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The whole city: Impact Map with Key
Thomas Lord
The whole city: Impact Map with Key


The Editor's Back Fence

New: Not much to report as yet, still

Becky O'Malley
Friday June 17, 2016 - 07:35:00 AM

Technology, technology, technology! All the adjuncts we've been able to contrive to make our lives easier just seem to add another level of confusion to what is already inevitable. My friend Kelly pointed out that there's a whole generation now that doesn't remember when things worked. True, we didn't have many things to malfunction, but when you picked up the telephone it was right there, dial tone and all, and even in the old old days of my childhood summers in rural Michigan with a nice lady to help you call from the party line.

It turns out that editing on an IPad with a tetchy wi-fi signal in a hotel built in 1901 is suboptimal. My apologies to writers whose pieces are not yet posted.

Today my first priority has been to post the articles about what's happening back in good ol' Berkeley which diligent citizens have sent in. Then, if and when the wi-fi works better at my next stop, I'll try to record my own musings of the difference between Here, Now and There, Then. 

Public Comment

New: Sacramento Streamlining Deal: What's in store for your neighborhood?

Thomas Lord
Friday June 17, 2016 - 06:26:00 PM
The whole city: Impact Map with Key
Thomas Lord
The whole city: Impact Map with Key
South and southwest Berkeley
Thomas Lord
South and southwest Berkeley
North Berkeley
Thomas Lord
North Berkeley
Thomas Lord

What will be the impact on Berkeley of Governor Brown's Streamlining Affordable Housing bill? What will be built in your neighborhood?

When passed (which seems likely), the bill will end the process of public hearing and review for many high-impact projects. Builders of multi-unit apartments and mixed-use buildings will be able to build by-right, so long as they include a small number of means-tested, so-called affordable units, and so long as the project requires no zoning variances.

Example impacts

If you have been going to public meetings, hoping to influence the development of the Adeline Corridor near Ashby BART: The Governor's bill will allow projects with five stories (and possibly larger) to proceed without any further public input or hearing, and without any chance to appeal. If you have fought for large amounts of affordable housing in this area, too bad. Know that the Governor's bill will permit 90% of the new units to be market rate. 

If you live near North Berkeley BART: You are safe from any large impact. To the west, east, and south of the station, small 2-story projects are possible. Blocks on the north side of the station, where highly restrictive zoning was originally designed to keep the neighborhood wealthy and white, will be exempt from the Streamlining bill. 

If you live anywhere near campus: Close to Cal it will be open season for four story, five, and perhaps taller projects -- unless, that is, you live a few blocks to the north. To the north, where zoning restrictions were originally intended to preserve the neighborhood as rich and caucasian, many blocks are exempt from the Streamlining bill. 

The Lorin district vs. Elmwood: All along Adeline and Shattuck, five story structures can be streamlined; four stories, just to the north of Ashby. In contrast, much of the Elmwood will be entirely protected from streamlining (again, by historically racist zoning). Two story projects and, close to Ashby, three stories might be built. 

All of University Avenue, and All of San Pablo Avenue: These commercial corridors will permit 5-story structures by-right, even adjacent to existing residential "R-2" areas. 

Near San Pablo Park: Blocks to the north, west, and east of the park will be somewhat spared from the Streamlining bill because of their historic zoning against lower income households. Nevertheless, immediately adjacent to those protected blocks, four and five story projects may be streamlined on Ashby, Sacramento, and San Pablo. 

If your rent controlled unit stands in the way: Streamlining will create not only by-right development, but also by-right demolition, including the demolition of rent controlled units. (A Berkeley ordinance requires that you are paid some money to help cover the costs of being kicked out.) 

These maps can help you begin to explore the impact on your neck of the woods.

Don the Con

By Tejinder Uberoi
Friday June 17, 2016 - 05:58:00 PM

Trump often boasts that his negotiating skills as a successful business tycoon would be used to make ‘America Great Again’ if he is elected president. But a close examination of court records reveal details of how the robber baron tycoon actually bankrupt his Atlantic Casinos but was still able to walk away with millions. Investing little of his own money he secured large loans at high interest using his high profile name and his casinos as collateral. Collecting significant portion of the profits and paying himself a high salary and bonuses and shifting his personal debts onto the casino books, he amassed millions before driving his poorly managed casinos to bankruptcy. He sought protection from the courts and persuaded bond holders to settle for less.  

Unabashed, he boasted that “The money I took out of there was incredible.” Duped by ‘Don the con’ his investors lost millions. He narrowly escaped financial ruin in the 1990s by delaying payments on his debt. To avoid staggering losses he took his casinos public shifting the risk to stockholders. His stock and bondholders lost more than $1.5 billion and many contractors and service providers suffered financial ruin when he failed to pay them but that did not stop him continuing to use the casinos as his personal ATM. Do we really want a con artist as our next president?

Gun Violence

By Jagjit Singh
Friday June 17, 2016 - 05:42:00 PM

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, many Americans are asking, what will it take for Congress to restrict access to guns? This is the 133rd mass shooting in the U.S. in 2016. 

We know that the AR-15 and other assault-style rifles are the weapons of choice in mass shootings.  

In a devastating indictment of Congress, we know that three years ago, 44 out of 45 Senate Republican voted against reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban. The Assault Weapons Ban was introduced in the House nearly six months ago, where, it has languished ever since.  

Last year Senate Republicans voted to allow potential terrorists including people on the ‘no fly’ list, to buy guns out of an innate fear of invoking the wrath of the National Rifle Association who might use their financial muscle to thwart their re-election prospects. These members of Congress have blood on their hands. 

Omar Mateen had been on a terrorist watch list but that did not stop him purchasing guns legally and working as a security guard and the Florida Department of Corrections. He had a chilling history of talking about killing people, beating his former wife and voicing hatred of minorities, gays and Jews. Our law enforcement agencies need to be far more vigilant in countering lone wolf ‘home grown’ terrorists. Radical Islam rejects modernity and has become a major threat to the West. Unless we counter this threat and out outlaw military style weapons we can only expect more human tragedies.

Three little scams: manipulating the housing crisis

Steve Martinot
Friday June 17, 2016 - 03:53:00 PM

During the recent election, a measure was passed in San Francisco that requires greater "inclusion" of "affordable" units in all new housing developments. This is something that many have been working toward in Berkeley as well. In the San Francisco measure, all projects of 25 units or more must include 25% affordable units for low income families (i.e., one affordable for every three market rate units). In Berkeley, the comparable measure, passed this past April, only required that a sixth should be affordable (for every five market rate units, one affordable unit would be included). It is important to bear in mind the inherent incommensurability in such plans.

“Affordable housing” stands on different economic grounds than “market rate housing.” The term "affordable" signifies that rent is pegged to the tenant’s income. According to HUD’s definition (as a federal standard), housing is considered "affordable" if its cost (rent or mortgage) does not exceed 30% of the resident’s (tenant’s) income. In contradistinction, "market rate" refers to housing rental that is unregulated, charging “what the traffic will bear.” As will be explained below, it is the inability to regulate “market rate” housing that is responsible for the current housing crisis. We must be clear on this.  

The crisis is not one of supply and demand. The imbalance of supply and demand is one of the problems. The actual crisis consists of hundreds of families being driven out of their homes by artificial rent increases, and those rent increases are driven in turn by the plan to build massive market rate housing developments. Ironically, both San Francisco and Berkeley developed their respective "inclusionary" measures in order to resolve the housing crisis. They will, however, only make the crisis worse because of what such "inclusionary plans" ignore. First, they ignore the distinct class bias contained in each proposition. Second, it is a bias that is unavoidable as long as housing development is linked to corporate financing. And third, there is the fact that all corporate developers have the same ability to avoid fulfilling their “affordable housing” requirement (a legal escape hatch). Ultimately, it is the class bias inherent in these plans that serves to mask the fact that “market rate” housing is the source of the crisis itself. 

The class composition of inclusionary housing 

"Inclusionary housing” means that each building, while fundamentally composed of “market rate” units, will also have a modicum of units to be rented as affordable, that is, in relation to the tenant’s income. Yet this is an inversion of the situation into which it is injected. The vast majority of those requiring housing nowadays are low income. And that is precisely because their ranks are swelling rapidly owing to their displacement and dislocation by landlords who raise the rent beyond what the tenants can pay. Many actually suffer harassment, pushing them to move out. Once on the street, very few find housing they can afford. In contradistinction, high income people have no problem finding housing these days. Some move into those units from which low income tenants were “economically evicted.” As this process progresses, rents in general reach a level which only high income families can afford. To call this an imbalance of supply and demand is to miss the point. 

But let"s look at the demographics. In Berkeley, two-thirds of all residents are renters. The vast majority of them are “low-income” (according to HUD’s definitions). How do we know? The statistics tell us. HUD categorizes income levels according to their relation with an Area Median Income (AMI), calculated on the basis of counties. The "median" (of income) is that number which divides a population in half – half earning less and half earning more. “Low income” is defined as those earning less than 80% of AMI (with further division into very low, and extremely low categories). In Alameda County, the AMI is $92,000 a year. 80% of $92K is $73,600 a year. Those families earning less than $73,600 are eligible for low income affordable housing, paying 30% of income for rent (roughly $1800 a month). 

But the median income for the city of Berkeley itself is less than $64,000 a year. That is, the cutoff point for low income in the county area is higher than the median income for Berkeley. That means that more than half of all the residents in Berkeley would be characterized as “low income” by HUD. More than half!! Evidently, those with higher incomes in the area live in the county’s suburbs. There’s part of your class distinction. If housing is to reflect the needs of the people, and two-thirds of Berkeley’s residents are renters, the vast majority of which are “low-income,” then the majority of housing units should be "affordable" (pegged to income) and not "market rate." As a ballpark figure for Berkeley, the ratio of affordable housing to market rate in new housing development should be at least 2 to 1. 

The Berkeley city council proposition only requires one affordable unit for every five market rate units (available now only for high income people). That means it is off by a factor of 10. 

While low income renters are being forced from their homes by greed and economic eviction, and need protection from this greed, the city grants permits for housing for the wealthy. That amounts to a serious class bias; the wealthy minority get care and attention, and the low income majority get booted out of town. 

That is the first scam. 

We cannot neglect the racialized dimension of all this. Job discrimination has historically kept black and brown people in lower paying jobs, and living in low rent housing. And they are bearing the brunt of this crisis as a result. Where people of color were once 25% of Berkeley’s population, they are now down to 8%. The housing crisis is not just a class problem, it is also an example of institutional racism. 

Why does market rate housing create a crisis?  

Let us begin by re-emphasizing that the housing crisis is not one of supply and demand, but a result of the economic dislocation of real people. Hundreds of families face “being migrated” out of town. And the inception of this social travesty lies in the original plan to build thousands of new housing units in huge apartment buildings charging unregulated (market rate) rents (called “Plan Bay Area”). The fact that the developers are corporations, and that they have available to them the ability to pay a "mitigation" fee rather than include "affordable" units (their escape hatch) are a real part of the problem. 

The announced purpose of the Plan was to bring people in from the suburbs, to alleviate commuter traffic. These would be higher income people, who could be charged higher rent. In preparation for this planned influx, landlords started forcing low income people out of their homes in order to opportune on the coming bonanza. The second thing the Plan did was attract speculators whose operations started driving up real estate values. As rents began their upward climb, those ejected from their homes by this process found it increasingly difficult to remain in in the city. The wealthy do not face that problem. Two bedroom apartments today go for $2800 a month. That would be 30% of income for a family earning $110,000 a year. Some such apartments are now renting for $3300 a month. A family earning $130,000 a year could handle it. In Berkeley, that would be twice the city’s median income. 

Thus, even before the first major developments were started (4th and U, the Avalon, 5th St and University, with others on deck – 1500 San Pablo, 2100 San Pablo, 2902 Adeline, the Kennedy building over the CIT site between Telegraph and Regent, and the SW corner of Blake and Telegraph), rent levels rose. It wasn’t supply and demand that drove them, but the promise of a change in the class composition of the city. And it insured that the new apartments would be very expensive, not because of supply and demand, but because of a thing called “market rate.” 

Still, there are those who chant college economics rhetoric, claiming that just building more housing will resolve the crisis. Maybe in the sweet bye and bye – but by then, entire classes of people who will have been driven out of town, to become commuters on still crowded expressways. 

What’s the hangup? 

Neighborhood movements, of course, have formed that are calling on the city to impose a moratorium on rent increases until enough affordable housing (pegged to income rather than an artificial market) can be built to meet the low income demand. The city begs off, saying that would violate the Costa-Hawkins Act, which prohibits cities from passing any kind of rent control law. 

The other hangup is that corporate developers don’t want to build affordable housing. It has to do with the fact that they depend on bank financing of their operations. If a developer runs into financial problems, the project (whether finished or not) will have to be recapitalized to clear the developer’s debt. That means selling it to someone who can absorb the debt. Because affordable housing units are income-linked rather than market oriented, they create financial uncertainties that make recapitalization more difficult. Thus, original financing is harder to come by. 

In addition, the banks insist that buildings be above a certain minimum size. They do so in order for it to provide earnings greater than the bank could have gained through securities speculation. As a result, developers have been known to insist (often unreasonably) that only a large project will be considered (e.g. a building of seven stories rather than five stories). 

Because the banks are finicky about financing inclusionary housing projects, they prefer to finance mitigation fees, which reduces financial risk. The city assists them in this by giving discounts on mitigation fees. Instead of charging $34,000 per affordable unit not built, it reduces this to $30,000 for those who pay up front. 

That is the second scam the city is running. It pretends to be for the people in advancing housing development, but it is only supporting the development corporations and the banks. 

The third scam  

Inclusionary proposals swill not stem the crisis, because it is a crisis of dislocation, which market rate housing will not alleviate. Yet both the city council and the media pretend, in the midst of this crisis, that only market rate housing counts, and that affordable housing is a secondary concern. We see this in the language they use. Affordable housing is called Below Market Rate housing ("BMR" housing). That hides its categorical difference from market rate housing, and disguises the fact that the market is the source of the crisis. 

That is the third scam. To prioritize the market in this way makes it seem like it is the only norm, with affordable housing being some special case. But if housing is a human right, and the majority of the people clamor for affordability, then the market norm is anti-democratic and dictatorial – a process of deporting people out of town – and should itself be demoted to “special status.” 

What do we really have to do to resolve this crisis? 

Three scams are being perpetrated on us by the city council and its business associates. The first, the claim that inclusionary housing will alleviate the crisis, signifies that council has heard the neighborhoods’ demand for protection against dislocation and is undermining that protection. The second is the inversion of the class relation, helping the wealthy while leaving low income families to suffer their exile. The third is that affordable housing is just another form of market rate housing. 

Though the Costa-Hawkins bill prevents the city from acting proactively toward this problem which threatens the life of its neighborhoods, it could not prevent the city from declaring a state of emergency (as it has with respect to the homeless and the issue of shelter against inclement weather). The fact that hundreds of families will be driven out of town by economic eviction – families that are the constituency of the city council – would amount to a horrendous emergency. Like an epidemic of ebola or anthrax, it would require extreme measures. The city could declare an emergency, and under its umbrella, impose a moratorium on rent increases until sufficient affordable housing has been built.  

But that would only be stop gap measure. What the city of Berkeley really has to do, and has not taken any steps toward, is to initiate a state-wide movement to repeal Costa-Hawkins. 

After all, two-thirds of the residents of Berkeley are renters. What that law says is that the renters of Berkeley have no democratic avenues by which to protect themselves against forced economic eviction, landlord greed, corporate imposition, or city council corruption. Their ability to do so has been fettered by anti-democratic laws at the state level. 

But that isn’t the only measure the state has imposed on cities that is patently anti-democratic. There is also the density bonus law which gives landlords the ability to violate neighborhood zoning regulations. That law removes zoning codes from the domain of democratic policy-making. And now, to top it off, the state budget includes a measure that gives developers carte blanche to build whatever they want without going through city design review, environmental impact studies, or zoning oversight, if they follow certain minimal rules. It is called a “by-right” permitting process, and is designed to "streamline" the development process. 

All three of these laws are designed to curtail or obstruct the ability of the people of cities to democratically resolve the problems that they face. They all should be repealed – in the interest of justice and democracy.

What Bernie should have done

By Harry Brill
Friday June 17, 2016 - 05:54:00 PM

Ahead of a meeting with Clinton, Sanders called for a "Fundamental Transformation of the Democratic Party" In brief, he recommended electoral reforms that would facilitate the ability of citizens to register to vote. He also demanded the end of the superdelegate system. 

But to stand a chance of reforming the Democratic Party and Democratic based public agencies in California would also require a fundamental transformation in how Bernie would attempt to achieve his aims. Like many of you who are reading this commentary I have enormous respect for Bernie and for what he has accomplished by advocating a progressive agenda. However, his campaign has suffered from a serious omission. Since about 2 1/2 million ballots have not been counted in California, Bernie should not have conceded the vote to Hillary. In fact, he should have encouraged his supporters to protest this blatant violation of democratic principles. 

Many of the uncounted votes have been cast by independents, who tend to favor Bernie. So at the very least, he would have gained more delegates. In fact, it is also possible that he would have won California. But by not demanding that all these votes be counted as cast, Bernie let democracy slip through his fingers. 

It is widely known now that there has been considerable fraud involved in counting the ballots. Among the revelations, poll workers in one California district were instructed, in effect, to lie by placing perfectly solid ballots in a in a separate box that are characterized as provisional ballots. Although in theory these ballots would be counted once their legitimacy is verified, in reality they often are ignored. Moreover, voters who live in communities with high percentages of racial and ethnic minorities have the highest rate of rejection of legitimate ballots. According to one investigation, "The California primary wasn't an election. It was a coup featuring shady and downright illegal tactics usually associated with dictatorship states". Incredibly, the serious problem of discarding legitimate votes was uncovered not only in California but in other states as well, including Arizona and New York. Clearly, democracy is taking a back seat; in fact, way back. 

Had the Bernie Campaign shouted loud and clear about the widespread fraud in counting ballots at the expense of his campaign, and had demanded that immediate corrective steps be taken, it could have had a significant impact. The stability of our political system depends in part on the illusion of being a democratic society. Also, the establishment wants to avoid the risk that its opponents would seriously attempt to build a mass based third party alternative. So Bernie and his supporters have some leverage in defending democracy. 

Because California's Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, is in charge of overseeing federal and state elections, his legal obligation is to insure that every vote is counted as cast. But he has not lived up to his obligations. As a result, activist lawyers have sued to avoid the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, most of whom support Bernie Sanders for president. 

But neither law suits nor expressions of disappointment are enough. Certainly the energy to organize a mass response is there. Bernie could have ignited that response by encouraging mass demonstrations and marches . I certainly realize that this is not what presidential candidates normally do. But unfortunately, nothing short of pursuing a militant program would work. Although Bernie's campaign vigorously advocates many progressive programs such as single payer and affordable housing, it is pie in the sky to think that these can be achieved without addressing the establishment's severe and relentless assault on democracy.  

A couple dozen progressive organizations are meeting in Chicago. Called the People's Summit, they will attempt to plan the political road ahead. I hope that the issue of democracy will be among their central concerns as it was in the civil rights and the labor movement before then. None of the major programs that will improve our quality of life can be achieved without building a genuinely democratic society. Otherwise, we're just blowing in the wind.


THE PUBLIC EYE: 5 suggestions for Hllary

Bob Burnett
Friday June 17, 2016 - 02:22:00 PM

Five months before the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton has secured the Democratic nomination. Despite many tactical advantages, Clinton is in a tight race with Donald Trump. Here are five suggestions about what Hillary can do to smooth her path to the presidency. 

At the moment, Hillary is ahead of Trump. She’s put away Bernie Sanders and has most Democrats behind her. She has the support of President Obama and other Democratic leaders. Obama is a popular President. The economy is growing. Democrats have a higher approval rating than do Republicans. But that’s not enough against a candidate as sinister as Trump. 

Here are 5 things that Clinton can do to strengthen her hand: 1. Make Elizabeth Warren her running mate. While there are other candidates for the Democratic nominee for vice-president, none would be as strong, politically, as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren has proven herself an effective advocate of progressive policies and a vehement critic of Donald Trump. Warren is smart, effective, and has a compelling personal story. 

Warren brings several unique strengths to the Clinton campaign. First, she can be the foremost critic of all things Trump – in effect, the bad cop – while Hillary focuses on positive policy positions – plays the good cop. 

Second, Warren serves as the bridge to Bernie Sanders’ partisans. (Many of the Democrats and Independents who supported Sanders began by begging Warren to run.) Warren is a bona fide progressive. Whereas some might doubt Clinton’s willingness to rein in Wall Street, no one can doubt Warren’s commitment to that cause or her deep understanding of economic inequality – in effect, she would carry the Sanders’ issues into the general election. 

Third, Warren’s positive image can help boost Clinton’s favorability ratings. One of Hillary’s biggest problems is that a lot of voters (particularly Independents and Republicans) don’t like her. Warren can serve as a bridge to independents. 

2. Win each day’s media war. Since May 31st, when Donald Trump attacked the media, Clinton has won the bulk of positive media attention each day. She’s accomplished this with a combination of personal appearances, speeches by surrogates (such as Obama and Warren), and matching Trump twitter for twitter. 

One of the advantages Clinton has over Trump is that she has effective campaign surrogates (Obama, Biden, Warren, Bill Clinton, and others) and he does not. Hillary can amplify this advantage by making herself more accessible to the press.  

3. Put boots on the ground now. For a variety of reasons, Donald Trump hasn’t deployed a campaign infrastructure in swing states. In 2016, these are likely to include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. The campaign infrastructure will be crucial to placing ads and getting voters out in these states. 

One of the reasons Trump doesn’t have a campaign infrastructure is because he hasn’t raised the money necessary. A recent Huffington Post article said that Trump only has 70 paid staff members compared to Clinton’s 732. 

The Atlantic magazine observed that Trump is basing his campaign on his business strategy:

Trump has made his name by being extremely available to the media, and by franchising essential operations out of house: He sells the rights to use his name to a developer, and then they do all the work. That’s more or less what he’s proposing to do with the campaign. He’ll syndicate his name to the RNC, and the party will run his campaign.
It’s unlikely that this strategy will work in swing states. 

4. Solidify the women’s vote. In 2012 while Barack Obama won 55 percent of the female vote, Mitt Romney secured 58 percent of the vote of white women. In 2012, the overall gender gap was 10 percent.  

In 2016, the gender gap is shifting in Clinton’s favor. According to a recent Politifact report, Clinton has a 19 percent lead over Trump among all women. A recent Gallup Poll provided additional information on the gender gap. Non-White women favor Clinton by 56 points (65 percent for Clinton vs. 9 percent for Trump). White women favor Clinton by 2 points. (White college graduates favor Clinton by 8 points.) 

With the support of Elizabeth Warren, Hillary can solidify the women’s vote and lock down the election. 

5. Attract the Sanders Voters. A recent MSNBC report suggested that Clinton has her work cut out to attract Sanders voters:

The notion that party-abandoning Democrats are the reason Sanders does better against Trump is just not supported by the data. The analysis shows they are moderate, non-partisan voters who dislike both candidates but are most intense in their feelings about Clinton.

With the help of Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton should mount a campaign to attract these voters. Where a lot of personal outreach is required, Clinton can help herself at the July Democratic convention by highlighting the Sanders policy agenda. 

Hillary Clinton is favored to win the presidency but against Trump she must not take anything for granted. 

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

ECLECTIC RANT: The Stanford Sexual Assault Case

Ralph E. Stone
Friday June 17, 2016 - 03:39:00 PM

Everyone now knows about Judge Aaron Persky's decision to give Brock Turner, a former Stanford University swimmer, a six-month jail sentence for his conviction of three felony counts of sexual assault on an unconscious woman. Turner will probably spend three-months in county jail and then be eligible for parole. Many find this sentence far too lenient.  

Prosecutors had asked that Turner be sentenced to six years in prison for the January 2015 assault. There is now a movement to recall Judge Persky. 

What is appalling about the sixth-month sentence, is that it is not within California sentencing guidelines. Conviction of three felony counts of assault with intent to commit rape has a minimum sentence of two years with a maximum sentence of up to fourteen years with no presumption of eligibility for parole. In order to skirt the guidelines, the judge had to find that this was an "unusual case" and that the interest of justice required or would best be served by probation. He found that Turner was intoxicated prior to committing these crimes, was a very successful young man with a fine academic record with athletic accomplishments. Judge Persky feared any harsher punishment would have a negative "impact" on Turner. What about the victim you ask? This was the judge's basis for finding this an "unusual case" and justice, according to the judge, required the lenient sentence. 

What is disturbing is that this makes every women less safe at colleges and universities because that description of Turner fits most campus rape cases, which essentially takes campus rape from the category of crimes you can go to prison for and instead be awarded a lighter sentence.  

One study estimates that as many as one in four women experience sexual assault at college, though the vast majority never report it. Given the lenient sentence meted out to Turner, is it any wonder many do not even report sexual assault.  

The Stanford sexual assault case should be of great concern for women students, their parents, and school administrations.

SENIOR POWER: Yoga + Meditation + Exercise and Good Nutrition = Muscle Mass

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday June 17, 2016 - 06:02:00 PM

Sarcopenia is … [5 of these apply] … a component of the frailty syndrome, an Eastern Europe nation, a disease associated with the aging process, most prevalent in Europe, an undiagnosed condition in older adults, a member of the EU, a noun.  

At some point in your 30’s, you begin to lose muscle mass and function. Even if you are active, you will still experience some muscle loss. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30. It’s called age-related sarcopenia or sarcopenia with aging.  

Sarcopenia is associated with the aging process. Loss of muscle mass and strength affects balance, gait and overall ability to perform tasks of daily living. Is sarcopenia a disease, or is it a process? Are there potentially alterable physiological or genetically programmed events?  

Although there is no generally accepted test or specific level of muscle mass for a diagnosis of sarcopenia, any loss of muscle mass has consequences because it means loss of strength and mobility. Sarcopenia typically accelerates around age 75 although it can happen to people aged 65 or 80. In older adults, it is a factor in the occurrence of frailty and the likelihood of falls and fractures

As one ages, hormone levels change, protein requirements alter, motor neurons die, and we tend to become more sedentary. Most commonly seen in inactive people, it also affects those who remain physically active throughout their lives, indicating that a sedentary lifestyle is not the only sarcopenia factor in the disease.  

The primary treatment is exercise, specifically resistance training or strength training. Exercise with weights or resistance bands that increases muscle strength and endurance has been shown to be useful for both the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia. Resistance training has been reported to influence positively the neuromuscular system, hormone concentrations, and protein synthesis rate. A program of progressive resistance training exercises can increase protein synthesis rates in older adults in as little as two weeks.  

Even individuals who maintain their fitness through exercise do not appear to be immune to sarcopenia. Scientists have long believed muscle loss and others signs associated with aging are an inevitable process. Researchers are looking for ways in which the aging process can be slowed, specifically in relation to loss of muscle mass and strength. 

When sarcopenia is coupled with other diseases associated with aging, its affects can be more pronounced. Frailty is a common geriatric syndrome that has been recognized for centuries.  

When patients suffer from both sarcopenia and osteoporosis, the risk of falling and subsequent fracture incidence is higher. How are falls and osteoporosis linked? One out of 5 falls among older adults causes serious injury such as a broken bone. Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for both falls and broken bones. Regular physical activity and exercises that combine weight, muscle strengthening and balance help reduce the risk of falls and actually improve the health of bones.  

Sarcopenia involves two factors: the initial amount of muscle mass and the rate at which it declines with age. The rate of muscle loss with age appears to be fairly consistent, approximately 1%–2% per year past the age of 50 years. 

Sarcopenia is a component of the frailty syndrome. And it is often a component of cachexia, or wasting syndrome—weight loss, muscle atrophy, fatigue, weakness, and significant loss of appetite in someone who is not actively trying to lose weight. Although physical activity and exercise status are important factors in the onset of obesity with age, the decline in muscle mass and gain in body fat are evident even in active older adults If it is an inevitable process occurring over time, at what point does a person lose enough muscle mass to cross a threshold for disability (disease)? With advancing age, there are significant changes in body composition. Body fat increases while modest losses are observed in muscle mass. The average adult can expect to gain approximately one pound of fat every year between ages 30 to 60, and lose about a half pound of muscle over that same time span; that change in body composition is equivalent to a 15-pound loss of muscle and a 30-pound gain in fat.  

Two basic strategies for optimizing muscle mass are (1) exercise and (2) nutrition programs.

Sit and Be Fit is a great example of relevant exercise programs. It has been around since 1987. Mary Ann Wilson is an American registered nurse in the field of geriatrics and post-polio rehabilitation. She is also the founder and host of this award-winning exercise show, broadcast in Canada and on PBS television stations across the United States, including the Bay Area’s KCSM Channel 60. 

Wilson includes a variety of exercises for the elderly and people with limited mobility. The program revolves around exercises that can be done with little effort while sitting in or using a chair, although some of her movements are standing up. The half hour exercise program is designed for older adults and those needing slow gentle movement. Sit and Be Fit is recognized by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) as a Best Practices program in health promotion and aging.  

Whatever they are called, exercise classes (or groups) should be available without charge at least once a week to all senior citizens in senior centers and senior housing. It may be necessary to rely on volunteer instructors who have related training and or experience. A weekly routine of yoga and meditation may strengthen thinking skills and help to stave off aging-related mental decline, according to a study of older adults with early signs of memory problems. 

Berkeley’s two senior centers list in The Nugget, their monthly program: gentle stretch, acupressure for arthritis relief, qi-gong, iyengar yoga, gentle yoga, Feldenkrais 1x1, t’ai chi chih, holistic fitness/yoga, yuan ji dance/t’ai chi, chair exercise, and mindfulness meditation. Not all are free, however. Tenants at at least one of Berkeley’s senior/disabled housing projects -- Lawrence Moore Manor – enjoy a volunteer-led exercise class strong on yoga and meditation.  

Combining physical activity with meditation may intensify the benefits of both yoga and meditation. "Yoga May Be Good for the Brain" writes Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times. People with depression who meditated before they went for a run showed greater improvements in their mood than people who did either of those activities alone!  

Some weakening in mental function appears to be inevitable as we age. After age 40, and your mind and especially your memories begin to fade.  

Emerging science suggests that it might be possible to slow and mitigate the decline by how we live and, in particular, whether and how we move our bodies. Studies have found that people who run, weight train, dance, practice tai chi, or regularly garden (I have never quite understood the garden one, however) have a lower risk of developing dementia than people who are not physically active at all. 

But many people do not have the physical capacity or taste for running or other similarly vigorous activities. 

Researchers at UCLA and some other institutions tested whether yoga -- a relatively mild, meditative activity -- could alter people’s brains and fortify their ability to think.  

They began by recruiting 29 middle-aged and older adults who were anxious about the state of their memories and who were found to have mild cognitive impairment, a mental condition that can be a precursor to eventual dementia. 

The volunteers also underwent a brain scan that tracks how different parts of the brain communicate with one another. They were then divided into two groups. One began an established brain-training program that involves a weekly hour of classroom time and a series of mental exercises designed to bolster memory; volunteers were asked to practice at home for about 15 minute a day. 

For an hour each week, they visited campus to learn Kundalini yoga, which involves breathing exercises and meditation as well as movement and poses. People who are out of shape or new to yoga usually find these classes easy.  

The yoga group also was taught a type of meditation known as Kirtan Kriya, which involves repeating a series of sounds — a mantra — while simultaneously “dancing” with repetitive hand movements. They were asked to meditate in this way for 15 minutes daily. 

The total time commitment was equivalent for both groups. The volunteers practiced their programs for 12 weeks. Then they returned to the university’s lab for another round of cognitive tests and a second brain scan. By then, all were able to perform significantly better on most tests of their thinking. 

But only those who had practiced yoga plus meditation showed improvements in their moods — they scored lower on an assessment of potential depression than those in the brain-training group — and they performed much better on a test of visuospatial memory, important for balance, depth perception and ability to recognize objects and navigate the world. 

Yoga plus meditation had equaled and then topped the benefits of 12 weeks of brain training. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, which partially funded this study, provides information on its website about how to start meditating in this style. 

Several nutrients, including creatine, vitamin D and whey protein, have shown promise in combating sarcopenia.

The muscle atrophy commonly seen in older adults comes mainly from a loss of muscle fibers that are recruited during such high-intensity movements as weight lifting and sprinting. These are the fibers most profoundly affected by the dietary supplement creatine. Studies have found that when creatine is given to older adults who are participating in resistance exercise training, it helps to increase strength and lean body mass. 

Vitamin D helps support both muscle and bone tissue. Low vitamin D levels seen in older adults may be associated with poor bone formation and muscle function. Thus, ensuring adequate vitamin D intake may help reduce the incidence of both osteoporosis and sarcopenia in aging people. Daily vitamin D and calcium supplements are associated with reduced falls and fewer broken bones in older adults. Just how much vitamin D is right for you should be determined by your physician with you.  


Tai chi (TIE-CHEE, also called tai chi chuan) helps reduce stress and anxiety while also helping to increase flexibility and balance.

Originally developed for self-defense, it has evolved into a graceful form of exercise now used for a variety of health conditions. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements. 

It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. Moreover, it is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion. 

Tai chi differs from yoga, another type of meditative movement. Yoga includes various physical postures and breathing techniques, together with meditation. It appeals because it is inexpensive and requires no special equipment. It can be done anywhere, indoors or outside, alone or in a group class. Although tai chi is generally safe, women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia should consult their health care provider before trying tai chi. Modification or avoidance of certain postures may be recommended.

Arts & Events

SF Opera Offers a Riveting DON CARLO

By James Roy MacBean
Friday June 17, 2016 - 05:02:00 PM

Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo, based on a play by German writer Friedrich Schiller, brought out some of the finest work of the mature Verdi. Involving himself thoroughly in all aspects of the creation of this opera, from working on the libretto with his two French librettists, Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, to overseeing the production at the première in Paris’s Palais Garnier in 1867, Verdi threw himself with zeal and dedication into Don Carlo (or, as it was called in its original French-language production, Don Carlos). Verdi continued working on this opera, super-vising its translation into Italian and offering several revised versions of it in Italian. Our current San Francisco Opera production, which opened Sunday, June 12, uses the 1886 Modena version in Italian. 

German playwright Schiller based his play Don Carlos on real historical figures. The title-character Don Carlos (1545-1568) was, in fact, the son of King Philip II of Spain, born of the king’s first wife, who died in giving birth to Carlos. Philip II ruled Spain for forty-four years, dying in 1598, and he reigned during a time of tempestuous relations between Spain and its possessions in the Netherlands, called Flanders (La Fiandra) in Verdi’s opera. Moreover, Philip II reigned during a time of difficult relations between the Spanish monarchy and the Catholic Church, the latter being embodied in Verdi’s opera by The Grand Inquisitor. Schiller took artistic liberties in transforming Don Carlos from the historical sickly, mentally unbalanced individual into a naïve but sincere defender of the rights of the rebellious people of Flanders in seeking liberty from Spanish oppression. Schiller also created out of thin air the character of Rodrigo de Posa, portrayed in Schiller’s play and Verdi’s opera as the boyhood friend of Don Carlos and a fellow sympathizer with the rebellious people of Flanders. The character of Elizabeth de Valois, who in Schiller’s play and Verdi’s opera is given in marriage by her father, the king of France, to King Philip II of Spain, was, according to sources, much as she is depicted in Verdi’s Don Carlo – beautiful, intelligent, kind, and dutiful. Although some scholars believe Elizabeth was indeed originally betrothed to Don Carlos as a child, most scholars reject the notion that there was a real love affair at first sight between her and Don Carlos as depicted in the opera’s opening act set in Fontainebleau, France. Finally, there was indeed a historical Princess Eboli, known as a temperamental schemer rumored to have borne a son by King Philip II.  

So much for the historical and literary background of Verdi’s Don Carlo. What is important is that Verdi, drawing on Schiller’s play with help from his French librettists and later Italian translators, fashioned a riveting humanistic music-drama full of ideas, various love triangles, anti-clericalism, republican idealism, and including even an Oedipal conflict between father and son. With all these issues bubbling away, the opera repeatedly reaches boiling points where our expectations are suddenly thwarted and the story moves off in a new, surprising direction.  

In the current SF Opera production of Don Carlo, two singers were consistently at the top of their game – tenor Michael Fabiano, who sang Don Carlo, and baritone Mariusz Kwiechien , who sang Rodrigo. Fabiano, who was previously heard here as Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia (2011), Rodolfo in La Bohème (2014) and Rodolfo in Luisa Miller (2015), has a powerful, resonant voice with ringing high notes. Kwiechien, who sang here as Don Giovanni in 2007, possesses a rich, plangent baritone voice capable of great expression. As Elizabetta, soprano Anna Maria Martinez started out a bit unsteadily, her voice initially lacking focus and projection, but she settled down as the opera progressed and sang beautifully for most of the last four acts. Likewise, bass René Pape also began unsteadily, he too lacking focus and projection early on but growing in confidence and vocal projection as the opera unfolded. His Act IV soliloquy lamenting the lack of love from his wife, “Ella giamai m’amo (“She has never loved me”), was beautifully sung, and this aria, by the way, is introduced and accompanied by some of the most gorgeous writing for cello in all opera. The Opera Orchestra’s principal cellist, David Kadarauch, gave an excellent rendition of this movingly poignant music. As Princess Eboli, Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Nadia Krasteva also grew in vocal stature as the opera unfolded, and by the time of her famous aria in Act IV, “O Don fatale,” she let out all the stops and sang a powerfully moving aria. Bass Andrea Silvestrelli was excellent as the old, feeble, and blind Grand Inquisitor, who, in spite of all his infirmities, still exudes the power of the Church hierarchy. Bass-baritone Matthew Stump ably sang the brief role of a Monk, and minor roles were ably dispatched by Nian Wang as Tebaldo, Toni Marie Palmertree as A heavenly voice, and Pene Pati as Count Lerma.  

Don Carlo was staged by director Emilio Sagi, who revived his original production, which premiered here in 1998. It is a well-conceived staging, full of telling details, such as having Philip II sing “Ella giamai m’amo” while gazing at a portrait of his wife, and having Princess Eboli sing “O Don fatale” and cursing her own fatal beauty while gazing at a mirror. Chorus Director Ian Robertson led the Opera Chorus in a fine contribution to the overall impact of this opera, and, in particular, of the auto da fe scene in Act III. Finally, Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducted this production with obvious commitment and well-paced tempos, bringing out all the richness of this opera’s orchestral score. Don Carlo continues through June 29, and for the final performance on June 29 the great bass-baritone Ferruccio Furlanetto will replace René Pape as King Philip II. That is a performance not to be missed, as Furlanetto is generally acclaimed to be the greatest Philip II of the last thirty years.