10 brightest ideas of the week: Feb. 7

President plans Q&A with party leaders, webcam viewer saves a man’s life, plan aims to reduce utility bills, and a billionaire couple pledges $10 billion to develop vaccines.


1. Miller hits a home run

Legendary Giants voice going to the Baseball Hall of Fame

The details: San Francisco Giants broadcaster Jon Miller was awarded the Ford C. Frick award for excellence in broadcasting — and his ticket is punched for Cooperstown, N.Y. Miller, who has delighted Giants fans for parts of five decades, will be honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame in July. The 58-year-old Miller got the award in his first year as a finalist, and now the question is: Will he give his acceptance speech using his well-known Vin Scully impersonation?


2. More Obama Q-and-A

President open to questions from Senate Republicans

The details: Less than a week after his widely praised TV question-and-answer session with House Republicans, President Barack Obama televised another Q-and-A with the Senate Democratic Caucus. His own party’s questions were less confrontational than those from the GOP opposition, but still raised substantive issues. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “I believe we have been invited to speak to the Senate Republicans, and we will do so.” However, the administration nixed requests to regularly schedule the wide-open forums.


3. Bye-bye, terrorists

NYC unites to kick Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial out of town

The details: A groundswell of opposition in New York City is en route to dumping the proposed 9/11 terrorist trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other defendants. The Department of Justice conceded last week it was searching for alternative sites. A wide spectrum of New Yorkers objected vigorously to a security plan that would snarl traffic and disrupt commerce throughout lower Manhattan — not to mention also cost $200 million a year for security.


4. Haiti outreach

US resumes medical airlifts, will reimburse hospitals

The details: The U.S. military resumed military medical airlift flights from quake-stricken Haiti for the most seriously injured patients this week, after a five-day suspension of the program prompted an outcry. Florida officials had complained that their hospitals, which have treated more than 500 Haitians, were being overwhelmed. Federal officials have now agreed to reimburse hospitals for the care of those airlifted.


5. Saving energy

Free audits and partial funding to cut utility bills

The details: Approximately 2,000 midsize to small San Francisco businesses and 500 homes will receive a free audit and partial funding to make energy-efficient retrofits as part of a $19.2 million plan aimed at reducing utility bills. About $11.5 million of the money will go toward boosting efficiency at private properties; funding will go to The City’s Energy Watch program, which offers homeowners and businesses a free audit of their properties to help identify various ways a building can operate more efficiently.


6. Harsher sentence

Court says sentence for bomb plotter too lenient

The details: A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco tossed out a 22-year prison sentence as too lenient for the al-Qaida-trained terrorist convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport at the turn of the millennium. It also removed the Seattle trial judge from the case and assigned the resentencing of Ahmed Ressam to another federal judge. Border agents in Washington state arrested Ressam in December 1999 after he entered the United States from Canada in a car packed with explosives. A judge cited Ressam’s cooperation with investigators in meting out the original sentence. But since Ressam recanted his cooperation after two years, the appeals court said he deserves a longer sentence.


7. Webcam saves a life

Man lost on North Sea spotted by webcam watcher

The details: A German man, lost on the frozen North Sea, was seen blinking his flashlight by a woman watching the sunset on a tourist webcam installed on the beach. The woman called police, who safely rescued the 40-year-old man. He had ventured out during the day to take photos and became lost off the coast. The photographer escaped injury, but could have died from exposure or drowning, authorities said.


8. Say ‘hey’

Giants legend tells his story

The details: At 78, Willie Mays is giving up the juicy baseball stories in a new book, “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend,” slated to be released this month. The book, written by James S. Hirsch, marks the first time Mays has cooperated with a biographer. The Say Hey Kid is going on the promotional trail to share his tales, and if the reminiscing so far is any indication, fans and readers are in for a treat.


9. Famous on Google

Kids can get their artwork used as the Google logo

The details: K-12 students are invited to draw the Google logo for May 27. The theme is “If I Could Do Anything, I Would.” Kids are challenged to answer that question in art, which will be judged by a panel of professionals from The Sesame Street Workshop, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, The Charles Shulz-Peanuts Museum and Pixar. More information for the aspiring artists can be found at www.google.com/doodle4google/index.html.


10. Online commissions cut

Fidelity follows Schwab in lowering trading fees

The details: Boston’s Fidelity Investments will lower trading commissions for online customers as a price war intensifies among brokerage firms following a recent fee reduction by San Francisco rival Charles Schwab Corp. Fidelity will charge a flat rate of $7.95 a trade, vs. the previous tiered range of $19.95 to $8 a trade. Fidelity also said customers will be able to trade online 25 iShares exchange-traded funds without paying commissions. Schwab had cut trading fees for smaller clients to $8.95, with surcharges of $5 for automated phone trades and $25 for broker-assisted trades.


Bright light of the week

Bill and Melinda Gates

What: The computer billionaire-turned-philanthropist and his wife have announced they will spend $10 billion over the next decade to develop and deliver vaccines in the developing world.

Why: The philanthropical pair have already committed $4.5 billion to vaccines over the past 10 years. Gates said that by increasing immunization coverage in developing countries to 90 percent, it should be possible to prevent the deaths of 7.6 million children under the age of 5 between 2010 and 2019.

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