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California Dreaming

Immigration reform is a complex topic, so it can be quite difficult to quantify public opinion on the subject. But in early May the Institute of Governmental Studies conducted an online poll to do just that. The survey, answered by 3,100 registered California voters, began with a simple choice between the status quo and a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants. Each answer led to more nuanced options in order to understand the specific priorities and opinions of California voters.

Scientists Coax Secrets From Living Soil Crusts

Biological soil crusts (BSCs), as the name might suggest, are rather unprepossessing entities, typically presenting themselves as dark, mottled patches on desert soils.

From a microbiological perspective, however, they are fascinating:  living, symbiotic communities of cyanobacteria, mosses, and algae that can survive – indeed, thrive — where most other things wither and die.

The Surprising Ecology of Lyme Disease

This week’s New Yorker has a fascinating and important story by science writer Michael Specter about Lyme disease in which he reports on who has it, treatment options, the ethics of unproven treatments, patients’ rights, and so on. And if you’re anything like us, you read it and thought, “Oooh!

Marriage Equality Progresses, Pt. 2

So where exactly do today’s two Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage leave California’s same-gendered couples? Still married, and likely to remain so.

Marriage Equality Progresses


Just in time for San Francisco’s Pride weekend, this morning the US Supreme Court issued rulings on both the California Prop. 8 case and the Defense of Marriage Act challenge. And both rulings went as well as the defenders of marriage equality could hope for.

Violated Workers

There are an estimated 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States, according to a 2012 survey compiled by the National Center for Farmworker Health. Most are foreign born, undocumented, under the age of 40, and have an average 8th grade education level. But as PBS’s new Frontline documentary reveals, the situation is graver for the one-fifth of those workers who are female.

Affirmative Action Treads Water

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Fisher v. UT Austin affirmative action case was surprising more for its silences than its declarations. Although the case was punted back to the district court, it was very much a punt: Left for another day, and maybe another court, was tackling whether race can be considered in admissions policies of public universities.

Flawed by Design

The problems keep piling up for CalTrans – and by extension, for anyone who will drive across the new Bay Bridge. The project has been dogged by controversy from the start, and concerns have reached the point that public safety seems very much in question. 

The Day the Eukaryotes Changed

About three billion years ago, simple, single-celled organisms without much in the way of skill sets ruled the world.  Then something simultaneously creepy and liberating happened: Bacteria parasitized these proto-plants and creatures.  Some of these invaders became mitochondria, the minute, organic engines that provide energy for cellular activity.  Others developed into chloroplasts, the organelles that produce chlorophyll, the pigment that allows plants to conduct photosynthesis.

Watching the Watchers

Five days after East Bay native Oscar Grant was fatally shot by a police officer at the Fruitvale BART station, an incident captured on video by witnesses, Oakland-based attorney and Berkeley School of Law graduate John Burris filed a $25 million wrongful death claim against BART in support of the Grant Family.

Engineering Magic

Few know better the crushing blow to idealism of undergraduate engineering courses than College of Engineering Dean S. Shankar Sastry. “They come out of high school ready to change the world, and they’re beaten into submission,” said Sastry in a phone interview. “Why do that? We need to find ways to celebrate their creativity, to help them integrate their experiences, so they leave with some of the same enthusiasm they had coming in.”

SCOTUS Ruling on Water Could Spur Change in Policy

Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over, goes the old saw about western water issues, and one of those fights was decided today in the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In a case that could have significant implications for regional water wars throughout the nation, the court ruled that Texas can’t jam a pipe into Oklahoma to get high-quality water for the Dallas-Fort Worth area.


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