10 brightest ideas of the week: Sunday, June 20, 2010 

1. Gulf relief

Young artist, AOL aid spill cleanup
The details: AOL Artists is partnering with Olivia Bouler, 11, of Long Island, to host “Olivia’s Help the Gulf Region Wildlife Project,” the child artist’s effort to help wildlife suffering in the oil spill’s wake. Olivia, worried about the spill, wrote to the Audubon Society to ask if she could sell her bird paintings to raise funds for Gulf rescue efforts. Now, donors can give to one of several aid organizations, and Olivia gives donors a painting.

2. Help for card users

Fed adopts new rules to aid credit customers
The details: New rules by the Federal Reserve should protect credit card customers from high late payment charges and other penalties. Credit card companies can’t charge more than $25 for paying a bill late, or penalties higher than the dollar amount associated with the customer’s violation. The rules also ban “inactivity” fees and multiple fees on a single late payment.

3. A good start

BP agrees to $20 billion fund for oil spill victims
The details: It’s probably going to take more than anyone can calculate, but British Petroleum is buying back a little goodwill by pledging $20 billion to recompense victims of the catastrophic Gulf oil spill. In a meeting with President Barack Obama, BP executives promised the funds — which amount to about one year of profit for the company — along with issuing an apology. Even better news? Obama says the $20 billion number is not a cap on what BP will probably have to spend.

4. Buzz off

World Cup broadcaster blocking vuvuzela noise
The details: Broadcasters, aware that many are watching the World Cup on mute because of the blaring background vuvuzelas, are turning to higher tech to make the audio more palatable to those not used to the horns. Host Broadcast Services, providers of the TV feed of the World Cup, has increased its EQ filtering so the voices stand out from the buzz. The BBC is also pondering the problem, but is considering offering two broadcasts: one filtered, and one for all the fans who want the full vuvuzela experience.

5. Funds for vets

Job-training organization for vets gets federal grant
The details: San Francisco-based Swords to Plowshares, which helps military veterans get job training, has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the federal government to help with green jobs training. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service announced that Swords to Plowshares was among groups who received grants totaling $9 million nationwide. The grants are expected to help thousands of veterans.

6. Radiation alert

SF forces stores to disclose cell phone radiation levels
The details: Despite lobbying from cell phone makers, The City’s Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a new law that forces stores to list radiation levels of the phones. Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the ordinance into law this week. If he does, the landmark legislation would go into effect in February 2011.

7. No longer MIA

WWII researcher says he’s ID’d remains of 7 soldiers
The details: A private researcher says he has matched seven MIAs with the remains of unknown soldiers from World War II — and he expects to match as many as 19 more within the week. Ted Darcy has listed five Marines and two sailors missing since the 1944 Battle of Saipan. Darcy is working using computerized databases filled with information he’s been collecting for 20 years. There are nearly 88,000 American MIAs, including 78,000 from WWII, and the military confirms, on average, 72 MIA matches annually from all U.S. wars.

8. Secret assets

Swiss parliament approves U.S. tax-cheat data deal
The details: The Swiss parliament approved a treaty with the United States that will turn over thousands of files on suspected tax cheats to U.S. authorities. But finalizing the details will probably delay the deal another few months. The Swiss banking industry has faced intense pressure in American courts since 2007, and desperately wants to maintain a free flow of its U.S. fund transfers. However, opponents of the treaty called it the death blow to legendary Swiss banking confidentiality.

9. Giving big

Gates, Buffett urge other billionaires to donate 50 percent of wealth
The details: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates started The Giving Pledge drive to persuade hundreds of their fellow billionaires to commit­ at least half of their wealth to philanthropy. Buffett, the world’s third-richest person, has pledged more than 99 percent of his $47 billion wealth to charity — mostly given in yearly installments to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The campaign has a minimum goal of about $600 billion in commitments, which could triple the amount of philanthropy in America.

10. Rescue pay

Australia, France to cover cost of bringing missing sailor home
The details: Everyone heard about the search for Southern California teen Abby Sunderland, who went missing in the Southern Ocean. Australia sent a chartered jet, which searched for 11 hours and cost nearly $100,000. Two Aussie ships cost about $25,000 an hour and a French territory dispatched three ships at an undetermined price. While the cost of the rescue has been questioned by residents of those countries, both say they will not seek reimbursement from the family or the United States.



Bright light of the week: Patti DeLuna

Who: American Airlines flight attendant

What: It almost seems like a scene from “Airplane,” where an announcement goes out inquiring about anyone onboard a jet having a pilot’s license. Well, for Flight 1612 from San Francisco International Airport to Chicago, it was real. A co-pilot became ill and DeLuna, 61, who is a commercial pilot, stepped in and assisted in guiding the Boeing 767.

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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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