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Through the cracks journalism

The latest catch.

How driverless cars are set to reinvent and humanise our streets

December 8, 2016


by: :ft – excerpt

This is a must read for anyone who appreciates contradictions. The future is UNKNOWN, and if we are lucky the tech industrymanipulators will dance on each others toes long enough to allow the public to decide what we want.

Private vehicles could soon be replaced by autonomous ride-hailing services and even ‘helicopter’ cars.

When the muddy streets of San Francisco were laid out during the heady days of the gold rush, riding a horse was the fastest way to get around. Today a new type of vehicle can be seen cruising the city: the driverless car.

With their spinning radar sensors and bulky camera arrays, these vehicles have the awkward look of a technology that is not quite mature. Yet just as the automobile gave rise to paved streets and suburban sprawl, the driverless car is set to radically reshape the…

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Obama under pressure to disclose Russia’s role in election

December 8, 2016

by : thegurian – excerpt

Senior House Democrats seek briefing on ‘Russian interference or involvement’ a week after senators signed letter asking for information to be declassified.

Barack Obama is facing growing pressure from congressional Democrats in both houses demanding further disclosures regarding Russia’s role in the 2016 US elections.

The White House has not responded to a week-old letter signed by every Democrat and aligned member of the Senate intelligence committee seeking declassification of “additional information concerning the Russian government and the US election”.

Now a group of senior House Democrats has also written to the president, seeking a classified briefing for colleagues on “Russian entities’ hacking of American political organizations; hacking and strategic release of emails from campaign officials; the WikiLeaks disclosures; fake news stories produced and distributed with the intent to mislead American voters; and any other Russian or Russian-related interference or involvement in our recent election.”… (more)

Too bad they can’t just go  directly to WikiLeaks, but, that would require them to acknowledge the importance of the work such illegal operators do, and possibly lead to the relaxation of calls to arrest and incarcerate them. They probably don’t want to arrest and try them anyway, because that would require prosecutors to ask a lot of embarrassing questions that could lead to much broader public

Silicon Valley Moves Closer to a World Without Jobs

December 7, 2016

by : vanityfair – excerpt

Amazon’s new retail concept store does away with cashiers entirely.

mazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos’s plan to expand his digital dominion to the physical world continues apace. Not content with opening traditional brick-and-mortar storefronts alone, the e-commerce giant on Monday unveiled an 1,800-square-foot convenience store in Seattle that sells snacks, staples like milk and bread, pre-made meals, and meal kits. But unlike a normal 7-Eleven, Amazon’s store lacks both cashiers and checkout counters. The store—which is called Amazon Go and is currently only available for Amazon employees, though it will open to the public next year—uses sensors to track the items customers take out of the store, and charges them accordingly.

“We asked ourselves: what if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout?” Amazon says on its official Go site. “Could we push the boundaries of computer vision and machine learning to create a store where customers could simply take what they want and go?”…

The Los Angeles Times reports, Amazon has added 50,000 warehouse workers but also more than 30,000 robots, causing hiring to slow at its warehouses. Nor is Amazon the only tech company with plans to eventually automate as many jobs as possible. Earlier this year, Uber bought an automated trucking start-up called Otto, which recently completed its first delivery—a beer run—largely without the assistance of its human driver. … (more)

Vancouver Tax Pushes Chinese to $1 Million Seattle Homes

December 7, 2016

bloomberg : msn – excerpt

(Bloomberg) — Just a few days after Vancouver announced a tax on foreign property investors, Seattle real estate broker Lili Shang received a WeChat message from a wealthy Chinese businessman who wanted to sell a home in Canada and buy in her area…

“The tax was the trigger of this new wave of investment now coming to Seattle,” Shang said. “Why pay more for the same thing?”

Vancouver, which has seen detached-home prices double in a decade, joined areas including Australia and Hong Kong in taking steps to slow housing demand after an unprecedented surge of foreign investment. Chinese buyers, in particular, are accelerating purchases overseas, spurred by a weakening yuan, rising prices at home and the perceived safety of real estate. They’re also venturing farther afield as costs soar in some of their favored markets.

Home-purchase inquiries from China have jumped in Seattle and Toronto since the Vancouver tax was announced, according to, the country’s largest overseas property website…(more)

This may be the best argument for using tax policy to control costs and rent control.

Millennials just as frustrated over housing as much as anyone else

December 6, 2016

By Laura Foote : sfexaminer – excerpt

Why are a bunch of pro-housing, tower-loving, millennials staging a hostile takeover of the Sierra Club? I mean, what’s wrong with these obnoxious kids?

Well, let me tell you. Like most people in San Francisco, we’re frustrated over the cost of housing.

How much ink has been spilled about the astronomical rent and its horrific impact on low-income San Franciscans? How much ink has been spilled over stunted millennials and their perpetual strugglefests? How much ink has been spilled over the endless evictions and displacement, as minority, low- and middle-income people are pushed further and further away from this great engine of opportunity, San Francisco?

If, like me, you believe that the root cause of this spike in rents is a housing shortage, then you may agree that the local Sierra Club chapter has been a locus for anti-housing nonsense and is in dire need of fresh, green blood…

We are members of the Sierra Club. We had a volunteer design a cute mailer. We publicized the fact that we think the current Sierra Club chapter is on the wrong track and needs new leadership. The Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) Party is staging an intervention, and, as expected, it has not received a very warm reception.

But the Sierra Club needs to be a strong voice for the future of our cities. We need to fundamentally retrofit San Francisco and the Bay Area with dramatically more housing and public transportation. Housing needs to be built in every neighborhood in San Francisco, so that every neighborhood gets both the costs and the benefits of more people.

Win or lose, we intend to do this again next year. We will run a slate every year until our local Sierra Club gets back on track. Because the interconnected issues of global warming and urban housing aren’t going anywhere. And neither are we.

Unless we, too, get displaced…(more)

One thing that gets lost on these people is that San Francisco has gone through at least three dot com boom and busts, and this is the first time we had a major displacement problem. The artists who moved into SOMA kicked no one out. We created something out of nothing and displaced no one. We cleaned up the neighborhood that you now want.

Cannabis Cash and Public Banking

December 1, 2016

by publicbanking – excerpt – with KMPX radio

I started working with the public banking advocates years ago and they have come a long way since. I urge anyone who is concerned about new methods of financing to watch this and learn what you can about the subject of Public Banks. The Cannabis Cash portion is a minimal part of the conversation, as financing applies to a wide range of issues. We are looking at a new possible industry that needs some direction if it is not going to become another corporate tool.

More than a million people in SF? Did anyone ask you?

November 29, 2016

By Zelda Bronstein : 48hills – excerpt

New regional plan, adopted with little public input, pushes massive growth for San Francisco – with no promise of money for transit or social equity

It’s hard not to be riveted by the terrifying advance of Donald Trump’s presidency. But it would be a huge mistake to ignore less sensational exercises in autocracy, especially those occurring at home. One such operation, which has gone virtually unnoticed, is the continuing travesty of democratic governance known as Plan Bay Area.

Mandated by SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, Plan Bay Area is our nine-county region’s Sustainable Community Strategy—a so-called blueprint that knits together transportation and land use plans and investments for each region in California so as to accommodate the area’s projected growth of jobs and households and at the same time meet its official greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets…

“Infrastructure drives development…”
If that is true, and we want to slow growth and cut emissions, cutting taxes is a good start.

Unelected officials run the show

Plan Bay Area’s autocratic character is rooted in the un-democratic governance of the regional agencies under whose aegis it proceeds, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments. Both entities are putatively overseen by unelected officials—to be precise, elected officials (mayors, city councilmembers, and county supervisors) who were not elected to serve on MTC or the ABAG Executive Board. It follows that when they run for office or re-election, their positions on Plan Bay Area and the regional agencies’ other projects never come up.

Scott Wiener sits on MTC, and Jane Kim is on the ABAG Executive Board, but during their hotly contested campaigns for state senate, nobody asked about MTC’s hostile takeover of ABAG last May (Wiener supported it—vociferously, accusing opponents of “throwing rocks at MTC”; Kim was absent for the Ex. Board’s May 19 vote on the matter) or their positions on Plan Bay Area’s gigantic growth forecasts and allocations for San Francisco and the 11th State Senate District, and its implications for displacement and housing affordability or local control of development…

Note: For an incisive critique of the Draft Preferred Scenario’s equity failures, see the 6 Wins for Social Equity Network’s October 13 letter to MTC and ABAG...(more)

Please read and share this article. It is one of the most important to come out since the election. Voters all over the Bay Area want to Slow Growth. Will San Francisco voters join them in this effort to push back against the Plan Bay Area?

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