PG&E power shutoff: California’s largest utility cuts electricity to thousands of customers

PG&E power shutoff: California’s largest utility cuts electricity to thousands of customers – CNN


Archaeologists Discover Ancient Native American Sites In Path Of Planned Highway

Greubel thinks this particular pit house was probably a center for ceremonies or gatherings for the Ancestral Puebloan people who lived here roughly 1,200 years ago. That was before they are believed to have migrated west to the Mesa Verde area and then south to become the ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni and various Pueblo tribes.

“When we were working down here, you kind of have a sense of peace and you feel like you’re accomplishing something good,” Greubel says. “I know not all people think that way, but we treated the site with respect and a sense of awe.”

…This pit house is about to be filled in and covered up by a highway, as are six other important ancient sites on this mesa.

…The new construction site will cross the outer boundaries of the tribe’s reservation.

But some Southern Ute citizens are still upset that the digs are happening at all, and they don’t feel empowered to stop them.

…”You know, those are my family’s bones in there,” Maez says. “We don’t have a ceremony to dig them up and put them somewhere else.”

He says projects like this have forced tribes to adapt to that process and create new rituals to remove and rebury remains.

…Local tribes didn’t have ultimate veto power to stop this highway project from moving forward.

…”It’s quite interesting to see how we lived, you know, and to compare in how we live today. But on the other hand, it’s very hurtful and sad too.”

Archaeologists Discover Ancient Native American Sites In Path Of Planned Highway : NPR


The public deserves action regarding our insecure election systems

The software that is used to tabulate the ballots and generate the initial vote counts is one of the weakest links in our entire election process.

Currently, this software is supplied (and controlled) by private corporations. This creates a plethora of problems. For one, the software is proprietary, so it can’t be audited by the large numbers of software security experts, from university professors to hi-tech security firms. For another, the corporations are motivated by profits, which is actually at odds with providing the most robust solution possible.

The public deserves action regarding our insecure election systems – The San Francisco Examiner


Airline food is coming to Amtrak

Possible solutions going forward:

Repeal PRIIA. As the ICC discovered in the 1970s, federal agencies are not equipped to micromanage the rail system. Fines don’t work; in fact, they are counterproductive as disputes have moved to the snail’s pace of courts, and the operating relationship between freight railroads and Amtrak has turned hostile.

Invest in sidings. If Amtrak wants to be able to overtake freight trains at will, the simple solution is for Amtrak to provide sidings at regular intervals. The cost per siding is estimated at about $15 million.

If no money is available for sidings, run closer to freight speed. Long distance Amtrak trains could reduce the amount of overtaking by a simple reduction in speed. If Amtrak ran at, say, 60 or 65 mph instead of the current maximum permissible 79 mph, its capacity footprint would be greatly reduced. Because maximum track speed would remain at 79, the engineer on a late train could potentially make up time by running at 79 mph where the track is clear. In fact, adjusting the Amtrak timetable to lower speeds would make Amtrak long distance trains much more reliable, and at a lower cost than new sidings.

Revise schedules to focus on reliability. Amtrak creates schedules using a best-case scenario called “pure run time.” A “fudge factor” is added to account for “unavoidable” delay. Realistically, schedules should be based on what is achievable on a consistent basis, not ideal conditions on a sunny day as Amtrak assumes in its “best-case” scenario. In fact, the FAA requires airlines to advertise schedules that can be achieved reliably. Amtrak should follow the same rules—rules well known by its new president.

Want airline food? Take Amtrak – Railway Age


Study Finds a Medical Algorithm Favors White Patients Over Sicker Black Patients

The use of algorithms as a technological diagnostic tool was meant to help lower the nation’s healthcare costs by helping medical providers keep people well.

However, as the Post notes, if a system is already historically biased, it’s easy for a new technological tool to inherit those biases.

“I am struck by how many people still think that racism always has to be intentional and fueled by malice,” Ruha Benjamin, an associate professor of African American studies at Princeton University, told the Post. “They don’t want to admit the racist effects of technology unless they can pinpoint the bigoted boogeyman behind the screen.”

Study Finds a Medical Algorithm Favors White Patients Over Sicker Black Patients

Attention well-meaning Presidential candidates… [hack, cough, ahem, cough, Cory Booker] Technology is not necessarily going to improve things or make it more efficient. The human component is necessary to implement fairness and justice.

What if America Took Amtrak Seriously?

By the 1960s the decline had reached crisis levels and railways began closing down. …In 1971, under Richard Nixon’s administration, the National Railroad Passenger Corp. was born. It was a for-profit company, but it received public funds to assume operation of the 20-odd private railroads that still ran intercity passenger trains. Only half the routes survived the consolidation.

By all appearances this was an effort to rescue passenger rail. In fact it was a ploy to let it die more quietly and, perhaps, on someone else’s watch. Amtrak, as the National Railroad Passenger Corp. came to be called, was not expected to last long. …Many attempts have been made over the decades to defund or dismantle Amtrak. The strategy is familiar: starve a public service, then use its underperformance to justify eliminating it altogether. Textbook neoliberalism, except they can’t quite close the deal. Congress always appropriates just enough funding to keep Amtrak limping along. No powerful interest has a stake in truly making the system work, but it’s too popular to kill.

…There’s a reason why the trains are perpetually running late. Amtrak owns almost none of its own track. Instead it pays private freight lines like the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) for the use of their tracks. By federal law, freight rail operators are supposed to give priority to passenger trains, but in practice, this law apparently is violated with impunity. Time and again the train slows to a stop, waiting helplessly for freight cars to make way.

…The number of crude oil trains traveling on the BNSF tracks has risen in step. Our cleanest form of intercity transportation is, quite literally, being held up by fossil fuels.

What if America Took Amtrak Seriously? – Streetsblog USA