Local UC lab escapes federal contract review
U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham dealt the University of California a major blow this week when he opened bidding on the management contract for the Los Alamos weapons laboratory, which the university has operated unchallenged for 60 years.
Abraham’s announcement has fueled speculation that the federal government may open the contract on a second UC-run weapons lab, Lawrence Livermore. But UC’s third national lab — Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — appears to be safe.
The lab, located in Berkeley, has not been tainted with the accounting scandals that have rocked Los Alamos, the New Mexico-based weapons lab.
Spokesman Ron Kolb added that the non-military nature of Lawrence Berkeley’s research and its special ties to the UC Berkeley campus separate it from Los Alamos.
“We’re pleased because we always felt that the conditions we operate — the non-classified nature, the relationship with the campus — separate us from the weapons lab,” said Kolb.
Nonetheless, the federal government’s General Accounting Office, which conducted part of the Los Alamos investigation, began a two-week review of Lawrence Berkeley’s books this week.
A recent “wall-to-wall” inventory check by the Berkeley-based lab accounted for 98 percent of the lab’s equipment. Los Alamos has come under fire for misplacing equipment, among other things.
ANG cuts jobs
Alameda Newspaper Group management Thursday announced editorial layoffs at its five original papers, including the flagship Oakland Tribune, that have left as many as 18 people out of work.
According to Oakland Tribune reporter Sean Holstege, who is also vice president of the Northern California Media Workers Union, 13 full-time employees and as many as five part-time employees showed up for work Thursday and were told they were laid off. The cuts included reporters, editors, copy editors and paginators.
The other papers affected by layoffs were The Argus, The Daily Review, The Tri-Valley Herald and the San Mateo County Times.
ANG’s East Bay newspapers reach 500,000 daily, the largest circulation in the East Bay and the third largest in the Bay Area. The San Mateo County Times has a daily circulation of 37,000.
According to a statement issued to employees by management, new publisher Beverly Jackson analyzed the books and determined “it has become clear through a strategic planning process that we need to constrict before we can expand.”
Jackson did not return calls to the Daily Planet on Thursday.
Holstege said the atmosphere around the paper was one of shock and concern for the employees who were laid off. “We don’t have a lot of ability contractually to contest the layoffs,” he said. “Right now we are looking at what we can do to protect the people who are still here and minimize the harm to the people who were let go.”
Holstege said some options might include a rehire list and possibly negotiating severance pay for those who lost their jobs.
The impact of the layoffs to the editorial quality of the paper is uncertain.
“We have to figure out how to cover a lot of assignments and maintain quality,” Holstege said, “and we don’t have any answers today.”
Bay Area students to rally in Sacramento
More than 2,000 Bay Area students, including as many as 1,000 from Berkeley, are expected to protest state education cuts in Sacramento on May 8.
“We feel passionately that the state of California needs to critically examine its values,” said Wayne Au, a Berkeley High School teacher who is helping to organize the event. “Do we value educating children? Or do we place more value on locking young people up?”
An ad hoc group of Bay Area teachers, students and community activists called “Education Not Incarceration” is the primary organizer. The group has raised about half of the $20,000 it needs to fund the event, with most of the money going toward 10 buses for Berkeley students and 10 buses for Oakland students.
The Berkeley Board of Education has endorsed the event, and students who attend, most of them from the high school, will be on official, district-sanctioned field trips.
Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature agreed on a $3.6 billion package of cuts this week, including a $328 million reduction in public education funding.
But the $3.6 billion package represents only a small dent in the state’s estimated $34.6 billion shortfall for next year. Billions more in education cuts are expected.
More information on the event can be found at www.may8.org or by calling (510) 444-0484. Donations can be sent to the Berkeley High School Development Group, P.O. Box 519, Berkeley, CA 94701. Checks should be made out to “BHSDG — May 8th Field Trip.”