10 brightest ideas of the week: July 20

The president checked in on the state’s fire situation, and an S.F. crime-prevention system proved fruitful.

Oval aid for fires

1| President in Northern California to survey fire damage.

The details: President Bush pledged federal help in the fight against California wildfires, which have ravaged nearly 1,413 square miles of the state in 12 counties since mid-June. To date, FEMA has given more than $154 million to California to pay for firefighting, evacuations, shelter, traffic control, equipment and supplies.

Labor Day street party

2| Mayor announces plan to close The Embarcadero to cars.

The details: A plan to ban cars from a six-mile stretch of The Embarcadero during Labor Day weekend still has a few wrinkles to iron out, such as ensuring Fisherman’s Wharf businesses profit from the foot traffic.

Sweet 16

3| Giants sign deal with 16-year-old outfielder.

The details: Not a bad birthday present — for 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Rafael Rodriguez or for The City’s baseball fans. San Francisco’s baseball franchise agreed to a record bonus of $2.55 million, announced on Rodriguez’s birthday, the first day the player was eligible to sign.

Taking their medicine

4| State fines two health plans $13 million.

The details: Two of the state’s biggest health-plan providers, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, agreed Thursday to pay a total of $13 million in fines and to offer new health coverage to more than 2,200 Californians who became ill and were dropped by the companies. Neither company admitted to any wrongdoing, but the stiff penalties imposed by the state will hopefully send a strong message.

‘Idol’ worship

5| Popular TV talent show scouts in Bay Area.

The details: While art snobs might turn up their nose at a television talent search for singers, it’s a good thing that San Francisco is on the “American Idol” radar. Approximately 7,500 hopefuls agreed, lining up to audition for the chance to become the nation’s next singing sensation.

Facing dropout crisis

6| New state data reveal higher high school drop outs.

The details: State educators finally took a hard look at the number of high school students who weren’t making it to graduation, and the numbers were significantly higher than previously estimated. Although a 24 percent statewide dropout rate is nothing to be proud of, at least now the problem is out in the open and hopefully will be dealt with.

Crime cameras exonerate

7| Police surveillance tool helps free falsely accused man.

The details: While crime cameras face criticism from those who carefully watch civil liberties, they can be used to free the falsely accused as well as to catch criminals. Felony charges against a man were dismissed after video footage showed that the car he was driving at the time of a May armed robbery on Haight Street was not the car used in the robbery.

Stamp of approval

8| Legislation to convert a Cow Palace parking lot passes state Senate.

The details: Senate Bill 1527, authored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo-San Francisco, would convert a 13-acre parking lot at the 67-year-old facility into a grocery store and other amenities. On Monday, it cleared the state Senate. It now heads to the Assembly.

Pope goes green

9| Catholic leader says healthof planet in peril.

The details: Speaking to a group of Catholic youths in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI said the Earth is suffering “in order to fuel an insatiable consumption.” He called on the 200,000 World Youth Day attendees to be better stewards of the environment.

Time horizon, not timeline, still timely

10| U.S. plans for reduction of troops in Iraq.

The details: While saying an “arbitrary date for withdrawal” was not up for discussion, the White House said Friday that President Bush’s discussions with Iraqi officials Thursday included a “general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals” that included the further reduction of U.S. combat forces in Iraq.

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