10 brightest ideas of the week: Feb. 14, 2010 

Beijing busts hackers, feds look to safeguard health,technology rescues a traveler, new move to fight obesity, and a place to get married on Valentine’s Day.


1. Hackers busted

China announces crackdown on Internet attackers

The details: Three people were arrested this week on suspicion of making hacking tools available online, as China announced a major bust and the shuttering of what officials said was the country’s largest distributor of tools used in malicious Internet attacks. The trio’s business, Black Hawk Safety Net and the Web site 3800cc.com, brought in $1 million from 12,000 subscribers. U.S. experts said China wanted to show it could get tough after allegations by Google Inc. that Chinese hackers are attacking a number of foreign companies.


2. Michelle: ‘Let’s Move’

First lady gears up to fight childhood obesity

The details: Michelle Obama has introduced her initiative to battle obesity in children. Named "Let’s Move," it involves kids, celebrities, cartoonists and grown-up leaders like the president all trying to get young people off the couch and eating healthier. One-third of American children are obese or overweight, and Obama hopes to end that trend while she’s in the White House by encouraging exercise and nutritious food.


3. Medical radiation

FDA to increase oversight

The details: The federal Food and Drug Administration will more strictly regulate some medical radiation, including CT scans, which provide three-dimensional images, after disclosures that more than 300 patients in four hospitals were over-radiated. The FDA said it would also look at overexposure from nuclear medicine studies and fluoroscopies, in which radiation provides an image on a monitor.


4. Haiti aid still on radar

Area businesses team up to help quake victims

The details: While donations for earthquake relief in Haiti have slowed, Bay Area businesses are still doing their part. Radio station Alice (93.7 FM) joined the American Red Cross, Peet’s and new social networking service Gowalla to get the word out about new fund-raising efforts, including donating $50 each time a user checks Gowalla from a smart phone.


5. Tech to the rescue

Lost tourist texts family across globe for help

The details: Tourist Marios Symeonidis sent text messages to his family in Greece and saved his own life when he got lost on top of a mountain in New Zealand. Symeonidis had lost track of his companion and was not equipped for spending the night in the cold. When he realized his danger, he texted relatives, who then alerted New Zealand authorities via Greek emergency services. Symeonidis was rescued the next morning and was in good condition.


6. Turning up the heat

Tanning beds could face tighter regulations

The details: Studies linking tanning beds to cancer may lead to tougher rules on who can use them, according to the FDA. Young women are particularly vulnerable to UV rays from the beds — and to the marketing that darker is better. Tanning beds are joining cigarettes on the list of public health threats, according to some doctors and government officials, and should be duly regulated.


7. Up in the air

Fire Department hoping to sell ‘air rights’ above station

The details: The SFFD, looking to close a looming budget deficit, is proposing a sale of the airspace above the low-slung Station 13, located in the Financial District. The Fire Department is estimating that it will make $5 million by selling the "invisible real estate" to developers. A buyer could build on top of the station, or prevent building to keep views intact.


8. Reasonable bites

FDA hoping to make serving sizes more realistic

The details: Hoping to help Americans make better choices, the Food and Drug Administration is pushing manufacturers to put calorie counts and other nutrition information on the front of food packages — but that information is misleading when the official serving sizes are so small that even a regular can of Coca-Cola supposedy serves two. So the FDA is now looking at how to make serving sizes more accurately reflect the amounts that Americans actually eat — without encouraging us to overeat by making the portions too big.


9. Breakneck bits

Google to build ultra-fast broadband networks

The details: In a challenge to telecom companies, Google announced this week that it will build experimental ultra-fast fiber optic broadband networks in several locations around the country, offering speeds of 1 gigabit per second to as many as 500,000 people. They will also be used as a platform for outside developers to test applications requiring large amonts of bandwidth. Google estimates the systems, which could run from 50 to 300 times faster than existing DSL, cable and fiber optic networks, could let consumers download a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes.


10. The big day

Alameda County to issue marriage licenses on Valentine’s Day

The details: Although Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office will stay open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to perform wedding ceremonies and issue marriage licenses. Valentine’s Day is typically one of the busiest days of the year for weddings at county clerk’s offices. Couples should be sure to call in advance to reserve a time. Volunteers who want to help out can call (510) 272-6362.


Bright light of the week

NASA’s new sun observatory

What: NASA has launched its Solar Dynamics Observatory to study the sun and "space weather."

Why: The sun’s changing magnetic field can affect technology here on Earth, including satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical power. The amount of solar energy and radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere can also cause blackouts here. And, of course, the more we know about space weather, the better we can understand what affects spacecraft.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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