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Connecting the Dots: Top news stories for Tuesday, April 17, 2012

California prisons are equipping themselves with new technology that can block inmates from using smuggled cell phones. Prison officials want to crack down on illegal phone usage within prison walls because inmates may be using them to conduct criminal transactions. The state says the cell phone jamming technology will not cost taxpayers because the company that owns the technology is also the same company that provides prisoners with pay phones, so the rise in demand for pay phones should make up for installation costs...

A new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists has found that the environmental impact of electric vehicles varies greatly from city to city, depending on how electricity is generated in a given region. In Southern California, electric vehicles significantly outperform the most efficient hybrid cars, but in Denver and Wichita, a Nissan Leaf has about the same impact as a Hyundai Elantra...

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) recently underwent an ambitious and expensive computer system overhaul. However, lines at customer service window have been getting longer because the new system still cannot perform some relatively basic functions, like processing retirement adjustments or survivor death benefit claims...

Increased hiring by Silicon Valley tech companies also means increased rental prices. Real estate agencies in Silicon Valley are expecting the vacancy rate to drop below 3 percent and the average rent to reach $1,522/month this year. East Bay rent prices have also been going up as people search for cheaper housing...

California is considering becoming the 17th state to make kindergarten mandatory. Under the current state law, California schools are required to offer kindergarten, but parents can elect to wait and start their kids in first grade. Opponents of a new bill worry that a kindergarten mandate impinges upon parental freedom...

Governor Jerry Brown is considering raising the California teacher credentialing fee. Under his proposal first-time credentials would jump from $27.50 to $35 and renewals would increase from $55 to $70. The number of newly issued teaching credentials has been shrinking regularly since 2004, but teachers feel the hike is unfair because not paying the fee is not an option.

Connecting the Dots brings the day's news together.