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Data Sheet—Cisco Sees What Many Overlook: A Growing Tide of Homelessness in Silicon Valley

March 27, 2018, 12:39 PM UTC
Downtown San Jose, California in Silicon Valley
Looking east late afternoon in the winter, you can see San Jose State University just about dead center in the image. In the foreground are downtown hotels and the Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park. The domed structure in the center left is the city hall.
Terryfic3D—Getty Images

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It is bonkers that the county at the heart of Silicon Valley has 7,400 homeless people. That’s right. The fabled plot of land from San Jose to Palo Alto connected by the 101 freeway and Interstate 280 has among the highest levels of wealth and smarts—and also, says tech giant Cisco Systems, the third-highest rate of chronic homelessness of any county in the country.

The problem is just as bad down south, as city folks like me like to call “the Valley.” And Cisco, a decades-old company that may not be as sexy as San Francisco startups but has demonstrated it is built to last, is doing something about it. Monday it announced a $50-million grant to a San Jose organization called Destination: Home. The money will go toward building housing and, importantly, providing services to homeless people. Said Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: “This is an investment in the place that has been so good to us as a company—the place where so many of us are fortunate not just to work, but to have a home.”

Robbins is passionate on the topic of corporations acting as a force for good in the world. Cisco focuses on helping communities far and wide since it does business far and wide. But it is particularly interested in its own backyard. More companies need to follow its lead.

Adam Lashinsky


Chinese buffet. A unit of iPhone manufacturer Foxconn is buying gadget maker Belkin for $866 million. Belkin makes an assortment of phone accessories and other add-ons, while selling networking gear under the Linksys brand and connected home tools labeled with its Wemo brand. The deal, still subject to regulatory approval, will "enrich our portfolio of premium consumer products and accelerate our penetration into the smart home," Sidney Lu, who runs Foxconn Interconnect Technology, says. The only question now is whether the Trump administration sees any "national security" interests in Wi-Fi routers or smart plugs.

Stiff upper lip. Walmart hired the executive who oversaw British retail giant Tesco’s successful grocery delivery push, Simon Belsham, to run its site. Belsham replaces Liza Landsman, who recently left the company, as president of the e-commerce site that Walmart acquired for $3.3 billion in 2016.

Grand canyon of distrust. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Monday suspended Uber's self-driving car tests in his state in the wake of an accident that killed a pedestrian in Tempe. "My expectation is that public safety is also the top priority for all who operate this technology in the state of Arizona," Ducey said a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. "The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation."

Mellow money. Meditation app Calm, picked by Apple as the app of the year for 2017, raised $25 million in venture capital in a deal valuing the company at $250 million, CNBC reported. Founder Michael Acton Smith has credited the Trump presidency with helping fuel the growth of the app, which sells subscriptions to various audio programming related to sleep, relaxation, and focus. "Learning to be more mindful and relaxing and calming people has proved to be particularly popular this year," he told the network.

Pre-attack. With Apple prepping a big dog and pony show happening later today aimed at the education market, Google unveiled the first-ever tablet running its Chrome operating system. The $329 Acer Chromebook Tab 10 has an almost-10-inch touch screen and includes a small stylus.

Under attack. A bipartisan group of 37 state attorneys general sent a letter to Facebook demanding more information about the company's involvement with Cambridge Analytica and the misuse of data from millions of Facebook users. “Facebook has made promises about users’ privacy in the past, and we need to know that users can trust Facebook," the letter stated. "With the information we have now, our trust has been broken.” The Federal Trade Commission also confirmed on Monday that it has opened a "non-public investigation into these practices." And regarding yet another probe of the crisis, Facebook said Mark Zuckerberg would not testify before a British parliamentary committee about the matter.


The debate over the environmental impact of electric cars sometimes focuses on the amount of coal-generated electricity that powers them. But over time, the electric utility industry is moving to cleaner fuels, which in turn makes electric cars greener overall. David Reichmuth, senior engineer for clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists, explains the trend in a blog post with great interactive graphics.

Electric vehicles produce less emissions now because the electric grid is getting cleaner. Over the last ten years, the fraction of power from coal has fallen from nearly 50% to 30%. Over the same time, utility-scale renewable power like solar and wind power have grown to make up 10% of electricity generation.

This analysis relies on data from power plants for 2016, the most current data that includes details on the geographic location of emissions. However, based on the overall data on from 2017, it looks like emissions will continue to fall, with both coal and natural gas declining while renewable power continues to increase.

The falling emissions from electric power over the last decade also highlights the need to work to clean up electricity generation and transportation now. While we are moving in the right direction with renewable power and growing numbers of EV models, it takes time to replace existing power plants and gasoline cars. It’s vital that we accelerate the adoption of EVs, even if all power is not yet from renewable or low-carbon sources.


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The latest movie set in the Star Wars universe is turning into one of those hairy, scary Hollywood tales of moviemaking gone awry. Solo: A Star Wars Story is supposed to hit theaters in two months, but Hollywood is alive with chatter about problems in the making of the long-awaited Han Solo prequel. New York's Vulture blog dug into the hijinks that got original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired. It's an entertaining read about two guys in way over their heads. And I thought you liked them because they were scoundrels.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.