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5 Things You Should Know About the Bay Bridge Closure

By Lisa Pickoff-White, KQED News Fix

1. The bridge is closing.

By now you've heard the news that the Bay Bridge closed Wednesday, August 28, at 8 p.m., and is scheduled to remain closed until next Tuesday morning, September 3, at 5 a.m.

If you need to get to San Francisco International Airport at 2 a.m. Friday from Berkeley, you're in luck, because BART is running hourly all-night service until Monday night at 14 stations. However, if you face the same challenge after midnight Monday, you need to start looking at alternatives, since BART needs to shut down that night for inspections. (It will reopen at 4 a.m. Tuesday.)

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.


Homeless Hackers Head to Noisebridge for Shelter

By Holly McDede, KALW

Every day, more than two dozen people pass through a hackerspace in San Francisco’s Mission district called Noisebridge. At its broadest, “hackerspace” means a place where people can create and make things better. In practice, that often means computer programming.

Because of this, Noisebridge occupies a unique place in the city’s landscape. The tech boom has pushed rents 53 percent higher than than they were a decade ago. And that’s pricing out some of the people most likely to participate in that new economy.

“One of the most shocking things about San Francisco and Silicon Valley for someone coming here from somewhere else,” says Danny O’Brien, a member of Noisebridge. “is discovering that a huge chunk of the technologists that you imagine caused this problem -- a lot of them don't have homes.”

But Noisebridge isn’t a homeless shelter. Living there is actually forbidden by the lease. Still, every night, at least a few people crash at Noisebridge. Some have managed to live there for weeks. The space is run by an anarchist-leaning group of core members, who see hacking as a path toward social justice. And now they’re asking themselves a hard question: how do you hack San Francisco's homelessness problem? 

Read or listen to the complete story at KALW.

Very Few Chinese Youth Applying for Deportation Reprieve

By Valeria Fernández, New America Media

A year after a deportation reprieve became available to undocumented youth, analysts are noticing a trend: Very few Chinese immigrants are applying for it.

“We suspected this was the case, that there would be low numbers,” said Anoop Prasad, a staff attorney from the Immigrant Rights Program at the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco who has worked with many Chinese applicants.

Mexican youth make up the largest number of those eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals  and also had the highest rate of applications, with 64 percent or 637,000 applications according to the Migration Policy Institute. But the absence of Chinese youth from the top 20 countries that applied for deferred action came as a surprise to researchers – especially since Chinese rank in ninth place in terms of eligibility.

“Even though Chinese are eligible, they’re not applying at a high rate to appear in the statistics the Department of Homeland Security put out,” said Jeanne Batalova, the policy institute's senior policy analyst and demographer. “Some did apply, but they didn’t make it to the top.”

Read the complete story in New America Media. 


Foreclosure Rescue Scams Still Common, Warn Housing Counselors

By Anna Challet, New American Media

Nonprofit housing counseling agencies and housing rights advocates agree: Foreclosure rescue scams are still common in the Bay Area, and there’s no need for homeowners in distress to empty their pockets paying for private attorneys.

When the Tatakamotongas of East Palo Alto were having trouble making their mortgage payments after the sudden death of the family’s primary breadwinner, they decided to seek help with obtaining a loan modification to lower their monthly payments. In looking for legal help, they came into contact with a scammer.

“The advice they gave me was ‘Don’t make any more payments at all. The longer you are backed up, the more we can help you.’ And so of course I believed them,” says Mele Tatakamotonga.

The scammer, a private attorney, told them to stop paying their mortgage in order to qualify for a modification and charged them $3,000 for the assistance. After paying the fee, the family tried contacting the attorney, only to find that the phone number had been disconnected.

“Foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification scams are continuing and getting bolder,” says Vanitha Venugopal, program director of Community Development and Investment at The San Francisco Foundation. 

Read the complete story at New American Media.

CCSF Shies Away From Criticism of Accreditation Panel

By KQED News Staff and Wires, KQED News Fix

City College of San Francisco officials submitted a formal request for review of a regional panel's decision to revoke the school's accreditation, but the request made no mention of recent criticism of the accreditors by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges announced last month that City College's accreditation would end in July 2014 unless changes are made to the school's governance structure and finances.

However, last week, the Department of Education issued a letter finding fault with the commission's accrediting process for City College, citing vague instructions for compliance, a lack of faculty members on evaluation teams and a possible conflict of interest between the commission's president and her husband, who was on an evaluation team.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.

Fishermen Harvest Dinner in the Bay – At Their Own Risk

By Julia Scott, KALW Crosscurrents

Community outreach workers say a growing number of people – often poor Asians and African Americans – are dining out at the piers. It’s an enticing prospect: Aspiring fishermen on local shores can expect salmon, croaker, sturgeon… even the occasional rock crab, all for free.

But there’s a big tradeoff.

“Some of the fish that live in San Francisco Bay have mercury in them,” says Margy Gassel of the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. “Actually,” she clarifies, “most fish have mercury in them – and certain kinds of fish have lots of mercury in them.”

Gassel’s worried that mercury, PCBs and other industrial chemicals could make fishermen sick – and that they won’t know until they’re very sick. “People aren’t going to get obviously sick after eating fish, but the contaminants can build up in their bodies and can cause harm,” Gassel says. 

Read or listen to the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents.

California Upends School Funding to Give Poor Kids a Boost

By Alan Greenblatt, KQED News 

As the school year begins, districts in cities such as Oakland, Fresno and Los Angeles have not gone on a hiring spree.

But they might soon.

California has revamped its school funding formula in ways that will send billions more dollars to districts that educate large numbers of children who are poor, disabled in some way or still learning to speak English.

It's an approach that numerous other states, from New York to Hawaii, have looked into lately. But none has matched the scale of the change now under way in the nation's largest state.

"The trend is toward more and more states providing additional assistance to students with special needs," said Deborah Verstegen, a school finance expert at the University of Nevada, Reno. "California is moving into the forefront with this approach."

Read the complete story at KQED News. 


California Supreme Court Puts Final Nail in Prop. 8 Coffin

By KQED News Staff and Wires

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday turned down a petition in which the sponsors of Proposition 8 sought to have the ban on same-sex marriage put back into effect in most of the state.

The court, in an order issued in San Francisco, declined to grant a hearing on the petition, which was filed July 12. The court made no comment in the order, which was signed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.

Wednesday's court action appears to bring an end to pending litigation seeking to stop gay and lesbian weddings in the state, at least for the time being.

"The California Supreme Court's choice not to address the merits of our case, like the U.S. Supreme Court's choice to avoid the merits, leaves grave doubts about the future of the initiative process in our state," Andy Pugno, an attorney for Protect Marriage, said in a statement.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.

Lawsuit Alleges Mistreatment of California Minors With Mental Health Problems

By Susan FerrissCenter for Public Integrity

Minors with mental health problems and other disabilities are held in “unconscionable conditions” of 23-hour solitary confinement and deliberately cut off from education and other rehabilitation at a San Francisco Bay Area juvenile hall, alleges a lawsuit filed in federal court in Northern California.

The class-action suit against Contra Costa County probation and county school officials accuses them of locking young wards in small cells for days at a time in response to behavior stemming from the children’s own disabilities — including bipolar disorder — and then illegally depriving them of education as part of a three-tier system of isolation.

The two most severe tiers of isolation imposed on wards are called “risk” and “max,” requiring 23-hour confinement in cells, when “youth with disabilities are outright denied both general and special education entirely,” according to the suit.

The first tier, called “program,” results in up to 22½ hours of solitary confinement, during which, the suit says, the county’s policies illegally permit probation (officials) to withhold education as a punishment or for no reason at all.”

Read the complete story at New America Media


Drones: The Next Wave in Photography

By Asha DuMonthier, New America Media

While drones have played an increasingly prominent role in America’s military and surveillance operations – at home and abroad – lesser known is the growing use of this new technology in civilian life. Some of these applications are far less sinister than one might expect.

For Jason Lam, owner of San Francisco’s first personal drone shop, the aerial crafts could just be the latest and most exciting wave in the field of digital photography.

Walk down 6th Street in San Francisco, an area long blighted but fast becoming a hub of tech entrepreneurialism, and you could easily miss AeriCam. The modest exterior houses an array of remotely-operated vehicles that, as the name suggests, promise a bird’s eye view for photographers.

“One day these could be something that all photographers use,” says Lam, pointing to the radio controlled helicopters that line his studio, which like a lot of the other tech startups in the area has a casual, creative flare to it. 

Read the complete story at New American Media.