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Our September Movers & Shakers

By Alisha Green

Five high achievers on our radar this month, from Peninsula heavyweights to the next generation shaking things up.

Kara Swisher

The co-founder of must-read tech news website Recode can add another line to her resume: New York Times editorial board contributor. “There is no major tech figure of the last quarter century whom Kara hasn’t grilled, no big story she hasn’t covered, often ahead of everyone else.” wrote New York Times editors James Bennet, Jim Dao and Katie Kingsbury announcing her selection. Swisher and fellow long-time tech reporter Walt Mossberg created the Recode media empire together, which includes the popular Code conference and Recode Decode podcast that draw in the biggest names in the Valley and beyond. The self-described “grump lady of tech,” per her Twitter feed where she reaches more than 1.25 million followers, Swisher’s no-punches-pulled interviews with Silicon Valley’s top executives can launch a thousand head-lines. (Just ask Mark Zuckerberg, whose recent remarks during a podcast interview with Swisher led to a minor media storm.)

Michael McFaul

Talk about timely: McFaul’s book released this summer, “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia,” comes as new developments in the fraught U.S.- Russia relationship continue unfurl. McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, is now a Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor of political science, director and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. McFaul recently found himself at the center of disturbing news from the Helsinki summit, with the revelation that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to question him. We recommend that McFaul stay safely ensconced in the sunny, inviting climes of Palo Alto, far away from Putin and his, ahem, “interviewers.”

Shawnak Shivakuma

Congratulations to Menlo Park’s chess wunderkind on another trophy. Ten-year-old Shivakumar took third-place in the under-10 age category at the Pan American Youth Chess Championship 2018 in Santiago, Chile. Shawnak was among 650 competitors from North and South America at the weeklong tournament that ended on July 29, and he finished without a single defeat! His efforts helped land the U.S. team in first place. There could be another prize ahead for the young star, too: He’ll be going to Spain for the International World Cadet tournament in November, according to The Almanac.

Antonio Baclig

Who wouldn’t like a way to store some of the sun’s energy? Baclig, a doctoral candidate at Stanford, is part of the team that developed a new combination of materials that could enable a rechargeable battery to store the large amounts of renewable power created by wind and solar energy. Baclig made the development along with Stanford assistant professor of materials science and engineering William Chueh and Jason Rugolo, who is now at Alphabet’s research subsidiary X Development. It could deliver energy to the electric grid quickly without risking high temperatures or the need for expensive chemicals. “We still have a lot of work to do,” Baclig said in July, “but this is a new type of flow battery that could affordably enable much higher use of solar and wind power using Earth-abundant materials.”

Eric Nickel

Talk about elite! The Palo Alto Fire Department is now among the less than one percent of fire departments accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International following a unanimous vote of approval in August. “Providing excellent fire and emergency medical services is not just our goal, it is our passion, and we appreciate that external evaluators recognize the outstanding services provided by the men and women of the Palo Alto Fire Department,” fire Chief Nickel said. The accreditation is a voluntary process used to designate fire departments that exceed industry standards. Palo Alto City Manager James Keene had high praise for the team, noting, “They are constantly evaluating programs and services to ensure the most cost-effective services and safest outcomes for Palo Alto and Stanford’s citizens and visitors.”

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