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Posted by Emily DeRuy

BERKELEY — As politicians in Washington and elsewhere throw allegations of ‘fake news’ at reports that don’t fit their preferred narratives, a team of about 100 university students from around the world are wrapping up their first year of a program that helps strike back at those claims.

UC Berkeley launched the first university-based open source investigations lab last year to document and verify reports of human rights violations for international advocacy organizations and courts.

The goal? To teach students from across the campus — computer scientists and lawyers, anthropologists and sociologists — to use social media and other tools to corroborate or disprove reports of abuses at refugee detention centers, dubious arms sales, and brutal murders around the world.

What started out as a small-scale project last year has grown to include students from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, the University of Pretoria in South Africa, the University of Toronto in Canada and, soon, Cambridge University. This week, they are meeting at UC Berkeley to share what they’ve learned.

Working with advocacy groups like Amnesty International, the students use social media and other tools to answer questions many people don’t think about before they hit share on a powerful photo. Was it really taken at a particular protest in a particular place? Is it really depicting what this person says it’s depicting?

The students are essentially detectives, using geolocation techniques and reverse image searches to piece together bullet-proof information that will stand up in court or online. In the process, they learn, as Tokollo Makgalemele, a law student from Pretoria, said, “You always need to know what you’re being fed.” At the same time, Amnesty International, international courts and other groups can build stronger cases and attempt to navigate what has turned into a firehose of information — some of it real, some of it fake.

“There’s more and more information coming out,” said Christoph Koettl, an Amnesty International worker who has helped train the students in how to verify information. “They grew up with a laptop,” he said. “The students are super easy to train.”

Berkeley has been working with international courts for decades. But the timing of this particular project is no coincidence. In the last decade or so, there’s been a proliferation of smartphones, said Alexa Koenig, executive director of Berkeley’s Human Rights Center and co-manager of the school’s investigations lab. That lets everyone be a human rights investigator but it also creates space for lots of misinformation and a need for what has come to be known as digital verification.

Koenig had been frustrated by what she saw as a disconnect between human rights and technology. At the same time, Amnesty International had been stepping up its use of tools like YouTube and Facebook and mulling over the idea of training students to help with the work. Partnering, Koenig said, was “perfect symbiosis.”

In the last school year, the students have helped verify information in Egypt, Syria and other countries where access to hard facts can be a challenge. They’ve helped force officials in places like Papua New Guinea to change their accounts. And they’ve raised new questions in places like Mexico.

“It felt very cool being able to use the tools we were given,” said Adebayo Okeowo, a law student from Pretoria.

“A lot of it has to do with getting yourself out of your head,” added Haley Willis, a Berkeley student. It’s about learning to shed biases but not ignoring information that could provide vital context, she said.

There’s interest in scaling the project — bringing in more students who speak different languages and come from different backgrounds that could prove useful. The trick will be to do it effectively. “The key to scaling is going to be some sort of train-the-teacher method,” Koenig said.

Finding ways to effectively hand off the work, which, as the students have learned, takes long, sometimes tedious, stretches of time, will be crucial since participants will come and go, graduating and moving on to other things. There are also time zone differences and security concerns to contend with. It might be faster to share a Google document, but in some cases, students are opting for burner computers and old school flash drives instead. And sometimes there’s the sheer emotional toll of combing through graphic, disturbing footage over and over again looking for clues.

But as those in power try to wield an ever-growing world of social media to their advantage and evade accountability, the work feels more crucial than ever. Nickie Lewis, a Berkeley student, felt compelled to participate, in part, because she lost a friend in a Paris terror attack, and she’s all too aware how events that might seem distant can hit close to home. “These things aren’t far away from us,” she said.

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Posted by Megan Geuss

Enlarge / US Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry addresses employees for the first time at the Department of Energy’s headquarters in Washington, DC, March 3, 2017. Image courtesy Ken Shipp/US Department of Energy. (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Energy Secretary Rick Perry spoke briefly this afternoon to a group of reporters to address topics in energy. The Trump administration has deemed this week “Energy Week” and tasked its appointees, including Perry, to pitch what an “energy-dominant America” looks like to the American people.

Perry painted a vision of America’s energy future in broad strokes this afternoon and said that the US would become a net exporter of energy through natural gas and oil exports. The Energy Information Administration has said that the US could become a net energy exporter by 2026. Perry, who has been dismissive of climate change in the past and has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, also called on the US to “reaffirm our commitment to clean energy,” while at the same time embracing fossil fuels.

"That binary choice between pro-economy and pro-environment that has perpetuated—or, I should say, been perpetuated by the Obama administration—has set up a false argument," Perry said. "The fact is, we can do good for both—and we will." Under the Obama administration, solar, wind, and natural gas jobs grew, although coal jobs did fall.

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Posted by Emily DeRuy

BERKELEY — The incoming chancellor of UC Berkeley has unveiled her plan to reduce the school’s budget deficit from $110 million to $57 million this year — and it involves some deep cuts.

In a message sent Tuesday to the university community, Carol Christ wrote that “the process to develop not only a balanced budget but also a sustainable financial model for the campus is a challenging one that requires hard choices.”

Christ takes the helm at Cal from Nicholas Dirks, who has faced widespread criticism for his handling of the university’s finances, while the UC system as a whole is under fire from lawmakers upset over a recent audit that showed the central office failed to disclose $175 million in reserves.

Tuition is also set to rise for the first time in six years.

While reducing a budget deficit at a major university is a challenge in any year, the audit prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to withhold $50 million in UC funding until the system shows it has made improvements. It’s unclear how that decision will impact Berkeley.

The school will meet a little more than half of its target goal to reduce the deficit with increased revenues, including private gifts, but there are cuts ahead that the school acknowledges could increase how long students have to wait to access services on campus.

“Non-academic units are meeting their targets primarily through staff and service level reductions,” Christ wrote.

Some of that may happen through attrition, but if departments don’t meet certain targets, layoffs may follow.

The school’s staff workforce has already shrunk by approximately 450 full-time equivalent in the last fiscal year and salary growth has slowed. In her note, Christ said campus leaders would forego salary increases in the coming year.

“As I have said often, this is our problem to solve, and we are solving it,” Christ wrote. “In the process, we will become an even stronger university that will serve as a model for other public universities facing similar challenges.”

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Posted by Milpitas Post Staff

Dartanyan Benjamin Mendola, a 35-year-old Sunnyvale resident, was arrested earlier this month in connection to a strong-arm robbery at a local hotel, Milpitas police say.

On June 11 at 7:32 a.m., police received a call of a strong-arm robbery that just occurred at the Larkspur Landing Milpitas at 40 Ranch Drive.

A man, later identified as Mendola, approached an employee, a 41-year-old San Jose man, at the hotel and claimed to have lost his car keys, police said. As the employee tried to help Mendola find his keys, the employee was holding a set of keys to a vehicle that belonged to the hotel. Mendola then tried to grab the keys from the employee and a struggle ensued, police said.

But the employee was able to keep the keys, as Mendola fled to the parking lot where he approached a woman, a 50-year-old San Jose resident, who had arrived in her car to visit an employee.

The suspect grabbed her keys from her hand, but he dropped the keys and fled when she screamed, police said.

The employee called 911 and provided a description of Mendola. Officers found Mendola on State Route 237, near McCarthy Boulevard, and arrested him. He displayed symptoms of being under the influence of a controlled substance and was determined to be on active parole, police said.

The suspect was booked into Santa Clara County Main Jail for robbery, attempted robbery, being under the influence of a controlled substance and a parole hold, police said.

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Posted by The Associated Press

By JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Force was with George Lucas on Tuesday as the Los Angeles City Council moved with lightsaber speed to clear the way for a $1.5 billion Museum of Narrative Art the “Star Wars” creator plans to build down the road from his alma mater.

This undated artist rendering provided by the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art shows the exterior of the museum lobby in the complex that will be built at Exposition Park near the Los Angeles Coliseum, following the Los Angeles City Council voting unanimously to allow the project to proceed, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. The vote was 14-0 to approve various requirements, including an environmental study, allowing for the $1.5 billion museum's construction to begin. (Courtesy of George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art via AP)
This undated artist rendering provided by the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art shows the exterior of the museum lobby in the complex that will be built at Exposition Park near the Los Angeles Coliseum, following the Los Angeles City Council voting unanimously to allow the project to proceed, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. The vote was 14-0 to approve various requirements, including an environmental study, allowing for the $1.5 billion museum’s construction to begin. (Courtesy of George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art via AP)

After hearing from Lucas himself, the council voted 14-0 to approve an environmental impact report and other requirements for the museum’s construction adjacent to the University of Southern California.

“For a very brief time I actually grew up here,” said Lucas, who earned a degree in film from USC. “That’s where I learned movies. That’s where I learned my craft. Basically where I started my career was in school here.”

Lucas said his museum won’t just focus on movies, however, but on the entire history of narrative storytelling, from the days of cave painting to digital film.

“I realized that the whole concept of narrative art has been forgotten,” he told the council.

With Tuesday’s approval, plans are to break ground in Exposition Park, south of downtown, as early as this year and open the museum to the public in 2021. The city says the project will cost taxpayers nothing because Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, are footing the bill.

“It is the largest private gift in our city, in our state or in our nation’s history,” said Councilman Curren D. Price Jr., whose district takes in the park.

It will feature all forms of narrative storytelling, said the museum’s president, Don Bacigalupi. He said its exhibits will include story boards, costumes, props and various other elements that went into making “Casablanca,” ”The Wizard of “Oz” and other classic films.

And, yes, there will be plenty of cool “Star Wars” stuff there too.

“Everything from Luke Skywalker’s first lightsaber to Darth Vader’s costume and helmet,” said Bacigalupi.

The Lucas-Steven Spielberg “Indiana Jones” films also will be represented.

Numerous interactive programs for children, film students, academics and others will be offered.

Lucas said he hopes the museum will serve as inspiration to people of all ages, but especially to children, encouraging them to create a better world.

Popular art, he said, is the glue that holds people together, that teaches them that while we may have differences we have similar aspirations.

In addition to USC, the Museum of Narrative Art will be within close proximity to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center and the California African American Museum.

This undated artist rendering provided by the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art shows the exterior of the complex that will be built at Exposition Park near the Los Angeles Coliseum, following the Los Angeles City Council voting unanimously to allow the project to proceed, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. The vote was 14-0 to approve various requirements, including an environmental study, allowing for the $1.5 billion museum's construction to begin. (Courtesy of George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art via AP)
This undated artist rendering provided by the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art shows the exterior of the complex that will be built at Exposition Park near the Los Angeles Coliseum, following the Los Angeles City Council voting unanimously to allow the project to proceed, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. The vote was 14-0 to approve various requirements, including an environmental study, allowing for the $1.5 billion museum’s construction to begin. (Courtesy of George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art via AP)

Although Lucas’ affection for USC is clear — he and his foundation have given the school tens of millions of dollars over the years — it was once assumed he’d put his museum in his hometown of San Francisco. Or if not there, then his wife’s hometown of Chicago.

But when it came time to clear away all the bureaucratic hurdles, just like the upstart Rebel Alliance in “Star Wars,” it was Los Angeles that prevailed.

“I wanted to put it in my hometown. They said no. Mellody wanted to put it in her hometown. They said no. We were both basically heartbroken,” Lucas said.

“And then we said, ‘All right, let’s clear the boards and find a place that really wants it.'”

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Posted by Rex Crum

Top of the Order:  

The Apple Of One’s Eye: With augmented reality (AR) seeming to be one of the technologies of the future, if not now, it might be surprising to know that Apple hasn’t come out with some kind of AR gadget as its next big thing, yet.

Well, Apple might be stepping closer to putting some kind of AR glasses, or goggles, on the shelves next to its iPhones and iPads.

It looks like Apple has acquired a German eye-tracking technology company called SensoMotoric Instruments. I say “looks like” because Apple hasn’t confirmed it has bought the company. Also, the acquisition was reported by the MacRumors site, which based its conclusions on new documents of incorporation filed by SensoMotoric that included Apple vice president of corporate law Gene Levoff giving a German law firm the power of attorney to represent a Delaware-based shell company called Vineyard Capital “in all business related to the acquisition of SensoMotoric Instruments.”

Got all that? Come on! It can’t be any harder than understanding how the NFL salary cap works.

The point is that the involvement of one of Apple’s top lawyers is probably a giveaway that Apple, via Vineyard, has bought SensoMotoric. So, just what does SensoMotoric do, besides have a name that is pretty fun to try to say three-times fast?

SensoMotoric makes eye-tracking hardware and software, and its products are used in everything from clinical research to in-car systems to … augmented reality. In fact, SensoMotoric’s technology has been used in headsets such as the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.

We won’t know for sure what Apple has planned for SensoMotoric until it wants to tell us. But, Chief Executive Tim Cook has on many occasions said he is very interested in AR technology, so if the company boss wants some Apple iGlasses developed, you can bet that some Apple engineers are buried deep in a lab in Cupertino working on it. And they may just have some new, German assistance to help them along the way.

Middle Innings:

So Long, Tim: Well, the rumors that reached a crescendo on Monday became reality Tuesday, as Pandora Media said Chief Executive Tim Westergren was leaving the internet radio company.

Westergren, one of Pandora’s co-founders, was in his second stint as CEO when he said he would step down. His departure comes after a year of upheaval and speculation that the Oakland-based music-streaming company might sell itself. While Pandora remains independent, the company did sell a 19-percent stake to satellite-radio company Sirius XM, in early June, for $480 million. That deal also allows Sirius to name three new members to Pandora’s board and pick the company’s next board chairman.

A $2.7 Billion Slap: The European Union took Google out behind the proverbial woodshed Tuesday, when it levied a $2.7 billion fine on the company for giving an unfair advantage to its own comparison-shopping service over those of rival companies. While $2.7 billion is a lot of dough, don’t cry too many tears over Google. Its parent company, Alphabet, has assets worth almost $170 billion, and a market capitalization approaching $600 billion. It will be OK.

Bottom of the Lineup:

Is Anybody Home?: If they are millennials, maybe not. At least when it comes to that group of people trying to buy a home in Silicon Valley. A new report by the Abodo apartment-search website says that the rate of home ownership among millennials in San Jose is dropping at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country. Abodo said that among U.S. metropolitan areas, San Jose now ranks 131st in terms of home ownership by millennials.

Quote of the Day: “Applicability is dependent upon consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers as well as due consideration of local demand.” — Samsung, in a press release saying it will begin selling refurbished Galaxy Note 7 smartphones under the moniker of the Samsung FE, for “Fan Edition.” You may remember the Galaxy Note 7 as the phone that Samsung pulled from the market late last year, following several reports of the phones’ batteries exploding and catching fire. Samsung ended up taking a $5 billion charge related to the Galaxy Note 7 recall.

Sign up for the 60-Second Business Break newsletter at www.siliconvalley.com.

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Posted by Don Beyer

Democracy is in crisis. Even as the country is deeply divided along class and ideological lines, it seems to be unified in its frustration with our current brand of politics.

Polls show that less than 20 percent of the country approves of the way Congress is doing its job. The time has come to consider a transformative idea that reflects the American electorate’s desire for moderation and fairness and that encourages the reemergence of bridge builders and candidates with an eye for compromise. That idea involves changing the way we elect members of the House of Representatives.

This week I introduced the Fair Representation Act, which would make two fundamental changes in how voters elect their representative in the U.S. House. First, it would allow voters to rank the candidates in order of preference rather than simply voting for their top choice. Some version of this system is already used in many municipalities and six states have adopted some kind of ranked-choice voting for congressional elections. If your first-choice candidate does not win, your second or third choice may. This spurs candidates to work to appeal to a broader swath of voters, which would calm polarization in many parts of the country.

Second, the Fair Representation Act would change congressional districts into “multi-member districts,” as used in many states for their legislative elections. Think of it as a hybrid between what we have today and Senate seats, in which two people jointly represent a larger area. States with five or fewer House members would elect all their representatives at large. Any state with six or more members would elect representatives in multi-member districts.

Let’s take Massachusetts. It is home to nine congressional seats, all held by Democrats. Although 24 percent of Massachusetts voters with party registrations are registered Republicans, no Republican has held a seat in the House of Representatives — in 20 years. This means that the Republican quartile of the electorate rightly feels left out and disillusioned, and Democratic candidates largely run and govern from the left, knowing it is the source of their only true opposition.

Now divide Massachusetts into equal thirds, apply ranked-choice voting and elect three candidates in each district. A few things would happen. For one, no district is a gerrymandered, partisan swath of the state. Rather, each district represents a larger and therefore more diverse array of voters. This is likely both to attract more candidates and to entice those candidates to speak to the middle of the spectrum. In turn, more citizens would feel that someone speaks to their issue or viewpoint, which encourages voter participation.

Applied nationally, we would have more moderate Democrats from districts leaning Republican and vice versa, creating a type of politician — now nearly extinct — known as a “bridge builder.” Many members would share constituents with members of the other major party, creating new incentives to work together on legislation affecting the district.

Results from local elections that use ranked-choice voting also show that more women would run and win and that minority voting rights would be strengthened by this change — all the more important today given that women make up less than 20 percent of Congress and that racial minorities are caught in legal fights over gerrymandering.

Some might ask whether it is Congress’ job to tell states how to hold their elections. Under the Constitution, Congress is in fact expected to act when the system is broken. In 1842, it mandated a system of single-member districts when some states started to use at-large elections as a partisan tool. Now we see the breakdown of that district system and it’s time for a new standard.

In 1993, 113 members of the House came from “crossover” districts, where voters favored the opposite party. After the 2014 midterm election there were just 26, according to analysis by FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that supports the Fair Representation Act. In the near future, we could again have dozens, leading to revitalization of our democracy.

But we almost certainly will not unless we change the system.

Don Beyer, a Democrat, represents Virginia’s 8th District in the House.

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Posted by Hamza Shaban

In this Monday, May 15, 2017, file photo, employees watch electronic boards to monitor possible ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul, South Korea. (Yun Dong-jin/Yonhap via AP, File)

Merck, a US-based pharmaceutical giant, was among dozens of businesses affected by a sprawling cyberattack Tuesday, with victims across the globe facing demands to hand over a ransom or have their computer networks remain locked and inaccessible.

The widespread intrusion that hit the New Jersey-based drug company was similar to the massive ransomware attack  last month, which deployed a virus dubbed WannaCry. Merck also has a European presence, with an office in Ukraine, where many of the ransomware attacks were concentrated.

The extent of the Merck hack is not yet known.

Merck employees arrived at their offices Tuesday morning only to find a ransomware note on their computers. The company confirmed via Twitter soon after that "its network was part of a global hack."

Employees were told to get off their computers and go home, said one scientist who works at a Merck lab in New England. “Some people looked like they had their hardware wiped—it just shut down the whole network site,” said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak on the record.

All U.S. offices of Merck were affected, she said. “Without computers these days you can’t do anything,” the employee said. As a scientist, her instruments are connected to a computer, her data is stored on central servers, and the safety data sheets are all online. “There’s not much you can do without access,” she said. “It’s one thing to have our laptop be corrupted. We’re really hoping that all the data [in the central servers] is protected. But we don’t know that.”

She said employees at her office were informed over a public address system, and people spread the word to colleagues by cell phone. Employees were told to call a number used for snow emergencies to see whether they should report to work Wednesday. Beyond the inconvenience of not being able to work, the employee said she fears critical information tied to Merck drug research could be lost.

Merck didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday's attack utilized a virus similar to one known as Petrwrap or Petya security researchers said, and exploits a vulnerability discovered years ago by the National Security Agency.

“The emergence of Petya and WannaCry really points out the need for a response plan and a policy on what companies are going to do about ransomware,” said Mark Graff, the chief executive of Telegraff, a cybersecurity company. “You won’t want to make that decision at a time of panic, in a cloud of emotion,” he said.

For companies that choose to pay the ransom, Graff said there is no guarantee that the people behind the attacks will make good on their word. “Even if you are paying the ransom you are dealing with crooks,” he said. “Plus the ethical quandary: every time somebody pays, it gives the criminals more reason to go off and hurt more people.”

DLA Piper, a multinational law firm with an office in Washington, D.C. was also hit by the ransomware, according to a statement on their website.

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Posted by Rex Crum

Top of the Order:  

The Apple Of One’s Eye: With augmented reality (AR) seeming to be one of the technologies of the future, if not now, it might be surprising to know that Apple hasn’t come out with some kind of AR gadget as its next big thing, yet.

Well, Apple might be stepping closer to putting some kind of AR glasses, or goggles, on the shelves next to its iPhones and iPads.

It looks like Apple has acquired a German eye-tracking technology company called SensoMotoric Instruments. I say “looks like” because Apple hasn’t confirmed it has bought the company. Also, the acquisition was reported by the MacRumors site, which based its conclusions on new documents of incorporation filed by SensoMotoric that included Apple vice president of corporate law Gene Levoff giving a German law firm the power of attorney to represent a Delaware-based shell company called Vineyard Capital “in all business related to the acquisition of SensoMotoric Instruments.”

Got all that? Come on! It can’t be any harder than understanding how the NFL salary cap works.

The point is that the involvement of one of Apple’s top lawyers is probably a giveaway that Apple, via Vineyard, has bought SensoMotoric. So, just what does SensoMotoric do, besides have a name that is pretty fun to try to say three-times fast?

SensoMotoric makes eye-tracking hardware and software, and its products are used in everything from clinical research to in-car systems to … augmented reality. In fact, SensoMotoric’s technology has been used in headsets such as the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift.

We won’t know for sure what Apple has planned for SensoMotoric until it wants to tell us. But, Chief Executive Tim Cook has on many occasions said he is very interested in AR technology, so if the company boss wants some Apple iGlasses developed, you can bet that some Apple engineers are buried deep in a lab in Cupertino working on it. And they may just have some new, German assistance to help them along the way.

Middle Innings:

So Long, Tim: Well, the rumors that reached a crescendo on Monday became reality Tuesday, as Pandora Media said Chief Executive Tim Westergren was leaving the internet radio company.

Westergren, one of Pandora’s co-founders, was in his second stint as CEO when he said he would step down. His departure comes after a year of upheaval and speculation that the Oakland-based music-streaming company might sell itself. While Pandora remains independent, the company did sell a 19-percent stake to satellite-radio company Sirius XM, in early June, for $480 million. That deal also allows Sirius to name three new members to Pandora’s board and pick the company’s next board chairman.

A $2.7 Billion Slap: The European Union took Google out behind the proverbial woodshed Tuesday, when it levied a $2.7 billion fine on the company for giving an unfair advantage to its own comparison-shopping service over those of rival companies. While $2.7 billion is a lot of dough, don’t cry too many tears over Google. Its parent company, Alphabet, has assets worth almost $170 billion, and a market capitalization approaching $600 billion. It will be OK.

Bottom of the Lineup:

Is Anybody Home?: If they are millennials, maybe not. At least when it comes to that group of people trying to buy a home in Silicon Valley. A new report by the Abodo apartment-search website says that the rate of home ownership among millennials in San Jose is dropping at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country. Abodo said that among U.S. metropolitan areas, San Jose now ranks 131st in terms of home ownership by millennials.

Quote of the Day: “Applicability is dependent upon consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers as well as due consideration of local demand.” — Samsung, in a press release saying it will begin selling refurbished Galaxy Note 7 smartphones under the moniker of the Samsung FE, for “Fan Edition.” You may remember the Galaxy Note 7 as the phone that Samsung pulled from the market late last year, following several reports of the phones’ batteries exploding and catching fire. Samsung ended up taking a $5 billion charge related to the Galaxy Note 7 recall.

Sign up for the 60-Second Business Break newsletter at www.siliconvalley.com.

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Posted by Victoria Kezra

The Sunnyvale City Council doubled down on fighting climate change with a special order from Mayor Glenn Hendricks reaffirming the city’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement as well as approving the formation of a community group tasked with shaping a new “climate action plan.”

During a June 20 public hearing, the council approved a city declaration stating that although President Donald Trump pledged to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, the city would continue to strive toward reducing greenhouse gases. Hendricks noted that 285 mayors from across the country have reaffirmed their respective city’s commitments to combating climate change by issuing similar proclamations.

“Local leadership is critical at this time to prevent the most critical and costly effects of climate change,” said Hendricks.

In the same vein, the council voted unanimously to form a community advisory committee to contribute ideas and help create solutions for local climate action. The city adopted its Climate Action Plan—called the CAP—in 2014 and outlined a number of goals and greenhouse gas emission reduction measures.

However, the city is looking to beef up its plan to meet state greenhouse gas reductions targets that went into effect after the 2014 plan was adopted. There are new state targets of a 40 percent reduction by 2030 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

According to a staff presentation, the community advisory group will be made up of 11 people, two members of the sustainability commission, one member of the planning commission, one member of the bicycle and pedestrian advisory commission, one representative from a large business, one representative from a small business, one real estate developer, two residents and two representatives from volunteer groups.

Selected members will participate in up to eight public meetings over 18 months to provide input on focus areas for the new plan. Those interested in being a part of the group will have to apply.

Members will be chosen by a panel of three council members selected by Hendricks. All six council members expressed interest in being on the panel.

“I do think this is an important thing for us to do as a council and to express the city’s views,” Hendricks said. “When you go out and talk to the residents, the environment is a big topic I hear about.”

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Posted by Rex Crum

Well, if you were hoping for good things from the stock market Tuesday, you didn’t have much to smile about by the time trading ended.

Nearly every major Bay Area company finished with at least one, and in many cases, two black eyes as sellers claimed the high ground early and led the market to a disappointing finish.

Sometimes, you just have those kinds of days where everybody is selling. Maybe investors wanted to pocket a few bucks ahead of the upcoming weekend and next Tuesday’s Independence Day holiday? Or, maybe they took to heart what San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said, when he told an Australian news station, “The stock market seems to be running pretty much on fumes.”

So, how bad was it?

Advanced Micro Devices fell almost 5 percent, to $13.40; Nvidia shares gave up 3.7 percent to end the day at $146.58; Netflix fell more than 4 percent to finish at $151.03; and Tesla also pulled back by 4 percent to close at $362.37.

Want more? Well, Apple, HP, Twitter, Alphabet and Facebook also ended the day in the red.

One of the few gainers of any sort was Pandora Media, and its shares rose only 3 cents, to close at $8.49. Before trading began, Pandora said Chief Executive Tim Westergren was stepping down from his job.

But the nation’s leading stock market gauges all finished on the canvas.

The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite Index fell 1.6 percent to 6,146.62, the blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 0.5 percent to end the day at 21,310.66, and the broad-based Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.8 percent to 2,419.38.

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Posted by Linda Zavoral

Chromatic Coffee, part of the Bay Area’s third wave of indie roasters, has opened its long-awaited second coffeehouse in Silicon Valley.

After five years of pulling shots and making pour-overs at the flagship Santa Clara location, the baristas have now expanded to 17 N. Second St., a historic 1928 building in downtown San Jose.

However, the Chromatic folks are no strangers to downtown, owner Wendy Warren says. Her compatriots in caffeine, brother James Warren and colleague Hiver Van Geenhoven, have been roasting beans for a few years at this location (though will be moving to larger digs).

At Warren’s coffeehouses, female-run enterprises find strong footing. Teas come from Victoria Boyert’s Satori of Saratoga, and they are freshly brewed by the cup. Nut brittles are made by candy specialist Hway-ling Hsu at her Sweetdragon Baking Co. in San Jose. And Manresa Bread, where Avery Ruzicka is head baker, supplies the pastries and bread.

A cup of Chromatic's Holy Mountain, a vanilla madeleine -- and the laptop. (Paul Baca/Bay Area News Group)
A cup of Chromatic’s Holy Mountain, a vanilla madeleine — and the laptop. (Paul Baca/Bay Area News Group) 

Seasonal coffees such as Holy Mountain are big sellers, says Otessa Crandell, manager/retail director, and Keynote and Gamut are perennial favorites. Coming this summer will be Day Trip, a rich, dark roast from Brazilian beans from the Minas Gerais region.

Crandell, who has been with Chromatic from its founding, and floor manager Sherrise Gutierrez will manage both locations. Overseeing the eats side of the operation is food manager Nasarae Johnson, who has already stocked the fridge with Chromatic’s breakfast parfait, made in-house with Straus yogurt, Sweetdragon fruit compote and Manresa granola; vegan chia pudding; chicken Caesars; and, in partnership with nearby Zanotto’s markets, a selection of grab-and-go deli salads.

Hours, offerings are evolving at this location. Check www.chromaticcoffee.com or the Facebook page for the latest.

 

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Posted by George Avalos

MENLO PARK — Facebook has passed the 2 billion users milestone, doubling the number of users in just five years, the company’s top executive said Tuesday.

The social media giant reached the 1 billion mark for monthly active users in October 2012, a few months after it went public.

“As of this morning, the Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people!” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer and co-founder, stated Tuesday in a Facebook post.

Menlo Park-based Facebook had reached 1.94 billion monthly active users by the end of March, the company reported in its quarterly financial results, so the increase to 2 billion was highly anticipated.

“It’s an impressive and unprecedented milestone, but also predictable,” said Ben Bajarin, a principal analyst with Campbell-based Creative Strategies, a market researcher that tracks the technology sector. “We saw it coming because they are growing so rapidly.”

On Tuesday, Facebook’s shares fell 2 percent and closed at $150.58, as the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 1.6 percent.

However, so far in 2017, the social network’s stock is up 30.9 percent. Facebook’s performance this year has far outstripped the S&P 500 Index, up 8.1 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index, up 14.2 percent.

“We’re making progress connecting the world,” Zuckerberg stated in the blog post. “Now let’s bring the world closer together.”

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Posted by Timothy Dahl

Evaporative coolers are extremely effective in hot dry climates.

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TV Radio Listings for June 28

Jun. 27th, 2017 10:24 pm
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Posted by Nick Roth

On the air highlights

Wednesday TV Radio

Baseball
Phillies at Mariners 12:30 p.m. MLB
Rockies at Giants 12:30 p.m. NBCBA 680
Cubs at Nationals 4 p.m. MLB
A’s at Astros 5 p.m. NBCCA 95.7

College baseball
Finals: Game 3 (if nec.) 5 p.m. ESPN

Golf
Euro Tour: Open de France (Thurs.) 1:30 a.m. GOLF
Euro Tour: Open de France (Thurs.) 5 a.m. GOLF

Soccer
Confederations Cup: semifinal 11 a.m. FS1
U.S. Open Cup: Cincinnati vs. Chicago 5 p.m. ESPN2

Tennis
AEGON International Eastbourne 7 a.m. beIN
AEGON International Eastbourne (Wed.) 3 a.m. beIN

Thursday TV Radio

Baseball
A’s at Astros 11 a.m. MLB 95.7
Cardinals at Diamondbacks (JIP) 2 p.m. MLB
Twins at Red Sox 4 p.m. ESPN
Dodgers at Angels 7 p.m. MLB

Golf
LPGA Tour: KPMG Championship 9:30 a.m. GOLF
Champions Tour: U.S. Open Champ. 11 a.m. GOLF
PGA Tour: Quicken Loans National 12:30 p.m. FS1
Euro Tour: Open de France (Fri.) 1:30 a.m. GOLF

Motor sports
NASCAR Xfinity: practice 11 a.m. NBCSN
NASCAR Cup Series: practice noon NBCSN

Soccer
Confederations Cup: semifinal 11 a.m. FS2

Swimming
U.S. National Championships 3 p.m. UHD

Tennis
AEGON International Eastbourne 9 a.m. beIN
AEGON International Eastbourne (Wed.) 3 a.m. beIN

WNBA
Seattle at Connecticut 5 p.m. ESPN2

Wrestling
World Armwrestling Championships 7 p.m. ESPN

[syndicated profile] sjmerc_local_feed

Posted by Jay Jones, Los Angeles Times

RENO, Nev. — Sin City will launch its latest legal vice by week’s end.

Lines are expected Saturday outside some medical marijuana dispensaries in Las Vegas and other Nevada cities that will begin selling pot for recreational use for the first time since voters approved it in November.

It’s the fastest turnaround from the ballot box to retail sales of any of the seven other states and the District of Columbia where pot is legal.

It comes after an ongoing legal battle over the drug’s distribution created uncertainty but ultimately won’t affect the kickoff.

Here’s a look at what’s expected this week:
___
WHAT WILL HAPPEN SATURDAY?

Anyone who is 21 with a valid ID can buy up to an ounce of pot, one-eighth of an ounce of edibles or concentrates. State regulators have notified at least 17 retail outlets that they have been approved for recreational sales and as many as 40 could be licensed by Saturday.

Some outlets plan grand opening events at 12:01 a.m., and one in Las Vegas is having a barbecue with raffle drawings. Nevada Dispensary Association President Andrew Jolley isn’t sure what kind of turnout to expect but said, “We are anticipating a lot of very happy customers.”
___
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

Industry experts predict Nevada’s market will be the nation’s biggest, at least until California plans to begin recreational sales in January.

Nevada sales should eventually exceed those in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state because of the 45 million tourists who annually visit Las Vegas. Regulators anticipate 63 percent of customers will be tourists.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like what Nevada is going to look like just because of the sheer volume of tourism in the state,” said Nancy Whiteman, co-owner of the Colorado-based Wana Brands, which makes edible pot products.

However, it’s not clear how many people know pot is about to be legal. The law bans marijuana advertising on radio, TV or any other medium where 30 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be younger than 21.
___
WHERE CAN I LIGHT UP?

It’s illegal in public places, including parks, sporting events, moving vehicles, casinos, hotels, concerts, festivals and while you’re walking down the street. So is drinking alcohol outdoors on the Las Vegas Strip, which generally isn’t enforced unless someone is causing trouble. It’s not clear yet if pot will be handled similarly.

People have been allowed to use marijuana in private homes since Jan. 1, but there has been nowhere to legally buy it without a medical card. Where you can buy recreational pot will change Saturday, but not where you can smoke it.

Using pot in public can get lead to a $600 ticket. It’s OK to smoke on the front porch of your home, but consumption is prohibited on U.S. property, from national forests to federally subsidized housing.
___
WHY DO HOTEL-CASINOS BAN POT?

They operate under federal licenses, and the U.S. government outlaws the drug. That means tourists will have a hard time finding a place to use it legally despite being the biggest expected piece of the market.

It’s one reason Whiteman and others think edibles will be most popular with tourists, who can eat the goodies almost anywhere without attracting attention, including casino floors where cigarettes are allowed but pot-smoking is not.
___
COULD THAT CHANGE?

Legislation to establish marijuana clubs and other places to smoke pot failed this spring but will be revisited by lawmakers in 2019. State Sen. Tick Segerblom, a leader of the legalization push, anticipates worldwide advertising urging tourists to “come to Nevada and smoke pot — so we must provide a place to do so.”

One Denver-based entrepreneur already has set up cannabis-friendly condos just off the Las Vegas Strip that allow pot smoking but not cigarettes. There’s also a “Cannabus” tour that offers riders a peek inside dispensaries, a grow facility and a swag bag filled with rolling papers and other gifts.
___
SHOULD BUYERS BEWARE?

The drug’s potency is much higher than stuff sold on the streets a couple of decades ago. Edibles are the biggest concern because the effects can sneak up on pot newbies, who may take too much without realizing they are slowly getting high.

All packaged edibles, from gummies to brownies, must carry labels warning that the intoxicating effects may be delayed for two hours or more and that users should initially eat a small amount.
___
WHAT ABOUT THE LEGAL BATTLE?

A court order has denied pot distribution licenses to anyone other than the alcohol industry, which the state intends to appeal. The ballot measure passed by voters says liquor wholesalers have the exclusive right to transport marijuana from growers to retailers, the only legal pot state with such an arrangement.

But existing dispensaries can sell their stockpiled inventory for recreational use until they run out, with most thinking they can last three weeks or longer. That means retail stores could have a supply shortage as August approaches.

By then, however, the state should have issued at least some distribution licenses to alcohol wholesalers.

“I get the sense that most, if not all, dispensaries will have sufficient inventory to serve retail customers until distributors are up and running,” Nevada Dispensary Association President Andrew Jolley said.
___
Associated Press Writer Regina Garcia Cano in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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Posted by George Avalos

MENLO PARK — Facebook has passed the 2 billion users milestone, doubling the number of users in just five years, the company’s top executive said Tuesday.

The social media giant reached the 1 billion mark for monthly active users in October 2012, a few months after it went public.

“As of this morning, the Facebook community is now officially 2 billion people!” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer and co-founder, stated Tuesday in a Facebook post.

Menlo Park-based Facebook had reached 1.94 billion monthly active users by the end of March, the company reported in its quarterly financial results, so the increase to 2 billion was highly anticipated.

“It’s an impressive and unprecedented milestone, but also predictable,” said Ben Bajarin, a principal analyst with Campbell-based Creative Strategies, a market researcher that tracks the technology sector. “We saw it coming because they are growing so rapidly.”

On Tuesday, Facebook’s shares fell 2 percent and closed at $150.58, as the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 1.6 percent.

However, so far in 2017, the social network’s stock is up 30.9 percent. Facebook’s performance this year has far outstripped the S&P 500 Index, up 8.1 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index, up 14.2 percent.

“We’re making progress connecting the world,” Zuckerberg stated in the blog post. “Now let’s bring the world closer together.”

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Posted by ernesto

Many Small ISPs Support Real Net Neutrality

One excuse FCC Chairman Ajit Pai regularly offers to explain his effort to gut net neutrality protections is the claim that open Internet rules have harmed ISPs, especially small ones. During a speech earlier this year, he stressed that 22 small ISPs told him that the 2015 Open Internet Order hurt their ability to invest and deploy.

In reality, though, many more ISPs feel very differently. Today, more than 40 ISPs told the FCC that they have had no problem with the Open Internet Order and that it hasn't hurt their ability to develop and expand their networks. What is more, that they want the FCC to do its job and address the problem Congress created when it repealed the broadband privacy rules in March.

Why These ISPs Like Title II

The 2015 Order famously outlined clear net neutrality rules.  But those rules only passed muster because the Order also explicitly classified broadband service as a "common carrier" service, regulated by Title II of the Communications Act, rather than an "information service" regulated by Title I of the same Act. And that classification has several corollary effects, because Title II isn't just about net neutrality. It is also meant to curtail the anti-competitive conduct from incumbent monopolists like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon. In essence, as common carriers, they are not able to use their power to control the Internet experience, and they are not able to directly harm their competitors in the broadband market.

That's why these small ISPs are worried. Chairman Pai wants to reverse the 2015 decision to reclassify broadband as a "common carrier" service, thereby eliminating the protections Title II offers. If he succeeds, not only are Section 201 and Section 202 -- the core provisions that support network neutrality -- on the chopping block, but also a whole host of other active provisions that protect competition in the broadband market. Small wonder the big cable and telephone lobbies are happy to pay lip service to net neutrality -- so long as the actual rules aren't based on Title II.

To start, Section 251 of the Communications Act requires broadband providers to "interconnect" with other broadband providers and related market players in order to prevent the possibility of a large player (back in the day that was AT&T) from denying access to the network by simply denying physical connectivity. While more clarity is needed from the FCC on how it intends to manage interconnection disputes, it was clear that the FCC had to play a role as problems began to arise. We saw this play out most notably with Netflix traffic, whether it is Comcast disputing the delivery of Comcast customer requested traffic to their homes, to the direct dispute between Comcast and Netflix before the 2015 FCC Order. Under the current rules, the FCC can intervene to prevent a major ISP with a vast network from leveraging its massive network size in an anti-competitive way to harm other networks. That oversight vanishes if Chairman Pai reclassifies broadband as an "information service," which undoubtedly Comcast would appreciate.

Another example of how Title II of the Communications Act promotes competition in broadband access is the relatively unknown issue of pole attachment rights under Section 224 of the Communications Act. Today, that section ensures that every broadband provider has the legal right to gain access to many of the poles that run along our roads. These poles, and other rights of way infrastructure, are the route that any broadband company must travel in order to get to your home or business. Google Fiber's deployment ran into snags in Austin, Texas when those poles were owned by AT&T, because the surest way to prevent competition is to just physically prevent their entry into your market. If a company the size of Google could be stifled without the law supporting them, what hope does a smaller ISP have in entering into a market where the incumbent broadband provider owns the poles that are a necessary component to deploying the network? The FCC Chairman's plan fundamentally ignores this problem and offers no clear solution to competitors. An incumbent broadband provider that owns a lot of the poles is going to have no federal legal obligation to share that access at fair market rates if broadband is no longer a common carrier service.

Lastly, Section 222 ensures that broadband users have a legal right to privacy when we use broadband communications. It has already taken a beating, thanks to  Congress' misguided decision to repeal the FCC's rules that had been based on Section 222, but the section itself is still the law today. The problem now is that ISPs do not know their legal obligations with consumer data and how they are supposed to operate without more FCC guidance. Undoubtedly, the large cable and telephone companies that spent millions to lobby Congress to repeal the rules intend to profit from the vast treasure trove of personal data that runs over their networks. But ISPs opposed to Chairman Pai's plan are not looking to make more money off of their customers by selling their personal data without permission. Almost all of them were strongly opposed to Congress repealing the privacy rules. None of them got into the business of providing access to the Internet so they could snoop on the activities of their customers. However, Chairman Pai's plan would outright remove the Section 222 privacy obligations for all broadband companies and as a result there would be absolutely no way to have broadband privacy rules absent a new law. In essence, Chairman Pai's plan would be the nail in the coffin for broadband privacy that Congress started with its privacy repeal earlier this year.

What is the FCC Plan for Smaller Competitors In the Broadband Market?

There is no plan. We have no alternative body of law beyond the Communications Act and the provisions of Title II to address the competition issues listed above. Antitrust is generally not a viable option as well. That is why Pai's plan is not about improving the investment opportunities for all broadband providers (a claim that has been thoroughly debunked twice now and now outright refuted by more than 40 ISPs themselves). Instead, it is a plan to radically enhance the market power of Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon in a way that no previous FCC Chair (both Republican and Democrat) ever entertained.

These ISPs are taking a stand for network neutrality because they know Chairman Pai's plan will hurt them as well as their subscribers. Contact the FCC and Congress today to tell them to oppose Chairman Pai's plan to empower major cable and telephone companies.

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Posted by Annalee Newitz

Enlarge / Sonequa Martin-Green plays protagonist Michael Burnham, first officer of the U.S.S. Shenzhou, on new CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery. (credit: CBS)

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had a lot of strict rules for writers on his shows. Some, like the requirement that both female and male officers be called "sir," were thrown out a while ago (Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathryn Janeway, wanted to be called "ma'am"). Now, with forthcoming series Star Trek: Discovery, we're about to see one of Roddenberry’s most cherished rules bite the dust.

When Roddenberry first framed his ideas for the Star Trek universe, he wanted to be sure that writers would emphasize the Utopian aspects of future life in the Federation. Some of that Utopianism was hardwired into the show's basic premise, in which money, war, and racial discrimination are things of the distant past. But Roddenberry wasn't satisfied with that—he wanted characters whose behavior was exemplary, too.

So he made a rule, which endured long after his death, that main characters were not allowed to mistreat each other or have conflicts that weren’t quickly resolved. Writers for the various series also weren't allowed to show characters being malevolent or cruel. Of course, there were exceptions. Aliens or non-crew members could be as awful as the writers wanted, as could protagonists whose minds were being controlled by outside forces. (This helps explain why our heroes are always being possessed or hopping over to the Mirror Universe.)

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Posted by Jason Torchinsky on Jalopnik, shared by Melissa Kirsch to Lifehacker

The question of whether or not you can damage a car that asks for premium gas by using regular gas is one that never seems to die. I’ve seen this question tear families apart, with sobbing and recriminations—it’s not pretty. That’s why I reached out to an actual fuel systems engineer to get to the bottom of this…

Read more...

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The US Library of Congress Just Put 25 Million Records Online, Free of Charge:

dr-archeville:

Knowledge is power, the old saying goes, but it isn’t much use if it’s hidden away – so we’re excited to learn that the US Library of Congress is making 25 million of its records available for free, for anyone to access online.

The bibliographic data sets, like digital library cards, cover music, books, maps, manuscripts, and more, and their publication online marks the biggest release of digital records in the Library’s history.

“The Library of Congress is our nation’s monument to knowledge and we need to make sure the doors are open wide for everyone, not just physically but digitally too,” says Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

“Unlocking the rich data in the Library’s online catalogue is a great step forward.  I’m excited to see how people will put this information to use.”

Researchers and analysts will get most use out of the new records, but there’s plenty of potential for them to be used in apps and databases as well.  The Library hosted a Hack-to-Learn workshop looking at how the data could be used.

The new mine of information covers records from 1968, and the earliest days of electronic cataloguing, right up to 2014.

“The Library of Congress catalogue is literally the gold standard for bibliographic data and we believe this treasure trove of information can be used for much more than its original purpose,” says the Library’s Beacher Wiggins.

Thanks to the spread of a little invention known as the internet, we’re seeing more and more libraries, organisations, and agencies put their valuable data online for all to use.

Last year NASA decided to make all of the scientific research it funds available on the web for free, hoping to spark further studies and “magnify the impact” of its papers.

NASA also allows developers to download and build upon its software applications, without paying any royalty or copyright fees, so whether you’re wanting to build a rocket or analyse satellite data, you can find a tool to help.

Want to know more about Darwin’s iconic Origin of the Species work?  Point your browser at the American Museum of National History website and you can digitally leaf through 16,000 high-resolution images free of charge.

Meanwhile, the Unpaywall plug-in is designed to get past scientific journal paywalls legally and easily, so inquiring minds can learn more about our world without having to stump up for a subscription.

There’s lots out there.  If you’re eager to get your hands on as much free educational material as possible, here are 8 awesome resources you can totally get behind.

That the US Library of Congress is adding to the trend is definitely welcome news – the library is the largest in the world, having been established at the start of the 19th century as a resource for Congress.

The Library’s collections include more than 38 million books and more than 70 million manuscripts, and now some of that vast pile of reference data and other resources can be accessed by anyone for free.

“We hope this data will be put to work by social scientists, data analysts, developers, statisticians and everyone else doing innovative work with large data sets to enhance learning and the formation of new knowledge,” says Wiggins.

Wow!

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Posted by Kristi Myllenbeck

The man accused of killing Cupertino resident Tommy Shwe has again had his plea hearing continued to a later date.

Christopher Ellebracht was scheduled to enter a plea Tuesday, but according to prosecutor Carolyn Powell, “the defense requested additional time to do further investigation.” The plea hearing was continued to Aug. 7 at 1 p.m. in department 39 of the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice.

Ellebracht was arrested on Jan. 22, a day before Shwe’s body was found buried in a shallow grave near the town of Three Rivers in the Central Valley. According to the Santa Clara County Office of the Sheriff, Ellebracht worked as a handyman, helping Shwe with home repairs for properties he managed as a real estate agent.

Sheriff Laurie Smith said at a January press conference that Shwe died of strangulation.

Since then, Ellebracht has appeared in court numerous times, mostly for plea hearings that have been continued to a later date.

In April, Ellebracht requested to represent himself in court, a request that was denied by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sharon A. Chatman after an hour-long question and answer session.

Chatman said she didn’t believe Ellebracht was capable of representing himself.

Most recently, Ellebracht appeared in court May 12, where Chatman denied him bail.

Shwe served on the Cupertino Union School District board of education from 1985 to 1993, and as a board member for Cupertino Community Services, Cupertino Chamber of Commerce, the Foothill/De Anza College Foundation and the Asian Business League of Silicon Valley, among many other public service roles. He was also a member of Rotary Club of Cupertino for a number of years.

The city created an award in Shwe’s name to honor his legacy of uniting community groups. The first award will be given next year at the Cupertino Education Endowment Foundation’s gala to someone who “demonstrates leadership in bringing harmony.”

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In eight states where insurers have already formalized their proposed rates for 2018, premiums are headed upward by an average of 18 percent next year, according to analysis by health consulting firm Avalere.

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Posted by Mercury News Readers

CalMatters reporter Jessica Calefati relies on faulty research, narrow metrics and insufficient data to make sweeping generalizations and unsubstantiated conclusions about California’s landmark Local Control Funding Formula (“Is California’s investment in needy students paying off,” Page 1B, June 25).

Calefati ignores or glosses over evidence in pursuit of a flawed narrative based on a handful of California’s 1,000-plus school districts. The truth: Test scores are rising for all student groups. Plus, the state’s suspension rate is at an historic low and the graduation rate is the highest it’s ever been.

California is improving outcomes for students with new learning standards and new online tests that challenge students to think rather than bubble-in their best guesses. Drawing hard and fast conclusions about these changes from just two years of data, as Calefati does, is reckless and rash.

The Local Control Funding Formula has put spending decisions in the hands of local school districts. The alternative – returning to a Sacramento-driven system of mandated compliance – won’t direct more money to students who need it most.

California will not return to the past.

Michael W. Kirst
President, California State Board of Education

 

Voters need to replace three Alum Rock trustees

The recommendation that residents in the Alum Rock school district begin recruiting solid board candidates to replace  three of the current members is spot on (Editorial, June 25).

The self important board President Khanh Tran and his cohorts Esau Herrera and Dolores Marquez are apparently responsible for poor and possibly actionable mismanagement of public funds.  The lack of respect for district residents and employees is indicative of a misunderstanding that at least two of the trio have of their roles as elected representatives.

These board members do not seem to understand that they are there to respond candidly and honestly to citizens’ concerns regarding inadequate maintenance, repair and management of district facilities and to properly and carefully oversee fiscal matters.

The District Attorney’s fraud unit will hopefully begin an investigation of the relationship between the district and Del Terra and, armed with the facts, the voters within the district will finally take notice of the actions of this board and replace the unresponsive three with true public servants.

Lee Esquibel
San Jose

Rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes

Gary Heidenreich (Letters, June 27) says that the rich are already paying their fair share in taxes.  He lists federal and state tax rates. Few if any of the rich pay the actual rates. They shelter and defer their incomes, finding loophole after loophole in the tax code.

Donald Trump says that’s smart.  There is another rate.  It is called the effective or actual rate they are paying, and it is considerable less that the rates he quoted. Unfortunately, the rest of us don’t make enough to shelter, so we actually pay the stated rates. If the rich paid their fair share, the rest of us would be happy for it.

Mark Grzan
Morgan Hill

 

Caltrain doesn’t need additional sales tax revenue

Are you kidding me? Can’t Caltrain get enough from the billion dollar Measure B? Enough already taking from our wallets. We all pay. Yet only a few use the service, and those of us south of San Jose never get increased service.

Susan Mister
Gilroy

Second Amendment criticism fails the logic test

Susan Brown (Letters, June 25) thinks the Second Amendment should only apply to arms that existed in the 18th century. Applying that logic to the First Amendment, I am sure that she wrote her letter to the editor with quill and ink on parchment and delivered it by hand or on horseback. Similarly, all the protests of President Trump should be banned unless the participants traveled to them using covered wagon or clipper ship.

Scott Peterson
Math Professor, De Anza College
Cupertino

 

The hypocrisy of California’s travel restrictions

It is OK for Gov. Jerry Brown to travel to China on taxpayer dollars, but, heavens, it is impossible for him or others to travel to Texas on the taxpayers’ dime because Texas is so inhuman and China is so wonderful in human treatment to its citizens.  One can only wonder what those politicians in Sacramento have ingested in those smoke-filled rooms where bills are thought up.  Might I suggest we ban travel out of Sacramento, because what ever the politician have caught might be contagious in the real world.

Charles Shoemaker
Sunnyvale

[syndicated profile] sjmerc_opinion_feed

Posted by Mercury News Editorial Board

President Trump’s travel ban never made sense, and Monday’s narrow ruling on it by the Supreme Court makes even less.

The court should have given the entire travel ban the heave ho. Instead, the justices said it was OK to ban citizens from six countries the White House deems dangerous — if they “lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Say what?

Lawyers are scrambling to determine exactly what the court means by a bona fide relationship or, for that matter, an “entity”. The only certainty the ruling brings is another round of lawsuits for the courts to struggle with.

The original legal argument for the ban was that it was temporary in order to implement better vetting procedures. But Trump now has said it’s a ban, period, and there are already extreme vetting procedures in place.

Republican leaders seem to have no problem with this, so there will be no legislative solution in this Congress. The court has to sort it out. Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito wrote in a dissenting opinion that the travel ban should have been allowed to take effect in full, but the others clearly have reservations or they wouldn’t have added the weird exceptions. There is room for argument in October.

The ban targets countries that in theory are sending us people who are “prone” to terror. But no Americans have died from a terrorist attack in the United States carried out by a person from one of the six Muslim-majority countries covered by the ban: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Thousands died in the 9/11 attacks by terrorists from Saudi Arabia. But Trump does business in Saudi Arabia, not in the six banned countries. He also has dealings with Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey, all of which have militant elements. Could that be why they’re not included in the travel ban?

Since the U.S. began its system of vetting refugees in 1980, not a single person accepted as a refugee has been involved in a successful deadly attack on the United States.

Trump’s ban was a blatant attempt to fulfill a campaign promise to ban Muslims, buying into the misbegotten idea, shared by his political base, that America is at war with Islam. Since the Republican party has lined up behind him, the courts are the only recourse.

The Supreme Court can continue to torture the details of the ban into something a majority feels is constitutional. But for clarity, it should declare the executive order unconstitutional for its lack of basis in fact, if not for its obvious intent to discriminate against Muslim refugees from wars in which we are combatants.

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Posted by Ars Staff

Enlarge / Every so often, you get a flash of what the game was going for—and it could have been interesting!

Valkyria Revolution, despite its name and approximately similar art style, isn’t really a sequel to 2008’s incredible Valkyria Chronicles (or its slightly less incredible PSP sequels). In tone and gameplay, the differences between the two series are night and day, and Revolution looks considerably poorer for the comparison.

The new game, like its predecessors, takes place on the continent of "Europa"—shaped just like real-world Europe, but divided into fictional fantasy countries like Jutland and the Ruzi Empire. If you don’t recognize those two nations from Chronicles, that’s because Revolution takes place in an entirely new continuity.

That the sister series just happens to have nearly identical settings—as well as reuse terms like Valkyria and “ragnite”—is confusing and poorly justified. Taking control for the first time and meeting the game’s gang of barely introduced misfits didn’t do much to clear up why Valkyria Revolution needs to share so much DNA with its “predecessor.” My best, most cynical guess is that Valkyria Revolution was made to siphon off some of Chronicles’ cult status—not to mention the attention of fans still fiending for a true follow-up.

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Posted by Chris Lee

Enlarge (credit: A. Bohn et al.)

Now that we can detect gravitational waves, a new generation of stargazers is turning its attention to the Universe and using observatories that can be disrupted by a passing rabbit. Gravitational-wave detectors are going to give us an entirely new view of our place in the cosmos.

As with all new techniques, we are still in the age of crude and not-very-sensitive. That means we can only search for the biggest and baddest of events: black-hole mergers. So far, LIGO has detected three and a half mergers—the third merger is right on the edge of the detection limit, so it is provisional. But those black holes have been larger than expected, which raises an intriguing question: is that their first merger, or have they grown through previous mergers?

Now (arXiv version) scientists have determined how to figure out if black holes are first-time cannibals or recidivist cannibals.

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Posted by Claire Lower on Skillet, shared by Claire Lower to Lifehacker

There’s no arguing that pie is the most noble form any summer fruit can assume, but there are times I want a fruity dessert that doesn’t require the heating of my oven (or kitchen). In such moments, I turn (once again) to booze, and make some stupid-easy but still sophisticated-tasting wine-soaked fruit.

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Posted by Sal Pizarro

The Coyote Creek flood in February washed the Northside Theatre Company out of its home at Olinder Community Center. And now it looks like the company’s planned season of shows — and perhaps its very existence — are in peril if reconstruction isn’t done by the end of summer.

The flood-damaged interior of the Olinder Community Center, shown on June27, 2017. If the center's flood repairs aren't made by the end of summer, the resident Northside Theatre Company says it may lose its upcoming season. (Sal Pizarro/Staff)
The flood-damaged interior of the Olinder Community Center, shown on June<br /> 27, 2017. If the center’s flood repairs aren’t made by the end of summer,<br /> the resident Northside Theatre Company says it may lose its upcoming<br /> season. (Sal Pizarro/Staff) 

Managing Artistic Director Meredith King says she was told at meeting with San Jose’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services department in April that the company could expect the center at 848 E. William St. to be reopened June 30, which would allow time to set things up for the season opener in September. Things looked better when the center passed its air quality abatement test, meaning no mold or toxins were found, in May.

But just two weeks ago, at a meeting with different city staff members, she was told that June 30 never should have been suggested. Part of the issue is that the city is using Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for the reconstruction and therefore must follow FEMA’s guidelines and timetable, including putting the job out to bid.

King was told at the June 13 meeting that reconstruction would take 18 to 24 weeks, pushing back access to the center to sometime between late October to early December — if work started now (it hasn’t). That late date would make it unlikely that Northside, founded in 1980 by the late Richard Orlando, could stage its traditional holiday show, “A Christmas Carol,” which provides most of its revenue for the year.

“We have to get in by Sept. 30 for ‘A Christmas Carol’ to happen, and we need ‘A Christmas Carol’ to happen. It’s the flagship show of our season,” said King, who has been running the theater out of her apartment for the past four months. “If it doesn’t, I don’t know how we’re going to financially recover from this.”

Staging the show or other parts of the season at another venue is difficult because Northside lacks the resources to rent a theater, and suitable venues King has looked into are already booked up with their own holiday shows.

Northside’s supporters and fans of the arts in general have passionately taken up the cause of the theater company on social media. But what Northside needs is either an expedited construction process or a donated “black box” theater to save its season.

“All I know,” King said, “is that we’ve been closed for four months and there’s no end in sight.”

TWO-FISTED THEATER: San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco was the guest host of “Monday Night Live,” San Jose Stage’s annual political satire fundraiser, and the city’s East Side rep didn’t pull any punches while taking shots at her council predecessors, Xavier Campos and Nora Campos. Carrasco even a joke at the expense of Campos’ husband, Neil Struthers. The real punchline: Nora Campos and Struthers were in the audience for the show, and, to their credit, they stayed to the end.

Another frequent topic at Monday’s show was San Jose’s game-changing tango with Google. There were so many Google references — including “Top 10 things city council members promised Google to come to San Jose” — you’d think the Mountain View search engine giant was bankrolling the show. Well, it turns out Google was a $5,000 sponsor.

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Posted by Harry Harris

OAKLAND — A three-time felon has been charged with murder in a December 2014 fatal shooting that police described as a failed robbery, according to authorities and court records.

Robi Sojourner, 27, is charged  in the killing of Luis Meraz, 27.

Sojourner is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. There is also an enhancement clause to the charges that the killing was committed while Sojourner was on probation.

Meraz was gunned down outside his home in the 1100 block of 107th Avenue about 7:08 p.m. Dec. 4, 2014.

Officer Phong Tran said Sojourner lived in the area and that he unsuccessfully tried to rob Meraz, who resisted and was shot several times..

Police said Sojourner was identified by witnesses and that there is physical evidence linking him to the killing but would not say what it was.

Sojourner was arrested June 21 on E Street in East Oakland and formally charged June 23. He is being held without bail.

According to court records, Sojourner was on probation at the time of the killing for an October 2013 conviction for first-degree residential burglary. His other convictions are for carrying a loaded firearm in February 2012 and vehicle theft in July 2011. He was placed on probation for those convictions.

 

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Living in New York City often means expensive rent and little space, but sometimes apartments here are...an experience, to say the least. It seems like everyone lives in a building that has its quirks—things like strange-but-creative ways of fitting appliances in, weird structural features, odd smells, and more. Even the best apartments—the ones no one would dare give up their leases on—have their own interesting shortcomings. So, we asked New Yorkers to share their weirdest apartment stories.

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Posted by Bill McBride

From the Richmond Fed: Reports from Manufacturers in the Fifth District Improved in June
Reports from Fifth District manufacturers improved in June, according to the latest survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The composite manufacturing index rose from 1 in May to 7 in June, as the indexes for shipments and new orders increased. The employment index was relatively flat. Most firms continued to report steady or higher wages; although the index for wages did fall in June, it remained above 0. Meanwhile, more firms reported a decline in the average workweek than reported an increase.

Looking six months ahead, manufacturing executives were more optimistic in June than in May, although even the May readings were very positive.
emphasis added
This was the last of the regional Fed surveys for June.

Here is a graph comparing the regional Fed surveys and the ISM manufacturing index:

Fed Manufacturing Surveys and ISM PMI Click on graph for larger image.

The New York and Philly Fed surveys are averaged together (yellow, through June), and five Fed surveys are averaged (blue, through June) including New York, Philly, Richmond, Dallas and Kansas City. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) PMI (red) is through April (right axis).

Based on these regional surveys, it seems likely the ISM manufacturing index will increase slightly in June compared to May (to be released this coming Monday, July 3rd).  The early consensus is for the ISM index to be unchanged in June.
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Posted by Alex Cranz on Gizmodo, shared by Melissa Kirsch to Lifehacker

A couple of weeks ago I was braving the big crowds of E3 to meet with the Nvidia team, and while I was ostensibly there to check out Destiny 2 on a PC, what I really wanted to know was what the hell Max-Q Design was. Nvidia announced its new design philosophy back in May, and I’d spent the intervening weeks unable to…

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Posted by Harry Harris

OAKLAND — A three-time felon has been charged with murder in a December 2014 fatal shooting that police described as a failed robbery, according to authorities and court records.

Robi Sojourner, 27, is charged  in the killing of Luis Meraz, 27.

Sojourner is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. There is also an enhancement clause to the charges that the killing was committed while Sojourner was on probation.

Meraz was gunned down outside his home in the 1100 block of 107th Avenue about 7:08 p.m. Dec. 4, 2014.

Officer Phong Tran said Sojourner lived in the area and that he unsuccessfully tried to rob Meraz, who resisted and was shot several times..

Police said Sojourner was identified by witnesses and that there is physical evidence linking him to the killing but would not say what it was.

Sojourner was arrested June 21 on E Street in East Oakland and formally charged June 23. He is being held without bail.

According to court records, Sojourner was on probation at the time of the killing for an October 2013 conviction for first-degree residential burglary. His other convictions are for carrying a loaded firearm in February 2012 and vehicle theft in July 2011. He was placed on probation for those convictions.

 

Five Books About Psi Powers

Jun. 27th, 2017 08:00 pm
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Posted by Daryl Gregory

Whatever happened to ESP?

Psi powers—telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, and other parapsychological activity—was one of the founding tropes of science fiction, up there with rocket ships, time travel, and aliens. John W. Campbell coined the term “psionics”—from psi and electronics—and encouraged his stable of authors to write about it. And so they did.

But after reaching maximum saturation in the 1950s, psionics began disappearing from SF in the 70s, became uncommon by the 90s, and are a rarity today. (That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write one. I miss them!) The five books below, as well as being some of my favorite novels, show how the subgenre evolved, and why I think it’s unlikely to go extinct.

 

The Ur Text: Slan by A.E. Van Vogt

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Slan to science fiction. Van Vogt’s prose style is not to everyone’s taste (see Damon Knight’s infamous essay dismantling Van Vogt in In Search of Wonder), but the power is in its big idea: a hidden race of supermen, wielding awesome mind powers, is secretly controlling the world.

Slan, which was first serialized in 1940, established the idea that psi powers go hand in hand with the evolution of the human race. To paraphrase Bowie, you gotta make way for homo superior. Van Vogt’s ubermensch conspiracy resonated deeply, and perhaps not healthily. The early science fiction community embraced “fans are slans” exceptionalism—weren’t SF readers smarter and more special than the “mundanes?” Every psi story to follow had to wrestle with this yearning for a master race.

 

Psi as a Job: The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester

Bester’s novel, which won the first Hugo in 1953, offers one solution to the superman problem: register and license them. In the 24th century there are many “espers,” from low-level class 3’s to powerful Class 1’s, and some of those Class 1’s want to rule the world. Lincoln Powell, a Class 1 esper detective, is chasing a murderer (and latent telepath) that he knows is guilty—Powell read his mind—but because evidence gained via telepathy is not admissible in court, he has to collect evidence the old-fashioned way. Great power, Bester argues, can be reined in by laws and society.

 

It’s a Family Thing: Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler

This 1977 novel, the second book in the Patternist series, was the first Octavia Butler novel I read, and it was thrilling. The story is about Mary, a latent telepath who is part of a breeding program orchestrated by a 4,000-year-old immortal, Doro, whose mind hops from body to body. Mary becomes the most powerful psionic in the world (there are flying telekinetics, too) by linking with first six, then over a thousand telepaths in what she calls a Pattern.

But typical for Butler, Mary doesn’t want to rule the world; she wants to protect her family, and this community of Patternists. When Doro, feeling threatened, attacks Mary, the group kills him. Butler demonstrates that power for the sake of power is a hollow goal.

 

Making it Personal: The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons

Speaking of hollow… Jeremy, the protagonist of Simmon’s 1992 novel, is a grieving telepath who was married to a woman who shared his powers. When she dies, he can no longer keep out the “neurobabble” of other minds, and so goes on the road, seeking isolation.

As in the best SF, metaphors are artfully literalized. The marriage of true minds has dissolved, and Jeremy’s become yet another widower trying withdraw from the world. Then he meets a sociopathic killer whose mind is full of static, a person literally disconnected from all human connection. And Jeremy hears a “voice” calling him, a new telepath who needs his help. The purpose of Jeremy’s life is not to save the world or create a new race: it’s to save one child.

 

The Next Step in Psi: More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

Just to prove that there’s no ultimate psi novel, no master text that this subgenre will evolve into, here’s what I consider a timeless classic in the field. Written over fifty years ago, More than Human is about a group of damaged yet powerful people who gradually find each other. There’s a troubled young man with telepathic powers, a telekinetic girl, two mute twins with the ability to teleport, and Baby, a toddler super-genius. They become more than a family; they’re a new kind of organism: homo gestalt. The organism becomes whole only when it’s joined by a normal man, who serves as their conscience. This new race won’t dominate humans, but work with them.

More than Human is still finding readers, partly because the creation of homo gestalt—like Butler’s Patternists and the improvised family in Simmons’s novel—captures the way the world feels when we’ve finally found our family. And that’s why psi novels, though they may never again be as popular as they were in the 50’s, will continue to be written. They’re excellent vehicles for showing that mysterious process by which we come together, each of us with an array of abilities and dysfunctions that are mostly invisible to the outside world, and become a little stronger than we were alone. Also? Psionics is just plain cool.

 

Top image: cover art for French edition of Slan (J’ai Lu, 1977); illustration by Jean Mascii.

Daryl Gregory’s latest novel is Spoonbenders, about a family of down-on-their-luck psychics, out now from Knopf. Recent work includes the novels Afterparty and Harrison Squared, and the novella “We Are All Completely Fine,” which won the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. Daryl lives and bends cutlery in Oakland, California.

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