California Is 2023’s 10th Worst State to Drive in – WalletHub Study

With traffic congestion costing U.S. drivers an average of 51 hours and $869 during 2022, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2023’s Best & Worst States to Drive in, as well as expert commentary.

To determine the most driver-friendly states in the U.S., WalletHub compared the 50 states across 31 key metrics. The data set ranges from average gas prices to rush-hour traffic congestion to road quality.

Driving in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 45th – Share of Rush-Hour Traffic Congestion
  • 16th – Traffic Fatality Rate
  • 48th – Car Theft Rate
  • 49th – Avg. Gas Prices
  • 25th – Auto-Maintenance Costs
  • 40th – Road Quality

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-worst-states-to-drive-in/43012

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Smoking Costs the Average California Smoker $3,363,073 Over a Lifetime – WalletHub Study

With the economic and societal costs of smoking totaling more than $600 billion per year, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on The Real Cost of Smoking by State, as well as expert commentary.

To encourage the estimated 34.2 million tobacco users in the U.S. to kick this dangerous habit, WalletHub calculated the potential monetary losses – including the lifetime and annual costs of a cigarette pack per day, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs – brought on by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Financial Cost of Smoking in California (1=Lowest, 25=Avg.):

  • Out-of-Pocket Cost per Smoker – $168,718 (Rank: 39th)
  • Financial-Opportunity Cost per Smoker – $2,258,139 (Rank: 39th)
  • Health-Care Cost per Smoker – $238,576 (Rank: 43th)
  • Income Loss per Smoker – $679,726 (Rank: 45th)
  • Other Costs per Smoker – $17,914 (Rank: 49th)
  • Total Cost Over Lifetime per Smoker: $3,363,073
  • Total Cost per Year per Smoker: $70,064

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/the-financial-cost-of-smoking-by-state/9520

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Sunday Reading – 01/15/2023

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 to release water from reservoirs? – On the subject of reservoirs, as rain continues to drench the now-waterlogged slopes and soils of the Sierra Nevada foothills, state water officials are walking the fine line between retaining water while releasing enough of it downriver to prevent damaging flooding, or, in the worst-case scenario, a blown-out dam. This can mean spilling water from reservoirs that are nowhere near full.

  • Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth: “Smaller reservoirs in the state are making flood releases, but a lot of the larger reservoirs are not.” 

Lake Oroville, most notably, has plenty of room to hold more water, John Yarbrough, the State Water Project’s assistant deputy director, said Monday. The lake currently contains about 1.55 million acre-feet — 44% of its capacity. That’s almost 600,000 acre-feet more than it held a month ago, and in the next 10 days another 500,000 acre-feet are expected to enter the reservoir. But it’s far from overflowing, as it did in 2017. 

“Even with that expected inflow, we have a lot of capacity at Lake Oroville,” Yarbrough said. 

At Lake Del Valle, in the East Bay’s reservoir network, it’s a different story. “We’re starting to get into the flood reservation space,” Yarbrough said. This has prompted officials to release water at an accelerated rate of about 2,000 cubic feet per second. 

Particular reservoirs have a tendency to rapidly fill, said Mike Anderson, a climatologist with the state Department of Water Resources. Among these are the American River’s Folsom Lake and Millerton Lake, on the San Joaquin River.

In the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, operations have changed to take advantage of the excess water. The pumps that export water south have been revved up from a putter of 300 cubic feet per second to a roaring 3,000, Yarbrough said. Still, this export system is operating at a scant one-third of capacity. Officials hope to throttle the pumps even higher, but for now they can’t. That’s to avoid harming threatened and endangered fish species, which officials believe may be within reach of the pumps’ influence. Read More > at CalMatters

Reservoir, Snowpack Levels Continue To Rise Across California Due To ‘Bomb Cyclone’ StormsBomb cyclones have brought record rain and snow to the state, with over a dozen deaths and damage recorded from Redding to San Diego. Evacuations of entire communities has also occurred due to flood and mudslide worries in Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara Counties. However, on Tuesday, a silver lining to the storms began to shine brighter, as drought depleted reservoirs and underwhelmed snowpack in the mountains relied on to bring water continuously down in the hot summer months have both risen exponentially in the past few weeks. Last week, snow pack levels were at 174% where they usually at, with reservoirs quickly moving up from lower drought-withered levels. As the ground has saturated, and storms continue to deluge the state with rain, these numbers have only increased.

In Northern California, snowpack has increased to over 200% of normal levels, with reservoirs quickly climbing up. Don Pedro Reservoir is currently at 97% it’s normal January level, with Shasta coming in at 67%, New Melones at 59%, and Trinity at 42%, way above the state average at this time last year at 38%. In particular, Lake Oroville, which has been at record low levels for the past few years below 30% capacity, shot up to 38% capacity in only a matter of days. Currently the lake is now at 85% of where the normal level should be and climbing. The water level itself is currently at 748 feet, much higher than the level in 2021 at 690 feet. With the water level rising now between 607 feet per day, and rain in the forecast for at least the next week, many hope that the water level could get close to the full pool amount of 900 feet by the time of the critical snowpack level measuring date of April 1st.

In Southern California, while rain has not been as constant as in the North, the added water is also filling up reservoirs in the region. Outside of California, the added rain and snow could also help California with down stream water as well, with expected high Rocky Mountain snowpack levels possibly even giving the Colorado River and Lake Mead their highest level rises in over a decade.

The rises, and continued rain and snow, have led many water experts to remain cautiously optimistic in recent weeks. The general consensus is while there is still a drought, the storms have definitely been alleviating the situation, with further improvement possibly meaning a year without any drastic cuts. Read More > at California Globe

Seeno legal battle, affordable housing focus of Concord Naval Weapons Station hearing – The future of the Concord Naval Weapons Station project, the Bay Area’s largest development, is on hold once again.

After a marathon meeting on Saturday, the Concord City Council hit the pause button on a crucial contract after raising concerns over the proposed amount and type of affordable housing, and the involvement of Albert Seeno III, who is currently in multiple legal battles with his father over control of the family’s building empire.

The City Council is now expected to vote on Jan. 28 on a term sheet — a draft of a contract — with Concord First Partners and a consortium of developers that includes Seeno III, to develop the 2,275-acre Naval Weapons site into thousands of homes, new schools, parks and commercial and retail centers on Concord’s north side over the next 40 years.

Councilmembers spent three hours of the daylong meeting, which ran from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., grilling Concord First Partners and city staff about the details of the contract, which differs from negotiations with the city’s previous master developer, Lennar, in that it now includes a longer construction timeline and more homes.

The original 2012 area plan called for setting aside 25% of 12,272 units, or about 3,020 units, as affordable housing. The draft contract before the council on Saturday increased the number of residences to 15,595. The number of affordable units, however, remained the same. To make up the difference, the developers are counting 879 accessory units attached to single-family homes as affordable units. Read More > in the East Bay Times

$7 a dozen? Why California eggs are so expensive — and increasingly hard to find – The average retail price for a dozen large eggs jumped to $7.37 in California this week, up from $4.83 at the beginning of December and just $2.35 at this time last year, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show.

The cause is an unprecedented outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza — commonly known as bird flu — that has killed tens of millions of egg-layers nationwide. Among these are millions of cage-free hens California relies on to comply with Proposition 12, the 2018 animal welfare initiative that took effect last year.

The resulting shortages and price increases have hit the poorest Californians hard, eating up inventory at food banks and pinching families who rely on federal programs with strict buying guidelines. And they’ve only been exacerbated in the new year, as new cage-free mandates in other states take effect and demand continues to outstrip supply.

More than 57 million chickens and turkeys have died or been culled since the outbreak began last February, including close to 4 million egg-laying hens in December alone. Among the roughly 40 million hens lost nationwide since the outbreak began, more than 5 million were cage-free egg layers, USDA data show.

“The current outbreak has impacted all types of farms, regardless of size or production style,” a USDA spokeswoman wrote in an email.

The difference is, cage-free flocks make up only about 30% of the U.S. egg market.

To be sure, the number of cage-free layers has grown rapidly in recent years. Flocks roughly doubled between November 2018, when Proposition 12 passed, and January 2022, when the law took effect. California’s layers now number almost 14 million, and they have so far been spared by the outbreak.

“Luckily, our California egg industry has avoided any bird flu in commercial flocks,” California Poultry Federation President Bill Mattos wrote in an email. “Their biosecurity is outstanding and companies here are working very hard to keep wild birds out of facilities and farms across the state.”

But demand has grown much faster than cage-free flocks. Since Proposition 12 passed, at least six other states have voted to prohibit the sale of conventional eggs. Three of those bans are now in effect, including in Colorado and Washington, where conventional eggs were outlawed Jan. 1.

That means, between this week and the last, almost 14 million more Americans began competing for a product that was already scarce. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

4 men arrested after $2K worth of items stolen from grocery stores in Oakley: police – Four suspects were arrested after being accused of stealing $2,000 worth of items from two grocery stores Wednesday night, the Oakley Police Department announced on Facebook.

According to police, $1,000 worth of items were stolen around 8:46 p.m. from the Raley’s at 2077 Main St. The suspects are also accused of stealing $1,000 worth of alcohol from a Safeway store in Brentwood. Oakley police posted a picture of the stolen items.

At the Raley’s, three “suspicious young men” were pushing cars full of beer and laundry detergent then exited the back door of the store. Police said they loaded those items in the back of a black Ford F150, but store staff was able to provide police with the truck’s license plate number.

The Contra Costa Sheriff’s helicopter then located the suspect vehicle near Vintage Parkway and Big Break Road where Oakley police conducted a traffic stop. According to police, the four men inside the truck were detained, and police identified three of them to be the ones who stole the merchandise.

  • Renaldy Mendieta, 44, of Antioch was arrested for organized retail theft, conspiracy and possession of illegal drugs. Police say he was also the getaway driver.
  • Justin Snyder, 18, of Discovery Bay was arrested for organized retail theft and conspiracy.
  • Lawrence Domina, 22, of Clayton was arrested for organized retail theft and conspiracy.
  • Justin Dornenburg, 20, of Concord was arrested for organized retail theft and conspiracy.

As of 6:50 p.m., all four suspects’ bail is $40,000, according to Contra Costa County Sheriff records. They were all booked into the Martinez Detention Facility. Read More > at KRON 4

New Inflation Report Shows Insane Grocery Price Increases – Consumer prices decreased 0.1 percent in December according to the latest read of the Consumer Price Index released on Thursday morning, but still advanced 6.5 percent over the last 12 months, in line with Wall Street expectations for the latest report on the costs paid by Americans, 

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics explained in its release of December’s CPI, the index for gasoline was “by far the largest contributor to the monthly all items decrease” — a volatile index that is not expected to remain on a downward trajectory as spring and summer approach. 

Other components in the energy index, however, continued their uphill climb in the last month of 2022 to take the full category to a 12-month increase of 7.3 percent. 

Even as fuel oil costs fell 16.6 percent in December, the cost for the necessary expense to keep homes warm through the winter is still 41.5 percent more expensive than it was one year ago. Meanwhile, electricity costs for Americans advanced 14.3 percent over the last 12 months and piped utility gas bills increased 19.3 percent in 2022. 

The more stable core CPI number — which excludes food and energy — increased 0.3 percent in December, an acceleration from November 2022’s 0.2 percent increase, for an annual core inflation rate of 5.7 percent as most indexes continued to see prices rise.

Among the indexes that continue to spike is food, up 10.4 percent in the last 12 months. Food at home — what Americans fill their pantries with — increased 11.8 percent while food away from home — the cost of eating at a restaurant — advanced 8.3 percent. 

According to the latest Consumer Price Index, here’s how much costs for necessary grocery staples increased from December 2021 to December 2022:

  • lettuce 24.9 percent
  • margarine: 43.8 percent
  • butter: 31.4 percent
  • flour: 23.4 percent
  • salad dressing: 18.3 percent
  • hot dogs: 18.2 percent
  • frozen vegetables 16.4 percent 
  • crackers and bread: 16.0 percent
  • olives, pickles, relishes: 15.8 percent
  • soups: 15.7 percent
  • roasted coffee: 15.5 percent
  • sauces and gravies: 15.2 percent
  • ice cream: 15.0 percent
  • rice: 13.8 percent
  • fresh whole chicken: 13.3 percent
  • potatoes: 12.9 percent
  • milk: 12.5 percent
  • baby food: 10.7 percent

Even man’s best friend hasn’t been spared from inflated meal costs, with pet food costs advancing 15.2 percent over the previous 12 months. Read More > at Townhall

Feds borrowed $4 billion per day in 2022, totaling $10K per household – Federal debt soared by $1.4 trillion in 2022 as President Joe Biden and Congress approved multiple new spending packages.

The Congressional Budget Office released the final details of federal spending in 2022 showing the federal government had a $1.4 trillion deficit last year, borrowing roughly $82 billion in December alone. 

“This is not a pretty picture no matter how you look at it,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “There are times to borrow – like during a pandemic or major recession – and there are times where we should ratchet down the borrowing, like now when the economy is strong and inflation is hot.”

MacGuineas pointed out last year’s borrowing totals more than $10,000 per household and $4 billion per day.

The federal debt surpassed $31 trillion in the fall. 

The higher debt was fueled in part by a rash of several trillion dollars in additional spending bills since Biden took office. Initially, that spending received broad support as a response to the pandemic, but later bills received more opposition from Republicans.

Biden has touted a reduction in the deficit last year from $2.8 trillion to $1.4 trillion. While that is true, the $1.4 trillion figure is still much higher than when he took office. In 2019, the budget deficit was less than one trillion dollars. Read More > at The Center Square

Really? They want to ban gas stoves now? – The Consumer Product Safety Commission is opening a period of public comments on the “dangers of gas stoves.” We’ll get to the supposed dangers in a moment, but if a regulatory agency like the USCPSC is already to the point of taking public comments, one of two things is almost certainly on the way. They will either impose emission limits on the stoves, no doubt driving up the cost and/or reducing efficiency, or they will ban the stoves altogether. Either way, somebody is about to make a boatload of money, and it won’t be the consumers. (National Review)

A federal agency may look to ban gas stoves over concern about the release of pollutants that can cause health and respiratory problems, according to a new report.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is set to open public comment on the dangers of gas stoves sometime this winter. The commission could set standards on emissions from the gas stoves, or even look to ban the manufacture or import of the appliances, commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. told Bloomberg News.

“This is a hidden hazard,” Trumka told the outlet.“Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

The claim here is that gas stoves “emit pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter.” Those alleged emissions are above levels deemed safe by the EPA and the WHO. But if this report sounds suspicious to you, you’re not alone. First of all, gas stoves have been around since the early 1800s and they have been ubiquitous in America for longer than anyone can remember. The EPA has been in business for more than 50 years. The WHO was set up in the 1940s.

Obviously, not everyone agrees with this proposal. It appears to be based on one study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The American Gas Association cited guidelines from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the EPA, neither of which find gas stoves to be a significant contributor to adverse air quality or to pose a health hazard. Read More > at Hot Air

Consumer Safety Commission Walks Back Gas-Stove Threat amid Backlash – U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Alexander D. Hoehn-Saric issued a statement Wednesday assuring the public that his agency has no intention of banning gas stoves after a commission official drew the ire of the cooking public by suggesting the appliances might be banned in the near future due to the alleged health threat they pose to Americans.

“Over the past several days, there has been a lot of attention paid to gas stove emissions and to the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” Hoehn-Saric wrote in an official statement released Wednesday. “To be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”

Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. had originally told Bloomberg News that fears over air quality caused by gas stoves was creating “a hidden hazard.”

“Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” Trumka Jr. insisted.

The comments came following Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and Representative Don Beyer (D., Va.) urging the federal agency to investigate the issue due to its allegedly disproportionate impact on black, Latino, and low-income households. Read More > at National Review

Cellphones, cameras, DNA: how police caught Idaho student killings suspect – A 28-year-old graduate student faces four counts of murder – but families of the victims await answers to the question of why

For a student of criminology, Bryan Kohberger appears to have been remarkably indifferent to modern methods of detective work.

The accused murderer of four friends at the University of Idaho, who were repeatedly stabbed in their beds with a large knife, was snared by procedures that are the nuts and bolts of police television dramas: cameras tracking his car, cellphone records placing him at the scene, and a search of DNA records collected by genealogy websites that threw up a match with Kohberger’s family.

Yet, according to court statements, despite years of studying police methods, the 28-year-old left a trail of evidence as he allegedly stalked and attacked his victims. He took some decisions, they allege, such as turning his cellphone off during the murders, that only heightened suspicion he was the killer. Police say that Kohberger even returned to the scene of the crime in the hours after the murders.

But even as the police claimed to have got their man, accusing Kohberger of four counts of first-degree murder, key questions remained unanswered. Was there a connection between the criminal justice student’s interest in serial killers and the murders? And why did a surviving housemate wait hours to call the police after apparently encountering the killer outside her room in the middle of the night? Read More > in The Guardian

Public Transit Goes Off the Rails With Fewer Riders, Dwindling Cash, Rising Crime – Several of the nation’s largest urban mass-transit systems are at a crossroads, with ridership still depressed three years into the pandemic and federal aid running out.

While offices have largely reopened and travel has resumed, many commuters are only coming in a few days a week. That shift has left subways, buses and commuter trains operating at well below capacity—particularly on Mondays and Fridays.

The ridership shortfall is forcing transit authorities to question their decades-old funding models for public buses, subways and trains, which are based on a combination of rider fares and public money. On average, fares provided about a third of the operating income for transit systems nationwide in 2019, according to the Federal Transit Administration.

In major cities such as New York and San Francisco, transit authorities have been leaning on emergency funding to plug budget holes and prop up operations. In all, Congress approved about $69 billion in three separate Covid-19 relief packages in 2020 and 2021.

But those funds are dwindling, leaving transit officials grappling with budget shortfalls and seeking new ways to fund existing service.

The ridership drop also has fueled an increase in transit crime, which in turn has pushed away more riders.

In San Francisco, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, recorded 3.7 million trips in November—a little more than one-third of the ridership before Covid.

In the U.S. overall, about 883,000 fewer people took public transit in the third quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2019, according to federal data gathered by the American Public Transportation Association.

The decline is particularly acute among so-called “choice riders”, people who have access to a vehicle but choose to take mass transit, Mr. Sriraj said. This group includes office workers who tend to favor commuter rail over public buses, he added. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Riddle solved: Why was Roman concrete so durable? – The ancient Romans were masters of engineering, constructing vast networks of roads, aqueducts, ports, and massive buildings, whose remains have survived for two millennia. Many of these structures were built with concrete: Rome’s famed Pantheon, which has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome and was dedicated in A.D. 128, is still intact, and some ancient Roman aqueducts still deliver water to Rome today. Meanwhile, many modern concrete structures have crumbled after a few decades.

Researchers have spent decades trying to figure out the secret of this ultradurable ancient construction material, particularly in structures that endured especially harsh conditions, such as docks, sewers, and seawalls, or those constructed in seismically active locations.

Now, a team of investigators from MIT, Harvard University, and laboratories in Italy and Switzerland, has made progress in this field, discovering ancient concrete-manufacturing strategies that incorporated several key self-healing functionalities. The findings are published today in the journal Science Advances, in a paper by MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering Admir Masic, former doctoral student Linda Seymour ’14, PhD ’21, and four others.

For many years, researchers have assumed that the key to the ancient concrete’s durability was based on one ingredient: pozzolanic material such as volcanic ash from the area of Pozzuoli, on the Bay of Naples. This specific kind of ash was even shipped all across the vast Roman empire to be used in construction, and was described as a key ingredient for concrete in accounts by architects and historians at the time.

Under closer examination, these ancient samples also contain small, distinctive, millimeter-scale bright white mineral features, which have been long recognized as a ubiquitous component of Roman concretes. These white chunks, often referred to as “lime clasts,” originate from lime, another key component of the ancient concrete mix. “Ever since I first began working with ancient Roman concrete, I’ve always been fascinated by these features,” says Masic. “These are not found in modern concrete formulations, so why are they present in these ancient materials?”

Previously disregarded as merely evidence of sloppy mixing practices, or poor-quality raw materials, the new study suggests that these tiny lime clasts gave the concrete a previously unrecognized self-healing capability. “The idea that the presence of these lime clasts was simply attributed to low quality control always bothered me,” says Masic. “If the Romans put so much effort into making an outstanding construction material, following all of the detailed recipes that had been optimized over the course of many centuries, why would they put so little effort into ensuring the production of a well-mixed final product? There has to be more to this story.” Read More > at MIT News

Macy’s quietly lays an egg — and more may be coming for retail – Macy’s (Mdumped some bad news.

So let’s break down this textbook news dump Macy’s pulled on a week ago Friday afternoon:

  • Net Sales: Expected to be at the low end to mid-point of guidance for $8.16 billion to $8.40 billion. Analysts were modeling for $8.31 billion in sales, according to Yahoo Finance data.
  • Adjusted EPS: Expected to be within the guidance range of $1.47 to $1.67. Yahoo Finance data shows analysts were banking on $1.60 a share.
  • Key management comment: “Based on current macro-economic indicators and our proprietary credit card data, we believe the consumer will continue to be pressured in 2023, particularly in the first half, and have planned inventory mix and depth of initial buys accordingly,” said Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette. “We take a balanced approach to merchandise receipts and remain committed to offering fashion and value across nameplates and channels, with the capacity to adjust in-season buys and chase into areas of strength.”

With this earnings pre-announcement, Macy’s essentially issued a profit warning for the first half of 2023 in addition to telegraphing a less-than-stellar holiday season.

While Macy’s inventory levels look to be in good shape despite the sales miss, look for the Street to slash their profit estimates for 2023 amid margin pressures and a more cautious consumer. The stock is likely dead money — with a downward bias — until we get evidence of a re-acceleration in consumer spending (for Macy’s and other retailers, hopefully this happens before the spring selling season).

Bad fourth quarters and outlooks are probably coming from the likes of Ralph Lauren (RL), V.F. Corp. (VFC), Under Armour (UAA), and other suppliers to department stores. lf Macy’s is planning first half orders cautiously, best believe rivals such as JC Penney (JCP), Kohl’s (KSS), and Dillard’s (DDS) are doing the same.

The negative comments on Target (TGT) last week from Wells Fargo make even more sense in the wake of this Macy’s warning. Target’s merchandise skews more discretionary than Walmart’s (WMT), putting its numbers at greater risk inside of a sluggish spending backdrop. Along those lines, I agree with the cautious pre-earnings analysis on toymakers Hasbro (HAS) and Mattel (MAT) — lots of excess toy inventory has been seen post peak holiday season. Read More > at Yahoo! Finance 

Did ‘every conspiracy theory’ about Twitter turn out to be… true?

FDA approves Alzheimer’s drug seen by experts as big advance, but no miracle – The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved an Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab, a monoclonal antibody therapy that in clinical trials modestly slowed cognitive decline in some people during early stages of the neurodegenerative disease.

“Alzheimer’s disease immeasurably incapacitates the lives of those who suffer from it and has devastating effects on their loved ones,” Dr. Billy Dunn, director of the Office of Neuroscience in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a news release.

Dunn added: “This treatment option is the latest therapy to target and affect the underlying disease process of Alzheimer’s, instead of only treating the symptoms of the disease.”

Despite the regulatory green light, in the form of the FDA’s conditional approval of Leqembi (lecanemab-irmb) within a six-month accelerated approval pathway that ended Friday, doctors say safety concerns will remain.

And physician-experts told UPI that it will represent a significant advance in Alzheimer’s treatment — but not a miracle.

Its manufacturer said the drug, to be sold under the brand name Leqembi, will be priced at the wholesale acquisition cost of $26,500 per year. Read More > at UPI

The happiest, least stressful, most meaningful jobs in America – Envy the lumberjacks, for they perform the happiest, most meaningful work on earth. Or at least they think they do. Farmers, too.

Agriculture, logging and forestry have the highest levels of self-reported happiness — and lowest levels of self-reported stress — of any major industry category, according to our analysis of thousands of time journals from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. (Additional reporting sharpened our focus on lumberjacks and foresters, but almost everyone who works on farms or in forests stands out.)

The time-use survey typically asks people to record what they were doing at any given time during the day. But in four recent surveys, between 2010 and 2021, they also asked a subset of those people how meaningful those activities were, or how happy, sad, stressed, pained and tired they felt on a six-point scale. As you might guess, activities like playing with your grandkids tend to be loaded with happiness and meaning, while waiting on hold or commuting produce little of either.

But the two aren’t always correlated. Heath-care and social workers rate themselves as doing the most meaningful work of anybody (apart from the laudable lumberjacks), but they rank lower on the happiness scale. They also rank high on stress.

The most stressful sectors are the industry including finance and insurance, followed by education and the broad grouping of professional and technical industries, a sector that includes the single most stressful occupation: lawyers. Together, they paint a simple picture: A white collar appears to comes with significantly more stress than a blue one.

While our friends the lumberjacks and farmers do the least-stressful work,their jobs are well-known to be particularly perilous, and they report the highest levels of pain on the job… Read More > in The Washington Post

Could solar power work in space? Test aims to find out – Among the many space-bound satellites aboard the SpaceX rocket launched earlier this week was a small prototype designed to harvest the power of the sun.

Scientists are hoping to show that space-based solar power is more than a futuristic concept, and potentially the next big thing in clean energy. 

Weighing in at just 110 pounds, the prototype satellite called the Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD) is part of a larger effort to test out space-based solar power called the Space Solar Power Project (SSPP). 

Solar panels are designed to take energy from our star and convert it into energy we can use here on Earth to power our lives. However, there are some limitations: weather and the fact that the sun doesn’t shine at night. As such, the power we receive from these devices is not consistent. 

But by moving solar power stations to space, we could produce electricity from solar power around the clock. That’s because the power would not be obscured by the day-night cycle or cloud cover, or affected by the changing seasons. 

The SSPP hopes its satellite will lead to the development of a constellation of modular spacecraft that collect sunlight, transform it into electricity, then wirelessly transmit that electricity over long distances wherever it is needed — including to places that currently have no access to reliable power. Read More > in The Hill

Monarch Butterfly Population Explodes in One California County – Not long ago, monarch butterflies were feared to be nearing extinction. But scientists have observed an incredible turnaround in the population this year, with California’s numbers increasing to their highest total since 2000.

According to the Xerces Society, there were more than 300,000 monarch butterflies counted in California during the annual Thanksgiving survey (Nov. 12 through Dec. 4), up from 2,000 in 2020. Of the 300,000, over 129,000 were found in a single county – San Luis Obispo.

“It’s really encouraging,” Jessica Griffiths of the Xerxes Society told the Sacramento Bee. “I’m personally so delighted by it.”

Experts encourage Californians, and particularly those in San Luis Obispo, to plant more milkweed in order to keep the population flourishing. Read More > at California County News

Toyota predicts most of its vehicles will still use gas in 2030 – Toyota on Wednesday predicted that most of its U.S. vehicles would still use gasoline in 2030, though the company signaled a commitment to developing hybrid and electric vehicles.

The automaker made the assessment due to its belief that electric vehicles will not have caught up in terms of cost and convenience by 2030, The Wall Street Journal reports. This announcement is a departure from what many of Toyota’s competitors — Honda, Volvo and General Motors — have recently said, setting goals for all-electric fleets within the next decade or so.

“If you take a snapshot of 2030, the price of battery EVs and the provision of infrastructure around the globe probably won’t have advanced all that much,” Toyota executive Jun Nagata said during a news conference. “Hybrids and plug-in hybrids will be easier for customers to buy.”

The Journal notes that Toyota leaders have argued their customers don’t necessarily want all-electric vehicles and that such cars are not inherently better for the environment, pointing to carbon emissions linked to electricity production and materials like cobalt and lithium used in the manufacturing of batteries. Read More > in The Hill

US Big Three Auto Companies Commit to Making Cars That People Don’t Want – The American auto companies, which are so often bailed out by U.S. taxpayers, have made a pronouncement that they intend, in the next few years, to stop making and assembling gas-engine cars. You know, the kind of cars that Henry Ford started rolling off the assembly line 100 years ago at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit.

Henceforth, virtually all American-made cars will be electric vehicles. Perhaps the corporate brass in Michigan’s auto executive offices thinks this makes them good global citizens. They are all in on the fight against global warming. They may be making a political bet that the federal government and more states are going to go the way of California and eventually mandate that every car produced must be battery-operated. But there is also a good deal of virtue-signaling going on here by the folks at Ford and General Motors.

It’s a free country, and if they want to start rolling millions of EVs off the assembly lines, so be it.

But it’s one thing to make cars that appeal to members of the Sierra Club and quite another to produce automobiles that the typical buyer wants. And guess what? So far, most people have turned a decisive thumbs-down on EVs. 

So far, only about 6% of new cars sold are electric vehicles. And polls show that only about half of Americans prefer an EV over a traditional car. Much larger majorities oppose the government telling us what kind of car we can buy.

Incidentally, the one state that far outpaces the rest of the country in EV sales (with about 1 in 5 new car sales being battery-operated) is California. Read More > at Creators

No pain, no gain? Science debunks yet another exercise myth – “Only about 20% of Americans get the very minimum levels of exercise that every health organization in the world thinks is the minimum for an adult, which is 150 minutes a week. So 80% of us really struggle and fail to get very basic amounts of exercise, but almost everyone says that they want to get enough exercise,” Daniel Lieberman, a professor of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, said in an interview.

Why is that? How come, time and again, we promise ourselves that we’ll stick to our exercise routines, yet soon after, we’re back to our old ways? The answer may have something to do with the fact that exercise, well, kind of sucks.

Modern cultures view exercise as an intense and rigorous health ritual. It isn’t supposed to be pleasurable so much as penitence. It’s the torturous price we pay for all that sinful snacking. We even invoke the Inquisition-style mantras of “feel the burn,” “no pain, no gain,” and “make your muscles cry” to lead us to beachwear salvation.

But that mindset is an exercise myth. If we consider why medical professionals prescribe exercise in the first place — so that you can be happy and healthy today while thriving well into old age — there’s no reason it shouldn’t be an enjoyable, fulfilling, and welcomed part of our day.

That’s exactly what the research is discovering: People who enjoy their exercise routines are more likely to stick with them and close the intention-behavior gap than those who don’t. And you don’t have to transform into a gym rat to manage that.

Read More > at Big Think

Early 2024 Senate, House Candidates, Endorsements Flood California 22 Months Ahead of 2024 Election – All this week, a frenzy over the 2024 Senate election in California has led to a spark of early announcements from candidates. On Tuesday, it was kicked off by Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA) announcing her intention to run for the seat, currently held by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), entered the next day while Porter received her first major endorsement – one from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). And today, with Porter’s OC seat now seemingly open, former Congressman Harley Rouda threw his hat in the ring for that seat, along with Republican Scott Baugh, who had nearly defeated Porter for her seat last year.

Meanwhile, this process is nowhere near complete a whopping 22 months out from election day 2024. Congressmen Ro Khanna and Adam Schiff (D-CA) are expected to have announcements soon on if they are running for the Senate, while current Senator Feinstein has filed paperwork to run again in 2024 at the age of 91, with an announcement on whether or not she will run again for sure is expected to be coming soon. Outside of the Senate race, Congressional races are also getting early heat. Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), who had lost to Congressman David Valadao (R-CA) last year, has already put in paperwork to try again next year. In the 12th District, currently led by Congresswoman Lee, many candidates are said to be likely to announce a run as soon as Lee gives a formal announcement.

And on top of all of that is speculation, with everyone from Governor Gavin Newsom to former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccera being interested in a Senate run.

Congressional seats are also full of speculation too, such as Nancy Pelosi’s 11th district seat being supposedly eyed by people like San Francisco Mayor London Breed and state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). In the 47th District, which already has Baugh pitted against Rouda, state Senator David Min (D-Irvine) is yet another candidate who could enter that race, potentially splitting the Democrats in the primary. Read More > at California Globe

US cancer death rate falls 33% since 1991, partly due to advances in treatment, early detection and less smoking, report says – The rate of people dying from cancer in the United States has continuously declined over the past three decades, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.

The US cancer death rate has fallen 33% since 1991, which corresponds to an estimated 3.8 million deaths averted, according to the report, published Thursday in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The rate of lives lost to cancer continued to shrink in the most recent year for which data is available, between 2019 and 2020, by 1.5%.

The 33% decline in cancer mortality is “truly formidable,” said Karen Knudsen, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society.

The report attributes this steady progress to improvements in cancer treatment, drops in smoking and increases in early detection.

“New revelations for prevention, for early detection and for treatment have resulted in true, meaningful gains in many of the 200 diseases that we call cancer,” Knudsen said. Read More > at CNN Health

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Los Medanos College Lectures on Delta History – Multiple Dates

Interested in learning more about the Delta? Los Medanos College’s Lifelong Learning Center is hosting a series of lectures on the history of the Delta. The lectures are being taught by Carol Jensen, local historian and Delta NHA Advisory Committee member. The upcoming lecture topics and dates are as follows:

  • January 17, 2023: Local History as Experienced through Real Photo Postcards
  • February 21, 2023: The New Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Heritage Area
  • March 21, 2023: Bethel Island and the Far East Islands
  • April 18, 2023: Immigrant Pioneer Contributions
  • May 16, 2023: Ghost Stories from the San Joaquin Delta

You do not need to be enrolled at Los Medanos College to attend. The lectures fill quickly so be sure to register in advance on Los Menados College website.

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2023’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family – WalletHub Study

With rampant inflation making raising children much more costly than usual, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2023’s Best & Worst States to Raise a Family, as well as expert commentary.

To determine the best states in which to put down family roots, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 51 key indicators of family-friendliness. The data set ranges from the median annual family income to housing affordability to the unemployment rate.

Raising a Family in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 11th – % of Families with Young Children
  • 42nd – Child-Care Costs (Adjusted for Median Family Income)
  • 2nd – Infant-Mortality Rate
  • 45th – Median Annual Family Income (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 35th – Violent Crimes per Capita
  • 31st – % of Families in Poverty
  • 50th – Housing Affordability
  • 37th – Unemployment Rate
  • 12th – Separation & Divorce Rate
  • 13th – Percentage of Residents Aged 12+ Who Are Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-to-raise-a-family/31065

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Oakley Residents – Sign up for Emergency Alerts

In an emergency, the Oakley Police Department may need to provide members of the community with up-to-date information and instructions.

Nixle is an alerting program that allows the Police Department to contact our residents through text and email messages. All you need to do is text our zip code “94561” to 888777. You can also register through their website www.nixle.com.

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Application for Appointment by the Oakley City Council For Planning Commissioner

The Planning Commission is tasked with:

  • Deciding on all matters referred to by the Zoning Administrator, Parcel Maps (fewer than 5 parcels), Conditional Use Permits and Design Review (when not a Staff level approval).
  • Making recommendations to the City Council on all proposed development agreements, zone changes, zoning text amendments, adoption or amendments to specific plans or the General Plan, and other legislative land-use matters.
  • Periodically reviewing the Capital Improvement Program.
  • Approving, adopting, or certifying environmental documents, to the extent required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), for any matters for which the commission is the deciding body.
  • For matters in which the Planning Commission acts as a recommending body, it shall make recommendations concerning any CEQA documents in conjunction with its recommendations concerning the merits of the proposed actions.

The City Council will appoint two Planning Commissioners, one to serve the remainder of a four-year term and the other to serve the remainder of a two-year term. Please keep in mind, the initial appointments required a staggered appointment of two and four-year terms.

Applications will be accepted until Friday, January 27, 2023 @ 5:00 PM. Appointment of the Commissioners is expected to take place at either the February 14th or February 28th City Council Meeting. Applicants are highly encouraged to attend as the City Council may have questions of applicants.

For additional information and applications to apply, please contact Community Development Director, Brent Smith at (925) 625-7004 or smith@ci.oakley.ca.us. Those interested can also download the application by clicking here.

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Bay Area Pavement Quality Stuck in Doldrums Despite Smoother Ride in Some Communities

Overall pavement conditions on the Bay Area’s nearly 44,000 lane-miles of local streets and roads landed once again in fair territory last year, with the typical stretch of roadway showing serious wear and likely to require rehabilitation soon. Data released by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) put the region’s 2021 pavement condition index (PCI) score at 67 out of a maximum possible 100 points, as computed on a three-year moving average basis. This marks the sixth consecutive year Bay Area streets and roads have registered an average score of 67 and underscores the continuing challenges faced by city and county public works departments.

“The new pavement data is a bit of a mixed bag,” commented MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. “The good news is that our counties and cities have been able to prevent major deterioration, thanks in large part to the state gas tax money they receive through the SB 1 local streets and roads program. The bad news is we’re still a long way away from our goal of bringing the Bay Area’s streets and roads into a state of good repair, which would raise the regional average into the mid-80s.”

PCI scores of 90 or higher are considered “excellent.” These are newly built or resurfaced streets that show little or no distress. Pavement with a PCI score in the 80 to 89 range is considered “very good” and shows only slight or moderate distress, requiring primarily preventive maintenance.  The “good” category ranges from 70 to 79, while streets with PCI scores in the “fair” (60-69) range are becoming worn to the point where rehabilitation may be needed to prevent rapid deterioration. Because major repairs cost five to 10 times more than routine maintenance, these streets are at an especially critical stage. Roadways with PCI scores of 50 to 59 are deemed “at-risk,” while those with PCI scores of 25 to 49 are considered “poor.” These roads require major rehabilitation or reconstruction. Pavement with a PCI score below 25 is considered “failed.”

The lowest-ranked pavement in the Bay Area was found in Pacifica, which recorded a PCI score of 42 for 2019-21. The only other jurisdictions with three-year average PCI scores in the “poor” range are Petaluma (44), Sebastopol and unincorporated Napa County (46), and Vallejo (48). The three-year moving average PCI score for the nearly 2,700 lane-miles of rural roads in unincorporated Sonoma County last year moved one point higher into the “at-risk” range (51) after many years in the “poor” bracket.

See your city’s score – Pavement Condition Of Bay Area Jurisdictions

MTC is the regional transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency
for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

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Sunday Reading – 01/08/2023

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.

Borenstein: Seeno v. Seeno becoming building empire’s ‘War of the Roses’ – As Albert D. Seeno III seeks to strike a deal with Concord officials to lead the Bay Area’s largest development project, his father is trying to fire him as CEO of five companies in the family’s building empire.

In a stunning public airing of the internal fight for control of the businesses, Albert D. Seeno Jr., 78, has sued his son alleging that Seeno III, after his appointment in July 2020 as chief executive officer, improperly spent money and tried to shut out his father and uncle from their own companies.

While this court battle may seem like an internal business and family dispute, the allegations about Seeno III’s behavior and finances should concern members of the Concord City Council as they consider whether to partner with him for 40 years to develop the Concord Naval Weapons Station site.

Seeno Jr. says his son previously had taken hundreds of millions of dollars without permission from his father and his father’s companies, has debt of over $100 million, bullied his father to hire him as CEO under threat that he would otherwise never see his grandchildren, and has been abusive and misogynistic toward employees.

Seeno III, 48, in his legal filings, denies that his father was bullied into signing the employment contract and disputes that Seeno Jr. was inadequately represented by an attorney. The son says claims that he is diverting money, mismanaging workers and construction jobs, concealing documents and otherwise breaching obligations to his father’s companies are untrue.

Seeno III asserts that his father can’t fire him because his 20-year employment agreement is so airtight that he can only be terminated if he is convicted of a felony that exposes his father’s companies to “material criminal liability.”

Three related lawsuits are pending in Contra Costa Superior Court. In the main one, Seeno Jr. tries to regain control of his companies. In another, Seeno III accuses his father of trying to disrupt the operations of the son’s separately owned business, the firm seeking the development deal for the weapons station.

And in the third legal case, Seeno III has sued the trustee of the trust his parents set up for him in 2000, claiming that millions of dollars he was supposed to receive last year have been improperly diverted without his permission to paying down his debts to his father.

The City Council, in a special meeting Saturday, is set to decide whether to continue to the next phase of negotiations with a consortium that includes Seeno III for development of the weapons station.

The consortium previously had only 3-2 support on the five-member council. The upcoming meeting is the first on the topic since the Nov. 8 elections in which one of those supporters lost his reelection bid. Read More > in The Mercury News

Can aging California levees cope with extreme weather? – The pounding rains of New Year’s Eve had ceased, but the pastures, freeways and neighborhoods surrounding the tiny community of Wilton continued to disappear beneath a vast, growing ocean of muddy water that left only the roofs of sunken vehicles visible to rescue helicopters.

It was a chilling vision of just how vulnerable California’s network of rural levees has become in an age of climate extremes. By Wednesday, nearly a dozen earthen embankments along the Cosumnes River near Sacramento had been breached, and three people had been found dead inside or next to submerged vehicles.

Experts say such failures are all but inevitable as California’s aging levee system whipsaws between desiccating drought and intense downpours. Storm water has a nasty way of finding errors in infrastructure planning and design, said Jeffrey Mount, a geomorphologist and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

“There are two kinds of levees: Those that have failed, and those that will fail,” said Mount.

As California was hit by yet another “brutal” storm system Wednesday, Mount and others warned that lack of maintenance and changing hydrology would increase flood risk in the coming years. At the same time, Department of Water Resources director Karla Nemeth warned that rural levees would be the “most vulnerable places in California,” largely because they are not required to meet the same standards as levees that protect more urban communities.

For those tasked with maintaining levees, upkeep is an exercise in frustration.

Many reclamation districts in the state are charged with meeting requirements for 100-year or 200-year levels of flood protection, referring to a 1% or 0.5% probability of flooding in a given year. But some small rural districts with limited budgets can maintain the levees to only a 10-year flood standard.

“That is practically nothing, but at a budget of $500,000 a year, and 34 miles of levee, that’s about all we can do,” said Mark Hite, a board member of Reclamation District 800, which oversees a stretch of Cosumnes River levees between Wilton and Rancho Murieta.

“I’d like to think we’ve done a pretty damn good job, but we get some of these extraordinary events, like a 100-year or a 200-year event, and we’ve got problems,” he added. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Fixing Congress’ Broken Appropriations Process Is Worth This Mess – This week’s Republican revolt against Kevin McCarthy is actually a rank-and-file revolt against the top-down process that both parties have used to control the House in recent years.

Midway through the third day of the ongoing battle to pick a new speaker of the House, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R–Mont.) made an innocuous but telling point about the state of Congress.

“We have had more discussion and debate over the last three days than I have participated in, on this floor, for the past two years,” Rosendale, one of the group of breakaway Republicans who have refused to back Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R–Calif.) bid to become speaker, pointed out.

The stakes of this week’s congressional drama, he argued, are not merely about which House member will hold the ceremonial gavel but about a deeper problem with how Congress functions.

“The process that we use has been dramatically broken,” Rosendale explained, lamenting “the consolidation of power into the hands of the speaker and the fortunate few who happen to serve on the Rules Committee, which control every aspect of legislation that travels through this body.”

This is not a new complaint, but it remains an underappreciated one. For the past few decades, Congress has shifted away from its traditional process for passing legislation—the one that’s more or less reflected in the famous Schoolhouse Rock! song: A bill gets proposed, marked up in committee, amended, and finally put to a debate and voted on by the full chamber. Instead, as Rosendale explained Thursday, major bills are drafted by a handful of high-ranking leaders on both sides, then presented to the full House (usually with scant time to read or process what’s in them) for a simple up-or-down vote with few or no amendments allowed.

One way to understand this week’s Republican revolt against McCarthy, then, is that it’s not really about McCarthy at all. It’s actually a rank-and-file revolt against the top-down process that both parties have used to control the House in recent years. But the margins are thin enough right now that a few handfuls of lawmakers who are fed up with the process can use the speaker election as a pressure point to force a change. Read More > at Reason

Americans Largely Pessimistic About U.S. Prospects in 2023 – Coming off several challenging years, Americans enter 2023 with a mostly gloomy outlook for the U.S. as majorities predict negative conditions in 12 of 13 economic, political, societal and international arenas.

When offered opposing outcomes on each issue, about eight in 10 U.S. adults think 2023 will be a year of economic difficulty with higher rather than lower taxes and a growing rather than shrinking budget deficit. More than six in 10 think prices will rise at a high rate and the stock market will fall in the year ahead, both of which happened in 2022. In addition, just over half of Americans predict that unemployment will increase in 2023, an economic problem the U.S. was spared in 2022.

On the domestic front, 90% of Americans expect 2023 will be a year of political conflict in the U.S., 72% think the crime rate will rise, and 56% predict there will be many strikes by labor unions.

Regarding world affairs, 85% of U.S. adults predict the year ahead will be fraught with international discord rather than peaceful. And while 64% think the United States’ power in the world will decline, 73% think China’s power will increase. However, 64% of Americans expect Russia’s power in the world will decrease in 2023, likely a reflection of that country’s recent setbacks in its war against Ukraine. Read More > at Gallup

$24 billion projected budget deficit may test California’s resolve to grow safety net amid recession – California faces a projected deficit next year even if the U.S. avoids a recession. Despite the expected shortfall, policymakers say they’ll maintain spending on social programs though advocates are calling for more.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office recently said in its annual forecast that Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Democratic Party-controlled Legislature are facing a $24 billion projected budget deficit for the next fiscal year.

If the state enters a recession the outlook is even worse, with revenues predicted to fall short by $30 billion to $50 billion. The governor signed a record-breaking $308 billion budget in June.

The legislative analyst attributes the projected shortfall to California’s reliance on those whose incomes often ebb and flow with the price of stocks, real estate and other investments. Read More > at CalMatters

U.S. adds robust 223,000 jobs in December. Wage growth slows in sign of ebbing inflation pressures – The U.S. generated 223,000 new jobs in December to mark the smallest increase in two years, but the labor market still showed surprising vigor even as the economy faced rising headwinds.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, slipped to 3.5% from 3.6%, the government said Friday.

The jobless rate has touched 3.5% several times since 2019, matching the lowest level since 1969.

One good sign for Wall Street and the Federal Reserve: Hourly pay rose a modest 0.3% last month, suggesting wages are coming off a boil.

The increase in wages over the past year also slowed to 4.6% from 4.8%, marking the smallest gain since the summer of 2021.

The resilient labor market is a double-edged sword for the Federal Reserve.

For one thing, a scarcity of workers has driven up wages and threatens to prolong a bout of high inflation. The Fed wants the labor market to cool off further to ease the upward pressure on prices.

The strong labor market also offers the best hope for the Fed to avert a recession as it jacks up interest rates to the highest level in years. Higher rates reduce inflation by slowing the economy, but if most people are working, they are likely to spend enough to keep the economy afloat. Read More > at Market Watch

Lawmakers Voted To Send Billions To Ukraine While Making A Killing On Defense Contractor Stocks – Members of Congress raked in profits from defense contractor stocks after voting to send billions in military aid to Ukraine, according to financial disclosures and voting records reviewed by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The U.S. has delivered more than $20 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine between Jan. 24, a month before Russia invaded, and Nov. 20, according to data compiled by the Council on Foreign Relations, and Congress has approved billions more in spending on Ukraine. To make up for that aid, top defense companies have boosted production, and lawmakers trading on company stocks saw a financial windfall as a result, according to publicly available stock trading data.

Overall, Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon netted the highest average returns on defense company stocks since 2021 at 40%, according to a chart published Tuesday by Unusual Whales, a site known for exposing how members of Congress profit from trading related to legislative issues. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has voted against Ukraine aid, was the top Republican at 35.5%. 

While unforeseen demand has left top weapons makers, like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman, scrambling to meet production targets, defense stocks are performing well overall, according to Investopedia.

Republican Florida Rep. John Rutherford and Blumenauer each bought up to $15,000 in Raytheon stock the day of Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24. Rutherford claimed in his disclosure that his advisers erroneously purchased the stock, and it was sold on March 14 for a 3% gain, according to Unusual Whales.

Rutherford, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Blumenauer voted for a $40 billion supplemental military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine passed in May, the Congressional Record shows. Read More > at the Daily Caller

What are the most interesting new laws for California in 2023? – In 2022, the California Legislature passed nearly 1,200 bills — and nearly 1,000 became law with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature

Many of the new laws are minor fixes to laws that legislators and the governor previously enacted. Others are rather narrow or specific to a certain industry. Still others will be phased in over time. 

Newsom has highlighted several, including a law limiting prosecutors from using rap lyrics and music videos in court and another requiring oil companies to publicly post their profits (the governor has also called a special session on his plan to impose a penalty on oil refiners for excess profits.) 

And then there’s a select group of new laws that took effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — and that could have a noticeable impact on the daily lives of Californians, or on the policy direction of the state. 

Here are nine of them, including audio segments for a few:

Will this law stop gender bias in prices?

Shoppers may have noticed that shampoos and other personal care products marketed to women sometimes cost more than very similar versions for men.   

No longer. With this law, stores will be banned from charging a different price based on gender — and could be in the crosshairs of the attorney general’s office for any violations. Advocacy groups say that ending the “pink tax” is another step in the cause of gender equity.

How much does that job pay?

It’s hit and miss how much applicants can find out about how much a job pays. And advocates say that allows for unfair disparities in salaries.  

This new law will bring a little more transparency to California workplaces by requiring companies with at least 15 employees to put salary ranges into job postings. But intense business opposition blocked provisions that would have meant publication of pay data broken down by position, gender and race. And some specialists question how much difference the law will make.      

Is this a return to Wild West bounties?

Back in the 1800s, the U.S. government offered bounties to stop the Union Army from getting cheated. In 2021, Texas passed a law restricting abortions and dangled $10,000 per violation to anyone who sued to help enforce it.

Not to be outdone, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature passed this new law that allows private citizens to collect $10,000 by suing those who make or sell illegal “ghost guns” or assault-style weapons. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, could throw out the Texas law and ones like it, including California’s. But that would be just fine with the governor and lawmakers.  Read More > at CalMatters   

Half think COVID vaccine is deadly – Nearly a third of the nation believes the COVID-19 vaccine has killed somebody they know, highlighting the safety concerns the public still has about the shot.

As the first family renewed their call for the country to get vaccinated, 28% of likely voters told Rasmussen Reports that they “personally know” somebody they think died from the side effects of the shot.

What’s more, 49% said that vaccine side effects have caused “unexplained deaths,” one of the factors in the trending new hashtag, “#DiedSuddenly,” based on the just-released documentary.

Died Suddenly has been criticized as promoting “debunked” anti-vaccine conspiracy theories but has been seen by some 15 million people.

More Democrats, by a 33%-26% margin, believe the shot has been lethal. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

These are the fastest growing languages in the Bay Area – The Bay Area is home to speakers of more than 160 languages, and the number of people speaking languages other than English is expanding as immigration to the region continues to grow.

New survey data collected from 2017 to 2021 shows that the number of people speaking languages other than English at home in the Bay Area’s nine counties grew by 5% from the previous five years. The estimates also show that more than 3 million people in the nine-county region now primarily speak a language other than English at home.

Arabic, Chinese, and Korean were among the fastest growing languages in the nine-county region. This particular survey data by the U.S. Census Bureau does not provide details on the numerous dialects associated with each of those languages.

The Bay Area is home to several growing Arabic-speaking communities, including in Marin County where the biggest growth was observed.

In terms of the sheer number of people, the fastest growth was among Chinese speakers. There were over 60,000 more people speaking Chinese in the Bay Area from 2017 to 2021 than there were from 2012 to 2016, according to the American Community Survey estimates. The estimated population of Russian, Korean, Vietnamese, Vietnamese and French (including Haitian and Cajun) speakers also grew across the nine counties. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

First-ever robotic pill makes insulin injections obsolete – One reason that it’s so difficult to deliver large protein drugs orally is that these drugs can’t pass through the mucus barrier that lines the digestive tract. This means that insulin and most other “biologic drugs” — drugs consisting of proteins or nucleic acids — have to be injected or administered in a hospital.

A new drug capsule developed at MIT may one day be able to replace those injections. The capsule has a robotic cap that spins and tunnels through the mucus barrier when it reaches the small intestine, allowing drugs carried by the capsule to pass into cells lining the intestine.

In a study appearing today in Science Robotics, the researchers demonstrated that they could use this approach to deliver insulin as well as vancomycin, an antibiotic peptide that currently has to be injected. Read More > at the Brighter Side of News

How Did EVs Handle America’s Arctic Blast? – More Americans are also learning that frigid temperatures affect EVs differently than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, chiefly by cutting into their driving range to a greater extent. While a typical ICE vehicle might have its range reduced by 15% to 25% in below-freezing temperatures, an EV’s range will be slashed 20% to 50% depending upon driving speed, temperature, and interior climate preferences. Combustion reactions occur more inefficiently at colder temperatures, accounting for the range decline in ICE vehicles. But cold slows the physical and chemical reactions in EV batteries to a larger degree, limiting the energy and power the battery can deliver to the motors. Moreover, while ICE vehicles utilize otherwise wasted heat from the engine to warm car interiors in winter, EVs use electric heaters to perform much of the climate control, further draining the already hamstrung battery.

The Arctic blast that chilled much of the “Lower 48” last week showcased the EV range hit to more Americans than ever, and also yielded a few more lessons. EV owners sounded off about their experiences on social media and subreddits. Here are a few of the takeaways:

1. EVs are not ready for frigid road trips. I warned about this in August: Driving an EV on the highway in extreme cold will produce a range loss of 40% or more. EV owners of various brands traveling for the holidays shared numerous stories verifying this annoying (and potentially dangerous) reality. Drivers traveling in temperatures at or around zero with a headwind could go only 100 to 150 miles before needing to stop and recharge, depending upon the car, significantly increasing travel time. When they did charge, they had to deal with another disconcerting problem with EVs and winter…

2. EV fast-chargers operate much more slowly in extreme cold, if they work at all. The colder the EV battery, the slower the rate of charge that it will accept, making “fast-charging” in subzero temperatures a potentially miserable and plodding experience. Think a 45 to 60 minute charge instead of a 25 to 35 minute one. To top it off, users reported that fast-charging equipment, particularly from Electrify America, often just didn’t work in temperatures below -10 °F. Tesla’s proprietary Superchargers didn’t seem to have the same reliability issues. The generally sorry state of charging infrastructure shed light on another takeaway… Read More > at Real Clear Science

Drink up: Large study finds that not consuming enough water increases risk of death by 20% – Drink less, age more.

That’s the key takeaway from a study published Monday in the medical journal the Lancet. It found that adults who aren’t hydrated enough may age faster and even have a higher risk for chronic diseases that could result in early death.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health conducted the study over a 25-year period, analyzing the medical visits of more than 11,000 adults in the US from ages 45 to 66 and then their follow-up visits at ages 70 through 90. 

“Emerging evidence from our and other studies indicate[s] that adding consistent good hydration to [other] healthy lifestyle choices may slow down the aging process,” the study’s lead author, Natalia Dmitrieva, said in an email to NBC news.

During the study, researchers tracked hydration in subjects by monitoring how much sodium was found in their blood – the higher the sodium levels, the less hydrated participants are.

The analysis showed that all 11,000 participants’ hydration was within a normal range, with blood-sodium concentrations between 135 to 146 millimoles per liter. However, those individuals with levels on the higher end of that range — greater than 144 millimoles per liter — were 50% more likely to show signs of physiological aging. Those includes high cholesterol, blood pressure and surging sugar levels along with physical signs such as sunken eyes, cheeks and dry skin. Read More > in the New York Post

TV’s awful year – Congratulations to NBC. It passed CBS last year as the most-watched network on television — because NBC’s viewership fell by only 7%, while CBS lost 8% of its viewers.

That’s according to Variety.45 of the top 50 TV channels and networks lost viewers. Only 3 gained (ESPN, ESPN 2 and the Paramount Network). TV Land and Bounce TV neither gained nor lost viewers.

The drop in viewers came despite an Olympics, a popular  war and a federal election.

It is pretty spectacular that people tuned out coverage of a very close election. Fox News viewership dropped 1%, MSNBC dropped 22% and CNN dropped 34%.

You cannot blame the drop in viewers on cable cutting.

Variety said, “There may come a time when it just doesn’t make sense to rank the broadcast and cable networks anymore. Actually, that time is probably already here, with most viewing now taking place via streaming and other means. And yet, Nielsen’s numbers — which include time shifting and other ways people watch, not just live — are still the best barometer of who’s watching what in the linear world.” Read More > at Don Surber

Amazon says it will cut over 18,000 jobs, more than initially plannedAmazon said Wednesday it will cut over 18,000 jobs, a bigger number than the e-retailer initially said it would be eliminating last year.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the cuts earlier, which Amazon said pre-empted its planned announcement.

“We typically wait to communicate about these outcomes until we can speak with the people who are directly impacted,” CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a memo to employees that the company published on its blog. “However, because one of our teammates leaked this information externally, we decided it was better to share this news earlier so you can hear the details directly from me.”

Tech companies are picking up in 2023 where they left off last year, preparing for an extended economic downturn. Salesforce said on Wednesday it would reduce headcount by 10%, impacting over 7,000 employees. Both Amazon and Salesforce admitted that they hired too rapidly during the pandemic. Read More > at NBC News

Boys Are Graded More Harshly Than Girls. Why? – Across all ages and nearly all areas of education, boys are under-performing girls.

“Girls are about a year ahead of boys in terms of reading ability in OECD nations, in contrast to a wafer-thin and shrinking advantage for boys in maths. Boys are 50 percent more likely than girls to fail at all three key school subjects: maths, reading, and science,” Richard Reeves, a senior fellow in Economic Studies and the Director of the Future of the Middle Class Initiative, wrote in his recent book Why the Modern Male is Struggling.

According to a 2018 Brookings Institution report, about 88% of American girls graduated high school on time, compared with 82% of boys. In 2020, six out of ten college students were women. Once on campus, they graduate at higher rates, receiving more associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the process. As evidenced by declining college enrollment in the U.S., a drop for which men account for 71%, the gender disparity is continuing to worsen.

The reasons for this expanding educational divide have been vociferously debated and discussed. A startling shortage of male K-12 teachers (just 24%), the hands-off, tedious structure of school, and poor parenting are a few of the explanations offered. Another, less frequently discussed, is starting to emerge from the scientific literature: Boys appear to be graded more harshly than girls.

When researchers across the world — from Israel and Sweden to France and Czechia — explored teachers’ grading behaviors, either by having educators grade hypothetical students’ identical works while only changing the students’ gender, or comparing grades achieved by “similarly competent” male and female students, they found that girls consistently receive higher grades than boys. Read More > at Real Clear Science

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Jan. 7 Concord Naval Weapons Station Reuse Meeting Location Moved to Concord City Council Chamber

The location of this Saturday’s City Council meeting, where the Council will consider the proposed Term Sheet for the Base Reuse Project at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, has a new location: the Concord City Council Chamber located at 1950 Parkside Dr.

The Jan. 7 meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Doors to the Council Chamber will open at 8 a.m. There is limited seating in the Council Chamber, and capacity limits will be monitored by the fire marshal. An overflow room will be set up in a nearby conference room.

The meeting was relocated due to the severe storms that are projected to continue through Saturday. Use of the Council Chamber allows individuals to participate by Zoom (link below)—both for viewing and for providing testimony to Council.

The next step in the planning for development of this property is the City Council’s consideration of Concord First Partners’ proposed Term Sheet. The Term Sheet establishes the development guidelines and community benefits to be included in the documents that must be finalized before development begins or property is transferred.

This meeting follows two community meetings in December in which Concord First Partners and the Local Reuse Authority staff provided presentations about the proposed Term Sheet. Those meetings can be viewed on the City’s YouTube channel.

The Jan. 7 Council meeting can be viewed live on Concord TV (Astound/Wave 1026, Comcast 28, AT&T U-verse 99) or streamed online through the City’s website. 

https://cityofconcord.zoom.us/j/87037804486?pwd=MUFldzZPb0tyRzQzNGZzSENma1dPUT09

Passcode: 358180

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Marsh Creek levee repair

Recent rains have damaged parts of the Marsh Creek levee north of E. Cypress Road in Oakley. On Wednesday afternoon Reclamation District 2137 began repairs on the levee. Repair work will continue for the next several days.

California Reclamation Districts are legal subdivisions within California’s Central Valley that are responsible for managing and maintaining the levees, fresh water channels, or sloughs (pronounced slü), canals, pumps, and other flood protection structures in the area.

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January 4 – Oakley Police Department – Advisory: Severe weather related road closure (Bridgehead Road) and sand bag update.

The City of Oakley has closed Bridgehead Road at the RR bridge and the road will stay closed until after the storms.  The closure does not impact any businesses and they have access. The Oakley Logistic Center/Amazon campus has access from Highway 160 and Wilbur Avenue.

We have placed over 2000 sandbags at Ironhouse Sanitation District (ISD) site past couple of days and they are nearly gone.  We are picking up another 2000 bags from Home Depot now to take to the ISD site, so far, we have delivered 6 dump truck load of sand to the ISD site.

ORIGINAL MESSAGE 1-3-23
The City of Oakley has been advised by the National Weather Service that an atmospheric river is expected to hit the Bay Area on Wednesday, January 4th. The City would like to share the tips and resources below to help the community stay safe.

  • Prepare for heavy rainfall beginning in the earlier morning hours.
  • Prepare for strong winds of sustained 20+ MPH to begin in the mid morning hours. 
  • Expect trees to fall around you and while you are driving. The strong winds that are predicted may cause the trees to come down due to the saturation of the ground.
  • Be aware of power lines near trees- avoid them if possible. If you encounter a downed powerline do not approach it. Report any downed powerlines by calling 911.
  • Do not drive in in flooded areas. The Oakley Police Department encourages motorists to adhere to posted warning signs, and if there are no warnings posted, exercise commonsense while navigating flooded roads. A good guideline is not to forge water that is higher than approximately 1/3 the height of your tire. If you can stay home, as the roads will be unpredictable.
  • Be prepared for the power to go out, possibly for an extended period of time. Click the link in our bio or visit https://www.cocosheriff.org/home/showpublisheddocument/228/637338625482570000 for information on what you can do before, during and after the power goes out.  
  • If you are still in need of sandbags you can pick them up at Ironhouse Sanitary District Monday-Friday from 7am-4:45pm. This is a self-service site, bags are available in the blue bin near the sand, please take only what you need.
  • Resources will be stretched thin county wide, so help will be slow to get to you, including roadway rescue efforts caused by driving into flooded regions.
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January 3 – Road Closures due to Flooding-Updated – Contra Costa Public Works

Contra Costa County Public Works has responded to close several roads due to flooding, mudslides and other issues. Below is the current status of roads in unincorporated Contra Costa County:

  • Marsh Creek Road is closed between Deer Valley Road & Morgan Territory Road due to continued rock and mudslides. Only residents are allowed in the area. Please take alternate routes to avoid this area.
  • Morgan Territory Road is closed between 5477-5649 Morgan Territory Road due to mudslides. Only residents are allowed in the area.
  • Deer Valley Road is closed to all traffic in both directions between Briones Valley Road and Marsh Creek Road due to a sinkhole. Please take alternate routes to avoid this area. 
  • Highland Rd is closed between Collier Canyon Rd & Carneal Rd due to rock/mudslides. Only local traffic is allowed through the area as crews work to clear the road. 

Please avoid these areas and limit traveling during stormy weather, unless necessary, due to localized flooding, downed trees, and hazardous situations. Do not attempt to cross flooded roads- driving, riding of walking.  We also advise residents to stay out of the creeks and flood control channels.

  • Collection and reporting of rain and stream gauge data from District gauges

For winter storm preparedness tips & resources-including flood forecasting tools: www.contracosta.ca.gov/5906/Winter-Storm-Preparedness 

County Public Works Maintenance crews are assessing all County sandbag stations and will replenish sand and sandbags in anticipation of future storm events. Sand & sandbags are free, please bring a shovel. To find your nearest sandbag station visit: www.contracosta.ca.gov/sandbags 

https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/Search?searchPhrase=Road%20Closures%20due%20to%20Flooding

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‘Brutal’ storm hitting Northern California on Wednesday could be worse than New Year’s Eve deluge

from the San Francisco Chronicle

Propelled by a bomb cyclone, the storm expected to barrel into the California coast Wednesday is expected to drop several inches of rain on top of already saturated soil and will probably cause another round of widespread flooding across the northern part of the state.

But this storm is projected to bring even more powerful, tree-toppling winds — 50 mph gusts — than seen during the New Year’s Eve deluge.

Forecasters warned residents around the Bay Area to be ready.

“To put it simply, this will likely be one of the most impactful systems on a widespread scale that this meteorologist has seen in a long while,” according to a National Weather Service forecast. “The impacts will include widespread flooding, roads washing out, hillside collapsing, trees down (potentially full groves), widespread power outages, immediate disruption to commerce, and the worst of all, likely loss of human life.

The Bay Area could see up to 3 inches of rain, with up to 6 inches in the coastal hills. A flood watch was issued for the entire Bay Area on Wednesday and Thursday.

The heaviest rain is expected from late afternoon Wednesday, starting in the North Bay, into sunrise Thursday, with a rapid rise of creeks, streams and rivers, said Ryan Walbrun, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

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Rainfall Totals In Oakley for December 2022

Average precipitation in December

2.41″

Rainfall Totals in December 2022

8.01″

Accumulated Monthly Totals through December 2022

10.01″”

Average annual precipitation

13.22

Percent of average YTD

207.25%

Weather data – https://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/oakley/california/united-states/usca2070

A rainfall year season is defined as the 12-month period beginning July 1 that continues through June 30 of the subsequent year.

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Annual Wild Mushroom Warning

Death Cap

Western Destroying Angel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each year, mushrooms come out after the first fall rains. Mushrooms are ecologically important and can look beautiful – but some of them contain dangerous toxins. The Death Cap (Amanita phalloides) and Western Destroying Angel (Amanita ocreata) are two of the world’s most toxic mushrooms, and both can be found in East Bay Regional Parks during the rainy season.

The Death Cap and Western Destroying Angel mushrooms contain amatoxins, a group of molecules that inhibit cellular metabolism in many animals. In mammals, the liver and kidneys are typically the first organs affected after ingestion. Symptoms don’t usually appear until up to 12 hours after consumption, beginning as severe gastrointestinal distress and progressing to the liver and renal failure if treatment is not sought immediately.

“Both the Death Cap and Western Destroying Angel grow near oak trees,” said East Bay Regional Park District Naturalist Trent Pearce, who is based in Tilden Regional Park and documents the fungi in East Bay Regional Parks. “They can be lethal to both humans and pets if consumed.”

The Death Cap is a medium-to-large mushroom that typically has a greenish-gray cap, white gills, a white ring around the stem, and a large white sac at the base of the stem. Though the death cap is mainly associated with oak trees, it has been found growing with other hardwoods. It was accidentally introduced to North America on the roots of European cork oaks and is now slowly colonizing the West Coast. The Death Cap is not native to California.

The Western Destroying Angel is a medium-to-large mushroom that usually has a creamy white cap, white gills, a white ring around the stem that disappears with age, and a thin white sac at the base. It fruits from late winter into spring. It is associated exclusively with oaks. Unlike the death cap, it is a native California mushroom.

“Collecting mushrooms in East Bay Regional Parks is not allowed,” said East Bay Regional Park District Public Information Supervisor Dave Mason. “The Park District urges the public to be safe and be knowledgeable about toxic mushrooms.”
The Death Cap and Western Destroying Angel can also be dangerous for pets.

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Sunday Reading – 01/01/2023

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.

Those we lost in 2022: A remembrance – Dodgers great Vin Scully, musicians Jerry Lee Lewis and Loretta Lynn, and actors James Caan and Angela Lansbury are among the notable deaths of 2022. Bill Russell, Sidney Poitier, Olivia Newton-John, Ronnie Spector, Bob Saget, Naomi Judd, Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

12 wild and wondrous animal facts we learned in 2022 – Animals constantly surprise the scientists that research them. With each new study, researchers seem to uncover a never-before-seen survival strategy, physical superpower or mental capability that animals possess. From self-medicating chimps to the snake clitorises, here are 12 stories from 2022 that deepened our understanding of the animal kingdom and its wondrous weirdness. 

1. Chimps treat each other’s wounds

Scientists captured footage of chimpanzees applying crushed bugs to skin wounds on themselves and others in their community. The team thinks the chimps are trying to treat each other’s wounds, although the researchers aren’t sure what insects the animals used. The bugs may act as antibiotics, antivirals, pain-relievers or inflammation reducers, they theorize. 

2. Scientists finally found the snake clitoris 

Researchers recently described the structure of the snake clitoris for the first time. The forked organ, known as a “hemiclitoris,” can be found in at least nine snake species. Although the snake “hemipenis” had previously been studied, no one had described an equivalent structure in female snakes, which led some scientists to speculate that the hemiclitoris had either been reduced to a stunted evolutionary remnant or didn’t exist at all. 

3. Bees may change the weather 

Swarming honeybees can produce as much atmospheric electricity as a thunderstorm, a study found. The denser the cloud of bees, the larger the electrical field it can generate. The researchers say it’s unlikely that the insects are actually producing lightning storms, but they can still have other effects on the weather. 

4. Octopus mom self-destruction

As their clutches of eggs near hatching, most octopus moms will abandon their brood and begin to tear themselves apart, even going so far as to eat their own flesh. Recently, scientists discovered the changes that take place in an octopus mom’s body that seem to drive her into this frenzy of self-destruction. 

5. Dolphins drink each other’s pee? 

Bottlenose dolphins taste-test their peers’ pee in order to differentiate the identity of one dolphin from another, a study recently suggested. Dolphins also learn to recognize each other’s signature whistles, so by using their senses of taste and hearing together, the marine mammals can quickly recognize friends and spot unfamiliar dolphins in their midst. Read More > at Live Science

2022 ‘One of the Most Dangerous Years’ for Police Amid Nationwide Crime Spike, Says Law Enforcement Group – Twenty-twenty-two was “one of the most dangerous years for law enforcement in recent history,” the largest police advocacy group in the country said Wednesday amid a nationwide crime surge in Democratic-run cities.

“Last year we saw more officers shot in the line of duty than any other since the National Fraternal Order of Police began recording this data in late 2015,” group president Patrick Yoes said in a statement. “It is unlike anything I’ve seen in my 36 years of law enforcement.”

Three-hundred-twenty-three police officers were shot and 60 killed from gunfire this year as of Dec. 19, according to a report from the Fraternal Order of Police, which counts more than 350,000 police officers as members. That’s a 13 percent increase from this time in 2019 and the highest number of shootings since the group first tracked the data in 2015. Read More > in The Washington Free Beacon

The Weirdest Medical Cases of 2022 – 2022 is on its last legs, and that means it’s time to embark on yet another journey through the bizarre.

Doctors regularly document the unique patients they come across in the form of case reports published in medical journals. These reports are sometimes the first step to a scientific discovery, or they may simply impart an important lesson to others in the field. But often, the clearest takeaway is that our bodies can get sick or malfunction in really baffling ways. Here are some of the weirdest case studies to have popped up in the medical literature or media this year.

The D Stands for Vomiting

Nutritional supplements can be useful for people with documented deficiencies and certain health conditions, such as pregnancy. But for the average person, supplements haven’t been shown to have much benefit. And rarely, they can have downright dangerous side effects.

In July, UK doctors documented the case of a man who severely overdosed on vitamin D supplements, causing him to develop symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, tinnitus, and incessant vomiting for nearly three months; the man also lost 30 pounds in that time….

The Most Embarrassing Lung Injury Ever

Masturbation might not make you go blind but, apparently, it can tear a hole in your lungs. In April, doctors from Switzerland reported on a 20-year-old man who visited the emergency room with stabbing chest pain, trouble breathing, and a swollen face—symptoms that began while he was masturbating. Chest scans revealed that he had developed pneumomediastinum, a rare condition that can be caused by a tear in certain lung membranes that allows air to leak out.

Pneumomediastinum has been known to be caused by vigorous activity during sex, but as far as the doctors could tell, this was the first reported instance of masturbation being the culprit….

A DIY Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Gone Horribly Wrong

Some home remedies should never be attempted. Doctors reported on a man and his partner who tried to improve his erectile dysfunction by inserting a straw attached to a can of weatherproofing spray into his urethra. Tragically, the partner then—inadvertently, according to the doctors—pressed the button on the spray, injecting enough insulation foam into the man’s penis to reach his bladder. Somehow, the man managed to live with the injury for three weeks before he sought emergency treatment, by which point he was regularly urinating blood.

Unfortunately, the foam was so firmly embedded that doctors had to perform extensive surgery to fish it out of his penis. And though the surgery was successful, the man still hadn’t received additional operations to repair his urethra at the time of the doctors’ report…

Cancer Hiccups

Hiccups are an annoying and universal part of life. Most of the time, they’re a short-lasting and completely benign. But every once in a while, they can be a sign of a much deeper problem. In March, doctors in India reported that their patient’s chronic hiccups—which had gone on for months by the time he saw them—were actually likely caused by an aggressive brain tumor. Following radiation therapy and surgery, the man’s hiccups subsided.

Paralysis by Whippits

Nitrous oxide is a valuable medical treatment with many uses, including as a mild inhaled sedative. It can also be used for its euphoric effects as a recreational drug, commonly referred to as “whippits” (a reference to the whipped cream canisters it’s usually inhaled through). But this recreational use can sometimes lead to serious complications.

In September, doctors from New York and Massachusetts reported on a man who developed a rare neurological condition brought on by inhaling whippits. The nitrous oxide depleted his body’s supply of vitamin B12, triggering the condition… Read More > at Gizmodo

20 Trends That Will Define the Lives of American Men in 2023

1. Social media will enter its flop era (if it hasn’t already)

Believe it or not, social apps might be on the back burner for you in 2023. Social media has entered its flop era. The current digital behemoths are greatly lacking in new ideas and innovation. In turn, users of their platforms are bored. It’s blatant that every social platform steals the successes of its competitors, then inundates its users with similar features they don’t want while refusing to listen to the changes they actually ask for…

2. Indigenous cuisine will get the national spotlight it deserves…

“I think this is just the beginning of something bigger. I’ll say it again, one day Native chefs and Native foods will not be an anomaly.” We couldn’t agree more with chef Jessica Walks First, owner of Chicago’s Ketapanen Kitchen, who said it well in our recent article about authentic Indigenous experiences that have been cropping up across the U.S. And if you’ve been noticing that Indigenous restaurants and culture are receiving more and more well-deserved attention as of late, we’re happy to say that this is only the beginning…

3. …while the new wave of French restaurants will be cool and unstuffy 

If you ask the majority of Americans their view on French food, they might use words like “fancy,” “complicated” and “stuffy” when describing the cuisine. But walk into any bistro in Paris or seaside restaurant in the south of France, and that is far from the feeling. Simple, seasonal cooking and convivial atmospheres are the norm there, where people just want to have a good meal and linger over a great bottle of wine. Luckily for Americans, restaurateurs are catching on here in the United States. Sure, there is room for Escoffier- and Bocuse-level excellence, but the everyday Parisian doesn’t eat this way, nor must we to enjoy the beauty of a French culinary experience. …

4. Studios will finally figure out the formula in our new movie-watching age…

I want to predict a big comeback for theatrical moviegoing in 2023, riding the Avatar wave straight into a box-office bonanza led by John Wick 4Magic Mike’s Last DanceSpider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, a new Indiana Jones movie, and, of course, M3GAN. But given the ongoing pandemic, shifting viewing habits and audiences trained to expect superheroes in movie theaters and everything else on Netflix, I can’t in good conscience make that prediction. I will say, however, that I think studios will begin to more clearly redefine the line between a theatrical release and a streaming release, a distinction that was understandably blurred in the first few years of the pandemic…

5. …and they’ll need to, because the streaming bubble will burst

We’ve been saying for years now that there are simply too many streaming services out there, and it seems as though things are finally coming to a head. If 2022 was any indication, 2023 will be remembered as the year the streaming bubble finally burst. Netflix, the one that started it all, has proven increasingly unable to keep up with the competition — and the company endured an especially rough year last year, kicking it off by losing a whopping 200,000 subscribers in Q1. The streamer continued to make headlines for a number of baffling business decisions, including cracking down on password sharing, launching an ad-based tier and abruptly canceling many of their beloved original series before they had a chance to build an audience… Read More > at InsideHook  

A Surprising Cosequence of Cannabis Legalization: Higher Alcohol Consumption – According to new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, states that have legalized recreational cannabis have seen a slight increase in alcohol consumption, particularly among young adults and men.

This increase in alcohol use, which was recently reported in JAMA Health Forum, suggests that states considering recreational cannabis legalization should also consider targeted public health messaging and policy interventions to mitigate problem drinking.

“Recreational cannabis laws have made cannabis legally accessible to nearly half of U.S. adults, but it has been unclear how this affects the use of other substances, such as alcohol,” said senior author Coleman Drake, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Pitt Public Health. “It appears that cannabis use increases the probability that people drink, at least in the three years after legalization.”

Drake and his team obtained data on alcohol use by more than 4.2 million adults through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys administered from 2010 through 2019 – at which point 11 states had legalized recreational cannabis. Read More > at SciTechDaily

Why Did You Stop Going to the Movies? – It’s the most commonly shared opinion this film critic hears.

“I don’t go the movies as much as I used to.

And that refrain came before the pandemic shut down theaters in 2020.

That’s anecdotal, of course. Now, the evidence is more compelling, and frightening, especially if you make a living in La La Land.

People stopped going to the movies this year in alarming numbers, and it got worse as the holidays approached.

The raw numbers tell the story.

The gross for 2022 domestic now looks like $7.5 billion, perhaps 15 percent lower than the year’s lowball $8.5 billion projection and far off the $11.2 billion of 2019 (which, at today’s ticket prices, would be over $13 billion).

What changed?

This critic reached out, via Twitter, for some informal reactions to a simple question: Why did you stop going to the movies? The answers suggest a near-perfect storm of causes that go far beyond fears of the waning pandemic.

Streaming

The rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Hulu means more first-rate content delivered right to our flat-screen TVs. Recent streaming originals like “The Gray Man,” “Prey” and “Hocus Pocus 2” look identical to their big-screen peers.

Same stars. Similar budgets.

So why go to the movies when you can watch first-run content without reaching for the car keys?

The pandemic accelerated this trend, no doubt. Still, films are arriving faster and faster on VOD platforms now, meaning crowds can wait just a few weeks before seeing theatrical releases at home.

Liberal Hollywood

The industry has been left-of-center for decades, but today’s stars push their political views in ways we haven’t seen in the past. Social media. Viral videos. Softball interviews. And it’s often brimming with rage against those who don’t align with their worldviews.

That has alienated a small but growing number of film goers who prefer not to support stars who rhetorically spit in their faces. Gracious A-listers like Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson are now the exception, not the rule. Read More > at HIT

Japan reverses nuclear energy phase-out policy amid global fuel shortages, climate change – Japan has adopted a new policy promoting greater use of nuclear energy to ensure a stable power supply amid global fuel shortages and to reduce carbon emissions, in a major reversal of its phase-out plan following the Fukushima crisis.

The new policy says Japan must maximise the use of existing nuclear reactors by restarting as many of them as possible and prolonging the operating life of old reactors beyond their 60-year limit, and by developing next-generation reactors to replace them.

Utility companies have applied for restarts at 27 reactors in the past decade. Seventeen have passed safety checks and only 10 have resumed operations.

That was in line with Japan’s earlier plan to phase out nuclear energy by 2030.

In a reversal, the new policy says nuclear power provides stable output and serves “an important role as a carbon-free baseload energy source in achieving supply stability and carbon neutrality” and pledges to “sustain use of nuclear power into the future”.

“Green transformation involves a major economic and social transformation, and the technological development and effort by each country can change the situation,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said. Read More > at ABC News

Is your kid’s runny nose going on forever? Experts say it’s normal – It might seem like your toddler or preschooler has a nose that is always runny, but experts say that’s normal.

“Children under 6 years of age average six to eight colds per year, with symptoms lasting an average of 14 days,” said Dr. Maria Mejia, an associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “It’s very normal for children to contract illnesses frequently as their immune systems build.”

Most of these colds happen between September and April, Mejia added. Children enrolled in day care or school are simply exposed to a lot of pathogens, viruses and bacteria, which their less developed immune systems just can’t fight off. Read More > at UPI

Gen Z just saying no to drugs, booze, sex — here’s why – Call them Generation Zilch. 

No smoking, drinking, drugs or sex for today’s pre-teens and high schoolers.

According to a new study in the journal Social Science & Medicine, people born between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s are partaking in far less risky behaviors than their wild-and-crazy elders.

The change, the researchers believe, can be chalked up to a combination of school pressures, stricter laws and parental finger-wagging, among other factors. 

Still, the study found that there is one commonality driving all of these buttoned-up behaviors: Today’s overly scheduled and phone-obsessed youths are less likely to engage in face-to-face hang time with their friends.

The findings deduced that drinking, which can then lead to cannabis use and sex, happens most at “unstructured” in-person social activities. And today’s kids are much less party-hearty than past generations: 80% of American 10th graders in the 1990s reported attending a rager with friends at least once a month. That number shrunk to 57% by 2017.

The review of data from numerous studies encapsulating the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and 30 European countries paints a picture of youths, mostly 12 to 16 years old, behaving beautifully.

While the paper found that a plunge in the number of unchaperoned get-togethers has led to the new nun-like habits, there’s no single cause for the anti-social boom. For instance, while some pundits are quick to blame the internet, this study disagreed and actually linked increased time spent online to above-average substance use.

A more likely roadblock to their rambunctiousness is greater dedication to school. Studies cited by the journal said that today’s students are more concerned about their future ambitions, due to an increase in competition among well-educated candidates, and they see after-hours boozing as a hindrance to their success. Read More > in the New York Post

Experiments Show Women Can Sniff Out Single And Married Men – The eyes are often said to be the window to someone’s soul, but the nose could be a backdoor to their bedroom. Experiments have found heterosexual women can actually smell which suitors are available and which are taken.

In recent years, the science of human scent has been sniffing up a storm in the lab, and recent results suggest that people who like to take deep whiffs of another’s natural fragrance are likely to be more sexually motivated overall.

Straight men also seem to be more attracted to a woman’s scent when their crush is at the most fertile point in her menstrual cycle, or when a woman is sexually aroused. Exposure to these pheromones can even trigger men to drink more on a night out.

Conversely, when women are ovulating, studies have found they are more attracted to masculine-looking males. Experiments also suggest that men’s testosterone levels can subtly fluctuate depending on whether men they’re single or in a committed relationship.

It’s not yet clear if those hormonal changes can directly alter a person’s appearance or their scent, but initial experiments suggest they might. Read More > at Science Alert

The End of the Silicon Valley Myth – The dramatic, multidimensional implosion of Meta; the nuclear train wreck of Elon Musk’s Twitter; the momentous labor uprising against Amazon—it wasn’t just an unusually disastrous year for America’s biggest tech companies. It was a reckoning.

The tech giants that have shaped our lives, online and off, over the course of the 21st century have at last hit a wall. Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta, and Apple all saw their valuations fall, sometimes precipitously. Many slashed their workforces; at least 120,000 tech workers lost their jobs this year. The myth of the genius founder, which insulated so many of these giants from so much criticism for so long, was debunked before our eyes.

These companies, launched with promises to connect the world, to think different, to make information free to all, to democratize technology, have spent much of the past decade making the sorts of moves that large corporations trying to grow ever larger have historically made—embracing profit over safety, market expansion over product integrity, and rent seeking over innovation—but at much greater scale, speed, and impact. Now, ruled by monopolies, marred by toxicity, and over-reliant on precarious labor, Silicon Valley looks like it’s finally run hard up into its limits.

Call it the improbable paradox of the modern tech giant. Some of the most powerful, profitable, and expansive companies in human history—associated at least nominally with wide-ranging innovation—are stuck. They’re failing utterly to create the futures they’ve long advertised, or even to maintain the versions they were able to muster. Having scaled to immense size, they’re unable or unwilling to manage the digital communities they’ve built. They’re paralyzed when it comes to product development and reduced to monopolistic practices such as charging rents and copying or buying up smaller competitors. Antitrust investigations beckon. Their policies tend to please no one; it’s a common refrain that antipathy toward Big Tech companies is one of the few truly bipartisan issues.

You can just feel it, the cumulative weight of this stagnation, in the tech that most of us encounter every day. The act of scrolling past the same dumb ad to peer at the same bad news on the same glass screen on the same social network: This is the stuck future. There is a sense that we have reached the end of the internet, and no one wants to be left holding the bag. Read More > in The Atlantic

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Flood watch remains in effect from Friday evening through Saturday evening

A series of systems will bring more rain to Northern and Central California now through New Years Eve day. While the rain will be light to moderate at times through Friday, this rain will continue to saturate the soils, and prime the pump for potential flooding. A strong Pacific storm will then move across the region Friday night through Saturday evening, with periods of moderate to heavy rain expected. Therefore, increased runoff will result in rapid rises, and flooding of area rivers, streams, and creeks.

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Best Charities for 2023 – WalletHub

Charitable giving increased by 4% in 2021 compared to 2020. Americans gave a staggering $484.85 billion total, 67% of which was from individual donors. Though generosity is always commendable, current donation increases are unfortunately unable to keep up with inflation. There’s still plenty of time to give this year, though, and a significant portion of all charitable donations are usually made in the month of December.

There is no shortage of noble causes in need of support this year, especially considering the devastating impact of high inflation on many individuals’ and organizations’ finances. No one wants their money to go to waste, though, so it’s fair to wonder which charities will make the best use of your donations.

To help you maximize your impact without jeopardizing your financial health, WalletHub compared more than 200 of the most prominent U.S. charities based on their financial performance, transparency and popularity. We also identified the best organization to donate to for each of the most popular causes.

Here are the best charities to donate to:

Best For…Charity NameWalletHub Score (out of 100)
Human ServicesRotary Foundation of Rotary International100
AnimalsAnimal Welfare Institute97
VeteransFisher House Foundation93
International AffairsWorld Resources Institute98
HealthSemper Fi & America’s Fund97
EducationDonorsChoose.org93
Disaster ReliefAll Hands and Hearts97
Environmental ProtectionSierra Club Foundation90
Child-Abuse PreventionNational Center for Missing & Exploited Children85
Community DevelopmentGary Sinise Foundation95
HungerWorld Central Kitchen98
HomelessnessNational Alliance to End Homelessness86
Religion-RelatedSamaritan’s Purse85
Social AdvocacyEqual Justice Initiative99
DiversityHispanic Federation96

Read More > at WalletHub

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Best Credit Cards – 2023 – WalletHub

The best credit cards can save cardholders $300 to $650+ per year, compared to the average offer, thanks to uniquely valuable rewards, low rates and fees, and various special features. The key to finding the best credit card is to determine which features are most important to you, then compare offers in search of the best deal.


  • Chase Freedom Unlimited imageWinner: Chase Freedom Unlimited®Learn Moreon issuer’s website
  • Wells Fargo Active Cash Card imageCash Back Rewards: Wells Fargo Active Cash® CardLearn Moreon issuer’s website
  • Discover it Secured Credit Card imageBad Credit: Discover it® Secured Credit CardLearn Moreon issuer’s website
  • Wells Fargo Reflect Card image0% Intro APR: Wells Fargo Reflect® CardLearn Moreon issuer’s website
  • Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card imageFair Credit or No Credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit CardLearn Moreon issuer’s website
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve imageTravel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®Learn Moreon issuer’s website

Read More > at WalletHub

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