10 brightest ideas of the week: Jan. 24, 2010 

Red Cross raises funds at unprecedented rate, state doctors must see patients within 10 days, earthquake survivor treats injuries with iPhone and a TV bigwig remains loyal to his staff.


1. Thumbs up for quake relief

Donation-by-text made it quick and easy to help in Haiti

The details: The Red Cross is astounded by the response to its texting program, where donors can pledge $10 to Haiti aid efforts by sending a message to 90999. The program was promoted by first lady Michelle Obama, the NFL, celebrities and many users on social networking sites, resulting in more than $22 million in quick earthquake relief aid. The Red Cross has been criticized in the wake of other disasters for failing to move quickly enough. But this time, donations flooded in at an unprecedented rate.


2. Long wait is over

State poised to set time limits for doctors to see patients

The details: California is ready to become the first state to set a deadline for physicians to see patients. The state Department of Managed Care will require family practitioners to schedule an appointment within 10 days of the patient’s initial call if the patient is a member of an HMO. For specialists, the deadline will be 15 days. And any urgent care not requiring prior insurance authorization must be carried out within 48 hours.


3. Movie night

Film rentals might be headed to YouTube

The details: YouTube is launching a test run of a video rental service using five films from the Sundance Film Festival. The Google-owned company will make the videos available to users through Jan. 31, the last day of the festival. The Sundance films won’t be the last of YouTube’s movie rental offerings. The company says in the coming weeks it plans to offer other videos from its U.S. partners.


4. App for aid

Trapped, Haiti victim uses iPhone app to treat injuries

The details: American Dan Wooley, finding himself trapped in the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the recent earthquake, used the light from his iPhone and a health application to diagnose and treat his broken foot and bleeding cuts, and to treat himself for shock. He was able to use the camera and light to see enough of his surroundings to find a safer location near an elevator shaft. Wooley also used his iPhone to write a journal for his wife and children while he waited, on the assumption that he would probably not survive.


5. Cancer sunlamps

FDA debates tougher warnings on tanning beds

The details: The Food and Drug Administration is debating how to toughen warnings that sunlamp tanning beds pose a cancer risk. An analysis of numerous studies concluded the risk of melanoma jumps by 75 percent for people using tanning beds in their teens and 20s. The FDA says some people use tanning beds too often — going three times weekly. Warning labels on the beds are likely to get stronger, with other steps to follow.


6. Watch out, Kindle

Apple to unveil its latest creation

The details: Invitations have gone out announcing Apple’s much-anticipated press event in San Francisco on Wednesday. Techie insiders expect the company to unveil a touch-screen "tablet" computer — good for reading books, browsing Web sites or sorting through photos — which would look something like an oversized iPhone. However, the e-mailed invitation does not reveal much information, saying only, "Come see our latest creation."


7. Snakes off planes

Feds act to keep anacondas and pythons off flights

The details: Federal officials are moving to keep nine kinds of large snakes out of the country, saying they threaten the environment when irresponsible owners release them into the wild. Species covered by the proposed ban include the boa constrictor, the Burmese python, the green anaconda and the yellow anaconda. The snakes are popular with exotic-pet owners, but destructive when released into sensitive ecosystems like Florida’s Everglades. The proposed ban will be open to public comment before any final decision.


8. Earthquake adoption

Countries race to provide homes for Haitian orphans

The details: Potential adoptive parents and lawmkers in the United States and elsewhere in the world have been scrambling to provide homes for Haitian children left orphaned by the recent earthquake in that country. U.S. lawmakers, led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week urging her to expedite such adoptions, saying there were as many as 20,000 orphans in the poor nation even before the quake and probably many more now. Some planeloads of children have already departed for countries including the Netherlands, but red tape and concerns over whether removing children from their home country is the best course of action could slow further adoption efforts.


9. You’re out

Ex-Dodger banned for life after taking swing

The details: Things tend to get a little more emotional when it comes to playoff baseball in the Latin American countries. National and regional pride tends to be on the line. But when Jose Offerman, the interim manager of the Licey Tigers, took a swing at first base umpire Daniel Rayburn during a playoff game against the Cibao Giants, the former slick-fielding- infielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox was banned for life — even though video replays seem to indicate Offerman missed on his punch attempt and Rayburn slipped.


10. First class

Solar-powered plane to raise energy awareness

The details: Swiss psychiatrist Bertrand Piccard hopes to demonstrate the power of renewable energy sources by flying around the world in a one-of-a-kind solar-powered aircraft. The plane, now in the prototype stage and undergoing test flights, is expected to travel day and night at a leisurely 43 miles per hour, and will cost around $100 million to complete. Its potentially record-setting flight is scheduled for 2012 or 2013.


Bright light of the week

Conan O’Brien

What: The talk show host reportedly held up settlement talks with NBC over his departure from his position as host of "The Tonight Show" with demands that the network provide severance for his 200-strong staff and crew.

Why: Under the deal, O’Brien will reportedly receive $33 million, while another $12 million will be divided among the crew. O’Brien’s crew is reportedly highly loyal to the comedian, and many members relocated from New York to Los Angeles with him when he took over the Tonight Show less than eight months ago. O’Brien will be free to start another TV job after Sept. 1, and many of his staff members are likely to go with him if he lands a show on another network.

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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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