Archive | Politics

Koret Foundation Fight Over Concealing of Financials in Battle Over $500M Charity

Koret Directors Personally Profited From Self-Dealing Through Sale of Koret Assets to Prometheus Real Estate Group, Attorneys Say

 

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

San Francisco—Attorneys representing Susan Koret, the widow of the founder of the Koret Foundation, have filed a brief to oppose a move that would seal financial documents from public view in the battle over the future of the Koret Foundation.

Attorneys for Mrs. Koret say the documents show Koret directors profited from the sale of millions of dollars of Koret Foundation real estate assets to a business associate, Prometheus Real Estate Group of San Mateo, Calif., for ‘side deals’ that profited Tad Taube, a longtime president of the Koret Foundation.

Prometheus bought two large Foundation real estate property interests in 2014 and Prometheus, through its president Jaclyn Safier, is now seeking to seal closing statements and transaction documents showing financial payments and related deposition testimony from the public, said attorney Rob Bunzel of Bartko Zankel Bunzel, attorneys for Mrs. Koret, in the public filing.

In the filing for Mrs. Koret, made March 28, 2016, Bunzel said Prometheus’ motion to seal is motivated “to keep from a public trial terms of deals that greatly benefitted Koret directors….These deals all revolve around huge transactions with a public charity. There is no expectation of secrecy, no trade secrets and no reason to seal the records.”

Mrs. Koret, the widow of Foundation founder Joseph Koret, filed suit in October 2014 against Koret Foundation Board President Tad Taube, accusing him and the foundation’s board of directors of conflicts of interest in funding pet projects that include conservative causes in the United States and charities in his native country of Poland.

The suit alleges that under Taube’s direction the board has ignored the priorities established by her late husband to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel. Instead, her suit claims, the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

Some of the documents in question involve the sale of the Foundation’s interest in Fair Oaks apartment complex at 655 South Fair Oaks Ave., Sunnyvale, to Prometheus, which was the 6th largest real estate transaction in Santa Clara in 2014 with a sale price of $122,600,500, according to PropertyShark.com.

According to Mrs. Koret’s brief that opposes the seal: “the public’s right of access is paramount. Ms. (Jaclyn) Safier’s Declaration simply provides conclusory statements that data or terms in these real estate documents are proprietary in some way. There is no discussion of how this unspecified interest in confidentiality overcomes the public right of access.  Given that the public’s right of access is of constitutional dimension and this Court’s obligation is to ensure public access to public trials, the showing on the face of the motion is deficient to establish any interest that “overcomes” the public interest.”

A hearing date is set for April 11 to hear motions in San Francisco Superior Court. The trial for Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit against the Foundation’s directors begins April 18.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit demands the removal of board members Tad Taube and his longtime legal counsel Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP in part due to alleged self-dealing. The suit pleads breach of charitable trust for an injunction against all of the directors who include Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California, Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To learn more: www.SaveKoret.org.

 

 

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Did City of San Jose, Mayor Sam Liccardo Misuse Wastewater Ratepayer Funds?

Independent Investigation Launched by Wastewater Tributary Agencies

Could Lead to Major Issues for San Jose, City Budget, If Data Shows San Jose Misusing Ratepayer Funds

“What is San Jose Trying to Hide?”

1 Sam

Concerned that the City of San Jose and the administration of Mayor Sam Liccardo may be misusing wastewater ratepayer funds for programs and projects not associated with wastewater treatment, a coalition of small wastewater tributary agencies today demanded the city immediately turn over all public records related to expenditures at the San Jose Santa Clara Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The tributary agencies have reason to believe the City of San Jose has used ratepayer funds for the benefit of San Jose only – and at the unfair expense of smaller communities whose fees are supposed to pay for plant operations.

The agencies have hired an independent forensic auditor to investigate whether San Jose is diverting ratepayer money for city-only projects, and intend to turn over their findings to state and federal officials for further investigation as need be.

In addition, the tributary agencies are sending letters to all elected state officials in the region expressing concern over the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the City of San Jose and treatment plant staff.

“All ratepayers served by the treatment plant have a right to know how their money is being spent, yet the City of San Jose has so far failed to fully comply with two public records requests demanding full documentation,” said Britt Strottman, an attorney from the Meyers Nave law firm representing the tributary agencies. “The agencies need to know where every dollar sent to San Jose goes. Right now, we don’t know where the money goes. What is the city trying to hide?”

The tributary agencies represent about 240,000 ratepayers and include the cities of Milpitas, Cupertino and Burbank, plus the Santa Clara County Sanitation District 2-3 and the West Valley Sanitation District, which collectively represent the communities of Los Gatos, Campbell, Monte Sereno and Saratoga and incorporated sections of Santa Clara County. The treatment plant is jointly owned by the City of Santa Clara and the City of San Jose, but it is operated and managed by San Jose.

To combat San Jose’s lack of transparency, the tributary agencies have also filed a claim for breach of contract against the City. A public hearing on the claim is scheduled for March 24 before the Treatment Plant Advisory Committee.

The tributary communities have suggested changes to the 33-year-old master legal agreement with the City that would reflect their concerns and recognize the upgrades needed at the wastewater treatment plant, as called for in San Jose’s 2013 Plant Master Plan. But rather than negotiate with the tributary communities, San Jose treatment plant staff are allocating project costs that in the long term favor San Jose.

In addition, San Jose treatment plant staff routinely misrepresent the communities’ position in correspondence with San Jose City Council, claiming in part that the dispute involves their refusal pay their fair share of necessary plant improvements. The tributary communities, in other words, are being made to be the aggressors, when in fact they are simply fulfilling their fiduciary duties to protect the rights of their ratepayers.

“The agencies fully intend to pay for their share of the improvement costs to the treatment plant,” Strottman said.  “But without a clear understanding of the size of their financial obligations and the timing and scope of the planned projects, the agencies would be putting their ratepayers’ financial position in jeopardy.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. The treatment plant master plan calls for $2.1 billion in upgrades over the next 20 years, and the tributary communities represent about 20 percent of the plant’s users. The City of San Jose recently admitted overcharging the agencies for the first phase of the plant improvements, and the agencies fear such overcharges will continue unless the City agrees to properly amend the master agreements

As if to demonstrate staff’s unwillingness to work with the agencies on budget issues, San Jose failed to provide the communities with a treatment plant budget by March 1, as called for in the master agreements, making planning for the next fiscal year extremely difficult.

“San Jose should stop bullying the smaller communities, provide the documents required under the Public Records Act and come clean on the use of ratepayer funds,” Strottman said.

 

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Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation and Brain Health Registry Partner to Accelerate Alzheimer’s Treatment by 2025

  National Launch Engages Major Institutions in Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, Providence, San Francisco and South Florida

 TV Stars Linda Gray and Samantha Harris and Renowned Author B. Smith Join Effort

1 b smith

B. Smith joins “The Today Show” to Talk about National Brain Registry

SAN FRANCISCO Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation today announced a partnership with Internet-based Brain Health Registry, launched and led by researchers at UC San Francisco (UCSF), to grow its global registry of potential Alzheimer’s clinical trial candidates and accelerate a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Through the partnership, Global Alzheimer’s Platform aims to add tens of thousands of new registry members by the third quarter of 2016, and learn how to most effectively grow membership as its global registry expands. The launch includes support from major medical institutions across the country, and a national public service announcement (PSA) campaign featuring TV stars Linda Gray and Samantha Harris and renowned author B. Smith.

 Join the Cause

Those who wish to help in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease can register free at www.brainhealthregistry.org and help spread the word using #BeatAlzheimers.

Local Markets, Targeted Outreach

Acclaimed research institutions and medical professionals across the country are supporting the effort, working with Global Alzheimer’s Platform and the Brain Health Registry to increase the effectiveness of recruitment efforts with targeted local outreach campaigns. These include:

 

  • Atlanta: Allan Levey, MD, PhD (Emory University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center) and Marshall L. Nash, MD (NeuroStudies.net)
  • Boston: Dorene Rentz, PsyD and Gad Marshall, MD (Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Massachusetts General Hospital; Harvard Medical School)
  • Las Vegas: Jeffrey Cummings, MD (Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health)
  • Providence, R.I.: Stephen Salloway, MD (Alpert Medical School of Brown University; Butler Hospital)
  • San Francisco: Michael Weiner, MD (UCSF)
  • South Florida: Mark Brody, MD (Brain Matters Research)

Celebrities Lend Support

TV stars Linda Gray and Samantha Harris are joining the effort with a national PSA campaign aimed at encouraging people across the country to register online at www.brainhealthregistry.org. The stars, who have directly dealt with issues related to Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders, encourage healthy people, as well as those with early signs of memory loss, to do their part by enrolling in the Brain Health Registry. In addition renowned author B. Smith is also lending her support with a national PSA. Smith today released a new book, “Before I Forget,” recounting her personal, unfolding story with Alzheimer’s disease. “Before I Forget” is available at www.bsmith.com and at book retailers across the country. The PSAs will air beginning in February on TV and radio networks nationwide.

Unified Effort to Find a Cure

Global Alzheimer’s Platform, headquartered in Washington, D.C., was launched in 2014 by UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Global CEO Initiative on Alzheimer’s disease. The organization’s goal is to reduce the duration (by up to two years), the cost and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials, and turn Alzheimer’s Disease sufferers into survivors. Executing on this vision, Global Alzheimer’s Platform is now working with multiple organizations, beginning with the Brain Health Registry, to build an integrated global clinical trial network with a pool of individuals ready, willing and able to enter clinical trials. Brain Health Registry is a free web-based effort led by researchers at UCSF designed to more quickly identify appropriate clinical trial candidates and speed the path to cures for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders.

Alzheimer’s Facts

  • More than 500,000 people die from Alzheimer’s disease each year.
  • Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age – 200,000 people in their 30s, 40s and 50s have early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
  • 44 million people worldwide are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease dementia.
  • 135 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s disease dementia by 2050 if aggressive and effective action isn’t taken now.

About Global Alzheimer’s Platform

The Global Alzheimer’s Platform initiative was launched in 2014 by UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and the Global CEO Initiative (CEOi) on Alzheimer’s Disease with the vision of creating an integrated global clinical trial network to reduce the time, cost and risk of Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials, a critical factor in the pacing of efforts to speed an effective treatment of Alzheimer’s disease to those with or at risk of the disease. Global Alzheimer’s Platform, headquartered in Washington, D.C., aims to create a faster pathway to a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. It intends to do so by building a standing global clinical trial platform of willing individuals through novel web-based recruitment techniques coupled with a network of high performance clinical trial sites.  Global Alzheimer’s Platform also provides an organizational framework that links prominent research
institutions, the private sector and government agencies in multiple countries to fight Alzheimer’s disease. For more information, please visit www.globalalzplatform.org.

About Brain Health Registry

Brain Health Registry is a groundbreaking free, online platform designed to speed the path to cures for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, PTSD, mild cognitive impairment and other brain disorders. Brain Health Registry gathers data from volunteers who have registered and completed questionnaires and cognitive tests on the Brain Health Registry website. Brain Health Registry aims to reduce the cost of patient recruitment for clinical trials by building a large online pool of potential candidates. The registry is led by Dr. Michael Weiner, professor of radiology and biomedical engineering, medicine, psychiatry and neurology at UC San Francisco (UCSF), along with other UCSF researchers, and involves collaboration with several other top scientific institutions. For more information please visit www.brainhealthregistry.org/

 

 

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Golden State Warriors Mission Bay Arena Site Slapped With New Lawsuit Over Highrise, Zoning Laws

Mission Bay Alliance and Mother of UCSF Pediatric Patient File Lawsuit on Proposition M to Relocate Controversial Warriors Arena out of Mission Bay 

 San Francisco’s Rubber Stamp Approval of Arena Project Ignored Laws: Prop. M Laws on Office Space Allocations, Use of Public Subsidies for Transportation Improvements

 Joe Lacob and Peter Guber

Another Setback for Mission Bay Warriors Owners Joe Lacob, Peter Guber

San Francisco – Opponents of the proposed Golden State Warriors arena in Mission Bay–including the mother of a critically ill child dependent on the UCSF Children’s Hospital for emergency care–have filed another lawsuit seeking to relocate the proposed entertainment complex.

The lawsuit argues that San Francisco city officials violated a number of San Francisco zoning laws when they approved the proposed development, ignoring office space allocation caps and the process to administer public subsidies for private development, among others.

“The City of San Francisco, in its zeal to approve this ill-conceived sports arena, brazenly ignored a number of its own laws designed to protect local communities and keep tabs on the use of taxpayer dollars,” said Bruce Spaulding of the Mission Bay Alliance. “This lawsuit seeks to require the Warriors’ ownership to follow the same rules and procedures that apply to everyone else – without any special treatment at the expense of public interest.”

Violated Prop M

Attorneys for the Mission Bay Alliance say the City of San Francisco violated Proposition M – a voter-sponsored initiative that created the first annual limit on high-rise development in the country – when it approved more than 600,000 square feet of office space for the two office towers located within the Mission Bay arena complex.  The City created loopholes in the process mandated by the voters for allocating office space to the Warriors arena.

Proposition M was approved by San Francisco voters in 1986 to limit the amount of office space that could be approved by the City to 950,000 square feet each year. The intent behind this law was to close “loopholes” that allowed run-away office development and the “Manhattanization” of San Francisco without the additional community elements, such as housing and transportation, to support it.

Violated Rules on Public Subsidies

The lawsuit, filed Friday in San Francisco Superior Court, also alleges the City violated rules regarding the use of public subsidies when it authorized $64 million in capital expenditures to support transportation upgrades that would serve the arena.  Of this expense, only $19.2 million would be paid for by project-generated impact fees.

The balance would be covered by the San Francisco General Fund and the issuance of revenue bonds on the taxpayer’s dime.

Yet redirecting General Fund revenues and issuing bonds require special procedures to secure public buy-in – none of which were followed for this arena development project, according to the suit.

“The City violated its own process in the haste to approve an arena that Mayor Ed Lee has labeled his ‘legacy project,’” said Mission Bay Alliance attorney Tom Lippe. “The Mission Bay Alliance is asking that the City apply its zoning laws to the owners of the Warriors as it would to any other developer .”

The Mission Bay Alliance has long argued that Mayor Lee and San Francisco officials rushed the approval process and denied the public meaningful participation or independent review when it approved an 18,050-seat basketball arena directly across from the brand-new UCSF hospital campus.

According to the Alliance, the project violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by not properly considering alternative locations for the arena and by failing to adequately address the project’s environmental impacts, such as traffic, air quality, and noise.

The consequences of these oversights could cost lives. Parents fear that game-time traffic to the Warriors arena, located 1,000 feet from UCSF Children’s Hospital, could block life-saving care — a potentially fatal outcome that the City’s Environmental Impact Report shockingly fails to adequately address.  Jennifer Wade, the mother of a child who relies on UCSF’s life-saving care, has joined the Mission Bay Alliance in this action.

About the Mission Bay Alliance

The Mission Bay Alliance was founded by former UCSF administrators, donors, faculty, physicians and the working men and women of San Francisco who are concerned about the impact of the proposed Golden State Warriors’ stadium on the future of the vibrant community and medical campus at Mission Bay. The Alliance has joined a coalition of world-renowned scientists from UCSF and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the California Nurses Association in calling the proposed Warriors’ Arena a “disaster” for Mission Bay. For more information about the Mission Bay Alliance, visit www.missionbayalliance.org or contact Alex Doniach of the Alliance at 415.227.9700.

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New Chevron Video Shows Ecuador Responsible for Oil Spills, Not Texaco

ECUADOR ELECTIONS RESULTS - RAFAEL CORREA

Ecuador President Rafael Correa Attempts to Blame Chevron Texaco for His Country’s Own Oil Spills, New Chevron Video Shows

Chevron released a new video today in its ongoing battle to demonstrate its innocence in the alleged pollution of the Amazon in Ecuador.  The video shows that the Government of Ecuador, driven by a corrupt President Rafael Correa and an equally corrupt Ecuadorian justice system, has worked hand-in-hand with discredited plaintiff attorney Steven Donziger and a dishonest environmental group, AmazonWatch, to hide the fact the Ecuador oil spills were caused Ecuador’s own state-owned oil company, PetroEcuador.

The Chevron website, The Amazon Post, writes:

“For years, the Ecuadorian government, environmental activist groups and calculating lawyers have used images of oil pits, spills and indigenous peoples in the Amazon to mislead the public and pressure Chevron into settling a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against the company. Rather than give in to these tactics, Chevron has fought back, exposing the lawsuit as a fraud and holding the purveyors of that fraud accountable.

“This video highlights the fact that Texaco (now owned by Chevron) already cleaned up its share of oil production sites before leaving Ecuador in the late 1990s and that the Ecuadorian government is solely responsible for the current environmental and social conditions in the Amazon.”

See the Chevron video here: http://theamazonpost.com/chevron-to-ecuador-keep-your-promise-clean-up-the-amazon/

The plaintiffs in the case have repeatedly used misleading photos that are sites that were the responsibility of PetroEcuador to clean up, and, instead, have attempted to shift the blame to Texaco, which was purchased by Chevron.  The plaintiffs’ also resorted to paying Hollywood director and filmmaker Joe Berlinger to produce a fraudulent ‘documentary’ (Crude: The Real Price of Oil) that blames Texaco for the oil spills.  Berlinger and the film were discredited after it was exposed that he was paid by the plaintiffs and used only footage that was helpful to them, and not Chevron, in its legal battle in Ecuador against Chevron.

When Chevron prevailed in its American lawsuit against Donziger and the plaintiffs in 2014, the New York Times reported:

“Chevron won a major victory. A federal judge in Manhattan ruled that a two-decade legal effort to punish the company was marred by fraud and corruption, making it increasingly likely that the oil company would be ultimately successful in beating back the legal and financial challenge.”

Donziger and his supporters were exposed in the U.S. trial for using bribery, extortion, witness tampering and fraud to win the Ecuadorian judgment against Chevron.  Donziger was caught on outtakes from Berlinger’s “Crude” movie admitting his case against Chevron was “just a bunch of smoke and mirrors and bullshit.”

Despite having been demonstrated to be a fraud, the plaintiffs are attempting to collect the Ecuadorian judgment of $9 billion dollars against Chevron in Canada.

 

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Golden State Warriors Mission Bay Arena Losing Ground with S.F. Voters, New Poll Shows

Joe Lacob and Peter Guber

Warriors’ Owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber Get Handed First Loss of Warriors’ Season

 

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco residents are growing increasingly concerned about traffic, parking and other problems related to the proposed Golden State Warriors Arena in Mission Bay, with 59 percent of registered voters in a recent poll opposing the arena once they learned the facts.

On Monday, the Mission Bay Alliance, a coalition of arena opponents, UCSF stakeholders and residents, released a poll of 540 registered San Francisco voters conducted by EMC Research that found the following: 

Based on what they know today about the proposed arena plan in Mission Bay, fewer than half of voters say they support it:

Support – 49 percent

Oppose – 42 percent

Don’t know – 10 percent

This is a 12 percent drop from a Warriors’-commissioned poll released in July, which showed about 61 percent of residents supporting the proposal.

 Once voters became aware of the facts surrounding the proposed arena and the expected regional impacts, including traffic gridlock, the lack of parking and clogged emergency access for adjacent UCSF hospitals, support for the arena plummeted even more:

Support – 38 percent

Oppose – 59 percent

Don’t know – 3 percent

Parking and traffic ranked as the two most problematic impacts, with 65 percent of voters concerned about traffic gridlock and 67 percent about a lack of parking in and around the arena.

Residents also aren’t happy about the proposed $60 million package to help mitigate overcrowding on public transportation related to the arena. About $29 million of the package would be funded by taxpayer money. The project also does little to alleviate the burden the arena will put on regional transit like BART and CalTrain.

When asked, most voters support restricting the use of public funds to offset impacts of private development projects, such as the proposed Warriors arena:

Support – 61 percent

Oppose – 32 percent

Don’t know – 7 percent

A majority of voters also support relocating the proposed arena from Mission Bay to Cesar Chavez/3rd Street, an alternative location proposed by the Mission Bay Alliance: 

Support – 55 percent

Oppose – 38 percent

Don’t know – 8 percent

The message is clear: the more people learn about this project, the less they support it, said Pollster Alex Evans.

Despite the Warriors’ claims of surging support, there’s a lot of movement “and a lot of movement away from a Warriors arena in Mission Bay,” he said. “If I was on the Warriors’ side of this, I would be very nervous.”

“The public is starting to ask serious questions about the impact this massive arena will have on the quality of life in San Francisco,” said Bruce Spaulding of the Mission Bay Alliance, which commissioned the poll. “Support for an arena drops the more city residents learn about the project and understand the negative impact of an arena of this size for Mission Bay and San Francisco as a whole.”

The poll, which was conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 6 and has a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points, revealed that many voters are dissatisfied with the way the project has been handled by City officials, who have come under fire for jamming the project through the approval process without adequate time for full public review. 

In fact, the poll shows voters believe the City is moving in the wrong direction.

When asked whether the City was moving in the “right direction” or was the “wrong track,” a majority said it’s on the wrong track:

Right direction – 35 percent

Wrong track – 52 percent

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday, Dec. 8 on an appeal by the Mission Bay Alliance of the project’s 5,000-page EIR and on the $60 million, taxpayer-funded transportation plan to help mitigate the project’s impacts on traffic and public transportation serving Mission Bay. 

The Supervisors’ vote follows a record-fast, rubber stamp approval process that has allowed the ill-conceived project to sail through regulatory approvals without scrutiny. The Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII) certified the project’s EIR on Nov. 3 – only 10 days after releasing the 5,000-page document to the public.

The Mission Bay Alliance appealed certification on Nov. 13, citing significant yet overlooked impacts, including traffic gridlock during the arena’s 225 annual events and the flawed transportation plan that commits the City to using the general fund to try to address traffic and public safety impacts. 

“Support for this arena is plummeting, and we hope our elected leaders get the message in advance of making a major decision that will shape the future of this City,” Spaulding said. “The residents of San Francisco want a fair process – and given this project’s high stakes and devastating impacts, they deserve nothing less.”

About the Mission Bay Alliance

The Mission Bay Alliance is a coalition of UCSF stakeholders, donors, faculty, physicians and the working men and women of San Francisco who are concerned about the impact of the proposed Golden State Warriors’ stadium on the future of the vibrant community and medical campus at Mission Bay. The Alliance has joined a coalition of world-renowned scientists from UCSF and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the California Nurses Association in calling the proposed Warriors’ Arena a “disaster” for Mission Bay. For more information about the Mission Bay Alliance, visit www.missionbayalliance.org. Call 415.227.9700 for more information.

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Koret Foundation Lawsuit Heats Up: New Website, Ads Call for Return to Founder’s Charitable Mission

Koret  Contributions to Hoover Institution, Polish Jewish Museum, Slammed by Koret Widow–Says Tad Taube, Anita Friedman of JCFS, Richard Green of Radovsky Green, Others, Use Charitable Funds for Own Pet Projects

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, Ex-President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Green, Partner at law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Anita Friedman

San Francisco—A new website seeks the support of Bay Area organizations and individuals to join the fight to reclaim the Koret Foundation and restore it to the Jewish, humanitarian, and community-oriented mission intended its founder, Joseph Koret. The website started this week and is at SaveKoret.org.

Mrs. Susan Koret, Joseph Koret’s widow, filed a lawsuit in October 2014 against the Koret Foundation’s current Board of Directors for ignoring the wishes of her late husband to help the poor and disadvantaged in the Bay Area and supporting Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel. The suit alleges, among other things, that the Foundation’s directors have diverted millions in Foundation dollars to grantees outside of the Bay Area and Israel and other grantees directly associated with their own personal interests – including causes in former President Tad Taube’s native country of Poland.

Mrs. Koret is seeking to restore a more egalitarian foundation structure, whereby organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Israel can seek funding consistent with her husband’s intent.

Many organizations stand to gain from this reform and the new website, SaveKoret.org, encourages those interested in joining this effort to sign up in support.

“Mrs. Koret claims in her lawsuit that the current directors are shortchanging the people of the Bay Area and Israel who most need the help that her husband intended his legacy to provide, and that community support will be positive for a restored mission,” said Rob Bunzel, an attorney for Mrs. Koret.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit demands the removal of board members Tad Taube and his longtime legal counsel Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP; co-president Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services; co-president Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. The suit calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

The suit claims the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

The lawsuit also claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret when the lawsuit was filed. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation. A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $79 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2013, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

Learn more about the lawsuit and recent developments by visiting SaveKoret.org.

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Assistant DA Sharmin Bock Cleared in Investigation by Alameda County District Attorney Office

Bock Returns to Work in Alameda County D.A. Office 

Former DA Candidate Acted Legally, in Accordance with Campaign Finance Laws

Oakland—The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office today announced it completed an investigation of Assistant District Attorney Sharmin Bock and concluded that no ethical or legal campaign laws were violated in her unsuccessful bid for the Office of San Francisco District Attorney in 2011, according to the Office of Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. 

Sharmin Bock returned to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office after the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office’s investigation cleared the 26-year legal veteran of any wrongdoing over campaign finance issues.

While on administrative leave, we conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation to determine whether any ethical violations were breached when she (Bock) ran for San Francisco District Attorney.  We (Alameda County District Attorney’s Office) have concluded that no ethical rules were violated.  Agreeing to ask for contributions from respective donor bases was in compliance with the local campaign finance laws.  There was no violation of any federal, state or local law,” according to a memo from Chief Assistant D.A. Kevin E. Dunleavy on behalf of Alameda County District Attorney O’Malley.

“I am honored to be back at work and serving the people of Alameda County,” Sharmin Bock said.  “It is unfortunate that the false and reckless accusations of a criminal defense attorney caused this situation, but this case demonstrates the justice system does work.  An investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office cleared me of any illegal or unethical behavior.”

Bock was placed on paid administrative leave in early August pending an investigation in to whether she violated any laws while attempting to retire campaign debt from her 2011 campaign for the Office of San Francisco District Attorney. 

The false allegations against Bock were made by a criminal defense attorney for Raymond Chow, who also targeted other elected leaders, in a desperate effort to deflect attention from his client who faces a significant prison term. The defense motion in which the claims were made was rejected by United States District Court Judge Charles Breyer.

Bock was in compliance with campaign finance laws when she and then State Senator Leland Yee solicited contributions from their respective contributors to retire campaign debt after they both lost their races. Bock was also completely unaware that Yee was involved in criminal activity.

“It is my privilege to work at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office which has the very highest of ethical standards.  I have always and will continue to always uphold these standards with pride,” Bock said.

Sharmin Bock, Assistant District Attorney Alameda County District Attorney Office

Sharmin Bock, Assistant District Attorney Alameda County District Attorney Office

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Warriors Plans for S.F. Arena Slammed by UCSF National Academy of Sciences Leaders

 

 Mission Bay Proposal is “Disaster” for Life Sciences, UCSF

Leaders Call on S.F. Mayor Ed Lee to Abandon Proposed Arena and Protect Biotech/Life Sciences in S.F. from “Critical Harm”

Joe Lacob and Peter GuberJoe Lacob and Peter Guber Asked to Abandon Mission Bay Warriors Plans to Protect Live-Saving Research, Science

San Francisco – A coalition of world-renowned scientists from the University of California at San Francisco and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences today said the proposed Golden State Warriors’ Arena in Mission Bay would be a “disaster” for the City’s growing biotech and life science hub and called for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to abandon the proposed plans.

The UCSF scientists joined the California Nurses Association and the Mission Bay Alliance, a coalition of UCSF employees, stakeholders and neighbors who oppose the 18,500-seat arena and entertainment center, in their decisive opposition of the proposed project, saying it would threaten “the entire future of UCSF as the center of a world-class academic/biotech/medical complex.”

“Our major fear is that the Mission Bay site will lose its appeal – not only for the new biomedical enterprises that the city would like to attract here, but also for most of its current occupants,” according to the letter, which was delivered to Mayor Lee and signed by more than 20 of UCSF’s leading scientists and researchers.

“The result could critically harm not only UCSF, but also the enormously promising, larger set of biomedical enterprises that currently promises to make San Francisco the envy of the world,” the letter said.

The letter sites traffic gridlock as a leading concern for both residents accessing UCSF’s emergency services and for the hospital workers and scientist and researchers who have turned Mission Bay into one of the most “prominent academic-industry biotechnology/medical complexes in the world.”

“It is unavoidable that terrible, and possibly even life-threatening, traffic congestion will be associated with the planned complex, given that it is intended to be the site of some 220 events per year, held both in the evening and during the day,” wrote the scientists. “Many of us have experienced the hours-long gridlock that paralyzes all Mission Bay streets before and after San Francisco Giants home games. The absolute paralysis that it creates is already a non-trivial problem, which the planned stadium promises to both greatly expand and intensify.”

The UCSF faculty who signed the letter are among the most prestigious and acclaimed scientists in the world and include Bruce Alberts, UCSF Chancellor’s Leadership Chair for Biochemistry and Biophysics for Science and Education, who is the former president of the National Academy of Sciences, a membership organization of the world’s leading scientists and Noble Prize winners.  Other signatories include:

  • Elizabeth Blackburn, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and Nobel laureate
  • James Cleaver, Professor of Dermatology and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
  • John A. Clements, Professor of Pediatrics and Julius H. Comroe Professor of Pulmonary Biology, Emeritus
  • Robert Fletterick, Professor of Biochemistry, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
  • Carol Gross, Professor of Microbiology
  • Christine Guthrie, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Lily Jan, Professor of Physiology, Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Yuh-Nung Jan, Professor of Physiology
  • Alexander Johnson, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Cynthia Kenyon, Emeritus Professor, UCSF, and Vice President, Aging Research, Calico Life Sciences
  • Gail Martin, Professor Emerita, Department of Anatomy
  • Frank McCormick, Professor Emeritus, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer CenterDavid A. Wood Distinguished Professorship of Tumor Biology and Cancer Research
  • Ira Mellman, Professor (Adjunct) of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • William J. Rutter, Chairman Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry, and Chairman, Synergenics LLC
  • John Sedat, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics
  • Michael Stryker, William Francis Ganong Professor of Physiology
  • Peter Walter, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics
  • Arthur Weiss, Professor of Medicine, and of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Zena Werb, Professor of Anatomy

The scientists said special traffic routes proposed to protect UCSF employees would not work.

“Those of us at Mission Bay have experienced the unruly behavior of frustrated drivers stuck for long times in traffic jams,” they wrote. “In fact, there is no believable transportation solution for two very large complexes placed in such close proximity at Mission Bay.”

Bruce Spaulding of the Mission Bay Alliance said he commended the courage of UCSF’s preeminent scientists and researchers for taking a stand and protecting the growth of Mission Bay’s biotech and life science community.

“These concerns are consistent with those shared by Mission Bay Alliance and the healthcare employees, neighbors and others who recognize what a disaster this project would be on the thousands of people and budding industries in this growing community,” Spaulding said. “This is a significant community and a quality of life issue in San Francisco.  We hope the Mayor recognizes the danger to public health and life sciences of this ill-conceived project.”

Anchored by UCSF’s new, $1.6 billion hospital and research campus, Mission Bay has given rise to San Francisco’s flourishing life science and biotech industry, generating nearly $4 billion in economic activity, $1.4 billion in income and 21,000 jobs.

The City’s Mission Bay project – the largest ongoing biomedical construction project in the world – can be credited for the City’s biotech success and would be jeopardized by the proposed stadium.

“We face increasing competition from other rapidly growing complexes of this type, both in the US and abroad,” the scientists wrote. “It will be critical to keep moving aggressively forward, if we are to continue to attract the very best talent – both academic and private sector – to SanFrancisco….We are seriously concerned that this future is threatened by the plan to construct a very large sports, entertainment, and event arena in our midst.”

 About the Mission Bay Alliance

 The Mission Bay Alliance is a coalition of UCSF stakeholders, donors, faculty, physicians and the working men and women of San Francisco who are concerned about the impact of the proposed Golden State Warriors’ stadium on the future of the vibrant community and medical campus at Mission Bay. The Alliance fully supports the Warriors’ team and congratulates its tremendous championship win. However, the Alliance believes the proposed arena and entertainment center is ill-conceived for this site. For more information about the Mission Bay Alliance, visit www.missionbayalliance.org.

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S.F. Chinese Community Health Plan Sued by its Own Physicians for Endangering Patient Health Care

S.F. Physicians Sue For Contract Breach, Criticize CCHP Management for Endangering Patient Safety, Health Care

In Separate Legal Action, Whistleblower Sues CCHP in S.F. for Overbilling Medicare

CCHP accused of harming Chinese patients, endangering healthcare in S.F. Chinatown

CCHP accused of harming Chinese patients, endangering healthcare in S.F. Chinatown

 

The physicians association representing the medical staff at the Chinese Hospital in Chinatown has filed suit against the for-profit Chinese Community Health Plan (CCHP), claiming that recent actions by CCHP management to siphon doctors from the association threaten to tear apart longstanding health-care alliances in the community while putting the very future of the hospital at risk.

The non-profit, independent physicians association, known as Chinese Community Health Care Association (CCHCA), represents 197 doctors serving the Chinese Hospital and community health clinics in Chinatown.  For more than three decades the physicians association has served as a gatekeeper between CCHP, the Chinese Hospital and health care providers, ensuring that everyone in the community received high-quality health care.

Recently, however, CCHP sent doctors in the physicians association Participating Provider Agreements – individual physician contracts – in an attempt to pressure doctors into signing directly with the health plan. The contract offer included language that intentionally misled doctors into believing that the PPA was simply a renewal of an existing agreement, when in fact it was a completely new offer that would have legally bound the physicians directly to CCHP.

“We believe the purpose of these unprecedented solicitations is to decimate the independent physicians association, destroy the unique health care alliance that has served this community so well for so long and ultimately drive up profits for CCHP at patients’ expense,” said Dr. Raymond Li, President of CCHCA.  “The actions by the management of CCHP will leave our community with fewer doctors and far fewer health-care choices.”

The CCHP contract offer threatens to divide the health-care community in Chinatown and diminish the availability of care for thousands of Chinese patients. Without the protections of CCHCA, health plan management would be free to manipulate fees and other reimbursements, driving qualified, culturally sensitive doctors from the community and depleting the medical ranks within the Chinese community.

San Francisco elected representatives told the San Francisco Sentinel they will investigate the allegations made by physicians to ensure the safety of Chinese patients from price gauging, unsafe medical practices, overbilling and other questionable actions by CCHP and its management and board of directors.

“The unique alliance between CCHP, CCHCA and the Chinese Hospital served the Chinese community well for many years,” said Dr. Eric Leung, Vice President of CCHCA.  “But the tradition of affordable, reliable care and services is threatened by the actions of profit-driven corporate leaders bent on controlling and manipulating the health-care marketplace. The pending opening of the new Chinese Hospital will mean little if the historical structure of health care in the community has been destroyed by corporate greed.”

CCHCA took legal action against CCHP reluctantly and only after a cease and desist letter from CCHCA was ignored. Indeed, instead of ending the solicitation, CCHP sent out an addendum to the physicians that continued the deception in an attempt to coerce their signatures. Despite these veiled threats and strong-armed tactics, only two physicians have signed the CCHP contract.

The California Medical Association and the San Francisco Medical Society recently penned a joint letter to Brenda Yee, CEO of the health plan, expressing their grave concerns about CCHP’s actions. “It is critical that the health plan respect the important role CCHCA has played in delivering much-needed, culturally appropriate, affordable health care to the Chinese community,” the letter stated. “CMA and the SFMS are prepared to support CCHCA and its physicians to continue to achieve its charitable purposes.”

As the letter from SFMS and CMA points out, CCHCA for three decades has promoted social welfare in Chinatown by providing financial support for health-related community programs, including the Chinese Community Health Resource Center, the Neighborhood Disaster Response Plan and treatment room services at the Chinese Hospital. CCHCA has also provided more than $2 million in direct grants to innovative community projects.

“We have asked our elected representatives to join us in condemning the recent actions by CCHP management,” Dr. Li said. “In the spirit of transparency and cooperation, CCHP must drop its efforts to destroy our health network so we can continue our mission of serving our community and providing high-quality health care to all.”

CCHCA Doctors Stand Up for Chinese Patients

Non-Profit CCHCA Doctors Stand Up to Protect Rights of Chinese Patients Against For-Profit CCHP

Separate Legal Action Claims Chinese Community Health Plan Overbilled Medicare

In another lawsuit filed this week against Chinese Community Health Plan in San Francisco, a whistleblower in Texas has brought a lawsuit against former employer CenseoHealth and numerous Medicare Advantage Organizations (including CCHP in S.F.) alleging they overcharged Medicare for in-home patient care.

Plaintiff and former Censeo Coding Manager Becky Ramsey-Ledesma of Texas has demanded a jury trial, according to court documents filed with the U.S. District Court of Texas. So far, no trial date has been set.

The court documents were ordered unsealed by the court on June 17 after the United States Department of Justice declined to intervene in the civil action, according to Judge Barbara Lynn.

[Also: Feds look closely at Medicare Advantage plans in risk adjustment probe]

Plaintiff Ramsey-Ledesma claims Censeo knew diagnoses of patients were not supported by medical record documentation, but were “picked up” from diagnoses predicted by medications used, according to court documents.

“If a prescribed medication could potentially support a diagnosis, they were to code for that diagnosis,” according to the lawsuit.

Ramsey-Ledesma claims Censeo Chief Medical Officer Mark Dambro developed an evaluation process designed to maximize the capitated payment rates paid to Censeo’s client Medicare Advantage Organizations.

Rather than rely on medical records provided by physicians treating patients, the plaintiff alleges Censeo obtained self-reported data directly from certain MAO members, according to court documents. The data was collected through evaluation forms completed by physicians retained by Censeo, not for the purpose of treatment, but to create ICD-9 codes for submission to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the lawsuit.

Censeo targeted those MAO plan members who were likely to yield the most serious diagnoses, and more likely to generate higher capitation payments for Censeo’s MAO clients, the lawsuit states. Medicare Advantage plans get higher rates for patients who are sick than those in good health.

The company completed twice as many assessments in 2013 as it did in 2012, saying its clients propelled the company into a record-setting first quarter, increasing the number of evaluations by 250 percent, according to the lawsuit.

[Also: Medicare Advantage proposal means rates fall, rise depending on risk ]

Revenue growth for 2013 was projected to reach $120 million, a 140 percent year-over-year increase, according to court records.

Censeo contracted with at least 30 MAOs to provide the home assessments, including Blue Cross Blue Shield in several states and Humana, which are both named as defendants.

Defendants include: CenseoHealth LLC, Mark Dambro, Chief Compliance Officer James Edward Barry Greve Jr., Director of Quality Joy Ridlehuber, Altegra Health Inc., Blue Cross Blue Shield Alabama, Blue Cross of Idaho, Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee, Care Plus Health Plans Inc., Chinese Community Health Plan, Commonwealth Care Alliance, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coventry Health Care Inc., Health Net Inc., Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hill Physicians Medical Group Inc., Humana, Inc., and North Texas Specialty Physicians.

Ramsey-Ledesma said she was fired August 9, 2013, after advising coders she would code only those diagnoses that could be supported by a doctor’s assessment. Messages for comment to Censeo were not returned.

This case is among several whistleblower cases filed alleging billing fraud of Medicare Advantage plans. CMS has said in the past it suspects home visits improperly raise risk scores.

In July, the Center for Public Integrity published a report of government audits showing widespread billing errors — mostly overcharges — in private Medicare Advantage health plans.

The audits involved five health plans: Aetna Health Inc. in New Jersey; Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia; Lovelace Health Plan in Albuquerque, N.M.; Care Plus, a division of Humana, South Florida; and PacifiCare in Washington State, an arm of UnitedHealth Group, and considered the nation’s largest Medicare Advantage plan.

Among the findings: Medicare paid the wrong amount for 654 of the 1,005 patients in the sample, an error rate of nearly two-thirds. The payments were too high for 579 patients and too low for 75 of them. The total payment error topped $3.3 million in the sample.

Auditors concluded that risk scores were too high for more than 800 of the 1,005 patients, which in many cases, but not all, led to hefty overpayments.

Auditors could not confirm one-third of the 3,950 medical conditions the health plans reported, mostly because records lacked “sufficient documentation of a diagnosis.” The names of the medical conditions were redacted by federal officials.The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which conducted the audits, had no comment, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

None of the health plans would discuss the audit findings.

Aetna, in a statement, said the company had “raised a number of questions and concerns” regarding the results and was “awaiting a response from CMS.”

Clare Krusing, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s primary trade group, said the audits “overstated” the payment errors, according to the nonprofit and nonpartisan investigative news organization. The records are coming to light at a time of rapid expansion – and consolidation–in the Medicare Advantage market. Enrollment has neared 17 million. An estimated one of every three people are eligible for Medicare.

 

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True Leaders at the Presidio Trust: Nancy Bechtle, William Hambrecht, Charlene Harvey: Editorial

1 presidio trust

San Francisco should be justly proud of the independent and visionary leadership of outgoing Presidio Trust President Nancy Hellman Bechtle and board members William Hambrecht and Charlene Harvey.   Their hard work, independence and dedication to serving the public deserves praise from every San Franciscan and California resident.

During their tenure, and because of their leadership–along with the guiding hand of recently retired Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton–the Presidio is financially self-sufficient and a thriving example of public-private partnerships that exemplify the very best in public parks, recreation and conservation in the World today.

In the face of overwhelming political pressure, these individuals and other Trust board members Paula Robinson Collins and Alex Mehran created new opportunities for San Franciscans, Californians and visitors to access one of the great treasures of American parks—The Presidio. Our Presidio.

And, just recently, the leadership of these individuals was demonstrated for everyone to see: they unanimously stood up to megalomaniac billionaire Star Wars director George Lucas, whose proposed vanity museum would have been a disgrace to San Francisco and the Presidio Trust.  Through open hearings, transparency and fairness their process concluded that not only should Lucas’s horrific design be rejected, but that two other competing proposal should turned down as well.

They took this action against the political and social pressure of Mayor Ed Lee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.  That, in itself, is no small feat. They also stood strong against venture capitalist Ron Conway, who became a one man sycophant for Lucas and his museum.  Even now, in defeat, Ron Conway continues to embarrass himself by claiming a conspiracy against George Lucas.

We believe and hope that new members Lynne Benioff, Nicola Miner, Janet Reilly, and John Keker will continue to keep the independent leadership exhibited by Bechtle, Hambrecht and Harvey alive.  The legacy left by Bechtle, Hambrecht and Harvey is an important milestone in San Francisco and Presidio history.  And, it is something that would have made Congressman Philip Burton, who championed the Presidio’s preservation, very proud.

 

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Can PG&E Be Trusted? Carmel Puts Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on Notice in Carmel Explosion

Jason Burnett, Mayor of Carmel, California

Jason Burnett, Mayor of Carmel, California

 

Five years after a devastating pipeline explosion ripped through the city of San Bruno, killing eight, and a year after another explosion destroyed a house in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. still doesn’t have accurate records of the gas pipes around our homes, neighborhoods and businesses, the business practices to compensate for their inaccurate records, or the tools in place to immediately halt a gas leak. Each day this situation is not fixed puts the public’s safety at risk.

That’s not my opinion alone, but the concern of the California Public Utilities Commission, which opened a formal investigation of PG&E’s practices and record-keeping after recent pipeline accidents in Carmel, Mountain View, Milpitas, Morgan Hill and Castro Valley highlighted the risk to public safety of PG&E not having accurate records or maps of its vast pipeline network.

The proceeding — which could lead to more penalties and fines against PG&E — follows a report by the CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division finding that PG&E’s pipeline records are too inadequate and too flawed to be trusted when making critically important, ongoing safety decisions. The public remains at risk until these issues are resolved.

It’s the same problem that caused tragedy in 2010, when PG&E’s record-keeping errors led to a fatal fire and explosion in San Bruno. PG&E is now facing a $1.6 billion penalty and fine for its mistakes.

And it’s the reason that another explosion shook Carmel, when in 2014 bad records misled construction crews replacing a gas-distribution line at Guadalupe and Third Street. The pressurized “live” line was punctured, causing gas to escape into a nearby house. PG&E knew it had caused a leak but allowed this dangerous situation to persist for more than 30 minutes without calling 911. Our police and firefighters were therefore not alerted and were not able to evacuate the area. The house exploded, sending building debris just over the heads of crews and residents walking nearby. Shrapnel was hurled into neighboring houses and windows were blown in by shock waves. It was a miracle nobody was killed, but we cannot rely on miracles to protect the public safety. The incident should have been prevented.

Yet bad records seem to be only part of the problem with PG&E in the Carmel region, which has suffered a string of incidents and life-threatening service delays since the initial incident.

Immediately prior to the 2014 explosion, construction crews realized they had accidentally tapped into an inserted plastic main, a main that records did not indicate existed. Once the main started leaking, PG&E did not have the “squeezer” tools in place to immediately stop gas flow.

PG&E crews were forced to halt the leak manually and it took them more than 60 minutes to do so. It was too late — the house exploded within 30 minutes.

PG&E has since been fined $10.8 million for its role in the Carmel explosion, with more penalties to come, depending on the outcome of the CPUC investigation.

Despite PG&E’s lip service and empty promises of recovery, five subsequent pipeline accidents and leaks in the Carmel area have shaken our confidence in the company’s commitment to safety.

Last year, shortly after the house explosion, another gas leak was reported in a major hotel. PG&E took more than five hours to respond. Weeks later another gas leak threatened Carmel when a third-party construction crew hit a pipe outside another hotel. A 20-foot gas cloud lingered for 20 minutes before PG&E crews finally arrived and they took over an hour to stop the leak.

While PG&E was able to halt these leaks before tragedy struck in the crowded area, the incidents underscored our urgency to make sure PG&E implements several potentially lifesaving safety measures to prevent future pipeline breaches from threatening this community again.

These include better training of construction crews with the necessary emergency tools to make sure gas leaks are stopped quickly. Crews must respond to odor calls in a timely fashion, and a project manager must be designated to monitor construction projects and make regular site visits for possible pipeline interference.

As we prepare to participate in the upcoming CPUC investigation of PG&E’s record-keeping and safety practices, we intend to require these measures as part of any penalties levied. We simply can’t trust that PG&E will impose these measures on its own. The safety of our communities and the lives of our residents depend on our diligence.

Jason Burnett is mayor of Carmel.

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Golden State Warriors Arena Would Create Gridlock in SF, Mission Bay Alliance Says

Legal Team Announced to Challenge Golden State Warriors San Francisco Arena, Real Estate Development

Warriors Stadium: Gridlock, No Way to Reach UCSF Hospital in an Emergency

Warriors Stadium: Gridlock, No Way to Reach UCSF Hospital in an Emergency

 

San Francisco – The Mission Bay Alliance, which is greatly concerned with the grave environmental impact of the proposed Golden State Warriors’ Stadium and Events Center on the entire Mission Bay Community including the UCSF Mission Bay Campus, has retained four major law firms including some of the state’s top legal minds with expertise in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to review the Warriors’ stadium plan’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

David Boies, the Chairman of the firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, which has been described by the Wall Street Journal as a national legal “powerhouse,” will serve as the Mission Bay Alliance’s Lead Counsel and help the Alliance carefully vet the project and strategize tactics going forward.  The Boies Schiller firm has worked on landmark cases, including Bush v. Gore, United States v. Microsoft, and the case to overturn Proposition 8 which resulted in all Californians gaining the equal right to marry the person of their choosing.

In addition to the appointment of Boies Schiller, the Mission Bay Alliance has engaged a CEQA legal team with decades of experience advising and litigating impacts of high-profile public and private projects. The team includes:

Thomas Lippe, who has dedicated his career to environmental law with a specialty in litigating land use cases at both the administrative level and in state courts that typically require enforcement of CEQA and the California Planning and Zoning Law. Lippe has litigated dozens of high-profile cases, including many involving land use in San Francisco, recently representing environmental organizations that worked to minimize the environmental impacts of the America’s Cup event in San Francisco.

Susan Brandt-Hawley of the Brandt-Hawley Law Group, who has represented hundreds of public-interest groups in widely-varied CEQA and land use issues statewide, often with special focus on historic resources. In February she won a significant land use victory when a San Francisco Superior Court Judge struck down all approvals for the controversial 8 Washington St. waterfront luxury condo project, ruling that the project EIR was inadequate.

Osha Meserve and Patrick Soluri, who are principals at Soluri Meserve, a Sacramento-based environmental law firm that also specializes in land use planning and policy and large entitlement projects. Soluri has specific experience challenging NBA arenas and, most recently, represents a group of Sacramento residents fighting an arena deal for the Sacramento Kings.  That deal includes more than$100 million in taxpayer-funded sweeteners. Meserve has extensive experience challenging major projects on environmental grounds, most recently representing groups fighting the Governor’s controversial plan to divert the Sacramento River into the so-called Delta Water Tunnels.

“Our team of attorneys – some of the nation’s best – will be tasked with analyzing the Warriors’ proposed plan and advising us on the environmental and civic impacts of a project that we believe would wreak havoc on Mission Bay for UCSF and bioscience research,” said Bruce Spaulding of the Mission Bay Alliance.

The MBA is hopeful that litigation will not be necessary because the EIR will reveal fatal flaws, resulting in abandonment or rejection of the project. However, the MBA is preparing itself in the event that the City provides an inadequate review and a “rubber stamp approval” of a project it seems to have prejudged before any public vetting of its impacts.

“CEQA will analyze environmental impacts and identify mitigation. Our job is to protect the public’s right to know what these impacts will be by ensuring the City and the Warriors comply with CEQA,” said attorney Osha Meserve of Soluri Meserve.

Spaulding said the Warriors’ own initial estimates indicated that development will generate 38.5 million vehicle miles traveled per year for games and events in addition to the impact of the new proposed office buildings that are part of the development. Spaulding said this means as many as an additional 450,000 vehicle trips in San Francisco every year.

“These overwhelming impacts raise obvious questions about how the City will avoid gridlock stretching for miles around the proposed Arena,” Spaulding said. “We will be taking a hard look at the City’s CEQA analysis of these impacts in the forthcoming Draft Environmental Impact Report.”

For more information about the Mission Bay Alliance, visit www.missionbayalliance.org or contact Singer Associates Public Relations and Public Affairs San Francisco at: 415.227.9700.

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Paul Hobbs Winery, Sonoma County Beat Back Attack On Vineyard Protection Law

Paul Hobbs Winery Joins Sonoma County in Victory Over Activist Lawsuit to Repeal Landmark Sonoma County Vineyard Development Rules

Paul Hobbs Helps Sonoma County Win Victory
Sonoma, Calif.,–A lawsuit threatening long-standing Sonoma County environmental regulations was dismissed today in a ruling by the Sonoma County Superior Court.

The ruling upholds Sonoma County’s 15-year-old Vineyard Erosion and Soil Control Ordinance (VESCO), thereby preserving the county’s clearly defined standards for protecting soil, water and air during vineyard development.

This represents a significant victory for Sonoma County and responsible farming advocates, including Paul Hobbs, who was named in the suit. A small activist group targeted Hobbs’s 39-acre Watertrough Road property as the test case in their campaign to subordinate County vineyard regulations to the oft-abused statewide regulations of the California Environmental Quality Act, more commonly known as CEQA.

“We are relieved and thankful that this attack on VESCO was thrown out,” said Hobbs spokesman Christopher O’Gorman. “The results of this suit could have been devastating both for farmers and the environment. Now we can continue to grow and thrive, responsibly.”

The suit, brought by a small parent group called the Watertrough Children’s Alliance, hinged on whether VESCO should be considered a “ministerial” or “discretionary” ordinance. Today’s ruling underscored the prevailing view that VESCO is a ministerial ordinance, meaning that CEQA does not come into play during vineyard development.

This comes as a relief to local winemakers, as the environmental review process triggered by CEQA is notorious in California for being abused by activists to delay and add significant cost to projects large and small.

“The impact of CEQA review would be very negative for Sonoma County agriculture, as has been noted by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission and many others” said O’Gorman. “This ruling protects Sonoma farmers, Sonoma’s environment, and Sonoma’s economy.”

With this court’s final word on this legal question, Hobbs is happy to return his full attention to farming and winemaking.

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S.F. Archbishop Cordileone Priest Joseph Illo was Focus of Abuse Lawsuit: Star of Sea School Parents Demand Removal

 

Ft. Joseph Illo: Emotional Abuse Lawsuit Comes to Light

Ft. Joseph Illo: Emotional Abuse Lawsuit Comes to Light–Star of Sea Parents Demand Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Remove Priest

Canonical and court documents have come to light from 2003 and 2005 that cast a negative light on the ministry of Priest Joseph Illo during his time in the Stockton, Calif., diocese — including a court ruling that he inflicted “intentional emotional distress” on an 11-year-old girl — have further enraged parents at San Francisco’s Star of the Sea School who have sought the priest’s removal as Star of Sea Parish administrator, according to news stories on KGO Radio and in the National Catholic Reporter and the San Francisco Examiner.

“We do not want Father Illo around children or in our community,” said Christy Brooks, a Star of the Sea parent.  “The details of this past lawsuit are deplorable. There is no one, who after reading this lawsuit, would want to have their children near Father Illo.  Archbishop Cordileone should remove him immediately from our school and parish. The safety and well-being of our children must be paramount.”

“We believe Archbishop Cordileone was aware of this verdict against Ft. Illo for intentional infliction of emotional distress on a child and still knowingly placed him in our community with foresight and knowledge of his history.  That is shocking and unforgivable,” Brooks added.  She and a group of parents from Star of the Sea have written and phoned the Archbishop demanding Illo’s removal.

The facts of the 2005 lawsuit against the priest, Father Illo, which required him to pay $14,000 for therapy for the young girl he traumatized, are as follows:

An 11-year-old girl came to Father Joseph Illo in confidence to report an incident of sexual abuse by one of the priests in Illo’s parish in Modesto.

Upon listening to the child’s report of abuse, Father Illo responded by yelling at the child, calling her a liar and calling the character of the child’s mother into question.

Father Illo then invited the offending priest into his office, where the two of them further confronted the child.

It was only after Father Illo invited his secretary in the room and she found the child in a hysterical state that she was removed and the mother was called.

Father Illo has a sworn duty to immediately report all allegations of abuse to the police.

As part of the case, church documents detailing an internal canonical investigation were subpoenaed. This report raises questions about Father Illo’s leadership and referring to his personality as being “dictatorial, manipulative and insensitive.” Another report for the court in Modesto said Father Illo had “a Jekyll and Hyde” personality. The canonical report recommended counseling for Father Illo.

Controversy has dogged Father Joseph Illo since he was appointed by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to Star of the Sea Parish and School in late 2014.  After taking charge of the San Francisco parish he banned altar girls, saying only boys can be altar servers. The move sparked criticism along with his statements to parents that he planned on replacing the school’s teachers with nuns from Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist order, the same nuns that walked out on students at Marin Catholic High School last week to protest an event to prevent bullying of LGBT youth.

The Star of the Sea parents have contacted Archbishop Cordileone and his staff by mail and phone and have “respectfully demanded that Father Illo be immediately and completely removed from his involvement at Star of the Sea,” according to the Star of the Sea parents group.

Just earlier this month, Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese resigned after a canonical review of Finn to determine if he violated church law by failing to report suspected child sexual abuse in connection to former priest in that diocese.  Many parents are wondering if the same fate will befall Archbishop Cordileone since he placed Father Illo at Star of the Sea school with the knowledge that Father Illo had a history of emotional abuse of children.

Prominent Catholic leaders have written Pope Francis and took out a full page advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle requesting the Pontiff remove Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for “fostering “an atmosphere of division and intolerance.”

 

 

 

 

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S.F. Archbishop Faces New Controversy: His Nuns Boycott Anti-Bullying Program at Catholic High School

Here’s a tough question to answer: What anti-bulling event does McDonald’s, Target, Disney, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Google and the NBA support, but Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s hand-picked Nuns oppose?

The answer: an anti-bullying event program intended to protect gay and lesbian high school teens from bullying.

goetia_girls_gremory_gamori_nightgaunt_nun_succubus_of_faustus_crow

Just after 100 of the most prominent Catholics in San Francisco signed an open letter to Pope Francis asking that Archbishop Cordileone be removed, Cordileone proved the signers of the petition right. He is out of step and out of his league in San Francisco.

These are the same Nuns that the Archbishop imported to the Bay Area from Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Cordileone and his controversial Star of the Sea Parish priest Father Joseph Illo have publically said they want to replace current Star of the Sea teachers with these same “pro-bullying” nuns from out of state—which has ignited a firestorm by parents at the school.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Matier and Ross just reported this latest disaster for Archbishop Cordileone in their column.

Here’s what Matier and Ross wrote:

The divisions within the Bay Area’s Catholic community over gay rights hit Marin Catholic High School full force the other day, when a group of nuns walked out of their classes to protest the sponsors of a program intended to protect gay and lesbian teens from bullying.

The five members of the Dominican Sisters of Mary order exited their classrooms Friday as students began handing out flyers at the Kentfield school promoting a nationwide Day of Silence.

Their walkout came one day after 100 prominent local Catholics attracted national attention by taking out a full-page ad in The Chronicle calling on the pope to oust Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, in part for trying to get teachers at Catholic schools to sign off on a morality clause that characterizes homosexual relations as “gravely evil.”

Marin Catholic High President Tim Navone and Principal Chris Valdez tried to put out the latest brushfire with a letter to parents about “a challenging day on our campus resulting in both students and faculty feeling confused about our mission.”

At issue was Friday’s annual Day of Silence, promoted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network — whose corporate sponsors include McDonald’s, Target, Disney/ABC, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Google and the NBA. It bills itself as a group of “students, parents, and teachers that tries to effect positive change in schools,” but the nuns at Marin Catholic High see it as anti-Catholic.

The school declined to participate in the Day of Silence. Instead, a morning prayer was read over the school’s PA system “to acknowledge and pray for students everywhere who have the experience of being ostracized, marginalized or silenced by bullying,” school officials wrote in their letter.

“Our intention was not to take part in a Day of Silence, but rather take a moment in the morning to pray together as a school community,” the letter to parents said.

Unfortunately, the administrators said, the school’s message was “compromised and misinterpreted” the night before when it was linked on Facebook to the campaign by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, “an activist group with which we are not affiliated.’’

When some Marin Catholic High students began handing out Day of Silence-related stickers and flyers on campus Friday morning, the five nuns felt “felt compromised, offended and uncomfortable,” Sister Clare Marie, one of the teachers, later wrote in a lengthy e-mail to her students.

She said the sisters “do not support bigotry or any kind of prejudice,” but that they were compelled to act out against an event promoted by a group that “believes actively in promoting homosexuality in all classrooms, K-12.”

Her e-mail also accused the group’s members of speaking out “against Christians who do not share their views” and handing out materials that “say that any church which teaches homosexuality is sinful is an ‘oppressor’ and should be opposed.”

Valdez told us in an interview that the sisters — who make up a small portion of the school’s 60 teachers — stayed away from the campus for the rest of the day, but had informed him of their intentions before they left.

Kari Hudnell, a spokeswoman for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, denied that the group “actively promoted” homosexuality in the classroom.

“We are not trying to convert anyone,” she said. “We are just trying to make sure schools are a safe environment for all kids.”

Hudnell pointed out that the group has pushed for antibullying and antidiscrimination laws that apply to religious beliefs, as well as race, gender and sexual orientation.

School officials told parents that the walkout by the five nuns “further confused the students and created some false rumors about the sisters not caring for students who feel bullied, ostracized or marginalized.”

Valdez told us that the school is working hard to cut through the politically charged atmosphere to “bring authentic dialogue to the campus” in hopes of healing any rifts between the students and sisters.

 

 

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UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Graham Fleming Resigns Under Protest After University Botches Harassement Investigation

Graham Fleming Resigns—Returns To Teaching After Biased, Flawed UC Investigation

 Fleming Says Charges Against Him by Fired Employee Were False, Then Mishandled by University Office of the President Janet Napolitano in Bungled Investigation

Graham Fleming

Graham Fleming

Berkeley—Expressing both his admiration for and his deep disappointment with the University of California at Berkeley,  Graham Fleming resigned his position as Vice Chancellor for Research following a deeply flawed University of California Office of the President (UCOP) investigation into allegations made against him by former UC Berkeley employee Diane Leite.

Fleming, one of the most successful Vice Chancellors for Research in UC-Berkeley history, resigned under protest. He strongly denies the charges of harassment made by Leite, as well as allegations by the University that he failed to disclose a conflict of interest because of his close relationship with her—even though he was ultimately responsible for her dismissal.  He will return to his tenured role as a professor of chemistry.

“I resign under protest, with profound objections to and great personal disappointment in the investigation into those allegations,” Fleming said in his resignation letter to Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks.  “This process violated fundamental principles of due process and fairness, and resulted in a report riddled with inconsistencies, mischaracterization of the facts, and distortion of witness statements, as well as the selective omission of relevant information.”

Fleming’s legal counsel provided evidence to UCOP, including sworn declarations from respected members of the University and business communities, that demonstrated that the findings against him were not supported, and that the investigation was biased.  Fleming’s counsel unsuccessfully sought retraction of the investigation report.  Efforts to obtain an independent and unbiased review of the investigation process and all the evidence were summarily rejected by University officials.  An urgent letter to UC General Counsel and Vice President-Legal Affairs Charles F. Robinson, sent on April 6 and requesting his immediate intervention in this matter, went un-responded to in UC President Janet Napolitano’s office.

“Because I was not afforded due process by UCOP, and because there is no independent mechanism to appeal a biased and unjust report, there is no way for me to clear my name.  I am concerned that my professional and personal reputations have been irreparably damaged,” Fleming said.  Despite the flawed investigation and its unsupported conclusions, Fleming continues to have positive feelings about the University he has served with distinction for the past 18 years.   “I still strongly believe in the University and its mission….I remain committed to serve the University, its students, and faculty, and to continue to build and enhance this great institution for future generations,” Fleming said.

“Unfortunately, given the current climate around issues of sexual harassment on college campuses,  the rights of the accused are often lost in the rush to judgment, with devastating impact,” said Sam Singer, Fleming’s spokesman. With no way to fight or appeal the findings, Fleming had no choice but to resign.

Singer said UCOP began its investigation of Fleming in 2014,  after ex-University Assistant Vice Chancellor Diane Leite made a series of inflammatory allegations, long after her termination, claiming sexual harassment by Fleming—charges that were never made at any time during her employment, or even at the time of her firing in May of 2012.   Given the circumstances, Fleming believes that Leite made these charges against him because he did not protect her job after she was involved in a pay hike scandal benefitting her subordinate, with whom she had had a sexual relationship.

Fleming notes that he and Leite had a long-standing and affectionate friendship, as well as a close professional partnership at Berkeley, for almost 11 years.   While Fleming acknowledges that their relationship was occasionally flirtatious and familiar, both he and Leite agree that at no time were the two ever sexually or romantically involved.

Fleming maintains that he was nothing more than supportive of Leite, and that she never gave him any indication that any of his actions toward her were unwelcome.  In fact, Leite did not even raise any issue of alleged sexual harassment until well after her firing, Singer said.

“The allegations of harassment are not true,” Fleming said. “I am hurt and disappointed that Diane Leite has fabricated these charges to harm me and the University.  She wanted me to protect her job after the details of her affair became public.  I ultimately had to terminate her, once it became clear that she had lost the confidence of many in the University community.

Fleming noted that during the course of his 35 year career mentoring, teaching, and working with women, this is the first and only complaint of alleged improper conduct he has ever received.

Fleming also vehemently denied the UCOP finding that he had a “conflict of interest” and that he improperly tried to protect Leite’s job during the investigation into her conduct.   He noted that he acted in full accordance with UC procedures, and with the guidance and at the direction of University counsel. He did not protect Leite and, in fact, he ultimately made and carried out the decision to terminate her.  Leite herself admitted that Fleming never promised or gave her any favors and never made any threats to her.

“The University has made egregious errors in its handling of my case, but there is no internal procedure for me to appeal this unjust decision, and no way to clear my name,” said Fleming.  “At this point, I have not ruled out legal action.”

The allegations by Leite against Fleming are suspect as she never made them at the time of her firing in 2012.   Fleming was not even told of these charges until May of 2014– two years after Leite had been fired– even though her allegations went back to 2008, Singer said.

“These facts alone should have given the University pause in evaluating the merits of Leite’s allegations,” Singer said.  Rather than undertake an independent and unbiased review of all the relevant facts as required by its own policies and procedures, the University found against Fleming with no due process, said Singer.

About Graham R. Fleming

Graham R. Fleming has been the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California-Berkeley since 2009.   A decisive and visionary leader, Professor Fleming used the Office of Research to mobilize the vast and diverse scholarly talents of the Berkeley campus to address major challenges confronting the world. Because of his leadership, the campus is now positioned at the forefront of research in many areas, including energy and climate research, the theory of computing and data science, neuroscience and precision medicine. He strengthened and invigorated the invaluable role that ORUs, museums, and field stations play in the campus research landscape. He led the effort to strengthen UC Berkeley’s entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. These efforts will continue to ensure the university’s research excellence in the years to come.

He transformed the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. Among other things, he substantially expanded new funding opportunities, and successfully engaged external partners – federal and state agencies, industry, investors, foundations, private philanthropists, as well as other researchers – from around the world.

Professor Fleming created faculty teams that led successful proposal development for numerous new large-scale interdisciplinary institutes and centers that are fully supported by private philanthropy, including the Berkeley Initiative in Global Change Biology, the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute (BECI), the Philomathia Center for energy and environmental research, the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, the Berkeley Institute for Data Science, the Social Science D-lab, the Kavli EnergyNanoscience Institute, and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Convergence Research.

Professor Fleming also established many new campus-wide programs to support faculty research based on a merit-based competitive review process across a wide area of disciplines that have attracted significant, new private philanthropic support. Prominent examples include the Bakar Fellows Program, which supports innovative research by early career faculty at UC Berkeley with a special focus on projects that hold commercial promise; the Rose Hills Innovator Program for faculty who are who are developing highly innovative research programs in STEM fields; the Chau Hoi Shuen Foundation Women in Science Program, which supports education and research projects of leading female UC Berkeley faculty; and most recently the Signatures Innovation Fellows Program to support faculty interested in developing market-based applications in the data science area.

In addition, Professor Fleming engaged with a group of prominent alumni and entrepreneurs to enhance UC Berkeley’s innovation ecosystem which, with the close partnership of the College of Engineering and the Haas Business School, led to the creation of new accelerator space at Skydeck in downtown Berkeley in 2012.

Prior to his appointment at Vice Chancellor for Research, Professor Fleming served as Berkeley Lab’s Deputy Director from 2005 through 2007, at the forefront of a major revolution in the biophysical sciences. Through joint appointments as a faculty member at UC Berkeley and founding director of both the Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and UC Berkeley’s California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), Professor Fleming played a critical role in proposing and planning the construction of Stanley Hall which became the Berkeley home of QB3. Professor Fleming also played a key role in bringing the Energy Biosciences Institute to UC Berkeley, to date the largest industry partnership in higher education.

Throughout his career, Professor Fleming has worked to re-shape the intersection of physical and biological sciences, while maintaining his own ground-breaking research into ultrafast chemical and biological processes, in particular, the primary steps of photosynthesis. He has published close to 500 scientific papers in his field.

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Ted Cruz Isn’t an Idiot, He’s Delusional and That’s Far More Dangerous

Since Ted Cruz first announced his candidacy, much has been made of his chances of winning, his arrogance and his extreme conservative views. But most of the controversy over his candidacy centers on his lying.

It is no surprise to any of us that politicians lie. We generally assume they stretch the truth to get elected, to denigrate their political foes, and to bolster their images. But Cruz may just represent one of the biggest liars in recent history. In fact, he may be a whole new form of political liar.

The Daily Beast reports that, “Cruz’s Politifact track record for publicly asserted falsehoods is the second-highest among front-runners, totaling 56 percent of all statements they’ve looked at.” And Matthew Rozsa tell us that “Googling ‘Ted Cruz lies’ pulls back an astonishing 7,890,000 results, and on Twitter, the two phrases are basically synonymous.”

The trouble with this angle on Cruz’s misstatements is that it presumes that Cruz is, in fact, lying. But lying depends on the liar knowing that what he is saying is false. Cruz shows no signs of such awareness. As Ann Marie Cox points out in her survey of Cruz’s lies, there’s more going on here than just a politician’s twisting of the truth or a partisan spin on data. She wonders whether it is time to take seriously the idea that he really believes what he is saying. “There are objective falsehoods that show Cruz could just be looking at a different set of data. Other, more telling whoppers show that Cruz isn’t just looking at different data, he’s living in a different universe.”

That different universe is Cruz’s world of misinformation. He doesn’t lie because lying would require that he actually know the truth. And that is what makes Cruz an even greater threat to the health of our democracy than all of his lies put together. Cruz represents a turn in GOP politics where political beliefs operate more like religious fervor than reasoned inference.

Researchers have long worried about the connections between democracy and public knowledge. For obvious reasons, an informed electorate is a key part of a strong and effective democracy. Voters need to have relevant facts in order to make good choices at the polls. But research by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler explains that there is a vast difference between an uninformed public and a misinformed one. An uninformed public is ignorant, but a misinformed one is delusional—and that’s far more dangerous.

This distinction is essential. An uninformed voter can have contact with the truth and learn from it, but a misinformed one already believes an idea that’s wrong. Think of Cruz’s delusional comments about climate change, the number of IRS agents, and crime rates rising in areas with stricter gun control laws. Each of these examples indicates a whole new level of political “lying,” since each represents fiercely held beliefs with no basis in fact. This is not a case of simple stupidity. It’s a case of deeply believing something that’s just wrong.

If you care about truth and think it should influence political decisions, this is highly disturbing. But it gets worse. Nyhan and Reifler further suggest that those who hold misinformed beliefs are even less likely to learn from correcting information than those who have no clue.

That means that for those who think like Cruz, there is virtually no amount of data, reality checks or facts that can persuade the deluded citizen to give up his false ideas. This is the mindset of the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, and many on the far right. Nyhan and Reifler refer to this as “motivated reasoning.” What they find is that people who are attached to falsehoods perceive any correcting information as partisan and flawed. So conservatives don’t perceive science as information. To them, it’s just a liberal agenda. In other words, they don’t believe the truth.

Not only do those with false beliefs practice “motivated reasoning,” we also now know that any challenge to their beliefs is likely to backfire. Nyhan and Reifler found that when conservatives who thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were exposed to news stories correcting that view, “the correction backfired.” That is, “conservatives who received a correction telling them that Iraq did not have WMDs were more likely to believe that Iraq had WMD than those in the control condition.”

Exposure to the truth not only failed to adjust their views to reality, it actually made them believe in their false ideas even more strongly. This is why Cruz’s candidacy is really scary. This is not a case of a politician strategically using lies to advance a career; his whole career is dedicated to advancing a political platform built on a delusional view of the world. The catch is that to those who think like Cruz it isn’t delusional, it makes perfect sense.

Cruz’s misbeliefs are part of a longer story of how the GOP has come to be redefined by a vocal, aggressive, highly visible faction that has decided that any facts that contradict their worldview are merely liberal bias. This is what Stephen Colbert called “truthiness.” Think back to the lies of Paul Ryan at the 2012 RNC or to Anderson Cooper’s confrontation with Michele Bachmann over her penchant for lying. Recall also the research showing that viewers of Fox News actually know less about the world than people who watch no news of any kind.

But really if we want to peg the rise of a misinformed GOP on a politician we would have to start with the George W. Bush administration.

Back in 2008, we learned the Bush administration made 935 false statements in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Yet today, despite multiple bipartisan reports confirming no WMDs were found, a significant faction of the U.S. public still cling tenaciously to the idea that the war there was just. A recent poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University found that 40 percent of US citizens still think there were WMDs in Iraq.

But falsehoods are only the tip of the iceberg. The bigger problem is the emotional attachment to the falsehoods. The new GOP is increasingly connected to a sense of constant threat and a persistent worry that the nation and its values are under attack. When we combine a great distortion of reality with a party politics based on fear and extremism, we threaten the viability of a functional political system. That, of course, was exactly what Cruz did when he led the government shutdown of 2013.

Democrats, too, hold dear to their beliefs. It’s part of human nature to want to resist information that contradicts with the way we see the world. Psychologists call the practice confirmation bias, and define it as the tendency to interpret information in ways that support our preconceptions. And yet, we don’t all resist correction of our false beliefs to the same degree.

Research suggests there is a vast difference between a liberal’s ability to accept a new take on the world, and a conservative’s. To put it simply, part of what it means to be liberal is to be open-minded. That means liberals are open to information that might change a perception. In contrast, conservatives are defined as resisting change and as emotionally attaching more strongly to their beliefs. What we find with Tea Party politics, though, is a far more extremist version of Republican beliefs than we have ever seen before. Michael Grunwald of Time calls the new GOP an example of “reality-defying extremism and chronic obstructionism and borderline surrealism.”

The poster boy for this extremist, reality-bending faction of the party is Ted Cruz. As the Washington Post reports, “Cruz isn’t [just] running for president—he’s running to be the leader of a new GOP.” And that’s no lie.

 

Sophia McClennen, Alternet

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San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone “Morality Clause” Respectfully Criticized in National Catholic Publication by S.F. City Attorney

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Respectfully Criticizes Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Respectfully Criticizes Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

 

San Francisco’ top legal officer today published an opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter newspaper that was respectful to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, but also challenged his stand on loyalty oaths and morality clauses for Catholic teachers, calling the Archbishop’s  move “high-handed and wrong.”

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera wrote “To me, San Francisco’s recent controversy threw into stark relief the challenges that make Pope Francis’ leadership so vitally important at this moment in our church’s history. Progress is desperately needed to renew our church’s mission to serve the world rather than scold it and to emphasize teaching that young Catholic consciences will recognize as legitimately Christlike.”

“So when church ideologues express disdain for contemporary society (as Cordileone often does) or bring disproportionate emphasis to the catechism’s most discriminatory and divisive elements (as Cordileone did last month), it risks losing a generation of Catholics quite unlike anything has before,” Herrera wrote.

Herrera’s respectful, but bold statement sent an arrow through the heart of the Archbishop’s stated arguments about why the loyalty oath for teachers is necessary in his opinion.

The Archbishop is fast becoming a pariah in San Francisco. He has grown distant from the parishioners, Catholic grade school and high schools, as well as San Francisco’s top Catholic families, all of whom have banded together to protest his loyalty oath.

There is a discreet, but fast growing grassroots movement against the Archbishop and it is hard to imagine how quickly he has lost both power and prestige in the Bay Area.  He is badly damaged as a leader and seems to be sinking in his own morass.  Now, with one of the top Catholic elected leaders in Northern California weighing in against him, he has no chance of success.

On top of the Archbishop’s rebuke by Herrera, the Teacher’s Union representing high school teachers said it will not accept his language as part of any of its collective bargaining agreements.  And, to add insult to injury, grade school parents at the historic Star of the Sea school are revolting against the Archbishop’s handpicked parish priest, Ft. Joseph Illo.

Illo started an international controversy by banning Altar Girls at Star of the Sea, removing Filipino women who had served for generations on the church altar, refusing to give blessing to non-Catholics and passing out an inappropriate sex pamphlet to second through sixth graders.

Lastly, City Attorney Herrera may have gotten the best line off in this entire debate: the San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan reported “Asked if he (Herrera) felt heinous as a man who has officially and unofficially promoted ideals so contrary to Cordileone’s moral code, Herrera paused for a moment while he carefully picked his words.

“Let’s just say I know I’m not gravely evil,” Herrera said.

The archdiocese had no comment on Herrera’s essay, the Chronicle reported.

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Scott Walker’s latest flub: foreign policy

Take a bit of out-of-control Reagan worship, add some anti-union preoccupation, and throw in a dash of unpreparedness. The result is a presidential hopeful who seems less prepared for the White House with each passing day.

Walker contended that “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was then-President Ronald Reagan’s move to bust a 1981 strike of air traffic controllers, firing some 11,000 of them.

“It sent a message not only across America, it sent a message around the world,” Walker said. America’s allies and foes alike became convinced that Reagan was serious enough to take action and that “we weren’t to be messed with,” he said.
Walker made similar comments at an event two weeks ago, but these new remarks, delivered at a Club for Growth gathering, mark the first time Walker has described the firing of air-traffic controllers as “the most significant foreign policy decision” of his lifetime.

It’s also an incredibly foolish thing for anyone, least of all a White House aspirant, to say out loud. This is an important stage for Walker’s national campaign, and these comments might be the most striking evidence to date that the governor hasn’t yet prepared for the task at hand.

Substantively, Walker’s argument borders on gibberish. He was born in 1967, which means his “lifetime” includes a wide variety of foreign policy decisions from U.S. officials: two wars in Iraq, a series of START treaties, Nixon going to China, the end of the war in Vietnam, the Camp David Accords, the war in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran/Contra, the U.S. role in negotiating the Northern Ireland peace process, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, the Iranian hostage crisis, etc.

According to the governor of Wisconsin, none of these was quite as “significant,” in terms of U.S. foreign policy, as Reagan firing air-traffic controllers. I find it very difficult to imagine even the most enthusiastic Walker supporter arguing that this is in any way coherent.

For that matter, Walker’s understanding of the firings’ impact is plainly silly. Firing striking workers let the whole world know “we weren’t to be messed with”? I hate to break it to the governor, but after the air-traffic controllers lost their jobs, plenty of foes messed with us anyway. The fact that Walker doesn’t know that isn’t a good sign.

Making matters slightly worse, the governor has tried to defend this argument by saying documents released after the Cold War by the former USSR prove that “the Soviet Union started treating [Reagan] more seriously” after he fired air-traffic controllers – a claim with absolutely no foundation in reality. In fact, Walker appears to have just made this up. Reagan’s own ambassador to Russia described the claim as “utter nonsense.”

What we’re left with is an inexperienced candidate whose views of the world lack any depth or maturity. If he considers the firing of air-traffic controllers “the most significant foreign policy decision” of the last 47 years, it’s not unreasonable to wonder how, exactly, Walker defines “foreign policy.”

Indeed, for weeks, Walker’s principal focus has been on trying to convince people that opposing labor unions is precisely the kind of experience presidents need to excel in global affairs. Repetition, however, is not improving the point’s ridiculousness.

Yes, it’s early, and unprepared candidates who make mistakes now can learn and adapt as the campaign progresses. But this is also the point at which would-be presidents make a first impression, introducing themselves to the public, and developing reputations that tend to stick.

And Scott Walker is quickly positioning himself as a candidate who simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Steve Benen, MSNBC

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S.F. Archbishop Cordileone Flip Flops on Catholic School Teacher “Morality Clause”

Parents, Teachers, Students, Alumni at Catholic Schools React to SF Archbishop’s Latest Statements:

“Nothing Has Changed”

Star of the Sea School Parents Mount Effort to Overturn Changes at Grade School

1 Arch best pix 

San Francisco—Concerned parents, students, teachers and alumni of Bay Area Catholic high schools today released the following statement regarding Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s proposed “morality clauses” for teachers and other staff:

“The San Francisco Chronicle today published an editorial stating that Archbishop Cordileone will no longer attempt to reclassify teachers and staff at four Catholic high schools as “ministers.” While it is true that he is no longer using that word, it is a mistake to believe that he has backed off his effort to reclassify teachers and other staff as ministers who would be exempt from anti-discrimination and other workplace protections. He has not. The Archbishop is still proposing that the teachers and other staff are ‘called to advance this religious mission’ and that their work is ‘ministry.’ This is not a meaningful change from the Archbishop’s previous proposal. The teachers want to be classified as teachers – and nothing else.

The Archbishop has also made no move to retract the language condemning members of our community by labeling their lives as ‘gravely evil.’ In fact, in a February 24, 2015 media advisory, his Archdiocesan spokesperson stated that ‘Nothing already planned to go in is being removed or retracted or withdrawn.’

The Archbishop is also now proposing to establish a committee of theology teachers ostensibly to help clarify the proposed handbook language. His formation of a handpicked committee gives the false impression of openness to dialogue, and gives him cover for speech that is very harmful to our children, faculty, staff and community.

We are concerned that Archbishop Cordileone was ‘surprised at the degree of consternation’ over his proposed changes to the collective-bargaining agreement and faculty handbook.  This clearly shows he is out of touch with his flock, with his teachers, with his parents, and with his alumni. We believe the solution is straightforward. We ask the Archbishop to cease in his attempt to reclassify the teachers as anything but teachers, and to use the current faculty handbook which has been in place and successfully utilized for years by Catholic high school administrators and staff.

We will remain steadfast in fighting for the elimination of handbook language which in any way would make our children, teachers or staff members feel unwelcome, unsupported or unsafe in our schools. We will insist that the employment rights of all teachers and staff be respected.”

Students will rally on Friday, March 6, from 5:30 – 6:30 at St. Mary’s Cathedral Plaza to celebrate the bedrock Catholic values of acceptance, love and justice. A forum to include parents, students and theologians is also planned for Monday, March 16 at the University of San Francisco. A number of parents and parishioners plan to boycott the Archbishop’s Annual Fundraising Appeal by either giving nothing or donating only a token $1 donation.

A full version of the Archbishop’s interview with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board is available at http://blog.sfgate.com/opinionshop/2015/02/25/archbishop-cordileone-were-not-on-a-witch-hunt-video/

San Francisco parents at Star of the Sea School are also concerned over recent changes at the beloved neighborhood Catholic grade school where Archbishop Cordileone has installed one of his own, Father Joseph Illo.  Father Illo unilaterally ended a tradition of Altar Girls at the school and church and handed out pamphlets to second graders that “asked questions such as, “Did I perform impure acts by myself (masturbation) or with another (adultery, fornication and sodomy)?” and, “Did I practice artificial birth control or was I or my spouse prematurely sterilized (tubal ligation or vasectomy)?” as well as, “Have I had or advised anyone to have an abortion?” The Cordileone appointed  priest is also evicting homeless mothers and children from the Star of the Sea’s facilities that were the recipient of a grant from Salesforce.com founder and his wife Marc and Lynne Benioff.  Parents at the school are mounting an effort to undo changes made by Father Illo and Archbishop Cordileone there.

 

 

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Barbara Boxer Knocks It Out Of The F*cking Park On GOP Hatred, Hypocrisy & Irresponsibility

“This is a self-inflicted crisis, made up by the Republicans. It is dangerous, it is the height of irresponsibility, and it’s unnecessary.”-Barbara Boxer, February 24, 2015 (regarding the GOP threat of a Department of Homeland Security shutdown.)

I love this speech, I love this lawmaker. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) minced no words on Tuesday about Republicans. Here are portions of her amazing speech. I tried to choose just a few excerpts, but there were too many jewels. Tell me if you don’t agree.

Boxer engages:

We all know Republicans won in huge numbers in the 2014 election, and they took over the United States Senate and they run it. They run it. Or at least they’re trying to run it. And let’s be clear, less than eight weeks after they took  over the Senate, we are facing a shutdown; a shutdown of the very agency that protects the health, the safety, the lives, of the American people – the Department of Homeland Security.They’re shutting down the program that funds our police officers back home, our firefighters, our first responders. Any way you look at it, this is a national disgrace. And think about what our friends abroad, and those who are not our friends, are thinking about this.

Republicans say, ‘Oh, we’re in danger, we have to go to go to war, put combat troops on the ground!’ But they’re wiling to shut down the department that protects Americans here in the homeland, from a terrorist attack.

How does it make sense, at a time when we’re facing serious threats to our national security, to furlough 30,000, thirty thousand, department of homeland security workers, and to force more than 100,000 frontline homeland security personnel to work without pay?

Why don’t theses senators go without their pay?

Give up your pay! Give up your healthcare, give up your benefits, if this is so important to you. Oh, no, they’ll collect their pay!

Senator Boxer reminds Congress that this shutdown is in retaliation to President Obama’s recent plan for immigration. Boxer talks about those at risk of being deported. She talks about children who were born to American immigrants (as she was) who would be torn away from each other if the GOP had their way.

“I thought they were the party of ‘family values.’ Show me where that’s true? Ripping families apart? I thought they were the party of ‘economic prosperity.’ Show me how that’s true, when we know from study after study show that one of the greatest things we can do for our economy and job creation is get people out of the shadows so they can go buy a home and hold a good job. They (Republicans) can’t or won’t pass an immigration bill. They will not do their job. So when the president steps in and does his job, they say, ‘Oh, this is terrible! Let’s shutdown a totally unrelated department. The Department of Homeland Security.

To make her points about Republican hypocrisy, Boxer brings up the GOP’s claimed concern for ‘fiscal responsibility’ and executive orders.

The Center for American Progress, states it would cost more than $50 Billion to deport the entire population that the president is protecting.And here’s the deal – I’ve never heard of a Republican (and I will stand corrected if any Republican corrects me) I’ve never heard of a Republican complaining when President Eisenhower used his executive order power to help immigrants, when President Nixon did the same thing to protect immigrants, when President Ronald Reagan, their hero, protected immigrants, when George Bush Sr. protected immigrants, when George W. protected immigrants, they all used their authority.

Show me one Republican that stood up and said, ‘Oh this is outrageous! Let’s impeach the president. But it’s president Obama. And they’re annoyed because he won twice. Sorry. Sorry. Wake up and smell the roses. He IS the President.

The senator from California goes on to tell several stories, one about a young woman name Anna, born to hardworking undocumented immigrant parents. Anna has come out of the shadows and is now studying to be a bilingual first grade teacher.

So tell me, Republicans, how does it make sense to deport people like Anna, split her up from her parents, when all they want to do is contribute to the country that they love. How does it make sense?How does it make sense? Because you’re too incompetent to hold a vote on your immigration plan? You want to kick people out of the country? Put it to a vote! Let’s go. You want to deport 11 million people? Put it to a vote. Don’t hide behind the Homeland Security Bill, holding the President’s work hostage. You never did it to the other presidents.

Our national security is at stake, our family values are at stake. And our economy is at stake here. So get over the fact that you don’t like the president. We get it. You couldn’t beat him. Too bad for you. But you’re in charge here, in the Senate. Do your job! Bring an immigration bill to the floor. Let’s let this Homeland Security Bill go. It’s a bipartisan bill. It’s funding for the most important thing we’re doing today. Let it go. Don’t hold it hostage to your hatred of this president, and I use that word because that’s what I think. That’s what I think….

So I say to my Republican friends. There’s s presidential race coming. Forget this last one. Get over it. Okay? Let’s work together. Listen, I served with five presidents. I’m a strong Democrat. Everyone will tell you that. But I respect the office of the presidency. If I didn’t agree with Ronald Reagan, I came down here and said it. But we had the respect back and forth. If we lost, we lost. And we moved on. And that worked both ways. I know what it is not to like the policies of a president. I get it. But don’t overdue it and make it so personal. Get on with it. Grow up. Do your job, you know? Do your job! Have respect for the office of the presidency. Don’t suddenly say executive orders are bad when the president you don’t like does it, but you don’t say one word when a Republican president does the same thing!

The speech is glorious. Boxer is speaking not only for Democrats, she is speaking out for Americans. Her words are rousing and affirming much like those in the speeches of Senator Bernie Sanders  (I-Vermont) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). Republican extremists are getting away with the closet thing to treason many of us have seen in our lifetimes. And it’s not only betrayal against the President, it’s betrayal against the U.S. Constitution and the tax-payers/citizens.

Here’s hoping Barbara Boxer’s words will resonate across social media. And let’s see if mainstream media picks up on a politician like this, instead of all the ego-driven Tea Party clowns like Ted Cruz. I mean for crying out loud.

 

Leslie Salzillo, Daily Kos

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Elizabeth Warren, Elijah Cummings Launch ‘Middle Class Prosperity Project’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) are launching a series of events focusing on Democratic solutions to the woes of the middle class.

The “Middle Class Prosperity Project” starts Tuesday with a forum featuring prominent economists. On Monday, Warren and Cummings co-authored a USAToday op-ed describing a decline in middle-class prosperity since 1980.

“Beginning in the late 1970s, corporate executives and stockholders began taking greater shares of the gains. Productivity kept going up, but workers were left behind as wages stagnated,” Warren and Cummings write.

“Families might have survived as their incomes flattened, except for one hard fact: the costs of basic needs like housing, education and child care exploded,” the op-ed continues. “Millions took on mountains of debt and young people began struggling to cling to the same economic rung as their parents.”

The Middle Class Prosperity Project, billed as an opportunity “to give a voice in Washington to those who need it most,” will first hear from a panel of economists including Jared Bernstein, Beth Ann Bovino, Joseph Stiglitz and Gerald Jaynes. The event is not a formal hearing of a congressional committee.

President Barack Obama, for his part, has been pushing a middle-class-themed agenda that includes higher taxes for the wealthy, a higher minimum wage and free community college. On Monday, the White House announced it would push a new rule to require investment brokers to act in the best interests of their clients.

 

The Huffington Post  |  By

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Historical Truth, Nazis and the Corruption of the Federal Judiciary

There was a time when it was permissible to think that the chief purpose of the judicial branch of government was to protect our constitutional rights as a check on runaway legislative majorities or executive overreach. To fulfill that duty, a judge is insulated from partisan maneuvering by a grant of lifetime tenure and a constitutionally guaranteed salary. In return, the federal judge must show discretion, decorum and above all, an unwillingness to be drawn into partisan quarrels. This behavior is known as having a judicial temperament.

The tradition of apolitical judges has come under strain recently, given the habit of even Supreme Court justices to pop off like opinionated customers in a saloon (I’m thinking of you, Tony Scalia). But new ground has been broken in partisan mudslinging by Justice Laurence H. Silberman, an appellate judge appointed by Ronald Reagan. He has taken to the pages of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal to attack as dangerously irresponsible the millions of Americans who believe George W. Bush lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for invading Iraq.

How does Silberman know this? He writes on the authority of having been co-chairman of The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. This commission, appointed by Bush, found no intent by the president to mislead Congress or the public about the presence of WMD; after all, the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate made the claim about Iraqi WMD, not Bush.

That conclusion is hardly surprising, because the commission’s scope was so narrowly defined as to preclude examining whether the president and his advisers put pressure on the intelligence community to produce the worst NIE (national intelligence estimate) in history. The failings of the commission and Silberman’s misrepresentation of its findings have been covered more than adequately elsewhere. It is worth mentioning though, that the commission was stacked with partisan Republicans (can one imagine Senator John McCain, who was on the panel, performing a dispassionate analysis of anything?). Among the token Democratic panel members was the co-chairman, former Sen. Charles Robb, a walking vacuum.

Whatever his other cognitive weaknesses, Bush certainly knew what he was doing when he appointed Silberman to run the commission. In 1980, Silberman was a co-chair of presidential candidate Reagan’s foreign policy team. Later, when on the federal bench, he overturned Colonel Oliver North’s conviction on three felony counts in the Iran-Contra case. He upheld key portions of the Patriot Act, an unconstitutional statute that had been stampeded through a panicked and fearful Congress. As a judge who served on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, he is a member in good standing of the Deep State. No wonder Bush awarded Silberman the Medal of Freedom; that little spangle was the customary gold watch for George Tenet, L. Paul Bremer and all the other hired help who cleaned up after the president’s messes.

Distasteful as it may be for someone to flaunt his judicial credentials while claiming to adjudicate the historical truth of a subject on which he has a partisan conflict of interest, that is hardly the limit of his transgression. What is truly insulting is for Silberman to compare critics of the war who believed Bush lied to Nazis. He writes:

I am reminded of a similarly baseless accusation that helped the Nazis come to power in Germany: that the German army had not really lost World War I, that the soldiers instead had been ‘stabbed in the back’ by politicians.

One hardly knows where to begin with this historical falsification. The “stab-in-the-back” myth, the “Dolchstosslegende,” was concocted by far-right Germans, including Nazis, in an attempt to justify rather than discredit the war. They claimed the German army could have continued fighting, but was stabbed in the back by pacifist politicians. Critics of the Iraq war, by contrast, always believed the war should never have been fought in the first place. German critics of their country’s participation in World War I, like Karl Liebknecht or Rosa Luxemburg, ended up being murdered for their views. One shudders to think that a federal judge has so much difficulty sorting out facts and evidence.

The stab-in-the-back myth has been a standard right-wing refrain throughout my lifetime. The slippery politician Harry S. Truman stabbed General MacArthur in the back over Korea by refusing to let him win. Dirty hippies and the media stabbed our boys in the back as they fought in Vietnam. And now, of course, ISIS is Obama’s fault because he withdrew troops from Iraq. Never mind that Obama withdrew them precisely according to Bush’s already-negotiated timetable and that ISIS was the bastard child of our invasion. Yet Silberman smears critics of war, rather than chickenhawk proponents of war, because it fits so neatly into his worldview.

Judicial corruption does not require a cash nexus. The justices of the federal judiciary, who have lifetime tenure and fixed salaries, receive no bribes to rule the way they do. What Laurence Silberman has shown us is the fact that intellectual corruption can be as corrosive to the integrity of the bench as a cash bribe.

by Mike Lofgren, TruthOut

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5 Terrible Things Ronald Reagan Did As President

Conservatives like to pretend that Presidents Day is a holiday for the exclusive celebration of Ronald Reagan, their favorite president and a man they lionize as an earthbound saint crossed with the world’s manliest cowboy.

So it’s a good idea to remember Reagan’s real legacy: a bad president surrounded by bad people who did bad things. Here are five of the worst things Reagan did as president to remind you exactly the kind of leader he was.

5. Reagan Stole Money from the Social Security Trust Fund

Remember those Saturday Night Live sketches in 2000 where Al Gore promised to put Social Security in a lockbox? (If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, Al Gore is the man who invented the Internet and came up with the global warming hoax.)

The reason Gore was so committed to protecting Social Security is that Ronald Reagan used the funds as his personal piggy bank. After his tax cuts devastated the federal treasury, ushering in the era of giant deficits we’re still mired in today, Reagan raised Social Security taxes ostensibly to protect Social Security for future generations. Instead, he dumped that money into the general treasury fund to reduce the deficits he had created. Speaking of corruption…

4. Reagan Filled His Administration With Corrupt People

No administration was as corrupt as Ronald Reagan’s, not even Nixon’s. His attorney general resigned after he was involved with a company that received illegal no-bid contracts. His secretary of the interior, who thought his job was to sell off federal lands to defense contractors, was indicted on multiple counts of perjury.

Reagan’s vice president and successor, George Bush, pardoned six separate people for their roles in the Iran-Contra affair, including Reagan’s National Security adviser and his secretary of defense. Speaking of Iran-Contra…

3. Reagan Presided Over the Iran-Contra Affair

In 1985 and 1986, Ronald Reagan sold arms to Iran, locked in a horrific war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for cash and the release of U.S. hostages. The sales to Iran violated sanctions against Iran.

But much of the money that came from the sales was diverted to fund the Contras, right-wing rebels fighting the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua. That was in violation of laws against helping the Contras.

As noted above, George Bush had to pardon several Reagan aides in the wake of the scandal

Speaking of aides…

2. Reagan Refused to Mention AIDS, Then Cut Funding for Research

In the early 80s, a horrific new epidemic ravaged America’s gay population. Because so many of the victims of AIDS were gay, the right-wing viewed the disease as a kind of divine retribution for their sins.

Reagan didn’t mention AIDS in public until September 1985, after more than 10,000 people had died from the disease. In 1986, Reagan called for a report on AIDS but also proposed cutting federal funds for research and patient care as treatments were just starting to make it to market. Speaking of inhumanity towards his fellow man…

1. Reagan Opposed Sanctions on Apartheid Era-South Africa

When Congress looked likely to pass sanctions on South Africa to battle apartheid in 1985, Reagan vigorously opposed any action. In order to stop moderate Republicans from defecting, he issued a half-assed executive order imposing some sanctions.

The next year, when Congress realized Reagan’s sanctions didn’t have teeth, it overwhelmingly passed a bill imposing real sanctions on the racist regime. Reagan vetoed the bill. Happily there were enough votes to override his veto, and the sanctions became a key part of the eventual end of apartheid.

Jesse Berney, Blue Nation Review

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