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Crosscurrents

Daily news roundup for Wednesday, February 18, 2015

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Gayle Laird
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A participant tries out the virtual reality tool Oculus Rift at Cognitive Technologies.

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

The tipping point // East Bay Express

"The verdict could not have been clearer. Last November, more than 80 percent of Oakland voters approved Measure FF, thereby raising the city's minimum wage from $9 to $12.25 an hour. It was a resounding victory for Lift Up Oakland; the coalition of labor unions and community organizations that sponsored the ballot proposal; for progressives who supported the cause; and, of course, for the upwards of 40,000 workers who are expected to receive a raise as a result.

"But on March 2, when the new minimum wage kicks in, many Oakland restaurant owners say they will raise menu prices — by more than 20 percent in some cases — to finance the wage increase. Local restaurateurs have widely disparate views on how much of a price hike they think will be necessary, and some of their conclusions about the impact of the minimum wage contradict the analysis of labor economists, who have tended to downplay the impact that minimum wage hikes have on restaurants."

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UC Berkeley close to deal for long-empty Telegraph lot // Berkeleyside

"UC Berkeley and property owner Ken Sarachan are close to a joint-venture development deal for the long-empty lot at the north-east corner of Haste and Telegraph, which means that new student housing might be in place there by August 2017.

“'We are in negotiations, deep negotiations,' said Robert Lalanne, UC’s Vice-Chancellor for Real Estate. Lalanne said he would like to think they are getting very close to a deal.

"The university would take over Sarachan’s entitlement of the proposed development for the site: a six-story Moorish, palace-like structure inspired by Italian hill towns, Tibetan forts and the rock-cut architecture of Petra in Jordan. The university would then turn over the project  to a developer, who would build the structure. Lalanne declined to name the developer as a contract had not been signed."

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One man's ingenious plan to clean up the East Bay and beyond // East Bay Express

"Jeff Kirschner of Litterati is harnessing the power of social media and helping to clean up our environment, one piece of litter at a time.

"Oaklander Jeff Kirschner was walking with his two children in the Oakland Hills not too long ago when his daughter noticed that someone had thrown a tub of cat litter into a creek, and said, 'Daddy, that doesn't go there.' For Kirschner, it was an eye-opening moment, and led him to create Litterati, a grassroots movement that harnesses social media and civic engagement to tackle the ever-increasing trash problems that plague our cities and natural spaces.

"The idea behind Litterati is a simple yet powerful one. Find a piece of litter, take a photo of it, and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #litterati. Then throw away, recycle, or compost the litter."

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Lawmaker would bar grand juries in cases of police shootings // LA Times

"A state lawmaker has proposed to prohibit the use of criminal grand juries in California in cases of officer-involved shootings that result in the deaths of  suspects.

"The proposal by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) comes four months after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., touched off national demonstrations when it declined to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed African American man.

"Mitchell introduced legislation to bar the use of a grand jury, arguing that secrecy of the bodies was intended to protect the reputations of people accused of crimes, but that the result has been to keep the public from being fully informed when a police officer is accused of excessive force."

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Pink Saturday canceled // SF Weekly

"Due to increasing violence during Gay Pride weekend in San Francisco, the well-attended and much-loved Pink Saturday party is no more.

"The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence announced over the weekend they would no longer be hosting the gay street party, which, aside from being a good time, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for nonprofits in San Francisco.

“'Pink Saturday' is a fictitious business name registered by The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. in San Francisco. Since 1995 the Sisters have been the organizers and permit holders of the annual closure of Castro Street for the Saturday evening of Pride Weekend. The event grew every year, drawing thousands to the Castro during Gay Pride. With that growth, came too many challenges (read: crime)."

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This is your brain on science // East Bay Express

"I'm trying to open a flower with my mind. White plastic petals surround a softly glowing lightbulb. I do some math problems in my head, trying to ignore the electroencephalography (EEG) headband strapped to my forehead, recording my brain's electrical activity. Once I'm completely focused, the flower pops open.

"This process of learning to control your mental state using information from an EEG headset is called neurofeedback. Although I've been watching people open flowers, control robotic arms, and light things up with their minds all night, I can't help but feel like I've just watched magic happen.

"Cognitive Technologies, which opened January 31 at the Exploratorium (Pier 15, San Francisco), is a collaboration between a group of UC Berkeley students under the same name (Cog Tech for short) and Fruitvale's m0xy Artist Incubator."

Liza got her start in radio with KALW's Audio Academy. Now, she is KALW's econmy reporter and a mentor for in the KALW Audio Academy.