The palm’s mortal enemy is devouring California’s fronded icons

With a taste for palm hearts and up for battle, the invasive weevil has invaded So Cal and appears eager to spread.

On the one hand, you can’t blame them. The South American palm weevil is just doing what any species does: Trying to survive. But unfortunately for California’s palm trees, survival for the weevil means death to the trees.

With the recent arrival to The States from origins south, the shiny black beetle with a Pinocchio nose has descended upon – and into – dozens of palms in San Diego’s Sweetwater Summit Regional Park. Finding their way into the heart of the tree, mama weevils deposit their eggs, which magically transform into very hungry larvae – which hollow out the tree before maturing into grown-ups and heading out in search of a new tree to call home. Left only half alive, the palm wilts and is unable to regain its former form.

Palm weevil© Josh Cassidy/KQED

So far more than 50 trees are confirmed to have their tender cores compromised by the alien species; across the area the number may be closer to 150. And while the stalwart weevils are vulnerable to pesticide, the ninja insects are nearly impossible to find until the damage has been done.

The latest KQED San Francisco DEEP LOOK video takes a, yes, deep look into the heart of the palm to show us what the bloody mess of it all looks like – it’s not for the faint of heart! But it’s important. This outbreak likely marks the leading edge of a march by the weevil to points farther north, with California’s iconic palms serving as B & Bs for the pest to hopscotch its way through the state.

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Paleontologists discover lost ecosystem off the coast of southern California

The ecosystem had thrived for thousands of years but collapsed less than two centuries ago.

The seabed off the coast of southern California is one of the most studied areas in the world, characterized by its high biodiversity and by its important roles in biogeochemical cycling and commercial fishing. Today, this seabed consists of soft sediments and is inhabited by mollusks, crustaceans, worms, and urchins that feed on organic matter. However, this was not always the case.

Paleontologists Susan Kidwell of the University of Chicago and Adam Tomašových of the Slovak Academy of Sciences recently discovered a lost ecosystem off the coast of Southern California that once stretched for nearly 250 miles from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Kidwell and Tomašových noticed an abundance of dead shells from scallops and marine organisms called brachiopods in the muddy California seabed and began examining the remains. Using geologic methods that Kidwell had developed since the 2000s, the researchers discovered that the now-muddy seabed was once decorated with shell-gravel habitats that housed these scallops and brachiopods for at least 4,000 years.

Kidwell and Tomašových analyzed 190 shells using a molecular dating technique known as amino acid racemization. They found that all of the shells were older than 100 years and that most were over 200 years old. No similar shells have been produced in the region within the past century, indicating that the sea creatures died off recently and relatively quickly.

Scallops and brachiopods prefer colder waters than those found off the coast of southern California, but Kidwell and Tomašových do not consider climate change to be a likely cause of the ecosystem’s collapse. Instead, they argue that the main culprit is siltation, the pollution of water by fine sediments such as silt.

In 1796, Spanish missionaries introduced livestock such as cattle and sheep to southern California. For the next century, the region’s economy was dominated by cattle production, subjecting the land to unmanaged, open-range grazing. The researchers believe that siltation resulting from this unmanaged grazing altered the ecosystem in the coastal seabed during the 1800s, leading to the decline and eventual collapse of scallop and brachiopod populations.

“This loss unfolded during the 19th century,” Kidwell explained, “Thus well before urbanization and climate warming. The disappearance of these abundant filter-feeding animals coincided with the rise of lifestock and cultivation in coastal lands, which increased silt deposition on the continental shelf, far beyond the lake and nearshore settings where we would expect this stress to have an impact.”

Kidwell and Tomašových published their findings online in the journal Royal Society Proceedings B, arguing that more research is needed to fully understand the ecological consequences of coastal land use and siltation.

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Cost to Keep Each Prisoner Locked Up in California Per Year: $75,560

Cost to Keep Each Prisoner Locked Up in California Per Year: $75,560

June 6th, 2017


Via: Los Angeles Times:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes a record $11.4 billion for the corrections department while also predicting that there will be 11,500 fewer inmates in four years because voters in November approved earlier releases for many inmates.

The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase.

The result is a per-inmate cost that is the nation’s highest — and $2,000 above tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses to attend Harvard.

Since 2015, California’s per-inmate costs have surged nearly $10,000, or about 13%. New York is a distant second in overall costs at about $69,000.

Critics say with fewer inmates, the costs should be falling.




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California Family Traumatized by False Arrest


Kristy Hoenck, 36, was sleeping in her south Gilroy Spanish-style home on a quiet cul-de-sac when she heard her Ring doorbell alert going off and saw a video showing two shadows next to her cars in the driveway. She had just had surgery that day and was still dazed from anesthesia.
Her 72-year-old father was sleeping downstairs and she asked him to go outside and check it out. He came out with his antique gun, afraid they were being burgled, as they had been in April.
Before she could process what was happening there was a helicopter, SWAT teams, snipers with rifles, dogs, a Bearcat tank and officers in military style uniforms saying they were looking for her son.

Police told her they had positively identified her 21-year-old son as the suspect in a shooting and they said they found his wallet and cell phone at the scene of the crime. She was dumbfounded and terrified.
“We’re traumatized,” said Hoenck. “They took my 15-year-old daughter, who had been sleeping and handcuffed her on the ground with a gun pointed at her head. And we were cooperating. I told them to search my house, they didn’t need a warrant. I was doing everything I should do.”
She said they ransacked her house, turning over the couch, leaving a cardboard box in the garage touching a water heater and leaving scuff marks on the carpets and walls.
Gilroy Police have since said that her son was not involved in the crime. They arrested four other people at the house, and kept them handcuffed outside the police station. Her son was there for five hours, her daughter, three, and their high school friends for four to five hours.
The 21-year-old who isn’t being named because he committed no crime, had been celebrating his birthday at Ninja Sushi and the Garlic City Card Room, and he’d gotten home at 3 a.m. with two female friends and two male friends. They were parked on Monterey Street, near the house, and while they were getting out of the car, a man shined a flashlight on them.
The son, having seen police cars with lights and sirens go by, was afraid of the guy with the light and took off, leaving his cell phone and wallet in the car. He was heading to his grandmother’s but realized he also left his keys in the car. He walked around the streets, not knowing he was the subject of a search, but wary of the action.
The man with the flashlight turned out to be a retired sheriff’s deputy, who reported the boy as a suspect to Gilroy Police. That led them to the cul-de-sac.
Gilroy Police were investigating a 3 a.m. shooting at Hyde Park and Victoria drives, where a man who caught burglars breaking into his car was shot three times in the leg. Police arrested a juvenile at the scene, but the others with him fled.

When they got the call from the former officer, they thought they had their man.
“We’re investigating a shooting and people ran,” said Sgt. Jason Smith. “Why else is someone going to run? We did what was right. We looked at the facts and when the smoke cleared, we determined they were not involved.”
Before they knew it, the Hoenck family members, including their 15-year-old daughter, were plastered on TV by KSBW. The last five days have been a living hell, they said, with friends’ families afraid to let their kids come over, and golf partners canceling games with the son, a prolific golfer.
“It was the house we believed was involved,” said Sgt. Jason Smith. “We believed it was right.” Add to that the fact that the 21-year-old appeared for have run away, and that raised their suspicions.
“It’s unfortunate that an adult male, who was in the general vicinity of the incident, decided to run from police at the same time officers are conducting a shooting investigation,” Smith added. “Subsequent evidence and investigation proved otherwise and he was released. Officers have a duty to protect the public and we are still actively investigating this case.”
In an interview the son said he left even when he saw police around. “I panicked,” he said. “Why are cops looking for me?”
Was he partying?
“I don’t even drink. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, I’m a 21-year-old African American man. I get stopped all the time. They stopped me once because they thought I was too young to be driving,” he said.
The man was a 4.0 student at Christopher High School, a member of the golf club for four years who did 600 hours of community service in high school and is now an accounting major at San Jose City College.
“I’m embarrassed, I’m mortified,” said Hoenck, a hairdresser whose family has been in Gilroy for 100 years. “I felt like a police officer wouldn’t lie to you, they tell you the truth. I was raised to always respect police officers, to comply, to help. Now, I know the officer I spoke to lied to me. He said my son’s wallet and cell phone were found at the scene of the crime. I couldn’t fathom my son being in that situation. He’s always been a 4.0 student. He’s always held a job. When someone for the law tells you those things, I was mind boggled.

“Was all that necessary to a family that was compliant? I gave them the video of 24 hours of surveillance at my home. I was very cooperative,” he said.

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California Couple Shot 15 Times By Cops Told They Can’t Sue


A California couple cannot sue the police officers that busted down their door without a warrant and shot them to pieces, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The decision, handed down on Tuesday, overturned a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that allowed Angel and Jennifer Mendez to recover damages in the amount of $4.1 million from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

The incident occurred in October 2010 after deputies received a tip and surrounded the home of Paula Hughes while searching for a missing parolee in Lancaster.

The Mendez couple, homeless at the time, were napping in a shack Angel had constructed in Hughes’ backyard. Deputies Christopher Conley and Jennifer Pederson reportedly barged into the shack without warning or a warrant.

According to reports, Angel woke up startled and grabbed a BB gun. In response, the deputies fired their weapons 15 times at the couple, severely wounding them.

Both survived but Angel was hit several times. As the result of his injuries, he required his leg be amputated below the knee. Meanwhile, Jennifer, who was pregnant at the time, was hit in the back. She would later give birth to a healthy baby boy.

In video filmed by police during the aftermath of the shooting, Angel can be heard pleading for his life and asking why the deputies had busted in the shack unannounced. Jennifer is also seen lying on the ground bleeding from her gunshot wound.

“If they would have announced and said, ‘police, open the door,’ I would have came out,” Angel later told reporters.

In August 2013, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald awarded $3.8 million to Angel and $222,000 to Jennifer for damages related to Fourth Amendment violations. The couple went from being homeless to being millionaires.

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What do Oprah and the Pope Have in Common?

I had the opportunity recently to be in the company of Oprah Winfrey and then Pope Francis over the course of one week.

Auburn Seminary’s President the Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson and I joined over 200 faith leaders from all over the United States in Santa Barbara, California. The focus was to screen the first two episodes of a weeklong series entitled Belief. These are seven, one-hour TV shows funded by Oprah to be aired on the OWN network in mid-October. These shows use compelling storytelling to look at the importance of spirituality and faith as an opportunity for individual and communal transformation. Afterwards, we were shuttled to her home where we were graciously hosted by Oprah for drinks and dinner. Before dinner, our host shared how meaningful this project was for her, so important that she fully funded the effort. It was truly an evening of inspiration and gracious hospitality.

I also had the honor of representing Auburn at “ground zero” surrounded by over 500 faith leaders as we welcomed Pope Francis to NYC. As we made our way to our gathering place, I saw many Metro New York City colleagues and friends from various faith traditions. The buzz in the room was about how different this pope was from others — his deep commitment to justice for the poor and marginalized along with his willingness to speak a truth that is grounded in unconditional love and inclusiveness. There was a sense of excitement and anticipation from Jewish, Sikh, Muslim and Protestant colleagues. It was a multi-faith “happening.” As he then spoke, he affirmed the need to pray and work for peace. The real work of faith is not about death and destruction, but peace and reconciliation.

It is fascinating to me that two such influential leaders — Oprah and the Pope — demonstrated an understanding of and commitment to the power of working across faith traditions. Individual and/or societal transformation must include multi-faith engagement. But are there other leaders who are able to help bring us together, in the same room to the same table, to bridge our divides? Our theological and philosophical differences, egos, suspicions all impact the ways that we do our work. And vulnerability is often avoided for fear of losing the respect — and support — of our constituents and trusted allies.

I was recently conversing with a few college classmates, and I suddenly found myself inundated by a barrage of political questions. What struck me was not so much our difference of opinion, but the depth of mistrust and anger fueled by the belief that “the left” is morally questionable, unfair and inconsistent. When I asked one classmate “Where do you see signs of hope?” he stated that he saw none. I could feel his fear and distrust of those with different views.

I believe that this is one of the greatest challenges we face as a nation is creating a public dialogue less focused on extremes, and instead, able to reconcile differing views. After all, most of us live in this moderate “grey area.”

This week, unlikely allies Oprah Winfrey and Pope Francis issued a call to action to religious leaders. Their multi-faith gatherings were driven and shaped out of a deep sense that faith, and even religion, can still make a difference in our individual and communal lives. Fear of difference will not have the last word. Their call to action shines a spotlight on us as faith leaders and reminds us of that we have the power to change things in a meaningful and powerful way if we are willing to trust our fellowship together despite differences.

One colleague at the Sept. 11 memorial looked around and said to me, “We should just lock the doors and see if we can make some decisions today.”

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Indian PM Narendra Modi Gets Emotional Talking About His Mom

During the hour-long Q&A session at Facebook’s Menlo Park, California, campus, Modi fielded several questions about the potential of social media and his thoughts on women’s empowerment. But it was one query in particular, posed by Zuckerberg himself, that elicited the strongest response from the Indian prime minister.

“I understand that your mother is very important in your life so I’m hoping you’ll tell us more about her,” Zuckerberg said.

Modi went on to speak about his impoverished childhood, and how his mom struggled to make ends meet.

“When we were small, what we used to do to get by … was that we used to go to our neighbors’ houses … to clean the dishes, fill water, do hard chores,” Modi said, his voice quavering. “So you can imagine what a mother had to do to raise her children, what she had to go through.”

He added that this wasn’t just the “case with Narendra Modi. In India, there are hundreds and thousands of mothers like that … mothers who’ve sacrificed their entire lives for their children.”

Modi’s Facebook session was reportedly well-received by the 1,200 people in attendance. FirstPost reports that the town hall ended with a standing ovation for the Indian leader.

The Q&A, however, has also been met with some criticism., for instance, slammed the event for being too light on substance.

Modi’s Facebook appearance comes during the politician’s whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley that has included meetings with the CEOs of Apple, Google, Tesla and other leading tech companies.

The prime minister’s West Coast trip also comes hot on the heels of a similar visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Just last week, Xi was in Seattle meeting with several tech leaders, including Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.


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NASA sees wind shear affecting Tropical Storm Niala

Roughly a quarter of the fish sampled from fish markets in California and Indonesia contained man-made debris—plastic or fibrous material—in their guts, according to a study from the University of California, Davis, and …

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Typhoon Dujuan gives NASA an eye-opening performance

Roughly a quarter of the fish sampled from fish markets in California and Indonesia contained man-made debris—plastic or fibrous material—in their guts, according to a study from the University of California, Davis, and …

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The ecological collapse of California: State hits 500-year record for drought

(NaturalNews) The historic California drought of the past few years is the worst one that has occurred in the last 500 years, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature.

After the announcement by California state officials that they had found no snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the first time in the 75 years since snowfall records began, a research team conducted a study aimed at finding out more about the region’s long-term snowfall history.

By studying the thickness of rings in core samples taken from blue oak trees growing in the mountains, the researchers were able to accurately measure the winter rainfall records during past centuries.

Their findings came as a surprise. It was already known that the current drought cycle had broken records, but no one suspected that so much time had passed since the last dry period of this magnitude.

The four-year drought has forced the state to begin issuing mandatory water cuts in many areas. Some municipalities have been ordered to cut their water usage by as much as 35 percent as reservoirs and groundwater supplies are being drained without being replenished.

The annual snowpack melt supplies up to 30 percent of California’s water supply. In the past few years, however, the amount of accumulated snow has been so diminished that reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other bodies of water fed by the runoff are nearing record low levels.

Valerie Trouet, associate professor at the University of Arizona and senior author of the study, said:

The results were astonishing. We knew it was an all-time low over a historical period, but to see this as a low for the last 500 years, we didn’t expect that. There’s very little doubt about it.

The implications are enormous, not only for the state’s environment and its wildlife, but also for the millions of people who live in California and depend on the water for their livelihood and basic survival.

Ecological collapse

The effects of the drought have triggered what can only be described as an ecological collapse. Dramatic evidence of this is apparent when one considers the fact that this year’s wildfire season is the second-worst one in the past decade.

This year, there have already been around 1,000 more wildfires than there were last year, and firefighters are currently battling two fires that have destroyed more than 1,000 buildings in the past few days.

Wildfires and water restrictions affecting the human population are only part of the picture. The drought is also threatening much of California’s wildlife. For example, federal and state officials have resorted to transporting salmon and other fish species to other parts of the state due to concerns that they will die off during their annual migration to the Pacific Ocean if they try to navigate rivers and streams that have completely dried up in places or are at dangerously low levels.

Things will only get worse

The truly frightening aspect of all of this is the fact that the experts are predicting that the situation will only continue to worsen in the coming years. The natural cycles, combined with what is called “anthropogenic (human-caused) warming”, could lead to a 30-year megadrought.

Although many climate change skeptics would argue that there is no significant environmental effect from greenhouse gas emissions, the fact remains that something is causing the state of California to increasingly approach becoming an uninhabitable desert wasteland.

There is no arguing the fact that the demand by humans – who want it for everything from growing crops to filling swimming pools – does have a significant depleting effect on the natural water supplies of the region.

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