Wednesday, July 16, 2014

About half of kids' learning ability is in their DNA, study says

About half of kids' learning ability is in their DNA, study says
Students who excel at math also excel at reading thanks to "generalist genes," scientists say.
Julia Rosen
LA Times
July 11, 2014

You may think you’re better at reading than you are at math (or vice versa), but new research suggests you’re probably equally good (or bad) at both. The reason: The genes that determine a person’s ability to tackle one subject influence their aptitude at the other, accounting for about half of a person’s overall ability.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, used nearly 1,500 pairs of 12-year-old twins to tease apart the effects of genetic inheritance and environmental variables on math and reading ability. Twin studies provide a clever way of assessing the balance of nature versus nurture.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

CHE cafe (Cheap Healthy Eats) at UCSD serves an important function--but UCSD seems to care more about profit

Collective member Davide Carpano is surprised the university doesn’t want to support the alcohol free zone at the CHE, given what he calls “rampant alcohol abuse on campuses nationwide.” 

The Battle To Save CHE Café
By Angela Carone
Aired 7/11/14 on KPBS News

The CHE Café, a UCSD underground music venue as well as a hotbed for progressive politics for over three decades, may have to close because university officials say it's unsafe. The student volunteers who run the CHE are putting up a fight.
The battle to save the CHE Café, an all-ages, underground music venue and vegetarian restaurant on the edge of the UC San Diego campus, has been underway for months. Some might say for years.
“This is something the university has done before,” explained Davide Carpano, one of the student volunteers who helps run the CHE through a collective. He’s referring to the university’s latest effort to close the CHE (which stands for Cheap Healthy Eats). Administration officials say the building is in need of a fire sprinkler system — to the tune of $700,000 — and is unsafe. They've sent the collective an eviction notice.
“We actually have an article from the 1980s, where the university used the exact same pretexts and the exact same inflated numbers,” said Carpano.
On a campus known for cutting edge research and modern architecture, the CHE Café feels like something out of the 1960s, though the venue dates to 1980. Its small wooden building is covered in murals, some of them by well-known muralists, featuring activists like Che Guevara and Angela Davis.
Music fans, especially of punk and hardcore, have flocked to the CHE over the years to see bands they couldn’t see elsewhere. Green Day played there before they became famous. So did Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Davide Carpano and Rene Vera are volunteers who help run the CHE Cafe, which may close later this year.
“It’s been a place where students who don’t really fit in with the dominant culture on campus can come and create their own community around types of music that aren’t listened to on campus, and types of activism that aren’t appreciated on campus,” said Carpano.
He said university officials have never liked what the CHE stands for, so there’s always some renewed effort to shut it down.
The CHE collective insists the fire sprinkler system was only recommended, not mandatory. The UCSD Fire Marshall would not comment for this story.
The collective has been fighting back, most notably by filing a lawsuit on Monday against the university, their landlord, for breach of contract. They also filed and won a restraining order against the university so they can stay in the building until the lawsuit is resolved. They plan to continue booking shows until September.
Money to pay for the fire sprinkler system would normally come from student fees. Sammy Chang chaired the student board that decides how student fees should be spent. He says only a small portion of UCSD students go to the CHE Café, so even though it has this unique history on campus, it’s not a priority. “We’re still obligated to the students who pay the fee who don’t really fully understand all of the CHE’s traditions and what the CHE Café is,” explained Chang. “Only 2 percent of the students even use the CHE Café,” he added. That's based on a survey conducted by the university.
Chang said most students use the spacious Price Center, where there are restaurants and lounges. In the face of budget deficits, he said they have to put the money where the most students are.
Andrea Carter, the lawyer representing the CHE’s fight to stay open, said this is about the university opting to make a profit. The CHE’s rent is low ($80 a month) and Carter said the university could make more money by renting the land to a private vendor.
“The social spaces that the university now seems to prefer are ones that are privately operated, profit-driven and not dedicated to providing practical education opportunities,” said Carter.
She sees the recent decision to allow a Starbucks on campus as emblematic of the trend.
The CHE Café, however, has not been a model tenant. They are close to $4,000 behind in rent and utilities. In years past, they’ve let their insurance payments lapse and lost their non-profit status for not filing tax forms.
Representatives for the collective admit keeping up with the rent was tough because they focused on paying a hefty insurance bill. They say they’ve never been a priority at the university, despite operating a historic building that was once the student center and the heart of campus.
“Overall this space has not been given the maintenance it deserves over the last 34 years,” said Rene Vera, another CHE cooperative member. “If they would just put $10,000 into it every couple of years, or maybe a $50,000 renovation, this would all be fixed right now and it wouldn’t be this big lump sum come due.”
Those fighting to save the CHE Café have nostalgia on their side. Music lovers, like Charles Henry Peckham, insist the music scene at the CHE is rare. “There’s not anything like the CHE that I have ever seen and I’ve been going to shows for a long time,” said the Cal State East Bay grad.
Collective member Davide Carpano is surprised the university doesn’t want to support the alcohol free zone at the CHE, given what he calls “rampant alcohol abuse on campuses nationwide.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Skyline Church's Pastor Jim Garlow wants you to know that he's not afraid of gays and liberals

If repeating a statement over and over again were a guarantee that the statement is true, then I would have to believe that Jim Garlow does not fear gays and liberals.  He certainly goes on at length insisting that he has no such fear.   But I suspect that the reason Garlow invited liberals to speak at his church was to exploit them for his own purposes.  I doubt that he wants his flock to seriously entertain the notion that God might be okay with homosexuality.

Skyline Pastor Reacts to Daily Beast Critic: We Fear Only God

Skyline Church, the Rancho San Diego megachurch known for hosting conservative speakers such as Glenn Beck and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was harshly judged this week by a former Episcopal bishop famed for defending gay marriage, including his own.

The Right Rev. Gene Robinson. Image via Wikimedia Commons
The Right Rev. Gene Robinson. Image via Wikimedia Commons
In a column for The Daily Beast, the Right. Rev. Gene Robinson wrote about attending a Sunday service at Skyline and finding a mood that turned dark. “In between the uplifting songs, the message is: They’re coming to get us. One by one, the speakers lay out the parameters of the siege under which Christians live, attacked by liberal and godless forces on every side.”
In a piece headlined “Even After Hobby Lobby, the Religious Right is Still Terrified,” Robinson wrote:
Every message, action and gesture seems calculated to ratchet up the anxiety of those who are listening. And then it’s over. Just like that.
I honestly don’t know how typical such a service is among evangelicals, bent on making people fearful, but if you left that service feeling hopeful, at peace with God, and eager to help the poor and needy, then you weren’t paying attention.
Now a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, Robinson concluded his 1,100-word column posted Sunday with this:
“Anti-gay sentiment is waning in American society, and with that forward progress, conservative churches will see a loss of credibility and a diminished effectiveness of their fear-mongering. That is as it should be. Neither the church nor the state is served by it.”
On Tuesday, Skyline senior pastor Jim Garlow responded.
Answering a Times of San Diego request for comment, Garlow said: “We did not know the writer was in the audience on that Sunday morning service. We did invite him to a Sunday night service.”
Here is Garlow’s full response to Robinson, which he termed “my thoughts.”...

by Eugene Robinson
Daily Beast
July 6, 2014
Conservative evangelicals have internalized a besiegement narrative that doesn’t change even when they win political victories. But fear has no place in a properly Christian worldview.
There is nothing intimidating about the building, other than its sheer size and the many millions of dollars it took to build it. In fact, it is one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been. This conservative, evangelical megachurch, just outside San Diego, is a hive of activity on a Sunday morning. Upon entering, I’m drawn into the sophisticated café that makes Starbucks look like a 10-year-old’s sidewalk lemonade stand. I get my latte and am assured that I am welcome to take it with me to my seat in the church. I find a seat, which is plush and comfortable, and sure enough, there’s a cup holder for my coffee.
I am struck by the starkness of the worship space: no windows, all black, no cross or stained glass, and not a single sign that this is a place of worship. A drum trap set is the only thing on the massive stage. It’s hard to tell, really, when the service starts; it just seems to grow organically, with additional people coming onto the stage over the course of 15 minutes, everyone dressed in jeans and comfortable clothing. The sense of expectation grows minute by minute.
The crowd gathering in the congregation is old and young. Some members are alone, some coupled, and lots of families, with kids in tow. And virtually all white. Everyone seems excited to be here. When things actually begin, it is as professional as any Broadway show, with fantastic music by a small band, and everyone is singing. Although there is a brief prayer early on, the service seems oddly devoid of any mention of God, much less Jesus. And within the first 10 minutes, the head minister announces that the time has come for what we’ve all been waiting for: the collection, the chance to give for the work and ministry of this place. And everyone cheers. That’s right, cheers! Wild applause, enthusiastic delight at the chance to contribute to the ministry.
If you left that service feeling hopeful, at peace with God, and eager to help the poor and needy, then you weren’t paying attention.
But soon, the mood turns dark.  In between the uplifting songs, the message is: they’re coming to get us. One by one, the speakers lay out the parameters of the siege under which Christians live, attacked by liberal and godless forces on every side. An African-American minister from New York describes a change in policy in New York City to disallow churches to hold services in public schools, and his message is, “Beware. What’s happening in New York is headed your way! Get ready!”
The sermon is delivered by a guest preacher, whose main point seems to be the evils of feminism and sexual immorality. In the 40-minute “sermon,” there is hardly a mention of the Divine.  “God” shows up about 30 minutes in, and Jesus is mentioned only once, at the last minute. The senior pastor delivers an additional message, imploring those present to return that evening for a debate about homosexuality (the reason I’m there—and to their credit, both sides are being represented). His explicit message is, “Come tonight! I cannot prepare you for the onslaught of immorality and anti-Christian fervor if you don’t come! There is a battle underway for your souls, and I intend to outfit you for a holy war!” Every message, action and gesture seems calculated to ratchet up the anxiety of those who are listening. And then it’s over. Just like that.
I honestly don’t know how typical such a service is among evangelicals, bent on making people fearful, but if you left that service feeling hopeful, at peace with God, and eager to help the poor and needy, then you weren’t paying attention. It is no wonder to me that many conservative, Christian people are fearful, and believe that there is a war on religion (especially Christians) in this country. After all, it is drummed into them every week...

Pastor’s Crucible: His Son’s Same-Sex Marriage

The Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister, was defrocked after officiating at the wedding of his son Tim. Credit Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

Father and son had always been close, from the moment Tim Schaefer was born, six weeks premature, with blood poisoning, a weak heart and lungs, and a doctor who thought he would not make it through the night.
His father, the Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister, thought of his eldest son as a miracle child, saved by some combination of medicine and prayer, saved for something special.
“We couldn’t even touch him; he was in an incubator, and we had to reach in with latex gloves through those holes in the sides,” Mr. Schaefer said. “I begged God to please save his life.”
Their bond was such that, years later, facing a choice between upholding his church’s teaching and affirming his son’s sexual orientation, Frank chose to endanger his own career by officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding. The actions that followed — a rebellion in his congregation, a church trial, a defrocking and then, last month, a reinstatement — have made the Schaefers symbols of the conundrum facing much of American Christianity: How does religious doctrine on homosexuality respond to the longings for spirituality and community from congregants and family members who are gay?...

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Comedy vs. anti-science: 10 amazing videos that show how humor can make a difference

Comedy vs. anti-science: 10 amazing videos that show how humor can make a difference

From Colbert and Oliver to Sarah Silverman and Louis CK, comedians are torching anti-science activists with aplomb  

Click HERE to see VIDEOS


Comedy vs. anti-science: 10 amazing videos that show how humor <em>can</em> make a differenceJon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Stephen Colbert (Credit: AP/Brad Barket/Jack Plunkett/Dave Allocca)
In the latest version of America’s long-running culture wars, conservatives (and even some liberals) have zeroed in what once might have seemed like an unlikely target. While all the usual suspects still find themselves in reactionary cross hairs — Hollywood, “lamestream”-media elites and the LGBT community to name a few — another group, the scientific establishment, has emerged as one of the most polarizing institutions in American political culture.
Climate change, vaccination and evolution — each of these are things that the scientific establishment overwhelmingly agrees on. But the anti-intellectual fury of climate deniers, anti-vaxxers and creationists is such that any empirical consensus gets overshadowed.
For better or worse, comedy has emerged as one of the most visible platforms for laying bare the insanity of anti-science reactionaries. Jon Stewart and his “Daily Show” correspondents, for example, have been scrutinizing such people for years, while John Oliver has emerged in recent months as a veritable pro-science powerhouse. Stephen Colbert has interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson at least 10 times!
There’s never been a shortage of qualified experts to debunk anti-science, but few have generated the kind of heat that comedians have of late. Perhaps is the viral-friendly nature of social media, or the intrinsic advantage that satire enjoys over the cut-and-dried recitation of facts. Whatever the case, let’s take a lesson from these witty minds. Below are 10 sterling examples of comedy as an antidote to science-denialism.

1) John Oliver takes on climate skeptics

Many comedians have done a bang-up job showing that climate deniers are ridiculous, but nobody has done it better than John Oliver. On his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver hosts a statistically accurate mock debate between Bill Nye and climate skeptics.

2) Samantha Bee destroys anti-vaxx nuts

When celebrities give anti-vaccination hysteria a platform — and, as a result, we get outbreaks of measles and whooping cough — it feels like the nation is crawling backward. Despite the fact that research has conclusively shown that vaccinations are not linked to autism, many still refuse to vaccinate their kids. In this clip, Samantha Bee takes anti-vaxxers to task for their dangerous campaign.


3) Stephen Colbert mocks creationism

Creationists believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and that humans roamed the world with dinosaurs. (Spoiler: Scientist Clair Patterson found that the Earth is actually 4.5 billion years old, and humans evolved long after dinosaurs became extinct.) Though it sounds ridiculous, a recent Gallup Poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe in a creationist human origin. The most problematic issue is when their views infiltrate the education of children. Stephen Colbert proves this point in the great interview below:

4) John Oliver destroys Dr. Oz’s “cure-alls”

In June of 2014, TV personality and physician Dr. Oz testified at a congressional hearing that his “miracle” cure-alls “don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact.” Following this admission, John Oliver took him to task over his false science, and taking advantage of doctor-patient trust.

5) Lewis Black throws fossils at creationists

“I would love to have the faith to believe that [creation] took place in seven days,” Lewis Black says in the hilarious clip below. “But I have thoughts. And that can really fuck up the faith thing.”...

Are you wearing leather shoes? Then shut up: Joan Rivers can dish it out, but she can't take it

Sadly, I fear that Joan Rivers might be right when she says, "I'm sure I say the same things your viewers say to their friends sitting next to them on the couch." But that just proves how idiotic people can be.

When I was a child I loved Joan Rivers. I thought she was so pretty and funny. But she's been making me cry, not laugh, for a few years now.

Leather shoes? Seriously? The cows are already butchered, so why not use their skin for shoes? That's a bit different from killing wild animals ONLY for their pelts.

Joan Rivers Walks Out on CNN Interview
Joan Rivers Walks Out on CNN Interview, Video
Her catchphrase is "Can we talk?" – but Joan Rivers was not in a chatty mood during an interview with CNN's Fredericka Whitfield on Saturday. She walked out.

The comedian was promoting her new book, Diary of a Mad Diva, when she took offense at Whitfield's statement that her Fashion Police show was "mean."

"It's not mean," Rivers, 81, insisted. "I tell the truth. I'm sure I say the same things your viewers say to their friends sitting next to them on the couch."

She seemed to get more unsettled as Whitfield asked her about the jokes she makes about topics that might seem "off-limits" – Casey Anthony and Princess Diana – in her book. "Life is very tough, and if you can make a joke to make something easier, and funny, do it," Rivers responded.

When Whitfield mentioned the fact that Rivers is wearing a fur coat on the cover of her book, Rivers got even angrier.

"This whole interview is becoming a defensive interview," Rivers fumed. "Are you wearing leather shoes? Then shut up."

"I'm going," Rivers declared, pulling out her earpiece. "All you've done is negative … I've made people laugh for 50 years. I am put on earth to make people laugh."

Standing up to leave, she told Whitfield, "You are not the one to interview a person who does humor. Sorry."

Whitfield explained after the interview that she thought Rivers was joking the whole time and wondered if it was a stunt, but told viewers that off-camera Rivers was still wearing her microphone and "dropped some rather unflattering four-letter words. So, yeah, she was serious."

Friday, July 04, 2014

Everybody loves a child molester? Why are so many people such bad judges of character?

UK kids' TV star Rolf Harris jailed for child abuse
By Costas Pitas
Jul 4, 2014
(Reuters) - Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris, a household name in his native Australia and adopted home Britain, was jailed for almost six years on Friday for repeatedly abusing young girls during decades as a beloved host of children's television.
Handing down the sentence, Judge Nigel Sweeney said the 84-year-old host of shows like "Rolf Harris Cartoon Time" had shown no remorse for the harm he had done to his victims.
Harris was found guilty earlier this week of 12 counts of assaulting four girls, some as young as seven or eight, between 1968 and 1986.
It was the second conviction in a long-running investigation into sex abuse by British celebrities that has led to soul searching in the country, revealing that some of its most prominent stars of the 1970s and 1980s were serial pedophiles who evaded detection for decades.
"It is clear from the evidence that what you did has had a significant adverse effect on each victim," the judge told Harris, detailing how one woman had battled with alcoholism as a direct result of his abuse.
"You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all."
An artist and musician who first earned fame in the 1950s with the top 10 hit novelty song "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", Harris went on to present prime-time TV shows mostly aimed at children during five decades at the pinnacle of show business. In 2005 he painted Queen Elizabeth's portrait.
Harris was the biggest name to go on trial since British police launched "Operation Yewtree" to investigate celebrity child abuse, following revelations that late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile had been a prolific child abuser.
Harris sat motionless as the judge read out the sentence at a packed courtroom at London's Southwark Crown Court. He was later led from the dock, wearing a grey suit, white shirt and multi-colored tie.
During the trial, the prosecution had portrayed the bearded, bespectacled entertainer as a predator who groomed and abused one woman for her entire teenage and young-adult life.
The London court was told he first assaulted the woman when she got out of the shower aged 13, and then repeatedly abused her until she was 28 years old.
Police launched Operation Yewtree in the wake of the disclosures that Savile, who died in 2011 at 84, had managed to escape detection while abusing hundreds of children over the course of decades as one of Britain's best known celebrities, using his fame to gain access to victims and deflect suspicion.
Since then, a dozen ageing British media luminaries have been the target of investigations over decades-old child abuse allegations.
The country's most well known publicist, Max Clifford, was found guilty in May of indecently assaulting teenage girls some 30 years ago as part of the investigation.
(Writing by Kate Holton; Editing by Peter Graff)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

We are a corporate theocracy now: The Christian right seeks cultural and political domination

We are a corporate theocracy now: The Christian right seeks cultural and political domination
Christian right's plan is simple: Dominate courts, state legislatures, and push their twisted morality on all of us

We are a corporate theocracy now: The Christian right seeks cultural and political dominationClarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia (Credit: AP/Randy Snyder/Reuters/Brendan McDermid)
“If fascism comes to America, it will not be identified with any “shirt” movement, nor with an “insignia,” but it will probably be “wrapped up in the flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution,” [claimed] a 1936 issue of The Christian Century. Nobel Laureate recipient Sinclair Lewis put it even more succinctly when he warned, “It [fascism] would come wrapped in the flag and whistling the Star Spangled Banner.”
No one who has followed the rise of the Christian Right in national politics over the course of the past three decades should be surprised by Monday’s Supreme Court decision to grant corporations religious personhood. It was as predictable as Pat Robertson saying something stupid about gay sex. The hyper religious conservatives on the bench of the nation’s high court, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, see the federal government as being controlled by ‘secular humanists’ who wish to make war against the purity of the Christian belief system. Like the 89 million Americans who count themselves as evangelicals, they seek total cultural and political domination.
Not only is the Christian Right the most politically agitated and reliable voting bloc of the Republican Party, but it is also emboldened like no other time in their warped history. With recent efforts to legalize discrimination against gay Americans defeated, the Hobby Lobby case against the Affordable Care Act has reenergized the theocratic wing of the GOP base — the wing that is now the party’s fuselage. Throw red meat to their holier than thou rationalizations and they won’t care what big business does to this great nation. They care for one thing – turning America into a theocratic regime. Don’t be fooled by the flag-waving and the obnoxious hyper-masculine jingoistic platitudes; the Christian Right does not love America unconditionally. They love America on the condition that representatives they help get elected are carrying out their political agenda.
There is no conspiracy theory here. Their strategy is evidently clear and unashamedly boasted. Their strategy is to control state and federal legislatures, and the courts – in  a way that says, “We don’t care what the American people want. We write the laws, and those laws will not reflect the wishes of the center majority, but instead will cater only for the theological cranks within our ranks.”...

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

What if a Muslim Company Used the 'Hobby Lobby' Decision to Impose Its Values on White Christians?

What if a Muslim Company Used the 'Hobby Lobby' Decision to Impose Its Values on White Christians?
Daily Kos
Jun 30, 2014 
The slide towards American theocracy was nudged one more step forward by today's Supreme Court decision in support of the "freedom" of corporations with "religious" beliefs to restrict the rights of their employees. In essence, religious "beliefs" trump the obligations, rights, and responsibilities that come with being members of the polity and a broader political community.
The NY Times details the logic of the theocrats as:
The 5-to-4 decision, which applied to two companies owned by Christian families, opened the door to challenges from other corporations to many laws that may be said to violate their religious liberty. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the court’s five more conservative justices, said a federal religious-freedom law applied to for-profit corporations controlled by religious families. He added that the requirement that the companies provide contraception coverage imposed a substantial burden on the companies’ religious liberty. He said the government could provide the coverage in other ways.
The dissent offers up this chilling observation:
On that point, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said the court’s decision “is bound to have untoward effects” in other settings. “The court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood,” Justice Ginsburg wrote, “invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths.”
The corporateocracy and the 1 percent are using the tricks, smoke, and mirrors of "religious faith" to expand their power and protections from civil authority and the social compact. The tactic is Orwellian and dystopian.
Alas, if corporations are indeed "people"--an insult to the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution which was put in place to protect the rights of newly freed black slaves--then their behavior is sociopathic. The sociopath will lie, dissemble, and exploit others for his or her own gain because that is their essential nature...

Friday, June 27, 2014

California family vexed by fired nanny who refuses to leave

California family vexed by fired nanny who refuses to leave

By AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN
June 27, 2014
Source: CNN

(CNN) -- Ralph and Marcella Bracamonte's California home has become their personal hell.
They fired their live-in nanny this month, but the woman -- Diane Stretton -- has refused to move out, and the couple has little legal recourse to evict her.
"I fired her June 6 and she refused to leave, saying she had rights and I needed to evict her," Marcella Bracamonte told CNN on Friday. "She quit working about a month before I ever fired her -- she would just stay in her room."
How bad did it get?
"She threatened to sue me after I didn't turn the air conditioner on," Bracamonte said, adding that Stretton "wrote me this long letter with all her terms and what she wanted -- she wanted my family out of our home for certain hours everyday -- it was crazy."
CNN has left repeated messages at the cell phone number that Bracamonte provided for Stretton but received no reply so far.
According to the Bracamontes, Stretton started out fine when they hired her March 4 after running a background check. In exchange for room and board, Stretton was expected to help out with household chores and child care at their home in Upland, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles.
But once she gained the family's trust, they said, Stretton stopped working and stayed in her room.
They sought help from law enforcement and were told that Stretton was legally permitted to stay in the home.
Sgt. Don Dodt with the Upland Police Department told CNN that in general, once someone has established a residency in a home, the landlord or owner of the property must go to court to get the person evicted.
Typically, the police department can only take a keep-the-peace type of role in such a case because it is a civil dispute. The sheriff's department would carry out a forceful eviction if ordered by the court.
The family is working its way through the legal eviction process, but why not change the locks and refuse to allow Stretton in the home in the meantime? The nanny threatened to sue, and California tenant laws are in her favor so she would likely win.
Bracamonte tells CNN her family has too much to lose.
While their case moves through the courts, the family has turned to the media for help.
"Don't worry -- I will ruin her publicly! But she will NOT take a dime from us!" Marcella Bracamonte wrote on her Facebook page.
She accused Stretton of filing frivolous lawsuits before. CNN confirmed that Stretton is on the California Courts' Vexatious Litigant List, a list of people who continually bring legal action, regardless of merit, against others with the sole intention of harassment. CNN found dozens of lawsuits filed by Stretton in California over the years.
The family has been interviewed on TV and Bracamonte says she wants a constant barrage of family and friends at the house to pressure Stretton to vacate.
"I need help! I need A TON OF FRIENDS TO COME STAY AND HANG WITH ME AT MY HOUSE! Sleep in the living room all spread out to annoy her!" Bracamonte wrote on Facebook.
Perhaps it's working. Friday, Bracamonte said Stretton "hasn't come back to the home since yesterday morning around 5 a.m."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

San Diego Supervisors give themselves two million each to personally spend on "Neighborhood Reinvestment Program"

The Return of the County’s Controversial Grant Program

Photo by Sam Hodgson
Wednesday’s County Board of Supervisors meeting was a public hearing, but there was no public testimony and the audience was packed mostly with county employees.
A county program that was slashed in half under intense scrutiny may be on its way back to full strength.
Four years ago, under sustained criticism, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors cut in half a controversial community grants program that gave $2 million a year in taxpayer money to each of the five county supervisors to dole out to local nonprofits.
Starting in the 2011 fiscal year, instead of $2 million, each office would have just $1 million to award, and the cash came with some new strings that reined in how it could be used and how it was reported.
Now the supervisors want the other $1 million apiece back.
Supervisor Dave Roberts introduced a motion Wednesday to “restore the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program funding” to the earlier level. It was quickly approved.
Wednesday’s meeting was a public budget hearing, but there was no public testimony and the audience was packed with county employees (it was unclear where the public, if they were to actually come en masse, would sit).
Roberts’ motion, as well as the entire county budget, must still be approved and deliberations are continuing.
“When the economy went down, that budget was reduced,” Roberts said of the original cuts to the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program. “This change brings it back to $10 million,” $2 million for each of the five supervisors, and will fund things like health centers and outdoor classrooms at parks. He said the pot of money is dedicated for “bricks and mortar” type improvements.
But one reason the program, formerly known as the Community Projects Program, was unpopular was because of a nagging impression that supervisors were doling out money with their own interests in mind, not those of county taxpayers.
Some have called it a slush fund. Others say it gives sitting supervisors a $2 million re-election fund.
And a slew of allegations of misuse and conflicts of interest didn’t do much to bolster its reputation.
Former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price traveled to Europe in 2006 courtesy of a nonprofit that she had helped fund to the tune of $180,000 over several years. And Supervisor Ron Roberts, after directing money to the San Diego World Trade Center, went on six Asian trade missions on their dime. The practice of nonprofits paying to send elected officials on international trips has since been deemed illegal by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
The reinvestment program started in the 1998 fiscal year with a total budget of $5 million. The budget was increased to $10 million the next fiscal year and stayed there through the 2010 fiscal year.
Dave Roberts said he hopes increasing the budget will allow him to do more for his district without squabbling with fellow supervisors over funding priorities.
“Every year we can pick and choose what are the priorities in our district,” Dave Roberts said. “My contention is, who can better make recommendations on their districts than the representative for that district?”
The grant program is important for the county “as long as it’s done in an open, transparent and fair way,” Dave Roberts said. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the budget June 24.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

900,000-year-old human footprints found in Britain

A Sunken Kingdom Re-emerges

Prehistoric tree stumps on a beach in Borth, Wales, from a forest first flooded about 5,000 years ago, after the last ice age. Credit Luke Wolagiewicz for The New York Times

BORTH, WALES — There is a poem children in Wales learn about the sunken kingdom of Cantre’r Gwaelod, swallowed by the sea and drowned forever after. On a quiet night, legend has it, one can hear the kingdom’s church bells ringing.
When the sea swallowed part of Britain’s western coastline this year and then spat it out again, leaving homes and livelihoods destroyed but also a dense forest of prehistoric tree stumps more exposed than ever, it was as if one had caught a faint glimpse of that Welsh Atlantis.
The submerged forest of Borth is not new. First flooded some 5,000 years ago by rising sea levels after the last ice age, it has been there as long as locals remember, coming and going with the tides and occasionally disappearing under the sand for years on end. But the floods and storms that battered Britain earlier this year radically changed the way archaeologists interpret the landscape: A quarter-mile-long saltwater channel cutting through the trees, revealed by erosion for the first time, provided a trove of clues to where human life may have been concentrated and where its traces may yet be found.

“We used to think of this as just as an impenetrable forest — actually this was a complex human environment,” said Martin Bates, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Wales Trinity St. David, who oversees the excavation work in Borth on a beach he played on as a toddler. “The floods have opened our eyes as to what’s really out there.”
Scanning the army of ghostly spikes protruding from the sand here one recent morning, Dr. Bates said it was as if nature were making a point: The recent torrential rains, linked by a growing number of climatologists to human-induced climate change, have provided an ancient laboratory to study how humans coped with catastrophic climate change in the past.
Indeed, across Britain, two consecutive years of exceptional winter weather have left in their wake some equally exceptional discoveries: from unexploded wartime bombs and Victorian shipwrecks to archaeological finds that are nearly a million years old. Scientists have barely kept up. Last winter was the wettest on record, according to the Met Office, the national weather service.
Dog walkers and amateur archaeologists are being sought in ever-greater numbers to help record new sites. In some areas hit especially hard by erosion, locals are equipped with cameras that log digital images with geocoordinates so the artifacts they find on beach walks can be added to national databases.
“Archaeologists can’t be everywhere, but locals can,” said Erin Kavanagh, Dr. Bates’s partner and a fellow archaeologist.
Nicholas Ashton, the curator of Paleolithic and Mesolithic collections at the British Museum, has been organizing “fossil road shows” in which he invites civilians to bring in any potential archaeological finds and have them identified. (One man recently showed up with a six-inch-long hippo tusk and a well-preserved ax, both found locally and both more than half a million years old.)
Having those extra eyes on the ground can make all the difference in coastal areas, Dr. Ashton said, for what the sea reveals, it tends to reclaim almost as soon. He learned this lesson firsthand.
In May 2013, shortly after the first set of storms, Dr. Ashton commissioned Dr. Bates, an old university friend, to work on Britain’s east coast in Norfolk. The beach near Happisburgh (pronounced hays-boro), a longstanding archaeological site, had suffered severe erosion. Dr. Ashton, an expert in early humans, wanted a geophysical survey to map any channels or rivers that might lie beneath about 30 feet of sediment. Some of these channels, he reckoned, might contain evidence of early humans because sources of freshwater would have been natural gathering spots.
It was on their second visit, on May 10, that Dr. Bates noticed some indentions on the otherwise flat horizons of the laminated silts recently laid bare on the beach. The humps and bumps looked familiar. He told Dr. Ashton: “They’re just like the human footprints in Borth.”
Footprints of humans and animals in Borth had been dated to about 6,000 years ago. The site in Happisburgh was 900,000 years old, a time when mammoths and hippos still roamed in these parts. No human bones or prints that old had ever been found in Britain.
Could this be possible?
A frantic race against time began. Every day, the shape of the prints would blur a little more as the coming tide eroded the contours of heels, toes and arches. A team led by Sarah Duffy from the University of York arrived to apply a technique called multi-image photogrammetry, taking about 150 digital photographs of the surface area containing the prints and feeding it into a program that created a three-dimensional model. By the time another team had come to do some laser scanning, it was too late: The prints were barely visible.
Panicked, scientists lifted from the site a 130-pound block of sediment with one faint print on top, to have it analyzed at the National Oceanography Center. It is the only remaining physical evidence of the footprints: Before the month was out, all traces of them had vanished. It was a powerful reminder of both the resilience and the fragility of human life.
“What had been preserved for nearly one million years was taken back by the sea in the space of 10 days,” Dr. Ashton said.
Initially skeptical, he said he knew the footprints were real when Dr. Duffy’s computer images landed in his inbox sometime last June. “I thought, bloody hell, we are dealing with something quite extraordinary here,” he said.
The footprints, the oldest known outside Africa, probably belonged to a family group of Homo antecessor, a cousin of Homo erectus that possibly became extinct when Homo heidelbergensis from Africa settled in Britain about 500,000 years ago, he said. Using foot-length-to-stature ratios, scientists estimate that the male was perhaps 5 feet 9 inches tall, and the smallest child a little less than 37 inches.
Little is known about this early human species. Fossil skeletons in Atapuerca, Spain, from around the same time suggest that they walked upright and looked much like modern humans, though their brains were smaller. If they had language, it was primitive. Living at the tail end of an interglacial era, as winters were growing colder, they may have had functional body hair. So far, there is no evidence that they used clothes, shelter, fire or tools more complex than simple stone flakes...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

We are not as frightened as our ancestors were

We are not as frightened as our ancestors were. (At least most of us aren't.)

This RadioLab program is amazing!
It seems humans have actually domesticated ourselves.
Apparently this involves having less active adrenal glands--making us less prone to fear.

As a result, we are less prone to the violence that accompanies fear in wild animals. 
One expert notes that if you filled an airplane with chimpanzees on a trans-Atlantic flight, only a handful would be alive at the end of the flight.  But human beings can sit together quite happily for hours and hours without coming to blows--partly because we don't fear each other as much as wild animals do.

New Nice

Brian Hare tells us the story of Dmitri Belyaev, a geneticist and clandestine Darwinian who lived in Stalinist Russia and studied the domestication of the silver fox. Through generations of selectively breeding a captive population, Belyaev noticed not only increased docility, but also unexpected physical changes. Why did these gentler foxes necessarily look different than their wild ancestors? Tecumseh Fitch has a hypothesis, something about trailblazing cells and embryonic development. And Richard Wrangham takes it a step further, suggesting us humans may have domesticated ourselves.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahl

The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahl

Four months ago, Senator John McCain said he would support the exchange of five hard-core Taliban leaders for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  

“I would support,” he told CNN. “Obviously I’d have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home and if exchange was one of them I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.”

But the instant the Obama administration actually made that trade, Mr. McCain, as he has so often in the past, switched positions for maximum political advantage. “I would not have made this deal,” he said a few days ago. Suddenly the prisoner exchange is “troubling” and “poses a great threat” to service members. Hearings must be held, he said, and sharp questions asked.

This hypocrisy now pervades the Republican Party and the conservative movement, and has even infected several fearful Democrats. When they could use Sergeant Bergdahl’s captivity as a cudgel against the administration, they eagerly did so, loudly and in great numbers. And the moment they could use his release to make President Obama look weak on terrorism or simply incompetent, they reversed direction without a moment’s hesitation to jump aboard the new bandwagon.

The last few days have made clearer than ever that there is no action the Obama administration can take — not even the release of a possibly troubled American soldier from captivity — that cannot be used for political purposes by his opponents.

Though we criticized the administration for ignoring the law in not informing Congress of the transfer of the Taliban detainees 30 days in advance, leave it to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other hyperventilators to claim that continued release of prisoners from Guantánamo without prior notice is now considered an impeachable offense, a ludicrous leap.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas says the whole exchange was cooked up to distract the public from the Veterans Affairs scandals, and the talk-show crowd has piled on Sergeant Bergdahl’s father for his suspiciously long beard.

Cowering politicians now even seem to regret their initial burst of joy that a prisoner was coming home. “A grateful nation welcomes him home,” said Representative Lee Terry, Republican of Nebraska, in a Twitter message on Sunday. The statement on his website was deleted a short time later. “Warmest regards to his family with gratitude for his/their service and sacrifice,” wrote Representative Stephen Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts, in another quickly deleted tweet.
This duck-and-cover response is the result of the outrageous demonization of Sergeant Bergdahl in the absence of actual facts. Republican operatives have arranged for soldiers in his unit to tell reporters that he was a deserter who cost the lives of several soldiers searching for him. In fact, a review of casualty reports by Charlie Savage and Andrew Lehren of The Times showed there is no clear link between any military deaths and the search.

And a classified military report shows that Sergeant Bergdahl had walked away from assigned areas at least twice before and had returned, according to a report in The Times on Thursday. It describes him as a free-spirited young man who asked many questions but gave no indication of being a deserter, let alone the turncoat that Mr. Obama’s opponents are now trying to create.

If anything, the report suggests that the army unit’s lack of security and discipline was as much to blame for the disappearance, given the sergeant’s history.

Thousands of soldiers desert during every war, including 50,000 American soldiers during World War II. As many as 4,000 a year were absent without leave for extended periods during the Iraq war. They leave for a variety of reasons, including psychological trauma, but whatever their mental state, it is the military’s duty to get them back if they are taken prisoner. That’s what the Obama administration did in this case, and there was a particular sense of urgency because a video showed that Sergeant Bergdahl’s life might be in danger.

But the critics seeking political advantage don’t care about the life or mental state of a particular soldier, or of a principle of loyalty that should provide comfort to any soldier in danger of capture. They live only for the attack.

Friday, June 06, 2014

UCSD gives consent for sharing medical records without patient approval

I got an interesting letter from UCSD three days ago. It told me that I had consented to share my electronic medical records.

The trouble is--I had NOT given my consent. I never signed a consent form. I never clicked a box on the Internet agreeing to share my records.

And the letter from UCSD did NOT arrive in my home mailbox or even in my email. It was purely by chance that I found it on MyUCSDChart—NOT among the MyChart emails. If it had been among the MyChart emails, I would have received an alert about it in my regular email.

UCSD was definitely NOT trying to make sure that I found out about my “consent”.

Today, each time I have clicked on the link about sharing electronic medical records on MyUCSDChart, I found myself unceremoniously thrown back to the sign-in page. Automatically signed out. They really don't like it when I click on the link!

UCSD seems to be remarkably fond of both signing me in and signing me out--without my involvement--whenever it feels like it.

I found this page on the UCSD site about sharing electronic records. It seems that I am now part of two databases: The San Diego Beacon Health Information Exchange, and something called Care Everywhere.

It's not that I want to keep my records secret. In fact, I think sharing electronic records is basically a good idea. It's just that I've had problems with health providers hiding my own test results from me, so I'm sensitive about doctors violating the law regarding medical records.

Apparently the VA is also part of this system, but the VA has a more transparent consent process.

I've heard of falsified medical records, but this is the first time I heard of a falsified consent for release of medical records.

I found some interesting stuff about UCSD's informed consent process for patients in research projects:

iDASH Integrating Data for Analysis, Anonymization and SHaring

Informed Consent

Paper Consent versus Electronic Consent

Traditionally, paper-based consent has been the medium through which researchers and physicians conducted the informed consent process. The paper-based process consists of giving a hard copy consent form to a patient for him or her to review. Then a care provider answers any questions from the patient and in some cases assists the patient in reviewing the paper consent forms. The issues surrounding this procedure are that the paper-based consent form tends to be long and monotonous, and the retrieval of paper forms are often time consuming.

The new electronic consent forms use tablets or computers as the medium for communicating information and seeking consent from the patient...The iDASH team is also currently working on two systems, iCONS and iCONCUR, which are intended for such open source use in the future.

iDASH electronic informed consent management system

iCONS is a system currently being tested in a clinical trials environment at Moores Cancer Center Biorepository. The system supports informed consent electronically by enhancing the consent process for patients and researchers by acting as a consent broker and by adding multimedia aspects to the process. This consent process is opt-in, meaning no patient information is shared with researchers until the patient specifies what specific information he or she would like to share with researchers. The iCONS system creates a permission ontology to model the consent choices of the patient to assist in the process of releasing data and specimens to researchers for their consented uses.

iCONCUR is a pilot study within the University of California - San Diego Health System. This system transforms the sharing of electronic records from the opt-out system that is currently in place, meaning a patient’s record is automatically entered into the system unless the patient specifically requests to have their records taken out, to an opt-in system. The tool presents the patient with a taxonomy of his or her medical record allowing the patient to dictate what parts of the medical record to share and with whom it may be shared with.


Tufts Medical Center sued for faxing patient records without consent
July 15, 2011
By Karen Cheung-Larivee

Tufts Medical Center in Boston faces a lawsuit after a patient said the hospital faxed her medical records to her workplace without her consent, causing her embarrassment, reports The Boston Globe yesterday.

"I feel like I might have walked in (the office) naked," said patient Kimberly White.

White requested Tufts to send a form for a disability claim, but instead the hospital allegedly sent four pages of medical records about her hysterectomy to a shared fax machine at her workplace.

White filed a complaint in Plymouth County Superior Court. The hospital denies any wrongdoing, according to the article.

Tufts spokeswoman Julie Jette said, "In this matter, we complied with a patient's request to share information. We firmly believe we responded to the patient's request appropriately."

"I can't go back there," White said. "I am so embarrassed. ... I couldn't live with knowing what these people knew about me."

Earlier this year, another Boston hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, faced accusations that an employee lost records of 192 patients on the subway. The hospital in February settled the federal case for $1 million, according to the article.


UCLA Health System pays $865G to settle HIPAA violation charges
July 8, 2011
By Ken Terry

UCLA Health System has agreed to pay a fine of $865,000 and to develop a correction action plan to settle potential HIPAA privacy violations involving improper disclosures of medical records at its three hospitals, the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR) reports.

OCR launched the investigation in 2009, following complaints by two unnamed celebrities that their medical records had been compromised. The government probe revealed that from 2005 to 2008, "unauthorized employees repeatedly looked at the electronic protected health information of numerous other UCLAHS patients," according to an OCR press release.

The Los Angeles Times reports that violations allegedly occurred at all three UCLAHS hospitals: Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, and Orthopaedic Hospital and Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, which are regarded as a single unit.

The hospital had disclosed in April 2008 that it had discovered that several employees had snooped into the patient records of dozens of celebrities, including Britney Spears, Tom Cruise and Maria Shriver.

When the alleged violations came to light in 2008, the California legislature passed a law that imposed escalating fines on hospitals for patient privacy breaches. The state fined UCLAHS $95,000 in 2009, reportedly in connection with the medical records of the late Michael Jackson.

The UCLAHS settlement with OCR is much smaller than previous HIPAA settlements, including those involving CVS Caremark ($2.25 million) and Rite Aid ($1 million).

As part of its settlement, UCLAHS agreed to institute new security and privacy policies, improve employee training, take action against employees who violate privacy rules, and designate an independent monitor to oversee compliance.

In a statement, UCLAHS said, "The UCLA Health System considers patient confidentiality a critical part of our mission of patient care, teaching and research. Over the past three years, we have worked diligently to strengthen our staff training, implement enhanced data security systems and increase our auditing capabilities."


J Law Med Ethics. 2008 Fall;36(3):560-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2008.304.x.
Research on medical records without informed consent.
Miller FG.

Observational research involving access to personally identifiable data in medical records has often been conducted without informed consent, owing to practical barriers to soliciting consent and concerns about selection bias. Nevertheless, medical records research without informed consent appears to conflict with basic ethical norms relating to clinical research and personal privacy. This article analyzes the scope of these norms and provides an ethical justification for research using personally identifiable medical information without consent.

PMID: 18840249 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

'The GM nod,' 'The GM salute' and a clash of cultures

'The GM nod,' 'The GM salute' and a clash of cultures

Safety, cost-containment and impenetrable decision-making

"We cannot conclude," the Valukas report reads, "that the atmosphere of cost-cutting had no impact on the failure of GM to resolve these issues earlier."
DETROIT -- Page 248 of Anton Valukas' report on what went wrong with General Motors' deadly ignition switch defect outlines how GM's safety efforts run smack into its cost-conscious culture.
Under the heading "Tone at the Top," the report tries to peg how much GM's culture -- in full-blown cost-cutting mode at the time the bad switches were installed in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars -- had to do with its handling of the defect.
The report, which relied in part on interviews of 230 employees, describes a troubling mixed message subtly conveyed by senior leadership: that safety is paramount, yet so is keeping a lid on costs.
"Repeated throughout the interview process we heard from GM personnel two somewhat different directives," the report reads. "When safety is an issue, cost is irrelevant" and "cost is everything."
The report provides a harsh rebuke of GM's infamous committee culture, too, one that on the ignition-switch issue rendered "determining the identity of an actual decision maker … impenetrable."
Some GM employees told investigators that they didn't take any notes during "critical safety meetings" because they didn't think lawyers wanted them to.
Investigators never found evidence of an edict banning note-taking. But "the no-notes direction … reached the status of an urban myth that was followed, an instruction passed from GM employee to GM employee over the years," the report reads.
One of the most colorful descriptions of the cultural morass came from CEO Mary Barra herself. She described for investigators a phenomenon known as the "GM nod."
"The GM nod, Barra described, is when everyone nods in agreement to a proposed plan of action, but then leaves the room with no intention of follow through," the report reads. "It is an idiomatic recognition of a culture that does not move issues forward quickly, as the story of the Cobalt demonstrates."
There was also the "GM salute," described by another interviewee as "a crossing of the arms and pointing outward toward others, indicating that the responsibility belongs to someone else, not me."
Ultimately, Valukas' report says it uncovered no evidence of any employee making "an explicit trade-off between safety and cost" related to the ignition switch. It notes that, because engineers early on failed to grasp a link between the ignition switch slipping out of the "run" position and airbags not deploying, the problem was treated as a customer-satisfaction issue, not a safety problem.
Still, "we cannot conclude," the report reads, "that the atmosphere of cost-cutting had no impact on the failure of GM to resolve these issues earlier."

Monday, June 02, 2014

Loophole in California law allows car dealers to sell used cars without repairing safety recalls first

Close loophole in California law that allows car dealers to sell used cars without repairing safety recalls first
Courage Campaign

Last October, David Clayton was driving 65 miles-an-hour down a highway in Fresno near his home. His newly purchased "certified" 2009 Dodge Ram was driving just fine, but all of a sudden, everything changed.

The drive train linking the engine with the rear axle literally broke off. The back wheels locked up, and the truck started bouncing -- yes, bouncing -- down the freeway. He somehow was able to wrestle the truck to the side of the highway without colliding with another vehicle. He soon learned his “certified” used truck was actually a ticking time bomb.

Chrysler had recalled it because it would literally fall apart without warning. But because of a loophole in California law, car dealers are allowed to sell used cars without repairing safety recalls first.

Fight to get killer used cars repaired before dealers can sell them to consumers. Send an email to your California Assemblymember to support Senate Bill 686 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson.(1)

Shockingly, millions of us are driving cars with open safety recalls. An analysis by CarFax shows that 36 million cars on the road right now -- or roughly one in seven -- are subject to a safety-related recall but have never been repaired.(2) Good Morning America and other news organizations have gone undercover to investigate, catching car dealers telling consumers that used cars are "safe" and passed rigorous inspections, when they're actually ticking time bombs.(3)

It's obvious that the law needs to change, but David can't win this fight alone. The car dealers are lobbying furiously because they don't want to bother repairing the cars before they make another sale. The next victim could be you, or someone you love, even if you don't buy a recalled used car. You share the road with these cars every day.

SIGN THE PETITION and tell your representative in Sacramento to support SB 686 to require dealers to repair used cars that are under a federal safety before they can sell them to consumers! As an added bonus, passing the law will create at least 1,000 new jobs in California for auto technicians who perform safety recall repairs.

The only way we are going to be able to change this, is if we have the support of courageous Californians like you to push this law forward NOW. Polling shows that 88% of California voters support closing this auto safety loophole(4), but the car dealers are one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Sacramento and managed to stall the bill a year ago.

Help keep Californians and their families safe from killer recalled cars, by telling our state leaders to support SB 686.