Law + Policy

‘This Is Not a Stunt:’ Behind the Campaign to Force Politicians to Wear Sponsor Labels

NASCAR drivers, golfers and tennis players won’t be the only ones wearing patches touting their sponsors if a San Diego millionaire has his way. Republican entrepreneur John Cox is bankrolling a proposed initiative for the November ballot that would require members of the California Assembly and State Senate to wear stickers or badges emblazoned with the names of their top 10 donors. Read more about 'This Is Not a Stunt:' Behind the Campaign to Force Politicians to Wear Sponsor Labels »

The Poll Slayer: New Book Argues that Surveys are Simplistic But Humans are Complicated

It’s virtually impossible these days to imagine an America without those vaunted interpreters of the national mood: polls. They help determine the fate of political contenders, shape social policies, and interpret the mood of the nation. The aggregator realclearpolitics.com lists no fewer than 22 public polls in the past week focused on the Democratic presidential primary alone.

But are polls as useful as we think? Read more about The Poll Slayer: New Book Argues that Surveys are Simplistic But Humans are Complicated »

Reconsidering Socialism: Younger Voters No Longer See the Label as Toxic

Technically, the jury is still out on whether Bernie Sanders’s identification as a socialist will hurt the Vermont senator in the Democratic presidential primaries. Slate’s Jordan Weissmann says it was the best thing Sanders ever did, because it conveys the notion that he will implement “fundamental changes in politics” at a time where people desperately want them. Read more about Reconsidering Socialism: Younger Voters No Longer See the Label as Toxic »

All’s Well That Tends Wells? New State Law To Control Sucking Up of Water

The drought gets a lot of undeserved blame for California’s water crisis. Naturally, four dry years have exacerbated the problem, but the real culprit is the state’s Gold Rush–era water law, which has allowed landowners to sink wells that suck ever deeper and drier— unfettered by any accountability to their neighbors, their region, or the state. Historically low groundwater levels have resulted, spawning all kinds of Wild West drama. The Central Valley is sinking! A thousand Tulare County wells go dry! Read more about All's Well That Tends Wells? New State Law To Control Sucking Up of Water »

Back in Bleak: Nearly Half of U.S. Jobs Are Likely to Vanish in 20 Years. Then What?

Ever get that feeling that you’re slowly sinking into a financial morass, a fiscal tar pit from which you’ll never emerge, no matter how or what you try? That the odds are so grim that your children and their children will end up in even worse shape than you? That the middle class is indeed moribund if not dead, that the rich are getting richer and the poor (including you) are getting poorer, and that the trend will only accelerate until you’re eking by on the dole—if there were a dole, that is. This isn’t the United Kingdom, after all. Read more about Back in Bleak: Nearly Half of U.S. Jobs Are Likely to Vanish in 20 Years. Then What? »

Oh Snap! Founding Fathers Didn’t Envision Snapchatting State of Union

Not unlike virtually everyone under the age of 25, the White House has a blog. And its most recent post reads like a hokey commercial: “Our Official Story will take you behind the scenes of the White House’s State of the Union preparations, with footage and angles you won’t find anywhere else.”

Where you will find the “Official Story” is on Snapchat, the third most popular social media app (after Facebook and Twitter), which famously allows users to send photos and videos that only last a short time before disappearing. Read more about Oh Snap! Founding Fathers Didn't Envision Snapchatting State of Union »

Elusive Target: Can New Push to Background-Check More Gun Buyers Make a Difference?

In the short but statistic-fueled period after every recent U.S. mass shooting, the gun control debate is roused from its intermittent slumber. Whether the victims are in grade-school classrooms in Sandy Hook, on a college campus in Oregon, at a predominantly African-American church in South Carolina, or attending a holiday party in San Bernadino, the results have become predictable. Gun control advocates plead for tighter restrictions that might curb violence. Read more about Elusive Target: Can New Push to Background-Check More Gun Buyers Make a Difference? »

Confessions of a Crime Reporter: Call it Gallows Humor. Hell, It Was Plain Survival

I had pizza delivered to a crime scene once. A computer engineer had bludgeoned and stabbed his wife and 12-year-old son to death and then slashed his own throat.

A group of us reporters stood at the edge of the cordoned-off street for hours, waiting for the police to come out and tell us what was going on. We’d already run the plates of the cars in the driveway and figured out who the occupants of the house were, and knew that the man who lived there had co-invented a famous video game. But we needed confirmation that he was the killer before we filed our stories. Read more about Confessions of a Crime Reporter: Call it Gallows Humor. Hell, It Was Plain Survival »

From the Winter 2015 Breaking News issue of California.

Strip It and Stash It: Climate Scientists Focus on Extracting the Carbon Already in Our Air

For decades, most of the strategizing about how to slow down climate change has focused on cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, mainly by shifting away from fossil fuels. Other proposals range from reducing meat consumption (cattle belch massive quantities of methane, a potent greenhouse gas) to curtailment of chlorofluorocarbons (compounds that both retain heat and destroy atmospheric ozone) in refrigerants and aerosols.  Read more about Strip It and Stash It: Climate Scientists Focus on Extracting the Carbon Already in Our Air »

Is This El Niño Really Set to Bring Epic Precipitation? Be Careful What You Wish For…

With perhaps one of the most intense El Niño ever recorded simmering like a massive coddled egg off the coast, Californians are bracing for precipitation on an epic scale. More than that: They’re hoping for it. There is a general sense that even the rampaging floods that can result from a full-blown El Niño-driven winter would be tolerable as long as our reservoirs fill and aquifers recharge and we can get back to long showers and adequately watered hydrangeas. Read more about Is This El Niño Really Set to Bring Epic Precipitation? Be Careful What You Wish For... »

Fried to a Crisp: Why Some Experts Say We Must Burn the Trees to Save the Forests

The recent rains have blunted the psychological impact of California’s four-year drought, washing down the streets, perking up the landscaping, and heightening anticipation for a stormy El Nino-driven winter. We know, however, that one wet year is highly unlikely to end water shortages. What we may not fully grasp is that the damage done to the state’s forests is so far reaching that it may be permanent. Read more about Fried to a Crisp: Why Some Experts Say We Must Burn the Trees to Save the Forests »

Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley’s Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere

After Berkeley became the first city in the nation to pass an excise soda tax one year ago, opponents dismissed Berkeley as such an outlier that the victory was inconsequential.  “Berkeley is not necessarily the trendsetter that they claim to be,” Roger Salazar, spokesman for the No Berkeley Beverage Tax campaign, was quoted saying. “They are a nuclear-free zone. They give free pot to low-income folks. Berkeley is Berkeley.” Read more about Carbonated Clash: A New Book Predicts Berkeley's Soda Tax Will Spread Elsewhere »

So Long, Passwords: What Will it Take for Us To Entrust Our Security to Biometrics?

Passwords and humans are frenemies: We tolerate each other because we have to, but we seem to know that one will screw the other over sooner or later (as evidenced by the many security breaches of 2015). Managing our password portfolio is more maddening than ever, given that more than half of us have five or more unique passwords, and nearly a third of us have more than 10. Read more about So Long, Passwords: What Will it Take for Us To Entrust Our Security to Biometrics? »

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