Spare the air alert extended through Wednesday , September 9


Spare the Air Alert is in effect, through Wednesday , September 9.

Smoke from numerous fires are currently impacting air quality in portions of the Bay Area. Concentrations of particulate matter pollution are forecast to be unhealthy. High levels of particulate matter pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions. Protect your health by staying indoors and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities.

Wood Burning Prohibited. It is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to burn wood or manufactured firelogs in fireplaces, woodstoves and inserts, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits, or any other wood burning devices.

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Support Our Local Oakley Businesses

Check out this fun and informative video our Economic Development staff have helped create to get the word out about the importance of supporting our local Oakley businesses!

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Annual Bike to Work Day Pivots to “Bike to Wherever Days”

The Bay Area’s annual Bike to Work Day has been re-imagined as “Bike to Wherever Days” (BTWD) encouraging bicyclists across the nine-county region to participate in a myriad of activities to promote cycling throughout September.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the organizers of Bike to Work Day 2020 (BTWD) rescheduled the event from May 14 to September 24 in anticipation of employees returning to regular work routines. Unfortunately, life has not returned to normal.

“Now we are encouraging people to join us on two wheels on September 24 and during the whole month of September as we celebrate the importance of cycling for health, safety, and helping in the fight against Climate Change,” said Scott Haggerty, Chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, BTWD’s lead sponsor.  “Bicycling is one of the safest, most efficient and enjoyable forms of transportation.”

Bike to Wherever Days encourages cyclists across the Bay Area counties – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma – to get out on their bikes and safely pedal to wherever: through a park, to a grocery store or to visit with friends and family while social distancing. There are any number of possibilities. Bike to Wherever Days will be a COVID-safe celebration of activities for individuals (and virtual teams.)

Leading up to the September activities, bicycle coalitions and traffic management organizations throughout the region are holding virtual classes and events. Information about the programs can be found at the county links at is external). This site also provides the opportunity for riders to register to participate in Bike to Wherever Days for the month of September. By registering, bicyclists can track their rides, have a chance to win great prizes, be part of team and individual Bay Area wide competitions, and have fun pedaling with friends, family, remote coworkers and more.

“Bike riding has seen a huge uptick during the pandemic as people have embraced it for exercise, mental health and as a fun way to get outside, “ Haggerty said. “We want to see the whole Bay Area get out on their bikes in September. We think it will be a unifying event in these challenging times.”

Alaska Airlines is a key sponsor of this year’s event.

“Alaska Airlines is thrilled to be a presenting sponsor for the 2020 Bay Area Bike to Wherever Days, underscoring our company’s commitment to sustainability and the Bay Area community,” said Franco Finn, Alaska Airlines’ Head of External Relations & Community Engagement for California. “My family and I have been biking so much more and we’re excited to be a part of an event that encourages others to get out and start using their bicycles as a way to get places, get exercise, and get a pollution-free environment.”

Bay Area Bike to Wherever Days encourages local residents to try riding on two wheels for the first time and celebrates those who regularly bike. It is presented by MTC(link is external) (the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area), 511(link is external) (the region’s traveler information system) and Alaska Airlines(link is external). Bike to Wherever Day/Days 2020 also receives regional support from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District(link is external) (BAAQMD) and Bay Area Rapid Transit(link is external) (BART), as well as from many sponsors at the local level.

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Sunday Reading – 09/06/2020

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.

They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen? – What a week. Rough for all Californians. Exhausting for the firefighters on the front lines. Heart-shattering for those who lost homes and loved ones. But a special “Truman Show” kind of hell for the cadre of men and women who’ve not just watched California burn, fire ax in hand, for the past two or three or five decades, but who’ve also fully understood the fire policy that created the landscape that is now up in flames.

“What’s it like?” Tim Ingalsbee repeated back to me, wearily, when I asked him what it was like to watch California this past week. In 1980, Ingalsbee started working as a wildland firefighter. In 1995, he earned a doctorate in environmental sociology. And in 2005, frustrated by the huge gap between what he was learning about fire management and seeing on the fire line, he started Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. Since then FUSEE has been lobbying Congress, and trying to educate anybody who will listen, about the misguided fire policy that is leading to the megafires we are seeing today.

The pattern is a form of insanity: We keep doing overzealous fire suppression across California landscapes where the fire poses little risk to people and structures. As a result, wildland fuels keep building up. At the same time, the climate grows hotter and drier. Then, boom: the inevitable. The wind blows down a power line, or lightning strikes dry grass, and an inferno ensues…

Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California. Between 1982 and 1998, California’s agency land managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres a year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres. The state passed a few new laws in 2018 designed to facilitate more intentional burning. But few are optimistic this, alone, will lead to significant change. We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire.

“It’s painful,” said Craig Thomas, director of the Fire Restoration Group. He, too, has been having the fire Cassandra conversation for 30 years. He’s not that hopeful, unless there’s a power change. “Until different people own the calculator or say how the buttons get pushed, it’s going to stay that way.”

…A seventy-word primer: We dug ourselves into a deep, dangerous fuel imbalance due to one simple fact. We live in a Mediterranean climate that’s designed to burn, and we’ve prevented it from burning anywhere close to enough for well over a hundred years. Now climate change has made it hotter and drier than ever before, and the fire we’ve been forestalling is going to happen, fast, whether we plan for it or not.

Megafires, like the ones that have ripped this week through 1 million acres (so far), will continue to erupt until we’ve flared off our stockpiled fuels. No way around that. Read More > at ProPublica

Second effort to boost wildfire funding falls flat in the California Legislature – An eleventh hour push in the California Legislature to direct $500 million to wildfire response and prevention fell flat Monday, marking the second late attempt to boost fire funding that failed in the last week.

The efforts to secure more money for wildfires fizzled out as blazes burned more than a million acres across the state during the frenetic final days of the legislative year.

Arguing that California needs to do more to prevent fires, Democrats in the Senate came up with the plan to spend a half-million dollars on fires after a bill to generate $3 billion for wildfire and climate projects through the extension of a fee on electricity bills failed to gain traction last week.

But even the scaled back spending plan was fraught with legislative hurdles that proved too difficult to overcome and the plan was scuttled before it was officially introduced. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ office confirmed that the bill was dead late Monday. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Legislature leaves much undone – When the Legislature reconvened in January, the stage was seemingly set for a year of sweeping action on California’s most vexing political issues, such as a chronic housing shortage, homelessness and an embarrassingly high poverty rate.

Democrats enjoyed overwhelming majorities in both legislative houses, the Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, was fond of pursuing “big hairy, audacious goals” in contrast with cautious predecessor Jerry Brown, and the state’s roaring economy was pouring billions of extra dollars into the state treasury.

However, the most telling fact about the 2020 legislative session, which drew to a fitful close Monday night, is the long list of issues that either didn’t get addressed or received just token attention, including those stemming from more recent traumatic events.

…Bolder moves were proposed, such as a $100 billion economic stimulus package, raising income taxes on the wealthiest Californians, imposing a tax on their wealth, overhauling the economics of rental housing and home ownership, ending single-family zoning to allow more multi-family housing, and stripping violent cops of their legal status.

Some were justified, such as taking away the certification of miscreant cops, and some were outlandish and unworkable, such as a wealth tax. But all were shunted aside as legislative leaders — and Newsom — opted for risk-avoidance and hope that Democrat Joe Biden will unseat Republican President Donald Trump in November and then provide California with many billions of dollars to buy its way out of difficulty. Read More > at CALMatters

California lawmakers failed to enact sweeping police reforms. Here’s why. – Activists tried to pump up their presence from afar with celebrity endorsements on social media. Kim Kardashian was among those urging state legislators to pass a bill creating a statewide system to yank an officer’s badge in cases of misconduct or criminal conviction — a proposal police fought as being unfair to their due process rights. The measure died when the Assembly did not take it up for a vote by Monday’s midnight deadline to pass bills for the year.

bill to make more police misconduct records available to the public also stalled late Monday night, when the Senate ran out of time to bring it up for a final vote. And that was after it had been narrowed to mollify law enforcement’s objections, removing a provision to make public all complaints of excessive force, whether or not they were substantiated.

The Senate also failed to discuss or vote on a bill prohibiting police from using tear gas or rubber bullets on demonstrators, which police said would leave them with only more dangerous options for dispersing unlawful crowds.

Lawmakers did pass a measure requiring the state attorney general to investigate when police kill unarmed civilians, a proposal that has stalled in years past. Supporters see it as a significant step to build trust by making investigations more independent, though the final version was neither a high priority for activists nor a target of police opposition.

The Legislature also passed a bill banning police from using chokeholds and neck restraints, which police also did not oppose. Many departments already ban those tactics but the bill would make a uniform policy for the whole state.  Read More > at CALMAtters

Bid to allow duplexes on most California lots dies after Assembly approval comes too late – A bill that would have allowed for duplexes on most single-family lots in California passed the Assembly late Monday night, but died when the year’s legislative session came to an end before the Senate could take it up for a vote.

After an initial attempt fell short of passage by three votes, the Assembly took a second look at Senate Bill 1120, passing it with a margin of 42 to 17, just one vote more than was needed and just three minutes before a midnight deadline to clear both houses.

But the bill did not reach the Senate with enough time for legislators to take it up, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), the bill’s author, confirmed.

SB 1120 wouldn’t have outlawed single-family houses. But it would have required local governments to permit applications to convert a house into a duplex or to demolish a house and build two units, either as a duplex or two single-family houses. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

The Real Threat to U.S. Elections Doesn’t Come from Beijing or Moscow – It shouldn’t surprise us that foreign countries have preferences about American electoral outcomes. Why wouldn’t they, given U.S. influence in the world? According to political scientist Lindsey O’Rourke, during the Cold War, the United States engaged in 64 attempts at covert regime change. More recently, we have overthrown and ultimately helped kill leaders in Iraq and Libya, while aiming to replace governments in Syria and Venezuela. Hillary Clinton believes that Vladimir Putin’s grudge against her goes back to comments she made about the 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently urged the Chinese people to overthrow their government.

Given the American propensity for regime change overseas, it makes sense that other nations would seek, in turn, to interfere in American politics—for reasons of self-defense, if nothing else. What’s less understandable is the moral indignation that American leaders express about what are relatively minor incursions, compared with U.S. violations of some of the most fundamental rules of international law.

…Of course, it’s possible that China or Russia wants a certain side to win in November because it sees an opportunity to take advantage of Americans or engage in foreign aggression. Nonetheless, simply knowing which candidate Xi or Putin favors tells us nothing about which way Americans should vote.

Right now, Americans are extremely pessimistic about their institutions and the direction of the country. Yet, as liberal journalist Ezra Klein argues in his recent Why We’re Polarized, the system may be broken from the perspective of what’s good for the country, but it still works fairly well from the perspective of those in power. Government contractors still get paid, lobbyists make major profits, and top government officials can still leverage their time in power into lucrative private-sector work. Coming from the other side of the political spectrum, Charles Murray’s Coming Apart documented how the Washington, D.C. metro area has become home to the nation’s wealthiest counties in recent decades.

…America, and American democracy, will be better off if we think less about what foreign countries want to happen in November and more about the agendas of those drumming up concern about it. Read More > at Real Clear Defense

Next up: Californians brace for the ‘twindemic’ – For months, health experts have warned about a possible spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations for the fall and winter months, when colder weather will drive people indoors and holidays will likely bring friends and extended families together. That, on top of the impending flu season, could create what Gov. Gavin Newsom and others have referred to as a “twindemic.”

Doctors and public health officials across the state are echoing this message. A combination of COVID-19 and influenza could put serious pressure on a health care system that is only starting to stabilize after a summer of peaks in hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units.

…There is a glimmer of hope, though. Hospital and state officials say they are better prepared for a possible second wave of COVID, and can draw from the lessons learned during these past six months. Hospitals have refined their surge plans, and the state has come out with a plan to significantly increase testing capacity starting in November. Supply-chain constraints for coveted protective gear have also relaxed some.

Still, the toll of COVID plus the flu will depend largely on people’s behavior, Edward said.

A reminder: While there is no vaccine ready yet to fight off coronavirus, the flu is preventable. Oh, and also, people can get both at the same time.

In a best case scenario, Californians largely heed to public health recommendations, get their flu shots, and contribute to a mild flu season. Rutherford pointed to countries in the Southern Hemisphere, like Australia, where flu season usually peaks in August. In late August, Australian health officials reported that flu activity there was “lower than average” for that time of year.

This could be because this year’s vaccine was a good match to flu strains, or perhaps people are still taking protective measures against COVID-19, such as wearing masks and socially distancing, Rutherford said. Precautions can protect against both illnesses.

In a worst case scenario, high flu activity in California coincides with another coronavirus surge.  Read More > at CALMatters

‘Entrepreneurship of necessity’: Business applications soar to highest level in 13 years – Applications for new businesses seeking to hire workers have surged this year to their highest point since 2007, according to the Census Bureau, a development that has surprised economists and suggests that jobless workers are looking to entrepreneurship to stay afloat.

Between the first and second quarters of 2020, over 1.7 million business applications have been filed. Of them, roughly 1 million seek to open a business that will hire staff.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said John Haltiwanger, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland and a research associate at the Census Bureau.

Haltiwanger said that it was too early to tell whether the increase in applications would translate into sustainable businesses and jobs.

Applications have increased both for sole proprietorships, which don’t plan to hire workers, and employers, who plan to take on staff.

Economists mostly credit the increase in applications to the conditions created by the mass layoffs caused by the pandemic. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Taiwan kite festival accident sees 3-year-old girl lifted high into the air as crowd watches on

How did human butts evolve to look that way? – What makes humans different from other animals? Ask any ten people and you’re likely to get ten different answers, ranging from our relatively large brains, to our incredible use of language and symbols, to our ability to dramatically modify the world around us.

But if you asked me, I’d say that it’s our butts.

Take a look around the animal kingdom. Even our closest living relatives among the great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas), don’t have proportionally as big butts as humans do. The main reason for this probably comes down to our unique style of locomotion. We’re the only mammals alive today whose primary way of getting around is walking on two legs. And becoming upright bipeds has had some important consequences for our derrières.

The anatomical structure that we generally think of as a “butt” is made up of adipose tissue (fat) sitting on top of our gluteal muscles, which are attached to the bony pelvis. Ultimately, it’s the shape of our pelvis that dictates the shape of our butts, and that set of bones has undergone some major changes over the last six-or-so million years. Read More > at Massive Science

No, Michigan voter data wasn’t hacked by the Russians – Michigan’s secretary of state on Tuesday refuted a news report asserting that the state’s voter registration database had been compromised in an example of how election officials are combatting misinformation weeks before the presidential election.

The statement came in response to a report in Russian media outlet Kommersant claiming that recently purloined data on American voters was available on a hacking forum. It turns out that data was already publicly available, and it appears to have been repackaged by whoever was advertising it.

“Our system has not been hacked,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office said in a statement. “We encourage all Michigan voters to be wary of attempts to ‘hack’ their minds, however, by questioning the sources of information and advertisements they encounter and seeking out trusted sources, including their local election clerk and our office.”

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the FBI said they “have not seen cyberattacks this year on voter registration databases or on any systems involving voting.”

“Information on U.S. elections is going to grab headlines, particularly if it is cast as foreign interference,” the CISA and FBI statement continued. “Early, unverified claims should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.” Read More > at CyberScoop

The Case for Making Virtual Public Meetings Permanent – The coronavirus shutdowns have made many things virtual: school, work, church, even real- estate tours. Local governments, like other institutions, have an obligation to continue to conduct business, so for five months now they too have relied on various forms of virtual meetings.

Online public hearings and other meetings have become a common practice nationwide, using a variety of videoconferencing services. As is usually the case when new technology is rolled out quickly, there have been setbacks, glitches and unexpected consequences. Rural areas often struggle with slow Internet. Trolls have Zoombombed some public hearings. But overall the process has been a relatively inexpensive and effective way, particularly for larger municipalities, to continue public business in a challenging time.

The question, as has been asked in many contexts through 2020, is why can’t this COVID-19-era innovation become permanent? Rather than return to the hassle of holding most public meetings in person, why not continue to make them remote?

The first advantage is that it reduces costs, which is one of the reasons many businesses are planning to institutionalize remote work, continuing it on a large scale after the pandemic passes…

Second is that it would increase public access and participation. A common criticism of public meetings is that their participants represent only a small segment of the community: the people who have time to go to public meetings…

A third advantage seems less obvious, but is important: It would go a long way toward preventing public meetings from devolving into emotional trainwrecks… Read More > at Governing

Walmart’s $98-a-year Amazon Prime rival launches September 15thWalmart+ is finally here. On September 15th, customers can hand over $98 a year, or $12.95 a month, to join the membership-and-benefits program. The big perk that Walmart+ offers is unlimited free delivery on orders over $35 from its network of 4,700 stores across the US, many of which can do same day. Otherwise, the only other notable feature of the service is fuel discounts, offering “up to” five cents off a gallon at Walmart, Murphy USA and Murphy Express gas stations. Rounding out the offering is Scan & Go, the company’s app-based shopping service that lets users scan their products on their own phone for faster checkouts.

The big selling point of this is to expand free, fast and cheap deliveries to the parts of the US that Amazon has yet to reach. Given that services like Prime Now are clustered in around 100 big metro areas, there’s plenty of the US that Walmart can grab. It helps that Walmart’s big footprint and distribution network will hopefully reach folks that feel ignored by the online mega-retailer.  Read More > at Engadget

Amazon’s drone delivery fleet hits milestone with FAA clearance – Retail behemoth Inc. took a big leap toward delivering goods from the sky by becoming one of only a handful of companies certified by the U.S. government to operate as a drone airline.

The Federal Aviation Administration designated Amazon Prime Air an “air carrier,” the company said Monday. That allows Amazon to begin its first commercial deliveries in the U.S. under a trial program, using the high-tech devices it unveiled for that purpose last year.

Amazon and its competitors must still clear some imposing regulatory and technical hurdles before small packages holding the likes of cat food or toothpaste can routinely be dropped at people’s homes. But the action shows that they’ve convinced the government they’re ready to operate in the highly regulated aviation sector. Read More > at MSN Money

2025: Google U. Vs. Microsoft U.? – Fast forward to 2025. The annus horribilis, 2020, is in the fairly distant past. The popular esports national championship is taking place —-between two powerhouse higher education teams —Google and Microsoft. Just as a century earlier America fixated on the Harvard vs. Yale football game, and later ball throwing contests between top SEC universities known more for football than learning, schools like Alabama and Ole Miss, now the insurgent for profit high tech giants are battling.

Far fetched fiction? Not necessarily. Both Google and Microsoft, along with many other high tech private powerhouses, are moving headlong into teaching employable skills, and certifying vocational competence. Why? For many Americans, traditional higher education is vastly too expensive and too hung up on weird and even threatening left-wing ideology and indoctrination, rather than scholarly dissemination and discovery. Many mostly semi-affluent Americans still want four or five gap years between adolescence and life, provided by residential “colleges” serving the strange triple functions of country clubs, hedonistic party sites, and halls of learning. However, an increasing proportion of the population of our slow growth, aging and debt ridden society are just saying “no” to traditional college.

Non-traditional providers of knowledge, like 2U and Coursera, are reportedly booming, and a few nimble and risk-taking state universities like Purdue (which bought Kaplan’s on-line services, now Purdue Global) and the University of Arizona (which is buying Ashford University) are moving into non-traditional modes of delivery in big ways.

But now the big guns are getting really involved. Google is moving quickly to offer high level vocational training via several Google Career Certificates, short courses (six months or so of training) hosted on Coursera designed to offer a big vocational return at a moderate cost—many initial participants will get scholarships from Google in its effort to quickly achieve critical scale economies… Read More > at Forbes

The FBI’s digital security guide for local police actually has good OPSEC advice – An FBI cybersecurity guide instructs local police officers on how to avoid surveillance and harassment online amid ongoing protests against police brutality throughout the U.S.

The instructions include a range of advisories for smaller police agencies, ranging from ways to avoid harassment on Facebook to the best methods for removing personal information from publicly available databases. The 354-page document, titled “Digital Exhaust Opt Out Guide,” was released publicly in June as part of the BlueLeaks data dump, a trove of law enforcement materials made public by transparency activists calling themselves Distributed Denial of Secrets.

Federal authorities have distributed the guidelines to local police fusion centers — the state-operated hubs where federal, state, local and other law enforcement agencies share threat information and training tools — amid protests over the death of George Floyd and other unarmed Black Americans at the hands of police. Read More > at CyberScoop

The Case for Adding 672 Million More Americans – The United States is not “full.” In fact, it is empty. Right now, the country has about 93 people per square mile. Many, many countries are far denser than this, and not just city-states like Singapore (more than 20,000 per square mile) or small island nations like Malta (3,913 per square mile). South Korea has 1,337 people per square mile, and Belgium has 976. If you tripled the population of the United States, adding the new Americans only to the Lower 48 and leaving Alaska and Hawaii intact and unchanged, the main part of America would be only about as dense as France and less than half as dense as Germany.

A transformation on that scale is almost impossible to imagine, in large part because the American political system has fallen into a state of torpor and dysfunction driven by, among other things, the absence of the shared sense of purpose that once bound the national experiment. But while contemporary politics is terrifying in certain ways, it has also opened up again the possibility of goals, and projects, and ideas — probably the biggest opportunity in a generation for new ideas to take hold. So here is one big one: a billion Americans.

When America faced down Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, we were the big dog. We had more people, more wealth, and more industrial capacity. (Back in 1938, the gross domestic product of the U.S. alone was larger than that of Germany, Japan, and Italy combined.) But against China, we are the little dog: There are more than 1 billion of them to about 330 million of us. Chinese people don’t need to become as rich as Americans for China’s overall economy to outweigh ours. If they managed to become about half as rich as we are on a per person basis, like the Bahamas or Spain, then their economy would be far larger than ours in the aggregate. To become one-third as rich as we are, like Portugal or Greece, would be enough to pull even. To stay on top, we probably need to grow the country threefold — to one billion Americans.

Conservatives argue that the country can’t take more immigrants — that it should effectively close its borders or, at the very least, restrict immigration to a trickle. Progressives tend to disagree, even while being inclined to say that the particular towns and cities they live in should be preserved as is, opposing any further real-estate development as a pernicious disruption. Meanwhile, America’s birthrate has slipped to a historic low, and nobody in the political mainstream seems to think we can or should do anything about it. But a three-to-one advantage in population is really hard to overcome. Thankfully, tripling the size of the nation is something that is in our power to achieve. It would just require more immigrants and more programs to support people who want to have additional children. Read More > at Intelligencer

California’s Property-Tax Holy War – California’s Proposition 13, the successful 1978 initiative that limited property-tax increases, has long been considered the third rail of the state’s politics. Former governor Jerry Brown, coasting to victory in the 2014 gubernatorial election, called the constitutional amendment “a sacred doctrine that should never be questioned.” But now a coalition of public-sector unions, school districts, progressive advocacy groups, and Democratic politicians are betting that they can overturn at least half of Prop. 13, in the process enacting a huge tax increase on state businesses during a steep recession. Theirs promises to be a hard-fought battle, pitting rich unions against well-financed business groups—a contest that will prove decisive for California’s future. If the union-led effort succeeds, it will show that the state has made a pivotal, if not permanent, move to the left, and the rest of Prop. 13 will likely be the progressive movement’s next target.

Prop. 13 limited the amount that commercial and residential properties could be taxed in California to 1 percent of value. Crucially, the constitutional amendment also restricted reassessments of value to when a property changes hands, or when construction enhances the value of a home or commercial property. Several trends encouraged public support for the proposition, including the rapid growth of California government, skyrocketing local taxes, and a series of state supreme court decisions that redistributed property taxes in some wealthy districts to poorer areas. Watching property assessments soar during the inflationary 1970s, older homeowners strongly supported the initiative.

Though Prop. 13 has been a boon for some owners, especially those who have retained their properties for a long time, it hasn’t restrained the overall growth of taxes in the Golden State, which ranks 11th in total tax burden on individuals, in part because of its steeply progressive income tax—the highest rate in the nation. The Tax Foundation also rates California as the third-worst business climate among states because of its combined tax burden—including its corporate, sales, and personal income taxes. When you consider the state’s heavy-handed regulations, too, the business outlook already looks glum. According to a survey by Chief Executive, CEOs rate California the nation’s worst business environment. Read More > at City Journal

Why Americans are buying more guns than ever – Americans have been on a record gun-buying spree in recent months.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and protests for racial justice, the gun industry’s trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, estimates that gun sales from March through July were 8.5 million. This is 94% higher the same period in 2019.

Firearms industry consultants estimate July sales alone were 2.0 million units, an increase of 136% over July 2019.

These estimates are based on the number of background checks conducted by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The FBI reported that eight of the weeks in this period are in the top 10 highest weeks since the agency began collecting data in 1998.

Gun ownership can be motivated by the belief that having guns helps to ensure freedom to do and live as one chooses, particularly for individuals concerned with protection and defense.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that 40% of recent gun buyers are doing so for the first time, partly driven by citizens’ perceived need to protect themselves in a period of uncertainty and civil unrest, as well as calls to defund the police.

This idea is supported by data showing that more than 99% of recent sales are handguns, which are typically used for self-defense, and by research showing that buying a gun for self-defense can be motivated by feelings that the world is generally dangerous. Read More > at The Conversation

Referendum filed to overturn California flavored tobacco ban – Opponents of California’s recently signed ban on flavored tobacco are seeking to overturn the law with a referendum, following a common industry playbook to battle unwanted California laws.

The measure that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Friday, CA SB793 (19R), prohibits flavored tobacco with an exemption for hookah — a landmark victory for public health interests who have warned that vapes loaded with sweet flavors are hooking a new generation on nicotine. Tobacco and convenience store interests waged a fierce but unsuccessful fight to block the bill.

…A successful campaign to overturn the just-enacted flavored tobacco ban in America’s most populous state would deal a stinging setback to the growing public health movement to limit or outright ban flavored tobacco. California’s efforts are being closely watched as other states and cities consider similar measures.

But even if voters ultimately were to turn back a referendum, just getting it on the 2022 California ballot would benefit the tobacco and vaping industry. Under California law, a referendum that qualifies for the ballot suspends the measure it targets until voters weigh in. Read More > at Politico

The Stoicism Of Chadwick Boseman – Three years ago, when a journalist asked Chadwick Boseman about the physical demands of starring in three movies in rapid succession, he told the actor, “You’ve been through the wringer.” Boseman replied, “Oh, you don’t even know. You have no idea. One day I’ll live to tell the story.”

He did not. When Boseman died on Friday, his passing left the public in shock. Boseman had cancer, but never went public with his battle, even after skyrocketing to worldwide fame. He was a superhero, after all.

Boseman’s team announced his death in an Instagram post that also revealed his condition. “Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV,” the post said. It also noted that “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”

That amounts to a remarkable act of stoicism made more remarkable by the anti-stoic culture in which he lived. That culture is even more anti-stoic for celebrities and men. Whatever Boseman’s reason for keeping his cancer private, the decision was unusual.

Stoicism is increasingly framed as a negative quality for men. This trend was epitomized by the American Psychological Association’s new guidelines on masculinity released last year. “The main thrust of the subsequent research is that traditional masculinity – marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression – is, on the whole, harmful,” the group argued. Read More > in The Federalist

Analysis: How renters, landlords and banks fared in the eviction compromise – California renters financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic will be protected from eviction until at least next February, while small landlords will be offered some foreclosure protections, under a measure approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom late Monday night.

The deal was passed by supermajorities in both state legislative chambers, with both Democrats and a handful of Republican lawmakers supporting the bill while pleading for additional federal intervention.

The emergency measure, which Newsom and other backers have framed as a stopgap to buy time until the federal government steps in with more direct financial assistance, is the product of contentious negotiations between tenant groups, landlord interests, and bankers over who will be left bearing the financial brunt of missed rent payments precipitated by the pandemic. Nearly one million Californian renter households have had a member suffer a job loss since the pandemic struck according to a recent UC Berkeley analysis, leading to worries of a possible “tidal wave” of evictions.

But while tenants, landlord and banking groups all urged lawmakers to approve the bill, the compromise’s specifics have left some parties severely disappointed. Several prominent tenant groups are already demanding Newsom issue a new executive order to stop evictions for renters not financially impacted by the virus — evictions that could begin Wednesday.

Renters can’t be evicted for payments they missed from March, when the pandemic first struck, through Aug. 31. From September through Jan. 31, if renters come up with 25% of the rent they owe, they will also be protected from eviction. Renters can pay that 25% at any time before Jan. 31.

Starting Feb. 1, eviction rules go back to normal. Miss your Feb. 1 rent? You can be evicted, even if you got laid off because of COVID-19. Unable to come up with that 25% of missed rent between September and January? You can also be evicted.  Read More > at CALMatters 

Watch a Toyota-backed flying car’s first public, piloted test flight – Toyota-backed SkyDrive has finally conducted a public, crewed test flight (via Observer) for its flying car after years of work. The startup flew its SD-03 vehicle around the Toyota Test Field in the city of Toyota with a pilot at the helm. While it wasn’t autonomous, as you might have guessed, it showed that the aircraft could work as promised in the field.

The SD-03 is billed as the smallest electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) vehicle in the world, and it’s meant to usher in a “new means of transportation” for urban life. It has a total of eight rotors that help it fly safely even if there’s a motor failure.

Read More > at Engadget

Reform, Not Defunding – Protests have spread across the United States for months now, along with calls for defunding local police departments. But the movement to defund police has a crucial flaw: the policy that it seeks would harm the minority communities whom the protesters claim to care about. Moreover, those communities don’t even agree with it.

Cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Portland are making significant cuts to their police budgets, while others, including Houston, Chicago, and Newark, have maintained or even increased spending levels on law enforcement. The glaring differentiator between these cities: those with black mayors or many black council members have opposed demands to cut their police budgets. Even in New York City, where Mayor de Blasio agreed to some cosmetic cuts, some black and Latino council members opposed even these.

recent Gallup poll found that 81 percent of African-Americans opposed reducing police in their neighborhoods; 61 percent wanted the same amount of police, while 20 percent wanted more. (Out of the four major ethnic groups, Asian-Americans were the most likely to want reduced police presence in their neighborhoods.) This black support for more police comes even as black respondents to the poll reported the highest frequency of police interactions and the lowest confidence that their interactions will result in positive treatment. Read More > at City Journal 

BUILT TO LAST – A BuzzFeed News investigation based on thousands of satellite images reveals a vast, growing infrastructure for long-term detention and incarceration.

China has secretly built scores of massive new prison and internment camps in the past three years, dramatically escalating its campaign against Muslim minorities even as it publicly claimed the detainees had all been set free. The construction of these purpose-built, high-security camps — some capable of housing tens of thousands of people — signals a radical shift away from the country’s previous makeshift use of public buildings, like schools and retirement homes, to a vast and permanent infrastructure for mass detention.

In the most extensive investigation of China’s internment camp system ever done using publicly available satellite images, coupled with dozens of interviews with former detainees, BuzzFeed News identified more than 260 structures built since 2017 and bearing the hallmarks of fortified detention compounds. There is at least one in nearly every county in the far-west region of Xinjiang. During that time, the investigation shows, China has established a sprawling system to detain and incarcerate hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities, in what is already the largest-scale detention of ethnic and religious minorities since World War II.

These forbidding facilities — including several built or significantly expanded within the last year — are part of the government’s unprecedented campaign of mass detention of more than a million people, which began in late 2016. That year Chen Quanguo, the region’s top official and Communist Party boss, whom the US recently sanctioned over human rights abuses, also put Muslim minorities — more than half the region’s population of about 25 million — under perpetual surveillance via facial recognition cameras, cellphone tracking, checkpoints, and heavy-handed human policing. They are also subject to many other abuses, ranging from sterilization to forced labor. Read More > at BuzzFeed

Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be. – Some of the nation’s leading public health experts are raising a new concern in the endless debate over coronavirus testing in the United States: The standard tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus.

Most of these people are not likely to be contagious, and identifying them may contribute to bottlenecks that prevent those who are contagious from being found in time. But researchers say the solution is not to test less, or to skip testing people without symptoms, as recently suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Instead, new data underscore the need for more widespread use of rapid tests, even if they are less sensitive.

In what may be a step in this direction, the Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would purchase 150 million rapid tests.

The most widely used diagnostic test for the new coronavirus, called a PCR test, provides a simple yes-no answer to the question of whether a patient is infected.

But similar PCR tests for other viruses do offer some sense of how contagious an infected patient may be: The results may include a rough estimate of the amount of virus in the patient’s body. Read More > in The New York Times

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2020’s Best & Worst Cities to Drive in – WalletHub Study

With Americans increasingly using personal vehicles rather than public transportation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2020’s Best & Worst Cities to Drive in, as well as accompanying videos.

To determine the most driver-friendly places in the U.S., WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities across 31 key metrics. The data set ranges from average gas prices to annual hours in traffic congestion per auto commuter to auto-repair shops per capita.

Best Cities for Driving Worst Cities for Driving
1. Lincoln, NE 91. Seattle, WA
2. Raleigh, NC 92. Newark, NJ
3. Corpus Christi, TX 93. San Bernardino, CA
4. Greensboro, NC 94. Chicago, IL
5. Boise, ID 95. Los Angeles, CA
6. Plano, TX 96. New York, NY
7. Winston-Salem, NC 97. Detroit, MI
8. Nashville, TN 98. San Francisco, CA
9. Orlando, FL 99. Philadelphia, PA
10. Omaha, NE 100. Oakland, CA

Best vs. Worst

  • Boston has the lowest traffic fatality rate (per 100,000 residents), 2.16, which is 10.9 times lower than in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the city with the highest at 23.47.
  • Gilbert, Arizona, has the fewest car thefts (per 1,000 residents), 0.61, which is 19.4 times fewer than in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the city with the most at 11.81.
  • San Antonio has the lowest average gas price, $1.75 per gallon, which is 1.9 times lower than in San Francisco, the city with the highest at $3.35 per gallon.
  • Corpus Christi, Texas, and Reno, Nevada, have the lowest average parking rate, $1.00 per two hours, which is 40.1 times lower than in New York, the city with the highest at $40.07 per two hours.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:

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September 6 – 12, 2020 – National Suicide Prevention Week!

National Suicide Prevention week begins Sunday, and our theme for this year is to #KeepGoing. There are things we can all do in our everyday lives to prevent suicide, and we encourage you to spread the word about engaging in these simple #KeepGoing actions:

  • Learn how to care for your own mental health
  • Have a #RealConvo with someone in your life
  • Reach out to your public officials to demand smart mental health legislation
  • Bring suicide education and support programs to your school, workplace, and community
  • Share the warning signs, and learn what research tells us about suicide
  • Add crisis resources to your phone, and encourage friends and family to do the same
  • Connect suicide loss survivors to healing resources
  • Raise awareness and funds by joining an Out of the Darkness Experience in your community

You can learn more on our National Suicide Prevention Week website. You’ll also find #KeepGoing social media graphics, resources, personal stories, and a calendar of events planned throughout the month, including Twitter chats, a special episode of Ask Dr. Jill with The Mighty on Facebook Live, an Instagram Live with Self Care is for Everyone hosted by Doreen Marshall, and the latest in our Elevating Voices for Long-Lasting Change Town Hall series, on the topic of “Preventing Suicide in BIPOC Communities.”

A new national survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older shows that the majority of those surveyed (81%) say that, as a result of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to make suicide prevention a national priority. Conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), and Education Development Center (EDC), the survey data also show 52% report being more open to talking about mental health as a result of COVID-19.

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Due to increasing West Nile virus activity in the area, the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District will be using truck-mounted, utility vehicle (UTV)-mounted and hand-held ultra-low volume sprayers to control adult mosquitoes in Brentwood.
DATE: Friday, September 4, 2020
TIME: Between dusk (approximately 7:30 p.m.) and 11:00 p.m., weather permitting.
LOCATION: Brentwood
The areas to be treated are green spaces including parks and trails (shaded in orange) within the area bordered on the north by Delta Road; on the south by Concord Avenue; on the east by Sellers Avenue; and on the west by Highway 4.
MATERIALS USED: One insecticide to be used is Zenivex E4 RTU applied at a rate of 1.5 ounces per acre by truck-mounted ultra-low volume sprayers. The other insecticide to be used is Pyrocide 7067 applied at a rate of 0.75 ounces per acre by UTV-mounted and hand-held ultra-low volume sprayers.

MAP: (For an interactive map, please click here – available shortly after this notification is published.)

Since 2005, 66 people in Contra Costa County have been diagnosed with West Nile virus. In 2006, two people died from the disease. For current human case information, please contact Contra Costa Health Services at 888-959-9911.

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Heart of Oakley Coloring Contest

Fun activities continue to roll out for our modified Heart of Oakley celebration. The latest is our coloring contest.

We are encouraging kids of all ages to participate. They just need to color the attached image, and use the submission form at the link below to upload their completed project.

Deadline to submit completed color pages is September 14th.

The winners will have their coloring page displayed on the Civic Center Marquee!

To participate download and print the official coloring contest page by clicking here

Once your child has colored the page you can upload the coloring page and entry form by clicking here.

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Help Keep Your Grocery Stores Safe

Recently, we shared a concerning new trend of anti-mask protests targeting California grocery stores. Acting in defiance of face mask mandates, these individuals and organized groups have continued to confront grocery workers, antagonize fellow customers, and have even gone as far as to attempt to commandeer a store in a few cases.

To help keep essential grocery stores safe for shoppers and grocery store employees, the California Grocers Association has launched a new campaign to reinforce wearing a mask in store.

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Flex Alert issued for holiday weekend, calling for energy conservation

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) has issued a statewide Flex Alert, a call for voluntary electricity conservation, beginning Saturday and extending through Monday, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Labor Day weekend temperatures are forecast 10-20 degrees above normal for
California, and the power grid operator is predicting an increase in electricity demand,
primarily from air conditioning use. Overnight temperatures statewide are projected to
be at least 10 degrees higher than normal, which doesn’t allow infrastructure to cool

High heat is also predicted throughout the West for the weekend, which can limit the
ISO’s ability to import energy to serve demand.

Consumers can actively help by shifting energy use to morning and nighttime hours.
Conservation can lower demand and avoid further actions, including outages, and
lessen the duration of possible power interruptions. For example, consumer
conservation efforts during a heat wave on Aug. 17 and 18 were key to preventing
expected power outages.

Consumers are urged to conserve electricity when the grid is most stressed in the
afternoons and evenings, when temperatures remain high and solar production is falling
due to the sun setting.

The ISO recognizes that reducing energy use during the hot time of the day is a
hardship, especially for those working from home or for families with children schooling
at home. However, if a large enough number of consumers conserve even in small
ways, they can help grid operators avoid more serious system emergencies. Between 3
p.m. and 9 p.m., the ISO is urging consumers to:

  • Set air conditioning thermostats to 78 degrees, if health permits.
  • Defer use of major appliances.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • Unplug unused electrical devices.
  • Close blinds and drapes.
  • Use fans when possible.
  • Limit time the refrigerator door is open.

Consumers can also take steps to prepare for the Flex Alert by doing the following
before 3 p.m.:

  • “Pre-cool” their homes, or lower air conditioning thermostats.
  • Charge electric vehicles.
  • Charge mobile devices and laptops.
  • Run dishwashers, washing machines and other major appliances.
  • Set pool pumps to run in the early morning or late at night.

For information on Flex Alerts, to get more electricity conservation tips, and to sign up
for conservation alerts, visit the ISO’s Flex Alert website. Visit the ISO’s News page for
more information on the heat wave’s impacts on grid operations, and to learn more
about alerts, warnings and emergency notices.

For updates on grid operations, follow us on Twitter at @California_ISO or @FlexAlert,
or monitor system conditions in real time at ISO’s Today’s Outlook

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Oakley Police and You, Me, We Oakley Invite the Public to Participate in a Virtual Community Dialogue

Oakley residents are invited to join the Oakley Police Department and City Officials for a virtual community dialogue on policing on Tuesday, September 15th from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m

The Oakley Police Department has always been committed to providing fair and impartial police services. Consistent with this value, is the recognition that creating a space for dialogue with community members is healthy and important to evaluating any blind spots and providing context for the work of our officers and a space for our community to learn together.

During the session, participants can expect a brief introduction to the concept of implicit bias and the impact of bias in the criminal justice system. Further, the evening will be an opportunity for the community to share their experiences, voice their concerns and express their appreciation. Police and City leaders will have an opportunity to share their experiences, provide evidence of listening, and explain their approach. The meeting will be facilitated by Fogbreak Staff, with significant attention to creating norms for discussion including respectful listening.

Fogbreak is an education company for criminal justice professionals, civic leaders and those interested in creating equitable and engaged communities. Fogbreak works to build community trust in law enforcement, teach fairness and other complex skills, and support inclusive leadership and community engagement.

Mayor Kevin Romick stated, “The event is meant to create a safe space for conversation that recognizes the shared humanity of both our police officers and residents. I hope the conversations will allow each of us to learn from one another’s experiences. Ultimately, I hope all participants’ walk away feeling seen, heard, and encouraged to not relent in our desire to always do better, because our community depends on it.”

The dialogue in part, is being co-sponsored by You, Me, We Oakley! (YMWO). You, Me, We Oakley! is a program that seeks to enhance understanding, trust, relationships, integration, participation and cooperation among all residents of Oakley in order to build a more vibrant and cohesive community that lives up to the commitment for Oakley to truly be “a place for families in the heart of the Delta”. YMWO seeks to increase a spirit of mutual respect among all Oakley residents, increase civic participation, and create a more welcoming community here in Oakley.

Participants are asked to register for the event at or

After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

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BPD launches Text BART Police

The BART Police Department is launching a new initiative that gives riders another way to request assistance from officers while they’re in the system. Text BART Police allows riders, employees, and others to directly contact the BPD Dispatch Center. The launch builds on the success of the BART Watch app, which has been downloaded 89,000 times.

“I want to give our riders as many ways as possible to reach us while they’re on our trains and in our stations,” said BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez. “Text BART Police makes it easy for anyone to use their phone to discreetly contact us if a need should arise.”

The number for Text BART Police is 510-200-0992. Text BART Police is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can also be used to send pictures to BPD. Much like the BART Watch app, the number should be primarily used for non-emergency reports. Anyone with an emergency is still urged to call 911 or contact their Train Operator.

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Victory in the Pacific Day – 75th Anniversary

On this day in 1945, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was formally signed on board USS Missouri. By the end of July 1945, the imminent defeat of Japan in the Second World War became obvious. Atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a failed military coup became the last straw that made Emperor Hirohito announce the surrender of Japan to the Allies.

Japan surrendered on August 14/15 (depending on the time zone), 1945, and in many countries this date is observed as Victory over Japan Day.The formal signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender took place aboard USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. President Harry S. Truman designated September 2 as Victory over Japan Day.

The name V-J Day was selected to remind of V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) celebrated on May 8. V-J Day is also sometimes referred to as Victory in the Pacific Day (V-P Day).

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Spare the air alert extended through Thursday, September 3


Spare the Air Alert is in effect, through Thursday, September 3.

Smoke from numerous fires are currently impacting air quality in portions of the Bay Area. Concentrations of particulate matter pollution are forecast to be unhealthy. High levels of particulate matter pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions. Protect your health by staying indoors and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities.

Wood Burning Prohibited. It is illegal for Bay Area residents and businesses to burn wood or manufactured firelogs in fireplaces, woodstoves and inserts, pellet stoves, outdoor fire pits, or any other wood burning devices.

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A Modified Heart of Oakley Celebration

Normally, we’d be getting ready for our awesome heart of Oakley Celebration, but large public gatherings are of course not possible at this time. But that doesn’t’ mean we can’t still have a lot of fun and celebrate our wonderful Oakley community, which we’ll be sharing more of in the weeks to come.

Currently, we are taking registration for a Heart of Oakley Paint Night in partnership with Starry Nite Studios at the Heart of Oakley community event as we virtually paint “The Crane with Mt. Diablo.”

TICKET OPTION 1: $50 ticket includes Zoom link and all Supplies: Paint, Canvas, a Heart of Oakley stemless wine glass, and easel and brushes. $20 of your ticket is a refunded when the easel and brushes are returned to the studio.
TICKET OPTION 2: $30 included Zoom link and Supplies: Paint, Canvas, Wine Glass*. Please note there are no paint brushes or easels included in this price. If you need to borrow these items please purchase ticket Option 1.
ADD-ON OPTION: Add a bottle of wine for only $25 to your order so you can relax as we paint and sip the night away. Please select between bubbles, white or red varietals at pickup. We have a large selection to choose from.

Ticket holders will be notified of dates/times in September. Learn more about the event and purchase tickets and the link below.



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Parking and Circulation Improvements at Antioch Station Sept.-Oct. 2020

As we continue to expand parking at Antioch Station, we will make modifications to the existing parking lot and access roads to comply with codes and improve traffic circulation and curbside operations. These modifications include: relocating bike lockers and the passenger loading zone, and other access improvements.

All parking stalls that are to be removed or closed temporarily for construction will be signed at least 72 hours in advance. Please look out for barricades and signage to guide you around the work areas during this time.

Construction will occur in multiple stages to ensure that passenger loading zones and customer access remain available at all times.

  • Stage 1: COMPLETE – Relocate permit parking; relocate and increase motorcycle parking.
  • Stage 2: COMPLETE – Construct dedicated bus lane (traffic flow during construction will not be significantly impacted); establish new ADA parking and future EV charging stations; motorcycle parking will be temporarily relocated as shown; install new railing to enhance station access.
  • Stage 3: Construct and open new passenger loading zone and install new railing to enhance station access.
  • Stage 4: Construct and relocate bike lockers.

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Sunday Reading – 08/30/2020

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.

What Happened in Room 10? – The Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, was the first COVID hot spot in the U.S.

Forty-six people associated with the nursing home died, exposing how ill-prepared we were for the pandemic — and how we take care of our elderly.

This is their story.

That Tuesday night, Helen lay awake and listened to her roommate dying. She heard the nurses moving around. Their whispers. She heard the heaving of the oxygen machine. At some point, someone had closed the curtain that divided the room, but it didn’t do much to mute the noise. The beds were so close together that each woman could hear the other breathing — and that was true on a normal day, before the coughing.

It was four days into the outbreak. Or, rather, it was four days since the Life Care Center of Kirkland, a nursing home in Washington state, had publicly confirmed the existence of a coronavirus outbreak. From Room 10, where Helen and Twilla had lived for more than a year, the women couldn’t see the nurses wheeling sick residents out the front door to meet the ambulances in the parking lot — sometimes holding white bedsheets around the stretchers to shield the patients from the photographers waiting at the side of the road. Room 10 faced inward, toward the courtyard, and it was quiet there. Still, from their beds, the women could hear nurses running down the hallway. The sound was conspicuous because people don’t usually run inside nursing homes.

Later, the story of the Life Care outbreak would be flattened by the ubiquitous metaphors of pandemic. People would say that COVID-19 hit like a bomb, or an earthquake, or a tidal wave. They would say it spread like wildfire. But inside the facility, it felt more like a spectral haunting. A nurse named Chelsey Earnest said that fighting COVID was like “chasing the devil.” Read More > at The California Sunday Magazine

Covid-19 is becoming less deadly in Europe but we don’t know why – It is becoming increasingly clear that people are less likely to die if they get covid-19 now compared with earlier in the pandemic, at least in Europe, but the reasons why are still shrouded in uncertainty.

One UK doctor has said that the coronavirus was “getting a little bit less angry”, while an infectious disease consultant at the National University of Singapore claimed that a mutated version of the coronavirus, D614G, is making the illness less deadly.

In England, the proportion of people infected by the coronavirus who later died was certainly lower in early August than it was in late June. Over the period, this infection fatality rate (IFR) dropped by between 55 and 80 per cent, depending on which data set was used, found Jason Oke at the University of Oxford and his colleagues.

“This doesn’t seem to be the same disease or as lethal as it was earlier on when we saw huge numbers of people dying,” he says. For example, the week beginning 17 August saw 95 people die and just over 7000 cases across the UK. In the first week of April, 7164 died and nearly 40,000 tested positive.

Dividing deaths by cases gives a crude case fatality rate of around 1 per cent in August, compared with nearly 18 per cent in April… Read More > at New Scientist

California governor announces new reopening plan – Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new, color-coded process Friday for reopening California businesses amid the coronovirus pandemic that is more gradual than the state’s current rules to guard against loosening restrictions too soon.

Counties will move through the new, four-tier system based on their number of cases and percentage of positive tests. It will rely on those two metrics to determine a tier: case rates and the percentage of positive tests.

Newsom said the new system will be simple, slower and steady. It also invests more power with the state instead of the counties.

The changes come nearly two months after Newsom shut down bars, restaurants for indoor dining and a slew of other businesses following a surge in cases after the state’s first reopening attempt.

…In simple terms, the rules are about calibrating business activities with how widespread the virus is within counties. The more cases and positive tests, the tighter the restrictions on restaurants, retail shops and other businesses.

However, many details about how the process would work remained unclear.

Under the new process, counties will have to meet certain metrics for three weeks before they can reopen certain businesses. Newsom didn’t immediately say which businesses will be included in which color tier or what the reopening will look like.

The state will now report virus statistics, such as case numbers, on a weekly basis. The approach is aimed at ensuring the state’s cases don’t skyrocket when businesses begin to reopen. Read More > from the Associated Press

California has a housing crisis. A bill would allow a duplex on most single-family parcels – The California Assembly is considering a bill that would require local governments to permit duplexes on parcels now largely restricted to one house, in effect eliminating single-family zoning that dominates in most suburban residential neighborhoods.

The measure, Senate Bill 1120, is pitched as a way to ease a long-running housing shortage that has hammered low- and middle-class families throughout California but is drawing criticism from homeowners concerned it will fundamentally change their neighborhoods.

If ultimately passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the bill wouldn’t outlaw single-family houses. Instead, property owners could convert their single-family house into a duplex or demolish the house and in its place build two new single-family homes or a duplex.

Property owners could also split a single-family lot into two and then build two additional units, thus placing four homes where there previously was one. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

To Manage Wildfire, California Looks To What Tribes Have Known All Along – Fire has always been part of California’s landscape. But long before the vast blazes of recent years, Native American tribes held annual controlled burns that cleared out underbrush and encouraged new plant growth.

Now, with wildfires raging across Northern California, joining other record-breaking fires from recent years, government officials say tackling the fire problem will mean bringing back “good fire,” much like California’s tribes once did.

…But fire suppression has only made California’s wildfire risk worse. Without regular burns, the landscape grew thick with vegetation that dries out every summer, creating kindling for the fires that have recently destroyed California communities. Climate change and warming temperatures make those landscapes even more fire-prone.

So, tribal leaders and government officials are forging new partnerships. State and federal land managers have hundreds of thousands of acres that need careful burning to reduce the risk of extreme wildfires. Tribes are eager to gain access to those ancestral lands to restore traditional burning.

…Before 1800, several million acres burned every year in California due to both Indigenous burning and lightning-caused fires, far more than even the worst wildfire years today. Tribes used low-grade fires to shape the landscape, encouraging certain plants to grow both for tribal use and to attract game.

The arrival of Western settlers dramatically changed the fire regime.

“They came with their concepts of being afraid of fire,” Goode says. “They didn’t understand fire in the sense of the tool that it could be to create and what it did to help generate and rejuvenate the land. So they brought in suppression.”

The U.S. Forest Service infamously had the “10 a.m. policy“: to put out all forest fires by 10 a.m. the next day. Without regular fires to clear out underbrush, forests quickly became overgrown, creating the conditions for more extreme fires. Read More > at Capital Public Radio 

Top scientist knew Big Basin was at risk for a catastrophic fire, cried over it in a 2019 podcast – Nine months before Big Basin Redwood State Park suffered its worst fire in recorded history, one of the park’s environmental scientists gave a podcast interview revealing that a prescribed burn had not taken place within the park in three years.

“Does that raise your anxiety at all about the potential for something catastrophic?” asks Peter Jordan, a docent who created the podcast “What the Docents Know” to give the public a deeper understanding of Big Basin.

Sixteen uncomfortable seconds pass — an eternity in radio — during which the scientist, Portia Halbert, can be heard sighing and swallowing (jump to 21:00 of episode 3 to listen). According to Jordan, who was with Halbert in her office, she was in tears.

She finally composes herself and says she’s thinking about Paradise, the city that burned to the ground during the Camp Fire in 2018. “Given the right conditions, we’re poised to have catastrophic wildfires all over California,” says Halbert, who works for the Santa Cruz District of the California State Park System. “So what’s my anxiety level like? I think we’ve been really lucky to avoid something very extreme here in the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

Halbert goes on to say that Big Basin’s geographic location, fog and cool summers had seemingly insulated it for a while. But during the 100-plus years the park hadn’t seen fire, flammable vegetation had built up, and new trees had grown between other trees, she said. In certain wind conditions, those trees could act as “ladder fuels” that would ignite the canopy. Read More > at SFGate

Stop Blaming Climate Change For California’s Fires. Many Forests, Including The Redwoods, Need Them. – Fires have burned 1.3 million acres of California’s forests over the last month. That’s one million acres more than burned last year, and is an unusually high number for this early in the fire season.

California political leaders including Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, blame climate change.

“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” Governor Gavin Newsom told the Democratic National Convention. “11,000 dry lightning strikes we had over a 72 hour period [led] to this unprecedented challenge with these wildfires.”

But every school child who has visited one of California’s redwood parks knows from reading the signs at the visitor’s center and in front of the trailheads that old-growth redwood forests need fire to survive and thrive.

Heat from fire is required for the release and germination of redwood seeds, and to burn up the woody debris on the forest floor. The thick bark on old-growth redwood trees provides evidence of many past fires.

And, indeed, video footage taken by two San Jose Mercury News reporters, who hiked into Big Basin after the fire, shows the vast majority of trees still standing. What was burned up was the visitor’s center and other park infrastructure.

Nor is it the case that California’s fires have “grown more apocalyptic every year,” as The New York Times reported. In fact, 2019 saw a remarkably small amount of acreage burn, just 280,000 acres compared to 1.3 million and 1.6 million in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

What about this year’s fires? “I see [the current California fires] as a normal event, just not one that happens every year,” Jon Keeley, a leading forest scientist, told me.

Redwood forests before Europeans arrived burned every 6 to 25 years. The evidence comes from fire scars on barks and the bases of massive ancient trees, hollowed out by fire, like the one depicted in The New York Times photograph.

“There was severe heat before the lightning that dried-out [wood] fuel,” noted Stevens. “But in Big Basin [redwood park], where fire burned every seven to ten years, there is a high-density of fuel build-up, especially in the forests.”

In 1904, three large fires burned Big Basin for 20 days, scorching the crowns of many trees, just as the 2020 fire did. Read More > in Forbes

California lawmakers seek $2.5 billion to protect homes from wildfires, thin forests – A group of legislators is pushing a bill to spend $2.5 billion on wildfire prevention in California, with the costs borne by ratepayers of PG&E Corp. and other major utilities.

With the legislative session winding down and wildfires burning more than 1.3 million acres in California in the past week, AB 1659 would dedicate funding for battling climate change and accelerating the thinning of forests and other heavily-vegetated areas. Money would also be spent on “home hardening” and the creation of “defensible space” around communities and homes.

The bill would take an unusual approach toward funding.

As it is, ratepayers and shareholders of the major utilities are paying for a $21 billion insurance pool created by the Legislature last year to shield the companies from liabilities caused by new fires. The ratepayers’ share comes from extending, for another 15 years, a 96 cents-a-month surcharge that’s been on customer bills since the energy crisis nearly 20 years ago, when the state had to step in and buy power for the three big utilities.

To pay for the wildfire-prevention programs, Bloom’s legislation would extend the ratepayer surcharge for another decade, to 2045. However, that extension wouldn’t apply to the shareholders, Bloom said. Read More > from The Sacramento Bee

California Wildfire Alert Systems, Once Again, Don’t Work – In Napa County, Calif., a wildfire alert meant for cellphones would not connect, because of a coding error.

In Sonoma County, similar alerts were sent to areas that required no evacuation, and linked to an evacuation map that was a year old.

And in Solano County, an emergency operations official missed a call to report for work because his phone was set to vibrate.

As fire crews battle a massive system of wildfires sparked by freak lightning storms, emergency officials are learning once again of the technological shortcomings of localized alert systems. Despite heeding much of the emergency management guidance dispensed in the last year from Sacramento, counties dealing with the LNU Lightning Complex fire burning in Northern California have nonetheless encountered issues. When the LNU Lightning Complex fire exploded over 36 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday last week, expanding from three burns across 12,000 acres to more than a half-dozen fires scorching more than 120,000 acres, some parts of the Bay Area were knocked back on their heels.

In Vacaville, where police, firefighters and Solano County sheriff’s deputies were evacuating people door to door in the middle of the night, someone had to go to the home of an Emergency Operations Center worker and wake him up because his cellphone had been set to vibrate, officials said. Read More > at Governing

California is the world’s tech capital, but state computers are failing residents – California is the preeminent incubator of technology, home to Silicon Valley tech giants and a robust startup culture that draws expertise and finance from all over the world.

But the pandemic has revealed new failings in the rickety technology that underpins public services in California, most recently leading Gov. Gavin Newsom to trumpet an erroneous decline in coronavirus infections.

If California can’t get government tech right, who can?

The Silicon Valley state’s woes reflect a larger problem in public-sector technology that has plagued governments for years — but are coming to the fore during the nation’s coronavirus crisis. Florida’s unemployment claims website, built by Deloitte, has faltered so badly this year that Gov. Ron DeSantis called it a “jalopy.” Other states, such as Wisconsin and New Jersey, are likewise struggling to keep pace with claims in part because they say their systems rely on decades-old programming language.

On top of California’s backlog of nearly 1 million unemployment claims, the state has experienced longstanding issues at the Department of Motor Vehicles — whose offices only began accepting credit card payments last year. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 data snafu at California’s health department not only embarrassed Newsom, but hamstrung counties in responding to infections and resulted in the resignation of the state’s public health director this month.

California’s IT problems stem in part from chronic underinvestment in new technology and mismanagement of the money it has put into upgrades. Paradoxically, California’s state services also suffer from the wealth of technological know-how in their own backyard. Read More > at Politico

High intensity physical activity in early adolescence could lead to stronger bones in adulthood – The research, which analysed data from 2,569 participants of the Children of the 90s health study, found that more time spent doing moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) from age 12 years was associated with stronger hips at age 25 years, whereas time spent in light intensity activity was less clearly associated with adult hip strength.

Peak bone mass occurs in young adulthood and is considered to be a marker of the risk of fracture and osteoporosis in later life. Hip fractures make up a large proportion of the osteoporosis disease burden.

Researchers looked at data from healthy individuals who had physical activity measured up to 4 times using accelerometers worn as part of clinical assessments at age 12, 14, 16 and 25 years. This is a device that measures a person’s movement for the whole time they wear it.

Researchers also found evidence to suggest that adolescent MVPA was more important than MVPA in adulthood, and that MVPA in early adolescence may be more important than in later adolescence. There was also some evidence that higher impact activity (consistent with jumping; assessed once in a subsample in late adolescence using a custom accelerometer) was related to stronger hips at age 25. Read More > from University of Bristol

Good News for Birds (and Wind Power) – Birds have been a problem for wind power. Wind turbines, whatever their other merits, have the tendency to kill birds, and possibly bats. This has been a longstanding problem, particularly because those areas best for wind power are often important for birds, particularly those species that tend to ride on wind currents.

The bird problem has meant that environmental organizations have been inconsistent advocates of wind power, endorsing the such carbon-free power in the abstract, but often opposing particular wind power development proposals. I wrote about this problem over twenty years ago in The Weekly Standard, and it has not gone away.

New research suggests that one solution to the bird problem is rather simple: Painting one blade black dramatically reduces bird kills by wind turbines–70 percent in one location under study. This is an important development because the effect appears quite large, and it’s a relatively inexpensive fix. Assuming this research pans out, there is a cheap way to address the biggest environmental drawback of wind power, and that’s a big deal. Read More > at The Volokh Conspiracy

More than 100 California schools, districts received waivers to reopen classrooms – California health officials have granted more than 100 waivers to allow districts and schools — mostly in Southern California — to reopen for in-class instruction in counties where only remote online instruction is allowed due to coronavirus outbreaks.

Of the 113 schools and districts that the California Department of Public Health consulted with local authorities on waiver requests, all but four were approved, according to the list the agency posted Wednesday afternoon.

Only two of those were in the Bay Area, both of them in Santa Clara County: Moreland School District, which local officials disclosed last week, and Sunnyvale Christian School, which was cleared to open classrooms on Thursday. Read More > in The Mercury News

Auditor: California’s Coronavirus Spending at ‘High Risk’ – California is getting so much money from the federal government because of the coronavirus — more than $71 billion — that the state’s auditor on Tuesday warned Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration it is at high risk of waste, fraud and abuse.

In a letter to Newsom and legislative leaders, State Auditor Elaine Howle said she was invoking a state law giving her authority to keep a close watch on 18 government agencies in charge of overseeing the spending.

“The swift appropriation of federal COVID-19 funds, along with the prior audit findings, raise the possibility that responsible state agencies do not have adequate processes in place to address these risks,” Howle wrote.

Howle’s office identified more than $71 billion in federal coronavirus aid that the state has either received or is expected to receive to operate 35 federal programs. More than half of that money. or $40 billion, is how much the state expects to borrow from the federal government to help pay unemployment benefits for millions of people who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Read More > at KPIX – CBS SF BayArea

In wake of blackouts, advocacy groups call for independent investigation and release of confidential data – Advocacy groups on each side of the country are calling on regulators and prosecutors to intervene in response to rolling blackouts in California earlier this month.

In San Francisco, the Utility Reform Network issued a public plea to state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to launch an investigation into what prompted the California Independent System Operator, or CAISO, to impose what’s called load-shedding.

In Washington D.C., the Public Citizen advocacy group has urged CAISO and federal energy regulators to identify which power plants contributed to the lack of power supply on Aug. 14 and 15, when the state saw its first deliberate blackouts since 2001.

“Identifying the names of power plants that helped trigger rolling blackouts is necessary for the public interest,” Public Citizen energy program director Tyson Slocum wrote to CAISO and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“The easiest method for power sellers to engage in market manipulation is through capacity withholding: creating artificial shortages to push prices sky high,” Slocum added.

Neither federal energy regulators nor the Attorney General’s Office commented Tuesday. CAISO issued a statement saying: “We do not provide resource specific performance information because it is confidential.”

Both the Utility Reform Network, or TURN, and Public Citizens issued their requests on Monday, one day after The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that some energy experts were concerned that the blackouts were due to deliberate price-manipulation. Read More > in The San Diego Union-Tribune

California unemployment agency not answering 60% of calls – California’s unemployment agency is not answering 60% of the calls it receives for help as the overwhelmed department struggles to work through a backlog of more than 1 million pending claims five months into the pandemic.

Employment Development Department Director Sharon Hilliard told a panel of frustrated state lawmakers on Monday that the agency is on pace to have 3,700 people working in its call center by January, up from the 350 employees prior to the pandemic.

Hilliard indicated the agency was not prepared to handle the unprecedented surge in unemployment claims prompted by the coronavirus. She said the industry standard is to answer about 80% of calls, but even before the pandemic hit, when California’s booming economy led to record low unemployment, the agency was only answering 54% of calls.

Hilliard blamed low funding for the problem

California has processed more than 10.6 million unemployment claims since March, paying $67 billion in benefits. Hilliard said Monday those claims involve about 6 million people. She told lawmakers the state had just over 1 million pending claims as of last week.

In April, when the agency was receiving about 14 million calls a week, the state was only answering a dismal 2% of calls. Now, the agency gets about 6.7 million calls a week and answers 40%. Read More > from the Associated Press

Why Do Some People Weather Coronavirus Infection Unscathed? – One of the reasons Covid-19 has spread so swiftly around the globe is that for the first days after infection, people feel healthy. Instead of staying home in bed, they may be out and about, unknowingly passing the virus along. But in addition to these pre-symptomatic patients, the relentless silent spread of this pandemic is also facilitated by a more mysterious group of people: the so-called asymptomatics.

According to various estimates, between 20 and 45 percent of the people who get Covid-19 — and possibly more, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — sail through a coronavirus infection without realizing they ever had it. No fever or chills. No loss of smell or taste. No breathing difficulties. They don’t feel a thing.

The prevailing theory is that their immune systems fight off the virus so efficiently that they never get sick. But some scientists are confident that the immune system’s aggressive response, the churning out of antibodies and other molecules to eliminate an infection, is only part of the story.

These experts are learning that the human body may not always wage an all-out war on viruses and other pathogens. It may also be capable of accommodating an infection, sometimes so seamlessly that no symptoms emerge. This phenomenon, known as disease tolerance, is well-known in plants but has only been documented in animals within the last 15 years. Read More > at Real Clear Science 

California Closer to Banning Sale of Most Flavored Tobacco – California is on track to ban the sale of most flavored tobacco products, joining states like New York and Massachusetts in an effort to slow the spread of the harmful habit among children.

The state Assembly passed the ban on Monday, two months after the state Senate passed a similar proposal. The ban faces one more vote in the Senate before heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

The bill does not make it a crime for people to possess flavored tobacco products, but it bans retailers from selling them. Read More > at NBC Los Angeles

CDC: Suicide rate spikes in rural U.S. amid nationwide increase –  At increasing rates, Americans who live in rural areas are more likely to commit suicide than those who reside in cities, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 2000 to 2018, suicide rates in rural areas in the United States increased 48%, while in cities they grew by 34% over the same period, the agency data showed.

Compared to urban areas, researchers found that rural suicide rates are about 40% higher for men and 25% higher for women.

But the rise in suicide rates — in rural areas and overall — appears to coincide with an increase in the numbers of teens and young adults with mental health disorders, according to the American Psychological Association. Read More > from UPI

Black, Latino Advocacy Groups In Favor of Ride-Hailing Apps – Latino and Black advocacy groups are front-and-center in an expensive campaign challenging a new California labor law that demands employers provide benefits for more workers.

In one corner are the diverse unions that advocated for the labor law, known as Assembly Bill 5, when lawmakers debated it and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it last year. They say the new law providers all workers a better opportunity to earn a living wage and get ahead.

On the other side, a collection of Black and Latino advocacy groups have joined with Silicon Valley giants to campaign for an initiative that would exempt app-based drivers for companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash from the law.

The groups aligned with the tech companies for Proposition 22 include the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which normally sides with employers, and the National Action Network, the civil rights group founded by Rev. Al Sharpton. They argue the initiative would allow drivers the freedom and flexibility to set their own schedules and earn a living as independent contractors.

“One of the things we find is that this creates opportunities for our communities to work when they want to work and work at the level and the intensity that they want to work,” said Julian Canete, president of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

His group is among the Latino, Black and Asian American organizations appearing in ads and sending letters to elected officials asking for exemptions to the labor law. The same groups also have been promoted by Uber and Lyft this year, which have been touting charitable contributions to ethnic communities hurting in the coronavirus outbreak and aligned themselves social justice movements. Read More > at Governing

FBI and CISA warn against surge in voice phishing campaigns – Authorities saw an uptick in voice phishing (or “vishing”) campaigns after the pandemic forced companies to implement work-from-home arrangements. That’s what the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have revealed in their joint cybersecurity advisory (PDF), which offers companies and end users a list of tips on how they can protect themselves against the scheme.

Part of the advisory reads:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a mass shift to working from home, resulting in increased use of corporate VPN and elimination of in-person verification, which can partially explain the success of this campaign. Prior to the pandemic, similar campaigns exclusively targeted telecommunications providers and internet service providers with these attacks but the focus has recently broadened to more indiscriminate targeting.”

The advisory was published shortly after Krebs on Security reported that a group of cybercriminals has been marketing a vishing service that uses custom phishing sites and social engineering techniques to steal VPN credentials from employees. While the agencies didn’t confirm the report, they said that cybercriminals started a vishing campaign in mid-July 2020. They also described a scheme similar to what Krebs reported: bad actors registered domains using target companies’ names and then duplicated their internal VPN login pages. The criminals used VoIP numbers at first but later started using spoofed numbers of victims’ workmates and other offices within their company.

According to Krebs, the infiltrators tend to target new employees and to pose as new IT personnel themselves — they even create fake LinkedIn pages to gain the victims’ trust. In order to be as believable as possible, they compile dossiers on a target company’s employees, containing information gathered from public profiles, marketing tools and publicly available background checks. After the cybercriminals successfully convince a victim that they’re from their company’s IT team, they’d send them a fake VPN link requiring their log in. Read More > at Engadget

Virus contributes to possible big California salmon season – Anglers and biologists believe California is likely to experience an increase of chinook salmon during the fall run resulting from the coronavirus and fewer fish caught over the summer.

The annual migration is expected to peak in September, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

State and federal scientists earlier this year forecast 473,200 adult salmon off the San Francisco Bay Area coast from the Sacramento River system, a big jump from 380,000 last year and 224,000 in 2018.

The route spanning the Marin Coast through the Golden Gate, Bay-Delta and up the Sacramento River is known as the “Salmon Highway.”

The season was delayed from its scheduled opening in early April to mid-June, with more than two months of fishing shut down.

During that time, salmon continued to roam the ocean and feed on this year’s abundant supply of krill, squid and juvenile anchovies. Read More > from the Associated Press

Local Marijuana Bans In California Keep Illicit Market Alive And Block Revenue, Study Shows – Local bans on marijuana businesses in California are helping the illicit market to thrive and are depriving the state and municipalities of tax revenue that could help offset economic losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.

The report analyzes the financial impact from the 75 percent of cities and counties that have implemented cannabis market bans despite the 2016 statewide vote to legalize the plant for adult use.

“Inconsistencies between different jurisdictions, particularly with tax rates, licensing procedures, and land use regulations” have created a situation in which “the illegal market continues to make up a large majority of the cannabis sales in California,” it concludes.

The analysis shows that while there’s strong demand and potential for revenue, California is far behind other legal states because of the widespread localized prohibitions. Read More > at Marijuana Moment

Rolling blackouts raise questions about potential for market manipulation – After rolling blackouts hobbled California nearly 20 years ago and helped push the sitting governor out of office, state energy officials and political leaders vowed to never again be victimized by the vagaries of electric power — or the markets that drive them.

But their best efforts were not enough last weekend. The state’s big three power monopolies — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — cut service to hundreds of thousands of customers by order of the California Independent System Operator, the Folsom nonprofit that manages most of the state‘s power grid.

Officials from the agency, known as CAISO or Cal ISO, said there was not enough electricity to meet demand due to an historic heat storm that afflicted much of the West and some unexpected deficiencies. They also said winds died down, reducing the amount of electricity available from wind turbines, and a 470-megawatt plant was out of service.

Steve Berberich, the Cal ISO president and CEO, said warnings to consumers to curtail their power use were critical to containing the blackouts to that Friday and Saturday.

But according to their own data, and analyses from independent experts and energy consultants, state grid managers should have had more than enough power in reserve to keep the lights on.

“All of these (demand) levels are below the projected average-year forecast peak,” said Bill Powers, a San Diego energy consultant who over the years has challenged utilities in expert testimony submitted to state regulators.

More than a week after the emergency shut-offs, Cal ISO officials have yet to explain in detail why they did not have — or did not use — thousands of megawatts that were supposed to be held in reserve.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has demanded an investigation into what went wrong, calling the service interruptions unacceptable. Read More > in The San Diego Union-Tribune

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CDFA offers wildfire recovery resources web page

Click here to visit web page

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More Mosquitoes, Birds Test Positive for West Nile Virus in Contra Costa County Elevated Virus Risk in the City of Brentwood

The Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) has reported six more groups of mosquitoes and six more dead birds have tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV) in Contra Costa County. The mosquitoes were from Palm Tract (near Knightsen), Discovery Bay, and Brentwood. Five of the six birds that tested positive were picked up in the city of Brentwood and one was from Antioch. This brings the total number of virus positive dead birds so far this year in Contra Costa County to seven.
Certain types of birds may carry WNV. When a mosquito bites an infected bird, the mosquito can become infected and transmit the virus to another bird or a person through a mosquito bite.
While the risk level for West Nile virus is currently elevated in Brentwood, it is not necessarily restricted to that area, according to the District’s Scientific Program Manager Steve Schutz, Ph.D.
“Residents countywide should be taking precautions against mosquito bites,” said Schutz.  “We appreciate members of the public reporting dead birds – this helps our agency identify where the virus hot spots may exist. Additional surveillance and control are being conducted where the mosquitoes and birds were collected to mitigate the risk of disease transmission. We advise residents to use an insect repellent when mosquitoes are present and to dump out any standing water on their property.”
Adult mosquito control may be necessary to decrease the number of infected mosquitoes and risk of WNV transmission in the area.

The District asks residents who find a dead bird to report it to the statewide West Nile Virus Hotline online or by calling (877) WNV-BIRD (968-2473).

Residents can reduce their risk of contracting West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases by:

  • Dumping or draining standing water. All mosquitoes develop from egg to adult in water.
  • Defending yourself – use repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • Keeping swimming pools chlorinated and filtered. Just one neglected pool can produce up to 1 million mosquitoes and affect people several miles away.
  • Avoiding the outdoors when mosquitoes are present, typically dawn and dusk.
Since 2005, 66 people in Contra Costa County have been diagnosed with West Nile virus. In 2006, two people died from the disease. For current human case information, please contact Contra Costa Health Services at 888-959-9911.
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2020’s Best & Worst Community Colleges – WalletHub Study

With Americans struggling financially due to COVID-19 and a year of community college nearly three times less expensive than a year at a public four-year college, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2020’s Best & Worst Community Colleges, coupled with its state-by-state ranking of the Best & Worst Community-College Systems, as well as accompanying videos.

To determine where students can receive the best education at the cheapest rates, WalletHub compared more than 650 community colleges across 18 key indicators of cost and quality. The data set ranges from the cost of in-state tuition and fees to student-faculty ratio to graduation rate.

Top 20 Community Colleges
1. State Technical College of Missouri (MO) 11. Moreno Valley College (CA)
2. Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (AR) 12. Shoreline Community College (WA)
3. College of San Mateo (CA) 13. Santa Fe Community College (NM)
4. Northwest Iowa Community College (IA) 14. Las Positas College (CA)
5. Northern Wyoming Community College District (WY) 15. Saddleback College (CA)
6. Northwestern Connecticut Community College (CT) 16. Irvine Valley College (CA)
7. Ohlone College (CA) 17. Pierce College-Puyallup (WA)
8. Alexandria Technical & Community College (MN) 18. Los Angeles Harbor College (CA)
9. Casper College (WY) 19. De Anza College (CA)
10. Orange Coast College (CA) 20. Glendale Community College (CA)


States with the Best Community-College Systems
1. Wyoming 11. Minnesota
2. Washington 12. North Dakota
3. Maryland 13. Colorado
4. Hawaii 14.Virginia
5. Connecticut 15. Oregon
6. New Mexico 16. West Virginia
7. New York 17. Wisconsin
8. California 18. Tennessee
9. Arkansas 19. Michigan
10. South Dakota 20. Kentucky

To read the full reports, please visit:

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