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Updated: Person Who Shot Girl with Arrow in Berkeley is Still at Large

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Wednesday March 27, 2013 - 03:07:00 PM

Investigators are still trying to determine who fired an arrow that hit an 8-year-old girl in the leg outside the Lawrence Hall of Science on Tuesday, University of California at Berkeley police said today. 

The arrow pierced the girl's left leg around 10:10 a.m. while she was on a school field trip at the science center, located at 1 Centennial Drive in the hills above the university campus, police said. 

She was taken to a hospital, where the arrow was surgically removed. 

UC Berkeley police Lt. Marc DeCoulode said today the girl is recovering and that she is likely being released from the hospital this afternoon.  

He said police do not have any suspects in the case and it is not yet clear whether the person who shot the arrow was aiming for the girl. 

DeCoulode said UC Berkeley has an archery group, but the spot where they practice is on the other side of campus and "nowhere near this area." 

Rehan Alam, club president of CalArchery, said the group's faculty adviser has confirmed that the arrow that hit the girl was fired from a crossbow -- a weapon not allowed by the club.  

He said crossbows are much more powerful than the bows used by the club.  

Police investigators are trying to reconstruct the arrow's trajectory but have not identified any suspects in the case, DeCoulode said.  

Field trip chaperone Geoff Vassallo said the girl was hit while she was playing on a large sculpture of a whale in a museum courtyard. 

Vassallo, a recreational archer and hunter from the Yosemite area, was at the museum with his son's class, and said he did not know the injured girl. 

He said the girl cried a little as she waited for an ambulance but said, "She was a pretty brave little girl." 

Vassallo said it appeared the arrow came from below the courtyard, and that he hopes it was just an accident rather than someone acting maliciously. 

He said that after the girl was struck, he scanned the area to see if anyone was running away, but didn't see anyone. The other students visiting the museum were ushered inside to make sure no one else was hit. 

Anyone who might have information about the case is asked to call UC Berkeley police at (510) 642-6760 or dispatch at (510) 642-3333.

Child Shot with Arrow at Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science

By Chris Cooney (BCN)
Tuesday March 26, 2013 - 03:49:00 PM

An 8-year-old girl was shot in the leg with an arrow outside the Lawrence Hall of Science this morning, a University of California at Berkeley police captain said. 

The girl, who was on a school trip at the science center, located at 1 Centennial Drive, was playing on a large sculpture of a whale in a courtyard when she was shot at about 10:10 a.m., police Capt. Stephen Roderick said. 

"She was just climbing on the whale when, out of nowhere, an arrow went through her left leg," he said. 

The girl was taken to a hospital, where the arrow was surgically removed. 

"She's a trooper," Roderick said. "Her mother is with her and she's doing fine." 

UC Berkeley investigators are trying to reconstruct the arrow's trajectory, a difficult task when "an arrow can travel 500 to 1,000 yards," Roderick said. 

Police will be canvassing surrounding neighborhoods this evening to see if any residents had seen someone shooting arrows. 

Anyone who might have information about the case is asked to call UC Berkeley police at (510) 642-6760. 


Two Berkeley Women Who Challenged Prop 8 Before Supreme Court on Tuesday

By Julia Cheever (BCN)
Friday March 22, 2013 - 08:12:00 AM

Two Berkeley women whose bid to marry will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday said today they will be proud and excited to be in the courtroom in Washington, D.C., during the arguments.

But Kristin Perry, 48, and Sandra Stier, 50, said they want the focus to be on the case and not on themselves.

"We are very excited to have the end in sight," said Perry. "We think that when we get to the Supreme Court and hear Ted Olson arguing on our behalf, we'll be very proud and very moved." 

Olson, of Washington, D.C., is one of two lead attorneys in the lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco in 2009 by Perry, Stier and gay couple Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo of Burbank. 

He will argue for the plaintiffs on Tuesday, urging the court to rule that Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. 

On the other side, Charles Cooper, also of Washington, D.C., representing the sponsors of Proposition 8, will be urging the court to uphold the 2008 voter initiative.  

The sponsors, who contend that state voters were entitled to choose a traditional definition of marriage, are appealing a decision in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down the measure last year. 

Perry and Stier, who will fly to Washington, D.C., on Sunday, spoke in interviews at the San Francisco office of Olson's law firm, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. 

"We feel honored to be in this role," said Stier. 

The two women said, however, that they don't know where they'll be sitting in the courtroom and don't care whether the justices notice them or even know who they are. Instead, they said, they hope the justices will give all their attention to the arguments. 

"Our job is just to bear witness at this point," said Stier. "We're just a California couple that wants to get married." 

The high court's decision is expected by the end of June. Perry is the executive director of the First Five Fund, an early-childhood advocacy group, and Stier is the information technology director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency. 

They have shared a household since 2000. Each had two sons when they met and they have raised the four children, now aged 18 to 24, together. 

While the lawsuit has put them in the public eye, "at the end of the day, we're thinking more about work and the kids," Stier said.  

"Life in our house has not changed very much. We still have the same mundane issues, go to work and are raising our children," she said.  

The three months between the arguments and the court's expected decision in late June will be especially busy for the family, the two mothers said, because the youngest sons, 18-year-old twins, are finishing their senior year of high school. 

"We have college admissions, the prom and graduation," Stier said. 

The plaintiffs contend that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal treatment and due process and hurts gay couples and their children by denying them the status and benefits of marriage.  

If the court decides to strike down the initiative, it could rule in a way that applies only to California, to eight states that currently allow domestic partnerships but not gay marriage, or to all 50 states. 

"Our greatest hope is that it will impact as many people as possible," said Stier. But she and Perry said they think that even a California-only ruling would set a precedent for other states. 

At present, nine states and the District of Columbia allow gay and lesbian marriage while 41 others have prohibited it through laws or state constitutional amendments. 

Perry and Stier were asked about Proposition 8 supporters' argument that if same-sex marriage is to be allowed within the United States, the decision should be made on a state-by-state basis by voters or legislatures. 

"It doesn't resonate with me to do things state by state because I'm living in a state that doesn't allow gay marriage," Perry said. "What resonates with me is a permanent legal solution to our constitutional rights," she said.  

The two women said they hope to marry quickly if the court rules in their favor, but said they are waiting for the decision before making any plans.  

If they win the case, Stier said, "it will be a lovely experience knowing we can get married and looking around and seeing that (gay and lesbian) young people have the same option and they can get married just like everybody else."

Japan's Reactors Lose Power: Spent Fuel Pools at Risk
Fukushima 1 Was Bad Enough: Are We Ready for Fukushima 2? (News Analysis)

Gar Smith
Friday March 22, 2013 - 12:38:00 PM

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake-tsunami double-punch delivered a knockout blow to Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor complex. Electric power was lost, causing a failure of the emergency cooling systems which, in turn, left three reactor cores to overheat and explode, sending clouds of radiation across land, sea and air. The atmospheric contamination was detected across the US, in Stockholm and below the Equator.

History may be repeating itself. On the morning of March 18, 2013, the damaged Fukushima facility once again lost outside electrical power.

In the early hours of the blackout, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) assured the press that the site's reactors were "unaffected and no other abnormalities were found." (Of course, these reactors are still suffering from the "abnormality" of having exploded and experienced meltdowns — with molten fuel, in at least one case, escaping the metal reactor vessel and spilling onto the floor of the containment room.) 

The Spent Fuel Pool Risk 

But the damaged reactors are not the only issue. The fate of the spent fuel pools (SFPs) that line the coastal facility are also a matter of grave concern. A dispatch from Mochizuki, an anti-nuclear blogger who posts at Fukushima Diary, reports: "The coolant system of the spent fuel pools of reactor1, 3 and 4 has been out of operation for over 3 hours already. Seismic isolation building has lost power, too. Tepco is still investigating the reason. It is currently the top Japanese news story." (The Fukushima Diary website also posted a computer animation, attributed to the meteorological agency of Switzerland, that projects "the emission from Fukushima would reach Tokyo area by wind after 15:00 of 3/19/2013.") 

The Kyodo news service reported the power failure occurred shortly before 7 p.m. Monday disabling three of the site's seven SFPs. Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority was quoted as saying "the incident so far has not affected the ongoing water injection to the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors, which suffered core meltdowns in the early days of the March 2011 nuclear crisis." However, the Kyodo news service also noted, "as of 1:45 a.m., TEPCO has not been able to work out steps to ensure bringing the system back online." Adding to the problems, a severe weather system was bearing down on Japan. 

TEPCO Mystified by Power Failure 

TEPCO has confirmed that three of the site's SFPs were without emergency cooling and assured the public the stored nuclear wastes would remain safe "for at least four days without fresh cooling water." Takeo Iwamoto, a TEPCO spokesman, promised the utility planned to restore the SFP cooling power "as soon as [TEPCO] can determine the cause of the failure." 

Why is this is a cause for alarm? Because, if the thousands of densely packed uranium-filled fuel assembly rods become too hot — especially if water is lost to evaporation as the pools begin to steam and boil — they could ignite. Takeo Iwamoto, a TEPCO spokesman, promised the utility plans to restore SFP cooling power "as soon as [TEPCO] can determine the cause of the failure." 

Ever since the devastating quake struck, workers at the plant have been relying on "makeshift" systems to control radiation leaks and temperature increases. But these makeshift systems rely on electric power. Without emergency cooling, the fuel in the SFPs — mounted 100 feet above the ground on the building rooftops with no enhanced containment structures — could overheat and create a new disaster that some nuclear watchdogs have warned could eclipse the fallout that rained down after the fire and explosion at Russia's Chernobyl plant. 

What Happens When Fuel Pools Overheat? 

A 2006 study by the National Research Council of the National Academies detailed what can happen if SFP water levels drop enough to expose the tops of the fuel assemblies. Quickly rising temperatures would accelerate the oxidation of the exposed zirconium alloy that encases the uranium fuel pellets. Exposure to air and steam further increases temperatures while generating explosive hydrogen gas. This can lead to a self-sustaining “runaway” fire, with a moving “burn front” that crackles like a fireworks sparkler. 

As temperatures rise further, the captive fuel begins to expand until it forces the cladding to bulge and burst, releasing superheated isotopes into the air. At 3,300°F (1,816°C), the contents and the containment merge to form a growing molten mass of zirconium-uranium-oxide. At this point, the exposed fuel rods continue to reignite like “trick birthday candles,” posing the risk of a chain-reaction fire, jumping from one assembly to the next. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has calls the prospect of a runaway combustion of fuel assemblies "Chernobyl on steroids." 

In March of 2011, fear of a spent fuel fire was so intense, the Japanese government began secret preparations to order the evacuation of Tokyo’s 13 million residents. In the end, the plans were not revealed in order “to avoid panic.” As one senior government official told the Japan Times, "The content [of the emergency response plan] was so shocking that we decided to treat it as if it didn’t exist." 

This isn't the first time Fukushima's SFPs have posed a threat. In mid-October 2011, after hydrogen gas was reported to be accumulating in the pipes at Unit 1, TEPCO admitted that the spent fuel pools at the three reactors had been damaged, releasing incredibly high levels of cesium-137 and cesium-134. 

The Damage from Fukushima 1 Could Be Exceeded by a Fukushima 2 

The consequences of the 2011 fallout cloud were dramatically apparent. Some 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes and1.5 million were affected by dangerous fallout levels well beyond the official 12.5-mile evacuation zone. One-third of Fukushima Prefecture — an area the size of Rhode Island — was contaminated. The region’s $3.2-billion-a-year agricultural sector was wiped out. By July 2011, it was clear the radiation had entered the human food chain. 

Then, as now, the fate of the Unit 4 reactor remains a major concern. The building was severely damaged by the quake and left tilting dangerously. The 1,535 nuclear fuel rods stored in the SFP 100 feet above the ground pose a grave hazard. If Unit 4’s 460 tons of spent fuel were to fall to earth, it could crash into the 6,375 fuel rods in a nearby “common pool.” Together, Fukushima’s 11,138 spent fuel assemblies contain 134 million curies of cesium-137. The US National Council on Radiation Protection estimates this is roughly 85 times the amount of cesium-137 released at the Chernobyl accident. 

Japan’s former Ambassador to Switzerland, Mitsuhei Murata, has warned the United Nations that a collapse at Unit 4 could "destroy the world environment and our civilization…. The fate of Japan and the whole world depends on the No. 4 reactor." 

Nuclear critics have pointed out that nuclear accidents can have long-lasting effects. The cleanup of the March 2011 Fukushima meltdowns is expected to last 40 years and cost $240 billion. If the disabled emergency cooling systems are not restarted in a timely manner, the world could face Fukushima 2 — a catastrophe even more horrific and devastating than the original disaster. 

Gar Smith is the author of Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth (Chelsea Green). Nuclear Roulette was recently nominated for two national book awards. 

Graffitirazzi – A Battle of Historic Proportions

By Gar Smith
Friday March 22, 2013 - 01:26:00 PM
Over recent years, the three-story brick Mission Revival-style building had taken on a scruffy look with vacant, empty windows marked with unsightly tangles of basic-black spray-paint. The western wall of the abandoned storefront, however, was covered with a colorful pastiche of lettering and art.
Gar Smith
Over recent years, the three-story brick Mission Revival-style building had taken on a scruffy look with vacant, empty windows marked with unsightly tangles of basic-black spray-paint. The western wall of the abandoned storefront, however, was covered with a colorful pastiche of lettering and art. 2

              As time passed, this ephemeral artwork was — quite literally — "defaced" by new layers of tagging.
Gar Smith
As time passed, this ephemeral artwork was — quite literally — "defaced" by new layers of tagging.
Gar Smith
In late 2012, Berkeley announced that the "historic" building would be treated to a major restoration. Soon, work crews arrived to repaint the exterior. Neighbors and local historians were pleased to note that the crew took care not to paint over the time-honored business sign visible on the wall, high above the trees. It read: "Golden Horn Press." (The sign is visible below the painter's crane.)
Gar Smith
In late 2012, Berkeley announced that the "historic" building would be treated to a major restoration. Soon, work crews arrived to repaint the exterior. Neighbors and local historians were pleased to note that the crew took care not to paint over the time-honored business sign visible on the wall, high above the trees. It read: "Golden Horn Press." (The sign is visible below the painter's crane.) 5

              Eventually, the entire wall (including the old "Golden Horn" logo) was painted over. But the re-do didn't last long.
               One of the first responses from the graffiti brigade came from "GIA," a shaddowy tagger whose bafflingly huge initials have coated several large walls in Berkeley. (How "GIA" manages to apply 16-foot-tall letters more than halfway up the side of a three-story building remains a mystery.)
Gar Smith
Eventually, the entire wall (including the old "Golden Horn" logo) was painted over. But the re-do didn't last long. One of the first responses from the graffiti brigade came from "GIA," a shaddowy tagger whose bafflingly huge initials have coated several large walls in Berkeley. (How "GIA" manages to apply 16-foot-tall letters more than halfway up the side of a three-story building remains a mystery.)

              A paint crew was dispatched to obliterate GIA's stamp but the attempt to quash chaos and impose order was short-lived. A new blast of defiant graffiti quickly erupted in the "sweet spot" on the west wall, behind the wooden fence that parallels the sidewalk.
Gar Smith
A paint crew was dispatched to obliterate GIA's stamp but the attempt to quash chaos and impose order was short-lived. A new blast of defiant graffiti quickly erupted in the "sweet spot" on the west wall, behind the wooden fence that parallels the sidewalk.
              Once again, painters rushed to the scene and buried the unauthorized lettering beneath a mismatching layer of white paint.
Gar Smith
7 Once again, painters rushed to the scene and buried the unauthorized lettering beneath a mismatching layer of white paint.
                Eventually, the wall was covered with a uniform mask of blue-grey paint. And that is how things stood — grey, clean and orderly — until the morning of March 20, 2013. <br> <br>
              Will new markings appear? The odds favor it. What will they look like? Stay tuned.
Gar Smith
Eventually, the wall was covered with a uniform mask of blue-grey paint. And that is how things stood — grey, clean and orderly — until the morning of March 20, 2013.

Will new markings appear? The odds favor it. What will they look like? Stay tuned.

Last month, an abandoned printshop at 2120 Dwight Way was reborn as Lindgren's, a bright and trendy café-restaurant featuring house-roasted coffee and homemade pastries. The arrival of Lindgren's was part of the larger restoration of the historic Williamson Building but it didn't take long for graffiti to appear on the 1905 City Landmark. On March 20, the previously pristine wall bore three fresh tags. But there's much more to this story….



What's the Matter with Drones? How the Experts Get Things Wrong

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 22, 2013 - 10:04:00 AM

This week, like the one that preceded it, has been full of reminiscences about how “we” could have been so wrong about the invasion of Iraq ten years ago. Last week in this space I explored the question of whether what appears in newspapers makes any difference, but the larger and more important question is how the supposed experts got it so wrong, with or without the help of the press. 

Everyone’s favorite naysayer, Paul Krugman (or at least the favorite of people I hang with), called it “an object lesson in the dangers of groupthink” in his Monday column. He compared what happened in March of 2003 to his favorite contemporary hobby-horse, the lemming-like push by politicians and their pet experts around the world to identify deficit as the major financial problem (and to promote austerity as the solution.) And of course the press, as Krugman points out, makes things worse by amplifying the worst hysteria among the pols and their gurus. Case in point in today’s news: the lunatic situation in Cyprus which is rocking world finance. 

Having spent a major percentage of my adult life playing Paul Revere, both in journalism and in politics, it’s tempting to adopt “I told you so” as my mantra. Way back in 1979 I wrote an article, published in Mother Jones magazine under the title “Cigarettes and Sofas” which among other things pointed out that dangerous chemicals were being used in upholstery, recommended by “experts” at the time in an attempt to control fires caused by discarded cigarettes. Thirty-some-odd years later, fire-safe cigarettes are mandated in most states, but those toxic chemicals are still in sofas. It’s again a hot topic in the California legislature and the press, but don’t bet that the “experts” will get it right this time. 

Looking back on the seven years I spent on Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, I see innumerable wasted hours discussing remedies touted by experts as solutions to civic problems which never materialized. Does anyone remember the turtles which were supposed to be added to the restored fountain in Martin Luther King Provo Civic Center Park in honor of native Americans? 

No, I thought not. I believe, but don’t quote me, that somewhere in the depths of City of Berkeley storage resides a quartet of cast brass turtles, hidden monuments to a failed solution to some-problem-or-other. And still the fountain—unrestored— is dry. 

Or how about health advice? To carb or not to carb? Journalist Gary Taubes and Doctors Lustig and Ornish have had profitable careers jousting over whether low-fat-high-carb cures or kills. The fuzzy coverage of the latest study of “the [as poorly defined] Mediterranean Diet” is a good example of how heavy-breathing reporters can cloud the waters in their enthusiasm to talk about something new, aided and abetted by self-described authorities. 

But we’re actually lucky when there are opposing camps of experts purporting to have found the Holy Grail. It’s a lot worse when all the experts rush to one side of the boat, as they’ve done in the prosecution of the various wars in the last decade, and the boat lists badly to one side. 

Recent discussions of the use of drones in these military enterprises illustrate how sometimes even the right people get things somewhat wrong. The latest New York Review of Books has an excellent essay by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, on “What Rules Should Govern US Drone Attacks”.  

At any Berkeley café you can find a passionate proponent of the view that any and all use of drones, by their very nature, is de facto immoral. Roth considers another possible point of view: 

“What does international human rights and humanitarian law require? Not necessarily abolition of the drone program. Yes, there is something disconcerting about drone operators killing their targets from the comfort and safety of their office—making war too easy, as some contend. But discrepancies of power have been inherent in warfare since the advent of the bow and arrow. And from the perspective of avoiding civilian casualties, drones are an advance. Like all weapons, they are only as good as the information available to their operators and their operators’ willingness to abide by legal constraints. But with their pinpoint accuracy and ability to hover for lengthy periods to verify a target and select the most propitious moment for attack, they have the potential to reduce the costs of war to civilians. “
If you’re a full-blown pacificist, of course, this argument is irrelevant or even immoral. But if you concede that sometimes use of force is legitimate, drones can seem to be a better weapon than, say, cluster bombs or land mines or nuclear warheads. One could even imagine wars fought without armies where only the offending national leaders are targeted by drones and citizens are unharmed. 

By focusing too hard on the admittedly creepy aspect of drones as unmanned substitutes for bombers, it’s possible to lose sight of the real problem they share with all other weapons. The major problem with using drones is not with the instrument but with the intent, with the command and control of how the instrument is used. This is where the US drone program seems to have gone badly wrong. It’s been reported that President Obama personally vets some or all drone use with the help of his internal experts, but inevitably presidents, at least in recent years, have been captives to groupthink among their advisers. 

I couldn’t bear to listen to Rand Paul’s anti-drone filibuster, but I think the man may have a point. From what I’ve read, his objection was to decisions on drone use made by John Brennan , who wanted appointment as CIA director. Paul was particularly critical of what looked like summary execution of U.S. citizens without due process to judge guilt or innocence 

The way drone targets have been chosen is a major problem. There are numerous protocols in international law, well-reviewed in Roth’s article, which are supposed to trigger the kind of analysis which the United States should have completed before acting on reports that individuals planned hostile action against this country. 

The standard justification is that such acts were self-defense, but self-defense and pre-emptive strikes are not the same thing. Whether the target is suspected Al Qaeda wannabes in the Arabian Penninsula or Trayvon Martin in Florida, and whether the weapon is bombs dropped by human pilots, remote-controlled drones or assault rifles, killing another human being simply on the basis of suspicion has a strong likelihood of being wrong. 

A promising development on this front is the rumored decision, reported by Daniel KIaidman on The Daily Beast on Wednesday, to transfer responsibility for decisions on drone use to the Department of Defense, which has a much soberer culture that the CIA’s traditional cloak-and-dagger mentality and usually adheres more strictly to established rules of war. . 

Coincidentally or opportunely, this change is exactly what Roth’s piece, which came out a couple of weeks ago, recommends: 

“At the very least, the CIA’s drone program, the source of most of the controversy, should be transferred to the Pentagon, with its stronger tradition of accountability to the law. That should be accompanied by a new policy of transparency about which laws govern drone attacks, and about why people are targeted, as well as prompt investigation whenever there is a credible allegation of civilian casualties or inappropriate targeting. The aim should be to open to independent scrutiny—by Congress, the courts, the press, and the public— many aspects of the drone program that have unjustifiably been kept secret (however open that secret may be) and treat drone attacks like normal military or police operations.”
Shining more sunshine on the recommendations of supposed experts might highlight weaknesses in their advice. But as Berkeleyans we’ve seen that the people in charge in government, both elected and employed, are often allergic to sunshine, so we shouldn’t expect Roth’s sensible advice to be followed any time soon. 




The Editor's Back Fence

Links to Look At

Wednesday March 27, 2013 - 03:09:00 PM

Here's a good report by Emilie Raguso on berkeleyside.com of why the Berkeley City Council sent the Acheson Commons proposal back to ZAB. Most intriguing is the way developers' shill Mark Rhoades tries and fails to spin the numbers in the comments which follow the piece. .


Bounce: Plausible Denial (Cartoon)

By Joseph Young
Friday March 22, 2013 - 01:38:00 PM


Joseph Young


Public Comment

New: Islam Honors Women in Society

By Khalida Jamilah
Tuesday March 26, 2013 - 10:23:00 PM

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. 


Berkeley Central – You Can’t Afford It

By Carol Denney
Friday March 22, 2013 - 02:39:00 PM
Carol Denney
Carol Denney
Carol Denney

It’s safe to say to 95% of the Bay Area goes to sleep every night with the secure knowledge that easily between 100 to 1,000 people within a five to ten mile radius are asleep nearby behind dumpsters and under bushes.

It’s safe to say that by now most of them have realized that every trip to the grocery store and the BART Station will necessitate walking past between two and twenty people with outstretched hands, shadowed by at least twice that number in severe, specific, and immediate need.

This isn’t the full picture. This is just their picture, the picture that colors their neighborhood, their day, their sense of community and fairness, and whether or not the world is a good place to be.

It’s safe to say most of them have hit the breaking point and can no longer imagine that handing out dollars and dimes represents any kind of solution to poverty. It’s safe to say that most of them recognize that a radical change in housing policy is not just a civic, but also a moral obligation.

None of them were protesting the policy of building housing specifically for the out-of-town Prada/Lexus crowd in front of the opening of Berkeley Central’s new luxury apartments on Thursday, March 21, 2013. They don’t believe homelessness can happen to them, or that squandering scarce square footage on pied-a-terre techies plays any role in the housing crisis. 

On Berkeley Central’s ribbon-cutting Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a cover page story about the 264 homeless families hoping for shelter in San Francisco. The East Bay Express and the Oakland Tribune ran stories on the nine percent increase in rents in one year as Berkeley renters engaged in bidding wars over a limited supply of housing. 

The crowd at the opening was full of wry comments about the few who could manage both the cost of the penthouse, one and two-bedroom apartments and studios currently available for lease and the lack of space for the stuff which would make actually living in them feasible. 

Nobody was allowed to see the studio apartments. Both the public and the media tour excluded the studios, presumably because they are even more shockingly space-resistant than the one-bedrooms. The one-bedrooms are perfect for people who have no books, no instruments, no hobbies, and fervently wish to have no friends or parties ever in their lives. 

Perhaps I am being harsh. But I live in a very small place. And I don’t really play the banjo, at least not very well. And I have four banjos. My CD collection alone would barrel out the door of these space-free units with their special staged-home beds, bedswhich knowledgeable eyes know would accommodate only part of a sleeping human being but help give the impression of more space in a staged home for sale. “Don’t worry,” said one of the women on the tour. “The people who’ll be living here are on their second homes. 

I’m not saying that to embarrass the hard-working, friendly, gorgeous crowd of young, mostly white women who shepherded the crowd through the tour with casual authority and aplomb. They were smart, responsive, engaging, and very patient with a crowd that grew more raucous with each of at least three alcohol stops. 

There is no question that something is wrong with a hiring policy that manifests such racial and gender singularity, but those whom I met were talented, dedicated, and sincerely capable of both fielding critical questions and guiding drunks out of the shrubbery. 

The officials, planners, and developers who pushed for the project are only partially at fault for plucking the ripe cherry that is – surprise – another luxury housing development in Berkeley, the city with the largest gap between rich and poor in the entire Bay Area. 

Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, representative for downtown Berkeley’s district four, was there beaming along with Downtown Berkeley Association members, Chamber of Commerce representatives, and of course the Mayor Tom Bates for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. 

I’m noting the second home theory to honor the theme represented by nearly every speaker at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and most of the literature as well. The 143 units at Berkeley Central were specifically designed to attract people from out of town. 

I would have no problem with this if we weren’t in a housing crisis. Build for the rich, I would say. Build crazy stuff with gold-plated toilets and let them buy it. 

But we are in a housing crisis. The Downtown Berkeley Association tried to outlaw sitting down on the sidewalk, for Christ’s sake. The money spent on that campaign would have funded a drop-in homeless center for at least three years. 

It’s safe to say that using Berkeley’s precious square footage to accommodate the needs of the uber-class: the high-end tech workers priced out of San Francisco who can afford as many storage units as it takes to make sure they don’t have to live with their boxes of Christmas decorations or their old Occupy banners next to their beds is – dare I say it --- unfair. 

They may be making up apps by the thousands over in Silicon Valley, but ain’t nobody making any new land. We either build with an eye toward addressing the obvious need for low-income housing, or we sidestep acknowledging a housing crisis so obvious that perfectly sane, arguably intelligent people sit around board room tables discussing which of the array of attributes describing homeless or nomadic people would be best to criminalize next. 

We, the taxpayers of Berkeley, pay for the City Council’s and the planners’ salaries. Why aren’t they building housing to accommodate our existing housing needs? Rich people, lovely though they may be, are just not at a loss for housing options. You should have seen the high-end bicycle in the bike rack in one of the staged rooms at Berkeley Central. This is not your father’s IT worker. 

But oh, how well this policy works for politicians whose larger agenda is to simply eliminate poverty by eliminating poor people from the community entirely. Polly Armstrong of the Chamber of Commerce said it, Mayor Tom Bates said it, Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said it, and even the official literature echoes the obvious policy of addressing Berkeley’s income gap by tilting housing in the direction of rich techie youngsters who hopefully will never know that homes used to, as a practical matter of course, have pantries, linen closets, attics, basements, parlors, porches, etc. 

Developers win when mini apartments get fondled and crowed over as “green” for having no place to put the basketball. But then, developers always win. 

You’ll want to know, so I’ll tell you; $2,575 to $3,000 for a one bedroom, 3,775 to 3,900 for a two-bedroom, $5,350 to $6,300 for the penthouses. Door to door trash service (a mandatory $30 fee) and proximity to the BART Station. Entirely smokefree, except that somebody was smoking on the penthouse floor. 

But those two and twenty people with outstretched hands are right outside wondering how long they have to wait until we can have a ribbon cutting ceremony for the majority, the poor, who have somehow become wallpaper to the people who wandered through Berkeley Central’s luxury apartments sipping wine.

War is Not Over When It's Over

Emily Yates, Oakland, CA, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Friday March 22, 2013 - 01:04:00 PM

On the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, my thoughts are with all of the veterans of the Iraq War, but especially for the Iraqi veterans - by which I mean, every person living in Iraq during the invasion and occupation. I deployed twice to Iraq. I've been home for almost five years and I still think about it every day. I think about it every day, and I'm not even physically there. 

This war continues to traumatize millions of Iraqi civilians in addition to the thousands of military casualties from around the globe. It’s time for our government to be held accountable for ten years (and counting) of human rights violations in Iraq. It’s time for our government to take responsibility for the physical and psychological trauma it has been inflicting on every Iraqi and on its own troops for ten years - and counting - because even though the war might have been declared over, for millions it will never be over.

Obama's Israel/Palestine Speak Falls Short

By Harry Brill
Friday March 22, 2013 - 11:40:00 PM

I am writing this email to several friends of mine who I spoke with this morning about Obama's speech on Israeli-Palestinian relations. I am also sending this email to others who I think would be interested in the discussion.

Because the President rhetorically urges Israelis to make a strong effort for peace, my friends were very pleased since it presumably represents a step forward in US policy toward Israel. But actually, the speech was a step backward. A very critical issue for the Palestinians is that Israel is currently constructing settlements for Jews in Palestinian territories. 

What is the President's position on this issue? He urged the Palestinians to return to the bargaining table even though Israel is going ahead with the construction. What does he advise Israel to do? Formerly he had advised Israel against infringing on Palestinian property. But he has clearly changed his mind. Instead, as Friday's New York Times states, "President Drops His Stance on a HALT to Israeli Settlements". Since this is no longer an expectation by the President, it is absolutely certain that Israel will not back off. How then can there be a peace settlement if Israel remains free to construct settlements on lands that don't belong to Israel! 

Obama not only prefers the rhetorical approach. What he says and doesn't say in this instance is decidedly to the advantage of the Israeli government. So the speech doesn't deserve applause. Instead, President Obama signaled to the Israeli government that it can do what it pleases even though it violates the integrity and well being of the Palestinians.

Parents Need to be Concerned with Campus Safety

By Amy Krause
Friday March 22, 2013 - 01:27:00 PM

I am going to start this the way my 20-year-old daughter started her phone call to me several weeks ago. With a phrase that as a parent makes your heart pound the moment you hear the tone in your child’s voice even before the words come. “I’m OK, everyone is ok but . . .”

This is how my daughter a junior at UC Berkeley, told me that she and two girl friends had been mugged the night before while walking home from her work study job on campus. No one was hurt badly, but there was a struggle and physical contact. The girls were frightened, freaked out, but it could have been worse. Much worse. My daughter and her friends called 911 and made a full report of the crime, but I also encouraged my daughter to tell everyone she knew what happened, including posting it on Facebook. To let people know it can and does happen. 

Which it turns out is advice given in a brochure by the Berkeley Police Department (www.cityofberkeley.info/police), written by the Crime and Violence Prevention Center at the California Attorney General’s Office and downloadable at www.safestate.org. Other advice, from the Berkeley PD, includes carrying your phone in your hand to have it at the ready, and separating your valuables and ID so that if you are mugged, you don’t lose everything in one grab. Keys, ID and credit cards in pockets, phone in hand — not wallet and purse inside a backpack, as was the case with my daughter’s friend who was beaten up in a struggle over the backpack. 

College students, our children, wearing the backpacks we bought them, filled with the latest technology, computers, cell phones, iPads and cash cards loaded so they won’t want for anything, are targets of crime. We unknowingly make them prime suspects for urban crime. According to a story on Here and Now, “University campuses, cities and retailers around the country — and around the world — are dealing with a massive up-tick in thefts of Apple products. The crime trend has become so pronounced, it’s been given a name: “Apple picking. 

I urge you, as a parent, if you do not know about this new wave of crime, or the crime statistics of your child’s university, you should. So should your child. And I say this not as one of those helicopter moms. I know that it is our children who are attending these universities, who live both on and off campus and who ultimately need to take responsibility for their own safety. But as parents, it is our job to help them be as aware and prepared as possible. And as parents, it is up to us to hold the universities and the leaders of surrounding communities responsible for the safety of our children. Let’s face it, our bank accounts are bigger, that makes us influential. We need to get involved, if not in making safety one the reasons our children choose a college campus but certainly in their safety once they do decide. 

We need to start by asking questions about safety both on campus and in the surrounding communities while on tours of prospective universities. We need to insure that news of crime on college campuses is public, widely available and of concern to all involved in the college experience, our children, the other parents and the educators. We need to insist that crime against college students is a statistic that universities feel responsible for and take pride in keeping low. We can do this now, while high school seniors are touring campuses, meeting with university staff and making a choice for their future. Speak up and let these institutions know that the likelihood of our child becoming the victim of a crime while in their care and tutelage is as important to us as the number of Nobel Laureates, or the ratio of professors to students.


ECLECTIC RANT: The Tenth Anniversary of Rachel Corrie's Death

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday March 22, 2013 - 01:43:00 PM

Rachel Corrie, a 22-year old peace activist from Washington State, was killed on March 16, 2003 by a Caterpillar bulldozer operated by the Israeli military while trying to stop a Palestinian family’s home from being destroyed. Some witnesses claimed she was struck deliberately, but an Israeli inquiry found her death to be an accident. 

According to the March 3, 2013, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions Report, "Israel's Policy of Demolishing Palestinian Homes Must End," to the to the UN Human Rights Council, Israel has destroyed more than 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967 and more than 1,500 orders exist for future demolitions in East Jerusalem alone.  

I highly recommend "Rachel," a 2009 documentary about the 2003 incident. The film depicts the circumstances surrounding her death. The documentary is not just about Corrie's death. It is also about activists who fight injustice without hope of winning, but do so without despair.  

The film is also about the ongoing conflict in Gaza, which stretches back to the creation of Israel in 1947. Then, the United Nations partitioned the land, allotting the Jews 55 percent of Palestine. The Arabs did not agree to this partition. In the 1948 “war of independence” (called the “El Naqua,” the catastrophe, by the Arabs), Israel ended up with 78 percent of the area of Palestine. This war displaced 750,000 Palestinians and over 450 Arab villages were erased.  

In the war of 1967, the remaining Palestinian territory was captured by Israel. Out of this captured land, Israel created the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by chopping up the land into isolated enclaves surrounded by Jewish settlements and Israeli occupation forces. The Palestinians lost 78 percent of their land to Israel and are left with 22 percent. Israel has erected a wall or fence, which cuts deep into Palestinian territory, joining large Jewish settlement blocks to Israel, further confining the Palestinians to isolated enclaves. Israel continues to establish new settlements (called outposts), demolishing homes and uprooting plantations in the process. And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes on and on. 

It would be a fitting remembrance of Corrie's death if a Bay Area theater group would stage the play "My Name Is Rachel Corrie," which is composed from Rachel Corrie's journal entries and e-mails. The play was edited by Katherine Viner and Alan Rickman and directed by Rickman. It had a successful run in London at the Royal Court Theatre where it went on to win the Theatregoers' Choice Awards for Best Director and Best New Play, as well as Best Solo Performance for actress Megan Dodds. The play has been performed around the United States and the world, but not to my knowledge, by a Bay Area theater group. 

Ten years later Rachel's fight to end injustice continues by others and will continue until the end of the occupation of the Palestinian Territory and the realization of Palestinians’ right to national self-determination.


Conn Hallinan
Friday March 22, 2013 - 12:56:00 PM

When an important leader of the political opposition hints that a military coup might be preferable to the current chaos, and when a major financial organization proposes an economic program certain to spark a social explosion, something is afoot. Is Egypt being primed for a coup? 

It is hard to draw any other conclusion given the demands the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is making on the government of President Mohamed Morsi: regressive taxes, massive cuts in fuel subsidies, and hard-edged austerity measures whose weight will overwhelmingly fall on Egypt’s poor. 

“Austerity measures at a time of political instability are simply unfeasible in Egypt,” says Tarek Radwan of the Washington-based Atlantic Council. “He [Morsi] is already facing civil disobedience in the streets, protests on a weekly, if not daily basis, clashes between protestors and security—he does not want to worsen the situation.” 

The “situation” consists of wide spread police strikes, particularly in the industrial city of Port Said, but also including parts of Cairo and the heavily populated Nile Delta. The police in Sharqiya have even refused to protect Morsi’s house. At its height the strike spread to half of Egypt’s 27 administrative governorates. 

Microbus drivers, angered at rising diesel prices and fuel shortages, blocked roads leading into Cairo, setting off massive traffic jams. Farmers in the Delta joined them, refusing to ship crops and shutting down farm machinery. 

Added to the tense political situation are rapidly shrinking foreign currency reserves, an economy that is dead in the water, and an unemployment rate that has risen to 13.5 percent, and close to 25 percent for Egyptians aged 15 to 29. The number of Egyptians living below the poverty line has increased from 20 percent in 2010 to 25 percent today. And tourism, which contributes 11 percent of the gross domestic product, has tanked. 

Morsi’s Islamist government appears increasingly isolated, although the Muslim Brotherhood is still the best organized political force in Egypt. Reaching out to the opposition, however, is not its strong point. Morsi was elected with only 52 percent of the vote, and most observers think that support has eroded in the face of economic crisis and political instability. The government managed to ram through an Islamist constitution, but only 33 percent of the voters went to the polls. The government had planned on elections sometime between April and June, but a court recently overturned that decision. 

The Morsi government has increasingly resorted to the use of force against opponents, including police tactics similar to those used by the Mubarak government. The government Attorney General recently caused an uproar by asking for “civilians” to arrest “lawbreakers.” The opposition charges that the call is cover for the Morsi government to set up militias dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The plagues being visited upon Egypt may not be of Biblical proportions, but they are serious enough to destabilize the biggest Arab country in the Middle East. They certainly threaten the gains of the January 2011 revolution that overthrew the autocratic and corrupt government of Hosni Mubarak and sent the powerful Egyptian army back to the barracks. 

They may not stay there long. 

Opposition leader Essam Al-Islambouli of the National Salvation Front told Al-Ahram Weekly, “Today, we don’t just have a convoluted political process, but we are also facing confused and disturbing economic challenges, and we are seeing the threat of citizens bearing arms against each other. We might be reaching a point at which it will become inevitable for the Armed Forces to step in.” 

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of Egypt’s Constitutional Party and founding member of the opposition National Salvation Front, told Ahram Online that while he doesn’t “hope the military takes over,” it would be better to be ruled by the military than by Islamic militias. 

The Muslim Brotherhood does have a paramilitary wing called the “Hawks” that surfaced in 2006 during demonstrations at Al-Azhar University, and one rumor is that the MB has as many as 5,000 soldiers. There is also a reputed pledge by Hamas to send fighters from Gaza to support the MB. But it is very unlikely that the Brotherhood has anywhere near 5,000 armed men, and Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar denied that the Palestinian organization intends to interfere in Egypt, calling the rumor nothing more than an attempt to smear Hamas. Indeed, relations between Hamas and the Morsi government have recently cooled. 

The puzzling thing about the IMF’s demands is that they fly in the face of a recent study by the organization’s chief economist Oliver Banchard, which found spending cuts and taxes hikes only make recessions worse. Stimulus spending are far more effective in restarting an economy. 

The Morsi government was hoping the international lending organization would front it $4.8 billion to pull Egypt through the current crisis, but Cairo has delayed asking for the loan, in large part because it is afraid of what the reaction would be. Cutting fuel subsidies would fall heavily on the poor, who use kerosene for cooking. However, without the IMF loan, loans from the U.S. and the European Union will be put on hold as well. 

The Morsi government’s fear is well founded. Egypt has long been a difficult country to govern without the consent of its people unless rulers can call on a powerful army. Its population of 83 million is concentrated in a few urban areas, the Delta, the narrow strip of land bordering the Nile, and several cities in the Canal Zone. 

That concentration makes demonstrations formidable, as the Mubarak government found out in 2011. The Morsi government recently discovered that fact when it sentenced 21 soccer fans to death for their part in a 2012 riot in Port Said that killed 74 people. Port Said exploded at the verdict. 

With the police overwhelmed—and on strike—Morsi was forced to call in the Egyptian Army to confront the rioters, but military commanders were less than happy at being caught between the demonstrators and the government. “The Egyptian armed forces is a combat institution not a security institution,” grumbled Gen. Ahmed Wasfi, head of the Army division sent into Port Said. “No one can imagine the Army replacing the Interior Ministry.” 

Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi warned the Morsi government not to try and “brotherhoodise” the military, and also hinted darkly that the continued unrest could bring about a possible “collapse of the state.” It was a sobering statement from an institution that has intervened on other occasions in Egypt, including during the 1952 coup/ revolution that put Gamal Abdel Nasser into power. 

As long as Mubarak controlled the army, he could rule Egypt. When the army stepped back in 2011, the government fell. 

It is an old story. Ancient Egypt was one of the few areas in the Roman Empire that required two full legions just to keep the peace. And the Romans found that when Egyptians got riled, it was best to back off and cut a deal. Cleopatra used the power of Egypt’s population to hold off Roman rule for more than two decades. It is a force that no government can afford to take lightly. 

It is no secret that the U.S. is not overly enthusiastic about the Morsi government. During his recent visit, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry offered aid—and a modest $250 million at that—but only if the government instituted “painful” austerity measures and kept Cairo’s foreign policy consistent with Washington’s. The U.S. has the most powerful voice in the IMF—it outvotes Japan, Germany and France combined—and the fact that the lending organization demands essentially parallel those made by Kerry is hardly coincidence. 

The oil-rich monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the U.S.’s major allies in the Middle East, have been telling Washington “We told you so” about Islamic governments, and GCC member Qatar, which initially pledged $4.3 billion in aid, has yet to make good on it. Qatar and other GCC nations have also reneged on an economic assistance package. 

Morsi’s government is hardly radical. Its economic policies reflect its urban professional roots, and what MB business leader Hassan Malek calls “capitalism with attention to the poor,” a pledge that will be hard to reconcile with the IMF’s formula. 

But Egypt has adopted a foreign policy that is not always in perfect alignment with Washington, including re-establishing relations with Iran and sharpening the criticism of Israel for its occupation of the West Bank and Golan Heights. 

The U.S. has traditionally been more comfortable with authoritarian governments in the Middle East than democratic or Islamic ones, and it has influence with the Egyptian military through its $1.3 billion in yearly aid. 

Are the statements by Egypt’s opposition concerning the possibility of a military takeover simply a political maneuver aimed at forcing the Morsi government to be more inclusive, or are they laying a foundation for a coup? Loose talk about an Army takeover in Egypt is a little like hand feeding a crocodile: a good way to lose a body part. 

Why is the IMF ignoring its own findings on austerity to push a program that can only ignite massive resistance? And why is the U.S. piling on? 

Egypt is looking at a summer of higher food prices, rising unemployment, blackouts, fuel shortages, and growing political unrest. If the country were a chessboard, it looks like a lot of pieces are lining up for an assault on the king. 

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

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Minimizing Delusions

Jack Bragen
Friday March 22, 2013 - 11:13:00 AM

Treatment for mental illnesses, including that for schizophrenia, is an imperfect deal. Those who are in treatment will almost invariably have some residual symptoms. A person with schizophrenia will sometimes be delusional while taking medication. Sometimes the dosage is wrong, either too low or too high. (Too much medication can be just as bad, sometimes worse, compared to too little medication.) Also, antipsychotic medications do not always work. About a third of people with schizophrenia aren't helped by medication. 

When someone has a lot of experience dealing with their illness they can sometimes self-assess. Yet this is not always reliable. 

A person with a psychotic tendency would do well to have several layers of carefulness-like a failsafe system, to prevent getting excessively delusional. For example, self assessment could be a first layer, and this could be followed with monitoring by one's significant other (or perhaps a roommate.) The idea is to have people in your life who know you and who you can share thoughts with, so that you can get another opinion on possible delusions. 

Keeping secrets from one's psychiatrist prevents being helped. The point is to catch one's delusions before they proliferate. If psychosis while medicated becomes too severe, it increases the likelihood of noncompliance. 

The question arises: how do you know it when you're delusional, and what do you do about it? 

Moreover, when are people really "out to get me," and when is this thought merely a product of the illness? When is a person dealing with the "real extraterrestrials" versus the ones that the person is imagining? When is someone really a famous person, and when are they having "delusions of grandeur"? 

I am helped by the "I don't know" axiom that I have adopted. This is the admission that my knowledge is limited. If I adopt an "I don't know" stance, I am less likely to act on a belief that may be inaccurate. Prevention of acting on delusions is like declawing a tiger. You still have a tiger but it is no longer mauling people. Thus, if a person with a delusional disorder learns to regulate their actions, it prevents their delusions from doing external harm. (In order for this to work, it is necessary to have some idea that a thought is questionable.) 

A "delusional system" is a set of interwoven delusions that take the place of the perception of reality. A person with psychosis may be emotionally attached to their delusional system. The delusional system may have elements that reassure a person, that make a person special, or that shield a person from difficult truths. Delusions tend to be beliefs that are very unusual and that do not ordinarily seem credible. 

Getting over a delusional system usually requires medical treatment, e.g., medication, but can also require that a person "give up" a belief to which they may be emotionally attached. 

Because I have experience with techniques of mindfulness, I have learned not to be emotionally attached to delusions. This is an area in which meditative practices can augment drug therapy. When someone eliminates their emotional attachment to delusions, and is not afraid to tell a psychiatrist or family member what the delusions are, they have a better chance of becoming nearly delusion-free. 

Delusions sometimes have power because they hijack the pain and pleasure capacities of the brain. Delusions multiply when kept secret. When a person with schizophrenia takes the step of relinquishing the emotional attachment to delusions, they have eliminated something that reinforces their illness. 

I will often use my wife or my psychotherapist as an external "reality checker" where I ask how realistic a particular thought sounds to them. I don't share delusions with strangers or with members of the general public because they would not understand. 

Schizophrenia is insidious partly because it warps all of the perceptions. Thus the psychotic person will believe that they have a lot of evidence to support beliefs which they do not realize are false. 

If I were taken off medication, it would not matter that ordinarily I know the difference between a delusion and a truth. I would become delusional from being taken off medication because the basic reality-finding ability of my brain would stop working. I would forget all of these wonderful thoughts and techniques that today help me think pretty clearly. If I lacked medication, I would become more and more delusional until I reached a point where I would need external intervention. 

Getting the brain's "hardware" to work by administering medication is the first step, and only after that can a person work on the errors in "software," originally produced by a malfunctioning brain. 

There are some strategies for alleviating delusions in addition to standard treatment that might surprise you. Getting distracted by something calming and enjoyable can reset the thoughts, which can allow reality to filter into the mind. I once got over my delusions when the movie "Field of Dreams" was played in a psychiatric ward. I was released within a few days of that.

THE PUBLIC EYE: What Makes a Republican?

By Bob Burnett
Friday March 22, 2013 - 10:14:00 AM

After two months of the 113th Congress, it’s clear there’s a cadre of Tea Party Republicans blocking most meaningful Federal legislation – jobs, taxes, global climate change, immigration, and gun control. These ultra-conservatives are intent on dismantling the federal government. Where did these Republicans come from and why do they believe government is their enemy? 

There’s substantial research indicating differences in liberal and conservative brains. The definitive study, published by Hatemi et al, analyzed the DNA of 13,201 Australians and found several genes that differentiated between liberals and conservative. A literature review, by Jost et al found personality factors that distinguish between liberals and conservatives: threat sensitivity and openness to experience. ABC summarized, “Democrats had larger anterior cingulate cortexes, which are associated with tolerance to uncertainty, while Republicans had larger right amygdalas, which are associated with sensitivity to fear.” Liberals ask, “Why can’t we all get along? And conservatives respond, “Why are you threatening traditional values?” 

Of course, heredity doesn’t explain all differences between Democrats and Republicans. If you were brought up in liberal Berkeley, California, you had different life experiences than if you were brought up in conservative Provo, Utah. Both cities have approximately 112,000 residents. However, Berkeley is 59.5 percent white and 10 percent black; Provo is 85 percent white and less than 1 percent black. 30 percent of Berkeley households are married, while the statistic in Provo is 55 percent. 2 percent of Berkeley households report as “same-sex couples” but there’s no comparable indicator for Provo. 88 percent of Provo residents are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. 

If you grow up in Provo you are more likely to be raised in a conservative family that owns a gun (43.9 percent). In Provo you are less likely to know someone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender or a same-sex couple. 

56 percent of Utah voters are registered Republicans versus 31 percent in California. Therefore, if you grow up in Provo you are much more likely to be exposed to the conservative message – via family, church, or media. 

If you are raised in Provo you are more likely to have what social psychologist Jonathan Haidt termed a “conservative grand narrative.” For example, “Once upon a time America was a shining beacon but then the principles of the founders were subverted by liberals who instituted a massive federal bureaucracy and compromised traditional American values.” In Provo you are more likely to acquire what University of California linguistics professor George Lakoff termed the “strict parent” moral perspective where the world is viewed as inherently dangerous. 

If you grow up in Provo, you are constantly exposed to a political perspective that argues: “President Obama is a proponent of global ‘one-world’ government. He intends to impose socialism on the US and have the federal government seize Americans’ guns and destroy their liberties.” In Provo, you are more likely to believe Americans need their guns for self-defense against the federal government. 

Growing up Republican is a blend of nature and nurture. It’s probable that some conservatives have a genetic predisposition because their brains make them more sensitive to fear. This inclination is accentuated by a culture that is more fear oriented; that, for example, sees gays as a threat rather than as an expression of the diversity of nature. If you grow up in a conservative culture, such as Provo, you are more likely to fall into an ultra-conservative “information silo.” (An information silo is a cultural system that operates in isolation from others.) You are more likely to listen to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, “Focus on the Family,” and similar conservative news sources. You are more likely to be part of an email tree that sends missives such as, “Obama intends to impose Sharia Law.” And you are more likely to know someone who is part of a militia or hate group. 

Given the extent to which congressional districts were gerrymandered in 2010, it’s not surprising that some districts elected ultra-conservative Republicans. Provo, Utah, elected Tea Party member, Jason Chaffetz. (Berkeley elected liberal congresswoman Barbara Lee.) Not surprisingly, Congressman Chaffetz opposes same-sex marriage and voted no on legislation enforcing anti-gay sex crimes. He opposes Federal aid for education and Obamacare. He opposes gun-control legislation and immigration reform. The Provo newspaper noted Chaffetz 

"voted against raising the debt ceiling, arguing Congress and Obama weren't reining in entitlement spending… Chaffetz voted against the so-called fiscal cliff deal because it involved raising levies on those making more than $450,000 annually."
While liberals deplore the process that produced the ultra-conservative House of Representatives, the reality is that America is culturally gerrymandered. There are toxic pockets, like Provo, where citizens believe “Government is the enemy.” When you consider this grim reality, it’s not so strange that the Tea Party has significant support and that Republicans are obstructionists. 

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




SENIOR POWER... the dark lady of DNA

By Helen Rippier Wheeler, pen136@dslextreme.com
Friday March 22, 2013 - 11:06:00 AM

Herstory was coined to emphasize that women’s and girls’ lives, deeds, and participation in human affairs have been neglected, undervalued, or distorted in standard works. “Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” is the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month, March 2013. 

Rosalind Elsie Franklin (1920-1958) exemplifies herstory to the hilt. Scientific American published an article, “As the 2008 laureates are announced, SciAm looks back at some of Nobel history's also-rans. No Nobel for You: Top 10 Nobel Snubs.” Three of the ten snubees were women: Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Rosalind Franklin, and Lise Meitner. 

Brenda Maddox, Franklin’s biographer, refers to the dark lady of DNA. Franklin was a very capable scientist. She was also unmarried, childless, from an affluent Jewish family, a Cambridge University graduate, keen on hiking and outdoorsy stuff. And female. A British molecular biologist, biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer, her work on X-ray diffraction images of DNA led to the double helix discovery. Shakespeare’s Rosalind (As You Like It) is one of his most recognized characters, admired for her intelligence, quick wit and beauty. 

In molecular biology, the double helix refers to the structure formed by double-stranded molecules of nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA. James Dewey Watson and Francis Crick were awarded the 1962 Nobel Laureate in Physiology-Medicine for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nuclear acids and its significance for information transfer in living material. Ten years after Franklin's death, Watson published his The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. Sexism pervades his memoir, an international best-seller. He denigrates her work and refers to “Rosy” in patronizing terms, a name she never used. Much later, Crick acknowledged, "I'm afraid we always used to adopt – let's say, a patronizing attitude towards her." Watson’s 2001 biographical Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix identifies him as “co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.” 

Franklin died in 1958 at age thirty-eight, four years before Watson, Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared the 1962 Nobel Prize. Franklin continues to be overlooked (e.g. currently by PBS News) in accounts of the discovery of the double helix. When the guys got their Nobel Prize, which is never awarded posthumously, she was dead. (Ovarian cancer.) 

Maddox argues that Watson and Crick appropriated Franklin's work without her permission and without proper acknowledgment. And she acknowledges that Rosalind Franklin was herself "not immune to the sexism rampant in these circles." In a letter to her parents in January 1939, Franklin called one lecturer "very good, though female." 


Suffragist Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977) believed that “There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it. This world crisis came about without women having anything to do with it. If the women of the world had not been excluded from world affairs, things today might have been different.” With Lucy Burns and others, she led a campaign for women's right to vote that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Like the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), it mentions neither women nor men: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” 

After the Nineteenth Amendment provided women with the right to vote, the National Woman’s Party turned its attention to passage of an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution. Congress passed and most states ratified the amendment, but at the last minute in 1982 it was stopped by the coalition of conservatives’ STOP ERA campaign, which, according to organizer Phyllis Schlafly (1924- ), is an acronym for Stop Taking Our Privileges. 

Under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, using a male rather than human standard, the courts have been able to justify discrimination. In 1995 the National Organization for Women (NOW) held an ERA Summit to draft language for a new ERA, contending that to achieve true equality, paradigm (a contemporary euphemism) shift was needed. NOW members resolved to proceed with an expanded constitutional amendment strategy that would eliminate discrimination based on sex, race, sexual orientation, marital status, ethnicity, national origin, color or indigence. Members also called for further study of age and disability as classes to be included in the struggle for constitutional equality... I’ll drink to that. 

“March 5, 2013: WASHINGTON – In recognition of Women’s History Month, the Centennial Anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C., and the upcoming International Women’s Day, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution as well as legislation to award its original author, New Jersey native and renowned suffragette [sic] Alice Paul, with a Congressional Gold Medal.” 


Older Women's Health News 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug to treat postmenopausal women who experience pain during sexual intercourse. The drug Osphena (ospemifene) mimics the effects of estrogen on vaginal tissue, which can become thinner, drier and more fragile from menopause. The pill, taken with food once a day, makes vaginal tissue thicker and less fragile, reducing pain during sex (dyspareunia). … 


What about Premarin vaginal cream, which has been around for a while, I wonder? 

And "Oral estrogen hormone therapy [appears to be] linked to increased risk of gallbladder surgery in menopausal women" according to a large-scale study of more than 70,000 women in France published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Women who took estrogen therapy through skin patches or gels did not appear to be at increased risk. Gallstone disease is common in developed countries, and women age 50+ are most at risk. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, poor diet and having given birth to two or more children. A large study of 70, 928 menopausal women in France between 1992 and 2008 looked at whether hormone therapy increased the risk of gallbladder surgery (cholecystectomy) for complications of gallstones. In France, hormonal therapy is usually administered topically rather than orally. North America and the United Kingdom prefer oral hormone therapies. 

Post-menopausal women, who often suffer from joint pain, could find some long-term relief by taking estrogen-only medication, according to a new study based on the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) that was released online yesterday by the journal, Menopause

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has entered the debate over the two vitamins that are thought to strengthen bones to prevent breaks. According to the government-backed panel, older women should not take vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent broken bones, and there is insufficient evidence to say whether it would help anyone else either. Approximately 1.5 million Americans annually suffer from breaks tied to brittle bones. And about half of all women over 50 years old will end up with a break linked to the bone-weakening osteoporosis disease. The Task Force links broken bones to chronic pain, disability and increased risk of sickness and early death. Based on reviews, the panel found there were no benefits but some risk for post-menopausal women taking low-dose, below 400 international units, vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium supplements daily. 

The Urogynecologist’s domain includes urinary incontinence and numerous female pelvic floor dysfunctions and disorders, among them the infamous UTI — urinary tract infection. The elderly are especially susceptible to frequent UTIs, which occur more commonly in women than men, with recurrences common. Complications of untreated chronic UTI in the elderly are great. Because they are more likely to have other chronic health problems or pre-existing conditions, such as a weakened immune system or heart valve problems, they are more prone to sepsis if their UTI is left untreated. 

People with pregnancy-related concerns fill OB/GYNs’ waiting rooms, while the postmenopausal woman waiting for the urologist can pass the time reading Esquire, Golf, Men’s Journal, Playboy, Popular Mechanics magazines… Be of good cheer, ladies. There is a medical doctor who specializes in your needs. 

Breast cancer incidence has increased in all European countries, whether or not national screening programs are in place. However, mortality experienced an annual decrease from 1997-2006. The number of deaths linked to breast cancer since 1992 in Spain has decreased among young and middle aged patients but not among the elderly. Spanish researchers predict that it will continue to decline over the next decade, although more slowly. This tendency is attributed to mammography and effective hormone treatments, chemotherapy and advances in radiotherapy and surgery. 

For women ages 66-74, a mammogram every two years appears as good as one every year. Risk of having breast cancer detected at a later stage is no greater if one screens every two years compared to every year, according to University of California, San Francisco Dejana Braithwaite, an assistant professor of cancer epidemiology at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. She compared annual with every-other-year screenings and the effect on whether the cancer was diagnosed at a late stage. She also compared how the two intervals affected the number of "false-positive" test results, in which mammograms interpreted as possibly showing cancer actually did not after further testing. Women screened every year were more likely to have false-positive results than women screened every two years. Braithwaite’s study is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, online Feb. 5, 2013. 

Access to long-term care insurance is being reduced. It is likely to become much more difficult to afford, especially for women. Long-term care is a women’s issue because they live longer and are the disproportionate beneficiaries of long-term care insurance. On average, women outlive men by five years. Those who reach age 80 will require three years of assistance. In nursing homes, 7 of 10 residents are women, and they represent 76% of assisted living facilities residents and two thirds of home care recipients. Medicare does not pay for this. Insurance companies are hiking premiums for existing policies, have stopped selling new ones, and are requiring blood tests and home visits instead of phone interviews for applicants. 

“Enhanced underwriting” refers to more stringent qualifying standards. The change that has generated the most public attention is “gender-distinct pricing,” a new strategy that raises rates for single women by as much as 40% beginning April 2013. Difficulty in obtaining new policies and rising costs should not be attributed to gender or to sex. 

Women with Alzheimer’s-linked gene show faster cell aging. Some women with a gene linked to Alzheimer's disease may have rapidly aging body cells, even when they are in apparently good health. On the other hand, researchers found, there were no signs of accelerated cell aging when those same women were on hormone replacement therapy. It is not clear what can be made of the findings, said senior study author Dr. Natalie Rasgon, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. No one can say whether hormone therapy could lower the risk of Alzheimer's, or any other disease, in women who carry the gene variant — known as ApoE4. 

A study has found that women are at greater risk than men for hip implant failure. The majority of total hip replacement surgeries are successful, but women are at greater risk for implant failure after this procedure. Researchers noted this was true even after taking other individual risk factors into account. “The role of sex in relationship to implant failure after total hip [replacement] is important for patient management and device innovation,” the study authors wrote in the report published online Feb. 18, 2013 in JAMA Internal Medicine

Postmenopausal women who have smoked are at much higher risk of losing their teeth than women who never smoked, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association by University at Buffalo researchers. The study involved 1,106 women who participated in the Buffalo OsteoPerio Study, an offshoot of the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest clinical trial and observational study ever undertaken in the U.S., involving more than 162,000 women across the nation. 

But a new study offers evidence that life expectancy for some U.S. women is actually falling, a trend that experts cannot explain. Research found that women age 75 and younger are dying at higher rates than previous years in nearly half of the nation's counties - many of them rural and in the South and West, especially among disadvantaged white women. Men’s life expectancy has held steady or improved in nearly all counties. Some theories blame higher smoking rates, obesity and less education, but several experts said they simply do not know why nor exactly how many women are affected. An estimate is 12%. The study, released by the journal Health Affairs, found declining life expectancy for women in about 43% of the nation's counties. 


SOCIAL NOTES FROM ALL OVER: It Was A Lovely Party at A Berkeley Hot Spot

By Grace Underpressure (PST)
Friday March 22, 2013 - 08:06:00 PM

When the pesky poor people panhandling underneath the Berkeley Central high-rise luxury apartments at get clonked on the head with a stray wineglass, at least they'll note the quality of the Cabernet thanks to the concerted efforts of the dashing developers at the new residences’ high-end helm.

“We’re setting a tone,” explained one of Berkeley Central’s “brand ambassadors” at the ribbon cutting ceremony where swells stood in an uneasy row under the “luxury apartments” sign listening to each other’s euphemisms about the “new” people they hope to drag into town to replace the scruffy bunch they have right now. 

“We’re seeing professional people coming here,” enthused Mayor Tom Bates with a flourish when he finally got the microphone away from Chamber of Commerce Polly Armstrong’s endless ode to Jon Caner as “responsible for the transformation of the appearance of our downtown” through the Block by Block program which continues to move homeless and poor people around downtown like chess pieces. 

“It’s part of the transformation of downtown bringing new people downtown,” agreed Councilmember Jesse Arreguin while his campaign supporters cringed. 

“This Berkeley Central building and the people who are going to be there are the crest of the wave,” chimed in Armstrong when she finally got the microphone back – what a scrapper! And what a charming way to reference the “green” nature of the pied-a-terre beehive now available for worship at Center and Shattuck – when global warming drowns the rest of us, the “nine two-story penthouses” will still be above water. 

We were pretty well dressed ourselves, so we couldn’t help wondering who the “new” people were going to be. We had the heels, the little black dresses, the power suits, but maybe the “new” people never dress down in case there’s an emergency call to a theater fundraiser. 

“We’re getting a lot of interest from San Francisco,” nodded one of the bevies of identically jeweled assistants moving curious people waving champagne glasses through three floors with staged furnishings. But the best clue to the newcomers’ identities might be the furnishings themselves – the $8,000 bicycle, the $25.00 soaps – it’s the little things! 

But one attendee bristled when I joked about the necessity, in such tiny apartments; of keeping at least half of one’s belongings dangling off the balconies in milk crates. 

“You don’t understand,” he scolded. “These ‘new’ people have evolved. They don’t have books. They’re online.” 

I was disappointed to be told the next day that the promised YMCA discounts were “transitioning”, because I can only imagine how buff this new crowd must be. But I begin to get the transformation picture after gazing around the penthouse patio, which is high enough away from the panhandlers on Shattuck that one begins to appreciate that if, in fact, the poor are always with us, then why not make sure there’s some security at the door and leave it all behind? 

The ‘new’ people won’t need umbrellas or paint supplies or suitcases: there’s an app for that! And if they develop a taste for acquiring sports equipment or insist on having a record collection, well the rest of us know they’ll just work harder on having an app for that, too. It’s a brave new world, kids, and if you want to know who’s running it, come on down to the Berkeley Central apartments where the panhandling is going to be exquisite! 

-- Grace Underpressure, Pepper Spray Times

Arts & Events

Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Presents: The Future of Telegraph Avenue is Now

From The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce
Friday March 22, 2013 - 02:23:00 PM

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee is pleased to announce a two-part program for April and May focused on Telegraph Avenue. Telegraph Avenue has been the subject of a great deal of planning and attention over the last year. There has been broad recognition in the City and in the Southside neighborhood that strong efforts must be taken to revitalize the declining commercial strip as a destination but also as neighborhood serving, most particularly between Dwight Way and Bancroft Avenue. 


April 1, 2013 at Noon (Chamber Conference Room) 

The Government Affairs Committee will discuss current planning and design efforts to address the area in general.  

We will be joined by Mayor Tom Bates , representatives of Berkeley Design Advocates and Roland Peterson, Executive Director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District. The Mayor's Office has taken a strong leadership role relevant to Telegraph Avenue and has just kicked off a major neighborhood engagement. Berkeley Design Advocates did a day long design workshop last spring. The results of that workshop and the status of various recommendations will be discussed. 


When: Monday, April 1, 2013 ~ 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM
Where: Berkeley Chamber of Commerce
1834 University Avenue, Second Floor


May 6, 2013 (Noon at the Chamber Conference Room)  

The Government Affairs Committee will be joined by Emily Marthinsen, UCB's Assistant Vice Chancellor of Physical and Environmental Planning, and Roland Peterson, to discuss the actual projects that are currently underway on Telegraph Avenue. Once again the discussion will focus on the length of the Avenue between Dwight Way and Bancroft Avenue. There are a number of projects underway that are sponsored by the UC as well as a number of private development projects that hold great promise for a revitalized Telegraph Avenue. 

Please bring your Brown Bag Lunch - Space is Limited 


Steven Stucky Sets Czeslaw Milosz Poems for Berkeley Symphony Premiere

By Ken Bullock
Friday March 22, 2013 - 12:54:00 PM

"One of the lovely things about 'making noise,' being a composer, is that what you make ends up belonging to everyone. And everyone has their own interpretation--and some of them make sense!"

Composer-in-residence Steven Stucky was discussing the world premiere of his piece The Stars and the Roses, an orchestral setting of three poems by the late Nobel laureate, longtime Berkeley resident and UC professor Czeslaw Milosz, commissioned by Berkeley Symphony for the final performance in Zellerbach Hall this season, 8 p. m. Thursday, March 28--and the question of whether The Stars and the Roses is a song cycle.

Symphony music director Joana Carneiro suggested Stucky write orchestral songs, and that they work with well-known tenor Noah Stewart, a former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow and Merola program alumnus.

"I've been a fan of Milosz for a long time," said Stucky. "And his connection to Berkeley was too good to pass up." 

Stucky described the Milosz poems as "celebrating life--not like his more famous--and dark--World War II poems." The poems are titled "Happiness," "The Sun" and "The Bird Kingdom," the first two beginning: "How warm the light ..." and "All colors come from the sun ... ". Asked about any relation to the program's other piece, Anton Bruckner's 1874 Symphony in E-flat Major ("Romantic"), Stucky commented, "In a sense, there is a link [with The Stars and the Roses]--both are pastoral, idyllic ... " 

Are the three poems sung together a song cycle? "I'm not sure that what I created is a song cycle in the historical sense ... I don't know if the poems vary enough for that, though they come together nicely in atmosphere and language--and I hope in music, too. But Noah Stewart's already developed his own interpretation, that the three poems are three views of life from three different times of day. I have to go back and look at them. If he's right, it's a cycle! And Joana, who's a great artist, will have some ideas, too! I'll be relearning them ... " 

Stucky has also been working this season, along with Berkeley composer Paul Dresher, with the Symphony's Under Construction New Music Series, which will have its second and final orchestral reading of the new works this Sunday at 7 at Crowden Music Center. "Paul and I try to be hands on, meeting and talking--collegial chats--with the composers before it happens ... Since my last trip here in February, one of the three composers has very thoroughly revised his piece, another made smaller but significant adjustments, and the third left his untouched, but composed a second movement." Commenting on the effectiveness of the program's orchestral readings of new work, Stucky said, "in theater, almost nothing goes up that's not workshopped, but that's not true in music--and it's a great thing for the music." 

Stucky, a Pulitzer Prizewinner, has had the longest working relationship between a composer and an orchestra in American history--over 20 years with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he's been composer-in-residence, and also served as consulting composer for new music, as well as founding the Composer Fellowship Program. His pieces Radical Light and Elegy for August 4, 1964--the second commissioned by Berkeley Symphony--were played here in December, 2009, with Carneiro presiding. 

Commenting on Carneiro, formerly a conducting fellow with the LA Philharmonic, and on Berkeley Symphony, Stucky said, "Joana does have some kind of rapport, some kind of special communication with the orchestra. That's not universal. And I think Rene Mandel [Symphony executive director] is doing a great job. The Symphony's firing on all cylinders--and it's not an easy time in this business. I feel lucky to be attached to it for this season." 

Berkeley Symphony: Under Construction New Music II (Andrew V. Ly's Lair, Michael Nicholas' The Wraith, Davide Verotta's Untramarinus [Ceruleus]), 7 p. m. Sunday, March 24 at Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose Street (at Sacramento Street). $10-$20. Concert: The Idealists (Steven Stucky's The Stars and the Roses, Anton Bruckner's Symphony no. 4 in E-flat Major ("Romantic), 8 p. m. Thursday, March 28, Zellerbach Hall, UC campus (near Bancroft and Telegraph Avenues), $15-$68. 841-2800; berkeleysymphony.org

FILM REVIEW: A Fierce Green Fire Brightens the Screens

By Gar Smith
Friday March 22, 2013 - 12:35:00 PM
Lois Gibbs takes EPA officials hostage.
Lois Gibbs takes EPA officials hostage.

Now playing at the Shattuck Landmark Theater, A Fierce Green Fire has been a long time coming but it's worth the wait. 


Berkeley filmmaker Mark Kitchell's follow-up to his justly acclaimed documentary, Berkeley in the Sixties, has effectively captured the crusades of the modern environmental movement over a span of five decades. The film's compendium of uber-eco clips ranges from the years leading up to the first Earth Day to the current struggles over mountaintop mining, oil spills, climate change and the nuclear threat. 

Having seen earlier versions of the Fierce Green work-in-progress over the years (most recently, a screening a few years back at the David Brower Center), I held some doubts whether a film that focused on so many "battles from the past" would find an audience with the front-liners of the Occupy Generation. I no longer have those reservations. A Fierce Green Fire excels at evoking both the initial optimism and the enduring passion of the Green Movement's first 50 years. 

Even though I had seen most of the footage before (and even participated in several of the campaigns), the finished film still reached me emotionally. I was alternately enraged anew at the careless arrogance of the despoilers and I felt my pulse racing with each new audacious act of grassroots resistance. 

The audience at the landmark clearly felt the same. Several times the theater was filled with the anguished groans of the viewers. And more than once, the theater rang with cheers and applause. 

While this last and final version of A Fierce Green Fire features a chorus of celebrity narrators — Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Isabelle Allende, Van Jones and Ashley Judd — it is the voices of the activists that carry the message home. 

The film unfolds in five acts: the formative battles of the 1960s; the pollution and population ballets of the 1970s; the nonviolent activism of Greenpeace and the ship-sinking antics of the Sea Shepherd; the global campaigns in the Amazon, Africa and India; the growing climate campaigns that began with the historic Rio Summit — only to be followed by repeated refusals by the US and other industrialized Polluter Nations to accept binding reductions in greenhouse gases. 

Despite the overall shadow of growing — and possibly irreversible — global doom, Kitchell's movie can still give an audience something to cheer about. 

Who can't get behind the families of Love Canal ? Faced with a wall of official indifference at the growing evidence of an entire community poisoned by long-buried chemicals, the residents finally took history into their own hands. When a team of EPA inspectors arrived for a perfunctory visit, local mothers and children blocked the doors and took the bureaucrats hostage. Local activist Lois Gibbs put down her megaphone long enough to place a phone call to the Washington demanding action. It worked. The Carter Administration acted. 

And there are the women of India's Chipko movement, protecting their threatened forests from loggers' chainsaws by hugging the trees with their bodies. And we revisit Brazilian rubber-tapper Chico Mendes whose haunted face reveals the awareness of man who understands that he has been marked for death. 

The film celebrates the daredevils of Greenpeace, who pumped adrenalin into the movement with decades of audacious stunts — blocking undersea pipes gushing pollution, parachuting from atop a nuclear cooling towers and confronting whaling ships. (Who was that unnamed Greenpeace activist who can be seen jumping from a speeding Zodiac onto the back of a harpooned whale as it is hauled up the blood-washed gates of a Japanese whaling ship?). 

One of the many profound observations offered in Kitchell's film comes from Paul Watson. A founding member of Greenpeace, Watson carried direct action to the next level aboard a Sea Shepherd fleet that set sail to intercept — and sink — whaling vessels on the open seas and in their home ports. 

Watson recalled the day he was aboard a Greenpeace zodiac that had placed itself between a pod of whales and a Russian whaler. Ignoring the danger, the Russians fired and the harpoon shot past, only a few feet above the unprotected activists. Everyone on the boat heard the female whale scream. A male that went to her aid was also shot. As he was dying, the whale rolled over and one huge eye locked with Watson's eyes. 

"Why were these whales being killed?" Watson wondered. He discovered it was because their bodies were being tapped for a special lubricant that was essential for the operation of intercontinental ballistic missiles! 

"So we were killing whales to make it possible to build nuclear missiles that could destroy millions of humans!" That's when it hit him, Watson concluded: "We humans are insane!" 

A Fierce Green Fire serves as a touchstone and a reminder that many of Earth's people still harbor some sanity. Once again, we're faced with another bloody chapter in the ancient contest between The Many and The Few — The Givers and the Takers. Only this time, there's a world to lose. 

Around & About Theater: 'Weller: International Mad Man' at East Bay Media Center; Brecht's 'Galileo' at Masquers Playhouse; mugwumpin's 'The Great Big Also'

By Ken Bullock
Friday March 22, 2013 - 10:42:00 AM
Bill McClave (left) and Stanley Spenger (right) in Bertolt Brecht's The Life of Galileo at Masquers Playhouse.
DC Scarpelli
Bill McClave (left) and Stanley Spenger (right) in Bertolt Brecht's The Life of Galileo at Masquers Playhouse.

—'Weller: International Mad Man': "A collection of insane stories told ... as only the International Mad Man can, with a mix of comedy, storytelling—& fear!" From Heavy Metal to Martial Arts ... Another notch up in the new performance series at the East Bay Media Center in Berkeley's downtown Arts District. 8 p. m. Saturday, 1939 Addison (between Milvia & MLK). $20. 843-3699; eastbaymediacenter.com 

—Bertolt Brecht's 'Life of Galileo' was originally performed in English by Charles Laughton (who also translated his friend's script), directed by Joseph Losey (who replaced Orson Welles) in Los Angeles & New York in 1947—near the time when Brecht turned in his own performance before HUAC and left for East Germany, where he founded the Berliner Ensemble. Losey later directed Topol, of 'Fiddler on the Roof' fame, playing the great scientific pioneer and target of the Inquisition in an American Film Theatre version with the young Colin Blakely and John Gielgud. This Friday, Masquers Playhouse opens a production in David Hare's newer, lucid translation, directed by Bruce Coughran, with Stanley Spenger in the title role ... Fridays & Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2 (April 7 & 14 only) through April 27 (special dinner benefit show April 21 at 2; dinner at Hotel Mac—$50) 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. $22. 232-4031; masquers.org
—mugwumpin, the Bay Area's premiere performance troupe, who've situated themselves between the rigors of physical theater and the unmapped territories of performance art—are into the last week of their new opus, 'The Great Big Also,' an ensemble piece about The New Settlers, an American sect that believes ... The Rift is coming ... to usher in an identical mirror world, devoid of humans, excepting those who've prepared to shift. Thursday through Saturday at 8, Sunday at 3, Z Space (formerly Theater Artaud in Project Artaud), 450 Florida (near 17th & Harrison) in San Francisco's Mission-Potrero district. $25-$30 webovationtix.com/trs/pr/920453

This Friday, March 29th, at 7:30, BERKELEY SYMPHONY meets PIEDMONT CENTER FOR THE ARTS

By John A. McMullen II
Tuesday March 26, 2013 - 03:40:00 PM

Piedmont Center--in a partnership with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra--will host a talented, professional quartet playing Mozart and Brahms featuring violinist Rene Mandel, who also is the Executive Director of the Berkeley Symphony. 

The Piedmont program will consist of the first Piano Quartets of Mozart and of Brahms, both in G minor, with local pianist Aileen Chanco, cellist Peter Wyrick and violist Natalie Racine completing the ensemble. 

The evening before the performance at Piedmont Center for the Arts, the Berkeley Symphony’s concert "THE IDEALISTS" at Zellerbach Hall will present The Stars and the Roses by Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Stucky set to the poetry of Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet and former UCB professor Czesław Miłosz and featuring the stunning voice of tenor Noah Stewart. Along with these will be Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4. Joanna Carniero conducts. 

Rene Mandel is now the Executive Director of the Berkeley Symphony but was a violin prodigy, winning the Los Angeles Philharmonic “Star” Contest at 14 where he soloed under the baton of the late Calvin Simmons. At 20, he became a member LA Chamber Orchestra for 11 years. Mandel came to the Bay Area in the early 90’s to become a founding member of the New Century Chamber Orchestra. He has been featured as a soloist with the SF Ballet Orchestra and the Knoxville Symphony, and has played with San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as in chamber concerts throughout the US and Europe. 

During his years in Los Angeles, Mandel was also a studio musician where he performed on the sound tracks of such classic movies as “Schindler’s List,” “Titanic,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Die Hard.” 

Peter Wyrick is associate principal cellist with the San Francisco Symphony with whom Mandel has played often. Natalie Racine plays with the Montreal Symphony whose music director is Kent Nagano who was the music director of the Berkeley Symphony for two decades. 

Immediately before coming to the Berkeley Symphony, Mandel was the Director of Artistic Operations/Executive Producer at the Montreal Symphony. From 2006 to 2009, he was The The Berkeley Symphony’s Artistic Administrator and Orchestra Manager where he hired musicians and soloists, managed the concert programming and successfully aided in the artistic expansion of the orchestra. 

Mandel studied under such notable teachers as Manuel Compinsky in Los Angeles, Josef Gingold at Indiana University, and Stuart Canin at UC Santa Barbara where he earned his Bachelor of Music. 

When asked about how he got started, Mandel recounted this story, “My parents were serious music lovers, and growing up there was always classical music and opera playing in our home. When I was seven, my father took me to a Pinchas Zukerman concert, and I told my dad I wanted to play the violin. So, on my 8th birthday a couple weeks later, my Dad gave me a 3/4 size violin. It was the happiest day of my life! Both my mother and father—who was a choral singer—totally supported me, and here I am!” 

The Piedmont Center for the Arts is at 801 Magnolia Street in Piedmont, across from Piedmont High. 

Tickets are $25 at the door (no advance sales). 


Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Announces Awards Nominations--
Winners will be disclosed at the “Gala Theatre Awards & Dance Party” Monday, May 6 at California Ballroom in Oakland

By John A. McMullen II
Friday March 22, 2013 - 01:09:00 PM

The San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC) has announced the nominees for its 37th annual theatre awards. Nearly 60 Awards will be bestowed on theatre artists from the nine Bay Area counties, along with three special achievement citations. For the first time SFBATCC will held its Awards Gala in the East Bay, at the fabled California Ballroom, 1736 Franklin Street in Oakland’s uptown business district. The theme for the Gala is as new as the venue – a big, blow-out dance party with live band and a catered smorgasbord to help sustain the party-goers’ energy. 

“We’ve held the Awards in San Francisco for years, and the East Bay is past due,” said Theatre Critics Circle President Barry Willis. “Award Galas can get tedious, so Vice President Linda Ayres-Frederick came up with the idea of a dance party,” Willis said.  

“And we were able to book the California Ballroom, which is a gem of a venue,” Willis added. “It’s in the safe and accessible uptown business district of Oakland, half a block from the 19th St BART station, with lots of street parking around, so everything fell into place.” 

Nearly 60 Awards will be bestowed on theatre artists from the nine Bay Area counties as well as three special achievement awards.  

Providing live music for this night of food, drink, dancing, and awards will be the Tal Ariel Rockin’ Band; Tal won the SFBATCC Award for Outstanding Music Director last year. Leanne Borghesi, two-time award winner, is flying in from NYC to sing. 

Hot Chinese food and a smorgasbord are included, with gluten-free and vegetarian choices available. Wine and beer will be served at the hosted bar.  

An ongoing raffle of prizes will pepper the evening, including headshots from David Allen Studios, singing lessons from Scarlett Hepworth and Pierce Peter Brandt, audition coaching from Berkeley Rep’s Amy Potozkin and Seydways’ Bobbie Weinapple, a free subscription to Theatre Bay Area, tickets to Marin Theatre Company, ACT, and Shotgun Players, and more. 

The Theatre Critics Circle nominates and votes for awards to outstanding theatre artists for their 2012 work in categories such as Director; Principal and Featured Male and Female Actors in both musical and straight plays: Musical Director; Choreographer; Original Script, Outstanding Ensemble, Entire Production, as well as designs of Costume, Lighting, Set, and Sound. Awards are given in each of these categories, broken down into theatres according to three audience capacities: fewer than 100 seats, 100-300, and more than 300. 

Bay Area theatre organizations nominated this year include: 

6th Street Playhouse 

American Conservatory Theater 

Aurora Theatre Company 

Berkeley Repertory Theatre 

Boxcar Theatre 

California Shakespeare Theater 

Cameron Mackintosh Presents/SHN 

Central Works 

Cinnabar Theater 

Crowded Fire 

Curtain Theater Company 

Custom Made Theatre Co.  

Foothill Music Theatre 

Impact Theatre / Playground 

Magic Theatre 

Marin Shakespeare Company 

Masquers Playhouse 

Mountain Play 

National Theatre of Great Britain/SHN 

New Spreckels Theatre Company 

Novato Theater Company 

Playwrights Foundation 

Ray of Light Theatre Company 

Ross Valley Players 

San Jose Repertory Theatre 

SF Playhouse 

Shakespeare At Stinson 


Shotgun Players 


Symmetry Theatre Company 

The Cutting Ball Theater 

Theatre Rhinoceros 



Virago Theatre Company 

Word for Word 

This year EXIT Theatre will receive the Paine Knickerbocker award for continuing contribution to Bay Area theatre; actor James Carpenter will be given the Jerry Friedman award for lifetime achievement, and Kim Taylor of Kim Taylor Public Relations will receive the Gene Price award for superlative professionalism.] 

The Gala Awards & Dance Party is sponsored in part by Actors Equity Association and Theatre Bay Area. 

If you’ve never been to the California Ballroom, you owe yourself a visit.” Says Gala committee member John McMullen. “It’s a little jewel from the 1920’s. And we’re going upscale. Guests will sit at round tables with linen tablecloths, right next to the great dance floor and stage, with period mirrors and chandeliers making the place sparkle.” 

You can tour the California Ballroom at http://www.californiaballroom.com 

The uptown business district of Oakland is near the Paramount Theatre and upscale restaurants. “The Ambassadors”--Oakland’s security and hospitality organization--will be on patrol and available to walk guests to the cars until 11:00 p.m. 


The San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle is a private non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and serving theatres of all types and sizes in the greater region by recognizing excellence and outstanding achievement in the field. 

Active since 1976, the Circle consists of reviewers in all nine Bay Area counties, across various media, who are voted into membership by existing members based on the quality and consistency of their reviews. The Circle hosts an annual awards ceremony each Spring to celebrate superior work in the previous year. 

SFBATCC members include Kedar K. Adour MD, Linda Ayres-Frederick, Charles Brousse, Ken Bullock, Adrianne Casey, Susan Cohn, Richard Connema, Mario Echevarria, John Angell Grant, John A. McMullen II, Cari Lynn Pace, Jeffrey Smith, and Barry Willis. The Gala Committee is staffed by John McMullen, Linda Ayres-Frederick, and Barry Willis. 


Seating is limited to 300 attendees this year; limited tickets are now on sale to the general public with the remainder available on April 1, after the nominees have ordered theirs. 

Advance tickets are $25; $28 at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Awards and dancing alternate until 10:30 pm. 

Tickets at www.SFBATCC.org / 1-800-838-3006  


For more info: John McMullen 510-652-3879 eyefromtheaisle@gmail.com or www.sfbatcc.org