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Crosscurrents

Daily news roundup for Monday, March 2, 2015

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Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group
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The mega ship MSC Sola waits to be off loaded at berth 25 at the Ports of America at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015.

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

Livermore Lab taking prosthetic arms to next level // Mercury News

"Once reserved for sci-fi heroes and far-fetched television shows, bionic arms that can communicate with the brain are under development at Lawrence Livermore Lab and five years away from human testing.

"While a robotic arm conjures images of superhumans able to throw boulders like pillows, researchers are serious about recreating sensations that many take for granted: to feel the skin of a significant other, the texture of a fine linen or the cool water of a babbling brook. The arm, and its connection to the nervous system, would be nothing short of a miracle for thousands of veterans who have returned from war with missing limbs."

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Giant ships in West Coast ports' future // Contra Costa Times

"With a bitter battle over a dockworkers' contract tentatively resolved, West Coast ports and their terminal operators are back dealing with an even bigger challenge -- the mega-ship. 

"Bulked up like weightlifters on steroids, the new container vessels have set off a competitive scramble by the ports, which are dredging new channels, buying equipment and planning vast additions to warehouse space to accommodate the mega-ships, with the price tag for improvements running into billions of dollars."

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Google shows whimsical plans for new Silicon Valley campus // Mercury News

"Whimsical new plans unveiled by Google to expand its corporate headquarters captivated its hometown city and the world Friday, the latest step by a tech giant to catapult Silicon Valley from tilt-up office dullsville to a region of architectural landmarks. 

"Drawings of the proposed buildings show an alluring network of translucent, greenhouse-like domes Google describes as an 'ultralight membrane' spanning new offices and tree-lined public trails between Highway 101 and the wetlands of San Francisco Bay. Some of the structures will be as movable as furniture. Parking will move underground."

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San Francisco may require drug companies to dispose of unwanted drugs // SF Examiner

"Some city leaders are calling on drug companies to start disposing of unwanted medicine to prevent abuse and environmental impacts.

"Five years ago, The City was on the verge of mandating that drug manufacturers operate a drug take-back program, but the effort was pulled back amid opposition from the drug industry. Officials instead opted to run a pilot program, which has been operated by The City for the past three years, with less than half of its costs funded by the industry."

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California's plastic-bag ban suspended by ballot referendum // SF Examiner 

"A trade group has turned in enough signatures to qualify a referendum on California's plastic bag ban law, suspending implementation of the nation's first statewide ban until voters weigh in on the November 2016 ballot, state elections officials said Tuesday.

"The plastic bag manufacturing trade group American Progressive Bag Alliance had 555,000 of the roughly 505,000 valid signatures needed to qualify the referendum after a random sample of the signatures, said Bill Mabie, chief deputy for Secretary of State Alex Padilla. The group had submitted more than 800,000 at the end of last year."

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Urban Beekeepers on the Upswing in California // Contra Costa Times

"Once widely shunned by people who fear stings, backyard hives are finding more acceptance these days, and California's urban beekeepers are taking advantage of the buzz.

"Pleasanton is the latest to go bee-friendly. The City Council is scheduled on Tuesday to drop its 89-year-old ban on keeping beehives in residential areas."