Berkeley in the News

Berkeley in the News is a daily selection of articles and commentaries in the news media that mention UC Berkeley. The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the campus.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

1. Trump's 'pro-life' administration just killed a program on children's health
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

The Trump administration has decided that the Environmental Protection Agency will no longer contribute money toward research co-commissioned with the National Institutes of Health to study environmental impacts on children's health, and this commentator calls the decision "a devastating blow to the cause of children's health." He writes: "Since its origin in 1997, the program has funded groundbreaking research on the effects on children of air pollution, pesticides, secondhand smoke, and chemicals in household and consumer products such as the flame retardants in clothing and upholstery -- probing the environment's role in asthma, children's neurological development, cancer, and pre-term deliveries and infant mortality. ... The children's environmental health program ranks as an asterisk in the federal budget. Its grants have totaled $301 million over 20 years, distributed among 25 academic institutions from coast to coast. (The University of California has received about $74 million through its Berkeley, Davis and San Francisco campuses.) ... But for those institutions, the grants have been a lifeline. ... At UC Berkeley, researchers have been delving into the potential environmental causes of childhood leukemia with $12 million in grants dating back to 2009. The funding gave the project the stability to sustain that work over that period. The remaining funds will be enough to finish the existing research in the next year, says the project leader, epidemiologist Catherine Metayer. 'To lose the support we've had is a big blow.'"
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2. Beach Sands near Hiroshima are Still Packed with 1945 Nuclear Fallout Debris
Gizmodo (UK)

Strange glass particles found in the sand of Hiroshima beaches are believed to have been created by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, reports a new study co-authored by earth and planetary science professor Hans-Rudolf Wenk. The particles had been discovered by Mario Wannier, a retired geologist, who sought assistance from Professor Wenk and other researchers at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The team used conventional and scanning electron microscopes to learn that the glass was full of minerals that are unusual in sediment and usually seen around volcanoes and sites of meteorite impact -- in other words, sites of catastrophic destruction. They say the particles contain elements common in Hiroshima during the war -- such as rubber, stainless steel, concrete, and marble -- and would have been formed in temperatures that reached 3,330 degrees Fahrenheit, when the explosion turned ground materials to liquid and sent it into the sky, where at high elevation the particles fused into complex agglomerations. For more on this, see our story at Berkeley News. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources around the world, including the Daily Mail (UK), IFL Science, Atlas Obscura, Tech2, Geek, Tech Live News, El País (Spain), and Soha (Vietnam).
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3. A nationwide tax on soda? Economists say it would be good for the country, and here's their 'optimal' rate.
Philadelphia Inquirer

A national tax on sodas and sugary drinks could benefit public health, a new analysis from Berkeley suggests. "What we're trying to do is evaluate whether soda taxes are good or bad overall for society," says assistant economics professor Dmitry Taubinsky, one of the study's co-authors. Along with other economists from the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, the team looked at several factors, including tax revenues, health outcomes, effect on health-care costs, the impact of soda taxes on low-income residents, as well as the pleasure people derive from the drinks, which makes them likely to drink it even when they know it's not good for them. Their cost-benefit analysis suggests that the optimal federal tax would be between 1 and 2.1 cents per ounce. The national tax is recommended so that people can't leave one area with the tax, such as Philadelphia, to buy the drinks in another -- untaxed -- area. "The issue is just that if Philadelphia imposes a soda tax but the neighboring cities do not, then people might engage in cross-border shopping," Professor Taubinsky says. "That is why we also think that instead of implementing taxes in a piecemeal city-by-city basis, it would be best if we did them larger-scale, at a state level or, even better, at a national level."
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4. Cities' interest in granny flats at 'fever pitch' amid U.S. housing crisis

Weighing in on the growing popularity of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or "granny flats" as a solution to the housing shortage and an opportunity for homeowners to become small-time landlords, David Garcia, policy director of Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation, says that California is well ahead of other states, after legalizing ADUs in most areas of the state in 2017. He adds that California's statewide approach is especially notable, since zoning and housing regulations usually fall under the jurisdiction of local authorities. Terner Center research suggests that 70 percent of California land is zoned for single-family homes. "That's a significant amount of land where virtually nothing is getting built right now," he says. "So (the new law) has played a big role in addressing the issue of single-family zoning by essentially doubling the capacity of areas ... and it's driven by homeowners themselves."
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5. 'How are you going to pay for it?' -- 2020 candidates wrestle with their costly plans
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

As Democratic presidential candidates cast about for bold solutions to social and economic problems, some are overlooking subtleties of economic research to advance their ideas. As economics and law professor Alan Auerbach says: "It is one of these unfortunate things where the economists are writing with all kinds of caveats that are being ignored by the politicians."
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6. Inside TransTime Cryonics Facility: Bodies Frozen, Awaiting A Future Reawakening

"This is like a hospital," says Steven Garan, director of bioinformatics at Berkeley's Center for Research and Education on Aging (CREA), about the Trans Time cryonics facility in San Leandro, for which he is chief technology officer. The center is holding the bodies of about 400 people who decided before they died, as long as 30 years ago, that they wanted their bodies frozen immediately upon clinical death so they might be revived and cured at a later date. "Think of it as a very intense intensive care unit," Garan says. While no one has been successfully revived yet, he says the technology is inevitable and that Trans Time lets their clients overcome the technology gap. "I'm a scientist and I don't do hope. I do facts," he says. The cost: $150,000. "It covers everything," he says. "All the perfusion, the care until you get rebooted." Link to video.
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7. Six incredible California literary gems you can experience
Mercury News (*requires registration)

"This amazing collection is amazingly open to the public," this writer says of the Bancroft Library's Mark Twain Papers archive, highlighted here for holding the largest collection of original documents by and about Samuel Langhorne Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain. According to the write-up: "There are thousands of letters by him and his family, 50 of his notebooks and hundreds of manuscripts, as well as related working notes, typescripts and proofs, first editions, books from his own library, scrapbooks, photographs and other important Twain-related documents. They were bequeathed to the University of California by his daughter, Clara Clemens Samossoud, in 1962." For more on this, and to make an appointment to view the collection, visit the Mark Twain Papers.
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8. Want to park near Cal's stadium in Berkeley on game days? Bring money
San Francisco Chronicle (*requires registration)

"We were trying to address a few different problems," says Berkeley City Councilwoman Lori Droste, explaining the city's decision to raise the cost of a football game-day parking ticket in the vicinity of Memorial Stadium to a whopping $225. The fine used to be $98, but apparently that didn't faze enough determined Bear fans. "One of the reasons a $98 fine wasn't working was because people in the area were charging $100 to let people park in their own spaces," reports Berkeley Transportation Division Manager Farid Javandel. "Fraternities and people with residential parking permits were taking their cars out of their driveways, parking on the street, then renting out their driveways for $100 -- so it was cheaper to park on the street and get a ticket. ... Some games are in the early afternoon, some games are in the evening, so in the interest of consistency the parking will be enforced from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ... We'll be putting up really big warning signs to make it noticeable. ... We don't want to cite anyone if we can help it."
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