2.7 million more people—a population larger than the cities of San Francisco, San Diego and Anaheim combined—have moved to other states from California than the other way around over the last 20 years, and immigration is no longer making up the difference.

Housing costs, according to the recent Berkeley poll, was by far the biggest factor cited by people wanting to move, with more than 70 percent of Californians considering them “a very serious issue.” Since 1970, income-adjusted median home values in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and San Jose have increased to more than double those of major metros outside California. Even the less costly interior markets of Riverside-San Bernardino, Sacramento, and Fresno are increasingly unaffordable compared to metros outside California.

This is particularly critical for young families. Despite pundits suggesting otherwise, the vast majority of millennials and the Z generation would like to become homeowners. According to one recent study, the median family in San Jose or San Francisco would need 125 years (150 in Los Angeles) to collect a down payment; in Atlanta or Houston the figure is 12 years. According to recent AEI survey, California is home to six of the nation’s worst markets for first-time homebuyers.

Disadvantaged minorities and the foreign born are also heading to the exits, or simply not coming. According to the United Way of California, over 30 percent of California residents—including 40 percent of African Americans and 50 percent of Latino— lack sufficient income to meet their basic cost of living. Incomes for African Americans and Hispanics rank 48th to 50th in the nation, while home ownership rates are among the lowest as well. In terms of cost-of-living adjusted income, African Americans in California do about as well as those in states with reputations for poverty such as Mississippi and Louisiana, and well below that for Texas, Virginia, or Michigan, according to research to be published next month by Chapman University.

The Latino population in California rose at only one-half the national rate from 2010 to 2019, while California’s Black population grew by only 0.8 percent, well below the 7.2 percent national rate and even further below the rates of Florida and Texas. Over the past two decades, the African American household population has declined in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Read More > at The Daily Beast

This Scientist Created a Rapid Test Just Weeks Into the Pandemic. Here’s Why You Still Can’t Get It. – When COVID-19 started sweeping across America in the spring of 2020, Irene Bosch knew she was in a unique position to help.

The Harvard-trained scientist had just developed quick, inexpensive tests for several tropical diseases, and her method could be adapted for the novel coronavirus. So Bosch and the company she had co-founded two years earlier seemed well-suited to address an enormous testing shortage.

E25Bio — named after the massive red brick building at MIT that houses the lab where Bosch worked — already had support from the National Institutes of Health, along with a consortium of investors led by MIT.

Within a few weeks, Bosch and her colleagues had a test that would detect coronavirus in 15 minutes and produce a red line on a little chemical strip. The factory where they were planning to make tests for dengue fever could quickly retool to produce at least 100,000 COVID-19 tests per week, she said, priced at less than $10 apiece, or cheaper at a higher scale.

On March 21 — when the U.S. had recorded only a few hundred COVID-19 deaths  Bosch submitted the test for emergency authorization, a process the Food and Drug Administration uses to expedite tests and treatments.

A green light from the FDA could have made a big difference for the many Americans who were then frantically trying to find doctors to swab their noses, with results, if they were lucky, coming back only days later.

But the go-ahead never came. Read More > at ProPublica

More believe in cheating in 2020 election, hit ‘Zuckerbucks’ – Angered by growing reports that Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg steered vote-generating donations to pro-Biden counties, more voters believe that cheating occurred in the 2020 elections.

Shoving aside repeated liberal media dismissals of cheating claims, those who believe it occurred increased from 56% in October to 59% in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll previewed for Secrets.

Asked “How likely is it that cheating affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential election?” just 36% said unlikely. What’s more, the largest group, at 40%, said that cheating was “very likely.” Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Lab-Grown Embryo Research Is Poised to Transform Medicine – New advances in stem cell science could alleviate devastating early-life conditions. But this comes with a moral conundrum.

According to multiple studies, one in three pregnancies results in miscarriage, and one in 33 babies that are born will have a birth defect, due to the embryo forming incorrectly in the womb. Studying how the embryo develops can help us find ways to bring these numbers down. In 2022, we will see advances in this research thanks to stem-cell-based, embryo-like structures that can be grown in the lab.

Stem cells offer a powerful way to study the early development of the embryo. They can be grown in the lab in vast numbers and can be pushed toward making a huge assortment of cell types, including brain, blood, bone, and muscle.

Recently, several researchers have found ways to join stem cells together into small 3D balls of cells, which facilitate the creation of tiny embryo-like structures. These are currently rudimentary—the structures can be variable, they are inefficient to create and are unable to develop much further. Next year, we are likely to see improvements, with more advanced embryo-like structures made from stem cells. And we are also likely to see scientists using these models to investigate specific problems, such as how the embryo implants into the uterus, how organs start to develop or how the embryo ensures that cells are in the right positions.

Such research has traditionally been difficult to perform with human embryos. Parents using in vitro fertilization are able to donate their surplus embryos, but regulation (upheld internationally and enshrined in law in the UK) prevents researchers from culturing them beyond 14 days. This makes it impossible to study the progress of the human embryo directly as it changes from a cluster of cells to a structure with the organization of a rudimentary body—when it is between two and four weeks old. The International Society for Stem Cell Research, which represents researchers in this field, has called for a public dialog about whether this limit should be changed. It is proposing that human embryo culture should be extended on a case-by-case basis. How regulatory bodies will respond to this remains to be seen. Read More > at Wired UK 

Two sexes only, 75% agree – People don’t agree on much in the political press anymore, but one subject appears to be uniting them — gender identity.

And for exactly 75%, there are only two genders: male and female.

That is the surprising result of the latest Rasmussen Reports survey done at a time when transgender controversies are smashing into college sports, provoking protests in federal prisons, and feeding protests of those such as Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling who have argued that there are only two sexes.

Rasmussen asked voters about Rowling’s statements, and 75% agreed that there are only two sexes, with 63% “strongly” agreeing.

But they apparently don’t like the debate being so public. When asked if they side with Rowling or consider her comments a “hate crime,” 58% said they agree with the author, 17% called her words hate, and 25% said they weren’t sure.

People also largely agreed that they do not want their schoolchildren counseled on their gender identity without their consent. By a margin of 68% to 19%, voters said they don’t want the counseling without their knowledge. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Why Are Young People Drinking Less Than Their Parents? – As we head towards the end of the year, office get-togethers, Christmas lunches and New Year’s parties are upon us. It seems like a prime opportunity for young people to be drinking the night away.

But something unexpected has happened since the start of this century. Young people in Australia, the UK, Nordic countries and North America have, on average, been drinking significantly less alcohol than their parents’ generation did when they were a similar age.

During COVID lockdowns, some surveys indicate this fell even further.

Our research suggests this is unlikely to be due simply to government efforts to cut youth drinking. Wider social, cultural, technological and economic changes seem to be key to these declines.

Researchers conducting interview-based studies with young people in a range of countries have identified four main reasons for declining youth drinking.

These are: uncertainty and worry about the future, concern about health, changes to technology and leisure, and shifting relationships with parents. Read More > at Real Clear Science

New U.S. Census Data: Major Migration From Blue States To Red States – According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Vintage 2021 national and state population estimates and components of change released today, the population of the United States grew in the past year by 392,665, or 0.1%, the lowest rate since the nation’s founding. The slow rate of growth can be attributed to decreased net international migration, decreased fertility, and increased mortality due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. …

  • The largest net domestic migration gains were in Florida (220,890), Texas (170,307) and Arizona (93,026). …
  • In 2021, 20 states and the District of Columbia lost residents via net domestic migration. Largest domestic migration losses were in California (-367,299), New York (-352,185) and Illinois (-122,460).

Wall Street Journal editorial, The Great Pandemic Migration: Census Data Reveal Huge Shifts Out of the Most Locked-Down States:

The pandemic has changed America in many ways, and one major change is the migration from states that locked down their economies and schools the most to those that kept them largely open. …Read More > at TaxProf Blog

For weight loss resolutions, experts suggest finding diet method that fits lifestyle – Folks who are determined to shed some pounds in the New Year face a bewildering array of fad diets and quickie weight-loss schemes.

Those weighing eating patterns and diet plans such as intermittent fasting, the Keto diet, the Whole 30 Program and the Mediterranean diet would do well to keep two primary facts in mind, nutrition experts told HealthDay Now.

First, the diet that’s right for you depends in large part on what you like to eat and what will fit best into your personal lifestyle.

“What works best for people is what you will stick with, what is comfortable for you. So, if you’re seeking to change your diet, you first have to know yourself and to do things you will stick with,” said Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, chair of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

“It’s useless to do any of these diets if you’re going to do them for a week and then go back to business as usual,” Cheskin said.

Second, any diet or eating pattern will help you lose weight only if you’re ingesting fewer calories than you’re burning day in and day out.

A good weight-loss diet will include all of the nutrients that you need to maintain health, but limit your calories. Read More > at UPI

How would humans respond to the discovery of aliens? NASA enlisted dozens of religious scholars to find out. – A rabbi, a priest, and an imam walk into a research program funded by NASA to talk about the intersection of God and aliens.

It’s not the start of a religious joke. It’s precisely what happened at Princeton University’s Center for Theological Inquiry in 2016 when two dozen theologians gathered to participate in a program partially funded by NASA to research how humans might respond to the discovery of extraterrestrial life. 

…Davison, whose own work involves studying how astrobiology and Christianity interconnect, told the outlet that he and his fellow participants considered how followers of major religions might react to the discovery of aliens.

Their findings suggested that adherents of religion could be more prepared for otherworldly company, and that those who weren’t already indebted to a religious movement could be tempted to seek one out should aliens make their presence known.

“The headline findings are that adherents of a range of religious traditions report that they can take the idea in their stride,” Davison wrote in “Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine,” a forthcoming book that touches on his time during the program, reported The Times, which obtained portions of the book. Read More > at Insider

Can the IRS Be Trusted With Your Data? – In fiscal 2021, the Internal Revenue Service processed 269 million tax forms, each one rich with information that scammers and thieves would love to have. A scathing new report from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration calls into question the ability of the IRS to protect this mass of data.

Consider the Income Verification Express Service, known as IVES, which allows lenders to use IRS data to check income claims. Few of the companies that use the service have complied with security mandates. And the IRS itself has scarcely done better: “We identified 8,754 tax transcripts that the IVES Program improperly issued for 4,726 taxpayers during Processing Year 2019” — all because either the software of the clerks didn’t take proper note that the file in question had been flagged for identity theft.

The report is full of similarly alarming nuggets, from improperly sanitized laptops and smartphones to insecure physical door locks, from inactive accounts with administrative access that nobody’s disabled to inaccurate equipment inventory in the department’s crime lab.

And there are bigger issues. For instance, the legacy systems have persistent vulnerabilities: “Configuration management compliance for Windows and Linux servers is not effective,” the report states flatly. It’s hardly reassuring that the explanation that follows, which occupies a good two pages, has been almost entirely redacted.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: “Vulnerabilities open past remediation time frames are not effectively documented and tracked.” In other words, the agency itself isn’t sure which vulnerabilities have been patched — or even which ones exist. Read More > at Bloomberg Opinion

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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