TIME Disaster

High Winds Spread California Wildfire

A long exposure image of embers flying off burnt out trees following the wind driven wildfire ranging in the mountain area near Rancho Cucamonga late on April 30, 2014.
A long exposure image of embers flying off burnt out trees following the wind driven wildfire ranging in the mountain area near Rancho Cucamonga late on April 30, 2014. Stuart Palley—EPA

More than 1,600 homes have been evacuated as firefighters battle the quick-moving blaze in the foothills of southern California's San Bernardino Mountains. There has been no official announcement about what started the fire

Updated: Thursday, 5:15 a.m. E.T.

A wildfire moving through the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California has grown to cover 1,000 acres (404 hectares), four times larger than the size previously reported by authorities.

At least 1,650 homes have been evacuated because of the blaze, including several neighborhoods and at least seven schools in parts of Rancho Cucamonga, population 165,000, near Los Angeles.

Wind gusts of 60 m.p.h. (97 km/h) have helped to spread the blaze, the Associated Press reports.

There has been no official announcement about what started the fire, though a recent heat wave made the area particularly vulnerable.

[AP]

TIME U.S.

These Are the 10 Most Polluted Cities In the U.S.

Hollywood Hills with Smog and Fog
A view of the Hollywood Hills with smog and fog Universal / Getty Images

Spoiler alert: the top 5 are in California

The American Lung Association has released its annual State of the Air report, which details the levels of air quality in cities by examining ozone and particle pollution across the nation.

As you might have guessed, things aren’t great. Nearly half of Americans live in areas with dangerous levels of air pollution. And in California, nearly 3 out of 4 residents live in polluted cities. Still, the report says, thanks to the Clean Air Act the overall air quality is much better than it was a decade ago.

As of this year, here are the top 10 cities with the worst ozone pollution:

  1. Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
  2. Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA
  3. Bakersfield, CA
  4. Fresno-Madera, CA
  5. Sacramento-Roseville, CA
  6. Houston-The Woodlands, TX
  7. Modesto-Merced, CA
  8. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK
  9. Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA
  10. Las Vegas-Henderson, NV-AZ

There were four cities, however, that stood out as the cleanest. That means they had no days in the unhealthy level for ozone or short-term particle pollution and were on the list of the cleanest cities for year-round particle pollution. Those cities were Bangor, ME, Bismarck, ND, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL, and Salinas, CA.

So if you want to breathe easy, now you know where you should (and probably shouldn’t) move.

TIME animal

And the World’s New Fastest Land Animal Is…

Paratarsotomus macropalpis
youtube

Researchers have used film to determine that the world's fastest land animal is not a cheetah but a mite no larger than a sesame seed. The paratarsotomus macropalpis trounces the big cat by moving a crazy 322 body lengths per second to the cheetah's 16

A tiny mite no larger than a sesame seed holds the record as the fastest land animal in the world, according to new research, when measured in proportion to its size.

While the cheetah is commonly thought of as one of the speediest creatures in the animal kingdom, and moves at 16 body lengths per second, the Paratarsotomus macropalpis trounces the big cat with a whopping 322 body lengths per second, according to a study by Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. This is almost twice as quick as what was previously believed to be the fastest animal, the Australian Tiger Beetle, which moves at 171 body lengths per second.

Because of the mite’s minuscule proportions and inordinately fast pace, the research team was unable to use traditional means of measuring its velocity. “We can’t actually chase after a mite because they move much too quickly for that,” said Jonathan Wright, lead researcher of the study. “We’re actually filming them running on a concrete driveway.”

After gathering the footage, the researchers then replayed the film to find that the mite’s speed exceeded their expectations and that it was also able to quickly switch its direction.

The findings were presented at the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego on Sunday.

TIME Bizarre

WATCH: House Painted Like Victorian in Up Angers Neighbors

One family's pastel dream house looks "atrocious" to neighbor Lou Faria

Two lucky kids in Santa Clara, Calif. now live in a home that looks just like the whimsical Victorian from Up, but their neighbors aren’t impressed.

“They love the movie Up and we just thought we’d give them something fun to be proud of and actually all the kids in the neighborhood really love the colors,” homeowner Hosam Haggog told NBC. All that’s missing are the balloons.

This isn’t the first time the Pixar movie has inspired a real-life dwelling: a Utah house modeled after the very same building was sold for $400,000 in 2011.

After more than two years of renovation, Haggog and wife Fatima Rahman are dealing with the controversy sparked by their home makeover. That’s because the home in question is located on Santa Clara’s Harrison Street, known for its historic Victorian-style houses, also known as painted ladies, which were built during the Victorian era.

Neighbor Lou Faria called the paint job “atrocious” and said the painted lady now looks like a “clown.”

TIME Smartphones

Smartphone Anti-Theft ‘Kill Switch’ Bill Fails in California

But it’s likely to return

A bill intended to force smartphone makers to install a “kill switch” that would make the devices useless if stolen narrowly failed Thursday in the California State Senate.

The bill was defeated in a 19-17 vote. However, the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Leno, says he’s likely to reintroduce an amended version of his proposal in the near future.

“This is about technological deterrence,” he said. “’We need to get into the minds of those who have shifted their activities to these new crimes that it’s not worth it.”

According to the Associated Press, smartphone thieves targeted 1.6 million Americans last year alone. A Creighton University study found that installing a kill switch in all smartphones could save Americans $2.6 billion in replacement costs and other fees annually.

Kill switch proponents say the law only works as a deterrent if thieves know that all phones have the technology, though critics worry that a kill switch would reduce consumer choice.

[AP]

 

 

TIME Transportation

Teenager Survives California-to-Maui Flight in Plane’s Wheel Well

A 16-year-old hopped the fence at San Jose International Airport after an argument with his family and squeezed into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Maui, where he emerged confused but unharmed some five hours later

Federal investigators and airline authorities are baffled after a 16-year-old boy reportedly survived in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui, in Hawaii, on Sunday.

According to officials, the teenager had fled his home in Santa Clara, Calif., after quarreling with his family and jumped the fence at San Jose International Airport, where he slipped into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines flight bound for Maui.

Despite the icy temperatures and dearth of oxygen, the boy survived the trip and was found wandering around the airport grounds in Maui more than five hours later when the aircraft landed.

“Kid’s lucky to be alive,” FBI spokesman Tom Simon told the Associated Press. “He was unconscious for the lion’s share of the flight.”

The teenager was later released to child-protective services. No criminal charges have been filed.

[AP]

TIME Marijuana

Inside a Christian Pot Shop

This Sacramento pot shop sells weed-infused lollipops while spreading the gospel

God told Moses to go down the mountain. He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. And, according to Bryan Davies, he made another commandment to a California couple circa 2005: “Open up a pot shop.”

Bryan and Lanette Davies run a medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento, Calif., which they say they opened on the advice of God. The couple sells marijuana to patients battling AIDS and insomnia and arthritic disorders. They also use their shop, called Canna Care, as a vehicle for spreading their Christian faith. Bibles lie on a table in the lobby, free for the taking. And every day at 6 o’clock, all the shop’s employees stop what they’re doing to hold hands and pray. Patrons are invited to join and often do.

“It has to do with taking care of the sick and ill,” Lanette says. “Jesus Christ made a statement that all people should care for one another, and this is our way of taking that to our community.”

The shop has also become embroiled in a case with the Internal Revenue Service that could set an important precedent for the medical marijuana industry. Because of a 1982 law, medical marijuana dispensaries are not allowed to deduct ordinary expenses—like rent or payroll or the cost of providing health benefits—which would normally be standard for a small business. This is because, in the eyes of the federal government and therefore the IRS, such businesses are technically trafficking illegal drugs, even if they’re operating legally according to state laws.

The Davies are refusing to pay a $875,000 tax bill that the IRS says they owe, and have taken the issue to court. They are currently waiting for a ruling on the matter, which they say they’ll appeal if necessary. “We pay our taxes. We are completely legal in this state,” says Lanette. Time will tell if the tax court agrees. Meanwhile, the couple plans to keep selling weed-infused lollipops and the message of Jesus Christ.

TIME Food and Beverage Industry

Big Comeback Planned for the All-American Drive-in Burger Joint

Wendy's hamburger has become more popular than McDonald's.
Paul Vernon / AP

The once-ubiquitous drive-in restaurant–you know, the kind with rollerskating waitresses–will be seen again very soon in all parts of the country, even in states where you wouldn’t want to eat outside for much of the year.

Sonic, the old-fashioned burger-and-shake chain known as “America’s Drive-in,” grew steadily in the early years of the new century. The company hit the 2,000-location market in 1999, and promptly leaped up to 3,000 drive-in locations by 2005. By late 2008, the 3,500th Sonic location opened in the U.S.

However, that’s where the expansion leveled off. Here we are, six years later, and the Sonic website lists the number of locations as simply “more than 3,500.”

It’s understandable that Sonic’s growth might slow substantially of late. The company’s franchise expansion stalled around the time of the Great Recession, when business slowed across a wide range of industries. Over the past five years or so, fast food lunch and dinner sales totals have generally plateaued, and a perception has taken hold that perhaps we’re reaching the point when American consumers just can’t handle any more fast food burger joints.

What’s more, Sonic stands out in the crowded field due to its drive-in feature, in which customers pull up into parking spots in their cars, place their order, and wait for one of the restaurant’s old-fashioned “carhop” staffers to delivery the food. It’s a charming custom, but the charm wears off when, say, it’s 20 degrees and there’s 18 inches of snow on the ground.

“The main difference that sets drive-ins and drive-thrus apart is that the demand for drive-ins is more heavily dependent on the weather,” Hester Jeon, an analyst with IBIS World, explained recently to Marketplace. “Sonic’s business dips pretty dramatically during the colder months.”

So another reason that Sonic’s growth slowed is that it was running out of warm-weather spots to open up more franchises. The company is based in Oklahoma, and its restaurants have traditionally been concentrated there and in Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and throughout the South—pretty much everywhere that spring starts early and the chill of fall sets in late.

Nonetheless, Sonic just announced huge plans for growth, with expansion in the U.S. expected to reach roughly the same pace it reached in the early ’00s. The numbers thrown around by Sonic are bold, and nice and round: 1,000 new locations over the next 10 years.

In light of the company’s already heavy presence in the South, how will Sonic do it? First, it’s targeting states with mild climates that don’t already have an abundance of Sonics, namely California. Over the next six years, the goal is to open 15 Sonics in southern California, specifically in greater Los Angeles and San Diego County, and another 15 elsewhere in California. By 2020, Sonic expects to have a total of 300 drive-in locations in the state.

Second, and most interestingly, Sonic isn’t shying away from cold-weather locations. Last summer, Sonic opened in its 44th state, an unlikely one for a drive-in chain: North Dakota.

What makes Sonic’s expansion to North Dakota and other spots with short summers feasible is the introduction of a new restaurant design prototype that features drive-in stalls and outdoor seating that most Sonics, but that also includes a decent-sized area for indoor seating—making the idea of eating at Sonic in January in North Dakota or upstate New York seem not totally nuts. “With locations up north, we had to think creatively about how to develop a location that works with inclement weather while still matching the iconic SONIC Drive-In look,” Bob Franke, Sonic senior vice president of franchise sales and international development, said in a press release for the opening of the North Dakota location. “The result is a new SONIC Drive-In prototype that gives our guests many options during their visit that won’t be disrupted by a little snow.”

The result for diners is that even if they live in an area of the country where drive-in dining wouldn’t be comfortable for the majority of the year, they’ll be fairly likely to see a Sonic pop up in their neck of the woods in the near future. “The Northern states are ripe with expansion opportunities for Sonic, given the brand’s relatively small footprint in the area combined with high customer awareness and pent-up demand,” Franke said earlier this year. Over the next handful of years, 13 new Sonics are planned in the vicinity of Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., and by 2018 another 14 should open in the greater Seattle area.

TIME Television

RECAP: Parenthood Season Finale: The Tomato in the Room

Parenthood - Season 5
Sam Jaeger as Joel Graham, Savannah Paige Rae as Sydney Graham, Erika Christensen as Julia Braverman-Graham Ben Cohen—NBCU Photo Bank/NBC

Hot tomato, that is. The season 5 finale — which may be it for the series — saw steamy twists, but not a lot of resolution

The NBC family drama wrapped its fifth season — and possibly its last, as the show is currently on the bubble — with plenty of romantic revelations, mostly predictable but with one big surprise (at least for those who didn’t have it spoiled during last week’s preview).

Prodigal daughter Haddie is back with a whole new look — and a big surprise. She comes home from college for summer break with her “best friend” in tow: blonde cutie “Lauren,” played by Tavi Gevinson of Rookie Magazine fame. She keeps the sexual nature of their relationship secret at first, then hints at their intimacy to her dad, but he doesn’t put two and two together until Lauren drops a heavier hint. Kristina finds out after Max, who has walked in on the two smooching, bluntly asks his mom, “If two girls are kissing, does that mean that they’re lesbians?” Though stunned, Kristina accepts and embraces the news in the family’s signature Berkeley way.

It’s an odd choice on the writers’ part to so heavily feature a character who’s been absent all season in the finale. And Haddie’s not the only long-forgotten character to crop back up: Ryan, who was hospitalized last week but had been gone for months, has a large role in the episode when his mother arrives to take him home to Wyoming. After his medical discharge from the army, it seems he has no other choice — though a romp in the hospital bed with Amber confuses the matter and leads her to pick up a pregnancy test later in the episode. Though she’s smiling, it’s hard to root for a positive result knowing that he’s laid up from drunk driving.

As for the plot lines we’ve been focused on for the last stretch of the season, not much comes into focus. Adam and Kristina’s school plan gets no air time at all, much less a decision on whether Bob Little will lease them the property. And Joel and Julia all but fall back into each other’s arms after Victor wins an essay contest at school — emphasis on the “all but.” Even a bedtime story with Sydney, who throws a tantrum until Joel agrees to stay for the night, delivers nothing but smiles and meaningful eye contact. All that will-they-or-won’t-they tension, and all the viewer gets to show for it is an awkward Breyer’s commercial between segments in which a husband asks his wife, “Who’s hotter? Me or Joel?” (Joel, dude. Always Joel.)

The other will-they-or-won’t-they plot line, between Sarah and Hank, resolves as expected: with hesitation on her part, then talk of how much work it will be with his Asperger’s (a diagnosis he still hasn’t formally received), then a kiss. It’s nice to see one “tomato in the room” plucked, though not exactly cathartic to revisit a relationship that has failed once before, and was never especially passionate in the first place. Also in the category of relationships it’s hard to care about: Drew and Natalie. They were thrown together in the penultimate episode and are now apparently so in love that Zeek is inspired to loan Drew the freshly-finished Pontiac (which gives the episode its name) to drive up to see his girlfriend.

The real strength in this finale lies in its more quotidian moments — as is always the case for Parenthood. Adam and Crosby’s vigorous victory lap around their childhood home is sweet, and Zeek and Millie’s last dance through the empty living room is even sweeter.

In what may be the show’s final sequence, the Braverman clan gets together for one last feast on the lawn. Their dialogue is muted in favor of the soundtrack, a thoughtful cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin,'” putting special emphasis on one piece of advice — “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command” — that’s never been a great problem for the Bravermans. If there’s one thing they’re good at, it’s supporting for their children, no matter what’s going on in their own lives. This last barbecue, reminiscent of so many others on the show, doesn’t expand on the plot, but it does stay in line with the vibe. As Sydney tells her parents while begging them to get back to normal, “It’s not special, it’s how it’s supposed to be.”

TIME Transportation

Feds Will Probe Passenger Safety After California Bus Crash

Students put up a sign for El Monte High School student Adrian Castro, outside the school in El Monte
Students put up a sign for El Monte High School student Adrian Castro, outside the school in El Monte, California April 11, 2014. Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

Federal transportation authorities have launched an investigation into passenger safety on buses, following last week's crash in northern California that killed 10 people, and will focus on the use of seat belts, emergency exists and fire safety rules

Federal transportation authorities have launched an investigation into how to increase safety on buses in response to Thursday’s horrific crash in Northern California.

The bus, transporting 44 high school students to Humboldt State University for a familiarization visit, collided with a FedEx truck, killing 10 people—five students, the three adults accompanying them, and both drivers—and injuring dozens.

The investigation will look into the use of seatbelts, emergency exits and fire safety rules on buses.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will provide an initial report within 30 days but the investigation could take up to 12 months. The NTSB has long advocated increased safety for bus passengers but other federal agencies have been slow to respond.

“The worst thing for the NTSB is to show up, know that we’ve issued recommendations from a previous accident where lives have been lost … and find out (that) if those recommendations had been closed and enacted, lives could have been saved,” NTSB member Mark Rosekind told AP on Friday.

[AP]

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