Law + Policy

Feel the Burn: To Avoid Year-Round Wildfires, California Needs to Up Its Forestry Game

If you have the feeling that “wildfire season” is anything but seasonal these days, you’re right. Drought and climate change are combining to make wildfires a year-round phenomenon in the Golden State and much of the West, a trend that already is changing the character of our forests and straining government budgets. Read more about Feel the Burn: To Avoid Year-Round Wildfires, California Needs to Up Its Forestry Game »

Can’t We All Get Along? Case Studies of Racial Tensions In and Around Progressive Berkeley

Science tells us that race is in our heads, not in our genes; it’s all a social construct.

It’s an observation that seems to illuminate everything and nothing at once. It makes it sound so arbitrary and trivial—a trick of the mind. And yet history tells us that race has mattered enormously. And the news emphasizes how much it still matters today in terms of what researchers call “life outcomes”: Your chances of securing a loan, for example; or of getting a good education; or of being shot by the police. Read more about Can't We All Get Along? Case Studies of Racial Tensions In and Around Progressive Berkeley »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Hell to Pay: Why Aren’t We Fully Funding A Phone App to Warn Us of Earthquakes?

California wants to lay out some major cash for hyper-ambitious public works projects. For example, the Twin Tunnels, Jerry Brown’s retread of the peripheral canal that was defeated by voters in 1982 during his first go-round as governor. Depending on whom you talk to, this massive water conveyance scheme will cost between $25 and $67 billion. Read more about Hell to Pay: Why Aren't We Fully Funding A Phone App to Warn Us of Earthquakes? »

Who Is Kennewick Man? Study Determines Racial ID of 8,500-Year-Old Skeleton

An archaeological mystery that called into question the racial history of the Americas has finally been solved. After consecutively assigning him Caucasian, Japanese, and Native American ancestry, a team of scientists including some at UC Berkeley say they have finally determined the geographic origins of the Kennewick Man. Read more about Who Is Kennewick Man? Study Determines Racial ID of 8,500-Year-Old Skeleton »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Brewing Trouble: A New Process Could Make it Too Easy to Manufacture Opiates

UC Berkeley bioengineer John Dueber knows too well that sometimes the most important scientific discoveries have harmful consequences. Just recently, Dueber and a team of scientists discovered the final step in modifying common yeast cells to manufacture opiates. Their finding was published in the July issue of Nature Chemical Biology, alongside a warning urging scientists and policymakers to work together to address the development’s possible consequences. Read more about Brewing Trouble: A New Process Could Make it Too Easy to Manufacture Opiates »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

Black Cop, White Cop: What can two Berkeley police from the century before tell us about race relations in America today?

It was Berkeley in the 1920s. “The Fighting Swede” was driving through town, feeling even more pugnacious than usual. That’s because he was drunk. The Swede had carved out a reputation as a barroom brawler in the waterfront dives on both sides of the Bay, and he was always more than willing to defend his title—especially when he had a snootful of booze.

So he didn’t feel particularly tractable when a cop pulled him over at Ashby and San Pablo. Read more about Black Cop, White Cop: What can two Berkeley police from the century before tell us about race relations in America today? »

From the Fall 2015 Questions of Race issue of California.

California Consequences: What If High Court Bans Race Preferences in College Admissions?

Almost lost amid the recent flurry of marquee U.S. Supreme Court rulings—including one endorsing same-sex marriage and another upholding Obamacare—was a judicial move that could have a huge impact on who gets into top colleges. The justices, by opting to reconsider a case that challenges the University of Texas’s use of race and ethnicity to select students, signaled that they may be ready to effectively end affirmative action in college admissions nationwide. Read more about California Consequences: What If High Court Bans Race Preferences in College Admissions? »

On the Money: Which Bill Is Fitting for a Woman? And Which Woman Fits the Bill Best?

Your Facebook feed has probably already told you this, but the public response to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s decision to feature a woman on a redesigned $10 bill has been overwhelming—he says the Treasury has received nearly a million and a half comments and tweets about it. Not everyone is happy, particularly those who campaigned to get a woman on the more popular $20, and are still fighting to change his mind. Read more about On the Money: Which Bill Is Fitting for a Woman? And Which Woman Fits the Bill Best? »

Catching the Brain in a Lie: Is “Mind Reading” Deception Detection Sci-Fi—or Science?

Ever since the inception of our species, humans have wanted to peer inside each other’s minds. A major reason we want to do this is because we lie. We lie a lot, and on the whole, we are quite good at it. The capacity for deception is possibly one of the most significant cognitive gifts we received through evolution.

But it turns out that we lack an equal genius for spotting deception. Instead we keep trying to capitalize on technology—hoping it can do the detecting for us. Read more about Catching the Brain in a Lie: Is "Mind Reading" Deception Detection Sci-Fi—or Science? »

Fired Up: Controversy Still Raging Like Wildfire Over Tree-Cutting Plan in East Bay

As drought continues to crisp up the state—increasing the potential for catastrophic fire and further taxing plants already competing for water resources—many conservationists are supporting a plan by UC Berkeley, the city of Oakland and East Bay Regional Parks District plan to cut, chop, mulch and deter the future growth of many non-native trees. Read more about Fired Up: Controversy Still Raging Like Wildfire Over Tree-Cutting Plan in East Bay »

The End for ‘Brittany’s Bill’? Legislators Balk at Doctor-Assisted Suicide for the Terminally Ill

Brittany Maynard’s battle with virulent brain cancer was compelling and heartbreaking, but today it wasn’t enough to sway key California lawmakers. Her decision to end her life last year at age 29 galvanized a campaign to make it legal for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for terminally ill patients, but this morning the sponsors of the End of Life Option Act shelved the bill until next year, acknowledging that for now, they lacked the votes to secure passage in the Assembly Health Committee. Read more about The End for 'Brittany's Bill'? Legislators Balk at Doctor-Assisted Suicide for the Terminally Ill »

Startup Wants University Endowments to Lend Money so Homeowners Can Go Solar

A new startup founded by two UC Berkeley Haas Business School students aims to give homeowners going solar the leverage to affect more than just the environment.

Window Street Financial—which emerged last fall from an idea generated by Johnny Gannon and Ben Purvis—wants to give them the option of taking a solar loan made up of capital from the endowments of universities, nonprofits and foundations. Read more about Startup Wants University Endowments to Lend Money so Homeowners Can Go Solar »

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