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Architect Julia Morgan's “El Campanil” clock and bell tower at Mills College, Oakland was the first structure built in reinforced concrete in the western United States, 1904.
Architect Julia Morgan's “El Campanil” clock and bell tower at Mills College, Oakland was the first structure built in reinforced concrete in the western United States, 1904.


Cigarette Sparks Berkeley House Fire

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday April 02, 2013 - 09:15:00 PM

A fire at a Berkeley home on Sunday afternoon that caused about $85,000 in damage was sparked by a discarded cigarette, a fire official said. 

The one-alarm blaze was reported at a home in the 1700 block of Blake Street just before 2:30 p.m., Berkeley acting Deputy Chief Avery Webb said. 

The blaze was controlled at 3:02 p.m., Webb said. 

An initial investigation indicated that the fire started on the home's porch when a cigarette was thrown onto a pile of items that included papers, Webb said. 

The cigarette caught the materials on fire, and the flames spread to the roof and got into the attic. 

There was $75,000 in damage to the home and an additional $10,000 in damage to its contents, Webb said. 

When firefighters arrived, the home was unoccupied and neighbors had gotten garden hoses out in an attempt to put out the flames, Webb said. 

No injuries were reported.

Eight-Year-Old Back in School after Berkeley Arrow Injury

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Friday March 29, 2013 - 08:38:00 AM

A Marinwood third-grader returned to class in good health today after she was struck by a arrow while on a field trip to Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science Tuesday.

The arrow pierced the leg of 8-year-old Nadine Hairston, a student at San Rafael's Mary E. Silveira Elementary School, around 10:10 a.m. while she was climbing on a sculpture of a whale outside the science center, located at 1 Centennial Drive on the University of California at Berkeley campus.

She was taken to a hospital where the arrow was surgically removed. She was released midday Wednesday, school principal Will Anderson said today. 

She stopped by her classroom after her release, where classmates gave her get-well cards and hugs, Anderson said. 

Nadine said in a phone interview this afternoon that she just finished reading through all the cards, including those from her younger 7-year-old sister's second-grade class. 

Her mother, Alicia Hairston, said Nadine is able to walk fine, but is not running yet. 

After a full day at school, Nadine admitted this afternoon that her leg hurt "a little."  

"She bounces back," Hairston said. 

Despite the "nutty" start of the week, Nadine's return to school was well received, Anderson said. 

"We're trying to get her back to the normal scope of things," he said. "Like being in a school and in a learning environment." 

The principal described Nadine as "exuberant, cheerful and smiley" and said that she has remained peppy and upbeat despite the bizarre incident. 

"It's amazing this happened to her and she still has the same frame of mind," he said. "Nadine certainly doesn't harbor negative feelings." 

Counselors were brought into the third-grade classroom Wednesday to help fellow students cope with the aftermath of the accident. 

"We are trying to keep the community informed and calm," Anderson said. 

Another third-grade class had a field trip planned to the Berkeley science museum today, but the visit was canceled after the arrow incident, according to Anderson. 

"We didn't want kids to focus in on the event instead of the learning," he said. 

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley police are still investigating where the arrow came from. 

Police are searching for suspects in the case and it is not yet clear whether the person who shot the arrow was aiming for Nadine. 

Investigators are working to reconstruct the arrow's trajectory to provide more details. 

A $1,000 reward is being offered, Hairston said, with the hopes of attracting more tips about where the arrow came from. 

After Nadine was struck, parent chaperones handled her trip to Children's Hospital in Oakland while fellow parents informed Hairston about the shooting and a friend drove her to the hospital, Hairston said. 

She said Nadine helped her stay calm once she arrived at the hospital. 

"I knew it was better to not panic," Nadine said. 

She said she enjoyed her hospital stay and became friends with the doctors and nurses. 

When asked if she was considering a career in the medical field she asserted that she wants to be a kindergarten teacher when she grows up. 

Nadine's weekly swimming lessons had to be postponed because of her injuries, Hairston said, so instead she was taking Nadine and her sister to the movies tonight. 

"We just feel blessed," Hairston said.  

Anyone with information about the arrow shooting is asked to call UC Berkeley police at (510) 642-0472 or (510) 642-6760.

Eye to Eye with Julia Morgan

By Sandhya Sood AIA
Saturday March 30, 2013 - 08:51:00 AM
Outdoor seating under construction over earth terracing at the Greek Theatre, 1903. Courtesy, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley
Outdoor seating under construction over earth terracing at the Greek Theatre, 1903. Courtesy, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley
The Greek Theatre, University of California, Berkeley
The Greek Theatre, University of California, Berkeley
Architect Julia Morgan's “El Campanil” clock and bell tower at Mills College, Oakland was the first structure built in reinforced concrete in the western United States, 1904.
Architect Julia Morgan's “El Campanil” clock and bell tower at Mills College, Oakland was the first structure built in reinforced concrete in the western United States, 1904.
Berkeley City Club with exterior walls and details in reinforced concrete showing malleability of the building material,1929.
Berkeley City Club with exterior walls and details in reinforced concrete showing malleability of the building material,1929.
The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, damaged in the 1906 earthquake and fire
The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, damaged in the 1906 earthquake and fire
Fifth floor columns cracked and buckled due to earthquake damage before Julia Morgan was hired to rebuild the interior of The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco,1906.
Fifth floor columns cracked and buckled due to earthquake damage before Julia Morgan was hired to rebuild the interior of The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco,1906.

Julia Morgan (1872-1957), California’s first licensed woman architect has more than 700 buildings to her credit, designed and built over a professional career spanning over four decades . A fellow UC Berkeley alumna, this gracious and immensely talented architect has intrigued and inspired me in immeasurable ways. Her legacy is relevant today for her vernacular approach to sustainable architecture and fearless endeavors to advance in a profession that reluctantly opened its doors to women in the early 20th century. 

The state wide Julia Morgan 2012 Fall Festival opened many forgotten doors for Morgan ; to UC Berkeley’s Wall of Fame and as one of the 18 honorees of the National Women’s History Project this March, aligned with the theme for this year “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” 

With courses in structural design and descriptive geometry under her belt, Morgan graduated with a Civil Engineering degree in 1894 from UC Berkeley and in 1898 became the first woman to be admitted to the prestigious architecture certification program at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Back on home turf, the San Francisco Bay Area, she worked briefly for John Galen Howard as assistant supervising architect for the Greek Theatre, his first building on the UC Berkeley campus. I have vivid memories of my commencement ceremony as an architecture graduate at this famed amphitheater, rightfully placed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Adapted from the amphitheatre at Epidaurus, Greece, now a world heritage site, the Greek Theatre was built as a concrete structure in 1903, under the aegis of William Randolph Hearst as the first open theatre of its size in the country. Morgan focused on the concrete mix for more than 6000 outdoor seats, including pouring, setting and establishing quality control methods for cast in place concrete. Interestingly, while the outdoor seating itself has had no seismic issues being set on grade, the rest of the theatre underwent a major seismic upgrade and expansion recently. This unique experience gave way to Morgan’s independent practice in 1904 and projects in reinforced concrete such as the Mills College Bell Tower, Oakland (1904), Hearst Women’s Gymnasium, UC Berkeley (1925) and the Berkeley City Club (1929) that integrated her engineering skills with an architectural flair. 

Her expertise in this revolutionary material at the time and methods of boxing, mixing, ramming, depositing and moistening the concrete set her reputation apart as a pioneering engineer. No wonder her professional services for structural evaluation and reconstruction were called upon when the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco was damaged in the 1906 earthquake and fire, to be reopened shortly after in 1907. She even got creative with her plaster mix as reflected in a 1905 set of specifications that lay out the steps for a ‘paste’ using “standard” cement, sharp beach sand, ‘best’ cattle hair and “Roche Harbor” lime. 

Almost a century later, I became fascinated with reinforced concrete as a summer intern on a large site at the remote edge of a bustling metropolis. The only woman among a staff of 80 men, climbing scaffoldings in the scorching heat, I eagerly watched concrete being poured and cured for roof slabs with lapped steel reinforcement. This construction experience taught me later, like Morgan, to create my own cement mix, adding slaked lime and recycled brick dust to naturally taint the exterior grout. 

Seeing eye to eye with Julia Morgan is however, daunting. And yet, her petite frame, unassuming persona and unflinching resolve are both infectious and encouraging. A renaissance woman, Morgan also straddled the worlds of science and engineering, her interdisciplinary practice defying the conventional notion of Architecture as the mother of all Arts. 

As the women’s history month wraps up for 2013, let us continue to be reminded of game changers like Julia Morgan. Her golden glow of unprecedented success and contribution to the architectural heritage of America has permeated a century of recognition and applause. Accolades for this trailblazer should culminate with the American Institute of Architects highest honor at the national level. A posthumous Gold medal for Julia Morgan as the first woman recipient would not only be fitting but well deserved. 

And I would bow down to that. 


Sara Holmes Boutelle “Julia Morgan Architect”, Abbeville Press Publishers, 1995 

Environmental Design Archives and Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley 


Sandhya Sood AIA is an award winning architect, certified green building professional and Princi­pal of Accent Architecture+Design in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a Master’s in Architecture from UC Berkeley and is the author of “Julia Morgan: Architecture for Sustainability”. She is a member of the American Institute of Architects, the Organization of Women Architects and the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association. 



The Hasidim Wars: Women, Sex and Youth in Brooklyn

By Ruth Rosen
Friday March 29, 2013 - 11:19:00 PM

Until recently, you could have lived your entire life in the United States and never have bumped into any Jewish Orthodox Hasidim, who live in scattered communities, mostly in the New York’s borough of Brooklyn.  

In the last few years, however, the media have publicized the Hasidim’s cultural clashes with their non-fundamentalist neighbors. In each instance, the conflict has pitted the Hasidic view of women’s modest traditional dress and their appropriate role in the family, on the streets, and in their community against the sexualized dress and behaviour of their neighbours.  

The first widely-publicized controversy over women’s modesty occurred in the neighborhood known as Crown Heights. On a warm, summer evening in the summer of 2010, Clara Santos Perez’s new and trendy kosher café, Basil Pizza and Wine Bar , was filled with Orthodox Jews from the Lubavitcher sect of Hasidim, West Indians, and the local young professionals who have gradually moved into the neighborhood. Classical music played softly in the background and the café seemed to reflect the peaceful multicultural neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  

But it didn’t last. 

At eight p.m., according to a New York Times magazine article, a young man “arrived and walked in with a young woman wearing a summery, skimpy dress and they took two of the empty stools at the bar, leaning in close to each other to talk.” Four more young people, wearing tank tops and miniskirts, soon arrived and drew severe stares, though they didn’t seem to notice them. 

Clara Santos Perez, a devout Roman Catholic, worried whether angry Lubavichter Hasidim would confront her about the women’s immodest dress and behaviour. After the young people left, Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, who heads OK Kosher Certification, which is supposed makes unannounced kitchen inspections to ensure kosher kitchen practices, did in fact appear, and expressed concern about the “inappropriate attire and immoral behaviour at the bar.” Apparently, someone had called him to complain. 

Many of the café’s customers want the cafe to be a cross-cultural experiment that brings together West Indians, young, liberal, professionals, and the Lubavitcher Jewish community, which settled there after the Holocaust had destroyed their European communities. 

The Lubavitcher, however, feel that their neighborhood is being invaded by people who do not share their value of female modesty. Since that cultural encounter, the community has wrestled with these problems largely through blogs and meetings meant to bring together the Orthodox, the young professionals and the West Indian groups. 

The result is more of a stalemate, than genuine peace, especially as the growing Orthodox community seeks larger swaths of real estate. In an open letter to the community, one disgruntled Hasidic landlord described how young people had invaded and gentrified the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and were now doing the same to Crown Heights. In his letter, titled “Take Back our Neighborhood,” he wrote, “Young, upwardly mobile professionals may seem to be pleasant tenants who bring in reliable income, but they also introduce a very different way of life: new nightclubs and bars, sun tanning on rooftops, bike lanes and an increasing amount of immodesty on our streets. Some of these changes are hard to ignore; for instance, one of the sun tanning parties is visible for our young children to see from the window of a local school.”  

The various Hasidim sects not only fear the immodesty of their neighbors; they also worry about the small but visible number of young Hasidim who pierce their ears, ride bicycles, dress as hippies, start punk bands and start theatre groups. Although their parents worry they are straying from the fold, one young man explained to the New York Times that both God and music bring light and redemption. He saw no contradiction between his music and his submission to his faith. “To me, Judaism is like punk rock,” he said. “Real Judaism is very much in your face. The world is chasing after desires for money and sex and drugs and materialism, and Judaism is the opposite. Judaism is like, this world is nothing. This world is only to serve." 

One woman, told by a Rabbi she could not perform in the theatre or sing, said, “I’m hitting these brick walls….I knew I can’t be a rabbi, I can’t be a cantor, I can’t be a singer. Where does that put me?" So she decided to form the Arts and Torah Association for Religious Artists, by and for Orthodox women. Their mission “is to promote creative and performing arts expression within the framework of Jewish religious law.” Through a journal, several conferences, and a variety of open-microphone performances, the association, though small, has spread to a variety of Hasidic communities. 

An underground youth scene of Hasidim is slowing spreading through Brooklyn. The Hester Supper Club, founded by Orthodox women, provides kosher food and evening performances. One guest, quoted in The New Yorker Magazine, wrote, As the night wore on, guests tossed back cocktails, swayed to the beat, and snapped iPhone pictures. They had the enthusiasm of any normal rock concert-goers, but they looked different. Almost everyone in the all-female crowd wore a long skirt and a sheitel, the wig customarily worn by Orthodox wives.” In Williamsburg, the Orthodox painter Elke Reva Sudin created a widely-publicized exhibition titled “Hipsters and Hassids,” “to help the two sides understand each other.” 

Across Brooklyn, closer to Manhattan, lives a different Hasidic community in Williamsburg. Unlike the Lubavitcher Hasidim in Crown Heights, who seek to recruit other Jews into their orthodox community, the Hasidim in Williamsburg, are extremely orthodox, and generally look away when you greet them. 

Walk around Williamsburg on a hot, muggy summer day and you see men dressed in heavy, three-quarter length black wool coats, fur hats, and long socks tucked into black shoes. The wear long beards, and ringlets of hair curl down the side of their faces, (called peyes in Yiddish). Some wear large fur hats, which puzzles tourists who wander into their neighborhood. Each style of hat signifies the particular sect to which they belong. 

The women, too, cover every part of their body. They wear long skirts, topped by long sleeved, high-necked blouses, and dark stockings cover their legs. Depending on their specific Hasidic group, the married women shave their heads, wear wigs, or cover their hair with a scarf. Those who dress or act in immodest ways can be shamed, shunned, or even spit upon. Modesty, however, is not sufficient; bearing many children is viewed as women’s spiritual contribution to the community. Birth control is discouraged, but abortion is allowed if it saves the life of the mother. Trailed by large numbers of children, they look like they’ve just arrived, by time machine, from 18th century Poland, which is, in fact, where they came from. 

This is where another widely-publicized cultural confrontation over modesty recently took place. What happened is that Hasidic “modesty squads” confronted store owners about the “immodest” mannequins displayed in their store windows. One store owner told the New York Times in January, 2013, that a Hasidic man came and said, “Do the neighborhood a favour and take it out of the window…..We’re trying to safeguard our community.” The store owner took the threat seriously because, in Hasidim Williamsburg, according to the New York Times, “it is a potent threat in a neighborhood where shadowy, sometimes self-appointed modesty squads use social and economic leverage to enforce conformity." 

It is almost impossible to gain access to these closed communities. But a 2005 Public Broadcast Network documentary of the Hasidim, called “A Life Apart: The Hasidim in America” managed to gain the trust of enough men and women who explained why women’s modesty and their role as mothers are so essential to maintaining their religious community. The Hasidim explained that women must dress and behave modestly because their greatest spiritual mission is motherhood. Girls, therefore, are educated separately from boys and rarely study beyond high school. Parents arrange marriages, although children may refuse their choices and ask for different matches. Women often work outside the home, dressed in modest clothing, so that their men may study and pray all day. 

The vast majority of Hasidim women---except those who leave however, do not view themselves as second-class citizens. One woman interviewed in the documentary explained why raising and protecting her family is her greatest joy. “Who cares about running Westinghouse?” she asked. “Children are your legacy forever.” Another woman pointed out that she finds her “spiritual fulfillment in motherhood, in raising children, teaching them values, and thanking God for the breakfast she has laid out for them.” 

Most Hasidic women--except those leave--do not view themsevles as second-class citizens in their communities. Professor Anne Braude of Macalaster University, who has studied the Hasidim, offers a different opinion. “If women’s role is really so important,” she asks, “why don’t you have a mother be the rebbe? We’re told that… if men hear women’s voices, they might be distracted…. Well, if I were God, I wouldn’t pick somebody who is so easily distracted that if he hears a woman’s voice he couldn’t pray anymore. I’d pick the women.” 

Braude’s perspective, however, is not shared by most Hasidic women. Yet some women do, in fact, leave the community and write about the narrow bleakness of their lives through online magazines or in books, such as Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, by Hella Winston. 

But it is not modesty that they reject. What they seek is the opportunity to pursuehigher education or to participate more equally in Jewish religious life. Some might also be fleeing domestic violence. Hidden by a conspiracy of silence, a few scholarly works have documented domestic violence among women in American Hasidic communities. In addition, the Hasidim are still recovering from the shame that one of their one reported child abuse that took place in their community.,  

As the documentary concludes, “The Hasidic rejection of America’s popular culture and education has resulted in goals deeply desired by many Americans: stable families, strong communities and lives infused with meaning. In return, Hasidim pay a price most Americans would find too high: they adhere to strict rules of behavior; they live in a traditional society with clearly defined and prescribed roles for each member; and, within the Hasidic world, individualism is suppressed for the sake of community.” 

For women, it is a stiff price to pay. Being part of this community means that Jewish law, as well as the will of their fathers and husbands, govern their entire lives. But equality is not their goal. For the most part, Hasidic women—at least the majority who do not leave—are satisfied to live in a stable community, dress modestly, raise their children, and work outside the home. It is in these closed and cohesive communities that they find spiritual fulfillment. It is here that they can avoid a secularized and sexualized America that celebrates individualism, materialism, and consumerism. And it is here, fortified by the Hasidic way of life, that they can avoid the consequences of modern life---social isolation, family instability, lack of community cohesion, and a profound spiritual thirst.  

Although it doesn’t provide the freedoms and opportunities enjoyed and valued by modern women, it is - with all its rules and regulations - their spiritual home.  

Graffitirazzi – It's Everywhere

By Gar Smith
Saturday March 30, 2013 - 10:17:00 AM
The next time you're waiting for an AMTRAK train, cast your eyes upwards to the University Avenue overpass to the north. You might spot a piece of defiant art known as the "Resist Fist."
Gar Smith
The next time you're waiting for an AMTRAK train, cast your eyes upwards to the University Avenue overpass to the north. You might spot a piece of defiant art known as the "Resist Fist."
Gar Smith

              Dumpsters are targets-of-opportunity for urban taggers canvassing the neighborhoods in search of, well, canvases. This four-wheeled art gallery was spotted at the Herrick Campus of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
Gar Smith
Dumpsters are targets-of-opportunity for urban taggers canvassing the neighborhoods in search of, well, canvases. This four-wheeled art gallery was spotted at the Herrick Campus of the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
Graffiti most commonly appears on walls, but sometimes a tagger's art-mark can be found directly underfoot -- like this Peace Symbol that adorns a curb near Shattuck and Dwight Way.
Gar Smith
Graffiti most commonly appears on walls, but sometimes a tagger's art-mark can be found directly underfoot -- like this Peace Symbol that adorns a curb near Shattuck and Dwight Way.
When graffiti pops up on a wall, the location of the wall can provide context for the message. Case in point: This simple message -- "Broke" – was neatly sprayed on a campus wall at UC Berkeley.
Gar Smith
When graffiti pops up on a wall, the location of the wall can provide context for the message. Case in point: This simple message -- "Broke" – was neatly sprayed on a campus wall at UC Berkeley.
A graffitirazzi's search can lead to hallucinatory extremes. Is this the face of a monkey? Or is it a rendition of famously botched face of Christ on a fresco in a Spanish Church (after it was "restored" by a well-meaning 80-year-old woman)? No, it's just a random pattern left behind by someone using a wall to knock the dust off a dirty mat.
              (If this was on a piece of toast, it might have fetched some serious money on EBay.)
Gar Smith
A graffitirazzi's search can lead to hallucinatory extremes. Is this the face of a monkey? Or is it a rendition of famously botched face of Christ on a fresco in a Spanish Church (after it was "restored" by a well-meaning 80-year-old woman)? No, it's just a random pattern left behind by someone using a wall to knock the dust off a dirty mat. (If this was on a piece of toast, it might have fetched some serious money on EBay.)
Graffiti can spring up in some surprising places. Such as inside a USPS mailbox…
Gar Smith
Graffiti can spring up in some surprising places. Such as inside a USPS mailbox…
              Or on an illuminated 7-Eleven sign. No, wait: Make that inside an illuminated 7-Eleven sign!
Gar Smith
Or on an illuminated 7-Eleven sign. No, wait: Make that inside an illuminated 7-Eleven sign!
Recently, in broad daylight, a team of graffiti chalkers appeared in front of the Venus restaurant on Shattuck Avenue and inscribed the Sanskrit word "Satyagraha" -- in honor of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent resistance.
Gar Smith
Recently, in broad daylight, a team of graffiti chalkers appeared in front of the Venus restaurant on Shattuck Avenue and inscribed the Sanskrit word "Satyagraha" -- in honor of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent resistance.
Alas, the artwork could not resist the impact of nonviolent raindrops that pelted down overnight. With the passage of a storm front -- and the passage of many shoes -- the message was all but lost two days later.
Gar Smith
Alas, the artwork could not resist the impact of nonviolent raindrops that pelted down overnight. With the passage of a storm front -- and the passage of many shoes -- the message was all but lost two days later.
Impermanence is the fate of the urban graffiti artist. Most of the time. But keep your eyes on the sidewalk as you walk south past Venus on the east side of Shattuck. Within a few blocks, you may spy a message that proclaims: "Trees Are Brothers." This message, scratched into sidewalk cement more than ten years ago has outlasted many storms. Unlike most graffiti, this is a memento was built to last.
Gar Smith
Impermanence is the fate of the urban graffiti artist. Most of the time. But keep your eyes on the sidewalk as you walk south past Venus on the east side of Shattuck. Within a few blocks, you may spy a message that proclaims: "Trees Are Brothers." This message, scratched into sidewalk cement more than ten years ago has outlasted many storms. Unlike most graffiti, this is a memento was built to last.

Most graffiti are ephemeral. All graffiti are anarchic and adventitious. They can crop up anywhere -- not only on walls, but on dumpsters, bridges, curbs and sidewalks. Some graffiti only survives a day or two but, once in a while, someone leaves behind a graffito that is built to last.



A Tallahassee Gala, with Lessons for Holy Week

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 29, 2013 - 05:09:00 PM

On Valentine’s Day this year I flew to Tallahassee, a place I’d never expected to visit, to attend the wedding of my first cousin once removed. Mine is the kind of family, with some vaguely southern roots, that keeps track of relationships like this.

The father of the bride, my first cousin Peter, is closer in age to my children than he is to me. My two St. Louis aunts had the large Catholic families which were the norm in the fifties in some circles, six and seven kids like stair-steps, and this cousin was at the tail end of his nuclear family. I had 18 first cousins altogether (one died young), and I know the older ones who are closer to my age better. But Peter visited the Bay Area when his older daughter was a Science Fair contestant here, and we got to know the bride, Laura, his younger daughter, when she and a friend visited Berkeley one summer while they were students.

The wedding became the catalyst for a family reunion of sorts. Her father’s four surviving siblings (plus a sizable representation of spouses, offspring and grandkids) showed up in Tallahassee. The older ones I remembered fondly from childhood, before our families moved away from St. Louis, and I enjoyed getting to know the younger ones and their descendants better. I was pleased to discover that they’re very nice people, all of them, good politics, sense of humor, smart, the whole nine yards of how you might hope distant relatives would turn out to be.

The ceremony was low-key but elegant, in the family garden, with a buffet for about 100 guests in the house afterwards. In the best contemporary tradition, the officiant was a friend of the family and the service was eclectic, readings drawn from a variety of sources, music by an Irish wedding band.

Oh, and did I mention that this was a two-bride wedding? The second bride was the other young woman who’d visited us in Berkeley a few years ago with our cousin who had now become her partner. 

The brides wore matching simple white frocks and carried flowers. A full assortment of family members from both sides and of various ages, all the way down to little kids carrying rings and scattering flowers, preceded them down an aisle improvised between rows of rented folding chairs. My bride cousin’s dad walked her down the aisle, and the other bride was escorted by two fathers, one on each arm, her birth father and her stepfather, both of whom she clearly loved. 

All in all, it was a regular up-to-code modern wedding, with many elements in common with my own daughters’ weddings in the last couple of decades. It included one custom which I’d first seen when my daughter who’d been to a Quaker college got married. The two spouses signed a marriage contract which was then signed by all the assembled guests as witnesses, symbolizing the role of marriage as part of a community. 

Evidently this is the Quaker tradition, but it’s also consistent with what I’d been taught as a child in my Catholic school, as I imagine my cousins were too: that marriage is an agreement between two spouses, with the priest only a witness. In my childhood catechism the role of the state in legalizing marriage was minimized, an analysis which is reflected in many European countries when couples often have two ceremonies, one at city hall and the other in church. 

Florida is not one of the states which has legalized same-sex marriage, so the two women planned to register their legal status in Washington, D.C., where they live. But it was clear to all assembled that this Florida ceremony was the real deal, the occasion where they promised in full view of family and friends to love and support one another no matter what. 

Why did so many of us choose to make the trek to Tallahassee in the middle of February, not an easy feat since the airlines have abandoned small markets like this, making the trip both difficult and expensive? Besides our affection for the people involved, I suspect many of us were motivated by the still unusual situation of the marriage of two women. I think we wanted to bear witness to our appreciation of the social value of marriages like these. 

I myself was especially moved by remembering that when Laura's aunt, my cousin Elsa, the oldest in her family, got married in St. Louis in 1964, one of her bridesmaids was an African-American college classmate, and a great-aunt turned on her heels at the church door when she saw that there was “a colored girl” in the wedding party. That’s not the kind of people we are in our family now. Times have changed since Loving v. Virginia, and we hope to see the same kind of change for brides (or grooms) like these. 

But even when the community assembles to ratify a marriage, people are still denied the legal benefits that they’re entitled to, as this week’s Supreme Court arguments illustrated. Justice Ginsburg’s description of civil unions as second rate “skim milk” in the absence of true marriage is sure to become a classic—and everyone deserves the cream too. 

The first reading at my cousin’s wedding, which seems to have become a popular text at many gay weddings, was the Massachusetts Supreme court decision legalizing same sex marriages. I've just learned that the author was Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, the wife of legendary New York Times columnist Tony Lewis, whose seminar on legal journalism I was privileged to attend when he did a stint at UC Berkeley. I don’t know if fine writing is contagious between spouses, but I’m sure she benefited from the association—it’s a beautifully written document. Lewis died this week—what a shame that he’s missing this week’s fascinating discussions. 

Later my cousin Peter, the father of one bride, read a passage from the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13: 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

Perhaps half of the guests had been baptized as Catholics, certainly the cousins in my generation. Not many, it seemed, were still churchgoers—two brothers in the next generation had converted to Judaism when they married, and it seemed that most of the rest of us don’t find much to admire in the current church. 

The Archbishop of San Francisco this week articulated why we’ve given up on the Catholic Church when he led the prayers of those who had assembled in Washington to oppose gay marriage. Last week before he went there he spoke to ABC7 about his ideas on the topic: 


If he wonders why the churches in his diocese are not as full during Holy Week as they were in my St. Louis childhood, or why young women like Laura are marrying without benefit of clergy, he might re-read First Corinthians. 

And perhaps when he’s tempted to give advice to gay people on what's bad for children, he should reflect on the many transgressions against children by Catholic clergy which are now coming to light, and heed Jesus’s advice in the Sermon on the Mount: 

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? 

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. 

And how was the wedding? We all had a wonderful time. 



The Editor's Back Fence

News to Use

Saturday March 30, 2013 - 09:44:00 AM

The search for a Berkeley Unified School District superintendent begins, as reported: 

In the BANG papers: 

On Berkeleyside.com


Odd Bodkins: Not Afraid of the Dark (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Saturday March 30, 2013 - 12:10:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Reply to article in East Bay Express: "How An Environmental Law Is Harming The Environment"

By Vivian Warkentin
Saturday March 30, 2013 - 03:45:00 PM

[I sent this letter in reply to the" East Bay Express" which they will not print.]

You can't make it up. The promoters of "smart growth", who claim to be the environmentalists, are now calling for the undoing of the California Environmental Quality Act through their reliable mouthpiece, Robert Gammon at the East Bay Express. How much more evidence does one need of the corporate takeover or the "neo" environmental movement? Funny how a lot of banker, developer enriching ideas are taking hold since they told us about global warming. 

Mr Gammon seems to consider it unseemly and selfish to fight for your "quality of life" in your own back yard. But that is how environments are protected-- by local people who will be affected by the actions of those with the big bucks. It's called grassroots activism. Gammon suggests that only "bona fide" environmental groups should be allowed to sue to block development. Does that mean only the new style mainstream, oil company sponsored, groups with paid CEOs? 

This whole smart growth initiative has not percolated from below. Greenbelt Alliance, mentioned several times in your article, is a well funded, top down group that is carrying out orders from ICLEI, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. They are unelected, and unaccountable to Berkeley citizens, yet they are inserting themselves in the planning departments of our city and other Bay Area cities telling them we must build, build denser denser, and keep packing in those high rises. There are so many already, and they are mostly unoccupied. 

Wake up Berkeley sleepy heads. The money that gets diverted to redevelopment agencies and bond brokers is sucked from the city's general fund and county services. We citizens of Berkeley are taking the risk for this insanity and will be left holding the bag. 

"Reforming" CEQA is "the Lord's work" says Jerry Brown, according to your article. If he refers to the "Lords" of the landed gentry, yes, they always know how to work the system, don't they?

Berkeley’s District Elections: The View from West Berkeley

By Curtis Manning
Friday March 29, 2013 - 08:58:00 AM

The redistricting of Berkeley’s eight voting districts, which is currently underway, is in response to population changes evident from the 2010 Census. Groups and individuals have been solicited by the City to submit proposals ( see http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/redistricting/ f or information). District maps are constrained by ordinance to have nearly equal numbers, and current Council members may not be drawn out of their districts. 

Recent efforts by the Council Majority to re-conceive West Berkeley on the sly (Measure T), emphasize the necessity for a true Ocean View, or West Berkeley Council district. This division of our “community of interest” has effectively suppressed our political voice in Berkeley. The idea of having one West Berkeley district was presented to the Berkeley Neighborhood Council (BNC) in a March 9 meeting at the Hillside Club. 

The BNC is a confederation of neighborhood groups and interested individuals whose mission is to improve the quality of life for all by creating a unified neighborhood voice for promoting livability of our neighborhoods. The BNC map sub-committee strove to produce legally compliant boundaries that do not divide any established neighborhood groups. The sub-committee, chaired by Jacquelyn McCormick, produced one map that did not incorporate the unification and another that did. When it was brought to the BNC meeting of March 9, the vote was to adopt only one of them. 

In a unanimous vote of 15 (yae) and 3 (abstensions), the BNC voted to adopt what is called the West Berkeley Map as their submission to the City’s redistricting process. As described in the adopted map, District 1 includes everything west of San Pablo, but north of University it goes inland to pick up Councilperson Linda Maio, just below MLK. It does not do everything we would hope for, but it is all that could be done within the law. The map represents the support of representatives of major neighborhood associations from all over Berkeley. 

The period for submission of maps is now over. Submitted maps will be presented on April 29 at North Berkeley Senior Center (6:00 P.M.), and a public hearing will be held on May 7 at Council Chambers, time unknown. Technical corrections will be allowed up until May 17, followed by another public hearing on July 2, 2013. The process of defining new districts will conclude by the end of the year. 

Persons or neighborhood groups interested in the BNC plan, or in joining BNC may make contact at BerkeleyNC@gmail.com

Yes, Mr. President. Dead Children Do Have Names

By Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War
Friday March 29, 2013 - 08:49:00 AM

On February 28, 2013, two young Afghan boys were killed during a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan. What made this incident unusual was that the world learned their names.

Two brothers, 11-year-old Toor Jan and 12-year-old Andul Wodood, were walking behind their donkeys and collecting firewood in the Shahid-e Hasas district of Uruzgan Province when they were killed by weapons fired from a NATO helicopter. NATO explained the children were targeted because they were mistaken for insurgents. NATO killed their animals, too — perhaps under the mistaken suspicion they were "insurgent" donkeys.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, offered his "personal apology and condolences to the family of the boys who were killed." Dunford said the coalition took "full responsibility" for the deaths. This appears to have been an empty promise. 

Assuming full responsibility would call for compensation to the families of those killed. Full responsibility would demand a thorough, independent investigation and a full public accounting. Full responsibility would require releasing the names of the pilots who pulled the triggers and the commanding officers who authorized the order to fire. 

The official statement did not mention how many aircraft were involved. It did not identify what kinds of weaponry were unleashed on the boys. There was no accounting for how many rounds were fired. The world was not even told the nationality of the soldiers responsible for the deadly assault. 

Instead of pressing for this information, US press reports carried headlines that seemed designed to insulate (if not exonerate) the pilots and commanders responsible: "Two Afghan Boys Accidentally Killed by NATO Helicopter" (New York Times, March 2, 2013), "Afghan Boys Killed by NATO Copter" (New York Times, March 3, 2013). Of course, helicopters don't have autonomy. There are no laws that call for jailing — or demoting — a chopper. 

In the aftermath of the February 2013 killings, a coalition spokesman told the Associated Press: "They saw two young children who were apparently listening to a radio and they shot them -- it is not yet clear why." The opacity of the official responses continued with a statement from the Australian forces deployed in Uruzgan. There had been an "operational incident" in the province's northwest before the attack that killed the children, as if this provided some rationale for the tragedy that followed. The statement offered no further details except to confirm that no soldiers had been harmed. 

In an online "Comments" exchange, two US combat veterans reflected on the tragedy. One found it "kind of strange that an attack helicopter would not have been able to make a better target ID." Another former soldier shared a telling personal recollection: "I had a buddy (F-16 pilot) who tracked an insurgent carrying an RPG for a while, waiting for him to commit a hostile act. After tracking him for a length of time, the insurgent took his RPG off his shoulder, unrolled it, and began praying on it. My buddy ended up deciding that a prayer rug did not constitute a lethal weapon and returned to base." 

A History of Collateral Damage 

Tragically, the deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of the US-lead coalition forces is nothing new. In 2012, the estimated number of Afghan casualties blamed on US and allied forces included 316 killed and 271 wounded. Most of the civilian victims were killed in US and NATO airstrikes. The deaths included more than 51 children -- 16% of the fatalities. 

On February 13, 2013, a NATO air strike requested by Afghan forces resulted in the slaughter of 10 people in the eastern province of Kunar. The dead included five children and four women. Once again, American taxpayers (whose taxes had subsidized this attack) never learned the names of any of these victims. But in the capital of Kabul, the outrage prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to forbid his troops from requesting any further foreign air strikes. 

Is it possible that NATO forces can't distinguish between insurgents with Kalishnikovs and children gathering sticks and brambles? The question arises because this was not the first time that children have been killed while foraging for firewood. On March 2, 2012, almost a year before the attack on Toor Jan and Andul Wodood, NATO helicopter gunners killed nine boys who were out scouring the mountains of eastern Afghanistan in search of winter firewood to heat their homes. 

Once again, NATO explained its gunmen simply mistook the boys for "insurgents." Once again, NATO issued a statement apologizing for the mistake. “We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and, most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions,” then-commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus said. “These deaths should have never happened.” 

The boys killed in the 2012 attack, ranged from 9- to 15-years-old. The victims included two sets of brothers. Most of their names remain unreported. Only one boy survived. 

After hearing the distant gunfire, villagers became alarmed when the children did not return home and went to look for them. A shopkeeper from a nearby village lost his 14-year-old nephew, Kallid, in the attack. “The children were all from poor families," the grieving man told a New York Times reporter, "otherwise no one would send their sons up to the mountains despite the known threats from both insurgents and Americans.” Still shaken by the memories, he described the scene that met the villagers when they reached the site of the attack. 

“Some of the dead bodies were really badly chopped up by the rockets,” he said. “The head of a child was missing. Others were missing limbs. We tried to find the body pieces and put them together. As it was getting late, we brought down the bodies in a rope bed. We buried them in the village’s cemetery.” 

The lone survivor, an 11-year-old named Hemad, recalled what happened. “We were almost done collecting the wood when suddenly we saw the helicopters come,” he related. “There were two of them. The helicopters hovered over us, scanned us and we saw a green flash from the helicopters. Then they flew back high up, and in a second round they hovered over us and started shooting. They fired a rocket, which landed on a tree. The tree branches fell over me and shrapnel hit my right hand and my side.” Hidden beneath the tree, Hemad huddled in fear as the hovering gunners shot his friends "one after another.” 

Khalid was the only male in the family, his uncle explained. “He was studying in sixth grade of the orphanage school and working because his father died four years ago due to a long-term sickness. He has 13 sisters…. He was the sole breadwinner of the family. I don’t know what would happen to his family to his sisters and mothers. They are all female and poor.” 

General Petraeus pledged to investigate the attack and to take disciplinary action if appropriate. (It was the third instance in two weeks in which NATO stood accused of killing as many as 65 Afghan civilians, including women and children. Again, NATO officials maintained that those killed were "insurgents.") It does not appear that anyone under Petraeus' command suffered any censure for these civilian deaths. 

NATO explained that, two days before the boys were killed, a rocket attack on Forward Operating Base Blessing had prompted an airborne hunt for the insurgents responsible. NATO claimed that its helicopters “returned fire at the assessed point of origin with indirect and aerial fire. Regrettably there appears to have been an error in the handoff between identifying the location of the insurgents and the attack helicopters that carried out subsequent operations.” 

President Hamid Karzai called the attack “ruthless” and wondered aloud how the US goal of defeating terrorism could be achieved by the continued murder of innocent civilians. Karzai's criticism was underscored when more than 200 people gathered in the village of Nanglam to protest the boys’ deaths, shouting “Death, death to America!” and “Death to Obama and his colleagues and associates!” 

The US Attacks a School in Pakistan 

And it's not only in Afganistan that children are being blown apart by US weapons. The use of US drones in the wilds of Pakistan's Waziristan Province continues to claim civilian lives. Typically, these attacks are described as having killed "suspected insurgents" but that hopeful justification fails to excuse what happened on October 26, 2006. 

On that day, a US drone destroyed a school in Baiaur, exploding with a shuddering blast that left 83 people dead. The US media failed to detail this horror. The few reports that did appear merely helped to mask the extent of the human tragedy. 

The New York Times waited 11 days before filing a report and then ran it under the headline: "American Strike in January Missed Al-Qaeda's No. 2 by a Few Hours." The Times story mentioned (only in passing) that the drone struck "a madrasa, or religious school" but offered no further information. 

Vijay Prashad, the London-based author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press), supplies some of the details overlooked by the Times: "Only three of those killed were older than 20. The rest were between the ages of 7 and 17. There was no apology for this strike, authorized by the White House, no … end to this kind of tragedy." In terms of a childhood body count, it was the equivalent of four Sandy Hook Elementary School massacres. 

And once again, back in the US, the country responsible for sending an unmanned airborne vehicle halfway around the earth to kill by remote control, we would never learn the names of the murdered children. 

21 Children Slain in Yemen 

The deadliest US slaughter of innocents that we know about occurred during a US assault on the Yemeni village of al-Ma'jalaj, Abyan on December 17, 2009. 

The village, identified as an al-Qa'ida training camp, was attacked with Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster-bombs. The body count was impressive. In addition to 14 "alleged al-Qa'ida members," a Yemeni parliamentary investigation recorded the deaths of 14 women and 21 children. 

The Abyan attack was one of three ordered by President Barack Obama. Two other villages – one in Mahsad and another in the Arhab district – also killed scores of civilians. Local officials claimed that more than 60 were killed in the Mahsad attack. The total civilian deaths in the three attacks was estimated at 120. (Another strike, against a village in Shebwa, was carried out on December 24.) 

ABC News reporter Brian Ross reported the order to attack the three Yemeni villages "came directly from the Oval Office." The US claimed that 35 "suspected Al Quada figures had been killed" and ABC reported the President personally called Yemen's President Saleh to "congratulate" him on the attacks. 

Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, called for an "immediate investigation" of the civilian deaths. Amnesty's concerns were raised after photographs of the attack revealed the remains of US-manufactured cluster bombs. "Those responsible for unlawful killings must be brought to justice," Luther insisted. 

The US government refused to respond to Amnesty International's inquiries about the deadly raid. 

The official story claimed the raid had been conducted by troops under the command of Yemen's government. The Defense Department referred all questions to the Yemeni government. 

The murders of so many civilians triggered massive anti-government demonstrations across Yemen. Thousands of angry Yemenis filled the streets in southern Yemen, and in the provinces of Dhal'e, Lahu and Abyan, chanting anti-government slogans and demanding an investigation. Addressing a massive rally of 10,000 in Taiz Province, Southern Movement leader Abbass al Asal declared, "This is genocide." Asal claimed the al- Ma'jalaj attack had killed a total of 64 civilians — including 17 women and 23 children. 

Residents of Abyan told the AP there was no Al Qaeda "training camp" in their poor village of tents and mud-brick houses. One resident pointed out that the village was located 100 meters from a major highway and two kilometers from a government army base. 

The only Al Qaeda link was Mohammed Saleh al-Kazemi, a former Afghanistan soldier who had settled in Yemen where he had been living openly with his family since 2005. 

Wikileaks Reveals the Hidden White House Role 

It now appears that the report of President Obama's reputed "congratulatory" call to Yemen's president may have been part of an orchestrated disinformation campaign. In 2010, Amnesty International released a leaked cable that revealed the US had leaned on President Ali Abdullah Saleh to take public responsibility for a US-raid that went terribly awry. 

The leaked January 4, 2010 diplomatic cable (released by the Wikileaks organization) showed the US was wholly responsible for the deadly attacks. In the cables, President Saleh promised US General David Petraeus that he would "continue saying the bombs are outs, not yours." In the cable, Petraeus dismisses the damage, saying the attack killed "only" three "civilians." 

The cable went on to record how Saleh's Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-'Alimi was moved "to joke that he had just 'lied' by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG 'Republic of Yemen Government." 

The leaked cable, Saleh complained that cruise missile attacks in his country were "not very accurate" and expressed a preference for targeted aerial attacks, which killed fewer civilians. (This question of accuracy and collateral damage was underscored by a reported May 2010 attack in Yemen where a US drone inadvertently killed a key government official while he was involved in an attempt to negotiate with members of Al Qaeda.) 

A Journalist Is Jailed for Uncovering US Killings 

Abdulelah Haider Shaye is a crusading Yemeni journalist who insists on covering all sides of a story. While not in sympathy with Islamic militants, Shaye has taken steps (sometimes at great personal risk) to seek out and interview members of anti-government groups. This led some Yemeni officials to brand him an "Al Qaeda operative." 

After the government announced it had conducted an air raid on the village of al Majala, Shaye managed to reach the village. In addition to dozens of bodies draped beneath shrouds, Shaye photographed fragments of Tomahawk missiles and cluster-bombs clearly labeled "Made in the USA." (Yemen's army does not have access to such "advanced" weaponry.) 

As Jeremy Scahill reported in The Nation, it was Shaye's photographs and reporting that first raised the concern of Amnesty International. It was Shaye who stood over the corpses and counted 14 women and 21 children among the dead. 

In July 2010, half-a-year after his report on the US bombing of Majala, Shaye was abducted by Yemeni intelligence agents. With a hood placed over his head, the reporter was told: "We will destroy your life if you keep on talking about this issue." 

The government made good on its threat a month later. On August 6, 2010, Shaye's home was attacked. He was blindfolded and handcuffed and tossed into an unlit, subterranean jail cell where he was beaten and interrogated for a month. (At the same time, Yemen's intelligence agency also arrested Shaye's friend, Kamal Sharaf, a political cartoonist whose satirical jibes had angered the government.) 

Shaye didn't have a court appearance until September 22, 2010. He arrived at the court with scars marking his chest and several teeth missing. The court accused the reporter of being an Al Qeada "media man" who was plotting to incite insurrection and assassination of government officials – all capital offenses. Shaye refused to recant. Speaking from behind the bars of a holding cell, he declared: "When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan… it was on that day they decided to arrest me." 

Three months later, in January 2011, Shaye received his sentence: Five years in jail and two years of probation. Human Rights Watch condemned the trail, pointing out that much of the evidence used against the report was clearly fabricated. HRW lawyer Abdulrahman Barman called the trial "a complete farce." 

Amnesty International's Philip Luther claimed Shaye had been imprisoned "soley for daring to speak out about US collaboration in a cluster munitions attack." 

The Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters without Borders immediately demanded Shaye's freedom. Even some powerful Yemenis joined tribal sheikhs joined the campaign to demand the journalist be pardoned. With pressure for Shaye's release mounting, the government printed a pardon statement for President Saleh's signature. The day before the pardon was to be granted, however, the news reached Washington. 

On February 2, 2011, President Obama placed a phone call to Yemeni President Saleh. This time the call was not bogus. Official White House records report that Obama called Saleh and "expressed concern" over the reporter's imminent release. Obama repeated the false characterization that Shaye was guilty of the crime of "association" with Al Qaeda members. Yemen buckled. Shaye's pardon was revoked. 

The effect was to tighten the US-imposed muzzle on journalists -- in Yemen but around the world, in any country where US weapons are killing civilians under the banner of the "War on Terror." The message, as Scahill noted, is "simply interviewing Al Qaeda-associated figures, or reporting on civilian deaths caused by US strikes, is a crime in the view of the US government." 

The President Phones It In 

In order to cover up the US role in the mass-murder of Yemeni women and children, President Obama apparently faked a phone call to lay responsibility at the doorstep of the Yemen government. A little over a year later, President Obama placed another call to Yemen -- this time to demand the continued incarceration of the reporter who revealed the US role in the civilian slaughter. 

The duplicity of the White House only became known when Wikileaks dared reveal the truth contained in a purloined diplomatic cable. 

The cable did not contain the names of the dead women and children whose bodies were photographed, veiled beneath bloodied sheets in the dust-poor villages of southern Yemen. But the dead do have names and they are remembered by their friends and family. The survivors remember vividly that it was weapons "Made in the USA" that ended the lives of their wives, sisters and children. 

When any government pursues a policy that routinely puts the lives of innocents at risk, that government faces a potential blowback. 

It pains me to write this, but when the lives of children are no longer considered precious by the leader of the World's Only Superpower, it is only a matter of time before the world responds in kind. Violence breeds violence. Terrorism feeds on terrorism. Let us pray that the Pentagon's and CIA's murderous policies are reined in and halted before some grief-stricken zealot adds two more names – Sasha and Malia -- to the roster of dead innocents. 

Please, Mr. President, for the sake of our children and your two precious daughters, call off your drones and missiles and end your foreign wars.

Islam Honors Women in Society

By Khalida Jamilah
Saturday March 30, 2013 - 09:43:00 AM

March 8th is a celebration for a worldwide Women’s History Month. It is an appreciation for women’s contribution to society’s progress. For instance, American women were struggling to pursue a higher education as society believed that they were incompatible in developing their intellectual skills.

It was not until 1972 in which Title IX of the Education Codes of the Higher Education Act Amendments prohibited gender discrimination in federally funded institution. Seeing it as a door to opportunity, women began to become involved in an advanced education.

For Muslim women, we are fortunate that we didn’t have to wait until 1972 for our status, rights and role to be recognized because Islam already set systematic guidelines as mentioned in the Quran and through the practice of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him)

The Qur’an highlights four statuses for Muslim women: spiritual, intellectual, economic, and social. These vouchsafed conditions automatically refute a dogma that Western people have toward Muslim women as being oppressed and uneducated. 

Spiritually, both men and women will enter Heaven if they do good works. As the Qur’an states, “But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven,” (4:25). 

Intellectually, Muhammad (peace be on him) encouraged men and women to pursue knowledge. He said, “It is it is a duty for every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge.” 

Muhammad’s (peace be on him) wisdom is a forthright rebuttal to every description or reports that media has toward Muslim women as an uneducated group. All religious extremists are like a wolf that hides under the blanket and act as a grandma to the Little Red Riding Hood. The religious extremists use Islam as their blanket to hide their ignorance of Islamic wisdom and their hunger for power. 

Economically, the Qur’an addresses fair guidelines for both men and women regarding their income. “Men shall have their share of that which they have earned, and women a share of that which they have earned…” (4:33).A husband must share his income to support the family while a wife is not obligated to do so because financial support is the husband’s responsibility. 

Although Muslim women are misrepresented in mass media, they are actually contributed in building an educated society by being involved in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering; subjects that once were thought incompatible for women. 

Intan Suci Nurhati, Ph.D., is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and a scientist. As a postdoctoral associate at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART’s) , her research focuses on how humans changed tropical climate and marine chemistry by examining nature’s own collection such as corals and trees. 

Nurhati’s ongoing fieldwork projects include coral record of past marine environments and climate variability in the Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, and Kuwait. 

Nurhati received her bachelor degree from Wesleyan University with honors in Earth and Environmental Science with a double major in Economics. Then she continued her studies at 

Georgia Institute of Technology and received a doctorate in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Certificate in Environmental Public Policy. 

She said that one of the most significant achievements was when she received a full scholarship for her undergraduate degree in the U.S. 

Nurhati is one of many great women whose contributions not only benefit the society but she also removes misconception that a Muslim woman is subjugated under the so-called Islamic law that has been misunderstood by the religious authorities and biased coverage from the Western media . Nurhati uses hijab or veil as a part of the religious mandate and she also contributes her knowledge and skills for the benefit of the earth and mankind. 

Khalida Jamilah is a first year student at UC Berkeley.

Pope Francis

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Friday March 29, 2013 - 06:31:00 PM

As a fairly devout and dedicated Catholic for the past several years, attending services at Berkeley's Newman Hall, I'm distressed by the many articles we see denigrating our church, both in this country and abroad.

But I take comfort in St. Francis of Assisi's lovely prayer, portions of which I quote below:

"Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand, to be loved, as to love, for it is in giving that we received, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life." 

So what's to become of today's Catholicism? Dare we hope that the new Pope Francis will be an inspirational leader -- a cleric of the common people, one whose personal life style has been humble and modest, helping the poor and quietly assisting those in danger? 

I'm absolutely convinced that this new Pope Francis will restore the Catholic Church to the splendor and dignity it's known for centuries! 

Heavenly Father, I humbly ask that you guide Pope Francis in leading us to a new and revitalized Catholic Church.

April Pepper Spray Times

By Grace Underpressure
Saturday March 30, 2013 - 12:15:00 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! 


THE PUBLIC EYE: Keystone XL Pipeline: 3 Key Questions

By Bob Burnett
Friday March 29, 2013 - 08:42:00 AM

On March 1st, the State Department issued a report raising no objection to the construction of the Canadian-US Keystone XL pipeline. There will be a 45-day period for public comments and then President Obama will decide whether or not to approve the 875-mile pipeline. His decision will hinge on three critical considerations. 

1. Would increased exploitation of the Canadian tar-sands oil increase greenhouse gas emissions? There’s no dispute that Keystone XL will accelerate global climate change. The State Department acknowledges that oil derived from the tar sands emits high amounts of greenhouse gases [GHGs]. The Department’s March 1st Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement says: “[Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin] crudes are more GHG-intensive than the other heavy crudes they would replace or displace in U.S. refineries, and emit an estimated 17 percent more GHGs on a life-cycle basis than the average barrel of crude oil refined in the United States in 2005.” 

Nonetheless, the State Department concludes the greenhouse gas increase is not significant. 

2. Is pipeline approval a critical determinant of tar sands exploitation? The State Department report asserts it does not matter whether or not the Keystone XL pipeline is built: 

Based on information and analysis about the North American crude transport infrastructure (particularly the proven ability of rail to transport substantial quantities of crude oil profitably under current market conditions, and to add capacity relatively rapidly) and the global crude oil market, the draft Supplemental EIS concludes that approval or denial of the proposed Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands...
This conclusion has drawn three objections. The first is that the State Department is inadequate and has not fully considered the impact of Keystone XL on global climate change. Writing in ALTERNET, William Boardman reported the State Department report was actually written by consultants, 

Friends of the oil industry wrote the environmental impact statement issued by the State Department… And it turns out that at least one of the several oil-friendly corporate authors was apparently paid by Trans-Canada, the corporate applicant for - and the owner of - the Keystone pipeline.
The second objection to the State Department conclusion attacks the logic that blocking Keystone XL will make no difference in the generation of GHGs. In a March 10th editorial, The New York Times observed: 

Saying no to the pipeline will not stop Canada from developing the tar sands, but it will force the construction of new pipelines through Canada itself… At the very least, saying no to the Keystone XL will slow down plans to triple tar sands production from just under two million barrels a day now to six million barrels a day by 2030.
The third objection is that the State Department overstates the ability of the “north American crude transport infrastructure” to add new capacity, if the Keystone XL pipeline is not approved. Currently, the Alberta tar sands region produces 1.8 million barrels of oil per day that are transported primarily in pipelines. CALGARY HERALD columnist Stephen Ewart observed 

The looming pipeline bottleneck that's been widely forecast as oil sands production soared in Alberta in recent years is no longer imminent - it's here. The vast underground network of pipes that move approximately 3.2 million barrels of crude oil a day in Canada is operating at capacity… "It's more than full," Brenda Kenny, president of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, said in a meeting with the Herald's editorial board this week. "We're in a jam ... the numbers are stark."
The Alberta tar-sands region is authorized to produce 5 million barrels of oil per day. The State Department report assumes that, if the Keystone XL pipeline is not approved, most of the new oil would be moved by rail. However, NRDC attorney Anthony Swift observed, 

The reason why rail isn’t a feasible alternative to Keystone XL is that it is simply too expensive to support tar sands expansion. State’s conclusions to the contrary are due to their substantially underestimating the cost of rail transport.
If the Keystone XL pipeline is not approved, additional tar-sands oil production will be blocked. 

3. How will the Keystone XL pipeline decision impact US energy supplies? The third consideration is the impact of a new source of oil on domestic energy supplies. THE WORLD’s environmental editor, Peter Thomson studied this and concluded: 

[Construction of Keystone XL] might increase our energy security somewhat, but nowhere near the extent that supporters are suggesting. But it also is likely that most of the actual hydrocarbons that flow through the refineries at the end of this proposed pipeline will end up being burned elsewhere, at least under current market conditions.
In other words, most of the tar-sands oil would end up being exported. 

The State Department’s report is inadequate. President Obama should disregard it and block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

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



ECLECTIC RANT: Roe v. Wade: Still Controversial After 40 Years

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 29, 2013 - 08:47:00 AM

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion. In this case, Jane Roe, a pseudonym for Norma Leah McCorvey (née Nelson), brought a class action suit challenging the constitutionality of a Texas criminal abortion laws, which forbids procuring or attempting an abortion except on medical advice for the purpose of saving the mother's life. The Supreme Court stated that state criminal abortion laws "that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy." 

Roe established a "trimester" threshold of state interest in the life of the fetus corresponding to its increasing "viability" (likelihood of survival outside the uterus) over the course of a pregnancy. States were prohibited from banning abortion early in pregnancy but allowed to impose increasing restrictions or outright bans later in pregnancy. 

In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the "central holding" in Roe, but replaced the trimester system with the point of fetal viability (whenever it may occur) as when a state's right to override the woman's autonomy begins. Casey also lowered the legal standard to which states would be held in justifying restrictions imposed on a woman's rights. 

In an ironic twist, McCorvey/Roe in 1994 converted to Christianity and expressed remorse for her part in the Roe v. Wade decision. She later worked for the pro-life movement, such as Operation Rescue now Operation Save America, which conducts mass protests at abortion clinics to promote the pro-life cause. 

The Roe decision is significant when you consider that by age 45, about half of American women will have an unintended pregnancy and about four in ten will terminate her pregnancy. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. 

But since the Roe decision, there as been a decades-long "Roe Rage" or "Roe Backlash" against the decision. In the last two years alone, 30 states have passed 135 laws restricting access to abortion. For example, twenty-one states have adopted laws restricting insurance companies from paying for abortions. 

The federal Affordable Care Act maintains the status quo of no federal funding for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is endangered. A federal judge recently wrote "the express language does not provide for taxpayer funded abortion. That is a fact and it is clear on its face." Insurers selling their plans on the state exchanges taking effect next year must segregate the premiums they collect for abortion coverage, a definite built-in disincentive. In addition, under the Act, states can enact stricter rules of their own. So far, nineteen states bar or restrict insurance companies on their exchanges from covering abortion. 

North Dakota is taking Roe rage to the extreme by taking a step toward outlawing abortions altogether by passing what has been termed a "personhood resolution," that states a fertilized egg has the same right to life as a person. If passed by the voters, the wording would be added to the state's constitution. In light of Roe and subsequent decisions, the resolution probably violates the U.S. Constitution. But if the matter comes before the present U.S. Supreme Court, who knows how it will rule. 

On the other side of the coin, Washington state is considering legislation, which would mandate insurance companies to pay for abortions. The proposed Reproductive Parity Act would require insurers in Washington state who cover maternity care -- which all insurers must do -- to also pay for abortions. The bill passed the state House, but must now pass the state Senate and, if it does, then goes to a popular vote. 

And in California, AB 154 was introduced, which would expand the number of trained health professionals who can provide early abortion cases. AB 154 would authorize trained nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to provide early abortions. Presently, women in 52 percent of California counties do not have an accessible abortion provider. If passed, women in rural areas will not have to travel great distances to find a provider.  

Some critics of the Roe v. Wade decision argue that the states should have worked out delicate matters like abortion for themselves.  

The broad ruling in Roe stopped activity in state legislatures, created polarization and some would say, damaged the authority of the court. But in "Backlash to the Future? From Roe to Perry," the authors dispute this so-called Roe Rage or Roe Backlash. “Before Roe,” they wrote, “despite broad popular support, liberalization of abortion law had all but come to a halt in the face of concerted opposition by a Catholic-led minority. It was, in other words, decidedly not the case that abortion reform was on an inevitable march forward if only the Supreme Court had stayed its hand.” Thus, it may have been time for the Supreme Courts to step in to vindicate the rights of the minority even at the risk of a rage or backlash. 

Forty years later, the Roe v. Wade decision still ignites rage and a backlash. The opponents of legalized abortion appear to be gaining ground and as a result, the cause of women's reproductive rights are set back. Do we really want to go back to those dark days of back alley abortions with a coat hanger or knitting needle, causing injury and sometimes even death? 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Difficulties of Employment

By Jack Bragen
Friday March 29, 2013 - 09:02:00 AM

Persons with chronic mental illness often become gleeful when successfully employed. Employment seems like a reason for liking oneself and a way to have more self-esteem. Most "normal" people, regardless of their demographic or what country they are from, put a lot of value on having an education and having employment or entrepreneurship. Most Americans, mentally ill or not, receive a blow to self-esteem when unemployed. 

However, the need to be employed in order to like oneself could be a socially induced neurosis. This psychological pattern can be deprogrammed through cognitive techniques. In the absence of a job, it requires a lot of work on one's innards to create self appreciation, acceptance of oneself, and self-esteem. For me, it became less work to simply like myself, by convincing myself of my own worthiness, compared to the difficulties and the effort of holding a day job. When one has a legitimate disability, one should not berate oneself for not having a job. 

The barriers faced by persons with mental illness when trying to hold a job are several and are difficult to overcome. Someone with mental illness could be basically capable of doing the work, but could have other problems that interfere. 

Symptoms of the illnesses, which medication won't entirely resolve, can affect the perceptions of one's environment. People with paranoid tendencies are more likely to feel intimidated by coworkers, and may lack the social skills that would enable them to feel "safe" in the work scenario. Being able to get along with coworkers and having social ability are a significant factor in keeping a job. 

A person with mental illness may not have the same level of self-confidence compared to their "normal" counterparts. When anyone, with or without a mental illness, experiences enough setbacks, it can affect self-confidence. Persons with mental illness tend to have numerous setbacks in their history. Resilience only lasts so long, and becomes less with age. 

Medications used to remain stabilized affect work performance. A person with mental illness may not be hirable at a job that entails going up on a ladder, because employers may fear the person will have dizziness, and companies may be limited by the dictates of insurance. Any job that requires a lot of reflexes or a high level of exertion could be a problem for someone with mental illness, because some medications affect reflexes and can inhibit physical exertion. 

Antipsychotic medications often impair concentration. This could affect a job that requires intensive reading, studying or working intensively on a computer. This impairment varies and can make it painful to concentrate. Yet, this can sometimes be counterbalanced with practice and effort. 

Slowness from medication can affect the speed of performing repetitive tasks such as data entry or merchandising. Medication can make it difficult to wake up in the morning. Medication can make a person depressed, which can cause "giving up" on working. 

Another negative factor is people telling us "you can't do it." I have heard that message from counselors who felt it was their job to get me past my "delusions of grandeur." A counselor once wrote in a log that that I had not yet faced the fact that I could not work. This wasn't accurate. The counselor left her job shortly after I discovered the comment. 

Another counselor once said that I had a better chance at becoming a pro basketball player than a professional writer (I am five foot six-usually not tall enough for pro basketball.) 

Counselors seem to universally assume that persons with mental illness can't do something that requires intelligence. My wife, who has a bachelor's degree, went to Department of Rehabilitation for job assistance, and was referred to a training to become a motel maid. Taking pot shots at the confidence of a person with mental illness is not acceptable. 

When a person with psychiatric illness learns to sell oneself short, and accepts jobs that are actually below their level, it is a form of self sabotage and yields nothing. Social Security benefits exist so that we need not get psychotic while cleaning toilets. 

Post traumatic stress is another limiting factor. If someone has lot of misfortune associated with work, it can induce extra fear and stress in a job. Emotions associated with PTSD might trigger overt symptoms of the person's neurobiological disorder. 

A case of burnout is roughly in the same vein as PTSD. When someone has "been there, done that" enough times-having too many negative experiences-it might be a good time to retire. 

Work at a regular job is not always a good fit. Sometimes, an individual is better off if self-employed. Jobs in which a person is an "independent contractor" may allow more independence and more freedom. If you are an entrepreneur or if you work in a job that has a high enough rank, the performance issues related to the medication or the illness may not affect the job. Reaching that point may be the difficult part. 

The above essay is not intended to make persons give up on work, except for instances where a job is doing them emotional or physical harm. If anyone feels that they would like to try a job, an adequate level of determination and motivation can sometimes counterbalance the impairments of the illness, the medication, and the discrimination of employers. I believe that for people who want to work, it is useful to identify exactly what one is up against so that these obstacles can be dealt with.

Arts & Events

Around & About Theater & Music: Notes on Two Productions--'Galileo' at Masquers Playhouse & mugwumpin's 'Great Big Also'--& Info on Marion Fay's Theater & Music Classes

By Ken Bullock
Friday March 29, 2013 - 06:46:00 PM


Around & About Theater & Music: Notes on Two Productions—'Galileo' at Masquers Playhouse & mugwumpin's 'Great Big Also'—& Info on Marion Fay's Theater & Music Classes 

—'The Life of Galileo' at Masquers Playhouse: " 'Nothing is more pleasant than to sit upon a sofa reading a novel' ... This remark suggests the degree of relaxation which a narrative work can give to its reader. If we imagine a person attending a dramatic spectacle we tend to visualize the opposite ... [Brecht] represents Galileo first and foremost as a great teacher. Galileo not only teaches the new physics, he also teaches it in a new way. The scientific experiment is, in his hands, no longer a conquest only of science but also of pedagogy. The main emphasis of the play is not on Galileo's recantation. Rather, the really epic process should be sought in the caption to the penultimate scene [Brecht often used placards with a synopsis of each scene on the stage]: '1633-42: As a prisoner of the Inquisition, Galileo continues his scientific work until his death. He succeeds in smuggling his principal works out of Italy.' " 

This from Brecht's friend, the critic Walter Benjamin, shortly after the first version of 'Galileo' became available in print in the late 1930s. (It wasn't produced until 1943, in Zurich. The first English-language production, in LA and NYC, Charles Laughton directed by Joseph Losey, was in 1947.) After half-joking how, in 'Galileo,' "playing a teacher is easier, of course, than playing a hero," Benjamin goes on about Brecht's desire to "make the thinking man, or indeed the wise man, into an actual dramatic hero—and it is from this point of view from which his theater may be defined as epic." 

In the show at the Masquers Playhouse, directed by Bruce Coughran, some of the best moments are exactly those that dwell on the theater of day-to-day life: young Andrea Sarti (a lit-up Campbell Zeigler, fourth grader from Walnut Creek) plays the very serious game, with Stanley Spenger's gently encouraging (and admonishing) Galileo, of learning a physics which overturns the ancient rules that Church and university adhere to. Or when Mathew Surrence as Sagredo, a most sincere friend and admirer of the pioneer scientist, who interrupts their conversation about revolutionary discoveries in astronomy to warn him about society's irrationality: "I smell burning flesh." 

Stan Spenger shows something of Galileo's sense of his own superiority—and vanity—and his impatience in telling the truth he's discovered. Not shown so much, only spoken of in the script, is his conviviality and need for "the pleasures of the flesh"—the man of science is an Epicurean, a sensualist, no martyr for the Truth. 

The cast tries to bring out their respective characters—in particular, Bill McClave as Galileo's lens grinder and Laura Domingo as Galileo's daughter. But everyone's hamstrung by trying to create a "normal" dramatic atmosphere, instead of a Brechtian (and Galilean!) sense of demonstration, "not so much developing action as uncovering conditions," as Benjamin put it, going on to say that Brecht's theater is "non-Aristotelian just as Riemann introduced a non-Euclidean geometry—only Riemann refused the axiom of parallels; Brecht refuses the Aristotelian catharsis, the purging of emotions through identification with the destiny that rules the hero's life." 

This kind of theater is one of gesture, of storytelling: "to make gestures quotable is the actor's most important achievement." Too much of 'Galileo' at the Masquers falls back on the old tricks of melodrama, which don't take with this sort of play. There's neither catharsis, nor enough illumination of the conditions of the historical process of how a man with questions, not answers, changes the way the whole world is perceived. 

—mugwumpin's 'The Great Big Also' at Z Space: "All man's miseries come from being unable to sit alone in a room." Pascal's wry assessment of the human condition is like the flip side of the coin to`` mugwumpin's most ambitious production to date, 'The Great Big Also,' just ended at Z Space. The audience is led by ushers—or docents?—into a partitioned tent that fills the theater, carefully dropping off a spectator here and there in its labryrinthine chambers, breaking up any group each one may've come with, making new groupings of starngers. 

It turns out the ushers are the cast—and the members of a cult, who sweetly, politely—and strangely—begin to fill us in on their "raison d'etat"—the Rift ... and the Shift ... to a new reality, another America, while we observe, in our various obstructed rooms-with-no-views—which, once adjusted, become more global—the motley crew who have been demonstrating their wares, their lives and themselves. 

Self-fulfilling prophecy or DOA? Or a love letter to the stranger forms of togetherness in America? Once again, mugwumpin's come up with the phenomenon, and made a show of it, not just about it. By turns amusing, irritating, engrossing and challenging, they—the cult and the performance company (Madeline H. D. Brown, Stephanie DeMott, Joseph Estlack, Natalie Greene, Susannah Martin, Michael Mohammed, Wiley Naman Strasser and Michelle Talgarow—not to mention director Christopher W. White and his valiant production crew)—have taken us from someplace we thought we knew, to someplace else ... both maybe exactly the same ... but is the Shift coming, or did we do that already? 

—Marion Fay's excellent, unusual theater and music classes will start up again the week of April 1. 

Theater class will have three sections to choose from: Mondays, 10 till noon or 1 till 3 and Thursdays 1-3. See shows at Berkeley Rep, ACT, the Aurora and other theaters with discount group tickets, participate in post-performance discussions, meet actors, directors, playwrights who will speak in class—plus a live performance in class ... Select a section, register the first day of class and bring $28 in a plain envelope, if you plan to attend 'The Arsonists' at the Aurora on April 14 at 7 p. m. 

Music class—and no background in music is necessary—will be Thursday mornings from 10 till noon, from April 4. Go to classical music events in the Bay Area, hear and meet composers, musicians and conductors from the Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco Symphonies ... 

Classes for both Theater and Music at the Northbrae Community Center, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley (near the top of Solano Avenue and the tunnel). 10 week sessions for $75 (discount tickets for performances additional). 

For more information: marionfay@comcast.net