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KENNEDY CENTER HONORS FIVE WITH AWARDS

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President Obama waved to the crowd as first lady Michelle Obama and honorees Mel Brooks and Bruce Springsteen, along with Vice President Joseph R. Biden, applauded during the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday in Washington.

BY BERNIE BECKER and ASHLEY SOUTHALL
The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Political and entertainment luminaries gathered here over the weekend for the 32nd annual Kennedy Center Honors, a two-day celebration that brings together some of the most influential figures in Washington and Hollywood.

The recipients of the award this year were Robert De Niro, Mel Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, the mezzo-soprano and soprano Grace Bumbry and the jazz musician Dave Brubeck. A gala performance on Sunday night at the Kennedy Center capped off a busy weekend for the recipients, who also attended a dinner Saturday hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a Sunday reception with President Obama at the White House.

The performance, which was scheduled to include appearances by Meryl Streep, Aretha Franklin, Sting and Herbie Hancock, will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 29.

In remarks at the White House, Mr. Obama thanked the honorees for “the joy and the beauty” they brought to people’s lives.

“In times of war and sacrifice, the arts — and these artists — remind us to sing and to laugh and to live. In times of plenty, they challenge our conscience and implore us to remember the least among us,” Mr. Obama said. “In moments of division or doubt, they compel us to see the common values that we share; the ideals to which we aspire, even if we sometimes fall short. In days of hardship, they renew our hope that brighter days are still ahead.”

A 19-time Grammy winner firmly rooted in the Jersey Shore, Mr. Springsteen has made top-selling albums including 1975’s “Born to Run” — which, in addition to the title track, included “Thunder Road” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” — and 1984’s “Born in the U.S.A.” He has also won an Academy Award.

At the State Department dinner, which was emceed by the comedienne and 2003 honoree Carol Burnett, the violinist Itzhak Perlman spoke of how Mr. Springsteen, 60, who is known for his famously long concerts with his E Street Band, connected with his audience.

“He gives his audience what it wants, but he also lets them know what they want and helps teach them to want more,” said Mr. Perlman, also a 2003 honoree.

The dinner was also attended by Jon Stewart, Martin Short, Caroline Kennedy and Melissa Etheridge.

Mr. De Niro, 66, who was born in New York, won Oscars for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in the 1974 film “The Godfather: Part II” and 1980’s “Raging Bull,” in which he played the boxer Jake LaMotta under the direction of his longtime collaborator Martin Scorsese, a 2007 Kennedy Center Honor recipient. The two also worked together on, among other movies, “Goodfellas,” “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver.”

Mr. Brooks, who was born in Brooklyn, is among an elite group of performers who have won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards. “The Producers,” a 1968 film that was retooled as a musical and brought to Broadway more than three decades later, captured 12 Tony Awards and won Mr. Brooks an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. At the State Department dinner, Mr. Brooks said becoming an honoree at age 83 was “better late than never.”

Susan Stroman, who directed the musical version of “The Producers,” said, “I don’t know anyone who loves being themselves as much as Mel Brooks loves being Mel Brooks.”

Mr. Brubeck is perhaps best known for “Time Out,” the 1959 album he made with the Dave Brubeck Quartet that included the single “Take Five.” According to event organizers, Mr. Brubeck, who turned 89 on Sunday, is believed to be the first honoree to celebrate a birthday on the day of the gala performance.

On Saturday night, former President Bill Clinton spoke of humming a portion of Mr. Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk” to prove to the jazz pianist he was a fan.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Clinton recounted, he received a signed picture from Mr. Brubeck and the chart to the song. “It hangs in the music room of my home today,” Mr. Clinton said. “It hung in the White House every single day I was there.”

Ms. Bumbry, 72, made her debut at the Paris Opera in 1960, playing Amneris in “Aida.” She performed in honor of Marian Anderson at the first Kennedy Center Honors in 1978.

See Related: SOCIAL DIARY

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GAZA SMALL INVESTORS DUPED IN $100 MILLION TUNNEL INVESTMENT SCAM

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Underground tunnels in the Gaza Strip are reprted the only way for millions of dollars worth of essential supplies to get past Israel’s siege of the coastal territory.

But it has now emerged that at least 40,000 Gazans have lost their life savings in a scheme that promised up to 50 per cent profits in return for an investment in tunnel trading.

Hamas, which has de facto control of Gaza, returned a fraction of the $100m that disappeared through the scheme, and has said that is investigating the fraud.

However, with hundreds of middlemen as yet unpunished and many of them rumoured to have had links to Hamas, the duped Gazans say that more should be done.

See Related: GAZA

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ISRAELI KNESSET MEMBER DANIEL BEN SIMON SAYS GILAD SHALIT COULD BE FREED WITHIN TWO WEEKS

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BY YANIR YAGNA
Haaretz

Labor MK Daniel Ben Simon said Saturday that abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit could be free within the next two weeks.

Shalit was abducted by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in 2006 and has been held captive since. Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip, have demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel in exchange for Shalit’s freedom.

Ben Simon praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, saying he has done what no Israeli leader has before him.

“There is no other leader who has done what Netanyahu has done, and he has done and will do what no one in the Labor Party has ever dared to do,” Ben Simon said, adding that the negotiations were stuck during the tenure of former premier Ehud Olmert because he “didn’t want to pay the price.”

Despite reports earlier Saturday that Netanyahu told Ben Simon the deal would be finalized within a week or two, the Labor MK and the Prime Minister’s Bureau issued statements Saturday denying Netanyahu had made such a remark.

Ben Simon did confirm that Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti’s name is on the list of prisoners Israel may free as part of the deal. He added that the main discussion in Israel is whether to release Barghouti to the West Bank or deport him abroad for a “cooling off period.”

However, Ben Simon added that Barghouti could also potentially become a partner in peace talks with Israel. “It is possible that Israel will sit opposite Barghouti [at the negotiating table] in two years’ time,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the London-based daily Al-Hayyat reported that the German mediators overseeing the negotiations hope to convince Hamas to reduce the number of prisoners it is demanding be released in exchange for Shalit.

According to Al-Hayyat, three major issues were delaying conclusion of deal: First, Israel is refusing to release 50 of the 450 prisoners requested by Hamas for the swap; second, Israel will not rescind its demand to exile 130 of the released prisoners; third, Israel does not want to free Israeli Arabs as part of the deal.

See Related: ISRAEL-MIDEAST

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STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION NOVEMBER 30 2009

STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION
NOVEMBER 30 2009

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By Strange de Jim
Beep beep! Love from Strange

Nov. 30 winner Jay Leno: "Did you people go shopping on African American Friday?"

November wins: Leno 6, O’Brien 5, Colbert 2, Ferguson 2, Letterman 2, Fallon 2, Kimmel 1, Handler 1

Jay Leno: "I don’t think Tiger Woods understands how things work. When his wife found out about the affair he asked if he could get a mulligan. That’s why Letterman doesn’t keep golf clubs in the house. Tiger’s wife took eight strokes but only wrote down five. They’ve already made a movie about it: ‘Crouching Tiger, Crunching Escalade.’" "Shopping was crazy. I had people pushing and shoving me, and I was shopping online." "Nancy Pelosi can’t roll her eyes without jiggling her breasts." "I fly Southwest and practically get a prostate exam, this couple sneaks into the White House with no problem." "Chelsea Clinton is engaged. Bill’s already planning the bachelor party." "A Georgia judge ruled that teachers can have sex with consenting 16-year-olds. And in Georgia a lot of those kids are home-schooled." Headlines: "Man Outlasts Madonna." Church bulletin: "Gold will lead us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death." Police blotter: "Woman found feces in her toilet, and she didn’t think she put them there." Guest Bill Maher: "Afghanistan? Once we invade a country we never leave. We still have 60,000 troops in Germany. Once we enter, we love you long time." "I’ve taken the most important step to be sure my credit card isn’t abused. I’m single." "The Vatican, against her stated wishes, released all Mother Teresa’s letters. Turns out she had a crisis of faith in 1979 and started stripping under the name Original Cindy."

Jon Stewart on the White House crashers: "Real Asswipes of Washington, D.C."

Stephen Colbert: "Our guest says our schools have become prisons. Not true. Many prisoners can read."

Conan O’Brien: "In Tiger Woods’ crash his airbags didn’t deploy. He was protected on all sides by big bags of $1,000 bills." "Sarah Palin is featured in a new children’s book. We now know who shot Bambi’s mother." "’Twilight’ has raked in $230 million, $12 of that from a guy. A psychiatrist said Bella’s affair with Edward has fifteen signs of an abusive relationship. #1, he’s a vampire. He’ll drink your blood." Andy Richter: "And then not call you the next day." "’The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever’ has opened on Broadway. ‘Cirque de Soleil’ said, ‘Is that a dare?" "A woman delivered her daughter’s baby while continuing to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Just one mistake. The daughter’s now filled with Stovetop Stuffing."

Craig Ferguson: "Christmas spending is a little below expectations so far, but that’s before the diamonds Tiger Woods is going to have to buy his wife."

Wanda Sykes: "Someone was arrested at the L.A. airport with fifteen lizards taped to their chest. Oh, Lady Gaga, what will you do next?"

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, HarperCollins 2009: [Nutt, a dreaded orc, on how he was created.] “The Igors did it. And they put in something very strange. It’s a part of you that isn’t quite a part of you. They called it the Little Brother. It’s tucked deep inside and absolutely protected and it’s like having your own hospital with you all the time. I know that I was hit very hard, but the Little Brother kept me alive and simply cured things again. There are ways to kill an orc, but there are not many of them, and anyone trying them on a living orc is not going to have very much time to get it right. Does that worry you at all?” “No, not really,” said Glenda.

.

See Related: STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION

ABOUT THE SAN FRANCISCO SENTINEL
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SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
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STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION – NOVEMBER 18 2009

STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION
NOVEMBER 18 2009

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By Strange de Jim
Beep beep! Love from Strange

Nov. 18 winner Craig Ferguson: On the warm-up comedian: "Is that happening to you at home too? Is a slightly desperate, slightly sweaty guy trying to get you excited?"

Jay Leno: "Joe Biden’s motorcade has been in three accidents in the last few weeks. Remember the good old days when the Vice President just shot people in the face?" "Our kids are no good at SAT’s but at STD’s they’re #1." "A sex tape has surfaced of Miss Japan and Miss Uruguay in bed with an unidentified man, who’s just known as The Luckiest Man in the World." "Carrie Prejean, Miss California, made twenty of those solo sex tapes. I guess people liked the first one so much she got picked up for the season." Guest Larry the Cable Guy: "I have a confession, Jay. I’ve been sleeping with members of my staff. The worst part is, I’m self-employed." "I love rodeo. I lost my virginity to a stick horse many years ago" "I sat next to a ventriloquist on a plane. He was so good that he went to sleep and I chatted with the dummy for over an hour." "I have 106 children. I can’t figure out why over half of them are Chinese." "My friend was trying to show me photos. I said, ‘I don’t want to see pictures of your stupid kid. He’s breast feeding? Well, I might take a look.’" "I love Halloween. It’s the only time of year when I get to clean out the refrigerator." "I hate people who give out that fun-sized candy. When I take the kids around, if I’m dressed in hooker pants and spike heels I want a whole candy bar." "This year I smeared dog poop on myself and went as a government bailout." "For his birthday my hippie cousin said he wanted incense, so that night my other cousin crawled into bed with him." "How do you ask a 300-pound grocery clerk where to find a tub of lard?" "Men can’t keep their underwear clean like a woman can. We operate underwear like long division. We always leave a remainder." "I get all my clothes at Wal-Mart, because at Wal-Mart I’m a medium." Guest Adam Carolla: "Bert & Ernie are gay, but not for each other. They’re both power bottoms." Guest Jim Norton on Carrie Prejean’s sex tape: "I watched it so much I got tennis elbow."

Jon Stewart: "The Rogue Warrior: What about Sarah Palin makes Republicans feel like they’ve been sprinkled with angel dust and Democrats like they’ve smoked it?" Jon had a mariachi plan play on guest Lou Dobbs. Since CNN still has to pay him: "You’re like a farmer being paid not to produce corn."

Stephen Colbert: "Rogue Gain: I was enchanted by Sarah Palin’s campaign to become President of John McCain’s campaign. Nothing is ever Sarah Palin’s fault. Who named her kids? To Sarah Palin fact checking is the same as opposition research, because the facts are out to get her. She’s the new head of the Grand Old Pity Party."

Conan O’Brien: "President Obama was on the Great Wall of China today, at the very same spot where a couple of years ago President Bush said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’" "Dick Cheney was upset at President Obama bowing to the Emperor of Japan. Cheney said, ‘It’s not like he’s the CEO of Exxon.’" "Chrysler cars are the safest in the country, because they never leave the dealership." "Arnold Schwarzenegger visited his homeland, but no one in Austria could understand him because of his thick American accent." "Scientists have discovered a drug that makes women want to have sex. The drugs name? Jewelry." When Conan announced that Heidi and Spencer Pratt were guests, the audience booed. Celebrity Survey: When I cook the Thanksgiving turkey I make sure … Dick Cheney: "That the turkey’s whole family is watching." When I heard that homo sapiens had sex with Neanderthals I said … Larry King: "We all did crazy things in college." In foreign countries I always ask … Ryan Seacrest: "Take me to the lady boy section." The hardest thing I’ve ever done is … Paris Hilton: "A guy named Zack. I’m sorry, I misunderstood the question. A guy named Barry."

Jimmy Kimmel: "Senators paid respects today to Robert Byrd for having served longer than anyone else in history. They were told to keep their speeches short just in case." "Because he was standing up for gay rights the other kids called a 1-year-old a gaywad. Everybody knows a gaywad is a guy who plays third base for the Yankees." "’People Magazine’ named Johnny Depp the sexiest man alive, and Hugh Hefner the sexiest man still alive." "The union of department store Santas wants them to get priority on swine flu shots. If you’re a department store Santa why would you want to prolong your life?" With "Cougar Town" such a success, Jimmy showed a clip of Cloris Leachman’s new show "Sabertooth Tiger Town."

Jimmy Fallon: "Barbara Walters asked Sarah Palin to rate President Obama on a scale of 1 to 10, and Sarah said ‘F.’ Palin also said Obama’s policies are bassackwards. Obama said she was unkin fuqualified." "Beyonce and Lady Gaga are in a hot new video. Beyonce calls their bustiers tasteful, and Lady Gaga calls them business casual."

Craig Ferguson: "Mickey Mouse is 81. All the Disney characters are ancient. All the Dwarves are Grumpy, and Pinnochio needs a blue pill to get his nose up. In honor of the anniversary I’m wearing animated shorts. They’re giving me a steamboat willy." Guest Lewis Black: "I’m in Vegas this weekend at the Mirage." Craig: "It’s really there then?"

See Related: STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION

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SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
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Email: SanFranciscoSentinel@yahoo.com

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND NEWS MEDIA ARE AFRAID TO CONFRONT ISLAM – SAN FRANCISCO SENTINEL OPINION

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CIGARETTE SMOKE WAFTING ONTO NEIGHBOR’S PATIO BRINGS LAWSUIT

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Richard and Donna Ganguet live in the Four Seasons gated development
in El Dorado Hills. They say the neighbor’s tobacco smoke settles
in their backyard and seeps in through their windows.

BY CATHY LOCKE
The Sacramento Bee

Conflict with neighbors was the last thing Donna and Richard Ganguet expected to encounter when they moved into a gated community for people age 55 and older.

“In a senior community, you think we’ll all be compatible and have the same values,” said Richard Ganguet, a retired El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy.

But three years after settling into their single-family home in El Dorado Hills’ Four Seasons development, the Ganguets are suing their next-door neighbor over cigar and cigarette smoke they say wafts into their backyard and house.

Because of the smoke, the couple say, they no longer sit on their patio. They also try to sandwich in swims in the side-yard lap pool between their neighbors’ smoking sessions.

Doug Smith, attorney for the neighboring homeowner, Florence Solone, said the issue is a trivial one that should be resolved by neighbors talking with each other, not with a lawsuit in El Dorado Superior Court.

But disputes between neighbors over secondhand smoke are increasingly making their way into courtrooms and city council chambers.

With smoking banned in workplaces, restaurants and bars, Californians are less willing to tolerate the smell of smoke in their houses or backyards, said Robin Salsburg, a staff attorney with the Oakland-based Public Health Institute’s Public Health Law and Policy program.

Nearly 87 percent of California residents are nonsmokers, she said.

“The social norm is changing faster than I can blink,” said Serena Chen, regional director of policy and tobacco control for the American Lung Association in Emeryville. In 2006, she helped persuade the East Bay city of Dublin to define secondhand smoke as a nuisance in its city code.

The majority of litigation related to secondhand smoke involves apartments and condominiums with shared walls. But Chen said the Dublin City Council’s action was prompted by a woman living in a single-family home whose health was compromised by smoke drifting from her neighbor’s yard.

When the Ganguets moved into their home in 2006, they were the first on the block. The pool was in place before there were neighbors.

They say residents and visitors at Solone’s home smoke in the backyard at all hours of the day and night. Several people puffing away at once has resulted in smoke settling in their backyard like a low fog, Richard Ganguet said.

When he or his wife open windows or operate the whole-house fan, he said, smoke is drawn into the house.

They’ve tried dispersing the smoke, first with a small fan set near the fence. When that didn’t work, they rented an industrial fan to blow the smoke up and out of the yard. But the fan is noisy and potentially disturbing to other neighbors.

The Ganguets said they rarely see Solone and tried to talk with her by phone, but they believe their calls were screened. They followed up with letters, but said they received no response, orally or in writing.

“Nothing changed,” Richard Ganguet said, until they filed the lawsuit.

A man who answered the door at the Solone home last week identified himself as Steve Solone, Florence Solone’s son. Steve Solone said he, his sister and brother-in-law live with his mother, and he and his brother-in-law smoke outside.

“My mother doesn’t allow smoking in the house,” he said.

Steve Solone said he smokes about a pack and a half of cigarettes a day, but he wasn’t aware the smoke was an issue for the Ganguets until his mother was notified of the lawsuit. Steve Solone said he didn’t think the smoke would travel outside the yard.

Florence Solone did not respond to requests for comment. Smith, her attorney, said he advised her not to discuss the lawsuit.

The smoking, Smith said, occurs in a three-walled patio area with fans.

“Florence Solone is like everybody’s grandmother,” said Smith, who said he has known the Solones for years. “She’s genuinely nice.”

The Solones want to live peacefully with their neighbors, Smith said. He characterized the Ganguets’ letters as intimidating because they threatened a lawsuit.

Smith said he sought a meeting with the Ganguets’ through their attorney, David Trapani, before the lawsuit was filed Oct. 1 but was rebuffed.

Trapani said his goal is to resolve the issue before the case goes to trial, but because the Ganguets filed a lawsuit, any settlement would be enforceable by the court.

“They have a right to smoke,” he said, “but that right ends when it impacts someone else’s property.”

Donna Ganguet said she and her husband considered selling their house and moving rather than resorting to a lawsuit, but they believe the smoke problem would hinder a sale.

“We don’t want to be controversial or confrontational,” she said, “but sometimes you have to take a stand.”

See Related: HEALTH CARE

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SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
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Email: SanFranciscoSentinel@yahoo.com

THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND NEWS MEDIA ARE AFRAID TO CONFRONT ISLAM – SAN FRANCISCO SENTINEL OPINION

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JERRY BROWN HOLDS COMMANDING LEAD OVER GAVIN NEWSOM IN CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR RACE

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BY JACK CHANG
The Sacramento Bee

Attorney General Jerry Brown has built a commanding lead over San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, according to the latest Field Poll results released today.

On the Republican side, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman remains locked in a virtual tie with former Rep. Tom Campbell, but half of the voters are undecided. Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner continues to place a distant third in his bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, the nonpartisan poll found.

While rhetoric over voting records, past support for Democrats and other non-policy matters has heated up among the Republican candidates some eight months before the June 8 primary, the Field Poll found that GOP primary voters hadn’t changed their minds much since they were last surveyed about the race in February and March.

“My take-away is voters aren’t really interested in those kinds of squabbles,” said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. “Either that or they’re not paying much attention to this yet.”

While the GOP race remains static, Brown has improved upon his March showing among Democratic primary voters, although he hasn’t formally announced his candidacy.

In the March poll, Brown was the preference of 26 percent of Democratic primary voters when matched against Newsom and five other potential candidates.

Now, the former governor and Oakland mayor has support from 47 percent while Newsom wins 27 percent support in a poll question offering only those two Democratic choices.

The poll, however, found Newsom beating Brown by nine percentage points among respondents age 18 to 39 while Brown beat Newsom by a whopping 45 percentage points among respondents aged 65 or older.

Brown may have left the Governor’s Office in 1983 with only a 43 percent approval rating, but the 71-year-old is one of the state’s best-known politicians and has won favorable press in his current job and in Oakland, said Claremont McKenna College politics professor Jack Pitney.

“Jerry has advantages that are impossible for anyone else to replicate,” Pitney said. “He’s run for governor, he’s run for president and he currently holds statewide office. It’s difficult to beat that kind of name ID.”

His history as governor, heard secondhand, helped persuade 47-year-old Yuba City resident Tammy Massengale, a Democrat, to support Brown, whom she called honest and trustworthy.

“I heard (Brown) didn’t have a state car and that he drove an old beat-up car of the day,” said Massengale, who is a Caltrans employee. “He was a normal person and wasn’t above anybody else.”

The good news for the GOP candidates is that nearly half of state Republican primary voters have no opinion about them, Pitney said.

That’ll allow Whitman and Poizner, both wealthy, largely self-financed candidates, to fill in the blanks in voters’ minds with a barrage of political advertising, Pitney said. Campbell, who has collected a fraction of the money of his GOP rivals, will likely fall in the polls once the race heats up, Pitney added.

“The race is not set in stone,” he said. “It’s not even set in Jell-O.”

Roseville resident Jackie Watkins, a Republican, said his vote remains up for grabs � as long as no one currently in the Legislature wants it.

“I would not vote for anyone who’s been there now,” the 63-year-old retired trucking manager said. “They have shown they really don’t care what the California people vote on and it’s all about them.”

The Field Poll found Brown easily beating any of the three GOP candidates among all registered voters, with Newsom winning by a smaller margin.

The poll surveyed 1,005 registered California voters from Sept. 18 to Oct. 5, including 496 Democratic primary voters and 373 Republican primary voters.

See Related: WORLD POLITICS

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SENTINEL FOUNDER PAT MURPHY
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DONNA SACHET HITS HIGH C FOR HOMETOWN GIANTS – BELTING ‘OH SAY CAN YOU SEE’! FOR THE NATION – ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON

BY BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2009

There are still many barriers to the LGBT community to be broken, but as of September 29, there is one less. On that night Donna Sachet became the first drag queen to sing the National anthem before a major league baseball game.

It was an exciting, nerve racking, fun evening, that began with incredibly good timing.

Having gotten my press credential I entered the ballpark with no idea where I was going. I followed the signs that said media, but soon realized I should ask someone where to go.

So I asked the next person I saw with security on his shirt and an official clipboard. (Every time you go through a door or gate there is someone who writes down your credential number on a clipboard.) I told him that I wanted to go on the field to photograph the singing of the national anthem.

He told me that I wanted to go to the double doors that were down the hallway. There would be someone to escort me to the field. He said I was early enough that even staff hadn’t arrived yet.

I found the doors and when I looked through there was Donna Sachet doing a sound check.

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The clock on the scoreboard reads 4:23 as Donna does her sound check.
Bill Wilson © 2009

While Donna went home to change I spent an hour walking around waiting for the Donna Sachet Fan Club pre game party to start.

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Flags of the state, nation, ball club and city flying above ATT Park.
Bill Wilson © 2009

Gary Virginia, President of the Krewe de Kinque organized an outing in support of Donna which included tickets for the game and a pre-game reception at the Acme Chophouse at Willie Mays Plaza and an after game party at the Edge Bar in the Castro.

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Keeping with Mardi Gras tradition orange and black (Giants colors) beads
were handed out by Deena Dawn.

Bill Wilson © 2009

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Gary Virginia making last minute arrangements on his cell phone.
Bill Wilson © 2009

With shouts of “Break a Leg!” from her fans, Donna said farewell as she prepared to make her way to the ball park. Finding her seat she was able to get a few minutes of relaxation.

belting-5-2
Donna Sachet in the stands at ATT Park.
Bill Wilson © 2009

I made my way to the field still expecting at any moment that someone would challenge my right to be there.

I found a position behind home plate. The Giants were honoring sports writer Nick Peters who won the Major League’s 2009 JG Taylor Spink award by renaming their media interview room in his honor.

On the field were baseball greats, members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda.

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Tim Lincecum (right) is acknowledged by the crowd during the pre game ceremony honoring sports writer Nick Peters. Larry Baer (left), President of the SF Giants,
Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda and others look on.

Bill Wilson © 2009

The Giants mascot Lou Seal walked through the crowd posing for photos and knocking the hat off an unsuspecting fan.

When he got to where I was I asked if he would mind posing with Donna. He said “Who do you mean?” I said the person in black standing behind you. He turns and looks and then turns to me and says, “Isn’t that the lady who does the show at the Starlight Room?”

When I said yes, he said, “I took my wife to see her. She is great.”

belting-7-2
Donna gets Lou’s Seal of Approval!
Bill Wilson © 2009

After giving Nick Peters a team jersey with the number 47 on it, the number of year Mr. Peters covered the Giants, there was an on field presentation of a check to a local Catholic church for their charitable programs.

belting-8-2
Donna Sachet nervously awaits the moment.
Bill Wilson © 2009

Then without fanfare or music the moment did arrive.

The announcer asked people to rise and remove their hats and place their hands over their hearts as Donna Sachet sings the national anthem.

belting-9-2
“What So Proudly We Hailed.”
Bill Wilson © 2009

After what Donna described as “the longest two minutes of my life” it was over.

belting-10-2
The Donna Sachet Fan Club (the good seat branch) respond to the national anthem by their favorite.
Bill Wilson © 2009

Walking back through the hallways Donna was received many congratulations from people she knew and didn’t know.

belting-11-2
Larry Baer (right) President and Chief Operating Officer of the SF Giants
poses with Donna and other staff members.

Bill Wilson © 2009

After finding a well-deserved drink, Donna had a chance to relax and watch a few innings of the baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

belting-12-2
Donna enjoys the first inning.
Bill Wilson © 2009

belting-13-3
Left Fielder Eugenio Velez makes the first score of the game after a wild pitch
ends up in the Giants’ dugout. (The white spot above the catcher’s head is the ball.)

Bill Wilson © 2009

The evening was capped with an after game party at the Edge Bar celebrating both Donna performance and the Giants’ 8 to 4 win over the Diamondbacks.

Bartenders in appropriate t-shirts commemorating Donna historical performance dispensed drinks renamed in Donna’s honor.

belting-14-2
Donna with Edge bartender
Bill Wilson © 2009

A beautiful and successful evening for all involved.

See Related: ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a veteran freelance photographer whose work is published by San Francisco and Bay Area media. Bill embraced photography at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR). Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past five years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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GAVIN NEWSOM, BILL CLINTON AND THE ENDORSEMENT HIERARCHY

hierarchy-2
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will benefit mightily
from the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton.

BY CHRIS CILLIZZA
The Washington Post

Former President Bill Clinton’s decision to wade in on behalf of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in the California Democratic primary is big news in the Golden State this morning.

But, how does it fit into the Fix’s endorsement hierarchy?

First, a quick primer — ranked in order from most to least impactful:

The Symbolic Endorsement: Ted Kennedy backing Barack Obama during the 2008 primaries.

The State-Specific Statewide Endorsement: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist throwing his support to John McCain just before the Sunshine State presidential primary.

The Celebrity Endorsement: Chuck Norris for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

The Newspaper Endorsement: Des Moines Register for John Edwards in 2004.

The State-Specific Non-Statewide Endorsement: Rep. Connie Mack IV endorsing Gov. Charlie Crist’s Senate candidacy in Florida.

The Obligatory Endorsement: Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran endorsing McCain’s presidential bid in 2008.

The Pariah Endorsement: Rod Blagojevich and Roland Burris.

Clinton’s endorsement of Newsom falls somewhere between the first two categories and is, therefore, potentially powerful.

Clinton can help Newsom in ways seen and unseen to make up ground of state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

The most obvious benefit for Newsom is that Clinton is a very popular figure among Democrats — particularly Latinos — in the state, and the image of Newsom and the former president together is a powerful and appealing one to many California Democratic primary voters. Latinos are widely regarded as the swing group in the primary fight — especially since Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa decided against a much rumored gubernatorial bid earlier this year.

Less obvious, but no less important, are the deep ties that Clinton carries in the California donor community. Newsom finds himself trailing Brown badly in the chase for cash — a critical contest in a state so large and with so many media markets. Clinton is, without doubt, one of the most prolific political fundraisers in history and if he leans on his people in the state, Newsom can expect the millions to pour in over the coming months.

The simple fact is that Newsom’s campaign needed a shot of momentum as the race seemed to be settling with Brown as the clear frontrunner to Newsom’s underdog. Clinton’s endorsement doesn’t fundamentally alter that dynamic but it does strengthen Newsom where he has been weak.

The critical element in all of this, however, is how actively Clinton ultimately works for Newsom. ABC’s Teddy Davis, who broke the endorsement story, said the former President will be in California on Oct. 5 for Newsom — doing a rally in east Los Angeles as well as a high-dollar donor event.

The more Clinton does — from a public appearances and a private fundraising standpoint — the better it is for Newsom.

See Related: WORLD POLITICS

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WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS ASKS WORLD LEADERS TO BOYCOTT IRANIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD UN SPEECH

BY SHLOMO SHAMIR
Haaretz

The World Jewish Congress on Monday launched a new global campaign on to convince world leaders to boycott Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address to the United Nations General Assembly next week.

Ahmadinejad is set to speak at the General Assembly on September 23, at a special session to be opened by United States President Barack Obama.

In a petition published Monday, WJC President Ronald Lauder urged the leaders of the UN’s member states to “show that the values and goals of the UN Charter will be upheld at this year’s General Assembly meeting.

“We ask UN leaders to send a strong message to Ahmedinejad, who regularly uses these forums to spread invective, threats and unspeakable accusations,” he said, adding that “member states have an obligation to show that the UN cannot be hijacked for the purposes of spreading the kind of racist diatribe and bigoted views which the organization was founded to combat and overcome.’

See Related: IRAN

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THE ‘ELDERS’ ARRIVE IN ISRAEL TO BOOST MIDDLE EAST PEACE

The respected delegation, headed by former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, irked Israel by initially planning to meet Hamas in Gaza. That trip has been delayed.

elders-2
Brazil’s former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, front right,
and Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Brundtland, front left,
place a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem
Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Tuesday.

BY ILENE R. PRUSHERI
The Christian Science Monitor

They’re older and wiser, and with a few hundred years of (cumulative) experience under their belts, they arrived for a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday in the hope that they might nudge along peace efforts.

The “Elders,” as they are called, are a group of prominent former heads of state, renowned activists, and global business leaders who are trying to use their clout and cachet to affect change. Included in the delegation here are former President Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Irish President Mary Robinson, and Britain’s Richard Branson, founder of the multinational Virgin Group.

The Elders describe themselves as an “independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity,” according to the group’s website. But whether they will be able to lure Israelis and Palestinians to move more quickly on Middle East peace than other international interlocutors in Washington, Cairo, or Riyadh remains to be seen.

Mission: Boost peace efforts

Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who is leading the delegation, said that the Elders had arrived not on behalf of any government, but in order to boost peace efforts, which have failed to truly get off the ground despite the intensive efforts of the Obama administration. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in London on Tuesday holding talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and is to meet with US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday amid increasing pressure to meet a compromise deal as envisioned by Mr. Obama: an expected Israeli settlement freeze in exchange for moves towards normalization from the Arab world.

“We are very supportive of current efforts to reopen negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians – and hope very much that this will happen. We also recognize that people have lost hope in the political process. We want to say to people here – peace is possible – and we will support their efforts in any way we can,” Cardoso said before a meeting at an Israeli youth center. The group also went to Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem, and met with a controversial rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the Shas movement.

On Wednesday, the Elders are scheduled to meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres before going to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad. They were also planning to visit the Kalandiya refugee camp – inside Jerusalem boundaries – and are to attend an iftar, which marks the end of each day’s fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Israel says Elders shouldn’t visit Hamas

Israeli officials said that while they welcome the Elders, the group was making a mistake by having planned to visit the Gaza Strip and meet with Hamas officials there. A spokesman for the Elders’ visit, however, said the Gaza portion of the visit had been postponed “due to security concerns” and would not elaborate. The Elders hope to reschedule a Gaza visit in the coming weeks, the group’s spokesman said.

“We think these people, with their prestige and their will to push for peace, are a very respectable group who will always be welcome in Israel,” says Yigal Palmor, spokesman of the Israeli foreign ministry. “However, what they seem to want to do now will not promote the chances of peace, but rather the opposite. Going to Gaza and meeting Hamas officials will be very unhelpful. Hamas is still in opposition to the international Quartet’s conditions, and a move towards them will be detrimental towards peace.”

A Palestinian state in two years?

The Quartet, which includes representatives from US, the UN, the EU, and Russia, declared when Hamas won parliamentary elections in January 2006 that the Islamic movement would have to meet certain conditions in order to gain international legitimacy; these requirements included foreswearing violence and recognizing Israel.

The Elders’ visit has come at a time of heightened political and diplomatic intensity. In addition to Netanyahu’s trip to Europe amid a dispute between Israel and Sweden, which holds the EU presidency, Mr. Fayyad, the Palestinian premier, declared Thursday that his government would create a de facto state in two years, regardless of what happens with peace negotiations.

“The Palestinian government is struggling determinedly against a hostile occupation regime … in order to establish a de facto state apparatus within the next two years,” he said in a Ramallah press conference. “This can and must happen within two years.”

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz responded to Fayyad’s announcement by saying that there was no place for “unilateral” measures and threats. “It is clear that a Palestinian state, no matter what its form, will not see the light of day if Israel’s security concerns are not taken into account,” Steinitz said in an interview on state-run Israel Radio.

See Related: ISRAEL-MIDEAST

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SAN FRANCISCO WEEKEND TRAFFIC AND TRANSIT IMPACTS – AUGUST 21-23

muni-traffic-2

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) advises San Francisco residents and visitors of the following event-related traffic and service impacts this weekend, Friday, August 21 – Sunday, August 23.

Event participants and fun seekers should check with sfmta.com or call 311 to find out which of the 80 Muni lines will get them where they want to go.

Golden Gate Bridge Lot Construction

Construction at the parking lot for the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza will require the re-route of Muni route 28 19th Avenue from 5:30 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday and Sunday. The 29 Sunset Muni route may be affected throughout the weekend, beginning Friday at 6 p.m.

La Cocina Street Food Festival

The Street Food Festival will be held on Saturday and require the closure of Folsom Street between 25th and 26th streets from 8 p.m., Friday through midnight, Saturday.

The 12 Folsom and 67 Bernal Heights Muni routes will be affected.

49ers Football Game

The San Francisco 49ers will host their second home pre-season game on Saturday, against the Oakland Raiders starting at 5:15 p.m. at Candlestick Park .

Motorists should expect delays on all bridges and freeways leading into San Francisco for at least two hours before the start of the game and for at least two hours after the end of the game. Fans attending the games are encouraged to take public transportation. For more information, please visit www.sfmta.com/football.

On game days, Muni offers several ways to get to Candlestick Park from throughout San Francisco . There are four Muni Express routes and two Shuttles.

The Muni Express route is Special Event Fare Service with an adult fare of $10 roundtrip and a youth/senior/disabled fare of $7 roundtrip. The Special Event fare with a Muni or CityPass is $5.

The Candlestick Shuttles are regular fare service, $2 adult cash fare per trip and $.75 for youth/senior/disabled cash fare per trip. All Muni customers who pay cash fare should be sure to ask for a transfer as proof of payment. Please go to www.sfmta.com for fare details.

For service to and from the game, T Third customers should transfer at the Gilman/Paul station to the 87 Candlestick Shuttle, which operates directly from the station to Candlestick and returns at the end of the game.

Pre-game Service:

· 75X Candlestick Express – from Balboa Park BART

· 77X Candlestick Express – from California and Van Ness

· 78X Candlestick Express – from California and Funston

· 79X Candlestick Express – from Sutter and Sansome

· 86 Candlestick Shuttle – from Bacon and San Bruno

· 87 Candlestick Shuttle – from Third Street and Gillman, T Third Station

Post-game Service:

· 75X Candlestick Express – to Balboa Park BART

· 77X Candlestick Express – to Van Ness and North Point

· 78X Candlestick Express – to California and Funston

· 79X Candlestick Express – to Kearny and Sutter

· 86 Candlestick Shuttle – to Bacon and San Bruno

· 87 Candlestick Shuttle – to Third Street and Gillman, T Third Station

Perry’s Anniversary

Perry’s restaurant celebration on Sunday will require the closure of Union Street between Laguna and Buchanan streets from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The 45 Union-Stockton will be affected.

See Related: TRAVEL

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SUPERVISOR MIRARIMI LOOKS ASKANCE AT THOSE WHO DE-CLAW CATS – INTRODUCES LEGISLATION MAKING SUCH BEHAVIOR IMPERMISSIBLE IN SAN FRANCISCO

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Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi today introduced legislation making impermissible to de-claw cats in San Francisco

The San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare, the animal welfare advisory board to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, voted 5-1 earlier this month in favor of a city ban on feline declawing for nontherapeutic reasons.

Commissioner Philip Gerrie recommended that San Francisco adopt the language of an anti-declaw ordinance passed in West Hollywood in 2003. The West Hollywood measure, the first of its kind in the United States, makes it illegal to perform declawing within city limits, except for therapeutic purposes such as removal of infected or injured tissue.

Declawing, which involves amputating all or part of the last bone and connecting tendons and ligaments on a feline’s paw, can result in lameness and other physical problems, said Jennifer Conrad, DVM, director of The Paw Project, which sponsored the West Hollywood ordinance.

The California Veterinary Medical Association is opposed to such bans, arguing that the practice of veterinary medicine should be left to veterinarians.

The association filed suit against West Hollywood to overturn the law in 2005, stating that the city’s ordinance was unlawful, invalid and unenforceable because it conflicted with state law. However, in a 2-1 ruling in June 2007, the Court of Appeal upheld the anti-declaw ordinance. The San Francisco City Attorney’s office filed legal arguments in support of West Hollywood.

The CVMA continued by sponsoring SB 762, legislation to ensure statewide uniformity of standards for medical professionals. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill on July 2, which prevents local jurisdictions from passing bans on medical procedures, such as declawing cats. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2010. Any bans passed before that time would stand, including the San Francisco measure.

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OBAMA HITS HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES ‘WHO DENY COVERAGE OR CHARGE UNAFFORDABLE RATES’

<em>Cheryl Burshett from Arvada, CO argues against Democratic Party healthcare proposals on August 8, 2009 in Brighton, Colorado. Several hundred people, both for and against healthcare reform, gathered to demonstrate as U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) met with small groups of constituents outside a grocery store.</em>

Cheryl Burshett from Arvada, CO argues against Democratic Party healthcare proposals on August 8, 2009 in Brighton, Colorado. Several hundred people, both for and against healthcare reform, gathered to demonstrate as U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) met with small groups of constituents outside a grocery store.

Barack Obama has hit out at insurance firms as he battles against the “scare tactics” being used to block his proposed $1 trillion overhaul of the US healthcare system.

The president, at a meeting in New Hampshire, said Americans are too often “held hostage” by insurers who deny them cover or charge fees they cannot afford.

The attack was part of an attempt to counter claims he wants a government takeover of the healthcare system.

<em>Mr Obama at the meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.</em>

Mr Obama at the meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

It has also been alleged his plan would create “death panels” to rule on whether older people get treatment.

Critics – including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin – have whipped up a fierce public debate over the reforms, which top Mr Obama’s domestic agenda.

Both opponents and supporters of the proposals gathered outside the meeting in Portsmouth.

Mr Obama’s supporters chanted “Yes, we can!” and waved signs declaring “Insurance companies are enemies of change” and “All Americans deserve affordable healthcare”.

Opponents carried banners saying “Obamacare, down the chute granny” and “Hands off my healthcare”.

Mr Obama says he wants to provide health cover for nearly 46 million uninsured Americans by reining in medical costs and regulating insurers.

But Republicans insist it will be far too expensive and the scope is too far-reaching.

Mrs Palin said last week the proposals would create government “death panels” that will decide ‘end-of-life’ issues for older Americans.

<em>Daly Megan from Commerce, CO, an opponent Democratic Party healthcare proposals, makes a point to U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO,) on August 8, 2009 in Brighton, Colorado. Several hundred people, both for and against healthcare reform, gathered to demonstrate outside as Congressman Perlmutter met with small groups of constituents at a grocery store.</em>

Daly Megan from Commerce, CO, an opponent Democratic Party healthcare proposals, makes a point to U.S. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO,) on August 8, 2009 in Brighton, Colorado. Several hundred people, both for and against healthcare reform, gathered to demonstrate outside as Congressman Perlmutter met with small groups of constituents at a grocery store.

But Mr Obama countered: “For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary is if we do nothing.”

He said his aim was to give people more information on end-of-life care, not “create death panels that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we decided it’s too expensive to let her live anymore”.

The president said: “Let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.”

In a new development, Mr Obama said the government may be able to get pharmaceutical companies to give back more than the $80bn already promised in prescription drug rebates.

See Related: HEALTH CARE

See Related: BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENCY

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A STRAIGHT’S PRAYER FOR YOUNG ISRAELIS SHOT FOR BEING GAY

a-special-place-in-hell-2

Lord, teach me to stand naked before you
And, in so doing, learn the meaning of modesty.

Let me stand naked, which is to say, stripped to my humanity,
And mourn these young people shot
For having chosen to practice
Their own humanity.

Cause me, Lord, to shed this defective armor,
Which we call clothing, respectability, convention,
The mask which we mistake for loyalty to tribe.
The mask which keeps me from seeing the face behind the mask of the tribe we have come to call enemy.

At the close of this dark anniversary, this time when tradition tells us, the worst of calamities were wrought by sinat hinam, hatred unbound, hatred for its own sake, teach me what I need to know about my true enemy.

Force me to see that what I am so certain that I hate, the clear, familiar targets of my fury, are already inside me.

Help me heal of this contagion, this cruel disease which scars and hardens the soul, which cores and blackens and blinds the heart, this affliction which feeds on self-righteousness and the conviction that God plays favorites, that the person whose behavior and appearance, and ways of speaking and dancing and loving are foreign to me, has less right to a true self than I.

Rock me awake, O Lord who invented the mosaic, the patchwork, the universe.
Force me to see the miracle of every life on the threshold
Of what we have come to know as
Real life.

Let me know that in the beginning, real life is created through ahavat hinam, love unbound, love unfiltered, love unselfish, love shorn of armor and unkindness and judgment and ancient rage.

Lord, whose business it is to give life, shock us, cajole us, manipulate us, bring us to heel, force us in this terrible moment to know the enormity and the necessity of chesed, lovingkindness.

Lord, whose great gift and whose most murderous creation was the human being, help us find the human in the Other, hated from habit and from afar. Help us up, the mourning, the remnant, those whom tragedy has in cruelty and in lovingkindness left alive. Teach us to honor the slain by honoring the living, their own behavior and appearance and speech, the dancing and the loving of those doing nothing more banal and nothing more extraordinary, than living a genuinely real life.

See Related: GAYS SLAIN IN TEL AVIV

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CALIFORNIA BUDGET DEBACLE HOLDS A LESSON FOR AMERICA

BY ROBERT J. SAMUELSON

Commentary

California’s budget debacle holds a lesson for America, but one we will probably ignore. It’s easy to attribute the state’s protracted budget stalemate, now temporarily resolved with about $26 billion of spending cuts and accounting gimmicks, to the deep recession and California’s peculiar politics.

Up to a point, that’s true.

arnold-muscles

Representing an eighth of the U.S. economy, California has been harder hit than most states. Unemployment, now 11.6 percent (national average: 9.5 percent), could top 13 percent in 2010, says economist Eduardo Martinez of Moody’s Economy.com. Meanwhile, the requirement that any tax increase muster a two-thirds vote in the legislature promotes paralysis. Democrats prefer tax hikes to spending cuts, and Republicans can block higher taxes.

All this produced the recent drama: plunging tax revenue and the state’s resulting huge budget deficits; endless negotiations between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders; the deadlock that led the state to issue scrip (in effect, IOUs) to pay bills; and a final agreement on a 2009-10 budget. But there is also a bigger story with national implications. California has reached a tipping point. Its government made more promises than its economy can easily support. For years, state leaders papered over the contradiction with loans and modest changes. By overwhelming these expedients, the recession triggered an inevitable reckoning.

Here’s the national lesson. There’s a collision between high and rising demands for government services and the capacity of the economy to produce the income and tax revenue to pay for those demands. That’s true of California, where poor immigrants and their children have increased pressures for more government services. It’s also true of the nation, where an aging population raises Social Security and Medicare spending. California is leading the transformation of politics into a form of collective torture: pay more (higher taxes), get less (lower services).

Make no mistake: The spending cuts and tax increases the state enacted to bridge its budget deficits are not cosmetic. In February, the Legislature agreed to a penny increase in the state sales tax, bringing the total—including local sales taxes—to about nine cents or more. Top income tax rates, already among the highest in the country, were raised. So were motor vehicle registration fees. Spending cuts approved in February and July are deep. Together, the cuts equal almost 30 percent of the general revenue fund and will affect schools, prisons, colleges and welfare.

The state’s liberal establishment is in mourning. “Reversing 40 years of progress” is how Jean Ross of the California Budget Project, a liberal research and advocacy group, put it in one blog. Some welfare benefits will be cut by half. California’s student-teacher ratio, now about a third above the national average, will probably go even higher. The University of California system lost 20 percent of its state payments. It’s raising tuition and student fees 9.3 percent, imposing salary reductions of 4 to 10 percent on more than 100,000 workers, and delaying faculty hires.

National parallels again seem apparent. Federal budget deficits—reflecting the urge to spend and not tax—predate the recession and, as baby boomers retire, will survive any recovery. Amazingly, the Obama administration would worsen the long-term outlook by expanding federal health insurance coverage. There’s much mushy thinking about how we’ll muddle through.

California has pioneered this sort of delusion. The presumption was that a dynamic economy would pay for expansive government. But California’s relative economic performance has actually deteriorated. In the 1980s, the state’s economy grew much faster than the national economy; annual growth averaged 5.1 percent vs. 3.1 percent nationally. In the present decade, the gap is smaller—2.9 percent versus 2.3 percent—and much of the state’s advantage reflects the unsustainable housing boom, of which California was the epicenter.

On paper, the state could solve its budget problems by raising taxes further. But in practice, that might backfire by weakening the economy and tax base. California scores poorly in state ratings of business climate. In a CNBC survey, it ranked 32nd overall but last in “cost of business” and 49th in “business friendliness.” Information technology (Intel, Google, Hewlett Packard) and biotechnology remain strengths, but some traditional industries are struggling. High costs, as well as tax breaks from other states, have caused movie studios to shift production from Southern California. In 1996, feature films involved 14,500 production days in the Los Angeles area, says FilmL.A.; in 2008, the figure was half that.

So California is stretched between a precarious economy and a strong popular desire for government. The state’s wrenching experience suggests that, as a nation, we should begin to pare back government’s future commitments to avoid a similar fate. But California’s experience also suggests we’ll remain in denial, prisoners of wishful thinking, until the fateful reckoning arrives in the unimagined future.

See Related: BUDGET CRISIS

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BRITISH PRIME MINISTER’S WIFE JOINS LONDON PRIDE PARADE

<em>Mrs Brown with actor Michael Cashman, right, and his partner Paul Cottingham, left.</em>

Mrs Brown with actor Michael Cashman, right, and his partner Paul Cottingham, left.

The Prime Minister’s wife has joined in with the fun at the flamboyant Pride march organised by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.

Sarah Brown was among the first group of marchers who were cheered as they walked along Oxford Street followed by drag queens in blonde wigs and Union Jack outfits.

Before the march, Gordon Brown welcomed equality rights campaigners to the garden at 10 Downing Street.

In a message to Pride London, the Prime Minister described the creation of civil partnerships as one of a set of “massive strides towards equality” for the gay community made under Labour “often in the face of fierce opposition”.

He said: “This Government is committed to standing at your shoulders in the fight for equality and we are guided by one very simple principle when it comes to LGBT rights: you can’t legislate love.”

But gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell described civil partnerships as “a form of sexual apartheid”.

PM hosts campaigners at No 10

He said he would ask Mrs Brown to speak to her husband about allowing same-sex couples to marry in the same way as heterosexual partners.

During the march, Mr Tatchell carried a sign saying: “Gordon and Sarah can marry, gays can’t. End the ban on gay marriage.”

Comic Rhona Cameron, who is one of the festival’s patrons, led the parade which had the theme Come Out and Play.

Thousands of people lined the route through central London, some dressed as outrageously as the marchers.

One of the revellers Jamie Trudgian, 28, of Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, said of the event: “It’s a way of communicating to the world that gay people do exist.

“We are here and we are involved in everything.”

The Pride march followed a row between gay politicians after Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said there was a “deep strain of homophobia” running through the Conservative Party.

Shadow Commons leader Alan Duncan, who is also openly gay, hit back and accused Labour of “poisonous mudslinging” in an attempt to stir up hatred and reopen old divisions.

See Related: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MICHELLE OBAMA – ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON

See Related: SAN FRANCISCO PRIDE 2009 MOMENTS – ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON

See Related: STONEWALL VOICES – ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON

See Related: BUTTERFLY, CHAMPAGNE, PINK TRIANGLE – ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON

See Related: STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION – PRIDE WEEKEND PHOTOS

See Related: MARRIAGE EQUALITY

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LEBANON ELECTION A BLOW TO SYRIA AND IRAN – A BOOST TO UNITED STATES

<em>Supporters of Future Movement, loyal to Sunni Leader Saad al-Hariri, celebrate their win in the parliamentary election in Tariq al-Jadidah district in Beirut June 7, 2009</em>

Supporters of Future Movement, loyal to Sunni Leader Saad al-Hariri, celebrate their win in the parliamentary election in Tariq al-Jadidah district in Beirut June 7, 2009

BY LAILA BASSAM

BEIRUT – An anti-Syrian coalition defeated Hezbollah in Lebanon’s parliamentary election on Sunday in a blow to Syria and Iran and a boost to the United States.

“Congratulations to Lebanon, congratulations to democracy, congratulations to freedom,” the coalition’s leader Saad al-Hariri said in a victory speech at his mansion in Beirut.

<em>Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri (L), leader of the anti-Syrian alliance, hugs parliamentary candidate Nohad Machnouk after the coalition he is part of won the parliamentary election in Beirut June 7, 2009</em>

Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri (L), leader of the anti-Syrian alliance, hugs parliamentary candidate Nohad Machnouk after the coalition he is part of won the parliamentary election in Beirut June 7, 2009

The outcome was also welcome news for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which back Hariri’s “March 14″ alliance – the date of a 2005 rally against Syria’s military presence in Lebanon.

<em>Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (C) and Minister of Education Bahiya al-Hariri (L) celebrate their coalition party's win in the parliamentary election, in Sidon, southern Lebanon June 7, 2009</em>

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (C) and Minister of Education Bahiya al-Hariri (L) celebrate their coalition party's win in the parliamentary election, in Sidon, southern Lebanon June 7, 2009

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora (C) and Minister of Education Bahiya al-Hariri (L) celebrate their coalition party’s win in the parliamentary election, in Sidon, southern Lebanon June 7, 2009

“We have lost the election,” conceded a senior politician close to the bloc of Shi’ite groups Hezbollah and Amal and Christian ally Michel Aoun.

“We accept the result as the will of the people.”

The vote will be viewed as a stinging setback to Aoun, who held the biggest bloc of Christian MPs in the outgoing assembly and had hoped to seal his claim to speak for the Christians.

A source in Hariri’s campaign predicted a decisive victory, with his bloc taking at least 70 of the assembly’s 128 seats.

Perhaps 100 of the seats were virtually decided in advance, thanks to sectarian voting patterns and political deals, with Sunni and Shi’ite communities voting solidly on opposing sides.

The real electoral battle centered on Christian areas, where Aoun was up against former President Amin Gemayel’s Phalange Party, Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces and independents.

Lebanon’s rival camps are at odds over Hezbollah’s guerrilla force, which outguns the Lebanese army, and ties with Syria, which dominated Lebanon for three decades until 2005.

The likeliest outcome of the poll is another “national unity” government, analysts say.

SINIORA WINS SEAT

According to unofficial results, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who has enjoyed Western and Arab support, won a parliamentary seat in the mainly Sunni southern city of Sidon.

Siniora, 66, has headed the cabinet since the Hariri-led coalition won the 2005 parliamentary election. He led the government through 18 months of political conflict with Hezbollah and its allies, but is not expected to keep his post.

Voting was relatively trouble-free across Lebanon, although there were many reports of vote-buying before the poll, with some Lebanese expatriates being offered free air tickets home.

The United States, which lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group, has linked future aid to Lebanon to the shape and policies of the next government. Hezbollah, which says it must keep its arms to deter Israel, is part of the outgoing cabinet.

The anti-Syrian coalition has enjoyed firm backing from many Western countries since the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father Rafik al-Hariri.

The coalition took power in an election following Hariri’s killing, but struggled to govern in the face of a sometimes violent conflict with Hezbollah and its allies.

Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said any new government had to be based on partnership, not on one side monopolizing power.

“Whatever the results of the election, we cannot change the standing delicate balances or repeat the experiences of the past which led to catastrophes on Lebanon,” he told Reuters.

“Whoever wants political stability, the preservation of national unity and the resurrection of Lebanon will find no choice but to accept the principle of consensus.”

Hezbollah and its allies insisted on being given veto power in a unity cabinet — a demand that caused an 18-month political deadlock until it was granted under a Qatari-brokered deal that followed street fighting in Beirut in May 2008.

Leading anti-Syrian politician Walid Jumblatt said he opposed the idea of veto power for the opposition.

Asked if they should be in the government, he told Reuters: “Yes, but I cannot decide on my own. I am part of a coalition and it should be a unanimous decision.”

Tensions in Lebanon have mostly been kept in check since the Qatari-mediated accord dragged the country back from the brink of civil war. A thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria has also helped maintain stability in recent months.

Security was tight, with 50,000 troops and police deployed across Lebanon, especially in the most contested districts.

Security sources said one person was wounded by gunfire in the northern city of Tripoli and there were brawls between rival supporters elsewhere, but no reports of serious fighting.

Baroud said preliminary figures showed a turnout of more than 54 percent, a high figure for Lebanon, where hundreds of thousands of the 3.26 million eligible voters live abroad.

See Related: WORLD POLITICS

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STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION – JUNE 4 2009

STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION
JUNE 4 2009

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strange-de-jim-175-2.jpg
By Strange de Jim
Beep beep! Love from Strange

June 4 winner: David Letterman: Top Ten Signs You’ve Hired a Bad Tony Awards Host (read by this year’s host Neil Patrick Harris): “Thinks the two gangs in ‘West Side Story’ are the Jets and the 49ers.” “Quits after ten minutes, citing ‘mercury poisoning from sushi.’” “Plans to have a bare-assed Angela Lansbury lowered onto Eminem.” “He’s straight.”

June wins: Letterman 3, O’Brien 1

Stephen Colbert: “Wikipedia has banned Scientology from editing their own entry after they listed Tom Cruise’s height as 5′ 10″.” “Abstinence-only sex education. Wait for it …”

Conan O’Brien: “Last week Rush Limbaugh said Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor Might be a racist. Now he says he may support her — when he becomes sure she IS a racist.” “Larry King’s wife may star in the ‘Spider Man’ musical on Broadway. Larry will appear as Dr. Prostate.” “J.D. Salinger is suing a guy who wrote ‘Catcher in the Rye 2: Electric Boogaloo.’” “Heidi Montag says husband Spencer Pratt is so competitive he’d throw her over a cliff to win something. At last a reason to root for Spencer Pratt.” Guest Joel McHale: “I have three jobs because I don’t like spending time with my family.”

Jimmy Kimmel: “New Hampshire now allows same-sex marriage. Their motto is now ‘Live free or dye your tips like Ryan Seacrest.’ And Rhode Island’s new motto is ‘Surrounded by gays.’”

Jimmy Fallon: “The government accidentally posted a list of all our secret nuclear sites. No one knows who … OK, it was Joe Biden.” “A cat survived a 26-story fall. Unfortunately it fell 27 stories.” “Miley Cyrus has a new line of inexpensive clothing at Walmart, including a backpack strong enough to carry your whole family.” “Some New York Mets may be suffering from swine flu. Usually they don’t start choking until September.”

Craig Ferguson: “Scientists can now track penguins from space by following their trail of poop. It’s the same way the Secret Service keeps track of Joe Biden.”

“New Adventures of Old Christine:” Old Christine: “I can find my own men.” Her brother Richard: “Yeah, go check your traps.”

See Related: STRANGE de JIM’S ZINGERS COLLECTION

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ALMOST HALF OF AMERICANS HOLD NEGATIVE VIEWS OF MUSLIM COUNTRIES – POLL

<em>The poll comes as the US president tries to reach out to the Muslim world</em>

The poll comes as the US president tries to reach out to the Muslim world

BY BOB REYNOLDS

As Barack Obama, the US president, seeks to mend the image of the US in the Muslim world, a new survey indicates almost half of Americans have a negative opinion about Muslim countries.

The 46 per cent of respondents who held an unfavourable view of Islamic nations was up five per cent from 2002, while just 20 per cent said they held a positive opinion.

“It’s pretty difficult to think much about folks that are seriously trying to kill us or kill anybody who doesn’t believe the way they do; so, I am not very happy with those folks,” Chuck Hauptman, a Billings, Montana resident, told Al Jazeera recently.

Greg Smith, a researcher with the Pew Forum on Religion in Washington, says most Americans’ views of Muslims are heavily influenced by what they see on television and read in newspapers.

“The number one answer people give us when we ask them what’s most important in shaping their views on Islam is the media,” Smith says.

“It’s people who have a negative view of Muslims and Islam in particular who are most likely to say their opinion is shaped largely by what they see in the media.”

Linked with violence

About 60 per cent of Americans feel that the Muslim world considers itself at war with the US, and there is a widespread impression that Islam encourages violence – 45 per cent of respondents in a 2007 poll associated the religion with violent attacks.

“A lot of people, because of 9/11 and the terrorist era we seem to be in, have generalised all Middle Eastern people as devils,” comments Marty Connolly of the Billings research institute.

On the other side, surveys of Muslim countries show only about 25 per cent of people approve of US leadership.

Smith says negative views are most common among Americans who are older, do not have college degrees, and who have never met a Muslim.

“People who say they personally know a Muslim are much more likely to express favourable views of Muslims,” he says.

Entrenched attitudes

While Obama has made dialogue with Muslim countries a priority for his foreign policy, polls indicate many Americans do not particularly care what Muslims think of the US, or they feel that Muslim opinions do not matter.

A recent trip to the US state of Montana appeared to confirm some of these entrenched attitudes towards Muslims.

“I don’t care about co-existence,” Montana resident Carroll Broch told Al Jazeera.

“I don’t want to co-exist with them. They either accept us or they don’t accept us.”

See Related: ISRAEL-MIDEAST

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al-QAEDA BEHEADS BRITISH HOSTAGE

<em>British hostage Edwin Dyer held by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb</em>

British hostage Edwin Dyer held by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has condemned the apparent “barbaric” killing of a British hostage held in the Sahara by an al-Qaeda cell.

Edwin Dyer was captured in Mali and held hostage for more than four months before a claim he had been murdered emerged.

The Briton and three other tourists – two Swiss citizens and a German woman also taken hostage – were on their way back from a cultural festival on January 22.

Reports claimed the Mr Dyer had been beheaded by his captors.

“We have strong reason to believe that a British citizen, Edwin Dyer, has been murdered by an al Qaeda cell in Mali,” the PM said in a statement.

“I utterly condemn this appalling and barbaric act of terrorism.”

The cell had said it would kill Mr Dyer if the British government did not release Abu Qatada, a Jordanian Islamist in jail in UK.

The captors now say on a website used by al Qaeda-linked groups they murdered Dyer on May 31 after a second deadline for meeting its demands expired.

“The British captive was killed so that he, and with him the British state, may taste a tiny portion of what innocent Muslims taste every day at the hands of the Crusader and Jewish coalition to the east and to the west,” the statement went on.

Mr Brown said: “I want those who would use terror against British citizens to know beyond doubt that we and our allies will pursue them relentlessly.”

<em>Cleric Abu Qatada</em>

Cleric Abu Qatada

“I have regularly discussed this case with the president of Mali – he knows that he will have every support in rooting out al Qaeda from his country.”

Qatada was named by a Spanish judge as the right-hand man in Europe of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.

The cleric has been held in Britain since 2005. He denies belonging to the group.

Britain has described him as a “significant international terrorist” but said it does not have enough evidence to put him on trial.

It wants to deport him on grounds of national security, but Appeal Court judges ruled last year he would not face a fair trial in Jordan.

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