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So you think the University of California has abandoned its much-maligned new logo?  This picture from a lobby in the Oakland airport proves otherwise.
Contributed Photo
So you think the University of California has abandoned its much-maligned new logo? This picture from a lobby in the Oakland airport proves otherwise.


Bill to Regulate Ammunition Sales Launched Today

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Monday January 07, 2013 - 03:00:00 PM

Surrounded by city leaders, law enforcement officials and local clergy, state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner today unveiled legislation that would regulate ammunition sales in California in the same way that gun sales are regulated. 

Speaking at a morning news conference outside the state building in downtown Oakland, Skinner, D-Berkeley, said it is currently easier to buy ammunition in California than it is to buy certain medicine, alcohol and tobacco. 

She said, "We want to make it as difficult to buy bullets as it is to buy cold medicine." 

Skinner said Assembly Bill 48, co-authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, would require ammunition sellers to be licensed and purchasers to show identification, and would mandate that sellers report all sales to the state Department of Justice. 

She said it also would require the Department of Justice to create a registry of ammunition purchases that would be available to all law enforcement agencies and to notify law enforcement of large-quantity ammunition purchases. 

In addition, Skinner said, the legislation would ban the kits that convert ammunition-feeding devices into high-capacity magazines. 

"Currently gun owners can take a magazine with 10 rounds and increase it to hold as many rounds as their gun can hold," Skinner said. 

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and most members of the Oakland City Council joined Skinner at the news conference to support her bill, as did Emeryville Police Chief Ken James, the chair of the gun committee for the California Police Chiefs Association; Diane Brown, the president of United Teachers of Richmond; and religious leaders. 

A spokesman for the California Rifle and Pistol Association, which joined the National Rifle Association in a successful court fight against a previous state effort to regulate ammunition sales, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

On Berkeley's Telegraph, Few Creatures Stirred Xmas Eve--Or Did They?

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 09:36:00 PM
Near Caffe Mediterraneum X-Mas Eve, a few creatures were stirring at 11:45 a.m.
Ted Friedman
Near Caffe Mediterraneum X-Mas Eve, a few creatures were stirring at 11:45 a.m.
Eyler, center. "Marijuana Man, who was sent by God, back to camera.
Ted Friedman
Eyler, center. "Marijuana Man, who was sent by God, back to camera.
Tippsy, who told us about missing her family on X-Mas Eve.
Ted Friedman
Tippsy, who told us about missing her family on X-Mas Eve.
Kensingtonian, with domestic problems, right. He's not camera shy, but what about man, left?
Ted Friedman
Kensingtonian, with domestic problems, right. He's not camera shy, but what about man, left?
Moon over Telegraph, X-Mas Eve, was called a "halo-moon." Its significance was noticed.
Ted Friedman
Moon over Telegraph, X-Mas Eve, was called a "halo-moon." Its significance was noticed.

Twas the night before X-Mass and up and down Telegraph, few creatures stirred, except the occasional mouse. 

As the last booths of the 29th annual holiday crafts fair folded, shortly after seven, a palpable void replaced last-minute shoppers. Holiday bustle yielded to holiday emptiness. 

When the Med closed at 7:20, Teley went dead. Fred's Market, a cigarette and booze stop, remained open South of Dwight. Fred's closed early, 10:20 p.m. 

Not even the You Tube celebrity rats, showed up. A threatening storm that had made good its threats for days may have kept the rats away. Their agents advised them to avoid becoming drowned rats. 

"Baby," said one agent to his rat, "we've got to move beyond this rat thing." 

But nearly twenty off-the-road hobos, tramps, and a few bums assembled near the Caffe Mediterraneum Monday night to "celebrate," some said. 

Like rats, the "kids," who aren't as young as they look, have been reviled as vermin in some towns, coddled in others, they told me. 

Des Moines, Iowa is surprisingly friendly and compassionate, one said. Some like Indiana. 

"Berkeley is the best," more than one told me. "Best free food in the country," another chimed in. 

An on-line guide to the best cities to be homeless in America places San Diego first, Berkeley, second. 

The celebrants said they got along with most City of Berkeley police, but not always with University police. 

The "kids" told me they have learned how to make nice with local cops. 

Although a BPD patrol car sped up Dwight, headed for the hills, and a UCPD car sped down Haste, not one cop car came by the X-Mass eve party. How could they cite Berkeley's young tourists for obstructing the sidewalks (they were), when there were no pedestrians to obstruct? 

"How long will you be here?" I asked. 

"However long it takes," someone said, adding "to get the job done." 

A vendor from the crafts fair arrived bearing marijuana he said God had told him to distribute. 

In order to receive the gift, you had to take an oath: "Do you share?" he asked. "I share," they vowed. 

Calling the scene, a "metaphysical play room," marijuana man urged everyone to just relax. "Chill, he recommended," before he walked off in a light drizzle that didn't last. 

Someone asked me to share the weed I'd been given. "I did take an oath to share," I said, and gave away the last of it, repeating, "I took an oath.'" 

Around eight the first food arrived, salads and pizza, delivered by Slum Jack Homeless, a formerly homeless guy, whose adventures were mentioned in the New York Times, a few years ago. 

Slum Jack said Trader Joe's had donated the out-of-date food to "food distribution networks." He was making deliveries on a food distribution network route, he said. 

A dapper young man named Eyler, after hearing my distinctions between hobos, tramps, and bums, said that he knew a lot of traveling kids who worked from time-to-time. "I'm a hobo," he said. 

"I've done farm work, and taken my pay in food and a bed on a stack of hay in a barn," Eyler related. "Did you know that there were many street kids, who worked for vendors in the holiday fair?" 

I didn't know that. Although I knew that a homeless guy on my street, had worked at the fair. 

"I''ll do all sorts of work," but on my terms, Eyler said. He recently moved into an old van, he said. 

Eyler said he'd headed the kitchen at Occupy SF until, after two months, he couldn't take the kitchen squabbles any longer. 

We exchanged stories about missing funds at OSF, and Occupy Berkeley. "That's why I never handled the money," he said.  

I spoke for awhile with a kid, who, when visiting Berkeley, liked to drop into an IOT center (Illuminates of Thanateros) in Oakland to "get my head straight." 

"We believe that our beliefs will determine our lives," he said. "We start our day, with positive affirmations." 

Music was provided by an iPod driving small speakers. Our DJ, a young man named, "Eleven," said the music was Dubstep, a fourteen year old British electronic music, with strong base lines, and, some vocals, floating eerily above the mix. 

At 9:20, donuts arrived from King Pin donuts on Channing. The guy who delivered noted there was no trans fat in the donuts. "You might tell them that," I said. 

One of the kids called out, "no trans fats, just a shit load of artery-clogging regular fat." 

All but a few of the donuts began their arterial journey. 

Rosey, a Medhead, noticed what he called a 'halo moon," hovering above the Cody Bldg. He watched the moon, transfixed. Soon others joined the gaze. 

We had it all. Hip music, good vibes, drink, a metaphysical playroom, and a halo moon. 

A street girl, "Slightly Tippsie," told us that she missed her folks but couldn't go home because "my aunt and uncle would have me arrested. I still love them, but I can't go back." 

Only two incidents could be considered down beat. A tall-fair-haired man, perhaps in his early thirties, gave a speech about his life in Kensington, where he was living with his mother. 

"If Tanqueray closed down,she would kill herself," he said. 

He told me he needed to get away from the hills and be with "some real people." 

"I brought all the food for my mother's party, and all she did was insult me," he complained, to the point of self-pity. 

The affirmations guy (IOT, remember?) announced that he "would ejaculate on my head," because I rudely refused to think of him when I ejaculate. 

Affirmations had led him to ejaculations. Possibly this was some cult belief. 

No one said anything. 

Then Eyler, began packing up, with his dog, and leaving. He got no farther than across the street, where someone was sitting alongside Cody's reading a Bible, probably the last book reader reading on the avenue. 

Eyler returned, hastily, saying, "what was I thinking? I don't have anywhere else to go." 

He returned in time for the last food drop, at 10:30. 

After trying to eat more, the kids, some pointing to full stomachs, turned it down. The deliverer gladly took it back, he told me, to distribute elsewhere in the network. 

I asked Eyler again, how long he planned to stay. "Who knows," he mused, smiling, maybe until sunrise; who knows?" 


Our South side reporter must have had no where else to go; yet he tore himself away from his new friends around 11:30 a.m. Reach him at berkeleyreporter.com@Gmail.com.  


















































Press Release: Assembly Bill to Regulate Ammunition to Be Introduced on Monday

Friday January 04, 2013 - 10:34:00 AM

Editor's note: As this issue is published, we're delighted to learn that on Monday a new bill for the California legislature which does exactly what we've asked in yesterday's editorial will be introduced, as described in the following press release:

OAKLAND, CA – To curb gun violence, mass shootings and the stockpiling of ammunition, State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and supporters will unveil legislation, AB 48, to establish oversight of California’s ammunition marketplace.

“When will deadly ammunition be viewed as a risk to public safety?” Skinner said. “If common cold medicines, alcohol and tobacco are regulated for their risk to public health and safety, why isn’t ammunition? Assembly Bill 48 will place boundaries on the bullets that have ravaged our communities.”

Assemblymember Skinner and supporters will announce legislation, AB 48, to regulate and tighten ammunition sales in California and ban high-capacity magazines. 

This bill will: 


  • Regulate all ammunition sales,
  • Require ammunition purchasers to show identification,
  • Require ammunition sellers to be licensed dealers,
  • Require ammunition sellers to report sales to the Department of Justice,
  • Ban kits to convert ammunition clips into high-capacity magazines.

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner 

Assemblymember Rob Bonta 

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan 

Oakland City Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan 

Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb 

Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson-McElhaney 

Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid 

Oakland City Councilmember Libby Schaff 

Emeryville Chief of Police Ken James, additional law enforcement representatives 

Pastor Zachary E. Carey, True Vine Ministries 

Representatives from: 

Youth ALIVE! 

Oakland Department of Human Services 

Measure Y 

Oakland Education Association 

Albany School District Board of Education 

West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education 

United Teachers of Richmond 


Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 

9:30 a.m. 

Elihu M. Harris State Building 

1515 Clay St., Oakland 


Attendees will observe a moment of silence for victims of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy. Attendees will hold signs stating “Stop Gun Violence: Regulate Ammunition.” 

Last year, Skinner authored Assembly Bill 2512, which would have required large ammunition purchases to be reported to local law enforcement. Her bill also sought to close a loophole in the assault weapons law allowing individuals to have high-capacity magazines, like those found on the alleged shooter in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Elected in 2008, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) represents the 15th Assembly District, which includes the cities and communities of Hercules, Pinole, El Sobrante, San Pablo, Richmond, El Cerrito, Kensington, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont and parts of Oakland. Skinner serves as Chair of the Assembly Rules Committee. 

Honoring Jane Powell

By Robert Brokl
Friday January 04, 2013 - 01:24:00 PM

Jane Powell’s website was wittily entitled “Jane Powell—the Author, not the Actress!,” but I think she has a connection in more than surname with another author out of the Midwest, Dawn Powell (The Golden Spur, My Home is Far Away). Like Jane reaching the Bay area by way of Detroit (her birthplace), Indiana, and Medford, Dawn Powell fled rural Ohio for Manhattan and never looked back. The other Powell—Dawn—is enjoying a revival thanks to the ministrations of fans like Gore Vidal and Tim Page, her biographer. Hopefully, Jane Powell’s classic writings on everything bungalow in particular and preservation (and older homes) in general will never go out of fashion nor be forgotten. 

Jane’s enduring contribution, her legacy, will rest upon her exhaustive, informative, stylishly written books: Bungalow Bathrooms and Kitchens, Bungalow Details: Exterior, and articles and essays too numerous to mention. Her immensely readable, practical books were beautifully furnished with photographs by her friend, Linda Svendsen, who died before her, also of cancer. 

But others have written on the subjects Jane covered, without sparking such a loyal following. As time passes, and her friends gain some distance after the intense grief over her passing, I suspect many of us will remember her most for her pluck and resilience, and for her militancy on behalf of preservation. 

I won’t claim never to having heard Jane whine, but mostly I remember her grit and determination. She enjoyed a period of living the privileged life in a glorious house on The Uplands in Berkeley. Since this was before we met as fellow Oakland Heritage Alliance board members, I asked her how she and Steve, her husband, occupied their time since I don’t think either of them had to work—Steve coming from Old Money. Jane said that Steve collected vintage typewriters, a hobby which seemed emblematic of an unhurried life of leisure. When that idyll ended (his choice), as hard as that must have been for her, she began her project of buying houses, fixing and restoring (NEVER gutting them like some ignorant flipper) and then selling them, moving on to the next. 

We all know the Bungamansion became the keeper house, her beloved fixer, but there were perhaps a half dozen before that. Her process involved having the floors refinished first, covering them with heavy kraft paper, and then moving in as she began the work, much of which she did herself. Who knows if she didn’t contract lymphoma and then metastatic lung cancer from long term exposure to the chemicals and solvents she lived and worked around and with? But she was proud of her restoration efforts, bragging about changing Oakland “one house at a time.” 

Jane’s resolve, independence, and pluck were a big reason, I think, she was such an inspiration for other women (and gay men). She was just as purposeful when it came to her writing, putting in the long hours at her desk, meeting the deadlines. Jane was a spartan—she never smoked or drank, and the only drugs were for her illnesses. 

The meager financial return realized from the books was surely a disappointment, but she accepted the writing jobs like Linoleum that her publisher assigned her (and came to love linoleum patterns that she sprinkled throughout her blog, Restoration Comedy). She was immensely proud of the checks from talks she gave, or articles she wrote, not unlike even the Immortals like Virginia Woolf valuing the compensation and security that came with articles and essays in the mass circulation periodicals of her day. 

Jane was also a committed advocate for preservation, and not just in her writing. She said, “No building should be torn down” and, while partly that may have been rhetorical, she also meant every word of it. We were on the same side in the losing, painful battle to save the Montgomery Ward Building in the Fruitvale, and the successful efforts to save the Fox Theater and Floral Depot. She became essentially the compromise choice for OHA president after the notorious divide between the Elders and the Militants split the organization, but the group lost its edge anyway, and Jerry Brown had his way and left his mark.... 

It wasn’t for Jane to angle for a job with the City (although those jobs were offered to other activists). She would have relished the opportunity to help revise and update the City of Oakland’s Planning Department’s Rehab Right from 1978—I once saw her wile away the hours at a tedious Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board meeting scribbling notes for that never-to-be revision. She also wasn’t going to play the familiar “professional preservationist” game of trading one “facadomy” or a pocket of change for facade improvement “mitigations”, in exchange for unnecessary demolitions. 

Although Jane and I were longtime friends (and argued occasionally as friends are known to do), I’m struck by people who’ve complained they were victims of Jane’s fiery rhetoric, or noted her adamancy. Was it her red hair they were reacting to, or was I of such similar sentiment that she seemed the epitome of reason (although she wrote about “obsessive restoration” from much firsthand experience)? 

Jane’s individuality, her courage and independence, her wit are irreplaceable. One can only hope that, unlike Dawn Powell who was documenting the mid-twentieth century Manhattan vanishing all around her, Jane Powell’s legacy will be the bungalows that find loving, more knowledgeable (thanks to her) admirers, and people who don’t easily give up even when “Life backs up a giant truck full of lemons and dumps them on me”, as Jane put it, having the last words as usual.



Ending Gun Murders: Where to Start

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday January 03, 2013 - 03:37:00 PM

The history of the discussion about gun violence in the United States is that it peaks from time to time after each fresh horror story, but then the media goes on to more appealing topics. I’ve deliberately waited until the new year to talk about this perennial disgrace, but this week the media-pumped phony “fiscal-cliff” drama has moved into the hold cycle for a couple of months and other matters have some room for consideration.

Okay, now it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Or, more colloquially, it’s time to cut the crap and do something about the guns that kill people in these United States.

Yes, I said guns kill people, though the National Rifle Association would try to persuade you otherwise. Of course people fire those guns, but without the kinds of death-dealing weapons Americans are uniquely able to acquire, the murderous impulse which afflicts many human beings from time to time is much harder to satisfy. 

Since the Newtown tragedy took place, I’ve been digesting endless news articles and opinions both written and verbal about how it could have been prevented. It’s become clear that there is one outstanding enabling factor for the many, many gun deaths we endure. 

Weapons which are capable of firing many bullets very fast—sometimes called assault weapons—are the prime cause of gun murder. And the way to stop these killings is first, before trying anything else, to get rid of their ammunition. Without bullets, these guns are harmless. 

If our lawmakers are serious about putting a stop to the killing, they should immediately enact laws which prohibit the sale of the kind of ammunition and attendant accessories which make it possible for a shooter to pump many bullets into a human target in a short time. There’s a performance standard for what this legislation should describe and prohibit: ammunition which can be delivered in such a way that more than two shots can easily be fired in succession, regardless of what you call the guns. 

Taking this action alone would quickly and significantly reduce the number of gun deaths, both from the kind of mass murders committed by madmen in Newtown, Tulsa, Aurora and countless other locations in the United States in the last couple of decades, and from individual grudge shootings like the rain of bullets which gunned down a barber who was involved in a child custody dispute in Berkeley last year. 

Would this stop all gun murders? Of course not, but it would stop a whole lot of them. 

Next step: get rid of the guns too. Yes, there are now a lot of these repeat-firing weapons on the street throughout the country, banned in some states but easily acquired in others. Taking such guns off sales shelves all over the country wouldn’t get them off all the streets today, but at least it would keep them off most streets in the future. 

And also, a hunter of my acquaintance tells me we should ban sale of after-market devices which convert limited-fire guns to repeat-fire models with “hair triggers”—let’s call them weapons of mass murder, or WMMs. Responsible sportsmen detest these gadgets, which are not used for hunting animals, just for shooting people. 

The Second Amendment, which has been interpreted as guaranteeing the right to own guns, specifically endorses regulating their use—this is the kind of regulation which would work within the court-defined constitutional boundaries. 

Other measures? Some have suggested creating a registry of “mentally ill” people who wouldn’t be allowed to buy guns. This is a stupid idea, for a couple of reasons. 

First, statistically, very few of the many people who suffer from mental illness become mass murderers. 

And second, background checks make little difference—few mass killers have records of similar past acts. Mass gun killers, legally sane or not, often get their hands on weapons of mass murder purchased by other people with impeccable credentials. Adam Lanza’s mother bought the guns with which he killed her, and no background check would have stopped her from buying them. 

Credentials aside, simply wanting to buy the kind of guns and ammunition which have no purpose except firing many bullets into other humans should really be taken as defacto evidence of the kind of emotional instability which—in and of itself—should be disqualifying, no registry needed. There’s no sane reason for a civilian to want an assault weapon,. 

Which circles back around to the wisdom of just taking the repeat-fire ammunition and devices off the shelves as a first step. No one needs bullets for WMMs, which are designed to kill people and that's all 

From a political perspective, it seems that one step at a time, with the most obvious one first, would be the easiest. 

But who in the U.S. Congress has the courage to vote, soon, to outlaw ammo for assault weapons? There’s a good way to find out whom to put pressure on: 

The New York Times has published a dandy interactive map derived from the NRA’s list of senators and members of Congress who vote the way they want, plus more information on which national legislators took campaign money from the NRA. 

Start now, two years before the next congressional election, to figure out where you might have an impact. Pick somewhere you used to live, or where you have friends and relatives, and take a look at who’s representing the area in Congress. 

To test this strategy, I checked out Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I used to live, and was shocked to discover that this very progressive college town is now represented by a guy with an A+ rating from the NRA. John Dingell Jr., now 86 years old and counting, has a normal respectable liberal record on things like health care, but he’s been carrying water for the gun lobby for much too long. It’s time, now, to find a successor whose position on other standard progressive issues is just as good as Dingell’s, but who will vote against selling ammunition for assault weapons. I plan to contact friends there to see what can be done to improve or remove him. 

It’s even possible Dingell might change his mind on just this one point before his current term ends—if so it would make a big difference. Wikipedia notes that “he reflects the conservative values of his largely Catholic and working-class district.” The Catholic Church, with all its faults, does not support the use of assault weapons—opposition to them might even be characterized as “pro-life” by most Catholics, consistent with the church’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty. 

And I have a good old friend in West Virginia, active in the Democratic Party. That state’s NRA-backed Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, has indicated his willingness to “talk” about assault weapons, and I’m going to ask her to get the conversation about ammunition moving as soon as possible. 

You get the idea. You can do it too It’s worth a try. 

I’d like to see a nation-wide database which pinpoints each and every lawmaker in the country who should be targeted by those opposed to gun murder, including ones in state legislatures, which the Times map doesn’t quite cover. The Obama campaign’s organization which won the November election was impressive, and it should be brought to bear on the gun murder issue. If legislators at the national, state and local levels received serious attention from a group as well organized as the NRA, either in primaries or in general elections, it just might make a difference 

The Editor's Back Fence

Berkeley in the News

Wednesday January 09, 2013 - 09:04:00 PM

The La Jolla Light reports on Berkeley's efforts to save our post office, including the Feinstein-Blum connection in detail.

Social Notes from All Over

Sunday January 06, 2013 - 09:47:00 AM

Frances Dinkelspiel's Favorite Things, as featured in the Style section of the Sunday paper.

Press Critique by "Banned in Berkeley"

Thursday January 03, 2013 - 11:26:00 PM

Thomas Lord, who's been banned from commenting on berkeleyside.com, where he posted under the pseudonym of Bruce Love, has started his own site, on which he's posted this caustic comment on a recent Berkeleyside story about an anonymous reader's letter about how homeless people are being treated in downtown Berkeley.


Odd Bodkins: Bill and I and Maurice Chevelier (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 10:49:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Bounce: Hounding Nooks and Crazies (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 10:56:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

Gang Rape

By Tejinder Uberoi
Saturday January 05, 2013 - 05:26:00 PM

The gang rape of the unnamed victim in Delhi has focused much needed attention into the epidemic of sexual violence. According to the Indian National Crime Registry, one woman is raped every 20 minutes. The actual numbers may be significantly higher as most victims are too humiliated and fearful to report the crimes. Out of the 24,206 rape cases reported in 2011, three-fourth of the perpetrators have not been arrested and the conviction rate is a pitiful 26%. Many cases linger on indefinitely which underscores ineptness and rampant corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary emblematic of the general malaise gripping Indian society. Currently, there are 100,000 pending cases. Delhi has now become the rape capital of the country exceeding the combined rape in all other cities. According to the London Guardian 260 men have been appointed to political office despite serious charges of crimes against women. Women activists were incensed with the careless, insensitive comments of the President’s son, who is also member of the ruling Congress Party. He mocked the demonstrators as ‘painted women who should not be taken seriously’. 

Women activists are calling for a standard set of laws or protocols for investigating all acts of violence including “honor crimes” and domestic violence. Women also need to take a pledge against female fetal abortions. This repugnant practice is creating an alarming gender imbalance leading to the growing practice of bride ‘snatching’, 

On the home front there is no room for complacency; American women suffer a major sexual assault every 2 minutes. Regrettably, the House Republican leaders have stalled the 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Finally, the US has yet to ratify the U.N. Bill of Rights for Women; only eight countries have failed to ratify the convention, leaving the U.S. in the company of Iran, Somalia and Sudan.

Dr. Toy on Guns, and Alternatives to Violence with Better Choices, and More Play

By Stevanne Auerbach, PhD (Dr. Toy)
Thursday January 03, 2013 - 11:16:00 PM

The inappropriate use of guns, compounded by the senseless killing of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, has resulted in an intense public debate. 

Some responded, as did Wayne LaPierre, the Vice President of the NRA, who called for posting guards at all schools; others feel strongly it's time to disarm everyone to reduce fear; while others feel its more effective to better manage mental illness. We are concerned about the well being of children. 

It seems pointless to increase sales of assault weapons, or train tens of thousands of security guards, as their presence will result in more fear and greater emotional harm. 

The National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that 2011 was another record breaking year for gun sales, with Americans purchasing some 10.8 million firearms, a 14% increase over the previous year and up over 50% from ten years ago. 

However, we are not safer because owning guns is dangerous, as they can be too easily misused, misfired, and mishandled. Too many children have been injured by being able to get easy access to guns. They have been killed by crossfire, playing with guns, or shot by police mistaking a toy gun for a real one. 

According to The Brady Campaign (www.bradycampaign.org) over 100,000 people of all ages are annually shot in this country, and 30,000 die from gunshots. Those that do survive are maimed both physically and emotionally. 

Guns and related violence observed in entertainment does great and lasting harm as reported by many studies point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children. The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children. Its effects are measurable and long-lasting. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life. 

If Nancy Lanza, the mother who was killed by her son had not possessed the guns in her home, not only would it be likely she would still be alive, so would her son, Adam, and all the other 26 victims who were tragically killed by this young, troubled person who greatly needed psychological assistance. 

The last thing this, or any community in America should do in response to the tragic deaths of vulnerable young children is create more pain and suffering, expand fear and distrust, or increase the supply of guns that are already too easily available, especially those devastating and dangerous assault weapons 

New legislation is being proposed in the New Year by Senator Dianne Feinstein who became mayor after the assassinations in San Francisco of then Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. The Senator's proposed legislation will be a stronger version of the assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994-2004. Specifically, her bill will ban the sale, importation, transfer or possession of new assault weapons, and requires background checks and licensing of assault weapons that are currently in circulation. The new bill also bans high-capacity clips, magazines, and strips that can hold more than 10 bullets at a time. If you want more information or want to support this action click on this link www.diannefeinstein2012.com/petition/w1212wbe 

We are safer when no one has a gun as is required in other democratic countries like the UK, Japan, and others where guns are banned, and there are no deaths by guns. Instead, the USA ranks among the highest in gun ownership in the world along with Russia, China, and Korea; and in fatalities and permanent injuries, we rank at the top of the list. 

Yes! Adults in a civilized democratic society must find effective ways to stop senseless killings. Only then will our communities and the world be safer. 

A rally on December 30th in Oakland, California, organized by churches and by other leaders, demanded an end to gun violence in their community after a record number of homicides have killed 130 children and adults over the past year; and most recently a grandmother just walking home with groceries. 

It's time for parents and schools to teach children skills that include mediation, conflict resolution, anger management, anti-bullying, and they should learn self defense skills. We need to put an end to discrimination of any kind. We also must actively identify children and teens that require assistance by trained specialists who can help them heal and resolve issues such as inappropriate behavior, hurting animals, or self-mutilation. If we ignore these social problems, no amount of guns will keep anyone safe from harm in any community. Parents do not have to purchase toy guns for their children as children can act out their fantasy play without being armed. 

On March 13, 1988, while I was Director of the San Francisco International Toy Museum, in response to the shooting death by a policeman of a teen running on Potrero hill with a toy gun, we created a very successful event when children turned in hundreds of toy guns in exchange for Hula Hoops. 

It would be beneficial to offer instead of shooting and violent video games others that are more positive and innovative choices of games and activities that include adventure, racing, role playing, and sports, which provide educational value, and do not harm the child. This holds true for the deluge of violent behavior depicted in films that saturate the minds of young people. 

When it comes to electronics, parents must limit the time spent engaged in technology based activities. Finding balance is essential. Whether it's regarding eating entertainment, or electronics. 

We want our great Democracy to thrive, but not by spreading ideas that it's going to be safer with a gun in one hand, and widespread fear compounded by guards at our schools. Guns on school property would change the precious climate of freedom in education and public places. Safety is important and can be achieved only by sane approaches to security and improving communications. 

It's time for change; but that does not mean turning our schools into armed camps, spreading insecurity instead of laughter and learning, or trust and good sportsmanship. We will not be happier or feel safer with security guards and metal detectors. This is a fallacy meant to alarm and stimulate sales. 

No! It's time for children to learn that the world is safe because the adults around them find more effective ways to stop bickering and conflicts. Adults need to learn to stop reaching for guns to solve problems, and find other less harmful and destructive ways to resolve disagreements. 

We need to provide trained social workers to respond to domestic disputes along with police so that couples/parents/children and others can be helped to find new ways to talk together, and learn to solve issues without resorting to violent responses that only cause pain. 

We can in a more tranquil climate see a bright and secure future for all children. We can then focus as a nation on the future like the economy, jobs, global warming, poor health, inadequate exercise and recreation, improving the quality of education, and other social and economic issues 

Parents must take responsibility of helping children to select books, toys, television programs, movies and video games that are appropriate for each child and that will provide them with learning and positive role models. 

Entertainment materials should be fun, engaging, and stimulate learning and creativity. Products that are selected should be educational, and well worth the child's time, effort, and parent's investment. And, finally the less shooting all children are exposed to whether in reality or in the media the happier and more productive the children will become. 

Parents must not allow children to use products that offer information or images that are: violent, scary, frightening, inappropriate to their age or maturity, or cause other concerns like worry and anxiety, or expose the children to issues they are not mentally or emotionally able to handle. 

Adults need to understand that children vary in personalities and they will observe that some children act out aggression more than others, or they cannot easily make distinctions between reality and fantasy. Or they have poor impulse control or become intense by acting out violent scenes. If children have emotional issues, they can be drawn to the theme of violence for many complex reasons. They need to find safe and constructive outlets for their feelings. 

Many parents from the "baby boomer" generation decided to not buy guns or war toys for their kids only to find the children using tinker toys or other materials to construct guns and other weapons, but that is a natural extension of play, and the child is doing the creating. This alternative assures that adults do not purchase toy guns to give to children as gifts. 

Sadly, there is no place set up to turn in guns and receive a reward equal to the cost of the gun. That offer would have a big impact and be a great value for a savvy retailer like Wal-Mart. Maybe those who are heavily armed might consider instead turning in excess guns to the nearest police station. Then, instead of harming anyone find new ways to solve any issue legally and amicably. 

Instead of guns, children should be actively playing with balls, Frisbees©, Hula Hoops© and jump ropes for exercise and to discharge ill feelings. The sport of jumping rope or keeping the hoop spinning around the body is great fun and benefits all kids (and adults) to be more active. 

It's time to find ways to assist and protect our children by removing guns and preventing violence at home, in school, and in every community. 

Let's strive to solve the problems of gun violence peacefully, and always "Teach our children well!" 

Math and Race: Why Don’t More African-Americans Do Science and Engineering?

By Jonathan David Farley, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 09:06:00 PM

In November 2012, fifth graders from Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley, California won four of the top ten prizes in a regional math contest with over 90 participants, including the top prize.

An anonymous commenter—we’ll call him “Aperson,” and also call him “him”—wondered why, when 44% of the school’s students are African-American or Latino, were none of the members of the winning team African-American, and only one Latino? Haven’t we had five decades of affirmative action?

Aperson ignores the question of sex, despite the fact that only one of the top ten prizes went to a girl, and cuts to the race. 

Of course we haven’t had five decades of affirmative action, as Allan Bakke can testify: we had about five years. And Aperson’s confederates who mock the role racism has played in retarding the development of black mathematicians are being ahistorical, if not A-something else: Race kept the respected mathematician David Blackwell out of Princeton University’s math building in 1941, and only a decade ago a black mathematician in Tennessee had to flee the state after receiving death threats from Klan supporters.  

I’ll concede, however, that it is no longer 2002, and that direct racism is not the sole reason why there is “such an egregious under-representation of black and Hispanic kids in the competition….” Unlike Booker T. Washington or W. E. B. DuBois, today’s typical inner-city African-American student has no respect for teachers or education. 

In September 2012, I taught geometry at an urban high school. One boy’s first words to me were: “Get your a** out of my face.” Another student was talking in class, using the S-word, the A-word, and the N-word. I asked him politely not to swear, and he snarled at me to stay out of his conversation. When I mentioned the great mathematician Ramanujan and magic squares to the students, one girl shouted, “We don’t care!” 

I tried to point out to the students that education was the route by which they could escape their current circumstances, that people like Frederick Douglass had endured far worse than a ghetto upbringing, and emerged victorious. Rather than rise to the example of Douglass, one girl said that maybe they had a different learning style than he. 

Fifty-three percent of African-American men drop out of high school. What Aperson must understand is that this dysfunction is not a matter of race, but of culture. I taught an advanced class on enumerative combinatorics to teens at a public school in the New York City area; most of the students who attended were of African descent, and one black girl, “Lisa,” whose father came from Guyana, was faster than I was at calculations I had done several times before. The town is 72.5% white and only 5.5% black

What accounts for the difference? Immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are the most highly educated segment of the U.S. population. One day last summer, I was delighted to see that, of the seventeen or so students I was teaching in Harlem, four of them, on their own time, were playing around with quadratic equations: a Hispanic, a Nigerian and two Haitians. My brother, a certified teacher, quipped that the children of Haiti would swim to America if they knew they could get into a free public school. I suspect that most of the Asian winners of the Berkeley math contest also have foreign parents. 

In conclusion, Aperson must understand that if Marlon Brando hadn’t had to come to Berkeley in 1968, black America would not be in such bad shape today; but, looking forward, the solution to the problem Aperson has identified is to disaggregate the black race, and recognize that African and Caribbean immigrants are not African-American city dwellers. Let more of the former in, and we’ll see more great stories come in shades of brown.  

Dr. Jonathan David Farley is an Institute Researcher at the Research Institute for Mathematics (Maine) and an advisory board member of the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science. His family came to the U.S. from the Caribbean. He is a former professor of mathematics and computer science at The University of the West Indies.


January Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 10:53:00 PM

Editor's Note: The latest issue of the Pepper Spray Times is now available.

You can view it absolutely free of charge by clicking here . You can print it out to give to your friends.

Grace Underpressure has been producing it for many years now, even before the Berkeley Daily Planet started distributing it, most of the time without being paid, and now we'd like you to show your appreciation by using the button below to send her money.  

This is a Very Good Deal. Go for it! 


SENIOR POWER : Novels, without meaning to, inevitably lie.

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Thursday January 03, 2013 - 04:54:00 PM

Friday, January 25 will be the anniversary of the birth in 1882 of Virginia Woolf, the English writer whose stream-of-consciousness technique was an important contribution to the modern novel. And yet, she wrote “I sometimes think only autobiography is literature… If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” 

Adeline Virginia Stephen was born into the well to do, British upper class during the Victorian Age, which meant that she was not allowed the university education that her brothers received. She was thirteen years old when her mother died, and she was expected to keep house for her siblings and father. After her father’s death, they moved to London, where the household became a salon for writers and artists. She was also greatly influenced by the carnage of World War I. Her perspective of working-class characters was limited.  

If she were leading a “Strong Women” group or class of senior citizens today, Virginia Woolf might say: 

I am an Aquarius. My spouse and I founded Hogarth Press in 1917. My themes of society’s differing attitudes toward women and men play a strong role in both my essays and fiction. My Orlando; A Biography is historical fiction tracing the reincarnation of its main character throughout English history and literature. Not until its publication did I begin to receive real monetary reward from my writings—I was 47 and had been writing for 27 years. After my death at age 60, I acquired a following among women everywhere who find my depictions of sexual politics enlightening, albeit sometimes “difficult.” 

In nine novels, stories, criticism, reviews and essays, Woolf probed sex roles and relationships. Although appreciated by many readers, some complain that it is difficult to relate to her “idle” women (like Mrs. Dalloway perhaps), that her style is too “sensitive” and “over-refined.” Some people pan her work because of what they have heard about her -- allegations of frigidity, suicide, homosexuality, and feminism are turn-offs for some people. And some, intimidated, have resisted reading her at all. 

She was asked to provide a series of university lectures on the subject of women novelists, delivered before two women’s colleges and dealing with the socio-economic factors that prevent women from writing and getting published. In 1929 it became her nonfiction book, A Room of One’s Own, a feminist classic. She argued that women have no history, that they could become writers if they had adequate incomes and a place in which to write:  

For all the dinners are cooked; the plates and cups washed; the children set to school and gone out into the world. Nothing remains of it all. All has vanished. No biography or history has a word to say about it. And the novels, without meaning to, inevitably lie.  

When...one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.  

At about the same time, she was working on a modernist novel titled Mrs. Dalloway, which depicts a single day in Mrs. D’s life.  

In The Years (1937) Woolf followed a generation of Pargiters from their childhood on. (No, not Judy Dench’s As Time Goes By, Jean Pargiter.) With the approach of World War II, the large once-wealthy, British family faced an impoverished old age.  

In 1938 Virginia Woolf moved beyond feminist education and employment goals to link gender hierarchy in the home to tyranny within the state. Her Three Guineas essay took the form of responses to letters from three organizations requesting financial contributions: one to prevent war, one to promote women’s education, one to support women in the professions. (A guinea was a gold coin issued in England 1663-1813 worth one pound and one shilling; it was and is a colloquial term for a coin.) 

Her diaries and letters are fascinating reading. The five volumes of The Diary of Virginia Woolf range from 1915 until her death in 1941. She considered diaries “diamonds of the dust heap” and advised “Leave the letters till we’re dead.” 

Virginia Stephen Woolf was fifty-four years old when, on Sunday, January 19 in 1936, she wrote: “I went up to an elderly stout woman reading the paper at The Times Book Club [a circulating library] the other day. It was Margery Strachey. What are you doing? I said. Nothing! She replied. ‘I’ve got nowhere to go & nothing to do.’ ” Marjorie Strachey (1881-1962) is known as the sister of Lytton Strachey; in real life, she aspired to be a writer. There are several Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury videos on YouTube.  

On Saturday, March 8, 1941, Virginia Woolf was “Just back from L’s [husband Leonard] speech at Brighton. Like a foreign town: the first spring day, Women sitting on seats. A pretty hat in a teashop—how fashion revives the eye! And the shell encrusted old women, roughed, decked cadaverous at the tea shop. The waitress in checked cotton. No: I intend no introspection. I mark Henry James’s sentences; Observe perpetually. Observe the oncome of age…”  

She died twenty days later, on March 28. She was fifty-nine years old. 



In 2011, California’s Senior Legislature called for a Silver Alert-type program. Starting in 2013, California has implemented one. Designed to help find people age 65+, it is similar to the Amber Alert system that locates missing children. Silver Alerts accelerate searches by using public broadcast systems and freeway signs to get the word out. On January 2, 2013, Robert Grappi, an eighty-two year old Sacramento-area man was found when police in Nevada County conducted a vehicle stop. The CHP decides whether to issue an alert. Unlike Amber Alerts, the CHP issues alerts based on several criteria, including health risks, inclement weather, suspicious circumstances or other perilous conditions. Elk Grove police learned that Grappi was missing, and after working the case overnight, they informed the CHP they had a Silver Alert candidate. A police department may issue news releases in such cases, but those do not have as broad a reach as the new Silver Alerts. 

In December 2012, Palm Beach County, Florida had had it with the paratransit system that is paid to provide bus service for the elderly and disabled. The county may be forced to come up with a contingency plan if the contractor responsible for running its door-to-door bus service for the elderly and disabled does not start consistently delivering passengers on time. The county’s most vulnerable bus riders are left waiting hours for their rides. In August 2012, complaints spiked to 400 a week. (Good for those courageous complainers!) Contractor Metro Mobility has a 5-year, $90 million contract with the county to run Palm Tran Connection buses. Metro is the sole contractor hired to transport elderly and disabled; it provides as many as 3,500 rides a day. Of 250 applicants for drivers’ positions, 100 were said to be qualified. As a result of the performance problems, the county has billed the company more than $200,000. in damages, which Metro is disputing. 



DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: 2012: “Are You Serious?” Awards

By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 09:34:00 PM

Every year Dispatches From The edge gives awards to news stories and newsmakers that fall under the category of “Are you serious?” Here are the awards for 2012. 

Dr. Strangelove Award to Lord John Gilbert, former UK defense minister in Tony Blair’s government, for a “solution” to stopping terrorist infiltration from Pakistan to Afghanistan: Nuke ‘em. Baron Gilbert proposes using Enhanced Radiation Reduced Blasts—informally known as “neutron bombs”—to seal off the border. According to Gilbert, “If we told them [terrorists] that some ERRB warheads were going to be dropped there and that it would be a very unpleasant place to go, they would not go there.” 

The border between the two countries is a little over 1,600 miles of some of the most daunting terrain on the planet. And since the British arbitrarily imposed it on Afghanistan in 1896, most the people who live adjacent to it, including the Kabul government, don’t recognize it. 

Baron Gilbert went on to gild the lily: “I am absolutely delighted that nuclear weapons were invented when they were and I am delighted that, with our help, it was the Americans who invented them.” The residents of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were decidedly less enthusiastic. 

Runner up in this category is the Sandia National Laboratories and Northrop Grumman for researching the use of nuclear powered drones that would allow un-piloted aircraft to stay aloft for months at a time. Nuclear-powered drones, like the Reaper and the Predator, would not only be able to fly longer and further, the aircrafts could carry a greater number of weapons. 

This comes at a time when the Obama administration has approved the use of drones in the U.S. by states and private companies. “It’s a pretty terrifying prospect,” Chris Coles of Drone Wars UK told The Guardian. “Drones are much less safe than other aircraft and tend to crash a lot.” Iran recently claimed to have brought down a U.S. Scan Eagle drone and to have fired on a Predator. Last year Iran successfully captured a CIA-operated Sentinel drone. 

Pandora’s Box Award goes to the U.S. and Israel for unleashing cyber war on the world by attacking Iran’s nuclear industry. The Stuxnet virus—designed by both countries—successfully damaged Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, and the newly discovered Flame virus has apparently been siphoning data from Iranian computers for years. 

But the “malware” got out of Iran—what do these people not understand about the word “virus”? —and, in the case of Stuxnet, infected 50,000 computers around the world. Two other related malware are called Mini-Flame and Gauss. 

Iran retaliated this past summer, unleashing a virus called “Shamoon” to crash 30,000 computers in Saudi Arabia’s oil industry. Saudi Arabia provides 10 percent of the world’s oil needs. 

A Russian anti-virus specialist recently told computer expert Misha Glenny that cyber weapons “are a very bad idea,” and his message was: “Stop doing this before it is too late.” 

The Golden Lemon Award has three winners this year, the F-35 “Lightning” fighter, the F-22 “Raptor” fighter, and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The F-35 and F-22 are repeat winners from last year’s awards (it is not easy to cost a lot of money and not work, year after year, so special kudos to the aircraft’s manufacturers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman). 

At $395.7 billion, the F-35 is now the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history, and the costs are still rising. It has constant problems with its engine, “unexplained” hot spots on the fuselage, and software that doesn’t function properly. Because the cost of the plane has risen 70 percent since 2001, some of our allies are beginning to back away from previous commitments to purchase the aircraft. Canadians had some sticker shock when it turned out that the price tag for buying and operating the F-35 would be $45.8 billion. Steep price rises (and mechanical problems) have forced Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia to re-think buying the plane as well. If that happens, the price of the F-35 will rise even higher, since Lockheed Martin was counting on U.S. allies to buy at least 700 F-35s as a way to lower per-unit costs. The U.S. is scheduled to purchase 2,457 F-35s at $107 million apiece (not counting weapons). The plane coast $35,200 per hour to fly. 

The F-22—at $143 million a pop—has a major problem: the pilots can’t breathe. When your traveling 1500 MPH at 50,000 plus feet, that’s a problem, as Capt. Jeff Haney found out in November 2010 over the Alaskan tundra. The Air Force had to wait until the spring thaw to recover his body. Since then scores of pilots have reported suffering from hypoxia and two of them recently refused to fly the aircraft. The breathing problems did not stop U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta from deploying two-dozen F-22s to Japan, although the planes are restricted to lower altitudes and have to stay no more than an hour and a half from land. That will require the pilots to fly to Alaska, and then hop across the Pacific via the Aleutian Islands to get to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. 

The cost of operating an F-22 is $128,389 a flying hour. In comparison, the average income for a minimum wage worker in the U.S. is $15,080 a year, the medium yearly wage is $26,364, and average yearly household income is $46,326. Dispatches suggests paddling the planes to Japan and raising the minimum wage. 

The LCS is a very fancy, shallow water warship with lots of bells and whistles (at $700 million apiece it ought to have a few of those) with one little problem: “It is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment,” according to one Pentagon weapon’s tester. Since combat is generally “hostile” that does restrict what the ship can do. And given that cracks and leaks in the hulls are showing up, it might not be prudent to put them in the water. So while it may not work as a traditional ship—floating, that is—according to the LCS’s major booster in the Congress, U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala) “It’s going to scare hell out of folks.” 

Particularly the ones who serve on it. 

The LCS was originally designed to fight Iranian attack boats, but the feeling now is that it would lose in such encounters. But all is not lost. According to Joseph Rella, president of Austal USA, the company in Alabama that builds the LCS, “If I was a pirate in a little boat, I’d be scared to death.” Dispatches suggests that rubber “wolf man” masks would accomplish the same thing for considerably less money. 

The Golden Sow’s Ear Award to U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky) for successfully lobbying the Pentagon to buy an oil drip pan for the Army’s Black Hawk helicopter for $17,000 a throw. The manufacturer, Phoenix Products, is a major contributor to Rogers’ campaigns. A similar product made by VX Aerospace costs $2,500 apiece. But Phoenix does have a strong streak of patriotism: The oil drip pans are discounted from the $19,000 retail price. 

The Misplaced Priorities Award to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party for shelling out $28 million to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812—including $6.3 million in television ads—while cutting $5.2 billion from the national budget and eliminating 19,200 federal jobs. The cuts have fallen particularly hard on national parks and historic sites. 

Canada was not Canada in 1812, and the war was between the U.S. and the British Empire. Canada did not become a country until 1867. 

The Queen of Hearts Award also goes to Harper and his Conservatives for “streamlining” the process of approving new oil and gas pipelines and limiting public comment. “Limiting” includes threats to revoke the charitable status of environmental groups that protest the pipelines and unleashing Canada’s homeland security department, Public Safety Canada (PSC), on opponents. The PSC considers environmentalists potential terrorists and lumps them in the same category as racist organizations. Dispatches suggests that Harper and Co. study the works of Lewis Carroll on how to sentence first, try later. Saves time and money. 

The Chernobyl Award to the Japanese construction company BuildUp, hired by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to clean up the Fukushima nuclear plant that melted down in the aftermath of last year’s tsunami. A government report found that TEPCO did not issue radiation detectors to most of its workers even though it had hundreds of dosimeters on hand. BuildUp admitted that it had workers put lead plates over the detectors to avoid violating safety thresh holds. 

Teruso Sagara of BuildUp said the company only had their employees’ best interests in mind and thought that “we could bring peace of mind to the workers if we could somehow delay their dosimeters’ alarms going off.” 

The report also cited the government for refusing to use computer projections on fallout from the crippled plant. In one case, two communities were directed into the middle of the radioactive plume. 

The Chicken Little Award to the British government and the International Olympic Committee for approaching the 2012 London Olympics in much the same way the allies did the beaches at Normandy in 1944. The government deployed 13,500 ground troops, 20,000 private guards, plus the Royal Navy’s largest warship, along with armed helicopters, armored personnel carriers and Starstreak and Rapier anti-aircraft missiles. 

According to Linden Empson, Dispatches intrepid reporter on the scene, the announcement that surface-to-air missiles were going to installed on six housing projects in the city were “delivered via a pizza company.” She suggested that was both “terrifying and hysterically funny.” One resident of Fred Wigg Tower told the New York Times that the leaflets “looked like one of those things where you get free pizza though the post, but this was like free missiles.” 

The local residents were not amused and sued to stop the deployment. “Is the government seriously suggesting the answer to potential airborne threat is to detonate it over the city?” a former Royal Artillery officer wrote in a letter to The Guardian. The court eventually ruled against the residents. 

The cost of all this security is close to $900 million at a time when the Conservative-Liberal government is slashing social welfare programs, education, and health care. 

The Selective Reporting Award to the Los Angeles Times for reporting that the Assad regime was using cluster bombs, which “have been banned by most nations.” The newspaper pointed out that more than 100 countries had signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but that Syria did not. 

Quite true. What went unmentioned was that neither did the U.S., Russia, China, Pakistan, India, and Israel. According to the Cluster Munitions Coalition, the weapons “caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system.” The U.S. also used clusters in Afghanistan. American cluster weapons still take a steady toll of people in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. All of those cluster weapons were made in the USA. 

The most egregious use of clusters in the last decade was by Israel, which spread four million submunitions in Lebanon during its 2006 invasion of that country. According to the UN, one million of those “duds” remain unexploded. 

But the U.S. also uses the weapon on many occasions. In 2009, President Obama ordered a cluster strike in Yemen that ended up killing 44 people, including 14 women and 21 children. And the White House, according to The Independent, “is taking the leading role “to torpedo the global ban on clusters.” The administration argues that clusters manufactured after 1980 have less than a 1 percent failure rate, but anti-cluster activists say that is not the case. The widely used BLU-97, for instance, has a failure rate of 30 percent. 

According to Handicap International, 98 percent of the casualties inflicted by clusters are civilians, 27 percent of those children. 

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


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Deterioration or Improvement with Age

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 09:04:00 PM

People with major mental illnesses often do not look forward to a happy and comfortable old age. Long term effects of medication, the illnesses, abuse of street drugs if applicable, and unfortunate life circumstances, often generate bleak or no prospects. I have seen a number of my acquaintances in the mental health treatment system deteriorate when they get older, or die of various causes before getting older. 

I have seen people, some of whom I once called friends, take a turn for the worse in terms of personality. Sometimes there is no explanation for this deterioration, and sometimes it seems traceable to a traumatic event. 

My wife had a friend who ended the friendship over a head of lettuce. The person had received a great deal of money from someone who had been a perpetrator. The influence of this abuser coming back into this person's life seems to have been more than the person could handle, given the preexisting fragility of having a mental illness. (It would have been better for my wife's past friend to refuse the money-accepting the tainted gift carried too high a spiritual price.) 

People with mental illness need to take extra care when there has been a difficult event. The medication can only do so much, especially when a person is overwhelmed with difficult emotions, and may lack the skill to handle these emotions. 

I believe people are better off if they can organize themselves around a goal. If someone has not decided where they want to go, they can become a victim of the caprices of life's ever-shifting winds. 

People who don't have a mental illness are generally programmed to seek success in their work, fulfilling relationships, marriage, a house, a dog and children. Someone with mental illness may find that all of these things are beyond reach. If so, what is to be our life's purpose? This lack of direction can create a great deal of depression, substance abuse, or medication noncompliance. People with mental illness apparently are taught not to try. When we do make an effort to get somewhere, there are multiple avenues of sabotage and discouragement. 

The negative shift that some persons with mental illness experience may happen to them in their thirties or forties. When in one's twenties, a person with mental illness hasn't reached the point of realizing that they might have limited prospects. Up to a point, a person still seems optimistic, and still has juice to continue facing challenges. At some point, a person may become tired of trying, and they may just give up. 

A person can seem nice enough, and then at some point, they have lost that niceness and have become unable to live among people. It doesn't seem to me like people "snap." Instead, they experience a fairly abrupt downturn, like an aircraft losing altitude. In relatively rare instances, this is accompanied by the person becoming violent. While in other instances, the person just fails to continue doing the basic life maintenance and self care that people must do. 

When someone has a loss of functioning like this in middle age, it may lead to long term institutionalization. 

On the other hand, there are people with mental illness who improve with age. They are past the worst of their illness and have found a reason to continue. They might be living for that morning coffee or for the sight of a blue jay hanging out in a tree. They might be doing little things that interest them like long walks along the trails, sometimes with a friend. They might have found a lifetime partner, and then again might not. 

The rule concerning people with mental illness is that you can't generalize. There is a whole range of possible outcomes, and these outcomes are the responsibility of individuals to forge for themselves. Someone who is external to a person with mental illness can not change the insides of that person. They can encourage and they can assist. And that is all they can do. There is no replacement for someone's willingness to keep trying.

Arts & Events

Press Release: A Tribute to Lyricist & Human Rights Activist Yip Harburg: the Man Who Put the Rainbow in “The Wizard of Oz”

From Beth Sweeney, JCC
Wednesday January 02, 2013 - 08:56:00 PM

Lehrhaus Judaica and The Berkeley Jewish Music Festival are co-sponsoring a tribute and exhibit honoring lyricist and human rights activist Yip Harburg. It takes place at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, auditorium, 1414 Walnut Street, Berkley on Sunday, Jan. 27th from 2::00 to 4:00 p.m. Information and tickets ($10 to $15) 1-800-838-300 or http://catalog.lehrhaus.org/course/2013/winter/A350-JMF/ or http://www.jewishmusicfestival.org/events/yip_tribute.

Harburg penned the words to the Oscar-winning song the American Film Institute ranked number 1 of its 100 Greatest Film Songs: “Over the Rainbow” as well as the lyrics for the entire score of “The Wizard of Oz”. He also wrote the lyrics, and co-wrote the book for the Broadway musical “Finian’s Rainbow”, the ballads “It’s Only a Paper Moon” and “April in Paris”, and the Depression era anthem “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”  

With the support of a grant and rare archival material from The Yip Harburg Foundation, Musical theatre historian, Bonnie Weiss will present the fascinating story of this legendary lyricist with rare film and video footage of Harburg telling colorful stories about his songs and performing them with style and panache. Among the other entertainers featured in these clips are Groucho Marx, Judy Garland, Burt Lahr, Ray Bolger, Barbara Cook and Audra McDonald. 

In addition, Bonnie will show scenes unavailable to the public taken from home movies of Yip cavorting with George & Ira Gershwin and composer Harold Arlen. 

An added bonus is a lobby video exhibit of excerpts from Yip’s 1979 Sixty Minutes interview (when he was 83) with Morley Safer plus two interviews conducted by his daughter-in -law and musical theatre educator, Deena Rosenberg Harburg. In one of them he sings some of his unpublished tunes (including a tribute to Jimmy Durante.). The exhibit also includes a slide show of the sheet music covers of 71 of his songs. 

Harburg’s outspoken commitment to supporting human rights, world peace and social justice ended him on the infamous Hollywood blacklist during the Senator Joseph McCarthy era.. Yet the songwriter/librettist continued to use his creativity to give voice to the downtrodden. Weiss will give examples of how Harburg expressed these convictions in lyrics filled with wit, irony and poignancy. A new biography entitled, “Yip Harburg: Legendary Lyricist and Human Rights Activist” by Harriet Hyman Alonso thoroughly examines the roots of Yip’s literary gifts and social activism. 

The Jewish Community Center of the East Bay is also hosting a sing-along showing of the 1939 film Classic “The Wizard of Oz” on January 20th at 2:00 p.m. 

Relevant websites  

Event Description: http://catalog.lehrhaus.org/course/2013/winter/A350-JMF/ 

Bonnie Weiss’s bio: http://catalog.lehrhaus.org/by_faculty/bonnie-weiss/ 

Berkeley Jewish Music Festival http://www.jewishmusicfestival.org/events/yip_tribute 

Brown paper tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/309038 

Berkeley Jewish Music Festival Sing-along showing of “The Wizard of Oz´: http://www.jewishmusicfestival.org/events/the-wizard-of-oz-film-sing-along