Nuclear fusion: How long until this breakthrough discovery can power your house

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:40
By Ella Nilsen and René Marsh | CNN

For the first time in history, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain, a source familiar with the project confirmed to CNN.

Here’s what you need to know about this new form of nuclear energy that could eventually turn on your lights and help end dependence on fossil fuels.

What is nuclear fusion and why does it matter?

Nuclear fusion is a man-made process that replicates the same energy that powers the sun. Nuclear fusion happens when two or more atoms are fused into one larger one, a process that generates a massive amount of energy as heat.

Scientists around the world have been studying nuclear fusion for decades, hoping to recreate it with a new source that provides limitless, carbon-free energy — without the nuclear waste created by current nuclear reactors. Fusion projects mainly use the elements deuterium and tritium — both of which are isotopes of hydrogen.

The deuterium from a glass of water, with a little tritium added, could power a house for a year. Tritium is rarer and more challenging to obtain, although it can be synthetically made.

“Unlike coal, you only need a small amount of hydrogen, and it is the most abundant thing found in the universe,” Julio Friedmann, chief scientist at Carbon Direct and a former chief energy technologist at Lawrence Livermore, told CNN. “Hydrogen is found in water so the stuff that generates this energy is wildly unlimited and it is clean.”

The west gate entrance to the US Department of Energys Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, US, on Monday, Dec. 12.(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images)The west gate entrance to the US Department of Energys Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, US, on Monday, Dec. 12.(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images)  How is fusion different from nuclear fission?

When people think about nuclear energy, cooling towers and mushroom clouds may come to mind. But fusion is entirely different.

Whereas fusion fuses two or more atoms together, fission is the opposite; it is the process of splitting a larger atom into two or more smaller ones. Nuclear fission is the kind of energy that powers nuclear reactors around the world today. Like fusion, the heat created from splitting atoms is also used to generate energy.

Nuclear is a zero-emission energy source, according to the Department of Energy. But it produces volatile radioactive waste that must be stored safely and carries safety risks. Nuclear meltdowns, although rare, have occurred throughout history with wide-ranging and deadly results such as at the Fukushima and Chernobyl reactors.

Nuclear fusion does not carry the same safety risks, and the materials used to power it have a much shorter half-life than fission.

How could nuclear fusion power eventually turn the lights on in your house?

There are two main ways to generate nuclear fusion, but both have the same result. Fusing two atoms creates a tremendous amount of heat, which holds the key to producing energy. That heat can be used to warm water, create steam and turn turbines to generate power — much like how nuclear fission generates energy.

The big challenge of harnessing fusion energy is sustaining it long enough so that it can power electric grids and heating systems around the globe. The successful US breakthrough is a big deal, but it’s still on a far smaller scale than what’s needed to generate enough energy to run one power plant, never mind tens of thousands of power plants.

“It’s about what it takes to boil 10 kettles of water,” said Jeremy Chittenden, co-director of the Centre for Inertial Fusion Studies at Imperial College in London. “In order to turn that into a power station, we need to make a larger gain in energy — we need it to be substantially more.”

Why is DOE’s forthcoming announcement about a fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain important?

This is the first time scientists have ever successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain, instead of breaking even as past experiments have done.

While there’s many more steps until this can be commercially viable, it’s essential for scientists to show that they can create more energy than they started with. Otherwise, it doesn’t make much sense for it to be developed.

“This is very important because from an energy perspective, it can’t be an energy source if you’re not getting out more energy than you’re putting in,” Friedmann told CNN. “Prior breakthroughs have been important but it’s not the same thing as generating energy that could one day be used on a larger scale.”

Where does the fusion take place?

Several fusion projects are in the US, United Kingdom and Europe. France is home to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, on which thirty-five countries are collaborating — including main members China, the United States, the European Union, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea.

In the US, much of the work is happening at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, in a building that spans the size of three football fields.

The National Ignition Facility project creates energy from nuclear fusion by what’s known as “thermonuclear inertial fusion.” In practice, US scientists fire pellets that contain hydrogen fuel into an array of nearly 200 lasers, essentially creating a series of extremely fast, repeated explosions at the rate of 50 times per second. The energy collected from the neutrons and alpha particles is extracted as heat.

In the UK and the ITER project in France, scientists are working with huge donut-shaped machines outfitted with giant magnets called a tokamak to try to generate the same result. After fuel is put into the tokamak, its magnets are turned on and temperatures inside are raised exponentially to create plasma.

Plasma needs to reach at least 150 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than the core of the sun. The neutrons then escape the plasma, hitting a “blanket” lining the walls of the tokamak, and transferring their kinetic energy as heat.

What are the next steps?

Scientists and experts now need to figure out how to produce much more energy from nuclear fusion on a much larger scale.

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At the same time, they need to figure out how to eventually reduce the cost of nuclear fusion so that it can be used commercially.

“At the moment we’re spending a huge amount of time and money for every experiment we do,” said Chittenden. “We need to bring the cost down by a huge factor.”

Scientists will also need harvest the energy produced by fusion and transfer it to the power grid as electricity. It will take years — and possibly decades — before fusion can be able to produce unlimited amounts of clean energy, and scientists are on a race against the clock to fight climate change.

“This will not contribute meaningfully to climate abatement in the next 20-30 years,” Friedmann said. “This the difference between lighting a match and building a gas turbine.”

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Categories: Local News

U.S. Supreme Court declines to block California’s ban on flavored cigarettes

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:36
By Ariane de Vogue | CNN Supreme Court Reporter

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from tobacco company R.J. Reynolds to challenge a California law that bans the sale of flavored cigarettes.

There were no noted dissents.

The company, which makes menthol cigarettes, argued the state law conflicts with a federal law called the Tobacco Control Act that gives the federal Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate the sale of cigarettes.

The ban is set to go into effect December 21, and the tobacco company said that without the Supreme Court’s intervention it would be barred from selling its menthol cigarettes — which make up approximately one-third of the cigarette market — in one of the nation’s largest markets.

In November, Californians went to the polls and approved the ballot initiative by a 63.5% to 36.5% margin. The law, SB 793, makes it illegal to “sell, offer for sale, or possess with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product or a tobacco product flavor enhancer.”

Lawyers for R.J. Reynolds argued that the lower court was wrong to “ignore” federal law and permit states to “completely prohibit” the sale of flavored tobacco products for failing to meet “tobacco product standards.”

They noted that in 2009, Congress “enacted a comprehensive regime” to distribute authority over tobacco product regulation between the FDA and state and local governments and that the law granted the FDA “primary authority” to regulate tobacco products.

In legal briefs, California urged the justices to stay out of the dispute, arguing that for more than a century, states have “carried out their authority” to “guard the health” of their citizens. California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the law at issue was necessary because “flavored tobacco products are the central cause of unfavorable trends in youth addiction to tobacco.”

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He noted that the tobacco industry spent “tens of millions of dollars” trying to persuade voters to defeat California’s ban and failed to do so. He also said that when Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act in 2009, it “protected the pre-existing authority” of states with respect to the sale of tobacco products.

In a statement following the order, Bonta applauded the high court “for denying Big Tobacco’s latest attempt to block California’s commonsense ban on flavored tobacco products.” He added, “The voters of California approved this ban by an overwhelming margin in the November election and now it will finally take effect. I look forward to continuing to defend this important law against any further legal challenges.”

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Categories: Local News

Ukraine: Doctors from occupied city open hospital in Kyiv

Seattle Times - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:34

A team of doctors and nurses who fled Mariupol as Russian forces closed in on their hospital are starting up a new medical center in the Ukrainian capital to serve people displaced by the war.
Categories: Local News

Opinion: I’ll bet you didn’t write that. An artificial intelligence robot did

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:30

In less than a week, more than 1 million people have tried a new AI program that composes everything from emails to essays. Some high school and college students are probably celebrating the prospect of delegating future homework assignments to this magical chatbot. The digerati have already declared it the next big thing. Venture capitalists expect billion-dollar companies will be built on this technology.

ChatGPT, from OpenAI, is simple: Type in a request, get back a human-like response. Example: “Write a 500-word essay detailing the origins of the Spanish language, its ties to Latin roots, and the pervasiveness today.” Or “Write a warm, humorous 150-word email asking for 30 minutes of the recipient’s time.”

When my students at Stanford Business School demonstrated the product in the classroom last week, I feared for my job. Writing emails and memos is what I teach.

I found the AI-generated work amazing — then breathed a sigh of relief. These early attempts at AI, at best, automate mediocrity. And sometimes they get it wrong entirely.

My former student Matt Gibstein, now founder of an investment firm backing consumer technology start-ups, asked the chatbot to “Write an email to Glenn Kramon, a lecturer at Stanford and newspaper editor, in a tone that is persuasive and likely to make Glenn inclined to take a brief phone call. Please reference a specific article he has written and say how much I enjoyed it.”

I laughed when I read the result. The email began, “I hope this email finds you well.” As my 2,000 former students will tell you, never start an email that way. Beginning with “hope you are well” makes you one of a million; you want to be one in a million.

The email continues: “I am a huge fan of your work” — also a sycophantic cliche — and mentions my “article on the rise of automation and its impact on the workforce,” calling it “incredibly thought provoking and well-written.” I have written no such article (although I did oversee a project on this subject seven years ago).

It continues: “I am reaching out because I am currently working on a project ….” (My students would snicker; unnecessary adverbs — particularly “currently” — are my pet peeve.)

But mainly what automation has failed to master is warmth and individuality, which are essential to persuading most people to answer you. Indeed, now that many software products are helping us write, a personal touch has never been more important to distinguish yourself.

Matt and I receive scores of emails a day and we can easily tell when one is impersonal, and written with a software assist.

This is not to say that ChatGPT (GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer) isn’t pretty good at some things. It’s clear and grammatical. It’s organized and uses transitions.

Matt suggested we ask the chatbot to write this very article: “Write an 800-word opinion piece about what ChatGPT is, as well as its benefits and drawbacks.” In seconds it delivered a sensible, fair-minded description.

No doubt ChatGPT and tools like it will become much more valuable and human-sounding — especially when these products ingest and learn from millions of emails and texts to create more personalized responses.

For now, if all you are aiming for is “just OK,” these tools will suffice. If you want to stand out and make a personal connection in your emails and essays, you’ll still need to write them yourself. No program can replicate your voice, quirks or wit.

My best advice to those ready to cede to the computer: Don’t outsource your writing to an AI overlord. At least, not yet.

Glenn Kramon is a lecturer on practical writing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. ©2022 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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Colorado hotel apologizes to “Mr. Cooper” star Mark Curry after he said he was racially profiled there

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:25

Comic and actor Mark Curry said he was racially profiled and harassed on Friday at The Mining Exchange hotel, a Wyndham Grand Hotel & Spa, in Colorado Springs.

The 61-year-old former star of the ABC sitcom “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper” posted a 26-minute video on Instagram from Dec. 9 that showed him being boxed in by hotel staff in the lobby, repeatedly questioned as to whether he was a guest, and later followed around the lobby after a bizarre check-in experience, he said.

Curry had traveled to Colorado Springs to perform at 3E Comedy Club, and was with 3E’s CEO Eric Phillips at the time of check-in, according to the Colorado Springs Independent. Curry believes he was harassed and racially profiled because he was Black.

Curry and Phillips didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

The trouble started, Phillips told the Independent, after he asked a front desk employee about The Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway. “The girl there, she said she wasn’t secure answering the question and another woman took that to mean she wasn’t secure with the Black man standing at the counter,” Phillips said.

Curry’s subsequent Instagram video was quickly picked up by TMZ, The Daily Beast, BET, Entertainment Weekly and at least a dozen other news and entertainment publications. It starts with him sitting in the lobby, which was buzzing with activity as an employee repeatedly asked if he was a guest — despite just having checked in.

“Let’s go look at your status of whether or not you’re staying at the hotel,” the man said.

“But there’s a lot of white people that’s sitting out there,” Curry responded. “Let’s go ask them.”

The white employee, who is not wearing any identification and is eventually joined by a Black employee, said that the other people were buying drinks and thus were allowed to be there. Curry asked if he would be considered OK to be in the lobby if he bought a drink. The man said yes — that he’d then be considered a patron of the hotel, “which I asked you several times,” the employee said.

“They got me locked up you guys,” he said to his camera phone. “I feel threatened. … Look at the stance. You’re making me feel scared, sir.” The employee does not respond to several requests from Curry to back up.

Curry then began livestreaming his video Instagram, eventually racking up about 100,000 views and more than 5,000 comments. The video showed the two employees follow him as he walked around the hotel, and other employees ignoring his attempts to ask if they work there.

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A woman at the desk does not appear to recognize him as he complains of being followed. She asked him if he’s a guest of the hotel.

“Didn’t you check me in?” Curry asks her in the video. He refuses to say whether he’s a guest, having already checked in. He’s the only Black man in the lobby, and no other guests are being harassed, he said.

She said he’s being followed for “safety.”

Curry identified the white employee who harassed him in the lobby as John Cramm, the “establishment’s certified director of engineering and security,” according to the Independent. He was the one who first asked to see Curry’s room key to justify his presence. In his Instagram message, Curry encouraged people to call the hotel and complain about Cramm and his racism.

“When is this going to stop?” Curry asked after getting off the elevator and going to his room, where he continued to livestream about the incident.

Employees at The Mining Exchange did not answer multiple calls or immediately return emails on on Monday morning. Representatives of Wyndham Hotels did not respond to requests for comment. Callers were unable to leave voicemails as every available inbox on the menu was full, and calls to the hotel’s reservation line looped back on itself.

“We deeply regret this incident and have reached out to Mr. Curry to offer not only our sincere apologies but a full refund of his stay and an invitation to return, at no cost, anytime in the future,” reads a statement emailed to The Denver Post and attributed to general manager Neil Cramm. The letter promised to “revisit training with our staff, helping to ensure all interactions are reflective of our company values. …”

Curry declined to comment via phone to the CS Indy and said he was talking to an attorney.

US actress Holly Robinson Peete (R) poses with US actor Mark Curry on her just unveiled Hollywood Walk of Fame Star during a ceremony in Hollywood, California on June 20, 2022. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)Actor Holly Robinson Peete poses with actor and comic Mark Curry on her just unveiled Hollywood Walk of Fame Star during a ceremony in Hollywood, Calif., on June 20, 2022. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images) 

As of Monday, 3E Comedy Club’s Instagram account was filled with messages about the incident, with one commenter tagging the hotel and asking: “After what @miningexchange did to @therealmarkcurry will you be finding a new hotel to accommodate your performers?”

Actor Holly Robinson Peete, Curry’s co-star on “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” posted a message of support for Curry on Sunday after she watched the 26-minute video. “There was no reason for Mark to be singled out except for the fact that he’s a black man,” she wrote on her Twitter account, which counts about 755,000 followers. (Curry does not appear to have updated his own Twitter account over the last 12 months, but is a regular Instagram poster).

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“Since when do you have to identify yourself sitting in the lobby drinking coffee,” Robinson wrote. “This would be farcical if it wasn’t so disrespectful.”

The Mining Exchange opened in 1901 as a stock exchange for mining corporations, according to a June press release announcing its sale to Kemmons Wilson, a hotel investment firm. The Mining Exchange later become an office building before it was gutted to its brick-and-granite bones and transformed it into a boutique hotel.



Categories: Local News

As the Chicago Bears look to reduce the strain on QB Justin Fields, will his opportunities to run diminish?

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:24

Justin Fields’ teammates have stopped marveling at the way he moves, the way he flusters defenses with his agility and top-end speed. At this point it’s expected that Fields will bust loose at least once every game, then turn on the jets for a huge run.

The latest explosive dash came against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 4, when Fields turned what seemed like a simple zone-read keeper into a 55-yard touchdown in the Chicago Bears’ 28-19 loss. With one nasty cut in the backfield followed by some blinding acceleration, Fields left cornerback Keisean Dixon pretzeled behind the line of scrimmage and kept the rest of the Packers defense in his wake as he tore south toward the Soldier Field end zone.

“I feel like I was moving kind of slow, to be honest with you,” Fields said after the game.

Yep. Just a peak speed of 20.15 mph on that run, according to Next Gen Stats. Like he was running through quicksand. Ho-hum.

The wildest part: Fields went untouched on that sprint.

“It takes a special person to not get touched running up the middle,” Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson noted the next day. “He definitely does some amazing things. It’s something we enjoy.”

Johnson admits now that, in practice settings last season and during the spring and summer this year, the Bears defense may have gotten greedy in claiming success against Fields. Prohibited from laying a finger on their quarterback, Bears defenders sometimes watched Fields slither out of the pocket or take off downfield on a big scramble but insisted he broke free only because they couldn’t hit him.

“You’d see him running and you’re like, ‘Man, you probably would have gotten tackled,’” Johnson said. “Then when you go out there on a Sunday (in a game), you’re like, ‘No. They’re not tackling that dude.’

“Sometimes in practice, what we used to call sacks — like, ‘Oh, sack! Sack! Sack!’ — it’s like, ‘Nope, that probably wouldn’t have been a sack.’”

Added Bears left tackle Braxton Jones: “I’m not even surprised anymore. Justin’s legs are crazy. It’s awesome.”

Now, though, comes the tricky part as the Bears continue their offensive evolution under Fields. After an incredible run of incredible runs, how will the offense find its comfort zone in using Fields’ magical legs without overrelying on that gift or exposing him to unnecessary risk?

Since Week 5, Fields has averaged 102 rushing yards per game and scored seven touchdowns on the ground. He set an NFL regular-season record for a quarterback with 178 rushing yards against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9.

His touchdown run against the Packers was his third of at least 50 yards in the last four games. No other quarterback in the Super Bowl era has had that many 50-yard-plus rushing scores in a career.

That big play, however, was one of only six rushing attempts for Fields against the Packers, including a kneel-down to end the first half, a 1-yard sneak on the opening drive and two short scrambles on passing plays.

Twice the Bears used wildcat looks, sending direct snaps to running backs David Montgomery and Darrynton Evans to mix in read-option concepts. The snap to Evans came on first-and-goal from the 9-yard line in the third quarter, taking the ball out of Fields’ hands.

“We are trying to go with that in the future to take some hits off Justin,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said.

For context, Fields was playing for the first time since separating his left shoulder in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons two weeks earlier. So the Bears game plan against the Packers undoubtedly factored that in, prioritizing caution and trying to limit the hits Fields took.

But was that approach also a step in a new direction? That’s worth keeping an eye on over the final four games as Fields and the Bears seek a practical balance.

In explaining Fields’ reduced running against the Packers — he had only one scramble for 1 yard during a three-point second half — Eberflus explained it as a “flow of game” strategy.

“We were passing it so good, I think we were just going with that more,” he said. “I think that was the right thing to do.”

Not coincidentally, Fields had one of his better passing days, throwing for a season-high 254 yards and completing 80% of his passes. His pocket poise and patience seemed steady and he wasn’t sacked the entire game.

Eberflus expressed satisfaction with the improved rhythm and timing of the passing attack. He also hinted that going forward the Bears may use Fields as a runner on more situational terms.

“Red zone, third down, two-minute (drills),” he said. “When the game is there where it needs to be, to keep drives alive and score points.”

Fields enters this week with 905 rushing yards, on the doorstep of joining Michael Vick and Lamar Jackson as just the third quarterback in the 1,000-yard rushing club. But it’s worth wondering if 2022 will go down as the most prolific rushing season in his career, particularly as the Bears try to enhance his productivity as a passer, limit his exposure to injury and improve the balance in their offense.

This is a good problem to have. Yet the Bears might find themselves with a tricky risk-reward calculus, understanding that Fields’ special ability as a runner unlocked their offense in midseason, provided a flurry of big plays and led to a four-game tear in which they averaged 32 points.

But after a Week 10 loss to the Detroit Lions, Fields remarked that his legs felt heavy. And in the loss to the Falcons the next week, he fought cramping and later hurt his shoulder when he landed on the sideline after taking a routine hit from a defensive back after a routine run on the offense’s final possession.

With Fields inactive the next week, the offense scored only 10 points in nine true possessions in a lopsided road loss to the New York Jets. The Bears were reminded what Fields’ presence — and absence — means to their production and big-picture hopes. After a monthlong fireworks show, it was almost as if one of the mortar tubes shot sideways rather than into the sky, leaving the Bears a bit startled and anxious.

So now what? It will be up to Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy to find a formula that works, giving Fields opportunities to break games open with his running gifts while continuing to bring him along as a complete quarterback.

“He’s really getting a good grasp of the offense and we’re excited about where he is,” Eberflus said. “Obviously he can make dynamic plays. But we also want to see the ordinary plays, the check-downs, the easy passes. Take what the defense gives you. (It’s) all those types of things that he thinks he needs to improve on. And we do too.”

The final four games should offer an intriguing trial run to feel out what makes sense. It also will be a test of how well the Bears adjust to the different ways opponents choose to defend Fields.

Coming out of the Packers loss, Eberflus emphasized his desire to “spread the skill around” — a stated intent to make sure Fields, who leads the team with 128 rushing attempts, isn’t forced to carry too big of a load. A bigger mixture of wildcat looks and jet sweeps and creative concepts could be coming.

“I’ve said from the beginning and for several weeks now that we want to be very protective of Justin to make sure he is out of harm’s way,” Eberflus said last week.

These final four games should offer a better idea of exactly how that looks and what it means for the Bears.


Categories: Local News

Teen charged with attempted murder of Denver police officer

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:24

A 17-year-old has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer after he allegedly shot at the officer from the window of a stolen vehicle.

Jeramyah Alford faces one count of attempted murder in the first degree of a peace officer after deliberation, one count of attempted murder in the first degree of a peace officer with extreme indifference, one count of prohibited use of a weapon and one count of possession of a handgun by a juvenile, according to a news release from the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

A Denver police officer in the area of South Parker Road and East Mississippi Avenue on Nov. 30 began following a vehicle after the license plate indicated the vehicle was reported stolen.

The vehicle then stopped in the middle of the street, according to the news release, and Alford allegedly climbed out the window, sat on the windowsill and fired several gunshots at the officer.

The officer was not injured.

Alford is scheduled for an advisement hearing at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 22.

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GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert officially wins race against Adam Frisch, recount confirms

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:22

Now weeks after the November midterm elections and Colorado’s Secretary of State announced that U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert did indeed win her race against Adam Frisch, if only by a few hundred votes.

Election officials across the state’s massive 3rd Congressional District tallied votes for days after the Nov. 8 election. Frisch, a Democrat and former Aspen City Council member, took the lead early on but gradually lost ground to Boebert. In the end, initial vote tallies showed Boebert, of Silt, just 554 votes ahead of Frisch.

The congresswoman declared victory at that point and Frisch conceded, but both acknowledged the results weren’t finished yet. Boebert won with such a slim margin that the state’s election laws required an automatic recount, something Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced officially at the end of last month.

The process lasted nearly two weeks and Griswold’s office announced Monday evening that the recount did not change the election result. Boebert has won a second – and likely tumultuous – term in Congress.

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In the end the recount only changed four votes. Boebert lost three and Frisch gained one. The congresswoman won with 50.06% of the votes to Frisch’s 49.89%.

The Secretary of State’s Office will reimburse county election offices for the cost of the recount.

Categories: Local News

Santa Cruz wastewater plant turns methane into power

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:16

At a sprawling sewage treatment plant in north San Jose, engineers are slowly perfecting the ideal temperature for a smelly mixture of bacteria and human waste as the stew churns inside four massive air-tight cauldrons.

The plant, the largest wastewater treatment facility west of the Mississippi to produce water clean enough to be discharged into a sensitive ecosystem like San Francisco Bay, is experimenting with new heat-loving bacteria that excel at turning poop into compost and energy — harnessing the power of dangerous greenhouse gases.

“It’s like making bread or making yogurt,” said civil engineer Mariana Chavez-Vazquez, who oversaw the renovation of the cauldrons. The bacteria “need to be happy. They need to be a certain temperature. If you put in something that they don’t like, they will go sour.”

In the global effort to reduce methane, a greenhouse gas that’s 72 to 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, municipalities across California are facing increasing pressure to comply with laws designed to keep the dangerous gas from escaping into the atmosphere.

Many wastewater treatment plants, including the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility and Santa Cruz’s sewage treatment plant, are already doing their part by trying to ensure that their waste doesn’t go to waste. Instead, they’re turning it into biogas, a blend of gases dominated by methane that can be used to generate power.

In San Jose, that process is done with finely tuned cauldrons, also called digesters. From the odorous, bubbling mixture sealed within the digesters, the plant already extracts enough fuel to power half of the facility. But that amount will increase once the higher-temperature bacteria, introduced in October, settle into their natural, methane-creating rhythm.

Until the 1970s, facilities burned the combustible biogas into carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. In fact, wastewater treatment plants were easy to spot because of their blue flame hovering at the top of a tall stack, resembling a lit candlestick.

That changed after the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, when facilities were made to extract some use from methane before it was burned. The result was cogeneration — the creation of electricity from an engine powered by biogas. Hundreds of facilities in California now do it.

As its name implies, wastewater isn’t just water. It’s a mixture of road runoff, raw sewage, toilet paper, wipes deceptively advertised as flushable, and other dirt and plastic flowing through the sewer system. When treated with bacteria, the sewage and other organic solids in wastewater turn into sludge and biogas.

At the San Jose plant, the benefit of finding the ideal temperature for bacteria at around 130 F, Chavez-Vazquez said, is that the new bacteria will eat more organic material from the sludge than their lower-temperature predecessors. This creates a compact soil that requires fewer trucks to haul it away. And the higher-temperature bugs are capable of generating a larger amount of biogas, composed of a higher proportion of methane, which means more electricity for the plant.

The facility is also primed to digest food waste, should Santa Clara County start sending the compostable material to the plant. In 2016, California first began an effort to reduce methane emissions by 40% by targeting organic waste sent to landfills, which accounted for 20% of the state’s methane emissions.

Oakland’s treatment facility is a prime example of its effectiveness: Since 2008, the facility has turned 20 to 40 tons of restaurant food scraps into electrical power each day.

At least half of California’s landfill-bound food waste could be processed at the state’s wastewater treatment plants and serve as an innovative power source, according to a 2020 report by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. The Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Biden last summer, is expected to rapidly accelerate these efforts by offering a system of tax incentives.

While co-digestion of food sludge and wastewater sludge is still on the horizon for most plants, the digestion process itself is not new. Facilities have long partnered with microscopic organisms to break down solid waste from wastewater to create gaseous fuel and soil.

Similar to San Jose’s plant, Santa Cruz’s wastewater facility has powered itself from methane produced by bacteria during waste digestion for several decades. The digesters — 30-foot tall circular tanks, stretching roughly 90 feet across — act like a stomach, where the bacteria mixture is sealed from the air. The gas rises to the top of the digester before being bubbled back through the sludge to spur more fuel creation.

What appears as waste to us still contains plenty of nutrients left to satisfy small, hungry bugs, said David Meyers, interim operations manager at the Santa Cruz plant, which uses the lower-temperature bacteria. Meyers said this cuts down on the energy needed to heat the digesters. The plant houses two internal combustion engines that can produce a total of 1.33 megawatts of electricity.

Wastewater Treatment Operations Supervisor David Meyers, right, shows the flow of the water treatment in a pre-aeriation grit tank as UC Santa Cruz students take notes during a tour at the Santa Cruz Waste Water Treatment facility on Nov. 4. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)Wastewater Treatment Operations Supervisor David Meyers, right, shows the flow of the water treatment in a pre-aeriation grit tank as UC Santa Cruz students take notes during a tour at the Santa Cruz Waste Water Treatment facility on Nov. 4. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 

At the San Jose facility, biogas is piped from the digesters to four SUV-sized internal combustion engines inside the sprawling complex. Each engine, by turning a generator, can produce 3.5 megawatts of electricity. Combined, the four engines create enough electricity to meet the needs of a small town, Chavez-Vazquez said.

At the San Jose plant, the ratio of self-created electricity to PG&E power is roughly 1 to 1. In Santa Cruz, about 70% of the plant’s power comes from biogas.

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Meyers said the ratio at Santa Cruz’s facility is strategic: It’s cheaper to purchase small amounts of power from PG&E than to create so much energy that they’d have to give it back to the grid. Unlike California’s homeowners, industrial plants do not get compensated for such generosity.

The San Jose facility’s engines stand ready to process more biogas. Chavez-Vazquez said the facility is looking to restart a partnership with a nearby landfill to accept excess biogas. The biogas would require more cleaning but could bump up the amount of self-generated electricity.

As state and federal laws continue to reduce the level of carbon dioxide allowed to be released into the atmosphere, Meyers predicts, wastewater treatment facilities will need to adjust.

“The more they regulate the amount of CO2 that you can put in the atmosphere, ” Meyers said, the more “it drives change.”

In the meantime, the wastewater treatment facilities will continue treating waste 24/7 — a commodity often overlooked in an area known for searching for the next big thing.

“You cannot put a price on sanitation,” Chavez-Vasquez said.

Wastewater Treatment Operations Supervisor David Meyers shows operations control during a tour at the Santa Cruz Waste Water Treatment facility on Nov. 4. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)Wastewater Treatment Operations Supervisor David Meyers shows operations control during a tour at the Santa Cruz Waste Water Treatment facility on Nov. 4. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 
Categories: Local News

Southern California coastal towns are losing valuable sand, putting some beaches at risk

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:13

Gone are the bonfires, the volleyball nets and the sunbathers from some sand-depleted beaches in Southern California.

Memories are all that’s left, as the force of the ocean’s waves menace homes, parking lots and an important rail line that hugs the coast. In place of plush sand, walls of gray boulders now serve as barriers against the sea where beach towels once lay.

Millions of residents and tourists flock year-round to Southern California’s iconic coast. Each year, Los Angeles County beaches attract more than 50 million visitors; an estimated 6 million people visit Laguna Beach alone each year.

But the coastal landscape is dramatically changing in Southern California as the sand disappears from several beloved beaches. One study predicts two-thirds of the beaches could be gone by 2100 if no one intervenes.

And Southern California is not alone. More than half the coastline in Florida is critically eroded. Coastal dunes in New Jersey have been devastated by storms.

The endangered beaches are more than just pretty places to sunbathe. They protect development from the ravages of hard-hitting waves. They provide a place for important species of birds and animals to thrive. They generate jobs, as well as tax dollars. And, yes, they provide easy access spots for a day trip or a vacation that attract people from all over to roast hot dogs, hold weddings, snap family photos and just soak in the sunsets.

“The coast is part of who we are as Californians, so much so that beach access is a constitutional right for all Californians regardless of ZIP code,” says the California Coastal Commission. “The coast is one of the few places inland residents can go to escape the heat without spending a lot of money.”

While some of the region remains plush with sand, other popular beaches are quickly disappearing despite warning signs and calls for assistance.

Homes along Capistrano Beach get pelted with waves during high tide in Dana Point, CA, on Thursday, August 19, 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)Homes along Capistrano Beach get pelted with waves during high tide in 2021. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)  Coastal damage growing

In recent years, streets and parking lots have flooded in Newport Beach, entire beaches in Dana Point and San Clemente have disappeared and big swells threaten beachfront homes with waves crashing over walls and onto patios. In September, the coastal railway line shut down in San Clemente for the second time in a year due to damage; it will cost millions and take months to fix – a wake-up call for how much is at stake.

Some wide, sandy beaches, such as Huntington Beach or Manhattan Beach, have no problem accommodating the summer crowds that come in droves to enjoy the year-round sun and surf. But in other areas, especially south Orange County, coastal planners are scrambling for an answer to sand loss, an enigma complicated by the unpredictable sea.

“Back in the ’80s, Capistrano Beach was the epitome of beach culture. You congregated around the fire pits at night,” said Mike Moodian, a college lecturer and documentary maker who grew up near the Dana Point beach. “It looks like a wasteland today.

“It is a hellscape.”

Drought conditions and strong storms have contributed to the disappearing beaches, and sea-level rise in future years will bring a wave of additional problems. But despite dire warnings, countless studies and solutions laid out by consultants, engineers and scientists decades ago, inertia and a lack of funding have contributed to erosion of valuable beaches.

Much of the region’s sand woes can be traced to man-made development and even gum-footed, overlapping bureaucracy taking years and even decades to act on solutions.

“It’s important we have some oversight of where the sand is coming from and going. But there doesn’t need to be three groups that do this,” said Riley Pratt, senior environmental scientist for the Orange Coast District of State Parks.

Could more have been done decades earlier to protect the beaches and coastal infrastructure communities have come to depend on? Nearly everyone spoken to agrees the damage predicted is now being seen and, if solutions aren’t swift, the Southern California coast — and the economy it supports — will surely suffer.

  • Signs of trouble at Doheny State Beach started in 2010...

    Signs of trouble at Doheny State Beach started in 2010 when big storms flooded the parking lot. Sections of the lot in the past 10 years have crumbled, with several sections of the parking lot shut down to use. (Photo courtesy of Jim Serpa)

  • Eroding coastlines are not a new problem in Orange County....

    Eroding coastlines are not a new problem in Orange County. This shot shows little sand at Doheny State Beach in the 1950s, before the harbor was built and sand was put on the beach. (Photo courtesy of Jim Serpa)

  • County workers try to clear a clogged storm drain at...

    County workers try to clear a clogged storm drain at Capistrano Beach in Dana Point on Sept. 9, 2022.The area has been battered in recent years as sand erodes. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Big waves pound the concrete wall below San Onofre Nuclear...

    Big waves pound the concrete wall below San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, where 3.6 million gallons of nuclear waste is kept. Rock rip rap were put in front of a sea wall with hopes it will help keep the sea from damaging the facility. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Show Caption of

Expand Where’s the sand, man?

Historically, Southern California’s coast was narrow slivers of sand dotted with rolling dunes and native vegetation where wildlife thrived.

Then, humans came along and altered the natural landscape. They built up the beaches with sand taken from the construction of harbors and ports, transforming the coast into expansive playgrounds. Beachfront homes and businesses popped up, taking advantage of ocean views on the deceivingly wide coast.

Since the 1920s, more than 35 million cubic yards of sand has been placed between Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades and Torrance Beach, resulting in increased beach widths of up to 600 feet, with much of the sand coming from the development of the Marina del Rey harbor and the Hyperion Sewage Treatment Plant.

North Orange County beaches got extra sand from the Naval Weapons Station build-out in the 1940s through ’70s, with smaller sand projects through the years. Newport beaches were filled in from that town’s harbor build in the ’30s; the same story for Dana Point’s coast, with that harbor created in the ’60s.

Like highways that suffer potholes and need expansion as more people use them, beaches historically have been maintained as infrastructure by governmental entities that recognize they are an important recreational and economic draw, as well as a vital buffer from the sea for all that’s been built.

“If we have no sand, it’s like a car and we’ve taken the engine out of it,” said UC Irvine civil engineering professor Brett Sanders, a leading expert on coastal erosion.

The Surfside-Sunset sand replenishment project, seen here in 2002, is supposed to happen ever five to seven years, but hasn't happened since 2009. Federal funding was secured earlier this year, with plans to bring 1.75 million cubic yards by next fall or fall 2024. (File photo by Michael Goulding/SCNG)The Surfside-Sunset sand replenishment project, seen here in 2002, is supposed to happen every five to seven years but hasn’t happened since 2009. Federal funding was secured earlier this year, with plans to bring 1.75 million cubic yards by next fall or fall 2024. (File photo by Michael Goulding, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government have long been the stewards of the region’s coastline, with sand replenishment projects undertaken since the 1930s.

John Kriss, president of the Surfside Storm Water Protection District, has been keeping tabs on the region’s biggest effort, the Surfside-Sunset Beach Replenishment Project, since the mid-1980s.

Kriss argues federal officials have walked away from a congressional directive — the 1962 Rivers and Harbors Act — passed after studies showed the construction of flood control channels, dams, ports and harbors was causing the region’s chronically shrinking beaches. The infrastructure blocked the sand’s natural flow and its ability to reach and replenish the coast.

“The story was well-known six decades ago, but has been forgotten, historical context has been lost,” Kriss said. “The stories in the media regarding this erosion problem are almost entirely about global warming and climate change, the current narrative.”

But there’s more to the story, said Kriss, who has lived in the Surfside Colony north of Huntington Beach since 1977. Much like today, as early as the 1950s it became apparent the beaches were disappearing at a fast pace, with homes from Surfside to Newport Beach nearly falling into the ocean.

“It was a man-made problem and without a man-made solution, the beaches would erode continuously forever,” he said. “But it’s all been forgotten.”

The solution, at least for north Orange County beaches, was to replenish the sand every five to seven years at Surfside, with currents and waves pushing the sediment south to seed beaches all the way to Newport Beach.

The big Army Corps of Engineers project kicked off in 1947 with 1.2 million cubic yards, and another 5.3 million was hauled from the build-out of the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station in 1964, creating plush beaches for north Orange County to enjoy for years to come.

Replenishing programs followed every five to seven years, adding more sand dredged from the ocean to make up for the estimated 350,000 cubic yards lost annually. The replenishment projects continued until 2009. Then word came in 2016 there was no funding that year. Or the following year. Or the one after that.

“All the other agencies put up the money, but Congress never put the money up again,” Kriss said.

Thirteen years have passed since the last big replenishment at Surfside, and signs of a shrinking sand buffer are being seen. The Newport Peninsula flooded in 2020 when a big swell sent ocean water over the beach and into the parking lots and streets, stranding drivers for hours. The ocean is inching its way closer to Pacific Coast Highway and closer to the cliffs at Dog Beach, where Kriss walks to survey the shore a few times a week.

“For 30 years they had a solution. But then they stepped away and there was no one to resupply it,” he said. “This bothers me that we have a man-created problem, studied, engineered, solution designed — and people have just walked away from it. I find that really irritating.”

He wonders who will take responsibility when the ocean wreaks havoc on houses, roads and railways.

“People will say we didn’t know this,” Kriss said. “Oh, really?”

Funding for the Surfside-Sunset project and another in San Clemente has been approved and sand is on the way, according to Susie Ming, project manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District.

Workers build a sand berm to prevent flooding north of the Balboa Pier during high tide in Newport Beach in 2021. A sand replenishment project approved for Surfside-Sunset beach hopes to push sand down the coast to help Newport's erosion issues. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG) (Workers build a sand berm to prevent flooding north of the Balboa Pier during high tide in Newport Beach in 2021. A sand replenishment project approved for Surfside-Sunset beach hopes to push the sand down the coast to help Newport’s erosion issues. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG) ( 

For the long-awaited Surfside-Sunset project, U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel this year secured $15.5 million in federal funding to bring in 1.75 million cubic yards of sand, with non-federal agencies putting up the remaining $7.65 million. Design documents are being finalized and construction will be started by next fall or the fall of 2024, according to Ming.

The project was in the Corps’ budget proposal to do every five years, but it competes nationally and didn’t previously get the money, she said.

The same waiting game has been going on further south in San Clemente, which started planning for a big sand project back in 1999. More than 20 years later, sand hasn’t yet arrived. The earliest the project could start is September 2023.

Tom Bonigut, former public works director for San Clemente, was assigned two decades ago to help the city plan for the sand. The Army Corps did a study in 2000 to say sand would be needed in future years.

Then, the city waited. And waited.

Federal approval of the project’s construction didn’t come until 2014. And then the city again waited, this time for the money.

This year, the federal funds were finally approved.

“Just getting to the finish line is the maddening part of it,” Bonigut said.

A beachgoer makes her way up North Beach between high and low tide in San Clemente, CA, on Monday, December 5, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)A beachgoer makes her way up North Beach between high and low tide in San Clemente on Monday, December 5, 2022. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)  Long wait for funding

At a stretch just south of North Beach in San Clemente, what’s left of the sand is only accessible a few hours a day when tides are at their lowest. The rest of the time, the beach is underwater, waves lapping onto rocks and slippery stairs. It’s a prime example of access impacts. A chain was put up to prohibit people from navigating the dangerous, slippery stairs where an 8-foot drop was created in an area once covered by sand.

But the sand the city is waiting on won’t address this area because, 20 years ago when planning for the replenishment project started, it wasn’t yet a troubled area. Beaches in need can’t simply be tacked onto existing proposed projects; the years-long process would have to start over.

San Clemente tried to do smaller-scale projects without relying on federal funding. About five years ago, it brought in a pile of sand to North Beach from the Santa Ana River in Newport Beach — but the timing was off and much of the sand was taken by the sea during a series of winter storms.

“There were some challenges and successes, but we quickly learned this is so expensive, we really need the feds for cost sharing. We could not afford to do any project on a sizable scale,” Bonigut said.

The bottom line, he said: “Things could have been happening if the money came sooner.

“I thought this would be long done by the time I left. It seems like every step, it took way longer than we expected,” Bonigut said. “I used to work at the Army Corps, I know delays happen. But 15-plus years for a feasibility study? That’s pretty much ridiculous. And once it gets done, it’s subject to budgetary pressures. It’s just frustration.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Levin pushed this year to get the $9.3 million approved for the initial phase of the San Clemente project. Long term, it’s meant to be a 50-year project that would have periodic replenishment, said Doland Cheung, a project manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District.

Although the authorized cost of the initial nourishment is $16.2 million, the total authorized cost for the 50-year project is $255.8 million.

“It’s not atypical for a project in the program to take 20 years. It’s not unheard of that the Corps would have projects go on this long,” Cheung said.

It literally takes an act of Congress to move projects through each phase, from initial approval, to construction approval, to funding approval, he said. “Corps projects can be fairly lengthy.”

While putting sand on the beach sounds simple, from an engineering standpoint “it is very complicated,” he added.

“There are people and priorities across this whole nation that want their projects funded and there’s … a set limit of funding that the government can provide,” said Dena M. O’Dell, chief of public affairs for the Army Corps’ L.A. district.

The Army Corps is working on $91 billion in planned projects nationally, O’Dell said, from $15.2 million for aquatic ecosystem restoration of the Alabama River Lakes to $2.3 million for the harbor maintenance trust at the Memphis Harbor in Tennessee.

Orange County projects are another need looking for a piece of that national pie.

Where is the loss?

Tracking beach loss is no easy feat, with shore widths subject to variables such as seasonal changes, drought conditions and storm frequency. One big storm could swipe several feet away from a beach. Another big swell could dump a bunch of new sand.

“We naturally had sand in our systems. We naturally had a pretty good amount of sand, on top of our cobble base, which sometimes got thinner and sometimes got wider,” UCI professor Sanders said. “My concern is that now, we’re losing that sand.”

Natural sand supply has been locked in place by inland development and the concreting of channels — sand that would naturally make its way down rivers to replenish beaches. Drought conditions the past few years haven’t helped, with little rain to push sand stuck inland down to the coast.

Researchers and planners are dedicating more time and attention to which beaches are in danger, using high-tech data to track trends and spot trouble before it’s too late.

Beachgoers take a break from the heat at Huntington Beach City Beach in 2020. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)Beachgoers take a break from the heat at Huntington Beach City Beach in 2020. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

UCI grad student Daniel Kahl recently analyzed satellite imagery — a project possible with a $675,000 grant from NASA — to measure beaches through recent decades to find out which are eroding at the fastest pace.

Some beaches are flush with sand and there’s little present concern. Huntington Beach grew from about 430 feet in 1990 to 560 feet in 2020, with so much sand space the city is lobbying to hold the 2028 Olympic Games’ surfing competitions there, an event that would bring millions in tourism dollars, as well as worldwide recognition.

The images at the next beach over, at the Newport Pier, show a slightly shrinking beach that went from 340 feet in 1990 to 310 feet in 2020.

The data, which uses the width at mean sea level, indicates more drastic losses further south. At Capistrano Beach in Dana Point, the beach went from 390 feet to 260 feet over 30 years. South San Clemente in 1990 was at about 200 feet and held steady into the early 2000s, but shrank to 160 feet in 2010 and, as of 2020, was at 80 feet.

Just two years later, sections at both Capistrano and South San Clemente at higher tides are now completely underwater. At Capistrano a basketball court and restrooms had to be torn out because of damage.

Even beaches that have plenty of sand today should start to plan for the future or risk impacts to recreation, revenue and tourism in years to come from erosion and sea level rise.

For now, most Los Angeles County beaches remain wide, built up decades ago and benefiting from regular sand nourishment projects through the years. Additionally, sand on the northern end of Santa Monica Bay pushes south with waves and currents toward Manhattan Beach, and several breakwaters, groins and jetties in the South Bay reduce sediment movement, according to Philip King,  an economist who for decades has studied impacts of erosion and, more recently, sea-level rise, on coastal communities.

King recently finished a study for Manhattan Beach to look at vulnerable sections of its coast.

Manhattan Beach — 300 to 400 feet wide along most of its coastline — and Los Angeles County could lose out on $107 million in taxes on hotel stays and $39 million in sales tax if there is significant beach erosion, King warns.

“They don’t really have a problem, they don’t have to do anything until mid-century,” King forecasted. “After that, impacts will be in the millions.”

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County officials are keeping a careful watch of Malibu and Point Dume/Westward Beach, where a parking lot access road had to be rebuilt last year, said L.A. County Beaches and Harbors spokesperson Nicole Mooradian.

The north portion of Redondo Beach and Torrance Beach are forecast to lose half their sand space by 2040 and be completely eroded by 2100, according to a report by the county in 2016.

“Additionally, visitors from surrounding areas may increase in the future as other beaches are lost,” King’s report says, making them more crowded for everyone. “This will likely increase the demand for beach access at Dockweiler State Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach.”

No regional approach

Consultants, engineers and planners have long called for state and local governments to take a more regional approach to what they call “sediment management” – minimizing sand erosion and planning how best to save beaches.

Being successful with that could mean taxing developers who mine sand from the rivers that feed the beaches, they’ve said, or finding cost effective ways to get the sediment stuck in storm channels or behind dams to the shore.

“It needs to be done intentionally, it needs to be part of a broader strategy and conversation on sea level rise,” King said. “We have time, but we can’t wait any longer.”

Another challenge: overlapping bureaucracies with an interest in the beaches, from local and state officials, to regulatory agencies and environmental groups.

“The more cooks you have that provide input and get their way, makes these projects more expensive, makes it more complicated,” said Cheung, the Army Corps project manager.

There also are competing interests. Homeowners threatened by the rising waves want immediate seawalls, but those block public access and can erode the beaches. Beachgoers want more sand to play on. And few agree on who should pay for it all.

“How do we balance the protection of the homes and the erasure of the beach?” asks Donne Brownsey, chair of the California Coastal Commission, which is tasked with protecting the coast. “There is nothing easy about this.

“For some communities, sea level rise will have pretty substantial consequences,” she added, “and it’s hard for local government to embrace that.”


Categories: Local News

S.E.C. Charges Sam Bankman-Fried With Defrauding FTX Investors

N.Y. Times - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:04
The founder of the collapsed crypto exchange was accused of “orchestrating a scheme to defraud equity investors” who put more than $1.8 billion into the company.
Categories: Local News

Make beloved items shine at new home

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 04:00

Making a new home feel and present as completely new, even when many of the furnishings and artwork are coming from your previous home, is simple and inexpensive; it’s made up of tasks the new-home buyer would need to do before moving anyway.

So why not start long before the move in takes place? Turn the act of unwrapping belongings during move-in week into what seems like present-opening time at a birthday party.

We recently covered replacing some everyday household items with new ones as a way to easily add freshness to bathrooms, bedrooms, entryways and floors.

This time, it’s time for the opposite: Freshening up the items that will make “the cut” and get to move into the new house, especially in primary or common living areas.

Of course, determining what to clean or repair requires decluttering. But most new-home buyers realize that the first step to deciding what goes where in a new house — and what items or furnishings need to be purchased new — starts with getting rid of the old, the tired, the outdated or the excess.

Smooth the scuffs and nix the nicks

Waiting for a new home to be finished can be like watching paint dry, especially after you’ve made all the big decisions on everything from flooring, cabinets and counters to paint, fixtures, appliances and electrical or plumbing customizations.

While waiting for the arrival and installation of all your fabulous choices — not to mention the new patio furniture and living room sectional ordered a couple of months ago — consider tuning up the look of the other items that will make the move with you.

One quick solution is to purchase touch-up markers in a variety of colors at a home improvement store to color over small scratches or wear marks on furniture. Look past the tabletops and touch up worn spots on the backs of chairs.

You can even use these same pens to eliminate visible wear on any built-in household cabinetry, including kitchen and bathroom, before listing the home for sale or ending a lease.

For a more permanent solution, DIY videos will show how to do furniture touch-ups on pieces that require spot sanding and varnishing to look new again.

Pre-clean for easy move in

The builder will have the new home gleaming on move-in day. But how will your belongings look in comparison?

After making obvious repairs, look at walls, tabletops and counters for framed art, photos and knickknacks that make home feel special. Do they need to remain in place for the next few months or will you not miss them by packing them up early?

In some cases, the existing home needs to be put on the market three to five months before the new home is ready. Cleaning and packing up personal items as early as possible will simplify the listing process.

Even if the current home doesn’t need to be sold, move-in week will be much more enjoyable if wall or tabletop artwork looks fresh on arrival at the new construction house.

If desired, you can go so far as to remove hanging wall art and drape it in sheets after cleaning it to prevent gathering more dust. Set these items aside until it’s time to pack.

If hiring a professional moving company to pack and move the contents of your home, anything packed by someone other than the moving company will be labeled PBO, meaning packed by owner. On the mover’s inventory list the item won’t be described because the movers can’t see it. Ask your movers if items that are packed by you are insured against damage during transport.

While you’re at it, you might find that no matter how tidy you keep your house, the undersides of bed frames, dining tables, coffee tables and other large pieces could use a thorough dusting. Better to do so in the old home than to move old dust into a new house.

Remember the upholstery. Old, even faint, stains are easy to forget about after growing accustomed to them.

Pat or shake off pieces you can bring outside. Next, rent a steam cleaner and use natural, nontoxic cleaning products that can help you get out stains on otherwise good-quality furniture, cushions and pillows. Rotate the cushions to see all six sides; clean them over the course of a week.

Take inventory now of what needs purging, cleaning and repairing. Then use wait time to spiff up whatever beloved items are moving with you.

Perhaps cleaning 10-year-old dust and fingerprints off the underside of the dining room table doesn’t sound exciting. But finishing even the most mundane of tasks as early as possible can make your new home feel even newer.

Categories: Local News

The Power of History

N.Y. Times - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 03:39
Morocco could end European and South American dominance over the World Cup.
Categories: Local News

Sale closed in Palo Alto: $2.4 million for a three-bedroom home

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 03:30
178 El Dorado Avenue - Google Street View178 El Dorado Avenue – Google Street View

A 975-square-foot house built in 1949 has changed hands. The property located in the 100 block of El Dorado Avenue in Palo Alto was sold on Nov. 18, 2022 for $2,418,000, or $2,480 per square foot. The property features three bedrooms, one bathroom, a garage, and two parking spaces. There’s also a pool in the backyard. The unit sits on a 5,940-square-foot lot.

These nearby houses have also recently been sold:

  • On Ramona Street, Palo Alto, in September 2022, a 988-square-foot home was sold for $2,950,000, a price per square foot of $2,986. The home has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathrooms.
  • In June 2022, a 2,338-square-foot home on Ramona Street in Palo Alto sold for $3,886,000, a price per square foot of $1,662. The home has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.
  • A 1,038-square-foot home on the 200 block of Colorado Avenue in Palo Alto sold in November 2022 for $2,620,000, a price per square foot of $2,524. The home has 3 bedrooms and 1 bathrooms.


Categories: Local News

Colorado River water users convening amid crisis concerns

Seattle Times - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 03:29

Living with less water in the U.S. Southwest is the focus this week for a conference in Las Vegas about the drought-stricken and overpromised Colorado River.
Categories: Local News

ASK IRA: Even with the win, were Heat lost at the finish in Indiana?

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 03:28

Q: I have watched the Heat struggle to get the ball in bounds when the pressure is on over the years. Monday, they threw the ball away on a crazy pass to Tyler Herro and the other players far from the inbound passer. These mistakes have cost games. – Richard, Delray Beach.

A: Look, let’s be candid, that was a harrowing finish Monday night. With 69 seconds to play, the Heat went up 77-86. From there, Bam Adebayo loses the ball for a turnover, on a player credited as a steal for Myles Turner. Moments later a Buddy Heild 3-pointer and it’s 86-82. So a Heat timeout, and then that Kyle Lowry turnover on the long inbound attempt to Tyler Herro. That play was salvaged by Turner stepping out of bounds on Indiana’s next possession. From there, Adebayo only goes 1 of 2 from the line, to put the Heat up 87-82. And even with 11 seconds left, Jimmy Butler misses two free throws with the Heat up by that final margin. So if not for a pair of errant Bennedict Mathurin 3-point attempts over the final 16.2 seconds, it could have been a different result. The Heat did not necessarily close out the game. They more or less survived.

Q: Ira, I don’t quite understand this Stanley Johnson issue? I get that he is with the Skyforce but how do we go about getting him involved with the Heat’s rotation or do we? — Brent, Wellington.

A: You don’t. He was signed solely, at least at the moment, for G League depth and a veteran presence. The Heat have had several NBA veterans in Sioux Falls in recent seasons, but made clear the priority is developing young talent. It is possibly even more likely that Stanley Johnson gets signed by another team than he gets elevated to the Heat, because such a promotion would put the Heat into the luxury tax. As it is, Stanley shot 1 of 9 for the Skyforce in their Monday night victory, including 0 for 7 on 3-pointers.

Q: Ira, is there any credibility to the rumor of a possible trade of Caleb Martin for Jae Crowder? – Bill, Palm Beach Gardens.

A: I would hope not, with all due respect to Jae Crowder. Caleb Martin is under a value contract, at $20.4 million over three years. Those deals are hard to come back, and offset some other Heat overspends. Plue, Jae will be a free agent in the offseason, assuredly looking for a payday beyond what Caleb will earn the next two seasons.


Categories: Local News

Amid uncertainty at QB, Ravens are field goal road underdogs vs. Cleveland Browns

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 03:22

The Browns are field goal favorites over the Ravens ahead of their game Saturday in Cleveland, according to Las Vegas sportsbooks.

The Ravens (9-4), who finished off Sunday’s 16-14 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers without starting quarterback Lamar Jackson (knee) or backup Tyler Huntley (concussion) available, are three-point underdogs. Coach John Harbaugh on Monday had no updates on their availability this week. Undrafted rookie Anthony Brown would start if both are sidelined.

“Until you know, you can’t say anything, but we’ll know later in the week where we’re at,” Harbaugh said. “[We’ll] see who’s able to practice and what they’re able to do.”

The Ravens have won two straight games and six of their past seven, a stretch that started with a 23-20 home win in Week 7 over Cleveland. The Browns (5-8) have split their two games with quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was suspended for the season’s first 11 games after being sued for sexual harassment and sexual assault. (Watson has denied any wrongdoing despite settling 20 claims of sexual misconduct.)

Cleveland beat the Houston Texans, 27-14, in Week 13, led mostly by its special teams and defense, and lost to the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-10, on Sunday. Watson is 38-for-64 (59.4%) for 407 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions this season, and he’s rushed 13 times for 54 yards.

The Ravens are 5-2 against the spread on the road this season. They’re also 5-1 against the spread in matchups with the Browns over their past six meetings, according to CBS Sports.

The Ravens lead the all-time series with Cleveland 35-12 and have won five of their past six meetings. They last swept the Browns in 2020.

The over-under for Saturday’s game is 37.5.

Week 15

Ravens at Browns

Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

TV: Chs. 11, 4, NFL Network

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Browns by 3


Categories: Local News

Bridge: Dec. 13, 2022

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 03:00

“Your honor,” the district attorney stated, “we will prove that South committed a felony. He lost a cold game.”

“Proceed,” the judge instructed, and the court heard evidence.

“South played at four spades,” the DA began, “and West led the queen of hearts. East took the ace and led the king of diamonds. South ducked, won the next diamond and ruffed his last diamond in dummy. He next let the queen of trumps ride.

“West took the king and returned a trump. South then led the queen of clubs, but when West declined to cover, South lost a club. Down one.”


“My client was unlucky,” South’s counsel argued.

Would you convict South?

After South wins the second diamond, he should cash his king of hearts and lead the queen of clubs. If West plays low, South ruffs his last diamond in dummy and leads a trump … to his ace. He exits with a trump, and West must lead a club from his king or concede a ruff-sluff. This line of play gives South the best chance to succeed.


You hold: S A 10 9 7 5 H K 5 D A 7 3 C Q J 9. Your partner opens one heart, you respond one spade and he bids two clubs. What do you say?

ANSWER: Your best contract is unclear. Partner’s hand is not well defined: He could have a shapely hand; he could have 12 high-card points or 18. To bid 3NT would be presumptive. Bid two diamonds, a “fourth-suit” call, to let him continue describing his hand. If you belong at 3NT, he should probably be declarer.

South dealer

N-S vulnerable


S Q J 8 6 2

H 10 6

D 10 5

C A 7 5 3


S K 4

H Q J 9 7 3

D 8 4 2

C K 6 2


S 3

H A 8 4 2

D K Q J 9 6

C 10 8 4


S A 10 9 7 5

H K 5

D A 7 3

C Q J 9

South West North East
1 S Pass 4 S All Pass
Opening lead — H Q

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Categories: Local News

Horoscopes Dec. 13, 2022: Taylor Swift, choose peace over chaos

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 03:00

CELEBRITIES BORN ON THIS DAY: Taylor Swift, 33; Jamie Foxx, 55; Wendie Malick, 72; Dick Van Dyke, 97.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 21: Jamie Foxx attends the European Premiere of Sony Pictures "Baby Driver" on June 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Sony Pictures )Jamie Foxx (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Sony Pictures ) 

Happy Birthday: Clear up unfinished business and ease stress. Closing out one year and opening another with a clean slate will empower you to incorporate plans that will add to your stability and make you feel secure moving forward. Simplify your life by gravitating toward people who ground you instead of toward those who cause havoc and negativity. Choose peace over chaos. Your numbers are 4, 9, 15, 22, 27, 37, 42.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Listen carefully, and you’ll avoid a dispute. It’s not worth your time to start a feud with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs. Put your energy into being the best you can be and making a positive difference to those you encounter. 5 stars

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): If you crave change, do something simple and fun rather than extensive and expensive. Use your connections to find out what’s going on and how you can use what’s trending to get ahead. Do things right, not in haste. 2 stars

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Not so fast. Time is on your side, and doing your due diligence will pay off. Focus on what’s important to you and the responsibilities that need your attention. Don’t leave yourself short because you feel you must clean up someone else’s mistake. 4 stars

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Draw on your insight and creative talent to make self-improvements. Promote what you love to do and turn it into a commercial venture. Avoid shared expenses or picking up after others. Protect what you’ve worked so hard to achieve. 3 stars

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): If you want something, speed up the process, and don’t stop until you are satisfied with the results. Do your best to help others along the way and share your success with those you love. A positive attitude will attract helpers. 3 stars

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Promote change and make things happen. Your enthusiasm and drive will help draw attention and support for you to achieve something new and exciting. A little charm will go a long way regarding love, personal gain and happiness. Romance is encouraged. 3 stars

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Learn all you can before you make a move or say something you’ll regret. Discipline will be a necessity to reach your goals. Do what you can to be of help, but don’t neglect your responsibilities in the interim. Do what’s right. 4 stars

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Don’t back yourself into a corner personally or professionally. Take time to go through the process from start to finish before deciding on what’s best for you. A move may not be welcomed by loved ones. Be patient, but don’t give up on your dreams. 2 stars

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Listen carefully; misinformation is heading your way. Verify information before you pass it along or alter your course due to what you hear. Searching for truth will enlighten you and encourage you to make a positive move. Hard work will pay off. 5 stars

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Address financial, medical or legal issues before time runs out. Don’t leave anything to chance or in someone else’s hands. Make positive changes to your home and share your time and space with friends and family. A unique offer is heading your way. 3 stars

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Make a promise to yourself or someone you love that will show how you feel and how committed you are to a project, decision or plan. Added discipline, coupled with emotion and desire, will lead to better days ahead. 3 stars

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Abide by the rules and make sure your paperwork is updated. The more you do now, the easier it will be to enjoy the festive season. Transition into next year with a clean slate and a plan that excites you. 3 stars

Birthday Baby: You are ambitious, charming and emotional. You are creative and generous.

1 star: Avoid conflicts; work behind the scenes. 2 stars: You can accomplish, but don’t rely on others. 3 stars: Focus and you’ll reach your goals. 4 stars: Aim high; start new projects. 5 stars: Nothing can stop you; go for gold.

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Categories: Local News

Word Games: Dec. 13, 2022

San Jose Mercury - Tue, 12/13/2022 - 03:00

TODAY’S WORD — IMMATURITY (IMMATURITY: im-ih-TYUR-ih-tee: The lack of complete growth or development.)

Average mark 21 words

Time limit 30 minutes

Can you find 26 or more words in IMMATURITY? The list will be published tomorrow.

YESTERDAY’S WORD — EFFERVESCES ever fever free recess reef reeve veer verse scree seer sere serf serve sever severe cress

To purchase the Word Game book, visit Order it now for just $5 while supplies last!


1. Words must be of four or more letters.

2. Words that acquire four letters by the addition of “s,” such as “bats” or “dies,” are not allowed.

3. Additional words made by adding a “d” or an “s” may not be used. For example, if “bake” is used, “baked” or “bakes” are not allowed, but “bake” and “baking” are admissible.

4. Proper nouns, slang words, or vulgar or sexually explicit words are not allowed.

Contact Word Game creator Kathleen Saxe at

Categories: Local News