Update – Dutch Slough Restoration Project. The Emerson Parcel – July 2021

California Department of Water Resources
Dutch Slough Tidal Restoration Project

Work will begin this month on additional restoration activities that include levee breaching, construction of water control structures, and re-routing Marsh Creek to restore the creek delta on the Emerson parcel, providing seasonal freshwater flow cues to out-migrating salmon.

The new route for Marsh Creek will replace the straightened, channelized stream bed (approximately 1.25 miles) with sinuous dendritic channels (approximately 2.5 miles).

Increase habitat for sensitive native species (Chinook salmon, Sacramento splittail, California Black Rail,  Swainson’s Hawk, Loggerhead Shrike,  Tricolored blackbird) 

A new trail system will circumnavigate the Emerson parcel along the existing levee road.

The work is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the end of November, 2021. There are plans to close the Marsh Creek trail for 1.5-2 weeks in early/mid-October.

New Marsh Creek Route
Restored marsh

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Sunday Reading – 07/11/2021

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.

Antioch Seeks To Be NorCal Cannabis Capital With Mega Marijuana Facility At Former Kmart – Antioch is one step closer to being what the mayor calls the cannabis capital of Northern California with plans to turn an old Kmart into a multi-faceted marijuana facility in east Contra Costa County.

The Antioch city council this week unanimously approved a use permit giving the project the green light to move forward, with the support of Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who credits the cannabis industry in Antioch for making up for lost sales tax revenue during the pandemic.

Antioch is already home to Coco Farms cannabis dispensary which can potentially become one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country once it builds out a planned 130,000 square-foot indoor canopy for cultivation.

A block south of Coco Farms, San Francisco-based Radix Growth plans to convert the former Kmart which has been vacant since 2018, a 95,000 square-foot facility on E. 18th St. just west of State Route 160, into a facility that will house everything from an indoor cultivation area to a retail dispensary.

…Thorpe said is excited about the potential benefits.

“I don’t mind being known as the cannabis capital of Northern California because it’s increasing the quality of life of those in Antioch and providing economic opportunity for residents and folks in eastern Contra Costa County. Read More > at KPIX 5

Magnitude 6.0 quake strikes along California-Nevada border – An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 rattled the California-Nevada border Thursday afternoon, with people reporting feeling the shaking hundreds of miles away, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

There were no immediate reports of serious damage or injuries.

The earthquake struck at 3:49 p.m. in a region about 250 miles (402 kilometers) east of San Francisco and south of Lake Tahoe. Its epicenter was 4 miles (6.5 km) west-southwest of Walker, a California town of fewer than 900 residents. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks, with at least a half-dozen of magnitude 4.0 or greater, the USGS said.

The epicenter was near the Antelope Valley fault. The earthquake was the largest one recorded since a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck the area in 1994.

The quake was “a classic normal faulting earthquake for eastern California,” and aftershocks were common in the region, seismologist Lucy Jones tweeted.

Preliminary reports had indicated two earthquakes striking 25 seconds but 100 miles (161 kilometers) apart. But the U.S. Geological Survey reviewed the shaking and removed the report of a magnitude 4.8 quake in Farmington, about five miles (8 km) southeast of Stockton.

The uncertainty was caused by the remote location, which had fewer seismic instruments, said Austin Elliott, a USGS geologist. Read More > from the Associated Press

Could Newsom’s accelerated recall backfire? – When Newsom signed a bill to move up the date of his own recall election, it was an indication both he and the Democrat-dominated Legislature are banking on the idea that an earlier election could help him stay in office. But there’s also a chance the Sept. 14 date could backfire: Newsom now has less time to rally Democratic voters, who appear significantly less enthused about the election than Republicans. A recent poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found a whopping 75% of Republicans are highly interested in the recall, compared to just 36% of Democrats, a discrepancy reinforced by a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll.

Santa Clara County Revises Official COVID-19 Death Toll Down by 22 Percent – On Friday, Santa Clara County health leaders announced a drop in its COVID-19 death toll by nearly a quarter after it refined its approach in reporting the data.

The county reported that it had reviewed each COVID-19 fatality and was only counting those whose cause of death was from the virus and not those who tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of death but did not necessarily die from the virus.

The new approach meant that the death toll dropped by 22%, specifically from 2,201 to 1,696 deaths.

The refined approach in Santa Clara County comes as county officials try to figure out the true impact of the virus on the community. Last month, Alameda County health leaders refined their approach to reporting COVID-19 deaths as well and also registered a drop in that county’s death toll by about a quarter. Read More > at KPIX 5

The rise of a generation of censors: Law schools the latest battlement over free speech – Free speech on American college campuses has been in a free fall for years. From high schools through law schools, free speech has gone from being considered a right that defines our society to being dismissed as a threat. According to polling, the result is arguably one of the most anti-free-speech generations in our history. The danger is more acute because it has reached law schools where future judges and lawyers may replicate the same intolerance in our legal system.

A recent controversy at Duke Law School highlights this danger. “Law & Contemporary Problems” is a faculty-run journal that recently decided to do a balanced symposium on “Sex and the Law” — including transgender issues — and asked Professor Kathleen Stock of the University of Sussex (who has criticized transgender positions) to participate.

Protests erupted over allowing such intellectual diversity.

The new set of student editors demanded that Stock be removed from the symposium. The faculty board issued a statement explaining the importance of freedom of speech and academic freedom, particularly on a journal that serves as a forum for debates on contemporary issues. Students resigned rather than associate with a journal offering both sides of such issues. Read More > in The Hill

Ivy League Study Shows How US Media Created a Climate of Fear Over COVID-19 – The authors of the paper—Bruce Sacerdote, Ranjan Sehgal, and Molly Cook, who hail from Dartmouth College and Brown University—analyzed the tone of COVID-19 related news articles written since January 1 and found a striking difference in the way US media covered the pandemic compared to media in other countries.

“Ninety one percent of stories by U.S. major media outlets are negative in tone versus fifty four percent for non-U.S. major sources and sixty five percent for scientific journals,” the authors concluded.

To be sure, pandemics are hardly a cheerful topic. We’re not talking about a firefighter rescuing a kitten from a tree or a local man winning the lottery. But that wouldn’t explain the discrepancy in media coverage or the fact that positive developments do occur in pandemics.

This invites an important question: how did US media respond to positive developments?

“The negativity of the U.S. major media is notable even in areas with positive scientific developments including school re-openings and vaccine trials,” the authors found. “Stories of increasing COVID-19 cases outnumber stories of decreasing cases by a factor of 5.5 even during periods when new cases are declining.”

The trend toward pessimistic news coverage was so acute, James Freeman noted in the Wall Street Journal, that the media mostly missed the amazing vaccine development story that took place right under their nose.

As the NBER report states, US media stories discussing President Donald Trump and hydroxychloroquine alone outnumber all the stories on vaccine R&D media produced during the pandemic. Read More > at the Foundation for Economic Education

EDD fiasco takes a surprising turn – Bank of America wants out – Just how dysfunctional is California’s unemployment department?

Apparently so dysfunctional that Bank of America, which since 2010 has had an exclusive contract with the state to deliver unemployment benefits through prepaid debit cards, wants to end the contract — even though the Employment Development Department just renewed it for another two years.

The news, first reported by ABC 7 in San Francisco, comes about a month after a federal judge — as part of a class-action lawsuit first reported by CalMatters — ordered Bank of America to stop using an automated fraud filter that blocked tens of thousands of legitimate claimants from accessing their benefits after they reported suspicious account activity. The bank said it received 230,000 claims of debit card fraud from October 2020 through March 2021.

Bank of America’s desire to end the contract is striking, given that both the bank and the state rake in merchant fees whenever an unemployment debit card is swiped. EDD has pocketed millions in fees amid the pandemic: It earned more than $47 million from March 2020 through April 2021, even though the claims of more than 1.1 million jobless Californians remain in limbo.

However, Bank of America told state lawmakers it lost “hundreds of millions” of dollars on the contract last year as it scrambled to respond to California’s rampant unemployment fraud, which experts say could total upward of $31 billion.

  • Bank of America: “We have advised the state that we would like to exit this business as soon as possible.”

Ultimately, the cost of California’s unemployment fraud will likely fall on taxpayers. And businesses will likely shoulder the staggering weight of California’s unemployment insurance debt, which experts estimate could reach $26.7 billion by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, EDD is still struggling to answer the millions of calls it receives each week — so much so that California’s 80 state assemblymembers were just given the green light to hire two staffers each to handle EDD problems. Read More > at CalMatters

Elon Musk admits self-driving is harder than he thought as Tesla owners troll him over missed deadlines – Elon Musk is admitting that self-driving is a harder problem than he originally thought as some Tesla owners are trolling him over yet another missed deadline for Tesla’s self-driving program.

Musk has a long history of failed predictions regarding Tesla bringing a true self-driving system to market.

It was first supposed to happen in 2018, then 2019, and in more recent years Musk has been more careful about the way he talks about full self-driving and now instead refers to a “feature-complete” system that would still rely on the driver’s attention but could lead to true autonomy with data proving that it’s safer than humans.

This “feature complete” system is now Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta, which first started being released to early access owners back in October 2020 as part of a limited program.

Tesla has since released several software updates for FSD Beta, and it has expanded the early access pool, but the program has certainly slowed down in recent months.

The next big step is expected to be the FSD v9 Beta update, which Musk has been promising for a while now. Read More > at electrek

To Stop Climate Change Americans Must Cut Energy Use by 90 Percent, Live in 640 Square Feet, and Fly Only Once Every 3 Years, Says Study – In order to save the planet from catastrophic climate change, Americans will have to cut their energy use by more than 90 percent and families of four should live in housing no larger than 640 square feet. That’s at least according to a team of European researchers led by University of Leeds sustainability researcher Jefim Vogel. In their new study, “Socio-economic conditions for satisfying human needs at low energy use,” in Global Environmental Change, they calculate that public transportation should account for most travel. Travel should, in any case, be limited to between 3,000 to 10,000 miles per person annually.

Vogel and his colleagues set themselves the goal of figuring out how to “provide sufficient need satisfaction at much lower, ecologically sustainable levels of energy use.” Referencing earlier sustainability studies they argue that human needs are sufficiently satisfied when each person has access to the energy equivalent of 7,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per capita. That is about how much energy the average Bolivian uses. Currently, Americans use about 80,000 kWh annually per capita. With respect to transportation and physical mobility, the average person would be limited to using the energy equivalent of 16–40 gallons of gasoline per year. People are assumed to take one short- to medium-haul airplane trip every three years or so.

In addition, food consumption per capita would vary depending on age and other conditions, but the average would be 2,100 calories per day. While just over 10 percent of the world’s people are unfortunately still undernourished, the Food and Agriculture Organization reports that the daily global average food supply now stands at just under 3,000 calories per person. Each individual is allocated a new clothing allowance of nine pounds per year, and clothes may be washed 20 times annually. The good news is that everyone over age 10 is permitted a mobile phone and each household can have a laptop.

How do Vogel and his colleagues arrive at their conclusions? First, they assert that “globally, large reductions in energy use are required to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”  The 1.5°C temperature increase limit they cite derives from the 2015 Paris Agreement in which signatories agreed to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” Read More > at Reason

Home School Applications in California Nearly Triple From Pre-Pandemic Numbers – According to new statistics released by the California Department of Education, home schooling in California continued to grow during the 2020-2021 school year, reaching record levels of students learning from home.

The number of new home schooling affidavits filed by parents with the California DOE has nearly tripled in the last few years, going from 14,548 in the 2018-2019 school year, to 22,433 in 2019-2020 and 34,715 in 2020-2021. A further 3,215 affidavits for private schools with 6 or more students were also filed in 2020-2021, another large increase from previous years.

While exact numbers of students were not given in reports, estimated figures based on the new affidavit numbers points to similar increase percentages. Pre-pandemic, California had roughly 200,000 home schooled students, with 6.1 million public school students and around 500,000 private school students. However, with the pandemic, as well as other factors such as an increase in parents removing students due to issues over what is being taught, the number of new homeschooled students kept pace with the number of new affidavits with close to 400,000 being homeschooled for at least part of the 2020-2021 school year. The estimated figures also keep pace with the national average of between 5%-11% of students being homeschooled during that time period. Read More > at California Globe

Why There’s New Hope for Alzheimer’s Patients – How much hope can Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones take from the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a new drug this month? Researchers and drug makers have labored fruitlessly for decades to develop treatments that can slow the disease’s progression. More than 100 experimental drugs have failed in clinical trials, but researchers may be on the cusp of a breakthrough.

Biogen’s newly approved monoclonal antibody drug, aducanumab (known by the brand name, Aduhelm), is the first treatment that has shown evidence in clinical trials of reducing amyloid plaque in the brain and slowing cognitive decline. It isn’t a cure. But it and similar treatments could transform the disease from a death sentence to a manageable condition like diabetes or multiple sclerosis. “We are now about to take the journey toward transforming Alzheimer’s disease from a terminal disease as we know it to a chronic disease,” Cleveland Clinic neurologist Marwan Sabbagh said in a NeurologyLive video cast.

More than 70 Alzheimer’s drugs are in the clinical pipeline, many employing different strategies. Neurologists like Dr. Sabbagh believe that ultimately a combination of therapies will be needed to hold off or—dare to dream—reverse Alzheimer’s. “I think we are now where MS was when I graduated from medical school 29 years ago,” he said. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Gut microbe secreted molecule linked to formation of new nerve cells in adult brain – The billions of microbes living in your gut could play a key role in supporting the formation of new nerve cells in the adult brain, with the potential to possibly prevent memory loss in old age and help to repair and renew nerve cells after injury, an international research team spanning Singapore, UK, Australia, Canada, US, and Sweden has discovered.

The international investigating team led by Principal Investigator Professor Sven Pettersson, National Neuroscience Institute of Singapore, and Visiting Professor at Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), and Sunway University, Malaysia, found that gut microbes that metabolize tryptophan—an essential amino acid—secrete small molecules called indoles, which stimulate the development of new brain cells in adults.

Prof Pettersson and his team also demonstrated that the indole-mediated signals elicit key regulatory factors known to be important for the formation of new adult neurons in the hippocampus, an area of the brain also associated with memory and learning. Memory loss is a common sign of accelerated aging and often an early sign of the Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Read More > at Medical Xpress

Why rising oil prices matter — and what comes nextWhy it matters: Gasoline, diesel and jet fuel come from oil — which is also used widely in the chemicals industry. Climbing oil prices mean higher costs for consumers and businesses at a time when prices for many goods and services have already been rising.

Driving the news: On Thursday, WTI crude rose above $75 a barrel for the first time since October 2018. This, as OPEC+ meets to discuss how much to increase supply.

What they’re saying: “The global reopening is driving very strong oil demand at a moment when U.S. production growth remains relatively muted and OPEC has close to 6 million barrels sitting on the sidelines in a coordinated production cut,” RBC Capital Markets’ head of global commodity strategy Helima Croft tells Axios.

State of play: Oil prices are rising now because the delayed demand from the economies moving past the pandemic is being addressed by an industry that has cut way back on production capacity.

Threat level: “The pent-up demand for oil that’s happening now only is a small degree of what will happen in a much larger degree as many of these countries come out of the pandemic,” Dicker says.

  • “$75? You better enjoy it because you’ll see maybe twice that by the middle of 2022.” Read More > at Axios

Rumours of the demise of cars have been greatly exaggerated – Cars are having a moment almost as improbable as the stunts in the Fast and the Furious movies that celebrate them.

Just a few years ago, obituaries were being written for the motor car — millennials and Gen-Zers, so the argument went, were going to swerve away from car ownership as more of them moved to cities with myriad public transport options and ride hailing services like Uber. Besides, concern about the adverse impact on the environment would deter young people from making purchases.

Then the pandemic hit. Now, as the world recovers, used car prices are going through the roof in many countries. Waiting times for driving tests have blown out. And online requests for driving directions are soaring, while public transit route inquiries have plunged. An EY survey of 3,300 consumers in nine countries found that 32% of non-car owners said they intended to get a car in the next six months. About half of those prospective buyers were millennials.

Turns out the appeal of cars — despite taking a few hits over the years — is as resilient as the Fast and the Furious films, the latest of which debuted in cinemas recently after earlier instalments grossed billions of dollars worldwide over the past two decades.

…Even before the pandemic, younger would-be homebuyers on the hunt for affordable accommodation had been venturing further away from big city centres and locations with dense public transport systems. That trend has accelerated in the wake of Covid-19, as workers newly able to work at least some of the time from home fan out into smaller cities and suburbs, where owning a car is seen as more normal.

Yet if the trend of remote work persists and more people buy cars, that may not mean more congestion on roads. So far in the US at least, the booming interest in cars hasn’t meant more miles being driven on aggregate as people take fewer trips overall.

“A resurgence of car ownership might be more of the story versus a resurgence of car usage,” said Michael Brisson, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in the US. “People may want the ability to travel and may be taking more short trips, but I can’t see anywhere that shows they are driving more miles.” Read More > in The Times

Instant water disinfectant ‘millions of times more effective’ than commercial purification – The creators of a new instant water disinfectant, made using only hydrogen and the surrounding air, claim their invention is “millions of times more effective” at ridding water of viruses and bacteria than commercial purification methods.

In addition to revolutionizing municipal water cleaning, the inventors of the novel technique suggest their disinfectant can help safely and cheaply deliver potable water to communities in need.

Around the world, an estimated 780 million people are without reliable access to clean water, and millions more experience water scarcity at least once a month.

The technique — described Thursday in the journal Nature Catalyst — uses a catalyst of gold and palladium to instantly turn hydrogen and oxygen into hydrogen peroxide, a common disinfectant.

In lab tests, researchers found their catalyst yielded not only hydrogen peroxide, but a variety highly reactive compounds called reactive oxygen species, or ROS.

It turned out that these novel compounds were responsible for the majority of the new disinfectant’s impressive antibacterial and antiviral abilities. Read More > at UPI

‘One of our worst nightmares’: Joy, anxiety as third wolf pack enters California – The California Department of Fish and Wildlife identified a new pack of gray wolves in southern Plumas County this spring, bringing the total number of officially recognized packs in the state to three

The three wolves in the Beckwourth pack were first spotted in May 2021 on a trail camera, and the tracks of two wolves were noted earlier that year in the same general area in February 2021, according to Fish and Wildlife

“It’s a little bit surprising,” said Kent Laudon, a wildlife biologist employed by Fish and Wildlife to conserve and manage the state’s gray wolf population. “First we had one pack. All of a sudden last year, we had two, and now we have three.”

For conservationists, the growing population is good news. 

While the growing population and the identification of a new pack in Plumas County is cause for celebration for environmentalists, it can be problematic for ranchers, as the animals can attack their cattle.  Read More > at SFGATE

California delays considering supervised sites for drug use –  California lawmakers will wait until next year to continue considering a bill that would give opioid users a place to inject drugs in supervised settings, the bill’s author said Tuesday.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, said he was told the Assembly Health Committee will delay a hearing on his bill until January.

The measure would allow Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles County to start programs giving people a place to inject drugs while trained staff are available to help if they suffer accidental overdoses.

“Safe consumption sites are a proven strategy to save lives and help people into recovery,” Wiener said.

Currently the sites are illegal in the United States, but legal in Canada. Read More > from the Associated Press

Moderna enters clinical trials for its mRNA-based flu vaccine – Moderna has injected its mRNA-derived vaccine for the seasonal flu into a human volunteer for the first time as part of a Phase 1/2 clinical study, the company announced on Wednesday. 

This is a very early test for the new vaccine technology, geared primarily towards building a baseline understanding of the treatment’s “safety, reactogenicity and immunogenicity,” according to a Moderna release. mRNA-1010, as the vaccine has been dubbed, is designed to be effective against the four most common strains of the virus including, A H1N1, H3N2, influenza B Yamagata and influenza B Victoria. 

According to the World Health Organization, these strains cause between 3 and 5 million severe cases of flu every year, resulting in as many as 650,000 flu-related respiratory deaths annually. In the US alone, roughly 8 percent of the population comes down with the flu every winter. The company hopes this vaccine will prove more potent than the current 40 to 60 percent efficacy rate of conventional flu vaccines.  Read More > at Engadget

Lab analysis finds near-meat and meat are not nutritionally equivalent – Plant-based meat substitutes taste and chew remarkably similar to real beef, and the 13 items listed on their nutrition labels—vitamins, fats and protein—make them seem essentially equivalent.

But a Duke University research team’s deeper examination of the nutritional content of plant-based meat alternatives, using a sophisticated tool of the science known as “metabolomics,” shows they’re as different as plants and animals.

“To consumers reading nutritional labels, they may appear nutritionally interchangeable,” said Stephan van Vliet, a postdoctoral researcher at the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute, who led the research. “But if you peek behind the curtain using metabolomics and look at expanded nutritional profiles, we found that there are large differences between meat and a plant-based meat alternative.”

Several metabolites known to be important to human health were found either exclusively or in greater quantities in beef, including creatine, spermine, anserine, cysteamine, glucosamine, squalene, and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. “These nutrients have potentially important physiological, anti-inflammatory, and or immunomodulatory roles,” the authors said in the paper.

“These nutrients are important for our brain and other organs, including our muscles,” van Vliet said. “But some people on vegan diets (no animal products), can live healthy lives—that’s very clear.” Besides, the plant-based meat alternative contained several beneficial metabolites not found in beef such as phytosterols and phenols.

“It is important for consumers to understand that these products should not be viewed as nutritionally interchangeable, but that’s not to say that one is better than the other,” said van Vliet, a self-described omnivore who enjoys a plant-heavy diet but also eats meat. “Plant and animal foods can be complementary, because they provide different nutrients.” Read More > at Medical Xpress

Aerial Sheep Herding in Yokneam from Colossal on Vimeo.

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There’s An Actual Reason Why Hot Dogs And Buns Don’t Come In Equal Count Packages

Ni’Kesia PannellWed, July 7, 2021, 10:17 AM

If you’re one of the many people who loves to throw a good ol’ fashion backyard barbecue, you’ve likely had your fair share of hot dogs. While most people may not be frank connoisseurs on your level, there is one thing we can all agree on: It’s weird that there’s an uneven hot dog-to-bun ratio in their respective packagings!

According to the National Hot Dog Sausage Council, the reason why isn’t as strange as you may think. The NHDSC—which was founded in 1994—explained the mismatch packaging is simply because of the way these things were sold back in the day. In fact, it wasn’t until 1940 that we actually began seeing hot dogs packaged in packs of 10 (which is why you typically see in stores now!). So why are buns not in 10-packs too? The NHDSC says it’s because of the way they are baked. 

“Sandwich rolls, or hot dog buns, most often come eight to the pack because the buns are baked in clusters of four in pans designed to hold eight rolls,” said the council: “While baking pans now come in configurations that allow baking 10 and even 12 at a time, the eight-roll pan remains the most popular.” 

Read More > at yahoo! life

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect Saturday , 7/10 for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy. High levels of ozone pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions. You can help protect your health by avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day.

You can help improve air quality by working remotely, taking transit, walking or biking, and by driving less every day.

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2021’s Best & Worst Cities for First-Time Home Buyers – WalletHub Study

With 14% more people becoming first-time homeowners last year compared to the previous year, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst Cities for First-Time Home Buyers, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To determine the most favorable housing markets for first-time buyers, WalletHub took the pulse of real estate in 300 cities of varying sizes using 22 key metrics. The data set ranges from housing affordability to real-estate tax rate to property-crime rate.

Best Cities for First-Time Home BuyersWorst Cities for First-Time Home Buyers
1. Chesapeake, VA291. Boston, MA
2. Gilbert, AZ292. Burbank, CA
3. Lincoln, NE293. Glendale, CA
4. Cape Coral, FL294. Santa Barbara, CA
5. Boise, ID295. San Mateo, CA
6. Hampton, VA296. Los Angeles, CA
7. Peoria, AZ297. Santa Monica, CA
8. Virginia Beach, VA298. San Francisco, CA
9. Norfolk, VA299. Oakland, CA
10. Surprise, AZ300. Berkeley, CA

Best vs. Worst

  • Toledo, Ohio, has the most affordable housing (median house price divided by median annual household income), with a ratio of 1.06, which is 19.1 times cheaper than in Santa Barbara, California, the city with the least affordable housing, with a ratio of 20.29.
  • Honolulu has the lowest real-estate tax rate, 0.29 percent, which is 12.9 times lower than in Waterbury, Connecticut, the city with the highest at 3.74 percent.
  • Rochester, New York, has the highest rent-to-price ratio, 15.88 percent, which is 4.7 times higher than in Sunnyvale, California, the city with the lowest at 3.38 percent.
  • New Orleans has the lowest total home-energy cost per month, $97.27, which is 4.8 times lower than in Honolulu, the city with the highest at $470.38.

To view the full report and your city’s rank, please visit:

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M6.2 Earthquake – California-Nevada border region

Date-Time8 Jul 2021 22:49:48 UTC8 Jul 2021 15:49:48 near epicenter8 Jul 2021 14:49:48 standard time in your timezone
Location38.523N 119.497W
Depth9 km
Distances2.0 km (1.2 mi) WNW of Walker, California45.8 km (28.4 mi) SSE of Gardnerville Ranchos, Nevada62.2 km (38.6 mi) SE of South Lake Tahoe, California74.9 km (46.4 mi) SSE of Carson City, Nevada107.3 km (66.6 mi) SSE of Truckee, California
Location UncertaintyHorizontal: 0.5 km; Vertical 0.8 km
ParametersNph = 226; Dmin = 20.0 km; Rmss = 0.45 seconds; Gp = 103°
Version = 2
Event IDnc 73584926 ***This event supersedes event EW1625784601.

M 5.9 – 32km SSW of Smith Valley, NV

For updates, maps, and technical information
see: Event Page or USGS Earthquake Hazards Program

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Now Open: Black Diamond Mines Coal Mine Exhibit / Reservations Required

The long-awaited Coal Mine Experience Tour at Black Diamond Mines is now open! The new exhibit, built into the existing Hazel-Atlas silica sand mine, is an immersive experience including sights and sounds of a working coal mine from nearly 150 years ago. The Greathouse Visitor Center, located in an underground chamber excavated in the mid-1920s, and the Hazel Atlas Mine Tours, which explores a 1930’s era silica sand mine, are open as well. All tours are available by reservation only. Reserve a Tour.

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The North American Monsoon and California summer weather

originally posted 7/30/2014

Monsoons; defined as a seasonal wind that shifts direction from season to season and often brings abundant rain and thunderstorms during one time of the year and hot, dry weather at other times.

Remnants of Hurricane Fabio delivered muggy weather and nice sunsets last week, July 6, 2018

Monsoons happen in several locations around the world, including along the Brazilian coast of South America, in Sub-Sahara Africa and across northern Mexico and the Desert Southwest of the U.S. The monsoon first begins in northern Mexico in May. The summer sun evaporates water from the Gulfs of Mexico and California and creates humid conditions over the land, which produces rain. By early July, the temperature and pressure differences are usually big enough for the monsoon flow to make its way across the U.S. and Mexico border.

The North American monsoon occurs over northwest Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado and Utah. Typically, the annual monsoon season arrives in the U.S. early-to-mid July and lasts through early-to-mid September. On average, nearly half of Arizona receives about half of its annual rainfall during the monsoon. Occasionally this monsoon moisture will reach the mountains of Northern California creating afternoon thunderstorms over the Sierra’s and even reach the Bay Area bringing lighting and rain.

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2021’s Best & Worst States for Teen Drivers – WalletHub Study

With teens obtaining driver’s licenses during the summer more than any other season and an average of seven teens dying every day from motor vehicle injuries, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst States for Teen Drivers, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

In order to determine the safest and least costly driving environments for U.S. teenagers, WalletHub compared the 50 states based on 23 key metrics. The data set ranges from the number of teen driver fatalities to the average cost of car repairs to the presence of impaired-driving laws.

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

  • 10th – Teen Driver Fatalities per 100,000 Teens
  • 23rd – Teen DUIs per 100,000 Teens
  • 50th – Avg. Cost of Car Repairs
  • 1st – Presence of Distracted-Driving/Texting-While-Driving Laws
  • 48th – Premium Increase After Adding Teen Driver to Parent’s Policy
  • 3rd – Provision of Teen Driver’s Graduated Licensing Program Laws
  • 9th – Vehicle Miles Traveled per Capita
  • 1st – Presence of Occupant-Protection Laws
  • 44th – Quality of Roads
  • 35th – Presence of Impaired-Driving Laws

For the full report, please visit:

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Nut Thefts Are A Problem: They’re Tough Cases To Crack


Drugs, artwork, luxury watches. If there’s a high value good, there’s a black market for it.

But nuts?

Organized agricultural crime rings have long targeted California’s pistachio and almond growers, and theft is becoming more of a serious concern as production has increased in recent years.

Just a few weeks into the early summer growing season, California’s Tulare County reported its first tree nut crime of the year. A truck driver was charged with stealing 42,000 pounds of pistachios with the intent to resell them in smaller bags. The nuts didn’t travel far — investigators said they discovered his tractor trailer filled with over $170,000 worth of cargo in a nearby lot.

A theft involving thousands of dollars’ worth of pistachios may seem outlandish. And indeed the California’s man’s arrest went viral. But it wasn’t a standalone caper.

Nut thieves are increasingly sophisticated

Nuts are a big deal in California. Growing conditions — dry, rain free summers — are ideal. The state is the top nut grower in the U.S. leading the way in almonds, pistachios and walnuts.

Almonds alone brought in $6 billion in 2019. They are the state’s second-most valuable farm commodity, trailing only dairy products. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates the 2021 almond crop will become the largest on record.

“When there’s value and increased value, there’s going to be some illicit activities around or people trying to make a quicker, easier dollar,” says Joseph England, a sergeant with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office.

Nuts are remarkably suitable for the black market trade. Of course, they don’t have serial numbers or QR codes. They’re less perishable than other crops. So thieves can store them for lengthy periods of time. And pricy pistachios are a tempting target, more valuable per pound than other crops, according to Richard Matoian, president of the American Pistachio Growers.

Losses from nut thefts are crushing for growers

Stealing nuts is not an easy business, and thieves have become more sophisticated over time, says England.

For a nut to go from tree to table, there’s a lot of moving logistics involved. After coming off the tree, nuts must be cleaned, pasteurized, roasted or seasoned. Each step is normally completed at a different facility, which makes nut cargo more vulnerable to theft.

To prevent heists facilities have installed surveillance cameras and specialized tags on trucks. But thieves can still outwit growers: it’s not uncommon for thieves to hack into trucking companies’ computer systems, generate fake load orders and leave with thousands of dollars’ worth of cargo, England says.

Losses from large-scale nut thefts are crushing to farmers, says Don Stuhmer, the president of the California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force and a deputy with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.

“Every load of nuts for these farmers is very important. They’re chasing that bottom line, and that bottom line is getting thinner and thinner,” Stuhmer says.

Savannah Sicurella is an intern on NPR’s business desk.

link to original article

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Sunday Reading – 07/04/2021

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.

Vaccinated people safe from delta variant and other COVID-19 mutations – The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are thought to be effective against the highly transmissible delta variant, meaning another major wave of infections and hospitalizations is unlikely.

“If you’re vaccinated, you are safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday.

In the U.S., more than half of the population over 12 years old has been fully vaccinated, and roughly 67% of adults have received at least one dose. Seventy-eight percent of seniors, prioritized for the shots due to their increased vulnerability to severe illness, have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The vaccine rollout in the U.S. has been a massive success despite its bumpy start in mid-December when Pfizer’s vaccine was first granted authorization by the federal government. Hospitalizations have fallen to their lowest levels since early April 2020, with about 16,700 patients hospitalized on average this week. Read More > in the Washington Examiner

Face masks not necessary in US to curb Delta variant, CDC chief says – Vaccines mean face masks aren’t needed indoors in the United States against the Delta coronavirus variant, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

“If you are vaccinated, you are safe from the variants that are circulating here in the United States,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday on “Today.”

The CDC will leave decisions on face mask requirements up to individual states, Walensky said.

“Fully vaccinated people do not have anything really to fear from the Delta variant,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told MSNBC. “We’re going to see cases, but we’re not going to go into a crisis.” Read More > in The Modesto Bee

PG&E seeks $3.6 billion in rate hikes for wildfire safety – Pacific Gas & Electric asked regulators Wednesday to grant a $3.6 billion rate hike to help it pay for hardening its power systems to prevent deadly wildfires.

The nation’s largest electric utility requested the hike beginning in 2023, with half of the increase devoted to wildfire safety, spokeswoman Lynsey Paulo told the Sacramento Bee.

The hike would increase the average residential bill by $36 a month for gas and electric service, although the state’s Public Utilities Commission typically only grants a portion of any requested rate increase, the Bee said. Read More > from the Associated Press

How polluted is your favorite California beach? Read this report card – Here’s some good news (and then some not-so-good news) for those seeking a summer respite by the sea: Beaches across California are much cleaner than in years past.

In its annual survey of more than 500 beaches, Heal the Bay reported Tuesday that 93% of California’s beaches logged good water-quality marks between April and October 2020 — an encouraging assessment for a coastline that sees all manner of trash, pesticides and bacteria (not to mention microplastics, automotive fluids and tire particles) flushed into the ocean whenever it rains.

A severe drought has meant less-polluted beaches during the summer — particularly in Southern California, where Orange County had 10 of the state’s cleanest beaches. But even a dry year has led to troubling patterns during the winter and stubborn pockets of pollution along the coast.

For the second year in a row, an unusual number of beaches in San Mateo County topped the list of dirtiest beaches in California. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Newsom sues his own elections chief over recall – Just when you thought the events surrounding the election to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from office couldn’t get any more surreal, Monday happened.

That’s when Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber — whom he appointed to the position just months ago — for refusing to correct his lawyers’ filing mistake that could result in Newsom appearing on the recall ballot without “Democratic Party” listed next to his name. The legal feud, first reported by Courthouse News, suggests that Newsom sees the potential omission as a threat: In campaign fundraising emails and ads, Newsom has appealed to the state’s deep bench of Democratic voters by depicting the recall as an effort led by Republican extremists.

The jaw-dropping news came only hours after state lawmakers passed a bill that would waive certain recall rules they wrote just a few years ago and allow the election to be held earlier than expected — a move likely intended to help Newsom stay in office. Newsom immediately signed the bill into law, meaning that if state officials — including Weber — act quickly, we could know the election date as early as Friday.

Though the recall bill accounted for less than 0.1% of the whopping $263 billion budget the state Legislature passed Monday, it sparked a sizable political battle as Republican lawmakers argued the governor shouldn’t be able to change procedures affecting his own election.

  • Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican considering a gubernatorial run“It is not hyperbole to say this is qualitatively the same thing that happens in corrupt, sham democracies. … Those in power use their power to make sure they don’t lose their power.”
  • Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, a Los Angeles Democrat: This debate is “becoming overly political and it’s all about saying as many things as negative as possible about the governor. … I don’t want the (Assembly) floor to be misused that way.” Read More > at CalMatters

Rattlesnakes everywhere: the odd consequences of California’s drought – California and other states across the south-west are in the grips of a historic drought. The conditions have produced consequences that extend beyond the risks of a decreased water supply and worsening wildfires. And as urban development creeps further into once-wild areas, the drought has also increased negative interactions between people, animals and pests – who are all trying to adapt.

“Rattlesnakes are becoming more common in the places where we live, work and play,” Ramirez says. After opening his business in 1985, he’s become a go-to source for removal and public education about the snakes, speaking to the media and producing safety videos for California’s office of emergency services. He clears snakes from properties and public areas and relocates them to uninhabited areas.

As essential water sources start to run dry, other wild animals have also been spotted searching the suburbs for water, sustenance and reprieve from the intensifying conditions. Wildlife veterinarians have reported the numbers of abandoned babies or injured animals brought into their centers and animal sightings – especially of bears who are venturing deeper into urban areas – are surging.

“The bear population is expanding its range, so bears are showing up in areas where they’ve never seen before,” Rebecca Barboza, a wildlife biologist who studies the trend for the California department of fish and wildlife, told ABC News this month.

Less perilous pests may also pose more problems during drought conditions. Ants, cockroaches and rodents and other visitors also need water to survive and human homes are typically where they go to find it when it’s absent in outdoor environments.

“Drought conditions not only mean that a pest’s water supply dries up, but natural food sources can also be harder to find as well,” Mike Bentley, an entomologist for the National Pest Management Association, says. “Drought often drives pests into homes or other structures in search of these resources to survive”. Read More > in The Guardian

Data undercut Newsom’s ‘roaring back’ claim – Virtually any utterance from Gavin Newsom’s mouth these days, as well as those from his press office and other outposts of his administration, contains the phrase “roaring back.”

When, for example, the Legislature passed a state budget to meet the June 15 constitutional deadline, Newsom issued a statement declaring that “California’s economy is coming roaring back.”

Not surprisingly, it’s also the key slogan in his resistance to a campaign to recall him, something voters will decide later this year.

…That said, do the facts support Newsom’s repetitive “roaring back” claim?

To be sure, some Californians have prospered in the 15 months since Newsom declared a public health emergency due to COVID-19 and imposed restrictions on personal and economic activities.

Those who could continue to work at home maintained their incomes and those on the top rungs of the economic ladder were enriched as the values of their investments such as stocks expanded, thanks largely to the Federal Reserve’s cheap money policies.

However, broader economic data offer scant support for the “roaring back” mantra the governor is chanting these days. It’s more like creeping back — slowly.

The state’s monthly report on employment, issued on June 18, frames the glacial pace of improvement. The state lost nearly 3 million jobs after Newsom ordered widespread business closures in March 2020, and since then we’ve recovered roughly half of them. Our 7.9% unemployment rate is still twice what it was before the shutdown and is the third highest of any state, slightly under Hawaii and New Mexico.

In addition to the official unemployment rate, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics makes other calculations, including an important one on underemployment, called U-6, which includes not only workers without jobs but those who are only marginally attached to the labor force and those working part-time.

California’s U-6 rate through the first quarter, 18.4%, was four percentage points above the national figure and the third highest of any state, behind Hawaii and Nevada. Even more disturbingly, the U-6 rate in Los Angeles County, 24.1%, is higher than that of any state.

The federal Bureau of Economic Analysis reported this month that during the first quarter of this year, California’s economic output increased by 6.3%, slightly lower than the national rate and in the lowest third of the states.

The federal bureau also reported that California’s personal income grew by 42.8% during the first quarter, which sounds impressive until one looks at the nation as a whole and learns that California’s growth was the second lowest of any state. The bureau notes that nationwide, “transfer payments” — mostly federal aid programs rather than earned income — accounted for virtually all of personal income growth. Read More > at CalMatters

US just finished dead last among 46 countries in media trust — here’s why – The U.S. media is the least trustworthy in the world, according to a comprehensive new Reuters Institute survey encompassing 46 countries. 

Yes, you read that right. The country with among the most resources in this arena – human, technical and otherwise – finished dead last. Finland ranked the highest, with a 65 percent trust rating. In Kenya, the trust rating clocked in at 61 percent. 

But here in the U.S.A., the home of global media giants including the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN, we’re trusted by a whopping 29 percent of those reading and watching. 

Is anyone really surprised? Because in looking at polls over the past few years (even pre-Donald Trump) we’ve been trending in this dubious direction for some time. Read More > in The Hill

The Truth’ vs. Objectivity in American Journalism Today – Lately, the local ABC News affiliate in Washington, D.C., has been running promotional spots with the well-worn tagline “speaking truth to power.” That is an odd slogan for a media outlet that can certainly be counted among the powerful in the region. It also raises a question as to whether this local news department has truly discovered “the truth” and is devoting its broadcasts to sharing it with its viewers.  

At least implicit in the use of the slogan is a recognition by the station that truth does indeed exist. Sadly, many in American journalism are increasingly denying the existence of objective truth and calling for an end of objectivity in journalism. As Stanford University communications professor emeritus Ted Glasser said recently, “Journalists need to be overt and candid advocates for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of objectivity.”  In other words, the task of a journalist is to push the progressive narrative forward, truth and objectivity be damned. 

Glasser isn’t alone. Recently, in a speech at Washington State University, “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt also questioned the value of objectivity. “I think it’s become clearer that fairness is overrated,” he said. “The idea that we should always give two sides equal weight and merit does not reflect the world we find ourselves in.”    

Regrettably, The New York Times has also caught this fervor to push a narrative. It recently announced plans to scrap its op-ed page after 50 years in favor of “guest essays.” Their stated purpose, according to editor Kathleen Kingsbury, is to publish pieces with “intention.” Translated, that means pieces that serve to advance an agenda. She confesses that Times editors will place their “thumb on our scale in the name of progress, fairness and shared humanity.” In other words, the Times will be selecting opinion pieces that fit a narrative, rather than offer informed dissent and contrary views. Evidently, The New York Timeslike my ABC News affiliate, has possession of “the truth” and will only publish essays consistent with that truth.

Seeing this trend away from fairness in American journalism, my fear is that we will never return to an objective news media that reports the facts – who, what, when and where – and trusts readers and viewers to make judgments based on evidence and logic. The justification given by the Times in 1970 when it created the op-ed page — “as a move to open the opinion pages to the voices of others, presenting a range of views on major issues” — now sounds quaint and from a time long past. Read More > at Real Clear Politics

Should homeowners pay for climate change? – …As if a second dry winter and historic heat wave were just the opening acts, California homeowners are girding themselves for another destructive fire season that could raise their wildfire insurance rates to unaffordable levels. 

The problem is catching. California’s streak of infernos has already created record liability for insurers: Insurance companies lost a total of $20 billion in 2017 and 2018, twice the industry’s profits since 1991, according to a white paper by Milliman, a financial consulting firm. 

Insurers are betting climate change isn’t going away and that’s why they’re now pushing the state to allow them to factor in future flooding, mudslides and forest fires into customer premiums. If they don’t get their way, they say they’re just going to continue to drop more homeowners from coverage in a state where one out of three homes have been built in or near dense vegetation. 

That tees up a contentious debate in the Legislature over who should be responsible for the costs caused by natural disasters to homes built in the wildland-urban interface — homeowners, insurance companies or government entities that allowed them to build in the first place. Others argue that construction should be banned entirely in fire-prone areas in spite of a statewide housing shortage.

Draft recommendations from the Climate Insurance Working Group, established to advise state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, suggest allowing a contentious move to let insurance companies adjust premiums based on projections from natural catastrophe models. The shift, they say, will more adequately allow insurance companies to charge rates based on extreme fire risk. Supporters believe it could discourage building and rebuilding in high-fire zones. If adopted, it would be a dramatic change from the current structure, which is determined by historic rates.

So far, lawmakers appear receptive but Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t tipped the scales. “The administration strongly supports land use planning requirements and building codes to bolster wildfire resilience in our communities,” said Gopika Mavalankar of the governor’s office. Read More > at CalMatters

Here be humans – We’re not the man we used to be. Over the last twenty years, genomics, ancient DNA and paleoanthropology have joined forces to completely overhaul our understanding of the origin of our species. The true diversity and complexity of human evolution over the last few hundred millennia surpasses even the most unhinged imaginings we might have hazarded just a short generation ago. But greater clarity has left us with a messier and less elegant narrative. Our species’ status, it turns out, is “complicated.”

In the year 2000, the orthodoxy was that humans spread across the world 60,000 years ago, and were descended exclusively from a small population in Africa. Neanderthals and various other human groups (and yes, we didn’t even deign to give them all names) were evolutionary “dead ends.” Of interest mostly to scholars, they were dismissed as failed experiments in a world our ancestors won. Today, this tidy story of us no longer passes a basic fact check.

In 2010, genomes recovered from ancient remains of “archaic hominins” in Eurasia turned out to have genetic matches in many modern humans. It seems they weren’t quite as “archaic” as we thought. In addition, we had to get used to the new reality that a solid 2-3% of the ancestry of all humans outside Africa is Neanderthal. About 5% of the ancestry of Melanesian groups, like the Papuans of New Guinea, actually comes from a previously unimagined new human lineage discovered in Denisova cave, in Siberia of all places.

Since these first major overhauls, the genetic picture has only grown more complex. Trace, but detectable (0.2% or so), levels of “Denisovan” ancestry are found across South, Southeast, and East Asia (as well as among indigenous people of the Americas). Similarly, trace but detectable levels of Neanderthal ancestry actually appear in most African populations. And, though we have no ancient genomes to make the triumphant ID, a great deal of circumstantial DNA evidence indicates that many African groups harbor silent “archaic” lineages equivalent to Neanderthals and Denisovans. We call them “ghost” populations. We know they’re there in the genomes, but we have no fossils to identify them with. Read More > at Razib Khan’s Unsupervised Learning

Solar Has An Unlikely New Enemy – Utility-scale solar farm projects are increasingly drawing opposition from environmentalist groups, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, citing the Battle Born Solar Project, which will cover—literally—14 square miles, or, as the WSJ puts it, 7,000 football fields. That’s a lot of land to cover with solar panels, which would render it useless for any other purpose.

Opponents of the Battle Born Solar Project from the nearest community are not among renewable power skeptics that mock solar farms. They are, in fact, environmentally conscious people who are, however, concerned that the massive solar farm will spoil the land, upset ecosystems, and last but not least, make their beautiful views less beautiful.

It was really bound to happen. Anyone who’s had the chance of seeing a utility-scale solar farm knows they are not exactly works of art that one would enjoy seeing on a daily basis. The logic, as with so many other things, seems to be, “It’s great, but I don’t want it in my backyard.” And it’s not all about aesthetics, either. Build enough massive solar farms, and we might have a climate problem on our hands.

Earlier this year, two researchers from Sweden and Australia challenged an idea that has been circulating in the public space for a while. They challenged the notion that building a few giant solar farms in the Sahara desert will solve the world’s energy problems. 

Not so, Zhengyao Lu from Sweden’s Lund University and Benjamin Smith from Western Sydney University warned. Solar farms have a heat problem, and the bigger the farm, the bigger the problem becomes.

Solar panels convert light into electricity at an average rate of 15 and 20 percent. So, 15-20 percent of the light solar panels absorb, they convert into electricity. The rest appears to be the problem, according to Lu and Smith. Read More > at Oil Price

Microsoft rolls out the first Windows 11 preview – Windows fans and developers can get their first taste of Windows 11 today, as Microsoft has begun rolling out the first preview for Windows Insiders. The build will show off the operating system’s refined interface, with a centered taskbar and redesigned Start menu, as well as its improved window management. But you’ll have to wait a bit for some of the more advanced features, like the integrated Microsoft Teams chat and Android app compatibility. To try out the Windows 11 preview build, you can sign up on the web or from the “Windows Insider Program” section in Windows 10’s settings. 

You’ll have to make sure your PC meets the Windows 11 minimum hardware requirements to test the preview build, naturally. (Microsoft is making an exception for systems that meet the Windows Insider program’s requirements though. Yes, it’s all very confusing.) Microsoft’s compatibility app will let you know if your system passes muster. Read More > at Engadget

Federal regulators warn of risks to firefighters from electrical vehicle fires – As the popularity of electric vehicles grows, firefighters nationwide are realizing that they are not fully equipped to deal with them. So they have been banding together, largely informally, to share information to help one another out. In fact, Buck recently spoke on Zoom about the incident before a group of Colorado firefighters.

That’s because the way that electric vehicles are powered triggers longer-burning fires when they crash and get into serious accidents. Electric cars rely on a bank of lithium-ion batteries, similar to batteries found in a cellphone or computer. But unlike a small phone battery, the large batteries found in the Tesla Model X, for instance, contain enough energy to power an average American home for more than two days.

So when an electric vehicle gets in a high-speed accident and catches on fire, damaged energy cells cause temperatures to rise out of control, and the resulting blaze can require a significant amount of water to put out. Such vehicles, given their large electrical energy storage capacity, can be a considerable hazard, known as “stranded energy,” to first responders.

But training to put out these fires can’t come fast enough as more electric vehicles arrive on U.S. roads every day. According to IHS Insight, an industry analysis firm, the number of registered electric vehicles reached a record market share in the United States of 1.8 percent and is forecast to double to 3.5 percent by the end of this year. But IHS notes that 1 in 10 cars are expected to be electric by 2025. Read More > at NBC News

Researchers engineer cells to destroy malignant tumor cells but leave the rest alone – Researchers at McMaster University have developed a promising new cancer immunotherapy that uses cancer-killing cells genetically engineered outside the body to find and destroy malignant tumors.

The modified “natural killer” cells can differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells that are often intermingled in and around tumors, destroying only the targeted cells.

The natural killer cells’ ability to distinguish the target cells, even from healthy cells that bear similar markers, brings new promise to this branch of immunotherapy, say members of the research team behind a paper published in the current issue of the journal iScience, newly posted on the PubMed database. Read More > at Medical Xpress

Scientists Are Harnessing Sound Waves in Hopes of Treating Alzheimer’s – In 2010, a 67-year-old former executive assistant for a Fortune 500 company was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. By 2014, her doctors confirmed she had Alzheimer’s disease.

As her disease progressed, she continued to live independently but wasn’t able to drive anymore. Today, she can manage most of her everyday tasks, but her two daughters are considering a live-in caregiver. Despite her condition, the woman may represent a beacon of hope for the approximately 44 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s disease. The now 74-year-old is among a small cadre of Alzheimer’s patients who have undergone an experimental ultrasound procedure aimed at slowing cognitive decline.

In November 2020, Elisa Konofagou, a professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Ultrasound and Elasticity Imaging Laboratory at Columbia University, and her team used ultrasound to noninvasively open the woman’s blood-brain barrier. This barrier is a highly selective membrane of cells that prevents toxins and pathogens from entering the brain while allowing vital nutrients to pass through. This regulatory function means the blood-brain barrier filters out most drugs, making treating Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases a challenge.

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce live images from the inside of the human body. But scientists think it could also be used to boost the effectiveness of Alzheimer’s drugs, or potentially even improve brain function in dementia patients without the use of drugs. Read More > at leaps.org

The Population Bomb Doomsday Scam – It may be the most astonishing story of the year that no one is paying much attention to. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported on their front page, “Chinese officials are drawing up plans to further loosen birth restrictions and transition toward policies that explicitly encourage childbirth,”. According to Chinese insiders, China, the most populous nation on the planet, is replacing its brutish childbirth restrictions with a program allowing, and even rewarding, couples for having kids. Beijing has announced that its demographic problem today is too few young people, not too many.

The New York Times put the point even more emphatically in its coverage of this amazing twist of fate, by acknowledging in a headline that the dreaded “population bomb” of the 1960s and ’70s has turned into a global “population bust.”

Let us put it even more concisely: the greatest environmental/demographic scare of the second half of the 20th century — overpopulation — is now officially conceded to have been a monumental fraud.

To appreciate what an embarrassing reversal this is for the green movement, consider that 40 to 50 years ago nearly all the scientists, policymakers, U.S. government agencies, and experts at the United Nations told us that rampaging population growth would lead to a Malthusian doomsday with the world in our lifetimes running out of food, energy, and nearly everything else. If ever there were an ironclad “scientific consensus,” this was it.

The experts were only off by about 99 percent. In reality, there has been no mass starvation other than in draconian socialist economies like North Korea and mid-1980s Ethiopia. The University of Oxford’s Our World in Data reports that worldwide famine deaths have sharply decreased from an annual average of over 1.6 million in the 1960s to less than 40,000 in since 2010 — and that total famine deaths worldwide (not just in Asia) were less than six million from 1980 through 2016.

Instead, even as the world’s population doubled from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 7.4 billion in 2015, food production rose even faster. India with 1.39 billion people has become a major agricultural exporter. Death rates nearly everywhere have plummeted. In the United States farm productivity rose so rapidly — with an almost tripling in yields — that the government has had to pay farmers not to grow so much food.

The world’s population is larger, but humans today live longer and are healthier, vastly more prosperous, and better fed. Our World in Data reports that from 1970 through 2015, world extreme poverty fell from almost 48 percent to less than 10 percent. Read More > at The American Spectator

San Diego Is Relatively Drought-Proof – and Has Prices to Prove it – The 2021 California drought is as bad if not worse as the one in 2014, which endured for five long, dry years. As of Friday, 33 percent is in a state of “exceptional drought,” the most severe drought category given by the federal U.S. Drought Monitor.

Farmers in the Central Valley are ripping up almond trees, according to Bloomberg. Those living along the headwaters of the Russian River in Mendicino County have been told to use no more than 55 gallons per day – enough to flush a toilet six times, according to CalMatters. Santa Clara Water District voted this month to place 15 percent water reduction targets on residents countywide, according to San Jose Inside.

Yet San Diego officials aren’t just calm in the face of these troubling conditions, they’re downright celebratory.

All the hoopla is because, well, officials here spent a lot of money on deals to secure more supplies and build water infrastructure. That’s why San Diegans pay some of the highest water rates in the state and country.

Until the 1990s, San Diego bought about 95 percent of its water from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District, which controls a huge aqueduct channeling Colorado River water to Southern California – still the primary drinking water source for the region.

…The Water Authority spent $568 million to raise the walls of the San Vicente Dam 117 feet so it could store more water for emergencies. It’s part of an approximately $1.5 billion so-called Emergency Storage Project, which also added storage at Lake Hodges and the Olivenhain Reservoir. These large bowls in the Earth are where we store that Colorado River water.

The Water Authority looked for more ways to cut its dependence on the long straw to the Colorado River controlled by Metropolitan. In 2003, the Water Authority struck a deal to buy Colorado River water from Imperial County, enough to quench 1.6 million people a year for up to 75 years.

The Water Authority also spent money on fixing up two canals Imperial uses in exchange for more water that would have otherwise seeped out of those canals into the ground. About 50 percent of San Diego’s supply is Colorado River water that once went to Imperial. In total, 68 percent of San Diego’s drinking water in 2020 came from the river.

…So around 2015, the Water Authority helped open a desalination plant in Carlsbad, the largest in the country at the time, which cleans ocean water to drinking water standards. It’s the most expensive water San Diegans use, while the Colorado River water we get from Los Angeles is one of the cheapest.

Other than that, San Diego has just a little bit of surface water, groundwater and recycled water it can rely on, for now.

That’ll change once the city of San Diego builds its massive wastewater-to-drinking water recycling system dubbed Pure Water. The city estimates it can support over a third of San Diegans’ drinking water needs by 2035. San Diego is the Water Authority’s biggest customer. If the city fills a third of its drinking water needs with recycled water, San Diego won’t have to buy as much Colorado River water from the Water Authority. Read More > from the Voice of San Diego

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2021’s Most Patriotic States in America – WalletHub Study

With Fourth of July celebrations able to proceed this year due to the fact that 45% of the population is vaccinated and states have largely reopened, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2021’s Most Patriotic States in America, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To determine where Americans have the most red, white and blue pride, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 13 key indicators of patriotism. Our data set ranges from the state’s military enlistees and veterans to the share of adults who voted in the 2020 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita. Below are some additional highlights from the report.

Top 20 Most Patriotic States
1. Montana11. Utah
2. Alaska12. Idaho
3. Maryland13. Wisconsin
4. Vermont14. Washington
5. New Hampshire15. Arizona
6. North Dakota16. Iowa
7. Wyoming17. Kentucky
8. Minnesota18. Missouri
9. Oregon19. South Carolina
10. Virginia20. Colorado

Key Stats

  • Red states are more patriotic, with an average ranking of 25.32, compared with 25.68 for blue states (1 = Best).
  • Alaska has the most veterans per 1,000 civilian adults, 137, which is 2.7 times more than in New York, the state with the fewest at 51.
  • New Jersey has the highest share of adults who voted in the 2020 presidential election, 78.30 percent, which is 1.5 times higher than in Arkansas, the state with the lowest at 54.00 percent.
  • Utah has the highest volunteer rate, 51.00 percent, which is 2.2 times higher than in Florida, the state with the lowest at 22.80 percent.

To view the full report and your state’s rank, please visit:

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First Evidence of West Nile virus Serves as an Important Reminder to Wear Insect Repellent over the 4th of July Weekend

The Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) reports a group of mosquitoes has tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV) in Contra Costa County. The mosquitoes were collected from traps in an agricultural area east of Byron. This is the first group of mosquitoes to test positive for WNV so far this year in Contra Costa County.
Certain types of birds may carry WNV. When a mosquito bites an infected bird, the mosquito can become infected and transmit WNV to another bird or a person through a mosquito bite.

The discovery of infected mosquitoes at the start of the Fourth of July weekend serves as an important reminder for Contra Costa County residents to wear insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites while out enjoying the holiday festivities.

The hot weather that often accompanies the 4th of July weekend also increases the risk of West Nile virus. Mosquitoes can develop from egg to adult more quickly in warmer weather and West Nile virus replicates faster within mosquitoes when temperatures stay above 54 degrees overnight. So, it is very important that residents wear insect repellent this weekend as hot weather significantly increases the chances of disease transmission to people,” said the District Scientific Program Manager Steve Schutz, Ph.D.

Contra Costa County residents can reduce the risk of WNV by taking these necessary steps to prevent mosquitoes:

  • Dump or drain standing water. Mosquitoes develop from egg to adult in water.
  • Defend yourself—use repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  • Keep swimming pools chlorinated and filtered because just one neglected pool can produce up to 1 million mosquitoes and affect people several miles away.
  • Avoid the outdoors when mosquitoes are present, typically dawn and dusk.

Contra Costa County residents can also report dead birds by phone at (877) WNV-BIRD (968-2473) or online.

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BART Increases Service 4 Weeks Early and Offers Late-Night Limited Trains Beginning July 15

BART will return to near-pre pandemic service on August 2 instead of August 30 as originally planned. The August 2 change includes extending closing times to midnight Monday through Saturday.

In the meantime, BART will also add late-night limited trains leaving downtown San Francisco at 11:30pm serving nine stations on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from July 15-July 31, to give late night workers and people attending events and dining in San Francisco additional options until the August 2 schedule change. The interim limited service is a plan BART can accomplish as it readies staff for the much more robust schedule change beginning August 2. 

August 2 systemwide schedule change

Starting August 2, 2021, BART will expand service hours and significantly increase service:

  • Weekday service will be 5am-12am (currently 5am-9pm) with 15-min frequencies on all lines from 5am-8pm and 30-minute frequencies from 8pm-midnight.
  • Saturday service will be 6am-12am (currently 8am-9pm) with 5-line service offering more options for Saturday riders, and for the first time, offering four trains per hour one most lines.
  • Sunday service will remain 8am-9pm with 3-line service and 30-minute frequencies to accommodate BART’s critical cable replacement project and other infrastructure rebuilding work.

BART was able to advance the major schedule change by working collaboratively with labor partners to accelerate the hiring, training, and shift sign-up process.

Late-night limited trains on Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays

Beginning July 15, 2021, BART will run four trains leaving either Embarcadero or Civic Center at 11:30pm serving limited stops after regular BART service ends on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. These trains are in addition to the special service for A’s night games and the limited service provided for Giant’s night games.

The late-night limited service picks up passengers and departs at Embarcadero and Civic Center with limited service to the following stations: 16th Street Mission, and Daly City in San Francisco and West Oakland, MacArthur, Pleasant Hill, El Cerrito del Norte, and Bay Fair stations in the East Bay. 

Four trains will leave Embarcadero or Civic Center at 11:30pm. 

  • One train will take riders from Embarcadero and will stop at Civic Center, 16th Street Mission and Daly City stations only. No other stops will be made along the line. This train will be labelled: Civic ctr-16th St-Daly City ONLY
  • A second train will stop at Civic Center and Embarcadero and will take riders to West Oakland, MacArthur, and Pleasant Hill only. No other stops will be made along the line. This train will be labelled: West Oak-MacArthur-Pleasant Hill ONLY
  • A third train will stop at Civic Center and Embarcadero and will take riders to West Oakland and Bay Fair only. No other stops will be made along the line. This train will be labelled: West Oakland-Bay Fair ONLY
  • A fourth train will stop at Civic Center and Embarcadero and will take riders to West Oakland, MacArthur, and El Cerrito del Norte only. No other stops will be made along the line. This train will be labelled: W Oak-MacArthur-El Cerrito del Norte ONLY
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Best of the Delta

The Delta is a GREAT PLACE filled with people, homes, and businesses and is awash with history, cultural richness, and diversity. It is also a fantastic destination filled with great food, wine, recreation opportunities, and more! Vote now to showcase your favorite places in the Delta!

Voting closes at 5:00 PM on Saturday, July 31, 2021

Click Here to Vote

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July is UV Safety Awareness Month

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Rainfall Totals in Oakley July 2020 – June 2021

From the unofficial Romick rain gauge

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

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Hummingbirds and Spiders – A Unique Bond

Earlier this year I was in the backyard finishing the spring cleanup. The backyard was active, birds flying between the feeders and baths, lizards sunny themselves on the fence and hummingbirds drawing nectar from the red salvias that start early and last through the summer. Towards the evening I watched the hummingbirds behaving in a peculiar manner. They were hovering at the fence and appeared to be pulling at old spider webs that littered the fence line just under the top board.

I grabbed my phone and did a quick search to confirm what I thought. She is building a nest. From the World of Hummingbirds.com: “Female hummingbirds will need nesting material to make her nest. She likes to use nice soft material like moss and lichen. She also likes to use cotton fluffs, bits of willows, soft plant pieces, dryer lint, and leaf hairs. She will bring these items back to her nest a little at a time, gluing it all together with spider webs. The spider webs make terrific glue for the nest, allowing the nest to stretch and be flexible as the baby hummingbirds grow. The spider webs also make it easier for the mother hummingbird to repair the nest when damaged or when kids do what kids do. While building the nest, the female hummingbird will try to camouflage it as much as possible by using small sticks, seeds, and plant pieces to shade the outside of the nest. She will make sure the lighter parts of the nest are in the sun, while the darker parts of the nest are in the shade, blending it in with the surroundings.”

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Robocalls are out of control. But that could change after June 30

Marguerite Reardon June 27, 2021 8:08 a.m. PT

A big deadline in the fight to beat back those annoying robocalls is coming June 30. As of that date, every major voice provider in the US, including phone companies AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile and cable provider Comcast, will have to implement a technology called Stir/Shaken.

That’s good news for everyone whose phone has been jangling with bogus phone calls involving health-related scams, expiring car warranties and fake banks offering nonexistent interest-rate discounts for credit cards. For years, the scourge of illegal robocalls has plagued the public. It’s the No. 1 consumer complaint and a top priority at the Federal Communications Commission.

US consumers have received just under 22 billion robocalls in the first five months of the year, on pace to hit over 52 billion robocalls for the year, according to YouMail, a company specializing in blocking robocalls.   

Robocalls use automated dialers and recorded messages. To be fair, not all robocalls are bad or annoying. Some businesses and public entities use robocalls to communicate important information. For example, your pharmacy may use an automated recording to tell you your prescription is ready to be picked up, or your kids’ school may be alerting you to a snow day. These are legitimate robocalls, and they require that consumers sign up to receive them. 

Then there are the illegal robocallers. Because robocalls are cheap to make, they’ve been exploited by scammers all over the world, who use them to defraud billions of dollars from Americans every year. The problem has gotten so bad that many of us don’t answer the phone when it rings, especially if it’s an unfamiliar number on the caller ID. All too often, scammers disguise their phone numbers to trick people into answering. 

An end to these annoying and costly calls could be on the horizon thanks to the implementation of Stir/Shaken, which will require voice providers to verify where calls are coming from. That’s where the FCC’s June 30 deadline comes in. To help you get a handle on that and other efforts to stamp out robocalls, CNET has put together this FAQ. 

What’s Stir/Shaken?

“Stir” stands for “secure telephone identity revisited,” and “Shaken” for “signature-based handling of asserted information using tokens.” Stir is the technical protocol, and Shaken is the framework by which calls can be tracked in the new robocall mitigation database. 

The way it works is that Stir/Shaken technology ensures that calls traveling through phone networks have their caller ID “signed” as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before the calls reach you. In short, the technology authenticates a phone call’s origin and makes certain the information on the Caller ID matches.

Read More > at c|net https://www.cnet.com/news/robocalls-are-out-of-control-that-could-change-after-june-30/

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Do Bug Zappers work on Mosquitos?

District technician Heidi Budge says she’s noticed an increase in the number of bug zappers she’s seen in Contra Costa County since last year. Subsequently, she’s been spending a lot of time explaining to county residents that bug zappers really aren’t the best way to prevent mosquitoes and could actually attract more insects to the property because of the bright light.

Night-flying insects of all sorts, including mosquitoes, are drawn to the light. And with mosquitoes that can fly up to 20 miles in Contra Costa County, one bug zapper can attract mosquitoes from miles around. According to the District’s Scientific Program Manager Steve Schutz, Ph.D., once mosquitoes are in your yard, they may be more attracted to you, than the zapper.

“If you really want to use a bug zapper, be sure to keep it in the far corner of your yard and away from doors and windows. That way any mosquitoes or other insects attracted to the light (which are more often beetles and moths than mosquitoes) are farther away from you and your house. When it comes to preventing mosquitoes, it’s more effective to dump out any standing water on your property to deny mosquitoes a place to lay their eggs.” said Schutz, Ph.D.

If, after dumping out any amount of water in outdoor buckets, plant saucers, discarded tires, and any other container you can identify, you still experience mosquitoes on your Contra Costa County property, contact the District to request Mosquito Service. That’s a much better way to reduce the risk of the mosquitoes you already have instead of inviting more mosquitoes and other insects to your yard to visit that bright light.

Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District, an independent special district and public health agency, is located at 155 Mason Circle in Concord. Contact the District to report mosquito and vector problems online or at (925) 685-9301.

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