Two people were hospitalized after a three-alarm fire prompted the evacuation of a student dorm in Berkeley early Saturday morning, a fire battalion chief said. -more-
A swarm of yellowjackets stung four firefighters who were responding to a small vegetation fire in Berkeley's Aquatic Park on Wednesday night, a battalion chief said today. -more-
Billion Dollar Baby:
The University of California invests $53 million in two diploma mills owned by a regent.
A year ago, Richard C. Blum, then the chairman of the regents of the University of California, spoke at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference 2009, held at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. The corporate confab was hosted by Michael Milken, the “junk bond king” who went to prison in the aftermath of the savings and loan fiasco in the 1980s. Milken, who is barred from securities trading for life by federal regulators, has since recreated himself as a proponent of investing in for-profit educational corporations, an industry which regularly comes under government and media scrutiny in response to allegations of fraud made by dis-satisfied students. -more-
The Berkeley Daily Planet won three awards in the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club’s 2009 annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards dinner, held June 19 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City.
Riya Bhattacharjee won first place in the Breaking News category for her March 5, 2009 story about the death of a LeConte Elementary school student (“Investigation Continues into Kindergartner's Death") and second place for Continuing Coverage on the incident. The Daily Planet competed in the non-daily newspaper category. -more-
An election giving workers at the original Berkeley Bowl store on Oregon Street a chance to vote to de-certify their union is scheduled for this Wednesday, June 23. -more-
Berkeley's Branch Library Plans:
Two Demolitions Instead of Renovation,Book Cuts and Permanent Changes to Zoning Variance Requirements
The promise of Library Measure FF (2008) to “renovate and expand” Berkeley Public Library’s four branch libraries, has instead turned into plans to demolish and replace two of the branches, cut shelving for books and materials, eliminate all reference desks in favor of roving reference librarians – and on June 29 the City Council is expected to vote on zoning legislation that would permanently exempt all existing library buildings from having to obtain variances for any future changes, or demolitions combined with new library construction on the same site. -more-
June 22 marks the second anniversary ofDona Spring's confrontation with UC Police with officer Mitch Celaya who tries to block Dona's access to a city sidewalk only days before she died.
The attached video clip shows Donna leading an impromptu march of supporters to the barricades at the Old Oak Grove on June 22, 2008, in her attempt to resupply the tree sitters with food and water on the 228th day of the occupation to save the trees from destruction by the University of California.
I would call it Dona Spring’s finest hour but she had so many it's difficult to know.
Anyone who enjoyed the big-screen documentary hit "Please Exit through the Gift Shop" might want to check out a parking lot wall in downtown Berkeley. -more-
The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley is usually a sight to behold, but it is noses that might be held there at the end of this month because of the smell from a "corpse plant" that is about to blossom. -more-
OAKLAND-- Hundreds of demonstrators from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area set up early morning picket lines in front of four gates into the SSA terminal in the Port of Oakland, as a ship carrying Israeli cargo was preparing to dock. Demonstrators were protesting the Israeli attack on the flotilla that sought to break the blockade of Gaza, in which Israeli troops killed nine people. In response to the picket line, members of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union decided not to go into the terminal and unload the cargo. In the afternoon, with picket lines again in front of the gate, the stevedoring company decided not to ask for a crew of longshore workers to unload the ship, in the expectation that the crew would again not enter the terminal. -more-
One of the world’s preeminent collections of Jewish life, culture and history will have a new home at the University of California, Berkeley, starting this fall, campus officials and the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley announced today (Monday, June 21). -more-
University of California at Berkeley administrators and police did a poor job of planning for a protest last November that resulted in the takeover of a building and more than 40 arrests, an investigative panel said today. -more-
Republicans? In Berkeley?; President Obama's Speech; Oil Hell; Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill; Lackeys; Energy Policy; Hooked on War -more-
The workers at Berkeley Bowl on Oregon Street just voted by 99 to 74 to decertify the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) despite the Union's record of achieving major gains for the store's employees. The Union conducted a vigorous campaign to win employee support. In addition to union staff speaking to workers on a one-on-one basis, delegations from other unions and a very large one from the community spoke with management. In a low key non-confrontational approach we told employees that we support them and the union. We explained that food purchased in a unionized supermarket tastes a lot better. -more-
There are many opinions in the Bay Area about the Israeli blockade of Gaza and its bloody interdiction of the flotilla trying to break that blockade. This piece is not about the substance of that debate. A multitude of resolutions on the subject have been introduced and debated in clubs, organizations and public bodies. And, unfortunately, but not surprisingly, out of the woodwork has appeared some insidious operatives seeking not to win the public debate but to cut it off entirely by means of, not to mince words, threats and economic and political pressure. Again, not surprisingly, some of the same characters that used those tactics against the Planet are at it again. Look at the following posts in the web site of the Jewish Weekly, the week of June 10, 2010, following that paper’s reporting of the introduction of such a resolution condemning the Israeli action in the Richmond City Council: -more-
Alameda County has implemented a 3-month time limit to General Assistance (GA) that will increase homelessness, hunger, crime and suffering. Without GA, people without any other income—who have not been able to find work in the worst economy since the great depression—will have ZERO income for 9 months out of the year. -more-
The economic news goes from bad, to worse, to bizarre. And poor people currently find themselves knee-deep in Bizarro world. -more-
Forty years ago, feminists demanded that special "women's pages," which featured fashion, society and cooking, be banished from newspapers. Instead, they insisted, newspapers should mainstream serious stories about the lives of women throughout their regular news. -more-
I went to hear a panel on drone warfare last Saturday (6/12/2010) at the Berkeley Public Library, organized by a group called Grannies Against War (which I revere simply for their existence). The chair of the meeting expressed the hope, in her opening remarks, that the information to be discussed would arouse anger, and bring people into activism. Drone warfare is a form of mechanized killing, in which a technician in a war room, perhaps in Colorado or Iowa, or on shipboard in the Indian Ocean, flies a pilotless plane remotely, and can target people from the air, unleashing lethal force against them. It has been used in Afghanistan, Gaza, and Pakistan. Its use by the US has increased dramatically over the last two years. Its kill rate is high, and its ratio of civilians to actual "combatant targets" is around 50 – 1. -more-
It’s counter-productive to whine continuously about the inadequacies of the remnant metro dailies in the Bay Area, because they’re all we’ve got, so I try not to do so too often. I appreciate that the Hearst Corporation continues to allow John King to post occasional critiques of urban planning and architecture amid the welter of real estate puff pieces which he and others generate on a regular basis.
But his piece last week, in which he damned with faint praise the new University Avenue complex which houses Trader Joe’s, was below his usual standard, falling back all too easily on Bezerkeley clichés instead of relying on reported facts. Predictably, the crowd of illiterate yahoos who monopolize the Chronicle’s online comments were all over him as usual, but they weren’t completely wrong in every case. -more-
The Editor's Back Fence
[Editor's note: We learned today with regret via the notice below that the City of Berkeley has decided to cancel its valuable News Scan Service. It has provided an invaluable way for city employees and citizens to find out how the city is being perceived in the local and national media. The city's tightly controlled public relations office is not a substitute for the independent and diligent News Scan, nor is the Convention Bureau.And a media list which does not include online publications, in the age of the Internet, is sorely deficient, since these days most news about Berkeley can be found only online. ] -more-
Six years ago federal officials forced the owners of the Berkeley Bowl to accept a union at their Oregon Street store. In 2003, 70% of the employees had voted not to unionize. After the United Food and Commercial Workers Union protested to the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB—George Bush’s NLRB, mind you—found that the employer’s alleged unfair labor practices were so “pervasive and serious” that a fair election was impossible and ordered the Bowl to bargain with the union. The result was a contract that store employees ratified in August 2005 by a vote of 117-12. The union contract brought Bowl workers new benefits: previously workers had been fired at will; today they have a formal grievance procedure, as well as guaranteed paid vacations and health insurance for all employees. Now these gains are threatened by the Bowl owners’ new anti-union campaign. -more-
This week’s items:Local blogs about a successful effort to delay the unloading of an Israeli ship at the Oakland docks;BP’s money at work – genetic engineering for alternative fuels in Berkeley. Israeli Ship Unloading Delayed by Picket Line -more-
While California teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, the Golden State will feature the nation’s most expensive gubernatorial race between former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Attorney General Jerry Brown. Will desperate Californians be beguil California has a $20 billion budget shortfall and its bond rating has been downrated to below that of Kazakhstan. As usual, the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the legislature can’t agree what to do. California’s unemployment rate is 11 percent and recent budget cuts have caused sharp curtailments in state services ranging from layoffs of public safety employees to diminution of highway maintenance. -more-
Folks with a modicum of common sense have good reason to worry about oil spills and toxic waste sites. The former can pollute vast regions of sensitive wildlife and human habitat, while the latter pose more focused threats. -more-
When U.S. forces found themselves beset by a growing insurgency in Iraq following their lighting overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the most obvious parallel that came to mind was Vietnam: an occupying army, far from home, besieged by a shadowy foe. But Patrick Cockburn, the Independent’s (UK) ace Middle East reporter, suggested that the escalating chaos was more like the Boer War than the conflict in Southeast Asia. It was a parallel that went past most Americans, very few of whom know anything about the short, savage turn of the century war between Dutch settlers and the British Empire in South Africa. But the analogy explains a great deal about the growing influence of a country like Turkey, and why Washington, despite its military power and economic clout, can no longer dominate regional and global politics. -more-
Trying to track—let alone make sense—of recent developments around Iran is enough to make one reach for that stuff they just found lots of in Afghanistan: lithium. While the element is essential for a host of electronics, it is also a standard treatment for bipolar behavior. -more-
“Seriously,” I’m asked, “what’s this ‘Senior Power’ business? You don’t really believe it, do you?Basically, the real senior thing is like uh senior bowl and senior class in senior high school, and senior chief petty officer and such. Actually. Duh.” -more-
Arts & Events
TheatreFirst closes their first season in the Marion Greene Theater, around the corner on 18th Street from the Fox movie palace on Telegraph in Uptown Oakland, with Michael Healey's internationally successful Canadian play, THE DRAWER BOY, starring two excellent actors—Warren David Keith and Howard Swain, with good support from ACT Masters Program candidate Max Rosenak, directed by Domenique Lozzano. -more-
The first surprise for this operaphile was that THE TOSCA PROJECT at ACT was only peripherally about the diva throwing herself from the parapet.The second surprise was that it was a ballet.But it made me smile that this co-creation of ACT’s Carey Perloff and SF Ballet’s Val Caniparoli was about my favorite legendary bar where I take all my visitors. -more-
Very rarely has it happened that the shooting for a documentary has begun and its subject has taken on a story of its own, both expanding and deepening its sense of urgency and poignancy, complexity and hope, more than would have been possible if it were just a hindsight appraisal. The documentary “The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom,” opening in the Bay Area on June 18, benefits from that singular fortuity. The involvement here is similar to witnessing childbirth under the most adversarial conditions, the threshold equally open to life and death. -more-
Home & Garden
Today I decided it would be easier to strip the remaining trim in my kitchen if I pried it off first, since paint insisted on remaining in the cracks between the various pieces, and responded neither to sanding, scraping, heat gunning, or paint remover. -more-
When reflecting on the 4th of July, for many of us this means picnics, barbecues, cold beer and hunting for a good spot to watch the fireworks. Yes, Independence Day is a great holiday for all Americans, stirring patriotic sentiment and pride in our wonderful nation. And the weekend offers a welcome chance to relax and unwind from the daily grind. For some, stretched out on the grass, eating hot dogs and potato salad and watching the fireworks is a perfect celebration of the day. On the other hand, those eager for a little action, may look for activities and events tied in with the 4th. So, listed below, in no particular order of importance, are some events of possible interest. -more-
"Summer time and the living is easy...." Ah, yes, that familiar George Gershwin song from "Porgy and Bess" aptly reflects our own East Bay summer -- relaxed and easy going. Oh, but that's not to say there hasn't been a lot going on, and will go on, in the next few weeks. Shown below are some of the many activities that may be of interest. -more-