Sunday Reading – 01/15/2023

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.

When to release water from reservoirs? – On the subject of reservoirs, as rain continues to drench the now-waterlogged slopes and soils of the Sierra Nevada foothills, state water officials are walking the fine line between retaining water while releasing enough of it downriver to prevent damaging flooding, or, in the worst-case scenario, a blown-out dam. This can mean spilling water from reservoirs that are nowhere near full.

  • Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth: “Smaller reservoirs in the state are making flood releases, but a lot of the larger reservoirs are not.” 

Lake Oroville, most notably, has plenty of room to hold more water, John Yarbrough, the State Water Project’s assistant deputy director, said Monday. The lake currently contains about 1.55 million acre-feet — 44% of its capacity. That’s almost 600,000 acre-feet more than it held a month ago, and in the next 10 days another 500,000 acre-feet are expected to enter the reservoir. But it’s far from overflowing, as it did in 2017. 

“Even with that expected inflow, we have a lot of capacity at Lake Oroville,” Yarbrough said. 

At Lake Del Valle, in the East Bay’s reservoir network, it’s a different story. “We’re starting to get into the flood reservation space,” Yarbrough said. This has prompted officials to release water at an accelerated rate of about 2,000 cubic feet per second. 

Particular reservoirs have a tendency to rapidly fill, said Mike Anderson, a climatologist with the state Department of Water Resources. Among these are the American River’s Folsom Lake and Millerton Lake, on the San Joaquin River.

In the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, operations have changed to take advantage of the excess water. The pumps that export water south have been revved up from a putter of 300 cubic feet per second to a roaring 3,000, Yarbrough said. Still, this export system is operating at a scant one-third of capacity. Officials hope to throttle the pumps even higher, but for now they can’t. That’s to avoid harming threatened and endangered fish species, which officials believe may be within reach of the pumps’ influence. Read More > at CalMatters

Reservoir, Snowpack Levels Continue To Rise Across California Due To ‘Bomb Cyclone’ StormsBomb cyclones have brought record rain and snow to the state, with over a dozen deaths and damage recorded from Redding to San Diego. Evacuations of entire communities has also occurred due to flood and mudslide worries in Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara Counties. However, on Tuesday, a silver lining to the storms began to shine brighter, as drought depleted reservoirs and underwhelmed snowpack in the mountains relied on to bring water continuously down in the hot summer months have both risen exponentially in the past few weeks. Last week, snow pack levels were at 174% where they usually at, with reservoirs quickly moving up from lower drought-withered levels. As the ground has saturated, and storms continue to deluge the state with rain, these numbers have only increased.

In Northern California, snowpack has increased to over 200% of normal levels, with reservoirs quickly climbing up. Don Pedro Reservoir is currently at 97% it’s normal January level, with Shasta coming in at 67%, New Melones at 59%, and Trinity at 42%, way above the state average at this time last year at 38%. In particular, Lake Oroville, which has been at record low levels for the past few years below 30% capacity, shot up to 38% capacity in only a matter of days. Currently the lake is now at 85% of where the normal level should be and climbing. The water level itself is currently at 748 feet, much higher than the level in 2021 at 690 feet. With the water level rising now between 607 feet per day, and rain in the forecast for at least the next week, many hope that the water level could get close to the full pool amount of 900 feet by the time of the critical snowpack level measuring date of April 1st.

In Southern California, while rain has not been as constant as in the North, the added water is also filling up reservoirs in the region. Outside of California, the added rain and snow could also help California with down stream water as well, with expected high Rocky Mountain snowpack levels possibly even giving the Colorado River and Lake Mead their highest level rises in over a decade.

The rises, and continued rain and snow, have led many water experts to remain cautiously optimistic in recent weeks. The general consensus is while there is still a drought, the storms have definitely been alleviating the situation, with further improvement possibly meaning a year without any drastic cuts. Read More > at California Globe

Seeno legal battle, affordable housing focus of Concord Naval Weapons Station hearing – The future of the Concord Naval Weapons Station project, the Bay Area’s largest development, is on hold once again.

After a marathon meeting on Saturday, the Concord City Council hit the pause button on a crucial contract after raising concerns over the proposed amount and type of affordable housing, and the involvement of Albert Seeno III, who is currently in multiple legal battles with his father over control of the family’s building empire.

The City Council is now expected to vote on Jan. 28 on a term sheet — a draft of a contract — with Concord First Partners and a consortium of developers that includes Seeno III, to develop the 2,275-acre Naval Weapons site into thousands of homes, new schools, parks and commercial and retail centers on Concord’s north side over the next 40 years.

Councilmembers spent three hours of the daylong meeting, which ran from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., grilling Concord First Partners and city staff about the details of the contract, which differs from negotiations with the city’s previous master developer, Lennar, in that it now includes a longer construction timeline and more homes.

The original 2012 area plan called for setting aside 25% of 12,272 units, or about 3,020 units, as affordable housing. The draft contract before the council on Saturday increased the number of residences to 15,595. The number of affordable units, however, remained the same. To make up the difference, the developers are counting 879 accessory units attached to single-family homes as affordable units. Read More > in the East Bay Times

$7 a dozen? Why California eggs are so expensive — and increasingly hard to find – The average retail price for a dozen large eggs jumped to $7.37 in California this week, up from $4.83 at the beginning of December and just $2.35 at this time last year, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show.

The cause is an unprecedented outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza — commonly known as bird flu — that has killed tens of millions of egg-layers nationwide. Among these are millions of cage-free hens California relies on to comply with Proposition 12, the 2018 animal welfare initiative that took effect last year.

The resulting shortages and price increases have hit the poorest Californians hard, eating up inventory at food banks and pinching families who rely on federal programs with strict buying guidelines. And they’ve only been exacerbated in the new year, as new cage-free mandates in other states take effect and demand continues to outstrip supply.

More than 57 million chickens and turkeys have died or been culled since the outbreak began last February, including close to 4 million egg-laying hens in December alone. Among the roughly 40 million hens lost nationwide since the outbreak began, more than 5 million were cage-free egg layers, USDA data show.

“The current outbreak has impacted all types of farms, regardless of size or production style,” a USDA spokeswoman wrote in an email.

The difference is, cage-free flocks make up only about 30% of the U.S. egg market.

To be sure, the number of cage-free layers has grown rapidly in recent years. Flocks roughly doubled between November 2018, when Proposition 12 passed, and January 2022, when the law took effect. California’s layers now number almost 14 million, and they have so far been spared by the outbreak.

“Luckily, our California egg industry has avoided any bird flu in commercial flocks,” California Poultry Federation President Bill Mattos wrote in an email. “Their biosecurity is outstanding and companies here are working very hard to keep wild birds out of facilities and farms across the state.”

But demand has grown much faster than cage-free flocks. Since Proposition 12 passed, at least six other states have voted to prohibit the sale of conventional eggs. Three of those bans are now in effect, including in Colorado and Washington, where conventional eggs were outlawed Jan. 1.

That means, between this week and the last, almost 14 million more Americans began competing for a product that was already scarce. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

4 men arrested after $2K worth of items stolen from grocery stores in Oakley: police – Four suspects were arrested after being accused of stealing $2,000 worth of items from two grocery stores Wednesday night, the Oakley Police Department announced on Facebook.

According to police, $1,000 worth of items were stolen around 8:46 p.m. from the Raley’s at 2077 Main St. The suspects are also accused of stealing $1,000 worth of alcohol from a Safeway store in Brentwood. Oakley police posted a picture of the stolen items.

At the Raley’s, three “suspicious young men” were pushing cars full of beer and laundry detergent then exited the back door of the store. Police said they loaded those items in the back of a black Ford F150, but store staff was able to provide police with the truck’s license plate number.

The Contra Costa Sheriff’s helicopter then located the suspect vehicle near Vintage Parkway and Big Break Road where Oakley police conducted a traffic stop. According to police, the four men inside the truck were detained, and police identified three of them to be the ones who stole the merchandise.

  • Renaldy Mendieta, 44, of Antioch was arrested for organized retail theft, conspiracy and possession of illegal drugs. Police say he was also the getaway driver.
  • Justin Snyder, 18, of Discovery Bay was arrested for organized retail theft and conspiracy.
  • Lawrence Domina, 22, of Clayton was arrested for organized retail theft and conspiracy.
  • Justin Dornenburg, 20, of Concord was arrested for organized retail theft and conspiracy.

As of 6:50 p.m., all four suspects’ bail is $40,000, according to Contra Costa County Sheriff records. They were all booked into the Martinez Detention Facility. Read More > at KRON 4

New Inflation Report Shows Insane Grocery Price Increases – Consumer prices decreased 0.1 percent in December according to the latest read of the Consumer Price Index released on Thursday morning, but still advanced 6.5 percent over the last 12 months, in line with Wall Street expectations for the latest report on the costs paid by Americans, 

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics explained in its release of December’s CPI, the index for gasoline was “by far the largest contributor to the monthly all items decrease” — a volatile index that is not expected to remain on a downward trajectory as spring and summer approach. 

Other components in the energy index, however, continued their uphill climb in the last month of 2022 to take the full category to a 12-month increase of 7.3 percent. 

Even as fuel oil costs fell 16.6 percent in December, the cost for the necessary expense to keep homes warm through the winter is still 41.5 percent more expensive than it was one year ago. Meanwhile, electricity costs for Americans advanced 14.3 percent over the last 12 months and piped utility gas bills increased 19.3 percent in 2022. 

The more stable core CPI number — which excludes food and energy — increased 0.3 percent in December, an acceleration from November 2022’s 0.2 percent increase, for an annual core inflation rate of 5.7 percent as most indexes continued to see prices rise.

Among the indexes that continue to spike is food, up 10.4 percent in the last 12 months. Food at home — what Americans fill their pantries with — increased 11.8 percent while food away from home — the cost of eating at a restaurant — advanced 8.3 percent. 

According to the latest Consumer Price Index, here’s how much costs for necessary grocery staples increased from December 2021 to December 2022:

  • lettuce 24.9 percent
  • margarine: 43.8 percent
  • butter: 31.4 percent
  • flour: 23.4 percent
  • salad dressing: 18.3 percent
  • hot dogs: 18.2 percent
  • frozen vegetables 16.4 percent 
  • crackers and bread: 16.0 percent
  • olives, pickles, relishes: 15.8 percent
  • soups: 15.7 percent
  • roasted coffee: 15.5 percent
  • sauces and gravies: 15.2 percent
  • ice cream: 15.0 percent
  • rice: 13.8 percent
  • fresh whole chicken: 13.3 percent
  • potatoes: 12.9 percent
  • milk: 12.5 percent
  • baby food: 10.7 percent

Even man’s best friend hasn’t been spared from inflated meal costs, with pet food costs advancing 15.2 percent over the previous 12 months. Read More > at Townhall

Feds borrowed $4 billion per day in 2022, totaling $10K per household – Federal debt soared by $1.4 trillion in 2022 as President Joe Biden and Congress approved multiple new spending packages.

The Congressional Budget Office released the final details of federal spending in 2022 showing the federal government had a $1.4 trillion deficit last year, borrowing roughly $82 billion in December alone. 

“This is not a pretty picture no matter how you look at it,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “There are times to borrow – like during a pandemic or major recession – and there are times where we should ratchet down the borrowing, like now when the economy is strong and inflation is hot.”

MacGuineas pointed out last year’s borrowing totals more than $10,000 per household and $4 billion per day.

The federal debt surpassed $31 trillion in the fall. 

The higher debt was fueled in part by a rash of several trillion dollars in additional spending bills since Biden took office. Initially, that spending received broad support as a response to the pandemic, but later bills received more opposition from Republicans.

Biden has touted a reduction in the deficit last year from $2.8 trillion to $1.4 trillion. While that is true, the $1.4 trillion figure is still much higher than when he took office. In 2019, the budget deficit was less than one trillion dollars. Read More > at The Center Square

Really? They want to ban gas stoves now? – The Consumer Product Safety Commission is opening a period of public comments on the “dangers of gas stoves.” We’ll get to the supposed dangers in a moment, but if a regulatory agency like the USCPSC is already to the point of taking public comments, one of two things is almost certainly on the way. They will either impose emission limits on the stoves, no doubt driving up the cost and/or reducing efficiency, or they will ban the stoves altogether. Either way, somebody is about to make a boatload of money, and it won’t be the consumers. (National Review)

A federal agency may look to ban gas stoves over concern about the release of pollutants that can cause health and respiratory problems, according to a new report.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is set to open public comment on the dangers of gas stoves sometime this winter. The commission could set standards on emissions from the gas stoves, or even look to ban the manufacture or import of the appliances, commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. told Bloomberg News.

“This is a hidden hazard,” Trumka told the outlet.“Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

The claim here is that gas stoves “emit pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter.” Those alleged emissions are above levels deemed safe by the EPA and the WHO. But if this report sounds suspicious to you, you’re not alone. First of all, gas stoves have been around since the early 1800s and they have been ubiquitous in America for longer than anyone can remember. The EPA has been in business for more than 50 years. The WHO was set up in the 1940s.

Obviously, not everyone agrees with this proposal. It appears to be based on one study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The American Gas Association cited guidelines from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the EPA, neither of which find gas stoves to be a significant contributor to adverse air quality or to pose a health hazard. Read More > at Hot Air

Consumer Safety Commission Walks Back Gas-Stove Threat amid Backlash – U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Alexander D. Hoehn-Saric issued a statement Wednesday assuring the public that his agency has no intention of banning gas stoves after a commission official drew the ire of the cooking public by suggesting the appliances might be banned in the near future due to the alleged health threat they pose to Americans.

“Over the past several days, there has been a lot of attention paid to gas stove emissions and to the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” Hoehn-Saric wrote in an official statement released Wednesday. “To be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”

Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. had originally told Bloomberg News that fears over air quality caused by gas stoves was creating “a hidden hazard.”

“Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” Trumka Jr. insisted.

The comments came following Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and Representative Don Beyer (D., Va.) urging the federal agency to investigate the issue due to its allegedly disproportionate impact on black, Latino, and low-income households. Read More > at National Review

Cellphones, cameras, DNA: how police caught Idaho student killings suspect – A 28-year-old graduate student faces four counts of murder – but families of the victims await answers to the question of why

For a student of criminology, Bryan Kohberger appears to have been remarkably indifferent to modern methods of detective work.

The accused murderer of four friends at the University of Idaho, who were repeatedly stabbed in their beds with a large knife, was snared by procedures that are the nuts and bolts of police television dramas: cameras tracking his car, cellphone records placing him at the scene, and a search of DNA records collected by genealogy websites that threw up a match with Kohberger’s family.

Yet, according to court statements, despite years of studying police methods, the 28-year-old left a trail of evidence as he allegedly stalked and attacked his victims. He took some decisions, they allege, such as turning his cellphone off during the murders, that only heightened suspicion he was the killer. Police say that Kohberger even returned to the scene of the crime in the hours after the murders.

But even as the police claimed to have got their man, accusing Kohberger of four counts of first-degree murder, key questions remained unanswered. Was there a connection between the criminal justice student’s interest in serial killers and the murders? And why did a surviving housemate wait hours to call the police after apparently encountering the killer outside her room in the middle of the night? Read More > in The Guardian

Public Transit Goes Off the Rails With Fewer Riders, Dwindling Cash, Rising Crime – Several of the nation’s largest urban mass-transit systems are at a crossroads, with ridership still depressed three years into the pandemic and federal aid running out.

While offices have largely reopened and travel has resumed, many commuters are only coming in a few days a week. That shift has left subways, buses and commuter trains operating at well below capacity—particularly on Mondays and Fridays.

The ridership shortfall is forcing transit authorities to question their decades-old funding models for public buses, subways and trains, which are based on a combination of rider fares and public money. On average, fares provided about a third of the operating income for transit systems nationwide in 2019, according to the Federal Transit Administration.

In major cities such as New York and San Francisco, transit authorities have been leaning on emergency funding to plug budget holes and prop up operations. In all, Congress approved about $69 billion in three separate Covid-19 relief packages in 2020 and 2021.

But those funds are dwindling, leaving transit officials grappling with budget shortfalls and seeking new ways to fund existing service.

The ridership drop also has fueled an increase in transit crime, which in turn has pushed away more riders.

In San Francisco, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, recorded 3.7 million trips in November—a little more than one-third of the ridership before Covid.

In the U.S. overall, about 883,000 fewer people took public transit in the third quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2019, according to federal data gathered by the American Public Transportation Association.

The decline is particularly acute among so-called “choice riders”, people who have access to a vehicle but choose to take mass transit, Mr. Sriraj said. This group includes office workers who tend to favor commuter rail over public buses, he added. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Riddle solved: Why was Roman concrete so durable? – The ancient Romans were masters of engineering, constructing vast networks of roads, aqueducts, ports, and massive buildings, whose remains have survived for two millennia. Many of these structures were built with concrete: Rome’s famed Pantheon, which has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome and was dedicated in A.D. 128, is still intact, and some ancient Roman aqueducts still deliver water to Rome today. Meanwhile, many modern concrete structures have crumbled after a few decades.

Researchers have spent decades trying to figure out the secret of this ultradurable ancient construction material, particularly in structures that endured especially harsh conditions, such as docks, sewers, and seawalls, or those constructed in seismically active locations.

Now, a team of investigators from MIT, Harvard University, and laboratories in Italy and Switzerland, has made progress in this field, discovering ancient concrete-manufacturing strategies that incorporated several key self-healing functionalities. The findings are published today in the journal Science Advances, in a paper by MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering Admir Masic, former doctoral student Linda Seymour ’14, PhD ’21, and four others.

For many years, researchers have assumed that the key to the ancient concrete’s durability was based on one ingredient: pozzolanic material such as volcanic ash from the area of Pozzuoli, on the Bay of Naples. This specific kind of ash was even shipped all across the vast Roman empire to be used in construction, and was described as a key ingredient for concrete in accounts by architects and historians at the time.

Under closer examination, these ancient samples also contain small, distinctive, millimeter-scale bright white mineral features, which have been long recognized as a ubiquitous component of Roman concretes. These white chunks, often referred to as “lime clasts,” originate from lime, another key component of the ancient concrete mix. “Ever since I first began working with ancient Roman concrete, I’ve always been fascinated by these features,” says Masic. “These are not found in modern concrete formulations, so why are they present in these ancient materials?”

Previously disregarded as merely evidence of sloppy mixing practices, or poor-quality raw materials, the new study suggests that these tiny lime clasts gave the concrete a previously unrecognized self-healing capability. “The idea that the presence of these lime clasts was simply attributed to low quality control always bothered me,” says Masic. “If the Romans put so much effort into making an outstanding construction material, following all of the detailed recipes that had been optimized over the course of many centuries, why would they put so little effort into ensuring the production of a well-mixed final product? There has to be more to this story.” Read More > at MIT News

Macy’s quietly lays an egg — and more may be coming for retail – Macy’s (Mdumped some bad news.

So let’s break down this textbook news dump Macy’s pulled on a week ago Friday afternoon:

  • Net Sales: Expected to be at the low end to mid-point of guidance for $8.16 billion to $8.40 billion. Analysts were modeling for $8.31 billion in sales, according to Yahoo Finance data.
  • Adjusted EPS: Expected to be within the guidance range of $1.47 to $1.67. Yahoo Finance data shows analysts were banking on $1.60 a share.
  • Key management comment: “Based on current macro-economic indicators and our proprietary credit card data, we believe the consumer will continue to be pressured in 2023, particularly in the first half, and have planned inventory mix and depth of initial buys accordingly,” said Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette. “We take a balanced approach to merchandise receipts and remain committed to offering fashion and value across nameplates and channels, with the capacity to adjust in-season buys and chase into areas of strength.”

With this earnings pre-announcement, Macy’s essentially issued a profit warning for the first half of 2023 in addition to telegraphing a less-than-stellar holiday season.

While Macy’s inventory levels look to be in good shape despite the sales miss, look for the Street to slash their profit estimates for 2023 amid margin pressures and a more cautious consumer. The stock is likely dead money — with a downward bias — until we get evidence of a re-acceleration in consumer spending (for Macy’s and other retailers, hopefully this happens before the spring selling season).

Bad fourth quarters and outlooks are probably coming from the likes of Ralph Lauren (RL), V.F. Corp. (VFC), Under Armour (UAA), and other suppliers to department stores. lf Macy’s is planning first half orders cautiously, best believe rivals such as JC Penney (JCP), Kohl’s (KSS), and Dillard’s (DDS) are doing the same.

The negative comments on Target (TGT) last week from Wells Fargo make even more sense in the wake of this Macy’s warning. Target’s merchandise skews more discretionary than Walmart’s (WMT), putting its numbers at greater risk inside of a sluggish spending backdrop. Along those lines, I agree with the cautious pre-earnings analysis on toymakers Hasbro (HAS) and Mattel (MAT) — lots of excess toy inventory has been seen post peak holiday season. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance 

Did ‘every conspiracy theory’ about Twitter turn out to be… true?

FDA approves Alzheimer’s drug seen by experts as big advance, but no miracle – The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved an Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab, a monoclonal antibody therapy that in clinical trials modestly slowed cognitive decline in some people during early stages of the neurodegenerative disease.

“Alzheimer’s disease immeasurably incapacitates the lives of those who suffer from it and has devastating effects on their loved ones,” Dr. Billy Dunn, director of the Office of Neuroscience in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a news release.

Dunn added: “This treatment option is the latest therapy to target and affect the underlying disease process of Alzheimer’s, instead of only treating the symptoms of the disease.”

Despite the regulatory green light, in the form of the FDA’s conditional approval of Leqembi (lecanemab-irmb) within a six-month accelerated approval pathway that ended Friday, doctors say safety concerns will remain.

And physician-experts told UPI that it will represent a significant advance in Alzheimer’s treatment — but not a miracle.

Its manufacturer said the drug, to be sold under the brand name Leqembi, will be priced at the wholesale acquisition cost of $26,500 per year. Read More > at UPI

The happiest, least stressful, most meaningful jobs in America – Envy the lumberjacks, for they perform the happiest, most meaningful work on earth. Or at least they think they do. Farmers, too.

Agriculture, logging and forestry have the highest levels of self-reported happiness — and lowest levels of self-reported stress — of any major industry category, according to our analysis of thousands of time journals from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. (Additional reporting sharpened our focus on lumberjacks and foresters, but almost everyone who works on farms or in forests stands out.)

The time-use survey typically asks people to record what they were doing at any given time during the day. But in four recent surveys, between 2010 and 2021, they also asked a subset of those people how meaningful those activities were, or how happy, sad, stressed, pained and tired they felt on a six-point scale. As you might guess, activities like playing with your grandkids tend to be loaded with happiness and meaning, while waiting on hold or commuting produce little of either.

But the two aren’t always correlated. Heath-care and social workers rate themselves as doing the most meaningful work of anybody (apart from the laudable lumberjacks), but they rank lower on the happiness scale. They also rank high on stress.

The most stressful sectors are the industry including finance and insurance, followed by education and the broad grouping of professional and technical industries, a sector that includes the single most stressful occupation: lawyers. Together, they paint a simple picture: A white collar appears to comes with significantly more stress than a blue one.

While our friends the lumberjacks and farmers do the least-stressful work,their jobs are well-known to be particularly perilous, and they report the highest levels of pain on the job… Read More > in The Washington Post

Could solar power work in space? Test aims to find out – Among the many space-bound satellites aboard the SpaceX rocket launched earlier this week was a small prototype designed to harvest the power of the sun.

Scientists are hoping to show that space-based solar power is more than a futuristic concept, and potentially the next big thing in clean energy. 

Weighing in at just 110 pounds, the prototype satellite called the Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD) is part of a larger effort to test out space-based solar power called the Space Solar Power Project (SSPP). 

Solar panels are designed to take energy from our star and convert it into energy we can use here on Earth to power our lives. However, there are some limitations: weather and the fact that the sun doesn’t shine at night. As such, the power we receive from these devices is not consistent. 

But by moving solar power stations to space, we could produce electricity from solar power around the clock. That’s because the power would not be obscured by the day-night cycle or cloud cover, or affected by the changing seasons. 

The SSPP hopes its satellite will lead to the development of a constellation of modular spacecraft that collect sunlight, transform it into electricity, then wirelessly transmit that electricity over long distances wherever it is needed — including to places that currently have no access to reliable power. Read More > in The Hill

Monarch Butterfly Population Explodes in One California County – Not long ago, monarch butterflies were feared to be nearing extinction. But scientists have observed an incredible turnaround in the population this year, with California’s numbers increasing to their highest total since 2000.

According to the Xerces Society, there were more than 300,000 monarch butterflies counted in California during the annual Thanksgiving survey (Nov. 12 through Dec. 4), up from 2,000 in 2020. Of the 300,000, over 129,000 were found in a single county – San Luis Obispo.

“It’s really encouraging,” Jessica Griffiths of the Xerxes Society told the Sacramento Bee. “I’m personally so delighted by it.”

Experts encourage Californians, and particularly those in San Luis Obispo, to plant more milkweed in order to keep the population flourishing. Read More > at California County News

Toyota predicts most of its vehicles will still use gas in 2030 – Toyota on Wednesday predicted that most of its U.S. vehicles would still use gasoline in 2030, though the company signaled a commitment to developing hybrid and electric vehicles.

The automaker made the assessment due to its belief that electric vehicles will not have caught up in terms of cost and convenience by 2030, The Wall Street Journal reports. This announcement is a departure from what many of Toyota’s competitors — Honda, Volvo and General Motors — have recently said, setting goals for all-electric fleets within the next decade or so.

“If you take a snapshot of 2030, the price of battery EVs and the provision of infrastructure around the globe probably won’t have advanced all that much,” Toyota executive Jun Nagata said during a news conference. “Hybrids and plug-in hybrids will be easier for customers to buy.”

The Journal notes that Toyota leaders have argued their customers don’t necessarily want all-electric vehicles and that such cars are not inherently better for the environment, pointing to carbon emissions linked to electricity production and materials like cobalt and lithium used in the manufacturing of batteries. Read More > in The Hill

US Big Three Auto Companies Commit to Making Cars That People Don’t Want – The American auto companies, which are so often bailed out by U.S. taxpayers, have made a pronouncement that they intend, in the next few years, to stop making and assembling gas-engine cars. You know, the kind of cars that Henry Ford started rolling off the assembly line 100 years ago at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit.

Henceforth, virtually all American-made cars will be electric vehicles. Perhaps the corporate brass in Michigan’s auto executive offices thinks this makes them good global citizens. They are all in on the fight against global warming. They may be making a political bet that the federal government and more states are going to go the way of California and eventually mandate that every car produced must be battery-operated. But there is also a good deal of virtue-signaling going on here by the folks at Ford and General Motors.

It’s a free country, and if they want to start rolling millions of EVs off the assembly lines, so be it.

But it’s one thing to make cars that appeal to members of the Sierra Club and quite another to produce automobiles that the typical buyer wants. And guess what? So far, most people have turned a decisive thumbs-down on EVs. 

So far, only about 6% of new cars sold are electric vehicles. And polls show that only about half of Americans prefer an EV over a traditional car. Much larger majorities oppose the government telling us what kind of car we can buy.

Incidentally, the one state that far outpaces the rest of the country in EV sales (with about 1 in 5 new car sales being battery-operated) is California. Read More > at Creators

No pain, no gain? Science debunks yet another exercise myth – “Only about 20% of Americans get the very minimum levels of exercise that every health organization in the world thinks is the minimum for an adult, which is 150 minutes a week. So 80% of us really struggle and fail to get very basic amounts of exercise, but almost everyone says that they want to get enough exercise,” Daniel Lieberman, a professor of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, said in an interview.

Why is that? How come, time and again, we promise ourselves that we’ll stick to our exercise routines, yet soon after, we’re back to our old ways? The answer may have something to do with the fact that exercise, well, kind of sucks.

Modern cultures view exercise as an intense and rigorous health ritual. It isn’t supposed to be pleasurable so much as penitence. It’s the torturous price we pay for all that sinful snacking. We even invoke the Inquisition-style mantras of “feel the burn,” “no pain, no gain,” and “make your muscles cry” to lead us to beachwear salvation.

But that mindset is an exercise myth. If we consider why medical professionals prescribe exercise in the first place — so that you can be happy and healthy today while thriving well into old age — there’s no reason it shouldn’t be an enjoyable, fulfilling, and welcomed part of our day.

That’s exactly what the research is discovering: People who enjoy their exercise routines are more likely to stick with them and close the intention-behavior gap than those who don’t. And you don’t have to transform into a gym rat to manage that.

Read More > at Big Think

Early 2024 Senate, House Candidates, Endorsements Flood California 22 Months Ahead of 2024 Election – All this week, a frenzy over the 2024 Senate election in California has led to a spark of early announcements from candidates. On Tuesday, it was kicked off by Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) announcing her intention to run for the seat, currently held by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), entered the next day while Porter received her first major endorsement – one from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). And today, with Porter’s OC seat now seemingly open, former Congressman Harley Rouda threw his hat in the ring for that seat, along with Republican Scott Baugh, who had nearly defeated Porter for her seat last year.

Meanwhile, this process is nowhere near complete a whopping 22 months out from election day 2024. Congressmen Ro Khanna and Adam Schiff (D-CA) are expected to have announcements soon on if they are running for the Senate, while current Senator Feinstein has filed paperwork to run again in 2024 at the age of 91, with an announcement on whether or not she will run again for sure is expected to be coming soon. Outside of the Senate race, Congressional races are also getting early heat. Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), who had lost to Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) last year, has already put in paperwork to try again next year. In the 12th District, currently led by Congresswoman Lee, many candidates are said to be likely to announce a run as soon as Lee gives a formal announcement.

And on top of all of that is speculation, with everyone from Governor Gavin Newsom to former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccera being interested in a Senate run.

Congressional seats are also full of speculation too, such as Nancy Pelosi’s 11th district seat being supposedly eyed by people like San Francisco Mayor London Breed and state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). In the 47th District, which already has Baugh pitted against Rouda, state Senator David Min (D-Irvine) is yet another candidate who could enter that race, potentially splitting the Democrats in the primary. Read More > at California Globe

US cancer death rate falls 33% since 1991, partly due to advances in treatment, early detection and less smoking, report says – The rate of people dying from cancer in the United States has continuously declined over the past three decades, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.

The US cancer death rate has fallen 33% since 1991, which corresponds to an estimated 3.8 million deaths averted, according to the report, published Thursday in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The rate of lives lost to cancer continued to shrink in the most recent year for which data is available, between 2019 and 2020, by 1.5%.

The 33% decline in cancer mortality is “truly formidable,” said Karen Knudsen, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society.

The report attributes this steady progress to improvements in cancer treatment, drops in smoking and increases in early detection.

“New revelations for prevention, for early detection and for treatment have resulted in true, meaningful gains in many of the 200 diseases that we call cancer,” Knudsen said. Read More > at CNN Health

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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