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This concept drawing by the office of architect Kirk Peterson shows the new proposal for a six story "La Fortalenza" building on the old Berkeley Inn site at Haste and Telegraph.   Seen from the south (Haste Street frontage) the building would have two lower levels with an irregular, rocky, character, topped by a Moorish-style apartment building.
This concept drawing by the office of architect Kirk Peterson shows the new proposal for a six story "La Fortalenza" building on the old Berkeley Inn site at Haste and Telegraph. Seen from the south (Haste Street frontage) the building would have two lower levels with an irregular, rocky, character, topped by a Moorish-style apartment building.


New: Prosecutor Says Berkeley Suspect Almost Got Away with Murder

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday April 18, 2012 - 10:55:00 PM

A prosecutor told jurors today that Bahsson Carl Smith "was really close to getting away with murder" but evidence eventually tied him to the fatal shooting of popular former Berkeley High School student Keith Stephens six years ago. 

In her opening statement in Smith's trial, Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Stacie Pettigrew said Smith presented himself to Berkeley police as a witness to Stephens' death in the 1200 block of Carrison Street in southwest Berkeley on Feb. 19, 2006, and shifted the blame to a friend. 

Pettigrew said Smith, 31, "took a life (Stephens') and almost took the life of a second man by trying to blame the murder on him." 

She said Smith "was incredibly arrogant" about not being arrested for Stephens' death and told friends that authorities didn't have any evidence against him. 

However, Berkeley police later uncovered evidence that tied Smith to Stephens' death and arrested him in August 2009. He was in state prison in Folsom at the time to serve his sentence for his conviction for committing a series of robberies in Berkeley's south campus area between November 2006 and February 2007. 

Stephens, 24, was a former Berkeley High School student and junior college football player. He was described as very popular and was one of three Berkeley High graduates in the class of 2000 who were profiled in the book "Class Dismissed" by Oakland author Meredith Maran. 

Shortly after Stephens was killed, Maran said "everybody loved him" and described him as "funny, generous, giving and rambunctious." 

Pettigrew said today that Stephens "loved football" and "had a thing for cars," a factor that led to the series of events that culminated in his shooting death. 

Pettigrew said Stephens had sold an old Buick to his friend Kamassa Palmer but he was mad at Palmer for not paying him the full amount he was owed. 

The prosecutor said Stephens had gone to church with his family early in the day on Feb. 19, 2006, but in the evening he went looking for Palmer because "he felt taken advantage of" and "was incredibly upset." 

Pettigrew said Stephens went to the home of Palmer's girlfriend, Nora Miranda, but when she wouldn't tell him where Palmer was he broke a window in her car. 

"That act of vandalism ultimately cost him his life," she said. 

Smith was a friend of Miranda and tracked down Stephens a short time later when Stephens went to an acquaintance's home in the 1200 block of Carrison Street, Pettigrew said. 

She said Smith went there "to take care of business because he doesn't like it when someone messes with his friends." 

Pettigrew said Smith knocked on the home's door and Stephens opened the door because he knew Smith. 

She said that in a rapid sequence of events, Smith said, "What's up, cuz," shot Stephens in the chest at short range and drove away from the scene. 

Pettigrew said that when Berkeley police arrested Smith four days after the fatal shooting for domestic violence on his girlfriend and vandalism he asked to speak to homicide detectives and implicated Palmer in Stephens' death. 

She said Palmer seemed to be the "logical suspect" to Berkeley police and Stephens' family at the time because of the dispute he'd had with Stephens over the old Buick. 

However, in subsequent statements to police over the course of several years Smith disclosed details of the shooting that only the killer would know, Pettigrew alleged. 

Smith's attorney, Darryl Stallworth, told jurors that at the end of the trial he will ask them to find Smith not guilty because he doesn't think the prosecution has enough reliable evidence to prove its case against him. 

Stallworth said the prosecution's main eyewitness "lacks credibility and trustworthiness" because he has felony convictions for drug, fraud and theft offenses and was under the influence of drugs, alcohol and medication on the night that Stephens was killed. 

Stallworth said the case is "challenging" and told jurors they may have "some belief that my client (Smith) had something to do with this." 

But he said he also thinks "you will conclude that the person who is responsible is Kamassa Palmer." 

Pettigrew estimated that Smith's trial will take at least several weeks.

Updated: Berkeley High School Principal Reveals Student Tampering with Attendance Records

By Laura Dixon (BCN) and Planet
Wednesday April 18, 2012 - 05:02:00 PM

About 50 Berkeley High School students will be suspended and up to four could be expelled for a recently discovered scheme in which students hacked into the school's attendance system and sold cleared absences to classmates, school administrators said today. 

School staff discovered the breach in the school's attendance system while reviewing student data a few weeks ago, according to Principal Pasquale Scuderi. 

Administrators found that several student accounts in the school's attendance database, called Powerschool, appeared to have unauthorized changes to their attendance records last fall. 

Further investigation revealed that at least four students got their hands on an administrative password that allows access to Powerschool, then logged in and cleared absences or tardy marks on classmates' records for a fee, Scuderi said.  

The principal did not disclose how much money the students exchanged, but said an investigation by district technical staff and administrators showed that about 50 students participated in the scam. 

"The degree of involvement ranged from what we now know was a few students literally selling the clearance of absences to those who may have accepted having a few absences or tardies cleared by a friend or acquaintance who gained access," the principal said in a statement. 

Scuderi said he believes the expulsion of those students who launched the scam is an appropriate response, considering the number of administrative hours spent to investigate the scheme as well as the "flagrant dishonesty exhibited". 

The principal said that while he is disappointed in the students, he hopes the incident will be a teachable moment for staff and parents and is encouraged by current attendance records for the school's 3,200 students. 

The school's attendance record rose to 94 percent for the first seven months of the school year compared to 92 percent during the same period last year. 

Over the past year, the school has made attendance a top priority, hiring a Dean of Attendance to oversee the school's attendance process and crack down on chronic truancy, the principal said. 

Scuderi credited the school's addition this year of a Dean of Attendance as well as the school's teachers for keeping attendance levels high. The principal's full letter is below: 

Dear Staff and Parents: 

I am writing to update you on two issues related to attendance at Berkeley High School, one a negative and the other an emerging positive. 

First the negative so we can close on a high note. 

As many of you know attendance was a major focus coming in to the school year at BHS. Working with additional resources provided by district staff we reorganized and shifted resources to bring staffing in our attendance office to a level that we believe is the minimum level necessary to adequately track and process attendance for the nearly 3200 students on our campus. In addition, this staffing has also allowed us to move forward with interventions for those who are chronically truant. 

The addition of an administrative position, specifically a Dean of Attendance, to oversee the attendance process at BHS and to implement interventions and consequences outlined by state law has also proven quite helpful. Coordinated truancy sweeps with Student Services and the Police Department have begun to make the area immediately around the campus less hospitable to truant students while our participation in the formal processes outlined in the Education Code have increased as has direct personal contact with families of truant students via mail and personal calls from counselors and administrators. 

The addition of the staffing and the newer, more efficient culture in our attendance office has, under the direction of our Dean of Attendance, Daniel Roose, insured that attendance data is being reviewed far more consistently and in greater depth than it has at Berkeley High School in recent memory. 

That data analysis some weeks back lead to a discovery that several student accounts in our student database, the product we use is called Powerschool, appeared to have had inappropriate or unauthorized changes to their attendance records. 

These irregularities triggered a deeper analysis of our attendance data and a initiated a concentrated inquiry. With the assistance of technical staff from the district, administrative staff soon learned that at least four students obtained the password of a staff member. We prefer not to share the technical aspects of how the password was obtained, but the security issues that led to the compromise have been addressed, resolved, and we continue to monitor the system through regular checks. 

As the investigation widened we had reasonable suspicion that approximately 50 students had unauthorized adjustments made to their records. The degree of involvement ranged from what we now know was a few students literally selling the clearance of absences to those who may have accepted having a few absences or tardies cleared by a friend or acquaintance who gained access. 

In addition to the flagrant dishonesty exhibited by this small portion of our student body, one of the more trying aspects of this was how much administrative time subsequently needed to be spent on interviewing students and following up on this behavior instead of the school investing that administrative time in things like classroom observations, student support, and true instructional leadership. 

We have to keep in context the fact that given the size of our school it was roughly 1% of our student population who made these poor decisions, but nevertheless it still is a vastly unacceptable number of kids who made regrettable decisions. 

As administrators have met with the students involved we have emphasized and reiterated a deep and genuine hope that they use this incident as a window for deep and earnest reflection on how they see themselves through these actions in relation to the values of honesty and integrity. Suspensions have been issued in most cases and a few students will be put up for expulsion. 

Some have questioned our use of suspension in this matter, yet we see this altering of teacher and school record keeping as a level of dishonesty that violates our community agreements and expectations of our kids. When one violates our agreements and fails to meet our expectations to this extent we feel justified in issuing a consequence that temporarily revokes the privilege of that student being a part of the school community. 

Time off during a suspension certainly makes staying current in your classes more difficult and inconvenient, but we are convinced that it can be done. Students may have to work harder to stay in contact with teachers or friends in their classes to stay current during the suspension, and this is perhaps one of the chief lessons that we hope students involved will take away; namely, that when you make bad decisions in life they often yield inconvenient or difficult results and subsequently make it harder to meet obligations and responsibilities that you still have to meet. 

Incidents like these surely leave one feeling deeply disappointed in those young people involved, yet I am hopeful that the students involved in this will reflect and have significant discussion with their families as to how this type of act might play out in another scenario or another setting had it occurred in a different place or later in life. Both the Education Code and the California Penal Code speak to this issue as an act of fraud and I hope that in the conversations that families have with students who were involved they come to a realization that were similar acts to be carried out on a job somewhere in the future, not only would dismissal be probable, but that those acts could also become part of a permanent record that could impact their ability to find quality employment for years to come and have a host of other negative consequences. 

We are saddened by the general outcome of this incident, but hopeful that the mistakes themselves in combination with the consequences incurred and discussions held, will push the young people involved into gains in perspective and values that may in fact help them make better decisions down the line when decision-making, for both themselves and the people that they care about, takes on even greater implications than it does now. We often use the phrase "teachable moment" in this business and I would like to see our community, namely our families and staff, use this incident as a springboard for discussions on ethics, integrity, and honesty. I see this as an opportunity to discuss those concepts in a rich and contextualized way and hope you will help initiate that discussion with all of our students. 

On the brighter side... 

In what could be seen as a pleasant irony and welcome counterpoise to the details above, our efforts around attendance appear to be paying off school-wide. 

[Average daily attendance from September through March of this year increased by 1.55% as compared to the same period last year.]

Our collective focus on attendance is paying off -- more BHS students are going to class. That's a testament to many things, but primarily the incredible work of BHS' teachers, who engage students with dynamic, meaningful lessons and motivate them to keep coming back, day after day.
Behind the scenes, safety officers have been transforming the hallway culture, hurrying students on to class and requiring passes from students leaving class. Counselors, administrators, and the attendance team have been reaching out to students and their families, making personal contacts and connecting students with the support they need to be present on campus. By this point we've had dozens of individual meetings and group meetings with truant students and their families. Classified staff in the attendance office are doing a herculean job with the daily mountain of absence clearances and other attendance paperwork. 

The word is beginning to get out that BHS is serious about attendance. We still have a long way to go, and our current attendance average is nothing to boast about, but it is a nice start. We hope to continue building on this success, and to expand our efforts, which this year have zeroed in on unexcused absences, to other attendance issues, namely tardiness, next year. 

Thank you for helping to reinforce our expectations around attendance and for all of the efforts you put into the raising and educating of students as parents and staff respectively. 


Pasquale Scuderi 


Berkeley High School 

New Design Unveiled for Haste / Telegraph Development (News Commentary

By Steven Finacom
Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 09:42:00 PM
This concept drawing by the office of architect Kirk Peterson shows the new proposal for a six story "La Fortalenza" building on the old Berkeley Inn site at Haste and Telegraph.   Seen from the south (Haste Street frontage) the building would have two lower levels with an irregular, rocky, character, topped by a Moorish-style apartment building.
This concept drawing by the office of architect Kirk Peterson shows the new proposal for a six story "La Fortalenza" building on the old Berkeley Inn site at Haste and Telegraph. Seen from the south (Haste Street frontage) the building would have two lower levels with an irregular, rocky, character, topped by a Moorish-style apartment building.
Peterson presents the design concept to a small audience, including site owner and developer Ken Sarachan (far left, standing), in the Cafe Med on Telegraph.
Steven Finacom
Peterson presents the design concept to a small audience, including site owner and developer Ken Sarachan (far left, standing), in the Cafe Med on Telegraph.
The site, where a University residence hall and student apartment building is currently rising adjacent on Haste Street.
Steven Finacom
The site, where a University residence hall and student apartment building is currently rising adjacent on Haste Street.
Design boards and floorplans were arrayed along the wall of the Cafe Med.
Steven Finacom
Design boards and floorplans were arrayed along the wall of the Cafe Med.
Peterson and his staff pointed out details of the floorplans.
Steven Finacom
Peterson and his staff pointed out details of the floorplans.
The old Berkeley Inn, a five story red brick hotel, in the background of a painting of 1980s Telegraph Avenue by Berkeley artist and writer Ed Monroe, who attended the design presentation.  (Image used by permission of Ed Monroe).
Ed Monroe
The old Berkeley Inn, a five story red brick hotel, in the background of a painting of 1980s Telegraph Avenue by Berkeley artist and writer Ed Monroe, who attended the design presentation. (Image used by permission of Ed Monroe).
The same scene today, with Cafe Med at the right, and the Berkeley Inn site beyond the trees at far left.
Steven Finacom
The same scene today, with Cafe Med at the right, and the Berkeley Inn site beyond the trees at far left.

A striking and provocative design for a new mixed retail and residential building at the old Berkeley Inn site on the northeast corner of Haste and Telegraph was informally previewed Tuesday, April 17, 2012 by architect Kirk Peterson and property owner and developer Ken Sarachan. 

If built, the six-story structure could close out the long-running saga of the Berkeley Inn site, which has featured feuding between Sarachan and the city. The most recent episode involves a lawsuit the City has filed against Sarachan, seeking to pressure him to develop the property or pay liens the City placed on the property when it demolished the Berkeley Inn, prior to Sarachan’s ownership. 

The Berkeley Inn was a historic brick hotel, damaged and closed by fire in 1988, then destroyed by a second fire in 1990 and demolished. Sarachan, who owns the remainder of the Telegraph Avenue frontage on the block, bought the lot. It has sat vacant for two decades, although Sarachan has floated some previous development ideas including a retail building topped with pagodas. 

The new project takes a completely different design direction. It is provisionally dubbed La Fortaleza (“The Fortress”), the same name as the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico; a fanciful historic building perched atop a stone fortress wall in San Juan. 

Peterson’s design would include 74 units “mostly gracious one bedrooms” according to one of Peterson’s staffers who helped present the design, as well as some two and three bedroom units. 

The building somewhat resembles a Moorish castle organically emerging from a craggy height. The two story lower façade is indented and surfaced to look like a rough, rocky, cliff face pierced with window openings, arches, and doors. There’s also a suggestion, perhaps, of the famed Antonio Gaudi apartment buildings in Barcelona. 

“The design scenario is like a fictional history”, Peterson said. “The architecture is basically a hill town.” He likened the parti to an ancient cliff with inhabited caves, overlaid by later development. 

The plan includes a basement space, accessible from a sunken courtyard on Haste Street, a main retail floor of more than 14,000 feet that could be subdivided into as many as four storefronts with their own sidewalk entrances, and four residential floors above, accessed by an entrance off Haste Street. The residential levels would be constructed around a courtyard facing south, but also have substantial indents of roof terraces, setbacks, and balconies along the Telegraph Avenue side on the upper elevations. 

Peterson is a prolific local architect who has done several buildings in Downtown Berkeley and others in Oakland. His style is an updated traditionalism that intentionally seeks out good historic precedent; Peterson is also an avid collector of old design books and traveler in Europe. His approach generally sets him apart from the much larger crowd of designers who rush in unison from modern trend to trend, all the while proclaiming their individuality.  

In my experience Peterson’s buildings generally wear well with their surroundings, complement traditional streetscapes, and often have considerable lay appeal. Some of those attending the presentation echoed that impression. 

“There would be a lot of people who would come to town to see that”, said Ed Monroe, a long-time Berkeley artist and writer who used to organize street fairs on Telegraph, looking at the design drawings. 

“It’s a mixture of conventional and creative. It could be interesting,” said Roland Peterson, Executive Director of the Telegraph Avenue Business District, who was one of the dozen or so who came to the Caffe Med, half a block south of the site, to see the proposal. Others included nearby property owners and business people and residents, plus one City of Berkeley and one University of California official. 

“It’s a wonderful folly,” said another spectator, with enthusiasm. There was criticism of the design from one architect in the audience. Businessman and real estate broker John Gordon also offered an informal critique of some of the proposed commercial arrangements, noting that potential retail tenants would probably want more prominent display windows and entrances along Telegraph, and that the arched setbacks along the sidewalk could provide spaces for panhandlers to sit or shelter. 

Gordon has an indirect connection to the project site in that he’s willing to take and rehabilitate the historic Woolley House, a 1870s Victorian on Haste owned by Sarachan that would need to be moved to enlarge the Berkeley Inn site.  

Gordon has a site for the Woolley House at Regent and Dwight, a block south of the Berkeley Inn lot. He noted that he’s had a project proposal in to the City of Berkeley since 2007, but City staff will require an Environmental Impact review of the relocation of the house—a designated City Landmark—and that Sarachan would need to pay for the EIR. 

In a side discussion Sarachan argued that the Woolley House “could have been moved last summer” to Gordon’s site if the City had gone ahead with a historic review, as he thought they would do. “Instead of doing that they decided to have a lawsuit. As long as there’s that lawsuit there will be no building. It’s up to the politicians.” 

“The sticking point is instead of hiring a consultant the way they were supposed to, they decided to shut the whole process down,” Sarachan said. 

Another issue is who will pay for the EIR. Gordon doesn’t want to, since he’ll be accepting the 19th century house and investing in its rehabilitation. Sarachan has balked at the City’s estimated price tag for the environmental review, noting that a consultant who studied the proposed move of the landmark 1891 Blood-Tompkins House from Durant Avenue already evaluated the basic historic issues.  

The Blood-Tompkins House, owned by major Berkeley property owner Ru-El Enterprises, would also go to Gordon’s Regent Street property under the development scenario, opening its current site for infill development.  

Thus, three Southside sites and two landmark buildings would be affected in a chain of events if Berkeley Inn site development moves forward.  

If the historic houses are cleared for relocation, “I’m ready to go,” Gordon says about his development, which would accept the two houses on one lot, and rehabilitate them to contain two and three bedroom apartments. Gordon already owns two adjacent, rehabilitated, historic buildings with commercial frontages on Telegraph Avenue. 

If the La Fortaleza project proceeds with Peterson as architect, he is poised to make a renewed major impact on Berkeley infill building in the coming decade. He’s also the architect for the proposed Acheson Commons project, a more-than-half-block big, five building development on University Avenue in Downtown, and has been working on plans for temporary retail space on the Sequoia Building site across from the Berkeley Inn lot. 

Although critical of the City on the site environmental review issues, Sarachan was very upbeat about the design at the informal presentation. “I think this is Kirk’s masterpiece”, he said. “This is the best design he’s ever done.” 

(Steven Finacom has written frequently for the Planet, often on historic, design, and development topics. He’s currently the Vice President of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, which has taken positions in the past on Southside development issues, including those involving the Blood-Tompkins house.)

Press Release: Civil Rights Icon Congressman John Lewis Featured for Saturday Night Lecture

From the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 11:53:00 AM

In partnership, Merritt College and the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center commenced the highly-received Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series to create an exchange of ideas to help inspire new servant leaders among our youth and community members, intergenerationally. This unprecedented, historic series, which highlights the devoted lifetime of service of many civil rights champions who worked directly with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., continues with the next lecture occurring at 7 p.m., on Saturday, April 21, 2012, at the Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA. This lecture is presenting civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis will deliver an address titled “Chaos or community. Where do we go from Here?" 

John Robert Lewis is the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, serving since 1987. He was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), playing a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Congressman Lewis is the only living speaker from the historic 1963 March on Washington. Often called "one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced," Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls "The Beloved Community" in America of the aisle in the United States Congress.  

The first of three lectures featured Dr. Martin Luther King associates Dr. Dorothy Cotton and Rev. Dr. C. T. Vivian, followed by the second lecture featuring Dr. Bob Zellner, formerly of the SNCC Coordinating Committee and Jack Hunter O’Dell, formerly with the SCLC. Attendees of the previous Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series heard ways to address the contemporary struggle of the American people and the pain caused by the economic crisis -- loss of jobs, increase in poverty, rise of foreclosures and loss of purchasing power. Our guest speakers shared their unique views on a half century of Civil Rights Movement experience confronting racism, addressing the gap between the rich and poor, and the necessity to construct peace. 

The lecture series is a monumental opportunity for the Oakland community to be enriched and empowered hearing the historic experiences from those who walked with Dr. King and fought for civil rights. The Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Congressman John Lewis will be available to the press for statements. 

To reserve seating for the upcoming lecture please call Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center at 510 434 -3988 or contact D. R. Roberts Event Management at 510-654-5335.

Press Release: UC Berkeley Releases 2012-13 Freshman Admission Data

From Janet Gilmore | UC Berkeley Media Relations
Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 07:12:00 AM

Demand for admission to the University of California, Berkeley’s 2012-13 freshman class hit a record high this season, with nearly 62,000 students applying. Among them, some 13,000 exceptional students have been offered admission, campus officials announced today (Tuesday, April 17). 

This year’s admissions rate was 21 percent: 61,695 students applied, and 13,037 received offers to start school in either the fall or the spring of the 2012-13 academic year. Last year, that combined admissions rate was 26 percent. 

For those students offered admission starting in the fall, the admissions rate was approximately 18 percent – the lowest on record for UC Berkeley. Last year, the fall admissions rate was 21 percent. 

According to Anne De Luca, associate vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, the enrollment target for 2012-13 is roughly the same as last year’s target. “The key difference this year is the dramatic increase in applications, the high demand from California students, out-of-state students and international students,” said De Luca. 

Last year 52,900 students submitted applications, and 10 years ago roughly 36,000 students applied for the 2002-03 academic year. 

The jump in applications reflects a national trend – increasing demand for access to top universities such as UC Berkeley, but other factors as well, according to De Luca. She noted UC Berkeley’s outreach efforts in more states and countries, as well as stepped-up efforts to reach students from underserved California communities. Overall, De Luca noted, California high school student interest in attending UC Berkeley remains very high. 

“We were very fortunate to have not only a large pool of applicants, but a talented and very competitive group of students,” said De Luca. “The students who received offers of admission were truly the best of best; their diligence paid off. We are especially pleased to see that the admitted class represents a broad range of income levels, communities, backgrounds and interests.” 

Among the students offered admission are numerous winners of national speech and debate tournaments; the creator of a computer application that is available in the iTunes store; a national competitor in Irish dance; an actress with a recurring role on a television series; and nationally- or internationally-ranked athletes in fencing, martial arts, figure skating, archery, badminton, gymnastics, roller skating, table tennis and BMX (off-road bicycle) racing. The admitted class also includes semi-finalists in the Siemens Competition for Math, Science & Technology, a national competition based on students’ high school science research projects. 

The California students offered admission are from virtually every part of the state, representing 54 of the state’s 58 counties. Most of them are from the San Francisco Bay Area (29 percent), Los Angeles County (27 percent), and other Southern California counties (23 percent). The fewest are from the Central Valley, but their numbers are growing: These students submit the fewest applications (about 2,000 applications for 2012-13 were from the Central Valley, compared to more than 11,000 from the Bay Area), but they are now submitting more applications and their representation in the admitted class of freshmen has gone from 4 percent last year to 5 percent for 2012-13. 

Among out-of-state students, the highest number of admitted students – about 500 – comes from the mid-Atlantic region, which includes New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, DC. In the international pool of admitted students, most are from China (30 percent) and Korea (19 percent), with others from countries including India, Canada, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

Other data from the 2012-13 admissions cycle show: 

  • California resident admission increased to 9,278 for 2012-13 from 9,267 the previous year. (Campus officials continue their multi-year effort to bring California resident enrollment closer in line with the actual funding levels provided by the state, levels that have not kept pace with enrollment.)
  • The admitted California students come from a broad cross-section of socio-economic backgrounds, with students from low-performing high schools also successfully competing for admission. Admissions officials’ outreach efforts included schools that rank in the lower tier on the state’s Academic Performance Index.
  • Admissions for international and out-of-state students dropped to 3,759 offers this year, compared to 4,403 in 2011-12. Admissions officials continue to fine tune the number of offers needed to reach enrollment targets for this group, as for the 2011-12 school year, more of these students accepted offers than officials anticipated.
  • As a group, international and out-of-state students continue to be high-achieving scholars with SAT and ACT scores generally higher than that of their California counterparts.
  • Among the overall freshman admitted class, the percentage of underrepresented students (African American, American Indian and Chicano-Latino students), increased to approximately 19 percent of the 2012-13 admitted class, compared to 17 percent last year. The number of underrepresented students from California increased to 2,008 this year from 1,921 for 2011-12.
  • More admitted students are filling out financial aid forms, about 8 percent more this year compared to 2011-12. Financial aid officials credit UC Berkeley’s Middle Class Access Plan (MCAP), [http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2011/12/14/berkeley-mcap-conference/]a new program designed to help middle-class families more easily afford an undergraduate education.
  • The admitted class remains very strong academically, with an average unweighted GPA (4.0 scale) of 3.89. The average weighted GPA (includes additional points for Advanced Placement classes) is 4.36. The average SAT I total score was 2068, with 98 members of the admitted class receiving a perfect score of 2400.
In addition to academic performance, UC Berkeley’s admissions process evaluates student applicants based on a host of factors including leadership skills, persistence, and how students took advantage of the opportunities available to them or overcame obstacles they faced. Students were notified of admissions decisions on March 29 and have until May 1 to accept their offers by submitting a Statement of Intent to Register. Of the 13,037 students offered admission, campus admissions expect 4,250 students will enroll for fall 2012 and another 950 in spring 2013, roughly the same targets in place for 2011-12. 

For more detailed data on the 2012-13 admitted class, please see the UC Berkeley admissions charts [http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/04/17/freshman-admission-data-2012-13] which show combined data for California residents and non-residents. Also, see additional charts from the University of California systemwide website [http://www.ucop.edu/news/studstaff.html] that include statistics from all UC campuses and generally focused on California residents.

Berkeley Police Officers Shoot Suspect Who Opened Fire on Them

By Bay City News
Saturday April 14, 2012 - 12:47:00 AM

Berkeley police shot and injured a suspect who opened fire on them Friday night, police said. 

Police were searching for a suspect who had fled from a traffic stop near the corner of Eighth and Delaware streets at 10:40 p.m. 

The officers saw the suspect in an apartment. He came out of the apartment and opened fire on the officers, police said. 

Police returned fire, hitting the suspect in the arm and leg. 

He was taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, police said. No officers or bystanders were injured. 

The officers involved have been placed on paid administrative leave as equired by department policy, and the case is being investigated by Berkeley police and the Alameda County District Attorney's office. 

Judge Sends Suspect in Berkeley Death to Mental Hospital

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Saturday April 14, 2012 - 12:44:00 AM

A judge ruled today that Daniel Jordan Dewitt, who is charged with murdering Berkeley hills homeowner Peter Cukor two months ago, should be sent to the Napa State Hospital to be treated for his mental illness. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sandra Bean, citing the reports of doctors who examined Dewitt, 23, suspended the criminal case against Dewitt last month and ruled that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial. 

Bean said at a brief hearing today that Dewitt "lacks the capacity to make a decision about taking anti-psychotic medication" and serious harm to himself or others could result. 

Dewitt, who is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, is scheduled to return to court July 13 for a progress report. 

His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Brian Bloom, said after the hearing that there is a waiting list to get into the Napa State Hospital and it may take six to eight weeks for Dewitt to be placed there. 

Dewitt's parents, Al Dewitt Jr. and Candy Dewitt, have said that he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia about five years ago, around the time when he graduated from Alameda High School, where he had played football. 

Berkeley police say Cukor and his wife, Andrea Cukor, arrived at their home at 2 Park Gate Road, next to the Shasta Road entrance to Tilden Park, shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 and found Dewitt near their home, acting strangely. 

Dewitt said he was a psychic and was told to go through the Cukors' gate to find his fiancee named "Zoey," according to a police report. 

But Al Dewitt Jr. said afterward that his son doesn't have a girlfriend named "Zoey" and that Zoey is only a figment of his imagination. 

Cukor called Berkeley police at 8:45 p.m. to report that there was an intruder but police didn't come until after his wife called a second time at 9:01 p.m. to report that Dewitt was attacking him with a flowerpot. 

Paramedics treated Cukor at the scene but he died shortly afterward. Dewitt was arrested a short time later near Cukor's home. 

Berkeley police Chief Michael Meehan defended his department's response to the situation at a community forum March 8 that was attended by about 200 people. 

Meehan said officers didn't go to Cukor's home right away because he called police on a non-emergency line and police had no way of knowing that Dewitt would attack Cukor because, "We don't know the future." 

But Cukor's son, Christopher Cukor, 37, today disputed Meehan's account of what happened, saying, "My father called the correct Berkeley police emergency number that is listed on their website." 

Cukor said, "We find this very disturbing, that a citizen's call for emergency help can go unanswered and leads to his death. Other citizens should be concerned, as well." 

Cukor was joined by his brother, 34-year-old Alexander Cukor, at a news conference in the office of Oakland attorney R. Lewis Van Blois. 

Christopher Cukor said his family hasn't decided whether to file a lawsuit against Berkeley police. 

Van Blois said, "Clearly the call was an emergency call and should have been responded to. This tragic death should not have happened." 

Van Blois released an unofficial transcript of Peter Cukor's call to police in which he said, "I'd like an officer up here right away" and described the intruder as being 6-foot-4. 

Christopher Cukor said Berkeley police should have told his father that his call wasn't being given high priority, saying, "All emergency callers should be told what priority they are being given so they can protect themselves while there are waiting. 

Andrea Cukor didn't attend today's news conference. Van Blois said she is still "devastated, as the entire family is, by this tragedy" and is too shaken to address the media. 

Meehan wasn't available for comment today, as an assistant said he wasn't in his office. 

Lt. Ed Spiller said in a prepared statement, "We don't have any new information to add to what we have already released. We remain committed to serving the Cukor family throughout these difficult circumstances." 


Family of Murder Victim Criticizes Berkeley Police

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Friday April 13, 2012 - 02:41:00 PM

The son of a 67-year-old man who was killed outside his home in the Berkeley hills two months ago today disputed statements by Berkeley police that his father called a non-emergency phone number to report an intruder. 

Peter Cukor, who owned a logistics consulting firm, was killed outside his home at 2 Park Gate Road at about 9 p.m. on Feb. 18. 

Chistopher Cukor, 37, said, "My father called the correct Berkeley police emergency number that is listed on their website." 

Cukor said he finds police Chief Michael Meehan's statement that his father only called a non-emergency number "very disturbing" and said "other citizens should be concerned as well." 

Cukor was joined by his brother, 34-year-old Alexander Cukor, at a news conference in the office of Oakland attorney R. Lewis Van Blois. 

Christopher Cukor said his family hasn't yet decided whether to file a lawsuit against Berkeley police. 

Van Blois said, "This tragic death should not have happened," and he accused Berkeley police of "making misstatements about what happened." 

Meehan said at a March 8 community forum that Peter Cukor made a non-emergency call to police at 8:47 p.m. reporting a strange man on his property. 

The police chief said Cukor's wife then made an emergency call at 9:01 p.m. to report that a suspect was attacking her husband. 

At the community forum, Meehan denied allegations that police responded too slowly to the initial call, saying they had no way of knowing the intruder, 23-year-old Daniel Jordan Dewitt, would wind up attacking Cukor with a flower pot. 

Dewitt, 23, was arrested and has been charged with murder. But last month Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sandra Bean, citing reports by two doctors, ruled that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial. 

Dewitt is scheduled to return to court this afternoon for a hearing to determine at which state mental hospital he should be placed. 

His attorney and his parents said after his previous court appearance that Dewitt likely will be placed at the Napa State Hospital. 

According to a probable cause statement filed in court by Berkeley police Detective David Marble, after Cukor told Dewitt to leave his property, Dewitt "said he was a psychic and he was told to go through the front gate to find Zoey." 

Cukor walked across the street to a Berkeley fire station to see if firefighters could help him deal with Dewitt but no one was there because firefighters were out on a call. 

Marble said Dewitt then killed Cukor with a flower pot when Cukor returned to his home. 

Dewitt was arrested nearby and "admitted that he was looking for his fiancee Zoey," Marble wrote. 

But Dewitt's father, Al Dewitt Jr., said Dewitt doesn't have a girlfriend named "Zoey" and that Zoey is only a figment of his imagination. 

Dewitt, who graduated from Alameda High School in 2007, is the grandson of former Alameda City Councilman Al Dewitt.

He's Back; Court Clears Hate Man's People's Park Return

By Ted Friedman
Friday April 13, 2012 - 01:59:00 PM
Hate Man back in People's Park, Wednesday, after three-week stay-away order dropped by court.
Ted Friedman
Hate Man back in People's Park, Wednesday, after three-week stay-away order dropped by court.

Hate Man's back, after an Alameda County judge accepted a deal Monday in which one trespassing charge was dropped and another suspended. 

After a three week court-ordered hiatus from Camp Hate, Hate Man returned to the far South East corner of People's Park, known as Camp Hate, where he has presided more than a decade over a loose band of followers, who spend their days, schmoozing, smoking, boozing, pushing, knuckling--living the good life in People's Park, in the service of hate. 

Wikipedia calls the seventy-two year old's philosophy "oppositionality which is centered around treating people kindly even when you're feeling badly." But at the Planet we're calling it a "fuck-you revolution," in which all discourse precedes from a tongue-in cheek "I hate you." 

Before his banishment, Hate, as he is known in the park, observed that "the forces of fucked up are overtaking us." 

Hate Man returned to the park Tuesday. His followers have not yet re-joined him, but Thursday afternoon he was joined in the camp by his sister, brother-in-law, and a nephew from Montana, who said she visits Hate in Berkeley once or twice each year. 

Did he enjoy his "vacation" from a heavy schedule of shoulder-pushing (for cigarettes, favors, and cigarette lighters) and philosophizing? "I wouldn't call it a vacation," Hate said, diplomatically, but he has suggested that he had personal matters to catch up on while taking his own Spring break from his park duties. 

Calling myself his neighbor (I live a half-block away), I confessed that the neighborhood had been much cleaner, if duller, in his absence. 

My candid comment was right out of the open-honest credo of the sixties encounter movement Hate subscribed to in sixties Manhattan. 

Saying he thought Camp Hate was well enough maintained, Hate added, "but I hear you." 

Ted Friedman reports for the Planet, just a hop skip, and a jump from People's Park.



When Feeling Threatened Leads to Violence and Death

By Becky O'Malley
Friday April 13, 2012 - 10:42:00 AM

Panic attack! In recent days we’ve been bombarded with examples of how the late 20th century pop-psych emotion of “feeling threatened” has turned into a license for armed men to do stupid things with dire consequences. 

Example One: George Zimmerman, terrified beyond reason by a Black kid with some skittles walking home through his ‘hood. He “felt threatened”, and thanks to the generosity of the state of Florida’s laws, he had his very own legally acquired lethal weapon. He hadn’t been trained, as a real peace officer would have been, in ways to solve problems without killing. It’s sadly likely that his expressed belief that he was acting in self defense was genuine, honestly held. It’s just that he was wrong—and because he had a gun he could turn the error of his ways into murder. 

His lawyer’s job will be to convince a jury, if the case gets that far, that his mistaken belief that he was in mortal danger was enough to trigger Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” defense. More than likely, as in most criminal cases, a bargain will reduce the charges to a plea of guilty to voluntary manslaughter, and he’ll go to jail for a few years. 

Example Two: Whoever shot 24-year-old Devin Whitmire in front of Bob’s Liquors in South Berkeley. Did someone signify disrespect or threaten the killer? Will we ever know who did it or why? But no matter, the killer had his gun, and he acted on his fears. 

Example Three: The person who gunned down Kenny Warren next door to the Berkeley barbershop where he worked, filling his prostrate body with many more bullets than were needed to kill him. The word on the street—no secret—is that the shooter was Ken’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend, thinking he could settle a child custody dispute with his weapon. There’s no explanation that makes sense to me of why the Berkeley Police Department can’t arrest him. 

Example Four: The two losers in Tulsa who cruised the streets in Black neighborhoods shooting at random. One of them felt threatened by Black people because a Black man shot his father in a fight which the father probably provoked. His buddy just seems to have “felt threatened” by Black people in general—and they both had guns. 

Example Five: The re-named One Goh, who might have felt dissed by a school administrator. He bought right in to the American Dream, bought himself a gun, and mowed down a bunch of his fellow students for no particular reason. 

And now we come to the tricky ones: less violence, more apparent authority, no guns used. These are a couple of police-involved shows of force, under color of law but actually in disregard of legal specifications about how such force may be used. 

Example Six: 

UC Berkeley’s Keystone Cops, who broke into the Long Haul anarchist collective’s building, which housed its decades old newspaper, on the merest suspicion, totally unjustified, that the organization might have something to do with email threats some UC researchers had received. Break in first, ask questions later? Made sense to them, but not to me—or to the court which oversaw a $100,000 settlement: cheap at the price. 

And also, 

Example Seven: Another branch of the apparently only semi-pro University of California police force, this one at UC Davis. These jokers were royally lambasted by an investigating committee headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso. The committee recommended review of all of the University of California police operations systemwide, not just at Davis. 

(In fairness, we should mention that it was not only the armed men on the police force who did wrong. The chancellor and the police chief, both female, deserved and got their own share of the blame, and presumably some female police officers as well took part in the last two cases.) 


Example Eight: This one’s about collateral damage, not directly an instance of abuse of force: the lamentable case of Peter Cukor, killed by a disturbed individual while Berkeley police were distracted elsewhere because their UCPD colleagues “felt threatened” by an unfounded rumor that demonstrators might attack the campus police station. 

And this is just within the last month or so.  

It’s a laundry list of recent incidents where Feeling Threatened was emotional, not evidence-based, but was used as the justification for bad decisions made in panic mode. In six of the eight examples, easy access to weaponry—guns, pepper spray—aided and abetted those who substituted force for foresight. 

(If you think pepper spray is not force, you didn’t hear the Iraq War veteran, now a student at Davis, say on KQED radio that it was more painful than anything he’d experienced in the service.) 

As far as the police are concerned, it probably boils down to better planning and better training, which the Reynoso report and the UCPD settlement could expedite. When peace officers Feel Threatened, they should be taught how to stop and think before acting rashly. 

What’s the remedy for the rest? Well, for the non-official culprits, the problem is starkly clear, and it’s not new. Guns, guns, damnable guns. 

I rarely—almost never—agree with Chip Johnson, who writes about Oakland in the Chronicle, but today I do.  

In his latest column: “I’m just saying there is too much death, and too much of it comes at the end of too many guns. And there are too many guns in too many hands in Oakland.” 

And also Sanford, Florida, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Berkeley, California, and in fact in the whole United States of America.  

Do you doubt it? 

A reader passed along this comment found on HuffPo, with no author’s name or citations but eminently plausible: 

"… I was debating with an anti-gun law guy. He amazingly chose to quote events in the UK and Japan to illustrate his point that gun laws had no influence on gun deaths. So I googled the numbers. Here they are:

Deaths per 100,000 people per day:

America - no worthwhile gun laws - 10.27

Australia - laws restricted to auto/semi-auto guns - 2.94

UK - comprehensive gun laws - 0.46

Japan - comprehensive gun laws and strict import controls - .07

It doesn't get much clearer does it?" 

No, it doesn’t. 


The Editor's Back Fence

Telegraph Project Charrette: The Demographics

Wednesday April 18, 2012 - 02:47:00 PM

Reader Tom Hunt, who worked in retail on Telegraph for many of the same years I worked in a computer startup there, directed my attention to a photo of the participants in the "Telegraph Avenue Project" which appeared on the Berkeleyside website.

"Guess what I thought when I saw the photo of the 'Telegraph Project' attendees?" he asked.

It looked to me like a bunch of old white guys hoping to remake Telly in their own image, one which is quite different from the UC students and staff who are the Ave's main users.

Tom, a math major in his days at Cal, thoughtfully provided data to quantify the obvious—see accompanying chart.

Not, of course, that I have anything against old white guys. Some of my best friends....

New: Stoppard Double Bill in Point Richmond

Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 04:55:00 PM

If the woes of the world are getting you down, the perfect antidote is the witty Tom Stoppard double bill now down to its last seven performances at Point Richmond's Masquers' Theater. The Real Inspector Hound is a clever send-up of every English house party murder mystery you've ever read, and it manages to nick Downton Abbey's copious clichés into the bargain, even though it predates the wildly popular Masterpiece Theater soap opera. That's the main act. The encore is The Fifteen-Minute Hamlet—same author, same cast, also sidesplitting funny. I hate British accents badly done by inept Americans, but this performance manages to avoid that trap. 

All seats $20. For reservations, call 510-232-4031 or click here to buy tickets now.

New Issue on Friday

Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 07:24:00 AM

This week I'm going back to the previous "new issue" schedule, creating a new dated issue only on Friday, probably late in the day. This seems to be a better way of tracking events as they happen during the week. Our arts writers have also requested that their previews and reviews stay current for a full week, to help build audiences, which seems reasonable. New articles will be posted daily in the current issue as usual, often marked new, and usually at the top of their category.

New: Berkeley Police Department to Get New PIO

Wednesday April 18, 2012 - 10:55:00 PM

The Berkeley Police Department will have a new Public Information Officer, replacing Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, sometime this summer. According to Capt. Andrew Greenwood, Investigations Division Commander, "the PIO position is among several others (e.g. some detective positions, etc.) that are due for rotation at our next shift selection/rotation process, currently scheduled for late June." 

No replacement has yet been announced. Captain Greenwood noted that "her considerable experience and skill set will not quickly or easily be replaced." 

On March 9, Sgt. Kusmiss was sent by Chief Michael Meehan to the home of Bay Area News Group reporter Doug Oakley at 1 a.m. to ask for corrections to a story Oakley posted regarding Meehan's comments at a meeting with citizens to discuss the Peter Cukor killing. This prompted a storm of criticism in the media and elsewhere.

Public Comment

New: East Bay Regional Park District Changing Ordinance 38, Discriminates against the disabled

By Marilyn Saarni
Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 07:14:00 AM

East Bay Regional Parks Directors will vote to approve or reject Ordinance 38 changes on April 17, 2012. East Bay Regionals Parks staff proposes changes to Ordinance 38 that impact those with mobility and visual challenges—and they refuse to acknowledge the barriers to park access these will create for a vulnerable and underserved population. East Bay Regional Park Ord 38 regulates domestic animals in the EBRPD, including dogs. For example, dogs must be leashed in parking lots, developed areas and on paved roads. 

The staff has proposed two new rules: (1) all owners must keep their dogs leashed for 200 feet from a trail entry, or a developed area (e.g., picnic ground), or a parking lot. Two hundred feet (which is more than half a football field length) is very long for people who have mobility challenges due to health conditions. (2) Changing the definition of dogs out of control to “they are not within sight of the owner or handler.” This can create the questionable—and discriminatory—situation of an owner with poor vision such as macular degeneration automatically being defined as out of compliance. 

The rule changes are coming out of problems in Redwood Regional Park—where clearly Oakland's no-dogs-in-parks policy has pushed too dense usage onto that park. But the proposed rules would apply to ALL EBRPD parks—to all 112,000+ acres. 

People with less experience with physical limitations—either because they've never suffered such an experience themselves, or haven't had a close family member or friend cope with the many challenges—often think "wheelchair." The broad number of people who suffer from mobility challenges include those with health conditions such as MS, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, asthma, various neural and muscular degenerative diseases, poor balance, congestive heart disease, cancer treatments, etc. These are all conditions where there can be fluctuating ability from day to day—and all of them benefit tremendously from access to park trails. Then there are folks who sprained an ankle, or maybe are getting over a bad asthma attack, or just got out of bed from having flu and they are still shaky on their legs. Just because their disability is short-term, there's no reason why they should be excluded from the parks. 

Some suggest a “separate but equal” rule for those with disability: this is illegal, and has been rejected in court multiple times. It creates an environment of isolation from social intercourse and exclusion in general society. For example, in this case, under "separate but equal," someone who is disabled can have their dog off leash within 200 feet of a trail entry—but the friend who is with them cannot have their dog off leash. The friend would have to abandon the disabled person to go further into the park so they could let their dog off leash to run around. That means their dog cannot play with the disabled person's dog. That means the disabled person can't chat with the friend while the dogs play. How this has played out in the past is the rule must LEGALLY apply to both disabled and able-bodied. This means disabled people who can't walk that 200 feet can't use the parks. City of Berkeley did exactly that with their Cesar Chavez off-leash area--and now no disabled person can walk their dog off-leash there. (The City Council tried to create a "separate but equal" rule but the City Attorney struck it down since it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.) 

Anyone who works with motivating people to maintain healthy lifestyles knows that rewards of social engagement and pleasure are essential, especially when people (often elderly) are coping with chronic health conditions that cause pain or other discomfort. Those who walk their dogs daily are motivated to get into the parks as part of their health management. Health care studies support this increased health outcome. Shouldn't the EBRPD pursue its commitment to "Healthy Parks, Healthy People"? It should not be creating barriers to exclude those who are particularly vulnerable to being shut out of society and parks—the disabled and the elderly.  

Any rule-making should take into account its full consequences for all populations. Our parks should welcome everyone to participate and share in both the natural experiences and in the people they meet there, and encourage walking for health for every part of the population.  

New: Rebuttal to Article of March 30, 2012 Re Senior Citizena

From The Tenants Association, Strawberry Creek Lodge
Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 07:18:00 AM


Strawberry Creek Lodge (SCL) is a non-profit foundation, 501-C3 on file. It is a Residence for middle or low income seniors. The Foundation is run by 11 members of a Board of Trustees. They are all successful business professionals but they volunteer to run SCL, and they work hard with great dedication for the Foundation and it’s resident 158 Seniors. 

The building is managed by Christian Church Homes, a non-profit company that specializes in senior housing. CCH is contracted yearly by the SCL Board of Trustees. 

The Board members meet monthly at SCL and are always ready to listen to its residents and take action on their concerns. 

The residents currently enjoy 53 project-based Section 8 subsidized units. A variety of house services and security/safety services are available such as a Night Manager and 12-hour Front Desk Clerks (all of them also residents) and five days a week there is an on-site Manager, Assistant Manager and two Social Workers, plus a maintenance crew. 

These people are very responsive and dedicated to the needs of the tenants and often go out of their way to solve problems and help out beyond the call of duty. 

SCL is an oasis in the heart of the City of Berkeley. Strawberry Creek flows out in the open in the back yard. Trees, plants and lawn make one side a beautiful park for all to enjoy. No street touches the Lodge on three sides and the front street is out beyond an ample parking lot. Hence there is no street pollution, and no noise pollution disturbs the residents. Who would not like to live in such a location with affordable housing? 

The Strawberry Tenants’ Association is unique: resilient, responsible for a high quality life and famous all over the nation for its activities. According to HUD rules and with the Board of Trustees encouragement, resident participation is very strong at all levels. As a result of this, for the last three years, the rent has increased 0%. Residents feel free to pursue their own activities and talents.  

The Tenants Association is very strong and it is listened to by the Board of Trustees. Individual Board Members meet with Tenant Committees over various issues at the Lodge that need resolution. There is a Quality of Life Committee that meets monthly for this purpose. Tenants have representatives to (and many residents attend) the Board Meetings and are heard. For example, when a Tenant Association Motion was presented at the March 19th Board Meeting regarding not moving or disturbing old and frail tenants during the current rehab project, it was unanimously agreed to. 

It is true that rehabilitation is going on at the Lodge to bring it back to HUD and Section 8 acceptable conditions. This rehabilitation is necessary in order to maintain HUD standards and to qualify for 23 more project-based Section 8 units and to keep the building at affordable rents. The disturbances and problems that arise from such a project, especially where older people remain in place. We are in the process of discussion with the Board of Trustees to solve these problems. 

For example, in the meeting of March 27th mentioned in the article, Bill Samsel did not speak, it was the Board President who led the discussion of problems with the Rehab Project and he moved around the room with two microphones listening for 2 minutes to nearly every single one of the 75 residents (half the population of the Lodge) as they explained their concerns and fears for two and a half hours.  

Since that meeting, many things about the Rehab have been improved and are being changed and more are in the works. Preferences of residents are being recorded and agreed to. Again, this is due to the coordinated efforts of the Tenants Association. All concerns and complaints must go through the TA and that makes the procedure valid and gets results. 

Another Correction: Re-Hab work is not financed with loan money from Section 8. HUD subsidy is the source of funding. 

Note: Bonnie Davidson and Al Benson agree with the above corrections.

Nonviolence Defeated UC Davis PD

By Carol Denney
Friday April 13, 2012 - 02:49:00 PM

They had helmets. They had batons, radios, gloves, guns, tasers, pepper balls, and, of course, oleoresin capsaisin (OC) spray, commonly known as pepper spray. 

They had not only MK-4 canisters of the stinging, sometimes-lethal substance, which were authorized for use, but also MK-9 canisters (a stream, not a spray) for which there was no training or authorization on the University of Davis campus. 

Like George Zimmerman, the man accused of shooting and killing young, unarmed Trayvon Martin in Florida, they cited a personal sense of fear as reason enough for taking action by, in the case of UC Davis officers, unleashing potentially deadly and unnecessary force on seated, non-resisting, nonviolent protesters. 

Whether or not the lack of organization and good judgment on the Davis campus results in firings or disciplinary measures for campus officers and personnel, one thing should be clear: if the Davis Occupy protesters had been other than nonviolent, this critical report would have been written very differently. 

If the Davis Occupy protesters had been other than nonviolent, we would not have what we have now: a call to revisit appropriate, system-wide levels of oversight and review, as well as a call to the Legislature to reevaluate aspects of the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights “that appear to limit independent public review of police conduct…”[1] 

The report goes on to say that “This limitation does not serve the police or the public. When information necessary to understand and evaluate police conduct is unavailable to the public, the public has less confidence in the police and the police cannot perform their duty without public confidence.” 

Thanks to the nonviolence of the UC Davis Occupy movement, we as a community have a priceless opportunity to restore our right to gather together safely to petition the government for a redress of grievances, a right which no longer exists when officers’ sense of insecurity, despite all their weaponry, is allowed to override the first amendment. Only through change at the state level can we restore local civilian review, without which a true sense of community and safety cannot exist. 

[1] Reynoso Task Force Report, 4-11-2012


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: The U.S. & The Afghan Train Wreck

By Conn Hallinan
Monday April 16, 2012 - 10:52:00 AM

The recent decision by the Taliban and one of its allies to withdraw from peace talks with Washington underlines the train wreck the U.S. is headed for in Afghanistan. Indeed, for an administration touted as sophisticated and intelligent, virtually every decision the White House has made vis-à-vis Afghanistan has been a disaster. 

On Mar. 15 the Taliban ended preliminary talks with Washington, because, according to a spokesman for the insurgent organization, the Americans were being “shaky, erratic and vague.” The smaller Hizb-i-Islami group followed two weeks later. 

That both groups are refusing to talk should hardly come as a surprise. In spite of the Obama administration’s talk about wanting a “political settlement” to the war, the White House’s strategy makes that goal little more than a mirage. 

The current U.S. negotiating position is that the Taliban must cut all ties with the terrorist group al-Qaeda, recognize the Afghan constitution, lay down their arms, and accede to a substantial U.S. military presence until at least 2024. The U.S. has 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, its allies another 40,000. The current plan calls for a withdrawal of most of those troops by the end of 2014. 

What is hard to figure out is why the White House thinks any of its demands—with the exception of the al-Qaeda proviso—have even a remote possibility of being achieved? Or exactly what the Americans think they are going to be “negotiating” with Mullah Omar of the Taliban, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hezb-i-Islami, or Sirajuddin Haqqani of the Haqqani Group? 

The Obama administration’s initial mistake was to surge some 33,000 troops into Afghanistan with the aim of beating up on the resistance and forcing it to negotiate from a position of weakness. That plan was always an illusion, particularly given the ability of the insurgents to fall back into Pakistan to regroup, rearm, and recruit. In any case, the idea that 140,000 foreign troops—the 330,000 member Afghan National Army (ANA) is incapable of even defending itself—could defeat a force of some 25,000 guerillas fighters in a country as vast or geographically formidable as Afghanistan is laughable. 

As a series of recent attacks demonstrate, the surge failed to secure Kandahar and Helmand Province, two of its major targets. While NATO claims that insurgent attacks have fallen as a result of the U.S. offensive, independent data collected by the United Nations shows the opposite. 

In short, after a decade of war and the expenditure of over $450 billion, Afghanistan is a less secure place than it was after the 2001 invasion. All the surge accomplished was to more deeply entrench the Taliban and elevate the casualty rate on all sides. 

The second U.S. error was to estrange Pakistan by wooing India in order to rope New Delhi into Washington’s campaign to challenge China in Asia. First, Obama ditched his campaign pledge to address the volatile issue of Kashmir, the flashpoint for three wars between Indian and Pakistan. Second, the White House ignored India’s violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and allowed it to buy uranium on the world market—the so-called 1-2-3 Agreement—while refusing that same waiver to Pakistan. Add the American drone war and last November’s deadly attack on Pakistani border troops, and most Pakistanis are thoroughly alienated from the U.S. And yet a political solution to the Afghan war without Islamabad is simply impossible. 

The U.S. demand to keep Special Forces troops in Afghanistan in order to continue its war on “terrorism” is not only a non-starter for the insurgents—the Taliban are, after all, the target of thousands of deadly “night raids” carried out by these same Special Forces—it is opposed by every country in the region save India. How the White House thinks it can bring the Taliban and its allies to the table while still trying to kill and capture them, or maintain a military presence in the face of almost total regional opposition, is hard to figure. 

The more than 2,000 yearly night raids have eliminated many of the senior and mid-level Taliban leaders and atomized the organization. When it comes time to negotiate, NATO may find it has literally hundreds of leaders with whom it will have to cut a deal, not all of whom are on the same page. 

That the insurgency would lay down its arms has a quality of magical thinking to it. Not only is the insurgency undefeated, but according to a leaked NATO report, captured Taliban think they are winning. The report—based on 27,000 interrogations—also found that “Afghan civilians frequently prefer Taliban governancy over GIROA [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan], usually as a result of government corruption, ethnic bias and lack of connection with local religious and tribal leaders.” 

There is no popular support for the war, either in Afghanistan, the U.S., or among its allies. The most recent ABC Poll found that 69 percent of Americans want the war to end, and according to a poll in the Financial Times, 54 percent of the British want to withdraw immediately. 

As for supporting the Afghan constitution, why would an undefeated insurgency that sees its enemies in disarray and looking at a 2014 U.S.-NATO withdrawal date, agree to a document they had no part in drafting? 

None of this had to happen. Back in late 2007, Saudi Arabia carried a peace offer from the Taliban in which they agreed to cut ties to al-Qaeda—a pledge they reiterated in 2008—and accept a time table for foreign troop withdrawals. In return, a national unity government would replace the Karzai regime until elections could be held, and the constitution would be re-written. 

Both the Bush and Obama administrations ignored the offer, apparently because they thought they could bring the Taliban to heel. It was thinking that verged on the hallucinatory. 

The trump card holders these days are holed up in the high peaks or hiding in plain sight. Opium is booming in Helmand Province because the Taliban are protecting farmers from drug eradication teams, even blowing up tractors that are used to plow the crop under. 

As the 2014 withdrawal date looms, the White House’s options are rapidly narrowing. If it holds to its plans to quarter troops in Afghanistan, the insurgency will fight on, and Washington’s only regional ally will be India, a country that can deliver virtually nothing toward a peace agreement. If it insists the insurgency recognize the Karzai regime and the constitution, it will be defending a deeply corrupt and unpopular government and a document that excluded the participation of country’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtun. Pushtuns make up the core of the Taliban. 

How the U.S. managed to get itself into this mess needs to be closely examined. The State Department under Hillary Clinton has become little more than an arm of the Pentagon, and the White House has shown an unsettling penchant for resorting to violence. In the meantime Afghanistan is headed for a terrible smashup. 

The World Bank estimates that 97 percent of Afghanistan’s economy is military related. The war is drawing to a finish, and there is no evidence that the U.S. or NATO has any intention or ability to keep the aid spigots wide open. Europe is in the middle of an economic meltdown and the U.S. economy is struggling. 

NATO provides about $11 billion a year to support the Afghan army, a figure that will probably drop to about $4 to $5 billion after 2014. There is already talk of reducing the 335,000-man Afghan army to a more manageable and less expensive force of 230,000. 

There is a window of opportunity, but only if the Obama administration takes advantage of it. A strategy that might work—when it comes to Afghanistan there are no guarantees—would include: 

  • A ceasefire and stand down of all offensive operations, including the highly unpopular “night raids.”
  • Shelving any long-term plans to keep combat troops or Special Forces in the country, and shutting down the drone war in Pakistan.
  • Urging the formation of a national unity government and calling for a constitutional convention.
  • Sponsoring a regional conference aimed at keeping Afghanistan neutral and non-aligned.
  • Insuring aid continues to flow into Afghanistan, particularly aimed at upgrading infrastructure, improving agriculture, and expanding education.
At home, the Congress should convene hearings aimed at examining how the U.S. got into Afghanistan, who made the key decisions concerning the war and regional strategy, and how the country can avoid such disasters in the future. 

It may be too late and, in the end, NATO may tuck its tail between its legs and slink out of Afghanistan. But the deep divisions the war has created will continue, and civil war is a real possibility. The goal should be to prevent that, not to pursue an illusory dream of controlling the crossroads to Asia, a chimera that has drawn would be conquerors to that poor, ravaged land for a millennium. 

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com 


New: ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Most Persons with Mental Illness not Violent

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 07:11:00 AM

Much publicity has been given to the tragic death of Peter Cukor, apparently killed by a disoriented mentally ill man. This is the sort of thing that creates widespread panic of the public and that inspires many citizens to look for legislation that would prevent future tragedies of this kind. Certainly, it is a sad thing that Mr. Cukor was killed in the prime of life, and my heart goes out to his family. 

However, I need to say that this sort of incident is extremely rare. The overwhelming majority of persons who suffer from a mental illness never do harm to anyone. Most of us, at some point, come to the realization that we need to be compliant with treatment if we are to have any kind of tolerable existence. Even among those who are not compliant, very violent actions such as killing someone are uncommon. 

In a group of people with bipolar that I attend, I have sadly heard news of several suicides in the past few years. Unfortunately, sometimes persons with mental illness lose hope and incorrectly believe that suicide is a means of escape. When I was first ill with schizophrenia I experienced suicidal thoughts, and what stopped me from acting on them was the thought of what this would do to my family. 

Most persons with mental illness want the same things in life as people who are not afflicted. Unfortunately, there are numerous barriers to getting these things. Most employers will not hire a person who they know is mentally ill for any kind of responsible position. I read on a website for evil employers, that a lawsuit based on the Americans with Disabilities Act is easy to defeat in court when the plaintiff's disability is psychiatric. 

The attack that tragically killed Peter Cukor may have happened because this poor man, Daniel Dewitt, might have finally lost hope. Putting more restrictions on persons with mental illness as a result of this tragedy may not be the answer. To increase the amount of compliance, we should take steps toward making the lives of persons with mental illness more worthwhile and more meaningful. If there is nothing in life to look forward to, then the result is that despair gets produced. Too much despair can trigger actions which are irreversible and regrettable. Noncompliance with treatment is sometimes an act of despair, and lashing out in violence is an action of extreme despair. 

When someone with mental illness has experienced a couple of psychotic episodes, the ensuing return to treatment and recovery, and has then gone on to do better things in life, it creates a sense of hope. This hopefulness may still exist even if the person becomes ill again because they may know on an instinctive level that even though things are bad now, they will get better. This tends to prevent violence toward oneself and others. Mr. Dewitt may not have had sufficient experience with a previous recovery from psychosis and of then doing better things. But this is pure speculation. 

My point is that this level of violence is the exception rather than the rule. Most persons with mental illness do not hurt people even when psychotic.

ECLECTIC RANT: U.S. Postal Service: Privatize or Reform

By Ralph E. Stone
Saturday April 14, 2012 - 10:34:00 AM

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is a branch of the federal government headed by a Postmaster General and a Board of Governors with further oversight provided by the Postal Regulatory Commission. However, ultimate authority over the USPS rests with Congress. The USPS is structured like a business in that revenues from the sale of postal products generally cover costs, and it receives virtually no federal appropriations. The organization is the second-largest civilian employer in the United States—after Wal-Mart—with about 600,000 workers. If the USPS was a private company, it would rank about 28th on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. 

While the USPS is structured like a business, Congress often prevents it from actually operating like a private company, such as taking actions to reduce costs, improve efficiency, or innovate in other ways. The agency is also obligated by statute to provide mail services to all Americans, irrespective of where they live and the cost of serving them. It is required to deliver first-class mail at a uniform price throughout the nation. 

Is it any wonder why the USPS is in debt? The USPS fiscal year 2011 debt was $13 billion and in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012; it had a $3.3 billion operational loss. The USPS can borrow money from the U.S. Treasury but its debt limit is set at $15 billion by federal statute. Thus, the USPS will no longer be able to absorb operational losses by the end of this year. 

The USPS is losing billions of dollars annually because of declining mail volume and increasing labor costs. According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report , first-class mail volume peaked in fiscal 2001 at nearly 104 billion pieces, but has dropped by about 29 percent, or 30 billion pieces, in the last decade. For the first time ever, in 2010, fewer than 50 percent of all bills sent to Americans were paid by mail.  

Part of the problem is that lawmakers continue to micromanage its practices. (We know how Congressional micromanagement has worked with regard to our economy.) For example, Congress has repeatedly prohibited requests to eliminate costly Saturday mail deliveries and reduce the number of post offices. Congress and the Obama administration need to empower the USPS to operate more like a business by giving USPS management more control over decisions about its financial well-being. 

Congress should consider privatizing USPS. Congress can learn from other countries where the private sector has taken large ownership stakes in their postal services. For example, 69 percent of Germany’s formerly government post office Deutsche Post is now privately owned, deliverying 70 million letters in Germany, six days a week and doing it at a profit. Through its DHL International arm -- purchased in 2002 -- Deutsche Post AG also operates express service in about 170 countries. In the Netherlands, 100 percent of its formerly government post office is privately owned as TNT Post. The British government is considering selling off to private investors its ownership of the Royal Mail where at least 10 percent of the shares may be reserved for postal employees, which would have the benefit of reducing the unions’ incentive to take actions negatively affecting the company’s bottom line. 

Unfortunately, Congress is again going the reform route to shore up the faltering USPS. S. 1789, the "21st Century Postal Service Act," also known as the "Postal Reform Bill" , to deal with the U.S. Postal Service’s poor financial situation, is pending in the Senate. A vote in the Senate was delayed while its sponsors negotiate with Senators supporting S-1853 , a competing bill. These competing bills are efforts to reform the USPS with Congress or a newly created government panel still in position to micromanage. 

S-1789 would postpone ending Saturday delivery service for two years, while S-1853 would delay it for four years. S-1789 would also use $11 billion in overpayments to a retirement fund to provide incentives to long-time postal workers to retire, and would allow the USPS to offer additional services, such as the sale of fishing licenses and the shipping of beer and wine. S-1853 goes further by preventing the enactment of proposals suggested by Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, such as closing post offices and processing centers and slowing first-class mail delivery times. The USPS has agreed to delay closing any facilities until May 15 to allow Congress to act. 

According to a MapLight analysis , the USPS unions and associations have given a total of $1,805,360 in campaign contribution to current U.S. Senators between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2011. These campaign contributions are to assure the status quo.  

On the other hand, MapLight analyzed campaign contributions from express delivery services such as UPS and FedEx have given a total of $1,796,143 to current members of the U.S. Senate between July 1, 2005–June 30, 2011. These companies could possibly benefit by a reduction in service if certain Postal Service changes are enacted,  

With privatization, Congress would end its micromanagement of the USPS; eliminate the complex laws and regulations on delivery schedules, price caps, restrictions on facility shut-downs; and other business decisions. Unfortunately, Congress will again attempt reform, rather than consider privatization.

THE PUBLIC EYE: Obama vs. Romney: Class Warfare

By Bob Burnett
Friday April 13, 2012 - 01:54:00 PM

With the departure of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney is sure to win the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. His campaign has turned its focus to President Obama. The first week of April, both Obama and Romney spoke to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Their speeches previewed what we’re likely to hear from their two candidates over the next seven months: very different perspectives on economic fairness. 

Obama’s central theme was inequality: “Can we succeed as a country where a shrinking number of people do exceedingly well while a growing number struggle to get by or are we better off when everyone gets a fair shot?” Declaring, “this is a make or break moment for the middle class.” The President observed that the Democratic and Republican positions are extraordinarily different. He defends the 99 percent, while Romney favors the 1 percent. 

In contrast, Romney’s central theme was President Obama. “He did not cause the economic crisis but he made it worse.” “President Obama’s answer to the our economic crisis was more spending, more debt, and more government.” 

According to a recent Pew Research Poll 61 percent of American’s believe the US economic system “unfairly favors the wealthy.” Romney won’t acknowledge this. When questioned on the Today Show about growing concern regarding economic inequality, Romney responded: “I think [this concern is] about envy. I think it's about class warfare." In his ASNE speech, the closest Romney came to responding to Obama’s comments about inequality was to accuse the President of “setting up straw men to distract from his record.” 

Obama observed, 

“What drags down our entire economy is when there’s an ever widening chasm between the ultra rich and everybody else. In this country broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from the success of a wealthy few. It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class.”

Romney sees it differently: 

“We’re struggling because our government is too big. As President… I will cut marginal tax rates across the board for individuals and corporations, and limit deductions and exclusions. I will repeal burdensome regulations, and prevent the bureaucracy from writing new ones… Instead of growing the federal government, I will shrink it.”
Romney’s solution to America’s economic malaise is a reprise of the discredited maxims of Reaganomics: government is the problem; helping the rich get richer will inevitably help everyone else; and markets are inherently self correcting and therefore there’s no need for government regulation – whether the problem is bank fraud or polluted water. 


Obama anticipated Romney’s perspective: 

“For much of the last century, we have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickle- down economics. They keep telling us that if we convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, our economy will grow stronger. They keep telling us that if we just strip away more regulations, and let businesses pollute more and treat workers and consumers with impunity, that somehow we’d all be better off. We’re told that when the wealthy become even wealthier and corporations are allowed to maximize their profits by whatever means necessary, it’s good for America and that their success will automatically translate into more jobs and prosperity for everybody else. That’s the theory… the problem for advocates of this theory is that we’ve tried their approach. The income of the top 1 percent has grown by more than 275 percent over the last few decades to an average of $1.3 million a year. But prosperity sure didn’t trickle down. Instead, during the last decade, we had the slowest job growth in half a century. And the typical American family actually saw their incomes fall by about 6 percent, even as the economy was growing.”

The 2012 Presidential election will center on economic fairness. Obama is a Democrat defending the rights of the 99 percent. Romney is a plutocrat defending the rights of the 1 percent. Obama wants to use government as an instrument to ensure a fairer economy, to revitalize American democracy. Romney wants to eviscerate government. He wants a reprise of Reaganomics, a return to the economic philosophy that produced 2008’s economic meltdown and the current recession. 

Understanding Romney’s perspective helps crack his campaign code. When Romney says Obama made the economic crisis worse, he means Obama did not follow Republican advice and do nothing; Obama did not stand by and let the economy crater. When Romney says Obama has no economic plan, he means Obama does not have a plan that Republicans agree with, a plan that relies upon the magic of Reaganomics. 

In his ASNE speech, President Obama said, “I can’t remember a time when the choice between competing visions of our future has been so unambiguously clear.” That’s correct. Obama’s challenge is to make sure that American voters understand this. In the 2012 presidential election the central issue must be economic fairness. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net

SENIOR POWER: Our Bods, Ourselves

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday April 13, 2012 - 01:47:00 PM

It’s Saturday afternoon, April 7. A goodly crowd is gathered in front of and inside Berkeley Public Library’s North branch. People standing around in long-time-no-see groups, chatting and filling up space. Among North’s additions, I notice a second Disabled parking spot, this one in front of the building. Somebody hands me a colorful I LOVE MY LIBRARY button, and I do, although subsequent visits prove disappointing. I’ll postpone judgment for a month or so. More later… Which is my segue into books.  

Our Bodies, Ourselves; A Book By and For Ourselves is a feminist classic about women's health and sexuality. A class initially, later a pamphlet, Our Bods was produced by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, published as a book in 1971. The cover is a photograph of women parading and carrying a Women Unite poster. One woman is clearly old. (As I recall, she was a governor’s mother, perhaps Miz Lillian Carter.) In numerous editions, published in foreign languages and Braille, it has always provided information related to many aspects of women's health and sexuality, including menopause and general well-being.  

In 1987, Simon & Schuster also published The New Ourselves, Growing Older in cooperation with the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, and in 2006, Our Bodies, Ourselves : Menopause by the Collective.  

For women as they age, hormone therapy (HT) and osteoporosis are two major quality of life topics. The North American Menopause Society -- a nonprofit, multidisciplinary membership organization dedicated to promoting the health and quality of life of all women during midlife and beyond through an understanding of menopause and healthy aging -- supports starting HT around the time of menopause to treat related symptoms and to prevent osteoporosis in women at high risk for fracture. A position statement was published online on February 27, 2012 in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society

"Current evidence supports the use of HT for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women when the balance of potential benefits and risks is favorable for the individual woman… The more favorable benefit-risk ratio for estrogen therapy (ET) allows more flexibility in extending the duration of use compared with combined estrogen-progestogen therapy (EPT), where the earlier appearance of increased breast cancer risk precludes a recommendation for use beyond 3 to 5 years." 

Differences have emerged in the therapeutic benefit-risk ratio between estrogen therapy (ET) and combined estrogen-progestogen therapy (EPT) at various ages and time intervals since menopause onset. Recommended duration of therapy differs for EPT in women with a uterus and for ET in women who have had a hysterectomy. The decision to use HT should still be individualized and patient-specific, based on the patient's priorities regarding health and quality of life, as well as on specific risk factors for thrombosis, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and breast cancer. 

A great deal has been learned in the ten years since the first results from the Women's Health Initiative, initiated by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in 1991. The objective was to conduct medical research into some of the major health problems of older women. In particular, randomized controlled trials were designed and funded to address cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. HT remains the most effective treatment available for menopausal hot flashes and night sweats. However, there is a growing body of evidence that formulation, route of administration, timing of therapy and duration of therapy may produce different effects. 

The absolute risks of HT in healthy women ages 50 to 59 are low. In contrast, long-term HT or HT initiation in older women is associated with greater risks.  

This year Penguin Press published Going Solo:The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. The title of sociologist Eric Klinenberg (1970- ---)’s book sounded like it might be especially relevant to senior citizens remaining active in their own lives as well as in their communities. Note: National Volunteer Week is scheduled for April 15-21. I was hoping this would not be yet another collection of anecdotal interviews of first-named people in the guise of “pioneering research” about the so called singleton society. Not so.  

However, Klinenberg has a lot of interesting data. Our cultural preference for living autonomously is a key reason why today more than 11 million elderly Americans and 72 million elderly Europeans live alone. He reports that the majority of the single elderly believe that living alone beats any other available option such as moving in with children, or “far worse, a nursing home.” Consider Sweden, says Klinenberg. 47% of all households have just one resident, compared to about 28% in the U.S.,. In Stockholm, 60% of all dwellings are occupied by someone who lives alone.  

Fifty percent of American adults are single, and 31 million – roughly one out of every 7 adults – live alone. States and societies that recognize the social changes driving the shift toward living alone will be better able to meet their citizens’ needs. These driving social changes are the emergence of the individual, women’s rising status, the growth of cities, the development of communications technologies, and expansion of the life course. 

Chapter 6 is about “Aging Alone”. Wouldn’t we all feel more secure if we knew there were residential options for elderly seniors beyond the solitary private apartment or the lifeless nursing home, wonders this author. He suggests the way to begin addressing this problem is to increase public support for caregivers, including some of the 38 million Americans who provide uncompensated care to aging family members. I agree with the need for concern about the mostly-women family caregivers. But for the vocational caregivers, I favor training to provide qualifications that are not now generally apparent, although it’s not acceptable to say so! 

Personal health columnist and author Jane E. Brody (1941- )’s March 27, 2012 New York Times column describes the two years following her husband’s death. She reports in "Forging Social Connections for Longer Life" that a helpful book is Healthy at 100: the Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples, by John Robbins. (Random House, c2006) 



Ninety percent of Hawaiian voters strongly believe end-of-life decisions are between doctor and patient alone. That level of support is higher than in any other state. A statewide public opinion poll commissioned by Compassion & Choices resulted in 77% of Hawaii voters favoring full support for aid in dying—among the highest percentages recorded in the U.S.  

Gen Silent is a new documentary from filmmaker Stu Maddux that asks if lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults and caregivers will hide their lives to survive in the health care system. Gen Silent follows six Boston-area LGBT older adults over the course of a year, fearing discrimination in long-term care and health care and choosing to go back into the closet or avoid seeking care altogether. Gen Silent offers hope and new models of care that are taking place in Massachusetts. A related article is Lori Gilbert’s "Gay seniors still dealing with fear of discrimination." (Stockton Record, April 3, 2012.)  


MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Be sure to confirm. Readers are welcome to share by email news of future events and deadlines that may interest boomers, seniors and elders. Daytime, free, and Bay Area events preferred. pen136@dslextreme.com.  

Fridays, April 6-July 13. 10 A.M. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Conversiamo in Italiano. Learn Italian with instructor Donatella Zepplin. 510-747-7510. 

Friday, April 13. 8:30 A.M. The Annual Thrift Shop Fashion and Spring Luncheon, Good Ship Lollipop. Tickets go on sale at 8:30 A.M. today in the Mastick Senior Center Office, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. The fashion show is scheduled for Thursday, May 10, in the Mastick Social Hall. Cost of the luncheon is $16 per person. This event guarantees good food, fashion, and fun! All proceeds support Mastick Senior Center. 510-747-7510.  

Friday, April 13. 12:15-1 P.M. UCB Music Dept. Noon concert. Department of Music students perform chamber music. Tammy Lian, violin; Hong Wong, viola. Mozart: Duo for Violin and Viola No. 1 in G major, K. 423 (I. Allegro) Alia McKean and Emma Lundberg, violins; Sarah Jarjour, viola; Lukas Whaley-Mayda and Rio Vander Stahl, cellos. Schubert: String Quartet in C Major, D. 956, Op. 163 (I. Allegro ma non troppo, IV. Allegretto) Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864 

Saturday, April 14. Thrift Shop Half-Off Special. The Thrift Shop Committee is offering a half-off sale (except jewelry and electric carts) to celebrate the IRS tax deadline. All proceeds support Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Saturday, April 14. 12-1:30 P.M. Free admission. UC BERKELEY CHAMBER ORCHESTRA. Wagner: Overture to Diemeistersinger Copland: Appalachian Spring, Suite for 13 Instruments Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 Featured conductors include Jane Kim, Melissa Panlasigui, and Garrett Wellenstein. Hertz Hall. 510-642-4864 

Saturday, April 14. 2-3 P.M. Be an expert-- Genealogy. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Free introduction to online genealogy tools and Ancestry.com, a database of searchable census tracts, immigration records, photos+. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, April 16. 12:30-1:30 P.M. Library Brown Bag Lunch Speaker's Forum: Richard Schwartz discusses "The Amazing Volunteer Relief Effort in the East Bay After the 1906 Earthquake." Go to www.richardschwartz.info for more information. The forum is co-sponsored by the Albany YMCA and the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av..
Contact: Ronnie Davis. 510-526-3720 x16. 

Monday, April 16. 7 P.M. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. Author Panel: So You Want to Write a Book? Four local authors discussing their writing journeys. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, April 16. 9:30 A.M. – Noon. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Join Rose O’Neill, custom jewelry designer. Beads and tools will be supplied unless you would like to redesign beads already in your possession. Cost is $15 per person. Sign up in the Mastick Office. 510-747-7510. 

Mondays, April 16, 23, 30 and May 7 and 14. 10 – 11:30 A.M. Free. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Pain Management 201: How Thoughts and Management Imagination Relieve Pain. 5-week class will provide 2 types of tools to assist you in managing physical pain. Elizabeth Dandenell, LMFT and Jeri Ryan, Ph.D. have used these tools with many people. They have also facilitated Pain Management 102 (Guided Imagery), and Pain Management 103 (Relieve Your Pain by Adjusting Your Thoughts) at Mastick Center. Sign up in the Mastick enior Center Office. Free. 510-747-7510. 

Tuesday, April 17. 6:30 P.M. Oakland Public Library, Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. Vegan Outreach presents Jack Norris, author of Vegan for Life, speaking about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Program is part of Oakland Veg Week, April 15-21. Linda Jolivet, 510-597-5017.  

Tuesday, April 17. 6:30-7:30 P.M. An evening of theatre discussion in the Library: Anatol & Arthur Schnitzler. Central Berkeley Public Library. 2090 Kittredge. Join Aurora Theatre Company’s Education Director Michael Mansfield and Anatol translator Margret Schaefer for a closer look at playwright Schnitzler and the translation process. Free. Sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library. 510-981-6241.  

Tuesday, April 17. 1 P.M. Stress Management with health educator Susan MacLaughlin. 2-part part workshop. In Part 2 (April 17), learn to use guided imagery to remember a state of perfect wellness. This powerful tool is helpful for stress reduction and self-healing. Mastick Senior Center, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. 510-747-7510. 

Wednesday, April 18. 12:15-1 P.M. Noon concert: Music Dept. event. Hertz Concert Hall. Songs of Persephone. Soprano Alana Mailes performs 17th-century Italian and French opera arias and cantatas by Caccini, Peri, Monteverdi, Rossi, Lully, Charpentier. Tickets not required. Event Contact 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, April 18. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Commission on Aging. South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis Street. Be sure to confirm. 510-981-5178.  

Wednesday, April 18. 7-8 P.M. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Adult Evening Book Group: Nadifa Mohamed's Black Mamba Boy. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 x16.  

Thursday, April 19. 10 A.M. – 12 Noon. Dr. Alfred Chong will provide free dentistry, by appointment only. To make an appointment, visit the Mastick Senior Center office, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda or call 510-747-7506. 

Saturday, April 21. 11 A.M. – 4 P.M. Free admission. CAL DAY Concerts. Orchestra: winners of the annual concerto competition perform: Milhaud: Cinéma-Fantaisie, Joe Neeman, violin. Chausson: Poème, Casey Nosiglia, violin Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No. 3, Wooho Park, violin. Liszt: Totentanz, Lisa Wu, piano. BAROQUE ENSEMBLE: Corelli & Bach. CHAMBER CHORUS: excerpts from their recent concert "La Chanson". String quartets; Gamelan; African Drumming & Dance; Gospel Chorus. Hertz Hall. 510-642-4864. 

Saturday April 21. 1-5 P.M. Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave.. California Writers' Club, a workshop open to all writers. Contact: Anne Fox 510-420-8775. 

Tuesday, April 24. 1-2:30 P.M. James Felton, Ph.D., associate director, UCD Cancer Center, presents “Why We Get Cancer.” Dr. Felton will explore cell division and tumor growth; the affects of diet and environmental exposure; and the role of genetics on developing cancer. This Cal State East Bay Scholar-Olli program is sponsored by the MSCAB. Mastick Senior Center office, 1155 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. Sign up in the Mastick Office or call 510-747-7506. 

Tuesday, April 24. 3-4 P.M. Berkeley Public Library Central, 2090 Kittredge. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. See also May 22. 

Wednesday, April 25. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept. Gamelan Music of Java and Bali performed by classes directed by Midiyanto and I Dewa Putu Berata with Ben Brinner and Lisa Gold. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864. 

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30-2:30 P.M. Great Books Discussion Group: William Butler Yeats’ poem, Lapis Luzuli. Albany branch of the Alameda County Library, 1247 Marin Av. Rosalie Gonzales facilitates the discussion. Come to one meeting, or all meetings. Books are available at the Library. Contact: Ronnie Davis 510-526-3720 x16. 

Wednesday, April 25. 1:30 P.M. Berkeley Gray Panthers. Monthly meeting at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. 510-981-5190, 548-9696, 486-8010. 

Wednesday, May 2. 12:15-1 P.M. UC,B Music Dept.: Renaissance Music, A Cappella.  

Perfect Fifth, Mark Sumner, director, is an a cappella choir in UC Choral Ensembles specializing in medieval and Renaissance music—sacred and secular, as well as contemporary art music. Hertz Concert Hall. Free. 510-642-4864. 

Thursday, May 3. 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. 6th Annual Senior Health and Wellness Resource Fair. Kenneth C. Aitken Senior and Community Center, 17800 Redwood Road, Castro Valley. 510-881-6738.  

Thursday, May 3. 1:30 P.M. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Av. Cherisse Baptiste from non-profit ECHO Housing will introduce Alameda County Library system audiences to the workings of the reverse mortgage, which is a loan against accumulated home equity that provides cash advances to certain homeowners at least 62 years of age. This free program is for older adults. 510-526-3720. For dates of this presentation at libraries throughout the system, call Patricia Ruscher, Older Adult Services, 510-745-1491 

Saturday, May 5. 1 P.M. Ribbon cutting ceremony. Music, Refreshments. Claremont Library Branch Library Reopening. 2940 Benvenue Ave. Library services resume at 2 P.M. Free. 510-981-6100. 

Monday, May 7. 6:30 P.M. Castoffs knitting group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Av. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043.  

Thursday, May 10. 7-8:45 P.M. Cafe Literario at West Berkeley Public Library, 1125 University Ave. Facilitated Spanish language book discussion. May title: La Casa de Dostoievsky by Jorge Edwards. Free. 510-981-6270. 

Thursday, May 10. Annual Spring Luncheon & Fashion Show. The Annual Thrift Shop Fashion and Spring Luncheon, Good Ship Lollipop. Tickets went on sale Friday, April 13, at 8:30 A.M. in the Mastick Senior Center Office, 1155 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda. Cost of the luncheon is $16 per person. This event guarantees good food, fashion, and fun! All proceeds support Mastick Senior Center. 510-747-7510.  

Friday, May 11. 8:30 A.M. – 2:30 P.M. The African American Caregiving and Wellness Forum V: The End of Alzheimer’s Starts With Me. West Oakland senior Center, 1724 Adeline Street. Registration required by April 27. 1-800-272-3900.  

Sunday, May 13. 12-4:30 P.M., 1:30 - 2:45 P.M. Hertz Concert Hall. Concert and Commencement Ceremony. Sponsor: Department of Music. Concert featuring award winners in the performing arts. Open to all audiences. Event Contact: concerts@berkeley.edu, 510-642-4864. 

Monday, May 14. 7:00 P.M. Identity Theft Program. Barbara Jue, a Legal Shield associate, will offer information and advice on how to prevent identity theft and how to cope should it happen. She will also talk about children and computer use and cyber bullying. Q&A follows. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 15. 6 – 8 P.M. Free Legal Workshop: Alternatives to Foreclosure. Steven Mehlman, a local attorney, will offer an informational session to explain the pros and cons of each financial decision to help you make the right choice for your 

situation. Sponsored by the Contra Costa County Bar Association. El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Avenue. 510-526-7512. 

Monday May 21. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: Color of the Sea by John Hamamura. Each meeting starts with a poem selected and read by a member with a brief discussion following the reading. New members are always welcome. Free. 61 Arlington Av. 510-524-3043. 

Tuesday, May 22. 3 – 4 P.M. Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Tea and Cookies at the Library. A free monthly book club for people who want to share the books they have read. 510-981-6100. 

Sunday, May 27. 130-4:30 P.M. Book Into Film: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at Central Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. Read the book at home. Watch the movie together. Discuss the book, film and adaptation as a group. Registration required- call 510-981-6236 to sign up. 

Monday, June 4. 6:30 P.M. "Castoffs" - Knitting Group. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. An evening of knitting, show and tell, and yarn exchange. All levels are welcome and help will be provided. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday, June 18. 7 P.M. Art historian Michael Stehr will discuss Gian Lorenz Bernini, who was the Michelangelo of the Baroque. He will also present a slide show. Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Avenue. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Monday June 25. 7 P.M. Kensington Library Book Club: The Chosen by Chaim Potok. 61 Arlington Av. Free. 510-524-3043. 

Arts & Events

Press Release: Berkeley Symphony to Honor Composers at May 18 Gala

From Jenny Lee, Berkeley Symphony Orchestra
Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 11:05:00 AM

Adhering to its rich history of presenting cutting-edge music, Berkeley Symphony will honor the artists who write and perform the music—its composers and musicians—at its 2012 Gala, RESONATE! Celebrating Composers & Musicians. Hosted by Music Director Joana Carneiro, RESONATE! will be held on May 18 at the landmark Claremont Hotel Club & Spa. 

This annual gala, which is Berkeley Symphony’s premier fundraising event, promises to be an entertaining evening with a spirited reception and silent auction, an elegant seated dinner and live auction, and special musical performances throughout the evening. Attendees will be able to meet Maestra Carneiro, Berkeley Symphony’s new Executive Director René Mandel, and many of the Symphony’s established and emerging composers, soloists, and musicians. Every table at this gala event will feature an honored guest, including East Bay Area composers Paul Dresher and Gabriela Lena Frank, both of whom have collaborated with Berkeley Symphony in recent and current seasons. Other guest composers are Andreia Pinto-Correia, a Portuguese composer known for championing the folk music of Portugal, and Dylan Mattingly, an alumnus of Berkeley Symphony’s Under Construction program for emerging composers. 

“This event showcases everything that Berkeley Symphony is about,” says Music Director Joana Carneiro. “By bringing all these wonderful, talented composers and musicians together, the Gala embraces the Symphony’s mission to commission and perform new works. Giving our supporters the chance to meet these artists in such a lovely setting emphasizes this new mission and will be inspiring for everyone who comes to the event.” 

Proceeds from the event will benefit Berkeley Symphony’s new initiative to perform a world premiere commission at every future season subscription concert, as well as its award-winning Music in the Schools program. This unique music education program represents an 18-year partnership with the Berkeley Unified School District to provide hands-on music education in all eleven of Berkeley’s public elementary schools. A distinguishing feature of Music in the Schools is that every child is an active participant in the act of music making. 

For more information, including a complete list of honored composers and musicians, and to purchase gala tickets, visit this site. 

Upcoming Concerts  

Berkeley Symphony Zellerbach Hall Concert  

Thursday, April 26 at 8 pm  

Pre-concert talk at 7:10 pm  

Joana Carneiro, conductor  

Jessica Rivera, soprano  

San Francisco Girls Chorus  


Kodály, Dances of Galánta  

Bartók, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta  

Gabriela Lena Frank, Holy Sisters (World Premiere Commission) 


Concert Venue: Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley 

Tickets: $20~$60 

Call (510) 841-2800 or visit www.berkeleysymphony.org 


Under Construction New Music Concert  

Sunday, April 29 at 7 pm  

Joana Carneiro, conductor  


Works by Bay Area composers Nils Bultmann, Evelyn Ficarra, and Noah Luna 


Concert Venue: St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Berkeley 

Tickets: $10~$20 

Call (510) 841-2800 or visit www.berkeleysymphony.org


By Dorothy Snodgrass
Tuesday April 17, 2012 - 07:01:00 AM

Granted the month is only half over, it isn't too soon to look ahead to May--one of the loveliest months of the year. May Day is a traditional Spring holiday in many cultures, dating back to the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. In the Roman Catholic tradition May is observed as Blessed Mary Virgin's month. It's also recognized in the U.S. at Law Day. O.k., so much for history. Let's go now to the great April/May cultural events springing up all over the place. 

"A gala performance to end bullying." A concert with the Yale Whiffenboofs and Tony Award Winning Legend, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sunday, May 13, 5 p.m.. Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., S.F. (800) 595-4849. 

Smuin Ballet Spring Program, an exciting and eclectic program combining Smuin dancers' with provocative choreography, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, April 27 - May 6. (415) 912-1899. 

Mission Creek Oakland Music & Arts Festival, April 27, co-presented by the East Bay Express at Disco Volante, 347 14th St., Oakland, Live Music and prizes. 

Oakland East Bay Symphony, Michael Morgan, Music Director. Paramount Theatre, Friday, April 20, 8 p.m. Mendelssoohn, Ruy Blas Overture and Dvorak Cello Concerto. Tickets start at $20. (510) 444-0801. 

Modern Cartoonist, The Art of Daniel Clowes: Original drawings and artifacts from acclaimed graphic artist. Through August 12. Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. (510) 318-8400. 

Experience International House Spring Fest -- the Edith Coliver Festival of Cultures. Saturday, April 21, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free admission. Take Bart and use free Cable Car Shuttled around Campus all day. 

Deep Green, 2012 Festival Conference, April 21, Noon to midnight. Live Music and over 100 Exhibitors. 1414 1414 Harbor Way So., Richmond. 

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, Sunday, April 29th, Workshop and Celebration, Looking Glass Photo, 2848 Telegraph Ave. Berkeley, 

Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 5, Sat. April 21, 8 p.m. and Sun. April 22 at 2 p.m., S.F. Symphony, (415) 864-6000. 

The Annual Downtown Festival, a Celebration of American Music, Dance Lessons in Jive and East Coast Swing. The Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa St. S.F. 

For theatre lovers, "Red", Tony Award Winner for Best Play, written by Josh Logan and "In Paris", with Mikhail Baryshnikov, extended through May 12, Berkeley Rep. (510) 647-2949. 

"Bay Area Craft Beer Festival," April 21, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m., Rocking Live Music, 30 top Microbreweries, at the Martinez Waterfront Park, near historic Cannery District. Beer tasting $35, (21 years and over only). (925) 228-3577. 

"24 Hour Digital Film Festival," 3 to 5 minute film to be created between 9 a.m. Saturday, April 21 through 9 a.m. Sunday, April 22nd. Rhythmix Cultural Works, 253 Blanding Avenue, Alameda. 

Oakland India Awards, Oakland's own Unique Food and Drink Shop at the People's Bazaar, 6:30 -10:30 p.m. Kaiser Center, $10 tickets. 

Donald Pippin's Pocket Opera presents "Count Ory," April 29., 2 p.m. at Hillside Club, Berkeley. (415) 972-8934. 

"Tenderloin", Cutting Ball Theatre, tells the stories of people who live and work in that neighborhood. Previews April 27-29; opens May 4 through May 27. 277 Taylor Street, S.F. $10-50. (415) 55-1205. 

"The Cult of Beauty: Victorian Avant-Garde, l860-1900". Legion of Honor, S.F., through June 17. Lincoln Park, 34th Ave. at Clement Street. (415) 750-3600. 

I daresay I've missed many outstanding events occurring in April and May, but hopefully these will attract your interest without hurting your budget. 

New: Jed Distler Plays the Complete Works of Thelonious Monk at Berkeley Arts Festival on Wednesday

By Bonnie Hughes
Saturday April 14, 2012 - 10:11:00 AM

As an exciting last minute addition to the Berkeley Arts Festival’s spring season, composer/pianist Jed Distler will perform the complete works of the legendary jazz composer/pianist/icon Thelonious Monk—about 70 compositions— within a single concert (approximately 90 minutes of music plus intermission) at 7:30 PM. Wednesday, April 18 at the Berkeley Arts Festival, 2133 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA. Suggested donation at the door is $10-$15. The year 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of Monk’s death; Distler premiered his show February 17, the actual anniversary, at the Cornelia Street Café in Manhattan, then performed it at LightSoundSPace in Rahway, NJ and, most recently, at the Winchester Arts Center in Las Vegas, NV. Distler weaves the songs together into a seamless, uninterrupted and refreshingly varied canvass. 

One of modern jazz’s founding figures, Thelonious Monk’s angular phases, unpredictable melodies, unique approaches to rhythmic articulation and accents, singular wit, and instantly identifiable piano style looms larger than ever in the early 21st century. DIstler himself heard Monk live, albeit only once. “I was 14, and I kind of stumbled into the Village Vanguard with a high school friend, not knowing what to expect. The music went right past me, but the following year I got hold of the newly reissued 1952 Monk Prestige trio sessions, and immediately fell in love with the pianist's unconventional virtuosity, angular melodies, exciting use of space, and unique harmonic ideas.” 

“What's been interesting about this project is that at first I thought playing Monk would reconnect me with my childhood jazz roots and early improvising, yet, instead, Monk's music has provided a new impetus for me to embrace my life as a new music composer/pianist. I’ve rethought and rearranged (some may say “deranged”) most of the songs, often putting a new spin on a familiar favorite. For example, ‘Blue Monk’ emerges as a complex, relentlessly churning boogie woogie etude, ‘Jacke-ing’ sounds like Shostakovich at a hoedown, while ‘Ruby, My Dear’ embraces the sensual sonorities and lush production values one hears in 1970s soul music ballads. In any event, I hope that I’ve made Monk’s music my own, and that you enjoy the journey.” 


PREVIEW: His Truth Goes Marching On: Musical Theater John Brown’s Truth at Berkeley's La Peña Cultural Center, April 15, 22, & 29

By Sarita Cannon
Friday April 13, 2012 - 02:26:00 PM
John Brown's Truth, at La Pena on Sunday
Poster by Doug Minkler
John Brown's Truth, at La Pena on Sunday

“I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right!” John Brown, a white man, uttered these words in his speech to the court in 1859 after being convicted of treason, murder, and conspiracy as a result of his raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry. A staunch abolitionist who believed that rebellion was the only way to end slavery and to prevent the Civil War, John Brown gathered a multiracial band of Americans in the hopes of dismantling the nation’s infernal institution by freeing enslaved Africans throughout the South. Although his plan failed and John Brown was sentenced to death for his actions, his commitment to justice for all was valorized by his abolitionist contemporaries, including Frederick Douglass, who wrote in 1881: “His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine—it was as the burning sun to my taper light—mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.” 

William Crossman’s improvised musical, John Brown’s Truth, explores the life of John Brown and the events surrounding the raid at Harper’s Ferry. Crossman has crafted a written script that includes some of the very words spoken by John Brown, but all of the music is improvised, making each performance a unique experience that is created in the moment. The cast consists of five vocalists who alternate in the roles of John Brown, the chorus, and the preacher, a dancer, four child rhymers, and six instrumentalists, all of whom work together to bring this compelling story to life. The musical style is quite varied, and includes Afro-Caribbean, Jazz, European-Classical, and Spoken Word elements. While John Brown’s Truth has been performed several times in the past three years, this April marks its debut at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, a fitting venue, particularly given the issues of social justice, cultural diversity, and artistic activism raised by production. 

The casual student of American history who knows one or two tidbits about John Brown will leave the performance knowing a great deal more about this American who fought for freedom and whose anti-slavery raid is viewed today as one of the key sparks of the Civil War that began 2 years after his raid. Although these events occurred 153 years ago, the struggle for equality remains urgent. Part of the power of Crossman’s libretto lies in his explicit connection between John Brown and other freedom fighters from the nineteenth century through the present. In each act of the musical, the actor playing John Brown invokes the names of real people who fought (and sometimes died) for true equality. Some of these figures are well-known, such as Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Nelson Mandela, while others are not, such as Viola Liuzzo, a white Civil Rights activist from Michigan who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama in 1965, and Pedro Albizu Campos, a key leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Movement in the first half of the twentieth century. 

John Brown’s Truth offers an opportunity to gain a new perspective on a man who has been remembered alternately as hero and as a terrorist, to celebrate the power of music, word, and dance, and to reflect on the work still to be done in the name of equality and dignity for all in our time. There are three performances this month at La Peña Cultural Center on 3105 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley (near Ashby BART): Sunday April 15th, Sunday April 22nd, and Sunday April 29th. Doors open at 7pm, and shows begin at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at www.lapena.org or www.brownpapertickets.com. General tickets are $15, and student tickets (with ID) are $10. The venue is wheelchair accessible. For more information: www.johnbrownstruthmusical.com


AROUND AND ABOUT MUSIC: The Alexander String Quartet at Berkeley City Club for Berkeley Chamber Concerts

By Ken Bullock
Saturday April 14, 2012 - 11:20:00 AM

The Alexander String Quartet—Zakarias Grafilo & Frederick Lifsitz, violins; Paul Yarbrough, viola; and Sandy Wilson, cello, celebrating their 30th anniversary—will perform "Gems of the Classical Repertoire" (Beethoven, Janacek & Shostakovich), presented by Berkeley Chamber Performances, Tuesday, April 17, 8 p. m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2311 Durant (between Ellsworth & Dana). The program: Janacek: String Quartet no. 1, "Kreutzer Sonata;" Beethoven: String Quartet opus 95, "Serioso;" Shostakovich: Preludes & Fugues, opus 87 (arranged Grafilo) and String Quartet no. 4. $25. (High school students, free; post-high school students, $12.50) 525-5211; berkeleychamberperform.org

DON'T MISS THIS: Di Rosa Art Museum in Napa

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Friday April 13, 2012 - 11:28:00 AM

Hearing many favorable reports of the Di Rosa Art Museum in Napa, I happily signed up for the Emeryville Senior Center trip to that historic landmark last Saturday. What a lovely day it was! Just the drive along the Carneros vineyards was heaven itself. Our first stop was at the Oxbow Public Market where Frieda Pardo, our tour escort, passed out hearty box lunches. We then proceeded to the di Rosa Art Museum, where we were greeted by the Museum's guide who filled us in on the fascinating history of the Museum founded by Rene and Veronica di Rosa, whose personal passion for art fueled their support of arts and artists. The collection, which sits on over 2000 acres of vineyards and gardens, is a place that provokes the imagination and creative spirit of our time and place through celebration of the art and artists of Northern California in an unsurpassed landscape. 

A shuttle bus took us to the Gatehouse Gallery which houses some of the most iconic works in the collection. We explored exhibitions featuring regional artist and current ideas in contemporary art at the Gatehouse Gallery. The permanent collection is on view in the Main Gallery, historic residence and throughout the gardens and Sculpture Meadow on the property. 

We then viewed the truly impressive new works by Chinese artist, Hung Liu, whose work has been exhibited in art museums and galleries throughout the country. Ms. Liu currently lives in Oakland, where she has been a professor of art at Mills College since 1990. 

Di Rosa offers an incredible range of lively educational opportunities to engage and enrich the encounter with art and nature for all ages. Private tours can be tailored to meet the needs of individual groups. This is an exceptional opportunity, one that should not be overlooked. For information and reservations, call (707) 226-5991.

Two Operas in Berkeley This Weekend: Otello Matinees Saturday and Sunday, John Brown's Truth on Sunday Night

Friday April 13, 2012 - 02:06:00 PM

This weekend you have not just one but two chances to see live operatic performances in Berkeley at bargain prices.

The first one, which you've seen advertised here for a week or so, is a Verdi classic special, Otello. It's full of passion, the quintessential love-and-death spectaculo. Both matinee performances feature Fred Winthrop, the dramatic tenor who's also the impresario who has produced Verismo Opera's string of Bay Area performances, which usually have at least one Berkeley date. The two sopranos who sing Desdemona, both Berkeley favorites, are double-cast. Eliza O'Malley appears at the 2 p.m. Saturday matinee, Gillian Kuhner on Sunday at 2, both at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street at Arch.

Then on Sunday night is the first performance this spring of John Brown's Truth, previewed below, an evolving piece of what's being called musically improvised musical theater. It uses a variety of musical styles (afro-caribbean/jazz/european-classical/spoken-word/dance} to tell the story of abolitionist John Brown’s anti-slavery raid on Virginia 150 years ago in a quasi-operatic vein. 

Performances are: 

Sunday, April 15, 2012; Doors 7:00 p.m.; Event 7:30 p.m. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012; Doors 7:00 p.m.; Event 7:30 p.m. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012; Doors 7:00 p.m.; Event 7:30 p.m. 

At La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley (near Ashby BART) www.lapena.org; 510-849-2568,ext. 20. 

Created by William Crossman; Directed by Michael Lange 

Featuring: Raymond Nat Turner, Maria Medina-Serafin, Eliza O*Malley, Lewis Jordan, Sandi Poindexter, Akinyele Sadiq, Sarita Cannon, Cheryl Schwartz, Henry Mobley, Ava Square-LeVias, Andrew Ross. 

$15. General, $10. Students with I.D. Wheelchair accessible. Advance Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/239868 and www.lapena.org http://www.johnbrownstruthmusical.com A production of MIMESIS Theater Arts Company, a CA nonprofit 501(C)3. www.mimesistheaterarts.com