Posts tagged with "California"

Driver slightly injured in first Cybertruck crash

January 9, 2024

It was only a matter of time before the first Tesla Cybertruck was involved in a collision.

Futurism reports that, just before 2023 drew to a close, a Toyota Corolla crashed into a Cybertruck that was traveling along a road near Palo Alto, California—an accident that’s attracted immense scrutiny due to the Cybertruck’s unconventional and widely criticized design.

According to a statement released by the California Highway Patrol, the Toyota swerved and hit a dirt embankment on the right shoulder, reentered the road shortly, crossed the double yellow lines, and crashed into a Cybertruck that was traveling the other way.

The Tesla driver “sustained a suspected minor injury,” and “declined medical transportation.” No other “injuries were reported,” per the CHP—suggesting that the Corolla driver walked away unscathed despite images showing the vehicle’s airbags deploying.

“It does not appear that the Tesla Cybertruck was being operated in autonomous mode,” the statement reads.

While we await further details regarding the injuries and the investigation still remains “ongoing,” the crash highlights the potential risks of driving a vehicle as stiff as the Cybertruck. For decades, carmakers have designed vehicles to have crumple zones, which protect the driver during a collision. The Cybertruck, on the other hand—with a design that represents a notable departure from conventional car composition and materials—has raised concerns among experts.

Apart from potential risks for the driver, experts have also pointed out concerns over pedestrian safety. The 6,600-pound EV has extremely limited sight lines and lacks visibility of what’s going on in front of the vehicle—and that’s without getting into its ultra-hard exterior.

“The big problem there is if they really make the skin of the vehicle very stiff by using thick stainless steel, then when people hit their heads on it, it’s going to cause more damage to them,” Adrian Lund, the former president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), told Reuters last month.

European regulators have expressed similar concerns, and the truck is more than likely never making it across the pond.

Tesla, however, has maintained that the Cybertruck is much safer for those behind the wheel and others sharing the road.

Yes, we are highly confident that Cybertruck will be much safer per mile than other trucks, both for occupants and pedestrians,” CEO Elon Musk tweeted.

The company also has claimed that the truck’s “front underbody casting is designed to break into small pieces,” which “helps reduce occupant impact by absorbing and dispensing energy.”

Tesla only began delivering Cybertrucks to long-waiting customers late last year, and only time will tell whether it’s a “guideless missile” or the latest and greatest in driver safety.

Research contact: @Futurism

Six Flags, Cedar Fair merge to form $8 billion company

November 7, 2023

Amusement park companies Cedar Fair and Six Flags Entertainment Corporation announced on Thursday, October 2, that they will merge into a combined company worth around $8 billion, reports USA Today.

The merger will make the new company a “leading amusement park operator in the highly competitive leisure space,” according to a release from Cedar Fair.

Indeed, the new combined company will be one of the largest in the theme park businesses in North America. Together, Cedar Fair and Six Flags currently control 27 amusement parks, 15 water parks, and nine resort properties in 17 states spread across the United States, and in Canada and Mexico.

In addition to Cedar Point, the Sandusky, Ohio-based Cedar Fair also operates other theme parks, including Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, and King’s Island in Mason, Ohio.

Six Flags operates its flagship theme parks across the United States—including in Arlington, Texas; Valencia, California; and Jackson, New Jersey.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Cedar Fair shareholders will own around 51.2% of the company and Six Flags shareholders will own around 48.8%. The combined company will also have various entertainment partnerships and the intellectual property rights to Looney Tunes, DC Comics, and Peanuts, to name a few.

Research contact: @USATODAY

What is NuCalm? Is Meghan Markle’s skin patch a scam?

August 17, 2023

Meghan Markle recently had the Internet buzzing after paparazzi snaps showed the Duchess of Sussex strolling casually through Montecito, California, flaunting an unusual skin patch on her left wrist, reports the New York Post.

Eagle-eyed observers noted that the patch is just one product sold by an obscure wellness company called NuCalm.

The topical treatment, as the name implies, claims to bring calm and relaxation to stressed-out celebrities—or anyone with $50 a month to subscribe.

Meghan But does NuCalm actually work? Or is it just another costly New Age gimmick?

The product is marketed with a windstorm’s worth of woo-woo, or pseudo-scientific jargon, such as the following:

“The NuCalm biosignal processing disc is a revolutionary delivery mechanism that activates the parasympathetic nervous system, by tapping into the body’s Pericardium Meridian with particular electromagnetic frequencies of inhibitory neurotransmitters to interrupt the HPA axis and downregulate sympathetic tone,” according to the company’s website.

And despite several online endorsements claiming that the NuCalm devices are “FDA-approved,” there’s no evidence that the company has received a stamp of approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“The FDA is not aware of any legally marketed medical devices under the trade name: NuCalm Biosignal Processing Disc,” an FDA spokesperson told the Post.

The manufacturer did not respond to the Post’s telephone messages, but one woman’s experience with a suite of NuCalm devices and products was thoroughly underwhelming.

“The NuCalm treatment itself was perfectly pleasant,” Kayleigh Roberts wrote on Grateful, after being fitted with headphones playing soothing sounds and the company’s now-famous wrist patch.

But after experiencing no real effects, “I left feeling disappointed and a little anxious about my failure to feel less anxious through the treatment,” Roberts said.

Roberts also chewed on a tablet purportedly containing GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, a naturally-produced compound that’s known to produce a calming effect, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

However, the use of GABA supplements to treat insomnia, anxiety, or other conditions is questionable at best, say medical researchers.

“There is some evidence in favor of a calming effect of GABA food supplements, but most of this evidence was reported by researchers with a potential conflict of interest,” said the authors of a study from Frontiers in Psychology.

The jury, then, is still out about the effectiveness—if any—of the NuCalm Biosignal Processing Disc.

But the company wasted no time in using the Duchess of Sussex’s image to promote their products. After photos of Meghan Markle with the wrist patch became available, NuCalm posted them—along with a free seven-day promotional trial offer —on their Instagram feed.

Research contact: @nypost

She steals surfboards by the seashore. She’s a sea otter.

July 13, 2023

For the past few summers, numerous surfers in Santa Cruz, California, have been victims of a crime at sea: boardjacking. The culprit is a female sea otter, who accosts the wave riders—seizing and even damaging their surfboards in the process, reports The New York Times.

After a weekend in which the otter’s behavior seemed to grow even more aggressive, wildlife officials in the area said on Monday, July 10, they have decided to put a stop to these acts of otter larceny.

“Due to the increasing public safety risk, a team from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monterey Bay Aquarium trained in the capture and handling of sea otters has been deployed to attempt to capture and rehome her,” a spokesperson for the CDFW said in a statement.

Local officials call the animal Otter 841. The 5-year-old female is well known, for both her bold behavior and her ability to hang 10. And she has a tragic back story; with officials now forced to take steps that illustrate the ways human desire to get close to wild animals can cost the animals their freedom, or worse, their lives.

California sea otters, also known as southern sea otters, are an endangered species found only along California’s central coast. Hundreds of thousands of these otters once roamed the state’s coastal waters, helping to keep the kelp forests healthy as they consumed sea urchins. But when colonists moved in on the West Coast, the species was hunted to near-extinction until a ban was put in place in 1911.

Today, around 3,000 remain, many in areas frequented by kayakers, surfers, and paddle boarders.

Despite these close quarters, interactions between sea otters and humans remain rare. The animals have an innate fear of humans and usually go to great lengths to avoid us, said Tim Tinker, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz who has spent decades studying the marine mammals. A sea otter approaching a human “isn’t normal,” he said, adding “but just because it’s not normal doesn’t mean it never happens.”

Otters have been known to approach humans during hormonal surges that coincide with a pregnancy, or as a result of being fed or repeatedly approached by people. That is likely what occurred with otter 841’s mother.

She was orphaned and raised in captivity. But after she was released into the wild, humans started offering her squid and she quickly became habituated. She was removed again when she started climbing aboard kayaks in search of handouts, ending up at the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz, where researchers quickly realized she was pregnant. It was while back in captivity that she gave birth to 841.

The pup was raised by her mother until she was weaned, then moved to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. To bolster her chances for success upon release, 841’s caretakers took measures to prevent the otter from forming positive associations with humans, including wearing masks and ponchos that obscured their appearance when they were around her.

Yet 841 quickly lost her fear of humans, although local experts cannot explain precisely why.

“After one year of being in the wild without issue, we started receiving reports of her interactions with surfers, kayakers and paddle boarders,” Jessica Fujii, sea otter program manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, said. “We do not know why this started. We have no evidence that she was fed. But it has persisted in the summers for the last couple of years.”

Otter 841 was first observed climbing aboard watercraft in Santa Cruz in 2021. At first, the behavior was a rarity, but over time the otter grew more bold. This past weekend, the otter was observed stealing surfboards on three separate occasions.

On Monday, Joon Lee, 40, a software engineer, was surfing at Steamer Lane, a popular surf spot in Santa Cruz, when 841 approached his board. “I tried to paddle away but I wasn’t able to get far before it bit off my leash,” he said.

Lee abandoned his board and watched in horror as the otter climbed atop it and proceeded to rip chunks out of it with her powerful jaws.

I tried to get it off by flipping the board over and pushing it away, but it was so fixated on my surfboard for whatever reason, it just kept attacking,” he said.

While Mr. Lee immediately recognized the danger he was in, not everyone in the water is so aware. Last month, Noah Wormhoudt, 16, was catching some waves with a friend off Cowell’s Beach in Santa Cruz when 841 swam up.

“I started paddling away trying to avoid it but it kept getting closer and closer. I jumped off my board and then it jumped onto my board,” he recalled. “It seemed friendly, so we got comfortable with it. It was a pretty cool experience.”

Caught up in the excitement of the moment, Wormhoudt said he “wasn’t really like thinking about how it could bite my finger off.”

The young surfer watched from the water while the otter stayed atop his board as the swell rolled in. “The otter was shredding, caught a couple of nice waves,” Wormhoudt said.

Such situations are extremely dangerous, said Gena Bentall, director and senior scientist with Sea Otter Savvy, an organization that works to reduce human-caused disturbances to sea otters and promote responsible wildlife viewing. “Otters have sharp teeth and jaws strong enough to crush clams,” she said.

Contact with humans is also dangerous for the otters. If a human should be bitten, the state has no choice but to euthanize the otter. And with so few sea otters left, the loss of even one individual is a hindrance to the species’ recovery.

If the authorities succeed in capturing 841, she will return to the Monterey Bay Aquarium before being transferred to a different one, where she will live out her days. Her captors have their work cut out for them. Multiple attempts to capture her have been made, none successful.

“She’s been quite talented at evading us,” Fujii said.

Until the otter can be captured, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking surfers to avoid her at all costs.

Experts also had a message for people who share their close encounters with a sea otter on social media.

“Reporting these interactions to the appropriate personnel, and not sharing them on social media — where it can be misinterpreted as a fun, positive interaction where that may not be the case — is really important,” Fujii said. “I know that’s hard to do. It gets lots of likes and attention, but in the long run, it can be detrimental to the animal.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden, decrying gun violence near massacre site, signs executive order

March 16, 2023

On Tuesday, March 14, President Joe Biden visited Monterey Park, California—where residents still are in mourning following the mass murder of 11 people in January—and used the occasion to announce an executive order increasing the number of background checks for gun sales, although he acknowledged the action falls short of what action by Congress could achieve, reports The Washington Post.

In this largely Asian suburb of Los Angeles, where a day of jubilation to celebrate the Lunar New Year in January turned to anguish and terror as a shooter opened fire inside a dance studio, Biden attempted to draw renewed attention to the pain inflicted on communities that experience spasms of violence.

“Enough. Do something,” Biden told a crowd of about 200 at the West San Gabriel Valley Boys and Girls Club. “I’m here with you today to act.”

In addition to the background checks, Biden’s executive order directs his Cabinet to develop a proposal on how the federal government can better assist communities after a mass killing—aiming to mobilize resources for human-caused disasters in the way that Washington already does for natural disasters.

Biden also is urging the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public report that would analyze how gun manufacturers market firearms to minors.

Together, the actions amount to the president’s latest attempt to use his executive authority to crack down on gun violence—efforts that necessarily are narrower in scope than measures urged by gun-control activists that would require congressional approval. While Biden’s aides acknowledge the constraints imposed by the U.S. Constitution and the current congressional reality, he is hoping to reignite a debate around mass killings and the country’s struggles to come up with a response.

Biden’s appearance also marked the latest turn in what increasingly looks like an all-but-certain reelection bid. The visit to Monterey Park came during a three-day West Coast swing that is featuring a signature foreign policy accomplishment, fundraisers at glitzy locations, and an appearance in Las Vegas on Wednesday to discuss prescription drug prices.

On Monday night, Biden spoke at a home estimated to be worth more than $8 million in Rancho Santa Fe, north of San Diego, raising some $1 million from about 40 attendees. On Tuesday night, he was scheduled to host another fundraiser in Las Vegas.

And while his efforts on gun control are not likely to introduce the sweeping change that many Democrats want on the issue, Biden is sure to continue using it as an electoral rallying cry.

He has continued to call for an assault weapons ban, background checks on all gun sales and the repeal of gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. But those kinds of bills are unlikely to pass Congress, particularly with Republicans in control of the House and Democrats holding a narrow Senate majority.

“Let’s be clear: none of this absolves Congress from the responsibility of acting,” Biden said. “I am determined, once again, to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

Tuesday’s executive order instructs Attorney General Merrick Garland to increase compliance among firearms sellers who are flouting the law, either intentionally or inadvertently, by not running background checks ahead of firearm purchases.

“The president is directing the attorney general to move the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation,” according to a White House summary. The move aims to further clarify a provision of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which Biden signed last year.

That law, enacted in June following a mass killing at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, was the first gun-control measure that Congress had passed in 30 years. While it expanded background checks and provided mental health funding, it was crafted to be relatively modest to pass a divided Congress.

Garland is also being directed to develop a plan that would prevent firearms dealers whose licenses have been revoked or surrendered from continuing to sell guns.

Biden also is instructing his Cabinet to raise public awareness of “red flag” laws, which allow Americans to petition a court to determine whether someone is dangerous and should have their access to firearms temporarily removed. The president also wants more attention on the safe storage of guns, so that children or other inappropriate individuals can’t access firearms.

“Every few days in the United States, we mourn a new mass shooting,” Biden wrote in the order. “Daily acts of gun violence—including community violence, domestic violence, suicide, and accidental shootings—may not always make the evening news, but they too cut lives short and leave survivors and their communities with long-lasting physical and mental wounds.”

“Thank you, President Biden,” said Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman and gun-violence survivor who founded an advocacy group to curb gun violence.

“Our diversity is the strength of this nation,” the president said. As he closed out his remarks before meeting privately with family members, he looked out at the audience and said, “God bless you all. I admire you so damn much.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

When seniors can’t care for their dogs, these volunteers step in

October 5, 2022

Marcia Noel was devoted to her two dogs, Ernesto and Roger, and the feeling was mutual. The miniature pinschers slept with her, played fetch, and cuddled with her on the sofa for more than eight years, Noel’s daughter, Debra Owens, 60, recently told The Washington Post.

Owens said her mom requested that after she died, her dogs would go to the rescue shelter where she adopted them, which is near her home in Sacramento. However, when Noel died of cancer in August at age 79, Owens was stunned to learn the facility was full and couldn’t take in Ernesto and Roger.

What was she to do? “I couldn’t leave town immediately to get them, and my mom’s neighbors were complaining that the dogs were barking,” said Owens, who lives in Missouri. “Somebody was coming in to feed them, but they were alone all day.”

“My mom’s wish was for this shelter to take her dogs and get them adopted,” she said. “I had this helpless feeling. I didn’t know what to do.”

Then, somebody at the shelter mentioned she should reach out to Peace of Mind Dog Rescue in Pacific Grove on California’s Central Coast. Owens called and immediately arranged for the dogs to be picked up from her mom’s apartment and placed in foster care until they could be adopted, she said.

“It was such a relief during a heartbreaking time,” she said, noting that the dogs are still in foster care.

Peace of Mind Dog Rescue has helped seniors and senior dogs since the nonprofit group was started by Carie Broecker and Monica Rua in 2009.

Broecker, 56, told the Post that she came up with the idea of helping vulnerable dogs and their elderly owners while she was caring for a friend’s dog 13 years ago. “The woman’s name was Alice, and she had emphysema that put her in and out of the hospital,” Broecker recalled.

“When doctors told Alice she had only a few weeks to live, she was moved into hospice care and I took her dog, Savannah, to visit,” she said. “She was anguished about what would happen with Savvy, because she had no friends or family to care for her.”

Alice didn’t want her dog to be placed in a shelter, and was devastated at the thought of her dog possibly being put down, Broecker said.

“I told her, ‘No, don’t worry — I’ll make sure she’s okay,’ ” said Broecker, who adopted the dog. She saysthe concept of a pet rescue group for seniors and their pets came to her after visiting Alice that day.

“I thought, ‘What if we were to take in dogs from people who were dying, had already passed away or were going into nursing homes,” said Broecker, noting that studies show dogs improve the quality of life for seniors.

She called her friend Rua to ask if she would help. Rua said she was on board, but she also wanted to take in senior dogs from shelters because they were among the first to be euthanized.

“Carie and I had volunteered together at another dog rescue, and I was always heartbroken to see older dogs passed over or having a harder time in that environment,” Rua explains.

Peace of Mind Dog Rescue now finds homes for senior dogs in shelters, and also for dogs whose senior owners can no longer care for them. The group has around 1,300 volunteers who walk dogs for seniors who can’t, as well as provide veterinary care and assist in setting up pet trusts to ensure a dog’s care after a guardian dies.

“We want to give dogs—and their owners—dignity in their older years,” Broecker says. “Once a dog comes to us, we oversee them for the rest of their lives.”

The rescue group has found homes for more than 3,000 dogs and has helped more than 2,000 pets stay at home with their owners through their Helping Paw program, she said.

Tami Sojka, a Peace of Mind dog walker for about two years, was one of several volunteers who pitched in to walk Jean Haskell’s dog twice a day after she had back surgery last year and needed six months to recover.

Sojka, 58, said she enjoyed her Thursday outings in Pacific Grove with Sammy, a 14-year-old Shih Tzu that she and other volunteers nicknamed Samwise because of his seemingly wise nature. “He is such a sweet little dog and it made me feel good to walk him around the neighborhood and help Jean out,” she said.

Haskell, 68, says it was a relief to know that Sammy could keep up his regular routine while she was unable to get out. “He loves to go for his walks and strut his stuff,” she remarks.

The rescue group also puts dogs into temporary foster care if an owner is hospitalized and can’t be at home.

“For so many of us living alone, it’s just a fabulous idea,” said Sheila Williams, 76, of Monterey, California. She was in the hospital for two weeks in April after gall bladder surgery.

“Carie [Broecker] took my dogs Chex, Tater Tot, and Acey Ducey to live with her while I recovered,” Williams said. “I can’t live my life without my dogs. They’re my everything.” She added, “When I was in the hospital, I missed them tremendously, but I took comfort in knowing they were in good hands.”

Broeker says it has become her life mission to provide comfort to senior dogs and their elderly companions in their final years. “They deserve dignity, compassion and love,” she says. “They deserve every kindness.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Capuchin monkey sparks police alert after calling 911 from cellphone

September 2, 2022

Talk about monkey business! On Saturday evening, August 13, the San Luis Obispo County, California, Sheriff’s Office followed up on a 911 call—only to discover that it was all the work of an inquisitive capuchin monkey called Route, reports People magazine.

“We received a 911 call that … disconnected,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post on the following Monday. “Dispatchers tried to call and text back but they received no response.”

Deputies sent to check on the call later found themselves at the Zoo to You Conservation Ambassadors in Paso Robles. Upon investigation, however, it seemed like no one had placed the call. “Was someone trying to make us look like a monkey’s uncle?” the Sheriff’s Office joked Monday.

After speaking to Zoo to You staff, the authorities finally found the culprit. “They all realized … it must have been Route the Capuchin monkey,” the Sheriff’s Office added, noting the Route probably picked up the cellphone from a zoo golf cart and started randomly pushing buttons.

“We’re told Capuchin monkeys are very inquisitive and will grab anything and everything and just start pushing buttons,” the Sheriff’s Office continued. “And that’s what Route did … just so happened it was in the right combination of numbers to call us.”

Alongside the story, the Sheriff’s Office also shared two photos of little Route. “As you can tell from these photos, Route is a little embarrassed by the whole thing,” the Sheriff’s Office wrote. “But you can’t really blame her, after all monkey see, monkey do.”

Zoo to You confirmed the news on their own social media, writing “Route made national news!”

“While we wish it was for something a little more ‘conservation education’ based, let this serve as an educational lesson that monkeys are NOT animals that should be kept as pets!” Zoo to You added. “They’re so inquisitive you never know what might happen!”

Research contact: @people

Storyliving is Disney’s new venture into planned residential communities

February 18, 2022

The Walt Disney Company has announced the launch of a new initiative to develop residential communities called Storyliving by Disney, reports Forbes magazine.

According to Disney, the new communities will feature “distinctively designed spaces, unique amenities, and world-renowned service.” The first community is set to be developed in Rancho Mirage, California, and additional locations around the United States are under exploration.

The master-planned communities are intended to, as Disney says, “Inspire residents to foster new friendships, pursue their interests and write the next exciting chapter in their lives—all while enjoying the attention to detail, unique amenities, and special touches that are Disney hallmarks.”

The first location of Rancho Mirage is a nod to Walt Disney, himself; who once owned a home in the area, where he would spend leisure time with his family. It will be called Cotino, a Storyliving by Disney community.

Homebuyers can choose from estates, single-family homes and condominiums to purchase, along with feature neighborhoods for those 55 years old and over.

Rental units are not anticipated to be available. There will be a voluntary club membership through which Disney will provide access to a variety of curated experiences, entertainment, and philanthropic endeavors. Each location within the community will be operated by Disney Cast Members.

 Disney also has announced that Cotino will have a mixed-use district with shopping, dining, and entertainment. A beachfront hotel and beach park will also be available. The hotel and park will also be able to be accessed by the public with a purchase of a day pass.

Cotino is being developed in collaboration with DMB Development of Scottsdale, Arizona, which is widely known for its execution of planned communities. “Cotino represents the creativity and operational excellence of Disney combined with the extensive community development expertise of DMB Development. We are delighted to collaborate with Disney in this groundbreaking new concept,” said Brent Herrington, CEO of DMB Development.

“As we prepare to enter our second century, we are developing new and exciting ways to bring the magic of Disney to people wherever they are, expanding storytelling to storyliving. We can’t wait to welcome residents to these beautiful and unique Disney communities where they can live their lives to the fullest,” said Josh D’Amaro, chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products in a press release.

Storyliving by Disney isn’t the company’s first dip into the world of real estate and community development. According to Click Orlando, Disney announced plans for Celebration to the public in 1991 and broke ground in 1994. The master-planned community had plenty of homes, schools, shopping, and dining. However, Disney ultimately let go of Celebration in 2004 and sold it to private investors.

Those with millions of dollars to spend and a love for Disney can also live in the private, ultra-luxe neighborhood of Golden Oak set in the heart of Walt Disney World. Prices start at $2 million and go upwards, to well over $10 million for a home in the desirable neighborhood.

Research contact: @Forbes

Commuting by bike is booming in five U.S. cities

January 28, 2022

In 2019, just 0.5% of U.S. commuters rode a bike to work—the smallest share of any mode. But tiny shifts can make a big difference. Data-driven bike plans, safety improvements, and supportive political leadership have helped boost bike commute rates in several cities nationwide in recent years, according to a new report from the League of American Bicyclists, reports Bloomberg.

In Benchmarking Bike Networks, the country’s largest bicycling advocacy organization takes stock of the best infrastructure and policy practices for getting more people pedaling.

The report spotlights Boston; Chicago; Austin, Texas; Oakland, California; and Missoula, Montana—cities of diverse size and geography where bike commute shares are more than twice the national average and have increased over the last decade.

Ken McLeod, the league’s policy director, hopes they can serve as models for other communities. “Benchmarking shows what really good communities are doing and what others can do so that we’re all pushing towards the same goal of safe bike networks that are accessible to everyone,” he said.

Consistent across the five cities was how long local officials have been planning for better cycling facilities—updating their proposals regularly. In Oakland, a suite of improvements focused on a “ladder” of two parallel streets and seven connecting streets on either side of the MacArthur BART station—especially after a 2007 bike plan showed how many more residents lived a short bike ride away from the station versus a short walk.

With a targeted approach, the number of bike lanes and dedicated bike lanes has soared across Oakland, often replacing shared lane marking —also known as sharrows—following best safety practices for high-traffic streets, McLeod said.

The report also identifies street repavement cycles as an efficient way to stripe lanes and add protections. Austin’s faster-than-average repaving schedule, where streets are resurfaced every 10 years rather than the usual 20, has helped to build bike lanes at breakneck speed; the city recently passed the halfway point on building a planned 400+ mile cycling network, marking a 34% increase in miles since 2014.

Political support also played a powerful role in that rollout, with Austin voters approving bond measures in 2016 and 2019 that supplied dedicated funds for biking and walking improvements.

Along the same lines, culture change led by top decision-makers laid important groundwork in nearly every city. In 2015, Missoula’s city council adopted a 30-year growth plan that highlighted needed infrastructure improvements to support its sustainability, affordability and safety objectives. That process led to a citywide goal of tripling the share of commuters who bike, walk, and take transit by 2045, which then guided the creation of a more ambitious bike plan.

“Knowing that policy makers had wanted the mode share to look different in 30 years, it enabled the staff and advocates to push harder,” McLeod said.

Helpful as these examples may be as cities adapt to pandemic-era commuting, they come with a significant caveat: Because the U.S. Census Bureau didn’t release biking and walking commute data from its tumultuous 2020 survey, the report doesn’t capture COVID-19’s effects on cycling—which were complicated, given that overall commuting plummeted at the same time as interest in recreational cycling surged.

While analytics companies have tracked both trends, the lack of standardization from year to year prevents a fair comparison.

This ties into a broader problem that disadvantages the cycling community, McLeod said: The federal government doesn’t routinely collect data on bike facilities the way it does for highways and bridges—making a national assessment of cycling conditions all but impossible. That’s also true for pedestrian networks. McLeod pointed to how data collection and mapping of deteriorating bridges informed President Joe Biden’s recent announcement of a $27.5 billion investment in those spans over the next five years.

“The lack of biking and walking network data means we can’t use similar messaging or provide accurate estimates of needs for bicycle and pedestrian networks,” McLeod said. “I hope this report helps us move towards

Research contact: @Bloomberg

Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes will be sentenced in September

January 17, 2022

Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of Theranos, will be sentenced on September 26 in San Jose, California, after a jury found her guilty on Monday, January 4, on four of 11 charges in a case of criminal fraud, reports Vanity Fair.

Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 after dropping out of Stanford University at the age of 19. She went on to become a billionaire on paper after raising more than $900 million from investors, based on the promise that the company’s innovative blood testing technology would be able to diagnose a wide variety of diseases with just a few drops of blood from a patient—rather than the traditional vials of blood drawn from a patient’s vein. 

However, Theranos ultimately ended up shutting down in 2018 after The Wall Street Journal published an exposé in 2015— divulging that the tests were not accurate and that Theranos was using traditional machines for its testing rather than its own technology.

That same year, the 37-year-old entrepreneur was charged by federal prosecutors with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud over allegations that she deceived investors and patients about the company’s technology.

The jury, which comprised eight men and four women, convicted Holmes on one charge of conspiracy and three charges of fraud. They determined she was not guilty of a second conspiracy charge and not guilty on three fraud charges. They were unable to reach a unanimous decision on another three fraud charges, which the U.S. government plans to dismiss, according to a court filing on Tuesday, Janury 11. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Holmes pleaded not guilty to all charges and took to the stand to defend herself during the trial, during which she admitted to having regrets but denied defrauding anyone. She also placed blamed on her former boyfriend and ex-Theranos Chief Operating Officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani for allegedly misleading her about the effectiveness of Theranos’ technology, and she accused him of emotional and sexual abuse.

Balwani will face his own trial beginning in March over his alleged role in defrauding the company’s stakeholders, following delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Research contact: @VanityFair