Amtrak San Joaquins Service Alert

Attention Passengers: Due to an impending freight rail strike, Amtrak says it will be pre-emptively canceling trips to avoid possible passenger disruptions.

The deadline for negotiations with workers and unions is Friday at 12:01 in the morning.

SJJPA has continued to analyze the situation and produce a potential operating plan for Thursday, September 15, 2022, and Friday, September 16, 2022. If continued labor negotiations do not result in an agreement, Amtrak San Joaquins will be suspending 702, 703, 714, 717, 718, and 719 and associated Thruway Bus service on Thursday, September 15, 2022.

Beginning Friday, September 16, 2022, all San Joaquins train and bus service would be suspended until further notice. The Amtrak crews will stand ready to reintroduce service as quickly as possible.

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Oakley Artist Opportunities

The City of Oakley has two exciting opportunities for local artists at our upcoming events. We want you to showcase your artistic ability by decorating a pumpkin for our Oaktober Harvest Festival Contest or submitting an entry into our Veterans Day Student Art Showcase.

October 22nd: Oaktober Harvest Festival Pumpkin Decorating Contest

For more information or to submit your Pumpkin Decorating Contest Entry, here: 

https://forms.gle/g2kgaGexy1kVirZ66

November 11th: Veterans Day Student Art Showcase

Submit artwork, here: 

https://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/e0A1a1ja8FqNwa3

Please contact Alicia at oleary@ci.oakley.ca.us or call (925) 625-7044 if you have any questions.

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Saturday, September 17 is Coastal Cleanup Day

Saturday, September 17 is Coastal Cleanup Day. All over California, from the coast, to the rivers, to the Delta, Californians are invited to come out and make our world a more beautiful place to live in. The cleanup will be active from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Open the California Coastal Commission map to see all of the locations and for more information.

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50 years of service: A look back at BART’s electric opening day

Fifteen years of planning. Eight years of construction. More than $1 billion. On September 11, 1972, BART finally opened for service.

The day was electric. Estimates suggest that more than 15,000 people showed up to test out the new, plushy-cushioned seats on the state-of-the-art trains. The attendance figures may sound low; when BART opened, only 18 two- and three-car trains ran the first day along the first 28-mile section of track, from MacArthur Station to Fremont. More than half the stations would open in the coming weeks, months, and years. The Transbay Tube – one of the technological jewels of the project – opened two years later, in 1974.  

In his book, “BART: The Dramatic History of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System” (Heyday, 2016), former BART employee and historian Michael Healy describes the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Lake Merritt headquarters plaza: “The celebration was kicked off by a local high school band, and thousands of people gathered to hear speeches by numerous local dignitaries, including San Francisco mayor Joe Alioto and Oakland vice mayor Frank Ogawa, among others.”

At each station between Fremont and MacArthur stations, BART hosted a ribbon-cutting, with dignitaries from each city in attendance. Following each ceremony, the trains began moving northbound from Fremont and southbound from MacArthur amid shouts and cheers

Newspapers from the time reported packed, standing-room-only cars with upwards of 100 passengers. Within five days, more than 100,000 passengers ditched their cars and tried the trains.

“This is the end of the automobile for me,” Shirley Fisk is quoted as saying in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on opening day.

Read the full story on bart.gov

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Sunday Reading – 09/11/2022

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.

PG&E eyes higher monthly bills, rising revenue requirement: new filing – PG&E customers could soon see their monthly bills jump several dollars.

The company has floated a request for an additional revenue requirement in updated regulatory testimony, according to an official government filing. The PG&E proposal, if state regulators adopt the plan in its present form, would lead to an increase of $7.31 in the average monthly bill for the typical customer who receives combined electricity and gas services and whose bills aren’t subsidized.

Lower-income CARE customers whose bills are subsidized would see an average increase of $4.84 a month for combined electricity and gas services.

Non-subsidized customers now typically pay an average of $233.67 for combined electricity and gas services, according to PG&E spokesperson Lynsey Paulo. The proposed revenue change would bring the projected average monthly bill for combined services to a new total of $240.98.

At present, electricity services alone are running at an average of $167.23 per month, while gas services cost $66.44 a month, PG&E said.

Inflation has begun to jolt PG&E to a significant extent, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by PG&E Corp. and its principal operating unit, utility firm Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Inflation is also already hitting the pocketbooks and spending power of consumers nationwide and in the Bay Area.

The state Public Utilities Commission must make a final decision on the revenue request before any changes in PG&E bills would occur. Read More > in The Mercury News

A US Freight Rail Crisis Threatens More Supply Chain Chaos – …But rail service remained poor, not just at Union Pacific, and not just for chickens at Foster Farms. Since early this year, companies across numerous industries that ship goods via rail have issued increasingly stark warnings that the US freight system is in a state of crisis—complaining of weeks-long waits for trains, backed up facilities, clogged ports, and suspended business.

In April, the STB held hearings on the meltdown, where representatives from sectors including agriculture, energy, and chemicals joined trade unions to complain of poor service and working conditions. STB data says railroads cut their workforce by 45,000, or 29 percent, over the past six years, with pandemic furloughs pushing staffing levels past a tipping point. By late May, only 67 percent of trains arrived within 24 hours of their scheduled time, down from 85 percent pre-pandemic, according to data submitted to the STB by the four largest US freight railroads.

Worse, the US freight rail system is now poised on the brink of total paralysis because of a contract dispute between 115,000 rail workers and their employers. Negotiations have dragged on since the last contract expired in 2019, during which time rail workers have not had a raise. Under the Railway Labor Act, federal government mediators try to prevent railroad work stoppages, in this case to no avail. On August 16, a three-member presidential emergency board appointed by President Biden issued recommendations for the basis of a new contract. If the sides don’t reach agreement by September 15, rail workers can strike—a scenario that Rick Paterson, a rail analyst at the investment firm Loop Capital Markets who testified during the STB hearings, calls “economic WMD.”

The fallout of a prolonged strike would likely eclipse those from pandemic delays to ocean shipping because a foundational component of many supply chains would see its labor supply evaporate overnight, says Paterson. Ports would jam; trucking rates would soar; livestock would run out of feed. For that reason, Congress would likely intervene to delay or quickly end a strike, as it did during the last railroad strike in 1991. But lawmakers may not have much time: The deadline is just three days after the House of Representatives returns from recess. Read More > at Wired

Newsom signs major bills – Newsom over the long weekend signed some of the highest-profile bills sent to his desk by state lawmakers: On Labor Day, he gave his stamp of approval to a controversial, first-in-the-nation bill to create a state-run council to regulate wages and working conditions for the fast food industry, which employs more than half a million non-unionized workers across the Golden State. “California is committed to ensuring that the men and women who have helped build our world-class economy are able to share in the state’s prosperity,” Newsom said in a statement. This law “gives hardworking fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table to set fair wages and critical health and safety standards across the industry.”

  • Newsom’s signature marks a significant win for labor unions and a setback for business and restaurant groups, which had fiercely opposed the bill.
  • But the biggest test of Newsom’s labor bona fides could be yet to come: The governor has yet to determine the fate of a contentious bill to make it easier for farmworkers to vote in union elections and, though he’s hinted he doesn’t support it, pressure is mounting for him to sign it. President Joe Biden took the unusual step of urging Newsom to approve the bill, saying in a Saturday statement, “Farmworkers worked tirelessly and at great personal risk to keep food on America’s tables during the pandemic. In the state with the largest population of farmworkers, the least we owe them is an easier path to make a free and fair choice to organize a union.”

Newsom signed another pile of bills into law on Friday, including the centerpiece of his environmental agenda: taking a key step to extend the lifespan of Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear power plant, by as much as five years. “Climate change is causing unprecedented stress on California’s energy system and I appreciate the Legislature’s action to maintain energy reliability as the State accelerates the transition to clean energy,” Newsom said in a signing statement. Read More > at CalMatters

Poop and pee fueled the huge algae bloom in San Francisco Bay. Fixing the problem could cost $14 billion – After an unprecedented harmful algae bloom first turned San Francisco Bay a murky brown color and then littered its shores with dead fish, many people assumed it was yet another climate disaster to add to the list, along with extreme drought, wildfires and heat waves.

While scientists suspect climate change played a role in triggering the bloom, what fueled it is not a mystery. Algae blooms need food to grow, and this one had plenty: nutrients originating in wastewater that the region’s 37 sewage plants pump into the bay.

In other words — we wouldn’t have this problem without the poop and pee of the Bay Area’s 8 million residents.

“For those of you who aren’t aware, when you flush the toilet every day, you’re flushing nutrients down,” Eileen White, executive officer of San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, said at a news conference last week. The waste arrives at the sewage plant and is treated, she explained, but those nutrients — mostly nitrogen and phosphorous — remain in the water that is discharged into the bay.

There has been no evidence of a raw sewage leak; rather, it’s the regular amount of those nutrients that have long made the bay primed for a harmful algae bloom like this one, which started in late July in Alameda and has recently flared up as far as Sausalito, Vallejo and Fremont.

Nutrients “may not have triggered this specific event,” said David Senn, senior scientist at SF Bay Nutrient Management Strategy of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a group formed to study the issue 10 years ago. “But they contributed to its size, the amount of the organism and how long it lasted.” Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Fast food law could face referendum – On Tuesday, one day after Newsom signed into law a controversial bill to create a state-run council to regulate working conditions for the fast food industry while setting workers’ minimum wage as high as $22 per hour next year, opponents filed a proposed referendum to overturn the law with Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office. Behind the measure is a coalition called Protect Neighborhood Restaurants, co-chaired by the International Franchise Association and the National Restaurant Association. Business groups, the restaurant industry and franchisors fiercely opposed the bill, which barely squeaked out of the state Legislature amid trepidation from moderate Democrats. “It is only right for California’s voters to have a voice before harboring the burden of a bill that has widely been heralded as a massive step in the wrong direction,” Protect Neighborhood Restaurants said in a statement.

  • A spokesperson for Bonta’s office told my colleague Jeanne Kuang that it plans to issue a circulating title and summary for the proposed referendum by Sept. 16. Proponents have until Dec. 4 to submit more than 623,000 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2024 ballot. If they do, the law will be put on hold until voters have a chance to weigh in.

The Service Employees International Union, which sponsored the bill, slammed the proposed referendum in a Wednesday press conference: “McDonalds loves to sell their burgers and fries to Black and Latino communities … but when it comes to their Black and Latino workers the company won’t even sit at the same table as them,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU International. Read More > at CalMatters

Are Paper Bags Really Better for the Environment Than Plastic Bags? – In May, New Jersey became the first state to ban single-use bags made from plastic or paper in large grocery stores. The new ban lumps both types of totes together, but one is actually worse for the environment than the other. Which one? Paper bags.

Surprised? Let’s delve into the data underlying the case for plastic over paper.

A 2005 life-cycle analysis commissioned by the Scottish government found that manufacturing paper bags consumes 10 percent more energy than manufacturing conventional plastic bags, uses four times more water, emits more than three times the amount of greenhouse gases, generates 14 times more water pollution, and results in nearly three times more solid waste. A 2007 study commissioned by what is now the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, an industry group, found that, compared to making plastic bags, making paper bags takes 3.4 times as much energy, produces five times as much solid waste, emits twice as much greenhouse gases, and uses 17 times more water.

A 2011 study commissioned by the U.K.’s Environment Agency found that “the paper bag has to be used four or more times to reduce its global warming potential to below that of the conventional [plastic] bag.” The report noted that “it is unlikely the paper bag can be regularly reused the required number of times due to its low durability.” The report added that paper bags were “significantly worse” than plastic bags “for human toxicity and terrestrial ecotoxicity due to the effect of paper production.”

A 2020 United Nations Environment Programme report looked at several life-cycle analyses published since 2010. “Paper bags contribute less to the impacts of littering,” it concluded, “but in most cases have a larger impact on the climate, eutrophication and acidification.” Read More > at Reason

The Democrats’ green agenda is hurting Californians – The once-great state of California is now in a dire condition. With a heatwave now in full force, Governor Gavin Newsom is preparing to cut energy use, which may result in blackouts, brownouts and water rationing.

How did this happen? Ask any of the state’s legacy media, Democrats, and big green non-profits and the answer you’ll get is “climate despair”. But this does not tell us the whole story. Indeed, a key reason for California’s energy shortfall is the state’s harmful green policies; Jerry Brown’s plans to rebuild the state’s water capacity, for example, elicited a hostile green response from a state commission that refused to consider new dams or desalinisation, let alone spending money on already voter-approved new water storage projects. They are even pressuring Washington to demolish four dams in northern California for not being environmentally pure enough.

A similar dunderheadness extends to energy. For the last twenty years, the state has looked toward “green” energy — solar and wind — as the sole acceptable energy source. But despite billions spent, the state continues to struggle with the intermittent nature of solar and wind power. In order to prevent a total electricity shortfall, Governor Newsom — faced with a potentially devastating energy shortage this summer — was forced to reprieve the Diablo Canyon, the state’s last remaining nuclear plant. He has also allowed some gas plants to remain open.

Things could get worse as the state seeks to go all-electric in the next decade, with the elimination of gas powered cars by 2035. Yet there is little consideration into how California will be able to satisfy the rising demand for the electricity that EVs require. This, remember, in a state that already faces regular power shortages (California imports over 30% of its energy from other locations, and it is by far the nation’s largest net electrical-importing state).

By 2050, state consultants estimate that electrification mandates, including those for trucks, will cause total demand to skyrocket to about 500 million megawatt hours, with some estimates of demand rising 60 to 90%. This will impose high energy costs on ordinary Californians, while Wall Street and tech oligarchs profit from their “clean energy” investments. Incredibly, California is a state with enormous energy reserves, but it refuses to access them on environmental grounds. As a result, it is the largest US importer of energy and oil, much of it from Saudi Arabia and before that Russia. Read More > at UnHerd

What Makes ‘Morning Breath’ So Foul? – For people sleeping in close proximity to someone else, the first yawn in the morning can be chemical warfare.

Yes, morning breath can be quite foul. Decreased saliva levels during sleep prevent normal flushing of oral bacteria. As you lie immobilized at night, they can rapidly proliferate, emitting foul-smelling chemical compounds in the process.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki recently sought to characterize these gases in unprecedented detail. So they recruited fifteen men and fifteen women, all healthy and between the ages of 21 and 63, to hold their breath for five seconds then exhale into a 1.3-Liter sampling bag immediately after waking up. Subjects then brushed their teeth as they normally would and repeated the breath-collecting process. They returned their sampling bags to the laboratory the same day.

When the scientists analyzed the morning breath samples using mass spectrometry, they found sulfur compounds like methanethiol and dimethyl sulfide to be present in large amounts, and clearly contributing to the putrid smell. Chemist Derek Lowe previously described the odor of these sulfur compounds as “the smell of things that will kill us – rotten food, dangerous vapors, probably carnivore excretion/body odors as well”. Thankfully, noxious breath isn’t deadly. Another thing to be thankful for: the researchers found that methanethiol – likely the greatest contributor to morning breath – was reduced by an average of 62% after brushing. Other odor-contributing compounds were also diminished by brushing, but only by around 10% or so. Read More > at Real Clear Science

The IRS says it accidentally exposed confidential information involving 120,000 taxpayers – Around 120,000 taxpayers who filed a Form 990-T will be hearing from the IRS in the coming weeks, telling them that the agency inadvertently exposed their information on its website. Exempted organizations, including charities and religious groups, with unrelated business income are required to file Form 990-T. As The Wall Street Journalnotes, though, people with individual retirement accounts invested in assets that generate income, such as real estate, are also required to file the form. Filings by exempted organizations are supposed to be public, but those by private individuals aren’t.

The agency said the issue stemmed from a human cording error last year when Form 990-T became available for electronic filing. As you can guess, the error led to the bundling of non-public data with public data, which were all made available for download. It wasn’t until these past weeks that an employee discovered the issue and triggered an investigation that eventually led to the removal of the data that shouldn’t have been public in the first place.

In its letter, the IRS said the leaked data included individual names and business contact information. Affected taxpayers’ Social Security numbers, individual income details and other information that could impact their credit weren’t made public. The Journal, which was able to download some of the data before it was removed, said it included people’s income within their IRAs, as well. Read More > at Engadget

New Data Show COVID School Closures Contributed to Largest Learning Loss in Decades – Last week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released new data showing a dramatic decline in test scores among American 9-year-olds since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data indicate a devastating learning loss among American schoolchildren, marking the largest decline in reading scores since 1990, and the first ever recorded drop in mathematics scores.

These results come from a special administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress long-term trend (LTT) assessments, which measured reading and mathematics outcomes among 9-year-olds. Since its inception, the LTT has tracked a steady rise in educational performance among 9-year-olds. However, from 2020 to 2022, the LTT revealed a steep drop in 9-year-old students’ performance. Reading scores dropped by five points over the two-year period, while mathematics scores dropped by seven points. In all, the decline in test scores represents the reversal of around two decades of improvement in math and reading scores.

The decline was even more pronounced among already struggling students. For example, math scores declined by only three points among the 90th percentile of performers. Among the 10th percentile, the drop was four times higher, at 12 points. In total, the bottom quartile of test-takers saw their math scores drop by 11 points from 2020 to 2022. Among students eligible for the National School Lunch Program, reading scores declined at twice the rate of noneligible students. Read More > at Reason

San Francisco Braces for Epic Commercial Real Estate Crash – Imagine a slow-moving train coming towards you. The lights are shining, the horn is blaring, but it’s just far enough in the distance that the risk doesn’t seem real just yet. 

That’s a fitting-enough analogy for the state of San Francisco’s commercial real estate market, which is tilting towards a collapse in property values, leaving the city, its budget and its ability to provide services tied to the tracks. 

The root of this—of course—is the pandemic and the way that it has completely transformed work patterns in the city, hollowing out a downtown core that once accounted for most of San Francisco’s GDP, 70% of its sales tax revenue and 40% of the city’s jobs. And there’s an uneasy feeling among a coalition of business groups that city leaders are sleepwalking into an economic calamity with far-reaching consequences.

Signal lights of the city’s tenuous fiscal future are starting to flash. Major tech employers like Yelp and Airbnb have fled or gone fully remote, leading to mass office vacancies. A swath of commercial landlords are seeking massive reductions in their assessed property values—and associated tax bills. And a recent report from the Urban Displacement Project ranked the city’s downtown recovery as dead last among more than 60 cities across North America. 

It’s no secret that office vacancies are high in SF’s downtown. But even as the pandemic wanes, an already-troubling outlook for downtown could only get worse. 

That’s because a slew of office leases signed at the height of the city’s economic boom are poised to expire over the next few years, further inflating vacancies and diminishing what the office towers that draw the city’s skyline are worth. There’s currently more than 25 million square feet of commercial space available for lease or sublease in the city, the equivalent of about 35 Transamerica Pyramids sitting empty. Read More > in The San Francisco Standard\

Archaeologists unearth remains of 17th-century female “vampire” in Poland – Vampire folklore across cultures is filled with various tips on how to keep a recently deceased person from rising from the grave as an undead fiend who preys on the living. Now archaeologists have uncovered an unusual example of people using these tips in a 17th-century Polish cemetery near Bydgoszcz: a female skeleton buried with a sickle placed across her neck, as well as a padlock on the big toe of her left foot.

Tales of vampire-like creatures date back at least 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia. For instance, the Assyrians feared a demon goddess called Lamastu (literally, “she who erases”), who they said killed babies in their cribs or while still in the womb. Other ancient texts mention a similar creature, Lilith—who also appears in Hebrew texts and folklore—who steals away infants and unborn children. Neither of these could be considered “vampires” in the modern sense, but they are the precursors to the Greek legend of Lamia, an immortal monster who sucked the blood from young children.

Naturally, the fear evoked by the presumed existence of such creatures inspired many different approaches to ensuring that the dead stayed dead. In the early Middle Ages, Russian villagers would exhume suspect corpses and destroy the body by cremation, decapitation, or by driving a wooden stake through the heart. Stakes were often secured above corpses upon burial, so the creature would impale itself if it tried to escape.

In Germany and the western Slavic regions, suspected vampires were decapitated, and the head was buried between the feet or away from the body. Other strategies included burying corpses upside down, severing the tendons at the knees, or—in the case of Greek vrykolakas—placing crosses and inscribed pottery fragments on the chest of the deceased. In places where vampires were believed to suffer from arithmomania, poppy seeds or millet seeds would be scattered at the site of a suspected vampire. (The X-Files episode “Bad Blood” humorously used this bit of folklore with Mulder’s favorite snack, sunflower seeds.) Read More > at Ars Technica

The most-regretted (and lowest-paying) college majors – Nearly 2 in 5 American college graduates have major regrets.

That is, they regret their major.

The regretters include a healthy population of liberal arts majors, who may be responding to pervasive social cues. When he delivered his 2011 State of the Union address in the shadow of the Great Recession, former president Barack Obama plugged math and science education and called on Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” Since then, the number of new graduates in the arts and humanities has plunged.

Meanwhile, nearly half of humanities and arts majors have studier’s remorse as of 2021. Engineering majors have the fewest regrets: Just 24 percent wish they’d chosen something different, according to a Federal Reserve survey.

As a rule, those who studied STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — are much more likely to believe they made the right choice, while those in social sciences or vocational courses second-guess themselves.

There doesn’t seem to be much relationship between loans, gender, race or school selectivity and your regrets. Though, as you may have guessed, our analysis of Fed data shows that the higher your income is today, the less you regret the major you chose back in college. Read More > in The Washington Post

California’s Battery Problems Heighten Threat of Power Outages – The batteries that help fortify California’s electric grid are kicking in at times when they’re not really needed, draining the power source before more critical junctures and heightening the chances of blackouts as a blistering heat wave punishes the state. 

Batteries help to store extra electricity, generated by solar or hydropower. That surplus is supposed to act as a cushion for times when those intermittent renewable sources are running low. But the grid uses a pricing mechanism to trigger the batteries, rather than basing it on pure demand levels. That can lead to mismatches.

That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday, when the state declared a grid emergency and only narrowly avoided major power outages.

Batteries began discharging in the middle of the afternoon, when there was still plenty of solar power and other supplies available to meet electricity demand. That depleted the cushion before it was more critically needed in the early evening, when the state was on the brink of rotating blackouts as demand hit an all-time record and solar supplies started dropping as the sun set. If it weren’t for a timely emergency mobile-phone alert calling on Californians to conserve power immediately, swaths of the state could have been plunged into darkness. Read More > at Bloomberg

Researchers identify multiple causal genes that drive type 2 diabetes risk – Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have used advanced three-dimensional mapping techniques at a microscopic level to identify a multitude of genetic variants and corresponding target gene pairings in the pancreas that are implicated in type 2 diabetes. In addition to these discoveries, the resulting datasets will serve as a key resource for researchers all over the world to delve deeper into the genetic origins of type 2 diabetes and further explore the roles of different types of cells in the development of the disease.

The findings were published today in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Type 2 diabetes cases are on the rise and being diagnosed in patients earlier in life than what has been historically observed. However, while many cases can be attributed to a rise in obesity and sedentary lifestyle, increasing evidence suggests a strong role that genetic risk factors play in this relatively common disease. Prior genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified hundreds of genetic variants associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Read More > at Medical Xpress

Twitter’s Child Smut Ruined Its Porn Profit Plan – In the spring of 2022, Twitter considered making a radical change to the platform. After years of quietly allowing adult content on the service, the company would monetize it. The proposal: give adult content creators the ability to begin selling OnlyFans-style paid subscriptions, with Twitter keeping a share of the revenue.

Had the project been approved, Twitter would have risked a massive backlash from advertisers, who generate the vast majority of the company’s revenues. But the service could have generated more than enough to compensate for losses. OnlyFans, the most popular by far of the adult creator sites, is projecting $2.5 billion in revenue this year — about half of Twitter’s 2021 revenue — and is already a profitable company.

Some executives thought Twitter could easily begin capturing a share of that money since the service is already the primary marketing channel for most OnlyFans creators. And so resources were pushed to a new project called ACM: Adult Content Monetization.

Before the final go-ahead to launch, though, Twitter convened 84 employees to form what it called a “Red Team.” The goal was “to pressure-test the decision to allow adult creators to monetize on the platform, by specifically focusing on what it would look like for Twitter to do this safely and responsibly,” according to documents obtained by The Verge and interviews with current and former Twitter employees.

What the Red Team discovered derailed the project: Twitter could not safely allow adult creators to sell subscriptions because the company was not — and still is not — effectively policing harmful sexual content on the platform.

“Twitter cannot accurately detect child sexual exploitation and non-consensual nudity at scale,” the Red Team concluded in April 2022. The company also lacked tools to verify that creators and consumers of adult content were of legal age, the team found. As a result, in May — weeks after Elon Musk agreed to purchase the company for $44 billion — the company delayed the project indefinitely. If Twitter couldn’t consistently remove child sexual exploitative content on the platform today, how would it even begin to monetize porn? Read More > in The Verge

Bring More Reality and Less Rhetoric to Biden’s Domestic Clean-Energy Mandate – The United States is in a mineral supply chain crisis. We need taconite, copper, nickel, cobalt, platinum-group elements, and many more for our national security, modern energy technology, and virtually every part of our modern world. While we have vast mineral wealth throughout our great country, we still are dangerously import-reliant, according to the Administration’s own U.S. Geological Survey, putting our economy, our national security, and our citizens at risk.

President Biden recently signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which among several other provisions, increases domestic sourcing requirements for energy mandates, particularly for electric vehicle manufacturers. He also invoked the Defense Production Act for the same purpose, but with little clarity on how it benefits American mining, while holding a webinar that outlines spending American taxpayer dollars to develop mines in Canada. However, we know the only path forward to achieving the President’s goals is to lead the way in fostering responsible, sustainable domestic mining to acquire the critical minerals needed for modern energy technology. The greatest hurdle for the President in carrying out his climate agenda, ironically, is his own opposition to domestic extraction.   

We consistently hear about the need for domestic mineral production, but at every turn we see regulatory roadblocks that at best slow, or at worst halt entirely, the rigorous process established in law for mining projects. These actions ignore the reality that all modern energy technologies are mining intensive.

A single wind turbine can contain 4.7 tons of copper. Nickel is fundamental in the production of batteries for EVs. Cobalt is used for rechargeable batteries. And platinum is required for catalytic converters, which decrease emissions from automobiles. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2040, demand for these energy-related minerals could grow up to 40 times. In fact, cobalt and nickel are both on the U.S. Geological Survey’s 2022 Critical Minerals list. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

Why Pain Feels Worse at Night – It’s long been a mystery why one of the most basic human experiences—feeling physical pain—fluctuates in intensity throughout the day. Since the early days of medicine, doctors and patients have noticed that many types of pain tend to get worse at night. Most research so far has tried to link mounting nighttime pain to sleep deprivation or disrupted sleep, but with limited success.

In a recently published study, scientists led by Claude Gronfier at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Centre in France have finally shed light on changing pain sensitivity, suggesting that our circadian clock strongly shapes these shifts, with a characteristic peak and trough of intensity at different times of day.

Even people who can’t dance have internal rhythms thrumming through every system in their body. Known as circadian rhythms, these biological processes tune their activity to rise and fall at precise times across the day, driven by the body’s internal clock. They influence pretty much every bodily system, exerting control over “almost all aspects of our physiology and behavior,” says Lance Kriegsfeld, a circadian biologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

The work by Gronfier and his team revealed the influence of these rhythms on pain by showing that a short, painful heat stimulus was perceived to be most painful around 3 am and least painful at approximately 3 pm. “It’s very exciting,” says Nader Ghasemlou, a pain scientist at Queens University in Kingston, Canada, who wasn’t involved in the research. “It is one of these studies that is answering questions that we’ve had for a long time.” Read More > at Wired

Fracking ban in England lifted in bid to boost UK gas supply – The government has lifted the ban on fracking for shale gas in England, alongside unveiling its plans to limit rising energy costs.

The controversial practice was halted in 2019, amid opposition from environmentalists and local concerns over earth tremors.

But new Prime Minister Liz Truss has backed fracking as a way to help boost the UK’s domestic gas supplies.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Ms Truss said tapping into the “huge reserves” of shale gas would help the UK meet a new target of being a net energy exporter by 2040.

She has also announced a new licensing round for oil and gas projects in the North Sea, expected next week, which is expected to lead to 100 new licences.

She has previously argued the UK is too dependent on international energy prices, which have rocketed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. Read More > at BBC News

Tax code audit is long overdue – President Biden committed $80 billion over the next decade to support the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and provide help for IRS agents to get their job done. Republicans are crying foul, suggesting that every American will be targeted for unnecessary and unwelcomed harassment, especially small business owners. Like any partisan response, the truth typically falls somewhere in the middle. 

Perhaps instead of throwing money at a tax code and taxation system that is designed, as some argue, to leave “billions on the table,” the time is ripe to revamp the tax code, which has almost 10,000 sections and has been amended over 4,000 times just over the past decade.

The goal should be to create a simplified taxation system so that everyone can better understand how much taxes they are paying, with the IRS bureaucracy minimized, and taxes collected with greater ease for all. 

So, what are some options that are used in other countries? 

flat tax imposes a single tax rate for all taxpayers. A value added tax, or VAT, taxes consumption rather than income.

The argument against both these taxation systems is that they are not sufficiently progressive to tax high-income earners enough, and they overly burden low-income earners. Yet, this is exactly the effect of the current tax code.

The people who benefit the most from a complex tax code are high-income earners. They are the people who exploit tax laws and rules that enable them to pay less taxes. Many such efforts are legal and well within the tax code, either explicitly or by interpretation.

Tax reform is often portrayed as needing to collect more taxes from the wealthiest earners. The data shows that high-income earners already pay a large proportion of federal taxes. For example, in 2019, the top half of all taxpayers paid 97 percent of all individual income taxes. Moreover, the top 1 percent of all taxpayers paid over 38 percent of all individual income taxes collected. Read More > at The Hill

America’s Bad Bet on Sports Gambling – For years now, anyone who watches sports on TV or the internet has been bombarded with advertisements that insist you aren’t really enjoying the game unless you are betting money on it. FanDuel, an online sports betting firm, promises that you can “make every moment of the game mean more” by laying a so-called prop bet on whether Tony Gonsolin’s next pitch will be a strike, or Jordan Spieth will birdie the 11th, or Rhamondre Stevenson will gain 30 yards or more in the second quarter. DraftKings, a decade-old sports-betting concern now moving into casino gambling, also has a bunch of products that will help you, in its odd phrase, “celebrate all the moments out there.” Back in the 2016 football season, many “moments” beside that Central Michigan game were ruined for lack of a multinational corporation to place bets with. How could any fan possibly have enjoyed the Patriots’ 25-point fourth-quarter comeback against the Falcons if he didn’t have “skin in the game”?

The floodgates have opened since then. In 2018, the Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA overturned a law limiting sports betting to four states that had had it before. Now other states have rushed to legalize it, three dozen as of this summer. The NFL and Major League Baseball used to raise moral concerns about the influence of gambling on their sports. They used to suspend players for being on the premises of an establishment that offered gambling. But now they have entered into partnerships with bookmakers. The New Orleans Superdome has been renamed Caesars Superdome, after the Las Vegas casino brand. The logo of the gambling corporation MGM is painted across the middle of Fenway Park’s storied left-field wall. Athletes with a particular reputation for continence and probity—Drew Brees, Peyton and Eli Manning, Wayne Gretzky—now anchor TV ads for sports-gambling products. College sports weren’t left behind….

There is enormous potential for profit where on-field heroics, verifiable statistics, and gambling addiction meet sophisticated computer algorithms. The American Gaming Association says $58 billion was wagered on sports last year. Such sums are putting massive pressure on sports, politics, and even journalism.

Before sports betting took off, the sociologist Natasha Dow Schüll, in her groundbreaking 2012 book, Addiction by Design, described the way big casinos engineer their games to make them inconvenient to exit. Internet-age slot machines “smooth” the experience; there is less inserting of money and pulling of levers. On an old one-armed bandit you could play 300 hands an hour. Now you can play 1,200.

Gambling companies are following a Costco model of profiting from volume instead of price, Schüll believes. But they are doing something else, too. They are eliminating the pauses in which a self-reflective person might ask: “Why the hell am I doing this?

For the past half-century there has been a belief—unique in American history—that gambling is a good way for the state to raise revenue and create jobs. Clinton-era New Democrat governors like Zell Miller of Georgia and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania discovered that if you earmarked for “education” the tax receipts from a new money-generating scheme, voters would be almost indifferent to what the scheme was. That is how most of the country’s slot resorts and riverboat gambling parlors got built.

But the revenue always fell a bit short of what was promised, and the early reports about sports betting show the states’ take to be quite lame. The Arizona Mirror reported in May that, over the preceding six months, $2.8 billion in bets had been made in the state, bringing $225 million in earnings to sports teams and gambling dens, and $8.5 million into the state’s coffers. And in this age of stratification, $8 million dollars is pretty much nothing. In 2019 there were 1,456,336 households in the United States with more than $10 million in net worth, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Read More > at Compact Magazine

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2022’s Best & Worst Places to Retire – WalletHub Study

With fewer than 3 in 10 workers reporting that they are “very confident” they will have enough money for retirement, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst Places to Retire, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To help Americans plan for a comfortable retirement without breaking the bank, WalletHub compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 46 key measures of affordability, quality of life, health care and availability of recreational activities. The data set ranges from the cost of living to retired taxpayer-friendliness to the state’s health infrastructure.

Best Cities to RetireWorst Cities to Retire
1. Charleston, SC173. Lubbock, TX
2. Orlando, FL174. Wichita, KS
3. Cincinnati, OH175. Baltimore, MD
4. Miami, FL176. Vancouver, WA
5. Fort Lauderdale, FL177. Detroit, MI
6. San Francisco, CA178. Stockton, CA
7. Scottsdale, AZ179. Rancho Cucamonga, CA
8. Wilmington, DE180. San Bernardino, CA
9. Tampa, FL181. Newark, NJ
10. Salt Lake City, UT182. Bridgeport, CT

Best vs. Worst

  • Pearl City, Hawaii, has the highest share of the population aged 65 and older, 25.30 percent, which is 3.2 times higher than in Irving, Texas, the city with the lowest at 8.00 percent.
     
  • Brownsville, Texas, has the lowest adjusted cost-of-living index for retirees, 74.81, which is 2.6 times lower than in San Francisco, California, the city with the highest at 194.51.
     
  • Plano, Texas, has the highest share of workers aged 65 and older, 26.94 percent, which is 2.3 times higher than in Gulfport, Mississippi, the city with the lowest at 11.67 percent.
     
  • St. Louis has the most home health care facilities (per 100,000 residents), 77.78, which is 41.4 times more than in Fontana, California, the city with the fewest at 1.88.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit: 
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-places-to-retire/6165

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How to set up an iPhone for your kids

from Malwarebytes

After much hemming and hawing, you’ve finally given in and bought your child their first smartphone, which you plan to give to them before the school year starts.

But before you give it to them, it’s worth sitting them down to talk to them about things like what apps and sites they shouldn’t use or visit, what online behaviors to avoid engaging in, and what scams they need to look out for. There are also a few easy things you can do to the iPhone itself to make things a bit safer. Here are our suggestions:

Secure the iPhone

Often, when we think of protecting and securing, we also think of the worse possible scenarios. When it comes to smartphones, it’s losing them or having them stolen. Make sure you have the phone locked down every time it’s unattended or not used.

Help your child to choose a passcode for their iPhone, ensuring they can remember it to unlock the device. Set up an alternative way to unlock the phone, but use your biometrics. This is great to have for emergencies.

While we’re on the subject of losing phones, also make sure you—

Enable the Find My feature

That’ll make finding missing phones simpler and easier. You can find the step-by-step process here on Apple’s official site.

If you want to keep track of your child at necessary times, you can also use the Find My Friends feature. Just make sure that you talk to your child about using this first. If you have young adults, use the feature with their permission.

Set up your child’s own Apple ID

If a child is going to have their own iPhone, they should have and use their own Apple ID, too.

After creating your child’s Apple ID, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for that added layer of security, ensuring that your child’s account won’t get popped easily even if someone got hold of their password.

Note that your child’s iCloud account is automatically created along with their Apple ID. Depending on how heavily they use this feature, you might want to consider purchasing a subscription that grants them some extra online storage. Maybe not now, but in the future.

Having an iCloud account benefits your child more than not having one. When they get older, they may also want to use their account on an iPad or want a newer phone model. An iCloud account makes this easier, but remember that having data in the cloud also has security and privacy risks attached to it.

Once your child has an Apple ID, you can set up Family Sharing on their device. By using this feature, you can not only hand pick what content to share with members of the family but also control the buying and downloading of games, ebooks, and apps on their device wherever you are.

Disable or hide features you deem off-limits or unnecessary

iPhones have features that young kids can use, and there are some that they just shouldn’t touch at all until they’re old enough or you explicitly give them permission to use.

Ideally, we don’t want our kids fiddling with Screen Time as there are lots of settings in there that they will just gladly change based on their preference. These settings include (among others):

  • Content restrictions on Safari
  • iTunes and App Store purchases
  • Siri and Dictation
  • Privacy settings (includes location services)

You can secure Screen Time by creating a passcode for it. Make sure you use a passcode that’s different from other passcodes you help set up with your child.

Depending on your child’s age, mental and emotional maturity, and how you want them to use their device, feel free to add more or remove some from the list above. For example, if your child is 10 or 11, you might want to hide the email feature for now until they’re a bit older. Remember, what you disable or hide should be non negotiable… at least until a later date, when you can review, assess, and adjust the above accordingly.

Limit or restrict features they can use

This is probably the hard part since your child is likely to have different views from you on what they should be allowed to do on their phone. When it comes to having social networking accounts, for instance, you may want to delay this for a few more years, even if the platform allows 13-year-old kids to use it.

Being in social networks at a young age is risky for children. Child predators camp on there, and not every piece of content shared within these environments is child-friendly. One study even showed that, apart from giving kids a different or unhealthy view of the real world, young children who are on TikTok began developing tics and having tic-like attacks brought about by anxiety and stress. They may also begin showing signs of mental health issues. 

As a parent and guardian, you can also limit screen time, which is easy to do using the iPhone’s Family Share feature. Apple has a guide on how to set this up as well.

If your child is into playing games on their iPhone, you might want to tweak Game Center settings, so they’re not exposed to potential risks needlessly. iOS can restrict adding friends, playing multiplayer games, and the sending of private messages (among others) on the Game Center.

The iPhone also has Guided Access that you can customize to put more limitations, such as limiting how long your child uses an app.

Do you have an old iPhone you want to hand down to your child instead of buying a new one? Make sure your files are properly backed up in iCloud, then you can wipe your data from the phone by performing a factory reset.

Final thoughts

Giving your kids a new smartphone doesn’t mean that you’re giving them free rein to do what they want to do with it. Walking them through the setup process and talking with them about what’s acceptable and not while also giving them an opportunity to speak up is a good way of showing—and reminding—your kids that, at the end of the day, you, the Parent or Guardian, is the boss.

You don’t even have to tell them that.

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BART schedule changes coming 9/12/22 with several improvements

On September 12, 2022, BART’s schedule is changing to provide better spaced apart trains, add earlier train options, end scheduled single tracking in San Francisco, and improve transfers between BART and partner transit agencies. The new schedule also provides a new level of consistency seven days a week than we’ve ever had before.

Improvements at a glance:

  • Improved spacing between trains on nights and weekends through San Francisco
  • The end of Sunday single tracking and reduced service in San Francisco from cable replacement; all Sundays will have 5-line service scheduled
  • The end of scheduled nightly Transbay Tube single tracking is near (by November) 
  • 30-minute common headways seven days per week offer predictability and less planning
  • We are offering even earlier trains for early morning riders
  • Improved connections with regional transit partners, with significant improvements with Caltrain, especially on weekends
  • Improved transfers at Bay Fair
  • Less wait time travelling through Millbrae to and from SFO

Consistent Spacing Between Train Arrivals with Even Headways

BART riders will soon benefit from trains better spaced apart on nights and on Sundays to better serve late-night workers and those who are taking BART to and from events, restaurants, and other fun activities.

Single tracking through San Francisco from cable replacement work will be completed by September 12, and Transbay Tube single tracking from earthquake retrofit work will be completed by November.

With the completion of these projects, instead of running the Yellow (Antioch – SFO+Millbrae) and Blue (Dublin/Pleasanton – Daly City) line trains very close together through San Francisco with a long gap, the Yellow and Blue line trains will be evenly spaced apart, reducing wait times for many riders.

Red and Orange line trains from Richmond and Green and Orange line trains from Berryessa are spaced much more evenly every day, all day.

Matching Train Times Seven Days a Week

Currently BART has different schedules for weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Train arrival times don’t match up each day of the week and consistency is only provided on weekdays. Weekend BART riders will now benefit from a standard weekend schedule. Train schedules will be exactly the same on Saturday and Sunday, except at opening (since we open at different times) and the extra 15-minute service on the Yellow line on Saturdays.

With some exceptions, if you have a train at noon on a Saturday, it will be there at noon on Sunday and on weekdays. This offers predictability to riders no matter what day of the week it is. Specifically, trains will now run at the same times all 7 days of the week on the Orange (Richmond – Berryessa), Yellow (Antioch – SFO), and Blue (Dublin – Daly City) lines with the same frequency currently offered. However, the Red (Richmond – Millbrae + SFO) and Green (Berryessa – Daly City) Lines will run with schedules adjusted by just a couple minutes between Weekdays and Weekends, with the same frequency currently offered.

Earlier Trips Added

We’ve adjusted the first train of the morning on many of our lines to give riders an earlier option. We recommend early morning riders check our new schedule.Some noteworthy changes:

  • 17 trains that are the first trains to be dispatched on a line now have earlier departure times, some as much as 34 minutes earlier.
  • People flying into SFO in the morning will find earlier trains each day of the week.
  • We added some new early morning trips to increase options. For example, seven days per week there are three new Green Line trains departing Daly City adding more morning service into downtown San Francisco and the East Bay starting at 4:45am on weekdays, 6:02am on Saturdays, and 8:02am on Sundays.
  • We added a 4:51am Blue line train departing Dublin in response to many riders asking for an earlier option on this line.
  • Starting in November, there will be a new Yellow line train at 4:40am departing from Daly City to Antioch.

Improved Transfers at Bay Fair

We flipped the Blue and Orange line arrival times at Bay Fair to improve the transfer.  When you transfer from the Blue Line at Bay Fair, the next Orange Line train will arrive in just a few minutes, even on weekends. Weekdays, trips from Dublin to Berryessa will have a timed transfer at Bay Fair.

Less Wait Time at Millbrae for SFO Trips

Currently Red line (Richmond – Millbrae + SFO) trips take six minutes longer than Yellow line trips to and from SFO. This is because of the time it takes to pass through Millbrae and to change direction.  We’ve shaved off one minute from this extra time.

Improved Connections with Regional Partners

Having a standard matching schedule each day of the week, means our partner transit agencies can more easily line their schedules up with ours resulting in improved connections, especially on weekends. Our new schedule was provided to partner agencies several months in advance so they can align their times to better match up with our trains. This is part of the work our agencies are doing to make riding transit throughout the Bay Area easier.

Union City for example begins its schedule change effective September 10 and will pulse its bus with BART’s new schedule.

Platform Details Added to Trip Planner and Data Feeds

In the coming weeks, BART will begin showing platform specific details on our Trip Planner and our data feed that powers third party apps. This will help guide riders, especially new riders and tourists, where they need to go when they arrive at a station. Also, the way trains will be labeled in trip plan results will match what the platform digital signs display to make taking BART easier.

Podcast: An inside look at BART’s complex scheduling dance

The latest edition of BART’s podcast series “Hidden Tracks: Stories from BART” explores what the schedule change means for you and takes an inside look at everything you’ve ever wanted to know about how the schedule is made.  BART’s Manager of Scheduling and Planning John FitzGibbon explains how new software has transformed what used to be the transit equivalent of sausage making into a coordinated symphony that has the prospect to save valuable time for thousands of riders.

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Marsh Creek Watershed Cleanup

Click to access the Eventbrite page to sign up for these events! Please note, in order to participate in these events you will need to sign waivers and each minor will need waivers signed by a legal guardian. The waivers will be sent out to those who register on the Eventbrite page. Furthermore, in reference to the event on September 17th, each volunteer group must have an adult leader to drive to parks and various locations along the roadways. When attending these events, please wear/bring the following items:Closed-toed shoes that can get wet and/or dirtyAppropriate clothing to wear in the outdoors and pick up trashGloves, if you have themTrash pickup bucket and/or trash grabbers if you have themEnough water for the entire eventSunscreen and a hat are recommended
If you would like to download the above poster, please click on the associated button below. Click on the additional buttons for more Coastal Cleanup Day information. 
Marsh Creek Watershed Coastal Cleanup Day Events
Upper Marsh Creek Watershed Cleanup Info – September 17 Poster
California Coastal Commission – Coastal Cleanup Day 2022
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511: Simple Alerts for Transportation Emergencies

Credit
 Karl Nielsen

As the Bay Area gets ready for wildfire season, MTC is already prepared.

511 is your go-to source for transportation emergency alerts and information about traffic, transit and other critical emergencies, including road closures due to wildfires.

The 511 team gathers time-sensitive transportation information from cities, counties, transit agencies and other trusted government sources. You can access transportation information by calling 5-1-1 from any phone, or by visiting 511.org(link is external) or twitter.com/511SFBay(link is external).

511 provides alerts about transportation emergencies by text message (SMS) to registered mobile devices, powered by Nixle. Register and find more information at the 511ALERT web page(link is external). In the event of an emergency such as a wildfire, earthquake, tsunami or other catastrophe, registered users will receive a text-based alert. A smart phone is not required.

511 is a program of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, in partnership with the California Department of Transportation, California Highway Patrol and other transportation agencies.

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect, Wednesday, September 7

Spare the Air Alert is in effect, Wednesday, September 7, for the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy.?High levels of ozone pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions.  

Exhaust from vehicles on Bay Area roads accounts for more than half of the air pollution in the region. Bay Area residents are asked to drive less to reduce smog and improve air quality in the region. Residents are also encouraged to consider an all-electric vehicle as their next vehicle purchase to help reduce the amount of gas powered vehicles that contribute to unhealthy smog.   

Change your daily commute by carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, biking or walking instead of driving alone. Doing this will help reduce pollution levels and health concerns when temperatures are high. To learn how to change your commute online, visit 511.org

To find out how your company could help you save money on your commute by offering commuter benefits, visit commuterbenefits.511.org.

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Annual Community BBQ for the East Contra Costa Historical Society – September 11

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect through Tue. Sept. 6, for the San Francisco Bay Area.

A Spare the Air Alert is in effect, Tuesday, September 6.

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy.?High levels of ozone pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions.  

Exhaust from vehicles on Bay Area roads accounts for more than half of the air pollution in the region. Bay Area residents are asked to drive less to reduce smog and improve air quality in the region. Residents are also encouraged to consider an all-electric vehicle as their next vehicle purchase to help reduce the amount of gas powered vehicles that contribute to unhealthy smog.   

Change your daily commute by carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, biking or walking instead of driving alone. Doing this will help reduce pollution levels and health concerns when temperatures are high. To learn how to change your commute online, visit 511.org

To find out how your company could help you save money on your commute by offering commuter benefits, visit commuterbenefits.511.org.

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Monday, September 19 – Enjoy A Great Meal and Support MOW Diablo Region

Gianni’s Italian Bistro in San Ramon has a deep commitment to supporting nonprofits through its Tips for Change program. On September 19th, you can support Meals on Wheels Diablo Region while enjoying a fabulous Italian meal.

Here’s how it works: When you dine at Gianni’s on Monday, September 19th your waitstaff will be MOW Diablo Region employees working to earn your tips. Additionally, the organization will receive 10% of sales on orders, and an anonymous donor will match whatever we raise up to $3,000! The impact of your participation will be doubled!

The funds raised from Tips for Change will help MOW Diablo Region continue to deliver meals and supportive services to vulnerable seniors, who are often the hidden hungry because they live alone, have a fragile support system, and are unable to get to the supermarket or prepare a meal. Last year, the organization delivered over 500,000 meals ensuring that our elderly neighbors did not go hungry.

Please support Meals on Wheels Diablo Region, meet our staff, and enjoy a wonderful dining experience at Gianni’s Italian Bistro, a local restaurant dedicated to helping the community. Reservations are required. Reserve a table for Tips for Change on Monday, September 19th online at giannissanramon.com or call 925.820.6969. Indoor and outdoor dining is available and take-out orders also apply to the fundraiser. Gianni’s Italian Bistro is located at 2065 San Ramon Valley Blvd., San Ramon.

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Sunday Reading – 09/04/2022

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.

Some California power plants have already failed due to extreme heat. So how will the grid hold up this weekend? – Will there be rolling blackouts in California this weekend? It depends on how hot it will get as well as how much Californians voluntarily cut back their power usage.

The blackouts, also known as rotating outages, “are a possibility but not an inevitability,” grid operator President and CEO Elliot Mainzer said at a Wednesday news briefing.

State officials have urged Californians to scale back electricity usage between the peak hours of 4 and 9 p.m. to ease the strain on the grid amid heavy air conditioning use prompted by the heat.

On Thursday, a particular energy crunch was expected between 6 and 7 p.m. The grid operator put out an Energy Emergency Alert Watch notice for that time period and said it was “prepared to declare further emergency actions if needed.”

The grid has already experienced some unexpected problems, with the worst heat yet to come. On Wednesday, some power plants “unexpectedly failed due to extreme weather,” according to grid officials. The Route Fire north of Los Angeles also shut down some transmission lines, the governor’s office said.

Some of those facilities have returned to service, and the state is taking other measures such as minimizing pumping from the State Water Project — California’s largest energy user — during the late afternoons and early evenings. But as temperatures soar over the long weekend and into Tuesday, the margin for error diminishes. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Extreme heat wave pushing California power grid to limit, with rolling blackouts possible – Extreme heat is expected to grip the vast majority of California for at least six days, perhaps even longer.

Authorities are worried about power capacity in part because high temperatures are forecast not just across inland regions that typically broil this time of year, but also along many parts of the coast. That could mean many more people reaching for the air conditioning during peak hours.

Temperatures could hit all-time and monthly record highs, and are expected to be 10 to 20 degrees above average during the day with little relief expected come evening. High temperatures could hit 124 degrees in Death Valley.

“We’re not super confident on when it’s going to end,” Bill Rasch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said of the heat wave.

Officials are asking Californians to limit electricity use when possible to minimize strain on the state’s energy providers, otherwise risking those rolling blackouts. Losing power during such extreme heat can be highly dangerous, if not deadly, especially for the most vulnerable.

Despite government projects and efforts to bring more capacity online, the power system remains especially vulnerable because neighboring areas from where California imports energy are also experiencing the crushing conditions. The ongoing drought further strains the energy grid by reducing hydropower supply sources, officials said, along with a small number of plants that have gone offline in recent years. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

California lawmakers just voted to make it easier to add housing. Will Bay Area cities build? – In a major win for California housing development advocates, state lawmakers signed off Monday on a series of reforms that supporters say could clear the way to build hundreds of thousands of of new homes statewide by significantly easing permitting requirements.

The political wave — under intense pressure from voters who consistently rank unaffordable housing and homelessness as top concerns — comes after months of tense negotiations between labor unions, Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) housing groups, tenant advocates and development opponents that have long fought related measures.

If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the bills would quickly open up large swaths of commercial land for new housing construction, eliminate minimum parking requirements for new homes near transit and make it easier to build backyard in-law units. But like other major housing policy changes in recent years, the prospect of densifying communities where homeowners have long financially benefited from scarcity is also likely to fuel new local political and legal battles in the Bay Area and beyond.

Two of the bills passed by the legislature on Monday, AB 2011 and SB 6, would similarly allow for housing in commercial corridors currently set aside for offices, retail or parking. AB 2097 proposed getting rid of most parking requirements for new homes near transit. AB 2221 builds on several recent state laws designed to make it easier to build backyard in-law units, technically known as “Accessory Dwelling Units,” or ADUs. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Could state bills mean new housing at Bay Area shopping malls? – In an effort to ease California’s intensifying housing crunch, state lawmakers this week pushed through two bills making it easier to redevelop underused shopping malls, office buildings and parking lots into new apartments and townhomes.

Supporters are celebrating the reforms — which limit the ability of local governments to block such multifamily housing projects — as a “game-changer” and say the bills could help create hundreds of thousands of new market-rate and affordable homes across the Bay Area.

The two bills — Assembly Bill 2011 and Senate Bill 6 — come after months of negotiation among housing advocates, affordable housing developers and the state’s powerful construction unions. The measures are expected to be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has made increasing housing production a top priority as rents and home prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

AB 2011 would streamline the approval process for 100% affordable projects on most properties currently zoned for retail, offices or parking, and restrict local jurisdictions’ power to deny those developments. The bill would also speed up approvals for projects that have at least 15% low-income units along busy commercial corridors. Notably, it would exempt the developments from the often lengthy environmental review process required under the California Environmental Quality Act, which developers have long blamed for holding up or killing projects.

SB 6, meanwhile, would bypass rezoning requirements for new multifamily housing on commercial property regardless of affordability levels. But unlike AB 2011, it wouldn’t force cities and counties to expedite approvals for projects that meet set building and design standards. Read More > in The Mercury News

‘Stale’ home listings have skyrocketed in one part of the Bay Area. Here’s what it means – In a dramatic shift, the Oakland area in July saw the country’s biggest increase in share of homes sitting on the market unsold for more than a month, compared with the same time last year, new data shows.

The share of such “stale inventory” — homes listed for 30 days or more without going under contract — increased by 61% from July 2021 to July of this year in the Oakland metropolitan area, which consists of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, according to data from real estate listings site Redfin. That was the biggest increase among the 50 largest U.S. metro areas included in the analysis.

But that doesn’t mean Oakland’s market has suddenly gone ice cold, according to experts and local real estate professionals.

In fact, even with the large year-over-year jump, Oakland still has the third-lowest share of stale inventory among the 50 biggest U.S. metros, the data shows — a vivid indicator of just how supercharged Oakland’s housing market had become during the pandemic, with homes snapped up almost as soon as they were listed.

In July last year, stale inventory plummeted to just 31% of Oakland’s housing market — the lowest in the nation. After dropping even further, to as low as 25% this winter, the percentage of stale inventory began rising, until the big July increase brought Oakland to 50% — near its pre-pandemic level of 52% in July 2019.

By comparison nationally, an average of about 61.2% of for-sale homes were on the market for at least 30 days in July, up from 54.4% in July 2021, according to Redfin. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

California wants to end sales of new gas cars by 2035. Here are 4 key roadblocks – California wants to drive a stake into the heart of gas-powered vehicles.

State regulators approved a policy Thursday that will ban the sale of new gas cars by 2035 in what is the country’s largest auto market.

It’s part of an ambitious plan to fight climate change by accelerating the transition to an electric future, and it’s a decision a handful of states are expected to follow.

Despite the strong demand for electric cars, sales made up only 3% of total car sales last year.

The race now is for automakers to increase the production of electric vehicles, but that alone won’t be enough.

Analysts say the industry faces several challenges in ending sales of gas-powered cars by 2035.

The average price of an electric vehicle is currently $66,000 — well beyond the means of many people…

China currently dominates the rare earth mineral market and the auto industry has long relied on the country to source EV batteries.

The Biden administration is pushing automakers to reduce their dependence on China, but that’s easier said than done…

Not only are there too few charging stations across the country, many existing stations don’t always work.

A recent survey by J.D. Power found that the limited availability and reliability of charging stations is a key factor holding people back from buying electric vehicles…

Embracing an electric future and accelerating the mass adoption of electric vehicles will require automakers to adjust their workforce.

Companies will need engineers with a different set of skills for this transition… Read More > at Capradio

California’s ban on gas-powered cars won’t be easy – Declaring that the sale of gas-powered cars will end 13 years hence is the easy part. Actually transforming a huge component of Californians’ daily lives, and a big chunk of the state’s economy, will be immensely difficult.

Take, for example, driving range. The new regulations want zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) sold in California to be capable of traveling up to 150 miles without recharging. That might be sufficient for daily commuting within a compact region. But what about longer trips?…

The solution might be lots of recharging stations along interregional highways, but whereas a fillup of gasoline might take 10 minutes, recharging electric cars now takes much longer. Is California willing to build the hundreds of thousands of recharging stations a complete conversion to battery-powered cars would require? Could Californians drive their mandated ZEVs into other states without running out of juice?

Even overnight charging would be a challenge. Those who keep their vehicles in home garages might make it work, but how about apartment dwellers? Even if landlords provided chargers in their designated parking places, an apartment usually has just one space while most apartments have multiple car-owning tenants. That’s why the streets around housing complexes are packed with parked cars.

California has about 29 million cars and light trucks on the road now and roughly two million new vehicles are sold each year. ZEVS now account for about 16% of those sales, the most of any state. Even if 100% of sales are ZEVs, it would take at least 15 years for a complete conversion and while it occurs, we would still need service and refueling facilities for gas-powered vehicles.

Finally, recharging millions of ZEVs would impose a major new demand on California’s electric grid — not to mention the impact of phasing out home appliances that now use gas in favor of electric devices.

California is already struggling to meet the current power demand as it also phases out gas-fired generators in favor of wind and solar facilities. Will we have enough juice for recharging ZEVs, particularly during the night, when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind may not be blowing? Read More > at CalMatters

An Alzheimer’s-Proof Brain: Ground-Breaking Case Provides Clues to Treatment and Prevention of Dementia – Due to a rare genetic mutation, Aliria Rosa Piedrahita de Villegas should have had Alzheimer’s disease in her 40s and passed away from it in her 60s.

Her brain is now providing important information on the pathology of dementia and potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease since she lived dementia-free into her 70s.

The lady, from Medellin, Colombia, was a member of an extended family with a mutation in the PSEN1 gene, as researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and other institutions initially reported in 2019.

Because the PSEN1 E280A mutation is autosomal dominant, only one copy of the gene is necessary to cause disease.

This woman did not start displaying symptoms of Alzheimer’s until she was in her early 70s when carriers of the mutation normally display signs of the disease in their 40s or 50s and pass away from it shortly after. She passed away at the age of 77 in 2020 from metastatic melanoma.

“This is a ground-breaking case for Alzheimer’s disease and has already opened new paths for treatment and prevention, which we’re currently pursuing with some collaborators. This work is now bringing light into some of the mechanisms of resistance to Alzheimer’s disease” says investigator Yakeel T. Quiroz, Ph.D.

Quiroz is director of the Multicultural Alzheimer Prevention Program (MAPP) at Mass General, an Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and Paul B. and Sandra M. Edgerley MGH Research Scholar 2020-2025.

The key difference in the Colombian woman’s ability to fend off the disease for three decades appeared to be that in addition to having the PSEN1 E280A mutation, she was also a carrier of both copies of a mutation known as APOE3 Christchurch. Read More > at SciTechDaily

Young Adults Used Pot and Psychedelics in Record Numbers Last Year, While Adolescent Drug Use Fell Sharply – Drug use fell sharply among teenagers last year while rising among young adults, according to a government-sponsored survey. The drop in adolescent drug use, which may be largely due to pandemic-related disruptions, was the biggest ever recorded in the 46 years since the Monitoring the Future (MTF) Study began surveying high school students. Meanwhile, marijuana and psychedelic use reached all-time highs among 19-to-30-year-olds, whom the survey has covered since 1988.

Those contrasting trends are striking in light of the assumption that teenagers tend to emulate young adults. They confirm that the ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition, contrary to the warnings of legalization’s opponents, has not boosted underage cannabis consumption. Nor has recent interest in the benefits of psychedelics, which has been accompanied by moves toward decriminalization and legalization, had any discernible impact on adolescent use of such drugs.

Last week, the University of Michigan, where researchers conduct the annual MTF survey under contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, reported that “marijuana and hallucinogen use in the past year reported by young adults 19 to 30 years old increased significantly in 2021 compared to five and 10 years ago, reaching historic highs in this age group since 1988.” The prevalence of past-month marijuana use by young adults, which has been rising since 2010, was 28.5 percent in 2021, more than twice as high as the lows recorded in the early 1990s. The prevalence of past-year psychedelic use, which has been rising since 2012, was 8.1 percent in 2021, nearly three times the low reported in 1989.

The picture for teenagers looks quite different. The MTF survey includes students in eighth, 10th, and 12th grades. Among 12th-graders, who have been surveyed since 1976, the prevalence of past-month marijuana use peaked at 37.1 percent in 1978 and had fallen to 21.1 percent by 2020. Among 10th-graders, who have been surveyed since 1991, that rate peaked at 20.5 percent in 1997 and had fallen to 16.6 percent by 2020. Among eighth-graders, who likewise have been included since 1991, the rate peaked at 11.3 percent in 1996 and had fallen to 6.5 percent by 2020. Last year, the prevalence of past-month marijuana use fell to 19.5 percent among 12th-graders, 10.1 percent among 10th-graders, and 4.1 percent among eighth-graders. Those numbers were the lowest recorded since the early 1990s. Read More > at Reason

A ‘radical shift’ at the border is making things tougher for Biden – There’s a big change in who’s coming to the US-Mexico border. A large number of migrants from Mexico and the Northern Triangle are still making the journey. But the number of migrants from other countries has significantly increased.

Back in 2007, the number of migrants in this “other” category was negligible. But since then, it’s grown dramatically — 11,000% — with the sharpest increase in just the past two years.

US Border Patrol encounters still show more migrants from Mexico attempting to cross the Southwest border in July than from any other individual country. But so far this fiscal year, for the first time, encounters with migrants from outside Mexico and the Northern Triangle are outpacing encounters with migrants from either of those regions.

A handful of countries make up a large portion of this growing group at the border. The number of times US Border Patrol officials at the Southwest border encountered migrants from Cuba, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela has increased dramatically over the past two years.

…Other factors are also at play. An increase in Cubans making their way to the US, Meissner says, can be partially attributed to a new air route between Cuba and Nicaragua. CNN’s Patrick Oppmann reported that after Nicaragua dropped its visa requirements for Cubans, people began posting online ads selling their homes with “everything inside” to pay for the expensive airfare.

Deteriorating economic conditions, food shortages and limited access to health care are increasingly pushing Venezuelans to leave, and a growing Venezuelan community in the United States is also a draw, Meissner says.

For Colombians and Nicaraguans, economic instability — compounded by the pandemic — has been the main driver of migration, she says, but politics are also playing a role. Read More > at CNN

Mexican Drug Cartels Propel America’s Fentanyl Crisis – The Sinaloa and Jalisco organizations are a dominant source of the synthetic opioid, a leading cause of the U.S.’s record overdoses

The two cartels are named for their respective strongholds in states on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Sinaloa is a decades-old criminal organization deeply embedded in the economy, politics and culture of Mexico’s wild northwest, analysts and officials said. Jalisco, farther south, is a relative upstart, and has violently challenged Sinaloa for market share.

Fentanyl production is simpler than heroin, because it is entirely synthetic and doesn’t require cultivating the poppies needed for heroin. Busts of Mexican labs or large seizures at the border can be quickly offset by new batches without having to wait to harvest crops or pay farmers.

It is also less expensive to make. The plant-based opium needed to produce a kilogram of heroin can cost producers about $6,000, while the precursor chemicals to make a kilogram of fentanyl cost $200 or less, according to Bryce Pardo, associate director of the Rand Corp.’s Drug Policy Research Center, who helped lead a recent bipartisan report on synthetic opioids.

Heroin’s profile has been shrinking as fentanyl becomes more available. Some Mexican poppy farmers in the mountains of Sinaloa say they have lost income as cartels shift away from heroin, and have abandoned their fields.

The Sinaloa cartel is the market leader, said Renato Sales, Mexico’s former security chief. U.S. and Mexican officials likened it to how a company works, manufacturing and marketing an array of illegal drugs and cultivating links to suppliers in dozens of countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia. The cartel is believed to have different units handling jobs such as security, money laundering, transportation, production and the bribing of public officials.

…Mexican cartels were primed to take advantage. They already had established trafficking networks built around drugs like cocaine, marijuana and heroin, said Uttam Dhillon, who served as acting DEA administrator under Mr. Trump. And they had relationships with Chinese chemical makers, and expertise running drugmaking labs, through their production of methamphetamine, another synthetic drug they are sending to the U.S., Mr. Dhillon said. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Strips to test drinks and pills for ‘date rape’ drugs and fentanyl are finally legal in California – On Monday, Aug. 29, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill by Assemblymember Laurie Davies, R-Laguna Niguel, legalizing the possession of those funky kits that test pills et al. for the presence of deadly fentanyl, as well as strips that screen drinks for “date rape” drugs like ketamine and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid.

Until now, they fell under the definition of “illegal drug paraphernalia” and were officially verboten in the Golden State.

The new law, Assembly Bill 1598, “is an innovative step in California’s ongoing battle to rid our neighborhoods of dangerous drugs and actually get addicted users the help they need,” Davies said by email Tuesday during the final, frenetic days of the Legislative session.

“Legalizing testing equipment for drugs like fentanyl or ketamine … can empower parents, school officials and law enforcement to have these products readily available to ensure if there are drugs found, we can prevent accidental overdoses and deaths,” she said. Read More > in The Mercury News

Americans really aren’t whipped up over climate change: Polls – The bombardment from the media and Biden administration that the public faces every day over the possible hurt of global warming and climate change is apparently having little impact, according to a series of unrelated new surveys on the issue.

In the latest polls released Tuesday, Americans listed concern about climate change low as they face more immediate issues related to the economy and inflation.

While the media has harped all summer about the heat and drought crushing the Western United States and Europe, for example, a new global Pew survey said Americans find it the least of their worries versus nine of 19 nations that say it’s their top concern.

Pew said the U.S. joined Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea in listing climate change last versus such nations as the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, and France, which said it is the biggest threat to their country.

Instead, the issue worrying Americans most, and cited by 71%, was “cyber attacks from other countries.”

Pew blamed politics. “Despite the dire concerns about climate change in Europe, concerns are relatively muted in the U.S., as they have been for years. Views on climate change as a threat are linked to political divisiveness in the U.S., something also seen in the other countries surveyed, with those on the ideological left showing more concern about climate change than those on the right,” said the survey outfit.

In fact, it found that the U.S. is host to the biggest political divide on climate change, a 63-point gap between the Right that isn’t concerned and the Left that is.

Meanwhile, an Ipsos survey just in also put the issue far down on the list of what concerns respondents.

Just 8% cited “environment and climate” as the most important issue facing the U.S., which, they said, is the economy, at 29%. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

California lawmakers reject bill to allow their staff to unionize at the state Capitol – For the fourth time in five years, the California Legislature rejected a bill to allow its staff to unionize, parting with other West Coast states that have approved similar legislation to try to improve workplace conditions and offset power imbalances between politicians and their legislative staff.

The bill died after Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) initially refused to allow a vote in his committee on the final night before the lawmakers adjourned for the year. Cooper reversed his decision minutes later and allowed a vote on the bill, which failed to earn enough support for passage.

“The reason I held this is not to make these folks take a hard vote,” Cooper said when he spoke in opposition of the legislation. “So you can get on Twitter. I don’t care. You can get on Facebook. I don’t care. It’s doing what’s right.”

For decades, legislative employees have not received the same right to unionize as other private and public sector workers despite the Democratic Legislature’s close ties with unions at the state Capitol. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Why even environmentalists are supporting nuclear power today – Resistance to nuclear power is starting to ebb around the world with support from a surprising group: environmentalists.

This change of heart spans the globe, and is being prompted by climate change, unreliable electrical grids and fears about national security in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In California, the state’s last remaining power plant — Diablo Canyon, situated on the Pacific Coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles — long scheduled to be scrapped, may now remain open. Governor Gavin Newsom, a longtime opponent of the plant, is seeking to extend its lifespan through at least 2029.

Last week, Japan’s prime minister said the country is restarting idled nuclear plants and considering building new ones. This is a sharp reversal for the country that largely abandoned nuclear after the tsunami-led disaster at the Fukushima plant in 2011.

Germany pulled the plug on nuclear after Fukushima, too. But this summer there’s been an intense debate in Germany over whether to restart three plants in response to the country’s severe energy crisis prompted by the Russia-Ukraine war. Read More > at NPR

For the first time in 25 years, August did not have a named storm – now September is starting off with a possible hurricane – It isn’t your imagination. The tropics in the Atlantic have been very quiet this year despite a forecast from NOAA and other experts forecasting an above-average season.

For the first time in 25 years, the month of August did not have a named storm. But as the calendar turned to September, things appear to have changed rather quickly in the tropical Atlantic.

At 11 a.m. Thursday, the National Hurricane Center announced that Tropical Depression Five had strengthened into Tropical Storm Danielle.

The storm, currently in the North Atlantic, is expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Saturday. Danielle is not a threat to any land at this time and is expected to remain nearly stationary through the weekend.

“Since 1950, two Augusts have had no Atlantic named storm formations: 1961 and 1997,” tweeted Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University.

And it’s not just August. Klotzbach also tweeted:

“For the first time since 1941, the Atlantic has had no named storm (e.g., tropical storm or #hurricane) activity from July 3rd-August 30th.”

But the trend may not continue. Read More > at CNN

One in five home sellers is now dropping their asking price as the housing market cools – Home sellers are getting nervous, as the once hot housing market cools fast.

One in five sellers in August dropped their asking price, according to Realtor.com. A year ago that share was just 11%.

The average home sold for less than its list price for the first time in over 17 months during the four-week period ended Aug. 28, according to a report by Redfin.

Homes are simply not selling at the breakneck pace they were six months ago, when strong demand butted up against tight supply, bidding wars were the norm, and a seller could often get a signed contract in under a weekend. Homes in August sat on the market an average five days longer than they did a year ago — the first annual increase in time on the market in over two years.

The supply of homes for sale is also rising fast, up nearly 27% from a year ago, even as fewer sellers decide to list. Pending sales in July, which represent signed contracts on existing homes and which are the most recent sales data available, were nearly 20% lower than July 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. Read More > at CNBC

One in 24.1 septillion: Prosecutors insist proof they have Sunnyvale cold case killer is in the blood – One in 24.1 septillion.

After 40 years with no leads, Santa Clara County District Attorney Barbara Cathcart stood outside a courtroom Monday and said the DNA evidence investigators now have from a 75-year-old Hawaii man is such a supreme match to the 1982 murder of a Palo Alto teenager, it would take an incomprehensible number — a septillion has 24 zeroes — to prove otherwise.

“The probability of selecting an unrelated individual from the population at random that has this DNA profile is one in 24.1 septillion,” Cathcart said. “There, of course, are not that many people on the planet Earth nor multiple planet Earths.”

They are confident Gary Gene Ramirez is the one. Now 75, he wobbled on a cane into a Santa Clara County courtroom for the first time on Monday and faced charges of kidnap, rape and murder.

Police were stymied for decades trying to solve the murder of Karen Stitt, a 15-year-old Palo Alto High School student who spent the evening at Sunnyvale Golfland with her boyfriend and was waiting alone for the bus around midnight on Sept. 2, 1982, when she was abducted, raped and stabbed 59 times.

The DNA from the killer’s blood found on Karen’s jacket and on the cinder block wall next to where her body was found the next morning didn’t match any DNA from the criminal database, suggesting her killer had never been arrested before or since.

It wasn’t until 2018, after forensic genealogy techniques helped apprehend and convict the Golden State Killer, that Sunnyvale Police and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office had new hope they could track down Karen’s killer, even 40 years later. Read More > in The Mercury News

Hard-up Americans are now taking out loans to pay for GROCERIES using ‘buy now, pay later’ apps which offer instant credit but can charge hefty fees for late payments – A growing number of Americans are using ‘buy now, pay later’ services to purchase basic goods such as groceries, raising concerns about consumers taking on more debt.

Installment-pay services such as Klarna and Afterpay offer interest-free short-term loans to cover purchases, but the fines for late payments can be steep, and critics fear their ease of use could lure shoppers into dangerous debt. 

In 2021, $45.9 billion in pay-later transactions were made online, a sharp increase from $15.3 billion the year before, according to a GlobalData analysis reported by the New York Times

Food accounted for about 6 percent of the purchases last year, but seems to be an important part of the sector’s explosive growth, as the soaring cost of groceries in the US raises the appeal of deferred payments.

Sweden-based Klarna, for instance, reported that grocery or household items accounted for more than half of the top 100 items purchased through the app. 

Zip, a company founded in Australia, says it has seen 95 percent growth in US grocery purchases, and 64 percent in restaurant transactions.  Read More > in the Daily Mail

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect through Mon. Sept. 5, for the San Francisco Bay Area.

A Spare the Air Alert is in effect, Monday, September 5.

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy.?High levels of ozone pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions.  

Exhaust from vehicles on Bay Area roads accounts for more than half of the air pollution in the region. Bay Area residents are asked to drive less to reduce smog and improve air quality in the region. Residents are also encouraged to consider an all-electric vehicle as their next vehicle purchase to help reduce the amount of gas powered vehicles that contribute to unhealthy smog.   

Change your daily commute by carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, biking or walking instead of driving alone. Doing this will help reduce pollution levels and health concerns when temperatures are high. To learn how to change your commute online, visit 511.org

To find out how your company could help you save money on your commute by offering commuter benefits, visit commuterbenefits.511.org.

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2022’s Best Real-Estate Markets – WalletHub Study

With home values up around 21% in the past year and mortgage rates having almost doubled, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best Real-Estate Markets, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To determine the most attractive real-estate markets in the U.S., WalletHub compared 300 cities across 17 key metrics. The data set ranges from median home-price appreciation to job growth.

Best Real-Estate MarketsWorst Real-Estate Markets
1. Frisco, TX291. Baltimore, MD
2. Allen, TX292. Columbus, GA
3. McKinney, TX293. Baton Rouge, LA
4. Austin, TX294. Rockford, IL
5. Nashville, TN295. Cleveland, OH
6. Cary, NC296. Hartford, CT
7. Gilbert, AZ297. St. Louis, MO
8. Denton, TX298. Shreveport, LA
9. Peoria, AZ299. Bridgeport, CT
10. Richardson, TX300. Peoria, IL

Best vs. Worst

  • Daly City and San Mateo, California, have the lowest share of seriously underwater mortgages, 0.66 percent, which is 26.8 times lower than in St. Louis, Missouri, the city with the highest at 17.68 percent.
     
  • South Gate, California, has the lowest vacancy rate, 1.97 percent, which is 18 times lower than in Miami Beach, Florida, the city with the highest at 35.42 percent.
     
  • Flint, Michigan, has the lowest home price as a share of income, 104.33 percent, which is 14.2 times lower than in Santa Monica, California, the city with the highest at 1,477.21 percent.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit: 
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-real-estate-markets/14889

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect, Saturday, September 3, for the San Francisco Bay Area

Spare the Air Alert is in effect, Saturday, September 3, for the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy.?High levels of ozone pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions.  

Exhaust from vehicles on Bay Area roads accounts for more than half of the air pollution in the region. Bay Area residents are asked to drive less to reduce smog and improve air quality in the region. Residents are also encouraged to consider an all-electric vehicle as their next vehicle purchase to help reduce the amount of gas powered vehicles that contribute to unhealthy smog.   

Change your daily commute by carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, biking or walking instead of driving alone. Doing this will help reduce pollution levels and health concerns when temperatures are high. To learn how to change your commute online, visit 511.org

To find out how your company could help you save money on your commute by offering commuter benefits, visit commuterbenefits.511.org.

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More Cooling Centers To Open In Contra Costa Amid Excessive Heat

from the Patch

The Contra Costa County Library has 21 branches available as places to cool off: Antioch, Prewett in Antioch, Bay Point, Brentwood, Clayton, Danville, El Sobrante, Hercules, Lafayette, Martinez, Moraga, Oakley, Orinda, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, San Pablo, Dougherty Station in San Ramon, San Ramon, Walnut Creek and Ygnacio Valley in Walnut Creek. Those branches will be open regular hours on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and next Tuesday. All county branches are closed Sunday and Monday. For hours and locations, go to https://bit.ly/3KCp6AV or call (800) 984-4636 for assistance.

Other cooling sites in the county will include Brentwood Community Center at 35 Oak St., open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday.

The Oakley Recreation Center, at 1250 O’Hara Ave., will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.
Pittsburg will offer a cooling center if the temperature maintains 104 degrees or hotter at the Pittsburg Senior Center at 300 Presidio Lane. Potential hours of operation are 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and people can call (925) 252-4890 for more information.

Pittsburg also encourages the community to utilize the Buchanan Swim Center. The pool is located at 4150 Harbor St. and is open weekends from noon to 5 p.m. Call (925) 439-4841 for more information.

The Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department (EHSD) offers the following places to cool on from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday: 151 Sand Creek Rd., Brentwood; 40 Douglas Dr., Martinez; and 1305 Macdonald Ave., Richmond.

County officials said other locations to cool off include shopping malls, libraries, theaters, and restaurants. Older adults and those with certain medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and taking certain medications, are more vulnerable to heat illness.

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California will spend big bucks on beavers to try to boost their numbers and reap some of the benefits—including slowing wildfire—these ecosystem engineers can provide.

After years of advocacy by beaver “believers,” the state has allocated funding for a beaver restoration program. The $1.67 million in license plate funds for fiscal year 2022-23 and $1.44 million the following year represents a new way of thinking about beaver management in California, says Kate Lundquist, of the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. “Until recently, the Fish and Game Code has focused on recreational and commercial beaver trapping and permitting the depredation of nuisance beaver,” she explains. “I am excited that the Governor, the Natural Resources Agency, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are recognizing beaver and process-based restoration as legitimate nature-based solutions that can restore our watersheds, recover listed species, and make our state more resilient to droughts, wildfires, and climate change.” Lundquist’s organization was one of more than 100 groups—including conservation and agricultural organizations, tribes, and others—that advocated for the funding allocation and for recognizing the benefits of beavers.

The beaver restoration line item funds five new permanent CDFW positions and equipment for managing and monitoring the health of the state’s beavers, as well as relocating beavers as necessary.

Chad Dibble, Deputy Director with CDFW, is particularly excited about the potential for beavers to help stem wildfires. “Beavers are incredibly good at engineering dams that slow water down and spread it out,” he says. “This can help wet a larger area of land that is much greener and more lush than your typical side channel growth in water-restricted areas.” That greening, says Dribble, can help stop wildfires moving through an area.

From Estuary Magazine

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