Customer Update: I-680 Contra Costa Express Lanes December 1, 2017

Upcoming Tree Trimming

Work crews will be trimming trees in the I-680 Contra Costa express lane corridor to improve camera sight lines. Trees will be trimmed in the following locations:

Southbound:

  • At Diablo Road
  • Just south of Sycamore Valley Road
  • Just south of Bollinger Canyon Road

Northbound:

  • Just north of Stone Valley Road
  • At El Cerro

Tree trimming will require shoulder and some lane closures. Specific work dates and times will be determined. MTC anticipates work occurring in December, mostly during the mid-day and possibly at night.

Get FasTrak!

While we have your attention… Be sure to have your FasTrak® or FasTrak Flex® toll tag properly mounted on your windshield to use the I-680 Contra Costa Express Lanes.

Carpools, vanpools, buses, motorcycles and eligible clean air vehicles must use a FasTrak Flex toll tag set to “2” or “3+” to travel in the lanes toll free.

Solo drivers can choose to pay to use the lanes with either a standard FasTrak toll tag, or a FasTrak Flex toll tag set to “1”.

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Morgan Territory Road Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Held at the County owned property at the intersection of Morgan Territory Road and Oak Hill Lane, Community members and Repair Crews were recognized for their contributions to the varied relief efforts, invaluable assistance with communications and mostly their patience during the repair.

The road was reopened to traffic on November 18th after being closed to traffic in February 2017 when a landslide occurred during winter storms.

The project included installation of two structural retaining wall systems, excavation and backfill between the walls, reconstruction of pavement, drainage improvements, and pavement striping.

The project also included the relocation of water, electric and telephone utilities to accommodate construction.

This quality repair project represents the efforts and cooperation of many project partners as well as local, state and federal efforts to expedite this repair project.

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How many people die on Bay Area roads?

from MTC

Fatalities from Crashes

In 2016, over 33,000 traffic crashes resulting in fatalities, major injuries or minor injuries were reported on Bay Area roadways. Fortunately, over 90 percent of those crashes resulted in only minor injuries. However, hundreds of lives are tragically lost every year on our region’s highways, arterials and local streets. While vehicle technology advancements should help to reduce the number of fatal collisions in the coming years, enhancing the safety of our existing roads to save more lives remains a key transportation priority.

Regional Performance

Fatalities from crashes has ticked upwards since 2010, reversing much of the decline seen during the Great Recession.

Annual fatalities from crashes have grown since 2010 – likely a result of increased road activity as our region’s economy has boomed. The past six years mark the first period of sustained growth in road fatalities since the late 1970s, when there were similar conditions during a period of economic growth. Despite the recent adverse trend in fatalities, Bay Area roads are still significantly safer than they in the 1970s and 1980s. This reflects the benefits of improved vehicle safety technologies such as airbags. The long-term decline in fatalities has occurred even as the region’s population and mileage traveled has grown.

Although roads have become increasingly safe for motorists, over one-third of all 2016 traffic fatalities in the Bay Area were vulnerable road users – bicyclists and pedestrians. While improved vehicle safety technologies have managed to reduce fatalities among vehicle occupants, non-motorized travelers since 2011 have experienced higher fatality levels than in decades past.

Local Focus

San Francisco stands out as an outlier – with one of the lowest fatality rates per capita but one of the highest fatality rates per mile driven.

While Solano, Napa and Sonoma counties unfortunately have had the region’s highest fatality rates on both a per-capita and per-mile basis, fatality rate statistics in San Francisco County are more complicated. On a per-capita basis, San Francisco had the lowest fatality rate of any county in the region in 2016. This reflects the shorter travel distances and slower speeds in the city compared with much of the region. At the same time, per mile driven, San Francisco ranked near the top of the 2016 list for having the most dangerous roads in the region – reflecting San Francisco’s distinctive modal split. Motorists account for the majority of fatalities regionwide, whereas in San Francisco pedestrians and bicyclists account for the majority of fatalities.

National Context

In contrast to the Bay Area’s relatively safe roads, Sunbelt metro areas top the list for highest fatality rates.

Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Dallas top the list of major U.S. metro areas with the highest fatality rates per resident. These metro areas have double the fatality rate of the safest major metro area – New York. The stark difference between the Sunbelt metros and the nation’s most transit-oriented metro is reflective of the former group’s higher travel speeds, greater miles traveled, and higher auto mode share. The Bay Area, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles rank favorably just behind New York for the safest roads among major metro areas, each with just under six traffic fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2015.

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Sunday Reading 12/03/17

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.

Move over bottles, wine in cans capturing the millennial demand – The wine business is slowly turning to aluminum cans in response to the consumer demands of millennials, a panel of industry leaders noted on Thursday.

To be sure, the amount of wine sold in cans is still very small. Nielsen Co. reported that retail sales of wine in cans on an annual basis increased to $14.5 million in 2016 from $6.4 million in 2015. The gain, which represented a 125 percent annual increase, stood out in a sector where overall U.S. wine shipments only grew 2.8 percent last year. “Five years from now, we might not be having this conversation,” said Ashley Sebastionelli, president and co-founder of Lucky Clover Packaging, a Maryland-based firm that produces marketing sleeves for cans, of the wisdom of packaging wine in cans. Sebastionelli and others spoke Thursday at the Wine Industry Network Expo held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Representatives of both the wine and can industry said that vintners cannot ignore the massive changes that have already occurred in the craft beer sector, where longtime holdouts such as Boston Beer Co. and Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma began offering their products in cans after initial reluctance — and then saw their sales grow. They were forced to make the change as their younger customers flocked to cans, in part because they’re more portable and durable and can be taken on activities such as a hike or a music festival. Read More > in The Press Democrat

GM to launch autonomous cars in big cities sometime in 2019 – General Motors expects to have autonomous vehicles working commercially in big cities sometime in 2019.

The company made the prediction Thursday in slides posted on its website ahead of an investor presentation.

The company says that based on its current rate of change, it expects “commercial launch at scale” in heavily travelled urban environments in 2019. The slides mention delivery and carrying passengers.

GM’s Cruise Automation unit is currently testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles with human backup drivers in San Francisco, Detroit and Phoenix with plans to test in Manhattan next year. Presumably the backup driver would be removed at the time of the commercial launch. Read More > at CNBC

Wendy’s and DoorDash Announce New Delivery Partnership – Starting today Wendy’s and DoorDash are partnering to bring fans what they’ve been craving: Wendy’s deliciously different menu DELIVERED right to their door. Say bye-bye to sitting in traffic and hello to more free time because there’s no need to leave home when your favorite food is delivered right to you.

Wendy’s is partnering exclusively* with DoorDash, the technology company that connects customers with the best local businesses through door-to-door delivery. With delivery from Wendy’s serving 48 major markets nationwide and growing, Wendy’s lovers can get their fix just about anywhere, anytime.

“Rolling out delivery has quickly progressed, along with demand for convenience and delivery trends,” said Liz Geraghty, Wendy’s Vice President of Customer Activation. “And there’s no better partner for Wendy’s than DoorDash – one of the fastest growing delivery platforms and one with a reputation for maintaining food quality and high customer satisfaction – both top priorities for us. Whether fans order straight to their door or via Wendy’s drive thru, we want the Dave’s Single to be hot and juicy every time.”

Dashers, who deliver on DoorDash, use thermal bags to keep food hot or cold. DoorDash also limits the radius a customer can order from a Wendy’s restaurant to ensure food stays fresh and deliveries are as fast and efficient as possible. Read More > at PR Newswire

The mysterious return of scarlet fever – Scarlet fever, a leading killer of children in the 19th and early 20th centuries, is suddenly making a comeback in many parts of the world, and no one knows why.

The bacterial infection brings on a red, sandpapery rash all over the body, a high fever, and sore throat, and can cause serious health complications, including heart and kidney damage. The advent of antibiotics in the mid-20th century made the disease less deadly.

But scarlet fever, which spreads from person to person through coughing, comes and goes throughout the decades for reasons not well known to science. The number of cases actually began to decline during in the 19th century, before effective treatments were widely used to fight it.

Now researchers are finding the disease’s trajectory has begun to shift once again.

According to a new paper in the Lancet Journal of Infectious Diseases, starting in 2014 there was a sharp uptick in scarlet fever cases in England and Wales — a trend that’s continuing to climb. The rate of scarlet fever cases tripled in 2014 compared to the year before. With one in 500 children under the age of 10 diagnosed with the infection, the UK is seeing its highest rates of the disease in 50 years. (Scarlet fever typically affects children ages 5 to 15, and the median age of cases in England in 2014 was 4 years old.) Read More > at Vox

The NFL Is Dying; Here’s Why – …The more important point in Leitch’s piece is that he puts his finger on the single most fundamental aspect of the NFL’s decline. It’s not CTE or kneeling or Trump’s tweets or insensitive team names. It’s the supply of games.

This collapse of the NFL we’re witnessing is not new. It’s been happening for a long time just below the waterline. A buddy of mine, Steve Czaban, used to keep a running count on the waiting list for Redskins season tickets. When I first moved to Washington it was something like 35 years. Then it was 20 years. Then 15 years. Then 10 years.

Today the wait list for Redskins season tickets is 17 seconds. Not a typo. (And the team is even offering $100 gift cards to people who buy a season ticket package.)

So what’s happened over the last 20 years? Lots of things, including high-definition television and the internet. But the most foundational shift as far as the NFL is concerned is the available supply of games for TV viewing.

…If you want another example of the NFL’s short-term thinking, look at the rise of fantasy football. Gambling has always been inextricably linked to football—the game is such a perfect vehicle for betting that if it didn’t exist, Las Vegas would have invented it. But the NFL was always militant in trying to deny and separate betting from its business.

Until fantasy football.

The NFL jumped into fantasy football with both feet, thinking either that there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or that fantasy players would somehow broaden the sport’s appeal. And maybe it worked for a spell. But fantasy football is essentially the same proposition as the Red Zone Channel: It encourages people to view the NFL product in a way that didn’t necessarily mean watching NFL games.

The NFL’s overriding strategic goal should be getting people to watch games on television. That’s the business they’re in. So, again, why would you encourage side businesses that tell your audience they don’t really need to consume the main product? It’s madness. Read More > in The Weekly Standard

iHeart Creditors Reject Another Offer From Company as They Push for Chapter 11 – A key group of creditors rejected iHeartMedia Inc.’s latest debt restructuring proposal, and countered with their own deal that requires the company to file for chapter 11, the company disclosed on Thursday.

The latest development in long-running restructuring negotiations at iHeart, the largest radio network in the U.S. by number of stations, comes a day after Cumulus Media Inc., the second-largest, filed for bankruptcy, succumbing to billions of dollars of debt and competitive pressures from digital platforms.

“The industry’s best days are behind it, even though it’s going to be around for years,” said Lance Vitanza, managing director and analyst at Cowen Inc. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Scientifically Illiterate America – …“Organized investigations and observations” require a readily testable hypothesis—for example, that treatments A and B to relieve a headache are equally effective. To test it, scientists conduct an experiment where subjects randomly receive either A or B. The results of the two treatments are then compared, and appropriate statistical methods are applied to ascertain whether we can disprove the hypothesis that the effects of the treatments are the same, which would make the alternative hypothesis—that A is different from B—accepted. That’s the essence of the process for testing a new drug and accumulating evidence to be submitted to regulators for approval. Sometimes, the results of an investigation are published in a peer-reviewed journal, where the researchers provide the details of their methods, statistical analysis, and conclusions.

That might seem straightforward. The scientific method is in theory well understood, and experts in a given field routinely evaluate the methods, results, and conclusions of research performed by “qualified personnel”—i.e., scientists—via regulatory evaluations and the process of peer review. In practice, however, it’s anything but straightforward, especially when politics and other special interests intrude.

According to a survey of 1,576 researchers conducted last year by the journal Nature, more than “70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.” There are innumerable reasons for that, most of which don’t involve misconduct: Reagents can differ from lab to lab, or even batch to batch, and different labs might inadvertently use different strains of mice, rabbits, or cultured cells. And many experiments are so diabolically complicated that it’s easy to make honest mistakes.

Still, that figure is alarming, and the problem is likely to become worse with the proliferation of “predatory publishers.” These publishers, such as the many listed here, put out journals like the Journal of Internal Medicine Reviews and Advance [sic] in Agriculture & Biology. Anyone can read them online without a subscription fee. The problem, though, is that the papers are published without genuine peer review. These journals are less concerned with providing valid, data-driven knowledge and understanding than with generating cash. They eagerly and uncritically accept virtually any submitted paper as long as the authors pay a hefty publication fee. To date, there are thousands of such scientific journals, publishing tens of thousands of papers a year. Read More > from the Hoover Institute

How Open-Access Journals Are Transforming Science – Michael Eisen’s goal is to change the way scientific findings are disseminated. Most research papers today are locked behind paywalls, and access can cost hundreds of dollars per article. The general public, and most scientists, don’t have comprehensive access to the most up-to-date research, even though much of it is funded by U.S. taxpayers.

“It’s a completely ridiculous system,” says Eisen, an acclaimed biologist at UC Berkeley, an independent candidate for Senate in California running against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), and a co-founder of the Public Library of Science, or PLOS, which publishes some of the largest and most prestigious academic journals in the world. These publications stand out for another reason: They’re open access, meaning that anyone with an internet connection can read them for free.

PLOS seeks to break up the academic publishing cartel, and it’s a leading force in the so-called open science movement, which aims to give the public access to cutting-edge research and democratize scientific progress. Read More > at Reason

Should California make it easier for seniors to buy and sell homes? – Proposition 13 — the 1978 initiative putting a limit on property tax rates and how much they can increase each year — has long been ripped by critics who say it has starved the state of needed funding. But one Proposition 13 upside is rarely acknowledged: The initiative keeps retirees from having to pay crushing taxes as the value of their homes soars during one of California’s periodic housing bubbles.

This protection also has a downside: It makes aging homeowners feel as if they are financially trapped in their homes. Instead of moving to smaller properties after their children move out, couples stay put, suppressing the availability of single-family homes. To address this problem, two ballot measures were adopted in the decade after Proposition 13 — Propositions 60 and 90 — which allowed homeowners who are disabled or are 55 and older to move once without a tax penalty. They can buy a new home and pay their previous tax assessment if it is in the same county or is in one of 11 counties, including San Diego, which chose to accept “intercounty” transfers. To be eligible, a new home cannot have a higher value than the previous one.

Now the California Association of Realtors is sponsoring a ballot initiative that would allow those homeowners who are disabled or 55 and older to transfer their assessments as often as they wanted and require all 58 counties to participate. The new home could be more valuable than the previous one, with tax assessments adjusted upward under a formula blending old and new valuations. Read More > in The San Diego Union-Tribune

EV’s Coming – An energy transition is underway. Solar and wind are being added in ever-greater numbers. Electric vehicles are becoming more commonplace. Meanwhile, policy makers are grappling with the right mix of policies to pay for it all.

…Electronic vehicles have become a key element of the energy transition.

BNEF expects 530 million EVs on the road by 2040. Moreover, the researcher expects more electric buses and trucks as that segment of the transportation market becomes more attractive for electrification.

The implications for oil are significant, with the researcher expecting EVs to displace 8 million barrels of daily oil demand by 2040. Meanwhile, China is not only interested in EVs for the domestic market. The world’s most-populous nation is aiming to become a globally competitive automaker by the 2020s — with the latest EV technology.

Long-term, EVs will likely account for 8 percent of total vehicle sales by 2025, 24 percent by 2030 and 54 percent by 2040, according to BNEF. Read More > in The Energy Times

So long, 2017 hurricane season, and good riddance – Six months ago, forecasters predicted the 2017 hurricane season would be just below average.

They were wrong.

The season, which ends today, far exceeded expectations, delivering three landmark storms to the United States and Caribbean and, by some measurements, adding up to a top-10 year. And it was the second year in a row, after an unprecedented 11-season lull for Florida, that the Sunshine State was battered by a hurricane.

Scientists initially struggled to forecast the 2017 season. Some had expected at least mild El Niño conditions, or warmer than usual water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean. So, forecasters had initially predicted a less active hurricane season. That’s because El Niño tends to produce increased wind shear that helps rip Atlantic storms apart or weaken them before they become major cyclones.

Turns out El Niño never really materialized. Instead, tropical Pacific water temperatures were colder than average heading into the heart of the season, approaching what is known as La Niña conditions ripe for storm development, Bell said. That, combined with relatively warm Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters, which fuel hurricanes, proved devastating. Read More > in the Tampa Bay Times

How Can NBC Claim Not to Have Known About Matt Lauer? – In his statement announcing the firing of Matt Lauer, NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said that the serious allegation of sexual harassment against the longtime Today show anchor he received this week was “the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News.” At the same time, he said the network has “reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

At first glance, those two assertions seemed to be in conflict. After reading reporting on Lauer’s alleged behavior from Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh and Elizabeth Wagmeister, it becomes even harder to believe that NBC had no idea what was going on in its own house.

According to the Variety report, several women “complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding Today.” In the words of another former NBC reporter, “Management sucks there. They protected the shit out of Matt Lauer.”

His bosses were also likely aware of the button he had under his desk that automatically locked his office door, a feature that the late Roger Ailes also had installed for himself at Fox News. Apparently that did not set off any alarm bells. Nor did his history of creepy comments to and about women on air.

Yet even after the Variety story broke, NBC News released a statement that read, “We can say unequivocally, that, prior to Monday night, current NBC News management was never made aware of any complaints about Matt Lauer’s conduct.” As of Wednesday afternoon, NBC had received two additional complaints from women against Lauer. Read More > at The Daily Beast

Retail workers say holiday music is emotionally damaging: study – It’s jingle hell.

One-quarter of American retail workers say their holiday spirit is dying because they’re forced to listen to Christmas songs all day — with some saying it’s damaging their emotional well-being, according to a new study.

“Feeling less festive is a specific mental reaction to listening to Christmas music and rebelling against it, whereas the data showing it can have a negative effect on worker wellbeing must be treated with much more caution,” said Ola Sars, founder of Soundtrack Your Brand, a streaming service for background music, which conducted the study.

“In what can be a highly stressful job at this time of year, it’s important to consider whether a store’s soundtrack is actually increasing stress among its staff,” he added.

The company, which is partly owned by Spotify, surveyed more than 2,000 customers and retail staffers in the United States and United Kingdom about the tunes played during holiday shopping season.

Some retail workers, who are forced to listen to the jingles for up to six weeks a year, said a lack of variety in the songs affected them negatively. Read More > in the New York Post

In Rural Communities Flush With Pot, There’s a Deep Divide – More permissive pot policies are supposed to bring marijuana growers out of the shadows and under the watchful, regulated eyes of government. But in rural counties across the state, illegal pot farms continue to flourish. The situation has created a backlash in some circles before California’s experiment with legal pot can even fully begin.

Nearly 30,000 illegal plants have been cut down this year in Calaveras which legalized medical cannabis cultivation in 2016.

“There are just so many of them,” Sheriff Rick DiBasilio said of the illegal farms. “It’s never-ending.”

He estimates there are about 1,000 illegal farms in operation right now.

The same is true in the state’s Emerald Triangle, where pot has long been ubiquitous. Mendocino County’s sheriff has been sounding the alarm about the illegal activity associated with pot in his county.

In Stanislaus, the situation has officially been declared an emergency. A group of growers even tried to bribe Sheriff Jon Lopey. Read More > at California County News

California’s legislators must end secrecy over sexual harassment cases – …But the Legislature’s reckoning for transgressions by people in power against their underlings will not be complete until Californians know the full scope of what has transpired. And we don’t.

In addition to approving legislation by Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, that would extend whistle blower protection to legislative staffers, the Senate and Assembly need to end the practice of insisting that victims sign nondisclosure agreements in exchange for settling harassment claims.

Victims should have the right to speak out, if they so choose, without fear of retaliation by the Senate and Assembly, and voters should be able to hear the whole story. To the extent the law allows, the Legislature also should release victims from past nondisclosure agreements.

Today, the Assembly will hold an initial hearing on the issue, drawing on experts and people with stories to tell. That’s a start. For its part, the Senate Rules Committee led by lame-duck Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León held a brief public hearing Monday in which it rightfully stripped Mendoza of his positions.

But in a tone-deaf move, the committee retreated into a closed session. We presume but do not know that Rules Committee members further discussed the issue first raised last month when women staffers, lobbyists and consultants signed a #WeSaidEnough letter alleging acts of harassment. Read More > in The Fresno Bee

Capitol Staffers: Sexual Harassment Training ‘A Joke’ – Earlier this year, a female legislative staffer entered Room 4202 inside California’s state Capitol, a large space with tan paneling and green carpet. The staffer, who wants to remain anonymous, was there to attend sexual-harassment training along with “hundreds” of colleagues — including, she says, her harasser.

The woman said the presence of so many people during the training, especially the staffer who sexually harassed her, made the class uncomfortable.

“It was a joke,” she said.

Today at the Capitol, state lawmakers held a special hearing on sexual harassment — also in Room 4202. On the agenda was an overview of the Assembly’s sexual-harassment training classes. The staffer and another woman who used to work in the building, however, tell Capital Public Radio the training needs reforms. And a lawmaker echoes their concerns.

The staffer described several men at the training as “‘What if?’ guys,” who would ask a lot of hypothetical questions. Her harasser was one of them. Read More > at Capitol Public Radio

Scientists Ranked the 25 Animals That Makes the Best Pet (No. 1 Is Surprising–and It’s Not a Dog) – Pets are more than just adorable. They help their owners feel better, stay healthier, and, in some cases, live longer.

And while pet owners would be loathe to rate their animals in order of quality, scientists have no qualms about doing so.

A group of researchers out of Wageningen University recently ranked 90 different species in terms of their suitability as pets. They used criteria such as the animal’s danger to humans, its needs, its well-being when kept in captivity, and its biology. The framework they used was also curated by gleaning information from a variety of different encyclopedias on short phrases that best describe each animal.

Who, according to research, makes the best pet? Shockingly, it’s neither a dog nor a cat–in fact, neither canines nor felines even made the list. It’s not even hamsters (though those do make the list).

The number one spot is taken by … the Sika deer.

Why, you ask? Well, presumably because in addition to posing very little threat to humans, the Sika deer (also known as the spotted deer or Japanese deer) does well in captivity, and rates rather low on its scale of needs (i.e. it doesn’t treat you like the devil when you try to put it in a carrying case). Read More > at Inc.

The Biggest Myth About the “Bee Apocalypse” – In 2006, an ominous term entered the public lexicon: colony collapse disorder. The mysterious, somewhat vague word describes instances where entire colonies of honeybees abruptly disappear, leaving behind their queens. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has since fueled claims of an ongoing “bee apocalypse,” which summarizes the perilous plight of our pollinator pals.

But despite panicked claims of an apocalypse, managed honeybee colonies in the United States have actually been rising since 2008. In fact, as of April 2017, U.S. honeybee colonies are at their highest levels in more than 23 years! According to University of Sussex Professor Dave Goulson, perhaps the foremost expert on bees, the trend is the same globally.

Herein lies the biggest myth of the “bee apocalypse”: that there actually is one. Fret not, bees aren’t going extinct anytime soon. Our food supply is not imminently imperiled.

Now, this doesn’t mean that bees aren’t facing tough times right now. Just because domesticated honeybees, which are raised like livestock, are in greater abundance, that doesn’t mean that their wild counterparts – around 20,000 species of them – aren’t threatened.

But what’s threatening them isn’t necessarily CCD. According to the latest USDA information, just 84,430 commercial hives were lost to the malady in the first quarter of 2017, down 27 percent from a year ago. When beekeepers were queried about the biggest threats to their hives, by far an away, they cited a combination of parasites and disease. Read More > at Real Clear Science

“Look, I Get That This Is Terrifying”: Inside Time Inc., a Strange Brew of Fear and Confusion—and Even Cautious Optimism – The sale of Time Inc. to Meredith Corporation, an Iowa-based lifestyle publisher that was long known to be in hot pursuit of its more cosmopolitan New York rival, is major news in its own right. Perhaps overshadowing this monumental acquisition of America’s most iconic magazine empire, however, is the fact that the $2.8 billion sale, announced Sunday night and expected to close in early 2018, was made possible by a $650 million injection—15 percent of the total financing package—from the private-equity arm of Koch Industries, an oil-soaked multi-national conglomerate run by stupendously wealthy Libertarian donors Charles and David Koch.

…But inside Time Inc., judging from the conversations I had with multiple company sources as they processed the news, the Kochs loom large in a constellation of anxieties that also includes mechanical concerns like layoffs, a potential Manhattan-meets-Midwest culture clash, and the fate of magazines—Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly—that will stand out like sore thumbs in a marriage that’s sure to find more harmony among soft titles like Meredith’s Better Homes & Gardens, Parents, Family Circle, and Midwest Living, and Time Inc.’s Real Simple, Southern Living, Cooking Light, and Food & Wine. Meredith was reportedly not interested in the weeklies during earlier talks about a Time Inc. acquisition, and sources told the Financial Times that Meredith would explore selling some of Time Inc.’s best-known titles, including Time and Sports Illustrated—a scenario that would theoretically ease some of the Koch jitters, assuming they themselves weren’t the acquirers. (People would presumably stay in the portfolio since it is Time Inc.’s cash cow.) In a funereal column for Bloomberg View, Time Inc. veteran Joe Nocera lamented, “I believe the Koch brothers’ promise not to get involved. I just don’t think Time magazine is going to be around much longer, at least not in a form its loyalists would recognize . . . There are already rumors that Meredith plans to shut down Time. My guess is that Fortune and Money”—a monthly—“are goners, too.” Read More > at Vanity Fair

U.S. Consumer Confidence Unexpectedly Climbs to 17-Year High – U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly improved in November to a fresh 17-year high, a sign Americans are growing more confident about the economy and labor market, according to figures Tuesday from the New York-based Conference Board.

The jump in the Conference Board’s measure of expectations signals consumers are growing more upbeat about the outlook for economy and job prospects. The improvement in household confidence will help underpin household spending, the biggest part of the economy, this quarter.

The share of respondents who currently see jobs as plentiful rose to a 16-year high, while the share expecting more jobs will be available six months from now was the highest in eight months. The monthly jobs report due next week is projected to show hiring continued to advance at a healthy clip in November.

In a sign that greater confidence will make for a robust holiday-shopping season, a greater share of respondents indicated they planned to step up purchases of appliances and big-ticket items, as well as more intentions of taking vacations. Read More > at Bloomberg

Will Computers Be Reading Your Chest X-Ray? – Pneumonia is a common disease, affecting 5 million Americans per year, and is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Patient survival improves significantly when pneumonia is diagnosed and treated within 4 hours of the patient arriving in the hospital. And a key part of the diagnostic algorithm is accurate and timely interpretation of chest radiographs.

As a diagnostic radiologist, I typically review dozens of patient chest x-rays during a busy ER shift checking for possible pneumonia. Numerous diseases can cause a chest radiograph to look abnormal. A skilled radiologist has to be able to distinguish between pneumonia and other conditions such as atelectasis (the lung tissue is partially collapsed but not due to infection), benign scar tissue, fluid accumulations within the chest cavity but outside the lung, lung injury due to trauma, and early unsuspected cancers.

It is therefore with great interest that I read this recent article from Stanford University, where a combined group of researchers from the Stanford Department of Computer Science and Stanford Medical School developed a new artificial intelligence radiology system able to diagnose pneumonia on chest radiographs more accurately than highly skilled human radiologists. Read More > at Forbes

Olympic Doping Diaries: Chemist’s Notes Bolster Case Against Russia – The International Olympic Committee’s decision next week on how to punish Russia will be informed by diaries seen exclusively by The New York Times.

The chemist has kept a diary most of his life. His daily habit is to record where he went, whom he talked to and what he ate. At the top of each entry, he scrawls his blood pressure.

Two of his hardback journals, each embossed with the calendar year and filled with handwritten notes from a Waterman pen, are now among the critical pieces of evidence that could result in Russia being absent from the next Olympic Games.

The chemist is Grigory Rodchenkov, who spent years helping Russia’s athletes gain an edge by using banned substances. His diaries cataloging 2014 and 2015 — his final years as Russia’s antidoping lab chief before he fled to the United States — provide a new level of detail about Russia’s elaborate cheating at the last Winter Games and the extent to which, he says, the nation’s government and Olympic officials were involved.

His contemporaneous notes, seen by The New York Times and previously unreported, speak to a key issue for Olympic officials: the state’s involvement in the massive sports fraud. In recent days, it has become clear that the International Olympic Committee is convinced of the authenticity of the notes and that they are likely to contribute to the group’s decision to issue severe penalties. Read More > in The New York Times

With elk on rebound, California releases new management plan – As California’s elk herds rebound, the state has proposed a new management plan for the animals — creatures of great magnificence and caution that were once nearly pushed out of existence.

State officials say that the steadily increasing elk population — from 3,500 to 13,000 over four decades — demands a broader approach to expand, link and improve their scattered habitats so that they will continue to flourish.

Each of California’s 22 isolated herds, including some in Santa Clara and Alameda counties, are now monitored individually, using plans drafted in the 1980s.

The draft Statewide Elk Conservation and Management Plan, released for public review last week, seeks to coordinate these efforts — improving the elks’ genetic diversity and grazing lands, among other goals, with an eye toward boosting populations by at least another 10 percent.

…The Bay Area’s Tule elk are all descended from 65 creatures from the Owens Valley that were released from 1978 to 1981 onto the 28,000-acre San Felipe Ranch, jointly owned by tech pioneers Bill Hewlett and David Packard, near Mt. Hamilton in southern Santa Clara County. Read More > in The Mercury News

2018’s new laws: California businesses brace for changes – A slew of new laws that address unpaid parental leave, new hiring restrictions and other workplace issues will have an impact on California businesses in the coming year.

The California Chamber of Commerce has released a list of the laws that are scheduled to take effect in 2018 or beyond. Some are far-reaching, while others make small changes to portions of existing laws or may affect employers only in specific industries.

Parental leave

Senate Bill 63, also known as the New Parent Leave Act, requires small businesses with 20 or more employees to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child — leave that must be taken within a year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement.

Criminal history

Houston also has reservations about Assembly Bill 1008.

That measure, which is seen as an extension of the “ban-the-box” initiative that took effect in 2013, prohibits employers with five or more employees from asking about criminal history information on job applications and from inquiring about or considering criminal history at any time before a conditional offer of employment has been made. It’s designed to give an applicant the opportunity to challenge an employer’s decision to retract a job offer if it was based on the discovery of a past criminal offense.

Prior salary

Another bill, AB 168, bans employers from asking about a job applicant’s prior salary, compensation or benefits. Employers will not be able to rely on salary history information as a factor in determining whether to hire someone or how much to pay them. It also requires an employer to provide applicants with the pay scale for a position upon reasonable request. Read More > in The Orange County Register

California Assembly to open hearings on sexual harassment in Legislature – The Assembly will turn the spotlight on itself Tuesday as the house convenes its first public hearing to examine complaints that the Legislature has fostered a culture of pervasive sexual harassment and abuse.

The hearing comes a day after Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-San Fernando Valley, who served as majority whip until last week, announced he would resign immediately following several recent allegations of sexual misconduct. Lawmakers are expected to review the Assembly’s existing harassment policies then hear from women who have shared their stories of harassment in the news media.

The women who will speak at the hearing include Pamela Lopez, a partner at a lobbying firm, who said a lawmaker, whom she has not named, forced himself into a bathroom with her last year and masturbated in front of her.

Jennifer Kwart, the district director for Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, is also listed as a speaker. Kwart is among three women who have publicly accused state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia (Los Angeles County), of sexual misconduct.

The hearing comes as both the Assembly and state Senate try to address a wave of allegations of sexual misconduct against lawmakers and men who work in and around the Capitol. A Senate committee voted Monday to strip Mendoza of his chairmanship on the Insurance, Banking and Financial Institutions Committee until an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations is completed. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Europe’s HIV epidemic growing at alarming rate, WHO warns – The number of people newly diagnosed with HIV in Europe reached its highest level in 2016 since records began, showing the region’s epidemic growing “at an alarming pace”, health officials said on Tuesday.

That year, 160,000 people contracted the virus that causes AIDS in the 53 countries that make up the World Health Organization’s European region, the agency said in a joint report with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Around 80 percent of those were in eastern Europe, the report found.

The trend was particularly worrying, the organizations said, because many patients had already been carrying the HIV infection for several years by the time they were diagnosed, making the virus harder to control and more likely to have been passed on to others.

Early diagnosis is important with HIV because it allows people to start treatment with AIDS drugs sooner, increasing their chances of living a long and healthy life. Read More > at Yahoo!

The big stores that track your every online move – A study by Princeton researchers came to light earlier this month, revealing that more than 400 of the world’s most popular websites use the equivalent of hacking tools to spy on you without your knowledge or consent.

So before you get all hopped up on eggnog and go hogwild doing your Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping, you might want to find out which sites are seriously spying on you.

Using “session replay scripts” from third-party companies, websites are recording your every act, from mouse moves to clicks, to keylogging what you type and extracting your personal info off the page. If you accidentally paste something into a text field from your clipboard, like an address or password you didn’t want to type out, the scripts can record, transmit and store that, too.

What these sites are doing with this information, and how much they anonymize or secure it, is a crapshoot.

Among top retail offenders recording your every move and mistake are Costco, Gap.com, Crate and Barrel, Old Navy, Toys R Us, Fandango, Adidas, Boots, Neiman Marcus, Nintendo, Nest, the Disney Store, and Petco. Read More > at Engadget

$216,181: That’s the household income needed to buy a house in San Jose metro area, report says – Here’s one more dubious distinction for San Jose and San Francisco: The two metro areas are the runaway national leaders in the amount of household income needed to buy a house.

According to a study from the HSH.com mortgage information website, a $216,181 household salary is required to buy a median-priced house in the San Jose metro area, while $171,330 is needed to buy a typical home in the San Francisco metro. That’s assuming a 20 percent down payment on a 30-year fixed loan.

Drawing on third-quarter data, HSH looked at the nation’s 50 most populous metropolitan areas. In the San Jose metro, the median housing price was $1,165,000. With 20 percent down, that leaves a $5,044 monthly mortgage payment. In the San Francisco metro — which includes Contra Costa County, as well as Oakland and all of Alameda County — the median stood at $900,000 and the typical mortgage payment was $3,997.

…According to HSH, some of those areas include Atlanta, where a $55,390 household income will buy a median-priced home of $204,300, or Austin, a growing tech center where $67,440 will get a house. Closer to the Bay Area, $50,728 will get a house in Las Vegas and $71,344 will still get a house in Sacramento, a long commuter-ride away from the core of Silicon Valley. Read More > in The Mercury News

The NFL’s Head-Coaching Carousel Is a Crisis – The most remarkable thing about the Ben McAdoo situation is not that he was hired by the New York Giants in January 2016; it was that if the Giants hadn’t hired him, the Eagles probably would have. A year after a playoff berth, McAdoo is well on his way to getting fired — not even a shock win over the Chiefs on Sunday is enough to save him, apparently — because of his inability to lead the locker room or uh, well, do much of anything. But just last season, there were teams racing for his signature — even though he’d called plays for just two seasons prior to getting the head gig in New York.

After making a mistake on McAdoo, the Giants will likely dip into the NFL coaching market again this offseason. Three coaches in four years might seem like a lot for a franchise, but it’s not remarkable in the context of the modern game. There are six teams who’ve made four or more coaching changes in the past decade — double the number of the previous 10 years. Last season, the 49ers became the first team in NFL history to fire their first-year head coach in two consecutive offseasons. We live in historic times.

Last week, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk set the over/under for open jobs this offseason at 7.5. There were six coaches hired last year. When Florio started to list the names that could be departing at the end of this season, he wound up with an astounding 14 coaches.

There are not, of course, seven coaches who would fix teams that make a move; there may not be two. In 2016, the Eagles hired Doug Pederson, who’s been an unqualified success. But that same year, McAdoo, Hue Jackson, and Dirk Koetter were all hired, and they all have a chance to be fired after Week 17. Read More > in The Ringer

Sears nostalgia won’t turn it back to the Amazon of old – In the early 20th century Sears, Roebuck & Co. was America’s dominant company in the home delivery of merchandise. It ran this catalog-based business for decades before it opened its first store in 1925.

Like Amazon, Sears used its retailing strength to expand into related industries. It launched its own merchandise brands, such as Kenmore and DieHard, created Allstate Insurance, and even ventured into the stock brokerage and real estate brokerage businesses.

At one time, it owned and occupied the tallest building in America, the Sears Tower in Chicago. It even had the foresight to partner with CBS and IBM in an early Internet portal known as Prodigy.

But by the time Amazon was founded in 1994, Sears had become interested in little but protecting its increasingly ho-hum brick-and-mortar stores.

…It hasn’t been working. A decade ago, the company had 3,400 stores and a stock price of $144. Now it has 1,250, roughly evenly divided between Sears and Kmart. Its stock trades at a little over $4.

Sears, like other companies, is failing in part because it did not understand that this is an age of visionaries, not administrators. The wildly successful companies of today, including Amazon, did not merely ride the waves of change that swamped the likes of Sears. They created them. Read More > at USA Today

Justices to weigh cell phone privacy in landmark case – The privacy of emails, photos stored in the cloud, even heart rate history from a smartwatch could be at stake, according to civil libertarians, as the Supreme Court takes up a potential blockbuster case after Thanksgiving.

When they return to the bench after the holiday, the justices will weigh whether the history of cell phone locations stored by a phone service provider is searchable without a warrant.

The case, Carpenter v. U.S., centers on Timothy Carpenter, who argues the government violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure when it obtained his cell phone location records from MetroPCS and Sprint without a warrant. Authorities then used that data as trial evidence to convict him of a string of robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Michigan and Ohio from December 2010 to March 2011.

…But beyond the law, the government is arguing that Carpenter lacks a legitimate expectation of privacy because he voluntarily turned his location information over to a third party when he signed up for cell service. It’s a legal theory known as the third-party doctrine.

“Petitioner lacks any subjective expectation of privacy in phone-company records of historical cell-site data because they are business records that MetroPCS and Sprint create for their own purposes,” Acting Solicitor General Noel Francisco, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco and DOJ Attorney Jenny Ellickson argued in a court brief. Read More > at The Hill

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Saturday, December 2 – Caroling with the Council and Christmas Tree Lighting

The annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony is this Saturday, December 2nd starting at 4pm. The choirs will perform in the amphitheater

The entertainment schedule for the evening is:

4:10 Greeting by the Mayor

4:15 Oakley Elementary School District Choir

4:30 Oakley Middle School Choir

5:00 East County Performing Arts Show Choir

5:15 Freedom High School Choir

6:00 count down to the tree lighting

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Engage in Oakley Survey- Have you Voted? Help Name the Dog Park!

Oakley’s community dog park is under construction! The first phase of the dog park is nearly complete and the second phase to install landscaping will commence soon. With the creation of this new park comes the important task of finding the perfect name. Select your favorite from a list of potential names. If you don’t like any of the options and can think of a better name, you can also submit write-in ideas for the park’s name. To participate now visit http://www.ci.oakley.ca.us/engage-in-oakley.

The dog park will be located on 2.5 acres at Nunn-Wilson Family Park on Oxford Drive. The site will include fenced areas for both small and large breeds, a water-play area, agility equipment, benches, turf, a picnic area, drinking fountains and other amenities for dogs and their owners.

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Supermoon: Biggest, brightest moon to light up night sky on Sunday

from SF Gate

You’ll want to take a moment to step outside on Sunday night and look up into the nighttime sky.

The biggest, brightest moon of 2017 will light up the sky on Dec. 3.

The so-called “supermoon” occurs when the moon is close to what we call “perigee” in scientific terms, the point when the moon is closest to the earth in its orbit,”

“The moon will appear up to 14 percent larger than it would appear if it was at its most distant point,” says Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland.

The science center will host its weekly Friday and Saturday night viewing, staying open until 10:30 p.m., and McKeegan says, “If people want to come up and look at the full-moon that’s a good time to do it if the weather is right.”

If you can’t make it to the center, the best time to view the moon, McKeegan says, is when the moon is rising or setting as an optical illusion makes the moon appear even larger than normal when it’s on the horizon.

Supermoons are common, happening about once a year (though two more are coming in January 2018), and McKeegan says astronomers typically don’t get excited about them. But last year, the supermoon gained a lot of attention as the moon was the closest it had been to earth since January 1948.

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