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Should old acquaintance be forgot? Heck no, especially the ones who are still here

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Every year about this time, news media of every kind put together end-of-the-year roundups. It’s a good way to reflect, to perhaps gain insight and to get a glimpse at how future generations will view anno Domini 2018.

Plus, it’s a good way to fill up space during a slow news period when a lot of your staff goes on vacation.

One of the traditional newsroom year-end rituals is to do a roll call of all the famous people who died over the past year. Several years ago, when I was heading up an entertainment section, I got the idea, why do the same somber list as everyone else? So instead I started a new tradition of giving a shout-out to famous people you may be pleased, or at least surprised, to know are still around to join us in the new year.

The only firm rule to my list is that a celebrity has to be at least 85 years old. And I try not to have too many people who are still consistently in the limelight, unless their age may be surprising, like say, Betty White, 96; Clint Eastwood, 88; or William Shatner, 87.

The reigning champs for longevity are Olivia De Havilland, known best for being Scarlett O’Hara’s friend and unwitting rival Melanie Wilkes in “Gone with the Wind,” who is 102; and Kirk Douglas, who was and always will be able to truthfully say, “I am Spartacus,” even at 102.

There’s always a risk that the list could be inaccurate by the time it gets released. In fact, the day I started selecting names for this year’s list, it was announced that one of this year’s shoo-ins, Marvel Comics maestro Stan Lee, had died at 95.

So, with that disclaimer, here are some of the celebrities that will ring in 2019.

The name Ann Taylor Cook may not ring any bells, but her face is etched in almost all our memories. She was the original Gerber baby. A family friend drew the charcoal sketch when Cook was 4 months old and submitted it into a contest a year later. Today, Cook is a healthy 91. Maybe it’s something she ate.

Another image most of us can picture is the famous photo of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald as he was handcuffed to a Texas lawman wearing a light-colored suit and a Stetson. That lawman’s name is Jim Leavelle. He’s 98 today, and you bet he still has that hat.

In the world of sports, Marv Levy of the Buffalo Bills and Bud Grant of the Minnesota Vikings share a dubious distinction in NFL history. They both coached their teams to four Super Bowls and lost them all. But in the game of life, they’ve both beat the spread – Levy is 93, Grant is 91.

Between Grant’s run in the ’70s and Levy’s run in the ’90s, The San Francisco 49ers were the darlings of the football world, running off four championships. Of course, the city had crooner Tony Bennett’s heart long before that. He’s been singing about it since 1961, and still is at the age of 92.

Alfred Hitchcock is remembered for two things: an incredible catalog of movies and an obsession with “cool blonde” actresses. Three of those actresses who starred in Hitchcock films during the director’s most celebrated creative streak (1954-1964) met various on-screen fates, as well as some reputed off-screen drama working with the Master of Suspense: Eva Marie Saint of “North by Northwest,” 94; Kim Novak, from “Vertigo,” 85; and Tippi Hedren, who had two go-arounds in “The Birds” and “Marnie,” 88.

None of the Mercury Seven, America’s first astronauts, are still with us. Neither is Neil Armstrong, who will forever hold the distinction of being the first human to set foot on a celestial body other than Earth. But before we started reaching to the heavens, pilot Chuck Yeager pushed the limits of manned flight when he broke the sound barrier in 1947. He’s still going strong at 95.

Speaking of going strong, urologists across America credit Bob Dole with saving untold lives when, after an unsuccessful bid for the presidency, he retired from politics and became the spokesman for Viagra. Millions of men got checkups, including prostate exams, as a condition of getting a prescription for the little blue pill. Had Dole, now 95, become president, he would have the record for longevity among former presidents.

That distinction, instead, belongs to George H.W. Bush, who died November 30 at the age of 94 years, 171 days. He may not hold the record for long, though. Jimmy Carter, who was born 101 days after Bush, could surpass him on March 12.

They say laughter is the best medicine. Could be – TV producer Norman Lear, whose sitcoms dominated the 1970s, is 96. One-time Vegas mainstay comedian Shecky Green is 92. Jerry Stiller, whose been funny in several TV shows, most notably “Seinfeld” and “The King of Queens,” and is the father of another funny guy, Ben Stiller, is 91.

TV comedy pioneer Sid Caesar lived to be 91, while two of his writers, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, are still with us at 96 and 92, respectively. Caesar also had a kid working for him by the name of Woody Allen, but at 82 he won’t qualify until 2021.

May we all be here to welcome him to the list.

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The Nation

Lane Departures: Why would California lawmakers saddle trucking with the ABC test?

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Well, he said he’d do it.

If you look elsewhere on this website, you’ll see a story I did about a week ago about AB5, a bill passed by the California Senate on September 10 into the waiting arms of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had long telegraphed he was looking forward to signing it.

Yesterday, he did it. And come the new year, trucking is going to have to live with it.

AB5 — the full name is the “Employees and Independent Contractors” bill — is ostensibly intended to prevent employers from exploiting workers and skirting expenses by relying on “independent contractors” to make their businesses run instead of hiring full-fledged employees, who come with all kinds of nasty baggage like guaranteed minimum wages, overtime and payroll taxes, mandatory breaks, insurance and other horrific profit reducers.

The bill got off the ground in the wake of a court case last year in which a delivery company called Dynamex was determined to have improperly reclassified its workers as independent contractors in order to save money.  In making the decision, the court applied what is known as the ABC test, which presumes all workers should be classified as employees unless they meet three criteria.

Like the court case, the bill, which will codify the ABC test across the state, seems to have been at least in spirit aimed at companies like Dynamex that are part of that there so-called “gig economy” all the young folks are so hopped up about. Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft are almost always mentioned as Public Enemies 1A and 1B of supposed independent contractor charlatans.

The problem with AB5, its critics say, is it proposes to perform an appendectomy with a chainsaw, ripping into industries that have long-established business models that extensively use independent contractors to the satisfaction of all involved.

A great big example would be trucking, because it appears the ABC test would prevent carriers from contracting with owner-operators or smaller fleets in California. I’ll let you imagine the consequences if that’s true.

If you’ve read the article, or your planning to read the article, I’d like to apologize in advance because as I’ve been learning about this AB5 business, I have some lingering questions that I could not answer. I have calls out to a couple of experts on the legal and logistical nuances. Unfortunately, experts don’t observe journalistic deadlines.

But then, I figured, this story is going to be around a while, so we can keep building on what we know. I may have answers to some of these questions by the time you read this. Or maybe you will be able to provide some of the answers. I mean, you don’t need to have a title or a degree or be part of a think tank to know a thing or two.

My first question is this: They didn’t pull this ABC test out of thin air. A majority of states already use the test in some manner on matters of job status. California’s application of ABC is based on Massachusetts’ broad, strict use of the test. So, hasn’t trucking had to contend with this standard there and in in other states already? I haven’t heard reports of empty store shelves in Massachusetts. Is there some simple workaround already in existence just waiting for cooler heads to prevail?

Second, from what I gather, ABC has had its critics for as long as it’s existed. Is it just the sheer size of California’s economy that makes this case so important or somehow different?

I’m going to go way out on a limb and say “probably.” Last year, California’s economy outgrew that of Great Britain. If it were an independent country, California would have the fifth-largest economy in the world. And what happens in California rarely stays in California. The state has a major influence on the rest of the nation.

California’s economy is closing in on $3 trillion a year. Real estate, finance, the entertainment industry and that nest of tech behemoths in Silicon Valley are responsible for big chunks of that.

And let’s not forget agriculture. California ranches and farms reaped $50 billion in receipts in 2017. That’s a lot of food, a lot of truckloads.

California also has some of the nation’s largest seaports. The Port of Long Beach alone sees about $200 billion in cargo a year, with 11,000 truckloads leaving the port each day. And most of what doesn’t go by truck from there eventually winds up on a truck somewhere inland.

Add it all up, and trucking is a huge player in the California economic machine. Why would lawmakers want to strip its gears with this law? Some lawmakers are even on record saying they are worried about what this could do to the industry. Then why are they doing it?

The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, is not some gung-ho rookie lawmaker. She’s in her third term, and she already has made a national name for herself as a champion of the working class with several pieces of legislation she has supported.

AB5 could fit into that collection quite nicely. But it isn’t a trophy she needs in a hurry. She won her last two reelection campaigns by about a 3-1 margin.

And she’s also been around enough that she surely understands that despite its best intentions, the broad-stroke, one-size-fits-all approach AB5 takes will do more harm than good to many industries, including trucking.

In fact, she’s as much as said so. Gonzalez has already indicated that once the bill becomes law, she’d be open to making amendments and granting exemptions.

So why wait? The bill already grants exemptions to real estate, to doctors and dentists. Even newspaper delivery people got a last-minute, one-year exemption.

The California Trucking Association and the Western States Trucking Association pushed for an exemption. Dozens of truck drivers testified in Sacramento. And you have to think state legislators are at least vaguely aware of what goes on in their own districts.

So, they could grasp the importance of the guy who throws a newspaper in their driveway from a passing car at 4 a.m., but not of the people who deliver, like, everything everywhere all the time?

We all know how long fixing bad legislation can take. Even if they put it on the “fast track,” how much damage will occur before trucking can get an exemption?

I did hear back from one legal expert on the matter. Greg Feary, president and managing partner at Scopelitus, Garvin, Light, Hansen and Feary LLC, said there are a couple of cases in Ninth Circuit Court that could spell relief for the trucking industry. Even so, the legal system can move almost as slowly as the legislative system. He estimates California truckers are going to have to live with AB5 for at least a year.

Questions abound. I’m not looking forward to some of the answers.

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The Nation

Trucking submarine style in Texas

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Texas is getting hit hard with flooding.  This takes it to new levels!


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The Nation

Flooding in Texas – That cab’s gonna be a bit damp!

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KHOU reporter Melissa Correa happened to be on scene and captured this video.  Another motorist grabbed a hammer and rope and saved the drivers life.

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