10 brightest ideas of the week: Dec. 20, 2009

Cell phone radiation gets another look, banks repay bailout money, largest kidney swap yields 13 organs for patients, and a big-name author brings soldiers home for holidays.

1. Cell phone radiation

SF could be first city requiring phone radiation labels

The details: Mayor Gavin Newsom is endorsing a proposal to make cell phone retailers post radiation levels next to each phone in typeface at least as large as the price. Retailers also would have to inform customers what the radiation levels mean. A bill likely will go before the Board of Supervisors within a few months, based on a proposal from the Commission on the Environment’s policy committee. Scientists still don’t agree whether cell phone radiation poses any health hazard.

2. Babysitting with pets

Animal shelter offers babysitting where kids, pets play

The details: A new date-night program at the Humane Society of Broward County lets Miami-area parents drop their children off at the shelter for a few hours some Friday nights. About 25 pajama-clad kids get to play with a bunch of friendly dogs and cats. After a pizza dinner and a staff talk about correct pet treatment, tiny, meowing kittens and then two puppies are brought out for the children to play with before watching an animal movie.

3. No loan sharks

Big banks repay billion-dollar federal bailout loans

The details: No need for Uncle Sam to send out big, burly guys to break some bankers’ kneecaps. Wells Fargo, based in San Francisco, and Citigroup have repaid their $25 billion and $20 billion loans, respectively, received from the federal government as part of the bailout during last year’s market meltdown. Wells Fargo is selling stock shares for $25 each, while Citi — one of the hardest-hit institutions — will repay its debt and also have the government sell its one-third stake in the company.

4. Big banana

Deal struck in 15-year dispute regarding imported fruit

The details: The monkey business is over for the European Union. Ending a dispute that has lasted at least 15 years, the EU signed a deal to reduce import tariffs on Latin American bananas. The move, which comes after the EU lost several legal battles at the World Trade Organization, reduces the preferential treatment that had been given to growers in former colonies in the Caribbean and Africa. Producers in Ecuador and other Latin American countries are expected to benefit.

5. Party-pooper

Famous Brazil architect working hard as he turns 102

The details: So how does a guy with everything celebrate turning 102? If you are Oscar Niemeyer — Brazil’s most famous architect — you work on projects. As for his big day: “Turning 102 is crap, and there is nothing to commemorate,” he said. Niemeyer has designed some of Brazil’s most distinctive buildings, including the Sambodrome and Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, both in Rio.

6. Information is power

SF residents can get crime data for their neighborhoods

The details: San Francisco police unveiled a new Web site, www.crimemapping.com, which allows the public to see crime reports for any location in The City. The site displays calls for police service and the type of crime, and includes reports from the previous day. Knowing what’s going on could be a powerful tool for police accountability and for motivating such efforts as neighborhood crime watches.

7. Enter landman

Metallica singer gives Marin County 330 acres of farmland

The details: Metallica frontman James Hetfield donated 330 acres of open space overlooking California’s Lucas Valley for preservation as farmland. It follows Hetfield’s earlier gift to Marin County of more than 400 acres for open space. Both plots of land are around Hetfield’s home.

8. Positive interaction

Teen program rehabilitates young offenders

The details: A South Carolina Rotary Club program is making a big difference in the lives of juvenile offenders. The Interact Club is composed of formerly criminally minded young people, who now must maintain a certain standard of behavior and participate in local service projects. One success story: The program paired a police chief with an offender who committed assault and battery with intent to kill. Now the youth is attending South Carolina State University on a scholarship.

9. The best policy

UPS driver returns lost bank bag with $5,200

The details: A New Jersey UPS driver, John Piontkowski, spotted a bank bag in the middle of the road on his delivery route. The bag turned out to contain $5,200 in cash and a deposit slip tracing the money back to a liquor store in Jersey City. Piontkowski says he never considered keeping the cash, and when the money was returned, the grateful liquor store owners gave him “a very nice reward.” Let’s raise a glass to an honest man.

10. Organ exchange

Largest-ever kidney-swap patients meet donors

The details: A combination of altruism and need fueled what is believed to be the world’s largest kidney exchange, in which 13 patients received healthy new kidneys. Recipients and donors met for the first time this week in an emotional gathering. Kidney exchanges, in which friends or relatives of kidney patients — or even donors with no personal stake — arrange to donate kidneys, can help the hardest-to-match patients find donors, even when none of their relatives are compatible.

Bright light of the week

Who: Stephen King
Why: The horror author and his wife donated $13,000 so that 150 Maine Army National Guard soldiers could come home for the holidays from Camp Atterbury, Ind.
Significance: King, a longtime Maine resident with a history of personal philanthropy, reportedly was approached about donating the $13,000, but viewed that number as unlucky. So he and his wife donated $12,999 and an assistant made up the $1 difference.

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