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Q&A: Bay Area Ukrainians Organize in Response to Crisis

 By Zdenek KratochvilNew America Media

Editor's Note: Protests in Ukraine sparked by former President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a trade deal with the European Union have now evolved into a larger regional crisis. Concerns are growing over the possible breakup of the former Soviet Union country. Moscow’s growing military involvement, meanwhile, has leaders in Washington and the European Union scrambling to come up with a response. Organizers of MaydanSF, a Bay Area-based Ukrainian group named for the protests that began in the Ukrainian capital Kiev in November, have been working to support protestors in their home country. To date, they have organized several local rallies and say more are planned. They spoke with New America Media  contributor Zdenek Kratochvil.



Read the complete story at New America Media.

Google to Fund San Francisco’s Free Muni for Youth Program

KQED News Staff and Wires, KQED News Fix

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials announced  that Google is donating $6.8 million to fund the next two years of the city’s “Free Muni for Youth” program. According to the city, the gift is “one of the largest private contributions towards direct city services in San Francisco history.”

The program, which started as a 16-month pilot project March 1, 2013, currently allows more than 31,000 qualifying low- and moderate-income youth between 5 and 17 years old to ride San Francisco Municipal Railway buses and light-rail vehicles at no cost.

Before the Google announcement, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors had been considering whether to renew or possibly expand the program to include seniors and people with disabilities, as well as 18-year-old youths.

 

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.

San Francisco: Ground Zero for Widening Income Gap

By Grace Rubenstein, KQED News Fix

We’d prefer that our city by the bay be known as the home of brilliant tech innovation, counterculture trends and culinary delights. But a recent report from the Brookings Institution confirms that San Francisco also is earning its other, less desirable reputation as a kind of ground zero for rising income inequality.

The findings: When it comes to income, San Francisco is the second-most-unequal among American cities, after Atlanta. And in no other city has the rich-poor divide widened more in recent years. (Oakland, meanwhile, is not so far behind, ranking seventh on the list nationally. But the gap has not widened appreciably in recent years. San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley, ranks far down the complete list, No. 36; the rich/poor gap also grew far slower there than in San Francisco).

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Disconnected in a Neighborhood of Tech Workers

By Erica Hellerstein, Mission Local

On an enviably sunny Saturday, a small crowd huddles around a table inside a popular Mission District building. Despite the nice weather, they have been inside for the better portion of the morning, examining an assortment of computers and other equipment.

“How much does that one cost?” a man in a Giant’s hat asks, pointing to a shiny laptop without a price tag. “$129,” the seller replies, enunciating the hundred as if to say, now this is cheap. The man’s eyes widen; he nudges a woman nearby. “That’s a good deal!”

The laptop was one of many reasonably priced computers for sale recently  at the Mission Economic Development Agency’s “Get Connected Day.” The event, which was coordinated by the agency  in an effort to connect Mission District residents with computers and Internet access, offered everything from computer literacy workshops to affordable laptops and $10 monthly Internet services. In addition to the $129 laptop, there were desktop devices with a large monitors going for $183, laptops with optical drives for $172 and $32 Skype kits.

Read the complete story at Mission Local.

Oakland Artist Crafts Homes for Those Who Have None

By Mark Andrew Boyer, KQED News Fix

Oakland artist and designer Gregory Kloehn was thrust into the national spotlight in 2011, when he famously transformed a Dumpster into a home. Kloehn is again working with tiny structures, but now he is building them from found materials, and he is donating the finished structures to homeless people.

The homes, all built on wheels, range in size from small boxes that are just big enough to sleep in to larger structures that you can stand up in. Despite the attention, Kloehn downplays what he is doing, arguing that his structures are just an upgrade on the many lean-tos and improvised structures homeless people make for themselves.

“I just ripped a page from the homeless person’s book and then took my basic construction skills and came up with something,” he said.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Counting Harbor Porpoises With Carbon Currency

By Elizabeth Devitt, Bay Nature

Cara Gallagher spends a lot of time on the Golden Gate Bridge, scanning the cold waters below for evidence to solve a really challenging math problem.

Gallagher knows the bay’s porpoise population is rebounding, from zero as recently as a decade ago to at least 600. Although all those porpoises are not fishing for food in the bay at the same time – they probably come and go from the larger population of about 2,500 to 3,000 along the outer coast – the inland waters have clearly become popular with the porpoises. What Gallagher wants to know is: What does that mean about the bay ecosystem itself, and how could you start to tell?

Read the complete story at Bay Nature. 

13 Years Old and Homeless in S.F. — but He's Not the Only One

By Andra Cernavskis, Mission Local

Anthony Velez, 13, is tired of trudging around the Tenderloin with his family to find something to eat that will not give him a stomachache. He misses his mom’s home cooking.

“I’m used to having a refrigerator,” said the eighth-grader at Everett Middle School. He is at a diner across the street from the Hamilton House, where he, his mother and three siblings live. Anthony had stayed home sick from school that day because of a bad stomachache, so they decided to skip out on the dining room’s tuna casserole and find something easier to digest.

“It’s like I’m confined in a box,” Melissa Velez, Anthony’s mom, said. “I feel enclosed, and the children feel that way, too.”

She hates that her family has to sit on the floor or on their beds while spending time together in their single room. They used to have a living room. They used to have a couch. She used to be able to make Anthony herbal tea when he got an upset stomach.

Read the complete story at Mission Local. 

Life Cycle of Toilet Water at S.F. Public Utilities Commission

By Hana Baba, KALW Crosscurrents

You may have walked by the beautiful green plants growing outside the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission on Polk Street and not thought much about them. But these plants get their nourishment from our waste.

Along the outer perimeter of the building, there are rectangular planters that are irrigated by reused waste water, or "black water." Black water includes toilet water, urinal water, bathroom and sink water.

The plants also work to treat the water as it flows through them by absorbing the nutrients in the waste. After treatment comes disinfection with ultraviolet lights and chlorine. Then, the water is redirected back to the bathroom for reuse.

Paula Kehoe, the Director of Water Resources at the commission, said they have saved 65 percent of their water as a result of this process.

Read the complete story at KALW Crosscurrents. 

How Can Cities Keep Pedestrians and Bicyclists Safer?

By Olivia Hubert-Allen, KQED News Fix

Rising numbers of pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco and San Jose are drawing attention to what many walking and cycling advocates say is a longtime problem.

There were 21 pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco last year. It was also a particularly deadly year in San Jose, with 26 fatal pedestrian accidents. That is the highest number in nearly two decades.

“We don’t know exactly why they’re rising but we know what the solutions are, so we’re focused on making a change,” Nicole Schneider, executive director at Walk San Francisco, said during a panel discussion on KQED “Newsroom.” Her group is working with the city on how to improve traffic enforcement, engineer better roadways and educate the public.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix. 

Chevron Joins News Publisher Wars in East Bay City

By Sukey Lewis and Asha Dumonthier, New America Media

A good, old-fashioned muckraker’s war is going on in Richmond, in Contra Costa County, and Chevron’s “community-driven” news site, the Richmond Standard, is the latest fighter to step into the ring.

This sprawling city east of San Francisco is home to Chevron’s oil refinery, which has made it a battleground between the company’s business interests and environmental activists who are calling for checks on air quality and safety.

Now, 

as part of the company’s latest effort to rehabilitate its image in the city, Chevron is launching its own community news site.

Chevron spokesperson Melissa Ritchie said that Chevron wanted to start the site because, “We want to make sure there’s a way to have a conversation with Richmond.”

But many community members complain that Chevron is already communicating too much with Richmond – and that the communication goes only one way. 

Read the complete story at New America Media.