10 brightest ideas of the week: Sept. 14, 2008

Lance Armstrong returns to Tour de France, tree-sitters end almost two-year protest at UC Berkeley, and Obama and McCain put aside campaigning to remember Sept. 11.

Bright light of the week

Fuel prices

What: Oil fell below $100 per barrel Friday for the first time in five months. Also this week, gas prices were down for the 11th straight week, even in the costly Bay Area. With the oil prices dropping, drivers should soon see even lower prices at the pump.

Why: A strengthening U.S. dollar is one reason that the cost of oil is going down. Also, as the cost of gasoline went up, drivers started buying less. What we are seeing now is a market adjustment for the decreased demand.

Importance: The cost of oil affects more than just drivers. As fuel prices increased, the cost of airfare and public transportation increased as well. Goods and food also need to be shipped, and the cost of fuel was driving up the prices of those items, too.

Armstrong comeback

1| All-time greatest bicycle racer attempting eighth Tour de France victory.

The details: Michael Jordan and George Foreman did it (albeit with varying degrees of success). Why not Lance Armstrong, the world’s greatest bicycle racing star — who won multiple Tours after surviving cancer? The sport really needs him now at a time when its recent winners have been plagued with doping scandals. Go, Lance!

Golden Gate median

2| After 70 years and 16 deaths, movable barrier is finally coming.

The details: The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District has voted to approve a contract for the 20-month environmental impact report that must come before some 16 months of actual production and installation. The project is taking too long, but at least it is finally moving toward completion after decades of nothing being done to prevent head-on collisions on the iconic landmark. There have been two such pile-ups just this year.

QB and mechanic

3| Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo fixes a flat tire.

The details: He is dating Jessica Simpson and plays perhaps the highest-profile position in the NFL. Tony Romo can also spend his time fixing cars. The Dallas Cowboys’ star quarterback, driving home following Sunday’s road game, saw a couple stuck on the side of a busy road with a flat tire. While many other motorists passed them by, Romo — whose chin required 13 stitches from a hit during the game — got the couple’s faulty air compressor working and pumped up the tire. While it was late in the evening, the husband pleaded with the QB for one thing: “Don’t tell me how you guys did. I’m going home to watch it.” (The Cowboys beat Cleveland 28-10.)

Tree-sitters end protest

4| UC Berkeley protesters depart 80-foot redwood after 649 days.

The details: After almost two years and yet-uncounted hundreds of thousands of dollars in court and police costs, UC Berkeley can go ahead with its plans to build an athletic training center adjacent to Memorial Stadium. All but one redwood in the grove of trees was already cut down when the final four tree-sitters peacefully climbed down onto a scaffold where police awaited.

Bay plane crash rescue

5| Coast Guard pulls pilot, passenger from water in five minutes.

The details: If you were going to lose engine power and crash-land a single-engine aircraft into San Francisco Bay, you couldn’t have a luckier outcome than the pilot and photographer who splashed down Wednesday afternoon and were plucked off the wing of the plane five minutes later by a nearby Coast Guard boat that was training. The survivors said “no thanks” to an offer of medical attention.

Gang crackdown

6| Police arrest eight gang leaders in the Sunset and Richmond.

The details: A year-old Asian teen gang had been attacking lone kids in what police describe as a “recruiting drive.” The violence produced five aggravated assaults, including one victim hospitalized with critical brain injuries from being beaten with an aluminum baseball bat. But this week police arrested eight leaders of the 50-member True Brothers gang, ages 15 to 18. More arrests are expected.

Warfield reopens

7| After four-month upgrade, historic concert hall is back.

The details: Comedian George Lopez is headlining the grand reopening of the ornate Warfield concert venue on Market Street. New management, Los Angeles-based Goldenvoice, pumped money into enhancing the lighting and sound equipment, increasing the seats to 2,200 and refurbishing the vintage décor. The remodeled theater, where everybody from Al Jolson to Jerry Garcia performed, will hopefully be an anchor of a revived Mid-Market neighborhood.

Obama, McCain truce

8| Presidential candidates put aside campaign hostility at ground zero memorial.

The details: In a presidential campaign that has become increasingly contentious, Republican candidate John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama set aside the charges and countercharges during their joint appearance at a respectful seventh anniversary ceremony commemorating Sept. 11 in the crater of ground zero. It was a welcome reminder that despite our differences, in the end, we are all Americans.

Soda drinking plummets

9| Students drinking healthier at school; soda sales drop nearly half.

The details: Sugary soft drinks accounted for less than one-quarter of the beverages sold in schools last year, down from about 40 percent since 2004. Bottled water now has the largest share of drinks sold in school vending machines, more than doubling to 27.6 percent in the past three years. This is a hopeful trend in reducing the epidemic of youth obesity.

Airfare auction

10| JetBlue Airways auctioning 300 round-trip flights on eBay.

The details: JetBlue is auctioning off more than 300 round-trip flights and six vacation packages on eBay, with opening bids between 5 cents and 10 cents. Flights are to more than 20 destinations, including four “mystery” vacations. The budget airline expects the auctions to produce final bids of 85 percent to 90 percent of the market value, plus lots of good publicity.

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