Berkeley in the News Archive

The links to the stories summarized on this page are time sensitive, so stories might no longer be online at that URL. We also include links to the original source publication itself.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

1. KQED Science Blog: New Fukushima Radiation Study Will Focus on West Coast Kelp Forests
KQED Online

Kelp Watch 2014, a new project co-founded by nuclear engineering professor Kai Vetter, will study the extent of radioactive contamination of the state's coastal kelp forest from Japan's damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. Professor Vetter, also head of applied nuclear physics at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has been measuring radioactivity from Fukushima in California since the accident, and he expects the levels found in kelp to be minimal. "The concentration of radioactive materials which will be washed ashore here has no impact whatsoever on our daily life,” he says. “The levels we are measuring, they will not be harmful. They will not have any measurable health impact on humans or any detrimental effects in marine biology.” Other stories on this topic appeared in the Orange County Register and Voice of Russia. Full Story

2. Carbon footprint maps reveal urban-suburban divide
Los Angeles Times

A study led by energy professor Daniel Kammen has found that suburbs produce half of all household greenhouse-gas emissions, even though they account for less than half the U.S. population. The suburban pollution cancels out the energy-saving achievements of residents in urban areas with good public transportation. “The affluent suburbanites that commute long distances more than make up for the low-transportation footprint of urban dwellers,” Professor Kammen says. Other stories on this topic appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle and East Bay Express. Full Story

3. Giant Surprise: Old Trees Grow Fastest

Integrative biology professor Todd Dawson comments on a new U.S. Geological Survey study finding that the growth of trees speeds up as they age. The finding upsets opposing theories based on earlier measurements of carbon trapped in forests. "But these early data weren't measuring individual trees, and that's where the rub comes in," Professor Dawson says. "People had this misconception because forests showed a decline in productivity as they grew older. But this is a really fun finding because it says, 'Hey, wait a minute — that isn't the case.'" Full Story

4. Bay Area's winter hazard: pollution
San Francisco Chronicle

The Bay Area's dry weather is exacerbating air pollution, raising the risk for people with respiratory illnesses. The problem affects people indoors, as well as outside. According to Dr. John Balmes, a Berkeley professor of environmental health sciences professor, indoor pollution is "every bit as much of a problem worldwide in terms of health as tobacco." Full Story

5. U.K. Cell Phone Study Points to Acoustic Neuroma, Not Brain Cancer
Global Research

Berkeley public health researcher Joel Moskowitz, director of Berkeley's Center for Family and Community Health, comments on a new study from the U.K. that adds support to the theory that long-term use of cell phones could increase the risk of developing a tumor of the auditory nerve. In 2009, Moskowitz published a meta-analysis indicating elevated tumor risk from cell phones, but he says the U.K. study "has extremely limited exposure assessment," since the researchers had not collected any information on the use of cordless phones. “This could have been an important source of RF exposure,” he says. Full Story

6. Marketplace: Verizon says net neutrality ruling won't change anything

Political science and information professor Steve Weber discusses the issue of net neutrality after a federal appeals court struck down a Federal Communications Commission ruling prohibiting Internet service providers from slowing down or restricting Web content. Professor Weber explains that net neutrality has stifled innovation among telecom and cable companies, who don’t invest in expensive services. For example, if you’re doing telesurgery. If you’re Verizon, you would like to provide, say, a medical grade network," he says, but with net neutrality, that’s not allowed. He believes companies won’t block content because consumers would switch to other providers if they did. Link to audio. Full Story

7. Ten Examples of Welfare for the Rich and Corporations
Huffington Post

A blog about the top ten ways corporations and rich American receive "welfare" mentions, in 5th place, subsidies to the fast food industry. The taxpayer bill for that was estimated by Berkeley and University of Illinois researchers to be roughly $243 billion per year in public assistance to the industry's underpaid workers. This study was also mentioned in the San Francisco Chronicle Online. Full Story

8. Room for Debate Blog: Should Mayor de Blasio Unravel Bloomberg’s Reforms?
New York Times Online (*requires registration)

Education professor Bruce Fuller answers the question, "Should Mayor de Blasio Unravel Bloomberg’s Reforms?" His response begins by noting that the mayor's choice of Carmen Fariña as schools chancellor "suggests that many of the changes that defined Bloomberg's tenure are about to be reversed, " since she had been critical of the former mayor's reform efforts." However, he concludes: "As de Blasio and Fariña move beyond populist rhetoric, hard evidence and not political expediency should drive their emerging policy thrusts, even those crafted by the former mayor." Full Story

9. Analysis: BP's U.S. Gulf oil spill settlement challenges may backfire

Law professor Joseph Lavitt comments on BP's challenges of a multi-billion dollar settlement with victims over the 2010 Gulf oil spill, which it had agreed to a year ago. Professor Lavitt says, "The question of interpretation only arises in this case because of an ambiguity." Full Story

10. Audrie Pott: Boys admit sexually assaulting Saratoga teen who committed suicide
San Jose Mercury News (*requires registration)

Barry Krisberg, a juvenile justice expert and senior fellow at Berkeley's law school, comments on the unusually light sentences some teenage boys were given after admitting to sexually assaulting Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old who subsequently committed suicide. "It's what I call justice by geography. The juvenile court has wide disparities in the amount of penalties it connects to specific behaviors," Krisberg says. "On average, Santa Clara (County) has lower sentences than other places. They've embraced the treatment and rehabilitation strategy ... so this doesn't completely surprise me." Full Story

11. What They'll Be Talking About: The Skinny on Some White House Proposals
Chronicle of Higher Education (*requires registration)

Dozens of college presidents will visit the White House on Thursday to discuss ways of improving college access for low-income students. In advance of the meeting, the Obama administration circulated a list of 20 proposed commitments colleges can make, including "early intervention efforts." UC Berkeley's advising outreach to prospective transfer students at 30 of the state's community colleges is noted as an example of that kind of commitment. Full Story

12. Center at UC Merced set to help developing economies
Sacramento Bee

A new Blum Center for Developing Economies is set to launch this spring at UC Merced. Versions of the program are already in place at Berkeley, UCLA and UC Davis. While the Berkeley and UCLA centers focus on the economies of developing nations, the Merced center will focus on its local San Joaquin Valley. The original Blum Center -- named after the investment banker and UC Regent Richard C. Blum who helped establish it -- is at Berkeley. Full Story

13. Most UC campuses change fall calendar, avoiding Jewish holidays
Los Angeles Times

The academic calendar for UC schools on the quarter system has been tweaked to assure there is no conflict with the Jewish High Holy Days, which fall at the end of September. The result will be a slightly shorter winter break at those campuses. The change will not affect Berkeley's schedule, since it is on the semester system. Fall classes are scheduled to begin there on August 28. Full Story

14. Bay Area sent two women on first climb to the top of the world. Another never came back.
San Jose Mercury News (*requires registration)

Visiting chemist and lecturer Arlene Blum led an expedition of women on an historic Himalayan trek to the top of Annapurna I, one of the world's tallest peaks, in 1978. It was a landmark in the feminist movement, according to this article, "both for their legacy of accomplishment and the staggering cost at which it came." Two women made it to the summit, and two died in the attempt. Last week, Blum was trekking in Nepal again with her daughter, Annalise, and spoke about the historic climb: "I remember the avalanches and ice falls and our youthful optimism that we could climb the mountain safely and successfully ... and establish that a woman's place was on top of Annapurna, or anywhere she chose to go. ... It's never worth climbing a mountain if you lose people. .. And losing two friends is the worst thing of all. When I'm asked did we conquer the mountain, I say, 'You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the summit a few brief moments, and then the wind blows your footsteps away.'" Full Story

15. India Ink Blog: A Pocket Guide to the 2014 Jaipur Literature Festival
International New York Times Online (*requires registration)

The 2014 Jaipur Literature Festival begins Friday in Rajasthan, India. Highlighted speakers include creative writing lecturer Vikram Chandra, who will talk about his epic novel Sacred Games, set in contemporary Mumbai. Full Story

Today's Edition of UC Berkeley in the News