Brightest ideas of the week: October 04, 2009

Churches seek civility in health care debate, stimulus funds are easier to monitor, an unintended donation is returned, more people take HIV drugs, and a hero returns to duty.


1. Longer classes

President wants country’s children to spend more time ­­in the classroom

The details: President Barack Obama says American children spend too little time in school, putting them at a disadvantage compared with other students around the globe. He wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late, and to let children in on weekends so they have a safe place to go. Education Secretary Arne Duncan pointed out that our traditional school calendar is based on a farm economy, and not too many kids are harvesting crops today.


2. Gifts without penalties

American Express ending monthly fees on its unused gift cards

The details: There will be no more $2 per month fees for American Express gift cards that haven’t been used for a year, thanks to the congressional credit-card reform bill. Consumers had complained bitterly about the monthly fee that shrank their balances. For about five years, major credit-card issuers have offered gift cards, usable at any retailer. American Express now sells more than $1 billion worth of cards per year.


3. Churches for civility

Alarmed by anger in public debate, Church Council calls for courtesy in dialogue

The details: Disturbed by the intensity of angry and sometimes violent language coming out of public meetings on health care and other issues, the National Council of Churches’ governing board has called for “civility in public discourse.” The board issued a statement saying, “This clash of views demeans the dialogue and ultimately risks subverting the democratic process itself. Individuals cannot express their best hopes … within a climate of intimidation and character


4. Easier search

Federal stimulus monitoring ­Web site is upgraded

The details:, a government Web site designed to provide an overview of federal stimulus spending, has received an accessibility makeover. Users will have an easier time searching by ZIP code for stimulus projects in specific communities, and a toll-free hot line number is available for reporting fraud, waste and abuse. Watchdog groups say the site is still far too difficult to use for most citizens, but were pleased with the improvements overall.


5. Good deed, indeed

$13,000 found at Goodwill store returned to owner

The details: Employees at a Wisconsin Goodwill store found $13,000 in a box of shoes — and returned the money to the donor, using a donation receipt to find her. The $100 bills, dating to 1981, were found tucked in a small yellow envelope under a pair of shoes. The donor said her husband, now in a nursing home, commonly saved cash around the house but had probably forgotten about the money.


6. Happiest place on Earth

Volunteer to earn a free ticket to Disneyland in 2010

The details: Disney announced this week that 1 million certified volunteers who do a day of work in 2010 through HandsOn Network will get a free one-day ticket to Disneyland or Disney World. The promotion is called “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day.”


7. Security freebie

Microsoft offers consumers free antivirus ­software

The details: Making name-brand protection affordable for the masses, Microsoft this week released Security Essentials, a free antivirus and spyware filtering tool. The program has drawn positive reviews for its fast performance, but the real draw is bound to be the price, considering some top programs can cost $60 a year and up.


8. Text not

Obama issues executive order banning texting while driving on federal time

The details: As a small step in the right direction, President Barack Obama signed an executive order this week to halt federal employees from texting while driving. The order came amid the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Distracted Driving Summit in Washington. The summit is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s attempt to stop what he refers to as a deadly epidemic in America. Local lawmaker Joe Simitian was at the summit to talk about California’s texting ban.


9. AIDS treatment

More people receiving lifesaving HIV drugs

The details: According to a new report, about 42 percent of people in the developing world with AIDS are now getting treatment for the disease. The antiretroviral drugs are making it into one of the largest areas being affected by AIDS, sub-Saharan Africa. Numbers are also up on the amount of pregnant women who are being tested for HIV and the amount of those women who are being convinced to take the antiretroviral drugs.


10. Back on the job

Bronx hero saves child, pops question to his girlfriend on live TV

The details: Bronx native Horia Cretan sprang into action twice this week — once when he rescued a 4-year-old boy from a burning building near his electronics business, and again the next day, when he used his moment on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to propose to his girlfriend on live national television. Both deeds of daring ended well — the boy was saved and Cretan’s girlfriend, Deziree Guzman, said yes.


Bright light of the week:

Capt. Chesley Sullenberger

Who: The airline pilot whose skillful Jan. 15 emergency landing on the Hudson River in New York City after his plane’s engines were damaged by a bird strike — saving all on board — drew national acclaim.

What: The Danville resident returned to the air again this week aboard US Air Flight 1050. Sullenberger drew excited attention and photographers at the airport, and a wave of applause from passengers when he announced over the loudspeaker, “Ladies ­and gentleman, this is Capt. Sullenberger.”

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