Alzheimer’ s and Wandering


November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

I first posted this in 2013 and have edited since.

Last Sunday morning Oakley Police Officers took a missing person report. An 80 year subject with dementia left her residence to an unknown location. Officers and a K9 conducted an immediate area check but could not locate her. Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team (SAR) was called out to the location. While SAR was setting up for deployment, ARM found subject in the area of Lone Tree Way and Fairview Av. in Brentwood . Subject was returned to her family in good health.

If you don’t now you will probably will know someone with Alzheimer’ s in the near future. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), as many as 5.1 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that destroys memory and intellectual function. That number is expected to grow to 20 million in the coming years, according to researchers at George Mason University. For me it was my two Grandmothers and one Grandfather, all who have since passed, and now my aunt and dad. My dad was officially diagnosed in January of 2004. (My dad passed in October of 2014, my aunt passed in April of 2017). My mother had been the primary caregiver for all except my aunt. She tells her story much better than I in her blog . Generally accepted statistics used by the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Association (ADARDA) show that one in ten persons aged 65 and over, and nearly 50% of all persons aged 85 and over have Alzheimer’s disease.

Six in 10 people with dementia will wander. ( A quick note; Dementia is a general term that describes a group of symptoms, such as loss of memory, judgment, language, complex motor skills and other intellectual functions, caused by the permanent damage or death of the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, over a prolonged period. One or more of several diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, can cause dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, representing about 60 percent of all dementias identified at clinical assessment.) It can happen on foot and it can happen while driving. While wandering episodes frequently have happy and sometimes amusing endings, they’re no laughing matter. The Alzheimer’s Association says if wanderers are “not found within 24 hours, up to half will suffer serious injury or death.”

For those who take off on foot they can get lost less than a mile from home. Instead of crying out for help, they become frightened and disoriented and might hide from their rescuers. Search records and anecdotal history from law enforcement officers show that even when people with Alzheimer’s who wander do encounter public citizens, they are often ignored, considered “homeless” or given aid, but are not reported to responsible agencies. Search missions can last 20 minutes, or they can drag on for days. On average, it takes nine hours to find someone with Alzheimer’s who has gone missing, according to a 2012 report by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends these steps to prevent wandering:

  • Install slide bolts at the top or bottom of doors.
  • Place warning bells on doors.
  • Cover doorknobs with childproof knobs.
  • Camouflage doors by painting them the same shade as surrounding walls.
  • Create a two-foot black threshold in front of doors with paint or tape. (A rug might do the job, too.) This creates the illusion of a gap or hole that a person with limited visual spatial abilities may be reluctant to cross.
  • Have a recent, close-up photograph of your patient available, both print and digital.
  • Keep a written list of places that he might go, such as church or a favorite restaurant, job site or previous home.
  • Post emergency numbers in a handy spot.
  • Buy identification jewelry engraved with “memory impaired” and your patient’s name, address and phone number.
  • A high-tech option uses GPS and cell phone towers to provide an approximate location for a person who might wander. You can request an alert if your patient, who must be wearing the locator device, leaves a specified zone. Or you might tap into the system only in case of emergency.

What to Do If Your Loved One Wanders Away
Time is of the essence. It is extremely important to not delay action. Several immediate steps you can take are:

  • Notify police immediately. Call 911.
  • Have a safety plan in place, and a phone tree to alert friends and family.
  • Alert local businesses and neighbors prior to an occurrence of wandering to increase awareness of your loved ones condition and tendencies.
  • Use social media when applicable.
  • Some states have Silver Alert to help find missing seniors.

The Alzheimer’s Association has launched a MedicAlert + Safe Return program that coordinates with law enforcement when a person has wandered and provides assistance and medical-record access to wanderers and their families. For $50, with a $25 annual renewal fee, patients are given a medical bracelet to wear and are enrolled in the program at http://www.alz.org.

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Sunday Reading – 11/08/2020

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

U.S. adds 638,000 jobs in October and unemployment sinks to 6.9% in strong show for economy – The U.S. regained 638,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell sharply again to 6.9%, reflecting a surprising show of strength for the economy even as coronavirus cases rose to record highs.

Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast 503,000 new jobs. U.S. stocks declined in early Friday trades though after a four day election week rally.

Private-sector employment rose by a more robust 906,000, but a sharp decline in government employment pulled down the overall total.

The better-than-expected employment report suggests the economic recovery is growing deeper roots, giving the next occupant of the White House some breathing room when he takes office in January. Read More > at Market Watch

Millennials of Color Are Optimistic About the American Dream – Contrary to today’s conventional wisdom, young people—especially youth of color—are optimistic about their futures. They believe they will succeed in life and achieve the American Dream, defined on their terms. And they say education plays a key role in this effort.

More than 4,000 respondents ages 13 to 23 (Gen Z) and 24 to 39 (Millennials) were surveyed in late June 2020 by Echelon Insights on their beliefs and attitudes concerning the American Dream, along with issues like education and their community.

The most striking attitude of these young people is their faith in the work ethic. More than eight in ten think that “If I work hard, I…will…succeed in life”. Hard work not only brings success, seven in ten believe it allows them to move up the economic ladder.

Nearly eight in ten believe their individual lives will be better or the same as their parents—though Gen Z are more optimistic than Millennials.

Despite today’s racial turmoil, Gen Z and Millennials of color are more likely than whites to think they will have a better life than their parents. Read More > at Real Clear Education

The Problem with Honey Bees – To many people, honey bees symbolize prosperity, sustainability and environmentalism. But as a honey bee researcher, I have to tell you that only the first item on that list is defensible. Although they are important for agriculture, honey bees also destabilize natural ecosystems by competing with native bees—some of which are species at risk.

The rise in hobby beekeeping, now a trendy activity for hundreds of thousands of Americans, followed strong awareness campaigns to “save the bees.” But as a species, honey bees are least in need of saving. Media attention disproportionately covers them over native pollinators, and murky messaging has led many citizens—myself once included—to believe they are doing a good thing for the environment by putting on a beekeeper’s veil. Unfortunately, they are probably doing more harm than good.

High densities of honey bee colonies increase competition between native pollinators for forage, putting even more pressure on the wild species that are already in decline. Honey bees are extreme generalist foragers and monopolize floral resources, thus leading to exploitative competition—that is, where one species uses up a resource, not leaving enough to go around.

But determining honey bees’ influence on natural ecosystems requires empirical testing. It is possible, for example, that alternate foraging habits of native bees—differences in their active times of day or preferred plants, for example—could lead to little effective competition. Honey bees are so ubiquitous, though, that it has been hard to test exactly how their introduction, and subsequent resource monopolization, affects ecosystem networks. Read More > at Scientific American

US Gambling Industry Hit Jackpot at Polls on Tuesday – Even though they couldn’t bet on the results of the presidential election, gamblers in the U.S. won big on Tuesday thanks to what happened at the polls.

Six states — Maryland, South Dakota, Louisiana, Virginia, Nebraska and Colorado — voted to either implement legal sports betting, or add or expand casino gambling.

Maryland, South Dakota and Louisiana approved sports betting while Virginia approved casino gambling at four locations within the state. In Nebraska, bettors will now be able to play casino games at horse racing tracks and in Colorado there will now be more casino games in general and fewer limits on wagering.

Although it’s been less than three years since a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for all 50 states to offer sports betting, at least 25 states and the District of Columbia could have legal sports wagering in place by the end of 2021. Read More > at InsideHook

Voters Used Ballot Initiatives To Defy Power-Mad Politicians – Ballot initiatives are a mixed blessing. People can vote for some really stupid things, and people can reject important reforms. But they’re also an important democratic tool, a way citizens can cut through the influence peddling that dominates state capitols across the country. When lawmakers serve entrenched interests, particularly in states where one party dominates, a ballot initiative is a way to reverse their bad conduct.

We wouldn’t have the current trend toward drug legalization without ballot initiatives. We’d have much fewer criminal justice reforms. We probably wouldn’t have legally recognized gay marriages.

On Tuesday night, in several states, voters used ballot initiatives and referendums to reject the best-laid plans of their political elite.

In California, Ballot Initiatives Replace Republican Opposition

In several states, a single party controls both the governor’s office and the legislature. In California, control is so very firmly in the hands of the Democratic Party, thanks to a legislative supermajority, that it’s pretty much the veto-wielding Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision which bills become laws.

This week’s election results show how, as unpredictable they may be, ballot initiatives can serve as an important check on such power. California voters rejected several policies that are strongly supported by Democratic leaders.

The biggest blow: Proposition 22 cut the legs out from A.B. 5, which all but eviscerated the freelancers’ ability to work for themselves, requiring companies to employ private contractors and pay them a host of benefits. The purpose of A.B. 5 was to attack companies like Uber and Lyft and destroy the gig economy in the state, all in the service of union jobs. The legislation was so badly designed that it was hitting freelance writers, musicians, Realtors, language translators, and other independent workers. Lawmakers weakened A.B. 5, but kept the assault on rideshare and delivery drivers. So Uber, Lyft, and the like forced the matter onto the ballot as Proposition 22, asking voters to decide whether these drivers could remain freelancers.

In defiance of, well, the entire Democratic power structure (including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, and the technically independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders), voters in California supported Uber, Lyft, and their drivers. With all the ballots counted, Prop. 22 passed with 58 percent of the vote. Many of these same voters overwhelmingly supported Biden and Harris in the election, but they see the importance of letting people decide if they want to be freelance workers. Read More > at Reason

How Not to Deal With Murder in Space – Mario Escamilla was furious. A colleague of his, nicknamed Porky, had just stolen his jug of raisin wine. So the 33-year-old Escamilla grabbed a rifle and set out to reclaim it. He had no idea he was about to get tangled up in one of the knottiest homicides in history—a killing that also raises serious questions about how humankind should handle the first, inevitable murder in outer space.

Escamilla worked on T-3, also known as Fletcher’s ice island, a Manhattan-size hunk of ice that at the time was floating north of Canada in the Arctic Ocean, roughly 350 miles from the North Pole. T-3 had been occupied off and on since the 1950s, and 19 scientists and technicians were stationed there during the summer of 1970, studying ocean currents and wind and weather patterns.

Despite the constant polar sunshine in the summer, the weather could be harsh, with temperatures dipping down to minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit sometimes and winds reaching 160 miles per hour. But the worst thing the scientists faced was boredom: Besides work, there was almost nothing to do. For movies, they had a few 16-millimeter reels they’d seen a dozen times each. For music, they had two eight tracks. One was Jefferson Airplane.

To compound the problem, the scientists had virtually no contact with the outside world. Satellite communication was iffy and often failed. And planes couldn’t land on T-3 most of the summer, since the surface of the ice turned mushy under the sun. So after the initial arrival of people in the spring, that was it. Just 19 smelly dudes, with little to do but stare at one another and drink.

…A struggle for the raisin wine ensued, and in the confrontation that followed, Escamilla shot not Porky Leavitt, but his boss, Bennie Lightsy, square in the chest. He bled out moments later. With the help of newspaper articles, court transcripts, and online reminiscing from people who were there, I’ve laid out more details about the killing in my new podcast—along with many more details about life on the impossibly remote T-3 (including, because I know you’re curious, how they went to the bathroom). But here I’d like to focus on what happened after Lightsy’s death, because that’s when the real chaos started—the legal mess.

T-3 was technically run by the U.S. Air Force, but Escamilla was a civilian, so they couldn’t court-martial him. The nearest land mass was Canada, but T-3 lay well outside Canada’s territorial waters, so it had no jurisdiction there. Perhaps the United States could have claimed the ice island—similar to the many uninhabited “Guano Islands” full of rich, natural fertilizer that the U.S. government seized during the 1800s. But unlike the Guano Islands, T-3 was temporary—it would melt away in the 1980s—so under international law, no nation could claim it. Perhaps the law of the sea applied? After all, T-3 was in some sense the literal high seas, being high-latitude frozen seawater. Except, the law of the sea applies only to navigable areas, and T-3 wasn’t navigable.

In sum, T-3 was neither fish nor fowl. “Murder in Legal Limbo,” Time magazine called the case. Some legal scholars seriously questioned whether any nation had the right to try Escamilla. As one noted, “It may shock the layman to learn that there may be parts of the world in which possible murders may go untried.”

In the end, might essentially tried to make right here. Four U.S. marshals undertook a harrowing, multiday journey via plane and helicopter, first to Greenland and then T-3, fighting brutal Arctic winds and weather. Upon landing, they grabbed Escamilla, the rifle, and Lightsy’s frozen body for transport back to the United States. Read More > at Slate

Are infections seeding some cases of Alzheimer’s disease? – Two years ago, immunologist and medical-publishing entrepreneur Leslie Norins offered to award US$1 million of his own money to any scientist who could prove that Alzheimer’s disease was caused by a germ.

The theory that an infection might cause this form of dementia has been rumbling for decades on the fringes of neuroscience research. The majority of Alzheimer’s researchers, backed by a huge volume of evidence, think instead that the key culprits are sticky molecules in the brain called amyloids, which clump into plaques and cause inflammation, killing neurons.

Norins wanted to reward work that would make the infection idea more persuasive. The amyloid hypothesis has become “the one acceptable and supportable belief of the Established Church of Conventional Wisdom”, says Norins. “The few pioneers who did look at microbes and published papers were ridiculed or ignored.”

In large part, this was because some early proponents of the infection theory saw it as a replacement for the amyloid hypothesis. But some recent research has provided intriguing hints that the two ideas could fit together — that infection could seed some cases of Alzheimer’s disease by triggering the production of amyloid clumps.

The data hint at a radical role for amyloid in neurons. Instead of just being a toxic waste product, amyloid might have an important job of its own: helping to protect the brain from infection. But age or genetics can interrupt the checks and balances in the system, turning amyloid from defender into villain. Read More > at Nature

Five Strange Facts About Dreams – …five strange findings about dreaming from the psychology literature:

1. Bad dreams are nothing to fear

No one likes a bad dream, but they do serve a purpose: research suggests that they prepare us to better face our fears. This finding comes from a two-part study. First, participants slept with EEG electrodes fitted to their heads. Several times in the night, they were woken by the researchers, who asked them about the content and emotional tone of any dreams. The team found that the key brain regions that are active when someone is feeling fear are the same whether they are awake or dreaming…

2. You can control your dreams

During a so-called lucid dream, the dreamer realises that they are dreaming and can control what happens. There has been no end of attempts to find ways to induce lucid dreams — mostly unsuccessfully. However, a study at the University of Adelaide, Australia, that explored a few potential techniques found that one was effective. When used in the five minutes immediately before falling asleep, the “MILD” (mnemonic induction of lucid dreams) technique worked 46 % of the time. It consists of simply repeating (to yourself) the phrase: “The next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming.”

5. Some people’s daydreams take over their lives

For some people, their daydreams are so vivid and absorbing that “real life” fades into the background. As one sufferer of Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD) explains it: “I am careful to control my actions in public so it is not evident that my mind is constantly spinning these stories and I am constantly lost in them.” Although MD does not feature in standard mental health diagnostic manuals, there are online communities dedicated to it. And as the researchers behind a recent study on MD write in their paper, “in recent years it has gradually become evident that daydreaming can evolve into an extreme and maladaptive behaviour, up to the point where it turns into a clinically significant condition.”… Read More > at Research Digest

Latino Leaders Are Fighting California’s ‘Unbelievably Regressive’ Climate Policies – California has some of America’s most aggressive climate change policies. But those policies are facing fierce opposition – not from big business or the oil and gas sector – but from the state’s Latino community.

Over the past two years, California’s Latino leaders have filed lawsuits that aim to halt several climate-focused regulations due to their negative effect on low- and middle-income Californians. Those same leaders are also calling out the Sierra Club and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for their support of regulations that are increasing the cost of energy, transportation, and housing in California, which has the highest poverty rate in America.

The Latino backlash against California’s climate policies — which has largely been ignored by state and national media outlets — exposes the growing chasm between the state’s powerful bureaucracy, which is closely aligned with California’s entrenched environmental groups, and the Latino and demographic realities of America’s most-populous state. It also presages a potential clash at the national level if federal policymakers attempt to implement California’s stringent climate measures throughout the rest of the country.

California has the largest Latino population in the country. Some 15 million Latinos live in the Golden State and they account for about 40 percent of its population. Latino leaders are objecting to the state’s climate-change rules because they will further exacerbate California’s housing crisis and increase poverty. When accounting for the cost of living, 18.1% of the state’s residents are living in poverty and the poverty rate among Latino and Black Americans is roughly twice the rate for whites.  Read More > in Forbes

California Dungeness crab season delayed to protect whales – California wildlife regulators on Wednesday postponed the start of the commercial Dungeness crab season to protect whales and sea turtles from becoming entangled in fishing gear.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that it was pushing back the scheduled Nov. 15 start of the season to Dec. 1.

The recreational fishing season will be allowed to open on Saturday.

The postponement affects fishing zones from Mendocino County north of San Francisco to the Mexican border.

The move came after biologists found 50 humpback whales in one week last month off the coast of San Francisco and another 25 in the Monterey Bay area, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

There have been a record number of whale injuries and deaths in recent years as the whales, which normally are migrating south to Mexico by the start of the crabbing season, have stayed off the California coast longer.

They may be hanging around to feed on anchovies that have been pushed into shallower waters because of warming ocean temperatures, scientists have said. Read More > at ctpost

Neanderthals and humans were engaged in brutal guerrilla-style warfare across the globe for over 100,000 years, evidence shows – Neanderthals and Homo sapiens were closely related, sister species who evolved from the same ancestor and co-existed for millennia.

But scientists have tussled with trying to explain why Neanderthals went extinct around 40,000 years and humans lived on.

Several theories have been put forward to explain how this happened, including competition for the same resources, such as food and shelter; Neanderthals being unable to adjust to rapid climate change; and direct confrontation.

Now it is believed a combination of all of these things contributed to the Neanderthal extinction.

But the latest data reveals the two hominin species were fighting grisly guerrilla-style battles for 100,000 years. Read More > at Daily Mail

Supreme Court Rejects Qualified Immunity Defense for the First Time in Years – Earlier today, the Supreme Court issued a decision rejecting a law enforcement officer’s “qualified immunity” defense. Taylor v. Riojas was the first such Supreme Court ruling since 2004. That alone makes it significant. Whether the Court will take more forceful action to curb qualified immunity in future cases remains to be seen.

Qualified immunity is the notorious doctrine under which law enforcement officers and many other government officials are immune from civil suits for violating constitutional and statutory rights in the course of performing their duties unless they have violated “clearly established” law. Courts have interpreted “clearly established” so narrowly that officers routinely get away with horrendous abuses merely because no federal court in their area has previously decided a case with essentially identical facts.

In Taylor, a 7-1 majority (the just-confirmed new Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate), concluded that the lower court had gone too far in granting qualified immunity to prison officials in an egregious case where they subjected a prisoner to horrific treatment. Read More > from The Volokh Conspiracy 

U.S. manufacturing near two-year high; road ahead difficult – U.S. manufacturing activity accelerated more than expected in October, with new orders jumping to their highest level in nearly 17 years amid a shift in spending toward goods like motor vehicles and food as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

The survey on Monday from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) was the last piece of major economic data before Tuesday’s bitterly contested presidential election. But the outlook for manufacturing is challenging.

“Manufacturing rebounded strongly with fewer restrictions on economic activity and stimulus efforts, but the path forward will be more difficult as the economy continues to cope with the pandemic,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The ISM said its index of national factory activity increased to a reading of 59.3 last month. That was the highest since November 2018 and followed a reading of 55.4 in September.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for 11.3% of the U.S. economy. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index rising to 55.8 in October. Read More > at Reuters

The Limits of Rhetoric – Deep-blue cities and states are eager to declare their social-justice credentials. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has set up a commission designed to uproot the city’s “institutional” racism, while California governor Gavin Newsom brags that his state is “the envy of the world” and will not abandon its poor. “Unlike the Washington plutocracy,” he proclaims, “California isn’t satisfied serving a powerful few on one side of the velvet rope. The California Dream is for all.”

Yet California, though well known for its wealth, also has the nation’s highest poverty rate, adjusted for housing cost. If rhetoric were magic, metropolitan areas like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago would be ideal places for aspirational minority residents. But according to statistics compiled by demographer Wendell Cox in a newly released report, these cities are far worse for nonwhites in terms of income, housing affordability, and education. New York and California also exhibit some of the highest levels of inequality in the United States, with poor outcomes for blacks and Hispanics, who, population-growth patterns suggest, are increasingly moving away from deep-blue metros to less stridently progressive ones.

The current focus on “systemic racism”—often devolving into symbolic actions like mandatory minority representation on corporate boards, hiring quotas, and an educational focus on racial redress and resentment—is not likely to improve conditions for most minorities. “If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness,” Martin Luther King said. “He merely exists.” That remains true. Our lodestar should be upward mobility: improving how well people live, across the board. When it comes to that criterion, blue states and cities are falling short. Read More > at City Journal

Earth Keeps Pulsating Every 26 Seconds. No One Knows Why. – Why is Earth pulsating every 26 seconds, and why can’t scientists explain it after 60 years? This is an enigma wrapped in a periodically predictable mystery motion. It could be a harmonic phenomenon, a regular seismic chirp caused by the sun’s energy, or a beacon drawing scientists to its source to begin a treasure hunt.

In the early 1960s, a geologist named Jack Oliver first documented the pulse, also known as a “microseism,” according to Discover. Oliver, who worked at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory at the time, heard the noise, but didn’t have the advanced instruments seismologists have now at his disposal.

Since then, scientists have spent a lot of time listening to the pulse and even finding out where it comes from: “a part of the Gulf of Guinea called the Bight of Bonny,” Discover says.

It seems like reams of new scientific research emerge every day, but the mystery pulse is a good reminder that so much remains to be discovered. Scientists have studied the pulse and debate its origin, but it just hasn’t reached a tipping point of interest to be solved. Discover explains that researchers have likely been studying higher-priority seismic events instead, which makes sense. Read More > in Popular Mechanics 

Apple, Google and a Deal That Controls the Internet – …their companies were in tense negotiations to renew one of the most lucrative business deals in history: an agreement to feature Google’s search engine as the preselected choice on Apple’s iPhone and other devices. The updated deal was worth billions of dollars to both companies and cemented their status at the top of the tech industry’s pecking order.

Now, the partnership is in jeopardy. Last Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a landmark lawsuit against Google — the U.S. government’s biggest antitrust case in two decades — and homed in on the alliance as a prime example of what prosecutors say are the company’s illegal tactics to protect its monopoly and choke off competition in web search.

The scrutiny of the pact, which was first inked 15 years ago and has rarely been discussed by either company, has highlighted the special relationship between Silicon Valley’s two most valuable companies — an unlikely union of rivals that regulators say is unfairly preventing smaller companies from flourishing.

Apple and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, worth more than $3 trillion combined, do compete on plenty of fronts, like smartphones, digital maps and laptops. But they also know how to make nice when it suits their interests. And few deals have been nicer to both sides of the table than the iPhone search deal.

Nearly half of Google’s search traffic now comes from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department, and the prospect of losing the Apple deal has been described as a “code red” scenario inside the company. When iPhone users search on Google, they see the search ads that drive Google’s business. They can also find their way to other Google products, like YouTube. Read More > from The New York Times

A Small Target in a Big Case Scott Galloway on the antitrust case against Google. – Late last month the Department of Justice filed a long-anticipated antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of engaging in anti-competitive practices. It’s the most aggressive challenge the DOJ has made against a tech giant since it accused Microsoft of anti-competitive practices in 1997. The lawsuit homes in on Google’s search dominance in the United States (Google represents 80 percent, according to the complaint) and the practices and deals that have solidified that claim. The case is sure to take years, but the ramifications for Silicon Valley — and the country in general — may be huge. Intelligencer spoke with Scott Galloway, marketing professor at NYU Stern School of Business and co-host of Vox Media’s Pivot podcast, about the complaint, the potential remedies, and the odds that a tech executive will end up in handcuffs sometime after Election Day.

What is your initial read of the DOJ’s complaint?
Antitrust action is overdue and late. But at the same time, the fear around this is that it may have been hurried as an opportunity for the administration to score points before the election, which may have diminished the voracity of the suit — as evidenced by the fact that a number of DOJ lawyers stepped back from the case this summer, saying they weren’t ready…

Is that because the DOJ is being shrewd?
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it echoes. This is an echo of the DOJ case against Microsoft. And the DOJ, which was initially successful against Microsoft, said that Microsoft was using bundling power and economic might to force every computer hardware manufacturer to bundle Internet Explorer. The DOJ is taking a page out of that notebook and saying, “Google has been bundling its search with the biggest distribution points, whether it’s Apple or Mozilla.” Read More > at Intelligencer

OPINION: What’s old, and who, can be made new again – One of the most persistent themes in my conversations with voters across the country, no matter who they are voting for, has been this outside pressure from our culture to shed the past and how it formed who we are as people because it has been rendered unacceptable in today’s society. The cultural curators in our country, the entities who hold the power and influence in everything we do from how we consume our news, watch our sports and movies, and use our phones, long ago shed any association with people who live and work and pray outside of the super ZIP codes of wealth and power. The cultural elites rarely have anyone in their boardrooms, C-suites, newsrooms, or bureaucracies who went to a state school or sit in a pew every Sunday or own a gun or grew up in a community with a mix of social-economic experiences.

If you don’t know anyone like that, how do you sell them soap or craft a tweet or market to them or entertain them if you don’t know them? You can’t.

But because they have the power in how you use technology, interact with institutions, view media, and watch sports and movies, they also have the power to move culture in their direction, often shaming voters into believing you are their friend, you are part of their tribe when you think, and wear, and use words and phrases the way they want you to.

In short, they won’t tell you anymore that you are not needed or wanted if you just come to their side. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

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The ‘greatest aerial show on Earth’ arrives in California

Sandhill cranes are stars of the Pacific Flyway migrations.
Jean Landry

It’s that time of year when California hosts what the outdoors writer Tom Stienstra has called “the greatest aerial show on Earth,” as millions of migratory birds travel south down the Pacific Flyway in search of food for the winter.

Along the way, they make pit stops in the wetlands of California. First come the shorebirds like avocets and sandpipers. Then it’s the warblers, orioles, and flocks of waterfowl such as geese and ducks.

The most majestic creature of all may be the long-legged sandhill cranes. An ancient species with a fossil record of 2.5 million years, the bird is often likened to a raptor: standing up to four feet tall with a wingspan of seven feet.

You can see them right now at nature reserves in MercedLodi, just west of Modesto, and along the Cosumnes River near Elk Grove. If you’re lucky, they’ll perform one of their spirited courtship dances, forming pair bonds that last for life.

Check out this map with updated sandhill crane sightings across California. 👉 Sandhillfinder

— This entry was written by Meg Bernhard, a journalist from California.

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Firewood awareness tips from CDFA

by Office of Public Affairs

With the weather changing and Californians beginning to think more about heating their homes, CDFA is providing a video on the invasive species risk of moving firewood as well as tips from our Division of Measurement Standards for those buying firewood to make sure you get what you pay for.  CDFA is a partner in in the “Buy It Where You Burn It” campaign, urging people to not move firewood.

What is a Cord?

Bulk firewood is sold by a measurement called a “cord.” A cord must equal 128 cubic feet. To be sure you have a cord, stack the wood neatly by placing the wood in a line or a row, with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other, making sure that the wood is compact and has as few gaps as possible. Then measure the stack. If the width times the height times the length equals 128 cubic feet, you have a cord of firewood.

If It Doesn’t Equal 128 Cubic Feet, It is Not a Cord!

Words that May Indicate You Are Not Getting Proper Measurement

A cord, like other measurements such as a foot, a gallon, or a ton, is defined by law. A seller may not legitimately use terms such as “truckload,” “face cord,” “rack,” or “pile” because these terms have no legally defined meaning and, therefore, you have no way of determining how much firewood you are actually receiving. If a seller uses such terms it should alert you to a possible problem. Wood can only be sold by the cord or by fractions of a cord.

Get What You Pay For – Get It in Writing

When you buy firewood make sure to get a sales invoice or delivery ticket which shows at least the name and address of the seller, the date purchased or delivered, the quantity purchased, and the price of the quantity purchased.

When the wood is delivered, ask the seller to stack it (you may have to pay extra for this service) or stack the wood yourself. Measure the wood before using any. If the cubic measurement indicate that you did not receive the correct volume, contact the seller before you burn any wood.

What to Do if You Think You Have Been Short Changed

If the seller can’t or won’t correct the problem, contact your weights and measures office before you burn any wood. It is also helpful to document the possible shortage by taking a picture of the stacked wood.

Visit the web page of CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards

Link to the California Firewood Task Force

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month – 2020

Thirty million people in the United States have diabetes, but 1 out of 4 don’t know it, according to the CDC. With the risk factors as the population ages and obesity increases, we could see numbers as high as one in three individuals by 2050. To call this trend alarming is an understatement. World Diabetes Day is Nov. 14 and diabetes concerns every family.

Prediabetes: an Elephant in the Room

3 Common Diabetes Myths Debunked

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Results of close races unlikely tonight

From CalMatters

Election Day is finally here.

Today is the last day to cast your ballot, either by mail or in person. Today is your last chance to weigh in on 12 propositions that could affect California’s economic, political and social landscape for generations. Today is your final opportunity to decide who will represent you in the state Assemblystate Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

Already, 55% of California’s more than 22 million registered voters have returned their ballots. That’s 83% of the record 14.6 million votes Californians cast during the 2016 general election.

But don’t expect to know the outcome of competitive California races tonight, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher warns. Though counties have been pre-processing ballots and will likely release their first vote totals around 8 p.m.they will also accept ballots through Nov. 20 — as long as they were postmarked today. And it takes time to count provisional ballots, those sent to the wrong county or with incorrect signatures, and those cast by voters who register today.

Still, if you want to watch results as they come in, check out this CalMatters live tracker. (Interested in embedding it in your website? Contact Aldrin Brown at aldrin@calmatters.org.)

Californians are also making their voices heard in ways other than voting. Thousands of Trump supporters gathered over the weekend with car caravans in TemeculaMarin CitySacramento and other cities; a boat parade in San Diego; and a massive rally in Beverly Hills. In San Francisco, a group of students took to the streets to protest Trump.

Many of the rallies were peaceful, despite concerns that things will turn violent if the outcome of the presidential election remains in dispute after tonight. But the caravan in Marin City proved contentious, with members of the majority-minority community alleging that Trump supporters yelled racial epithets at children and caravan members saying their cars were pelted with eggs and paintballs.

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Calling All Young Oakley Artists!

It has been a long-standing tradition in law enforcement agencies to send holiday cards to one another. This year, the Oakley Police Department welcomes the children in our community to help them spread holiday cheer by designing the holiday card that will be sent to other law agencies!

The contest is open to all children grade Kindergarten through 6th who live in Oakley or attend school in Oakley. One winner will be selected in each age group (K-3 and 4-6) by the OPD officers to be the design for the Oakley Police Department’s 2020 holiday cards. The winners will also get a set of cards to send to family and friends, as well as a $25 gift card. Winning designs will also be on display at one of the marquees!

Ideas: Oakley PD celebrating the holidays, winter wonderlands, family joy, be creative!

Entry form

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Whatever happens Tuesday, life will get better: John Stossel

By JOHN STOSSEL |PUBLISHED: October 28, 2020 at 12:05 a.m. | UPDATED: October 28, 2020 at 12:06 a.m.

Worried about Tuesday?

Remember: The most important parts of life happen outside politics.

Love, friendship, family, raising children, building businesses, worship, charity work — that is the stuff of life! Politicians get in the way of those things. But despite the efforts of power-hungry Republicans and Democrats, life gets better.

You may not believe that. Surveys show most people think life is getting worse.

But it isn’t, as Marian Tupy and Ron Bailey point out in their new book, “Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know.”

“Child labor was once ubiquitous. Now it’s limited to a few countries in Africa. Women did not have a vote (until New Zealand granted it at the end of the 19th century). Today, women vote everywhere except for the Vatican,” Tupy reminds us.

“Gays and lesbians, persecuted for millennia, are free to marry. Slavery was universal; now it is illegal. The world has never been more peaceful, more educated and kinder.”

But the nastiness of today’s politics may stop progress! Make life worse!

It’s possible, but “worse” compared to what?

I’ve lived through the Vietnam War, a military draft, 90 percent income tax rates, price controls, indecency laws, widespread racism and sexism, Jim Crow, the explosion of crime in the 1970s…

Overall, life got better.

With Donald Trump and Joe Biden claiming the other will destroy what’s good, it’s hard to see improvement. But the world has made progress, largely thanks to libertarian ideas.

“For millennia the world was marked by despotism, slavery, hierarchy, rigid class privilege, and literally no increase in the standard of living,” says Cato Institute Vice President David Boaz in the May/June 2020 Policy Report.

“Then libertarian ideas came into the world. Of course, they weren’t called that at the time. … (T)hey were the ideas of human rights, free markets, property rights, religious toleration, the value of commerce, the dignity of the individual – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These ideas created a wave of progress unlike anything in history.

“Look at the chart of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, or any measure of economic growth,” adds Boaz. “It looks like a hockey stick: flat for almost all human history, and then it rockets upwards.”

The media shriek hysterically about every problem, and we have problems: pandemic, lockdowns, unemployment, wildfires, bad cops, violent riots, crime…

But no matter who wins on Tuesday, life will probably get better.

Entrepreneurs will invent cool things.

This year, while Democrats and Republicans fought, the private sector found cheaper and better ways to send people into space.

The World Bank complained about governments not providing all people clean drinking water. So private companies are doing it. A billboard in Peru turns humidity into potable drinking water. A drinking straw, LifeStraw, removes bacteria and parasites from water.

Forests are expanding because modern farming uses less land, allowing the forests to regrow.

Thanks to often-despised free markets, poverty continues to decline. In 1981, 42 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty. By 2018, only 8.6 percent did. Do politicians ever highlight those gains? No.

Probably because most of those good things happened in spite of them, not because of them.

Most good things do.

Yes, we still have lots of problems: trillion dollar deficits, mental illness, crushing regulation, endless wars (although fewer of them), criminal injustice, inequality, climate change…

But it’s always been that way. Evolution programmed humans to focus on problems. Our ancestors survived in a very dangerous world. If they weren’t hypervigilant, they wouldn’t have lived long enough to give birth to the people who gave birth to us.

I obsess about problems. But I try not to let that distract me from the big picture:

More people in more places enjoy prosperity, religious freedom, personal freedom, democratic governance, largely equal rights, civility, better health and longer lives.

Neither Trump nor Biden is likely to destroy that.

John Stossel is author of “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”

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Sunday Reading – 11/01/2020

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

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.

Reuters

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 RosenthalAny 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 crisismuscle 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

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Judge John Sutter Regional Shoreline Virtual Dedication Event

The event highlighted Judge John Sutter Regional Shoreline, named after East Bay civic and environmental leader and former Park District Board member John Sutter, which is located at the eastern touchdown of the Bay Bridge and provides spectacular views of the entire bay and new eastern Bay Bridge span. The new park includes the historic and newly-renovated 24,000-square foot Bridge Yard building available for future public events, a walking trail to the recently constructed 600-foot observation pier with views of the bay, and improved parking and bike and pedestrian access to the Alex Zuckermann Bay Bridge Trail from the eastern touchdown of the bridge to Treasure Island.


Watch today and learn more about the East Bay Regional Park District’s newest regional shoreline park!

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Coming this weekend – A Rare full moon on Halloween and an extra hour of sleep

October will end with a rare full moon on Halloween, called the blue hunter’s moon. This will be the first full moon to fall on Halloween since 2001.

The moon won’t actually look blue, rather, the “blue” name means it’s the second full moon in one month. This happens every 2.5 to three years, or “once in a blue moon.”

A full moon occurs on Halloween every 19 years in some time zones, so you can expect a full Halloween moon again in 2039, 2058, 2077 and 2096.

Halloween is also the last day of Daylight Saving Time, so set your clocks back one hour on Nov. 1 at 2 a.m.

Daylight Saving Time is a holdover ritual that started in 1918 to help save energy. Since LED bulbs have replaced candles do we really need to keep doing this? In 2020 all this ritual seems to do is screw up our sleep patterns and make us cranky for about two weeks.


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Counting the Votes; When is it over?

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

This year every registered voter in California is receiving a vote-by-mail ballot. Vote-by-mail ballots may be returned by mail (no stamp required) or dropped in an official vote-by-mail drop box.

You can still vote in person. To find your local polling location:

visit https://www.cocovote.us/registration-and-voting-options/my-voting-information/#VoterLookupandSampleBallotSearch .

Results can be tracked by clicking the following link and selecting “Election Results”.

https://www.cocovote.us/election/presidential-general-election-november-3-2020/#Election

Immediately upon the close of polls on election day, the county elections officials and the Secretary of State begin what is called the “semifinal official canvass of the vote” – the tallying of early-returned vote-by-mail ballots and the ballots cast in each of the state’s 24,000+ voting precincts. The semifinal official canvass begins at 8:00 p.m. on election night and continues uninterrupted until the last precinct is counted and reported to the Secretary of State.

The vote tallying process actually begins before election night, with the vote-by-mail ballots. Counties may begin processing vote-by-mail seven (7) business days before the election. Having verified the signatures on the return envelopes, elections officials remove the voted ballots and process them through their vote tallying system. Under no circumstances may they tabulate the results until after the close of polls on election day. Most counties continue this processing until they begin their election-day preparations for counting the precinct votes. Mail ballots not counted by that time and all those received on election day, either through the mail or at the precincts, are tabulated during the official canvass of the vote.

The California Elections Code requires that the official canvass begin no later than the Thursday following the election, that it be open to the public, and that it continue daily (Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays excepted) for not less than six hours each day until completed. The county elections officials must complete the official canvass no later than the 30th day after the election and submit a certified statement of the results of the election to the Secretary of State by the 31st day.

By law, the activities undertaken during the official canvass include:

  1. Processing and counting any valid vote-by-mail and provisional ballots not included in the semifinal official canvass. Provisional ballots are cast by voters whose names do not appear on the precinct roster. The voter uses a regular precinct ballot which is then placed in a special envelope that the voter must sign, much like a vote-by-mail envelope. During the official canvass, the elections official checks the voter registration file to verify the voter’s eligibility to cast the ballot. Once verified, the ballot is added to the official count. These ballots added to the vote-by-mail ballots not processed on election night can number 500,000 to over 1,000,000.
  2. An inspection of all materials and supplies returned by poll workers.
  3. A reconciliation of the number of signatures on the roster with the number of ballots recorded on the ballot statement.
  4. A reconciliation of the number of ballots counted, spoiled, canceled, or invalidated due to identifying marks or overvotes with the number of votes counted, including vote-by-mail and provisional ballots.
  5. Counting any valid write-in votes.
  6. Reproducing any damaged ballots, if necessary.
  7. Conducting a hand count of the ballots cast in one (1) percent of the precincts, chosen at random by the elections official.
  8. Reporting final results to the Secretary of State, as required.

Final results are due December 3.

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Contra Costa County Advances in California’s COVID-19 Reopening Plan

California today reassigned Contra Costa to the less-restrictive orange tier of its Blueprint for a Safer Economy, allowing for larger local gatherings for indoor worship services and dining, and the reopening of indoor pools, bars and bowling alleys.

Counties in the orange tier can allow: 

  • Worship services and other cultural activities indoors at 50% occupancy or 200 people, whichever is fewer;
  • Indoor dining at 50% occupancy or 200 people, whichever is fewer;
  • Indoor swimming pools;
  • Bars and other businesses that sell alcohol without meals to open for outdoor operation;
  • Family entertainment centers to open indoors for “naturally distanced” activities, such as bowling alleys, escape rooms and climbing-wall gyms, at 25% occupancy;
  • Cardrooms to open indoors at 25% occupancy;
  • Small amusement parks to open at 25% of occupancy or 500 people, whichever is fewer;
  • Professional sports venues to open at 20% occupancy;
  • Live entertainment to open with no more than 50 people, if approved by the Health Officer.

 The county will remain in the orange tier for at least two weeks. The state could move Contra Costa into the less-restrictive yellow tier, or the more restrictive red tier, if its metrics qualify for one of those tiers for two consecutive weeks. The state updates the official numbers every Tuesday.

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2020’s States with the Most & Least Powerful Voters – WalletHub Study

With the 2020 election a little over a week away and voters’ influence varying from state to state, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2020’s States with the Most & Least Powerful Voters, as well as accompanying videos.

WalletHub compared the relative clout of 2020 voters in swinging the presidency and Senate. In order to make such a comparison, we calculated a Voter Power Score for each state and for each type of election.

Most Powerful Voters – Presidential Election Most Powerful Voters – Senate Elections
1. Alaska 1. Alaska
2. Iowa 2. Montana
3. Ohio 3. Maine
4. Georgia 4. Iowa
5. Arizona 5. Kansas
6. North Carolina 6. Alabama
7. Texas 7. South Carolina
8. Florida 8. Mississippi
9. New Hampshire 9. North Carolina
10. Montana 10. Colorado

To view the full report and your state’s ranking, please visit: 
https://wallethub.com/edu/how-much-is-your-vote-worth/7932/

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Link21 – New Transbay Rail Crossing

The Northern California megaregion, consisting of the 21 counties between Monterey, San Francisco, Sacramento, and the northern San Joaquin Valley, is the 16th largest economy in the world. The San Francisco Bay Area and much of the Sacramento and Central Valley regions increasingly operate as an interconnected megaregion, with commerce and commutes crossing county lines.

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) have partnered to advance Link21 (formerly called the New Transbay Rail Crossing program), a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will create benefits for generations to come.

CCJPA and BART are studying the future rail investments needed to better connect places and people throughout the Northern California megaregion. Link21 is a megaregional transit improvement program focused on connecting the region’s transit systems.

At the core of Link21 is a new San Francisco Bay rail crossing for the Capitol Corridor and possibly other regional rail partners (the San Joaquins and Caltrain, for example) and BART. Link21 will serve two main purposes:

  • Create a brand-new link for the Capitol Corridor and regional rail so that travelers can enjoy direct train trips between many Northern California locations.
  • Double BART’s transbay capacity so that overcrowding is reduced and future ridership – which is expected to double by 2050 – can be accommodated.

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) and BART are fully committed to integrating equity into all aspects of Link21. Equity is built into the program’s goals and objectives and will continue to be fostered as the project proceeds.

Link21 is now in the early conceptual planning phase. CCJPA, BART, and their planning partners are working to further define and scope this project and evaluate a range of alternatives.

The most promising alternative(s) will be considered during environmental review and conceptual design. From there, a preferred alternative will be chosen for final design refinement. Construction of the project will follow.

Whether you’re a policy maker, resident, business owner or a commuter, we will want your input as we develop our plans. Look for announcements from CCJPA for ways to get involved and help us create a connected transit network that supports our thriving megaregion.

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Sunday Reading – 10/25/2020

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

When will my ballot be counted? The perks of voting early – There is no statewide directive dictating the order in which ballots must be counted, said Chris Miller, spokesperson for the California election-regulating secretary of state. But if you want your ballot counted as soon as possible, know that county officials say they’ll mostly be tallied in this order:

1. The early votes
“We’re counting ballots right now as we speak,” said Joe Holland, Santa Barbara County registrar. A new law permits officials to process incoming ballots starting Oct. 5.

2. The traditionals
Once the early votes are counted and reported, election officials will turn to ballots cast in-person on Election Day. State law requires county registrars to stay in their office until all of those in-person ballots are counted.

3. The stragglers
California law makes it as easy for votes to cast a ballot.

  • If you aren’t registered when you go to the polls, you can sign up in person on the spot.
  • If you go to your polling place or vote center but left your mail-in ballot at home, they’ll give you a provisional replacement.
  • Ditto if you go to the wrong polling location or haven’t cast a ballot in years, thus making you what’s considered an “inactive voter.”
  • If the signature on your mail-in ballot doesn’t match the one the county has on file, they’ll email, text or call you to provide a new one.
  • As long as your mail-in ballot is postmarked by Nov. 3, it has 17 days worth of postal delays to arrive and still be counted. Read More > at CalMatters

[Question] Is Stupidity Expanding? Some Hypotheses. – To be explained: It feels to me that in recent years, people have gotten stupider, or that stupid has gotten bigger, or that the parts of people that were always stupid have gotten louder, or something like that.

I’ve come up with a suite of hypotheses to explain this (with a little help from my friends). I thought I’d throw them out here to see which ones the wise crowd here think are most likely. Bonus points if you come up with some new ones. Gold stars if you can rule some out based on existing data or can propose tests by which they might be rendered more or less plausible.

The hypotheses come in two broad families: 1) my feeling that stupid is expanding is an illusion or misperception, and 2) stupid is expanding and here is why:

A: I Am Misperceiving an Expanding Stupidity And Here’s Why

  1. I have become more attuned to stupidity for [reasons], so even though there is no more of it than usual, it stands out more to me. (Baader-Meinhof phenomenon)
  2. What used to look like non-stupidity was actually widespread conformity to a common menu of foolishnesses. Today the cultural beacons of respectable idiocy have been overthrown and there is increasing diversity in foolishness. Divergent fools seem more foolish to each other when in fact we’re all just as stupid as we’ve always been.
  3. I’m running in stupider circles than I used to for some reason, while in general things haven’t changed much….

B: Expanding Stupidity Is Real and This Explains It

  1. People have given up trying to understand things in this messed-up timeline and are just rolling with it; it’s a sort of intellectual learned helplessness that appears as expanding stupidity.
  2. Stupidity has its fashions, and the latest fashions are more in-your-face than they used to be.
  3. Pharmaceuticals that have become popular in recent decades have cognitive side effects that are difficult to measure in the individual but cause noticeable effects in the aggregate.
  4. It’s real, and it’s probably something in our diet, for example…
  5. It’s real, and it’s probably all that extra CO2 in the atmosphere… Read More > at Greater Wrong

Organic Farming Is Not Compatible With ConservationA recent paper finds that if just 15 percent of farmland reverted to nature, it would wipe out nearly a third of the carbon we’ve generated since the onset of the Industrial Revolution.

The good news; we can do that easily. The bad news; it involves science, and western elites in environmental activism, from Environmental Working Group in the U.S. To Swiss Public Eye in Europe, are never going to allow that without a fight.

America actually does quite well protecting the environment. We have more open land than Africa does. Because America leads the world in scientific approaches to agriculture, we also provide nutritious, affordable food using less water, less energy, and less land per unit than ever before. Modern agriculture has been so successful that Berkeley Professor Paul Ehrlich’s apocalyptic “Population Bomb” prophecy and prognostications about rampant starvation have become a running joke.

We have even been so successful that wealthy elites in developed nations have embraced a kind of modern feudalism; hearkening back to a time when they got to lord it over peasants doing back-breaking work for the benefit of nobility. They buy organic food, with its imagery of weeding ancient crops by hand in the sun.

It’s all fake, of course.

Organic food claims to be more natural, but only by redefining natural each year to be whatever they want. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of synthetic ingredients allowed under the USDA Organic stamp and a giant safety net besides; if there is no synthetic equivalent for a necessary chemical, that is allowed also. And there is no surprise spot testing to know if even those loose standards are being met. The more than 80 organic “certifying” bodies literally make no money unless they sell farmers organic stickers. They’re not looking closely at their only customers. Read More > at Science 2.0

Court orders California to cut San Quentin inmates by half – A California appeals court has ordered state corrections officials to cut the population of one of the world’s most famous prisons to less than half of its designed capacity, citing officials’ “deliberate indifference” to the plight of inmates during the coronavirus pandemic.

State prison officials said Wednesday that they are deciding whether to appeal the order, which otherwise will force them to parole or transfer about 1,100 inmates serving time in San Quentin State Prison north of San Francisco.

It was “the worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history,” the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said in Tuesday’s ruling.

The three-justice court said officials’ decision not to cut the inmate population by half, as recommended by prison officials’ outside advisors in June, was “morally indefensible and constitutionally untenable.”

The three appellate justices said the state failed to present any evidence to the contrary. Their unanimous order requires prison officials to house no more than 1,775 inmates in space designed for about 3,100 inmates and a staffed capacity of nearly 4,500 inmates.

The population can be reduced by transfers to other prisons or paroles, the court said. State prisons now hold fewer than 98,000 inmates, so those from San Quentin could likely be absorbed elsewhere, the court said.

Only about 700 San Quentin inmates could not be considered for release, the court said, because they can never be paroled or are on the nation’s largest death row… Read More > from the Associated Press

Former Google CEO Calls Social Networks ‘Amplifiers for Idiots’ – Former Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said the “excesses” of social media are likely to result in greater regulation of internet platforms in the coming years.

Schmidt, who left the board of Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. in 2019 but is still one of its largest shareholders, said the antitrust lawsuit the U.S. government filed against the company on Tuesday was misplaced, but that more regulation may be in order for social networks in general.

“The context of social networks serving as amplifiers for idiots and crazy people is not what we intended,” Schmidt said at a virtual conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “Unless the industry gets its act together in a really clever way, there will be regulation.” Read More > at Yahoo! Finance

I Watched My Friend Dying on Facebook. But It Was All a GoFundMe Scam. – Several winters ago, I watched as my old classmate Cindy was publicly dying on the internet.

I did this on Facebook, where her wisecracking, self-deprecating tone suddenly gave way to a somber third-person announcement that Cindy had been secretly battling chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), a little-known neurological disorder with wide-ranging symptoms.

Cindy and I were not friends, exactly. We were acquaintances who had known each other in middle and high school in suburban Ontario. But we reconnected on Facebook in 2014, when she sent me a friend request shortly before the news of her illness broke.

Before her illness was announced, Cindy had been a chronic oversharer. She made jokes about her struggles with weight loss and her inability to nail down a boyfriend, and she invited all of her Facebook friends to her upcoming wedding, where she planned to marry a bag of Jalapeno & Cheddar Doritos. She also posted about temporarily abandoning waxing to grow an impressively robust mustache to fundraise for “Movember.”

But after the CIDP announcement, she disappeared from her own Facebook feed as close advocates took over and started posting on her behalf. They also added a new group page — Help Save Cindy’s Life — to update Cindy’s friends on the fine details of her failing health. She had built a tight-knit community, and now they were rallying.

…But given the cost of her treatments, supporting Cindy often boiled down to direct donations. The GoFundMe account set a goal of 1.6 million Canadian dollars ($1.2 million dollars) and the cash poured in. According to a post from her caregiver on the group page, one supporter even sold his home in order to keep Cindy going.

It wasn’t until months later, when the crowdfunding campaign peaked at CA$126,584, that people in Cindy’s orbit started to realize something about the story was terribly wrong.

…The temptation to scam on crowdfunding platforms is undeniable. For one, it’s much harder to arbitrate the validity of someone’s need over the internet than if you’re sitting in a living room together. “Going to an emergency room and pretending to have a heart attack comes with all sorts of traps, but if you say it online, you’re just misleading other people and that’s easy enough to do,” says Marc Feldman, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Alabama and author of the book Dying to Be Ill: True Stories of Medical Deception. “There’s really no acting involved when you do it exclusively online.”

In turn, platforms like GoFundMe (which has, in recent years, gobbled up competitors like GiveForward and CrowdRise) have come under increased scrutiny. GoFundMe has introduced a trust and safety team, which includes former members of law enforcement whose full-time job is to sniff out fraudulent requests and spoof copycat campaigns. The company pledges that all donors will be fully refunded if their donations are misdirected. Read More > at OneZero

The CDC’s Latest Antibody Data Confirm Huge Interstate Differences in COVID-19 Fatality Rates – The latest data from antibody studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) across the country confirm that the death rate among Americans infected by the COVID-19 virus varies very widely from one state to another. The CDC’s prevalence estimates for August, combined with contemporaneous death counts, suggest that the infection fatality rate (IFR) was at least 10 times higher in Connecticut than in Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee, or Utah, for example.

The CDC estimated the number of people who had been infected in each state based on antibody screening of blood samples drawn for routine diagnostic tests unrelated to COVID-19. Those patients may not have been representative of the general population, and the number of samples tested was relatively small in most states, leading to wide confidence intervals. Still, the CDC’s numbers give us a sense of the gap between confirmed cases and total infections (including cases with mild or no symptoms) in each state.

…Why do COVID-19 patients fare so much worse in some states than others? Possible explanations include age demographics, the prevalence of preexisting medical conditions, the quality and capacity of local health care systems (including the extent to which they are strained by the pandemic), and population density, which not only makes it easier for the virus to move from person to person but may result in larger virus doses and more dangerous infections. Another factor could be the timing of each state’s epidemic, since the development of more effective treatments may have improved outcomes for people infected more recently. Read More > at Reason

Tests show iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro batteries last two hours less under 5G – Under continuous 5G usage, both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro lose around two hours of battery life compared to 4G — and that’s significantly more than with 5G Android phones.

New testing of the only available iPhone 12 models — the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro — show that 5G usage significantly reduces the length of time their batteries can run without recharging.

According to Tom’s Guidenew testing shows that the iPhone 12 lasts 10 hours and 23 minutes under 4G usage, but only 8 hours and 25 minutes with 5G. Similarly, the iPhone 12 Pro tested using solely 4G managed 11 hours and 24 minutes, but with 5G was 9 hours and 6 minutes.

That’s a difference of 118 minutes for the iPhone 12, and 139 for the iPhone 12 Pro. Tom’s Guide testing was of continuous usage under either 4G or 5G, and real-world use will be significantly less non-stop. Outside of testing, the iPhone 12 range works to save battery power by stepping back from 5G to 4G LTE at times. Read More > at Apple Insider

What border crisis? Largest domestic meth bust in DEA history made – worth $18.5 million – A pyramid of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin standing 10 feet tall, with an estimated street value of $18.5 million. That’s the haul from two recent drug-trafficking investigations in Southern California’s Inland Empire, and it represents the largest domestic meth bust in Drug Enforcement Agency history.

DEA Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea made the announcement Oct. 14 as he stood in front of the mountain of illicit drugs, noting that agents had seized 893 pounds of cocaine, 2,224 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and 13 pounds of heroin.

Some of the drugs were passed between cars in broad daylight, concealed in duffle bags, in public places such as the Sam’s Club parking lot in Moreno Valley.

Narcotics detectives with the Fontana Police Department spotted the exchange in the Sam’s Club parking lot. The department said its DEA task force had been on the trail of the massive drug ring since June and noted that the drug ring has ties to the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel. Read More > at Law Enforcement Today

California sets median home price record — again – The median price of a California home skyrocketed to $712,430 in September — shattering the state record for the fourth month in a row — as sales hit their highest level in more than a decade, according to a Monday report from the California Association of Realtors. It took 11 days on average to sell a single-family home in September — the shortest period ever recorded.

  • Leslie Appleton-Young, CAR chief economist: “With the shortest time on market in recent memory, an alarmingly low supply of homes for sale and the fastest price growth in six-and-a-half years, the market’s short-term gain can also be its weakness in the longer term as the imbalance of supply and demand could lead to more housing shortages and deeper affordability issues.” Read More > at CalMatters

California will allow fans at pro sports but not Disneyland – California will let fans back in outdoor stadiums for pro sporting events in counties with low coronavirus infection rates but isn’t ready to allow Disneyland and other major theme parks to reopen, the state’s top health official said Tuesday.

San Francisco and neighboring Alameda and Santa Clara are the only counties that meet the threshold for pro sports. However, immediately after the announcement officials in Santa Clara, home to the San Francisco 49ers, issued a statement saying they weren’t prepared to allow even a limited number of fans into Levi’s Stadium.

Major theme parks, on the other hand, strongly objected to the state’s restrictions, saying they could safely operate even with thousands of people in attendance.

Under the state rules, pro sports teams could have limited capacity at outdoor stadiums if they are in a county in the lowest two levels of the state’s four-tiered model for reopening. Only fans who live within a 120-mile radius may buy tickets.

No county in Southern California has reached those tiers, so fans of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers are still on the sidelines.

Major theme parks weren’t happy that the state is limiting re-openings. Places like Disneyland and Universal Studios won’t be allowed to reopen until their home counties reach the lowest tier, which has high hurdles including a sustained infection positivity rate under 2%.

Smaller venues will be allowed to open when their home counties are in the “moderate” category, but only with 500 patrons or at 25% of capacity, whichever is smaller, and only the outdoor attractions. Tickets must be sold in advance and restricted to residents of that county. Read More > from the Associated Press

Good policy or ballot blackmail? Union keeps taking its fights with health industry to voters – For the second time in as many elections, California voters are caught in the middle of a fight between private dialysis companies and a union with a history of taking its battles to the ballot.

The question: Is the union effectively using its power to boost health care and its membership, or is it resorting to electoral blackmail?

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) sponsored Proposition 23 on the November ballot, which would add new regulations for dialysis clinics. It put a similar measure before voters in 2018, which they rejected. In the last two elections, it’s also sponsored a measure to tax hospitals in the Los Angeles County city of Lynwood, and to cap prices at Stanford hospitals and clinics in several Bay Area cities.

And that doesn’t count the many initiatives it began working on by collecting signatures but withdrew before they reached the ballot — including a minimum wage initiative in 2016, a pair of measures to limit hospital fees and executive pay in 2014, and two other initiatives to curb hospital bills and expand charity care in 2012.

All told, these campaigns have cost the union at least $43 million, and resulted in no wins on the ballot in California — though union president Dave Regan says they’ve helped make progress in other ways. The practice has earned him a reputation as an aggressive labor leader who uses the initiative process to needle adversaries in the health care profession as he tries to expand membership in his union.  Read More > at CalMatters

Here’s How to Avoid Accidentally Showing Your Genitals to Your Colleagues on Zoom – It’s happened to the best of us during this period of extended working from home: You’re minding your own business when suddenly a Zoom room full of your colleagues and/or business partners gets a non-consensual eyeful of unsecured loin. Accident or not, that’s really fucked up. It’s even possible that the incident could lead to professional or personal consequences.

We here at Gizmodo have been discussing this very same problem for no reason in particular at all or anything, why do you ask? And we’ve come up with some tips on how to avoid using Zoom to sexually harass every single person you work with. Please read and consider:

Consider avoiding having your junk out in the first place

Yes, this one is a little out of left field, but hear me out. You can’t expose your genitals to a room full of colleagues—some of whom you may have known and respected for decades!—if you take steps to ensure your genitals aren’t visible to anyone at all.

Clothing designers have known the risks of accidental genital exposure for years, and they’ve designed several innovative technologies to prevent it from happening. For example, they’ve invented pants, which are a sort of leg tube system that adjoins at the top and typically shield the crotch from visibility. They might set you back a bit; expect to pay at least $20 for a good set of pants. The good news is you can buy them pretty much anywhere. (You should probably own several, as the pants system isn’t necessarily foolproof with extended wear and tear.) With properly sized pants secured to your waist, your coworkers won’t be able to see your genitals no matter what you do, other than taking off your pants.

Consider exposing your genitals only outside of work hours and while not on a video meeting

In the past few decades, most employers have actually implemented policies mandating non-exposure to genitalia in the workplace (in many cases, they may even have obligations under federal law to do so).

An employer obviously can’t control what you do in your off time, and when you’re not on Zoom call, they won’t be able to tell if your genitalia is exposed. But better safe than sorry: Only expose yourself on your own time and while not actively on a video call. Read More > at Gizmodo

Study reveals restoration of retinal and visual function following gene therapy – A breakthrough study, led by researchers from the University of California, Irvine, results in the restoration of retinal and visual functions of mice models suffering from inherited retinal disease.

Published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the paper, titled, “Restoration of visual function in adult mice with an inherited retinal disease via adenine base editing,” illustrates the use of a new generation CRISPR technology and lays the foundation for the development of a new therapeutic modality for a wide range of inherited ocular diseases caused by different gene mutations.

“In this proof-of-concept study, we provide evidence of the clinical potential of base editors for the correction of mutations causing inherited retinal diseases and for restoring visual function,” said Krzysztof Palczewski, Ph.D., the Irving H. Leopold chair and a distinguished professor in the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, Department of Ophthalmology at the UCI School of Medicine. “Our results demonstrate the most successful rescue of blindness to date using genome editing.”

Inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) are a group of blinding conditions caused by mutations in more than 250 different genes. Previously, there was no avenue available for treating these devastating blinding diseases. Recently, the FDA approved the first gene augmentation therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a common form of IRD which originates during childhood. Read More > at Medical Press

Scientists Just Discovered a Mysterious Organ Lurking in The Centre of The Human Head – Medical researchers have made a surprise anatomical discovery, finding what looks to be a mysterious set of salivary glands hidden inside the human head – which somehow have been missed by scientists for centuries up until now.

This “unknown entity” was identified by accident by doctors in the Netherlands, who were examining prostate cancer patients with an advanced type of scan called PSMA PET/CT. When paired with injections of radioactive glucose, this diagnostic tool highlights tumours in the body.

In this case, however, it showed up something else entirely, nestled in the rear of the nasopharynx, and quite the long-time lurker.

“People have three sets of large salivary glands, but not there,” explains radiation oncologist Wouter Vogel from the Netherlands Cancer Institute.

“As far as we knew, the only salivary or mucous glands in the nasopharynx are microscopically small, and up to 1,000 are evenly spread out throughout the mucosa. So, imagine our surprise when we found these.” Read More > at Science Alert

Rapid Home COVID-19 Tests Are the Best Path to a New Normal. They’re Illegal. – COVID-19 diagnostic testing has been greatly scaled up from a few thousand tests per week back in early March to 2 million tests per week in early August. But the summer upsurge in COVID-19 diagnoses, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. highlights the fact that we still don’t have enough testing to provide individual Americans and health care professionals with the information needed to squelch the pandemic.

A huge part of the problem is that most asymptomatic, presymptomatic, and mildly afflicted people don’t know they’re infected, even as they spread the virus to others while working, shopping, and gathering in enclosed spaces such as bars and restaurants. Making cheap, fast tests available for use at workplaces, schools, and homes could solve this information deficit problem. “The way forward is not a perfect test,” Harvard medical professor Ashish Jha argued in Time, “but one offering rapid results.”

The good news is that a number of companies, including biotech startup E25Bio, diagnostics maker OraSure, and the 3M Co., are working on and could quickly deploy rapid at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests. These antigen tests work by detecting, within minutes, the presence of coronavirus proteins using specific antibodies embedded on a paper test strip coated with nasal swab samples or saliva. Somewhat like at-home pregnancy tests, the antigen tests change color or reveal lines if COVID-19 proteins are recognized.

But there is one major problem. “Everyone says, ‘Why aren’t you doing this already?’ My answer is, ‘It is illegal to do this right now,'” Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina told The Harvard Gazette in August. “Until the regulatory landscape changes, those companies have no reason to bring a product to market.”

It took Food and Drug Administration regulators until July to finally issue the agency’s template for approving tests that “can be performed entirely at home or in other settings besides a lab” and without a prescription. Read More > at Reason

Google officially charged with antitrust by Justice Department – The Justice Department formally charged Alphabet Inc.’s Google with antitrust violations Tuesday, the first major action against Big Tech for its staggering market power and values.

“Google is a monopolist in the general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising markets,” reads the Justice Department’s complaint, filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning. “Google aggressively uses its monopoly positions, and the money that flows from them, to continuously foreclose rivals and protect its monopolies.”

Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen said Tuesday morning that Google was charged with violating the Sherman Act with its search and search-advertising businesses after a 16-month investigation. The specific issues referenced included Google’s deals to be the default search engine on popular online services and browsers, Google tying its search engine into phones running Alphabet’s Android operating system, and “anti-forking” agreements that manufacturers who use Android sign.

Google “has maintained its monopoly power though exclusionary practices that have harmed competition,” Rosen said in a teleconference with the news media Tuesday morning. Read More > at Market Watch

Albertsons’ Digital Sales Triple as Grocer Beats Wall Street’s Forecast – Supermarket chain Albertsons  saw revenue jump 11% to $15.76 billion in the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic keeps consumers out of restaurants and in their own kitchens cooking dinner.

The recently public grocer said same-store sales soared 13.8% and its digital sales rocketed 243% higher from the year-ago period. Analysts had expected Albertsons to generate $15.6 billion in sales.

With more than 2,250 supermarkets in 34 states operating under various banners including Albertsons, Acme, and Safeway, Albertsons is the second-largest pure-play grocery specialist behind Kroger, which operates over 2,750 stores.

The chain continues to see the investments it made in its digital platform pay off, helped along by increased demand driven by the COVID-19 outbreak. Albertsons’ momentum hasn’t really eased up all that much from the first quarter, when sales were up 21% on a 26% increase in comps as digital sales surged 271%. Read More > in The Motley Fool

No, our democracy and freedom are not on the line this election – One of the things that never fails to amaze me as a pollster is the absolute intensity that accompanies the final weeks of a presidential campaign.

A poll I conducted recently for HealthInsurance.com found that 82% of senior citizens think that this is the most important presidential election of their lifetime. Think about that. That’s what senior citizens are saying. These are voters who were around when the Berlin Wall went up and the Cold War was being fought in a space race. The civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, Woodstock and Watergate were part of their life experience. And yet, now, they say this year — 2020 — is the most important presidential election of their lifetime.

Of course, you don’t need a poll to sense the intensity that some activists and voters bring to the election season. Supporters of both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden regularly assert that the nation will never recover if the other side wins. Our democracy or our freedom will be lost.

This shouldn’t surprise me. It happens every four years. But it catches me off guard because I don’t agree with the assessment. America will survive another four years of Donald Trump as president or the first four years of Joe Biden as president.

There will be differences, of course, because elections matter. They have consequences. But it’s important to remember that politicians aren’t nearly as important as they think they are. They don’t determine the nation’s agenda or decide the fate of the nation. The culture leads and the politicians lag behind. It’s also important to remember that American society isn’t nearly as polarized as American politics. That’s the good news. Read More > in The Deseret News

California to review any FDA-approved vaccine – California will not distribute coronavirus vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration until a state panel of health experts independently reviews them to ensure they meet safety requirements, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. The governor’s announcement — which followed a similar one by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — underscores the politicization of the pandemic at a time when the public is increasingly leery about the safety of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports.

  • Newsom: “We don’t take anyone’s word for it. … This vaccine plan will move at the speed of trust. You have to have confidence in the efficacy of the vaccine, confidence that we’re not rushing to judgment in terms of its distribution and its accessibility.”

California on Friday sent a draft of its vaccination plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The plan prioritizes vaccinations for health workers, first responders and people at high risk of becoming severely ill if infected — meaning most Californians likely won’t be able to get a vaccine until 2021. Read More > at CalMatters

Minnesota DOT and Contra Costa Transportation Authority form new CAV research partnership – The Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) have announced a new partnership that will see them sharing knowledge and testing facilities in an effort to advance safer, smarter, more efficient transportation networks for California, Minnesota, and the entire United States.

MnDOT’s Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) team is actively working to advance research and deployment of ITS and CAV technologies with the help of MnROAD–the state’s cold weather pavement testing facility.

Through this partnership, CCTA will have access to MnROAD facilities and likewise, MnDOT will have access to GoMentum Station in Concord, California – one of the largest secure connected and automated vehicle proving grounds in the country. GoMentum Station augments MnDOT’s testing with varied terrain, and real-life infrastructure including roads, bridges, tunnels, intersections and parking lots provide the environment needed to accelerate testing of the first and last mile applications, and the ability to safely test technology to its limits. CCTA also has many long-standing research and manufacturing partnerships that offer coordination opportunities for MnDOT.

“With this new collaboration, we’ll be able to test in conditions that just can’t be replicated here in Contra Costa,” says Randy Iwasaki, executive director of CCTA. “Our partnership with a state agency like MnDOT will open new doors to shared research opportunities for a small agency like ours, and it’s exciting to be partnering with an agency that has similar goals in the arena of connected and automated vehicle technology.” Read More > at TTI

Home-builder confidence reaches record high for third consecutive month as buyers flood the market – The construction industry’s outlook continued to improve in October, according to research from a trade group released Monday.

The National Association of Home Builders’ monthly confidence index rose two points to a reading of 85 in October, the trade group said Monday.

This was the third month in a row in which the index reading hit a record high, and together with September’s figure, only the second time that the confidence measure was at or above 80.

Index readings over 50 are a sign of improving confidence. The index dropped below 50 in April and May as concerns related to the pandemic intensified.

While summer may now be gone, buyers are still searching for homes as if the weather was warm. Interest rates continue to drop to all-time lows — on Thursday, Freddie Mac reported that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged a record low of 2.81.

Looking to take advantage of the low rates, Americans have flooded the real-estate market. But with the inventory of existing homes so tight, many are considering newly-constructed homes instead. Read More > at Market Watch

Coca-Cola Retiring Storied Tab, Other Products in Brand Cull – Coca-Cola’s first diet soda, once a hugely popular product, will soon belong to history. As part of a reorganization of its business that includes reducing its large brand portfolio, the company will stop manufacturing Tab, according to an article published Friday in The Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola revealed that it aimed to cut loose more than 50% of its 500 brands. This process has already begun; earlier this year the company shut down the Odwalla juice line and announced it was discontinuing Zico coconut water.

Quoted by the Journal in an early October article about the brand cull, an unnamed Coca-Cola spokeswoman said that its initial brand rationalization moves come “at a time when we are hyper focused on delivering on our consumers’ wants and needs.”

Among the brands the company is considering for retirement, according to the Journal, are Coke Life, Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, and Sprite Lymonade. The strategy is to narrow the portfolio to brands that have the potential to be large-scale products, like its signature namesake sugary drink.

Tab was a prime candidate for discontinuation. It made up a mere 0.1% of the roughly $22 billion in diet cola sales worldwide last year, according to statistics compiled by and quoted by the Journal. Much of this was due to the massive and enduring popularity of the company’s main product in the segment, Diet Coke, which was No. 1 with 35% of the total. Read More > in The Motley Fool

Yes, more and more young adults are living with their parents – but is that necessarily bad? – When the Pew Research Center recently reported that the proportion of 18-to-29-year-old Americans who live with their parents has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps you saw some of the breathless headlines hyping how it’s higher than at any time since the Great Depression.

From my perspective, the real story here is less alarming than you might think. And it’s actually quite a bit more interesting than the sound bite summary.

For 30 years I’ve been studying 18-to-29-year-olds, an age group I call “emerging adults” to describe their in-between status as no longer adolescents, but not fully adult.

Even 30 years ago, adulthood – typically marked by a stable job, a long-term partnership and financial independence – was coming later than it had in the past.

Yes, a lot of emerging adults are now living with their parents. But this is part of a larger, longer trend, with the percentage going up only modestly since COVID-19 hit. Furthermore, having grown kids still at home is not likely to do you, or them, any permanent harm. In fact, until very recently, it’s been the way adults have typically lived throughout history. Even now, it’s a common practice in most of the world. Read More > at The Conversation

FAA seeks 4 airports to test drone detection and mitigation technology – The Federal Aviation Administration wants to test drone detection and mitigation technology at four airports prior to permitting its broader use, according to a new solicitation.

FAA plans to try out at least 10 technologies and systems for dealing with errant and hostile unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which threaten the safety of airplanes and their passengers, for up to 24 months beginning in early 2021.

The tests will represent the arrival of the new Airport UAS Detection and Mitigation Program, fulfilling a requirement of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act that the agency work with the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security to ensure the technology doesn’t interfere with airport operations. Read More > At FedScoop

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Is it My Imagination? Are Yellowjackets More Aggressive, This Year?

The Change in Seasons Does Have an Impact on Yellowjacket Behavior
You’re in your backyard, doing a little weekend barbecuing and wham… out of nowhere yellowjackets are all around. You start waving your arms and some start stinging you. What’s going on? Is it my imagination, or are yellowjackets more aggressive this year?

The short answer is, yellowjackets do tend to behave more aggressively particularly in the fall, but it’s actually something that happens every year because food is starting to get scarce and they are starting to come to a new phase of their life cycle.

Yellowjackets can provide incidental pollination and they eat small pest insects.

Contra Costa County is home to four different types of yellowjackets; two that build their nests above ground and two that build their nests below ground. The ones that build their nests below ground are the yellowjackets for which the Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) provides service. District employees focus specifically on ground-nesting yellowjackets because that is where county residents face the most likely risk of coming into contact with and being stung by these insects.

Why do they seem more aggressive now?

Once fall weather starts to cool, it signals the yellowjackets to prepare for winter. That means the worker yellowjackets have to collect food for the queens that will survive through the winter. Yellowjackets will go wherever they need to gather food, so, it’s not your imagination if you see yellowjackets at your next socially distant outdoor dinner. They are attracted to your food — primarily the meat and sugary dishes. The question is, what can you do to get rid of them?

According to the District’s Yellowjacket Program Supervisor Sheila Currier, the most important thing you can do is put out traps early next year to catch the queens with the goal of reducing the number of yellowjackets in your yard next year.

“The rule of thumb is put traps up at Valentine’s Day and take them back down at Father’s Day. That way, you have the best chance of catching queens when they emerge and start looking for places to build their nests. Leave the traps up to catch any new worker yellowjackets that emerge and then take the traps back down in June, to avoid attracting yellowjackets from other yards to your yard.”

The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program has more information on what traps work best. Be sure to place any traps as far as possible away from your home including away from windows, doorways and walkways.

The bottom line is it’s not your imagination, yellowjackets behave more aggressively this time of the year. But by putting out traps next year, the yellowjackets could be less noticeable in the future.

Learn more about how the District works with Contra Costa County residents to control ground nesting yellowjackets.

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PPIC: Who is losing ground in distance learning?

BY NIU GAO, JULIEN LAFORTUNE and LAURA HILL

The resurgence of COVID-19 over the summer and the predicted fall increase in cases means that many districts will continue some form of distance learning for months to come. To help districts refine remote instruction, we explore key issues California families experienced around distance learning this spring.

Using data from the Census Household Pulse Survey, a weekly survey conducted in 2020, we document how the pandemic altered Californian households. Our findings show that distance learning has widened gaps for children of color, children in low-income families, and children of less-educated parents. More specifically, we find:

Internet and device access remains a formidable challenge. Twenty-nine percent of households did not always have internet available for educational purposes, and the share is much higher among low-income households (43%). Devices were not always available in 33 percent of households, and access to devices is often limited.

Live contact with teachers is limited. Children and teachers had an average of 3 hours of live contact by phone or internet in a typical week; low-income and African American families had less frequent contact at 2.6 and 2.4 hours.

Parent involvement in learning varied widely. In a typical week, parents spent 6.5 hours helping with their children’s educational activities, and 18 percent spent more than 10 hours. At the same time, the pandemic has made it more difficult for some parents to be involved, with less-educated, Asian American, and Latino families spending 6 hours or slightly less.

Hardships may interfere with learning. Nearly 40 percent of African American families reported not having sufficient food to eat during the spring; so did 25 percent of low-income families. Nearly a third of low-income families missed their rent or mortgage payment during the spring and nearly half did not have confidence in their ability to pay in the following month.

We offer several recommendations as state and local policymakers consider strategies to improve distance learning and mitigate learning loss.

First, the state must increase its financial commitment, bulk-purchase computing and hotspot devices, subsidize connectivity for low-income families, and incentivize internet service providers to bring broadband to remote and rural areas.

Second, districts should establish more-frequent live contact with students who receive less family support.

Third, districts, along with the state and counties, must provide more wraparound services to students with the greatest need: when schools re-open, in-person instruction should prioritize vulnerable students, including English Learners, homeless children, and students with special education needs.

Last, districts need to monitor student learning and well-being to identify at-risk students and develop intervention strategies.

(This is a summary of the findings. Click here for the full report.)

Note: The Public Policy Institute of California is a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank providing objective research on public issues.

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Golden Rules for Living

My mother sent an email with a link to the website “A Psychiatrist with
Lewy Body Dementia”,
that listed these rules for living.

  1. If you open it, close it.
  2. If you turn it on, turn it off.
  3. If you unlock it, lock it up.
  4. If you break it, admit it.
  5. If you can’t fix it, call in someone who can.
  6. If you borrow it, return it.
  7. If you value it, take care of it.
  8. If you make a mess, clean it up.
  9. If you move it, put it back.
  10. If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it.
  11. If you don’t know how to operate it, leave it alone.
  12. If it’s none of your business, don’t ask questions.
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2020’s Best Small Cities in America – WalletHub Study

With the COVID-19 pandemic spurring some Americans to migrate out of big cities, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2020’s Best Small Cities in America, as well as accompanying videos.

To help Americans put down roots in places offering good quality of life and affordability, WalletHub compared more than 1,200 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 across 43 key indicators of livability. They range from housing costs and school-system quality to restaurants per capita and COVID-19 cases in the last seven days per 100,000 residents. Oakley ranks 204 out of 1200.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit: 
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-small-cities-to-live-in/16581/

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