TIME Addiction

California Launches Campaign Against E-Cigarettes

The new ads are part of a new campaign called "Wake Up"

California rolled out new television and digital ads about the dangers of e-cigarettes on Monday.

The new ads air just two months after the California Department of Health (CDPH) declared e-cigarettes a public health risk, and warned Californians to stay away from them. The new ads are part of the agency’s new campaign called “Wake Up,” which suggests e-cigarettes are just another mass marketed product with serious health consequences.

MORE: California Says E-Cigarettes a Health Risk

Both ads feature songs from the ’50s and ’60s, when traditional cigarette marketing was prevalent. One ad titled “What Could Go Wrong” underlines the fact that Big Tobacco is also involved in the e-cigarette market. The ads call e-cigarettes “a new way to inhale toxic chemicals.”

Another calls out candy-flavored e-cigarette products that California health officials believe market to children.

“California has been a world leader in tobacco use prevention and cessation since 1990, with one of the lowest youth and adult smoking rates in the nation. The aggressive marketing and escalating use of e-cigarettes threatens to erode that progress,” said Dr. Karen Smith, the CDPH director and state health officer, in a statement. “Our advertising campaign is telling the public to ‘wake up’ to the fact that these are highly addictive products being mass marketed.”

In a health advisory released by the CDPH in January, the state reports that e-cigarette use has spiked among California teenagers and young adults.

TIME Environment

California Announces $1 Billion Emergency Drought Relief Package

The move comes days after new rules cracking down on lawn watering and tap water at restaurants

As if Californians needed another reminder that their state is dangerously hot and dry, they got it on March 15 when more than 30 runners at the Los Angeles marathon were hospitalized due to record high temperatures. The late winter heat wave — the mercury climbed above 90 in the city and surrounding areas — offered stark notice that, four years into a severe drought, the Golden State remains desperately parched with little relief in sight.

Gov. Jerry Brown and a bipartisan group of state lawmakers attempted to deliver some form of it Thursday when they announced a $1 billion plan to provide immediate relief and stave off future problems.

“This is a struggle,” Brown reportedly said during a press conference announcing the package. “Something we’re going to have to live with. For how long, we’re not sure.”

While the legislation includes millions of dollars in emergency aid, it also earmarks $660 million for flood prevention. Brown explained that flood control and drought relief were of a piece, according to the Los Angeles Times, describing them as “extreme weather events” related to climate change.

The new measures come two days after state officials voted March 17 to enact some of the broadest and strictest statewide water limits in California history. Outdoor lawn and landscape watering, which accounts for about half of all consumption in urban areas, will be limited to two days per week.

“It’s the number one thing that could be done and it’s easy,” says Jay Famiglietti, the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

The water board regulations will also ban residents from irrigating during rainstorms and for two days afterward. And restaurants will be permitted to offer tap water to patrons only upon request.

Given how little the new water regulations ask of residents, it’s easy to wonder why they weren’t enacted earlier. With surface water at dangerously low levels and non-renewable groundwater being depleted at a rapid pace, Famiglietti warned in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed that the state must immediately ration water before California’s supply is gone completely.

“Because of the severity of the situation, I do think the public is ready for it,” Famiglietti says.

Several polls appear to back him up. An October 2014 survey found that Californians are just as worried about the drought as they are about the economy. Ninety-four percent of state residents polled in February said they consider the drought to be “serious.” Still, Californians seem unwilling to voluntarily curb their water consumption as much as officials would like. In January 2014, Brown urged Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent. Statewide usage this past in January was just 9 percent less than the same month in 2013.

“Even though it was historically dry, it was still raining,” says Sarah Rose, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. “People see the rain and think they can go back to their old habits. We’re going to have to create new habits.”

While experts call the new water board rules a step in the right direction, they worry that more drastic, but necessary, measures like rationing and water price increases still haven’t been proposed.

“No one wants to be responsible for delivering the hard news that people have to significantly change their behavior,” says Charles Stringer, chair of the regional water board in Southern California. “We’re trying to get where we need to go without too much pain and sacrifice. But what the water experts and policy makers are saying with increasing urgency is that’s not possible.”

New regulations come with their own problems of how to enforce them. “There’s not going to be the manpower to do it,” says Famiglietti. A recent investigation by the Associated Press found that after California authorized emergency drought measures last summer to allow local communities to issue $500 fines for excessive water use, few residents actually got tickets.

In the meantime, officials are hoping public information campaigns might be more effective. One water district in Northern California has adopted “Brown is the New Green” as a new motto, encouraging residents to let their lawns die to conserve water. “People should feel really proud of having a brown lawn,” says Famiglietti.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 18

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. What does the world’s indifference to Syria’s horror tell us about ourselves?

By Barry Malone at Al Jazeera English on Medium

2. California has about one year of water left.

By Jay Famiglietti in the Los Angeles Times

3. Traditional democratic institutions are failing. It’s time for an upgrade.

By John Boik, Lorenzo Fioramonti, and Gary Milante in Foreign Policy

4. For the first time in four decades, the global economy grew last year, but carbon emissions didn’t. That’s huge.

By Brad Plumer in Vox

5. Can we build an Internet that includes the hearing impaired?

By Steve Friess in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Transportation

Uber, Lyft Lawsuits Could Spell Trouble For the On-Demand Economy

Lyft Car
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A Lyft customer gets into a car on January 21, 2014 in San Francisco, California.

Judges allowed the lawsuits over drivers to be heard by juries

The ride-app services Uber and Lyft were dealt a setback by two separate California judges Wednesday, who ruled that juries would decide the fate of lawsuits that could have broad implications for a range of tech startups.

The lawsuits were filed by workers who allege they are misclassified as independent contractors so the businesses don’t have to reimburse the drivers’ expenses like they would for employees. The plaintiffs believe they’re owed money for outlays like gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance—costs that could be enormous if juries determine they’re owed to tens of thousands of active drivers working for Lyft and Uber in California. The companies had sought separate summary judgments dismissing the cases, but the judges in California’s North District Court denied them, saying their peers would have to determine the status of the drivers.

“This is a huge milestone and major victory for drivers in both cases,” says Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston-based labor lawyer working on both cases. Her firm has brought cases on behalf of a range of low-wage workers, from Starbucks baristas to exotic dancers to house cleaners. “There’s this whole wave of companies who seem to think that they’re above the law and don’t need to comply with employment and wage laws,” she says. “They’re claiming there’s something new and different because their services are provided through technology, through a smartphone … but there’s nothing new about this.”

A spokesperson for Lyft says they are not commenting on pending litigation. Uber sent TIME a similar statement.

The legal fight is being closely watched by the many other startups who depend on the growing “1099 workforce,” people who are generally willing to trade a 9-to-5 work week and health insurance for a more flexible job. The ranks of this workforce have been growing along with the public’s appetite for the services they provide, like on-demand rides, groceries, hot meals, flowers and house cleaning. “It’s not only the consumer who says ‘I want it on demand.’ The supply is on demand,” says Ravi Dhar, a Yale management professor.

Businesses that use these on-demand workers have been able to scale fast partly because they are not on the hook for treating their personal shoppers or drivers or deliverymen like employees. Among the other startups that could be affected by the eventual rulings is Instacart, a company that organizes workers who shop for and deliver groceries to users in as little as an hour. The company is less than three years old and has been valued at $2 billion. Just as Uber has long insisted that the company is a not a transportation service, executives at Instacart say that they are not a grocery delivery company but a software platform whose app allows people to deliver groceries to other people who want them.

Liss-Riordan notes that in rejecting the companies’ requests to have the cases dismissed, the judges were also rejecting the notion that Uber and Lyft are not in the business of providing transportation. As U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria wrote in his ruling:

Lyft tepidly asserts there is no need to decide how to classify the drivers, because they don’t perform services for Lyft in the first place. Under this theory, Lyft drivers perform services only for their riders, while Lyft is an uninterested bystander of sorts, merely furnishing a platform that allows drivers and riders to connect, analogous perhaps to a company like eBay. But that is obviously wrong.

Yet that doesn’t mean the juries will have an easy decision to make. Chhabria noted in his ruling that the labor laws at issue were written in a pre-sharing economy era. “As should now be clear,” he wrote, “the jury in this case will be handed a square peg and asked to choose between two round holes. The test the California courts have developed over the 20th Century for classifying workers isn’t very helpful in addressing this 21st Century problem.”

For now, these cases apply only to drivers in California, though Liss-Riordan says she has been contacted by hundreds of drivers and intends to create a nationwide class-action suit. She expects Uber to invoke an arbitration clause that prohibits many drivers from joining a class-action suit, forcing the them to bring any claims against the company on a individual basis. Lyft has waived a similar clause. “If Uber really wants to try these cases one by one in arbitration, we’ll do that,” she says.

If the juries find that drivers for the two biggest players in the new ride-app economy are owed for gas, that could lead to other standard employee benefits. The companies could be on the hook for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. They could be forced to pay drivers overtime and make sure they’re at least making minimum wage. Uber, the larger company, would also be looking at larger payouts. While Lyft has been valued at $2.5 billion, Uber has garnered valuations of $40 billion.

Read next: Cab Drivers No Longer Required to Learn N.Y.C.’s Streets

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME natural disaster

The Odds of a Massive Earthquake Hitting California Just Went Up

The Marina district disaster zone after an earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the richter scale on Oct. 17, 1989 in San Francisco.
Otto Greule Jr—Getty Images The Marina district disaster zone after an earthquake, measuring 7.1 on the richter scale on Oct. 17, 1989 in San Francisco.

But the chances of a moderate earthquake went down

The chances of earthquake magnitude 8.0 or greater hitting California in the next 30 years have been increased from about 4.7% to 7%, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a statement Tuesday.

The revised forecast was calculated by the Third California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3), a follow-up to 2008’s UCERF2 conducted by USGS and its partners, who modeled the latest geological data.

While UCERF3 increased the odds of a massive California earthquake, the study lowered the chance of an earthquake around magnitude 6.7—like the 1994 Northridge earthquake—by about 30%, from one every 4.8 years to one every 6.3 years.

“The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously,” said the study’s lead author Ned Field.

Read next: A Village in Italy Just Got 8 Feet of Snow in 1 Day

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Here Comes the Apple Watch

Apple is hosting a live Apple Watch event on Monday, March 9th at 10am PT in Cupertino, Calif., and fans of the company are already buzzing about what CEO Tim Cook will have to say.

Watch #KnowRightNow for a preview of what you can expect from the big event.

TIME Crime

Feds Raid California ‘Maternity Hotels’ for Birth Tourists

Federal agents walk past the Carlyle Apartments, the location of a suspected "baby tourism operation," in Irvine, Calif. on March 3, 2015.
Bob Riha Jr.—Reuters Federal agents walk past the Carlyle Apartments, the location of a suspected "baby tourism operation," in Irvine, Calif. on March 3, 2015.

The crackdown marked the first large-scale federal probe of birth-tourism in the U.S.

Southern California apartment complexes that doubled as “maternity hotels” for Chinese women who want made-in-America babies were raided early Tuesday, capping an unprecedented federal sting operation, officials said.

NBC News was on the scene as Homeland Security agents swept into The Carlyle, a luxury property in Irvine, California, which housed pregnant women and new moms who allegedly forked over $40,000 to $80,000 to give birth in the United States.

“I am doing this for the education of the next generation,” one of the women told NBC News.

None of the women were arrested; they are being treated as material witnesses, and paramedics…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

MONEY Gas

Where Gas Prices Shot Up Nearly $1 Per Gallon in One Month

A cyclist rides by a sign at a gas station in Los Angeles posting the latest gas prices on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. Gas prices in California soared overnight as a result of a combination of supply-and-demand factors worsened by the shutdown of two refineries that produce a combined 16 percent of the state’s gasoline.
Nick Ut—AP A cyclist rides by a sign at a gas station in Los Angeles posting the latest gas prices on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.

Everyone is paying more at the pump lately. But California drivers have seen gas prices soar at an unbelievably fast pace.

In mid-January 2015, the national average for regular gasoline was $2.03 per gallon, and there seemed to be a strong possibility that gas stations would average under $2 nationally within weeks, or even days. Instead, that period marked what appears to be the bottoming out of the cheap gas era. After four months of consistently plummeting fuel costs, drivers began seeing gas prices inch up steadily—and then spike very recently.

Over the past week, the national average has crept up 2¢ daily, from $2.33 to $2.47 as of Monday, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. AAA data indicates that gas prices have risen 35 days in a row, for a total rise of 39¢ nationally.

While all drivers are paying more for gas than they did in the very recent past—more than a dozen states were averaging under $2 per gallon a month ago, but none are today—California has experienced an extraordinarily fast hike in prices at the pump. Apparently, an explosion at one oil refinery in the state brought about enough of a decrease in supply to send gas prices skyrocketing.

As of Tuesday, the average in California for a gallon of regular was $3.41, a rise of 96¢ over the past month and 43¢ during the last week alone. Nationally, gas prices are averaging a full $1 less than they were one year ago, even after the recent pricing surge. But in California, prices are only 45¢ cheaper than they were exactly 12 months ago, when the average was $3.86.

All signs indicate that drivers in California and all over the country will continue to be hit with rising gas prices. GasBuddy analysts forecast that prices will increase steadily during the next six to eight weeks, and AAA is predicting, “the national average price of gas could rise by 20 cents per gallon or more in March” alone.

Still, to put things in perspective, let’s not forget that gas prices averaged well over $3 nationally for entire years, and it seemed like a very big deal when the average dipped under $3 last fall.

“The good news is that most U.S. drivers should still pay less than $3 per gallon to fill up their cars this year,” AAA spokesperson Avery Ash said this week.

Not if you’re in California though.

TIME Drugs

Officials Seize 15 Tons of Pot in Second-Largest Border Drug Bust

US Pot Bust
AP More than 15 tons of marijuana hidden in a truck was seized by the Border Patrol at the Otay Mesa border crossing with Mexico in San Diego, Calif., Feb. 26, 2015.

Federal authorities confiscated more than 15 tons of marijuana en route to the United States from Mexico last week in the second-largest drug seizure at a U.S. border ever, officials said.

The attempted smuggling, which occurred Friday at a California border crossing, in some ways seems like a textbook case of how not to try to fool border patrol officers. The driver listed the contents of his trailer as “mattresses and cushions,” but instead the vehicle contained 1,296 unhidden packages of marijuana that didn’t resemble mattresses. Border officials noticed the discrepancy during an X-ray scan and opened the truck to find it overflowing with almost $19 million in pot. There were a few mattresses at the opposite end of the trailer.

“I am extremely proud of the work my officers do. Officers never give up their enforcement posture and demonstrate each and every day that they remain guardians of our nation,” said Rosa Hernandez,Director at Otay Mesa Cargo Port, where the stop occurred.

 

TIME Behind the Photos

See the World’s Largest Solar Plants From Above

Photographer Jamey Stillings takes us to some of the most impressive man-made wonders of the world

The Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in California’s Mojave Desert is the world’s largest solar plant with eight million panels producing 550 megawatts of power — or enough to supply 160,000 homes.

For the latest issue of TIME, we commissioned Jamey Stillings to photograph the plant. “I’ve had a long-term interest in the intersection of nature and human activity,” he says. “How we connect to nature; how we decide to use and modify nature for what we want to do.”

A little over four years ago, Stillings decided to marry that photographic interest with an environmental perspective, looking at the development of our species and society as we slowly move away from fossil fuels. “From a historic standpoint in the United States, we remember building the Hoover Dam, we remember building the Empire State Building. The photographs of that become our visual memories; they become part of our collective consciousness.”

With his photographs of renewable energy plant sites, Stillings is looking toward the future. “I’m interested in being involved both with the contemporary conversation and also acknowledging the fact that, not too far down the road, we’re going to start having a historical perspective on them. They will mean something different to us 10 years from now, 50 years from now and 100 years from now.”

And while Stillings wants to keep his focus on renewable energies — to produce a global study of their development — he’s considering documenting fossil fuel as well. “I want to create a visual counterpoint,” he says, “to show, for example, the differences in the environmental impact of five sq. mi. of solar panels and that of five sq. mi. of coal mining.”

Jamey Stillings is a photographer based in Santa Fe, N.M. His monograph The Evolution of Ivanpah Solar will be published by Steidl in 2015.

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