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Years of Lobbying Helped Transportation Fuels Industry Win Exemptions From California’s Climate Rules

For four years oil companies, airlines and ground transportation industry groups have petitioned California for exemptions from the state’s cap-and-trade greenhouse gas market, saying consumers would take the hit through higher prices at the pump and in stores. And in court they are still arguing that the state lacks the regulatory authority to compel participation. To a degree, they have succeeded. This story is part of a special report on climate change in the summer print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

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California’s Hunger for Low-Carbon Power Could Hurt Other States

California’s effort to ensure that the state receives low carbon electricity could end up increasing greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere in the country, thanks to a practice known as contract reshuffling.Importing low-carbon electricity from out-of-state suppliers of renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower is one way California’s electric utilities can decrease their carbon emissions.
This story is part of a special report on climate change in the Summer print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

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UCSF Facing Cuts in Wake of Sequester; Free Bus Passes for Youth

Sequestration isn’t just some Washington abstraction. It’s hitting home. The automatic federal budget cuts that rolled out on Friday — known as the sequester — are going to hurt the University of California, San Francisco. The world-class teaching hospital and research center receives funding from the National Institutes of Health. According to KQED’s “California Report,” the university’s vice chancellor for research, Keith Yamamoto, said that some laboratories have already instituted hiring freezes.

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Food Prices at Center of Debate Over GMO Labeling in Prop 37

Proposition 37, the state ballot measure requiring labels on genetically modified food, has revived a long-simmering debate about whether genetically modified food harms human health or the environment. But it’s the claim by opponents that food prices would increase that is riling proponents.

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Bay Area Carbon Dioxide Sensor Network Aims to Check Climate Change Policies

Scientists have devised an intricate network of carbon dioxide sensors in the Bay Area that could offer objective measurements to evaluate which climate change initiatives are effective in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The sensors provide real-time local data on how much carbon dioxide is being emitted, said lead researcher Ronald Cohen, a professor of chemistry and of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Without long-term support, human trafficking survivors at risk of re-exploitation

Some who flee captive labor conditions end up with low-wage jobs, insecure housing
People trafficked into the country receive temporary government and nonprofit social service benefits after rescue or flight from captivity: shelter, health care, counseling, employment and legal help. But once these benefits term out, counter-trafficking specialists worry that victims, who generally have little work experience and weak social and family networks, could fall back into labor conditions as exploitative as the ones they fled. As a victim of international labor trafficking, Lili Samad received government help to stay in the U.S. But she is among hundreds of trafficking survivors each year who end up, months after getting help trying to build a new life, living in marginal housing and working in low-wage jobs.

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U.S. visas help trafficking victims, if applicants can vault legal hurdles

Chance for permanent residency, access to federal benefits hinge on cooperating with law enforcement
This special report appeared in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.
A special visa created 12 years ago to save thousands of victims of human trafficking and curb international human trafficking has been vastly underutilized. Attorneys for rescued victims seeking residency protection say law enforcement agencies are often unwilling or slow to “certify” victims’ claims of having been brought to the U.S. to work by force, fraud or coercion. Legal experts and social service providers in high-trafficking regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area, suggest that victims are placed in a dangerous dilemma: Promising to cooperate with an investigation could possibly help their visa cases, but it could also expose them and their families back home to retaliation.

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Payday loan industry: the stories

Public Press writer Rick Jurgens reported on San Francisco’s payday loan industry in our Winter 2011 print edition. He found that large corporations like Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse are among the biggest backers of these profitable low-finance firms. A subsequent whirl around the world of social media has revealed that payday loans are a fact of financial life for many, and some alternatives do exist. 

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Sharing skills during the holidays

With the holiday festivities swiftly approaching in a year marked by global protests over economic inequality, people in the Bay Area are turning to alternate, community-based means of exchanging goods and skills. Collectives like the Timebank help people circumvent buying gifts with money during the holidays. “The systemic way in which the economy works undermines every good that we try to do,” said Mira Luna, co-founder of the local nonprofit Bay Area Community Exchange, an organization that has been facilitating trades of talents and commodities using time rather than money as the currency. “There’s a lot of underutilized resources and a lot of needs out of there.”

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“Visual Aid” offers outlet, insight into artists with AIDS

Group archives, displays works of hundreds from Bay Area
To help artists who were suffering from life-threatening illnesses, a collective of artists, art collectors and gallery owners began convening at local art spaces in the city in late 1980s. Their mission was to find a means to record the existing works of artists with AIDS and provide them with the materials they needed to create new ones. The group grew into a fullfledged nonprofit called Visual Aid in 1989, and the organization has been supporting hundreds of Bay Area artists since then.