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.
San Francisco, Homeless Encampment – San Francisco’s hotels and motels are slowly emptying of the homeless people that the city placed there during the Covid-19 pandemic. The city simply can’t afford the $260 per night, per person, price tag of housing approximately 2,000 people—just a portion of the estimated 8,000 people who live on the street. Where will they go? Elected officials have come up with a new plan: turn the whole city into a network of homeless encampments.
In June, city officials and departments developed a list of 42 potential sites that could be equipped with spaces for tents and mobile bathrooms. The urban campers, most with addiction and mental health issues, would be provided with free delivered meals and other services. Several sites were erected, including one outside City Hall and one in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. Among the other proposed locations: 25 public elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as a Boys and Girls Club, city parks, and recreation areas.
Could San Francisco really turn school grounds and other public spaces into dozens of city-sanctioned homeless encampments? The prospect sounds inconceivable, but the ball began rolling last week, when Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced “A Place For All,” legislation that would establish Safe Sleeping Sites around the city. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Services (HSH) would create the sites and figure out the funding. Although touted as a temporary measure, they would remain for two years, then reevaluated annually. The long “temporary” timeframe can be explained by the failure of a site that had already been attempted at Everett Middle School. The intended occupants wanted a more permanent place to stay, so passed on the offer.
The idea is that every person without a home will at least have a tent. The project is superficially humanitarian. Certainly, when people are protected from the elements, they are safer and more comfortable—at least, until winter comes. No one would be turned away, whether the person has lived in San Francisco for years or arrived hours earlier. The city would thus have to accommodate not just the people currently living on the city streets but also the newcomers arriving daily. Nor would anyone be required to stay or remain in the city-run sites, so it wouldn’t prevent individual encampments from forming elsewhere. Read More > at City Journal
While we were staying home, Amazon amassed $96.1 billion in sales – The coronavirus has been very good for Amazon’s bottom line. The company announced massive sales gains — $96.1 billion compared to $70.0 billion in third quarter 2019 — during the third quarter, fueled in large part to changes in shopping habits and a further embrace of online retail as people sheltered in place. To date, Amazon’s stock has surged 76 percent in 2020 versus the S&P’s average gains of 3.2 percent.
Folks have flocked to the online marketplace since March for essential items, emergency supplies and groceries. This is a trend that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos anticipates will continue through the fourth quarter and holidays. “We’re seeing more customers than ever shopping early for their holiday gifts, which is just one of the signs that this is going to be an unprecedented holiday season,” Bezos said in a statement.
This success has helped further Amazon’s rapid expansion. The company announced that it has hired 100,000 permanent workers in North America as well as is in the process of hiring another 100,000 seasonal employees. As part of its ongoing COVID response, Amazon expects its testing capacity to reach 50,000 tests per day, “across 650 sites by November.” Read More > at Engadget
Having a positive outlook on life can prevent memory decline – Everyone has a favorite memory they want to keep forever. While many things will stick with us into our old age, physical and emotional conditions can eventually rob some of their ability to remember key events. Researchers at Northwestern University say there may be a way to stop this eventual decline: just be happy. Their study reveals people who are more cheerful suffer less memory loss as they age.
The study examined the cognitive ability of nearly 1,000 middle-aged and older adults in the United States during three separate time periods. The group was followed between 1995 and 1996, 2004 and 2006, and 2013 and 2014.
During these exams, study authors looked at the range of positive emotions each person had over the past 30 days. During the final two exams, researchers also had the group complete memory performance tests. The exams challenged participants to recall words immediately after seeing them and then again 15 minutes later.
The results show that those who are enthusiastic and cheerful — a state psychologists call “positive affect” — are less likely to have steep declines their memory as time passes. Read More > at Study Finds
U.S. GDP booms at 33.1% rate in Q3, better than expected – Coming off the worst quarter in history, the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace ever in the third quarter as a nation battered by an unprecedented pandemic started to put itself back together, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.
Third-quarter gross domestic product, a measure of the total goods and services produced in the July-to-September period, expanded at a 33.1% annualized pace, according to the department’s initial estimate for the period.
The gain came after a 31.4% plunge in the second quarter and was better than the 32% estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The previous post-World War II record was the 16.7% burst in the first quarter of 1950. Read More > at CNBC
Here’s how California keeps early votes secret until election day – Ballots have been coming in at a record pace. As of today, 32 percent of voters already returned their ballots, according to Political Data Inc.’s ballot tracker.
County elections departments are processing the ballots, but not compiling vote totals.
“(U)nder no circumstances may a vote count be accessed or released until 8 p.m. on the day of the election,” the election code states. No one wants to influence the outcome of a race by releasing vote counts before the polls close.
Yet once a ballot is scanned, doesn’t a computer take over? Isn’t a vote total in there somewhere? Couldn’t someone take a peek at it?
No, elections officials say. Scanning starts the process but doesn’t total the votes. Read More > at CalMatters
Birth rates will drop, people will stay single for longer and women will sexualise themselves more: Scientists predict how society will change in a post-COVID world – Psychological fallout from the pandemic will cause birth rates to drop, people to stay single for longer and women to sexualise themselves more, experts have predicted.
Experts from the US reviewed 90 studies to help them predict how COVID-19 could shift social behaviours and gender norms — even among those not infected.
They expect planned pregnancies to decrease in response to the global health crisis as people defer marriage and kids, leading some nations’ populations to shrink.
Drops in birth-rates will have cascading impacts on society and economics, affecting such things as job opportunities and support for elderly populations.
Furthermore, the unequal division of the extra household labour brought by lockdown could see gender inequality rise and foster more social conservatism.
In many ways, the researchers noted, ‘the pandemic has become a worldwide social experiment’ — the results of which have yet to finish playing out. Read More > in the Daily Mail
Fireball Meteorite That Struck Michigan Reveals Ancient Extraterrestrial Compounds – A meteorite that landed on a frozen lake in 2018 contains thousands of organic compounds that formed billions of years ago and could hold clues about the origins of life on Earth.
The meteor entered Earth’s atmosphere on Jan. 16, 2018, after a very long journey through the freezing vacuum of space, lighting up skies over Ontario, Canada, and the midwestern United States.
Weather radar tracked the flaming space rock’s descent and breakup, helping meteorite hunters to quickly locate fallen fragments on Strawberry Lake in Hamburg, Michigan.
An international team of researchers then examined a walnut-size piece of the meteorite “while it was still fresh,” scientists reported in a new study. Their analysis revealed more than 2,000 organic molecules dating to when our Solar System was young; similar compounds may have seeded the emergence of microbial life on our planet, the study authors reported.
Swift recovery of the meteorite from the lake’s frozen surface prevented liquid water from seeping into cracks and contaminating the sample with terrestrial spores and microbes. This maintained the space rock’s pristine state, enabling experts to more easily evaluate its composition. Read More > at Space
America’s Cheapest Cities Where Everyone Wants to Live Right Now – Each year, millions of Americans relocate to somewhere else in the country, whether it is for retirement, college, or a new job. Yet 2020 offered some Americans a new reason to move — the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared a national emergency in mid-March. Many people moved away from virus hotspots or left cities because they lost their jobs amid the pandemic. Many Americans likely looked for somewhere they could stretch their savings, relocating to places where the cost of living is relatively low.
To identify America’s cheapest cities where everyone wants to live, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed cost of living, housing affordability, and population growth from migration for 110 U.S. metro areas. We ranked cities based on the net incoming searches relative to outgoing searches for homes in each metro area among prospective buyers on Redfin, a national real estate brokerage, during the first three quarters of 2020 (January through September) as a percentage of the 2019 population. Population data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates program.
Though some of the relocation to these cities is likely due to COVID-19, the migration patterns seen in 2020 in many of the metropolitan areas on this list mirror patterns from earlier in the decade, as southern cities continued to grow significantly due to migration. Of the 20 cities where Americans are looking to move, 16 are in the South. Conversely, in many more northern cities, particularly in the Rust Belt area, employment had been on the decline already before the pandemic, likely driving people elsewhere to find economic opportunities. These are the American cities losing the most jobs.
Click here to see America’s cheapest cities where everyone wants to live right now. Read More > at 24/7 Wall St
Bay Area could be worst hit by outward pandemic migration – San Jose and San Francisco could be big losers, with the wider adoption of remote work causing a flood of migration away from metropolises, researchers say.
Migration rates are expected to be three to four times higher than normal in the coming years as more companies allow employees to work from home. The highest share of movers will be leaving expensive cities for lower-cost cities, and rural communities, a survey by Santa Clara-based Upwork found.
At least 1 in 5 residents in high-priced cities say they have already moved or expect to — a possible harbinger of signficant change in the Bay Area. More than half of all those surveyed are looking for lower housing costs, and are willing to move more than two hours away from their offices.
The exodus from high cost cities is already showing up in the Bay Area, with softening demand and plummeting rents hinting at a shift in work and home life. The median price of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco fell 20% in October from the previous year, and dropped 9% in San Jose, according to listing site Zumper.
More than half of the people surveyed said they were looking for a lower cost of living. About half said they were moving more than two hours away, and 40% said they were moving more than four hours away. Read More > from The Mercury News
Is ecosystem change in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta outpacing the ability of science to keep up? -The Delta is the source of drinking water for 29 million Californians from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego and irrigation for 3 million acres of farmland that help feed the nation. But the ecosystem challenges in the Delta itself are daunting – invasive aquatic species, more frequent toxic algal blooms, bare minimum stocks of native fish, warming air temperatures, sea-level rise that could imperil levees and seasonal precipitation that swings sharply from drought to flood and back to drought. These challenges frustrate water supply management and attempts to “fix” the health of the West Coast’s largest freshwater tidal estuary.
Declining estuary health could impair the ability of the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project to pull water with their massive pumps from the south end of the Delta and send it to cities and farms across a wide area of central and Southern California. Science underpins decisions about water management and ecosystem protection. There is also the need to acknowledge the Delta’s sense of place and unique cultural value.
The tensions surrounding whether science and management can keep pace with the changes in the Delta were highlighted in a paper prepared by the Delta Independent Science Board, which evaluates science programs that support adaptive management of the Delta. The paper has been submitted for publication in the journal San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science. Read More > from the Water Education Foundation
FBI warns hospitals of ‘increased and imminent’ ransomware threat – US federal authorities have issued a joint cybersecurity advisory warning hospitals and healthcare providers that they’re in danger of being targeted by a ransomware attack. A number of providers in the US had fallen victim to cybercriminals taking their networks hostage in exchange for money in the past. It’s not a new scheme, but officials say they’ve received “credible information” of a “increased and imminent cybercrime threat” to the industry. The advisory was issued by the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
While the officials didn’t talk at length about the increased threat, Alex Holden of cyber intelligence firm Hold Security told authorities that the criminals involved were discussing plans on the dark web to infect over 400 hospitals and other medical facilities. “One of the comments from the bad guys is that they are expecting to cause panic and, no, they are not hitting election systems,” he said. “They are hitting where it hurts even more and they know it.” Read More > at Engadget
Rare green puppy ‘Pistachio’ born in Italy – This year has been an unpredictable one, to say the least.
But things got even stranger for Italian farmer Cristian Mallocci when his dog, Spelacchia, gave birth to a puppy with green fur.
The tiny pooch was immediately named Pistachio.
The puppy was part of a five-dog litter born at the farm on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. Pistachio’s brothers and sisters all had white fur, the same colour as their mother.
A dog born with green fur is very rare. It is believed to be a result of the puppy making contact with a green pigment called biliverdin while in the womb. Read More > from the BBC
These Are the States Where People Are Buying the Most Guns – The Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks gun sales and publishes a list of how many are handled as part of its National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Each month, the figures are reported by state. Nearly everyone put through this system qualifies as a buyer. People who are excluded usually have criminal records. Of the more than 300 million checks that have been done since 1998, there have only been 1.5 million denials. The data is, therefore, the best proxy for U.S. gun sales available.
Gun sales have soared in the past year. They have reached 28,826,449 through September. That is more than the 28,369,750 for all of last year. Growing civil unrest may have prompted people to buy guns for personal and family protection. Another theory is that chaos brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is a major cause. A new UC Davis School of Medicine study about fear of violence reports that: “The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated persistent structural, economic, and social inequities in the conditions that contribute to violence and its consequences.”
Who is buying these guns? A New York Times analysis shows that buyers cut across almost all demographic groups. Gun ownership has continued to be a flashpoint across the country, as the debate about who should own a gun and what kind of guns should be lawful continues, as it has for decades.
The rise in gun sales from 2019 to 2020 is not an anomaly. The number of Gun sales has increased most years since 1999. At the current pace, 2020 sales will reach over 35 million. Sales first topped 25 million in 2016, 20 million in 2013, 15 million in 2011 and 10 million in 2006. The first full year the FBI kept data was 1999, when sales were 9,138,123.
The rate of gun sales is by no means uniform from state to state, nor is the growth level. Among all states, Illinois has posted the highest sales so far this year, by far, at 5,600,703. That is almost 18% of U.S. gun sales in 2020, although the state has less than 4% of the nation’s population. By a similar measure, sales in California this year are relatively low at 1,183,460, which is 4% of the national figure. Almost 12% of Americans live in California. Read More > at 24/7 Wall St
Can California’s top wine region survive the era of megafire? – …Yet even with the risks, California’s wine industry is growing, with the market rising roughly 42% in retail value over the last decade. Napa has attracted a steady flow of newcomers who may not be willing to withstand the obstacles ahead. But many winemakers and growers, some with generational ties to the region and its industry, are counting on research, innovation and sheer determination in a race against the changing climate.
“We are resilient,” says Nicole Bacigalupi who runs Bacigalupi Vineyards with her twin sister, Katey.
Bacigalupi, the third generation in her family to farm the land, is finding ways to mitigate the threat of fires. Speaking under a giant oak tree, the sound of cow calls ring out from an adjacent pasture. The animals are there to help keep the vegetation down.
Since 2015, California Alcohol Beverage Control has received roughly 170 new wineries registries a year – up from roughly seven registered annually in the 1990s. Some critics have called for crackdowns on the continuing expansion, and have concerns about how crowding affects safe and sustainable land use practices, especially in the face of faster-moving flames. Read More > in The Guardian
Human Bodies Are Running Cooler, Even in the Bolivian Amazon – Feeling under the weather? Chances are you or your doctor will grab a thermometer, take your temperature and hope for the familiar 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) everyone recognizes as “normal.”
But what is normal and why does it matter? Despite the fixation on 98.6 F, clinicians recognize that there is no single universal “normal” body temperature for everyone at all times. Throughout the day, your body temperature can vary by as much as 1 F, at its lowest in the early morning and highest in the late afternoon. It changes when you are sick, goes up during and after exercise, varies across the menstrual cycle and varies between individuals. It also tends to decline with age.
In other words, body temperature is an indicator of what’s going on within your body, like a metabolic thermostat.
An intriguing study from earlier this year found that normal body temperature is about 97.5 F in Americans – at least those in Palo Alto, California, where the researchers took hundreds of thousands of temperature readings. That meant that in the U.S., normal body temperature has been dropping over the past 150 years. People run cooler today than they did two centuries ago.
The 98.6 F standard for “normal body temperature” was first established by the German physician Carl Wunderlich in 1867 after studying 25,000 people in Leipzig. But anecdotally, lower body temperatures in healthy adults have been widely reported. And a study in 2017 among 35,000 adults in the U.K. observed a lower average body temperature of 97.9 F. Read More > at Real Clear Science
Senior citizens can skip DMV, renew drivers licenses by mail according to new executive order – Senior citizens age 70 and older can avoid a trip to Department of Motor Vehicles offices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, Governor Newsom issued an executive order, which allows seniors to renew their drivers licenses by mail.
The order says this will help limit in-person transactions at the DMV and encourage a COVID-19 vulnerable population to isolate at home.
The governor’s previous orders gave extensions to at-risk populations, including senior citizens.
Most other drivers are eligible to renew their license by mail or online. Read More > at ABC 7
School reopening plans divide parents – California’s two largest school districts, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, don’t anticipate students returning to campus until January 2021 at the earliest, education leaders said this week. Predictably, the announcements stirred both support and vehement opposition from parents. Those criticizing the decision pointed out that other school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego counties have begun offering some in-person services to students.
- LAUSD Board of Education Vice President Jackie Goldberg: “This is finals time for the high-schoolers and the end-of-semester assessments for all the other grades. Why would we want to go back in December? Which would probably be the earliest we could possibly go. … This is the wrong time to do that.”
- Parent Danna Rosenthal: Any return is an improvement, “even if it means three weeks before the end of the semester. … My kids are suffering.”
Meanwhile, plans to reopen schools in Fresno County’s fourth-largest district spurred intense backlash along with fervent support at a heated board meeting this week.
Without nuclear power, the world’s climate challenge will get a whole lot harder – If the world is to meet energy security and climate goals, clean energy must be at the core of post-Covid-19 economic recovery efforts. Strong growth in wind and solar energy and in the use of electric cars gives us grounds for hope, as does the promise of emerging technologies like hydrogen and carbon capture. But the scale of the challenge means we cannot afford to exclude any available technologies, including nuclear power — the world’s second-largest source of low-carbon electricity after hydropower.
The power sector is the key to the clean energy transition. It is the single largest source of global emissions because most electricity is generated from fossil fuels. By significantly expanding the amount of electricity produced from low-carbon sources, we can help to reduce emissions not only from power generation, but also from sectors like transport, where low-carbon electricity can now fuel cars, trucks and buses.
This is a major undertaking. Low-carbon electricity generation will need to triple by 2040 to put the world on track to reach energy and climate goals. That is the equivalent of adding Japan’s entire power system to the global grid every year. It is very difficult to see how this can be done without a considerable contribution from nuclear power.
Nuclear power generated a near-record amount of electricity in 2019, second only to 2006. But the nuclear power industry risks going into significant decline in the absence of further investment in new nuclear power plants and extending the lifetimes of existing ones. Read More > at CNN
3 Strategies For Dismantling Digital Totalitarianism In America – In our divided nation, there is a rare consensus from both the left and the right: some of our technology companies have become too powerful. They know too much about us, and we know too little of their inner workings.
They know where we are, where we are going, what we are doing, and some can even listen to what we are talking about. They control what information to distribute, how fast, and to whom. They dictate that we see, read, and think in the ways they deem suitable.
The more we use their services, the more control they have over us, and the less likely we are to escape their manipulation. In other words: big tech companies are imposing digital totalitarianism on us, and we must take action to dismantle this tyranny and set ourselves free.
First, the U.S. government should break up tech companies that have near-monopoly power. For example, Google controls more than 90 percent of the U.S. search market. About 85 percent of smartphones worldwide run on Google’s Android operating system. Google also collects one in every three dollars spent on digital advertising.
Google maintains that it achieves such domination due to the superiority of its products. An antitrust lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice last week, however, alleges that Google engages in anti-competitive practices to achieve and maintain its near-monopoly, such as paying billions of dollars to “distributors like mobile-phone makers, wireless carriers and web browsers to make Google their default search engine.” These exclusionary contracts have made it next to impossible for smaller competitors to gain any meaningful market share.
The second action we should take is for the U.S. Congress to make big tech firms earn their Section 230 immunity. In the early days of the internet, U.S. Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to protect children from access to sexually explicit materials on the internet.
Section 230 of CDA states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” This language provides internet companies the protection they need: they can moderate indecent content on their platform without being classified as publishers because publishers are liable for the content they publish and can be sued for libel.
There is no doubt that the shield of Section 230 has fostered the incredible growth of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other such companies. Today, they are the most powerful media companies in the world. Yet they continue to argue they shouldn’t be treated like publishers because they do not hire journalists to report and write about the news. This argument doesn’t hold water. Read More > in The Federalist
Netflix Hemorrhaging Subscribers After “Cuties” Fiasco – As of a couple of weeks ago, the top management at Netflix was standing by their decision to stream “Cuties,” the bordering-on-child-porn film about prepubescent girls dancing in a provocative fashion to mimic YouTube “influencers.” This was being done despite the large amount of pushback they were receiving on social media and in more conservative press outlets. So how has that choice been working out for them? Not well according to one recent report. Cancellations of Netflix accounts have reportedly been rising that what should be alarming levels and new subscriptions fell off dramatically from previous months. Will people voting with their wallets produce a change of heart at Netflix HQ? (NY Post)
An 800% increase in cancellations is nothing to sneeze at, particularly when you’re trying to explain it to your investors. The number of new subscribers matched against account cancellations should provide another significant hint. The data analytics firms Antenna and YipitData produced a report quoted in the Post showing that in the first two quarters of the year, the streaming service signed on 16 million and ten million new subscribers respectively. But in the quarter ending on September 30th, after the Cuties news went viral, they had only 2.2 million new subscribers.
Meanwhile, Netflix lost five times as many subscribers in the first two weeks of September as they did in the entire month of July. A subscription-based company like Netflix can only sustain those sorts of numbers for just so long before they begin to crater. It’s also worth remembering that there was a time when Netflix was the only game in town when it came to streaming movies and television shows. But now they have a ton of competition including the increasingly dominant Amazon Prime. Viewers have other options to explore if they find the Netflix offerings too offensive for their tastes. Read More > at Hot Air
Unfriending Free Speech – … In 1992, 39 percent of voters resided in a county where the most popular presidential candidate received at least 60 percent of the two-party vote. In 2016, 61 percent of voters lived in such “landslide counties.” The proportion of voters living in extreme landslide counties, where the more popular presidential candidate received at least 75 percent of the vote, increased from 4 percent to 21 percent over those same 28 years.
In other words, more and more Americans have less and less interaction with countrymen who think differently from themselves. Our experiment in self-government will become even more precarious if geographic self-segregation is compounded by epistemic self-segregation, as we inhabit not just neighborhoods but also cyberspace precincts colored either bright red or deep blue.
To reduce this danger we need our gatekeepers, whether in new media or old, to facilitate rather than discourage a wide range of viewpoints, and to show enough respect for their fellow citizens to let the facts, weak or strong, speak for themselves. The standards for what gets through the gate need to be few, simple, widely known, and uniformly applied. Encouraging a full and fair exchange of ideas was once a principle of intellectual integrity. It should be so again—but until then, our fallback hope is that the gatekeepers might practice self-restraint out of a sense of civic duty. Read More > at City Journal
California Restaurants Want Fee Money Back From a Government That Isn’t Letting Them Operate to Capacity – A group of California restaurants have filed claims to get back over $100 million in various fees paid to state and local government, arguing that since coronavirus restrictions now prevent them from being able to survive economically, they should no longer be on the hook for these government-imposed costs of doing business.
California’s COVID-19 restrictions on restaurant operation vary county by county, and the claims filed this week via lawyer Brian Kabateck involve establishments in Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange, Sacramento, and San Diego counties, with more legal action from more counties threatened.
As reported in Desert Sun via the Associated Press, “state and county governments have continued to charge fees for liquor licenses, health permits and tourism assessments—even though the restaurants were closed down by government orders or permitted to operate with limited capacity and dining.”
The restaurants involved in the claims—which could be a prelude to a class-action lawsuit—”contend they have been being unjustly punished for following the law and are being charged for permits they can’t use,” notes the Desert Sun. One Los Angeles restaurateur paid over $7,000 in yearly fees beyond property taxes to legally operate and gripes he’s now being hit with late fines for fees he can’t pay because he can’t operate. Read More > at Reason
The messy politics of Nextdoor – Ray Wang is bothered about what’s happening on Nextdoor lately. As a moderator for his neighborhood in Cupertino, California, he has been watching the conversation closely.
“It’s descending into a cesspool of bad conversation,” Wang told Recode. “A lot of folks are very emotionally charged. They’re feeling very vulnerable and anxious at the moment, and it’s only amplifying that anxiety.”
Though it’s best known for wanting to help neighbors locate missing dogs, connect with babysitters, and find fellow hobbyists, that’s not what some Nextdoor feeds look like in the days ahead of the 2020 election. Despite the company’s efforts to restrict discussions about national politics and keep things civil, some conversations on Nextdoor are becoming riddled with conspiracy theories and tense fights over local politics as well as the presidential race, according to multiple Nextdoor users and moderators.
Ultimately, the platform is facing the same challenges of polarization and misinformation as other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Nextdoor, which has reportedly signed up more than 10 million users and nearly 220,000 neighborhoods in the US, is mulling a public stock listing and has long tried to set itself apart as a safe space for local discourse. For instance, a feature called a “Kindness Reminder” encourages people to be nice in their comments on the platform. Nextdoor prohibits certain forms of misinformation, such as false information that could interfere with voting and calls to incite violence. The company also doesn’t allow political ads, and to discourage tense political debates, it directs discourse about national politics to less prominent areas of the Nextdoor website and app. Read More > at Vox
Increasing more targeted cattle grazing is a win-win-win opportunity – A team of ten researchers looked closely at cattle grazing in California and determined that the practice has a great deal of potential in combatting catastrophic wildfires. Cattle are exceptionally efficient at reducing the amount of fine fuels that may be present that present hazards for wildfire if left unattended. The team first set out to understand how many cattle were in California and what their current consumption rate was.
“In 2017 there were 1.8 million beef cattle grazing rangelands across California. Those 1.8 million beef cattle were consuming about 11.6 billion pounds of fuel in 2017. So, it’s quite a large amount of fuel or forage that cattle are consuming across our state,” said Devii Rao, Cooperative Extension Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor serving San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Cruz counties. “I think what this research gets us to really think about is how can we use grazing as a targeted tool to improve public safety and in many situations improve our grassland habitat conservation goals.”
The research project, ‘Benefits of Cattle Grazing for Reducing Fire Fuels and Fire Hazard,’ was made possible through a grant from the California Cattle Council. The team used information from 2017 because it was the most current and comprehensive dataset available. Cattle grazing takes place in every county across the state aside from San Francisco. Cattle consume different levels of forage or fine fuels depending on the region. Rao explained that averaging for all regions across the state showed that cattle were consuming approximately 600 pounds of forage per acre. “Meaning they’re reducing almost 600 pounds per acre of fine fuels across our state on average,” Rao noted.
The research project highlights the value that cattle grazing can have for reducing fire fuels. Rao hopes that it will cause ranchers to start thinking more crucially about incorporating fuel reduction goals into grazing management plans. There is also an opportunity to increase grazing in high-fuel areas in and around the wildland-urban interface. Read More > at Ag Net West
The Spooky and Dangerous Side of Black Licorice – Black licorice may look and taste like an innocent treat, but this candy has a dark side. On Sept. 23, 2020, it was reported that black licorice was the culprit in the death of a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts. How could this be? Overdosing on licorice sounds more like a twisted tale than a plausible fact.
The unfortunate man who recently succumbed to excessive black licorice consumption is not alone. There are a smattering of similar case reports in medical journals, in which patients experience hypertension crisis, muscle breakdown or even death. Adverse reactions are most frequently seen in people over the age of 40 who are eating far more black licorice than the average person. In addition, they are usually consuming the product for prolonged periods of time. In the most recent case, the Massachusetts man had been eating a bag and a half of black licorice every day for three weeks.
Licorice is a flowering plant native to parts of Europe and Asia. Its scientific name, Glycyrrhiza, is derived from the Greek words “glykos” (sweet) and “rhiza” (root). The aromatic and sweet extract from its root has long been used as an herbal remedy for a wide variety of health maladies, from heartburn and stomach issues to sore throats and cough. However, there is insufficient evidence to support that licorice is effective in treating any medical condition. Read More > at Real Clear Science
With unprecedented numbers of failing grades, reports of student anxiety, Sonoma County education leaders call emergency summit – Facing a steep spike in students with failing grades as well as emerging evidence of pervasive mental health woes among area teens, education leaders in Sonoma County have scheduled an unprecedented emergency summit to address what they are describing as a looming crisis.
High school students are failing classes at rates never before seen in Sonoma County — in some cases double the number recorded in the first six weeks of school last year, superintendents of secondary districts are reporting.
As educators begin a search for solutions to the surge of low grades, they are also grappling with the troubling results from a national survey of student mental health. Sonoma County students, unlike the majority of their peers elsewhere in the state and nation, are reporting feeling deep anxiety over their futures.
More than 7 out of 10 of the more than 4,500 high school students in Sonoma County who participated in a national survey in May reported that “feeling anxious about the future” was the No. 1 barrier to distance learning. By comparison, “distractions at home” was the chief obstacle to distance learning listed by the more than 20,000 students from nine states who participated in the survey by YouthTruth, a nonprofit organization formed as part of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.
Leaders — superintendents, principals, counselors, teachers and classified staff — from Sonoma County’s 10 high school districts are being invited to an emergency summit hosted by the Sonoma County Office of Education on Tuesday to address the issues. An invitation could be extended to student and parent representatives, county officials said. A second summit — to focus on next steps and implementation — is slated for the first week of December. Read More > in The Press Democrat
The Impact of Autonomous Vehicles on Urban Land Use Patterns – Autonomous vehicles are coming. The only questions are how quickly they will arrive, how we will manage the years when they share the road with conventional vehicles, and how the legal system will address the issues they raise. This Article examines the impact the autonomous vehicle revolution will have on urban land use patterns.
Autonomous vehicles will transform the use of land and the law governing that valuable land. Automobiles will drop passengers off and then drive themselves to remote parking areas, reducing the need for downtown parking. These vehicles will create the need for substantial changes in roadway design. Driverless cars are more likely to be shared, and fleets may supplant individual ownership. At the same time, people may be willing to endure longer commutes, working while their car transports them.
These dramatic changes will require corresponding adaptations in real estate and land use law. Zoning laws, building codes, and homeowners’ association rules will have to be updated to reflect shifting needs for parking. Longer commutes may create a need for stricter environmental controls. Moreover, jurisdictions will have to address these changes while operating under considerable uncertainty, as we all wait to see which technologies catch on, which fall by the wayside, and how quickly this revolution arrives. Read More > at SSRN
Scientists clock the fastest interval of time in ‘zeptoseconds’ – Blink and you’ll definitely miss it.
Scientists have measured the shortest interval of time ever recorded, clocking how long it takes a particle of light to cross a single molecule of hydrogen.
The ultra-quick journey took 247 zeptoseconds, according to a team of German researchers, with a zeptosecond representing a trillionth of a billionth of a second. This is equivalent to the number 1 written behind a decimal point and 20 zeroes.
The findings are the culmination of global efforts to measure shorter and shorter time spans in physics, and they offer scientists a way to precisely measure atomic changes through what’s known as the photoelectric effect.
Albert Einstein proposed a theory of the photoelectric effect in 1905, describing the phenomenon in which electrons can be ejected from atoms after they are hit by light. In 1999, an Egyptian chemist, Ahmed Zewail, used ultrashort laser pulses to observe how molecules change their shape. Zewail, who would go on to win a Nobel Prize for his research, measured these miniscule changes in femtoseconds; a femtosecond is one millionth of a billionth of a second. Read More > at NBC News
Top 10% Of Twitter Users Create 92% Of Tweets In US – And 69% Of Them Lean Left -The majority of Twitter content coming out of the United States, 92% of it, is created by just 10% of Twitter users, and 69% of those users are Democrat or Democratic-leaning independents, according to new research by Pew.
Most U.S. adults on Twitter post only rarely. But a small share of highly active users, most of whom are Democrats, produce the vast majority of tweets. The Center’s analysis finds that just 10% of users produced 92% of all tweets from U.S. adults since last November, and that 69% of these highly prolific users identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. –Pew Research
Several factors contribute to this phenomenon, says Pew, including that more Democrats use Twitter than Republicans, and the 10% most active Democrats produce roughly twice as many tweets per month (157) than the 10% of most active Republicans (79). Read More > at Zerohedge
Those who use Twitter on both sides of the aisle tend to be younger and more highly educated than those who don’t use the platform – with some 37% of adult Democrats on Twitter falling between the ages of 18 and 29, compared to just 22% of Republican users in the same age bracket.
Big Tech Is Turning The United States Into A Giant Company Town – The promise of the internet was openness and freedom, but Big Tech is imposing its views on the rest of us. This goes far beyond outrage mobs using social media to target people and organizations; the tech companies themselves are deploying their power to influence our culture and politics.
Instead of being open platforms for expression, social media giants act like partisan publishers, limiting and even shutting down conversations on political topics. Sometimes, such as with reporting on the allegedly corrupt dealings of the Biden family, they overreach and get caught, but many times their efforts succeed.
Facebook even has Chinese nationals working on its censorship team. The Department of Justice has just filed an antitrust suit against Google. If Google doesn’t show something to you, does it even exist?
Bad as the censorship is, this is not just a matter of partisan censorship by corporate behemoths. Big Tech companies are increasingly able and willing to dictate to smaller businesses. In an information economy, control over information is control over the economy, and therefore control over people. Everyone has bills to pay, and few are going to be willing to put their livelihoods on the line by denying the political and cultural edicts of Big Tech. Read More > in The Federalist