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Daily news roundup for Tuesday, July 21, 2015

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Ted Friedman
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Protesting a FEMA-funded tree-clearing plan in the East Bay hills, volunteers posed naked against eucalyptus trees on the UC Berkeley campus.

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

Oakland still wading in trash; council delays action // Oakland Tribune

"The City Council on Monday delayed making changes to Oakland's unpopular trash contract after weeks of complaints from residents and business owners over higher garbage rates, saying it needed more information before taking action on the deal.

"The frustrated, confused and often sympathetic council members repeatedly apologized to residents and business owners who attended a last-minute early afternoon hearing on the Waste Management contract that began July 1.

"The council knew rates would increase about 25 to 40 percent for most residents and businesses -- mirroring increases in the company's garbage rates across Bay Area cities, but didn't anticipate some changes that harmed Oakland's most vulnerable residents. The council will likely reexamine the issue in September after the board's August recess."
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House to take up bill blocking money for 'sanctuary cities' // SF Gate

"The House will take up a bill this week blocking funding for so-called "sanctuary cities" that resist turning over immigrants to federal authorities. The move follows the shooting death of a woman in San Francisco this month, allegedly by an immigrant with a criminal record and without legal status.

"San Francisco authorities had released the man despite a request from federal officials to keep him in custody. That was in line with a practice by San Francisco and other jurisdictions that have begun refusing to cooperate with federal immigration orders amid concerns over their legality and their impact on immigrant communities.

"The bill by Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California would block certain federal grants to cities that don't honor federal immigration requests. A similar proposal has been advanced in the Senate, but it's unclear how far it will go."
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California regulators continue to put pressure on transportation startups // SF Gate

"The California Public Utilities Commission announced today that it issued two cease-and-desist orders to two Silicon Valley ridesharing companies during the last quarter.

"KangaDo, the "Uber for Afterschool" app that offers to shuttle around children, was not licensed to operate in California, according to the CPUC's statement. KangaDo's CEO Sara Schaer said that the company received the notice in April while it was still operating in private beta.

"KangaDo isn’t a traditional ride-hailing company. The app is designed to connect parents to help arrange carpools, childcare and play dates. In March, the company began a limited private beta test in San Francisco of the ride service, which let parents pay $10 to have a driver transport a child. Another Uber for Kids startup, Shuddle, also reportedly received a cease-and-desist letter in November because it had failed to register with Trustline, a finger-printing background service, according to USA Today. 

"It all points to increased crackdowns by the CPUC as it tries to regulate companies that didn’t exist even a few years ago and are springing up in every corner of the state. In total, the CPUC issued 32 cease-and-desist letters aimed at various kinds of transportation companies in the second quarter, it said."
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Russian billionaire Yuri Milner gives $100M to UC Berkeley to discover alien life // San Jose Mercury News

"Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire who made his stake in Silicon Valley with early bets on Facebook and Twitter, is personally funding an ambitious new effort to search for intelligent alien life. Milner has offered $100 million of his own fortune to answer the question that has haunted cosmologists for decades: Are there other civilizations out there?

"The money for Breakthrough Listen, as Milner calls the effort, is one of the biggest chunks of cash ever offered by a private investor for the so far fruitless quest for extraterrestrial life. It will fund what is purported to be the largest scientific endeavor to find alien life, in terms of both the expanse of the universe that will be studied, as well as the depth and detail of the data that will be collected and shared with the public.

"Milner was joined by world-renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking to announce the project Monday at the Royal Society of London.

"The small fortune goes to researchers at UC Berkeley's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Center, which started in 1961 and, so far, hasn't had much luck finding an unambiguous indication of intelligent life on another planet. Milner's funding, they hope, will change that."
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Report: Silicon Valley's housing affordability crisis worsens // San Jose Mercury News

"Less than 25 percent of workers and just 40 percent of households in metro San Jose are able to rent or buy average-priced housing, according to a new report from the Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project.

"The new analysis underscores some of the region's long-term affordability trends and the impact on quality of life and business competitiveness. Compiled by Peninsula-based Collaborative Economics, the data show that the average rent in May for a two-bedroom apartment in metro San Jose was $2,917 -- and that residents would need to earn $116,680 annually to afford that. Yet the median income in the area was $57,400 for individual workers and $91,500 for households, according to the most recently available statistics, the study says.

"The project was launched last year by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The new housing data tell a "compelling story," project manager Janine Kaiser said, about issues of economic equity and business competitiveness.

"Citing data from the California Association of Realtors for the first quarter of 2015, the report says only 44 percent of Santa Clara County households could afford to purchase an entry-level home -- defined as costing $833,850, or 85 percent of the county's median sale price. That percentage shrank to 29 percent in San Mateo County (where an entry-level home was $1.11 million in the first quarter) and 27 percent in San Francisco ($1.15 million)."

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Naked Protesters Take Aim at FEMA Tree-Clearing Plans in East Bay Hills // NBC Bay Area

"Protesters shed their clothing in a eucalyptus grove on the UC Berkeley campus over the weekend to protest FEMA plans to cut trees in the East Bay hills. FEMA announced the controversial tree thinning plan in March. A grant of $5.7 million is earmarked to reduce the hazard of wildfires in the Oakland and Berkeley hills. 

"According to Berkeleyside, about 50-75 people took part in Saturday's demonstration. The event was organized by the TreeSpirit Project to protest a plan to clear 450,000 trees in the Oakland and Berkeley hills. But protesters say the plan to leave dead wood on site will actually increase the potential for fires in an already volatile area."