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<b> Victor Jarra, ¡Presenté!</b>
                                          Victor Jarra, a beloved Chilean guitarist and singer, was arrested and tortured during the CIA-backed coup on September 11, 1973. General Augusto Pinochet's soldiers took care to smash Jara's fingers before murdering him in a Santiago soccer stadium. In Berkeley, Jara's life is celebrated in the powerful mural that adorns the La Pena Cultural Center. In Chile, Jara's image stands watch beneath an elevated roadway in Valpariaso, where he is joined by the images of other pillars of Chile's progressive past.
Gar Smith
Victor Jarra, ¡Presenté! Victor Jarra, a beloved Chilean guitarist and singer, was arrested and tortured during the CIA-backed coup on September 11, 1973. General Augusto Pinochet's soldiers took care to smash Jara's fingers before murdering him in a Santiago soccer stadium. In Berkeley, Jara's life is celebrated in the powerful mural that adorns the La Pena Cultural Center. In Chile, Jara's image stands watch beneath an elevated roadway in Valpariaso, where he is joined by the images of other pillars of Chile's progressive past.


Santa Cruz Shooter Was Former Berkeley Resident

Wednesday February 27, 2013 - 04:32:00 PM

Jeremy Goulet, who is reported to have shot and killed two Santa Cruz police officers yesterday before being shot himself by pursuing officers, until recently was employed as a barista at Cole Coffee, located on the corner of 63rd and College near the Berkeley-Oakland border. According to media reports he lived in Berkeley on the 2700 block of Benvenue. 

A Cole regular patron who asked that her name not be used told the Planet that she was surprised to hear about the Santa Cruz incident. She remembers the accused killer as a pleasant young man who liked to talk about his background in the U.S. military.

Graffitirazzi – Chile Edition

By Gar Smith
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 05:08:00 PM
<b>Valpariaso Railway: </b>
                                              Around the world, graffiti finds a natural home on the concrete walls alongside railroad tracks. In this case, the rails and the colorful artwork wend their way through the port city of Valparaiso, Chile.
Gar Smith
Valpariaso Railway: Around the world, graffiti finds a natural home on the concrete walls alongside railroad tracks. In this case, the rails and the colorful artwork wend their way through the port city of Valparaiso, Chile.
<b> Victor Jarra, ¡Presenté!</b>
                                              Victor Jarra, a beloved Chilean guitarist and singer, was arrested and tortured during the CIA-backed coup on September 11, 1973. General Augusto Pinochet's soldiers took care to smash Jara's fingers before murdering him in a Santiago soccer stadium. In Berkeley, Jara's life is celebrated in the powerful mural that adorns the La Pena Cultural Center. In Chile, Jara's image stands watch beneath an elevated roadway in Valpariaso, where he is joined by the images of other pillars of Chile's progressive past.
Gar Smith
Victor Jarra, ¡Presenté! Victor Jarra, a beloved Chilean guitarist and singer, was arrested and tortured during the CIA-backed coup on September 11, 1973. General Augusto Pinochet's soldiers took care to smash Jara's fingers before murdering him in a Santiago soccer stadium. In Berkeley, Jara's life is celebrated in the powerful mural that adorns the La Pena Cultural Center. In Chile, Jara's image stands watch beneath an elevated roadway in Valpariaso, where he is joined by the images of other pillars of Chile's progressive past.
                                              <b>Unintended Graffiti:</b>
                                              Sometimes graffiti can be official, inadvertent, and self-inflicted. In Santiago, a street sign pointing the way to 9/11 Street also draws attention to a sign that warns the area is under 24-hour police video surveillance.
Gar Smith
Unintended Graffiti: Sometimes graffiti can be official, inadvertent, and self-inflicted. In Santiago, a street sign pointing the way to 9/11 Street also draws attention to a sign that warns the area is under 24-hour police video surveillance.
<b> Marking Neruda's Neighborhood: </b>
                                              During the Pinochet Coup, soldiers descended on the Santiago home of poet Pablo Neruda. Enraged to discover he was in another city, the troops set fire to his library and threw his poems and papers in the mud. The home (named "La Chascona" in honor of Neruda's lover Matilde Urrutia) has been restored and now draws thousands of visitors a day. On a nearby street, an artist has turned a wall into a tribute to the diplomat, lady's man, and Nobel prize-winning poet.
Gar Smith
Marking Neruda's Neighborhood: During the Pinochet Coup, soldiers descended on the Santiago home of poet Pablo Neruda. Enraged to discover he was in another city, the troops set fire to his library and threw his poems and papers in the mud. The home (named "La Chascona" in honor of Neruda's lover Matilde Urrutia) has been restored and now draws thousands of visitors a day. On a nearby street, an artist has turned a wall into a tribute to the diplomat, lady's man, and Nobel prize-winning poet.
<b>La Dictadura. ¡No Mas! </b>
                              Chileans still speak cautiously when the topic is politics. The constitution imposed by Pinochet is still largely in force. Monuments built by Pinochet still dominate the capitol city but the spirit of rebellion continues to flower. One of the stops along Santiago's underground is the Salvador station. One rebellious tagger could not resist the opportunity to salute Chile's martyred president.
Gar Smith
La Dictadura. ¡No Mas! Chileans still speak cautiously when the topic is politics. The constitution imposed by Pinochet is still largely in force. Monuments built by Pinochet still dominate the capitol city but the spirit of rebellion continues to flower. One of the stops along Santiago's underground is the Salvador station. One rebellious tagger could not resist the opportunity to salute Chile's martyred president.

Bay Area Sunday News Roundup

By Bay City News
Sunday February 24, 2013 - 05:03:00 PM

Legendary rapper MC Hammer was arrested during a stop at an East Bay Area mall earlier this week for allegedly resisting an officer, a police sergeant said Saturday. 

Stanley Kirk Burrell - known to most as MC Hammer - was arrested Thursday night at the Hacienda Crossings Shopping Center next to interstate Highway 580 in Dublin, Dublin Police Services Sgt. Herb Walters said in an email. 

Walters said Burrell was arrested in the shopping center parking lot around 10:20 p.m. on suspicion of obstructing an officer in the performance of their duties and resisting an officer. 

The Tracy resident was cited and later released. 

It's unclear what prompted the arrest, but the rapper best known for 1990s mega-hits "U Can't Touch This" and "2 Legit to Quit," took to Twitter today to relay his side of the story. 

According to Burrell, a police officer approached and arrested him without cause. 

In one Tweet, he said the officer "was tapping on my car window, I rolled down the window and he said, 'Are you on parole or probation?'" 

"It was comical to me until he pulled out his guns, blew his whistle and yelled for help...but make no mistake, he's dangerous," he tweeted. 

When asked to comment on the rapper's version of the arrest, Walters wrote in an email, "We patrol the area of Hacienda Crossings Shopping Center, especially at nighttime hours. That is about all I can say for now." 


Passengers walked away with only minor injuries after shots were fired at an AC Transit bus in East Oakland early Saturday morning, a spokesman for the transit service said. 

Around 12:20 a.m., AC Transit officials received reports that someone had opened fire on a bus near the intersection of 55th Avenue and International Boulevard, spokesman Clarence Johnson said. 

Someone fired five shots at the bus, shattering its back window. 

None of the nine passengers inside the bus were hit by the gunfire. 

Four passengers reported minor injuries after falling as the bus driver sped up to get away from the shooter.  

Johnson said those passengers were taken to hospitals, while the remaining passengers were transferred to another AC Transit bus. 

It is unclear why the bus was targeted in the shooting, and no arrests have been made. 

Police did not have any further information on the incident this morning. 


One person was injured in a shooting near a McDonald's restaurant in Bay Point late Saturday morning, a sheriff's lieutenant said. 

Deputies were called to the scene of the shooting near the intersection of Mims Avenue and Canal Road around 11:50 a.m., Contra Costa County Sheriff's Lt. David Hartman said. 

The victim, an unidentified male, had been shot in the leg. 

He was taken to a hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening. 

An investigation into the shooting is underway, and the sheriff's office did not have any leads on suspects as of this afternoon, Hartman said. 


Santa Cruz police are searching for a gang member suspected of involvement in a home invasion robbery that ended in a struggle Wednesday morning with the terrified residents. 

Esteban Lopez, 22, is believed to have fled the scene of the robbery on the 500 block of Poplar Ave. Wednesday around 4:20 a.m., and has not yet been located, police said Friday.  

The victims in the home invasion robbery were awakened early Wednesday by two males with their faces covered who demanded cash, Santa Cruz police Deputy Chief Steve Clark said. 

One of the suspects held a screwdriver, the other a decorative sword taken from inside the home, Clark said. 

Both suspects demanded cash and tried and failed to bind the couple with duct tape they found in the home that was old and brittle, Clark said. 

They then resorted to tying the couple with an electrical cord, Clark said. 

After the two intruders learned there were children in the home, they allegedly threatened to harm them, police said. 

At that point, the adult residents freed themselves and fought with the suspects for some time before one of the children called 911 at about 4:25 a.m., police said. 

The residents were able to hold down one suspect in their front yard until officers arrived, but the other escaped with some valuables, Clark said. 

Cuactemoc Xilonzochilt-Zamora, 28, of Santa Cruz, was arrested on suspicion of robbery, burglary, false imprisonment, possession of methamphetamine and assault with a deadly weapon and booked him into the Santa Cruz County Jail. 

Lopez, believed to be the second suspect, is a confirmed "Beach Flats" Sureno gang member with an extensive history of law enforcement contact, police said. He has not been seen at his home, work or other haunts since the robbery.  

Lopez is described as a Hispanic male, around 5 feet 7 inches tall and 130 pounds.  

Anyone with information on his whereabouts should immediately call 911.  


A Santa Rosa man was arrested Friday after he allegedly robbed a man trying to buy a phone from him, according to police. 

The victim, a 21-year-old Petaluma man, had arranged to meet 19-year-old Ricardo Abrica Zuniga in Santa Rosa on Range Avenue near Jennings Avenue Thursday evening to buy a phone from him, according to Sgt. David Linscomb. 

When they met, however, Abrica allegedly pulled out a gun and ordered the victim to drive him to an ATM machine. 

The victim drove Zuniga to an ATM at the Wells Fargo Bank on B Street in downtown Santa Rosa and withdrew cash, before escaping on foot, Linscomb said. 

Abrica allegedly escaped with the victim's ATM card and wallet, and later allegedly made purchases with the ATM card, Linscomb said.  

Police located Abrica the next day at his apartment on Range Avenue. Evidence related to Thursday's robbery was located inside, and Abrica was arrested on suspicion of robbery, kidnapping with intent to to commit robbery and burglary, as well as a felony probation violation warrant connected to a prior burglary case.  


San Jose city officials on Saturday celebrated the grand opening of the new Bascom Branch Library. 

The 20,000 square foot library at 1000 S. Bascom Ave., which includes a community living room, tech center, group and quiet study rooms and a teen room, is the 17th bond-funded branch library project to be completed in San Jose, according to library officials. 

"Thanks to our residents' support, San Jose has been able to build new branch libraries throughout the city," said Mayor Chuck Reed. "I am delighted that the new Bascom Library will be providing an important community gathering place for residents of all ages. 

The library also features a family learning center, for families and individuals looking to improve their literacy and life skills, and public art offering a visual timeline of Bascom's culture and history, officials said.  

A $212 million bond passed in 2000 provided funds for the construction of six new and fourteen expanded branch libraries, all but two of which have been completed.  


Gilroy police are cracking down on drug sales and alcohol related violations at a city park located directly across from a middle school.  

Officers observed numerous violations Friday afternoon in an enforcement effort at Miller Park, including the violation of a restraining order and alcohol violations, police said today.  

Detectives also witnessed a narcotics transaction, in which drugs were being sold from a vehicle to park patrons, including a convicted felon. 

Police arrested and cited several people, including Gilroy resident Richard St. Cloud, who was arrested on suspicion of marijuana sales.  

Police plan further enforcement efforts at the park.  


Scotts Valley police arrested a man on suspicion of drunk driving and hit and run Friday night after he was allegedly seen hitting two parked cars and driving the wrong way down a street.  

Callers reported seeing a black Chevy Avalanche hit two parked cars and driving the wrong way shortly before 7 p.m. on Friday in the area of La Cuesta Drive and Mt. Hermon Road, Sgt. David Bell said today. 

Officers located the vehicle, which was missing a front tire, a half mile away on the 4200 block of Ls Madrona Drive, Bell said. The driver, Wendell John Samson, was found walking along the side of the road. 

Samson, 69, showed signs of intoxication and failed field sobriety tests, Bell said. He was taken into custody after witnesses identified him and his missing tire was located at the scene.  

Samson also allegedly damaged landscaping and a city traffic sign.  


A man was injured in a shooting in East Oakland early Saturday morning, a police officer said. 

The shooting was reported around 1 a.m. near the intersection of 60th Avenue and International Boulevard, Officer J. Moore said. 

The man hit by the gunfire was taken to a hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. He was last listed in stable condition. 

No suspect information was available in connection with the shooting. 


Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with northwest winds up to 10 mph. 

Mostly clear skies are expected this evening. Lows are likely to be in the mid 40s, with southwest winds up to 10 mph. 

Partly cloudy skies are likely Monday. Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s, with northwest winds around 5 mph.

Press Release: Save the Berkeley Post Office--USPS Hearing Tues Feb 26th @ 7 PM-

From Margot Smith and David Welsh
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 04:54:00 PM

The United States Postal Service will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, February 26th at 7:00 p.m at the Berkeley City Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Berkeley. There will be a rally starting at 6 PM. We must be there to be sure the USPS hears our views on their proposal to relocate and ultimately sell Berkeley's beautiful historic Main Post Office. We urge you to come to this important hearing on Tuesday at the City Council Chambers at Old City Hall, Berkeley. 

CONTACT David Welsh 510-847-8657 (c) sub@sonic.net 

Margot Smith 1300 A Shattuck Ave Berkeley, CA, 94709 510-486-8010

Press Release: Berkeley School Board Encourages Community Participation in Search for Next Superintendent

From Mark Coplan, BUSD Information Officer
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 03:48:00 PM

The Berkeley School Board has begun its search for the next Superintendent of Schools, with the guidance of professionals from Ray & Associates, a highly experienced school executive search firm.  

Ray & Associates is using the Leadership Profile developed with substantial community input in 2012. As reflected in the profile criteria, the professionals from Ray & Associates will be searching for an instructional leader and strong communicator who is committed to the beliefs and values of the Berkeley public school community. 

It is the intent of the members of the Board to lead a transparent process, offering widely distributed updates along with the opportunities for additional community input.  

The Superintendent Search webpage will be updated regularly and members of the community are encouraged to subscribe to the district’s biweekly email newsletter, the A+ News.  

The community survey is online in both English and Spanish, and remains open until March 5. Community forums are scheduled for February 28, March 1 and 2, with English/Spanish interpretation at all meetings. 

Community Forums 

  • Thursday February 28th at Malcolm X School - 1731 Prince Street, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Friday March 1st at King Middle School - 1781 Rose Street, 7-8:30 p.m. (In Spanish)
  • Saturday March 2nd BUSD Administration Building, 2020 Bonar Street Room 126, 9:30 – 11 a.m.
If you are unable to attend a Community Forum you are encouraged to complete the on-line survey linked above. 


The Editor's Back Fence

New Issue, Old News Still Available

By Becky O'Malley
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 04:34:00 PM

The editor is back in town, but still catching up. Here's a new issue, but it's minus a new editorial, which might be coming soon. Keep checking this space, and also use the Previous Issue button at the top of the front page to see everything new which was posted in our two-week-long last issue.

Public Comment

Attend Rally to Save Post Office on Tuesday Night at 6

By Harry Brill
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 04:28:00 PM

This may be your last chance to save the main architecturally magnificent and service oriented Berkeley Post office and to oppose the privatization of the system. This Tuesday there will be an official public meeting of the United States Postal Service (USPS) to determine the fate of the post office. During the New Deal era of the Great Depression over 1100 post offices were built. Now the postal system and its employees are facing a raw deal.  

Post offices around the nation are being closed to cater to the insatiable needs of United Parcel Service and Federal Express. 

It is immensely important that you join us this Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 at City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. We must do everything we can to stop the dismantling of the New Deal and the massive reduction in jobs. About 20 percent of postal workers are African Americans. Across the country over 2700 post offices are at risk of being sold or at least closed and hundreds of thousands of job could be lost. These losses will certainly trigger substantial layoffs in the private sector as well. 

Please, please, please attend this Tuesday our rally at City Hall at 6pm and the public hearings at 7pm. But if you cannot attend both, please join us in one of these events. Numbers matter. A low turnout this Tuesday would send the wrong message to USPS. 

We are a community!

The Future of the Downtown Berkeley Post Office

By Stephen Statler
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 04:23:00 PM

The USPS plans to sell off the downtown Berkeley facility and have a smaller scale storefront Post Office nearby. I suggest instead that the scope of USPS occupied space in the existing facility be reduced and other Federal agencies move in. 

The first other Federal tenant which comes to mind is the Berkeley Social Security Administration office, presently across the street (2045 Allston Way) and maybe 100 feet closer to Shattuck Ave than the Post Office on the ground floor of a parking garage.  

If that is not enough there is a Marine Corps office with regional responsibilities for recruiting Marine Corps Officers located at 64 Shattuck Ave, also quite nearby. 

The lobby of the current downtown Berkeley Post Office could easily serve as a waiting room for Social Security claimants. The SSA office in SF Chinatown is/was in an old branch bank with similar counters, etc and it looks great.

More Problems with the Proposed 2024 Durant/2025 Channing Project

By Stephen Stine
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 03:57:00 PM

The Stuart Pratt seniors and Channing/Durant neighbors have brought up one more point about the 2024 Durant/2025 Channing project. Due to the fact that the project uniquely spans two lots and is thus much larger than most projects, and is much larger than is suitable for this quiet residential neighborhood, there will be double the construction noise and construction impact on the neighbors, with simultaneous construction activity on two lots. Given that the neighborhood has been downzoned to three-stories maximum, construction of six or eight stories will be double or triple the amount of construction noise and activity than is appropriate for 2024 Durant--the construction impacts alone are totally inappropriate for the neighborhood in terms of noise and traffic and other safety threats and quality of life disruptions.  

The traffic and construction activity impacts of the construction at 2024 Durant will be endanger the seniors who walk around the neighborhood up to Shattuck--the flow of construction workers and supplies in and out of 2024 Durant during construction will interfere with the seniors' travels around the neighborhood; this might be reasonable if a quicker-to-build three story building were being built, but it is totally inappropriate with the amount of activity and time required to build a six or eight story building. Likewise, construction of a six or eight story building at 2024 Durant and a simultaneously construction of a four story building at 2025 Channing will not only unduly impact the safety of the seniors in the neighborhood, but will unduly endanger the bicyclists traveling on the Channing bicycle avenue.  

All of construction traffic and activity will thus endanger two vulnerable populations, the seniors who tend to walk more slowly and many of whom have vision impairments, and bicyclists, who take advantage of using the Channing bicycle avenue to commute in an environmentally friendly way, and who are vulnerable to getting hit by cars and construction-related vehicle activity and traffic. This is totally inappropriate for this neighborhood--such a large project spanning two lots does not belong in this quiet residential neighborhood, the construction impacts will pose too much disruption and danger to the residents and bicyclists--such large projects spanning multiple lots belong only in the Core and Corridor of Downtown. This is just one more aspect of how the 2024 Durant/2025 Channing project is much too large of a project and is totally inappropriate for the quiet R-4/R-3 protected residential neighborhood.

Berkeley Says No to Clean Air

By Carol Denney
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 03:42:00 PM

" Weak.” “Embarrassing.” “A joke.”

Not my words. I got on the phone after looking at competing proposals from the Health Department and the Rent Stabilization Board regarding smoking regulations in multi-unit housing, and asked some of the public health advocates I know for their opinions. It wasn’t pretty.

With Richmond’s 100% smokefree law as the gold standard and Berkeley D-rated status quo as one of the worst, the new proposal manages to look even more egregious than leaving things as they are, which is hard to do. 

Just an example: the proposal does not recommend insisting that all new lease agreements be smokefree on the grounds that that would only protect a few people, rather than everyone. 

Did you notice how that made no sense? Protecting all tenants in new housing may not protect those who don’t live there, but it protects the tenants who do live there! And it eliminates the thorny issue the proposal creates in other ways by allowing some people in existing multi-unit housing to smoke indoors while requiring others to refrain, creating sheer policy nonsense, an enforcement nightmare, and completely subverting the health policy goal of having clean, breathable air for everyone. 

Air circulates within a building with shared walls. All you need is one smoker per building to create 100% toxic air for everyone, since there is no safe dose of secondhand smoke. Berkeley’s current proposal doesn’t call it “grandfathering”, but that’s what it is, and it makes the policy goal, clean air, a smoldering pile of ruins. 

I know what you’re asking. Why would Berkeley, of all places, insist on allowing smokers in multi-unit housing to continue to smoke indoors? 

Because of rent control, they answer. Most people drop their groceries right there at the door and run after hearing this, assuming that things are about to get boring, or legal, or both. But I’d seen this move before, years ago, when several commissions recommending a 100% smokefree proposal to the council were sandbagged by that same phrase from the Rent Board. I really wanted the detail this time, because, after all, somebody must understand what it means, and I wanted to know. 

So I stayed and listened to the very few middle-of-the-day meetings the subcommittee had where the most experienced advocates often were required to sit on the sidelines watching Rent Stabilization Board subcommittee members talk about anything but health policy with an ignorance so vast it was perilous to describe and difficult to address. Nobody laughed in their faces, but the temptation was great. 

Almost all of them seemed to think that a successful outcome of a smoking regulation would require everyone to quit smoking. 

Did you notice how that made no sense? The laws against smoking in workplaces, restaurants, and bars didn’t require anyone to quit. It did in fact help some people quit just by the insertion of the minor inconvenience of strolling outside, but nobody had to quit to make the law the ringing success it continues to be for public health. 

Nonsmoking workers in a smoke-filled workplace continue to have their health sacrificed to the tobacco industry’s profits in many states and many workplaces in California such as theaters and casinos, and nonsmoking apartment or condominium dwellers are in the same boat. Their kids die of SIDS, live with asthma, heart disease, and more than 36,000 die every year in California from secondhand smoke. 

It was Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s and Councilmember Max Anderson’s great idea about a year ago to require that the Rent Stabilization Board and the Commission on Community Health get a joint commission together to work out a proposal on smoking in housing with shared walls, the idea being that finally the Rent Board commissioners would encounter, and perhaps be moved by, public health concerns. 

But it didn’t work that way. The Rent Board’s deepest concern is not for the mother whose toddlers are breathing secondhand smoke night and day because of neighbors who smoke, but the possibility of the smoking neighbor getting evicted from his or her home if a smoking regulation is passed and the neighbor refuses refuse to comply. They know that no rash of evictions of smokers has ever taken place in any state or town nationwide, but because they’re afraid it might start here in Berkeley, they’re willing to sacrifice 100% of the public health goal to make sure smokers can go on poisoning their neighbors. 

The smoking apartment dwellers are low-income, the argument goes, and can’t afford to move. But so are the nonsmoking tenants, we pointed out as best we could to the subcommittee. I live next to two chain-smokers of both pot and tobacco. The woman upstairs from their apartment just died of heart failure. The woman across the hall died of cancer a couple of years ago. Another woman died of breast cancer upstairs on the other side of their apartment only a few years before that, and I was just diagnosed with breast cancer. On the other side of their apartment is a family with two toddlers. 

If Berkeley passes what is currently being proposed, tenants in buildings with smokers will get no relief, even though the few who still smoke in Alameda County already tend to step outside to do so. 

What makes this proposal worse than doing nothing at all is that once this proposal passes, the interest in the subject will fade. On average, it takes seventeen years to undo a bad law. Seventeen years is another generation subjected to involuntary death and disease. 

The most convincing argument the Rent Board makes on behalf of their weak proposal is that Berkeley’s Rent control law does not allow changes to a lease. But all tenants have the right to the “peaceful enjoyment” of their units, a right which the City of Berkeley admits is abrogated by a barking dog, which the city designates a nuisance. Secondhand smoke, under this proposal, is considered legally less harmful than a barking dog. 

No one who created a lease allowing one tenant to shoot an automatic weapon through the shared wall would have that lease upheld by a court of law. Yet that’s essentially what smokers do when they light up indoors. You may or may not hit the neighbor next door with the bullets of your automatic weapon or kill them with your secondhand smoke, but the risk is equally serious. It’s just the Rent Board and the police will react in the first case, and blow you off in the second. 

If the City of Berkeley and the Rent Board had any courage, it would make this argument about secondhand smoke pointing to decades of corroborating research and make sure the citizens of Berkeley are protected from the single most preventable cause of death and disease we know. 

Richmond did it; 100% smokefree with no grandfathering. San Raphael did it. Berkeley can only hide behind “rent control” so long as an excuse for inaction. In the meantime, many of us organize our lives around debilitating surgery and treatments. 

When the proposal comes up in April, we can only cross our fingers and hope for the sake of our health that the Berkeley City Council shows more common sense and courage than the Rent Board.


New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Horsemeat & Horsepucky

By Conn Hallinan
Sunday February 24, 2013 - 04:45:00 PM

As the Great Horsemeat Crisis continues to spread—“gallops” is the verb favored by the European press—across the continent, and countries pile on to blame Romania (France, Holland, Cyprus, etc.), what is becoming increasingly clear is that old-fashioned corporate greed, aided and abetted by politicians eager to gut “costly” regulations and industrial inspection regimes is behind the scandal. 

In a sense it is fitting that the whole imbroglio began in Ireland, where inspectors in Ulster first indentified that hamburgers should have more properly been labeled “horsewiches.” The Emerald Isle has more horses than any country in Europe, and, according to the Financial Times, in 2007 Ireland produced 12,633 thoroughbred foals and has some 110,000 “sport” horses. 

The year 2007 was just before the Irish real estate bubble imploded, bankrupting the nation and impoverishing millions. And the year the “Celtic Tiger” died was very bad news for horses. Thousands of the creatures were simply turned loose by their financially strapped owners, and the number of horses sent to slaughterhouses jumped from 2,000 in 2008 to 25,000 in 2012. 

The Irish-horse connection goes back to when Celtic speaking people first burst out of Central Europe during the second century B.C. Celtic cavalry and chariots—the Celts introduced the latter to Europe—were pretty formidable, as the Romans discovered on a number of occasions. 

Horses have always been a high status item in Ireland, and during the colonial period the English figured out a devilishly clever way to take advantage of that. According to the Irish Penal Laws of 1692, no Catholic—the vast majority of native Irish were Roman Catholics—could own a horse worth more than five pounds. So the English would go into the countryside, select a thoroughbred, and force the breeder to sell them his horse for a pittance. Sometimes the “buyers” would then turn right around and re-sell the animal to its former owner for hundreds of pounds. 

When the Irish first discovered horsemeat in the food chain, they claimed innocence and blamed the Poles. It turns out, however, that a small slaughterhouse in Tipperary was shipping horsemeat labeled as beef to the Czech Republic. The British blamed the Romanians, and Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper, The Sun, took the opportunity to indulge in his favorite sport: ethnic bashing. A “grim Romanian slaughterhouse built with EU (European Union) cash” was the culprit, blared the largest (and sleaziest) tabloid in England. 

The Romanians did indeed use EU cash to build a plant, but the slaughterhouse produced records showing that they had correctly identified the meat as horse. Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta complained that Romania was routinely made the EU’s scapegoat. 

Then the Swedes got into the act and blamed France, and it does appear it was the French company Spanghero that slipped “old Dobbin” into the food chain. Spanghero denied the charge and, in its defense, trotted out yet another animal: a weeping crocodile. “My first thought is for the employees,” said a choked up Laurent Spanghero at a press conference. “My second thought goes to our kids and grandkids that carry our name. We have always taught them the values of courage and loyalty and today we have been plunged into dishonor.” 

Except, according to French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon, Spanghero could hardly have failed to notice that the meat it was importing from Romania was much cheaper than what the company normally paid for beef. A kilo of horsemeat costs .66 cents, a kilo of beef, $3.95. According to Hamon, Spanghero made $733,800 substituting horsemeat for beef. 

Then things got really murky. 

The Netherlands said the Cyprus-based meat vendor Draap that sold the meat to Spanghold was responsible, and the company’s track record would suggest the Dutch had a point. In 2012 Draap was convicted of selling South American horsemeat labeled at German and Dutch beef. 

But it turns out Draap—based in Cyprus but run by a trust in the British Virgin Islands—is owned by the company Guardstand, that in turn owns part of the arms dealing company, Ilex Ventures. According to prosecutors in New York, convicted international arms dealer Viktor Bout owns Ilex Ventures. Guardstand’s sole shareholder, reports Jamie Doward of The Observer, is Trident Trust, which sets up companies in tax-free nations. Guardstand helped set up Ilex. 

Sorting this out will be nigh on impossible, because tax havens like Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands are not about to give up their secrets, and the powerful corporations that shelter their ill-gotten gains there know how to keep inspectors at bay. 

Hypocrisy has been in abundance during the Great Horsemeat Crisis. 

Owen Paterson, the British environmental secretary who oversees food safety and a member of the Conservative Party, thundered in Parliament about an “international conspiracy.” However, the current Conservative-Liberal government has instituted cutbacks on inspections by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and turned enforcement over to some 330 local authorities. 

“It is a shame that testing by the FSA has been reduced,” Dr. Chris Smart told the Guardian. “I am sure there will be other crises that come along in the next few years.” And given that UK food prices have risen nearly 26 percent that will surely be the case. Inspectors have already uncovered adulterated olive oil and paprika made from roof tiles. 

At the heart of this are the continent-wide austerity programs that have driven up the ranks of the poor, requiring low-income families to rely on cheap meat or go without. “Why was horsemeat present in beef burgers?” asks Elizabeth Dowler, a professor of food and social policy at Warwick University, “Because the price has to be kept as low as possible.” Horsemeat is one-fifth the price of beef, so the temptation is to either adulterate beef with horse, or sell it as cheap beef. “This has the most impact on those with low income and large numbers of children,” says Dowler. “People in this situation have no money to buy better quality burgers, or to go to a butcher and make their own mincemeat. Instead they depend on special 3-for-2 offers. The problem is linked to poverty.” 

Horsemeat for some, beer and skittles for the likes of Spanghero. 

But the real culprits in this crisis are the banks in Britain, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain that ignited the economic crisis by artificially pumping up real estate bubbles. Up there in the docket with the bankers should be the politicians who shoved through development schemes, waved environmental regulations, and turned a blind eye to speculation. And when everything crashed, the taxpayers—the vast majority of whom never got in on the boom years—got stuck with the bill. 

Poor Ireland. The EU enforced austerity scheme has raised the unemployment level to above 15 percent—30 percent for young people—and saddled homeowners with onerous tax and fee hikes. Wages have been cut, health care fees raised more, and welfare butchered. In spite of these “reforms,” the economy grew an anemic 0.9 percent in 2012, and is scheduled to rise to 1.5 percent in 2013, down from the 2.2 the government originally predicted. 

And the Irish economy is actually much worse than the figures indicate, because much of the wealth Ireland currently creates goes into the coffers of huge multinationals attracted to the island’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, the lowest in Europe. As the Economist points out, “The Irish people have fared much worse than the Irish economy.” 

And the pain for the average Irish working person is due to get worse. The 2013 budget will cut spending $4.6 billion, increase taxes, and add yet more austerity in 2014 and 2015. All of this woe has drawn widespread praise from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, which suggests that if a bank praises you, it is time to reach for a barricade. 

This is not just a European problem, because the trend toward cutting back on regulations and inspections is worldwide. For instance, under pressure from the agricultural lobby, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has backed off trying to reduce the amount of antibiotics used on livestock. According to a recent report by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, 80 percent of all the antibiotics manufactured in the U.S. are used on animals. The result is that antibiotic-resistant salmonella is spreading rapidly in chicken and turkey populations, and turning up in hospitals, clinics and gymnasiums. 

Horsemeat is going to be the least of our problems. 

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


AGAINST FORGETTING: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (Or Have You?) The Women’s Movement, the Next Half-Century

By Ruth Rosen,
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 04:56:00 PM

[This article was originally published on TomDispatch.com]

In 1968, the Phillip Morris Company launched a memorable campaign to sell Virginia Slims, a new brand of cigarettes targeting women, itself a new phenomenon. It had a brand-new slogan: “You’ve come a long way, baby.” The company plastered it on billboards nationwide and put it in TV ads that featured women of the early twentieth century being punished for smoking. In all their advertising, smoking was equated with a set of traits meant to capture the essence of women in a new era of equality -- independence, slimness, glamour, and liberation. 

As it happened, the only equality this campaign ended up supporting involved lung cancer. Today, women and men die at similar rates from that disease. 

Still, women have come a long way since the mid-twentieth century, and it’s worth considering just how far -- and just how far we have to go. 

Once Upon a Time 

These days it may be hard for some to believe, but before the women’s movement burst on the scene in the late 1960s, newspapers published ads for jobs on different pages, segregated by gender. Employers legally paid women less than men for the same work. Some bars refused to serve women and all banks denied married women credit or loans, a practice which didn’t change until 1974. Some states even excluded women from jury duty. 

Radio producers considered women’s voices too abrasive to be on the air and television executives believed that women didn’t have sufficient credibility to anchor the news. Few women ran big corporations or universities, or worked as firefighters and police officers. None sat on the Supreme Court, installed electrical equipment, climbed telephone poles, or owned construction companies. All hurricanes had female names, due to the widely held view that women brought chaos and destruction to society.  

As late as 1970, Dr. Edgar Berman, a consultant to presidents and to Medicare, proclaimed on television that women were too tortured by hormonal disturbances to assume the presidency. Few people ran into women professors, doctors, or lawyers. Everyone addressed a woman as either Miss or Mrs, depending on her marital status, and if a woman needed an abortion, legal nowhere in America, she risked her life searching among quacks in back alleys for a competent and compassionate doctor. 

The public generally believed that rape victims had probably “asked for it,” most women felt too ashamed to report rape, and no language existed to make sense of what we now call domestic violence, sexual harassment, marital rape, or date rape. One simple phrase seemed to sum up the hidden injuries women suffered in silence: “That’s life.” 

On August 27, 1970, in response to such injustice, 50,000 women marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue, announcing the birth of a new movement. They demanded three rights: legal abortion, universal childcare, and equal pay. These were preconditions for women’s equality with men at home and in the workplace. Astonishingly, they didn’t include the ending of violence against women among their demands -- though the experience and fear of male violence was widespread -- because women still suffered these crimes in silence. 

Those three demands, and the fourth one that couldn’t yet be articulated, have yet to be met. 

The Hidden Injuries of Sex 

As the women’s movement grew, women activists did, however, begin to “name” their grievances. Once named, they could be identified, debated, and -- with a growing feminist political voice -- turned into policy or used to change the law.  

It turned out that there were plenty of hidden injuries, which women activists discovered and publicized through consciousness-raising groups, pamphlets, and books. Rape, once a subject of great shame, became redefined as a physical assault that had little to do with lust. Date rape, for which there was plenty of experience but no name, opened up a national conversation about what constituted consensual sex. Few people had ever heard the words “marital rape.” (“If you can’t rape your wife,” California Senator Bob Wilson allegedly said, “then who can you rape?”) In this way, a new conversation began about the right of wives to have consensual sex and the nature of power relations within marriage. 

From the very beginning, the mainstream media and the public labeled women activists as “lesbians.” Why else would they complain about male behavior? Provoked by constant efforts to “tarnish” all feminists as lesbians, activists chose to embrace the label, rather than exclude lesbians from the movement. In the process, they also began to write about and then discuss compulsory heterosexuality. Together with a burgeoning men’s gay movement, feminist lesbians and gay men formed the Gay Liberation Front in the 1969. Soon, lesbian feminists created an all-women’s group called the Lavender Menace.  

The birth control pill and the sexual liberation movement of the mid-1960s gave women new freedoms. Grasping the limitations of such changes without abortion being legalized, feminists soon joined the medical abortion rights campaign of that era. Determined to repeal laws against abortion, in New York they testified before the state legislature and passed out copies of a “model abortion bill”: a blank piece of paper. Through “public speak-outs,” they openly discussed their own illegal abortions and explained why they had made such choices. In Chicago and San Francisco, activists createdclandestine organizations to help women seek qualified doctors. Some feminists even learned how to perform abortions for those who could not find a competent doctor.  

Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its famousRoe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion and ignited the abortion wars that still rage today. You could even say that this is where the culture wars of the coming decades really began, and you wouldn’t be wrong. 

What had feminists started? In essence, they had begun to redefine one “custom” after another as crimes. For instance, one of the greatest hidden injuries suffered by women in those years was the predatory sexually behavior of male bosses. In 1975, a group of women at Cornell University coined the term sexual harassment. Previously, some women had called it “sexual blackmail,” but when legal scholar Catherine Mackinnon used the new phrase in the title of her 1979 book, Sexual Harassment of Working Women, both feminists and judges began using it in litigation against predatory bosses. After Anita Hill’saccusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, the phrase became a household term. In that same year, Congress added amendments to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, accepting the feminist argument that sexual harassment violated a woman’s right to earn a living and work in a non-hostile atmosphere. 

If the naming of sexual harassment changed the workplace, the reframing of wife-beating as domestic violence turned a custom into a felonious crime. At the same time, feminists spread a network of battered women’s shelters across the nation, offering havens from marital violence and possible death. 

A Half-Century to Go 

If the women’s movement often surprised and sometimes blindsided men, it also radically expanded America’s democratic promise of equality. Women are now everywhere. No one is shocked in 2013 when a woman enters an operating room or a lecture hall. More than half the undergraduates at most universities are women. 

Now, if your boss drives you crazy with sexual advances, you can report him for sexual harassment and sue him in court. If your husband beats you, he can be charged with a felony and, in most urban areas, you can escape to a battered women’s shelter. Women like Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, and Ruchi Sanghvi, head of operations at Dropbox, are some of the most powerful players in thenew technology universe. Three women have served as secretary of state and one as national security advisor. Three women sit on the Supreme Court. Hillary Clinton almost became the first woman president and may still achieve that goal. Major magazines and newspapers have women executive editors and managing editors -- even theNew York Times, which waited until 1986 before reluctantly putting "Ms" in front of women’s names on its pages. Hurricanes now bear male and female names. Women in the U.S. military fight alongside men. They work as firefighters and police detectives, and when a female plumber shows up to fix an overflowing toilet, most people don’t panic. 

Because so much has changed, many people, including young women, believe that the longest revolution is over, that we should stop complaining, be proud of our successes, and go home. Consider for a moment, though, the three demands made in 1970, and the fourth one that couldn’t even be articulated.  

As anyone who’s been awake for the last decade knows, despite Roe v. Wade, women can’t access abortion providers in many parts of the country. States have passed laws requiring pregnant women to watch ultrasound “pictures” of their “babies,” and forced them to endure 24- or 48-hour waiting periods so that they can “rethink” their abortion decisions. In May 2012, Utah established the longest waiting period in the nation: 72 hours. In that year, in fact, anti-abortion legislatures managed to pass 43 new laws that, in one way or another, restricted abortion.  

In big cities, finding an abortion provider is often not difficult -- unless of course you are poor (because the government won’t pay for abortions). Women in rural areas have, however, been hit particularly hard. They have to travel long distances, pay to stay in hotels while they “rethink,” and then, and only then, can they make the choice that was promised in 1973. So yes, women still have the right to legal abortion, but less and less access to abortion providers. 

And what about child care? In 1971, Congress passed the Comprehensive Childcare Act (CCA), providing national day care to women who needed it. (Such a law wouldn’t have a chance today.) President Richard Nixon vetoed it that December. Using Cold War rhetoric, he argued that the legislation would harm the family and turn American women into their Soviet counterparts -- that is, working drudges. His veto was also payback to his religious supporters in the South who opposed women working outside the home, and so using child care. It set childcare legislation back until, well, this very moment. 

Ask any young working mother about the nightmare of finding day care for her infant or a space in a preschool for her child. Childcare, as feminists recognized, was a major precondition for women entering the labor force on an equal footing with men. Instead of comprehensive childcare, however, this country chose the more acceptable American way of dealing with problems, namely, that everyone find an individual solution. If you’re wealthy, you pay for a live-in nanny. If you’re middle class, you hire someone to arrive every day, ready to take care of your young children. Or you luck out and find a place in a good preschool -- or a not-so-good one. 

If you’re poor, you rely on a series of exhausted and generous grandparents, unemployed husbands, over-worked sisters, and goodhearted neighbors. Unlike every nation in Europe, we have no guaranteed preschool or after-school childcare, despite our endless political platitudes about how much we cherish our children. And sadly, childcare has remained off the national political agenda since 1971. It was never even mentioned during the 2012 presidential debates. 

And let’s not forget women’s wages. In 1970, women earned, on average, 59% of men’s wages. More than four decades later, the figure is 77%. When a university recently invited me to give a keynote address at a conference, they asked what fee I expected. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. The best advice I got -- from my husband -- was: “Just tell them to give you 77% of whatever they’re paying the male keynote speaker.” That response resulted in a generous honorarium. 

But what about all the women -- widowed, divorced, or single -- who can’t draw on a second income from a man? How can we claim we’ve reached the 1970 equal pay demand when 70% of the nation’s poor are women and children? This isn’t about glass ceilings. What concerns me are all the women glued to the sticky floor of dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and no health insurance, women who, at the end of each month, have to decide whether to pay the electricity bill or feed their children. 

As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it -- not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.  

Nor did we see how any laws could end it. As Rebecca Solnit wrote in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world. There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject. In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared that violence against girls and women violated their human rights. After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” -- wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation -- what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women. 

Still, little enough has changed. Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight. That’s why activists created “take back the night” protests in the late 1970s. They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.  

The daytime brutal rape and killing of a 23-year-old in India last December prompted the first international protest around violence against women. Maybe that will raise the consciousness of some men. But it’s hard to feel optimistic when you realize how many rapes are still regularly being committed globally. 

So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but without achieving full access to legal abortion, comprehensive childcare, or equal pay -- those three demands from so many decades ago. Nor have we won the right to enjoy public space without fearing violence, rape, or worse. 

I always knew this was the longest revolution, one that would take a century or more to unfold. It’s upended most of our lives, and significantly improved so many of them. Nothing will ever be the same. Yet there’s still such a long way to go. I doubt I’ll see full gender equality in my lifetime. 

Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, is Professor Emerita of History at the University of California at Davis and a Scholar in Residence at U.C. Berkeley. She is the author, most recently, of The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America.She is on the editorial board of Dissent magazine and is a monthly contributor to OpenDemocracy.net in England. Her op-eds, commentary and articles can be found on the website www.ruthrosen.org. 

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare. 

Copyright 2013 Ruth Rosen

THE PUBLIC EYE: The Keystone Pipeline: Which Side Are You On?

By Bob Burnettt
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 03:46:00 PM

On Sunday, February 17th, 40,000 Americans gathered in Washington, DC, to protest against approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Thousands more demonstrated in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and other US cities. Nonetheless, there is momentum for pipeline construction; a recent Harris Poll found 69 percent of respondents supported it. However, Environmentalists believe pipeline approval would be the tipping point in the fight against global climate change. 

The 1980-mile Keystone XL pipeline would originate in the tar sands region of Hardisty, Alberta, Canada and extend southeast, crossing the border in Montana and wending its way south to a gulf terminal in Nederland, Texas. (The pipeline requires presidential approval because it crosses the Canadian border.) Proponents say Keystone construction would create jobs and promote US energy independence – the additional 830,000 barrels of oil transported each day would dramatically reduce imports from the Middle East and Venezuela. 

Environmentalists have three issues with the pipeline. First, the extraction of crude oil from the tar sands creates horrendous greenhouse emissions. In a New York Times editorial, the government’s chief climate scientist, James Hansen observed that if the US and Canada cooperate to exploit the tar sands, 

…it will be game over for the climate. Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now.

Environmentalists also worry the Keystone XL pipeline would jeopardize fragile terrain in America’s heartland. Further, they contend the true purpose of the pipeline is not to service the energy needs of the United States but instead China, the world’s foremost polluter. 

Speaking on the PBS News Hour Keystone spokesman, Scott Segal, dismissed environmental concerns and quipped, 

it seems to me building a state-of-the-art pipeline, which is the most efficient way… to move oil around is the best approach. To move that oil to the west and send it to China on tankers that are fueled by diesel, it leaves a much greater carbon footprint. In addition, that oil will make it to the United States, whether there's a Keystone pipeline or not.

TransCanada, the primary corporate champion of the pipeline, promises there will be “significant economic benefits to Americans during construction and operations” including “private sector investment of more than $20 billion in the U.S. economy,” creation of “20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs,” generation of “$585 million in new taxes for states and communities along the pipeline routes,” and payment of “more than $5.2 billion in property taxes during the operating life of the pipeline.” Moreover, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline will strengthen US relations with Canada and likely reduce our dependence on non-North American oil. 

But would construction of the Keystone XL pipeline make sense? In their classic, Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken and Amory and Hunter Lovins stated the obvious: “[multinational capitalism] does not fully conform to its own accounting principles… It neglects to assign any value to the largest stocks of capital it employs - the natural resources and living systems.” TransCanada, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, big oil companies, and many Washington politicians are engaged in a superficial cost/benefit analysis that emphasizes the short-term economic costs and benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline, but minimizes the long-term environmental consequences. (Some of the Keystone proponents are global-climate-change deniers.) 

In his State-of-the-Union address, President Obama spoke forcefully about global climate change: 

The 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.
98 percent of climate scientists believe that mankind has caused global climate change, which is worsening. 


The thousands that demonstrated on February 17th believe humanity can no longer afford to ignore the long-term consequences of energy decisions, such as whether or not to construct the Keystone XL pipeline. In President Obama’s words, “We can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.” 

A line has to be drawn somewhere. A line that says we will no longer permit America’s energy decisions to jeopardize future generations. A line that says we have to curtail greenhouse emissions while we still have a chance to save the planet. President Obama should block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

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

SENIOR POWER: “I hear tell…”

By Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 03:51:00 PM

Now is the time to contact your U.S. Senators and Congressional representative to urge them to do all in their considerable power to sustain a HUD budget that will acknowledge the presence of low-income disabled senior citizens in your community. Do not refer to “affordable housing”. Specify “low income” Section 8 subsidized projects for disabled seniors.  


Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions in older adults and one of the most widely undertreated. Getting sound to the brain is the “first and most important step” in preventing sensory deprivation that can contribute to cognitive dysfunction. Judith Graham’s January 23, 2013 New York Times article, “Study links cognitive deficits, hearing loss,” is a must-read.  

A Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers’ study suggests that elderly people with compromised hearing are at risk of developing cognitive deficits — problems with memory and thinking — sooner than those whose hearing is intact. Even seniors who hear sounds relatively well often report that words sound garbled or mumbled, indicating deterioration in hearing mechanisms that process complex speech. 

The extent of hearing problems in older people and their association with the onset of dementia and with falling has been documented. In his latest investigations, “Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults” [JAMA Intern Med. 2013,] Dr. Frank Lin looked at almost two thousand older adults who participated over many years in a long-term study. Participants’ mean age was 77; none had evidence of cognitive impairment when the research period began. In 2001 and 2002, they received hearing tests and cognitive tests; cognitive tests alone were repeated three, five and six years later. Annual rates of cognitive decline were found to be 41% greater in older adults with hearing problems than in those without. Elderly people with hearing problems experienced a five-point decline on the exam in 7.7 years, compared with 10.9 years for those with normal hearing. Given that nearly two-thirds of adults age 70+ have hearing problems, these are important findings.  

One consequence that explains these findings is social isolation. When people have a hard time distinguishing what someone is saying to them, as is common in older age, they often stop accepting invitations, attending concerts or classes, or going to family events. Over time, this social withdrawal can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading to the loss of meaningful relationships and activities that keep older people feeling engaged with others. Bottom line for older adults themselves, caregivers, and geriatricians is Pay attention to hearing loss!! A substantial body of research by cognitive scientists has established that seniors’ cognitive health depends on exercising both body and brain and remaining socially engaged. This study should be a wake-up call to clinicians that auditory tests need to be among the tests they employ to look at an older person’s health. 

Another potential explanation for these new finding lies in a concept known as “cognitive load,” which assumes that we have only a certain amount of cognitive resources, and if we expend a lot of them processing sensory input coming in — in this case, sound — it is going to be processed more slowly and understood and remembered less well. In other words, when your brain has to work hard to hear and identify meaningful speech from a jumble of sounds, you’ll have less mental energy for higher cognitive processing.  

JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, is available in the central Berkeley Public Library (third floor) and online.  


About 8,600 elderly Singaporeans suffered from hearing impairment and sought treatment in 2012. About 1,500 needed a hearing aid and went through a hearing aid evaluation test. About 800 of these seniors began using hearing aids, which cost about $1,000 to $1,500. But Medisave does not cover this because it is primarily meant to support large hospitalization bills. To help low-income elderly, the Centre for Enabled Living (CEL) has a Special Assistance Fund that provides a hearing aids subsidy.  

The incidence of chronic constipation increases with age, but its causes remain unknown and recommendations for treatment vary widely. A review of 16 randomized controlled trials (average age of the people in the trials was 65) has separated those treatments backed by scientific evidence from those that are not. Writing online in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers reviewed studies of dietary fibers, laxatives, enemas and suppositories, stimulants and stool softeners, drinking water, and exercise. They found (1) that lactulose and polyethylene glycol (laxatives sold under various brand names) had statistically significant effects in several trials; (2) evidence for dietary fiber was lacking or inconsistent; (3) little or no evidence that enemas, suppositories, physical activity or increased fluid intake had any beneficial effect on chronic constipation. The best clinical trial evidence is for lactulose and for polyethylene glycol, according to lead author, Dr. Dov Gandell, a geriatrician at the University of Toronto, but other remedies may work and “It depends on the patient.” 

Bloomberg News reports that the elderly and disabled enrolled in Medicare will pay less for drugs next year, and insurers offering plans with extra benefits will see taxpayer subsidies reduced because of record low spending growth. Part D, the standard deductible for Medicare’s drug program, will be $310 in 2014, about 4.6% less than this year, and co-payments also will be reduced. 

Read about the several possible reasons and the one main reason why doctors don’t speak out in cases of faulty products and actions, discussed in Feb. 17, 2013’s New York Times.  

The National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) Programs of Excellence Awards are designed to honor and promote outstanding efforts made by senior centers throughout the nation to offer innovative, creative, and replicable programs for older adults. 2012’s award-winners have been selected from 62 nominations. Twelve award winners and honorable mentions were chosen. Each program is proof of the important work happening at many senior centers. There was one award-winner in California: Rancho and Lakeview Senior Centers, in Irvine. 

Hallmark greeting cards are marketing a new card, for hospice patients. It reads, "Always remember that God holds you in the palm of His hand..." No comment. 














Arts & Events

CORRECTION: Verdi's Il Trovatore at Berkeley's Hillside Club This SUNDAY!! (and Saturday)

Saturday February 23, 2013 - 04:26:00 PM

Verismo Opera will open its latest production, Verdi’s Il Trovatore,, this weekend at Berkeley’s Hillside Club.

Performances are on Saturday, February 23 at 7:30pm and Sunday, February 24 at 6:30pm . 

The Hillside Club is located at 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley, CA 94709. Tickets will be available at the door for $15-$20, or call (707) 864-5508


1) Saturday, February 23, 7:30pm 

Conductor: Jonathan Khuner 

Leonora: Vismaya Lhi
Azucena: Liliane Cromer
Inez: Naomi Silva
Manrico: Frederick Winthrop
Count di Luna: Chris Wells
Ferrando: Mark Nelson
Ruiz: Jim Pintner
Old Gypsy: Paul Trombley
Messenger: Cristin Williams

2) Saturday, SUNDAY ! February 24, 6:30pm 

Conductor: Jonathan Khuner 

Leonora: Eliza O’Malley
Azucena: Sally Mouzon
Inez: Marsha Sims
Manrico: Frederick Winthrop
Count di Luna: Tristan Robben
Ferrando: Eric Coyne
Ruiz: Andrew Ross
Old Gypsy: Dee Hoover
Messenger: Emma Bo

The Gatekeepers: Looking Back on Israel's Failed 'War on Terror'
Now playing at the Albany Twin and Shattuck theaters

By Gar Smith
Saturday February 23, 2013 - 03:44:00 PM
Ami Avalon today, and as IDF officer.
Ami Avalon today, and as IDF officer.

In Dror Moreh's Oscar-nominated documentary, The Gatekeepers, six former heads of Israel's spy agency speak candidly — and reflect critically — about their clandestine work. To begin to appreciate the magnitude of Moreh's accomplishment, try to imagine a US filmmaker getting all nine of the past CIA directors (from William Casey in 1980 to Leon Panetta) to face a camera and unburden their souls. 

Hard to imagine such a thing ever happening, right? 

Still, the overlaps between the Shin Bet's history and the CIA's legacy are uncanny as they keep echoing throughout The Gatekeepers. Time and again, each Gatekeeper in turn, seems surprised when an order to assassinate a well-known Palestinian target winds up triggering yet more violence. 

The intelligence chiefs refer to Israel's struggle with the Palestinians as a "war on terror." One remembers the excitement that followed the first Palestinian terrorist act directed against Israel. Thanks to a single explosion, one former spy recalls with relish, "We no longer had to focus on the issue of the Palestinian State. Now we had work!" 

Soon, they had more work than expected when Israel's stability was threatened by the eruption of domestic terrorism — spawned by a radical Jewish Underground that grew out of the settlers' movement — that eventually lead to the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and doomed growing hope for a peaceful resolution to the conflict over the Occupation. 

Some missteps were simply amateurish and embarrassing. In one case, in an attempt to carry out a census of the Palestinians, Israeli Defense Force (IDF) troops were required to learn some basic Arabic. Soldiers were instructed to knock on doors and explain: "We are here to count you." But, the language training failed to teach the proper pronunciation of the "h" sound in Arabic. As a result, the soldiers went out knocking on Palestinian doors and announcing: "We are here to castrate you." 

Looking back, the former spy chiefs now concur, the shift to "counterterrorism" basically unleashed a chain of increasing barbarities that only escalated the conflict and made the peace process impossible. Every time the Shit Bet singled out a "prime terrorist" for "targeted assassination," the murder triggered even larger and angrier protests and acts of retaliation. 

Still, even while admitting their failure to guide history towards a peaceful resolution, many of these retired spies could not suppress self-satisfied grins as they recounted the clever plots they hatched to murder Palestinian leaders. This creepy glee was particularly evident in descriptions of the death of Yahya Ayyash, a Palestinian terror-master known as "The Engineer." Ayyash was dispatched when he picked up an explosives-laden cell phone to speak with his father -- and the Shin Bet blew his head off. 

But if Ayyash's murder was a publicity coup, another Shin Bet killing turned out to be a public relations disaster. After a small group of Palestinians took a bus hostage in 1984, Shin Bet director Avraham Shalom secretly gave the orders to execute two of the hijackers after they had surrendered. The murders might have gone unnoticed, but a photographer managed to capture a shot of one of the hijackers as he was being hustled away — alive — in the custody two Shin Bet agents. 

(This scene is recreated in a spectacular sequence, thanks to a special effects team that somehow managed to fuse a series of black and white photos of the "Bus 300" incident into what appears to be a continuous 3D reality that morphs from one photo to the next, sweeping viewers through computerized time-and-space.) 

Israel's intelligence leaders generally conclude that, for all their work, the Israel-Palestine situation is no better off today than it was when they first sat down behind the director's chair. And, they admit, their efforts often made the situation worse. Almost unanimously, they now agree that the root of the problem is Israel's illegal, unjust and inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people. 

As "good soldiers," they kept quiet during their days behind the director's desk but now, their collective judgment demands to be heard — not only in Tel Aviv but in Washington, as well. 

At one point, a Shin Bet chief recalls a US official criticizing Israel after an IDF attack killed several Palestinian civilians. The Israeli brusquely dismissed the criticism. After all, he noted, the US "killed 70 innocent civilians at a wedding party in Afghanistan!"
The voices of Washington's "gatekeepers" have yet to be heard. Most likely (if they share a common humanity), their retrospectives would jibe with those of their Shin Bet colleagues, leading them to the same familiar lesson: When violence grows from a sense of injustice, introducing more violence to the equation never leads to a solution.