10 brightest ideas of the week: Jan. 31, 2010 

Woman wins bowling title, SFO close to Wi-Fi deal, Obama proposes massive support for troops’ families, Ford posts profit, and gun-toting NBA players are suspended.


1. Unplug at SFO

T-Mobile, airport exploring free wireless Internet

The details: Travelers at San Francisco International Airport could soon have free wireless Internet access in every terminal if talks with T-Mobile succeed in establishing a test program. Passengers who want to access Wi-Fi currently have to pay $7.99. If the test proves successful, the airport could pursue plans for longer-term free service through T-Mobile. There’s no timeline for when free wireless would be available, but customers clearly want it.


2. Fast track

California’s high-speed rail gains funding boost

The details: President Barack Obama has a plan to develop a national network of high-speed-rail service, and California’s getting in on the action to the tune of $2.25 billion in stimulus money. It’s only half what Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked for, but we’re not complaining. Groundbreaking for the rail line — which is first planned to run from San Francisco to Anaheim — is expected in 2012.


3. Supporting our troops

Obama proposes increased financial assistance for military families

The details: The 2011 budget proposed by President Barack Obama stands to give unprecedented help to families of members of the Armed Forces. Almost $2 billion of the proposed $8.8 billion would go toward counseling and other support services, while $1.3 billion is earmarked for child care. Other areas that would benefit if the budget passes are Defense Department schools, career development for military spouses, housing and youth programs. The proposed budget goes hand-in-hand with first lady Michelle Obama’s push to focus on the needs of military families while parents, siblings and other relatives are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.


4. Easy sell

EBay drops some listing fees

The details: Mountain View-based online marketplace eBay announced this week that it’s cutting listing fees as part of an effort to base its revenue on sales of items rather than fees. In some instances, the fees will be dropped entirely as a way to help small sellers who have been aggravated by the fee structure and its favoritism of large merchants.


5. Good Samaritans

Witnesses must report crimes or be charged with misdemeanor

The details: The bill by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, was approved by the Assembly 61-3 Wednesday. It now goes to the Senate. He introduced the bill after the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl outside a high school homecoming dance in Richmond in October. Investigators believe as many as 10 people participated while another 20 or so watched without calling police. Current law requires that witnesses report violent crimes when the victim is younger than 14. Nava’s bill expands the requirement to include victims of all ages. Violators would face up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,500.


6. Ford tough

Automaker posts first profit in four years

The details: Rising sales and lower domestic costs led Ford Motor Co., the only U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy protection, to post its first annual net profit in four years. For 2009, profit was $2.7 billion, compared with a loss of $14.7 billion the previous year. However, revenue for the full year fell 14 percent to $118.3 billion. Unlike U.S. automakers GM and Chrysler, Ford didn’t take federal bailout money. It’s heavily indebted and has many of the challenges facing other automakers: high costs, the recession and changing customer tastes.


7. Running plays

Oracle CEO says he wants to buy the Warriors

The details: During a news conference on Oracle Corp.’s takeover of Sun Microsystems, CEO Larry Ellison confirmed reports that he was interested in buying the Golden State Warriors, joking that "unfortunately you can’t have a hostile takeover of a basketball team." Ellison, reportedly the world’s fourth wealthiest person, already owns naming rights to the team’s Oracle Arena, and many observers are hopeful that he would be an aggressive, involved owner if a deal could be reached.


8. Help for students

California lawmakers seek to close tax loophole

The details: The California Assembly passed a bill that would temporarily close a loophole allowing companies to avoid taxes by creating shell companies and stashing their profits with foreign banks. In return, legislators proposed using the estimated $70 million generated by the move in the first year alone to reduce the state sales tax on college textbooks and supplies, giving students a break. The bill would expire in 2015 unless it’s renewed.


9. Disarmed

NBA players suspended for gun incident

The details: NBA Commissioner David Stern said guns in the workplace "will not be tolerated," as he announced the suspension of Washington Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for the remainder of the season. The two allegedly brought guns into the locker room and had a confrontation. Arenas pleaded guilty Jan. 15 to a felony gun charge.


10. Eyes on the road

Truckers, bus drivers barred from texting

The details: Truck drivers and bus drivers are now officially barred from sending text messages while driving, following an announcement this week from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Drivers of commercial vehicles caught texting could be fined up to $2,750. A study released in July found that truck drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-miss while texting.


Bright light of the week: Kelly Kulick

Why: If there’s a sport where women can compete on an even playing field with men, it’s bowling. So when Kelly Kulick became the first woman to win a Professional Bowlers Association Tour title after taking the Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas, it stirred up the challenge even more.

The significance: "Kelly Kulick’s win today at the PBA Tour’s Tournament of Champions is not only historic, it serves as a motivational and inspirational event for girls and women competing at all levels all around the world," Women’s Sports Foundation Founder Billie Jean King said in a statement.

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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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