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.
Swinging for the fences, California sports teams keep asking lawmakers for special deals – It’s become almost a summer tradition in the California Capitol.
As basketball season hits its final buzzer and baseball season gets into full swing, it’s also peak deal-making season for legislators rushing toward their August adjournment. Now is when professional sports teams hoping to build new stadiums staff up with Sacramento lobbyists, typically seeking to speed up construction of their new digs by persuading lawmakers to grant them exceptions from state environmental rules.
Lawmakers are considering two such proposals this summer—one to help the Los Angeles Clippers build an arena in Inglewood, another to help the Oakland A’s construct a stadium in Oakland.
…At the heart of the debate is the California Environmental Quality Act, a nearly 50-year-old law that some see as a sacrosanct protection and others as an excuse for lawsuits that drag on so long they doom ambitious projects.
With environmentalists staunchly against loosening its requirements, Democrats who control the Legislature have resisted making sweeping changes to the act. Instead, they’ve approved a series of one-off arrangements to help individual teams by: expanding the use of eminent domain to acquire land, making it harder for courts to delay construction, or limiting the length of time for resolving environmental lawsuits. They even passed a law in 2011 entitling big projects to expedite environmental lawsuits under certain conditions, but teams continue to seek special deals for broader relief.
…Lawmakers approved the nine-month limit for the Kings and Warriors arenas, but this year rejected applying it challenges over community plans and construction of new housing.
And yet they’re on the cusp of approving a bill as part of the state budget that would place the nine-month limit on environmental lawsuits over a project close to home: a $1.2 billion re-make of their Capitol offices. Read More > at CALmatters
End of daylight saving time inches closer in California – California voters may get a chance to weigh in on daylight saving time in November.
The state Senate on Thursday approved a proposal to ask voters to repeal a 70-year-old initiative that set a biannual clock change in California and give lawmakers the power to adjust the time with a two-thirds vote.
“If signed by the governor, the bill will bring California closer to abolishing the outdated practice of switching our clocks in the fall and spring,” said Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D- San Jose, who introduced Assembly Bill 807.
…AB 807 allows the Legislature to amend daylight saving time with a two-thirds vote in the future. If voters approve the ballot measure, Chu, or another lawmaker, would need to introduce a new bill to establish a permanent daylight saving time.
The new proposal would have to clear the Senate and the Assembly and receive the governor’s signature. Then Congress would have to take action to sanction the law and allow states to adopt a year-round daylight saving time. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee
Fewer US teens smoking, doing drugs … and drinking milk – Fewer U.S. teens are smoking, having sex and doing drugs these days. Oh, and they’re drinking less milk, too.
Less than one-third of high school students drink a glass of milk a day, according to a large government survey released Thursday. About two decades ago, it was nearly half.
Last year’s survey asked about 100 questions on a wide range of health topics, including smoking, drugs and diet. Researchers compared the results to similar questionnaires going back more than 25 years.
One trend that stood out was the drop in drinking milk, which started falling for all Americans after World War II. In recent decades, teens have shifted from milk to soda, then to Gatorade and other sports drinks and recently to energy drinks like Monster and Red Bull. Read More > at Yahoo!
Think Your State Is Ready for the Next Recession? Better Check This Fund First. – States have done a lot over the past decade to be better financially prepared for the next recession. But one area many have ignored is — ironically — their unemployment insurance programs for laid-off workers.
More than half of states’ unemployment insurance trust funds don’t have enough money in them to weather the next economic downturn, according to the most recent federal report on the funds. Of the 28 that don’t meet the minimum solvency level recommended by the U.S. Department of Labor, a whopping 11 have less than half of the funds needed to meet a downturn.
The lack of recovery in many funds more than a decade after the last recession began is alarming given that many think time is running out on the current economic expansion. “If there’s another bad recession like the last one,” says Christopher O’Leary, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute, “states, on average, are not prepared.”
…California offers the best example of this financing imbalance. It’s home to some of the highest average wages in the country. Yet the state has kept its unemploymen insurance taxable wage base at the federal $7,000 minimum for the past 40 years. More than any other state, it has relied on borrowing to sustain its payments during and since the Great Recession. The fund finally worked its way out of debt just last month and, as of May, posted its first positive balance since 2008.
The status of California’s unemployment trust fund has triggered calls for reform from the business community. In terms of best practices, officials need look no further than the states with well-funded unemployment insurance funds, such as Hawaii, Utah and Washington state. These states use an unemployment insurance tax base based on the average annual wage in the state. “That’s a very important feature for solvency,” says the Upjohn Institute’s O’Leary. Read More > at Governing
The drama and fury of Kilauea’s volcano from space –
Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano is causing all kinds of havoc. So far, it’s wiped out at least 600 homes including a neighborhood called “Vacationland,” completely filled in Kapoho Bay and rained olivine gems from the sky. Now, its destruction has been caught by the ESA Copernicus satellite Sentinel-2B (in visible and infrared light) with some dramatic enhancements from photo and geography enthusiast Pierre Markuse.
The image shows lava flowing directly from the volcano nearly Kapoho and Vacationland and emptying directly into the sea near the Kapaho village and tidepools, creating an enormous plume of steam. What draws the eye most, of course, is the lava flow itself, which appears to glow a bright orange. That’s not exactly what the satellite, or your naked eye really sees, however.
To create the above image, Pierre Markuse pulled images from ESA’s Sentinel-2B satellite. Part of the Copernicus imaging program, it can deliver high-resolution images down to 10 meters (33 feet) in 13 spectral bands from 443 to 2190 nanometers, including visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared (SWIR) bands. Read More > at Engadget
50 Worst Cities to Live In – Where Americans live can have a considerable impact on their quality of life. In some U.S. cities, everyday comfort and happiness is much harder to attain than in others.
Quality of life is subjective, and difficult to measure. Still, there is a wide range of quantifiable factors that can impact quality of life in a given area. Affordability, safety, job market strength, quality of education, infrastructure, average commute times, air quality, and the presence of cultural attractions are just a few examples of factors that can influence overall quality of life.
24/7 Wall St. created an index with measures in eight categories — crime, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure — to identify the 50 worst cities to live in. Not confined to a single region, the worst cities span the country from the South to the Midwest and from New England to the Pacific coast.
5. Cleveland, Ohio
4. Memphis, Tennessee
3. St. Louis, Missouri
2. Flint, Michigan
1. Detroit, Michigan
Read More > at 24/7 Wall St
It’s Not Just Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, Suicide Rates Rise in Almost Every State. What’s Going On? – Kate Spade took her life on Tuesday, then Anthony Bourdain was found dead from suicide on Friday. As we mourn the loss of these successful Americans who ended their own lives –all within the same week, new government data shows that Americans are taking their life at high rates in nearly every state.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released new state-by-state data on suicides in the U.S. and the news is not good. Not only have rates risen over the past almost two decades in nearly every state, but suicide increased among all sexes, ages, races and ethnic groups.
There is no single cause of suicide – not even mental illness. While we focus on the mental health of people who take their lives, the CDC found that over half of suicides had no known mental illness.
Other problems contribute to suicide, include relationship problems, crisis, substance use, physical health, job/money problems, legal problems, or loss of housing. Read More > at the Independent Women’s Forum
California’s state budgets represent a seemingly unstoppable rise in government spending – It’s nothing to pop champagne corks about, but California state government is reaching a historic milestone: its first $200-billion spending plan.
It wasn’t very long ago that Sacramento had its first $100-billion budget. In fact, people who saw the first $10-billion budget are still around. I’m one.
Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders have compromised on a budget deal that lawmakers must pass by midnight Friday or they’ll lose their pay. So it definitely will pass. Brown will sign it before the fiscal year begins July 1.
There’s also a large stack of “trailer” bills needed to implement the budget. They can be passed after the Friday deadline.
Here’s how the budget breaks down: $138.6 billion for the general fund, the government’s main checking account; $57.1 billion for special funds, largely for safety net and transportation programs; and $3.9 billion for bond debt.
That totals $199.6 billion, a tad short of the milestone number. But the total will grow virtually every day. Bet on it. When the current budget was signed last year, it was pegged at $183 billion. In only six months, it grew by more than $5 billion. That’s government.
So what’s the big deal about a $200-billion budget? It’s a lamppost that highlights the rapid, seemingly unstoppable rise in California government spending, regardless of Brown’s widely lauded fiscal prudence.
Some perspective: It took the state an entire century to reach a $1-billion budget in 1950. Adjusted for inflation, that would amount to $17 billion in today’s dollars, according to the state finance department. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times
Big hurdles for bold push to split California into 3 states – …California would break into three states — Northern California, California and Southern California. The measure aims to create states with relatively equal populations and economic strengths.
The new Northern California would include 40 counties, including Sacramento, San Jose and San Francisco as well as the state’s wine country and rural northern areas.
Keeping the name California would be a group of six counties centered around Los Angeles, with a total population of 12.3 million people.
Southern California, meanwhile, would include Orange and San Diego Counties as well what’s now known as California’s Central Valley and Inland Empire.
…Passing at the ballot box is just the first hurdle. That would require support from a simple majority of voters.
The measure then directs the governor to ask Congress for the ultimate OK — likely a tall order. If Congress gave a green light, it would then be up the Legislature to determine exactly how the split would happen, including how the state’s debts would be divided. Each of the three states would determine their own governance structure.
Lawmakers would only have 12 months after congressional approval to set the new rules; otherwise the state’s debts would automatically split between the three new ones.
Beyond those difficulties, lawsuits would surely follow. Read More > from the Associated Press
Still Parched – In 2017, when cracks appeared in the Oroville Dam’s spillway, more than 180,000 Californians faced the prospect of floods. The emergency came a few years after Californians had overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1, a ballot measure to spend $7.1 billion on water-storage projects. In the drought-stricken Golden State, where runoff from rain and snowmelt races uselessly into the Pacific Ocean, the proposition won wide support, with voters approving it, two-to-one. But four years after passage, the state water commission has yet to assign a dime of funding for storage.
California once performed miracles in building infrastructure to quench the thirst of its residents and agricultural producers. In the 1960s, Governor Pat Brown oversaw construction of the San Luis Reservoir, capacity 2 million acre-feet. Approved for construction in 1963, it was completed by 1968—five years from start to finish. Those days are long gone. Any surface-storage project now faces years of litigation from environmental groups such as the powerful Sierra Club. At every stage in the construction process, delays of months or years ensue to resolve well-funded lawsuits launched under every conceivable pretext, from habitat destruction to inundation of Native American artifacts.
Nevertheless, the California Water Commission has finally announced its plans to fund new projects with the money from Proposition 1. Many Californians were surprised to learn that the proposition’s fine print stipulated that only a third of the money was ever intended to fund water storage. The rest is earmarked for other projects, ranging from habitat restoration to levee upgrades. Neither the commission nor most of the applicant agencies offer clarity as to how much additional storage the projects will add to California’s normal water supplies in an average year. Read More > at City Journal
How Using Open Wi-Fi Could Get Safer – For a long time, there have only been two main types of wireless networks: those that are open and those that are closed, secured and encrypted…
I would guess that almost all of us have used our phones to log in to open Wi-Fi networks, whether sitting in a restaurant or coffee shop, waiting to see a doctor or just while out shopping. Almost every business and organization provides Wi-Fi these days. And if you agree to use the Wi-Fi at a chain type establishment like McDonald’s, then your phone might automatically log in every time you visit or even drive past any of the thousands of other golden-arched establishments across the country.
…So it was interesting to learn that efforts are underway to secure open Wi-Fi, or at least to try and make it more secure than it is now. The new standard, announced last week by the Wi-Fi Alliance, is called Enhanced Open. And while it’s not nearly as good as a fully encrypted wireless network, it goes beyond the all-or-nothing approach the technology relies on today.
Enhanced Open is based on the Opportunistic Wireless Encryption (OWE) standard, which is an extension of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11 Wi-Fi standard. OWE overlays a Diffie-Hellman “handshake” exchange when the initial connection between a device and access point for an open network is created. Thereafter, all communications between the client and the access point are encrypted. Read More > at Route Fifty
How would Gavin Newsom pay for his promises? – Barring some calamitous meltdown on his part, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will become the next governor of California.
Newsom all but locked up the governorship last week when fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa failed to place second in the top-two primary election, allowing Newsom to face a token Republican foe, San Diego businessman John Cox.
On election night, Newsom reiterated the left-of-center agenda he would pursue as governor, to wit:
“Guaranteed health care for all. A ‘Marshall Plan’ for affordable housing. A master plan for aging with dignity. A middle-class workforce strategy. A cradle-to-college promise for the next generation. An all-hands approach to ending child poverty.”
The stark contrast between Brown’s fiscal approach and Newsom’s campaign promises is obvious.
Even assuming that California avoids a long-overdue economic downturn, where would Newsom get the immense sums of money that he’d need to deliver his agenda?
Just providing “guaranteed health care for all” would cost at least $100 billion more in taxes on someone, according to analyses of a single-payer measure that passed the Senate before stalling in the Assembly. And that assumes that the federal government, which now pays half of Californians’ $400 billion a year tab for health care, would shift that money into a new state program.
The other items on Newsom’s agenda, such as a “cradle-to-college promise,” would cost untold billions more. Read More > at CALmatters
Eat your (frozen) vegetables, they’re good for you – If you think frozen vegetables are only good as a makeshift ice pack, think again.
Putting those peas and carrots in your stomach instead of on your swollen knee will give you a nutritional boost almost equal to eating fresh veggies, research finds — and they’ll likely taste just as good.
Although 85 percent of people say they know they should eat more vegetables, only one in 10 adults actually meet federal fruit and vegetable intake guidelines, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
…A study at the University of California – Davis tested eight fresh fruits and vegetables for flavor and nutrient content after flash-freezing half and storing the other half according to industry standards. The researchers found that good frozen produce is about equal with fresh produce.
Another product analysis found that the concentration of vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients was significantly higher for frozen vegetables compared to fruit and vegetables in cans and jars, dried and fresh fruit, and vegetables. Read More > at The Business Journals
Charitable giving in US tops $400 billion for first time – Fueled by a surging stock market and huge gifts from billionaires, charitable giving in the United States in 2017 topped the $400 billion mark for the first time, according to the latest comprehensive report on Americans’ giving patterns.
The Giving USA report, released Tuesday, said giving from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations reached an estimated $410 billion in 2017 — more than the gross domestic product of countries such as Israel and Ireland. The total was up 5.2 percent in current dollars (3 percent adjusted for inflation) from the estimate of $389.64 billion for 2016.
“Americans’ record-breaking charitable giving in 2017 demonstrates that even in divisive times our commitment to philanthropy is solid,” said Aggie Sweeney, chair of Giving USA Foundation, which publishes the annual report. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Read More > from The Associated Press
Feds Collect Record Individual Income Taxes Through May; Still Run $532.2B Deficit – The federal government collected a record $1,143,141,000,000 in individual income taxes through the first eight months of fiscal 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 through the end of May), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.
Despite the record individual income tax collections, the federal government still ran a deficit of $532,241,000,000 over those same eight months, according to the Treasury statement.
The approximately $1,143,141,000,000 in individual income taxes that the Treasury collected in October through May of this fiscal year was $56,273,800,000 more (in constant May 2018 dollars) than the $1,086,867,200,000 (in constant May 2018 dollars) in individual income taxes that the Treasury collected in October through May of fiscal 2016—which was the previous record. Read More > at CNS News
PG&E could shut off your power on purpose amid fire hazards – PG&E has warned customers it may shut off power in areas imperiled by extreme fire hazards.
The embattled utility, which became a convicted felon in 2017 for crimes linked to a fatal explosion in San Bruno, is confronting the prospect of mounting liabilities arising from the deadly Wine Country wildfires last October in the North Bay. It has posted warnings on its website that it might “for public safety” reasons be obliged to shut off power from time to time in certain neighborhoods.
“It may be necessary for us to temporarily turn off electricity to neighborhoods or communities in high fire-threat areas when extreme fire danger conditions occur,” PG&E stated on its website.
“We know how much our customers rely on reliable electric service and would only consider temporarily turning off power in the interest of safety, and as a last resort,” PG&E stated on its website.
Pre-emptive power shutoffs wouldn’t be unprecedented during times of high fire threats.
In December, alarmed by blazes that had begun to scorch huge stretches of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, San Diego Gas & Electric officials halted service to at least 12,000 customers in a push to reduce the chance of additional wildfires. Read More > in The Mercury News
Gray Wolf Shows Up In Nevada County, Expanding Historic Range – A gray wolf from Oregon has wandered into Nevada County, marking the farthest south in California that the species has been known to roam.
The 2-year-old female wolf, known as OR-54, is being tracked with a GPS collar that was attached back in October, while she was still in Oregon.
She crossed into California back in mid-April. Late last week, she wandered briefly into Nevada County, just north of Interstate 80.
Kent Laudon, a wolf specialist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, says livestock and pets could be threatened, but the animals are not wired to attack humans. Read More > at Capital Public Radio
Thefts rise after California reduces criminal penalties – California voters’ decision to reduce penalties for drug and property crimes in 2014 contributed to a jump in car burglaries, shoplifting and other theft, researchers reported.
Larcenies increased about 9 percent by 2016, or about 135 more thefts per 100,000 residents than if tougher penalties had remained, according to results of a study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California released Tuesday.
Thefts from motor vehicles accounted for about three-quarters of the increase. San Francisco alone recorded more than 30,000 auto burglaries last year, which authorities largely blamed on gangs. Shoplifting may be leveling off, researchers found, but there is no sign of a decline in thefts from vehicles.
Proposition 47 lowered criminal sentences for drug possession, theft, shoplifting, identity theft, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks and check forgery from felonies that can bring prison terms to misdemeanors that often bring minimal jail sentences. Read More > in The Sacramento Bee
Tesla’s Autopilot to get ‘full self-driving feature’ in August – Shares of Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) rose as much as 5 percent on Monday after Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk tweeted that its Autopilot driver assistance system will get full self-driving features following a software upgrade in August.
Autopilot, a form of advanced cruise control, handles some driving tasks and warns those behind the wheel they are always responsible for the vehicle’s safe operation. But a spate of recent crashes has brought the system under regulatory scrutiny.
…Musk said the autopilot issue during lane-merging is better in the current software and will be fully fixed in the August update.
…General Motors Co (GM.N) said last week that its driver assistance feature, Super Cruise, will allow drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel for extended periods, but will stop the vehicle automatically if drivers are not attentive. Read More > in Reuters
Supreme Court gives Ohio right to purge thousands of voters from its rolls – The U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined Wednesday to rule for Ohio in a legal fight over the state’s method for removing people from the list of registered voters.
Civil rights groups say it discourages minority turnout. But a lawyer for the state told the court that the process helps keep voter registration lists accurate and up to date. And a bare majority of the justices seemed to agree with the state officials.
All states have procedures for removing from their registration lists the names of people who have moved and are therefore no longer eligible to vote in a given precinct. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether a voter’s decision to sit out a certain number of elections could be the trigger for that effort.
At issue is a method Ohio uses to identify people who have moved and are no longer eligible to vote. The state sends notices to those who fail to cast a ballot during a two-year period. People who do not respond and don’t vote over the next four years, including in two more federal elections, are dropped from the list of registered voters. Read More > at NBC News
Higher minimum wages increase poverty in poor neighborhoods, study finds – The study, led by the University of California, Irvine economist David Neumark and published by the business-backed Employment Policies Institute, finds that, over the course of decades, higher minimum wages don’t reduce poverty in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Rather, the analysis finds that a $1 increase in the minimum wage raises poverty rates and government dependency by about 3 percent.
The report also finds evidence that cash welfare fails to lower poverty.
The new study, which hasn’t undergone peer review, differs from past research on the minimum wage in that it studies the effects of the minimum wage based on location and over long periods of time.
Most studies on the minimum wage, such as the ones cited by the Obama administration in pressing to raise the federal rate, have studied the impact of minimum wage increases on employment and earnings in a short period after the change.
Neumark’s study instead examines the impact of minimum wage changes over four decades, based on changes between states and at the federal level. It uses data from the Neighborhood Change Database.
It also assesses the impact of minimum wage changes on poverty and public assistance generally, an outcome Neumark said is of interest particularly because of his focus on self-sufficiency. Read More > in the Washington Examiner
‘Everybody Wants Chick-fil-A’: Why The Chicken Chain Is Dominating Fast Food – Chick-fil-A locations generate more revenue than any other fast-food restaurant in the U.S. The average franchise of the chicken company saw $4.4M in sales in 2016, according to restaurant trade publication QSR. The next-closest chains in per-store sales were Panera Bread and Whataburger, at $2.7M each.
When it comes to making money in fast food, Chick-fil-A is in a class of its own.
“People are definitely shying away from the chains, the Chipotles and stuff like that. Everybody is looking for something new and different. Except for Chick-fil-A,” D.C.-based retail broker Tom Papadopoulos said. “Everybody wants Chick-fil-A, it’s just like a cult thing. Everybody wants them. Chick-fil-A is the In-N-Out Burger of the East Coast.”
…The average KFC franchise made a little over $1M in sales in 2016. The entire company had 56% of the sales of Chick-fil-A despite having 2,000 more restaurants and being open for one extra day of business each week.
KFC closed 103 stores in 2016. McDonald’s earned an average of $2.5M at its nearly 27,000 locations. It closed 104 stores in 2016, and Subway, earning $422K per store, closed 359. Chick-fil-A opened 119 to bring its total store count to 2,102. Read More > at Bisnow
Millennials Prefer Suburban Living – To most builders, housing demand is meaningless unless it’s in their backyard or in some nearby community. That is, most homebuilders don’t stray too far from the markets they know. What we recently learned from the U.S. Bureau of the Census will be well received by those builders: thanks to the interest millennials are taking in homeownership, the demand is there, and growing – in the suburbs.
This trend among millennials is occurring nationwide. Data from the Census Bureau suggest this newest generation, which is now in or entering the homebuying market for the first time, is a dominant player in those markets – already boasting a 36 percent homeownership rate. (Today’s national homeownership rate is roughly 64 percent of all households.)
Indeed, millennials may be on their way to creating a profound bump in the homebuying market according to Census Bureau data. Last year, millennial homebuyers registered the largest gains among all age groups. Read More > Fox and Hounds
Facebook Should Not be Deciding What is Fake and What is News, That’s Your Job – I have long thought that all of the drama regarding Facebook and so called “fake news” is overblown as well as misguided
I don’t dispute that there is a lot of garbage published and shared on that platform, but I bristle at the hysteria and political posturing over how the fate of our republic hinges upon Mark Zuckerberg protecting us from bogus news articles—or at least what some computer algorithm programmed by humans with their own subjective notions about what “bogus” means determines to be bogus.
Not long ago there was a State Farm Insurance commercial where a lady was certain that “they can’t put it on the internet if it isn’t true.” The humor in that spot is derived, obviously, from the fact that anyone who has spent any time at all using the internet knows that it contains as much nonsense as it does real information. It’s full of conspiracy theories and hoaxes, get rich quick scams, and deliberately misleading propaganda. That stuff isn’t relegated to Media Matters or Gateway Pundit; it’s everywhere. We laughed at the ad because we know the internet is a reflection of society, some of which is genuine and some of which is garbage. The latter may in fact be the greater share.
…While many in the last few years have adopted a strictly binary way of looking at the world, no news organization is wholly fake or wholly credible. I would argue that you can seldom find even a single article that you can depend on as entirely factual.
Facebook says its mission is to make the world more connected. Fine. The world is full of erroneous content ranging from intentional misinformation, misunderstood satire or humor, faulty logic, conjecture, honest error, and outright stupidity. Facebook doesn’t want to connect you to the world. It wants to connect you to a sanitized (and fake) version of it where someone you don’t know decides what parts of it you should or shouldn’t see. No one is qualified to make those decisions for you.
A few simple rules negate any need for Facebook or Congress to censor or encroach on your internet usage.
- If you use Facebook, use it as a social network, not a newspaper.
- Always exercise a healthy skepticism, especially about claims that you really want to believe.
- Don’t assume anything is automatically true because someone you often agree with shared it with you.
- Don’t assume anything is automatically false because someone you usually disagree with shared it with you.
- If the only source for a news item you can find is the blog reporting it, assume it’s garbage until corroborated by reputable sources.
- Do your own homework and your own thinking instead of letting yourself get stampeded with the rest of the herd.
Read More > at Red State
Where killings go unsolved – The Washington Post has identified the places in dozens of American cities where murder is common but arrests are rare. These pockets of impunity were identified by obtaining and analyzing up to a decade of homicide arrest data from 50 of the nation’s largest cities. The analysis of 52,000 criminal homicides goes beyond what is known nationally about the unsolved cases, revealing block by block where police fail to catch killers.
The overall homicide arrest rate in the 50 cities is 49 percent, but in these areas of impunity, police make arrests less than 33 percent of the time. Despite a nationwide drop in violence to historic lows, 34 of the 50 cities have a lower homicide arrest rate now than a decade ago.
Some cities, such as Baltimore and Chicago, solve so few homicides that vast areas stretching for miles experience hundreds of homicides with virtually no arrests. In other places, such as Atlanta, police manage to make arrests in a majority of homicides — even those that occur in the city’s most violent areas.
Police blame the failure to solve homicides in these places on insufficient resources and poor relationships with residents, especially in areas that grapple with drug and gang activity where potential witnesses fear retaliation. But families of those killed, and even some officers, say the fault rests with apathetic police departments. All agree that the unsolved killings perpetuate cycles of violence in low-arrest areas.
Homicide arrest rates vary widely when examined by the race of the victim: An arrest was made in 63 percent of the killings of white victims, compared with 48 percent of killings of Latino victims and 46 percent of the killings of black victims. Almost all of the low-arrest zones are home primarily to low-income black residents. Read More > in The Washington Post
Say, Whatever Happened To That ‘Gig Economy’ Everybody Predicted? – For decades experts proclaimed that technology was reshaping the workplace, and a “gig economy” was taking over. But a funny thing happened in the years since. Nothing.
Along with the advent of personal computers, broadband internet and smartphones came predictions that the traditional employer-worker relationship would soon be a thing of past. Workers would increasingly become freelancers, and companies virtual. Telecommuting would be routine.
In 1999, the Department of Labor predicted that the “traditional work arrangement (is) giving way to something fundamentally different” as companies shift to “just in time” workers.
Kiplinger predicted in 2000 that 100 million U.S. workers would be telecommuting by 2010.
In 2011, the Atlantic called the transformation to a gig economy “nothing less than a revolution. We haven’t seen a shift in the workforce this significant in almost 100 years when we transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial economy.”
So, what actually happened?
Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that, contrary to all those predictions, the “gig economy” shrank in size over the past two decades.
In 1995, there were 6 million “contingent workers” — those with short term or temporary jobs — representing 4.9% of the workforce. Last year, there were 5.8 million, or 3.8% of the workforce. That’s a long way from the 40% Intuit predicted.
Overall, the share of workers in “traditional arrangements” has remained exactly the same as it was 23 years ago — at 90% — BLS data show.
In other words, there has been no transformation of the workplace at all, despite the dramatic technological changes that swept over the economy in the past quarter century. Read More > at Investor’s Business Daily
California could impose quotas for women on corporate boards – State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson is intent on changing gender inequality in California’s corporate world — from the top down.
Among the 446 publicly traded California-based companies on the Russell 3000 Index, only 15.5 percent of corporate board seats are held by women, according to the Board of Governance Research LLC. More than 25 percent of those companies have no women on their boards.
Senate Bill 826, authored by Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners-California, would require publicly held companies to have a minimum number of women on their boards of directors. By the end of 2019, publicly held corporations based in California would be required to have at least one female director. By the end of 2021, companies with five directors would be required to have two female board members, and companies with six or more directors would be required to have at least three female board members. Corporations that failed to meet these quotas would be subject to a fine by the state. Read More > in the Sacramento Business Journal
Things don’t look good for Dodge and Chrysler – If you’re a huge fan of Dodge or Chrysler cars, we’ve got bad news: Things don’t look good for these key American brands.
The fact is that Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) has as a lot of brands, some of which generate way more customer excitement than others.
For instance, there is Jeep, one of the most valuable automotive brands in the world. Then there’s Ram, the pickup truck that was brand split off from Dodge in 2009. It sells trucks that haul in loads of profits. Then, on the Italian side, there are Alfa Romeo and Maserati, which sell exciting, snarling Italian luxury and performance cars.
Chrysler and Dodge play support roles, and only have a significant presence in North America. Simply put, Fiat Chrysler has better places to invest its money.
The Chrysler name doesn’t resonate much with consumers even in the United States. The fact that it shares a name with its parent company that just a decade ago narrowly avoided bankruptcy doesn’t help, said David Zatz, a blogger who follows Chrysler closely. Read More > at CNN Money
It’s Wildfire Season in California, and Utilities Want to Tamp Down Their Liability – California utilities might have to pay billions of dollars in damage if state investigators find their power lines sparked last year’s devastating wildfires. And they’ll face similar bills in the future, whenever a tree falls across a power line and sparks a fire that reduces homes, hotels and schools to ashes.
To head off financial disaster, the companies and the electrical workers’ union are frantically lobbying Golden State officials for relief from a system that the utilities say is unfair: They’re liable when their equipment ignites a fire, but they can’t automatically pass on the costs to consumers.
No other state has both California’s utility policies and history of massive, destructive fires, so utilities in other states don’t face the same challenge…
The California Department of Insurance has recorded 45,000 insurance claims worth almost $12 billion from the October and December wildfires. Investigations of the blazes’ causes continue, but power lines likely played a role in many of the fires. Pacific Gas & Electric — the dominant utility in Northern California — already faces more than a hundred lawsuits. Read More > at Route Fifty
All Downhill for Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds – The 2018 Social Security and Medicare trustees’ reports have been released. For the first time in several years they contain some big (in addition to their usual bad) news: the combined Social Security trust funds and the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund will begin drawing down their reserves this year, on their respective ways to eventual depletion. In the case of Medicare HI, that depletion is now projected to occur in just eight short years, by 2026.
The key finding, however, is not what happens in 2026 but now. Since 2010 Social Security has been coping with its annual cash deficits –the amount by which its tax income falls short of benefit obligations – by drawing upon interest earned on its nearly $2.9 trillion dollars in trust fund reserves. Those interest credits are paid from the federal government’s general fund and until now have been sufficient to allow the nominal balance of Social Security’s combined trust funds to grow. This year that will stop.
The trustees have determined that beginning this year, Social Security’s tax income and interest earnings will no longer be sufficient to finance payments. To continue making benefit payments in full, Social Security will start drawing down its trust fund reserves. The trustees further project that this drawdown will continue every year until the reserves are wholly depleted. Read More > at E21