10 brightest ideas of the week: Sunday, March 21, 2010 

Airport bag complaints on the decline, a pop star takes a break from tweeting, soda companies cut sugar drinks from schools, and a young rower sends inspirational message to peers.

1. Boon to homebuying

SF opens door to homeownership by changing some rules

The details: Condominiums in publicly subsidized buildings that were constructed for low-income residents are being marketed to wealthier homebuyers in a bid to boost sales. Purchasing rules that govern scores of San Francisco Redevelopment Agency condos are being relaxed to help sell the units in a battered real estate market. Agency commissioners raised the income cap for buyers to qualify for some of the units in some buildings. For example, a two-person household earning up to $77,450 originally qualified to buy a two-unit home at the Mission Walk project for roughly $210,000. Now a household can earn up to $92,900 to qualify.


2. Screeners improve

Complaints about lost baggage down

The details: Complaints that airport screeners lost, stole or damaged items in passengers’ bags have dropped by half after the federal government imposed stricter standards on luggage handling. Passengers who discovered missing or damaged belongings demanded money from the Transportation Security Administration 11,700 times in 2009 — a steep drop from the 26,500 claims filed in 2004, according to TSA figures. The claims involved both carry-on and checked bags. The agency has deterred baggage theft and damage by adding surveillance cameras to rooms where luggage is screened.

3. Name your price

‘Pay what you can’ cafe a big hit

The details: Imagine going into a cafe, sitting down at the counter and drooling over the $12 steak and baked potato on the menu. Only you check your wallet and find out you only have $7. At Denver’s Same Cafe, price is not a problem. In fact, there are no prices on the menu. Instead, the couple who run the restaurant require customers only pay what they want or work off their meals by doing dishes or other chores around the establishment.

4. Unplugged

Miley Cyrus defends decision to stop using the Web

The details: The teen sensation dropped out of the online world, and she doesn’t regret it a bit. Cyrus says she was sick and tired of tweeting her every thought, and that other celebs who complain that they have no personal life or privacy might want to look at their own public Internet usage. And she has a message for the even younger generation: “I’m telling kids, don’t go on the Internet, it’s dangerous, it’s not fun, it wastes your life.”


5. No sugar in school

PepsiCo joins march against sugary school drinks

The details: PepsiCo Inc., the world’s second-largest soft drink maker, said it will expand its effort to remove sugary drinks from schools worldwide because its programs in the U.S. were so effective. Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co. have reduced sales of sugary drinks in schools, an effort aimed at cutting down on childhood obesity, which can lead to diabetes, heart problems and other ailments. Coke’s new policy is that it won’t sell drinks in primary schools unless parents or school districts ask. PepsiCo, with the cooperation of bottlers, vendors and distributors, will sell only water, fat-free or low-fat milk and juice with no added sugar in primary schools, and those drinks and diet drinks in secondary schools.


6. Showtime

New York restaurants must display grades

The details: Ever think you are walking into a good restaurant only to leave with that icky feeling? Well, the Big Apple is here to rescue you. New York is requiring its 24,000 restaurants — everything from five-star eateries to small burrito shops — to display large letter grades by their entrances indicating how clean they are. The Board of Health grading system gives an A for scores of 90 to 100 percent, B for 80 to 89 percent and C for 70 to 79 percent. Any place that scores less than 70 percent twice in a year is subject to closure.


7. Helping out

Fargo students work hard to help protect against flooding

The details: More than 1,000 middle school and high school students filled and positioned sandbags during four-hour shifts to help protect Fargo, N.D., from the rising Red River. Classes were nearly empty as hometown volunteers readied 1 million sandbags to hold back the impending floodwaters, finishing three days ahead of schedule. Even pre-schoolers participated alongside their parents.


8. War on junk food


First lady goes head-to-head with food giants on health

The details: The first lady threw down the gauntlet with some of the nation’s biggest food manufacturers as part of her initiative to help make American kids healthier. “Step it up,” she told them. “We need you to ... entirely rethink the products you are offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children.” Obama says removing fat is great, but replacing it with sugar and salt is suboptimal, especially if marketers then add the misleading word “healthy” to the label.


9. Baseball returns

After robbery, generosity puts team back on field

The details: After equipment was stolen from Bolsa Grande High School, the Orange County school had to cancel the first game of the season for the Matadors’ varsity and junior varsity teams. But the season is back on after a local sporting goods store donated $1,400 worth of new gear. Coincidence or not, among the donated items was an equipment bag full of some of the team’s stolen items.


10. No kids

FDA bans marketing of cigarettes to kids

The details: If you thought there were still loopholes in tobacco companies distributing their products to children, the Food and Drug Administration tightened the gaps even more. The federal agency set national limits on vending machine sales and free samples, among other steps, after it failed to shut down the marketing more than a decade ago. Tobacco companies can no longer use brand names to sponsor sporting and other events, or sell merchandise such as hats and T-shirts.

Bright light of the week


Katie Spotz

The 22-year-old from Ohio became the youngest person to complete a solo transoceanic rowing trip.

Why: Spotz took 70 days, 5 hours and 22 minutes to cross the Atlantic Ocean, spending 10 to 12 hours a day rowing, and tracking her progress on Twitter using satellites. While the dangers were obvious — a young person alone in the middle of the ocean — she provides inspiration to others her age that they can accomplish great things.

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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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