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Daily news roundup for Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group
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Garbage overflow in San Jose

Here's what's happening in the Bay Area, as curated by KALW news:

Judge blocks Berkeley’s warning about cell phones and children // SF Gate

SAN FRANCISCO  – "A federal judge upheld Berkeley’s authority Monday to require cell phone retailers to tell customers that carrying switched-on phones too close to their bodies might exceed federal radiation-exposure standards, but barred a warning that “this potential risk is greater for children.”

"The language on children is not based on federal safety guidelines or any scientific consensus on the effects of cell phone radiation, said U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of San Francisco. Whether children are at greater risk than adults is “a matter of scientific debate,” he said, and Berkeley’s requirement of such a warning would probably conflict with federal regulation of cell phones.

"By contrast, Chen said, Berkeley relied on the Federal Communications Commission’s research and guidelines for the rest of its ordinance. It requires sellers to tell customers that the federal government sets radiation exposure guidelines for cell phones, but that a user may be exposed to higher levels by carrying the device in a pocket or tucked into a bra when it’s connected to a wireless network.

"Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates declared victory and said the flaw cited by the judge, the warning about children, was a “relatively small problem” that the City Council will address Oct. 6."

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California Gov. Brown to sign expanded fair pay legislation // East Bay Express

SACRAMENTO -- "Female employees in California are poised to get new tools to challenge gender-based wage gaps and receive protection from discrimination and retaliation if they ask questions about how much other people earn.

"A bill recently passed by the Legislature and that Gov. Jerry Brown has indicated he will sign won't suddenly put all women's salaries on par with men's or prod employers to freely disclose what every employee makes, which could make it easier for workers to mount pay discrimination claims.

"But the legislation expands what supporters call an outdated state equal pay law and goes further than federal law, placing the burden on the employer to prove a man's higher pay is based on factors other than gender and allowing workers to sue if they are paid less than someone with a different job title who does "substantially similar" work."

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Oakland City Council packed for special hearing on controversial coal shipping proposal // Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND – "Chambers were completely filled at a special meeting of the Oakland City Council to discuss the status of a plan to ship coal through the Port of Oakland, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, at City Hall in Oakland, Calif. Two other overflow chambers allowed hundreds more spectators to watch the proceedings.

"The special council meeting was held Monday to discuss a developer's contentious plan to ship millions of tons of Utah coal through the city's $250 million bulk shipping and logistics terminal development at the former Army Base, a cornerstone project for the city.

"The hearing was a first step for city officials, many of whom have already publicly slammed the plan, to gather testimony about the health and environmental impacts of shipping coal and other fossil fuels through West Oakland before taking steps to formally reject it. That wasn't an option for the council on Monday, as the hearing was only a fact-finding mission.

"Most of the speakers focused on the health and environment concerns."

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San Jose launches study of skyrocketing recycling contamination // San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE – "San Jose residents are confused about what goes into the recycling bin and what doesn't. Nearly 40 percent of the stuff single-family homeowners dump into their recycling bins in much of the city is non-recyclable food waste and other junk, according to California Waste Solutions, the city's primary hauler. That's more than six times Oakland's 6-percent contamination rate, the company said.

"With an alarming contamination rate nearly six times higher than its East Bay neighbor, San Jose might start penalizing residents for dumping contaminated items. San Jose's contamination rate, which is the percentage of residue left on recyclable materials, is nearly 40 percent in two of its three collection districts. By comparison, Oakland's rate of contamination is about 6 percent.

"Residents who don't get the recycling right may soon face more than just an angry red notice on an unemptied recycling bin. City leaders are now talking about stepping up enforcement with possible fines for repeat offenders.

"The recycling mess comes as city leaders fret over worrisome trends in San Jose's Recycle Plus curbside collection program highlighted in a recent city audit that has led to finger-pointing between the department overseeing collection and the company contracted for pickup in most parts of the city.

"According to the audit, recycling rates among single-family homeowners citywide are falling -- not the trend a city with a "zero waste" goal by 2022 wants to see. The city's landfill diversion rate -- the percentage of items recycled through placement in the correct bins -- dropped from 36 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2014 for single-family homes, even though the overall rate for all properties has risen slightly to 73 percent."

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Study: San Francisco Bay contaminated with billions of plastic bits // Marin Independent Journal

RICHMOND – "San Francisco Bay is contaminated with widespread pollution from billions of tiny pieces of plastic in greater concentrations than the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and other major U.S. bodies of water, according to a groundbreaking new study.

"At least 3.9 million pieces of plastic pour into the bay every day from eight large sewage treatment plants — a relentless torrent of litter that ranges from tiny “microbeads” found in cosmetics, facial scrubs and toothpastes, to bits of synthetic fabric from fleece jackets, pants and other clothes, which break down as they are washed.

"In the study, the first of its kind to broadly document pollution from “microplastic” in the bay, researchers dragged tight-meshed nets along the surface of the water in nine areas of the bay, from Oakland and Treasure Island to locations near San Jose. They found on average 1 million pieces of tiny plastic per square kilometer — an area of about 250 acres — at the water’s surface or a few inches below it in the South Bay, a concentration nine times higher than levels of similar plastics found in Lake Erie.

"Further north, off Oakland and San Francisco, they found 310,000 pieces per square kilometer, still double the highest levels in Chesapeake Bay and triple the levels in Lake Erie, the most polluted of the Great Lakes.

"Meanwhile, state lawmakers passed a bill earlier this month that would ban plastic microbeads in cosmetics and other personal care products sold in California. The bill, AB 888, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, would impose the ban starting Jan. 1, 2020."

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Belmont: Kindergartner's haircut distracting, Catholic school says // San Jose Mercury News

BELMONT – "Five-year-old Jalyn Broussard was so excited to show his kindergarten classmates his new haircut, a style that would surely set him apart from his second-grade brother's shaved head.

"But his "modern fade," a popular hairstyle among African-American men, apparently set off an alarm with administrators at the boy's Catholic school, who called Jalyn's mom half an hour into the school day to pick him up and take him home. Mariana Broussard said the school's principal told her Jalyn's haircut was too distracting and a violation of Immaculate Heart of Mary School's hairstyle policy, according to a complaint the family filed last week with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

"Broussard said Principal Teri Grosey told her the haircut -- which the family noticed on white and Asian students -- would 'unduly influence the student body.'

"After weeks of unproductive talks with Immaculate Heart, the family last week filed the complaint, alleging that the school discriminated against Jalyn, who is African-American, based on his race."

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San Francisco examining ways to stem tide of artist displacement // SF Examiner

SAN FRANCISCO -- "Below-market-rate housing expressly for artists can’t come fast enough in San Francisco, where they, like many others, are being displaced amid the meteoric rise of real estate costs.

"As plans for affordable artist housing are being developed, a new artist survey conducted by the Arts Commission during a recent six week period indicates the urgent need.

"The results of the survey and other topics related to artist displacement was a focus of a meeting last week held by the Arts Commission, which is coming under increasing pressure to address the artist displacement issue.

"Nearly 600 sculptors, painters, musicians, writers, filmmakers and painters responded. Seventy percent said they had been displaced or were being displaced from their homes, workplaces or both. Twenty-eight percent, or 125, said they were at risk of being displaced soon."