Monday, June 30, 2014

Facebook's 'Social Experiment' is, Literally, Bad News

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 1:35 PM


There's an adage that's particularly relevant in today's world of “free” technology: If you aren't paying for a product, you are the product.” And nothing highlights this better than a recent study by Facebook that manipulated users' news feeds to show mostly bad news.

The study with Cornell and UCSF was published June 17, and revealed that Facebook alterned nearly 700,000 users' news feeds to see how they respond to a deluge of negativity. The study was authored by members of Facebook's core data science team, UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and Cornell's Communication and Information Science department.

The meat of the study can be found in these excerpts:
For people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people’s status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

No Decision on Gelhaus Was Scheduled Today, Despite Rumor

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Teens show support for Andy Lopez at a protest at the Sonoma County Sheriffs office earlier this year.
  • Nicolas Grizzle
  • Teens show support for Andy Lopez at a protest at the Sonoma County Sheriff's office earlier this year.

A rumor that a decision on the fate of Sheriff's deputy Erick Gelhaus is imminent is false, says Terry Menshek, media coordinator of the Sonoma County District Attorney's office.

Widespread emails and internet chatter said a press conference was scheduled for today at noon that would say whether charges would be filed against the deputy, who shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez on October 22 last year when the boy's toy AK-47 rifle was mistaken for a real gun. “I've gotten a dozen calls, there was a rumor going around. It even got as far as Los Angeles,” says Menshek. “There was never one scheduled,” adding that this is the second time such a rumor has been started.

A timetable has not been set for an announcement on the case. “It's still under investigation,” she says.

Santa Rosa City Manager Kathy Millison sent an email Thursday to Santa Rosa City Council members and staff members about community outreach regarding the DA's announcement. The email details actions the city has taken in preparation of demonstrations surround the announcement and gives talking points to highlight when addressing the incident.

In the email, Millison says, “We don't know when that may occur and we'll learn of it at the same time as everyone in the community learns of it.” But in a handout sent as an attachment to that email, one of the assigned roles of the internal action plan is for the city manager to “email talking points to council as soon as decision is released.”

Jonathon Melrod, an attorney working with the Justice For Andy Lopez group, says a press conference was scheduled for noon today by the DA's office, but cancelled at the last minute. He says he doesn't know what the subject of the press conference was supposed to be, but that it likely had to do with a decision on Gelhaus. “The whole thing is bizarre to me,” he says.

Protocol in officer-involved shootings is to make an announcement regarding charges 90 days after the incident, which in this case happened on October 22. Critics say District Attorney Jill Ravitch was waiting until after the June 3 election, which she won by a wide margin. “She can't keep waiting,” says Melrod.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

DFW Skeptical of Record Coho Salmon Migration

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 3:04 PM

The coho salmon run in Marin County is bafflingly high this year. In a drought-stricken season with water being diverted from fish habitats to agriculture, this year's estimate of nearly 20,000 juvenile salmon made up the largest migration from Lagunitas Creek since the annual exodus started being recorded in 2006, according to estimates by the Marin Municipal Water District.

“We are a little bit skeptical,” says George Neillands, biologist with the Department of Fish and wildlife, “because it's an estimate.” He said the low water flow could throw off the count because fewer fish can avoid the trap, since there's less room to swim around them. “We take it with a grain of salt until we can really evaluate and review it,” he says.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

High Times Medical Cannabis Cup Comes to Sonoma County

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 3:52 PM


News that the High Times Medical Cannabis Cup was returning to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds June 28-29 hadn’t yet reached David Rabbitt by Thursday morning, even as the event rolls into the playground, err, fairground, next weekend.

“It seemed to be successful, so it doesn’t surprise me,” says Rabbitt, the 2nd District Sonoma County Supervisor and its board president.

But…what of the quasi-legality of this whole California marijuana dance with dispensaries and lurching law enforcement, on the county fairgrounds, no less?

“The state, obviously and beyond the state, the U.S. has not come to grips with what it wants to do with marijuana,” Rabbitt says.

Rabbitt strongly supports medical marijuana and applauds self-regulation efforts at dispensaries. On legalization for recreational use, he says, “I think we’re heading in that direction.”

His view?

“I’m torn.”

Rabbitt describes a libertarian, pro-individual-rights tendency to support legalization, and “doesn’t want to be a hypocrite on alcohol.”

Some of his main concerns are with law enforcement, and protecting kids and the environment.

“It’s a tough one,” he says as he warns of a persistent economy of “illegal growers on public and private lands.”

Locally, he is concerned about pop-up dispensaries and places where “it’s legal with some question marks going out the back door.”

Dispensary supervision could be tighter he says, but the supervisor says the bigger issue than recreational or medical use is, “What’s the cost to society when it’s grown on denuded mountain?”

“Until we legalize and regulate it, we really can’t deal with that. Go ahead and legalize and tax the hell out of it to pay for the programs to monitor the issues. … There will always be growers or operators flying under the radar.

“Like most counties, we try to do the right thing,” Rabbitt continued. “Certainly with medical marijuana—far be it for us to deny anyone their medicine.”

The Cannibus Medical Cup features many buds getting together, including jam band Moe, and offers products and services, devices and totemic relics you might associate with certain persons of the varying degrees of the whole sort of pot-smoking persuasion, but never at dusk.

“It is incumbent upon the operators and whoever is putting on the show to adhere to the laws,” Rabbitt says.

“Law enforcement, if called, will enforce the laws on the book. That’s what they are sworn to do.”

He recalled 2013’s Cannabis Cup event as a peaceful, “no negative feedback” affair.

“Last year, I don’t remember it being a problem,” says the supervisor.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

SRJC Named in $15 Million Lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 4:21 PM

As reported in the Bohemian June 4, former Santa Rosa Junior College nursing instructor Daniel Doolan is filing a second lawsuit against the school after winning over $300,000 in a case last year. It was reported today by the Press Democrat that he is seeking $15 million.

Doolan's lawyer, Dustin Collier, told the Bohemian he would be filing suit for the dismissal and denial of tenure status by the school in this second lawsuit, but had estimated the amount at $1.6 million. “There's a whole year's worth of allegations that weren't adjudicated yet,” he says of the first lawsuit. “For whatever reason, [a supervisor] started making allegations that he was a physical threat,” says Collier. “He is a big guy, about 6'3”, 6'4”, a little over 200 pounds, but he is a giant teddy bear.”

SRJC's vice president of human resources Karen Furukawa-Schlereth says the first case brought four charges: Gender discrimination; sexual harrassment; failure to prevent harassment; and defamation of character. A jury found in favor of Doolan on the defamation charge, awarding him over ten times the $25,000 he was seeking. “My recent info does look like we will be appealing the decision,” she says.

Meanwhile, Doolan's new case centers around his termination and what his lawyer refers to as “manipulation” of his tenure review process. All in all, Collier says his client has been set back about 10 years in terms of professional advancement.

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Union Vote at Graton Casino Wrapping Up

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 11:23 AM


By Tom Gogola

Nothing was official yet, but the vote was “going great” Wednesday afternoon at Graton Casino, where Unite Here’s Sara Norr was counting union sign-up cards from workers here that would set in motion a collective bargaining agreement for 650 casino employees.

Norr said the results would be out by week’s end.

If enough waiters and janitors, hospitality workers and cooks vote in favor of unionization, they’d enter collective bargaining talks with casino operator and their employer, Station Casinos. The casino opened in 2013 and is owned by Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.

Norr said that tribal input in any talks would be a matter of negotiations between the Las Vegas-based casino operator and the owners.

“It is between Station and the tribe how they want to divide up input or responsibility, so the tribe could send a rep to bargaining if they wanted to and Station agreed,” Norr says via email.

Workers signed the cards Tuesday and Wednesday in a casino events room rented to Unite Here’s 2850.

“As a single parent, job security is number one,” says porter and signee Christina Vega, who lives with three of her children in Santa Rosa.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kashkari For the Win: Support Legalization, Bro

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 5:59 PM


California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari gave his party a major wingnut reprieve this week when he narrowly beat out Minuteman Assemblyman Tim Donnelly for the right — as the common parlance goes — to lose badly to incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown in November.

Kashkari slipped by Donnelly with a 4 percent margin, but both GOP candidates drew vote percentages in the teens, whereas Brown hogged up some 54 percent of the total vote cast.

Kashkari, a former Treasury Department official who has said he voted for Barack Obama in 2008, has emphasized low taxes, lots of fracking, expanding educational opportunities, and killing the SMART Train. Meh. He’s gonna have to kick it up a few notches if he’s got any chance here.

Did somebody just say, marijuana to the rescue?

At a campaign stop not long ago Kashkari said he didn’t support legalization, but also didn’t support the War on Drugs as currently waged. One surefire way to end the war, brother Neel, is to legalize marijuana!

What if — what if — Kashkari were to, as these things go, “study the issue a little more closely” in coming weeks before coming out in favor of legalization? He might start with recent polls that show at least 55 percent of Californians support legalization. He might then study Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget proposal that says legal weed in that state will bring in around $100 million in taxes this year.

Closer to home, Kashkari might study a Marijuana Policy Project’s statistic that indicates California is itself reaping over $100 million a year in taxes from its pot dispensaries. He might take a look at how California dispensaries will now operate under a single, statewide set of rules, with the help of law enforcement, and he might have a look at a Harvard study from a few years back that said prohibition costs taxpayers about $17 billion a year.

He might eat a chocolate bar with Maureen Dowd in a Colorado hotel room and freak out at the enormity of the opportunity to overtake Moonbeam with a Nixon-in-China move that would send every last freaking pothead in the state to the polls to vote for him!

Brown has already signaled opposition to legalization of the demon weed on the grounds that people will get lazy if they smoke it, costing jobs and productivity. Meanwhile, half the state is already getting baked.

It’s a lazy argument premised on a dumb stereotype. Try some sativa, governor, that stuff will keep you up all night working on your budget — or, just maybe, working on your plan to outflank Kashkari on the pro-pot tip if the moderate GOP candidate gets wise and supports legalization as a way to beat you.

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