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This week on Valley Edition we talk about the state's new law, the "California Dream Act" which would allow students who came to the country as children illegally access to financial aid at state colleges and universities. We also hear about the link between the recession and an increase in cases of child abuse. And we close our program with a story on the Hmong American Writers Circle, and a new literary anthology called "How Do I Begin."

This week on Valley Edition we talk about how political gridlock in Washington D.C. has created an unprecedented backlog at the Federal Courthouse in Fresno. Recently retired justice Oliver Wanger joins us for this special report. We also look at a new study that links spikes in air pollution with stays at local hospitals.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Even before the recent retirement of Justice Oliver Wanger, the Fresno division of the US District Court’s Eastern District of California faced big case backlogs. The district is home to over 6.7 million residents, and 19 of California’s 33 state and federal prisons, but the Fresno division is home to just two judges, and the nation’s heaviest caseloads.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It’s Saturday afternoon, and the normally quiet park in the middle of downtown Exeter is packed, nearly shoulder to shoulder with people enjoying kettle corn, something called the tornado potato, and of course, a little barbeque.

“This is the barbeque chicken plate, it’s six dollars and it’s fantastic!,” says Wanda, an Exeter resident.

“There’s also some pulled pork over there that people are really waiting in line for and the bratwurst over here by The Dorksmen, if you want a really homemade bratwurst, that’s the place to go.”

On this week's Valley Edition we talk about efforts to end homelessness in the Valley. We also hear about the big water pollution problems facing the communities of rural Tulare County, and get a preview of the Big Fresno Fair.

One hundred years ago this month, California’s experiment in direct democracy was born with the introduction of the ballot initiative and referendum process. Now, a century later, Californians are again looking at new ideas to fix what many feel is a broken system in Sacramento. So what might the next 100 years have in store?

This week on Valley Edition, we talk about the job creation potential of California's planned high speed rail system with Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. We also learn about plans to train the Valley's workforce to be ready for the hundreds of construction jobs that the project will create. Also on this week's program we look at the 100th anniversary of California's revolutionary experiment with direct democracy by looking ahead to the next century of reforms.

Fresno Needle Exchange Program Generates Controversy

Sep 27, 2011
Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

Volunteers are counting piles of used needles dumped out of plastic bags on a hot Saturday afternoon. People are lining up under a shade tent on a secluded north Fresno street to get rid of their dirty syringes. In return, they're getting an equal number of clean needles from the volunteers at the Fresno Needle Exchange Program.

The first person in line is a woman in her late forties who prefers to be called Tobi. She's a heroin user who's been coming to the exchange for 10 years. She's seen other drug users trading their old needles on the streets.

This week on Valley Edition we talk about a controversial needle exchange program in Fresno, a new study that sheds light on the Valley's education gap, and what it has to do with the local jobless problem. 

Interview: Audra McDonald

Sep 22, 2011
Michael Wilson / IMG Artists

Audiences throughout the world know Audra McDonald as a star of both the stage and screen, a three time Tony Award winner, a two time Grammy winner, and until recently a star on the hit ABC television series Private Practice. Her latest project finds her returning to the world of musical theatre, starring in a new production of Porgy and Bess, currently on stage in Cambridge Massachusetts, and scheduled to make its way to Broadway in December.

In Downtown Fresno, the Hamilton family is on a mission – to share their vision of an organic, vegan, raw food diet with the rest of the Central Valley. Valley Public Radio's Juanita Stevenson visits the Revive Café and Whole Farms Market to talk with owner Tara Hamilton and her customers, including some who are embracing the entire vegan lifestyle, and others who are making smaller steps towards healthy eating. 

Segment 1: Raw Food & Slow Food: Steps to a Better Diet

This week on Valley Edition, we feature an in-depth interview with newly un-retired Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer. We talk talk about the Fresno Grand Opera's upcoming season.

On this special edition of Valley Edition, we take a look back at the events of September 11, 2001 as we approach the 10th anniversary of the tragic terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. We talk with Valley residents who were at Ground Zero that day and learn more about their personal journeys in dealing with the tragedy, a decade later.

Scandal rocks Maricopa, leaving uncertain future

Aug 30, 2011
Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

Travelers are stocking up on snacks inside the convenience store at the Shell gas station in Maricopa on a hot Saturday afternoon. This is a town of about 1,200 residents in the oil-rich foothills of western Kern County. Bob Archibald’s Shell station sits on the intersection of two highways, and his business counts on travelers heading to the Central Coast.

So last year, Archibald took notice when the Maricopa Police Department began an aggressive campaign to pull over drivers for minor traffic violations and to impound cars.

On this Valley Edition, we look at the big problems facing the small Kern County city of Maricopa, we examine the controversial issue of racial profiling, and find out about an upcoming soul food festival at Fresno's African American Historical and Cultural Museum.

Valley Educators Teach Healthy Eating

Aug 23, 2011
Lauren Whaley / California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting

Last month, new data came out ranking California as the 12th skinniest state in the union. But, you wouldn’t know it living in the San Joaquin Valley, where one in three people is obese and therefore at risk for a slew of diseases, including diabetes, heart attack and early death.

This week on Valley Edition we talk about the obesity epidemic that plauges so many in the Central Valley. We also learn about a new program designed to prevent obesity, called Healthy Eating Active Living, and talk about the issue of women's equality.

Doctor Shortage Hits Rural California

Aug 16, 2011
Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

Children and parents crowd the waiting room in the United Health Centers clinic for low-income patients in Parlier. It's a busy morning, and Dr. Rogelio Fernandez is seeing patients one right after the other. At this moment, he's treating 35 year old Yesenia Campuzano of Reedley. The birth control implant in her arm caused acne, so Dr. Fernandez is surgically removing the tiny, tube-like device. She's feeling the incision, so she needs more of the local anesthetic.

Last week the Library of Congress named Fresno poet Philip Levine the nation’s 18th Poet Laureate. A native of Detroit, Levine moved to Fresno in the 1950’s to teach English at Fresno State, where he founded the university’s creative writing program, and helped foster the San Joaquin Valley’s rich poetry community. In 1991 his collection "What Work Is" won the National Book Award, and in 1995, his book "The Simple Truth" was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.

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