- More than 6 million Californians now living in poverty (SJ Mercury News)
More than 330,000 Californians fell below the poverty line in 2011, bringing the ranks of California's poor to more than 6.1 million, according to statistics being released Thursday from the U.S. Census Bureau. The statewide poverty rate hit 16.6 percent in 2011, up by .8 percent from the year before. A family of two adults and two children counts as poor if its combined income is less than $22,811.
- More voters undecided on taxes, poll says (SF Chronicle)
The number of California voters who are undecided on how to vote on two competing tax measures has increased with fewer than seven weeks left before the November election, and Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 is barely hanging on to a majority, according to a new poll. The poll shows that Prop. 30 has the support of 51 percent of Californians while Proposition 38, a tax-raising measure pushed by multimillionaire Molly Munger, has 41 percent of voter support.
- Social media's decline sends Silicon Valley luminaries down and off Forbes 400 list (Oakland Tribune)
While a couple of old-school tech titans held steady at the top of the Forbes 400 list of richest people in the United States, a new-school Silicon Valley icon fell along with his company's stock -- but don't worry, he can still afford plenty of hoodies. Bill Gates, with $66 billion, is the richest American in 2012, the Microsoft co-founder's 19th consecutive year topping the list, and Oracle (ORCL) founder and CEO Larry Ellison placed third with $41 billion. Warren Buffett ($46 billion) and Charles and David Koch ($31 billion) rounded out the top five. Last year's biggest gainer on the list, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, held a different title this year, however: Biggest fall. Zuckerberg, the hoodie-wearing hero of social media, had his fortune nearly halved by Facebook's post-IPO Wall Street struggles. After placing 14th with a fortune of $17.5 billion in 2011, Zuckerberg is now worth $9.4 billion, ranking him 36th.
- U.S. approves California bullet train construction (LA Times)
The Obama administration Wednesday gave the first formal regulatory approval to the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to construct a bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco, clearing a major legal hurdle to starting the project in the Central Valley. The action allows the rail authority to begin acquiring the first of nearly 1,000 parcels of land that will be needed between Merced and Bakersfield to construct about 130 miles of rail by 2017, rail officials said. The deadline is a requirement of federal stimulus funding that the state has received.
It's a season of tuition uncertainty in the state: The price of a year at California State University could soon rise again by hundreds of dollars - or swing back to what it was a year ago, with rebates for students. It all depends on what voters do about Proposition 30, a nail-biter tax measure on the November ballot that would bring a windfall to state coffers if approved, or trigger a $250 million cut each to the CSU and the University of California if defeated. On Wednesday, the CSU trustees, meeting in Long Beach, took the unprecedented step of approving both a tuition increase and a tuition rollback on the same day - each scenario dependent on what happens at the ballot box on Nov. 6.
The pepper-spraying of students by UC Davis police officers last November was not criminal conduct, Yolo County District Attorney's office concluded Wednesday following an inquiry into officers' response to protestors on the campus. "(V)iewing the incident through the totality of the circumstances, there is insufficient evidence to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force involved in the November 18, 2011, pepper spraying was unlawful and therefore warrants the filing of criminal charges," officials said in a statement announcing the report's findings.
Heavyweight business groups are staging a last-ditch protest against California's new cap-and-trade carbon market, demanding changes to a program they've labeled a job killer. Manufacturers, oil refiners and others are lining up to testify today before the California Air Resources Board, which will run the carbon market. Their goal: To get the Air Resources Board to reduce the costs of participating in the market. The program is set to begin Nov. 14, when the state agency will auction off millions of carbon emission allowances.
The Navy SEAL who outraged Pentagon brass by writing a tell-all about his role in the Osama bin Laden slaying also used his insider knowledge of several military operations to help with the forthcoming video game “Medal of Honor Warfighter.” Author Matt Bissonnette, whose pen name for the best-seller “No Easy Day” is Mark Owen, is one of two dozen retired and active-duty military officers who provided technical advice, voice-overs, script assistance and other input in the next iteration of “Medal of Honor”... The new game from Electronic Arts, to be released Oct. 23, allows players to virtually participate in realistic animations of several high-stakes special operations conducted by the U.S. military in recent years.
San Francisco State University, a hotbed of student activism since the student protests of the late 1960s, will get a chance to continue its political tradition this November, only this time at an on-campus polling place. University officials, not to mention students involved in the upcoming presidential race, were shocked when they found out in August that the city would not have a polling place on campus for the presidential election, forcing students to venture out onto the wilds of 19th Avenue.
More leading universities are offering free online courses through the fast-growing education platform Coursera. Mountain View-based Coursera said Wednesday that 17 more domestic and international universities have joined the online network. The new additions brings to 33 the number of institutions offering courses through Coursera, one of several new companies offering free cyber courses from elite universities. Coursera now offers more than 200 courses open to anyone with an Internet connection.
A pair of scientists at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has found that a compound derived from marijuana could stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer, potentially altering the fatality of the disease forever. "It took us about 20 years of research to figure this out, but we are very excited," said Pierre Desprez, one of the scientists behind the discovery, to The Huffington Post. "We want to get started with trials as soon as possible"... While marijuana advocates will surely praise the discovery, Desprez explained that it's not so easy as just lighting up. "We used injections in the animal testing and are also testing pills," he said. "But you could never get enough Cannabidiol for it to be effective just from smoking."