Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mushroom-Kit Makers Expand to Huge West Oakland Warehouse

by Nate Seltenrich
Tue, May 31, 2011 at 1:42 PM

Imagine growing a mushroom from used coffee grounds. Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora did just that as Cal undergrads in 2009, experimenting with the procedure in their fraternity house kitchen, and it worked well enough to inspire them to launch a company. Two years later, Back to the Roots’ business selling organic oyster mushroom-growing kits to home consumers is growing quickly, and thanks to a $50,000 grant from MillerCoors, it recently moved from its cramped Emeryville quarters to a 10,000 square-foot warehouse on Adeline Street in West Oakland.

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Tuesday Must Read: Brown’s State Parks Plan is Illegal; Mehserle to be Released Soon

by Robert Gammon
Tue, May 31, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Portions of Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to close seventy state parks appear to be illegal because sixteen of the parks on the list received federal funds, the Mercury News reported. “The funding is a grant to the state, like a contract,” Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service in Washington DC, told the Merc. “It says the state makes a commitment to provide these places for public use in perpetuity. To not do that is essentially a breach of that contract.”

Castle Rock State Park
  • Castle Rock State Park
The park service also says that if Brown closes the parks, then California could become ineligible for future federal grants, a potentially huge blow to the state park system. The Merc has previously reported that Brown’s plan to close state beaches violates the California constitution because beaches cannot be closed to the public.

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Hackers Infiltrate PBS Web Site, Post Fake Tupac Article

by Rachel Swan
Tue, May 31, 2011 at 10:56 AM

On Saturday the PBS web site ran an article about famed rapper Tupac Shakur, long thought dead. Apparently, he's alive and living in New Zealand.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Must Read: Heavy Energy Users Get Rate Cut; State Lawmakers Kill Bill that Would Have Banned Gifts to Them

by Robert Gammon
Fri, May 27, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. State regulators yesterday acted as if climate change doesn’t exist, approving a plan to give PG&E’s biggest energy users a 17 percent rate cut, while slightly raising rates for people who have been conserving energy. But as ridiculous as the new rules are, they could have been even more absurd. The California Public Utilities Commission had considered a proposal by PG&E to dramatically slash rates for heavy energy users, the Chron and Mercury News report. Even so, the new rules will provide an incentive for energy wasters to waste even more, thereby adding to greenhouse gas emissions in California.

Dems love goin to Disneyland.
  • Dems love goin to Disneyland.
2. Democratic state lawmakers made it clear yesterday that they love getting tickets to major sporting events, and of course, to Disneyland. They killed a bill that would have prohibited lobbyists from showering them with gifts, the LA Times reports. The bill was written by moderate Republican Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo and backed by good government groups. Democrats claimed that the cost of enforcing the new ban, about $200,000, was too high, but good government folks noted that it would have been offset by fines levied on rule breakers. Last year, elected officials accepted gifts totaling $637,000.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Solar-Energy Win-Win-Win

by Nate Seltenrich
Thu, May 26, 2011 at 3:52 PM

You're a good East Bay resident. You shop locally. You believe in alternative energy and support the efforts of the Sierra Club. And if you don't already have solar panels on your rooftop, you're thinking about it. Well get this: A new collaboration between the Sierra Club and Oakland-based solar contractor Sungevity offers a unique opportunity to wear a few of your do-gooder hats at once. (It also offered an excuse for Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and Sungevity founder and CEO Danny Kennedy to climb atop an Oakland home on Tuesday.)

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Updated: Authorities Now Trying to Recover Body of Allison Bayliss

by Rachel Swan
Thu, May 26, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Three days have passed since 15 year-old Allison Bayliss disappeared while riding her bike to San Ramon Valley High School. And now authorities have shifted their efforts from trying to find a missing person, to combing for a body, The San Jose Mercury News reports. Police now believe that Bayliss killed herself. San Francisco police Captain Lisa Locati told the Chronicle they believe Bayliss boarded a BART train at Dublin station, got off at Embarcadero, and rode her bike over to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was found there early Tuesday, after family members perused Bayliss' computer and found the same route traced on Google Maps. Locati said the police have evidence that Bayliss walked onto the bridge, but never walked off.

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Thursday Must Read: Which NorCal Beaches to Avoid; There Hasn’t Been an Oil Shortage

by Robert Gammon
Thu, May 26, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Most Northern California beaches got good grades for cleanliness, but there are a few beaches you should avoid because of pollution, including Baker Beach in San Francisco, the Chron reports, citing a new analysis by environmental group Heal the Bay. Baker Beach got an “F” in the report because of high levels of dangerous bacteria there. Other local beaches receiving poor grades include Keller Beach in Point Richmond.

Theres no oil shortage.
  • There's no oil shortage.
2. Even though gasoline prices spiked this year, there hasn’t been an oil shortage, McClatchy reports, citing WikiLeaks cables. Indeed, demand for gasoline plummeted, as supplies remained robust. So why did prices spike? According to Saudi Arabian officials, it’s because unregulated Wall Street oil speculators have been driving up prices and the Obama administration has done little to stop it. In other words, it appears that the call to open more US coastline for oil drilling is wrongheaded. Instead, we need to clamp down on greedy speculators.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Search for Missing Danville Teen Continues

by Rachel Swan
Wed, May 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM

A day after Allison Bayliss' bicycle was uncovered in a parking lot by the Golden Gate Bridge, police and local park rangers have ramped up their efforts to find the missing Danville teen. Currently their searching trails, beaches, and bluffs in Ocean Beach and the Marin Headlands, US park ranger Howard Levitt told KTVU News this morning. They've scrutinized Alison's Facebook page for clues, and sent boats out to troll the San Francisco Bay. So far, their efforts have paid off. A friend of the family told reporters at Walnut Creek Patch that Levitt said that a careful perusal of Alison's computer yielded Google Maps bicycle directions to Dublin BART station, the Embarcadero, and the Golden Gate Bridge — which was how they found the bike yesterday. Rescue teams set out at 5 a.m. this morning, and will continue working through the afternoon.

Allison Bayliss
  • Allison Bayliss

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Wednesday Must Read: Your Sunscreen Is Toxic; Google Invests Big Bucks in Wind Farms

by Robert Gammon
Wed, May 25, 2011 at 10:15 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Your sunscreen not only may not work, but it’s probably toxic, too. That’s according to the Oakland-based Environmental Working Group, which is out with a new comprehensive report analyzing sunscreens, the Chron reports. Lax governmental standards and nonexistent regulation are allowing sunscreen manufacturers to make bogus claims about the efficacy of their products. And many sunscreens contain chemicals that are linked to skin tumors, lesions, and hormone disruption. Among the sunscreens to avoid: Coppertone’s Water Babies SPF 70; it made the report’s Hall of Shame:

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“Coppertone advises users of this baby product to apply ‘liberally.’ But scientists, who have researched its key sunscreen chemical, oxybenzone, warn against using it over large surfaces of skin and over many hours. These warnings are particularly strong for young children who don’t eliminate toxic chemicals from their bodies as readily as adults and who have more skin relative to their body weight than adults.”

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You Write Too Long: This Week's Feature, Bite-Sized

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, May 25, 2011 at 10:12 AM

This week's feature takes a peek inside pinball subculture. It's not just an arcade game; it's got a whole history behind it, dating back to the American Revolution. Alamedan Michael Schiess is a longtime pinball fanatic who has his eye on creating a museum to show off his massive collection of rare pinball machines — apparently the largest in the world. His Pacific Pinball Museum on Webster Street allows visitors to play about ninety of them, but he's got hundreds more stored in a nearby warehouse. The problem? The City of Alameda doesn't seem interested in letting him do such a thing. Meanwhile, his collection is being threatened by a leaky roof, pinball museums are popping up all over the country, and Schiess' annual Pacific Pinball Expo in San Rafael draws thousands from all over the world. Good move, Alameda.

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