February 26, 2014
The cybersecurity trade show known as the RSA conference kicked off in San Francisco this week. The conference begins two months after revelations that the RSA Corporation allegedly accepted $10 million from the National Security Agency to engineer a "back door" allowing NSA access to its encryption products. In the resulting backlash, some of the scheduled speakers are boycotting the RSA conference and have created their own spinoff conference, TrustyCon, which opens Thursday. We discuss cyber ethics and what this rift means for hackers and the online security industry in the Bay Area.
February 25, 2014
Scientists have long pondered why it is that mathematics so effectively explain how the world works. M.I.T. physicist Max Tegmark has a theory -- he argues that the universe is actually a mathematical structure. Tegmark joins us to discuss that theory, his belief in parallel universes and his book, "Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality."
Former California governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis are backing a proposed ballot initiative to streamline the death penalty process. The proposal would put a five-year limit on death penalty appeals and make other changes to the way the state manages condemned prisoners. Opponents say the measure would lead to more expensive legal battles and increase the chances that an innocent person could be put to death.
February 22, 2014
On Thursday, Pt. Reyes cattle rancher David Evans announced that his company would purchase Rancho Feeding Corp., the embattled Petaluma slaughterhouse that recently recalled nearly 9 million pounds of beef. Evans, founder of Marin Sun Farms and a fourth-generation rancher, says keeping the plant open is critical to the survival of small Bay Area beef producers. We'll talk to Evans about his vision for a local, sustainable food system, and about challenges like the current California drought and the consolidation of the meat industry.
Last Thursday, state Senate President Darrell Steinberg proposed a carbon tax on gas and other fuels. The tax would start at 15 cents per gallon and eventually reach 24 cents in 2020, raising an estimated $3.6 billion in the first year. Some environmental groups have taken issue with the proposal because it would pre-empt part of the state's current cap-and-trade program, which limits how much companies can pump out greenhouse gases. We discuss the tax and its implications for cap-and-trade.
February 21, 2014
Standardized tests like SATs and ACTs have long been a source of anxiety for college applicants. Now, a new study questions their relevance. Researchers studied over 120,000 students at 33 public and private "test-optional" schools, which deemphasize the focus on standardized test scores. The study found little difference in grades and graduation rates between students who opted to submit their test scores versus those who didn't.
As schools increasingly turn to digital technology to help supplement lessons and manage student data, many parents are concerned about who has access to online student information and what it may be used for. A new bill by California Senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg would ban companies that provide education technology services to K-12 schools from using the data for any purposes other than those the school intended. We discuss student privacy and the impact of the nearly $8 billion education technology software industry.
San Francisco writer Daniel Handler, better known by his pen name Lemony Snicket, is the author of the bestselling children's books "A Series of Unfortunate Events." For his new picture book "29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy," Handler teamed up with his wife, illustrator Lisa Brown. The book follows a girl, a boy and their little dog as they explore what secrets hide behind the pharmacy's mysterious doors.
February 20, 2014
In 1951 the military bulldozed Mount Tamalpais's west peak to put in a radar station and barracks for 300 people. Six decades later, the military installation has long been abandoned, but remnants of the structures, power lines, pipes and construction debris remain on the 106-acre stretch of mountaintop. "The Invisible Peak," a short documentary about the junk perched on Mount Tamalpais, has raised the call for cleanup.
Journalist Aluf Benn has covered Israeli politics for more than 20 years -- through six prime ministers, several wars and dozens of failed peace talks. The editor-in-chief of the liberal Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz, Benn joins us to discuss the evolving relationship between Israel and the United States, and Washington's role in renewed Palestinian peace talks.
February 19, 2014
Four-term U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer joins us to talk about California's drought, her push to raise the federal minimum wage and the Democrats' fight to retain control of the Senate, among other issues facing the state and the nation. We'll also ask her about how the Netflix series "House of Cards" (which she binge-watches) compares to real-life Washington.
Clashes in Kiev on Tuesday left at least 25 people dead as police set fire to the city's main protest camp. Demonstrations began in November when President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an economic deal with the European Union to maintain stronger ties with Russia. We'll discuss the latest crisis, and talk about the road ahead for Ukraine, formerly the second-largest republic in the Soviet Union.
The mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs was known to have coincided with Earth getting hit by an asteroid. Next time, we may be the asteroid, according to Elizabeth Kolbert's new book "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History." Kolbert writes that humans are not only "witnessing one of the rarest events in life's history, we are also causing it."
February 18, 2014
Journalist Tom Zoellner is back from a rousing trip around the world -- entirely by rail. In his book, "Train: Riding the Rails That Created the Modern World," Zoellner charts the history of the locomotive along the world's most important railways, from the birthplace of the steam engine in Cornwall, England, to the frigid stretches of the Trans-Siberian railroad. We'll talk about his journey and discuss the future of high speed rail.
United Nations investigators say North Korean leaders, and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, could be brought before the International Criminal Court for ordering mass murder, torture, starvation, slavery and other crimes against humanity. We discuss the details of the U.N. report and what the international community can do in response.
Some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Bay Area live in squalid apartment buildings mismanaged by one of the nation's worst housing authorities, the Richmond Housing Authority, according to findings by the Center for Investigative Reporting. The housing authority is being forced to overhaul its operation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or face loss of control. We discuss the issue.
February 15, 2014
As of last month, only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs. UC Hastings law professor Joan Williams and her daughter Rachel Dempsey decided to take a closer look at why so few women are at the top, and what successful women do to master office politics. They interviewed more than 120 working women, over half of them women of color. In their new book "What Works for Women at Work," they offer tips and strategies on how women can skillfully navigate challenges such as gender bias.
Last April's shooting attack on a PG&E substation in San Jose was "the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred," according to former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff. We talk with Wellinghoff and other experts about that incident, and about the security of the nation's electrical grid.
February 14, 2014
Yale law professor Amy Chua touched a nerve with her 2011 bestseller "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," about Chinese parenting styles. She's back with a new book, "The Triple Package," which claims some cultural groups outperform others based on three traits. She and her co-author, husband Jed Rubenfeld, join us in-studio to talk about their controversial new book.
As California's public schools have struggled with budget woes in recent years, parents are increasingly stepping up with their own money. In San Francisco, PTA fundraising for elementary schools has increased by nearly 800 percent over the past decade, and many local schools raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from parents. But where does that leave schools with predominantly low-income students, whose parents may not be able to afford to chip in? Is the disparity in private funding among public schools widening the gap between rich and poor?