Why do car companies build concepts? We ask Audi’s product planner

ARS Technica - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:41
From left to right, the Skysphere, the Grandsphere, and the Urbansphere concept cars.

Enlarge / From left to right, the Skysphere, the Grandsphere, and the Urbansphere concept cars. (credit: Audi)

BMW provided flights from DC to San Francisco and back, plus five nights in a hotel so we could attend Monterey Car Week. Ars does not accept paid editorial content.

MONTEREY, CALIF.—Freed from the strictures of road legality legislation, it's obvious what car designers get from making concept cars. But car designers don't run car companies, and in a business with such tight margins, there has to be a financial imperative to bother creating a car that may never see production.

Which there is. Running the gamut from next year's model in a slight disguise all the way through to "none of this exists yet but wouldn't it be cool" flights of fancy, concepts serve as a way to gauge the general public's tastes when it comes to something new. At this year's Quail at Monterey Car Week, I spoke with Filip Brabec, Audi of America's SVP of product management, to get the suits' perspective on concept cars.

The Skysphere's wheelbase grows by 250 mm when it switches into autonomous mode.

The Skysphere's wheelbase grows by 250 mm when it switches into autonomous mode. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Specifically, I wanted to know what the process looks like from the practical side of the business. For example, does the design team arrive with a new concept as a fait accompli? As it turns out, that's not at all how it works.

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Categories: Tech News

Analysis: A Cornered Putin Is More Dangerous Than Ever

N.Y. Times - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:36
In a major speech, he recast the war in Ukraine and made clear that it could spread.
Categories: Local News

Editorial: Berkeley needs Kesarwani and Humbert for challenges ahead

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:31

Click here for a complete list of our election recommendations.

Berkeley is a city that seeks, sometimes successfully, to be a leader addressing social issues such as homelessness and policing. But the financing gets short shrift, leaving the city with challenging times ahead.

The good news is that there were no homicides in the city last year. And during the pandemic, the city, unlike the rest of Alameda County, stemmed the growth of its homeless population. The bad news is that the city is facing a severe police staffing shortage, and it still has about 1,000 people without housing.

Meanwhile, the city faces annual budget deficits in the years ahead. By how much is not clear because of the city’s opaque projections. The forecasting of the city’s general fund balance for the current fiscal year and the next shows deficits totaling $22 million. After that, the forecast amazingly does not contain realistic expenditure numbers — specifically, it does not account for increases in salaries and benefit costs.

It’s a bury-your-head-in-the-sand form of budgeting. Especially so because, in a separate report, city officials warn that over the next 10 years, the city’s payments for workers’ retirement benefits are projected to rapidly increase, and total benefit costs are projected to more than double.

The rapidly rising pension costs are due in part to the city’s failure to address its mounting retirement debt that, even when adjusted for inflation, has continued to rise over the past decade. And the city’s unfunded capital and deferred maintenance needs have more than doubled in just four years, again after adjustments for inflation.

The two debts combined total a staggering $1.9 billion, or about $41,000 for every city household. City officials can’t just tax their way out of this mess. They can’t just keep coming back to voters for more and more levies.

They also need to start examining their spending and ensure city government is getting the biggest bang for its buck. Berkeley needs leaders on the nine-member City Council with the chops to guide the city’s progressive policies and the financial acumen to examine the data, ensure money is wisely spent and plan ahead to avoid future budget shortfalls.

That’s why voters should reelect Rashi Kesarwani in District 1 in northwest Berkeley and elect Mark Humbert in District 8 in the southeast corner of the city. Those are the only contested City Council races on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Incumbents Kate Harrison in District 4, bordering the west side of the Cal campus, and Rigel Robinson in District 7, on the south side of the campus, are running unopposed.

Rashi Kesarwani candidate for Berkeley City Council District 1. (Courtesy of Rashi Kesarwani)Rashi Kesarwani  Dist. 1: Rashi Kesarwani

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Kesarwani’s keen analytical approach to public policy and government spending and the exceptional experience she brings to the council. She has worked as a fiscal forecasting manager for the San Francisco Human Services Agency and as a fiscal and policy analyst for the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

In a city where knee-jerk politics often lead to new programs and spending without careful consideration, Kesarwani in her first term has become known for her careful analysis and thoughtful decision-making. She shares the progressive values of her council colleagues while recognizing the need for wise, data-driven use of money. It’s refreshing and badly needed.

Her major opponent in the race, architect and Planning Commissioner Elisa Mikiten, grumbles about Kesarwani’s approach. “Not everything is about metrics,” Mikiten said. Actually, most good policymaking is driven by data and metrics; if money is wisely spent it can help more people. And Kesarwani’s attention to detail is reflected in her superior knowledge of city policies and issues.

The third candidate in the race, Tamar Michai Freeman, was invited to participate but did not show up.

Mark Humbert is running for Berkeley City Council District 8 in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Mark Humbert)Mark Humbert  Dist. 8: Mark Humbert

Lori Droste, another analytically thoughtful member of the council, opted not to seek a third term. But there is an excellent candidate prepared to replace her in District 8: Humbert is a highly regarded attorney, arbitrator and mediator who handles complicated cases often involving complex financial issues and has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

He has also served on Berkeley’s Transportation, Public Works, Fair Political Practices, and Parks, Recreation and Waterfront commissions and was president of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association.

Most important, he has done his homework, is well-versed in city issues and is ready to serve on the City Council. He wants to restore the Police Department positions that have been lost and also supports the council’s push for a new approach to policing that releases officers from handling non-violent mental health crises. Key to District 8, he supports UC Berkeley’s development of People’s Park to provide housing for students and homeless.

And he shares Droste’s push for progressive policies with financial accountability. Hands down, Humbert is the best, and the only credible, candidate in this district.

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Insurance agent Jay Wu struggled to explain why he was running, saying that he was asked to run and concluded “maybe I should give it a try.” But he had little background knowledge, has not served on any city boards or commissions and says he has never attended a City Council meeting and that the only time he went to City Hall was to deal with a parking ticket.

Mari Mendonca, a member of the city’s Rent Stabilization Board, declined to be interviewed. Mary-Lee Smith withdrew from the race. And Peter Dumont, who calls himself a “creative world peace theorist,” says the city’s problems would be solved if everyone started meditating.

If only it were that simple.

Categories: Local News

Holes-In-One: Aces carded from around Bay Area Golf Courses

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:30

Greg Baudreau: Deep Cliff GC, No. 14, 127 Yards, pitching wedge

Riley Dellinger: Deep Cliff GC, No. 5, 145 Yards, pitching wedge

Josh Frishman: Richmond CC, No. 12, 321 yards, driver

Mike Forcier: Deep Cliff GC. No. 14, 125 Yards, pitching wedge

Tim Hegstrom: Deep Cliff GC, No. 8, 90 Yards, pitching wedge

Hal Kolstad: San Jose Municipal, No. 17, 151 yards, 6-iron

Thomas Ringsrud: Los Lagos GC, No. 16, 119 yards, gap wedge

Candelario Sepulveda Jr.: Los Lagos GC, No. 7, 87 yards, 9-iron

Mark Yoshiro: Deep Cliff GC, No. 7, 130 Yards, 9 Iron

To submit a hole-in-one or golf tournament, send an email to Sports@bayareanewsgroup.com.



Categories: Local News

“Treehouse” hotel offering unique lodging experience heads to Bay Area

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:30

SUNNYVALE — A hotel that offers a playful lodging experience akin to being in a childhood treehouse is poised to bring hundreds of rooms to Sunnyvale’s tech hubs.

A new Treehouse Hotel will become the first of that brand to open in the United States and is slated to sprout in Sunnyvale, SH Hotels & Resorts, the creator of the unique lodging brand, said.

The hotel will be partly a renovation and partly brand-new construction and will contain 254 rooms, according to SH Hotels & Resorts.

“Sunnyvale is the epicenter of the bold ideas, disruptive technology, imagination and innovation that make Silicon Valley an icon and inspiration for the world,” said Barry Sternlicht, chief executive officer and founder of SH Hotels & Resorts.

Treehouse Hotel, a 254-room lodging proposed at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale, birds-eye view, concept. (SB Architects)Treehouse Hotel, a 254-room lodging proposed at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale, birds-eye view, concept. (SB Architects)

The new Treehouse Hotel will be built at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale in an area that’s dotted with many current buildings and future sites for famed tech titans such as Google, Facebook app owner Meta Platforms and Amazon, along with an array of smaller tech firms.

“I like the concept and think that Barry Sternlicht is one of the smartest hotel guys in the business,” said Alan Reay, president of Irvine-based Atlas Hospitality Group, which tracks the California lodging market.

The Treehouse brand takes a sustainable approach in its materials and building techniques and aims to offer people an unforgettable lodging experience that goes beyond a mundane hotel stay.

“It is right on point for what guests are looking for and plays into the environmental consciousness,” Reay said.

Even the names of features that would be found in a hotel of a significant size such as the Treehouse in Sunnyvale are designed to evoke playful thoughts, according to plans on file with Sunnyvale city officials.

Tower of Treehouse Hotel, a 254-room lodging proposed at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale, as seen from the pool area, concept. (SB Architects)Tower of Treehouse Hotel, a 254-room lodging proposed at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale, as seen from the pool area, concept. (SB Architects)

It’s not a swimming pool, it’s the “Woodland Swim Hole.” Rather than a meeting or conference center, it’s an “Event Barn.” Other names include “Birch Grove,” “Oak Court,” “The Plaza Hub,” “Redwood Gateway,” “Flower Stroll Garden,” “Gathering Glade,” “Evening Garden Edge” and “Morning Garden Edge.”

The idea behind the Treehouse Hotel is to bring to mind the carefree comfort, freedom, nostalgia and fun of childhood, as SH Resorts puts it.

“Every inch of this playful property, from mismatched materials to secret nooks and unexpected artwork, creatively combines the energy and intensity of Silicon Valley’s high-tech culture with the simpler, older, more natural charms of the Santa Clara Valley’s pre-Internet era,” Sternlicht said.

Treehouse Hotel, a 254-room lodging proposed at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale, view of the tower, concept. (SB Architects)Treehouse Hotel, a 254-room lodging proposed at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale, view of the tower, concept. (SB Architects)

A Sheraton hotel already operates on the site. The development would add brand-new rooms and carry out a dramatic renovation and revamp of many existing rooms and buildings on site.

The planned lodging could provide some clues about the ailments that linger in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The coronavirus chased away business and leisure travelers from hotels worldwide and devastated the lodging sector in the Bay Area and around the globe.

Some indications have emerged that point to improved conditions for the leisure and hospitality industries. Still, the battered sector is still struggling to recapture its lost business.

The new hotel is scheduled to open in late 2023, Sternlicht estimated.

The Treehouse Hotel would feature a six-story tower with 142 new rooms and the renovation of several buildings that would revamp 112 existing rooms.

Street-level view of Treehouse Hotel, a 254-room lodging proposed at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale, concept. (SB Architects)Street-level view of Treehouse Hotel, a 254-room lodging proposed at 1100 N. Mathilda Ave. in Sunnyvale, concept. (SB Architects)

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Most of the rooms will offer private outdoor spaces that will include patios on the ground floor and balconies and terraces for the upper floors.

The rooms will be designed to convey the notion of being in a treehouse and looking out at the real world beyond.

“Interiors will include soft sofas built into rough-hewn wooden bookcases, farm table distressed wooden desks and wood ceiling beams, colorful pillows and quirky quilts,” SH Hotels & Resorts stated.

Categories: Local News

Emissions-slashing hybrid trains to hit tracks in Europe

The Register - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:29
Battery, cable, and diesel combo as there are plenty of non-electrified lines

Japanese manufacturer Hitachi Rail and Italy's Trenitalia have unveiled a triple hybrid locomotive that they claim halves carbon emission compared with the trains they replace.…

Categories: Tech News

Opinion: Why students, parents should ignore US News college rankings

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:25

I didn’t go to an Ivy League college. In fact, I never even thought of applying, and you probably didn’t either.

This month, U.S. News & World Report decided to demote Columbia University from No. 2 for best university in America to No. 18 after the school was accused of providing false information to boost its ranking. What does it say about the value of such rankings when a supposed measure of quality can slip overnight?

In August, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona bluntly called popular college rankings “a joke.” Why?

Probably because they celebrate institutions that represent less than 1% of the college-going population. The top 10 “best” colleges have billions of endowment dollars, are more exclusive than inclusive and reject almost every student who applies. They serve the few and fortunate and do more to reinforce socioeconomic inequality than to mitigate it.

If you happen to be in the 1% of students who apply and eventually enroll in one of those schools, the U.S. News ranking is for you! But, if you’re part of the other 99% of prospective students, you’ll likely be considering other options.

Luckily for you, there are tons of great colleges — most of which don’t make the U.S. News list at all. Yet they’re actually closer to serving the true purpose of higher education.

Here’s the question we should be asking about higher education: Do colleges exist mainly to serve the very few and the overwhelmingly wealthy? Or, is their purpose to lift the current generation up and provide its members with the necessary skills to compete in today’s workforce?

If you’re a prospective college student, it’s probably the latter mission that speaks most to you.

To help students and their families make decisions that reflect what they want, we need to evaluate institutions in a different way. This year, I released an Economic Mobility Index on colleges with Third Way, a national think tank.

It works like this. Rather than giving substantial weight for reputation and selectivity, the EMI gives more weight to an institution’s record in enrolling a larger proportion of students from lower- and moderate-income backgrounds in comparison with other schools. One key measure is the return on investment that the average low-income student gets from attending a particular institution.

To determine this, we looked at the time it takes students to recoup their educational costs based on the earnings boost they obtain by attending the institution — which is the additional income they are making relative to their peers who have obtained a high school diploma but have no college experience. The data show that many colleges provide low-income students (those from families making $30,000 or less) enough of an earnings boost, or premium, that it allows them to pay down their higher education costs within five years or less.

If an institution scores high on the index, that indicates it enrolls a socioeconomically diverse student body, provides the students with an affordable education and produces a strong earnings premium for those who attend.

What happens to those exclusive institutions that top the U.S. News list year after year — such as Harvard, Stanford and Yale — when measured on the Economic Mobility Index? They drop to 847th, 548th and 295th, respectively.

Instead, many Latino-serving institutions rise to the top of the Economic Mobility Index, including many in the California State University system. In fact, Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State Bakersfield are all in the top five out of 1,320 four-year institutions nationwide. The flagship University of California campuses did worse: UC Berkeley is ranked at 199, UCLA at 115.

In each of these three Cal State schools, more than 60% of the students come from lower-income backgrounds — and each enrolls more lower-income students than Harvard, Stanford and Yale combined. They also cost less than $20,000 for a bachelor’s degree and provide students an earnings premium of $15,000 to $20,000. This places them above 94% of institutions nationwide in terms of the return on investment they provide for this income group.

Are the U.S. News rankings a joke? I don’t know, but they certainly don’t prioritize the qualities of institutions that are best at making students better off. Instead, those traditional rankings reinforce the idea of prestige at schools that provide almost no opportunity for economic mobility.

If the purpose of higher education is to lift the next generation up, it’s the institutions that are providing economic mobility that truly deliver on that promise. And it’s about time we start recognizing them.

Michael Itzkowitz is a senior fellow at Third Way, a think tank in Washington, D.C. He served as the director of the Department of Education’s College Scorecard during the Obama administration. ©2022 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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Categories: Local News

Opinion: Scouting is in deep trouble but is needed more than ever

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:15

A bankruptcy judge earlier this month approved a $2.5 billion reorganizational settlement plan to compensate 80,000 men who claim that they had been sexually abused while children by scouting leaders — another day of bad headline news for scouting on top of many previous stories regarding sexual abuse perpetrated by scout leaders, controversy regarding policies about the role of homosexuals leaders and scouts in the organization, various issues related to the addition of girls to their ranks, and the high profile withdrawal of Mormons among others. For the casual observer, scouting seems to be on their deathbed with a terminal prognosis.

Do not count scouting out. Even with all of bad news about scouting, a closer inspection suggests that scouting might actually be one of the most critically important activities for youth during these remarkably challenging times.

Research from the American Psychological Association’s yearly Stress in America studies, among other quality research, has indicated that there is a mental and physical health tsunami among youth now. The Surgeon General released an unprecedented advisory last December highlighting the exploding mental health problems plaguing the nation. Anxiety, depression, suicidality, lack of resiliency, self-centeredness, too much screen time, chronic frustration with stress leading to aggression such as gun violence and much more are on the rise among youth. The negative impact of social media and most recently, COVID-19, makes matters worse.

Scouting helps to buffer these challenges by providing a safe, non-competitive, inclusive, accepting and low-cost extracurricular experience that teaches leadership and outdoor skills, ethics, resiliency and a variety of important life skills. It welcomes youth of all ages. The highest rank in scouting, the Eagle Scout, is something that is on the resume of almost every astronaut and military general. Most people are honored by this achievement throughout their lives.

Frankly, I was skeptical of scouting when my son expressed interest 20 years ago. Several of his friends were involved and he was interested in the camping and outdoor activities offered. My wife and I both had no experience with scouting and believed many of the stereotypes that it was a right-wing para-military organization, was homophobic and retro. My son joined and took to scouting like a fish to water.

Now, at age 26, he just completed a master’s degree in geology at UCLA after his undergraduate degree in earth sciences at Dartmouth. Scouting was a transformative experience for him. Life and leadership skills, passion for conservation and the outdoors, ethics and a “can do” spirit that he enjoys all had their origins in scouting. Scouting directly impacted his desire to pursue higher education in earth sciences. Whenever I text him I include an emoji of an eagle to remind him that he is, and always will be, an Eagle Scout and that he should behave like one. His response? “Always!”

Like all large organizations, scouting is not perfect. It has had its share of challenges and even scandals. Let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Scouting provides youth an opportunity, rarely found elsewhere, to engage in healthy, productive, life affirming and non-competitive activities teaching life skills with a focus on ethics and the common good. Certainly policies and procedures for child protection that are evidence-based best practices are readily available and are now used to keep youth safe with adults in scouting and other youth focused organizations moving forward. We need scouting perhaps more than ever in our increasingly challenging world, especially for today’s stressed out youth and families.

Thomas G. Plante is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University professor, professor of psychology, and by courtesy, religious studies at Santa Clara University and an adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine. He maintains a private clinical practice in Menlo Park.

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Categories: Local News

School uniforms in N America linked to PFAS "forever chemicals"

BBC World News - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:11
A study of school uniforms in the US and Canada shows high levels of chemical substances linked to health issues.
Categories: World News

What are the North American airports that travelers find the most — and least — satisfying?

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:09
By Marnie Hunter | CNN

Air travel volume is up and passenger satisfaction is down. This comes as no surprise to anyone who passed through an airport over the summer.

The J.D. Power 2022 North America Airport Satisfaction Study, released Wednesday, shows overall satisfaction down 25 points on a 1,000 point scale from the 2021 score. Newark Liberty International Airport had the worst score among mega-airports.

The overall satisfaction score for North American airports in 2022 was 777.

US passenger volume is nearing pre-pandemic levels. On Sunday, the US Transportation Security Administration screened 2,371,992 passengers at airport checkpoints. That figure is 94% of the same weekday in 2019.

But travelers are met with fewer flights, more crowded terminals and limited food and beverage options, the new J.D. Power study says.

“The combination of pent-up demand for air travel, the nationwide labor shortage and steadily rising prices on everything from jet fuel to a bottle of water have created a scenario in which airports are extremely crowded and passengers are increasingly frustrated,” said Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, in a statement.

And Taylor expects this unfortunate set of circumstances to continue through 2023.

The 25-point drop comes on the heels of a record high level of satisfaction with North American airports — 802 on the 1,000-point scale — in last year’s study, which included passenger surveys from the second half of 2020.

But as that survey progressed into 2021, and the third and fourth waves of the study, traveler satisfaction steadily declined as passenger volume crept back up.

The 2022 study was fielded from August 2021 through July 2022 as air travel continued its rebound.

It was based on more than 26,500 surveys from US or Canadian residents who traveled through at least one US or Canadian airport during the past 30 days. Travelers evaluated either a departing or arriving airport from their round-trip journey.

The study, now in its 17th year, looks at traveler satisfaction with airports in three categories: mega-airports, large airports and medium airports.

Satisfaction is determined by looking at six factors, listed in order of importance: terminal facilities, airport arrival/departure, baggage claim, security check, check-in/baggage check, and food, beverage and retail.

So which airports are the most satisfying to travelers? And which fall way short?

Most and least satisfying North American mega-airports

Among the mega-airports evaluated in the study — those airports with 33 million or more passengers per year — Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport ranks highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 800 out of 1,000.

The airport’s updated terminal facilities helped it earn the top spot for satisfaction, according to Taylor. Construction and renovations last year showed up in this year’s results, he said.

While some improvement projects are still underway, the airport had comparatively smooth summer operations, noted Kathleen Bangs, a spokesperson for flight tracking site FlightAware who used to work for the Minneapolis-St. Paul airports commission.

“Even while undergoing numerous ongoing construction and upgrade projects this summer, MSP has enjoyed better delays and cancellation numbers than some other airports in its size category,” Bangs told CNN Travel in late August in response to questions about summer airport performance. She put that down to management and possibly fewer storms than some other big airports experienced.

San Francisco International Airport (with a score of 796) and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (791) were also among the top airports in the satisfaction study.

At the bottom of the mega-airport list is Newark Liberty International Airport, with a score of 719 out of 1,000.

Airports undergoing construction and major renovations typically score poorly for terminal facilities, Taylor said.

Newark’s $2.7 billion Terminal A overhaul is expected to open later this year, and there are big plans to improve the food, beverage and retail offerings in the new terminal.

“But those improvements won’t be available to passengers for some time. Rome wasn’t built in a day … and neither are new airport terminals,” Taylor said via email.

Newark earning the lowest level of satisfaction among the largest airports is likely no surprise to summer travelers. High levels of cancellations and delays plagued the airport over the busy summer season.

Also at the bottom of the list: O’Hare International Airport in Chicago (751) and Los Angeles International Airport (753).

Most and least satisfying North American large and medium airports

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Among the large airports — those with 10 million to 32.9 million passengers per year — Tampa International Airport ranked highest for customer satisfaction with a score of 846 out of 1,000.

John Wayne Airport, Orange County in California (826) and Dallas Love Field (825) also ranked highly.

At the bottom of the large airports list was Philadelphia International Airport (729).

Among medium airports — those with 4.5 to 9.9 million passengers per year — Indianapolis International Airport ranked highest with a score of 842 out of 1,000.

Pittsburgh International Airport (839) and Jacksonville International Airport (826) ranked second and third for satisfaction.

Hollywood Burbank Airport in California was at the bottom of the list of medium airports for traveler satisfaction, with a score of 763.

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

Categories: Local News

Danish queen tests positive after UK monarch’s funeral

Seattle Times - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:02

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II has tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the funeral of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
Categories: Local News

Single-family residence in Oakland sells for $1.7 million

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:00

Bay Area Home Report

6173 Ascot Drive - Google Street View6173 Ascot Drive – Google Street View

A spacious house built in 1949 located in the 6100 block of Ascot Drive in Oakland has new owners. The 2,639-square-foot property was sold on August 1, 2022. The $1,650,000 purchase price works out to $625 per square foot. The property features four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a garage. It sits on a 0.3-acre lot.

Additional houses have recently changed hands close by:

  • In March 2022, a 2,785-square-foot home on Mountain Gate Way in Oakland sold for $3,500,000, a price per square foot of $1,257.
  • On Holyrood Drive, Oakland, in June 2022, a 2,229-square-foot home was sold for $1,805,000, a price per square foot of $810.
  • A 3,150-square-foot home on the 2700 block of Chelsea Drive in Oakland sold in May 2022 for $1,550,000, a price per square foot of $492.


Categories: Local News

Warriors training camp preview: Young, talented bench retooled with free-agent signees

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 05:00

Despite losing two key off-the-bench contributors from their championship run in free agency, the Warriors find themselves in pretty good shape heading into training camp.

Golden State has 13 players signed for their upcoming title defense. The team is welcoming back the entire starting unit and has loads of up-and-coming talent.

The Warriors’ current “Big Three” isn’t getting any younger. Stephen Curry is 34; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are 32. Meanwhile, the median age of Golden State’s bench is 22, and that includes 32-year-old offseason pick-up JaMychal Green. And the Warriors have good reason to believe their championship window could be open for years to come.

One of the more exciting moments from the Warriors’ summer league was seeing Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and Moses Moody share the court for the very first time.

It was a mixed bag of sorts as it’ll take time for those three players — along with 23-year-old Jordan Poole — to build chemistry and develop their games. But those four could be the cornerstones of the next generation of Warriors players to eventually fill the inevitable void left by Curry, Green and Thompson as they age out of their prime.

Here’s a look at the second unit heading into training camp:

Jordan Poole is a rising star in the league and played his best basketball in the final weeks of the regular season, carrying his offensive production into the playoffs. The Warriors will want to see him build off that success this season while improving his defense.

James Wiseman didn’t play a single NBA game last season as his surgically repaired knee continued to hamper him. He had an up-and-down summer league showing which was to be expected for a 21-year-old who had played only a few G League games over the course of 15 months. The return of Kevon Looney will alleviate some pressure on Wiseman, but this will be an important season for the Warriors to better gauge what they have in their 2019 second overall pick.

Jonathan Kuminga has the athleticism and raw talent to be an All-Star in the league, but now he needs to better refine his game and be more consistent. For as many high-flying dunks and offensive highlights Kuminga had, he also had lapses on defense last season. But after an offseason of work, Kuminga will look to earn a more consistent spot in the Warriors rotation this season.

Moses Moody is another player that will be pushing for more playing time this season. Having shown flashes of his potential during his rookie campaign, Moody mainly stayed in the Bay Area this summer as he vowed to work on every aspect of his game — from improving his spot-up shooting and scoring off the catch and dribble to his on and off the ball defense. He had an impressive showing at summer league and could take on a larger role in his sophomore season.

Donte DiVincenzo saw a dip in his production and efficiency when he returned from an ankle injury last season. He seemed to have found his stride after being traded to the Kings. In a way, DiVincenzo said he felt like he ran out of time. After having a full offseason, the Warriors are hoping DiVincenzo can be the proven role player he was during the Bucks championship-winning season.

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JaMychal Green is coming off his lowest posted season averages in points and rebounds since he made his NBA debut in January 2015. But Golden State has a positive track record in helping players revitalize their careers. Green is a reliable defender and can be a stretch five in some of the Warriors’ small-ball lineups.

Patrick Baldwin Jr. has been praised for his high basketball IQ but an ankle injury has caused him to miss all but 11 games last season at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and have a poor NBA Combine showing. Baldwin was a medium-risk, high-reward project for the Warriors, who drafted him No. 28 overall. With how deep the Warriors roster is, he’ll likely take some trips to Santa Cruz to polish his game but could be a building block for the future.

Ryan Rollins is working his way back from a foot injury that he didn’t even know he had until the team discovered the fracture during a post-draft physical. The Warriors could turn to him as a backup point guard behind Poole. Like Baldwin, however, it’ll be hard for the 20-year-old to earn a consistent spot in the rotation.

Categories: Local News

Parents of California film student killed in ATV crash file lawsuit against USC

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 04:59

Parents of a Chapman University student who was killed in a sand dune crash while filming a movie with USC film students in the Imperial County desert brought a lawsuit on Monday accusing USC of negligence.

The civil lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court also names as defendants two USC film students — Ting Su, who is described as the director of the student film, and Biangliang Li, who is described as a producer — for their role in the production that resulted in the April 15, 2022 death of 29-year-old Peng “Aaron” Wang.

Wang — a Chapman film student — was recruited to serve as a cinematographer and cameraman on the production of “Finale,” a film about the “hallucinations and death of a man in the desert” that the USC film students were creating as part of a “Directing Techniques” class, the lawsuit states.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the film students were in a Maverick off-road vehicle that overturned after slowly sliding down the side of a sand dune in the Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area.  The lawsuit alleges that the vehicle was driven by Li. Wang — who according to the CHP was not wearing a seat belt — died from injuries sustained in the crash.

The lawsuit alleges that Su and Li negligently “allowed” the operation of the off-road vehicle without training and failed to make sure Wang was protected.

In placing the additional blame on USC, the lawsuit says that the school controls use of its filming equipment and insurance, is supposed to give approval for off-campus shoots and has the ability to dictate and enforce safety rules.

“Assuming film students understand how not to put themselves, their actors and their crewmates at risk is assuming everyone survives trial by fire,” the lawsuit reads. “Asking film students to handle and oversee all of their own on-set safety without oversight is like asking an elephant to fly.”

USC has denied responsibility for Wang’s death, accusing the film students of not following the school’s safety rules. It wasn’t immediately clear if Su or Li have hired lawyers to defend them from the lawsuit.

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USC officials previously acknowledged that film shoots taking place more than 50 miles away from the campus or involving the use of all-terrain vehicles would have required “very specific” approvals from the school.

School officials have previously declined to publicly confirm whether they approved any aspect of the “Finale” project, though documents obtained earlier this year by a Southern California News Group reporter show that the film school did issue a “production number” that is required before shooting.

The lawsuit notes that Wang — whose parents had financially sacrificed to send him from Sichuan, China to attend Chapman University — was an up-and-coming, award-winning cinematographer who was only weeks away from completing his degree. He planned to return to his native country, the lawsuit states, in order to “inspire a new generation of Chinese filmmakers.”

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages, as well as compensation for funeral and burial expenses.


Categories: Local News

California crash that killed 9 spurs NTSB to recommend technologies to curb drunk driving and speeding in new vehicles

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 04:51
By Maegan Vazquez and Gregory Wallace | CNN

The federal agency responsible for conducting independent accident investigations has recommended technologies in new vehicles to limit speeding and prevent impaired driving in an attempt to cut down on a growing number of related fatal crashes.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation of alcohol impairment detection systems are on a pathway toward requirement, after the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act gave the Transportation Department three years to craft a mandate for such a feature in new vehicles. The board’s re-recommendation of incentivizing intelligent speed adaptation systems, however, has yet to gain broader federal backing and could face resistance from US drivers accustomed to speed limits being enforced by law enforcement rather than the vehicle itself.

The NTSB’s recommendations — which cannot be implemented without being adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — specifically include requiring all new vehicles have “passive vehicle-integrated alcohol impairment detection systems, advanced driver monitoring systems or a combination of the two that would be capable of preventing or limiting vehicle operation if it detects driver impairment by alcohol.”

Reiterating a recommendation made in 2017, the NTSB also suggested the NHTSA incentivize “vehicle manufacturers and consumers to adopt intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) systems that would prevent speed-related crashes.”

Intelligent speed adaptation systems can range from a warning system that issues visual or audible alerts when a driver is speeding to a system that electronically limits the speed of a vehicle. The NTSB did not specify which type of system should be adopted.

An investigation into a California crash that killed nine people, including seven children, on New Year’s Day in 2021 led to Tuesday’s recommendations, according to the NTSB. Investigators, the agency said, “found that the SUV driver (involved in the crash) had a high level of alcohol intoxication and was operating at an excessive speed.”

NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said on Tuesday that the technologies “can prevent the tens of thousands of fatalities from impaired-driving and speeding-related crashes we see in the U.S. annually.”

Thirty-two people die of alcohol-related collisions every day — more than 11,000 every year, according to the NHTSA. It reported fatalities climbed 5% in 2021.

There are a number of technologies aimed at preventing impaired driving that are being evaluated by the Department of Transportation, according to the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The department was given three years to craft a requirement that new vehicles feature “advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology” as part of the infrastructure law, which passed with bipartisan support last year.

The NHTSA said in statement Monday that it “has initiated work to meet the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s requirement for rulemaking concerning advanced impaired driving technology in vehicles.”

Such technologies include cameras and sensors outside a vehicle that monitor driving performance, cameras and sensors inside a vehicle that monitor a driver’s head and eyes and alcohol sensors to determine whether a driver is drunk and subsequently prevent the vehicle from moving.

The prospective regulation has sparked privacy concerns and questions about whether the systems would falsely classify certain people, like those with disabilities, as being intoxicated.

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Intelligent speed adaptation systems have gained some traction in the European market, where they will be mandatory in all new cars being sold there from July 2024. The new cars will issue either a “cascaded acoustic warning,” a “cascaded vibrating warning,” “haptic feedback through the acceleration pedal” or a “speed control function,” according to the European Commission. A driver can override the ISA system, the commission says.

New York City is also piloting a fleet of city vehicles with an ISA system in place. The city announced in August that 50 vehicles operated by city employees will have systems that will set a maximum speed for the vehicle and “will also be adaptable based on the local speed limit.” The system has an active modality, which will automatically slow a vehicle down, and passive modality, which will alert a driver when they’re speeding.

The vehicles will be retrofitted and installed in vehicles across a variety of city departments, and will also be tested on 14 new, all-electric Ford Mach Es.

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Categories: Local News

Danish queen tests positive for Covid day after Queen Elizabeth II's funeral

BBC World News - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 04:49
Queen Margrethe II attended Queen Elizabeth's funeral and is now Europe's longest-serving head of state.
Categories: World News

Skelton: California voters are turned off by Props. 26 and 27

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 04:45

You’d never know it from the incessant TV ads, but troubled horse racing would greatly benefit from a sports betting initiative on the November ballot.

In fact, Proposition 26 is seen by some as a savior of thoroughbred racing in California.

It would allow sports betting on professional games — football, etc.— at tribal casinos and four horse racetracks: Santa Anita, Del Mar, Los Alamitos and Golden Gate.

The goal is to attract more bettors to the tracks, where attendance has slumped in recent years.

“We’ve had trouble introducing the sport to young people,” says Gary Fenton, board chairman of Thoroughbred Owners of California. “Our demographic is old.”

Sports betting, which is illegal in California except for horse racing, would also bring more gamblers into tribal casinos. And casino gambling would be upgraded by permitting roulette and craps. They’re now forbidden in the state.

Bettors would need to be at least 21. Betting on high school or college games would still be illegal. There’d be a 10% state tax on sports-wagering profits at the tracks. The casinos have committed to paying the state 15%.

But private polling shows Proposition 26 running far behind and likely to lose along with another, vastly different sports betting initiative, Proposition 27.

Proposition 27 would legalize online sports betting. There’d be the same 10% tax and age restrictions as under 26.

A poll published last week by the Public Policy Institute of California showed Proposition 27 is supported by only 34% of likely voters and opposed by 54%. That means we can start writing its obit.

One big reason both measures are losing is that Proposition 26’s main backers, tribes, fear the approval of online sports betting more than they desire in-person sports wagering in their casinos. Their top priority is the defeat of Proposition 27.

So, they haven’t been promoting their own measure. No wonder it hasn’t generated broad support. Virtually all their effort and money has gone into pummeling 27.

Tribes believe it’s a threat to their casinos because easy online betting would be allowed at home on a smartphone or laptop. No need to drive miles to a casino to gamble.

And it’s not just the online sports betting that tribes fear. It’s what they think would come next: online poker, blackjack and slots — regular casino games that are much more profitable than sports betting.

Tribes currently have a monopoly on casino gambling in California. Voters gave it to them. They feel that’s threatened by Proposition 27, sponsored mainly by out-of-state online interests, including FanDuel and DraftKings.

Although 15% of the tax — possibly up to $75 million — would go to a few tribes without casinos, the vast majority of tribes adamantly oppose 27. The larger casinos currently share nearly $150 million with tribes operating small casinos or none at all.

Voters simply aren’t buying what the Proposition 27 camp has been trying to sell.

Meanwhile, an obscene record $470 million already has been raised by both sides in this TV ad war.

Voters are fed up with the ad bombardment and confused, I figure.

Californians seem content with the gambling that exists. There are 66 tribal casinos, 84 card rooms, 29 fairs with racetracks and 23,000 stores selling lottery tickets.

You can also bet on horse races at home — the one sport California OKs for online wagering.

Racing’s efforts to bring more people to the tracks weren’t helped by image-damaging thoroughbred fatalities in 2019. More than 100 horses died at California tracks that year. Since then, the industry has reformed its horse medicating, and deaths have dropped dramatically.

But in this ballot contest, horse racing has been left in the lurch. It’s never mentioned.

And with Proposition 26 not even promoting itself, why should voters buy into it? Proposition 27 has always been a lousy bet. They’re both losers.

Next time, the tracks should pick a better horse.

George Skelton is a Los Angeles Times columnist.

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Categories: Local News

A man sets himself on fire in an apparent protest of Japanese leader Abe's funeral

NPR - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 04:40

More protests are expected before the state funeral next week for Japan's divisive former leader. Shinzo Abe's assassination in July has highlighted the Unification Church's ties to Japanese politics.

Categories: World News

More charges filed against former Bay Area lawyer accused of child sex crimes

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 04:33

The child sex assault case against former Vacaville attorney James Glenn Haskell has grown more complex in recent days, with the prosecutor filing several new serious felony charges and a motion to increase bail to $1.5 million.

Haskell, 40, who appeared Tuesday morning in Department 23 for the bail-increase motion and to set a preliminary hearing, heard Judge John B. Ellis, after conferring with the attorneys in the case, order him to return at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 12 for the bail motion and the new hearing-setting in the Justice Center in Fairfield.

James Glenn HaskellJames Glenn Haskell 

Ellis also referred the matter to the Solano County Probation Department, which will issue a pretrial services report, and ordered Haskell, previously an associate attorney with the Reynolds Law firm in Vacaville, to submit to an interview with a probation officer.

Haskell, now unemployed and living in Southern California, has sold his home in north Vacaville and remains out of custody after posting initial bail amounts in May that totaled $240,000. He is represented by Fairfield criminal defense attorney Thomas Maas.

The latest developments in the case come after Deputy District Attorney Shelly L. Moore filed her amended criminal complaint on Sept. 15, adding five more counts, four felony charges alleging sexual abuse and one misdemeanor charge alleging physical abuse of a young victim, along with three of the victim’s siblings.

The new charges, based on an interview with one of the children, add to the original 13 counts, 10 felonies and three misdemeanors. The initial felony allegations span sexual penetration by a foreign object while the minor victim was unconscious to corporal injury to a child to assault likely to produce great bodily injury, including strangulation.

The five new charges include four counts of a lewd act on a child and one count of cruelty to a child by inflicting injury, by “physically assaulting the boy’s penis,” crimes that allegedly occurred between October 2018 and October 2019, according to wording in the amended complaint.

Moore’s revised complaint also indicated the children were “particularly vulnerable” and alleged three things: 1) The manner in which the crime was carried out “indicates planning, sophistication, or professionalism; 2) that Haskell “took advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the offense”; and 3) that the allegations “constitute additional aggravating factors.”

In court on Sept. 15, Haskell again pleaded not guilty to the new charges. If convicted at trial, he faces two life sentences, Moore told The Reporter after the Tuesday morning proceeding.

In his opposition to the bail increase motion, filed Monday, Maas argued that Haskell cannot raise an additional $1.1 million in bail, saying the amount “is tantamount to denial of bail,” therefore, a violation of the Eighth Amendment, a reference to excessive bail. Maas also asserted that the increased bail would violate the so-called “Humphrey decision,” a right in the state Constitution for a defendant to obtain release on bail from pretrial custody, except in certain cases of capital crimes, violent or sexual felonies, and serious threats of violence.

Additionally, Maas noted Haskell, who has no prior criminal record, has been fired from the Reynolds firm, is unable to get a job given the ongoing court proceedings, and has surrendered his passport to the court.

Maas suggested the defendant has had no contact with the victims since he was arrested and booked into Solano County Jail in May.

Notably, Maas added in his filing, one of the four children, the boy, was removed from temporary placement and was alleged to have committed sexual abuse against another minor, claiming during an interrogation that Haskell had “pulled and kicked his penis.” Another child alleged Haskell “years ago had repeatedly stroked her thigh.”

Court records show that Haskell — a Brigham Young University graduate, member of the California and District of Columbia bar associations and an Eagle Scout, according to biographical information at the Reynolds office website prior to its deletion — was arrested by Solano County Sheriff’s deputies on a warrant issued May 3.

He posted $170,000 bail on May 4, but court records also show that he appeared to be arrested again, on May 5, when he posted additional bail of $70,000, bringing the total to $240,000.

On May 4, Haskell also was subject to a criminal protective order, to have no contact with four youths listed in the order.

The Solano County District Attorney’s Office filed its complaint on May 3, and the following day at arraignment Haskell — a Georgetown University Law Center graduate who, at one time, was active in the Vacaville Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, and a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America — pleaded not guilty to all counts, denied all enhancements and the allegations, court documents indicate.

On the Reynolds Law website before it became known that he had been arrested, Haskell was deemed a certified specialist in estate planning, probate and trust law, authorized to advise on business formation matters, partnerships, nonprofits, corporations, drafting and reviewing contracts, wills, trusts, and durable powers of attorney. His clients, according to the website, included ranchers and farmers, local teachers, law enforcement officers, real estate developers and agents, manufacturers, professionals and retirees.

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Haskell was raised in California but also lived in Alaska, Guadalajara, Mexico, and Washington, D.C. Before attending law school, he worked at the U.S. Senate and at his grandfather’s cattle and grain exporting business in Southern California.

While attending the California Western School of Law in San Diego, where he graduated in 2009, he worked at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, serving as a judicial extern, or researcher and writer, for Judge Anthony J. Battaglia and at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

While volunteering for the Boys Scouts of America, Haskell served as a Scoutmaster and commissioner. Besides his memberships in Rotary and the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, he was a member of Will C. Wood’s Pep Squad and the Play 4 All Park, among many other nonprofits.

Categories: Local News

Datacenter outages costing more, $1m+ failures now common

The Register - Wed, 09/21/2022 - 04:31
And operators not getting any better at saving power – or watching the water their bit barns drink

Datacenter operators worldwide are largely unprepared for sustainability requirements, despite the industry anticipating new regulations in many regions. Meanwhile, outages are becoming increasingly costly, and progress on energy efficiency is stuck.…

Categories: Tech News