Pope Benedict XVI will step down at the end of the month due to his inability to perform duties because of failing “body and mind.” He is 85 years old and was elected Pope in 2005. The last time a Pope resigned was in 1415.
The announcement was a shock, to say the least. With all the secrecy of the Vatican, nobody can be truly sure the reason. At such an advanced age and this being such an unprecedented move, it must be something truly serious. It’s not implausible to suspect something like signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia triggered the resignation. Whether it was his own volition or the urging of those around him has not been stated.
What’s certain is his papacy was marred by several sexual abuse scandals and a push toward orthodoxy, including a campaign against condom prevention and any kind of birth control. Even nuns on a mission to serve the poor were chastised because of their outspoken attitude toward women’s rights. This, too, could be a contributing factor to his resignation, if we delve into the realm of conspiracy theories.
Something else that’s certain, this will trigger a spike in Dan Brown’s books and movies, and maybe even inspire a new novel by the
Davinci Code author. Working title: Forgotten Communion.
What, too soon?
No doubt you've seen the slew of headlines positing that a Supreme Court case this week could clarify the federal/state/local muddle about who-if anyone-is actually regulating dispensaries.
The City of Riverside vs. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center has been making its way through the court system for over a year now.
At stake is the question of whether local governments can ban dispensaries via zoning ordinances. It's yet another page in the same story of Prop 215-Vs. the federal government, and, according to this Mercury News piece, the justices seemed swayed by the fact that Prop 215 (otherwise known as The Compassionate Use Act) does not prohibit cities from banning dispensaries via zoning ordinances. Of course, advocates content that, while it may not do exactly that, it does legalize marijuana for medicinal uses in California, and local zoning prohibitions are against the spirit of the law.
As we've said before, it's only one piece of the smokin' hot mess that is medical MJ and the law.
There's this mess, in which lowly harvesters are targeted and then flood the courts, using public dollars and defenders.
And there's this mess, in which confidential patient information is targeted by the feds in Mendocino.
Erasing the worrisome burden of what to call that place near Sonoma where the really fast cars try finish a certain amount of laps before everyone else, it was announced today the place will officially be called Sonoma Raceway.
Seems obvious, right? But that's the case with all good names, like Rollerblades and Band-Aids, which are trademarked names of in-line skates and adhesive strips, respectively. No longer will journalists struggle to find consensus on what to call that paved curvy track thingy in Sonoma. No more shall we see Raceway at Sonoma, the Sonoma Racetrack or my personal favorite, the Former Infineon Raceway.
But don't try visiting www.sonomaraceway.com, because that's obviously not the correct website for the one-lane, twisty infinite road that hosts NASCAR, NHRA and other major motorsports events. The correct site is www.racesonoma.com. Because anything else would ruin the genius of the new name.
After losing sponsorship from Infineon, it would be nice to think the 300:1-scale slot car race track in Sonoma defied convention and went with a name proudly boasting its location; after all, the Wine County is world renowned. But, much like Candlestick Park, which simply couldn't find someone willing to pay millions of dollars for TV announcers just to say the company name a few dozen times per year, it's more likely a sluggish economy and hesitant accountants contributed to the new name.
Was a local discount considered? What about Mondavi Raceway? Trione Track? Coppola Causeway? (OK, that's Napa County and Causeway is a weird thing to be racing on, so nix that). How about Guy Fieri's Donkey Sauce Full Throttle Raceway at 100 Percent Grass-Fed Meyer Ranch? That one sounds like a winner to me, I'll take two.
But really, no matter what it's called, I bet there's a bunch of people who will always call it Sears Point.
It's fascinating to watch Olympic weightlifting. Just a few sends of action and with much practice having gone into it, and just one tiny flaw will throw everything off. The amount of weight that can be caught overhead is staggering, and the form of a good lift is really beautiful. Top athletes of any sport are artists, to me, and watching great Olympic lifters is like watching a 10-second masterpiece that took years to perfect.
Hossein Rezazadeh's world record 263 kilogram (580 pound) clean and jerk at the 2004 Olympics remains unbeaten:
Here it is in slow motion:
This is Behdad Salimi's world record 214 kilogram (472 pounds) lift at the New World Strongest Man competition in Paris in 2011:
And in slow motion, because it's so damn cool:
This is a great scientific high-speed camera breakdown of the snatch by Team USA:
Here's the same series exploring the clean and jerk:
Not according to Christina DiEdoardo.
The San Francisco-based lawyer doesn't just sport a friendly emoticon on her LinkedIn page, she's also defending your right to be naked in San Francisco before a federal judge.
According to an article published yesterday by the Chronicle, the case challenges an ordinance scheduled to go into effect on Feb. 1. If publicly shedding your drawers is an important part of your life, you can still do so at events permitted for nakedness, like the Folsom Street Fair and Bay to Breakers.
This court case raises many questions like the one above, only hinted at in the Chronicle's coverage. Is public nakedness a form of political expression? Is it a form of artistic expression? Should we revisit the idea of a naked mayor? What about a naked city council? Would their hands need to be visible at all times?
You can read more about the history of balls-out...um...ness in SF here.
Mr. Teeth, a jovial caiman who worked as a security guard at a local residential marijuana distribution center died this morning. Though it is uncertain, Mr. Teeth is thought to have been 16 years old.
The caiman, often confused for an allligator, was found unresponsive on duty, leaving the 34 pounds of pot he was supposed to be protecting to be collected by authorities in Castro Valley. It's owner said Mr. Teeth was hired to commemorate rapper Tupac Shakur's death, which would have been about 16 years ago.
Mr. Teeth arrived at the Oakland Zoo in critical unresponsive and in critical condition. Cause of death is unknown at this point. No autopsy plans have been made public.
Funeral arrangements have not been released at this time.
A giant squid was finally captured on video in its natural habitat. Why is this news? Why should the denizens of the North Bay care? Because giant squid are incredible, that's why.
Unfortunately, this clip is from ABC, the lowest common denominator of television news. So there's about 20 seconds of idiotic banter in this 45-second clip. Yeah, buddy, don't take a dip past TWO THOUSAND FEET.
As storms rage across Sonoma County, a shelter for homeless veterans that celebrated its grand opening in June remains empty.
Hearn Avenue Veteran Housing was given a Certificate of Occupancy on June 26, meaning that on that date, the duplex located on West Hearn was physically ready for vets to move in. Earlier that month, on June 8, Community Housing Sonoma County and Vietnam Veterans of California celebrated the project's completion with a grand opening that showed off the new facility, which by then even had furniture in place.
Five months later, no one lives in one of the homes, located at 2149 West Hearn.
"We're befuddled by it," says John Morgan, the project manager who contracted with Community Housing Sonoma County (CHSC) to remodel the structure under dispute, which will contain 20-30 beds. The nonprofit housing organization owns the property, while Vietnam Veterans of California (VVC) is slated to run it. Originally the two had intended to co-own the property, but in 2011, VVC backed away from ownership, opting to pay CHSC a yearly formality lease of $10.
“The property was rehabilitated and we turned it over to them at the end of June,” says Paula Cook, director of CHSC. “It was their job to take care of occupancy at the end of June.”
The project received $2.86 million in loans from a variety of affordable housing sources—HCD and HOME among them—according to documents from a September 2011 city council meeting.
According to Marc Deal with VVC, those loans went into building the home, but money to actually run it has been less forthcoming. Deal says bureaucratic crawl at the federal level has kept the home from opening its doors.
Deal says the California organization wrote a grant request to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Grant and Per Diem fund in 2008.
The project was slated to receive a yearly operational budget of $226,000 from the federal agency, but half those funds were reallocated last January, to $113,000, he says. Currently, VVC is again in negotiations with the VA for a yearly operational budget of over $400,000.
Deal says that the ratio of beds—and funding that would come with those beds—to staff needed to run the permanent housing isn’t financially viable to the VVC at $113,000. A smaller house on site with 15 transitional beds is currently occupied, he says. No one is currently being paid to operate the larger shelter, he says, but the VVC has paid roughly $12,000 to keep the non-operational housing ready for vets since its opening in utility and tax assessment costs. Grants from the VA are the only source of funding to run the shelter, he says.
"The tragedy is that these guys are still outside, and it's cold," Deal, a vet, says.
The VA has so far not returned emails and calls seeking confirmation and comment.
In a report by Jenna Lane on KGO this morning, Carrillo stated he was protecting some female acquaintances.
We contacted Carrillo's office, which confirmed the arrest, and released Carrillo's following statement:
“I was in San Diego for Labor Day weekend on my own personal business. I was socializing with a group of friends when rowdies approached our group and harassed women in our group. I stepped in to protect them. I’m anxious to tell my side of the story during legal proceedings.”
Supervisor Carrillo is traveling on a prescheduled trip and will be out of the country until Tuesday, Sept. 18th, when he returns for a regularly scheduled board meeting.
Press Democrat doesn't have the story yet. (Update: It's up now.)
The arrest occurred at 2:10am at 500 Fourth Ave. in San Diego. That's the location of Fluxx nightclub, where on Sunday night, Oakland rap legend Too $hort performed. In this photo from the show on Fluxx's Facebook page, a man who looks a lot like Carrillo can be seen in the background, wearing a blue shirt, which matches the arrest log description.
We'll update with details as they come in.
Preventable Natural Disaster
The idea of an asteroid hitting the Earth isn’t just science fiction – it has actually happened several times. It’s what killed the dinosaurs, and even happened on a smaller scale just 100 years ago in Siberia. But unlike hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, we can prevent this potentially massive natural disaster and save millions of lives.
But who should be in charge of this? It’s not a geology thing, it’s not a weather thing, it’s more like a space thing. There’s a branch of Government for that, right? The United States’ NASA is a leader in space technology. But there is nothing in its charter about public safety, and that’s what this project falls under.
The Tunguska Event, as it’s referred to, was an asteroid about 120 feet in diameter, by most estimates, that impacted Earth in 1908 in rural Siberia. It’s power was equal to about 185 Hiroshima bombs, and it exploded above the ground, sending a massive shock wave that stripped bark off trees and created an impact area of about 800 square miles.
This is NASA’s 100-year anniversary description of the event, which I think is pretty well-done from a historical and scientific standpoint. There are also many photos, which aid in grasping the immense power an impact like this could have if it had happened in a populated area.
Considering AG5, which pretty much has a 1-in-500 chance of hitting Earth, is larger than Tunguska, it’s a scary thought. But there is a way to prevent this from happening, and I think Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart makes a good case for putting some resources toward deflection of collision-course asteroids.
‘This is Katrina’
Before Katrina, government officials had been telling everyone who would listen that the levees around New Orleans could not withstand a major hurricane. When Katrina hit, it became apparent that maybe someone should have listened to them. It would not have cost a ton of money to save the lives of thousands, let alone the property damage and national embarrassment of the response effort.
Schweickart feels this is a similar situation, but magnified hundreds of times. If a large asteroid hit the planet, millions could die, and there likely could not be a rebuilding effort.
But just because science tells us the odds of an NEA hitting Earth right now doesn’t mean those odds will remain the same. As recently as 2009, The NEA known as Apophis made headlines when it was deemed to have greater than a 2 percent chance of impact, the highest ever reported. For something this large (900 feet in diameter), results would be catastrophic, especially if it hit in the ocean.
But further tracking of the asteroid shows it now has a 1-in-135,000 chance of impact, or 0.00074 percent.
AG5, which is about half the size of Apophis, current has a 1-in-500 chance of hitting Earth, but that’s a 0.2 percent chance of impact. We will know more in 2029 when it comes closest to Earth. At that time, if it passes through a predetermined “keyhole” in space, it will almost certainly return 11 years later on course for impact. But by that time, it might be too late to plan, build and implement a deflection system by the impact date.
The change in Apophis’s impact potential can be used to highlight the importance of more funding in this area. There are changes in the paths of NEAs all the time, including those not deemed threatening at this time. There are also plenty out there flying around the solar system undetected.
Schweickart makes the argument that space exploration is well and good, but it will not save lives. (Editorial comment: Unless Newt Gingrich becomes president, because he has pledged, in his second term, to establish a U.S. colony on the moon.) Schweickart says, “Science and exploration are high-priced entertainment.”