Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 24, 2014

Around town

A D-GRADING GRADE ... Palo Alto got a D on its "smoking report card" from the American Lung Association. How can that be? What about the city's swift and decisive move to ban smoking in all its parks? Don't they know about the city's consideration of a smoking ban in both its major commercial thoroughfares? Apparently, they do, and it's still not enough to earn an "A" grade — an honor that only 18 cities in California share, including Berkeley, which just made it onto the shortlist this year. The report states that smoking-cessation efforts across the country have been working, but the air in California has stagnated — at least in the areas the association cares about: tobacco prevention-and-control spending, smokefree air, cigarette tax and cessation coverage. The report tested all 482 incorporated cities in the state for three areas — smokefree outdoor air, smokefree housing and reducing sales of tobacco products. While Palo Alto did score extra points this year for its efforts in the area of creating smokefree outdoor air, it didn't improve its score in that area, which was stuck at a C. To make matters worse, the C grade was dragged down by Fs in the other two categories. It scored zero points on things like providing nonsmoking living units and common areas and banning sales near schools and parks. We thought we were pretty special for our smoking bans in parks, but it turns out that 326 cities and counties already restrict smoking in recreation areas. But take heart, Palo Alto: Nearly two-thirds of all municipalities in California received an "F" grade. So, really, we're slightly above average!

WHIRLWIND ARTS COMMISSION? ... 2014 is a milestone year for the city's public art commission, with the official completion in early January of a years-long effort to implement a percent-for-art program in private development. The ordinance is now in effect, and staff has already started meeting with interested developers. "It's launched; it's here; it's moving," said Public Art Manager Elise DeMarzo last week. Also launched and moving are three public-art projects: a light-and-sound installation coming to the pedestrian tunnel under University Avenue, a to-be-determined project for the municipal golf course and another new media project, to be installed front and center in the City Hall lobby. Calls for artist submissions for the latter two projects have gone out already; the golf course deadline is Feb. 2, and City Hall's is Feb. 10. This year will also see new leadership for the group, with the commission unanimously voting Kathleen Kavanaugh in as the new chairperson and Ben Miyaji as vice-chairperson. "The newbies take over!" Commissioner Vikki Tobak said, to the laughter of the entire commission and staff. Kavanaugh and Miyaji are the commission's most recent additions.

VISIONS OF 'NOVEL RELATIONSHIPS' ... A Gunn High School student is among 40 teens from across the United States named this week as finalists in the 2014 Intel Science Talent Search. Charles Xin Liu was chosen for his integrated meta-analysis of 64 diseases, which identified "novel relationships between systemic sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus." Liu was selected from nearly 1,800 initial contest entrants to present his research to judges in Washington, D.C., in March. He'll be joined by four other finalists from Santa Clara County from San Jose's Lynbrook High School, The Harker School in San Jose, and Monta Vista High School in Cupertino.

BET THE RECEPTION IS GREAT ... Arogyaswami Joseph Paulraj, professor emeritus at Stanford University, has snatched up the prestigious 2014 Marconi Society Prize. His idea for using multiple antennas at both the transmitting and receiving stations, which is at the heart of the current high-speed WiFi and 4G mobile systems, has been instrumental in wireless delivery of multimedia services for billions of people. The Marconi Society, celebrating its 50th year in 2014, was founded by Gioia Marconi Braga. Each year it recognizes one or more scientists who — like her father, radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi — pursue advances in communications and information technology for the social, economic and cultural development of all humanity. Winners, who receive $100,000, have included scientists whose mathematical theories and inventions have shaped the Internet and broadband access, public key encryption, Web search, wired and wireless transmission, multimedia publishing, optical fiber and satellite communications.

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