Montana judge blocks ban on gender-affirming care

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:28

By Amy Beth Hanson | Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. — A Montana law banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors is temporarily blocked, a state judge ruled Wednesday, just four days before it was to take effect.

District Court Judge Jason Marks agreed with transgender youth, their families and health care providers that the law passed by the 2023 Montana Legislature is likely unconstitutional and would harm the mental and physical health of minors with gender dysphoria, rather than protect them, as supporters said it would.

Marks called the Legislature’s stated intent “disingenuous” and said it seemed more likely the law’s purpose is to “ban an outcome deemed undesirable by the Montana Legislature, veiled as protection for minors.”

“Today’s ruling permits our clients to breathe a sigh of relief,” Akilah Deernose, executive director of the ACLU of Montana, said in a statement. “But this fight is far from over. We look forward to vindicating our clients’ constitutional rights and ensuring that this hateful law never takes effect.”

The preliminary injunction remains in effect until a full trial can be held on the issue, but the state Department of Justice said it will appeal the injunction.

“We look forward to presenting our complete factual and legal argument to protect Montana children from harmful, life-altering medications and surgeries. Because of the irreversible and immediate harms that the procedures have on children we will be filing a notice of appeal today,” spokesperson Emilee Cantrell said in a statement.

Montana is one of at least 22 states that have enacted bans on gender-affirming medical care for minors and most face lawsuits. Some bans have been temporarily blocked by courts, while others have been allowed to take effect. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule this week on the gender-affirming medical care bans that were allowed to take effect in Kentucky and Tennessee.

All the laws ban gender-affirming surgery for minors. Such procedures are rare, with fewer than 3,700 performed in the U.S. on patients ages 12 to 18 from 2016 through 2019, according to a study published last month. It’s not clear how many of those patients were 18 when they underwent surgery.

In Montana’s case, transgender youth argued the law would ban them from continuing to receive gender-affirming medical care, violating their constitutional rights to equal protection, the right to seek health and the right to dignity.

Their parents said the law would violate their constitutional right to make medical decisions for their children and two medical providers said it would prevent them from providing effective and necessary care to their patients.

“Montana’s ban is a direct assault on the freedom and well-being of transgender youth, their families, and their medical providers,” Malita Picasso, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberty Union, said in a recent statement.

The law sought to prohibit the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria, while still allowing cisgender minors to receive puberty blockers to treat early puberty or surgical procedures to treat intersex conditions.

Treatments for gender dysphoria meet standards of care approved by major medical organizations including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the ACLU argued in its complaint.

Allowing the ban to take effect would cause irreparable harm to transgender minors who are receiving treatment, in part by exacerbating the anxiety and depression they feel because their body is incongruent with their gender identity, Picasso argued during a Sept. 18 hearing for the preliminary injunction.

The state countered that beginning the treatments put transgender children on a “path of no return.”

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“A child cannot possibly consent to the treatment that permanently and irreversibly changes secondary sex characteristics, nor can a child consent to future infertility and sterilization, future sexual dysfunction and a lifetime of hormone treatments and other forms of medicalization and resulting complications,” Assistant Attorney General Michael Russell argued.

Legislative debate over Montana’s bill drew national attention after Republicans punished Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr — the first transgender woman elected to the state’s Legislature — for telling lawmakers who supported the bill: “I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.” Initially, Republicans in the House blocked her from speaking on bills and after a protest over that decision disrupted the House, she was banned from the House floor for the rest of the legislative session, which wrapped up this spring.

The story has been corrected to show the ruling happed on Wednesday, not Tuesday; and corrected to show the order is a preliminary injunction, not a temporary restraining order

Categories: Local News

Smartphone sales down 22 percent in Q2, the worst performance in a decade

ARS Technica - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:28
The Pixel 7 Pro camera layout. Between the first two lenses, you can make out sensors for laser autofocus and a color sensor.

Enlarge / The Pixel 7 Pro camera layout. Between the first two lenses, you can make out sensors for laser autofocus and a color sensor.

Canalys has some gruesome new numbers out for the North American smartphone market in Q2 2023, detailing what it's calling the "worst quarterly performance for over a decade." Q2 has plummeted 22 percent, year over year, and with these numbers, Canalys is predicting the smartphone market will be down 12 percent overall in 2023.

Apple is down 20 percent for Q2 and still in a dominant position with 54 percent market share. Samsung is down 27 percent, in second place overall with 24 percent market share in Q2 2023. Motorola is next with a 25 percent decline and only 8 percent market share. TCL, a TV company that feels like it only briefly dabbled in smartphones, is the single biggest loser, down 30 percent, with 5 percent market share.

(credit: Canalys)

Only a single company survived this quarter unscathed, and it's actually Google! The company might be at the bottom of the smartphone charts, but Pixel phone sales are up 59 percent, earning Google 4 percent of the market. It was the same story last year, when Google jumped from 1 to 2 percent. In a few quarters, the company might hit fourth place.

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Categories: Tech News

Fire in East Bay destroys marijuana grow house

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:20

ANTIOCH — A fire that burned through the roof destroyed a marijuana grow house Tuesday night, fire officials said.

Crews from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District responded to the 5300 block of Navajo Way about 9:50 p.m. and arrived to see the flames above the roof, spokesperson Capt. Chris Toler said. By that time, the house was destroyed.

When crews made it inside the home, they confirmed it was a grow house, Toler said.

“There were a lot of modifications done to the actual interior of the home to facilitate it being a grow house,” he said. “No residents there. No injuries. And there were a lot of signs before we went in that the home was being used that way.”

Antioch police were expected to investigate the background behind the grow house and who may have been operating it.

According to Toler, the house had bars on the windows, which were boxed in by plywood. He said those safety hazards, as well as the advanced stage of the fire caused crews to fight the fire from the outside.

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“There was nothing salvageable from the home,” Toler said. “It’s uninhabitable and remains that way.”

Investigators have not determined what caused the fire to start. Toler said the electrical set-up was one of the home’s modifications.

Categories: Local News

Pedestrian killed in East San Jose on Tuesday was hit by a garbage truck, police said

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:15

SAN JOSE — A garbage truck driver hit and killed a man as he pulled out of an East San Jose parking lot early Tuesday morning, according to authorities.

Police were alerted to the incident at 3:23 a.m. Tuesday on the 40 block of South Jackson Avenue. The preliminary investigation revealed that a man driving a 2021 Peterbilt garbage truck hit a man while driving out of a rear parking lot, authorities said.

The man, a pedestrian, was pronounced dead at the scene. As of Wednesday morning, he was yet to be publicly identified by the Santa Clara County Office of the Medical Examiner-Coroner.

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The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation.

The death was the 40th traffic death on San Jose streets of 2023, and the 23rd pedestrian death.

Categories: Local News

Prosecutors say cheek swab from Gilgo Beach murder suspect adds to evidence of guilt

Seattle Times - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:15

Prosecutors say DNA from Gilgo Beach serial killing suspect Rex Heuermann’s cheek swab matches the DNA that authorities had previously collected from a pizza crust and used to link Heuermann to one of the victims.
Categories: Local News

Why it’s important to make and maintain friendships as we age

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:15

Q. I have lost four of my good longtime male friends in the past two years. All were married. I am saddened and a bit dumbfounded that none of the wives have close girlfriends or a support network. In one case, a widow had no one to accompany her to pick up her late husband’s ashes and just a few people helped her spread his ashes off the pier. Can you write a column to encourage ladies not to drop their old girlfriends, a valuable support in time of need?  Best wishes, H.B.

Thank you for caring about others’ needs and concerns.

Let’s first try to understand why women may no longer have those special friendships they may have had in their younger years. We know friendships change over time because of circumstances. 

Close friends die. This particularly is the case if those close friends are of a similar age. That lends credence to the advice of having friends of different ages, stages and generations, not only for the pleasure of those friendships, but also for just being there for one another. 

Time is precious. The role of friends can become more important as we become increasingly aware that we have less rather than more time on our planet. Consequently, we may assess our friend relationships and choose not to spend time with those who are negative, toxic, insincere or with whom there is little reciprocity. At the same time, we may realize the importance of strengthening relationships that matter.

Knowing ourselves. As we age, most of us know ourselves rather well. We know what is important, our needs, preferences and values. We may distance ourselves from those who are too materialistic, have different interests and values and realize such differences are too big to overcome. We also are likely to be clearer on what we don’t want in our lives. 

Quality counts over quantity. In later life, most older adults don’t need lots of friends to be happy. What seems to count is a few good friends that may include one’s partner, longtime school friends, neighbors or more recent friendships from work, volunteering, leisure pursuits, classes or participation in faith-based organizations and more.

The benefits of having good friends in later life are even more than personal pleasure, companionship and having a good time together.   

Friendships slow cognitive decline. According to research from Northwestern University, friendships could slow decline in memory and cognitive functioning. In one study, researchers asked 31 SuperAgers and 19 cognitively “normal” older adults to fill out a questionnaire about their psychological well-being. (Superagers are men and women over age 80 with the mental faculties of people decades younger.) Compared to the cognitively “normal” adults, the SuperAgers stood out in one area: “The degree to which they reported having satisfying, warm, trusting relationships,” writes Judith Graham in a piece in Scientific American headlined, “Good Friends Might Be Your Best Brain Booster as You Age.”

Friendships may help us live longer. According to another study, people with strong connections to family and friends have a 50 percent greater chance of outliving those who have fewer social ties.

Friendships counteract loneliness. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to loneliness as they face chronic illnesses, hearing loss and more. Loneliness is feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact. It’s not the numbers that count, but the quality of the relationships. 

Friendships are good for our health. They reduce the risk of many significant health problems such as depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Friendships encourage us to avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise.

Covid-19 actually has improved relationships. An AARP survey on friendships found that the epidemic served as an opportunity for older adults to reset their priorities. More than half of people ages 50 to 59 indicated the pandemic strengthened their relationships with family and friends. 

It’s never too late to make new friends. Author Shasta Nelson (“Friendships Don’t Just Happen”, Turner, 2103) notes that it usually takes six to eight meaningful interactions before women feel comfortable calling someone a friend. It may take a year to two before that person is someone in whom you confide. 

What’s the message? At some time one partner will exit the planet. So make time for those special friends and include them in your life — now! And know it is never too late to make one or two new good friends.  

Thank you H.B. for your good question. Stay well and just continue to pass on that gift of kindness.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at  Visit Helen at and follow her on

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Categories: Local News

The alternative to stopping climate change is untested carbon capture tech

The Register - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:15
We could do most of what we need to prevent 1.5°C warming now; reversing it will be nigh impossible

The technology the world needs to reach net zero carbon emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°C is increasingly available, but we're still not necessarily on track to meet our 2050 climate change goals, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports.…

Categories: Tech News

Recession prep: Should you apply for a balance transfer card now?

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:04

Holly D. Johnson | (TNS)

While rising interest rates have been a boon for savers who are now earning upwards of 5% with high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs), rising rates on loan products have historically played a role in slowing the economy down. But with recent rate increases from the Fed, most of us are starting to wonder where interest rates will go from here — and if a recession could be on the horizon in the coming months.

Unfortunately, an economic slowdown could impact people who are already struggling with credit card debt at today’s exceptionally high rates. According to recent data, the average interest rate charged on credit card accounts was 20.71% as of Sept. 20, 2023.

Credit expert John Ulzheimer, formerly at FICO and Equifax, says he believes banks and credit card issuers are better at predicting recessions and tough economic times than economists. Further, it’s not uncommon for banks to “clean up” their portfolios prior to economic downturns by lowering the limits on underperforming cardholder accounts and closing inactive accounts.

Does applying for a balance transfer card now make sense?

With that in mind, it could make sense to go ahead and try to consolidate high-interest credit card debt now — before a recession slows the economy down and creditors have the chance to tighten their requirements. After all, there are a range of top balance transfer credit cards available today that offer lengthy 0% intro APR timelines and very few fees or no fees.

By applying now and consolidating high-interest credit card debt while you can, you have the potential to save money on interest, pay down debt more quickly or both. Just remember that you’ll need to have a plan to pay down debt with a balance transfer, or else you could end up with even more debt in the end.

For example, Ulzheimer says you will get the most out of a balance transfer credit card if you use it for the intended purpose, which is to buy yourself some time at a 0% intro APR so you can pay the card off in full.

What to look for in a balance transfer card

As you compare balance transfer credit cards, you’ll want to look for options that let you consolidate and pay down debt with the lowest costs possible. In the meantime, you can look out for features and benefits you might actually use.

Here’s everything you should try to find in your next balance transfer card:

—Lengthy intro offer. First off, Ulzheimer says you should always look for the longest introductory APR offer you can find. For example, you may be able to find balance transfer cards that offer a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for up to 21 months.

—No annual fee. The best balance transfer credit cards also come with no annual fee, so make sure the cards you’re considering don’t come with any fixed annual charges you can’t avoid.

—Low balance transfer fee. While most balance transfer credit cards charge a balance transfer fee on the amount of debt you transfer, this fee is usually 3% or 5% of each balance transferred. Obviously, you’ll want to look for balance transfer cards with the lowest balance transfer fees you can find to maximize your savings.

While all the attributes above are good to look for in a balance transfer card, you’ll also notice that some cards with 0% intro APR offers come with rewards. While earning cash back or rewards points can be attractive, keep in mind that you’ll have a much harder time getting out of debt if you’re still using credit cards for purchases.

If you really want to maximize a balance transfer credit card, skip over options that offer rewards, stop using credit cards for purchases for the time being and focus on working toward freedom from debt instead. If you’re entirely debt-free in the future, you can always reconsider getting a rewards credit card at that point.

Balance transfer cards to consider

As you look over the best balance transfer credit cards, consider these options with some of the longest intro APR offers on the market today:

Citi Simplicity Card

The no-annual-fee Citi Simplicity® Card comes with a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from account opening and on purchases for 12 months from account opening, with both offers followed by a variable APR of 19.24% to 29.99%. Note that only balance transfers made in the first four months of account opening qualify for the introductory offer and that a 3% (minimum $5) intro balance transfer fee applies if you transfer debt to the card within four months of account opening.

Wells Fargo Reflect Card

The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card comes with a 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 21 months from account opening, followed by a variable APR of 18.24%, 24.74% or 29.99%. Only balance transfers made within 120 days of account opening qualify for the introductory offer, and this offer comes with a 5% (minimum $5) balance transfer fee. Further, there’s no annual fee.

BankAmericard credit card

The BankAmericard® credit card is another great card for debt consolidation since it comes with a 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on both qualifying balance transfers (made in the first 60 days of account opening) and purchases. Then, a variable APR of 16.24% to 26.24% applies. There’s no annual fee, and a 3% balance transfer fee applies.

The information about the BankAmericard® credit card was last updated on Sept. 20, 2023.

The bottom line

Whether a recession is coming or not, consolidating debt with a balance transfer card can make sense. With a top balance transfer card, you can get a 0% intro APR offer for 18 or even 21 months, letting you pay down debt faster since interest charges won’t accrue the entire time. A balance transfer fee is required in most cases and is added to your total balance, but the interest savings you get can be well worth it.

For more insight into how much you can save, consider trying out our balance transfer calculator, then make your decision from there.

*The information about the Citi Simplicity® Card and BankAmericard® credit card has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

(Visit Bankrate online at

©2023 Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Categories: Local News

High housing costs making California more undesirable, RAND economist says

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:04

The high cost of housing is leaving California families locked out of homeownership and contributing to persistent homelessness, says RAND economist Jason Ward.

Yet, local policies and politics keep the Golden State from building enough homes to make housing affordable.

Obstacles range from regulation to resistance among residents who fear added housing will make overcrowding worse.

Also see: California has 6 of the most-valuable housing markets in US

“From a policy perspective, we treat housing as a societal bad,” Ward said.

Yet, standing in the way of new housing is not really in California’s best interest, he said.

“What we’ve really done is made it so expensive here that it’s not really a feasible or even desirable place to live for a lot of people. And along with that comes major problems like homelessness,” Ward said.

A better policy would make the state accessible to a diverse range of people.

Also see: Southern California tops wildfire risk rankings as insurance gets harder to find

“You know,” said Ward, “everyone moved here at some point.”

We recently discussed the housing crisis with Ward, who joined the Santa Monica-based think tank in 2019. His comments have been edited for space.

Q: What’s the most pressing housing issue in California today?

A: Lack of affordability is, to me, the issue that links everything.

Also see: Amid California market plunge, Realtors forecast rising prices, sales in 2024

Both theory and evidence point to high housing costs being the result of a lack of supply. Housing underproduction relative to demand leads to higher rents and higher home prices. … (And) the high cost of producing housing has rendered the production of middle-income housing mostly infeasible without substantial public subsidies.

Rapidly escalating home prices now exclude most Californians from having any realistic path to homeownership. It has also raised the stakes for existing homeowners to oppose anything that threatens the huge valuation of their homes, be it a new multifamily building next door or anything that might, say, increase traffic or change a view or potentially affect anyone’s perception of the value.

In the rental market, underproduction has led to millions of households doubling and tripling up in units too small for them and to ballooning eviction rates as COVID-era protections are expiring. As housing eats up a larger share of household budgets, any financial shock can be a fatal blow to remaining housed and this, ultimately drives people into homelessness.

Jason Ward (Photo courtesy of Rand Corp.)Jason Ward (Photo courtesy of Rand Corp.) 

Q: Has any progress been made in addressing the state’s homelessness issues?

A: If progress means reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness in any meaningful, measurable way, then no.

RAND’s ongoing survey of unsheltered Angelenos shows that nearly three-quarters of people on the streets have been there continuously for more than a year and around half have been on the streets continuously for three years or more.

So we aren’t even making meaningful progress in housing people who have spent literally years on the streets.

And we haven’t done anything to address the flow of people into homelessness due to very high housing costs. We will never solve homelessness in a setting where it costs $2,000 to $3,000 per month to rent a basic one- or two-bedroom apartment and you need a $4,000 to $6,000 security deposit to even have the opportunity to try to pay those rents.

Q: Many residents say they want their communities to remain as they are. Is the push to build more housing a threat to the quality of life?

A: You know, we spent decades building millions and millions of homes, and people moved into those homes. And then it’s like, now I live here, so now nothing else should change.

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The only thing you can really do to make people stop coming here is make it a really undesirable place to live. But that’s not really a great policy.

I think in some sense, we’ve kind of done that in California already. We’ve made this a much less desirable place to live. Even college-educated people are now beginning to migrate out of California.

So, the question is, (wouldn’t it be better) to simply accommodate the demand for housing and try to make this a place that is accessible to a wide range of people in the future? … You know, everyone moved here at some point.

Q: What programs have been the most effective so far?

A: LA’s Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) program — a voluntary, incentive-based program that includes large increases in density, exemption from parking minimums and other regulatory forbearance — has been a remarkable success story and is the kind of thing that should just be extended.

… You should not worry about whether (housing is)  near transit and just let people build housing with less parking and more units anywhere that they would like.

Q: Under Senate Bill 9, California property owners can subdivide lots in single-family neighborhoods and build up to four units on those parcels. Is that having an impact on the housing shortage?

A: It has yet to have any meaningful impact, and I do not believe it will until we remove exclusions that prevent professional builders from using this pathway.

Developers are the people who build housing. Saddling a property owner with living on their property or paying to move away for the years it can take to do even a duplex, let alone and lot split and two duplexes, automatically eliminates probably 95% or more of California households from possibly using this bill.

This restriction… (prevents) this bill from really having any meaningful effect on housing production.

Q: Californians voted down two ballot propositions loosening state restrictions on rent control. Will the third time be the charm when rent control is back on the ballot in 2024?

A: Time will tell. I believe most Californians realize that rent control without a substantial increase in housing production is not going to solve many problems.

Q: Do you think expanded rent control is a viable solution to the state’s soaring rent?

A: With sufficient housing production, rent control can do what it is intended to do, which is to prevent the worst excesses of some landlords.

But in an environment of unaddressed housing scarcity, rent control places the onus of the housing crisis completely on landlords, and most landlords are not large, corporate landlords. Inflation is real and many owners are struggling to make ends meet as operating costs outpace rental revenue. This can and does lead to some very perverse outcomes for housing affordability.


Title: Economist, professor

Organization: RAND Corp. and Pardee RAND Graduate School

Residence: Los Angeles

Education: Bachelors, masters and doctorate in economics, University of Illinois, Chicago

Previous jobs: Recording industry audio engineer for nearly 20 years; teaching and research assistant through the National Bureau of Economic Research

Categories: Local News

Ruling in Trump Fraud Case Could Result in Him Losing Trump Tower

TruthOut - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:03

A New York state judge ruled on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump committed business fraud for several years by falsely inflating the value of his assets to secure better loans from banks and policies from insurance companies. The ruling comes in a civil case brought against Trump by state Attorney General Letitia James. The attorney general had considered bringing criminal charges...


Categories: World News

Police searching for Baltimore tech entrepreneur’s killer: ‘He will do anything he can to cause harm’

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:03

By Dillon Mullan, Cassidy Jensen and Lee O. Sanderlin | Baltimore Sun

Authorities are looking for an armed and dangerous man who police say killed Pava LaPere, an entrepreneur involved in Baltimore’s tech startup scene.

Acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said Tuesday that police have an arrest warrant for 32-year-old Jason Billingsley in connection with LaPere’s death. Worley described Billingsley as armed and dangerous, and warned Baltimoreans to steer clear if they see him. Worley said Billingsley is a suspect in “at least one other case.”

“He will do anything he can to cause harm,” Worley said. “This individual will kill, and he will rape.”

Officers found LaPere, 26, in an apartment in the 300 block of West Franklin Street in the Mount Vernon neighborhood around 11:34 a.m. with signs of blunt-force trauma, police said, and the state medical examiner’s office said Tuesday afternoon that her death has been ruled a homicide.

LaPere co-founded EcoMap Technologies while still an undergraduate student at the Johns Hopkins University, from which she graduated in 2019. The company’s office is also in the 300 block of West Franklin Street.

“Pava was a very young, talented, devoted Baltimorean and someone I had the opportunity to get to know over the past few years, who would help anyone she could see,” Mayor Brandon Scott said.

Billingsley pleaded guilty to a first-degree sex offense in 2015 and received a prison sentence of 30 years with all but 14 years suspended, according to online court records.

Worley said LaPere was found hours after a missing person report was filed. He declined to say whether LaPere was found in her own home, citing the open investigation. “It was a secure building, where someone had to allow the individual into the building,” Worley said.

BPD announces 1st Degree Murder warrant for 32 y/o Jason Billingsley in the killing of Pava LaPere. WATF & US Marshals are actively attempting to arrest him. Billingsley is armed & dangerous. Contact 911 if you come in contact with this individual.

— Baltimore Police (@BaltimorePolice) September 26, 2023

Hopkins spokesperson Jill Rosen said: “The Johns Hopkins community deeply mourns the tragic loss of Pava LaPere, a 2019 graduate who made Baltimore home and invested her talent in our city. Pava was well known and loved in the Baltimore entrepreneurship community and will be profoundly missed. Our solemn thoughts are with her family in this time of grief.”

EcoMap Technologies has published data maps of over 12 business ecosystems, including an overview of Baltimore’s Black-owned business community. In August, the company announced that it had raised $8 million from venture capital firms, according to a news release.

It is with profound sadness and shock that EcoMap announces the passing of our CEO, Pava LaPere. We'll honor her legacy; please keep her family and loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.

— EcoMap Technologies | The Ecosystem Company (@EcoMapTech) September 26, 2023

“Her untiring commitment to our company, to Baltimore, to amplifying the critical work of ecosystems across the country, and to building a deeply inclusive culture as a leader, friend, and partner set a standard for leadership, and her legacy will live on through the work we continue to do,” EcoMap Technologies said in a statement. The public is invited to a vigil at the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon starting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, the company tweeted.

LaPere, who lived in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to Baltimore, also founded Innov8MD, a nonprofit aimed at assisting student entrepreneurs at Hopkins. She was on the board of Loyola University Maryland’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and was selected to Forbes’ 30 under 30 lists for social impact in 2023.

News of LaPere’s death quickly caused ripples of grief across Baltimore’s technology industry, with many who had met or worked with her praising the 26-year-old’s impact on the community.

“Pava was brilliant, creative, compassionate, and an exceptional leader. In her 26 years on this planet, she did more with the time she had than most people do in a lifetime,” Jamie McDonald, CEO of UpSurge Baltimore, said in a statement. “Pava left an indelible mark on our community. The Baltimore ecosystem is stronger, more resilient, and courageous thanks to Pava’s personal and professional contributions here.”

Alanah Nichole Davis, the lead Baltimore reporter for technology news site, said in a Tuesday newsletter that she had met LaPere in May, and conducted an on-camera interview with her a few months later to report on EcoMap’s plans for spending an influx of extra seed capital.

“I’ve spent the day watching bits of that interview while grieving in my own way between working,” Davis wrote. “What struck me was how Pava exuded warmth and joy over her work.”


The article has been updated to correct the sentence Jason Billingsley received for a first degree sex offense in 2015 and to remove incorrect information about how he got out of prison. The Sun regrets the errors.

Categories: Local News

What to watch: ‘Creator’ is an AI thriller made for these murky times

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:01

An intelligent dystopian blockbuster that addresses AI technology and our fear of it, along with a delightful human dramedy about an Irish mom trying to help her always in-trouble son.

Those films top our list of must-sees, along with a cute animated feature aimed for wee ones who love puppies and a cheeky Coen Brothers homage.

Here’s our roundup.

“The Creator”: The acceleration of AI technology continues to astound and inspire us, but also fuels trepidation and fear. Will AI supplant workers? Will it reduce us into lazy oafs? Those legit, and sometimes not so legit, concerns abound. And they’re part of the reason why Gareth Edwards’ stirring dystopian epic — one that’s been in the narrative cooking process for years — is so refreshing. It turns the tables on our sense that it is humans being victimized.

In “The Creator,” we look in the mirror and an American aggressor stares back at us.

It’s a turnaround that creates thicker layers and adds philosophical/ethical debates to this big-budget thought-provoker, a sobering and entirely satisfying experience that balances grandiose visual effects with emotional heft. (Get ready to tear up).

The serpentine plot hinges on former American mercenary Joshua (John David Washington, in his best performance to date) who gets summoned back into action five years after the death of his wife Maya (Gemma Chan). His assignment is to chase down the enigmatic Creator, an architect of AI intelligence that American politicians and military officials blame for a nuclear bomb that wiped out much of downtown L.A. The infiltration of AI into life produces different reactions across the globe, with Americans wanting to annihilate AI beings and the Eastern world willing to coexist in a peaceful way.

Joshua hesitantly joins a military mission — Alison Janney is unforgettable as a rabid vengeance-seeking colonel — with a goal to eradicate the architect, and AI, overall. Joshua’s search propels him deep into East Asia, where townspeople have been terrorized by soldiers — those scenes serve as a powerful metaphor for the Vietnam War and how history often repeats itself. When Joshua learns that the assassination target happens to be an child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles, in an awards-worthy performance), he questions the ethical boundaries being crossed. With an added incentive that Maya might indeed be alive, Joshua faces a crisis on numerous levels.

While “The Creator” does lack the gut punch of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” it’s merely a few rungs below that film in narrative vision. It’s a visual head trip that will move you and begs to be seen more than once — and on an IMAX screen. Details: 3½ stars out of 4; in theaters Sept. 29.

“Flora and Son”: Watching a film from Irish director John Carney (“Sing Street,” “Once,” “Begin Again”) is akin to falling in love with a soulful yet sweet song about the beautiful messiness of life. Carney’s done that again with this just-edgy-enough heart-warmer, a lovely story about single mom Flora (Eve Hewson) and her troublesome but musically talented son (Orén Kinlan), whom she strives to steer away from his habitual crimes. In the process, she winds up taking online guitar lessons from an easygoing L.A. instructor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The brass Flora charms and offends him. But he sees something special in her and she sees something special in him. What makes Carney’s films such a joy to experience is that they celebrate working-class people who realize an unexpected dream. From “Sing Street” to “Once,” Carney’s distinct style gives you just the right amount of genuine feels. Hewson is a delight and Gordon-Levitt is a charmer. If you’re feeling low, try “Flora and Son,” it’ll take a load off anyone’s weary shoulders. Details: 3½ stars; streaming Sept. 29 on Apple TV+.

“Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie”: After the vulgar antics in the irritating pup comedy “Strays,” it’s comforting to hang out with Nickelodeon’s batch of well-behaved animated pooches, junior-league canine do-gooders intent in being kind and saving humankind. Devoid of product placement and stripped of sitcom-like put-downs, director Cal Brunker’s “Paw Patrol” sequel, based on the popular TV series, outshines the first film. The plot moves along at a faster clip and the message is even better.  A meteor crashes near Adventure City, and takes out Pup Tower. Its crystals, though, instill all but one pup with superpowers. Naturally, there’s a villain, a crackpot scientist (voice of Taraji P. Henson), and she teams up with corrupt former Adventure City mayor Humdinger (Ray Pardo). “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie” is nicely animated and reminds kids to celebrate their qualities and power from within. It won’t win awards but it is certain to delight its target audience. Details: 3 stars; in theaters Sept. 29.

“Head Count”: The Burghart Brothers’ twisted Kansas-set Western noir feature debut tips its cowboy hat aplenty to the Coen Brothers, but does so with wit and respect.  Aaron Jakubenko — who also helped dream up the kooky screenplay — stars as Kat, a con who’s escaped into the fields after a critter attack. That ridiculous “attack” leads Kat into a nest of trouble that involves his brother and an old flame who has moved on to another guy. Swiveling from flashbacks to Kat’s current dire predicament of having a gun pointed at his head, the Burghart Brothers keep things busy with loony twists and irreverent humor. Watch these two. They’re talented. Details: 3 stars; in select theaters and on VOD Sept. 29.

“Heist 88”: Blasé storytelling and a lack of overall energy drag down what should have been a suspenseful dramatization of a mostly real $80-million bank swindle that almost happened in 1988 Chicago. Courtney B. Vance stars as a charismatic conman out to score one last hit by capitalizing on a faulty system that relies on code verifications for fund transfers. He persuades four underpaid Black bank workers to pull it off. “Heist 88” picks up once the plan gets set into motion, but director Menhaj Huda and the screenplay give cursory lip service to the backstories and the action seems rather clunky at moments. Details: 2 stars; streams Sept. 29 on Paramount+ and at 9 p.m. Oct. 1 on Showtime.

“Megalomaniac”: Karim Ouelhaj’s unsettling award-winning horror film crawls under the skin and then rips your nerves to shreds. It’s bloody and terrifying, and should come with a warning for the faint-hearted: Stay the hell away from this. Ouelhaj’s plunge into the depraved legacy of family madness finds bullied, sexually abused  Martha (Eline Schumacher) holed up in a Gothic-looking manor with her serial killer brother Felix (Benjamin Ramon). Their father was known as the Butcher of Mons — a real-life homicidal maniac who was never captured. Ouelhaj’s button-pushing thriller lays forth — in bloody detail — what led his offspring to carry on the carnage. It’s a damning portrait of what can go so awry when the safety net of social programs is full of holes, while workplace hostility and sexism conspire to breed even more violence. It’s a tough but well-made film that raises provocative questions that are certain to make everyone in the audience uncomfortable, as they should. Details: 3 stars; available On Demand now.

Contact Randy Myers at

Categories: Local News

UW student spills secrets to getting into most desirable majors

Seattle Times - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 10:00

A UW student created a website aimed at helping his peers gain admission to some of UW's most competitive degree programs, including computer science.
Categories: Local News

Einstein right again: Antimatter falls “down” due to gravity like ordinary matter

ARS Technica - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:59
An artist's conceptual rendering of antihydrogen atoms falling out the bottom of the magnetic trap of the ALPHA-g apparatus.

Enlarge / An artist's conceptual rendering of antihydrogen atoms falling out the bottom of the magnetic trap of the ALPHA-g apparatus. (credit: Keyi )

CERN physicists have shown that antimatter falls downward due to gravity, just like regular matter, according to a new paper published in the journal Nature. It's not a particularly surprising result—it would have been huge news had antimatter been found to be repulsed by gravity and "fall" upward—but it does tell us a bit but more about antimatter and brings physicists one step closer to resolving one of the most elusive mysteries surrounding the earliest moments of our universe.

As the name implies, antimatter is the exact opposite of ordinary matter, as it is made of antiparticles instead of ordinary particles. These antiparticles are identical in mass to their regular counterparts. But just like looking in a mirror reverses left and right, the electrical charges of antiparticles are reversed. So an anti-electron would have a positive instead of a negative charge while an antiproton would have a negative instead of a positive charge. When antimatter meets matter, both particles are annihilated and their combined masses are converted into pure energy. (It's what fuels the fictional USS Enterprise, as any Star Trek fan can tell you.)

As far as we know, antimatter doesn’t exist naturally in the known universe, although we can now create small amounts at places like CERN's Antimatter Factory. But scientists believe that ten billionths of a second after the Big Bang, there was an abundance of antimatter. The nascent universe was incredibly hot and infinitely dense, so much so that energy and mass were virtually interchangeable. New particles and antiparticles were constantly being created and hurling themselves, kamikaze-like, at their nearest polar opposites, thereby annihilating both matter and antimatter back into energy in a great cosmic war of attrition.

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Categories: Tech News

Colin Kaepernick asked Jets to join practice squad after Aaron Rodgers injury

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:53

Peter Sblendorio | New York Daily News

Colin Kaepernick reached out to the Jets about a spot on their practice squad following fellow quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending Achilles tear, according to a letter shared by rapper J. Cole.

Kaepernick allegedly sent the letter to general manager Joe Douglas on Sept. 21, contending his “sole mission” would be to help prepare the Jets defense in practice, with his mobility mimicking that of upcoming opponents in Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Jalen Hurts.

“In a perfect world for the Jets, Zach Wilson finds his stride and shows that he is able to lead this championship caliber team that you’ve put together to the Super Bowl,” reads the letter, which J. Cole posted to Instagram. “I believe a confident Zach Wilson has the tools to do this. However, in the event that this is not the case, I would love to offer you a risk-free contingency plan.”

Kaepernick, 35, hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2016 season. That year, the then-San Francisco 49ers star knelt during the national anthem before games to protest racial injustice in America.

The letter to the Jets says Kaepernick never retired and has maintained a weekday training program the past six years. He worked out for the Las Vegas Raiders last season but didn’t sign a contract.

“Worst case scenario, you see what I have to offer and you’re not that impressed,” the letter reads. “Best case scenario, you realize you have a real weapon at your disposal in the event you ever need to use it.”

Rodgers, whom the Jets acquired in the offseason from the Green Bay Packers, played four snaps in Week 1 before suffering the injury. Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, has thrown two touchdowns against four interceptions since stepping in for Rodgers.

During an appearance Tuesday on “The Pat McAfee Show,” Rodgers was critical of teammates having outbursts on the sideline in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, which dropped them to 1-2. Rodgers said the Jets need to “grow up a little bit on offense” after Garrett Wilson and Michael Carter were seen expressing frustrations.

The Jets opted to add veteran Trevor Siemian to their practice squad this week, marking their first quarterback move since Rodgers, 39, went down.

Chad Henne, who won two Super Bowls as Mahomes’ backup with the Chiefs, recently told the Reading Eagle he declined a Jets offer and will remain retired. CBS Sports commentator Matt Ryan also told his network he has “no interest” in a Jets job after Fox Sports reported the team was passing on him and Carson Wentz.

Kaepernick started parts of five seasons with the 49ers, passing for 72 touchdowns against 30 interceptions and rushing for another 13 scores. He led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in 2013 and to the NFC Championship Game the following season.

Kaepernick was initially “reluctant” to let J. Cole share the letter, the rapper wrote.

“My argument was that I believe the people and all organizations should know the truth about how hard he works and how much he still wants to play,” J. Cole captioned the post. “And always has. In the end, he agreed to let me.”

Categories: Local News

‘Not if but when’: Bay Area motorists are marking this valuable car part to thwart thieves

San Jose Mercury - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:53

LIVERMORE — Bay Area motorists worried that they’re targets for criminals looking to steal their catalytic converters drove to a Livermore college Tuesday to have the valuable car part tagged with traceable identification information and law enforcement insignia.

The anti-theft etching event — the fourth one of its kind hosted by Livermore police and the automotive department at Las Positas College over the past year — drew dozens of drivers whose catalytic converters were marked with their license plate numbers and spray-painted with the Livermore Police Department badge logo.

The purpose, Livermore police Officer Taylor Burruss said, is to deter would-be thieves who spot the police logo and make the car part traceable back to its owner if recovered by law enforcement. In some cases, a recovered part can be returned and reinstalled. In others, identified victims can help the authorities pursue charges. Burruss recalled at least three cases where etching helped identify stolen catalytic converters, a device that’s part of a vehicle’s exhaust system and contains valuable metals.

“We had a success story with CHP where they recovered a bunch of catalytic converters, and when they were inventorying them, they came across one that had our Livermore Police Department logo,” Burruss said. “So CHP contacted Livermore police and said, ‘Hey, can you give us any information on this?’ We said absolutely.”

Livermore Police officer Taylor Burruss, center, talks with community members during an anti-theft catalytic converter event on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Livermore, Calif. Livermore police and Las Positas College hosted their fourth anti-theft catalytic converter event where student technicians etched vehicle license plate numbers and police department logos onto the prized auto parts. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)Livermore Police Officer Taylor Burruss, center, talks with community members during an anti-theft catalytic converter event on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Livermore, Calif. Livermore police and Las Positas College hosted their fourth anti-theft catalytic converter event where student technicians etched vehicle license plate numbers and police department logos onto the prized auto parts. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

Stealing catalytic converters is a popular crime in the Bay Area and across the state. In June, a police task force in Oakland recovered more than 200 catalytic converters as part of an investigation into a prolific crew suspected of stealing and reselling the parts, according to reporting in this newspaper. The state Bureau of Automotive Repair reported in 2021 that there were about 1,600 thefts of catalytic converters per month statewide.

One Oakland resident who had the catalytic converter on his Subaru Forester etched at Tuesday’s event said he believes becoming a victim of theft or vandalism is all but inevitable. The motorist, who requested his name not be used, said he keeps apprised of the crime happening around his neighborhood on social media and in the news.

“Not if, but when,” he said before a Las Positas College auto technology student delivered his completed Subaru.

About 35 auto students volunteered to etch and spray vehicles. They worked inside the school’s new automotive department building that includes 18 indoor and outdoor vehicle stalls. It’s one of the best exercises for students to receive real-word shop training, said Brian Hagopian, program coordinator and professor of automotive technology.

Los Positas College auto technology student William Fuller marks a catalytic converter with the vehicles license plate number on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Livermore, Calif. Livermore police and Las Positas College hosted their fourth anti-theft catalytic converter event where student technicians etched vehicle license plate numbers and police department logos onto the prized auto parts. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)Los Positas College auto technology student William Fuller marks a catalytic converter with the vehicles license plate number on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Livermore, Calif. Livermore police and Las Positas College hosted their fourth anti-theft catalytic converter event where student technicians etched vehicle license plate numbers and police department logos onto the prized auto parts. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) 

“This event — we have customer cars, we have jobs to do,” Hagopian said. “They’re working together. They have to talk to customers. And so it kind of brings the whole automotive shop experience together for them, which is something we really can’t do in normal classes.”

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Hagopian said the event — which is offered to motorists free of charge — costs around $300 total to put on. About 175 people are typically served, and they drive from places as far away as Sacramento, Fresno and Stockton.

“It’s something the public wants — it’s something the public needs,” he said. “I plan to keep doing it as long as Livermore PD wants to be involved.”

The professor said his vehicle’s catalytic converter is etched and hasn’t yet been stolen.

Categories: Local News

6 Portuguese Youth Are Suing 33 Countries to Speed Up Climate Action

TruthOut - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:52

Lawyers for six Portuguese children and young adults on Wednesday expressed hope that their unprecedented climate case, brought to the European Court of Human Rights three years after it was first filed, will ultimately be a “game-changer” that forces governments in Europe and across the globe to take decisive action to address the climate emergency. Ranging in age from 11 to 24...


Categories: World News

NFL's Travis Kelce breaks silence on 'amazing' Taylor Swift

BBC World News - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:51
The sports star says his rumoured love interest's appearance at his game on Sunday was "awesome".
Categories: World News

Oil Prices March Toward $100 a Barrel

N.Y. Times - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:50
Analysts have raised their forecasts for oil prices, as they try to understand Saudi Arabia’s intentions with recent production cuts.
Categories: Local News

New study suggests looser WA drug laws do not mean more overdose deaths

Seattle Times - Wed, 09/27/2023 - 09:50

New research suggests there is "no evidence of an association between decriminalization and fatal overdose rates" in Oregon and Washington.
Categories: Local News