Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wednesday Must Reads: Expert Warns that More Bridge Bolts Will Snap; US Postal Service Decides to Sell Historic Berkeley Post Office

By Robert Gammon
Wed, Apr 24, 2013 at 6:58 AM

News stories that East Bay progressives and environmentalists shouldn’t miss:

1. A respected longtime metallurgist has concluded that more giant bolts on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge will likely snap in the years ahead and that Caltrans should replace them, the CoCo Times reports. Yun Chung, who specializes in high-strength steel analysis and was a longtime engineer for Bechtel, also blamed CalTrans for the fact that more than thirty of the massive bolts, which are designed to help the new bridge withstand a major earthquake, have already failed — rather than the bolt supplier Dyson Corporation of Ohio. However, it’s unclear whether CalTrans can replace the big bolts as Chung recommends because the bridge’s roadbed has already been installed.

Downtown Berkeley Post Office.
2. The US Postal Service has officially decided to sell the historic post office in downtown Berkeley despite strong opposition from the Berkeley City Council and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the Trib reports. USPS claims that it must sell the landmarked structure in order to shore up its finances. The postal service has financial difficulties because Congress forced it to prepay employee retirement benefits for the next 75 years, a hugely burdensome requirement that no other public agency or private business must do.

3. Instead of the One Percent and the 99 Percent, it maybe should have been the Seven Percent and the 93 Percent. That’s because a new report shows that the wealth of the richest 7 percent of Americans skyrocketed by 28 percent after the Great Recession, while the rest of the country experienced a 4 percent decline, the LA Times$ reports. The average wealth of the richest 7 percent of Americans soared to $3.17 million in 2011, compared to $2.48 million two years earlier.

4. New legislation that is advancing in Sacramento would provide homeless people with a set of basic rights, including the right to rest in public places, SFGate reports. The bill, which easily passed a legislative committee yesterday, also would overturn or block so-called sit-lie laws that ban homeless people from sitting or lying down on public sidewalks.

5. Los Angeles officials are investigating whether Nevada psychiatric hospitals are illegally dumping patients in California, following a Sacramento Bee investigation that found that Nevada institutions had given 200 patients bus tickets to LA and sent them there, the LA Times$ reports.

6. And parts of Oakland and Richmond are among the most polluted in California, the Chron$ reports, citing a new statewide database. A section of East Oakland near Oakland International Airport was high on the most polluted list, as was an area in Richmond near the Chevron refinery. Other Bay Area communities on the list were in Hayward, Pittsburg, Antioch, and San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood.

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