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.
Monday, 2 March 2015
1. Ultra-small bacteria detailed in new microscope imagery
Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley have, for the first time, captured photographic proof that micro-bacteria exist, as previously suspected. Earth and planetary science professor Jill Banfield says: "These newly described ultra-small bacteria are an example of a subset of the microbial life on earth that we know almost nothing about. ... They're enigmatic. ... These bacteria are detected in many environments and they probably play important roles in microbial communities and ecosystems. ... But we don't yet fully understand what these ultra-small bacteria do." Another story on this topic appeared in AZoNano.
2. Why Do Geysers Erupt? It Boils Down to Plumbing
A team led by earth and planetary science professor Michael Manga has gained striking new insights into the basic mechanics of geysers by placing surveillance cameras inside them and building a model of their plumbing. One of the key findings is that the great regularity of a geyser's eruptions is explained by kinks, or loops, in the geyser's pipes, which trap steam. Link to video.
3. Study Shows Birds May Cause Increase In Lyme Disease Risk
A study co-authored by environmental science, policy and management professor Robert Lane and graduate student Erica Newman has found that common birds in California suburbs, including the American robin, golden-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco, and oak titmouse, are carriers of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Stories on this topic have appeared in dozens of sources.
4. Animals: 'Skeletorus' and 'Sparklemuffin' the Newest Spiders
Environmental science, policy and management graduate student Madeline Girard has co-discovered two new peacock spiders in Australia. She nicknamed the spiders Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus. Sparklemuffin (Maratus jactatus) has bluish and redish stripes on its abdomen, and Skeletorus (Maratus sceletus) has white markings on a black background. Peacock spiders are named for their bright colors and dancelike courtship rituals. Stories on this topic appeared in more than a dozen sources.
5. California eyes 'Right to Rest Act' to stem criminalization of homeless
Al Jazeera America
California State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced a "Right to Rest Act" aimed at giving homeless people the right to use public space without discrimination. The proposal follows a recent study by Berkeley's law school finding that vagrancy laws are proliferating in California, and that statewide arrests for offenses such as sitting or standing in public areas increased by 77 percent between 2000 and 2012.
6. Wal-Mart raises might lift pay in lower-wage industries
Labor economist Sylvia Allegretto, co-chair of Berkeley's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment comments on how Wal-Mart's pay raises may lift other boats. "If you work at a fast-food restaurant" for $7.25 an hour, "you are going to want to leave that job and work at the Walmart nearby," she says. Citing anecdotal evidence, she points to the recent example in the state of Washington, where recent increases in the state's minimum wage -- now $9.47 an hour -- led residents of nearby Idaho to seek work there.
7. A moratorium on 'high-end' restaurants in the Mission District won't work, experts say
San Francisco Business Times (*requires registration)
Calle 24, a group of San Francisco Mission District businesses, nonprofits and residents, is proposing a moratorium on the building of high-end restaurants in the area, and economics professor Enrico Moretti says he thinks it's a "very misguided proposal." He says the moratorium could backfire and have a negative effect on the very people the group is seeking to help. "High-end restaurant jobs are high wages for waiters and cooks -- they help people who work. For those who work in the service sector, these are desirable jobs."
8. Election 2015: LA city measures aimed at boosting voter turnout
KPCC Southern California Public Radio Online
Los Angeles city charter amendments will appear on the ballot Tuesday, aiming to shift the city's and L.A. Unified School Board elections to even-numbered years, when there are also state and national elections. According to assistant public policy professor Sarah Anzia, voter turnout in cities that conduct balloting in presidential elections averages 35 percentage points higher than in cities that hold “off-cycle” elections.
9. Spending on rail crossing safety upgrades varies widely across Southland
Los Angeles Times
Adjunct public health professor David Ragland, director of Berkeley's Safe Transportation Education and Research Center, comments on railroad crossing safety in California, saying: "Separating a grade crossing is a giant leap in expense, so you really have to look at the cost-benefit of it. ... An overpass is an effective solution for very, very heavy traffic roadways, but there are other ways too." For example, his team found that intersections with no protection or improvements could attain a 98% reduction in collisions by installing four arms that block all street lanes when a train approaches. The accident reduction was 82% with just one arm on each side of the street in the direction cars are traveling.
10. Bay Bridge leaks: Toll payers on hook for Caltrans’ blunders
San Francisco Chronicle
Civil engineering professor emeritus Bob Bea comments on Caltrans' decision to scrap a drainage feature on the new span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, a choice that has led to hundreds of leaks threatening to spread corrosion and will cost taxpayers $1.4 million or more to fix. “It’s too bad some people at Caltrans don’t or didn’t own sailboats in the bay,” he says. “What I’ve learned after 15 years with that boat is, if it can leak, it will leak.”
11. Caltrans pays $9.75 million to Sacramento woman in crash involving overgrown oleander
Civil engineering professor emeritus Martin Wachs, former director of Berkeley's Institute of Transportation Studies, commented on a case in which CalTrans has agreed to pay a woman and her husband $9.75 million because of an accident that might have been avoided if CalTrans had properly maintained oleander plants that blocked a safety zone. Professor Wachs said he was not familiar with the incident but that it was possible that pruning in the crash area may have been postponed because of a lack of money or administrative failure. Nevertheless, he says that Caltrans has a good reputation for doing maintenance with limited funds. “Maintenance is among the best things Caltrans does.”
12. ABA Asking Why M&A Is Still a Man’s World: Business of Law
Law professor Eric Talley helped the American Bar Association in an investigation of the underrepresentation of women in the legal field of mergers and acquisitions. He asked “the top 14 law schools” for the composition of their corporate classes, and nine complied. The results were striking, he says. Most law schools matriculate roughly even numbers of men and women, he said, and the introductory corporations classes typically are 50 percent female, but those numbers change dramatically in more advanced corporate classes. In those, only 36 percent to 40 percent are women. He adds that it was “an awakening” when he realized that even his own advanced classes were only 40 percent female. “There’s some zeitgeist about M&A that is causing some who would love the field not to enter it."
13. Forum with Michael Krasny: Google Proposes Expanding Mountain View Headquarters
Landscape architecture and environmental planning professor Louise Mozingo joins a discussion of Google's announced plans to expand its headquarters in Mountain View. Link to audio. A story quoting Professor Mozingo on this topic appeared in the San Francisco Business Times Online.
14. Fossils of Tropical Turtles Offer Clues About Climate Change
A recent study uncovered fossils of an extinct tropical turtle species that migrated to deal with rising rising temperatures. The study indicates that today's turtles could do the same, but Patricia Holroyd, a scientist at Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology, points out that not all species could find alternative homes. Speaking of the critically endangered Central American river turtle, she says: "This is an example of a turtle that could expand its range and probably would with additional warming, but -- and that's a big but -- that's only going to happen if there are still habitats for it."
15. Your Monday Briefing
New York Times (*requires registration)
A brief about the Peace Corps notes that since the program began, in 1961, UC Berkeley has produced more volunteers than any other school.
16. Letters to the Editor: Full Circle on What's Best to Eat
New York Times (*requires registration)
Graduate public health student Isabelle Thibau writes a response to the article “The Government’s Bad Diet Advice” (Op-Ed, Feb. 21), saying: "Americans are tired of taking dietary advice on 'nutrients.' We eat food; why not guide us in what whole foods to eat? ... It is a relief to see the new 2015 dietary guidelines steering in that direction, focusing on a whole-food approach. ... These new recommendations may begin to reverse the damage done in previous years that called for restricting fat, which just resulted in manufacturers’ stripping foods of healthy fats and replacing them with sugars, directly contributing to a rise in obesity. ... Americans need to be reminded more consistently to take a moderate, whole-foods approach to healthy eating."