Will ALEXA be Forced to Join a Union/Get a State License?

Now that ALEXA is going to give medical advice and assistance, who is going to monitor or audit it?  Will it be a medical profession that programs it, or will a tech nerd do it?  Will you trust the advice of ALEXA?

“Amazon has big ambitions for its devices. It thinks Alexa, the virtual assistant inside them, could help doctors diagnose mental illness, autism, concussions and Parkinson’s disease. It even hopes Alexa will detect when you’re having a heart attack.

At present, Alexa can perform a handful of health care-related tasks: “She” can track blood glucose levels, describe symptoms, access post-surgical care instructions, monitor home prescription deliveries and make same-day appointments at the nearest urgent care center.”

The good news is that this will save money—ALEXA will never go on strike, ask for parental leave or attend a graduation.  Do you trust your ALEXA with your health or health information?

Doctor Alexa Will See You Now: Is Amazon Primed To Come To Your Rescue?

By Janet Rae-Dupree, California Healthline,  7/26/19 

Now that it’s upending the way you play music, cook, shop, hear the news and check the weather, the friendly voice emanating from your Amazon Alexa-enabled smart speaker is poised to wriggle its way into all things health care.

Amazon has big ambitions for its devices. It thinks Alexa, the virtual assistant inside them, could help doctors diagnose mental illness, autism, concussions and Parkinson’s disease. It even hopes Alexa will detect when you’re having a heart attack.

At present, Alexa can perform a handful of health care-related tasks: “She” can track blood glucose levels, describe symptoms, access post-surgical care instructions, monitor home prescription deliveries and make same-day appointments at the nearest urgent care center.

Amazon has partnered with numerous health care companies, including several in California, to let consumers and employees use Alexa for health care purposes. Workers at Cigna Corp. can manage their health improvement goals and earn wellness incentives with Alexa. And Alexa helps people who use Omron Healthcare’s blood pressure monitor, HeartGuide, track their readings.

But a flood of new opportunities are emerging since Alexa won permission to use protected patient health records controlled under the U.S. privacy law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Before, Alexa had been limited to providing generic responses about medical conditions. Now that it can transmit private patient information, Amazon has extended its Alexa Skills Kit, the software development tools used to add functions. Soon, the virtual assistant will be able to send and receive individualized patient records, allowing health care companies to create services for consumers to use at home.

Amazon’s efforts in this domain are important because, with its 100 million smart devices in use worldwide, it could radically change the way consumers get health information and even treatment — and not just tech-savvy consumers. Analysts expect 55% of U.S. households will have smart speakers by 2022.

Some of Alexa’s new skills depend on a little-understood feature of the devices: They listen to every sound around them. They have to in order to be ready to respond to a request, like “Alexa, how many tablespoons in a half-pint?” or “Put carrots on the shopping list.”

University of Washington researchers recently published a study in which they taught Alexa and two other devices — an iPhone 5s and a Samsung Galaxy S4 — to listen for so-called agonal breathing, the distinct gasping sounds that are an early warning sign in about half of all cardiac arrests. These devices correctly identified agonal breathing in 97% of instances, while registering a false positive only 0.2% of the time.

Earlier research had shown that a machine learning system could recognize cardiac arrest during 911 emergency calls more accurately and far faster than human dispatchers could.

Amazon, which declined to comment for this article, holds a patent on an acoustic technology that recognizes and could act on significant audio interruptions. Combined with patented technology from the University of Washington that differentiates coughs and sneezes from other background noises, for example, Alexa could discern when someone is ill and suggest solutions.

Because Amazon also holds patents on monitoring blood flow and heart rate through an Alexa-enabled camera, Alexa could send vitals to a doctor’s office before you head to your appointment and continue to monitor your condition after you get home.

“It opens possibilities to deliver care at a distance,” said Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, lead investigator for several breast cancer prevention trials at the Mayo Clinic, which has been on the front lines of using voice assistants in health care. “Think about people living in small towns who aren’t always getting access to care and knowing when to get health care,” she said. “Could this be an opportunity, if someone had symptoms, to say, ‘It’s time for this to get checked out?’”

A growing number of clinics, hospitals, home health care providers and insurers have begun experimenting with products using Alexa:

  • Livongo, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup focused on managing chronic diseases, sells an Alexa-connected blood glucose monitor that can help diabetes patients track their condition.
  • Home health care provider Libertana Home Health, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., created an Alexa skill that lets elderly or frail residents connect with caregivers, set up reminders about medications, report their weight and blood pressure and schedule appointments.
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles put Amazon devices loaded with a plug-in called Aiva into more than 100 rooms to connect patients with staff and to provide hands-free television controls. Unlike a static call button, the voice-controlled device can tell nurses why a patient needs help and can then tell the patient the status of their request.
  • Boston Children’s Hospital, which offered the first Alexa health care software with an educational tool called Kids MD, now uses Alexa to share post-surgical recovery data between a patient’s home and the hospital.

Many medical technology companies are tantalized by the possibilities offered by Alexa and similar technologies for an aging population. A wearable device could transmit information about falls or an uneven gait. Alexa could potentially combat loneliness. It is learning how to make conversation.

“Alexa can couple a practical interaction around health care with an interaction that can engage the patient, even delight the patient,” said elder care advocate Laurie Orlov.

It and other voice assistants might also help bring some relief to doctors and other medical practitioners who commonly complain that entering medical information into electronic health records is too time-consuming and detracts from effective interactions with patients.

This technology could work in the background to take notes on doctor-patient meetings, even suggesting possible treatments. Several startup companies are working on such applications.

One such company is Suki, based in Redwood City, Calif., which bills itself as “Alexa for doctors.” Its artificial intelligence software listens in on interactions between doctors and patients to write up medical notes automatically.

Amazon devices will need to excel at conversational artificial intelligence, capable of relating an earlier phrase to a subsequent one, if it is to remain dominant in homes.

In a 2018 interview on Amazon’s corporate blog, Rohit Prasad, a company vice president who is head scientist for Amazon Alexa, described Alexa’s anticipated evolution using “federated learning” that lets algorithms make themselves smarter by incorporating input from a wide variety of sources.

“With these advances, we will see Alexa become more contextually aware in how she recognizes, understands and responds to requests from users,” Prasad said.

You Can’t Make These Things Up: San Fran Establishes Office of Racial Equity

The San Fran Board of Supervisors is creating an Office of Racial Equity.  Yet, equity already exists in San Fran.  Regardless of color or position, everyone steps in or over human feces every day in town.  Everyone pays high taxes and can barely survive economically in San Fran—color is not an issue.  Bad schools, terrible housing—everyone is equal.  This is just another feel good effort to give losers a job at taxpayers’ expense, issue silly reports and take further control of peoples live.

If you have to ask the cost of an Uber ride (the Board wants to create a special tax on those), or get affordable housing (they will not approve it) design education to teach not indoctrinate, San Fran is not for you. 

“San Francisco is creating an Office of Racial Equity, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the new office, which will operate under the human rights commission.

According to NBC Bay Area, the office, which was proposed by supervisors Vallie Brown and Sandra Lee Fewer, will oversee a citywide racial equity plan. It will also be responsible for creating a “Racial Equity Framework Plan” that will outline strategies to address racial disparities in San Francisco.

This is not satire—it is real.   San Fran government is satire.

Photo courtesy pd2020@sbcglobal.net, flickr

Economics in Brief: San Francisco Establishes Office of Racial Equity

Next City, 7/26/19  

San Francisco Establishes Office of Racial Equity

San Francisco is creating an Office of Racial Equity, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the new office, which will operate under the human rights commission.

According to NBC Bay Area, the office, which was proposed by supervisors Vallie Brown and Sandra Lee Fewer, will oversee a citywide racial equity plan. It will also be responsible for creating a “Racial Equity Framework Plan” that will outline strategies to address racial disparities in San Francisco.

Minorities in San Francisco, especially black people, have lower rates of employment and income, while having higher arrest rates and experiencing more homeslessness, reports NBC.

I am incredibly proud of this legislation that finally makes a real commitment in San Francisco to address racial disparities in our city that have existed and deepened over generations,” Fewer said. “There is a deep and long history of racism in this country from its founding, causing harm to communities of color over hundreds of years, and San Francisco certainly was not an exception to that history.”

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter. The Bottom Line is made possible with support from Citi Community Development.

With less than half of LAUSD’s prospective graduates eligible for California State University system, college trustees eye adding another requirement

Getting a diploma from LAUSD is as valuable as a signed autograph of a rock star.  It is nice to have, but does nothing for your future.  The State College system makes clear the failures of LAUSD “graduates”.

“The California State University system this week is considering a new admissions requirement for incoming freshmen — a development that’s sparked opposition from L.A. Unified, where less than half of the prospective graduates are eligible to apply under current standards.

CSU’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday will review an informal proposal to add a fourth year of “quantitative reasoning” to admissions requirements across the system’s 23 campuses. A quantitative reasoning course largely centers on problem-solving using math-based skills; a high-level math class, certain science courses or an elective with “a quantitative reasoning foundation,” such as statistics and personal finance, could all qualify, according to the proposal. Three high school math courses— Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II — are already a must for CSU admissions.”

Under current requirements, less than half of LAUSD graduates qualify for a seat in the system.  Now the State Colleges are going to make it even harder.  The good news is that these graduates know that the problems of the world revolve around white people and the environment.  Facts mean little to them—since they were taught that facts were divisive, biased  and harmful to their emotional health.

With less than half of LAUSD’s prospective graduates eligible for California State University system, college trustees eye adding another requirement

Taylor Swaak, Los Angeles School Report,  7/22/19 

The California State University system this week is considering a new admissions requirement for incoming freshmen — a development that’s sparked opposition from L.A. Unified, where less than half of the prospective graduates are eligible to apply under current standards.

CSU’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday will review an informal proposal to add a fourth year of “quantitative reasoning” to admissions requirements across the system’s 23 campuses. A quantitative reasoning course largely centers on problem-solving using math-based skills; a high-level math class, certain science courses or an elective with “a quantitative reasoning foundation,” such as statistics and personal finance, could all qualify, according to the proposal. Three high school math courses— Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II — are already a must for CSU admissions.

System advocates say the extra prerequisite, which wouldn’t be implemented until 2026, would ensure more students build a strong learning foundation before college and have a wider array of career opportunities. Some other public university systems, such as Arizona State and Texas State, have adopted a similar requirement.

CSU is “the people’s university, and we want to provide as many options as possible,” said Susan Holl, a mechanical engineering professor at the Sacramento campus and chair of the CSU Academic Senate committee that has proposed the change. “We’re trying to fling the doors wide, bring everyone in and say, ‘You can do this.’”

There would be exemptions in certain scenarios, the proposal states. The University of California system, which is already more selective, is not a part of the proposal.

L.A. Unified and various advocates, however, view the move as a threat to equity rather than a vehicle for opportunity. The district school board rejected the idea outright in a June 18 resolution, stating that L.A Unified does not have the teaching capacity to meet the requirement. Officials said they also fear adding another prerequisite would further restrict college access for minority students, who already face pervasive equity gaps in school.

As a state, “we haven’t made the investment [in students, schools]. And to move the goal post is something that we object to,” board member Mónica García, who authored the resolution, told board members.

In-state schools like the CSU — the state’s largest public university system — are a popular option for California students. About 1 in 6 L.A. Unified graduates enrolled there in 2018, according to third-party data provided by the district. But access isn’t universal.

Less than half of L.A. Unified’s Class of 2019 cohort — a projected 46 percent of more than 34,000 students— are eligible for the current CSU system, according to a district spending plan updated on June 28. A cohort refers to the number of students who entered as freshmen four years ago and should be on-track to graduate, though not all are.

The latest projection marks a drop from the 50 percent estimated in June 18 board meeting materials. If the percentage estimate holds, it would drag L.A. Unified’s progress back to 2016-17 levels. LAUSD is still above the statewide average, with about 43 percent of the Class of 2018 cohort eligible for CSU system schools.

The district declined to explain the percentage drop. It cited a pending legal complaint filed with the state education department July 11 on behalf of two parents demanding more district transparency on how more than $1 billion in state funding allocated annually for high-needs students is being spent.

Tuesday’s CSU trustees’ meeting, which will be live-streamed here starting at 10 a.m., is for discussion only. A public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 29, with a vote on the measure not expected until November. Advocacy organizations like The Education Trust-West said they’re going to keep a close watch to make sure the proposed change is fully vetted.

“What they’re proposing would be a serious and pretty substantial addition,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, Ed Trust-West’s executive director. “It’s really important to be sure the details of the proposal, and the impact it would have, are publicly discussed.”

‘I don’t know that we are necessarily prepared’

At the June 18 board meeting, then-Chief Academic Officer Frances Gibson raised doubts about the district’s capacity to respond when asked about the proposed CSU requirement.

While L.A. Unified does offer an optional fourth year of math/quantitative reasoning at all traditional high schools, “I don’t know that we are necessarily prepared” to teach a fourth year to all students, said Gibson, who stepped down from her position last month. She cited “the staffing requirements, the partnership requirements” that would be needed to “move forward elegantly.”

The district was unable to provide data before publication on how many of its 92 traditional high schools have the staffing and resources to teach all students a fourth year of math/quantitative reasoning. About 71 percent of L.A. Unified’s 56 alternative and continuation high schools do not have any students enrolled in a fourth year, according to district data.

Board member Jackie Goldberg told LA School Report a large concern for her is the acute shortage of STEM teachers statewide. “I don’t know if we have enough math teachers,” Goldberg said. “I know we’d make every effort, but that’s been a struggle for us, period, having nothing to do with a fourth year [requirement].”

L.A. Unified has “No resources identified to fund any additional costsassociated with the CSU proposal, according to a budget impact document. The district is struggling financially, losing a recent bid for a $500 million annual parcel tax and finalizing a controversial last-minute budget that sidestepped a potential county takeover.

Considering these limitations, the proposal “seems a bit tone deaf,” now-former student board member Tyler Okeke told board members. “I think that ideally [the bar should be raised for students] … but we don’t have the resources to support that at this moment.”

Holl emphasized the six-year transition period should the proposal pass.

“What we’ve done is try to put on notice all the school districts, that we are there to help them,” she said. “We have a really long lead time.”

Holl said CSU would bear responsibility for ensuring districts were ready to meet the new standard. The system would help districts craft their curriculum and provide professional development assistance, for example. CSU “is also working to meet the ongoing need for additional teachers in STEM fields,” according to the proposal.

Even then, there would be an exemption for any student who could not fulfill the requirement because of a lack of resources at their high school,” the proposal states. Some Career and Technical Education courses or appropriate dual enrollment courses at a local community college could also be used to meet the requirement.

Advocates like Ed Trust-West’s Arrillaga are leery of waivers, however, because it’s “an acknowledgment that there are inequities in the system” that have yet to be addressed.

“For us, it’s a really problematic and troubling response,” Arrillaga said.

Holl sees a new requirement as “180 degrees from limiting access” for students.

Part of closing the equity gap, she said, is increasing students’ access to coursework that could spark and nurture career interests. There are disparities in access as is: 65 percent of African-American students and 76 percent of Latino students coming into the CSU system have taken four or more years of math, for example, compared with 80 percent of white peers and 84 percent of Asian peers.

“Honest and truly, I think the state of California needs more engineers. More physicians. More nurses. More math and science teachers,” said Holl, who’s taught in the CSU system since 1980. “This is something I have been pushing because I want more students to be aware of these fabulous opportunities — and the way they become aware is by taking more interesting and exciting courses.“

It’s also about preparedness for college-level courses. Nearly 70 percent of first-year CSU students who’d completed four or more years of high school math passed a quantitative reasoning course in 2017-18, compared to fewer than half of students who’d completed only three years, according to meeting materials.

There is proof of success in at least one California district: Long Beach Unified. The district implemented a mandated fourth year of quantitative reasoning six years ago, and has seen a hike in student eligibility for the CSU and UC systems from 39 percent to 56 percent.

“It was like [the saying], ‘The rising tide lifts all boats,’” Holl said. “When you raise expectations, these students are amazing.”

‘There are too many barriers’

Advocates agree that students are tenacious and rise to the challenge. But many, like Linda Vasquez of the Campaign for College Opportunity, worry that a new requirement would “erode” the gains made so far in expanding college access.

“Every time [students] meet

[universities’]

standards, our universities raise the bar on them,” Vasquez, the campaign’s senior public affairs director, told the board last month.

Starting with the Class of 2016, L.A. Unified’s curriculum is fully aligned with CSU and UC system admissions requirements. This means all students have to take 15 “A-G” college preparation courses — English, math, science, foreign language and other core electives — to graduate. About 51 percent of California districts similarly mandated A-G completion as of 2017, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

The needle has moved incrementally as a result. In 2011, before the realignment, only 26 percent of L.A. Unified students were on track to meet CSU and UC eligibility standards. By 2016-17, 46 percent of students who entered that graduating class as freshmen and 60 percent of those who actually did graduate qualified. In 2017-18, it inched up to 47.9 percent and 61.9 percent, respectively.

It remains unclear whether progress backslid in 2018-19. District spokeswoman Shannon Haber confirmed that the 46 percent for the Class of 2019 cohort is the latest and most accurate estimate.

L.A. Unified enrollment in CSU schools has increased overall, too. About 16 percent of district graduates in 2018 went to CSU system schools, up from about 12.5 percent in 2014, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit that collects data from colleges and universities

But it’s still far from where the district wants to be.

The district remains well below its goal of 100 percent of graduates being eligible for the CSU and UC systems by 2023. And there are still gaping disparities in college readiness across student groups, especially among foster youth, English learners and students with disabilities.

There is also a nearly 30-percentage-point difference between students who are eligible to graduate from L.A. Unified and those who are eligible for CSU and UC schools. Students must get a C or better in each course to satisfy CSU/UC system eligibility requirements — but a D is accepted to graduate from L.A. Unified.

Most students think that they’re able to graduate from high school, and think, ‘If I’m graduating high school, I should be able to go to college,’” said Desiree Martinez, a former L.A. Unified student and associate director of organizing for Students For Education Reform LA. “Then, senior year, it’s devastating to find out that’s not the case.”

That reality is reason enough to hit pause, said Jennifer Cano, director of education programs and policy at United Way of Greater Los Angeles. United Way is a district partner in college-readiness initiatives.

“There are enough barriers to having kids emerge college and career ready, A-G ready, as is,” she said. “So until we see improvements there and a steadier pipeline in, it wouldn’t be wise.”

For Holl, it seems to boil down to people having the same end goal, but different paths for getting there.

“Change is hard for people,” she said. “It makes people fearful because what we’re proposing is a different way of creating access, I think.”

Walters: UC’s new political litmus test echoes McCarthy-era ‘oath’

Are you a hater?  The UC system wants you.  Do you support the right of free speech and open discussion?  You are disqualified from working for the University of California system.   Think it OK to stop speech you do not like because it could trigger emotions?  Then you are a candidate for the UC system. 

“Although UC’s Board of Regents officially declares that “No political test shall ever be considered in the appointment and promotion of any faculty member or employee,” a new UC policy seems to be doing exactly that.

As part of its “commitment to diversity and excellence,” UC’s administrators are telling recruiters for faculty positions, as one directive puts it, to take “pro-active steps to seek out candidates committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

To enforce that dictum, UC also requires applicants for new faculty employment and promotions to submit “diversity statements” that will be scored “with rubrics provided by Academic Affairs and require applicants to achieve a scoring cutoff to be considered.”

If you believe race, gender or hairstyle is more important than qualifications to teach at a UC, then they are looking for you.  Not as a profession, but indoctrination camp counselor/enforcer.

Walters: UC’s new political litmus test echoes McCarthy-era ‘oath’

Applicants for new faculty employment and promotions must submit ‘diversity statements’

By Dan Walters, CALmatters, East Bay Times,   7/28/19 

If you’ve never heard of the Levering Act, you’re not alone.

Few Californians are old enough to remember that during the years immediately after World War II, a Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States and its allies generated a wave of popular fear about communist subversion.

Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover led crusades to root out what they claimed was widespread infiltration by communists.

California had its own version of McCarthyism, as it came to be known. The Legislature created a Committee on Un-American Activities and in 1950 enacted the Levering Act, requiring all state employees to sign “loyalty oaths.”

It was specifically aimed at the University of California’s faculty, and 31 tenured professors were fired for refusing to sign it.

The state was unconstitutionally imposing “a political test for employment,” as the California State Federation of Teachers said at the time. And after much legal wrangling, the state Supreme Court voted 6-1 in 1967 to declare the Levering Act unconstitutional.

Although UC’s Board of Regents officially declares that “No political test shall ever be considered in the appointment and promotion of any faculty member or employee,” a new UC policy seems to be doing exactly that.

As part of its “commitment to diversity and excellence,” UC’s administrators are telling recruiters for faculty positions, as one directive puts it, to take “pro-active steps to seek out candidates committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

To enforce that dictum, UC also requires applicants for new faculty employment and promotions to submit “diversity statements” that will be scored “with rubrics provided by Academic Affairs and require applicants to achieve a scoring cutoff to be considered.”

The academic affairs department at UC-Davis says that diversity statements from tenure-track faculty applicants should have “an accomplished track record…of teaching, research or service activities addressing the needs of African-American, Latino, Chicano, Hispanic and Native American students or communities.” Their statements must “indicate awareness” of those communities and “the negative consequences of underutilization” and “provide a clearly articulated vision” of how their work at UC-Davis would advance diversity policies.

Jeffrey Flier, former director of the Harvard Medical School, is among the respected academics who see the inherent contradictions and perils in UC’s one-size-fits-all concept of political correctness.

“As a supporter of the original goals of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, my skepticism toward this policy surprised a number of friends and colleagues,” Flier wrote this year in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“But it is entirely inappropriate to require diversity statements in the process of appointment and promotion. Such requirements risk introducing a political litmus test into faculty hiring and reviews.”

While Flier sees the new policy as “far from the loyalty oaths deployed at the University of California during the McCarthy era,” he adds: “It’s not unreasonable to be concerned that politically influenced attestations might begin to re-emerge in the current hyperpartisan political environment, either in response to politically driven demands for faculty to support populist or nationalist ideas, or from within the increasingly polarized academy itself. Since progressive/left identifications are dominant in the academy, especially in the humanities and social sciences (as well as in administration), politically influenced litmus tests could easily arise in that sphere.”

They’ve already arisen at UC, implicitly denying employment or promotion for anyone who fails to enthusiastically endorse “diversity,” however that might be defined.

In the name of “diversity,” therefore, the new litmus test would make the overwhelmingly liberal UC faculty even less ideologically diverse.

Study: California schools earn low grades compared to nation

We pay the highest taxes in the nation.  The unions have a stranglehold on our government schools.  Radicals set the curriculum, not parents, teachers or professional educators.  LAUSD students are held hostage in failed schools==600,000 children not getting an education.

“California was 4th best for the percentage of threatened or injured high school students. The state came in last for its student-teacher ratio.

Other key rankings:

  • 44th – Math Test Scores
  • 38th – Reading Test Scores
  • 32nd – Median SAT Score
  • 16th – Median ACT Score
  • 22nd – % of Licensed/Certified Public K–12 Teachers
  • 34th – Dropout Rate
  • 7th – Bullying Incidence Rate

The more money spent on schools (note I do not say education) in California, the worse it gets.  Importantly, children are not safe in the classroom—note the bullying rate.

Study: California schools earn low grades compared to nation

By: Allison Horn, 10News, 7/29/19 

(KGTV) – As parents and children prepare for a new school year, a study shows California schools do not earn top grades compared to other states.

California ranked 38th among the 50 states and District of Columbia in 29 categories, according to the Wallet Hub study.

Data considered to measure quality included graduation rate, dropout rate, math and reading test scores, Advanced Placement exam scores, student-teacher ratio, and SAT and ACT results.

Safety was measured by number of school shootings, share of high school students who were armed, participating in violence, or access to illegal drugs, school safety plans, youth incarceration rates, and safety grades of roads around schools.

California was 4th best for the percentage of threatened or injured high school students. The state came in last for its student-teacher ratio.

Other key rankings:

  • 44th – Math Test Scores
  • 38th – Reading Test Scores
  • 32nd – Median SAT Score
  • 16th – Median ACT Score
  • 22nd – % of Licensed/Certified Public K–12 Teachers
  • 34th – Dropout Rate
  • 7th – Bullying Incidence Rate

Top states for education included Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, and Vermont. The worst states were West Virginia, Mississippi, Arizona, Louisiana, and New Mexico.

Source: WalletHub

University investigates feminist grad student for saying men can’t become women

The Left is now investigating a card carrying radical feminist for the “rime” of questioning the definition of a woman”.  This is not a joke.  In an era where words have No meaning, government, the media and academia

“University of California-Santa Barbara doctoral students, alumni and “allies” are demanding the administration take action against Laura Tanner, an outspoken critic of transgender ideology and doctoral candidate in its Department of Feminist Studies.

Tanner’s Twitter feed is dominated by discussion of transgender ideology’s threat to women, including young lesbians. She believes that transgender women – biological males – are wrongly appropriating a female identity.

Her header image bluntly declares: “A woman is someone with a female body and any personality … not a ‘female personality’ and any body. Any other definition is sexism.” School newspaper The Daily Nexus reprinted several of her tweets that it considered “transphobic.”

The real issue is not about transgenders.  It is about free speech, debating different thoughts and allowing for varying points of views.  In this case the University is allowing only one point of view.  Others need to leave.  Colleges have become indoctrination camps—and this is the proof.

University investigates feminist grad student for saying men can’t become women

Alexander Pease, The College Fix,   7/12/19  

What are the odds a feminist graduate student could be under siege for feminist rhetoric on a California campus?

Under an intersectional framework and evolving definition of “woman,” much higher than you might expect.

University of California-Santa Barbara doctoral students, alumni and “allies” are demanding the administration take action against Laura Tanner, an outspoken critic of transgender ideology and doctoral candidate in its Department of Feminist Studies.

Tanner’s Twitter feed is dominated by discussion of transgender ideology’s threat to women, including young lesbians. She believes that transgender women – biological males – are wrongly appropriating a female identity.

Her header image bluntly declares: “A woman is someone with a female body and any personality … not a ‘female personality’ and any body. Any other definition is sexism.” School newspaper The Daily Nexus reprinted several of her tweets that it considered “transphobic.”

Yet Tanner identifies as an intersectional feminist. Her dissertation is an “intersectional feminist analysis of child-initiated violence and the binds of mothering,” according to her department page. (She has three children, ages 16 to 23, according to her website.)

She has designed and taught two courses in the department and served as teaching assistant for four courses, but it’s not clear if she’s scheduled to teach again. Tanner did not respond to emails or Twitter messages from The College Fix this week.

Critics on Twitter want her removed from teaching or worse, with some lobbing personal insults at Tanner such as “absolute trash” and “dumb bitch,” according to the Daily. One declared “that bitch needs to die,” and others have targeted her for being white.

At least one former Tanner student, Kyremina Youssef, has publicly discussed filing a complaint against her with the department and university ethics board, citing Tanner’s tweets. She and another student also held a campus demonstration against her last month.

Another student who complained about Tanner posted a response from Laury Oaks, the chair of Tanner’s department. Oaks called Tanner’s social media posts “distressing” and told the student he could also file ethics and Title IX complaints.

He also posted a response from Title IX Coordinator Ariana Alvarez, who said her office is “actively engaging in a response” and asked him to forward “any new material/posts” by Tanner.

Despite these official responses to at least one student, UCSB and Tanner’s department have been publicly mum in response to the activism against her.

The Department of Feminist Studies has yet to answer its phone any time The Fix has called, and did not return a voicemail. But a spokesperson for the university told The Fix Thursday night that the department asked her to respond on its behalf.

Deputy News Director Shelly Leachman did not answer Fix questions about whether invalidating transgender identity is a conduct-code violation at UCSB, either under any context or specifically in a teaching position.

“University policy prohibits discussing details related to personnel issues and we are prohibited from discussing student information,” Leachman wrote in an email. The Fix did not ask about either.

“The University has a process for reporting bias incidents on campus, and procedures for addressing these issues when they arise,” Leachman continued:

The University also has strong policies related to protecting academic freedom and freedom of expression. Campus community members are encouraged to report violations of these policies and of misconduct in all of these areas.

MORE: The Equality Act is actually the ‘Female Erasure Act’

Gender binary ‘rooted in the logics of colonialism, racism, and gendered domination’

The dispute between Tanner and pro-trans activists illustrates the struggle over the boundaries of feminism within the academy and the broader culture.

She is part of a small but increasingly vocal feminist minority, often slurred as “trans exclusionary radical feminists.”

Their insistence that men can’t become women has ignited anger among the trans-welcoming and ally-oriented environments that dominate academia from coast to coast. The subject is a chapter in a new book on youth activism by Reason’s Robby Soave, a former Fix editor.

Tanner is the unnamed subject of two letters that appear more generally to criticize the curriculum in the Department of Feminist Studies. Both are written so vaguely, however, that it’s not clear whether they take issue with instructors other than Tanner.

The first, dated June 12, was issued “in Support of Trans, Non-Binary and Sex Working Students.” Fewer than 20 current and graduated doctoral students in the department signed the letter.

“To the students who have been harmed by transphobia and anti-sex worker rhetoric in our department, we are so sorry,” they wrote, citing a “graduate student’s transphobic and anti-sex work rhetoric and reported conduct as an instructor.”

They claimed the “gender binary … is rooted in the logics of colonialism, racism, and gendered domination”:

Feminist Studies is a field rooted in traditions of protest and political action. To the students who are troubled by all of this, we support your freedom of speech as it may manifest in awareness-raising, protest, etc and offer our collaboration in efforts to address transphobia and anti-sex worker sentiments on this campus.

The letter suggests department faculty have already assured the signatories that they agree with the criticisms. It demands “transparency” about a curriculum committee meeting “to address concerns raised by students regarding transphobia, anti-sex work rhetoric and environments of safety for trans students.”

Relevant to Tanner, the letter demands that “those espousing openly racist, anti-sex work and transphobic beliefs do not continue to teach or TA for the department.” (It’s not clear if they are personally accusing Tanner of racism.)

The “alumni and allies” letter, posted June 14 and signed by predominantly UCSB graduates but also those from other UC campuses, does not single out an individual unnamed instructor.

Rather, it accuses UCSB of copying the Trump administration and its “rampant transphobia.” Echoing a common theme of intersectionality, the letter equates views such as Tanner’s with physical violence.

“[S]ome deleterious and hateful material has been presented in the [Feminist Studies] classroom and online targeting trans students,” the letter reads:

Material that denies the existence and lived experiences of trans people, especially trans women, is not only factually inaccurate but harmful to trans students. Such views are incompatible with the ethical responsibilities of Feminist Studies as a discipline, and should not be espoused by instructors, TAs, or in course material.

The department becomes complicit in “murders and hate crimes targeting trans people,” as well as their suicides, when it allows material “that denies the reality of trans people’s experiences or reifies gendered and sexed binaries as essential or real,” the letter continues. It has about 400 signatures as of Thursday night.

The Fix has been unable to find specific accusations of transphobic behavior by Tanner in the classroom or curriculum, however.

In her tweet floating the idea of filing a complaint against Tanner, Youssef didn’t mention any classroom incident. “I had her last quarter and she did not know half of the things we talked about and tried to bring her own struggles in when we spoke about poverty,” she wrote. “Ma’am, youre [sic] white.”

Another student told The Fix that Tanner was not a good teacher, but didn’t mention her views as a reason. “[S]he was very unresponsive to my requests and went directly against what the professor set as the procedure which made navigating the course very difficult for me,” he wrote.

Youssef and fellow sophomore Ari Moini held a demonstration June 13 to protest Tanner’s views as expressed on Twitter.

Youssef told the Daily that they would organize more rallies in the fall if Tanner weren’t removed from teaching at UCSB. Moini claimed the trans community on campus was “unsafe” as long as she taught.

Nevertheless, Tanner persisted.

Campaign against her includes incitement, defamation, harassment, she says

The doctoral student has continued tweeting her criticisms of transgender ideology since she became a cause celebre at UCSB.

She particularly focuses on the health risks of transitioning for children, the threat to lesbians from treating men as women, and the chilling of speech such as hers, especially in the United Kingdom.

In one Twitter thread days after the critical letters were published, Tanner shared several stories she has received from like-minded women at universities who are afraid to speak publicly.

Among the Tanner tweets that the Daily identified as transphobic: “No child is trans. It’s not possible to be born in the wrong body.”

Another: “Rather than resolving dysphoria or dysmorphia, ‘transition’ maintains & reinforces a state of opposition to one’s own body … This is not mental health care.”

Tanner told the Daily that the student campaign to get her fired “has included incitement to violence, defamatory lies about my teaching, and harassment in regard to my race and sexuality.” She described the slang term TERF, used against women like her, as a “slur used to denigrate and silence women.”

She also questioned the Daily in a tweet for the headline on its article. It should instead say: “UCSB doctoral candidate being harassed for telling the truth and standing up for women and children.”

On her website, Tanner elaborates on the centrality of transgender ideology to her research:

My research and scholarship are currently focused on resisting the discursive erasure of women and girls, particularly in health and gender discourse; attempts to disassociate the female body from womanhood; the mistaken idea that biological sex is socially constructed or possible to change, the loss of women and girls’ civil rights through changes to laws that remove sex protections and define gender as a feeling; and the abusive and dangerously experimental practices of medically “transing” children and young adults.

She told the Daily that the “silencing, no platforming, and retaliation against academics who question or critique trans ideology” is not limited to America.

“This is especially concerning in the university environment, which is supposed to be a place of open, unimpeded exchange of ideas.”

These ‘ghost’ legal clients are shaking down mom-and-pop businesses under the guise of disability rights

Our legal system allows abuse and corruption.  It allows for extortion and blackmail, under the cover of law.  Attorneys are allowed to lie about clients and sue small businesses and shake them down for hundreds and thousands of dollars.

“In a new twist on an old ruse that some call legal extortion, a Los Angeles attorney is suspected of creating “ghost” clients who file hundreds of lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act to extract settlements from Southern California businesses.

Simon Soo Kil Chang, who operates the K&C Law Firm, has for at least the past three years allegedly targeted vulnerable mom-and-pop establishments that don’t have the financial resources to fight the civil rights claims in Orange and Los Angeles county courts, according to Placentia attorney David Michaels.

Michaels has filed a complaint with the State Bar of California urging swift action to stop the harassment of businesses, which typically offer up to $4,000 to settle complaints alleging such ADA violations as faded paint on a handicapped parking spot or a bathroom mirror that rests perhaps an inch too high.”

How many others are there?  Like the Malibu attorney who threatens to sue cities, claiming they are racist unless they pay him $35,000 and create districts in their city.  No one has filed a complaint against him, yet.

These ‘ghost’ legal clients are shaking down mom-and-pop businesses under the guise of disability rights

Complaint alleges LA lawyer fabricated litigants in hundreds of phony lawsuits over purported ADA violations

By Scott Schwebke, Press-Enterprise,   7/21/19  

In a new twist on an old ruse that some call legal extortion, a Los Angeles attorney is suspected of creating “ghost” clients who file hundreds of lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act to extract settlements from Southern California businesses.

Simon Soo Kil Chang, who operates the K&C Law Firm, has for at least the past three years allegedly targeted vulnerable mom-and-pop establishments that don’t have the financial resources to fight the civil rights claims in Orange and Los Angeles county courts, according to Placentia attorney David Michaels.

Michaels has filed a complaint with the State Bar of California urging swift action to stop the harassment of businesses, which typically offer up to $4,000 to settle complaints alleging such ADA violations as faded paint on a handicapped parking spot or a bathroom mirror that rests perhaps an inch too high.

“I cannot stress enough the urgency this matter must be given,” Michaels wrote in his 2018 letter to the State Bar. “I have contacted over 200 defendants in person or by telephone who are victims of crimes. Please help stop this enterprise, remove all those involved from the bar, and forward this information to the proper authorities for criminal prosecution.”

Misuk Kim helps customers at her restaurant, Apollo Burger, in Garden Grove, CA on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. Kim and her daughter and co-owner Helen Kim paid the K&C Law Firm $2,000 in an ADA lawsuit. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The California State Bar would neither confirm nor deny Chang is under investigation, spokeswoman Teresa Ruano said.

However, Mia Ellis, a supervising attorney for the state licensing agency, acknowledged in an October 2018 letter to Michaels the complaint had been forwarded to the bar’s Enforcement Unit for further investigation and possible prosecution.

Meanwhile, the number of suspicious ADA lawsuits mount, with more than two dozen filed in Orange County courts in just the past month.

Chang denies Michaels’ allegations that he has manufactured the complaints.

“Our office never filed those ADA lawsuits,” he said in an email to the Southern California News Group. “We did help some of the plaintiffs in ADA lawsuits with the settlement process, which is why there were settlement checks written to our office.”

Serial ADA plaintiffs proliferate

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 to ensure the disabled have access to public accommodations. But the legislation has given rise to a cottage industry of so-called drive-by lawsuits, often targeting improper handicap parking accommodations or signage visible outside businesses.

The number of ADA lawsuits filed in federal court in 2018 hit a record high of 10,163 — up 34 percent from 2017, when the number was 7,663, according to Seyfarth Shaw, one of the nation’s largest law firms specializing in defending against such cases.

California led the nation in federal ADA cases last year with 4,249 filings compared to 2,751 in 2017. Those figures do not include state court filings that Shaw doesn’t track.

Prolific serial plaintiffs, scattered throughout California with ties to a handful of law firms, typically are wheelchair-bound activists who purport to have the best interests of the disabled in mind.

But critics say the lawsuits essentially amount to legal shakedowns, designed to encourage settlements with plaintiffs to avoid fines of up to $4,000 under California law; federal law caps fines at $1,000 for ADA violations.

Where are the clients?

What makes Chang’s lawsuits different, Michaels says, are his clients — not one has been found to exist.

“All evidence points to Simon Chang being behind the entire scheme,” he said. “It’s pretty incredible.”

Stephen Abraham, a Newport Beach attorney who last year represented more than 120 Southern California businesses sued for ADA violations, said each of the lawsuits follows the same pattern, even containing the same boilerplate language and identical typographical errors

The named plaintiffs never attend hearings and negotiate with defendants via email, instructing them to send settlement checks to Chang, Michaels said. The complaints also never demand that plaintiffs correct deficiencies cited under the ADA.

“You would expect a real plaintiff motivated to file a lawsuit affecting his civil rights to show up in court at some point,” Abraham said. “But they never do. It’s my conclusion the person doesn’t exist.”

Hundreds of ADA cases are filed under Castillo’s name in Orange and Los Angeles counties. In his State Bar complaint, Michaels said he has reached out to defendants and their attorneys in all of those cases.

“Not a single defendant or (legal) representative has ever seen or talked to Victorino,” he wrote.

Getting to the bottom of things

Michaels, a 51-year-old tax attorney who knew little about disability law until a friend who owns a Placentia pizza shop asked him for help in March 2018,  began to dig deeper.

That month, Michaels visited the Los Angeles address listed on the lawsuit as belonging to Castillo. It turned out to be an unlikely location for a disabled individual.

“To my surprise, the address was a mailbox on the top floor of a two-story strip mall on West Sixth Street in Koreatown,” Michaels said.

A woman working at the business told Michaels the mailboxes were not handicapped accessible and that she had never seen a man there in a wheelchair.

She also had another piece of information — the mailbox purportedly belonging to Castillo was actually rented by a law firm.

“At this point, I had a frivolous complaint,” Michaels said. “The phone number was bogus, and the mailbox was not wheelchair accessible. The only way to reach the second floor was to walk up a staircase. And the mailbox was owned by lawyers. I suspected fraud.”

The mailboxes have since been removed and the location is now occupied by a massage business.

Chang did not respond to an inquiry from the Southern California News Group whether his firm rented the mailbox.

Lawsuits copied & pasted

Even more telling, various addresses listed on lawsuits purportedly filed by Castillo are identical to those of other plaintiffs in separate ADA complaints, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

All of the addresses are within 1 1/2 miles of Chang’s office, which is tucked away on the 12th floor of a quiet office building in Koreatown. A reporter who visited the office was told Chang wasn’t in.

Chang told the State Bar in February he doesn’t know Castillo.

“I never represented anyone named Victorino, in any cases, and I don’t know this alleged individual,” Chang said in the email. “Never heard of, never dealt with him, never saw him, never represented him.”

The Southern California News Group, however, has obtained documents showing otherwise, including more than a half-dozen ADA settlement checks cashed by the K&C Law Firm and settlement agreements signed by Chang, who identifies himself as Castillo’s attorney.

“Attached is the signed settlement agreement … for K&C Law Firm,” Simon Chang said in a Nov. 21 2018 email to the attorney for the Shabu Shabu Bar in Santa Ana, named in an ADA lawsuit purported to have been filed by Castillo. “Please remember to mail the settlement check to our office. Happy Holidays.”

Chang sent a recent email to the Southern California News Group contradicting his earlier claim to the State Bar that he doesn’t know Castillo.

“I looked into the files… and I can confirm that Victorino Castillo does exist and it was him that filed these actions,” he wrote. “I can prove that he exists and you have my word.”

Financial toll on small businesses

Another business, Apollo Burgers in Garden Grove, paid Chang’s law firm $2,000 in July 2018, to make an ADA lawsuit from Castillo go away, according to copy of the check obtained from Misuk Kim, who co-owns the restaurant with daughter Helen Kim.

Like all the other Castillo complaints, the suit alleged the restaurant’s parking lot was not ADA compliant, said Misuk Kim, who is certain Castillo never visited the strip mall eatery. “He never came in,” she said. “He just made up his own story.”

Three months before the lawsuit was filed, the shopping center’s landlord had repaved the parking lot and made other improvements to ensure it was ADA compliant, Helen Kim said.

Like other ADA plaintiffs, the Kims decided it would be better to settle the lawsuit than fight it in court. They paid $2,000 to hire a paralegal to reach out to Castillo to negotiate a payment, but nearly a month went by without word from the plaintiff.

Then, just two days before the 30-day deadline to answer the lawsuit, the Kims’ paralegal received an email purportedly from Castillo with instructions to send the $2,000 settlement check to Chang, Misuk Kim said.

The check was mailed, the lawsuit was dropped and the Kims never heard from Castillo again.

Their dealings with Chang and another man who promised to recover their settlement — but never did — has taken an emotional and financial toll.  “It has been so stressful,” Helen Kim said. “It’s horrible when you are just trying to make a living.”

Fighting back

There have been efforts to prosecute serial plaintiffs and the lawyers who represent them.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office in April sued four lawyers and another man for allegedly targeting small businesses with ADA lawsuits and making misrepresentations to the court to obtain settlements.

Then, in May, a federal grand jury indicted Scott Johnson, a quadriplegic attorney and serial ADA plaintiff from Sacramento, for filing false tax returns that allegedly understated his income from ADA lawsuit settlements from 2012 through 2014.

It’s unconscionable that serial plaintiffs, especially those who may not exist such as Castillo, are allowed to use the legal system “like a blunt instrument” to frighten defendants into settling bogus ADA lawsuits, Abraham said.

Small family-owned businesses are vulnerable, he said, because they fear becoming entangled in the legal system and are likely to settle quickly, he said.

“All are hardworking people who do everything they can to avoid drawing the attention from the state,” he added. “When they get hit by a lawsuit, they don’t tell family members about it. They often feel shame and don’t want to contact defense lawyers.”

Abraham said the situation “screams out for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and California Attorney General’s Office to look into this.”

The Orange County District Attorney’s defers to the State Bar to investigate ethical complaints against lawyers, spokeswoman Kimberly Edds said. And the California Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.

Could legislation help?

Meanwhile, the proliferation of predatory ADA complaints hasn’t gone unnoticed by California lawmakers.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, proposed bills in 2017 and 2018 to curb ADA lawsuit abuse. Both proposals would have given businesses several months to correct alleged ADA violations before lawsuits could proceed, but they died in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Ruthee Goldkorn of Californians for Disability Rights dismissed legislation as a means to curb ADA abuse, insisting only legal action can prevent unscrupulous lawyers from filing predatory lawsuits.

“Legislation will do nothing to stop these people,” she said. “The bar association has to go after these lawyers. It’s an ethics violation and they should be stripped of their bar card.”

California steers toward a future of self-driving cars

The Sacramento vision of the totalitarian State is becoming more clear.  They will allow the use of self driving cars—but owned by agencies or government, and will not use gas.  Government will determine if you can own a car and how to get around town.

“Officials say automated cars will dovetail in two ways with greenhouse-gas-cutting policies in California, where the transportation sector belches out nearly half of the state’s climate-warming emissions. They’ll be included in the fleets of ridesharing companies, reducing the number of personal cars on the road as the state transitions to electricity-powered transportation. And they’ll almost certainly operate on batteries (though some could run on zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells), helping motorists wean themselves off gasoline.”

Notice the phrase “ridesharing companies—that is going to be the government push.  Make the cost of buying cars, insurance for cars and gas so expensive (buy an electric car and watch government raise the cost of charging your car so you won’t be able to afford it).    I had been looking forward to buying a self driving car.  Now I know it is if government allows it, not only my wife.

California steers toward a future of self-driving cars

Self-driving cars will be part of ridesharing fleets, reducing the number of personal vehicles on the road and helping wean motorists off gasoline.

By Julie Cart, CalMatters,  7/26/19

California is laying the groundwork for the next, slightly scary, phase in its push toward zero-emission transportation: self-driving cars packed with computers using finely tuned algorithms, high-definition cameras, radar and other high-tech gadgetry. What the driverless cars won’t feature: steering wheels, brake pedals and gas pedals.

Autonomous vehicles, mostly electric, are already here in a limited fashion—as a slow van, for example, to move people around a Bay Area office park. That kind of shuttle, and small delivery trucks, will likely be the first self-driving vehicles in wide use, employingGPS, 3-D imaging and other technology to process and respond to what their cameras see on the road: other cars, pavement markings, traffic signals, pedestrians, etc.

Officials say automated cars will dovetail in two ways with greenhouse-gas-cutting policies in California, where the transportation sector belches out nearly half of the state’s climate-warming emissions. They’ll be included in the fleets of ridesharing companies, reducing the number of personal cars on the road as the state transitions to electricity-powered transportation. And they’ll almost certainly operate on batteries (though some could run on zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells), helping motorists wean themselves off gasoline. 

If properly managed, the coming driverless-car revolutioncould address other vexing problems as well, said Daniel Sperling, who directs the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis. He cited his sister’s poor peripheral vision, which prevents her from driving.

“It could lead to a dramatic improvement in safety, a dramatic improvement for mobility for the elderly, for physically disabled people and for low-income communities,” he said. For many, autonomous vehicles will mean emancipation. 

In addition, computer-driven cars are expected to reduce fatalities. They will never be afflicted with road rage, will not stop off after work for one too many and won’t nod off after endless hours on the road. And productivity could rise as motorists who now lose hundreds of hours idling in traffic each year are freed from the tyranny of paying attention and can legally text, work, answer email and even watch YouTube. 

But it’s a significant step from allowing testing of automated cars in protected, supervised settings to unleashing them solo on the road, which experts say remains on a far horizon. There is much to be perfected: how best to turn left in traffic, for example, a maneuver that bedevils many human drivers. Multiply that by many more dicey scenarios and it makes sense that test vehicles’ current response to most obstacles is to just slow down.

Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says human errors cause 94% of serious crashes, motorists are reluctant to turn over the controls to computers, telling pollsters they prefer to drive a car, not interface with one. And the potential for hacking has led some doubters to paint a future in which bad actors “weaponize” a vehicle, taking over the controls with harmful intent.

Still, California is pressing ahead. It was among the first states to contemplate a future for autonomous cars, when the Legislature in 2012 authorized the Department of Motor Vehicles to devise rules for them. Those regulations are now the nation’s most extensive; in April the DMV proposed allowing testing of autonomous lightweight delivery trucks. 

“You have to know what you are regulating, and we had to go to manufacturers to understand the technology,” said Brian Soublet, the DMV’s chief counsel, who has been writing the regulations since 2014 and is excited about leading the way. “We had to start from scratch….My kids are tired of hearing about it, but to me it’s completely fascinating—the future of how we are getting around.”

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has set out principles, such as prioritizing emissions reduction and more car-sharing, to help guide futurestatepolicies on smart cars.

And California’s controversial 2017 gas-tax increase encourages the transportation department and local jurisdictions to tap road funds to build infrastructure that smart cars will require, such as traffic lights that tell them how much time remains on a green light and freeway signs that announce their messages digitally.

The DMV has doled out permits to more than 60 companies for testing autonomous cars—nearly 800 of them—on California streets. Those vehicles have traveled more than 3.6 million miles and have been involved in 177 collisions. 

It’s not a free-for-all. Testing has been allowed since 2014, in nearly every case with a human “safety driver” on board, able to take over the car’s controls. And, although one company, Waymo, has a permit to conduct tests without a driver, it has yet to do so.

The future can be glimpsed at a former Navy base near the Bay Area city of Concord, converted to the nation’s largest autonomous-vehicle proving ground where computer-driven cars are let off their leashes and are free to roam across 2,100 acres. The facility, GoMentum Station, run by the American Automobile Association, is an innovation hive where Silicon Valley marries its futuristic vision to the automobile industry’s traditionalknow-how. 

California could reap economic benefits from a smart-car industry,attracting new business and jobs, officials say. Researchers forecast that investment in the technology, by traditional industry players and newcomers alike, will grow to $85 billion nationally through 2025, on top of $225 billion in spending on electric vehicles through 2023.

This transformation in transportation is taking place in a deceptively modest setting. The testing area has all the dusty charm of an abandoned town: shuttered buildings and empty parking lots, along with cattle, wild turkeys and coyotes wandering freely.

That’s perfect in the eyes of Randy Iwasaki, executive director of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, which is a partner in the facility. He guided his electric (though not autonomous) car along some of the 20 miles of rough streets on a recent day.

“Look at this road, it’s cracked, you can barely see the center line it’s so worn, there are weeds growing all over,” Iwasaki said with a trace of pride. When testing first began, researchershad to mow the streets because the earliest automated vehicles perceived that they had wandered off-road. The imperfections provide excellent preparation for the vehicles to navigate California’s bumpy, clogged and often chaotic streetscape.

Your car is partly autonomous if it has such features as cruise control, parking assist and lane monitoring.

The facility also features 45 types of intersections, various railroad crossings and a warehouse full of “targets”—vinyl deer decoys, pedestrian mannequins, bicycles and traffic cones. Such accessories help the vehicles “learn” to process what they see and make decisions through artificial intelligence.

“Thecamera vision is great, but the perception is not always there,” said Huei Peng, who directs an autonomous-vehicle research program at the University of Michigan. “The vehicles can see, but they can’t always understand.”

Iwasaki explained this in people terms: At age 24 or 25, humans may be at the peak of their acuity, with quick reflexes and excellent vision. But drivers of that age lack a broad base of experience to make informed decisions about the safest responses in traffic. The current generation of automated vehicles, Iwasaki reckons, is still in its 20s and has much to learn from errors on the road.

That ignorance of some learned conventions and courtesies of driving gives many motorists pause. But they can relax: California is a long way—a decade or more—from hosting truly autonomous cars on city streets.

Iwaskai said most autonomous cars being tested in California are operating at very low speeds, almost crawling. That’s because their computers need time to analyze what they are seeing. “If computers got faster you could drive faster, but they are not ready to make that jump,” he said. 

Uneasy about self-driving cars? Your vehicle is partly autonomous if it has such features as cruise control, parking assist and lane-keeping notifications. If you own a Tesla, you may have the highly advanced Autopilot, which makes decisions about steering and speed that maintain the vehicle within its lane. 

What’s critical is the programming instructions companies feed to their computersto teach them decision-making of the sort human drivers make every day: Is it appropriate to break the law and cross a double yellow line to avoid an accident? Is it ok to drive on the shoulder to get around an obstacle? 

Programmers use real-world experiences, like the cars get at GoMentum Station, to build databases enabling the vehicles to make split-second decisions as people do.

Bernard Soriano, deputy director of the state DMV, said his agency issues a driver’s license when a human exhibits a “minimum set of skills” and can be expected to improve over time. Autonomous cars will be held to the same standard, he said. At the moment, the state requires manufacturers to self-certify that their vehicles operate within the rules of the road—not exceeding the speed limit or crossing double lines, for example.

Autonomous vehicles are programmed to be cautious, to put safety first and to always obey the law. That typically translates into low speeds and frequent braking, trying the patience of the humans involved in the testing.

That makes for a sobering real-world scenario: What happens when fleets of law-abiding, speed-limit-adhering cars hit the road and mingle with California’s sometimes willful motorists, known to call their own shots?

“It’s an ongoing discussion,” Soriano said.

New York Times: Junk Science is Our Business—Truth is Found Elsewhere

The New York Times has become a leading source of science fiction and Fake News in the United States.  It is as accurate in reporting the news as the news report on Saturday Night Live.  It is all just for fun.

“According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate models tend to significantly underestimate the decrease in the diurnal temperature range—that is, the difference between minimum and maximum daily temperatures—over the last 50 years. The panel’s latest report notes that there is “medium confidence” that “the length and frequency of warm spells, including heat waves, has increased since the middle of the 20th century” around the world. Medium confidence means there is about a 50 percent chance of the finding being correct. (The report does deem it “likely that heatwave frequency has increased during this period in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia.”)”

How did we have an Ice Age?  What happened before, what happened after?  To bad the Times is not interested in facts.  Greenland used to be farmland—now it is iced over.  That happened before plastic straws, cars, and people!  Want bad fiction, read the legacy media.

The New York Times Says Heat Waves Are Getting Worse. The National Climate Assessment Disagrees.

At least in the lower 48 states.

Ronald Bailey, Reason,  7/19/19   

Americans east of the Rockies are sweltering as daytime temperatures soar toward 100 degrees or more. It is now customary for journalists covering big weather events to speculate on how man-made climate change may be affecting them, and the current heat wave is no exception. Take this headline in The New York Times: “Heat Waves in the Age of Climate Change: Longer, More Frequent and More Dangerous.”

As evidence, the Times cites the U.S. Global Change Research Program, reporting that “since the 1960s the average number of heat waves—defined as two or more consecutive days where daily lows exceeded historical July and August temperatures—in 50 major American cities has tripled.” That is indeed what the numbers show. But it seems odd to highlight the trend in daily low temperatures rather than daily high temperatures.

As it happens, chapter six of 2017’s Fourth National Climate Assessment reports that heat waves measured as high daily temperatures are becoming less common in the contiguous U.S., not more frequent.

Here, from the report, are the “observed changes in the coldest and warmest daily temperatures (°F) of the year for each National Climate Assessment region in the contiguous United States.” The “changes,” it explains, “are the difference between the average for present-day (1986–2016) and the average for the first half of the last century (1901–1960).”

And here is the Heat Wave Magnitude Index, which shows the maximum magnitude of a year’s heat waves. (The report defines a heat wave as a period of at least three consecutive days where the maximum temperature is above the appropriate threshold.)

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate models tend to significantly underestimate the decrease in the diurnal temperature range—that is, the difference between minimum and maximum daily temperatures—over the last 50 years. The panel’s latest report notes that there is “medium confidence” that “the length and frequency of warm spells, including heat waves, has increased since the middle of the 20th century” around the world. Medium confidence means there is about a 50 percent chance of the finding being correct. (The report does deem it “likely that heatwave frequency has increased during this period in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia.”)

Heat wave trends aside, the Fourth National Climate Assessment reports that “the annual average temperature over the contiguous United States has increased by 1.2°F” if you compare the period of 1986–2016 to that of 1901–1960. Outside the lower 48 states, Alaska’s average winter and summer temperatures have increased since 1950 by 7°F and 2.6°F, respectively.

Big tip of the hat to the University of Colorado’s invaluable Roger Pielke Jr.

Tax on Lyft and Uber going to SF voters

San Fran loves taxes and high prices.  Now they want to use the ballot box to increase the cost of Uber and Lyft rides.  In San Fran, if you have to ask the price of a product or service, you know you can not afford it.  It is time to call U-Haul.  In the Bay Area, housing prices went down, year after year.  In San Fran they went up by over 8%.  This is a town that uses city streets as toilets and schools as indoctrination camps.

“The Board of Supervisors unanimously favored the proposal to “impose an excise tax on the net rider fares for rides facilitated by commercial ride-share companies and rides provided by autonomous vehicles and private transit services vehicles.”

If approved by voters, a 3.25 percent extra fee will be added for most individual rides, and a 1.5 percent fee for shared rides that start in SF. Individual rides in electric cars get discounted down to 1.5 percent.

The city estimates that this will push an extra $35 million into city coffers, which it will steer toward mass transit and programs like Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths on city-owned streets.

That means government wants another $35 million from the people—to use to further enslave the people.  Glad I do not live in San Fran—I could not afford it.

Tax on Lyft and Uber going to SF voters

Ride surcharge would raise millions for transit, including street safety

By Adam Brinklow, SF Curbed,   7/24/19 

On Tuesday, City Hall gave the final go-ahead for a ballot measure that would level a tax on Lyft and Uber rides, and put the money toward transit programs, including a pledge to improve safety on San Francisco’s most dangerous streets.

The measure will appear on the November ballot.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously favored the proposal to “impose an excise tax on the net rider fares for rides facilitated by commercial ride-share companies and rides provided by autonomous vehicles and private transit services vehicles.”

If approved by voters, a 3.25 percent extra fee will be added for most individual rides, and a 1.5 percent fee for shared rides that start in SF. Individual rides in electric cars get discounted down to 1.5 percent.

The city estimates that this will push an extra $35 million into city coffers, which it will steer toward mass transit and programs like Vision Zero, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths on city-owned streets.

Voters will need to approve the measure by a two-thirds margin in order for it to pass.

According to the text of the legislation, “‘commercial ride-share company’ means a person that provides prearranged transportation services for compensation using an online-enabled application or platform or any offline method to connect passengers with drivers using a personal vehicle.”

The measure, authored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin in collaboration with Mayor London Breed, says that, while it’s not limited to services like Lyft and Uber, the lion’s share of revenue from the potential future tax would come from rides via the two noted startups.

The unanimous vote is no surprise, since the measure came up Tuesday with the entire board and the mayor signed on as cosponsors. Back in May, both Lyft and Uber signaled their support for the plan as well. That leaves voters the only ones left to be convinced.

Peskin noted on Tuesday that cities like Portland and New York City have already leveled similar taxes of their own.