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Updated: Berkeley Post Office Encampment is Gone After City Manager's Complaints

By Becky O'Malley
Wednesday August 28, 2013 - 10:36:00 PM

The Planet has been informed by telephone callers and email that the encampment on the steps of the Berkeley Post Office was rousted by City of Berkeley police at about 7:30 last night. In an email this afternoon, Public Information Officer J. Coats said: 

Regarding last night it is my understanding the few people that were there last night left on their own. BPD went and collected what appeared to be abandoned property. Anyone that was there was left alone along with any property that was being claimed. The property that was collected has been booked for safekeeping. There were no arrests associated with the clearing of the property." 

On August 26 the Berkeley city manager had sent this memo to the Mayor and City Council detailing all the problems she perceived with the situation: 

This memorandum provides the Council with an update on the encampment at the United States Post Office (USPS) on Allston Way. As you know, on July 27, 2013 a protest to oppose the sale of the Berkeley Post Office building on Allston Way commenced. A table was set up on the south east corner of Allston Way and Milvia Street to provide information to the public about the USPS' intention to sell the Berkeley Main Post office building and to express opposition to that sale.  

Shortly after the Save the Berkeley Post Office (SBPO) group set up their table on July 27th, unaffiliated individuals began erecting tents on the USPS property and a camp was formed. During this time, criminal incidents related to the encampment began to occur. A stabbing occurred on Thursday August 15, 2013 involving individuals participating in the encampment. After that, the main SBPO group decided to change strategies and leave the USPS property. Unfortunately, the criminal activity has continued and escalated since that time. Incidents include: physical assault, several arrests for weapons possession and a serious dog bite. In addition, local businesses have reported harassment of customers and activity that is affecting their operations. Please note also that Berkeley High School resumes classes on Wednesday August 28111

A summary of the incidents is included at the end of this memorandum.

The City encourages the community to exercise their First Amendment rights. However, activities must be conducted in manner that ensures everyone is safe. The City has been in contact with USPS representatives who indicated that the USPS did not intend to take any action with regard to the activity occurring at the encampment. Rather, the USPS provided the attached letter late Friday August 23, 2013 requesting the "Berkeley Police Department to remove and/or arrest persons camping on the grounds of the Berkeley Main Post Office under the applicable state laws. The letter included a warning notice that USPS will distribute to people at the encampment notifying them they have made this request and that, "persons who fail to remove their tent or other items on US Postal Service property will be subject to arrest. Berkeley police plan to accompany USPS personnel when this notice is delivered to document that proper notification has occurred. 

Next steps beyond that have not yet been determined. 


Press Release: Congresswoman Lee Calls on President to Allow Congress to Debate Syria Action

From Congresswoman Barbara Lee's Office
Thursday August 29, 2013 - 12:21:00 PM

Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee was joined by 53 Members of Congress on a letter to President Obama condemning the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria and calling for full congressional debate an appropriate response. The letter comes on the heels of rumors surrounding a military strike in Syria. 

The letter reads, in part: “While we understand that as Commander in Chief you have a constitutional obligation to protect our national interests from direct attack, Congress has the constitutional obligation and power to approve military force, even if the United States or its direct interests (such as its embassies) have not been attacked or threatened with an attack. As such, we strongly urge you to seek an affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis. 

“We must learn the lessons of the past. Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others,” said Congresswoman Lee. “We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire.” 

The letter further calls for U.N. inspectors to complete their assessments of the existence of the use of chemical weapons, as well as denounces the human rights violations taking place. 

“This letter is calling for a specific action: debate. Congress has a vital role this in this process and constitutional power that must be respected,” said Congresswoman Lee. “The American people are demanding this debate before we commit our military, our money, or our forces to Syria.” 

A full list of signers and a pdf of the letter can be found here

Appeal of Berkeley Post Office Closure is Dismissed by Commission

Tuesday August 27, 2013 - 05:30:00 PM

The Postal Regulatory Commission has dismissed without prejudice the petition filed under the name of Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to appeal the United States Postal Service's decision to close the downtown Berkeley Post Office. The Commission's opinion was that the USPS's action was not yet completed, and therefore was not ripe for Commission decision. Since the dismissal was without prejudice, the appeal may be submitted at a future date. 

The Commision's analysis said: 

The Postal Service actions concerning the Berkeley MPO are insufficient to trigger the right to appeal at this time. The Postal Service has announced its plans to relocate the Berkeley MPO. It also has affirmatively stated that it will continue providing retail service at the Berkeley MPO “until a suitable location within the same community is found and is ready for occupancy and use as a Post Office.” Motion at 7. It has not set a date to discontinue service at this location. It has not identified a site for relocation. There is no indication that the Postal Service has undertaken a discontinuance study pursuant to 39 C.F.R. § 241.3. It has proceeded under its 39 C.F.R. § 241.4 relocation regulations. 

Future events could make cessation of retail operations at the Berkeley MPO ripe for Commission review. Without information on when the Berkeley MPO will close, and where and when the replacement facility will begin operations as a post office, any appeal is premature. Such information would be relevant in determining whether the Postal Service’s actions represent a relocation or closing. 

The order in full can be read below. 

ORDER NO. 1817 



WASHINGTON, DC 20268-0001 

Before Commissioners: Ruth Y. Goldway, Chairman; 

Robert G. Taub, Vice Chairman; Mark Acton; 

Tony Hammond; and 

Nanci E. Langley 

Berkeley Main Post Office Docket No. A2013-9 

Berkeley, California 


(Issued August 27, 2013) 

On August 9, 2013, the Postal Service filed a motion to dismiss the proceeding concerning the Berkeley main post office (Berkeley MPO).1 The Public Representative filed an answer in support of the Motion.2 Petitioner Bates filed an answer in opposition to the Motion.3 The appeal of the Postal Service decision concerning the Berkeley MPO is premature. The motion to dismiss is granted, and the appeal is dismissed without prejudice. 

1 Motion of United States Postal Service to Dismiss Proceedings, August 9, 2013 (Motion). 

2 Public Representative’s Answer to the Postal Service’s Motion to Dismiss Proceedings, August 16, 2013 (PR Answer). 

3 Petitioner’s Reply to the United States Postal Service Motion to Dismiss, August 15, 2013 (Petitioner Answer). 

Postal Regulatory Commission Submitted 8/27/2013 2:41:36 PM Filing ID: 87726 Accepted 8/27/2013 Docket No. A2013-9 – 2 – 

4 See Order No. 1802, Docket No. A2013-6, Order Granting Motion to Dismiss, August 8, 2013, at 2. 

Background. On July 18, 2013, the Postal Service issued a final decision letter stating its intent to relocate the Berkeley MPO. Motion at 2. The Postal Service has not indicated when the relocation will occur or identified the new location. Id. The Postal Service mentions that it may consider a sale of the building and a lease-back of the required space so as to allow existing retail service to remain in place. Id. at 2. It states that postal operations require approximately 4,000 square feet of the approximately 57,000 square feet of space in the existing building. Motion, Exhibit 1 at 3. 

The Postal Service has assured customers that the Berkeley MPO will continue to provide service “until the replacement facility is ready for use as a Post Office.” Motion at 3. It also stated that it will only consider a replacement facility convenient and suitable to customers within the same ZIP Code, and that the new location will provide the same services and have the same hours of operation as the Berkeley MPO. Id.  

Postal Service Motion. The Postal Service contends the Commission lacks jurisdiction to consider an appeal of a post office relocation under 39 U.S.C. § 404(d). Id. at 3. It asserts that an appeal under 39 U.S.C. § 404(d) must concern a discontinuance action. Id. It further asserts that the Commission has consistently held 39 U.S.C. § 404(d) does not apply to a relocation of retail operations to another facility within the same community. Id. at 3-4. Therefore, the Postal Service concludes that the Commission lacks jurisdiction to hear an appeal concerning the relocation of the Berkeley MPO. 

Public Representative Answer. The Public Representative contends it is premature to characterize the planned sale of the Berkeley MPO as a relocation because an alternative location has not been identified, and a sale/lease-back of the building remains an option. PR Answer at 4. 

The Public Representative draws parallels to the recent Bronx general post office (Bronx GPO) decision granting a motion to dismiss where the Commission found the Postal Service’s actions were “insufficient to trigger the right to appeal at this time 

.”4 He Docket No. A2013-9 – 3 –notes that the Bronx GPO also involved an historic building where the Postal Service indicated an intent to relocate to a yet-to-be-determined location. 

PR Answer at 5. The Postal Service also stated that the new location would provide similar services with similar hours of operation, and that the existing facility would remain in operation until the new location is ready. 

Id. The Public Representative concludes that for the same reasons, the Commission should dismiss the instant appeal without prejudice. Id. at 6. 

Petitioner Answer. Petitioner states that the Postal Service has made public its decision to sell the Berkeley MPO. Thus, he contends the Commission has jurisdiction to review the decision pursuant to 39 U.S.C. § 404(d)(5). 

Petitioner Answer at 2. He argues that this situation is unique because the Postal Service has not identified a new location or guaranteed that a relocation will occur. Id. Petitioner also contends the Postal Service did not consider the impact on the community concerning the intended closure of the Berkeley MPO. 

Id. at 3-4. 

Commission analysis. The Postal Service actions concerning the Berkeley MPO are insufficient to trigger the right to appeal at this time. The Postal Service has announced its plans to relocate the Berkeley MPO. It also has affirmatively stated that it will continue providing retail service at the Berkeley MPO “until a suitable location within the same community is found and is ready for occupancy and use as a Post Office.” Motion at 7. It has not set a date to discontinue service at this location. It has not identified a site for relocation. There is no indication that the Postal Service has undertaken a discontinuance study pursuant to 39 C.F.R. § 241.3. It has proceeded under its 39 C.F.R. § 241.4 relocation regulations. 

Future events could make cessation of retail operations at the Berkeley MPO ripe for Commission review. Without information on when the Berkeley MPO will close, and where and when the replacement facility will begin operations as a post office, any appeal is premature. Such information would be relevant in determining whether the Postal Service’s actions represent a relocation or closing. Docket No. A2013-9 – 4 – 

It is ordered

  1. The Motion of United States Postal Service to Dismiss Proceedings, filed on August 9, 2013, is granted.
  2. Petitioner’s appeal is dismissed without prejudice.

By the Commission. 

Shoshana M. Grove Secretary Docket No. A2013-9 Concurring Opinion of Chairman Goldway 


In many instances recently, the Postal Service has announced plans to relocate retail services from an existing, often historic post office, before identifying the location of the new post office. Many communities have responded with great concern, particularly since the announced relocation entails selling the centrally located, often iconic building housing the existing post office. 

The Postal Service is authorized to establish post offices, including determining where they should be located. In doing so, it must ensure that customers have ready access to essential postal services. As relates to issues in this docket, the Postal Service must ensure that community input is taken into account when adjusting its retail locations. 

Decisions to relocate a post office can be wrenching on a community. The Postal Service should undertake a thorough and balanced review, particularly when the building is historic and part of the civic fabric of the community. A decision to sell a building prior to identifying a relocation site bifurcates the community input and significantly reduces the ability of the Service and the community to evaluate the impact of relocation. 

The process the Postal Service is currently employing appears to cause needless confusion in the affected communities, as evidenced by the appeals filed with the Commission, and damages its relations with the customers it is trying so hard to retain. The process would be improved if the Postal Service identifies the new post office location contemporaneously with announcing its decision to relocate the existing post office.

Updated: Construction Worker Killed in Truck Accident at Berkeley's King School

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Tuesday August 27, 2013 - 05:28:00 PM

A 62-year-old construction worker laying asphalt at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School was killed when a big-rig rolled over him this afternoon, a California Division of Occupational Safety and Health spokesman said. 

The worker was rebuilding a running track at the middle school, located at 1781 Rose St., when around 12:45 p.m. a big-rig parked on a slope started rolling, Cal/OSHA spokesman Peter Melton said. 

The truck rolled over him and crushed him, Melton said. 

No other employees were injured in the incident, he said. 

The Livermore man was an employee for the San Jose-based Robert A. Bothman construction company and the crew had been contracted by the Berkeley Unified School District. 

The worker's name has not been released pending notification of his family, according to the Alameda County coroner's bureau. 

A state safety inspector was sent to the scene today and the case will be investigated for up to six months, Melton said. 

In the past five years the construction company had no reported safety violations, Melton said.

New: New U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Says University's Public Mission Won't Change

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday August 27, 2013 - 01:35:00 PM

New University of California at Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks said today that the university will need to rely more on philanthropy for funding but promised that it won't become more privatized.

Dirks, who formerly was executive vice president at Columbia University in New York City and replaced former Chancellor Robert Birgeneau this summer, said the university only gets about 12 percent of its funding from the state, down from 30 percent about ten years ago and down from 50 percent in the more distant past.

Dirks said the university has had to scramble to find funding from other sources but he said "there's no shift in the way the people in this university conceive of it being a public university and in the centrality of its mission of serving the public."

Dirks said the university remains committed to providing an accessible and affordable education to students and "to make the world a better place."

He dismissed privatization as "the 'p' word." 

Talking to reporters at a news conference marking the beginning of the academic year, Dirks said when he was considering coming to UC Berkeley from Columbia he wondered if "it would be a good move for anyone" because of the state's decreased financial support for the university. 

But he said, "I was gratified to find out that the university was not just alive and well but actually was prospering" due to getting funding from other sources. 

Dirks said when California voters approved a tax increase last November to better fund education and other programs it was "a great mandate" for the university and helped stabilize its funding. 

He said that because UC Berkeley is consistently rated as one of the top universities in the world "it's like coming to Mecca" to be its chancellor. 

Referring to the nicknames for New York City and the university, Dirks joked, "I've given up the Big Apple for the Golden Bear." 

Dirks said one of his priorities is improving the quality of the college experience for the university's undergraduates. 

Vice provost Catherine Koshland said one of the programs aimed at undergraduates is "common good" courses in areas that students need in order to graduate in areas such as reading and composition, math and science and foreign languages. 

Another new program, Koshland said, is "Berkeley 4.0," which she said helps prepare students for a future in which what they know is less important than how they think, learn and discover on their own. 

She said three important concepts anchor the university's vision for the future: mentoring, teaching and learning and academic support. 

Maura Nolan, an associate English professor who is director of the Berkeley Connect program said mentoring will include creating an "intellectual community" of faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and alumni. 

Nolan said the program "increases meaningful interaction between faculty and students so undergraduates get the most out of UC Berkeley." 

Anne De Luca, associate vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, said another new program is CalCentral, which provides a unified and personalized single sign-on experience for students to email and have access to calendars, documents and class collaboration spaces as well as links to important campus services and resources. 

De Luca said CalCentral will be a pilot program for 4,000 students this year and will be expanded to all students next year.

Berkeley Mourns Loss of Tuolomne Camp

By Sasha Lekach (BCN)
Monday August 26, 2013 - 08:58:00 PM

Nearly 150,000 acres have burned in the raging Rim Fire and the Berkeley-run camp Tuolumne Camp was destroyed in the blaze Sunday, according to the U.S. Fire Service.

The fire, which started on Aug. 17, has spread from Stanislaus National Forest into Yosemite National Park and has since destroyed 23 structures and is threatening as many as 4,500 others.

One of those structures is Berkeley's long-running family camp, located at 31585 Harden Flat Road near Groveland.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said this afternoon that the camp, comprised of several cabins, a dining hall, a main lodge and other recreational facilities on the Tuolumne River, has been a summer destination for generations.

He called the loss, "so sad" and recalled the retreat as "a Berkeley tradition." 

The camp has offered fishing, swimming, hiking and other activities since opening in 1922 for Berkeley residents and other locals. 

The fire burned through the camp but the full extent of damage has not been determined, Bates said. 

The mayor said he was planning to go at the end of the summer to see improvements made to buildings in the past few years. 

"I was anxious to see it," he said. 

The city leader said he will likely still visit but instead to assess damage and work on future plans for the charred space. 

"It would be wonderful if we could rebuild it," Bates said, but cautioned "if everything else is burned, it would be a camp without any 'there' there." 

He said the tough reality is that if the forest, centuries-old trees and surrounding environment have been destroyed beyond recognition, the camp "won't have the same ambiance." 

"The experience with all the trees and forest around it," he said, "It won't exactly have the same feel as the past." 

He said it was too soon to decide how to proceed with the campsite. 

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said with the active fire it is too dangerous to send anyone to the site, but that "the damage appears to be pretty extensive...it's pretty devastating." 

The camp had been evacuated Tuesday as the flames neared. No injuries were reported when the blaze touched down at the camp. 

"People were legitimately concerned," Bates said, adding that everyone at the camp had returned to the Bay Area by late Tuesday night. 

The city runs two other summer camps at Echo Lake near Lake Tahoe and Cazadero in Sonoma County. 

Echo Lake Camp was closed and remaining sessions cancelled Friday because of heavy smoke from the Rim Fire affecting air quality. The camp itself is not threatened by the fire. 

San Francisco resident August Estabrook, 36, reminisced this afternoon about "magical" summers spent as a camper for seven years and then as a staff member for three more starting in the mid-1980s. 

"It was a very memorable place for me," he said. "That place has all my firsts. I look super fondly on that place." 

He said he is still coming to terms with the loss. 

"Now that it's gone, I haven't even digested it," he said. 

Although he hadn't attended camp for several years, he said every time he drives to Yosemite National Park he stops by the camp to say hello. 

After the smoke clears and the fire is controlled, Estabrook said he hopes that there is a rebuilding effort. 

"That location is so prime... I would love to see it come back," he said. 

He said he understands that there will be remnants of the fire for years to come and "I could see for how the first few years it would be maybe grim" but over time it will return to its former glory. 

He said he hopes to take his family there in the future. He attended the camp each summer with his cousins, grandparents and other relatives. 

"For me it was super magical," he said. 

To mourn the loss of the camp, Berkeley resident Shoshana Gizzi has organized a gathering at Berkeley's Civic Center Park at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Center Street where past attendees can sing camp songs, tell stories and reflect on the many summers in the trees. 

"There is so much grief and sorrow," Gizzi said. "Especially for the longtime families." 

Gizzi's family has been going to the camp for the past 10 years and was there at the end of July for their latest trip. 

She said tonight will be an opportunity for past attendees to "commemorate our time" and "remember Tuolumne." 

"I'm hoping our efforts will show the city how loved it is for us," she said. "I think people want an opportunity to come together." 

She recalled spending summers with her then-young daughters and how one lost her first tooth while at the camp. 

"Our house was a heap of tears," after her family heard the news, she said. 

The group will convene at 8 p.m. and everyone is encouraged to bring a candle or other light source, instruments and Tuolumne Camp T-shirts. 

Other former campers took to social media Sunday night and this morning to share memories of the camp and the many summers spent there. 

On the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp Facebook page, Jess Kletz posted, "My family was just there two weeks ago and my 70-year-old father made an awesome tie-dyed towel at arts and crafts under the dinning hall. So sad... So very sad." 

Others offered help to rebuild the camp area, and Hollis Ashby wrote this morning, "Like a phoenix, she will rise again." 

Jane Rhodes wrote that she was heartbroken to hear about the loss. 

"Camp has been a part of my life since I was 3. I met and married the Camp Manager's kid...took my kids every summer...and was able to introduce my grandchildren (now 6 & 4) to the best summer vacations ever. There is a huge hole in my heart and I will cherish my memories." 

The fire has not affected other Bay Area-run camps including the University of California alumni camp Lair of the Golden Bear, located at 188 Dodge Ridge Road near Pinecrest, a forest service official said. 

Camp Mather, the San Francisco-run camp at 35250 Mather Road near Groveland, sustained some minor fire damage but all structures were intact as of Sunday night. 

There were also evacuations last week at the San Francisco-based Jewish summer camp Camp Tawonga, and the San Jose Family Camp, both near Groveland. 

San Jose city officials said the camp is closed for the rest of the season and all trips planned through the beginning of October have been canceled. 

The camp has not sustained major damage, but officials reported that there were 12 tent cabins that burned, an outbuilding that was destroyed and other equipment lost including two all-terrain vehicles, a log splitter and a tow-behind trailer. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation. 

As of this morning, the fire is 15 percent contained. 

Gov. Jerry Brown, who declared a state of emergency because of the fire last week, visited the area this morning to be briefed on the blaze and comment on the on-going response.  

He vowed to stay in communication with President Obama if more federal resources were needed to battle the blaze. Obama spoke with Brown Sunday to discuss the massive fire. 

According to the forest service, 3,678 fire personnel have responded to the wildfire. 

Flash: Berkeley's Tuolumne Camp Burned in Rim Fire

By Bay City News
Sunday August 25, 2013 - 09:58:00 PM

The Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp, a city-owned camp that has operated since 1922, burned in the Rim Fire today, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman confirmed this evening. 

The wild fire, which has grown to 143,980 acres today and is still only 7 percent contained, has burned through the camp, located at 31585 Harden Flat Road near Groveland, according to forest service spokesman Dick Fleishman. 

Howver, firefighters have not had a chance to go in and assess the damage, so it is unknown if any structures survived, Fleishman said. 

Another Berkeley Camp, U.C Berkeley's Lair of the Bear, is not in the line of the fire despite rumors that it had burned down, Fleishman said. 

Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp was evacuated Tuesday along with other camps in the area including San Francisco Recreation and Parks' Camp Mather. 

The fire spread to the very edges of Camp Mather, located at 35250 Mather Road near Groveland, this weekend and some minor damage was reported, according to Phil Ginsburg, the city's director of Recreation and Parks.  

However, no additional damage had been seen as of Sunday afternoon, and all structures remained intact, Ginsburg said in a statement released Sunday evening. 

Two firefighting strike teams and a hand team are deployed at Camp Mather for structural defense, Ginsburg said.  

Also evacuated earlier this week were the San Francisco-based Jewish summer camp Camp Tawonga, also located near Groveland, and the San Jose Family Camp in the Groveland area.  

San Jose officials said on Saturday that fire crews were still defending structures within the city camp, which was only around 7 miles away from where the fire started. 

As of Thursday, the fire had destroyed several tents on the camp's grounds, according to San Jose city officials.  

More than 2,500 firefighters are battling the Rim Fire, which is burning in the Stanislaus National Forest and has entered the eastern side of Yosemite National Park. It is threatening more than 4,500 homes and has been continued to grow since it started Aug. 17.  

The fire has damaged San Francisco power and utility lines in the area and threatens the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which supplies water to San Francisco and much of the Bay Area.  

The city has issued assurances that water quality remains good, however, and has maintained power supplies to customers in part by purchasing $600,000 in electricity.  

Repair crews were set to return to the Kirkwood Powerhouse today to make preliminary repairs and damage assessments. 

Berkeley Hearings to Consider Changes to AC Transit's Line 51

By Michael Katz
Friday August 23, 2013 - 11:37:00 AM

Would you prefer to speed up the 51 bus line, or preserve parking spaces? AC Transit will hold two public meetings at which Line 51B/A riders and neighbors can comment on this trade-off:

Mon., Aug. 26, 6-8 p.m.
La Quinta Inn (Continental Room, 2nd Floor)
920 University Avenue (@ 8th Street), Berkeley

Thurs., Aug. 29, 6-8 p.m.
Julia Morgan Center for the Arts (Studio 1)
2640 College Avenue (@Derby), Berkeley

You can also submit written comments by Friday, Sept. 13, 5 p.m., to: Tammy Kyllo at planning@actransit.org.

You'll find detailed proposals on pages 38-51 of this 2008 report, with pages 45-49 focusing on Berkeley:

Some proposals involve significant trade-offs:

* Removing parking spaces to create peak-hour bus lanes on some blocks of University Ave. This could remove up to several dozen parking spaces, from 12-7 p.m. or 4-7 p.m.

* Removing several bus stops -- which could speed up the bus, but require riders to walk further.

* Replacing stop signs with traffic signals at College/Russell and College/Bancroft Way.

* New turn restrictions on southbound College Ave., near Claremont Ave.: No left turn into the Safeway parking lot; no right turn into the Bank of America lot.

* "Bus bulbs," which could displace right-turn and bicycle pockets.

Other proposals are low-impact: better signal timing and coordination, new bus shelters and benches, and moving several bus stops to an intersection's "far" side, to help the bus clear traffic lights.

Descriptions of the meetings, and of the Line 51 project, are at these links:


The proposals will later be considered by Berkeley's Transportation Commission, and ultimately by the City Council. If you live, work, or travel in Area 51, these meetings are your first chance to get your comments on the official record.

Transit Expert Roy Nakadegawa Dies;
Served On BART & AC Transit Boards For More Than 30 Years

From AC Transit and BART
Thursday August 29, 2013 - 11:01:00 AM
Roy Nakadegawa
Roy Nakadegawa

Former AC Transit and BART director Roy Nakadegawa passed away last Friday morning, August 23, 2013, at his home in Berkeley. He had been suffering from congestive heart failure for some time. 

Mr. Nakadegawa served on the AC Transit Board for 20 years, from 1972 to 1992. He then served on the BART Board for 12 years from 1992 to 2004. After he left the BART Board, he joined the Board of TRANSDEF (Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund), a non-profit environmental organization created by transit activists to advocate for better solutions to transportation, land use and air quality problems in the San Francisco Bay Area. In all those positions he argued for cost-effective, mobility improving transit. 

Mr. Nakadegawa was an active attendee and participant in TRB (Transportation Research Board) meetings and was well known and respected around the world for his depth of knowledge about transit and its relation to land use. He was written up in the local press for the frugality of his travel arrangements. When Mr. Nakadegawa served on the AC Transit Board of Directors, its members got an annuity when they left the Board. For many years, Mr. Nakadegawa generously donated his annuity payments to buy prizes for AC Transit's local bus rodeo winners. 

As a BART Director he consistently advocated for cost effective transit administration, which spilled over into his own campaigns. In his re-election materials for BART Director he was proud to point out that in November 2000, he garnered the highest vote (over 91,000 voters) of five previous BART races and spent less than a penny per vote. Mr. Nakadegawa tirelessly urged his fellow board members to consider innovative uses of BART facilities as a non-traditional source of revenue and improved customer access, resulting in the adoption of both permanent and experimental parking program initiatives. 

He will also be remembered for his role in advocating BART’s Earthquake Safety Program. He helped to raise public awareness of this critical program, resulting in the successful 2004 passage of a bond measure to fund it. 

Professionally, Mr. Nakadegawa had been a transportation engineer for the City of Richmond and for many years served on the Board that administers the civil engineering exam in California. His career as a public sector engineer reached a pinnacle in 1989 when he was elected National President of the Institute for Transportation of American Public Works Association and later served as its liaison to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the national transportation advocacy group. While with BART Mr. Nakadegawa became an active member of APTA, serving on several committees including its Policy and Planning; Advanced Technology, Governing Board; and Transit Management and Performance committees. 

Mr. Nakadegawa and his wife Judy were the quintessential Berkeley couple, dedicated to peace, family, public service and folk dancing. 

Cards and letters should be sent to: Judy Nakadegawa and family, 751 The Alameda, Berkeley, California 94707-1930.



Fifty Years Since We Marched, Has There Been Progress?

By Becky O'Malley
Friday August 23, 2013 - 11:43:00 AM

On Saturday a march commemorating the 50th anniversary of the fabled March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom will take place in that city. Many of those who were there the first time will be going, along with younger people who missed the march but heard the stories. In a world where every day brings more bad news from around the world, this is an opportunity to reflect on the good news about what has changed in these 50 years.

Yes, yes, I know that the journey’s been long and it’s far from over. As Ben Jealous, current president of the NAACP, which will co-sponsor Saturday’s march, points out in this issue, there’s still a lot wrong with the way this country treats African-Americans. Just two high-profile recent examples: the many attempts to revive voter suppression in the South, and the continued stereotyping of young black men as potential criminals, a persistent misconception which resulted in the needless death of Trayvon Martin.

But for those of us who are old enough to remember all the way back to 1963, a lot of things look like they’ve gotten a lot better. 

We didn’t make the August 28, 1963, march in Washington. Schlepping a 10-month old baby would have been a challenge, and we couldn’t afford the fare from Ann Arbor anyhow. And besides, we’d already been there and done that. 

Two months earlier, in June 23, 1963, the Detroit March to Freedom took place. We marched down Detroit’s Woodward Avenue pushing baby in her stroller in a crowd 125,000 strong. The majority of marchers were black, but us white folks were there too in respectable numbers, many organized by the United Auto Workers. 

It was a precursor to the Washington March—some have called it a dress rehearsal. Reverend King was there, and he made a very fine speech which turned out to be remarkably similar to the one he would deliver a couple of months later in D.C. 

Many young people these days seem to think that the civil rights movement was something that took place only in the South, and that racial discrimination was largely invented by slaveholders and their descendants. But even in the 1960s there was plenty of prejudice north of the Mason-Dixon line. 

Until I was in high school, I lived in St. Louis, which seemed just about as segregated as any southern town: housing, movies, schools, churches were almost all single-race. My family moved to Pasadena in the late 50s just as integration was beginning to take hold there, and I somehow assumed that it was happening everywhere. But when my husband and I moved to Ann Arbor so that that he could go to graduate school, we were shocked to discover that racism was alive and well in that supposedly liberal northern university town. 

We found a little house near campus in the fall of 1961 and advertised for housemates to share the rent. The day the ad appeared, a young man rang the doorbell and asked if we would rent to Negroes. 

Of course, I said, why not? Well, he said, he was a freshman from Pontiac, near Detroit, and he’d been looking for a room to rent for two weeks with no luck. Landlords told him, with no attempt to dissemble, that he was just the wrong color, sorry—“we don’t want any trouble”. 

He lived with us for the next couple of years, giving us an early earful of the Motown sound which our less trendy friends didn’t hear about until much later. We decided that Something Needed to Be Done in Ann Arbor, and found the people who were already Doing Something. 

While more adventurous souls were down south pushing for voting rights, northerners were working on less glamorous but equally necessary causes like fair housing. In Ann Arbor, the NAACP had been leading the charge for a decade, and thanks to the groundswell of the civil rights movement nationwide things were finally starting to happen there. 

The public face of the Ann Arbor NAACP was a handsome and charming power couple, Dr. Albert Wheeler, who taught in the University of Michigan’s public health school, and his wife Emma, who was president and chief sparkplug of the pioneer civil rights organization. Not far behind was the local branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, a newer group which had a more progressive, less gradualist public profile. 

Days and dates are hazy in my mind after half a century, but my memory is that NAACP-led citizens picketed the Republican-dominated city council every Monday night for what now seems like years. I’m not sure how long the picketing went on, but I do remember at some point pushing two kids in strollers on those picket lines. Since baby number two arrived in 1964, it might have been as much as three years. 

After the big 1963 Detroit march, things heated up that summer in Ann Arbor. Taking cues from the excitement in the South, local fair housing activists staged a couple of sit-ins in the city council chambers. On September 16, 1963, an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing with five or more units was finally passed by a divided council, but it was derided by activists as too little too late, and 51 people who sat in to protest after the council meeting were arrested. 

Dr. Wheeler denounced the new law as “a contemptuous slap at Negroes”, and the demonstrations continued. Finally in 1965 a better fair housing law was enacted, and everyone calmed down for a while. In 1965, we elected Ann Arbor’s first African-American city council member since the post-Civil War reconstruction days. 

But of course the millennium which seemed around the corner was not yet at hand. In the long hot summer of 1967, violent riots erupted in Detroit. Ann Arborites, black and white, organized to take food and medical supplies to those in the big city who needed them. 

Despite the passage of the 1965 Fair Housing Ordinance, most people in Ann Arbor were still clustered in housing with those of their own race. We moved to a house which was just on the edge of the historically black part of town, across from the open expanse which was the Farmer’s Market in the summer. 

One hot July night, when things in Detroit were most feverish, we looked out the window to see forty or fifty young black males gathered in the market, waving banners and shouting slogans. It seemed likely that they were ready to follow the Detroit example and start smashing things in the neighborhood, when on the periphery appeared shadowy figures wielding brooms and mops who soon surrounded the crowd. It was the cooler heads among our neighbors of the older generation, who told the boys in no uncertain terms to get themselves home, and, sheepishly, they went. 

We moved to Berkeley in 1973, but as far as I can determine from the Web the civil rights situation in Ann Arbor continued to improve in the last quarter of the 20th century. Dr. Wheeler was even elected mayor in a cliff-hanger election, though he was subsequently deposed in another one. Al and Emma Wheeler’s daughter Alma Wheeler Smith served with distinction in both branches of the Michigan legislature for more than a decade, and their other daughter, Nancy Francis, became a judge. 

Has Nirvana descended on Michigan yet, fifty years after the Detroit and Washington marches? Well, no. Even though the worst excesses of racism have diminished, historic inequities from the racist past persist. Detroit, once a vibrant and prosperous city, has been hollowed out by the crashes first of the auto industry and then of the housing finance market, with its now predominantly African-American citizenry caught in the wreckage. 

African-Americans in the Detroit area (Ann Arbor is on the periphery) originally moved there from the South to take the good union jobs offered by automobile manufacturing, but as the industry went under the tax base and city government went with it. Recently Detroit has been put into receivership by a Republican governor and faces bankruptcy. Progressive economist Paul Krugman has called the city “just an innocent victim of market forces”, yet the state’s white Republican majority seems to be trying to wrest governance (and the city’s assets, including its art museum and parks) from Detroit’s black citizens. 

But “there s a dance in the old dame yet” as Mehitabel the Cat used to tell Archie the Cockroach. 

When I went to Washington in 2000 to join those protesting George W. Bush’s illicit inauguration, I fell in with some women who had come on a bus chartered by the Detroit NAACP, and they turned out to have been with me in the June 1963 Detroit March for Freedom. Now I read that the same NAACP chapter organized a 50 year anniversary march in Detroit last June, and that they’re once again taking busloads of Detroiters to D.C. for tomorrow’s march. 

CBS reports that some Detroit participants who’ll be on those buses plan to turn the event into a protest of the state’s takeover of Detroit’s city government, an action which many of them see as facilitated by racist assumptions. Protesters plan to march on the Maryland home of the administrator who is spearheading the bankruptcy push. 

And yes, the guy’s an African-American, of course, and a graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school in Ann Arbor to boot. That might be seen as a sign of progress, or it might not. Racial stereotypes have gotten a lot more complicated in the last 50 years, haven’t they? 

But all in all, despite many obvious inequities still observable in American life, I still think that on balance things are looking up. We’ll have to see how things turn out for Detroit. 

The Editor's Back Fence

New Phone Number for Berkeley Daily Planet: 510-845-8440

Monday August 26, 2013 - 10:06:00 AM

As of today, the phone number for the Berkeley Daily Planet has been changed from 510-841-5600 to 510-845-8440. However, the best way to reach us is email to news@berkeleydailyplanet.com.


Odd Bodkins: A Man of Many Parts (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Friday August 23, 2013 - 12:13:00 PM


Dan O'Neill


Public Comment

Campuses Must Act to Prevent Sexual Assault by Athletes

By Laura Finley, Ph.D
Sunday August 25, 2013 - 10:01:00 PM

As the new school year begins, so too does the excitement of fall sports. As a lifelong athlete and fan, I look forward to attending games and matches, and as an educator, I know the power of athletics to teach valuable life lessons. Unfortunately, too many of our collegiate athletes are making dangerous choices that position them not as role models to younger athletes but as teachers of reprehensible behavior. Sexual assault ranks among the crimes most frequently perpetrated by athletes. 

Here is just a sampling: In May 2013, four Morehouse College athletes were arrested for two separate sexual assaults. In 2012, the U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation at the University of Montana, citing eleven sexual assaults reportedly committed by student athletes in an 18-month period. In August 2010, a female student reported being sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame athlete. Campus police did nothing with her report for two weeks, during which time she committed suicide. More globally, Benedict and Crosset found that one in three sexual assaults occurring on campuses are committed by athletes. Further, the same authors found that student athletes perpetrated almost six times more sexual assault than their collegiate peers. 

When victims report assaults by athletes, they are often ostracized. Players and fans often try to coerce victims to recant. Some victims never report the assault to campus safety officials, believing that nothing will be done. Because victims do not always report these crimes, statistics may not show sexual assault to be a significant problem on a specific campus. As a professor, at least three students each semester since I have been teaching have confided in my about experiencing an attempted or actual sexual assault on campus. Not all of these are alleged to have been perpetrated by athletes, but a significant amount were. 

In 2009 and 2010, the Center for Public Integrity and NPR conducted a study of sexual assault on college campuses and found that perpetrators were rarely held accountable, and when they were, punishments were minor. In contrast, many times victims leave the school temporarily if not for good, their lives having been completely disrupted. In recent years, federal complaint have been filed against Swarthmore College, Occidental College, Wesleyan, Yale, Amherst and the University of North Carolina, for violating Title IX and or the Cleary Act, which mandates reporting of sexual assault data.  

Clearly, transforming the rape cultures that exist among many athletic teams won’t be easy. Too often, campus sexual assault prevention programs put the onus for change on the would-be victims, telling females not to walk alone, to never accept drinks from a stranger, not to dress provocatively, etc. Jezebel published a response called “The Student Athletes Guide to Not Raping Anyone” which offers some important suggestions for college students in general and, importantly, places the responsibility on the right party. It is available at http://jezebel.com/the-student-athletes-guide-to-not-raping-anyone-1177994230

Colleges and universities must recognize the enormous scope of this problem. In March 2013, Congress passed the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SAVE), which added dating violence, domestic violence and stalking to the list of offenses campuses must report, clearly outlined campuses’ legal responsibility to respond to and prevent sexual assault, and prompted schools to review their policies, procedures, and training programs. This legislation reinforces that teaching about sexual assault and the rape myths that surround it is every bit as important as any other content being covered in higher education. 

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice. 

Camp at the Berkeley Post Office Continues

By Lydia Gans
Friday August 23, 2013 - 08:12:00 AM

The camp-out at the Berkeley Post Office is in its fourth week. The action is a protest against the plan of the Postal Service to sell the building and relocate the postal services to a smaller facility. This is clearly unacceptable to the Berkeley community for a number of reasons. Mayor Bates has sent an appeal to the Postal Regulatory Commission which has oversight over the Postal Service to prevent them from carrying out the plan. Congresswoman Barbara Lee has sent a strong letter supporting the appeal to the Commission. (Their letters can be seen on line on the regulatory commission's website.) They are stressing the negative financial implications of the plan, pointing out that a convenient downtown location would be difficult to find and undoubtedly very expensive. There is no way of knowing at this point how long it will take the Commission to act. 

The campers, of course are concerned with the far deeper and more ominous implications of the Postal Service plan and are intent on keeping them before the public. They acted on this with a march on July 29 with demonstrations at the FedEx and UPS office warning of the government's move toward privatizing mail service, and at the Blum Center on the U.C. campus protesting Richard Blum's profiting from the sale of the post office building. 

There are now a number of tents in the front and along the west side of the post office building and quite a diverse group of people involved in one way or another. When the call for the camp-out came from Save the Berkeley Post Office and Strike-Debt Bay Area people responded. They put up their tents and hung their signs. They set up a literature table staffed by some of the organizers prepared to answer questions, another table was supplied with paper, pens, stamps and envelopes inviting people to send letters. With all this they have been very successful in reaching out to the public. Off to the side they put tables for food and drink with a plea to the public to donate - and the public donated The campers were people who don't mind saying they love the post office, they love its art and its history and they are determined to keep it as it is. Their action is meant to make sure it is not taken away from the people of Berkeley. 

I have been stopping by and talking with the campers since my first story in the Planet on August 8. I have seen the population of campers become more diverse. It has been generally peaceful and continues to be committed to the cause of saving the post office. One camper said to me early on “This is not an Occupy.” Occupy has a more confrontational approach but over time people from Bay Area Occupy groups as well as other activists have joined the camp. Pirate, the name he goes by in the Occupy movement, said “We've seen a pretty successful coalition effort here between the various Bay Area Occupies, Strike Debt and Save the Berkeley Post Office. I think that the main alliance had probably come to the conclusion that occupation would be a decent tactic here so they asked for Occupy support.” 

Some homeless people have also become part of the camp. Jonathan Dignes has been there since the beginning. He describes himself as an “urban camper”. He talked about seeing “changes in the culture … to a democratic process”, referring to the daily general assembly (GA) like those of the Occupy movement. He is enthusiastic about the camp. “A lot of Berkeley comes here. Berkeley is very diverse and very exciting and some of that excitement comes here” He admits that “sometimes there's little clashes”. 

Younger people, some of them homeless, have settled along the western side of the post office building. The number of people and the number of tents vary from time to time. They usually have a table set up for playing chess or other board games. (It was the first time in many years I've seen a Monopoly game going on.) 

David Welsh is one of the organizers. He is a retired postal worker and a musician. “The encampment has made a big impact,” he said. “I was talking with a postal worker in southern California this morning and he said that everybody in the workroom floor in the Anaheim Post Office know about this. We have great media here. That reflects the tremendous support we've been hearing from people who come by.” I asked him what he thinks about the association with Occupy. “People can call it what they want ,” he said. “We're not calling it Occupy. … We're calling this an encampment. … We feel that this is an expression of the desire of people in Berkeley to keep their post office and also just to keep the post office as a public institution, providing a public service and not seeing it privatized.” 

We talked about the young people and homeless people who are joining the camp. “... we're very happy to have them because it's made us stronger and they are taking up the cause of saving the postal service. They're distributing fliers for our concert tomorrow, they participated in the march last week when we went to the campus so its becoming one movement, we just have new adherents coming in.” 

On Saturday August 17 the camp sponsored a lively concert in front of the post office. Berkeley progressives from the sixties handed out song sheets with new words for the old songs and led the crowd in some lusty singing. Then some talented musicians played somewhat more up-to-date songs and the people danced. 

Now Citizens to Save the Berkeley Post Office has looked at what they have accomplished and how best to use their resources moving on. There is much work for them; legal action, political action, education, outreach, fund-raising to focus on. They decided to withdraw from the camp as of noon on Sunday the 18th. After discussion at the General Assembly (GA) it was decided that though this group is pulling out, the encampment would continue. 

I was talking with Alyssa when I stopped by the camp on Monday. She was at the meeting, she told me, when it was decided not to close down the camp. “People that were here wanted to stay so we voted to stay. It's different tactics, I guess. We're still together but we're just doing different things.” She noted that more people who had not necessarily been activist or in any organizations are becoming involved. “People who were staying on the corner before are joining in with the GA's and feeling part of things, that's what compelled me to stay. … It's really grass roots.” She went on to tell me “The other night I stayed till four in the morning. I feel good here. There's a lot of hope here.” 

Kai's comments were on a similar theme. He talked about the importance of building solidarity. “It's difficult to ask homeless people to be protesters when they have to struggle most of the time just to survive to keep food in their stomach and avoid harassment from the police. It's difficult but I have seen it happen here, it is happening here.” And, he says he has seen “unity between those that have and the have nots – and we need to keep it going” 

There has been some harassment by the Berkeley police, for the first time threatening campers with arrest for trespassing. But the camp-out continues. The tents in front and on the west side of the building are still there. Brian is still getting people writing and mailing letters , the literature table is well supplied and there are always people to answer questions and reach out to the public. Supporters are bringing food (though more of that would be welcome). This looks like a battle we can win.

Making History... Again

By Benjamin Todd Jealous
Thursday August 22, 2013 - 10:13:00 AM

Remember the March on Washington? August 28, 1963. Tens of thousands of activists on the National Mall. A preacher's son from Atlanta talking about his dream for the country.

We don't need a history lesson. Even if we weren't at the March itself - even for those like me, who were not yet born - Dr. King's words are etched into our minds as deeply as they are inscribed in stone at the base of his memorial. The preacher's son has taken his rightful place in the pantheon of national heroes.

We don't need to watch a rerun of that fateful day. We need a sequel.

On Saturday, August 24th, the NAACP is co-hosting a sequel to the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice: the 2013 March on Washington. The march begins at 8:00 am, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Join us.

If this year has shown us anything, it's that the work of the 1963 march is not yet finished. Texas and South Carolina are sprinting forward with voter ID after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. African American unemployment has flat lined. Our children are gunned down each and every day in senseless acts of violence. Trayvon Martin lies in the ground after one such senseless act.

At the same time, our culture of civic engagement is experiencing a renaissance. In the past month, hundreds of cities held vigils and rallies to protest the Zimmerman verdict. The nation is having a serious conversation about racial profiling for the first time since 9/11. In North Carolina, Moral Mondays has grown larger with each passing week.

We have the numbers, and we have the capacity for motivation. The question is whether we will allow ourselves to be motivated. 

So join us - NAACP, National Action Network, Realizing the Dream and others - on the National Mall on August 24th. If you live within two hours of Washington, DC, hop in a car or on a bus - or even better, organize a bus. If you live farther away, you are still encouraged to come and be a part of history. 

The 2013 March on Washington will be a people's movement. It will not be fueled by cash - it will only be energized by your decision to participate. We need you there to help us gain a critical mass of voices, and prove once again that organized people can beat organized money any time. 

On this fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, we should celebrate our history, but it's more important that we never stop making history. 

Meet us at the Lincoln Memorial. Join us on August 24th. 

Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP.

Join Monday March to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

By Harry Brill
Saturday August 24, 2013 - 01:32:00 PM

I Hope you will join the East Bay Tax the Rich Group Monday, Aug. 26, 5-6pm near the top of Solano to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. This was a broad based movement, which included both the radical SNCC and the relatively conservative Urban League. Together, about one quarter of a million people marched against poverty and racism. It was at this event that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his wise and eloquent speech, "I Have a Dream" This march played a major role in promoting the enactment of several progressive laws, including the rights of minorities and poor people to vote and also the enactment of the poverty program. 

Now many of the gains made are being whittled away. Minorities and poor people are confronting very difficult obstacles to voting. And poverty is increasing. In fact, census data reveals that since 2009 household income has declined by over 4 percent. For African-Americans the decline during this period is almost 11 percent. It is tremendously important to appreciate our progressive history. We can learn from and be inspired by past accomplishments that demonstrate how unified political action could result in major achievements. So please come and celebrate with us this Monday.


ECLECTIC RANT: Don't let your babies grow up to be football players

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday August 30, 2013 - 07:23:00 PM

Another football season is upon us. It is time for the National Football League (NFL), college and university officials, and even high schools to seriously address the safety, or lack thereof, of playing football. As the season progresses, the chance of injury increases. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a national public health crisis of concussions in sports – estimated to total four million annually, not including the possibility that tens of millions more “sub-concussive” head blows contribute to youth mental deterioration. John Madden, former college and NFL coach, and commentator remarked, "I’ve always said that any player that plays one regular season NFL game — his body will never be the same the rest of his life."  

A pilot study at UCLA performed brain scans that revealed images of the protein that causes football-related brain damage — the first time researchers have identified signs of the crippling disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, in living players. Dozens of former players — including 34 who played in the NFL — have been diagnosed with CTE, a neurodegenerative disease linked to dementia, memory loss and depression. The disease, which researchers say is triggered by repeated head trauma, can be confirmed only by examining the brain after death.  

In the 2012-13 season, 160 players went down with a head injury. 

The late Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster was the first NFL player diagnosed with CTE. CTE was also discovered in former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012, and in former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in 2011. 

Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, has suffered two concussions already in his young career, and Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has suffered four concussions so far. 

In addition, players suffer other serious injuries each year. For example, the 2013-14 regular season hasn't even started and over ninety players are already injured, some out for the season. These injuries include broken bones, hamstrings, Achilles tendon injuries, dislocated/fractured hips, and torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) 

I will always remember the sight of Jim Otto, former center for the Oakland Raiders, on television. Otto completed 308 consecutive games, punishing his body, resulting in nearly 40 surgeries, including 28 knee operations (nine of them during his playing career alone) and multiple joint replacements. His joints are riddled with arthritis, and he has debilitating back and neck problems. He had his right leg amputated in 2007. He suffered numerous concussions. Admittedly, Otto took "playing with or through pain" to an absurd level. But should the NFL or the Oakland Raiders or their physicians have allowed Otto to abuse his body for the sake of the game? Otto claims it was all worth it to be one of the gladiators to satisfy the blood thirst of American couch potatoes.  

More than 4,000 lawsuits have been filed by former players against the NFL and equipment makers Riddell and Easton, alleging that the league hid known concussion risks, causing high rates of dementia, depression, and even suicide. If successful, the lawsuits could be worth $1 billion or more. At some point, however, current and future players must assume some of the risk of injuries. They now know or should know that football is a dangerous sport, leading to possible injury or even death. Yet, the prospect of a rich contract too often trumps concern for health and safety considering that he average salary by position ranges from $1.98 million for quarterbacks to $863,000 for tight ends. Drew Brees, the highest paid player, makes total earnings of $51 million, which includes a salary of $40 million plus endorsements of $11 million 

Will football be banned because of the unreasonable risk of serious injury to players? Absolutely not. Why, because there is too much money involved. According to Forbes. In 2011, the average NFL football team was worth $1.04 billion. During the 2010 season the average average revenues for the 32 teams was $261 million or $30.6 per team.  

A redesign of equipment, especially helmets, may help, but football by its very nature is violent. When 200 or even 300 pound players crash into other players, the danger of serious injury is predictably going to be high no matter what the equipment players wear. 

Can football be played at an acceptable safety level? And what is an acceptable safety level? Until these questions are answered, I suggest, with apologies to Willie Nelson, "Mammas don't let your babies grow up to be football players." 

ECLECTIC RANT: Beware of a Medical Alert Scam Sweeping the Nation

By Ralph E. Stone
Friday August 23, 2013 - 12:02:00 PM

The Better Business Bureau reports that a medical alert telemarketing scam is sweeping the nation this year. Seniors and their families or caretakers are frequent targets of this scam.

In recent months, consumers have received calls – often repeatedly – from telemarketers offering a “senior medical alarm” or similar personal security device. The calls come from untraceable numbers in the 314, 636 and 573 area codes.

Some of the automated calls ask consumers to “punch 1” if they wish to order a device or want further information. In other cases, salespeople told consumers that they were eligible for a free system or that a system had been paid for on their behalf and the salesperson needed to confirm shipping instructions. Consumers who are receptive to the sales pitch are asked for financial information to cover a monthly monitoring service fee of $34.95.

In many cases, senior citizens never received the devices but were still charged the monthly service fee. Others were unable to obtain refunds or return the items.

Better Business Bureaus across the nation have reported similar calls coming from companies using the names Medical Emergency, Medical Alert Company, First Alert Company, Life Alert USA, Lifewatch, Senior Safety Alert, Senior Emergency Care, Senior Safe Alert, Emergency Medical Alert Systems or Medical Alarms Hewitt.

Life Alert, the California firm that advertises “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” has sued LifeWatchUSA and Connect America, two businesses that used names similar to its brand in robo-call marketing schemes. Life Alert also has posted a warning about the scammers on its website. The company says it does not employ telemarketers to make cold calls to potential customers.  

These are telemarketing scammers are trying to mislead and defraud consumers by using a trademarked name like "Life Alert" so they can get the consumer's address, credit card number and bank information to charge you the consumer. 

Consumers should hang up if they receive unsolicited calls for medical equipment from unfamiliar companies. In many cases, these robo-calls are fraudulent attempts to obtain financial information that can be used to commit identity theft or that result in recurring charges to a victim’s credit card or bank account. 

Victims of this scam can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

THE PUBLIC EYE: Why Don’t Republicans Understand the Economy?

By Bob Burnett
Friday August 23, 2013 - 08:15:00 AM

On September 9th, when Congress returns from its summer vacation, negotiations will begin on a new Federal budget and a US debt limit increase. As a quid pro quo Republicans will demand restrictions on Obamacare. Once again, this raises the specter of the GOP pushing the government into default. Why don’t Republicans understand that’s a terrible idea that would crater the economy? 

Once upon a time, the GOP stood for responsible economic policy. I grew up in a middle-class family in Southern California, where my father and grandfather ran a small business. They were Republicans, as were most of the people we knew. In those days, the GOP attracted the middle class because it was the Party of common sense: it understood business and the economy. 

Over the ensuing years the Republican Party abandoned the middle class and become the party of the wealthy – the one percent. In the eighties, Republicans fell under the spell of Reaganomics. Conservative economists infused American political discourse with three malignant notions: helping the rich get richer would inevitably help everyone else; markets were inherently self correcting; and, “government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” Reagan’s ideology produced deregulation, tax cuts for the rich and powerful, and monopoly capitalism. It resulted in unprecedented income inequality. The American ethos changed from “we’re in this together” (“I am my brother’s keeper”) to “you are on your own.” 

These changes might not factor in the latest crisis if Senators and Representatives understood hat the American economy requires a healthy middle class. But these days the average member of Congress is more likely to have had a prior occupation as a lawyer than as a business person. Furthermore 78 percent of Congress people have no academic background in business or economics. 

As a consequence, the Republican leadership doesn’t understand the American economy; they’re living in a dream world where shutting down the government doesn’t impact middle-class Americans. Consider the backgrounds of the GOP leaders: In the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, is a lawyer, as is his second in command, John Cornyn. The Republican policy committee chair is Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon. The minority chair of the Senate Finance Committee is Orrin Hatch, a lawyer. 

In the House of Representative Speaker John Boehner does have a business background. However, his second in command, House majority leader Eric Cantor, is a lawyer who has worked in his family’s real estate development business. 

Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, directs most Republican economic policy. Ryan doesn’t have much of a business background – he’s spent his adult life in politics – but he does have an undergraduate degree in economics. What appeals to contemporary Republicans is Ryan’s devotion to reactionary novelist Ayn Rand. A New Yorker profile observed that Congressman Ryan often mentions Rand: “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” In 2009, Ryan said, “what’s unique about what’s happening today in government, in the world, in America, is that it’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now. I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault.” 

Paul Ryan has reshaped the contemporary Republican ideology by layering Rand’s philosophy on top of Reaganomics. Ayn Rand believed in Objectivism: “The concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Ayn Rand saw a limited role for government, only the military, police, and judiciary. As a consequence, Paul Ryan and Rand’s many other Republican disciples want to severely cut government spending and eliminate the social safety net. (The Paul Ryan budget attacks the core components of the safety net: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and affordable healthcare.) That’s why the GOP leadership is not worried by the prospect of a government shutdown or default. They believe it will produce less government. 

Republican congressional leaders have not only been influenced by Ayn Rand but also by their status as millionaires: Barasso, Boehner, Cantor, Hatch, McConnell, and Ryan, to name only a few. Indeed, 47 percent of members of Congress are millionaires

A recent study by professors Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright compared the political attitudes of these millionaires, the one percent, to those of the American public in general. Not surprisingly, America’s wealthy are much more negative about Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and affordable healthcare than are the 99 percent. 

Republicans don’t understand that it would a terrible idea to crater the American economy because they’ve lost touch with reality. Hypnotized by a toxic blend of Reaganomics and Objectivism, Republicans don’t understand how the economy works or the concerns of middle-class families. 

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


AGAINST FORGETTING: "Death and Dying" is Trending

By Ruth Rosen
Friday August 23, 2013 - 12:16:00 PM

I am just old enough to remember when no one spoke about cancer, even though my mother's two best friends and my father's mother died of breast cancer. Nor did anyone discuss death. My first experiences of death were terrifying because the subject was taboo. What happened to my grandparents when they disappeared? No answer. Once, I returned home from college and my father casually told me that one of my grandmothers had died. Why hadn't I been told? "We didn't want to bother you." I felt cheated, but didn't understand why. 

And so death has remained a great mystery, a frightening one at that, especially since my mother took her own life in 1976. It became more intimate -- and bearable -- when, in 1989, I went to a one-week self-help retreat for cancer patients at Commonweal, a non-profit center in Bolinas, California. Founded in 1976 on a glorious bluff in northern California, it is dedicated to "healing, learning, the environment, and justice." There I learned that my cancer might not be cured, but I could still heal my spirit by learning to live in an authentic way, in the present, even as I faced what doctors predicted as my probable death. 

But I didn't die. Fortified by the extraordinary experiences I had at Commonweal, I changed my life and began living as though I had only one more year left to live. My values didn't change, but I began to make new choices. Michael Lerner, the brilliant and visionary co-founder of Commonweal, had warned me that many people would get angry when I made new choices, and he was right. I focused on what I valued as important, gave up being a "good girl," and the rest of my life has been much richer. Every day I feel blessed by the gift of life. 

Now, Commonweal is again teaching me important lessons. In 2007, Michael Lerner created The New School at Commonweal, where a series of distinguished and visionary speakers address enthusiastic and curious audiences about a broad range of topics, which are available as podcasts. The End-of Life Conversations have focused on death and dying. The guest speakers at that these conversations ask questions for which we need new answers. How do you have a death of your own, rather than one that ends in a hospital or a nursery home? What kind of legacy do you want to leave to your friends and family, aside from assets? An autobiographical retrospective about your life? A video? How do you wish to die, and how do you want others to acknowledge the end of your life? 

These conversations were inevitable. We, the elders of the Baby Boom generation--born during and right after World War II -- were never going to enter old age without questioning what previous generations did before us. Throughout our lives, we have redefined every stage of our lives. Now, as we face the last chapter of our lives, we are asking how we'd like to die, how we view death, and which spiritual traditions may help us redefine the experience of what we now call " a good and dignified death" 

Death has clearly come out of the closet. Or, as the digital age would have it, "Death and Dying" is Trending. At Commonweal, it is a serious intellectual and spiritual journey. The New York Times web site has a special "Navigator about Death and Dying" section. But you won't be surprised that corporate America has also figured how to profit from a new generation's desire to reinvent the end-of -life experience. That, too, was inevitable. 

Hallmark, a privately owned corporation, which used to sell sympathy cards to the bereaved, has now created cards that address the fear and anxiety of people who know they are dying. As the Economist magazine recently noted, "The greetings-card industry, which studies social trends carefully, is a useful window on changing manners. Editors and art directors at Hallmark's headquarters in Missouri say that customers now want candor, even about terminal illness." 

Some cards express happiness that "our paths came together in this life and you're in some of the best memories I have and you always will be." In drugstores, you can now find shelf-sections labeled "tough times" or extended illness" that include the word "cancer." There are even cards about Alzheimer's that speak of "the twilight that fell on your loved one's mind." Influenced by research for grief counselors, Hallmark also sells cards that acknowledge the loneliness of the bereaved "long after the last casserole is finished and the phone stops ringing." 

Such cards are likely to reap great profits. Hallmark sells half of all sympathy cards in this country. As the seventy-two million men and women in the Baby Boom generation turn 65, they are seeking new ways to live the last chapter of their lives. They eat better and exercise more than any previous generation. Their lives have been extended by new drugs and new medical technologies. They carry with them a certain sense of entitlement, grounded in the values of the counterculture or the political activism of their most formative years. Once they thought they could change America. Now, they seek to reinvent death and dying. 

Despite the commercialization that appropriates the new candor toward death and dying, it is still a positive sign that Americans are more willing to exchange euphemism for an honest acknowledgement of the end of life. After decades of denial, the elders of the Baby Boom generation just might transform what the great muckraking journalist Jessica Mitford so vividly described in her 1963 expose of The American Way of Death--a death that was denied, "sentimentalized, highly commercialized and above all, excessively expensive." Just maybe, we will do better. 

Follow Ruth Rosen www.ruthrosen.org and at twitter @Ruth_Rosen 

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: We aren't to blame, plus, falsities of the mind

By Jack Bragen
Friday August 23, 2013 - 09:12:00 AM

When experiencing symptoms of mental illness, some people who suffer from these diseases blame or shame themselves for being ill. And yet, these diseases aren't something we did to ourselves. 

Our parents didn't make us mentally ill. No one else did something to make us ill. A possible exception to this might be symptoms of post-traumatic stress, if people are abused as children, or due to deployment at war (in which case you could blame the US Government). However, I know that my parents did nothing to abuse me, and this probably holds true for most people who suffer from these awful diseases. 

I was a victim of bullying by other kids in the public school system, but so were many others who never became mentally ill. The causes of mental illnesses are largely unknown, but we do know that heredity is a factor. 

A person with mental illness needn't feel guilt about having symptoms. People should not be allowed to induce guilt toward us when they perhaps see us on the sofa doing nothing or believe that we have not made enough progress in life. Such a critic, whether they are a relative, a friend, or someone who doesn't know you, is not aware of what you might be dealing with. 

A person with mental illness has nothing to be ashamed of, and is not to blame for their symptoms--and punishing someone for being ill is inappropriate and shameful. * * * When we have anxiety, mania, depression or delusions, these symptoms give the mind a false impression of the world. It helps when anxious or depressed to realize that this is merely the illness, and it is not accurate to think that things are that bad. If we introduce a bit of this reality into our thoughts, it can bring some level of relief. 

Being paranoid can bring anxiety, and anxiety or fear can cause more paranoia. It is important that we remind ourselves that our minds can lie to us, and can perceive a threat which does not necessarily exist. When we remember that the mind is probably fooling us, this allows us to be fooled a little less. 

It is important to heed the real warnings in life while dismissing the false feelings of being threatened. I'm not going to tell you that everything is "perfect" which some cult philosophies may assert. When there is an actual problem which necessitates action, you should deal with that problem. 

To distinguish between false threats generated by the illness versus the real problems that must be dealt with, there are some things you can do. You could discuss those thoughts with people who know you. You could bring up the thoughts with a therapist, with family, or with close friends. Secondly, medication may help with some of the erroneous thoughts. When you recognize that a thought is probably a delusion, that's half the battle. 

The fact of having recognized one or more delusions isn't an indication of being cured. However, sometimes recognizing a delusion is an indication that you are starting to recover rational thought. If medication is increased and it appears that this has increased one's delusions, it could actually be that you now recognize delusions that already existed undetected. 

If a person with schizophrenia believes that they have zero delusions, it is likely that they are on the verge of becoming very ill. Even while on medication, a person with schizophrenia or other mental illness is likely to have residual symptoms that the medication didn't fully fix. If someone believes they are cured, it is often an indication of impending relapse. 

The perception of a person with psychotic tendencies that he or she has no delusions at all could sometimes mean that the sense of judgment is gone. The ability to judge what is real and what isn't goes haywire when someone is becoming more ill.