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, 5 May 2015

1. Trove of letters from San Francisco shed light on Mark Twain
San Francisco Chronicle

Scholars at Berkeley's Mark Twain Project have discovered a number of stories, or "letters," written by Mark Twain in San Francisco for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper of Virginia City, Nev., around 1865 -- 150 years ago. Twain was 29 at the time, and called upon to write 2,000 words a day. He reportedly told stories that were, according to this article, "true, mostly true, occasionally true and possibly true." Much of what he wrote during that year was lost in a series of fires, but the researchers rediscovered them by searching through back issues of other papers in the Western U.S. that had reprinted the letters, and through scrapbooks. Stories on this topic appeared in hundreds of sources around the world, including the New York Times (AP), Washington Post, and Telegraph (UK).
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2. Citizen science helps predict risk of sudden oak death emerging infectious disease
Science Codex

A study co-authored by adjunct environmental science, policy and management professor Matteo Garbelotto, an extension specialist and director of Berkeley's Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory, has concluded that a crowdsourced science project called SOD Blitz demonstrates the valuable contributions citizen scientists can make to large-scale geographic tracking projects. Sudden oak death has killed hundreds of thousands of trees in California, and the SOD Blitz survey and sampling work allowed researchers to gather information that would have been too impractical and cost-prohibitive to obtain otherwise. “This paper shows that volunteers are as proficient as professionals in collecting data after they get some initial training,” Professor Garbelotto says. “The data we got from SOD Blitz resulted in the formulation of the best predictive model yet about the spread of sudden oak death in California. Additionally, we were able to identify new infestations and identify trees that needed to be removed. In one case, in Atherton, tree removal resulted in the only successful eradication of the pathogen in North America.” Other stories on this topic appeared in the Stanley News & Press and Sierra Sun Times.
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3. Massive Lava Flows Linked to Dinosaur-Killing Impact
LiveScience

An international research team led by earth and planetary science professor Mark Richards has found that the impact of a giant asteroid about 66 million years ago may have set off a wave of volcanic eruptions on the other side of the planet, contributing to the global demise of dinosaurs and three-quarters of all other life on Earth at the time. The researchers estimate that the tremor caused by the asteroid impact was as strong as a magnitude-11 earthquake. "The evidence is circumstantial, but all the arrows keep pointing in the same direction," Richards said. Stories on this topic appeared in dozens of sources around the world, including EarthSky, the Times-Picayune (New Orleans), and International Business Times (UK).
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4. The most influential women in Bay Area business: Jennifer Doudna
San Francisco Business Times (*requires registration)

Molecular and cell biology professor Jennifer Doudna has been named one of the most influential women in Bay Area business by the San Francisco Business Times. She says that "working with outstanding students and postdoctoral associates, many of whom are now accomplished independent scientists," is her proudest professional accomplishment. Asked how to help women in business, she says: "Follow your passion and never ever give up!" And she says her dream super power would be "writing a perfect draft the first time."
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5. The most influential women in Bay Area business: AnnaLee (Anno) Saxenian
San Francisco Business Times (*requires registration)

AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of Berkeley's School of Information, has been named one of the most influential women in Bay Area business by the San Francisco Business Times. She notes that her books Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128 (Harvard University Press, 1994) and The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy (Harvard University Press, 2006) are her proudest professional accomplishments. She says the way to help women in business is through "Mentoring, mentoring, mentoring." And she says a surprising fact about herself is that she taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong from 1976-78 and loved it.
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6. Reality Check: Are California's Carbon Emissions Goals Attainable?
KNTV

Energy professor Dan Kammen discusses Gov. Jerry Brown's new executive order calling for decreased carbon emission rates by 40 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2030. Professor Kammen says: “This is basically saying we need a new industrial revolution. ... The last one took about 150 years. Now we need to do it between now and 2050.” He says that despite the ambitious target, the state can reach the governor’s goal, but getting there by 2030 isn’t going to be easy. “Finding ways to do these things together is really kind of the magic of California innovation on the technical and policy side. ... Because the more we can find opportunities to do both of these things together, like electric vehicles charged up by solar, wind and other renewables, that means that you win twice over. That’s literally a win-win strategy.” Link to video.
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7. California’s Drought Could Upend America’s Entire Food System
Think Progress

An article about the current drought in California and its impact on agriculture quotes geography professor emeritus Richard Walker. Referring to California's status as a breadbasket for the world, he says: “There’s plenty of good soil elsewhere. ... But it’s the ability to put water on [that soil] over a long, dry summer that allows you to get very quick results.” He discusses the history of irrigation strategies, noting that California agribusiness has long dealt with problems through engineering, but after a century of diverting rivers, there’s simply less surface water to work with. “It turns out that you can’t overcome all the problems with engineering,” he says. “You don’t even need climate change to know that this system was a fantasy.”
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8. Shots Blog: Whooping Cough Vaccine's Protection Fades Quickly
NPR Online

Dr. Art Reingold, head of epidemiology at Berkeley's School of Public Health and head of the Center for Disease Control's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices group on pertussis, comments on a new analysis revealing that the effectiveness of the Tdap vaccine used to fight whooping cough, also known as pertussis, wanes significantly over time. "The take-home message is that the waning is there," he says. "You're protected initially but it wanes over time." The most severe cases are in very young infants, but since they can't be vaccinated until they are 2 months old, the CDC recommends women be vaccinated during the last trimester of every pregnancy. "Babies will be born with circulating antibodies," Dr. Reingold says, "and there's pretty good evidence that that will reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in babies."
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9. Healthcare for those in U.S. illegally could cost California $740 million a year
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

A study co-authored by Berkeley researchers is cited in a story about a new Senate fiscal analysis of the costs California will incur providing state-subsidized healthcare coverage to people in the country illegally. The Berkeley researchers found that about 1.8 million people in California are in the country illegally and lack healthcare coverage. About 1.5 million of them would qualify for Medi-Cal.
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10. How much does Baltimore spend on its schools?
Politifact


A report co-authored by Berkeley researchers is cited in a fact-checking article about a statement made on Fox News Sunday regarding per-student spending on schools in Baltimore. The researchers had looked at four decades in school districts where spending increased under court order, and in a report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, they said that for low income children who spent all 12 years in schools where spending rose at least 20 percent, graduation rates rose by 23 percentage points. There were also "25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty." At the same time, increased spending had little impact on the education of children from families making more money.
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11. Real Time Economics Blog: In India, a Debate Over Central Bank Independence
Wall Street Journal Online (*requires registration)

A story about central bank policy negotiations underway in India cites a 2013 study by economics professor Barry Eichengreen, in which he ranked the Reserve Bank of India as the world's least independent central bank.
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12. China Real Time Report Blog: China’s Exodus of Judges
Wall Street Journal Online (*requires registration)

Law lecturer Stanley Lubman writes about the exodus of judges in China as they cope with problems associated with sweeping legal reforms being undertaken by China's Communist Party. They are leaving, he says, "due to a combination of heavy caseloads, low professional standards, bad pay and government interference -- as well as the growing threat of violence at the hands of angry petitioners." He concludes: "It is possible that in the next few years the number of younger judges who are now leaving and the current lack of applicants could weaken efforts to professionalize the courts, and force the courts to recruit lower quality candidates."
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13. Another spurious bank fee: $12 for depositing a check that bounces
Los Angeles Times (*requires registration)

Banking and finance professor Ross Levine comments on the hassle of changing banks when customers are unhappy with excessive fees. He says: "It's a question of how much competition is in the market. ... Cellphone companies will work hard to help you switch providers. I don't think banks do that."
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14. IT Security Stories to Watch
MSP Mentor

Berkeley officials are alerting more than 500 students and others about a data breach that may have resulted in unauthorized access to personal information. "The data breach involved unauthorized access to a campus web server maintained by a unit within UC Berkeley's Division of Equity and Inclusion," the university said in a prepared statement. "The server was used to store information including family financial information submitted by students. This included documents containing Social Security and bank account numbers." Paul Rivers, interim chief security officer, says the university is offering free credit monitoring services for one year to those who might have been affected.
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15. Deal of the Week: Lennar Bets on Silicon Valley’s Spread
Wall Street Journal (*requires registration)

A story about booming development throughout the San Francisco Bay Area -- beyond San Francisco and Silicon Valley -- notes key projects, including Berkeley's planned campus on the Richmond waterfront.
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