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San Quentin’s Organic Garden

In a corrections facility filled to twice its capacity, inmates at San Quentin Prison have created a tiny retreat within the prison-yard walls: an organic garden. We visit the prison to find out how roses and geraniums exist in a world of razor wire and execution chambers.

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Letters to Obama

Among those pinning their hopes on President-elect Obama are some who are far too young to vote. Middle school students at Oakland’s Melrose Leadership Academy wrote down their thoughts for the new president, and a teacher and school psychologist are taking those letters and essays to Washington for the inauguration. We visited their classroom to record some of their letters.

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California Song: “The Bay”

In this installment of our “California Songs” series, we hear from Oakland hip-hop duo Zion I. They give us the back story on “The Bay,” a song celebrating the energetic melting pot known as the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Erasing the past with laser beams

Some mistakes are easy to fix. But undoing joining a gang, getting a tattoo or both is easier said than done. Now, at dozens of clinics around California, there’s help for ex-gang members and others who want to erase the symbols of their troubled past.

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Pacific Pinball Expo

Pinball may seem a bit primitive compared with today’s dizzying video games. But that metal ball bouncing off bumpers and setting off bells and blinking lights still has passionate fans. This weekend, many of them are descending on the Bay Area for one of the country’s largest pinball expos.

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Scraper Bike Fever Spreads, Thanks to YouTube

In Oakland, California, the Scraper Bike King and his Scraper Bike Crew started a cult phenomenon when they posted a YouTube music video about their tricked-out bicycles.

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California Song: “California Blues”

Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music,” was best known for songs about his native Mississippi or peach-pickin’ time in Georgia. But he did visit the Golden State on occasion and it inspired his Blue Yodel Number Four. From Oxford Mississippi, blues music writer Scott Barretta explains—what’s a blue yodel?

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Medi-Cal Cuts

California is now 44 days without a budget and some of the state’s bills are unpaid. Health providers funded by the state’s Medi-Cal program are among those being squeezed by the financial crisis. We report on why some of the state’s most vulnerable patients are being put at risk.

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California Song: “Chicas Patas Boogie”

Now, we travel back to 1940’s Los Angeles, as part of our continuing series, California Songs. Musician Mark Guerrero explains how his dad, Lalo Guerrero, got young Mexican-Americans—Pachucos—dancing boogie-woogie all over the state.