The new study is the first to look at the role of groundwater in the parched region and has been carried out against a backdrop of a severe drought dating back to 2000.

A series of monthly measurements have shown that over nine years the Colorado River Basin lost nearly twice as much water as Lake Mead, Nevada - the country’s largest reservoir.

"We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine.

"This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”


When Wall Street firms began buying rental units in bulk in 2011, experts warned that they had no history of managing large numbers of rental properties spread over hundreds of square miles, and would skimp on costs at the expense of tenants. Now, according to the first survey on the practice, those fears are being realized. Tenants report that Blackstone’s rental management resembles that of a slumlord. They rent properties with significant maintenance problems, fail to keep contact with their customers, and violate state and local laws.

[…]

Invitation Homes’ harsh methods of collection were perfectly predictable, given Blackstone’s duty to pay back investors. Vacancy rates on the first set of Invitation Homes properties spiked in May, rising to double the national average (and given these reports about their property management, you can see why). That means Invitation Homes must get full value from the homes they still have rented to keep bondholders happy, whether by locking tenants into long-term leases or racking up fees.

A spokeswoman for Invitation Homes, Denise Dunckel, said that the report “grossly distorts the facts and ignores institutional investors’ contribution to the American housing recovery.” She maintained that Invitation Homes “complies with applicable California and Federal landlord/tenant and related housing laws,” and that residents have a 24-hour number for maintenance requests, which Invitation Homes responds to “within a few hours.”

However, with more single-family rental securities going on the market every day, Rep. Takano, a renter himself, has concerns about the end game. “They did not buy these properties to hold onto them forever,” he said. “If they want to turn these homes over when prices rise, or if there’s a bump in our recovery, it could lead to a mass sell-off. Mom and pop landlords have an investment in keeping renters in place. Corporations don’t.”


n Longfellow’s The Masque of Pandora, Prometheus laments, “Whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad.” Perhaps if Prometheus had been exposed to 24/7 cable news or mainstream newspapers, he would be comforted to know that he was not alone in evoking the wrath of Mount Olympus’s stern residents. Despite placing themselves on a moral and intellectual pedestal, a multitude of mainstream journalists forgo honest investigation and analysis for sensationalist political theater.

This unfortunate trend was most glaring during the revolutions in the Middle East that began in Tunisia. Critics of the media’s reporting of these events were not restricted to experts at think tanks or academics. As part of the millennial generation, I can confidently say the media’s coverage of the “Arab Spring” harmed its credibility in the eyes of many young Americans. Moreover, it will be the new generation who will have to pay the most for the mistakes influenced by media-driven misperceptions. This is especially so at a moment when East-West relations have reached a new state of volatility. As a welter of charges is flung back and forth about the tragic downing of the Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was flying over eastern Ukraine, the need for calm, impartial and penetrating reporting is more essential than ever.


Instead, let us travel backward in time, to the very cusp of the Information Revolution. Amid the first stirrings of dissent in Northern California, long before tech moguls were granted the dubious prestige of celebrity, a leaderless collective of disenchanted office workers put out a subversive periodical—a magazine called Processed World. First published in San Francisco in April 1981, the magazine now serves as an invaluable repository of all the mistaken, venal, and authoritarian guiding assumptions of the great digital reorganization of work. The brain trust behind Processed World was composed of people—many of them steeped in radical causes, environmental activism, and Situationist-type affairs—who began to identify the features of today’s high-productivity, low-content corporate workplace. Standing on the frontier of the new Information Economy, they took stock of their working lives and despaired at what they saw—and they made special, mordant note of the new technologies that didn’t make their work lives any easier or more meaningful.

These would-be revolutionaries were eager to see the automated world’s long-promised bounty of self-determined leisure bear fruit at last. They had plenty of marketable skills, but what most of them really wanted was time—to write and paint and act and organize. Some of them didn’t want to work at all. Others preferred not to give themselves over to big corporations and bureaucracies that offered them little in return for their labor. Most of all, they wanted their lives to be their own. Still animated by the antiwar radicalism of the previous decade, they were also bruised by the failures of 1968. Consequently, the magazine, if not its contributors, adopted no official ideology. They knew what they were against: wage labor, authoritarianism, war, nationalism, and the state itself. But they weren’t always sure what they wanted in its place. Figuring that out would be a challenge; it would also be the great project of the next fourteen years, during which Processed World would publish thirty-two issues (give or take),[*] participate in numerous acts of protest, street theater, and sabotage, and launch a range of other initiatives, from Critical Mass, the cycling event now held in hundreds of cities worldwide, to the preservation of some of San Francisco’s history in what may have been the last era a poor person could move to the Bay Area and still manage to get by.

[…]

Processed World did much more than supply to depressed office proles a therapeutic outlet. The magazine also managed to diagnose some of the issues that still animate radicals today: housework, sex work, and other unacknowledged forms of labor; unionization and its limits; income inequality; the precarity of the typical worker; corporate power; the state of exception that comes with permanent warfare (embodied then by the Cold War and later by the first Gulf War); and the ways in which the computerization of society was changing work, often to the detriment of workers. In the writing—essays, poetry, reportage, fantastical short stories about rebellious paper-pushers taking over San Francisco’s financial district, only to be brutally put down by government soldiers—one can also find the beginnings of today’s revolt against Silicon Valley and its pernicious mix of libertarian economics, techno-utopianism, and the deracinated remains of the sixties counterculture.


his book is based on the premise that AI research will sooner or later produce a computer with a general intelligence (rather than a special capability such as playing chess) that matches the human brain. While the corporate old guard such as IBM has long been interested in the field, the new generation on the US West Coast is making strides. Among the leaders, Google offers PR-led glimpses into its work, from driverless cars to neural networks that learn to recognise faces as they search for images in millions of web pages.

Approaches to AI fall into two overlapping classes. One, based on neurobiology, aims to understand and emulate the workings of the human brain. The other, based on computer science, uses the inorganic architecture of electronics and appropriate software to produce intelligence, without worrying too much how people think. Bostrom makes no judgment about which is most likely to succeed.

We are still far from real AI despite last month’s widely publicised “Turing test” stunt, in which a computer mimicked a 13-year-old boy with some success in a brief text conversation. About half the world’s AI specialists expect human-level machine intelligence to be achieved by 2040, according to recent surveys, and 90 per cent say it will arrive by 2075. Bostrom takes a cautious view of the timing but believes that, once made, human-level AI is likely to lead to a far higher level of “superintelligence” faster than most experts expect – and that its impact is likely either to be very good or very bad for humanity.


Spurred by the anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001, an increase in “high-level containment” labs set up to work with risky microbes has raised the number to about 1,500 from a little more than 400 in 2004, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Yet there has never been a national plan for how many of them are needed, or how they should be built and operated. The more of these labs there are, the G.A.O. warned Congress last week, the greater the chances of dangerous blunders or sabotage, especially in a field where oversight is “fragmented and largely self-policing.”

As the labs have multiplied, so have mishaps. According to a 2012 article by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of reported accidents involving microbes that can cause severe illnesses grew rapidly — from just 16 in 2004 to 128 in 2008 and 269 in 2010, the last year reported. Many of the accidents involved leaks, spills or other releases of infectious material inside the laboratories, potentially infecting workers and often requiring extensive decontamination.


…We are something like apparitions today; juggling a multiplicity of selves through the noise; the “you” you are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Tinder…wherever…at your day job, your night job, your hobby, your primary relationship, your friend-with-benefits, your incredibly astonishing range of extracurricular activities. But this hyperfragmentation of self gives rise to a kind of schizophrenia; conflicts, dissocations, tensions, dislocations, anxieties, paranoias, delusions. Our social wombs do not give birth to our true selves; the selves explosive with capability, possibility, wonder.

Tap tap tap. And yet. We are barely there, at all; in our own lives; in the moments which we will one day look back on and ask ourselves…what were we thinking wasting our lives on things that didn’t matter at all?

The answer, of course, is that we weren’t thinking. Or feeling. We don’t have time to think anymore. Thinking is a superluxury. Feeling is an even bigger superluxury.


Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner and the rest of the reporters at the New York Times Jerusalem bureau actually have to devote endless stores of energy to avoid reporting on all of the outrages unfolding all around them. Instead of reporting on the Prawer Plan to ethnically cleanse Bedouin citizens of Israel, for example, or the anti-African race riots in Tel Aviv—pivotal events in the history of the state of Israel—Rudoren covers a beauty contest for Holocaust survivors or takes to Facebook to complain about how she missed her spinning class but made up for it by scaling the steps of a building in Gaza destroyed by Israeli bombing. And when Kershner covers the national campaign to expel non-Jewish Africans, she focuses the story on the liberal Israelis and their anguished souls, rather than on the Africans who are being rounded up and placed in camps for the crime of not being Jewish. Just imagine if they went out and covered what was actually happening on the ground and clinically detailed the logic and planning behind it.
 When I stayed in Jaffa, just five minutes south of Tel Aviv, I witnessed racist extremism all around me through the state-orchestrated process of Judaization. In Jaffa, this process takes the form of a very politicized kind of gentrification, with wealthy Tel Aviv tech entrepreneurs and wealthy American Jews being planted into the heart of this poor, deliberately neglected community—where, by the way, there are/were five hundred standing eviction orders, almost all for Palestinian residents. Judaization in Jaffa also has relied on the increasing presence of religious nationalists not so different from the fanatical settlers in the West Bank. My favorite fish restaurant, a Palestinian-owned place where I would sometimes hang out with friends and colleagues from Tel Aviv, was attacked and firebombed by right-wing extremists. A house down the street was attacked and just weeks before one of the oldest Muslim graveyards in Palestine was vandalized in a “price-tag” attack by settlers. This is inside the heart of “Israel proper.” Soon after that a group of settlers won an auction to build a religious nationalist yeshiva in the middle of Jaffa.


We are already seeing the social hierarchy being registered in more subtle criteria: type of work and responsibility, level of education and culture (the wayof consuming everyday goods may itself be a kind of ‘scarce commodity’), participation in decision-making. Knowledge and power are, or are going to become, the two great scarce commodities of our affluent societies.
 But these abstract criteria do not prevent us, even today, from reading a growing discrimination in other concrete signs. Segregation by place of residence is not new, but, being increasingly linked to a consciously induced shortage and chronic speculation, it is tending to become decisive, in terms of both geographical segregation (town centres and outskirts, residential zones, rich ghettos, dormitory suburbs, etc.) and habitable space (the inside and outside of the dwelling, the addition of a ‘second home’, etc.). Objects are less important today than space and the social marking of space. Habitat thus perhaps has an opposite function to that of other consumables. The latter have a homogenizing function, the former a differentiating function in terms of space and location.
 Nature, space, clean air, silence—it is the incidence of the pursuit of these scarce commodities and their high price which we read in the differential indices of expenditure between two categories at opposite ends of the social spectrum. The difference in expenditure between workers and senior managers on essential goods is 100:135, but it is 100:245 on household equipment, 100:305 on transport and 100:390 on leisure. One should not see these figures as showing a quantitative graduation within a homogeneous space of consumption, but see, through them, the social discrimination attaching to the quality of goods sought after.
 There is much talk of the right to health, to space, to beauty, to holidays, to knowledge and to culture. And, as these new rights emerge, so ministries emerge with them, such as the Ministries of Health, or of Leisure. And why not add Beauty and Clean Air? This whole phenomenon, which seems to express a general individual and collective advance, rewarded in the end with embodiment in institutions, is ambiguous in its meaning and one might, as it were, see it as representing quite the opposite: there is no right to space until there no longer is space for everyone, and until space and silence are the privilege of some at the expense of others. Just as there was no ‘right to property’ until there was no longer land for everyone and there was no right to work until work became, within the framework of the division of labour, an exchangeable commodity, i.e. one which no longer belonged specifically to individuals. We might ask whether the ‘right to leisure’ does not, similarly, mean that leisure too has reached the stage of technical and social division which work did before it and has thus, in fact, come to an end.
 The appearance of these new social rights, brandished as slogans and emblazoned on the democratic banner of the affluent society, is in fact symptomatic, therefore, of the elements concerned acquiring the status of distinctive signs and class (or caste) privileges. The ‘right to clean air’ signifies the loss of clean air as a natural good, its transition to commodity status and its inegalitarian social redistribution. One should not mistake for objective social progress (something being entered as a right in the tables of the law) what is simply the advance of the capitalist system—i.e. the progressive transformation of all concrete and natural values into productive forms, i.e. into sources
 1 of economic profit;
 2 of social privilege.

Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society

Let us return, for a moment, to the specific ideology of leisure. Rest, relaxation, escape and distraction are, perhaps, ‘needs’: but they do not in themselves define the specific exigency of leisure, which is the consumption of time. Free time is, perhaps, the entire ludic activity one fills it up with, but it is, first of all, the freedom to waste one’s time, and possibly even to ‘kill’ it, to expend it as pure loss (this is why it is insufficient to say that leisure is ‘alienated’ because it is merely the time necessary to reproduce labour power. The alienation of leisure is more profound: it does not relate to the direct subordination to working time, but is linked to the very impossibility of wasting one’s time).
 The true use-value of time, the use-value which leisure desperately tries to restore, is that of being wasted. The holidays are this quest for a time which one can waste in the full sense of the term, without that waste entering in its turn into a process of calculation, without that time being (at the same time) in some way ‘earned’. In our system of production and productive forces, one can only earn one’s time: this fatality weighs upon leisure as it does upon work. One can only ‘exploit [faire-valoir] one’s time’, if only by making a spectacularly empty use of it. The free time of the holidays remains the private property of the holiday-maker: an object, a possession he has earned with the sweat of his brow over the year; it is something owned by him, possessed by him as he possesses his other objects — something he could not relinquish to give it or sacrifice it (as one does with objects in making gifts of them), to yield it back up to total availability, to that absence of time which would be true freedom. He is tethered to ‘his’ time as Prometheus was tethered to his rock, tethered to the Promethean myth of time as productive force.
 Sisyphus, Tantalus, Prometheus: all the existential myths of ‘absurd freedom’ are reasonably accurate representations of the holiday-maker in his setting, with all his desperate efforts to imitate ‘vacation’, gratuitousness, a total dispossession, a void, a loss of himself and of his time which he cannot achieve, being, as he is, an object caught up in a definitively objectivized dimension of time.
 We are in an age when men will never manage to waste enough time to be rid of the inevitability of spending their lives earning it. But you can’t throw off time like underwear. You can no longer either kill it or waste it, any more than you can money, since they are both the very expression of the exchange-value system. In the symbolic dimension, gold and money are excrement. It is the same with objectivized time. But it is, in fact, very rare — and logically impossible in the current system — for money or time to be restored to their ‘archaic’, sacrificial function of excrement. That would really be to deliver oneself of them in the symbolic mode. In the order based on calculation and capital, things are, in a sense, precisely the opposite way about: objectivized by it, and manipulated by it as exchange-value, it is we who have become the excrement of money, it is we who have become the excrement of time.
 Thus, everywhere, in spite of the fiction of freedom in leisure, ‘free’ time is logically impossible: there can only be constrained time. The time of consumption is that of production. It is so to the extent that it is only ever an ‘escapist’ parenthesis in the cycle of production. But, once again,this functional complementarity (variously shared out in the different social classes) is not its essential determination. Leisure is constrained in so far as, behind its apparent gratuitousness, it faithfully reproduces all the mental and practical constraints which are those of productive time and subjugated [asservi] daily life.

Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society

Saying that it was time to increase conservation in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted drought regulations that give local agencies the authority to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day.

[…]

The emergency rules, expected to take effect Aug. 1, don’t order cities to slash water use by a certain amount. Rather they direct agencies to — at a minimum — ban wasteful practices such as allowing runoff from outdoor sprinklers, hosing down driveways and sidewalks and using drinking water in ornamental fountains that don’t recirculate.


We may also take it, with Chombart de Lauwe, that, rather than matching up ‘aspirations, needs and satisfactions’ as it claims to do, this society creates ever greater disparities both among individuals and among social groups who are wrestling, on the one hand, with the imperative of competition and upward social mobility and, on the other, with the — now highly internalized — imperative to maximalize their pleasures. Under so many opposing constraints, the individual comes apart. The social discrepancy of inequalities is added to the internal discrepancy between needs and aspirations to make this society one that is increasingly at odds with itself, disunited, suffering from a ‘malaise’. Fatigue (or ‘asthenia’) will then be interpreted as a response on the part of modern man — a response in the form of a passive refusal — to his conditions of existence. But it has to be seen that this ‘passive refusal’ is in fact a latent violence,and that it is, by this token, only one possible response, the others being responses of overt violence. Here again, we have to restore the principle of ambivalence. Fatigue, depression, neurosis are always convertible into overt violence, and vice versa. The fatigue of the citizen of post-industrial society is not far removed from the ‘go-slow’ or ‘slowdown’ of factory workers, or the schoolchild’s ‘boredom’. These are all forms of passive resistance; they are ‘ingrowing’ in the way one speaks of an ‘ingrowing toenail’, turning back in towards the flesh, towards the inside.
 In fact, we must reverse all the terms of the spontaneous view: fatigue is not passivity set against the social hyperactivity outside. It is, rather, the only form of activity which can, in certain conditions, be set against the constraint of general passivity which applies in current social relations. The tired pupil is the one who passively goes along with what the teacher says. The tired worker or bureaucrat is the one who has had all responsibility taken from him in his work. Political ‘indifference’, that catatonia of the modern citizen, is the indifference of the individual deprived of any decision-making powers and left only with the sop of universal suffrage. And the physical and mental monotony of work on the production line or in the office plays its part, too: the muscular, vascular, physiological catalepsy of positions imposed (both standing and seated), of stereotyped gestures, of all the inertia of the chronic underemployment of the body in our society. But this is not the essential point, and this is why ‘pathological’ fatigue will not be cured by sport and muscular exercise as naïve specialists contend (any more than it will by stimulants or tranquillizers). For fatigue is a concealed form of protest, which turns round against oneself and ‘grows into’ one’s own body because, in certain conditions, that is the only thing on which the dispossessed individual can take out his frustration, just as the blacks rebelling in the cities of America begin by burning down their own neighbourhoods. True passivity is to be found in the joyful conformity to the system of the ‘dynamic’ young manager, bright-eyed and broadshouldered, ideally fitted to continual activity. Fatigue is an activity, a latent, endemic revolt, unconscious of itself. This explains its function: the ‘slowdown’, in all its forms, is (like neurosis) the only way to avoid total, genuine breakdown. And it is because it is a (latent) activity that it can suddenly go over into open revolt, as the month of May [1968] everywhere showed. The spontaneous, total contagion, the ‘powderkeg’ of the May movement can only be explained by this hypothesis: what was taken for lifelessness, disaffection and generalized passivity was in fact a potential of forces active in their very resignation, in their ebbing — and hence immediately available. There was no miracle. And the ebbing since May is not an inexplicable ‘reversal’ of the process either. It is the conversion of a form of open revolt into a modality of latent protest (the term 'protest' should indeed be applied only to this latter form: it refers to the many forms of refusal cut off momentarily from a practice of radical change).

Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society

The problem of ‘tolerance’ (liberalism, laxism, the ‘permissive society’, etc.) takes the same form. The fact that those who were once mortal enemies are now on speaking terms, that the most fiercely opposed ideologies ‘enter into dialogue’, that a kind of peaceful coexistence has set in at all levels, that morality is less strict than it was, in no sense signifies some ‘humanist’ progress in human relations, a greater understanding of problems or any such airy nonsense. It indicates simply that, since ideologies, opinions, virtues and vices are ultimately merely material for exchange and communication, all contradictory elements are equivalent in the play of signs. Tolerance in this context is no longer either a psychological trait or a virtue: it is a modality of the system itself. It is like the total compatibility and elasticity of the elements of fashion: long skirts and mini-skirts ‘tolerate’ each other very well (indeed they signify nothing other than the relationship which holds between them).
 Tolerance connotes morally the generalized relativity of functions/ signs, objects/signs, beings/signs, relations/signs, ideas/signs. In fact, we are beyond the opposition between fanaticism and tolerance, as we are beyond that between sincerity and fakery. ‘Moral’ tolerance is no greater than it was before. We have simply changed systems; we have moved on to functional compatibility.

Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society

California’s city dwellers will have to drop their hoses and shut off sprinklers before water meets pavement under a proposed regulation announced Wednesday, with individuals facing potential fines of up to $500 per day.

The State Water Resources Control Board will consider a suite of measures next Tuesday proposed under the authority of Gov. Jerry Brown’s April executive order. Urban water suppliers would have to move toward mandatory restrictions within 30 days, possibly limiting outdoor watering to two days a week — or face a $10,000 daily fine.

New rules would prohibit people from washing down driveways, washing cars in the street without a shutoff nozzle on your hose or creating runoff over pavement any other way.