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Top Stories: Oct. 6, 2009

Making Money in Mountain View; Red Cross Takes On H1N1; SJ Unified to Sue State

Apple Quits Chamber of Commerce
Apple became the latest of a series of large companies to quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its shrill opposition to cap-and-trade and other legislation to curb climate change. With its decision, the company joined major energy companies Exelon, PG&E, and PNM of New Mexico in abandoning the Chamber. Though sportswear producer Nike did not quit the Chamber, it resigned its seat on the Board of Directors. The series of high profile resignations began in August, after the Chamber called for a "Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" to challenge the science behind climate change.

In a letter to Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue, Apple’s Vice President of Worldwide Government Affairs, Catherine Novelli, said that the company would prefer that the Chamber adopt "a more progressive stance on this critical issue."
Read More at the Business Journal.
Read More at the Boston Globe.

Two Runners Die in Marathon
Coroners are still investigating the deaths of two runners who competed in San Jose's Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon on Sunday. The two—Brandon Whitehurst, 35, and Rose Lo, 34—were the first casualties in the event's three year history in San Jose, though a 23-year-old runner died last month at a similar event in Virginia Beach. Marathon deaths are considered a rarity and even less common in half-marathons. The most common suggestion is that the two raced with a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

More than 10,000 people participated in the 13.1-mile (20 kilometer) race, which wound through San Jose on a relatively mild day. Temperatures during the race peaked at just 68 degrees. The winner, American Meb Keflezighi, was a silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics. He completed the course in 1:01:00, setting a new U.S. record for the distance. The winner for the women's race was Belainesh Gebre of Ethiopia, who completed the distance in 1:11:24.

But for most, Keflezighi's victory was overshadowed by the deaths of the two competitors. Nevertheless, no mention of the the tragedy appeared on the event's website, which celebrated Keflezighi's record run on what it billed as San Jose's largest single-day sporting event.
Read More at NBC Bay Area.

Mountain View Vet Convicted of Counterfeiting
Paul Rickett, 37, of Mountain View had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life after returning from the Gulf War. He developed a methamphetamine addiction which ate up all his savings, so looking for ways to make more money, he decided to do just that—make it himself, with a computer and printer, from the back of his minivan.

Rickett was arrested in May after printing $30,000 in authentic-looking counterfeit bills. According to police, at the time of his arrest he was planning to print another $100,000. He was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in federal prison for the crime.
Read More at KLIV.

Mineta to Introduce New Baggage Security Screening System
Traffic may be down at Mineta Airport, but a series of improvements have made it one of the most forward-looking airports in the country. The airport has recently been awarded a $21 million grant from the federal government to introduce a new baggage security screening system in its revamped Terminal B. It will be the first time that the new explosive-detection system will be used anywhere in the country.

The airport also announced that it will be back to flight capacity, now that it has completed improvements on its second runway. Work on the runway, which was closed two weeks ago, was finished ahead of schedule. Read More at KCBS.

Local Red Cross Mobilizes in War Against Swine Flu
The Santa Clara County chapter of the Red Cross has mobilized 2,000 volunteers to help administer the H1N1 vaccination that arrives in California this week. Volunteers will assist at understaffed clinics and provide take-home kits for low-income families at high risk of infection, particularly families with young children and with members who have compromised auto-immune systems. Unlike many other states, however, California does not require healthcare professionals health workers to get the vaccine.

Authorities are urging local residents, particularly people at risk, to get the shot as quickly as possible. According to Dr. Douglas Owens of Stanford University, getting the shot in October rather than November could save as many as 600 lives and cut costs to the state by as much as $150 million. He estimates that hospitalization costs for people with swine flu can run up to $50,000 for two weeks per patient.

In San Jose, the Unified School District is already planning to vaccinate all of its 32,000 students for free, starting next week. It is the first school district in the county to offer the voluntary vaccines to children. Countywide, the first batch of 14,100 vaccines will be offered to children aged 2 to 10.
Read More at ABC 7.
Read More at the Mercury News.

Unified School District Preparing to Sue State over Funding
Don Iglesias of San Jose's Unified School District is furious. The state, he claims, has trailed national per-pupil spending since 1979, and with the current budget cuts, the gap has now reached $1,700 per student. According to some reports, the state now ranks 47th in the nation in terms of spending per student, and all reports place it in the bottom half of all states.

This is unacceptable to the California School Boards Association, which is planning to sue the state to restore funding. A study conducted by Stanford University claims that the state would need $32 billion—a 56 percent increase in education funding—just to get back on track. At the same time it warns that just pouring money into schools without overhauling the educational system, would be a waste of money. Eric Hanushek, one of the authors of the report, adds that it is in the national interest to improve education in California. As the most populous state, it contains one out of every eight students. Poor performances by California's students have an impact on the entire nation's educational achievements.

Iglesias, who represents the largest school district in Santa Clara County, is completely behind the proposed law suit. Though he recognizes that funding for education is largely dependent on the state of California's economy and that the economy is currently abysmal, he argues that the problem is bigger than the current crisis.

The School Boards Association is planning to file its suit by the end of the year.
Read More at The Mercury News.

Affordable Housing No Longer a Priority
At one point, San Jose City Council decided that home-ownership was a priority and mandated that developers sell at least 20 percent of all homes they build in redevelopment areas at below market rates. But in the current economic climate, developers have avoided development projects in these areas, thereby threatening the goal of affordable housing throughout the city, while market rates for high-priced housing have since dropped to near-affordable rates. As a result, the City Council has decided to suspend affordable housing rules until the economy gets back on its feet.

The decision has been praised by local developers, but at least one affordable housing advocate has questioned how it helps moderate-income families. Kyra Kazantzis of the Public Interest Law Firm says: "It's a shame that the city of San Jose chose to give up 45 years of affordability in its below-market-rate units so developers can sell a few more units in the near-term."

This is contested by at least one developer, who claims that people are not buying homes being sold at below-market rates. Ken Busch of Regis Homes says that it has taken his company as long to sell 8 below-rate condos to families with moderate incomes at one of its projects as it has to sell the remaining 35 condos at the standard rate. In San Jose, moderate income is defined as $126,000 for a family of four.
Read More at The Mercury News.