The Week



One Victim in String of Oakland Shootings Was Berkeley High Student

By Scott Morris (BCN) and Planet
Thursday February 23, 2012 - 02:29:00 PM

Police in Oakland are investigating a string of overnight shootings and a possible homicide at a home in the Oakland Hills, police said. According to the Oakland Tribune, one victim was an 18-year-old Berkeley High student. -more-

Updated: Suspect Arraigned for Death of Berkeley Homeowner

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Wednesday February 22, 2012 - 09:54:00 AM

An Alameda man was arraigned today on a murder charge for allegedly killing a homeowner in the Berkeley hills on Saturday night.

Daniel Jordan Dewitt, 23, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday to see if the Public Defender's Office will represent him on the charge that he killed 67-year-old Peter Cukor outside Cukor's home at 2 Park Gate Road at about 9 p.m. Saturday.

Dewitt is the grandson of the late former Alameda city councilman and interim Alameda Mayor Al Dewitt, who died in 2003. Daniel Dewitt's father, Al Dewitt Jr., said outside court today that Dewitt has suffered from mental illness since the age of 18. -more-

As Berkeley Questions BPD Over Hills "Murder," and Cops Blame Occupy, We Offer Some Answers (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Wednesday February 22, 2012 - 09:54:00 AM

Berkeley police have reportedly said they were "monitoring" an Occupy Oakland-Occupy Cal protest, which arrived on Telegraph from Oakland at 10:25 p.m. Saturday, more than an hour after a "murder" in the hills.

Two of my Planet articles written on Sunday, cast doubt on that. One article covered the Saturday Oakland-Cal demo, and another covered an anti-Bank of America protest on Telegraph. I was at both protests.

Cop-count: on upper Telegraph at noon, Saturday, as the BA protest began: zero, 0, zip. Cop-count at 10:20 p.m., on lower Teley, when Occupy Oakland arrived to unite with Occupy Cal, blocking traffic and chanting "Fuck the police": zero, 0, zip. -more-

Mother of Suspect in Berkeley Murder Says He is Mentally Ill

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 08:26:00 PM

The mother of a 23-year-old man who is accused of beating a Berkeley hills homeowner to death said today that he's been mentally ill for more than four years but was neglected by the mental health system. -more-

Press Release: Berkeley Homicide; Updated Information Release

From Lt. Andrew Greenwood, BPD
Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 05:19:00 PM

Today the Berkeley Police Department is releasing updated and additional information regarding the homicide from Saturday night, February 18, 2012.

Several published and on-line reports relied on a single account of an inaccurate chronology of this incident. Please note below the actual timelines of the initial stages of this case.

At approximately 8:45 PM, BPD received a report of a suspicious person possibly trespassing. The caller reported an encounter with an unknown person “hanging around” his property, and asked that an officer be sent to investigate. This call for service was queued for dispatch. -more-

New: Early Morning Fire Burns West Berkeley Cottage at Art Studio

By Bay City News
Wednesday February 22, 2012 - 10:19:00 AM

Firefighters are crediting a smoke alarm with alerting residents to an early morning fire that burned this morning at an artist's live and work space in West Berkeley. -more-

Homeless Shelter and Classical Chorus Converge

By Lydia Gans
Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 08:26:00 PM

"It was a dark and stormy night ...” some of us may remember those words from when we were kids sitting around a campfire shivering in anticipation of a scary story. On a recent dark and stormy Monday night two very different stories were taking place at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

Inside the church assembly hall some 200 singers of the Berkeley Community chorus and Orchestra (BCCO) were rehearsing the dramatic Requiem Mass of Antonin Dvorak in preparation for their spring concert. At 10 o'clock director Ming Luke ended the rehearsal and everyone hustled to stack the chairs and move risers and piano into the far end of the room. The exhausted but inspired singers closed their music books and headed for their homes.

Outside on the dark street a large group of homeless people were gathered with their meager possessions waiting to to be sheltered inside. The music rehearsal venue was turned into an emergency storm shelter for the homeless. Word had been sent out that the shelter would be set up because cold and rainy weather was expected. It is not a regular homeless shelter. There is only enough money to operate it about 35 nights out of the year in extremely inclement weather. Funding comes almost entirely from the city of Berkeley with some additional support from Dorothy Day House which operates the shelter. -more-

FIRST PERSON: When to Say "Yes" and When to Say "No" to Panhandlers

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday February 22, 2012 - 09:50:00 AM

Panhandling has always been an important part of human existence, ever since people were put in poverty by a society that sometimes lacks mercy. It is not fair or accurate to say that you should never give money to a panhandler. There are people who would perish without the generosity of strangers. We can not presume to know that they created their own problems and should reap the results. There are plenty of people who became poor largely due to circumstances that weren't under their control. -more-

Details About Berkeley Hills Killing Emerge Slowly--New BPD Release Lacks Name of Victim

Monday February 20, 2012 - 06:55:00 PM

Berkeley Police continue to withhold the name of the man who was killed by a trespasser outside his home in the Berkeley Hills on Saturday night. However, more details about the story have emerged in a variety of Bay Area publications. Some of these have been confirmed in a Saturday evening press release from the Berkeley Police.

A report in the San Francisco Chronicle identifies the owner of the home where the crime took place and the probable victim as Peter Cukor, 67, a consultant with a logistics business. -more-

Press Release: Berkeley Police Department; additional information re: 2/18/12 Homicide X

From Lt. Andrew Greenwood, Berkeley Police Department
Monday February 20, 2012 - 06:53:00 PM

Coverage of the February 18 homicide generated a number of questions today. We are offering this additional information regarding the homicide from Saturday night, February 18, 2012: -more-

New: Occupy Oakland Marches to Berkeley to Stick it To Cops and Memorialize

By Ted Friedman
Sunday February 19, 2012 - 09:26:00 PM
Occupy Oakland hits the streets of Berkeley, saturday night.

When Berkeley's bad-ass brothers next door pay a Telegraph Avenue visit to its smaller uptown brothers, you might expect trouble on the Avenue. You might also expect that the marchers from downtown Oakland might be met by police. -more-

New: Rev. Billy's Roadshow in Berkeley Occupies Telegraph B of A—Sort Of

By Ted Friedman
Sunday February 19, 2012 - 06:04:00 PM
Rev. Billy working the crowd, which grew to 35, Saturday outside Caffe Med, on Teley. "Never trust a man in white shoes," he cautioned.

The whole bizarre incident started, as usual, in front of the Caffe Mediterraneum—center of the universe, where a tall man who resembles Jay Leno had attracted a crowd. -more-

New: Bay Bridge Reopens Early

By Bay City News Service
Sunday February 19, 2012 - 06:07:00 PM

The Bay Bridge's westbound upper deck will reopen this evening, more than 24 hours ahead of schedule following a planned holiday weekend closure for demolition and construction work. -more-

Flash: Berkeley Police Arrest Homicide Suspect in Berkeley Hills Killing

Press Release From Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Berkeley Police Information Officer
Sunday February 19, 2012 - 01:59:00 PM

Overnight, members of the City of Berkeley Police Department (BPD) arrested a male suspect for homicide just a short distance from where the crime took place.

On Saturday, February 18, 2012 at about 8:45 p.m. a community member called BPD from Shasta Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard to report a suspicious person/trespassing suspect near the garage when she and her husband returned to their home. The husband confronted the suspect and told him to leave. Minutes later, the husband walked outside and was assaulted.

View Larger Map -more-

Two Vallejo Quakes, Felt in Berkeley, Were a Cluster, Says Expert

By James Lanaras (BCN)
Friday February 17, 2012 - 11:03:00 AM

The U.S. Geological Survey has downgraded the magnitude of the most recent earthquake near Vallejo from 3.7 to 3.5. -more-

Man Arrested In Massive Caffe Med Cop-Op, Back On Streets In Four Hours

By Ted Friedman
Friday February 17, 2012 - 09:11:00 AM
Entering men's shelter.

After yet another Caffe Med Berkeley Cop-Op Friday, to restrain a mentally ill man, it seemed the man was on his way to a forty-eight hour mental evaluation. But that's not the way it went down, as the Cop-Op devolved into a cop-out. -more-

New: Occupy Oakland Marches to Berkeley

By Scott Morris (BCN)
Sunday February 19, 2012 - 10:10:00 AM

The weekly Occupy Oakland anti-police march headed to Berkeley Saturday night to meet with other Occupy demonstrators holding a conference at the University of California at Berkeley campus this weekend. -more-


The Editor's Back Fence

The Planet Website is Back

Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 05:22:00 PM

Thanks to all the readers who called and wrote to tell us that they missed the Berkeley Daily Planet today. There was a surprise glitch with the ownership of the domain name which was corrected about 10 this morning, but the correction takes from one to 24 hours to propagate throughout the Internet. Your renewed access will depend on your email/browser configuration, but if you're reading this you're back in touch. Our right to the name is now secured for nine more years!

We have also been experiencing intermittent server problems from our third party provider, not at the moment to be named here. We really hope they get their problems under control soon. If you can't get online at any point, please try try again.

And last but not least, email sent though some ( for one) but not all email systems doesn't seem to be going through. Aargh! Computers! Please just keep trying. -more-


Odd Bodkins: Breakfast (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Thursday February 23, 2012 - 01:52:00 PM

Bounce: Friends (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Thursday February 23, 2012 - 01:57:00 PM

Odd Bodkins: The Hot Dog Man (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday February 17, 2012 - 02:42:00 PM

Public Comment

UC Berkeley’s Black Bloc Tactics

By Carol Denney
Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 06:52:00 PM

The university hired a non-union crew to bulldoze the community garden and remove trees and plants in the west end of People’s Park for “maintenance” over the 2011 holidays without notice to merchants, students, residents, the People’s Park Community Advisory Board, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission, Kriss Worthington of District 7, or the City of Berkeley.

This was only Phase I of a $220,000 three-phase project, which continues to be conducted in complete secrecy. -more-

People with Potential: Providing Sanity to the US’ Struggle for Israel’s Peace

by Wendy Kenin @greendoula
Friday February 17, 2012 - 02:58:00 PM

For Americans who are burnt out by the negative and aggressive public dynamic between opposing political factions on Palestine-Israel peace, hope lives! I am thrilled to introduce you to some incredible people with their priorities in order who are coming from the Holy Land and speaking sanely about how to move forward. These people have already demonstrated the ability to reach a diverse political spread of people, and they are only in the earliest stages of their work. -more-


EATS, SHOOTS 'N' LEAVES: Fast Company Makes a Major Amyris Fail

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 08:37:00 PM

Back in 1995, two former Harvard Business Review editors created Fast Company, which soon became the rock star of the publishing world, selling in 2000 to a branch of German publishing giant Bertelsmann for the biggest sum ever paid for a magazine, $350 million.

It’s now owned by the founder and chief executive of Morningstar, the leasing rating agency in the world of bonds.

Every year they come up with a list of Most Innovative Companies, described thusly by Wikipedia: -more-

THE PUBLIC EYE:Class Warfare: Which Side Are You On?

By Bob Burnett
Friday February 17, 2012 - 11:11:00 AM

Are we in the middle of a Class War? Billionaire Warren Buffett thinks so, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Most Americans agree; a recent Pew Poll found “Two-thirds of Americans said they think there are ‘very strong’ or ‘strong’ class conflicts in society.” But there’s a notable lack of enthusiasm for making fundamental change. -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Time to Protect Kid's Privacy Online

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday February 17, 2012 - 11:06:00 AM

Privacy has become a major issue in the United States and Congress is paying attention. H.R. 1895, "The Do Not Track Kids Act," , a bi-partisan bill sponsored by U.S. Representatives Ed Markey (D. MA) and Joe Barton (D. TX), is pending in Congress. H.R. 1895 would amend the "Children's Online Privacy Protection Act" (COPPA) by introducing additional provisions to govern the collection and use of teens' personal information. -more-

WILD NEIGHBORS: The Duck in the Cave

By Joe Eaton
Friday February 17, 2012 - 11:27:00 AM
Two nene on Kaua'i: relatively normal geese.

Yes, it’s another Hawai’i column. “Neighbors” is a relative term.

I’ve written before about the extraordinary birds called Hawai’ian honeycreepers, or more technically drepanine finches (“dreps” for short.) They’re a classic evolutionary radiation: some generalized ancestral finch gave rise to over 50 descendant species with diverse plumage colors and specialized bill shapes and functions. For a long time there’s been speculation as to whether the ancestor originated in Asia and North America. In an earlier piece for a now-defunct magazine, I imagined a house finch or lesser goldfinch flying from California to Hawai’i with the seed of a tarweed—itself the ancestor of the equally extraordinary silversword plants—clinging to its feathers. -more-

SENIOR POWER The eyes have it…

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Friday February 17, 2012 - 12:32:00 PM

Your first indication may be that notorious newspaper fine print. Held at the usual distance from your eyes, you find yourself holding the paper farther from your eyes to focus the image. -more-

Arts & Events

"If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" Can a Film about the ELF Win an Oscar?

By Gar Smith
Wednesday February 22, 2012 - 12:57:00 PM

This coming Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy will select its winner for Best Documentary. One of the selections, Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman's If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, offers a surprising take on the nature of "terrorism" and unearths the early roots of today's Occupy Movement. The documentary takes viewers inside the world of Daniel McGowan, an environmental activist whose zeal and frustration led him to commit acts that the media came to brand as "eco-terrorism." -more-

EYE FROM THE AISLE: Berkeley Rep’s Laugh Riot Doctor in Spite of His Hellzapoppin’ Self

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 05:25:00 PM
Steven Epp and Julie Briskman (left) in A Doctor in Spite of Himself

I hate it when critics resort to telling the story, so let me just tease you with the opening premise:

so…there is this lowlife woodcutter who lives—well, in the woods—with his wife. The woodcutter spends his day whacking his wood in between taking a whack on Old Single Malt. Now, he and his wife are French Trailer Trash who go at each other like Punch and Judy. Actually, the characters spring to life from a most ingenious potty joke of a P & J show. Hell hath no fury, etc., so when a couple of strong-arm goons for the local rich guy comes by looking for the Renowned Healer who reputedly lives in the woods, Wifey sets up Woody by telling them he’s a doctor--and, beaten into it by the goons, he turns out be one in spite of himself. Of course, being French, it’s about amour, and how he brings the lovers together over the objections of the father, etc., etc.

It’s a 90-minute laugh riot, throwing in every modern reference they could muster, with lots of F-bombs, and a true hellzapoppin’ hoot-and-a-holler. “Vaudeville” (a French word) was originally a comedy that had new funny lyrics put to popular songs, and the singing here is phenomenal. Greg C. Powers and Robertson Witmer on accordion and tuba (a couple of laugh-provoking instruments in their own right) provide accompaniment. -more-

Eye from the Aisle: CCCT “Barefoot” in El Cerrito—dated fare

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 08:08:00 PM
Ginny Wehrmeister and Joel Roster

CONTRA COSTA COMMUNITY THEATRE (CCCT) is a neat little theater with a very wide stage tucked back in the residential section of El Cerrito several blocks off San Pablo. I’ve not reviewed there before, but a theatre colleague suggested the current play, Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park. There is a small outbreak of Neil Simon going around the community theatres, and I am trying to build up an immunity by sampling them all. -more-

FILM REVIEW: Red Tails: May the Air Force Be With You

By Gar Smith
Friday February 17, 2012 - 11:34:00 AM
A Red Tail Air Battle

There is a quick-and-easy way of describing Red Tails, George Lucas' new film about the Tuskegee Airmen: "Star Wars with propellers." Red Tails is a film to see and a film to support but it is not the film event it could have been. -more-

The Real Story of the Tuskegee Airmen

By Gar Smith
Friday February 17, 2012 - 12:29:00 PM
The Real Tuskegee Airmen

George Lucas' Red Tails is a serviceable introduction to the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen but a richer and more honest story can be found in Adam White's Red Tail Reborn, which was originally broadcast on PBS and is now available in a two-disk set that includes extended bonus interviews with a number of surviving "Red Tails." (, including Col. Charles McGee, a man who has flown more combat missions than any other American (409 missions; 6,100 hours in the air) and who — as the film shows, is still proudly flying. -more-


By Ken Bullock
Friday February 17, 2012 - 12:46:00 PM

Marvin X has been one of the great spokesmen of Black culture in the Bay Area—and the United States—for decades. Every time Amiri Baraka, one of the country's best-known poets and playwrights, comes here for a reading or talk, Marvin's always on the bill. His plays have been presented by different troupes around, lately—and notably—by Ayodele Nzinga's Lower Bottom Playaz in Oakland and at the San Francisco Arts Fair. -more-

AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Central Works' 'Mesmeric Revelation' at the Berkeley City Club

By Ken Bullock
Friday February 17, 2012 - 02:09:00 PM

                Joe Jordan as Franz Anton Mesmer and Theo Black as Antoine Lavoisier at Julia Morgan's "Little Castle" Berkeley City Club

Central Works is bringing back Aaron Henne, who wrote and directed that most interesting production, 'A Man's Home ... an ode to Kafka's Castle' for the company a little while ago. This time Henne and the Central Works team will open (after two days of previews) his 'Mesmeric Revelation' on Saturday, inspired by tales of Poe--but about an encounter between Lavoisier, "father of chemistry," and Dr. Mesmer, the first famous hypnotist, promoter of "Animal Magnetism." It could prove to be one of the more unusual shows of the year. -more-

AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: 'In Search of My Father ... Walkin' Talkin' Bill Hawkins'

By Ken Bullock
Friday February 17, 2012 - 02:03:00 PM

W. Allen Taylor performed the multi-character solo show he wrote, 'In Search of My Father ... Walkin' Talkin' Bill Hawkins' in Berkeley, 2006, to critical acclaim and a Critics Circle award for best solo show. (My review was published in the Planet, now archived above: January 10, 2006). Now it's coming back—see below ... -more-