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Man's Body Washes Up on Berkeley Beach

By Bay City News
Thursday October 31, 2013 - 09:44:00 AM

A man's body was found along the shoreline adjacent to Interstate Highway 80 in Berkeley yesterday afternoon, an East Bay Regional Parks District police lieutenant said. 

The CHP received a report from a cellphone caller of a possible body on the waterfront about a half-mile south of University Avenue and turned the case over to East Bay Regional Parks police around 3:30 p.m., Lt. Jon King said. 

The Alameda County coroner's office was also called to the scene. 

King said an investigation is underway and police do not have any further details about the victim or how he arrived on the shore.


Updated: All Clear in Downtown Berkeley after Bomb Panic

By Jamey Padojino (BCN)
Monday October 28, 2013 - 04:51:00 PM

Berkeley police have reopened streets in a popular downtown area after two suspicious packages were found to be harmless, a police spokeswoman said. A suspicious package was delivered to a business in the 2300 block of Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley police Officer Jennifer Coats said. 

The business was not expecting the package and called Berkeley police, Coats said. 

Businesses on the east side of the street were also evacuated, she said. 

The Berkeley police bomb squad investigated and deemed the suspicious package to be harmless, Coats said. 

Police reopened Shattuck Avenue between Bancroft and Durant avenues at 3:53 p.m., she said. 

In a separate incident, University of California at Berkeley police responded to a suspicious package also determined to be harmless this afternoon. 

The package was reported on Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue at 2:44 p.m., UC police Sgt. Nicole Sanchez said. 

The UC police bomb squad responded and found an empty rolling suitcase in front of Whelan's Cigar and Smoke Shop, she said. 

Traffic was blocked off on westbound Bancroft Way from Bowditch Street and northbound Telegraph Avenue from Durant Avenue until 4:14 p.m., Sanchez said.


Flash: Another Suspicious Package at Bancroft and Telegraph in Berkeley

By Jamey Padojino (BCN)
Monday October 28, 2013 - 04:48:00 PM

University of California at Berkeley police are investigating a suspicious package found near campus this afternoon. 

The suspicious package was reported at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue around 2:45 p.m., police said. 

The incident is separate from the investigation into a suspicious package that shut down Shattuck Avenue downtown this afternoon.


Flash: Suspicious Package Shuts Down Shattuck in Berkeley

By Bay City News
Monday October 28, 2013 - 04:47:00 PM

A busy thoroughfare in downtown Berkeley has been shut down and some businesses evacuated this afternoon as a bomb squad investigates a suspicious package, a police spokeswoman said. 

The package was discovered shortly before noon on the east side of Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley police Officer Jennifer Coats said. 

Shattuck Avenue has been shut down between Bancroft and Durant avenues, and some buildings on the east side of the street have been evacuated, she said.  

Occupants of other homes and businesses in the area have been told to shelter in place.  

The Police Department's bomb squad has been called in.  

"They've responded and are on scene preparing to investigate," Coats said at about 2:30 p.m.  

She said she did not yet know when the street would be reopened.


Berkeley City Council to Decide on Appeal Brought by Former Tenants of Fire-Ravaged Building with History of Landlord Negligence

By Marcia Poole
Sunday October 27, 2013 - 05:21:00 PM

Lakireddy Bali Reddy, owner of 2227 Dwight Way, allegedly disconnected fire alarms from the building prior to the fire. Shortly after 7pm on October 29, 2013, the Berkeley City Council will hear an appeal on the fire-damaged 2227 Dwight Way property brought by several UC Berkeley students and alumni, including two former tenants and signed by nearly 30 immediate neighbors. The building was completely destroyed after a fire broke out in the early morning hours on March 8, 2012. 

“We want to make it clear that we do not object to the issuance of a use permit to rebuild the building,” the appellants state before expressing three chief concerns that have not been addressed by City staff: (1) Evidence suggesting that the owner – through a history of negligence – was principally at fault and should not be exempt from paying the city’s Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee; (2) The owner is legally subject to providing mitigations to offset the impacts of demolishing six rent-controlled units; and (3) Staff did not provide a complete record to the Zoning Adjustments Board, which discussed this project on June 13, 2013. The board approved the project on the narrowest of margins, a 5-3 vote. 

The owner of record is listed in city documents as Lakireddy Bali Reddy of Everest Properties, with location and residence respectively listed at 2278 Shattuck Avenue and 2233 Dwight Way (a cottage behind the impacted building) in Berkeley. At the time the fire occurred, his nephew Sid Lakireddy – also the President of the Berkeley Property Owners Association – was listed as the founder and head of Everest Properties. 

Earlier this week, the Associated Students of the University of California Senate – the legislative branch of UC Berkeley’s student government – unanimously passed a bill in support of the appeal. 

“There is a severe lack of clarity as to how this process was carried out,” said bill author Senator Justin Kong. “Not addressing this issue means that City Council and the ASUC are setting a bad precedent as to how future matters like this will be handled.” 

A contemporary Daily Californian news article reported that “all of the [former 2227 Dwight] residents ... complained that the fire alarms were not audible — and perhaps even absent — during the fire.” The fire inspection report that included former tenants’ testimony and was attached as an appendix to the appeal corroborated testimony that smoke detectors were absent or disconnected from various rooms. 

On Page 17 of 125 of Attachment 2 (Appeal Letter), city inspection records show that the following condition had to be abated: “Fire alarm is in trouble mode. Maintain in an operable condition and test monthly.” Page 7 of Attachment 2 (Appeal Letter) states: “[It] would be the opinion of a practicing fire protection engineer that an indication of ‘trouble status’ or ‘trouble mode’ would have as the most likely cause a physical or manual disabling or disconnection of the alarm.” 

Appellant Adam Bolt, a former tenant and 2011 UC Berkeley graduate, in appeal documents, stated that two Everest Property personnel came to his apartment in Fall 2011 and asked if he had smoke detectors in his unit. After he responded that there were none, “they said they’d be back in a few days to install them. They never showed up.” After being awakened by smoke around 4:30am on the morning of the fire, ”he pulled on the security alarm bell and NOTHING (sic) happened. He said the alarm had been going off randomly a few months prior (and they evacuated twice, and then it stopped happening at all). The tenants suspect that someone may have disabled the alarm.” This is corroborated by testimony from another tenant, who on Page 100 of Attachment 2, recounts calling “Everest Properties to inform them that there’d been a series of false alarms at the properties … He was told by the woman on the telephone not to call the fire department during a building alarm, but to call the property management instead because Everest would get fined if the fire department had to respond.” 

The Fire Department report on page 75 of Attachment 2 of the appeal states: “Based on the lack of general alarm and “trouble” alarms during the fire incident … it is a reasonable conclusion that the fire alarm system became impaired at some time between the last system malfunction and prior to the incident, and was not functional at the time of the fire.” 

A Berkeley Fire Department report on Page 71 of Attachment 2 states that “[during] a post-fire interview with an occupant this person stated they and another occupant had suffered second-degree skin burns while evacuating from the building … [and] were referred … to a local hospital for evaluation and treatment.” One occupant “was given medication to treat a smoke inhalation injury.” 

Several former tenants of 2227 Dwight Way allegedly filed lawsuits with the property owner, which may be either pending or resolved. Appellants state on Page 8 of Attachment 2: “The property owner … has a questionable history of providing safe housing conditions. In 1999, a young woman died at one of his properties of carbon monoxide poisoning.” 

“The [Zoning Board’s] decision not to apply the mitigation fee to the 2227 Dwight projects … sets a dangerous precedent by encouraging owners of older housing to not properly maintain their properties creating unsafe conditions which can pose fire hazards and, occasionally, actual fires,” the appellants conclude on Page 9 of the appeal. According to the staff report (Page 3), the Berkeley City Council may “(1) affirm the [Zoning Board] decision and dismiss the appeal, (2) set the matter for a public hearing, or (3) remand the matter to the [board].”


One Nation, Under Guard: How the Pentagon Trains for Martial Law in America

By Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

Friday October 25, 2013 - 02:49:00 PM

Time and again over the past several decades, the Pentagon has staged "war games" inside US cities -- Kingsville, Texas; Oakland, California; Pittsburgh; Chicago San Francisco and elsewhere. These so-called "humanitarian exercises" are actually a pretext for honing techniques to seize control of the "Urban Battlescape" inside the US. This investigative report (versions of which originally appeared simultaneously in the Bay Guardian and the East Bay Express) focuses on the Pentagon's "Urban Warrior" exercise staged in San Francisco and Oakland in 1999.
From a paper presented at the "Cities and the New Wars" Conference at Columbia University, New York, September 2009.

 

Operation Urban Warrior: 
EAW Video (5 Min.) 

 

"The Humanitarian Assistance will start on Monday and continue through the firefights that follow."  


-- Interview with Col. Mark Thiffault, March 1999

 

On February 8, 1999 a squadron of eight black helicopters flying at tree-top level dropped a team of elite special operations soldiers into the center of Kingsville, Texas. For the next two hours, the Army's Delta Force and Night Stalkers conducted a "mock battle" with live ammunition and real explosives that inadvertently set one building on fire. Elderly residents relaxing on benches outside a retirement home watched in disbelief as explosions blew out the windows on a large office building nearby. 

 

Army officials subsequently confirmed that live ammunition was used, sometimes within a few hundred feet of startled civilians. The Army emphasized that they had only used "training ammo," which employs plastic slugs and a smaller powder charge. Soldiers had slipped into town earlier to fit the targeted buildings with "bullet traps" designed to keep wayward bullets from flying outside the designated training area.

 

The only people who knew about "Operation Last Dance" in advance were the mayor, the city manager and the police chief who were told not to discuss the exercise "for national security reasons."

 

"Safety is our number one priority in these things," Fort Bragg Army Special Operations Command spokesperson Walt Sokalski insisted. Denying reports that the helicopters had opened fire on the town, Sokalski offered this grammatically tortured assurance: "The unsurity of using [live] ammunition from... aircraft... is an unacceptable risk that we do not want to put the citizens that are supporting us in this training in."

 

"The law is quite clear in America that the military is not to serve as an occupying force or to be directed in any way against the people of the states," writes World Net Daily editor Joseph Farrah. (Actually, federal force has been used to quell industrial strikes, US Marines were deployed during the LA Riots and US Code Title 10 Sections 331-4 do permit the president to send troops to quash civil rebellions.) 

 

Operation Last Dance wasn't the first time the Pentagon had launched a sneak attack on the US mainland. One summer night in 1996, nine Army choppers and troops from the Special Operations Command turned sections of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania into a war zone, terrifying residents with gunfire and explosions that sent one woman into premature labor.

 

Pittsburgh police were besieged with calls from fearful and angry citizens and the planned weeklong exercise was canceled the next day. In its defense, the Army insisted that it had, in fact, notified police and residents in the "immediate vicinity" several hours before the surprise attack.

 

"It is outrageous to give only a few hours warning," Ian Williams Goddard wrote in the Washington Times, "It shows utter disregard for the sovereignty and dignity of the people and their communities.... Is it an effort to teach people to tolerate military occupation? ... these seem to be questions that should be raised."

 

In May 1998, San Antonio, Texas refused an Army request to stage urban war games in the city. "We're not going to go someplace where we're not wanted," Sokalski claimed. (Ignoring the fact that this is the very definition of an attacking force.) Despite these assurances, the Army continued to plan war games in the vicinity of the city and San Antonio's Police Chief Al Philipius subsequently complained that the military had attempted to bribe local officials to allow the exercises to proceed.

 

That same month, the Marines brought their Urban Warrior act to Chicago. Marine public affairs officer Lt. Col. Jenny Holbert told the Chicago Sun-Times: "I don't think we could have picked a better city," During the exercise, a small contingent of Marines studied Chicago's bridges, tunnels, subways, sewers, water treatment plant and electrical and communications systems. 

 

Two months later, in another Urban Warrior exercise, a team of 100 Marines "seized" downtown Jacksonville, capturing City Hall and the Main Street Bridge. While this exercise involved no weapons, vehicles or planes, it did suggest one credible reason why a US military force might want to invade a city. As the Jacksonville Metro explained, there was a third strategic target: "an abandoned building posing as a national bank safeguarding $5.7 billion of gold ingots." 

 

But none of these exercises were on the scale of the Urban Warrior exercise planned for the San Francisco Bay Area. The mock invasion, originally set to run from March 15-18, 1999, in San Francisco, was relocated across the Bay to Oakland, after local residents and officials complained.

 

The marines said the exercise, dubbed Urban Warrior Advanced Warfighting Experiment, was designed to teach the armed forces how to distribute humanitarian aid to a big city after a disaster. But a review of hundreds of pages of military documents obtained through public records requests, from the Marine Corps' Web site, and from the Alameda County Public Library, revealed a very different mission.

I 

n fact, Urban Warrior was designed to give marines practice in seizing control of large cities -- including taking over food and water supplies, utilities, and communications systems. Statements and articles by military leaders suggest that the armed forces were preparing themselves to contain popular uprisings -- including uprisings in US cities.

 

The use of military troops to quell civilian unrest is not unprecedented but Urban Warrior represented a dramatic escalation in the potential use of the military on American soil.
 

Urban Warrior in Oakland, California
 

According to official documents, the overall $6.4 million cost for the Urban Warrior exercise included $2.4 million for personal support and $16 million spent on R&D contracts with California companies. Another $210,000 was spent to hire civilian "role players" who pretended to be civilians and rebels. 

 

Some $300,000 was budgeted for office equipment, $95,000 for "environmental cleanup," and $7,000 for bleachers for VIP observers. In addition to the assault in Oakland, Col. Thiffault noted the Marines had "all kinda good things happening" in the city of Concord, Moffett Field and in San Francisco's Financial District.

 

The Oakland political establishment, led by the-Mayor Jerry Brown, rolled out the red carpet for the troops. Four days of mock fighting, including the firing of 24,000 blank rounds, have been scheduled to take place at Oakland's abandoned Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. The guns opened fire at 7:30 in the morning and continued daily for seven hours at a stretch.

 

Over the course of five days Urban Warrior, vehicles were expected to consume 18,063 gallons of fuel and generate 1.21 tons of air pollution. The nitrous oxides produced were 3.4 times greater than the Bay Area Air Quality Management District's "significant threshold." (Those figures didn't include pollution from military aircraft, since the Marine Corps' ruled these exhaust gases would not fall into the urban "mixing zone.") During Urban Warrior's grand finale at Oak Knoll March 18, marines discharged 60 smoke bombs and 8,000 rounds of blanks in a single hour.

 

The Three-block War
 

When the US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) first proposed staging Urban Warrior inside San Francisco's Presidio National Park, it described a three-day exercise involving 200 to 300 marines. By January the exercise included five ships, 6,000 sailors and marines, fighter jets, helicopters, and four days of simulated combat. National Park Service officials decided the event had grown too large and pulled the plug.

 

In an effort to save the Presidio invasion, Gen. Charles C. Krulak (who founded the Urban Warfighting Laboratory in 1995) wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Examiner appealing to San Franciscans to rally 'round the flag and allow the attack to proceed. Krulak offered a rather implausible pretext for exploding thousands of rounds of blanks inside a US city.

 

"Marines will be transported to the Presidio, where they will provide humanitarian assistance to 'victims' of an assumed natural disaster," Krulak wrote. "'Rebel' elements opposed to the operation will then arrive. The situation will deteriorate into conflict." Krulak didn't explain why "rebels" would be opposed to humanitarian assistance in the wake of a natural disaster.

 

"Humanitarian relief" effort involves marines handing out "food, water, and diapers" to paid actors performing from a prepared script, Urban Warrior press representative Col. Mark Thiffault explained. But Thiffault conceded that "humanitarian assistance is not the primary goal. We're doing it so we can figure out how to do urban warfare."

 

A review of hundreds of pages of documents regarding Urban Warrior exercises around the country and in the Bay Area reveals no plans for providing humanitarian assistance. The actual goal of the operation is clearly stated: it is to "penetrate," "thrust," and "swarm" into urban settings to seize power plants, TV and radio stations, and food and water supplies, to suppress any local opposition — and ultimately to control the cities.

 

Urban Warrior strategists envision a "future battlefield" defined by stateless war in an urban terrain, against threats including "criminals with computers" and "terrorists searching for weapons of mass destruction." (Curiously, they don't have them; they are merely searching for them.)

Marine Corps documents explain that the Bay Area operation will pit "an enhanced Combat Operations Center ... against a well-trained, well-equipped opposing force with the capability to detonate WMD [a biochemical 'weapon of mass destruction'] in an urban environment."

 

While the planners of Urban Warrior gloss over the purported humanitarian work, the experiment's war-fighting components are proudly detailed.

 

Helicopters will hover 1000 feet above the ground. Humvees, light armored vehicles, and five-ton trucks will add to the din. Monstrous 88-ton, 88-foot-long hovercraft, each big enough to carry four M1A1 tanks, will move supplies and vehicles from ships to shore. Over the course of the five-day exercise, Urban Warrior's 1,500-member force would subject East Bay residents to 14 waves of hovercraft landings, more than 40 aircraft overflights, and the detonation of 60 "flashbang" grenades and 24,000 rounds of blanks.

 

The purpose of all this disruption is to hone soldiers' skills in fighting what is known as "the three-block war." The strategies practiced in Urban Warrior experiments are designed for capturing and holding modern cities dense with high-rises.

 

"Urban terrain offsets many of the strengths in the traditional American way of war," Urban Warrior documents report. They go on to state that the effectiveness of satellites is severely reduced, rubble from buildings lends the defender a strategic advantage, and massive numbers of civilians are likely to get caught in the crossfire.

 

Urban troops should rely on the "opportune use of indigenous resources," the documents state. "Developing our ability to effectively forage for power, water, and fuel may provide a significant reduction in the logistics requirement on the seabases."

 

Unfortunately, such foraging would mean seizing resources from the indigenous population. But that can have its own advantages. To gain "leverage in establishing control over the urban environment," Urban Warriors are advised to seize power plants, water plants, and food storage and distribution centers. Another section of the Urban Warrior game plan is more direct, recommending operations "designed to collapse essential functions."

 

Fighting in the 'Urban Canyons'
 

To enter cities in real-life warfare, the marines plan to use existing underground passageways, including underground transit systems and sewer and utility tunnels. "Sewer and underground utility systems offer one of the most clandestine avenues for penetrating the urban environment," Urban Warrior documents state. Special troops equipped with air-quality sensors would slither through city sewers and utility tunnels on special sleds and trolleys to reach strategic positions. (As a practical matter, the Urban Warrior invasion plan warns, the "firing of conventional weapons in an environment with a high methane content may pose unacceptable risk.")

Marines may also enter from above. The documents envision marines deftly maneuvering through cities via paragliders, parachutes, and powered parafoils.

 

To fight in the spaces between skyscrapers, which the marines refer to as "urban canyons," the 21st-century marine is being trained to move up the sides of buildings like a human fly and skitter from one high-rise to another on rope webs and cable suspension bridges.

 

The military has developed special weapons to enable US forces to shoot over the tops of skyscrapers, firing on enemy troops hiding on adjacent streets. Other weapons blast holes through steel-reinforced concrete to destroy the inhabitants of a specific room deep inside a high-rise. 

 

Self-loading automated weapons systems can be parked in intersections or within buildings, controlled and fired by gunners sitting in front of computer screens on ships floating 12 miles offshore.

 

Urban Warrior's Conceptual Experimental Framework (CEF) treats civilians and noncombatants as bothersome inconveniences and logistical nuisances. "Noncombatants and refugees may be as formidable a factor as the urban infrastructure," the CEF states. "Refugees are likely to clog roads, inland waterways, airfields, and ports as well as presenting commanders with humanitarian support issues."

 

A section addressing crowd control contains photos depicting helmeted military police with shields and truncheons surrounding an armored personnel carrier as it rolls toward a crowd of angry, unarmed civilians.

 

The marines hope to deal with crowds using such "non-lethal" weapons as exploding nets, nausea-inducing ultrasound weapons, blinding laser lights, incapacitating (and potentially asphyxiating) sticky foams, and quick-drying substances that can be used to seal doorways, windows, pipes, and "subterranean avenues of approach." 

The vast majority of these technologies, the CEF states, were developed for local police to use against antiwar and civil rights protests in the 1960s.

"Urban fighting has always been one of the most destructive forms of warfare," wrote Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales Jr., the commandant of the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., [October 1998, Armed Forces Journal.] "In the Vietnam War, the numbers of Marines killed in the battle for Hue exceeded the losses in WWII's amphibious assault on Okinawa."

 

Meet the Land Warrior
 

Like the US Marine Corps, the Army is working hard to turn soldiers into Land Warriors — hard-wired futuristic Robo-Cops in Kevlar helmets fighting with one foot in cyberspace. The Army News Service reports the Army's "Force XXI soldier system [is] designed to enable infantrymen to engage and defeat an enemy on tomorrow's digitized battlefield, which may include an urban scenario." 

 

The Land Warrior will be equipped with back-mounted computers, global positioning devices, small video cameras, modular body armor, laser range finders and targeting lights, special close-combat optics and a helmet with a built-in monocular computer display, day/night target sensor unit and adaptable chemical/biological mask.

 

"As the world's population continues to grow, more and more people are living in cities," says Col. Henry L. Kinnison, a Land Warrior project officer at Fort Benning, Georgia. "the battlefield of the future is not only the open plain — it's a building... room or hallway." Production of the first Land Warrior systems was set to begin 1999.

 

Urban War and Microsoft Militarism
 

In 1999, General Charles C. Krulak offered his vision of the 21st Century's wars. [Briefing published in the January 19, 1999 issue of Navy Times]. Gen. Krulak is convinced that "the future of conflict is likely not going to be in the great sandy deserts of the Persian Gulf War, but in the growing urban areas along the world's coastlines. Who knows that the next threat is going to be? It could be the mind. It could be piracy.... It could be a major regional conflict, or unrest, or weapons of mass destruction. It could be information warfare. It could be the environment, our institutions, our banking. 

 

"Right now the military is kind of in a niche business.... But in the future, we are going to have a major impact on our nation," Krulak prophesied. "If there is an enemy out there that wants to make a difference, he can only make a difference by getting us into a complex, chaotic, deadly environment that negates our technology, negates our strength and capitalizes on their strength. That place is called the cities."

 

The National Security Act of 1947 "gave us the foundation for who we are and what we are," Krulak declared. Krulak called for a new National Security Act for the 21st Century that would "take advantage of the resident capabilities, assets, and intellects of industry, academia, monetary institutions, and other non-governmental agencies. We need to combine these with the more traditional elements of national power -- military, political, economical and cultural. We're taking about building a [new]... organization that would... focus all the elements of national power. It would provide the national and regional commander with the ability to consult and interact with subject matter experts." 

 

"You have to tap into some of that experience outside of the federal government. We're doing it right now," Krulak confided. "I was in communication with the CEO of IBM, and they're working in the black world right now. They're more than willing to work in the white world. They are taking zero pay -- zero pay. Bill Gates is working with us. We've got a tape we could show you of some of the things he's putting on as a result of Hunter Warrior, joining with us in looking at software, banking, humanitarian organizations, science technology."

 

Close to Home
 

While Urban Warrior's promoters say such exercises train marines to enter foreign trouble spots, military documents challenge that assertion. There are few 15-story urban canyons in Third World cities. And the photographs in Urban Warrior's strategic documents portray targets much closer to home -- Seattle, Miami, San Diego, New York City, and San Francisco.

 

In a rare reference to non-Western countries, the conceptual framework points out that urban warfare is fundamentally unsuited to most cities in the developing world. "The squalor and highly inflammable nature of building materials within many non-Western urban areas — coupled with the wide use of propane or natural gas for heating and services -- creates a risk of catastrophic fire," the document states.

 

Meanwhile, plans are afoot to increase the military's power in the event of a national emergency. In 1999, a disturbing proposal to commission a supreme military commander to take charge in the event of a "terrorist threat" received a favorable nod from the White House. 

On January 28, 1999, the New York Times reported that "The Pentagon has decided to ask President Clinton for the power to appoint a military leader for the continental US because of what it sees as a growing threat of major terrorist strikes on US soil." The Times reported "top White House officials have reacted favorably," despite concerns from civil libertarians that "such military power could slowly expand to threaten the privacy, liberty, and lives of private citizens."

 

George Bush, Dick Cheney and the Millennium Project 

In 2009, the Millennium Project's 6,700-page State of the Future report (based on the findings of 2,700 experts) concluded that climate change "ranging from changes in weather patterns to loss of livelihoods and disappearing states — has unprecedented implications for political and social stability.... By 2025, there could be three billion people without adequate water." The Pentagon was way ahead of the Millennium Project's visionaries.

 

A decade earlier, Urban Warrior strategists were pointing out that approximately 85 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2025, and these cities will contain "all the classic ingredients for conflict. There will be social, cultural, religious, and tribal strife between different groups. Many areas will have scarce resources, including the most basic ones like food and shelter. As populations grow and resources shrink even further, the chances for conflict will naturally grow with it."

 

The U.S. Marine Corps document "Why Urban Warrior?" suggests that foreign terrorists weren't the only domestic threat the military was preparing to address. In a January 1999 article in Armed Forces Journal International, Col. James A. Lasswell, head of experimental operations for the MCWL, warned: "There will be widespread economic problems and cultural, ethnic, and tribal tensions, many caused by wave after wave of immigration."

 

In another issue of the same publication, Major General Scales minced no words about the military's role in urban warfare. In the decades ahead, Scales writes, 

the mission will be to fight on behalf of the rich and against the poor.

 

"The future urban center will contain a mixed population, ranging from the rich elite to the poor and disenfranchised," he writes. 

"Day-to-day existence for most of the urban poor will be balanced tenuously on the edge of collapse. With social conditions ripe for exploitation, the smallest tilt of unfavorable circumstance might be enough to instigate starvation, disease, social foment, cultural unrest, or other forms of urban violence.

 

"The enormous problems of infrastructure and the demand for social services that threaten to swamp governing authorities in the urban centers of emerging states will most likely worsen," Scales predicted. "Moreover, the proximity of the disenfranchised to the ruling elite provides the spark for further unrest and sporadic violence."

 

For all the frightening clarity of the military's plans, the documents leave one vital question unanswered. Urban Warrior proposes nothing but open-ended battles for urban terrain. What happens after the marines swarm ashore and successfully seize a city? At what point would they stop blasting holes in the urban infrastructure?

 

"That's one of the difficult points," Thiffault said. "When do we get out? Who defines how we get out?" He didn't offer any answers.
 

Interview with Col. Thiffault

 

Q -- Why would "rebels" be opposed to a "humanitarian relief" effort? 

 

A -- Thiffault laughs and says "What do you think was happening in Somalia?" 

Q -- But in Somalia the warlords were already involved in a struggle for power before the USMC arrived.

 

Q -- If an earthquake struck SF, why would rebels spring up to fight the HA?

 

A -- Thiffault insists that these games do not mean the USMC plans to invade US cities. He repeats the argument that this is illegal under US law.

 

Q -- So the Marines are planning to invade foreign cities like London or Paris?

 

A -- Thiffault argues that this is "a political decision." The Marines don't decide where they will be sent. They are just concerned with getting the job done when they get there.
Thiffault boasts that "the Marines and the Navy are way out in front on this." A few other countries (Britain, etc) are now participating "to find out how we do it."

 

Q -- If the USMC isn't going to use these techniques inside the US, what foreign cities -- with 15-story high-rises -- would we be willing to invade? London? Sao Paolo?

 

A -- "Those are political decisions."

 

Q -- If the USMC is going to try and capture foreign cities, I assume its been coordinating with the UN? 

 

A -- "The UN was not involved." "We don't need anyone to tell us how to train."

Humanitarian Assistance is not the basic goal. "We're doing it so we can figure out how to do urban warfare."

 

Disaster relief includes a chemical biological response force. Thiffault cites the "anthrax bomb" that Saddam Hussein was planning "to export to the US."

 

Q -- Are you bothered that there is no endgame? 

 

A -- "One of the very difficult points. When do we get out? Who defines how we get out."

 

Q -- Do you believe you can fight and win a war inside a city? 

 

A -- Thiffault asks if I was ever in the military and questions whether I have the strategic background to ask such a question. 

 

Q -- I respond that this is why we have a civilian military, so that we can raise questions like this.

 

A -- "You're really out there. Where do you get these ideas?" 

 

Q -- From the MCWL's CEF. 

 

A -- Thiffault says the reasons the photos of US cities were in there was because "those are the cities we've trained in." But they had not trained in SF when the CEF was published. We agreed that it could cause an international incident to run a photo of a foreign city. Thiffault suggested that perhaps in future documents they would leave out the photos of the US cities. 

 

Q -- A good PR move, I replied.

 

Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War, Editor Emeritus of Earth Island Journal, the winner of three Project Censored reporting awards and author of Nuclear Roulette. 


Murdered Berkeley Man's Settlement with BPD a Bad Legacy (News Analysis)

By Ted Friedman
Friday October 25, 2013 - 02:31:00 PM

The Peter M. Cukor family's lawsuit against the city of Berkeley police was dropped unexpectedly, Tuesday, in exchange for what their attorney's called the department's "three changes…" in dispatcher policies which "will help prevent similar tragedies in the future." 

Although they were mollified by Berkeley Chief Michael K. Meehan's mea culpa, last year at a public meeting to address their fears, hills-dwellers (Cukor died atop Marin) would have to be permanently sedated to swallow this latest pill. 

Don't call 9-1-1, Hills-dwellers, but you are not safe in the police beat where you live. All the settlements in the world will not change that. You're doomed by your life-style, which offers stunning views and an above-it-all take on life below. 

Your crime beat, the largest of nineteen, stretches for miles and can only be reached, with difficulty, on narrow, often blocked streets. 

It would have taken the officer on North Shattuck--just before Cukor was murdered-- 8-10 minutes to have prevented Cukor's death, but a dispatcher reportedly diverted the officer's offer of help because of riot "monitoring" policies. 

This mistake is uncorrected in the settlement (dispatchers should consult a superior) or get better briefings before diverting officers answering a crime-in-progress. 

The settlement offers: 

"…emergency dispatchers may now inform callers that an officer will respond when a unit is available and may also add that there could be a delay due to high-priority calls in progress or due to a high volume of calls." 

All this baloney seems to answer the bogus issue of whether Cukor was allegedly emboldened to leave his home by a dispatcher's assurances of aid on-the-way. 

In fact, Cukor stepped across the street from his home to the fire-house (he had opposed its construction) for help, but the firemen were all out on a serious fire nearby. 

This could have saved his life. 

Rioters arrived at the Berkeley border from Oakland at 9:20 p.m. Cukor died fifteen minutes before the rioters arrived. There was no Berkeley march to ''monitor." This was a window of opportunity for the officer downtown to speed up to Cukor's aid. 

If police tactics had been less inflexible, Cukor could have been saved. 

I have complained of loud parties in my South Side apartment complex and gotten a cop at the door in five minutes. If you are being bludgeoned in the hills, you will have to wait longer. Much longer. 

Your Berkeley address can kill 

I live not far from the Hayward Fault. That's how we all live here, a little on-guard. 

Hills-dwellers never fully grasped the nature of police misfeasance in Cukor's case, because media was spinning on its head or possibly were out spun by police. 

A Planet story by me was headlined: "Peter M. Cukor Did Not Have To Die." 

Can I be more blunt? 

If police had actually followed the march, as they did after the Cukor fiasco on a subsequent FTP march--this one with more potential violence--they would have picked up peace vibes the night of Cukor's death. Instead they picked up a corpse. 

FTP, while befuddling cops with misleading intell, were in a celebratory not violent mood. Leaving them alone was a good move, which Chief Meehan was proud of. 

The cops then plead guilty to being prepared for a riot and attention goes there. 

The Chief capped his assuaging of hills dwellers safety fears at a north side church; a few hours later, "going viral" online by sending an armed officer to the home of a reporter to correct an error in the reporter's story. The Cukor murder was crowded out 

Too bad, because Cukor's death was a blunder worthy of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Infallible intell, according to university and city cops convinced both departments that Occupy Oakland and Occupy Cal (jointly) planned to--get this!--seize UCPD headquarters. 

UCPD taped off their entrance and stationed a few bored cops at the entrance. Action quickly shifted to University House, where twelve UCPD oversaw a celebration of peace and love unfold. 

At 11:10 p.m. BPD stink-eyed protestors from command cars. Except for a clandestine stake out, here and there, BPD had been invisible throughout the evening. 

The potential riot, cops were watching marched into town AFTER Cukor was killed. If their intell is anything but puff, Police know Occupy is no excuse for Cukor's death. 

Chief Meehan refused to blame Occupy when addressing hills-dwellers at the church briefing 

Still that idea, "they were preparing for….” 

Were police out spinning us, while claiming to be behind the media curve? 

If you believe that you believe cops are smarter than you. 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 

Follow Ted Friedman at berkeleyreporter.com, a sleaze ball slant on Berkeley

 


Infected Bat a Reminder to Use Caution

By Berkeley Heath Department
Thursday October 24, 2013 - 08:52:00 PM

A bat infected with rabies was recently found in the area of the 1500 block of Spruce Street in the City of Berkeley. Although the bat was removed without incident, residents in Berkeley and the surrounding areas are advised that Alameda County has been a “Rabies Area” since 1958. 

In Berkeley, bats and skunks are the most likely animals to be infected, although unimmunized dogs, foxes, coyotes, badgers, weasels, raccoons and unvaccinated cats can also carry the rabies virus. 

Rabies infection is virtually always fatal in man so it is critical that people know how to prevent infection. Avoid skunks and bats and do not handle dead wild animals. 

Educate your children about the dangers of wild animals and warn them not to touch any animal they do not know. 

Any nocturnal animal which is seen during daylight hours such as skunks, bats, or grey foxes should be considered dangerous. 

Call Berkeley Animal Control Services at (510) 981-6600, Monday-Sunday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., if suspicious or dead animals are observed in your area. For after-hours emergencies contact Dispatch at (510) 981-5900. 

RABIES FACTS AND PROTECTIVE MEASURES 

• Rabies is found in most counties in California including Alameda County. Alameda County has been declared a "Rabies Area" since 1958. 

• Rabies is a deadly virus disease which affects the nervous system. Once symptoms start in an infected human being it is uniformly fatal. There is no known cure.In the event of contact with an animal which might have rabies, prompt medical attention including administration of immunization can prevent disease. It is essential that anyone exposed to a potentially infected animal seek medical care immediately. 

• Rabies is transmitted in the saliva of infected warm blooded animals (mammals) through mucous membranes or any break in the skin by biting, licking or scratching. 

• Animals at high risk for carrying rabies are skunks, bats, dogs which have not been vaccinated against rabies, foxes, coyotes, badgers, weasels, raccoons, and wild and unvaccinated domestic cats. Rodents (gophers, mice, hamsters, squirrels, rats, opossums, guinea pigs) and rabbits are considered very low risk for rabies. 

• The degree of risk to humans and pets for rabies is determined by the species of the animal and the circumstances. There is no risk for rabies from reptiles, birds, or insects. 

• If a wild animal such as a skunk, bat, or grey fox which is normally nocturnal (active at night) is seen in the daylight acting in a strange manner, it may be tested for rabies by the State Health Laboratory. Example of animals to be tested: 

A skunk roaming or staggering in daylight. A bat hanging on a window screen or sill. A grey fox acting in an aggressive manner in the daytime. 

• Immediately call the City of Berkeley Animal Control Services at (510) 981-6600 regarding strange acting animals. 

• The following are protective measures that are necessary to prevent rabies in humans and domestic animals. 

Have dog(s) and cat(s) vaccinated against rabies. Vaccination and Licensing is required for all dogs 4 months of age and older. Dogs which are first vaccinated at one year of age or less must be revaccinated one year later. The interval for revaccination is three (3) years for older dogs. 

Confine dogs to property especially puppies less than four (4) months of age since they are not protected against rabies. Otherwise, if a dog is taken off the premises it must be on a leash. 

Report any animal bites of humans or any close contact between dogs or cats with skunks or bats or other wild animals to the City of Berkeley Animal Control Services at (510) 981-6600. 

Avoid wild animals or domestic animals which are strays or which run loose. Do not feed wild animals by hand. It is dangerous to attempt to feed, pet, or care for sick or injured animals. 

Do not attract skunks or raccoons with food! They will eat garbage, fruit, vegetables, and especially dog and cat food. Pet food left outside is a strong invitation to wildlife. Keep garbage cans covered with tight fitting lids. 

Do not provide shelter for skunks and other wild animals. Close all openings under your home and other buildings. Keep foundation vent screens in good repair. Eliminated piles of trash, rocks, wood, hollow logs, heavy growth of vegetation and other possible hiding places. 

If you require information regarding wild animals such as bats or skunks, please call the City of Berkeley Animal Control Services at (510) 981-6600, Monday through Sunday or Vector Control Services at (510) 981-5310, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. For after-hours emergencies, contact Dispatch at (510) 981-5900.


New: Hidden History—1983: Before the Invasion
A Reporter Visits Grenada and Disproves Ronald Reagan's Rabid Rhetoric

By Gar Smith
Monday October 28, 2013 - 09:27:00 PM

Thirty years ago, the US launched a vicious military attack on the small Caribbean island nation of Grenada. President Ronald Reagan claimed a new airport under construction was intended to provide Russian aircraft with a strategic base in the Americas. Reagan claimed a "submarine pen" was under construction. In March 1983, a reporter from Berkeley visited the site to investigate and uncovered evidence that exposed the Pentagon's claims as a fabrication -- a pretext for war. The assault on Grenada was to be the first of a long string of foreign invasions based on a foundation of official lies. 

POINT SALINAS, Grenada (March 30, 1983) — "I very much approve of the way your President Reagan is handling these troublemakers," the Caribbean businessman had said during a ride south from Trinidad's capitol, Port-of-Spain, "We thought your President Carter was too soft." 

He was speaking of leftist agitation in the region. A widely traveled executive, he had just returned to Trinidad after several years working in the airport industry in Barbados. One would expect him to share President Reagan’s concern over the new airport under construction on the island of Grenada. He didn't. 

"Genada is no danger," he laughs, "Let them be. If the US is worried about such things why doesn't it worry about Barbados? When I was there, I would see Cuban and Russian planes coming and going all the time. This is no secret here." 

Still, the President and Pentagon officials continue to warn that Grenada's new international airport is being built to accommodate Soviet and Cuban military moves in the Caribbean. Is the airport really a threat to regional stability? Or is it, as the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) of Grenada adamantly insists, simply intended to gain vital access to the lucrative tourist trade? 

I hopped a flight from Trinidad to the People’s Revolutionary Government to assess the supposed threat first-hand. The Grenada government had recently organized press tours to the airport construction site on the southwest tip of the island. I decided to go without an invitation. 

A Surprise Inspection  

It is a four-mile walk under a blazing Caribbean sun from the sugar mill in the hills above the sparkling Grand Anse Beach to the wave-wreathed promontory of Point Salines. And, while President Reagan has pictured Grenada as being caught in "the tightening grip of the totalitarian left," a visitor soon finds there is almost unlimited access to anyone to move across this island. 

On the crumbling asphalt road that threads through a desolate landscape of brush and cactus, one encounters nothing more intimidating than cattle dozing on the rutted pavement and goats munching moistly on patches of thistle. 

Suddenly, a siren wails and a violent explosion nearly knocks me off my feet. No, I’m not under attack. I soon realize the explosion is the result of airport construction workers dynamiting a mountainside. Over the top of the next rise the airport comes into view. 

It is a panorama of bustling activity. Dozens of plunging trucks raise pale banners of orange dust as they barrel past the blue waters of Black Bay. Dump trucks carrying tons of crushed rock careen down wide dirt roads. A dredge kicks up a tide of brown silt in the clear turquoise sea as it sucks up part of the four million cubic tons of sand, which will eventually fill in a stretch of water the size of four football fields. 

The construction site is completely open. No gates, no guards. 

I walk in from open country with a camera over my shoulder and pass among the crowd of Grenadian and Cuban workers with no more concern than if I were strolling down a street in the capitol of St. Georges. 

Stopping a passing Cuban, I joke in halting Spanish that I am "one North American who is not afraid of this airport." He laughs, clasps my shoulder and grins, "Venceremos!" Then he directs me toward the office of the Airport Site Manager. 

Meeting the Man behind the Airport Plan 

Ron Smith, the Grenada-born project manager is a large, genial man. Physically, he resembles filmmaker Frederico Fellini, but he speaks with the gentle brouge of the islands. Trained in Canada as a civil engineer, the silver-haired Smith is also the designer of the airport at St. Lucia. He scoffs at the US hysteria over his project. 

"This airport is the smallest size permitted under the rules of the International Civil Air Authority for tourism in a developing country," Smith objects. "The maximum length allowed is 3,000 meters. We are actually a bit shorter than the permissible maximum." In fact, the $71 million airfield is to extend only 2,740 meters (9,000 feet), which is about the same length as the airstrips on St. Lucia and Antigua. 

When asked about possible military use of this site, Smith waves his large hands across the view from his hilltop office. 

"Look around! There's no space for anything but a landing strip," he protests. A military base requires storage and hanger space, he says, but this runway is shoehorned into a narrow boot of land set gingerly between "a bloody hill and the water." 

Grenada's Airfield Poses No 'Strategic Military Threat' 

The setting is picturesque. From the perspective of an engineer, however, it is arduous. At one end of the proposed airfield, a handsome old stone lighthouse had to be razed. At the other end, a mountain is being blasted out of the way. In between, a salt pond and a huge bay must be replaced with landfill. (It has turned out that rubble from the dynamited hillsides is too porous to serve as fill so the lagoons are being filled with incompressible ocean sand drawn laboriously from around the island's cape.) 

When the airport is completed in early 1984, it will be one of the smallest in the Caribbean. "It will be capable of handling, at any one time, one 747, one 727 and five 20-seaters," Smith says. 

A fierce winds rattles the windows of his hilltop office as Smith pulls a reference book from his files and points to a list which shows that Trinidad, Antigua, St. Lucia, Curacao, Guadalupe, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic all have airports larger than the one being built in Grenada. Only the airports on Jamaica and Haiti are smaller. 

When completed, the new international airport will barely accommodate a 727 or a 747-100B commercial jetliner. It is doubtful that the runway could handle even a Cubana Airways Illyshin jet or a Tupolec TU-144 (Russia's version of the Concorde). On the other hand, it is possible for Soviet AN-22 "Cub" long-range heavy transports or MIG jet fighters to take off and land on such a modest runway. There is, however, no earthly reason why a Cub — with a range of 3,500 miles — would ever need such a stopover. MIG "Floggers" and "Foxbats" — whose range is limited to between 200-800 miles — would be even more isolated if placed in Grenada. 

In any event, all of these Soviet aircraft are perfectly capable of taking-off and landing from the existing 1,600-meter Pearls Airport on Grenada's eastern coast. 

The Airport's Purpose: Tourism, Not Terrorism 

Pentagon officials claim the international airport is not required by Grenada's "small tourist plant." Grenada's Minister of Tourism, Selwyn Strachan, disputes this. 

"For many years, the people here have wanted an airport," Strachan explained during a brief visit to the site. "The new airport will offer considerable convenience for visitors, traveling public and relations returning for family emergencies." 

Strachan cited a study commissioned by the Hotel Association that revealed that 90 out of every 100 potential visitors to Grenada tended to cancel out in Barbados due to the inconvenience of "substantially more expensive" necessity of making a further connecting flight into the old Pearls Airport. 

It is surprising to learn that Grenada's many handsome hotels have historically operated at only 30 percent capacity. This was true even during the regime of former Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy. There is a vast, unrealized potential in Grenada's "tourist plant." 

At a recent press conference, PRG Prime Minister Maurice Bishop spoke bitterly about the propaganda campaign that has damaged Grenada's tourist industry. "There have been stories in the press about military airports, submarine pens and harbors being built," he said. "One West German paper reported that we have cleared a forest for missiles aimed at neighboring islands! Another claimed Grenada had been hollowed out to make room for a hidden underground submarine base! Quite frankly," Bishop replies, "Grenada is so small that there's really no way of hiding such things." 

In a reference to American US spy photos purporting to show new Army buildings in Nicaragua, Bishop jokes, "You don't need photos from a million-dollar satellite from hundreds of miles up in space. A simple glance from any LIAT flight shows these stories are untrue. 

"Our best answer to this propaganda," Bishop adds, "is to ask people to come here, visit and see that Grenada is the most democratic, most stable country in the English -speaking Caribbean and also has the lowest rate of crime." 

Why Does Washington Fear 'Cuban Aid'? 

Bishop responded to another charge from Washington: the matter of Cuban aid in the building of the airstrip. "There have been no requests whatever to reciprocate, no demands made on foreign or domestic policy," he declared. In contrast, he noted, "It has been the United States that has been giving NO aid, that has been making ALL the requests and demands!" 

Some 250 Cuban workers — women and men‚ are housed in wooden barracks on the hillside. Another 360 Grenadians are also working on the airport and — surprisingly — nearly a dozen Americans employed by a Florida firm are pitching in by helping dredge Hardy Bay. 

Cuban music pulses from somewhere inside the dozen yellow barracks buildings while, on the road below, a series of billboards carries the message — "Gloria Eterna por los Martyrs de la Revolucion." The signs serve as a reminder of the recent death of a young Cuban worker, Roman Quintara, who was killed in the nearby quarry when his Komatsu tractor overturned, crushing him. 

This death touched many Grenadians deeply. A popular calypso was composed in Quintara's honor. At a party at the Prime Minister's house on the anniversary of the March 13 revolution, a young cooperative farmworker named Patrick, when challenged about the Cuban involvement, immediately speaks of Quintara. 

"The death of Ramon pains me deeply," he says, clutching at his shirt, his face twisted in anguish. "Please understand!" Patrick continues, “He didn't have to be out there. It was a Sunday but he had volunteered to work extra hours because he believed in the importance of his work for us." 

A visiting Black American from New York expresses surprise. "That would never happen in America," he jokes. "We'd insist on time-and-a half." 

"They are not working for money," Patrick replies impatiently. "They are working as our friends." 

The 25-year-old Blueprints that Exposed Reagan's Lie 

The dozen or so Americans working on the dredging rigs at Hardy Bay are loath to identify themselves. Not because they share Washington's presumed opinion that their work borders on treason — they can see first-hand the limitations of the Grenada airstrip — but because, as one airport official explained, "They are afraid of the anti-Castro terrorists who might try to sabotage their equipment. And they are worried about their families back in the States. Many of these men come from the Miami area." 

Returning to his office, Ron Smith offers a final repost to Washington's hysterical reaction to the Grenada airport. The plan is nothing new, Smith points out. "It has been under discussion for the last 25 years. There have been six different studies." Smith should know. He has worked on most of them. 

He pulls a grey binder down from a shelf and spreads it out on his desk. Inside is a map of Point Salines and, drawn over it, the plan of an airstrip nearly identical to the one now under construction. Smith stabs his finger at date on the document — February 1966. 

"It was so frustrating all those years, doing this work and seeing nothing done," Smith recalls. He confesses there is a special pleasure for him as a Grenadian, to return to this native country and oversee the development of this particular airport. After years of inaction under the Gairy government, he notes with a broad smile, the airport is finally being built. 

It is hoped that the first 5,000 feet of the new airport will be open by Spring of 1983. Until that day, Grenada will remain the only Caribbean nation without an international airport or night landing capability. This last factor has caused Grenada many cancellations and lost revenue. The importance of night-landing opportunities is not lost on Ron Smith. 

"When St. Lucia's airport added night lighting, the passenger load doubled," Smith says. While in St. Vincent, the addition of night lighting doubled passenger traffic in only two years. "There were only 19,000 tourists in 1977 but, by 1980, there were 44,000. That's very spectacular growth," he grins. 

As the Reagan Administration embarks on plans to spend $21 million to lease military airfields in Colombia and Honduras, it is instructive to recall that the largest military base in the Caribbean is located on the island of Cuba — and it is operated by the United States. Guantanamo Bay, "the Pearl Harbor of the Atlantic," sprawls over 28,000 acres. This single US base comprises a chunk of land that is nearly a third the size of the entire nation of Grenada. 

"Investment is the basis of development for our country," Grenada's Finance Minister Bernard Coard recently declared. Because of that, Coard noted, "that shining runway leads straight into real change and prosperity for all of us here." Equally important, Coard observed, is the fact that the airport is "a symbol of how much we can move and change." 

"Look how imperialism tried to take our airport from us; how they tried to sabotage its construction," Coard complained. America, he said, "spends all its money on more and more weapons of savagery and destruction — on neutron bombs and missiles. We do the opposite: We build, we construct. We are the makers of the future." 


Gar Smith, an award-winning Berkeley-based journalist, visited and reported from Grenada 30 years ago, both following the New Jewel Movement revolution and after the US invasion. Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War.


Opinion

Editorials

Debts Threaten to Halt Students' Education

By Becky O'Malley
Monday October 28, 2013 - 01:27:00 PM

The statistics about the student loan crisis are appalling enough, as many excellent articles attest.

A few samples: Student Loans Are Becoming a Drag on the US Economy ; Student Loan Defaults Surge To Highest Level In Nearly 2 Decades ; The Student Loan Debt Crisis in 9 Charts ; and more.

But even more appalling than the statistics are the stories. Ask around among your friends and acquaintances and you’ll soon discover a whole lot of young people who are saddled with debts that they didn’t expect or understand and which they can’t get out from under. 

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (Senator Elizabeth Warren’s excellent invention) has just released a report on dilemmas student borrowers are experiencing, saying that “private student loan borrowers face payment processing pitfalls that can lead to increased costs, prolonged repayments, and harm to their credit profiles.”  

“With limited options to refinance, many borrowers want to pay off loans where they are stuck in high rates,” says CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Rohit Chopra. “But too many borrowers have to run through an obstacle course to get their payments processed properly.” 

It’s a lot like what happened in the subprime mortgage crisis, but student borrowers are even less sophisticated than the buyers who were sold loans they couldn’t afford. Often they don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late to change their minds. Student loan debt is now about $1 trillion, more than credit card debt, twice what it was in 2007. 

I recently got a window into a host of particularly pernicious practices when a musician friend asked me if I could advise his son, also an excellent musician, a graduate of the Oakland School of the Arts and UC Berkeley’s late lamented Young Musicians’ Program who’s won many awards, about how he could change to a less expensive school. The father hoped that since I have a legal background I could help them through the thicket of rules that the young man had gotten entangled in. 

The son told me he’d been given a full tuition scholarship for his first year by a college in New York City which recruited him for its well-advertised and perhaps prestigious jazz program. When the first semester of his second year started, the school offered to pay part of the cost, but told him he’d have to come up with the balance. He enrolled for the first semester hoping he could find employment, but the recession made that impossible. He ended the semester $8,600 in arrears, an impossible amount for his family’s resources to cover, since his mother had been laid off from her job in the downturn. He wasn’t able to enroll for the second semester. 

And here’s the big problem: He can’t go on there. He can’t transfer to a less costly California school, even one which offers him a full scholarship, without providing his transcript, the official record of his grades from the expensive New York City private institution. But the school has put a “hold” on sending out his transcript until (or unless) he can find the money to pay off his bill.  

His father talks about taking out a loan to pay his son’s back bill in New York—the college is eager to facilitate this. But that would lead to long-term indebtedness at ruinous interest rates (see the articles linked above) and there’s another child to educate in the family, not to mention the usual: rent, transport, food on the table. So the young man’s education is stalled. 

Naïve old-school liberal that I am, I was sure that the college couldn’t get away with withholding his grades until he could pay up. But a cursory investigation showed that this is standard procedure at most schools. 

Promising young people with little experience in the world are routinely recruited by colleges and allowed or even encouraged to incur bills that they can’t pay—then they’re stuck with holds on their grades so they can’t transfer out. Asking around, I discovered another young man, a star high school football player, who was recruited by a junior college with a partial scholarship, but injuries took him off the team. Now he’s left with a back tuition bill he can’t cover. If he can’t find the money to pay his balance, his education is at an end. A couple of other kids I talked to had similar stories. 

I talked on background to a couple of financial aid officers, who took it for granted that scholarship students would be able to make substantial contributions to their expenses. One, at a University of California campus, said that students at her school are expected to come up with $8,600 a year out of their own pocket in addition to whatever financial aid they get. That must be some kind of magic threshold, since it’s exactly what the young musician owes his New York private school. But for many families in today’s weak economy, it’s just too much. 

Education is routinely touted as the solution to surviving the problems of this poor economy, but an education which burdens graduates, and especially those who can’t even afford to make it to graduation, with lifetime debt is a poor investment. 

So I haven’t yet been able to do much to help my young friend. All I’ve learned in my brief informal research into this topic is how much I don’t know about it. Senator Warren, among others, is working on the problem, but for today’s young people of student age like him, a long-term solution might come too late.  

Something needs to be done soon. Any ideas would be welcome. 

 

 

 

 


The Editor's Back Fence

Now Read This: Of Interest to Berkeley, in other media

Monday October 28, 2013 - 10:53:00 AM

Cartoons

Odd Bodkins: Sunday Service in the Holy Land (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Sunday October 27, 2013 - 02:53:00 PM

 

Dan O'Neill

 


Odd Bodkins: Roger Wingnut (Cartoon)

By Dan O'Neill
Sunday October 27, 2013 - 02:49:00 PM

 

Dan O'Neill

 


Public Comment

Equations of Peace
An Iranian Woman’s View on How to Integrate a Divided Globe (Mathematically Speaking)

By Zeinab Bandpey
Monday October 28, 2013 - 12:37:00 PM
Zeinab Bandpey
Zeinab Bandpey

غلام همت انم که زیر چرخ کبود ز هر چه رنگ تعلق پذیرد آزادم

In March, as a female mathematician, skilled astronomer and noted professor left her university near Cairo, a mob surrounded her. They attacked and brutally killed her, burning her body. The thought of a woman engaging in philosophy and mathematics so outraged local religious leaders that there was no penalty for her killer.

This happened 1,500 years ago, but even today, religious issues, ethnic prejudices, and political divisions have historically prevented the progress of women in science and society in general.  

Recently I needed to find a book for my research in mathematics, Introduction to Lattices and Order, by H.A. Priestley, a professor at Oxford University, but I am unable to get it easily, if at all, because of sanctions against my home country, Iran: Many websites that ship books online do not mail to Iran, and someone even told my American collaborator that he could wind up in a cell just for communicating with me. 

This is a shame, because Professor Priestley’s book is actually one that would help foster the kind of culture the American government should like to see in Iran, and elsewhere: H.A. Priestley is that rare creature, a prominent female mathematician. 

Of course, politics and religion have adversely affected male mathematicians, too: I was told that the Iranian logician Jamshid Derakshan, who started a doctorate at Oxford University at age 17, originally wanted to attend UC Berkeley, but was not allowed to enter America. And the UC Berkeley mathematician Edward Frenkel, who became a professor of mathematics at Harvard at age 21, describes how he could not get into one university in Russia because of anti-Semitism. But female mathematicians can face additional barriers. 

Mathematics has always been my passion and ambition since I was a child. It has always occupied most of my time and I never had any desire in my life other than to be a mathematics researcher. In chasing my passion, I tried so hard and got admitted to the university. It is difficult in Iran. 

We have to compete in a comprehensive entrance examination in which millions of people participate. This is held only once a year for about 5 hours. Anyone who gets a higher percentage can study in a better university. Fortunately I could study in one of the top ten universities in Iran. During my studies, I have been repeatedly confronted with the kinds of issues you can imagine and some you might not, for example, related to my hair. They bothered me, very much, but they could never stop me from achieving my goals. 

In 2005, the president of Harvard University gave his own thoughts concerning why “Professor Priestleys” are so rare, why are there no women amongst the winners of the Fields Medal, which since 1954 has been considered the Nobel Prize of mathematics: 90% of the winners of international Olympiads in mathematics, physics and chemistry are male and 98% of Nobel laureates in physics. Such statistics may lead one to believe that men are more talented than women in mathematics. 

Hypatia, the mathematician from Egypt, might posit otherwise. 

Researchers of the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the United States examined the level of knowledge and performance of students in different countries and compared math scores of male and female students. In Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand, there is practically no difference between boys and girls in terms of mathematical skills and talents. So the biological thesis is refuted. 

Researchers who have studied standardized test results country by country have found that the gender gap in mathematics is much smaller─or non-existent─in societies that benefit from more gender equality. For example, Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand are amongst the top seven countries in the world in terms of gender equality. 

I urge you to close your eyes and imagine a world in which women of different colors and nationalities, regardless of any restrictions due to religious and ethnic prejudice and the political war of governments, are able to work on mathematical matters. A world where the number of women in mathematics is not less than the number of men. Imagine a world where a human being can travel anywhere with ease, acquire any book, in order to do research. Imagine equations of peace. 

This dream excites me not just because I use my mathematics to analyze, and thus hopefully help prevent, terrorism, but also because of a program called Equations of Peace that brings together female mathematicians from cultures and countries that seem far apart because of religious or political divisions. We can indeed use mathematics and science, as U.S. President Barack Obama has suggested, to bridge the divide between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.  

For my part, I am doing my best to conduct research and continue my education in a prominent international university, and also I will do my best to attract more women into the field of mathematics. 

Perhaps Danica McKellar, an advocate for women in mathematics, will take advantage of the recent thaw in Iranian-American relations, and come as an ambassador to my university in Iran, to echo the words of the Persian poets Hafez and Saadi. 

The rise of women’s rights will result in both boys and girls being more gifted in math in coming generations. This will benefit both men and women, thus our world, as a whole. 

وا ماندگی اندر پس دیوار طبیعت 

حیف است دریغا که در صلح بهشتیم 

چون مرغ بر این کنگره تا کی بتوان خواند؟ 

یک روز نگه کن بر این کنگره خشتیم 

ما را عجب از پشت پناهی بود آن روز 

که امروز کسی را نه پناهیم و نه پشتیم... 

 

Ms. Zeinab Bandpey is the co-author of “Rough Sets Applied in Sublattices and Ideals of Lattices.”


New: Irony Abounds

By Larry Jones
Monday October 28, 2013 - 09:23:00 PM

I was struck by two articles in the current issue (10/28/13). First was The Public Eye: The Politics of Hate which details the paranoia as well as forces behind the extreme right's political views and activities. On the other hand we had One Nation, Under Guard: How the Pentagon Trains for Martial Law in America. It presents the extreme left's paranoia. Both of these dystopian, if factually correct views, reflect the division and extremism that seems to be more and more common worldwide.  

Whether it be the extreme right and left, Shia and Sunni extremists, the divisions with the Balkans or any of a number of other polarities that afflict the world. I'm reminded of the old song, "Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it creeps, it starts when you're always afraid, step out of line and they'll take you away." It seems like maybe it's time for all of us to take a few deep breaths and start talking to each other instead of at each other.


New: NSA Spying

By Tejinder Uberoi
Sunday October 27, 2013 - 05:24:00 PM

The diplomatic fallout of NSA spying continues. Last month, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil cancelled a state visit after news reports that the N.S.A. had intercepted messages her messages and had conducted espionage on the state oil company, Petrobras. The German newsmagazine, Der Spiegel, revealed the NSA had gained access to communications to and from President Felipe Calderón of Mexico when he was still in office. The French newspaper, Le Monde disclosed that a large number of French citizens private communications had been captured by the NSA. 

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor appears to be the latest victim. These invasive intelligence gathering exercises has severely tarnished our nation’s image. More revelations are likely. Ebay founder, Pierre Omidyar is planning to build a media platform to publicize new details of Edward Snowden’s cache of documents. The spying activities of the NSA echo the worst excesses of Nazi and Communist governments which we have always excoriated. The NSA continues to make doubtful claims of thwarting terrorist attacks, the details which can never be revealed under the guise of protecting National Security – how convenient! This is a government agency that has been overfunded and has escaped any meaningful government oversight. 

It is time for James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, to resign failing which President Obama should have him fired. He has lied to members of Congress, to the American people and to our allies.  


New: Gun-Related Deaths

By Romila Khanna
Sunday October 27, 2013 - 05:23:00 PM

Is there a way of dealing with conflicts so that gun violence becomes unnecessary? Often people will not stop to consider someone else’s point of view. But while we undergo training in finding common ground even with our adversaries, we can create a kind of time out. Let us stop gun exhibits and enforce gun control laws strictly. 

It breaks my heart to hear each day about deaths related to gun. I feel for our communities which shed tears each day because their dear ones are killed in a school, or a movie theater or a shopping mall. It is shocking to discover that even a ten year old can get a gun to kill someone in a public school. It is important that all students be screened for mental illness before they enter a school but until the whole population of students is examined by health care providers we must enforce gun control laws strictly. 

We shouldn’t continue to support gun manufacturers only because they have a powerful lobby. Let us make a practice of decrease tensions a part of high school education all over the nation. We cannot afford any longer to resolve conflicts through the barrel of a gun.


Non-profit Developers Scheme to Grab Section 8 Vouchers and Public Housing

By Lynda Carson
Thursday October 24, 2013 - 08:43:00 PM

Local non-profit so-called affordable housing developers including Affordable Housing Associates, Resources for Community Development, and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation have teamed up with local and national organizations that are pushing for Rental Assistance Reform (RAR) legislation to be passed in the House and Senate, that is harmful to the poor.

The non-profit organizations are pushing for rental assistance reform (RAR) legislation that will result in fewer Section 8 housing choice vouchers for the poor, higher rents for public housing residents, and the acceleration of the privatization of conventional public housing projects into privatized mixed-income residential housing developments for higher income renters. Developments that are being promoted by so-called non-profit and for profit affordable housing developers who want to get their hands on public housing properties locally, and all across the nation. 

If lawmakers cave in to the pressures of the so-called affordable housing industry, the impact of RAR will result in more Section 8 housing choice vouchers being taken away from low-income renters in Oakland and all across the nation, so that they can be converted into project-based vouchers to fund so-called affordable housing projects for wealthy developers. 

Currently under federal law, each Public Housing Authority (3,300 PHAs nation wide) is allowed to grab as much as 20% of the funding granted to them that is meant to be used for Section 8 housing choice vouchers for low-income renters, and convert the funding for use as project-based vouchers. Project-based vouchers that wealthy non-profit and for profit so-called affordable housing developers can use to fund their projects. 

The so-called affordable housing industry wants RAR legislation to be passed that would allow all 3,300 PHAs to convert a whopping 25% of their Section 8 housing choice vouchers, into project-based vouchers for the wealthy so-called affordable housing developers and their projects. This is 5% more than what is currently allowed under federal law, and would be a great hardship on low-income Section 8 housing choice voucher holders. 

This means that hundreds of thousands of low-income renters may be at risk of losing the funding for their Section 8 housing choice vouchers, because wealthy so-called non-profit and for profit developers want more project-based vouchers to fund their projects. 

In California alone, during 2011 when Governor Jerry Brown put more than 400 redevelopment agencies out of business, the so-called multi-billion dollar affordable housing industry began looking for other funding sources to continue it's empire building. The industry decided on grabbing as much conventional public housing property as possible, and wants to loot the Section 8 housing choice voucher program for more project-based vouchers. 

The so-called affordable housing industry is pushing for RAR legislation to be passed in the House and Senate as soon as possible and it may be tucked away inside legislation heading for Congress as soon as December 13, 2013. 

RAR is a trojan horse of stealth legislation that was created under the guise of helping the poor, but actually promotes higher rents for poor people in public housing and the Section 8 housing choice voucher program, and scales back itemized deductions for medical and child care used by the poor for rent reductions in those programs. 

If passed into legislation RAR would also set "flat rates" for higher income public housing tenants closer to market levels. In total the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that poor people in public housing and the Section 8 voucher program would pay about $1.75 billion more in rent over a five year period because of the loss of itemized deductions for medical and child care, in addition to the major rent increases that would be imposed on public housing tenants. 

Another aspect of RAR if passed into law, it would change federal law so that higher income families would be assisted by the nation's federal housing assistance programs. Presently 75 percent of vouchers and 40 percent of project-based Section 8 and public housing units must be allocated to households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the local median income when they enter the program. RAR would instead require that those vouchers and units go to households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the local median or the federal poverty line, whichever is higher. By subsidizing the rents of higher income renters instead of low-income renters, the CBO estimates that the change would raise rent revenues and cut program costs by $1.12 billion over five years, because families admitted into the programs could afford somewhat higher rents. 

RAR also supports the Rental Assistance Demonstration program (RAD) that accelerates the privatization of conventional public housing, and tests the conversion of public housing and Section 8 moderate rehabilitation units to project-based vouchers or Section 8 project-based rental assistance, and allows similar conversions of units from the Rent Supplement and Rental Assistance Payment programs. 

On Sept. 24, 2013 in San Francisco, Poor Magazine, the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, Causa Justa/Just Cause, POWER and WRAP united for an emergency STOP THE ILLEGAL SELLING OF OUR HOUSING EQUITY, STOP THE RAD press conference, on the steps of City Hall in protest against RAD. 

Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Housing Authority want to privatize as many as 3,000 public housing units out of 6,054 public housing units, and hand over their day-to-day operations to some very eager non-profit housing developers. The so-called affordable housing developers are drooling at the thought of how many fortunes could be made by grabbing as many public housing units as possible for privatization, while displacing the poor with their major renovation projects that eventually will result in new gentrified housing projects for higher income, and middle class renters. 

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan was in San Francisco on Sept. 24, to promote RAD while people protested against RAD at City Hall, and Donovan signed off on Mayor Ed Lee's scheme to privatize the public housing projects of San Francisco. 

Oddly, the latest continuing resolution (CR) signed into law by President Barack Obama early morning October 17 to end the government shutdown contained an anomaly that extended the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) project through January 14, 2014. It was the sole anomaly in the CR for HUD. 

RAR also seeks to create more Moving-To-Work (MTW) demonstration Public Housing Authorities, and seeks to give some of the 33 existing MTWs more flexibility. 

Authorized by Congress in 1996, the Moving To Work (MTW) demonstration program was created for a limited number of PHAs to try out new and different ways to save money, and find cheaper methods to deliver housing services. However, MTWs have morphed into agencies that are becoming notorious for abusing the funding from Congress. Funding that was meant to assist the poor. 

During April 2012, HUD was under fire by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), that ridicules any assertions by HUD that an MTW's activities can be evaluated properly. 

The GAO is an investigative arm of Congress with the power to examine matters related to the receipt and use of funding by Congress, and the GAO believes that MTWs are not regulated enough to properly evaluate how they are operating. 

As was reported by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), during a March 29 oversight hearing of THUD and DOT programs in Washington D.C., that HUD Inspector General David Montoya (IG) publicly criticized the Public Housing Authority of Philadelphia, as an example of the corruption of MTWs. 

Inspector General David Montoya stated that the PHA in Philadelphia is an MTW demonstration program that was legally allowed to use $1.1 million of it's funding to fight against the oversight of the IG's office, and was allowed to use money to hire outside legal counsel to shadow "IG staff" that were auditing the housing authority, when it could have used the money on housing the poor instead. 

RAR may be tucked away inside legislation heading for Congress as soon as December 13, 2013. 

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule@yahoo.com 

Click below to see what the GAO has to say about demonstration Moving-To-Work (MTW) housing authorities... 

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-490 

>>>>>> 

Below is a small list of more organizations that support Rental Assistance Reform RAR... 

• Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

• Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force 

• Corporation for Supportive Housing 

• Council for Affordable and Rural Housing 

• Council of Large Public Housing Authorities 

• Enterprise Community Partners 

• Institute of Real Estate Management 

• LeadingAge 

• Local Initiatives Support Corporation 

• National Affordable Housing Management Association 

• National Alliance to End Homelessness 

• National Apartment Association 

• National Association of Home Builders 

• National Council of State Housing Agencies 

• National Housing Trust 

• National Leased Housing Association 

• National Low-Income Housing Coalition 

• National Multi Housing Council 

• Public Housing Authorities Directors Association 

• Stewards for Affordable Housing for the Future


Albany Landfill Evictions Affect Berkeley

By Daniel J. McMullan III
Thursday October 24, 2013 - 08:28:00 PM

In 1999 I was asked by some of the then long time residents of the Albany landfill to come out to the bulb and advocate for those who were being evicted, some them after living there for over 10 years or more.

At the time the City of Albany had no services whatsoever for the homeless and their only design, that became very clear by the end, was to dump their homeless problem on the City of Berkeley. The residents of the landfill then as they are today came from places all over the state and country.

I watched the City of Berkeley spend 100's of thousands if not millions of dollars on the people they ejected from the landfill, most of whom eventually died on our streets. With the help of a non-profit they paid a nominal $13,000 they shifted their responsibility to their homeless to Berkeley. 

Now they are in the process of doing it again. In the 14 years since the last big dump upon our City, Albany has done nothing. Still not a single penny has been spent on any program or plan to deal with its homeless.(Unless you want to count the very recent plan to put it's responsibilities on the backs of the Berkeley taxpayer) 

To keep the heat off themselves they permitted their homeless to occupy the landfill again but now they want to pull another people dump at our expense. Every item in their plan is the same except that this time instead of employing conservation corps members to tear out the foliage. They have employed goats. I like goats and to use these noble creatures to serve their hateful plan is very disturbing. 

Albany has already hired a willing Berkeley non-profit to do their fakery. And the rest of their non-plan is rolling along. I ask the Mayor and City council to direct the City attorney to put a stop to this in and by any and all means available to us. 

We have been hard at work with our own responsibilities,The Homeless Task Force, the revitalization of our SRO's and creating movement in that system among many, many other things.) And now Albany wants to throw another 70+ people on our streets and into our programs and services? 

Albany has one plan. One Action 

Dump all its problem's and expenses on us, on Berkeley.


It Ain’t Rocket Science: It’s Housing

By Carol Denney
Thursday October 24, 2013 - 08:37:00 PM

One can hardly blame Albany for electing not to house its homeless, not to square up its 1999 obligations to the Bay Area Governments’ Housing Needs Plan, and for spending $330,000 not on housing subsidies but on police, clearing vegetation and belongings, and inaccessible trailers for a few people for a few months who have lived for years at the Albany Bulb landfill. Why not? The city of Berkeley and the media are more than willing to describe it all as benign, humane, and just part of making the Bulb a nice park. 

Berkeley’s city-funded Food and Housing Project is offering “services” during the eviction period. Why would Berkeley support the wholesale eviction of the Bulb’s poor, especially when the probability is strong they will end up in Berkeley’s doorways, railway beds, and parks? Because it “works” in Berkeley. 

There isn’t a park in Berkeley that doesn’t transform into an open air shelter late at night for those discrete enough with their belongings to manage not to telegraph their presence. There are alleyways and cul-de-sacs all over town which are understood to be a more acceptable option for people with no housing options than an Occupy tent, and tolerated as lodging until they’re discovered, or until someone complains. 

Whole families are chased from one place to another while trying to stay sane and out of the rain. People with severe injuries and disabilities are expected to navigate busy streets and keep track of severely limited hours to access “services.” This is Berkeley’s approach to poverty, homelessness, and housing after giving up even the paltry “inclusionary” housing approach which never honestly met the community’s human needs in the first place. 

The San Francisco Chronicle hosted an article by Mary L.G. Theroux after Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the inclusionary housing bill AB1229, claiming that Brown was drawing on his first-hand experience with such proposals: "As mayor of Oakland, I saw how difficult it can be to attract development to low and middle-income communities. Requiring developers to include below-market units in their projects can exacerbate these challenges…” 

Well, of course. If you offer a roomful of developers the choice between making boatloads of money on a project for the well-off and a less lucrative project for low-income people, it ain’t rocket science which they’ll choose. But Berkeley has another choice; calling for Albany to be realistic in providing low-income or no-income people honest housing options rather than criminalizing the state of homelessness and joblessness, and setting an example. 

If people in Berkeley are content to attend “Why Wine Matters” workshops while walking past homeless people on the streets, if the hypocrisy of Berkeley’s approach to homelessness goes unchallenged, then look forward to the approximately 70 people, almost the exact number once housed by the still unreplaced 77 units in the arson-destroyed Berkeley Inn so many years ago, to greet you from a nearby doorway.


The Sierra Club and the Albany Bulb

By Lydia Gans
Thursday October 24, 2013 - 08:17:00 PM

The backlash against the Sierra Club for joining with Citizens for East Shore Parks in lobbying to incorporate the Bulb into East Shore State Park is not surprising. The San Francisco Bay Chapter, in the May issue of their newspaper, the Yodeler, states the rationale for their action. It gives a very troubling image of the group. The story is titled “Changing the Albany Bulb – creating a bright spot on the East Bay Shoreline”. Apparently in order to “create a bright spot” the first step requires evicting the people who are camping there, people for whom the Bulb is their home. Why is this Sierra Club chapter participating in evicting people? The mission of the Sierra Club is the maintenance and protection of the environment for the enjoyment of the people. It does not mean only certain people, only the“right kind” of people. 

In going over some of the Bulb history, the Yodeler article says; “In the 1990's people started camping illegally on the Bulb, and in 1999 the city and the Park District removed that camper population, but the land was again left unprotected …” From what, or from whom did the land need to be protected? From people who cared for it as their home, who planted trees, made trails, worked at mitigating rebar and concrete hazards on the site? Protected from people who created works of art out of found materials, set up and operated a free lending library? 

Over the years the police occasionally sent homeless people from the streets out to the Bulb but otherwise the city of Albany pretty much ignored the camp. Some churches and community organizations and local citizens who enjoyed the place regularly brought food and supplies to the campers. The Sierra Club never took an interest in them. Other than contract with Berkeley Food And Housing Project to provide “Outreach and Engagement” the city has done nothing for the campers. Albany has no homeless shelters and apparently little or no affordable housing – only one of the 60 or so campers has been housed. 

One might ask the question, why now? Why do the Sierra Club and Citizens for East Shore Parks demand the Bulb incorporated into the Park at this time? The Bulb juts out from the shoreline and would not be an integral part of the Park nor would any section of the Bay trail go through the Bulb. With a few amenities such as toilets and running water and possibly some help in getting rid of the rebar and concrete it could continue to serve as a campground - at least until Albany can provide proper housing for homeless.


Columns

New: DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Torpedoing the Iran Nuclear Talks

By Conn Hallinan
Monday October 28, 2013 - 09:18:00 PM

As the U.S. and its allies prepare for another round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, powerful and wealthy opponents—from the halls of Congress to Middle East capitals—are maneuvering to torpedo them. At stake is the real possibility of a war with consequences infinitely greater than the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

When the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany—the so-called “P5+1—sit down with Iran’s negotiators in Geneva on Nov. 7, those talks will be shadowed by an alliance of hawkish U.S. Congress members, an influential Israeli lobby, and a new regional alliance that upends traditional foes and friends in the Middle East. 

The fact that the first round of talks on Oct.15 was hailed by Iran and the P5+1 as “positive” has energized opponents of the negotiations, who are moving to block any attempts at softening international sanctions against Teheran, while at the same time pressing for a military solution to the conflict. 

Current international sanctions have halved the amount of oil Iran sells on the international market, blocked Teheran from international banking, and deeply damaged the Iranian economy. The worsening economic conditions are the backdrop for the recent election of pragmatist Hassan Rowhani as president of Iran. Hassan’s subsequent efforts to move away from the confrontational politics of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears a signal that Iran wants to peacefully resolve a crisis that has heightened tensions in the region and led to everything from the assassination of Iranian scientists to the world’s first cyber war. 

The central issue is whether Iran is constructing a nuclear weapon in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a charge Teheran denies. Iran is a NPT signatory and UN inspectors regularly monitor the country’s civilian power plants and nuclear facilities. Enhanced fuel is required for civilian power plants and medical research, but it is also an essential ingredient in a nuclear weapon. Iran enhances some of its fuel to 20 percent. Bomb fuel must be 90 percent pure. 

While no one claims Iran has a nuclear weapon, Teheran’s has been less than candid about all its activities and critics charge that Iran is preparing to build one. But the Iranians say that secrecy is necessary—four of their nuclear scientists were assassinated by Israeli agents, and their nuclear industry was severely damaged by a joint Israeli-US cyber attack. 

The upcoming negotiations will try to find common ground, but there are actors in this drama whose agenda have less to do with nuclear weapons than the shifting balance of power in the Middle East. The coalition opposed to a peaceful resolution of the current crisis is a combination of traditional hawks and strange bedfellows. 

On the U.S. side are the usual suspects. 

There are the neo-conservatives who pressed so hard to invade Iraq, including former UN ambassador John Bolton, who recently called for Israel to attack Iran, former Pentagon analyst Matthew Kroenig, Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute, and historian Niall Ferguson. 

They are joined by congressional hawks ranging from the traditional “we never saw a war we didn’t like” types—Republican Senator Lindsay Graham who plans to introduce a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iran—to Democrats, like liberal Ron Wyden, co-sponsor of a bill that would urge the U.S. to aid Israel militarily if Tel Aviv attacked Teheran. 

A similar cast of characters helped sink a 2010 Brazilian-Turkish peace initiative that would have sent Teheran’s enhanced fuel to a third country. 

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is lobbying Congress in an effort to constrain the Obama administration’s negotiating options, and encouraging the Senate to pass a bill that would essentially prevent Iran from selling any of its oil. Many in the Congress have adopted the Israeli government’s demand that Iran dismantle much of its nuclear industry and agree to end all enhancement activities, two things Teheran will almost certainly refuse to do. 

While enhancement is not specifically mentioned in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Article IV of the document guarantees the right “to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy,” which treaty signers have long interpreted as the right to produce fuel for civilian nuclear power 

The Israeli government and its American supporters demand an end to enhancement, a demand that would throw a monkey wrench into the negotiations. So far the Obama administration has remained silent on the issue, although back in 2009 then Senator, and now Secretary of State, John Kerry told the Financial Times that demanding Iran end enhancement was “ridiculous.” 

U.S. opponents of any deal that is not an abject surrender by Teheran are the same old, same old, but not so in the Middle East, where a newly formed alliance is mobilizing to derail the nuclear talks: the Gulf monarchies, Egypt, and Israel. 

The linchpin of this new alliance is Saudi Arabia and Israel, and their target is any rapprochement between Washington and Teheran. According to UPI, “secret meetings between Israeli and Arab intelligence chiefs” and other “senior officials” have been held in Jordan for several years. Their aim, according to Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, is to destabilize the so-called “Shiite crescent,” the “strategic arc that extends from Teheran, to Damascus to Beirut.” The Shiite-dominated government of Iraq, currently under siege by Sunni extremists, is also in the cross hairs. 

The new alliance cut its diplomatic teeth on the recent military coup in Egypt. According to investigative reporter Robert Perry, “While Saudi Arabia assured the coup regime a steady flow of money and oil, the Israelis went to work through their lobby in Washington to insure that President Barack Obama and Congress would not declare the coup a coup and thus trigger a cutoff of U.S. military aid.” 

The Saudis are also stepping up their support for anti-government insurgents in Syria and fomenting sectarian trouble in Lebanon. If the alliance is successful it will cement a military-backed authoritarian regime in Egypt, set Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq aflame with sectarian warfare, and sabotage any agreement between the U.S. and Iran. 

While the alliance between Saudi Arabia and Israel initially seems an odd one, in fact both countries have similar strategic goals. Both support the overthrow of the Assad regime, both want to weaken Shiite-based Hezbollah in Lebanon, both want to see the minority Iraqi Sunnis back in charge, and both view Iran as a threat. 

The Saudis and their allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council—the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and new members Jordan and Morocco—fear domestic unrest, and see the Arab Spring as a direct threat to their monarchal governments. While all these countries have militaries, they are mainly for quelling internal dissent. The last time the Saudis took the field, they got beat up by the rag-tag Houthi in northern Yemen. 

The Gulf Cooperation Council may field inept armies, but they have lots of cash. And if it comes to muscle, who better to provide it than the Israelis, the most powerful and competent army in the region? While the U.S. seems to backing away from using force against Iran, the Netanyahu government has sharply escalated its anti-Iran rhetoric. Israel recently began a series of war games built around long distance bombing raids, the kind that would be required to attack Iran. 

The Iranians appear to want a settlement, but not one that looks like capitulation. The Obama administration’s positive comments following the last round of talks suggest that Washington would like a way out as well. Key to this is ratcheting down some of the sanctions, but Congressional hawks are trying to poison the well by increasing sanctions and resisting any efforts to ease them. 

A study late last year found that unless Washington and its allies ease sanctions, Iran is not likely to curb any of its nuclear programs. And this spring a bi-partisan panel of former U.S. officials and experts argued that sanctions are increasingly counterproductive. 

Countering the anti-Iran alliance will not be easy, but Washington’s reluctance to start another war in the Middle East reflects anti-war sentiment at home. The hawks may want a war, but they will find little support for it among Americans. A CBS/New York Times poll found that Americans overwhelmingly support negotiations, are not eager for war, and are evenly split about coming to Tel Aviv’s aid in the advent of an Israeli attack.  

AIPAC is influential, but it hardly represents all American Jews, who tend to support Israel, but not if it means a war with Iran. While AIPAC was trumpeting Netanyahu’s characterization of Rowhani as a “sheep in wolf’s clothing,” the liberal Jewish lobby J Street hailed him as a “potentially hopeful sign,” and opposes a military attack on Iran. 

The new Middle East alliance has alienated Turkey, which still plays a pivotal, if somewhat diminished, role in the region. If the U.S. were to reach out to Russia, and try to pull Turkey into the process, that tripartite grouping would constitute a counterbalance to the monarchies and Israel, and move the region away from the growing power of the sectarian groups and the looming danger of yet another war. 


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

 

 


THE PUBLIC EYE: The Politics of Hate

By Bob Burnett
Friday October 25, 2013 - 02:36:00 PM

In 2008, I was in line to hear Barack Obama’s Denver acceptance speech when I encountered protestors holding signs: “God Hates Obama.” I told them I didn’t believe in a God of hate and one of the protestors yelled back, “And God hates you!” It was my introduction to the politics of hate that has characterized the Republican Party for the last five years. 

To level set, I suffered through eight years of the Bush presidency. I disagreed with Dubya and found many of his tactics contemptible. But I never hated him. That’s true for most of us out here on the Left Coast. We disagree with Republicans but we don’t hate them. As a consequence, the venom spewed by the right mystifies us. Why are Republicans so angry? 

There are several possible explanations. 

They’re afraid. The latest Gallup Poll found that only 20 percent of Americans identify as Republicans. When you include leaners, the number increased to 38 percent. 

Recently, pollster Stan Greenberg’s Democracy Corps published Inside the GOP which divided Republicans into three groups: Evangelicals, Tea-Party members, and moderates. Greenberg observed, “Evangelicals are a third of the Republican base” and “Tea Party enthusiasts form just over a fifth of the base Republican voters… [They] are cheered on for the moment by the Evangelicals.” Thus, Evangelical Republicans are roughly 12 percent of the electorate and Tea-Party enthusiasts are 8 percent. They’re the angry 20 percent. 

Greenberg conducted homogenous focus groups of Evangelicals, Tea-Party members, and moderates. He found, “Barack Obama and Obamacare is a racial flashpoint for many Evangelical and Tea Party voters.” “They have an acute sense they are white in a country that is becoming increasingly ‘minority’.” 

Another explanation is that Republicans believe they hold a losing hand and they are bitter. According to the Greenberg report, “Republicans think [Obama] has won.” A common term used to describe him was “liar.” While all Republicans see Obama as a champion of big government, Evangelicals and Tea Party supporters believe he is pursuing a socialist agenda. “Running through these reactions to Obama is a sense of him being foreign, non-Christian, Muslim…” 

Sadly, Republican stalwarts don’t realize they are being manipulated. The Tea Party wasn’t a spontaneous populist uprising. A recent study found that “front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party.” A New Yorker article by Jane Mayer detailed the formation of the Koch brothers political empire, “Kochtopus.” She wrote that Charles and David Koch “are out to destroy progressivism.” One observer called them “the billionaires behind the hate.” 

Kochtopus has a broad agenda. They are at the epicenter of climate science denial. “The Kochs have given millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that criticize environmental regulation and support lower taxes for industry.” They started the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, and helped fund the Heritage foundation. More recently they started the Mercatus Center, “ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington,” and launched the Tea Party through groups like “Citizens for a Sound Economy, “”Freedomworks,” and “Americans for Prosperity.” (In Texas, they helped launch Ted Cruz through the organization, “Texas Defending the American Dream.”) 

Angry Republicans are being manipulated by extremists. The Koch brothers are devotees of Robert LeFevre a radical thinker who favored abolition of the Federal system. What unites the Tea Party activists and the Republican Evangelicals is their desire to bring down the US government. Journalist Deborah Caldwell observed that “Christian Reconstructionism” seeks “to eradicate the US government so that a theocratic Christian nation emerges to enforce biblical laws.” The leader of Christian Reconstructionism is Gary North. His close associates include former congressman Ron Paul and Texas pastor Rafael Cruz, the father of Senator Ted Cruz. (There’s a clear tie between Senator Cruz and the Koch brothers.) 

It doesn’t help that Republicans are extraordinarily gullible. They thought Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. They believed Sara Palin was a credible Vice-presidential candidate. Then they thought Barack Obama was a Muslim who had not been born in the United States. Now they deny the reality of global climate change and the damage that would have been caused by not raising the debt ceiling. The list of Republican misbeliefs goes on and on. 

Most important, Republicans are being manipulated by whackos. Men whose beliefs are far outside American norms. Fourteen years ago it was Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Now it’s the Koch brothers and Gary North. Charles Koch has been associated with holocaust deniers. Another holocaust denier is Gary North

Whatever the reason for GOP anger, Republican hate politics aren’t going to go away anytime soon. Until there’s comprehensive campaign finance reform, Americans are not going to be able to diminish the influence of big political donors – no matter how radical, no matter how hateful. 


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


ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Atypical Antipsychotic Medications

By Jack Bragen
Thursday October 24, 2013 - 08:39:00 PM

Prior to the invention of atypical antipsychotic medications, people took older meds such as Thorazine, Haldol, Stelazine, Navane, and Prolixin--most of these came into existence beginning in the 1950's. The older drugs had some nasty side effects. The atypical ones have side effects as well. 

Atypical antipsychotic medications got their name from their proponents' assertions that the side effects of these drugs are less severe in comparison to older medicines. 

Some examples of atypical antipsychotic medications include Risperdal, Olanzapine, Seroquel, Abilify and Closaril. These were first marketed in the early 1990's and later. The newer medications are better in some ways compared to the older ones, and worse in other ways. 

After taking Prolixin for nearly eighteen years, and since being changed to atypical antipsychotic medications fifteen years ago or so, my condition has improved in some ways and has worsened in others. 

Atypical antipsychotic medications have a more profound effect on brain function compared to the older medications, and yet people can usually tolerate them better, at least in the short term. 

Many psychiatrists favor Clozaril as the magic bullet, believing that it helps people who are helped by no other medication. In the last fifteen years, I have been offered Clozaril quite a few times. In a small percentage of patients, it causes agranulocytosis, which is anemia of white blood cells. For this reason a biweekly blood test accompanies taking Clozaril. That was the main reason why I refused that drug. I feel it would be too much discomfort and inconvenience to have my blood tested all the time. Clozaril also has other side effects. I was told by one person who takes it that it causes bedwetting. 

Zyprexa is another atypical antipsychotic, which I actually take. It has caused me to gain a great deal of weight, and it has caused me to become classified as diabetic. And yet, I still take the stuff. What choice do I have? Its either take Zyprexa, take something similar to it that has similar problems, or else, suffer from symptoms of severe psychosis--an unacceptable option. One person remarked, "Everything tastes good on Zyprexa," referring to the increase in appetite that it causes. 

I tried some other antipsychotics, some of which gave me side effects that made me suffer horribly. Meanwhile, some other medications I tried were ineffective at treating my symptoms. 

Many experts have said that "atypical" antipsychotics should not be called that. Despite initial claims to the contrary, they do in fact have the same side effects as do the older classes of drugs, and more. 

One of these side effects is called, "Tardive Dyskinesia." This refers to involuntary movements of the tongue, face, neck and upper body. Perhaps you have seen someone like this. At the time, you may have thought this person was some kind of freak. In fact, they are a person who bravely cooperated with psychiatric treatment and who is now suffering. 

(Another side effect of antipsychotic medication is called "neuroleptic malignant syndrome." This is a sometimes fatal reaction to a medication characterized, among other things, by muscle rigidity and fever. A patient is less likely to die from this when it is caught early and treated aggressively.) 

It has been suggested that the term "atypical antipsychotics" be traded for "second generation antipsychotics" which would not be misleading. 

The 5000-pound elephant in the room that I haven't brought up yet is that it is a bummer to be medicated. When we agree to take medication or are forced to do so, it often entails a sacrifice of being comfortable within our skin (due to side effects that create a lot of discomfort) and includes the admission that something is wrong with our brains. These are a couple of hard things to swallow. 

In my situation and that of many persons with severe mental illness, medication is an absolute necessity. If I had the option of reasonably not taking medication, I wouldn't be taking medication. For me, it is a bitter pill that makes a somewhat normal existence possible.


Arts & Events

Theater Review: '444 Days'--Golden Thread Founder Torange Yeghiazarian on Iranian-American Relations-LAST WEEKEND

By Ken Bullock
Wednesday October 30, 2013 - 10:22:00 PM

Quick flash of an image: Bedside in a hospital, where a lovely young woman lies unconscious, on an audible respirator, as another woman raises her head, covered with a scarf or shawl, from the bed at the sight of a male figure in trenchcoat with briefcase hovering in the hall light through the open door ...  

So begins the tangled plot of Torange Yeghiazarian's new play, '444 Days,' a story that spans the globe and 35 years of history, yet is confined to one room, four players, one of them unconscious.  

Torange founded Golden Thread Productions in 1996 to stage--and provoke--plays on Middle Eastern issues and identity for Bay Area audiences; '444 Days' pares that commitment down to the bone, its plot refracted from the breaking point in relations between her native country and the States--the Tehran Embassy Hostage Crisis of 1979-81--and the world events proceeding from that time: always in the background of what happens onstage hovers the CIA overhrow of the Mossadegh government, the Iranian Revolution, the Hostage Crisis, the devastating war between Iraq & Iran, US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, sanctions over a suspected nuclear weapons program, reformist figures in Iranian government ... just as Harry's figure hovers in the door. 

"Harry is after something," says Laleh (Jeri Lynn Cohen, familiar to audiences of Word For Word, and other Bay Area theaters), who has brought her daughter Hadyeh (Olivia Rosaldo-Pratt) to the Bay Area from Iran for medical treatment. "Ever since I became a minister, he's chased me around the world." 

Harry (Michael Shipley) and Laleh met under he most awkward circumstances, when she was among the students who took over the US Embassy, Harry captured there as one of the diplomatic personnel. Despite all that--or, perversely, because of it--they drew close for awhile. At the opening of the play, they haven't seen each other since the hostages were released, on Reagan's inauguration day, and have only been fitfully in touch, often indirectly. 

Direction by Bella Warda, co-founder of Oakland's Iranian theater group, Darvag, is admirably workmanlike, navigating a middle course through a volatile plot that could veer off into soap opera or mere abstruseness without a concentrated focus. The acting is accomplished. Designers Mikiko Uesugi (set), Jim Cave (lights), Ninva Warda (costumes) and Brendan Aanes (sound) keep the same sort of focus, with stylistic grace notes, for the sense of place ... 

The play excellently uses a device canonized by Racine to ease the flow of exposition away from endless soliloquies--a nurse, Olivia, who becomes interlocutor, confidante, even, to both Laleh and Harry. (Played with demure panache, if that's not too much of an oxymoron, by Sheila Collins--in many ways, the most engaging role and performance in the production.) 

The plot thickens, almost solidifies in its density ... The unexpected turns include a strange, wonderful coup de théâtre, a monologue amidst the dialoguing that proves to be the best moment of playwrighting.  

'444 Days' is a play bursting at the seams, even though so much of its characters' expression borders on diffidence. There are quick flashbacks, repetitions of the same pronouncements and promises, past and present. Some of this becomes reminiscent of O'Neill's plays, or Strindberg's, even in its conclusion, touching on tragedy--and maybe begging the question as to further use of stylization for an almost unrelieved hour and a half of realism, a chamber play taking on something of the scope of Epic Theater, despite the strange, almost poetic intimacy of its story. 

It's the last weekend to catch this production of '444 Days,' though it will undoubtedly--and deservedly--find its way back to the stage. 

Through November 3--Thursday-Saturday, 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3. Z Below, formerly Traveling Jewish Theatre, below Z Space, formerly Theater Artaud, 470 Florida (near 18th & Bryant), San Francisco. $20-$35. 866-811-4111; golden thread.org


Around & About Poetry: George Stanley Reads for Mythos Gallery in the Berkeley Hills

By Ken Bullock
Friday October 25, 2013 - 02:46:00 PM

"there is more here than memory"

George Stanley, one of the finest Bay Area poets of the 50s and 60s, who moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in the 70s, is back in town for his first local reading in 15 years. Much of his poetry since his move north has been published in Canada, and is often unfamiliar to American readers, even those who know what he wrote when part of the circles around Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan in San Francisco from the late 50s. It's a shame; Stanley's is a unique voice in North American writing, one that has evolved continuously without losing touch with its original impulse, only gracing it with changes of perspective, adding to his discovery and exploration of what it is to be a poet, to be a person, a human being in these times, one among others, in the anonymity of cities and institutions--and in the familiarity, yet strangeness, of small towns.  

Stanley, a third generation native of San Francisco, is distinguished from more famous SF natives, like Robert Frost and Gary Snyder, by having grown up in town and eulogizing it, maybe more memorably than any other poet, in his long poem, "San Francisco's Gone," about the Irish members of his family arriving on the West Coast, the life of his mother growing up, going to school and working, raising a family, and about moving from one part of town to another ... a kind of intimate epic of the city's human side, which nonetheless comes to grips with the bigger movements of history. 

Calling himself "a realist," in his open workshop at the Poetry Center at San Francisco State (Stanley's an alum) Thursday afternoon--and in a recent phone conversation, an "Aboutist" (which may have deeper resonances in the speech of Western Canada!), Stanley touches on the principle of the real, of reality and its realization in thought, speech and poetry, a thread which runs through all his poetry. 

It's a complex, yet appealingly open and straightforward body of work of over fifty years, some of which may be heard in four readings from 1957 on the Digital Archive of the Poetry Center's website, diva.sfu.edu/collections/poetrycenter --two being poems written in Spicer's now-famous Poetry As Magic Workshop. 

Just to suggest Stanley's approach, his voice, these two brief quotations from his work over the past 15 years: 

"The common areas are where we meet/but don't meet.//Somewhere, I read, or wa